Saturday, August 18, 2012

My Mafia Moment

I knew my brother-in-law was shady, but I didn’t want to know details. Al was a hustler who met my wife’s sister while o holiday on Miami Beach. Al was folding towels at the tiny Richmond Hotel. He claims to be the Food and Beverage Director, but all I saw him do was fold towels. On weekends, Al was in charge of the valet parking at the Crab Shack in Fort Lauderdale. Al seemed to deal with a lot of envelopes at the restaurant. Chubby cigar chomping men would stick an envelope in my hands and spit. This goes to Al. Naïve as I was, I was looking to make a buck as well. Then I made the mistake of mouthing off to the pizza boy. Al had been gone for a few minutes when the rude long haired kid dropped off the pizza and insisted on being paid. I had no cash and was not sure of the arrangements Al had made and I ended up telling the kid to go to hell. Laughing later and telling Al the whole story while biting into a slice and washing it down with a cold Coke, Al turned as white as one of those cream colored towels he was folding at the Richmond Hotel on South Beach. He tossed his slice in the garbage and motioned for him to follow him. Apparently, I had insulted one of the sons of a mob boss of one of the families. I laughed again. Was Al kidding? His continued ashen face told me he was not? I gulped nervously. So what was the worst that could happen? Al bit his lip as I had never seen him do before. You will be whacked. The family was waiting for us. There was the pizza kid, aunts and uncles, lackeys and stooges and of course, the father. Al kissed him on the cheek as everyone eyed me with disdain. Al wasted little time. My brother-in-law Steve wants to say something. I am an accomplished public speaker, but speaking for your life adds a little undue pressure. I began with an apology. Look, I didn’t mean anything here. Certainly, I had no knowledge who you were and what your deal with Al was. I was not brought up to insult anyone and I guess in the heat of the moment I offended you. For that, I am sorry. It will never happen again. I was about to continue, but Al’s eyes told me to zip it right there. The godfather never indicated to me whether he took me at my word or felt I was spouting a bunch of bull. In the car on the way back to the restaurant, Al was eerily quiet. It only made the tense situation even more so. He dropped me home and I asked if it had blown over. Al pulled at his impeccably tailored cuffs. We will know tomorrow. Tomorrow came and went and I was not whacked. A week went by, two weeks and it became obvious that I was no longer in danger. Al never said another word about it to me or anyone else. He didn’t gossip about family business. And this was Al’s family. Soon after, I quit the Crab Shack and Al and I went back to becoming just brother-in-laws and not associates. I figured that was a more healthy lifestyle for me. If Al agreed, he never said a thing. Al lived by a code in a world I had no interest in being part of. And for one night, I came as close as anyone to becoming a footnote in that world. It was still another in my nine lives. It was the night I was almost whacked.

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