9. The Diner
Carlo ordered coffee and a grilled cheese, ignored the grilled cheese and drank the coffee. He borrowed a pen from the waitress and intently scribbled numbers on the margins of The Bridgeport Post’s sports section.
“Got any idears?” His buddy Jo-Jo Messina crunched on a BLT.
“No. Who cares? I don’t give a fuck, I been in a war for Chrissakes. What’s this country comin to? I can’t pay these jerks all this money. I been in a God Damn war, over there, Italy, France, Germany. Fuck them.”
“You been to Paris? You ever get any, you know, any of them French broads? Madonne.”
“Sure. They loved us men in uniform. Lemme tell ya though.” Carlo lowered his voice. He waited for Doris to take the order of a retired couple a few booths away. “Them French broads, they’re crazy. One of em had to take a piss, right there in the street in Paris. Went over to the gutter and lifted her dress and squatted. Never seen nothin like that before.”
“Damn.” Jo-ho gulped the last bite of his BLT, some mayonnaise dripped onto his cheek. “I mean, if a man’s gotta piss, sure. He goes in the alley. But a broad. Damn.”
“Sure a man’s gottaa piss. But a broad, right there in the street. Maddona mia.”
“Paris. Shit. Fuckin Paris. I never been in a war. Flat feet.”
“Yeah, well, good for your fuckin feet. It wasn’t worth it, gettin shot at. Seein your buddies blown to bits.”
A young woman in jeans and a flowered blouse leaned over the table. “You guys got some free plays onna jukebox.”
“Go ahead sweetie.” Carlo winked at her.
She looked at his wedding band while she picked out songs on the miniature silver jukebox. “So, you’re married?” She brushed her dark hair out of her eyes.
“Babe, I’m married, but I ain’t married like some white guy over in Stratford or Fairfield. I’m married like an Italian.” He laughed.
She looked at Jo-Jo. “What’s he mean?”
“He means, give em your fuckin phone number, honey.”
She wrote her number on a book of White’s Diner matches and put the matches in Carlo’s hand. He took the matches and shoved them in his pocket. “My name’s Sandy.” Mack the Knife came on the jukebox.
Doris came over and refilled their coffee cups and gave Sandy a dirty look. Carlo and Jo-Jo watched her wiggle away. Carlo put his arm around Doris’s waist. She set the coffee pot onto the table, plopped into his lap, ruffled his wavy black hair. “Toldja my nephew’s gonna be a priest.”
“Congrats babe!” Jo-Jo toasted her with his coffee cup.
“Yeah, congrats.” Carlo frowned. “You got ten, twenny grand you can loan me, sweetheart?”
“Huh? Me? The tips here at White’s Diner ain’t nothin to write home about, believe you me.” She stood up, smoothed her short orange dress, grabbed the coffee pot and headed back to the counter.
“A priest!” Jo-Jo rolled his eyes. “She got two kids inna joint, now a priest inna family for when they go to Death Row.”
Carlo looked out the window. “So everthin’s funny to you. Glad you’re havin such a good time. I got troubles. Big troubles. People I owe money to, they’d be happy to kill me.”
“I know, Carlo. Wish I could help. But hey, they won’t kill ya, then they’ll never get their fuckin money.” He clicked the glass salt and pepper shakers together. “Hey, Carlo.”
“Quit bangin them things like that, the noise bugs me.”
“You could do some favors for some people. I mean, ya killed people inna war, what’s the difference?”
“Stattazi. Not here. Don’t talk about that shit here.”
Carlo scribbled more numbers on the newspaper. “What?”
“You gonna eat that there grilled cheese, or what?”
“No. It’s cold. Fuck it. Forget it.”
“I could have it?”
“Alright. Eat it, go ahead, mangia. Fuck if I care. Me ne frego.” He stood up, jingled his car keys. “You need a ride Jo-Jo?”
“Nah. I’ll wait here. The old lady’s pickin me up.”
“Alright. I’m gonna make a few bucks doin pick-ups for Tony Junior. Ciao.”
© Copyright 2016 by Sara Jacobelli
Photo Credit: “Diner-Restaurant.” Pixabay copyright-free images. https://pixabay.com/en/diner-restaurant-caf%C3%A9-interior-1237078/