Joey Faust had dealt with it all his life- the name: Joey FAUST. He heard all about that German guy who wrote some story or something about some punk who sells out his life to the Devil, or some bullshit like that. Every time the flatfoots hauled his ass into the precinct for the least little thing one of the little shits would pick up on his name and the guy from the story and comment on how ironic it was that a gangster was named Faust. The worst time, though, was when he was hauled in front of a judge on racketeering charges when he was eighteen, and the fat old fuck lectured to him by quoting some lines from the book.
Yes, Joey Faust wasn’t the name on his birth certificate- that was Giuseppe Faustino. But, in his world, in his nabe, he was always Joey Faust- from the first time he stepped foot on the concrete. Wingy McDonald and Flacker Moss gave him the moniker and it stuck. After all, this was America, Brooklyn, Bensonhurst. Fuck all that bullshit about the old country- Joey Faust might have been a name that caused egghead types to snicker, but as Giuseppe Faustino he was just another Dago. Even the old timers who were the godfathers and capos were just Dagos to the WASPs who ran this city and the Micks who ran the Blue.
But, oh how the old dogs would woof. Fuck all that shit about Old Man Marrivelli knowing Al Capone during Prohibition. This was 19Fuckin’59. Rock-n-Roll, Las Vegas, baby- there was big money to be made outside of the unions and the docks. He was sick of being some low rent pimp. He had made the proper connections with Mousey Mankiewicz and Teddy O’Toole, after they pooled their resources to cover the money going against the Giants in last year’s NFL title game. Fuckin’ Alan Ameche! A Dago beatin’ the Giants. At least it sounded like a Dago. Ah, there was nothing to worry about. The gangs from the City were all backing him. The Old Man could either go quietly, or he could go like too many of the altacockers in the nabe went. Gravesend Bay saw many old men sink under its waves.
Yet, he was the one being summoned to meet the fossil. Un-fuckin’-believable! Still no respect. He was told to meet Marrivelli at the Little Linguini off of Cropsey and Stillwell Avenues. There was something important to ‘discuss’, or so the Old Man told him, via intermediaries. He hated being summoned to the old farts’ places, like he was still a kid. Yeah, the Old Man had broken him in a decade ago, right after the War. Times were good. He hijacked so much shit coming off the docks that before he was twenty-five he and his soon-to-be-wife, Maria Romanello, were able to afford their own home off of 75th Street and 12th Avenue. It’s not that he didn’t appreciate being let in to this world. It’s just that there came a time when the old men had to realize the younger crowd was ready to take over. It was like this shit he learned in high school, during science class. Some fag Englishman named Dormand said that’s the way shit floats- the old die, and the new innovators take over. It’s all scientific, it’s right.
But, no, in the old world he could never fully be made because his cocksucking pop was half Irish. Yet, he had something the old made men didn’t- creativity. He was the guy who muscled in on the concession rackets at Coney Island, and regularly got kickbacks from the munitions brought into Floyd Bennett Field. Hell, when his younger brother Dino- a sergeant in the Air Force- told him of some new Soviet fighter plane in development he knew that within three months there would be a whole assortment of new American weapons being developed, and their prototypes would all make it through Floyd Bennett. This was where his schmoozing ability came in. No one would miss a couple of prototypes. Things always got lost in shipping. He knew the major families in the City always sent off these prototypes to their pals in Detroit to copy, and within six months of the Soviets upping the ante in the arms race, a similar ante would be raised in the ceaseless wars for turf on America’s streets. Joey Faust saw that the future of America was only gonna be for those who were ruthless. Blood was a necessary part of that equation, sometimes a lot of blood. This was the future, and Joey Faust knew the pulse of what was coming.
Paulo ‘Sweet Fingers’ Marrivelli, by contrast, had never been able to reclaim the glory he held during Prohibition as the borough’s top bootlegger. Yeah, Joey’d seen all the photos of the old man, palling around with Scarface, Baby Face Nelson, Dutch Schultz, Bugsy Siegel, and even Legs Diamond- his mentor. That was then, though. Joey Faust was the future. He told himself this all the way over on his walk through the warm August evening. Those who can’t adapt die. Joey Faust knew this. Dormand knew this. He was reading about it in books on science. Even though he thought Englishmen were fags, what with their snooty accents, carrying umbrellas even when it wasn’t raining, and sipping tea like flits from SoHo, that one Englishman understood the shit that Joey Faust did. Dormand. About a hundred years ago he wrote this book about how life changes and all old animals die out. It wasn’t a sin if a big wolf killed off a smaller wolf so it could eat, so why the fuck was there anything wrong if he muscled Marrivelli out of the business?
He knew that the Church condemned such bullshit, but to a practical man like Joey Faust it made too much fuckin’ sense. Besides, those priests were all taking it up the ass from each other. He remembered three years ago, when he had to wax Myron Stengel, the haberdasher who got in too deep and couldn’t pay off his vig. That piece of shit tried to barter for more time by threatening to go stoolie on all he knew about the Lucchese interests in the knitting mills in Bed-Stuy. Right across the throat, then a bullet through the right temple. Joey Faust had been assigned the task. A loyalty test or some bullshit. A loyalty test, after all them years in the circle. Things like that stuck in Joey Faust’s craw. But, there was a time and place for everything, he said. There’d be a day when the fucks who felt they had to test him would be tested by him. Shit turns on a dime in Brooklyn, and no one knew that better than Joey Faust.
There were a few areas where the old ways needed no improvement. Muscle was one of them. Joey knew how to recruit and flex muscle. After the Blacklisting of a few years back there were a lot of people who were angry, who saw that muscle had its advantages. especially the union guys wrongly fingered as Reds. On all other things Joey Faust was a man of progress, a man of the future. He read the magazines. He knew that someday, not far in the future, men like him would be controlling rackets on the Moon, Mars, and out to the stars. The universe was as big as the Earth if you thought of the Earth as being big as a grain of sand. That was what some poem he read once had said. There was no limit to the profits that a smart fellow like him could reap, or his own kind. Now that Maria was pregnant with twins, there was no doubt that a Faust could be one of the visionaries that mingled with the Martians’ own syndicates.
Just then a door almost slammed into Joey Faust’s face, as he entered the Little Linguini. He saw the Old Man sitting in a corner booth, chowing down on some of Mama Torricelli’s spinach and lamb lasagna. Next to him were Giovanni ‘Peepers’ Mastanorri, and MooMoo Montecito, named so for his habit of always drinking milk. These two old dinosaurs were even more out of touch than the Old Man himself. Of course, they were all trying to break their kids into the rackets, to hang on to what little glory they had left. It was kind of sad, Joey thought. As Joey Faust sat down he kissed the Old Man’s ring, paid his respects and said that he had to be somewhere in an hour, so he had not much time. It was nothing personal against the Old Man, though.
The Old Man replied, ‘Now, Joey, what kind of a thing is that to say? What’s more important than talking business with old friends?’
‘No disrespect meant, Pauly. I just meant that there’s a shipment the Merlo Brothers are expecting delivery on and I gotta cut ass to be there at the DeLancey warehouse to make sure things aren’t all, y’know- fucked up.’
‘You’re a good man, Joey. A hard worker. Honest. Loyal, That’s why I always protected you from that scum from the Bronx. Did I ever tell you those Caliberti punks were asking for permission to whack you after the Ellis incident?’
‘Uh, no, Pauly. Thanks. And lemme tell you, I always watched your back. You can never have too many friends in this fuckin’ life. That’s what I say.’
‘Wise words, Joey. Friends look out for each other, lighten loads, ease pains. That’s what I’ve always tried to do for me and mine. And I consider you family, Joey. Like you was part of my own blood.’
‘I don’t know what to say, Pauly. I’m touched,’ said a fidgety Joey.
‘What’sa matter, Joey. You’re squirming. You’re amongst friends, here.’
‘It’s just like- y’know, like I said, I got that shipment and- ’
‘I unnastand more than you realize, Joey. I been getting some good reports about you from many corners, Joey. My ears are everywhere. There ain’t nothin’ that goes on in this city that I, or one of my boys, ain’t got a finger in, or knowledge of. I’m like that Little Jack Horner pie kid from the rhyme, y’know?’
‘Pauly Horner, yeah- that’s real funny.’
‘Humor is essential in this life, Joey. It’s like a grease that keeps everything else goin’.’
‘I gotta remember that.’
‘You do that, Joey. But, it’s your work record that is most impressive. I ain’t never heard of a pacciagaloupe who ain’t skimmed a little off the top- until the Board suggested you be in charge of the Coney Island area. I can’t tell you what pride it gives me in knowing you ain’t never took a fuckin’ dime from me that wasn’t meant to go to me.’
‘Ay, my mama taught me right.’
‘Your mama was a wonderful woman. And she raised a good boy.’ The old man slapped Joey on the right cheek, playfully. ‘This is why all the bosses tell me you’re going places. You got ‘unlimited potential’ they tell me- just like the stock market, or some shit like that. Ah....yeah. Hey, how’s that beautiful wife of yours doing? When’s she expecting?’
‘Oh, a month or so.’
‘Wonderful. Wonderful. She’s a lucky woman. Quite a catch! I know many of my boys tell me they wish they had a looker like her. They say, ‘What does that rat-bastard Faust got that I ain’t?’ and I slap’em down- real hard, Joey. I say, ‘You two bit motherfuckers don’t come from the quality stock that Joey Faust come from!’ He deserves a good woman. You’re all shit-punks. And then you know what I do, Joey?’
‘No, Pauly, what?’
‘I spit in their eye and tell’em if I ever hear any of them mouth off against my good friend Joey Faust again, I’ll make sure it’s the last time they ever mouth off. And- HAHA- those little bullshitters shut up. They’re scared off by an old man like me. Y’know why? Cuz I got respect.’
‘They know their place, Pauly.’
‘So do you. Any man would be lucky to have such a woman waiting at home for him. But, it ain’t luck for you, Joey. It’s divine providence looking down upon you. Y’know from who?’
‘God- no, no, Jesus?’
‘Well, them guys, too. But I was talkin’ about you beautiful sainted mother, Joey.’
‘Hmm. I didn’t realize you had so much respect for her, Pauly.’
‘I did, Joey. I did, bless her departed soul. Roscoe Tweed came by the other day and told me- oh, order something. On me.’
A waitress was waiting for Joey Faust to order. He told her he wasn’t hungry- just some red wine would be fine. The Old Man slapped her ass, squeezed her cheeks, and told her it was on him, to bring the ’46 vintage, and winked at her.
‘You see, Tanya there is a broad. I can slap her ass, fuck her till my dick comes out her mouth like a second tongue. And you know what? She’ll fuckin’ thank me that I rubbed my greasy, fat, old Wop flesh all over her beautiful young body. That’s cuz she’s a broad and knows she ain’t worth more than a five dollar hooker. But your mother- now, Joey, I’m not a man prone to bullshit. You know that. You and me go back a long way. I knew you when you were a little spud- when that no good drunken Mick bastard father of yours was whoring around with every floozy in the nabe. What you may not know is that after your father left your mother and me, well....how shall I say it? We became involved. Now, I want you to understand this. This was after she and that Irish bastard were officially divorced. I totally respected her, and she knew she could count on me for anything. But, there are always limits to love. As much as we, well, can love one another, there’s always the realization that a man’s gotta look out after his own first. Y’know?’
‘Yeah, there was this Englishman named Darwin- about a hundred- ’
‘Dormand- you mean Dormand.’
‘No, Joey. The fag’s name was Darwin. Charles Darwin. Anyways, old Charley Darwin- ’
Joey Faust’s face went white. ‘You mean you and mama were- you fucked my mother?’
‘No, Joey. Fuck is such an ugly word. I loved your mother. This was about love. It is about love. I want you to remember that. You have to keep that in mind. All that happened or will happen is about love.’
The waitress returned with the wine and a desperate Joey Faust downed a glass quickly, ignoring the odd scent, eager to crack the bottle over the Old Man’s head and slash his throat with the sharp edge of the neck’s shard. Instead, he listened.
The last time he had been so disillusioned about his mother was when he was twelve and he caught her at a USO show, and she was dancing with this mulatto GI. He raged at her later that night that she had let a nigger put his hands all over her. He called her a whore. That’s the only time she ever laid a hand on him. She slapped him across the face, and told him that her dance partner had been a perfect gentleman, far more than any other men she had known in her life. Then she told him how, not long after she had married his father she had seen the handsomest man she had ever laid eyes on in the back of a bus one day she went into downtown to a department store. It was another Negro- the handsomest man she had ever seen, with light tan skin that almost shone in refection of the sun. Joey couldn’t remember anymore of his mother’s rhapsodies as he tuned out the rest of her conversation.
First his mom was a nigger-lover, now he found out she took Old Man Marrivelli into her bed. What the fuck was all this about?
‘Y’see, Joey, it’s like this. Remember when youse was ten? Your mama sent you off for a few months to live at that boarding school down in Alabama? It was cuz she was pregnant with my boy- Angelo. You might have met him once or twice through the years. Anyway he’s your brother, half-brother really. And he’s just reached manhood- he’s twenty-one now, and it’s his time to take his rightful place in the organization.’
‘But, mama, mama never told me- ’
‘Again, she did it out of respect for me. Now’s the time, though, that he needs to be made, and outta respect to me Mario Moretti’s boys have decided to allow him to take over your operation.’
‘What?’ screamed Joey.
As he rose he started gagging, then choking. Was it on the wine or what was in the wine? As he held his throat he writhed on the floor.
He gasped, ‘You poisoned me.’
‘This is true,’ said the Old Man. ‘Out of respect for your mother, the woman I loved, I told the Morettis I would handle things cleanly. No blood, no violence. Remember, Joey. This is all out of love. I guarantee you you’ll have a funeral like a fuckin’ king. It’s just like what that Darwin said, though. The strong must conquer the weak. Even had I not heard about your plans for me Angelo would still have a right to expect his proper place in this world. It’s about love- the love of a father for his child. We all love our creations above all else. On that sort of love there is no limit- except death. I know you’ve been positioning yourself to make a move against my interests, and that if you did so any chance for Ang in the organization would be shot. Fortunately for all involved, you shoot your mouth off too often. But, if you hadn’t you’d probably have ended up dying very painfully. I think it’s better this way, that the man to end your life is the man who loved your mother most. It’s like some kind of a Shakespeare play....almost.’
‘But….I’m Angie’s brother?’
‘Nah, you’re just the mook who stood in his way. Y’see, I made your mother swear to never publicly acknowledge Angelo. The rest of the world, and him, thinks he’s my dear, departed wife’s kid. A fuckin’ bastard can’t be made- at least not that sort, eh, Joey? You’re too old school- all macho bullshit swagger and no brains. In this day and age men like us have to be careful- it’s like all that bullshit with the Commies a few years ago.’
‘You’re still killing your own son’s flesh and blood?’
The Old Man sighed, ‘Yeah, I know….but like I said, fortunately he’ll never know. He still believes his mother was my dear departed wife- the one who ran off with your bogtrotting bastard of a father. Oh? Sorry, you didn’t know that, Joey? They both went missing in Atlantic City, years ago. Your mother knew there was no defying Pauly Marrivelli. Anyways, Joey, it’s nothing personal. I always kinda liked you, almost like you was a son. Almost. But, there is an advantage to doing things a new way. Like this. Too bad you never learnt that.’
As he took in his last breaths Joey Faust saw the lights of the neon sign Little Linguini slowly dim. He thought he heard someone still talking about love. This was the last bit of confusion in Joey Faust’s life.
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