Deborah Boydston Deborah Boydston
Recommendations: 45

When the silence crept back into "out" little apartment. Out should be our.

Deborah Boydston Deborah Boydston
Recommendations: 45

I think you need to add the word "we" in the phrases: "down by docks where were selling everything...."

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Daniel Bird Daniel Bird
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Chapter 2 - When You're Young, You're Invincible


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She had a friend.

      “I was born in an Italian neighborhood now known as Carroll Gardens, a few blocks east of the Cobble Hill docks. Like most kids at that time, I was poor. There were six of us living in a tiny basement flat. I was the youngest of five. Three sisters and a brother. My father died when I was very young. I didn't know him. My brother Gino died when I was ten, so...as you can well guess, I was the 'Man' of the house. But my sisters were already getting married at that time, off finding new lives, getting out of the old neighborhood. That left me with mama. Shortly after, when we found ourselves alone with the girls no longer living with us we moved out – found ourselves moving around a lot, place to place – you know...anything we could find to hole up in, any place that would just let us stay for awhile, until mama found her self a steady job, enough so we didn't have to move around anymore. It was a smaller place just across from the food stands. In those days, the markets were right out in the open, you know...rife with meats, fruit and vegetable stands, cookware; all sorts of things – things that had no right being there too.” A slight smirk washed over him where he lay, somehow taking him away from the dreadful reality that consumed him, his eyes, seemingly alert, the pain somehow not a bother.


     Again those long ago memories flooded his mind, coming in quick glimpses, just enough to give him a sense of a life lived to the fullest, a life he would now have to face the consequences of. “I was so young and so vibrant in them days. I was imaginative. That's what happens when you're left alone most of the time. I didn't go to school. I hated it; thought it was a waste of time. No one cared. No teachers tried to convince me to stay, and I didn't have any real friends there. I had no real friends anywhere. I guess that's what happens when you move around all the time. I was always left alone in them days. Mama worked in a hotel as a maid bringing home just enough money to keep working. She took odd jobs when we couldn't pay the rent.” A faraway gleam in his eyes – a look that held for him a strand of hope that he might be reunited with her again seemed to dissolve the cancer that stole away his hair,  draining his strength, the sickness of which there was no cure, the very thing that settled deep within his body eliminating any fight he had left in his old sagging arms.


     And suddenly, startling his heart without warning, racing forward from the deepest wells of his conscience, slamming home like a battering ram came a slew of grisly images,  shocking secrets of murder, greed, lies and  betrayal, alive with vivd scenes of blood and bits of brain, the sound a gun makes when fired  in a warehouse, seeming to split open crates shocking the atmosphere with smoke and blood-spatter. He tried his best to maintain, again not realizing his quick fits, his jerking limbs, praying once again for a moment's peace – only enough to finish what he had to say, to spill all his secrets to the one person in the room besides himself. With great effort – enough to cause him great discomfort and pain with every breath, he went on, “My life of crime began in those days. That's when I met some of the most important people in my life – people that would ultimately shape my world.”


     “That's when I met “Ducky” Carlotta.” He made a noise that resembled a chuckle before carrying on, “I had seen him around the market before that – you know...getting his hands on whatever he could, apples, oranges, dried meat. He was good too; sending 'Little Piney' Corroci in, getting him going with his loud mouth and his quick mischief. While Little Piney went in causing all kinds of trouble, Ducky would help himself to some apples, oranges – whatever he could, and run off. They were doing it all the time. Ducky would sell everything for half price to whoever would buy them. It wasn't too long though that other kids from across the avenue began coming in, looking to help themselves to his hard-earned loot. That was the first time I ever saw so much blood.” Laying there, soaked in sweat, breathing heavy, chills running through him, he kept right on talking as if he was not really on his death bed, just waiting for the end to come. “That day my life changed forever. I changed forever.”


     “It started a few days before that, with a little gang of goons coming over from Red Hook. Irish kids calling themselves “The Red Hook Dock Lords.” They began coming over, hauling right into the market looking for a piece of the action, strongarming the young kids who were just trying to make a nickel. Well, before I could guage the situation, they had Ducky, Little Piney and Fat Donatello Avicci cornered in an alley, robbing them of their hard earned goods. Well...I really don't know what happened in them moments – whether it was seeing them make a stand, swinging fists into the air, razing hell while taking a beating, or whether it was my own hunger for friendship, or, hell....maybe I just took all that mama told me about fighting for what you believe in to heart, but...next thing you know I found myself right in there, throwing all that I had. See, that's where it goes blank. I mean, I don't remember what happened exactly, but...well, there I was standing over Danny Green, knife clutched in my hand, watching him bleed to death. I remember how they all looked at me, Ducky, Little Piney and Fat Donnie, like I was some kind of possessed beast. The others ran back to Red Hook. I never did see them again.” A long slow silence gave him time to compose himself, fighting to keep himself in the here and now, closing his eyes, afraid of what he might see lurking in the corner, pacing back and forth just outside the door.


     “It wasn't long before I knew the ways of my neighbourhood – my people. Ducky, Little Piney and Fat Donnie denied everything. They denied ever being in the same place on that day. And anyone who asked the guys who owned the market stands...well, they never saw anything either. It was all coming together for me; the way it was best just to hear nothing, see nothing and just keep your mouth shut. That day, moments after, I ran all the way down to the docks, snuck past the fence, and threw my knife  into the back of a truck before watching it drive off, hoping that no one would ever find that knife, or link it to the murder of a thirteen year old Irish kid. I made it home late in the afternoon and never said anything to anyone. Not one word. I stayed inside for a few weeks after that, fearing to step off the front stoop – fearful that a group of cops would pop out of nowhere and drag me off, or that some vendetta chasing Irish kids and their fathers would find me and do me in. Every knock at the door sent me scurrying to my room, my heart racing.


     It wasn't until after a few weeks – when our food had run out completely, when mama was let go from her job that something happened that gave me back my courage, fostering my need to climb out of my shell and make my bones in the world. Crying, mama held me close, whimpering how it was all going to be alright, how she would find a way if it killed her. It was then that a knock at the door lifted both our heads. We stayed quiet, not having the guts to face the landlord, Mr. Francesi. Although he was a good and decent man, mama owed him a total of six months rent and he couldn't let it go any further without losing out himself.” His eyes revealed a man who was much like any other man – a man with a past, a man who had feelings, a man whose soul was no more safe than the shell that surrounded it. By and all he was simply a man, old in his skin, bony fingers, a man with just enough strength to tell his tale – a wilted figure hanging on to whatever he could before the end.


     There was no great power in him now, no reason to fear him, no reason to stare upon him like a God, no, none of that; just an overwhelming sense of urgency, with just enough strength to share those most important life-changing moments of his life; those things that would eventually turn him into the man he had become, the man he was today. “After a long while – when the silence crept back into out little apartment, mama peeked outside the door. Looking on I could not help but to be lifted in my heart by the way she opened the door to retrieve something. A moment later she brought the package inside and set it on the floor. A small wooden crate, addressed to me. A note that said, 'Hear nothing, see nothing and say nothing.' Little Piney, Fat Donnie and Little Luca think we should call you “Crazy Joe” what do you think? Let us know, you know where to find us.' And like that, my life as a gangster began. With a crate of meat, fruit vegetables, milk, corn and a few dollars, enough to pay off all our debt. I knew mama was scared, but...she also knew I was the man of the house, and that I had to make good on the favour. So, I did. I was back out there earning myway, a few nickels here, a few dimes there, a dollar here, a dollar there.” 1 comment


      It wasn't long that I had begun running the gang. A year later we had bumped up our numbers to twelve. And we got our hands into everything. Anything. Anything we could steal, heist, rob... We were doing shoe-shines right off the docks for a penny a shoe. We were selling day old bread, stealing wine and liquor and selling it to housewives and school girls for a peek of their tits, a grab of their ass. They loved it. We called ourselves “The Brooklyn Money Cats.” It wasn't too long that I had my first real run in with a real gangster. Dominique Francesi. A real life gangster. I was thirteen. He came right on over to our little 'hot' goods market down by the docks where were selling everything from packs of cigarettes to bubble gum, to pipe-tobacco and bullets. We even sold clothes from time to time – whatever we could make off with. It was all about the money and the pussy in those days. Not so much about power and respect. We were having fun just being boys. Getting into fights, making a name for ourselves.” 1 comment


     “If there was one single defining moment of my life, it was when Dominique Francesi came down to the docks for a shoe-shine. I was in awe! He had the same look a hawk does eye-ing up his prey, ready to swoop in for the kill. I stopped doing what I was doing. I just couldn't take my eyes off him. I could feel it coming from him, you know...the power, the respect he commanded. Seeing him standing there, black suit, fine tie...a group of men hovering over his every move, bulges in their waist coats...I knew this man was a man to be feared and respected; and I had no idea what he wanted from me. I had no idea why he chose me. Believe me, I made Little Luca shine them so well that they looked like mirrors.


     It was then, that he took me aside and asked me if I knew the value of money. I told him, 'yeah, its who makes the most wins.' He told me something that I'll never forget. He said to me, 'Whoever plays the best wins. Who lives longest wins. The most cunning predator does not have to chase his prey. The most clever predator sets a trap and lets his prey walk right on in.'” He threw his arm around me, leaned in and said, 'You can't take it with you Joe. And life doesn't last long, so make every decision count. Make every move a winner.'”He stopped right there for a moment, his story halted by a single tear that streamed down his face as he fought off the agony coursing through him, somehow numbing him to a series of groans, mouth spitting to just get the story of his life out there. “Tone...he's right you know...time...it...it goes by too quickly.”


     And like that, came the shadow people once again, peeking in through the doorway, red fiery eyes, sharp teeth, snickering, heckling and cackling, pointing right at him. And again, as though some deep urgent instinct called out to him, and like that he let out a prayer, once again coming face to face with a God he had never much paid any mind to, and no one could tell him that God did not exist. For by his very words, his deep solemn words the light had filled the room once again, sending the shadows back, keeping them at bay. Once again his world – by the power of the Lord – had become enough that he could bear it. Enough that he could just confess all his sins and be rid of them once and for all; let loose  the years of torment that endless worry and endless stress and fear gave him. A rush of memories rose up in his mind, seeming to slow down time and space, bringing to him a wash of instances in his life that shaped him through and through, turning him into a cunning beast. It began with His wife Maria. The first time he laid eyes on her. She was the same age exactly, born in the same hospital, on the very same day, and lived right across the street. “The moment I saw her, I knew I had to have her,” he said, suddenly jumping ahead.


     “Who? Who did you have to have Mr. Maranzano?”


     “My wife Maria. Aren't you listening? Tone, pay attention man! I'm talking here! Trying to tell you a story! Trying to come clean!”


     “Of course Mr. Maranzano, I apologize.” To sweeten the sudden burst of hostility, Anthony said, “I remember you telling me she was the most beautiful girl you ever saw in your life.”


     “She was. You should have seen her.” He clutched his heart now, going back to that day, back to when things were bright and beautiful, back when he was young and had the needs of any young man walking this earth: to belong, to show his worth, to be somebody.”


     “Go on, Mr. Maranzano. Tell me more ”


     “If you've ever seen a hummingbird dancing from petal to petal beneath a rainbow...that's still nowhere near the beauty of Maria. A Goddess in my eyes she was. The moment I saw her I whispered to myself, 'I'm going to marry this one.' And I did.” He took another moment to close his eyes and go back there, back to the old eighbourhood, back to Ducky, Piney, Fat Donnie and Little Luca. He breathed deep, gathering himself for another round, and with a seeming power unbeknownst to him prior to this day – this hour – he clenched his hands over his chest took another breath, fought against a whirlwind of pain shooting through him like barbed wire through his veins, he began, “I had only ever heard about her before then. The guys used to talk about her; the things they would do to her if they had a moment with her behind closed doors. Now, I'm no Saint, Tone...I said a lot of things about a lot of girls in the neighborhood too, but...the moment I saw her...the moment the guys said 'look! There she is! Maria Anastasia.' Life was never the same for me. That's the one time in my life I knew what I wanted, when the beast inside me awoke and came to life for the first time ever.” He stopped and put a shaky hand to his lips, “Tone, get me some water. I need some water before I go on.” He drank as though a great fire was spreading through him, that faraway memory alive with stunning detail alive in his mind, her red lips, so perfect, her dark eyes and long straight hair so perfect. He took a moment for himself to cherish the memory, burning it into every part of his being that he might take it with him when he left this place. 1 comment


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