after growing up out in the farmlands that used to surround metropolis los angeles, eddie had moved to downtown l.a. after he was discharged from the army. that had been long ago. forty years ago more or less. things had gone well for him after the army. a thriving business, marriage and family.
thirty five years or so of peace and happiness. then it all started to unravel. slowly. one frayed thread at a time. eddie had started betting on football games. in the beginning he did alright. most weekends he won the majority of his bets. then something happened. eddie never did figure out what or why. his football acumen just went south on him. he started losing more than he won. not a good thing for any bettor.
instead of just quitting he tried to make up for his bad luck by betting more, more and more. he not only lost the bets he lost his family as well. his business and his peace of mind. everything. eddie had become some sort of poster boy for gamblers everywhere. not in a good way but the worst possible example.
wife, children, home and business gone eddie hit rock bottom. though living by his wits and a few odd jobs he kept a roof over his head. things had even started to turn around again. he even had thoughts of setting things straight with his wife and kids. instead, however, that old invincible bettor’s feeling came back and took hold. eddie started betting sports again. mostly college football.
he was actually doing well with his bets. just for a short time though. soon he was back to losing much more than he was winning. he began to drift out of control. there was no stopping him. madness seemed to hold sway. madness to the point of not caring anymore. then it happened. very quickly on a saturday afternoon in the late fall.
eddie catalina had weathered worse weekends but nothing quite like the past one. in some sort of semi delusional death wish he’d taken his car and rent money and bet it all on 10 of the worst college football picks imaginable. sure, some of them looked good and even made sense in that death wish sort of way. but he knew he was in big trouble by mid afternoon on saturday.
the odd thing was he really didn’t care. the third floor walk up in the eastern part of downtown los angeles and his 10 year old car had lost whatever luster was left or ever had been there. things had tumbled out of control and he was resigned to what would come soon enough.
another strange thing was he didn’t even have the car or rent money anymore. after losing the game that tilted the deal below what would mean busting out even he had taken the car and rent money and blown it all and then some. that was even before the total disaster became, oh so apparent. all the money he had was blown on a bizarre drunken whore mongering night in the illegal after hours mexican ‘nightclubs’ in his neighborhood. a long night that found him drunk, alone and asleep at his kitchen table around noon sunday.
the pounding on the door woke him up. it took a second or two to realize it was morning, the sun was up, and he was still drunk. very drunk. stumbling to the door he opened it. two thugs pushed their way inside. the larger of the two shut the door and stood by it.
the smaller one spoke.
so where were you last night? it looks like getting drunk on your sorry ass. and that’s no excuse. there are no excuses. you know the rules. payment is due on all bets at midnight sharp. pay up now plus another $1,000 in vig for our trouble. don’t fucking piss don vincenzo off any more than he already is.
standing there in his under ware, head down looking at the floor he thought, good thing i’m still drunk. maybe the broken bones won’t hurt so bad.
broken bones or maybe. just maybe. yes, a mad hangover haze grab for the rusty but loaded .357 under the three day old newspaper on the table. for you see, as dawn had broke that sunday morning, lonely broke drunken dreams made him pull it out of the bottom of his old army duffel bag. he’d passed out before he could use it. now maybe. just maybe. he could make use of it for some other purpose.
the smaller man slapped him to the floor. eddie used the table to help himself to his feet. his hand slipped under the paper. he gripped the pitted and splintered walnut pistol butt. he spun around firing. his finger pulling the trigger as fast as he could. sound, smoke, and the smell of cordite filled the small room.
the two mobsters lay there bleeding their last seconds of life out onto the cracked yellowed linoleum floor. eddie catalina’s troubles had only just begun.
this first appeared in july of 2014.