29 Apr EXCERPT from “THE DEVIL’S DUMPING GROUND”
Back when we were kids we used to come here on hot summer days to cool off and test our mettle. Leaping into the onyx quarry waters was a rite of passage. Half of South Boston would come here to drink and beat the oppressive slum heat. There was lots of beer and it gave us the impetus to jump these dangerous cliffs. As we stood staring down the granite faces, gathering up the courage to jump, we knew that just below the waterline existed a debris-filled Atlantis: telephone poles, household appliances, and car antennas waiting to impale our young bodies. Swingles was the scariest of the quarries. If you jumped any one of them you were immediately treated with respect. Only the boldest and bravest of us had the balls to jump. Father Tommy once jumped Heavens when he was sixteen and swore never to do it again. I watched one day as his brother Richie performed a suicidal swan dive off of Purps, a hundred and ten foot jump with a tree to clear. One time we were all hanging out when this kid we knew sailed off of Rampa. We waited and waited for him to surface, but he never did, and after an hour of trying to find him we all scurried back to the neighborhood with word of his death. I had terrible nightmares for months afterwards and quickly developed a paralyzing fear of heights. I swore never to jump the Swingles quarries. And I kept my word.
Richie’s influence was crucial in getting this golf course built. He was connected; he knew how to charm and influence people. We negotiated the lease for this pit in the mid-nineties when no one else wanted the liability. I owned a successful contracting and trucking business that also acted as a front for his criminal activity. Because of my expertise in the field, we were able to land a lucrative contract with the city of Boston to remove all the Big Dig fill. We then turned around and negotiated a contract with the county to fill in the Quincy Quarries with the very same fill. We would eventually move twelve million cubic yards into that death pit, preventing many more kids from dying in these quarries. On paper it was a beautiful solution to two major problems: where to put all the fill, and where to get enough dirt to fill the fifty-four quarries. Our third proposal was the icing on the cake, and that was to build a luxury golf course over the Quincy Quarries. What was once the devil’s dumping ground was designed to cater to the discriminating golfer willing to pay a premium for such accommodations.
Father Tommy took out a seven iron and leaned on it. After fifteen years in Arizona he was barely recognizable to me. He was and always would be the reserved, older brother of my best friend.
It was no wonder his brother got mixed up in criminal activity. Richie was a sociopath, though a charming one at that. Not one to abide by other’s rules, he lived by his own. He could be loyal and kind one minute, and ruthless the next. He’d give you the shirt off his back or just as easily use it to wrap around your neck. He’d call me on occasion, in the middle of the night, and ask for my help. He’d pick me up at the house, the victim stuffed in the trunk of his car. We’d cruise past the Mr. Tux store marking the entrance to the quarries. It would take us some time to lug the body up the path, and only by glint of flashlight could we navigate the various trails. Once we arrived atop the designated cliff, he would hold one end of the corpse and I the other. The corpse would be weighted down. Then we’d toss the poor stiff in, waiting long enough to hear the echo of splash far below. For years we ditched bodies in almost every quarry up here: Tit, Blue Rock, Goldfish, Rampa, to name just a few. I considered myself a businessman, but you just didn’t say no to Richie when he asked for a favor.
Tommy had a nice lie. He took a few gingerly practice swings before looking back and winking. The man looked like hell. Arizona’s sun and the Irish flu had taken a toll on him, judging from the varicose veins on his nose. It had taken me a few seconds to even recognize him when I met him at the putting green this morning. He pumped my hand warmly, dressed casually for our round of golf. He had the same baby-blue eyes as Richie, and the same sparkle in them too. It wasn’t even noon and he already had a Scotch in hand. But he was a priest and I’d been brought up to respect priests, a vestige of my Catholic upbringing.
“Why did they move you out of Boston?”
“There’s a severe shortage of priests, if you haven’t noticed,” he said, looking up from his stance. “You can take the priest out of Boston, Eddie, but you can’t take Boston out of the priest.”
“It’s not like we don’t have shortages here.” I was well aware of the shortage. The wife and I rarely missed the Saturday Mass at St. John the Baptist. Our current priest-in-residence hailed from Venezuela and spoke with a thick accent.
“What can I tell you, pal,” he said, arms extended, resembling his brother. “I just work here.”
We holed out. At the twelfth tee Tommy hit a nasty rug-burner that skidded about thirty feet. “Goddamnit,” he muttered. I followed with a nasty slice that sailed out of bounds. We agreed to use mulligans and our second shots fared much better. We gathered our carts and pressed on.
“Hope God don’t keep score,” I joked, holding up the card.
“If so, then I’m in the wrong profession.” He lit a cigarette.