Peppino and the Streets of Gold, by Ann Rubino
Chapter 18 Back to Work (excerpt)
He let me weigh out the orders too, and I got to talk to all the neighbors. One morning a man came in wearing an expensive suit and smoking a cigar. I didn’t know him. Mr. Martino bent down and whispered in my ear, “Give him whatever he wants.
Free. Be very polite.” Then he slipped around the corner into the back room. Free, I thought, why free? But I did what I was told. “You new here, kid?” the man asked, looking around. “Where’s the boss?”
“He said to give you our best,” I told him. “No charge. Does he owe you or something?”
“Yeah,” he laughed. “He owes me all right. Just cut me three of those rib steaks and about three pounds of round steak. Make the round steak thin. My wife is going to make bracciole for my birthday.” He puffed on his cigar blowing smoke all over the counter and seemed to be thinking. He smiled to himself. “He owes me. Yeah. That’s a good one.” I cut three beautiful steaks off the big piece, with fine, white lines like marble. They would be tender. I slapped them down on the big waxed paper and wrapped them up fast, tying the package with thin string from the big spool over the counter. Then I did the same with the round steak, making them as thin as I could without slicing off my own finger. I passed over the wrapped packages. “Thank you for your business,” I said politely. He looked down through narrowed eyes. He reminded me of the flour seller at the Borsa Nera during the war. “You got class, kid,” he said. “Class and guts.” He took his packages and walked out.
Mr. Martino came quietly out of the back room. “You did good. You know who that is?”
“No. Just a smoker. It stinks in here.”
“That smoker is the capo around here. Everybody owes him, if we don’t want trouble. He’s the guy to see if you have a problem. That’s Mr. Beretta. You don’t need to know any more. Better that way.”
copyright 2016 Ann Rubino
ISBN 978-1-942247-07-4 (paperback) 978-1-942247-08-1 (hardcover)