Thursday, June 10, 2021

An original short story: Just One More Day

This is a story I wrote a few years ago. Hope you enjoy!

Just One More Day by Patty Panni

Geno moved quickly through the crowded sidewalk, dodging and weaving through the tourists, shoppers, and countless other people you find on a New York City street. No one took notice of the small statured and plainly dressed man…he was quite easy to overlook. As usual, traffic was heavy, yellow cabs everywhere, horns blaring. Street vendors selling everything from hot dogs to fake Rolexes were peppered along the streets. It was a typical afternoon in the city. The man took no notice of the people, traffic, or smells, as he walked with intent, head down, covering many blocks in a short time.

Eventually, Geno ducked down an alley, one of countless other alleys indistinguishable by everyone but those who lived nearby. His pace slowed a bit because the pavement became uneven, holes here and there. Geno nodded to a small group of boys standing next to a dumpster but kept moving. Finally, he stopped behind a brick building that had seen better days, and approached a small door beneath the fire escape. He knocked twice, quietly. Immediately the door opened and Geno was pulled inside.

“’Bout time you got here,” said a heavy man seated at a table in the dim room, his voice rough and raspy, like a rusty hinge on an old door. “We were thinking maybe you got lost.”

“No. I…I came as fast as I could,” Geno said quickly. “I would never keep you or Mr. Marino waiting – “

“Tell me you brought it,” the man interrupted. “Tell me you brought our merchandise back.”

Geno licked his lips and his eyes darted around the room. “I…I couldn’t get it yet. I will have it by tomorrow, I promise. I just need a little more time…” His voice faded as the large man stood, well over six feet tall, towering like a mountain over him. Involuntarily, Geno took a step back, then felt something hard against his back. “Just until tomorrow,” he said plaintively, “I promise, I –” A massive fist connected with his jaw, forcefully, and for a moment he saw stars. Then the fist hit his abdomen, and he doubled over in pain. Trying to breathe and see where the next blow would come from, Geno stood silently, legs shaking.

“You know, Geno, I always liked you — and your pretty little wife and daughter,” the man said flatly in his gravelly voice. “I would hate to think that something bad might happen to them. But you disappoint me. Now I gotta tell Mr. Marino you let us down. You said you would have it today, but you lied. Now, how do you think Mr. Marino’s gonna take the news that you lied to us and won’t return what you stole from us…from him?”

Geno’s eyes teared up. “I swear to God I’ll have it tomorrow, I swear.” Desperation made his voice unsteady. “Please don’t do anything to my family. Just one more day, that’s all I’m asking.”

The man looked at him with cold, hard, dead eyes until Geno looked away. “Get outta here,” he said grimly. “You’ve got 24 hours. If you don’t have it by tomorrow, you and your family just might fall off the East River Bridge…but not before I make you sorry you were ever born.”

Geno’s shaking legs couldn’t get him out the door fast enough. Once outside, he took a deep, painful breath and tried to calm his racing thoughts. He wanted to run straight home, grab Lisa and Giana, and jump on a train – any train – and leave the city far behind. But even as he considered it, he knew there was no place to hide…no place far enough away that Marino couldn’t find them…and no lengths he would not take to find them. Exhaustion and impotence washed over him, and he started the long walk back home…back to the family he loved and was going to lose. He thought about the good days, those early good days, when he and Lisa first got together, both working crazy long hours and living in a tiny roach-infested apartment in a rough neighborhood. They thought God had smiled on them when a delivery job at a local paper company fell into his lap, giving him steady hours and a lot more money. They were able to move into a nice apartment overlooking the Brooklyn Bridge. They got married, and Lisa was able to fix up the place like she wanted.

What a fool he had been.  How naive he had been to believe a job making deliveries to neighborhood mom-and-pops would pay what he was making. So, when the big boss Mr. Marino requested a few extra deliveries as a personal favor to him that weren’t part of Geno’s regular route, who was he to say no? He needed that job, that paycheck, because by that time, their baby girl was on the way. He would have done anything to keep Marino happy and take care of his wife and little girl.

As the years passed, Geno learned more than he wanted to about the “paper business” and what kind of deliveries he actually made. And, he learned all too well what happened to guys who tried to walk away. So, Geno settled into a life comprised of dual compartments: work life: where he did what he had to do and kept his head down; and his “real” life with Lisa and Giana: which was what counted. Then came the accident, that terrible day when someone ran a red light, hitting his van and rendering him unconscious. He had come to in a panic, just as the police were arriving. But instead of finding drugs in his van and taking him to jail, the police found nothing out of the ordinary – and no trace of the other car. That day changed everything. The threats began, and then became nonstop, telling him they knew he had planned this, and he would never get away with it; telling him to find the drugs, or it would not go well for him and his family; telling him to bring it all back…or else.

Now, he was out of time. He couldn’t tell Marino who had his drugs, because he didn’t know. And, short of that, there was no solution. Geno walked on autopilot, making his way toward the bridge and the home and family he loved. He had never felt this hopeless.

Unless…  No, it would never work. He was a fool to even consider such a thing. It would get them all killed. But of course, they were doomed anyway. In his desperation, Geno found himself believing it might just work. Pace quickening, he changed course and headed toward the local police precinct. What if they were watching him right now? On the other hand, Marino would never believe he would go to the police, so maybe this was just crazy enough to work. He had to try.

With shaking legs, Geno walked up the steps, into the station, and down a hall until he found a door marked “Organized Crime Bureau.” Taking a deep breath, he pushed the door open and went inside.

An original short story: A Graceland Christmas

In a complete departure from what I usually write, this is a fun little romantic tale set at Christmastime right here in my hometown. I ho...