Firing Guardian Angels

Jerry Vilhotti

© Copyright 2007 by Jerry Vilhotti


Photo of a blackboard with drawings on it.
Johnny went to his first day of school in Burywater, having all ready done six months of kindergarten in The East Bronx at the school Julie Garfinkle to become John Garfield would attend after his relatives would send him away from the tough gangs of Brownsville where he learned to fight well using his slightly awkward moves in a fight movie where he would use his soul to make his body win over sell outs of the world, being left off at the bottom of the steep hill as his father said he did not want to kill his clutch or have a dented car which he would point out to Johnny indicated a very very bad driver would drive into him and as Johnny climbed upward, he was approached by a big blond blue-eyed boy who told him he wanted his new book bag but since Johnny was holding it firmly in his grip only frustrated the fifth grader named Bulldog McKenna who said it wasn't fair that he should have such a nice thing.

     Johnny would hear the word "fair" often in Burywater and finally realize that when that word was used the opposite would more often happen.

     "So why can't I have your shitty bag?"

     If the kid had asked for it in a nice way, Johnny would have gladly given it to him thinking when his mother had given to him that morning which in a way was a little miracle since pennies for his mother were like dollar bills that seldom saw the light of day that it was sissified to be carrying one; instead, he said: "Because it's fucking mine!"

     Running away with a shocked look, Bulldog plunged up the hill toward the wooden structure that housed eight grades called Saint Anthony.

     "Class look bright.  We have a new pupil with us today and his name is John Santi."

     "No Sister Kathleen of the Holy Miseries - it's Sanque."

     Not hearing him while manifesting a certain air of indifference, the Sister turned to the blackboard and began to write the alphabet along its wide width; copulating capital and lower case one above the other.

     Till lunch all the pupils wrote them combining a memorization along with a practice of meticulous penmanship that often flew off the paper that produced many frowns and a few slaps on heads who refused to correct their sinning ways.  In one case she hit the one Black pupil so hard on the head she could not control herself from passing a large burst of gas from her stomach which did get most all of the boys and girls to jump in an embarrassed way as if they were lifted by a jet stream that had encompassed their little beings while gagging from the odorous perfume that was engulfing the breathable air.

     With the point of her big ruler, after they ate their sandwiches brought from home, she ordered the class to go out to recess.

     There were two large groups of boys facing each - ready t do mighty charges at each other.  Johnny was among the "Roosevelt's" whom Johnny liked despite his maternal uncle named after Mozart who would babble on about how the crippled president had forced the gentle Japanese to bomb "Pel Ob" and fortunate for him the Federal Bureau of Incompetence agents could not figure out the two words were his pronunciations for Pearl Harbor.

     The "Deweys" prevailed having in their ranks some seventh and eighth graders.

     Bruised and disheveled, Johnny sat half-way on his chair, following Sister's wish that they allow room for their guardian angel.

     An hour before they would be released, Sister's catechizing began as she whispered the page they were to go to which forced the boy next to Johnny to ask him the page number.

     "Did you speak just now, Mister Santi?"

     He nodded not even thinking of correcting her.

     "That's not a fair thing to do, Jerry.  Why did you speak in my class?"

     He would not say for the code of his Bronx streets prevented him from doing so and sensing the first talker would be in trouble as he seemed to be so he went along with The East Bronx street motto: "Don't talk and you walk".  In a very few days he would marvel at how easily and quickly his classmates would rat each other out.

     "Do you know where Father Flanagan's office is?"

     He nodded again.

     "Go see him now!" she said helping him up by the ear.

     Johnny walked past statues of sad-faced saints and a painting of Christ and his wife - the Holy Grail.

     "Come in," a gentle voice instructed the soft knock.

     "Yes James, what can I do you for?"  Father Flanagan said. He had the same kind demeanor as his late father who had been a former bishop.

     "I talked in class, Fodder."

     "Did you have permission to speak, Tony?"

     Johnny shook his head.

     "You do see that's unfair.  Please put your hand out, son" the smiling Father said as he brought out the long black leather strap from his desk drawer to begin ten hits on each of Johnny's slightly trembling hands. Johnny would forever be suspicious of anyone who overused the word "fair".     Fully spent, Father Flanagan asked: "Are you sorry, miscreant?"

     Johnny would not answer the guy nor look at him.

     Not only did Johnny fire his guardian angel that day - never allowing him or her to sit on his chair - he would talk to no more priests nor to sisters for within a few months he would tell his parents after they moved to the peel-less side of Burywater that if they didn't let him go to "the leave no child behind" public school, he would change religions.

    Being the father's favorite he was allowed to go to a school named after a founding father whom the principal Miss Moriarity eerily resembled.

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