© Copyright 2008 by Jerry Vilhotti
Johnny was a new teenager since the last week of December – the day before Christ was born.
Mister Soupbonee, whose real name before an Ellis Island official changed his name from Subuano making a big joke when the country semi-checked the cheap labor coming in to the "greatest country ever" built on the backs of the first cheap labor "folks" called English indentured servants, Irish, Slovs, Med people that were also encompassed in the net: Greeks, Jews, Eyetalians, Asians ... , called Johnny over to talk. Mister S. was a bookie that all the mothers and fathers knew about on the street. From mouths, as the saying went often, that what came out of a child’s mouth was given birth from the voice of a parent.
“Johnny, I hear you made the Tavern Cough Hill Cardinals,” he said in his raspy voice. It was the same tone he used the year before when he asked Johnny to do him a big favor and shoot his Irish setter “Mic” in the face with ammonia from his water pistol, to get the dog out of his nasty habit of chasing “Eyetalian” and "Portogeess" drivers. Johnny sustained a big bite on his thigh and the man was impressed that Johnny’s parents did not sue.
Mister Soupbonee had made so much money from “Barnum suckers who voted in stupider political hacks than they so having a country almost always walking in the dark” looking for their green ship to come in that he was able to buy the home on the corner which was a third larger than all the other houses on Madison Avenue.
“Your buddy Splunky Buck Teeth told me the harps voted you captain and he said you’re playing short-stop and batting clean up! I watch you playing on our street and see you hit homers three pole lengths away! And you catch pop ups with your back to home plate!”
Johnny nodded modestly; hoping he wouldn't mention his older brother Leny One N who had been arrested for holding up a smoke shop whose owner was a bookie too! He still couldn't’t figure out why the man called him to his front stoop, unless it was because all the guys were making fun of their last name and calling his son, two years younger than Johnny, “Progresso Soupbone”?
“How old are you, kid?”
“I just turned thirteen in December.” Johnny said; at the ready to tell Mister Soupbonee he never teased his son Anthony and would always stop the guys from doing so since he was the toughest kid on the street but no way a bully; using nice words to convey the idea of nasty talk was not a good thing.
“Gees kid, doesn't’t that make you too old?”
“Mister Dan Patrick Mullins says because I was close to the new year doing only one week there, I’m okay!”
“I read in the GOP Simpleton newspaper that only kids up to twelve are legal to play. You think it’s fair to shut those kids out? Do you think that's really fair, kid?
There was that word “fair”. He must have heard it said a thousand times since his family had moved north from the East Bronx. Every time he heard it only the opposite happened.
“Johnny, I like you much. My kid looks up to you. He talks like you and he even limps like you - faking he has a game leg too - but kid, you do what you think is fair. The only thing is this: if you guys win the pennant and they find out – they take the flag away! Is that fair?”
Johnny never thought of that since Mister Mullins said everything was all right.
That day Johnny was supposed to pick up his uniform at the community house next to the ball field, where the great Roger Conners had played as a kid. Conners was the only Burywatarian to be inducted into The Hall of Fame. He was also the king of home run hitters of the dead ball era. Due to his height while playing for the New York team, he had been the one who had given them their nickname. This was after fans yelled that they were giants seeing the six foot four inch, two hundred plus pound guy walking into the Polo Grounds.
Johnny called the coach up and told him he found out he was too old to play.
“That’s okay Johnny Sanque, like I told you-”
Johnny controlled his voice as he said he would feel bad if they took their win away because of him.
Mister Mullins was not a Black and Tan kind of guy since his father had been a fire fighter, unlike many Burywater cops in Burywater who had been Black and Tans in the Old Sod, and felt compassion for the kid. He sensed Johnny really meant what he was saying and told him he respected him for what he was doing. He also tried to explain there would be other kids who would play who were even older than he.
After the season ended, the newspaper reported there were twenty over-aged kids and three were as old as fifteen! One of the fifteen year old kids would be on Johnny’s high school baseball team. He quit after dropping a dozen pop ups telling coach Moriairty it was because baseballs were much smaller than basketballs. Billy-Boy ended up starring on the basketball team because he could put more balls in vagina-shaped baskets.
The day of the parade on a Sunday, heralding
the first year of little league baseball coming to the city of a
hundred thousand people ten years after it had in Pennsylvania,
Johnny sat alone in the movie house. He had asked his father for
money to be there – a thing he seldom did as his mother often
told him they needed every penny to pay off their new home. He heard
the marching band just outside, playing tunes of taking someone out
to the ball game and Only Show Business. No one could see the tears
in Johnny's eyes.
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