Almost two months time had passed since opening night at Paisan’s Pizzeria and business was booming. The restaurant was packed every Friday and Saturday, and no table was left empty for more than five minutes during the rest of the week, although this was not unusual for an Italian restaurant in “Little Italy”. Finances were such that being closed on Sundays and Mondays did not hurt the new bistro but allowed Tony the time to give back to the community by sponsoring a little league softball team and to donate extra food once a week to St. Elisabeth of Hungary’s soup kitchen. However, there was still one group that had been promised something that Tony hadn’t delivered, and his sous chef decided to jar his memory about it.
The four of them, Tony, Gino, Steve, and Sean were busily cleaning and closing up after a late Saturday night, and Sean was itching for a little action.
“Hey Tone, all this talk about paying for the Paisan’s Specials little league jerseys is inspiring and all, but there’s one loyal group you’ve forgotten.”
“Er, ‘scuse me, Sean, but can’t you see the rest of us are all busy tryin’ to get outta here? It’s been a long night, but it’s still too early to be askin’ about a raise…”
Tony’s other three employees filled the kitchen with laughter at the sound of the word “raise”.
“Hey, what’s so funny? Youse think I don’t hear you talkin’ behind my back? I know youse call me “D’Atillo the Hun” when you think I don’t hear you.” The laughter continued.
“I’m not talking about a raise, Tony, but about something else you promised all of us.”
Tony set the tall stack of newly folded pizza boxes down in the corner of the kitchen where countless others were waiting to be filled with take-out orders on Monday. He stood and placed his hands on his hips, wondering what his conspiring little Irish sous chef was trying to score for himself and the others.
“Why don’t you just tip us off as to what you’re tryin’ to insinurate here, Sean? Look, I ain’t no mind reader, and we all wanna go home…”
“Does Atlantic City ring a bell, Tone?”
Tony stopped dead and dropped the next batch of folded pizza boxes on the floor.
“Geez, I almost forgot! That’s right – AC! Heck yeah we’re goin’! How ‘bout we go this Monday? I know Paula won’t come, but youse are free to bring your old ladies and kids if you want. Well, whatta ya say?”
“I say its men’s night out” proclaimed Steve. “I already asked our waitresses if they wanted to go, and they all said they did not.”
“You mean ‘Jemma who dumped you’ said she did not want to come.”
“Yeah, right, Sean, real funny. She didn’t dump me, and they all four said they didn’t want to come.”
“You mean they didn’t want to come with you.”
“Maybe they don’t like short Irish-Americans, Sean, and heard you were goin’,” replied Steve with a smile.
“Yeah, forget the women,” said Sean, adding, “let’s just have a good time without having to listen to them aching and complaining that we’re drinking and spending too much. My wife Siobhan wouldn’t dare set foot in a casino anyway; she’s too blue blood for a place like that.”
“But she married you? What kinda sense does that make?” asked Tony, as he furrowed his brows, his mouth hanging open. Gino and Steve laughed so hard that Gino accidentally spit his bite of pizza out into the sink of sudsy water and a sip of the Samuel Adams Boston Lager that Steve was drinking came out of his nose and splattered all over the white tiled kitchen wall.
“Come on, guys, you know what I mean,” said Sean. Siobhan doesn’t approve of drinking or gambling. I know, I know, she sounds more like a Protestant than a County Offaly born lass, but that’s just how she is. Trust me, she wouldn’t want to come. I asked her to once, and she complained that there wasn’t anything at a casino that she would like. When she said this, she made this awful face, like the very thought of being there somehow made her feel unclean.”
“Sorry guys, but I have to agree with Sean’s wife,” said Gino. “I don’t drink or gamble either. I’d just drag you down if I came.” Gino emptied the sink and began drying the large cookware that didn’t fit into the automated dishwasher. “Besides, Don Giovanni is playing at the Metropolitan Opera on Monday night, and I’m hoping to scalp a couple of tickets.”
“Well, that’s too bad, you gotta come anyway,” said Tony. “Besides, we’re a team! Maybe you could count cards for Steve; he needs all the help he can get against our cheatin’ little Irish friend here.” Tony began to seal and put away the oregano, basil, salt, and other spices Gino used in his recipes.
“Now wait a minute, Tony! I don’t cheat,” shouted Sean, rolling his eyes and shaking his head. He threw the towel he was using to dry dishes down on the stainless steel counter next to Gino at the sink, placing his hands on his waist. “Tell ‘em, Steve, you know better. I do not cheat,” he exclaimed again.
“Right, and the pope ain’t Catholic. Come on, Sean, everybody knows you deal from the bottom of the deck and you count cards yourself. You slighted me out of $100 last Friday after work. It wasn’t the first time, either,” accused Steve.
“That’s enough, youse two,” interrupted Tony. “Look, are we all in for Monday or not? The four of us’ll have a blast. Let’s all go and beat the house for a change. Jersey will never know what hit her!” Inspiring others with his usual blend of rash enthusiasm, Tony managed to get even Gino to agree to go along to Atlantic City.
“Good, it’s settled then,” Tony said, clapping his hands together. “Let’s all meet here at four o’clock Monday, and we can all ride over together in my SUV. The food is all comped on Mondays and Tuesdays at the Tropicala Casino, so we can eat free and have fun all night long. For those of you like Gino who have a persnickery palate, you can choose from one of twenty-one restaurants at the Tropicala if you’re too good for the free food. I’d personally recommend ‘Redneck Ribs and BBQ’, where you get a free full size plastic bib to protect your clothes and your choice of five different frog leg sauces, just for orderin’ any appetizer. Heck, I can’t wait! We’ll close the place down! Don’t forget though; we all gotta be here by ten the next morning…”
“Persnickery I am,” Gino whispered to Steve, and the two men began laughing at Tony’s choice of words as they held their hands over their mouths, not wanting additional oral food expulsions. The four men agreed to meet in the parking lot on Monday for the first Paisans’ Pizzeria employee outing.
The site of the beautiful Tropicala Hotel, situated exclusively on the beach, each room with an ocean view, was awe inspiring. With an IMAX theater and around the clock shopping and gambling, the Tropicala resort on the boardwalk seemed a city unto itself. The newly remodeled resort was so clean and majestic that it was difficult to understand how anyone could consider himself to be above it all. The entire place was buzzing with women in satin strapless dresses in high heels and men dressed in silk suits entering the resort, and the sound of a light salsa jazz fusion over the loudspeakers completed the ambiance. Even tee totaling non-gamblers could enjoy a nice dinner and movie amid all the glitter and excitement.
“I take it that with the exception of Gino here, that youse have all been here before?” asked Tony.
As Tony patted him on the back, Gino smiled, his cheeks turning deep scarlet. The others laughed and nodded in agreement.
“Believe me, buddy,” Tony said to Gino, “you’ll be back. We’re all going to have a great time tonight. Let’s go straight to the casino so we can get the best seats.”
“Yeah, I wanna try out the slots and see if I can find a lucky winning streak,” said Steve.
“Steve, everyone knows that people lose the most on the slots and win big at blackjack. No wonder you’re always broke,” said Tony.
“Honestly, Tone, I won $200 on the slots last month. Just ask Sean. He was here, too.”
“Yeah, Steve, you did, but you also spent a lotta dough trying to win that $200, probably at least twice that much,” said Sean.
“Well guys, play what you want. Oh, and Gino, you can hang out with me if you want, and don’t worry about the food. If you wanna try some of the free stuff, they’ll come by and take your order. Of course, if you get bored, you can always go and check out the cabaret dancers, eh, Gino?”
“Um, thanks, Tony, but I think I’ll just take a little tour of the place and see what all the Tropicala has to offer. I want to see if I know any of the restaurant chefs. One of my cousins works at Carmine’s, and I haven’t seen him in awhile. I’ll be back in a few minutes,” stated Gino, smiling as he pointed toward the door that connected to an interior mall that housed shops and restaurants alike.
“Well, okay, suit yourself. We all have our cell phones in case we get separated, right?”
The men all responded that they did, and Gino set off to see if his cousin was working that evening.
Steve and Sean began to fight over which set of slot machines were the luckiest and Tony settled in for a game of blackjack. After several hands, Tony was already on a winning streak, and didn’t want to be bothered by Steve and Sean nearby, whom he could hear fighting about the odds of winning at roulette. Sean opened his seventh bottle of beer and took a large gulp, while Steve sipped along on his first beer of the night.
The current theme at the Tropicala was “Havana Nights”, and pretty petite Puerto Rican waitresses in short, frilly red cotton dresses were serving drinks and food in the main casino area. As soon as the clickety-clack of their stiletto heels became audible, the men playing cards would bark out food and drink orders, as their eyes were glued to the action on the table. After about forty-five minutes, Gino returned to Tony’s side.
“Your cousin isn’t tryin’ to steal you away from me, is he?” asked Tony.
“No, of course not, said Gino. “He isn’t even working tonight. I have no desire to leave Paisan’s, Tony. I love being able to create my own menus and new entrees. I wouldn’t like a chain store approach to cooking. That’s the one thing that Angelo complains about with working at Carmine’s. He loves the money and all, but some things are worth more.”
“Not that you’ll start working for nothin’, right, Gino?”
“Look, I know we’re lucky to have you at Paisan’s,” said Tony, checking his hand again before asking for another card.
Gino smiled as Steve and Sean approached the table to the right of him.
“You did too lose more money than I did,” argued Steve. “You’re the worst gambler and a liar. You aren’t fooling anyone with your Irish blarney.”
“Yeah, well, listen up, baccala breath! If I’m on a losing streak, it’s your fault,” Sean replied loudly. “I told you that the other set of machines are the lucky ones. You Italians think you know everything there is to know about casinos, don’t you. I can’t believe anyone won anything on your machines. It was those other ones that I-“
“Um, Sean, you better take a look over there,” interrupted Steve, pointing at a man and woman seated at a table across the room, smiling and talking together.
Sean forgot all about his slot machine problems and suddenly became quiet. He sat his now empty Samuel Adams beer bottle down on the edge of the blackjack table and stared across the room. Tony finished his hand and turned to see why the two men were staring. On the far side of the blackjack table and roulette wheels were a small section of two-seater tables. At one of the tables sat a dark haired, muscular man in his thirties, dressed in a navy blue silk suit, pouring a bottle of Merlot into two Bordeaux glasses. On the other side of the candlelit table sat a woman in a sleek black dress with long blond hair, her scarlet lips smiling. Sitting with this unknown man was the woman that all of Paisan’s Pizzeria employees knew as Siobhan Kelly – Sean’s wife. Steve and Tony each grabbed one of Sean’s arms as he jolted toward the couple, knowing the drunken Irishman’s temper.
“Let go of me,” Sean screamed. “I have every right to see what that two timing whore is up to!”
“Don’t you think you’re jumping to conclusions?” asked Tony, still firmly holding Sean’s right arm closely to his own body. “You and Siobhan have a great marriage, and you’re crazy about each other. Besides, you’ve had too much to drink. Just wait and see what is really goin’ on first before you blow up and cause a scene.” Tony’s attempt at playing peacemaker had mixed results.
“Thanks for the help, Tone, but no thanks. I asked her to come here for our honeymoon, and she refused, but she’ll come here with this gobshite instead? If he thinks he’s having a good time with my wife, he’s got another thing comin’,” Sean said, as he wrestled free from Tony and Steve’s grasp.
“Sean!” All three men cried out simultaneously, hoping to stop him from causing a confrontation. Unfortunately, for every second that Sean stared at his wife sitting across from another man, smiling, he became more enraged. Tony, Steve and Gino slowly made their way over to the table where they saw Siobhan Kelly sitting.
“Well, look who it is, it’s Siobhan!” Sean said to his wife as he stood to her left.
“Sean! What’re you doing here?” she replied as she began to rise from her seat. “I thought you were going out with the guys from work tonight.” As she stood, the man sitting across from her also rose and stood in front of his chair.
“I am here with the guys from work, and I see you’re with a man, too?” Sean asked, expecting an explanation. He covered his mouth as he belched and awaited his wife’s reply.
Siobhan stuttered and fidgeted with the metal stretch watchband on her wrist, noting her husband’s anger and the scent of alcohol in the sweat on his face and body. “We’re just, er-“
Sean Kelly decided that his wife didn’t answer quickly enough, and mistook this behavior as guilt since neither she nor the tall, handsome stranger who accompanied her offered an immediate explanation. Sean threw a surprise punch at the man, who leaned back and ducked, but by doing so, lost his footing and fell to the ground along with the wooden spindle-back chair behind him.
“Sean!” shouted Siobhan. Stop this, right now! What’s wrong with you?”
A drunken Sean attempted another punch but Tony and Steve pulled him away from the man, just as two uniformed casino security guards appeared. Their main concern was to decide just who to throw out, something Tony and the others hoped to avoid.
“Sean, this man is an employee of the casino,” explained Siobhan, as Gino helped the man to stand. “We’re sorry, gentlemen,” she said to the security guards, “this is just a case of mistaken identity.”
The two guards, both rather large Italian-Americans in their thirties, decided to let the silk suited man make that call. “Is this true, Mr. Bellman?” asked the larger of the two. Before the man could answer, Sean offered what resembled an apology.
“Yeah, right, case of mistaken identity,” Sean said. “Sorry, mister, but I thought you were steppin’ out with my wife.” Sean wiped the sweat from his forehead on the sides of his khaki pants and ran his right hand through his hair from front to back and then held out his arm for the man to shake his hand. Instead of shaking Sean’s hand, the man introduced himself to the group, not including the other casino patrons, who by now were staring at Sean, too.
“Stanley Bellman, chief of casino operations, thank you,” the man announced to all who could hear him. “Mrs. Kelly, I’ll get back to you. I believe our meeting is over.” The man brushed his hands vertically along to the top of his pants legs and the back of his jacket, removing any particles that may’ve stuck on him during his short time on the casino floor.
“Stanley, I’m so sorry, “offered Siobhan Kelly.
“I’ll talk to you soon, Mrs. Kelly,” he said, grasping her hand for a few moments before walking away. The two security guards blocked Sean from the hallway where Stanley Bellman exited.
“Everything alright here now, gentlemen?” the larger guard asked.
The group of five answered in the affirmative. Siobhan sat back down at the table, finishing what was left of the Merlot in her glass. The guards shook their heads and the shorter one mumbled something about the combination of drinking, gambling, and women as they walked away, satisfied that no one needed to be escorted from the premises just yet.
“You gotta lotta nerve, Siobhan,” Sean said to his wife.
Siobhan Kelly stood and angrily placed her chair back under the table.
“I’ve got a lot of nerve? How dare you embarrass me! That’s your answer to everything, isn’t it Sean? Whenever you’re angry or confused, why not drink and start a fight? You just don’t learn, do you?”
“What, I’m supposed to just stand there when I see my wife cheatin’ on me with some sissy dressed eejit? That guy’s lucky I didn’t knock his block off,” yelled Sean. Tony moved between the couple and shushed Sean.
“Look you two,” interjected Tony, trying his hand at peacemaker once again. Why don’t you just leave it for now and discuss it in private? Look, Sean,” he continued. “I can’t use a chef who’s in jail. You gotta curb your temper – and your drinking. Why don’t you two go home and forget about it.”
“That’s a great idea Tony – leaving,” said Siobhan while looking at Sean. “That’s just what I’m going to do. You can reach me at my mother’s, Sean, if and when you decide to become a real man again.”
For once, Sean was temporarily speechless, as Siobhan picked up her black patent leather purse, turned, and walked out of the casino. Again, Tony and Steve each grabbed Sean by the arm, and urged him to let her go and cool off for awhile.
Sean followed Tony and the others back to the blackjack table, where he sat for the next few hours drowning his sorrows and feeling sorry for himself. The more he drank the louder he became, making the others wish he had gone out after Siobhan after all.
“Why would she do this to me? I’ve been a good husband. Leave it to a woman to tear out your heart and stomp on it in front of all your friends. Look at us all – only Tony has a good woman. That Paula’s a good woman, isn’t she, Steve?”
“Shush! You’re getting loud again. The management keeps looking over here. Get a grip, Sean,” Steve said.
“That’s easy for you to say, Steve. I can’t believe I didn’t catch this before. Now that I think about it, I realize that Siobhan has been acting secretive and quiet lately. There’s no tellin’ how long she’s been at it! Lately she hangs up the phone just as I come into the room, hides her purse at night, and makes excuses to go to the store and doesn’t come home with anything. I shoulda known there was a problem when that happened. I mean – what woman goes shopping and comes home empty handed?
“Shush!” repeated Steve. “Come on, Sean! We’re going to get tossed out of here! Tony’s on a winning streak, and for once, and Gino’s having a good time while not cooking for once! Quit being so selfish.”
Tony glanced over at the men sitting on barstools just a few feet away at an empty blackjack table to his right, and then quickly returned to concentrating on his hand. After asking to be hit with another card, his good luck struck again.
“Twenty-one!” he shouted, pointing to his winnings as his three employees looked on. “Gino, stay right here. From now on, whenever I come to the casino, you gotta come along and sit next to me, just like you are now. You’re my good luck charm, buddy!” Tony patted Gino on the back, just below his right shoulder, as Gino smiled, happy for his employer and friend. Meanwhile, Sean continued to complain to Steve.
“You just don’t know what it’s like to lose a good woman, Steve. I gotta win her back-“
The high-pitched, loud cracking sound of a beer bottle hitting the floor and breaking distracted everyone at the blackjack table. Leave it to Sean to knock something breakable onto the only wooden flooring in the casino, found underneath all of the card tables.
“Now you’ve done it,” said Steve, as Tony cast a grimacing glance their way. “No more beer for you – you’re cut off. Come on, take a walk with me and get this outta your system.” Steve grabbed Sean’s arm and pulled him up off the bar stool, dragging him away from the table.
“You gotta get a grip on yourself. I’m sure Siobhan went home and everything will be alright. You’ll see,” Steve said, as he attempted to pull Sean away from the blackjack tables. Sean pulled his hand away from Steve as they walked past the two-seater tables where hours earlier he had assaulted his wife’s companion.
“Yeah, that’s right, Steve, I gotta call her. You know, make sure she’s home okay and everything.” Sean pulled out his cell phone from his jeans pocket and dialed his home number, letting it ring a couple dozen times before hanging up. He tried Siobhan’s cell phone, only to find she had changed her voice mail message to indicate that she did not want to talk to him. Lastly, he called Siobhan’s parent’s home, happy that Mrs. O’Rourke answered the phone.
“Well hello Sean, how are you? What’s going on with you and Siobhan? She won’t tell Ian or me, and said she doesn’t want to talk to you. I really don’t want to get in the middle of this you know, dear.”
Sean leaned against the wall of the hallway that led to the restrooms near the lobby as Steve stood to his left. “I’m not really sure why she’s mad at me, Mrs. O’Rourke. I must’ve done something wrong, I guess.” Steve elbowed Sean in the ribs for lying so blatantly, and shook his head in disgust as Sean continued.
“You know how some women are; never happy with what they’ve got. Can you please tell her to call me?”
“I sure will, dear. It’s awful late, you know. I think she’s asleep; I’ll tell her in the morning. Good night.”
“Good night,” replied Sean, who then hung up and placed his cell phone back in his pocket.
“Good goin’, smart ass,” said Steve. “Now she’s going to tell her daughter everything you said, and Siobhan will probably be even more upset. You just can’t think ahead, can you?”
“Sure I can – and I need a bathroom, now. I think I’m going to be sick!” Sean was right about one thing – he was going to be sick. Before he and Steve could make it into the bathroom, Sean tossed his cookies – and the dozen beers he drank – all over the once beautifully carpeted floor in the lobby. Steve had just about had enough.
“Stay here – I’ll go get help,” said Steve to a retching Sean.
Sean had no choice as he continued to vomit. Steve asked the dealer at Tony’s table for some housekeeping help in the lobby. Tony shook his head as Steve told him what happened, while Gino made a face as if he felt chills run up his spine.
“Well, I’d say it’s about time to go home, guy,” said Tony. “But there is some good news – I came out $350 ahead! Not bad for a few hours of listening to Sean whine and complain. Let’s grab him and get outta here before they make us pay for somethin’.” Gino and Steve agreed, and the three went to find Sean in the lobby.
After a few minutes, Sean was able to stand upright again without spilling more of his stomach contents. He began to apologize as they made their way back to Little Italy and Paisan’s Pizzeria. Tony allowed Sean to go inside the pizzeria and wash up. After hearing nothing for about fifteen minutes, Steve went in to check on him and found him asleep on the guest couch in the foyer of the restroom. Steve took the car keys from Sean’s right front pocket, and gave them to Tony. All three men decided it was better that Sean slept his drunk off at Paisan’s instead of trying to drive or walk home.
Not wanting to pry and stir things up, Tony and the guys didn’t mention the incident again to Sean, even though he continued to spend the next few nights at Paisan’s. He was still obviously depressed, his practical joking and quick wit all but gone, speaking to the other employees and patrons only when absolutely necessary. And then at the end of the week, it finally came. The dreaded envelope.
Was it a “Dear John” letter, or a petition for divorce inside the envelope? Siobhan had never returned Sean’s call, and each day that went by made him certain of his inevitable fate. Gino and Steve spent the entire evening in the busy kitchen barking out food orders and encouraging Sean to at least open the envelope. With Paula and the waitresses at the food pick up window for support and all of the kitchen help as witnesses, Sean read aloud the letter and was disappointed once again. Siobhan had neatly written one mysterious sentence:
“We need to talk – meet me in Paisan’s dining room after work Saturday night at eleven.”
Sean heard the unclear voices of several of his co-workers, probably trying to console him and talk him out of thinking that his marriage was over. It was difficult to tell, so many people talking to him at once. He stood there frozen, the letter in hand, as everyone else returned to cooking and serving food. He stashed the letter into his back pocket and tried not to feel the slow motion of the next hour and a half, the eleven o’clock finish line to what was once a wonderful marriage. For each good time he remembered, another memory of his becoming angry or drunk wedged itself into his mind, his brain not willing to absolve him from the guilt he felt at knowing he was solely responsible for ruining his marriage.
Sean heard the door chimes a few minutes after the last table of customers left. As he went out into the dining room to greet Siobhan, the rest of Paisan’s employees huddled around the kitchen side of the pickup window with the exception of Tony, who suggested in vain that they mind their own business.
“Hey, Siobhan,” Sean said to his wife, standing in front of her just a few inches away from touching.
“Hello, Sean,” she replied. “Can we sit down?”
“Sure, let’s sit by the window here, away from the noise of the kitchen.” Sean motioned to a booth in the front right corner of the pizzeria. Siobhan followed him to the booth and he sat down facing the front door, sliding to the far end of the booth hoping that Siobhan would sit beside him.
Siobhan took off her jacket and sat across from Sean, laying her coat to her left side.
“The reason I wanted to meet you here tonight, is-“
“I know why you want to talk to me, Siobhan.”
“You do? She asked, surprised, scratching the top of her silky blond head. “How did you find out?”
“Well, it wasn’t too hard to guess. I mean, you haven’t spoken to me in days.”
“I just can’t believe you picked that guy,” Sean interrupted. “I mean, if you’re gonna cheat on me, why would you choose the first silk wearin’ softy that comes along? I mean, really, Siobhan, an employee of a sleazy casino and hotel?”
“Sean, please,” she said, trying to explain her true feelings.
“And why meet him where he works? Really, Siobhan, I thought you were above hangin’ out at sleazy bars and casinos…”
“Sean, will you shut up for a minute and listen? Can you not put two and two together?” Siobhan began to grow impatient with her husband.
“Yeah, babe, I can put two and two together,” he continued, patting her folded hands on the table with his right hand as he leaned over the table toward her. “You refused to go there for our honeymoon, but you met this loser there behind my back? What a load of bollocks!”
“No, Sean, that isn’t true. We both know you wanted to go to the Tropicala for our honeymoon. And what a coincidence – you walk in while I’m meeting with an employee of the resort. In most sane men’s minds, this would indicate that since our anniversary is coming up, I was there to plan a surprise romantic rendezvous for the two of us. That’s the two and two I’m talking about!”
Sean was truly stunned by this revelation and slapped himself on the right side of his forehead.
“Oh, Siobhan, I’m so sorry…”
“Well, you can thank your boss for talking me out of canceling it. After what you did Monday night, we’re lucky that the hotel will even let you in the place! I hear you made quite a mess,” she said, looking over at Steve, who was rubbing the palms of his hands together and smiling at Sean. Sean glanced over at Steve and shook his head, correctly guessing at who had told Siobhan about his messy liquor problems that night.
“Yeah, well, it must be one expensive package then, or they probably wouldn’t, would they?!”
“Sean!” Siobhan admonished him.
“Okay, okay. I am so sorry, babe. I really am. Can you ever forgive me? Can we still go?” Sean took Siobhan’s hands in his, unfolded them, and held each hand in his as he awaited her reply.
“Yes and yes, again, thanks to Tony and Mr. Bellman. If it weren’t for the two of them-“
“Alright already, I get it. Thanks Tony,” Sean turned around and said to his boss, who was standing a few feet behind the booth, with the rest of the employees standing behind him. Tony smiled and tilted his head, his wife Paula putting her arm around him as she stood by his right side.
Sean got up from his side of the booth and sat next to his wife, putting his arms around her and tightening his embrace. As she put her arms around him, they both heard the sound of oohs and ahs coming from the behind Tony. Tony began clapping as he approached them, followed by the rest of the staff.
“See, Sean? I told you it would all work out. Youse two belong together, don’t they sweetheart?” Tony looked behind him at Paula, who agreed and also came over to the booth. Tony sat down across from the Kellys and Paula joined them. She didn’t usually offer unsolicited advice, but since Sean and Siobhan were like family to Tony and her, she made an exception.
“If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years from being married, it’s that problems are only made worse when we act impulsively. Wouldn’t you agree, Tony?” Tony put his arm around his smiling wife and agreed with her wisdom.
“Absolutely right,” replied Tony very seriously, pointing his finger at Sean. “Things are always better when you sleep on them, and this way you avoid saying something that can hurt someone’s feelings forever. After all, ‘time wounds all heels’.”
Everyone in the restaurant laughed, as the other employees were all in the dining room listening by this time.
“Alright, what’s so funny?” asked Tony, oblivious to being the object of his own joke.
“The cliché is “time heals all wounds”, Tony. What you said was something like “the passing of time hurts all jerks” or something,” advised Paula. “I think you said “Time wounds all heels.”
“You’re right, Paula,” said Siobhan. “That is what he said!”
“You know, Paula,” said Sean. “ I have to agree with my boss on this one. With each day that passed after the argument, I felt even worse and more hurt until Siobhan met me today, and as everyone here knows, I really was a heel. I think Tony’s right on this one.” Siobhan leaned over and kissed Sean, happy that he realized his mistake.
“Well, whatever,” said Tony. “I’m just happy that everything has worked out for the best. Why don’t we celebrate? How ‘bout the two of you joining our family for Sunday dinner? Make sure you’re there by four, and you can help with the sauce.”
Sean and Siobhan accepted the invitation, and the employees left one by one, smiling and waving goodbye. Siobhan, who had driven alone to the restaurant earlier that night, kissed Sean on the cheek and walked across the parking lot to her car to drive home. Sean was the last to leave, except for Steve and Gino who were following right behind him.
“Look, guys, about the other night. I’m really sorry about my behavior. I’m sorry I ruined the night for you.”
“That’s alright, Sean,” said Gino as he locked the outside door.
“Yeah, forget it,” chimed in Steve, standing in front of Gino on the front stoop. Steve patted Sean on the back. “Don’t worry about it.”
“No, really, let me take you guys out to that new gaming arcade on Long Island, and this time, I promise, no more than two beers for me. Whatta ya say? How ’bout you, Gino?” Sean turned around to look at Gino and Steve, now walking backward toward the parking lot.
“Sure, I’ll go, as long as the food is good.” Gino reached his car first, turned the key and opened the door. “I’ll see you guys on Monday,” he called out, waving at the others.
“Great! What about you, Steve? You gonna let me make it up to you or what?” Sean asked, as he hopped over the driver’s side door and into his old Mustang convertible, awaiting the reply of his long time friend and co-worker who had parked next to him.
“Well, I guess that’s okay,” said Steve. “But remember, losers pay for the drinks, and I don’t have a two drink restriction!” Steve unlocked his car, got in and unrolled the driver’s side window as he started his car.
Sean turned his key in the ignition and revved the engine. He backed out of the parking space and stopped as he began to turn right, temporarily blocking Steve from exiting. “No problem, baccala breath. ‘Cause I’ve got the luck of the Irish on my side, and I don’t plan to lose,” he shouted as he drove off, followed by Steve chasing him down Little Italy’s Queen Street.
Sherri Miller is a fiction editor at Halfway Down the Stairs.
© 2009, Sherri Miller