Nick heard a knock on his door, followed by his mom’s voice, “Nick, time to get up. It’s Tuesday. Dad made a run to Rosen’s and bought fresh bagels.”
“Okay, Mom, I’ll be down in 15 minutes,” said Nick. He looked at his iPhone, it was 6:15 a.m. Usually his mom didn’t get him up until 6:30. It didn’t matter, he wasn’t sleeping anyway. He decided he would make an appointment to talk with his school counselor about college and what colleges might offer him a full scholarship. He remembered his dad telling him one, “You miss one hundred percent of the shots you don’t take.”
Nick showered, shaved what little he had to shave, dressed, and went downstairs. His dad was sitting at the table reading the morning newspaper. His mom was making lunches for Laura and Stella.
Nick said, “Good morning, Dad and gave him a kiss on the cheek and hug.” He walked around the table and gave his mom a kiss on the cheek and hug, “Good morning, Mom.”
His mom and dad both returned the greeting. Nick looked over at his dad, “How did the Celtics do last night? Did they win?”
His dad put the paper down, he said, “They won in overtime. It was a thriller. I stayed up late to watch it. Johnson made a jump shot right before the buzzer and Celtics won 101 to 100.”
“I wish I saw it,” said Nick taking a plain bagel and the cream cheese.
Nick’s dad said, “We got you up a bit early for a reason, Nick.”
Nick stopped spreading the cream cheese on his bagel and said, “What’s wrong? Is gramma okay?”
Nick was referring to his mom’s mother. She was close to Nick. She was the only grandparent left for Nick and his sisters. The rest of his grandparents had died.
Nick’s dad used the Italian expression for grandmother and said, “Nonna’s okay. She went to the doctor yesterday and got a good report. Your mom and I were both happy with the news.”
“Well? What’s wrong? Why did you get me up early?” Said Nick, his voice as tight as a violin string.
Nick’s dad set aside the sports’ page and picked up the first section of the newspaper. He opened it up and turned through the pages. He folded the newspaper in half and handed it to Nick. He said, “It’s not good news, Nick. Johnny’s dead.”
Nick let out a gasp, then said, “No!” He took the newspaper from his dad, and on page four of the newspapers the obituaries were listed. Nick read the small headline,
Giovanni Luigi Balboni Dies at 87.
Below the headlines was the story.
Giovanni Luigi Balboni was found dead in his one room apartment after police were called by his sister, Josephine. The police believe Mr. Balboni died of natural causes, no foul play is suspected. Mr. Balboni was know as Johnny Balboni. John being the English equivalent of Giovanni. Mr. Balboni had a masters degree from MIT and worked at MIT for nearly 30 years until he was involved in a serious car accident. According to a New York Times article when Mr. Balboni was at the height of his career, the Times said, “Mr. Balboni is among the five top innovative scientists in the world. When he finishes his career, he may be remembered as the Italian Einstein. After Mr. Balboni’s tragic accident he stopped working and never fulfilled his promise. He is survived by one sister, Josephine. He will be buried Wednesday after a funeral mass at 10 a.m. at Saint Anthony’s Catholic Church on Center Street. Burial will be in the Catholic Cemetary.
Nick wiped his eyes with the back of his hands. His mom handed him a Kleenex. “Thanks, Mom. Can I go to the funeral?” He said.
“The three of us will go together. I’ll call the school and have you dismissed for the funeral at nine-thirty,” said his dad.
“Thanks, Dad. I really liked Johnny. He was always nice to me for as long as I remember. I never thought of him the way other people did. I only thought of him as Johnny. I only wish I got to know him the way I know him now earlier in my life,” said Nick.
“People look at the externals and never try to discover what is underneath what they see. Some of the people with the best clothes, biggest houses, and more money than they can use are people I wouldn’t want as friends. I never heard Johnny say a mean word toward anyone. Even when people insulted him, he never returned the insult, he went on his way,” said Nick’s dad.
“Too bad more people are not like Johnny,” said Nick.
“Nick, you’ve not eaten your bagel. I know it’s tough news this morning, but you have school. You’ll need your energy for your classes,” said Nick’s mom.
“I know, Mom. Can I wrap it up and eat it at school when I feel a bit better?” Asked Nick.
“Okay, but drink your orange juice, you’ll make me feel better,” said Nick’s mom.
Nick went to school and went through the motions. He was happy no teacher called on him. At lunch he sat by himself at a far corner of the school lunch room. He took his bagel out of his backpack, unwrapped it and placed it on the table in front of him. He held it in his right hand stared out the window toward the street.
“Can I sit with you, Nick?” Said a female voice.
Nick looked up and saw Mary Genovese. Mary was a senior, like Nick. She was smart, but very quiet, some would say shy. She always wore her dark brown hair in a ponytail and didn’t wear makeup, Nick always thought of her as cute. He said, “Sure, Mary. I’m afraid I won’t be much company.”
Mary smiled, she placed her plate with a bean and cheese tortilla on the table alongside her bottle of water. “I watched you in class today. You didn’t seem like yourself. It’s not that I stare at you or anything like that. You were different today. You usually raise your hand. Today, you didn’t. Most of the time you seemed to be in a different world. Want to talk about it?”
Nick put his bagel on top of his wrapper and said, “Johnny Balboni died. I really liked him. He was helping me with calculus. He didn’t seem sick when we met. He seemed just, I don’t know, just like Johnny.”
Mary said, “I heard. I liked Johnny. He’d did our lawn. Mom always invited him in for lunch after he cut the grass. He was such a gentleman.”
“I’m going to the funeral mass tomorrow with my mom and dad. It’s the least I can do,” said Nick.
“Can I go with you? My mom and dad are working and can’t go. But they wouldn’t mind if I went,” said Mary.
“I’d like that, said Nick.
A chapter closes in Nick’s life and another opens. Where will it lead?