"Safety Zones"
by Jerry Vilhotti

Several people, all solemn-faced, huddled around the infant like circling wagons as he was held tightly by the very nervous godmother just above the little pool of water.

The baby's maternal grandmother was on the periphery - not being allowed into the inner circle since they had been told about the words, like so many darts aimed at eyes, exchanged between her and the baby's parents an hour before ... "I change my mind. I wouldn't miss the little bastard getting into what your dear with-his-fly-always-open husband calls the safety zone!" the old lady said squirming into her blackest of black dresses.

Her son-in-law was in the bathroom nearly choking to death while hearing her piercing voice as he attempted to gargle the salt and water.

"Listen - witch of all witches born in Malevento - he is not a bastard!" her daughter retaliated.

"Sure. Sure, we know that but what do you think our God is going to say when He or She finds out the bastard's godfather has two wives? One here and the other with two little daughters in the old country - wearing a white widow's white dress!"

The son-in-law clutched tightly onto the sink with both hands. He had never thought of that - so anxious he had been to get the nine month old Gianni baptized! Could one's mortal sin hover over an innocent one? Was there no justice in this world ever since the Dark Ages had taken over the minds and hearts of people and was still persisting doing end runs around peoples' dreams while others were dying of hunger with no dreams to dream? the father thought as he hit himself in the head with closed fist - and then cursed himself as he whispered to the glass that a man of forty-ones years should have reasoned that that possibility might have existed. "That's not true!" he said giving himself a standing eight count after another barrage of hits to the head.

"Oh yeah? Go ask your fornicating Father Ferrari who just last week blessed those fascists he called crusaders in the Pope's army just before they got shot going down his Holy Mount Carmel church stairs! Go ahead - I dare you!"

The father's face drained to a lighter shade of pale. Would God hold it against his baby because that scoundrel of all scoundrels was a bigamist and was selected by him for being the most prosperous person in their neighborhood with his plumbing business growing by leaps and bounds with every flushing toilet from the Bronx Zoo to the Paradise Theater honoring him with the title of Mr. Big A Mist? Oh - Dante's hell - was that what people were saying, he wondered giving himself another mighty blow to the head. After a fifteen-second standing count, he began to reason: wasn't the Holy Water all about protection? Wasn't it to wash away any and all sins - including the dreaded evil eye that lurked among his wife's people; especially the old lady he named "Mamasu", which meant "her mother" and not Grandmother as he told his other four children, who he truly believed was the mother of all the unholy ghosts in the world?

"What about the f@&*#^% Holy Water?" he said no longer able to control the fear beginning to engulf him.

"What the f@&*#^% about it?" the old lady said having learned to talk in "the new world's" language to more forcefully get her point to hit home.

"Watch your language - the baby will hear you! And doesn't the Holy Water clean away the shadow of all sins on innocent souls?" he said thinking he was losing in this battle of words that was going on since he married the evil one's daughter.

"Who the f@&# says, c@$~?" she said aiming darts to his brain and also conjuring up pleasant thoughts of that comfort zone he often penetrated when jumping into the smiles of many women who sought him out.

"John the Baptist - Jesus Christ's almost brother-cousin!" he said.

"All right then, know-it-all - you want I should ask your brother-cousin-fly-always-opened-priest?"

"No! No! No, daughter of Satan! You're not even coming!" he said, slamming the bathroom door so hard that all the walls in the apartment began to shake and only for the pans and dishes falling was his sobbing covered and his words about the nasty evil-eyed one who was surly going to pollute the sacred Holy Water - if she were allowed to attend the sacred ceremony.

"No you're not coming in the name of The Father, The Son and The Holy Ghost!" he said clutching to a garlic clove. His sobs continued and could be heard as far away to the Jesuit college around Fordham Road where more prayers were being shouted - regarding a football game for their God to make their players penetrate their opponent's end zone ....


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