is a work of fiction. While some events and characters may be based
in some part on real news events, the names, characters, places, and
incidents herein either are the product of the author’s imagination
or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living
or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
2016 Writers Guild of America
© 2016 by Michael Hughes
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edition: April 2016
A Romantic Mob Comedy
“Stupidity on a
level like we
ain’t never gonna
- Tony ‘The Big
following is a short story version of my original screenplay of the
same name. For purposes of this short story format I have added the
voice of an connected old mob guy known as LaBin, ‘The Dumpster.’
We may retain this Voice Over in the film version. To be determined.
those interested, following this short story is the screenplay
version from which it was written.
Joey Blanks: Budget
So, there was this joint over in Jersey City we used to hang at.
to us. Back then, they called Jersey City Chilltown.
You’re just across the river and out of the craziness of all the
crap going on over in Manhattan. But you could still see it. It’s
You could sit back, have a brew and chill. Watch the other rats run
the race for a while.
myself was part of a crew then, but I had to be careful what I said
around these guys. Not so much what
I said but how
I said it. These were guys that murdered the language in brutal ways
and were happy to do so. They made up their own language. Italian
English. English mashed up any way you wanted. Problem for a guy like
me who actually got past grade six was that we sometimes used fancy
words or correct English. In my case, I actually graduated high
school and got in a coupla years of college. So I had to be real
careful. The wrong word the wrong way could get a guy killed. They
start thinking you’re some sorta fancy outsider East Coast Ivy
League Bureau informer rat.
Anyway, these days I’m retired
from the Life, so what do I care now? I spend most of my time in
Miami. On the shuffleboard court or betting the dogs. A while ago I
went back to the old stomping grounds and dropped in at Frankie’s.
But it wasn’t the same. What the hell is? Cheesy wine bottles for
candle holders. The bar all polished and lined with fancy padded
barstools. Floor clean. No smoking. A real yuppie haven. Millennials,
So it’s all changed except for
Frankie himself. He’s still ticking. Still keeps one eye locked on
the cash till and only moves three feet away from it in any
direction. Still takes in and counts every dime himself. He pours me
me for it—and happens to mention a guy I’d forgotten all about.
was a guy.
No one like him. An total original.
And everyone liked the kid, but talk about stupid!
On a level like we ain’t gonna see again in our lifetimes.
But that screw-up factor was what gave Joey a role in the
organization. Like everyone had to have.
Talking with Frankie took me back to
the day Joey’s walking along the sidewalk down in Amboy, headed to
La Casa Radicchio.
A class joint. It’s a sunny day in Jersey. This is down in Perth
Amboy, which is mid
state and right on the ocean. Actually South
Amboy, which is south
of the…anyways, point is Joey’s headed to La
Casa and Vince Capellini
and Big Angie are in there waiting.
They told me the whole thing.
Joey’s heading to the place
there’s this gorgeous gal dressed real expensive walking along with
a large fancy dog. An Afghan or Iranian or somethin’. Whatever.
Anyway, the dog stops and dumps a big steaming load right on the
pavement. This woman, she searches her pockets and purse, but she’s
brought no scoop bags. So she gets all huffy and stomps away with the
dog in tow. Leaves the big pile of dog crap right in the middle of
Joey’s a tall, thin, bundle of
nuthin but raw nerves and energy. Earnest like a little kid, but
serious as well. Always had this set look of determination on his
face that never got him nowhere. And he walked with this kind of
swagger like he was a somebody. Looked ridiculous. Anyway, he rounds
the corner. He’s in a white shirt and tan pinstripe suit. Nice
shoes. Dressed sharp. Mob chic they called it. Everyone wanting to
look like Lucky or Bugsy from back in the heydays. The Forties.
Around his neck he’s got this wooden cross on an old chain. Gift
from his dad, Joey’s hero. He kissed that cross every day for luck.
Never brung him much.
Anyway, he sees this gal coming and
he steps aside like he’s Sir Galahad or something’ and makes this
dopey ‘Well hulloo’
comment and he steps right in the fresh mound of dog dump. He
curses—“Aw crap!”—and does his best to scrape it off on the
sidewalk, but it don’t all come off. But he don’t notice ‘cause
he’s too busy cursing and his head’s always a million miles away
anyway. So, up he goes, up the steps to the restaurant.
He steps in, looks around, and spots
Vince. And what’s the dopey fazool
do? Act cool? Throw Vince a discreet little nod or hand signal?
He waves and yells!
“Vince. Hey, Vince! I’ll be
Now he and Angie are exposed, right?
And who knows who’s watching who in this place?
So Big Angie, he ducks and looks all
around, their private corner blown.
“What the hell’s he’s doin’?”
“Just watch,” Vince says, and
he’s got this crooked little half smile.
maitre d’ approaches Joey to take his coat, a nice looking summer
trench coat. Khaki. Sharp looking. Joey’s got it over his arm so he
hands it over and there’s this small coat room just inside the
entrance and, as the man goes to hang up the coat, the hanger falls.
So he bends to pick it up.
As he does that, Joey’s spotted
This one’s on her way across the
carpeting to the front door and Joey does another double-take. This
guy couldn’t pass a dame without double takes. Practically
dislocates his neck on a weekly basis. Anyway, he steps back, making
room and also making a theatrical little bow and he bumps butts with
the maitre d’.
This fires the poor guy right into the coat rack like a missile, and
he brings down the whole row of coats with this soft WHUMP.
The woman, she sees this and stops.
What the hell’s up? But Joey’s oblivious to the damage he’s
done. He steps over to the other side, makes another swooping motion
with his arm and another little bow. This time he bumps the mahogany
maitre d’ stand. It topples over onto the plush broadloom two
inches deep with another soft WHUMP,
and little round white mints spray everywhere.
The woman sees the carnage Joey has
caused. So, she skitters quickly past him and he follows her out the
door, to the front steps so’s he can watch her walk up the street.
He’s got no idea that, behind him, a waiter has walked into the
area with a tray of luncheon plates balanced on his shoulder. He hits
a clump of mints, like little ball bearings, his feet shoot out and
he slams onto his back, food and drinks coming down everywhere. Pasta
dripping off everything. It was nuts.
But Joey don’t care. He don’t
he’s single-handedly destroyed the entire front half of the joint.
He just heads back inside in his own world.
Vince looks over at Big Angie.
“Hanh? Did I tell you he was
beautiful? You can’t train guys to do this stuff.”
Vince Capellini, this guy you also had to see. Always well dressed.
than well dressed.
Fussy and flashy. Pink shirts, sugar cube sized gold cufflinks,
oxblood loafers. The kind with the little tassels. Gets his nails
manicured, his hair permed, his pleats pressed. The whole deal. Like
some sort of male fashion model. Or a woman. Had to wonder about the
guy. Anyway, they’re having this power lunch.
So, Vince turns to Angie and says,
“So, that’s it? You telling me there’s no way around this
Big Angie was this big overstuffed
sausage of a guy outta Staten Island. From Fresh Kills. Talk about a
perfect name for the world’s biggest dump and to be Angie’s place
of birth. Irony so thick you could spread it like ricotta.
And that was Angie too. Thick.
Arms and legs so thick they practically popped the threads on his
suits. An enforcer.
Anyways, Angie says, “I know
Tony’s a liked guy around here, but I’m telling ya. Either yous
guys do it, or we’ll handle it from downtown.”
Vince has to swallow that, but it’s
really not that hard to swallow because what Downtown says is what
goes. No discussion and no debates. Vince would rather off his
brother than buck Downtown.
“Yeah, fine,” Vince says. “We’ll
handle it. I’ll put Joey on it.”
“Joey?” Angie says. “This guy
here?” he says and points to dumb-as-a-brick Joey, still trying to
plead for his life with the wait staff.
Course Angie didn’t spend much
time in Jersey. Just came down that day to deliver the news to Vince.
Those days, he hardly went anywhere south of Canal. Lived up on the
West Side, in the Sixties. Irishtown. Hells Kitchen. Preferred that
to living with his own. His attitude was, the Irish are so stupid
they got a grudge against you you’re gonna see them coming from
three blocks. Not like our own who’d slip the knife in over
Anyway, Vince says, “Yeah. That’s
Joey Blanks. Paulie the Man’s idiot nephew.”
“Big Paulie? Who passed last
“Yeah. You don’t know about
Big Angie shakes his head.
Vince leans in. “Last time,
remember when Downtown said we was supposed to whack Ritzy Risotto?”
“Ritzy never got whacked. He moved
back to the old country.”
“Yeah. Right. That’s because we
put Joey on the case. We tell him that Ritzy has to go and he says,
‘Oh, no. Not Ritzy
Risotto,’ like he
actually knew the guy or sumthin’. What a yutz! Anyways, he agrees
to take the hit on a deep discount. Normally, we put out a hit like
that at what? Twenty, thirty grand? Well, we haggled Joey down a bit.
He took it for twelve hundred bucks.”
“Twelve hundred bucks!” Big
Angie almost yelled it out. “Who’d do a hit for twelve hundred
bucks? That’s nuts.”
“That’s Joey. Certified moron.
Anyways, we tell him Ritzy arrives home every day at seven and to
wait in the shadows by the garage and plug him when he pulls up. We
just don’t tell him about the dog.”
“What about the dog?”
“That’s what Joey said later.”
Vince makes this dopey voice, imitating Joey: “You
guys shoulda told me about the dog.”
Chuckles at the memory. Tries to speak without cracking up. “Ritzy
has this insane Doberman. He keeps this dog chained beside the house.
But it can’t bark and it can’t growl. It can only attack. So Joey
goes to the house and waits. First, he walks into this big spider’s
web hanging down and goes into this moronic dance, flailing his arms
around and ducking and bobbing. Then he hears this noise behind him.
It’s this monster dog. Joey starts to backpedal like he’s at the
circus and falls on his butt just as the dog jumps at him. It hits
the end of the chain and is hanging over him, kinda suspended in
midair but snapping away. Funny as hell the way Joey tells it. Was
practically crying. Anyways, he scrambles outta there but his gun
drops. Now this insane dog’s standing over his piece. Ritzy drives
round the corner and Joey has to high-tail it out of there.”
Vince is laughing under his breath,
trying to stop. His eyes start watering.
“So, Ritzy…he sees the gun,
realizes the contract’s out and screws off and everybody’s happy.
We’re happy Ritzy don’t have to bite the big one. Downtown’s
happy Ritzy has removed his-self for good. Plus nobody’s got to pay
out a cent because the hit didn’t happen. Joey’s a beauty.
Tony’ll come outta this okay. Here he comes.”
Big Angie can only marvel and shake
his head. He can see that Tony Canolli was gonna be the Ritzy deal
all over again. That these guys had developed this system for saving
their own when the word comes down. But Angie don’t care. He’s
just the messenger. As long as Tony’s gone from the scene for good.
Joey’s crossing the floor he don’t even know he’s leaving this
trail of dog crap across their beautiful broadloom. The wait staff
are eyeing him all over again like they want to take
turns killing him this
He arrives at the table and reaches
for a chair.
“Hi ya, Vince,” he says. “Okay
if I sit down?”
“No, you gotta stand today, kid,”
Vince says and Joey freezes.
Then he’s standing there locked,
with this goofy, confused look stuck on his face. His hand’s
already on the chair. You can see panic running through the guy’s
head, his fricking eyes darting around wondering how to get outta
this ridiculous situation.
Vince breaks into this big smile and
makes this big wave.
“G’waan, you big dope. Course
you can sit down. I was just yankin’ your chain.”
Joey laughs this feeble laugh, still
hesitant, but he sits.
Joey gives Angie that goofy smile
and Angie’s looking at him like he’s from Mars. The waiter comes
over and he’s got this look in his eye like he’s drawn the short
straw to be the first to take a run at Joey with the carving knife.
But he restrains himself. “Will
you be eating, sir?”
Hostility you could cut like prime
Joey looks at Vince and Angie’s
plates, now mostly done. Sure, he’s sitting at the table, but he’s
not sure that he’s actually been invited to dine
“I’ll just have a water,” he
Vince is smiling. Watching him
twist. These guys loved toying with him, like a cat with a bird. Made
a sport of it.
“Come on, kid. You gotta eat,”
Joey gets that puppy dog look.
“What’d you guys have?”
“Us? We had the surf and turf,”
Vince says. “The steak and Atlantic lobster five course.”
That makes Joey gulp and he gets
this conflicted look. That’s got to cost a ton of dough and, as
usual, he’s broke. He’s gotta decided: should he be cool and
stick to water, or go for it?
“Wow. That does sound great,” he
says. “I am
kind of hungry.” Screw being cool. He is
being invited. He decides. “I’ll have what Vince had,” he says.
“Will that be with
the wine, or without, sir?” the waiter asks, looking off across the
room. Can’t stand setting eyes on him.
Joey looks again to Vince.
Vince walks him in the front door of
the slaughterhouse. “G’wan. Go for it, kid.”
“Okay. I’ll have whatever Vince
had,” he says.
The waiter does an eye roll and
stalks away like he ain’t coming back.
Then Vince starts sniffing around.
“What’s that smell? Smells like
Joey shuffles his feet under his
chair from one side to the other. He gives Vince a blank look.
Vince looks around, briefly, and
gives up on it.
goes back to polishing off his meal. After he shoves in this big
mouthful he pokes a fork in Big Angie’s direction.
“So, Joey, this here’s Angie
Gnocchi, Big Angie. He’s from downtown and he’s got a bit of bad
news about Tony Cannoli.”
That was the Capellini Crew.
Everyone had to have pasta names. Thought it was cute as hell.
But Joey’s alarmed.
“About Tony?” he says.
“Yeah. You know Tony got caught
selling off some stuff wasn’t his. Actually, lots
of stuff wasn’t his. Well, he went too far too often and downtown
says this time he’s got to pay. Only Tony, he’s disinclined to
“Disinclined?” Joey says,
knowing what kind of trouble that
“Yeah,” Vince says. “Means
like… (he searches for the words)… he don’t want to do it.”
“I know what disinclined means.
But is he crazy?”
“Yeah, we believe he is, matter of
fact. Anyways, he’s gotta go,” Vince says and drains the last of
his wine glass.
“Aw, no,” Joey says. “Not
Tony. I love the guy. Jeez, everyone loves the guy.”
“Yeah. He’s a sweetheart.
Anyways, we was gonna give you another chance to, you know, make up
for that last job you did that didn’t go so good but……”
Joey jumps in. “Vince, you really
shoulda told me about the dog……”
Vince and Big Angie exchange
glances. Vince smiles.
Joey carries on.“…you can’t
hold that one against me. Honestly, Vince, next time I won’t let
you guys down.”
“Well, I was gonna give you
another shot with Tony, but since you love the guy so much…”
Joey jumps in. “Hey, now, hold on.
say I kind of like
the guy, but if this is, you know, Downtown business, then I’m
there for it. I’m a total professional. A hundred per cent. Friends
are friends, and business is business. That’s the way I look at
Vince is nodding. “So, then, this
is a piece of business you’re maybe interested in?
“Oh, for sure, you know you can
count on me,” Joey says and makes another grand sweeping gesture
with his arm—he loved them sweeping gestures—and knocks a full
glass of water into Big Angie’s lap.
Angie’s eyes bulge from the cold
“Oh, jeez. Sorry,” Joey says and
leans over with a napkin and starts dabbing at the water, trying to
sop it up from Big Angie’s crotch area. This time Angie looks at
Vince like he really is
ready to shoot Joey on the spot.
Vince steps in. “Joey, will ya
just forget about it.” He snaps his finger and the waiter comes
over and handles the mess, bristling with even more hostility toward
Vince says, “Can we get back to
business here? One thing you gotta know, kid, there’s a small snag
with the job.”
You can see the concern jump to
Joey’s eyes. He’s been round this mulberry bush before.
“Snag? What kind of snag?” he
“Well, Tony, he’s such a liked
guy and everything—like you just said—that Downtown really don’t
have their hearts in it. But they gotta do it. You unnerstand?”
Joey starts making like a bobble
head, his head going up and down and around.
“Oh, sure. I understand.
Downtown’s gotta do what Downtown’s gotta do. What’s the snag?”
“Well, the budget’s just a bit
of a problem on this one again.”
Joey starts dying inside.
“How much of a problem?”
Vince. Another grimace.
“Well, downtown’s really
squeezing us. We gotta find someone who takes pride in their craft.
You know, wants to take that next big career step. Know what I mean?”
“Oh, sure. I know exactly what you
mean. How much is in it?”
Vince makes a rueful face. “This
one’s really tight. We’re looking at a total……”
…“…all expenses in, no extras
……“…of maybe something
Joey, half yelling: “Vince, how
“Eight hundred bucks, kid.”
“EIGHT HUNDRED BUCKS??!!”
Big Angie ducks and looks around
again as the whole room again turns to stare their way.
Joey, falling to a loud whisper:
“Eight hundred bucks? Who can do a pro hit for eight hundred
“Hey, you don’t want the work,
no problem, big guy. I’ll just tell Downtown you turned ‘em down
“No, hold it. No. I mean, yes. I
mean, sure. I mean, of course I want to work with Downtown…but
eight hundred bucks?”
You can see his mind working
feverishly. “Can you maybe advance me half up front?” he says. “I
I’ll pay you back soon’s the job’s done.”
“No way, kid. I ain’t the loans
department. Oh, and, by the way, that dough’s only if
you complete. If you screw up like last time…”
Joey’s mind’s still racing. He
can’t even really afford to take
the job. He’s busted and desperate for dough. But they have him in
a corner again.
“Vince. You know I’m always
there when you guys need me. Yeah, okay, sure,” he says a little
discouraged but trying not to show it. “I’ll do Tony. I
understand things are a bit tight. No problem. When you want it
“You can start right away,”
Vince says, and he and Angie stand.
“Hey, where are you guys goin’?”
“We gotta split, kid,” Vince
says. “But listen……do good this time and you’ll get noticed.”
And he makes a wink and little
gun-and-trigger motion with his hand and turns to leave.
He stops and turns back. “Oh, and
kid. You wanna make a few extra bucks. Swing by Giorgio’s and pick
up that suit I got over there.”
Joey’s in shock. He can’t even
pay for lunch.
But he says, “Yeah. Sure, Vince.”
Then it’s just Joey at the table.
His meal arrives, along with the
bill. Joey picks it up.
“Three hundred bucks!”
“The bill, sir.” The waiter says
with a barely disguised smirk, a moment he’s really enjoying.
Three hundred bucks! For one
“That’s lunch for three. Sir.”
Another restrained smirk.
“I don’t have three hundred
bucks! I can’t pay for those guys.”
“You’ll have to take that up
with Mr. Vince,” the man says with a faint smile and walks away.
Moments later Joey is at the front
of the restaurant, at the checkout counter. He is unbuckling his
weapon, which he rolls into a ball in the shoulder holster and plunks
into the hands of the maitre d’. The man takes it with a cruel
Joey shoots him a glare.
“You’d better take good care of
this till I get back, or you’re gonna be in big trouble, mister.”
day Joey’s cruising the streets of South Amboy with his buddy, an
Indian fellow from Bangalor named Bindare Dundat.
They’re in a battered old Dodge
Caravan with a portable “Taxi” sign on the roof, a gypsy cab, one
of Bindare’s family businesses. Gypsy cabs and used cars. Joey is
trying to look out the front window, ducking to see under fuzzy balls
hanging down. Screechy Hindi music is playing. Pawn shops are passing
“There. That’s the one. Stop in
front. These guys are really fast.”
Bindare is surprised.
“Joey, you borrow money from such
people as this?”
“What? Me? Borrow from these
schmucks? You kidding? Naw, I just gotta throw a scare into a guy.
Collect some dough. I’ll be right back.”
Joey steps out and Bindare turns up
the screechy music and taps the steering wheel, waiting.
Joey enters the pawn shop and
approaches an old guy at the counter . He’s in a rumpled,
loose-hanging sweater, and has thick bottle-bottom glasses. He’s
leaning on a newspaper. He looks up.
“You again? I told ya already,
that stupid stamp collection of yours is worth nothing.
Nada. I wouldn’t advance you ten cents on it.”
Joey pulls out a gold-looking wrist
“I’m not here about any chump
change stamp collection, pal. Feast your beady little shyster eyes on
Joey displays the watch across his
arm, like it’s a rare find.
The old guy barely glances at it.
“It’s a fake. I can see that
from five feet, and I can’t even see five feet.”
“This Rolex? A fake? No way, man.
I paid two grand for it, new. Now that it’s antiqued a bit, it’s
gotta be worth even more.”
“When’d you buy it?”
“Antique’s a hundred years.
Besides, it’s a knock-off and you got took. I can give you fifty
bucks on it.”
I need three hundred!”
“What about that piece you carry?
“A man never surrenders his
“Why not? You did last time. I
advanced you three hundred on it. That’s how much you need again
this time ain’t it? Why not just give me the Colt again?
Joey glances around, glad no one’s
around to overhear this embarrassing exchange.
Then he sticks out his hand to show
The old guy tilts his head back to
look through the bifocal part of his glasses.
“Nice. Your boyfriend give it to
“Don’t get smart. It’s from my
gal Zoey. I hate to take it off but……(he struggles mightily but
finally succeeds and holds it up)…okay, so how much?”
“Three hundred, tops. That’s
what you need, right? You argue, the price drops to two fifty. You
argue more, the price drops to two bills.”
“You better not be scamming me.
You mess with me,
you’re messing with Downtown.”
The grumpy old guy looks around.
“What downtown? We are
downtown. I’ll advance you three hundred. That’s it, take it, or
else get outta my store.”
The man goes over and pulls three
hundred dollars from the cash register.
Joey makes a menacing look but slams
down the ring, snatches the three hundred, and departs the store.
Back at the van he climbs in.
Bindare says, “You scare the man,
“Oh, yeah. He’s well scared.
Okay. Let’s get over to La
Casa Radicchio. I got me
an even bigger score to settle.”
“Oh, Joey, you are a so bad man.
What debt are you collecting now?”
“Downtown business, Bindare. I
can’t tell ya. But I won’t be long with these cheeseballs.”
Bindare’s cab pulls up in front La
Casa and Joey steps out.
Bindare’s tapping again to screechy music and waits.
Joey’s in and out in a minute.
This time he’s re-holstering his gun as he departs the place.
He climbs back into the old van and
“Joey! What happened? Why this
“I just had to whip a few guys
into line, Bindare. No big deal. Let’s just blow this noodle
next day Joey and Bindare are in an old rust belt part of town, all
factories, commercial stripmalls, and warehouses.
Joey is on his back and on the
asphalt under a late model black Mercedes parked at curbside. It is
parked in front of a small two-story cinder block building.
He’s making grunts and groans and
curses as he struggles with something. Bindare is standing next to
the car, looking around, nervously.
“Joey, hurry up.”
Joey’s cursing and grunting.
Thump, bang, crash from under the
A final bang.
“There. Finally!” Joey says and
slides out, stands up, dusts himself off. When he turns, his back is
caked with dirt and grease.
“Okay, let’s go!” he says, and
they walk back to the van parked half a block away, and climb in.
They watch the car from the van
while Joey fiddles with a little black box on his lap.
Bindare’s not so sure about any of
“Are you sure you did it right?”
Joey snorts as though it’s a
“Whaddya think? I’m a
professional.” He glances up. “Hey, there’s Tony now, the poor
Tony Cannoli exits the building and
walks to the car. He gets in and pulls away.
Bindare puts the van in drive.
“It is too bad about Mr. Tony. He
seems like a nice man.”
“Yeah, but he’s got bad karma,
my friend. He’s hosed a lot of people in this town. Besides, nice
don’t cut it. In this racket you gotta be smart and ruthless—like
“Oh Joey, you are such a shark.”
“That’s right, Bindare. And
sharks never rest.”
They tail Tony until they arrive at
a deserted industrial stretch of road railway tracks and empty fields
to both sides.
Joey sits forward.
“Well, here’s were Tony meets
the big Cannoli Maker in the sky.”
He pushes the red button on the
little black box, but nothing happens.
He pushes again.
Again nothing happens.
The little black box is a beaten up
looking old thing and who knows where Joey came up with it. Looks
World War Two vintage.
Joey’s fighting with the button.
“Why don’t you use your cell
phone?” Bindare says.
“I’m just a little bit busy to
get on the phone right now, Bindare!”
“No. I mean to set off the bomb.”
Joey’s struggling to free the
“This ain’t a call-in show,
Bindare! This is frickin’ reality.”
Pound, pound, pound.
Bindare looks up. Tony is pulling
“Joey, he is speeding up,”
Bindare says, nervously. “Do it now!”
Joey’s pounding the red button.
“I’m trying to
Both cars hit a rough patch of
broken road, all potholes and chunks of asphalt missing. The bomb
under Tony’s car jiggles loose. It falls off and rolls in a little
circular roll into the middle of the lane.
Bindare eyes widen and he slows up.
“Joey, stop! Don’t …”
Joey’s huffing and pounding. “I’m
trying to get this …”
“No, Joey, the bomb. It’s…”
Bindare slams on the brakes as Joey
gives the red button a final whack!
Joey and Bindare are left sitting in
the bombed-out car, the front end blown completely away, the front
seat now exposed, nothing but street in front of them. They are
blackened and smoldering.
They see that, ahead, Tony has
stopped his car and stepped out.
He’s heard and seen the explosion
in his rear view. He takes a quick look back down the street, at the
smoldering wreckage, sizes up the whole situation, jumps back in his
car and zooms away, no doubt to become the Invisible Man.
“Aw, crap!” Joey says.
is back home, at his walk-up in Queens. He’s on the couch,
recovering. He has a cold pack on his forehead. He is moaning and
he’s a mess—blackened face, clothes shredded and singed.
His girlfriend, Zoey, is curled up
on a chair next to the sofa, her feet tucked under her. She has short
white punk-cut hair that stands up in all directions, has a severe
part on the side, with a red streak on the left and a blue streak on
the right. It’s red, white, and blue. She’s wearing large
red-framed granny glasses that keep sliding down her nose. She’s
sympathetic, concerned, and looking ditzy yet thoughtful.
She speaks in a heavy Jersey accent.
“So you’re saying this car just
Joey, trying his best to look
“Yeah. It was the weirdest thing.”
“Both cars. They just blew up.”
“Yeah. Must’ve crunched the
guy’s gas tank or something. I dunno. I mean, we tapped him a
little bit at the stop sign was all. All I know is there’s this big
blast and poor Bindare loses his hearing, and I just about got
killed. The other guy got off with nuthin’. He just drove away.”
Zoey’s shaking her head slowly,
not buying it.
“Joey, how could two cars just
blow up on a city street? You were doing work for Vince again,
“Vince? Me? Naw. Vince had nothing
to do with it. Me and Bindare was just out driving around.”
Zoey totally does not believe that.
But she’s concerned for him.
“Uh huh. Would you like to talk
“Talk about what?”
“About how you’re feeling right
“How do you think I feel? I feel
awful. I ache everywhere. I just about got blown to pieces, for
Pete’s sake. How am I supposed to feel?”
“I mean emotionally.”
“Emotionally? What’s emotionally
got to do with anything?”
“Right,” Zoey mutters under her
breath. “What’s emotionally got to do with anything?” She tries
again. “Joey, you just about got yourself blown to bits in a futile
effort to hurt a man you probably don’t even know for a bunch of
hoodlums who don’t care if you live or die. You’re dealing with
dangerous people and something dangerous just happened. You must have
feelings about all that?”
Joey looks perplexed and bothered by
this line of interrogation.
“I just told you…I feel awful.
And Vince ain’t no hoodlum, by the way. He’s a legit guy. Owns a
garbage hauling business and everything.”
Zoey rolls her eyes. A
garbage hauling business! She’s
half Jewish, half Italian—Zoey Burricche, from a Jewish mother—and
she knows what that’s
code for. The mob totally dominated the haulage biz in Jersey and it
was one of their usual cover fronts.
“It doesn’t worry you, what you
“Sure it worries me.”
“But you don’t find the whole
scene…upsetting? You could get killed one day…or kill someone
else. Doesn’t that bother you? Cause you any anxiety?”
Joey, irritated, says, “‘Course
it does. But, hey, in my biz you gotta be a stand-up guy about that
“Why would you want to stay in a
business where you have to be in a state of anxiety all the time?”
“Hey, I’m a respected guy. I’m
part of something. My friends need me. They need jobs done. They know
Joey’s always there for them. We’re family.”
“Joey, those guys aren’t your
“Vince is. He’s my second cousin
three times removed on my late uncle Paulie’s half brother’s
Zoey throws a look at the ceiling.
“That makes you about a zillion times removed. You’re probably
more related to the stupid barber on the corner.”
Joey thinks that over.
“Well, yeah. Bennie is
a bit slow. And he is
my Uncle Peter’s second cousin on my…”
“Joey,” Zoey cuts in,
frustrated. “The point is—these people aren’t your family at
all. You don’t mean anything
to them. You’re looking for acceptance from a bunch of mobsters
whose approval you crave and grovel for, but who don’t care about
you at all.”
Joey’s a little offended.
“Hey, I don’t crave and I sure
“Isn’t that how you get these
That’s what you told me.”
“You gotta forget the stuff I tell
you. You ain’t supposed to know that stuff.”
“So, you believe these mob friends
of yours actually respect
you? I just don’t get why you’d want to be around people like
“Hey. These are big time guys.
Everybody wants to be a somebody. I try so hard.” Zoey can see that
he’s finally starting to show a little emotion. “I mean, I don’t
want to hurt anybody or nuthin, but I want to fit in. Be a part of
something. Get respect. You know…like my dad used to.”
Zoey feels a twinge of sympathy for
him, knowing that his dad, gone many years, still looms large in his
life. Probably why he tries so hard to get acceptance from his mob
crowd. Which was his dad’s crowd.
“Joey. Your dad was mildly
autistic. He did the best he could with what he had. You aren’t
retarded in any way. I’ll admit, you’ve got emotional and
psychological issues. Maybe a few mountains
of emotional and psychological issues. Okay, maybe even the Himalayas
of psyche issues with a good dose of ADHD thrown in. But you don’t
have to accept what your dad did. To be an errand boy for a pat on
the head and the occasional doggie treat from these guys. They just
Joey’s starts focusing on the TV
that’s not only on the Weather Channel but is also on mute and Zoey
can see she’s losing him.
“Can we lay off this heavy stuff
just a little,” he says. “I’m starting to get a headache over
He falls silent. Reflective. Things
obviously going through his mind. Zoey is staring at him
She asks, “Joey, what are you
thinking right now?”
“Aw, you never want to listen when
it’s important to me.
It’s always blah blah blah. Joey why are you such an idiot. Soon’s
have something to say the conversation’s over.”
Zoey feels a pang of guilt.
“That’s not true. I’m
listening now. Tell me what you’re thinking.”
“Nah, you don’t want to listen.”
“I do. Just tell me.”
Joey sits up like he’s got an
“Yeah, okay. Well, I was just
Zoey waits expectantly. It’s a
“Thinking what, Joey?”
“……well, that I, um…”
“What is it, Joey? Whatever it is.
You know you can tell me.”
Zoey also sits forward.
Joey finally spits it out.
“Okay. I’d like to make love.
Right now. On the back porch. Then in the hammock in the back yard.”
Zoey falls back.
“I know you don’t. You can
hardly sit up. Don’t play with me like that.”
“Okay, okay. I was just thinking,
um…that I’m getting, you know, kind of hungry. You want to order
in or somethin’?”