lj idol season 9 | week 17 | 741 words
I know what you're gonna ask. Yeah, I had bigger hopes than this when I was growing up, but things don't always work out, you know? My grades weren't so good, and Ma was always busy at the newspaper. My cousin Larry was the smart one, and now he's working for People magazine. It ain't prestige, but it pays. Me? I guess you could say my job is in accounts and enforcement.
Yeah. I'm the muscle.
My partner is a guy named Floyd. Most of the time, everyone plays by the rules and we don't have to get involved. That's the way we like it. But every now and then, some Weisenheimer decides to write a newspaper or magazine article and make up some of the quotes, which is illegal or something. Or maybe they start putting quotation marks around words that don't need them, like "food" or "official" or "new."
When that happens, somebody's getting paid to violate the code, and that makes all Quotation Marks look bad. Punctuation is an old profession, and the Family doesn't hold with that kind of business. That's where Floyd and I come in.
We'll drop in on the doers, maybe show up at their house in the middle of the night. Floyd'll talk to them about paying damages to the guild for taking bad jobs (he trots out big words like spur-i-ous and im-pli-ca-tions, and a couple of others I forget). I just smack my club against my hand and talk about kneecaps. The doers start running for their piggy banks about then, and a lot of times, that's the end of it. But once in a while, there's someone who just needs the money worse than most, or can't see the line clear enough to keep from crossing it.
Vinnie Paladucci was one of those guys. Poor Vinnie. Maybe he had gambling debts or some kind of drug habit to feed, but whatever the reason, he was one of our regulars. "I swear, this is the last time," he always said, but he'd be back working the dirty side-jobs in no time. Vinnie made me do things I swore I'd never be part of—breaking legs, cutting off fingers, and worse. Aw, Vinnie. Why couldn't he have kept it together?
Vinnie's at the bottom of the ocean now. I sure as hell hope he stays there.
Other punctuation groups, like Periods, they don’t see this kind of trouble. They almost always show up where they belong, and they don't get extras coming to the same job. They're pretty self-regulating. Exclamation points go a little crazy sometimes, but what can you expect? Then there are the Commas. A lot of 'em have drinking problems, sure, and they're unreliable. You might have too many or not enough, but the worst they can do is make things garbled.
People don't file lawsuits because of commas bracketing things in print that nobody actually said. Fuckin' commas. They got it easy, compared to us. There were two of 'em on the sidewalk drinking out of brown paper bags just now, when Floyd and I got in the car to go see Jimmy the Knife. Jimmy put up a sign outside his bar last night, advertising floor shows with "live" girls. Instead of what, shows with dead ones? Jimmy oughtta know better, and I'm wondering if I'll have to use the club on him. I really hope it doesn't come to that.
I still feel pretty bad about Vinnie. Tell the truth, I don't really like this line of work, not when it gets ugly. Ma's never been very happy about it either, but what can I do? I don't have the smarts for much else.
"Take a job in legal, Gianni," Ma always says. "They'll show you exactly where to stand, every time. They're very particular."
Maybe she's right. I'm getting too old to be busting up neighborhood pals and the guys like Vinnie who just can't play it straight. There's no future in this line of work, and they don't even offer retirement. Sure, I'd miss hanging out with the guys in the back room at Paolo's, but I hear those law places have pretty good coffee.
I'll have to think about it, though if today goes south, it'll make the decision a whole lot easier. Hey, at least I wouldn't have to buy new work clothes.
I've already got a closet full of suits.
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