Forget About Being Friends

Chapter 5

Nick stood behind the counter at Martini’s Deli cutting onions into small pieces. He never wanted to look at another onion. His eyes watered and tears rolled down his cheeks. He still had twenty more onions to go. When he finished cutting the onions, he’d start cutting the green peppers, then the jalapeno peppers, then the habanero peppers.

He looked up at the wall clock, it was eight-thirty. Here he was alone, his girlfriend Cara was with her parents at her nonna’s house in Providence. He wouldn’t see Cara until he went to school on Monday. Nick made a deep sigh and kept on cutting onions.

The door opened, “Hey Nick, how’s it going?” said Buttons.

“It’s going okay,” said Nick.

Buttons took a seat on stool at the counter. “A bunch of us are going to the ten o’clock movie. Can you make it?” said Buttons.

“No. Tino will come by at ten and then I’ll have to clean up. I’ll be lucky to get out by eleven,” said Nick.

“What are friends for, Nick? I’ll hang out with you. After Tino leaves, I’ll help out and all we’ll miss is the coming attractions,” said Buttons.

“You can’t hang out without buying a sub. I’d get fired. I can’t afford to get fired,” said Nick.

“Make me a sub. What’s Tino to know. He’ll think I paid for it,” said Buttons.

Nick shook his head, “Buttons, I can’t do that, even for a friend. You know that.”
“Why not? Who’s it going to hurt. It’d be stealing,” said Nick.

Buttons wasn’t about to give up, “Let me put it this way. Suppose a starving person came in and asked you for a sub, would you give it to him?”

Nick put the knife down and leaned over the counter, “Buttons, I can’t sit and talk with you. You have to order or leave. It’s the way it has to be.”

“Some friend you are. Forget it,” said a suddenly angry Buttons. He walked to the door, then turned back to Nick. “If you can’t do me a small favor, forget about me being your friend. I’ll find another friend.”

Nick shrugged and watched Buttons leave. Buttons got into his car and drove off without waving at Nick.

Five minutes after Buttons left, a worker from the plant where his dad was laid off came into the deli. Nick knew him, it was Carl Pozzi. Nick said, “What can I do for you, Carl?”

Carl nodded, but didn’t say anything, he looked at the sub menu on the wall. Carl said, “It’s a tough decision. Maybe I want the pepperoni, provolone cheese, and hot peppers.”

“That’s a good choice,” said Nick.

“I didn’t say that was what I wanted. Maybe I’ll go with the friend eggplant, roasted peppers and mozzarella.”

Nick didn’t say anything. He waited.

“Okay, I made my decision. I’ll go with the veal parmesan with hot peppers and mozzarella.”

“Have it for you in a minute, Carl. Anything you want to drink to go with it?” said Nick.

“No, I’ll take it to go. Too bad about your dad. He would have been okay if he knew enough to keep his mouth shut, and not act stupid,” said Carl.

Nick’s back was turned to Carl as he made Carl’s sandwich. He stopped making the sandwich and turned around, “What do you mean?” Nick said.

“Your dad’s stupid. It happened last Friday. When our shift finished, the company put on a Christmas spread for us. There were sandwiches, cookies, cake, and coffee. It didn’t last long, maybe an hour. Your dad got a call on his cell, he stepped outside for a minute to take the call. I was looking out the window and saw him wave to the town bum, Johnny Balboni. Balboni’s fishing through the trash cans. Your dad finished his call and waved Balboni over. He said something to him. Balboni nodded. Your dad came in and picked up two sandwiches, a couple of cookies and cup of coffee and took it outside and gave it to the bum. I didn’t say nothing about it. But the supervisor saw him. He was angry. When your dad came back, the supervisor started hollering at him. Your dad turned and walked away. He didn’t care. You know what happened. He got laid off. It should have never happened, your dad had seniority.”

Nick was angry. Life was really unfair. You do something good and you get fired. It just wasn’t fair. At the same time, he felt a deep respect and pride for his father. His father didn’t mention it to the family. Nick made up his mind, he wouldn’t complain. He’d work hard to help support his family. If he had to go to college in town, he’d make the best of it.

 

Will Nick catch a break? Is the friendship between Nick and Buttons over? The Christmas story continues.

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Leave Him Alone!

Chapter 2

The college campus was near the center of town. The boys walked past a fire station, a Unitarian church, a small hardware store until they reached a road that circled a large green area in the center of town that served as a rotary for traffic. In Massachusetts, the green is known as a common. Small stores lined the street on both sides of the common. One of the stores was Martini’s Deli.

The boys crossed the street, walked across the green, and crossed the street on the other side of the green. Nick tapped Buttons on the arm, “How about a meatball sub?”

Buttons nodded, and pointed to an old guy fishing in a trash can outside of Martini’s Deli. “I can’t stand that guy. Look at him. He disgusting. He carries a trash bag with cans and who knows what else in it. I bet he eats road kill.”

“Do you know him?” asked Nick.

“No, but my dad said stay away from him, he’s no good,” said Buttons.

“I know him. His name is Johnny, Johnny Balboni. He’s a nice guy,” said Nick.

“He’s dressed like a homeless bum. Look at his clothes, even the Salvation Army wouldn’t take them. I bet he hasn’t had a shower in years,” said Buttons.

Nick ignored Buttons, as the boys passed Johnny, Nick said, “Hi Johnny, how’s it going?”

Johnny looked up from the trash can, and gave a smile. His beaming smile opened a mouth with four teeth on top and three on the bottom. He tipped his worn old gray fedora to Nick, and said, “It’s a going okay. I find maybe twenty cans. They a nickel each. So far I make a buck.”

“Good luck, Johnny,” said Nick as he opened the door to Martini’s.

Nick ordered the meatball sub. The boys ordered Cokes and took their order to a booth near a window. Nick gave half of the sub to Buttons, who unwrapped and bit into it as if he hadn’t eaten for a week.

Nick took a sip of his Coke and said, “You can’t judge a guy by how he dresses, Buttons. Johnny does the yardwork around our house in the summer. He doesn’t charge much. Mom gives him a sandwich and some money when he’s done. He never counts the money. He stuffs it in his pocket, tips his hat and takes off until the next week.”

Buttons wiped his mouth on a napkin, “What’s with him and that hat? I never seen him without it. You think he’s hiding something inside it?”

Nick didn’t answer. He slid out of the booth, “I’ll be right back.”

“Where you going?” asked Buttons but Nick was already at the door.

Buttons looked out the window. Two guys from their class were hassling Johnny. He saw Nick talking to them. One of the guys pushed Nick. Nick stumbled backward and fell. As he was getting up, the other guy hit him in the face bloodying Nick’s nose. Nick got up and charged into the guy that hit him, wrestling him to the ground. The other guy was pulling Nick off his friend when Tino Martini came out and broke it up.

Nick brushed himself off. He went back into the deli. He returned to the booth but didn’t sit. He reached for some napkins and wiped his nose and the blood off his chin and hoodie.

“What happened?” asked Buttons.

“They were bullying Johnny and taking cans out of his bag and tossing them back in the trash. They thought it was funny. I didn’t. I don’t feel like eating, let’s go,” said Nick, grabbing his sandwich and Coke.

“Look what it got you, a bloody nose,” said Buttons.

“If you don’t stand up to a bully, they’ll never stop, said Nick.

“Yah, but they weren’t bullying you. You made it your fight,” said Buttons.

“Johnny’s old and can’t fight back. Somebody had to stick up for him,”said Nick pressing the cold can of Coke aside his nose.

The boys left Martini’s. Nick walked over to Johnny and handed him sub. Johnny took the sub and tipped his hat to Nick.

“I have to find a way to go to college anyplace but here,” said Nick.

Buttons didn’t say anything. The subject changed to sports, girls, and Christmas. By the time they got home, the fight was forgotten.

Nick has a good heart. Come by tomorrow and see where our story is headed.

She’s One Tough Negotiator

Chapter 23

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

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

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

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

“You go Nonna,” said Mickey.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I didn’t know that,” said Mickey.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Who’s that, Zeke,” asked Mickey.

“It’s you, Mickey.”

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

Thugs, Do I Have an Amen?

Chapter 20

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

Zeke shrugged and didn’t say anything.

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

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

The pizza thug said, “Sit.”

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

Mickey said, “Can I have my beer?”

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

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

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

“We gonna have a barbeque?” asked Mickey.

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

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

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

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

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

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

A knock on the door.

“Yah,” said the driver thug.

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

“What about us?” asked the driver thug.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The three thugs said, “Amen.”

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

A Pizza For Pope Francis

Chapter 19

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

Mickey nudged Zeke, “Can I talk?”

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

“You see anything?” asked Mickey.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“How much you got?” asked Zeke.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mickey said, “That’s me.”

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

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

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

Who Doesn’t Love Cannoli?

Chapter 16

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You got a better idea?” asked Mickey.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ask Him If He’s Dead

Chapter 15

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

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

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

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

“This is your idea?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mickey whispered, “Is he dead?”

“I dunno,” said Zeke.

“Ask him if he’s dead,” said Mickey.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Okay, but be careful,” said Zeke.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is He The Guy With Big Nose?

Chapter 14

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

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

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

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

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

“Can you help us, Gus?” asked Zeke.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Zeke nodded.

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

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

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

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

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

“Uh huh.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

His Feet Stink

Chapter 11

The door opened. Nonna, stood there in her black dress. She held her kitchen carving knife in her right hand. She looked at Zeke, “It’s you, I was a making sure. You tell that no good Palitroni fellow you hang out with he make one move to me I gonna cut him.”

Mickey spoke up from behind Zeke, “I’m not going to make a false move, Nonna.”

“I’m a no you Nonna. You betcha you not gonna make a move to me. I’m a gonna go swish and swish, you never get married, believe me.”

“He believes you, Nonna. Honest,” said Zeke.

“Okay, now we know a my house rules, you boys can come in and have some wine with me. I only drink after noontime. Then I drink until I go to sleep.”

Nonna led Zeke and Mickey into her living room. The boys sat on the sofa. Nonna came back with a bottle house red wine and two wine glass. She handed Zeke and Mickey a glass, then filled them. She returned to the kitchen and came back with a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon and a crystal class. She sat in a chair, filled her glass, and placed the bottle on the floor.

“I give you boys the cheap stuff, because one of you is a Palitroni. No way I’m a gonna waste the good stuff on Palitroni’s. Salute,” said Nonna raising her glass.

“Salute,” answered Zeke and Mickey.

“Whatchu boys what? I’m busy. I got a big night planned.”

Nonna piqued Zeke’s curiosity, “Nonna, what plans do you have tonight? There a senior dinner at Saint Anthony’s?”

“You make a nother wise crack like that, I gonna smack you across the head, Zeke. I expect that from Palitroni, but not from you. You one of us.”

Zeke held his hands up in surrender, “No offense, I was just thinking.”

“You never been good at thinking. That’s why you dropped out of school.”

“I didn’t drop out, Nonna. I stopped going. There’s a technical difference,” said Zeke.

“You watching too much Judge Judy and think you a lawyer. You last name’s Pratti, not Silverstein. You don’t think I know the difference?”

The conversation is getting away from Zeke. Mickey, who is not as bright as Zeke rises to the occasion, he slides the package in front of Zeke.

“Nonna, the reason we’re here is to ask you for help. This is the package Tony Gallino had us pick up. We want to know what’s inside it. Can you use your inner eye and tell us?” asked Zeke handing the package to Nonna.

Nonna took the package. She set it on her lap. She placed both palms flat on the package and began singing a song in Italian. She moved the palms of her hands to the sides of the box and began chanting. Then she said loudly, “Rocco, you tell me what’s a in this a package or I gonna sleep with Mario tonight.”

Nonna’s eyes were closed. Her lips moved, but no words were heard. Her head nodded. She picked the box up and pressed it close to her chest. Then she said, “It’s a good thing for you, Rocco, you tell me whats a in here because you best friend Mario he’s a making a big time play for me. He tells me this is what you want. Now, I gonna put a curse on him because you tell me to be true. Ciao.”

Mickey couldn’t help himself, “Nonna, what did Rocco tell you?”

Nonna opened her eyes, she looked at Zeke, “Who asked Palitroni to speak? I didn’t. Besides his feet stink. You tell him to wash his feet if he want to come with you next time to my house.”

Zeke nodded.

“This is whats a in this package.”
What is in the package? Will Mickey wash his feet? What will Zeke and Mickey do?

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?