“There always one moment in a childhood when the door opens and lets the future in” – Graham Greene

The earliest memories I have of my father are of me and him fishing. Always fishing when we were together, usually trout. He liked it when we would sit there, chewing the fat until we caught something. But one time when we went deep sea fishing, now that sticks out more clearly than the others...

Pop brought this big garbage bag along, he called it bait. He said that it was a special type of bait, so he’d put mine on my hook for me, so no peeking. I tried my best not to peak, I really did. But every time he gave me my hook, I could see the meat was still fresh, the blood still leaving my fingers red. “Pop, so why we feeding this to the fish? I’m sure grandma would make some great pasta out of this” I eventually asked him. Pop chuckled, shook his head and said in his Italian accent “People only eat certain types of meat – Fish, sheep, cows, that sort of thing. That’s what’s good for us. That’s why grandma doesn’t make porcupine soup, ‘cause that wouldn’t be good for us”. "We're using porcupine as bait?!" I exclaimed. Pop began to laugh until tears rolled down his cheek. “Yeah, Frankie” he said, still giggling slightly, “It’s a porcupine” As he said that, I sneaked a look at what he was doing. He was pulling the flesh off a man’s finger, and putting it on his hook…

Pop was never a cruel man; he never hit me once in my life. Not even when I did something wrong, he’d just sit me right down and say “Frankie, I’m really disappointed in you”. That hurt so much more than any beating I’ve ever had (and I’ve had beatings from the experts). So I worked real hard, just to keep my Pop happy.

We lived with grandma in an estate just outside of Florida. Mama died giving birth to me, so grandma would always be fussing over me, usually mumbling something in Italian. Pop would always say to her “Mama, the boy’s in America now, he needs to speak English. I don’t want him sitting in my position.” I always thought he was talking about his accent, how it made people nervous. Turns out he meant something very different

That day on the boat everything fell into place. It explained why we had all this money, and why Pop was always at home, except when he got an urgent phone call from Uncle Antonio. Pop was a mobster. The real deal. A 100% “It’s Nothing Personal, It’s just Business” cop-killing Italian Mafia-Man. I told no-one –I didn’t want to disappoint Pop. I just kept it to myself.

When I was fourteen my Pop went to speak with Uncle Antonio. He was this really smooth guy, always being extra nice when I was around. He always had at least three “friends” with him, with shiny Colts sticking out of their belts. Now that I think back, everyone was wearing Hawaiian shirts at Uncle Antonio’s mansion, even me. Uncle Antonio told my Pop that there was one last business matter that Pop had to deal with. He said that an arrangement went sour, that we lost a lot of men and that Pop had to go “speak” on behalf of the Family, to enlighten the perpetrators of their mistake. He said that when Pop came back, he would be working more closely with him and that he would be able to stay with me full time. Pop said that suited him perfectly. Eventually Uncle Antonio told Pop that the matter was in Las Vegas and that it would be safer if I stayed with my Uncle. “So that if the situation, er, you know, goes sour again, that at least the kid is safe” was how Uncle Antonio put it.

That’s when the car came to take him to the airport. That’s when my father kissed me on the forehead. That’s when he said, “You’ve grown into a man, Frankie, look after yourself.” That’s when he left.

That’s the last time I ever saw him.

I went fishing with my son last week. I was supposed to be working, but mixing business with pleasure is my style. “Pop” he asked me, with this huge smile on his face, “what we using for bait?” I looked at him, grinned and helped him cast off from the boat. “Porcupine” I said, reaching into the garbage bag for more bait…

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