~  EXCERPTS FROM DRESSING A TIGER  ~

     The bathroom door opens in the hall and all five geisha come out, one after the other, like candies spilling from a box, and I wonder how they all fit inside that tiny space together. As they pass my bedroom, they take no notice of me in the dark. I'm covered except for one ear and one eye, and I stay very still. They move toward the guest room, and their muffled giggles and melodic language soothes me. As I fight to keep my eyes from fluttering closed, I feel certain of one thing: if butterflies had voices, this would surely be their sound.


     My stubborn insistence on attempting the impossible has taught me that trying to get a straight answer from a Mafioso is as futile an endeavor as dressing a tiger in a bowler hat and spats in an attempt to change what he is. You can prod and coax, come at him from various angles, but in the end, despite all your tactical efforts, the mobster's words have not become reliable truths any more than the tiger has become a gentleman.
Even so, I continue my fruitless inquisition. I'm such a fool.



     Three buzzards circle overhead like guests too early for dinner; their scraggy bodies block the sun, casting shadows on Elm Street and the grassy knoll.
     Three decoy rifles are placed in buildings downtown and one instrumental rifle lies one hundred yards to Jack’s right under a hedge of bushes. The decoy rifles, as well as the ones that will be used in the hit, move through the city unnoticed as they pass local shopkeepers sweeping their entryways, businessmen weaving through traffic, maids bustling in rubber-soled shoes and throngs of school children gathering for the event. They are high-powered rifles tucked in their soft cases, taped to short flag poles and loosely wrapped in the American flag by a man dressed as a janitor. They are camouflaged among hoses and equipment being lowered into the city's sewer system by men wearing hard hats. One comes nestled beneath tissue in a long box coming off the train labeled Long Stemmed Roses.
     The black Presidential convertible is moving slowly in the center of the motorcade. Security is thinner than Jack had anticipated. A flicker of bright pink moves at the back of the car like an unexpected wild flower blooming from a pile of coal.



     I was very small the night Sam Giancana came to a party with an entourage of gangster types flanking him. Dad had asked him how his house hunting was going in Mexico, so I figured he must be a very brave and exciting man to want to go live in another country.
     I was instructed to call him Mr. Giancana, because he is a boss like Carlo (Gambino), but it turned out I never had the opportunity to call him anything. He had nothing to say to me, and I had no questions to ask. There was no mystery about him, unlike the others. When he entered the house, he took notice of his surroundings and beamed as though he knew the answers to every riddle. He walked straight to the kitchen like he owned the place. He made himself at home, removed my mother's apron from her waist, wrapped it around his own, and began stirring the sauce that simmered on the stove. He leaned into the wooden spoon and tasted without blowing, which indeed meant he was a very brave man. He asked my mother to rummage in the pantry for more tomato paste to give it some legs. I watched from the kitchen table. He was how I wanted to be, oozing confidence, fearless in every regard. Mom stood with her hands on her hips, enjoying having an authentic Italian tweaking her sauce. Sam ordered my father to bring him another drink from the den and asked why there was no music playing. “Sinatra now, Jack! It's time for Frank! Is this a party or what?”
    I was sure if I pricked his finger, he would bleed movie stars and fireworks. I wanted to be his friend.






​​​​​​​"The Library...this is where I worship."    Maggie San Miguel