Romeo had just laid down for an afternoon nap when the dogs went nuts out front. Geo Caletti had called that morning. It had to be him and the kid. Romeo was almost giddy with anticipation for company. He got up, smoothed down the back of his hair and headed out front.
The dogs had the car surrounded, barking and growling like mad. Romeo recognized Geo at the wheel and they both smiled and waved. Geo cracked the window and shouted out, "Hey, you didn't have to sic the dogs on me, I'm a friend a yours, remember?"
Romeo grinned. He gave an earsplitting two-fingered whistle. The dogs ran behind him and sat down, thumping their tails. He glanced in through the dusty, bug-spattered windows at the kid sitting in the passenger seat, smiled at him too and waved, "Come on out, kid, I won't let 'em bite you." The kid scowled at him.
Romeo tried to get a better look, but before he saw more than a dark mess of hair and resentful eyes, Geo got out of the car and squeezed him in a violent bear hug. Geo was a big fella. "Here's the pretty boy livin' it up out at the luxury resort!" he boomed in Romeo's face.
As soon as Geo released him, Romeo burst into laughter. "Oh yeah, you got that right," he waved a hand expansively at the modest motel behind him. He clapped Geo on the back. "Good to see you Geo, how's the city?"
"I never knew how good until now, brother, I'll tell you that much. The people we've seen and the places we've been on the way out here." He shook his head and made a throwing gesture. "Affanculo," he said with disgust.
The car door slammed. The kid walked around the front of the car, glanced at the motel with a dismissive expression and glared at Romeo. He was 16, but looked younger, skinny, with gangly limbs. His face was a combination of Italian features that added up to all of the drama and none of the beauty. He crossed his arms and stuck his hip out. The stance was pure teenage petulance.
Geo grinned. "Romeo, let me introduce you to your new apprentice, this is –"
The kid cut him off, "I can introduce myself, my name is Salvatore Allamonte, I go by Slappy."
"Slappy, huh? That's not the greatest AKA, kid," Romeo said with a small chuckle.
"Oh? That's your opinion," he said coldly. "Could be I oughta go by somethin' real dignified, like... Romeo," he sneered.
Romeo glanced at Geo, who stood with his arms crossed, nodding with an odd little smirk on his face.
"Lemme just learn you somethin' straight here," Slappy said, pointing a finger at Romeo. "I'm not impressed by a guy with some pansy name who got sent out west to change bedsheets. If you think you intimidate me, you got another thought comin' and I'm just the guy to give it to you."
Romeo's mouth hung open as he turned to Geo, who was laughing and shaking his head, muttering, "Pansy name, oh, that's good."
Slappy was apparently just getting warmed up, however, as he began pacing back and forth in front of Romeo. "I'm not here to be your Sambo, see, I'm strictly a button man." He thumped his scrawny chest. "You got some palooka you need rubbed out, I'm the eraser. Otherwise, I don't shine shoes. See?"
Romeo blinked several times and turned to Geo. “Is he always like this? He talk like this all the time, or is this just for me?”
Geo shook his head. “From the moment we closed the car doors and started to roll.” He put a hand on Romeo’s shoulder and looked into his eyes. “If I hadn’t a picked him up from the Boss’ own home, I’d a had to pop his sack before we crossed the fuckin’ Catskills. You have my sympathy, brother.” Then he burst into laughter again.
The boy still paced a few feet away eyeing them both with a slit-eyed glare. “You got something to say about me, pug? Why don’t you say it to my face? Huh? You think I can’t hear?” He cupped his large, prominent ears, “I got ears right here, see? G'head, let’s hear you say it to my face.”
Romeo and Geo stared at him, looked at each other and laughed again.
“Pug?” Romeo pointed at Geo, who shrugged. “I don’t know, he just pulls it out of his ass.”
Romeo shook his head and twirled his finger next to his ear. "The Boss said he was a special kid, I didn't realize he meant crazy..."
Slappy pulled a knife out of his pocket with surprising speed and waved it with practiced menace. “I’ll cut you for that…” he seethed.
“Whoa.” Romeo looked at Geo, eyebrows raised.
“Yeah, here we go with the fuckin’ knife…” Geo said, shaking his head.
Romeo stepped over quick as Slappy made a show of slashing at the air with his knife and dropped the kid’s knee. The knife clattered to the ground as Slappy crumpled, clamping his knee with both hands and howling.
“Did you take it away from him?” Romeo asked as he picked up the knife.
“Yeah, of course I did. Little shit.” Geo spat on the ground beside Slappy.
Romeo examined the knife, it was a beautiful weapon in good condition. “How’d he get it back?”
“Ah, it’s the fuckin’ whining I can’t take. You know?”
Romeo sighed, closed the knife up and put it in his pocket. “Come on, lets get you a beer and a room. A nice cool shower'll make you feel like a new man.”
Slappy rocked back and forth on the ground, groaning and holding his throbbing knee as they walked away, "You fuckin' crippled me you bastard, you're gonna pay, you're dead, you hear me?"
His eyes were squeezed shut from the pain, but flew open when he felt hot air blowing in his face from three different directions. The dogs all stood over him looking down into his face curiously. He let out a small yelp as they began to lick his face enthusiastically.