The Wheel of Fortune

Man, you suicidal or what? You know what you just did? That guy you almost knocked down, rushin'  over here to get a beer? Yeah, that guy standin' by the door with the Salvation Army lady. That's Joey Fortunato... Oh, yeah. You're not from here. Dickwad, Indiana, right? Still, I thought everyone knew Joey. Wheel of Fortune, they call him. Not to his face, though. Not if they got any sense. Naw, he wouldn't hurt you. Not now, anyhow. Don't get me wrong. He still could, no doubt. Yeah, I know. Looks like a punch-drunk rummy. Bashed-in face, gray and puffy. Eyes like they're filled with smoke. Teeth either missin' or should be. But for all I know, he never touched a drop in his life. Maybe he should've.

We hung out when we were kids. He was funny. Goofy-like. Used to tell these little jokes and riddles and shit. Like one time, my mom was takin' us to the circus. He shows up at the house with an umbrella. Perfect sunny day. Ma says, “Joey, why do you have an umbrella?” And he says, all polite-like, “Well, Mrs. Mazzoni, it's in case the man on the flying trap pees.” She got such a kick outta him.  First-class. Altar boy, delivered papers. Whatever. His dad died in the war. He did everything to take care of his mom and two brothers, Luke and Mattie. Mattie, he wasn't right. In his own world mostly. You'd see him sittin' in a tree for hours, cawin' like a crow. Lotsa times they'd caw back, like they 'as havin' this whole conversation. Joey looked after him. Hold his hand walkin' to school. Pick him up every afternoon.

One day - Mattie musta been nine or ten. Tommy G - big fuckin’ asshole bully. Had it in for Mattie. Always teasin' him, makin' jokes about him. Joey talked to him. Tommy was like, "Oh, yeah. sure, Joey. I didn't know, man. I'll watch out for him, okay?" So on this day Tommy G sees Mattie crouched on the ground, just studying a caterpillar. Tommy asks him if he wants a closer look. Mattie, he don't say nothin'. So Tommy picks up this caterpillar and smashes it in his face. Then he says, "Oh, I'm sorry, Maggie. Let me wipe it off for you." And he starts rubbin' his face on the sidewalk, ridin' on his back. Big grin on his face, like he’s got a boner. He's on top, right? Wrong. Wheel of fortune turns.

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