Books are the gateway to imagination

Books are the gateway to imagination
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Saturday, July 7, 2012

What's a girl to do when she's taken for a Mafia member's daughter?

There are several true stories in The MAFIA FUNERAL and Other Short Stories, and the lead story is one of them. 

It is what's called "creative non-fiction." That means it's mostly true with a few embellishments to add to the story.

The yellow car on the cover represents the yellow Pontiac convertible we had at the time. It was sandwiched in between 40 black limousines in a funeral procession that traveled the freeway from downtown Los Angeles to the cemetery in Tustin. You can bet heads were turning all along the way!

The names have been changed, but I was the model for Susan. You might say, "You, a blonde, taken for a Mafia member's daughter?" Well, I'm blonde now, but back then my hair was  natural jet black. So, without further ado, here is the excerpt from this short story. Many of the other stories in this book won awards.

EXCERPT FROM The MAFIA FUNERAL and Other Short Stories:
Susan was about to say something, when a tough looking guy, who appeared to be in his mid-fifties, wearing a broad smile and a beautifully tailored suit, lumbered over to them waggling his finger in her face.

“Hey, baby, ain’t you Joey Ventura’s daughter?”

She looked around, trying to figure out who he was talking to. He drew closer and tapped his finger on her shoulder. “You. It’s you I’m talkin’ to. It’s me. Uncle Johnnie. Don’t tell me you don’t recognize me.”

 “I’m afraid you’ve mistaken me for someone else. My daddy’s name isn’t Joey—what did you say?—Ventura? My dad is Mannie Goodman. He’s a pediatrician in Manhattan. Sorry.”
The man scowled. “Aw, baby, don’t be like that. Of course you’re Joey’s daughter. I’d recognize you anywhere. Those shiny black curls. Why I used to bounce you on my knee when you was a little girl.” He snickered. “Mannie Goodman! You coulda come up with something better than that.”

They bantered back and forth until Uncle Johnnie conceded that he was, indeed, mistaken. Slapping his head, he said, “Of course,” he pointed to Jerry, “this here Yid pallbearer is your husband. Shoulda noticed that.” He turned to Jerry. “Bad thing that priest said. You seem like good people. Can we talk?”

Not waiting for an answer, he reached into his pocket and pulled out what appeared to be a whole album of photos. “I wanna show you my family. He pointed out three sons, who appeared to be no more than a year apart and a beautiful blonde couldn’t have been more than eighteen or nineteen. After reeling off the boys’ names with pride, he tapped the photo of the pretty girl.

“This, here’s a wedding picture of my sixth wife, Rena. She’s a smart one. Usually I trade ‘em in for a younger model when they hit twenty-two or twenty-three. Rena, she knew all about that, so she had the boys right away to make sure I kept her around. Gotta love that kind of moxie.”

The guy was likeable in a strange kind of way, but the next day Jerry remembered why he looked familiar. He was Johnnie Mancini. A few years back he’d been accused of masterminding the murder of a few people in San Francisco, but got off, thanks to his slick attorney. The case had made the TV news and the L.A. papers. When the trial was over, the prosecutor penned a book about it, Getting Away With Murder. Susan later told Jerry that at the moment he told her who Uncle Johnnie really was, she felt droplets of cold sweat inch down her spine.

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