“I was a tremendous bocce player back in the day, tremendous.”

Pauly looked at Ugo, who had just uttered the statement. Dribbles of drying red sauce spattered the front of his stiff yellow shirt. The guy needed a bib for crying out loud. They sat in plastic chairs on the perimeter of the dining hall at Villa Columbo, post-lunch—the repeating eggplant parmigiana not to be commended—sipping espresso. Ugo's slumped shoulders, ashen complexion, and depressive personality inspired little confidence. Bocce wasn't just a sport or a game to Pauly and his mates; it was a cultural legacy connecting them to the old country and the glue of their current community.

“Why are you staring at me?” Ugo said, his large leathery ears trembling.

“Look,” Pauly said, cognizant of Ugo's touchy disposition, “you've been at the Villa for what, a month. A month. No disrespect, but you've avoided all the social events,...

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