'Tis the Season
By Paul Teodo
I committed my first murder on Christmas Day 1958. I was eight.
My mother’s sister, Auntie Concetta, who lived downstairs from our family in a classic Chicago two flat had just gotten out of a mental institution. She was, to say the least, still acting a bit odd.
She’d walk around the house making strange noises, bugging her eyes out at us. When we’d say “Auntie what are you doing?” She’d cackle and just do it some more. She’d shuffle around wearing her blue night gown and pink slippers for days at a time, a red bandana tightly primping up her dark black hair.
Her husband Sammy was a reformed thief, having almost died of malaria in a hospital bed in Guam during WWII after getting shot in the neck, while parachuting behind enemy lines. Lying in bed waiting to for the grim reaper to take him, Uncle Sammy had an epiphany; that with as many sins as he had on his soul he realized that kicking the bucket without any atonement he would be sent straight to hell.
He once stole a horse, kept it in his backyard on Chicago’s south side, and then stole the feed from his job to feed the horse. And then had the balls to threaten the cop who tried to arrest him with great bodily harm to his family.
So Uncle Sammy cleaned up his act and married my Auntie Concetta.
Back to the murder. So my parents had saved up about $75 to buy me a rocking horse which I desperately wanted for Christmas. My idol at the time was Hop- Along- Cassidy. Hop-Along looked like an albino. Putridly pale skin and snow white hair. And he had a horse named Topper, a massive all white stallion that I thought was very cool. The Hopper, as I liked to call him, would ride that horse one handed, no handed, reins between his teeth, standing up, sitting backwards, all sorts of crazy shit. And when he did I’d watch him and his big ass horse on our 12 inch Philco black and white tv then jump off the couch dressed only in my underpants and cowboy hat and cowboy boots and run around the house like a tiny maniac.
Needless to say that horse very much excited me. My mother could get my old man to do anything. So she must of wrangled him into shelling out the dough for that horse.
So on Christmas morning1958 I woke up and peered out my doorless 60 sq foot bedroom into our tiny living room to see Hop along Cassidy’s bucking fucking bronco Topper nestled into the middle of the room. The horse had a glistening plastic body and was all white with a black snout with metal springs affixed to each corner of the frame that held him up, with a hideously scary look on its poorly painted face
I jumped outa bed, strapped on my boots and crammed my hat on top of my head and hopped on that horse riding the shit out of him till it was time to eat.
When the family came over for our traditional ravioli Christmas meal I was all lathered up, bucking my ass off, using my tiny belt, just like Hop-Along, to get Topper to go faster, still clad only in my underpants, boots, and cowboy hat, Topper planted firmly between my legs.
My hooting and hollering and bucking and whipping annoyed the shit outa my aunt. It was more than she could take. She needed peace and quiet. She started with her noises. I didn’t notice, as me and Topper were having a blast. Her noises however, got louder. I paid her no attention. Louder. I continued to ignore her.
Aunt Concetta suddenly rushed me and my horse. Without warning she slapped Topper in the face and knocked me off his back. Auntie ran around to the backside of Topper rolled up her sleeve and pulled a five dollar bill from Topper’s ass. THAT got my attention!
“Look what’s inside your horse!” She shrieked, her eyes wild like a lunatic, her forehead glistening with sweat. She leaned into me and hissed like a witch, “And there’s more!”
Nobody at the table turned their heads. They always just tried to ignore Aunt Concetta.
“More?” I asked.
“Yes. Hundreds! Thousands! You could be rich,” she whispered
Now I was a little kid but one thing I knew for sure. My family wasn’t rich. I was sleeping in a fucking closet with no door.
“So listen to me Pauly,” her moist lips and warm breath close to my ear, then pulling away she waived the five dollar bill in my face. “You be quiet now and later I’ll get you a lot more of these, from where this came from.” She pointed to the ass of my horse.
She smiled and shuffled back to the table to sit with the people who were trying to ignore her.
I was a little kid, but no dummy. I figured if there were more five dollar bills up that horses ass, I wasn’t gonna wait around for my crazy aunt to get em. So I put on my jacket and snuck down my back porch and went to the basement. I rummaged through my father’s tools and tiptoed back up the steps. I slipped my weapon under the jacket and walked passed my family who were on their fifth or sixth bottle of wine and 30thor 40th plate of ravioli.
I stood in front of my horse, tears in my eyes terribly upset over what I was about to do. I raised the hammer over my head He stared at me with that horrible black-eyed plastic glare and I smashed Topper in the face. His head split! An eye rolled across the floor. I whacked him again at his saddle and his back cracked right down the middle. Then with as much strength as I could muster up I went for his ass. The hammer bouncing off the plastic made a hideous noise, but nothing happened. I hit him again. But to my surprise just a crack. Finally with all my might I came down upon him with all the force I could expel from my 8 year old body and split his ass wide open. I rushed to my splintered horse. Stuck my hands into the cavity of his shattered body and found nothing. No money. No bodily organs. Nothing.
My mother rushed in, her wild eyed sister next to her. “What are you doing?!” My mother aghast screamed.
“I thought he had money inside him!” I sobbed.
“Money?!” My mother said with a look of terror and confusion on her face. “Why would you think such a thing?!”
I turned to my aunt saying nothing.
My mother turned to her baby sister, Concetta, who had a five dollar bill tucked into her red bandana.
Auntie burst into tears. My mother sized up the situation immediately. She knew Aunt Concetta was behind the murder. My mother hugged me. She put her arm around her sister. “We’ll all be OK. Maybe we can fix Topper.”
Silence filled the room. Body parts of my horse strewn around the floor.
Last year Auntie Concetta died. She was 90. She was my favorite aunt. She never stopped making noises or faces. She rarely took off that red bandana. And she died her hair black till her final day on earth.
The last 55 years of her life she led a support group for women with mental health issues . And whenever she saw me she’d smile deviously and whisper. “That fucking horse gave me the creeps.”