Sunday, November 22, 2015
This chapter contains parental discipline of a teenager.
The next day was Monday, so the conversation between Angelo and his parents had to wait until his tutor, Mr. Lowsley, had finished with his lessons.
Mr. Lowsley could see that his student's mind was elsewhere. After Angelo distractedly answered three different questions with the same answer, he decided that his student had had enough and called it a day. He couldn't understand why the boy suddenly looked nervous.
"Angelo, are you all right?" he asked, concerned. "You seem a little off today. Anything I can help with?"
Angelo looked up at his tutor, a myriad of expressions running across his face but nothing that Lowsley could put a name to before another took its place.
"No sir. Thank you," the boy replied quietly.
"All right then, Angelo, for homework I'd like you to do the questions at the end of chapter fifteen in English Lit, the even problems on page 209 for math..." He stopped and looked at his student who was staring blankly out of the kitchen window and not writing down a word he'd been saying.
Angelo looked at his teacher as though just noticing that he was there. "I'm sorry, sir. What did you say?"
Angelo was a good student, and he was obviously distracted by something today, so Lowsley made a spur of the moment decision. "No homework tonight, Angelo. I'll see you tomorrow," he said, packing his books and papers into his satchel. "Mr. and Mrs. Di Marco, I'm headed out now. Have a nice day," he called, and with a smile and a wave he took his leave.
Giosua and Julia, who had been reading quietly in the living room as they usually did when the gardening was done and the animals had been tended to, got up and went into the kitchen. After the morning chores had been done they'd asked their two older boys to run some errands in town and didn't expect them back for a few hours.
Angelo looked at his parents from beneath his dark lashes with an anxious expression and licked his lips nervously. He felt his hands shaking so he placed them palms down on the table top.
His parents sat down across the table from him. Joshua with his hands clasped before him on the table, his wife, wringing her hands beneath to hide her anxiety.
Joshua fixed his son with a serious expression. "I'd like you to tell us now, where you were last night," he said, trying to keep his voice level.
"J-just out?" Angelo replied. He knew that his father wouldn't consider that to be an adequate answer but found himself unable to say more.
Joshua slapped the table angrily, making his son jump and causing the boy's large dark eyes to become even larger.
Angelo instinctively took his hands off the table and put them on his lap, leaving moist imprints on the clean wooden table top.
"Out where?! With who? Where did you go for seven hours only to come back smelling of cigarette smoke?" he shouted.
Julia, her hands still beneath the table, put a calming hand on her husband's thigh and squeezed gently.
Joshua took a deep breath and deliberately clasped his hands once again on the table top.
"Let's start again," he said more calmly. "Where were you? And don't tell me, 'Just out.'"
Angelo licked his lips and tried to answer. He believed in the saying 'Less said the better' and he knew he was a terrible liar. He was always found out, and he'd end up being punished anyway. He scrambled for a way to answer his father without lying outright, but also without having to admit anything.
"I went for a walk... around town?"
His father forced himself to take another deep breath. He and his youngest son had played this game before but that didn't make it any easier. "Where, around town?"
"Honest dad, just around," Angelo replied sincerely. "We didn't really have any place in particular in mind when we went out."
"That leads me to two questions. You didn't have a particular place in mind when you set out, but you had to have ended up somewhere that either took you seven hours to get to and from, or where you spent all that time. So first, where did you end up, and two, who're we?"
Angelo's normally light coffee colored skin went visibly pale. He opened his mouth to answer, but instead merely took a breath and let it out slowly, shaking his head slightly. Until then he'd been looking at his parents but now his gaze seemed to be glued to the table top where the imprints of his hands were slowly drying.
"Angelo. Where did you end up?" Still receiving no answer he continued. "If I count, you know where this is going to end up, so you had best tell me now."
"We... we... we ended up at the old, abandoned stoneworks factory?" Angelo replied. He knew he was in trouble no matter what now, but as his father had always told his sons, they would be in less trouble if they told the truth from the start, than if they lied and the truth came out later.
Joshua frowned, trying to remember where that was. His eyebrows shot up and he looked hard at his son. "Grayson's?! The one that's nearly in the next county?! What on earth were you doing all the way out there?! How did you get there? Who were you with? How did you get back?"
Angelo shrank back slightly in his chair, shoulders up around his ears, hands unconsciously imitating his mother's as they wrung helplessly beneath the table.
"Mi guardi, giovanotto!"
(Look at me, young man!)
Angelo kept his head bowed but looked up at his father from beneath his lashes.
"Now you answer me. No more games, do you hear me? You will answer me directly, truthfully. Mi hai capito?" Joshua demanded.
(Do you understand me?)
"Yes, sir," Angelo said meekly.
"How did you get to Grayson's?"
"I walked, sir."
"I walked, sir."
Joshua, while pleased that his son hadn't gotten into a stranger's car, or into a car with a driver who might have been under the influence of some substance or other, was still concerned that Angelo had apparently been walking back into town in the wee hours, alone.
"What were you doing at Grayson's? Beside smoking?" he said, looking significantly at his son.
Angelo swallowed nervously but didn't immediately answer.
"We just hung out at first," Angelo said quickly. "That... that's when... we were... smoking." he admitted reluctantly. "A couple of them were painting graffiti on the walls. Then some of them thought it would be fun to break windows, so they started to pick up stones and pieces of brick and stuff and threw them. First it was to see who could break the most, then it was to see who could hit the smallest pieces, then they changed it to see who could break the highest ones."
The Di Marco's looked at their son, shocked. "Vandalism?" his father asked in disbelief.
The look his mother gave him nearly set him crying. "That's not how we raised you, Angelo," she said quietly. The disapproval in her voice and disappointment on her face was unmistakable and more painful than if she'd slapped him.
"I didn't paint any of the graffiti, honest!" he said fervently. "And I only lobbed the rocks I threw. If I hit anything it was only the side of the building, and that was brick. I didn't break any of the windows, I swear! The guys were even making fun of me that I threw like a girl but I just laughed it off and kept lobbin' 'em, making fun how I'd be lucky to hit the broad side of a barn with how bad my aim was. I was actually kinda glad when the watchman came running out, yelling at us to get lost."
He didn't mention the thrill of adrenaline he'd felt as they'd been throwing the stones, or as they'd run away, laughing after the watchman had said that he'd called the cops. He was sure that his parents would never understand it if he tried to explain how that had made him feel more alive than he had in months.
"Did you try to stop them?" Joshua asked.
"Why didn't you leave when you saw what they were doing?" his mother asked.
"You knew it was wrong. Why did you stay and allow yourself to be involved with it?" his father inquired.
"And smoking, Angelo?" his mother added. "Where did you learn to smoke? Why would you take up such a dirty, smelly habit? Just because they were smoking didn't mean that you had to."
"Did they give you anything other than cigarettes, Angelo?" his father asked, suddenly fearful.
"No sir," replied Angelo, who up till then had been looking back and forth between his parents as they questioned him, unsure of who to answer first, and wondering if they even wanted answers.
His father stood and leaned across the table. He took his son's chin in his hand and forced the boy to look him directly in the eye. "The truth. Did they give you anything more than cigarettes?"
"One of em had a cigarette that smelled funny, but I didn't have any of that one. And S... one of em had a bottle of booze he took from his dad's cabinet, but I didn't have any of that either. Honest!" he said, making direct eye contact with his father which reassured the man that his son was telling the truth. "That stuff just smelled nasty, dad, there's no way I could'a drank it," he said with disgust.
The tone of his son's voice when he answered the last question nearly caused Joshua to smile but he fought it down. This was not the time for laughter. He looked at his son with a somber expression.
"Who are these boys?" he asked. "Where are they from? Do they go to your old school?"
Angelo once again dropped his gaze to the table top. "I-I-I don't know who they are. I just met em. I don't... don't know what school they go to."
"You're in enough trouble right now without adding to it with lies," his father said sternly. "Who are these boys? What are their names? Where do they live?"
"I... I... don't know. I... I... don't know." Angelo replied, hunching his shoulders once again. He'd dropped his gaze from the table top to his hands which were on his lap beneath the table.
"Last chance, Angelo. Who are these boys?" his father asked levelly.
Angelo hesitated, looking around at everything except his parents. "One of em is called... ummm... Pencil, cuz... he... he's tall and thin and has kind of orangey red hair. Another is... uh... Mugs... he's a short, kinda round white guy. Ummm..." His stomach felt as though it had dropped several hundred feet and landed in his pelvic region when he saw his mother silently get up out of her chair and leave the house without a word or a backward look. She had no problem administering the occasional spanking or swat with the spoon, but she couldn't bear to hear her sons cry when their father, on those rare occasions, decided that their son's had earned a more severe punishment. "One's... uh...” he gamely continued, even though he knew his parent's hadn't bought a word of it and that he was in serious trouble.
"Sei stato un ragazzo molto cattivo, Angelo. Sono molto deluso da te," his father said sadly. Joshua knew that using the word naughty was embarrassing for his son, but he'd sworn ever since he'd been a young boy in the same situation that he'd never call a child of his any of the other hurtful things his own father had called him and his brothers and sisters when they'd been in trouble. (You've been a very naughty boy, Angelo. I'm very disappointed in you.)
Angelo blushed. "Mi dispiace, papà." (I'm sorry, dad.)
Joshua pushed his chair back from the table and stood up.
Angelo choked on a gasp as his father began to take his belt off. Eyes once again grown larger, Angelo stood up and backed into the alcove, hands raised in supplication. "No! Dad, no! Please! Per favor papà! Non la cintura! Per favore!" (Not the belt! Please!)
"Siete stati avvisati. Ti hanno dato più di una possibilità per dirmi la verità. Si sceglie di mentire, ora è il momento di prendere le conseguenze."
(You were warned. You were given more than one chance to tell me the truth. You choose to lie, now it's time to take the consequences.)
"Please dad! NO!" Angelo pleaded. "I didn't paint the graffiti! I didn't break any of the windows! Please believe me!"
"I believe you, Angelo," his father said quietly, "What you did do was leave the house at night without telling anyone where you were going. What you did was disappear for hours, worrying your family and your friends. What you did was hang out with boys who you're too ashamed to name and admit to being with because they, and you by association, smoked, drank, and engaged in vandalism. Then you chose to top it off with lies. Che cosa stavi pensando?" (What were you thinking?)
"Non stavo pensando! Per favor! Mi dispiace!" Angelo said, already in tears, pressing more closely into the corner of the alcove. (I wasn't thinking!)
"Come here Angelo," his father said softly. "Don't make me come after you."
"Please don't?" Angelo tried one last time. "Not the belt? Please dad!"
"Come here. Now," was his father's only reply.
Angelo slowly approached his father, fruitlessly wiping the torrent of tears from his face.
Joshua took his son by the wrist and guided him over the table, which shook slightly with the force of Angelo's sobs.
The belt came down. Once. Twice. Three times, then Angelo stopped counting.
"Che cosa stavi pensando?" (What were you thinking?)
"Non stavo pensando!" Angelo cried, throwing his hands back to protect his backside. (I wasn't thinking!)
"Spostare quelle mani. Ora! Questa non è una risposta sufficiente. Che cosa stavi pensando?" (Move those hands. Now! That's not a good enough answer. What were you thinking?)
"Mi dispiace, papà! Mi dispiace!" Angelo sobbed, pulling his hands away and folding his arms beneath his head. (I'm sorry, daddy! I'm sorry!)
"Perché dovresti fare una cosa del genere?"
(Why would you do such a thing?)
"Sono stato così solo per così tanto tempo! E 'stato bello avere amici ..." Angelo cried. (I've been lonely for so long! It was nice to have friends...)
"Le persone che vi incoraggio a fare le cose che sai essere sbagliate non sono veramente i tuoi amici!" (People who encourage you to do things you know are wrong are not truly your friends!)
"Volevo solo adattarsi! Volevo solo essere uno dei ragazzi!" (I just wanted to fit in! I just wanted to be one of the guys!)
"Hai Amadeo e Milo. Avrai altri amici, amici veri, se gli date una possibilità!" His father responded, delivering several more stripes. (You have Amadeo and Milo now! Soon you'll have more friends, real friends, if you give it a chance.)
"Cessare! Per favore, papà! Basta! Mi dispiace! Mi dispiace!" Angelo sobbed. (Stop! Please, dad! Enough! I'm sorry!)
"You stay away from those other boys, do you understand me?" his father demanded.
"I'll be good, dad! I'll be good! I won't hang around with those other guys ever again! I'll go back to school in September and give it another chance. Please? Please stop?"
Joshua stopped the punishment and helped his son up.
"Hai imparato la lezione?" he asked, holding his son at arm’s length so that he could look directly at him. (Have you learned your lesson?)
"Si, ho imparato la lezione! Per favore, non di più? Mi dispiace, papà. Ti prego di perdonarmi?" (Yes, I've learned my lesson! Please no more? Please forgive me?)
"Va bene mio figlio, e tutto a posto oro. Sei perdonato. Ti amo," he said, pulling his youngest son into a warm hug, swaying slightly back and forth as he'd done when Angelo had been only a baby.
(All right my son, it's all right now. You're forgiven. I love you.)
Angelo clutched his father and sobbed into his shirt front. "Ti amo, papà."