Taking Care of Business (chapter 1)

(For an introduction to the novel Taking Care of Business, links to all chapters posted so far, and a list of characters who have appeared so far, go here.)


Chapter One

Marco Lentini was sitting in front of a television screen that covered virtually an entire wall of his living room, a can of beer in his hand as he watched the Super Bowl, when he saw the appalling television commercial.

Hi, I’m Shaniqua Watson, the city of Philadelphia’s new streets commissioner, and I’m pleased to announce the streets department’s new service initiative.

If a street light is out in front of your house, call us at 1-800-fixitnow and we guarantee we’ll fix it within twenty-four hours.

If a traffic light isn’t working on your corner or a stop sign has been knocked down, call us at 1-800-fixitnow and we guaranteed we’ll fix it within twenty-four hours.

If there’s broken glass in your street, call us at 1-800-fixitnow and we guarantee we’ll clean it up within twenty-four hours.

And if there’s a pothole on your street, call us at 1-800-fixitnow, and as long as it’s not raining, we guarantee we’ll fill it within three business days.

We’re the new Philadelphia streets department, and we’re here to serve you. If we fail to live up to our guarantee, we’ll give the first person to report the problem a $50 gift card to a local store or restaurant. Visit our new web site at http://www.phillyfixitnow.com for details. Call now: we’re waiting to hear from you.

Lentini slammed down his can of beer – slammed it so hard that he knocked over two of the six empties sitting on the table alongside his Barcalounger.

“What the hell?” he demanded of no one in particular. He sat alone in his living room.

Marco Lentini was not happy, and he picked up the telephone to vent his displeasure.

“Hey, Charlie, it’s Marco. Are you watching the Super Bowl?”

Charlie said he was not. Marco paused, not quite comprehending how a heterosexual adult male could possibly not be watching the Super Bowl.

“Marco?” Charlie asked, not understanding why their conversation had ground to an unexpected halt.

“Oh, yeah,” Marco replied, regaining his composure. He described the appalling commercial.

“What the hell?” Charlie exclaimed when Marco finished.

“My reaction exactly,” Marco replied.

Charlie heard a click on his line.

“Hold on a minute, Marco, I got another call.”

Marco did as asked, and a minute later, Charlie returned.

“That was Jimmy B,” Charlie said. “He just told me the same story.”

“I mean seriously, Charlie, what the hell? Who the hell is this kid and what the hell does she think she’s doing?”

“Calm down, Marco, this is the first I’m hearing about it. Let me get to the bottom of it and I’ll get back to you tomorrow night.”

“You do that, Charlie. I don’t know who this broad is or what her game is, but she just can’t go around telling people how to call the city to get help. That’s just not how we take care of business around here.”

*     *     *

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