Monthly Archives: January 2014

Uncle Tony’s Charter School: Part 8

Illustration by Sean Wang

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 8 of 25

According to the Kid’s journal, the part that hurt even more than missing the accreditation was the lack of having that extra counselor he had hoped to get.  Lot’s a people think that when a kid is misbehaving and acting like an animal, he should be smacked in the head or kicked in the ass and thrown the frig outta school, me being one a them.  If you don’t want your school to be a jungle, you gotta get rid a the animals.  Course, that’s only true to a point, cause if you just keep throwing all the kids out on the streets and making them somebody else’s problem, the streets is gonna be a jungle, too.  And lots a places are a jungle.  Now, parents isn’t doing the best job these days—I can agree wit that—but this doesn’t mean the school can just wash their hands and give up.  Being around the Kid for those few years taught me this, and gave me an understanding of the importance a having school counselors.

Course, I ain’t trying to give you no speech on counselors, or to tell you’s to go out and give them all hand-jobs or nothing.  What I’m saying is how not having enough counselors could hurt a school, especially a school like the Kid’s in the middle of a friggin shoot-em-up war zone.  Believe me, it’s true.  To prove it I’m gonna tell you’s what happened this one time in the Kid’s office, the principal’s office, when a student came to see Dom cause she was having problems wit anxiety and whatnot.  This comes right from the Kid’s journal, and I’m gonna do my best to tell it just like I read it.

So one day, a coupla weeks after the Kid gave the $100,000 to Tony, the Kid is sitting in his office checking emails and trying to keep up wit all the district’s useless paperwork, and he hears a knock on his office door.

“What is it?” he says, not looking up from his desk.

“Mista Rossetti?” this young female voice says.  The Kid knows the voice, knows who it is.  It’s this girl named Tamarra , a 15-year-old 9th grader.

“Tamarra ,” the Kid says, “hey you, come on in.”  So Tamarra  comes in and Dom clears off a buncha books from the chair in front a his desk so the girl can sit down and talk.  Dom and Tamarra  have been talking for like a month now, and it seems clear that they been making some progress.  See, on New Year’s Eve, Tamarra  went home to her house in North Philly after leaving her girlfriends so she could watch the ball drop in Time’s Square on TV wit her mom and her mom’s boyfriend.  When she got home, though, the house was quiet and the lamp in the living room was smashed, and she couldn’t find her mom or her mom’s boyfriend, Mr. Jeff, nowhere.  She went upstairs and saw all the lights on in the hall and went to her mom’s bedroom, and that’s when she saw the two a them dead, shot in the head, laying on the bed in a pool a blood.  The sheets was white, but there was a dark purple wet circle under their bodies.  There was blood and, whatdoyacallit, brain matter on the walls and headboard . . . these is Dom’s words, not mine . . . and Tamarra  just turned and ran outta the house and went back to her friend’s house and told her mom who called the police.

Turns out, it was a murder suicide.  Tamarra ’s mom’s boyfriend, Mr. Jeff, was drunk and depressed and sick a everything, and decided to pull out a gun and shoot Tamarra ’s mother in the head, and then sit on the bed and stick the gun in his mouth and pull the trigger on hisself.  Tamarra  was all freaked out that night and said she didn’t never wanna go back to that house, ever.  According to Dom, she hadda move in wit her dad in West Philly and start taking the trolley and two buses to get to school; Tamarra ’s grandmother drove up from Camden to get all a Tamarra ’s things from the old house.

Tamarra  was back in school on January 2nd, and the only reason anybody knew what had happened to her mom was cause one a the teachers had seen the shooting on the news and recognized the name.  Right away Dom got Eisenhower’s only counselor to call Tamarra  down to her office and talk wit her, but her time was limited and she could only do so much; she’d referred Tamarra  to a local mental health agency, but after one session, Tamarra ’s dad never took her back and followed the intervention plan.

Tamarra  seemed to be okay for a while.  A week went by and she was adjusting to living wit her dad and her new routine.  But then she all of a sudden started having these . . . these intrusive thoughts, I think it’s called . . . where she kept seeing her dead mom and Mr. Jeff in the bedroom wit the purple blood on the sheets and the brain spatter on the wall and whatnot.  She kept seeing this stuff, even when she tried to think a something else; the harder she tried not to think about it the worse it got.  So one day in her biology class, when it got real bad, she starts crying and digging her nails into her forearm, and the teacher gets all freaked out and calls the counselor but no one comes; the counselor was outta the building cause she’d taken a group a seniors to a college fair downtown.

After a little while Dom get’s a call on his walkie-talkie that says he needs to hurry up to Ms. Maddock’s room cause there’s a student in there freakin out and digging her nails into herself, crying and digging her nails in her skin.  Dom runs up the steps and on the way calls the Crisis Hotline, and when he finally gets to Tamarra  he clears everybody outta the way and does what the School District suits tell everybody not to do—he puts his hand gently on her back and kinda hugs her and tells her that it’s okay . . . it’s gonna be okay . . . just cry now and get it all out.  And she cries good and hard, and the other kids in the room aren’t making fun but are there to help her and give support, cause everybody knows what just happened to her mom on New Year’s Eve.

When she’s done crying Dom is still kinda half hugging her, telling her to take deep breaths and such. Tamarra  finally calms herself down.  The Crisis Hotline people get there, and Tamarra  is taken to another mental health agency, but like before, her dad doesn’t have the time to take her back for the treatment or follow through wit the stuff he’s supposed to be doing.  So Dom finally says frig it, frig the girl’s dad, frig trying to fit her into the counselor’s insane schedule, he’s gonna try to help the girl hisself.  And he does, believe it or not, the Kid does.  Dom takes all a the stuff he’s learnt over the years at our addiction meetings, all the treatment and skill building stuff the social workers have been using on Dom and the rest of us maniacs, and uses it on the girl, Tamarra .  Stuff like deep breathing and visualization and what’s that other one . . . oh yeah, progressive relaxation . . . all that stuff that helps keep us drunks and gambling addicts and kleptos sane, keeps our lives manageable.

The first thing Dom teaches the girl is the saying, What you resist persists.  And believe you me, that’s an important one.  See, resisting things makes them stronger, gives them energy.  Like a little kid fighting against a real bad migraine headache, crying and kicking his legs against the pain.  When a little kid does this, what happens?  The pain above his eyes usually gets worse and he ends up throwing up all over the place.  If only the little kid would accept the pain, if only he could, um, submit to it, it would take the real bite outta it and things would start to get better.

That’s how Dom tried to explain the saying, What you resist persists to the girl Tamarra .  That’s how he tried to get her to accept what had happened to her mom and her mom’s boyfriend.  It was okay to cry, he told her, to be sad, to be afraid, to be angry.  It was healthy and natural.  It was okay to have the bad thoughts in your head, the thoughts that didn’t listen and go away when you wanted them to, cause they was just thoughts and wasn’t gonna hurt you.  Sooner or later, if you just let them be, they’d get tired of hanging around and go away on their own.  It was true, you just hadda give it a try.  And when you did have the thoughts, you could play a game wit your mind and even disappear to another place, a nice place, like the beach in the summer or a big old green field in the fall, a field wit the warm sun high in the sky and the cool autumn air just blowing through the golden leaves on the trees.  And when you had that urge to scratch yourself, to dig in your nails to make the thoughts go away, you could breath deep, deep, and let all that bad nasty energy leak right through that imaginary hole in the top a your head.

So the Kid works wit Tamarra  for a few weeks, and things get better.  The scratches on Tamarra ’s arms start to heal and go away.  The two get this routine going, where during the second half a the girl’s lunch, she goes and visits Dom in his office; Dom said in his journal that he put these daily meetings in his planner and that they was set in stone, in stone.

Anyways, to finish what I was saying, Tamarra  is in the Kid’s office sitting down on a chair in front a his desk for one a their meetings.  The Kid stops what he’s doing—really stops, doesn’t just pretend to stop—and gives the girl all his attention.  He smiles and sits up straight and says, “So what’s crack-a-lacking?”

“Nothing,” the girl says, but lot’s is going on, there always is wit Tamarra .  After a minute or so she opens up and starts talking about the track team, which Dom convinced her to join two weeks before to keep her busy and to occupy her time.  Turns out, Tamarra  has a little bit a talent, not in the sprints like most a the other girls, but in the mile—a distance event.  She ran a 5:47 in her first race, which was only wit a week’s worth a training.

“Woa, that ain’t bad,” Dom says to the girl.  “Seriously.  A 5:47 is pretty good, especially since you haven’t really been on the team that long.”

“Thanks.  You run, Mista Rossetti?”

“I threw the shot put,” the Kid says, “a long, long time ago.  Back when I was in high school.”

“You look like a athlete,” the girl says.  “You look strong and in shape, too.  How old is you, Mista Rossetti?”

“That’s top secret,” the Kid says.

“You married?”

“Nope.”

“You got any kids?”

“Not yet,” Dom says.  “So did you win a medal in the race last week?”

“I just missed,” Tamarra  says.  “They gave medals to the top four, and I got fifth.”

“Keep at it.  You’ll get one soon.  A 5:47 mile is great for a 9th grade girl who never ran before.  If you stay on the team until you’re a senior, you might even break 5:00 minutes, and that’s state champion territory.”

“I like running long races,” the girl says.  “It helps me clear my mind.”

“Absolutely.  How is everything else going?”

“Better.  My hands don’t shake no more.  Plus, I’m taking advantage a my time, like you said I should do.  On the bus and trolley rides to school, I read and do some of my homework.”

“Wonderful,” the Kid says.  “Keeping organized is the key.”

“I know.  And when I start thinking about my mom, I do what you said, I take deep breaths and try to remember the goods things about her, the good times.”

“I’m so happy to her that.”

“I drew her a picture last night, a memorial.  Wanna see it?”

“Please.  Can I?”

“Sure, Mista Rossetti.”

The girl takes the picture outta her bag and shows the Kid.  It’s a collage wit a buncha magazine clippings wit pictures a things that represent the girl’s dead mother.  There’s a picture of a nurse, cause her mom was a nurse’s aid, and a picture of a chocolate brownie, cause her mom loved eating chocolate.  There’s like a dozen pictures on the collage, and the girl explains them all.

“I can see you really loved your mom,” the Kid says.

“More than anything.”

Just then the bell rings and it’s time for the girl to go to her next class.

“Okay, well, you’d better get going,” the Kid says.  “You don’t want to be late for Mr. Engblom’s class.”

The girl puts away her collage, stands up.  “Yeah, you’re right.  Mr. E. don’t play that.”

“No, he doesn’t.  Have a good one, Tamarra .”

“Thanks, Mista Rossetti,” the girl says, and turns and leaves.

_______

The Kid kept running Eisenhower as best he could.  The one thing I remember the Kid saying about being a principal of a school was this: There is mangers, and there is leaders.  The Kid was most definitely a leader, no doubt about it.  And he lead by doing, not just by talking.  When the Kid said something he meant it, and when a person said that they was gonna do something, he expected them to do it; in a crazy way, he was just like his uncle Tony.

Actually, the Kid and Tony was a lot more alike than our famb’ly would wanna believe.  Just like the Kid had a vision for Eisenhower, Tony had a vision for Straight A’s, his world renowned snapper palace where a gentleman could eat a New York strip steak, drink an ice cold Heineken outta a frosty mug, and for dessert, have some beautiful 22-year-old naked redhead wit a shaved cooch give you a personalized couch dance—grind her ass into your lap until you blew a load into your J.Crew boxer shorts.  That was Tony’s dream, his vision.

Now, even though it was a goddamn crime against the children a Filthy-delphia, it wouldn’t be fair if I didn’t tell a little about Straight A’s and all the work Tony put into it.  In February a that year, Tony put down the $100,000 the Kid gave him on the strip club and liquor license.  Tony got the place dirt cheap, from this Russian wannabe gangster known as “Sasha” who ran this prostitution and human trafficking ring, where they kidnapped these strung-out hags in Moscow or some friggin place and brought them over here to America to pimp out for like $5.00 an hour.  Apparently, the feds . . . you’s guys, once again . . . was moving in on Sasha and he hadda pack up and get the hell outta the country.  Tony said the guy and his two brothers was selling everything they friggin owned, including Vlad’s Playhouse, the three story strip club that was already supposedly on the verge of, whatdoyacallit, bankruptcy.  The asking price for the place was $850,000, including the Class-B liquor license.  Course, the place wasn’t in Sasha’s name, and I wouldn’t know it if it was.  The owner a the property, the name on the deed, was Chaz Traynor, a well known adult video distributor, and that’s who Tony actually bought the place from and technically made settlement wit.  But the Russian muscle behind the strip club, the pimps who forced these foreign broads to service American men, they wanted a $100,000 cash down payment just in case something crazy happened and they hadda blow town early.

Me and the Gorilla went wit Tony to sign the agreement a sale and to give this Sasha jerkoff the $100,000.  Course, we also brought Sal DiSimone wit us, the famb’ly lawyer, so he could make sure no funny stuff was taking place.  You never know what could happen when you is dealing wit Russian wannabe tough guys, so we had Sal there checking over all the papers and contracts and whatnot.  I carried the cash in this big friggin leather duffle bag, the Gorilla backing me up wit a loaded AB-10 9mm under his coat.  Me and Tony was packing, too, my .38 special in my shoulder holster under my suit jacket and Tony carrying a .357 in his waistband.  We did the deal on the third floor a the strip club on a Saturday night at around 11:00 p.m., right when the place was supposed to be at full swing.  It was easy to see why the place was going bankrupt.  The first floor was three-quarters empty, wit maybe about a dozen guys sitting around the main stage watching the girls dance.  The girls was wearing these tassels over their nipples, and had on bikini bottoms.  Right away you could see Tony shaking his head cause tassels and bikini bottoms wasn’t no way to run a strip club, not if you wanted to get people coming in through the front door.  Plus, the girls—women, actually—was all old and beat-up, third-rate broads that looked like they’d popped out a coupla kids and had saggy tits and flat asses.  This one chick even had a surgical scar on her stomach, like she had a whatchamacallit—one a those cesarean section operations.  The second floor was even emptier, wit just five or six old guys getting lap dances on these cruddy red velvet couches wit cigarette burns and beer stains on them.

The third floor, where we signed the sales papers, was totally empty.  There was a buncha tables and file cabinets up there, and wires hanging from the ceiling.  In the corner there was a bucket half-fulla water, and it looked like there was some kinda problem wit a leak in the roof; the place also smelled musty, like stale beer.  Tony walked over to the water bucket wit Sal and pointed at it and said something about a building inspection, that he wasn’t gonna give these pricks the $750,000 balance at settlement until he knew for sure that the roof wasn’t gonna cave the frig in during the next rain.

“I’ll call Frank’s son,” Tony says to Sal.  “He’ll come down here and check this place out.  Make sure it’s wired up straight and that the pipes ain’t gonna bust.”  Tony turned to Sasha and his two brothers.  “It friggin stinks in here.  You smell that?  You’s guys got a body buried in the wall or something?”

“No bodies,” Sasha says.  “Good place.  You can make lots of money here.”

“Well it stinks,” Tony says, “and I don’t like it.  Before I give you a penny, I’m gonna need my inspection guy to make sure this place ain’t gonna fall down the next time somebody farts, understand?”

“We need one-hundred thousand up front, or no deal.  This is good place.  You make lots of money here.”

“You got any mold in those walls, huh?  Any termites?  Termites can eat a big friggin hole in your ass, and I ain’t joking around.”

“No termites,” Sasha says.

Tony pointed to the ceiling.  “What are those wires there . . . hanging outta the ceiling?  Is this place up to code?  I swear to friggin God, if the city comes in and shuts my ass down cause these wires is all frigged up, I’m gonna find your ass and put a bullet in it.”

One a Sasha’s brothers said something in Russian and stood up.  This made the Gorilla nervous, and he started fidgeting under his coat wit the AB-10.  He asked Sasha what his brother was saying, to say what he hadda say in English so everybody could understand it.  Sasha and his two brothers started laughing.  Now, I’m gonna be honest wit you’s guys, I thought for sure the Gorilla was gonna pull out his gun and start mowing those jackasses down, pumping those goofballs fulla holes and turning them into Swiss friggin cheese.  The Gorilla ain’t normal, see, and when he was a kid, before he got thrown outta school, they tested his IQ and I think it was 75.  The Gorilla didn’t do nothing, though.  He just stood there trying his hardest to figure out what Sasha’s brothers was saying.

The Russians stopped laughing.  “One hundred thousand up front, or no deal.”

“Where’s Traynor?” Tony says.

“Who?”

“Chaz Traynor, the owner a this friggin dump.  What, you think I’m gonna trust you morons without talking to Traynor first?  Forgetaboutit.”

Sasha pulled out his cellphone and called a guy who he claimed was Chaz Traynor.  Tony and Sal talked to the guy for about five minutes, asking him a buncha questions about the club and its condition and whether or not there was mold or termites in the walls.  Traynor told Tony it was fine, up to code, that the wires in the ceiling was from strobe lights that they was thinking about putting in but never did.  There was a small leak in the roof, but it was fixable—would cost maybe a grand or two.  And the transfer a the liquor license was no sweat, neither, cause Traynor knew people on the Baltimore liquor license board.  Course, Traynor said all the money on the sale would go to Sasha and his brothers, the unofficial owners a the place.

“What do ya think, Sal?” Tony says, giving the phone back to Sasha.

Sal looked over all the papers and the deed to the property one last time and decided to give Tony the green light.  It was Chaz Traynor’s property, after all, and Sal had . . . what’s the word . . . verified this by doing a public records search.  If any funny business went down, if somehow this was all a set-up and these Russian clowns was planning on taking Tony’s cash and skipping town, well, Chaz Traynor would pay, simple as that.  Tony would have Jerry D’Alessandro go visit Traynor and get the money back, all of it, wit interest.  And if Traynor played dumb, if he acted like he didn’t no nothing about it, than Vlad’s Playhouse would, oops, blow-up like the Twin Towers.  Musta been a gas main break, officer.  Same would go for Chaz Traynor’s house, that 8,500 square foot mansion on Schoolhouse Lane in Fairfax, Virginia.  Ka-boom.  Or maybe something might happen to Traynor’s trophy wife, Jessica, the ex-adult actress wit the fake tits and bleached asshole.  Yeah, we hadda do an emergency implant removal, Chaz.  Didn’t ya know saline caused cancer?

Turns out, everything Sasha and Chaz Traynor said was true.  Tony gave those Russians the bag a money and him and Sal signed the sales agreement.  The next week he had Frank Scarduzio’s son, Frankie Jr., who is a general contractor and ended up doing most a the renovations on the place, inspect the building from top to bottom.  And wouldn’t ya believe it, the place was in pretty decent shape.  So the next month, at the end a March, Tony made settlement on the strip club, all legal and, um, aboveboard.  The mortgage was in Sal’s name, but that didn’t matter; Sal was Tony’s partner whether he liked it or not.  In a coupla months the Kid would give Tony the rest a his cash and then him and Sal could really fix the place up, and Tony’s dream would be a reality.

Part 9

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Filed under Uncle Tony's Charter School

Uncle Tony’s Charter School: Part 7

Illustration by Sean Wang

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 7 of 25

The Kid’s World Peace Charter High School application got approved by the State Board of Education and the Philadelphia Unified School District School Board exactly one week after the Kid had submitted the proposal; they was granted a three-year charter, not a five-year, so they would have to get a renewal in 2015.  This stunned the Kid like you wouldn’t believe, cause he’d done everything he could—without Tony catching on—to sink the whole thing.  Tony was on the Kid like a hawk, though, which is prob’ly why the Kid took care a business in the end.  Getting the approval was still no cake walk, even though Tony knew lots a people; the Kid wrote in his journal that it was actually kinda nerve-wracking.  Part a the charter application process involved appearing before the School Board and defending the proposal once the Board had the chance to review it, answering a buncha questions from all sorts a community stakeholders . . . parents, clergy, educational advocates, and other such jag-offs.  Before the Kid went in to defend his proposal, Tony had a word wit him inside the Gorilla’s Cadillac in the parking lot a the School District’s central office, where the School Board meeting was taking place.  Tony made it clear that failure wasn’t an option, that he had pulled lots a strings to make this happen, and that the Kid had better not frig it up.

“Just remember what I told you about famb’ly looking out for each other,” Tony said to the Kid, who was sitting in the back a the car in between me and Tony.  “Now you go in there and just do what you know how to do, and everything will be fine.  You’s a smart man, Dominic.  Don’t let them get ya frazzled.  Some a Al Akbar’s people is gonna be there, and you know all about that greedy prick sonnavabitch.  His guys was all set to get their charter approved, get their meat hooks on our money, but not no more.  This is ours for the taking, kid.  We earned this.  Come here.  Give your uncle Tony a hug and kiss for good luck.”

The Kid was in and out of the meeting in under an hour, and the rubber stamps was flying.  Bango, charter approved.  Barry Al Akbar’s people was livid, and so was Al Akbar hisself, who actually had the brass balls to show up at the School Board meeting even though it was a conflict of interest the size of a John Holmes hard on.  According to the Kid, he stood up in the middle a the crowded room, put his hands on his hips, and started storming around mumbling under his breath he couldn’t believe it, that people was gonna lose their jobs over this, just you wait and see; Al Akbar’s Achievement Kings, Inc., hadda watch five new charters get approved over theirs, one a them being the Kid’s, who was an, ah, newcomer in the game and seemed to be stepping on a buncha people’s toes.

Course, Tony was happy as a friggin clam, knowing he was gonna finally get the cash he needed to get his Baltimore project rolling.  Tony was still the silent partner, and the whole thing still seemed to be flying under the radar, as they say.  The education section of the Philadelphia Post reported the Kid’s World Peace Charter High School approval wit little . . . what’s the word . . . fanfare, and nobody but Tony and Barry Al Akbar and his cronies seemed to care.  The Kid, on the other hand, was freakin miserable.  It was hard enough to run Eisenhower High School by itself, dealing wit the craziness of the accreditation audits and all that, without having to deal wit Tony and his whole charter school scam.  Tony wouldn’t let it go, neither.  He had me and the Gorilla stay on the Kid and keep pressing him about the details, told us to get regular updates about how things was going wit the school and whatnot.  The biggest question, like I says before, was Tony’ money, and when he was gonna get it.

The answer to this question wasn’t that complicated, actually; all charters got their money on July 1st, the start a the new fiscal year.  The Kid needed to have two things before the Philadelphia Unified School District would start to provide funding for the newly approved Word Peace Charter High School on July 1st: a budget, and target enrollment numbers.  There was a whole buncha other stuff they needed, like an instructional plan, and teachers, and curriculum, and books, and a building, but that stuff was just needed on paper and would come later on, after the city released the funds so Dom could pay for it all.  The key to getting the money, though, was the budget and the enrollment numbers.

Now, all this stuff was already submitted wit the charter application, but that was just an estimate, see.  The school district needed real stuff now, final figures and target numbers, cause they was gonna start parting wit all that cash and they needed to make sure they had the paperwork straight so the feds . . . you jack-offs . . . didn’t come in an audit them and start throwing people in jail and all that.  Now, before any a this stuff could get done, before any final budget and enrollment figures could be submitted to the School District, the Kid hadda form a Board of Trustees to approve and adopt everything.  On paper, on the charter application, there was the names a seven people who the Kid had picked to be his Board.  Course, people like me and Tony couldn’t be on it, not wit the last name Genitaglia, anyways, so the Kid hadda find seven regular folks who was professional and had good reputations and also had something to do wit education in some kinda way.  The Kid knew lots a people like this, but the only problem was, he didn’t wanna get them caught up in the scam, so he never asked any a them to get involved.  What the Kid ended up doing was putting seven names a seven fake people on the Board—wit fake job titles and credentials—and would worry about dealing wit this problem if and when the time came; the best thing about fake people was that they never gave you shit and always did just what they was told.

And guess what?  Surprise, surprise, surprise!  World Peace Charter High School’s Board of Trustees just so happened to approve the Kid’s final budget and target enrollment numbers, which was officially submitted to the School District a month into the new year.  The Board had decided to set a target enrollment of exactly one hundred students, all freshman, for the 2012-13 school year; on the charter application, the Kid said he would increase his enrollment every year by 100 until he had 400 students.  The math was perfect: 100 times $10,000 equaled Tony’s strip club $1,000,000.  Friggin beautiful.  The budget, though, wasn’t as easy to put together.  Like I says before, real people look at these numbers, and the School District might just pitch a fit if these numbers didn’t add up; worse still, a State or Federal audit might be in order.  That was the most important thing in public education, as I was being taught by the Kid: always make sure your paperwork is in order.

I don’t wanna bore you’s guys, so I won’t get into all the line-by-line items in the budget; I’ll just give you’s guys a . . . what’s the word . . . overview.  The Kid’s charter, like I says before, was approved as a cyber school, and this would save the Kid a lot a headaches and most importantly, a lotta cash-ola for Tony.  Wit a cyber school, see, you didn’t really need to worry about stuff like food service, and transportation, and safety, and health services, and a code a conduct, not really, not the way you did wit a real “brick and mortar” school, as they say.  Wit a cyber school, most a the classes and learning takes place on a computer at the student’s home, wit the student reading books online and answering questions and having these interactive “webinars”.  Webinars is kinda like a chat room where the students can talk wit other students online, and also wit the teacher, who is on the other end a their computer checking in on the students to see if they have questions or need help wit their studies.  When the Kid first told me about what cyber charters was like a hadda laugh, cause what kinda student is gonna lean by sitting at home every day on a computer . . . hanging out online wit their friends . . . supposedly reading and writing and doing whatever they is supposed to be doing.  Course, the P.A. State test scores showed that compared to all the other “brick and mortar” public schools in the state, cyber charters, um, perform the worst—their kids got some a the lowest math and reading scores in the state.  Makes sense, even to a dumb shit like me.

Course, it’s big business, and smart people like Tony Genitaglia knew it, which is why cyber charters keep opening up all over the place.  Anyways . . . what was I talking about . . . oh yeah, the budget stuff.  So cause the Kid’s charter was a cyber school, the main items in his budget was stuff like teachers and staff, curriculum, instructional materials, and, ah, liability insurance, I think.  And computers, too.  I can’t forget about that.  Computers was one a the biggest expenses beside the teachers and staff—the laptop computers.  Every student hadda have a school laptop in order to learn, and this hadda be issued to the student by the school.  On paper, the Kid budgeted $150,000 for 100 brand spanking new MacBook Pro laptops, which he could buy in bulk for around $15,000 a pop.  Then there was the $60,000 to pay the salary a the computer guy to run and set everything up, and to deal wit the maintenance issues and all that kinda bullshit.  And speaking a salaries, the Kid had budgeted $870,000 for six teachers, a secretary, a counselor, a principal, and a C.F.O.  The English, math, science, social studies, phys ed., and Spanish teachers was to get paid $45,000 a year plus $15,000 in health benefits, and so was the counselor; the principal would get paid $185,000 plus $15,000 in benny’s.  The CFO would get the same package as the principal, cause he would be running the books, including payroll and all the accounting stuff; these lopsided salaries was standard operating procedure for charters, so it wouldn’t raise no red flags.  The secretary . . . well, she could just put on her kneepads and play the skin-flute for the staff, free a charge.  Course, when I made this joke to the Kid he got all serious and says to me, “Uncle Manny, you have no idea how important a good secretary is when you’re trying to run a school.”  So the Kid paid the imaginary “secretary” $35,000 plus health care.

The last big expense was the whatdoyacallit . . . the curriculum and instructional materials.  This is where those textbook company criminals raped you, gouging working people by charging an arm and a leg for the license to use their stuff.  The Kid decided to hire a cyber curriculum specialist called Cyber Sultans, Inc., or at least to put their company name down on the budget.  You’s guys ever hear a these Cyber Sultan jag-offs?  Friggin criminals, let me tell ya.  They talk a friggin good game, sure, but this one time the Kid actually showed me the kinda product these charlatans is selling, and let me say this, these pricks might as well just walk around wit a ski mask and a gun for all the money they is stealing.  The, um, advertisement on their website is something like, Cyber Sultans: Data Driven Cyber Curriculum for the 21st Century.  Data driven my friggin left nut.  Forgetaboutit.  I may not understand mission statements and whatnot, but it was easy to see that the Cyber Sultans instructional approach . . . using social media to make learning fun . . . was a buncha malarkey.  The Kid only hadda pay $100,000 for the license—a cool $1,000 per student.  This included all the electronic books and workbooks, homework assignments, tests, discussion questions, and project topics for all six subjects.

This was all just on paper, though.  No one was gonna get anything, not the teachers, or the principal, or the computer or finance guy, or even the Cyber Sultans, cause it was just for show, see.  It was just to make the budget work, to fulfill the most important thing in 21st century public education: paperwork.  See, I listened to the Kid when he talked to me, I know.  Plus, I read about it in his journal.  Now I know what you’s guys is thinking.  You’s thinking: How is the Kid gonna pull this off?  He’s gonna get caught and go to jail and lose his principal’s certificate, and then where will Eisenhower High School and all the poor colored children be then?  Well, that was the thing.  The Kid wanted to get caught, wanted the feds . . . you’s guys . . . to come and shut the whole thing down.  This is why the Kid kept writing everything in his journal—the one I’m holding in my hand right now—so he could document everything and show that from the very beginning, from the very start, he was innocent.  The Kid was extorted, see.  Extorted by my brother, Tony Genitaglia.  Is it all starting to make sense to you’s guys now?  The Kid wanted to get caught, wanted the feds to find and lock up his no good piece a shit uncle who prob’ly killed Dom Sr., see?

In . . . what’s the word . . . hindsight, this might not have been such a good idear.  The Kid and the girl may be dead, may be a pile of ash; when you’s guys check the dental records, I guess we’ll know.  And stop, just wait a minute, cause I know there’s another question just burning in your mind, and that’s How was there a building if the school was a cyber charter?  Good question, cause that’s what I thought at first when the Kid told me we hadda get a building for the cyber school.  And here’s the answer: There was a building, cause there hadda be.  It was in the rules, the, ah, State charter school bylaws.  Even cyber charters hadda have a building to serve as a headquarters for meetings and assemblies and periodic tests, for classes and counseling sessions wit the students and faculty staff.  And this part, having a real building, you couldn’t fake or make up, at least it would be harder to pull off.  Once a month, during the periodic tests and classes and counseling sessions, the State Department of Education and the Philadelphia Unified School District was gonna come in and observe and poke around to see if everything was working the way it was supposed to.  They was gonna come in and audit the books, too, which was supposed to be kept at this headquarters at all times.  At first the Kid had no idear how he was gonna get around this part, but deep down he didn’t really care.

Like I says before, he wanted to get caught and to see his criminal murdering uncle put in prison where he belonged.

_______

In the New Year, in the winter of 2012 after the he submitted his World Peace Charter School budget to the Philadelphia Unified School District for approval, the Kid was able to put more a his time into what he truly loved doing, which was being the principal a Eisenhower High School.  By now the Kid had hoped Eisenhower would be accredited by the Eastern Association of Academics and Schools, but on the very last audit—the final step in the whole back-breaking accreditation process—the Kid dropped the ball.  Course, the Kid didn’t drop the ball, my jag-off brother Tony did.  See, Tony didn’t wanna wait until July 1st to get his million bucks for his Baltimore titty club, he wanted it now, today; patience wasn’t one a his, ah, virtues.  Right around Valentine’s Day of 2012, Tony did something he hardly never does: he called the Kid up personally on his cellphone to tell the Kid that he needed $100,000 of his strip club money ASAP.

“I’ll send the Gorilla over to your place tomorrow to get it,” Tony told the Kid.  “I got this thing and it can’t wait.”  This was all written down in the Kid’s journal, nearly word for word, by the way.

The Kid knew this was impossible, cause the new financial year didn’t start for over four months, and the charter wouldn’t get the money from the PUSD until at least July 1st.  So the Kid says, “Uncle Tony, we’re not getting any money until the summer.”

“What?  The summer?  Says who?”

“Says the people giving us all the money, the funds.”

“I can’t wait till the summer, Dominic.  I told you that.  I got this thing and it can’t wait.”

“There’s nothing I can do about it, uncle Tony.  The financial year doesn’t start until—”

“Forget the financial year!  I need that cash!”  There was a pause on the phone, and Tony tried to get his cool again.  “Who the frig are these people, huh?  What are their names?”

“It’s the School District, Uncle Tony,” the Kid says.  “The School Board.  The same people who approved our charter.  They’re not trying to keep anything from us, it’s just the way things work.  The law says the financial year doesn’t start until July 1st, so we can’t get the money until then, until the new school year begins.”

“The law,” Tony says, and spits.  “Friggin cocker-roaches.  Fine.  Whatever.  Just get me a $100,000 advance on the million, and we’ll wait till July for the rest.”

“They don’t give advances.  It doesn’t work like that.”

“Jesus friggin Christ!”  Tony was breathing heavy into the phone.  “Ya know, I oughta take a baseball bat to one a these prick’s heads, and then we’ll see about all this financial year bullshit.  What kinda friggin scumbags are these, huh?  These School District pricks got a million dollars of my money just sitting in some bank account till July 1stForgetaboutit.  I can’t wait that long.  I need that money, today.”

“There’s nothing I can do, Uncle Tony,” the Kid says.

“What’s the matter wit you, huh?  Are we famb’ly or not?  Am I your uncle Tony?”

“Yeah, but—”

“Did I not bail your friggin ass outta jail a coupla months ago and keep you from losing your friggin job?”

“Yeah I know but—”

“But nothing!” Toney says.  “Now you listen to me, Dominic.  You better get me $100,000 of my money by the end a the week, or you might just turn out like your old man.  Now, you is my nephew, my little sister Theresa’s kid, so I’m gonna give you a coupla days.  I love you cause you is famb’ly.  But business is still business, and a got a reputation to keep.  So don’t disappoint me, got it?  Good!”

And that was it.  Tony hung up the phone and actually called me and said that if the Kid didn’t have his cash by Friday, I was to get the Gorilla and go bust the Kid up a bit.  I didn’t wanna do it, so I called Dom up later that night and tried to help him figure out a way to get Tony his money so my maniac brother would leave the Kid the hell alone.  Now, in Tony’s defense, he did need that money as soon as possible.  He was about to sign a sales agreement on a three story strip club on East Baltimore Street in the, ah, red light district in downtown Baltimore, and he needed $100,000 as a down payment and to buy the liquor license.  It was prime real estate as far as strip clubs went, right in the heart a “The Block.”  Like I says, you’s guys know how upscale and fancy the place was, and you wouldn’t believe how much time and effort Tony put into making Straight A’s what it was.  So when that property became available, along wit the liquor license, Tony hadda act.  He jumped on it and promised the owner he’d have the down payment in a week, staked his reputation on it.  He was Tony Genitaglia, after all.  He always came through.  And what was a man if he couldn’t back-up his word?

The Kid ended up giving Tony the money that Wednesday, two days early.  He took it outta Eisenhower High School’s budget, money that the Kid had set aside for hiring a new counselor and behavior specialist for the second semester to help improve discipline and teach anger management skills.  He listed it in the books as a “consulting fee,” even got a friend a his, who ran one a those educational consulting firms, to give him a phony receipt for, whatdoyacallit, services rendered . . . $100,000 in services; the sad part was, this was small potatoes when it came to the kinda fees these “consulting” firms was getting.  Course, the Kid would put the money back into Eisenhower’s budget in July, or at least that’s what his plan was; Jesus only knew if Tony would remember the money was advanced or even give a friggin hell and still want the whole million.

Anyways, this unplanned switch-a-rooney on Eisenhower’s books was enough to send up a red flag wit the accreditation folks, so the Kid didn’t pass his final audit.  The Eastern Association of Academics and Schools wrote in their report that the Kid’s finances and fiscal stability was in question, and didn’t meet all of EAAS’s standards, and, um, best practices.  Basically, Eisenhower’s accreditation was denied—no soup for you!—as they say in that Steinfeld show.  All wasn’t lost, though; the Kid would have another year end audit in June to see if he was meeting the EAAS standards.

Part 8

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Filed under Uncle Tony's Charter School

Uncle Tony’s Charter School: Part 6

Illustration by Sean Wang

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 6 of 25

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO THE AUDIO OF PART 6: 

The next day the Kid tried to put all this horrible mess behind him.  He dove head first back into his work at Eisenhower, working a 12 hour day and not letting hisself even think about Atlantic Shitty for one single second.  In his journal he said his arrest and his, um, relapse was the best thing that coulda happened to him.  He said he’d hit rock bottom and had a brush wit catastrophe and that this made him appreciate how lucky he was, how good his life really was; he said that in that jail cell he’d made a pact wit God that if he somehow kept his job, he’d never, ever, gamble or set foot in A.C. again.  Coming so close to getting canned from his job made his break-up wit that Chastity O’Connell twit seem not so bad anymore, took the sting outta it.  The Kid even went to a meeting that Monday night and told the story a his relapse and break-up to our group, leaving out the parts where he hocked his Porsche, went up to the room wit the prostitute and got locked up.  He kept the rest, though, telling everybody just how much it hurt to get lied to by some broad you is in love wit, how much of a piece a shit you feel like when you gotta eat a diamond engagement ring for dinner, washing it down wit an ice cold vodka tonic.

Gordon W., the Kid’s sponsor, was especially broken-up about the Kid’s slip, and after the meeting, the two went to the Starbucks at 10th and Washington and drank a buncha coffees and went back over the twelve steps, starting at step one, which is admitting that you’s got a problem and is powerless over your addiction; just like he always did, the Kid wrote all about it in his journal.  Dom admitted that he was powerless over gambling, and that the reason why he prob’ly screwed up was cause one—he was angry and lonely, and two—cause he was drunk and not thinking straight.  The Kid’s behavior a had a pattern, see, and Gordon showed the Kid how a broad breaking up wit him was a . . . what’s the word . . . a trigger for his gambling.  No more screwing around wit kooky broads, Gordon told Dom.  And no more drinking, neither.  The two are a recipe for disaster.

A coupla weeks went by and the Kid was starting to get back to his old self.  He was scarred, no freakin doubt, but it was a good scar, a scar that he could rub his fingers on when he needed a reminder that he was a gambling addict and basically born bearing the cross a having an addictive personality.  Course, the Kid knew deep down that it wasn’t really that simple, that he couldn’t just go to a coupla meetings and start over at step one wit Gordon W. and get away scot friggin free—not a chance; the Kid owed his uncle Tony, and there was no getting around that fact.  And not too long after the whole A.C. disaster, like right around Halloween, I think, Tony sent for the Kid so he could cash in on his favor.

I was sent to pick the Kid up and take him to Tony’s place out in a suburb of Filthy-delphia, a place I’m not gonna give you jerks the address to, not just yet; I might use it as collateral for the future.  Anyways, I bring the Kid to Tony’s mansion, drive through the remote controlled iron gate and all the way up the driveway, and park in the garage on the left . . . the one on the right had a speedboat in it . . . where the Gorilla is standing wit this big friggin machine gun like Chewbacca from that goofy space movie.  We get out and the Gorilla actually searches the Kid, pats him down real quick, just to make sure the pigs didn’t get to him first—put a wire on him—which they didn’t.  He takes us inside and up to Tony’s office where Tony’s sitting in this big cherry-red leather chair behind this huge desk smoking a cigar and laughing at something he’s watching on his big plasma TV that was the size a the entire wall, like ten friggin feet, I swear to friggin Christ.  Tony keeps laughing real loud and chewing on the lit cigar and pointing at the screen.  He was watching the Three Stooges episode where Curly is a boxer and goes bananas and starts punching everything whenever Larry plays “Pop Goes the Weasel” on the violin.  Friggin classic episode, by the way.

“Hey Tony,” I says.  “The kid’s here to see ya, just like you asked.”

Tony just keeps laughing at the screen and chewing his cigar.

I clear my throat.  “Tony, hey, I went and got the kid for ya.”

“Huh?” Tony says, and finally sees that we’re standing there waiting for him.  He clicks off the TV wit his remote.  He doesn’t even acknowledge me or the Gorilla but stands up and goes right over to the Kid and says, “Hey, Dominic, look at you!”  Tony hugs the Kid and kisses him hard on the cheek.  “Look at you, I haven’t seen you in so long.  You got those big blue eyes, just like your mother.”

“Hi, uncle Tony,” the Kid says.

“How’s your mother doing, anyways?  I never get to see you’s guys.”

“She’s fine,” the Kid says.  “Still playing bingo, and going to her art classes once a week at the community center.”

“Still not remarried, though, right?”

“Nope.  She still loves my dad, says a Rosary for him every morning.”

Tony spits a piece a tobacco off his tongue.  “Yeah, well, your father was never any good in my book.  God bless Theresa, but she shoulda known better than to get involved wit that little jerk.  See, you gotta have priorities in life, know what’s a matter of importance.  Now, your father, see, he didn’t know what was important.  It was an easy choice: your famb’ly, or your, ah, principles.  He deserved what he got.  I’m sorry for your loss and for my sister’s pain, but your father turned his back on the famb’ly.”

The Kid doesn’t say nothing.  He just keeps a poker face and stares out in space.

“You know why you’s here?” Tony asks the Kid.

“I think so,” the Kid says, “and I just want to thank you, uncle Tony.  I have a certified check for you, so I can pay you back.  Every cent, wit interest, in fact.  I took out some money from my 403B . . . took a penalty, actually . . . but the way I see it, you saved my job and basically my life so it wasn’t a big deal.  Here, let me give this to you . . .”

Tony waives his hand.  “Put that friggin check away, kid.  I don’t want your money.”

“But uncle Tony, seriously.  It’s not that big of a—”

Put it away!” Tony shouts, rage in his eyes, and I swear to friggin Christ, even the Gorilla jumped.

The Kid nods and stuffs the check in his pocket.

Tony smiles and his eyes clear and he is calm again.  “You’re father, see, he turned his back on the famb’ly.  He made a choice, a clear choice.  We all make choices in life, and we gotta stand by them, sometimes even live or die by them.  You’s gonna have to make a choice, too.  But you, you look smarter than your old man, who was a big disappointment to everybody.”

The Kid just stood and nodded and listened.  I could see it was tough for Dom to listen, cause he knew his mother loved his father and if his mother loved Dom Sr. than Dom Sr. musta been a good man, no doubt about it.  And as far as I could remember, Dom Sr. was a good man, just a bit too straight for his own good, a bit too ready to be a martyr.  He thought being good and believing in God and having principles was enough to protect and support his famb’ly, but course it wasn’t, never is.  Famb’ly, Tony’s idear a Famb’ly at least, came first, see.  That’s what Tony was saying to the Kid in his office.  Now that the famb’ly had done something for Dom, Dom hadda do something for the famb’ly—that’s just the way it worked.

“That’s why you’s gonna open a charter school,” Tony tells the Kid.  “So you can show me your appreciation.”

And that was it—end of conversation.

Famb’ly came first and there was no way around it.

_______

Tony gave the Kid instructions about the charter school only in bits and pieces.  Now me, see, I knew the whole racket from the beginning.  Just like the Kid was good at what he did, at being a principal and teacher and all that, Tony was good at what he did, and still is; talent must run in the famb’ly.  Tony Genitaglia, as I’m sure you’s guys know, is an organized crime boss in the Greater Philadelphia Area and beyond . . . how far I’m not gonna tell, cause I ain’t trying to give you pricks all my cards at once.  But Tony’s reach is far, and he’s connected and got guys in New York and Jersey and even down in Miami, but this is common knowledge.  He runs all kinda scams—robs people all over the goddamn place, but like I just says, I ain’t gonna get into specifics, not unless I have to.  Now, for the longest time, Tony was trying to open this strip club down in Baltimore called “Straight A’s” . . . obviously you’s guys have heard of it . . . but he was worried about where he was gonna get the start-up cash, and didn’t wanna screw-up any a his regular scams or risk taking a hit on his own bank account.  So for a long time he kept thinking and thinking about where he could get a pile a cash—about a million bucks—so he could take it and pump it into this titty bar in downtown Baltimore that would have the best looking broads around and would also be a steak house where you could get a nice dinner and drink a good beer and just relax after a hard day’s work.

You’s guys know what Straight A’s became; it was way bigger than even Tony imagined.  Before you jag-offs went and shut it down, it was doing insane business, attracting all these rich Wall Street types and even celebrities and professional athletes.  Charlie Sheen supposedly went there . . . I never seen him but someone said there was a story about it in the tabloids . . . and rumor had it so did Charles Barkley.  Course, there was Tony’s guys running the books, and on the third floor, in the VIP room, there was a whole buncha other stuff going on, but you pricks don’t need to know about that yet, neither.

To start the club up, though, to get it off the ground, Tony needed cash.  And for what seemed like eternity, Tony couldn’t get together enough liquid start-up money.  Til that one day when he was in Miami at the track talking to this real estate developer who just happened to mention that he was renting property to this charter school operator called Knowledge House, Inc., and how easy it was to steal boat-loads a dough as long as you knew the proper people and had the proper connections.  As a matter a fact, if I recall correctly, this guy even said he was running his own charter school . . . I forget the name of it . . . and making a killing cause the school was in a building he already owned, and by putting his nephew’s name on the lease, he was able to rent the property to hisself for something like $120,000 a year, plus make a ton off the city-funded tuition, and I ain’t exaggerating one bit.

This got Tony all interested about charter schools and whatnot, and was where he first got the idear to open one up.  Now, I already talked about how me and the Kid had an addictive personality.  Yeah, well, so did Tony; this too ran in the famb’ly.  When Tony came back from Miami . . . this was maybe in 2010, I guess . . . he was all obsessed wit this charter school idear, and wouldn’t shut the frig up about it.  He had me and the Gorilla surf the Internet for information and make phones calls to all these education people, and even join the Pennsylvania Organization of Charter Schools under a phony name.  Soon, after a coupla weeks, Tony had all the information he thought he needed and decided to start the application process to open a charter school.  Course, Tony never graduated high school and couldn’t write so good, and neither could me or the Gorilla; I dropped outta high school in 9th grade and so did Petie.  So Tony was stuck.  He had all these big idears and even knew the right people to get the charter approved, but couldn’t make the application—the mounds and mounds a paperwork—work.  And when I says to Tony, “Hey, Tony, just have somebody else do the application and all the stupid friggin paperwork,” he got all insulted and upset and offended, and says, “What?  You think I’m stupid or something?  Go frig yourself!” and that was the end a that.  Plus, Tony was all paranoid that somebody else was gonna steal his charter school idear, as if everybody and their friggin mother wasn’t running charter school rackets already.

So the charter school scam was put on hold for a while.  Til Tony hadda get the Kid outta jail, that is.  That’s when his beautiful master plan came back to life like that dead guy in the Bible—bang, back in action.  That’s when Tony had me bring the Kid to his mansion and explain to him that he was gonna open the charter school under his name—Dominic Rossetti, Jr., which was a million times better than Tony Genitaglia—and do all the paperwork and make all the phone calls and get the whole damned thing off the ground.  Me and the Gorilla was ordered to help, and we did, well, actually, I did; the Gorilla just busted a few heads every now and then.  And like I says, Tony just gave the Kid bits and pieces of information.  In the beginning, in the very beginning, the Kid actually thought that we was opening a real charter, a school wit desks and books and teachers—just like Eisenhower.  The Kid was actually secretly excited about this, or so he wrote in his journal.

That was in the beginning, though.  Before he realized his uncle Tony was gonna steal every red cent from the charter and pump it into the fancy titty bar in downtown Baltimore.

_______

The Kid began to realize the charter school was just a scam pretty early on, though.  This was cause the Kid was smart, and also cause my brother Tony, when it came to being, what’s the word . . . subtle, was a friggin nincompoop.  Course, Tony didn’t need to be subtle, cause he had people like me and the Gorilla and Jerry D’Alessandro throwing people around like midgets in one a those midget tossing bars.  As the Kid was preparing the official PA State charter school application, Tony kept having me call up Dom and bug him about money stuff, asking questions like When will we make the first million bucks?, and Can we get an advance on the money?, and Do we have to submit a budget?  Like I says before, I ain’t the sharpest knife in the shed—I never even graduated high school—but even someone like me who can’t write a lick knows that you need to submit a budget for something like this.  I mean, what did Tony think?  That you could just ask the city and state for a million bucks and not have to show where it was going?

The Kid caught on quick, and when he did, all the air went right outta his balloon.  I could tell he was upset by the way he talked to me on the phone, and also by the stuff he wrote in his journal.  The Kid was disappointed, plain as day, and wrote that he even considered going to Tony and telling him he didn’t wanna help him no more—it was taking too much a his time away from being the principal of Eisenhower—but every time he went to call me up and tell me he was bailing out, he thought a that time in Tony’s office and lost his nerve; the Kid also thought a his father and where his “principles” got him.  It was pretty clear the Kid couldn’t back outta his obligation wit Tony directly, no; he hadda find some way to escape through the back door and hamstring the operation before it even got started.  If it looked like the Kid was really trying to make the whole thing work, if it looked like Dom was putting his whole heart and soul into the thing and staying up late and burning the midnight oil, Tony would be satisfied whether the charter was approved or not . . . at least that’s what the Kid figured.

The question was, how could the Kid whatdoyacallit . . . sabotage the charter school before it got off the ground?  Well, the Kid had an idear.  He’d write the most outrageous charter school proposal he could think of without Tony figuring it out, and when the State Department of Education and the Philadelphia Unified School District read it, they’d laugh so hard they’d bust a gut—laugh the proposal right off the table and into the friggin trash can.  Course, the Kid would blame the School Board and say they was prejudice against Italians, shift the blame to them and get Tony all worked up and distracted at the same time.  That’s what the Kid wrote he was gonna do, and that’s just what he did.

Now, before I get into all the details about that, I gotta tell you’s guys a little bit about the charter school application process, which I actually learnt a lot about cause I was there helping the Kid wit the whole thing for months.  See, there is five things you gotta have on the application in order to get your charter proposal approved in PA: a school design wit goals and objectives; a needs assessment which shows that the school is needed in the neighborhood; a description a the funding and the ah, management team; a start-up operating budget and a facility for the school; and something called implementation and administration, which is all the day-to-day stuff like the admissions policy, recruiting plan, code a conduct, food service, safety, and a timetable for all this to take place.

Dom did all this perfect, right down to the nostril.  He did so good that he actually fooled me along wit Tony when he was writing that charter proposal, cause I honestly thought it was friggin brilliant until I read about his plan in his journal to throw a monkey wrench into the whole thing.  Matter a fact, I still think the proposal was brilliant, but what the frig do I know?  Anyways, I got a copy a the charter application right here wit the Kid’s journal, and I just wanna read some of it so you’s guys can decide for yourselves if you think it’s frigged up or not.  I’m gonna start wit the “mission statement” which the Kid actually read to me a buncha times, so I know all the words.  It goes like this: World Peace Charter High School’s mission is to prepare our students for a 21st century multicultural society through a rigorous curriculum rooted in social justice, tolerance for diversity, and high academic and behavioral standards.  Through a commitment to green energy and nonviolence, our school strives to bring world peace and end world hunger, reduce our carbon footprint and bring the world’s temperature down one degree Celsius each year we are in operation.

Now, I don’t know about you’s guys, but that mission statement sounds pretty good to me.  So does the educational program that the Kid wrote, which he also taught me how to read: World Peace Charter High School’s educational program is centered on a progressive, cutting edge multicultural academic program rooted in Egyptian Math and Israeli Science, a new, data-driven curriculum that increases rigor while promoting peace among feuding cultures, tribes and clans.

Genius, I tell ya.  All sophisticated and whatnot.  Like Word Peace Charter’s extra-curricular activities.  Here, let me read this to you’s guys:  Because World Peace Charter High School is 100 % green, WPCHS’s extra-curricular activities are as follows: 1.  The Wind Farm Awareness Club, which meets for one hour after school daily to create, promote, and celebrate awareness for wind energy and wind farms of all varieties among staff, students and members of the WPCHS community.  2.  The Solar Panel Awareness Team, which also meets for one hour after school daily to create, promote, and celebrate awareness for solar energy and solar panels of all varieties among staff, students and members of the WPCHS community.  3.  The Electric Car Awareness Association, which, like the Wind Farm Awareness Club and the Solar Panel Awareness Team, meets for one hour after school daily to create, promote, and celebrate awareness for electric cars and electric car batteries of all varieties among staff, students and members of the WPCHS community.

There is a whole buncha other stuff on this application, as you’s guys will see when you open this package; the proposal is like an inch thick.  Course, I don’t wanna bore you’s guys wit all this, um, rhetoric, so let me just tell about the budget stuff, and how all that worked.  Basically, Tony told the Kid that he wanted exactly one million dollars to “fund” the school, and the Kid answered by saying that it didn’t work like that, that the money for the school—which came from the city and state taxpayers and hadda be approved by the Philadelphia Unified School Board—was based on the number a kids enrolled in the school.

“I don’t give a friggin goddamn about that,” Tony says to the Kid, right in front a me.  “Figure it the frig out and make it work.  You owe me, kid.  You understand?  Don’t you never forget that.”

The Kid hadda figure it out, then, but it wasn’t hard; it was just numbers.  Now, I’m just estimating here, but during the 2011-12 school year, the time the Kid was applying for charter approval, the School District paid about $10,000 . . . give or take . . . for every student that went to a charter in their district.  Which meant that the Kid’s charter school would have to enroll at least 100 students to get the one million dollars Tony was asking for.  Course, every dollar the Kid hadda spend on stuff like teachers, books, computers, rent on a building, utilities, transportation, and all a that, the less cash would go to Tony’s real project—which was the Straight A’s titty and ass club in Baltimore, Maryland.

This would prove to be a difficult situation for the Kid, cause Tony wasn’t planning on parting wit one single penny a his strip club money, not one single cent.  Dom, though, found a way around this, if you can believe that.  He’d make World Peace a cyber charter, which meant that most a the learning would take place in cyber space in the comfort a the students’ own homes, which was a lot more cost effective to say the least.  Course, PA state test scores showed that kids in cyber charters didn’t learn a damn thing and finished dead last in math and reading in comparison to regular public schools, but that, of all things, wasn’t a problem for the Kid.  How did the Philadelphia Unified School District react to low state test scores in cyber charters, you’s guys might ask?  Well, they decided to open up five a them in the coming school year.  It’s true.  My hand on a stack a Bibles.

Part 7:  

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Filed under Uncle Tony's Charter School

Uncle Tony’s Charter School: Part 5

Illustration by Sean Wang

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 5 of 25

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO THE AUDIO OF PART 5: 

While all this was going on at the school, while Dom was working on the accreditation and changing the lives of all the colored kids and helping their moms and dads get involved in their educations and safety, a whole buncha stuff was happening in Dom’s personal life.  I told you’s guys a little about the award dinners and his addiction meetings, but I never told about Chastity O’Connell, the broad that the Kid was seeing for nine months and was head over heels for.  In my personal opinion, Chastity O’Connell was the whole reason why the Kid got all mixed up wit my brother Tony to begin wit, even though the Kid was man enough in the end to take responsibility for the whole thing hisself.

The Kid met Chastity in the beginning of 2011 at an education conference at the Convention Center in downtown Philly.  They was both there to hear some University of Penn professor give a talk about the, ah, inequalities of funding in poor urban school districts.  Like I said before, the Kid was big on making sure the coloreds got a fair shot at having a good education and life and such, and this O’Connell chick was the same way.  Helping the poor coloreds and Puerto Ricans was kinda what brought the two a them together and helped them bond I guess you could say.

According to what Dom said at our meetings, this broad was all wet for him, at least at first.  The Kid was I think 39 years old then, stocky, wit a full head a dark hair; O’Connell was a 31-year-old high school French teacher.  Dom said this O’Connell broad was hot for him cause he was a bit older and successful and whatnot, and just loved that he worked at a school that was fulla coloreds.  The Kid was all excited about this, all excited; he never had a real, long-term relationship in his whole life and always wanted one.  So when this broad went after him, flirted wit him and got his number and started calling his cellphone every friggin night, the Kid was in heaven.  She was a genuine piece of ass, so you couldn’t really blame the Kid.  She was an attractive brunette wit one a those short bob haircuts, a tattoo of a butterfly on her wrist and an eyebrow ring.  She was super friendly and when you was around her you thought she wanted to screw you, but she didn’t, that was just her personality.

She was screwing the Kid, though, no doubt about it.  At meetings he, ah . . . what’s the word . . . alluded to it, but never gave details.  He was in love wit her and said it wasn’t right for him to go talking about the sex he had wit Chastity—he respected her too much—but it was easy for everybody in our famb’ly and all the guys at the meetings to see she was pumping his brains out.  We all thought, Good for the Kid.  Let him get some action and clean out his pipes.  I vividly remember how happy he was, how he had this rosy glow, an even brighter glow than the one he had when he told the success stories about his students, about how the coloreds could write these crazy good essays and how the slow kids was planting zucchinis in the back garden.  And why shouldn’t the Kid have been happy?  He was turning around Eisenhower and kicking butt as their principal, improving state test scores and lowering violence and coming down the home stretch wit the accreditation; Eisenhower only had one last audit to pass from the Eastern Association of Academics and Schools.  He was also making a good salary, something like $125,000 a year, had rebuilt his credit and was living in a $1,800 a month loft condo in Northern Liberties—complete wit hardwood floors and exposed brick and a big old skylight.  He’d decked his place out wit leather couches, oriental throw rugs, and these beautiful oil paintings he bought from local artists who had studios in the neighborhood.  On top a that he dressed real sharp, too, in nice suits and sharp leather shoes from Clarks and Bostonian; I guess me and Tony kinda wore off on him a little bit.

His most prized possession, though, was his 2005 Porsche 911 Turbo S., which according to his journal, he bought used in 2007 for $78,000.  He parked it across the street from his condo in his reserved parking spot that cost him $150 a month.  Now, since I’m talking about the Kid’s Porsche . . . and Chastity O’Connell, I didn’t forget about her . . . I’m gonna talk about the weekend in October of 2011 when he got the title in the mail from Chase Bank that said he was the proud owner a the Porsche.  That weekend was the highest point of his life at the time, and, as he’d tell the guys later on at meetings, it was also the lowest.

It was the high point for lots a reasons, but mainly cause the Kid was madly in love wit Chastity and was preparing to propose to her; he’d even went out and spent a wad a cash on a pear-shaped diamond engagement ring set in 18 karat white gold.  He was gonna propose to her on the beach at sunset on the night of his best friend Donny’s wedding.  There was one sticking point, though—the wedding was in Atlantic City; the Kid had a gambling problem so A.C. prob’ly wasn’t the best place for him to go.  Course, it was his best friend getting married, and the Kid was the best man, so there was no way he was gonna miss it.  Plus, the Kid hadn’t gambled in almost 14 years, and had a plan in place before he went.  He talked about this plan—to stay outta the casinos, point blank— at our meetings the whole week before, ran it by Gordon W., his sponsor, too.  Gordon said he didn’t think A.C. would be a problem for the Kid, so long as he knew he could call Gordon on his cellphone at any time, day or night, if he even had the slightest urge to go within ten feet of a casino or place a bet.

So on Friday at noon . . . the Kid took a half day from school . . . he drove his candy apple red Porsche 911 Turbo S. to Atlantic City, radar detector beeping on the dash, travel bag and newly pressed navy twill suit in the backseat, diamond ring in his pocket cause he didn’t trust hisself putting it in his bag.  He beat rush hour and made great time, and checked into his room at the Trump Taj Mahal three hours before Donny’s bachelor party was supposed to begin.  That was the schedule, see: the bachelor party Friday night wit just the guys, and the wedding Saturday afternoon wit the wives coming up first thing that morning to put on their faces and dresses and get ready.  Chastity was coming extra early Saturday so her and the Kid could have a romantic breakfast at Plate, go back to the room to have a little morning delight, shower, toss off their towels and hit the bedroom for round two, shower again . . . this time separately . . . get dressed for real this time, and go to the wedding; that’s at least what the Kid wrote was supposed to happen in his journal.

At the wedding, cause he was the best man, the Kid would have to walk down the aisle wit Donny’s sister, and he would also have to take the ring from the ring bearer and give it to Donny—his best friend since they met playing C.Y.O. football in the fifth grade.  The part that made the Kid nervous, besides thinking about proposing to Chastity, was giving the toast at the reception.  He’d been working on it for weeks and even asked some of the English teachers at Eisenhower to help him wit the wording.  The problem the Kid was having was that every time he sat down to write the toast he got thinking about Chastity and how he was gonna propose to her during Donny’s reception, how he was gonna ask her to come outside for a minute to watch the sunset—not from the boardwalk out back a the Taj but right on the beach.  The Kid had it all worked out, see.  Him and Chastity would cut outta the reception for a quick second, take off their shoes and socks and walk barefoot across the beach right up to the water, the girl holding her dress up so it wouldn’t get wet, the Kid taking the ring outta his pocket, kneeling down on one knee in the sand and popping the question.  When they went back inside, giggling and teary-eyed, the Kid would make a second toast, this time announcing that him and the girl just got engaged.

That’s what the Kid would think about when he tried to write the toast.  Luckily, though, one a his best English teachers helped him get it written, and the Kid was ready to let it rip right on cue.

The Kid didn’t get in no trouble at the bachelor party.  It was a relatively calm night, cause Donny and the Kid and most a their friends was all in their late 30’s wit real jobs and wives and famb’lies of their own, which meant they was outta shape when it came to partying and drinking and such.  There was about a dozen guys who made it down to A.C. that night, and they all met up at this boardwalk pub the Kid had picked out where they had some beers and pizza.  Soon the party moved back to the Kid’s hotel room, cause he was the best man, and there they ate chicken wings and drank bottles a Coors Light and watched the baseball playoffs on TV.  At around 11:00 p.m., a colored stripper showed up to the room wit some guy wearing a Dallas Cowboys jersey wit the name “Brotha Man” on the back and a gun on his hip . . . he was this broad’s pimp, I guess . . . and she did her thing for an hour and left.  At this point all the guys went downstairs to gamble and play the slots except for the Kid, who started cleaning his hotel room up to get it ready for Chastity who was gonna be there at 8:00 the next morning.  After this the Kid called Gordon W. just to check in wit him and tell how it was going.  The conversation went something like this, according to the Kid’s journal:

“So you made it,” Gordon says to Dom.

“I made it,” the Kid says.  He was turning over the ring in his pocket as he talked.

“Good for you,” Gordon says.  “See, you hadda plan, and you stuck to it.  Congratulations.”

“Thanks.”  The Kid pulled the ring outta his pocket, started staring at it.  “I’m gonna propose to Chastity tomorrow,” he says all of a sudden.  Now, the Kid said he wasn’t planning on telling nobody until Saturday night after the deed was done, but he was too excited and hadda share the news.  “I’m gonna do it tomorrow during the reception.  I gotta find a way to get Chastity to leave the reception and take a walk on the beach at sunset.  Man . . . I’m really nervous.  You think I can pull it off?”

“Woa, you’re getting married!  Congratulations, brother!”

“Thanks,” the Kid says, and started feeling nervous like he just jinxed everything.  “Thanks, Gordon, thanks for everything.  For all your help over the years.”

“Hey, no problem.”

“Look, it’s getting late . . . I got a big day tomorrow . . .”

“Yes you do,” Gordon says.

And the Kid says, “Yeah, well, I’m gonna hang now, but thanks.  Tell Jill I said hi, okay?”

“Absolutely.  Congrats again, Dom.  Call me tomorrow with the good news when it’s official.”

“Will do,” the Kid says.

Then he hung up.  Now, I don’t know exactly what he did then, but I bet he prob’ly played wit the ring some more before putting it back in its case, went to the bathroom to brush his teeth, and went to bed.  He didn’t write about any a that in his journal, or talk about it at meetings; the entry ended there.

The next day, though, he wrote a journal entry that went on for at least a dozen pages, on and on in this handwriting that was, ah, barely legible.  Now, I’m gonna talk about that part, and try to keep as much a the details as possible—at least what I can remember.  So the Kid couldn’t sleep that night, not a friggin wink.  He kept tossing and turning and getting up to get a drink of water and walk around the room and look outta the window at the ocean and the beach where he was gonna ask Chastity O’Connell to marry him.  And when his alarm went off at 7:00 in the morning, his eyes was all red and stingy from not sleeping, but he was excited and didn’t care; it was nothing some coffee and eye drops couldn’t fix.

So he got up and showered and got dressed and took the ring out and put it in his jeans pocket and practiced in his room popping the question, practiced getting down on one knee and all that.  Time was moving slow for the Kid, cause he was so excited.  He said the next hour felt like a day, and he kept checking his watch, wondering when Chastity was gonna get there.  At 8:15 she still wasn’t there, and he figured she’d hit some traffic.  At 8:30 he decided to give her a quick call but she didn’t answer her cellphone.  At 9:00 he was starting to get worried and called her again, but she still didn’t answer so he left a message: Hey babe.  Dom here.  Call me when you get this.  Love you.  Bye.  At 10:00 he was frantic and starting to wig out, cause he was sure something bad had happened to her—maybe a car accident or a heart attack or a whatdoyacallit . . . brain embolism . . . and just when he was seriously considering calling Chastity’s mother to see if she knew anything, the Kid’s cellphone rang.

It was Chastity’s name on the caller I.D.

“Hello,” the Kid says.  “Chastity?”

There was this long silence—the Kid was clear about this in his journal—and finally Chastity says, “Hey, Dom.”

“Oh my God,” the Kid says, “I was starting to get worried.  Where are you?”

“Still at home,” Chastity says.  “I didn’t leave yet.”

“You didn’t leave yet?  What?  Why not?”

And Chastity says, “Cause.  I’m not gonna make it to see you today.”

And the Kid says, all alarmed and disappointed, “What?  Why not?  What’s the matter, babe?”

“Dom,” she says, “we gotta talk.”

And then she just told him straight out, just told the Kid everything, straight out.  The Kid didn’t hear what she was saying at first cause his mind lost the ability to concentrate and everything was a blur.  He didn’t really hear what she was saying at all until the girl said the words I’m married—that’s when the Kid started listening to what she was saying.

“You’re married?’ the Kid says, and the girl says yeah, she is, she’s been married for three years . . . her husband almost found out about the two a them and she got all freaked out and saw the light and knew it was time to end it . . . end the affair they was having.  The girl said she was sorry, so sorry, but there was nothing she could do about it; she still loved her husband and that was it.  Dom said he couldn’t remember much else about the call except that it felt like he was outside his body listening to someone else talking, that the whole thing didn’t seem real.  The only thing he said he knew was that it was clear that Chastity wasn’t lying, that she was really married and that it was over between the two a them.  At that point Dom said his hotel room got all swimmy, that everything lost color and shifted to black-and-white and whatnot, and that he didn’t feel real anymore.

He said he just sat down on the bed for a long time, just sat and stared out in space.  He said his cellphone rang and he didn’t answer it.  He said there was a block a time he couldn’t remember, that he mighta been laying under the covers on his bed for a bit, and that the phone kept ringing—his cellphone and his room phone.  Then there was a knock on his hotel room door, pounding on the door, and he got up to answer it.

It was Donny, and he says, “Yo, bro, where you been, man?  Where’s Chastity?”

The Kid said he just made something up, said Chastity got sick or something.

“That sucks,” Donny says, “you okay?”

The Kid just nodded.

“Well it’s time to get ready,” Donny says.  “Let’s get dressed and hit the hotel bar for some pregame drinks.”

The Kid said he got dressed in a fog like a robot, put on his suit—one leg then the other, one arm then the other—and tried to act normal.  He said he told hisself he hadda act normal so he didn’t frig up Donny’s wedding, and so Dom just put on this big smile and tried not to say much; when people talked to him, he just nodded and smiled.  He nodded and smiled and followed Donny down to the hotel bar, let Donny get him a shot and a beer; it was then the Kid started to feel better.  The alcohol brought some a the color back to things, though the lobby was still a fog, the Kid said.  Other guys was there now, other guys wit their wives.  The Kid kept smiling and acting like things was normal, giving hugs and shaking hands.  Some people asked where Chastity was, and the Kid said she got this real bad stomach bug and couldn’t make it.  Sorry to hear that, they said.

Somehow, the Kid made it through the wedding.  He just kept smiling and nodding and drinking a buncha vodka tonics.  The Kid wasn’t a big drinker, so he was nice and comfortably, um, numb, like that song by that band, Pink something.  The Kid said watching Donny saying his vows made him feel better, but it also made him feel sad and alone.  The Kid said that the whole room was fulla people, people that he’d known for years, but for some reason he felt a million miles away, cut off from everybody—all a his buddies—who was proud and happy wit their beautiful wives.

The reception followed the wedding in a big old banquet room in the Taj.  The Kid was at the main wedding party table, so no one really noticed that Chastity wasn’t there.  The Kid kept ordering drinks and smiling and nodding at everybody.  Time was a blur and all of a sudden it was time for Dom to give the toast—which he actually nailed, brought down the house—cause he was an experienced principal who talked in front a people for a living; he said he had no nerves cause he was so lubed-up from the drinks.  Everybody stood and clapped, all impressed over his fine speech about how Donny and his new wife Stephanie was soul mates and would spend all these happy years together . . . even Donny’s grandma was in tears, the Kid said . . . and right then the Kid saw his chance to jet and took it, just bolted; he smiled and nodded his way the frig outta the reception, down the hall to the nearest exit doors which led him outside to the boardwalk.  The sun was setting, right over the Atlantic Ocean, and this was too much for the Kid.  He burst out crying, hard, and walked out on the beach barefoot, holding his shoes in his hand.  He stayed there a while, saying he felt completely alone in the universe even though there was moms and dads and little kids flying kites at the edge a the ocean.

The cry cleared his head, the Kid said.  He got some a his strength back.  He left the beach and put on his shoes and was planning on going up to his room and getting his stuff and checking out right then, but when he put his hand in his pocket to get his key card, he felt the box, the friggin goddamned ring box.  Now, this is where the Kid says in his journal that his sad feelings turned to angry feelings—boom, just like that.  He said just like that he was mad, mad as you wouldn’t believe.  Did that bitch actually say she was married? the Kid asked hisself.  She did.

Dom said he knew right there he hadda get rid a that friggin ring, was actually gonna run back on the beach and throw it the frig into the ocean, but he thought better of it.  He’d spent a wad a cash on it, and he wasn’t gonna lose all a that money.  So without further . . . what’s the word . . . debate, he just went down the boardwalk to the nearest pawn shop and hocked the freakin thing, hocked it for exactly $5,000—which was only half a what he paid for it.  Course, it didn’t matter; that was plenty a cash to play wit in the casino, where he’d known he’d end up going all along . . . at least since the phone call wit that lying bitch Chastity.

In Dom went, it wasn’t hard.  Right into the Taj, right to the roulette wheel.  It was like second nature to him, like no time had passed.  He put $200 on black—that’s how he said he was feeling—and lost.  Put another $200 on black.  Lost again.  He was pissed now, super pissed.  He said he was gonna put $200 on black until he won, see, cause it all made sense now.  It hadda be black, cause that was Chastity, just a black spot, a black, heartless cunt; these is the Kid’s words in his journal, not mine.  He lost five more times until he finally won.  Course, it didn’t matter, cause he won, see.  He was back.  He was down $1,200, but he was back.  It felt good, the Kid said.  It was good to be back.  That whole gray fog lifted and everything came into sharp focus wit lots a color.  The casino, the Kid said, was beautiful, the colors and sounds of the slots, the clank of coins, the click and snap of the cards being dealt.

He lost more money on roulette—won some but lost more—and then went over to play blackjack, which was where he was gonna get his groove on.  The Kid went right to the $100 table, no friggin screwing around.  He got hot and won back a buncha his cash and some people came over and started watching, and he was getting comped a buncha drinks.  The Kid said he was focused now, in his . . . his zone.  He kept playing and lost track a time.  He glanced down at the table and somehow, somehow, he was on his last $100 chip; this didn’t make any sense cause he was sure we was actually winning but no, no, no, that was it, the Kid was outta cash.

Course, the Kid thought he was just rusty.  He could win it back, he could, see, it was possible.  He went over to the casino cashier and bought $1,500 in chips which was the limit on his Visa Gold card; he’d set this limit on his card years ago cause he knew he had a gambling problem.  He got fifteen $100 chips and went back to the blackjack game where he’d left off.  Things I guess went a little better this time, or so the Kid thought.  He played for a while, at least an hour, but somehow, somehow, the same thing happened: he was down to his last chip.  He lost it on the next hand and went over to the ATM and this time used his bank card and took out the maximum he could from his checking account, which was $300.  Recharged, he played the slots, and more blackjack at a $10 table, and more slots, until somehow, somehow, the $300 was gone.

The Kid was drunk now, he wrote in his journal.  A good numb drunk.  The high from the gambling was fading, though, and the Kid was, um, obsessed wit chasing it.  He left the casino floor and went to his car to get the emergency $20 from the glove compartment.  He had it all figured out, see.  He’d ride that twenty bucks, you betcha, for all it was worth.  He fumbled to get his car keys outta his pocket, finally found them and unlocked his car wit the press of a button.  The door to his shiny apple red Porsche popped open and he went to the glove box and opened that up.  His mail, the envelops and such that he’d grabbed from the letterbox on his way up to A.C. yesterday afternoon, fell on the floor.  The Kid said in his journal that he stared at it real hard cause he’d forgot what it was, but then he remembered.  His mail, dah.  How dumb a the Kid.  Junk mail . . . Men’s Wearhouse circulars and such garbage . . . and, oh yeah, the title to his Porsche, look at that.  He stared at the title for a moment, and made his decision, it wasn’t hard.  The next thing he knew he was driving his Porsche to the same pawn shop he’d brought the girl’s ring to, the Kid did.  He handed the title to the guy behind the counter and said something like, I forget his exact words, “How much can I get for this?”

The guy gave the Kid $35,000.  Now it was a pawn, not a sale, so the Kid had 30 days to repay—wit interest—the $35,000 to get his Porsche back.  No problem, the Kid figured, which is what he thought at the time and later wrote in his journal.  All he hadda do was win back the . . . what was it . . . $6,800 he’d blown on the roulette and blackjack tables and he was home free; he’d walk away even steven, no big deal.

Course, it was a big deal, a big goddamn deal.

_______

The Kid went back to the Taj wit the fat wad a cash in his pocket.  He got $10,000 in chips just to start.  No sense in changing all the money into chips, since he was gonna just break even and then head back to his room.  Now, to just speed through the story here, the Kid basically gambled for hours until he was down to his last $2,000.  He’d gotten comped tons a drinks and coupons to breakfast places and even a friggin free room—a suite at the top a the Taj, if you can believe that.  At something like 4:00 in the morning, the Kid was all polluted but still going strong, still putting stacks a them $100 chips down on the table.  But while this was going on, see, there was this broad kinda standing next to him, this younger broad wit long blond hair and silver platform heels and a long blue dress wit a slit on the side so you could see her legs when she walked. Her cleavage was all showing, Dom wrote, kinda right in his, ah, line a vision.

She was a hooker, a prostitute, the Kid understood.  He was drunk but she still caught his eye, he said, got him half hard and excited.  She smelled good, that’s what the Kid really remembered.  She’d been talking to the Kid and making comments about his bets, wincing when he’d lose a big hand and giving him a little friendly elbow when he won a hand.  Dom said he thought she might even be a comp from the Taj, too, no fooling around, the Kid really believed this.  Either way, though, the Kid knew he was gonna take her up to his free suite at the top a the Taj and lay her on the bed and bend her slutty feet back behind her ears and pound her mound for hours . . . pound her little blond twat from behind . . . give her a whole buncha kinky orders, tell her to use her tongue and mouth and everything.  After all, it was 4:00 in the morning and the Kid was stinking drunk and down almost $40,000.  That was the situation, the whole rotten situation.

So the Kid says something like, “You wanna go up to my penthouse suite?”

And the hooker says, “Did you blow all of your money, honey?  Or did you save some for having fun?”

“I saved some,” the Kid says.  “I got about two grand left.”

And the hooker says, “Okey-dokey,” and then the Kid grabbed his last chips and took the hooker by the arm and the two got in the elevator and went up to Dom’s free hotel room.  It doesn’t say in Dom’s journal if they fooled around on the elevator or if they even screwed at all.  Personally, I don’t think they did, cause Dom was really drunk and depressed and all that, so I doubt he was ready to do all the things he said he was thinking about doing.  The thing I do know, though—what he clearly wrote in his journal—is that when he went into the bathroom to piss, there was a loud thump on his door, and all of a sudden the cops was raiding his hotel room. They came in hollering and telling the Kid and the hooker to put their hands up on their heads and kneel down on the floor.

They handcuffed the Kid, and, what’s the word . . . escorted him down the hall onto the elevator, through the casino and into a squad car.  They shoved him, pushing his head down so they could fit him into the back seat a the cop car.  They took him to the police station and before tossing him into a holding cell, stripped off all his clothes, threw everything outta his pockets and dumped out the stuff inside his wallet, and even had him bend over for a body cavity search.  After that they booked him—took his fingerprints and mug shot.  The Kid wrote in his journal that he was so drunk and exhausted he didn’t even care, that he just wanted to lay down and go to sleep, which he did, right on the hard metal cot in the holding cell.

When he woke up, there was a cop telling him he could make a phone call if he wanted.

_______

That was at 10:00 in the morning, the phone call was.  Twelve hours later, by 10:00 that night, the Kid was home in his own bed sleeping like a friggin little cherub, his fingerprints and mug shot destroyed, his arrest record wiped clean.  In the reserved spot across the street from his condo was parked his candy apple red Porsche 911 Turbo S.  Course, this was compliments of me and my brother Tony.  See, when the Kid made his phone call he dialed the number of none other than his uncle Manny, which was the smartest thing he coulda done.  He called me early that Sunday morning all panicky and frantic saying he was in a real frigged up situation, that he was in some jail in A.C., that he gambled away his Porsche, and that life as he’d known it—his days as the principal a Eisenhower, for one—was over.  He told me all a this in one long rambling breath, like he didn’t have much time on the phone.

I hadda tell him to say it again cause I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.

“You got locked up?” I says.  “You’re in friggin jail now?”

“Yeah,” he says.  “You gotta help me, uncle Manny.  I need a lawyer.  You know anybody I can talk to?”

“You’re in jail?  Right now?  In A.C.?”

“Uh-huh.”

“Fuck.  Okay, lemme think about this.”  It wasn’t hard to figured it out, though.  We had people, a whole mess a people, in A.C.  I’d just need to make a few phone calls, most likely starting wit my brother Tony, to see what I could do.  I asked the Kid where he was exactly, and he told me he was at the Public Safety Building in a holding cell, and that these scumbag cops strip searched him and took all the stuff outta his pockets and wallet and threw it all over the place.  He said they took his picture and finger printed him, too.  He had the worst hangover in his entire life, he said, and already puked on the floor.

“Okay,” I says to him.  “Just relax.  I’m gonna call your uncle Tony.  We got some people down there, and I think they can help.  But listen, kid.  You gotta do one thing for me, okay?  You listening?”

“Yeah,” the Kid says.  “I’m listening.”

“Good.  Now, when you hang up the phone wit me, you gotta tell those scumbag cops that you know Jerry D’Alessandro, understand?  I don’t care what these jag-knobs say their gonna do, just tell them you know Jerry.”

“Who’s Jerry D’Alessandro?”

“He’s a friend a your uncle Tony,” I says.  “He makes Pete the Gorilla look like a sissy pole-smoker.”

“What if they don’t know this guy Jerry?”

“You see . . . we’re off to a bad start here.  Do you want me to help you or not, kid?”

“I want you to help me.”

“Then shut the frig up and do what I says.  These douchebag cops will know Jerry, believe me.  Everybody down there friggin knows Jerry.  When a guy takes a baseball bat to a freakin judge’s head, people don’t forget it.  Tell the cops that you know Jerry and Joel Gelles.  City Councilman Joel Gelles.”

“Joel Gelles?”

“Yeah,” I says.  “Gelles owes Tony.  Big time.  So drop Gelles’ name and D’Alessandro’s name.  If these cops ask how you know them, just admit that Tony Genitaglia is your uncle.  They’ll open their friggin ears and start listening real quick.  They may even start treating you wit a little bit a respect.  You getting all this, kid?”

“Yeah.  I got it.”

“You gonna do what I says?”

“Yeah, I guess.”

“You guess?” I says.  “You guess?  Look, you can do what you want, kid.  But you need to make up your mind.  While you is wasting time trying to decide the clock is ticking, see.  You ever hear a something called ‘police notes’?  Well, right now some piss ant newspaper reporter is prob’ly sticking his friggin nose in your business as we speak.  Looking for some muck to rake up and stick on the front page.  Use your head, kid.  If we don’t do something now, forgetaboutit.  All those colored kids at that school a yours?  Gone.  See ya.  You won’t be their principal no more.  You won’t be a principal nowhere.  So you need to figure this out.  If you do what I tell you to do, you’ll prob’ly be fine.  You gotta slow these pricks down while I make a few phone calls, though.  Do we read each other, kid?”

The Kid said he was straight, had his shit together.

“I hope so.”

I hung up the phone wit the Kid and thought he was toast, God’s honest truth.  I didn’t think he had the balls to do what I told him.  I knew we could take care a most of it, but those newspaper maggots were prob’ly already putting his picture in the Atlantic City Register, and from there the story a the Kid getting caught wit a prostitute would work its way to the pages a the Philadelphia Post.  And that would be it for the Kid.

Course, the Kid did do what I told him to do, and that didn’t happen.  It almost happened, but it didn’t.  A prick police beat writer for the Register actually started a little squib about the Kid’s arrest, but it got squashed by none other than the A.C. police themselves.

So, the Kid does what he’s supposed to do.  He tells the cops that he knows Jerry D’Alessandro and Joel Gelles and to top it all off, that Tony was his uncle.  In his journal the Kid wrote that the younger cop, the one that had Dom bend over and spread open his asshole, tried to test him to see if it was true, and started shaking his head, saying, “Nice try, buddy.  Where’d you hear of those guys, the Internet?”

But the Kid stuck to it, saying, “Tony Genitaglia is my mother’s brother.  Her last name is Rossetti, like mine.  Look it up.  I’m sure you’ll be getting a call from Joel Gelles’s office soon.  When he calls, you can tell him how you’s sexually assaulted me and violated my rights.”

About an hour later, before the Kid was arraigned and before the two-paragraph newspaper story went to press, the phone in the police station starts ringing.  It was Joel Gelles hisself, my hand on a stack a Bibles.  The younger cop answers, and all the Kid heard from the holding cell was, “Yeah.  Uh-huh.  Yes, Mr. Gelles, he’s here.  Yes Mr. Gelles.  It must have been a mistake.  We’ll take care of it, A.S.A.P.”

The cops was hearing better then.  Suddenly, they got some manners, too.  They let the Kid outta the holding cell and cleaned him up a bit, wiped the puke off his shirt.  They started asking him if he was hungry or thirsty and gave him a can a soda and some Tylenol.  They got his personal belongings together—the stuff in his pockets and his wallet—and straightened it out and made it all neat and whatnot.  The Kid had $2,000 in casino chips and those magically reappeared outta thin air, poof!  They actually apologized to the Kid for the mistake and set him up in a back room wit a leather couch and a flat screen TV and told him to just relax and take it easy, that somebody from Joel Gelles’s office was gonna come and pick him up and take him home.  And somebody did—Joel Gelles’s personal driver, if you can believe that.  But this guy didn’t take the Kid all the way home, no; the guy drove to the pawn shop to get the Kid’s car outta hock.

“Here’s forty grand,” Gelles’s driver says.  “Keep the change.  And if anybody comes around asking about this candy apple red Porsche, you never saw it before, understand?”

“What Porsche?” the pawn shop owner says.

“Exactly.”

And so the Kid’s crazy weekend in A.C. disappeared into thin air.

Part 6

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Uncle Tony’s Charter School: Part 4

Illustration by Sean Wang

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 4 of 25

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When the start a the next school year came, Eisenhower was a whatdoyacallit—a well-oiled machine, all thanks to the Kid.  Dr. Beatrice Crothers, the 350 pound colored Superintendent of the Philadelphia Unified School District . . . I think you’s guys have heard a her . . . was all impressed by Dom and what he’d been doing at Eisenhower.  Dom said at first Crothers was always up his ass about something, was always poking her fat face—reading glasses on the end a her nose and all—in his business, pissing the Kid off something awful.  But Dom was smart, see, and figured out pretty quick how to get this broad off his back: paperwork.  The Kid learned early about the paperwork, he wrote in his journal.  In Philly, cause the public schools was all frigged up, there was a crazy amount a paperwork that needed to be done by the principals to make it look like stuff wasn’t so frigged up.  That was the, ah, racket.  Not just in public schools in Filthy-delphia, but in society and even the world at large: the more dysfunctional something was, the more paperwork you needed to show that it was working the way it was supposed to.

Now, when something worked, you didn’t need all the paperwork, see.  When something worked, and the boss or the owner or some other jackass came along and wanted to see how things was going, all you hadda do was show them; the proof was in the pudding.  Like wit a car, for example.  If you was in charge of making sure a certain car was running and in top shape, and you was doing a good job, and the boss came along and wanted to see the car, and you got behind the wheel and drove it all around and the engine purred and the breaks stopped on a dime, it was plain to see you was doing a good job.  Course, if the boss came and the car was up on blocks or sitting in the garage bay wit the hood up, and the mechanics was standing around the car fooling wit it, maybe changing a hose or a filter, and it had been this way for weeks or months or even years, you’d better have papers saying it was all gonna work out.  You’d better have papers saying why all you numb-nuts was getting paid all that money.

That’s how Dom said the Philadelphia Unified School District operated.  Half the stuff didn’t work the way it was supposed to, so you needed mountains and mountains a paperwork to show that it did . . . or would, someday . . . someday soon.  Just as soon as they got just a bit more money, a bit more funds from the city.  That was the key, according to the Kid: cash.  There was never, ever, enough cash.  Forgetaboutit; this is why my brother Tony was smart enough to get in on the education racket, but I’ll get to that part soon.  Anyways, no matter how much money the school district got from the, ah, miserly governor, it was not only way short a being enough, but it was also a heinous crime against the colored children and the poor white-trash kids wit the brown crooked teeth.  Where did all the money go?  God only knew; the Kid worked for Philly schools for 18 years and said he still didn’t have no clue, his hand on a stack a Bibles.  The only thing he knew for sure was that you needed the proper paperwork.

Which is why Superintendent Crothers eventually left the Kid alone—cause he got real good at the paperwork.  He became a paperwork guru.  The Kid had the best looking paperwork in the whole friggin city, perhaps the best paperwork in the entire United States of America, and I’d be willing to put money on it.  I saw the Kid’s paperwork, cause he used to show it around at meetings.  He had these whatchamacallits . . . these data binders, filled wit all the special kinds a data that Dr. Crothers wanted.  I can’t remember all the kinds a data that was in there, but there was a lot, believe me.  A friggin pant-load.  There was I think data on state test scores, and data on the observations a the faculty staff, and data on how many a the free breakfasts the Puerto Ricans and the poor colored kids ate each day, and data on the intervention plans put in place by the school’s special intervention team, and data on the school emergency lockdown plan put in place by the school emergency lockdown team, and data on the slow kids and all their special . . . what’s it called . . . accommodations, and data on the number a seizures the handicapped kids had, and data on how many times the kids farted, and picked at their nuts or nose, and data on whether or not you was keeping the proper data.  Course, once all the data was collected and spot-checked by Crothers and her team a suits wit their nifty clipboards, nothing ever happened wit the data; the word on the street was that a special data team was hired and paid a six figure salary to put the data into special file cabinets in the basement a the district’s central office; this is at least what the Kid wrote in his journal.

But the Kid’s data binders looked good—the best in the country, no doubt—they was clean, neat, organized, and followed Dr. Crothers’ instructions to the letter a the law, down to the friggin nostril.  Dom’s trick . . . he made me promise never to tell nobody . . . was that he just winged a lot of the data cause he was too busy doing stuff that really mattered.  Anyways, Dr. Crothers was impressed to say the least.  Plus, the Kid’s data binders had leather covers, which was the key to his success wit the School District’s central office.  Leather, my friend.  Some a the principals, see, they had plastic.  Some had vinyl.  Not the Kid—no friggin way.  His was leather, right from Brookstone, the good $200 kind, not the shit $30 kind from OfficeWorld.  This was my idear, to use leather, and it paid off.  Dom told me so hisself.

“Your data binders are in excellent order,” Crothers had said to the Kid during a visit she’d made to his school in September of 2010.  “And leather covers, too.”  She fondled one a the binders in her dark pudgy hands and actually put it to her nose and sniffed it.  “Hmmm, leather.  If you don’t mind, may I ask you where you purchased this?”

“Brookstone,” the Kid said.

“Hmm,” she said.  “You’re a worker, Rossetti.  I see you going places, honey.”

_______

From then on out the Kid was in like flint.  He was Dr. Crothers’ pet, and basically was left alone to run Eisenhower the way he saw fit.  Dr. Crothers was a good person to have in your corner, believe you me.  She was a former . . . what’s the word . . . adjunct professor from Columbia University’s Teachers College, and had won not one but ten, count ‘em—ten—award dinners during her career as an administrator.  Right around the time the Kid was getting his Principal a the Year award, Crothers was getting something called the Best Urban Superintendent in America award that was given to her by this organization called . . . um, the Collation a the Greatest City Schools, or the Greatest City Schools in America, or some such nonsense like that . . . I know it had the word “great” or “greatest” in there, cause it reminded me a Mohammad Ali.  So she got this award, again; the first two times she got it she was working in Chicago and Houston, even though both a these school districts had huge financial, um, deficits after she left, and even though both a these school districts was accused of cheating on state tests while she was there.  Course, the Philadelphia Unified School District was lucky to have the prestigious Dr. Beatrice Crothers, Ed.D., working for them, and the School Board even said so publically in the papers and on TV.  The School District was paying her $325,000 a year, plus a cellphone, plus a laptop, plus limo service and two fulltime chauffeurs, plus they paid for her move from Houston, plus they set her up in an apartment in Center City while she looked for a house to rent when she first got to Filthy-delphia; at least this is what the Kid wrote in his journal.

And the Kid had her on his side, which couldn’t hurt.  So he went full speed ahead putting his time into the things that made a difference at Eisenhower.  You’s guys ever hear a something called accreditation?  Yeah, well, the Kid decided he was gonna try and get that for the school.  Accreditation is this kinda certification that proves that a school is good and running right, you know?  It’s like this stamp of approval to show the community that the school has high standards and whatnot, that the students actually learn stuff, real important stuff, when they walk in the door in the mornings.  The, um, Department of Education is all big on accreditation, and schools that get it get handjobs from the government and fancy write-ups from newspapers like Education World.  According to the Kid, this accreditation can help the school get money and funds and new materials, like books, and projectors, and new computers, and all that good stuff to help the kids learn better.  Plus, like I said, it makes the school look good, and makes the parents wanna send their kids there and maybe even get more involved wit things.

The Kid hadda get the accreditation from this place called the Eastern Association of Academics and Schools.  All the best high schools got their accreditation from these guys, which is why the Kid wanted it for Eisenhower so bad.  Now, I know what you’s guys is thinking.  Eisenhower didn’t have no shot at this, right?  Not no school in the middle a the Bad Lands in freakin North Philly, where the students is mostly colored and didn’t have no parents or if they did, they was strung out on crank or spent all their time drinking 40 ounces a malt liquor?  That’s what I thought when I first heard about the Kid’s idear, when I first heard about the accreditation; course, that was before I really knew Dom the way I do now, and heard the stories about all the strong, dedicated moms and grandmoms who wit Dom’s direction, worked their friggin asses off to get their kids outta the ghetto.  Like I said before, Dom was special.  He had this certain energy, this certain vision, and he could literally will stuff to happen, my hand on a stack a Bibles.  So looking back now, it was definitely possible for Eisenhower to get accreditation, war zone neighborhoods and all.

Now, to get the accreditation, you hadda go through this big old rigmarole, and the whole racket took like three years to do.  The Kid jumped in head first in the fall of 2010, and from the start swung for the fences.  Just to spare you’s guys the boring details, the Kid basically hadda officially apply for the accreditation and get approved by some fancy board just to get the whole process started, which he got, but just barely.  The Kid kept running into these paperwork snags, and having to redo the application to the board’s liking.  This frustrated the Kid cause he was normally real good at the paperwork, but the Eastern Association of Academics and Schools was all snotty and kept sending his stuff back and telling him to do it again.  They would pick out these stupid asinine things to fix, saying his mission statement wasn’t worded right, and he complained about this a lot at our addiction meetings.  Course, when I heard about this I asked the Kid if he wanted me and the Gorilla to get involved—if he wanted me to throw around some a the board members or shake them up a bit . . . maybe pullout a fingernail or two . . . but Dom, he was all above board and whatnot, and said he wanted to do it all hisself.

So finally, around Christmastime, Eisenhower’s application got approved and the Kid could start the formal process a getting the accreditation.  In the New Year, in January of 2011, these accreditation guys showed up at the school to look around and work wit the Kid and his staff on identifying Eisenhower’s strengths and weakness.  These accreditation jag-offs graded Eisenhower on stuff like safety, the conditions a the school, quality a Dom’s leadership, the quality a student services, and, what was the other one . . . oh yeah, fiscal stability.  After spending a week wit the Kid at Eisenhower, these accreditation people gave their recommendations, and told Dom he hadda form an improvement team—a real one, not like the one Dr. Crothers wanted—and write this big old complex school improvement plan that the Kid would have to submit to them for their approval.  The Kid did it, worked his friggin balls off and did it, and the accreditation jack-wads only sent it back to Dom three times to redo before saying it was good . . . not great but good . . . good enough to stamp it wit the Eastern Association of Academics and Schools seal of approval.

That, as the Kid said, was the easy part.  Now all Dom hadda do was meet all the, um, improvement benchmarks in the freaking improvement plan.  By the time the Kid got down to this part it was the following school year, the fall of 2011, a terrible time for the Fightin Phillies, I might add, who was the Vegas odds-on favorites to win the World Series but ended up choking in game five of the NLDC to the St. Louis Cardinals, one zip.  Freakin horrible showing, that game was, and I lost a goddamn boatload a cash on it; it was so bad I almost went back on the bottle.

But enough about baseball.  What I wanna tell you’s guys now is how the Kid stopped perhaps the biggest fight in the history a Eisenhower High School from happening and single handedly saved Eisenhower’s chances a getting accreditation.  In October of 2011, when the accreditation guys came to Eisenhower to do a visit to see if Dom’s school was meeting all the standards in the improvement plan, there was a bit a drama unfolding amongst the clientele.  This 12th grade student nicknamed Cram—wit a “C”—was supposed to fight this other 12th grade student nicknamed Kram—spelled wit a “K”.  According to Dom’s journal, these two morons didn’t like each other, but not cause they had a rivalry over their nicknames, but cause they was from different gangs; K-Kram was from the Kirkwood Village Projects, and C-Cram was from Diamond Park.

Supposedly, one a the guys from C-Cram’s crew talked shit on one a the guy’s from K-Kram’s crew, said a guy from K-Kram’s crew—perhaps K-Kram hisself, nobody really knew for sure—ate C-Cram’s Cheesy Doodles, and when he was done, threw the empty bag on the classroom floor and said, “Diamond Park is a buncha bitches.”  That was the word all around school: somebody from Kirkwood Projects ate C-Cram’s Cheesy Doodles, threw the empty bag on the classroom floor, and said, Diamond Park is a buncha bitches.  Students was talking about it for a coupla days.  Now, when things started getting all heated up, when the rumor spread through Eisenhower that Kirkwood Village was gonna fight Diamond Park Friday morning before school in this friggin gigantic gang rumble right outside in the parking lot, that guys from both crews was planning on bringing pipes and knives and guns and what have you to school so they could throw down and settle all the bullshit, Dom knew he hadda jump in and work things out.  Not just so none a the kids got hurt or killed, but also cause the accreditation guys was supposed to show up that day and check on, of all things, how safety was coming along at Eisenhower.

First thing Dom did was go right to the source.  He somehow got K-Kram to come down to his office and asked him if he ever said that about Diamond Park.  K-Kram said he never did, but also added that he wasn’t scared a C-Cram or any a those pussies from Kirkwood Projects.  Dom said that that was good news, that they was making headway.

“So you never said that about C-Cram, right?” Dom says.

“Naw,” K-Kram says.  “But I ain’t scared of him.  You know, I’ll rock that dude in a minute.”

“Did you eat his Cheesy Doodles?”

“Naw, man.  I don’t even know what people is talking about.”

“That’s good,” Dom says, staying real calm.  “So I guess you never called Diamond Park a bunch of bitches, then, either?”

“Naw.  People talk too much shit at this school.”

Dom kept talking to this K-Kram guy for a while, and somehow . . . God only knows how . . . got the other idiot down to his office, that C-Cram kid, and got the two a them talking.  Dom wrote in his journal that they was both kinda scared inside, that they was mad but also anxious and feeling like they hadda prove something so people wouldn’t think they was punks or nothing.  Dom said he had them talking in his office for like an hour . . . really talking, and he said he could see the relief on their faces, that maybe they could call the whole thing off, just put a stop to the whole gang rumble thing.  He asked which kid would be the bigger man, would have the strength not to fight.

“Who’s the bigger man?” Dom asked, but neither Cram nor Kram answered.  Dom said, “Fine, let me put it to you like this.  You’ve both been in fights before, right?  You both know you’re not scared, right?  That’s what I’m talking about.  Maybe when you two were younger you had to prove to yourself you could stand up and fight—you had to have this rite of passage.  And the both of you did.  You guys aren’t scared.  Now you have a different test—a bigger test to see if you are a man.  You have to prove to yourself that you can walk away.  Be the bigger man and walk away.  Does that make any sense?  Think about.  Seriously.  I know deep down the both of you are men.  I know deep down the both of you will do the right thing, I have faith in you.”

The two kids actually shook hands before they left Dom’s office, but said they couldn’t promise nothing.  Course, Dom didn’t stop there.  He worked wit the school cops and the counselor and systematically rounded-up nearly every known student in both gangs, called them into his office and gave his “bigger man” speech, did his best to get the kids talking and shaking hands and even in some cases, laughing about the whole friggin stupid thing.

Somehow it worked.  On Friday morning, just when the accreditation pricks was there observing the school and taking notes, Eisenhower was business as usual.  There was no rumble, not even a single argument.  Once again the Kid did the impossible.

Part 5 

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Uncle Tony’s Charter School: Part 3

Illustration by Sean Wang

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 3 of 25

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO THE AUDIO OF PART 3: 

Over the next seven years, the Kid won teacher a the year three more times . . . and got three more award dinners.  There was no politics involved, neither; unlike half the people who won awards, Dom really deserved those dinners.  Course, in 2007, he didn’t just win it for Philadelphia, but for the entire State of Pennsylvania.  That made him eligible for the National Teacher of the Year competition, where Dom, who hadn’t gambled on a single thing in almost ten friggin years, made the finals but didn’t win.  I told Dom not to worry about it, that the whole thing was fixed anyways; the broad from Idaho that ended up winning prob’ly gave the judges a little bit of hand action.

No biggie, though.  The Kid kept going to meetings and working the 12 steps wit Gordon W.  During this time he went back to school, like I said before, and earned his principal certificate.  In the fall of 2008, right when the Phillies was about to win the World Series and Barack Obama was about to become the first, ah, how shall I say it . . . dark-skinned president, Dom got hired as an assistant principal at Eisenhower High School in North Philadelphia.  This place was a friggin war zone, let me tell you.  Kids bringing weapons and shit to school, fighting, cursing, and just basically running amok.  Dom’s first day on the job there was this big brawl right at the main entrance a the school.  Some kids had come to school late and they wasn’t wearing the proper uniforms, which was a school-issued navy blue golf shirt wit Eisenhower High School stenciled on the front; Dom wrote about all a this in detail in his journal.

About a half-dozen teenagers walk up to the front doors and just try to walk in . . . right past the school police and metal detectors.  The police blocked the entrance, reminding the kids that they needed to put on their uniforms and submit to a search a their bags and whatnot.  The kids got all indignant, and started cursing and telling the cops to get outta their face.  One kid supposedly pushed one a the cops, and then this crazy mêlée erupted and all hell broke loose.  A buncha teens who was congregating in the hall jumped in it, and fists started flying, and then Dom and the principal, Mrs. Brown, started running down the hallway shouting into their walkie-talkies.  A few minutes later red and blue lights was flashing and the real cops was there, wit their clubs out and canisters of pepper spray in their hands.

When it all finally settled down, 15 students was arrested for disorderly conduct and hitting cops.  They was suspended from school for ten days and put on disciplinary probation.  The thing was, though, some a the kids was saying that the cops was outta line for getting rough wit the students.  A few a them even got this rally together out front a the school a week later to protest.  There was adults there, too.  These, um . . . educational advocates.  They was complaining about the cops and how they basically started the whole thing by disrespecting the students, how the cops didn’t know how to talk to the students and was too busy trying to act all tough.  This kinda behavior—combined wit the metal detectors at the front doors—made the students wanna act out, they said.

“The cops always be getting in our face,” the one student was quoted in the newspaper saying.  “They be hollering and grabbing us and searching our stuff.”

Now Dom, see, he was smart.  He didn’t wanna piss-off the cops or the students so he started this mediation program at Eisenhower so the kids and the police could, you know, talk things out.  Me, I woulda just throwed them kids out on their asses and if they had a problem wit it, broke their heads for them for good measure.  When I was growing up, we had respect for our elders, and if there was any backtalk we’d catch a friggin smack right across the mouth.  Not today, let me tell you.  These kids today, whoa, they act like animals.  But Dom, he somehow understood the kids and kinda knew why they was acting the way they was.  He had compassion for these little bastards, and could connect wit them.  He said in his journal and at meetings that he knew how these kids felt.  He said no one intentionally wanted to be an asshole, not most a the time, that there was some good reason for it.  It was just like gambling and other addictions, he said.  One day things was okay and you thought you had control, and the next you woke up and realized your whole life was all frigged up and you wondered how in the hell it all came to this.  How in God’s name did you end up in such a deep goddamn hole?

Dom said no one intentionally wanted to screw up their life.  No one woke up and said, “Yeah, frig it, I think I’ll ruin my life today.”  It was a series a little decisions, little dumb choices that added-up, that got you all tied in a friggin knot.  Like wit the gambling for him, and the drinking for me.  You cross a point and you just become powerless, and then you’re screwed; there ain’t no going back on your own.  The only thing you can do is admit you got a problem and ask for help.  You hadda admit it first, though.  You couldn’t blame nobody else, not your wife, not your boss, not the kooky doctor wit the lazy eye who made a living sticking a giant hose up a person’s ass.  Change starts from within, that’s what Dom always said at meetings.  The world might be screwed up and shit might not always be fair, but if you wanted to fix it, you hadda take control for yourself; no politician was coming in on some magical friggin horse and saving your sorry ass, not in a million freakin years.

So I guess Dom saw this when he looked at the kids at Eisenhower, saw a part of hisself.  And instead a throwing these little bastards out on their heads like I woulda done—and my pops, too—he set up the mediation wit the cops.  He set up a whole buncha stuff to help reach these kids and get them straightened out.  He started something called, um, restorative justice, where the kids hadda go back and repay the people they hurt so they could learn how their behavior effected other folks.  He also brought in these, um, whatchamacallits, positive behavior supports.  Instead of beating a kid’s friggin ass and throwing him out on the street for doing something screwed up . . . where he’d prob’ly just get in more trouble . . . Dom incentivized the good stuff they did, the stuff he wanted them to keep doing.  He started wit the little stuff like coming to school on-time wearing their uniform, or simply being prepared for class wit a notebook and a pencil.  After the craziness wit the brawl Dom made it a point to be there at the front doors every morning to greet the kids as they came in.  He’d joke wit them and ask how they was doing and when there was a problem, like when they wouldn’t put their bags through the metal detector or wear their uniforms, Dom wouldn’t scream and shout threats but simply pull them aside and talk to them real quiet like, talk to them like they was his own kid and explain why they needed to follow the rules.

The Kid was also real serious about safety.  He was compassionate but he also dropped the friggin hammer on somebody who didn’t respect the rules or who put somebody in, ah, harms way.  As the assistant principal, Dom was in charge a discipline and safety and whatnot, and all his rules had teeth, real teeth.  The Kid didn’t play around when it came to somebody breaking a rule, and that went for the students and the teachers.  I mean what I say, and I say what I mean he was fond a saying, at least that’s what he always wrote in his journal.  Dom didn’t tolerate no kinda weapon in his school, not a chance.  If a kid was stupid enough to bring in a gun or brass knuckles or box cutters—shit that the Gorilla would use on a guy who didn’t pay Tony what he owed or who tried to skim off the top—they got tossed out on their friggin ears, sent away to a whatchamacallit . . . alternative education placement.

But the thing was, see, Dom worked wit the parents and the community to make sure that stuff didn’t find it’s way into the building to begin wit.  At our addiction meetings, when the Kid would get up in front a the group and tell us about his week as A.P. of Eisenhower, he’d say that half the battle was fought outside a school . . . that what you did outside the building had a huge impact on what you could do inside the building.  Like wit those “safety corridors” he set up in the neighborhood so the students who really wanted to learn could get to school without getting jumped on by a buncha thugs and gangbangers and whatnot.  When you boiled it down to the, ah, bare essentials, that shit was the worst: young kids . . . poor colored or white trash, it didn’t matter . . . who wanted to get an education but got shot or stabbed or got their heads kicked-in by other jackasses who didn’t give a frig about nothing.  That was the worst.  Dom knew this, and he knew he hadda protect them.  So he worked wit moms and dads who was either outta work or worked at night and got them involved, got them to volunteer to stand on certain street corners and bridges and alleyways that was the most common routes to school.  They stood out there watching, making sure the sidewalks was safe where the students was walking, cellphones in hand in case they hadda quick call up the cops to report a beating or maybe a girl getting gripped-up by a pervert wit a boner.

Don’t ask me how the Kid did it, cause I don’t have no friggin clue.  But he did do it, that was the thing.  Like wit the students, Dom had this energy, this . . . what’s the word . . . presence, that made people wanna step up and help out.  Since the beginning a friggin time, since bears have been taking giant dumps in the woods, politicians have been writing policies and social workers have been working cases trying to get poor folks who are down and out to rise up above their circumstances, to get some kinda fire lit under their stinking asses and get them active in changing their sorry situations . . . all to no avail.  The large majority a poor folks are screwed, will be born poor, grow up poor, and die poor—so is the, ah, cycle a poverty.  There are a million and one reasons for it, and in the end I think it might be a disease, something real complex, kinda like drinking and gambling.  Anyways, somehow the Kid beat these odds and got poor and depressed moms and dads out there on the streets patrolling the routes to school for their teen sons and daughters in their very own neighborhoods.  He got them excited, gave them a purpose.

And wouldn’t you know it, stuff at Eisenhower started to change.

_______

The next year, 2009, right when the Phillies was about to go back to the World Series and lose to the scumbag Yankees in six friggin games, Mrs. Brown retired and the Kid became the principal of Eisenhower High School.  All the stuff the Kid started, all the safety programs and the positive behavior supports and whatnot, well, he ramped it all up another notch and Eisenhower started to turn into a respectable institution a learning.  This one website, called “Philly School Report Card” which was sponsored by the Philadelphia Post, gave a grade to all the public schools in Filthy-delphia, charters included, measuring stuff like attendance, safety, academics, graduation rate, and what have you.  Now, in years past, Eisenhower got like straight D’s and even an F or two on their report card, but by the spring of 2010, Eisenhower’s rating creeped its way up.  The school’s overall grade was a C+, and for the first time was removed from the State’s “persistently dangerous schools” list.  The Kid was so excited about this that he came to a meeting one night wit a printout a the report card, telling us wit pride that suspensions and expulsions was down something like 50 percent, that the state test scores in reading and writing and math was up, and so was the school’s attendance rate.  Now, I forget the exact numbers a the test scores, but I do recall that the Kid said that the attendance rate went from something like 63 percent all the way up to I think 77 percent, which meant that more than three-quarters a the students was showing up for school everyday.

As usual, everybody at the meeting cheered and clapped for the Kid, and I remember seeing Gordon W., the Kid’s sponsor, standing in the back all teary-eyed; Dom just had that effect on people.  Gordon was trying his best not to cry but he couldn’t help it, and like halfway through Dom’s “share out” wit the group Gordon excused hisself to go to the restroom cause he supposedly had something in his contact lens.  This was in April . . . I remember cause it was a week after Easter . . . and the next month, in May—the month of the Blessed Virgin Mother, Mary—the Kid won principal a the year for the Philadelphia Unified School District.  Yes, you’s guys guessed it, they threw him a big fancy award dinner and gave him a plaque that said 2009-2010 Principal of the Year on it.  They also gave the Kid a check for $10,000 that he could use anyway he wanted at Eisenhower; Dom said he was gonna spend it on equipment for Eisenhower’s track and field program that Dom was trying to get up and running.

I never went to any a the Kid’s award dinners, cause it wouldn’t look good if a guy like me showed up at something like this; I’d usually catch them on the eleven o’ clock news.  But I missed the news that night, cause I was out wit the Gorilla trying to collect a buncha cash for Tony from this jag-off coke dealer who had taken out a loan for $7,000 so he could put a new roof on his house and get his three kids a coupla ice cream cones from Dairy Queen . . . or so was his sob story; he wasn’t fooling nobody, though, cause me and the Gorilla knew the money went right up his friggin nose.  But the guy didn’t wanna pay, and so I hadda get involved in person—I hadda break out the heavy equipment, the power drill and whatnot—which is why I missed the Kid’s award dinner on the news.  The whole time I was roughing this clown up I was thinking a the Kid and all his successes at the high school, the colored kids showing up and working out quadratic equations and all, and as I was drilling-out the guy’s kneecaps I couldn’t help but wondering if the mayor would be there this time, or the superintendent, or the State Congress people.

Turns out they was all there, all a them, sitting right up at the head table wit the Kid, yucking it up and slapping butter on the rolls and gobbling down the drumsticks—meat hanging outta their greasy mouths.  U.S. Rep. Barry Al Akbar was there, the scumbag, and at one point this jag-off had the balls to stand up in the middle a the dinner and go up on stage and clink his knife on his wine glass and propose a toast to all a Dom’s great work and his, um, dedication to the children a Filthy-delphia.  Dom told me about the whole thing the next day on the phone.  So Al Akbar goes up on stage and says something like, “Let’s have a toast to Dominic Rossetti, a man who makes a difference in the lives a so many famb’lies and children,” and he smiles at Dom and raises his glass.  Then the prick changes gears and starts talking all about hisself and how his polices was the ones that was making all the difference, how he was the one who started the “safety corridors” that worked so well for the Eisenhower community, and how he was the one who supposedly had something to do wit Dom getting the job as principal, and all kinds of other made-up horseshit.

This pissed the Kid off to no end.  Thankfully, though, it didn’t hurt the Kid’s morale in the least, and if anything, it just made Dom wanna push even harder to make Eisenhower a great school, which he did.  Dom worked the whole summer through without any friggin air conditioning, pulling 10 hour days and even working on Saturdays, organizing teams of students and parents to pick up litter and scrub the graffiti off the walls, paint murals, clean out book rooms and closets, and all kinds of, um, school beautification projects.  He hired this one computer guy he knew from college to come in and update and recalibrate Eisenhower’s computers and laptops, got folks from book fairs to donate and replace textbooks and novels.  The Kid didn’t care if he got dirty, neither.  Half the time he did the work hisself, landscaping the school grounds, pulling weeds and whatnot, and he even helped plant a garden in the back a the school where they grew I think zucchinis or radishes or some kinda vegetable.

For lunch, the Kid even put the zucchinis on his friggin salad, right from the garden.  Swear to friggin Christ.

The Kid put his money where his mouth was.

Part 4 

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Filed under Uncle Tony's Charter School

Uncle Tony’s Charter School: Part 2

Illustration by Sean Wang

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 2 of 25

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO THE AUDIO OF PART 2: 

Now, before I finish telling about the Kid and how he got mixed up wit my brother Tony, let me tell you’s guys that what you think you know about him you don’t.  The Kid was the C.E.O. of World Peace Charter High School, that’s true, and his name was on the lease of the old Langston Hughes Elementary School building.  All a this is a matter of public records, and you’s guys can go check this out for yourselves, which I bet you’s already did.  But the whole scam was Tony’s idear, see.  All Tony.  Every penny, every friggin red cent that came in the front door went out the back and into Tony’s pocket, into Straight A’s Gentleman’s Club and Steakhouse, his pet project.  The Kid got none of it, see.  Zilch, zero.  I know, you’s guys don’t believe it.  You think the Kid had a gambling problem and needed money for his habit, I read that crap in the papers, too.  It’s crazy how these so-called writers can turn on a guy on a dime—boom.  For years the Kid was the darling a the Philly press, the savior of public education and whatnot.  The Kid could do no wrong.  He could bend over in front a the TV cameras and rip a loud fart and everybody would clap and cheer, the politicians would come over and shake his hand and throw him a freakin award dinner.  Not that the Kid didn’t deserve his award dinners, cause he most definitely did.  He did more than cut farts for all those years he worked as a teacher and principal in the jungles of Filthy-delphia, believe me.  Like I said, the parents a the coloreds lined-up to give him handjobs, and so did the big fat moms of the white trash kids wit the missing teeth. 

That was before the dirt came out about the Kid’s gambling problem.  Once that happened, once those spineless newspaper pricks realized that the Kid’s shit actually smelled like shit—just like everybody else’s—they all swooped in.  They dug through his background like you wouldn’t believe.  And they found it all—the credit reports, the chapter 13 bankruptcy paperwork, the Internet gambling . . . the mess that was the Kid’s finances; they also found that World Peace Charter School’s bank account had been drained of almost all its cash and demanded an investigation.  Worst of all they found my brother, Tony Genitaglia.  Now, these creeps didn’t actually find Tony’s name on any documents, cause Tony didn’t come down on the last drop a rain, see; everything of importance was in the Kid’s name, Dominic Rossetti, Jr.  The Kid was named after his daddy although he never met him; Dominic Rossetti, Sr., fell off scaffolding during a construction job and was killed two weeks before the Kid was born.  Theresa hadda be subdued wit a buncha tranquilizers when she found out, and to this day I don’t think she ever got over it and swears she’ll never remarry.  Anyways, the newspapers started getting wise to the rumors and putting two and two together, looking into the secondhand stories that Dom and his World Peace Charter High School was associated wit Tony Genitaglia, AKA Uncle Tony.  Once that shit came out those newspaper assholes was up Dom’s ass like a Boston priest on a nine-year-old.  Wherever the Kid went, these pricks was taking pictures.  And almost immediately, they caught the Kid and Tony together. 

Now, it wasn’t the Kid’s fault, no freakin way, cause I saw the whole thing; it was all Tony.  Course, Tony blamed the Kid for standing in the doorway, and when I tried to defend him, Tony said he was gonna cut my nuts off and stuff them down my throat, and he meant it; at times my brother Tony could be a very rude . . . what’s the word . . . incorrigible man.  Anyways, we was all at Dom’s condo on Sunday for Sherri’s Christening, me, the Kid, Tony, and a buncha other people in our famb’ly, when we heard some people gathering outside and making all this commotion.  I went to the window and looked outside and saw it was some kinda protest, all these people chanting and holding up signs and whatnot.  I knew right away who they was, see, cause at the time I was pretending to be the principal of Dom’s—or should I say Tony’s—World Peace Charter School, and I knew all the big players in the game.  Now, this protest was being led by a guy named Barry Al Akbar, yes, U.S. Rep. Barry Al Akbar, I think you’s guys have heard a him.  Course, Al Akbar wasn’t there hisself, but his people was there.  Now you’s F.B.I. guys is smart and I know you do your homework, so I don’t have to tell you that some of Al Akbar’s people was from Achievement Kings Charter Schools, Inc., and they was all pissed off cause the colored children from Filthy-delphia was getting robbed a their educations and was victims of Dom and his greedy gambling habit.  At least that’s what they was saying.  I guess some of these people really believed that was true, but there was others—the organizers behind the protest—who was really pissed-off cause Dom got his charter application approved over Al Akbar’s Achievement Kings guys; these assholes was pissed cause Dom was taking all the dough they felt belonged to them. 

Well, they was all outside Dom’s place wit signs and shit, belly-aching about how the Kid’s charter was a front for the mob, and how Dom was perpetuating what they called “21st century segregation” cause World Peace Charter only accepted a limited number a students and had this real tough application process that the poor white trash and colored kids couldn’t handle.  These pricks outside was getting pretty loud, interrupting the Christening a little baby Sherri, and all of a sudden Tony gets all angry and blows a gasket . . . Tony was Sherri’s Godfather, by the way . . . and he storms across the room to the window to see what the frig was going on outside.  Now I says to Tony, “Hey, Tony, don’t go to the window,” you know, cause they might have cameras and whatnot.  But Tony is super pissed off, so he doesn’t listen.  He goes over to the window and opens the blinds and looks out.

“What in Christ is this friggin bullshit!” he says, but the window was still closed so the protesters couldn’t hear.  “What the hell do these scumbags want?” 

“Uncle Tony,” Dom says, “just ignore them.  They’re people from Achievement Kings, Al Akbar’s guys.  They’re just trying to get a rise outta me and you.” 

“Freakin scumbags,” Tony says, shaking his fist at them through the window.  “Where do these maggots come from?  And during the Christening of my goddamn goddaughter.”  He was still looking out the window and shaking his fist.  “Un-friggin-believable.  You know, these scumbags need to go out and get jobs and work for a living, for Christ’s sake.  Do something wit their lives.  But no, they gotta come around like cocker-roaches and harass hard working people like me, and for what?  For opening up a school and trying to do good?  They always gotta try to tear someone down, these animals.  Rain on somebody’s freakin parade.  Yeah, well, not in the middle of my goddaughter’s Christening!”   

Tony made a beeline for the door.  Me and the Kid tried to stop him from going outside but it was no use. 

“Hey!  Scumbags!” Tony shouts, walking across the pavement.  “Get the hell outta here!  I swear to friggin God, I’m gonna—”        

“Tony!” I shout, and grab him by the lapels a his suit jacket, trying to hold him back.  Now in the background, see, the Kid is in the doorway, kinda looking out at everything.  He never came outside, the Kid, he knew better.  The only thing was, when Tony was making a big old scene, cursing and trying to get to the people holding the signs, this newspaper reporter jag-off starts snapping pictures a the whole freaking thing.  Snap, snap, snap.  Course, I didn’t think nothing of it at the time, cause Tony and the Kid still wasn’t seen together, so I thought it didn’t matter.  Thing was, though, the next day, on page 2 of the Philadelphia Post, there was a picture a Tony freakin-out at the protesters, face all red and fulla rage, fist shaking, and in the background, way in the back, you could see the Kid standing in the doorway in his blue pinstripe dinner suit and gray tie watching it all.  That’s when shit really went crazy, when any memory a the Kid being the savior a public schools was out and him being a piece a shit gambling asshole was in, not just in the minds a people like jag-off Al Akbar and his cronies, but in the minds a the public.  Bango, just like that, Dom was a . . . whatdoyacallit . . . pariah.

I hadda tell that part first.  Now, I don’t know where the Kid and the girl are, my hand on a stack a Bibles. They been missing since the fire, which was what . . . 12 hours ago?  I know my sister Theresa filed a whatchamacallit . . . missing persons report . . . this morning, and so did the father a the girl.  People disappear all the time, actually.  Sometimes they turn up, sometimes they don’t.  Just cause me and Tony is involved, though, everybody is thinking the worst.  Maybe Tony had the two of them whacked.  If he did, the bastard needs to pay for it. 

_______

So after me and the Gorilla found the Kid having the breakdown in his apartment, we got involved.  The Kid ended up declaring personal bankruptcy, that’s how bad it was.  He had no more money in his savings or checking accounts, and his credit cards—freakin four a them, not two—was maxed out.  He also had managed to get a $5,000 alumni loan from his college fraternity, which he gambled away like a maniac.  It was tough on the Kid to have to declare bankruptcy, and he kept saying that he felt like a loser, but what could he do?  There was no real choice for him, see.  He’d hit rock bottom.  The bankruptcy thing would help consolidate his frigged-up finances, and I helped him file the chapter 13 paperwork.  I also helped him get back into gambling anonymous, but this time he joined a group in South Philly—my group.  Course, he didn’t wanna go at first.  He kept saying my group was a drinking group, and that it wouldn’t help him.  But the thing was, addictions was addictions, and the twelve steps was the twelve steps.  Anyways, it wasn’t just a drinking group, but an all-round addiction clinic run by volunteer social workers outta the basement of St. Rita’s church.  

We had all kinda screw-ups and perverts and maniacs in our group, just like the Kid Dom.  We had the guys and broads trying to stay clean from drinking whisky and snorting powder and shooting the H.  We had a guy addicted to porno flicks and jacking-off, another skinny anorexic-looking chick who ate every goddamn thing in sight and then would go to the bathroom and stick a finger down her throat and puke it all up, and this other guy, who was an, um, kleptomaniac.  He stole shit like you wouldn’t friggin believe, and was sent to our group cause a some mandate from a federal judge.  One time this kook went into one a those adult XXX stores on Delaware Avenue in a trench coat and then walked around stuffing shit into all the pockets . . . DVDs and bottles a lube and French ticklers and even toys like dildos and butt plugs . . . and he was so loaded down wit stuff he could barely walk.  He hadda waddle, like that Stay Puft Marshmallow jag-off, and he tried to walk right outta the store like he suddenly decided that he didn’t wanna buy nothing, like he came to the store but decided to save his dough for later.  They stopped him at the door, and he says, “Just came to look, thanks,” but then he got tackled by this humongous black bouncer working the door.  When the klepto hit the ground all the stolen shit exploded outta his coat like a giant piñata, latex ass-plugs and rubber dicks bouncing off the concrete every which way.  True story, my hand on a stack a Bibles. 

It took a little while but Dom finally got adjusted to our additions support group.  He got a new sponsor, this good looking older guy . . . older than the Kid, that is . . . named Gordon W.  Gordon was this big important mortgage broker and impulsive gambler, like Dom.  Gordon ran some of the meetings under the supervision a the social workers and did a real upstanding job.  He was professional and refined like the Kid, polished and proper and all that.  He talked real good and had a college degree and always dressed in these crisp pressed slacks and shirts.  Dom got along wit Gordon W. from the very first meeting he went to, and cause he was older and had a hot wife and two cute little daughters, Dom looked up to him like a, what’s the word, mentor.  Dom said in his journal that ever since he was a boy he saw hisself getting married to a good, church-going woman, and starting a famb’ly of his own; the Kid saw in Gordon everything he wanted to be.

This was a big relief to me and the Gorilla.  Gordon worked wit the Kid through the twelve steps and got him back on his feet like some kinda miracle worker, like friggin Annie Sullivan herself.  By the following autumn—October 19th, to be exact—the Kid celebrated his sixth month anniversary of being gambling free.  His head was screwed on straight again, and his focus was back on what was important, his work as a schoolteacher.  Dom poured hisself into his teaching and would talk about this at our meetings.  Guys like us who have an, ah, addictive personality, we get obsessed wit stuff easy, and end up replacing one addiction for another.  For me, I replaced my drinking . . . this was like 32 years ago . . . wit being a good husband to Linda, and working wit Petie and becoming a good earner; I doubled down on my work breaking heads and running scams to make bundles a cash. 

Now the Kid, he just decided he was gonna get addicted to education and building the best high school English program in the city a Philadelphia.  Dom said he wanted to be like that guy Jamie Escalante, the Hispanic math teacher who taught all those jungle animals from East LA to do calculus.  But only Dom wanted to do this wit reading and writing and whatnot.  And Dom did do this, that was the thing.  That year Dom really put his nose to the grindstone and went crazy wit teaching.  He got to school an hour early and stayed two or three hours late, and said his car was always one a the first in the parking lot in the mornings and the last to leave at night.  He graded every assignment, every piece a writing the kids turned in, down to the nostril, he said.  Fixed every mistake wit a red freakin pen.  No joking around. 

That was the thing, Dom said.  Giving the kids feedback.  Students could tell deep down if a teacher really cared about them and whatnot.  There was this energy between teachers and students that made all the difference, see.  And you couldn’t fake it.  Some teachers just put nifty checks and stickers and bullshit on papers but never really got in there and corrected stuff, showed the kids what was what.  Dom never did this, see, never took the easy way out.  Sometimes he bitched about working twice as hard as his students, saying he was gonna just say screw it and throw up his hands, but he never did.  He couldn’t, he cared too much.  He worked wit every single kid on every single assignment wit this kinda maniac obsession, like it was a game he hadda win.  Essays, vocabulary, spelling, and that whatchamacallit, grammar.  Down to the nostril, to the very freakin period on the page. 

And the kids learned, that was the thing.  All of a sudden they stared writing these crazy good essays that Dom would bring to meetings and read and everybody in the meeting would say forgetaboutit, no fourteen year old kid wrote that, but it was true and we all knew it.  Everybody would clap and hoot and holler for the Kid cause he was doing such a great job teaching, and Dom would get all red and embarrassed and choked-up cause he was so proud a his students.  Proud cause they was learning not only to write but to read, too.  Not just read “see Spot run” or “see Jane throw the ball” and easy shit like that, but real hard stuff.  Dom’s kids could read articles from the, ah, what’s that paper . . . the New York Times.  Swear to friggin God.

Everybody and their friggin mother was excited about reading, who woulda thunk it?  Dom turned his students into little reading maniacs, God only knows how he did it.  Maybe Dom did some friggin Jedi mind-trick on them or something, or put something in their Cheerios, but whatever he did, it worked.  These teens was excited about reading.  That spring, just when Dom was celebrating his one year anniversary of being gambling free, his school got their state reading and writing test results back, and Dom’s kids’ scores blew everyone else’s outta the water.  The State test people at first thought he cheated, but after a quick investigation, he was cleared.  The scores was legit.  The Kid was the man.

This was the first time he got teacher a the year.  They threw him this big award dinner at the Marriot in Center City, and called him up on stage and gave him this shiny plaque and a check for three grand; I saw the whole thing on the eleven o’ clock news.  Theresa was there, dressed to the nines wit her pretty brown hair done up in a beautiful French Chignon, bragging and taking pictures a her only son.  A buncha guys from our group was there, too, carrying on and making faces at the Kid on stage trying to make him laugh.  He didn’t laugh . . . he was real serious . . . and promised this was only the beginning of great things to come. 

And it was, for a while. 

Part 3

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Uncle Tony’s Charter School: Part 1

Illustration by Sean Wang

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?”

“Pardon?” 

“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. 

Part 2

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