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The Pavement Business

January 7, 2011

Tap. Tap.  Tap.  Each tap on my shoulder was more insistent and heavier than the last.  I took out my ear-buds and blinked my eyes open.  I turned my head slightly to face the person who awakened me.  It was a muscular, tanned man, probably in his late thirties, with wild black hair and thick eyebrows.  He waited until I gave him my full attention before he said, “So, I’m in the pavement business.”

I was raised well.  My instinctive response was, “Pardon, sir?”

“I’m in the pavement business.  I make pavement.”  He leaned back in his tiny airline regulation chair and stuck his feet out into the aisle.  I stared.

“You gonna eat them peanuts?” he asked, gesturing to the foil bag in the seat pocket in front of me.  I shook my head, and he reached over my lap to get the bag of nuts.  Opening them with difficultly in his hammy fingers, he asked, “You going to Boston?”

“Yes, I am visiting my boyfriend.”  He digested this information, along with the peanuts.

“Your boyfriend need any pavement?  I do sidewalks, roads, basketball courts.  We are da best in da business.” he said, in his thick New Englander drawl.

“No, thank you.”  He finished the bag of peanuts in silence, and I thought the conversation was over.  I put my ear-buds back in, and closed my eyes.

Tap.  Tap.  On my arm this time.  “My whole family, you know, we’re all in the pavement business.  How much family d’you think I have?”

I put the I-pod away, resigned to my fate.  “A lot?” I hazarded.

“I has 9 brothers and 2 sisters.”

“That’s a lot of boys.”

“Ya, my mother got real tired.  And they all in the family business, every one of ‘em. My brother, Tony, he in the pavement business.  My brother, Mike, he in the pavement business.  My brother Moe, he in the pavement business….”

“What about your sisters?  Are they in the business too?”  Up until that moment, I thought we had established a curious kind of repartee, but now he looked nonplussed.

“No, they’re girls.”  He paused. “You know, housewives.”  He brightened.  “But their husbands, they in the business too.  My granddaddy’s rule.  He was in the pavement business too, you know?  He know everything there is to know about pavement.”

He whipped out a business card and gave it to me.  I examined it.  It was orange, with thick black stripes around the border.  The front said “PAVEMENT” in Impact black letters.  The back said “The Best in Boston!” and gave some contact numbers.  It did list a fax number.  It didn’t list his name.  I tried to hand the card back to him.

“Keep it, ya never know who needs pavement.  And they need it, we’re there.  We’re now the only major pavement business in Boston.  My daddy made sure of dat.  You know how it goes.”  For a moment I had wild visions of Luca Brasi in an orange construction hat.  I smiled reflexively.

“Thanks.”  I pocketed the card.

“Sure, sure.”  He sounded distracted for a moment.  He pulled his legs back in as the drink cart rattled by, pulled Spirit out of the seat pocket, and, leaning back the chair, draped the magazine over his face.

And that’s how I met a member of the not-so-famous pavement mob in Boston.

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