Saturday, September 21, 2013

Shades of Pink Teaser - The Touch by Amber Green

Every day until the end of September, I will post here the blurb for one of the stories from the Shades of Pink charity anthology, as well as a teaser, and a short bio for the author. The anthology will be available on October 1st, with all proceeds going to breast cancer research but you can donate today and get it 5 days early! I invite you to come back, share the links for these teasers, tell your friends about it... It's all for a good cause! And if you tweet about it, you can use the hashtag #shadesofpink :)

Today, a glimpse from The Touch by Amber Green

"Loyalty for the living, or piety for the dead," says gangster Juice Conlan. "When the egg hits the sidewalk, that's all you got to save you." Conlan's brutal moods have always ruled Monk's life. But when the egg hits the sidewalk, Monk has someone else to save.

I always worked for Juice Conlan. When I was an ugly little monkey of eight, I played stickball or pitched pennies in the street while he and the sluggers shared a private moment with someone inside. If a copper wandered by, I’d break a window and scram. When I did good, he gave me tips on sharping cards or picking pockets.

When I was thirteen, he handed me an oilcloth wallet of gleaming lock-picks. They felt right in my hands. Heavy, yet precise. The kind of tools that make things happen. I prodded the brass innards of the padlock one of his sluggers had cut off a gate somewhere, feeling my way through the cool, slick weights and levers inside of it, and whispered, “Open.”

Click-click! The loop sprang open, rattling on the tabletop.

I felt like a man.

“You got the touch, Monk.” Juice sounded impressed. “Don’t tell nobody, and don’t show it off. I’ll find the one perfect time and place to use that, and then we’ll be set for life.”

He got us both dead sloshed on bathtub gin that night, saying over and over that the secret of the big score is having the patience to wait for that one perfect time.

But he seemed to forget about the touch, and sent me to bookkeeping school. Then he gave me a real job, with a weekly pay envelope.

“A boyo don’t need that much bacon,” Ma said, holding out her hand for it. “Whilst I got yer little brothers to feed, I surely do. And schoolbooks don’t buy themselves. What would you do with it, Mook, dress fancier than your friends? Do ye have so many you can afford to show them up?”

She was right. Guys my age were head and shoulders taller, too big to even notice me, and kids my size I had nobody except Power Brennan, who was too pretty to run with the boys, and maybe Pink Gomez, who was another runt and a spick to boot. Nobody in Pink’s neighborhood cared who he played with because his father was Red Gomez, a Communist who traveled the country to spread trouble. Once Pink found a job at a factory where, luckily, nobody knew whose son he was, I saw him only when I boarded the six-thirty bus to work, which was the bus he rode home.

But I had the locks to spend time with. I practiced with them in secret, in Juice’s warehouse or in the bicycle locker downstairs in our apartment building, or on chests I picked up at pawnshops, while I waited for Juice to announce he’d found the one perfect time and place.

The time never came. Or if it did, Juice missed his chance.

Juice got to missing a lot of chances, as the gin soaked through more of his time. He was invited to one of Frankie Yale’s parties, with the Italians over in Brooklyn, but he slept through it. When he realized what he’d missed, he swung his heavy head back and forth, looking for someone to blame.

I saw what was coming, so I backed into the shadows of the hallway.

As I held my breath, praying for a miracle, the door slapped open, smacking the wall in the way he hated and raining chips of paint from the ceiling. The old-country, saint-blessing harp who cleaned for him walked in with her carpet-beater over one shoulder and her bucket of rags hanging from it like a hobo’s bindle. I waved cautiously to warn her off, but she didn’t see me. If I spoke up, he’d hear me. So I hunched my shoulders and stared at the paint chips she’d knocked loose, and wished I was somewhere else. Out to sea, maybe, or standing on a rooftop somewhere, feeling the warm summer wind on my face and watching Red Gomez’s new dawn come true in the world.

When Juice finished beating on that poor old woman, I sent her home by taxi. I used the phone in the bank downstairs to call a doctor to go see her, too. I promised double payment to get him there—Juice would never miss the jack.

The next morning, her sons tackled me at the bus stop, dragged me into an alley, and returned the beating with interest.

Juice caught the joke I missed. He laughed and laughed. I stood in front of him, tasting blood, with my face and belly hurting like nothing I’d ever known and with my wool cap shaking in my hands, and he laughed at me.

Amber Green is over 50 and over the county's limit for pets. Her interests include etymology, military history, and flea control. She uses three pairs of glasses and one pair of shoes. Her goal is to write a book worth re-reading.

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