Composer, author, and actor Charles Griffin was born and raised in New York. He currently lives in Orlando and teaches in Full Sail University’s Bachelor of Science in Music Production degree program. His original music has been performed in 20 countries in venues like Washington DC’s Kennedy Center, New York’s Merkin and Weill recital halls, the American Cathedral in Paris, and festivals such as Aspen, SpoletoUSA and Mexico’s International Cervantino. He founded the Central Florida Composers Forum in 2011, and has been a volunteer panelist for United Arts of Central Florida since 2015. For three years he hosted Zero Crossings, a radio show dedicated to contemporary classical music, on WPRK 91.5fm. In 2017 he wrote, produced and performed in an improv/sketch show for the Orlando Fringe Festival and took lead roles in several short indie films. Upcoming projects include a series of lecture-seminars for the 2018 Epcot International Festival of the Arts and a new piece for the Orlando Philharmonic that will premiere in May 2018. He is working on a creative writing bachelor’s degree. In his spare time, he nerds out with his sons, raises chickens illegally, does Crossfit, explores permaculture, and travels with his girlfriend. For more information, visit http://charlesgriffin.net
THE STORM ON THE SEA OF GALILEE
I’m bleeding out in the trunk of my own Cadillac, three days after my fifty-first birthday. Some gift. Beaten and stabbed and tossed in the trunk of my own fucking car. The blood is pooling in my goddamned ear and my guts are ribbons and my own wheezing heartbeat is louder than the rain outside. Bleeding out alone. Humiliating, but I accept it. Goes with the territory. Part of the lifestyle.
“Leverage,” I said to Vinnie during visitation at the state pen in Deven a year and a half ago. I slid the Boston Globe across the table. $200 Million Gardner Museum Art Heist.
“I already read about it. Leverage for me or for you, Bobby?” Vinnie asked, like he was in the middle of a conversation and only I was at the beginning. He licked his thumb and started flipping pages.
“For you. For you, Vinnie.”
Vinnie licked and turned, eyes down.
“Maybe for me later,” I said, smiling. “Because why the fuck not be honest? I wanna earn my stripes. You’re five years into a twenty-two year bid. A bargaining chip with the Feds for early release. You can move up to Don and maybe then you make me Capo. Win-win.”
“Or you could just leverage this with the Patriarca and get Capo without me. You could offer this up to them instead.” Vinnie sniffed, folded the paper up and slid it back across the table.
“The Patriarca needs you. They’re squabbling. I’m offering this up to you, Vinnie. I want this for you. Not for nothing, but you’re like a god to me. You’re terrifying. In a good way. A degree in Business from Boston College and yet you bit so many people on your way to making Capo that I’m surprised your breath doesn’t smell like iron.”
A twitch of a microscopic smile flashed across Vinnie’s face and vanished. His pride was his only weakness, his only tell. But who knows if he was prouder of the business degree or how he earned the nickname Vinnie the Animal. Still, he kept studying me. A shark looking for a whiff of chum. I shifted in my seat, waiting for an end to this exploding silence. Maybe he is like a god. Because maybe that’s not pride at all. Maybe he’s thinking things I can’t possibly guess at. Like he knows shit I can’t comprehend. In that silence rose the murmur of other inmates having conversations in the room around us and the fluorescent hum of the lights above us and the guard was over by the door jacking off his baton in slo-mo, and finally Vinnie passed his judgment and said, “The FBI will be all over this.”
“You’re right. They’re staking out my house already. I need to lay low for a while. I’m antsy.”
“Antsy. Who’d you use?”
“Connor helped me case it out. Their security is total shit. Two guards. Some old bastard patrolling and a chubby stoner kid at the desk. We faked being cops and the kid let us waltz right in. We duct taped those guards up like fucking mummies! Sliced the paintings right out of the frames. We did the whole job in less than ninety minutes. We took everything to Merlino’s auto body shop in Dorchester and now Guarente has them stashed up in Maine. ”
“You get a good look at one of those Rembrandts you took, The Storm on the Sea of Galilee? You didn’t fuck up that one with the razors, I hope.”
“Connor pointed. I cut. I don’t know what we took, really. But I was pretty precise, I think. Which one was that?”
“Pretty precise. You think. Fucking A. Monkeys like you don’t appreciate shit. It’s the painting about a miracle Jesus does. He’s on a boat with his disciples, right? He’s sleeping in the back when a storm kicks in. Shit’s outta control. Bunch of the guys are dealing with the mast. One’s fucking with the rudder, getting nothing done. One guy is puking over the side. A couple are just stunned. They don’t know what the fuck to do, and they’re not trying. Everyone else is waking up Jesus. Rembrandt himself is on the boat too, unlucky number thirteen. He’s holding on to his hat with one hand and he’s clinging to a rope with the other. You wanna know why he painted himself in there? Because his own life was so fucking stormy. Three of his four children died. His wife and his mother too. He was bankrupt. And in the painting, he’s the only one looking at us. The only one. Like he’s telling us, “hang on, in a minute the boss is gonna calm everything the fuck down. He’s scared, but he trusts. He trusts. The disciples are all acting like pussies. They’re crying, and asking “Teacher, don’t you give a shit that we’re gonna die?” And the rest isn’t in the painting but it’s in the Bible. Rembrandt knew what’s what. Jesus stood up and said, “Peace, be still.” And instantly, it was over. Still waters, everywhere. But the kicker is that his crew, they don’t really know him yet, or what’s he’s capable of. And now they’re more scared of Jesus than they were of the storm ten seconds before. Fickle bitches. But they came around, all of them. Even Judas came around in the end. So again I ask: did you fuck that one up?”
I wanted to throw up over the side of the fucking table, and I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t have a hat or a goddamned rope. I was one fucking rudderless sonofabitch. I was about to finally stammer out some weak denial when Vinnie the Animal raised his hand in blessing.
“Peace, be still,” Vinnie said. No murmur. No fluorescent hum. No nothing. He stood and motioned for me to approach, his arms outstretched.