I heard my father tell the story about my grandfather Nick
and how he wanted the bookie in the bar to give him a marker for the
sixth race. The bookie was sitting with another guy at a table in
Cairo's. Nick was hunched over the thick wooden lip of bar, very drunk.
He worked all morning every day from 6 A.M. until noon collecting scrap
metal, but then let his crew of workers take over the rest of the day.
He always made sure he was done by noon everyday, so he could get to
the track. He gave them bonuses when he won big. They loved Nick.
Today he wasn't at the track though. He had gotten too drunk to make it
to the track. So he had asked the bookie at the table for a marker but
the man had told him no. He was good for it of course, but for some
reason that day they were fucking with him. He thought they were
kidding at first.
The bookie owned part of the bar. Nick drank in that bar every night.
He bought everyone in the place drinks most of the time, especially
when he won. He had a large hooked nose and he was thin and wiry, but
very strong. Some people thought he was Eddie Arcaro, the famous
jockey, when he went to the track. The resemblance was strong, the
noses were exact. Eddie’s nickname was Banana Nose.
Nick asked again for the marker, but the bookie told him no for the
second time. Then Nick exploded, "I make you guys rich in here, you
motherfuckers," he screamed. "All I’m asking for is a fucking marker.
You're not going to give it to me?"
The man at the table shook his head back and forth and looked at the
other man across the table from him. The other man shook his head back
and forth as well. Nick stumbled off the stool and headed out to his
‘39 red pick-up truck parked right out front and grabbed an axe out of
the back and he came running in holding the axe above his head.
"I own half this fucking bar! he screamed. I’m going to cut it in two!"
The bookie yelled for Nick’s friends to stop him or else he’d have to
make a phone call. The four men got up and tried to grab Nick. They
were frightened because of the axe. One of the larger ones grabbed Nick
in a bear hug and another twisted the axe from his hands.
"Bring that fucking madman home," the bookie yelled. "And tell him not
to call Sonny," he said. "He’s always calling Sonny when he starts
trouble. One fucking day Sonny isn’t going to be around and he’s going
to get himself into deep shit."
The men escorted Nick towards the door. He turned his head back towards
"I own half this fucking bar!" Nick screamed again.
They led him out of the dark wooden bar onto the bright Brooklyn
sidewalk. They let him go and he lit a cigarette. The four
men stood there silent. The one holding the axe stepped back a
little farther. Nick took his cigarette down to the filter in
four drags. He eyed the axe. His little cloud of smoke swirled up
towards the hot afternoon sun.