by Jerry Vilhotti

This weird compulsion of Nutsey to scream would get Johnny expelled for two weeks in his senior year at Commercial when Ambrose the vice-principal entered the history class - in which Johnny would meet his future bride blue-green eyed Linda Ann at the June class picnic and marry five months after they graduated - and pointed to the ruggedly handsome Johnny saying: "OK, out! You're expelled from my school, Johnny Sanque!"

Johnny asked: "Why for?"

The answer given was: "Because your friend Harridan is on the third floor screaming weeeeeeooooo like that niggero singer James Brown!"

Burywater had a tendency to give out nicknames that cast aspersions like if one were Black his handle would become "Old Black Joe" and if one were American-Italian he would inevitably be called "wop", "spaghetti bender", "meatball", dirty dago" ... and so on for all the rest of the ethnic and racial groups that made up the numbers of the one hundred thousand people who made up the population of the small city situated by a polluted river that was one a beautiful river used by Indians before they were massacred.

The history teacher Mr. Percy told all his colleagues later that was the first time in his thirty years of teaching he had ever seen something like that done by an administrator.

Mr. Percy had been the school's football coach. Eight years before, he had to cut Johnny's older brother Tom due to one of his legs being half eaten by polio. Mr. Percy would never forget the crippled kid's moxie, and Johnny many years in the future would tell Tom of this hoping to prevent his dying. It would not work. His closest sibling, Tommy Tom Tom, born in the same decade as he would die from the polio that would revisit him in the autumn of his life.

Johnny nodded, almost doing the Burywater expression of holding his mouth opened wide while deep furrows spread across his forehead; instead, he left, almost happy for the two weeks of vacation. His older Alice in Wonderland would come to plead for him as she had many times before - keeping it a secret from their mother who would hit her offspring in front of the administrators who would nod approvingly, but this time Alice would not go to Mister Ambrose. She would go see the compassionate principal Mister Moran, who had never forgotten what was done to his people by haters and exploiters and was able to get her kid-brother back into school after only a few days.

Johnny knew he would eventually get used to these people living in a town that would have a river overflowing their heads every ten years or so. He knew. He knew.

Within three years, he and Linda Ann would be off to New York City, where Johnny would get two degrees, as rock and roll blared from their car radio as Burywater was slowing falling out of sight in the rear view mirror.

END 9-12-07

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