As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster. To me, being a gangster was better than being President of the United States. Even before I first wandered into the cabstand for an afterschool job I knew I wanted to be a part of them. It was there that I knew that I belonged. To me, it meant being somebody in the neighborhood that was full of nobodies. They weren’t like anybody else. I mean, they did whatever they wanted. They double parked in front of a hydrant and nobody ever game them a ticket. In the summer when they played cards all night, nobody ever called the cops. Tuddy Cicero. Tuddy. Tuddy ran the cabstand in La Bella Vista Pizzeria and a few other places for his brother Paul who was the boss over everybody in the neighborhood. Paulie might have moved slow, but it was only because he didn’t have to move for anybody.
At first, my parents loved that I found a job across the street. My father, who was Irish, was sent to work at the age of eleven, and he liked that I got myself a job. He always said American kids were spoiled lazy.And my mother was happy after she found out that the Varios came from the same part of Sicily as she did. To my mother, it was the answer to her prayers.
I was the luckiest kid in the world. I could go anywhere. I could do anything. I knew everybody and everybody knew me. But it wasn’t too long before my parents changed their minds. For them, the cabstand was supposed to be a part-time job, but for me, it was full-time. People like my father could never understand, but I was a part of something. I belonged. I was treated like a grown-up. Every day I was learning to score. My father was always pissed off. He was pissed that he had to work so hard. He was pissed that he made such lousy money. Be was pissed that there were seven of us living in a tiny house. But after a while, he was mostly pissed that I hung around the cabstand. He said they were bums and that I was a bum. He said I was going to get into trouble. I used to say I was only running errands after school, but he knew better. He knew what went on at the cabstand and, every once in a while, usually after he got his load on, I had to take a beating. But by then, I didn’t care. No matter how many beatings I took, I wouldn’t listen to what he said. I don’t think I even heard him. The way I saw it, everybody has to take a beating some time.
That was it. No more letters from truant officers. No more letters from school. In fact, no more letters from anybody. How could I go back to school after that and pledge allegiance to the flag and sit through good government bullshit.
Hundreds of guys depended on Paulie and he got a piece of everything they made. It was tribute, just like the old country, except they were doing it in America. All they got from Paulie was protection from other guys looking to rip them off. That’s what it’s all about. That’s what the FBI can never understand, that what Paulie and the organization does is offer protection for people who can’t go to the cops. They’re like the police department for wiseguys.
People looked at me differently. They knew I was with somebody. I didn’t have to wait on line at the bakery on Sunday morning anymore for fresh bread. The owner knew who I was with, and he’d come from around the counter, no matter how many people were waiting. I was taken care of first. Our neighbors didn’t park in our driveway anymore, even though we didn’t have a car. At thirteen, I was making more money than most of the grownups in the neighborhood. I had more money than I could spend. I had it all. One day some of the kids from the neighborhood carried my mother’s groceries all the way home for her. It was out of respect.
Goodfellas, Henry Hill
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