Tag Archives: Stan Rittman

Chapter 21

Arshile_gorky,_image_in_khorkom,_1936

A thin milky layer of light from a bare lightbulb at the top of the ten steps shone down to the basement. Tony the Phil looked up at it wide-eyed. If it was a 25-watt bulb, it was as bright as it was ever going to get. If it was a 40-watt bulb, it wasn’t making payroll. If it was a 100-watt bulb, it was on its last legs.

Tony kept his eyes on the lion in the near darkness, even though the animal was taking a nap. He hoped to God the animal wasn’t dreaming of breaking loose, getting his claws into him, and devouring his flesh. He sat quietly on the hard, thin mattress, as far back at the back of the bunk in the corner he was in as he could get.

He thought one of the flame throwers he had seen in Korea would come in handy, just now, just in case, if the lion got loose, except for all the hay. There was hay in the cage, and it was strewn all over the basement floor, too. He thought it might be Timothy hay. They used it at the ballpark. There were piles of it in the corners, and there were several bales stacked up. The basement smelled slightly musty, not dirty, but there was a strong smell of urine.

There were no mice to be seen anywhere.

The two men who had taken him to the storefront, taken him around back, and taken him into the basement, hadn’t been rough with him, but it was clear as day as he went down the stairs that he was going into the basement, and that was that.

“The boss will be down later,” one of them said. “Just sit tight. Lucifer is locked up. Her bark is worse than her bite, anyway.”

They tramped back up the stairs, he heard the lock click, and was left alone with the big cat. The lion twitched and tucked her head into her paws. She was dreaming about something. Maybe the big cat was dreaming of a smooth breeze. Maybe the big cat was dreaming of lying low in the grass beneath a bright blue sky. Or maybe the big cat was dreaming of ripping Big Paulie to ribbons and getting the hell out of the dark basement.

Anything would be better than being alone all the time.

Tony de Marco was a loner who didn’t like being alone. When he was around people, they often made him feel more alone, but it was better than being in a room all by himself. He didn’t like sleeping alone. It hadn’t been bad when he was in the army. He slept with the other GI’s, all of them in their fart sacks. But back home in Brighton Beach he didn’t have a girlfriend. There was no one nearby close by at his side in bed. He was lonely most of the time.

He didn’t have to answer to anybody, like most of the guys he knew, but he didn’t have anybody to talk to, either.

He wasn’t good at talking, anyway. What was there to talk about?  At parties, what few he went to, he was always clumsy and lost. He never knew how to start a conversation. He didn’t know how to jump in, jump out, stay loose.

He hadn’t been good at school, but he hadn’t been lousy, either. He never had been involved in even one extracurricular activity. After he graduated he forgot everything about high school. He wasn’t any more anti-social than the next man, but he wasn’t social, not exactly, not at all.

He didn’t care about the small lives everyone led in the big city, doing the same thing every day. riding a bus, working in an office, or a store, or somebody else’s business making something. He didn’t care about what their kids and their wives did. Even though he worked at the ball park, and liked his job, he wondered what in the hell everyone was hollering about. He liked baseball, but it didn’t matter who won or lost. He liked the Brooklyn Dodgers best, but knew that the team could be in Milwaukee, or Los Angeles, and it would be the same team, and the fans hollering it up for them would be different fans but the same fans.

Luca “Big Paulie” Gravano, when he came down to the basement and invited him upstairs for dinner, was different than what Tony the Phil had imagined. He was big, but not as big as he thought he would be. He was a gangster, it was easy to tell, but he was affable and friendly. He didn’t seem dangerous. He didn’t seem notorious. He seemed to be sure of himself.

“C’mon upstairs, Ma has a family spread laid out next door, we can eat, you can relax, go for a walk around the neighborhood afterwards, get a good night’s sleep. We’ve got a bedroom for you, Ma made it up special.”

“I’m a little nervous,” said Tony.

Something was wrong about being taken down into a basement with a lion not twenty feet away, and Big Paulie, who he didn’t know from Adam, draping a beefy arm over his shoulders and giving him a warm smile.

Something was wrong with the whole day, all last week, all the summer. It was a soup sandwich.

“Don’t worry about it,” said Big Paulie.

“Why do you have a lion here in Brooklyn? He’s could be dangerous if he got out.”

“It’s a lioness, a she,” said Big Paulie. “Lucifer is just here to keep the rats away. Besides, she doesn’t know how to break out of her cage anymore.”

“Lucifer is a man’s name, it’s the devil’s name.”

“She’s a man-eater.”

“When can I get out of this basement? It’s damp down here.”

“It’s just for a few hours,” said Big Paulie. “We’ll have you up next door for dinner tonight. Ma is making her special meatballs, and tomorrow we’ll move you a couple of blocks down the street with some of the boys. Wednesday is your birthday and you’ll be setting off the fireworks. It’s going to be a special day. Nobody will ever forget you after that.”

Tony the Phil liked the sound of that. Sometimes he thought he was invisible. At work, in the neighborhood, sometimes people didn’t notice he was right there, right next to them. They didn’t see him. He didn’t like that. He didn’t like it that other people thought he didn’t matter.

It was an hour or two or three, Tony de Marco couldn’t tell, he had forgotten his watch and couldn’t make sense of the time, when Luca Gravano came back, led him up out of the basement, and into the showroom of the Murphy Bed Company. The walls were lined with pull-down beds. A poster read “The Disappearing Bed.” There were some desks and chairs on the ground floor, and an arrangement of a sofa, armchairs, and a coffee table to one side. Luca led him to a side door, they stepped across a passageway between the store and a brownstone, and through another side door.

The house was the last in a row of townhouses. It was the color of cold sauce. They went up a set of stairs to the dining room above the parlor. The heavy dark table sat eight but was set for four. The head and foot of the table weren’t set. A young man sat at the table alone. His gun was on the table.

“This is my kid brother Frankie.”

Tony glanced down at the gun next to Frankie’s plate. A fork and knife were on the other side of the plate. The gun was Smith & Wesson 45 caliber “Military” model. It had a long barrel and a blue finish. Tony had seen them in Korea. Frankie was wearing a short-sleeve white shirt open at the neck. His holster was on the floor next to his chair.

“Everybody calls him Kid Blast,” said Big Paulie.

On the walls of the dining room were several photographs and paintings. There was a photograph of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and next to it a photograph of Fiorello La Guardia.  There was a color photograph of Pope Pius XII. He wore a red cape and his hands were clasped over his stomach. He was a lean man with the thin face of a bookkeeper.

There was a large framed painting of the Bay of Naples. The water was a bright mixed-up blue. The Roman emperor Caligula, insane and sickly,  had once ordered a bridge of boats assembled across the bay so he could ride over the water in a chariot wearing the armor of Alexander the Great.

“The thing that interests me is that today painters do not have to go to a subject-matter outside themselves. Modern painters work in a different way. They work from within,” said Jackson Pollack, down the drain and dead cold sober.

There was a large framed painting of the Infant of Prague. The child was standing on a golden pedestal inscribed JHS – Jesus Savior of Mankind – wearing a red robe puffy sleeves puffy white collar a golden crown on top of golden curls and holding a golden orb, the globus cruciger.

“Honor this image and you shall never want” was written on a slip of paper and tucked into the bottom corner of the frame.

“The modern artist is living in a mechanical age and we have a mechanical means of representing objects in nature such as the camera and photograph. The modern artist, it seems to me, is working and expressing an inner world – in other words – expressing the energy, the motion and the other inner forces. The modern artist is working with space and time, and expressing his feelings rather than illustrating,” Jackson Pollack said, packed-up and eighty-sixed.

There was a large framed copy of Norman Rockwell’s “Progress?” Three boys plead with a construction crew, “Gee, mister, this is our baseball lot!” The man looking out from the seat of the digger back hoe looks bemused. The man with the shovel looks like he wants to agree with the boys.

Big Paulie looked at Tony the Phil looking at the painting.

“You like that one?” asked Luca.

“Yeah,” said Tony

“The important thing is that Clyff and Rothko and I – we’ve changed the nature of painting. I don’t mean there aren’t any other good painters. Bill is a good painter, but he’s a French painter. I told him so, the last time I saw him after his last show. all those pictures in his last show start with an image. You can see it even though he’s covered it up, or at least tried to. Style – that’s the French part of it. He has to cover it up with style,” Jackson Pollack said, all done in and pushing up daisies.

Tony inhaled a waft of after-shave. He wrinkled his nose.

“I like to stink myself up,” said Big Paulie.

The smell of homemade meatballs and spaghetti walked into the room. Raffaella Gravano carried a large platter, her arms bent at the elbow, back straight, and eyes on the table. She put the platter down. There was enough food on it to feed twice as many of them as there were.

Raffaella Gravano was a plain looking woman, short and stout, thick-set and thick-necked. Her face was small, but her eyes, nose, and chin were large, and her expression was expressionless. She had on a short-sleeved print dress cinched at the waist by a thin black belt, her breasts sagging into her stomach, her upper arms beefy, strong, an ugly scar on one of her forearms, and wearing a pair of simple sturdy comfortable black shoes.

She set the platter down on the table, brought glasses of ice and a pitcher of water, and a bottle of red wine.

“Eat, eat,” she said to Tony when he hesitated.

He didn’t have to be told twice. He was hungry. The meatballs were fresh hot delicious. They tasted like the meatballs his mother made when he was a youngster, ground beef with pork, diced yellow onions and pressed fresh garlic, and made by hand marinara sauce. The spaghetti was good. The bread was warm.

“Take that off the table, Frankie,” Raffaella said, nodding at Frankie’s gun.

“Sure, Ma,” said Kid Blast.

The men ate quietly, like wolves, not talking. Raffaella ate, too, but sitting up straight, enjoying savoring the taste of the food she had made, chewing the meatballs rather than gulping them down, drinking her wine like wine, not water.

“Is this wise?” she asked, nodding at Tony, when Big Paulie came up for air.

“It has to be, Ma,” he said.

“I understand,” she said.

Tony slowed down, winding down, finishing his plate, feeling full. There were no clocks in the room, but there was dusk in the windows. He drank some of the semi-sweet wine from his glass and smiled at Ma

“Lambrusco Salamino di Santa Croce, from near Sorbara,” she said.

“Oh, I see,” said Tony, not seeing much of anything.

“The wine is from there. They call it that because the grape clusters look like a sausage of salami. You like it?”

“Yes, and the meatballs, too, very much,” said Tony.

Raffaella turned to her son, Kid Blast.

“Frankie, did you remember to bring that leg of lamb home like I told you?”

“Oh, fuck, Ma, I forgot.”

“Watch your language.”

“Damn, Ma, I’m sorry.’”

“What are we going to do about Lucifer tonight?” she asked. “You know what she’s like when her dinner is late.”

“What about him?” asked Frankie, looking at Tony the Phil. “He’s got two legs. He could give one up, right? He only needs one leg to stand on to do whatever it is he’s going to do, am I right?”

“You’re right,” said Big Paulie. “But he’s got to get there first, to do what he has got to do, so he needs both legs for now. Maybe he’s the sacrificial lamb, I don’t know, but the boss wants him in one piece and on time for doing up the contract, you got that?”

“OK, OK, don’t bite my head off,” complained Kid Blast.

After the dishes were cleared, Luca and Tony went for a walk around, four blocks up and down and around, around the neighborhood. They walked past bars, luncheonettes, restaurants, Italian cheese stores, barber shops , dairy stores, laundry shops, cut rate luggage stores, men’s wear, women’s wear, leather repair shops, candy cigar soda stands, and the New Deal Sales Company.

They passed a butcher shop that was closed with its lights on, the butcher wrapping up ten pounds of top round for Frankie Gravano. He waved and gave them a thumbs up when he saw them through the window, pantomiming carefully feeding Lucifer her late dinner.

They turned the corner.

“What was all that about a sacrificial lamb?” asked Tony.

“You don’t want to know, kid,” said Big Paulie. “You don’t want to know.”

 

Chapter 20

onement-vi-1953

At noon, at mid-day on Monday, October 1st, President Eisenhower greeted more than nine hundred invited guests to the Sales Executive Group Luncheon in the Main Ballroom of the best and biggest hotel in downtown Cleveland. He spoke briefly, walked out of the hotel, and crossed the street to the Main Speaker’s Platform next to the Soldiers and Sailors Monument. He was giving a speech at twelve-thirty.

He was in the middle of two months of pressing flesh and giving speeches.

A dozen black and white Cleveland Police cars blocked off Euclid Avenue, Superior Avenue, Ontario Street, and Rockwell Avenue.

Bert, Mert, and Luke had scampered out of the Memorial Room of the monument out to the roof and to the base of the polished black stone column. They could have climbed to the top, one hundred and twenty-five feet to the top, wending up the six foliated bronze bands listing the names of the thirty battles in which soldiers from Cuyahoga County fought, if they had wanted to. Their eyesight wasn’t the best, not like their sense of smell, but where they were was more than view enough.

Since it was only a month to the election, President Eisenhower got right to the point.

“The opposition say that they alone truly care for the working men and women of America, and that the Republican party is really a vague kind of political conspiracy by big business to destroy organized labor and bring hunger and torment to every worker in America,” he told the overflow crowd.

Secret Service agents watched from the roofs of the May Company and Higbee’s, and from inside the twin steeples of the Old Stone Church. The Berea sandstone of the church had long since turned black from air pollution from the Flats, the nearby industrial valley that sprawled on both sides of the curvy Cuyahoga River. The sun gleamed on the white terra cotta façade of the May Company. The faces of shoppers pressed against upper story windows of the two department stores.

The pastor of the Presbyterian church sat in a lawn chair outside his front doors, his sleeves rolled up, warm in the warm October day.

He had a ploughman’s sandwich, cheese and pickle, wrapped in wax paper in his lap. He unwrapped his sandwich. He took a bite and chewed, slowly, methodically. The sky above Public Square was dappled with small passing clouds. He stretched his legs out. His father had been a pastor. He grew up in the church. He served on all the church committees, was a volunteer at all the events, and made all the hospital and home care visits.

Thank God for Ike, he thought, a day off.

“Have you got your lunch?” asked Vicki that same morning in Hell’s Kitchen.

Dottie held up her lunch box. It was a metal Roy Rogers and Dale Evans lunch box with wood grain printed sides. On the front of the box Roy was riding away on Trigger, and Dale, in a red dress, was waving goodbye from underneath the Double RR Bar Ranch sign.

“Let’s go,” said Vicki.

Dottie went to the Sacred Heart of Jesus School on West 52nd Street. It was an all-children school, all boys and girls. It was the reason Stan had taken their apartment on West 56th Street, so that Dottie could walk to school. It was a large school, more than a thousand students, most of them Irish kids, and growing, A new convent for the Sisters of Charity had been built a few years ago. The Congregation of Christian Brothers, who had a reputation for strong-arm discipline, had their own residence on West 51st Street.

“If Jesus had been killed twenty years ago, Catholic school children would be wearing little electric chairs around their necks instead of crosses,“ Stan and Vicki heard Lenny Bruce crack at one of his shows.

Dottie didn’t wear a cross.

Bert and Mert were twins. Luke was an orphan. All his friends called him Eaka Mouse. They usually slept during the day and foraged at night, avoiding birds, but this was a special occasion. They had never seen the top man of the Grand Old Party up close. The birds were staying away because of the hullaballoo, but the mice couldn’t contain their curiosity.

“This is more than political bunk,” said President Eisenhower. “Those men are fretting fear and worried doubt. It is wicked nonsense. We have given to our nation the kind of government that is a living witness to a basic virtue in a democracy, public morality, public service, and public trust. There is no special favoritism, cronyism, or laxity in our administration.”

Luke had the best sense of smell of the three of them. He led the way when they went searching for food, which was fifteen, twenty times a day. Their favorite foods were seeds and grains, which made the monument a dream diner for mice. It was visited by hundreds, sometimes thousands of people, many of whom left behind crumbs of whatever they were snacking on.

The pickings today were going to be out of this world.

None of them liked cheese. No mouse they knew liked cheese. They snickered at the traps filled with shavings of it. Besides, they could smell the hand of a crafty man on the carefully prepared cheese, and they knew to beware.

In Brooklyn, Bumpy followed the two men who were following Stan and Betty. When they got to Ebbets Field, the men parked across the street from the main entrance to the ballpark. Bumpy passed them, doubled back, and parked a block behind them. He turned off the engine and got comfortable.

It was inside of fifteen minutes that the zip on the passenger side of the car got out, walked down the street, turned into a corner store, and came back with a brown bag with a bottle of Sneaky Pete in it.

“Dumb asses,” Bumpy said to himself.

He understood when the pie isn’t perfect, cut it into wedges, but if it was him, he would throw the two slices of stupidity out of the hoodlum roll call and send them back to Sicily where they came from.

The one-year sale on fresh blood from the homeland had been going on for seven years. It was getting stale. On the other hand, Bumpy thought, it isn’t like I’ve got to reinvent the wheel with them.

When Stan and Bettina walked out of the ballpark and hailed a cab, the two men in the car didn’t follow them. Instead, the man on the passenger side got out again, sauntered to a phone booth outside the corner store, and made a call.

“All right, and you’re sure they didn’t make you?”

“Nah.”

“And no one was on your tail?”

“No way.”

“All right, I’ll pass it on to the skipper. You two go home, or wherever, and lay low for the next few days. Stay straight, don’t boost anything, stay out of trouble, but stay heavy, just in case we need you, understand?”

“I got it,” the man in the telephone booth said.

The man on the other end of the line hung up.

The two slices of pie sat in their car and finished their Sneaky Pete.

“The men of the opposition know perfectly well that one of the main reasons they were thrown out of office four years ago was their tolerance of the fiery of inflation,” said President Eisenhower. “Just in the final seven years of their tenure of office this economic fever had cut the value of the dollar by almost one-third, damaging the livelihood of the aged, the pensioned, all salaried workers.”

Luke had recently chewed up the front page of the Cleveland Press for bedding. He noticed an article about last month’s government index showing living costs at a record high point.

“The cost of living has been remarkably stabilized,” the trim balding man in a brown suit below them said earnestly. “During the previous Democratic administration, the cost of living increase was twenty times as great.”

Mert gave Bert and Luke the high sign. They couldn’t go down to look for food, but the speechifying was making them sleepy. It was a lot of cutting corners and trying to corner the other guy. The three mice stretched, groomed themselves briefly, efficiently, curled up together, and were soon napping.

Ezra met Stan and Bettina when they got to Brighton Beach.

“He’s gone,” said Ezra.

“The lady of the house says he left yesterday, with a couple of guys, had an overnight bag with him. She saw the car, but doesn’t know the make, much less the plates. I asked around, talked to some of the neighbors, nobody saw anything, so that’s a dead end. My guess is they’re guessing we’re on to him and have got him on ice somewhere until Wednesday.”

“That sounds about right,” said Stan. “We’ll have to snag him at the ballpark. We’ve got tickets for the game, so getting in won’t be any problem.”

“No, no problem and we can get in early, spread out,” said Ezra.

“Are we still keeping this to ourselves?”

“Yes,” said Ezra. “The Secret Service is always on high alert, so our ruffling their feathers won’t make any difference. Besides, they don’t trust anybody. Whatever we tell them is likely to get us in a jam.”

“I’m on the same page,” said Stan. “But what if we don’t get our man and he gets to Ike?”

“We’re not anybody’s bodyguard,” said Ezra. “He’s got all the bodyguards he needs.”

“But we know who is and what he looks like,” said Bettina. “They don’t.”

“Yes,” said Ezra.

They had walked down to Brighton Beach Avenue.

“Did you read that tawk from Ike on Stevenson?” one man asked his companion as they strolled past the Duluc Detective operatives.

“Yeah, just more smoke and mirrors from the Republicans.”

“The thing is, how do you even know he’s telling the truth, when you know you’d lie about it if you was him?”

“Fawget about it.”

“Yeah, yeah, I got that. Let’s stop in here.”

They were approaching a diner.

“Let’s get some cawfee and a bite.”

“That’s a good idea, I’m with you.”

“We can’t be sure we know with one hundred percent certainty what our man is up to,” said Stan.

“No,” said Ezra.

“It puts us in a bad spot.”

“Yes,” said Ezra.

“OK, we’ll play it the way we have been. It might be a squeeze, but I don’t want to get in the middle of a political assassination, if it is an assassination, and everything that would bring down on us, hell in a hand basket.”

“No good deed goes unpunished,” said Ezra.

“We’re getting paid to find out what happened to Jackson Pollack, not anything else,” said Stan.

Bettina wanted to argue, but when she remembered some of the things Pete had told her, after their ping-pong games, or out for a drink, she bit her tongue. TF is what Pete muttered when what he said fell on deaf ears. She didn’t want to be the mouse in the headlights with the Feds at the wheel. She knew Pete was right about the high and low.

Two teenagers slouched past them. Both of them were wearing large bright medal medallions. One of them had a girl’s ear-clip stuck onto an earlobe.

“You going to the skin battle tonight?” asked one.

“Diddley bop, I’m all in,” the other one said.

“You got your stenjer ready?”

“You bet.”

He had wet his Alpine-style hat, his stenjer, under a faucet the night before, rolled the narrow brims tight, and dried it on a radiator.

“Don’t forget to pull it down over your ears.”

“Ain’t that like punking out?”

“No, it’s going to be tight fighting, but you still want to take care of your ears.”

“I got it.”

“You’ve got to have heart, though.”

“I’ll tell you who’s got heart, Blood’s got heart.”

“You got that right. He isn’t afraid of anything or anybody. He will do absolutely anything. If he has to fight five against one, he’ll fight five against one. He’s a butcher, man. If you need someone to pull the trigger, he’ll pull the trigger.”

“Get that man a stenjer.”

“Fast, faster, disaster!”

They both laughed, taking their own sweet time.

Stan, Bettina, and Ezra walked in silence.

“Anybody hungry?” asked Betty.

“I’m dog hungry,” said Ezra.

“Same here,” said Stan.

“How about H & S? We could walk, it’s not far.”

They passed an apartment house. At the top of it an inscription in block letters read MOTHER JONES. Bettina knew who she was, which was Mary Harris Jones, a labor organizer for the Socialist Party of America, fifty or sixty years ago. A district attorney had called her “the most dangerous woman in America.”

Pete said, laughing, that women couldn’t even vote in her day, which was what really made them dangerous, pivoting into the 20th century.

“When you want something bad enough is when you get dangerous,” he said.

Stan, Betty, and Ezra walked to the deli on Sheepshead Bay Road.

President Eisenhower wrapped up his speech, stepped down from the platform, and was in his big car in his motorcade on its way to Cleveland Hopkins Airport by one o’clock. He and Mamie boarded the Columbine and were airborne to Lexington, Kentucky by one-thirty. In the next two days, at the same time of the day the Boeing lifted off, Dwight Eisenhower would be tossing out the first pitch of the 1956 World Series at Ebbets Field instead of tossing out half-truths.

“There it is,” said Bettina, pointing to the blue and white H & S Hebrew National Deli porcelain sign across the street.

She had mushroom barley soup and toasted challah, while Ezra and Stan ordered pastrami sandwiches. Betty winced at the tongue offerings on the menu. One of them touted itself as center cut tongue, better than the other parts of the tongue.

“Look at this,” said Stan. He pointed to a sign on the wall

“Instant Heart Attack.”

It was a three-quarter pound meat sandwich, your choice of animal, with potato latkes instead of bread.

“Our food is delicious, but it can kill you,” said the waiter.

After they had finished, and were having tea, Ezra said, “I didn’t want to mention it while we were eating, but some of the deli’s I eat at, you can’t find what they offer anywhere else. There’s a place, they have something called pitcha, which is made by cooking calves’ feet and making a gelatinous block of it, chilling it, with bits of meat in it.”

“Oh, my God!” said Betty.

“I’ve never had it,” said Ezra.

“Thank God for that!” said Betty.

Outside, on the sidewalk they heard a man in the distance, a man coming their way.

“Ice cream! Get your Good Humor ice cream here, ice cream, orange drinks. Get your Good Humor ice cream here.”

He was a black man wearing black shoes and khaki pants. He had two large boxes slung over his shoulders. One was filled with ice cream and the other one with orange drinks. His face was shiny.

Stan asked if he had vanilla.

“Yes sir,” the man said.

“I’ll have one, too, “said Betty.

“What other flavors do you have?” asked Ezra.

“Strawberry, chocolate, eclairs, fudge.”

“I’ll take a strawberry,” said Ezra.

When the ice cream man opened his box, white smoke from the dried ice spilled out of it. After they paid him, he grunted when he lifted the two boxes up, slinging them back over his shoulders, and wiped his face with a handkerchief.

“Ice cream, ice cream, get your Good Humor ice cream here.”

His voice trailed off as he went down the sidewalk.

Most days, Monday through Saturday, as long as the weather was good, the mice looked forward to the nut ladies, the woman who looked more-or-less like Doris Day, and Mammy Two Shoes, who only looked like herself, a middle-aged Slovenian woman with dark skin dark hair dark eyes, to take their mid-day break on the steps of the monument. They worked across the square, at Morrow’s Nut House, near the revolving doors of the May Company.

They worked behind the glass counter display case, selling fresh warm lightly salted cashews and redskin peanuts, Spanish peanuts, almonds, hazelnuts, pecans and walnuts. Morrow’s was on the corner, on the intersection, on a CTS bus stop. They pumped the smell of roasting nuts out onto the sidewalk all day.

Bert, Mert, and Luke weren’t waiting for the nut ladies today. There was a cornucopia waiting for them on all sides of the Sailors and Soldiers Monument. Who said the GOP never did anything for the little man?

The three mice had girlfriends, Mary, Suzy, and Perla.

“Hey guys, let’s rake it in, and go to the submarine races,” said Bert.

Eaka Mouse knew what that meant. It was feedbag and hanky-panky time. They weren’t three blind mice.

“Come on, snake, let’s rattle.”