Chapter 11

   Before Steve-o stopped blazing, he turned the younger of their two cats, whose name was Stones, into a deadhead. They started calling Stones the Stony because when he and Steve were in the bedroom together and the man was smoking weed, whenever Steve exhaled, Stony inhaled.

   He would lean up on his haunches and sniff for the smoke. The look Stony always gave Telly, whenever she caught them together, was the WTF look. He thought he was the hepcat of cats.

   Afterwards, after Steve gave up drugs, they changed his name back from Stony to Stones and he went back to using catnip. Why doesn’t anyone ever talk about catnip being an introducing drug? He was a multi-colored longhair boy, in more ways than one.

  They called Sebastian, their older cat, Big Orange. He had a different take on life. He ran out into the backyard whenever he could 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, they started calling him Fatbastian. He didn’t seem to mind. He kept eating and getting bigger.

   Steve’s uncles and dad weren’t gangsters, but his dad’s friends and his 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 wads of money when he was growing up. Whenever Steve smashed up a car his dad would have a new one for him the next day. Speeding tickets got taken care of. There was no need to slow down.

   Steve was using at eleven and selling at thirteen. His uncles were addicts and used to run in and hide their stashes from the police under his bed. When Steve 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 Steve 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.”

   Steve hauled ass down to Columbus, delivered the papers, and proceeded to get trashed, 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 making a mess of it. He was a Steve-o mess wobbling on two feet.

   They hauled him out and arrested him. They gave him one phone call. He called his dad.

   “I’m in jail,” he said.

   “I have one question for you.”

   “What?”

   “Did you deliver the papers?”

   “Yeah.”

   “OK, sit tight, you’ll be out in one hour.”

   He was out in fifty minutes.

   Steve’s brother, Bobby, 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 Robert Sr., Bobby, 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 Steve worked with Bobby at the car lot, they found dogs on the street, picked them up, and brought them back to the lot. Once Bobby and he were picking up a used car and saw a mistreated dog tied to a tree in the yard. He was in bad shape, barely a leg to stand on.

   “What’s with the dog?” asked Brian, keeping his eyes on the man whose dog it was.

   “Oh, he’s a bad dog, got to keep him tied,” said the man.

   Steve 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 say anything about you abusing animals.”

   “No sir, you can’t have that dog.”

   Bobby put his right hand in his pocket and kept it there. The man looked at the pocket. “Oh, hell, just take it,” he spit out.

   They untied the dog and took it with them.

   There was a pack of wild dogs living in a wooded field behind the car lot. Bobby and Steve put bowls of food out on the edge of the tree line for the dogs. One day Steve heard screaming and howling, so like an idiot he went into the woods. He found a blind dog whose litter of puppies had been mauled and some eaten by other dogs.

   “Dogs will eat other dogs if they’re that hungry. They will. They’ll eat anything.”

   He grabbed the puppies that were still left and ran. The blind dog howled for three days in the woods. There was nothing anybody could do.

   Steve’s dad died the same year Telly’s dad died. Afterwards, Steve was living with Bobby when he and his intended met. After they got married, they shared the house with Bobby for almost a year, until Telly 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.”

   Bobby and Steve have the same eyes, although Bobby is a little shorter and thicker than Steve, has curlier hair, and is a deviler. Telly has OCD, putting her at odds with the deviler. “Everyone knows you don’t fuck with someone who has OCD,” she said. “You just don’t do that! Except for Bobby, who thought it was funny to mess with me, even though I always got mad. He didn’t seem to care.”

   There was no good place to do her make-up in the Little Italy house. The rooms were weirdly cut and sectioned and there wasn’t any good lighting, so she 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?”

   Bobby would just laugh. He thought he was funny, but he wasn’t. But Telly did not cry. It took everything she had to not punch him in the face. Her dad was somebody who always said, “Someone’s pissed you off? Go beat the shit out of them.”

   “You think you want to hit me?” Bobby would say. “Go ahead, try.”

   She used to get so upset that her fists balled up. More than anything else in the world she 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.”

   Bobby wasn’t all bad, though.

   In the morning he’d say to Telly, “Pack some extra lunch meat in case I find a dog on the streets today.” She would pack both their lunches and Bobby and Steve 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 always had cold cuts handy for it.

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