“I’m suspicious of people who don’t like dogs. But I trust a dog when it doesn’t like a person.” Bill Murray
Unless someone knows Brian, it won’t make sense. Unless they know who he is, where he came from, it won’t make sense to them. What made sense was that he was a good guy, always has been.
It all started when Brian was living in Florida with his sisters and mother. He had just gotten out of jail, where he was locked up for contempt of court. He wouldn’t give away what he knew about somebody to the judge of the court. He was covering for somebody and wouldn’t tell anybody anything.
Then his father died in 1999. He came back to Cleveland for the funeral. After the funeral his brother Freddie begged him to stay.
“Please stay here stay with me,” said Freddie. ”You can stay at the house, you can work here. It will be great.”
“Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.” That’s the way Freddie was.
So, Brian moved back to Ohio, to Cleveland, to Little Italy. There used to be a Big Italy, near downtown, near the Central Market, but in the 1960s the new freeways and urban renewal wiped it all out. Little Italy was on the east side, up from Euclid Ave. up Mayfield Rd. and all the way up to Cleveland Heights.
Little Italy was a hundred years old by then. It was Italian stonemasons from the Abruzzi who settled it. They built the Holy Rosary Roman Catholic Church and sculpted the giant headstones and monuments at Lake View Cemetery at the top of Mayfield Rd.
We met in 2001 when he was living with Freddie. He had become a full-blown addict in the meantime. When I met him he was drinking up to a fifth of Yukon a day with beer chasers and snorting some coke so he could keep drinking. I was living in Lorain and was from Bay Village, on the west side, as far away from Little Italy as could be in more ways than one.
We met at a party. It didn’t seem like we had much in common except that his father had just died and my father had just died, too.
My childhood was sad while Brian’s was more exciting than most. There was alcohol and drugs, there was money, there was the Mafia. They were all in on it. The Little Italy house they lived in they got from Danny Greene as a gift. Brian’s father was a mob lawyer.
Danny Greene was a mobster during the Cleveland gang wars in the 1970s. They were always trying to blow each other up. One time another gangster tried to blow up Danny Greene’s car, but Danny found the bomb and took it apart. He later blew up the other gangster. Everybody thought he used the same bomb.
Danny Greene wore a medal of St. Jude around his neck and took care of other people, including eight hit men who tried to get him. But, one day when he was leaving his dentist’s office, getting into his car, the car next to him exploded and he was blown to bits. Even though Danny Greene and Mr. Jurek, Brian’s father, were tight, Mr. Jurek defended the guy who blew up Danny Greene.
Brian’s uncles used to hide drugs and stuff in the kid’s rooms, in Brian’s room, so if the police searched, they thought they wouldn’t search those rooms. They hid everything under the carpets. After Brian and I got married we finally stopped having Easter with them because I thought it was sacrilegious.
His uncle Angelo was one of the heads of the Youngstown Mafia. We would go to their house for Easter. They would be sitting at the table, the godfathers, baptizing their babies, shoveling food into their mouths, and talking on their phones.
I would start wondering, what are they going to be doing later in the afternoon? I finally decided I couldn’t have Easter breakfast, on the day Jesus died, with hit men. I just couldn’t do it.
Brian and I saw each other for ten months before we got married in 2002. At first we lived in my brother’s mother-in-law’s old house on Berea Rd. We were getting ready to get married. Then Brad’s mother-in-law accused us of running up the water bill.
“You’re doing hair at home,” she said.
I looked at the water bill. I blew up.
“Do you think my doing hair at home is costing this much water? I do one person’s hair at home a month. That’s one extra shampoo a month!”
She had a Section 8 family with special needs kids living upstairs in the double house. We lived downstairs. One night at two in the morning I saw water dripping from our ceiling. I went upstairs.
Bang, bang, bang, I knocked.
When the kids came to the door they were in their underpants, swinging pots and pans full of water, and firing off water guns. What is happening here, I thought.
Not only did the family upstairs do all their laundry every day, but the people who were supposed to watch the kids did their own laundry in the basement, too. The washing machine was always going, night and day.
“You’re accusing Brian and me of using all this water, really?” We got into a fight.
“Brian and I have been nothing but fair and kind to you. We’ve taken care of the yard and we’ve taken care of the house. Fuck this, we’re leaving.”
We packed up and left, even though we didn’t have anywhere to go. We got married and moved back to Freddie’s house in Little Italy. We weren’t there long before I started looking for our own home. I couldn’t stand living with Freddie.
He loved it because I did all the grocery shopping, all the cooking, and all the cleaning. But, Freddie and I didn’t get along. He had a not-so-funny sense of humor.
He was a good man when helping Brian rescue stray dogs, but I could have blown that man up.
Click here to see more writing between fiction and non-fiction by Ed Staskus.