My mother's brother, Deo, was a sort of libertarian. He wanted less government and he wanted to pay less or no taxes. He did, however, want government-subsidized housing, welfare, free healthcare, and other cost-assisted living sponsored by Social Security. Deo suspected that Social Security was some kind of socialistic idea created to undermine the capitalist system. This system served him well while he piled up the bucks making delicious red meat gravies for pasta and pizza. Deo's gravies were known all over the city from Myrtle to Arthur Avenues.
It was decided by our mother to take Deo, on this- our fifth visit to see Leny “One N” and his cell mate and partner in all things The East Bronx kid, Talfie, in the penitentiary. Leny was a mainly unsuccessful thief who blamed society's constraints for all of his failures. He believed there should be no regulations on what bank to rob or whatever. Leny deliberately took his time getting to the visiting room as a punishment to us for not coming on a monthly basis- even though he knew it was a full three-hundred-mile trip from where we began to where he was residing at the Lewisburg Federal Penitentiary- getting free room and board.
While we waited, Uncle Deo spouted off about one thing or another- like saying the prison system was copying the uniform he had to wear when he was serving time as a twenty-year-old in the old country. All the while, as he spoke, he kept looking at my father's zipper. He recalled, in a small compartment of his brain, the advice he had given to our mother many years before ... "I tell you he's cheating on you! He's got all the whores around Third Avenue chasing after him! Throw the bum out!" That very night a very pretty woman with a beautiful smile had come to their apartment asking our mother if she could allow our father to go out for just a teensy bitsy little while ....
Our father said, "You know, you were lucky that the Federal Bureau of Incompetence couldn't or wouldn't take the time to figure out your "Pel Ob" meant Pearl Harbor and how happy you were that the Japanese imperialists had slammed the bully in the mouth. They would have arrested you for treason and put you, away, in some Arizona concentration camp with other New York fascists, leaving many innocent Japanese-American people alone!" Our father then punched himself in the head with a closed fist;recalling how he had changed Uncle Deo's face when they were teenagers. Uncle Deo told him to stay away from his sister much in the same way a bother-cousin of ours named Carrado had told Jake the raging bull to stay away from our sister, Tina of the Troy. Tina was thought by many to be the knockout of all knockouts in The Bronx. Carrado had his face changed a bit that night, too, in the lavatory of a Fordham Road nightclub by the kid who hadn't turned pro yet.
Needless to say Talfie didn't much like Uncle Deo. All during our uncle's pontificating, Talfie made Mussolini type of faces: mocking, contempt, cocky, condescending and various degrees of shock.
"At least El Duce was man enough to stand up to Hitler and back his armies down at the Austrian border while the Divided States of America for the most part were being cowards!" He left out the fact that Mussolini had also instituded social security in his country as Bismark did health care for all Germans in his.
"But Uncle Deo, do you remember when some fascist guys were shot coming down the Mount Carmel church stairs, full of God and feeling that their Pope was siding with a dictator?"
"This country was founded by monarchists and is still ruled by the beast who steal our hard-earned money," Uncle Deo retaliated.
Although Uncle Deo was one roaring pain in the ass and almost everyone disliked his opinionated way, no one had ever squealed on him for the reward granted to anyone who turned in a tax dodger. Only the very wealthy, who lived on islands off the coast did not have to pay anything to a place that allowed them to make millions of dollars on the backs of others, were immune to any such threats.
Our father went to the soda machine to talk with Jimmy Hoffa, who was loading it with bottles of soda. I almost thought he was going to tell Jimmy about Uncle Deo, who would have informed Nixon, but thanks be to God, our father held his tongue as Uncle Deo continued to snare flies out of the air while expressing all his ideas.
Talfie said: "That buffoon of yours was just a tin horn trying to bring back the glory days of Rome and didn't care a piss about his people!"
"What's the dance about?" Leny said as he finally joined us. Uncle Deo always lent him money when he was short and had a great need to feed the horses at Yonkers Raceway. Leny always paid him back; unlike our parents. Our father,often, said Leny was even obligated to the rocks he walked upon.
Red in the face, Uncle Deo shouted that Talfie was nothing but a petty thief and for all anybody knew - Leny's girlfriend!
This did get a long blanket of silence to emerge. Then among a flurry of tic-full movements - preparations for a departure were undertaken.
It was a long silent ride back home.
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