Vinnie’s mom slowly sips her coffee while Vinnie plays with his breakfast. She watches him swirl peanut butter on one half and blackberry jelly on the other half of a toasted everything bagel. He carefully put a hand around each half and counted aloud to three and slammed the two halves together as if he were playing symbols in a symphony. Peanut butter squirted out the center hole of one half of the bagel through the fingers of his left hand. Blackberry jelly squirted out through the hole in the other half of the bagel and through the fingers of his right hand. Vinnie’s mom turns away and stifles the desire to say something.
A moment later she turns back toward Vinnie and watches him stick his tongue into the center hole of the half bagel filled with blackberry jelly. She notices his hands, they’re perfectly clean. She glances at the paper napkin, it too is clean. She can’t help herself, “Vinnie, how did you get your hands so clean?”
Vinnie looks up at her, a round dark blackberry jam circle surrounds his mouth and touches the tip of his nose. He says, “Dexter helped me.”
“Did Dexter lick your hands clean?” says Vinnie’s mom, alarm in her voice.
“Un huh,” says Vinnie now paying attention to the hole on the other side of the bagel. He sticks his forefinger into the peanut butter squirting out of the bagel center. He brings his forefinger to his mouth and licks it off. When he finishes licking his finger, he says, “Dexter taught me how to lick peanut butter like a beagle.”
Vinnie’s mom tries to decide if she should tell Vinnie to wash his hands, throw the bagel away and start over, or if she should silently pray Vinnie won’t become infected by some unknown canine disease. She decides to pray.Vinnie’s mom wonders if all 8 year old boys are this way. She tells herself Vinnie will be 9 in a few months and it has to get better.
Vinnie interrupts his mom’s thoughts, “Mom, the plays all done. Joey, and Larry, and Sara are going to come over at ten to practice. I want to put the play on for the neighbors and charge admission. Do you think five dollars a ticket is too cheap?”
Vinnie’s mom wonders where Vinnie gets these ideas. Certainly not from her side of the family, she reasons. She says, “I think you should do the play first for Dad and me. That’s what they do in New York.”
Vinnie gives his mom a quizzical look.
“What?” says his mom.
“I never saw a play come here for you and Dad to watch before everyone else sees it, Mom.”
Vinnie’s mom tries to wrap her head around Vinnie’s reasoning. A light flickers in her mind, “I get it. I meant you and your friends should practice the play in front of Dad and me before you try it in front of the neighbors. What’s is your play all about?”
“Good idea, Mom. Can Dad come home early to watch us because everybody has to go home for dinner?”
“Dad will be home at the regular time. Ask your friends to come over after dinner, I’ll make a special treat for all of you after you perform the play.”
“I guess Dad has to help one of the mob guys get off, huh, Mom? No thanks on the treat, Mom. Nobody likes your special treats. They might come if you take us out for ice cream.”
“Vinnie, how many times have I told you Dad does not work for the mob? And, what’s wrong with carrot and celery sticks and yogurt dip for a special treat? Tomorrow is Saturday, how about doing the play for Dad and me tomorrow afternoon?”
Vinnie is dragging his right forefinger on his plate trying to pick up any traces of peanut butter or jelly. He looks up at his mom. “I think you told me about sixteen times, Mom. Does Uncle Mike belong to the mob?”
While Vinnie’s mom is trying to decide where to go with this conversation without creating a scene, Vinnie interrupts her thoughts, “Mom, don’t tell Dad but we’re doing a court room scene. I’m going to be the judge. Joey is going to be the DA. Larry is going to be a cop. Sara is going to be defense lawyer. And, Rupert is going to play the defendant. It’s going to be the best player ever.”
Vinnie’s mom says, “Who is Rupert playing?”
Vinnie blurts, “The meanest, worse, most rotten person ever. Gotta go work on a few new ideas.”
Vinnie’s mom watches Vinnie run out of the kitchen area and down the hallway toward his room. Dexter is close on his heels. She’s feels a sense of pride welling inside that turns into a ride on the world’s fastest and highest rollercoaster. She’s sure she knows the identity of the defendant.
“Even the longest book is read and was written one word at a time.”
“The noun conscience refers to a state of awareness or a sense that one’s actions or intentions are either morally right or wrong, along with a feeling of obligation to do the right thing. . . . Conscious, on the other hand, is an adjective that indicates that a person is awake and alert and able to understand what is happening around them, such as a patient who becomes fully conscious after being administered anesthesia.”
To speak ill of the world
But fortunately or unfortunately
Everybody has that courage.
To love the world
As one’s own,
Unfortunately, most of us are wanting
In that courage.
The courage of the heart,
The courage of the soul
We badly need,
And not the courage
Of the unruly,