Oh man, I thought, as the sun, peeking through the blinds, hit my face.
I pulled the covers back over my head, trying to ignore the fact that it
was already ten in the morning. It was the usual time for a
fifteen-year-old to get up on the weekend, but for me, it was actually
late, especially since I had a game at eleven. A big game, with all the
local guys who were like me, living the dream of one day being a Mickey
Mantle, or at least some kind of local hero in the neighborhood, anyway.
While still dressed in my pajamas, I staggered downstairs into the
kitchen, where I was not at all surprised to find Anthony and Tommy were
sitting at the table, eating through a bag of jelly donuts and black and
whites. My dad wasn’t around much, however,the one thing that he
always did was bring home a bag of pastries on Saturday mornings. My
problem was that I was not always quick enough to get any of them.
I lived in a typical Italian home, where everything was decorated
withfloral patterns and all the furniture was covered in plastic. You
know, the kind of furniture that was purchased to impress the relatives
but not the kind anyone could actually sit on. I always wondered why Mom
and Dad thought things were going to get stainedwhen they had a two-inch
thick plastic covering everything. It just never made sense to me, but
then again, nothing made sense in a house where things were old and
rarely used. Even the kitchen was dated, it still had the appliances
from when my parents bought the house in the fifties, the kind with
chrome accents on everything. Today, they sell these things at premium
prices and label them as art-deco. All in all, we had a nice house,
pretty substantial for the time.
“Tommy, you didn’t leave me anything to eat. Why don’t you eat the
pastries at your own house?” I asked him.
“Don’t worry about that, Frank. We’ve got a game today and
besides, you’re always the last one out of bed,” Tommy replied.
“That’s what you fucking get for being lazy.”
“Yup,” Anthony added, as a cloud of powdered sugar blew across the
“Oh, you’re speaking today, Anthony?” I asked. “Nice to see you
have a mouth that’s used for something other than eating.”
Tommy dismissed me. “Never mind him, he doesn’t even know he’s
alive. The only thing he knows how to do best, is what you see, eat.”
Anthony stopped chewing and glared at Tommy, not sure what to say, but
saying a lot with his eyes. While Anthony could be a bit goofy at times,
if his eyes could kill there would be a massacre at the table.
Tommy didn’t seem to notice, but I’m sure he did, because he never
missed anything, especially when it came to Anthony. Let’s be real,
how tough could Anthony look, with jelly and shit all over his mouth?
Make no mistake about him, there was something not quite right about
Anthony, and it all started with the daggers he could throw when he
focused in on you. To tell you the truth, it kind of freaked me out a
little. But then again, that was just Anthony.
As for Tommy, well that was another story altogether. You always felt
Tommy’s presence, even as a teenager, he was always leading the crew,
out front and aggressive. Tommy was not one of those guys to sit in the
shadows and it was evident early on who he had taken after.
My mother and Tommy’s father were sister and brother. Tommy’s
father married his high school sweetheart. They were a good-natured
couple, kind, loving, and caring, the compassionate kind of people that
were always there for you. One would think he would have taken after
his parents. The difference here was that the gene skipped a generation
and Tommy ended up emulating our grandfather, Salvatore DePriati, who
stayed with us, in a bedroom on the second floor of our house.
While Grandpa was unassuming at home, in reality, he was a ruthless
Sicilian, who was in the business of running numbers, gentlemen’s
clubs and at times, murder for hire. Really, anything that paid and paid
well. The other thing about Grandpa was that he was not the kind of
gangster who wore silk suits, ties, or flashy get-ups. Grandpa, or
“Sally Balls,” as he was known on the streets, was a unique
individual. He looked like Dean Martin, dapper and debonair, and he sang
like him, too.
However, Grandpa’s style did not cross over in his clothes, where he
always had a flair for a tacky Florida look. If you ever saw him, even
in the winter in New York, you would swear he was headed to some kind of
beach party. He loved shirts with palm trees and his “special
occasion” one was littered with a thousand pink flamingos. You could
see him coming from miles away and although his shirts were comical, his
demeanor was one you feared and revered all at the same time. And trust
me when I say, if you were on his shit list, you never wanted to see him
“Good morning, guys,” Grandpa said.
Anthony and I looked up and replied, “Good morning,” in unison
before returning to the details of the breakfast table.
But not Tommy, no, not Tommy. You see, Tommy worshiped Grandpa and as
soon as he saw him enter the room, he jumped out of his chair, planting
a kiss on each of Grandpa’s cheeks, just like they do in the old
country. It was like straight out of a movie and I did everything I
could not tolaugh because I knew what would come next and Grandpa could
knock you silly with a good shot to the back of the head.
I was waiting to see if Tommy would kiss his ring, but before that could
happen, Grandpa interrupted, telling Tommy, “Make sure you drop this
bag off after you get done playing, same place as yesterday.”
Tommy grabbed the bag, his chest all puffed out as if he had just been
bestowed an Academy Award or something. The poor slob then lost his
tongue and was at a loss for words, leaving Grandpa to believe that
Tommy was a kid who could be trusted to do a job and keep his mouth shut
in the process. What was clear to us was that Grandpa had started the
grooming process and Tommy was his protégé.
Before heading out of the kitchen, Grandpa turned, saying, “And
Thomas, don’t disappoint me.” Well, that was all it tookbecause
Anthony and I immediately knew what Tommy was thinking.
Excerpted from "The Beginning: alliance" by Rob Caluori. Copyright © 2018 by Rob Caluori. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.