She’s One Tough Negotiator

Chapter 23

Gallino sat on the sofa between Zeke on his right and Mickey on his left. An old, dated coffee table in front of them. Nonna sat in a stiff, upholstered, maple chair that looked more at home in a Salvation Army store than in her living room.

Nonna stared at Gallino and said, “Tell me whatchu got? Because if you don’t got nothing, you gonna get nothing. And don’t think you gonna go outside and get some muscle to come in here and take what I got because all I got is copies. Rocco told me where to put the originals for safe keeping.”

Gallino tried to remember a Rocco. Maybe it was a cousin. Maybe a neighbor. He thought he knew everyone in the neighborhood. He said, “How’s Rocco doing. I haven’t seen him in a while.”

“The damn fool been dead for twenty years. He gotta nother guess coming if he thinks I gonna stay pure for him. But we talk once a week. I gotta nother question for you? How’s you love life since I put the spell on you?”

“You go Nonna,” said Mickey.

“Palitroni, you keepa you mouth shut or I put a curse on you and turn you into a Butterball turkey,

“That’s one of the things I wanted to discuss. What do I have to do to get rid of the curse and get back the package and all the copies you made?”

“For one thing, I gotta look after Zeke. He’s my favorite grandson. Freddie, he’s in the county for six more months, then there Al, he knocked up his girlfriend, the fool don’t know to use a condom, what a they teachin in school? Then there’s Tony, I know he gotta make a living, but give me a break, does he hafta sell dope to do it. I put a curse on him gonna make him wish he was dead, cause he gonna be worse than dead. Then there’s Angelo, you know what he did? He sold his house on Center to Street to Carmen Palitroni. What damn fool gonna have anything to do with a Palitroni. I put a curse on that house, don’t be surprised when it burns down. This leaves Zeke, he the only good grandson I got. Now you trying to bust his balls. What’s wrong with you?”

Gallino turned to his left and saw Mickey scrolling through Snapchat photos. He turned to his right and saw Zeke using nail clippers to trim his nails. What was he thinking when he asked these two guys to do him a favor? “Listen, Nonna. There’s been a misunderstanding. I apologize for the inconvenience. It won’t happen again. I promise.”

“Hah! The last guy you made a promise to is floating in the river. Don’t give me no promise. You know what’s gonna happen tomorrow? I tell you what’s gonna happen tomorrow. If we don’t work things out, I giving all the photos to the newspaper. Then you gonna be the laughing stock. When Boston sees the photos, Tony Gallino gonna go for a long vacation, you know what I mean?”

“I was a kid. I had to do it. Please don’t publish them,” begged Gallino.

Zeke perked up, “I thought you look cute in pink tights.”

“I didn’t want to take ballet class. I split out my tights and my mother made me wear my sister’s tights,” said Gallino.

“What about the photo of you and Nicky’s wife smooching? That didn’t look like no kiss on the cheek,” said Nonna.

“Nicky was out of town. She was starved for affection. You can’t show that. Nicky thinks she’s faithful,” said Gallino.

“I didn’t know that,” said Mickey.

“What I tell you Palitroni? One more crack and you disappear,” said Nonna giving Mickey the eye. Then she said to Gallino, “You want me go on?”

“No, I’ll do anything. But take the curse off me, the girls are angry with me. They’re threatening to tell Gina.”

“Okay, this is my deal. You give Zeke Lombardi’s. It’s gonna be his place. As for Palitroni, I gonna cut him some slack because he’s Zeke’s friend. You make him your driver. But he don’t work on Monday’s, Tuesday, Thursdays, Friday’s, Saturday’s or Sunday’s. Wednesday is all he can handle because he’s slow. Now, you give me thirty thousand in cash and we got a deal. You wanna walk away, it’s okay. But I tell you, you gonna feel like a freight train run over you front and back.”

Gallino said, “Deal.” Then he started to stand.

Nonna said, “Not so fast schmuck. We gonna do this now. You call your lawyer and have him bring the papers for Lombardi’s and the cash to me and driver’s gloves for Palitroni right away. You make sure you give him two-hundred a week for his work on Wednesdays. I got some lasagna cooking we gonna celebrate because we gotta deal.”

“It smells really good, Nonna,” said Gallino.

“Nonna, can I drink at Zeke’s place on the days I don’t work?” asked Mickey.

“If it makes you happy, Palitroni. You don’t drink on Wednesday. No drinking and driving or I put a curse on you.”

Zeke said, “I’m gonna make some changes, starting with Gus. I’m gonna hire my best friend to be bartender and give him Wednesday’s off.”

“Who’s that, Zeke,” asked Mickey.

“It’s you, Mickey.”

“It’s my dream job. You’re my best friend,” said Mickey.

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You Smell Like A Skunk

Chapter 22

Zeke and Mickey rode in the back seat of the black BMW. Tony Gallino rode in the passenger seat, the driver thug drove. The driver thug was wearing driving gloves to prevent his hands from making smudges on the steering wheel. This was one Gallino’s pet peeves. He hated smudges. The thug took a left onto Walnut Ave. Cars lined both sides of the street. The only free spot was the space in front of the fire hydrant in front of the house where Nonna lived.

“There’s no parking spaces Mr. G. Want me to drop use off and wait at a coffee shop until you ring me?” said the thug.

“No need, Tony. The space in front of the hydrant is reserved for me. Since I’m with you, you can take my space,” said Zeke.

Gallino turned and looked over his shoulder at Zeke, “The cops let you alone if you park there?”

“They never bother me.  It’s the way it works.

Gallino said, “Interesting.” Then  he tapped the right shoulder of the thug, “Park in front of the hydrant. Don’t let anything happen to my car, you understand?” said Gallino.

“I gotcha, Mr. G,” said the thug.

Two minutes later, Zeke is knocking on Nonna’s door. Gallino is standing behind Zeke. Mickey is standing behind Gallino.

From behind the door, “I gotta no time the Jehovah’s today. Go knock on somebody else’s door.”

“Nonna, it’s me, Zeke,” said Zeke.

“I no gonna talk to you if one of those Jehovah’s,” said Nonna.

“I’m not one of them, Nonna. I’m with Tony Gallino, he wants to speak with you,” said Zeke.

“I can smell a Palitroni. You bring that scrunchy little bum with you? Don’t lie to me. I can tell when you lying,” said Nonna.

“I showered this morning,” hollered Mickey.

Nonna hollered back, “You Palitroni’s got the skunk smell. No way you can get rid of it. Anyway, you the drunken bum who drank all my dandelion wine. Now, Gino won’t come over until I get some more. I tell him he can’t come to my house until he take his blue pill, you know what I mean?”

Tony Gallino, wearing his three thousand dollar handmade suit, took his silk handkerchief out of his suit coat pocket and wiped his mouth. He said, “Nonna, it’s me, Tony. Can we talk business? These two schmucks are wasting our time.”

“Who you calling a schmuck? It’s okay to call Palitroni a schmuck, but you no call Zeke a schmuck. He’s just stupid and lazy but he gotta good heart.’

“I know what you mean about the Palitroni’s. You can’t trust them. Can I come in and we can make a deal?” said Gallino thinking he was charming Nonna.

“Okay, I’m gonna let everybody in, but I not gonna waste my food and wine on you. I tell you Tony, you try to seduce me, Rocco’s watching. He gonna ask one of the saints to give you a bad accident.”

“I promise, I won’t try to seduce you, Nonna,” said Gallino.

“Why not? Am I not pretty enough for you? Just because I don’t got those plastic things that stick out like a big grapefruit, is that the reason?” said Nonna.

Gallino, exasperated, said, “Yes, I want to seduce you, but I promise I won’t. It will hard because  you’re so beautiful.”

“Will you take me to your bed if you have a chance and I give in?” said Nonna.

“Yes, I’ll have you spend the night with me. We’ll make passionate love. But I promise I’ll be strong.”

“You a bigger fool than I thought, Tony. Now I gotta all this on my phone. Maybe I’m a gonna play it for the six o’clock news.  Know what I mean?”

“Can I please come in?” Gallino now, almost begging.

“Okie dokie,” said Nonna, taking off the latch, and opening three dead bolt locks, then turning the door handle.

Will Nonna and Tony Gallino cut a deal? What will happen to Zeke and Mickey? What’s in the package?

They’re Playing Him Like An Accordion

Chapter 21

Tony Gallino got up and began pacing around the small room. The pizza delivery thug and the driver thug stepped back and let Gallino pass. Once he passed, they stepped forward, one on each side of the boys. Gallino made the circle clockwise four times. Each time he made the circle, he stopped behind his desk, turned and starred at Zeke and Mickey. He shook his head and started pacing. After his fourth pass. He stopped, turned toward the boys, placed his two hands palm down on the metal desk.

“You know what I should do with you guys? Do you know what I’m think I should do?”

Zeke kept quiet. Mickey didn’t. He said, “I don’t what you want to do with us, Tony. But if I were in your shoes, I’d tell Gus to make sure we get a free beer every time we come into this place. It’s not like we never been here before. People see us and they feel comfortable. They think two stand up guys like this place. Know what I mean?”

Gallino lifted his head and looked at the two thugs. “You see what’s happening here?”

Neither thug moved. They had no clue what Gallino was thinking and they didn’t want to be wrong.

“I’ll tell you what’s happening here,” said Gallino.

This made the two thugs happy, if they listened they had a good chance at passing a pop quiz.

“This is what’s happening. These two idiots are not idiots. See what I’m saying?”

Both thugs nodded, even though they did not see what Gallino was saying.

Gallino continued, “They are playing me. I do not like it when somebody plays me and I don’t know they are playing me. Nobody dares to do that, but these two, the did it. They played me like an accordion, which I used to play as a kid. This is not common knowledge, so do not say anything.”

The two thugs nodded.

“Gallino continued, “They suckered me into believing they were so dumb they would do me this favor and not look in the package. I, like a fool, believed them. I remember the lesson, Mario Zito taught me. He said, “Antonio, don’t believe nobody, even yourself. Because sometimes yourself lies to you.” Now I know what he means.”

The two thugs nodded.

“So, this is what I am going to do. First, I am going to leave the room while my two thugs mess up your face. Then I’m gonna come back to make sure they did it right. Then I’m gonna leave the room while the two thugs break your legs. Then I’m gonna come back to make sure your legs are broken. Then I’m gonna …”

Gallino paused his sermon on medical malpractice procedures the two thugs were going to inflict on Zeke and Mickey to answer his cell phone and its special ring tone, the Sinatra classic, All The Way. Gallino answered his cell, “Yah, baby.”

Gallino rolled his eyes while he listened to the phone.

“That’s not true, baby. Listen, I got work to do. Can we talk later?”

Gallino paused.

“Don’t you bust my smart TV. You already did? You got my laptop and you’re gonna take it to cops? I thought your sister was you. She tricked me.”

Gallino paused.

“She’s pregnant? She, I mean you, told me you were on the pill.”

A knock on the metal door interrupted Gallino’s phone conversation for a moment.

The pizza delivery thug answered the door. He turned to Gallino and said, “It’s Gus. He says it’s important.”

Gallino nodded to the thug and motioned with his hand to let Gus in the room. Gus entered and said, “Sorry to disturb you Mr. Gallino, but there are three women out there saying they’re going to newspaper saying you made unwanted sexual advances toward them.”

“I do that all the time, what’s their beef?” said Gallino. He realized he hadn’t covered the cell phone. The female voice on the other side of the cell phone connection was letting go with a series of colorful words that might make a hard boiled homicide detective blush.

Zeke said, “If I may, I believe I know a way of your predicament.”

Gallino said “What?”

Zeke answered, “Nonna put a curse on you. The only way to get the curse off is to apologize to her and Mickey and me. I’ll put in a good word with Nonna if you’ll take us to her house.”

Gallino threw his cell against the wall. He picked up a bottle of wine and threw it at Gus, who deftly sidestepped the errant throw and watched the vino splatter against the wall and the shattered bottled lay a mosaic on the floor.

“Okay, but I don’t like it,” said Gallino.

Will Nonna take off the curse? What’s in the package? What’s going to become of Zeke and Mickey?

Thugs, Do I Have an Amen?

Chapter 20

The pizza delivery thug and the driver, a tanned, dark wavy haired thug with a long beak, had Zeke and Mickey by an arm and ushered them into Lombardi’s. Gus was behind the bar washing beer glasses. Mickey glanced over, “Hey Gus, I don’t know where we’re going but can you bring me the usual.”

Zeke shrugged and didn’t say anything.

The boys were taken to a back room. Inside the room was a metal desk, three metal folding chairs. A photo of Ted Williams talking to Joe DiMaggio and another photo of former heavyweight champ, Rocky Marciano.

The driver thug, opened the folding chairs and placed them in front of the desk.

The pizza thug said, “Sit.”

Zeke said, “What’d we do? We done nothing.”

Mickey said, “Can I have my beer?”

The pizza thug said to the driver thug, “I think they’re too stupid to know what they done.”

“Don’t matter, stupid or not. They gotta deal with the consequences.”

“That’s right, you don’t do what Mr.G says, it’s like watching the Food Channel, time for a little fileting, and little grilling.”

“We gonna have a barbeque?” asked Mickey.

“Your buddy got air for brains, you know what I mean. You’d have better off if you hung around with smarter guys like me and him.” The pizza guy was careful not to use names.

Zeke looked up, “He’s a nice guy, he thinks different. We’re best friends. I’m doing okay with him.”

“You got a wise mouth and think you’re so smart. If Mr. G wasn’t coming, I’d smack you around and see how smart you was.”

“Pretty soon, your gonna be working for me. Maybe I’ll look for better talent,” said Zeke who then wondered why he said what he said.

“You gotta be driving down the wrong side Route 24 and you got a 16 wheeler heading for you and you can’t see nothing because you is more stupid than the stupid friend you hang around with.”

“He’s not stupid. How’d you like it if someone called you stupid. How would your mother feel?” asked Zeke. He wondered if were on a drug. He didn’t do drugs. Okay, he like beer. But drugs were out of the question. The wine, he thought. Nonna drugged the wine.

A knock on the door.

“Yah,” said the driver thug.

“It’s me, Gus. I got two beers for the guys.”

“What about us?” asked the driver thug.

“Mr. G didn’t say anything about giving you guys free beers. You gonna let me in?”

The driver thug opened the door, Gus walked in and over to Mickey. He handed him a bottle of a dark locally brewed beer. He did the same with Zeke. Then he said, “These are courtesy of Mr. G. He called and said he’d be a few minutes late.”

“What’s going on, Gus?” said the pizza delivery thug.

“Hey, I only work here. You wanna know what’s going on, ask Mr. G,” said Gus who left as abruptly as he came in.

The driver thug hollered, “Don’t let the door hit you in the ass. I told him. I don’t like his attitude.”

Zeke sipped at his beer. Mickey let his slide down his throat unimpeded by reflex mechanism. He didn’t stop to breathe. He didn’t stop to savor the taste. He just let it flow.

“How you do that?” asked the driver thug.

“I been practicing since I was a kid,” said Mickey proudly.

The backdoor to the room opened. A third thug with bulging pecs, huge biceps and a tight tee opened the door and held it open for Tony Gallino. Gallino walked to the desk and stood behind the chair just off to its right. The bulging pec thug walked over and pulled the chair out and motioned Gallino to sit down. Once he said, the bulging thug guy helped scoot Gallino in.

When Gallino was set, he looked at Zeke and Mickey and said, “I been nice to a point and now I want the right answers or I am not going to be nice any more. Do I have an amen, thugs?”

The three thugs said, “Amen.”

What’s going to happen to Zeke and Mickey? When will Nonna’s curse kick in? What’s inside the package?

A Pizza For Pope Francis

Chapter 19

Zeke and Mickey sat on a sofa in Zeke’s apartment. A half-eaten bag of taco flavored chips sat on a scratched coffee table. The coffee table was courtesy of Zeke’s skill at dumpster diving. The lights were out, the shades pulled, the TV off. The boys were sitting silently, the only sounds were the pop of a beer can opening, the slurp of beer, an occasional burp, and the tossing of an empty Bud can toward a wire trash can ten feet away. The wire trash held four empty cans, eight empty cans were scattered  on the floor nearby the basket.

Mickey nudged Zeke, “Can I talk?”

“You’re talking, Mickey. What do you want?” asked Zeke turning around and peeking out from behind the shade.

“You see anything?” asked Mickey.

“Nope. Nobody is out there,” said Zeke.

“Zeke, I’m going crazy. How much longer can we keep holding up in your place?”

“We’ve only been here a little over an hour. Take it easy. Give time for Nonna’s curse to work. Those things don’t work right away, they take a little time,” said Zeke.

“I’m starving. When I drink beer, I need food.”

“Have some more chips, it’s all I got, if I don’t count Frosted Flakes,” said Zeke.

“Can we send out for a pizza?” asked Mickey.

“With what? We spent the money Tony Gallino gave us,” said Zeke.

Mickey shrugged, “I been holding out, Zeke. I got a stash. I been saving up for a new PlayStation.”

“How much you got?” asked Zeke.

“If you think I’ve been taller the last two weeks, I been cheating a little. I keep the money I’m stashing in my right shoe.” Mickey untied his right shoe, took off his sock, stuck his hand in his sock and pulled out ten and ten ones.”

“That had to hurt, Mickey,” said Zeke.

“I only limped a little. But you never said nothing,” said Mickey.

Zeke felt a tinge of guilt. He said, “Go order us a pizza. Give a fake name so they won’t know who it is.”

“Gottcha. I’ll go in the other room so I won’t disturb anybody who might be watching us watching them.”

Five minutes later Mickey came back in the living room, “Anything going on?”

“I keep checking, the coast is still clear,” said Zeke.

Thirty minutes later, a knock on the door, “Pizza.”

“Wait a second,” hollered Zeke. Then he turned to Mickey, “Look through the peep hole, make sure it is the pizza delivery guy.”

“Okay,” said Mickey as he walked toward the door. He placed his eye against the peep hole. “He’s carrying a pizza box from Lombardi’s.”

“Lombardi’s? Are you nuts. Tony Gallino’s boys hang out there.”

“It’s okay, I didn’t give my right name,” said Mickey, then he opened the door.

A big burly pizza guy with a Lombardi’s pizza delivery shirt on said, “I gotta pizza for Pope Francis.”

Mickey said, “That’s me.”

The pizza guy handed Mickey the pizza, then stepped inside knocking Mickey and pizza aside. He pulled a gun and said, “Don’t do nothing stupid. You two gonna come with me. Mr. G wants to have a conversation with you.”

Mickey had stumbled to the floor, but still held the pizza box. He looked up at the pizza guy, “Can I take the pizza with me?”

Poor Zeke and Mickey, they’re in trouble now. Will Tony Gallino let them go?  Will Nonna’s curse work in time to save the boys.

He Loved The Dandelion Wine

Chapter 18

Nonna closed her eyes, folded her hands prayer like on the package that was sitting on her lap. She gently swayed back and forth as she were in a rocking chair. Mickey whispered in Zeke’s ear, “You think she’s dying?”

Zeke half turned his head toward Mickey, “Only if she falls face first and her head hits the table. But you can be sure because one time it happened when she was dead drunk..”

Nonna opened her eyes, “I no dead and I’m no drunk. I’m a waiting for my cannoli. You want a special favor, how come you bring me no cannoli? You know I like cannoli almost as much as I like sex.”

Mickey whispered, “She’s at least 85.”

“She turned 87 on her last birthday. Don’t say anything.”

“Nonna, we’re busted. I only got two dollars. You can’t buy the cannoli you deserve for two bucks. I didn’t want to get you a cheap one out of the freezer. You know what I mean?”

“Okay, you owe me. Maybe I tell you what’s in this package. When I tell you, you gonna know why Tony Gallino don’t want nobody looking inside. I gotta the goods on that no good son of a buffalo. I not gonna say the word you think I was gonna say because I don’t want to insult a dog. The buffalo, they don’t live around here, so it’s okay to insult them. They only on the cable.”

Zeke said, “What’s inside the package, Nonna? Can I look?”

“Me too,” said Mickey taking a long swallow from the dandelion wine bottle.

Nonna glanced at Mickey, “I not gonna show it to you Palitroni. You got a mouth bigger than the ocean. You can’t keep a you mouth shut. All the Palitroni’s, they kiss and tell. And, I think they making up most of what they tell from what I know and I know everything.”

“What’s in the package, Nonna? Tony’s gonna kill us if we don’t have something to bargain with,” said Zeke.

“Oh, you got plenty to bargain with, I tell you that much. You gonna name your price and then he gonna pay it and I’m gonna get a cut.”

Zeke’s right leg started bouncing faster than a frog tossed on heated frying pan. “What’s in it, Nonna. Don’t play games with me.” Said Zeke.

“You watcha you mouth. You talking to Nonna. Now, I’m a not going to tell you what’s a in a this package. I gonna call Tony and tell him he gotta deal directly to me. You been hanging around Palitroni too long. It’s wearing you down. Pretty soon, you gonna be like him. You gonna be a man who like’s dandelion wine.”

“Do you have another bottle, this stuff is great,” said Mickey.

“Okay, don’t cry, Zeke. I gonna show you what’s a in here. Palitroni, you make a one move I gonna slice you like I’m a carving Thanksgiving turkey.”

Zeke got up and walked around the table. He stood over Nonna’s shoulder. She slowly lifted the edgy of package, “What da you think? Do I got the goods? He gonna turn into cooked spaghetti.”

“He’s gonna kills all of us, that’s what he’s gonna do, Nonna. If he knows we saw what inside the package, we’re all as good as dead.”

“Ah, you worry too much. Maybe I gonna put it in the church bulletin. That gonna teach him good. Anyway, I put a curse on him. You watch.”

What’s in the package? Will Tony Gallino kill Zeke, Mickey and Nonna? Will Nonna’s curse work?

He Has A Nose Longer Than Pinocchio

Chapter 17

Zeke stood in front of Nonna’s door. Mickey stood behind him. Zeke rapped his knuckles on the wooden entrance door. There was no answer. He rapped his knuckles again.

This time, from the other side of the door, “Nobody’s home, can’t you see that. Now go away.”

“It’s me, Nonna,” said Zeke.

“I don’t know no me. Nonna she’s a not here. She gone away for a trip to someplace you don’t know with her boyfriend, but don’t tell Rocco.”

“It’s Zeke, Nonna. I gotta talk to you about the package. Please open,” pleaded Zeke.

“Maybe I open the door if you didn’t bring that dumb as a lump of pizza dough Palitroni with you.”

From behind Zeke, “I’m Zeke’s friend, my name is Al Capone.”

“You stick you kisser in front of this tiny hole, I can tell if you are Al Capone or you somebody wants to steal his good name,” said Nonna.

Zeke shook his head, shrugged his shoulders, and stepped out of the to let Mickey pass and stick his kisser in front of the tiny hole.

Twenty seconds later, “You a no good Palitroni. You trying to steal Al Capone’s name. You know how I can tell? I tell you how I can tell, all you Palitroni’s got a nose longer than Pinocchio.”

“I’m going to go to court to have my name changed, Nonna. Please let Zeke in. I promise to be good.”

“You better go get a nose job, it do you better than a different name. Okay I let you boys in, but only for a few minutes. Mario Zito gonna come over and have some wine with me. Who knows what might happen if I keep his glass full, know what I mean?” said Nonna.

Nonna opened the door. She was still in her black dress. Her hair was still up in a bun. She still held a cleaver in her right hand, “Zeke take this fool Palitroni and go sit at the kitchen table. I give you good wine, him, I give dandelion wine from last spring. It tastes like hell, but a Palitroni never know the difference, you watch.”

From behind Zeke, “I like dandelion wine.”

“What I tell you, no taste, no class, no brains. Have a seat. Keep an eye on Palitroni, make sure he don’t steal my rosary,” said Nonna.

Five minutes later Nonna came back with a bottle of red wine and a bottle of homemade dandelion wine. “This first one is for Zeke. This crap is for you. When you done with it, you can have it. I don’t want to get infected.”

“Thanks, Nonna,” said Mickey.

“Now, I’m gonna go get the package and we gonna talk about it,” said Nonna.

“Do you think she opened it?” asked Mickey.

“Nonna? Never, she’s too honest to do something like that. You drinking the dandelion wine straight out of the bottle?” asked Zeke.

“I’m thirsty,” said Mickey. Then he added, “This stuff is good. I got to tell Gus about it.”

A moment later, Nonna returned carrying an unwrapped package. She sat down with the package on her lap. On the table in front of her was a glass of red wine, and her cleaver. “You boys made one move to take this package I gonna cut you fingers off and maybe I don’t stop there if you know what I mean.”

“You opened it, Nonna. We’re all dead,” said Zeke.

“Whatchu talking about? I’m not a dead. You’re not a dead. I’m hoping Palitroni drops over dead the way he’s a drinking the dandelion wine.”

“But you opened it. Tony Gallino said not to open it or he would be very angry,” said Zeke.

Nonna waved her arm, it was her left arm. The arm holding her glass of red wine, a bit of the wine landing on Mickey’s face. “That’s all you get, Palitroni. As for Tony Gallino, the hell with him. I puta curse on him tonight gonna make him wish he never threatened one of my grandchildren. You tell his girlfriends, he gonna be no use to them until he apologizes to you. He don’t have to apologize to Palitroni.”

Mickey looked up, “Do you have any more dandelion wine?”

“What I tell you, Zeke. Never mind. I look in the box and I like what I see in the box. Tony not gonna get what’s inside the box.”

“What’s inside the box?” asked Zeke.

Nonna started laughing, “You not gonna believe what’s inside the package.”

“Is it money? Drugs? Diamonds?” asked Zeke.

Nonna opened the package and started laughing.

What’s inside the package? Will Nonna’s curse work? Will the boys get out of this jam?

Who Doesn’t Love Cannoli?

Chapter 16

Zeke and Mickey were parked under a maple tree at Carver’s Pond. Zeke had his Red Sox ball cap pulled low over his sunglasses. Mickey was wearing an orange ski mask. He had plastic red rimmed sunglasses on over the eye slits in the ski mask.

“You think Tony Gallino knows about this place?” Mickey asked.

“Everybody knows about this place. You come here as soon as the sun goes down, every guy with a car is making out with a girl in the backseat.”

“You’re kidding me. Gus has a car. You think he has a girlfriend on the side we don’t know about and they come out here and make out. Maybe Gus’s wife is with some guy making out and they’re both here in two different cars and don’t know it.”

“I think there’s a rule, you got to be under 18 to make out at night here, Mickey.”

“That leaves Gus out. It leaves us out too, we got to get out of here before sundown. I don’t want anybody thinking you and me was making out. I only make out with girls, but I don’t have a girl now. What are we going to do for cover? Tony wants his package and we don’t got it. He’s gonna kill us. I’m not even talking about the cops killing us, they gonna pin Sal’s murder on us,” said Mickey.

“Who says Sal was murdered? Maybe he just dropped dead of heart attack. Maybe he had a stroke. Maybe he was poisoned only we didn’t give him any poison. There’s lots of reasons that keep you and me in the clear,” said Zeke.

“So, what are we going to do?” asked Mickey.

“We got to go back to Nonna and ask for her help. I got to tell her my predicament. Maybe she’ll have pity on me. But we got to bring her a good gift. I was thinking about two cannoli’s. Who doesn’t love cannoli, am I right?”

“I love cannoli’s, Zeke. But how we gonna pay for them. I’m flat broke and now you only got two singles. You think Tony Gallino will give us a loan to get by for the week?”

“Tony? Are you kidding me? He’ll ask us why we want the loan and then he’ll charge us a vig that is more than I make a week. You nuts or something?”

“You got a better idea?” asked Mickey.

Zeke started his piece of crap, put it in gear, spun the wheels in the sand and turned toward the dirt road leading into Carver’s pond. He took a left onto Plymouth Street and headed back toward the center of town. He half turned toward Mickey and said, “I got three good ideas, one, take off those sunglasses over your ski mask. They clash. Two, take off the ski mask, it’s not winter and it’s not Halloween. Three, if we ever get out of this I promised the Blessed Lady I’m giving up drinking.”

“Huh? She’s gonna deliver. You made a big promise. You can’t break the promises you make to her. That means you gotta stop going to Lombardi’s. What will I do without you sitting next to me at the bar? You’re the only friend I got, Zeke. Everybody else thinks I’m dumb, but you think I’m smart.”

Zeke was happy he was wearing sunglasses, because his eyes were watering. He knew he was Mickey’s best friend. He didn’t know he was his only friend. He said, “Yah, you’re smart Mickey. You just think different. See, I know how you think.”

“That’s what I’m saying, Zeke. Gus, he thinks I’m dumb. Nonna doesn’t like me because of my last name. You think if I change my name, she’ll like me?”

“What do you have in mind for a different name, Mickey?”

“I was watching an old movie last name. I saw this Italian guy. I liked his style. I can’t dress as fancy as him, maybe I’m not as good looking as him, but I like his name?”

“You thinking of James Franco? Robert De Niro? Maybe, Leonard DiCaprio?”

“Those are all good ones, Zeke. I was think of Al Capone. Think Nonna will like it if you said I changed my name from Mickey Palitroni to Al Capone?”

Zeke’s first thought was, I think she’d think you’re nuts. After the moment passed, he said, “It’s another good idea, keep working on it. Maybe you want to think of an Italian in another line of work.”

“I got one. A perfect first name and last name,” said Mickey.

Zeke took a deep breath, he had no clue what Mickey was going to say, but he was sure, the name wasn’t going to work, “What do you have, Mickey?”

“I was thinking of Pope Francis. You like that name. Everybody can call me Pope.”

“You’re getting warmer, Mickey. Keep working on it,” said Zeke. “There’s Nonna’s house, nobody’s got the hydrant. Maybe our luck is changing. I forgot about the cannoli’s. I didn’t want to steal them. We’ll just have to wing it.”

Will Nonna give the boys Tony Gallino’s package? What is so important about the package? Will Mickey change his name to Al Capone?

Ask Him If He’s Dead

Chapter 15

Zeke pulled into Bola Auto Repair and parked his car next to a used Ford SUV and a used Buick Regal. Zeke looked at his cell, “We got five minutes until we meet Sal. I think being early will look good. Let’s go.”

“What are you going to ask Sal?” asked Mickey.

“I’ve been thinking of that. I don’t have an answer. I’m gonna play it by ear, Mickey. You got any ideas?”

Mickey made an effort, although painful, to think, “I think I got one. How much do you think Sal wants for the Ford SUV?”

“This is your idea?”

“It was the best I could do,” said Mickey.

A six-foot two-inch guy, with dirty fingernails, oil stained jeans, wavy black hair, with his name Sonny stitched into his shirt, rapped on the driver’s window. “You can’t park this piece of crap here. I’m running a business. Anybody sees this, they’ll think I sell crap. I don’t repair anything not worth fixing. So, what do you want?”

Zeke lowered the window, “We got an appointment with Sal. Is he in the house?”

“Pop don’t have anything to do with the business, I run it. You can find him at the Sons of Italy Club. If you got an appointment, he’ll be in the last booth. Now get this piece of crap out of here.”

Ten minutes later the boys pulled into the Sons of Italy parking lot. Zeke looked at his cell, “We’re late. I hope we didn’t blow it.”

“It’s Gus’s fault. He didn’t tell us to come here,” said Mickey.

“Mickey, do me a favor, don’t talk. Don’t speak. Let me do all the talking. Understand?”

“I gotcha, Zeke. My mouth is shut tighter than my uncle Freddie. He’s so tight he won’t give you the right time of day.”

The boys walked into the Sons of Italy club. Four old guys were playing poker. Two guys were at the bar drinking beer watching the replay of last night’s Sox game. Zeke walked over to the bar.

Alphonso Donati, the bartender, who was standing opposite the two guys watching the replay of the Sox game, turned his head toward Zeke, “What da you want? I don’t got all day. The Sox are up. They scored three runs this inning.”

“I don’t want a beer. I want to talk to Sal? You seen him?”

“You talking Sal Peci? Sal Lozano? Or Sal Balovini?”

Mickey whispered in Zeke’s ear, “Do you know which one, I’m terrible with names?”

Zeke took a deep breath and said, “Sal Balovini.”

Alphonso turned around and looked at Zeke and Mickey. “He expecting you guys?”

“We have a two o’clock appointment,” said Zeke.

Alphonso turned to the wall and pointed to the clock, “It’s five after two, you’re late. And, I see you didn’t bring any offering to Mr. Sal.”

Zeke slapped the side of his head, “I knew I forgot something important. I got too many balls running around in my brain. You got anything I can buy that will work?”

Zeke put his right hand to his chin and made believe he was thinking. After a moment, he said, “It costs you a ten spot for me helping you and 20 for the imported bottle of chilled beer straight from Sicily.”

Zeke reached into his back pocket and pulled out his wallet. He pulled out two fives, and two tens, he looked at the remaining two singles and wondered what he was going to eat tonight. He handed the money to Alphonso.

Alphonso took the money, put it in his pocket and reached under the counter and pulled out a bottle of Rizzo’s Finest Sicilian Beer. “Here you go boys, Mr. Sal is in the back booth.”

Zeke looked toward the back booth, “I can’t see anybody.”

“He’s there. I don’t know for how long. Once you buy, it’s yours. I don’t give money back.”

Zeke carried the bottle of beer in his left hand. The boys made their way to the last booth. They stopped at the booth and looked at Sal, his head was resting on his arms on the table.

Mickey whispered, “Is he dead?”

“I dunno,” said Zeke.

“Ask him if he’s dead,” said Mickey.

Zeke looked around. Alphonso and the two guys at the bar were watching the Sox. The poker game was going on. No one was paying attention to Mickey and him. He bent toward Sal’s head, “Mr. Sal? Mr. Sal? You okay?”

“What do you think, Zeke? He didn’t answer. How we going to know if he’s okay if he don’t tell us he’s okay,” said Mickey.

Zeke patted Sal on the shoulder, “Mr. Sal? Mr. Sal, you okay?”

Mr. Sal didn’t move. He didn’t twitch. He didn’t open an eye.

“Check his pulse like they do on TV,” said Mickey.

“Where do they check it? I usually get a beer when there’s no action,” said Zeke.

“I think it’s the wrist,” said Mickey.

“His head’s on his wrists,” said Zeke.

“Let me do it, Zeke. I like the doctor shows. I think I know what to do,” said Mickey.

“Okay, but be careful,” said Zeke.

Mickey put his left hand under Sal’s cheek and lifted his head. He slipped his right hand in and took out Sal’s left arm. Mickey let Sal’s head drop to the table. It landed with a thunk. Alphonso turned from the TV toward the booth. Zeke smiled and waved.

“I think he’s deader than road kill, Zeke. That’s pretty dead. We gotta get out of here. People will think we killed Sal.”

“You’re right, Mickey. Let’s get out of here.”

The boys walked toward the entrance. Alphonso turned and watched them. “Hey where you going with the beer?”

“Sal didn’t want it. He wasn’t thirsty,” said Zeke.

Alphonso looked back toward the booth. When he turned back to the boys, they were gone.

What are the boys going to do? Will they be accused of killing Sal? What about Tony Gallino and his package?

Is He The Guy With Big Nose?

Chapter 14

Gus poured two drafts and brought them to the boys. “It’s on the house, boys. You guys are the walking dead. You don’t have the package, am I right?”

Zeke nodded. “Thanks for the beers, Gus. Do you think Tony will torture us first before he kills us?

Mickey jumped in, “I don’t think so. I think he’ll kill us first then he’ll pull out our toenails and cut our fingers off one at a time.”

Gus wiped his hands on his apron. He bent toward the boys, and spoke in a low voice, “I don’t like to get involved in anything that has anything to do with Tony Gallino. But I got a soft spot for you two. Why I have a soft spot, I don’t know. I need to have my head examined. It would be better if I turned my back and let Tony give you a one-way ride to the Hocomock Swamp. He’s gonna dump your asses in there and the coyotes and wild cats are going to feast on you. All that’s going to be left is a few bones.”

“I’m too young to die, Gus,” said Mickey, tears forming in his eyes.

“Can you help us, Gus?” asked Zeke.

“I can’t tell you boys what to do. I know somebody who might help you, but you might have to do him a favor. He’s very particular who he helps. I can put in a word for you because he’s my godfather.”

“Anything, Gus. Anything. We’ll do any favor. We need some help before Tony dumps us in the Hocomock Swamp,” said Zeke.

“Yah, after he kills us, then chops us into little pieces. That’s the worst part seeing Tony cut me into little pieces after he kills me,” said Mickey.

Gus made a mental note to stop drinking beer. He had no other explanation for Mickey’s convoluted reasoning process. “You boys know Sal Bolavini? He lives on Crapo Street.”

“Is he the guy with the big nose and big ears who walks a dog that looks like a sausage?” asked Mickey.

“I don’t think so, Mickey. I think he’s the guy with the scar from his right ear to his chin and has a thick mustache,” said Zeke.

“You’re both wrong. Sal is a small guy, with a big nose who wears a square golfing cap because he’s embarrassed by his bald head. He owns Bola Auto Repair. He only works on a few cars for friends now. His son, Sonny runs the business. Sal is what you might say is semi-retired, but he’s connected to Dominic Pucini in Boston. You boys following me?”

Zeke nodded his head in assent. Mickey nodded his head from side to side. Gus tapped Zeke, “Explain it to the genius when you leave.”

Zeke nodded.

“Now this is what I’m going to do. I’m going to call Sal and ask him to talk to you boys. I’m making no promises. But if there is any way out, Sal will figure it out. A piece of advice. Take him something nice as a gesture of goodwill. Capisce? You wait here while I make a call.”

Mickey finished his beer, then turned to Zeke, “Everything always works out for us, Zeke. We’re going to be okay. I got a hunch.”

Zeke said, “Remember your last hunch, Fast Filly was going out of the gate at 30 to 1 and you said you had a hunch she was going to win?”

“I remember,” said Mickey sticking his tongue into his glass trying to get the last drop of beer.

“You remember I put my rent money on Fast Filly because of your hunch?

“Uh huh.”

“Fast Filly wasn’t so fast that day. She ran last out of the gate and didn’t pass anybody. So much for your hunches,” said Zeke.

“It’s about time my luck changed, Zeke. It’s been bad for two months. Ever since I stole the apple at the market. Think it is karma?” asked Mickey.

“I don’t know nothing about Karma. I know Sal is our last hope or we gonna get sent into the toilet. Know what I mean?”

“I like toilet better than the Hocomock Swamp,” said Mickey.

Gus returned, “Two this afternoon at Sal’s car shop. Good luck boys.”

Will Sal help the boys? Will Tony Gallino dump the boy’s bodies in the Hocomock Swamp?