Shauna's preferred genre is fiction. She particularly enjoys rising to a challenge posed by fellow artists.
Bill Holland posted a short story called The Chameleon: A Short Story. He intrigued us, then left us hanging and asked his readers to write the end of the story. I left a cursory attempt by way of the comment section. However, Bill wasn’t satisfied with that. He wanted more from me. So, here it is.
Max was right. It was time for this story to end. Despite the fact that we’ve been best friends for most of our lives, this stand-off was inevitable.
How Max and I Met
It was 1968 and St. Mark’s was the fourth school I’d attended in my eleven years on this earth. My family moved often when I was growing up, so friends were few, and far between. I was somewhat of a rebel from the outset. Imagine yourself being uprooted – and often - just when you find kids who accept you. It’s tough. You learn to separate yourself while yearning to be a part of something - anything.
They say a child’s psyche and personality is formed by the time they reach age five. That’s kinda scary, ‘cuz my life was a friggin’ roller coaster long before then.
Call it military life. Call it what you want. It fucks with the children who are brought up in that lifestyle.
But you don’t want to hear about that, right? “Thank you for your service, Sir!”
What about my service? Is anyone aware of what I and all other military brats go through? Does anyone care?
Yeah, I know, “Woe is me”. You have no friggin’ clue. Don’t judge. Just listen.
Anyway, we’d moved to Colorado that summer. Hoping parochial school would tame my spirit, my parents enrolled me in St. Mark’s Catholic School. The education was great but the nuns were less than friendly. They were downright mean, to be honest, especially if you posed questions during religion class. Do that and you got your hair pulled and/or your knuckles pounded with a wooden ruler. That is until Father Murphy came into the class to check on things and say hello. Then Sister Philomena was all smiles.
Groovy, Hunky Dory, right?
Max and I were the kids in the back of the room who would secretly spew spit balls over the ceiling where “Sister Bitch”, as we called her, conducted class. We’d also sneak upside down thumb tacks on her chair before class started so she’d get a bite in the ass. We never ‘fessed up to either deed, but she and all of our classmates knew who the culprits were. We were actually revered by our cohorts because no one else had the balls to stand up to Sister Bitch.
A bond was formed.
Not surprisingly, Max and I had many stints in jail then and following that year, but that’s another story for another time.
An Original Song About Catholic School
Time Goes By
As often happened in my life as a military brat, the time came when I once again was forced to leave my friends and start all over again.
Jeez, when does this shit stop?
Max was the only friend I’d made in my entire life who I really bonded with. Not saying it was right, but it was what it was.
We remained friends throughout our school years and into early adulthood. We always stayed connected even if only over the phone.
Then the outreach ceased. Not sure if it was on his part or mine.
But bonds are bonds, right? Blood isn’t always that bond. Sometimes it’s mindset.
That’s what we shared: mindset. Right or wrong, that’s what we had in common.
Catholic school offers two life lessons: 1) an excellent academic education, and 2) the opportunity for open minds to question those who seem more tunnel visioned.
I was of the second mindset but had an academic prowess. The nuns hated that. And me. I got my hair pulled often and my knuckles cracked with their angry rulers almost daily.
Life sucks sometimes and too often that “sucks” sticks.
I’d left home when I was barely old enough to do so. I was on a rampage to claim myself as a sole human without the guidance or interference, as I perceived it, of my parents.
To say there was an abundance of older women more than willing to show a young Catholic boy the ways of the world is an understatement, to say the least. I had the time of my life learning how to be a grown up.Sex, booze, naked parties and lots of drugs.
The latter is what got me into trouble.
This is What Our Protagonist Should Have Been Looking For
Alphi gave me a place to stay and took me under his wing. He was friends with one of the women I hooked up with and thought I might be a good candidate for his apprenticeship program. He was an IBM programmer at the time and a retired Marine, so I was more than willing to become his protégé.
Little did I know he had a second line of business.
Alphi’s main income was through the sale of drugs. Heroin, cocaine, crystal meth, beauties, Christmas Trees. You name it. He had it.
I don’t know if I mentioned it, but I’m nothing much to look at. I wouldn’t say I turned women off, but I’m no pretty boy. The fact that I didn’t stand out in a crowd is exactly the trait Alphi was most interested in. I could blend in any situation, conduct a little business, then discreetly back away into bustling crowds or disappear into the landscape without ever being detected.
After a couple of years of being Alphi’s delivery guy, he decided I was ready for my own customers. Of course, Alphi would get a cut of anything I sold, but I was okay with that. Call it Multi-Level Marketing at its best. He turned a few of his customers over to me, then word of mouth helped my client base grow.
And so did my yen for coke.
When you snort more than you sell, that becomes a problem. You see, the “product” had always been fronted to me. Call it a loan. Here-kid-take-this-and-bring-back-the-green kind of loan.
I couldn’t pay for the goods, simply put. And in the world of drug dealing, that ain’t no good, especially if you want to live to see another day.
My ass was grass and I needed to do something about it before something was done about me.
So, I killed myself, as I mentioned earlier. Alphi was no longer a problem, but I had to get the hell away from Colorado where I was well-known by this time.
It had been years since I’d contacted Max, but I was compelled to do so now. Had I known that Max was Alphi’s supplier and my dear transvestite schoolmate had put a contract out on my head, I would have done things differently.
But, I didn’t. Instead, I put myself right in the path I was trying to avoid but didn’t know it until I went back to St. Mark’s Cathedral with my tail between my legs and my heart in my throat.
Why the hell did I think God would save me now? Was I feeling guilty and vying for redemption before I left on the uncertain journey of running for my life? Of running from my life?
Bless me Father, for I have sinned. It’s been twenty years since my last confession.
I heard Max’s voice as I felt the cold steel barrel of a gun being pressed to my flesh.
“I knew I’d find you here. The boy can leave the church but the alter can never leave the boy. It’s time for this to end, my friend.”
I felt the comfort of my old combat knife sheathed against my thigh and struggled not to shit my pants right then and there in front of God.
I heard the hammer cock. Just as I turned, with knife in hand, the lights went out. I lunged forward, making contact with flesh while the church walls rang with gunfire.
“We interrupt this program to bring you breaking news. This afternoon, what appears to be a double murder occurred inside St. Mark’s Cathedral. Two males were found dead; one of a gunshot wound, the other of a fatal knife wound. One victim has been positively identified as Maurice “Max” Pignataro. The gunshot victim was found with a driver's license under the name of Alphi Petrocelli. However, upon closer examination by the M.E. who was onsite, it was discovered that a facial prosthetic concealed the identity of a homeless man known in the community as “Pitiful Pete”. So who and where is Alphi Petrocelli? Police are referring to this crime as “The Case of the Chameleon Murders”. Anyone with information about this incident is urged to call 800-555-5555.”
© 2021 Shauna L Bowling