“Hounds follow those who feed them.” Otto von Bismarck
Before Brian stopped blazing he turned the younger of our two cats, whose real name was Stones, into a deadhead. We started calling Stones Stony because when he and Brian were in the bedroom together and Brian was smoking weed, whenever Brian exhaled, Stony inhaled.
He would lean up on his haunches and sniff for the smoke.
The look Stony almost always gave me, whenever I caught them together, was the WTF look. He thought he was the hepcat of cats.
Afterwards, after Brian gave up drugs, we changed his name back from Stony to Stones and he went back to using catnip. He was a black and white cat, in more ways than one.
Why doesn’t anyone ever talk about catnip being an introducing drug?
We used to call Sebastian, our older cat, Big Orange. He had a different take on life. He always ran out into the backyard and hunted when he was young, but later on in middle age spent most of his time eating in the basement.
That didn’t work out too well for him. As he got older we started calling him Fatbastian.
Brian’s uncles and dad weren’t gangsters, but his dad’s friends and uncle’s friends were all gangsters. His dad was an attorney for the Mob. He was the lawyer for the guy who killed Danny Greene with a car bomb in Lyndhurst. But, at the same time, he was a good friend to Danny Greene for many years. His house in Little Italy was a ‘gift’ from Danny Greene and the Celtic Club.
His family always had tons of money when he was growing up. Whenever Brian smashed up a car his dad would have a new one for him the next day.
Brian was using at eleven and selling at thirteen. His uncles were addicts and used to run and hide their stashes from the police in his room. When Brian was older he ran errands for his dad.
Once, when his dad was on the verge of going to jail, because he wouldn’t give something up, or because of a client, he told Brian he absolutely needed him to go to Columbus that day.
“These papers have to be in the court system by 5 o’clock. Make sure you get there.”
Brian hauled down to Columbus, delivered the papers, and proceeded to get trashed. I mean, tequila trashed, to the point he was swinging at and spitting at policemen who had been called to get him out of the bar that he was a mess in, making a mess of.
They totally hauled him out and arrested him. He called his dad.
“I’m in jail,” he said.
“I have one question for you.”
“Did you deliver the papers?”
“OK, you’ll be out in ten minutes.”
He was out in ten minutes.
Brian’s brother, Freddie, had a car lot on Carnegie on the east side of Cleveland, which he has had for going on more than thirty years. That’s where their dad Fred, Freddie, and Brian got started rescuing dogs. People just dumped animals there. They rescued tons of dogs at the car lot. They would take care of them and try to find them homes.
When Brian worked with Freddie at the car lot they would find dogs, pick them up, and bring them back to the lot. Once Freddie and he were picking up a used car and saw a mistreated dog tied to a tree. He was in bad shape.
“What’s with the dog?” asked Brian.
“Oh, he’s just a bad dog, got to keep him tied,” said the man with the used car.
Brian looked at the dog and then looked at the man and then the dog again.
“I’ll tell you what,” he said. “You keep the car and we’ll take the dog. To make it an even trade we won’t prosecute you for abusing animals.” They untied the dog and took it with them.
There was a pack of wild dogs living in a wooded city block behind the car lot. Freddie and Brian used to put bowls of food out on the edge of the woods for the dogs. One day Brian heard screaming and howling, so like an idiot he went into the woods. He found a blind dog whose litter of puppies had been mostly eaten by other dogs.
Dogs will eat other dogs if they’re that hungry. They will.
He grabbed the puppies that were still left and ran. The blind dog howled for three days in the woods.
Brian’s dad died the same year my dad died. Afterwards, Brian was living with Freddie when we met. After we got married we shared the house with Freddie for almost a year, until I couldn’t take it anymore.
He loved us living there because I grocery shopped, cooked, and cleaned. I am a clean freak. My vacuum never gets put away, that’s how much I love to vacuum.
Freddie and Brian have the same eyes, although Freddie is a little shorter than Brian, has curlier hair, and is a deviler. I have OCD and everyone knows you don’t fuck with someone who has OCD. You just don’t do that! Except for Freddie, who thought it was funny to mess with me, even though I always got really mad.
There was no good place to do my make-up in the Little Italy house. It was weirdly cut and sectioned and there wasn’t any good lighting, so I had to do it downstairs. I kept my make-up bag there. Freddie stuffed banana peels and old food wrappers into my bag when I was sleeping.
“Do you know how disgusting and dirty and filthy that is?”
He would just laugh. He thought he was funny, but he wasn’t.
But, I do not cry. It took everything I had to not punch him in the face. My dad was someone who always said, “Someone’s pissed you off? Go beat the shit out of them.”
“You think you want to hit me?” Freddie would say. “Go ahead.”
I used to get so upset that my fists balled up. More than anything else in the world I wanted to hit him.
“I’m not going to do it. I’m not going to lower myself to who you are. I’m still a good person.”
Freddie wasn’t, though, all bad.
In the morning he’d say to me, “Pack some extra lunch meat in case I find a dog on the streets today.” I would pack both their lunches and Freddie and Brian would go to work at the car lot. Just in case a dog was in bad shape and needed rescuing that day, and in case the dog was hungry, they would have cold cuts handy for it.
Click here to see more writing between fiction and non-fiction by Ed Staskus.