I guess you could say I went to a garden party one day. It was only fun because I could pay off a bet. Let’s just say it wasn’t a Twix candy bar sort of bet. I had one hour to meet up with my Italian bookie on my duty free lunch time as a middle school teacher, or they may have showed up for me at school, thus ending my career.
My Italian bookie was a nice fella. He knew I was a nice and stupid drunk Irishman fella with friends, neighbors and family members trusting my wallet. Errors come in trios, no matter what nationality. I was the bank for them, and the bookie was waiting to collect at his local garden spot. He sold flowers, plants, wilted lettuce and sausage. He collected money from clowns like me. I was a semi phony teacher and he was a semi phony business man. We were both part time actors. I liked him.
With an envelope the size of a maple bar filled with dirty twenty, tens, fives, some ones and a few c-notes, I finished my English lesson before my lunch time and prep period to pay off my dues. My driver was, and still is, miraculously, a fellow teacher and friend. He was nervous. I was more worried about getting back to class on time. He wanted to drop me off and catch a bus back to school. Then, I had to negotiate. My driver was not going to enter the “store” with me as planned. I told him I’d go in, and pay this bookie off as long as he would give me a ride back to our respected place of employment. Nervously, he thought I may return to the car with something severed. I assured him we were PAYING OFF a bet. We may even get a free head of lettuce in the transaction.
When I entered the establishment, the bookie and I had never personally met. At first glance, he knew I was the Irish Catholic gambler/school teacher he should be collecting debts from, and he asked me to follow him to his office. He saw the maple bar in my pocket and was pleased. He said the Mrs. was going to have a nice Christmas. She hated his gambling but always seemed happy when she’d be given a load of dirty cash. He even offered me a beer in his office. I respectfully declined stating, “No, I have children to teach.” That’s absolutely true and also widening the scope of abject hypocrisy.