“Boss, I’ll totally do you this favor. I know I can do it. Trust me. After all, Dom’s been in the pen for a decade, and it’s time you trusted someone else to get the job done.” Cristo shifted from foot to foot in front of his employer’s desk. He was Tito’s first cousin, too, but the role of Boss ruled in these matters…

Mr. Tito Taffoni looked up. His eyes itched. And watered.


He scratched his salt and pepper goatee. Forty years in the family business. Forty.

A week away from retirement.

He had to choose his successor carefully, or all of his hard work—the family’s reputation—would end up in the trash can.

Just like the bloodied Kleenex he tossed in the bin before Cristo knocked on his thick mahogany door.

He’d miss this office. His niece, Georgina, joked that his décor was so “dark academia”, whatever that meant. The burgundy velvet curtains, the forest green couches, the gold throw pillows, several ornate black bookcases, sundry artworks dappling the walls…

Hey, it reminded him of Nonno’s study…the place where his grandfather got all of his work done.

The only “style” that mattered to him was the jobs.

The execution of the jobs.

Mamma always said "it's the thought that counts, figlio"—but it was papà who emphasized the end result.

To Tito—and to everyone in the family business.

Enthroned as the chief decision maker of la famiglia, choices would have to be made. And soon.

He squirmed in his cracked leather chair. Swiveling, it creaked and groaned under his heft.

“Cristo, Cristo, Cristo”. A headache budded behind his eyes. Within fifteen minutes, it would be a full bloom.

It always happened. Especially in April.

Ah, Madonna, he could use a stiff drink or two!

The overhead track lights reflected on Cristo’s bald head, much like the shiny billiard balls at Peretti’s Pub and Pool Hall.

Mr. Taffoni smiled. Man, that last job at Peretti’s was something else! The owner and his wife, celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary.

Popping everywhere. Pop, pop, POP!

Now he chuckled. They never saw it comin’.

Cristo’s fleshy hands moved around—slow, but effusive—as if communicating a secret message because his mouth couldn’t get in gear. Finally, he just stuffed them in his pockets.

Mr. Taffoni looked up from his desk. Was that sweat beading on the big lug’s forehead?

“Liz!” he called out. “Turn on the central air, will ya? That time of year…”

“Sure boss”, came the muffled reply from the other side of the door.

The AC rattled to life.

“That Liz. What a gem, eh, Cristo?”

Cristo took out his hands. Wiped them on his jeans.

“Yeah, she’s great. Really great.”

Mr. Taffoni looked back down at the schedule.

“Liz?” he called again. “Mind making me a doppio?”

He raised his eyebrows and gestured towards Cristo.

“No, Boss, I’m good. Thanks.” His eyes darted to the paper on the desk.

Mr. Taffoni picked up the schedule. A mammoth sigh escaped him.

Reminded him of the pink whoopee cushion in his top drawer.

He chuckled again.

While the heavy door may have muffled most sounds (fortunately), it wasn’t smell-proof: the heavenly aroma of espresso wafted into his office.

“OK, Cristo, OK”. When Mr. Taffoni looked up, he was surprised to see how nervous Cristo appeared.

Aw, poor guy.

He admired Cristo’s put-me-in-coach attitude. He really did.

Cristo’s eagerness, and unquestioning loyalty, made him a fantastico wheel man.

After all, delivery was 50% of a job done right…

Pushing up from his desk, he stood and arched his back. Crack. Then he moved his neck to one side. Crack. Then the other. Crack.

Mr. Taffoni smiled. “OK, Cristo. Today is the day. Your day.”

Cristo’s face went from twisted worry to puppy-dog glee.

“Really, Boss? You mean it?”

This time, Mr. Taffoni let out a hearty laugh. “Yes, mia cugino…I really mean it!”

A knock at the door. “Come in, come in!”

Liz bustled in with Tito’s double shot, as well as a small tray filled with biscotti and pizzelles.

She clunked them down on the desk.

“Ah, some sweets, too! Thank you, doll”. He reached for his espresso.

She winked at him. “Sure thing, fratello maggiore.”

“Hey, Sis, I’m not that much older!” He took a sip. It was still a bit warm in the room, but he preferred his coffee hot, not cold—all watered down with ice.

Liz smirked and walked out.

Cristo couldn’t contain his excitement. “Now, boss? Should I get ready now?”

Mr. Taffoni pointed to the large walk-in closet.

“There ya go, Cristo. All yours.” He walked him to the bi-fold doors. “Get suited up. You pick the garb and the gizmos. Whatever you want.”

Cristo stood before the door as if it were Aladdin’s cave.

Except, he wouldn’t have to say open sesame to access his treasures untold.

His dream. A job.

His own job.

No more watching from behind the wheel, anticipating the exciting execution, and hearing about the astonishing aftermath.

It wasn’t about the money.

It was about the thrill.

“I’ll leave you to it, then”, said Mr. Taffoni, slapping him on the back. “Freddie will drive. Just meet him out front. I’ll tell him you’ll be coming.” He checked his watch. “Think you’ll be ready in twenty? Job’s at 2 PM sharp.”

“Yeah, boss! I’ll be ready.”

“OK, then! Van’s all packed and ready to roll.” His wide smile matched Cristo’s. “What a surprise for the Adamos, eh?”

Mr. Taffoni walked out of his office, a chuckle trailing behind him.

Cristo opened the closet doors.

His sweaty t-shirt clung to his back.

He had taken a shower before he arrived at the business—he had a feeling his cousin would finally say yes!—but a warm spell decided to visit the neighborhood, almost undoing his clean appearance.

Spotting some fluffy white towels on a shelf, he grabbed one and wiped off the slickness.

The central air had kicked in. A small shiver shook his body.

Carefully but quickly, he chose just the right garb. Colors mattered, he always felt.

Greasepaint, first. He had to look the part. He had to look special. Memorable.

Several empty tote bags sat on the carpet. Tools of the trade filled the massive closet. Cristo’s eyes widened.


He’d have to marvel at all the implements at his disposal another time.

Twenty minutes. Just twenty minutes to meet Freddie out front.

Cristo made it on time, alright—with five minutes to spare! He blushed at the thought of how he’d been practicing for this for over a year.

At last, the black company van arrived at the job. The Adamos lived in a mansion with expansive manicured lawns. A fountain bubbled out front. Freddie maneuvered the van around the immense horseshoe driveway, where he was instructed to wait.

Just like Cristo used to wait.

Cristo got out of the van. He slid the doors open. “Need any help, Cristo?” called Freddie from the front seat.

“Nah, I’m good!”

I’m more than good.

Cristo grabbed the huge, colorful bouquet of helium balloons and slid the van door shut.

He read the colorful lettering on the side: Pop, Pop, POP! Tantalizing Entertainment by Taffoni.

At last, Cristo’s dream.

His first job.

As a party clown.

April 15, 2023 03:08

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Christy Morgan
21:26 Jan 14, 2024

Very clever, Janet! I was misdirected the entire time, thinking it was a mafia family. I had to laugh at the end, realizing how we were diverted, even with the open clues. I enjoyed the read very much!!


Janet Boyer
21:35 Jan 14, 2024

Teehee! So glad I succeeded in the fake out! 🤭🎈😃


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Tricia Shulist
19:08 Apr 18, 2023

Ha! That was fun. Clowns, not contract killers. Good use of misdirection. Thanks for this!


Janet Boyer
23:09 Apr 18, 2023

Teehee! My husband laughed so hard when I read it to him, he farted (it sounded a lot like a machine gun...🤭)


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Mary Bendickson
01:22 Apr 17, 2023

Ha! Ha! Ha! Believing all the way it was nefarious business! 'Man, that last job at Peretti’s was something else! The owner and his wife, celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary. Popping everywhere. Pop, pop, POP! Now he chuckled. They never saw it comin’.'


Janet Boyer
23:11 Apr 18, 2023

HAHAHA! So did our son! I heard him chuckling while reading the beginning and I thought "what could be be laughing at.. ?"...and I heard him say under his breath "Oh wow, how dark...laughing at all that shooting..." 🤭


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RBE | Illustration — We made a writing app for you | 2023-02

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