Assassino Fuggiasco

Yesterday I bumped into a fugitive murderer at the grocery store. Literally. Not kidding. I didn’t recognize him for what he was until after accidental contact (my grocery cart, his heel) had occurred.  But his reaction convinced me that here was a dangerous guy who should be avoided.

First, a bit of context. At around midday on a weekend, the store was quite busy.  As one might expect. A lot of traffic, a lot of congestion.  Standalone supermarket displays jutting into the aisles didn’t make maneuvering any easier.  I was wheeling a lightly-loaded cart with a few odds and ends to round out the larder.  My counterpart, directly ahead, was piloting one of those oversized, child-friendly shopping wagons that have a plastic two-seater automobile hanging off the prow.  He had no current passengers, but his vessel was fully-laden with a week’s worth of groceries mounded high within the wire basketry. He was also conducting a long-distance conversation (in some obscure, guttural, Mezzogiorno dialect of Italian) with one of his children, who was half-way down a nearby aisle.  White male, 40s(?), greyish hair, dark complexion, short stature (5′ 4” at the most), thin build, wearing a windbreaker, jeans and sneakers.

Unfortunately, ‘Signor Pizzo‘ chose that particular moment to abruptly halt his forward progress in the narrowest possible space in the entire store –a veritable Strait of Messina, if you will– where the front aisle turned a corner to lead toward the checkout lanes.  Following too closely, I was unable to stop in time. A shopper coming in the other direction prevented me from swerving aside.  I hit his heel with my cart.

Mappa_del_Pizzo_svg

I regret to say that I did not apologize.  Instead, annoyed with his sudden stop and lack of situation awareness, I said, “Don’t stop. Keep moving.”  Which is what I promptly did, as soon as the oncoming lane was clear. I steered around Signor Pizzo and his cart –they were still stopped dead in the aisle– and proceeded to the checkout line fifteen feet away.  As I passed, I caught a glimpse of fury and hatred blazing from his eyes.  I saw him lift his right foot to look at the heel of his sneaker (for scuffs?), heard him mutter something in Italian (probably not a compliment), and saw him reach for his back pocket before turning toward the aisles where his family presumably was.   Three words flashed through my mind: “Murderer. Fugitive. ‘Ndrangheta.” Not necessarily in that order.  The look in his eyes clearly showed that he wanted to kill me.  But we were in a public place. His family was close. The video cameras were rolling.  He’d left his knife at home.  Now was not the time.

In some cultures, treading on a man’s shoes is a mortal insult to dignity, and dignity is all that matters in life.  In the Mezzogiorno, vengeance can wait –for generations, if need be.  I don’t think Signor Pizzo is willing to wait that long.  As I stood in the checkout line, watching for sudden movements from the corner of my eye, I heard further muttering and I could see him staring at me, committing my features to memory … for another day.  But I know what he looks like, too.  I’m going to be keeping a sharp lookout for scrawny Calabresi on construction sites, in pizzerias, and in grocery stores.  Just not in that particular one, because I don’t think I’ll be going back there. Not on Saturdays, around noon.

In the interest of world peace and social harmony, I didn’t show him my own eyes.  The ones that can convey the message: I’ll kill you first, if necessary.  Those eyes have been retired.  For now.

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