Erika Cleveland and Channie Greenberg

Erika Cleveland
“A Select Group of La Casa Nostra
Wives Had Aspired to Take Down ISIS”
Goauche and watercolor crayon in handmade book

Do Good or Feel Good
By Channie Greenberg
Inspiration piece

Imelda Accorsi was a “change of life baby,” whom, after graduating from high school, had convinced her parents to fund a year-long transcontinental journey. Neither her mother and father nor she would have to pay tuition for her when she returned home as Imelda had already created a college fund. Simply, she had blackmailed her high school’s office staff by threatening to retweet certain of their indiscrete social media posts.

Imelda’s father, who bragged of his daughter’s extortion skills to his cronies, was unconcerned that she meant to hop among countries. As soon as she came home, he’d gift her with a lavish wedding. Already, he was negotiating her bride price. A wise Mafia boss, he knew that her type of ambition was best thwarted in the bedroom.

Oblivious to her father’s arrangements for her future, Imelda flew from Los Angeles to Tokyo and then to Beijing. From Beijing, she traveled to Dushanbe, where she lingered long enough to learn basic Tajik, a form of Persian. Thereafter, she settled in Manama to learn Arabic.

When living in Bahrain, Imelda had to be veiled and had to practice muhajiba. Despite those constraints, bit by bit, she was able to observe that significant numbers of highly educated females lived in her city. Correspondingly, she determined that the nation endorsed social organizations for women. Accordingly accommodated, Imelda remained in that Persian Gulf country for three years rather than for the lone summer that she had originally intended. She was actually contemplating enrolling in college in Manama at the same time as the Nonners summoned her.


A select group of La Cosa Nostra wives had aspired to take down ISIS. Bored with listening to their kinsmen’s accounts of gambling, loan sharking, protection racketeering, and fraud, and fed up with wasting hours with shopping, engaging in trysts, and planning parties, a number of those adventurous women embraced a greater challenge. They contacted their sisters-in-crime in Asia, in Europe, in Russia, and in Africa, and machinated seditious schemes together.

Relying heavily on intelligence gathered by: the young mistresses of Afghanistan’s patronage system, the matrons undermining the Pakistani Mafiosi’s child trafficking, and the grandmothers of men done up by Bulgaria’s organized cartels, those estrogen-driven conspirators got collectively busy fashioning stratagem for culling both ISIS’s lone wolves and the caliph’s more traditional loyalists.

Inspired by the likes of Gertrude Lythgoe, Thelma Wright, Marllory Dadiana Chacon Rossell, Raffela D’Alterio, and Griselda Blanco, those La Cosa Nostra gals aimed to thwart as many malevolent kaffiyeh-wearers as possible. If Middle Easterners took over the world, their syndicates’ self-respecting menfolk would lose their status, and they, their syndicates’ womenfolk, would be reduced to the equivalent of prey. Besides, engrossing themselves in dangerous work kept them perky.

Additionally, because most clans, theirs and Daesh’s included, boasted few empowered females, no one would suspect them. As a rule, girls governed by crime consortia never bother bidding for emancipation. For every la donna a capo di tutti I capi, there were hundreds of thousands of women who are mutilated, raped, or slain because some man has had a whim. Often the best that mob mammas can achieve is to resign themselves to being toys, slaves, or “partners” for their kinsmen. The most astute, most inventive, most courageous women get married. The rest suffer. Even the highest ranking “wife/moms” understand that their husbands “have to” retain pleasure women.

So, the Nonners reached deep into their tribes for proxies, skipped over sycophantic volunteers, and expended their decades’ of street smarts to disable “obstacles.” Those grannies played on other donnas’ belief that the best shelter from the darkest regime of the Middle East could be obtained in the shadows. More specifically, to fuel uprisings among the ISIS faithful, those elders: met with wine-sodden informants, sought the company of “scandalous women,” and appointed markswomen. Their ingathering included Imelda.


Upon being summoned, Imelda straightaway bought a ticket to Aleppo, the airport nearest Tartus. However, she nearly didn’t board her plane as she was struck, in the departure lounge, by the realization that her leaving Bahrain, over all, would mean abandoning the fractious Bahraini ladies, and, more precisely, would mean deserting those women at a time when they were contesting the ploys of their rulers.

All the same, in the end, Imelda took her seat. Her loyalty to The Family decided her; given that the local females’ assemblies were highly unlawful, and given that her being arrested alongside of other revolutionaries would expose her Mafia identity, it seemed wiser to return home than to stay abroad.

As it was, the grandmothers had expressly chosen to extract Imelda as she had already compromised her distinctiveness. That foolish girl had posted, to the Internet, pictures of both Bahraini insurrectionaries and ISIS soldiers (typically, Mafia children, who advertise their existence, post images of Porto-Pollo Beaches or of the Atacama Desert.)

Irrespective of that poor judgement, Imelda was encouraged to train hard. She did, excelling in her drills and at her initial assignment. Consequently, she once more found herself wiggling into an abaya and donning gloves, albeit, this time, divorced from social media.

Now and again, when Imelda was waiting to carry out an execution, she imagined herself to be part of a hive mind. She storied herself that she would intuit, within the world’s killing circles, other Mafia women, who, in the same way, were assigned to sleeper cells. Imelda smiled whenever thinking about her alleged “sisters.”

She considered, too, that the signal, which had to exist, and which would instantaneously summon all of the hidden Mafia granddaughters, would be an “anonymous” Amazon drop, via drones, of Deborah Wiles’ Revolution. Although she questioned how the Nonners would contact their agents in Iraq and Iran, places where young women were prohibited from possessing books that were not approved by censors or male guardians, Imelda perceived the supposed form of mobilizing the girls as brilliant.

Meanwhile, mistakenly, Imelda deduced that the Grandmothers had supplied her close relatives with her whereabouts. She similarly, erroneously, believed that her role as an eradicator would make her parents proud.


Elsewhere, Armanno, Imelda’s brother, became a sniper for a local don. That boy had been surreptitiously sent as a USA Navy Seal, on a third level destroyer, to decimate whomever his “commanders” pursued. As a result of the top secret nature of his place of duty, few of Armanno’s goings-on were ever recorded.

That sibling might have been an infiltrator and he might have been a murderer, but he concurrently regarded himself to be a gentleman. Especially, he knew himself to be an individual who was careful to avoid misogynous acts. Armanno stoutly rejected his parents’ emphases on gender inequality since the young, Russian woman, to whom Armanno was betrothed, unbeknownst to The Family, was an Assistant Professor of Feminist Philosophy. She had made clear to Armanno the world’s truths.

Marva was quite fond of regaling Armanno with her poststructuralist interpretations. Often, postcoitus, she would quote Jennifer Baumgartner or Amy Richards, or would parrot “feminist” excerpts from religious texts.

By and by, she also became obsessed with axiological writings. Increasingly, that is, whenever her fiancé had leave from his duties, Marva would draw him into disputes over “doing good” versus “feeling good.”

Mavra insisted that it was better to care for other people than to maximize pleasure. Armanno, contrariwise, suggested that people could take pleasure in aiding others. Simultaneous with articulating his counterpoints, he’d gestured lewdly at his beloved.

At some point, when skyping with Armanno, Imelda had laughed about their feud and had offered to compromise her positon if Armanno would merely wire flowers to her from every port at which his ship stopped. Unfortunately, Armanno neither backed down from his perspective nor sent posies to his bride-to-be. Instead, Imelda’s brother had begun to reason that shacking up with a non-Italian girl had begun to cost him his manliness. Let her yearn for feminine gifts. She would have to do so without him.

Serendipitously, shortly after emotionally abandoning Marva, Armanno was court-marshaled. He accepted his sentence stoically, neither attempting to identify which coworker had ratted him out nor seeking revenge against the judges who had sentenced him. Armanno trusted that The Family would find the right lawyer to release him from military jail.


All in all, it was not The Family, but Imelda, who importuned the Nonners on Armanno’s behalf, who facilitated his release. Certain Grandmothers convinced the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives to take Armanno into their custody to prepare him to be a Certified Fire Investigator, i.e. to help them stymie arsons.

Imelda, who had expected Armanno to praise her for obtaining his freedom, received no thanks. Whereas she appreciated that her brother’s new talents in fire dynamics, in evidence collection, and in scene reconstruction could make him useful, all over again, to The Family, and whereas she was conscious that any knife used to prepare braciola could likewise be used to slit carotid arteries, her brother did not share her view of his circumstances. More exactly, Armanno, who had formerly seen himself as a machismo Navy prisoner, who was protected by the Mafia, suddenly, at his sister’s behest, was experiencing himself as a pawn for the Nonners and as a partisan of the United States Department of Justice.

What’s more, Mavra, who had researched the ATF at the advent of Armanno’s transfer, had grasped that her bed mate would not be permitted to leave the ATF National Academy and that she would not be allowed to make conjugal visits. Those data, plus Armanno’s ongoing unwillingness to join her on a philosophical middle ground, let alone communicate with her, decided Marva against going forward with their troth. In an email, she stated that she needed to explore her brand-new gender fluidity and that, as such, she could no longer commit to fidelity.


Blaming Imelda for his romantic and career woes, Armanno unfriended his sister on Facebook and blocked her on LinkedIn. He no longer cared that she was an esteemed terminator. She was as despicable as was Marva, a woman who was entirely mistaken that females could be males’ equals. Boys, not girls, ought to be trigger men. Moreso, sisters shouldn’t meddle with brothers’ affairs. Because of Imelda’s intrusion into his life, he had been demoted. There was no status in being a Nonners’ mole.  Armanno subscribed to FEMAIL, MAIL-MEN, WON and WOMBAT. Those listservs willingly published many snippets of his unmodulated anger.  Nevertheless, a few years later, after too many quarrels with his fellow posters, Armanno come to terms that his work, while boring, abetted his longevity. He similarly reconciled himself with the fact that his sister’s work as a hired gun didn’t protect her from all predation and couldn’t expunge her from all of the guilt associated with her profession. Even during occasions when she “only” assisted with a dispatching, she remained culpable.  Thus enlightened, Armanno weighed emailing an apology to Marva. In spite of his new insights, after composing his letter, instead of pushing the button for “send,” he pushed the button for “delete.” More time and more information passed through Armanno’s life. He comprehended that: when people remain silent at the funeral pyres of innocent women, namely, at the pyres of wives literally chained to their dead spouses, when people are mute at the beheadings of females scapegoated for their menfolk’s’ indiscretions, and when people fail to object to acid assaults on ladies who deign to question authority, those witnesses are as reprehensible as are those terrible deeds’ perpetrators.  From the security of his office in a government building, Armanno felt a strange urge to champion victims. On balance, he was still owned by the Grandmothers and by The Family. He remained obliged to hit the mattresses on behalf of them. If only he could be in a relationship with a woman like Marva, he would be well.


Imelda, disguised as a sex worker, rendezvoused with hunted ISIS officials. Since those men were more violent than carnal, after a while, she had to be liberated by others of the Nonners’ agents. Imelda could have, single-handedly, liquidated the men who had beaten her, but then their allies would then have snuffed her out without penalty.

Imelda’s resultant hospitalization was miserable. She was desperate to convince the female leadership not to negotiations with ISIS deputies. Jettisoning the mannish, Mafioso thirst for Caliph deaths was not enough; the Nonners also needed to keep a protective space between themselves and their enemy. Yet, because Imelda’s bones mended and her burns healed in the company of unreliable keepers, she was unable to take her message to the Grandmothers.

By the same token, no exchanges were initiated by Imelda’s superiors. The hospital staff that tended her, whom Imelda suspected were hired by the matrons, merely smiled and nodded whenever they entered her room. Not English or Italian garnered their attention. Her only consolation was negligible; one of them replenished the vase of flowers on her nightstand daily.

Just before being discharged, Imelda discovered that isolation was the least of her worries; she had been blacklisted. The goombahs were making a point, “in public,” of being revolted by her. Apparently, The Family had verified that Imelda had been filling “male roles” for more than a decade.

It followed that when she left the healing institute, there was no safe house in which she could harbor. Even Imelda’s Madre e Padre, had made a show of dropping all connections to her. Most confusing was that no Nonner came to her defense.

Imelda knew that the bosses would not have liked the Grandmothers’ rhetoric, but would have given it an audience. She could not have guessed that the Grandmothers’ had a hand in the dons’ treachery and that they were sponsoring the growing number of cyberattacks against which she was defending. All that Imelda understood was that her favorite Zia had sent her a WhatsApp message cautioning her against carrying out private illegalities. While working in foreign lands, the young warrior had failed to consider that her ongoing, anonymous, but bloody, “assistance” to suppressed women had resonated sourly with her higher ups.


Moneyed, but highly vulnerable, Imelda paid a blacksmith to teach her new proficiencies. Likewise, she bettered her long distance running and made an effort to increase the amount of weight she could lift. Defiantly, she revisited the Nonners’ patronage as well as submitted herself, again, to her brother’s good graces.

Somehow, Armanno had been able to retire from the Department of Justice. He had more grey hair, but more confidence, than he had had the last time his sister had seen him. Plus, Armanno acted as though it was his good fortune that he had been positioned as a messaggero.

The two met for burgers and fries once or twice a month. They sneered. They argued. They were glad for each other’s company.

Under the table dealings, eventually, posted those siblings, together, to Lekeitio, Spain. They were tasked to “invite” a certain member of the Sacra Corona Unita to return Stateside with them. Imelda and Armanno sought him at venues abounding with money and tourists. It took some time for them to intercept him.

In the interim, they enjoyed measured leisure. In effect, on Antzar Eguna, The Day of the Geese, the two watched the festivities from a balcony overlooking the city’s main waterway. The brother and sister beheld the locals who were trying to decapitate a suspended waterfowl and the locals who were cheering them on to do so.

Imelda could envision knocking off humans, but could not dream of slaughtering defenseless creatures. Analogously, Armanno liked plum sauce when given roasted birds, but had no stomach for the aftermath of cruel butchery.

When one after another combatant proved unable to behead the fowl, and, subsequently, fell into Lekeitio Bay, the townsmen shouted approval. For hours, Imelda and Armanno saw people get dunked. Regrettably, just before dusk, someone managed to make crude hash out of the goose.

A few hours later, the Italian siblings dissipated that hatchet man.

A short span thereafter, Imelda’s body was sent back to the USA.


The coroner wrote that her death was caused by leg thrombosis in combination with dangerously elevated liver enzymes. That medico added nothing to his document about the multiple lacerations that the woman had received on her face and back or about the deep cuts that had been made where her vital organs had once been situated.

Days after filing his report, the doctor, himself, was found dead from an apparent overdose.

Multiple, new the foot soldiers were installed in Imelda’s stead. Inopportunely for the Nonners, those younger girls began to develop psychological alliances with their marks. Worse, not only did they forgive the slights that they had endured from The Family’s men, but they refocused their attention away from exterminations toward providing humanitarian aid. Ultimately, the Grandmothers were unable to take down ISIS.

As per Armanno, in due course, he hemmed in the cherry-picked Spaniard to whom he and Imelda had been assigned. However, he did not haul his target to the Stateside Family. Rather, Armanno succumbed to that man’s daughter, a true Mediterranean temptress.

Weeks later, he, too, was stumbled upon, face down. Whereas Armanno was discovered with all of his vital bits intact, he was discovered wrapped in a length of lace.


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