It’s All About Family

Chapter 9

For the next two days, Nick left school and made his way to the alley. Each day, Johnny Balboni waited for him, sitting on cardboard, eating an apple, and offering one to Nick. Johnny worked with Nick on his calculus. Nick left Johnny feeling more and more confident about how he might score on the SATs.  Nick took the SATs on Thursday.

On the night before Nick took the SATs, Nick’s dad told the family he got a call from the Recreation Department and he didn’t get the job. They told him, he was their second choice, but they chose someone who had more experience in that kind of work.

Nick’s spirits dropped. He hoped with his dad getting the job, he could quit working at Martini’s Deli and concentrate on school and running track in the spring. Both seemed nearly impossible to him. He was quiet during the meal. After dinner, he helped clear the table and returned to his bedroom to study for the SATs. After an hour, his dad knocked on his door. When his dad came into the room, he told Nick not to let his bad news bother him. His dad said he was sure something good would turn up. Nick smiled and half heartedly told his dad he believed him. Between his dad’s bad news and his anxiety about the test, Nick didn’t fall to sleep until nearly 3 in morning. His mom woke him up at six. By seven-thirty he had his backpack and was off to school. The SATs were at nine.

Nick felt pretty good after taking the SATs, but he knew it would take time to receive his scores, between two and three weeks. He worked on the weekends at Martini’s. He was now putting in more hours. He worked from four in the afternoon until ten at night on Friday, Saturday, and Sundays. Nick spent the rest of his free time studying.

It was Monday, Christmas was a week away. Nick walked down the alley as he did every day after school. He hoped to see Johnny. Nick hadn’t seen Johnny Balboni in two weeks. He missed him. But it was Johnny’s way to drift to different parts of the town. Nick wanted to thank him for helping him. Nick walked into his house. His mom was baking Christmas cookies, there were two plates filled with cookies, cooling on the table.

Nick said, “Hi mom.” Then he grabbed a cookie.

His mom, whose back was turned toward Nick, was peeking in the oven, said, “Hi Nick, only one cookie, don’t spoil your appetite.”

“Maybe I took two,” said Nick.

“No, it was only one. How was school?” His mom asked.

“It was okay.”

“Any news on the SATs?” Asked his mom.

“Not yet. They’ll send me an email when I can go online and look at my scores. Where’s dad, said Nick.

“He’s out. He’ll be back for dinner,” said his mom said.

Nick went into his room, he put his backpack on his bed, pulled out his laptop and took it to his desk. He opened his laptop, typed in his password that was the name of his favorite music group plus his birth year. He saw the number 4 on his email icon. He opened his email app and scanned through the unopened emails. There was the email from the College Board informing him his SAT scores were available online. There was a link to take Nick to the SAT site where he could find his scores.

Nick’s heart raced. He knew the lowest score was 400 and a perfect score on the combined exams was 1600. He also knew if he scored 1500 or higher, he was home free. He’d get a scholarship to any university in the country. He clicked on the link, filled in the identification information on the website, and saw his scores. His score for evidenced based reading and writing was 590. His math score was 701. He had a combined total of 1291. He knew this was well above the average scores of around a 1000, he wasn’t sure it was good enough to get him a full scholarship to college. His parents were adamant, he was not to take any loans to go to college and have a big bill when he finished.

Nick closed the computer and stared at the ceiling. He fell asleep. He only woke when his dad shook him, “Nick? Nick? Wake up.”

Nick opened his eyes, “I must have been exhausted. Thanks, dad.” Nick rubbed his eyes and sat up,

“Dinners ready. Freshen up. I’ll see you at the table,” said his dad giving Nick’s hair a tussle.

Laura said grace. Nick’s mom made a large lasagna. A picture of her lasagna covered with her homemade sauce and mozzarella cheese was worth a thousand words. She served Nick’s dad first with a generous piece. Then she went by age, Nick, followed by Laura, and then Stella. Nicks mom served herself last. No one ate until everyone was served.

Nick took a bite and said, “I got my SAT scores. They were terrible.”

“Terrible? What’s terrible? What’d you get?” Asked his dad.

“On the evidenced based reading and writing I got a 590 and on math I got a 701,” said Nick dejectedly.

“You’re kidding me, right? Eight hundred is perfect and you got a 701 in math? That’s awesome. Your total score was right near 1300, right?” Said his dad.

“I guess it’s good, but not good enough to be sure I’d get a free ride to any college,” said Nick.

“Don’t quit. Isn’t that what Johnny Balboni told you?” Said his dad.

“Yah. I guess. If I run track in the spring, maybe I’ll run good enough in the 800 meters to earn a track scholarship,” said Nick taking another bit of his lasagna.

Nick’s dad ignored Nick’s little pity party and said, “I have some news. I got the job at the Recreation Department. The person they wanted, turned it down. I’m okay with being their second choice. I’ll prove to them, I should have been their first choice. I start right after Christmas.”

Nick and his sister shouted and got up and went to their dad and hugged him. Nick’s mom, made the sign of the cross, thanked God, and cried.

When they sat back down, Nick’s dad said, “You don’t mind working for a few more weeks until I start getting paid, do you Nick?”

Nick said, “We’re family dad. Of course not.”

Will Nick get a scholarship to college? Will he have a chance to thank Johnny Balboni for helping him with his math?

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What is Life Asking of You?

My life changed when I read Dr. Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search For Meaning for the first time. Dr. Frankl’s work inspired my dissertation and changed how I viewed life. When my wife died, I turned to Frankl’s work and sought to find meaning in my personal tragedy. I found a path when I reread his book and focused on his words, “What is life asking of you?” I knew I had to answer the question if i was to move on. It is a question I pose to you, “What is life asking of you?”

Quote for Today – December 15, 2017

You’ve got to learn your instrument. Then, you practice, practice, practice. And then, when you finally get up there on the bandstand, forget all that and just wail.  ~ Charlie Parker

John Updike’s Advice For Writers

Having talent is a terrific gift. Having the courage to put forth the effort to develop one’s innate talent is uncommon. It defines who we are and what we will become. The famous author John Updike offers advice for the young writer. His advice offers valuable wisdom for all our life’s pursuits.


<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/70819405″>John Updike's advice to young writers</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/brainpicker”>Maria Popova</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

Be True To Yourself

Who are you? When we discover the who we are, everything changes. We suddenly become the person we are supposed to become. We have a new authenticity. Legendary singer, Ray Charles, gives advice to young singers about being true to themselves. His advice applies to all people in all walks of life. Reclaim your authentic self. Enjoy

Quote for Today – December 14, 2017

Kindness and compassion toward all living things is the mark of a civilized society. – Cesar Chavez

Quote for Today – December 13, 2017

I’m not strange, weird, off, nor crazy, my reality is just different from yours. – Lewis Carroll

He’s No Bum – He’s A Human Being

Chapter 6

Mr. Durlo, the calculus teacher, used his extended pointer and pointed to the screen. “Any questions on how we arrived at this answer? Nick, you look like you’re someplace else. Do you understand the thinking we used to get this answer?”

Nick knew Mr. Durlo was right. His mind was on his dad. It was on Johnny Balboni. It was on the SATs that he’d take on Thursday. It was on everything but this class.

“I understand, Mr. Durlo,” said Nick.

Nick knew he didn’t understand, but didn’t want to embarrass himself. In one more minute the bell would ring to end class. It would be time for lunch. He was going to sit with Cara and ask her to go over the calculus problem with him. He glanced at her, but she didn’t glance back.

The bell rang, Nick stood up and walked to the front of the class and waited for Clara. The class slowly emptied. Clara remained at her desk. When Mr. Durlo and all the students were out of the room except for she and Nick, Clara said, “We need to talk, Nick.”

Clara pointed to a desk next to her. Nick’s stomach hurt. He knew Clara and knew her voice. Her voice this time was filled with seriousness. Nick had a feeling if this were a movie it was not going to have a happy ending. Nick sat at the desk in row next to Clara. He moved his desk so he faced her. He said, “Want to go to lunch? I could use some help on my calculus.”

“Yes, I want to go to lunch. But I am not going with you, Nick. I like you. I really like you. But I am going to end our relationship.”

“Why? What did I do?” Asked Nick.

“It’s not what you did. You didn’t do anything to hurt me. It’s just that with you working on the weekends we’ll never have time to see each other. I want more of a life and it’s not going to happen with you.”

“It’ll only be for a short time. As soon as my dad gets a job, I’ll be able to quit. We can see each other at lunch. We can get together on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. Want to give it a chance?” Nick didn’t want to get upset. Each time he felt his anger rising, he fought to control it.

“There’s more Nick. You don’t know it, but everyone is laughing and you and your father for helping the town bum out. He’s disgusting. You’re so much better than him. If you promise not to go near him, I’ll give it a try for a couple of weeks and see how it goes with us. Is it a deal?” Asked Cara.

Nick turned his head and stared at the Calculus problem on the screen. He thought, that is how my life looks, it’s one big problem after another. He made a deep sigh and looked at Cara, and said, “Johnny Balboni is no bum. He’s a human like the rest of us. If you talk to him, you’ll find out what a decent guy he is. I won’t stop talking to him or helping him out where I can.”

Cara took hold of her purse, she stood up and said, “Have a nice life, Nick. I’m not part of it and don’t try to sit with me at lunch.”

Nick watched Cara leave. He sat and thought about it. Everything happening to me is because of Johnny Balboni. And, Johnny doesn’t even know anything about it. Nick stayed in the empty classroom staring at the calculus problem. Twice he walked up to the screen and studied the problem more closely. He was missing something, he couldn’t figure out what it was. He snapped a photo of the problem with his iPhone to study later.

Nick went through his advanced chemistry class and his Spanish IV class in a daze. He couldn’t concentrate. In the space of a couple of days he lost his best friend, Buttons, his girlfriend Clara and any hope he had for scoring well on the SATs. After his last class, he left school and began walking home. He couldn’t remember walking home without Buttons. A first time for everything he thought.

When he got to the center of town, he decided to take a short cut through the alley behind the row of stores. He wouldn’t meet anyone in the alley, he didn’t feel like talking. He wasn’t quite sure how he felt. He was angry. He was sad. He was scared. And, he wasn’t going to tell anyone.

Nick was nearing the end of the alley when he saw an empty bottle. He bent over, picked it up and threw it against the back wall of a building. The glass bottle exploded against the wall and shattered into a thousand pieces.

Breaking the bottle didn’t help Nick. He still felt lousy. He kicked at the ground and started walking.

“Hey, Nick. Hey, Nick. What you do that for, break a bottle worth a five cents?” Said Johnny Balboni.

Nick stopped and looked for Johnny. It took him a minute before he found him. Johnny was sitting next to a large empty box, eating a sandwich and sipping from a bottle of water.

Before Nick could say anything, Johnny said, “Come over here and keep me company while I eat.”

Why does Johnny want Nick to sit with him? Will Nick’s string of bad luck stop? What else can go wrong for Nick

Ignite Your Writing Greatness

If you’re a blogger, you’re a writer. I’m always searching for tips on how to improve my writing. Here’s a short YouTube video with five tips for writers drawn from the habits of great writers. Who knows, perhaps one of these tips will ignite your writing greatness – here’s hoping it does.