Reaching Montaup
a novel
J Dominic

Bay Tree Publishing, LLC
Point Richmond, California

— Copyrighted Material —

Bay Tree Publishing, LLC
1400 Pinnacle Court #406
Point Richmond, CA 94801

This book is a work of fiction. Any references to historical events, real people, or real places are used fictitiously. Other names, characters, places and events are products of the author’s imagination, and any resemblance to actual events or places or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Copyright © 2016 J Dominic

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever. For information about reprint rights and bulk purchases, please write to

Bay Tree Publishing
225 East Richmond Ave.
Richmond, CA 94801
or e-mail:

Cover design by Jeff Fuller
Interior design by David Cole
Cover art by Diane Fernald

Manufactured in the United States of America

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Dominic, J.
Reaching Montaup : a novel / by J Dominic.
Point Richmond, California :
Bay Tree Publishing, LLC, [2016] Identifiers: LCCN 2016019629 | ISBN 9780996676502 (pbk.)
Classification: LCC PS3604.O4645 R43 2016 | DDC 813/.6–dc23
LC record available at

Summary: Jate Tavino comes of age when he realizes his twin brother is gay, his best friend has been raped, and his father is complicit in revenge and possibly murder.

Adult Literary Fiction
[1. Regional Fiction 2. Bildungsroman
3. Adolescence 4. Boy’s Adventure 5. Friendship]

ISBN: 978-0-9966765-0-2
ISBN: 978-0-9966765-1-9 (ebook)




  Theo Gund
  John J. Sweeney
  Robert Hill
  and Tom Spanbauer




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From perfect grief there need not be
Wisdom, or even memory …
—Dante Gabriel Rossetti




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MistaCogg says      3

Stories   I
1   Bowl on the Head      19

2   TheEecoodeeshKid      26
3   SweetSweet Lands      35
4   A Lok Ascendin      41
5   Ouch Ouch Ouch      51
6   Flying the Colors      55
7   Breath and Breathe      62
8   Asquantum      71
9   Seeing Providence      76
10  I Will Fight      85
11  BorkumRiff      95
12  SarahHaagsBunktown      103
13  FrostFishing and Hooglies      116

Secrets II
14  GoodBoostCounts      131

15  PowaHouseStuff      137
16  Talking Doing Feeling      143
17  Pruneys Island      149
18  Ah NorEasta      157
19  On the Q-T      174


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Holy Week III
20 How Come You Go ta the Dogs?   183

21  BadFriday and GoodSunday      204
22  Knotted Lines   209 
23  Empty Sky Nothing    218
24  A Whiff-a-Dads Workclothes  227
25  Cant Be Said Dead    232

Blizzard IV
26  WibWob    251

27  TempestTongue    256
28  The Inside Storm    273

Reaching V
29  Edge of the Point    287

30  Past Montaup    293

Deepest Gratitude    300



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MistaCogg says, Tide works rocks. Wears down their rough. Makes them smooth. And then eventual. Fine sand.

Its the eternal process.

MistaCogg says the best place to see the action of this process is the marsh at Montaup. Says the word Montaup means rock shore. Montaup being a word from the language of the Wampanoag and those Wampanoag were just some of many natives living Sowams. Or south of the Plymouth Plantation of the Mayflower Pilgrims in the year 1620. Other tribes living south of the new arrived Pilgrims of England were Pokanoket. They of the Open Fields. And Narragansett. People of the Further Shore.

MistaCogg says, Tides provided all tribes. Everyone. With abundant goodness.

And although the white settlers provided Indians with lots of misery and death. MistaCogg says, Tides always changed death back to life. And then back again and repeated and repeated and repeated. And although the process was. And always has been for the past four hundred years. Vi­cious in favor of the white man.

MistaCogg says, In the great tide of times. Four hundred years is nothin.

Says, The clear lesson marshes teach is tides always turn and while ev­erything may appear rock solid. Everything. For absolute. Is not.


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MistaCogg says, Tidewater changes land. And its not the other way around.

MistaCogg calls tidewater, Tides.

But the Montaup rockshore land? He calls that, TerrorFirmer.

TerrorFirmer is MistaCoggs fancy way of saying sogg that everyone else in our town of Sowams knows is the combined three ingredients. Plants. Animals. And muck.

MistaCogg says not to confuse sogg with muck. Sogg is solid. Sogg is TerrorFirmer. A baked cake. But muck is more the batter. Muck is the early stages-a-sogg. The uncooked ingredients. The puddin-a-life.

MistaCogg says the puddin-a-life is the slime-a-the earth mentioned in the Bible and although its the begin of the pudding. It has nothin to do with lifes begin but everythin to do with its end. Not the begin. But the began.

MistaCogg says, The begin-a-life has the smell of five and dime per­fume. But the began-a-life stinks like wicked foul carryin rot and if you get in the thick of that. GoodLawd.

And. Not ta say. But. Anyone living near a marsh knows the sure way to remain clear of the bad pudding it is to stay on the solid sogg trail. Usual at the edge of a flowditch. If you dont stay on the ditch edge and you crisscross crisscross. Or you jump the ditch hectic because you dont figure width correct. Might be you could land smack in a grip of razor­weed that slices your hands while the muck pulls off your boots with suck­ing sounds thats earthfarts giving off. WhatHo! Making you gag and puke and maybe gag again all over.

MistaCogg says, Best way to avoid this predicament is walk the straight and narrow.

And I think he means path. Because MistaCogg once said when ZompaGalucci was a boy. Just after Zompas NewYork family moved to Sowams. Poor city kid Zompa ran ever whichway on the marsh ascat-a-Hoogly haunts and got stuck to his waist for almost a full day in such a rank situation and if it hadnt been for MistaCogg fishing nearby from the trestle and hearing Zompas faint calls for help. Zompa would-a-been, MuckleburyFen in a bog ett by fiddla crabs n lopstas.

When I asked MistaCogg if that was a true story? He looked at me full. Poured a slug of brandy. Tamped tobacco in his pipe. And said, Nope. Not true. But should be.


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15    Reaching Montaup

MistaCogg said, Long as pigeonkicked folks act like marshes got the Hooglies. Then those of us who live in such blessed acres. Fott stinks n all. Will have these marshes for ahselves. Most godsome place on earth. Ebb. Flow. Rhythm of time. No one should live where there aint the tides.

MistaCogg corncob.

MistaCogg liquored.

MistaCogg praspective.




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Bowl on the Head


The first thing you gotta understand is this is a story about me writing my story and getting that thing called praspective.

Its not about bowl on the head.

Or plate in the head.

Its not about days at GreensHillTownBeach.

Or about sailing to Sowams MountHopeShores.

Or the death of Metacomet the Wampanoag Indian chief.

Or the ghosts of the Hindu Hoogly sailors.

Or the way we talked RhodeIsland talk.

Saying preece for priest.

Ott art.

Nuthin nothing.

Hott for heart.

Our father.


Ah mom.

Its not about the way my unexact twin brother Ross and my Portu­guese best friend PruneyMendez was queer for each other and how the priest FatherLuis took advantage of that. And how Mikey 2A’s. And the other guys. ScarHab. ZompaGalucci. And my Dad. Made a real mess of everything. Especial between our neighbors MistaCogg and GilOwen who were all the time pals till MistaCogg said mean stuff about the white whale MobyDick. And GilOwen.

Both being queers.

And how ZompaGalucci took a hotta. Which every pigeonkicked RhodeIslander knows. Means. Zompa had a bad heart that gave him hot­tattack death and Zompa died.


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And it is. Not. Most definite. About Whimpy BugEyes McPherson. Who everyone in Sowams. Even cops. Owed money to. And who. From the steps of his bookie joint said, For the sake-a-the kids. The buck stops here and no police investigation is goin farther than this door.

Yup. Its not about none of those things. Because. Like I just plain and simple told.

This story is about me writing my story after I got truckhead hit and rattled up good. And. As PruneyMendez might say, Long as ya unnerstan that. Ya dont need ta be knowin much-a-nuthin else more.

•   •   •

Unexact twinness was very frustrational for Ross and me.

Not because Ross and me dint look the same. The way twins oughta. But because Mom said Ross and me both had. Inside our heads. What she called, Selfcapricious quirks.

And. For general. No such quirks was visitable for us to see.

And irregardless of that fact. My headscar. The very thing Mom said was the badge of my quirks. That scar was only visitable for a couple of weeks late spring. Because Mom. With electric clippers. Took Ross and me into the yard and buzz buzz buzzed our hair to the wind.

This one spring. 1959. Just before our birthday when we turned seven.

Right after our buzzcuts.

Ross asked me if he could paint my visitable scar red. With his water­colors. I said, Sure.

And while he was dipping and dabbing those watercolors to my head. He was also saying my scar looked like a bent fishhook. And I gotta addmit. While he was painting and poking with his paintbrush. That paint­brush. Like a magic finger. Gave my headpain place a most real feelgood sensation. And what was a lot funny was when Mom saw the paint Ross had painted on me. She got a horror look on her face. And she said Hah raws. Because she thought my redhead was split all over again. And when Ross and me were laughing that we tricked her. Mom said Ross and me was gonna make her hair go gray and she was gonna grow old too fast.

Mom always said that. Hah raws. And the thing about us making her hair go gray. Or making it fall out. And she would always warn Ross that when her hair did go gray and fall out. She was gonna take from Ross. His hair. And wear it on herself. On her own head. And she wasnt giving it back.

Rosses hair. Like Moms. Was brown and straight.


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Me? I had Dads dirtblonde curls so I was safe from Mom someday stealing it off me. Not ta say. But. Our faces werent so steal proof. Mom said she was gonna steal them too. When we wasnt looking. And sell our faces to the Indians. Mom said Indians was always wanting to buy. For a good price. A handsome pair of twinbrother faces.

With twinbrother solid bodies to match.

And although those Indians would immediate see by our twinfaces Ross and me were brothers. Why would the Indians want our twinbrother bodies? Our twinbrother bodies dint look like twinbrother bodies. Our twinbrother bodies were different. Rosses twinbrother body bigger. Stron­ger. My twinbrother body. It was small and shrimp.

If you said, Ross. Show me your muscle.

He’d bend at the elbow and pump a big hunk of bulge that give him shape. Colored his eyes. And made wide his grin.

Mom said we were fish of the same scale. But Dad said we were a lop­sided mix of. Land. Sky. Blood and Water.

Mom called Ross a swarty rockfish tautog.

Tautog being fish. And swarty. Mom said, Meant dark skin.

For me. Mom said I was, A fair spinedarter choggy small fry.

Fair is pale. With blonde hair with easy sunburn skin.

Dad just called us, Beachgrit and Sunrise.

And those names are my favorite.

Not that I have anything against tautog and choggy fish because I dont. But Beachgrit and Sunrise was my favorites because when Dad said. Beachgrit and Sunrise. Them words made him think of his favorite time and place. Asquantum and Montaup. Both words Indian words meaning like. Picnic on the rock shore. And that always made Dad smile.

And Mom always smiled too. When she talked serious stuff. To Ross and me.

Mom said when we was born. I came out dancing. And was a beautiful child.

Except she says it, Bew. Dee. Full.


Bewdeeful child.

On the other hand.

About Ross. She talked fancy French and said, Contraire Ross. You were no spinedarter choggy. You took your own sweet time. You were a lol­lygaggin slowpoke. A tautog. Happy in the deep-a-your own swarty dark.


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So. There you have it. Bewdeeful me. The fair skinned spinedarter dancer.

And Ross. The swartydark rocksteady slowpoke.

A pair of fishes outta water.

Unexact twins.

Tautog and Choggy.

Beachgrit and Sunrise.

•   •   •

Both Mom and Dad always said they loved watching the horizon sun and the red trails and pinks and orange glows the low sun left in the sky. Dusk or dawn. Said it was like long faded ribbon strands pulled from their pockets making them feel together when they were apart. Which was plenty and frequent because while Mom stayed home with us kids. Dad worked up and down the East Coast on a big boat. A dredge. For days. And sometimes weeks at a time.

When Dad was home. Especial summertime with us at SowamsGreen­hill Townbeach. Dad would point across the water. Out towards the bay to the tree covered hill and its northeast cliffs and the cobblestone shores. And Dad would tell us how the ancient Wampanoag Indians called the place Montaup. And Dad big grin would say, Let them Massachusetts Pil­grims praise and wup-dee-do their PlymouthRock. We here in Montaup have a much more specialer rock.

The Montaup puddingstone. Just above the shore.

And Dad would always tell how he and Mom. Before they was mar­ried. Went to that puddingstone rock. Made a sunset beach fire. And there was stars and moon. Turning tides. Dark sky and distant light. Beachgrit and sunrise.

And then eventual.

You boys. Who.

Forever changed our lives.

•   •   •

When me and Ross was littler.

Sometimes I was Rosses brother.

And sometimes Ross was my twin.

Like when we introduced us to people. Ross would say, Jate is my twin.

Or. I would say, Ross is my brother.

Not ta say. But.

Twin or brother.

Ross and me. We were always a pair.


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Through thick and through thin.

Especial. After Ross and me got caught in the blizzard trying to help PruneyMendez because of what FatherLuis done. But. Im getting ahead of me.

For now. Gotta stick with the beginning.

Not the 1952 Beachgrit and Sunrise beginning.

But. The 1955 beginning when Mom said, Selfcapricious quirks begun to shine.

In the quirks beginning. According to Mom. One rain day. When we was three. One year before my plate in the head. Mom took down from the wall above our kitchen table. The wedding gift made for her by Mis­susCogg. A framed barnyard picture. With below it. Handstitch.

How Dear to This Heart are the Scenes of My Childhood
When Fond Recollection Presents Them to View

Mom called it embroidery. Mom loved that embroidery and so did we.

And Mom said, Lets draw pictures of the barnyard picture.

And Mom put paper and crayons. On the kitchen table.

And the next thing was Ross using the crazy crayon colors and Ross drawing the embroidereed farmhouse. The waterwell. And the waterwell bucket.

Mom said I picked up the black crayon and. On that capricious day. Slow printed.

How Dear.

Never drawed the embroidereed picture.

Just wrote the handstitch words.

And. On many other rain days. While Ross would more draw on his papers. A cat or dog. Six cows. A bullfrog. A weepingwillowtree. Some horses. And. Not ta say. But. A rainbow once too.

Mom said I just slow printed all the embroidereed handstitch words.

That was the quirk beginning Mom said.

The beginning of Ross doing art drawing pictures.

The beginning of me scratchwriting words.

And. Mom always reminded Ross and me. That on a very different day. On Thursday. July 10th. 1956. Front of GilOwens SquarePeg antique­shop. Ross and me become even way more unexact and different. When. From the sky. A blueshell crabclaw fell into the street and without, Look both ways. Or, Be careful of the machines. I ran direct in the road to pick


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up the crabclaw and thats when LouieRespeegies fish truck knocked me curbside and I got ambulance rushed to the RhodeIslandHospital where the doctors fixed my broke skull noggin with what they called tietaneium metal but everybody else in Sowams called, Jates plate in the head.

Not ta say. But. That plate in the head thing?

Not fa nuthin.

How did a plate. A actual plate. Fit in my head? And just what kind of plate was it? Salad plate? Dinner plate? Pie plate? What?

And if it werent for Pedro Pruney Mendoza Mendez. Who. One day in the SquarePeg antique store said, Think on it this way Jate. Plate in your head is not fa real a plate. More like a bowl on the head. Bowl. Over your brain. Back-a-your skull. But under your hair. Unnastan?

And I said, Sure.

But I dint. Not for real. Because. Like I been saying. If it was a bowl whyd he. And everybody else in Sowams. Call it a plate?

But Pruney took. From the shelf. GilOwens metal blue enamel speck­led plate and put it on the table in front of me. And he did the same with the old cherrywood bowl.

Next Pruney put the metal blue enamel speckled plate on his head. Which of course. As soon as he moved. It fell right off.

Then Pruney put on his head the old cherrywood bowl that stayed on his head like a good fitting army helmet no matter of how much he moved.

Final Pruney took off the old cherrywood bowl. Put the cherrywood bowl on the table and put into the cherrywood bowl the waxpaper wrapped lunch of fishcakes Mom made.

And Pruney said, Imagine the old cherrywood bowl bein not a old cherrywood bowl like this. But a stainless steel mixin bowl. See? A bowl sorta keepin everythin together and not a plate with everythin all seprate. And when you was on the RhodeIslandHospital operatin table. Four years old with a busted up skull. The doctors took out the brokeskull pieces and in place-a-those busted pieces. Put in a bowl like this. But a whole lot smaller. Like the popes cap. Like a jew hat. Your hair? Was peeled off your head. The doctors scalped you. Just like cowboys n Indians do in the movies. Then afta the operation. Doctors stretched your scalp like those bathin caps girls at the beach wear. Stretched it back on over your skull what was replaced with a bowl. And the old part-a-your skull. The bone? Thats now growin attached to the new part-a-your skull and your hair


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and everything is growin over that. Over the bowl and skull what is now combined together. Together as one.

Bone. Cranium.

Steel. Titanium.

Scalp. Brainium.

Growin all together. Even stronga than before.

And as Pruney was telling this. His eyebrows knotted and his long eye­lashes had crust from not washing his face in the morning. And each part of Pruneys fat cheek face had a look that begged me to understand him.

Pruney poured everything out the old cherrywood bowl. His pretend helmet. My pretend. Plate in the head skull. Poured out our waxpapered lunch on to the antique blue speckled plate. And Pruney said, Tilt a plate back and forth and whaddaya got? Your fishcakes and sauce. All spills right off.

And Ross said to Pruney, Prettgood explanation. Like DoctorKildare.

Then Pruney said, My brother knows this stuff cause-a-his undertaker job.

And GilOwen slid forward in his antique chair said, Here Here.

And GilOwen patted Pruneys fat head.

And GilOwen. From his antique chair. Soft breath gentle said, Bravo Pedro. Bravo. You have a different way of seeing and ex­plaining. Indeed you have —

Outta nowhere Pruney said, Praspective?

And GilOwen said, Perspective? Most certain.

And PruneyMendez smiled big.

PruneyMendez smiled proud.




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Although I got a plate in the head which messes me up my thinking. I always remember. With clearness and with smiles. When Pruney come into our lifes.

We was playing on the railroad berm. Zeebo. WillieD. LilMushGah­doo. Ross and me. In the hillside sand. Above the marsh. And as long as we dint go to the trestle or play on the tracks when the train was passing. Mom dint care.

Sometimes workers for the Providence railroad company would drive. On the rails. In a special made truck. It was like a VolkswagonVan. Except bigger. And for actual had rubber tires that wheeled on the rails but also had braces that locked the whole thing direct to the steel so that the van stayed on the tracks. It was so cool. Quiet too. We’d be on the slope dig­ging dirt holes and all on a sudden. Thered be a humming noise. And the jangling of something. And when you looked up.

The railroad van would be rolling by.

And on this one day. Outta nowhere the railroad van rolled past and slowed. Then stopped. Two guys got out. They was smoking cigarettes. Wore leather gloves and had tools. And one yellow hardhat guy carried a long steel bar. The other guy. Shorter and a bluebandanna tied around his baldhead. Had sledgehammer. And a bucket. BandannaGuy put the bucket down. And HardHatGuy barclawed a railroad spike that popped out the railroad tie real easy. And from BandannaGuys bucket HardHat­Guy took a new railroad spike to the tie. And with his hammer Bandan­naGuy pounded.

We all stood no talk watching. Final. WillieD said, Whatchya doin?

And HardHatGuy said, Securin the rails. Ties rot. Keepin things tight.


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Then HardHatGuy spit.

Ross said, Whatchya gonna do with that pulled out spike?

BandannaGuy said, Use down the line. Less you want it.

Ross said, Sure nough.

BandannaGuy tossed the rust nail to Rosses feet.

Them guys did the same a few ties down. Banged the tracks with their tools. Pried some spikes. Pounded new ones. Tossed old ones. Got back in their railroad van and rolled away.

As soon as that railroad van was outta sight. We scrabbled through the wildrose and raspberry thornbrush and collected eight spikes. They was a wonder. Biggest and heaviest nails any of us ever holded.

Then from the opposite direction the railroad van traveled. We heard it.

The trainwhistle.

It was a ways off yet. Probbly just crossing the first trestle over the Quequeshan.

We did what we usual did.

Jumped into the sandpit and waited.

But before Ross come down. He put his head to the steelrail just like Peter O Toole done in Lawrence of Arabia and Ross said he could feel the rumbling. Then he plopped beside me.

We heard the bell clanging and another whistle blast.

We looked towards the SowamsRiver trestle and sure enough here comes the big shaking black and yellow locomotive dirt and smoke stained engine with a bright headlight beaming solid like it was night. But it was day.

And as the five of us guys did a huddle there in the side pit waiting for them trainwheels come rolling past not too so far from our heads and crouching bodies the train whistle blew long and loud and the bell clang clang and I looked direct across the tracks. Over them. Over on to CrescentStreet direct in front of the aquablue modern aluminumsided Andriozzi house.

Theres another kid.

A kid coming to a stop on a black bicycle with one wheelrim painted red and another wheelrim painted blue. And on the handlebars of the bike is a steel basket filled with newspapers in a canvas newspaper bag. And that bike kids limping. That bike kids looking at us. And then looking at the train. And now the train is over the trestle and a hundred yard from us. And that bike kids walking his bike to the edge of CrescentStreet di­rect opposite of us. His blond curly hair and his ripped teeshirt and cutoff


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short dungaree pants and a belt made outta rope made him look like a real poor bike kid. And on one foot a shoe. And on his other foot a bandage. A dirty bandage so big it covers his entire foot. Just his toes sticking out. Hes limping on accounta his bandaged no shoe foot.

Now the train is twenty yards off and the conductor waving hello out the side window and the bell jangling loud lotsa clangs and the grounds shaking and the train whistles blasting shrill and high. Tons and tons of steel and brown boxcars and flat steel wheels. WillieD and MushGahdoo and Zeebo and Ross and me hunkered in the rust and oil and creaks and clangs and groans. The aqua blue aluminumsided Andriozzi house with high squeals and WillieDunne is blocking his ears and Zeebo is laughing and laughing and Ross is yelling something to LilMushGahdoo who is holding a spike in each of his hands shouting something back to Ross. In­stead of laying there in the sand. I stand. The shade of each passing boxcar yellow and the aquablue aluminumsided Andriozzi house yellowbrown and aquablue is the opening between each car with flashes of sunlight in between each boxcar gap blonde curly fat face kid is big eyes of wonder and looking hard to see us seeing him. Instant train caboose chunking past with little sounds and delicate clinking.

And then the aquablue house.

With the blonde bike kid and his cockamaney bicycle.

And nothing.

Nothing but train tracks.

The noise going distant.

Going soft.

Going fade.

And then Ross Zeebo WillieD and MushGahdoo chase after the passed caboose. Throw stones that dont hit and wave to caboose guy standing on the deck rear. CabooseGuy handwaves back and the train clanks past Kel­lyStreet. Past the cemetery and disappears SouthEnd of Sowams towards MountHopeShores and Bristol.

Five kids on one side of the tracks. Opposite one curl blonde haired bike kid with his blackredblue bike and ripped dungaree short pants with a rope belt one scuffedbrown wingtipped shoe and one baretoed foot wrapped in a bigdirty bandage.

And bike kid yells like theres still noise bike kid gotta yell over, Eecood­eesh. You guys crazy or what? Not ta say. But. That train coulda run you over it coulda.

And Ross. Zeebo. WillieDunne. MushGahdoo and me immediate step


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between the rails towards the EecoodeeshBikeKid.

We all just look at each other.

LilMushGahdoo says, Coulnt not-a-got killed les that train fell off its tracks and anyways we do it all the time. Sometimes even flatten money.

And Eecoodeesh says, Flatten money? Whaddaya mean?

LilMushGahdoo says, Pennies. Dimes. Nickels. Put em on the tracks. Let the train roll over em. Dont on usual do quarters. Did a halfdollar once.

Blonde curl and blue eyes Eecoodeesh says, No way.

And WillieD says, Woulda done it today if I had me one.

WillieD pulls a teardrop copper slug out his pocket and says, See? Used ta be the face-a-AbrahamLincoln one side and WhiteHouse the other. Heads and tails. Now nothin. Cant even see the date. Smooth ice.

And WillieD hands it to EecoodeeshBikeKid who feels the smooth between his fingers and flips it sideways. Holds it so he looks both sides. And long eyelash EecoodeeshBikeKid says, Its not the WhiteHouse. Its either wheatstalks or LincolnsDeathMemorial.

WillieDunne takes it back and says, Whadda you know?

EecoodeeshBikeKid says, My brother told me all about how the penny got made. He read a book by CarlSanbag. Explains how the Lincoln penny was resigned. After Lincoln got ass innated and shot.

And Ross said, Whos your brother?

EecoodeeshBikeKid said, DagamaMendez. Nineteenyears old gradu­ated highschool and reads lotsa books. Sees movies. Gonna be a under­taker someday. Bury the dead. Sunday mornins before church. I help him rinse embombin bottles at MobyDicks funeral parlor. Also got me a job. FidalgosBakery deliverin hot sweetbread. Wanna hunk? Its reggala cold now. But its good.

EecoodeeshBikeKid reaching into his canvas newspaper carrybag pulls out a huge loaf of bread. Brown crust shine and rips of cream color white pieces and holds them out.

Giving him the tight eye. Ross takes a chunk and Ross says, You Por­tuguese?

And EecoodeeshBikeKid said, Yep. NewBedford. Since I was two. Now moved to Sowams accounta movin in with AuntJovita. 186Mathewson­Street. Eastside-a-town. Go to ChildStreetSchool.

And Ross says, We go LibertyStreet. Here in the NorthEnd.

And Ross then hands me his chunk of uneated bread.

I smell it.


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Look hard at it.

Put it in my mouth.

And EecoodeeshBikeKid. He just stone face wide eye looks at me.

Delicious, I tell Ross. Like Moms Easta egg bread.

EecoodeeshBikeKid fatface redcheek thicklip smiles and the other guys reaching for piece hunks that hes giving.

Zeebo stuffs some in his mouth and said, Whats your name?

Eeccoodeesh said, PedroMendozaMendez. People call me Pruney.

WillieDunne says, Why?

Pruney says, Dont know. Just do. Ever since NewBedford firstgrade.

What division?


Retard class huh? Why you got the bandage?

I got MistaPotatoHeadseyeinmyfoot.


Mista Potato Heads eye in my foot.


How? Stepped on its how. Cousin playin and MistaPotatoHeads eye on the floor and dint see it and you shoulnt oughta say that.


Aint a retard.

And Pruney stuffed the sweetbread back in the canvas newspaper bag. Stood straight and gripped tight his handlebars.

WillieD slow chewed his crust treat sogged. Did a slouch and a side­ways laze look and said in a friend way, Dint say you was. Just said you was in the retard class.

But then WillieD shmirked and said, Probbly on accounta bein a stu­pit portagee.

And on the sudden the handlebars of Pedro Pruney MendozaMendez bike was free of hands that was making fists popping WillieDunnes eye and flying over the falling bike and flopping newspapers into the crum­pling WillieDunne and the two a them tripping bodies was stumbling over the traintracks and tumbling down the sand berm with WillieD, Ow Ow Ow. He hit me. He hit me. Charging down the rest of us the hill and Pruneys arms. Fist bam bam bam on WillieDunnes screaming red face and Pruney pummeling flying feet wham wingtip into WillieDs jaw and thud side of Pruneys bandaged foot thumping WillieD headside and WillieD Auuuugh drops deadstill in the sand and Pruneys, My foot my foot my foot and Ross wrist grabbing Pruneys arms. Pinning them arms

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together and pulling Pruney off WillieDunne and Ross hollering Knock it off Knock it off and Ross drops to WillieDs side and Ross pulling Pruney away and holding Pruneys arms and Pruneys flopping thrash kicking. Zeebo MushGahdoo and me just standing there mouths open saying,




•   •   •

And I gotta addmit.

Not ta say. But.

The following week. In school. WillieD wore his two black eyes like a shy sheep rather than a sly raccoon. Least ways. Thats how Ross put it. Ross said, WillieD done a humble thing. WillieD had immediate apolo­gized to Pruney and then Pruney and him together had gone back up the steep. Crossed the railroad tracks as a pair. Picked up the smushed bread­loaf and gathered falled newspapers to the bikebasket and canvasbag.

WillieD reaching into his pocket. Pulled out his squashed penny and told PruneyMendozaMendez, You can have it. I’ll make me another.

Pruney got big eyes and a full face of wrinkles and he broke off another chunk of bread. Stuck the slug in the dough. Shoved the penny sandwich in his shirt and done it with a big, ThankYou.

When Pruney had rode away. WillieDunne said of himself, Not ta say. But. I got a big mouth. My mother always tells me.

And from that day on. No one gave WillieD no noise about his messup.

•   •   •

At the LibertyStreetSchool I couldnt be like Ross in the wunderkind prodigy class. After my plate in the head truck accident. My thinking dimmed. And if Ross was explaining about me to other kids. He’d say, Jates all right. But sometimes. He dont get things.

Guess the teachers felt the same because. The year before. In June of 1962. At the end of the school year when my fifth grade class for smart kids got done. The teachers said the only way I was gonna be allowed to pass into sixth grade in September was by getting took out the class for smart kids and instead be put into the sixth grade class for dumb kids next to the lowest level class. Fourth division. Or get held back and remain low level grade five.

Mom. Dad. And Ross. Thought none of that was fair.

They said anyone who could sound out and write the words vundakid prodajeeze on his own without no one telling him how to do it correct


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was way more smarter than a whole bunch of kids with gift brains in the high better classroom.

But. Irregardless of vundakid prodajeeze. Mom and Dad dint want me kept back.

So into the lower not so good sixth grade class I went.

But. It coulda been worse.

At least it wasnt the basement room next to the toilets like at Pruneys ChildStreetSchool. The lowest level room everyone called the youknow­what class.

Everyone except Ross. Zeebo. LilMush. Me.

And WillieDunne.

•   •   •

The official name for the not so smart low level was called Fourth Divi­sion.

Pruney was fifth. Fifth Division. The lowest.

Not that Pruney had a plate in the head because Pruney dint.

What Pruney had was being from a place called the Azores and a mother who died and a father who speaks just Portuguese spit talk. And slobber. Not opera. Like Italian. Or military. Like Polish. Or flowers like French. But growly grunty and what the other kids at school say is gross portagee talk. Thats why Pruney got stayedback twice. And also cause of his not too so good English neither. Leastways writing English. He couldnt write English. Not fa nuthin. But. He sure could talk it. Pruney could talk talk talk America talk like nobodys business. And he did it too without a ac­cent. PruneyMendez talked AmericaEnglish like he’d been talking Ameri­caEnglish all of his America life.

Except Pruney said something I only heard Portuguese people say. Whenever Pruney. Or any Portuguese. Got full of steam and excitement. He would flat hand smack his head. And outloud say, Eecoodeesh.

When I asked Pruney what Eecoodeesh means. He said, Eecoodeesh is Portuguese Wow.

And I gotta addmit. Eecoodeesh was prettfunny and I told Mom about Eecoodeesh and Mom said, Wow is cool. But Eecoodeesh is wordmusic.

And. Not fa nuthin. But. Thats exact what life was when Pruney was around.


Pruney telling stories about his HolyGhost church. With feastdays. Eating bread and drinking wine thats for real. But not for real. The flesh and blood of Jesus. And pracessions. His brother. His cousin. His aunt.


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His father.

Pruney who never had any money even though he earned a whole bunch that he all gave to his dad. Saying, Thats what us Portuguese do. Take care-a-our families in the old country.

Me and Pruney seeing each other only when Pruney was on Crescent­Street delivering papers. Him taking a break. Running down the railroad-hill in hardsole wingtip shoes. Them fancy shoes all beatup. Pruney playing football with Ross and the other guys. Or sometime just watching with me. Or taking turns at being the ref.

Pruney never did delivering a paper to our house because Mom said she dint care about the news and Dad was never home to read it. But Pruney was always delivering his news to Mom about him being chased by Mis­susEngels German shepherd dog that bit him in the leg and he got the bite marks to prove it. And the rabies shot marks too on his arm. Or tell­ing Mom about MissusAndriozzis clothesline being filled with beautiful flower pattern dresses with all kind of colors. And. Not ta say. But. Some womanladys underwears too.

Pruney delivering the paper to MistaCogg and GilOwens. But not at their KellyStreet homes. Instead. Always to their WaterStreet shops. And gift leaving not only the ProvidenceEveningBulletin but also smelly fish fins. Hacked swordfish swords. Cooked out lopsta claws. Hairy conks. And long pointed horseshoecrab tails.

One day in front of theSquarePeg when Pruney and me was afterschool putting the chain on his bike cause the chain slipped from the pedal crank and Pruney was hand turning it while I lifted the back wheel in the air. Ross come along carrying his art sketchpad and books.

Why MendozaMendez, I said. Why two last names?

Pruney said, Mendozas my mothers name. May she rest in peace with the Father Son and HolyGhost and apostles cept for Judas and may she al­ways be with the VirginMother Mary AhLady-a-Fatima sayin the blessed rose ree in the glories-a-heaven on the sir-a-bums and the chair-a-bums with the other angels and the saints and the sacred hott-a-Jesus.

Pruney doing on his self what he called, The sign-a-the cross.

That means shes dead, I said to Ross.

And Pruney said, Eecoodeesh.

Then Pruney said, I prefer my fathers name. Mendez. Just hate when someone calls me a stupid portagee.

Well. Sometimes Ross calls me a stupid prodigy, I said.

Pruney tilted his head to the side. Scrunched his nose and closed one


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eye like Popeye the Sailor. Looked direct at Ross and said, An you bein a twin. That kinda ignorant cant none help Jate or his plate in the head.

And Ross said, Wasnt. On intention. Bein hurtful. Just sayin what the teachers said cause they was gonna stay Jate back to help him get ahead.

Pruney said, I’ll knock. Like I done WillieD. Anyones head ever says again such a thing.

Pruney stood straight. Blonde curl hair and blue eyes. The longest babycomb eyelashes. The reddest sunset cheeks. The fattest sturdy face that wrinkles like a prune when he breaks into that thick prune lipped smile. Two years older and the same size as seventy pound me. But Pruney way more solid. More solid than all of us kids.

Ross said, I get your meanin.

And from then on.

Pruney was my best pal.

Pedro Pruney Mendoza Mendez.






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Ah NorEasta


And I gotta tell you.

I was different.

Watching Ross and Pruney made me realize I dint wanna do what they were doing.

Made me different from Zeebo WillieD and MushGahdoo too cause.

Up until now. What I knew about Ross and Pruney. WillieD. Zeebo. Mush and me. We dint keep any secrets from each other.

But this Sodmite thing?

Something way inside just told me this thing had to stay my secret. Had to stay inside me. Not so much for me. But for Ross. And for Pruney.

Pruney dint think on things that way. If he acted crazy. Or did something strange. If something was making him mental. He took that thing to confession. To church.

First time Pruney took us in the PortugueseCathlic church. Which was only about a quarter mile from the ItalianCathlic church. Was the Thanksgiving after Mom caught Pruney faking the raw turkeyneck was his dick. Talk about crazy strange.

Early Wednesday evening. Pruney had took the turkeyneck and giblets from out the sink where Mom was thawing the frozen Butterball. Pruney stuffed the neck in his pants. Pulled down his zipper. And whipped out the bony meat saying his dick was the biggest limp dick ever.

See? Pruney. A total mental case. And all three of us laughing so hard we dint hear Mom coming from outside. Because. All on a sudden. The door. Open.

And theres Mom.

A turkeyneck giblet hanging from his pants where should be Pruneys dick.


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158    J DOMINIC

Mom calm as ever walked over to her knife drawer.

Got out her big old chef knife.

Walked straight to Pruney looking him eye contact direct. And with the slightest jolt. Stuck that knifepoint into the side of that hanging turkeyneck. Pulled the hanging turkeyneck from Pruneys pants. Raised the knife over the sink and wiggled Pruneys hanging turkeyneck so the hanging turkeyneck fell into the sink doing a wet thud splat sound.

Then Mom told Pruney, Pull up your zipper.

And Pruney turned around. Away from Mom. And he made himself right.

Mom said she was raising us better than for us to be showing such low behavior to ourselfs. Further somemore. That poor bird had give its life for each of us and if we were so base with each other that was one thing. But she wasnt gonna tolerate such disrespecting to the turkey.

We said, Sorry

And we were too.

Mom accepted our apologies. But asked, What on earth ever gets into you boys?

Pruney said, FathaLuis says its the devil.

Mom smiled. But then she told Pruney, From now on. When you stay over this house. You best doorstep leave the devil.

She told Pruney, Take the turkeyneck outside and leave it where a cat maybe can have some Thanksgiving too.

That night when we were all laying in our beds. Pruney and Ross got into a argument about the devil. Ross had been telling he heard GilOwen and MistaCogg talking a book by some guy called Milton about Paradise being lost. And how the devil was for real a beautiful ark angel who God called Lucifer. And that the name meant beautiful light.

So I said the light Ross was talking about was probbly like the ark torch welding glow we would always see at Blounts EastBay shipyard when the workers were welding together flat sheets of steel to build a boat.

Ross said ark was Noahs boat. But when talking about Blount shipyard welding boats it was A-R-C. And having to do with angels. It was A-R-C-H. Meaning highest. Top rank. Main.

Did I already say how much I hate doing right spell writing?

I hate it.

No matter.

According to Ross. When God was first thinking about making Adam and Eve. God talked the whole idea with the angels. God said he needed


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a assistant. God wanted bewdeeful arc light Lucifer to help Adam and Eve behave. Be their guardian arch angels and stuff. Lucifer said, No way. He would only serve God.

When God insisted Lucifer do double duty. Lucifer led a rebel war. And Lucifer got tossed outta heaven by Michael. The other. ArchAngel. Who JackCogg called, Mikey 2A’s.

Pruney said he thought it was a real good story. That he had heard it before. But not the name Mikey 2A’s. Or the part about Lucifer being beautiful.

Ross explained that Mikeys two A’s was for the first letter in Arch being A and the first letter in Angel bein another letter A too. And the two A name. Mikey 2 A’s. Was just MistaCogg bein MistaCogg.

But Ross worked real hard explaining the also too being different from the T-W-O-2. But worked more hardest explaining Lucifer dint get ugly until after Lucifer got sent to Hell. Pruney wouldnt have none of that.

Pruney said, Spelling To. Too. And Two is not as important as the ugliness-a-the word in the world. And all the worlds ugly begin with Lucifer in heaven. The horns. Fangs. Firey eyes.

And snakebody. It all come before hell. And Pruney said there were a statue of Mikey 2A’s and Lucifer. At his church and that statue could prove where ugly begun.

So. Next morning. Which was Thanksgiving. With turkey roasting in the oven. We jumped on our bicycles. Pedaled up BaggyWinkleLane. Up KellyStreet to Land. And parked our bikes. Bottom steps. PortugueseCatholic church.

As we climbed those steps Pruney said, Mornin mass been over about a couple-a-three hours ago and be okay if we go in.

The front door was extra heavy thick and Pruney had to use both hands pull it open. The inside was real dark and I could immediate smell the inside smell of that church was real different from the outside smell.

That inside smell was like the smell-a-pinetrees and smoke. But not exact.

When the door shut behind us. That door made a closed real good wump. And I threw Ross a look. And Ross threw back a look meant, Dont be chicken. Its only a church.

The first thing we saw was a small hallway and immediate to our rights and our lefts was altars. Except they really werent altars. They were candles. Candle racks. Couple three dozen candles on each with kneeler things in front of them where Pruney said you could kneel. Light a candle. And say


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160    J DOMINIC

a prayer to suffering Jesus who was right there on the left. Hanging on a cross being. Pruney said. Roman crucified.

We’re looking up into a candle glowed face of Jesus. Those flickers made it like Jesus was groan suffering for real. Werent pretty. Tell you that much. To be high tide honest with you. I was having the Hooglies right then and there but dint want Pruney or Ross to know so I pretended everything was hunkadory and too splendid to be good.

Pruney and Ross had gone on straight ahead. Up the main wide staircase. Through another set a big doors and had disappeared into the church. And with Jesus. Me. And the Hooglies having a regular bit of a get together. I was in no mood to stay and enjoy the celebrating. I was up them stairs and through those doors fast. Whoa but that church was amazing. The artwork was bewdeeful. Almost as beautiful as chromolithographic cigar box lables.

The ceilings were real real high with all kind of them freshca paintings like in that Michelangelo book that GilOwen had gave to Ross. Except none the people on this ceiling were naked. They all had on clothes. Mostly robes and stuff.

As for that pine smoke smell I mentioned. It was candles. Way more candles than the hallway. Candle glass colored jars. Different sizes too. Big jars and little. Big flames and small. Each glowing jar colors. Red. Green. Blue. Real nice. And warm.

Then there was all window colors. Bright colors like a slideshow projected of all different Bible people standing with white pigeons over their heads. And cups of wine getting spilled. And sheep being carried on shoulders. Seagulls flying with angels. Oxes listening while some guy read to them from a storybook. And lions laying down with lambs.

At first I thought that church smelled like campfire smoke and the pine trees outside PeteJanettoes house. But then. For no reason I could figure. That church started smelling like MistaCoggs shop after he be carving wood. Sipping brandy and smoking his Missouri briar burl Meerschaum.

So there we were. All three of us. Standing in the PortugueseCatholic church. Thanksgiving. Sowams RhodeIsland. And lets face it.


Gawking at sights we never before seen.

But not Pruney.

Pruney wasnt gawking.

Pruney was right at home with himself.

Pruney was the boss.


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First. Pruney showed us how to holywater bless ourselfs. Dip our fingers into a thing Pruney called a font. A sorta bowl carved into a tall piece of solid rock. And in this bowl was water and a sponge. Not a dishwashing kind of sponge Mom uses. But the kind of sponge Pruney said lived at the bottom of the ocean. Sponges living in the ocean bottom? Whoever heard of such a thing? Yet Ross said it was true. Anyway. Pruney works at SousasShellfish and he should know if anyone knows. But. That holywater fontsponge dint look like a dishwashing sponge. But like a big clump of mermaids hair from some rock off the HooglySpit.

Pruney showed us how to dip our hands in the font and touch the mushwet sponge. I thought the mushwet sponge from a holywater font would feel different than the regular dishwater sponge from a sink.

But the mushwet holywater sponge dint.

Not until Pruney showed us how to bless ourselfs with our wet holywater fingertips while at the same time bending down on one knee. Pruney called that bending, Genuflecting.

And I gotta addmit. When I followed Pruney showing. Bending my knee and blessing myself. A holywater buzz went direct through my plate in the head right down my neck down my back through my hips into my legbones into my shins and into my toes. Maybe there was something special about holywater being different from dishwater. But before my mouth opened to ask. Pruney said, Lets go up the side aisles and see 3D pictures hanging on the walls.

Did he mean like oldfashion ViewMaster photos? Or popout coins on cigar boxes? Nope. Pruney took us below stautes in a picture hanging on the wall. Pruney said, These are stations-a-the cross showin the sufferin of Ah Good Lord Jesus.

Pruney dint know why they called them stations. Said it was probbly like train stations and bus stations but Ross said maybe they were called stations because they were stationary. Ross said stationary meant standing still.

Irregardless. The 3D statue pictures were real sad. Especial the ones where soldiers were hammering nails into the hands and feet of Jesus.

Think about it. Nails big as railroad spikes in your hands are bad enough. But nails almost big as railroad spikes into all that footbone. Who could stand such a thing?

The candle flicker in the hallway on the face of Jesus.

All his gimmacing and anguishing.

We stood in the side aisle under that picture for a while. How soldiers


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162    J DOMINIC

could do such pain to another person was beyond me. A itch on my head and in my hair. And then Ross and me feeling the tops of our hands with our pointing fingers. Feeling the bones them spike nails had to go through. Then feeling palms of our hands with our thumbs.

Imagining where them spikes stuck through.

And while doing that. Pruney went on ahead.

Ross and me. Imagining them Roman spikes cracking through our footbones. We was hopping one foot to the other and dint realize we were doing it till Pruney inerrupted saying, You auditionin for MissAnnieFanny PogoStickLegs or what? Stop your tapdancin and come on over and see AhWondrous Lady-a-Fatima.

Which we did. Even though it was still imagine painful to walk.

But AhWondrous Lady-a-Fatima made all that imagine pain go away.

Bewdeeful Lady-a-Fatima.

Floating on a cloud and being about as happy as a cloudfloater could be.

Nothin fat about her, I outloud said.

And Pruney forehead smacked himself. Took a sigh. No Eecoodeesh. Said, Fatima dont mean shes fat. Fatimas a place. A Portugal place.

Ross rolled his eyes and said, Everybody knows that.

Excuse me for bein ignorant but I dont know from nothin bout Portugal and AhWondrous Lady-a-Fatima Cathlic statues.

So Pruney then explained, AhLady-a-Fatima was for real AhBlessedMother. TheVirginMary. Mother-a-Jesus. Lives in heaven. And about fifty years ago she floated down on a cloud to a place called Fatima Portugal. She visits three Portuguese kids. Helps em get so Russia woulnt be communiss anymore by prayin everyday on their rose ree beads.

And I said, I dint know the communiss had rose ree beads.

Pruney said, They dont. And thats the whole point. What AhLady-a-Fatima wants is for everybody else in the world to pray so the communiss will get rose ree beads and start usin em and in order to make that happen AhLady went to Fatima Portugal and asked those three kids for ta help.

Pruney continued, Not ta say fa nuthin. But. Thats a prettnice thing for AhLady-a-Fatima ta do. Bringin those three Portuguese kids in on the deal.

Deal? What deal? I said.

Again Ross rolled his eyes and Pruney did to him like Popeye. Pruney turned to me real calm like he usual does when Im plate in the head.

And Pruney said, Rose ree beads. Somebodys gotta sell all those com-


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muniss rose ree beads. AhLady-a-Fatimas bringin in the kids to do it donchya see?

Sure. Now I get it. Thats real nice-a-her. Such a good mind for business, I said.

Ross listened and dint say nothing.

Pruney said, AhLady-a-Fatima is my favorite statue in the church cause how happy the BlessedMother looks on her face and the two girls. Louseea. Yahsinta. And boy. Fransisco. They look so happy too.

VirginMary. Smiling. Floating on her little cloud above a tree. Three kids ground kneeling in front of the tree and the holy cloud. Hands folded for lotsa rose ree bead business. Looking up VirginMary like they absolute knew VirginMary was gonna give them all the rose ree bead customers they ever would need.

Then Pruney points the other side of the church. And we passed in front of the altar again. Had to genuflect again. On account of Pruney said Jesus lives in the little tabbanackle box in the middle of the altar.

Pruney pointed to a red candle hanging from the ceiling off three big gold chains and said, That candle burnin means Jesus is right now livin in the altar tabbanackle.

Hooglies in my head.

I said, Thought Jesus lived in heaven?

He does. But he sorta lives in tabbanackles too. When the preece blesses the bread and wine. The bread and wine becomes Jesuses for real body and blood.

And Ross said, Whadaya mean for real body and blood?

And Pruney said, Its holy communion. It looks like bread. More like a vanilla wafer. But when the preece says the confiscated words. It miracle like. Becomes Jesuses flesh and blood. Just cant see meat. Cant taste blood neitha. But it for real is alive Jesus.

Ross said, Pruney. Sometimes you tell some crazy big stretchers. This is the biggest one ever. Who ever heard-a-people in a church eatin Jesus flesh? And. Not ta say. Drinkin his blood?

And Pruney said, Its not exact his meat and blood. Its communion bread and wine that becomes meat and blood. Miracle like.

And Pruney. Quick. Like he was getting away from Rosses pressure. Turns around and says, When the priest says his confiscation prayers. When he confiscateblesses bread and wine in the chalice cup. Sometimes the preece confiscates too much wafer and hes gotta put the leftovers somewhere. Preece always drinks leftover wine. Leftover waferbread goes


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164    J DOMINIC

in the tabbanackle. So. Thats how and why Jesus lives in tabbanackles.

I was just about to say, Then the tabbanackle is sorta like a holy breadbox.

When Ross said, Meat and the blood? Shoulnt it be a refrigerator?

But Pruney. Not paying no never mind to lotsa doubts Ross or me. Again genuflects and crosses over to a little table and grabs. From a velvet envelope. Something looking like a gold flat frying pan with a black wood handle stick. And Pruney. Like he got all the answers. Carries it. Delicate like. One hand holding the tip of the black handle and the other hand. Just using his finger tips. Under the frying pan center. Pruney says, This is the communion plate. One-a-my most important altarboy jobs is hold it at the throat-a-people receivin communion.

Pruney puts the gold flat frying pan right under my chin and the cold of the metal sends a shiver around my neck.

Pruney does the same to Ross and a gold reflection goes all over Rosses face.

And Pruney says, Because communion is the confiscated body-a-Jesus. If ever that confiscated bread. Which is really a host. Falls from the preeces hands or from some persons tongue. I gotta catch it so it dont hit the floor. If it hits the floor. Itd be like deadalive Jesus gettin crucifixed all over again. And trust me. That aint good.

Pruney does another genuflect and puts away the communion plate. And nailed crucifixed bodies on crosses and eating deadalive guy flesh and drinking deadalive guy blood has got me all plate in the head. Not ta say. But. Even though suffering Jesus is a hanging bloody mess. This church sure is bewdeeful. And as I turn full to again see all that bewdeeful wonder. All on a sudden. In the close corner of a side altar.

Its Combat. Its TheGallantMen.

Michael the ArchAngel charging forward wearing a helmet. A armor vest. A cool Roman soldier dress. Leather sandals strapping around his ankles way to his knees. And behind his sturdy shoulders. Spread out wings looking they belong to a topbird seagull. Or better yet. The lake swans at RogerWilliamsPark. In Providence.

And Michael the ArchAngel. Serious look on his face. Is holding a sword high above his head. His other hand pointing like hes sending his dog outside.

Except there is no dog.

Only Lucifer.

The devil Lucifer.


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The devil Lucifer horns and all.

And Pruney. Breaking between me and Ross. Says, See? Tol you. He already got horns and hes gettin tossed outta heaven. Look how scared ugly Lucifa is. Nope. Michael the ArchAngels not takin no nonsense from nobody.

And its obvious clear Lucifer looks so mean because as a devil he is real ascat. Hes afraid. With bulging ugly red eyes. His head straining high. Neck bridging back. Hes trying to do push ups refusing to look down at hell. But angel Mikeys sandal foot keeps horned up Lucifer in his place. And that horned up Lucifer is going no place but down. This is what paybacks all about and thats what you get for messing with God. Looks like Pruney was right. Lucifer was ugly before he got tossed outta heaven.

But Ross is not so ready to give. Ross. Arms folded. CombatVicMorrow.

Ross says, Well maybe so. But maybe also its cause Lucifer turned ugly minute he decided he wasnt gonna do what God wanted. GilOwen told it that way. And everybody knows GilOwens prettsmart bout everythin havin to do with ott and this antique Bible sorta stuff.

As we walked down the center aisle Ross pointed the confessions and asked, Can we go in these?

And Ross pulled back a greenvelvet curtain.

Pruney said, Sure FathaLuis aint around. Who cares?

Pruney knelt inside and folded his hands like he was praying and said, Its where I confess my sins. Other side-a-this walls where FathaLuis sits.

I opened the door and there was a very small closet with a polished
woodbench with a cushion made of the same greenvelvet as the curtains.

I sat where FathaLuis sits. Left side was a panel. A panel on the right side too. And I slid the left side panel and Bingo. There was Pruney. I could hear Rosses footsteps as Ross went by me outside my preececloset.

Could hear Ross kneeling. Slid open his panel. And Bingo. There was Ross breathing on my right. And I gotta addmit. That preececloset was cozy.

Above the cloth screens the walls felt like they dint have wallpaper but instead were a nice cloth. Soft burlap. Like a good clam bag without the mud. And because the whole closet was lined with peaceful clambag cloth. You couldnt hear none of LandStreet traffic. Just Ross and Pruney. Breathing down my neck.

And. Not ta say. But. Because of that clambag burlap clothscreen separating us. Getting spitjuice in my ears from those guys dint even worry


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me. No doubt about it. Preececlosets were built JackCogg smart and GilOwen fancy and it was easy to see confessions was serious business. So I whispered, Ross. This is all fascinatin but we best gettin out fore we get caught.

Ross said, Whaddaya thinkll happen we get caught?

Its Thanksgivin morning. Pruney said, Whos gonna catch us?

I said, Our bikes. Outside. Maybe FathaLuises gonna investigate.

Pruney said, NewBedford. His sisters house. Goes there holidays.

I said, Whaddya think Ross?

Ross said, So these are confessions.

Thats right, said Pruney. FathaLuis listens to people tellin their sins. And cause the inside here is so dark. FathaLuis dont know whos tellin him what for. Why he dont know me from my cousin Skiffhead. I tell FathaLuis everythin.

Everything? asked Ross.

Everythin, said Pruney.

What you did with the turkeyneck and giblet. You gonna tell him that?


And Ross said, Why?

Just makes me feel a whole lot betta when I do. Knowin if a car hits me. Or somethin. Im goin straight to heaven and not to hell.

How about swearin? And dicktalk?

And Pruney said, Yeah. That too.

Even the PowaHouse stuff?

Yeah. Mosly. Not all. But sure. Most.

You mention our names?

Did once. But usual. Just rat myself out.

But Pruney, said Ross. Thats personal. Dont want anybody knowin that stuff bout me.

Pruneys voice got all serious. Each word. The smack of JackCoggs woodmallets. Do you have any idea would happen a preece told somethin he confession hears? First. God probbly kill im with death right there on the spot. Second. Drop a fat meteorite or somethin on im. Third. Bolt-a-lightnin. Or a car accident. If that dint kill im dead then he’d suffer leppridsee disease. His nose. His ears. And his fingers fall off. Im tellin you Ross. Confessions serious business. If preeces dint keep things secret theyd be out-a-job and everybody be goin to hell.

Ross said, You tellin me when Grandma and Grampa Rossi got killed

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on the WampanoagTrail it was cause they did somethin bad and God evened up the score?

Maybe. But probbly not. Lets face it. Your grandma and grampa werent preeces tellin secrets. They were just a grandma and a grampa out for a Sunday drive. And anyways. They probbly always confessioned so they dint have nothin to worry about. Bottom line? Confessions good insurance.

Ross said, But Jate and I dont do confession. We dont even do church. My Dad dont believe in it. And Moms not crazy bout it neither. That mean we goin to hell?

I gotta addmit. Ross was pushing Pruney pretthard on this stuff. But hell werent no place I wanted. Especial if. Like Pruney said, Lucifa and them Roman soldiers ran the joint.

Before Pruney could answer. The sound of the church front door opening and the LandStreet traffic noise rolled in real loud. And then as the church front door closed the LandStreet traffic noise faded. Someone was walking up the center aisle and I dint know what was louder. Our dead quiet. Those footsteps. Or my heart hitting against my ribs. I could distinct hear talking. Drip sound of fingers dipping in holywater. Lips saying prayers. And the sounds of footstep walking.

Look out your curtain a crack, I whispered to Pruney.

No. You look out yours, whispered Pruney back.

No way, I whispered. And anyways. Dont got a curtain. Got a door and suppose whoever is out there is standin right in front-a-the door?

Ross said, I’ll do it.

Pruney and me just sat there like chickens of the sea. Holding our breaths. Both of us about ready to drown.

And finally Ross said, Just a old woman. Way up the aisle. Shes lightin a candle. Lady-a-Fatima. Lets go real quiet. She’ll never know we’re here.

Pruney and Ross disappear when I slide the panels in a shush of black. All on a sudden. A mans voice. Then a whooshing sound. A thud and Pruney loud Eecoodeesh and saying to somebody something about Michael ArchAngel. And a Portuguese adult voice. And Pruney voice in Portuguese. I open the door a slit. Its dark church and candle flicker but the door swings wide and strong hands collargrab my throat and what starts as me screaming through my backbone blasts out my ass as a loud fart and Im yanked from the dark confession hush hush quiet and big man eyeglasses and eyes are inches from my eyes. A guy dressed black. Air dan-


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168    J DOMINIC

gling me so solid neckholding me and not letting me down not no how
and definite. Not fa nuthin.

•   •   •

For a priest. This guys visegrip hands hold me by the throat for hard quick seconds as my feet do a fast dangling air dance that gets me going no where except two more farts. And as he shakes me my brain rattles against my headplate and he puts me down right there on the floor in the back of the church and Ross shouts from behind the curtain inside of his confession box, Jate. Jate. You all right? Answer. Answer me.

As FathaLuis turns to Rosses voice Im rolling on the floor coughing up a choking storm and Rosses head pops out from behind his curtain and Ross sees FathaLuis and Rosses face disappears again behind the velvet green.

Then FathaLuis opens Pruneys confession door that has a curtain yanked back and Pruney been watching my torture all along. Here comes Pruney being pulled by his ear. at big giant preece with a mustache and a whitecollar dressed all in a blackrobe is smacking Pruney backside Pruneys head and carrying on in Portuguese that Pruney is talking back to him in. Not backtalk talking back. Not that kind of backtalk. But answering questions backtalk. The Father is all big eyes. Looked like his lips just dragged hard on a cigarette butt. And preece hands on his preece hips. And FathaLuis is dressed in a long black preece nightgown. Pruney is pointing Ah-Lady-a-Fatama. Michael ArchAngel. And the Stations-a-the Cross. Pruney. A blue vein bulging up the side of Pruneys throat. And Pruney about near crying. Bulging blue vein and Pruneys face all fat with throbs and eyes looking like he seen the Hooglies. The Father shoulder holding Pruney. Gentle. Shaking Pruney. Then giving Pruney small pats. And a hug.

While FathaLuis is Pruney going at it. FathaLuis says, Whoever is in that other confessional better step out right now.

Ross comes out his confession. His cheeks slap the floor and his eyes shout. Run for it. So I turn. And direct in front of me.

The old lady who was praying AhLady-a-Fatima. Im freezed solid.

Scared stiff.

And my feet wont do anything near like skedaddle.

•   •   •

That old woman was like so many of the Portuguese old ladies in DeGammas Bakery or SousasShellfish. Short. But taller than me. All in black.


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A blacklace kerchief on her head like a real fancy fishnet. She bowlegged. Her hands holding rose ree beads and her chin with a few whiskers. She puts her arms up in the air like shes shooing away a dog and Im going nowhere. Bad enough getting caught in the confessions. No way am I making anything worse by getting in a what all mixup with a church old lady.

That old lady is talking Portuguese. Arms in the air. And FathaLuis calming her.

And FathaLuis helps the old lady light a candle. Sets her on a kneeler beneath the feet of crucifiedJesus. FathaLuis turns to us and says, You guys. Outside. Now.

FathaLuis goes out the big front streetdoor.

Then Pruney does something absolute crazy. Maybe even mental. Pruney reaching into the stonefont holywater. Squeezes the holywater ocean sponge. Wipes his face. Puts the ocean sponge back in the holywater font. Blesses himself with wet fingers and says with frustratedness to Ross and me, Eecoodeesh. The calm before the storm. Ah NorEasta. Lets go get our pennants.

And why Pruney thinks hes gonna be flag waving in a blizzard is beyond me but when he puts his hands in his back pockets. Is he gonna pull out a white handkerchief and do the sign of surrender or get lost in all the white? Which. At this point is prettgood idea. Lets face it. Ross and me twelve years old. And Pruney being runt fourteen. We should. As Dad would say, Quit while we’re ahead.

And as Pruney and Ross go to the doors. I turn one last time. And even through the dark of his corner. Michael the ArchAngel. His sword raised high ready to chop off Lucifas ugly head.

Other side of the church.

AhBewdeeful Lady-a-Fatima. Floating on her cloud. Smiling.

And if it werent for that glorious smile on her beautiful face. And Pruneys possible quit while we’re ahead white pennants flagwaving surrender. Never could I have followed Pruney and my brother Ross down those front stairs past the Portuguese old lady at the kneeler lighting a candle under the feet of frontdoor crucified Jesus.

Nope. Jesus give me the Hooglies.

The big priest choke give me the Hooglies.

Not ta say. But. AhBewdeeful Lady-a-Fatimas smile. She gived me the brave to walk through those door. Back onto LandStreet and into our small town of Sowams.


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170    J DOMINIC

     •   •   •

So Pruney and Ross and me are pushing that heavy front church door open. Letting out all the big church quiet and letting in the LandStreet traffic noise. And there at the bottom of the steps and standing near our bikes on LandStreet in the wide open air is Mom and Dad talking to FathaLuis. Whoever woulda thought such a thing? Mom and Dad walking around the NorthEnd being neighborey and they walk into the thick of our storm.

And Pruney walks up to Mom Dad and FathaLuis. Runty Pruney. Instead of pulling out his surrender handkerchief pennant. Runty fourteen year old Pruney shoves out his hand for shaking like FathaLuis and him are best of old buddies. And FathaLuis just looks unimpressed at that outstretched dirt fingernailed calloused Pruney hand and says, How do you expect to become a top shelf altarboy pulling stunts like that in there? A house of God. That building is a house of God and you boys treating it like its the PortugueseSocialClub.

Pruney says, FathaLuis. I thought you was gonna be ta your sisters house NewBedford for Thanksgivin? Eecoodeesh the two-a-yous here.

And before FathaLuis could answer. Pruney turns to Mom and Dad. Ross and me. And Pruney says, FathaLuises sister is one heck of a good cook. Took me to his sisters house NewBedford last Sunday after mass for lunch. Said she was gonna cook Thanksgivin for you today dint she FathaLuis?

FathaLuis doesnt answer Pruney direct. Instead he just hard stares. But then makes a face like loose front tooth sucking. And FathaLuis. Shaking his finger says, Me you should not fear Pedro. Its God.

This is difficult. Figuring whether FathaLuis being mean to Pruney or whether FathaLuis just being a grouch like MistaCogg sometimes. A grouch but in a good kind of way. And Dads thinking the same thing because Dads looking down. Not the kind of downlooking that is afraid of something. Like Ross and me will do if Dad is griping about whatever. But the kind of downlooking Dad does before he kicks a rock or busts a trashcan when he says he just needs something to kick.

FathaLuis put his hands on Pruneys shoulders. And all on a sudden Pruneys face gets all pruned up and his two eyebrows become one line of scrunched up hair and Pruney one eye squints Popeye. And Pruneys face is full of PruneyMendez worry.

But then Dad speaks up and says, Im not one be teaching my boys fear


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the Lord. But you can be certain FathaLuis. Im not the least bit happy these shenanigans. Their mother and I will stand by any appropriate makegoods. Anything Father. Work be done in church. The parking lot or your yard. Leaves to rake? These boysll work. An aftanoon or two. Or three. Windows. Trash. Whatever. Put em to work. My boys. And their friends. Be thinkin twice before they disrespect anything or anyone again.

And of course Moms nodding her head yes in total agreement with Dad. And Dad asks, You boys understand what Im sayin? You guys apologize and stay outta churches you dont belong. Understand?

We all three say, Yessir. SorryFathaLuis.

FathaLuises smooth hands on Pruneys shoulders. FathaLuis serious face is eyes real narrow. His big mustache. Black hair. Thick. And lips. Bottom one under his top teeth. And then that bottom lip gets pushed out by FathaLuises tongue. Just as I realize he looks like the photo of that guy in GilOwens SquarePeg. FathaLuis says, I see. Well.

FathaLuis says, Pedro, next week. Why dont you bring your buddies to our altarboy meeting. We’ll be serving refreshments. You boys be the clean up committee. Sweep the floor. Empty the trash. Do whatever needs done. A few OurFathers. HailMarys. And a good act of contrition wont hurt you none either.

And FathaLuis says to Mom and Dad, Boys being boys. I was much the same when I was a kid. Was my sister kept me on the straight and narrow. Soon as she comes out the church we’ll be to driving to NewBedford. She is a good cook.

Dad reaching for Moms hand with a smile swipes her strand hair behind her ear. Mom is more beautiful than AhBewdeeful Lady-a-Fatima. And beautiful Mom says to Ross, Your dad and I are walking uptown. You boys go on home.

Ross says, Football. The marsh. Everyones meetin for a game. WillieD. Mush. Zeebo. Rest-a-the guys.

Mom says, Jate no football. But you Ross? Sure. Just be careful. No tackle.

Then she turns back to FathaLuis and says, Sorry. Us meeting this way.

And FathaLuis says, Have often to remind ourselves. Our Lord was once a boy. God came into the world a child and even he too made some temple mischief.

Both Mom and Dad. Heads nodding up and down. Yes. Shake hands with FathaLuis. And leave for their uptown walk.


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Ross and me on our bikes.

Pruney lags back talking FathaLuis. Something about next week altarboys.

Ross and me shove off leaving everyone distant.

Dad turns and shouts, Turkey. Two. Dont be late.

When I look back. Its Mom and Dad walking up the street. And standing top the stairs. FathaLuises sister who. Before in church. Had lit a candle and sent a prayer to heaven.

At the bottom of the steps. Our pal PruneyMendez. Shaking hands with the sisters brother. A priest.

A priest looking like the picture of a guy in GilOwens antique shop. A blackrobe priest.

A priest with his hands on Pruneys shoulder.

A priest. Who God would strike dead on the spot if the priest ever told.

Secrets that he knew.

•   •   •

Next time I saw FathaLuisAlegria he was a hand on my shoulder. And smelled like a thick neck with the aroma of Moms lavender seeds. Ernest Hemingway. Looks just like the picture of Hemingway GilOwen has in the SquarePeg. Hemingway. A big guy. Cool combed back hair. And a mustache that says Im a man and dont you forget it.

FathaLuis shook my hand. His fat fingers. Gripping my shoulder. Then he pulled me into his stomach. My face into his belly. And he slapped my back. The way the Portuguese men do when they like you. Lotsa men do that. Lotsa men. That slap on the back thing. My dad did.

But FathaLuises assistant. His deacon. Marteem Silvia dint do that.

Wasnt his style.

Wasnt his way.

Marteem Silvia. Smoking a cigarette. Drinking a glass of wine. While FathaAlegria was all hand shaking and holding shoulders. Giving big hugs and making us all feel okay even though we werent. As Pruney said, Membas-a-the parish.

But because we got caught in the confessions. And according to Mom and Dad. Our need for making things right. We were Pruneys guests. We were welcome. More than welcome. Brothers in Christ was how FathaLuisAlegria put it.

We had gathered in the church basement.

FathaLuis. Sitting in the back.


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Marteem Silvia addressed us.

Boys. Students. Gentlemen. As you begin your preparation for altarboy training. Youll. No doubt. Have questions and concerns. Curiosities and challenges. Lord knows. Im terrible inept at solving any of lifes problems. Thats why Im here just a deacon and not official like a priest. But this man. This man sitting behind me. FathaLuis. FathaLuisAlegria. During your preparation. Here in your parish. This man. FathaAlegria. Hes the one for you to see for all your concerns. Boys. May I introduce FathaLuis. FathaLuis?

Thats when he stood.

Thats when ErnestHemingway stood.

Thats when ErnestHemingway the guy who choked me in the neck stood. Walked to the front of the room. Cleared his throat. And spoke. ErnestHemingway spoke in Portuguese and I understood nothing but it dint for real matter because FathaLuis was. So? His voice? His face? His expressions? Watching him felt good. Hands through his black hair. Finger to his lips. Walk left. Walk right. Wag his index finger. No. No. No. Everyone laughing. Back tracking. Tiptoes. To his left. Drop flat on his feet. Hands behind his back. Rocking his big giant body back and forth. Right open palm on his heart. Eyes up. Left open palm. His forehead. Everyone laughing again. Him bolt upright. Real quiet. His voice. His eyes looking everyone in their eyes. Everyone in the room. Connecting. Moon eyes. Pie face. Pinching nostrils. Thumb and index knuckle. Index finger stabbing. Stabbing the air. Hands on his hips. Everyone quiet. Stand. Bow heads. Sign of the cross. Say a pray. Sign of the cross. Meeting over. Cookies. Crush orange soda. Not Nehi orange like what CapnJack woulda had. Crush. Good stuff too. More introductions. Handshaking. Necktie guys. Sweaters guys. Backslappers. Lotsa Portuguese language.

Some English.

Then the smell of lavender.

Visegrip fingers on my shoulders.

And ErnestHemingways Im a man and never forget it mustache. In my ear.

Whispering, You boys dont be strangers.

Stop by again.

Real soon.




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On the Q-T


The north end of Sowams was for real a very noisy place. That is after seven in the morning till about seven at night.

The AmericanLuggageMill factory cross the railroad and a few blocks away from our BaggyWrinkleLane was always windows open and clacking and hissing. Clunking and buzzing. Sometimes. You could hear announcements over the intercom. Sometimes in English. And sometimes in Portuguese. But most of the clunking and the clacking ate up the talking so that what you for real heard was just a steady clacka clacka hissing.

The wintertime was noisy too. Youd think with the cold theyd close those windows. But the windows stayed open all year round. Not that it was cold inside. No way. It was hot. MistaCogg said in the winter most of the clunking and clacking and hissing was steam pipes firing up and blasting more heat than those workers could possible stand.

Said, You gotta love the iron knee.

And I dint get the iron knee part.

Probbly like a plate in the head except for the leg.

But GilOwen said, Thats the U-S of A.

Said when he had returned from a Florida winter vacation. He looked down from the airplane and saw a fat mother pig on her side with dozens of piglets suckling off her teats. Except he said it was a factorymill and an immigrant neighborhood. The American Dream.

I dint get that America Dream praspective for nothing. Especial about the iron knee. Or was it ironing? Mom sure hates doing that. But. The factory mill part with little piggies sucking teat. That sure was funny. GilOwen. Such imagination.


The Quequeshan neighborhood GilOwen was talking about was hid away from the rest of the NorthEnd. It was a three sidestreet cluster. Alleys

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really. Each alley tangling the riverfront running along WaterStreet and knotted in a worker house huddle across from the mouth of the Quequeshan at the base of the smokestack and bell tower and ending as a shipping dock warehouse. I never woulda knowd. Till delivering papers with Pruney. About the bookie joint owned by Whimpy BugEyes McPherson. Who. Pruney said. Was the real big boss of Sowams. The guy in charge of everything.

Before then. I dint even know about being in charge of towns. Being the boss. Or what a bookiejoint was. We werent allowed by Dad. Or Whimpy. To go inside the bookiejoint. We was always giving the newspaper to Zompa TheDoorGuy Galucci.

And then Zompa TheDoorGuy Galucci would take the newspaper inside.

In the summertime. The door would usual be open and we could see the inside guys playing cards and smoking cigarettes.

But sitting on the stoop waiting. Would be. Always. ZompaGalucci.

Zompa TheDoorGuy Galucci was real nice. And he was big too. Not like BobbyBrayton giant big. But more like a creamfilled donut. And on the usual. He was quiet. Sometimes ZompaGalucci wouldnt say nothing except, Hey boys. And other times ZompaGalucci would ask questions like, Hey Prune kid. How many papers ya got on yuh route?

Or, Hey kid. How about you goin over to FatFingaPetes and gettin me a cobbagoul sangweech with some nice mozarell an a Coke? And get the bote-a-youse one while yuh at it.

Then ZompaGalucci would give us a five dollar bill that he said was tree dollars and then he would say, Keep da change.

Sometimes ZompaGalucci would ask, Whos yuh ol man?

And when Pruney would tell. ZompaGalucci would say, A portagee huh?

Once when Zompa TheDoorGuy Galucci asked me, Whos yuh ol man? I told him. And he. Reaching at me. Grabbed both my wrists. His grip. So hard. My own heartbeat sinked into the flesh of his firm. But his fingers soft. And he looked at me with strawberry jellydoughnut cheeks and a fist of curls hanging between his eyes and he asked me, Clara Lee Rossi yuh mother? Chrice. Terrible ting dat truck hit your head. But lookatcha. All betta. I memba you and yuh brother. The bote-a-youse. At da beach.

And Zompas eyes were all glitter in a hazel soup and he yelled back into the bookiejoint, Hey Whimp. Dis heres one-a-Tavinos boys.

When ZompaGalucci yelled that. I seen Whimpy BugEyes McPherson sitting under a old floor lamp with just a light bulb and no shade look


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176    J DOMINIC

up from the big stuffed chair that he was always sitting in. And Whimpy BugEyes McPherson who I never seen before give me a look like he too knew me. Like he knew all my life who I was.

When I asked Pruney, What those guys in the bookiejoint do?

Pruney said it was horse racing and numbers. Which of course was all plate in the head to me because. Far as I could tell. There was no horses in Sowams and whenever numbers were mentioned. I was all plate in the head big time confused.

But anyways. The AmericanLuggage tractortrailer trucks would go into the millgates down near the Barrington bridge and leave up QuequeshanStreet right behind Whimpys. Sometimes. When the drivers went into Whimpys. ZompaGalucci and some Whimpys other guys be unloading luggage from the AmericanLuggage trucks. And then ZompaGalucci and Whimpys other guys would be putting that AmericanLuggage into their car trunks. Whimpy BugEyes was first place those AmericanLuggage truck drivers made delivery. Which was strange because those AmericanLuggage truck drivers for real dint truckdrive very far to the loadingdocks to make their first delivery. I mean wouldnt it been easier if ZompaGalucci and the rest of Whimpys guys just went over the loadingdocks and picked up the luggage themselfs?

When I asked Dad about this he told me, Never you mind what those guys are doin. You keep your nose clean. You keep it under your hat. You keep it on the Q-T.

Which Dad said spelled quiet in shorthand. And if Q-T was a short way to spell quiet then. I was all for it. Because. As you know. Never did I like spelling words the long way very much.

So kept on the Q-T. Thats what we did. The Q-T.

The PowaHouse.

We kept that on the Q-T.

And what we did in the PowaHouse. That was the Q-T too.

•   •   •

Then there was that one time we let something on the Q-T slip. Not me. Ross. Considering Ross used to talk with GilOwen about stuff a whole lot more than me. There was no blaming for Ross messing up. And. Not ta say. But. Im not sure Ross did mess up. Pruney wasnt upset. Pruney actual told Ross. Thanks. You tell GilOwen. And your dad. I said thanks. Thats what Pruney said to Ross and me both separate.

Then Pruney never said nothing about it ever again.


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What it was. Was this.

Pruney become like Kay in MissusCoggs TheSnowQueen.

Pruney become undifferent.

Pruney stopped coming over.

Stopped coming over our house like he use to.

Oh. He’d spend a sometimes. Few hours. Friday or Saturday nights. Or a late Sunday afternoon. But not all the time staying over like he did before. What it become was. Gotta work early. Or. The OlMan wont let me. And a couple-a-three times it was even, My cousin SkiffheadEd is sick and I gotta take care-a-Edu on accounta AuntJovita bein sick too.

Then Pruney stopped.

Stopped telling.

Stopped telling us about church and stuff.

But even worse. Pruney werent no more his wordmusic self. No more blathers. No more Eecoodeeshes. Or wonder. And amazement. He even stopped singing his favorite radio songs like Im Henry the Eighth I Am I Am. And his favorite. Hang on Sloopy that he always sung uncorrect wrong as Hang on Snoopy. Snoopy hang on.

Instead of being his usual self. Pruney got more like Rosses favorite song. The one about silence having a sound which I dint really understand because how could silence have a sound? How could that be?

But. Pruney prettmuch got silence and stopped telling and talking after Thanksgiving and never even said a word on Christmas. It was like Pruney was in TheSnowQueens far away castle.

Pruney never told us about him being a shepherd at the manger.

Pruney never told us about him getting to carry. All around the church. A fancy velvet pillow with baby Jesus on it while the choir was MidnightMass singing Portuguese Hah-lay-lew-yuh. Hah-lay-lew-yuh.

And Pruney never told us that on NewYearsDay he got to swing a big gold cup. Mom called it a chalice. Dangling from chains with incents smoking up the church.

Nope. Pruney dint tell us none of that stuff. Mom heard it all from neighbors when she did her walks around town.

And one time in midJanuary. Mom heard it from Pruneys AuntJovita too. A late Saturday morning. Mom bumped into AuntJovita shopping FirstNationalGroceryStore.

According to Mom. AuntJovita said, Pruney come home sick from Saturdaymorning collecting paper route customers money and he wouldnt be able to carry his afternoon papers and could Ross and me maybe climb stairs for him?


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Mom told AuntJovita sure we’d help. And then Mom came home and told Ross and me. But then she immediate left the house to do more errands. And I thought Ross be happy as me to help Pruney. Instead Ross did long faces and scowls. When I. At the kitchen table said, Wonder what kinda sick Pruney got?

Ross shoved his sketchbook aside and said, It isnt Pruney got sickness exact.

Whaddaya mean? I said.

Rosses face like a piece of glass stabbed his lip then quick went away. And again. He picked up his sketch pad. Flipped to a clean page and real calm said, On ice. Probbly slipped. His tailbone. Hurt. Cant bend. AuntJovita give him plenty asprins.

And Ross explained because MistaCogg was Pruneys first stop. We’d meet at the Port n Starboard Shop. And then. All three of us. Do the NorthEnd 42 papers like on the other different Saturdays when we did the route with Pruney just for fun.

Before we left the house. Mom come home and said it was snow flurries and be sure and wear hats and mittens. But after we got dressed. Mom gave final inspection and waved as Ross and me rolled down BaggyWrinkleLane.

The air was quiet.

And the few flakes.


And riding our bikes in that ease of snow was no problem. And as we crossed LandStreet at the junction light. MistaCogg was in my head saying, Small flakes. Big storm. And I gotta addmit. Felt for certain. This time he’d be wrong. It sure dint look. Or feel. Like a storm. And although it had already snowed a couple-a-few times this winter. is snow. Like all snow. Made me happy and excited.

When we got to Port n Starboard Shop. MistaCogg was already attitude lipped and selling some Barrington people a fake harpoon. And even though MistaCogg told Ross and me to warm ourselfs by the stove. We instead waited outside. And not for long. Because Pruney. Backstiff straight. Like a broomstick up his ass. Come walking down the street pushing his bike. And as usual. He wasnt wearing a hat and no gloves neither. The canvasbagged newspapers in the wire frontbasket were better protected from the snow than Pruney.

At the SquarePeg. GilOwen. Unlike MistaCogg. Was long on questions while Pruney was short on answers. Me and Ross said nothing. But GilOwen stood at the window and watched us trail our way in the snow.


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Then GilOwen even stood outside on the corner beneath his flag flying mast staff. And through the thick of ease wind and down falling flakes. Like the poem he said to me and Ross. GilOwen watched us more a long time before he went back in.

Inside SipponsBar was just a couple of guys I dint know. The jukebox was playing Hang on Sloopy and Pruney shoulda picked up on the tune and sang Shake it shake it baby. But no. Outside Pruney was just standing silent in the snow. And in those weeks. Pruneys stopped talking foolish like he always done. Pruney was hurting. His face pale. His eyes. Closed. And as Ross crossed back from Anunziatas Pool and Billiards. I said to Pruney, Musta been a hell of a fall.

And Ross. With a second scowl he give me that day. Said, Stating the obvious wont make it any better.

But pained Pruney said, Easy Ross.

And Pruney turned to me and said, Isnt so bad Jate. Jus landed wrong is all.

And we walked in the snow saying nothing more.

And for a instant. I knew it was how SnowQueens Gerta felt when Kay had went away.

And on this day snow was making everything beautiful. Not enough for difficult pushing our bicycles. Or for people to shovel their sidewalks. It was simple plain pretty.

During the rest of that January. Ross and me helped Pruney a few more times. And by February Pruney was walking and stairclimbing by himself just fine.

And now. As I look back on those days. Ross was doing more scowls and said my plate in the head made it difficult for me to open my eyes.

And I didnt understand that because the night Pruney and Ross talked to Dad was the day in early February when Ross and me. Without Pruney. Went to the Lyric Theater for the afternoon show and seen. With our eyes wide open. The greatest movie ever. Lawrence of Arabia. But I cant tell about Lawrence of Arabia because. For now. I gotta stick with Pruney. I’ll save telling about Lawrence of Arabia for later.

Anyhow. That night Pruney did stay over our house. And that was kinda strange because he come over very late. It was his last time. And all through me telling Pruney about the movie. He just dint care. Said he needed to sleep. Ross gave me no support neither. Ross was quiet too like Pruney. And after we did fall asleep. I woke because I hadda take a leak. And Pruney wasnt on Pruneys Island. And Ross wasnt in his bed neither. And I could hear voices in the living room.


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The voices were Pruney.

The voices were Ross.

The voices were Dad.

The voice of Dad was saying, You boys did right tellin GilOwen. And GilOwen did right tellin me. And Pruney. Dont you worry he’ll never be botherin you again.

GilOwen bothering Pruney? Why would that be? But had to piss so real bad and figured Ross. Or Pruney for that matter. Would tell me everything plenty and soon enough. And by the time the toilet was flushing. Ross was back his bed. And Pruney was laying on Pruneys Island so I asked, Whats up?

Ross said, Pruney and Dad. A talk. Thats all.

Bout what?

Pruney said, Dont wanna talk bout it. Jus wanna sleep. Gotta help Digga. Funeral parlor. Bottles in the mornin.

And we all just lay there.

No big deal.

But it was a bunch of more undifference none the anyhow.

Prettsoon. Ross and Pruneys breathing told me they was asleep.

Pruney on his island.

Ross in his own bed.

And it wasnt long after. Sleep come to me in my bed too.

All of us each on the Q-T. And good.

For the most part. Sowams was a very quiet place. Except for the AmericanLuggageMill factory. Not much noise was heard around town.

But by EastaSunday. Something would be different.

Thered be no more sounds of silence.

No more Pruney and Ross giving me undifference.

Something on the Q-T would make the loudest hush of all. Make lotsa loud Q-T.

Everybody in Sowams would, Shake it shake it Sloopy.

Everybody in Sowams knowin what was goin on.

Gonna know the scuttle.

Gonna know stuff.

Everybody in the know. Everybody knowin stuff.

Singin not singin Sounds of Silence. Everybody that is.

Cept plate in the head slow me.




 — Copyrighted Material —



Deepest Gratitude:
Barbara K. Richardson.
Difference. Wisdom. Encouragement. Generosity.

Highest Regards:
Mike Medberry.

Special Thanks:
Lou & Alexandra Florimonte. Maria Tish.
Carrie Ure. 2nd Floor Danni. Joy Erman.
Laird Erman. Mike Dean. Jaclyn Martinson.
Star Odom-Hamilton. James B. Sage Ricci.
Mitch Wieland. Richard Odom.
Nicola Potts. 
Christine Fadden.
Mary Ellen McCanna. Robert I. Mc Leod.
Ryan Blacketter. Joe Rogers.
William Bill Thompson. Orlando Vitullo.
Jem Wierenga. Steve Arndt. Joanna Rose.
M.L. Selvig. Larry Young. Darlene Matson.

Patrick McCarthy. Diane Ponti.
Scott E. Preston. 
Ed & Nancy Stebor.
Brother Schmoseph. Ellenora Karapetian.
Thomas Van Slyke. Mary Schneider.
Cheryl Thomas. Charles Brandt.

Keith Murray.
Uncle Ray.
Joseph Allen Tetlow, SJ.

The IcePond Gang:
Sharon & Dicky; Gail, Willie, LilSis & LilJoey; JoeyS; Zeb; GailC; DeeAnneM & JoeyM; Gregory & LilFrankie; Debbie & Denise; Kevin & Cooper; Michael, Paul & Philip.

Bonnie and Ed Mudge:
Your friendship on Day Island in Tacoma Narrows made all the difference.

Frank McCourt and Gay Talese:
Thanks so much for inviting me to walk with you.

David Cole:
For so many things. But especially for patience. Patience.
And more patience.

And finally:
Tom Spanbauer and his Cannon Beach Haystack classes:
Heartbeats always to Gina Shalanic. Rick Martinez.
Gregg Kleiner. Ellen Michaelson, MD.

Most especially to all Dangerous Writers at Tom’s Portland table.
Then. Now. Future.

The Call of the Wild. White Fang.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
Moby Dick. Of Mice and Men. Hamlet.
Sometimes a Great Notion. Dalva.

Legends of the Fall. Beloved. “ in Just.”
Blood Meridian. The Color Purple.
The Man Who Fell in Love With the Moon.
Flowers for Algernon. 
“The Body.”
In the Wilderness. Christ in Concrete.
Rope Burns: Stories From the Corner.
To Kill a Mockingbird. Angela’s Ashes.
I Should Be Extremely Happy in Your Company.

Fall of Frost. My Antonia. O Pioneers.



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