Unless somebody knows Steve, it won’t make sense. Unless they know him, where he came from, it won’t make sense to them. What made sense to Thelma was that he was a good guy, always has been.
Then his father died in 1999. He came back to Cleveland for the funeral. After the funeral his brother Bobby begged him to stay.
“Please stay here stay with me,” Bobby pleaded. “You can stay at the house, you can work here. It will be great.”
“Blah, blah, blah.” That’s the way Bobby is.
So, Steve 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 is 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.
Thelma and Steve met in 2001 when he was living with Bobby. He had become a full-blown addict in the meantime. When she 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. Telly was living in Lorain and was a gal from Bay Village, on the west side, as far away from Little Italy as could be in more ways than one.
They met at a party at a bar. It didn’t seem like they had much in common except that his father had just died, and her father had just died, too.
Telly’s childhood was sad while Steve’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. Steve’s father was a mob lawyer. He wasn’t a crook, although he sprang crooks.
Danny Greene was a mobster during the Cleveland gang wars in the 1970s. They were always trying to blow each other up. One time a rival 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 Steve’s father were tight, he defended the hit man who blew up Danny Greene.
Steve’s uncles used to hide drugs and stuff in the kid’s rooms, in his room, so if the police searched, they believed the cops wouldn’t search those rooms. They hid everything under the carpets. After Steve and Telly got married, they finally stopped having Easter with the uncles because she thought it was sacrilegious.
Steve’s uncle Angelo was one of the heads of the Youngstown Mafia. They 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.”
Steve and Telly saw each other for ten months before they decided to get married in 2002. At first, they lived in Thelma’s brother’s mother-in-law’s old house on Berea Rd. They were getting ready to get married. Then Brad’s mother-in-law accused Telly of running up the water bill.
“You’re doing hair at home,” she said.
She looked at the water bill. She 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!”
The mother-in-law had a Section 8 family with special needs kids living upstairs in the double house. Steve and Telly lived downstairs. One night at two in the morning she heard water dripping from their ceiling. She went upstairs.
Bang, bang, bang, she 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, she wondered. “Stop that!”
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 Steve and me of using all this water, really?” They got into a fight on the spot. “Steve 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.”
They packed up and left, even though they didn’t have anywhere to go. They got married and moved back to Bobby’s house in Little Italy. They weren’t there long before Telly started looking for her own home. She couldn’t stand living with Bobby.
“He loved it because I did all the grocery shopping, all the cooking, and all the cleaning, too. But Bobby and I didn’t get along. He had a not-so-funny sense of humor. A good man is hard to find, and he was a good man when helping Steve rescue stray dogs, but I could have blown that man up.”