Boiled in Blood


Boiled in Blood



Unannounced, a New York City Marshall knocked on our door. He sat down with his bulk filling the chair. My father had co-signed a loan for a friend who then died of a heart attack. He told my parents, pay up the outstanding loan or lose the furniture. Metal piggy banks belonging to my sister and me, heavy with coins and in the shape of the world, were emptied. My mother's wedding rings made frequent visits to the local pawnshop until it became their permanent home. With no money, nothing left to pawn, dad had to borrow from a loan shark. 

Finding a loan shark was not a problem. One of New York City's major Mafia families had its headquarters in our neighborhood. Hand in hand I walked with my father to visit the loan shark. Dad was bringing me most likely because he thought that the presence of his young son might work in his favor. It didn't. 

            The loan shark operated out of an apartment that had no decorations and minimum furniture. When we went in, the loan shark was seated flanked on either side by two standing men. I stayed back as my father walked up to him. There was a low Italian conversation that I could not make out, would not have understood anyway. Suddenly, without any warning, he slapped my father in the face for no other reason than to show him he could — hard enough for me to hear it across the room.

My ears rang with the sound of his palm striking my father's cheek. He did not cry out, or say anything, just walked back towards me. I was embarrassed for my father because, to me, it looked like he had been treated as a child.

           The payment was $5 a week until my father paid the debt. Part of this included $1 in interest; the vigorish or vig. Mom would record the payments on a calendar with an image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. I remember that she did a little dance and pirouetted when she noted the last installment. The picture of Jesus hung on the back of our front door for years. With all those fives winding their way down. Over about 5-months, my dad paid about a hundred dollars to satisfy the debt. Money that today would be equivalent to almost a thousand dollars.

I have no romantic illusions of the Mafia and its members. They are thugs and bullies that prey on the desperate, such as my father. In Dante's Inferno, loan sharks are destined to boil in a river of blood forever — a fitting punishment.


Michael De Rosa



Michael De Rosa is a writer from Wallingford, PA, who recently retired as a professor (emeritus) of chemistry at Penn State Brandywine. This submission is from a memoir he is writing on growing up in New York City (Spanish Harlem). Interests are travel, photography, and birding. The writer has previously published a travel piece (January 2021), with photographs (including cover), in International Travel News on Madagascar.   

Michael De Rosa, “Car and driver with Roadtrip Madagascar”, itn International Travel NewsJanuary 2021, Vol 45, No. 11, pp 16-18. ( 


  1. my kind of tale wish it were longer. dear editor, get more of this story line.

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