Sleepers by Lorenzo Carcaterra

Book: Sleepers by Lorenzo Carcaterra Read Free Book Online
Authors: Lorenzo Carcaterra
wife carried belonged to someone else.
    Outside, the night was rainy. Inside, large corner fans did nothing to still the heat.
    “You know either one of ’em?” Tommy asked, chafing at the starched collar and tight tie around his neck.
    “The guy,” I said, drinking from a bottle of Pepsi. “You know him too. From the gas station. Lets us drink from his water hose.”
    “You’re not used to seeing him without grease on his face,” Michael said, filling the pockets of his blue blazer with salt pretzels.
    “You think it’s his kid?” Tommy asked.
    “Could be anybody’s kid,” Michael said. “She’s not exactly shy.”
    “Why’s he marrying her?” I said. “I mean, if
know all about her, how come he doesn’t?”
    “Maybe it
his kid,” Tommy said. “Maybe she told him it was. You don’t know.”
    “That’s right, Tommy,” Carol Martinez said. “You
    She was wearing a blue ruffled dress with a small white flower pinned at the waist. She had on ankle socks and her Buster Browns were shiny and new. Her hair was in a ponytail.
    “Everybody’s here,” John said when he saw her.
    “I’m a friend of Connie’s,” Carol said.
    “Who’s Connie?” John said.
    “The bride, asswipe,” Michael said, and led Carol by the arm off to dance.

    T HE THREE MEN came in just as the bride and groom started slicing the three-tiered wedding cake. They stood off to the side, their backs to the front door, their hands nursing long-necked bottles of Budweiser. One of them had a lit cigarette hanging from the corner of his mouth.
    We were standing in the shadows next to the disc jockey, Michael and Carol holding hands, Tommy and John sneaking beers. I held a Sam Cooke 45, “Twistin’ the Night Away,” which was next on the play list.
    “You know ’em?” Michael asked, putting his arm around Carol’s shoulders.
    “The one with the cigarette,” I said. “I’ve seen him in King Benny’s place a few times.”
    “What’s he do for him?”
    “He always passed himself off as a shooter,” I said. “I don’t know. Could be nothing more than talk.”
    “Why’s he here?” Tommy asked.
    “Maybe he likes weddings,” John said.
    The three men walked toward the center of the room, their eyes on the groom, who was eating cake and sipping champagne from the back of his wife’s spike-heeled shoe. They stopped directly across the table from the couple and rested their beers on a stack of paper plates.
    “What do you want?” the groom asked, wiping his lips with the back of his hand.
    “We come to offer our best,” the man in the middle said. “To you and to the girl.”
    “You just done that,” the groom said. “Now maybe you should leave.”
    “No cake?” the man in the middle said.
    The crowd around the table had grown silent.
    “C’mon, guys,” a middle-aged man said, his speech slurred, the front of his white shirt wet from beer. “A wedding’s no place for problems.”
    The man stared him back into silence.
    “Maybe your friend’s right,” the man said. “Maybe a wedding’s no place for what we have to do. Let’s take it outside.”
    “I don’t wanna go outside,” the groom said.
    “You got the money?”
    “No,” the groom said. “I ain’t got that kind of money. I told you that already. It’s gonna take a while.”
    “If you don’t have the money,” the man said, nodding toward the bride, “you know the deal.”
    She had not moved since the men approached, paper plate full of cake in one hand, empty champagne glass in the other, heavily made up face flushed red.
    “I ain’t gonna give her up,” the groom said in a firm voice. “I ain’t ever gonna give her up.”
    The man in the middle was quiet for a moment. Then he nodded and said, “Enjoy the rest of your night.”
    The three men turned away from the bride and groom and disappeared into the crowd, making their way toward the back door and the dark street.

    W E SAT BRACED against the thin

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