Heart of the Old Country
by Tim McLoughlin
Just 15 minutes from Manhattan, you can find the most quaintly provincial people. Mikey lives the goombah slacker life style, drinking only to excess, and debating whether to follow his dad in the numbers running game, or keep the high paying job as a gypsy cab driver. His girl friend Gina is whiny bitch, and no one, including Mikey, thinks they should marry. Except Gina, who has a five-year plan to impress her girlfriends by getting preggers and pushing a pram down 21st Avenue. That’ll show ’em who’s having sex. But after four years of Mikey’s foot dragging, her bio-clock is screaming – you’re nearly 20! Get going!
After he helps off his junkie buddy Shades, Mike picks up some stone cold MF points, and gets the opportunity of his life • running mysterious packages from the ‘burbs to the Hasidic mob. It’s easy money till he takes a slug, and now it’s time to decide if he should ditch Gina and hang with an arty chick who dresses in black and listens to jazz. He wasn’t even aware this sort of girl existed till chapter ten, so the reader comes away with the strong idea Mike should get out more.
It’s a short book, but it takes awhile before you start to connect with the characters and see where it’s heading. While you wait, the narrative descriptions of life in Brooklyn are sharply incised, and if you feel there’s a nice little indie film noir project lurking in here. Unexpected flashes of violence illuminate Mikey’s world, and no one seems to mind or notice if they’re randomly knifed or shot. It certainly wouldn’t keep you from a date or anything important. And moving to Manhattan or the •burbs isn’t an option, because they’re even scarier than the Brooklyn you were born to. It’s your ‘hood, it•s where you belong, and don’t get uppity. Ambition isn’t polite.