"Jimmy take a cannoli."
"Ma, I had enough at dinner."
"Take the cannoli. You need to eat Jimmy."
"Where am I gonna put it, Ma? I can't walk around with cannoli in my pockets."
The sand is hot against my knee as I stumble. My hand steadies me disappearing partly below the surface of the desert. My skin burns with UV fire. My parched lips sting with the air passing between them.
Unsteadily I stand back to my feet. I waver my body teetering, my head light. The ghost of that last dinner before I left home haunts me at the edges of my thoughts. My mother's face looking at me as she holds the plate of cannoli floats like a specter in my mind.
"I'm not gonna make it, Ma." My voice is hoarse and unrecognizable. She doesn't hear me. Of course, she doesn't. She's back in Brooklyn bragging about her Jimmy who went out west to make his fortune.
The blood at my side soaking my shirt is wet and sticky. A disembodied voice floats across the baron sea of heat stretching out in every direction.
"Let's take a ride."
"Where we going, Capo." The long black Cadillac stretches out before me. Salvator Giacoma holds the passenger door of the Sedan Deville open. My heart begins to race underneath my ribs. Don Johnny Mirabelli smiles at me from the driver's seat.
"I was just telling Sal, we never made Jimmy the Buffalo a member of the family. I think it's time we corrected our mistake." He motions to me with a wave of his big hand. "Get in we can discuss the details on the way." Stepping forward I hear a whisper in the back of my head telling me not to go. But this isn’t an invitation.
My eyes squint against the burning yellow circle bearing down on me. The sweat that rolled down my face in steady flows when I first started out has dried to the remains of dried rivers that have gone too long without water.
I know I’m dehydrated. I know my thinking isn't clear. On the horizon I see shapes I think are buildings, but they could be mirages. Oases with casinos and working girls instead of water and trees.
My hands pull my shirt from my pants, and I wonder for a moment where my suit jacket has gone. Then I remember I left it on the sand somewhere in what I think are miles of footsteps behind me. Looking back, I know in this Mojave heat time slows and my jacket could be just beyond the last dune I crested. My Giuseppe Zanotti loafers fill one more time with desert sand and I shake them from my feet. The warmth of the sand seeps through my black dress socks as soon as I press them down and take my first steps without the shoes.
"Jimmy?" Her soft voice asks a question with my name wanting to know if I'm here. For a beat, I stay quiet and she calls my name again.
"Jimmy?" Turning the switch on the lamp beside me, I watch as the light bathes her Jessica Rabbit figure. Carla Mirabelli, the forbidden fruit I have lusted after since the first time I saw her.
"Mio Bella." She smiles her little smile that lights up her whole face. Even with the weight of what I must share with her pressing down on me, I want nothing more than to kiss her like I have nothing else to do.
"Jimmy, why are you sitting here in the dark?" Her eyes glisten from tears, she's already cried. Carla's a smart girl. She's Johhny Mirabelli's daughter and she inherited his savvy. I pat the seat beside me, and she comes over. Her perfume fills the air and it's everything I can do not to lean back against the cushions, pull her on top of me, and let the rest of the world slip away. Because I would give anything to get lost one more time in her touch. With a heavy breath, I take her hands in mine and stare into her Sicilian blue eyes.
"I have to talk to you, amore mio." A tear slips from her eye falling slowly down her cheek and I know she knows our worst fears have finally come true.
I make little promises to myself. Promises, I know I will break. I can feel my body failing with every step I take. Still, I keep promising over and over. That I will see my love, my Carla again if I just keep moving. I know in a place I don't want to admit that promise is already broken and I will never see her again.
The warmth surrounding me feels like a baking oven. Over the dunes that lay behind me a body cooks in the desert heat. A body that was once my friend, mio amico di una vita. Memories of playing in each other's backyards, going to school together, and trusting each other with everything we ever knew are contrasted in my mind against the cold way he tried to kill me.
A man who was like a father to me is driving his car back to his city of sin. If he has made it or if he has died in his efforts, I will probably never know. But there are things I do know.
I know I will die in this baron wasteland of desert. And, even with that fate looming over me. Even with the scorching rays of sun bearing down on me, I still hold on to hope. I still think, somehow I will make it home. I will look into Carla's beautiful eyes again.
In the sea of buildings floating in the distance, I know she is waiting for me. My heart proclaims I will hold her face in my hands again. My head knows she is waiting for someone who is never coming home. The truth my heart is still running from is that before I ever get back to that city and her arms, I will fall on the desert sands below my feet and not get up again.
My dry lips say a silent prayer that Carla will not mourn for me very long after I don't come home. Mio amore bella, deserves the happy life of a bride, not of a widow. With the wish of my last breaths, I want my Carla, mio bella donna to forget me. She deserves a husband who doesn't lead the type of life I have led. She deserves the suburbs, children, and certainty. Not the constant worry of a cosa nostra
"How long, Jimmy?" Johnny doesn't need to elaborate. I know exactly what he means.
"Cut the bullshit, Jimmy. How long?"
"Three years." The cold steel of Salvator’s gun presses hard against the back of my head.
“You want me to do it now boss?” Salvator asks.
“No Salvator. Are you friggin kidding me? It will make too much of a mess in the car. We’ll take him out to the Sands.”
Black shapes circle me in the sky. Vultures circling a dying man. My head feels heavy on my shoulders. My eyelids feel a pull wanting them to close. I keep moving. My body is a robot, a machine. My muscles are pistons pumping. I don't think I just move.
At the edge of my consciousness, I keep a carrot dangling. A single hope. The sun is deep in the afternoon sky. Soon it will begin its descent in earnest. Darkness will spread over the sand. Relief will come. I will not have water, but my body temperature will go down. When it does I will find the strength to get back to my Carla.
I stare off in the middle distance. I wonder if I might faint and die right here. I can't stop from asking if that would be better. Carla could find a normal man who could give her a normal life far away from the one I could provide. Even if I survived the wound in my side and the desert around me her life with me would never be safe the way it would be with an accountant or an office manager. Her life with me would always be a risk.
"We were so careful, Jimmy" I squeeze her hands and look into her wet eyes.
"Salvator saw us."
"I'll tell my dad you were just giving me a ride. Jimmy, it'll be okay it has to be." I pull her close and hold her body tight against mine.
"He saw us kiss", I whisper as she cries against my shoulder. In a minute I pull her back to look in her eyes again.
"Whatever happens, you have to promise, mio bella. You will go on. Forget me if you have to. I couldn't take it, in this or the next if I knew you weren't happy."
"No, Jimmy" She exclaims and falls back into me. Her back shutters and my heart breaks. All I feel in the world is the weight of her cheek against my chest. She doesn't look up when I hear her voice break. And, she speaks to me in a quiet voice.
"I don't care, kill him if you have to. I can't lose you, Jimmy. You're the only thing that's ever made me happy."
Sometimes I think the city is closer. Sometimes I think it's further away. My footsteps are a maddening game of repeat. The sand is everywhere. In my clothes. In my hair. Floating around in my lungs. Burning my dry eyes with irritation. Filling my mouth with a heavy suffocation. I'm not sure if I am really still alive or if I have already died.
Sounds float across the arid landscape that I'm not sure are really there. I hold on to the thought of Clara, mio bella. She is the last shred of sanity I have left. A lifeline pulling me through the sheets of sand in front of me. My mind doesn't focus, it drifts. A haggard cough escapes my lips and I know I don't have long.
"Get out of the car" Johnny doesn't look at me as he says the words. Outside of the Cadillac, my eyes drift to the cloudless blue sky. I hold a thought of Carla in my mind. I hope she will know how sorry I am.
"Now, Boss?" Salvator asks already with his gun pointed at me. I look at him. At the menace in his eyes and wonder when he became such a monster. Briefly, I think of the little boy who used to run crying to the comfort of my mother's arms every time I wouldn't share one of my toys.
"Shut-up. Sal. You should really learn some patience." Johnny turns to me, and I can see the anger in his face not just for his little girl, but for my betrayal.
"I took you and Sal in when you were nothing. Two idiot gumbas. I gave you futures. Gave you respect. And what did you do with that Jimmy?" I don't say anything. I just return his stare. I know I should say something. But I can't. I won't apologize for loving Carla.
"You took my little girl." Johnny continues his voice raised. "Now I got to explain to her why you don't come around anymore. I got to listen to her cry for a man she never should have known that way." I stop listening to Johnny. Salvator has stepped too close. Too anxious as always. I turn my hand going for his gun fast as lightning. My fingers lock around his wrist twisting. Then I have his gun. The back of Salvator's head explodes in a spray of blood when I pull the trigger. Then I'm turning again.
The sound of Johnny's gun going off doesn't register before the bullet slams into my side. I don't have time to think. I pull the trigger again before my aim is fully true. I don't know if I hit him before my third and fourth shots ring out. Then I am on the ground, blood seeping from my side. A car door slams, and I hear the engine of the Cadillac roar to life. A spray of sand showers over me as the car drives away.
Pressing my hand against the blood coming from my side I make it back to my feet. Salvator's body lays to one side his eyes open in a wide stare. Permanently frozen with the surprise of his death. I can't see the Cadillac anymore.
Somewhere in the distance, I think I can hear its horn blowing steadily before it stops and all the world is quiet again. A red stain on the sand tells me at least one of my bullets found its mark. I look over my shoulder and then back to the tracks from the car's tires and try to decide whether to go after the Cadillac or head straight across the desert back to the city. Not knowing if Johnny is still alive or if he will come back, I take my first steps toward the city. Telling myself the city can't be more than twenty miles away.
The sound of someone's wheezing breath fills the air. I look around for someone else before I realize the wheezing is coming from my chest. This is the end. I know it. Carla. I try to say her name, but only a dry scratching sound comes out. Two lights cut through the desert air getting closer. The last of my strength escapes and I feel myself falling.
My cheek presses against the sand before I realize I'm on the ground. From nowhere the thought, the sun will rise tomorrow floats through the fog inside my head. Life will go on, but mine will end here. The two beams of light brighter now, flood the air above me. A strange rumbling sound fills my ears. I wonder if I have finally succumbed. I wonder if the light is what I'm supposed to walk into. If the rumbling is the sound of heaven's gates opening.
If they are I know this is the closest I will get to them. In front of St. Peter, my life will flash. All the bad I have done will outweigh the only good thing I did in loving Carla.
"Jimmy," I hear Carla calling my name. I think I must be hallucinating when I feel her hand on my shoulder. My eyes close and my cheek rests back on the sand with a single thought running through my head. The last two lines from a poem Carla loved. In the midst of black dots clouding my vision, I hear her recount the words to me the way she did countless times sitting wrapped together on the couch or in my bed, our bodies fitting perfectly together.
Engulfed in the desert's parched silence
I was nothing but another grain of sand in the wind
About the Creator
Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!
Compelling and original writing
Creative use of language & vocab
Easy to read and follow
Well-structured & engaging content
Original narrative & well developed characters
Expert insights and opinions
Arguments were carefully researched and presented
Heartfelt and relatable
The story invoked strong personal emotions
Zero grammar & spelling mistakes