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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Mafioso Holiday! by Stuart R. West



“Shut up, shut up, already.” Carmelo stood, hefted up his jogging sweats. “I know it was hard for some of you to come out today, so thanks to all you guys.”

“Anything for you, Don.” The men around the table nodded. Even though the suck-up ritual bored Don Carmelo, so predictable, he’d have it no other way.

“Alright, it’s Thanksgiving. We got lots to give thanks for.” Carmelo tilted his wine glass toward his nephew, Sammy, then considered dumping the contents on him. Always with the same satisfied after-sex-looking, nobody home smile. Clearly the boy’d inherited his mother’s genes, not Carmelo’s smarts. “Alright. Who wants to start dinner with a prayer?”

Grmmmbbb, gurm, spack, tack, tack tack

“Damn it, Sal!” Carmelo slammed down his wine glass onto the table. The stem broke, spilling red wine onto the tablecloth. “Sal! I thought you were closing down the bowling lanes today!”

Sal’s sun-burned head popped in, a towel over his shoulder. “Sorry, Carm. I’ll kick ‘em out now. Thought the word got out we were shut down today. I­—”

Carmelo didn’t wait for his cousin to finish, kicked the door closed.

“Alright, alright, don’t worry ‘bout it.” He patted the air with one hand, tugged his sweats tight with the other. All these years, his wife still didn’t know how to fit him. He reclaimed his spot at the head of the table. “Prayer. We need a prayer. Sliver Jimmy?”

Jimmy groused back and forth, a groundhog checking for his shadow. “Ah…okay, I’ll give it a shot.” He crossed himself, the others followed. “Dear Mary, mother of God, please, ah…give us thanks for…our money. Help us not to get busted for the protection we offer, ‘cause it’s a good thing…the gambling—”

“Whoa, whoa, stop!”  Like a referee, Carm kicked at the table. “You can’t use the blessed Mary’s name in vain like that, idiot! Have some respect! Don’t be talkin’ ‘bout our work in the same breath as Mother Mary.”

Jimmy offered up begging palms. “What’d I do? What?”

“Shut up, that’s what. Howie? How ‘bout you do better? Can’t get any worse.”

Howie trumpeted his nostrils, worse than a sick elephant, then crossed himself. “Thank you, God, for all the sick, the needy—”

“Why’re you thankin’ God for the sick, dumb-ass?” offered Gordon. “Should be askin’ God to cure ‘em.”

“Shut up, Gordo. Let Howie finish.” Sweat streamed down Carm’s forehead. His kids were easier to manage then his work zoo.

“Thanks, Carm….and, um, God. Anyways…” Howie zipped through a quick body cross. “…fix the needy, the sick, the stupid…” Snickering from around the table tossed Howie off his religious game. He licked his lips, clamped his eyes down hard as if summoning his inner angel. Howie was no genius, the proof was in the prayer. Carm could practically count Howie’s brain-cells struggling to form a real thought, visible stress lines folding his forehead. “And, dear God, thanks for not letting us get whacked like Mikey did last year. It really sucked and—”

“Whoa!” Carm brought down a gavel-like fist. “Just shut that right now! You hear me?”

“Why, boss?” Howie’s eyes roved left, right, up. “Feds listenin’ in?”

“No, numb-nuts! But God is! Does anyone here…anyone…even know what Thanksgivin’s all about?”

No one spoke. Eyes wandered. Voices hushed. The way Carm liked it. Respect.

But there’s always a fly in the ointment.

Milo frowned, one of his two expressions. “Carm…not that I’m complainin’ or nothin’ but…ain’t Thanksgivin’ ‘sposed to be about good food and crap like that?” He tapped his cheeseburger down on his plate like a pack of cigarettes. Dink dink dink. “I mean, listen to that…friggin’ microwave burgers got bread like cement. Not that I’m complainin’.”

“You like cement, Milo?”

Milo displayed his second expression: deer in the headlights. He shook his head, wisely said nothing.

“Doubt you’d like to wear it either. So shut your hole. This is about celebrating. Sal was nice enough to provide us with a turkey day dinner—”

“But, boss, it ain’t turkey.”

Carm couldn’t believe the lack of respect. Without him, his men—his brothers­—would be nothing, have nothing. Now they had the gall to gripe about a meal he gathered them together for to celebrate the holiday. As Carm’s wife always reminded him to do, something she brought back from her expensive therapy sessions, he took a deep breath. A couple more. Tried to think mindfully (whatever the hell that meant, like there wasn’t any other way) and send bad thoughts away on a cloud. Once he’d passed Defcon-2, he dropped his finger from the gun he had squirreled away in his jacket.

“No, Milo, it ain’t turkey. You jackasses rather eat tofurkey?”

“What the hell’s tofurkey?”

“Dunno. But it tastes like ass. It’s what my wife’s creatin’ right now. You guys rather go to my house for Thanksgivin’?”

More jowls shook than a dog-pound packed with basset hounds.

“Then shut up already. Eat your burgers, be damn grateful.” Carm ignored his nephew’s less than manly attempt at a hand-clap, fingers-splayed and barely making noise.. Goofy kid stood out more than a festering pimple. “Anybody else wanna’ give a prayer a stab? Try and nail Thanksgiving? Do it up right?”

No one volunteered.

“Fine, whatever.” Carm sighed, making a huge production of it. Bright Broadway lights and “a-oogah” horns were the only way to get into these numbskull’s noggins. “I’ll take it. I always do.” He crossed himself, looked upward with a head-shake. Felt a kinship with Jesus for his suffering. Not that he’d place himself in the same league, of course. “Okay…” He cleared his throat.

“Dear Mary, mother of God, Jesus and, you know, God Himself…we’re all gathered here today to give thanks. Thanks for everything you’ve granted us. Given us. Will give us in the future. Knock on wood.”

Table taps danced all around. A few “amens.” One idiot offered a “salud,” any opportunity for a drink.

“We’re blessed with good health…” Jimmy hacked out an unhealthy sounding cough, a reminder of his three packs a day habit. “…mostly. And we’re blessed with beautiful families…” Carm peeped open an eye, checking to see that his nephew was still there, not just a bad dream. “…for the most part. “But, you know—”

Brrrm brrrm brrrm spack tak tak!

Carm heard the noise—felt the noise—deep into his bowels. He wanted to scream into the bowling alley, blast a cap in the errant bowlers’ direction. But, no…deep breaths. Don’t lose cool. Lead by example. Hell with it. “Sal! Sal, dammit! Get yer ass in here before I rip you a new one!”

Sal, redder then his usual blustery burgundy, stuck his head back in the door. “Yo, sorry, Carm. It’s their last game. You know…I thought I’d let ‘em play it out. Spirit of Thanksgivin’ and all.”

Carm considered himself a softie at heart. He’d give Sal a beat down tomorrow. Wouldn’t be appropriate on Thanksgiving. “Fine. Just get ‘em outta’ here already.” Sal slowly left, looking like a kicked dog.

“Alright. Jesus….I mean, sorry.” For extra protection, Carm crossed himself again. He knew enough about the protection game to not hedge his bets. “Sure, God, we make a lotta’ bank by providin’ protection. Sometimes it hurts some people. But, you know, they’re bad people. And we’re doin’ good work. Protectin’ the good people of our land. Just like the Pilgrims.”

“Well, howdy, pahd-nuh, I reckon—”

Carm castrated Howie’s pathetic John Wayne imitation with a slashing glare.

“Forgive them, God, they don’t know how stupid they are. Anyway…the Pilgrims I was talkin’ about. Our great ancestor, Christopher Columbus…” Whispers derailed Carm’s train of thought. “You idiots got somethin’ you wanna’ say?”

“Is Christopher Columbus Uncle Benny’s cousin?” asked Milo.

“No, dumb-ass,” said Howie, “it’s that TV detective with the glass eye. You know…” He pulled his collar up and hunched over. “Just one more thing—”

“Shut up, already! Columbus was our Italian ancestor who discovered America!” Carm pounded the table until his fist felt numb. “Buncha’ idiots! You gonna’ let me continue or what?”

Silence supplied the answer. “As I was sayin’, God…the great Columbus showed us the way. Swoopin’ in, takin’ what’s rightfully ours. The strong shall inherit the earth as the Good Book says. Wipin’ out the weak and makin’ bank. So, in the name of the father, the holy spirit, the three wise guys, Mary, of course, and all that other stuff…Amen.”

Blank stares met Carm. “I said, ‘Amen!’” This time a wave of affirmation met him, the proper response. “Now…let’s eat.”

“Um…Uncle Carm?”

Carm had a forkful of spaghetti raised, ready to devour. Leave it to his idiot nephew to ruin an appetite. “What now, Sammy?”

“I, um, don’t really think that’s what Thanksgiving’s about.” Sammy ducked his head into his polo shirt, a yuppie turtle. First time the boy’d ever spoken out.

“Oh, yeah, school boy? You think you know better?”

Sammy’s cheeks blushed. But he nodded. More cajones than Carm thought he had on him. Still disrespectful, though.

“Well…please. Enlighten us all.” Carm waved his hand out. Everyone laughed. Unlike his nephew, his family—his real family—knew how to show respect.

“Okay. Everyone…let’s join hands.”

The men looked at one another, more embarrassed than a priest at a nudist colony.

Humoring his nephew, Carm said, “Fine, just do it.”

Tiny Dancer coughed, dabbed his mouth with his tucked in napkin, and said, “Come on, Carm. This is—”

“Shut up, Tiny, just do it!”

Hands were grasped, awkward glances shared. Things they’d never speak about again.

Sammy closed his eyes. “Dear God, thank you for gracing us with people we love. People we break bread with. Like the Pilgrims and the Native-Americans did on the original Thanksgiving…learning, sharing and giving. Uniting us into a nation-wide family, one that goes beyond the bonds of blood. We’re thankful for those bonds of love. Nothing’s more important than love. Amen.”

An uncustomary hush dropped over the room. Even Tiny Dancer’s oxygen machine-like mouth-breathing lowered a level. Sammy smiled, nearly beatific, practically farting haloes.

A strange surge of emotion overwhelmed Carm. Unbelievably, his nephew’s prayer moved him. But he wouldn’t show it, not professional.

Leaning over, Carm slapped the back of Sammy’s head. “Show some damn respect next time, Sammy. You’re only here ‘cause of your sister. Now let’s eat.”

While the others dug into bowling alley cuisine, fully invested, Carm nudged his nephew with his shoulder. Gave him a loving, family-style wink.

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Hey! My first book, Tex, the Witch Boy is FREE now through the end of November! If you're late to the party, pull up a chair and feast on a YA paranormal, mystery, thriller, comedy, romance tale. Tex, the Witch Boy. Did I tell you it's free, just a click away? Nothing to lose, thrills guaranteed. (Plus, if anyone guesses the identity of the murderer before book's end, they'll get a special "attaboy" call-out from me).


For more of Stuart R. West's adult and young adult suspense tales filled with light heart and dark humor, check out his Amazon page.
And please do check out Stuart's blog featuring weekly rants, failed stand-up comedy routines and incisive author interviews: Twisted Tales From Tornado Alley
 Brand spankin' new and creeptacular trailer for Ghosts of Gannaway

While I've got you here, and if you're feeling particularly adventurous, check out my book, Zombie Rapture