As usual Jimmy’s presence put me on edge. He was leaning against the storefront of my dad’s plumbing shop, drinking Colt 45 out of a brown paper bag, an unfiltered cigarette dangling out of the corner of his mouth. His lips formed a smug grin, barely hiding his rotten, brown teeth.
I never understood why my dad kept Jimmy around for so many years. He was in the habit of stealing my dad’s tools and then selling them to junkies who usually sold them right back to my dad. And, he’d still have his job the next day. Jimmy was my dad’s drinking and whoring buddy. One time, Jimmy tried to get me to do some heroin. Another time, he was fooling around with a woman in the back of the shop and told me to join in.
I hated Jimmy. And he knew it. Although I was only fourteen, I let him know to stay the hell away from me.
Just behind Jimmy, the front door of the shop was propped open with a wooden chair. Inside, the fluorescent ceiling lights were glaring. I could see old meat hooks still hanging from the ceiling. The worn and stained butcher block counter had been converted to a workbench with a pipe vise on one end. Wrenches, black steel pipes, pipe fittings and liquor bottles scattered all over. The door of the walk-in meat freezer, where all the valuable plumbing tools were locked up, was wide open. The stink of rotten meat still very present. Towards the back of the shop, I could see my old man snoring on a makeshift bed, an empty bottle of scotch dangling from his hand off the side of the cot.
I knew this shop all too well. After school and on the weekends my job was cleaning up and re-arranging the mess from the previous week’s work.
I looked right past Jimmy, through the broken plate glass window to the shelf where Wolf slept. I couldn’t see him. Only the leash and collar were on Wolf’s shelf. His empty food and water bowls on the floor. No Wolf.
I screamed at Jimmy, “Where’s Wolf?”
Jimmy was all too eager to answer, knowing how much I loved that dog. With a smirk, Jimmy said, “He’s gone, man.”
My fists and teeth clenched. “What do you mean, gone? Where the hell is he? What did you do with him?” I was frantic. I almost reached into my pocket to get my knife. I wanted to slit his throat. Because I knew.
“I didn’t do nothin’. It was your daddy,” he said with a smile. “Yeah, he got good and drunk, and lost your dog in a card game.”
It felt like a kick to the stomach. I ran wildly, crazy with fear and rage, all over the neighborhood, in the alleys, in basements, up and down the block, down in the schoolyard. No Wolf.
I went upstairs to the apartment and collapsed. The house was dark. I didn’t cry. I do now.
Steve Bernstein is a retired plumber who for over three decades has been a teacher and mentor for at-risk-teens as wall as an animal rights activist and humane educator. He recently self-published STORIES FROM THE STOOP, seven adventure stories from his colorful childhood growing up in the Bronx in the 1960s. He can be reached at email@example.com.