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The Long, Hot Summer

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Los Angeles, California— 1983

“Are you still coming to New York for the Fourth of July, Calogero? Your Ma would love to see you again.”

“Yeah, I’ll be there, just gotta work some stuff out with my publisher, and I’ll be on the first plane out.”

“If you can get it done early, it might be nice to see the neighborhood, look around a bit, see how it’s changeid.”

“I heard that The Chez Bippy might close down— Jane mentioned it to me the last time we spoke.”

“Yeah, it’s up in the air. Rudy’s health has gotten bad, so Carmine is thinking about shutting it down, but Sonny’s niece wants to take over— you remember her, right?”

Calogero stopped for a moment, pencil hovering over his notepad. It had been a long time since he thought about her, memories of summertime in The Bronx resurfacing. 

“Calogero, are you there? Did I lose you?”

“Shit, yeah, I’m here. I remember her— I thought she still lived in Detroit.” 

“Your Ma said that Carmelita mentioned to some of their high school friends that Rosetta was thinking about moving in for good.”

“Is that all she said?” He asked, laughing at how easily neighborhood gossip got around. If his father knew about it, then it was no doubt the truth, or at least as close as it could get going through the mouths of dozens of gossiping Italian mothers. “Listen, I gotta make a call, an’ then I’ll be on the way to the airport— if you can’t make it by four o’ clock, I’ll just get a cab to Belmont.” 

“I’ll be there, Calogero. Have a safe flight.” 

As he called his publisher, he glanced down at the notepad, his eyes glinting in amusement as he began to write whatever came to his head. He could focus on editing and clarity later, as long as he got the story down. 

“Hey, Jake, I think I know what I’m gonna write next— it’s another story from Belmont, but I don’t think anyone’ll mind me writing it down. Sure, I’ll call once my plane lands. Talk to you in a few hours.”

He glanced down at the paper once more, nodding to himself as he threw it in his portfolio. There would be time to write in the airport, and even if there wasn’t, he at least had an introduction to start off of.  

In the summer before I turned seventeen, before I met Jane, there was Rosetta Ciampi— a spitfire Detroit native that was as wild as she was funny. Where the rest of the United States struggled with unrest and tensions during The Long, Hot Summer of ‘67, she bloomed while working at The Chez Bippy for her uncle, Sonny himself— a six string guitar and two suitcases the only things her mother had let her take after her third time being picked up from the police station. To her, Belmont Avenue was one step up from a death sentence; to Sonny, it was his duty to his twin sister; and, to me? It was a summer I would never forget— and it all started halfway through a poker game in the basement of The Chez Bippy…