The Wisdom of Vito Brunelli

By Steve Siciliano

In exchange for the six hours he spent raking leaves at the Dominican convent Vito Brunelli got a ham sandwich, a twenty dollar bill and a holy card with Raphael’s crucifixion on the front and the Serenity Prayer on the back. He stuck the bill in his pants pocket, the holy card in his shirt pocket and tossed the half-eaten sandwich to a dog that was licking a Slim Jim wrapper on the sidewalk in front of C’s Convenience Store. He leaned on the five iron that he used for a cane and rubbed his aching right knee before going into the store for a package of Bugler cigarette tobacco and two fifths of Wild Irish Rose.

Two hours later he stumbled into a clearing next to a stretch of abandoned railroad tracks where three men were huddled around a camp fire passing a bottle. He sat at the base of a small tree, took a long, final swig of wine, tossed the empty bottle in a high arc towards the tracks, then took the pouch of tobacco out of his shirt pocket and began rolling a cigarette. “Hello you lousy, drunken bums,” he said.

“This here’s a private party,” said a man who was sitting on a ripped lawn chair and poking at the fire with a stick. “Ain’t no cheap ass wops allowed. Ain’t that right, Lennie?”

Lennie was standing next to the fire warming his hands. “He can stay if he got more wine. You got more wine there, Vito?”

“If I did I wouldn’t share it with you bums.”

“Look who’s calling us bums,” said another man sitting on a five-gallon bucket and looking at a Hustler.

“I think there ain’t nothing worse than a cheap ass wop,” the first man said. “I ever tell you guys about them cheap ass wop tires?”

“Shut up with that damn joke already, Dugan,” said Vito.

“Dago through mud, dago through snow…”

“Shut your trap,” Vito said again, “or I’ll run this here goddamn five iron down your throat.”