24 Aug Only Fools Are Positive
“Only Fools Are Positive” is a short story by Sussan Catucci
Only Fools Are Positive
“How much is this going to cost?”
“Thirty. Ten in advance, twenty after the job is done.”
“Jesus! Are you . . . and you guarantee you can do this, just like I said?”
“This something you want to shortcut?”
“No, no. I’m in. I’ll get the money. So, how does this work? What happens now?”
“The hard part is over. Now, it’s off your plate and on mine. You get what I need, a picture, an address, a calendar. We meet again, I give you date and time. At that point, you pay me the upfront and then get scarce, and leave everything to me.”
“So, but how will I know . . .”
“Do not call me. Look at me. Don’t ever call me. I’ll contact you with a place to meet. You will bring me the cash and everything we talked about. Then we’ll finalize everything.”
“Then how do I know . . .”
“You know enough. This is what you want? I’ll make it happen. It’ll happen just the way you want, provided you do everything we agreed on. I have some steps to take so this goes the way it should. Trust me?”
“Sure, yeah. I have to.”
“All right. Then go, and keep your eyes open. Concentrate on what you need to do. You’ll hear from me.”
She flashed him a smile, put on her dark glasses, got out of the car and quickly headed to where hers was parked. She hoped she was doing the right thing. From what she’d heard, he was supposed to be good. But she’d learned long ago not to fully trust anyone. Nobody. And this is something she really wanted. Her weakness, though she would never see it as that, was knowing exactly what she wanted but not caring much how she got it. Just make it happen. And she was well on her way to doing just that.
She got into her car, started the engine and smiled.
Tanya Ferenza was sick of her life, but mostly she was tired of dealing with her husband. What a loser he’d turned out to be. And the marriage she thought was her ticket to the perfect life she’d always dreamed of – and, frankly, had been promised – a sham, beyond disappointing. She’d been cheated, she’d been robbed, and she wasn’t about to sit still and just let it happen.
Stan Picciola was a simple man, a bit above average in height, build and looks, who loved to talk a good game. His best feature was his charm, and he’d learned how to use it to his best advantage throughout most of his life. Mediocre grades in school? Didn’t matter. The teachers loved him, so he passed. Dropped out of college? Who cares? Certainly not his family. They blamed the faculty that couldn’t keep their Stanley engaged. He didn’t need a fancy degree to succeed. He was destined for great things, and he’d do it his own way.
Yep, he knew how to talk to people and he could instantly read his audience. Tanya was a tough nut. That’s what drew him to her. This was not going to be easy. She was young, exotic looking, more shapely than the other girls. That was probably why, at an early age, she’d learned how to control the boys and to keep them at bay. She wanted to be somebody and she wasn’t going to waste herself on the small town nobodies around her. She couldn’t imagine any of them amounting to anything.
She’d managed, as a little girl, to wear down her parents just enough to let her have riding lessons, expensive lessons. Then she wanted to try ice skating lessons at a year-round skating rink that cost a small fortune. Then she tried dance, another small fortune. When Tanya came to her mother and father with a campaign for singing and voice lessons, they had to say no more.
Tanya went to her room and slammed the door. She thought, oh, really? Well, I’ll find my own way then. Watch me.
When Stan began buzzing around, she started out the way she always did. Are you kidding? What do YOU want? Of course, she conveyed this through narrowed eyes and a cold stance. Stan ate it up. He didn’t say a word but just stared at Tanya with an intent, slightly amused expression. Then he just deliberately breezed past her, lightly brushing against her arm as he did.
She stared after him and watched him go. He never turned around, not even a little, to look back at her. She started to grin but stopped herself.
They were married after dating for seven months. Stan courted Tanya like she was a queen. That’s how he saw her, but mostly he enjoyed the way others looked at him as if to say, What does he have that I don’t? Well, he knew exactly what she liked. He never interrupted her when she was talking, he never allowed her to spend a penny when they were together. He opened doors for her and brought her flowers and gifts. Tanya adored the attention. She couldn’t imagine there was anything Stan wouldn’t do for her. And Tanya was more than ready to leave home.
The first few weeks of their marriage was the honeymoon. Their parents had pooled their resources and gotten them an all-paid two weeks’ stay at a nearby resort where Tanya had always wanted to go. She spent her days at the spa, enjoying massage therapy and facials, while Stan took wind-surfing lessons and read books on the beach. They’d meet up for cocktails and dinner. Then they’d retire to their bedroom suite to enjoy the best part of their day, and each other.
The trouble began when Tanya asked Stan about the condo they had made a sizable deposit on before they’d left and where they planned to live until they could afford something better.
“Will the condo be ready for us to move in or is there still work being done?”
“Oh, right,” said Stan, “The condo thing fell through, Doll. I’m sorry, I meant to tell you.”
Tanya was speechless.
“You meant to tell me? And just when were you going to tell me? On the trip back?”
“Oh, no, certainly well before then. This stuff happens, Tan.”
“What about the deposit?”
Stan hesitated, just a moment, before saying in a slightly lower voice, “Well, that sort of ran off with the deal.”
Tanya’s eyes were as wide as they could be. She couldn’t move. Is this what shock feels like? It must be.
Stan wrapped her up in his arms and whispered something that seemed to comfort Tanya and gradually bring her back to life.
Tanya looked around at what was Stanley’s bedroom growing up. They’d arrived back in town a short while ago and Stanley’s mother was showing Tanya where everything was in the house.
“Now, you make yourself comfortable, Sweetheart. This is your home now, for however long you need.”
Tanya tried aiming a smile towards Mrs. Picciola but it never really materialized. It was more of a grimace. “Oh, well, then . . . let me know if you need anything,” as she hurried away. Tanya closed the door after her, slowly turned, looked once more around the room – what looked and smelled like that of a teenage boy – and then slowly sat on the edge of the bed, clenching her fists.
“This … is … not … happening.”
“Moreland Diner parking lot, 3 p.m.”
The line went dead.
Tanya looked at the clock. That only gave her an hour. What a jerk. There was barely enough time for her to gather her things and get there by 3. She closed her eyes for a moment and, taking a deep breath, smiled. But he is a pretty good looking jerk, she thought to herself. She began to hum softly as she grabbed her wallet and keys.
Stan was out, getting his hair cut at the barber’s and then running errands she’d asked of him.
She had borrowed her in-law’s bank card that she’d discovered during a quick search of the home office downstairs while no one was home. She had the pin number etched in her memory. She had worn what she thought was a convincing disguise when making the transactions at an out-of-town ATM before business hours. She’d had to go back several times to get the right amount of cash. Then she had wiped the card clean and returned it to the office where she’d found it, so she believed she had effectively covered her tracks. She knew what she was doing.
She headed for the door.
When Tanya pulled into the diner parking lot, she slowly drove around to the back near the giant trash bins. There was a door open to the kitchen area. “This can’t be it,” thought Tanya. She kept on driving to the other side of the lot and parked in a space far enough from the other cars but not too far from the establishment itself.
She heard a knock on the passenger window. She unlocked the car door and he slid in the seat next to her.
“Do you have everything?”
She handed him an envelope. “Well, hello to you, too.”
He opened the enveloped, silently checking the contents.
“One question. How about the folks?”
“His folks. They’re still away and won’t be back for at least another week.”
“I have something I have to ask you.”
“Sure, of course. Anything.”
“I want you to really think about this, what you’re doing. Because once I leave this car, there is no turning back, no changing your mind. It’s a done deal.”
“I know that.”
“Why not just leave?”
Insurance, she thought. She said, “Why do you care?”
“I don’t. I just want to know, are you sure, are you absolutely and entirely sure this is what you want?”
“I am one hundred thousand percent positive.”
“Honey, only fools are positive.”
She looked at him, confused, but liked that he’d called her “Honey.”
He opened the car door, turned back to her and said, “Thursday, 9:30 a.m., make your excuses and do not be home. Just make sure he is.”
Then he was gone.
Thursday morning came. Tanya got out of bed, quickly washed up and put on her gym clothes. Stan was at the kitchen table, drinking coffee and reading the morning paper.
She poured a small cup of coffee for herself and stood at the counter, watching Stan. She took a sip of coffee and checked the clock. She saw that she had less than an hour before she had to be gone. Things are going to be a lot different when I get back, she thought.
“Going to the gym?”
“I’m hoping to meet Debbie. We’ve talked about working out together.”
“Well, in that case I think I’ll stay here.”
“I won’t be that long.”
“Good. I think we should do something together today. I know how tough this adjustment has been for you, and I want you to be happy.”
That’s the plan, Tanya thought to herself.
She smiled at Stan and said, “I know. We’ll get there. Let me get going and you try to think of something fun for us to do.”
Tanya gave Stan a quick kiss. She then walked outside, closing the door behind her. She got in her car and took a deep, deep breath and exhaled slowly. Then she drove away.
At exactly 9:31 a.m., there was a knock on Stanley’s front door. He got up to answer it. He looked to see who was there, but it wasn’t anyone he recognized.
“Can I help you?” He rested his hand on the doorknob but did not open it.
“FBI. Would it be all right if I ask you a few questions?” He held his badge up to the window.
“Me? Oh, sure,” he opened the door and let the agent come inside.
Tanya didn’t really know when it might be safe for her to return home. How much time should she allow? What would she find when she got there? She suddenly wished they had arranged to have this carried out elsewhere so she wouldn’t have to deal with whatever mess there might be. Oh well, it was too late to think of that now.
When she thought it was time – she’d factored in how much time she normally would spend at the gym and then going out for coffee after – she headed home.
As she turned the corner onto her street – correction: her parents-in-law’s street – she saw there were police cars surrounding the driveway. No lights or sirens but at least three marked police cars. A small group of bystanders had gathered. She parked in the first available spot.
Jeez, that was quick, she thought, though relieved she wouldn’t have to make the 911 call.
She squared her shoulders and took a deep breath. As she rushed from the car and broke through the small crowd, she ran to the first officer she saw. She tried to sound frantic. “Officer? What is this? What’s happened?”
The officer asked her if she lived in the house and she nodded.
“My husband’s in there. Is he all right? What’s happened?”
“Ma’am, I’d like for you to try to stay calm. Why don’t you come sit down here and we’ll talk.”
She allowed herself to be guided to one of the marked police cars. She sat in the back seat facing outward towards the officer.
“I’m calm, Officer. What is it?”
“Well, ma’am, I regret that I have to be the one to tell you . . .”
Tanya had been working at crying on cue for weeks. All that practice paid off when the tears came and she began to wail. “No, no! Oh, no, it can’t be! Not now!”
She threw herself at the officer, who lightly held her and then gently pried her off him.
“Now, now, ma’am, it’s not what you think.”
“It . . . it’s not? What . . .”
Tanya spun around to see Stan, untouched, leaning against one of the cars. She then turned her eyes to the handsome man standing next to him. She felt the blood drain from her face and her stomach flip.
“You two know each other, right? You remember FBI Agent Glen Cunningham? He stopped by after you left to ask some questions, and I think he’s got some only you can probably answer.”
Shortly after that, she was back in the police car again, this time with the doors locked. Agent Cunningham and the other office had just read her the standard Miranda warnings.
The officer asked her, “Ms. Picciola, having affirmed that you understand all of your rights and having signed the Miranda form, would you be willing to talk to us?”
“I want an attorney.”
Cunningham cut in. “Is that really what you want? Are you sure?” Oh, wait a minute, was he smiling? Then, suddenly, she understood why.
By now her head was spinning. She leaned back in the seat and closed her eyes.
“Positive,” she mumbled.