We bought vodka from the bookie on Columbus Street. Maybe she was a bookie or maybe that’s just what I overheard my father say. But he knew her. He knew the house with the porch and the orange light on the dark street and the inside covered in jade and slick black furniture that had white orchids delicately, thinly painted on it. Similar to the jewelry boxes my mother kept in the attic. My father brought them home from Japan, where he was in boot camp before the war. It’s difficult for me to picture the exchange. I’ve never seen him reach his hands out to her with a gift. Not in my life.
He knew the bookie’s house because he had grown up in that neighborhood, had gone to Columbus High School, but, mainly because he was a cop. They would have never crossed paths before he had a badge. But now he knew her. I don’t know if he knew I had been inside the jade house, had walked past the bony kid in the living room playing video games, pounding at the buttons with an extra thumb on his right hand. Destiny, for him. Danger for me.
The vodka was Mr. Boston and it was shitty. I didn’t drink it but I could tell by the way the boys sneered and almost sneezed from the chemy burn. The boys, of course, did the deal. They shuffled the contraband out of the jade house in a paper bag, under the orange lights, too bright to pretend we were doing anything else. The bookie held the door open behind us, looked both ways out from her porch, and returned back into the glowing green and to the sound of rapid fire.