Forty-Five Years Ago
A young Paulie Ventriglio walked down State Street, looking for some window signs, advertising they were hiring. He was fresh out of high school, and he wanted to start making some money of his own. His sister Helen had been home, fresh out of prison, for a little under two years, and she couldn’t find any honest work. Her father didn’t want her finding any dishonest work either. He was hoping to get a job in a restaurant and and learn the business from the bottom up.
There was a restaurant called “Giaccomo’s” on the corner of State and Bishop. There was a help wanted sign in the window, and Paulie walked in. The place was dimly lit and almost empty. It was only a little after ten thirty in the morning, and they must not have opened yet.
“Hello?” Paulie called. “Anyone here? I saw the sign in the window.”
“Paulie?” a voice asked, coming from the back. “Is that you?”
“It sure is, Silvio!” Paulie said, smiling. Silvio Barbara was his cousin. Well, he wasn’t really a cousin, more of a son of a close associate of his father. “I came in looking for work. What are you doing here?”
“Something similar,” Silvio replied. He was shorter and wider than Paulie. Even though he was smiling, it was had to tell. His hair was jet black and gelled into place. It would have been shining if there was more light.
Two more men came out of the back, and Paulie recognized them both. “My son will make sure Gino’s kids ain’t talkin’,” one of them said. This was Silvio’s father, Silvio Senior. He noticed his son was still in the restaurant. “Sil, why aren’t you gone yet?”
“Paulie’s here,” Silvio replied. “He’s looking for a job.”
“Oh,” Silvio Senior said, looking over Paulie. “Finally ready to step into your father’s footsteps?”
“Not really,” Paulie replied. “I saw the help wanted sign for the restaurant.”
“This Jack’s place,” Silvio Senior said. “Come on, Sil. Let’s leave these two to talk business.”
The other was Giaccomo “Jack” Pucci. He was huge and currently under investigation. Paulie knew this because his father was the one currently tipping off the feds on his friends, one by one. “So you want a job?” Jack asked. “I’m sure I can find something for the son of Anthony Ventriglio. Maybe you can learn both businesses, eh?”
“No thanks, Uncle Jack,” Paulie said, wanting to be as far away as possible all of a sudden. He thought of a quick excuse. “I want to make a name for myself off my own name, not my father’s.”
“I can respect that,” Jack said, nodding. “Good luck out there, kid.”
“Thanks,” Paulie said. He turned and quickly left.
Created, written, & directed by Budgerigar Orville Bigelow
Co-created by executive producer BluntSharpness
Season 12, Episode 3: Cousin Silvio
“So then my father filled the bathtub with cold water,” Tony said, talking to Da’Quarius in the main area of Paulie’s Pizza. “He dunked Gino the Snitch’s head over and over until he gave up who he was really working for.”
“Wow,” Da’Quarius said. “Is dat why dey called him ‘Gino da’ Snitch’?”
“You know what, kid?” Tony rhetorically asked. “I have no idea why they called him that.”
Paulie came out if his office. “What the hell are you telling him now?” he asked.
“I’m telling the kid about the days of our fathers,” Tony replied.
“Don’t fill his head with that shit,” Paulie said. “The last thing the kid needs is you making our pops sound like glorified mob stars. There was nothing good about what they did. It destroyed everyone around them.”
“But Tony’s seen some shit,” Da’Quarius said. “He saw his dad drown Gino da’ Snitch.”
“No he didn’t,” Paulie said. “He was about nine years old, and his father never tortured anyone in his own home.”
“Well,” Tony said. “I heard him talk about it.”
“Damn,” Da’Quarius said. “You were makin’ yo’self sound all hard an’ shit, but you was just home wit’cho teddy bear.”
“Why’d you do that, Paulie?” Tony asked. “Now the kid thinks I was a pussy.”
“Everyone’s a pussy when they’re nine,” Paulie said.
“I wasn’t,” Da’Quarius said. “Dat must be a white guy thing. I was born hard as a mo’ fucker.”
“Hey,” Tony said. “Do you remember why the called him ‘Gino the Snitch’?”
“Yeah,” Paulie replied. “He was a snitch.”
“Makes sense,” Tony said.
“Are you two going to do any work today?” Paulie asked. “I got half a mind to dunk both of your heads until some sense starts leaking in.”
The door opened with the chiming of the bells. A man walked in, wearing a long black coat. He had a sour look on his face and slicked back, gelled hair, jet black. He was the spitting image of someone Paulie had known during his younger days.
“Cousin Silvio?” Paulie asked. “Holy shit. Is that you?”
“Sure is,” Silvio replied. “I heard I’d find you here, under the giant sign with your friggin’ name on it.”
“I didn’t want to make it too hard now,” Paulie said.
“Is that little Tony?” Silvio asked. “I’m sorry about your pop. He was a good man. I wish I could’ve made it to his memorial.”
“It’s no problem,” Tony said. “Thanks, I mean.”
Paulie and Silvio looked at each other, like there was something unsaid.
“Aw shit,” Da’Quarius said, realization coming over him. “If dere’s gonna be a shootout, let my black ass outta here first.”
Paulie sat in one of his booths, Silvio sitting across from him. “Look,” Paulie said. “I know this isn’t easy. I’ve run into plenty of my old friends and cousins from back in the day, and I known the wounds my father left didn’t exactly fade well with a lot of them.”
“That’s actually why I’m here,” Silvio said, sighing. “I just got done with a five year stint up in Havenville, and I did a lot of soul searching while I was up there. For some reason, I thought about you.”
“Me?” Paulie said. “But we haven’t spoken in years, decades.”
“That’s what I mean,” Silvio said. “We were close, Paulie. We went to school together, dated from the same pool of broads. Hell, we lost our virginity on the same night!”
Paulie laughed. “I remember that,” he said. “It was those crazy Falzone sisters.”
“Anyway,” Silvio said, “getting back to why I’ve come. I’ve driven by this place dozens of times before I did my time. Uncle Jack’s place was right down the street.”
“I remember,” Paulie said. “Giaccomo’s.”
“Yeah,” Silvio said. “We used to meet there when I was first learning the family business. You remember that too, don’t you?”
“Vaguely,” Paulie said. “I remember my pop being the reason Jack’s place got shut down. Well, that and what they found out he was doing with it.”
Silvio didn’t say anything. He looked away from Paulie’s face. “Look,” he said. “I didn’t want to drudge up the dark shit from our past like that.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Paulie said. “It’s inescapable.”
“But I refuse to dwell on it,” Silvio said. “I want us to be friends again, Paulie.”
“I’d like that, Sil,” Paulie said. “Come by any time. I mean that.”
“Thanks,” Silvio said, getting up. “I think I will.”
Silvio left the sitting area and left through the main area, passing by Tony and Da’Quarius. “Hey,” Tony said as he passed. “You still in the game?”
“Don’t ask questions you don’t want the answer too, little Tony,” Silvio said.
“I got a new nickname you can use if you’ll be coming around here with the guys,” Tony said. “Call me ‘Tony One-Nut’.”
“Why?” Silvio asked. “Did you lose one?”
“Not yet,” Tony said. “Next week though.”
“You’re a weird duck, Tony,” Silvio said. He turned to Da’Quarius, who was sweeping the floors. “What’s your deal, kid?”
“I got both my nuts,” Da’Quarius said. “Thanks fo’ askin’.”
Silvio laughed. “You’re alright, kid,” he said. “But seriously, what are you doing, working here at your age?”
“I ain’t workin’,” Da’Quarius said. “I’m learning da’ business from my uncle.”
“Paulie is your uncle?!” Silvio asked, taken aback.
“What of it?” Da’Quarius asked in return.
“I’m going to have to hear how that happened,” Silvio said. “Next time.” He left, leaving with another jingle of the bells above the door.
“You hear that,” Tony whispered, coming up to Da’Quarius. “He’s coming back. This is my ticket back in.”
“Back in what?” Da’Quaruis asked.
“Back in the business,” Tony replied. “My father always kept me out; and my association with Paulie didn’t help, but if Silvio and Paulie are OK…”
“Will you two stop gossiping,” Paulie said, coming back from the sitting area. “Sil is just an old friend looking to catch up. Capeesh?”
“Yeah, yeah,” Tony said. “Whatever you say, boss. Is it OK if I go on my lunch break now?”
Tony walked through the Blue Olive Club, located six blocks away from Paulie’s Pizza, up on East Street. He had talked Da’Quarius into coming with him, even though he didn’t tell him or Paulie where “lunch” was going to be.
“Umma get kicked outa here,” Da’Quarius said. “Dey ain’t gonna let a thirteen year old hang out in a strip club!”
“Relax,” Tony said. “These are old pals of Paulie and me, family almost.”
“I always thought you an’ Paulie wanted to steer clear of dese guys,” Da’Quarius said.
“That’s Paulie’s thing,” Tony replied. “My father wouldn’t let me get into the business either. I’ve seen enough movies to know that these guys know how to live large.”
“I’ve seen da’ movies too,” Da’Quarius said. “Don’t dey all go to jail or killed in da’ end?”
“That’s just in there to sell tickets,” Tony said. “Nobody goes to prison or dies that often.”
“An’ where’s yo’ father?” Da’Quarius asked.
“He died in prison,” Tony replied, “but the two were unrelated.”
“How’s dat make sense?” Da’Quarius asked.
“Clam up,” Tony said. “Here’s Silvio.”
“Tony,” Silvio said, spotting him. “What are you doing here?”
“I wanted to reconnect like you and Paulie,” Tony said. “And I brought the kid with me.”
“You brought the kid,” Silvio said, looking from Tony to Da’Quarius and back again, “to an adult establishment.”
“I told him it was stupid,” Da’Quarius sighed. “I’ll go wait outside.”
“Wait,” Silvio said. “You’re tight with Paulie, so I know you’re cool. If you’re ever looking to make a little extra scratch, you come and see me. I may just have some work for you.”
“Wha’chu got in mind?” Da’Quarius asked.
“Odd jobs mostly,” Silvio replied. “I can always make use of a young go-getter like yourself.”
“Cool,” Da’Quarius said. “Maybe I’ll swing by sometime.” He left, checking out the talent on stage as he did.
“He’s a good kid,” Tony said.
“What do you want?” Silvio asked. “I’m barely out of the joint, and you come here, bringing a friggin’ minor into my place of business.”
“I want to reconnect with you guys,” Tony replied. “I miss the good ol’ days.”
“You were never part of ‘em,” Silvio said. “And this reeks of a setup. Have you been flipped?”
“What?” Tony asked, taking a step back. “No. I just want to be part of the group.”
“Tony,” Silvio said, putting his hand on Tony’s back and escorting him toward the door. “I think you need to reconsider.”
“I have,” Tony said.
“No,” Silvio continued. “You’ve considered. I’m asking you reconsider. To put it plainly: get out and don’t worry about what we’re up to.”
“So Paulie is OK and I’m not?” Tony asked.
“That’s different,” Silvio replied.
“What’s he got that I don’t?” Tony asked.
Silvio paused for a moment. “He and I go way back is all,” he said. “We were practically in diapers together. Now get out of here before someone takes your persistence for hostility.”
Tony looked around, noticing that he was being watched by at least four other guys.
“Alright,” Tony said, putting his hands in his pockets and walking out into the early afternoon sun. “I gotta get back to work before my break is up anyway.”
Silvio was silent as he watched Tony leave.
“You did what?!” Paulie roared once Tony and Da’Quarius returned.
“Why’d you have to go an tell him!” Tony exclaimed at Da’Quarius.
“What da’ fuck do I gotta keep secrets for?” Da’Quarius retorted.
“You’re the one running drugs and laundering money for Silvio now!” Tony shouted.
“Oh!” Paulie snapped. “That better not be true!”
“It’s not,” Da’Quarius said. “Tony’s just makin’ shit up so you yell an’ me an’ not him.”
“Shut up,” Tony said. “You’re the one who put a hit out on Paulie.”
“Head home, kid,” Paulie said. “I’m not gonna be able to knock some sense into this gagootz with you here.”
“Fine,” Da’Quarius sighed. “I always get sent home before some gagootz gets some sense knocked into his bitch ass.”
Paulie waited for Da’Quarius to leave. “You gotta be out of your mind,” he said. “You don’t want to be messing around with Silvio and his crew. Don’t you remember what happened to your pop? What happened to both of them?!”
“I won’t snitch or get caught,” Tony said, shrugging. “Big whoop.”
“Madon,” Paulie groaned. “It’s not easy to get in or out, which is why I’m glad neither one of us got in, and why I’m relieved that Da’Quarius is too smart to get involved too.”
“You sure?” Paulie asked. “The kid seemed interested.”
“You shut your mouth about the kid,” Paulie said. “He’s got more common sense in his little finger than you’ve shown in your entire friggin’ life!”
“You may end up eating those words, Pauile,” Tony said.
Paulie sighed. “I know I won’t,” he said. “And stop making this about Da’Quarius. He’s not involved!”
A car pulled up to the curb as Da’Quarius walked home. The driver’s side window opened up, and a surly face looked out. “Hey, kid.”
Da’Quarius looked. “Yo,” he said. “What’s up, cousin Silvio? You lost?”
“No,” Silvio replied. “I was looking for you. Turns out I really do need a favor, and I’m sure you can help me with it.”
“I don’t think so,” Da’Quarius said, he turned to walk away. “I gotta run home an’ take out my dog, so -”
“Five hundred bucks,” Silvio interrupted.
“For real?” Da’Quarius asked. “Wha’chu need?”
”Just a delivery gig,” Silvio replied. “Pick up a box from my associate at point A, and ride your bike or whatever to point B. It’s nothing big. It’ll fit in your backpack.”
“An’ I take the fall fo’ whatever is in da’ box if da’ cops stop me?” Da’Quarius asked. “Dat’s how dis works, right?”
“What the hell do you think I pay so well for?” Silvio asked. “You get nabbed: you don’t know me. Do we have an understanding?”
Da’Quarius thought for a moment. “Nah,” he said. “Umma pass on dis one, Sil.”
“Suit yourself,” Silvio said. “You know where to find me if you change your mind.” He rolled up the window and sped off.
“Yeah right,” Da’Quarius said. “Paulie would get arrested just to fuck my shit up in prison if I got busted workin’ fo’ yo’ ass.”
Paulie was getting ready for the dinner rush when Silvio returned. “Hey, Sil,” Paulie said, coming from the behind the counter. “I’m glad you came back in. I wanted to talk to you about something.”
“Me to,” Silvio said.
“Hey,” Tony said, joining Paulie. “Your think about my proposal or what?”
“Get outta here!” Paulie snapped. “You’re being an asshole, and you know it!”
“I get it!” Tony said, going back to the kitchen area. “Shout it louder. They didn’t catch it downtown.”
“Madon,” Paulie said, sitting across from Silvio. “That Tony is a meathead sometimes. What did you want to talk about?”
“You want to go first?” Silvio asked.
“No,” Paulie said, shaking his head. “What’s up, Sil?”
“I need a favor, Paulie,” Silvio said. “You know I wouldn’t ask if I wasn’t desperate. Can you help me out?”
“That depends on what the favor is,” Paulie replied.
“I need to borrow your place,” Silvio said, “just to store some boxes, nothing major. You got a basement here, right?”
Paulie sighed. “No,” he replied. “Absolutely not.”
“Just don’t ask what’s in them,” Silvio said. “It’s called plausible deniability if anyone comes by.”
“You don’t understand,” Paulie said. “The answer is no, and it’s going to stay a no.”
“I think you’re the one who doesn’t understand,” Silvio said. “I’m extending an olive branch here. You accept it, and you don’t have to live under the shadow of what you’re father did. This is your chance at forgiveness.”
“I’m not asking for it,” Paulie said. “All I want is for you leave my nephew alone.”
“I wouldn’t worry,” Silvio said. “He somehow inherited your stubbornness.”
“Good,” Paulie said, standing. “I guess that’s it then.”
“I guess so,” Silvio said, standing as well. “Its a shame your so dead-set against your old friends.”
“Come in and have a slice and bullshit a bit then,” Paulie said. “That’s all I want.”
Silvio observed Paulie for a moment and nodded. He noticed Tony watching from the counter. “There may just be an opening if you still want a job,” he said. “Whaddaya say, Tony One-Nut?”
“I already got one, Sil,” Tony replied.
Silvio nodded and turned to leave. “Friggin’ stunad,” he muttered, leaving the pizzeria.
“I’m proud of you,” Paulie said, turning toward Tony. “You did the right thing.”
“I know,” Tony said. “And you didn’t even have go force me.”
“So what do you want me to do?” Da’Quarius asked, sitting at the table in his backyard. His pitbull terrier, Dutchie, sat on the gras next to him, panting happily in the sun.
“Nothing major,” Tony replied. “Just get a bunch of your friends together, and we’ll start offering protection to people around the neighborhood for a small price. We’ll start with those Garcia brothers across the street.”
“Protection from what?” Da’Quarius asked.
“Us,” Tony replied. “That’s the beauty of it. We call it protection, but they’re really paying us not to toss a brick through their window.”
“You really wanna be a gangsta bad, huh?” Da’Quarius asked. “This is a little sad.”
“Fine,” Tony said, getting up. “I’ll find my own kids, and I’ll do this without your help.”
“Why’s it gotta be kids?” Da’Quarius asked. “You can’t adults to listen to you?”
“I’m outta here,” Tony said.
“Alright,” Da’Quarius said. “Later, Tony One-Nut.”