When the Color of the Sky Turns the Color of the Wallsby David Alexander
Stones was a man with a problem. Stones's problem had a name. Stones's problem's name was Jack Tazzetta. Tazzetta was a caporegime, or underboss, in the Barbieri family, to whom Weinstein, like many others, paid regular tribute, based upon his earnings on any given week or month.
Tazzetta had just returned from six weeks in Italy where he had participated in the ritual of the Perdoni. Walking barefoot, heads covered, these penitents walk the stations of the cross through the streets of Taranto, a coastal town in the instep of the Italian boot. Here, Tazzetta saw visions. In one of these visions was Weinstein. Jesus came to Tazzetta and told him Weinstein was ripping him off. Weinstein was crucifying Tazzetta the way the Jews of Galilee crucified Jesus on the holy cross.
Unfortunately for Stones, Tazzetta might have been a total whackadoo, but it turned out he was right. Weinstein was ripping Tazzetta off, and now Jesus Himself had set Tazzetta straight. Tazzetta had called Weinstein from his Long Island residence shortly after his return to New York and told him that he had "heard certain things from certain people" about him and he wanted to make sure Weinstein was doing the right thing by him financially. When he heard this, Stones felt a pain like somebody was walking on his grave. But that grave wasn't the plot in East Orange, New Jersey, he owned. It was the Mafia potters field at the muddy bottom of Sheepshead Bay.
I didn't know anything about this at the time. All I knew about was that my wife Carol was going mental on me again. This had happened a few years back but I'd managed to make her go the right way. This time I knew I had a problem right from the first when she'd started going to this bald prick uptown, this shrink who was fucking her head up even worse than it was to begin with. "Carol," I told her, "don't go to no fucking shrink, you hear me? They're all a bunch of mindfuckers. You listen to me. I'll help you, the way I did before."
But she didn't listen to me and she went to the shrink anyway, which the medical coverage from her secretarial job was paying for, and everything I warned her about came true. The drugs he was giving her made her wilder and wilder. She all of a sudden remembered how she was kidnapped by martians as a child, raped by her father, lived past lives and somehow I was responsible for all this. Once I came home and found her in the kitchen waving a knife and chanting from a book of magic spells while the Golem held a live chicken. I wanted to know what the motherfuck was going on, and the Golem tells me they're doing a voodoo ritual to improve our sex life. I go apeshit and kick the Golem and his chicken out the door, with Carol taking off on her own and threatening to leave me, warning that the gods will punish me now.
Then she starts in with her disappearing routines. Sometimes it was, "Honey I need to have some space tonight so I'm gonna go out for a drink with Rosalie and Ralphie," Ralphie being the Golem and Rosalie being a cunt from Bay Ridge. Other times she doesn't tell me anything and just doesn't show up that night and maybe I see her the next night or the night after that. Things are getting out of control, and I know I gotta do something or she'll crack up completely. But I don't know what anymore.
Then the other night she doesn't come home again and I'm dozing off having nightmares about this and that, waking up every once in a while with a sudden start. About four in the morning the phone wakes me up for real.
"Nathan, this is Ralphie," says the voice. "I hope I didn't wake you up."
"No, you didn't wake me up," I says to him. "I was practicing ballet all night."
"I called because Carol's here at my house and she's acting a little strange. Maybe you better come and get her."
In the background I can hear Carol screaming something like, "No! Don't talk to the bastard. Hang up!"
"Put her on," I tell him.
"She doesn't want to come to the phone," he says. "She's really strange. You better come over and get her."
I get dressed and go down to the car. It's now around 4:30 in the morning, and the tank's less than a quarter full, so I have to drive all the way to the place on Bath Avenue to gas up because I need at least half a tank to get to the Golem's apartment in Little Italy. I'm driving into the rising sun across the Manhattan Bridge but I'm in no mood to take in the scenery. All I have in my mind is what I'm gonna do about this problem. I take the Bowery down to St. Marks and swing around toward his block, which is right on Thompkins Square park.
I see Carol and him the minute I turn the corner. Her hair is all wild and her clothes are a mess. She's trying to run away from the Golem who's holding her back. I jump out of the car and walk toward them, and she's screaming, "Don't let him take me! No! I don't want to go with him!" Right away I notice that Carol has bruises on her face.
"What the fuck is going on here?" I want to know.
"I don't know," he says. "She rings my bell at three and barges in. She starts talking this crazy shit like now."
"Let go of me!" Carol is screaming. "You fucking bastard. Take your hands off'a me!"
This is not good, this carrying on. Because right up the street is a police station. I can see cop cars coming and going and it's a miracle that one hasn't already rolled down the block to investigate.
Somehow we both get her into the car and I have no choice but to drive up the street. This means I have to pass the stationhouse with Carol going apeshit on me, jumping for the door and trying to escape with the Golem holding her back inside. I can't back down the street, because Murphy's Law tells me I'll back right into a cop car if I try this. But you can always leave it to New York's Finest to be the last to know, and we cruise right by the police station with Carol going bananas and pounding on the window while she screams for help.
Then, on the Bowery, the Golem tells me he has to get out of the car.
"Hey," I tell him. "I'll never hold onto her and drive the car at the same time. You gotta stay."
"I can't take time off from my job," he says.
"Look, I'll send you back in a cab," I tell him.
"I'll be late," he says.
"I'll deal with you later, you fuck," I tell him. "I'll fix your ass. Get out."
"Hey, Nathan...." he says, concerned because he knows what I can do to people who don't fly straight with me.
"I'll deal with you later, you fuck," I tell him and step on the gas before the cops get curious.
Carol calms down a little, but as we're going across the Manhattan bridge, she grabs for the door latch and tries to open it. I grab her and pull her back. With the door half open and her trying to jump out of the car, I'm doing sixty across the bridge. This continues all the way home. I dread when I have to stop for lights on Flatbush Extension, because then she tries to make another break for it. Finally I get her home and by this time she's exhausted.
I notice as her blouse falls open there are more bruises on her body.
"Where'd you get these?" I ask her.
"None of your fucking business," she says.
"You got bruises on your face, your arms and your tits," I tell her. "I want to know how you got them and where," though I already have a pretty good idea I want to know from her.
She tells me eventually how she got them, which is when I decide that it's time to pay my uncle Stones a call. That day I go up to Long Island City and the secretary announces me.
"Nathan Morgenstern is here for you, Mr. Weinstein," she says.
Stones comes out looking his usual slovenly self. He always wears a kind of uniform. Baggy tan pants, white loafers, a chambray shirt, either a denim or a leather jacket and a pair of Ray Ban aviator sunglasses. This uniform rarely varies. Even in July and August my Uncle Weinstein still wears the jacket. I never asked but I figured it was to hide that fat blubber-belly of his. Today, though, his skin looks a little pale under the grey beard and even the Cuban cigar he's smoking looks wilted.
"Nathan," he says, greeting me. "Come into the office."
Inside I tell Weinstein my problem and he listens while eating an egg salad sandwich. I tell him about what went down last night, and what I found out from Carol after I'd pushed her to talk.
"So you're telling me Johnny Pagoda's got a video of Carol that he shot last night in the Village?"
"Uh-huh. Pagoda can't work no more because he's burnt out. Too much powder up the nose. So he manages this S&M hole on Eldridge Street with a bar up front now."
Big Johnny Pagoda was well known to my uncle Stones and myself. His real name was Irving Vigoda, formerly of Boro Park, Brooklyn. This guy was once a porn star renowned for his enormous prick and his baby face which went along with a scrawny, underdeveloped body. His specialty was playing wimps and nerds and virgins. Scrawny, weedy, weasely. That was Johnny Pagoda.
Which, unfortunately for Johnny, was all he had going for him. When he no longer was capable of sustaining an erection, Pagoda became a short, balding, dumb asshole sustained solely by his friendship with the homosexual capo of the Lambertazzi family who threw him a bone in the managership of the S&M house.
"So what can I do to help?" Stones asks.
"I want his people to give him up to me," I tell him. "I want the master video and I want Pagoda's fucking ass."
"Hey, Nathan," he says, "you don't wanna, you know, with the guy, what I'm saying..."
"Not that far," I tell him. "I just wanna do him a little payback number. Like in the Bible. An eye for an eye. He fucks with me. I fuck with him. That's all."
Weinstein leans back in his chair and relights his cigar, puffing on it while the wheels turn upstairs.
"You know, maybe you should go to Joe for this," he says.
I cut him off. Now I'm getting pissed. Joe Trepiccione is the former Carol Trepiccione's father and my father-in-law. As a caporegime who runs one of the Del Biasio family's crews, he would certainly do Pagoda in a second. I know that and Weinstein knows that, but both of us know that's not what I want.
"Don't bullshit me, Uncle Stones. You know what I'm talking about. I go to Joe and not only is Pagoda history but I don't get to put my hands on him. Read my lips: I told you I want Pagoda. I, me, Nathan Morgenstern and nobody else. You got that?"
"Okay, Nathan. I hear you," he told me. "I was just trying to give you some input, that's all. I'll help you, believe me. I can get back to you today."
"All right, Uncle Stones," I say as I leave, and as I go, Weinstein looks at me and tells me that "something has come up" on his end he might want to talk to me about. I know enough about how my uncle works to know that when he uses the phrase "something has come up" it usually means trouble. But if he does me a favor, I'll do what I can for him. That's the way we've always worked it.
"We'll talk," he says and I go out, saying goodbye to the same old bag of a secretary he's had for the last twenty years.