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 25 of 25
The Kid’s journal ended there, right there, wit him describing how he was losing his mind in the parking lot of Penn’s Port High. The very last sentence in his journal, which I just got done reading early this morning . . . I stayed up all night reading it . . . was, What you resist, persists. I guess he was talking about resisting the truth, resisting telling Gina the truth, that is. His time a resisting was over, though, cause he called me on the phone when he got home from Penn’s Port High and asked me if I’d be home later that night, if he could come over wit Gina and Ashley and talk about things, get them out in the open so he could get this incredible weight off his chest. I says sure, Kid, of course you’s can come over, but warned him that his aunt Linda was away at her sister’s for the weekend and couldn’t cook no dinner, so he shouldn’t expect nothing to eat when he got there.
Around 8:00 p.m.—this was just last night—I hear a car pull up in my driveway and some people come to the door. They is arguing, and now I can hear Gina saying that she didn’t understand what was going on, that none a this was making any sense. I don’t know what the Kid had told her, but Gina wasn’t very happy. I answer the door and give them all a big, warm hello, and the only one who really greets me back is little Ashley, who says, “Hi, uncle Manny.”
“Hey, sweetie-pie. What can I do for you?”
“Can we come in?” the Kid says. “We have to explain a few things to Gina.”
They come on in, the three a them, and Ashley sees Patches, Linda’s cat, and chases her into the back room. I tell Ashley that there’s a television in there, and that she can turn it on and watch a show or something. She does, she sits on the big sofa wit Patches in her lap and watches some kinda music video, I think. This was good, cause now me and the Kid and Gina could talk, talk about whatever we wanted; I decided right then that I’d tell the truth about everything, be honest about whatever they asked me. Like I says before, I don’t know what the Kid had already told Gina—or didn’t tell her, for that matter—so trying to lie prob’ly wouldn’t have worked so good. Plus, there was no real reason to lie, anyways, cause the Kid really didn’t do nothing wrong.
“So let me get this straight,” Gina says, “there is no charter school, correct? World Peace doesn’t exist, except on paper? Is that what you’re telling me?”
“Yes, Gina,” the Kid says, “that’s what I’m telling you. The whole thing was a scam to steal money. But like I said, I didn’t steal anything. It was my uncle Tony. It was his idea. He just picked me to run the charter because he knew I had experience with this stuff, with education. There wasn’t a whole lot I could do about it, because I owed him a favor.”
“Because he got you out of jail in Atlantic City?”
“And got your Porsche back?”
Gina just shakes her head. “You know Dominic, if you don’t wanna get married, just say so. Just say, ‘Gina, I don’t wanna marry you.’ I’d have more respect for you if you did that. This story you’re telling me about World Peace being fake and empty inside, well, it’s ridiculous. Totally ridiculous. I know there’s a school, Dominic, because Ashley applied there and was put on a waiting list.”
“Everybody’s on a waiting list, Gina,” the Kid says. “No one ever gets accepted.”
“Baloney,” Gina says. “There are students there, you said it yourself. Over a hundred students. They took those tests . . . the state exams, and scored real high. I read about that in the newspaper. World Peace was also in that other newspaper—Education World, for Christ’s sake. I guess those articles were fake, too?”
“Those articles were based on a fake website,” the Kid says. “The person who wrote those articles never even saw the school. And the State exams, they were fixed.”
“Fixed. Sure. Okay. You know, Dom, I don’t wanna talk about this anymore. I don’t know what is going on with you lately, but it’s scaring me. If you don’t wanna get married, if you’re feeing too much pressure and you wanna call the whole thing off, fine. I’ll be devastated, and so will Ashley, but I can’t live like this.”
“Gina, Listen, I—”
“No Dominic, you listen. I already married a man who was a liar and a cheating sonnavabitch, and I’m not going to do that again, ever. I never told you this, but when that article came out a few weeks ago saying that you were related to Tony Genitaglia, my father told me to call off the wedding, right then and there. He asked me if I knew that one of the biggest organized crime bosses in Philadelphia was your uncle, and I admitted I didn’t, and do you know what he said? He said, ‘God only knows what else you don’t know about him. Walk away, Gina, while you still can. I don’t trust this guy farther than I can throw him.’ That’s what he said. But I stuck up for you. I told him how good of a teacher you were, and a principal, and how caring you were, and how much you loved me and Ashley. Looks like he was right, and I was wrong.”
“I’m not stupid, Dominic. I may only be an x-ray technician, and not have all the fancy degrees you have, but I’m not dumb. I read that article in today’s paper, by the way, did you know that? You thought that since the newspaper came after I went to work, and you threw it away before I got home, that I wouldn’t read it, but I did. I saw it, Dominic. It said that an investigation found that there’s all this missing money at World Peace, that somebody may have stolen it. Guess who that somebody was? You. Dom Rossetti, Mr. Bigshot C.E.O. I can’t believe it, I can’t. Stealing money from children, just like Ashley’s father!”
It was tough for me to see Gina lay into the Kid like that, believe me. I was hurting, just like he was. I hadda help the Kid as best I could, so I says, “He didn’t steal nothing, Gina. He’s telling the truth.”
Gina kinda stops for a second, like hearing my voice snapped her outta a trance and whatnot. She looks at me, turns and looks right into my eyes. “Manny,” she says, “you don’t have to cover for him.”
“I ain’t covering for him,” I says. “Dom didn’t steal no money. It was all Tony, my friggin asshole brother, pardon my language. He made Dom do it, open the charter school so he could, um, embezzle the money. Dom had no choice, see. If he didn’t do what my brother told him—” I made a slashing motion wit my hand across my throat “—that woulda been the end of your fiancé Dominic, here. It’s true. My hand on a stack a Bibles.”
“I don’t believe you,” Gina says, and crosses her arms. But I could see she wanted to believe me, that she was really thinking hard about what I was telling her, that her mind was still open to the truth.
“Dom didn’t steal nothing, not a penny,” I says. “None a the stuff you think you know about him is true. He did get locked up in A.C., and Tony did need to bail him out. Dom owed Tony a favor and was forced to open World Peace, see, so Tony could steal all the money and start a strip club in Baltimore. No screwing around. The teachers there was fake, and we hadda hire fake students when people from the State came in for their walk through. And all the lessons was fake, too. I even pretended to be the principal—principal Bradshaw—and me and Petie hadda throw the test monitor jackoff from the State into the trunk a Petie’s car, just to shut his big trap.”
Gina laughed when she heard this, and this kinda whatdoyacallit—lightened her mood.
“You’s laughing,” I says, “but it ain’t funny. You can go ask the little needle-nose how it felt to spend the afternoon in the back of a Cadillac.”
“It’s true,” the Kid says to Gina. “All of it. Did you know that my uncle Tony had my father killed, two weeks before I was born?”
“What?” Gina says. “You never told me that.”
“That’s because I never knew it until Tuesday, when I went to talk to Tony down in Baltimore. You know how I went to see Tony to try and straighten everything out? Well, he didn’t want to hear it. Any of it. He said I was an ingrate, like my father, that I didn’t care about the family. When I told him I didn’t want to run his scams anymore, that I had real students in real schools to take care of, he said I was picking my principles over the family. He said, ‘You’re just like your father. He chose his principles over the family. That’s why he had an accident—but it wasn’t an accident.’”
“He said that?” Gina says.
The Kid nods. “Oh yeah, he said it. Not in those words, but I knew what he meant. The weird part was, I think deep down, I always knew that. So did my mother.”
“I never knew your father was murdered, Dominic. I’m so sorry.”
“Dom’s father was a good man,” I says, and looked right at the Kid. I always wanted to tell him that, the Kid, but I never could. Not wit the chance it would get back to Tony. But I was telling him now, see. Better late than never.
Nobody says nothing for a long time. Finally, Gina says, “I can’t believe the charter school is empty. It just boggles my mind.”
“Oh, it’s empty,” the Kid says. “Not totally empty—there are some desks and old textbooks and broken computer parts in there—but that’s about it.”
“He ain’t lying,” I says to the girl.
“I want to see it,” Gina says.
The Kid nods. “Fine. You can see it—it’s not a secret anymore.”
“I want to go in there and look around for myself.”
“Be my guest,” the Kid says.
“Okay, let’s go then.”
“Yes, now. You have nothing to hide, right?”
“No. Not at all. But what time is it?”
“I don’t know? Eight-thirty, maybe? Come on, grab Ashley. Let’s go.”
The Kid sighs. “Fine. Let’s go.”
So the two stand up, grab Ashley, and go out to Gina’s car. Just then, though, the Kid comes back inside by hisself and hands me a package. It’s a big padded envelop wit what looks like a copy of a journal, a buncha newspaper articles and other papers, and a whatdoyacallit—a flash drive.
“Here,” the Kid says. “Take this, uncle Manny. There’s something I have to do tonight, and if anything happens to me, I want you to mail all of this to the Philadelphia Post, okay?”
“What is it?”
“It’s the truth. About me, and you, and Tony, and everything. Just promise me you’ll mail it, okay?
“Sure kid, okay.”
“Thanks,” the Kid says. “I love you, uncle Manny.”
“I love you too, kid.”
About an hour after the Kid left, there was an explosion and fire at World Peace Charter High School. The official fire call came in at 9:37 p.m., and the fire wasn’t declared, um, under control until close to 2:00 in the morning. That’s at least what the Philadelphia Post said this morning on their website. Here, let me pull up the article and read it:
Two Dead in World Peace Charter Blaze
A deadly blaze at World Peace Charter High School in Northeast Philadelphia has claimed the lives of two people. The fire, which is believed to have started with an explosion, was first reported at 9:37 p.m. on Friday, April 11. Firefighters battled the flames until early this morning, when it was eventually brought under control around 2:00 a.m.
The bodies of the two victims have not yet been identified.
Investigators believe the fire started with an explosion on the first floor, although the cause of this explosion has not been determined. Several residents of the 2500 block of Southampton Road reported hearing a loud noise right around the time the fire was first reported.
“It sounded like a big bang, like something blew up,” Hollis Jackson, who lives directly across the street from the school, said.
Hillary Aris, who lives one block from World Peace and has a son on the waiting list to attend the school, said, “There was a loud noise, and I heard glass breaking, like somebody broke a window.”
World Peace Charter has been the subject of recent controversy. Last month, it was reported by the Post that C.E.O. Dominic Rossetti was the nephew of Philadelphia organized crime boss, Tony Genitaglia, and that Rossetti had a history of gambling. Rossetti declared chapter 13 bankruptcy in 1998.
World Peace Charter is currently under investigation for financial mismanagement, and possible misappropriation of funds. Whether the recent probe of World Peace Charter’s finances and the explosion are connected is unclear.
The fire was also on the television last night on the 11 o’ clock news. It was a real bad one, wit flames pouring outta the windows, and sparks shooting outta the roof, and smoke—big, giant clouds a smoke, filling the night sky. Two big fire trucks was parked outside wit hoses running from them, and firemen was holding those hoses steady and aiming them onto the school as best they could. As soon as I saw the fire on the news I called the Kid on his cellphone, but he didn’t answer. I left a message for him to call me back but he never did, so I started to get worried. That’s when I remembered the package he gave me—that padded envelope wit the photocopied writing and newspaper articles and such—and started taking the stuff out. As I held the journal in my hand I heard the Kid’s voice in my mind: Take this, uncle Manny. There’s something I have to do tonight, and if anything happens to me, I want you to mail all of this to the Philadelphia Post, okay?
I looked at the copy a the journal real close and realized it was the Kid’s, and that the newspaper clippins was all the articles about World Peace Charter, every one a them. There was other papers, too, like a copy of World Peace’s charter application, and what looked like some kinda engagement poem. Course, the first thing I did was take the paperclip off the journal and start reading it right from the beginning. I put on my reading glasses and sat down at the kitchen table and I ain’t gonna lie, it pulled me in from the start. All the stuff we did was described in detail, see, even our addiction meetings. It told all about World Peace Charter, and Tony, and Gina and little Ashley, and a course, me. I read it straight through the night into this morning, tearing up a coupla times—the parts about the girl Tamarra really had me choked up—and I learnt a lot about the Kid, let me just tell you’s guys. I learnt a lot about Tony, too, about how much of a friggin jackass he is, how much of a bully and a jackass. If he did anything to the Kid or Gina or little Ashley, I swear to God, he needs to pay.
That’s why I’m making this recording here, why I’ve spent the last five hours just talking into this electronic thingamajig here. Cause I’m getting a little package together of stuff myself to give to the cops—you’s guys who will be listening to this—the F.B.I. The Kid is innocent, see. He didn’t do nothing wrong. It was all Tony, Tony Genitaglia, my brother. When you’s guys listen to this recording, make sure you read the Kid’s journal, too. I’ve made another copy a it, and am putting it in wit this package. I’m including the news articles, and the poem—it’s the Kid’s proposal to Gina—and also the charter school application that he wrote for World Peace. It’s all here, all of it, and you’s F.B.I. guys gotta go through it real, um, thoroughly, see.
When I mail you’s guys this package, I’m gonna mail a copy of everything to the Philadelphia Post, too, just like the Kid wanted. Not that you F.B.I. cocker-roaches need to know about any a this, cause it ain’t really none a your business, what the Kid asked me to do. I only got six months to live, so I figure I’ll do all I can to help Dom, the Kid, who was always like a son to me. Now, I ain’t stupid—I know that this is kinda like snitching on my brother, and I’m also howdoyasayit—incriminating myself—but hey, it’s the least I could do. I’m not planning on staying in this country no more, anyways, being that I’m dying; me and Linda was always planning on moving to some nice village in Italy, maybe Genoa, and living right there on the beach. It’s beautiful in Genoa, wit the colorful views of the Mediterranean, and all the historic art and culture, like the St. Lawrence Cathedral, and the Royal Palace of Genoa, and that whatdoyacallit, the Palace of the Doges. The sights is beautiful, and the food is, um impeccable—like when the old Italian grandmothers cook soup wit garbanzo beans.
That’s where me and Linda is gonna live, see. And that’s where I’m prob’ly gonna die.
There was a buncha people crying, standing there, crying, especially Theresa—my sister, the Kid’s mother. Gina’s parents was crying, too . . . well, her mother was, her dad was just kinda standing there wit a poker face, so it was hard to tell what he was feeling. A crowd was gathered round—close friends and famb’ly members—and they was fulla emotions, some sniffling, tissues out, wiping away the tears. There was flowers, lots a flowers, and the priest was there, hands raised, saying the prayers.
“Dominic Rossetti,” the priest says, “do you take this woman to be your wife?”
“I do,” the Kid says.
“Gina Grasso, do you take this man to be your husband?”
My wife Linda, my beautiful wife Linda, was there next to me, standing barefoot in the sand, the breeze coming off the blue green sea making her bright pink dress gently flap against her body. She had a hat on, a big pink one, and she was using her one hand to keep it on her head and stop it from blowing in the air. It was warm air, though, July air. The sun was still high in the sky, see, still blazing over the Mediterranean behind us. I was holding Linda’s hand as I was listening to the Kid saying his vows. This made me think of me and Linda’s vows, how we said them 40 years ago. I still love my wife, as much as the day I asked her to marry me. I could see the Kid was like me, that his love for Gina was real and just as strong, that 40 years from now, if they was both lucky enough to be alive, they’d still be together, that all they’d went through over the past 11 months had, whatdoyacallit, forged a bond between them that would never be broken.
“And now, if we could have the rings, please.”
Little Ashley came forward then, holding the rings on a silver tray. The Kid took Gina’s ring first, and as the priest spoke, as he blessed the couple wit God’s eternal love, the Kid slipped it on Gina’s finger. Gina took the Kid’s ring, then, and slid it on his strong finger. Ashley stood next to them in her pretty white dress, next to her mommy who was just as beautiful in her shoulderless wedding gown, next to her new step-daddy in his white tuxedo, and beamed; the Kid saw Ashley smiling and winked at her.
“I now pronounce you husband, and wife.”
Dom and Gina kissed, and everyone started clapping. For a second, just a split second, I missed my brother Tony, but that passed quickly; Tony and Petie was dead, and that’s just the way things go sometimes. In a way I guess they deserved to die, as much as anyone really deserves to die. See, Tony and Petie blew World Peace Charter up, and themselves wit it. Course, it wasn’t no suicide . . . Tony was too high on hisself to wanna die . . . it was just an accident, a typical Petie accident—an oops-kaboom, to use Petie’s words. I can only imagine, now that the jig wit World Peace Charter was up, that Tony had wanted the Gorilla to torch the evidence to cover his trail of, um, corruption, but somehow, Petie managed to frig it all up; I don’t know how he managed to frig it up so bad, but he did, turning hisself and Tony into strips a fried bacon. You’d think, though, that Tony woulda had the Gorilla do this by hisself, that Petie woulda went into the school alone. But I think I have a good idear why Tony was there wit him: He wanted to see the inside a World Peace Charter for hisself, just like Gina did.
It took 48 hours for the cops to identify the bodies, and they had to use the whatdoyacallit, the dental records a Tony and the Gorilla to do it. When I heard the news on the television I was shocked . . . shocked and relieved. See, the Kid and Gina and little Ashley was still missing at the time, but as it turns out, they was secretly staying at Janice’s place—Gina’s friend from college. The Kid had a good idear that Tony was gonna try and make him pay for turning his back on the famb’ly, so he did the smart thing and went into hiding. The three a them had just missed the explosion by maybe five minutes, according to what the Kid told me later, and the crazy part was, they never even went inside the school at all; when they got there they saw the Gorilla’s car, and the Kid didn’t even let nobody get within 10 feet a the place. Gina tried to argue, right there in the street in front a the school, but when the explosion blew-out all the windows on the first floor—glass shattering on the ground at their feet—Gina thought better of it.
The three got back into Gina’s car and the Kid sped to where he was planning on going all along—to the Philadelphia branch of the F.B.I. He had wit him everything he needed, a copy a his journal, the news articles about World Peace Charter, and of course, the most important item—the flash drive wit the audio recording of his meeting wit Tony at Straight A’s the month before, where Tony basically admitted to everything . . . planning the scam, strong arming the Kid into stealing all the cash, and even hinting at the murder a the Kid’s own father. All this was on tape, see, cause the Kid had recorded it on his cellphone right at the table next to Tony.
Course, the Kid never told me any a this that night he came to my house, cause he said he felt bad about being a snitch, about talking to the F.B.I. He didn’t care that he was ratting out Tony, cause Tony was a piece a shit who killed his old man. What the Kid was most shameful of was diming me out to the feds, cause I was clearly part a the whole scam from the beginning. I wouldn’t a cared, though, cause I know deep down I woulda deserved what I got. He never did tell me he was planning on taping his conversation wit Tony and taking it to the cops. And I guess that’s why he never wrote any a it down in his journal, neither; God only knows who may have found it. For all the Kid knew, Tony wanted him dead, and he never did learn for sure if anybody had been following him, or screwing wit his phone; to this day he doesn’t know for sure.
The feds was investigating World Peace Charter, though. When the Kid gave the F.B.I. the flash drive, along wit his journal and that other stuff, it basically just added to the stuff they already knew. I ended up sending the Kid’s envelope, including my own audio recording, to the feds the morning after the fire, too, and also to the newspaper; the newspaper people never got it, though, cause I frigged up the address and it got sent back to me. Course, the feds was already watching Tony, so they kinda already knew what was happening. A week after World Peace was ruled an arson, there was this big raid down at Straight A’s, and the club was shut down for good. All the assets was whatdoyacallit, liquidated, and the money was giving back to the State and Philadelphia Unified School District. Eisenhower even got a portion a the money–$125,000, I think it was. After an initial month-long investigation, the Kid was cleared of all criminal charges, in part cause he agreed to testify against Tony—and me—in court, in part cause his journal, along wit my tape recording, cleared his name. But Tony was dead, and I was already out a the country, so none a this mattered anyways.
Course, the Kid was fired as principal of Eisenhower High School, and this was really tough on him. He made several public apologies, one in a commentary that was published in the Philadelphia Post, and one on television from the School District central office . . . but the School Board was unmoved. Then in May, when Tamarra, the girl, found out that she’d won that $30,000 scholarship the Kid had helped her wit, and was gonna be able to attend Cheltenham Preparatory Academy for Girls in the fall, she got her friends and relatives together—and a buncha students, parents, and teachers from Eisenhower—and held this big old protest rally in front a City Hall, forcing the mayor to talk to the School Board and ask them if they could reconsider giving the Kid back his job as principal of Eisenhower. In June, during the final School Board meeting a the school year, the Board voted unanimously to, um, reinstate the Kid as principal, and he was back at Eisenhower the following week.
So I guess you can say things worked out okay for the Kid, after all. I should know, cause I’m recording the whole thing on the same electronic thingamajig I used to tell my story in April. I wanna get this all on tape for when the Kid and Gina have their baby . . . she’s three months pregnant, by the way . . . so Dom’s kid will know that uncle Manny wasn’t no creep, that he loved his nephew just like a son. I’ll never get to meet the kid, cause I only got a few months left, but so goes life.
The Kid is happy, though, so I’m happy. Right now he’s down by the water wit little Ashley, tossing a penny into the ocean, and watching her go and fetch it. She’s swimming right in her white dress, and her long blue swim fins, and her snorkel gear that the Kid got her for Christmas. She’s a good swimmer, little Ashley is, and when she dives down into the blue green water a the Mediterranean, I can see her head bob and her legs kick, and her brown hair shining in the sun.