Peter And The Pigeon Go To Kentucky
Chapter One: The First Life
Two men in a dimly lit, single room office. The larger one sitting behind a scratched and worn green metal desk with his seemingly smaller, less imposing figure of a younger brother standing by the drinking water tank getting himself some water in a paper cone cup. If the younger brother wouldn't slouch so much one would see them as pretty well the same size, almost twins, except the younger brother's face carries a softness, a gentle nature that his old brother's face hasn't held since he was a newly born infant.
After a few nervous sips on the paper cone cup of water the younger brother nervously breaks the thick tension of silence in the air by saying, "hey Reni don't you think we should think about this? Maybe we could talk to Nick, you know, he might understand, maybe it was just an oversight."
This does break the silence but does diddly to relieve the tension.
"For fuck sakes Alex! You think we can just walk in and say hey Ice Pick Nick, we don't want you running our part of the city, we want you out of Yonkers, and he's gonna go like sure boys, hey and while you're here let me suck your dicks."
"Well, em, no, but if we put it like, you know, like there's enough for us all and, you know, like, we don't need to fight over it."
"Jesus fucking Christ! How the hell did I end up with such a stupid fuck for a brother?" Reni has now come out from behind the desk and talking over his cowering brother. "You wanna die or something, you want me to die, huh? We walk in there and we're morning specials at the deli counter. You think this is just a jerk off game with a bunch of old fucks?"
"No, no, you know, I just don't like going against Ice Pick like this, I mean, like he's got a lot of muscle."
"Fuck his muscle!! They're all a bunch of piss-ants anyway. We either show him not to mess with the Papilitzo Brothers or we should just move down to Florida and jerk-off with the rest of the nearly deads!"
"It's just, remember Shorty, you know I'm kinda scared, if Shorty had just thought before blasting that toilet, they wouldn't of skinned him alive like that."
"Shorty! Don't talk to me about that piss-ant! Look!!" Now Reni is leaning into his brothers Alex's face, spitting his words into Alex's blinking eyes. "For fuck sakes, with that bastard taking over the Four Corners he's saying , `Oh yeah, you Fucks, what you gonna do now ?´ We gotta hit that fat ass fuck. We're gonna hit him like a ton of bricks, bam." Reni slams his fist into the filling cabinet beside Alex's head and gives a grin as the pain drifts through his hand. "Like a hell fire ton of bricks, right where he lives, in Cafe Findali. No one would ever dream of hitting him there. That's cause they're all a bunch of piss-ants Alex. But you and I, we're not piss-ants, are we Alex.
Reni goes back and sits down behind his desk. Puts his feet up on them, puts his hands behind his head and continues on. He gets great enjoyment out of talking about violence, almost as much as the committing the violence it self. And he gets great enjoyment out of calling people piss-ants. He enjoys the thought of crushing them with his boot, like when he was a kid and would spend hours crushing the real piss-ants, he'd find a nest of large black ants and squish them one by one. He would get great joy out of the sound they made when he squished them and all the liquid that would come squirting out of them, like a bag of piss, thus the name.
"We hit those piss ants there and they'll know not to fuck with the Papilitzo Brothers. I'm telling you Alex, he won't know what hit him. We'll be in and out before he can cover his fagot ass. Haven't I always been right so far? Haven't I always known what's right for us? You know for fuck I have."
Reni lights a big but cheap cigar and stares off into the patterns the peeling paint on the ceiling, contemplating their future rain of terror over the city.
"Yeah I know you have, but this just makes me feel like we're getting in over our heads. Running some numbers and stuff was one thing, but taking on Ice Pick Nick, I just don't know."
"That's right you don't know fuck. How many times have I told you, DON'T THINK, that's my job, just do as I say. Like Ma always told ya, I know what's best, I know what we're fucking with. Okay? For fuck sakes! Now stop gabbing and start stacking those chambers and loading those clips.
The Papilitzo Brothers weren't always like this. They were First-Lifers, as their luck would have it, and they started out being nice sweet kids, like most kids. They played with other kids without too much police intervention or trips to the hospital. The family and home they were born into was a pleasant enough environment. Their father was a quite successful butcher with three shops. He had basically cornered the red meat market in their area and was feeling pretty good about his Second-Life. Most First-Lifers landed in fairly steady family environments. You see, First-Lifers were at the first of four stages of existence. They were given average intelligence and a fair amount of luck on their side. This was in the hope that the ones that got lost early on would, with a bit of luck, have the chance to eventually show their real `compassionate awareness ´. Occasionally it just made some people, like Reni, think that they had a divine right to follow their own desires. If only they knew how their First-Life was going to effect their Second-Life and how their Second-Life was going to effect their Third-Life and their Third-Life was going to determine their last stage of existence.
Most blamed the school system for the way Reni turned out. Not enough care spent and attention given to him and all that. Some say that watching his farther cleavering animal carcasses from an early age had an adverse affect on him. Either way, by the time he reached secondary school Reni Papilitzo was a first-class, meat-cleaver-head, bully. Reni had a reasonably good working mind, as with all First Lifers, but unfortunately he applied it in a not so compassionate way towards his fellow Lifers. The large student population in his area gave him the perfect testing ground for money extorting practices. He would pick on one small group of kids at a time. He would put together files of the main people in each. He'd find their weaknesses and any hidden secrets. Little things that they would not want others to know about. He found this to be a very profitable business. By the time he was 16 years old, Reni stood an imposing six foot five inches tall. The only official school activity he was remembered for was sports. He excelled at football. After his first season on the school team he was dubbed `The Crusher´. He seemed to get great satisfaction out of knocking the be-jesus out of other players. He had a natural talent for this, remembering which players had a bad knee or bruised ribs or anything else that made a good tender target. The only thing Alex, his younger brother, seemed to be good at was always being around Reni. He'd lurk in the background and after Reni was through with them Alex would try to apologize to his brother's victims. Though it was this always-seen-together reputation, that as luck would have it, that made it so that when Reni was eventually expelled from school, Alex was expelled with him.
The official reports state that Reni was caught in the cheer leaders shower room. Apparently he was in the process of organizing a group sex session when the coach heard Reni's commands echoing off the tiled walls. Without thinking, the coach charged in full of his authoritative position. Not really a good idea. The girls escaped, Reni got mad and the coach ended up in the hospital. Alex was the one who called the ambulance. Alex also sent flowers and a note saying "Please forgive my brother, he didn't mean to hurt you so much. It's just that he gets mad easily. Alex."
Reni's father kicked him out of the house, calling him a monster. Reni liked this word, this new label for himself, but he didn't like the way his father was yelling it at him, over and over again. He was just about to start beating on his father when, as his father's luck would have it, Alex got between them and somehow managed to get his brother out of the house and into their car. Alex was the only person Reni wouldn't beat on. One reason was that Alex was just as big as Reni and the other reason was that Reni, inside, knew that he needed at least one friend in this world. It was the one none-violent instinct that Reni possessed.
It took a while for Reni to calm down, or to come down, he always got a high out of the thought of violence. Twice he wanted to go back and "teach the old man a lesson". But after a couple hours of Alex just driving around the city Reni was sitting deep in the car's padded seats. The car, quite expectedly was a Cadillac, a Cadillac Eldarodo, paid for out of the shallow pockets of Reni's extortion victims. But it wasn't this years model or even last years model. No it was an older, slightly beat, hanging to one side, bucket of bolts, but at least it had the air of something uptown, even if it looked like an uptown, back alley, trash can.
Reni was thinking, sitting low with a stern frown on his aggressive face. This always would make Alex worry. He kept looking over at his brother, his brother started to grin, a merciless grin. "This could be the best luck you and I have ever had. Who needs all that bull at school and the old man always telling us what to do. It's you and me now kid brother. You and me. We're gonna show them not to mess with the Papilitzo Brothers." Alex thought he was going to be sick to his stomach and had to roll down the window for some air.
If the rest of the city could comprehend, the rest of the city would have an ill feeling creep over it too. The Papilitzo Brothers were now unleashed into the real world and in need of some quick cash, a place to stay and a plan of attack.
So following Reni's instructions, Alex chauffeured around the city, stopping every now and then for Reni to go beat money out of local small time drug dealers and pimps. By midnight they had over a thousand dollars, tax free. The last stop was at the home of a free-lance prostitute named Samantha. This was to be the brother's new home and base of operations for the next nine months. Samantha obviously didn't have a choice, but Alex tried to make it up to her by keeping the place clean.
In the months that followed Reni became a blood thirsty mad dog, cruising around the city, building his "Empire". And Alex, well poor Alex, he slowly become more and more of a nervous wreck. Always filled with quilt over his brother's actions. But as one of the Powers commented to another, "It was his choice to stay with Reni, he could of walked and taken away from Reni's feeling of invincibility". Alex very rarely went out, he did as his brother told him, thinking that he needed to keep close with Reni, someone had to try to have some sort of influence over him. Alex was the only one Reni would really talk to. The only person Reni would act slightly human to. But more importantly, the only person who could question Reni without getting a mouth full of knuckles as an answers. They were a team in the best fashion of Yin& Yang.
So Reni Papilitzo burst into the Cafe Findali, on his own as Alex was too nervous to even hold a gun in his hand, and shot the place up. In the just a few short seconds he killed four of Ice Pick Nick's best guys and sunk a large chunk of a table leg into Ice Pick's leg.
"Kinda like a wooden ice pick, eh!" he commented standing over Ice Pick Nick.
Before making his exit, Reni bent down, right up close to Ice Pick's nervously twitching face and said slowly and calmly, enjoying every syllable of his message "This ain't your game no more old man, your horse has a broken leg. the most merciful thing I could do now is shoot you and put you out of your misery. But I'm gonna give you the chance to trot out to pasture. But for this you gotta do something for me. I want you to deliver a message for me. You tell the other piss-ants in the city, you tell em not to fuck with the Papilitzo Brothers. We're running this city now. It's time to retire, out to pasture for you all, or I'll be back to end your racing days for ever."
Ice Pick Nick was pissed. Swore Reni's blood for quite some time (actually he swore Reni's blood for the rest of his life, every time he got mad. After a few years it was taken simply as meaning that he was upset at something). But the Papilitzo Brother made his point and after that day Reni was, without a doubt, running Yonkers. Alex stayed well in the background, handling the books, trying to keep his head down and out of danger. Reni was in charge of everything. From local shop owner's protection money to getting a cut of all drugs and prostitution in the city, Reni was the man. He was known for handling things personally. His sadistic nature was becoming legendary. He enjoyed the fear he could incite in people by just walking into a place.
"Oh, good afternoon Mr. Papilitzo, nice to see you. My, you're looking fine today. What can I get you ?"
"Hey Max, cut the crap. Tell me, weren't all these nice people waiting first?" Reni motions to a line of 6 older men and women standing waiting at the store counter.
"Oh no Mr. Papilitzo, please, you go before me", the first in line says while the others in line nod in agreement, "I've lots of time, you go first."
"That's nice, you're a smart man. Yes. You're Robinson, right? You run that bakery round the corner, yeah, so how's business, profiting ?" Reni flashed a cold grin that sent shivers through the spines of everyone in the small store.
"Hey, well I'd love to stay and gab but I've things to do. Busy man. Hey Max, give me two bottles of Glenn Fiddich and a cartoon of smokes. And make sure they're fresh smokes. Nothing pisses me off more then stale smokes." Reni says flashing that chilling grin again.
"Sure Mr. Papilitzo, you know I'd only give you the freshest."
" Yeah, yeah, just make it quick I got a lot to do today. Hey who's got a smoke for me while I waiting?" Terror hit the eyes of the smokers in the line, not knowing if there's would be fresh enough. That was Reni being neighborly.
At the age of twenty eight, four years after the brothers took control of Yonkers, Reni one day declared to Alex, "I'm sick to fuck of all the whores around here. I need to find a wife, someone to take care of the home and make me a bunch of sons with."
Alex naively hoped that this was a sign that Reni was finally going to slow down some. Maybe even mellow a bit. No such luck though. What he did was, he found and took for his wife local beauty Lucy Stignetty. He really didn't know that he didn't have to push it, that the Powers would allow him enough luck to easily land the perfect girl for himself, one that would help straighten out his life. But Reni, like always, pushed and bullied his life into it's distorted shape. He also didn't know that this was the only girl his brother Alex liked. They had met, awkwardly, at a cafe a couple of times. She was Alex's only dream and she really liked him but was weary because of his brother.
Lucy's father owned a local, small shipping firm and Mr. Stignetty didn't exactly tell Reni about all his shipments, and as luck would have it, Reni found out.
"You stupid fuck, Stignetty, you don't think I know everything that goes on around here eventually. You think you can lie to Reni and get away with it. You owe me big time old man. I ought to do you and take this piss-ant business for myself. You stupid fuck."
"No, no Reni, really, I was gonna tell ya, honest I was, it was just that the contract wasn't finished yet and I was waiting to surprise you." Tony Stignetty was a Second-Lifer who had been given the intelligence but not the luck. He hadn't been too bad as a First-Lifer, made a few mistakes but these were seen as learning experiences. Today was going to be seen as the most unlucky day of his Second-Life.
But others would tell the story in a different way, that luck was on his side because, as luck would have it, just before Reni was contemplating the most sadistic way of hurting Tony, Tony's daughter Lucy walked in the room. She was an 19 year old Third-Lifer, stunningly beautiful but with not much of a head on her shoulders and mostly uninterested in life in general. Her brain didn't know it but her spirit was just trying to get through this life without any friction. Being a good daughter, studying hard, helping her father after school, graduating, marrying, children and so on. She saw her future as an idyllic fable, hoping to coast through to the forth and final stage of existence where Beings are transformed into energies. If she can get through this one without upsetting the Powers she has a chance to become a Sun and shining out on a solar system on many wonderful planets that would happily orbit around her while she gave them light and life. If the Powers were not pleased a Being would be transferred into a stinking little Asteroid, floating for all eternity in a million-mile-wide belt of billions of stinking little Asteroids, going nowhere, slowly. With no wonderful, happy planets orbiting, with no light, with no life. Most Third-Lifers became Asteroids, as luck would have it.
Tony, at first, thought that Reni pulled a sudden halt to breaking his knees because he didn't want any witnesses. But Reni didn't care who watched him doing what he loved to do. As a matter of fact he liked to have an audience. He wasn't afraid of the law because all the local policemen were afraid of Reni. None of them would ever try to arrest Reni Papilitzo. But on this day of days Reni put the baseball bat down and turned to Lucy. Looking her right in the eye he said, "Tony, Tony, Tony, I forgot you had a daughter. She's got to be the sweetest piece of ass I've ever seen. Turn around girl let me take a look at you."
Lucy did as she was told with a slight hesitant smile, partially because she was so scared of upsetting this monster and partially because she knew that she had just received a kind of, but still very rare Reni compliment. Reni stroked her cheek and asked her how old she was.
She looked down at the floor and in a half whisper she said "Eighteen".
"Eighteen, eh, you got a boy friend?"
"You ever been fucked?"
She didn't know how to react to this. She didn't like that word and was getting very nervous about his intense interest in her. She looked down at her shoes. They were new ones her father had bought for her the day before. They shined, she could see his face's reflection in them smiling up at her.
"Well, have ya?"
"Good girl! Yes Tony, you got a real prize here. I guess this is your lucky day Tony. You know I'm so impressed with this little thing that I'm thinking about not putting you in the hospital for the next six months and not taking over your piss ant little business. No, I'm thinking that I'd enjoy breaking in this sweet ass a lot more." Reni said without taking his eyes off Lucy.
"On no, no, Reni, please don't, she's just a baby, please, I got money for you, I got more coming in, please!"
"Hey, you stupid fuck," Reni spun around and grabbed hold on Tony's throat, ?I know you got fucking money for me and you'll still be fucking giving it to me. Don't fuck with me Tony! It's just lucky for you that you have such a fuckable daughter and not some scag, eh, you know that's for fuck sure. No one would give a fuck if you ended up in the river Tony, don't forget that."
He let go of Tony's throat and turned back to Lucy. "It's too late to try to change my mind. I've set the penalty you're coming with me, sweet ass."
Reni took Lucy by the arm and lead her out of the building into his limo that was waiting on the street, blocking traffic, backing it up for eight city blocks. But no one honked their horns or complained because that would mean trouble from Reni. Lucy was too scared to do anything but go along with him. His grip was very tight on her
arm, he didn't let go of her even in the limo. He didn't say anything to her, just told the driver to take him home. Lucy's heart was pounding so loud, she was sure he'd heard it and thought that was why he was smiling at her. She knew that her life was never going to be the same again, that no one would try to rescue her from Reni, that she would never escape as long as he wanted to keep her. On that ride through Yonkers to Reni's house she came to terms with the situation. She decided that there was no need to try to get heroic, she realised that if she did anything stupid like trying to escape that Reni would do her real harm. And where would she escape to? Anywhere in the city and Reni was sure to find her. No, her life had changed , all she could do was accept this. She just thought that, as luck would have it, she wouldn't be going to college after all.
When Reni led Lucy up to the front steps to his and Alex's house, Alex was in the front room and could see them coming. His heart started to pound. Wild thoughts raced through his head. He couldn't conceive why Reni was bringing Lucy to their house. Had he found out about Alex's love for her and was going to play one of his
sick games and make a mockery of his feelings? His confusion continued until Reni burst through the front door yelling "Honey, I'm home!"
"Hi Reni, what you doing?"
"Hey little brother, guess what, I got me a virgin wife. Not a bad looker, eh? She's old Stignetty's daughter. He kinda had a debt to pay and nicely offered her sweet ass as payment. I had to accept, didn't want to offend him."
"What you gonna do with her?" Alex's eyes were wielded to Lucy's, he could feel his eye sockets starting to fill with tears.
"I'm gonna take my wife to be up stairs and start making a family!"
"No, you can't, she's just a girl and she looks so scared, you can't keep her!"
"What the fuck you talking about Alex? Who says I can't keep her?"
"It's just that it's not right."
"Right? For fuck sakes, little brother, what do you mean it's not right? You think I give a fuck about what's right? Old Stignetty wanted me to look after her and you want to stay, don't you, babe?"
Lucy looked at Alex, then back at Reni and gently nodded.
"See she loves me. Now get the fuck outa my way little brother before I thump ya."
Alex's heart was breaking as he watched Reni almost dragging Lucy up the stairs to his bedroom. He knew there wasn't anything he could do and if he tried Reni would beat on him for sure. So he too decided it wasn't a time for heroics, that trying to rescue her would just make Reni mad. His life had changed and there was nothing to do but accept it. He went into the back of the house where he wouldn't be able to hear Reni's grunts and laughter. He sat down at his little desk and worked on the company books.
Reni kept Lucy locked away in that house for a long time. The first time she was taken out of the house was to baptize their first son, Samson. As luck would have it, Samson didn't live up to this name. He was a Third Lifer and grew up trying to stay out of his father's way and business. Reni was constantly disappointed in Samson's
lack of "spunk". He eventually gave up on his first son who ended up opening a spaghetti house, he called it "Reni's" (his father's idea).
Lucy gave birth to two other sons, twins, who, by the time they were 7 worked with their father and, as luck would have it, ended up running Yonkers after their mother killed their father.
It was a messy situation in the end: As luck would have it, Alex had kept living with Reni, Lucy and the boys and did all he could to make Lucy happy. He was very careful not to raise his brother's suspicions, but the two were very much in love. During the days when Reni would be running around hurting people Alex and Lucy would sit in the back yard and read to each other, mostly sloppy, romantic novels about love conquering all. In these books they lived out their dreams but they knew, if Reni found out he'd probably kill them both. And one thing Lucy did not want was trouble.
So they went on for many years like this but eventually they couldn't hold back any more and the day came when they had their first kiss. It wouldn't have been so bad if they had left it at that, but, as luck would have it, they didn't and within five minutes they were up in Alex's bedroom. Also as luck would have it, Reni came
home early that day calling from the front hallway: "Honey, I'm home!".
Terror struck Lucy and Alex. They scrambled for their clothes as Reni made his way up the stairs calling out "Hey Lucy, where the fuck are you?"
He heard the two's frantic movements in Alex's room. "Hey Alex, you in here, you
seen..., what the fuck is going on here then?"
The two froze, not knowing what to do or say. Then Lucy tried to run out of the room but Reni grabbed her and pinned her against the wall with his hand gripping her throat. Alex, for the first time in this life found the courage to get physical with his older brother. He, in a kind of feasible way, jumped on Reni's back, yelling "Leave her
alone, get your hands off her!!"
Reni lashed out and threw Alex across the room. He turned towards his brother as Alex got up off the floor. "You stupid fuck. You think just because you are my brother I won't kill you. You stupid fuck!" Reni then pulled out his .357 hand gun and aimed it at Alex. "You stupid fuck. You should of known not to fuck with me!" Reni pulled the
trigger and Alex hit the back wall and then fell to the ground, dead. At this Lucy picked up a marble lamp and with all her strength smashed it into the back of Reni's head. He also fell down on the ground, dead.
The police didn't know what to do about it, what a mess. They wanted to give her a medal. But, eventually took Lucy down to the station and charged her with manslaughter. She hired a very good lawyer and, as luck would have it, the case was dismissed as self defense.
Thus was the end of the Reni and Alex Papilitzo's First Life.
Lucy continued on with her sons and eventually, slowly convinced her sons to tone things down and by the time she died of old age. Her sons were running respectable businesses and not killing or hurting anyone. Lucy passed from her Third Life, the Powers deemed that she was indeed worthy of becoming a Star and with a glorious
cry her energy left the earth, raced across the sky to disappear into the depths of space where a large planet imploded on her impact. The rings of energy raced out across the darkness, breathing life to where there was no life before. Lucy pulled and aligned the surrounding planets into orbit. Her heat radiated and awoke new worlds
in this distant part of the universe. She was now a Star.
Chapter Two, The Second Life
"What was that? Hey, Michael, did you hear that?"
"For Christ sakes, no, I didn't hear anything. What the hell you waking me for?"
"It was the most beautiful sound, like the heavens singing."
"You getting the DTs again. For fuck sakes, I'm trying to sleep here. Now do I have to
get up and thump you or something?"
"Eh, no, Michael, eh, sorry, sorry."
"You stupid fuck Steven, your such a stupid...."
In their Second Life the Papilitzo Brothers were born as Michael and Steven Ferguson. Reni was born Michael, the elder but smaller of the two. When he was fully grown he sort of looked like a thin and unhealthy Bob Hoskins. The Powers weren't going to give Reni/Michael a second chance to be able to physically terrorize people.
Steven Ferguson grew into more of a lowly Jeremy Irons character. A strange pair indeed.
As luck would have it, they were born to a couple of other Second Lifers who didn't have much luck of their own or intelligence for that matter. Their father worked a factory job till the factory closed down and then he became a bit of a home body. Hanging around the house, watching TV and drinking a bit too much. His influence on his sons was obvious. By the time the boys were 12 and 10 they were taken home by the police for being drunk in a public place. Their father thanked the police, slammed the door, gave each of them a back hand across the face, much in a Three Stooges style, and told them to go get him a cold beer.
One day their father was angrily searching around the four-roomed, wood-framed house's front room, slamming doors and grumbling to himself, when their mother made the mistake of giving attention to his mild tantrum.
"What your doing in there, what you grumbling `bout now?"
"I'm looking for sumtin. What are you, the house-formen or sumtin? Where the hell are my beers? I put a six pack in here last night. I bet Mike and Steve drunk'em. Those God-damn, good for nothing sons of ours, what the hell we gonna do with èm? They've gone and drank my last beers again!! They don't work, they don't go to school, they don't nothing but drink my beers!"
"A lot like someone else around here."
"Hell, I worked for over twenty years at that factory. I worked damn hard. Not my fault the factory closed and they tell me I'm too old to retrain."
"You probably just forgot where you put'em, or drunk'em yourself."
"Like hell I did. That's it, that's the end of the free road for those two. I've enough of `em!"
"They're still young, give 'em some time, they're just trying to find themselves."
"Find themselves, all they're trying to find is where I hide my beers!! Think it's time they found the real world, found what it's like to have to pay for things. It would be good for them to find out what it's like to have to be responsible for `emselves."
"What the hell you saying?"
"I'm saying it's moving-on time for those two!"
"You can't be serious, they're too young to get kicked out of `ome."
"Too young, my ass, we were married for two years by the time I was their age."
"What those two need is a father who takes the time to teach them about responsibility, who shows them that he cares for them."
"I show them I care"
"Like hell you do, the only thing you do with them is hit them for doing what you do, drink too much."
"You can stop your nagging woman, I've made up my mind. When they drag their asses in `er tonight I'm gonna tell `em: IT'S MOVING TIME!!"
Such was their luck. It was moving time. And so later that night, after a neighborhood-awaking confrontation Michael stormed out the front door with Steven hesitatingly following. They didn't have much of an education and no chance of work let alone any horizon expanding career opportunities. Before too long they were familiar with the soup lines, the hostels and the welfare lines of the cities homeless, as luck would have it.
Steven was given, by the Powers, a fair bit more intelligence and luck than his brother for his good deeds in his First Life. During his more sober moments he was still capable of having an almost positive outlook on the future. He honestly believed that they could get themselves out of poverty. He was always trying to get Michael to
go with him and try to find some work.
"Hey Michael, there's a days work down on the freight yard. If we show 'em we can work hard, might turn into a steady."
"You crazy? What for? So's they can work us like dogs, just so's we can make a little more than our welfare checks To hell with that!"
Michael would never go. On one occasion Steven went off on his own for a days work. When the day was finished Steven had $ 30.00 but had to pay $ 28.00 to get Michael out of jail. Michael took the remaining $ 2.00 and bought a bottle.
Most the time they slept under the 23rd street overpass, least it was dry. Michael became very territorial about their new sleeping quarters. He was dead against anyone else sharing it with them. Others soon learned not to try, for Michael, in his cowardly way would wait till they were asleep then do one of an assortment of nasty
deeds to them. His favorite seemed to be standing over them urinating until they woke up, when he'd pretend to be sleep walking. Steven would always back up his claims that he was prone to urinating in strange places while asleep. That it was nothing personal. Fact is, there was nothing personal about Michael.
"Steve, we gotta protect this place. Don't want everyone wanting to sleep here, be no room left. This is the best spot in the city!"
It was just across the park from the 24 hour liquor store, as luck would have it. It usually worked that once they had bought the days supply of booze, they would spend most the afternoon in the park. Then as night fell they would cross the park to where the overpass stood waiting for them. When winter came they would try to get a
bed at the local shelter but Michael was very well known by the attendants there and not the most welcome. He was still a bully, some things don't change from life to life. He would also try to steal anything that wasn't nailed down.
"What do you want that chair for Michael?"
"For Christ sake, keep your voice down!"
"But we don't need a chair."
"Look, we could trade it for a bottle, it's a good looking chair."
"I don't think that's such a good idea, no ones gonna wanna trade for that chair."
Most of the time he got caught trying to drag something out onto the street, one time it was the reception desk. It would end up in a pushing and yelling match that would wake up the whole shelter into a thunder of throaty complaints. Michael would get thrown out of the shelter for the night. Steve would always go along knowing that
someone had to keep an eye on Michael. Left on his own he would either end up in jail or in the hospital.
By the time Steven and Michael were in their late twenties they were diagnosed and noted as class-A alcoholics. So they were told they were no longer allowed a weekly welfare check. Needless to say this was an extremely unforgettable day for the Social Officer who had to break the news to them. The unfortunate Lifer assigned to
this task was a Miss Dimples. At twenty seven she had experienced an endless sampling of sour luck. The days assignment didn't surprise her. She was a Second Lifer who, in her First Life, had meticulously planned and carried out a long series of frauds on wealthy old men. She was eventually caught and put in jail for almost five years until the day she was released, which, as luck would have it, was the same day she was killed by one of her victim's daughters. So as a Second Lifer she was low on intelligence and luck.
She had to tell Michael and Steven that as a class-A alcoholics they were only allowed food and clothing stamps, no more real money. That these stamps had to be picked up every day at the main welfare office in the center of the city. Every day they would receive $ 5.00 worth of the food stamps and once a month they would be given a $50.00 clothing stamp. She had to tell them that these stamps were only usable in certain stores and could only be used for food or clothing.
The city officials believe these stamps to be the answer to the problem of alcoholics spending all their money on booze and none on food. It seemed the mayor, a Third Lifer, as luck would have it, was trying to impress the city's moral majority that he was doing something about this unsightly inner-city-problem. The mayor was a successful Lifer so far. His First and Second Life had been filled with generosity and compassion. In this Third Life he was given not only intelligence and luck but also a great gift of being able to make anyone he talked to believe almost anything he wanted them to. But it was in this Third Life, much to dismay of the Powers, that he was acting more from conceit than compassion. He didn't know it but he was quickly loosing his chances of becoming a Star.
As luck would have it, the mayor's office was hundreds of feet above the side-walks where the most unappreciated members of their own society existed. He was physically and compassionately out of touch. Fact is, the major didn't have clue about how to successfully deal with the problem of the social rejects that were collecting along the parks and open lots in the city center. He really didn't think there was much compassionate help that could be offered. He was too isolated in his steel and glass tower to realize the complexities of the growing situation. He didn't understand about that as the city's major, as the city's father figure, he was in the envious position of restoring a feeling of personal hope, of restoring a light to their otherwise dark horizons. He had the power of turning the tides in hundreds of lost lives. But as luck would have it, his compassion was lost in his conceit. His official statement was "They're a bunch of drunks, stop them from buying booze and they won't be drunk".
Well, as luck would have it, Vincent, down at the 24 hour liquor store, would also accept these stamps, at 50% of their value. As luck would also have it, Vincent made a lot of money with the city's stamp campaign.
So poor Miss Dimples, after enduring a childhood with a name like Dorothy Dimples, was going to spend the rest of her working Second Life dealing with the likes of Michael Ferguson. On hearing her news of the stamp program he was out of his seat and over her desk in a flash. Crashing on top of her and knocking her to the floor.
Security men heard her screams and rescued her from a kicking and swearing Michael. But, as Steven knew, Michael's vote of disapproval for the city's plan wouldn't change anything except add to the uncomfortable, nervous feeling Miss Dimples would have every time she left the security of her home.
Michael and Steven would start the day catching a bus into the center of town to collect their stamps, then take the bus back out to 23rd street to haggle with Vincent. Michael always tried to get a little better of a deal. It never worked, Vincent had his routine down, he would coldly say, while bagging their bottles, "Hey, I don't need to
do this for you, guys, I could get in trouble helping you out. And now you want to give me a hard time. Maybe you should try another store."
He knew and so did the brothers, that there wasn't another store that would take the stamps for alcohol, especially not from these two. The brothers would always go quiet when Vincent talked about another store. They'd just stand there watching the bottles going into the bags. Vincent was a First Lifer, in his Second Life he wasn't
going to be so lucky.
On leaving Michael would always grumble under his breath about being ripped off and how they should tell the police about Vincent. Steven would apologize about Michael and thank Vincent for being so good to them. Everyday Steven would try to shake Vincent's hand and everyday Vincent would pretend not to notice Steven's
out stretched offering. He'd just turn away and say ?Yeah, yeah, don't worry about it. See ya tomorrow."
But it was a routine and Michael liked things to have a set way to them. He didn't like surprises. He didn't like things to change. He liked to know what was going to happen next and what was going to happen three hours later. So the cities new stamp campaign was in a way (but not in the way intended by the city's officials) very good
for Michael. Instead of having the first two weeks of each month blurred by frantic alcohol abuse and the loosing of most of their money and the second two weeks blurred by frantic efforts to find more to drink, the first half of each day was blurred by a frantic race to the welfare office and then back to Vincent's and the second half was
blurred by frantic alcohol abuse. This was much better, ever day the same. The only thing that really marked the passing of time was when the seasons changed. But even that had it's routine. Every year when the first snow fall came Michael would go into shock over this phenomenon and run out yelling about the end of the earth and
how tinny space men were coming by the thousands to kill all humans. The snow flakes were supposed to be the space men's ships. Michael read too much science fiction when he was a kid, mainly Kilgore Trout, who was known for causing instability and insanity in other readers besides Michael.
One thing that was a truly strange side to Michael's character was that he, for some reason, couldn't stand being in a vehicle that wasn't moving. This was a problem on the public transit as it stopped every couple blocks to let people on and off the bus. Michael would climb on the bus and stagger to the back seat with Steven following,
half asleep. Once seated he would yell out to the driver at the front of the bus, "Hey, what's the problem here? We gonna get going or what? Hey you awake up there?"
This would always startle the other passengers, well except for the ones that were used to Michael and knew what lay ahead. The wiser of these would get off the buss and wait for the next one. Then once the bus was going Michael would grumble under his breath about the state of bus drivers these days and how they were all a
bunch of no-brains. He'd continue mumbling as long as the bus was in motion, sometimes trying to get other passengers to agree with him. "You know what I mean, they should make them pass some sort of IQ test or sumtin. You could get a job as a bus driver, yeah, you could, all you need to know is how to sit there and look stupid. Yeah, just like you're doing now!"
But as soon as the bus pulled up to a red light or a bus-stop Michael would start yelling down the length of the bus: ?What the hell is going on, Hey, driver, get this thing in gear, hey, I haven't got all day. What the hell's the problem here? You listening?" Thankfully most stops were short and Michael would quickly calm down
again. If the stop was longer, Michael would get up on his feet and start waving his arms in the air like he was trying to get the drivers attention. It was almost like he was practicing for his inevitable Third Life. After one or two stops most people would move away from him, usually leaving the back half of the bus empty except for Michael and Steven who would usually be asleep, snoring along with the bus's engine.
Michael learnt not to use the F word on the bus as it always got him thrown off. As long as he didn't use the F word the drivers would usually ignore him That is except for one driver who, once, when Michael started his well practiced one act play, got up from his seat and slowly walked to the back of the bus. As he did Michael got more
and more upset about the bus not moving, flapping his arms in the air and yelling louder and louder. By the time the driver got close to Michael, Michael was red faced, hyperventilating and starting to have a heart seizure. The driver said one word to Michael "Listen", and Michael fell to the floor clutching his chest. The paramedics had
to be called and Michael was taken to the hospital without any stops along the way. Steven thought this was very thoughtful of the ambulance driver as one more stop could have killed Michael. This compulsive erratic behavior would eventually cause his death, but not in this Life.
Once they arrived at the welfare office Steven would go peacefully and wait in the line to collect their stamps. Michael would push up to the front of the line and demand his stamp immediately. He would then be told to get to the end of the line. This was the cue for Michael to read the attendant's name plate and start yelling "Oh, Miss
Camen thinks she has a very important job here. You think you are better than us, that you can just push us around. I wanna speak to your boss. Yeah, that's it, I wanna speak to someone in charge here."
One time he tried to climb over the counter and help himself to the stamps. This only resulted in Michael getting carried out by security men and by the next week a Plexiglas wall was erected to protect the staff.
Through all this Steven would patiently wait in line until it was his turn, apologize for his brother, saying Michael wasn't feeling well that day and then collect both of their stamps. As soon as he had the stamps in his hand Michael would come bounding up and grab one of the stamps from him. "You trying to rip me off. You thought you could get both stamps for yourself, did ya. Yeah, some brother I got. No good thief."
Steven would just ignore his comments and make his way out of the building. It happened every day the same, same words, same actions, like a bad short play that no one had bothered to cancel.
Together with their stamps they would head out of the welfare office, back on the bus, more yelling at the driver about how they were in a rush to catch the store before it closed, even though it was open 24 hours a day. Once at 23rd street they'd burst into Vincent's demanding he sold them his very best bottle of white wine. Vincent would then take down the bottle he now kept behind the counter saying "That's $375.00 gentlemen."
"Oh, uhm, maybe we'll settle for a couple of bottles of Baby Duck each." Which Vincent also had behind the counter waiting for them.
With the day's hard work done they would settle into their favorite spot under a big
old oak tree in the park and drink the rest of the day away. "A definite waste of perfectly good human skin", one of the Powers muttered.
This was the daily routine of their Second Lives, from their mid twenties till the day they both died. Their deaths were fairly uneventful even though what caused their deaths made the front pages of the nation's news papers. The Ferguson brothers were two of five unidentified homeless people who where caught by an overnight turn
in the weather. At sunset it was just another autumn night, by four in the morning an arctic storm had rolled in and paralyzed the city, dropping the temperature by twenty degrees Celsius. The Ferguson brothers were found seven days later. Each was given the new name of John Doe and buried, as luck would have it, in a part of the
city's cemetery set aside especially for people named John Doe.
The Powers were not impressed. Though they did note that if it wasn't for Steven trying to keep the peace and looking out for his brother, Michael would get in an intolerable amount trouble and inflict his misery on many more innocent, struggling Lifers. For this Steven would be able to live his Third Life as a human being.
Unfortunately for Michael, Michael wouldn't receive such graces.
Chapter Three. The Third Life
It's eleven a.m. on a Saturday morning. Peter slowly ascends from a deep sleep. As his brain emerges from it's fog and tunes into it's surroundings, the first thing that comes beaming into his semiconscious mind is a constant ringing. Fire engines, emergency alerts, something definitely is going on. His brain lazily tries to deal with the question of weather or not it's for his attention. He opens his eyes and focuses on a paint-peeling ceiling. The
ringing continues. It is a very familiar ringing. He's definitely heard it before. As his brain goes through the last stages of re-entering consciousness he realizes it's his own telephone that's making the ringing sound. He gets up, looks at the pigeon, sleeping, perched on the head board of Peter's bed. "Least you can sleep" Peter
picks up the phone and gives a slow drawled out "Hello?"
"Peter, where the hell have you been? I've been trying to get in touch with you for an hour!"
"Uhm, hi Suzy."
"Are your just waking up? You were supposed to pick up your suit at the dry cleaners and be packed an hour ago."
"Was I? What for?"
"Oh for Christ Sakes Peter! Will you wake up! Remember today is Thanks Giving. We're supposed to be on a plane to my parents place in Kentucky in forty five minutes. There's no way I'm going to miss that plane!"
"Don't worry about it, we'll make it. I've never missed a plane in my life" Fact is that Peter has never caught a plane in his life either. Never even left the city he was born in.
"Peter, with you I worry about everything. I'm coming over to make sure we're not late."
"No, no Suzy, don't do that. Look, I'll be ready in 5 and I'll be over at your place in 15., okay?"
"Peter, I'm warning you, don't mess this trip up. My parents have been wanting to meet you for over a year now. This is very important to OUR future."
Suzy was right to worry. Peter usually messed things up. Not out of not caring, no, Peter was a very caring person. It was just that he couldn't seem to hold a constant thought for more than a few minutes. The only constant in his life, before he met Suzy, was the pigeon. Most people wondered why Peter kept the pigeon but the truth was that the pigeon kept Peter. The pigeon hadn't left Peter alone from that first day, when, as a younger pigeon he landed on Peter's window ledge. Peter woke up on a snowy morning and there was the pigeon slapping it's wings against the glass and squawking like the world was about to end. Peter reluctantly opened the window, the pigeon flew in,
dropped a big turd into the center of Peter's messed up hair then landed peacefully on the head board of Peter's bed. From that day on that head board was the pigeons'. If it wanted to sleep there, eat something dead there or just add to the mountain of bird-turd that was growing under the bed, there was nothing on this earth that could seem to stop it. But, as luck would have it, it was that mountain of bird-turd that eventually lead to Peter being evicted for his home. The floor gave in dropping Peter's bed (with Peter asleep in it) and two tons of bird-turd into the apartment below. Peter's neighbors came home to find Peter still fast asleep and the pigeon
flying around pulling apart all their house plants. Not a very lucky day for Peter and his pigeon.
But as luck would have it, that's how Peter met Suzy. She worked as a real-estate agent, renting out apartments. She was attracted to how vulnerable he seemed. Her motherly instincts kicked in and she found Peter the perfect flat, well for what he could afford. She even helped him move in. Peter had to buy a new bed. He thought the pigeon might follow the old bed to the dump and live there but no such luck. No, the pigeon liked the new bed just as much.
The pigeon's few dim instincts told it that Peter would put up with anything the pigeon did. The pigeon used to test Peter to see how far it could go before Peter would just crawl back into bed and go to sleep. The pigeon had learnt that if it dropped a turd on Peter's head, Peter would stop what ever he was doing, give up for the day, crawl
into bed and go to sleep. Sleeping was the only thing Peter really did well. That is except for looking after Mrs. Nedermyer's small but proud flower garden. Mrs. Nedermyer was Peter's new landlady. She was eighty seven years old and seemed to have a lot of patients for Peter and his pigeon. At first the pigeon was a problem for
the garden. It seemed to get great joy out of pulling up anything that Peter tried to plant. Peter had to build a wire-mesh enclosure to keep the pigeon out. This caused a great disturbance in the neighborhood as the pigeon had the ability to be very loud and sound like about fourteen cats being skinned alive. It made everyone in the
neighborhood come out of their homes and see what was making such a horrified sound. As luck would have it, Mrs. Nedermyer was almost completely deaf so she didn't notice.
Yes, looking after Mrs. Nedermyer's garden was the one thing that Peter did that made the Powers think well of him. Peter kept out of most people's way, wasn't involved in hurting people or extorting or stealing or anything like that. He didn't drink or smoke anything. Something in him was trying desperately to coast through this life
It could have been this keep-your-head-down instinct that was partially responsible for what Peter did, or rather didn't do, that Thanks Giving Saturday morning. There was also a dim element of knowing one or two facts. One being the fact that the pigeon wouldn't be allowed on the plane. Since the pigeon had insulted it's way into
his life, Peter hasn't been away from the pigeon for more than a few hours at a time. After a few hours the pigeon would find Peter and cause a disturbance until Peter had to give in and follow the pigeon back home. It was a strenuous relationship but as Peter would say, "It's as luck would have it."
So Peter put the phone down, looked at the pigeon saying "She's sounding pretty angry." Then he set down on the bed to think about it. Which really was a waste of time as Peter didn't think too well. He ended up drifting off thinking about the pattern of the wall paper and how the marks on the wall almost seemed to be part of the
pattern. He sat there in this haze until the phone starting ringing again.
"I knew it, I just knew it! You're still there. Peeeettterrrr, the plane takes off in 20 minutes. You better be packed and on your way out the door!"
"Ur, I am Suzy, I'm just about to leave. We'll still make it, don't worry hon"
"Don't hon me! Just get your ass over here! Now!" Suzy franticly yelled into Peter's ear, followed by a sharp slamming-of-the-phone-down sound. But as luck would have it, Peter wasn't listening. He was starring over at the pigeon wondering how long it would be before the new mountain of bird-turd got too big for the floor boards to hold and Peter would have to move again. He wondered who his next real-estate agent would be.
But Peter did pull his coat on over top his pyjammers and not forgetting his keys he made his way out to his old, beat-up (mainly beaten by local residents who retaliated against the pigeons's nightly screaming) Chevy Impala. Of course the pigeon was right behind Peter, letting out a sharp squawk to tell Peter to hold the doors open for him.
Peter did without thinking.
The pigeon's favorite spot in the car was in the back window. There he'd sit. Once in, the pigeon would start squawking and would continue until the car was moving. If the car sat still for too long the pigeon would flap it's wings, faster and faster, until eventually the car was moving again. Peter didn't seem to mind this. It reminded him
of something, something he never could quite put his finger on. But, none the less, he found it comforting in a strange sort of way. The only bad side effect this had on Peter is that it made him very sleepy. Which would make him drive very slowly, weaving down the road. Sometimes he would fall completely asleep and stop to be woken by the pigeon nearing cardiac arrest. Which would make Peter sleepy again. As luck would have it, it took Peter a long time to drive anywhere. But he had to drive as the buses wouldn't allow the pigeon on board.
So there was Peter behind the wheel of his junk pile automobile, wearing his pyjammers and slippers with his rain coat wrapped over top. Slowly weaving down the road to Suzy's house. There was twelve traffic lights on the way and Peter managed to be stopped by each one. Suzy could hear him coming from eight blocks away. "Oh no, not the damn pigeon. I can't take this. What the hell am I doing. I can't go to my parents house with this idiot and his pigeon. Christ!"
And as luck would have it she wouldn't. She looked at her watch and knew they couldn't catch the plane, too late. Her heart sunk as her anger rose. She knew this had to be the end of her and Peter.
Across the road from her home was a spaghetti house, one of a chain called `Reni's Spaghetti Surpremo´. Suzy often ate there. Besides some of the come-on's she'd get from the owner, Vincent, it was a nice enough place. She had heard stories about Vincent's grandfather being a mobster and about a hundred different versions of how
he died. All she really knew was that the Papilitzo family were very respected in the city and they owned 23 identical spaghetti houses. The food was good and cheap so business was good. She decided to ditch Peter and hide from him in one of the 23 identical spaghetti houses. She ran across the road and into the front door as the
squawking sounds were getting closer.
"Hey Suzy, nice to see ya. Hey, when you gonna dump that limp boyfriend of yours and get yourself a real man. I'm here waiting just for you. Don't ya forget it now, ha, ha, ha."
She ignored the comment and headed for a booth in the back. She sat in a spot where 22 other people, in different locations in the city, were sitting as well, in the same seat, looking at the same wall paper and the same fake oil
paintings on the walls. She wondered if they had the urge to order the same as her, or if maybe it was the other way around, she wondered if what they were ordering influenced her choice. Suzy was a little complicated and these thoughts always made her feel anxious about being more in control of her life, she tried not to think about it
Peter pulled up in front of Reni's leaving the door open for the pigeon. He slowly walked across the road and up to the front door of a three story apartment building. He found and rang Suzy's buzzer but she didn't answer. He and the pigeon waited there for over half an hour, ringing the bell every few minutes. Finally the pigeon got bored and pecked at Peter's ankle. Peter didn't react, just turned from the door and headed back to his car. Suzy could see him out there. All the time she angrily waited for him to leave thinking, "What an idiot, look how he's dressed, how long will he wait, I can't believe he's still there. What a complete idiot!"
"Hey Suzy, isn't that your little boyfriend out there, looks to me like you're hiding from him, you want me to tell him your in here?"
"No Vincent, don't you dare, just stay out of it and get me another coffee."
As Peter and the pigeon got back into the car Peter caught sight of Suzy in the back of Reni's. "There is she, she must of told me to meet her in there." Peter got out of the car but, as luck would have it, didn't leave the door open for the pigeon. The pigeon squawked but Peter continued into Reni's.
"Peter, we've missed the plane, you have messed up yet another important thing in my life. This is the last time. I won't take this anymore. You're an idiot. You and that damn pigeon. I've had enough. I don't want to see you ever again."
Peter just stood there next to her booth, not knowing what to say. He had never been dropped by a girlfriend before, fact is he had never had a girlfriend before, but anyway he was stunned. Which wasn't a new state for Peter. Suzy looked down hoping he'd go away.
Mean while, outside the pigeon was well into the third stage of imitating the sound of fourteen cats being skinned alive and drawing quite a crowd. Vincent had come out to watch. There was something about this pigeon ranting on in the back window of the car that Vincent found comforting in a strange sort of distant, unexplainable way.
The crowd grew to more than a dozen men standing around watching the pigeon. Some of them laughing but most just stood there with blank looks on their faces and watched. Inside Peter was going through the "But whys" to no good effect. He just drove Suzy into more and more of a rage till she couldn't think of anymore nasty things to say to Peter. And still he replied with a "But why don't you want to see me? I was looking forward to meeting your parents."
That was it, Suzy got up, used the F word for the first time in this Life, telling Peter to do something that was automatically impossible and walked out of Reni's Spaghetti Surpremo, just like 22 other people in the city were probably doing, and out of Peter's Third Life.
Outside the crowd was slowly thinning as the pigeon had finally stopped and lay dead in the back window of Peter's car. Feathers still floating around inside. Vincent tried to shake the car a bit to see if the pigeon would start the squawking again. Suzy walked past and ignored the whole scene. After a few minutes a confused Peter emerged from Reni's, got into his car, turned to the pigeon and said "She doesn't want to see me ever again". He knew the pigeon was dead, he figured luck wanted it that way. And as luck would have it the pigeon/Michael/Reni entered into the fourth stage of existence where the Powers made him an asteroid, a very small one at that. Peter got the pigeon stuffed in a full squawking, wings stretched pose and fastened him in the back window ledge of his car. Sometimes Peter would make the squawking sounds himself as he sat at a red light.
Peter eventually died in that old Chevy Impala, in a historic sixty five car pile-up out on interstate 41. Apparently, as luck would have it, Peter was driving along nice and slow when a gust of wind finally freed the pigeon from it's fasteners and made it fly out the window into the middle of the fast lane. Peter swerved over to stop but sadly choose the fast lane to stop in. Ninety three people died in less the forty seconds, including Peter.
But as luck would have it, the Powers saw this not as a horrendous act of mass murder but as a loving act of dedication to the pigeon. A bit stupid but luck and intelligence were never Peter's high points. So, with a slightly audible whezz like whistle Peter/Steven/Alex's energy weaved across the sky to disappear into the depths of space where a small planet imploded on his impact. The rings of energy raced out across the darkness, breathing life to where there was not life before. He was a peaceful shining star.