Mario put his hands on the storefront while the detective frisked him. “Whatcha wanna steal from Mr. Poletti?” The detective cuffed Mario on the side of the head.
“I’m not gonna press no charges.” Mr. Poletti put his hand on Mario’s shoulder. “I know his mother, we’ll handle it.”
“Are you sure, after all, he broke into your store and would have gotten away with a lot of beer and stuff?”
“He’s a good boy, just took a wrong turn. His mother and me, we’ll fix it. Just put false alarm on your report. This old alarm acts up all the time. Okay? And stop by here at lunch and I’ll fix you a nice pastrami.”
“Naw, you don’t have to do that Mr. Poletti.” He turned back to Mario. “Okay, kid, I’m turn’n you over to Mr. Poletti, but if I have to come back I’m gonna haul yer behind down to juvie court, do you understand?” He cuffed Mario again.
“Yeah, yeah. Okay.” Mario tried to duck, but the detective had him by the jacket collar.
Mr. Poletti grasped Mario's arm and pulled him back into the tiny deli. “Why you do this Mario?”
Mario looked at the sad eyes of the older man. “I dunno, jes cause.”
“Jenna,” Mr. Poletti called to the rear of the store. “Phone Mario’s mama, tell her he’s doin' some work for me, and he’ll be late comin’ home.” He turned back to Mario. “Yer mama doesn’t have to know a thing more. You’re gonna haul crates up from the basement, you’re gonna unload the truck, and generally help out around here for a little pay. Understand?”
“And every day after school you come here and Saturday you come here at seven thirty in the morning.”
Mario gulped. He liked to sleep in on Saturdays and play games with his friends. His mother worked downtown as a hotel housekeeper, so his Saturdays were usually unsupervised.
Mario showed up at the Poletti deli at 7:30 the first Saturday morning. “Good morning Mr. Poletti.” He had regularly shown up every afternoon during the week.
“Mario, how’s yer Satuday?”
“Too early Mr. Poletti,” Mario laughed.
“Good, I have a job for you. You’re accompanying Mrs. Colon to Mass.” Mrs. Colon was a widow living above the deli.
Mario hated the assignment. He had not been to Mass in years. Finally, Mrs. Colon appeared in the deli.
“I’m ready, where’s my knight in shining armor?” Mrs. Colon was brightly made up and wearing a white scarf to frame her olive complexion.
Mr. Poletti pushed Mario to the door. “Here he is.”
Mario walked next to Mrs. Colon for the short distance to the church. Once inside he sat next to her as the Mass took place; and then during the serving of the sacraments she pulled him along to receive the wafer and grape juice.
While walking back to the store Mrs. Colon took Mario’s arm. “So, how do you like working for Mr. Poletti?”
“It’s okay, I guess.”
“You’d rather be in juvenile hall?”
“No ma’am, I guess I meant that Mr. Poletti is a great guy to give me a job, and I am really sorry I broke into his store.” Mario didn’t realize that Mrs. Colon knew the story.
“Do you know Sarah Murphy?”
“Yeah, she’s older than me, she used to work for Mr. Poletti, I remember.”
“Uh huh. And so did several other young men and women from this neighborhood, although I think you are the first to break into the deli.”
Mario turned to his companion, “so, what did they do?”
Mrs. Colon laughed. “Oh, each had a pause, let’s say, and Mr. Poletti gave them a job to help them think things out. Did you listen to the priest?”
Mario had to admit he was daydreaming. “No ma’am.”
“Too bad, because today he told about Jesus’ disciples, not chosen because they were perfect, but because of their imperfection.”
“Wow, I never considered.”
They arrived back at the deli and Mr. Poletti handed Mario an apron. “Cases to bring up from the basement Mario.”
Mario patted Mr. Poletti on the shoulder and waved to Mrs. Colon. “Thanks ma’am, I’ll see you again next Saturday.”
Mrs. Colon winked at Mr. Poletti.
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