This is an excerpt from the memoir I’ve been working on many years. The first manuscript was 800 pages; about three of them were worth reading. The book mutated about 2000 times.
“What’s it like knowing your father is a gangster? Did you know when you were a teenager? Did your father kill anyone? Did you ever meet Bugsy? Aren’t you afraid of his friends? You know they kill people.”
I was thirteen years old when my best friend told me my father was a gangster. She didn’t mean any harm. We told each other everything. We were standing in the Brentwood Pharmacy one day in 1966, and we turned the book rack around until we found ”The Green Felt Jungle.”
“That’s the book, let me look first and see what it says.” She whispered. I waited while she flipped trough the pages.
“Oh my God, there he is,” she said grasping my shoulders. We hunched over the book and read the description of my father beneath his photograph.
“Allen Smiley was the only witness to the murder of Bugsy Siegel.”
“What does that mean, who is Bugsy Siegel?” I asked.
“Shush, not so loud, I’m afraid to tell you this Luellen, it’s awful. I don’t believe it. “
“What is it? Tell me.”
“Bugsy Siegel was a gangster, he killed people. Your father was his friend.”
I don’t think I should read this, “I said replacing the book on the rack.
“Don’t tell your father I told you,” she warned.
“My mother told me not to tell you, swear to me you won’t tell your father.”
“I swear, come on let’s go.”
My father called himself Allen Smiley. The FBI tagged him “armed and dangerous.” The Department of Justice referred to him as the “Russian Jew.” I called him Daddy. e had salty sea blue eyes blurred by all the storms he’d seen. When I said something funny, his eyes crystallized and flattened like glass, smoothing out the bad memories. He was always a different color, dressed in perfectly matched shades of pink, silver and blue. My small child eyes rested cheerfully on his silk ties, a collage of jewel tones. The feel of his fabric was soft like blankets. He was very interesting to look at when I was a child and open to all this detail.