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
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
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