THE END OF THE ITALIAN BREAD
Sal said, “Gimme the cucuzza.” He filled a water glass with red wine from a jug.
Jenny said, “Why can’t you call it the end of the Italian Bread, like everyone else?”
Sal and Jenny Cagliano ate spaghetti in their Brooklyn apartment. Sal had straight, black hair, and wore a white tee-shirt with a paper napkin tucked under his chin. Jenny, a strawberry blonde, wore a mid-calf, blue-flowered dress. Sal sat at the head of the table. The exhaust fan in the bedroom window pulled a needed breeze through their three-room, railroad apartment. Jenny had sliced crusty Italian Bread on a wooden board.
Sal said, “Cucuzzais what my mother calls it.”
Jenny said, “Your mother.” She rolled her eyes.
“The two of you are like Jesus and Mary. She believes you walk on water, and you think of her as virgin.”
Sal muttered, “Fa Nabbala.”
“What did you say?”
“I said, ‘Vai a Napoli.’ It means, ‘Go to Naples.’ It’s another of my mother’s expressions.”
“Is that like, ‘Go to Hell?’”
“No, no. Just gimme the cucuzza.“
“You always take the end. Maybe today, I want the end.”
Sal said, “C’mon, since when do you like the crust? Your Irish mother fed you Wonder Bread, soft as marshmallow with the taste of wallboard.”
“Maybe I want to try something new.”
“Yeah, like what?”
“Well, I might as well tell you now. I took a job.”
“At the textile factory, just off Utica Avenue. A half-day to start, but the boss said that I could be full time in a couple of months.”
With the heel of his hand, Sal pushed his plate away. “What, I don’t provide well enough for you?” His voice raised an octave. “You don’t have enough to eat? Enough nice clothes to wear?”
Jenny’s lips tightened. Her shoulders pulled together, and she looked away. “I knew you’d react this way. I dreaded to tell you.” She faced Sal. “Why can’t you be happy that I have something for myself?”
Sal’s tone turned cold. “I forbid it.”
Jenny stood. She clutched the paper napkin in her fist. “You forbid it? You’re my husband, not my father.”
They glared at each other. After a few minutes, Sal took a gulp of wine from the tumbler. Jenny sat. They picked at their spaghetti in silence.
Then, Sal said, “Gimme the end of the Italian Bread.”
Jenny’s eyes stayed on her plate. “Fa Nabbala.”
Joe Giordano’s stories have appeared in more than one hundred magazines including The Saturday Evening Post, and Shenandoah. His novel, Birds of Passage; An Italian American Coming of Age story, was published by Harvard Square Editions in 2015. Appointment with ISIL, an Anthony Provati Thriller was published by Harvard Square Editions on June 15, 2017.