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?

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?

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?

Zoom In On Her Necklace

What am I doing wearing a tux? I’ll tell you what, I am at the high brow writer, Francine Peony’s, high brow party. How did I get stuck at this party? Big Carmen twisted a couple of arms, who knows, maybe broke a couple of kneecaps, to get invitations for La Flor, LC, and me. La Flor and LC are here to case Peony’s home. Me? I’m sampling the hors d’oeuvres. I’m hoping I’ll get discovered by Francine’s literary agent. I’m watching LC use his iPhone 8 to take photos of La Flor. What he’s actually doing is taking photo’s of the art work, sculptures, and anything else of value. Let’s see how this seen plays out.

In one hand, I have a champagne glass filled with sparkling water. In the other hand a dainty, expensive china plate holding three hors d’oeuvres, each pierced to the heart with a toothpick. I sidle up to LC and La Flor. “I know what you’re doing. It’s so obvious. You’ll never get away with it.”

“With what, Ray?” said La Flor her eyes fixed on Francine’s diamond studded necklace. “Quick, LC take my photo, but zoom in on her necklace.”

“Okay if I gets her cleavage? She’s good, but not in use league my beautiful, tough, and edgy star of the night,” said LC.

“Not a problem as long as you remember who’s best,” said La Flor.

I didn’t know La Flor wanted to compete in the cleavage Olympics. Learn something new every day.

LC nudged me, then whispered, “For a rich broad, she’s cheap on da food. I don’t like whore devours. When we gonna eat?”

“This is what you eat. You’re supposed to mingle. Talk people up. Make connections. That kind of thing,” I said.

“Where’s da keg?” ask LC.

“It’s all wine tonight,” I said. Then added, “Look at La Flor, she is nursing her glass.”

“Wine’s fine, but beers better, know what I mean? If I could gets to where they is keeping the pusses (he meant to say purses), I could make out like a bandito. My Spanish is getting better, Ray-mo. Of course, I am only speaking meta frog act ly.”

I need this like I need a hole in the head. I cite my dad on that one. It was one of his favorite sayings.

LC nudged me again, “I’m starvin. I’m gonna pass out if I don’t have some real food.”

La Flor overhead LC’s comment, “Not to worry my man of steel. I texted Big Carmen, he’s sending Vinnie over with a large pepperoni and sausage pizza. Since we’re family, it’s on the house.”

“I gots the best dad and the best beautiful, tough, and edgy woman in da world,” said LC embracing La Flor. The two of them locked into a kiss down that I think might take the jaws of life to break apart.

Francine Peony walked over to me during the heat of the kiss and said with an icy air, “Who are those two? Are they friends of yours? BTW, who are you? Do I know you?”

Her attitude made me do something unusual under the circumstance, I said, “They’re friends of mine. You’re not against love, are you?”

“This is disgusting,” she said.

“Is this why you haven’t been able to write a romance novel?” I can’t believe I’m defending LC and La Flor. What are friends for if you can’t count on them.

From the entrance hall, “Getta outta my way punk! I gots a pizza for LC.”

I recognized Vinnie’s baritone voice.

“Security, security,” hollered the doorman.

The hired security man, was a roly poly balding greeter at Walmart by day, security by night. It’s hell to make ends meet for retirees.

The security guard looked at Vinnie. Vinnie opened his hoodie and showed his gun. The security guard didn’t make it to 70 by being stupid. He said, “The pie from Carmen’s Pizzeria?”

Vinnie said, “Yah, what about it?”

The guard said, “Can I get a piece?”

LC came over, took the pizza from Vinnie. They fist bumped. LC opened the pizza box and gave the guard a slice.

In the background, a voice said, “Oh, Francine what a clever idea to have pizza brought in to your party. The crowd cheered. LC lost his pizza. La Flor Texted Big Carmen, twenty pizzas were on their way fifteen minutes later.

At 11:30 Francine Peony was all over LC and La Flor, “You made this my best party ever. How can I ever thank you?”

La Flor smiled and said, “We’ll think of a way.”

What does this mean, ‘We’ll think of a way?’ I am really, really getting worried. La Flor likes being mobbed up. Come by tomorrow to find out where this story is leading.

 

Are You Wearing A Wire?

Not dinner catered by Lorenzo’s the upscale Italian trattoria down in the Italian village. No, it was dinner catered by Carmen’s Pizzeria, owned by Carmen DiMarco, better known as Big Carmen. Big Carmen has a number of other interests going, all of which make my night’s sleep less than optimum. Why? La Flor has taken up with Big Carmen’s son, Little Carmen, who is bigger in size than Big Carmen, but the two names stuck. La Flor encourages LC (what everyone calls Little Carmen) to follow his dream. His dream? To eventually take over for Big Carmen, but first he has to earn his chops the hard way. It became complicated when O’Leary, a donut loving, bad coffee drinking, Irish cop, entered the scene. He’s friends with La Flor and LC. In today’s episode, La Flor sets up, the hapless O’Leary with Carmela, La Flor’s understudy or whatever.

“Ray, I don’t call Carmen’s Pizzeria dinner. Especially when we’re going to eat out of cardboard boxes. Do you expect pizza in cardboard boxes to set the love stage for O’Leary and Carmela,” said La Flor.

“I’m not the matchmaker. Besides, Big Carmen is tossing in blue plastic cups to go with his house wine. And, it’s all free, there’s one small catch that I don’t agree with,” I said.

La Flor threw her arms up in the arm, “It’s already a disaster. Blue plastic cups for house wine? What were you thinking?”

“I was thinking free. Besides, O’Leary doesn’t know good from bad.”

“That’s true and Carmela is such a ditz, she doesn’t know what day it is. It might work. What did Carmen want you to do that you won’t do, that I might do?”

“He wants to know where O’Leary plans the next stakeout,” I said.

“That’s all? Isn’t that covered under the Freedom of Information Act? Don’t forget I was a lawyer for a day,. Why couldn’t Lorenzo’s cater?” asked La Flor.

“Lorenzo was already catering Luigi Bigalo’s thirtieth celebration. Even Big Carmen’s attending. He’s the guy who has the upper and lower Northwest side.”

“Oh no, that means Vinnie and Rocco are making the pizzas tonight and I don’t trust them.”

“Why?”

“Well, I do trust them, but I don’t want their fingerprints on the boxes with O’Leary being here. Know what I mean?”

“La Flor, I think you need to move away from Big Carmen’s business. Where’s LC? O’Leary and Carmela will soon be here.”

“He had a special errand to do down by the freight yard.”

“What kind of special errand?”

“He’s righting a wrong. He’s scoring one for the good guys. He’s putting the bad guys down. He’s really a super hero, that’s what LC is,” said La Flor. Her eyes beaming with pride.

“Tell me more,” I said.

La Flor moves closer to me, “Let’s step out on the patio in case the Feds have your house bugged.”

“Why would the Feds bug my house?”

“I don’t know, but Big Carmen says you can’t take chances.”

We walk to the patio door. I open it. We step onto the patio. La Flor said, “You’re not wearing a wire, are you?”

“La Flor you’re making me nervous.”

Then she whispered, “LC is breaking into a freight car and taking all the goods.”

“That’s wrong,” I said.

“No. The goods were already stolen by the Russian mob. So, LC is really taking them from the Russians and redistributing the goods for a fraction of their cost. See how he’s helping the poor people. He’s really a saint.”

“He’s doing this alone?”

“No, his cousin Tony, uncle Tony, and uncle Tony’s son, Little Tony who is also a cousin are helping him. Lil Carlo is driving the U-Haul.”

I don’t want to know any more. My house might be bugged. I don’t want to talk to the Feds. Then the door. My poor door crashes against the wall. I have a deep dent in the steel wall plate I had installed there. The voice, “Beautiful, tough, and edgy woman of my fantasies I’m home.”

La Flor brushed me aside, ran to the entry way and did her leap into the waiting arms of the man in black pants, black t-shirt, black latex gloves hanging out of his pants pocket, and a black ski mask stuck between his belt and waist.

“Does I has time to change before O’Leary and Carmela get here?” asked LC after the two minute kiss.

A car door slamming, a voice from the yard, “It’s the police, I mean O’Leary since I’m not official tonight. Okay if I park on your lawn?”

“Never mind, Ray-mo. I’ll wear these clothes. I looks good in them,” said LC.

“Yes, you do. You are lighting my fire, you hunk.”

The door is still against the wall, O’Leary comes in, “I brought a six pack of beer, Styrofoam cups and a bag of jelly donuts. You think I’ll impress Carmella?”

Come by tomorrow to find out how it all goes down.

He Got A Very Serious Promotion

Our black stretch stretch limo pulled in front of Carlini’s Trattoria. It’s Friday night. The sidewalk is crowded. I’m staring out the window of the black stretch limo. I turn to Little Carmen, “What are those two guys that look like they belong on America’s Most Wanted doing in front of Carlini’s?”

“You means cousin Paul and cousin Joe?” said Little Carmen.

“I don’t know their names. I mean the guys wearing sunglasses at 8 p.m. Tight black tees.”

“They were on America’s Most Wanted until they weren’t America’s Most Wanted,” said Little Carmen as the limo driver pulled to a stop, got out of the limo, and went over and talked to the I’m on steroids Black Tee.

“What does that mean?” I said.

“I dunno. It’s how Big Carmen explains it to me.”

“You accept it without question?” I asked.

“Yah.”

A moment later, a beaming Big Carmen, silk shirt open at the collar, black and silver hair sticking out, is at the limo door. The driver opens the door. La Flor extends her hand. She’s wearing a black, sheik, sexy fit me better than my skin silk dress with her new pearl necklace and earrings.

“My beautiful, tough, and edgy woman, you looks more beautiful, tough, and edgy than even Sciencestein thinks probable,” said Big Carmen as he kissed La Flor’s hand.

“Dat is such a smoothie move, Ray-mo. Sees how I learns everyting I knows from Big Carmen?” said Little Carmen.

“I can see how you’ve turned out so well,” I said. I not going to take a chance to get anyone upset with the black tees standing on either side of Big Carmen.

“Why are we here? I asked Little Carmen.

“I dunno. Big Carmen said he’s happy and is tossing a party for us and some of the family.”

I step out of the limo, Big Carmen has La Flor on his arm heading for the trattoria. I said, “Hi Big Carmen.”

The entourage stops. The black tees stare at me. Big Carmen turns, “Hi, Ray. I didn’t sees use because the beautiful, tough, and edgy woman was blinding me with her beauty. If I was twenty years younger LC has no chance.”

Little Carmen taps me on my shoulder, “Man, am I happy Big Carmen is older than me. Go figure how that happened.”

Phil Carlini, the owner, leads to a table that looks like it was set for the President and First Lady and entourage. Waiters fill our wine glasses, Big Carmen stands. He raises his glass, “To my cousin’s cousin, Phil Carlini, who closed his trattoria on his best night of the week because I wanted to toss a little party. Go figure.”

Phil shrugs his shoulders.

I whisper to La Flor, “What’s going on? Why are we having this dinner?”

“You didn’t hear?”

“I didn’t hear what?”

“Big Carmen is promoting Little Carmen. My man is making his way in the world,” said La Flor.

“Why? Promoted to what?” I asked.

“He did such a great job the other night getting the things Big Carmen needed. Lil Carlo gave him an A on his report. LC and don’t know anything about his promotion, we’ll learn tonight. We know it’s a serious promotion. Are you proud of LC?” asked La Flor.

“I can hardly catch my breath.”

“I get that,” said La Flor.

Big Carmen, still standing with a glass of wine, “I gotta toast LC. Salute! My boy, my son, my prides and joys I am giving a serious, very serious promotion the details will be worked out when they are worked out.”

Little Carmen stands waves, and sits. La Flor wraps her arms around him and kisses him.”

Somethings are best left alone.