Just A Bunch Of Hypocrites
Manhattan is an island of drunks. They say that there’s a bar for every ten people. Rusty’s down in Hell’s Kitchen was no exception. It was 9am on a Saturday and there were already ten guys drinking at the bar. If you walked into Rusty’s at anytime you could count on one of these ten guys being there, but Saturday mornings were their special meeting time. Rusty’s opened at 7 and closed at 4, and they’d be there all day.
On this particular Saturday Joey Canizzaro had to leave early. His daughter was getting married.
“To my daughter, Sophie!” Joey had a shot of JD in one hand and a Bud in the other. “She’s getting married today.”
A couple of guys cheered Joey.
“But she don’t want me there,” Joey continued. “She says I’m a drunk.”
There were some boos.
Joey settled them down. “It’s all right. I ama drunk.”
More cheers and some laughter.
“But I’ll tell you what. Even if I’m a goddamneddrunk, and even if my daughter called me up asked me not to come,” he paused for a moment, “I’m going to go to my daughter’sgoddamnedwedding!” There were cheers. “And I’m going to walk her down the goddamnaisle!”
Joey slammed back his shot. He made a sour face, and chugged the rest of his Bud. He stared at the label and remembered Sophie as a bright-eyed kid swinging in the park. She didn’t mind daddy’s drinking then. Not when he was pushing her on the swing and making her laugh.
Joey walked out into the slanty sun. Saint Nicolai was only a few blocks away, but the streets were mirrors bouncing the sun back into his eyes, and all the cars with their shiny grills were lined up against him. It was going to be a tough few blocks, especially if he had to walk past the coffin factory with its bright black coffins awaiting their final destination.
Joey knew the wedding wasn’t going to start until nine-thirty. He figured he still had plenty of time. He decided to take the long way around. That way he’d get to avoid the coffins and pass by Tito’s Wines and Liquors instead.
Joey walked into Tito’s and bought a small bottle of Jack Daniel’s. He took a couple of big swigs then he slipped it into the breast pocket of his jacket. He took out some chewing gum and walked over to the church. Sophie was going to get married to this neighborhood kid, Johnny. Johnny was a good guy. He was a butcher for Manganeros, which was the best meat shop in the Kitchen. Joey was glad that Sophie was marrying a neighborhood kid.
The bells were chiming and the door was open. Joey popped a fresh piece of gum in his mouth and climbed the old stone stairs. He saw that the doors were decorated with white streamers and above the door was a white paper bell. Joey thought that was a nice touch.
Joey wiped his brow and straightened the collar of his shirt and then stepped into the church. He breathed in the familiar frankincense that came with all Catholic churches, and it brought him right back to when he believed in Jesus.
He heard a worried voice. Joey looked to his left. It was Frankie. Frankie looked ridiculous stuffed into his one good suit. His big cheeks were hanging down over the stretched collar.
“Hey, Frankie. Where’s Sophie?”
“Joey, you shouldn’t be here.”
“Yeah, yeah. I know all that. Now where’s Sophie? I just want to wish her well. Can’t a father do that?”
“Frankie, I’m not asking.”
Frankie shook his head and dabbed his sweaty brow and big cheeks with his starched white handkerchief.
“She’s down there.” Frankie nodded to his left.
Joey patted him on the chest. “Thanks Frankie. You’re the best.” And then he walked on down the hall.
There was an open door at the end of the hallway. Joey looked in. There was Sophie looking like a princess dressed in all white. Her hair was long, and dyed a nice shade of blonde. Joey was glad for this moment. Even if everything else went wrong, this moment would be his forever.
Sophie took a couple of deep breaths and her tight chest expanded. A pained expression crossed her face.
“Sophie, Babydoll. Come here. I want to give you a kiss.”
“Daddy, you shouldn’t be here. I asked you not to come.” Tears started forming right away. It was just like when she was nine years old and he stumbled home drunk and demanded that the door be opened. At first, he pounded at the door and yelled, and then he pleaded and begged and that’s when the tears really started to come down.
“Babydoll, I love you. You’re my little girl.”
“Are you drunk?” Joey’s ex-wife Patricia floated into view. She was all red-lipsticked and white-faced and angry. Just like he remembered.
“Don’t start with me Patty.” Joey pointed his finger at Patty.
“Ohmigod, you aredrunk!”
Sophie held her head in her hands and cried.
“Don’t cry Babydoll. Daddy’s not here to fight.” Joey kneeled down and patted her crunchy hair. He accidently knocked some bobby pins out. He tried to put the bobby pins back in her hair. “Remember that time that you opened the door for me when Mommy locked me out? I want it to be like that again.”
Sophie shrank back. “Don’t touch me.”
Joey looked confused. “I just want to walk my baby girl down the aisle. I’m your father. I’ve got a right to do that. You understand, don’t you baby?”
“All right, that’s enough!” Patty stepped forward. Her big tanned breasts pushed towards Joey. “You have some nerve!”
Joey jabbed his thick finger at Patty. “You stay out of this! This isn’t about you!”
The Church’s organ groaned to life and the wedding march echoed off the hard stonewalls. Joey’s eyes flickered in the light.
“This is it, baby!” Joey held out his hand.
“Daddy, I don’t want you to walk me down the aisle. I don’t evenwant you to be here,” Sophie cried out.
“Somebody go get Frankie,” Patty yelled out. One of the bridesmaids ran out.
“You hear the music baby?” Joey waved towards the sound of the music. “This is it baby.”
“Daddy, your breath stinks.”
“Joey, come’on you gotta get outta here.” Someone grabbed Joey’s arm. It was Frankie. His heavy jowls shook around the tight collar of his shirt.
“Frankie, what the fuck you doing?” Joey jerked his arm away. “This is a family matter.”
“Joey, come’on. You heard the girl. She don’t want you here.”
“And, Frankie, I’m telling youI don’t want youhere.”
The organ swelled. It was time for the bride to make her entrance.
“Come on, babydoll let’s go.” Joey grabbed Sophie’s arm. He jerked her to her feet. She tried to pull away.
“Let go of her, you jerk!” Patty smashed Joey over the head with a bottle of hairspray.
“Patty, I’m warning you!” Joey raised his hand. “Don’t push me.”
Patty sprayed him in the face with some hairspray. Joey backhanded her hard across the jaw. Her red lipstick smeared across Joey’s knuckles. Frankie stepped towards Joey, but Joey kicked him in the balls. Frankie collapsed down onto one knee. Joey pulled Sophie out into the hallway, “Nnnnooooo!” she shrieked. “Daaaaadddddyyyy, Nnnnnooooo!”
“Nobody’s telling me I’m not walking my own daughter down the aisle! Nobody has the right!”
Five tiny bruises were already appearing on Sophie’s arm. The organ played on. Joey yanked Sophie to the left and they started down the aisle. There was a collective gasp from the congregation.
“Joey, what are you doing?” Someone yelled out.
“Being a goddamn father! That’s what!” Joey yelled out. “You got a problem with that?”
“Stop him!” Patty’s cheek was swollen. “Somebody, stop him!”
A bunch of big guys filled the aisle.
“Oh look, the Manganeros butcher boys are going to stop me.”
“Let go of me Daddy!” Sophie broke free of Joey’s grip.
“Sophie! Babydoll, get back here!” Joey demanded.
“Leave her alone Joey.” One of the butchers grabbed Joey’s shoulder and spun him around. It was Johnny.
“Johnny, you stay out of this!” Joey punched Johnny squarely in the jaw, but he didn’t budge. Joey tried to punch him again, but Johnny’s big fist slammed into Joey’s face. There was another slam and some noise and then Joey was out.
Joey opened his eyes and the blurry face of Father Tom the priest came into view.
“Tom, I’m her father. You understand, don’t you? I’m not a bad man.”
Father Tom pointed down at Joey. “When it’s your turn to kneel before the cross Jesus may forgive you, but right now I want you to get the Hell out of my church.”
A couple of big hands grabbed Joey’s jacket and yanked him back.
“I’m her father! I’ve got a right!” Joey yelled. The big men pulled Joey down the aisle and out the door. Once they were outside, they threw Joey down the old stone steps.
“Fuck you guys! You don’t know nothing about Jesus!”
The rest of the Manganeros butcher boys spilled out of the church and stood at the top of the steps.
“Jesus was a forgiver!” Joey yelled at those useless hypocrites. Those fuckin’ blasphemers.
Joey reached into his jacket and pulled out the bottle of Jack. He searched out Sophie on the steps. She was clinging to Johnny’s arm. Joey pointed at Sophie.
“You never loved me. You’re just an ungrateful little shit like your mother.” Joey drank down the rest of the Jack and then showed them the empty bottle. “See you in Hell.” He dropped the bottle and it clanked off the sidewalk.
Joey turned away and stumbled back to Rusty’s. This time he took the short way back. He passed the shiny black coffins and a plane passed overhead throwing its shadow down over the street. Joey shivered and looked up. It was still early, but the city was already taking on that old familiar yellowy feel of stained sheets, of struggle without success, of decay. Joey liked it like that. He pushed open the doors to Rusty’s and fell back into the darkness.
“Joey’s back!” Someone yelled out.
“Who needs fuckin’ family? They’re just a pain in your ass anyway.” Joey made a wide sweeping gesture with his hand. “You guys are the only family I need.”
“We love you too Joey,” someone joked.
Joey breathed in the thick sour smell of the bar. He was glad to be back.