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"Ram"
by Peter Koronakos

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D. L. Sansone

Boxes

It had been more than 20 years since Maurizio “Momo” Adamo had been on the job, and he missed the old life. Not that things weren’t good in retirement; life was better at age 77 than he had any right to expect. At Sing Sing, he’d hammered his share of license plates, stayed out of trouble, counseled the young ones, even assisted at Sunday Mass. By the time he was released for good behavior, he was too old for anyone—not the Feds, not even his underworld enemies— to come after him.

Luckily, Maurizio’s wife Roseanne was a good money manager. She’d invested their nest egg wisely while Momo was gone, and was able to buy a nice new two-bedroom condo in Edgewater, with a river view of lower Manhattan, the Brooklyn Heights Promenade and the container terminal not far from Big Louie’s Storage. Many young families lived in the complex, but also plenty of their kind, from Newark or Bay Ridge; with their parents long gone, their offspring all on their own and no more businesses to go to, they would meet for espresso, chess or bocce during the week, and visit their children and grandkids in the suburbs on weekends. It was only a short ride on the PATH train, or a pleasant drive in Momo’s old red Lincoln Town Car, to the best gannol and gabbagool that Bleecker Street had to offer.

But Maurizio Adamo was not happy. He longed to be a useful member of society and to his family. He’d found great satisfaction mentoring the young criminals upstate. When he mentioned doing some kind of social work, Roseanne was against it. “They’ll stab ya as soon as look atcha,” she warned whenever Momo spoke wistfully of perhaps tutoring high school kids in the city. “You wanna be useful?” the petite siciliana would ask, taking a deep drag of the Parliament she smoked to keep her figure. “Heah,” she’d say, beckoning towards their streaky glass patio doors with a spray bottle of Windex. “Charity begins at home, Momo, an’ aftuh all I done while you was gone, you owe me.”

Maurizio couldn’t have agreed more. He adored the woman who raised his son and daughter and kept their home while he was incarcerated. As often as she was allowed to, Roseanne had dutifully traveled to Ossining in a van with other inmates’ wives, to visit Momo and show him photos of the milestones he was missing; birthdays and graduations, the births of their five grandchildren. Not once had she berated him for his life of crime. He would weep bitterly when she left, feeling at once blessed and bereft. A mook like him didn’t deserve such a good woman, he thought.

Momo Adamo was a sentimental man who cared deeply about his family, his life and his work. In the old days, back on the job, the boys used to kid him about his weird attachments.

“Momo, yaw savin’ a fuckin’ sock?” taunted Benny Borelli on that dark night back in August of 1988, as they pushed a heavy black garbage bag off the levee near the Holland Tunnel exhaust tower. In those days, Momo was still a cleanup guy for Borelli’s father Gaetano.

“I jus’ wanna remembuh da doity bastid, a’right?” Momo wiped the sweat off his brow with the cuff of one of Goggles Graziano’s brown cashmere socks.

“Bettah ways ta remembuh Graziano den by his foot stink. Besides, it’s evidence, ya baccalà.”

“So? If it’s found on me, yaw off da hook.”

“Yaw funeral, Momo. Just don’t cry too hard over it, okay? You’ll drip DNA all ovah my caw.”

‘Ha, ha, Benny, yaw so funny. Anyways, don’ worry. It’ll be decades till dey perfect DNA testin’, an’ by den we’ll all be dead.”

“Just shove it down yaw panties an’ let’s get outta heah,” Borelli hissed on the way back to his white Monte Carlo sedan.

Once or twice a month, 77-year-old Momo visited his storage unit at Big Louie’s in Red Hook. He had, at last count, thirty cartons of keepsakes stashed there. They weren’t all from jobs. Since Roseanne wasn’t one to save baby teeth, report cards, or dried corsages, Momo had collected and catalogued the memorabilia. His boxes were lovingly labeled in thick Magic Marker for easy access:  “Carmella’s Prom.” “Vinnie’s Soccer.” “Second Honeymoon in Tahiti.”

Some labels, like the box called “Bar Mitzvah Boy,” were in code. That one held souvenirs from the infamous Phil’s of Great Neck basement showroom massacre of 1976. The collection included a sterling silver money clip with $300 in 20s, and a diamond and platinum tie tack plucked off the body of Eddie “The Goat” Gattucio so the cops would think it was a robbery; a menu featuring “Double Thick Prime Rib” and “Creamed Épinards à la Phil”; and a gold jacquard tablecloth Momo had liked, with its accompanying green glass ashtray engraved with “Happy Anniversary Eddie and Glo.” All alone in his temperature-controlled concrete-floored storage unit, Momo enjoyed poring over his treasures while the wife thought he was out having calzone and a game of cards on Mulberry Street.

On his latest late-night visit, Maurizio noticed an unmarked box at the bottom of a floor-to-ceiling stack. Since he had the only key to the unit other than the proprietor’s, this was puzzling. The box couldn’t be his; Momo always wrote on all four sides and on the top of each carton. Some employee must have stuck someone else’s property in there by mistake; a security breach that he’d have to take up with the management. But why? And how did the unmarked box get on the bottom of the stack?

Maurizio Adamo carefully moved the five boxes off the unmarked one and saw a paper label, in a handwriting not his own, pasted onto the sealed box-top.

“Momo’s Funeral,” it read.

Momo’s heart began to pound wildly. He remembered the words, “It’s yaw funeral,” uttered by Benny Borelli 30 years earlier. But Borelli had been in the ground for years, having succumbed to prostate cancer while in prison for Graziano’s murder. Benny himself had brought Momo in for that assignment and as far as Momo knew, no one else was involved, not even old Gaetano. Same with the Phil’s of Great Neck job; his goombah “Caliph” Cataneo was long dead at the hands of Eddie the Goat’s favorite nephew Enzo. Momo had served his 20 years in the joint, minus three for being such a good citizen, and had never finked on anyone. Besides, it happened so long ago. Who was still around to want him dead?

He ripped open the box. Inside were personal items Momo hadn’t even missed: a crisp new white linen dress shirt and grey silk tie. The dress suit—off-black with a barely discernible pinstripe—that he’d worn to his father’s wake two years ago. His class ring from St. Francis Xavier. His first Communion Bible. A framed photograph of little Momo, age two, sitting atop a pony, the year after they’d arrived in Bay Ridge from Calabria. The last two items had come from his mother’s house; Momo hadn’t seen them in decades. These were all things he could be buried with.

Upon seeing his baby self in the photo, a fat tear ran down Momo’s pudgy, ruined face, landing at the tip of his broken nose. A stabbing pain radiated from his chest down his left arm, and came with the realization that his would-be killer knew him very, very well.

Then he saw the brown sock, and broke out in a cold sweat. So it was revenge for the old Borelli job. Someone knew he was involved with Graziano’s death; maybe even believed he had acted alone.

The sound of throat-clearing came from the other side of the partially closed sliding garage-style door, followed by a smoker’s hack. Momo would know that cough anywhere. He looked down to where the door hovered over the floor and saw a pair of small, narrow feet, partially illuminated by the bare bulb outside the unit, shod in red Ferragamo ballet flats he’d picked out himself. Momo raised the aluminum door to see the glowing tip of Roseanne’s cigarette, but he could not see her eyes.

Chefai” he asked his wife. “Whadda you doin’ heah?”

“I could ax you da same t’ing.” She took a long drag of her Parliament, exhaling the smoke through her nostrils.

“How’d ya know wheah I was?”

“What am I, stupid like you? I knew you wasn’t always at Il Fornaio wit’ da boys. You nevah came home smellin’ like pizza. So I t’ought you was havin’ an affair!”

“What?! At my age, whadda I need wit’ a woman?”

“Egg-zactly what I figya’ed, an’ anyways you can’t afford no pucchiach’. So finally, one night, I followed you heah. Latuh, I found yaw key, an’ had a copy made. An’ if yaw wonderin’ about da sock—Goggles’ sock—I found it in yaw pants pocket years ago, ya chooch. I did da wash da mornin’ aftuh…”

“Ya mean ta tell me you knew dat was Goggle’s…but how?” Maurizio Adamo moved towards his wife, but she stepped into the light. Taking her lit cigarette from her lips, she reached up and put it out on her husband’s forehead.

“Ow! Gesù Cristo sulla croce!” Maurizio reached for his handkerchief and pressed it to his singed skin.

“I bought him dose cashmere socks at Bloomie’s.”

“You what?!”

“Faw Christmas. 1984. I loved him, Momo. He was maw man den you evah was, den you’ll evah be.”

“Sonomabitch! Puttana di babilonia!” He shook with rage, but the little woman stood her ground on the dimly lit concrete walkway.

“Da penal system fuhgives you, Momo. Da families have forgotten, but I don’t fuhgive and I don’t fuhget.”

“What about me, Roseanne? I’m s’posed to feel sorry faw ya? I oughta kill you.”

“I t’ought you might feel dat way, so I took precawtions.” Roseanne Generosa Carlucci Adamo calmly took a pink .25 automatic out of her Gucci bag.

“Don’t worry, Momo, I left anuddah box in my caw, one faw me, wit’ instructions. I waited a lowng toime faw dis moment an’ I’m gonna enjoy it…”

“T’ink about what yaw doin’, Baby,” Momo pleaded as he backed away from his wife, his sweaty open palms raised above his shoulders.

“Don’t you call me Baby. Goggles called me Baby.”

“I di’n’ kill him! But I shoulda!”

Just then a vehicle’s headlights beamed on the husband and wife.

“Ma! MA! Stop! Don’t do it!”

“Vinnie, stan’ back,” Momo called to his son. “Yaw muddah’s upset.” 43-year-old Vinnie Adamo, a younger and slighter version of his portly father, abruptly parked and climbed out of his silver Jaguar convertible.

“Wit’ da top down?” cried Roseanne. “In dis weathuh? Vinnie, you’ll die o’ da cold.”

“Don’t nag me, Ma.”

“Lissen to yuh muddah,” Momo admonished.

“ARE YOU BOT’ CRAZY?!” screamed the son of the cleanup man to his parents. “Look, I had a feelin’ ovah Sunday gravy dat Ma wasn’t too happy about sumpin’, but geez! Put dat t’ing down! What da hell is goin’ on here, Pop?”

“Some t’ings you shouldn’t ax about. It’s none o’ yaw bizniz.”

“Dat’s right,” said Roseanne.

“Of course it’s my bizniz. Pop, she’s got a weapon aimed at yaw head. Gimme dat,” he said, wresting the pistol out of his mother’s tiny, manicured hand.

“You liddle sneak! How’d you find me heah?” she demanded.

“Erin’s phone is in yaw caw. When you picked her up at da mall yesterday, she was playin’ a game an’ left it on. I used da trackin’ program to find it. You really should keep yaw phone on, Ma.”

“I can’t answer it when I’m droiving!” Roseanne lit another cigarette. “Yaw daughtuh should be maw careful wit’ dat iPhone. Dose t’ings cost a lotta money!”

Vinnie looked at the stacks of boxes behind his parents. “What’s all dis? Pop—what is dat? ‘Vinnie’s Soccer’? Lemme see!” Vinnie Adamo pocketed his mother’s gun and knelt in front of the box, suddenly 13 years old again. “You saved my trophies? I t’ought Ma had t’rown all our old stuff away.” He looked up at his father. “What da hell happened to yaw face?”

“An accident, it’s nuttin’, and don’t coise. Look, let’s get yaw muddah home. We’ll leave my caw heah, you’ll drive me back latuh to get it, an’ you can take dat box home if ya want. Just remembuh…nuttin’ happened heah tonight. Nuttin’. Got it?” With his son in the picture, Maurizio Adamo suddenly was a tough guy again.

“A’right Pop. I don’t even wanna know. Let’s just get outta heah.”

“Nuttin’. Nuttin’ happened heah tonight, Vinnie,” repeated Roseanne Adamo to her son.

“Nuttin’ happened evah!” exclaimed her husband, looking longingly at his wife.

She swallowed hard, looking back at him with a newfound love. “Evah."

D.L. Sansone is the nom de plume of a Santa Cruz-based freelance writer whose fiction, nonfiction and poetry has appeared in literary journals, newspapers, magazines and anthologies. As Sansone, she writes fictional stories about wise guy characters with tragic flaws: tragic, that is, for a mobster, from deep sentimentality to spiritual awakening. Raised in New York, 
Sansone has no affiliation with the underworld other than to have sold several boxes of Girl Scout cookies to New Jersey crime boss Simone "Sam the Plumber" deCavalcante. 

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