Sharon's DressNov 14, 2002 Write an essay on this topic.
The Bottom Line Mike and Sharon find romance in a Hell's Kitchen version of West Side Story...
(This excerpt from The Kitchen finds Mike, an immigrant from Belfast, being summoned to a meeting with Irish Mob boss Mickey Spillane in Hell's Kitchen in December 1967. Mike has been recommended by local wiseguys and is being offered a chance to improve his status within the West Side gang.)
Mike arrived at the antiquated Irish pub on the West Side of Manhattan at the appointed time, and it seemed that they were waiting for him. Three black Cadillacs were parked out front, and two tough-looking Irishmen standing at the door seemed to be screening whoever happened to be passing by. They moodily acknowledged Mike and bade him entry to the darkened saloon.
Another hardcase met him at the door and escorted him to the back room where two other goons loitered about a small table where a dapper man in a black suit awaited him. The piercing blue eyes and the ominous aura told him he had come face to face with the godfather of the Irish Mob, Mickey Spillane.
Sit down, Spillane poured him a shot of Bushmills. Ive heard lots of good things about you. Youre from Falls Road in Belfast. Lots of good people from there. Your Da fought in the War, got fecked over by the Brits, got targeted by the UDA a few years back. You took revenge like any good son and ended up here in the States. Youve been highly recommended by a few good men, and Id like to make you an offer.
One of Spillanes men produced two envelopes, a photo and a .38 revolver. This is Tipsy Nolan, Spillane gestured. Hes one of my numbers runners who works the upper 40s. He was a good man who let alcohol and greed get the best of him. Terrible combination. Hes been warned twice before about holding out on me and dealing with the guineas. Mike, if you take care of this for me Ill consider it a great favor.
Upon returning to his loft apartment in lower Manhattan, he found his partners dead set against it. Five hundred bucks for a hit, Michael, thats an insult, Tommy insisted. The guineas pay at least a grand a hit and the Big Mick knows it. Dont let him sell ye short, Michael, go back and ask double.
Bollocks, Tommy, Richie retorted. Youve never whacked a man before, Michael, outside of doing that bastard in who hurt your Da back home. Suppose you feck things up, then what? The Mickll have ye clipped in prison before ye live to tell of it. Give the money back, man, and be done with it.
Youve also got the peelers to consider, Jimmy insisted. Suppose they get wind of it? Even if they dont get a conviction, the arrestll be enough to have your green card pulled. Were doing too good for you to risk it, dont you know?
Mike knew it was about much more than that. It had nothing to do with the cost or risk involved. It was a matter of honor and tradition that the paddies had brought over from the Old Country, where a mans word was his honor and the most important thing he had in this life. If he went back to Spillane, it would go beyond his partners misgivings. Spillane would see it as Mike reneging on a deal, and there would be nothing left for him in the Kitchen after that.
What he really lived for these days was picking up Sharon at the Waldorf-Astoria in midtown Manhattan. Sharon Doherty was a beautiful brunette, a second-generation Irish lass who struggled to keep her childhood brogue under control. She worked as a chambermaid and supported her aging parents with little left over to obtain the things such a girl deserved.
Mike would meet her in front of the hotel, and they would walk around Rockefeller Center and watch the skaters, admiring the Christmas decorations before heading to Chock Full ONuts for coffee and pie. Sharon had a simplistic way of viewing the world and she was as a breath of fresh air for a paddy whose life seemed to grow more turbulent and murky each day.
One of her favorite pastimes was window-shopping. It irked him at first to think how dismal it was for her to be admiring all that she didnt have. He finally made mention of it, and she was as innocuous as ever in her reply.
What harm is it to dream, Michael? Dreamings still free, isnt it?
For some reason, Spillanes half grand hung in his pocket like a lead weight as they left the coffee shop and strolled down the snow-swept streets along Lexington Avenue on the way to the train station. He wasnt sure if it was the burden of guilt or the exaggeration of all that money to burn. What he did know was that if he spent the money, turning down the hit would no longer be an option.
Oh, Michael, cant we look at the dresses, arent they beautiful!
Mike shrugged as she prattled on about the exquisite tailoring of the more expensive items. Her Mum was a seamstress and had taught her daughter quite a bit about the art. Only Sharon didnt have the patience for it to be a career option. She was a free spirit, like a bird, and she needed to be active, mingling with others, finding variety. She was the kind of person Mike always fancied himself to be.
Well, lass, why dont we go on inside and take a closer look, he suggested.
She took advantage of his acquiescence but wasnt that eager to endure the crisp demeanor of the shopkeeper, one I. Levine, according to the gilded print on the window. It wasnt enough to deter her from stepping past the door held wide by Mike, affording her entry to the shop.
Mr. Levine had opened this shop thirty years ago, and his long experience enabled him to discern between paying customers and rummagers. He had seen these Irish kids at the window before, and he greatly doubted that they would do more than waste both his and their time.
Mike sensed the shopkeepers hostility and he grew increasingly resentful. He remembered the way it was back home when he and his friends strayed too far out of the neighborhood and happened across a Loyalist candy shop or toy store. They never once considered they werent wanted because they were Fenians from Republican neighborhoods, kids not wanted here. Sharon was just like them, not having a clue at first that she wasnt wanted here.
May I help you with something? asked I. Levine.
Something you like, love? Mike inquired.
I I guess Ill take this scarf, Sharon glanced at the two men, furtively reaching for a black satin scarf on a countertop rack.
How about a dress to go with it? Mike asked casually. Come look over here.
He steered her over to the higher-priced dress rack, and she started to protest but he insisted, Cmon, darling, its Christmas.
Her eyes began widening somewhat as she inspected the intricate stitchwork, the high-quality tailoring, the expensive material. Mike reached past her and pulled loose a lovely black satin dress, slightly past knee length, with mother-of-pearl and zircons adorning the fashionbly-low neckline.
This matches your scarf, Mike remarked, then turned to I. Levine and asked, How much?
That would be $99.99 plus tax, the shopkeeper detected the faint odor of a possible sale.
Mike made sure it was her size before having the owner box and wrap it. He was happy to provide a pretty ribbon after accepting Mikes crisp $100 bill.
Michael, I cant accept this, you shouldnt have, its too much money, Sharon objected as they left the shop. She was the kind of girl that cried easily, full of sentiment and self-effacing humility.
Sharon, its my Christmas present to you, he insisted. Youre the best friend I have here in the States. Im doing well at work and Ive made extra. Id be terribly hurt if you refused it from me.
They ended up walking down 44th Street to 10th Avenue and along to her apartment building. She thanked him again for the dress, then almost as an afterthought, she came back and pecked him on the lips. She turned to leave again but he pulled her back and kissed her lovingly. They were breathless as they regained ther composure before she disappeared through the tenement entrance.
Mike walked along Tenth Avenue for a while to bring himself back to earth for the job ahead. Fantasies of the holiday season with Sharon continued to swirl through his head but he brusquely shoved them aside in readying for his assignment. A life was at stake and he would be damned if it would be his.
He arrived at the seedy, rundown tenement on Ninth Street shortly after midnight. He held his breath against the urine smell of the hallways, tiptoeing up the creaky steps to the third floor. He produced a set of locksmith tools that helped him succeed as a pre-teen cat burglar in West Belfast years ago. They had nearly gotten him killed more than a few times and he hoped he would escape yet one more time.
He slipped through the door, pulling his .38, sneaking down the tiny corridor to the bedroom in the rear. There was a nightlight on by the bed. The man sat up in panic, shrouded by grimy sheets, clutching a rosary in his hands. He had aged ten years since the picture was taken weeks ago, his hair whitened and his skin etched with fear.
Youre dead, Mike stepped forth, shoving the barrel forth until it penetrated the old mans lips. You were dead the moment you fecked over the Big Mick a third time. You dont exist anymore, youre history in this town. And if you make me out a liar Ill find you. Itll be slow but sure, not like this. Understand?
Tipsy nodded, the pistol in his mouth causing great distraction.
Wheres your stake money? How much did you keep? Mike dragged the barrel from his mouth, yanking his dentures loose as Tipsy reached inside his pillowcase and produced a modest roll of $100 bills.
Get dressed and get out, Mike ordered, crunching the dentures beneath his heel for finality. Tipsy dressed in a flash and disappeared out the door.
Mike waited until the dismal little figure waned along the lamplit, snow-swept streets below before leaving the dingy apartment. If Tipsy was seen at Grand Central Station, Mike would say he intercepted him and redirected him to the 59th Street Bridge before completing his task.
Mike felt much better now, having brightened one life and sparing another in the course of one evening. The Christmas spirit was upon him at last, and he opted to walk along Sixth Avenue on his way downtown, his heart and his step lighter than they had been for quite some time.
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