The Dogs Been Grilling for 24 Hours

Farlo hobbled around the car, Tina followed him. He opened Joey’s door before Joey thought to lock it. Farlo bent over and leaned in going eyeball to eyeball with Joey. “We can do this hard way or we can do this really, really hard way. What way do you want it?”

“Can you accept the voluntary way?” said Joey hoping Farlo didn’t whack him.

“We got two minutes and counting. We won’t have this chance for a week. Are you coming voluntarily or am I going to drag your sorry butt across the parking lot?”

“I said I was volunteering. You make too many snap judgments,” said Joey. He unbuckled his seat belt. He slid out of his seat and stood up outside the car.

Joey said, “I’m going, but under protest. I intend to file a grievance with Filo whenever I meet him.”

“You’re not cleared to meet him. Let’s go. It’s go time,” snapped Farlo half hobbling with his cane, half jogging. Tina walked along side Farlo. Joey walked alongside Tina.

They reached the entrance door to the 7-Eleven. Farlo held up his hand for Joey to stop. He stared inside. The clerk nervously stood behind the counter. The taller of the two men was in the back of the 7-Eleven near the cold beer. The shorter of the two was surveying the candy and gum section.

Joey said, “You think they’re going to rob this place? Call 911 and let’s get out of here.”

Farlo looked at Joey, and said, “Turn around.”

Joey did as Farlo asked.

“Just as I thought, no backbone,” said Farlo then he checked his Apple 3 watch. “We’ve got 45 seconds. Then we’re going in. You follow me. I know you don’t have my back. Tina does.”

“Who has my back?” asked Joey.

At that moment, two pickups, a motorcycle, a beat-up Chevy Malibu, and a college kid on a skateboard came into the parking lot. Farlo turned and took it all in. He looked at Joey, “The numbers are against us. If we don’t move now, we don’t have a chance. Listen up kid, this is your first test, you pass it, I’ll make a note on your weekly evaluation I text to Filo.”

Before Joey could say, “Who’s Filo?” Farlo pushed open the door and headed toward the back. The clerk dived to the floor behind the counter. Tina was on Farlo’s heels. Joey was thinking about diving over the counter and joining the clerk. Farlo reached the back aisle when the 7-Eleven door opened for another customer. He turned to his right, he exclaimed, “I made it. We’re first in line. The dogs have been grilling for twenty-four hours.” Tina barked.

The tall guy fell in line behind Joey, the short guy fell in line behind the tall guy. The first pickup driver fell in line behind the short guy. The second pickup driver fell in line behind the first pickup driver. The skateboard college kid fell in the line behind the second pickup truck driver. As for the beat-up Chevy Malibu driver, he headed to the men’s room.

The tall guy said, “I didn’t know you were in town, Farlo. What are you doing here?”

Farlo turned around, three dogs in one hand, each one in a soft hot bun. Two of dogs with relish and mustard, The third with mustard only, Filo gave the other two to Tina, who finished them within seven point four seconds. A good time, not her personal best. She wanted to enjoy the taste.

Filo looked at the tall “Son of a gun, I didn’t recognize you, Flakes. You lost weight.How they hanging?”

“Thanks for noticing. I’m down ten pounds on my all dog diet.”

Joey stared at Farlo, then he stared at Flakes. Then he stared at the little guy. Farlo turned toward Joey, “Get three dogs for Tina, none for you. You haven’t earned them.”

“What? This is not fair. I love 7-Eleven grilled for 24-hours hotdogs. They got the perfect combination of wrinkles, nitrates, chemicals, and meat waste products. They’re always sold out when I try to get one.”

“Tough noogies,” said Farlo.

Flakes said, “The punk’s got a lot to learn, Farlo.”

The short guy came around with his Snicker’s candy bar, “Hey Farlo, waz happening?”

“Bones, what’s shakin?” said Farlo.

“A little bit of this, a lot of dat. Who’s da baby?”

Farlo said, “He’s my reclamation project, his name is Joey.”

“What a minute. I’m not a baby. I’m not a punk. I’m a dude.”

“Dat’s a baby’s name. You don’t got no street name? How you gonna have street cred? How you gonna run with the big dog here?” said Bones.

“I don’t need street cred. I already got it,” said Joey.

“The only thing you probably got is a GI Joe you hide under your pillow,” said Flakes. Flakes and Bones high fived.

“Do not,” said Joey.

Farlo said, “No, he doesn’t have a GI Joe. He has a stuffed bear on his pillow.”

A fist bump, a high five, and several minutes of laughter later, Farlo said, “You boys take care of the job Filo sent you on? It was a rough one.”

“Filo’s the man, Farlo. I don’t know what he doesn’t know. What I want to know is how does a guy his age have all the women chasing after him. You know da answer?”

“I do, Bones, but it’s classified. You and Flakes got a class five security clearance, you need a class twenty. There are only two people who got it,” said Farlo.

“Who? And, BTW, the name is Joe-mo,” said Joey.

“Dat da best you can do? They gonna eat you up when Farlo has you fly solo,” said Bones.

“I’m working on it,” said Joey.

Farlo said, “The two people with security clearance twenty? Filo and me.”

“Who’s Filo? When do I get to meet him? Can I see the company manual? I want to read the grievance process,” said Joey or Joe-mo.

Farlo shook his head, took a bite of hotdog, fed the rest to Tina. He fist bumped Bones and Flakes. Then he said, “Joey, take the hotdog out of your pocket and give it to Tina.”

Who’s Filo? Who does Farlo work for? Is it a secret government agency? What kind of job did Flakes and Bones do?

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I Don’t Want To Eat It

Five days later.

“Farlo! Farlo! I lost five pounds. Come here, you got to see this,” shouted Joey from the bathroom.

From the kitchen card table, “You’ve got ten more to go.” Tina barked.

Five minutes later from Joey’s bedroom, “Farlo! Farlo! My belly isn’t hanging over my belt. You’ve got to see this,” an excited Joey said.

From the kitchen card table, “You’ve got two more inches to lose to get rid of the love handles.” Tina barked.

“Farlo! Farlo! I’m ready for inspection,” hollered Joey.

Farlo bent over, rubbed Tina on the back of her head, “We’re making progress. But I don’t want him to get a big head.” Tina barked.

Farlo stood up and got off the beer keg being used as a kitchen chair. He grabbed hold of his cane, and walked with a bit of a limp to Joey’s bedroom. The door was already open. Joey stood ramrod straight as if he were a West Point cadet. Farlo walked up to him, examined Joey’s face. Nodded with approval at the military style haircut Joey got yesterday at Zip and Clip for ten bucks. He let his eyes move down to Joey’s t-shirt. It was clean.

Farlo growled, “Turn around.”

“Do I have to?” asked Joey.

Tina barked.

“Okay, okay. But it’s clean. So what if it has some printing on the back?”

Farlo read the printing on the back of Joey’s t-shirt, “It’s Always A Happy Ending At Luis’s. Take it off and burn it. It’s not going to Goodwill.”

“But that’s where I got it. It’s just like new and it only cost fifty cents.”

“Burn it.”

“Do you ever lighten up?” asked Joey.

“I did once, twelve years ago and regretted it ever since,” growled Farlo.

Farlo and Tina walked slowly around the bed. Joey had hospital corners. The sheets were clean and pulled tight. What is that teddy bear doing on your pillow?”

“It’s not a Teddy bear. It’s the mascot for the Chicago Bears,” said Joey.

“The way they’re playing, they’re teddy bears. Losers,” barked Farlo. Then he added, “You passed inspection, your breakfast is on the card table.”

Joey waited until Farlo and Tina left the room. He made the sign of the cross for passing inspection. He took off his Luis’s t-shirt and tossed it in a trash can. He slipped on a plain white tee. Joey then went into the kitchen, pulled out his keg and sat down and stared at two pieces of whole wheat toast with avocado mashed on top of them. A glass of fresh orange juice was to the right of his plate. And, a bowl of plain strawberries to the left of the plate.

“Is this all I get to eat?”

“Yes.”

“What is this green stuff? I don’t like the looks of it.”

“Eat it.”

“I don’t want to eat it. I might throw up.”

“Then go hungry.”

“You’ve got to learn to have more interesting conversations, Farlo. Anybody ever tell you that?”

“Yah, and after he picked his ass off the floor he apologized. I’m giving you a pass this once.”

Joey ate his strawberries. He drank his juice. He stared at the avocado covered toast. His stomach was rumbling. It needed food, fast. Out of sheer desperation, he picked up a piece of the green mushy covered toast and brought it near his nose and sniffed it. Tina liked his style.

Joey set it back down and took his fork and pick off a bit of the avocado and let it touch his tongue. He picked up the toast and took a bite. “What’s this green stuff called? It come in a jar? Do you have to special order it. It’s pretty good.”

Farlo, instead of answering Joey, turned to Tina, “Do you think Filo is punishing me by sending me here?” Tina barked.

Joey was working on his second piece of toast, his mouth partially full, he mumbled, “What are we going to do today?”

Farlo finished chewing his toast with avocado on top. After he swallowed he said, “The first thing you’re going to do is learn not to speak with food in your mouth. It’s bad manners. The second thing, and I’m taking a big risk but Filo insists. I’m taking you out on a small job with me.”

Joey started to speak, but saw Farlo and Tina glaring at him. Joey chewed, swallowed, and then said, “What kind of job?”

“It’s a minimum security job. It’s all you qualify for now.”

“I need a security clearance? Exactly, what kind of work do you do?”

“You already asked your quota of questions for today. Now, clean the table, wash and put away the dishes, brush your teeth and clean the bathroom, stat.”

“I wish you’d say, please.”

Tina growled.

Joey got to work.

What kind of job is Farlo talking about? What exactly does Farlo do? Why would Joey need a security clearance? Who’s Filo?

My Alarm Didn’t Go Off

It’s 5 a.m., Joey’s alarm is set to ring at 6:30. He doesn’t have to be at work until 8. Right now, Joey’s lying on a beach chair, tanned, clothed in a bathing suit. His beach chair sits on a white sandy beach in Jamaica. Joey takes one look at the bluest bit of ocean water you’ll ever see. Then he turns his head to the beach chair next to him to marvel at one of the world’s wonders, a scantily clad native beauty who’s smiling at him, her red lips and sultry look tell Joey all he wants to know. They’re drinking margaritas. Joey knows where the afternoon is headed, until . . .

“Wake up low life. Rise and shine. You’re snoozing you’re losing.” A series of angry barks followed. He felt the covers ripped off him.

He pulled his pillow over his head, kicked his legs and feet at an elusive enemy, and screamed, “Get out of here. My alarm didn’t go off. I don’t have to be to work until 8.”

“Five seconds, that’s all you got, you piece of work to get up. I’m feeling generous, you got fifteen minutes to shave, shower, do your business, make your bed and stand for inspection,” barked Farlo in a baritone voice mixed with the sound of a jackhammer and lawn mower.

“I’m not getting up. Get used to it,” uttered Joey’s muffled voice. Then he added, “What are you doing? Are you nuts?” said Joey jumping out of bed soaking wet. His sheets and mattress soaked. He rubbed his eyes with his fists. He opened his eyes, his arms by his sides, his fists clenched, and stared at Farlo.

Farlo stood rim rode straight in front of him. Farlo held on to his cane with his right hand and an empty two gallon water bucket in the other. Tina sat next to Farlo on her haunches. To Joey, it looked like Tina was laughing at him.

“You look like crap. You have fifteen minutes and counting. The clock is ticking. Make sure the bathroom is the way you found it or your ass is grass and I’m the lawn mower,” snarled Farlo sounding like an irritated pit bull.

Joey took a step toward Farlo, Tina let out a growl. Joey stepped back and said, “At least get out of my room.”

Farlo stared at Joey, “Don’t worry about work. I called in for you and told your supervisor you quit. You’ll get your check in next week’s mail.”

“I, I, I’ve been there for five years. I was building a career portfolio. I need that job,” Joey snapped.

“It’s a dead-end job kid. You’re working for me. You’re going to thank me for getting you out of a loser’s job. This is the first day of the rest of your life. Now, move out.”

“But, but, but . . .”

“Tina!” said Farlo.

Tina stood up. She set herself to attack Joey. Joey stepped back and walked a wide circle around Tina and Farlo and headed to the bathroom.

Sixteen minutes later Joey went into the kitchen. He saw Farlo sitting on one of his two chairs, actually empty kegs. On the table in front of Farlo sat a bowl of oatmeal, container of Greek yogurt, dish of fresh fruit, and coffee.

“Where’d you get that food?” asked Joey.

“Filo had it delivered at oh four hundred.”

“What time is that?” asked Joey.

Joey walked over to the table and sat down on the other keg. He looked at the empty space in front of him, “Where’s my food?”

“What do you think you’re doing, kid? You haven’t stood for inspection. Go back to your bedroom and call me when you’re standing as straight as a lamp pole,” said Farlo. He paused and took a sip of his coffee.

“This is not fair,” said Joey.

“I know,” said Farlo.

Joey turned and went back to his bedroom. A moment later, he called, “I’m ready.”

Tina walked in the bedroom first followed by Farlo. “Check it for drugs and weapons girl.”

Tina slowly walked around the bed sniffing the sheets and mattress. She stopped when she reached the other side of the bed. Her head stared directly at Joey’s pillow. Farlo walked past Joey and around the bed. Joey turned his head.

Farlo barked, “Eyes front.” Joey turned his head toward the door.

Joey heard a ripping sound. He heard the rustling of a pillow case and saw feathers floating over his head. He heard, “Aha, weed. Are you a pothead? Is this what I’m dealing with? You’re going cold turkey. No drugs, no alcohol. Forget coffee. You’re on a restricted, cleansing diet, water, fruit, spinach and kale and whole grains for two weeks. If it doesn’t work, you’ll get a juice enema.”

“Noooooo,” whimpered Joey.

“You don’t even know how to make a bed. You are a shipwreck. You’re standing in the middle of the tracks and a speeding train is about to reduce you to rubble. Burn the linen. It hasn’t been changed and washed in six months. Now let me look at you.”

Farlo paced around Joey until stood six inches from Joey’s face. “Listen up. No grunge, short haircut, use a brush on your fingernails and for God’s sake, trim them. I didn’t see any floss in your bathroom. I’ll make you a shopping list. You can sit and watch me eat.”

“What about me?” asked Joey.

Farlo ignored Joey’s comment. “Wait until I’m finished eating. You have to exercise before you eat.”

“What?”

“Filo told me you were a Cat 5 project. That’s as high as the numbers go. That’s the worst case of all the worst cases. Nothing to worry about. I never fail.”

“Who’s Filo?” asked Joey.

Who is Filo? I have the same question. What are Filo’s plans for Joey? Why was Joey chosen? Come back tomorrow to see how Joey’s doing.

Three Weeks of Unwashed Laundry

Farlo sat at the clean kitchen table. Not exactly a kitchen table, it was a card table Joey picked out of a dumpster. Joey sat across from him. Tina lied on the floor next to Farlo’s feet.

“What’d you think? My house looks awesome,” said Joey beaming with pride.

“If I told you what I think, I’d hurt your feelings. So, I’ll sugar coat it because you are a baby in the world of grownups,” said Farlo.

“You’re negative. Can’t you say anything nice?” asked Joey.

“You want positive, I’ll give you positive. You took the trash off the floor. The carried the trash out to the trash can. You washed the dishes, dried them and put them away. Now, reality. The floor has more stains than a Chinese restaurant with a D rating from the board of health. You have three weeks of unwashed clothes in your closet. Don’t think I didn’t find them hiding behind four crates filled with empty beer cans. When was the last time you bought a toothbrush? Need I go on?”

“So? It’s my house and I’m happy with it. You know where the door is,” said Joey.

“Gig, poor attitude. You’re up to four gigs. One more and you’re grounded. Right now, you’re on level four correction,” said Farlo.

“What’s level four?” said Joey.

“I’m holding your cell phone for two weeks,” said Farlo matter-of-factly.

“I am not a child. You don’t give it to me, I’ll call the police,” said Joey.

“With what? I have your cell phone,” said Farlo.

“Who are you? Why are you here? Who sent you? What can I do to make you leave me alone?” said Joey.

Farlo looked down at Tina, patted her on the head, then he looked back up at Joey, “You look disgusting. You smell disgusting. You’re fifteen pounds overweight. You’re soft. I’m giving you a pass on your appearance today. Tomorrow morning you’ll stand inspection. Who am I? I’m your best friend, only you don’t know it. Why am I here? The boss said you’d be a tough case, but he thinks you’re worth it. He’s got a job for you to do. Me? I’m your mentor, best friend, life line, or drill instructor, I’m getting you ready. Who sent me? Filo. And, there’s nothing you can do to make me leave.”

“Who’s Filo?”

“I’ll tell you if you agree to a lobotomy. No answer? Get cleaned up. That’s means shave, shower, and put on clean clothes. We’re going out to dinner.

“I want delivery pizza,” said Joey.

“Pizza’s off the menu until further notice,” said Farlo.

“Does that include elephant ears, fried dough, and hotdogs?”

Farlo gave Joey a what do you think look.

Noooooooooo,” screamed Joey.

Tina growled.

Will Farlo straighten out Joey? Who is Filo? Come back tomorrow and see where this is going.

Two More Gigs and You’re Grounded

Joey went into the bathroom. He kicked a towel out of the way. Took a step and kicked another towel out of the way. Took another step and crushed a beer can with his foot. He wasn’t wearing shoes. “Ouch, son of a …”

From outside the room, “You swear it’s a gig. Five gigs and you’re grounded.” Said Farlo. Then a bark, backing up Farlo.

“I’m not a kid. I can swear if I want to,” hollered Joey.

“Poor attitude. This will show up on your weekly evaluation,” said Farlo. Again a bark.

“Get out or I’ll call the cops,” stammered Joey.

“With what? I’m scrolling through your cell phone. I’m deleting your photos and videos. You should be ashamed of yourself.”

“They’re all over 18,” said Joey.

“Poor self-esteem to go along with a poor attitude. You may be my toughest assignment,” the sandpapery voiced Farlo said. Then, the barked agreement.

Joey stared into a stained toilet. He closed the lid, sat down on it, and stared at the concentric circles of rings in the bathtub. He turned his head to the right and looked at the small window. For a fleeting moment, he wondered if he could squeeze through and escape.

Farlo interrupted his thoughts, “You’ve got five minutes to clean the bathroom or I’m busting down the door and coming in to kick your ass,” said Farlo.

Joey hollered back, “Hey, that’s a swear. How come you can swear and I can’t?”

“I’m a grown up,” said Farlo.

“How am I supposed to clean the bathroom when I don’t have any stuff to clean it?” said Joey.

“Use your brain, it’s the thing inside your skull. You’ve got four minutes,” Said Farlo, then he banged the door with his cane. Tina growled.

 

Joey got up off the toilet seat. Flushed the toilet and lifted the lid to see if it was clean. No luck. “Damn, damn, damn,” said Joey.

“Two gigs,” said Farlo.

“Not fair,” replied Joey.

“I know,” said Farlo. Tina barked in agreement.

Three minutes later, Joey opened the bathroom door and stood face to face with Farlo. Tina sitting beside him. “Get out of my way,” said Joey.

“It’s inspection time. Go stand by the toilet while I inspect your work,” ordered Farlo.

“No. No. No.” said Joey.

“That’s your third gig, two more and you’re grounded,” said Farlo.

“Who’s gonna make me?” demanded Joey.

Farlo tapped his cane two quick times on the floor. Tina Sprang up. Her front paws resting on Joey’s chest. Her teeth bared.

Joey hollered, “Don’t let her bite me. My face. My face. It’s my treasure. I’ll stand by the toilet.”

Farlo tapped once. Tina sat on her haunches. Her eyes on Joey. Joey turned and walked across the towel and beer can less floor and stood in front of the toilet. Farlo puffed up his chest and walked into the bathroom as if he were General Patton. He stopped at the sink, wiped a finger in the sink bowl, brought the finger up to his face and shook his head. He looked at the towel rack. Shook his head, “The towel is uneven.”

Farlo opened the medicine cabinet. He saw hemorrhoid cream, aspirin, Tums, a condom, and three outdated prescriptions. Farlo shook his head in disapproval. He walked to Joey and stood in front of him. “Step aside and lift the lid.”

Joey took a half step to his left and lifted the toilet lid.

“You call that clean? It’s disgusting.”

“It’s the best I could do.”

“No, it’s not the best you can do,” said Farlo matter-of-factly.

Joey almost swore, but he didn’t want to be grounded.

What is happening? Who sent Farlo? What does Farlo want with Joey? Come by tomorrow.

Has She Had Her Rabies Shot?

The front door opened, Joey jumped back and shouted, “Get her out of here. It will not work. It will not work. Leave and take her with you.”

“You’re overreacting, Joey,” said the old guy.

Tina, a large German shepherd trotted in, walked up to Joey, now frightened and braced against a wall, and sniffed him. She sat in front of him. Her eyes on Joey’s eyes.

“Make her go away. I don’t like dogs. Has she had her rabies shot?” Joey nervously asked.
Joey gently moved his left foot six inches to the left and his back slid six inches with the foot.

Tina growled. Joey brought his foot back.

The old guy walked up and stood beside Tina. He patted her on the head with his left hand. He patted Tina’s head, “Good girl. Don’t let him leave.” The old guy reached into one of his cargo pants’ pockets and pulled out a treat. He fed it to Tina who wagged her tail and greedily looked for another treat.

“How long do I have stand against the wall?” Joey asked.

The old guy ignored Joey’s comment. Instead, he said, “I need to make proper introductions. Tina, this is Joey. He’s lazy. He’s in a dead-end job. No woman will date him; and who can blame them? What’s worse, he doesn’t know what day it is?”

“I do to,” said Joey.

“Yah, what day is it?” asked the old guy.

“It’s, it’s, it’s not Saturday or Sunday, I don’t work weekends. I worked yesterday so it can’t be Monday.”

“You have a four in one chance,” said the old guy.

“This is stupid,” said Joey.

Tina growled.

“Sorry,” said Joey.

“Sorry what?” said the old guy.

Joey thought for a moment. “Sorry Tina?” said Joey.

“That’s better. What day is it?”

“Hey, it’s a trick question. Can I Google it?”

“I see you have a sense of humor, pathetic as it is,” said the old guy.

“I was serious,” said Joey. Then he added. “I really have to go to the bathroom.”

“Tina, he doesn’t know what day it is. Now he wants to go to the bathroom that probably smells worse than a Porta Potty that hasn’t been emptied in two weeks.”

“I was going to clean it over the weekend, whenever that happens.”

“Joey, life as you knew it is over. It’s a new day. Consider me your mentor. Consider Tina your guardian. Now my formal introductions, Joey, this is Tina, a trained killer. Once she accepts you, she’ll be your friend for life. As for me, call me Farlo.”

“I don’t need a mentor. I don’t need a guardian. Why are you here? Do you have a last name? Who are you? I really, really have to go,” said Joey squirming against the wall, his white face now turning a light shade of green.

“Farlo’s the name, straightening out losers is my game. You’re on the top of my list. You can go wee wee or tinkle, whatever. When you finish, start cleaning up. You don’t eat until the house passes inspection. Farlo lifted his can and knocked the bowl of cereal and beer out of Joey’s hand to the floor.

“Look what you did. You’re making a mess,” said Joey.

Who is Farlo and where did he come from? What’s his game and why did he choose Joey?

Your House is a Dump

The old guy stood in the living room. He looked over at the sofa. An opened pizza box rested on one of the cushions. A half empty bag of chips sat next to the pizza box. He shook his head. He looked at the floor. A dozen empty beer cans were scattered around. He turned to Joey and said, “Your house is a dump.”

“You haven’t seen the kitchen, it’s worse,” said Joey hoping the hold guy would take off.

The old guy maneuvered his way around the beer cans. He turned his cane upside side and swung at a can as it were a golf ball. The can lift off the floor and hit Joey in the stomach.”

“Hey, watch it,” said Joey.

“The next one is coming at your head,” said the old guy.

Joey hustled in front of the old guy and kicked two cans out of the way.”

“You don’t like my crib, you can leave. There’s the door,” said Joey extending his arm and pointing to partially open door.

“No, I not leaving. You are going to clean this up, or …”

Joey interrupted him, “Or what?”

The old man put his left hand to his jaw, thought about what he was going to say. The he said, “I don’t like violence as a first response. So, instead of teaching you a lesson. I have my friend who will be living with me make sure you clean this place.”

Joey looked around. He didn’t see anyone. “What friend.”

“She’ll be living with me. Don’t worry, we’ll share the same room,” said the old guy.

No woman tells me what to do. So, forget about it. I like this place just the way it is,” said Joey with an edge of anger in his voice.

“When is the last time you had a girlfriend, kid? Let’s see you’re almost thirty-four, going nowhere. I’ll guess the senior prom.

“I’m not a kid. That’s what you think. I’m a chick magnet when I go out.”

“I got ten dollars you can’t call a woman and get a date for tonight,” said the old man.

“Can,” said Joey.

“Where’s your ten?” said the old guy.

“I’m saving my money,” said Joey.

“You’re broke and payday isn’t for another four days. I’d call you a loser, but I don’t want to insult losers, kid,” said the old guy.

“I’m not a kid. That does it. Get out,” Joey took a step toward the old guy.

The old guy pivoted forty-five degrees and hollered, “Tina, come on in.”

Who is Tina? Will she straighten Joey out? Who is the old guy? And, why did he come to Joey’s house? Come by tomorrow to find out.

Changes Ahead For Scorpios

Joey Ginarco’s iPhone alarm went off. His room was still dark. He stuck his right hand out feeling around for his iPhone. He accidentally brushed it onto the floor. Joey cursed and turned toward the small table he picked up at garage sale for 75 cents and reached for the lamp. He knocked it over.

“Damn, damn, and triple damn,” Joey shouted.

He opened his eyes. He twisted his body a bit to the side and pushed with his feet. He was making progress. His head hung over the side of the bed. He reached down with his right arm and felt around for his iPhone. He felt the charging cord. Good. Joey grabbed hold of it with his hand. He reeled in the the charging cord the way a fisherman reels in a small mouth bass. He took hold of the iPhone with his left hand. The alarm was driving him nuts. With his right hand, he hit the snooze button. Then he turned on the iPhone’s flashlight and searched for his lamp. It was laying on a pile of his clothes. Right on top of his boxers. The boxers with baseballs, footballs, and basketballs all over them. Under his boxers were the same clothes he worn the day before and the day before that. He reached his right arm over the edge of the bed and reached for the lamp. It was just beyond his reach. He scooted another three inches forward. He stretched his arm out and his fingertips felt the base of the lamp. Joey pushed back with his right foot scooting him closer, and closer until …

“Damn, damn, and triple damn,” Joey shouted. He fell off the bed landing on his shoulder. It hurt like hell.

Joey held the lamp with no lamp shade. What’d he expect for 25 cents at the garage sale. He turned the lamp on. The lamp turned on, it didn’t short out. It was the first thing that went right for him this morning.  He stood the lamp on it’s base and reached for his t-shirt. The T-shirt with a huge hamburger with cheese dripping over the sides and the meat too great for the bun to contain. On the other side of his T-Shirt was emblazoned, Tommy’s Tough, But His Hamburgers Are Tender. He pulled the armpits up to his nose and sniff. It had an odor, but not overwhelming to Joey. It passed the sniff test. He clothes were clean enough to wear another day.

Joey rose from the floor, iPhone in hand, set the lamp on the table, and walked to the bathroom. He turned on the radio. The sultry voice of Amy Brown greeted him, “Hey Scorpios, today is your day. You’re going to meet someone who is going to change your life. Keep your eyes open.”

Joey’s first thought, “I hope it’s you Amy.”

Joey’s shoulder was still sore. Not sore enough to go to work at the warehouse, but it was sore enough to call in sick. He deserved a sick day after all. That’s what Joey did, he called in sick, said he had a fever of one oh two.

Joey showered, cleaned up, put on the clothes laying on the floor. He sat on the side of his bed and pulled one athletic white sock on his right foot, then he pulled the other sock on the left foot. He looked at his feet, The big toe on his left foot stuck out through a hole in his sock. He slipped on a pair of Nike’s dirty enough that the N for Nike was only partially visible. He left the shoes untied and walked into the kitchen. He walked over to the sink to get a glass of water. All of his glasses were dirty and in the sink embedded with four days’ worth of dirty dishes. He gave a thought to putting them all in the trash and buying paper plates. It was a big decision, he had to think about it. He opened the cabinet door to the left of the sink and pulled out a box of Frosted Flakes. Since there were no clean bowls, he reached into a drawer and looked for a spoon. There were no clean spoons. He walked over to the sink, moved plates, glasses, and pans around, and found the cereal bowl he used two days ago. He ran water in it and set it on the counter. He found a spoon, wiped it off on his shirt and carried the cereal, bowl and spoon to his table.

Joey sat down, poured Frosted Flakes into his bowl, then stopped. He needed milk. He needed coffee. Why does life have to be so complicated he thought. He pushed his chair back, stood and walked over to the fridge. He opened it, he saw two bottles of beer. An opened jar of dill pickles. A wedge of cheese with blue stuff growing on it. And a piece of pizza. He couldn’t remember when he put the pizza in the fridge. No milk. He grabbed a bottle of beer.

He’d get his coffee later at the coffee shop.

He walked back to the table, sat down, opened the beer and poured some onto his cereal and some into his mouth. He his chest and belched. Joey dug his spoon into his cereal and took his first bite. He liked the taste. He made a mental note to write to Kellogg’s and tell them to push beer with cereal for a new taste. He might make some money. Before he took his second bite, the doorbell rang. And rang. And rang. Whoever was ringing the doorbell wouldn’t stop ringing it.

Joey carried his bowl of beer and cereal and spoon to the front door. He opened it, and standing in front of him stood a small stalky, fireplug looking guy with a gray burr cut. His cube shaped head was topped by a short crew cut. Age spots sprinkled across the man’s face. To Joey the guy looked ready for the mortuary, at least 80, maybe older.  Joey looked at the guy’s faded black and silver muscle shirt, a tattoo of a clenched fist on his right bicep, a long nasty scar on his left bicep. The pockets on his cargo pants bulged.

The old man leaned a bit on a wooden cane held in his right hand. He stared at Joey through black plastic rimmed glasses. “Well?” he said.

“Well, what? I don’t have any money,” said Joey taking another bite of his beer and cereal.

“I’m renting a room in your house. I want to see it first,” said the old guy.

“I not renting a room, what are you talking about?” asked Joey.

The old guy dug into on of his cargo pants pockets, fished around, and pulled out and torn paper with newsprint. “Says here you do. Now move aside and we’ll talk about it,” the old said motion Joey with his cane.

Joey, even without perfect posture stood a bit over six feet. He looked down at the five feet five inch man, “If you don’t leave, I’m going to kick you in the ass and toss you out in the street. Beat it.”

The old guy took a half step toward Joey and said, “You want this across your head?”

The old guy waved his wooden can at Joey. Joey instinctively stepped back. The old guy stepped into Joey’s living room.

Joey thought about it.  He could charge the old guy. Make him clean the house. He might be better than having a dog. Joey said, “Okay, but leave my beer alone.”

Who is this guy? What is going to say to Joey? Is it Joey’s lucky day?

 

Have You Had Your Flute Shot?

La Flor’s eating the omelet LC prepared for her. LC is working on leftover pizza heated in the microwave. Lil Carlo is having a difficult time chewing his Pop Tart with his uppers and lowers sitting on a plate on the table. Me? I wish a cable network would pick up this reality show and add to my cash flow. Instead, a knock on the door. At this hour? Who could it be? The answer comes quickly, too quickly. Ready on to find out.

“Open up, it’s da police. I mean da cops? I means do use have donuts?”

I walked to the front door. I didn’t bother to ask for ID. I know who it is. It’s O’Leary. The donut eating, crappy coffee chuggy, portly Irish defective. Oops, I mean detective.

“Hey, O’Leary, what’s up?” I said.

Before O’Leary can step foot in the door. I heard LC’s voice from the breakfast bar, “How they hanging O’Leary?”

I hollered back, “LC, it’s a family blog! Knock it off?”

“Get a life, Ray,” said a protective La Flor.

Those two are deep into each other. I didn’t see it coming. It was the Francine Peony  that fused their emotions and lit a five alarm fire.

O’Leary hollers to LC, “I’ll let use know after I has a jelly donuts. I’m going off my diet. Life’s too short not to enjoy da finer tings of life.”

A jelly donut is a finer thing of life? Go figure.

O’Leary and I walked to the kitchen, dining room area, which fused together in what used to be my cozy, just the right size open space home. I said, “What was so tough about the glazed donut diet?”

“Use don’t wants to know. But I will tells use anyhow.”

He’s right, I don’t want to know.

“Foist, use wouldn’t tink so, but the glaze on the glazed donuts increased my appeals to the opposite sex I was fighting them off wit both hands. At foist, I taught it was my poisonality (this is how O’Leary talks, no grammar police, por favor).”

“It wasn’t?” I said to move the conversation along. We reached the breakfast bar.

“I gots admit, I has a poisonality women that attracts women.”

He’s delusional.

Before O’Leary continued, he saw Lil Carlo, known to O’Leary as Dr. Funguli, “Good morning Doc. Use making a house call?”

Lil Carlo looks at O’Leary. He slipped his teeth in, and said, “It’s da flute season. I’m here to give flute shots. Use had yours?”

O’Leary said, “No tanks, I gots my flute shot wit a piccolo booster last month.”

Are they all nuts?

LC got off his bar stool went to the counter and brought over a tray of assorted donuts for O’Leary. LC said, “I gots use the finest donut buffet Joey can make.”

“O’Leary’s eyes glazed over, just like the donuts. Whatever his next thought was, it left him. He pulled two breakfast bar stools together and sat on them. Yes, he need two stools, one for each cheek. O’Leary took a strawberry powdered sugar donut in his right and a cream filled, powdered sugar donut in his left. He alternated bites.

Over at the table, Lil Carlo was playing with his gun. His teeth were back out.

La Flor quit eating her breakfast. A mild look of nausea on her face.

“What’s wrong, La Flor?” I whispered.

La Flor whispered back, “O’Leary is making me sick. Look at the strawberry jelly dripping out of his mouth. He rubbed his hair with the powdered sugar all over his hands, now he’s gray. We’ve got to do something.”

“What?” I asked.

“I don’t know. You’re the blog writer,” said La Flor.

At that moment door crashed against the wall, my reinforced hinges snapped off. I heard a large ka thump on the floor. It could mean only one thing …

“Hey, Ray. It’s me, Big Carmen.

“Daddy!” shouted LC

“The second most handsome man on the planet,” exclaimed La Flor.

“Boss,” said Lil Carlo.

“Doc, you works for Big Carmen?” said O’Leary.

Lil Carlo said, “I’m da official company physician.. Today I’m giving physics. Use wants one?”

“No tanks, Dr. Funguli,” said O’Leary stuffing another filled donut into his mouth.

“I’ve come wit exciting news,” said Big Carmen.

I can hardly wait to hear it. What bank are they going to knock over? What warehouse are they going to hit?

Everyone but O’Leary who was busy eating looked at Big Carmen, “Tomorrow, not tonight, we is all heading to Sicily for a family reunion and extended vacation,  while the heat blows over if use knows whats I mean.”

O’Leary’s ears perked up, “Use guys are so lucky. Dis hot spell is a killer. Makes sures use guys takes sunscreen.”

“I’ll sends use a postcard O’Leary from da boss of bosses,” said LC.

“Gives him my best, he must own a big pizza chain,” said O’Leary.

“Use could say dat,” said Big Carmen.

La Flor turned to LC, “Take me shopping my handsome stallion.”

The next day La Flor, LC, Big Carmen, Carmela, TT, and Lil Carlo all boarded a private jet and took off for Rome for a connection to Sicily. La Flor asked me to leave her alone for a few weeks – will do. A new and exciting story begins tomorrow.

 

 

Have Hemorrhoids – Need Treatment?

I hardly slept. La Flor and LC went off to bed excitedly talking about the next caper. O’Leary is tracking down the perps who demolished Francine Peony’s home. La Flor told O’Leary Francine did it for the insurance. The crazy part, I’ve never seen La Flor happier. She’s in love with LC. LC is in love with her. She loves Big Carmen, LC’s father and head of the mob. And, I have a 70 year old hit man, short, skinny, big beak, ears that can lift him off his feet if the wind gusts over 30 mph taking up residence in my house until the heat blows over. What’s wrong? Plenty. Let’s find out.

“Hey Ray, where’s breakfast?” demanded Lil Carlo.

Lil Carlo has his shirt off, he’s wearing a tank top t-shirt. I see a tattoo of a nude woman on his skinny left bicep. He’s got his unfastened shoulder holster draping over his shoulders. His gun isn’t in his holster, it’s in his hand.

“You want a bagel? Oatmeal?”

“You got Fruit Loops?”

“No.”

“How about Pop Tarts?”

“No.”

“What kinda joint is dis? Any respectable joint gots Pop Tarts. It’s got Fruit Loops. It’s got real butter. It’s got whipped cream. It’s got gelato. You got gelato?”

“No.”

“What’s wrong wit use? Use is gonna have to change use act, if use wanna stay on my good side, said Lil Carlo staring down the barrel of his gun.

“What’s your good side?” I asked.

“Dis side over here,” he said pointing to his left side with his gun.

“I’ll remember that. How do you stay so thin, eating that kind of food?”

“It’s my metabolism. I can eat anyting if use put marinara sauce and cheese on it but kale and Brussels sprouts.”

The lovers make their entrance, AKA La Flor and LC, “Where’s breakfast, Ray?” asked La Flor.

“I jus asked him da same question. He got no good answers for me, or for anybody else as far as that goes. I got to say, my trigger fingers gets itchy when my blood sugar gets low.”

I took a 20 out and handed it LC, make an emergency run for me, LC. Get Lil Carlo whatever he wants. Pick up something for La Flor and you.”

LC brushes my hand aside. “Keep the Jackson. My beautiful, tough, and edgy dynamo will gets food for use and the company we expects to drops by now and then,” said LC.

“That’s generous, LC,” I said with a sense of gratitude.

“Not to mention it. We’re not paying for it. We’ll appropriate it from the Logan’s chain warehouse.”

“You’re going to steal it?” I said, my sense of gratitude evaporated.

“No. Rocco works there to supplement his income. I’ll call him and tell him to have it ready to go,” said LC.

“Rocco’s stealing it,” I said.

“Wrongo, Ray. Sorry for using Spanish. Rocco is packaging it for redistribution and we’s the re-distributors. Chow (that’s how he said it instead of ciao).”

As La Flor and LC are walking out O’Leary is walking in. I hear him say, “Can use make it three dozen glazed, I’m on a diet?”

O’Leary walks into the living room. He stops when he sees Lil Carlo and his gun. “Dr. Funguli what are use doing with a gun?”

Lil Carlo appears confused for moment, then catches up. “Tanks for noticing. Dis is not a gun. It only looks like a gun. It’s the latest thing to put suppositories where they supposed to go. It’ll hold six suppositories at once. If da hemorrhoids are real bad, it’ll shoot all six up at once. You got hemorrhoids need treatment? I can help?

“No tanks, I still have cream in the medicine cabinet,” said O’Leary.

I break this conversation, “What’s up with the investigation of the explosion at Peony’s house?” I asked.

Before he can answer, La Flor and LC walk in. LC’s carrying four boxes. La Flor is holding his hand guiding him. She doesn’t do boxes or bags. LC sets the boxes down, “Here’s use Fruit Loops and Pop Tarts, Lil, I means Dr. Funguli. Here’s three boxes of glazed, O’Leary. Here’s a case of veggie burgers, Ray-mo. As for us, we gots our coffee and breakfast sandwiches from Starbucks. It’s nice how they donated them to us. The barista said we was the 73rd customer the day. So’s we the lucky ones.”

I don’t want to ask. I don’t want to know.

“Man, dees glazed are da bomb,” said O’Leary.

“It’s all in da glaze,” said Lil Carlo or Dr. Funguli.

“I stooped by to tells use, Peony cracked and signed a confession this morning,” said O’Leary.

“She did?” I said.

“Yah. It happened after her new lawyer, Joey “the mistrial” Bugali talked to her.

LC bumps me with his elbow, “He’s Big Carmen’s lawyer.”

O’Leary continued, “It’s not going to court. Mickey “The Calzone” Donati got her to agree not to ask for insurance and she promised to invite him to her next party.

“I knew she was guilty. I knew it. I knew it,” said La Flor.

“Use was right, beautiful, tough, and edgy kid,” said O’Leary trying unsuccessful to sound like a noir PI. Then he added, “I gots to run. Chow mein.” Did he mean ciao?

La Flor motions us all to the table, “I’m only going to say this softly, so listen up. It’s on for tonight. Be ready to go at 11.”

“Huh?”

What’s on for 11 tonight? She’s excited? LC’s excited. Lil Carlo is gnawing a Pop Tart with his false teeth. Come back tomorrow to find out.