Vito Rocco was in fact his grand-uncle, not his uncle, which is why Saks’ last name was the very Anglo-Saxon name of Parks. Saks’ father, Carmello “Whit” Parks, half-Italian from his mother’s side, married into the Rocco family by taking Maria Rocco as his wife. His actual grandfather, long since passed, was what they euphemistically called “an associate” of Uncle Vits, who was “capo,” or boss, of a good slice of Connecticut. Much of the rest was under the control of their bitter rivals, the Serafina.
“Anthony,” said Uncle Vits, “good to see you. Sit. Sit.”
Saks resisted the urge to roll his eyes. Vits always had to act like he was the king in everyone else’s house. Saks never understood why people put up with it, but no one questioned Vito Rocco.
Another thing that was strange about this gathering today was that only Vits, not any other member of the extended family, sat at the long table. Unusual and suspicious. What the hell was going on?
Saks’ father poured him a glass of wine as his mother took her place at the other head of the table. Terri walked in with ravioli. With a spoon, she ladled generous portions to Uncle Vits, her father, her mother, and then Saks.
“Hand me that gravy, there, Anthony,” said Vits. “And the bread, too.”
Like many old Italians, Vits called tomato sauce ‘gravy.’ Saks reached over the large salad, the bowl of meatballs, and another of sausage and peppers to grab both items, and passed them to his grand-uncle.
“Grace,” reminded his mother. “Anthony, please.”
Saks never knew why his mother always chose him to say grace, except maybe she had hoped he would become a priest. Her hope died, however, when Saks refused to go to the seminary college she wanted him to attend. But to get dinner going, he made the sign of the cross and the others followed.
“Bless us, oh Lord, and these Thy gifts, which come from Your bounty, through Christ, our Lord. Amen.”
“Amen,” all at the table affirmed.
Vits laced the ravioli with sauce and took a bite.
“Perfect, Maria. Perfect as always. Just like my sainted mother’s.”
Saks’ mother smiled at the compliment. “Thank you, Uncle Vits.”
“Anthony,” said Vits, “how are things for you, eh?”
“Fine,” said Saks noncommittally.
“You getting out and having fun?”
“I hang out with my club.”
“Yes,” hissed Vits. “Your familia not good enough for you, eh? So you spend time with that motorcycle club, where Icherra’s nephew—”
Vits was referring to Luke, whose uncle, Raymondo Icherra, was a Mexican drug lord. But Luke, like Saks, eschewed his criminal family.
“Now, Uncle Vits,” chided Terri gently. “This is a nice family gathering, right? Anthony likes his friends.”
Vits always had a soft spot for Terri, who he often said was the spitting image of his mother. For this reason, she could say things to him that others couldn’t.
“Yes, yes,” he said, waving his hands as if to breeze away his rancorous comments. “A nice family gathering. Sorry.” Without taking a breath, he continued, “So, have you thought about marriage, Anthony?”
Saks nearly spit out his pasta. So that’s why the bastard was over? “Of course, I’ve thought about it. Just I haven’t found the right girl.”
“So, you aren’t dating anyone serious?”
“No,” Saks replied slowly, wondering where this intrusive conversation was leading.
“Good. There’s nice young woman I’d like you to meet. Very pretty. Smart, too. Very smart. You like that, I know.”
“Thanks, Uncle Vits, but I can arrange my own dates.”
“No. You don’t understand, Anthony. I think she’d make a good wife for you.”
Vits spoke with the authority of a capo, a boss, and Saks looked around at his family. Terri smirked, his mother smiled, and his father looked off innocently to the side.
Screw them! His father, mother, and sister were no innocents. They were all part of this conspiracy.
“Wife?” said Saks, his voice rising. “Wife? What have you done, Uncle Vits?”
The capo stared at his fingernails before meeting Saks’ glare evenly. “Nothing. Not much. Just made a little proposal to the Serafina.”
“What the hell!” said Saks, jumping to his feet as cold fear rushed through him. “The Serafina? Our rivals?”
“Sit down, Anthony,” Vits said dismissively. “It’ll be good. Good for you. Good for her. Good for business.”
Saks sank to his chair, under the weight of this mother and father’s disapproving glares, and knew there was only one thing that was good about this.
He was good and fucked.
“Ms. Serafina, Mr. Hamilton wants you in his office.”
Chrissy put her hand over her phone, as if that would keep her mother from hearing the conversation.
“Sure, Jessica. I’ll be there in a minute.”
Jessica, her assistant, nodded and shut the door as she left.
“Look, Mom, I’ve got to go.”
“But Christina, you’re coming to the house tomorrow night, right?”