Vorovskoy MirMature

An excerpt from my 2009 NaNoWriMo attempt. The 1990s. A first generation Russian-American man attempts to forge a path to greatness as something of a criminal messiah by invoking the traditions of the vory v zakone.

“The first time you kill, it should be with your bare hands. A knife will do as well, or a blunt object. A chain, a rope, a necktie, a wire. Never a gun.”

There was a pistol on the table between them, a Glock 9mm. The air in the room was stifling, heavy with cigar smoke and sweat. Pasha ran a finger through the condensation ring left by his vodka and frowned. He hated the old man, every detail of him, from the dirty shirt collar choked between the folds of his flabby neck, to the smug self-satisfied smirk with which he talked about death.

“Guns take all the romance out of murder.”

Pasha wanted to know where the romance had been as his cellmate’s thumbs dug into his eye sockets, as a bony knee slammed into his balls again and again, as the flat slapping sound of flesh on flesh echoed down the corridor—the voices of his fellow prisoners calling out, “kill him, kill him,” without regard for who lived or died.

Where was the romance as he groped under his cot for the shiv he’d fashioned out of a broken lunch tray, as he gripped it, hands slicked with his own blood, gasping for breath, thrusting upward to lodge the shard of plastic between the larger man’s ribs, twisting.

Where was the romance as his cellmate sputtered blood and curses— “you piece of shit, fuck you, you junkie piece of shit—” coughing to a stop as his voice was suddenly swallowed by the horrid sucking sound of a lung collapsing. Pasha struggled out from under him as he went limp, wiped the blood from his face and locked his hands around the man’s neck.

By the time the guards pulled him off and beat him senseless, the sucking sound had stopped.


Maybe the old man’s English wasn’t so good. There was no romance in the smell of piss and fear.

“Don’t worry—it won’t be my first time.” Pasha picked up the gun and left the old man alone to count his money.


Vasily stared out the window at his city. His city—he liked the sound of that. He was getting ahead of himself, he knew. Still, destiny was calling; he could hear it in the sound of the cars below, the voices of the people on the street, the rumble of thunder as a summer storm approached. He traced his city’s name in the film of grime on the glass and stared through the letters, large Cyrillic block text.

At fourteen he’d been cited for vandalism after adding the Russian names for the streets to the signs on his block. “In Chinatown they speak Chinese—and their signs have Chinese too. Here we speak Russian. Why are our signs only in English?”

He’d gotten a month of community service, his step-father glaring at him from the doorway of their apartment building as he scrubbed the paint from the street signs. He’d learned a lesson that day, but it wasn’t the one the juvenile courts had meant to teach him.

This city would be his.

The End

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