(Printed in Voices From the Susquehanna)


David Stelzig

Bastard. For twenty years and more, Spumelli has sent his thugs to steal from me. Protection he calls it. Protection? I have no need. Stealing is what it is.

Now he is here, in my shop, expecting to be treated with respect.

He looks up at me with cold, dead eyes. His face is a tangled patchwork of thin, purple, spiderweb veins. His skin, a pasty-white parchment. The complete lack of wrinkles belies his eighty-four years. So does his full head of long, black hair that he has center-parted and plastered to the sides in flat, oily mats. When I bend forward though, I see, near his scalp, snow-white roots.

Spumelli continues to look at me. Expressionless. Unblinking. He mocks me with his serenity.

I stare back. Seething. Powerless. And yet…I am in control. I furtively glance over my shoulder. We are alone. Before anyone can stop me, before I change my mind, I pull a scalpel from under the table and, with two quick slashes, emasculate my old enemy.

I step into the bathroom and flush the evidence and then, humming softly, return to work. Speed is important now. Viewing of the body begins in three short hours.

The extortion? I’ll continue to pay; a younger brother, Joseph, has taken over the business. But Joseph is not that young. Soon he too will visit my shop. And then I will again extract my small revenge, dispatching another eunuch to hell.