Family Legend: The Loris’ East Hampton Hotel and Lucky Luciano
Running from my family’s hotel on Newtown Lane, I headed toward our back lot. Mama was on my tail. Even though I’m a fast 6-year-old, somehow she always caught me. I kept running, because like papa says, “There’s a first time for everything!” I was very innocent, and therefore very hopeful.
“Hold it right there, Giovanni Loris!” Her bird’s claw dug into my shoulder; she spun me around. “Empty your pockets!”
“But mama, I didn’t take anything!”
“Giovanni, what did we learn this morning at church?”
Like a marionette, my shoulders went up and my head went down, with a deep sigh pulling my strings. “We shouldn’t tell lies.”
“That’s right.” She raised an eyebrow and continued, “If you tell me the truth, I’ll spank you. But if you lie to me right now, I’ll let your father spank you and God will punish you! Now did you eat your brother’s cookie?”
A picture of my father’s belt appeared. It inspired greater fear than God.
I looked to a weed growing out of the ground on my right. I told my brother not to tell our mama, but then he always went and told her anyway.
I opened my mouth, and paused.
It came out the way a heavy skipping stone sinks to its true calling.
Instantly she had her hand to my backside. After, she bent low to my face, “Don’t steal or lie.”
She dragged me toward Main Street. We passed some shops. A hat of shame kept my head down and prevented me from looking in their windows.
“Stay out here.”
I looked up. “Lawler’s Butcher Shop” I could feel my spirits reviving. A visit to the butcher’s shop meant a tasty Sunday supper.
Peering through the glass, I didn’t see Mr. Lawler, but a new guy helping my mother. And he did a funny thing when he weighed mama’s sausages. His thumb pressed down on the back corner of the scale. He quickly removed it as my mother inched toward the window.
Darn it! (Oops, sorry God.) There’s William Brewer with his mother and he’s looking right at me. I quickly turned around so he wouldn’t see me leaking salt water. I started praying for mama to come out before them.
And she did. (Thank you God!)
“Did you get the real good sausages mama?”
“Yes, but you and your brother will only have a taste.”
“Is Mr. Lucky coming tonight?”
“Yes he is and you know that when Mr. Luciano comes, you and Tomaso are to stay out of sight.”
Once every day my mother visited Main Beach, rain or shine. We picked up my brother on the way. Tommy and I understood that during these visits we were to leave her alone in peace, but WE could run free!
Here it didn’t matter what you looked like, sounded like, where your family came from however long ago—everyone was treated the same by the sun.
The seagulls were cawing, watching Tommy and me play tag. We took turns racing back and forth from the dunes to the waves, with the surf’s edge our finish line. We were having a great time when Tommy tripped over a piece of driftwood. I ran over and picked him up in a bear cub hug.
“Are you ok? What is that?”
“It’s a pweace of woob.”
“I’m gonna get rid of it. Stay where mama can see you.”
I offered the driftwood to the tall grass gods at the back of the beach.
“Hey! No littering!”
Jumping like a jackrabbit, I turned around just in time to see a hobo throw a beer bottle over my head into the grass.
“Hahaha, I said no littering.”
“But I didn’t litter! And you–”
“Well, if a copper asks me who threw what, I’ll just say I threw the wood, and you threw the bottle.”
Color rose to my checks, my muscles tensed. “I’m gonna tell my mama that you’re lying!”
“Son, someone threw the wood, and someone threw the bottle. Just because I know who did what, doesn’t mean a copper has to know. I’ll tell my truth to get away with it. You can tell your truth. We’ll let him work it out. Whatever he needs to hear so I’m not bothered by him, THAT’S my truth.”
With a loud belch he walked away, punctuating his crude lecture.
On the way home, my mind raced to make sense of that man. I should have told him, ‘God knows you’re lying.” If I did what he did, I would get a spanking from my parents. I wonder if Mr. Lucky’s gang ever got spanked. What would they say about that man? I wanted to ask them. Maybe I could that night!
Ready for bed, my brother and I were on the lookout for Mr. Lucky. We were watching for his car from our second floor bedroom. I knew when I grew up, I wanted to be just like him. People always listened to him. No one made fun of him. He and his men carried machine guns! But mama told them if they wanted to enter her restaurant, they had to leave their guns at the door.
And they did!
We heard a honk accompanied by two lights shining below. I turned to Tommy, “Wait here! I’ll be right back!” I tiptoed down the stairs heading to the back door. I scurried from shadow to shadow, hiding behind buffet tables in the hallway, walking closely behind a maid praying she wouldn’t turn around. I couldn’t see very well and had to guess if I was opening the right door: Oops! Wrong one! I quickly closed it and ran to the next one. Wait!! Wasn’t that uncle Marco? But that wasn’t aunt Anela! That was Mr. Napoli’s wife he was touching! My feet tripped over each other in shock. At last I found the door, intent on my mission, hoping I’d never run into aunt Anela again. I had barely opened it when gun shots greeted my arrival. Peeking out, I saw a bull of a man holding a pistol in my direction, and another man laying before me. I quickly shut the door.
“Who is there?!!” A harsh bark whipped out to lash me. “Come out, right now.”
I slowly opened the door.
“Hey Al,” I heard Mr. Lucky’s voice yell from afar, “They’re waiting for you. Let the men finish.”
The bull grunted, “Make sure this goes away.”
“Yes Mr. Capone.”
A tiger came and threw me into the backseat of his fancy car. A turtle sat next to him up front. I looked out the window, staring up to Tommy, silently pleading for help. I was scared. But I decided not to show it.
“This is a nice car you’ve got mister!”
“Shut up, kid.”
“But I wanted to tell you about my day.”
“Kid, I don’t care about your day. Now shut up.”
I shrunk into the door. We arrived at Main Beach.
They dragged me out of the car and pulled me toward the water. The moon was full, and the beach glowed. I loved it. And I hated these men. They didn’t belong here. The beach was beautiful and clean. But these men were terrifying and gross. As if he read my thoughts, the turtle hacked a lugie onto the beach as we stood there.
“What’d you see kid?”
I was staring so hard, I barely noticed my head shaking like a dog shakes off water. Only I couldn’t shake them off.
“Come on. We’re not gonna hurt ya. Just tell the truth, and we’ll take you home.”
Home. I hoped my brother told my mama! (“There’s a first time for everything,” papa’s voice consoled me. For the first time, I wasn’t mad if he did…)
“The sooner you tell the truth, the sooner you go home.” And the tiger smiled like he liked me, but didn’t like me. I hated them for standing with me on the beach. This was my beach. This was my brother’s beach. We had fun here. This was my mama’s beach. She found peace here. Main Beach was OUR beach. And they were ruining how I felt here. I didn’t like them, Mr. Lucky and his men. Now I wanted to never be like them. They were worse than that man who threw the bottle. I wonder what he would say right now. His words echoed loudly to me. “Whatever he needs to hear so I’m not bothered by him, THAT’S my truth.”
But what about what mama said? What about God?
If I told them what I saw, they’d get mad, right?And if I told them what they wanted to hear, mama and God would get mad. The tiger stalked, the turtle stretched. I knew I had to answer them. And the sooner I answered, the sooner we’d leave. So they said.
I opened my mouth, and I paused.
And I told the truth.