East Main Street
- The Candy Store
Poppy grabbed Tori and a neighbor kid and threw them in the backseat of his old Caddy. “Take a ride with me.” Tori hoped he wouldn’t do anything to scare the kid. Little Joey Rovinelli was kind of “skittish” as her Mom put it. Poor kid. Always jumpy like you might smack em.
Tori knew they were going to the Candy Store. Not Triangle’s on the corner where she went with her friends after school, but some strange unnamed store way down East Main. There were never any kids there, or women either. Just dark unfriendly men standing out front, mumbling to each other in Italian. Smoking and glaring, looking like they were in a hurry to go somewhere. They all reminded her of Poppy. Men who seemed bored around their families, restless. The teachers in school complained Tori was “restless”— always jiggling her legs, tapping her pencil. Staring out the window daydreaming. Maybe she got it from her old man.
Poppy parked in front of the store. The sign said “Candy. Sweets. Treats.” “Youse kids, the both a yas, stay inna car.” The door jingled as he opened it, it had little bells on it.
“What’s he doing?” Joey asked, his brown eyes wide.
“Nothin. And quit pickin at your nose.”
“Mi fa schifo. Disgusting. I SEE the God Damned green boogers. Gross.”
“You’re gonna have to go to Confession for swearing.”
“So. Don’t care. At least it gives me somethin to say. I never know what to say, sittin in that Damn dark little booth. It’s creepy.”
“Now ya got TWO swears.”
Tori ignored him and leaned out the window, tried to see what was going on. Some guys were talking to Poppy just inside the door. Then they came outside and spoke in rapid Italian. Rat-a-tat-tat. Rat-a-tat-tat.
“What’re they sayin?”
“You’re Italian too. You should know.”
“I don’t understand it. Too fast. ”
Tori frowned. “Mrs. Stillwater at school said we ain’t supposed to speak that stuff. Italian. Spanish. Polish. Just AMERICAN.”
A new man in a trenchcoat came up and gave Poppy what looked like an awkward hug. Poppy grabbed his arm, then handed him a folded Bridgeport Post.
“Bet you know some of it. Wish he’d get us some candy.” Joey climbed into the front seat, started digging cigarette butts out of the ashtray. “We can smoke these,” he said. “These are some good ones.”
“Don’t make a mess. He don’t like kids messin up his car. An he ain’t gettin us candy.” She looked at the men again. “Soldi. That means money. They’re talkin bout money. And probably,”
“Probly what?” Joey stuck a cigarette butt in his mouth and pretended to smoke.
“You look stupid. My Mom calls em Clinchers. When you’re broke and smokin a cigarette butt.”
“Clinchers. That’s funny. Wish we had matches.” Joey looked at the men who were getting closer to the car. “So they’re probly talkin bout what?”
Tori pulled Joey into the back seat and got close to his ear. His ear was dirty and filled with wax. Yuck. She attempted a rough whisper. “Gambling. DON”T say anythin. Somethin bout money and gambling.”
Poppy got back in the car and started her up.
Tori leaned on the front seat. “Can you make her GO FAST? Real fast?”
He laughed, put his cigarette in the ashtray. Gunned the car and they zoomed down East Main Street. Tori and Joey giggled, their skinny bodies bouncing around in the back seat.
“Shoulda seen when he had the old white Caddy convertible, she was so pretty an so fast an so cool, but my Mom was jealous.”
“Jealous of a CAR?” Joey was red faced, hanging on the seat while Poppy zoomed along.
“She was jealous of the women, the women liked the car,” Poppy said, stepping on the gas pedal, one brown arm leaning out the window, the other smoothly steering.
Barreling down East Main, Tori thought about what she overheard. She turned the words over and over in her mind. The men said more in Italian than money and gambling. Get the money out of your mother. We’ll blow up the house. Your wife and your kids. She looked out the window. They passed Paolo’s Apizza. Poppy stopped the car and let the kids out. He sped off.
Maybe she didn’t understand all the words. They talked so fast and they mumbled.
“Tori? You wanna play pea shooters? Shoot peas inna cars parked in front a Fiorito’s Hardwares?”
“Yeah, sure. I got my pea shooter stuff onna front porch in my special hiding spot.”
© Copyright 2016 by Sara Jacobelli
Photo Credit: “Penny Candy.” Buttercups and treats. http://tinyurl.com/jnuk7p7