Authors: Richard Price
Tags: #Fiction, #Literary
First Mariner Books edition 1999
Copyright © 1976 by Richard Price
All rights reserved
For information about permission to reproduce selections from this book, write
to Permissions, Houghton Mifflin Company, 215 Park Avenue South,
New York, New York 10003.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Price, Richard, date.
Bloodbrothers / Richard Price,
"A Mariner Book."
1. High school graduates—New York (State)—Fiction.
2. Teenagers—New York (State)—Fiction.
3. Family—New York (State)—Fiction. I. Title.
Printed in the United States of America
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
For John Califano, a true Bloodbrother, in love and friendship, "you know how we do..."
To Sabrina Di Benedetto
To Ellen Joseph and Carl Brandt for their enthusiasm and encouragement
To Lord Buckley
who am I
I rather think about bein Mighty Mouse and flyin through the air an like that. But now... they askin me questions—what I dream about and what I think about and what about my mother my father an like that. Man you start thinkin about things like that an it give you the sweats like a junkie...
Man—you ask Why should I be me—how I get to be me—why am I me here and not someplace else—and you just end up scared like you was walkin down a empty street at night. So scared it running out you ears...
The Cool World
by Warren Miller
WARM SOUR CLOUD
wafted across to Tommy's side of the bed as his wife rolled over in her sleep. Tommy De Coco lay on his back smoking a Marlboro and staring at the green metal Venetian blinds. One of the slats was bent and let in some early-morning sunlight. 7:30.
"Tommy, don't..." He turned his head. Marie was talking in her sleep again. She lay on her stomach and he stared at the brown and white freckles that made her back and shoulders look like salami. Tommy ditched his cigarette and put his arm behind his head. He absently massaged his dick under the covers. Four blocks away church bells rang.
Sunday. Family day. No matter what he did six days a week, on Sundays Tommy De Coco was a family man. And this Sunday he had a big surprise for his family.
His hand smelled from that oily shit inside Trojans. His pubic hair was still damp. He debated getting out of bed and taking a shower before Marie woke up and got a downwind whiff. Tough titties. What could she do? Yell? Scream? He'd crack her so goddamn hard she'd shit teeth for a week. Tommy sniffed his fingers. Fuck it. He rolled out of bed and headed for the shower. Goddamn stuff stinks anyway.
Seventeen-year-old Stony De Coco woke up to the hissing of the shower on the other side of the wall. Raising himself slightly he saw that his brother, Albert, was still sleeping, his head obscured from Stony's vision by the chest of drawers between their beds. He pulled a Marlboro from beneath his pillow. Sunday. Shit on toast. Family day. His old man would make everybody get in the goddamn car and he'd drive around the whole goddamn Bronx looking for a G-rated movie. And Stony couldn't bitch either because his old man had thumbnails as big as clam shells and if he gave Tommy any bullshit he would get a flick behind the ear that would sting like a bastard.
Eight-year-old Albert De Coco lay in bed listening to his older brother smoking. He was afraid Stony was going to get lung cancer if he kept smoking every morning. Albert was nauseated like every time he woke up. The idea of eating made him even more queasy and he hoped Marie wouldn't force him to eat like last Sunday. Then he remembered she threatened to feed him like a baby if he didn't start eating more. A chill settled over his skeletal body.
Marie De Coco was dreaming about her mother again. This time Marie was a little girl and her mother was very old and shriveled like she looked before she died and she was caressing Marie's cheeks with fingers of cold blue wax and crooning to her, "Pretty, baby, pretty, baby, see how pretty, baby," and ran those bloodless fingers down over Marie's eyes and across her lips and Marie shut her eyes and rested her cheek on her mother's marble-smooth palm. Then her mother took her hand and led her through a long hall. "Come see how pretty, baby, come see how pretty." And Marie saw a mirror at the end of the hall. "Look how pretty, baby, see?" She pointed a finger at the mirror. Marie looked to see how pretty she was and screamed—she had no reflection.
She awoke with a start, but she couldn't move beyond that initial jerk. She knew she was awake but every muscle in her face and body was frozen. She couldn't move and she couldn't breathe. She could hear the bells from Immaculate and she could hear the shower in the bathroom. She was paralyzed. She couldn't even open her eyelids and her lungs were collapsing. She tried not to panic. She knew by now she had to concentrate. Relax. She had no breath in her lungs and couldn't open her mouth to scream. Then with a great inner wrenching she bolted upright in bed. Her lilac nightgown was damp with sweat. Marie was a kid when she first got these attacks. Her father had them also and he told her that if anybody touched her when she was awake and paralyzed like that she would die of a heart attack. Marie rubbed her nose, grunted and lit a cigarette.
When Tommy stepped out of the shower he heard Marie banging around in the kitchen. He cursed. He liked the dinette to himself for a few hours Sunday mornings so he could read the
have a few smokes, a few cups of coffee, listen to the radio. He dried his blue black hair vigorously, wrapped a purple towel around his waist and leaned close to the mirror to inspect his new Fu Manchu. In the last year he had grown six different kinds of face hair including muttonchops and a real handlebar, but he liked the Fu Manchu best of all—it extended down each side of his mouth to his jaw in two thick black lines. He had to smile. That chick last night said, "Oooh, look! It's Jack Palance!" Chubby got jealous until she said
looked like Jack Palance too. Chubby looked like Jack Shit as far as Tommy was concerned. Jack Palance. He touched his high cheekbones, his rocky chin.
"Daddy, can I get in?" Albert's voice on the other side of the bathroom door jolted him out of his reverie. "I gotta pee."
Tommy opened the door and brushed past his son without looking at him.
"Hey, Thomas Junior!"—Tommy winked at Stony—"pass me the salt." Stony's fingers were greasy with butter and the shaker slipped onto his father's plate.
"I don' wanna eat any more." Albert had three Lucky Charm cereal bits glued with milk on his chin. He had only taken three spoonfuls.
"What?" Marie stared at him severely. "Don' wanna eat any more, hah?" She nodded and narrowed her eyes. "Don' wanna eat any more?"
Albert stared at his cereal.
"Where'd we go yesterday?" she demanded, not looking at him.
"Doctor Schindler," he answered meekly.
"I can't hear you."
"I... can't... hear... you!"
Albert shut his eyes, lightly opened and closed his hands, his fingertips touching, then springing away from each other. Stony was about to jump up and smash his mother in the face when Albert blurted, "
Tommy looked up surprised for a second, then returned to his eggs. Marie lit a cigarette. Albert looked up at her mascaraed plumpness through the snaky haze of smoke.
"And what did Doctor Schindler say?"
"I weigh too little."
Albert's eyebrows were raised and his lips shaped words that wouldn't come. His stomach spun viciously. Tommy got up from the table, grabbed the
and split for the john.
"Where the hell you goin'?" Marie barked.
"I gotta take a crap. You mind?" Tommy shot back. She dismissed him with a disgusted wave of her hand. "Why don't the hell you leave the kid alone!" Tommy shouted, his face turning black. He held the paper in a giant fist.
"You know how much he weighs? Do you
a shit?" she shouted back. They were both standing. Albert started crying. Stony touched his brother's shoulder, made a funny face at his parents and winked at him. Albert rubbed away some tears with the heel of his palm. "Tell your father how much you weigh," she demanded.
"You're goddamn right." She glowered at them both. "And what am I gonna do with you this summer if you don't gain twenty-five pounds by June?"
"Puh—put mum—me in-na hospital."
"And what do they do to skinny boys in a hospital?" she pushed.
Tommy stormed out of the room and a second later the bathroom door slammed. Marie forced out two funnels of smoke from nostrils taut and arched with rage. She dropped her cigarette into her coffee and started clearing the table without looking at either of her sons.
Stony nodded to Albert to get lost. Albert got up, went to his room and turned on some Sunday morning cartoons.
Tommy sat on the toilet lost in thought. He thought about Marie and what a vicious cunt she had turned out to be. He thought about cracking her and then remembered what happened the last time he hit her after she kicked his brother, Chubby, out of the house when he burned her coffee table with a cigarette. He remembered coming back from Banion's that night and seeing her feet sticking out of the bathroom into the hallway. At first he thought she was drunk. Then the doctors. The fucking stomach pump. Her goddamn mother (may her soul rest in hell). How many times can you say you're sorry? Tommy thought of Albert. He was so skinny that he made Tommy think of Mahatma Gandhi in those big diapers and sheets, although he wished Marie would lay off the kid once in a while. Stony. Oh, Stony. A son-and-a-half. Thomas Jr. Fuckin' A. He thought about Stony coming in with the electricians. Tommy could swing him in easy. Maybe they could even work the same job. He imagined bringing Stony into the electricians' shanty and introducing him to the guys. Stony'd do great. He was strong as a goddamn bull. Yeah. Stony. Chubby. Fuckin' jibone. Tommy laughed. Jack Palance all right. He remembered the look on Chubby's face last night when he was balling that girl. He looked like Yogi Berra in heat. That
was a bit all right though.
"How come we gotta wear suits?" Stony protested.
"Just do it, awright?" Tommy said.
"Sheezus." Stony almost said shit as he took off his dungarees. "All we doin' is goin' a damn movie."
"We not goin' a damn movie," Tommy mimicked.
"Aw... we goin' visitin'?" Stony groaned.
"Just, just do what I say, hah?" Tommy turned from the door and whistled at his wife, who was wearing a hot pink pantsuit. She ignored him, still pissed off from this morning. As she walked by she laid down a cloud of perfume. Tommy loved heavy perfume. Her face was almost furry with rouge and powder.
"Hey, Marie." Tommy smiled like a little boy and stood before her with his arms extended palms up.