The “Wheels” of Commerce, Part Deux…

[see Part 1]

…So — after scratching our respective ball sacks, looking around in EVERY possible direction including UP, then looking stupitly at one another for about 30 seconds, my buddy straddled his bike, looked me in the eyes, then looked down at his vacant bicycle seat — I knew the drill.

I parked it on the seat, stuck a foot on each of the protruding bolts of the rear axle, and off we rode — him standup-pedaling the whole way to my house, me holding onto his hips — all “Homo Rules” temporarily suspended.

He got us home safe on “Old Trusty”, we said our goodbyes — then I waited ’til 5:00, when my Mom got home from her crappy, miserable job — so SHE could drive me around my paper route in her 1960 Pontiac Bonneville $400 car that had ~200K miles on it and was pretty much rusted through up to the door handles — think John Candy’s car in “Uncle Buck”.

O.K. — here are the “implications” of this — I am out one bicycle; my WORK bicycle — my means of continued commerce. THIS means that for the next 30 days or so, I’ve gotta wait for Mom to get home (at least Monday-Friday) from work before the papers-the papers (bonus points given to yourself for recognizing THAT reference!) get delivered to my esteemed clientele.

After delivering that day’s Newark News, Mom drives me directly to the local police station, where I report the theft to Chief Blintz — who took all the information down with all the interest of the cop in “Pee Wee’s Big Adventure” when Pee Wee Herman reported HIS bike stolen.

After he finished yawning & writing, Mom asked him how soon I could look for the return of my bicycle — he looked at her like she had just spewed out a bout of Tourettes. “Uh — I’d say there’s exactly TWO chances on your son getting his bicycle back — Slim & None — and I think I just saw Slim goin’ into the GreyDog Station…” Funny guy; about as funny as a man with a wooden leg in a forest fire…

So — Tuesday — paper delivered to Robert Zambino two hours late — Big Goomba looking at me with vitriol.

Wednesday — paper delivered to Robert Zambino two hours late — Big Goomba looking at me with MORE vitriol.

Thursday — paper delivered to Robert Zambino two hours late; as I walk back around behind the protruding taillights of the Bonneville, inhaling the overrich exhaust fumes that have certainly taken ~3 years off of the tail end of MY life — which is O.K., since I’ll just be pissing & shitting my own britches again for maybe 3 LESS years — thanks Mom! — Big Goomba starts waddling across the skreet; as I sit down on the cracked red leather, he raps his overfat knuckle on the driver’s window — Mom tentatively rolls it down ~2 inches. “If you don’t mind too much, Mr. Zambino would like to have a word with your son…”

I instantly void my bowels — lucky the seats were Scotchguarded. I look at Mom, she looks at me — we gulp in unison. She gives me one final look — the same look a Mom gives her son when he goes off to war; as in — “I may never see you again, so lemme look at you this ONE more time.”

I get out and follow Big Goomba across the skreet, he opens the driver’s side rear suicide door (aptly-named, I’m thinkin’) and I slide into the non-cracked, non-Scotchguarded black leather. He then throws his right arm over the back of the seat and proceeds to back the Linquine all the way UP the driveway — all the while me wondering just how many guys have taken THEIR last rides in this same back seat.

We back into the four-car garage, Big Goomba gets out, opens my door, and ushers me out to the rear patio area — where a guy is seated on an outdoor recliner, (yesterday’s) Newark News COMPLETELY obscuring his face, two more carbon-copy Big Goombas standing silently, one on each side of the seated dude, arms folded in front of each of them. Big Goomba #1 then says: “The paperboy is here, Mr. Zambino.”

As I look down at my left pant cuff and shoe to see if there is a warm urine puddle forming there, my little brain flashes to the “Cowardly Lion standing in front of Oz” scene. I continue to stand at attention for what musta been 3 whole minutes, wholly locked in place by the twin gazes of Goombas #2 & #3. I don’t DARE to look around at the back of Mr. Zambino’s house, at the Olympic-sized swimming pool that we’re right next to, at the three cabanas at one end of the pool, or at the three shiny pairs of IDENTICAL Moreschi shoes that these Goombas are wearing — nope; I just look straight ahead at nothing, and count off what must surely be my last few minutes on this man’s Earth.

Then, after the three minutes’ silence, out from behind the newspaper comes a heavy New Jersey Italian accent: “Every day for the last TREE years, I been getting my paper at TREE-fifteen. Now, the last TREE days, I been getting my paper at five-fifteen. What’s the story I wanna know?”

I pretend to “process” this; in reality, I’m desperately trying NOT to shite myself, piss myself, or pass out like the aforementioned Cowardly Lion — pretty much in that order. I speak (more like “stammer”): “Well, Mister Zambino sir — my bicycle was stolen on Tuesday sir — so I gotta wait for my Mom to get home from work so she can drive me around on my route sir — I guess it’ll be this way ’til I can save up for another bike sir.”

Three minutes of silence go by — Mr. Zambino is processing — finally: “Did you go down to the police station and tell Chief Blintz about it?” “Yes sir.” Three minutes, then: “What did he say?” “Chief Blintz said I had exactly two chances of getting my bike back — Slim & None; and he thought he just saw Slim goin’ into the GreyDog Station — is what Chief Blintz said, Mr. Zambino sir.”

This elicits the very slightest of smiles from the two Big Goombas — I’m glad THEY thought that was fuckin’ funny! Three more minutes go by; Mr. Zambino processes, then gives The Executive Order: “You tell Frankie what your bike looked like.” That was IT — my one and only encounter with either Zambino brother.

Frankie — Big Goomba #2 — takes two steps forward as a pen and small notebook appears from his right inside suit jacket pocket — I tell my new pal Frankie EXACTLY what my bike looks like. He writes it all down, takes two steps back, and then Big Goomba #1 magically reappears, ushers me back to the Linquine, drives me down the driveway, gets out, opens my door, and “waves” me out — I walk back to Mom’s Bonnie with the biggest rush of relief I’d ever had in my young life…

Friday comes and goes, Saturday comes and goes, Sunday comes and goes, Monday comes and goes; Tuesday afternoon — I get off the bus after school, I walk down my driveway, I turn the corner — and THERE, in front of the garage of my house, is MY bike! Not somebody else’s, not a new bike that is “like” my bike — MY bike. Moral of the story: “Don’t disrupt the wrong man’s daily newspaper reading session.”

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