Before the Bell
Sad headline from foxnews.com: “Bloody hell: NYC shootings leave 31 wounded, 6 dead over the weekend.”
Here’s an excerpt from my stream of conscious novel, Vito’s Day. At this point he’s reached the eighth floor of Four World Trade, which used to house four commodity trading exchanges, including the one at which I worked for almost 25 years. Vito is in the company of Yvette, a beautiful young co-worker he ran into on the subway. They are part of the data entry staff of the gold, silver and copper markets. The piece describes a typical morning before the opening bell. It’s a ten-fifteen minute read:
Noting the stares they were attracting, Vito was at the point of laughter as they made their way across the trading floor. He avoided eye contact. At the furthest corner of the quadrant they turned into an aisle that led past a small lounge. A number of people were gathered in the confined, triangular area outside the Data Entry Room. The air was thick with smoke. Vito held his breath,
“Gumbah!” cried a dark young man holding a hand aloft for a high-five.
“What’s up, Ron? Eh, Antonio, che se dice?”
“Nente, probia nente,” answered a man in thick glasses. “E tu?”
Vito grimaced. “Me dol oo gots.”
What’re you doin’? Now he’ll think it hurts from bangin’ Yvette. Maybe he realized you meant it was from havin’ a hard-on, which’s a lie. Ah, who cares? Just a joke.
“Yvette and Vito comin’ in together — what’s it mean?” rasped a dark-haired young woman seated in the room, attendance sheet and pen in hand.
Vito slung an arm around Yvette’s sturdy shoulders and pressed her to him, tilting his head against hers, which obediently fell toward his. “He-hee,” he said.
The crowd, all wearing or carrying green jackets, laughed.
Stop with the “He-hee” already. Played-out, stupid. “Good morning everybody except Michelle.”
Her long mane flew back as she laughed. “Stupid guinea bastard.”
“How’d you do this week, Vee?” said a tall, light-haired, big-breasted young woman.
He shook his head, smirking. “Six. I’ll probably end up seven-and-seven for the third week in a row. Five hundred for the season. I can’t get off the treadmill, Check this out, though, Schlo. I hit my first three on the ticket. Penn State was my fourth. They drive to the one-yard-line with a few seconds left and decide to kick a field goal. No big deal, I’m thinkin’ — they’ll still cover by one.”
“And Alabama blocked it!”
“Oh, shit,” said Michelle, laughing.
“You are so stupeed,” said Schlo, affecting a foreign accent.
“No, you are stupeed!” Vito shot back, jabbing a finger at her. “The Simi legacy continues.”
“Gone three years and we still imitate her.”
“Who’s Simi?” said Yvette.
“This Hassidic girl that used to work here,” said Schlo. “We used to abuse the shit out of her. I got so mad at her once I threw the phone at her. She hung up on my mother.”
Michelle laughed breathlessly. “The cake.”
“Ahhh!” Schlo cried, filling the room with her booming voice. “For Simi’s birthday Harriet, this nut who used to work here, bought her a cake from one of those erotic bakeries. There was a big schlong on top. She took it and shoved it in Simi’s mouth — and Simi loved it.”
“She was a pain in the ass, though,” said Michelle. “She got this one kid fired. He was an artist. She was always talkin’ about her fiancé, so the kid drew a picture of him as a joke, a black guy with a big afro and a joint in his mouth. She went in the back with it, then she felt bad when he got fired. He was a Jew too. Everybody used to nag her.”
“A lotta characters’ve passed through these doors,” said Vito. Actually fantasized about her before you got to know her. Christ, get the creeps just thinkin’ about it. Hassidic girl. Talk about your silly fantasies. That gorgeous one on the train that time. Like God put her there so you could write about it. That fantasy seems dead now. That mean your whole sexuality’s dead or just finally matured? ‘bout time, don’t you think? Too scary to let go, though. Haven’t had enough yet. Ever will?
“Poor Vito,” said Michelle, “a buck short again.”
“No big deal. I like ‘bama, anyway. It keeps ’em undefeated. I’d like to see the coach win the national championship, then resign. The guy stresses academics, wins more than he loses, and the alumni want him out ’cause he won’t cheat to bring in the blue-chippers who’d never cut it in school. I can’t lose, anyway. I hit the pool for a hundred the first week and hit the ticket twice already. I’m a hundred sixty scaroles ahead. I even get to play the pool for free ’cause I help Karen with it.”
“How much d’you put on the ticket?” said Michelle.
“You’re a cheap bastard,” she said, mouth hanging open; “I don’t wanna hear it.”
“You know it, baby. Sicilians are ten times worse than Jews. No offense, Schlo.”
“We’re still smarter. You stuff your money in mattresses, we invest it and get rich.”
“Where’s that worthless husband of yours?”
“Who knows?” she waved, dismayed. “He probably fell back to sleep.”
He was startled by a sharp slap to the neck and turned to find a bearded, hook-nosed man smiling at him, cigarette between his lips, hand extended palm upward.
“Bone head,” said Vito, slapping the calloused fingers.
“The Ayatollah Schnozolla,” cried Schlo.
There were mock wanted posters of him on the walls of the room. He mumbled something of which Vito was able to discern only the word “car.”
“Not yet. I’ll start lookin’ in a few weeks, bonus time,”
“What bonus?” Michelle sneered, spearing a piece of fruit from a cup. “They’re talkin’ one week. Things’re bad. Figures, just when I need it most, the year I get married and go to Hawaii on my honeymoon.”
“Postpone it a year,” said Vito. “Maybe by then you’ll fit into your wedding dress.”
She sprang to her feet and delivered a stinging right to his shoulder.
“The bitch can punch,” said Vito, wincing.
“You like that, huh?” she said, dancing around like a boxer. “My father taught me.”
“God save Gussie if you ever have a fight.”
“What happened to your car, Vee?” said a burly, handsome young man seated on the railing above the ventilation ducts, which were lined along the windows, which looked out onto the plaza of the World Trade Center.
“Hey, Cap. I didn’t even see you there. It was stolen.”
“When was this?”
“The end of April.”
“I didn’t even know. It musta been the week I was on vacation. Was it the same one you had that time?”
“Yeah. D’you believe that? That car was indestructible, but who’d wanna steal it? It was 18 years old.”
“They’ll steal anything’”
“The worst thing about it was I’d just spent 300 to fix the clutch, I had to push it to the station. I was sittin’ there debatin’ whether it’d be worth it. I was gonna leave it right where it was. I guess I got sentimental.” Cheap, more like it. “What a mistake. I got it back Friday, it was gone Sunday. I couldn’t believe it. I thought I musta forgot where I parked it. And to top it all off, my golf clubs were in the trunk. I played once this year.”
“Maybe it was the guys from the shop.”
“That crossed my mind, but I thought I was bein’ paranoid. I couldn’t bring myself to mention it to the secretary at the station. There were four other people there that morning. Three cars and one stereo, all stolen from within two blocks of each other. I figure they used mine as the lead car.”
“Nah, they probably took it for a demolition derby.”
“Maybe. It sure didn’t have any monetary value. This poor kid had his brand new Camaro taken right out of his garage. He was devastated. Heartless bastards, boy.”
“How you gettin’ around?”
“Bike. I’ve been lucky so far. The weather’s been great. It’ll probably start gettin’ cold soon, though. I have to get a car.”
“I’ll keep an ear out for you.”
“Are you gonna get a new one?” said Michelle.
“Nah. It’s not worth it in the city. Besides, one mortgage is enough. And the insurance is such a rip-off. You pay more than the car’s worth. I don’t know how people can afford a new car. And they depreciate the minute you drive out of the dealer’s. At least real estate appreciates. I had three different windows broken the last two years. Good thing Warhead’s a scrounger or it would’ve cost me an arm and a leg. “
Cap left the room. At the doorstep he made eye contact with Yvette. Each smiled without a word.
Damn. Figures. Can have anybody he wants. She love him like she says she loves you? That why she didn’t go home with you? Probably couldn’t pass up the opportunity to make it with a pretty boy like that. Maybe readin’ too much into it. Could your perceptions be that far off? What’s the difference? Both good kids. No sense bein’ jealous.
“Anybody see Marissa?” said Michelle.
“Right here,” said a lithe, black Hispanic, entering the room.
“All right, babe, I didn’t see you out there. Full crew except for Stevie and Nutty, the disability boys, and Juano, who’s on vacation. Oh, I forgot about Eddie. Did he call, Bob?”
“No,” said a dark-haired man seated on the other side of the room, hidden behind a table on which several computer terminals were set.
“Meanwhile Roy’s comin’ back next week. The poor guy almost died and he’s beatin’ our disability guys back.”
“What a story that is,” said Vito. “He was in worse shape than the Central Park Jogger.”
“He was bandaged from head to toe like a mummy. Ask Rat-boy. He was there the next day.”
“What happened to him?” said Marissa, concerned.
“He was drivin’ a delivery truck weekend nights. You know how those guys always keep the door open so they can move in and out. Well, he hit a pothole, fell out, fractured his skull, had some teeth knocked out, his left ear severed, and both his legs broken when the back wheels ran over him.”
“Oh, my god.”
“He was lucky,” said Schlo. “He was only a few blocks from all those hospitals on First Avenue. He was on the operating table in less than a half-hour. He was also in good shape. He worked out.”
“I never thought I’d say this,” said Michelle, “but I miss the crazy way he used to say ‘Lick me!’”
“What happened to the other one?” said Marissa.
“Stevie. He went to Chinatown for some brokers,” said Vito. “A van ran a light, hit him and took off. He was on his motorcycle. There were dumplings all over Canal Street. He messed up his knee. He’s suin’. Somebody got the plate number. By the way, I must compliment you on your taste in clothes. They’re not only beautiful but color-coordinated down to the stripes in your shoes and jewelry. I’m impressed — and I don’t impress easy.”
She flushed through the darkness of her complexion.
“Quite an ensemble.”
Michelle laughed, nose crinkling. “I love this guy. He’s such a character. And if you didn’t know him you’d never know it ’cause he’s so quiet about it. He’s always comin’ out with these crazy things.”
“Speakin’ of crazy,” said a dark-haired, fair-skinned, slender young man; “when’s Nutty comin’ back?”
“Hey, Paulie Boom-botz,” said Vito. “I didn’t even know you were here.”
“Yeah, Paul,” said Michelle, “how come you’re so quiet today? Usually we can’t shut you up. Did you have another fight with your rich girlfriend — ‘Poopadoodus’? Put another dent in the Mercedes?”
“You didn’t answer my question.”
“How should I know when he’s comin’ back?”
“When do you think?” said Schlo, heading for the door. “When the envelopes are handed out at Christmas.”
“Pearl Harbor Day,” said Vito. “That’d be perfect.”
“He’s been gone six months and the brown-nosin’ bastard’ll probably get more than any of us,” said Michelle, rising. “He’s worked one year out of the last two. Here’s Joe Thomas. Forgot about you, Joe.”
She filled in the time of his arrival on the attendance sheet and rose. Those who worked the Gold and Gold Options market left the room as 8:20 approached. Joe, a tall, broad-shouldered, finely chiseled young black, pointed at Vito and said, emphatically: “Bo Jackson.”
“I ever tell you about the time I knocked him cold,” said Vito, inciting howls. “Him and me, one on one, mano a mano, helmet to helmet, on a kickoff return back in my high school days.”
“Now we know you’re bullshittin’,” said Michelle. “Football wasn’t invented yet when you were in high school.”
She ran from the room. Vito slumped as he begrudged a chuckle amidst the guffaws.
“I really set myself up for that one. By the way, Joe, I saw Bo on your boy’s show the other night.”
“He’s not my boy. Don’t ever say that. I don’t like him.”
“I just don’t, that’s all.”
“Is there a reason or is it somethin’ irrational like the way we hate certain teams or athletes?”
“He’s a sell-out. I hate all those Diana Ross and Lionel Ritchie types. They make me sick.”
“Them, I can see. I can’t stand ’em, either, but only ’cause I hate wishy-washy music. Then you must hate Eddie Murphy too.”
“Eddie’s all right.”
“I don’t see any difference, ‘cept that Eddie’s funnier. Arsenio’s from the slums of Cleveland, He has all those rap kids on his show.”
“I can’t stand him,” Joe concluded abruptly and left.
Now you got him mad. Over what, though?
“What’s wrong with Diana Ross and Lionel Ritchie?” said Bob, rising, puzzled.
“I liked Diana before she became a white woman.”
“A white woman!” Marissa snapped, perturbed.
“When’d she become a white woman?” said Bob.
“The last ten years or so. Her music’s so bland now.”
“I don’t understand,” he said, shaking his head, troubled.
“Compare the stuff she does now to Love Child. She’s just another lounge act now, no originality whatsoever.”
No luck selling books curbside on this brisk, gorgeous day. My thanks to Wolf, who donated two Agatha Christie collections in Russian, and to those who stopped to schmooze.
My Amazon Author page: https://www.amazon.com/Vic-Fortezza/e/B002M4NLJE
Read Vic’s Stories, free: http://fictionaut.com/users/vic-fortezza