Joey Ferrari

Picture Credits: Ruth Lacey

“Maybe it’s menopause,” ventured Martin when Analise told him over lunch that she was worried about getting fat. Martin, who she’d had an affair with five years earlier, was the person she called up when she needed to feel good about herself. He was wiry and tall, with not a bit of extra padding.

“I’m not old enough for that,” she said. Analise had always been skinny, the kind of woman who wore other women’s clothes when they grew out of them.

“Forty-seven? It’s within range.”

“No it’s not.”

“OK then.” Martin sipped his chai, which was the café’s specialty. They watched the lunchtime crowd along the wide street of Boston brownstones, basking in late-August sun. She wondered if he still found her attractive. Until now, she always assumed he did; there wasn’t any need to say.

They had been together in the summer. Ever since, the smells of summer reignited something of that time. Looking back, it seemed strange how much the duplicity of an affair had made this man so irresistible. When it ended, there were repercussions – apart from the late-night confession to her husband and the strain in their relationship. She quit smoking: it reminded her of Martin and the pain of severed love. She discovered whiskey and conveniently hid it in her cola. She lingered over hot croissants and cappuccinos in the cafés of Newbury Street, catching gossip and newspaper headlines and watching people walking by. Briefly, she dieted.

“Maybe,” Martin offered, “it’s the very fact of dieting. Your body feels deprived and then you binge to make up for it.”

“Maybe it’s that.”

Analise undid the button of her jeans – a new pair – and suddenly felt that there was room for dessert. “I’ll take whipped cream with that crème brulée,” she told the waitress.

“So, how long do you reckon it will last?” she asked him, as if he knew. She wished that he would tell her that it wasn’t true, or didn’t matter.                  

“Forever?” he said. “No, no, I’m only joking,” he added hastily, but she could tell he wasn’t. “Just do some exercise or something and stay calm – it’ll even out.”

The waitress brought her order, and Analise pushed the whipped cream onto the side of her dessert dish. “What are you up to these days, Martin? Seeing anyone?”

“I’m married, Analise. Remember?”


“Look, that’s kind of private. You know I never share that sort of information. It isn’t right.”

Lots of things were not right. Some of them had never been. Like the very fact of her living here in this city.

Analise had moved to Boston for university. At first she’d felt almost at home – Boston and Sydney were quite similar at first glance: the harbour, the wide streets, the British-inspired architecture. The periods were different, of course, but there was some overlap in the 1770s.

Except that Boston, when you went deeper, when you’d been there any length of time, was so straight-laced you almost couldn’t penetrate it. Maybe it was her. Still, there was something below the pretty, polite surface that she couldn’t get to.

The sky began to cloud, announcing a summer storm. Here, the mild summers could turn nasty in a flash. Martin indicated that he ought to leave in any case, and they split the bill. He had not commented on her looks this time, something he had never failed to do before. Perhaps he was just attempting to alter the dynamics between them, trying to actually be friends. It made her feel old.

If only she had been in Italy. In Italy she’d fit right in, with her olive skin and thick dark hair and widening hips. It wouldn’t be such a challenge to seek out proof of her attractiveness. Because if there was no one to assure her she was sexy, then was she? Her husband’s assurances and his desire were no barometer of the objective truth. Maybe she was due another crisis.


“I’m going to buy a sports car,” she told her husband. They were watching TV, repeats of Entourage, so it was OK to talk all the way through. In their done-up brownstone, Analise and Thomas spent most nights like this, alone. Their youngest child was travelling in India. Their oldest was at the conveniently close Emerson College. You’d really have to hate your parents to not find a college in Boston or Cambridge.

“A sports car,” he repeated, as the TV characters cruised in their shiny black Lincoln Continental.

“I’m thinking of a Mazda. An MX5. I don’t need back seats anymore,” said Analise.

“But you can walk everywhere. Or take the T. Your old Toyota will do the trick for the occasional drive. Won’t it?”

“Yeah. But I want a sports car. I always have. Now I can afford it.”

“Can you?” he asked.

“I’m sorry?”

“Can you afford it?”

“Well, yes, Thomas. We can. You just got that bonus and I’m doing well enough with work. I’ve got a lot coming in.”

“Ah. So you meant that I can afford it.”

“I is we. Isn’t it?”

Thomas took his time to answer, as if he was reconsidering his position. She watched his brain tick over, calculating what it would cost him if he pissed her off too much. Perhaps he didn’t really love her. Perhaps now that the kids had moved out, all that mattered was having someone on the couch next to him while he watched TV; and the sex, of course.

“An MX5 is thirty grand. For half that you could get a Mazda 3,” he suggested hopefully.

“Are you serious? They can barely get up a hill.”

“There’s the sports version.”

“With a tiny little hole they call a retractable roof. And cheap cloth seats and…”

Thomas let out the breath he’d been holding in.

“So, what colour?” he asked.

“Silver. But not the kind you usually see. This one’s got a deep kind of sheen. Goes great with tan leather upholstery. $30,065 with all the extras. It could be here Monday.”


Analise could not get enough of her new car. When she passed it in the driveway, she touched it. If the roof was down, she stroked the leather seats. She’d always had a thing for cars, even as a kid.

“My god, you are beautiful,” she’d say.

She looked for reasons to drive. In all her years in Boston, Analise had not ventured too far. Amtrak was not a great way to travel, and the buses were worse. Flying was just silly – more time spent in airports than on the plane.

Now things were different. Instead of walking to her local café, she drove a little farther, enjoying the inevitable stares she gleaned by revving the motor. It was only a 2.0 litre job, but the gears were set to make sports car noises. When she was in the car, she forgot all about her weight.

Then, one day while she was cruising along her favourite street, a man in another sports car pulled up beside her at the lights. He had dark hair left a little long and mirrored sunglasses.

“Like your car,” he said. She looked across at his. A white Ferrari. “Yeah, yours makes mine look like a Tonka toy,” she said before they both pulled away.

He pulled up beside her again at the next set of lights, and took his sunglasses off. His eyes were dark, too, with smile lines etched around them. “What’s a Tonka toy?”

There wasn’t enough time at the light change to explain about the chunky little cars she’d played with as a kid in Australia. Maybe he was too young to know what they were, or perhaps they were geographically specific. She didn’t know but resolved to look it up when she got home.

At Hanover Street she found a park and pressed a button to close the retractable roof before she got out. The street reminded her of home – Sydney’s inner suburbs, specifically, where whole streets had been taken over by Italian immigrants who spoke English with thick accents and sold the only decent coffee in the city.

Hanover was more inner city than the streets she had grown up with. More like Italy, in fact; perhaps these immigrants had come from different territory or at a different time. There were small round trellis tables on the sidewalk and groups of older men leaning against telegraph poles, speaking Italian. She picked out a small place with two tables outside, although once she took her seat she noticed a handwritten sign saying something about not sitting there if you didn’t eat. She asked the waitress if espresso and biscotti were considered food.

“That’s for these guys,” she said, indicating the men propped up by the pole. “Otherwise they sit here all day and don’t order nothing.” Analise turned to watch her walk back inside. She looked worn and from another era, like the sign, “Caffè Pompeii”. Inside, there were fake Doric columns and a plaster Roman head. It seemed strange to name a café after a Roman Caesar – or a town brought to a sudden catastrophic end. Either way, it did not bode well. She’d try somewhere else next time.

Then to top it off, some guy from the street was talking to her. “Hello,” he said.

“Hi,” she answered, not looking up.

He coughed. “Excuse me, but isn’t that your car?”

She looked up and saw a man in a uniform down the street writing a ticket. “Oh shit. Yes. Thanks,” she said, but before she could get up to move the car, the paper was flapping on her windscreen and she knew there was no point chasing him down the street.

Finally, she looked up at the guy who was standing in front of her.

“Aren’t you the bloke from the Ferrari?”

“Can I join you for a coffee?” he asked her. “They won’t let me sit here on my own if I don’t order food.”


The Ferrari guy was younger than Analise by about a decade, she figured. He had a scar on his forehead that caught her attention, but his voice was smooth.

“So, how come you’re cruising in the middle of the day?” she asked.

“My business takes me all over the city,” he said. “What about you?”

“I work freelance, from home. Choose my own hours. Not that busy right now. What business are you in?”

“Oh, you know. Drugs, gambling. No prostitution,” he answered with the kind of straight face that comics use.

“That explains the expensive car.”

“Oh, I didn’t buy that car,” he said.

She knew he was joking, of course, but she still felt a small chill of excitement. “Hey, Ferrari guy, what do they call you?”

“Joey. Joey Ferrari, actually.”

“You’re kidding.”


“Huh. Really.”

The waitress brought them coffees – Joey hadn’t ordered his, but there it was on the small round table, a milky cappuccino in a tall glass. The waitress winked at him and threw down Analise’s espresso so that part of it spilled out onto the chipped saucer. “Biscotti’s coming,” she said, sounding put-out.

“Could I have a small jug of hot water, too?” Analise was finding it difficult to tack on the usual, “please”.

“Yeah, whatever,” the waitress answered.

Analise turned to Joey again, who was smiling. “You come here often, I see.”

“I do. Sorry about Grazia. Had a bit of a fling with her once and she’s still hanging on a little.”

“So, you’re not married?”

“Oh yeah, I am. But you know how it is with us Italian men. Right?”


“You’re not Italian? I was sure you were. Dark hair. Smouldering eyes.”

“Smouldering? Come on. And you’re married.”

“So, I’m not getting anywhere today?”

“Were you trying to?”

“Yes. I was. I could do a lot worse than someone like you.”

“Like a waitress at Pompeii.”

“That was snobby.”

Analise looked up, suddenly, hoping that God was not about to turn her into an ageing waitress; they never got old gracefully.

The waitress returned with a replacement espresso, a small pewter jug with hot water, and a biscotti. “Thank you, Grazia,” she said.

Grazia looked at her in a way that could only be called funny. “You been talking about me, Ferrari?” Joey looked sheepish and smiled. Grazia’s face lit up.

“He’s a good guy, you know,” she said to Analise. “The rough stuff is all bullshit,” and she leant over and the table and kissed him on the cheek.       

“Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do,” she said, but it was unclear to whom.

Analise and Joey finished off their coffees and talked about politics and car engines. “You wanna feel her?” Joey asked.

“The Ferrari? You’ll let me drive it?”


“Hand over the keys.”

Joey put the coffees on his tab, and walked with Analise along Hanover Street towards the harbour. It felt good to walk next to him. He kept pace with her, and even though they didn’t touch, his body had a warmth about it. She was feeling good. Maybe it was true that Italian men preferred their women curvy. She breathed in the warm afternoon air and it made her lips feel full.

They got in the Ferrari, Analise in the driver’s seat. She asked him to direct her, and they got out onto the open road. He told her to put her foot on the gas. “No reason to be scared,” he said, and she felt her heart opening. She couldn’t say why; it wasn’t just the physiology of speed.


“Aren’t you tired of driving, yet?” Joey asked her after an hour on the road.

“No. Just keep directing me. Take me somewhere nice.”

“OK. There’s a great seafood place just here, near the beach. You like seafood?”

“Love it.”

Analise was suddenly hungry like she hadn’t been for weeks. Months, perhaps. The kind of hungry that demanded real food, not empty calories. She took a right off the highway until she reached a small parking lot by the coast with a tin-roofed building and a “Fresh Seafood” sign.

Joey asked her what she liked, and they walked down to the beach with bags of cooked prawns and trays of oysters and hot bread rolls with butter in little packets.

The beach was wide and backed by dense brush turning into forest. A lifeguard was packing up for the day, and families with their dogs were building sandcastles and walking the edge of the sea, the water so cold that they ran from it when it reached their toes. Each group had their own small piece of sand and ocean, cool breeze and low sunshine. The seafood reminded her of home – fish and chips on the Brisbane River, fresh oysters at Watson’s Bay. Except that home was neat and tame compared to the Atlantic. This was ocean. This was the kind of place you could get lost in and forget that there was any other place on earth.

“So, what’s your real name, Joey? What do you really do?” she asked him.

“You’re kidding, right? You haven’t heard of me?”


“You don’t watch the news?”

“Not usually.”


“Should I be scared or something?” The sun was warming her face, and the white noise of waves seemed to neutralize the idea of fear.

“I told you. Just drugs and gambling. I never hurt anyone.”

Analise shrugged. “OK.” She felt like this day was outside of her real life. Like a dream or a holiday, when she knew nothing would hurt her. She’d wake up or go home when it was over.

The thought of home made her pull out her phone and turn it on. Thomas had been calling her. In fact, he had been calling her hysterically, judging by the number of missed calls and texts and voice messages, none of which she opened. ‘Home tomorrow, last minute thing. I’m fine,’ she texted him, and then switched her phone off again. Tomorrow? Why had she written that?

The last time she had felt this kind of abandon was when she first met Martin. It had been a while. It was a feeling so lacking in her current life that she wasn’t going to let it go just because of propriety.

“What kind of drugs?” she asked Joey.

Joey pulled out what looked to be a cigarette and lit it away from the wind. “Opium, with a little tobacco,” he told her, passing it along.

Their hands touched briefly as she took the cigarette. His skin felt just like she’d imagined. “I had opium once in India,” she said, then took a drag. “Bought it from a government bhang shop in Puna and smoked it on the beach. After that I went to the market and everything looked so bright, as if the world had been lit up from the inside. It was beautiful.”

The wind was starting to tangle her hair and her fingers tasted like salt and the oysters were creamier than anything she’d ever tasted.

“We can’t drive back like this,” she said. “Can we?”

“You can’t.”

“I’m not driving with you when you’re all drugged up. Maybe we should find a place to stay.” She heard the echo of her words inside the ocean breeze, like they belonged there. Like she belonged in this bigger body with this outsized character who promised not to hurt her. 

“OK,” he said. She noticed an almost imperceptible nod, an acknowledgement that things were going his way. 

They got back in the Ferrari, only this time Joey took the wheel.    

“There’s a gorgeous place down the road,” he promised. “Old Portuguese fishing village. Lots of colour. Nobody will notice my car.”

“I can’t imagine that.”

After ten minutes – as if Joey Ferrari had willed this place out of his imagination – there they were. Once, it might have been a fishing village. The houses along the seashore – small weatherboards on blocks, no real foundations – fit the mould. Except that most of them were shops now or art galleries. Men holding hands walked down the street. Sports cars wove themselves between pedestrians, souped-up Maseratis and Porches that made Joey’s car look right at home.

“I know a place,” he said, driving down a side street where the houses-turned-to-shops gave way to houses-turned-to-B&B’s.

They pulled up outside a bright blue weatherboard and Joey left Analise in the car for a moment while he went to knock on the door. “I’ll just check that it’s OK, first,” he said.

An older, plump woman answered his knock, shot her a glance and then nodded.

Joey introduced them, and the older woman held her hand out to shake. Her grasp was amazingly firm, like she’d been a fighter once. She’d certainly been something extraordinary: Analise could see it in her eyes and the way she held herself, her hair worn long and silver.

The room at the top of the wooden stairs had polished floorboards and just the hint of a tilted roof. French doors opened onto a balcony that took in all of the town and most of the harbour. A long dock stretched out into the start of a misty evening, and Analise could hear the voices from the main street mixed in with wind chimes that hung off a passion vine.

Joey reached out to the trellis that edged the balcony and pulled off a ripe passion fruit. “You could stay in this room forever, never have to leave,” he said, pushing a thumb hole in the fruit to suck out the seeds and flesh.


Analise was not the best at analyzing relationships in real time. For a frozen moment, she wondered what she would make of this incident with Joey Ferrari when she looked back. It still hadn’t played itself out yet, but a few things were clear: she’d run off with a stranger for the night, and even though he was a wanted drug dealer, she cared more about the sex she was certain they were going to have.

She still hadn’t worked out her affair with Martin all those years ago. What it meant kept changing over time: a great love, a unique friendship, an obsession that kept her safe from reality. A nail in the coffin of her marriage.

“Hey,” said Joey, his arm around her as they watched the sun set on the harbour. It was the first time he had touched her apart from passing that cigarette on the beach. She liked the way his body felt – not that she had been in any doubt about that – but she could never predict what another person’s skin will feel like. His was buttery, but solid underneath. Like she could sink into it but it wouldn’t let her fall.

Later, in the background of their lovemaking, Analise could hear the dull purr of a downstairs TV.

“In other news, police are on a statewide manhunt for drug baron Joey Ferrari. He is travelling with a female companion and a hundred kilos of processed opium in his trunk. Ferrari is believed to be armed, but probably not dangerous.”

“Don’t worry, there’s nothing in the trunk,” he whispered to Analise.


Analise woke up to morning sun streaming through the French doors. Joey was gone. She checked for his car from the balcony and got caught up with the swaying of boats on the Atlantic harbour. There was no sign of the Ferrari.

She heard a knock at the door and then a woman’s voice: “Would you like to eat up here? A full breakfast with coffee?

“Yes, thanks.” She had woken hungry and alert; usually it took her ages to wake up and get out of bed.

Half an hour later, the smell of fresh brew and buttered toast and bacon floated in on a metal tray. The woman with the silver hair laid the tray down on the dresser, and left without a word. Reflected in the mirror was a plate of food, a cup of coffee, and a folded piece of paper. Analise hoped it was a note from Joey – “Here’s the keys to the Ferrari”, “Meet me at the café on the wharf”, “Buy yourself something nice.” But it was a ferry schedule to Boston, printed to last on sturdy paper.

She looked around the room, hoping that Joey had left some trace of himself. He had kissed her in the middle of the night, bringing her out of a dream, and then let go so she could fall asleep again.

The ferries to Boston were regular enough, but Analise was not going back. After her meal, she packed up the few possessions she had with her and walked out of the bright blue house towards the main street lined with shops and eateries, each with their view of the swishing sea. The town looked like it had everything she needed. Except a car. Eventually, she’d have to go back to get the Mazda.

Ruth Lacey

About Ruth Lacey

Ruth Lacey is a writer and visual artist. She grew up in Sydney, holds an Arts-Law degree from the University of Melbourne, and an MPhil in Creative Writing from the University of South Wales (formerly Glamorgan). Her short fiction has appeared in Storgy Magazine, Fish Anthology, Best of Carve Anthology, Meniscus, Overland, Verbsap, and other journals. Her work has also been shortlisted for the 2020 Bridport Prize, 2017 Commonwealth Short Story Prize, and Cincinnati Review Schiff Prize.

Ruth Lacey is a writer and visual artist. She grew up in Sydney, holds an Arts-Law degree from the University of Melbourne, and an MPhil in Creative Writing from the University of South Wales (formerly Glamorgan). Her short fiction has appeared in Storgy Magazine, Fish Anthology, Best of Carve Anthology, Meniscus, Overland, Verbsap, and other journals. Her work has also been shortlisted for the 2020 Bridport Prize, 2017 Commonwealth Short Story Prize, and Cincinnati Review Schiff Prize.

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