Jerry Betustak’s wake was a who’s who
of Hammond, Indiana’s northwest side.
my engagement to Jerry’s sister, Debi
necessitated my presence the entire
four hours, my hands wedged in empty
pockets, watching Jerry’s wife weeping
over the closed casket while their
son stared off into the middle distance
thinking whatever two year olds think.
I shook hands with the influx of
Dombrowskis, Vavercans, Goreckis, all
six Trombetta brothers sporting various
shades of anger, Doug Walcszak, Vinnie
Fydoreski, my ex-girlfriend Jenny
Murphy with the crooked nose and
psychotic brothers, all of whom were in
attendance except Mikey serving federal
time for the accidental pipebombing
death of an elderly woman, even my
brother made an appearance. Gene
stayed away from the casket, cornering
Adam and Matt Betustak, whispering,
furious for five minutes before leaving.
we were all connected, either by school
or family or region. we all knew Jerry,
dead at twenty-five, a closed casket wake
because the Mexicans who beat him to death
left little facial bone structure intact.
the details of Jerry’s death were no secret
the prolonged beating in the basement
of the High Life Tap on Kennedy Avenue.
his body and the body of his buddy, Shane
found wrapped in plastic in the bed of
Jerry’s F10 pick up abandoned at Wolf Lake.
we knew the two Mercado brothers who owned
the tavern and to whom Shane owed close to
twenty thousand dollars were MIA, likely
relaxing in Mexico, living the high life.
after the wake, I drove Debi to the High
Life Tap, now closed and taped off, the
broken windows boarded with plywood.
there’s a miniature shrine erected along
the sidewalk with white crosses and
multi-colored floral arrangements.
Debi shook the spray can and sprayed
MURDERER across the red brick facade
YOU KILLED MY BROTHER on the door.
across town, Gene pulled up to Pulaski
Park in a Cutlass he hotwired earlier.
Adam with his grandfather’s revolver,
Vinnie Fydoreski with his deer rifle
and Roy Murphy with his shotgun
stepped out of the shadows into the
darkened vehicle, the interior lights
broken directly after stealing the car.
Gene aimed the Cutlass for the eastside
to kill a couple Mexicans, any Mexicans.
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