That's a promise I broke a time or two, thinks Chuck as he gives a sympathetic shiver some 36 years after he jumped into the frozen river.
"Gio and his trucks," says Gianni as he prepares for the short, cold walk from the car to the airport terminal. "Yeah, he made out alright."
Gianni and Chuck shake hands and Gianni gets out. Before he shuts the door, he leans in and says, "C'mon west, and bring Mavis with you."
"You got legit work for her too, right?" asks Chuck.
"Sure," says Gianni. "I'll get her set up in a pierogi shop. You can man the register."
Chuck replies, "I promise to come out west if you promise not to come back here until I'm not a cop."
"That can be arranged," says Gianni.
"Which," asks Chuck, "the not-come-back-here part or the not-a-cop part?"
Gianni slams the car door and hurries into the airport terminal.
Didn't even leave me a pierogi, thinks Chuck as he speeds away from the airport. Then he thinks about the uncle his father never mentioned. At least the old man never said anything to Chuck about an Uncle Joe in San Francisco getting all tangled up with Gianni's grandmother Mary.
Monday morning, Chuck joins Lonny-Donny and Ruanda at the breakfast table. His two youngest regard their father pensively between spoonfuls. "I saw Mr. Albanni yesterday," Chuck tells Lonny-Donny. His son's expression doesn't change. "He was on his way to Florida for a vacation."
Lonny-Donny chews and spoons and chews methodically. Ruanda maintains a blank stare. "Are you still worried about him?" Chuck asks his son.
Lonny-Donny shrugs. "Too late. Car's gone." The two youngest get up from the table.
"What car?" asks Chuck.
"Too late," Lonny-Donny repeats.
Chuck tries again. "Lonny-Donny, what car is gone?"
Chuck's son gazes out the kitchen window. "Grandpa said I didn't have to look," he says.
"Look at what?" Chuck asks.
"The bad stuff I see."
"The bad stuff you see where?"
Lonny-Donny looks his father in the eye. "In my head. Most of it's good stuff, like Grandpa's stories," Lonny-Donny adds.
"Did Grandpa tell you stories about his Uncle Joe?" Lonny-Donny nods.
"Why didn't you tell me about Grandpa's stories?" Chuck asks.
"He said don't tell you unless you ask," his son replies. "Or mom," he adds.
Chuck motions Lonny-Donny back to his chair at the kitchen table. "I'm asking now. What did your grandpa tell you about his uncle out west?"
"Not just out west," Lonny-Donny says as he walks slowly back to his chair. "I like the farms. Up north." Lonny-Donny sits. "Mary Bartoli."
Chuck folds his hands on the tabletop. "Up north, out west -- I just want to know what your grandpa told you about his Uncle Joe," he says.
Lonny-Donny sits up in his chair. He begins: "Grandpa didn't think he would ever see his uncle again after they took him away on the boat."
"They took your grandpa away on a boat?" Chuck asks his son.
"They took Uncle Joe away," Lonny-Donny answers. "For a long time," he adds.
"Grandpa went on a boat too," Lonny-Donny continues, "but he liked the train better."
"One boat at a time," says Chuck. Lonny-Donny frowns.
Lonny-Donny remembers when his grandpa showed him his stories. But now he can't find the words that go along with the pictures in his head.
"Can I just show you Grandpa's stories the way Grandpa showed me?", Lonny-Donny asks his father. I was afraid of that, thinks Chuck. He nods.
Chuck seems to concentrate. "Nothing's coming through, son."
Lonny-Donny frowns. "That's not how it works," he says. "Think about Grandpa."
Chuck sighs. He sees his father disappointed, embarrassed, ashamed, frustrated, angry, and saddened. All because of his no-good son Chuck. The past is a place I don't belong, thinks Chuck. Family was always something to escape. Not that anybody ever objected. Why change now? Why care about a father who never showed him a single kindness?
"He didn't know," Lonny-Donny tells his father. "He missed Grandma a lot."
Like that, Chuck sees it: the moment Alphonsus Januarius (Deuce) Laffingstock first looked into the eyes of Margaret Mary (Mae) Hanrahan. Chuck recognizes the tall man in the bowler hat as his father right away. Though years younger than he'd ever seen him, it had to be Deuce.
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