Monday, July 4, 2016

Chapter 34

 "Jooohhhhhnnnnnnnyyyyyyyyyyyy!  You can't do this to me!  Come oooooonnnnn!  I'm sixteeeeeen!  Jooooooohhhhhnnnnnnyyyy!"  Angelo whined, stomping his foot in the corner of the kitchen where his older brother had put him.  

Johnny had stood behind Angelo while he did the chores he'd been supposed to do before he left the house that morning and then dragged him back into the house, put the baskets of fruit in the entryway, fed his little brother lunch, and then lead him into the corner between the refrigerator and the hallway door, swatting him every step until they reached their destination.

"You're gonna stand there til mom and dad get home, little brother.  I was in this kitchen getting a drink when you said you left.  I have no idea how you snuck out with me right here but I can guarantee you're not going to do it again.  Now I'm gonna go wash off the fruit.  You move one muscle and you'll regret it.  Mi hai capito?" he said, just before he turned and opened the screen door.
(Do you understand me?)

"Capisco."  Angelo muttered crossing his arms and scowling at the wall as he heard the screen door slam.  It was so unfair!  Where did his brothers get off smacking him anyway?  He didn't remember his parents ever giving them permission to do it.  And Johnny was only four years older than him, well five if you counted that he'd just turned twenty-one on his last birthday but that was beside the point.  So who'd died and left him in charge? 
(I understand.)

After all, if Johnny had only been four, would their parents have left him in charge of an infant Angelo?  No!  If Johnny were eight, or nine, would they have left him solely in charge of a four-year-old Angelo?  Well, actually they had, for very short periods of time when they'd gone to borrow a little milk or sugar from a neighbor.  Maybe.  NO!  So where did Johnny get off putting him in a corner and treating him like a little kid?

Angelo made up his mind and turned to leave the corner.

There stood Johnny in the doorway.  Arms crossed.  "I wondered how long it was going to take you to decide to do whatever you wanted."

Angelo turned back toward the corner with another stomp and recrossed his arms only to throw them back moments later when Johnny treated his backside to several thundering smacks. Angelo gasped. It wasn't nearly as bad as when their father did it, but it still stung like crazy.  He was wise enough not to say it aloud, but he hoped that Johnny's hand hurt worse than Angelo's rear.

"Ora, hai intenzione di stare lì e comportati bene?"
(Now, are you going to stand there and behave yourself?)

"Yes!"  Angelo said quickly in a tone that he hoped his brother believed before landing any more of those smacks.

"Are you sure this time?"

"Yes!"  he repeated, covering his backside just in case.

"Not a muscle."  Johnny warned.

"Got it."  Angelo agreed.

The screen door slammed again, but this time Angelo stayed in place, not even daring to look over his shoulder to be sure his brother had actually left this time.

Approximately a half hour later Johnny walked back in the house, kicking off damp sneakers, to see his little brother standing dejectedly in the corner, head bowed, right hand clasping left wrist, toe of one sneaker digging into the floor as he fidgeted.  He looked at the clock.  His mother 
wouldn't be back for another five minutes or so and their father about a little after that.  He began to look in the refrigerator for something to make for dinner when the phone rang.

Angelo listened to John's half of the conversation and his stomach dropped.

"Hello?  No, Dae, he can't right now.  That's up to mom and dad... maybe tomorrow.  I can't say for sure.  OK then, see you soon." he said before hanging up.

"You can't ground me from the phone!  You had no right to tell Dae I couldn't talk to him!  You're not mom or dad!" he protested, turning from the corner toward his brother, hands clenched into fists.

"No, I'm mom, and if you tell me what's going on I can tell you whether he had the right to do so or not." said Julia from the doorway.

Johnny quickly took the bags she'd been carrying.  He put them on the table and then stepped back to let Angelo have the floor, tilting his head to the side and crossing his arms once again to see what his little brother would say.

Angelo, put on the spot, turned red and stammered.  "I... I... I mean he... I..."

"That tells me nothing.  How about if I hear Johnny's version first and you can tell me if you agree with it or not?" she said, coming further into the kitchen.

"Mamma, anything out there that'll spoil?"  Johnny asked.

"How long is this going to take?"

"Maybe a while. It depends." he said, looking pointedly at Angelo who blushed even more darkly.

"Let's bring in the groceries and go from there.  Get a move on."  she said, letting the boys out ahead of her and not taking comfort in the fact that her youngest covered his backside when he passed her.

The groceries were in and the perishables put away before Julia allowed her sons to sit at the table and tell their stories while she started dinner.

Johnny was concise and to the point, and included his decisions about the corner and screening the phone call meant for Angelo.

Angelo sat quietly.  He had no defense and he knew it.  If he had actually been on trial he'd have been headed to the gallows.

Julia opened the door to the hallway and tried the odd door that lead to her son's bedroom closet.  It was locked tightly and to the best of her knowledge there was no key.  She returned to the kitchen and asked, "Did you find a key to that door and sneak out the back, Angelo?"  she asked.

Using Amadeo's knack for prevarication, Angelo answered the question truthfully.  "No, mamma, I didn't sneak out the back.  I'm not sure when he
came in for his drink but him and Paulie were in the lower garden when I left."

"So you knew you had chores and that you weren't supposed to leave until they were done. Yes?"  his mother asked.

"Yes mamma?"  Angelo replied softly as he felt the noose slip over his head.

"And you've been told more than once about going out without telling anyone where you're going, yes?"

"Johnny knew where to find me, he came right to 'Deo's house."

"Because no one answered the phone and I figured he might be out back doing chores and might know where you were."  Johnny said, unhelpfully.

"So you went out again, without telling anyone where you were going.  Yes?"  his mother asked, arching an eyebrow.

"Yes mamma."  Angelo replied again, feeling the noose tighten around his neck.

"Then that's a discussion you're going to have to have with daddy when he gets home."  she said with finality.  "Now if you'd please set the table.  Set a place for Paulie too, just in case he comes home.  He said he might be staying at Teresa's for dinner but wasn't sure.  I hope the two of them aren't having an argument." she said to herself.

Shortly before their father arrived, Julia sat down to take a look at the mail.  She smiled when she saw a letter from Luke.  She wasn't the least happy with his girlfriend or the conditions under which he'd left the month before but he was her son, and she was always happy to hear from him.  

She slid her finger under the flap and pulled the letter out.  She read the letter, then read it again with a smile on her face, then read it again only to laugh happily upon reaching the end.

John and Angelo, who had been sitting in their places quietly sipping water or iced tea while they waited for their father to walk through the door, looked at their mother inquiringly.

"He got rid of her!"  she announced.  Then at her son's uncomprehending looks she explained, "Lukie!  He got rid of that... woman!  He said he's going out with a really sweet girl now.  He met her after he and... that woman had a big argument and she walked out the door.  He said the new girl, Tara, is originally from Texas and actually lives across the hall from him in his apartment building."

She laughed as she read, "When she heard them having their final brawl she stood in the hallway watching the whole thing, and when... that woman... was gone, Tara looked at him and said,  'It's about time, that child was poison' before turning to go back into her own apartment.   He says it took him three weeks to get her to agree to go out with him but she finally said yes!"

Angelo and Johnny looked at each other, each unwilling to point out that Luke's taste in girls hadn't been stellar so far, but they didn't want to break their mother's bubble.

"Who said yes?  Don't tell me Luke proposed to that... woman," said Joshua, unknowingly imitating his wife as he walked in the door, "If she said yes I swear I'll disown the boy!"

"No, no.  He has a new girlfriend named Tara.  I don't know if she's going to be any better than that hell spawn," Julia said, causing her sons to choke on their drinks, "But she can't be any worse!"

"Well, I suppose we'll find out eventually.  Does he say anything about visiting any time soon?"

"No, nothing about a visit, just apologizing to me for letting that... woman... talk to me the way she did, assuring me it's over and telling me about Tara, his new girlfriend."

"Well that's wonderful."  Joshua said with a smile.  "Now, before we eat, you all can tell me what's wrong. And since Angelo is sitting at the table, drinking Alka Seltzer which he only does when he has an upset stomach due to a guilty conscience, I'll have to come to the conclusion that he's the one in trouble, am I right?  So, what happened?"  he asked, focusing his gaze on his youngest.

Angelo related the story with only a few prompts from Johnny, who got death glares from his little brother for his troubles, and finished with an apology delivered in a small voice.  He was pretty sure an apology wouldn't help his case, but it wouldn't hurt either.

"So, shall we take care of this before or after dinner, Angelo?"  his father asked.

"Instead of?"  Angelo asked, “You can send me to bed without dinner?  I won't... I mean, I'd understand, and I'd hate to miss such a wonderful dinner but I really don't deserve it and should go without."  he tried.

"Now or afterward, ragazzino."

If he took his punishment before it would ruin everyone's dinner because he'd trying to eat with a stuffy nose and a sore butt.  If they did it afterward the tension might mess up everyone's digestion and he might sick up the dinner, and he told his father as much.

"Before it is, then."  Joshua said, getting up from his place and gesturing for his youngest son to accompany him.

"What if everyone gets a sick stomach from the tension."  Angelo tried.

"That's what Alka Seltzer is for.  Get going."

"But dad..."

"No buts, little boy."  his father said sternly, "I've never sent a child of mine to bed hungry and I'm not about to start."  he said, remembering some of his parent's crueler punishments.  "Let's go."  he said, pointing once again toward the boy's bedroom.

"Come on, Johnny, let's see if we missed any raspberries," Julia said, handing a little basket to her son and leading him out of the house.

Angelo shot his brother another death glare which went unnoticed since his brother and mother were headed out the door before he was herded into his bedroom by his father.

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