Uncle Tony’s Charter School: Part 23

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 23 of 25

The Kid took the following week off from work, he wrote in his journal, and nobody at Eisenhower blamed him.  Students, parents, and teachers was all worried and upset about what they was reading about Dom—calling the Kid up at school and on his cellphone and leaving messages a support—offering to help him in any way that they could.  Nobody really believed what they was saying in the papers, not most people, cause anybody who knew Dom knew he’d never steal a penny from no one, that Dom used his own money to buy stuff for the students, even.

The Kid had a plan, though, or he thought he did.  He didn’t write the plan down nowhere in his journal, but he did write about it after he did it; I guess he didn’t want nobody knowing about it until it was done, in case those people who was following him and listening to his phone calls somehow found his journal.  So anyways, this is what happened.  The Kid wrote that he went to see Tony that Tuesday, April 9th, 2013, down in Baltimore at Straight A’s.  The Kid called him first, just to make sure he’d be able to meet wit him, and Tony said sure, sure kid, come on down to the club and have a steak and a nice glass a beer, maybe even head up to the third floor wit one a the girls, all on the house.

The Kid hadda wait till almost 11:00 p.m. to see Tony, who didn’t even show up at Straight A’s until 10:00 p.m., two hours after he told the Kid he’d be there.  Apparently, nobody even knew the Kid was coming, cause the bouncers at the door gave him a buncha business about showing his identification, and when they searched him, they patted his nuts down just a little too roughly.  It was a big muscle-head bouncer wit a blond crewcut who did this—a 250 pound smacked-ass wit no neck—and the Kid wrote that he was really pissed at this, that he told the guy to back the frig off, that he was Tony Genitaglia’s nephew.  The guy just laughed and didn’t believe it, but the Kid said wait, just wait, when Tony gets here we’ll see who the frig is laughing.

And wait the Kid did, for two hours.  He sat at a cocktail table by hisself drinking a cola and checking his watch, keeping an eye on the door for Tony.  About every 15 minutes one a the girls would make her rounds and come over to him, naked except for a tiny G-string and heels.  Dom didn’t like this, he wrote, cause he was nervous and didn’t wanna be bothered.  He was engaged now, see, and loved his fiancé, and this is just what he told the girls when they came up shaking their tits at him and opening their skimpy underwear for him to put in some money.  Right when the Kid was on his last single and was gonna have to go over to the bar to get more change, the front door opens and Tony comes walking in.

“Uncle Tony, hey,” the Kid shouts, but Tony didn’t hear him.  Tony went straight through a door in the back and disappeared.  The Kid got up and went over to the door but in swooped three bouncers wit no necks, and they just looked at the Kid and shook their heads and told him to move away unless he wanted to leave the place wit a limp.  The Kid went back to his seat at the cocktail table and waited for another hour, putting more ones in young ladies’ underwear, and finally, finally, Tony comes back out and sees the Kid and says, “Hey, Dominic?  Hey, look at you!  Come here and give your uncle Tony a kiss!”

The Kid hugs and kisses his uncle, and Tony looks him up and down, and asks where he’s been cause Tony’s been waiting, and the Kid explains that he wasn’t allowed upstairs, that a coupla bouncers came over and was ready to chop his head off when he tried to go in the back.

“They’re just doing what they’s told,” Tony says.  “Nobody goes through that door, nobody but me and Paulie.”

“They gave me a problem outside, too.”

“Huh?”

“On my way in, at the front door, the one bouncer with the short blond hair.  He was real ignorant when he searched me—basically punched me in the nuts.  I told him I was your nephew and he just laughed.”

“Scuze me?” Tony says.  “You told him you was my nephew and he laughed?”

“Pretty much.  Yeah.”

“Come wit me.”

Tony storms across the floor a the club and goes up to the bouncer wit the blond crewcut working the door and asks Dom if this was him, if this was the one who laughed at him and punched him in the balls, and Dom says yes, that’s him, he’s the one.  The guy isn’t facing Tony, so Tony taps him on the shoulder and he turns and sees Tony and says Oh hey, Mr. Genitaglia, how are you tonight? and Tony says Not too good and pulls out a gun and smashes him in the face wit it, grabs the guy by the back a his head and smashes the steel butt a the gun right through his nose.  The guy screams and drops like a friggin ton a bricks—250 pounds a bricks—and lays on the sidewalk holding his nose, blood friggin pouring out like a goddamn fountain.

“This,” Tony says to the group a bouncers standing around watching, “this is my nephew, Dominic.  If I ever hear that any one a you ever disrespects him again, I swear to friggin God, I will put a bullet in you myself, understand?”  He turns to the guy on the ground and kicks him hard in the ribs.  “You.  Tough guy.  I’m gonna count to ten, and if you ain’t off my property and outta sight . . .”  But Tony didn’t have to finish, cause the guy got up and staggered away, banging into a buncha trash cans in the alley.  Tony spits on the ground and shakes his fist in the air, and him and Dom head back inside.  Two bouncers hold the door for Tony and Dom, and they is real polite, saying, Right this way, Mr. Genitaglia.  Right this way, Dominic, and Tony mumbles something under his breath the Kid can’t hear.

Inside, Tony asks what Dom wants to drink and Dom says a can a cola, and Tony tells the bartender to fetch two bottles a some imported beer Dom never heard of, and hands one to Dom.

“Salud,” Tony says, and the two toast, and Tony tells Dom to look around, look around at his dream come true, a dream he couldn’t a done without him.  A colored girl is hanging upside down on the big brass pole on the main stage, her legs wide open.  A group a older men in business suits is sitting together watching her, sipping cocktails, grinning and watching. Tony takes Dom on the grand tour a the place, shows him around the first floor and introduces him to some a the girls and staff, and then they go on up to the second floor to the Emerald Lounge, where there’s more young beautiful girls winking at Tony and shaking their asses in his face.  Tony asks Dom what he thinks, and Dom says it’s great, it’s the most amazing strip club he’s ever been to, and then Tony says, “Wanna see the third floor, kid?  We got anything you want up there, anything.”

“Actually, I wanna talk to you about something, uncle Tony.  That’s why I came down here.”

“I thought we was talking.”

“No, I mean I need to talk to you in private, about something real important.  Is there some place we can go, just you and me?

Tony just looks at Dom.  “Is you okay, kid?  You’s acting kinda funny.  You ain’t gonna try none a that gay stuff on me, is you?”

“I’m not gay, uncle Tony,” the Kid says.  “I got engaged over the weekend.”

“To a girl?”

“Yes, to a girl, but that doesn’t matter.  We need to talk, uncle Tony.  In private.  Seriously.”

“What about?”

“About the charter school business.”

“Charters?” Tony says.  “Oh, you mean about the five new schools that I’m opening, that business?”

“Exactly.”

“Okay, let’s go into Paulie’s office, over here.”

Now, all the stuff that takes place next was written up by the Kid in a whole lot a detail in his journal, like always.  It’s a lot to remember, but I’m gonna try my best to remember it and repeat it just like I read it, especially the conversation between the Kid and Tony.

So, Tony takes the Kid to a back room on the second floor where they can talk, just the two a them, no strippers showing their asses around and looking for tips.  It’s an office wit a desk and file cabinets, and a floor safe in the corner.  Tony sits down behind the desk, and the Kid pulls up a chair across from him.  It’s pretty quiet in there, and the only noise is the soft vibration a the music coming from the main stage on the floor below.  Dom wrote in his journal that he was surprised at how calm he felt, how confident, how steady and sure a hisself.  He just looked at his uncle, kinda observed him, and noticed for the first time that he was old, that there was wrinkles around his eyes and the corner a his mouth, that his hair had gone all gray.  He was still big, sure—the whole famb’ly was, including Dom hisself—but it was then that Dom realized that under all the tough guy mafia song and dance, under the gun, and cursing, and carrying on like a maniac, there was just a man, just his uncle . . . flesh and blood, like him.

“Tony,” the Kid says, fidgeting wit his cellphone in his lap, “the reason I came down here to talk to you is because I’m finished, I’m done with the charter school business.  We had a good run, you and me, but now it’s over.  I’m engaged, Tony, I’m getting married, and I can’t do it anymore.  I can’t run your scams anymore.”

Tony was only half listening.  “Huh?  What is you talking about, kid?”

“I’m out,” the Kid says, “done, finished.  I did what you made me do—I stole a million bucks from World Peace Charter so you could build your strip club, and now the game’s over, at least for me.  I actually have a real school to run, Tony, you know?  Eisenhower High School.  Those kids need me, and I’m not gonna waste my time and money on your scams anymore.”

“What have you been smoking, kid, huh?  Did that broad you’s engaged to frig up your head or something?  I tell you when the scams is over, you don’t tell me nothing.”

“Tony,” the Kid says, “just listen for a minute, okay?  Just let me talk for a second.  You know a lot of people, right?  Politicians and other guys, right?  Well, if you talked to them, maybe we can have this whole thing squashed, and nobody will have to go down for it, nobody will have to go to jail.”

What?  What the frig is you talking about, kid, huh?  You need to start making some sense, fast.”

“You could pay people off to keep quiet, like you normally do.  Pay them off so they won’t—”

Enough, kid.  Enough.  You’s starting to get me angry.  You need to shut your mouth, right now.”

“So I don’t get any say in all of this?”

“No you don’t get no say,” Tony says.  “What’s a matter wit you, huh?  You’s forgetting yourself, kid.  You owe me.  Who got your sorry ass outta jail two years ago when you was locked up for getting mixed up wit that hooker in Atlantic City?  Who was that, huh?  Who made a buncha calls to Joel Gelles’ office to get the charges dropped, made the whole damn thing disappear off the face a the earth?  Who got your friggin Porsche back after your gambled it away—paid $35,000, I think it was, to get it outta hock—and had it delivered right to your house for you like a goddamned early Christmas present?  Me, that’s who.  Me.  And did I let you pay me back?  Frig no.  Cause we’re famb’ly, and we look out for each other.”

“I did have to pay you back, Tony.  You made me open a charter school so you could steal all the money and put it into this strip club.  How much money did you steal?  A million dollars, at least.”

“Kid, you act like you’s not my nephew, like we ain’t famb’ly.”

“Family?” the Kid says.  “Family members don’t bully each other into doing things that they don’t wanna do.”

“Oh, so I’m a bully now, is that what you’s saying?”

“Yeah, Tony, that’s what I’m saying.  What if I would have told you no, that I didn’t wanna go through all that bullshit to open World Peace Charter, just so you could steal all the money?  What if I would have told you no, forgetaboutit?  What would you have done?”

“You wouldn’t a done that, kid.  You ain’t stupid.”

“What if I did?”

“I woulda hurt ya, what do ya think.  I got a reputation to keep.”

“Would you have killed me?”

“It depends,” Tony says.  “Maybe, maybe not.  But you woulda paid, though, you know that.  Something bad woulda happened to ya if you didn’t.  Why is you asking me all this stuff, kid?  What’s going on?”

“Why?  You really don’t know why?  Have you been reading the newspapers, Tony?  Have you seen what they been writing?  It’s over for us, the jig is up.  Al Akbar knows about you now.  He knows about World Peace, how it’s just a front for the mob.  He knows you stole all the money, too.  He’s calling for an audit of our books and an investigation into—”

Frig Al Akbar!” Tony says.  “Frig him and the boat that prick sailed in on!  Nothing’s over, see!  Nothing!  I decide when it’s over, not you, not friggin Al Akbar!  And this is how it’s gonna go!  You is gonna keep running World Peace Charter, keep taking the money and giving it to me!  And next year, when my five new charters open, you is gonna run them, too, and give me all that money!  Are you getting this Dominic, or do I need to jam something into your ears to clean them out, like maybe an ice pick?”

“I’m done, Tony,” the Kid says.  “I’m out.  Do what you gotta do, but I ain’t doing this anymore, I can’t.  It ain’t right.”

Tony just shakes his head.  “I knew it.  I friggin knew it.  You’s an ingrate, just like your old man.  I thought you mighta been different . . . but you ain’t, and now I know it.  Did I ever tell you about your old man, how he died?  Your mother ever tell you that story?”

“Yeah,” the Kid says, “my dad fell off scaffolding two weeks before I was born.  It was an accident.  My mom’s been collecting the insurance.”

Tony laughs.  “Accident, right.  He fell off scaffolding, but it wasn’t no accident.  He made a choice, see, just like you’s making.  It was either his famb’ly that he married into—me, Manny, Theresa, all the Genitaglia’s—or his . . . his principles.  His friggin idear of doing what is right.  Kinda like you, huh?  You gotta do what is right.  You’s just like him, down to the nostril.  You even got his last name, Rossetti.  I always wondered why my sister Terry made you a Rossetti and not a Genitaglia, now I know: cause you’s an ingrate, just like your friggin father.”

“I love my father, even though I never met him.  I’m proud to be a Rossetti.  So is my mom.”

“You’s an ingrate, kid.  Like father, like son.”

“My father was a good man, and you know it.”

“He was a maggot and a cocker-roach.”

“He was a good man, just ask your brother Manny.”

“He was an ingrate!”  Tony stands up from the desk, crosses his arms.  “Our meeting is over, kid.  You made your choice.  You ain’t no Genitaglia, and you ain’t wanted on my property no more.”

“So that’s it?” the Kid says.  “We’re done here?”

You’s done kid,” Tony says, “you’s done.  You and your famb’ly, not mine.  But’s that’s what you want, isn’t?  To be like your father.  I knew it.  Well, I can make that happen, no problem.  There’s the door, kid.  Don’t let it hit you on the way out.”

_______

Dom got home late that night, after 3:00 in the morning.  Gina insisted that she was gonna wait up for him, but when the Kid finally made it upstairs to her bedroom, she was sound asleep and curled up in a ball, he wrote, the TV still on and showing some old Clint Eastwood movie.  She groaned when he climbed into bed next to her, then rolled over and kissed him.

“Hey,” she says, “how’d it go?”

“Fine.  Go back to sleep.  We’ll talk about it in the morning.”

“What time is it?”

“Late.  After three, go back to sleep.”

“I love you,” Gina says, and rolls back over.

“I love you, too.”

The Kid couldn’t sleep, though, and tossed and turned until Gina’s alarm went off at 6:15 a.m., when she got up to get ready for work and to get Ashley ready for school; now that Ashley’s feet was healed, the funds for her Home Bound teachers was gone and she was enrolled in Penn’s Port High for the 4th quarter a the school year.  The Kid just laid in bed while Gina showered and put on her make-up, his head aching, his eyes red and stingy.  When she came outta the bathroom and saw Dom was awake she asked for details about his meeting wit his uncle Tony, and Dom gave whatdoyacallit—vague answers, he wrote, saying stuff like It went well, and We worked things out, and Everything’s gonna be fine.

“Is he going to talk to the newspapers?” Gina says.  “Call that U.S. Rep. and tell him that you aren’t involved with anything illegal?”

“I guess we’ll see,” the Kid says.

We’ll see?  What does that mean?”

“It means we’ll see, Gina, okay.  I’m tired, and my head is killing me.”

“Well is your uncle going to call the papers or not?” Gina says.  “It’s a simple question.”

“I don’t know!” the Kid says, and wrote in his journal that he was surprised at his anger toward his fiancé.  “Gina, I’m . . . I’m sorry for shouting, but I’m just so tired and stressed out.  I told Tony to call the newspapers and to talk to Barry Al Akbar, and Tony didn’t make me any promises.  He’s gonna do what he’s gonna do, and that’s it.  If nothing happens by the end of the week, we’ll get a lawyer, like you wanted.”

“Dominic, I—” Gina begins to say, but Ashley pops her head into the room, and the talk a the Kid’s meeting wit Tony stops.  “Mom?  You almost ready to go?”

“One minute, honey, alright?  Me and Dom are having a talk.”

“Good morning, Dom.”

“Morning, Ash.”

“I’ll wait downstairs in the car, okay?”

“Sounds good.  I’ll be down in a minute.”

But whatever Gina was gonna say is gone, cause she just stood there in the bedroom, arms folded over her chest, looking confused.  Finally, to break the silence, the Kid said it was all gonna work out, really it was, she didn’t need to worry, and that he was looking forward to their plans later that night to visit Caroline’s, the fancy Italian South Philly restaurant that Dom and Gina was thinking about using for their wedding reception in July.  The talk a planning their wedding seemed to calm Gina a bit, and she shook her head and smiled and said that she didn’t know what she was gonna do wit Dom, and Dom laughed and said it didn’t matter now cause she was stuck wit him, see, cause she said yes when he asked her to marry him, and that big old rock on her left ring finger proved it.

“I’m leaving now,” Gina says, and kisses Dom on the forehead.  “I’ll be home around six.”

“Love you,” the Kid says.

“I love you, too,” Gina says, and walks out the door.

Part 24

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