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Sunday, June 15, 2014

THE DELI


 

It was in the part of the metropolis that was known as “Little Italia” where if you weren’t Italian you were not allowed except for passing through.

The main language of the older folk was Italian but as with all second generation immigrants the younger generation spoke both English and Italian. In the home only Italian was spoken.

The Patella family ran a delicatessen where they lived upstairs over the store until they prospered then they bought a large house a couple blocks away. Being a good catholic family they had several kids and each was taught the business.

Later years the sons moved out of the district and started their own deli business. One of the boys was exceptionally good looking and had a high I.Q. From the time he was a young boy the mothers in the neighborhood had their eye on him as a husband for their daughters.

Between the neighborhood mothers there were even a couple of fights over whose daughter would get him.

His mother kept him on a short leash and since he and his father both were named Mario she always called him junior. She didn’t want any of the mothers getting their hands on him for they could be devious and could control a young boy.

As he grew it was obvious he was going to be successful and this only increased the attention the mothers who had daughters paid to him.

Junior worked in the deli like the rest of the family (including the girls) and then started college after high school. He was friendly with the neighborhood girls and at odds with many of the boys who were jealous.

Junior learned to fight from a young age and spent time in the gym boxing with his older brothers and some of the locals. He wasn’t much for hurting his opponents and used his jab to keep them off along with avoiding punches thrown at him.

His favorite thing was tying up his opponent so they couldn’t hit him. Knowing Junior was good at defending himself and that if they fought Junior they would have to fight the whole family the boys that were jealous left him alone.

The war broke out while Junior was in the third year of college and he joined the Navy along with many of the neighborhood young men. While on leave he was invited over to one of his friend’s home for dinner where they plied him with strong drink.

The next morning he woke up next to one of the daughters who was naked. The father came in and accused Junior of raping the daughter and demanded they go to the priest and get married.

Junior was still under the influence of a drug they gave him and wanting to do the right thing, he consented to the marriage. The priest hesitated until the father told him privately the girl was pregnant.

The priest then performed an abbreviated wedding ceremony. When Junior brought his bride home, his mother flew into a rage and the bride’s family locked themselves into their home and called the cops for protection.

Meanwhile Junior had to report to base and was shipped out without being able to contact his home to let them know where he was.

A year and a half passed when Junior’s ship was hit with a shell from a battle ship and was disabled. A destroyer with torpedoes finished the job and the Cruiser went to the bottom.

Many lost their lives but someone threw Junior into a life boat as the ship went down.  Though badly wounded and with a head injury, Junior survived, and soon after was picked up and shipped back to the states.

He spent eighteen months in the hospital recuperating before he was allowed to get out on his own.

When he finally was able to visit his home he discovered that his wife had got their marriage annulled.  It seems the marriage was never consummated so the church granted the annulment. This all happened while Junior was in the hospital recovering and he didn’t know anything about it until he arrived home.

The family didn’t think he needed to think about all that while he recuperated. The word that came down was Junior was going to be a basket case and would need full time care so the girls family wanted nothing to do with that.

As it turned out Junior wasn’t the same. The wounds he received changed him. Where he was once quick witted he was now slow with his thoughts. He talked slower and seemed to have trouble putting his words together.

One thing was the same and that was his boxing skills. He could box as well or better than before. The doctors explained that by saying that boxing was more a reflex thing and he didn’t need to think about what he was doing.

His ex-wife had remarried and had moved away. She was visiting her folks when she met junior walking toward the deli. She recognized him and immediately felt fear rising up in her. When he saw her it took a moment for him to remember who she was.

He simply said, “Hello Melba, it is good to see you looking so well.”  While he was as handsome as ever she sensed the difference in him.

After she said her hello’s he said, “I must go for I have some work to do.”

She said goodbye but she had an empty feeling inside because of what her family had done to trick him, and that he wasn’t a vegetable like her family had thought.

As she watched him leave she sighed within and said to herself: “I would take him as he is preferable to the one I have.”

When her husband found out she had talked to Junior he threaten to beat Junior up but she reminded he would have to fight the whole family and that changed his mind.

Junior had his schedule for work at the Deli and then he spent time at the gym. As he got better and continued to improve he started taking classes at the college.

Although at the time he had no interest in working outside of the Deli, he wanted to get his degree.  

Taking over the apartment above the Deli for his private residence his parents were happy he was able to be on his own.

The mother of Junior’s ex-wife was upset at Junior’s improvement. The guy her daughter married wasn’t willing to work and lived off of them. After all of her finagling she ended up with the worst of the lot for a son-in-law.

It had been three years since Junior had been wounded and he was improving every day. He finished college and had his degree and then continued his studies. While he never told anyone in the hood he became interested in medical research and was preparing for the future in that field.

There was an undercurrent of gossip in the hood that was promoted daily by Junior’s ex-mother-in-law that said Junior was deficient in every way; but after Junior graduated with his B.A. some of the mothers began to look at him a little differently.

Some of the local debs had already begun to flirt with him unbeknownst to their mothers but now the moms started to invite him to their house for dinner.

Junior always declined for he had already had that treatment.  Last time he accepted a dinner invitation he ended up before the priest getting married. He didn’t know what they put in his drink but it put him out and he woke up with a naked girl next to him.

The mothers continued to do everything they could come up with to get him involved with their girls, but without success.

With his help from the G.I. bill and the money he had saved he enrolled in the college courses he needed to but it was necessary to move away.

All the mothers with daughters never let up and tried to get his address so they could mail him letters promising him love.  The letters were written by the mothers. They went so far as to offer things that they would have to confess and say Hail Mary’s for.  Luckily he didn’t let anyone know his real address and all that mail ended up in the dead letter file.

When he came home to visit his family he had to keep it a secret for the whole neighborhood would turn out with the daughters wearing new and somewhat seductive dresses on. It seemed they were determined to be the one who “Got him.”

Most all of the local boys if they finished High school the best they could do was get a job on the docks or with the scavengers. So junior was a prize to be won.

As it turned out Junior met a non-Italian girl that didn’t come with all of the Italian baggage and she pleased him well.  She was a student in the same university as he and they were together most all of the time.

When he told his mother he was planning to marry a non-Italian girl she said, good I’m so fed up with these women in the neighborhood it makes me wish I wasn’t Italian.

When his folks met Maria his mother said, “Well anyway she has an Italian name.” His mother wanted to feel her blond hair and said, “The kids will look Italian.”

The wedding was held at a downtown church without letting anyone know except the family for they feared some of the mothers might protest.

The one thing that lingered from his war injuries was Junior still talked slower than most people.   It caused him to appear wise.

When he got to be a professor it was seen as a sign of intelligence and people respected him for it.

Though he loved his present work there were times when he longed for the days of his youth when he worked in the Deli serving the people he knew from early childhood.

Finis

 

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