Micky O. stepped off the train and was met by a blast of cold wind that swirled the dry leaves on the ground. He pulled his coat collar up and hurried inside the depot. He climbed the stairs to the street level lobby. Expectant passengers milled around waiting for their trains. Micky stopped at the newsstand to buy a newspaper and a pack of smokes.
“What brings you to town?” the attendant asked.
“I’m a salesman,” Micky replied.
“A salesman, huh? Shouldn’t you have a case or something with all your wares?” The attendant set the cigarettes on the counter.
“I don’t need samples. The product sells itself.” Micky tossed his cash on the counter and took his things without waiting for change.
“Fucking nosy prick,” Micky said under his breath. He tucked the newspaper under his arm as he approached the lunch counter. He took a seat and a young waitress swooped in.
“Coffee?” she asked. The girl gave him a flirtatious grin. He nodded and picked up the menu. The waitress moved on and refilled other patrons’ cups, but she kept stealing glances over at him.
Micky thoughtfully sipped his coffee. He would have to wait until it began to get dark to carry out his business. He would be able to catch the late train back to St. Paul, then the transfer to Chicago and so on reconnecting all the dots that had brought him here to the coast of Lake Superior.
It was a long time to be away from the Farm and he hadn’t cleared the trip with Frank Sicero. No one needed to know he was here. He didn’t want them to. He was depending on Cylus to keep his mouth shut. He was the only one that knew Micky was in another state.
“Do you see anything you like?” The waitress leaned over and peered at his menu. She looked up and smiled at him again. She clearly used this ploy often and knew that her blouse lolled open. Although, Micky wasn’t opposed to the recreational use of waitresses, he needed to focus on his mission. It was a supposed to be a quick trip and he wanted it to go unnoticed. He tore his eyes away from her ivory skin and cleared his throat.
“How about the ham sandwich?”
“Just the sandwich?” she asked with a playful smirk.
“Yeah…for now.” Micky didn’t want to rebuff her too hard, but he didn’t want to leave a lasting impression. She could still be useful to give him directions.
Cylus sat in a rocking chair on the porch and whittled a piece of wood. He saw the cloud of dust rising from the road awhile ago and was waiting for whoever it was to arrive. He had hoped he didn’t have to do this while Micky was gone, but he wasn’t that lucky. The car pulled up a few minutes later and Spots got out.
“Where’s Mick? I got a message from Mr. Sicero.” He stepped up on the porch.
“A message? I’ll take it,” Cylus grumbled. Spots’ eyes narrowed. This Cylus guy was climbing the ladder rather fast.
“Naw, Cannoli, I should give it to him myself. Is he inside?” He stepped towards the door, but Cylus was swift for such a large man and cut off his approach.
“Micky was feeling under the weather. He said he doesn’t want to be disturbed.” Cylus took a fat finger and jabbed Spots in the chest. “And don’t call me, Cannoli.”
“Relax, Cy, I’m just giving you a hard time,” Spots took a step back. Behind him, Cylus could see Vern stagger out of the bunkhouse. He had finally woken up after a whiskey binge the day before.
“What’s this?” he called.
“Nothing,” Spots straightened his suit coat. “I came to see Micky, on behalf of Sicero.”
“And I said Micky ain’t entertaining visitors at this time.” Cylus held Vern’s eye contact and the other man understood.
“That’s right,” Vern said. “We had a pretty late night sampling that new recipe. It’s got a bit of a kick. It certainly knocked me off my fuckin’ feet and I got at least 60 pounds on Micky O.” Vern stepped up onto the porch. Spots got a good look at how hung-over he was.
“Micky’s in there ailing and doesn’t want to be disturbed,” Cylus reiterated. “I can give him the message when he’s on his feet again.” Spots looked at him suspiciously, then at Vern before finally reaching in his coat pocket. He pulled out an envelope and reluctantly handed it over.
“This is it? You don’t even know what it says?” Cylus asked. Spots shook his head.
“No, Mr. Sicero likes to keep things confidential. He’ll ask if I gave it to him directly.” Cylus clapped a hand on his shoulder.
“Don’t worry, just say you did. This is between us. We’ll never mention you didn’t follow Frank’s order to a T and no one has to know Micky’s sick on his own hooch either. Capisce?” He gave the young man his best smile. Spots looked from one to the other again before he finally nodded.
“Yeah…my lips are sealed.” He stepped off the porch and walked around to the driver’s side of his car. He stopped and took a look up at the farmhouse’s windows. Cylus kept watching him until he got in the car and turned it around. He tucked the envelope in his pocket.
“I don’t know what you got going on with Micky, and if it’s all the same to you I’d rather not. I’ll cover for you as long as you don’t drag me down with it,” Vern said from behind Cylus. He turned around to see Vern, sweating from the effort to stand upright.
“Don’t worry, it’s nothing like that. Micky just had some personal business to take care of. Frank doesn’t need to know.”
Vern sighed, “Good. Now excuse me…I have to go to the shitter.” He disappeared around the corner. Cylus sat down in his chair again and watched the little clouds of dust move into the distance.
Micky stepped out from the alleyway into the dark evening. The shops were closing up and people were hurrying home. The wind blew up from the lake and pushed clouds over the sliver of moon. A woman was walking a few paces in front of him. He sped up swift and silent, closing the gap. He grabbed her arm and covered her mouth to keep her from screaming. She struggled until she looked up in his face. Her body relaxed and she allowed him to guide her into an alley. He loosened his grip and she pulled away.
“Do not touch me!” she said. “I thought you were in jail. Why are you here?”
“Calm down, Lena. I only came to talk.” He let her take a few steps away, but he still stood between her and escape.
“How did you find me?” Her eyes darted around nervously.
“How are the kids? Who watches them while you’re at work?”
“My sister-in-law. The children like it here. Ollie wants to go to school like his older cousins and the baby, he is big…and…and there’s no dead people or liars.” She was still wary. Micky chuckled, then spoke with earnestness.
“I’m sorry that I got arrested, but it was all a misunderstanding. It’s taken care of now and I’m not here to take you back with me. I just wanted to know that my kids are doing well.” Lena could see him smiling as moonlight returned to the alley. She relaxed a little. The tone of his voice reminded her of the old days before they were married.
“It must have been pretty hard on you and I can’t change what happened. If this is what you want, I’ll leave you to it. It would help my conscience though if you would take this.” The moon disappeared as Micky held out a large roll of cash. Lena stepped forward tentatively.
“You have a new job?” she asked as she quickly plucked the money from his hand. Micky chuckled in the dark.
“Yeah, a more agreeable one. I can send more around Christmas for the boys.” He came closer. “Now how about a goodbye kiss? Come on, just for old times’ sake.” Lena managed a weak smile. He wasn’t asking too much. She went to him, leaned up on her toes and kissed him. He placed his hands on her cheeks and kissed her again.
“You really pissed me off this time,” he whispered as his hands slid down to her throat. Lena barely had time to react. Her eyes bulged and she tried to scream, but no sound escaped. She beat at Micky’s chest, but he kept a firm grip on her throat. She clawed at his hands, but it was useless. Her nails dug into his skin, but he didn’t flinch. Her eyes dimmed and her grip on him became weak. When her hands finally fell away, he lowered her to the ground. He stared at her as the moon came out.
“Sorry about that,” Micky let out a little laugh, “I worked very hard, you know, but you were very needy. I gave you the best I could and you never appreciated it. I didn’t think it was a big deal to marry you when I got you knocked up, but I realize now that I made a mistake. I was trying for once in my life to do the right thing, but you weren’t the one for me. I know it’s disappointing for it to end like this. It’s not the first time I disappointed you, but at least, it’s the last.” Micky reached down and dug the roll of cash out of her coat pocket. “On the Brightside, I think I finally found the one and if I want to be an honest man…Well, I didn’t think an annulment would go over so good and I sorta hate your fucking guts so here we are.” Micky kicked her legs over towards the wall to hide her from passing traffic. She stared vacantly up at the sky. Micky looked at his timepiece. “It was good seeing you, but I got a train to catch.” Micky walked out of the alleyway and headed to the depot. He laughed out loud. Life was good.