Today’s Poem ~ I Am The People, The Mob

I Am The People, The Mob
Carl Sandburg
I AM the people–the mob–the crowd–the mass.
Do you know that all the great work of the world is
done through me?
I am the workingman, the inventor, the maker of the
world’s food and clothes.
I am the audience that witnesses history. The Napoleons
come from me and the Lincolns. They die. And
then I send forth more Napoleons and Lincolns.
I am the seed ground. I am a prairie that will stand
for much plowing. Terrible storms pass over me.
I forget. The best of me is sucked out and wasted.
I forget. Everything but Death comes to me and
makes me work and give up what I have. And I
Sometimes I growl, shake myself and spatter a few red
drops for history to remember. Then–I forget.
When I, the People, learn to remember, when I, the
People, use the lessons of yesterday and no longer
forget who robbed me last year, who played me for
a fool–then there will be no speaker in all the world
say the name: “The People,” with any fleck of a
sneer in his voice or any far-off smile of derision.
The mob–the crowd–the mass–will arrive then.

Ask Him If He’s Dead

Chapter 15

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

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

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

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

“This is your idea?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mickey whispered, “Is he dead?”

“I dunno,” said Zeke.

“Ask him if he’s dead,” said Mickey.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Okay, but be careful,” said Zeke.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is He The Guy With Big Nose?

Chapter 14

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

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

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

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

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

“Can you help us, Gus?” asked Zeke.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Zeke nodded.

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

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

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

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

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

“Uh huh.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Was the Answer in the Empty Beer Glass?

Chapter 13

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gus almost dropped the mug he was washing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Perfectly, “Mr. Gallino.

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

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

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

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

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

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?

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?

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?

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?

It’s Our Lucky Day

Chapter 3

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

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

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

“Me too,” said Zeke.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Is this a trick question?” asked Mickey.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We’re All Friends, Right?

Chapter 2

Tony Gallino, dressed in a handmade, dark Italian silk suit, wearing hand crafted Italian made shoes, crafted from the finest calf’s skin, walked through, the door, stopped and waited. It wasn’t long before he heard what he expected to hear.

“Morning Mr. Gallino. Can I get you anything?” asked Gus with a differential tone.

Tony Gallino shook his head and looked at Zeke and Mickey.

Zeke and Mickey on hearing Gus say, ‘Morning Mr. Gallino,’ turned their heads toward the door. Zeke jumped into the batter’s box, “How’s it going Mr. Gallino, anything I can do for you,” said Zeke.

Mickey was only a step behind Zeke, “The same goes for me Mr. Gallino.”

Tony Gallino didn’t answer right away, instead he walked over to the bar and looked at Gus, “Whatever Zeke and Mickey are drinking, put it on my tab, Gus.”

“Sure thing, Mr. Gallino.”

“You want to take a stool and have a cold one with us, Mr. Gallino?” asked Zeke.

“Not today, fellows. I need a favor. I was wondering if you two could help. That is, if you’re not busy,” said Tony Gallino.

Mickey didn’t wait, “Anything, Mr. G. Anything. You name it, me and Zeke, we can do it.”

Gus wondered where the Mr. G came from. Gallino didn’t bat an eye. Gus thought about it, quickly decided he’d never try it.

Tony Gallino said, “I have a slight problem. I have a small box I need to be delivered to a friend. I don’t want to send it by mail because I don’t trust the postal service.”

Zeke cut in, “I know what you mean. Last week I saw a delivery guy toss a bunch of mail in the trash because it was the end of his day and he wanted to go home. I went into the trash and pulled out the mail. Most of it was ads and stuff, but there was birthday card for some grandmother with five crisp twenties in it. Even though it wasn’t my birthday, I figured why not, the mail was discarded.”

“You didn’t tell me about you hitting the jackpot, Zeke,” said Mickey, disappointed.

Zeke shrugged and didn’t say anything.

Gallino interrupted the two, “That’s why I came to you two guys, I heard a lot about the way you think and take advantage of opportunities.”

“That’s us,” said Mickey thinking it was a compliment.

“Where exactly is this package and to whom do we deliver it? No offense intended, Mr. Gallino, but we’re not doing anything that could get us in trouble, are we?”

“I’m an honest businessman, you boys know that. I’d never ask anyone to do anything that was against the law,” said Gallino with a straight face.

Gus pretended he didn’t hear a thing. Then he thought, what a crock of crap.

“You each get $200. I’m going to give you the first $100 now. I’ll give you the second $100 when the jobs complete. If there are no mishaps, there will a bonus coming to you. The package is in a large mailbox at Security Mail in Brockton. It’s just off of main street on Court Street. You can’t miss it. It’s mailbox, 1202.”

Gallino reached into his coat pocket and pulled out his genuine soft leather billfold. Here’s a hundred apiece,” he said handing a hundred dollar bill to Zeke, and then one to Mickey.

He reached into his pants pocket and removed a small brass colored key, “Here’s the key,” said Gallino handing Zeke the key.

“First of all thanks. Nobody ever paid us in advance for doing a job. It shows a lot of trust in us. We appreciate it. What do we do when we get the box, Mr. Gallino,” said Zeke.

“Hey, what’s with the formality, you can call me Tony. We’re friends here, right?”

Gus thought, I wouldn’t touch this one for a million dollars.

“Here’s what I need you to do with the box once you have it.”

Are Zeke and Mickey getting in over their heads? What does Gallino want them to do? What is inside the box?

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