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?

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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.

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?

Was the Answer in the Empty Beer Glass?

Chapter 13

Mickey’s anxiety shot up like the temperature in Phoenix in July. He downed his fourth beer without so much as a single swallow. Then, he signaled Gus for another one. Twenty seconds later, Mickey’s hand went out and snagged the sliding mug of beer.

“You got good hands Mickey,” said Tony Gallino who was now close to the boys.

“I think I coulda made the Sox if I had a tryout. I had ta work the day I could have tried out,” said Mickey.

“Are those the hands that are taking care of my package?” asked Tony Gallino.

Zeke jumped in before Mickey could say a word. Zeke said, “Mickey’s the All State man. The package is safe with us. It’s safer than if it was in Fort Knox.”

“You boys didn’t open it, did you? If you did, I’d be very, very angry,” said Tony Gallino.

“Us?” said Zeke pointing an index finger to his chest.

“Yes, you two guys,” said Tony Gallino.

“The only interest we got in the package is to take care of it for you, until you tell us you want it,” said Zeke.

Mickey added, “Nice threads, Tony. I was thinking of going to Walmart and getting me threads like these.”

Gus almost dropped the mug he was washing.

Tony Gallino turned to the six foot two inch thug on his left. The thug wore a Miami Beach sport shirt with one hundred-fifty palm trees gracing his athletic, extra-large version. “Did you hear what I heard?”

“I heard what use heard, Mr. Gallino. Use want me to send this dog to the corner?”

Zeke cut in, “Mickey didn’t mean any offense, Tony. He’s never been out of town if you don’t count Brockton. The only place he buys his clothes is Goodwill. Walmart is a step up for him.”

Tony Gallino stared at Mickey who was staring into his empty beer mug, “He’s a Palitroni. I don’t trust Palitroni’s. Never trusted them since Beanie Palitroni tried to make a federal case against me saying I would do something like intimidate anybody. Now, can you believe that I would ever intimidate a baby?”

“Never. You would never intimidate a baby, Tony. Why would Beanie think that about you?” asked Zeke.

Tony Gallino reached inside his coat pocket and pulled out an index card. He handed it to Zeke, “See, that’s what I’m saying. I want you to bring the package to this mailbox tomorrow. It is a different mailbox. This one is up in Stoughton, off 138. You can’t miss it. Here’s another fifty bucks apiece. Call it for gas mileage.”

“Do we have to report it on our income tax?” asked Mickey.

Tony Gallino turned to his other thug, a shorter version of the first one. This one wearing an Under Armor short sleeve compression shirt. “You see what I mean about the Palitroni’s? You can’t trust them and their whole IQ is less than my Yorkie.”

“Want me to teach him a lesson, Mr. Gallino?” asked the second thug.

“He’s a Palitroni, I wouldn’t throw them left over pasta. Know what I mean?”

“Perfectly, “Mr. Gallino.

“I want this done by two tomorrow afternoon, boys. By the way, say hello to Nonna for me,” said Tony Gallino as he turned and walked out of Lombardi’s.

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

Gus scooted down the bar, bent over and whispered, “I don’t want to know about the package, but I know you two boys and you are in over your heads.”

“How did you know, Gus?” asked Mickey.

What are the boys going to do? Will Nonna give them the package? Does Tony Gallino know Nonna has the package?

I Should’ve Ordered A Philly Cheese Steak

Chapter 9

Zeke was driving, Mickey was in the passenger seat. His arms wrapped around a package, ten inches by six inches by four inches. Zeke glanced over, “Any address on the package?” asked Zeke.

Mickey looked at it. “All the address says is P.O 191, 273 Court Street, Brockton, Mass 02302. That’s all. Can I shake it?”

“You crazy, Mickey. What if it is a bomb from one of Tony’s competitors?”

Mickey’s eyes widened as big as saucers. He bent over and pressed his chest against the package. “Slow down. If we crash we’re going be blown up. Why didn’t you tell me there was a bomb in the package. We’re going to die, Zeke. I can feel it. It’s going to hurt like hell when it happens,” said Mickey.

“I didn’t say there was a bomb in there, Mickey. I said maybe there’s a bomb in there. I don’t think there is a bomb in there because Tony said to hold the package for him until he was ready to collect it.”

Mickey breathed a sigh of relief. He straightened up. He said, “I could use a beer after that close call. You know how they say your life flashes in front of you when you’re going to die. Mine flashed in front of me and I saw the white light too. I guess I’m not ready to die.”

Zeke didn’t want to travel down that path, “It was a close call. Let’s go over to Marzelli’s and grab a sub. If he doesn’t sell beers, we’ll take our subs to go and pick up a six pack.”

“You got all the good ideas, Zeke. Your brain works faster than a forklift,” said Mickey putting his hear to the package. He added, “I don’t hear no ticking.  So, I think you are right, it’s not a bomb. You think we should take the package by Nonna after we have our sub and beer? Maybe she can use her inner eye to tell us what’s in it.”

Zeke turned left onto Warren Ave. “This is the Puerto Rican neighborhood. Know how you can tell?”

“How?” asked Mickey.

“Just look out the window. That’s all you see is Puerto Ricans,” said Zeke.

“I know a Puerto Rican, Julio. He’s a nice guy. He took me to a chicken fight one time and I won ten bucks. Julio taught me how to pick out a tough chicken,” said Mickey.

“How come I never met Julio? You never told me about the chicken fights,” said Zeke.

“The cops raided it the next night. Julio got arrested and since he had priors he’s doing five to ten at Cedar Junction. It’s too bad. Think about it, no body complains when they kill chicken and eat it. I call that murder. That’s different than assault. Besides, Julio was not doing the assaulting. It was the chickens doing the assaulting,” said Mickey.

Zeke tried to respond. His brain refused to send a signal to his mouth. He nodded his head and pointed to Marzelli’s. It was packed. He pulled into his reserved spot. The one in front of the fire hydrant. He got out of the car. Mickey got out still clutching the package. The boys walked into Marzelli’s ordered a large meatball sub and a large Philly cheese steak sub and two beers. They took their orders and sat in the only empty booth. Zeke sat facing the door. Mickey placed the package on the seat next to him and faced the window.

“This meatball sub is good. It’s really good. Marzelli should franchise. How’s the Philly cheese steak. Maybe I shoulda got that. I haven’t had one since I went to the Pats game with you last September,” said Mickey.

“The best one I ever had. I like the idea of going back to Nonna. Maybe she’s done with making a curse. I was thinking what if there is a million dollars in this package and we’re carrying it around,” said Zeke.

“Can I peek?” asked Mickey.

Will the boys succumb to the temptation to look inside the package? What will Nonna advise them to do?

I Put A Curse On Him

Chapter 5

Zeke pulled his fifteen-year-old sort of red, sort of yellow, a lot rust Chevy in front of 118 Walnut Ave. The only space left was in front of a fire hydrant. He took before someone else pulled into it. Nonna lived on the first floor of a three-floor home. Mickey opened his door, whacking it against the hydrant.

“Sorry, Zeke. The hydrant was in my way,” said Mickey.

Zeke got out of the Chevy. He climbed on the trunk of car in front on his Chevy and jumped down onto the sidewalk. He looked at the ding and said, “It’s nothing. It matches the other dents.”

“You’re the best friend, Zeke,” said Mickey. His breath carrying an overpowering smell of beer and garlic.

Zeke winced. He reached into his pants pocket and pulled out a roll of Life Savers, took two Life Savers and handed the roll to Mickey. Mickey took six Life Savers and handed the roll to Zeke.

Zeke said, “You can have it.”

“Thanks, Zeke,” said Mickey unwrapping the remaining Life Savers and putting them into his mouth.

The boys walked up the short sidewalk to the steps. They climbed the four steps to the landing. Zeke opened the door, walked down a short hall with a single light bulb hanging from a cord, past the stairs leading to the second and third floors, and knocked on the door. He stood in front of the door.

A voice from the inside, “Who’s a there?”

“It’s me, Nonna, Zeke.”

“Zeke who? How do I know you aint a crook or a rapist?”

“Come on Nonna, I’m Zeke Junior, but I don’t like to use the word junior.”

“You should a said so at the first. You got anybody with you? I can tell there’s somebody out there besides you.”

“It’s me, Mickey,” said Mickey.

“Mickey who? You could be Mickey the Mouse for all I know,” said Nonna.

“It’s Mickey Palitroni, Nonna. Can we come in, we need advice,” said Zeke.

“I never liked Pauli Palitroni. You can’t trust him. He’s dead now because I put a curse on him. I think the rest of them are okay. I let you boys in,” said Nonna.

Mickey whispered to Zeke, “Uncle Pauli died when he was 98. The curse musta worked because he told everybody he was going to live until he was 110. It goes to show you, you never know.”

The oak door swung open, in the doorway stood a five-foot two-inch woman, wearing the same mid-calf length black dress mourning her husband Rocco who died twenty years earlier. Her hair, mostly gray was streaked with the black hair of her youth. It was pulled tight into a bun on top of her head. A simple silver chain with a crucifix hung around her neck. She was holding a butcher knife in one hand and a wooden crucifix in the other hand.

Zeke paused in the doorway for a moment. Mickey stayed two steps behind Zeke. Nonna took off her glasses to get a better look at the two friends. She lowered her knife and said, “Don’t harvest grass you don’t recognize.”

Mickey took a step toward Zeke and whispered in his ear, “What is she talking about?”

Zeke kept looking at Nonna and spoke out of the side of his mouth, “Who knows? Ever since Nonno died, she said his spirit possessed her and he speaks through her.”

Nonna said, “What chu waiting for? Come on in. I make some coffee and give you boys a biscotti. We talk like old times. Come here and give me a hug.”

Nonna put her arms out wide. She still had hold of the knife and the crucifix. Zeke embraced her and they kissed each other on the both cheeks. Zeke stepped aside, and Mickey took his place in the greeting ritual.

Nonna stepped back, “You breath stinks like a hell. I got to give you something for that. You never get a woman smelling like that.”

Nonna led Zeke and Mickey to the kitchen table. She went about her business putting coffee on. She walked into a small pantry and brought out an unopened package of Biscotti and put four of them on a plate. She brought the plate to the table. Mickey reached for one. Nonna whacked his hand with her hand, “What chu doing? You Palitroni’s got no class. You wait for the coffee. When we all sit down, you can talk to me and tell you good advice.”

What will be Nonna’s advice? Will Zeke and Mickey listen to her?

It’s Our Lucky Day

Chapter 3

Tony Gallino told Zeke and Mickey what he needed done. The boys nodded. Tony left without saying a word. Gus kept washing beer mugs and shot glasses. He wanted no part of what he heard.

Zeke turned to Mickey, “Looks like our luck finally turned, we’re rolling in clover.”

Mickey placed his mug to his lips and let the beer roll down his throat without so much as a swallow reflex. He finished, put his mug on the bar, burped, and wiped his face on his bare forearm. He turned to Gus, “Gimmie one of those expensive dark beers. Put it on Tony’s tab.”

“Me too,” said Zeke.

“This is how it’s got to be to wake up and know you hit Powerball,” said Mickey.

Gus was pouring a draft of the dark larger into a mug and was thinking, what a couple of schmucks.

“It’s better than hitting Powerball. I’ll tell you why, Mickey. It’s a good thing we never hit the Powerball because everybody who hits it dies,” said Zeke.

“You got to be kidding me. And here I am buying ten tickets a week. I buy even more when the money gets up there. It’s like I’m asking to win so I can croak,” said Mickey reflexively sticking his left arm out to catch the sliding mug of larger.

Mickey turned toward Gus, “Me and you coulda played for the Sox. We’re a good combo. You play shortstop, me at second base. Nothing woulda got through.”

Gus said, “I could never hit a curve ball. You guys know everybody dies, right?”

“But they die faster if they win Powerball,” said Zeke defending his turf.

Gus shrugged, “If you say so.” He thought, no sense arguing with geniuses.

Zeke and Mickey clinked their dark lagers and took a long drink. Both guys went through the ritual of the burp and forearm wipe. Zeke said, “If we do good, we don’t have to look for work. Tony will bring us into his organization. Then we’ll be living the good life.”

Gus edged himself down the bar toward Zeke and Mickey. He got in front of them, wiped his hands on his apron, looked around the bar to make sure no one was listening. There was no one listening because they were the only people in the bar unless the Feds had bugged the place. This was always a possibility with his clientele.

Gus bent over toward the boys, he whispered, “How long I know you two guys?”

“Is this a trick question?” asked Mickey.

Zeke said, “You know us since you opened this place twenty years ago.”

“That’s a long time. Did I ever steer you guys wrong? Did I give you guys tickets to Patriots games when I couldn’t go? Did I give you free drinks on Christmas Eve before I closed?”

Mickey looked confused. Too many questions. He was still processing the first question, “I think it was twenty-one years.”

Zeke who had two fewer beers than Mickey was a bit more coherent, said, “All the above is true. What’s that got to do with anything?”

“Between us and I will deny I ever said it if you repeat to anybody, plus I will bust a bottle over your heads if you repeat a word of what I say, you understand?” said Gus.

“Hey, Gus, you know us, it’s in the vault. You and Marie splitting, is that it? I never hit on her. It wasn’t me,” said Mickey.

Gus wanted to bust a bottle across Mickey’s head but resisted the temptation. He said, “This is what I got to say, do you really want to get mixed up with Gallino? Do you really think the package is harmless? I tell you to think about it. And, don’t spend the one-hundred. You ought to give it back. That’s it. I’ve said my piece.” Gus turned and walked down to the end of the bar and returned to washing mugs and shot glasses.

Zeke looked at Mickey. Mickey looked back at Zeke. Zeke turned and stared into his beer. Mickey finished his beer and signaled for another one. He turned to Zeke and said, “What are we going to do, Zeke? I’m scared.”

Are Zeke and Mickey in over their heads? What is in the box? What’s Tony Gallino up to?

Friends to the End

Chapter 1

Zeke Pratti sat on a swivel stool at Lombardi’s Bar and Pizzeria staring into his mug of beer. He was separated by a stool from Mickey, the nose, Palitroni who was lifting his mug of beer over his head and coaxing the last drops from the mug to drop into his mouth. Gus Polati, the bartender, was at the end of the bar. He was washing beer mugs. Lombardi’s opened at ten in the morning. Zeke and Mickey were on their stools by five after ten. They consumed their first beer by ten fifteen. It was now eleven. Mickey was finishing his third beer. Zeke was contemplating life as he gazed into his third beer.

“I’m one up on you, Zeke. Want to try for six by lunch?” asked Mickey.

“Not today, Mickey. I’m going through an existential funk,” said Zeke.

“Huh? I heard of funk. I never heard of the other word. Did you watch PBS last night? What I tell you about that channel. It’s run by commies, pinkos, and vegetables.”

“You mean vegetarians?” ask Zeke.

“You talking about the people who do the birth control thing on dogs and cats, which I do not approve. Why don’t they teach dogs and cats to use condoms? Nobody wants to answer that question. These are same people who give dogs and cats rabbit shots. Am I right?” asked Mickey.

Gus looked down the bar toward Mickey and wondered if he should cut him off before he became a danger to society.

“I used to date one of them,” said Zeke.

“A vegetable, or a vegetarian?” asked Mickey.

“The one who works on dogs and cats,” said Zeke.

“What happened?” asked Mickey signaling Gus for another beer.

Zeke quit gazing into his beer, lifted the mug to his lips, took a look swig, put the mug down on the bar, and wiped his mouth on his hairy forearm. He said, “The local beers have been the best invention since they invented toilet paper.”

“I’ll give you that one,” said Mickey. Then he said, “What about the vegetarian?”

“It was going great. I mean we got along like cheese and pizza, like meatballs and spaghetti, you know what I mean?” asked Zeke.

“Yah,” said Mickey as he stuck his left hand out to the middle of the bar to catch the sliding mug of beer from Gus.

“Man, she had it all in all the right places. Everything was good until she decides to ask me the one question that scares the daylights out of me,” said Zeke.

Gus is interested. He moved down the bar so he could pick up the conversation.

Mickey took a sip of his fourth beer and said, “She wanted to get married? That’s what all the dame’s want.”

“No. I coulda handled the proposal. Just because you agree you want to get married, doesn’t mean you have to get married, see what I’m saying?” asked Zeke.

“Yah, I see it. But you got my interest picked,” said Mickey.

Gus wondered if Mickey meant piqued.

“She dropped the bomb on me. She says to me before I have my first beer of the day, which I usually have with breakfast, ‘When are you going to get a job and get of unemployment?’”

Mickey made the sign of the cross, “This is like the worst thing a broad can ask. She wanted to take you off the gravy train after all you did for her?” asked Mickey.

“To be honest, I didn’t do nothing for her except let her enjoy my entire personality if you know what I mean. I’m in my prime. I can go forever.”

“Maybe it was her time of the month, you know how that goes. I remember when I was with Isabel, I thought I was under a terrorist attack,” said Mickey before he took a long drink from his mug.

“That’s just it, she’s got common sense. She’s always even keel. I knew when she said it, the honeymoon was over. How long we been best friends, all our life, right, don’t answer, I know I’m right. But let me ask you, I had ten weeks left on unemployment. It’s a free vacation from the government. Do you agree you got to be stupid to go to work when you are getting paid for not going to work.” said Zeke.

“It does not take a genius to figure that one out. Did you explain this to her?  asked Mickey.

Gus was also interested, although he had an inclination as to what happened.

“I told her what I told you. She must have been expecting that because she had a plastic bag filled with my dirty clothes and tossed them at me and said, “Get out and don’t call me, ever.”

“That was both tough and unfair. In the pros the refs ususaly give you a warning. I think that should go in relationships,” said Mickey.

“That’s genius, Mickey. I was getting tired of her. I was starting to look around while she was working. But the only women I could find were all married or with somebody. I got ethics. I won’t do that, especially if the guy is bigger than me,” laughed Zeke.

Mickey high fived Zeke. Gus wondered why they’re walking around loose.

Zeke continued, “The tough part is I only got one week left on unemployment and no prospects. How about you.”

“I run out this week, and I got no prospects,” said Mickey.

At that moment, fortune and fate decided to turn its light on the best friends. The door to Lombardi’s Bar and Pizzeria opened and Tony Gallino walked in.

Come by tomorrow to discover how fortune and fate smiled on Zeke and Mickey.

Are You Wearing A Wire?

Not dinner catered by Lorenzo’s the upscale Italian trattoria down in the Italian village. No, it was dinner catered by Carmen’s Pizzeria, owned by Carmen DiMarco, better known as Big Carmen. Big Carmen has a number of other interests going, all of which make my night’s sleep less than optimum. Why? La Flor has taken up with Big Carmen’s son, Little Carmen, who is bigger in size than Big Carmen, but the two names stuck. La Flor encourages LC (what everyone calls Little Carmen) to follow his dream. His dream? To eventually take over for Big Carmen, but first he has to earn his chops the hard way. It became complicated when O’Leary, a donut loving, bad coffee drinking, Irish cop, entered the scene. He’s friends with La Flor and LC. In today’s episode, La Flor sets up, the hapless O’Leary with Carmela, La Flor’s understudy or whatever.

“Ray, I don’t call Carmen’s Pizzeria dinner. Especially when we’re going to eat out of cardboard boxes. Do you expect pizza in cardboard boxes to set the love stage for O’Leary and Carmela,” said La Flor.

“I’m not the matchmaker. Besides, Big Carmen is tossing in blue plastic cups to go with his house wine. And, it’s all free, there’s one small catch that I don’t agree with,” I said.

La Flor threw her arms up in the arm, “It’s already a disaster. Blue plastic cups for house wine? What were you thinking?”

“I was thinking free. Besides, O’Leary doesn’t know good from bad.”

“That’s true and Carmela is such a ditz, she doesn’t know what day it is. It might work. What did Carmen want you to do that you won’t do, that I might do?”

“He wants to know where O’Leary plans the next stakeout,” I said.

“That’s all? Isn’t that covered under the Freedom of Information Act? Don’t forget I was a lawyer for a day,. Why couldn’t Lorenzo’s cater?” asked La Flor.

“Lorenzo was already catering Luigi Bigalo’s thirtieth celebration. Even Big Carmen’s attending. He’s the guy who has the upper and lower Northwest side.”

“Oh no, that means Vinnie and Rocco are making the pizzas tonight and I don’t trust them.”

“Why?”

“Well, I do trust them, but I don’t want their fingerprints on the boxes with O’Leary being here. Know what I mean?”

“La Flor, I think you need to move away from Big Carmen’s business. Where’s LC? O’Leary and Carmela will soon be here.”

“He had a special errand to do down by the freight yard.”

“What kind of special errand?”

“He’s righting a wrong. He’s scoring one for the good guys. He’s putting the bad guys down. He’s really a super hero, that’s what LC is,” said La Flor. Her eyes beaming with pride.

“Tell me more,” I said.

La Flor moves closer to me, “Let’s step out on the patio in case the Feds have your house bugged.”

“Why would the Feds bug my house?”

“I don’t know, but Big Carmen says you can’t take chances.”

We walk to the patio door. I open it. We step onto the patio. La Flor said, “You’re not wearing a wire, are you?”

“La Flor you’re making me nervous.”

Then she whispered, “LC is breaking into a freight car and taking all the goods.”

“That’s wrong,” I said.

“No. The goods were already stolen by the Russian mob. So, LC is really taking them from the Russians and redistributing the goods for a fraction of their cost. See how he’s helping the poor people. He’s really a saint.”

“He’s doing this alone?”

“No, his cousin Tony, uncle Tony, and uncle Tony’s son, Little Tony who is also a cousin are helping him. Lil Carlo is driving the U-Haul.”

I don’t want to know any more. My house might be bugged. I don’t want to talk to the Feds. Then the door. My poor door crashes against the wall. I have a deep dent in the steel wall plate I had installed there. The voice, “Beautiful, tough, and edgy woman of my fantasies I’m home.”

La Flor brushed me aside, ran to the entry way and did her leap into the waiting arms of the man in black pants, black t-shirt, black latex gloves hanging out of his pants pocket, and a black ski mask stuck between his belt and waist.

“Does I has time to change before O’Leary and Carmela get here?” asked LC after the two minute kiss.

A car door slamming, a voice from the yard, “It’s the police, I mean O’Leary since I’m not official tonight. Okay if I park on your lawn?”

“Never mind, Ray-mo. I’ll wear these clothes. I looks good in them,” said LC.

“Yes, you do. You are lighting my fire, you hunk.”

The door is still against the wall, O’Leary comes in, “I brought a six pack of beer, Styrofoam cups and a bag of jelly donuts. You think I’ll impress Carmella?”

Come by tomorrow to find out how it all goes down.