"Only A Paper Moon"
by Jerry Vilhotti

The whole family of Sanques, Apaches and Justis joined, like a knot in the stomach, that morning: the morning of Thanksforthegiving; also known as turkey day in honor of the horny founding father who truly believed in a somewhat democracy. If you say the word often enough people would believe it as something really true.

Papa watched his eldest grandson intently, ready to capture a throwing arm in mid-air or to use a mighty stare to paralyze the six-year-old boy's movements.

Papa's wife stayed in the kitchen as the large fist of people jabbed their way into the parlor as she put her two hands to her head while looking up to the ceiling.

Al, Tina of the Troy's husband, tried again to extend a timid handshake to her father, but once again Papa ignored it.

Ten-year-old Johnny reminded everyone of the high school football game.

"Yeah, that's right Al," Tommy Tom Tom said to Johnny.

"Gees, we almost forgot about that crap-head," Gus, Alice in Wonderland's husband said, still resenting the fact Alice had gone out with the Boston RedSox centerfielder before he became a major leaguer and also married a girl named Alice and then later would conquer fear in the grips of crazy.

Johnny's words angered Tina, and she said: "Hey, don't you have to do fucking something for Mama? Why don't you quit bugging us?"

Johnny was about to leave the parlor, but his sister Alice squeezed his arm to stay.

If it hadn't been for Alice, who had protected him from her siblings who believed he, the last-born, had stolen their father's love from them, Johnny might never have survived to see kindergarten.

Gus reached for Alice's hand and then abruptly took it off Johnny's arm as he gave the very same look he gave her the day he said: "Why does the damn kid keep coming upstairs to our room?"

"He's my kid-brother. What's wrong with that?" she answered, sensing the impotent rage beneath his words.

"Lock him out of the room tomorrow. Hear me?" he said, shaking his fist at her as he wondered to himself if the fetus inside her wasn't the kid's creation.

The very next morning after his parents and Gus left for work, Johnny went upstairs. The door was locked but, having seen it done in a movie when sparrows died above John Garfield's head, he pushed the key out with a small nail and then pulled it out as it lay on the rug and within a few seconds he was lying beside safe Alice to sleep for about an hour before he had to go off to school where the Irish and English teachers, forbidden to marry so staying in a cheap labor status, changed his first name to remind themselves that their "race" was better than the ones who were trying to take away their jobs and they constantly lied about the inferiors race having famous sculptors, painters and explorers a Chris guy who helped subjugate a people that brought food to colonists in order to survive a winter. Every time Gus would find them alone he would probe both of them with limp questions as to what they were doing. It was times like these that Johnny wondered if Gus, who often told everyone he had single-handily beaten the Japanese navy, was really in America's Navy ....

"What time is the game, Guxy?" Tom asked his kid-brother Johnny.

"Game starts at ten," Johnny told him.

Leny One n, Johnny's oldest brother, asked him to rub his back, but Johnny suddenly remembered he had something to do for their mother, recalling the room he was forced to sleep in where he dreamed of frightened children with eyes wide open looking for hiding places, since his mother did not want to make two beds before she went to work in in a garment factory that would go go South to a non-union people who believed owners of factories had their interest at first heart, where Leny would try to penetrate between his ass cheeks, though never would since Johnny would remain so tense, Leny could not get into his being.

"I'll give you half a buck, Tom," Leny said to Johnny.

Tina yelled for her son Larry to come and do his uncle's back and took the half dollar from Leny's fist and told everyone it was going into the kid's piggy bank and Al's wink made those who saw the gesture laugh, knowing Tina shared nothing with no one. Tina as a thirteen-year-old would charge the old timers a nickel to peek at her thing and younger guys like Jake the raging bull, John Sure Sure Garfield, Tami who lost to the great Joe Louis in the house that Ruth Built twenty-five cent to do a minute in her "comfort zone".

In the kitchen, Johnny was asked by his mother to go to the store for her to get soft bread that those with weak teeth would like better than her crust al dente bread and when he returned in ten minutes the house was quiet.

"Where is everybody?" he asked.

"You see them? They talk dirty about movies they see but can't understand" she said, peering into the stove at the browning turkey, still having to do up the lasagna with meats in gravy not sauce that chefs were calling it even though juices of meats were part of all the red.

"They left for the game?"

"They left that's all I know for sure," she said; relieved they were all gone.

"Why didn't they wait for me?"

"I guess they forgot. They forget their own names and others around them. I thought you were with them," she said looking for something she couldn't remember.

"Where's Papa?"

"He said he was going to his brother Buffo's for a short visit and drink lots of wine."

Johnny walked into the parlor and put the radio on as he fought back tears. He sat before the tall radio and listened to the announcers saying how the ballplayers - making them become hockey players - had to change to sneakers as the ice was making their metal cleats become like ice skates. Johnny listened to all their monotone words that described the intense action between the two rivals - The Wildcats and Bulldogs - and when the game ended, he left to go outside.

He slipped on patches of ice as he caught every imaginary pass he threw to himself. Once he fell and lay in the cold for many minutes. After getting up he threw himself a high long pass that he circled for several seconds before bringing it into his arms. After catching all the passes and scoring all the touchdowns for his team and the other one too, he began walking back to the place where the sumptuous meal his mother had labored for hours would be waiting.

Everyone " something better came up crowd" were already sitting. Johnny went by them, washed up and then took the empty chair his father had waiting for him. He would just eat and then go and catch more make believe footballs like paper moons in a lighted sky.

END 4-4-08

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