The drip pot vibrated at a boil on the stovetop.
“Gramma, can I have a coffee?”
She poured it, burnt thick and black, into a shallow cup and pushed the sugar toward him. He fiddled with the spoon that was formed with a small spout on the end as if dumping a spoonful of sugar into a cup was somehow old fashioned. She liked the new things, his Gramma. Even if she horded them all in her little garage apartment across the patio from the family’s grand house.
His name was actually Tomasso or Tommy to those outside his neighborhood, but since he never left the neighborhood as a child it didn’t matter. His given name didn’t matter either as his great grandfather had renamed him.
“Why did Pap-pap call me Circo?”
“Oh he used to laugh when you around. You was always run-you was always jump-you…”searching for the word “….tumble around the yard like in a circus! He laugh and laugh. Said you like a Circo. ‘Circus’. So he call you Circo.”
“I wished he would have called me Tommy-like my name. Everybody calls me Circo now.”
“Every cat in the alley named Tom. You Circo. Better.”
“Some people laugh…like Circo is a joke.”
“They laugh at you, you stop them, huh? You know how to make them stop laugh.”
He waved away her pointing finger. “Alright. It’s alright…”He shifted away from where the .38 dug into his thick waist.
“Who you gone see today?”
“Vinnie, and Joe up on the hill. Then Robert and Shack”. Shack Moran’s real name was Jacques from his French mother. Once he was out of the house he thought life would be much easier as “Shack” so Jacques Moran ceased to be. Until that morning in the not too distant future when a dead body was fished out of the river near the mill outflow pipe. All the reporters then called him “Jacques” in a formal rolling pronunciation and nobody knew who they were talking about. Except for Circo. He knew.
“Circo. You wanna eat?”
“No Gram…” The little man slid off of the chair and looked out the window at the house trying to see if anyone was watching. It was too bright outside-made spying into dark windows impossible. He had parked two alleys away and walked though yards so nobody passing would see his car. But there was only one way in-up the front steps that anyone who was looking from the house could see. He could picture his mother at the kitchen table, smoking and watching her door-keeping track of who came and went. Couldn’t do anything about it now. He was here-and he had to leave.
It wasn’t until they found Shack dead in the river that people began to call him Tommy.