, September 2023

Part I

July 4, 1973

It was a steamy night on the Great South Bay, and Paulie “Pork Chops”, just turned 67, was seated in a sagging lawn chair in the driveway of his home at the end of Adam Road West, right next door to Massapequa’s legendary Biltmore Beach Club, clad in “wifebeater” tank top, khaki shorts, and black socks with sandals. An extinguished cigar rested in an ashtray on the cracked concrete, next to a metal Coca-Cola cooler containing three more cans of Schlitz.

The Club was crowded tonight to see the annual Grucci fireworks show, which he would be able to see from his driveway. Back in the old days, guys like Sinatra and Bennett and Bobby Rydell used to show up at the Club every so often as a guest of Don Carlo Gambino, who lived in the neighborhood.

Paulie’s wife had died of cancer three years earlier, followed by his gumar a year later. He wanted to retire to Islamorada down in the Keys and spend all day fishing, but old soldiers who knew a few things didn’t get to just up and retire, and were expected to keep earning until they were in the hole.

The fireworks were scheduled to start at 10:00. At around 9:30, a Cadillac rolled by very slowly, then turned up Bayview and parked. A guy got out, and, at first, it was hard to make him in the yellow streetlights, but, hearing the footsteps, he realized who it was—

“John,” Paulie said, getting up. On the surface, everything was supposed to be good and it was all hugs and kisses, but John could see that Paulie was nervous. John was holding a t-shirt that he shoved into Paulie’s gut.

“What’s this?” Paulie asked, unrolling the shirt and recognizing the silkscreened logo of Ted’s Auto-Body in Islamorada, “Ted” being legendary Red Sox slugger Ted Williams—

“You know what it is,” John said.

“Yeah, I do, John,” Paulie said, hanging his head.

“But that’s not what I’m here about.”


“I’m here about that other thing.”

“What other thing? That Lynbrook thing?”

“No. That Beach Club thing.”

This Beach Club?” Paulie asked, pointing towards next door.

“That’s right, Paulie. The giovenca in the red dress.”

“Fuck,” Paulie said, looking away. For all these years, he was, until this moment, never sure if Don Carlo had heard the remark he’d made at the party next door the night Don Rickles was there and had everyone peeing in their pants, and Paulie had a little too much vino and got swept up in the moment and asked the guy standing next to him who the giovenca in the red dress was, and the guy said back in his ear to shut the fuck up, she was the Don’s wife, which is when Paulie noticed Don Carlo himself standing only a few feet away, but who was not looking at him or letting on that he’d been offended—a façade the man would wear for fifteen years, which Paulie now realized was done to keep him worried, because worried guys usually stayed in line. Now, though, Paulie was older and earning less each year, and when word got out that he was thinking of “retiring”, it was decided that his services were no longer needed, and now John Gotti was standing in his driveway—

“Is there any way to get me off the hook?” Paulie asked. “For old time’s sake?”

“Can’t do it, Paulie. But we’ll go in the house, down in the basement, so the neighbors won’t see, and the kids can still enjoy the fireworks.”

“Thanks, John. I appreciate it.”

Part II

September 18, 1986

Carl slowed as he approached the house at the end of Adam Road West, the one right next door to the beach club. He’d never done anything this chivalrous, especially for his little sister, but everyone knew this Robbie Rixon kid was a little prick, and the last two days she’d come home from school in tears after he’d picked on her. He just wanted to put a little scare into the kid, so he had brought with him, wrapped in his old “Bob’s Auto Body” t-shirt that he hadn’t worn since the first day of fifth grade, his Colt 1911 .45 ACP-inspired nickel-plated steel cap gun, unloaded, save one from a previous roll stuck to the hammer.

There were no cars in the driveway, and the house was quiet. He unrolled the gun from the t-shirt and stuck it barrel-down in the back of his Levi’s, then walked up the driveway to the front door. He rang the bell, looking nervously at the beach club property next door while he waited.

The little prick himself answered and stepped outside.

“What do you want, asshole?” he asked.

“Stop picking on Audrey.”

“She’s a cunt!”


“She’s a cunt!”

The kid was two years younger than Carl, and half his size. As much as he wanted to throttle the little fucker, he knew he’d better not touch him, so he pulled the piece from his rear and said, “Leave Audrey alone, you little—”

That’s all he was able to get out before Rixon punched him in the nuts. Carl doubled over, then pointed the gun at Rixon’s face and pulled the trigger. The last cap snapped and the kid screamed, covering his right eye with both hands—

At first, Carl thought the kid was acting, and even let out a little laugh, until he saw the blood trickling down his cheek. Then he started crying really loud and ran back into the house, slamming the door behind him—

“Shit,” Carl said, smelling gunpowder, a wisp of smoke hovering in front of him. He rolled the gun back into the t-shirt and swiftwalked down the driveway, onto the asphalt of Adam Road West, this being one of those fancy sections of the neighborhood that didn’t have sidewalks, and proceeded to the canal on Lagoon Boulevard several blocks away, where once more he unwrapped his piece and tossed it into the brown water coated with rainbow swirls of diesel, in the vicinity of a submerged FoodTown shopping cart half-buried in the muck, its chrome glistening in the late-afternoon sun—

The next day, Audrey reported that Robbie hadn’t been at school. The following day she reported the same. Then he didn’t show up the entire next week. Carl kept waiting for the hammer to drop, and got nervous whenever he saw a police cruiser or heard a siren, but nothing happened. The kid never went back to school and was never seen or heard from again, and their house was sold.

Every so often, Carl would wake at night in a cold sweat. In public, he would try not to make eye contact with uniformed officers—cops, mall security guards, meter maids—and would sometimes have panic attacks, which he would learn to fend off when around others, but that, when alone, would sometimes debilitate him. Then, years later, at a gas station convenience store in upstate New York, on mescaline, staring at the beef jerky rack, he was approached by a medicine man in full garb—including bone piercings and grass skirt, as well as a “wifebeater” tank top and sandals over black socks—who put a finger to his lips, then proceeded to wrap a blue headband around Carl’s head—

“Close eyes,” he said with a soft deep voice, then started chanting something in another tongue, while the clerk behind the counter looked on, trying to decide if he should call the cops—

Though his eyes were closed, Carl saw everything. The medicine man then reached through the headband into Carl’s mind, plucking out a black-headed dandelion and blowing off the seeds, Carl mesmerized watching the charred blowballs float to the scuffed linoleum. The medicine man crumpled the stem and let it drop, then vanished through the automatic sliding door into the Adirondack night. Never again did Carl think about Robbie Rixon, and the panic attacks stopped.

Carl paid for the Slim Jim with a sweat-soft dollar bill that had been in his pocket all night. Six hours later, still wearing the headband—which, by now, he had no recollection of where it had come from—he watched the sunrise from a mountainside clearing, as an eagle soared high across the sky, towards the west—

“Must be nice and quiet up there,” he said, hearing himself as if someone else had said it—

Part III

May 19, 1992

Lolita, with t-shirt from her lover’s body shop in hand and .25 caliber automatic tucked barrel-down into the back of her pants, stood at the front door of the house at the end of Adam Road West, next door to Massapequa’s legendary Biltmore Beach Club, then looked back at the Firebird parked on the street, Peter behind the wheel but distracted trying to find something on the radio while Howard was in one of his endless commercial breaks—

She rang the doorbell. While waiting, she looked nervously at the Beach Club property next door, until she heard someone inside. The door opened and it was her, the wife from the framed family photo in Joey’s office at the body shop. Lo showed her the t-shirt, saying it belonged to her non-existent “sister”, whom she claimed Joey was having an affair with. Lo didn’t really know what she was saying, only trying to escalate the situation to where she would get worked up enough to pull the gun from her rear and crack the housewife in the head with it, then shoot her in the face. The housewife went down and Lo ran back to the car, Peter yelling through the open passenger window, “What the hell did you just do?”

Later that evening, several blocks away, Carl, just arrived home for the summer after his freshman year of college upstate, and who’d earlier popped a tab of blue telephone acid he’d found in his wallet, was seated on the legless easy chair in his bedroom staring at the television when News 12 Long Island ran a story about a shooting in Massapequa on Adam Road West. He recognized the Beach Club in the background next door to the house where the shooting had occurred, which itself looked oddly familiar, then a medicine man appeared in the background, clad in “wifebeater” tank top and sandals with black socks, dancing on the lawn behind the News 12 reporter, who didn’t seem to notice—

The next afternoon, in his orange jumpsuit at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Lower Manhattan, freshly convicted of murder and other crimes and now awaiting his sentencing date, John Gotti, satiated after a chicken-fried steak and biscuits smuggled in from Cracker Barrel, was seated in front of the rec-room television watching the news, Live at Five on Channel 4, and recognized the driveway of the house from which they were running a story about a shooting that had taken place the day before, next door to the Biltmore Beach Club—

“Paulie ‘Pork Chops’,” he chuckled. “They’ll never get me for that one.” ▪