a satire by Christopher Paslay
When beloved high school principal Dominic Rossetti is forced to open a charter school so his uncle Tony, an organized crime boss, can embezzle the money to fund a strip club, Dom is thrown into a humorous yet tragic situation: he is compelled to run his uncle’s bogus charter school while trying to educate Philadelphia’s children.
Part 1 of 25
CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO THE AUDIO OF PART 1:
When you’s guys get this package, when you’s find this recording I’m making, I want you’s to listen to it all the way through, see. All the way through. It’s a matter of the, um, utmost importance. My name is Manny Genitaglia, and my brother is Tony Genitaglia, and we’re both made men. Tony’s the boss of a major organized crime famb’ly, as I’m sure you’s already know. Tony opened the books on me in 1990—when I was 39 years old, but that’s not why I’m making this tape. I’m recording this to tell you’s about Dom, the Kid, and how he got mixed up in a buncha nonsense that wasn’t even his fault; I’m dying a cancer and I just wanna clear his name, cause he was always like a son to me. It was all Tony, see, all Tony. That fire last night, the one at World Peace Charter School, well, you think that was an accident? You think a building like that just blows up outta thin air? Forgetaboutit.
The newspaper is already saying that it prob’ly wasn’t no accident, that the explosion and fire coulda been tied to Tony Genitaglia, and that’s what I think. Now, I don’t know for sure, but my gut feeling is that Dom and the girl mighta been, ah, whacked by my brother Tony, see, that when you’s guys check the dental records of those two folks that burned-up in the fire, it will prob’ly turn out to be the Kid and the girl. I don’t know nothing about that, and that’s the God’s honest truth. What I do know is that Tony’s charter school was the biggest scam of all, the biggest heist. That school never even existed, except on paper. Not for one single second. You think it was an accident, that fire? That two people was sizzled like strips a bacon? Tony really took everybody for a ride, though, let me tell you. He embezzled a cool million from the taxpayers and pumped every single cent of it into a friggin strip club in Baltimore, of all things. Classic. What a total jackass, my brother is.
Anyways, I’m 62 years old and dying and I only have about six months left. That’s what the doctor said. I got cancer . . . rectal cancer. It’s embarrassing, having cancer up your ass, so don’t laugh. If any one a you’s pricks laugh, I swear to God, I’ll call Pete the Gorilla and he’ll come down there and bang down your friggin office door and throw you putzes around like stuffed animals, F.B.I. badges and all. I seen the guy do it, plenty a times. So don’t be laughing while you’s is listening to this tape, understand? The cancer ain’t just up my ass no more, it spread. It’s in my lungs and liver and lymph nodes, and maybe in my balls, for all I know. The doctor said it’s stage four and that they can’t do nothing about it. Funny, cause I don’t feel sick. I just feel tired all the time, and got a limp-ass dick for good measure, even wit the Viagra. The crazy part is that I coulda prevented all this . . . the cancer, that is. My wife Linda, she was always after me to go to the doc and get those check-ups. She kept pestering me about that test, that colonoscopy test, where you drink a gallon of that disgusting liquid that makes you shit your brains out so some doctor can knock you out and stick a three foot hose wit a camera on the end of it up your ass. Yeah, forgetaboutit.
What kinda man makes a living sticking a giant hose up another man’s ass? But you know how women are, how they can break your friggin balls like there’s no tomorrow, so I ended up going to this one guy named Dr. Radcliff or Radisson or some such nonsense. I went and tried to have a good attitude, for Linda, you know? But this guy, this Dr. Radisson jackoff, he was kinda funny, kinda weird. Now, he tried to act like he wasn’t weird, like he was a regular guy into normal guy stuff—he had these cartoon pictures on his office walls of football players drinking mugs a beer—but he was still a kook. He had this lazy eye that just stared at you wherever you went.
So I go to his office, for Linda—we been together 40 years this month—and some white trash receptionist asks me about my personal business, about blood in my shit and whatnot. See, this was like ten years ago, right when I started seeing the blood in the toilet. So this hillbilly-looking broad has this clipboard and is asking me all a these personal questions. How often do I have a bowel movement? Is it hard or soft? Does it hurt? Is there blood in the toilet? Is there blood in my stools? Is it bright pink or dark red? On a scale of one to ten, ten being the darkest? Is there blood on the toilet paper when I wipe my ass? Pink or dark? On a scale of one to ten? And on and on wit this friggin garbage.
Finally, the doctor comes out and tells me to go back into the room on the right and take off my pants and underwear and put on this paper gown. “Lie on your left side on the table,” he says. “I’ll be with you shortly.” So I do what this prick says, and I’m laying there on my side wit my bare ass sticking outta the back a this gown, and after about ten full minutes this jerk finally comes back into the room and tells me he’s gonna do the exam, that he’s gonna stick a buncha equipment up my ass. Now, let me ask you’s guys what is wrong wit this picture. Do you think it’s right for some kooky doctor wit a lazy eye to stick a buncha instruments up a made man’s ass? Like I says before, I’m a made guy. Untouchable; Tony opened the books for me in 1990, and I’m damn proud of it. But this prick, he doesn’t know nothing. He’s standing behind me wit this long scope-type thing saying he’s gonna do a quick test to see where the blood is coming from—if it’s above the, ah, hemorrhoidal area—and I lose my cool.
“I’m a made man,” I tell him, and jump off the table. “I’ve been wit heavy-hitters. Guys who play wit vice grips for fun. Who you been wit?”
“You lay one finger on my ass,” I say, getting nose-to-nose wit him right up in his face, “and I swear to God I’ll wrap that scope around your friggin head.”
So I left that prick’s office and never went back. Frig it. That shit ain’t natural, you know? A man putting tubes and hoses and shit up another man’s ass. So I got the cancer, the ass cancer, real bad. But I don’t really feel sick yet. So I’m telling you’s my story about Dom and Tony before I go. Before I checkout. Is this whatchamacallit running? This voice recorder thing? Good. I got a lot of stuff to tell you’s guys.
I’ll start at the beginning, right when Dominic, my sister Theresa’s kid, got involved. Now, Dominic didn’t wanna get involved, that was the thing. Dominic was a good kid, he never broke no serious laws or nothing. He went to college and studied real hard and got his degree wit honors. He wanted to be a high school English teacher, Dominic, and he became one, a good one. He was prob’ly the best high school English teacher in Philadelphia, at least that’s what Theresa used to tell everybody. Dominic helped the kids and taught them how to read and write, even the real bad ones, the jungle animals. Actually, I kinda feel bad calling them “jungle animals,” cause Dom would get all upset every time I said that in front a him. Dom was one a those kids who felt sorry for the coloreds and the Puerto Ricans, and was always trying to stick up for their rights and all that. I guess Dom was right for doing that, cause they was just kids. They couldn’t help it if their dad was in jail or if their mom was hooked on crank or Colt .45 or what have you, that was just the breaks, the way the cookie crumbled. Tough luck, kid. Your mom’s a crack whore who gives hum-jobs for a quarter.
My dad, now he used to beat the balls off a me and Tony, and when Tony turned 15 and got real muscles he hit the sonnavabitch back. Our pops came home one night stinking like liquor and breathing fire and decided he was pissed off cause we supposedly forgot to water my mom’s Indian rubber bush, the Ficus elastica. My dad used to come home and say that bullshit to us, get me and Tony outta our bunk beds at three in the morning and scream about the freakin water in the Ficus elastica.
“Manuel and Anthony,” he’d say, turning on all the lights in the house. “What did I tell you’s two, huh? About your mother’s rubber bush? I stuck my finger in there and it was dry as a bone!” It was dry, alright, my mother’s bush. And my pops took this out on us, the goddamn bully. Until that one night when Tony sat up and swung back at him, just balled his fist and swung for the fences, cracking dad in the nose. He groaned and toppled backwards and busted his head on our radiator, and got knocked out. When he finally came to he just went to bed in his own room like nothing happened. That was the last time he hit us. Sixth months later he collapsed on the floor of the hat factory where he worked and died of a, howdoyasayit . . . brain embolism.
But Dominic, he was a great kid. Real good schoolteacher. Loved all the kids and chaperoned all the trips to the Renaissance Faire and the Shakespeare Theatre. Ran the school newspaper and literary journal, helped tutor the slow kids after school. He pitched in wit the cheesecake sales and the holiday bazaar and all that good stuff. They loved him at his school, the principal, the parents, the other teachers. Dom won public schoolteacher a the year like every friggin year. I always wondered why he stayed in that school, though. In ass-crack Filthy-delphia. Dom coulda went anywheres he wanted—that’s how smart and experienced he was. But he stayed in the jungle without combat pay. I guess the kids really needed him, like he said.
After like ten years teaching, though, he wanted to do more. He saw all the mistakes his principal was making and went back to school so he could become a principal. He got a special scholarship to that fancy college downtown. The, um, University of Pennsylvania. That was cause he worked wit all those poor colored kids and their famb’lies and the professors loved that shit. They was just like Dom—always trying to get rights for the coloreds. So Dom hit the books again and studied real hard and bango: he got his, ah, principal certification.
He sent out the resumes, and all the Philly schools wanted him. He became a vice principal in a real frigged-up school in North Philly—the Bad Lands—and loved it. Eisenhower High School, I think it was. He said the . . . howdoyasayit . . . the demographics was lopsided, 99 percent colored. I woulda killed somebody in that friggin place, but not Dominic. He was all over that like bird shit on the hood of a Cadillac. In like three years he totally turned that place around. From shit-hole to a respectable, um, institution of learning. He got the faculty staff involved after school and even had the neighborhood people help out. They fixed shit up, painted murals, planted gardens, got new books, put in “safety zones” so the kids could get to school without getting robbed by the scumbag drug dealers. At least that’s what it says in his journal, which I just finished reading about an hour ago.
When the principal retired Dom stepped right in and took her place. Test scores went up and violent incidents, rapes and assaults and shit like that, went down. Dom applied for all these . . . what’s it called . . . grants, and he used the money to put new equipment in the school gym. Treadmills and elliptical machines and a set of dumbbells. He bought a coupla medicine balls and some jump rope. He wasn’t married . . . Dom was a stocky Italian kid wit a big nose and buggy blue eyes and had a tendency to get stepped-on and ignored by broads . . . so he put all his time into Eisenhower.
Dom was always in the newspapers, too. The City Council people and the State Reps was always coming to Dom’s school and giving speeches in front a the news reporters and TV cameras. They was always trying to elbow-in on his success. Dom would work his friggin ass off, 12 hours a day, Saturdays and Sundays included, and get the place oiled and working and then the prick politicians would show up. Show up like maggots, smiling and taking goddamn pictures. They would pop-up at his award dinners, sit at his table and laugh and yuck it up and pat him on the back like they was doing something. Sometimes these jackoffs would throw their own award dinner in honor a Dom’s great work at Eisenhower and not even have the cojones to invite Dom. Unbelievable. Let me ask you’s guys a question: What kinda scumbag sits at the head table of another man’s award dinner? Slapping butter on the rolls like some pig in friggin slop? I’ll tell you: scumbag politicians, that’s who.
Dom had one problem, though. Gambling. That was his, ah, what’s the word . . . Achilles heel. He dealt wit the gambling thing his whole life, on and off. A gambling problem was like a drinking problem: it never went away, not for good. You could treat it as best you could, but you couldn’t cure it; I should know, cause I been in recovery now for 32 years. In college, when he was a junior, the problem first got outta control and Dom got in deep wit this amateur bookie—some piece a filth that thought he was hard. The Kid supposedly had some small time wise guys backing him up, so he walked around the college wit his dick out. Now, relatively speaking, this little asshole was small potatoes, and if Dom ever had a problem wit the guy, I swear to Christ, I woulda drove the frig up to that little college myself and choked the bastard.
Dom never called me, though. Not me or Tony. Course, he never woulda called his Uncle Tony, not then, but he mighta called me, his Uncle Manny. He didn’t, though. In his journal he said that he owed this little jerk an even grand, cause he lost a few bets on some college football games. Five star picks that turned out to be pure garbage. Dom lost five bills on a game the one week, than did a double or nothing the next week to try to get outta the hole. He called this bunk five star betting hotline to get the pick, like I said, and it bit him in the ass. Hawaii Rainbow Warriors getting seven, they told Dom. It was a lock.
Forgetaboutit. No lock. Not even close. The Rainbow Warriors got smoked by UNLV by 17, and Dom was down a thousand bucks. The next day he hadda give this amateur bookie pole-smoker his Trek mountain bike and his Michael Jordan rookie card to cover the bet. That was the first time he got help for his problem. He called that 1-800-Gambling number, the second hotline in as many friggin days. Dom went to meetings for a while and met some friends and got a sponsor. He started the 12 steps and made it all the way to Step 7—asking his Higher Power to remove his short comings and whatnot—but then the semester was over and Dom was back home for Christmas break.
He went three years, two months, and two days without making another bet—1,158 total days. That’s what it says in his journal, anyways. Then came Super Bowl XXXII. Dom was working fulltime now, as a 9th grade English teacher, so he had money in his pocket. Plus, the Kid was still single . . . like I said, he was kinda goofy looking and a bit shy around the broads . . . and I think his only bills at the time was rent, a coupla credit cards and a car payment. So he had some cash. Now, I guess something crazy happened that weekend that triggered the old urge to bet on football. At least that’s what it says in his journal. Dom said at the gambling meetings he used to go to that there was this thing, this . . . what’s the word . . . acronym called H.A.L.T. that they learnt about. I knew all about H.A.L.T. from my own meetings, but I’ll get to that later. Anyways, it stood for “hungry,” “angry,” “lonely,” and “tired.” Now, the thing was, if you had a problem like Dom had, you was supposed to halt every time you felt one a these things. Halt and go call your sponsor or do what you could to get to a meeting. If you felt angry or lonely or whatnot, you was in a bad state a mind, and you might have a . . . relapse.
In his journal Dom said that he was feeling kinda lonely that night, so that was prob’ly what did it. Dom had just met some broad on one a those Internet dating whatchamacallits, and he was all excited about her. If I recall his journal correctly, he had went on a handful of dates wit her—took her to the Mummers Parade, I remember that much—and he was supposed to take her to a Super Bowl party at his buddy’s place that night. Dom was all charged-up and excited about this. But then something happened. Outta the friggin blue this dumb cooze called him up, like, a half an hour before they was supposed to go to the party wit all his boys and their gals, and cancelled on him. Boom. Just cancelled. The broad apparently told Dom that something suddenly came up, like on that TV show, the, ah, Brandy Bunch I think it was called, where that blond wit all the brothers and sisters tells that ugly redhead kid she’s canceling on him so she can go out and blow that other jag-off, Doug I think his name was.
Yeah, so, Dom was all brokin up about this. He said in his journal that he didn’t even wanna go to the party no more. He said he was depressed, that this shit always happened to him and that he was friggin tired of it. He said he wondered what was wrong wit him. Why these dumb broads was always pulling this shit on him at the last minute. He didn’t write much else about it. But his next journal entry, the next day, was all about how he just blew a boatload a cash on the game the night before, put something like $1,500 on the Packers to win straight-up. Now, we all know what happened in that game. It was a friggin Texas shoot-out, but the only thing was that John Elway and the Broncos outlasted Brett Favre and the Pack. Great friggin game to watch, but if you had your money on Green Bay or you was a Cheese Head, that was a different story.
This kinda thing, putting relatively large sums a money on sports games, didn’t end for Dom wit Super Bowl XXXII. After that chick dumped him and he had his gambling relapse, the Kid slowly fell back into his old betting ways. His teaching even started to suffer cause on weekends, especially on Saturdays, he would lock hisself in his one-bedroom apartment and ignore his lesson plans and just bet on games. Mostly NBA and college basketball. He unraveled pretty quick, let me tell you. By the beginning a spring, right when March Madness was starting up and everybody and their mother was filling out brackets and entering office pools, he’d pretty much lost all control. The eight grand in his savings account? Gone. His Visa Platinum and Discover Cards? Jacked-up to their limits, which was five g’s apiece.
The credit cards he blew through playing Internet poker. There was this one time, when me and Pete the Gorilla went to check on him on Easter Sunday, and we banged and banged on his door but he wasn’t answering. See, my sister Theresa was all worried and whatnot cause Dom didn’t show up for Easter mass or dinner and she’d been trying to call him on the phone all day but he wasn’t picking up. She was convinced something bad was going on cause it wasn’t like Dom not to answer his phone or miss mass. Plus, she knew what her two brothers did for a living—that we had a career robbing and pillaging people, and broke a few heads to boot—and she started thinking that somebody from another famb’ly or crew had gotten to him. She called me up all hysterical, saying that she knew something had happened to Dom, and on and on, and the only way I could calm her down was to promise her I’d go check on him and make sure he wasn’t splattered all over the goddamned wall.
“Shhh, Terry, it’s okay,” I says. “Shhh, honey, everything’s gonna be fine.” I was a little bit scared myself, I ain’t gonna lie. I got off the phone wit my sister and made a few calls around but nobody heard a thing. I grabbed my gun . . . a .38 special, never leave home without it . . . and me and Petie jumped in his Escalade. I swear to God, Petie drove like a madman, going at least a hundred-and-eighty-five freakin miles an hour to Dom’s place, blowing through red lights and running over squirrels and shit. We got to Dom’s and banged on his door and waited. Nothing. I was getting real nervous now so I shouted that Dom had exactly five seconds to open up or Petie would kick his friggin door down. Petie’s a crazy person when it comes to locked doors. Once, in Vegas, Petie kicked down our hotel door in Caesars Palace cause he’d lost his key card, kicked it so hard it flew off the hinges and smashed through the back balcony window and fell seven stories into the pool, knocking out two old ladies and sending another three people to the hospital wit minor concussions. I kid you’s not. You’s can go ask the hotel manager, if you don’t believe me.
Course, Dom opened the door. Like I said, he’s a pretty bright kid. Me and the Gorilla stormed into his place looking for the bad guys, ready to splatter somebody’s head like an eggplant. There was no bad guys, though. Dom’s place was empty. That’s when we noticed the smell—body odor and week-old garbage. There was dishes piled-up in the sink, a half-dozen empty boxes a pizza and Chinese takeout cartons on the kitchen and coffee tables. Dom was in his sweat pants, bare feet, and an old Randall Cunningham Eagles jersey. He was standing by the open door just looking at me and Petie, his eyes all bloodshot and wide as saucers. He looked strung out, the Kid did, like he’d been up partying for days. His computer was on and logged onto some kinda Internet poker website.
The Gorilla went over to one a the pizza boxes and opened it. He pulled out a hunk a crust and started chewing on it like the classless scavenger he is. Dom kept real still for a minute, just staring at me, his eyes red and his face white and sick looking. That’s when Dom had his, ah, breakdown. “Uncle Manny,” he said, and threw his hands over his face and started bawling. The Kid was crying hard but not making any noise, see. His whole body was shaking and he started sliding down the wall until he was on his ass. He sat on the floor and cried into his hands, hiccupping and wiping his nose. I walked over to him and just patted him on the back, ruffled his hair. I felt real bad for the Kid, cause I knew exactly how he felt. I’d been there before myself, not wit gambling but wit the drinking. That kinda stuff, addictions, take hold a your ass and don’t let go. People who never had no problem wit gambling or the bottle don’t have any idear about this kinda thing. They think stopping is just a matter of willpower and whatnot, but it ain’t like that, not even close. In my recovery group I learnt about the twelve steps, which we borrowed from AA, and the first thing you gotta admit is that you got a problem, that you’re powerless over alcohol; screw-ups like us have something broken inside that normal people don’t have. Once your addiction gets the best of you, reducing you to a shell of the person you once was, the power you had as a normal regular human being is gone, bang, out the window. And believe me, that ain’t no exaggeration.
The Kid Dom was powerless. He was sitting on the floor all balled up and crying like a woman.
“Shhh,” I said to the Kid, “we’re gonna get you help.”
He reached up and hugged my neck.