Wednesday, March 23, 2016

(Now) Election Day (1946)

This opening (Now) chapter imagines the beating and murder of Republican operative Joseph Scottoriggio. The (Now) chapters cover the Marcantonio's demise from Election Day 1946 to his death in the early 1950s.

It was the nether hour between daylight and dark.

Sure, in His way, He had built the home she lived in. But that was then and this was now.

"Election Day" by Ralph Fasanella
The alarm clock tried to help them. Didn't go off. Still, Cecilia Scottoriggio's husband Joe dressed in a rush and stepped out the door at around 5:45 a.m. She opened the window and looked down ten stories.

First Avenue.

It was early November. Wind off the East River whipped around the tenement rows on the waterfront. Blasted through the treeless gaps.

Street lanterns were still on, but there was enough morning light so that she could see her man. Joe stepped out and crossed the corner at 104th Street.

Sure, the East River Housing Project was an improvement over the dump they left behind. Sure, He made it possible with His power. But that was then and this was now.
And now, big Joe Scottoriggio was weighted down with voting machines and a list of peoples' names he would challenge when they came to vote. To vote for Him.

And Joe knew they would come because he was once like them. Counted on to vote every two years without fail. Counted on in the same way you counted on the mail coming twice a day.

But that was then and this was now.


It was the same nether hour when, just like that, two men in suits and fedora hats came up behind Joe who did not know.

They wore the uniform of a familiar local type. A soft-shoed army of fear merchants. A cry came up in Cecilia's chest, but they were faster than sound. Before she could get it out one of them hit Joe.

He never saw it coming.

The big accountant fell to the ground; a skyscraper blasted at the base, keeling instead of crumbling. His head hit concrete hard. They could have stopped, the point made, mission accomplished.

But they didn't.

Cecilia's cry broke free, but ran into the hand at her mouth. The shadows spit two more men into the street. They punched and kicked Joe without mercy.

The hand dropped. Her voice flew downward through losing darkness. Mrs. Scottoriggio was drowned out by a foghorn on the water, the first cars in traffic, the slamming of a delivery truck door.

The beating went on.

Joe -- "Scotty" his friends called him -- he knew the risks. The game was slumtown politics. There were bad people involved. Useful ones. But the ambush came too fast, froze him defenseless. Now he was a slab of meet on the slaughterhouse floor, every blast landing with full fury.

Cecilia saw a man run from the scene. New York was a crowded city. There was always a witness, although getting them to gab was a separate business.

It was over in a minute. The skunks fled. Joe rolled over, spread and sprawled, a thick, black X herky-jerky on the blue morning sidewalk. Cecilia watched her husband tremble on concrete and tar. The voting machines were all over the place. Wind pushed the election cards like confetti. 

Dark stars around a cooling sun.

She reached into her heart for a great bellow of grief. But the heart was ruptured and you, you could not repair it. 

Before the Samaritans stepped onto the scene, before the hospital, and the police, and bigwigs of the state Republican Party became actors in the tragic play that was now Cecilia Scottoriggio's life, a thought entered her mind: He had done it. Yeah. He and His people and His power had done Joe in because Joe had been strong and stood up to Him, to them, to this whole stinking slum of an East Harlem and the rats the city counted as citizens in the census.

But that was then and this was now.

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