By Bruce Mastracchio
Crown Shellfish was a mile from the boatyard but the trip was worth it. After sorting out the “bigs” from the “necks” and figuring it all up, we had totaled 19 dollars and 55 cents.
Bats, Deac and I split it three ways. We took $5.85 each and gave BJ $2 and then we headed to Tank Rizzo’s Variety Store to get some pizza strips, soda and candy. It had been a good morning.
Tank Rizzo was a town legend. A local high school football hero during the ‘20s, he had been a semi-pro star and even had a fling in the pros with the 1928 NFL champion Providence Steamrollers. Tank loved to gamble and had taken over the family grocery store. He used it as a legitimate business while acting as the Sunnybrook Farms of his day and taking bets and numbers under the counter. I had earned some extra cash picking up “policy slips” around town, and, once again, learned that no one is who he seems, and the Sunday Smilers and the Town Fathers all have their little vices, while preaching to the rest of us how we should behave.
Though the store did not have a basement, one had been hollowed out beneath the backroom. It was filled with card tables, slot machines and craps tables.
Some of the town’s leading citizens had managed to find their way to this little Las Vegas, and, it was our guess as kids, that the officials more or less winked at this kind of goings on.
At any rate, Tank Rizzo was liked by everybody, especially the kids below the hill. You could take a penny candy from his glass case without paying and without him getting mad. He was always ready to talk sports.
His place was the hangout for most all the kids in the area and he allowed us to use his backroom to play pitch, hearts, poker and other assorted card games and games of chance.
Tank was a great guy. So after a hard day of hustling to make money in our diverse arenas, be it quahaugging or at the Poconomut Country Club, we usually found our way to Tank’s store.
In fact, most likely, not one day of those years went by that we did not find some reason to go there. Besides picking up and delivering, I also stacked goods so was there constantly.
“KINGSTON STATION!” bellowed the conductor, breaking into my daydreams and private thoughts. Only another half hour or so and I would be back in good, old Greenwood Cove, the town of my youth and my memories.
Of course, some of that good feeling would be numbed by my reason for going there now. I was to be a pallbearer at a funeral.
The Funeral of Eddie Batterman!
Author’s Note: There you have it, ladies & gentlemen – as far as I ever got on my Great American Novel. I am sure it would have been a bestseller. But, we’ll never know now. Will we? Until next time. Be Real Careful Out There and treat others WML & ITS.
Bruce Mastracchio grew up in East Greenwich, where he experienced those 28-hour days and 8-day weeks, which contained the magic that made his hometown so special. Included in all that were the numerous characters that added color to the local life and produced many of Bruce’s remarkable stories.
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