These guys are dumber than fruit. Their idea of a sophisticated operation is knocking over an ice-cream truck, which they have done. They have actually, no kidding, stolen candy from babies….”
by brian doyle
I knew a man who once actually said to me, at eleven in the morning, as he was drinking a large glass of excellent red wine and smoking a cigarette under a sign that read ABSOLUTELY NO SMOKING, that he knew a guy who knew a guy, which was a phrase I had read in crime novels but never actually heard spoken seriously, which it certainly was here; the guy who said it had devoted his career as an assistant district attorney to catching and imprisoning guys who knew guys, as he said, and he spoke of these guys with a deep and abiding distaste. We were supposed to talk about literature during our conversation but we never really got around to it because he got so annoyed talking about guys who knew guys that he had a second glass of wine and another ten cigarettes and dove into the subject in a blunt and colorful fashion which I never forgot. Why anyone ever wrote a book or made a movie or a television show about these clowns is a mystery to me, he said. They are merely slimebags. They are unbelievably stupid and cruel thugs. They are not funny. They are not amusing. They are not comical. They do not have a code of honor. They are not guardians of their neighborhoods against the ravages of official corruption. They are corruption. They are slime bags. They are dumber than rocks. They would kill their own children without blinking. They have done so. I could tell you stories. They would rat anyone anyhow anywhere so fast you couldn’t write the ratting down fast enough. I have had a guy yell at me for not writing fast enough how many guys he was ratting out including not one but two of his own brothers. They have no friends. All they have is money, temporarily. Mario Puzo, he should rot in hell for making them popular. Francis Coppola too. A million stupid kids thought being a slimebag was cool after The Godfather. I spent thirty years stuffing them in jail as fast as I could and I would have happily dropped them all at the bottom of Boston Harbor except the harbor is already polluted. Best place for them would be Greenland or something, drop them on the ice and let them eat each other. Listen, I listened to thousands of hours of recordings and I know what I am talking about. In one of their clubhouses we put so many bugs there were more bugs than chairs. These guys are dumber than fruit. Their idea of a sophisticated operation is knocking over an ice-cream truck, which they have done. They have actually, no kidding, stolen candy from babies. They have stolen pets. They have stolen Bibles. One guy stole a car and locked himself into it and couldn’t get out and couldn’t get it started and finally he called the police. Another guy stole a greyhound dog and the dog attacked him relentlessly and he called the police also. Are you getting the picture here? Half of these guys if you told them their last name they would have to check their wallets for the names their mothers gave them. Half of these guys if you gave them five dollars and asked for change they would give you ten. The king of these guys in New England when I was working was a guy in Providence who was such a slimebag he stole money from church collection baskets. I kid you not. This guy had his own brother killed. This guy ordered a father to kill his own son. This guy beat up waitresses and bar girls. Where is the part where this is funny or amusing or comic? I missed that. Mario Puzo gets to be a millionaire for telling stories about these guys and Francis Coppola gets to be a millionaire for telling stories about these guys and I spent thirty years catching these guys and throwing them in jail and getting death threats and almost making enough money to pay the mortgage and I don’t get to be a millionaire. Maybe that’s the amusing and comic part. Maybe that’s the lesson. You invent guys, you get rich; you chase guys, you get dead. But hey, I got a million stories from my years. I can dine out on my stories. Like today, right? More wine?
Brian Doyle was the author of many books, including the sea novel The Plover, which has, no kidding, music printed in it, not to mention Mink River, Martin Marten, The Wet Engine, and more than we can recall. He won the 2017 John Burroughs Medal for distinguished nature writing for Martin Marten, which was plenty cool and much deserved. Brian passed away peacefully at his Lake Oswego home on May 27, 2017.
More, much more, from Brian Doyle can be found in the Vault of Smoke.