From the author: Walk on the dark side of life. Feel it! Taste it! Smell it! A tale of the evolution of Frankie Fiore, from a young man working in his father's shoe store, to a hoodlum working the streets of New York.
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In none of his fantasies did Louie Fiore ever see himself as the owner of a shoe repair store on Cropsey Avenue in Brooklyn, not Louis Fiore, no sir; he had big dreams! What happened, Louie? What happened? he asks himself. Here he is, fifty-five years old, fixing shoes. What happened? Louie ponders the question again this day. He gazes now at a distorted image of himself in the cracked, time speckled mirror hanging on the wall over the sink in the tiny, smelly lavatory at the rear of his shoe store. His fingers explore the tiny crows' feet beginning to appear in the corners of his eyes. He examines the gray hairs showing at his temples. With an audible sigh, he makes his way to the front of the dusty shop through cluttered aisles of discarded cobbler paraphernalia and numerous pairs of repaired but abandoned shoes.
Up front, a young man works at the noisy shoe lathe, guiding a size 12 men's Oxford over the grinding and then the polishing wheel. He applies brown dye to the leather edge of the sole, then gives it a final polish. It is apparent he is related to Louie, although younger and better looking. It is as if Louie is the rough mold, and this young man the completed model. He is a dark, wiry and almost handsome young man of twenty-five. Frankie Fiore is the older of Louie's two sons.
Generally speaking, Frankie does a good job in the store and Louie knows and appreciates the help his son gives him when he needs it. Occasionally though, when he isn't paying attention to the work at hand, or perhaps paying too much attention to some cute female passing the store window, Frankie pays the price by scorching a finger or two on one of the polishing wheels. Louie dons his apron as he moves behind the counter. Above the noise of the machines, he mutters to Frankie, "How long has he been here?" indicating a man sitting, reading a newspaper at one of the three shoe-shine stations facing the counter. "He just came in. Why?" "Nothin', nothin'. I haven't seen him in a while, I just wonder what he wants?" Frankie shrugs and continues working on the shoes. Louie is about to address the man, when a customer enters the store. ..
Hello, Louie," she greets him. "Are my shoes ready?"
"I've got 'em right here, Mrs. Frantangelo." He takes a pair of lady's pumps from a shelf and places them in a recycled supermarket bag.
"A pair of lifts. That's seven fifty."
He takes the ten-dollar bill the woman hands him, counts out her change, and watches her exit the store. He then turns his attention to the man seated at the shoeshine station.
"What d'ya say, Jimmy? Long time no see," he calls out above the din of the machine.
Ignoring the greeting, Jimmy Provitera tosses down the paper.
"Them fuckin Mets ain't worth a shit," he says.
"What'd they beat ya for?" Louie asks.
"Naw, nothin' much, a few bucks. That's not the point. They just stink like shit this year."
Jimmy steps down from the shoeshine stand and moves closer to the counter where Frankie is working. "What's the sense in havin' these shoe shine stands here if you don't have nobody to shine shoes?" he says.
"They were here when I bought the store," says Louie, sounding irritated. "Hey Frankie," Jimmy calls out over the noise. "Come on over here and shine my shoes."
"My son doesn't shine shoes, Jimmy! What are you doin?" asks Louie, the color rising in his face.
"I'm just messin' with ya, Louie. Calm down." Then turning to Frankie he says, "Frankie, turn off the machine for a minute, there's somethin' I wanna ask ya."
Frankie looks to his father for acquiescence. Louie nods. Frankie hits the button and the machine begins its whining slowdown.
"Ah, that's better," says Jimmy. "Look, I thought ya might wanna make a few bucks - that is, if it's OK with the Old Man," he says, looking toward Louie.
Louie stops what he's doing. "What's he gotta do?" he asks.
"Look, look, the Old Man is getting' all fuckin' nervous. It's nothin'. I just want'im to make a delivery for me, that's all." Jimmy puts a hand on Louie's shoulder. "Don't get your balls in a tangle, Louie."
"What kind of delivery?" Louie persists.
Frankie wipes the shoe dye from his hands and steps around the counter.
"C' mon, Pop, what're you doin? This ain't the first time I've worked for Jimmy."
"Dat's right," Jimmy chimes in. "Besides, don't ya think he's old enough to make up his own mind? For Chris' sake, Louie, I'm his Cumpare. Ya think I'm gonna hurt the kid? How old are ya now, Frankie?"
"Twenty-five," says Frankie.
"Twenty-five," Jimmy repeats. "He ain't no fuckin' kid anymore. Use your head and don't worry so much Louie, you'll have a stroke." Jimmy buttons his jacket and straightens his tie.
"I gotta get goin," he says as he turns to Frankie. "If the Old Man'll let ya, come by the club this afternoon and I'll fill ya in. I'll catch you guys later," he says as he goes out the door.
Frankie hits the switch on the shoe lathe and goes back to repairing shoes. Glancing over he can't help noticing Louie fidgeting nearby, busying himself by sorting customers' shoes while mouthing obscenities under his breath. Unable to contain himself, he walks over to his father.
"What's up, Pop?" Frankie asks.
"I know you're a grown man, Frankie and you can make your own decisions, but please, I don't want ya to get involved with Jimmy, he's trouble."
"Why? What do you mean? Didn't you and him grow up together? I always thought you two were pals."
"We grew up together, but we were never pals. We went to the same school, but that was it. We hardly ran into each other." Realizing they were shouting over the roar of the shoe lathe, Frankie shuts down the machine. "He's my Godfather. How come?" asks Frankie.
"I don't have a good answer. To this day, I don't know why. When the time came for you to be baptized, he told me he'd like to be your Godfather. I guess I didn't know how to say no. Your mother was pissed."
Frankie cocks his head and raises a brow. "I don't get it. What is so bad about having Jimmy as my Godfather?"
"He's not the kind of guy we wanted you to look up to, that's what.
"I hardly ever saw him," Frankie says.
"And we’re real happy about that," Louie says.
"I ain't stupid, Pop, I can take care of myself."
"I know you can, kid," Louie says. "You're very intelligent. I only wish you woulda finished school. Look how good your brother Ray's doin', God bless him. Next week he takes the Bar Exam. Would ya believe it? A lawyer in the family."
"Ray's different - For me, school was boring, but you don't have to worry about me, Pop, I'll be okay." Louie sighs, "I hope so, Frankie, I hope so."
The store window is painted black and the faded gold lettering states: BAYRIDGE ROD AND GUN CLUB in large letters. Beneath it in smaller letters: MEMBERS ONLY. The late afternoon sun funnels a shaft of light through a hole in the paint, purposely left as a peephole to monitor activity near the entryway.
The front room of the store is old and musty. Years of tobacco smoke clings to the dust-laden green drapes that frame the painted out front windows. Years ago these decorations were some member's wife's idea of the latest decor. The acrid smell of stale beer has also left its evidence.
On one side of the room is a huge ornate oak bar. Behind the bar is a huge mirror, its frame decorated with carvings of Cherubs and Seraphim strumming on lyres. The mirror itself is badly in need of re-silvering and is clouded with years of tobacco smoke accumulations never removed. The bar is fully stocked with a large assortment of expensive wines and liquors.
An old, large round poker table with a faded green felt covering and room for up to eight players is situated in the center of the room. In front of each player position is a trough set in the table that can hold that player's poker chips. An old style light fixture with a green metal shade hangs over the center of the table.
It is late afternoon and four men sit around the table, playing poker. Jimmy Provitera is dealing. To his right is Massimo "Max" Quaranta. Seated next to him is Gino Tancredi. Sonny Sasso completes the foursome. Jimmy addresses Gino to his left.
"How many?" he says.
"Three," Gino replies. Jimmy deals them out, and looks toward Sonny sitting across from him.
"Gimme one," Sonny says.
"What the fuck you got?" Jimmy asks.
"You pay, you see," Sonny says. Jimmy turns to Max, seated to his right.
"I'll take two cards," Max says.
"Dealer takes three," Jimmy says and deals himself three cards.
They examine their cards...after a few seconds Jimmy, getting impatient, says, "Whattia do, Gino?"
"Just a second I'm thinking," Gino says... then he slowly, deliberately, examines his hand, sliding open one card at a time, making a grunting sound with each card he views. He fidgets and fumes as he ponders his hand.
"C'mon, c'mon Gino, this ain't fuckin' brain surgery," Sonny says.
"Okay, Okay, hold your horses," Gino says.
"Va, fangool. Make your fuckin' bet!" Jimmy says.
"Alright, alright, I bet a hundred," Gino finally says, as he puts his money in the pot.
All the others ante up.
"About time," says Sonny. "I see you and raise you two." They toss their money in the middle.
Max, who has been sitting quietly says, "I see you and raise you five hundred."
"Aw shit," laments Gino and folds his hand.
Jimmy pushes some money into the pot. "I guess I got to stay in to keep you guys honest... I'll see you. What have you got?" he says.
"Three deuces," Max says.
"Shit!...beats me. Two pair," says Sonny, throwing down his cards.
Max starts raking in the money on the table.
"Whoa, what are you doing?... not so fast. I got a full boat," Jimmy says, as he flashes his cards to Max and quickly mixes them in with the discards on the table.
"Tough shitsky, boys," he says as he rakes in the money.
Max stiffens in his seat, as he sees his winnings vanishing. "Wait!" he yells. "I didn't see your hand. Let me see the fuckin' cards."
Jimmy's face reddens. "Are you doubting my veracity," he says.
"Do I doubt your what?" Max asks. "I don't know if I do, because I don't know what you said. I just know we didn't see your cards before you threw them away."
Max looks around the table seeking corroboration, but finds none, as Gino and Sonny avoid eye contact with him.
Jimmy's face is now a deep crimson and the veins in his large nose noticeably protrude.
"What I said was, are you calling me a fuckin' liar?" he says.
Sonny and Gino exchange looks.
"I uh, no, but jeez, Jimmy, ya gotta show your cards before you throw them in," pleads Max.
"I showed them to you, you fuckin' moron. Now deal the fuckin' cards and shut up," Jimmy says.
Max persists, "Aw, jeez, Jimmy, it just ain't right, we're supposed to be friends here and..."
Jimmy abruptly cuts him off. "Are you gonna shut up, or do we have to listen to your bullshit all fuckin' day?"
Max is whining now.
"I'm not axin for much, Jimmy. Axe these guys," he says, indicating Sonny and Gino, "they feel the same way. Right, guys? There's gotta be some trust between us and..."
Before Max can finish the sentence, Jimmy springs out of his chair and furiously throws his cards into Max's face. Max is stunned and sits paralyzed as Jimmy picks up his chair and slams it across his head.
"Goddamn it, you keep goin' on and on," he shouts as he pummels Max with the chair.
"You don't know when the fuck to shut up,” he says, as he repeatedly beats on him.
Sonny and Gino move away from the table. They know better than to interfere.
The beating continues until Max slides off his chair, an unconscious, bloody mess.
Sonny and Gino now feel it's safe to intervene. "I think maybe that's enough, Jimmy, you're gonna kill him," Sonny says.
"Yeah, take it easy, Jimmy," Gino adds.
Jimmy throws down the chair and walks to the bar. He pours himself a whiskey. He sits at the bar sipping his drink as Gino and Sonny pick up a battered Max and carry him out of the room.
Max's face is a bloody mess and he has a huge gash across one cheek.
Jimmy walks back to the table with his drink, and sits down.
A tale of the evolution of Frankie Fiore, from a young man working in his father's shoe store, to a hoodlum working the streets of New York. Recruited by the local mob boss to do collections, Frankie successfully climbs the crime ladder until the day his partner steals the boss' money. Frankie and his partner then become the subjects of a contract put out on their lives.
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