April 19 • 03:03 PM

Too bad Mario Puzo's not around...

July 04, 2007
Well, it's official. I really am stuck in the pages of a Mario Puzo book. I'm the 'Capo,' running a racket. And it's all going on right under the boss's nose.

Rita, print shop manager, rounds the corner—her eyes darting about. Randy's talking to Tom Campbell up front and Rita doesn't want him to know what we're up to. She gives me the silent signal to keep going toward the coffee room where we'll make our deal.

"I owe you," she says furtively. "It's Jess's fault. She just grabbed what she saw because she knows I'm on that stuff all the time. I'll pay you back. Really."

Rita's bummed out. Truly messed up. Like she's afraid I'll have to send someone out to 'persuade' her to make good. Lucky for her, Ms. Catherine "The Deadliner" Minolli's in a good mood today. And it was the kid that got her into the trouble with me in the first place—so I'm thinkin' I'll let Rita "The Ink Spot" Freidinger off the hook.

After all, the kid had a need so she went for it. She was thirsty, plain and simple. So when she was visiting Ink Spot after school, Jess went into the coffee room and opened the fridge and grabbed a bottle from my stash. See, she thought it was her mom's. She had no idea she was five-fingering my goods.

Rita explains all this nervously on the QT. Neither one of us want the boss—Randy "The Bruiser" Jorgensen—to find out.

Especially since I'm the one who got her hooked in the first place. It happened innocently enough, believe me. My last name may end in a vowel but this water racket is pretty new to me. After all, when I was a kid the folks told me the Mafia was the 'Mothers and Fathers Italian Association.' And since my dad was the type who'd say "When I want your opinion I'll give it to you," I tended to believe it.

So now, here I am, head of my own "family." It all started when Rita invited Suz "The Whiz" and me over for some libations and conversation after work. We always have a great time at Rita's really cool old house near downtown Imlay City. Rita's one of those types that makes furniture, tiles her own kitchen, paints murals, makes crafts and knows no project that she can't get around. She's a Renaissance Woman. A Handyman. A lot of fun and a really nice person. Even if she is now tangled up in "This Thing of Ours."

When the three of us get together to chew the fat, we really get going. Time flies and so do the beverages, if you know what I mean.

So, semi-responsible person that I am—not to mention flavored-water-freak—I brought along some berry flavored water to go with the other liquids we were going to ingest. Enough, I thought, to get me through the night. And of course, I was right. After a couple of bottles of it, the flavored water sort of took a back seat to the other choices on the table. When it was time to go, I left a bottle in Rita's fridge. Big deal, right?

Not exactly. I should have known, though, since my own addiction to the stuff began at the Marathon gas station in Imlay City. That first sip just had me longing for more. Before I knew it, I had a six pack a day habit and a bankbook to prove it.

And now I've managed to hook Rita, too. The next day at the office there's a bottle of berry flavored water on her work table in the print shop. I give her a knowing glance and say "Rita, is that yours?" And she says, "Yeah, Cath. That stuff's good. I didn't realize it until I thought I'd give the bottle you left at my house a try. I figured you wouldn't mind. And I was surprised. It's really good."

Rita goes on to explain that she previously didn't drink much water and now found herself craving the stuff.

Pretty soon the fridge at work is bursting with bottles of 'Aquifina Mixed Berry,' 'Fruit 2 O Lemon,' 'Nestle Pure Life Lemon Splash' and what have you.

So needless to say when Jess visited she thought she was going for her mom's and she ended up drinking mine. And since Rita's habit is in full swing just like mine, she knew I'd be jonesing when I went to the fridge and came up empty. And that just might make me want to fit her for a cement overcoat if she didn't come clean right away. And of course, I let her off the hook.

It's strictly business, you see. The other day Tom "Tommy Boy" Wearing was thirsty and asked if I'd "loan" him a bottle of water. Flavored stuff. Today on his desk sits a Nestle Pure Life Lemon, and he says "This is good. It's like lemonade."

Ahhh, another soldier. Just hope we don't get pinched. The Bruiser wouldn't be too pleased about that.

For now, maybe I'll just "request" that Ink Spot and Tommy Boy to refer to me as 'the Don.' And keep plenty of water in the fridge.

Email Catherine at

Castle Creek
04 - 19 - 19
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