Fiction Saturday – “And Pull The Hole In After You” – Continued
Fiction Saturday – Continued
She had loved the party celebrating her First Holy Communion. She loved the white dress that looked so much like a small wedding dress as she walked down the aisle at St. Rocco’s Church. She felt like she was getting married to Jesus. It was a little Catholic girl’s dream. It was a holy day for the family.
In the family room, the kids gathered about the table that was piled high with gifts. Wrapping paper with pictures of horses and bright ribbon were everywhere. Twelve little girls and boys were dressed in their best. The boys wore suits and several of the other girls wore their First Communion dresses. The mothers in the room were beaming.
Twelve boys and girls, all of whom were the children of her father’s friends. Family was Family. Outsiders were never allowed inside, even if that outsider was a seven-year-old classmate and lived across the street.
On a side table sat a twelve-hundred dollar crystal punch bowl filled with a bright red lake of Hawaiian Punch.
In the kitchen, a smaller party was taking place. Six men sat around the table drinking wine and beer, smoking cigars and waiting for a seventh man to arrive.
On every day of the year there was business to take care of. Not even a First Holy Communion party could interfere.
The children giggled and played party games. The mothers stood by and drank martinis. The fathers sat in the kitchen and talked about the past, the future, and loyalty. When they heard “Ave Maria” being sung, they paused to cross themselves and raise their glasses in a toast to young Beverly.
When the seventh man arrived with his wife and daughter there was laughter, drinks, and another gift to add to the mountain already there. The mood was light throughout the house, but business was always business. Moods can change.
Beverly was in her heaven. She was the focus of all attention in the room and her First Communion dress was the prettiest. In her mind, she was also the hostess of the party, welcoming guests, taking their coats and pouring the punch. Her mother, Laura, was proud and amused, but she would handle the knife when it came time to cut the cake.
Like wives and mothers everywhere, the women had their eyes and ears on both their children and their men. When the voices in the kitchen got too loud, it was Beverly’s mother who took control.
“Gentlemen, please keep it down. We can hear you all the way into the family room, and clean up your language, for Christ’s sake.”
She looked at the men. Some of them were standing. There were some red faces and flared nostrils. Wine-fueled anger was moving into rage. She had seen this in her men all of her life.
“Take it outside. I will not have you apes disturbing my daughter’s party. Outside, now! Take it into the backyard and take those stinkpot cigars with you.”
They all looked at her, nodded and obeyed.
Most of them had guns, but this was her kitchen and, therefore, her turf. Even her husband grabbed his wineglass and headed out the door and down the steps into the backyard.
In the family room, the mothers organized a game of musical chairs, hoping to burn off some of the kid’s sugar-stoked energy.
Out back, on the concrete slab patio, the anger that had moved from the kitchen was erupting. Everyone was seated in a folding lawn chair except one man: Giani Montini.
“Paul, did you steal from me?” he asked the most recent arrival.
“No. I told you inside I didn’t steal nothing from you, Giani. Not a penny.” Paul Incaviglia was nervous being the focus of Giani Montini’s attention like this.
“Paul, I know you skimmed me.” His voice grew loud as he paced around the yard. “You think I don’t have a count even before it comes to you? Your people are my people too, Paul.”
A large man, who was seated in an aluminum lawn chair, testing the limits of its tensile strength, spoke up.
“Paul, we all skim a little, right? Why do you lie? You insult Giani when you lie. Just say ‘Yes, I skimmed a little’, and we can go in and get some cake.”
Incaviglia, who managed a string of sandwich shops for the Family, was in deep water, and he knew it.
The shops, on the surface strictly legitimate, were used to launder cash from other, less-traditional enterprises. For years, he had been siphoning off a few hundred dollars a month. Like the fat man in the lawn chair had said, “We all skim a little,” but Paul had upped his taste to several thousand a month. He was getting greedy with someone else’s stolen money.
A thief can and will steal from just about anybody, but a thief inside the Family dare not steal too much from another thief. “Too much” is when it becomes obvious. You should not make anyone look foolish.
Paul was being backed into a corner. He knew that if he admitted to skimming, he was in trouble, but if he continued to deny it, in the face of the facts, he was in bigger trouble. He chose what he hoped was the better way out.
“I skimmed. I apologize and I ask you to forgive me, Giani.” He bowed his head and tried to look remorseful. He was scared.
A burst of applause spilled out from the house.
“Hooray for me! I won!” yelled Beverly.
“Of course you won, you’re the Communion Girl,” said her beaming mother.
“Can we cut the cake now? Please, mommy!”
“I’ll get the plates,” said Beverly and the little hostess skipped off into the kitchen. “I’ll remember this party forever and ever,” she added with a big smile on her face.
Back outside Giani had stopped pacing and was standing in front of Paul Incaviglia, who was crying, his shoulders heaving with each breath.
“You admit that you skimmed from me?” Montini lowered his face close to the sandwich maker, who winced at each word, as if in pain.
“You don’t steal from me, Paul, not from my family, not from my little girl in there.” He pointed at the house. His voice was shaking with anger.
“Yes, I admit it and, again, I ask you to forgive me and to give me another chance.” Paul folded his hands as if in prayer.
“Another chance to steal from me?” Giani slapped the man’s face.
“No, never again, I swear. How can I atone?” He knew now that it was too late.
“You can’t, Paul,” said one of the other men. They all got up out of their chairs and formed a circle around the desperate man.
Paul Incaviglia felt his insides drop.
“Please, Giani, don’t. We go back.”
“Not that far,” Montini answered, his voice soft and in complete control again.
“Please, not here. Not now,” Paul pleaded. “My wife and baby are here, inside the house, for God’s sake. It’s your girl’s First Communion. Please?”
His pleas were useless. He knew they would be. He wouldn’t listen if the situation was reversed. He knew the rules.
“Oh, my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended you. I detest all my sins because of your just punishment but, most of all, because they offend you, my God, Who art all good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve….”
If Giani wouldn’t forgive him, maybe God would.
Beverly struggled with the stack of cake plates, trying to get them back to the family room without dropping them. She focused her attention on her task as familiar words came up through the kitchen window from the back yard.
“I firmly resolve, with the help of Your grace, to sin no more and to avoid the near occasion of sin.”
Her arms filled, she moved over to the window and looked to see who was making an Act of Contrition in her backyard.
Looking down she could see her father and his friends. Her father looked angry. His face was red.
Her Daddy, the man who made the sun rise every morning and the moon glow every night, had a length of plastic clothes line looped around the neck of Donna Incaviglia’s daddy.
As the force of the cord increased on his windpipe Paul Incaviglia’s head fought for air and fell back. He looked up. With his life slipping away, he saw an angel looking down at him from heaven. A beautiful angel dressed all in white.
Beverly was transfixed by the scene in front of her. She and Donna’s daddy made eye contact. She looked down from the window, into his terrified eyes. His body was convulsing as it struggled for oxygen.
He kept his eyes locked on the angel. He knew that she was there to guide him on his way to God. He looked at her until his crime was erased.
In the family room, everyone heard Beverly scream. The children in the family room stopped in their tracks and all the mothers rushed to embrace their babies. Beverly’s mother ran to the kitchen.
When Beverly screamed, the men in the yard froze. Even the corpse seemed to react. They all looked up at the girl in the window, who continued to scream, even as they rushed to get Donna’s daddy out of view. Beverly’s father ran up the steps and came through the door just as her mother entered into the room.
“Beverly, what’s wrong? What happened?”
She stopped screaming when she saw her father’s still red face. He tried to calm her.
“Sweetheart, easy girl, everything’s okay. We were just playing.”
His wife looked at him.
“What did you do? What’s happening here?”
Giani’s wife went to the window and saw Paul Incaviglia’s feet disappearing around the corner of the house.
“Mommy, Daddy killed Donna’s daddy.”
The stunned mother turned back and faced her husband.
“What in the…? Are you insane? You do this here, with his wife and child in the house? In front of our daughter? You stupid son of …” The madder she got the quieter her voice became.
“Honey, I didn’t know she was here. I didn’t know she was looking.” He was speaking barely above a whisper. His wife put herself between him and Beverly.
“This is our home,” she whispered back through clenched teeth. “This is where we live. This is wrong.”
“This is business.” His tone was darkening. She was expected to understand. She had grown up on the inside.
She turned around and faced her daughter who was standing silently, still holding the stack of plates, staring at the kitchen window. Giani’s wife took the plates and set them carefully on the kitchen counter, then turned to her husband again.
“This is our home. Things like this are not done here. Business is no excuse.” Laura was as angry as he had ever seen his her.
“Today is Beverly’s First Holy Communion. You are a disgrace to our family and to my family. Get this mess cleaned up. Do you know that now I have to go back in there and look at Paul’s wife and little Donna and pretend that I don’t know what’s happened out here?”
As angry as she was, she kept her voice low, barely audible, so only he could hear her.
“Damn you, Giani. You and your boys get out of here. I don’t want to see you here again today. I’m going to tell my father about this and I hope he…Just go.” She censored herself because Beverly was standing there in tears.
“Get out of my house.”
Giani went back into the yard, spoke to his men and then walked down the driveway. He didn’t come back for two weeks.
Laura smoothed her hair, and taking her daughter’s hand, sat down on a wooden kitchen chair and looked into Beverly’s tear-filled eyes. Kissing her daughter on the cheek, she tried to find a way to explain this away.
“Honey, I need you to listen to me. What you saw in the yard was…it was a game. Your daddy and Donna’s daddy were playing a game. They were pretending, like one of those crazy shows on the TV. They didn’t really hurt Donna’s daddy.”
“No, Honey. They were just pretending, like on TV.”
“It scared me, Mommy. He looked so frightened. His eyes….” She buried her face in her mother’s shoulder, sobbing.
“I know, dear, I know.” She rocked back and forth comforting her daughter. “They shouldn’t have been playing like that. Don’t worry, I won’t let them play that game here, ever again, I promise.” She stroked her child’s hair.
“Now, listen to me, Beverly. We still have a party to enjoy in the family room. So, why don’t we dry those tears of yours,” she said, taking a tissue from her pocket, “and go back to your party and have some cake? Would you like that? I know I would.” Beverly let her Mommy dry her tears.
“Yes, Mommy, I’d like that. We have guests who will want some of my cake.” She managed a small smile and wiped her nose on her sleeve.
“Okay, Beverly, let me carry the plates and…let’s not say anything about your daddy’s silly game to the others, all right?”
Holding hands, they walked back into the party and served cake to all of the kids. Beverly gave Donna an extra big slice.
Beverly’s father left the house and stayed away. When his wife was angry he knew it was time to go to Miami and stay there until she cooled down.
It was his wife’s side of the family that was well-connected. Her threats were not idle. He knew that she could make one phone call and he would follow Paul Incaviglia.
As time passed, Beverly’s father rose within the Family until he became the most powerful, something he never became inside his home.