Chapter 4: The Cost of Living

The walk from his apartment to Mario’s Bohemian Cigar Store on Columbus was a short one. So Luca took the long way—down Napier, up the Filbert Steps, across Montgomery, and then through Pioneer Park. Even so, he arrived at Mario’s precisely at noon, just as instructed. Not seeing anyone he recognized, he took a table, ordered a meatball sandwich and a beer, and sorted through a pile of discarded Chronicles hoping to catch up on Leah Garchik’s column from the past few days.

While he waited and sipped his beer, he scanned the scene in Washington Square Park. Momentarily mesmerized by the silent rhythms of a group of tai chi practitioners, Luca daydreamed of Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe. He pretended he could see them. On the steps of Saint Peter and Paul Church on the opposite side of the park. On those steps on January 14, 1954 where the couple posed for wedding photographs. The steps of the church that didn’t let them get married inside, but where they posed for photographs nonetheless. He wondered if they knew, through their acquiescence, that their days were numbered.

Before long his cousin, Paulie, appeared at the table around the same time as his sandwich. The sandwich looked great. Paulie did not. He was panting, sweating, bleeding, and had stuffed his portly frame into one of those brightly colored, spandex bicycling outfits.

“What’s with the get-up, cousin?” Luca asked.

“Oh, so I guess that means you didn’t get my email?” he answered, throwing himself into a chair at Luca’s table.

“Nope. What email?”

“My fundraising email. I’m riding AIDS/LifeCycle this year. Joined a team and everything. Set my goal at $10,000. You’ll sponsor me, right?”

“Of course.” Luca loved ALC training season, mostly for the excess of cute guys in bike shorts around town. However he had no idea that Paulie—a straight goombah in his late 30’s—was interested in AIDS, or charity, or knew how to ride a bike for that matter.

“I’m going to be 40 in November. Adriana thought I should set a goal for myself. Selfless and all that.” Paulie offered by way of explanation. “Anyway, it’s good to see you. I thought you were, ya know, out. Thought you were hanging up the holster to be a full-time fishmonger.”

“I can’t retire, cost of living and all that. Dues at the Olympic Club aren’t cheap.”

“O Realm Where Stalwart Manhood Rules.”

“Exactly. Besides, my sabbatical or whatever you want to call it wasn’t exactly voluntary.”

“Yeah. I know. You pissed off the old man something good. But even you gotta admit… I mean I know you’ve pulled some stunts… but how did you think he was going to react?”

“I was hoping he wouldn’t care.”

“Dude, he’d just gotten used to the fact—after years—he’d just gotten used to the fact that you, his golden child and number one button, was a cocksucker. No offense.”

“None taken.”

“And then you go and you get married to…”

Luca cut him off, “Keep it down, cousin. We’re not here to talk about my marriage.”

“You’re right. I’m sorry.” Paulie responded, dropping his voice.

“Anyway, I’ve got a long day ahead of me if this is gonna get done. You have something for me?”

“Yeah.” Paulie pushed one of the folded newspapers across the table toward Luca. “The executive. His usual reservation tonight.”

Luca picked up the folded paper and put it in his bag. “Tell the old man I said thanks. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss this, just a little.”

*          *          *

Just before 10 that night, Luca turned on the TV and turned up the volume so he could hear the local news broadcast from his bath. Just as he suspected it was the lead story.

“The high-tech world is on high-alert tonight as a senseless shooting downtown sends shockwaves through Silicon Valley from San Francisco to San Jose. Good evening, I’m Ama Daetz. Security firms are warning of out-and-out war on the investor class. Anti-gentrification groups refuse to condemn the attack, calling it a blow in defense of the city’s soul. Islamist watch groups are calling it a cowardly act of terrorism by ISIS. And the police are scrambling to determine who would do such a thing and why.”

“So far what we do know is that Track Gipperson, a venture capitalist and early Twitter investor was struck and killed by a sniper’s bullet while leaving the Battery Club in downtown San Francisco. We’re told that, because of recent threats made by ISIS, the Department of Homeland Security has been called in, and the President has been briefed.”

Luca smiled when he heard someone at the door. He knew it was Fred, whom he’d been missing, a lot.

“Hi honey, I’m home,” bellowed Fred in his baritone.

“Hi, baby, I’m in the bath. Turn off the TV and climb in with me.”