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.

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You Smell Like A Skunk

Chapter 22

Zeke and Mickey rode in the back seat of the black BMW. Tony Gallino rode in the passenger seat, the driver thug drove. The driver thug was wearing driving gloves to prevent his hands from making smudges on the steering wheel. This was one Gallino’s pet peeves. He hated smudges. The thug took a left onto Walnut Ave. Cars lined both sides of the street. The only free spot was the space in front of the fire hydrant in front of the house where Nonna lived.

“There’s no parking spaces Mr. G. Want me to drop use off and wait at a coffee shop until you ring me?” said the thug.

“No need, Tony. The space in front of the hydrant is reserved for me. Since I’m with you, you can take my space,” said Zeke.

Gallino turned and looked over his shoulder at Zeke, “The cops let you alone if you park there?”

“They never bother me.  It’s the way it works.

Gallino said, “Interesting.” Then  he tapped the right shoulder of the thug, “Park in front of the hydrant. Don’t let anything happen to my car, you understand?” said Gallino.

“I gotcha, Mr. G,” said the thug.

Two minutes later, Zeke is knocking on Nonna’s door. Gallino is standing behind Zeke. Mickey is standing behind Gallino.

From behind the door, “I gotta no time the Jehovah’s today. Go knock on somebody else’s door.”

“Nonna, it’s me, Zeke,” said Zeke.

“I no gonna talk to you if one of those Jehovah’s,” said Nonna.

“I’m not one of them, Nonna. I’m with Tony Gallino, he wants to speak with you,” said Zeke.

“I can smell a Palitroni. You bring that scrunchy little bum with you? Don’t lie to me. I can tell when you lying,” said Nonna.

“I showered this morning,” hollered Mickey.

Nonna hollered back, “You Palitroni’s got the skunk smell. No way you can get rid of it. Anyway, you the drunken bum who drank all my dandelion wine. Now, Gino won’t come over until I get some more. I tell him he can’t come to my house until he take his blue pill, you know what I mean?”

Tony Gallino, wearing his three thousand dollar handmade suit, took his silk handkerchief out of his suit coat pocket and wiped his mouth. He said, “Nonna, it’s me, Tony. Can we talk business? These two schmucks are wasting our time.”

“Who you calling a schmuck? It’s okay to call Palitroni a schmuck, but you no call Zeke a schmuck. He’s just stupid and lazy but he gotta good heart.’

“I know what you mean about the Palitroni’s. You can’t trust them. Can I come in and we can make a deal?” said Gallino thinking he was charming Nonna.

“Okay, I’m gonna let everybody in, but I not gonna waste my food and wine on you. I tell you Tony, you try to seduce me, Rocco’s watching. He gonna ask one of the saints to give you a bad accident.”

“I promise, I won’t try to seduce you, Nonna,” said Gallino.

“Why not? Am I not pretty enough for you? Just because I don’t got those plastic things that stick out like a big grapefruit, is that the reason?” said Nonna.

Gallino, exasperated, said, “Yes, I want to seduce you, but I promise I won’t. It will hard because  you’re so beautiful.”

“Will you take me to your bed if you have a chance and I give in?” said Nonna.

“Yes, I’ll have you spend the night with me. We’ll make passionate love. But I promise I’ll be strong.”

“You a bigger fool than I thought, Tony. Now I gotta all this on my phone. Maybe I’m a gonna play it for the six o’clock news.  Know what I mean?”

“Can I please come in?” Gallino now, almost begging.

“Okie dokie,” said Nonna, taking off the latch, and opening three dead bolt locks, then turning the door handle.

Will Nonna and Tony Gallino cut a deal? What will happen to Zeke and Mickey? What’s in the package?

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?

A Pizza For Pope Francis

Chapter 19

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

Mickey nudged Zeke, “Can I talk?”

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

“You see anything?” asked Mickey.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“How much you got?” asked Zeke.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mickey said, “That’s me.”

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

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

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

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?

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?