On Sundays, I would accompany my father on long walks. We’d dress up in our best clothes and head out, hand in hand, to St Mary’s Church. Once there, we’d circle the church grounds while the mass went on inside. We’d walk around casually, strolling without a care in the world, and he’d be telling me stories about Christ and the lives of the Apostles, and how the Roman FBI had an inside man who had betrayed God. He explained how Christ got hung on the cross and then in three days his body disappeared and floated into the sky. He told me Christ was the greatest person that had ever lived.
Last Sunday, we met a handsome couple on the sidewalk on the way home. My father and I stood before them, I’m holding his hand, and he’s getting ready to address the pair. He gave me a quick comforting look and patted the top of my head like he might flick dust from my hair. He smiled, and then nodded before beginning to speak: “Excuse me,” he said, ”I can’t help but admire the cut of your jacket; that silk tie, those patent leather shoes,” and turning to the woman ”and the fine workmanship in that dress, those pearls and earrings, among the best I have ever seen.”
The couple separate slightly, parted, glancing at one another, then smiling at me, the cutest thing they had ever seen.
“I think that watch is fabulous. How much would you take for it? My son would love it—turning to me: wouldn’t you love to have it?” I said yes, and agreed inside to love it. The gentleman smiled, but had no intention of turning over his watch. “Those pearls would be a fine gift, and an investment in my son’s future. How much would you take for them?”
The man spoke for the woman: “We’re not interested, thank you, have a nice day.”
My father then asked about the woman’s bracelet, made of interwoven gold chains as thin as thread. I thought it was beautiful, glinting in the sunlight, it was alive.
“We have no intention of selling it, or anything else for any price,” said the man; “it was nice to have met you and your son, we’ll be moving along now, thank you. Please, have a nice day?”
My father stepped left to block their departure. “Let’s hear from the woman, let’s hear how she feels about it?”
The woman immediately spoke up: “I agree with him.”
“I don’t want to say this before my son, but it may be necessary. Are you really happy with this man, this lady in drag, this peacock who can give you nothing but trinkets, who carries you on his arm like a handbag? Do you really believe he takes you seriously?” I didn’t understand any of this. I noticed the woman’s face went from pink to gray. “I don’t want the pearls or bracelet so much as I want the watch. The kid wants the bracelet, what kid wouldn’t, but the watch will make him soon forget it. Let’s say I buy the watch—say for 20 bucks—and you can keep the pearls and bracelet? That sounds reasonable, doesn’t it?” My father always prided himself on being a reasonable man.
The couple traded sour faces, and then the man said: “20 bucks? You must be joking? I wouldn’t sell it for a thousand, and definitely not to the likes of you. Now beat it!” I couldn’t understand why the man was getting so upset. My father looked down, and scratched his chin, and with his other hand he pulled a pistol from his coat pocket.
“Okay, either the watch for twenty, or all for nothing. You left me no choice. Please, decide.”
The man, his face in shock, lunged at my father. The pistol went off, and the man’s wrist was shattered, the remnants of his hand hanging from a sliver of pink flesh, and the watch my father wanted to give me suddenly returned to gold-dust, glass, and little gears on the ground at my feet. The woman jumped like a cat, several steps back. The man was screaming in pain while my father and I looked on. The woman began unsnapping her jewelry; ears, neck, wrist, all of which she stuffed in her purse, and then she plunged its embroidered purple leather into my hands. I was thinking about purple cows, purple pigs, purple snakes. My father took the purse, and I scrunched down to pick the gold bits out of the blood and flesh recently the man’s hand. The man had never stopped screaming, holding his forearm below the elbow, dancing on one foot then the other, rocking and screaming. My father told the woman to help the man, to get him to a hospital, or something: “he’s likely to bleed to death on the street.” The woman jumped into action, placed one hand on the man’s shoulder, and with the other she gently held up his handless arm. My father pocketed his pistol, handed me the purse, and with my other hand warmly engulfed by his, we walked off toward home, where my mother waited for her Sunday surprise, which in all those years my father had never failed to bring home.