By Patricia Lawler Kenet / 06.25.10


Just by looking at me, you wouldn't think I'd be capable of murder. White, female, no priors, and on top of that, a lawyer. Just by looking at me, you wouldn’t think I’d be capable of murder. White, female, no priors, and on top of that a lawyer. Blonde, trim, pleasant for the most part. But I did it and I have only the maloiks to blame. 

The yellow flash of the intercom signal sent a wave of dread through my body. My sweaty palm picked up the receiver.

            "Patricia, can you come to my office," said the grumpy voice.

It was not a request. Gil Newman, litigation partner at Fox, Rothschild, O'Brien and Frankel wanted to see me about something that I did that he didn't like. I stood up and brushed the crumbs from my corn muffin off of my navy skirt. Piles of pleadings, memos, marked up documents, menus and advance sheets crowded my desk.

I walked into Gil's office trying to look casual.  Before entering I spent two minutes trying to decide whether to wear my jacket. Jacket off equals hard at work, but maybe a bit sloppy. Jacket on equals corporate armor, plus it hides the perspiration stains on my silk blouse. Go with the jacket.

            Gil was on the telephone when I arrived.  His body was tilted back in his padded executive chair as if he were having a dental x-ray. Gil wasn't bad looking for a 50-year-old man---thick black hair parted neatly on the side, tall, fit, olive skinned. Dean Martin with a higher I.Q.

 He tossed a golf ball in his hand and bantered with his caller.

            Seeing me, Gil placed his hand over the receiver, motioned me to take a seat, and, with a look of disdain, flung a piece of paper across his desk toward me. I tried to grab it as it sailed to the floor. It was a copy of a letter I had written

            "Look at this," he smirked. Then he pushed a red pen in my general direction. "Circle how many times you used the phrase "in this matter."

            He went back to his conversation as I looked at the paper.  I circled the phrase "in this matter" three times in the brief letter.

            Gil hung up the phone and looked at me expectantly. “Well?”

            "Three times," I admitted.

            "Don't you read what you write?" he asked, the anger rising in his voice. "It makes you sound like an ass. What were you thinking? It's a terrible letter, an embarrassment to the firm." He shook his head, and fondled the golf ball.           

He then read the letter out loud to me. “Do it over. Don’t send out crap like this.” He balled up the paper and threw it in the trash.

            My face was flushed and I sank into the seat, shrinking with shame. But, as my heart beat in rapid flutters, a part of it turned black. Lava bubbled in my veins.

            I left his office and headed straight for Wendy's, the senior associate who had recruited me for this job. Another associate, Tom Paradise was with her. Tom was a jolly plump man with red hair and a red beard. I told them both the Gil story and by now, I was furious. They nodded, feigning sympathy. The truth was no one really gave a shit, even I knew that, but I needed to vent over Gil’s pompous indignities.

            "I wish he would drop dead," I said finally. The phrase erupted from my mouth like an explosion from Mt. Vesuvius. I had never said those words out loud about anyone before, never even thought those words.

            The next morning I got to work early to prepare for a case. An eerie silence prevailed. Two secretaries slinked by, their heads bowed into armfuls of manila folders. On my desk was a memo.

            "Gil Newman died suddenly of an apparent heart attack during a tennis match after work yesterday afternoon,

            A few minutes later, Tom Paradise and Wendy wandered into my office. Tom held the memo in his hands and dropped his jaw.

            "I know," I said.

            Wendy kept up appearances. "It's a terrible, terrible loss for the firm. I'm going to miss him." She turned to leave.

            "Please don't tell anyone what I said yesterday," I said. After she left, Tom plopped down in the chair in front of my desk.

            He tried to suppress a smile, "You did it."

            "I know," I replied. "I didn't mean it really, Tom. Who knew? Son of a bitch."

            Tom shrugged his shoulders. "I'm staying on your good side," he said and walked out.

            I killed Gil. It was the maloiks, plain and simple.

Where I'm from, anger is not an abstraction. It is not an emotion that evolves into the exchange of legal papers. There is no such thing as arbitration on the corner of 11th and Oregon. Though I maintained the trappings of a lawyer, deep in my heart, an evil spirit resided, harbored for hundreds of years from the old country. Among certain Italians, anger isn’t just a way to vent, to get it off your chest. Anger, even coming from a half blood like me, can be dangerous.

            "I've got the maloiks on me," my mother would say when she lost a gold hoop earring and got a fever blister all on one day.  Maloiks is a bastardization of malocchio, the evil eye.

            To ward off the maloiks, people wear gold or red horns around their neck. A red ribbon is often placed at the head of a crib or cradle for protection. To determine if you are under the spell of the maloiks, drop a dot of oil in a glass of water. If it separates, you have been cursed by someone. It all sounds like superstitious nonsense, but on the day Gil died, I became a believer.

In traditional Italian folklore, malocchio operates most effectively upon the weak and feeble, such as babies and the elderly infirmed. Gil was middle aged, fit as a fiddle. The most common emotion to provoke a maloik is jealousy, and, according to the experts, the injury is not caused by a conscious and specific desire.It wasn't jealousy that ignited my rage, it was being humiliated. Perhaps my scenario with Gil did not fulfill all of those specific details, but I could not explain what happened as a coincidence.

Technically, it wasn't a homicide, but it was close enough. Hell hath no fury like that wrath of a Napolitana scorned.

Have you ever put the maloiks on someone? Has someone ever put them on you?