Sparrows

Zombipanda

My Boom-Boom's mostly gay
A page-long first draft snippet from something I'm working on. As always, vicious criticism is appreciated.

Thanksgiving was the worst. In Chelsea's line of business, most holidays were work holidays. Halloween was the most obvious match for the masks set, but like any other segment of the population, winter was a time of loneliness and depression. Any self-proclaimed four color criminal with a theme tangentially related to the season would storm Christmas and New Year with full force, and even those without were apt to trade their mainstream gimmick for a seasonal theme. As for Valentine's Day, Sam and his little birds had their obvious standing date penciled in (a relief really. Chelsea dreaded the possibility of Sam's mood swings on an unoccupied Valentine's); even Dr. King's birthday had its occasional batch of blasphemous criminal ventures. But Thanksgiving... On the surface it might have seemed the same as any family's passive-aggressive celebration of the season. Sam would lurk on the edges of the gathering, muscles tense, looking desperately in need of a cigarette, a drink, a joint, or any number of the minor and inconsequential vices he denied himself. When she was younger, Chelsea had made a game of mentally fashioning the trauma that might have led to him so hating the holiday: cannibal cultists draped in hot, dripping turkey skins; hatchet-wielding right wing terrorists in vulgar redface; the grinning, bloated helium corpse of Underdog hijacked as a strychnine trojan horse. Looking back, she didn't blame herself for such fancies; it was how she was trained. But the truth was far more dour. To see Uncle Victor and Aunt Catherine with their stampeding cherub-cheeked retinue, or even Uncle Bobby and his girl, shine of bruised cheek frequently peeking through caked makeup, was just a reminder of what little he had. It got worse when the baby came along. Vic, Bobby, and Gerard weren't family then and they probably never were -- not really. To Sam, it was just a reminder of his own isolation, of how fleeting this self-crafted surrogacy really was; that in not much time at all, Caleb and Chelsea too would flee his shelter and he would be left a rich old child of a bachelor with an empty nest, trading family for associates, deprived in this lonely stretch of thanks giving even his nemeses, happy at home with whatever families they had left.

Not that the holiday was without its pleasantries. Granted, she didn't find it in her peers. Aunt Catherine would hen over her brood, quietly ushering them away from Caleb and Chelsea with quiet coos and guilty whispers, as if Sam's wards were sharp-jawed little foxes. Chelsea couldn't blame the lady, even then. Catherine knew Victor's sordid past, maybe not all of it, but the scant little was enough for her to know she didn't want her children anywhere near Vic's successors. Sam seemed resolute in insuring his little sparrows were prepared for the same self-imposed hell of solitude he had created for himself. But Chelsea had fond memories of Uncle Gerard in that softly-remembered twilight before his disappearance: chaste girlish kisses brushed against bristly brillo cheek; dark mocha skin an exotic and alien wonder to her sheltered and childish mind; rides around the dinner table perched on Gerard's wiry shoulders with her fingers buried in thick, soft hair, drawing hands away only long enough to pluck buttery rolls from the surface of the dinner spread. Like her and Caleb, he seemed an outsider, and this only magnified the kinship she felt. Uncle Ger may have feigned deafness but she saw the way Vic and Bobby would stand in the corner, whispering venom. "Spook" she heard more than once and the word made her fancy Gerard as some romantic, dashing spy. But she never believed it. There was something far more ominous, more hateful in that word, a dripping bile that she didn't yet have the context to place. And as the other two would shuffle into the back office with Sam, leaving Gerard back to babysit the hens and the chicklets and the foxlings, he'd tip his head up to her with a wry conspiratorial smile and whisper, "There goes the Don and his Capos."

She could see Bobby through the glass, lurking over the turkey like it hadn't a lawyer and the good cop was away at lunch. Old Bobby had tried his hand at semi-pro boxing before his disastrous stint with the cops. Sam would make them watch through the old VHS sometimes, critique the style. She heard he could've been a contender once, but that was before her time. Now he was just a c*nt.
 
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