Vengeance or Justice / You Decide

By Paul Teodo & Tom Myers

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A busted nose, missing teeth, a fractured eye socket, and a broken jaw. My face looked like ground chuck.

Ronnie was short tempered. Me too. But different. I went off on guys. Ronnie went off on anybody. And on New Year’s Eve 1972 he went off on his girlfriend Marie, in the bathroom of my house.

I heard screaming. Then his drunken voice. Marie screamed again. “No, please.”

“Fucking bitch!”

The Stones cranking throughout the house. “Pleased to meet you, hope you guess my name!”

“I didn’t.” Marie pleaded.

“You did. I know you did.”

“What’s puzzling you, is the nature of my game!” Mick howling. Keith guitar shrieking.

“We were just talking!”

"I know what he wants!”

“Ronnie no!”

A crash. I pounded on the door. “No!” Marie’s voice over Mick’s.

I slammed my shoulder into the cheap wood. The door splintered at the lock. The knob bounced off the tile floor. Ronnie turned, one fist over his head. 

 “No Ronnie!” I yelled. He swungMarie cowered in the corner of the tiny room.

The Stones relentless. “Woo, woo woo, woo.”

Ronnie grabbed her by the wrist and yanked her back. No escape. I lunged for his arm. His elbow shattered my face. Black spots wandered in slow motion around the brightly lit bathroom. A metallic taste, warm salty blood. His fist was next. Pop-pop. One- two. My eye exploded.  Searing pain shot through my jaw, blazed up the side of my face, and knifed down the back of my neck.

I locked onto his arm and shoved it behind his back. Then a snap, or a crackle, or a pop. Jagger didn’t stop. “Hope you guess my name!”

The asshole ran out of my house into the cold darkness of 1973.

 The music stopped. Silence filled every corner of the house. The only sound, Marie’s whimpering.

New Year's Day at my uncle’s house, his birthday, or so they said. Maybe just a good reason to get together and eat pasta. Lots of it.

My mother in tears, eyes avoiding my face.

Two more uncles. One connected.

The other a cop. “What the fuck happened to you?”

My jaw wouldn’t let me talk.

Again, “What happened?”

No use.

“What about the other guy?”

What I did to Ronnie, more important than my battered face.

I shook my head. They weren’t happy. The minimal respect they had for me, was gone.

“Who was it?”

“A fucking asshole.” I slurred knowing what they were would to do.

“Who?”

“No.” I’d settle this. Not them.

“Look at your mother.”

I couldn’t.

Unrelenting I shook my head again. They looked at each other, disapproval darkening their faces.


Back at school. It was a couple weeks. The phone rang. My buddy. “Ronnie was found.”

“Found?” Teeth clenched wires digging into my cheeks.

“Dead. Beaten. A pipe, at the gas station, where he works.”

“Shit.” Slurring through the wires that held my jaw tight.

“You’ll get a call, most likely.”

“A call?”

“The heat. Tell 'em shit. They’re fishing.”

Back in Chicago to get the wires out. Deciding if the jaw needed to be re-busted and reset.

Home. A knock on the door. Cops. A fat guy, red hair, flashing his badge. A skinny one, bald.

“Did you know Ronnie Weingartner?”

“Yeah.” I tried to look surprised, “Did?”

“He’s dead.”

Jaw already clenched I bit down harder. Jagged pain made me think straight, not to put the scent onto my uncles.

“Beat to death, at the gas station, where he worked.”

“Didn’t know.”

“Bullshit.”

“I go to college.”

“Fuck you.”

“When?”

“We ask the questions.”

I got their message.

“Besides you, you know anybody who had it out for him?”

“Me?”

The cop smiled. He touched my face slowly, his dried fingertip scratching my damaged jaw.

“Yeah, besides you.” He smiled.

“I got nothing.”

“What was he like?”

I paused. Conflicted. “What was he like?” Mimicking their question.

“Yeah.”

“A fucking asshole.”

They looked at each other funny.  Baldy stuck a photograph in my face. Ronnie. Eyes rolled back in his head, hands up like he was trying to protect himself. On his arm, white case, written in black magic marker, where kids sign. “Fucking Asshole.”

Chewing harder on my teeth. Pain keeping me sharp.

“Coincidence?”

“I don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about.”

“We’ll be back.”

“I ain’t goin nowhere.”