Chapter Nine ~ Digging Up Dirt
Joe stood up, walked to refrigerator, opened it, pulled out a bottle of beer, opened the bottle, and carried it back to his gramma. He said, “Gramma, this is your third beer. You sure you can handle it. You’re not a big woman. I don’t think you weigh more than a hundred ten pounds and you’re no more than five feet two inches tall.”
Teresa took a long sip of her beer then set it on the coffee table in front of her. She said, “Beer don’t bother me.What bother’s me is water. Water puts the weight on you. You don’t believe me? Go weigh yourself then drink a big glass of water, then weigh yourself again, you gonna gain weight. Besides, they put so many chemicals in water to make it clean you might as well be drinking laundry detergent.”
Joe shrugged and decided not to get into a debate on how many calories are in a glass of water. Instead he said, “I never heard of Joe Ritchie or any family with that last name.
There were no Ritchie’s living near us. I didn’t go to school with any. At least I don’t remember any families near us.”
Teresa looked at Joe and said, “You know why there was no Ritchie’s living near us? You want me to tell you why?”
“Yes,” said Joe. He wanted to keep the conversation moving.
“That’s because the Ritchie’s are no good riffraff. Every one of them. They not the scum of the Earth, they lower than the scum of the Earth.”
“How do you know this, Gramma?” ask Joe trying to visualize what Teresa said.
“I tell you how I know. I know it because anybody who raise a son like Joe Ritchie can’t be any good and they got to be lower than scum. That’s how I know.”
Joe kept quiet. He took a small sip of his beer so he didn’t have to answer.
Teresa continued. Joe Ritchie he’s four years older than Annette. He quit going to Ohio State when he was a junior so he could start his own band. He got this stupid idea he can sing and play guitar. He got two other nobodies to quit with him and they start a group. He thinks he’s gonna make it big.”
Joe interrupted Teresa, “Did mom know him when he quit going to OSU?”
Teresa waved her hand, “No, she didn’t know him them. Don’t interrupt me. They start a group and call it Joe and the Flamingos. What kind of name is that? Nobody ever saw a flamingo around here. They start playing at some beer joints. Annette, she’s underage, but they go to this beer joint I think it was called The Crazy Cat but it’s closed. They don’t check the ID of the woman if they are pretty and Annette, she knock any man’s eyes out of his head. She got this dark, curly hair. She’s got these dark brown eyes. Her skin is a bit darker like yours and mine. I’m from southern Italy, not like the snobs from northern Italy. She’s got the face and body that make a man’s heart stop cold when he looks at her. You get your looks from her. Believe me, Joe Ritchie his face can’t make the cover of a dog magazine.”
Joe said, “She fell for Joe Ritchie, a college dropout? I never heard of Joe and the Flamingos.”
“Ah, you think I’m surprised you never heard of a has been, never was been? But, Annette fell for him like a ton of bricks fall right on top of her. She stop paying attention to her studies, she starts being Joe and the Flamingos groupie. When she come home we fight all the time. I tell her Joe Ritchie is a no good bum who not going to do anything with his life. Annette? She’s listening to her heart instead of me. I’m going embarrass you now, but you can’t embarrass the dead, so it’s okay if I say it. Annette dropped out of college and starts living with this guy. I beg her to use protection. She tells me not to worry. You ever know a mama not to worry, of course not. Six months later, Annette tells me she got a loaf of bread in the oven. You know what I mean? She was pregnant with you if you’re brain’s not so good.”
“What did Joe Ritchie say?” asked Joe.
“How do I know? He never come by. Me and Patrice never see him. Annette tells me the Flamingos are on the road and he’ll be back and they gonna move together to Hollywood when he makes it big. Then they talk about getting married. She ask me if she can stay in her room until Joe Ritchie comes back to get her. What I am going to say? Of course, she can stay in her room. You know what happened to the Flamingos? I tell you what happened to them. They flew the coop. They never came back. All she get is a few letters from Joe Wright. Joe Wright, huh! I shoulda named him Joe Wrong. But his real name is Joe Ritchie. Now you know the whole story. What you gonna do with it?”
“I’m going to find Joe Ritchie. I don’t know what I’ll do. I’m find him.”
“Joe, I warn you, you digging up dirt. You know what happens when you dig up dirt you should leave in the garden?”
“No, Gramma, I don’t have any idea.”
“You gonna end up tracking the dirt in your house and you gonna be sorry.”