This is the second part of a two-part piece for The Argus Arts section’s November Fiction Series. The first half of this piece was published on Tuesday, Nov. 15. Each Argus issue in November contains either an excerpt or an entire student story submitted to the contest. Previous stories submitted: “The Pill,” “That House,” “Camille’s Tea,” and “The Mad Bomber.” Thanks for reading!
A few days after I had dropped the first bomb, I lost my cool at a bodega on 47th and 7th. Ma always said I couldn’t keep my temper in my pocket, that I was always throwing it at folks. This time was different, O.K, I had a reason. This schlup came in and took his sweet goddamn time ordering a coffee, holding up the whole line. Meanwhile I gotta get to work, you know? So I gave him a quick swat on the back of the head to remind him to hurry up. It wasn’t nothing too hard that a big boy couldn’t handle. But he turned around and took a swing at me. At me! I flipped my wig then. I took him down right there in the bodega, and the Italian shopkeeper started yelling at us, but surely he knew what he saw and how this fathead had treated me. My lungs hadn’t been working this great since my twenties. I was swinging and swatting, and I didn’t cough or huff once! My reaction was already working; eye for an eye, as I said.
That night, I went back to my workbench in the garage of my sisters’ and my house. Sometimes they would be curious and come check on me, but I told them it was none of their business so they left me in peace. I probably made at least a hundred pipe bombs in the 10 years after that first bomb. I put a fuse in most and was ready to do damage.
If the first bomb was everything, the second was my raison d’être. I was walking down 14th street, heading for the Con Edison headquarters building, you know, the one with the gaudy clock tower. Anyway, I had my bomb in my toolbox when I saw two coppers smoking not a block in front of me. Listen, I ain’t afraid of no cops, but in that split second, my lungs squeezed right up and I dropped that toolbox right on the street. The fuse wasn’t set and the papers made fun of me again, wondering if I was some sort of invalid. Although, this time The Times covered it.
I was on the subway to work a day or so later when I noticed some broad reading the article—my article! Instantly I could breathe again. The article wondered if I was branching out from attacking Con Edison to attacking the general public. I want to be clear, now, I really am not sure if I would have set all of those bombs—the cops found 33, but I had planted 42—if the damn paper hadn’t delivered to me the idea right on a silver platter. Might as well have said: George! Georgie! Oi, Metesky! Listen here, old boy! Put ’em everywhere! Coat the damn city in ’em!
And boy, oh boy, was I ready to. But then something else was in the papers not three months later. My lungs tightened up again, and I was reminded of my simplicity, my values. The Japs had bombed Hawaii, Hitler declared war on us, and everyone was packing up to go. I was too old for the draft, so I had to watch as boys—these little boys—put on dress blues and marched off to Europe, or the Pacific, or wherever.
I thought about this new situation for a long while. When I got home from work one day, my sister Ellen was weeping next to the radio station as the news of thousands of deaths were reported. I started to cough right then and knew that something was off. I had to give them their reaction. So I wrote a letter by hand and mailed it right to the police. It read:
I WILL MAKE NO MORE BOMB UNITS FOR THE DURATION OF THE WAR – MY PATRIOTIC FEELINGS HAVE MADE ME DECIDE THIS – LATER I WILL BRING THE CON EDISON TO JUSTICE – THEY WILL PAY FOR THEIR DASTARDLY DEEDS . . . F.P.
And I kept my promise. I really did. As I said, I’m a simple man with simple values. That’s why they didn’t put me on trial later, I think. They knew I was acting simply and rationally, as any American would in that time. We all had to do our duty and put our grievances aside. Do you remember how everyone felt in those four years? I almost forgot about Con Ed then, if you can believe it. But when the War ended, and the boys came home, and Con Ed still hadn’t compensated me, I lost it again, like that day in the bodega.
I put them everywhere, in movie theater seats, on subways, in the Park, in cafés. I put them in so many places; I might as well have put a small little pipe bomb in everyone’s ear, so that it could tick away the hours I still went without compensation. And when one went off, my lungs relaxed just a little bit more.