Love, Alcohol, and the Mafia

November 6, 2011
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It was a cold winter’s day in the Windy city and I could smell the exhaust fumes from a Buick, the freshly baked breads from Little Italy on Taylor Street, and the smoke from men’s cigars. Chicago was alive that day as I walked down Taylor Street to buy some sweet bread for my family. It was 1930 and the prohibition loomed over everyone like the grey clouds that always covered the city. Making alcohol is illegal by law but people still made it anyway, my neighbors had a distillery behind their refrigerator and my family had one in our bathroom. It was a quick way to make money especially during this crummy depression and people knew what to do bring a bottle and a nickel to our bathroom window and we will do the rest. Well, now back to where I am. I was buying some sweet bread from this Italian bakery and as I was leaving the store a man bumped into to me. Now, this is Chicago and if someone bumps into to you, you make that other guy know. “Hey watch it, pal!” I yelled and the guy said to me in a very Chicago Italian accent “hey lady I was gonna say I’m sorry but with that attitude I might not do that.” I muttered under my breath and continue on my way but the man stopped me. “Hey, you dropped your bag!” I was so embarrassed because I did drop my bag and I was so mad that I forgot about it. “Thank you, sir.” I said very quietly and the man gave me a grin “heh, not so rude now are ya?” and I was about to say bug off when he cut me off “you’re really pretty, what’s your name?” “Florence Jankowski” I said. He looked at me for a moment before he spoke “you’re a Pollack, eh?” “So.” The man laughed for awhile before speaking “nothing just I never figure a Pollack would actually be pretty or smart if you know what I mean.” Of course I knew what he meant, the Polish were always consider the ugly stupid people. “Well, since you know my name it’s only fair you told me yours.” I told him and he said “the name’s Ted Bruni.” He looked at me with a lopsided grin. After that we walked in the city for a few hours and we both discuss our lives and family. I never told him what my family did on the side and whenever I asked what his family did, he would always change the topic. Soon, it was time for me to go home and Ted offer to walk me home and I accepted because nobody wants to walk by themselves at night in Chicago. As we reached my apartment, Ted took me by the hand and gave me a kiss on the cheek and asked if I could see him tomorrow in front of the bakery. Of course I said yes but little did I know that there was more to Ted then I actually knew.

Over the next few months Ted and I got to know each other more and more but still I have never met his family. So during dinner one night I decided to ask if I could meet his family, Ted gave me a long serious look as if he was thinking if he should finally talk about his family. After what seemed like a century Ted finally spoke “Florence, you I love ya and I would be more than happy to introduce you to my family but my family ain’t exactly straight as an arrow.” I told Ted that my family also isn’t as straight as an arrow either. Ted asked what exactly have they done to make them be on the wrong side of the law, I told him how my grandmother Clara came to America illegally and how she taught us how to bootleg our alcohol when the prohibition started. After I was finish speaking, Ted laced his fingers together and went deep into thought about whether or not I should meet his family. After several minutes Ted gave me his answer “ok babe I’ll take you to see my family this Friday.” The entire week I spent on deciding what I should wear to meet Ted’s family because I wanted to make a good impression on them. After many hours of trying on outfits, I picked a simple black dress and added a red belt to it so it didn’t look like I was attending a funeral. Finally Friday had finally come and to be honest I thought I was going to be ill. I waited by the front door for Ted to pick me up and take me to his family. At 4 o’ clock Ted came to the door and away we went.

It was almost 6 six o’ clock by the time we reached the house, right when I saw the house I knew Ted was rich. Well he wasn’t living in a mansion but if you can live in a house in Chicago it meant you had some money. We went up the steps and the boards creaked under feet and Ted knocked on the door and a few moments later a young man answered the door. “Uncle Ted! Great to see ya!” the man exclaimed and gave Ted a giant bear hug. I notice that there was something in his pocket but I decided to ignore it. Ted put his arm around me and introduces the man to me, “Florence, this is my nephew, Giulio Bruni. Giulio, this is my girl, Florence.” I told Giulio that it was nice to meet him. Ted turned to me and said very proudly “I bet you won’t believe that he is a doctor because he’s so young but he is most definitely a genius.” I was shocked to hear that Giulio was a doctor because he couldn’t have been older than twenty seven and I decided to ask who his patients were. Giulio said he only had one patient but that patient always paid well enough that he didn’t need to work on other patients. Curious I asked who the patient was but Giulio gave me a look as if I couldn’t be trusted but Ted put a hand on Giulio’s shoulder and said that he could tell me. Giulio still wasn’t sure but I guess he had complete trust in Ted because he told me “Tony Accardo.” I was completely stunned because I knew exactly who Tony Accardo was, although on the streets he went by Joe Batters because he killed two Outfit traitors for Al Capone. Accardo is a new gang leader on the streets of Chicago and I just met his doctor who happens to be my boyfriend’s nephew. I knew that it is probably not a good idea to stick around people who are in the mafia but I was already a criminal so I decided to accept the fact my boyfriend is a gangster.

A few weeks passed about the shocking discovery I made about Ted’s family and still felt very awkward around him because I have to admit I was a little afraid of Ted now. I mean if I ever made him angry he could simple have somebody make me disappear without a trace. I told decided not to tell my family about this because I did not want them to get hurt and also I was still in love with Ted and I didn’t want to leave him.

Another few weeks passed by and I started getting more relax about the whole mafia thing. One night, Ted invited me to dinner at Alice Baum’s Dining Room, which is a pretty nice restaurant. While we were eating steak, Ted got up and walked over to me and went down on one knee. Before he even pulled out the ring I knew exactly what he was doing and Ted asked “Florence, will you marry?” Right when Ted proposed, I knew what my answer was going to be. I was now going to be part of the mafia and so will my family.

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