Thursday, August 29, 2013

Family Calls

He could not understand how a city he’d been gone from for five times as long as he’d ever lived there could call to him so, but call it did. The garish, omnipresent lights flashed and flickered. The sounds of a thousand thousand car horns assaulted his ears. The rain-slick greasy smell of the pavement wafted up to him mingled with the vehicle exhaust, the exotic scents of half a hundred different cuisines and the less-appealing odors of those things to be found discarded in any city of such a size. The enormity…the unpredictability…the unfamiliarity of it all suffused his every sense and fired every cell of him with a curious unknown energy.

He fidgeted nervously as the taxi driver wended his way through the cacophony of Midtown with practiced skill. Beside him, his cousin Lorenzo, no..Enzo he’d insisted, clutched his shoulder in a warm embrace. “So, cousin, is it all you remember? All you expected?”

Andy had no idea how to respond. To find that he was not, as he’d always thought, Andrew Napler but, in point of fact, Angelo Di Napoli was a blow from which he was still reeling. His mother had never spoken of his family other than to tell him they were long gone. He had been raised the fatherless son of a diner waitress and had never expected things could be any different. That had all changed mere months before when his mother first told him of the tumors they had found within her….tumors from which there could be no reprieve.

Over the very short time left to them, she explained to Andy…Angelo…the truth of his heritage. She was, she told him with a grimacing smile, what the movies would have called a Mafia Princess. As the only daughter of the “infamous” DiNapoli Family, she wanted no part of it. She had not run, but walked away from them all and never looked back. But as far away as she had believed herself to be…she owed one last obligation to her family.

With trembling hands she gave him a velvet box containing the most glorious ring his eyes had ever beheld. In a labored voice, she implored him to go to New York…to her…no their…family and return the ring. It was a family heirloom she would not…could not take to her grave. Two days later, she was gone and so many unanswered questions remained.

Now, he sat in a cab with a man who was blood to him and yet entirely unknown with the ring box seemingly burning a hole in the cheap cloth of his coat. Enzo had met him at JFK and whisked him through the bustle of it effortlessly. They were, he’d been told, en route to a “small welcoming soiree” in the city. Enzo assured him there would only be family and select friends in attendance. They all understood Angelo’s discomfort and so wanted him to have an opportunity to meet the younger generation of the clan before facing, what he called, the stodgy set. Andy could scarcely argue against it. But as the cab veered to the curb and they left its confines, he reconsidered the point.

Even from the streets the raucous music blared and the sights, sounds and…smells of the city were multiplied a thousand fold. As if sensing indecision, Enzo took his elbow in a forceful grip and they waded into the fray. Andy’s eyes goggled as he took in the sight of over a hundred…no…more people dancing. A glass of very sweet red wine was thrust into his hand before Enzo made a sketchy introduction to Marcello, another cousin. Before Andy could speak, Enzo launched himself onto the stage and became, not just a participant, but an instigator to the infectious merriment about them.

Andy sat numbed as the music washed over him…primal, earthy and the legacy of more cultures than he could imagine. Enzo gestured, Andy found himself stumbling onto the stage and unsure what had overcome him, he joined in it all. Shouting exuberance to the night, he realized while this was not the home he’d dreamed of as a lonely young boy, perhaps it was the life he was born to lead. 

This story was written for the weekly Mid-Week Blues-Buster flash fiction challenge and is loosely based on the prompt song: Tu Vuo' Fa L'Americano

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