The Morelli Bros. (Chapter 1, Part II)

They went from door to door, visiting customers who had previously done business with their family, and they were met with looks of sympathy and a slow shake of the head.

“I’m sorry, Mario, but given what your father has put us through, we just have to go with these other guys.”

“I wish I could, but I just don’t know if I can trust you boys.”

“No, and if I ever see one of you Morellis on our property again, I’ll call the cops!”

It brought a great sadness upon the boy’s hearts knowing that the burden of their father had passed down to them.  More and more of their customers were turning to their competitors because of his actions, and were now passing their judgement of him down to the hardworking duo.

As the day dragged on, they found it increasingly difficult to find their smiles before knocking on each new door.

“What are we going to do, brother,” asked the younger of the two.

“We have to show them that we aren’t like that bastard of a man.  We have to prove that we can be trusted, that it’s better to do business with a face you know, than with an app, or a phone service,” Mario answered passionately.

“And how do you-a say we do that,” Luigi answered with a sharp edge to his voice.

He didn’t have an immediate answer for his brother, nor would he find one in the near future.  He only knew that the best way to prove his worth was to get in and do the work.  If they couldn’t get over the threshold, how was he going to be able to ever do that?

He shook his head sadly and lowered his faced into his hands where he would hide his shame for the next several minutes.  When he next spoke, it his voice was thick with emotion.

“Offer them our next service for free,” he dared softly utter.

“A-wha…?”

Luigi flew up from his seat as he attempted stand over his brother in anger, only to slam his head on the ceiling of the van.  The breath whooshed from his lungs, stolen by the surprise of the situation as he tumbled askew to his seat.

For the first time in hours, Mario first smiled, and then laughed at what had happened to his younger, clumsier sibling.  It was a brief reprieve, for as soon as the other had recovered, the two argued in earnest about his latest proposition.

“We cannot give away our business,” the younger shot back. “We have-a precious few supplies as it is!”

“We’ve a-gotta do something,” Mario retorted. “If we don’t a-show them our intentions, we’re done for good!”

“Maybe it’s-a for the best,” Luigi fired in return.

The afternoon waned as their Italian blood fueled each side of the argument and by the time they found themselves wore out enough to settle on a compromise, the shadows had begun to stretch back toward the direction from which the sun had begun its journey.

They were no closer to what they had set out to do at the beginning of the day, and neither noticed that the needle on the fuel gauge had begun to dip below the ‘E’.

 

 

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The Morelli Bros. (Prologue, iii.)

They eventually lost their father to alcoholism.  That had been the toughest summer of their young lives, for it was then that they learned just how far he had sunk in his depression.  Piles of bills were stashed away beneath his mattress or unpaid and forgotten in the dust filled shadows.  Collections Services came calling at all hours of the day, all in search of the same thing; coin that neither of the brothers possessed.  

Every day became a struggle to not only maintain their meager lifestyle, but in keeping food in their bellies as well.  For every dollar they made, they paid two more toward the debts they had inherited and it wasn’t long before their father’s folly caught up to them.  

One by one, their customers began moving away from the Morelli Plumbing business and towards more commercially known ones.  Despite their knowledge and experience, there wasn’t very much they could do to convince anyone to hire the sons of Rocco Morelli, a man who rarely finished a repair in a timely manner and who was suspected of stealing from his clients.  

The Morelli name had become a curse in most homes and only a small handful of people still stood behind them.  These were the people whom they had helped the most over the years.  The families they had moved from one home to another and those who knew the struggles they’d had in their lives.  And in some cases, they were the friends they grew up with, or the families of these friends after the former had moved on.

Eventually, their past caught up with them and they lost their apartment.  There were too many tools for them to store in their van, and with heavy hearts they sold whatever they could do without and still continue peddle their trade.   The rest was donated to the plumbing supplier whom they had given all of their business.  

They washed their clothes a a local laundromat, where they could also freshen up in the restroom as the clothes were being cleaned and they ate as often as their funds allowed, which was at least once a day.  It was a poor way to live and they both knew that time was against them.  If they didn’t find something better, and soon, they were going to have to begin selling the rest of their tools and take minimum wage jobs in order to survive.  

Without a physical address, they had forwarded their mail to a P.O. box, where the bills continued to pour in.  Neither could believe the amount of trouble their father could create for them, even beyond the grave!  There were bills for unpaid tabs at various bars and gentlemen’s clubs.  On top of the bills they owed for their apartment, there were also bills for jobs that had been improperly finished, including one for a septic tank repair that was almost five figures! 

They were steadily losing ground, but what they didn’t know was that sometimes you have to reach rock bottom before things begin to turn around.  Of all the things that their father had taught them over the years, optimism wasn’t one of them.  His secret resentment of the boys didn’t have room for the brighter things in life, things which he knew very little about from the beginning.  

Ever the optimists, they had a long way to go before they lost the one thing they had left.  Hope.

 

The Morelli Bros. (Prologue, ii.)

When his sons were ten, just a few years before he became entirely dependent upon the bottle, the Morelli family set sail for America.  Rocco had turned into a miserable excuse for a man, unwashed and unkempt, but he still worked just as hard as he had before his sons were born.

They made a small home for themselves on the outskirts of Brooklyn in an apartment that was only big enough to be comfortable for one person, while two would have been a crowd.  To top it off, Rocco had no where else to store his tools.

The boys never complained.  They never cried, and despite the fact that there was hardly ever any room left for them to play or sleep, they always found a way to make the best out of their situation.

Mario, the oldest of the two, had the strongest interest in his father’s trade.  Whenever Rocco was still sober, he constantly grilled him for information about the various tools and equipment that was lying about.  When Rocco was too drunk to talk, he studied from the various texts and manuals he found lying around. His younger brother Luigi was just as bright as he, but his talents lie more with how he interacted with people.  Though he was a gangling youth, taller and often clumsier than his brother, he had a knack for reading people.  This talent had gotten them out of all kinds of trouble growing up.

The boys were very athletic.  They enjoyed playing outside from morning until evening.  Running, jumping, climbing, nothing was off limits to them.  They soon became legends among their friends.  Where Mario was the stronger of the two, his brother was the quicker.  Where one was known for his iron fist, the other was recognized for his ability to outrun and jump everyone else.

As they grew older, the boys began to pick up the slack that their father left behind. They did it without complaint.  They did it unconditionally, because despite his faults he was directly responsible for their very existence.  Even though he only ever grunted in response to their stories, they still loved the man whose passion was quickly becoming their own.

Much like the man before them, they began taking odd jobs here and there. If they weren’t fixing pipes that Rocco hadn’t properly set, they worked as a two man moving crew.  They prided themselves in the jobs they did, though ‘moving’ was only a vague reference for what they actually did.  While they sometimes helped the many other immigrants that have come and gone over the years, they were often called upon to help move things around by elderly neighbors who couldn’t do so for themselves.

Everyone thought kindly of two young brothers and often paid them more than for what they were asking and being the thrifty boys that they were, they used that extra money to buy clothes, food for the apartment and the various tools and parts that were needed for their father’s business.  They knew where their father kept his earnings and when the landlord came each month, they took out just enough to cover the rent and the utilities.

It wasn’t an easy childhood for the Morelli brothers.  Their days were more filled with work as they grew older.  While their friends enjoyed going to school and playing out in the streets until the darkest hours of night, they quickly became masters of their trade. By the time their peers were graduating, they had taken all of their father’s clients.  With their meager savings, they had purchased a used utility van to store their tools and spare parts for easy access.  It wasn’t much, but it made things so much easier than hauling their equipment in the basket on their shared bike.