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


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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