Tag Archives: Ed Staskus

Chapter 32

“Where is everybody?” Carnellia asked herself. 

   Nobody was in the house, nobody was in the store, nobody was nowhere. After a day and night of persuading herself to visit, there wasn’t anybody at home. She grew up in the brownstone. That never happened. Somebody was always there. There were some family secrets that had to stay under lock and key and the watchful eye.

   “Ma are you here?” she called out again.

   No answer again, even though the kitchen felt and smelled warm. The house felt like somebody was somewhere, but it was quiet like an open book somebody had laid down..

   She heard a thump. She stopped and listened. When she heard another thump, she walked up the stairs, checking the bedrooms. When she went into her old bedroom, she saw her mother, hog-tied on the ground, thumping the floor with her blocky black shoes.

   “Ma! What happened?” 

   She worked at the knots, not getting anywhere, then ran down to the kitchen, grabbed a cook’s knife, and ran back upstairs. She sliced through the cotton fabric freeing her mother hands and feet.

   “What happened?”

   “It was your brother. Where is he?”   

   “Luca tied you up?”

   “No, no, but it was his doing.”

   “Who is this?” Carnellia asked, pointing to the man moaning on the floor.

   Raffaella stepped over and kicked him. He cried out, his broken ribs a sudden sharp pain.

   “That’s for not shooting that son of a bitch when you had the chance.”

   She kicked him again, hard.

   “And that’s for me being tied up in my own home.”

   “What’s going on? What son of a bitch? What innocent girl?”

   “That man must have done something to him and Frankie,” Raffaella said, leaving the room.

   “What about him?”

   “Leave him,” she said, stamping down the stairs.

   They both heard the banging on the basement door as soon as they stepped into the bed store. Carnellia turned the lights on.

   “Who’s in there?” Raffaella demanded

   “Ma, it’s me and Frankie. Unlock the door.”

   “Your sister is here.”

   “Tell her to leave and when she’s gone unlock the door,” Big Paulie said.

   “You won’t talk to your own sister?”

   “You know how I feel about that ma.”

   ‘Then you and Frankie can stay down there in the dark.”

   “Ma, ma,” yelled Frankie. “It’s Luca, not me, he hates her. I love Carnellia, let me out of here.”

   “You and Luca think things over. I’ll come back later tonight.”

   “Ma! Ma!”

   She made sure the store was locked up tight and the lights off, secured the metal door, and the two women went back into the house.

   “What’s going on?” Carnellia asked her mother when they were sitting at the kitchen table, having coffee and biscotti.

   “Your big brother is doing something for Albert, something big, and part of it was kidnapping a little girl. He brought her here, the fool, and asked me to watch her. He left a man, the one who’s tied up, and I was feeding her soup when what I think is her father busted in. Our man had the girl, a bullet at her head, but the father said he didn’t care, he could make another daughter, but if he shot her, he was a dead man the next instant, and nobody was going to make another one of him ever again.”

   “Her father said that?”

   “Yes, and he said he’d shoot him some more when he was dead, so the devil wouldn’t have any doubt he was getting the right man.”

   “What kind of a man would say something like that about his own child?”

   “A heartless man,” said Raffaella. “But the girl didn’t seem to take it the wrong way, she just stood there, until Luca’s stupid man got the shakes and put his gun down. If your father was only here.”

   Luigi Gravano never got the shakes. Raffaella and her husband didn’t come to the United States at the turn of the century, when most of the Italians in New York City showed up. They weren’t birds of passage, either, planning on working hard, saving every penny, and going back home, re-establishing themselves with some land and a better house and a wad under the mattress. Luigi Gravano didn’t work in construction building roads bridges subways and sewers. Raffaella didn’t work as a seamstress They didn’t peddle bread in the street. They made it on the make.   

   After the war times were tough in the south of Italy. All the industry was up north. There were few jobs and few prospects. The dockyard owners on the east coast encouraged immigration, one way or the other. They got their labor cheap and tied it up until the working men could repay the passage. After that many of them stayed on the docks. It was all they knew. 

   Luigi worked the docks where plenty of young Italian men worked informally illegally as longshoremen at the city’s coastal ports. He helped them get work, for a cut, and helped steal freight, for a cut. When their boys grew up, they got into the trade with their old man. When Luigi was shot and killed fighting over a bone of contention, Luca became the family point man. Frankie stayed the loose cannon. The other boys didn’t give lip and there wasn’t a peep from Carnellia, at least until she grew up.

   Luca “Big Paulie” Gravano knew a good thing when he saw one.

   “What is Albert up to?”

   “I don’t know, Luca didn’t say, not exactly. It has something to do with the World Series. Somebody is going to get killed, but why they would do it in such a public place, I don’t know. I have a bad feeling about it. The little girl gave me the evil eye. That was bad. And her father, if looks could kill, I wouldn’t be here talking to you. I don’t like it happening in our house. Your father would never have stood for it. What happened out there stayed out there. It never came in here.”

   She never stopped missing her husband. He four sons were standing on the shoulders of a giant. Luigi always knew in a minute what they spent days figuring out, if they figured it out, at all.

   “Stay for a little dinner,” she said.

   “All right, ma, I will.”

   Although many people in New York City went to their kitchens to feed the cat and dog, that was about all the cooking they knew or did. Raffaello Gravano wasn’t like that. She had fed the family starting with Luigi, then Luca, then the rest of the four kids. She still fed the boys every day, unless they had gone to the mattresses.

   She got a big pot, poured water into it, and put it on the stove. She believed in having a big enough pot so the pasta could roll around in the water while cooking. She made her own spaghetti.

   Earlier in the month the papers had reported about factory made pizza. “In New Jersey a belt-line assembles pizza as if they were General Motors tanks. Dough shell goes on the line, plop goes cheese, squirt goes tomato sauce, shake goes oregano, plastic wrapper enfolds, label stamps, boxed, next.” 

   Raffaella made her own pizza and never bought pizza from Nino Food Products in Newark, New Jersey, or anywhere else. She suspected there wasn’t anybody named Nino. She was sure there was a company called Food Products, although she didn’t care. She didn’t buy unassembled pizza either, the kind that was a fill up package containing the flour mixture, yeast, and sauce with cheese in an envelope.

   She made her own from scratch, made the sauce, rolled out the pie, grated the cheese, and sliced the pepperoni. Sometimes she added pesto and pistachios. She had tried mac and cheese on pizza, but it was too much.  

   When Kraft introduced their mac and cheese in a box twenty years earlier, she fed it to the kids every day. It was quick and easy and fed four for twenty cents. But after fifty or sixty dinners in a row the children started to protest, and when Luigi took their side, she put her apron back on.

   “How is everything in the village?” Raffaella asked her daughter.

   “Good, ma, I like it a lot. There’s some great home-style eating there.”   

   “Nothing is home-style outside of my home.”

   Raffaella had not seen the Look Magazine article with pictures showing how to eat pizza correctly. “Pizza pie has become an American citizen, here to stay,” the story said. If she had seen the article she would have said, “I’m an American citizen and I been staying here for more than thirty years.”

   While she waited for the water to boil, she got the oven lit. She picked up one of the two old loaves of bread from the counter and started tearing cubes out of it by hand. She tore them all the same so the croutons would cook evenly. She tossed them into a bowl as she went and when it was full drizzled the chunks with olive oil and tossed it. She spread the croutons in a single layer on a baking sheet and put them into the oven They would need flipping over halfway through the baking and watching for the crispiness. She didn’t like her croutons to get too brown.

   “Are you still living alone?”

   “Yes, mother, I’ll let you know when the big day shows up.”

   “Don’t get smart-alecky with me.”

   “Sorry, ma, but you know I still live alone on 8th, all alone.”

   “Do you ever see the diamond man?”

   “Oh, yeah, not every day, but we run into each other all the time.” 

   Carnellia lived in a 3rd floor apartment next to Sam Kramer’s jewelry shop. “I was even one of his Space Girls this summer, filling in for a girl who got sick.”

   “What’s that?”

   “He hires out pretty girls, dresses them all in black, with a cape and a helmet that looks like a space helmet, hangs his jewelry around their necks, and they ride around town on a scooter showing it off.”

   Sam Kramer worked with silver and gold and gems. He made a good living and paid his rent. He and his wife and their two children lived upstairs. He was best known, though, for making jewelry out of glass eyes, moose teeth, porcupine quills, old shoe buttons, and pieces of quartz. When he got inspired, he added rare hardwoods, ancient coins, and fossilized sea insects.

   He got written up the year before. Some museums and university art galleries started exhibiting his work. When a friend of his took a finger ring he made to a museum curator, and asked if it were “Egyptian or Etruscan,” the curator said, “Unquestionably Etruscan.”

   “Don’t go fast on those things,” Rafaella said. “You’ll kill yourself falling off. Then they’ll steal the scooter, and you’ll have to take the subway home. The trains are dirty and there are dirty men on them.”

   Carnellia didn’t tell her mother about going barefoot in Washington Square, listening to Ramlin’ Jack Elliott there, drinking cheap wine on the sly in the daytime listening to him trying out his new songs.

   “Well, I fills up my hat brim, drunk a sweet taste, thought about the river going to waste, thought about the dust, thought ’bout the sand, thought about the people, thought ’bout the land, ever’body running round all over creation, just looking for some kind of a little place.”

   While the pasta was cooking Rafaella sauteed garlic and onion in a pan, browned a small portion of beef, gave it all a good stir, and let it simmer. She brought a bottle of Chianti Spolveri snuggled in straw to the table and poured half a water glass for herself and half that for her daughter.

   “Ma, I’m not a little girl anymore,” Carnellia said and topped off her glass.

   “If you’re so grown up what are you doing living with riff raff and beatniks?”

   She wasn’t ready to talk back to her mother, but she thought it was nutty when a crime boss mother looked on bohemians as beneath her.

   “Have dinner ready, prepare yourself, prepare the children, minimize all noise, be happy to see him, listen to him, make the evening his,” is what Carnellia had read in the “Home Economics High School Textbook” when she was in high school. Keep the house, make the meals, do the dishes and laundry, take care of the kids, and stay gay and gorgeous on top of it. She wasn’t going to have it, not if she could help it. She wanted to stay Carnellia Gravano, and in the meantime find out who she wanted to be, not who everybody else was.

   Even Grace Kelly when she got married six months ago all of a sudden became Her Serene Highness Princess Grace of Monaco. The Kelly part of her went out the window, even though her family paid two million in dowry to the Prince of Monaco.                   

   It didn’t surprise the Gravano family, since they knew in a hearsay way the prince’s mother was romantically involved with the jewel thief Rene the Cane. The “Wedding of the Century” already looked pregnant. Rainier Louis Henri Maxence Bertrand Grimaldi had made short work of it. 

   Carnellia wasn’t willing to face high noon at the altar.

   “Have you made any plans besides going to school part-time and working part-time and whatever else you do part-time? You’re going to turn into an old maid before you know it.”

   “I’m not getting married this minute, ma, and that’s final.” 

   Getting married and having children was the number one to-do list for girls. The marriage rate was at an all-time high. Everybody either already had kids or were busy making kids. The family was what made Americans better than Commies, whose mothers all worked in tractor factories while their children spent the day in concrete bunker day cares. Home and hearth were what mattered.

   They ate their Spaghetti Bolognese and drank Chianti and talked about yesterday and the day before. Robert Wagner the city’s mayor was on the cover of Time Magazine. Robert Moses had gotten the cops to push six women away from a project of his near Central Park West. They insisted the play space was needed by their children. The International Longshoremen were threating to go out on strike since their contract had expired on Sunday. Jacob Javits, the Attorney General, was making noises that a walkout might imperil the national safety and health.

   “Hah!” barked Ma Gravano.

   Lucy and Desi were in town to promote the sixth season of “I Love Lucy.”  In a comedy sketch on “The Ed Sullivan Show” Lucy pretended to believe she and Desi would be appearing on Edward Murrow’s “Person to Person” instead of The Great Stone Face Show. The next day Little Ricky made his debut. He was a smash.

   “What about Luca and Frankie?” asked Carnellia after dinner, stacking the dishes in the sink, making ready to go home to Greenwich Village.

   Raffaella picked up the second loaf of stale bread and poured a pitcher of water. “Bring two glasses and a bowl.” They walked into the bed store and across to the basement door. Raffaella unlocked it and put the bread and water down on the narrow landing.

   “Here’s your supper,” she said looking down on her two sons at the bottom of the stairs. “I’ll be back tomorrow, maybe I’ll bring some antipasto and fresh bread, and maybe I will let you out on Thursday morning when this is all over. And keep that lion quiet. If I get another bad night’s sleep, I swear I won’t be back.”

   She turned the lock on her two bad boys and took to an early bed.

Chapter 33

   “No guns?” Ezra asked.

   “No guns.” Stan said.

   “Why not?”

   “There are going to be more than a mob in blue at the ball field today and plenty more in plainclothes. The Secret Service isn’t going to want anyone with a gun within a mile of Ike, so only Bumpy is going strapped.”

   “Him? He was on the wrong side until a few days ago.”

   Stan was sitting at his desk, Ezra, Betty, and Bumpy haphazard alert around the desk. It was 7:30 in the morning. A new moon had lit the clear sky Tuesday night. It was in the 50s at dawn, but not damp. The chill was slowly inching its way up into the low 70s, patches of thin-lipped clouds blinking in the sunny sky

   “He’s going with Dottie. He’ll say he’s a neighbor, or whatever he wants to say. He shouldn’t have a problem.” 

   “The cops hate coons but he’s not going to have a problem?”

   “No, because for one thing, he’s going to be Bojangles stepping out with Shirley Temple, and for another reason, Negroes shoot each other, not presidents.”

   “What if they spot it?” Bumpy asked.

   “Move fast.”

   Hung out to dry, Bumpy thought.

   Frankie Lane was belting out “Hell Hath No Fury,” William Brinkley’s “Don’t Go Near the Water” was topping the best-seller charts, and on TV everybody was watching “The Adventures of Hiram Holliday.” The adventure at Ebbets Field was the first game of the World Series. Bumpy knew he wouldn’t have a problem getting in, going heavy or not heavy. Negroes were invisible most of the time, anyway.

   It was going to be a full house, 34-some thousand hooting and hollering. Dwight Eisenhower was throwing out the first pitch, Whitey “Slick” Ford was pitching for the Yankees. Sal “The Barber” Maglie was pitching for the Dodgers.

   If you crowded the plate, Sal Maglie was going to mow you down. He wasn’t going to let anybody get a quick swing and rip anything down the line. His infielders guarding the lines were good with The Barber’s methods. They could play a step off.

   Whitey Ford wasn’t going to mow anybody down, but he was more than capable of retiring the side. He wasn’t overpowering. He was shifty crafty. He threw different spins speeds swerves and altered his arm motions, putting the ball where he wanted to. 

   “If it takes 27 outs to win, who’s going to get them out more ways than Whitey?” Casey Stengel asked. “Nobody.”

   He got them out in more ways than one. He doctored the ball by mixing spit and dirt in his palms. He rubbed resin, baby oil, and turpentine on his hands to make his fingers sticky. He used a ring with a secret rasp to cut the ball, making it dip and break at the last second. 

   Wally Dropo, the Boston Red Sox infielder who beat Whitey Ford out for Rookie of the Year in 1950, said, “Right away, I could see this guy was going to be trouble. He was like a chess player who used his brain to take the bat right out of my hands. You’d start thinking along with him, and then Whitey had you because he never started you off with the same pitch in any one sequence.”

   “Swing and a miss, strike three, you’re out!” called the home plate umpire, jerking his thumb up and over his shoulder, over and over again.

   “Stay with Dottie this morning, she likes waffles, make sure nobody is shadowing you, and take a cab to Brooklyn,” Stan said.

   “I’ll find a car,” Bumpy said.

   “Jesus, no, Dottie’s got her heart set on meeting Pee Wee,” said Stan. “All she needs is you getting flagged.”

   “I don’t get flagged.”

   “All right, but this once, take a cab.”

   “Sho’ enough, boss.”

   Betty laughed. “That almost sounds real.”

   “I stay in practice,” Bumpy said.

   He took a handful of petty cash from the petty cash box and went out. Stan, Ezra, and Betty locked the office up and went to breakfast. On the street they had to wait while Betty ran back upstairs to put her .32 back in the safe.

   They crossed Tenth Avenue and walked to Ninth Avenue, then walked down it. They walked past a butcher shop selling Chicken Legs and Breast, Sausages Italian Style, and Smoked Butts. Disemboweled small game hung in the windows. They walked past kids playing in front of tenements when they should have been in school. A dog came begging, but they ignored the creature.

   They stepped into Mickeys’ Candy Store and Luncheonette, a greasy spoon at 44th Street and Ninth. Inside the door was a rack of DC comics. A step behind them were old issues of Famous Monsters of Filmland. They sat down on floor-mounted stools at a worn-out counter and ordered coffee. There was an all-day all-night breakfast menu. They had fried scrambled poached eggs ham bacon sausage and sweet rolls with more coffee.

   “That was good. It’s going to be a long day,” Stan said. He lit a cigarette.

   Ezra loosened his belt. He lit a cigarette, too. Betty kept eating. When she was nervous, she had an appetite from the bowels of hell, although she never gained weight.

   “What’s the plan?” asked Ezra.

   “You and I go into the ballpark and prowl around, hoping we catch sight of the little wop. Betty roams around the outside, and if she spots him, she calls in to us,” Stan said. He pulled two black gadgets out of a paper bag. He gave one to Ezra and one to Betty. They were Buck Rogers Remco walkie-talkies.

   “This is a toy,” Ezra said. “You need a string to connect the two to talk.”

   “Otis fixed them up,” said Stan. “They’re good for about three hundred yards. He used the guts of a phone and added that switch to send and receive. Keep it switched on once we get started. The circuit will stay open and we can talk as long as the battery holds out. Otis thinks it should last half a day.”

   “Did you test them?”

   “Yeah, he and I tested them at three hundred yards. They worked, the sound was good, but at four hundred yards they clammed up. We backed up half of the hundred and they worked again, more-or-less, but there was static.”

   “What do we do if we find our man?”

   “We beat some sense into him, if we have to, otherwise we quiet him down so we can watch the game, and afterwards play it by ear.”

   “Do we turn him over?” asked Betty. 

   “We turn him upside down so he spills his guts, but not to any law enforcement until we find out what it’s all about, and even then, we’ll talk it over afterwards, before we do anything that might cause us trouble. The less attention we draw to ourselves the better. We’re skating on thin ice. I don’t want any Feds breathing down my neck. They’ve always got to solve whatever they get their teeth into, like a pit bull who won’t let go, and then there’s their damned lawyers, and they never shut up.”

   “That was a mouthful,” Betty said, wiping butter and crumbs off her lips.

   “I don’t like lawyers near me,” said Stan. 

   “It’s getting on to ten-thirty,” said Ezra. “What do you say we get going Brooklyn-wise?”

   Stan paid the bill, they went out to the street corner, and Betty whistled down an empty five-passenger Checker. They slid into the rear seat. Betty and Stan rolled down their windows.

   “How did I get stuck in the middle?” Ezra complained.

   “Klieg, klieg, klieg, du bist a nar,” Betty said while Ezra sulked.

   “Run us down the new parkway and across the Manhattan to Ebbets,” Stan told the cabbie.

   “Okeydoke,” the cabbie said, putting the big car into gear.

   They cruised onto the shorefront FDR Drive, went through the United Nations Tunnel, and where Pike Slip met the Lower Roadway crossed the Manhattan Bridge. The cab ran down Flatbush Avenue and through Prospect Park.

   “Drop of us at Empire,” Stan told the cabbie. “We’ll walk the rest of the way.”

   “Got tickets to the game?”

   “That’s right.”

   “I’m rooting for the Bums, but they oughta dump that dump they gotta play in.”

   “How’s that?”

   “There’s hardly any parking, just a couple of lots, which is good for me, but not for nobody driving in. It seats maybe half of Yankee Stadium and the seats are bad. The aisles are narrow and the plumbing’s bad. On top of that, it looks like it could go whacked if there was ever a loud enough noise and fall down, especially that big grandstand.”

   “The beer’s good,” Ezra said.

   “The beer’s good,” the cabbie admitted.

   The right field wall was plastered with advertisements for shoe polish, razor blades, and wristwatches. The biggest was the Schaefer Beer sign at the top of the scoreboard. It doubled as a gimmick for the official scorer to rule on hits and errors. 

   Sluggers like Joe Adcock, Stan Musial, and Willy Mays loved the ballpark, hitting the ball hard and over the fence in all directions. Joe Adcock hit four home runs one afternoon two years earlier, adding a double for good measure. Sal Maglie always told his fellow hurlers to “pitch Joe close and then low and away and he’ll never hit it.” The next day the starting Dodger pitcher started him off by launching a beanball and braining him. After that there was no need of low and away.

   The Dodger southpaw who pitched to the hard-headed Milwaukee first baseman, once he recovered and was back in Brooklyn, wasn’t good at taking advice. He grooved his first pitch and Joe Adcock paid the Dodgers back by becoming the only ballplayer to ever hit a deep soaring disappearing speck in the sky over the left field roof. It landed with a crash, denting a passing car hood on Montgomery Avenue.

   “Keep the change,” Stan said, paying the fare.

   The man driving the suddenly dented car hood car stopped, got out, cursed up and down, and kicked the baseball into the nearest sewer.

   “Goddamn kid game!”

   Bedford Avenue between Sullivan Place and Montgomery Avenue was cordoned off, police cars angled across the intersections. The parking lot was roped off and empty, except for what looked like an armored car and a half dozen black Dodge Royal Lancers. The shops and bars on Sullivan were closed, their flat roofs dotted with policemen and men in suits. More men in suits littered the roof over the ballpark’s grandstand. Some more were scattered along both foul lines.

   Stan Ezra Betty stood on the corner of Sullivan Place, looking down the backside of Ebbets Field.

   “They’re going to open the fence there, to the right side of centerfield,” Stan said. “That way Ike can drive in, let everybody see him before he throws out the first pitch and takes his seat for the game. Let’s say around 12:30. Our man won’t be able to get near him here on the street, or from above, so it’s got to happen on the field or the stands.”

   “What about under the field?” asked Betty.

   “Under? What do you mean?” Stan asked

   “Aren’t there tunnels under the field, or drainpipes, or anything like that?”

   “I don’t know about tunnels, but storm drains, there have got to be for when it rains, to get the water off the field. If he’s planning on bursting out of the swamp and surprising everybody, that could maybe happen.”

   “What if he just plants a bomb down there to blow the president up when he’s driving across the field?”

   “How would he set it off? A timing device wouldn’t be any good. He wouldn’t have any way of knowing exactly when Ike is going to be at whatever exact spot on the field. A pressure plate mine, no good either. That’s why they’re always laid out in groups. There have been too many groundskeepers and players on the field for nobody to notice something or get accidentally blown up.”

   “What if he is planning on being underneath Ike when he drives down center field and setting a bomb off? What if “Hail to the Chief” is the cue and when he hears it, he pulls the plug, and it all goes up in rockets? What if it’s just like Jackson Pollack, brainwashed to do something that’s curtains for him, but he does it anyway?”

   “That might make sense,” Stan said as they turned the corner at the main entrance and walked up Franklin Street. “A suicide bomber can’t get close to the president, so he waits for the president to get close to him.”

   “Jesus Christ!” Ezra exclaimed, looking up Franklin. “There’s our man.”

   Stan snapped his head around.


   “There, about two hundred feet away, just past the last pillar.”

   Stan spotted Tony the Phil as he strolled up to a nondescript door behind the last colonnade and stuck a key into the lock, slipping into the ballpark.

   “Goddamn it,” Stan swore as the three of them ran to the door. There wasn’t an outside knob or handle, just a lock. Ezra pounded on it. Nobody nothing not a thing came to the door.

   “Goddamn it to hell.”

   A scratching noise chirruped from a small mound of dirt between the sidewalk and outside wall of the ballpark near the base of a Johnny pump. The mound suddenly broke free and the head of a hamster-sized star-nosed mole poked up into the daylight. Its nose quivered, it looked up at Stan, and winked. It was gone in an instant.

   “Did that thing wink at you?” Betty asked.

   “The mole blinked at me, yes,” Stan said.

   “I thought they were blind,” Ezra said.

   “We’re the three blind mice,” Stan said. 

   “He’s gone underground, that’s where he is,” Betty said

   “You stay out here,” Stan said to her. “You don’t have a ticket and won’t be able to get in, anyway. Find a phone booth. Get ahold of Karol and Bartek. When you get them tell them to get down here with a car, tell them to find a spot as close to the main entrance as they can. Stay with them and look for us.”

   Ezra and Stan ran swiftly purposefully back down Franklin, past the twelve gilded ticket windows, through one of the twelve turnstiles, and into the buzzing marble rotunda of Ebbets Field.

Chapter 34

   Mr. Moto knew a straight cat when he saw one so when he saw Bumpy Williams stepping out of a cab and walking up to the house, he didn’t sweat it. He could see black and white and blue colors best. He wasn’t good with reds and greens. Bumpy looked like a blues man to him. Mr. Moto knew boneyard blues when he heard it.

   Dottie was waiting on the inside stairs. When she saw Bumpy, she jumped up and barged through the door.

   “I’m ready!”

   She was wearing a Brooklyn Dodgers pinback button on her shirt, had Pee Wee Reese’s 1956 Topps baseball card in her hand, and a blue cap with Chief Wahoo inside a red wishbone “C” on top of her head.

   “You got buck teeth on your head,” Bumpy said.

   “Dad’s from Cleveland,” Dottie said. “He gave it to me. He said you have to stay true to your roots. I don’t let anybody say anything about it when I’m wearing it.”

   “Yes, ma’am,’ Bumpy said, and pushed the brim down.

   “I’m hungry,” Dottie said, looking up.

   “So am I. How are you with waffles?”

   “I love waffles.”  

   “Me too. Let’s go.”

   When they drove past the Socony Mobil building, built that year at 42nd Street between Lexington and Third Avenue, Dottie pointed out the window of the cab.

   “It’s a shiny waffle building.”

   The world’s first stainless steel skyscraper was sheathed in thousands of panels studded with pyramid designs. The architectural critic Lewis Mumford from Flushing, Queens, wrote that the building looked like it had the measles. He thought the ideal city was the medieval city. He didn’t say what living in a medieval city without indoor plumbing and running water and power at the push of a button might be like.

   “You said the ballpark, right?” the hook-nosed cabbie asked, the toothpick in his mouth staying still as a crack in cement, stuck in between two close-set teeth.

   “Close enough but drop us off at Flatbush and Lincoln.”

   “Can do.”

   Childs Restaurant on the northwest corner was a two story building with a central fish window featuring an urn facing Flatbush Avenue. A red-faced grill cook was in the window flap-jacking.

   “That’s where he’s going to make our waffles,” Bumpy said, swinging the front door open for Dottie. They sat in a booth. It was purple vinyl with an upside-down white triangle on the back rest. The table was pale green flecked with small white slashes.

   “No need for a bill of fare,” Bumpy said to the waitress. “Two big plates of waffles, butter and syrup, joe for me and lemonade for the young lady.”

   “I don’t want lemonade.” Dottie said.

   “What do you want?”


   “That’s the same as lemonade.”

   “No, it’s not, it’s grapefruit, and it’s carbonated. And one more thing, please make mine a Belgian waffle.”

   The waitress tiptoed away, smoothing her white apron, which matched her white collar and white trim around the sleeves. She looked like a maid in a big house.

   “Well cut my legs off and call me Shorty if it isn’t Bumpy Williams,” a tall handsome more-or-less Negro man said stopping at their table.

   Bumpy and Dottie looked up. 

   “If it ain’t my man Adam who still has never done nothing for me,” Bumpy said. “How are you?”

   “Keeping the faith, baby, keeping the faith,” said Adam Clayton Powell.

   “How’s Hazel?” Bumpy asked, looking the leggy lady standing next to his congressman up and down.

   “My secretary,” Adam Powell said, nodding at the curves next to him.


   “She’s better.”

   “See her much?”

   “Here and there,” he said.

   His wife Hazel Scott had been summoned and appeared before the House Un-American Activities Committee six years earlier. She was a classical and jazz piano player and singer and hosted a variety show on TV. She denied “ever knowingly being connected with the Communist Party or any of its front organizations.” She admitted being associated with socialists, a group she said that “has hated Communists longer and more fiercely than any other.” When the Red Scare in Congress leaned on her, she shot back that they should try “democratic methods to eliminate a good many irresponsible charges.” 

   They didn’t like that and started huffing and puffing. Hazel lamented that entertainers were already “covered with the mud of slander and the filth of scandal” by congressional goons when they walked in trying to prove their loyalty to the United States. 

   Her TV show “The Hazel Scott Show” was cancelled the next week. She suffered a nervous breakdown the next year.  The next three four years she played on and off with Charles Mingus and Max Roach, more often in Europe than the United States. 

   “I think she might be on her way to France, maybe for good,” Adam Powell said.

    “Are you a Negro like Bumpy,” Dottie asked him, looking into his hazel eyes.

   “No, honey, I’m a man who is part African, part German, and part American Indian.”

   “What part of you is here?”

   “The Bums part of me,” he laughed.

   Dottie pointed to the button on her shirt.

   “You and me sister.”

   “I hear you came out for Ike,” Bumpy said.

   “I did, and I’ve been taking a lot of heat for it, but I got some great seats.”

   Bumpy could have told him to stay as far away from the president as possible but he didn’t. He wasn’t loose-lipped when it came to business. His job was to look out for Dottie, not for politicians, who were always looking out only for themselves. He looked and saw waffles coming their way.

   “See you at the ballpark, then.”

   “How’s that? One of your numbers come in?”

   “No, that’s for chumps. Dottie here is going to be on the Happy Felton TV show before the game. I’m her escort.”

   “Good for you, Dottie, and put a good word in for your congressman.”

   “She lives in Hell’s Kitchen,” Bumpy said.

   “Close enough,” the congressman said, and wrapping his arm around the waist of his secretary, walked to his table, where a table tent “Reserved” sign sat.

   “Why did he want me to say something about him?” Dottie asked.

   “He’s a politician, a Washington politician. He never spends his own money except by accident, so a good word free of charge on TV is like gold to him.”

   “Oh, he’s a government man. Dad gets sour sometimes when anybody talks about the government.”

   “Honey just be glad we aren’t getting all the government we’re paying for,” Bumpy said, and dug into his stack of waffles, topped with fried eggs and bacon. Dottie pushed butter into the pockets of her plate-sized Belgian waffle and poured Sleepy Hollow syrup on it, spreading it with her knife and licking the blade clean.

   “Hey, don’t lick that off your knife, you’ll cut your tongue,” Bumpy said. “How are you going to be able to talk to Pee Wee if that happens?”

   “Oh my gosh!” Dottie exclaimed, putting the knife down in a flash.

   After their late breakfast they walked up Flatbush to Empire Blvd to Ebbets Field. The streets were full of cars and the sidewalks were full of fans. Vendors were everywhere. Scalpers were peddling tickets. The Mounted Police Unit was out in force, their horses leaving piles of shit behind them. The ballpark stood on one square block. It was surrounded on all sides by shops and apartments.

   “Did you know Bugs Bunny was born down the left field foul line in Ebbets Field?” Bumpy asked Dottie.

   “He was not! Was he? Who says so?”

   “Warner Brothers says so, the outfit he works for. He was born there just before his first cartoon in 1940.”

   “He was born on the field, out in the open?”

   “That’s the way rabbits do it,” Bumpy said. “They build their nests out in the open, in plain sight, the last place anybody would expect, and that keeps them safe.”

   “So, they are right there but nobody can see them?”

   “That’s right, it’s like they’re invisible.”

   “But Bugs always pops up out of a hole.”

   “That’s just in the movies.”

   The stadium was named after Charlie Ebbets, who started out as a ticket taker for the team and grew up to become its owner. He laid the foundation for the new diamond by buying land in secret starting in 1905, more than a thousand small parcels of it, finally accumulating enough ground to build the ballpark eight years later. Fans bought tickets at gilded ticket windows, went into the marble rotunda through gilded turnstiles, and if they looked up saw a colossal chandelier with twelve baseball bats holding twelve baseball look-a-like lamps.

   Dottie flashed her Happy Felton pass at one of the turnstiles.

   “Who’s he?” the ticket taker, flanked by a policeman, asked, nodding at Bumpy.

   “That’s my Uncle Bumpy,” Dottie said.

   “Your uncle?”

   “I work for Duluc Detective, and the boss asked me to watch his kid while she was here, seeing as she was going to be alone.”

   “All right, just don’t let the TV camera see you. You aren’t any Jackie Robinson,” the policeman said.

   “Yes, boss,” Bumpy said.

   “That policeman sounded mean to you,” Dottie said as they walked towards the field.

   “A happy raisin in the sun is a field of dreams, honey, a field of dreams.”

   Happy Felton was happy to see them, especially since they were on time. He explained the skit, where Dottie would stand, where the camera and microphone would be. He showed her the certificate Pee Wee Reese would be handing her. “Hey, somebody roust Pee Wee, tell him we’re almost ready to go with the girl.” He told Dottie her time in the spotlight would last five minutes and to not be nervous.

   “I’m not nervous,” she said. “I can’t wait to meet him.”

   He was more not less what she thought he was going to be.

   “You’re not a pee wee,” she said.

   “Not me, kid,” he said.

   Harold Henry Reese was five foot ten in his bare feet and pushing nearly 170-pounds. He played small ball, bunting, slashing singles, and stealing bases but he wasn’t a small man. He played the hole, shortstop, was the team captain, and wore number one on the back of his uniform shirt. 

   “He took charge out there in a way to help all of us, especially the pitchers. When Pee Wee told us where to play or gave some of us the devil, somehow it was easy to take. He just had a way about him of saying the right thing,”said Jackie Robinson, the team’s second baseman.

   Pee Wee and Jackie were the aces in the hole, the men who plugged the gaps between the bags. Not many balls got by them. They played shoulder to shoulder turning double plays. They ignored the catcalls on the road. They made their stand ending innings.

   “I like your button, but I don’t know about that cap,” said Pee Wee.

   “My dad is from Cleveland.” 

   “Well, that makes it all right then. It seems to fit you A-OK.”

   “I took a hot bath in it and wore it until it dried. Then I curved the bill and stuck it in one of my dad’s coffee mugs overnight. The next morning, he was mad about it, and made me wash it out, but it had this nice shape.”

   Happy Felton introduced the baseball player and the stickball player to each other and to the TV audience.

   “Your name is Dottie?”


   “That’s my wife’s name. Not only that you look a lot like her.”

   Dottie beamed, happy as could be.

   “Would you sign my baseball card?”

   “I sure will.”

   When he did, he congratulated her on her ball skills, she said she was rooting heart and soul for the Dodgers, he presented her with an official Dodger’s Certificate of Achievement, she held it up for the camera, and he pulled a big marble out of his pants pocket, handing it to her.

   “I played marbles when I was your age. This one is a shooter. The smaller ones we called ducks. You’ve heard about playing for keeps.”

   “That’s what my dad always says to do.”

   “That’s what you always do playing marbles, and baseball, and everything else. This one is yours to keep. You never know when it might come in handy.”

   Her five minutes were over in the blink of an eye. Pee Wee Reese cruised, Happy Felton eased her to the side, and Bumpy waved for her to come with him. As they walked down the right field foul line Dottie looked toward the opposite dugout.

   “Look, there’s dad,” Dottie said suddenly, pointing past Bumpy who was on the inside track. Stan and Ezra were in front of the third base home team dugout talking to a short thickset man smoking a short thick cigar. The man pointed down the left field line. Another man, who had been leaning over the dugout, waved and shouted something, and the cigar waggled him onto the field. The man stepped on the roof of the dugout and jumped down to the field. Stan Ezra Cigar and the jumper huddled, and then went jogging up the foul line.

   “You stay here,” Bumpy said, starting to go around home plate. Dottie hesitated, but then ran straight across the field, cutting the corner in front of the pitcher’s mound.

   “Oh hell, “Bumpy swore, and broke into a sprint.