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Книга The Godfather. Страница 8

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Tom Hagen held out his hand when Johnny came into the room. Johnny shook it and said, “How are you, Tom?” But without his usual charm that consisted of a genuine warmth for people. Hagen was a little hurt by this coolness but shrugged it off. It was one of the penalties for being the Don’s hatchet man.

Johnny Fontane said to the Don, “When I got the wedding invitation I said to myself, ‘My Godfather isn’t mad at me anymore.’ I called you five times after my divorce and Tom always told me you were out or busy so I knew you were sore.”

Don Corleone was filling glasses from the yellow bottle of Strega. “That’s all forgotten. Now. Can I do something for you still? You’re not too famous, too rich, that I can’t help you?”

Johnny gulped down the yellow fiery liquid and held out his glass to be refilled. He tried to sound jaunty. “I’m not rich, Godfather. I’m going down. You were right. I should never have left my wife and kids for that tramp I married. I don’t blame you for getting sore at me.”

The Don shrugged. “I worried about you, you’re my godson, that’s all.”

Johnny paced up and down the room. “I was crazy about that bitch. The biggest star in Hollywood. She looks like an angel. And you know what she does after a picture? If the makeup man does a good job on her face, she lets him bang her. If the cameraman made her look extra good, she brings him into her dressing room and gives him a screw. Anybody. She uses her body like I use the loose change in my pocket for a tip. A whore made for the devil.”

Don Corleone curtly broke in. “How is your family?”

Johnny sighed. “I took care of them. After the divorce I gave Ginny and the kids more than the courts said I should. I go see them once a week. I miss them. Sometimes I think I’m going crazy.” He took another drink. “Now my second wife laughs at me. She can’t understand my being jealous. She calls me an old-fashioned guinea, she makes fun of my singing. Before I left I gave her a nice beating but not in the face because she was making a picture. I gave her cramps, I punched her on the arms and legs like a kid and she kept laughing at me.” He lit a cigarette. “So, Godfather, right now, life doesn’t seem worth living.”

Don Corleone said simply. “These are troubles I can’t help you with.” He paused, then asked, “What’s the matter with your voice?”

All the assured charm, the self-mockery, disappeared from Johnny Fontane’s face. He said almost brokenly, “Godfather, I can’t sing anymore, something happened to my throat, the doctors don’t know what.” Hagen and the Don looked at him with surprise, Johnny had always been so tough. Fontane went on. “My two pictures made a lot of money. I was a big star. Now they throw me out. The head of the studio always hated my guts and now he’s paying me off.”

Don Corleone stood before his godson and asked grimly, “Why doesn’t this man like you?”

“I used to sing those songs for the liberal organizations, you know, all that stuff you never liked me to do. Well, Jack Woltz didn’t like it either. He called me a Communist, but he couldn’t make it stick. Then I snatched a girl he had saved for himself. It was strictly a one-night stand and she came after me. What the hell could I do? Then my whore second wife throws me out. And Ginny and the kids won’t take me back unless I come crawling on my hands and knees, and I can’t sing anymore. Godfather, what the hell can I do?”

Don Corleone’s face had become cold without a hint of sympathy. He said contemptuously, “You can start by acting like a man.” Suddenly anger contorted his face. He shouted. “LIKE A MAN!” He reached over the desk and grabbed Johnny Fontane by the hair of his head in a gesture that was savagely affectionate. “By Christ in heaven, is it possible that you spent so much time in my presence and turned out no better than this? A Hollywood finocchio who weeps and begs for pity? Who cries out like a woman— ‘What shall I do? Oh, what shall I do?”

The mimicry of the Don was so extraordinary, so unexpected, that Hagen and Johnny were startled into laughter. Don Corleone was pleased. For a moment he reflected on how much he loved this godson. How would his own three sons have reacted to such a tongue-lashing? Santino would have sulked and behaved badly for weeks afterward. Fredo would have been cowed. Michael would have given him a cold smile and gone out of the house, not to be seen for months. But Johnny, ah, what a fine chap he was, smiling now, gathering strength, knowing already the true purpose of his Godfather.

Don Corleone went on. “You took the woman of your boss, a man more powerful than yourself, then you complain he won’t help you. What nonsense. You left your family, your children without a father, to marry a whore and you weep because they don’t welcome you back with open arms. The whore, you don’t hit her in the face because she is making a picture, then you are amazed because she laughs at you. You lived like a fool and you have come to a fool’s end.”

Don Corleone paused to ask in a patient voice, “Are you willing to take my advice this time?”

Johnny Fontane shrugged. “I can’t marry Ginny again, not the way she wants. I have to gamble, I have to drink, I have to go out with the boys. Beautiful broads run after me and I never could resist them. Then I used to feel like a heel when I went back to Ginny. Christ, I can’t go through all that crap again.”

It was rare that Don Corleone showed exasperation. “I didn’t tell you to get married again. Do what you want. It’s good you wish to be a father to your children. A man who is not a father to his children can never be a real man. But then, you must make their mother accept you. Who says you can’t see them every day? Who says you can’t live in the same house? Who says you can’t live your life exactly as you want to live it?”

Johnny Fontane laughed. “Godfather, not all women are like the old Italian wives. Ginny won’t stand for it.”

Now the Don was mocking. “Because you acted like a finocchio. You gave her more than the court said. You didn’t hit the other in the face because she was making a picture. You let women dictate your actions and they are not competent in this world, though certainly they will be saints in heaven while we men burn in hell. And then I’ve watched you all these years.” The Don’s voice became earnest. “You’ve been a fine godson, you’ve given me all the respect. But what of your other old friends? One year you run around with this person, the next year with another person. That Italian boy who was so funny in the movies, he had some bad luck and you never saw him again because you were more famous. And how about your old, old comrade that you went to school with, who was your partner singing? Nino. He drinks too much out of disappointment but he never complains. He works hard driving the gravel truck and sings weekends for a few dollars. He never says anything against you. You couldn’t help him a bit? Why not? He sings well.”

Johnny Fontane said with patient weariness, “Godfather, he just hasn’t got enough talent. He’s OK, but he’s not big time.”

Don Corleone lidded his eyes almost closed and then said, “And you, godson, you now, you just don’t have talent enough. Shall I get you a job on the gravel truck with Nino?” When Johnny didn’t answer, the Don went on. “Friendship is everything. Friendship is more than talent. It is more than government. It is almost the equal of family. Never forget that. If you had built up a wall of friendships you wouldn’t have to ask me to help. Now tell me, why can’t you sing? You sang well in the garden. As well as Nino.”

Hagen and Johnny smiled at this delicate thrust. It was Johnny’s turn to be patronizingly patient. “My voice is weak. I sing one or two songs and then I can’t sing again for hours or days. I can’t make it through the rehearsals or the retakes. My voice is weak, it’s got some sort of sickness.”

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