July 3, 2009

Gambino Appreciation Day

An Allegory for the Fourth of July.

It was bad enough that Saul had to hand over his hard-earned money to the Gambinos. But to be asked to celebrate this injustice? To be asked to decorate his deli in the Gambino family colors? To be told to put up that stupid banner? “Gambino Appreciation Day”? It was too much. It was just too much.

Saul had met the Gambinos several years earlier. He’d been a young man, newly married, wrapping up a pound of roast beef for old Mrs. Davidson, when in walked two behemoths, two neckless freaks of nature sporting Adidas jogging suits and slicked back hair. “What do you want?” Saul had asked once Mrs. Davidson had left. That’s right. No “How may I help you?” No “What’s going on?” Saul knew better. He knew what these momsers were after.

“Nice place you got here,” said one of the Gambinos, a fat-faced man with adult acne. “Hate for something to happen to it. You know what I mean?” He slowly surveyed the store. “Rough neighborhood here. Really be a shame if something happened to your store.”

“The neighborhood’s fine!” Saul snapped.

“Yeah,” the goon said, taking a step closer, “really be a shame if something happened to your store.” The other man stood by the door, his right hand tucked inside his coat, holding what could have only been a gun.

Every fiber in Saul’s being wanted to reach for the revolver he hid under the cash register. But what was the point? Supposing he drew the gun, supposing he pointed it at these fatsos and demanded that they get lost—then what? They’d just return. Or others just like them would return. They would return with their own guns. They would return to kill him, or, worse, to kill his family.

So Saul agreed to their demands. Three hundred dollars a week. They wanted three hundred dollars a week? Fine, it was theirs. So much for his son’s future. Every Monday, the ugly brothers would appear and Saul, having no other choice, would hand over a dirty brown envelope containing what should have been his son’s college fund.

But now they wanted Gambino Appreciation Day? It was just too much.

“Look,” one of the goons explained to him, “you know we’re the nicest crime family around. I mean, honestly, would you rather pay tribute to one of those other families? You might think we’re bad, but you ever hear of the Bonanos? Those fuckers would take six hundred a week. No joke. And the Lucheses? The Lucheses would be all over that cute little daughter of yours. Up the ass every night. She don’t like it up there? Don’t matter. The Lucheses get what the Lucheses want.” The goon took a step closer, the smell of sausage pizza emanating from his breath. “When you get down to it, Saul, you’re living under the best crime family in the city. So show a little gratitude. Make things look nice. Maybe put up a picture or two of Mr. Gambino. Maybe a few fireworks.”

Fireworks, he thought—I’ll give you bastards fireworks! But, of course, he was all talk. Because, when you got down to it, there was nothing he could do.

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