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.

Advertisements

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?

He Loved The Dandelion Wine

Chapter 18

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He Has A Nose Longer Than Pinocchio

Chapter 17

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

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

“It’s me, Nonna,” said Zeke.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From behind Zeke, “I like dandelion wine.”

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

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

“Thanks, Nonna,” said Mickey.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What’s inside the box?” asked Zeke.

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

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

Nonna opened the package and started laughing.

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

Who Doesn’t Love Cannoli?

Chapter 16

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You got a better idea?” asked Mickey.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ask Him If He’s Dead

Chapter 15

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

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

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

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

“This is your idea?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mickey whispered, “Is he dead?”

“I dunno,” said Zeke.

“Ask him if he’s dead,” said Mickey.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Okay, but be careful,” said Zeke.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Was the Answer in the Empty Beer Glass?

Chapter 13

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gus almost dropped the mug he was washing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Perfectly, “Mr. Gallino.

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

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

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

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

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

Garlic Will Do Wonders For His Love Life

Chapter 12

Nonna began rocking back and forth. She stroked the package and sang to it as if it were a new born baby.

“What, Nonna. What?” begged Zeke.

Nonna opened her eyes, a beatific smile appeared on her face, “I can’t tell you boys whats a in here. I’m a gonna hold it for safe keeping. I let nothing happen to it. You betcha your life.”

“Nonna, Tony Gallino will have us killed if we lose the package. Please give me the package,” asked Zeke.

“Tony G not gonna hurt you. He hurt you I put a curse on him make him wish he was in the morgue. I put a curse on him make him wish he was deader than a dead mackerel. I put a curse on him he come crawling to me to take it off him.”

“What about us? We’ll already be dead,” asked Zeke.

“That’s a chance you gotta take. Now, I give you something to fix everything that bothers you. You feel better right away,” Nonna placed the package on her lap. She still gripped it tightly with her left hand and arm. She reached into the top of her dress and fished around in her bra. She pulled her hand out and held it open to the boys.

She handed Zeke a handful of garlic, “Here’s what chu do. You eat a clove of garlic now, and you eat one before bed. You wear one around you neck. If you making love to a girl tonight, eat two cloves. It do wonders for you. Now getta outa my house until I tell you to come back for the package or I put a curse on you.”

Thirty minutes later, Zeke and Mickey are sitting at the far end of the bar in Lombardi’s. Three other men are sitting further down the bar. One of the men says, “The Sox need to pull the pitcher. He’s getting tired.”

The second man said, “I’ve never been tired and how hard does a pitcher work. What’s he do throw a baseball a hundred times and makes a million plus a year? Give me a break.”

The third man said, “You talking breaks, Jimmy Giano broke his leg in two places last week. That’s a break.”

Gus was standing behind the bar halfway between the three guys talking about this and that and Zeke and Mickey. Gus is wondering if he’s in hell and doesn’t know he died.

Zeke says, “Mickey, we are in deep trouble. If Tony G finds out, he’ll have us whacked. If we take the package away from Nonna she’ll put a curse on us. I been using my brain and I can see a way out of this. I think we gotta get out of town. Go someplace with Gallino can’t find us and Nonna’s curse won’t work.”

Mickey was finishing his third beer. He signaled Gus for his fourth. Gus drew a draft and slid it down the bar. Mickey stuck out his right hand snagged it.

“I can catch with either hand, Zeke. You think I can make it in the majors as a shortstop? Hernandez is terrible at short for the Sox. He can’t field and he can’t hit. At least I can field.”

“Did you hear anything I said?” asked Zeke.

“About what?” asked Mickey.

“About anything?” asked Zeke.

“Nope. I was thinking about what Nonna told me about garlic. You think if I eat it and wear it around my neck it will attract women? I’m willing to try anything.”

Before Zeke could answer, Tony Gallino and two of his bodyguards walked into Lombardi’s. He walked four feet inside, scanned the bar and said, “Just the two guys I’m looking for.”

What does Tony Gallino want with Zeke and Mickey? Will the boys figure a way out of their dilemma?

Who Says I Can’t Double Park?

Chapter 10

Zeke turned onto Walnut Ave. Cars lined both sides of the street. Walnut Ave was barely passible for two cars heading in opposite directions.

“What are going to do, Zeke? There’s no parking places,” said Mickey his arms and hands were holding Tony Gallino’s package with a jaws of life grip.

Zeke gave a slight turn of the head toward Mickey. What are talking about? There’s one up ahead by Nicky Zuma’s piece of crap.”

Mickey bent forward toward the dash, “Help me out, Zeke. I don’t see it.”

“It’s right in from of Nonna’s. Nicky should know by now the fire hydrant is reserved for me. Nonna is not his nonna. You know what I mean?”

“I think so, Zeke. What are going to do about it?” asked Mickey.

“Watch this. I accomplish two things at once. One, I get a preferred parking space on Walnut Ave. Two, I teach Nicky not to mess with me. Understand?”

“No? But you’re the brains. I got my hands full. I can’t think about anything else than protecting this package,” said Mickey.

Zeke slowed his Chevy and crept toward Nicky Zuma’s piece of crap. Slowly, he pulled even with Nicky’s piece of crap.

Mickey peeked out his window. “Brilliant Zeke. I couldn’t fit a credit card between the cars. You didn’t even ding him. You taught Nicky a good lesson. Especially if he has to go somewhere like his shift which starts in thirty minutes.”

“Tough noogies for Nicky. Let’s go, Mickey. Take the package with you. Nonna’s going to have hold it to put her inner eye to use,” said Zeke.

“I got a problem, Zeke,” said Mickey.

Zeke was out of the car. He looked in at Mickey staring at Nicky’s piece of crap, “What’s the problem, Mickey?”

“I, I can’t open my door without whacking Nicky’s car. I can’t get out. What am I going to do?” asked Mickey.

Zeke took a deep breath. He bent over and stuck his head into the car. He said, “Mickey, hand me the package. I’ll hold it while you crawl over and come out my door.”

Mickey handed the package to Zeke, then slapped the side of his head, “Why didn’t I think of that? It’s like you can see things, Zeke, nobody else can see.”

A car behind the boys honked and the driver stuck his head out the window and said, “You know you’re double parking. You can’t do that on this street.”

Both boys flipped off the driver who pulled out from behind the boys and sped past them.

Zeke turned to Mickey, “Some people got a lot of nerve. You could tell he doesn’t live around here. If he did, he knows that double parking is legal.”

“Yah, even triple parking if a party is going on,” said Mickey.

The boys climbed on top of the hood of Nicky Zuma’s piece of crap, jumped once to put a dent in the hood, then jumped off. A moment later, the boys were inside the three-story house and knocking on Nonna’s door.

“What chu want with me?” said Nonna.

“It’s me, Zeke. I need to talk with you,”

“You sure it’s you? You got ID?” asked Nonna.

“I have my driver’s license and my union card,” said Zeke.

“I want three pieces of ID. I no fool. Any fool can make an ID. I used to do it all the time when I was younger so I could go in the bars.”

“Wait a second, Nonna,” said Mickey.

“I’m a not going to wait a second or even two seconds. If you don’t got ID, I don’t want to see you.”

“I got it. I got it. They all say I am Zeke Pratti,” said Zeke without looking for any ID.

“Okay, I’m a going let you in. But I’m not going to let that Palitroni in. I can’t trust the Palitroni’s. They no good for six generations.”

“You let him in earlier today, Nonna. He’s one of the good Palitroni’s,” said Zeke.

“Let me think about it. Okay, I thought about it. He can come in if he takes off his shoes. I don’t want no dirt tracked in by a Palitroni. They got diseases and I don’t have time for an STD.”

Zeke looked at Mickey and whispered, “Give me the package. I’ll hold it. Take off your shoes.”

“My socks got holes in them, Zeke,” said Mickey.

“That’s okay, don’t worry about it.”

“If you say so,” said Mickey.

“His shoes are off, Nonna.”

“Okay, you boys come in, but you tell Palitroni I’m a good with a knife.”

What advice will Nonna give the boys? What will Nicky Zuma think about his car?

Schmucks Do His Dirty Work

Chapter 8

Zeke and Mickey sat in Zeke’s Chevy parked on Court Street in Brockton, across from Security Postal. Next to Security postal was a Goodwill drop off store, next to the Goodwill store a liquor store, and on the other side of Security postal was a boarded-up sub shop. The buildings, were stuck together since some time early in the last century and looked like they were never cleaned.

“This place gives me the creepies. Why would Tony, who’s got so much dough, pick a place like this for his mail pickup.”

“That’s because he never goes here. He sends schmucks like you and me,” said Zeke.

“What do you think is in the box. Do you think the cops are watching? What about the guy on NCIS? What’s his name?” asked Mickey.

Zeke took a sip of Dunkin Donuts coffee along with a bite of a raspberry jelly donut, mixed the donut and coffee inside his mouth, chewed somewhat then swallowed. When he finished, he said, “I saw this rerun of CSI. I think it was CSI Vegas. No, it was CSI Phoenix. No, it was CSI Chicago.”

“No, I know the one you are thinking about, is it CSI Jersey? I know it’s either that one or CSI Worcester,” said Mickey.

“They never made a CSI Worcester. Half the country can’t say the name right,” said Zeke.

“Then it’s to be CSI Jersey,” said Mickey. He continued, “There was this guy and this other guy and they was going to break into a lab and torch the whole thing to destroy the evidence.”

Zeke interrupted Mickey, “Mickey, what’s this show got to do with picking up a box inside Security Mail?”

A confused look came over Mickey. He fell silent for a moment, then he said, “Nothing. I just like that show. I was thinking we could learn something from it.”

Zeke said, “I’ll have to remember to watch the rerun. Here’s what we’re going to do. You’re going to go in and get the box and I’ll keep the car running in case we have to make a quick getaway.”

“That doesn’t sound fair, Zeke. We should flip a coin to see who gets to go in,” complained Mickey,

“Can’t,” said Zeke.

“Why,” said Mickey.

“Because I only have insurance coverage for me on this car. And, I don’t have you on the policy. You’d be in big trouble if you got in an accident,” said Zeke.

Mickey thought about for a second, he scratched his groin, “Thanks for thinking about me, Zeke. What’s the number of the box?”

“It’s on the key. Here it is. It’s 1 6 1,” said Zeke handing the key to Mickey.

Mickey took the key and looked at it, “What if it’s 1 9 1? It could be. Look? If I put the key into the wrong mailbox, somebody might think I’m up to something and call the cops.”

Zeke looked at the key. He flipped it over several times, “Why’d he have to go and get a number that can be two numbers? The way I figure it we got only a chance in a hundred to picking the right box. When I get nervous, I like to eat. I wish the sub shop wasn’t closed.”

Mickey said, “I got an idea, Zeke.”

“What?” said Mickey.

“We both go in. Since you’re the brains, you go to counter and asked whoever is behind the counter if they know where you can find a sub shop because you’re hungry for a sub. I go and try my key in 1 6 1 and if it doesn’t work I’ll try it in 1 6 2 and keep going until I get to 1 9 1.”

Zeke said, “This is a good idea, Mickey. I got one little tweak I gotta make. You try 1 6 1 first and if it doesn’t work you try 1 9 1. You skip everything in between.”

“You sure, Zeke?” asked Mickey, a worried look on his face.

“I’m sure,” said Zeke.

“I got another question, Zeke?”

“What is it, Mickey?” asked Zeke.

“When you ask about a sub shop, ask if they know one that makes good meatball subs,” said Mickey.

“Okay,” said Zeke.

The boys got out of the car and crossed the street. Zeke walked in first, Mickey followed. There was guy behind the counter sorting mail. Mickey walked to the mailboxes. Zeke went to the counter.

“You know where I can get a good meatball sub?” asked Zeke.

“Do I look like Bobby Flay on the Food Channel?” snapped the guy behind the counter.

“You bear a remarkable resemblance if you had hair and real teeth. But I am being respectful and I would like some respect in return,” answered Zeke.

“I don’t respect myself, why should I respect you?” said the guy behind the counter.

Zeke looked over his shoulder, Mickey was trying to jam the key into 1 6 1. Zeke turned back to the guy behind the counter, “For one reason you should respect me, I don’t pee on your door when you are closed. Your door smells like hell.”

“It’s the damn homeless people. They think my door is a urinal. You’re not a bad guy. I’ll tell you the best sub shop in the city, it’s Marzelli’s over on Warren Ave. Don’t go past the 1200 block, that’s where all the Puerto Rican’s live. They don’t know a good sub from a bad hamburger. Know what I mean?”

Zeke looked over his shoulder, he saw Mickey pulling a box out of 1 9 1. “I know what you mean. Thanks.”

“Don’t mention it. Now, get the hell out of here.”

What’s in the box? Will Zeke and Mickey go to Marzelli’s for a sub?