****** *** *

When we saw movement through the peephole Jacko kicked the door in. It was red. It was flimsy. It was number fucking fifty. A five story walk up, a total dump, 47 West 189th Street, Washington Shites, we fuckin walked up.

Jacko wore steel tipped Doc Martin boots he stole in Grafton Arcade in Dublin when Boot Boys Ruled Dublin OK? When we carried machetes and razors. When gaunt Alsatians loped beside us like feral guardians, tethered to us with silver and leather chains. When we wore black parallels and skinhead haircuts. When we wore thin bomber jackets all shiny and new. When we were all shiny and new. When we dated high cheeked Comanche girls from Fatima Mansions who caused mayhem, who carried blades for their Blades, who cut up Dublin 4 girls, who raced with us through the rain sleeked Dublin Streets.

The Corporation estates of Dublin sired us – Sheriff Street weaned us – our blood lines honed by generations of Saxons, Normans, Auxiliaries, Black and Tans, the Dublin Fusiliers, The Connacht Rangers, the Western Front, The Crimea, The Kyber Pass, 1916, The Congo, Lebanon. Pirates once we were. Snipers once we were. Soldiers true once we were. Heroes once we were for the Kings and Queens of England, for Dublin Castle, for Whitehall mandarins with delicate white hands dipped in Irish blood. Now, heroin found us - bound us – gagged us - laid us down on the hard wet cement.  

Now just me and Jacko made it - we live in New York in Woodlawn, in the high North of the Bronx, a cross between Athlone and Limerick but with no river where you could drown yourself. No one wore Doc Marten’s here except avant garde NYU types. In the summer most people wore flip flops including these gangster types across the Harlem River in Upper Manhattan. Here we were in DR land looking for clues and money and fucking trouble.

The door flew open, the flimsy chain and lock catapulted through the air and hit the hardwood floor. So did the guy inside who lost his balance, his arms wind-milling as he tried to stay upright. As he lifted his head Jacko kicked him in the temple.

We came in and closed the door – the jamb was a bit askew and so were we. The whole place was a dump. The guy sat on the floor rubbing his head. Jacko pulled him up by the hair, the guy protesting, trying to pull loose as he scrambled up. Jacko just pushed him back towards the sofa that was covered in cushions and throw rugs. Motes of dust flowered up to the ceiling.

I rushed over to open the window. Jacko - go easy on that fucking mushroom dust cloud - my asthma is bad enough already.

Asthma me arse - it’s all in the mind.

I suppose anaphylactic shock is all in the mind as well.


You know – deadly allergic reaction to shellfish or peanuts or country people when the victim turns blue and bloated and dies in agony in front of you.

Peanuts me arse. (See above)

I looked down at our victim – Pedro - what’s arse in Spanish? I was just curious you know?

This neighborhood in Manhattan was all Spanish speaking fuckers from the Dominican Republic (DR land see above). They spat on the streets, on the subways, on the stairwells, on platforms, on escalators, on their squalling kids probably.


I was allergic to DRs, DR germs, all germs, as well as dust motes in that order. I should have worked in the Public Health arena where I could get paid for enforcing my zero tolerance of germs, of slack food preparation standards, of cross contamination, of molds, of vermin, of sneezes, of spits, of spics.

Who fucking cares Jacko says.

Where is the fucking money from Croke Park Jacko asked punching Pedro in the face. Anyone who wasn’t able to drown themselves in Woodlawn came to Croke Park to remember home, turf smoke, Atlantic swells, mournful cries of seagulls, All Ireland Finals, climbing the Reek, sleeting rain racing in from the Atlantic. They watched themselves in the long mirror behind the bar there, hunkered down like desperate jockeys, bleak, broken, broken veined, ready to drink themselves to a standstill. Ready to fight, to feel the pain, to hit the fucking deck from an upper cut or a haymaker, to alleviate the misery they could not articulate or fathom. Full fathom five thy fucking misery lies mister Irishman.    

These DR fuckers had robbed it in broad nightlight – when half of Woodlawn was still awake – they don’t follow the early to bed early to rise motto of the Americans – the Irish would go to bed at 5 AM and be up at 7 AM to work on the building sites, firing nails from nailguns at each other to keep alert in case they walked out into clean space and smashed their bodies on the hard concrete floors. The DRs broke in three hours after closing time and straight into a bar full of Dublin supporters who just lost to Meath at the real Croke Park (again). They rushed the DRs who managed to stay calm and fired into the crowd – Dubs were falling over themselves to reach the DRs since there were no Meath men around but there were four DRs with handguns and AKs and the Dubs could barely stand up from the drink – if they only had their nailguns with them it would have been an even match.

The DRs stayed calm enough to take the till receipts but they looked scared – they dropped half of the money on the way out. The DRs used so much ammo they had to reload. No Irish got killed – it was luck and the physical dexterity that one acquires after drinking all day. It’s in the genes, mister.     

Jacko - you know that might be a DR name - Pedro, Ricardo, Rodrigo, Arso, Salivo, Spito, Jacko, Spicko, etc.

Very droll. He had a good vocabulary for an ex boot boy. Like myself. None of the others made it. All graduates of Mount Joy summa cum laudanum. Injecting into veins in their feet and groin. All the long summers gone, sucked back into oblivion like the blood cloud sucked back into the hypodermic from those shriveled veins.  

What do you think Pedro – is Jacko your Dublin cousin I asked him.

The DR was dazed – he kept looking at us during our verbal exchanges – trying to make sense of what was happening.

Que? Don’t start with the que shit - Jacko punched him again – again he fell back on the sofa.

More dust. I moved away. I moved to the window where I could breathe better.  I looked out on St Nicholas. A God damn hell hole. It was like the Irish ghettoes of the lower east side a hundred years ago. At least we were all Catholics I supposed but since I was lapsed it didn’t help.

I was lapsed since I put Father Dermody into the Royal Canal with a full Calor Gas cylinder wrapped around his ankles. I could see him under the grey still water his cassock floating over his head like a hovering black sting ray. I saw one once in the aquarium in Galway. He was there floating upright for a week until his ankles came loose from their cartilage and dropped to the canal floor with the yellow Calor Gas anchors. He didn’t exactly pop to the surface but he made it half way and lay horizontally for a while until a policeman noticed him. The papers went wild. But he was asking for it so he got it.  He was an informer, a garda arse wiper, a big fat baby, a holy joe, a holy show, a fucking pedrophile, a swarmy namby pamby sugar dandy (whatever the fuck that is.)

Jacko went into the kitchen to search the place and wreck it – he flung everything from the fridge onto the floor, he sailed frozen pizzas like frisbees through the air into the living room, he kicked avocadoes into pieces, he pulled the door off the fridge and threw it across the kitchen, he pulled the freezer door off its hinges, he pulled every drawer open and broke them and flung them in a pile, he was happy.

He went into the bedroom and thrashed it, he went into the bathroom and smashed it, he came back into the living room and lost it. He pulled Pedro up and head butted him in the face. Blood burst out like a pomegrante thrown against a concrete floor. Jacko go easy I said.

Go easy my arse. This fucker knows something.

All he knew I thought at this stage was he wished he knew something. He was mumbling and bleeding and crying like a baby. Pedro baby stop crying or I will get rough Jacko said.

Rockaby Pedro in the tree top, when the wind blows, the cradle will rock, when the bough breaks the cradle will fall, down will come Pedro nose job and all.    

Someone knocked on the door – Pedro, Pedro followed by silence.

We pulled our revolvers out. I preferred them to automatics although they were slower but we never missed so it wasn’t a problem. Pity we weren’t at Croke Park when the DR boys arrived.

I like moving parts, I like clock work, I like clicks.

Where was I? Oh yeah. His fucking name is Pedro I whispered to Jacko. Can you believe it? I tapped Pedro on the head with the sight. He didn’t like it.

Pedro looked like he was going to cry out so Jacko kicked him.

His head flew back and hit the hardwood floor.

He was out.

The guns were out.

Outside, the woman stopped knocking and started speaking and we could hear her heavy breathing between sentences. After a short time she pushed a note under the door.

Jacko went over to retrieve it. He listened at the door before picking it up.

Fuck it’s in Pedronese. He passed it to me

It’s OK I said there is an address – maybe the money is there.

We heard a noise behind us – Pedro was getting to his feet – he was pulling a shotgun from under the couch – fumbling it, sweating it, blood dripped on the dark grey barrels.  Before he could level it, aim it, cock it, fire it Jacko was over there – he jumped the couch and threw his revolver to me – I caught it as it came towards me butt over barrel – it was poetry in motion. Jacko grabbed both barrels of the shotgun. He started swinging – Pedro held on – Jacko kept spinning and so did Pedro who kept trying to put his finger around the trigger.

Jacko should have been in the Olympics – the centrifugal force made Pedro lose his grip – he stumbled across the room, he legs collided against the window frame and he toppled backward out the open window in a clumsy arc. He tried to grab the edge of the window frame but he was moving too quickly. We could hear his body hitting against the hard metal of the fire escape and then a sharp silence as he fell outwards until he hit the basement courtyard five floors below.   

Jesus did you see that - your fucking asthma came in handy after all!

Jacko had a strange sense of humor.

OK let’s go – wipe the barrels and fuck it out the window - they might figure he stumbled and fell. It wasn’t very realistic since the place was wrecked but maybe they would fall for it.  

Jacko wiped the barrels with a dish cloth and tossed the gun out the window. He didn’t look down. He was afraid of heights. I felt like telling him it was all in the mind. 

As we pulled the door shut behind us we heard a woman’s scream rising through the hot humid air.


Johnny Zephyr is addicted to Ross Macdonald, Jim Thompson, Richard Stark, James Ellroy and getting his first novel written which has an impressive body count and a much lower joke count.

"Asthma is a Killer" Copyright 2010 by Johnny Zephyr