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Romancing the Italian Horn

Romancing the Italian Horn

 

Gerald stood above me, balancing on the back of the couch. He stretched out his arms before drawing them into a pose, flexing both biceps at the side of his head. His bare chest displayed a tapered torso. He hollered and leaped into the middle of the room, landing in a squatted stance, looking as if ready to pounce again.

I could smell him. His damp sweat, his cologne, his cigarettes.

Still crouching and facing the TV, he lunged forward below the set and pressed the fast-forward button on the VCR. Wavy, scrambled lines filled the screen and sped along the peacocking wrestlers. Gerald had little patience with the excessive preening and kayfabe. Once a wrestler grabbed a microphone, it was Gerald’s cue to hurry through his recorded VHS tape.

“Just wait,” he said, as if I’d be doing anything else.

Gerald’s house was a colossal mess. Clothes hung and piled everywhere. Dirty glasses and plates waited on coffee and end tables, while magazines, bent and twisted, covered the remaining surfaces. Ashtrays appeared every few feet with stubbed out cigarettes among the hills of ash. Aside from the living room’s “good couch,” which was cloaked in a plastic covering and served as Gerald’s ring ropes, any attempt at domestic maintenance was neglected.

Immediately to the right of the TV and its surrounding stacks of recorded tapes was the doorless alcove that functioned as Gerald’s room. The terrain of clutter and filth seamlessly transitioned to his unmade bed and open dresser drawers festooned with clothes. Gerald’s space, however, was personalized with glossy pictures of cars and women he desired, and his Playboys resided out in the open next to his bed—its pages peeled back, flagging the beauty he had left off with. His room had no less than three ashtrays, because he, like his parents, smoked.

“That’s his decision he’ll have to live with,” his mother, Donna, once said to my astonished mother.

“I plan on stopping in the summer to train for football,” he responded. He then turned to me and with a paternal tone said, “Don’t ever start. Swear to me.” Even though I was confident that swearing was equally bad, I did it anyway.

He tapped the top of the VCR trying to make it go faster. “Come on,” he said.

I reclined patiently, my elbows grinding into what felt like smashed potato chips on the only patch of open carpet. Finally, Gerald stood up but stayed transfixed on the screen.

He wore what he usually wore that summer—small gym shorts and striped tube socks. The slabs of back muscles on his recently-turned fourteen-year-old body made me conscious of my gaunt not-yet-twelve-year-old frame and left me concerned about whether I would ever catch up. He had dark hair, blow-dried back and reinforced with a brush at least once an hour, cropped tight on the sides and along the back, except for a blonde-dyed rat-tail that curled a few inches down his neck.

I turned my attention to the screen. A wrestler in colored plumage climbed up the ring ropes and waited for the approval and encouragement of the crowd. Intoxicated hysteria filled the arena. He then flew through the air—suspended over the ring for what felt like a divine moment—before descending, with a cocked elbow, upon his bewildered adversary. When the two of them landed on the mat with a cavernous echo, the crowd of thousands erupted in elation.

Gerald resumed his perch atop the couch and motioned to a non-existent crowd. He brought both feet together, his head nearly touching the ceiling. Frozen in totem-like majesty as if to feel the adoration of the many, he flexed and closed his eyes. His gold crucifix fell between two well-defined pecs, and above it, also in gold but tighter to his throat, an Italian horn.

He dove over the coffee table, raised his right arm in mid-flight to present his elbow, and crashed down next to me in a mound of clothes, shaking the house. From behind a haze of smoke emanating from the kitchen, his mother yelled his name.

The Antolini’s had moved into the two-family house across the street sometime in March. As the weather warmed, Donna and Gerald’s father, Gerry, chain-smoked on the front steps after dinner, welcoming anyone who wanted to join. Gerald’s little sister, Nicole, listened to music and practiced dance moves while Gerald circled the front of the house on his bike.

Since Donna and Gerry were not about formality—they even insisted I call them by their first names—it was easy to cobble together their past from the evening stoop sessions. Initially, Donna said they moved here for a fresh start. Their old neighborhood was not a good place to raise Gerald and Nicole. The new neighborhood was also closer to Gerry’s new job, which he just secured a few months back. But it didn’t take long for Donna and Gerry to mention they had split up a year prior, only to get back together after Gerry broke the shin of Donna’s new suitor with a baseball bat. Even though this meant Gerry had to make legal amends, his act of devotion galvanized their love, which, in return, convinced Donna to forgive his trysts and indiscretions. Eventually, they mentioned an eviction and subsequent sojourn at Donna’s sister’s place that lasted until the confined quarters compromised a normally affectionate relationship with her sister and family. Although these colorful admissions entertained me as much as it could a kid my age, it did not compete with the chance to follow Gerald around on my bike.

Gerald owned a chrome GT Pro Performer with red mag wheels. He commanded the bike up curbs and steps with the grace of an equestrian on an Andalusian dancing horse. Mikey and Scott, the brothers who lived above the Antolinis and usually hung out with us, made clumsy attempts to imitate Gerald’s wheelies and array of tricks, leaving Gerald to bounce about on his back tire, snickering at the boys as they picked themselves off the ground.

I avoided embarrassing myself in front of Gerald as much as possible and stuck with racing up and down the street. Gerald respected that I could handily beat Scott and Mikey despite both of them being a year and two years older than me.

His favor for me also grew following a nasty spill I took on the divot-pocked asphalt of our dead-end street, which had probably not been repaved for decades. I was jarred from my pedals and slid under the bike, skinning a greater part of my knee and leg. I nearly bit through my lip to keep the tears plugged up and refused any help as I walked home. The following day, Gerald appeared impressed that I was back out there with my leg bandaged like a mummy. He looked it over and summonsed the interminable well of mucous he harbored in his lungs, which he usually did when he was contemplative, turned his head to the curb and spit.

“That was pretty awesome,” he said, an assessment that filled me with pride.

But usually we just rode in sloppy figure eights to the end of the block and back, while Mikey and Scott tossed out comments about bikes, cars, or TV shows they had watched and waited for Gerald’s opinion. Simple declaratives like, “That’s corny,” signaled Mikey and Scott to move onto something else.

I never started the conversations. When I wasn’t outside with them, I was doing my homework, reading biographies of sports heroes I wanted to be, or watching the Yankees until I fell asleep—all topics I was afraid to foist upon the trio in fear they would be met with indifference.

Sometimes a younger kid named David followed behind us. He was only nine and was rather short for his age. His bike frame was smaller than the rest of ours so Gerald referred to it, and perhaps even to David, as the Little Pisser.

When David hung around us too long, Gerald, without hesitation, told him we were leaving the block—something David was not allowed to do.

“Davey!” Gerald would announce, “Time to take the Little Pisser home.”

We’d then ride about three blocks away, lingering where the complexion of the neighborhood began to change, closer to the housing projects and the streets that led to the seaport. Even Gerald, with all of his bravado and collection of stories about his old neighborhood, seemed extra vigilant as we hovered in that vicinity. He kept his bike tamed, hovering at the mouth of this invisible fence, lazily pedaling forwards and backwards. And then, after a few minutes and about a dozen or so viscous darts of spit, he determined it was time for us to go back.

I was surprised by the leeway I was given to hang out with Gerald and his family, considering I lived most of my preteen years pinioned by umbilical fetters. My mother had screamed until I knew not to test my boundaries. She repeated tales of kids being snatched up in vans never to be seen again and about junkies and thieves who waited for me on the periphery of our neighborhood, haunting any attempt I made to stretch beyond my allowed activity space, which only permitted school, home, and whatever structured sports practices and games I was driven to.

In front of other people, though, my mother feigned a Pollyanna naivety about the world and its dissipation. But when no one was around, she launched into graphic diatribes about realities I needed be aware of and dissected everyone we knew with detailed character assassinations. The Antolini’s, however, earned immunity because their unapologetic dysfunction rendered them non-threatening. Gerry’s oily perm, grease-stained, sleeveless tank tops, and naked hula dancer tattooed on his forearm, were comical to my mother, so his presence did not taunt the fact that my father just got up and left some months before they moved in.

It also helped that Donna and her usual stoop companion, Connie, Mikey and Scott’s mother, both carried extra weight, and, upon meeting my mother for the first time, complemented her looks and repeatedly compared her hair and eyes to a young Liz Taylor’s, something my mother found intoxicating.

As the school year wrapped up and the summer unfurled its endless days, we started shooting hoops at the basket on my garage, playing Wiffle ball against our steps, and tossing a Nerf football around our street’s obstruction of parked cars. As promised, Gerald cut down on smoking—sticking with one after lunch, another after dinner—and began getting in shape for football. Since Gerald had to watch Nicole during the day, he was collared to the house, otherwise he would have ventured beyond our sequestered neighborhood to lift weights with the other football hopefuls his own age at his soon-to-be high school and finally make the friends that a spring transfer to a new school did not afford him.

So instead, Gerald brought out a set of plastic covered dumbbells and performed exercises from earmarked pages of a Joe Weider bodybuilding book while I sat watching on the front steps. Cords of veins popped out of his chest and shoulders, exploding through his biceps and forearms with each curl. When he was done, he had me throw long passes down the street and sprinted towards them. He snatched my downward spirals from the air and cradled the ball into his care as he ran to the chain-link fence at the end of the block. As he returned, his jog presented a swagger that suggested he had just scored a real touchdown.

When he was in workout mode he wore red wristbands that matched a red feather earring that dangled below his left ear. Breathing heavily, he’d call the next play.

“A buttonhook at the Little Pisser’s driveway.”

Mikey, portly and uncoordinated, and Scott, equally uncoordinated and usually lost in reverie about muscle cars, made poor attempts to act as defensive props during our training sessions, exhibiting only slightly more mobility than a tackling dummy. The entire time, Mikey did not shut up. He told yarns about kids on the high school football team who accomplished feats so remarkable that even I knew they couldn’t be true.

Eventually Gerald would shoot back, “Well, how am I supposed to get better if I got you two numb nuts playing defense on me?”

Gerald was the only agent bonding me to the two brothers. They were both horrible at all athletic activities and didn’t care to watch sports, either. They showed no interest in what they learned in school and weren’t into the TV shows I liked. The brothers only read automotive magazines and prattled on about their implausible plans to save up money for European sports cars they would never be able to buy. What they lived for was the weekends when Gerry and their father, Michael, tinkered with the family cars, which perpetually needed something replaced or upgraded.

When Gerry and Michael planned to replace the alternator on Michael’s Buick, Mikey, in the days leading up to the event, talked about it in anticipation like I would the World Series or Super Bowl. Gerald’s patience for watching everyone peer and poke under car hoods quickly waned before he needed to mount his bike and pogo about. After another few minutes, he’d hop off again, nudge Mikey and Scott to the side for another look, then walk over and strip me of whatever ball I had in my hand.

“Come on,” he’d order, meaning it was time for him to burn off some more of his caged, inexorable energy.

The first half of that summer when I walked out the door late in the morning, I had no desire to go back until dark. I came in with a sticky coat of sweat and the stinging cuts and empurpled bruises of youth. I lived off snacks at the Antolini’s, recharging on Doritos and Ring Dings, washing them down with soda. If it rained, we watched countless hours of recorded TV shows or R-rated movies I would never be allowed to see at my own house. I could leaf through Gerald’s nudie magazines without expiation; the specter of censorship I knew before the summer did not apply during the parentless afternoons at the Antolini’s.

And although my mother stayed home from work with more frequency, she didn’t question me as I left the house nor when I returned. She stared vacantly at black and white or Technicolor movies, only getting up to sit at the kitchen table and have lifeless conversations, doodling flowers and clouds all over the borders of our phonebook. My freedom was so inexplicably sudden, I dared to dream that she wouldn’t even care if I took the car for a joy ride on my twelfth birthday at the end of the summer. But I didn’t want to turn twelve, something I longed for the second I turned eleven, because the end of August meant the end of summer. The end of summer meant the renewal of regimented days, which would threaten my liberation.

It was one of the first days of August and rain fell. It was almost noon and my mother had not yet made it to the couch. I quickly ran from my steps, crossing the street and leaping the lakes of puddles that had amassed along the curb throughout the morning. Gerald was in the living room finishing his exercises. After, he made us milkshakes with scoops of chalky powder and dollops of ice cream, using the last drops from the remaining carton of milk. We watched some wrestling tapes and then a movie with lots of car chases and leggy damsels.

At some point there was movement in the stairwell outside. It sounded as if the entrance door was propped open and bags were being brought up the stairs.

Gerald called to the door, “What’re you two doing?”

There was no answer.

“Maybe Connie is home early with groceries,” I said.

“No, she got groceries yesterday,” he said. “Mikey and I ate a box of Twinkies after his parents went to bed.” Gerald tilted the remaining dust of chips from a hollowed bag into his mouth then said, “Mikey is going to turn into a Twinkie soon.”

He laid his head back down on the hill of clothes at the end of the couch. I smiled and went back to the movie.

The next day, we were outside again. Gerald worked out while I launched a tennis ball up on the roof, catching it upon its return. Mikey and Scott walked down the steps, both barefoot, with groggy looks on their faces.

“Where’ve you two been?” Gerald asked.

“We just woke up,” Mikey said.

“It’s past one, you two lazy shits,” said Gerald.

“I know. We camped out last night,” Mikey said.

Gerald was incredulous. “Where did you camp out?”

“In the living room,” they both said.

“In a tent?” I asked.

“Sort of. We hung sheets over the chairs,” explained Scott.

“Really cute, but that’s not camping out,” Gerald said.

“It is so,” said Mikey. “And we had to, because our cousin stayed in our room last night.”

“Your cousin?” Gerald said.

“What’s he like?” I asked.

“Tara’s a girl,” Scott said.

I pictured a morphed female version of Mikey’s pudgy face and the absent, glazed look of Scott. Gerald put down his dumbbell and sat on the stoop.

“She’s staying in our room. That’s why we’re camping out,” Mikey said. He was proud of his sacrifice and embraced the camping motif. “We’ll camp out in the living room for the rest of the summer,” he said.

Scott chimed in, “Which is nice, because we can sleep near the air conditioner.”

Gerald shook his head. “It’s not camping if you’re using air conditioning.”

“Yeah it is,” said Mikey.

“Whatever, maybe your cousin can entertain Nicole the rest of the summer.”

“Yeah,” Scott said. “Tara does like to dance.”

“She’s not going to hang out with a 10-year-old,” Mikey said.

“Why? Is she really little?” I asked.

“No,” they both laughed. “She’s fifteen.”

“Well, maybe she should hang out with Nicole. I don’t know what to do with her,” Scott said.

“Tara’s not gonna want to babysit Nicole,” Mikey said.

Gerald’s curiosity piqued again. “Why is she staying with you guys?”

They both looked at each other as if to check before they answered.

“Just because,” said Mikey.

“Just because,” Scott said, and then added, “because she gets in trouble.”

“What kind of trouble?”

“I don’t know. Nothing really. Just trouble at school and stuff.”

Gerald stood up and spit in the direction of the curb. “Which one of you clowns does she look like?”

“Duh, she’s a girl,” Scott said.

“She’s your cousin, a relative. She must look like one of you.”

“My mother said we have our grandmother’s nose,” Mikey said.

This description ended Gerald’s inquiry. He shook his head and he went back to his workout.

A few minutes later, a girl with frayed jean shorts and a crop top emerged from the house and sat on the top step. She didn’t introduce herself to us, and neither Mikey nor Scott had the propriety to do so either. After a few silent minutes, she finally spoke.

“What’s there to do around here?”

“All sorts of stuff. You can ride with us if you want,” Scott said.

“I don’t ride. And you saw me move in yesterday. Did I have a bike?”

“We could try to find you one.”

“I just told you I don’t want to.” Her elbows leaned on her knees. She pulled out a cigarette and didn’t say anything else.

Gerald should have been done with his routine by this point. We should have been in the street running passing routes. Instead, he just kept on going. He went from exercise to exercise without pause. It wasn’t until she stubbed her cigarette into the steps and went back into the house that his routine concluded, and we finally moved to the street.

A few hours later, I was at the Antolini’s dinner table eating spaghetti. Even though Donna was lax in domestic formality, every night she attempted to rally her nuclear unit around the table once she and Gerry came home from work, which was hard to do. Sometimes Gerry stopped off at a bar near his job, and when he did, you could sense her lurking suspicion as she waited for his arrival. And of course, Gerald had no patience at all. He voraciously wolfed down food, went for seconds, and then pleaded to return to the TV or head outside.

But that evening we started dinner without Gerry. It seemed as if I was the only one eating. Donna yammered on anxiously about the hairdresser she planned on seeing that weekend, while Nicole gave languorous swirls to her pasta as she sang to herself. For the first time I could remember, Gerald didn’t eat much and kept asking if he could go back outside. Finally, when Donna relented, Gerald bolted from the table. I inhaled one last spooled fork of spaghetti and followed. Once we got outside though, he didn’t want to ride down the block. Nor did he want to shoot baskets at my garage or throw the football around. He didn’t want to venture too far from the steps either. Eventually, Scott joined us, then Mikey, and then, trickling out gradually, the adults. The entire evening, Gerald didn’t say much. I’m not even sure if he spoke at all.

During a lull in the adult conversation, Donna said to Connie, “When are we going to meet your niece?”

“Soon, I hope. She was on the phone earlier. She’s been on the phone or watching TV since she got here.” Connie turned, “Scott, go tell Tara to come down.”

A few minutes after Scott returned, the front door came ajar. Tara stretched her head out. Donna, adroit at small talk, started in on Tara, Connie interjecting when Tara’s answers were too terse. During the conversation, Gerald dismounted his bike, and went over by the stoop. He didn’t contribute but exhibited a sedulous, un-Gerald-like focus on the conversation. His arms were folded over his bare chest.

At some point Tara had decided she had had enough. “Aunt Con, can I go back in? I’m waiting for a phone call.”

“Alright, alright,” Connie said.

Tara didn’t reappear that night.

Late in the morning on most days, Gerald hung out in front of his house and waited for me to emerge from mine. If he was anxious to do something, I could hear him bouncing the basketball on my walkway or throwing the football in the air to himself on our little patch of lawn. But the day after we met Tara, he did neither.

This was not completely odd, but since he acted strangely the previous night, I decided to preemptively jump-start the day. When I got to his door to let myself in, surprisingly it was locked. I knocked, and Nicole answered.

“Hey, where’s Gerald?”

“I dunno,” she said and shrugged. “Maybe upstairs.”

She closed the door and locked it as if she had been instructed to do so. I stood in the stairwell, looking up at Mikey and Scott’s door. I thought about their pseudo campout, Tara, and Gerald’s awkward reticence the day before, so I left.

It was a humid day, heavy and oppressive, but I still stayed outside and shot free throws in my driveway. After an hour or so, since no one emerged from the house, I gave up and went in to watch TV.

Later in the evening, the stoop was packed. The only aberration from a typical lively night was that Gerald had joined them. I looked around for his bike but didn’t see it anywhere. He sat a few steps down, diagonal to Tara. He kept turning his head to make eyes at her. While Gerry and Donna were in the middle of another circuitous and pointless story for our other neighbors, Tara moved behind Gerald and curled his rat-tail around her finger and gave a little tug.

The evening came and went, and Gerald had barely moved from his spot on the stoop. The night extinguished the pale glow of dusk, and the stale amber streetlight was all that remained. Everyone went in, and I dragged myself back home. The physical exertion and the satisfaction I had grown accustomed to so far that summer had eluded me. I walked past my mother—her eyes glued to the television—and went to my room and watched the Yankees fall behind eight runs to the Orioles by the 6th inning.

The following morning, I had to peel myself out of bed. I went outside and shot baskets, keeping one eye on the front door across the street. When no one came out, I took my bike and rode up and down the block by myself. After a few laps, Mikey and Scott emerged and joined me.

“Where’s Gerald?”

They gave each other a look.

“Inside,” said Mikey.

“With Tara,” Scott added and didn’t divulge any more.

We rode for about a half-hour until I asked them to play some Wiffle ball. They both said no. Instead, I went back home and watched reruns of old sitcoms for the rest of the afternoon.

That evening was a rerun of the evening before. But now Tara’s magnetic hold over Gerald had grown even stronger—the touches more frequent, the coquetry more overt. They both smoked one cigarette after another. Whoever finished first shared whatever last pursed-lipped drags were left of the other’s, before both lit up again. Once more, the day ended in disappointment.

The following week brought the same results—Gerald’s afternoon absence, followed by a resumption of his new sedentary post in the evening. But it became obvious that this began to irk Mikey and Scott as well. During the day they either impatiently road in circles complaining about the August heat or sat slumped over on the stoop, flipping through their auto magazines with disinterest, Mikey frequently checking his watch for the designated time to reenter the house. The thrill of camping and upholding familial obligations were not mentioned again.

In Gerald’s absence, Mikey tried to play the alpha. He chided me for my lack of knowledge about cars and bikes. It only irritated me because Mikey thought he was getting a rise out of me. And if he wasn’t going at me, he was arguing with Scott over engine sizes or hypothetical competitions between competing brand-name cars and motorcycles. Our languid laps up and down the block—with David rounding out our weak quartet—fed my growing contempt for Mikey. When I couldn’t take it anymore, I wound up at the basketball hoop in my driveway. After I’d retrieve every shot’s errant return, I’d look across the street as I walked back to my chalk-drawn foul line.

I couldn’t fathom what was going on inside. Were they watching the countless hours of Gerald’s wrestling tapes? Or did they simply kiss and do other things I couldn’t yet imagine because I had not yet stumbled across a graphic depiction of the act on a videotape or magazine lying around Gerald’s room?

By the middle of August, I had given up on Gerald. I resigned myself to take inventory of my baseball cards, continuing a codification project, cataloging them in new plastic sheets according to years—something I put on pause during the spring. I waited for the fortunes of the slumping Yanks to change and stayed up late to catch every painful inning of a west coast trip. I finally got around to my summer reading books and gave second and third reads to my favorite sports bios. I listlessly watched reruns, reruns, and more reruns.

I became jealous of Beaver Cleaver’s idyllic, friend-laden neighborhood and the sibling-filled Brady house. My card collection didn’t produce the same level of fulfillment it brought me the two previous summers. When Yankee pitching finally came through, their bats cooled off. But when the Bronx Bombers’ hitting came back to life, it couldn’t compensate for their enervated arms, forcing the Yanks deeper and deeper into their bullpen. I shot so many foul shots I could have made them blindfolded. Little David, who must have sensed my solitude and despondency, rebounded for me, so I never had to move from my foul line.

    After a week or so hiatus from the Antolini stoop gatherings, I tired of what I now busied myself with. I could no longer bear the sound of my mother shuffling between the couch and the kitchen, scored by the mawkish, orchestral soundtracks coming from the TV and periodic interruptions of cacophonous commercial pitches. I checked the fridge for dinner. Finding only a few questionable leftovers, I moved on to the cabinets where I grabbed one of the last cans of Spaghettios. When I was done, I piled my bowl atop the tower amassing in the sink. I passed my mother, asleep on the couch, as I went out the door.

The day had been unbearably hot, another gross humid day, so hot that the heat still lingered during the seven o’clock hour. A collective hum came from the air conditioners hanging out the windows of each house. No one was on the stoop yet. I pulled my bike from the garage and road up and down the street. David came over on the Little Pisser and asked if he needed to rebound for me.

“No,” I said. I just wanted to ride. Scott joined us on his bike. “Where’s Mikey?”

“I don’t know,” he said, “and I don’t care.” Scott then made laborious attempts to pop wheelies and bounce around on his back tire.

“Come on,” I said, “let’s get off the block.” I led the way past the Antolini house and turned the corner. As I slowed down, Scott caught up to me on my wing. I looked behind. A resolute David tailed us.

We pedaled slowly, in an exploratory mode, past a few storefronts before I turned us down a residential side street I couldn’t recall ever seeing from the window of my mother’s car. At the end of the street, we turned to head back to the main avenue. We must have been preoccupied taking in the little nuances of the unfamiliar block because when I finally looked ahead of us, I noticed two bikes approaching. Teenage boys stood on pegs on the backs of both bikes. I contemplated our position. With a sobering jolt, I realized it was too late.

I tightened the grip on my handlebars. I didn’t dare make eye contact, but knew the four had targeted on us. As they were about a dozen feet away, I was the first to panic. I stood up on my pedals and furiously tried to speed past the inevitable doom, pumping my legs and churning my handlebars side to side, my pounding heart caught in my dry throat.

In my periphery, I saw the kid closest to me leap from the pegs and lunge. I felt him gaining ground on me. He swiped at and grazed my back, but my momentum had made his final thrusts futile. I rounded one corner, then another, swerving past oncoming traffic until I locked eyes on the Antolini house anchoring the corner of our block. I didn’t relent until I saw Connie and Mikey sitting on the stoop.

“Wasn’t Scott with you?” Connie said. Her face changed once she saw the look on mine.

“We were chased.”

Mikey disappeared into the house as Connie ran past me with urgency. I finally eased the grip on my handlebars. My breathing was still heavy. I couldn’t shake the deep shivers of life’s primal hunt, a truth that had now been awakened.

Scott’s bike hopped the curb and skid to a sudden stop in front of the stoop just as Mikey came back down. Flustered and breathless, Scott recounted what had happened.

He then told the story to his father, and then to Donna, and then again to Gerry and some passing neighbors. It would be a few minutes before Connie returned with the pink-faced and wet-eyed David, whose knees and elbowed were scraped. Connie walked past us with her hand on his shoulder and took him home.

“Do we call the cops?” she yelled as she waited for David’s parents to answer the door.

“No, Con,” Donna yelled back, “they’d never find the little bastards. Or the bike. It’s gone. That’s the God’s honest truth.”

    After the initial commotion dispersed, Gerald finally came down the steps. He stood on the sidewalk with his hands on his hips. He had on his grey shorts and red-striped tube socks, but he’d left his sneakers in the house. Scott retold the story for maybe the tenth time.

Gerald looked at me, and then back again at Scott.

“They took the Pisser?”

We nodded.

Gerald walked out to the curb and looked past our block, beyond the passing cars. He turned his head and spit toward the street. I waited. I wanted him to say something. I wasn’t sure what he should say, but his silence didn’t answer my questions.

Calling his name from the doorway, Tara broke his attention. She descended the steps in a denim miniskirt that nearly exposed her entire thigh. A pink, jagged-edged midriff shirt displayed her taut stomach. Gerald’s eyes followed her as she walked into his chest. She wrapped her arms around him, moving her painted nails up his back. Her fingers caressed his spine at the base of his neck, and dandled his blonde tail.

She slipped a finger under his gold chain and worked her way to the front of his throat. She reached his Italian horn and pulled it into her mouth. It fell, wet from her lips, and she smiled, closing in for a kiss.


Thomas Genevieve is a teacher living in New Jersey. He has been writing fiction, with a specific focus on short stories, for about six years. His works will soon appear in Brilliant Flash Fiction and the Broadkill Review. When he is not writing, he maintains a steady diet of the cultural arts.