They’re Playing Him Like An Accordion

Chapter 21

Tony Gallino got up and began pacing around the small room. The pizza delivery thug and the driver thug stepped back and let Gallino pass. Once he passed, they stepped forward, one on each side of the boys. Gallino made the circle clockwise four times. Each time he made the circle, he stopped behind his desk, turned and starred at Zeke and Mickey. He shook his head and started pacing. After his fourth pass. He stopped, turned toward the boys, placed his two hands palm down on the metal desk.

“You know what I should do with you guys? Do you know what I’m think I should do?”

Zeke kept quiet. Mickey didn’t. He said, “I don’t what you want to do with us, Tony. But if I were in your shoes, I’d tell Gus to make sure we get a free beer every time we come into this place. It’s not like we never been here before. People see us and they feel comfortable. They think two stand up guys like this place. Know what I mean?”

Gallino lifted his head and looked at the two thugs. “You see what’s happening here?”

Neither thug moved. They had no clue what Gallino was thinking and they didn’t want to be wrong.

“I’ll tell you what’s happening here,” said Gallino.

This made the two thugs happy, if they listened they had a good chance at passing a pop quiz.

“This is what’s happening. These two idiots are not idiots. See what I’m saying?”

Both thugs nodded, even though they did not see what Gallino was saying.

Gallino continued, “They are playing me. I do not like it when somebody plays me and I don’t know they are playing me. Nobody dares to do that, but these two, the did it. They played me like an accordion, which I used to play as a kid. This is not common knowledge, so do not say anything.”

The two thugs nodded.

“Gallino continued, “They suckered me into believing they were so dumb they would do me this favor and not look in the package. I, like a fool, believed them. I remember the lesson, Mario Zito taught me. He said, “Antonio, don’t believe nobody, even yourself. Because sometimes yourself lies to you.” Now I know what he means.”

The two thugs nodded.

“So, this is what I am going to do. First, I am going to leave the room while my two thugs mess up your face. Then I’m gonna come back to make sure they did it right. Then I’m gonna leave the room while the two thugs break your legs. Then I’m gonna come back to make sure your legs are broken. Then I’m gonna …”

Gallino paused his sermon on medical malpractice procedures the two thugs were going to inflict on Zeke and Mickey to answer his cell phone and its special ring tone, the Sinatra classic, All The Way. Gallino answered his cell, “Yah, baby.”

Gallino rolled his eyes while he listened to the phone.

“That’s not true, baby. Listen, I got work to do. Can we talk later?”

Gallino paused.

“Don’t you bust my smart TV. You already did? You got my laptop and you’re gonna take it to cops? I thought your sister was you. She tricked me.”

Gallino paused.

“She’s pregnant? She, I mean you, told me you were on the pill.”

A knock on the metal door interrupted Gallino’s phone conversation for a moment.

The pizza delivery thug answered the door. He turned to Gallino and said, “It’s Gus. He says it’s important.”

Gallino nodded to the thug and motioned with his hand to let Gus in the room. Gus entered and said, “Sorry to disturb you Mr. Gallino, but there are three women out there saying they’re going to newspaper saying you made unwanted sexual advances toward them.”

“I do that all the time, what’s their beef?” said Gallino. He realized he hadn’t covered the cell phone. The female voice on the other side of the cell phone connection was letting go with a series of colorful words that might make a hard boiled homicide detective blush.

Zeke said, “If I may, I believe I know a way of your predicament.”

Gallino said “What?”

Zeke answered, “Nonna put a curse on you. The only way to get the curse off is to apologize to her and Mickey and me. I’ll put in a good word with Nonna if you’ll take us to her house.”

Gallino threw his cell against the wall. He picked up a bottle of wine and threw it at Gus, who deftly sidestepped the errant throw and watched the vino splatter against the wall and the shattered bottled lay a mosaic on the floor.

“Okay, but I don’t like it,” said Gallino.

Will Nonna take off the curse? What’s in the package? What’s going to become of Zeke and Mickey?

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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?

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?

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?

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?

Nonna’s Working On a Curse

Chapter 7

Nonna’s eyes remained closed. She began speaking in Italian.

Mickey nudged Zeke, “What’s she saying, the folks never taught me Italian?”

Zeke said, “She’s talking to Rocco, her dead husband.”

“What she asking him?” asked Mickey.

“She’s asking him to tell her what Tony is up to. Be quiet, I think Rocco’s talking to her, she’s nodding her head,” said Zeke.

“Can I ask her to talk to my Nonna? If she can’t, what about Johnny Gilarani? He owes me ten bucks? He was going to pay me on payday and then he went and got hit by a car.”

Before Zeke could answer Mickey, Nonna opened her eyes, she blessed herself six times. Pushed herself off her chair with considerable effort and walked to a kitchen cupboard. She opened the cupboard door. Inside the cupboard were three shelves of votive candles in varying sizes. She moved several around and cursed in Italian. These were words both Zeke and Mickey knew and frequently used.

“Ah, I got chu, you son of a bits,” said Nonna. She took hold of the votive candle and carried it to the table. She set it on the table, struck a match and lit it.

The glass container of the votive candle had a picture of a vulture picking at the carcass of a squirrel.

Nonna chanted words in Italian over the votive candle. When she finished, she looked at Zeke and Mickey and said, “The rabbit sleeps on a rainy day.”

“What she talking about?” Mickey whispered in Zeke’s ear.

Zeke ignored Mickey, “What else can you tell us Nonna?”

“Don’t taste the sauce until it’s cooked,” said Nonna.

Nonna closed her eyes again, folded her hands, and spoke, “The cow that’s about the give birth, waits for the apple to fall.”

“I understand what you’re saying, Nonna. Can you be clearer so I can explain it to Mickey?” said Zeke.

Nonna raised her eyes toward the ceiling and began speaking. She was gesturing wildly with her hands. She cursed, and swung her hand as if she was slapping at a fly. Nonna took a deep breath and opened her eyes. She said, “I was talking to Rocco. I think he’s having an affair with Margarita. I was worried, if he died he’d go looking for her as soon as he crossed over. She always had her fingers in him. I’m a going scratch her eyes out when I get to heaven. Then I’m a going ask Saint Peter to toss her into hell. “

“What did Rocco tell you about Tony Gallino?” asked Zeke.

“I give it to you straight. He said you boys are up the creek and you don’t got no paddle and you don’t got no boat. He said, you boys got less chance than a turkey the week before Thanksgiving.”

“Can you help us?” pleaded Zeke.

“I don’t got no time to you help you now. I gotta work on a curse on Margarita. Come back in three weeks. I see if I fit you in between curses.”

Poor Zeke and Mickey, what will they do? Are they really up the creek without a paddle?