Besotted - A Craven Danger Mystery
“What else besides, ‘He died on Tuesday, and good riddance,’ would you like to put in this obituary before it goes to the printer? Seems like it’s missing something.”
“Yeah, sure,” said Craven Danger. “He was a bricklayer, and besotted father to one son.”
“You mean bereaved,” said the clerk.
“Just write it like I said it,” said Craven.
“What about your mother? I’m sure she’d appreciate being included.”
“Says you. My ma threw the bum out when the rent money went missin’ once too often. But when I was a squirt I thought my pop was an angel sent down ta watch over us. Because every night he’d leave by the back window with the curtains flappin’ behind him like wings, an’ he’d come home the same way every mornin’ carryin’ a jelly donut for me and a kiss for Ma. I had no reason ta think any different about him. Ma wasn’t too keen on the kisses, though, but I was lovin’ them donuts. It took me a short while to figure she only sorta threw him out. Turns out he was livin’ out on the fire escape, sleepin’ in a hammocck he rigged up outta some old sheets. Sheets he stole from mean ol’ Gurty Miiligan’s clothesline.
“Then he was gone. Arrested one night for stealin’ one too many donuts. And turns out ours wasn’t the only fire escape with a hand-made hammock. Seems the ‘ol man was dolin’ out jelly donuts and kisses all over town. Ma tried for a week a Sundays to get the smell a cheap booze and Chesterfield’s out a Gurty’s sheets, too. But it was hopeless. Like the ‘ol man himself. Mean ol’ Gurty never did get over her stolen sheets, neither, and took it out on Ma. Didn’t talk ta her again till the day she died. And that was only ta spit in Ma’s eye. But Gurty was too dehydrated, so it wasn’t much of a spit. More like a wheezy puff a boozy hot air. Sheets was a luxury in my neighborhood, so I didn’t hold it against her.
“If ya must know, the ‘ol man’s name was Jimmy Danger. He layed brick all over Manhattan. When he wasn’t layin' brick he was twirlin’ himself on some barstool an' grinnin' that grin a his. Sweepin’ the floozies off their feet an' dustin’ up the dance floor with those silky moves a his.
“The o’l man was loaded, too. Always had a pocketful of someone else's hard-earned dough. There was always a kind word and a glad-hand in some ‘ol lady’s change purse. And he could take it on the chin pretty good, too. A talent that came in handy, ’cause there wasn’t a soul in he neighborhood who wouldn’t like ta get in line ta take a sock at all twelve a his faces.
“And I ain’t seen nor heard from him since I was six. Then last year I got a letter from the prison padre sayin’ the ‘ol man was sorry for his sins and hoped me and Ma could find in in our hearts ta forgive him and was he still the beneficiary on Ma’s life insurance policy? The nerve! And that’s all I got ta say ta that!”
“That’s five hundred and forty words, Mr. Danger. At two cents a word that’ll cost ya ten dollars and eighty cents.”
“He died on Tuesday an‘ good riddance will do just fine,” said Craven. “Here’s a buck, an' keep the change.”
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