“Vinnie. I know you’re desperate. But this guy?”
“My son needs a godfather, Tony.”
The two friends stood in front of a formerly beautiful house. The three story Victorian mansion had been the pride of the block before the war.
“But this guy?” Tony said. “Come on. I mean. This guy.”
“Yes, this guy. He’s all that’s left.”
“No. Vinnie. Come on. There’s got to be someone else. I mean, anybody else but this guy.”
“Do the math dummy. I got sixteen kids. There’s sixteen men left in town. He’s it. The last one.”
Like the rest of the buildings in town, the mansion was now only a shell of its former luxury. No roof, one side of the second floor missing, no glass left in the windows — what remained of the structure could barely be called livable.
“I’ll go twice,” Tony said. “I’ll take Carmine and this one. What’s his name again?”
“He doesn’t have a name,” Vinnie said. “Because he doesn’t have a godfather to name him, which is why we’re here talking to this guy.”
“I’ll name him,” Tony said. “Anthony. There. Done. Let’s get out of here.”
“You can’t do both. That’s not how it works,” Vinnie said.
“Who’s to say how it works? Like you said, there ain’t anybody left. It’s just us.”
“Some things need to stay the same, and each of my kids is getting their own godfather,” Vinnie said. “Besides, Anthony’s a stupid name. There’s like twenty Anthonys running around already.”
“Now you’re just being hurtful,” Tony said.
Vinnie stepped forward, grabbed the iron door knocker, and banged it against the door. The exterior wall of the house shook under its weight.
“You think he’d try and fix this place up a bit,” Tony said, examining the brick work. “Why’s he all the way out here anyway? Why isn’t he with the rest of us in town? This guy. I don’t know.”
“Maybe he just likes being alone,” Vinnie said, waiting for some kind of response to his knock.
“Maybe the rumors are true, and this guy’s some kind of witch,” Tony said as he pushed on a brick to see if it would pop out the other side of the wall.
“Only ladies can be witches,” Vinnie replied. He thought about knocking again, but he wasn’t sure the door could take it.
“Fine, a warlock thing then,” Tony said.
Vinnie took up the handle and knocked a second time. Again, the wall vibrated from the pound of the knocker. The two friends waited another moment.
“Maybe he’s dead,” Tony said.
“Lizzette saw him yesterday. He was picking berries over by Burned Tank Road.”
“Pickin’ berries. This guy.”
To Vinnie and Tony’s surprise, a melodic voice chimed from somewhere in the house. “Come in,” it called. “Come in. I’m in the ba-ack.”
Tony pushed on the front door and it swung open. The two friends stepped inside. The sight of the room shocked both men. The space was illuminated by a hole in the ceiling that allowed beams of sunlight to fill the space. A marble staircase swept up the right wall. The railing was made of well-polished brass. To the left was a beautifully decorated door with distinctive molding around the top. But it wasn’t the grandeur of room that took the men’s breath away. Rather, it was the butler. On the stairs, with a dust pan in one hand and a broom in the other, was a monkey dressed in a tuxedo.
“This fuckin’ guy,” Tony said.
“Is that a goddamn monkey?” Vinnie asked.
The monkey placed the broom and the dust pan on the stairs and tromped toward the two friends. Tony and Vinnie recoiled in fear. The monkey approached, running on all fours, glaring at the men. Tony took a step behind Vinnie, moving toward the door, ready to run for it at the first sign of aggression, but the monkey did not attack. Instead, it stopped a few feet in front of them, stood up straight, and held out it’s right hand.
“It’s a goddamn monkey,” Vinnie said.
The voice from inside the house chimed again, “Give Mr. Brewster your coats and join me in the salon.”
Vinnie shrugged at Tony and began removing the tattered, green, army coat he wore.
“This fucking guy,” Tony said, following suit.
The monkey accepted the coats, walked upright to the door on the left, opened the door, threw the coats into the closet, and went back to sweeping the stairs.
The friends ventured down the hall. With its marble tiled floors and crown molding, it was as grand as the entry way, although the absence of sunshine made it much darker. Along the hall were two doors on the right and two doors on the left. Vinnie paused at the first set of doors.
“You sure you want to do that?” Tony asked as Vinnie reached for the door on the right.
Vinnie grabbed the knob and pushed the door open. On the other side was an ornate kitchen. The center of the kitchen was filled with a stainless steel island. Brass colored pots and pans hung above it. The walls were adorned with mahogany cabinets and granite counter tops. Two large gas stoves topped with dormant microwaves rested against the right wall. On the left was a giant, stainless steel fridge. In contrast to all this affluence, in the middle of the room, using a paring knife to slice salmon for sushi, was a brown otter.
The otter barked furiously at the intruders.
Vinnie jumped back, slamming the door closed again.
“I’m back here,” the voice called again from the end of the hallway.
“This fuckin’ guy. This is the future godfather of your son. This guy,” Tony said as Vinnie pressed on the end of the hall.
“On the le-eft,” the singsong voice said again.
Vinnie stared at the final door on the left and swallowed.
“Don’t open that,” Tony said. “This guy’s the fucking devil. Open that door and something’s going to jump out and eat your face.”
Vinnie looked his friend in the eye and said, “My boy needs a name.”
“Alright,” Tony said. He stretched his neck left and then right. “It’ll be just like the battle of Harlem. I’m right here behind you, brother. Whatever is on the other side of that door, we’ll face it together.”
“Thanks, man,” Vinnie said. He turned and faced the door. He took the knob in his hand and turned. Slowly, he pushed the door open.
“Fuck this,” Tony yelled as he ran down the hall in fear. Vinnie would later learn that Tony didn’t stop running until he had made it all the way home.
In the room sat an elderly man at a round felt table. The man wore a purple robe with matching slippers. On his head was a square, red hat with small moose antlers sprouting from the sides. On the man’s left sat a large, brown bear that was smoking a pipe. On the man’s right, sitting upright like a human, was a grey wolf. All three occupants of the table held playing cards. There were a small piles of poker chips in front of the man and the bear, and a large pile in front of the wolf.
“Welcome,” said the man. “Don’t believe what you see for one second.”
“Uh,” Vinnie mumbled.
“I’m not actually losing to this flea bag. He’s cheating.”
The wolf growled.
“Uh,” Vinnie said again.
“The answer of course, my good man, is yes. I’m honored. Quite a privilege,” the elderly man said.
“Uh,” Vinnie said a third time.
“And you should name your son, Zestoka. It means fierce. He’ll need to be, if he is going to survive as number sixteen. Can you imagine having sixteen siblings?”
The bear roared in reply.
“Well, of course you can’t. It was meant to be rhetorical,” the man said.
“Th-thank you,” Vinnie said.
“You are very welcome, kind sir,” the man said. “Unfortunately, Mr. Brewster, I’m afraid, is wonderful at taking coats. Not so great at giving them back. You’re probably best just to leave your jacket here.”
“O-okay,” said Vinnie as he closed the door. Standing alone in the hall, he wondered how he ever explain what he’d just seen.
— — — — — — — — — — — —
This story is a retelling of the Grimm’s Fairy Tale “The Godfather.” Click here to read the original.