Kevin Murphy Pops His Cherry Marvin the Martian licked his lips.

Here it comes, Kevin thought. Fucker’s gonna start begging. But no. The begging, if there was to be any, would come later. Marvin simply sat there, palms pressed flat to the table, right leg pistoning up and down like a piece of heavy farm machinery. He licked his lips. His eyes slid from the pistol in Sal’s hand over to Kevin. He raised his eyebrows and offered a shaky little smile, as if to say “little help, buddy?” That was all. Kevin cleared his throat, kept quiet. “Well,” Jim said, and Marvin looked at him. “Well, well, well.” Marvin licked his lips again and uttered a dainty, girlish little cough. Everyone called him Marvin the Martian because he was short and he was black and he had buggy eyes and he always wore a silver beanie pulled down over his ears. Kevin didn’t think he looked much like Marvin the Martian at all. His real name was Tracy. He was in college, Boston University, on a scholarship. Kevin was pretty sure he grew up somewhere in Indiana. He was studying biogenetical engineering or some such shit. Pure research. He once told Kevin that he never wanted to deal with actual patients, not if he could help it, because he generally didn’t like people all that much. “People are shit,” he said. “And boring. ‘less you’re fucking them. But viruses are very nearly perfect. So simple but so magnificently elegant. If God really did create anything in His image, it was a virus.” Kevin didn’t know about that. Once upon a time he’d been an altar boy at St. Catherine’s and so was inclined to think of such talk as blasphemy. But he had to admit the idea of God as a virus made a certain degree of sense to him. 1

Marvin explained what he did one night when the two of them hung out in Marvin’s apartment, getting high and waiting for some girls to come over. “Certain bacteria have these polysaccharide outer coats that are really poorly immunogenic,” Marvin had said. He was packing a blunt at the time, and he stared down at it as if it might try to jump out of his hands. Kevin wondered idly what immunogenic meant, gave up entirely on polysaccharide. “What we’re trying to do is put virus proteins into the bacteria to create a vaccine. If you link the outer coats to these proteins, then you can trick the immune system into thinking the bacteria is that particular virus and it will build up the antibodies to fight it. That’s how we’re gonna cure AIDS, dude. I fucking guarantee it.” Kevin couldn’t have given less of a shit. Marvin might know about polysaccharide whatevers but he didn’t know dick about dealing. He was a smart-ass country club nigger on a scholarship, and he got greedy. Kevin was still working the door at Gideon’s in Revere and taking home maybe $500 a week when he wasn’t driving Jim’s cantankerous ass all over the place. Jim didn’t pay shit. Not even gratitude. He knew Kevin wanted in, and he expected Kevin to pay his dues accordingly and with no faggot-ass complaining. Family or no family, that’s the way it was. About six months ago Marvin had decided it would be okay if he shaved a little off the top of whatever he was getting from Jim and Sal so he could sell some light ounces on the side. He was doing okay for awhile, keeping it under wraps, unloading the stuff up in Somerville where Jim/Sal’s network didn’t reach, and throwing enough money Jim/Sal’s way to keep the old mick/wop duo happy. But then he sold a dime to this guy who turned out to be an undercover Statie. The dude was in his mid-20s and had a crew cut 2

and a Magnum P.I. mustache right out of 1984. His name, he told Marvin, was Wheeler McCain. Anyone who knew anything about anything would have made him for a Statie inside two seconds. Not Marvin. Marvin was a smart-ass, greedy country club jungle bunny fucktard and he thought he had Somerville by the balls. Forty-five minutes later he was in a holding cell down at Government Center. From what Kevin understood it took less than two hours for him to Keee-RACK like a piece of dry timber. Kevin heard that Marvin had actually cried a little. Jim gave a deep, world-weary sigh and scratched a wood match against his thumbnail and lit up. Smoke wafted out his nostrils in a fine stream. “So,” he said to Marvin. “Why don’t you see if you can give me one good reason I shouldn’t kill you?” Marvin looked up and saw Jim’s smile. A light smile. A friendly smile. He grinned right back. In that grin Kevin saw relief and hope and he felt a sudden stab of sadness. Because Marvin didn’t know. Marvin thought he might still have a shot at talking his way out of this. He figured this was just a bit of strong-arm bluff work over the light ounces. He didn’t know they knew about the Statie. He didn’t know what it meant to be sitting here face to face with Jim Finnigan, when anyone who knew anything about anything knew that Jim never showed his face to anybody unless he felt completely safe. Marvin didn’t know that Jim’s smile, kind as it was, meant absolutely nothing because as far as Jim was concerned he, Marvin, was already dead. **** Kevin had picked Marvin up after Marvin had left a piano bar on Lansdowne Street. It was a faggy little joint as far as Kevin was 3

concerned. Two balding middle-aged fucks pounding out twentydollar requests from drunk college students and slutted-out bachelorette parties. They even did a piano version of “Baby Got Back,” and some fucktard fuck inevitably requested it every single night and the crowd always cheered like it was the first time anyone ever thought of it. Marvin dug the place because he was a reasonably put together black dude and he liked rich white girls, and the rich white girls all loved the piano bar. Marvin got laid a lot, and that made Kevin mad. Those rich Boston College bitches wouldn’t look twice at him. They’d see his red hair and freckles and his battered Red Sox cap and no matter how charming he tried to be they’d hear the way he dropped his r’s and drug out his a’s and they’d giggle at him and let him buy them drinks and then go home with Marvin instead. Every fucking time. Tonight was a Wednesday and the only people in the place were a couple fat bitches in Northeastern T-shirts, a group of emaciated dorks from MIT, a drunken office party, and one or two dudes like Marvin checking the scene. After a while Marvin got bored and decided to head home. He had a midterm next week and figured maybe he’d try studying for a change. He didn’t usually bother -- Marvin was blessed with smarts the way he was blessed with girls -- but this midterm was going to be especially vicious and, besides, he didn’t really have anything better to do. There was no pussy for miles. He was a little drunk, but the cold air would take care of that in a hurry. Marvin cut across the big parking lot between Brookline and Beacon Street, weaving a little as he went. It was still early and he was hoping to catch the C-Line T at Park Street, which would take him out to Cleveland Circle where his fancy scholarship and all those light ounces were paying for a pretty sweet apartment 4

right by the Chestnut Hill Reservoir. That’s where all the rich white BC assholes lived. Marvin was neither rich nor white and he went to BU instead of BC, but as far as he was concerned he was getting by just fine. He was almost to the fence at the far end of the lot when Kevin rolled up next to him. “Martin Luther King is dead, hallelooooooya,” Kevin sang out the open window, “white man shot him in his head, hallelooooooya....” Marvin pulled up short and turned, his face a cloud, his hands bunching into fists. Then he saw Kevin and swallowed. He hadn’t seen Kevin since he’d been pinched, and he wasn’t sure how well he’d do at playing it cool. This was uncharted territory for him. There was a thick moment between them, what a writerly type might call a “pregnant pause,” and then Kevin smiled and Marvin relaxed a little. “You’re gonna say that shit to the wrong nigger one of these days, Kev,” Marvin said, but he was grinning. Kevin laughed. “Come on,” Kevin said through his smile. It was Jim’s smile. Kevin had been practicing. “We got some stuff to talk about. I might have a little more money to throw your way. Lemme give you a ride.” ***** The house just off K Street was one of those saggy two-family row houses that looked as if, given one or two more hard winters, it might just collapse into a heap of sticks during a rough harbor storm. Sal had stuck one of his girls there back in the mid eighties. Her name was Maggie Flynn. She was half Irish, half Neapolitan, and she had deep auburn hair, tits the size of water jugs, an ass the consistency of cottage cheese and rolls of fat all up and down her belly. When she sat she looked like she was 5

wearing an innertube under her shirt. Sal complained about that all the time, even though, being the well-fed Sicilian that he was, he carried quite the load himself. He tried to get her to go with him on walks or bike rides on the weekends, tried to get her to lay off her sister’s cannolis and try the Atkins or something, but that inevitably turned into a fight because aside from being fat Maggie Flynn was also a grade-A South Boston cunt. That’s what Sal said, over and over and over again if he was in one of his dark and talkative moods, and from the three or four times Kevin had been unfortunate enough to deal with her directly he had to agree. But Sal stuck with her, even though he could have dropped her easily and just kept sticking it to the cute little redheaded dog-track ticket-taker that he was seeing on the side. But he and Maggie had been together for going on twenty years now, and Sal was nothing if not loyal. They’d be together for another thirty unless God showed Sal some kindness and struck her dead of a heart attack or a stroke some night. It could happen. The one good thing about Sal being with Maggie Flynn was that she didn’t ask questions and her place had a basement. Every so often, when they had a particularly nasty piece of work to attend to Sal would call her and tell her to take her sister to a movie or something. She was out now playing Bingo in the basement at St. Mary’s. Marvin licked his lips. Jim raised an eyebrow, waiting. And here it came. The begging. Only it didn’t sound like begging. Marvin sounded like an attorney arguing his case before the Supreme Court. He talked about the light ounces. Marvin was a nigger but he wasn’t no dummy. He had to know they knew about that. He’d put it all together as soon as he realized that Kevin was piloting the 6

car East instead of West. He’d gone for the door when they came to a stop light in Roxbury but Kevin had taken one quick shot at his nose with the butt of a pistol and Marvin decided that it would be best for him to try and ride this one out rather than make a run for it and get a bullet between the shoulders. He was a fast talker, was Marvin the Martian, and he figured that if he spoke Jim’s language he might yet find his way out of this. So he offered Jim money. “I was gonna pay you,” he said. Not panicked. Perfectly reasonable. “I was gonna head up to Gideon’s at the end of the month. I’ve got nearly five grand in a lock box in-” “-your bedroom closet,” Jim finished. “Yeah, we got that already.” Marvin blinked. Licked his lips. Went on. “Right,” he said. “Anyway, I figured I’d kick over, I dunno, twenty percent?” Jim stared at him. “I was just trying to make us all a little richer. See, my buddy knew this guy up in Somerville who deals shwag to the Tufts kids and I just pounced on it, you know, figured I ought to strike while it’s hot, get while the getting’s good, all that,” Marvin said. “But I, uh, I guess I should have checked with you first.” Jim nodded. “I won’t do it again,” Marvin said. “I know,” Jim said. “I ... you can keep the whole five grand if you want.” As soon as it was out of his mouth he knew it was a mistake. Kevin saw it all over his face. “I mean-” “Shut the fuck up, Marvin,” Kevin said. 7

Marvin looked at him. The fear was back in his eyes, only now it was bouncing and jiving in there and Kevin could see the poor guy was spiraling his way up toward panic. Kevin knew how bad this was likely to get, but almost in spite of himself he kind of liked Marvin and he felt bad. Maybe, if Marvin kept cool, Jim would just scare him a little and let him go. “I didn’t-” Marvin started. “Shut. The fuck. Up.” Marvin licked his lips and shut up. “So,” Jim said. “You mean like a gift or something.” “I didn’t-” Marvin started. “Who the fuck do you think you are? ‘You can have the whole five grand if you want.’ No fucking shit, kid. Thank you.” Marvin opened his mouth, thought better of it, and shut it with a snap. Kevin thought that was wise. “But that’s not why you’re here. And you know it.” Marvin stared at him. Kevin had heard the cliché about eyes being the windows to the soul, and if he ever thought about it at all or had been asked to comment he would have said that was some sick faggot poetry shit right there. But he thought of it now, and decided eyes weren’t the windows to the soul at all. They were like the windows in the upper office over a factory, where you could stand and look out and see the machinery turning. The pumps pumping. The gears spinning. He saw those gears in Marvin’s eyes right now. They spun and spun, and then they ground to a sudden halt. Yeah, Kevin thought. You know. “I didn’t say anything,” Marvin whispered. Jim shook his head. “I know you didn’t. I know that. But you were going to. You were 8

just waiting for the DA to offer you a deal. Time served or something. Right? Figured ‘hey, if I play this right I might even keep my scholarship. No one’ll get hurt except a couple dumb micks and from Southie and a wop from down Providence.’ Right? That what you figured?” Marvin licked his lips. Jim looked at Kevin. “What’d I tell you, Kev?” A couple months ago Kevin had offered Jim the opinion that, all in all, Marvin was a pretty good shit. They had been driving down Broadway at the time, and Jim sighed from the passenger seat and looked at Kevin with a sad little smile. “A nigger’s a nigger, Kevin,” Jim had said. “Don’t you go forgetting that.” Now, with Jim looking at him and waiting for an answer, Kevin nodded. Jim looked back at Marvin. “I ain’t no dumb mick, kid. But you’re one dumb jig. Don’t you know I got people in there? All through the place. It’s like a direct line to the mouth of God.” Marvin swallowed. “I know you cried like a bitch when the guy from narcotics said he was going to call your mother. And I know you offered to roll. If you got the right deal. I know that.” Marvin looked down. He didn’t try to deny it. Instead his mouth dropped open and a thin trickle of air escaped his lungs, whispered out past his teeth like a soft breeze through a rain gutter. He knew what was what now. Jim looked at Kevin and raised his eyebrows. There it is, Kevin thought. The time had come for him to pop his cherry. His heart plummeted to his feet and suddenly he wanted to stand and tell Jim not to do it, tell him they’d scared Marvin 9

enough, tell him to go fuck himself, tell him he wanted none of this, not anymore. Because being a driver was one thing. Running bricks of pot across town for shitheads like Marvin to sell was one thing. Knowing what Jim and Sal and Mike did when they were crossed was one thing. But killing a guy. That was something else. Kevin liked Marvin. All in all, they’d had some good times together. Marvin was a dumb dealer and he was greedy. He was too lucky with the girls by half, walked through his life blessed as if he was Christ himself. That made him cocky, sure. But he was a kid. He didn’t know what he’d gotten himself into. Kevin was pretty much a kid himself, and in all honesty he didn’t know that, if he had himself in this same situation, he wouldn’t have done the exact same thing. “Kevin?” Jim said. “You think you can take care of this?” Marvin looked up at him. Kevin looked back. He sighed. “Yeah,” he said. “I can take care of this.” “Good,” Jim said. “Me ‘n Sal’re gonna go out on the porch and talk some business. Why don’t you take Marvin downstairs and show him what’s what?” Marvin shook his head. Just a little. “Yeah,” Kevin said. “All right.” Sal handed him the pistol. Kevin looked at Marvin, asked himself can I do this? Can I really do this? Marvin looked back. And the answer came to Kevin almost immediately. It was both terrible and glorious because Kevin realized that, for maybe the first time in his life, he really did know himself. Kevin stood, gestured with the pistol. “Come on,” he said to Marvin. “Let’s go.” 10

***** There was a little more begging before it was over. It came when Marvin was halfway down the basement stairs and saw the plastic on the floor. He stopped. “No man,” he said. His voice was shaking. “No way, man.” Kevin rapped him in the back of the head with the pistol and shoved him the rest of the way down the stairs. “No man,” Marvin said and turned. His eyes were a cauldron of naked panic. The fast-talking was over with. Done and done. Now was just the begging. And the tears, if Kevin gave him time. “Come on, man. It was just a little pot. That’s all it was.” Kevin put the gun to Marvin’s forehead and pulled the trigger. The crack of the gun was loud in the tight little basement, but to Kevin the sound of Marvin hitting the plastic with a meaty thwap was much, much louder. He stood there for awhile, staring down at what he had done. Marvin stared up at him with one eye. The other one stared off toward the wall. The panic was gone from those eyes, at least. Kevin was glad. The panic had been bad. He didn’t know how long he stood there looking but eventually the door at the top of the stairs opened and there were boot steps on wood. “Well, well,” Mike said. “You done it, kid. You popped your damn cherry.” Kevin looked at him, tried to think of something to say. Nothing came. Mike came down the stairs, grinning, gave one look at Marvin and then handed Kevin a set of tin snips. He was wearing a pair of latex gloves. In his other hand he had a pliers. “Where’s Jim and Sal?” Kevin finally asked. 11

Mike laughed and knelt by Marvin, careful not to get blood on his jeans. “You think they were gonna stick around for champagne? Come on. It ain’t your fucking birthday.” He opened Marvin’s mouth, put the pliers to the upper left incisor and pulled. The sound of the tooth coming loose made Kevin want to retch. Mike nodded toward Marvin’s left hand. “Put on some gloves and start there,” he said. “Take them off above the second knuckle.” He put the pliers to another tooth. Pulled. That was all Kevin could take. He turned away and stumbled halfway up the stairs. The vomit came in a stream, spattered across the splintered wood risers and all over the railing. Some of it went through the steps and plopped to the concrete below. The tin snips bounced off the stairs and landed on the edge of the plastic. Kevin knelt there for a minute, back to Mike, and gripped the wooden railing with a white-knuckled hand. His head swam. He took a few deep breaths and felt a little better. “You okay?” Mike asked. Kevin nodded. “That’s all right, man. I puked my first time, too. Least you didn’t get any on the plastic. There’s probably DNA in that or something.” Kevin nodded. “You know you’re mopping that up, though, right? I ain’t gonna hear about it from Maggie.” Kevin nodded. After a second he turned and came back down the stairs. He knelt and took the tin snips. Mike handed him a pair of gloves. 12

“You need a breath mint?” He asked. Kevin pulled on the gloves. “No,” he said. “Above the second knuckle.” Kevin nodded again and went to work. © 2008 by Scott Milder


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