Spectacle by Peter Anderson

Schwimmer stood, hands clasped behind his back and his nose pressed against the cold brick wall. He heard the shoes shuffle behind him, back and forth, as if the strangers were uncertain what to do. There were four of them, two suits and two blues. Another rousting, he figured, harassment ordered by the South Side dagoes. He knew the drill from what the others had told him. Hauled into the wagon, sped downtown, booked, printed and tossed into cells, then let go hours later when the boss dropped a dime. Of course the boss would do that for them, for him. Moran seemed to like him, maybe even more than the others, though he never went out on a hit or even a bootlegging run. He did little more than loiter, flattering the boss and listening to his stories. Moran must have liked him for that, enough to keep him around without doing any work. The other guys were employees, but Schwimmer was a fan, no different than those who fawned over Cubs and Sox players, asked for autographs, bought them drinks in bars. And Moran apparently liked having a fan. Schwimmer came here every day, after riding down from his upper-floor rooms at the Parkway—always giving a tip to George, the elevator man—and emerging through the glass doors with a glance toward the wooded expanse of Lincoln Park and the unseen lake beyond, before turning west for the short stroll to the Clark Street garage. Here he would linger, leaning back in a folding chair with his feet up just like the others, smoking, listening, smiling, and laughing always at the right moment. He was always around, whether Moran was there or not. Moran hadn’t arrived yet that morning, but Schwimmer was content to wait, knowing the boss would be there soon. He would always wait, just to be around men like that. They were real men and this was real life, nothing like optometry or even playing the ponies, neither of which had done much for him. Moran and the others were living, and though they never even let him ride along on jobs at least he was a small part of their world. Eyes to the wall, he heard one of the suits bark right after Goosey, just to his left, had glanced back over his shoulder. It occurred to Schwimmer that this arrest would bring him a little closer to Moran, give them something more in common. You shoulda heard Doc, Goosey would tell the boss later, givin’ that cop some lip. You’da been proud. Just as Schwimmer began to imagine the smile spreading across Moran’s face, the Tommy guns cracked to life behind him and someone at the other end of the lineup—maybe Heyer, or Weinshank—screamed in agony, followed by screams speeding closer down the line, and just as the thought came to him—Bugs will be proud—he felt an explosion at the base of his skull and then everything went black.

Peter Anderson’s debut novella, Wheatyard, was published in 2013 by Kuboa Press. His short stories have appeared in many fine venues, including Storyglossia, THE2NDHAND, RAGAD, Midwestern Gothic, and the collections Daddy Cool: An Anthology of Writing by Fathers For & About Kids (Artistically Declined Press, 2013) and On the Clock: Contemporary Short Stories of Work (Bottom Dog Press, 2010). A financial professional by trade, he writes fiction to ease the crushing monotony of corporate life. He lives and writes in Joliet, Illinois.