tagNovels and NovellasWith Help from Michael O'Leary Pt. 04

With Help from Michael O'Leary Pt. 04

byBOSTONFICTIONWRITER©

Chapter 16 Like Father Unlike Son

Determined not to be like his father, Little Ralphie ended the cycle of bad behavior by using his father, the male stereotypical image that feminists want everyone to accept as the norm for all men and as an example of how not to act. He hated how his father belittled his mother, abuse that escalated whenever he had been drinking. Then, when you combined that with when he had a bad day at the track, his behavior was worse, much worse.

"You're stupid," he said with a look full of hatred. "Coma Connie," he said. Coma Connie is what he called her when he was full of booze.

He called her Coma Connie because whenever he started his tirade against her, she always had a comatose expression on her face, a self-protection mechanism that she wore like a suit of impenetrable emotional armor that she developed after years of enduring his verbal and physical abuse.

Although, she still heard every word and they still hurt as much, her self-imposed comatose condition emotionally removed her from the scene allowing her not to react to his words and antagonize him to beat her, again. She severed her emotions, otherwise; she might pick up a knife and stab him as he slept. It helped her not to feel the sting of his hatred now, nonetheless, later, after he left the house, it manifested in bad behavior on her part, and unfortunately; she directed that at the children.

She yelled at and hit the kids for no good reason other than for not cleaning their room, picking up their things, a dropped dish, disobeying her instructions or challenging her authority. A challenge to her authority sent her in a rage worse than any hostility that Big Ralphie directed at her. The act of getting seven kids up, dressed, and out for school, children who had stayed up late watching television and eating junk food the day before, was emotionally disturbing for anyone within earshot, which included the entire neighborhood within half a block radius. The morning ritual of angry abuse charged with screaming, slapping, and crying traumatized anyone who experienced it, as well as witnessed it.

"Too much smoking," he said picking up her cigarettes and flinging them in the sink full of dirty dishes. "It robs your brain of oxygen and makes you lazy, Coma Connie."

"Don't touch my freakin' cigarettes." She made a grab for the cigarettes, but Big Ralphie's hands were too fast. Connie jumped up from the kitchen table and rushed over to the sink. She rescued her cigarettes, pocketed them in her housecoat pocket, and sat back down. That was her last pack of cigarettes and she had no chance of buying more until she stole money from Big Ralphie's pants pockets, as he slept. Big Ralphie never smoked. He boxed s a kid and preferred picking up his first rather than picking up a cigarette.

"What do you do around here, anyway?" He surveyed the room. "You don't work, you don't cook, and you don't clean house." He picked up a dirty dish left on the table from the night before and flung it breaking it in pieces against the wall. "All you do is smoke and talk on that damn phone." He walked towards the phone. "I'd like to rip the Goddamn thing out of the wall and throw it out a freakin' window."

"Don't you dare touch that fuckin' phone." Connie armed herself with scissors. Her faced developed the look of a patient angry with another resident in an insane asylum. She got up, stood beside the phone, and raised her scissors at shoulder level.

The phone was her escape and Big Ralphie knew that when Connie said the word dare that he had better back off. He learned that when she gave him a concussion with a frying pan after he flung the cat out their second story window. A direct hit on the cranium, the blow sent him reeling to the emergency ward by ambulance. Big Ralphie went down for the count like a boxer taking a dive in a first round knockout. When he regained consciousness, he told the doctors that he fell in the kitchen and must have hit his head on the stove.

The cat, Figaro, continually licked itself, licking its paw and wiping it across its face and up on to its head. They assumed it had fleas but, even after flea baths and flea collars, Figaro constantly licked itself, a nervous habit that unnerved everyone, especially Big Ralphie, which is why he flung it out the window. Figaro landed with a screech on all four paws and ran up the street. They never saw her, again.

Although Little Ralphie had never seen his father hit his mother, he suspected that he had, when no one was around. Big Ralphie, an enforcer and collector for the local bookies, knew how to hit someone, hurting them internally, without showing bruises or bleeding. Little Ralphie did not like that his father was mean and that people feared him. When walking with his father, whom he avoided at all costs, people hid in doorways waiting for him to pass before stepping out or ducked down side streets when they spotted him approaching.

Instead of having a normal conversation, his parents argued. They argued about everything. They argued about nothing. They argued when they woke up, during the day, and before going to bed. The circumstance that started the argument might differ but after arguing for only a few minutes, the heated dialogue reverted to the standard argument, an argument that neither Big Ralphie nor Connie ever won. Whenever Big Ralphie left slamming the door behind him or when Connie resorted to hiding herself in her comatose state, they put the argument on hold until they could return to it that night or the next morning.

Little Ralphie memorized every word. He mimicked them, moving his lips without sound, as he lay in his bed listening with the covers pulled over his head to their inane and never ending argument.

"You're never in the mood."

"You're never here."

"I'm here, now."

"I'm not in the mood."

"See."

"See what?" She looked at him with a face full of hurt and contempt. "I'd be in the mood if you gave me the money that you give to your whore girlfriends."

"I couldn't give you enough money to get you in the mood."

"You give me a headache."

"I'd like to give you something else."

"You're too drunk to get up your something else."

"I drink because you reject me."

"You drink because you are a drunk."

"You drink more booze than I do but, you don't call it booze, you call it wine."

"Go fuck one of your whores."

"Maybe, I will."

"Fuck you."

"Fuck you."

They played this game of verbal hostility everyday. While some of their children huddled in corners with the same comatose expression on their faces that Mommy had, others showed signs of growing up just like Daddy.

Ralphie did not hide, become comatose or imitate his father, he went out. Just as his mother could not wait until his father left the house, Little Ralphie could not wait to leave the house to roam the streets of the North End. He'd rather be working selling newspapers at the corner than staying at home listening to their bickering.

As much as he hated being home when they argued, he hated being there when he was alone with his mother. She trashed Big Ralphie whenever she had his ear. He was the oldest and when Connie was not complaining to one of her sisters about Big Ralphie, she complained to him. He suspected that this was his mother's way of making him understand that he should not behave like his father and that his father was not how a man should act, especially to his wife and children.

"He's a no good son of a bitch," she would say in-between sips of black coffee and drags of her unfiltered cigarettes when complaining on the telephone to one of her three sisters. "D'ya know what Big Ralphie did, that no good son of a bitch?"

Even she called him Big Ralphie to distinguished him from her father-in-law, Little Ralphie's grandfather, who was just plain Ralphie and who was much smaller than was his son but much nastier in temperament. Big Ralphie's father hated her and had nothing good to say about any of the kids, except for little Ralphie, maybe because they shared the same name, and maybe, because he saw something in Little Ralphie that he saw in himself. He was small like his grandfather and was shrewd like him, too.

"He's a no good son of a bitch," she said again taking a long drag of her cigarette and exhaling a cloud of blue haze that hung round her head like a rain cloud filled with thunder. The phrase, he's a no good son of a bitch, punctuated an hour-long conversation that ended only when one of her other sisters called or came to the door. She spent more time talking with her sisters than she did interacting with any of her seven children. The children took care of themselves with the eldest one raising and responsible the younger ones.

While other kids were playing ball or hanging around getting into trouble, Little Ralphie worked a double paper-route. He did not deliver newspapers like some of the kids outside the city; he sold them while standing outside the subway station in the cold, the rain, the sleet, and the snow. He only had a thin sheet of plastic to protect him from the elements. He hawked the early edition before school to those customers going off to work and he sold the late edition to those coming home from work. He was always out there selling his newspapers and scrapping together whatever money he could to buy the things that he wanted. He was of the belief that if he did not take care of himself, no one else would.

He only returned home between newspaper editions in time to make himself a sandwich. Then, after he sold his last late edition newspaper, around 6:30, he went home to do his homework, grab whatever food was available and collapse to bed hoping that he was tired enough so that he would fall asleep and not have to listen to their continual arguing.

The newsprint that collected beneath his fingernails indelibly stained his fingers and hands. He smelled like a newspaper, and because of the pastiness of his skin, he looked like a newspaper. His pant legs saved the print marks where he wiped his hands. Even his clothes resembled old newspaper, wrinkled, torn, and with a dingy look. Because of his erratic sleeping habits, his continual diet of junk food, and his constant exposure to the traumatic verbal abuse that his parents freely shared, his eyes held dark circles and his skin a gray pallor. Sometimes, he took on the appearance of the waking dead.

Although he saved most of his money, he could not resist the temptation of buying bicycles, skateboards, and roller skates for himself, as well as, for his brothers and sisters. He, as the eldest, was more of a provider and guardian of their needs than were his mother and father. He took it upon himself as his personal responsibility to make sure that his siblings, somehow, made it through their childhood even at his sacrifice and his peril.

"Someday, I'm going to b somebody." He chanted his mantra to himself whenever there was no one around to hear. "Someday, my chauffer will stop my limousine, a big blue, Cadillac by a newspaper stand and I'll lower my window, call over the boy, and ask him for a newspaper. Then, I'll hand the paperboy a one hundred dollar bill and as he is reaching for his change, I'll tell him to keep the change." He smiled at his fantasy, the same one every day.

"One day, I'll be rich," he said licking his dirty, right hand and wiping his moist palm across his right eyebrow and across his forehead and on up to his hairline, moving up his Boston Red Sox hat, the same hat that Michael had given him for his birthday and the hat the he slept in every night and never removed except to wash his hair when he showered, which was not very often. Again, Little Ralphie licked himself in the way that the cat did so many times. Perhaps, he hoped that his father would fling him out the window so that he could escape their lunacy, as did the cat.

"One day," he said lifting the covers over his head and closing his eyes, his only filter against the noise of his parents yelling at one another, "I'll buy myself quiet."



Chapter 17 Gabriella

The only other person who Michael looked forward to seeing besides Little Ralphie was Gabriella from the hardware store. As if she was his personal alarm siren, she entered the bank daily promptly at 9:45am, just before the hardware store opened for business to make change for the cash registered and returned again at 3:45 to make her bank deposit. When receipts were high, usually over the Christmas holidays or just before a snowstorm or weekends when the handymen husbands are hoping to quiet their nagging wives by finally buying the needed supplies to do that fix-up project that they have procrastinated doing, Gabriella returned at lunchtime to make an early deposit and for more register change.

She moved her 5'2" frame to the classical orchestra music that Michael imagined serenaded her as she entered the bank. The morning light that illuminated the glass doors of the bank silhouetted her form in an angelic glow like appearance. Her arrival made him forget what it was he was doing before he spotted her. So captivated by her when he saw her enter the bank and watching her approach his window, one would think that she sprouted wings, dawned a halo, and was naked beneath a transparent gown of white chiffon. She mesmerized him.

He knew the first day that he saw her at the hardware store that she was the one. His palms perspired, his pulse raced, and he was so hoarse that he could not talk. Never had any woman had such an obvious effect on him. Her loveliness stopped him in mid-step and in mid-sentence and, although he had walked in ahead of two other customers, he allowed both of them to go before him, so that he could share the same space with her and gaze upon her longer if only from a distance.

She was beautiful. Sure, he had seen beautiful women before but not one who had made him feel the way that she made him feel. He tried to look away, he tried not to stare, but he could not remove his gaze from her. She made his knees weak and his stomach flutter as if he had swallowed butterflies. He suddenly felt like a prepubescent boy who had a puppy love crush on a girl at school.

"What can I get for you?" she said, after he was the only customer left in the hardware store and when it was finally, his turn for her to wait on him.

You can start off by giving me your name and telephone number he thought about saying. He wished he was confident enough to ask her out even though this was the first time he had laid eyes on her. That behavior would send her the wrong message, he thought. She would mark him as a player and as insincere and he did not want her to think him a player and/or insincere.

One never at a loss for words: he could not respond to her question. His brain could not formulate a thought to answer her. He grabbed at the first item that he saw, a package of thumbtacks and handed her a five-dollar bill. She put the thumbtacks in a small, brown paper bag, placed the bag on the counter, and handed him his change.

"Thank you," she smiled and made eye contact. "Come again."

Did she just ask me to cum? No, what the Hell is the matter with you. She asked me to return again. Everything about her made him want sex from her. She exuded sex, sexuality, erotica, and sexiness. Everything about her turned him on and made him want to fuck her. He wanted to push her back on the counter, rip away her clothes, and have wild sex with her. Never has any woman made him feel this way. She was just so damn sexy.

Desperately, he tried to prolong his time with her by trying to think of something witty to say to engage her in a longer conversation. This was his chance. He was alone with her. Go for it, Michael. C'mon, you can think of something to say.

"Thanks," he said fisting the money and without putting the change in his pocket and without picking up the paper bag that she slid across the counter towards him and taking his thumbtacks, he quickly walked towards the door. She laughed at his obvious nervousness.

Oh, my God, he thought as he was walking towards the front door to leave. She's the one. Hindsight tempered his excitement. Why didn't you say something? What is wrong with you? She'd gorgeous and never have I heard such a sexy laugh. She's laughs with an Italian accent.

He fumbled with the doorknob trying to get out without making himself look like the clumsy fool that he was. The money that he held in his hand fell to the floor. Gabriella came around from the counter and squatted beside him to help him pick up his change.

He leaned into her to smell her perfume not realizing that her blouse fell forward exposing her ample bra covered breasts to his erotic delight. He had not noticed her display of cleavage until she looked down at her opened blouse, looked up at him, saw him looking, and gave him a I caught you looking you naughty boy smile.

He turned as red as the plastic pepper that Giuseppe the cobbler told him to carry to ward off the evil eye.

"No, no, I wasn't staring down your blouse and looking at your..." As soon as he said it he wished he hadn't. I, uhm, couldn't help but notice but only after you noticed, and I am so embarrassed. I'm sorry. I'm not like that, really, I'm not. I'm not a pervert or anything like that it was just, oh, God."

She picked up his change, put a hand to her blouse closing it, and handed his change to him, again.

"Thank you," he said realizing that she was so close to him that her perfume made him dizzy. She melted him with her look. Embarrassed that he was caught staring at her, again, he stood up the same time that she did and they bumped heads. "I'm so sorry," he said rubbing his forehead and then reaching over to rub her forehead. "Are you okay?"

"I'm fine," she swatted his hand away and rubbed her own forehead, "just a little drain brammaged." She laughed and, tossing her hair back with a flip of her head, enveloped him with a sensual stare.

"I'm not usually this clumsy." He tried laughing away his embarrassment. "Bumping heads is how I pick up beautiful women."

"I see," she said, rubbing her head, again. "You head butt them hoping to knock them out before dragging them away by their hair?" She laughed that sexy laugh with the Italian accent. How could a laugh have an accent, but hers did.

Her hair was so lushly dark, her eyes as brown and deep as maple syrup, and her olive complexion and small features gave her a doll like appearance. She was more strikingly beautiful than was Shannon Kelly with her flaming red hair, Irish features, and true blue eyes.

"I'm shy so I found that head butting a woman is a good way to meet her," he said stuffing his coins and crinkled dollars in his pocket. He reached for the door and turned back for another look at her. Embarrassed caught staring again, he turned away.

"Wait," she came around the corner, again and he watched her walk towards him with every part of her body moving towards him in sections.

"What?"

"You forgot your purchase."

He could not remember what it was he had come in to the hardware store to buy. His mind raced with hardware items, nails, screws, rivets, clasps, clamps, locks, glue, and sandpaper. It was of no use, he could not remember what he had just bought.

"Your thumbtacks."

"Oh," he did not remember buying them. He did not know why he bought them. "I, uhm, need them for the bulletin board at the bank. I work across the street at Earth Bank. He held out his hand. "I'm Michael, Michael O'Leary. I work at —"

"I know, you work at Earth Bank."

"How did you know that I work at Earth Bank?"

"You said that you did," she laughed, "twice." She shook his hand. "I'm Gabriella."

Her name reverberated through his head like a melody, Gabriella, Gabriella, Gabriella.

"It was nice bumping into you, Gabriella," he rubbed his forehead again and laughed.

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