I went home with a steam boat picture book that I borrowed from the public library on Clinton Street. When I walked into my apartment building on Columbia Street I was still upset about the things Henry Black Face was telling me about the Puerto Rican gangs that moved into the Red Hook Projects from the Bronx. It’s like an invasion into our Italian neighborhood. It wouldn’t be so bad if the new kids that moved in from the Bronx wanted to get to know us. But when they started to hang shoes on the electric wires all around the Red Hook Projects to mark their territory, it really pissed me off. So instead of going into my apartment on the second floor, I walked up another flight to find Roger the Professor to see if he knows anything about this shit. As I walked into Rogers apartment I noticed his little sister Diane sitting on the couch playing with their cat Misty. I say, “Hi Diane, is your brother Roger around?”
She looked up at me as she continued petting the cat on her lap and said, “Yeah, my shit head brother is in the back room working on one of his new inventions.” As I walked back to Roger’s room I started thinking why Diane was mad at her brother. Sometimes she gets mad at Roger when he doesn’t stop working on his project to build her a toy, doll house or anything she wants when she wants it. Diane is so spoiled; I guess that happens when you’re the baby in the family. Sometimes my older sister feels left out when my Mom treats me like a little Italian Prince. Diane will not stay mad at Roger too long because he does what she wants most of the time and she knows it. As I walk into Roger’s room I see all kinds of stuff on his work bench. He’s sitting back on his chair, with his eyes closed, with his hand holding his chin, thinking. I yell out, “Hey, Roger, do you have a minute, I want to tell you about all the shit that’s going on in the Red Hook Projects.” Roger jumps back a little, open his eyes like he was waking up from a dream and says. “Huh! Pepino, what in the hell are you talking about?” I start rattling off all the shit Henry Back Face told me about the shoes hanging all over the place, about the Puerto Rican gangs from the Bronx, the money they want us to pay them, I’m talking so fast that I can barely catch my breath.
At that point Roger holds up his hand and says. “Stop, I know all about it, that’s why I’m sitting here trying to figure out how to make a Zip Gun. Our gang, the Dukes, need all the help they can get if and when we have to rumble with the Puerto Rican Killer Sharks gang from the projects.” I said to myself, holy shit, a Zip Gun? That thing can kill somebody. I asked Roger, “How far did you get? How does it work? How many guns will you make?” Roger says, “Whoa, Whoa, hold on, one thing at a time. You can make a complicated Zip Gun from a cap pistol which can take about two weeks or you can make a simple wood Zip Gun that will take about two hours to assemble once you have all the material. Take a look at the stuff on my work bench and you can see that I plan to make the wood Zip Gun from these parts. I’ll show you how I plan to do it. First, I make a piece of wood in the shape of a gun some guys even decorate the handle I don’t have time for that. Then I get an old car radio antenna, a toy cap pistol, lots of tape & rubber bands. When I have all the material I go to work, I cut and tape the one of the metal tubes from the antenna that has a 22mm diameter; about eight inches long and tape it to the top of the wooden pistol. Then I break apart an old metal cap pistol to get at the hammer. Then I grind the back end of the cap pistol hammer to a very sharp point. When that’s completed I assemble the hammer to the back end of the wooden pistol with rubber bands and make sure that the sharp point of the hammer goes directly into the opening of the antenna cylinder. Now the Zip Gun is ready to shoot.
To shoot a 22mm bullet you pull back the hammer, place the bullet into the cylinder, release the hammer slowly to see if it can strike the back of 22mm bullet. If everything looks okay you hold the gun with one or both hands, pull back the hammer as far back as possible with your thumb, point the gun at your target and release the hammer. When you release the hammer the sharp point on the hammer will strike the back of the bullet with enough force to fire the 22mm bullet with a BANG at the target or person you’re aiming at. If you’re shooting at a person who is charging at you with a baseball bat, you better hit him or he will crack your skull open. Because if you don’t hit the guy with the bat, it takes about a minute to reload your Zip Gun and you will not have enough time to run away to save yourself.
Sometimes the guys who shoot the Zip Gun set up a two man team with two guns so that one gang member shoots while the other guy loads a bullet into the second gun. Two guys can cut the reload action down to thirty seconds. Any questions?” As Roger was going through this whole thing about how to make and shoot a Zip Gun I kept looking at him with my eyes and mouth wide open.
I just couldn’t believe that he was telling me how his Zip Gun can kill somebody. I closed my mouth and said, “Roger, what the Fu*#%k, are you crazy? How can you make this thing when you know it can kill another kid? Roger stood up with a weird look on his face and started to scream at me. “You bet it can kill somebody. If these pieces of shit from the Bronx think that they can waltz into our neighborhood and take over, they better be ready to fight to the death.” I didn’t say anything back at him because I could see that he through all reason out the window and that there was no way I could change his mind. So I turned and left Roger in his room with a weird look on his face and spit running out of his mouth down to his chin. I’ve never seen Roger so mad.
As I walked down to my apartment I could smell a strong odor of Cigar smoke in the hallway. It must be a White Owl Cigar. That’s the only brand my Mom’s cousin smokes, I always know Uncle Frank is visiting from New Jersey as soon as I step into the hallway and take a whiff of his strong cigar. He is the only one in our family who made it big. Uncle Frank is a hard working, smart, honest, man. He set up a little construction company in New Jersey and made lots of money.
He met and married a Dutch girl who is just as nice as my Uncle. They settled in a small town in New Jersey in a big white house with a piano and had lots of kids. Even though he had money he never looked down on the many Italians who have less than nothing. He comes to Brooklyn every now and then to check up on my mother who is his favorite cousin. The story he tells us every time he comes to visit is that he and my mother grew up like a brother and a sister in Mola Di Bari, Italy and to this day they are still very close. My mother doesn’t say much but I know when my father could not find work for weeks on end, all of a sudden,
Uncle Frank shows up and we have food on the table. He is such a bubbly friendly man and to top it off he drives a big ass Buick. No wonder he made it big in the construction business. I just can’t wait to see him. I walk into our apartment, Uncle Frank grabs me gives me a hug and kisses with his smelly cigar mouth. I love him so much. He always knows what I want; he pulls out his car keys, smiles and gives them to me. And says, “Don’t track any dirt into my new Buick when you pretend to drive it.” Wow a new Buick, the old Buick was only six years old. I run down stairs and had no trouble find his new car because it’s the only one on the block.
After pretending to drive for fifteen minutes I see Uncle Frank, My Mother and Sister walking out of our apartment building. Uncle Frank comes to the driver’s side opens the door and says, “Scoot over; we’re going to the movies.” Mum, this is not normal that we’re all going to the Clinton Theater to see a movie. We drove and drove past the Ferry landing to Staten Island, past Coney Island, where are we going?
I finally said “Uncle Frank, how far is the movie house you’re taking us to?” He looks down and says, “It’s not that far now, we can drive right into the theater when we get there because it’s outside and we can park and watch the movie sitting in the car.” Holy shit, this is my first trip to a Drive in Theater. We got there in five minutes, Uncle Frank paid the admission, and we parked the car and put the speaker contraption in the car window. Then Uncle Frank walked over to a building and came back with candy, popcorn and drinks for everyone.
We watched the Ten Commandments. What a treat it was to see a movie from Uncle Frank’s car. I can’t wait to tell Pecker, Jimmy Pizza and Mike Tomato all about my trip to the Drive in Movie, It’s going to blow them away that their big shot friend drove into the theater in a new Buick to see a movie. I Love It……..