Monday, July 4, 2016

Chapter 32

"So tell me something."  Amadeo said as he and Angelo laid on their backs under the shade of a tree in his backyard, watching clouds roll past on the breeze, “I finally got it about your brother's names, the books of the bible and all that, but how did you and Paul end up with your names?"

Angelo grinned, "You caught on, eh?"  he laughed.  "Well, it started as a joke really.  Matthew and Mark were just Matthew and Mark, no theme in mind at the time when they named them, but then mom read Tom Sawyer, and she remembered the rhyme, 'Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, you saddle a rat and I'll hop on.'  So when they were expecting their third baby, mom said if it was a boy he had to be named Luke."

"And if he'd been a girl?"

"Lucianna.  Actually, I'd have liked to have a sister.  I think Lucianna is a pretty name.  You don't suppose he'd change it do you?"

Amadeo let out a snort to the negative.

"Yeah, you're right, he has no sense of humor.  Then of course John came along and I think they thought they were done.  Then of course there was Peter, and the completely unexpected Paul. Did you know he was almost named Phillipians?"  he laughed.  "Apparently mom said 'Paolo, his name is Paolo.' and fell asleep.  Dad picked out Paul's middle name, Felice, it being so close to Christmas."

"Yeah, dad told me about Paul's name after your dad told him, that last time... you know... anyway, so that explains Paul... what about you? Shouldn't you be named Titus, or Timothy, or James... Corinthians?"  he laughed.

"Because mom got the news she was pregnant with me on Petey and Paul's birthday, and because I was born a year to the day Petey died, they thought it was a sign of some kind.  Not that they'd gotten Petey back, they said they'd never treat me like that, but because the doctors said after Peter and Paul were born that mom would never have another baby.  Then they told her that I wouldn't survive, or there'd be something wrong with me."

Amadeo leaned up on one elbow and looked down at his friend.  "Well, I can say from personal experience that there's nothing wrong with you."  he smiled. Then he became serious. "I feel badly for what your mother went through, and while I know it had to be hard for her to be with Bethie and hear the same things she heard all those years ago, it still had to hurt, but your mom hung tough.  She's an amazing lady."

"Yeah, I have to agree."  Angelo said, chewing on a blade of grass.

"Ange, can I ask you a personal question?  If it's too personal just tell me and it's all good, OK?"

Angelo sat up and tossed the blade of grass aside, then he looked at his friend.  "Sure, I guess?"

"I never see you guys in church, and neither do the other guys.  Do you go to one of the Baptist churches?  Or are you Methodist?  Presbyterian?"

Angelo looked away, “We don't go to any church.  It's probably best not to get into a discussion about it, I don't want to offend anyone.  OK?"

"It's all good, Ange.  I was just curious.  So, wanna go find Mi and go to the pond?  Looks like it's going to be a hot one today?"  he said, listening to the buzz of the insects in the early morning heat of late July.

"Yeah, wanna call around and stop by Aiden and Felix's?  We can make a party of it, bring snacks and bottles of cola and stuff."

"Good idea, I still have my Radio Flyer from when I was a kid so we don't have to carry everything."

"Yeah, I have a wooden wagon my dad built for me when I was about three years old.  I'm pretty sure it still works.  I'll get that.  You call Mi, I'll call Jim and he can pass the word on.  We'll make a circle and pass by everyone's house so they can put their stuff in the wagons.  Maybe the other guys have them too."

Amadeo laughed.  "How much stuff do you think we're gonna need?  Oh shoot!"  he said, suddenly crestfallen.

"What's wrong?"

"We didn't even ask permission to go anywhere yet, let alone make a party of it.  Dang!"  'Deo said, which was the closest he ever came to swearing.  Jim's parents were more strict on that front, and they considered any word that sounded like the forbidden one to be just as bad as saying it in the first place.  Jim had regaled them more than once about the horror that occurred in his house if he let slip even a 'Darn.'

"Oh, c'mon, Dae, it's not like we're gonna be gone a long time, just a couple of hours."

"Angelo Benedetto, do I need to remind you what happened the last time we were gone for 'just a couple of hours'?"

"But what if your folks say yes and mine say no? Or mine say yes and yours say no?!"

"Then we don't go.  We still have the above ground set up here, we just need to clean it a little and we're ready to go."

"But we can't swing into the above ground, and we can't jump off each other’s shoulders, or jump in off the ladder."  Angelo protested, remembering the long list of rules they'd had to obey in order to swim in the pool two weeks before.

"Ange, slow down." Amadeo laughed.  "First let’s call my folks, then yours, etc, etc and see what everyone has to say before we start predicting the end of the world.  And at least Bethie and Dan and the babies are at their house now so we don't have to keep the noise down if we have to stay here."

"And,” said Angelo perking up, "then we won't have to cart everything to the pond and your mom can cook for us!"

Amadeo laughed again.  "Dad's at work and mom is at her Ladies Aid meeting, so we'd be on our own, and I can guarantee you that if we eat everything in the fridge now, neither of us is going to be able to sit down for dinner later."

"Where're Carm and Terri?"

"What's with getting someone else to cook?  You're a great cook.  You come up with stuff I never dreamed of and it always tastes great.  C'mon, let’s start calling and see if it's ok before we start worrying."

"Come home and get some money so that you can buy some snacks instead of counting on the Rossi's to fill your belly."  Mrs. Di Marco said.

"OK, then you promise I can come right back?"

"Of course," said Mrs. Di Marco, confused, "Why wouldn't I after I said yes?"

"I'm just afraid I'm going to get home and you're gonna find a million things for me to do and I'll never get back."  he muttered.

"Keep that up and I'll find a million and one."  she warned.

"Yes, mamma.  I'm on my way."  Angelo replied.

"What happened?"  'Deo asked.

"She said come home and get money so I can pitch in to buy snacks but I know as soon as I get there she's gonna find stuff I didn't do before I came here."  he groused.

"Did you?"

"Did I what?"

"Leave stuff undone before you came here?"

Angelo didn't answer immediately.

"Ange!"  Amadeo began to scold.

"I know! But it was just little things and it could wait for later!"

"Like what?"

"Picking the ripe blueberries, strawberries and raspberries."  Angelo replied, avoiding Amadeo's eyes.

"Anything else?"  'Deo asked sternly.

"I was supposed to make sure the wire guards around the trunks of the apple trees are in good condition, those keep the rabbits out, and I have to pull back the mulch so that the mice can’t hide next to the trunks."

"How did you get out of the house without doing those things?"

"Mom was out shopping and dad was at work."  Angelo admitted, ashamed.  "Paulie and Johnny were in the lower garden and they didn't see me leave."
"But I see you now, little brother, clear as day.  I think you should come home with me now before you do anything else." came John's voice from the corner of the house."

Angelo turned with such suddenness that 'Deo was surprised the boy's head didn't snap right off.

"Now." was all John said.

With an apologetic look at his friend, Angelo got up and slowly walked toward his brother. Johnny took him by the arm and landed a resounding smack to his little brother's backside, before leading him back toward the front of the house to the car.  "Catch you later, Dae."  Johnny said over his shoulder.

Amadeo waved and shook his head.  His boy would never cease to amaze him.  Hearing the phone ring he ran into the house and picked up the communal phone.  It could be anyone, for any of them, but he liked to answer it whenever he could.

"Hello?"  he asked as Carmie, Terri, Con, and Gabe all came rushing into the kitchen.

"We SO need another phone." Con griped, "Maybe five."

"Shhhh."  'Deo said, covering the mouthpiece.  "Yeah, it's me, Dennis, what's up?"

The others groaned and turned to leave.  "Don't forget the time limit!"  Carmie reminded him.

Amadeo scowled but nodded and looked at his watch.  "Hang on, let me tell someone where I'm going and I'll meet you at your place, ok?  Just you guys stay calm. I'll be there as soon as possible."  he said, hanging up.

"Terri?  Carm?"  he called down the hallway to his sister's rooms.

"What's up now Dae?"  Carmie asked, poking her head out.  "Everything all right?"  Terri asked at the same time.

"Kinda.  Dennis, Charlie and Jim are at Dennis' house, they're getting worried because Freddie and Brice's trial is coming up fast.  It's in two weeks.  Anyway, they're worried and want to talk. The problem is that the more they talk the more upset they get.  They want me to come over and bring Felix and Aiden, and they're gonna call Eddie.  I don't know what they think I'm going to do but they asked me to come over.  Is that OK?"

"Where does Dennis live?"  Carmie asked.

"Central Avenue, 218 Central.  Is it OK?  I'll write down his number next to the phone if you need to get a hold of me."  he offered.

"Did you finish all your chores?"  Terri asked.  

Amadeo smiled.  "Yes'm, piccola madre."  he answered, jokingly calling her
'little mother'.

"Smart alec,” she grinned at him.  "All right, hon, go ahead.  Just don't get lost."

"Me?  Get lost?  You must have me mixed up with some other kid."

"Hmmm, I don't know.  Aren't you the Amadeo who disappeared for six hours with a friend of yours and the best excuse you could come up with was that you lost track of the time?"  she asked, arching a fine eyebrow at him.  "Just so you know, dad bought it to a point, but he still thinks you guys were up to something nefarious.  He just doesn't have proof... *yet*."

"Tell me when he gets Dick Tracy on the case, then I'll worry."  'Deo laughed.  

"Tracy wasn't available, he got The Phantom."

"Good to know.  I'm on my way to Dennis' now, OK?"

"Later, brat."  the two women said simultaneously, grinning at each other as they said "Jinx!"  before bursting into laughter and heading back to their rooms.

The other boys were pacing nervously on Dennis' front porch.  Someone had already gone to Felix's and Aiden's houses to get them and they sat quietly on the rocking chairs, wringing their hands.

"Dae!  Thank God you're here!"  Dennis exclaimed.

"Guys, I really don't know what you think I'm going to be able to do.  I mean, they haven't escaped, have they?"

Charlie went a little paler than he'd already been.  "NO!  Where did you hear that?  They escaped?  When?!  We have to get out of here!"  he said, jumping down the front steps and preparing to run.  

Amadeo grabbed him by the arm before he could rabbit off.  "No!  I didn't say they escaped."  he said calmly.  "I said I'm not sure what I can do.  What do you guys need me for?"

"The trial is coming up soon."  Jim said unnecessarily.

Amadeo nodded and remained silent, looking at the guys to continue.

"What if I can't remember what I said back in May?" Felix asked, panicked.

"What if I can't remember what I saw and I mess something up?  What if it's crucial evidence and I mess up?!"  Eddie ranted.

"Dad always says I don't think before I talk, what if I think too much and they think I'm thinking of ways to lie to them, cuz I'm not lying I just don't remember everything I said two months ago and it wasn't a lie back then but what if they think it's a lie now?!" Jim ranted.

"Guys, calm down."  'Deo said firmly.  "Take some deep breaths."

"You sound like the Cobra."  Jim said with a sickly smile on his pale face.

"He's got a lot of common sense, and that breathing is useful for a lot of things, not just calming down.  So breathe in slowly for six, and breathe out slowly for six.  Come on guys, what can it hurt?"

"Besides that Jim has dragon breath?  Nothing."  Eddie quipped, causing everyone but Jim, who stuck out his tongue, to laugh.

"All right, laughing is good too."  'Deo smiled.  "Look, I have an appointment with Misters Selby and Holt on Wednesday.  I'm sure that they're going to be calling you guys soon too.  If it makes you feel any better, let’s go inside and call them."

"What if they don't take us seriously?  What if they hang up?  What if..."

"Hush now!"  'Deo commanded forcefully.  The controlled tone his father used when they were in trouble.

The boys hushed.

"Dennis, are your folks home?"

"No, not right now."

"Anyone, are your folks home?"

Eddie nodded.  "Mine are."

"OK, can you call and ask if it's ok if we go to your house?  Tell them what's going on and ask if they'd be willing to call the lawyers.  Tell them what's going on and what you're worried about and we'll go from there."

Eddie called his parents who told the boys to come directly.  Once there, Mr. Parker pulled the lawyers card out of his wallet and made the call.  

He explained the situation and after a few minutes of saying nothing more than "Ummm hmmm. Ummm hmmm."  he wrote something down quickly, thanked the person on the other end and hung up.

"Ms. McKiddie, at Misters Selby and Holt's office told me that she is in the process of calling the families to let us know the time and date of the hearing."  He said, showing the information he'd written down.  "She couldn't give me specifics about you guys but someone will be calling either on the phone or in person to set up an appointment to go over your stories.  She said she was in the process of doing it now so you boys have nothing to worry about."  he smiled.  "The actual hearing isn't until August 24th, and it's only July 20th, so you have a little over a month to refresh your memories."

The boys sat, weak kneed on the chairs and couch in the small living room, considerably calmer than they'd been.  Jim sat doubled over holding his stomach as though he were about to lose his breakfast.

"Thanks 'Dae."  Eddie said with a sigh, his color better than it had been only a half hour earlier.  "Yeah, thanks, Dae."  the others said.

"'Dae?"  sputtered Mr. Parker theatrically, “'Dae?  And who may I ask dialed the number?  Hmmmm?  'Dae!  That's gratitude for you!"

The boys laughed, feeling much better now that they had answers.  "Thanks dad."  "Thanks Mr. Parker!"  they chorused. 
"Mr. Parker, sir.  I was thinking that with all the worry the guys have been going through all morning, that a trip to the pond would be nice, if everyone's folks are OK with it. Can we get your permission to start sir?" Amadeo asked.

Mr. Parker looked at the boy, looking for signs that he was being 'had', but there was only an open, honest expression on inquiry on the boy's face.  The other boys looked surprised at the question so it was obviously not something that had been discussed or planned ahead.  "And if the other parents don't agree?"  he asked, arching his eyebrows.

"We can hang out at my house.  I have a little pool and if we take turns we can horse around in that once we've cleaned it a bit.  If that's ok?  Sort of like a little impromptu picnic." he suggested.

Mr. Del Parker had no idea what impromptu meant but wasn't about to ask a bunch of kids. Buncha smart alecs, he thought wryly as he saw the hopeful looks on the other boy's faces.

"Eddie's got my permission either way. BUT!"  he said, cutting into the boy's cheers, "I don't want any boy being left out, so if one can't go the others don't either.  Understand me?"

"Yes sir.  We wouldn't have left anyone out anyway, sir, honest."  said Charlie with an earnest expression.

Del nodded his permission, “Here," he said, digging into this pocket for some change, "You buy what snacks you can and share 'em round, got it?"

"Yessir!  Thanks dad!"  Eddie said happily pocketing the change.  "May we use the phone to call around?  We'll stop off at Felix's and Aiden's houses and ask there too.  "I promise; no one gets ditched."  he promised, seeing his father's face.  Eddie had spent too much time being excluded from games and other groups of boys because of his slight stature, so his father was thrilled when he'd begun to make friends and wouldn't let his son hang out with people who excluded others.

"I'll call Milo and we'll get this thing rollin'!"  Eddie said excitedly, happy to be part of a group that was no longer considered oddballs.

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