Man, it was about 35 years ago. I'm 17 and hanging out in a place called Country Club in the Bronx. Up pulls a car I recognize as my friend Marco's car. He pulls up to me drivers side, rolls down the window and says to me "Rocco, do you have an uncle named Gino?" I can't speak, I'm paralyzed because I know whatever he was about to tell me was not going to be good. I nod yes and he tells me "He just beat the shit out of Tommy Jojo's son over at the gym".
I know Benny, Tommy Jojo's son mostly by seeing him around. A real scumbag. And I knew of Tommy Jojo. He was a made guy in forget which Family of the 5. I met him once or twice while hanging with my uncle. He was a bad son of a bitch, a firecracker with a one inch fuse. And being a made guy, especially with his reputation, I mean he could come and piss on your head and you'd better laugh! He was as feared and respected a wiseguy you could be unlucky to cross paths with.
I mean my uncle Gino wasn't suicidal. He was my mother's brother and both had an uncle (my great uncle Angelo) who was a capo regime in another Family. But he wasn't stupid either. Kicking the shit out of a made guy's kid was a big deal.
Next to my father, there was no man I loved more than my Uncle Gino. He was only about 10 years older than me. He was about 5'7", he was about 80 pounds overweigth since I could remember. But he had blond, straigth hair that he was always combing back from his eyes, he had sky blue eyes that I could swear sparkled at times. His face was handsome, most times and when he laughed you couldn't help but laugh. Those 80 extra pounds meant nothing. Women went crazy over him. Everywhere we went women were drawn to him like the tide to the Moon. He had no fear, he feared nothing. I saw him punch a guy one time, this big son of a bitch and it reminded me of Mongo knocking out the horse in Mel Brook's "Blazing Saddles"What made him different from other guys that feared nothing, he was also smart. And let me tell you there's a big difference. That''s why I was surprised he would beat the shit out of Jojo's son. I mean his uncle (my great uncle) was a capo there are rules and sometimes it doesn't always go the way you think.
Apparently it started in such a stupid way. Bunch of guys, including my uncle and Benny were hanging out at a gym (don't worry, the only exercise my uncle took to was push ups and then only if a woman was under him) when somebody started fucking around with a can of shaving cream. My uncle grabbed it and went to spray it on someone when a drip hit Benny who prided himself on being a natty dresser.
"Hey Gino! What the fuck? You shaving cream on my jacket!"
Seeing that this asshole was really serious, my uncle apologized
"Hey Benny, sorry about that. You know we were fucking around"
Benny grabs a tissue from the box next to him, wipes off the drop of shaving cream on his sleeve and tosses it at my uncle. Then he turns around and walks out.
OK. Shit's over nothing to get worked up about especially regarding ALL the participants. 3 or 4 guys left, they're hanging out bullshitting. One goes downstairs to grab a pack of cigarettes from his car. He comes back up and tells my uncle "That asshole is downstairs waiting for you". My uncle is in a bad spot. If he doesn't go down he looks bad but if he goes down something real bad might happen. My uncle gets up. His friend says "Gino, where are you going?" sounding more a warning than a question. "I'm just gonna get something in my car" he answers. Nobody believed that bullshit but they weren't gonna try and stop him.
I saw my uncle the next day. He saw the look on my face and said "Good news travels fast?" And he starts laughing and tells me the rest of the story. He walks out the door and who's standing there? Benny in all his stupid glory.
"Gino, you got that fucking shit on me. You gotta be more fucking careful"
My uncle responds "Hey, I apologized, it was an accident".
"Well be more fucking careful next time!" he comes right up to my uncle's face. Bad move. My uncle hit him with a right hand. It was like he got hit with a sledgehammer. He didn't go straight down but staggered into the middle of the street and was out cold. Right away he knew this was a problem. Sit down shit. He walked into the street, picked up Benny and put him on the sidewalk. Looking up he saw all the guys looking through the window as if aliens just landed outside. My uncle turned around, took out his keys , got in his car and left.
"Listen, I've always tried to teach you to be smart. But you don't fucking back down from anyone especially a prick like that who thinks he was born with a Button" (born a made guy).
"Did you hear anything yet?" I ask him
"Yeah. Jojo called uncle Angelo and told him I had no respect. That I hit his son from behind (I knew that was a crock of shit. I witnessed enough times my uncle rocked someone to sleep and, because they pissed him off that much he wanted them to see exactly where it was coming from) that I broke his jaw (lol, that was true) and that I spit on him, all this bullshit. Jojo was fucking fuming and wants a sit tomorrow across the street from 707 (my family, my grandmother and aunt all lived at 707 E 187st)"at 4 o'clock.
So what was there to do? We went out. We hit a few clubs, went to our cousin Richie's after hours. He dropped me off about 6am and told me to meet him at Aunt Angie's at 3 o'clock at 707. "Ok. See you later"
I wake up about 1 o'clock. My great Aunt Angie makes me a late breakfast and I sit by the window and wait, my mind going light speed. Sure enough 3pm my uncle rings the bell. We let him in. He comes in and right away motions me toward the bedroom facing the street. He closes the door and I look and he has a gun in his hand. He tells me "Rocco. Once I go in there if I'm not the first one out, blast the fuck out of anyone who walks out!" Then he turns around and leaves.
Now I will tell you, I loved my uncle with all my heart but there was no fucking way I was gonna start blasting away at anyone especially a guy like Jojo. Might as well put the fucking thing in my mouth and get things over with at once instead off being put through The Inquisition and then killed. Fuck that.
So I sit by the window, the gun hanging limply in my hand. And I see Uncle Angelo walk in the cafe across the street, close behind walked my uncle Gino. About five minutes later a car pulls up and out pops Jojo from the passenger seat. Much more slowly and gingerly Benny gets out the back. I feel like I'm going to vomit, shit and pass out all at the same time. I had asked my uncle how long did he think he'll be in there. "Well if I do make it out, who knows hour, hour and a half". So there I sat expecting to go through the longest hour of my life. They weren't there 15 minutes before I see Uncle Angelo walk out the door. "Oh my fucking God!" I gasp! I drop the gun and kick it under the bed. Incredibly a second later my beloved Uncle Gino walks out shakes hands with Uncle Ang and walks across the street. Jojo and Benny walk out a few seconds later, get in their car and leave. I was so excited I ran down and met him on the first floor. I jumped up and hugged him (which I knew made him a bit uncomfortable but I didn't give a shit. I was the happiest motherfucker in the World"). He gently pushes me back, tells me to be quiet and come back upstairs. We're back in the bedroom.
I'm practically jumping up and down. "what happened? I thought you were going to be in there for an hour or more!". He starts to laugh. "Well we all sit down and right away Jojo starts his shit, I have no respect, I hit the kid from behind, all this bullshit. Uncle Ang looks at me. Gino, what happened here? So I started to tell him the story about getting a little shaving cream on Benny's shirt and... that was it. Uncle Ang starts yelling "SHAVING CREAM! THAT'S WHY I'M HERE BECAUSE HE GOT SOME SHAVING CREAM ON HIS JACKET!? WHAT DO I LOOK LIKE A FUCKING KINDERGARTEN TEACHER? GET THE FUCK OUT OF HERE ALL OF YOU!" and we both starting laughing so hard that I did just about piss in my pants.
"Oh, fuck" laughs my uncle, "fucking incredible". Then he says "Hey Rock where's that gun I gave you?" I stop laughing and feel the skin on my face burning with shame. I don't move. Again, "Roc come on give me the gun back". So ashamed was I at that moment I wanted to cry. I knelled down, looked under the bed, found the gun and for a moment thought of putting it to my own head.
I give it to my uncle. I couldn't even look up at him. "Why was it under the bed? Don't you remember what I told you!?". I hang my head and start to cry hysterically in shame. I couldn't say a word. "Didn't you even check the chambers????" he yells. Now I'm crying "I'm sorry! I'm sorry!". I wanted the world to swallow me whole right at that moment. "You didn't check the chambers?" he says again but this time with that fucking prankster laugh he let out whenever he got something over on someone. I looked up and in his hand was the gun. This big 38. caliber. The fucking thing was empty, unloaded". Laughing he says " You think I was going to have my nephew blast away at a bunch of people over a little shaving cream?". Shaking my head back and forth relieved like I died and was brought back to life "Motherfucker" I mutter under my breath. All of as sudden his voice got stern. "What did you just say???" I look up "nothing Uncle Gino. nothing at all, I swear" "Come on", he grabs me around the shoulder, "let's go over to Richie's place" And away we went.