The voice of a ghost rattling around in my head.
A Biographical Sketch
I was drunk for pretty much every waking moment from the age of thirteen until nineteen, including the irregular Eucharist I was badgered into on behalf of my dead Sainted mother. She was piety incarnate as far as anyone in the neighborhood was concerned, which is where I stayed mostly because wandering too far usually resulted in a split lip, busted nose and bruised knuckles. I guess the wandering didn’t account for it as much as the drinking, but hangovers never bothered me because there was always another flask on hand.
The injuries and general shit-heel appearance gave me every excuse to sneak a drink as far as the neighbors and bartenders were concerned, more charity for the poor kid Constantine Patrizio had adopted after the unfortunate double murder of his niece and her dumb mick husband. Not that anyone ever let word one slip past when I was within earshot. I was a spoiled, angry twenty year old drunk before I heard the truth of it.
That really put the thirst in me.
Constantine Patrizio was the gentleman tasked with keeping a city full of blood-thirsty sharks in line. His father had come over from Sicily in 1917 with three squalling brats and pregnant wife to work in a meatpacking plant hacking up pork shanks. By 1925 Old Patrizio was running a protection racket along the southern border of Chicago’s Northside.
The youngest boy, Constantine, grew up under the tutelage of two brothers, Salvatore and Dino who’d quit school by 1931 to run substantial parts of the fast-growing Patrizio empire. Constantine was a good-natured kid who did well at St. Ignatius Jesuit School until politics spilled into the boy’s locker room and he had to knife another good Catholic boy who was keen to make a name with the Patrizio’s Irish rivals to the north. The kid didn’t die or nothing, but that was the end of Constantine’s reputation for being the gentle one.
I came along in the mid-60s, by which time Constantine was third in line for the throne. Dino, the middle brother, had bit it in a war– one of the international ones, not the domestic spats that regularly broke out between the Patrizios and the Irish. The Old Man was still kicking, but he had bum kidneys and the family business left him predisposed to an early exit. Salvatore, the true head of family by this time, regularly delegated the more troublesome matters to his younger brother who was well-respected for his genial attitude and financial savvy.
So when the Irish turncoat begged for help marrying his Italian sweetheart, Constantine smoothed out the wrinkles and made known that no one better say a damn thing against the union.
When his favorite niece popped out a surly dark-haired and pale-face boy six months after the wedding, Constantine was the first at the hospital, eager to shower the couple with gifts and congratulations.
And when the Irish mob killed the couple on the night of their 5th wedding anniversary, Constantine was there promising pancakes with that warm, genial smile of his when I woke up the next morning.
The man sure loved making breakfast a grandiose production.
I grew up knowing, instinctively, that my parents had done something terrible. Constantine was always quick to remind me that I wasn’t at fault, but it was obvious– whenever I was in a room full of adults, something wrong hung in the air. I didn’t belong. He tried to get me to focus on school, books, music, anything, but the sort of violence that festers in that sort of environment is hard to contain.
As it turns out, Chicago’s the perfect town to put long-simmering anger to good use.
A/N: Haven’t been to Chicago in a good spell, both in reality and the realm within the confines of my skull. But last night completely unprompted, a resident from the latter came to mind and has subsequently been following me around all day today.
The above is a short character sketch I crafted for the gent in question some years back. What some might call Discovery Writing. It’s entirely for my own use, but pretty typical of my process as I’m wading into a story idea. This is all backstory happening well before the events of the script in question, but it’s intrinsic to knowing and loving the poor schmuck. And it’s the kind of pre-writing I’m hoping to be doing more of again soon.
So hello again Max, little busy right now with a short film, the Civil War and other ne’er-do-wells, but glad you’re still knocking around in there. P.S.: Edison was right about the Russians.