Friday 10 May 2024

Morettis on MacDougal Street by Mike Lee, Moretti

 The music was good at the café, the last authentic Italian coffee bar in Greenwich Village. The tall 

Brooklyn waitperson set Spotify to somewhat recent alternative and 1970s punk. “And It Goes” by the 

Cool Ghouls was playing, followed by Wire.

The two men, huddled in pea jackets and caps, sauntered with black digital rangefinders hanging around their necks. The winter’s air was crisp, and business was brisk, but they had no trouble finding a table.

They settled in and ordered a pair of Morettis.

“What an adventure you had, bro!” said Tony, doffing his cap and dropping it on top of his camera bag. He then took off his coat and hung it on the ornate wire chair.

“Yeah,” said Frank. We had a great time. It was very intimate, and we shared an experience we never thought we had.”

He laughed. “Then I came home.”

“Dude, you did everything you could. Doesn’t your boy have his own place? But whoa, that anger.”

“Yeah, the whole thing was stupid, including throwing my book in the toilet and leaving a three-card Tarot spread on your desk.”

“Yeah, from my deck,” said Frank. “Readers debate whether to use someone else’s Tarot for a reading, especially when enraged, which he obviously was.”

“I looked at the spread,” said Tony. I’m not sure that Justice means what he thought it meant. But, actually, that spread looks pretty good for you.”

“Yeah, I know. Balance. What I’m trying to seek—the boy wants the same but keeps stepping into shit.”

“Look, my son is not like his mother—thank God—but he only accepts help on his own terms. However, when the boundaries are irrational, like you can help me by denying the existence of your own life, I have to step away and set my own boundaries.”

“Jesus, Frank. That kid hates your girlfriend and cannot let it go. You need to move on.”

“Anyway, what was he doing at your apartment?”

“It’s complicated,” said Frank. “He’s been spending time there because he’s fighting with his partner.”

Frank sipped the Moretti, grimacing while putting the mug down. “Well, that goes into another issue,” he said. “I’m tired of this, but you know how we got here. I met his mother thirty years ago, and even though it’s been a long time since the divorce and though she died several years ago, the damage remains.”

“Stop it,” said Tony. “You did all right. You took action. You are a good father.”

“That wasn’t enough. It’s like this: When deception is added as a tool in an abusive relationship, it quickly becomes a habit, then a way of life. It’s poisonous, its toxicity becoming the fluid that flows through your veins. It overcomes you in every relationship and activity, and you forget why it is there first.’

‘Then, what happens?’

“You make a choice. You break from it because this cannot continue if you want to hold on to your soul. For some, it takes years; for others, it does not.”

“And you?’

Frank shrugged and signaled the waitperson for another Moretti. “Do you think I look like the guy who’s lost everything?”

“Doesn’t seem so.”

“Or maybe I appear to be giving you another deception.”

“How would I know?

“You would know.”

“I am aware. I can tell by who you are not mentioning in our conversation.”

The waitperson places the mug in front of Frank.


“There is no deception,” said Tony. “You are being honest.”

“You can press me further and ask how she is doing?”

“Why should I? I read the answer on your face.”

Frank raised his glass. “Cheers to personal growth and attentive friends.”

Tony raised his. “Cheers for someone whose kid just disowned him.”

Frank finally opened his coat and leaned back in his seat, relaxing from rigidity. “You know what it did? Found out that everyone in the entire mess was lying. But, dude, I had to get off this train, especially when I remembered that ex-girlfriend saying that she does not lie--she only answers the right questions.”

“I never liked her,” said Tony. “I told you bringing her back was a shitty idea.”

“Yeah. With agency comes responsibility.”

“Uh, ‘Does not lie but only answers right questions’ is admittedly fucked up.”

“Well, there you go.” Frank sighed, turning to the Botticelli school painting behind them. “Yes, she is. I blame her for some of this bullshit. Doesn’t seem to get that my son might have problems that can only be fixed with talk therapy and probable meds. Instead, she insists on acting like a replacement mommy and enables the behavior.”

Frank slapped the table. “I appreciate extracting therapy from you. I do not want to make this a habit. I pay someone for listening to my bullshit.”

“No worries. After this, let’s go walking,” said Tony. “My camera is itching for work, and the skate punks are at Washington Square. I’d want to get some action shots.”

“Good idea. Photography is a great way to take my mind off things. People living their lives, doing shit. Expressing emotions of joy, with a layer of a tragedy somewhere buried underneath their facades.”

“They show it, you know. Or maybe I’m only looking at myself.”

He pulled out his wallet. Then, signaling the waitperson, Frank said. “I got this.”

Tony shrugged. “That’s fine, man. By the way, do you have that Zeiss lens on you? It does me well at night.”

Frank rummaged through his camera bag.

“You’re right, you know. We often see ourselves reflected back in the viewfinder,” Frank said. “The camera never lies. No deception escapes the sharpness of the lens.”

Tony stared toward the door. “Good Lord, it’s been thirty years since I met his mother,” he said.

“So what? This is now,” said Frank. “You figured out that learning how to live is never too late. Now let’s go take some pictures.”


About the author

Mike Lee is a writer and editor at a trade union in New York City. His work appears in or is forthcoming in CafeLit Drunk Monkeys, The Opiate, Fictionette, Brilliant Flash Fiction, BULL, and others. His story collection, The Northern Line, is available on Amazon. 

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