So now it's a doctor friend. Before that there was a lawyer friend, a money guy friend, a contractor friend. I could never keep track of all her "friends," and Pop never knew about them. That's one reason he thought he owed her.
"He got this from Mexico, says it's some kind of cocktail that'll get you out of your mind, something called Roidrage, make you crazier than a sex-crazed rhino. You'll want to tear apart anything in sight. Just inject it an hour before."
"So you want me to kill him?"
She paused, staring at me from behind those glasses, the quiet lasting a beat too long, like one of her hugs.
"Look. My kidneys are killing me. Dialysis, doctors. And I'll be needing home care for months. I can't do that without some kind of help. It's gonna be tough to live." She shrugged, sort of folding into herself to show me how tiny she was. "He's sick anyway."
She stood up. "Think about it. And just remember: I love you."
She picked up her purse quick, then blew out the door, the slam of it sealing in the quiet. I looked down at the table. The syringe was still there, three quarters full of some milky yellow stuff. I sat there looking at it for an hour or so. Then dark filled the kitchen, and I almost couldn't see it at all.
[ VII ]
THE NEXT THING I KNEW IT WAS 3 A.M. and I was peeling my face off the table, leaving behind a thick varnish of drool. I'd been dreaming I was in the ring with Pop and he was pummeling me like a speed bag, landing haymakers while I moved as if hip deep in sawdust. All the while he was lecturing me. "Boy," he said, while compacting my nose with a jab, "you are disappointing me no end. It seems"--burying a left hook into my gumline--"that I can't even trust you with a little thing like killin' me." I'd tried to tell him I wouldn't let him down, that I would bludgeon him right good if only I could get these legs to work, but when I opened my mouth no words came out, my jaw just hanging there like an open mailbox. Which probably explained the drool.
But damn if my mind didn't have good reason to be working overtime, what with all this talk of murder and steroids and money. And I was missing Cheryl Sue. I knew I'd never forgive myself if I didn't put that big yellow rock, the one the pudgy clerk at Discount Diamonds had assured me was far nicer than the clear ones ("Champagne," he'd said, "is classier than seltzer water, now ain't it?") on Cheryl Sue's finger. Despite her history with Pop, I still loved her. Sure, her taste in clothes was only marginally better than her taste in men, but there was something about the way she strutted into a room like a lioness, the way she gently held ice packs to my orbital bone when I got shiners, the way she called me "Tommybug" that made me feel warm inside. And when it's your life's work to get hit in the face, it's nice to feel warm inside every once in a while. So, after Doggy put me through my paces the next morning--his goal seemed to be to see how quickly we could lose the camera crew during our jog, and in which bad part of the Bronx--I picked up the phone.