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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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?

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.

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?

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.