Wednesday, July 20, 2016
After lunch, with Amadeo beside him, Angelo dialed up Steve and told him about the conversation between Amadeo and his father.
Steve was quiet for a few moments, and Angelo was afraid the other boy was going to hang up on him. "Hang on a sec, Benny. Bruce and Carlos are here. Let me see what they have to say, OK?"
"Sure." was all Angelo said.
He could hear Steven talking, even though the sounds were slightly muffled. Angelo worried that the other boy was putting his hand over the mouthpiece was a bad sign, until he put the hand set back to his ear and said, "Bruce is gonna talk to Ethel about it, Carlos is going next door to Ralph's house to ask him, and they'll call Parker from there." he hesitated, “Ummm, Benny, not that it's a big deal or anything but Carlos asked me a question and I'm just curious myself what the answer is."
"What's the question?"
"Well, your dad said no drinking. Carlos wants to know if that means ever. Like, if he goes home and has a swig or two, is that gonna be a problem?"
Angelo's stomach knotted up. Just the fact that the question had been asked made him nervous that things might not work out. He covered the mouthpiece and told 'Deo what Steve had said. Amadeo put a hand out, wordlessly asking for the handset, which Angelo handed over, grateful that 'Deo seemed willing to handle the matter.
"Steve? This is Amadeo. How are you?"
"Good, 'Deo." the other boy said hesitantly, “Uh, what happened to Benny?"
"Angelo was a little concerned about your question and asked me to answer it. All I can say is that I thought this would be a good arrangement for all of you, and I'd like for Angelo's father to give you guys a chance. I'm pretty sure that Angelo's father only meant no drinking on the job or before. I could ask him the question, but if anyone is more worried about having a drink than earning a few dollars I'm afraid that he'll just say no to the whole deal."
"Ah, that's what I figured." Steve said unhappily.
"Look, if the drinking is that big of a deal..." Amadeo began to say, disappointed. His heart sank at the thought that he'd been so very wrong about them despite the fact that they'd been so good to Angelo.
"No, no, it's not the drinking, at least not for me, man." Steve reassured him, “Carlos is our bottle buddy for the most part... the rest of us just do it 'cause we're bored. No, you just explained why Benny..."
Steve sighed, “Why Angelo would never come to my house or invite me to his. We're personae non gratae. Benny... I mean, Angelo's father has us figured wrong, 'Deo, honest. I'm just kind of disappointed that Be... Angelo made us out to be the bad guys. We're not bad, not really. But I guess I understand."
"Steve, Angelo didn't make you out to be the bad guys. It's the fact that he was out till nearly two o'clock in the morning meeting with you guys, and that he came home smelling of cigarette smoke. As far as anything else goes, he didn't want to tell his folks anything, but his father can be very... persuasive, when he wants to know something, and the fact is that Angelo is a rotten liar." he said with a smile in his boy's direction, ignoring Angelo's extended tongue for the time being. "He didn't give you guys up for anything."
"Yeah, that's what I originally figured that when no irate parents came pounding on our doors for keeping their kid out till all hours. I figured he'd either kept quiet or was one of us, like we thought."
"One of you, in what way?" Amadeo asked.
"The fact is our folks don't care where we go or how long we're out. We figured Ben... dang! Angelo was like us, so we just took him in. Just another 'lost boy'... and Wendy if you count Ethel but don't tell her I compared her to Wendy. She likes Tinkerbell better." he laughed.
Amadeo laughed, and then grew serious once again. "So I have three questions for you, Steve. One is just out of curiosity... you keep insisting on calling Angelo 'Benny'. He's told me over and over how good you guys were to him, how you befriended him when no one else would. So why do you keep getting his name wrong?"
Steve laughed, "He looks like his name, you know?"
"I don't get you." Amadeo did in fact, know that his boy looked like an angel but he wondered where Steve was going with his comment.
"His name means angel, right?"
"Yeah,” Amadeo agreed dubiously.
"I call my girl Angel Baby,” he laughed again. "When Benny and her are with us and I say Angel, they both go, 'Yeah?', so it was just easier to call him Benny for his second name... can't pronounce the whole thing right anyway, and he seemed good with it."
"Did you tell him that?"
Steve snorted a laugh. "No, I figured it was obvious. Did I need to tell him?" he asked.
"No, I was just curious." Amadeo replied, unwilling to admit to Angelo's friend that his boy really hadn't known the reason.
"So what's the second question?"
"Well, only how long do you think it'll take for you all to discuss the idea and get back to him? He and his family have been doing the work by themselves for the most part. They just need to know soon because if you're not interested they need to find other people."
"Well, we gotta get a hold of everyone. I really think the guys'll be good with the idea, but it might take a little while. Can I call you back or did you want to wait on the phone?"
"Whichever is good for you. We might be out and about so we could always call you back later if you're around."
"OK, sounds good. Now, third question."
"Angelo... Benny's father wants everyone sober for safety's sake, since you'll be up on ladders picking the nuts and fruit that are growing high up. So pass the word. If there's going to be an issue with someone not willing or able to stay sober, they shouldn't waste their time coming around. Do you think that anyone will be more interested in drinking than earning a few bucks?"
"That I can't answer, man. I can't speak for everyone." Steve said, an odd note in his voice. "But I'll pass the word."
"Thanks for your honesty, Steve. We'll call you a little later today, all right?"
"Yeah man, if you can't get a hold of us here then check out the park. Everyone kinda fell in love with the park in your town so we've been hanging out there a lot lately."
"Sounds good." Amadeo smiled. "Talk to you later. Tell everyone hi from me and Benny."
"Will do," Steve laughed. Then the two boys hung up.
"Alright, Benny, here's the deal." Amadeo said, explaining Steve's side of the conversation, including the other boy's reasoning for calling Angelo 'Benny'. "I'm just curious though, Ange. It obviously bothered you. Why didn't you say something? Or ask Steve to tell you why he insisted on calling you Benny instead of your proper name?"
"I was afraid they'd get mad or stop liking me if I made a fuss about it?"
There it was, Amadeo thought. It seemed to come out more when he was uncertain or nervous, 'Deo thought.
"After the first few times I just stopped pressing the issue."
"So you weren't sure about your friendship? You felt that if you said what you thought or told them something they didn't like that they'd stop hanging out with you?"
"I had a whole school full of people who didn't seem to like me simply for being the new kid? These guys liked that I was the new kid and hung with me. I didn't want to lose that."
"Now you know they like you for you, and now you know why they called you Benny instead of Angelo. You good with it?" Amadeo asked, wondering if his boy were going to 'ask another question'.
"Yeah, I'm good. Thanks for asking him to explain that. It sounded better coming from you than me anyway." Angelo laughed. "I'd rather be called Benny than Numbskull."
"You are a numbskull sometimes." Amadeo said affectionately. Looking around to see if they were alone he leaned toward Angelo and whispered, "But you're my numbskull. Ti amo, Benny." he whispered again and planting a quick kiss on his boy's cheek.
personae non gratae - unwelcome, unwanted people
Angel Baby by Rosie and the Originals, 1960