By Ahmed Latif
This is a children’s story. It contains mature subject matter. Reader discretion is advised. So what kind of children is the real question?
Steven was a quiet alligator who lived an ordinary alligator life. Steven ate his usual alligator breakfast, an apple, with his girlfriend Annie.
He left the residential tower of garbage he called home and walked to the bank. Steven worked the occasional construction job in order to support his ex, Fat Yolanda, and their two kids Lisa and Kit.
“What is wrong with these kids? They sit around and do nothing. They are more crocodile than alligator!” Steven had once yelled bitterly at Fat Yolanda; Fat being her name and not a nickname or adjective, even though it would have applied.
“Huh?” She replied with utter wit.
Steven attempted to withdraw money from the ATM but received an error message that prompted him to ‘Please see a clerk’.
“Pfffft!” Steven reacted, as usual, with his eloquent mannerisms.
He went inside to see the bank teller. “How can I help you today sir?” said an unpleasantly chipper lady Terrier behind the counter.
“Yeah, well, I keep getting an error with that damn machine. I just want to withdraw $200,” a beleaguered Steven answered.
“Well sir, if you could please swipe your card and enter your pin number, I will see what we could do for you today.”
Steven took out his wallet and bank card. He was now mad at himself, ‘Why did you even put them away while you walked two seconds from the machine to the counter, you idiot!’ It was a very erudite inner-dialogue.
Steven did as the teller requested. “Hmmmm,” she articulated. “Well sir, I see the problem here: your bank account has one dollar and fifty cents. That is why your attempted transaction could not go through.”
Steven became agitated, even more beleaguered than before, and filled with righteous indignation. “Whaaaaat?” He brilliantly summed up this cocktail of dangerous emotions.
“See, sir?” She turned her computer screen to him.
“How could that be? I get a weekly cheque!” Steven added for the sake of argument. He knew that everyone gets bi-weekly cheques.
“I am sorry sir, there is no weekly cheque deposited in your account. There has been no activity in this account for three weeks.”
“How could that be?”
“I don’t know sir, perhaps check with your employer. I only know that there have been no transactions for weeks.”
“But I am working and getting paid, where is my money?” Steven repeated like the repetitive reptile that he was.
The teller grew tired of Steven and his aggressive tone, so in turn she turned on him. “I DON’T know sir! All I know is that there is no money for you here.”
“Psht!” Steven reacted with his unique brand of razor-sharp wit.
Steven left the bank and made his way to the construction site where his foreman Bobson Bulldog worked. Steven worried about making the rent which was due next week. His landlord, Ira Guilden, was a Parakeet with more than just colourful feathers, he also had a very colourful lexicon packed with delightful curse words and splendid obscenities. Then another horrible thought struck literally-poor Steven. ‘What if Fat Yolanda that dumb gator calls the police? You know what cops do to gators who are late with their child-support payments. They rough them up and throw them in jail.’ As you can imagine this internal dialogue only got darker, more frantic, and less coherent from here.
At the site, Steven asked Miller Mongoose angrily, “Where is Bobson?”
“In the… In the… In the… In the trailer,” Miller answered with that trademarked succinct stutter.
Steven marched into the trailer. Bobson was in the middle of a clearly very important meeting with the project’s lead architect Mr. Takahashi, a glum looking peacock; not that peacocks come in other kinds, they’re all a glum bunch.
Steven began, “What the hell, Bobson?”
Bobson, embarrassed said, “Excuse me for one second Mr. Takahashi.” As Bobson rushed Steven out of the trailer, Mr. Takahashi still looked glum. “What is your problem Steven? Are you high again? Because I won’t cover for your deadbeat ass this time.”
Steven shot back with vitriol, “Whatever!” Then he announced the thesis of his discontent. “Where the hell is my money, Bobson?”
“What are you talking about, Steven?”
“The bank said I haven’t been paid in three weeks and I know for damn certain that I worked for you in the past three weeks at least three times.”
“Oh you are such an idiot, Steven,” Bobson stated, then presented evidence to support this statement. “Your cheques have been paying off the price of that bulldozer you damaged while driving it a month ago. Remember, you begged me not to fire you and I said fine but I will dock your pay until the cost of the repairs is paid off. And you agreed.”
“So you docked my whole cheque?”
“It was three days worth, Steven. If you worked the full three weeks you wouldn’t have even noticed the amount.”
“Damn,” Steven retorted.
“Are we done here? Because you interrupted a very important meeting that I have to get back to,” Bobson said in a way that only bulldogs can do. Hence why no one can even do a decent bulldog impression. Steven once thought he could do a decent bulldog accent but when he tried it out at a party, the Crickets were all that could be heard. The Crickets being the band that was performing that night.
Bobson left and went back into the trailer. Miller came over and sat with Steven on a pile of gravel. Steven explained his perilous position, “I am screwed.”
Miller began. “You know… You know… My cousin Bambas… Bambas… He does some work… Some work for the Wolf Mafia… Wolf Mafia, if you ever… Ever… Ever need some quick… Quick cash.” Steven thought it over.
Miller began again. “He is at…”
“Yeah, I know where he is, Miller! Good God, I don’t have the patience for this,” Steven said as he stormed off the site to O’Kill-Again the bar that Bambas owned.
Steven walked into the Irish Wolfhound pub. In The Villain’s Lair With James Lipton was playing on the TV; it was the episode with the Joker again.
He went over to Bambas behind the bar. “Bambas, Miller said you can hook me up with a quick cash job. I am desperate, brother.”
“Tell Miller he needs to pay up or I will personally break his weasel legs.” Steven was not at all surprised by any of this. Miller Mongoose was always in debt and Bambas Mongoose was an amoral sociopath but one hell of a bartender. “As for you, I got a thing in mind but it’s a wee bit dangerous.”
Steven nodded articulately. Bambas continued. “Alright, go meet O’Flanagan, O’Keefe, and the other guys at the number forty-six bus stop over on Hildenburry and Graxton. I will give them a heads up that you’re on the way.”
“What’s the job though?”
“It’s called thank you, Steven. Now get your deadbeat grill out of my bar before I beat you dead.” Anyone would be in awe of that classic Bambas bone-dry wit.
At the bus stop Steven saw three Irish wolfhounds, two he didn’t know and Mickey O’Keefe. But Dermot O’Flanagan, the fourth Irish wolfhound was nowhere in sight. Steven walked up to Mickey. “Hey Mickey.” Steven began every conversation with such undeniable grace.
Mickey nodded and introduced his associates. “This is Desmond O’Connor and Connor McElhenney.”
Steven nodded to them and then asked Mickey, “So what’s the job? And where is Dermot?”
“Only his sainted mother calls him that, so you better watch your mouth Steven and only call him O’Flanagan or boss.” Steven nodded and Mickey continued. “The boss is getting a car and the work is a simple snatch job really.” Mickey then turned to O’Connor and Connor and smiled slyly.
“We’re going to rob a casino,” bragged Connor.
A bit worried, Steven asked, “Which one?”
O’Connor held up three fingers then added, “The Straw Shack at the Four Seasons, the MGM Grand Wooden Stick, and the Brick House.”
Steven became alarmed. Those casinos belonged to the Pig Brothers — Sonny, Fredo, and Michael. These guys were known for dispensing of anyone who stands remotely close to their way let alone anyone actually in their way.
Just as Steven was about to question the mission in front of his new comrades who were not ones for fielding questions, a baby blue cadillac rolled to a stop by the bus bench. Steven saw who was in the car and drifted into the background like only a truly introverted individual can. The person Steven saw then emerged out of the cadillac. It was Barracuda Jones, Fat Yolanda’s new boyfriend, and a real troublemaker, the kind who believed the 1980's never ended.
Barracuda went up to Mickey and whispered. “Planning something stupid, are we now?”
“No.” Mickey's responses were all typically this verbose.
“Good then.” Barracuda Jones said as he got in the cadillac which was packed with four gangbanger dolphins. No one enjoys stereotypes, but one stereotype that is always true is: all dolphins are in some kind of gang. Barracuda then stuck his head out of the car and said.
“Oh and here is a little message from Michael Pig.” He pulled out a Tommy Gun and started firing while laughing his greasy maniacal laugh. Steven took shelter behind the dumpster adjacent to the shooting. Mickey, Connor, and O’Connor’s bodies fell to the ground in a heap, riddled with bullets. Then Barracuda and the dolphins drove off.
Steven came out of hiding and sat at the bus bench next to the bodies. ‘What a day,’ he thought.
Just then O’Flanagan drove up to the bus stop in a lavender cadillac. Steven thought it was odd that he hadn’t seen a cadillac in months and in the span of minutes he had seen two, each hideously coloured.
Before O’Flanagan could ask, Steven answered. “Barracuda Jones and some dolphins did it. Damn dolphins! They said it was a message from Michael Pig.”
O’Flanagan got out of the car and sat beside Steven on the bus bench. He huffed and puffed but seemed rather calm about the murder of his colleagues. Then he reminded Steven what the mafia does when one of their wolfhounds is gunned down. “You know we’ll have to kill Barracuda and Michael. And you’re going to have to help. You are in on this now.”
Steven asked, “How did they know?”
“It must have been Bambas. We’ll have to kill him too.” O’Flanagan added to his hit-list mercilessly.
Steven knew there was no getting out of this, otherwise O’Flanagan would just add him to the hit-list. Steven thought: ‘if I am going to go to jail, it might as well be for something other than not paying child support’. But in typical Steven fashion he thought to at least procrastinate the work he could not get out of. “How about something to drink first?”
O’Flanagan handed him a brown paper bag with a bottle in it.
“What is that? A 40?” asked Steven.
“No, Irish Wolfhounds don’t drink 40s. It’s whiskey, Steven!”
Steven thought, ‘Oh great, a light drink in the early afternoon before an assassination’.
Five Months Later
This was Annie’s first visit to Steven in prison. He looked rough, beaten and sleep-deprived. He was trapped in the midst of a gang war between the Wolf Mafia who claimed him as one of their own and the alligator supremacists who demanded he returns to his roots.
Dermot O’Flanagan, Bambas Mongoose, Barracuda Jones, Sonny Pig, Fredo Pig, and five dolphins were dead, Miller Mongoose was never going to walk again, and Steven could hardly remember how all of this unpleasantness started.
Annie began speaking through the separating glass. “Do you remember that day it all started when you went to get money for Fat Yolanda’s child support?”
“Yes, Annie. Of course I remember!’’ Steven said in an aggravated manner. “What about it?”
Annie answered hesitantly. ‘Hesitance is a very unattractive trait in an alligator’, Steven thought. “There is something I don’t understand. Why didn’t you just write her a cheque? It would have taken her days before she cashed it and it would’ve bounced or we could have brought in the money by then. Why did it have to be cash from the bank?”
Steven was stumped, he lifted his head which was dangling low and despondent.
“God dammit Annie!”