The Water Tower



I was overly dramatic, that was my problem. Her parents, I’d have to shoot them.

Point blank range.

It was colder at the top of the water tower than I would have guessed from the ground. The wind was different up there. I liked it though. I’ve always felt better suited for the sky. That’s where I live now.

I could see Tella Carticelli’s small brick house below. She was on the brown, uncared for lawn practicing with her lemon lime hula hoop. I watched for a little bit with my Lone Ranger binoculars. She looked unhappy despite how brightly she was dressed. Violet ribbon in her hair. That powder blue Sunday dress that I didn’t care for. It was understood, we’d use it to start a campfire in the desperate hills along the reservoir.

With pride, I counted the revolutions of the hula hoop around her hips and imagined planets orbiting around the sun. Her body, her heart, her soul, were at the dark center of the galaxy that I needed. I was the pilot of  a strange spaceship. The controls had been set for the sun.

We were seventeen. She had a secret decoder ring that opened up, inside, over the code breaker, she’d pasted my photo. I worked at Fried Paradise dropping the breaded chicken in the grease. They’d sent me to the Mayweather because in a note passed across the auditorium, I’d written that I wanted to blow up the high school with a fertilizer bomb.

Love. All of it for love.

There wasn’t any going back. Things were already in motion. The faint speckle of blood on right shirt sleeve. My shoe stained red. I’d stepped in it, slipped.

All I could do was wait, climb down the water tower when everything was perfect. I’d drive over to Teal’s little house and take her away in my shiny new car. I didn’t even have my license yet, I had a car though. I’ll just tell you that I found it. How does that sound?

Way up in the sky, I shivered, wishing that I still had the orange scarf that she had knitted me in her home economics class in St. Agnes where she went to school.

I was being diplomatic, you see. I wanted to give her parents one last chance. I wanted them to seal their own fate. I figure that life should be about that. You: deciding your own path.

For the seven hundredth time that day, I took out  the wrinkled and worn letter, read it one more time.


Stay away from our daugter. She has no chance for her future with you in it. No chance at all. Theres a restraining order with the police department filed against you presently. Don’t come around her anylonger. She has decided to continue her studies abroad. It is final. She is leaving. Move on. I have a gun now. I have a sign hung on my property that says TRESPASSERS WILL BE SHOT ON SIGHT. The law will be on our side.

Have a Blessed Day,

Arturo Carticelli

Just then, I watched as his beat-up red Ford pickup truck came down the block. He parked, appearing from the cab coated with cement dust: in his curly hair, mustache, ripped Levis. Cement was stuck to his dark leather work boots. He was almost the same size as the pickup truck. I wondered how he ever fit inside of it. He’d mixed cement by hand since he was 12 years old. Arturo didn’t believe in machinery. I would have worked for him, that’s the funniest part. I would have married his daughter and carried on the family business, if things could have been different. I would have mixed the cement. He could have taught me how to lay block.

Maybe in a different life.

She had stopped with the hula hooping. It lay dead at her feet as he walked over to her, speaking a few words. She didn’t respond. He bent down, touched her shoulder, kissed her on the mouth. As he went inside his house, Teal sat down on the crumbled brick steps. She couldn’t see me up there, I was too far away. I had a pair of binoculars down in my car. That’d never happen again. I wanted her to see me, wherever I was, for as long as she lived.

Down below, I had camping gear. The Boy Scout’s manual. The US Army Survival Manual FM 21-76, Countless Atlases of the United States that I’d boosted from the public library. I had five changes of clothes for myself. Canned goods. MREs. Eighty dollars in cash. Three credit cards that belonged to some people I don’t feel the need to mention. Most importantly, maybe—Arturo Carticelli’s handgun, which he’d bought exclusively to shoot me. The joke was on him, I had the pistol. The combination to his gun safe had been November Tenth Nineteen Seventy Seven. Teal’s birthday.

As her mother’s car appeared, a silver Valiant, I felt my heart begin to race.

Smoke started to rise out of their chimney.

It was March. The nights were still cold. Dust was there. The quality of light was steel and ice. The fiery orange of the sun vanished beyond the soft curve of the earth and our meager small town. The power-lines. The pine trees. My water tower perch with the football team typo that’d been painted on it carefully to read: HOME OF THE SCREMING EAGLES!

According to the water tower, the town was nameless. It existed merely for typos and high school football. It was a careless void in which we lived. We were leaving.

The Valiant parked. Miami Carticelli stepped out onto the driveway. Long dark hair. A white dress with blue flowers or birds, I cannot remember. A grey half sweater around her shoulders. She was made of glass. I am not sure how she’d made it across the Atlantic Ocean on a raft from Havana. She was the assistant bank manager at the place by the bowling alley. She didn’t stop to talk to Teal on the steps, instead, she passed by wordlessly into the house.

They hadn’t spoken since my girl’s “procedure.”

Satisfied that they were all home, I descended the  water tower, started the car with two attempts. The ignition was weird. Bats flew out of the trees pursuing insects in the vivid dusk. I had no appetite. It was spaghetti night at the Carticelli house.


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