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

Advertisements

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.

Forget About Being Friends

Chapter 5

Nick stood behind the counter at Martini’s Deli cutting onions into small pieces. He never wanted to look at another onion. His eyes watered and tears rolled down his cheeks. He still had twenty more onions to go. When he finished cutting the onions, he’d start cutting the green peppers, then the jalapeno peppers, then the habanero peppers.

He looked up at the wall clock, it was eight-thirty. Here he was alone, his girlfriend Cara was with her parents at her nonna’s house in Providence. He wouldn’t see Cara until he went to school on Monday. Nick made a deep sigh and kept on cutting onions.

The door opened, “Hey Nick, how’s it going?” said Buttons.

“It’s going okay,” said Nick.

Buttons took a seat on stool at the counter. “A bunch of us are going to the ten o’clock movie. Can you make it?” said Buttons.

“No. Tino will come by at ten and then I’ll have to clean up. I’ll be lucky to get out by eleven,” said Nick.

“What are friends for, Nick? I’ll hang out with you. After Tino leaves, I’ll help out and all we’ll miss is the coming attractions,” said Buttons.

“You can’t hang out without buying a sub. I’d get fired. I can’t afford to get fired,” said Nick.

“Make me a sub. What’s Tino to know. He’ll think I paid for it,” said Buttons.

Nick shook his head, “Buttons, I can’t do that, even for a friend. You know that.”
“Why not? Who’s it going to hurt. It’d be stealing,” said Nick.

Buttons wasn’t about to give up, “Let me put it this way. Suppose a starving person came in and asked you for a sub, would you give it to him?”

Nick put the knife down and leaned over the counter, “Buttons, I can’t sit and talk with you. You have to order or leave. It’s the way it has to be.”

“Some friend you are. Forget it,” said a suddenly angry Buttons. He walked to the door, then turned back to Nick. “If you can’t do me a small favor, forget about me being your friend. I’ll find another friend.”

Nick shrugged and watched Buttons leave. Buttons got into his car and drove off without waving at Nick.

Five minutes after Buttons left, a worker from the plant where his dad was laid off came into the deli. Nick knew him, it was Carl Pozzi. Nick said, “What can I do for you, Carl?”

Carl nodded, but didn’t say anything, he looked at the sub menu on the wall. Carl said, “It’s a tough decision. Maybe I want the pepperoni, provolone cheese, and hot peppers.”

“That’s a good choice,” said Nick.

“I didn’t say that was what I wanted. Maybe I’ll go with the friend eggplant, roasted peppers and mozzarella.”

Nick didn’t say anything. He waited.

“Okay, I made my decision. I’ll go with the veal parmesan with hot peppers and mozzarella.”

“Have it for you in a minute, Carl. Anything you want to drink to go with it?” said Nick.

“No, I’ll take it to go. Too bad about your dad. He would have been okay if he knew enough to keep his mouth shut, and not act stupid,” said Carl.

Nick’s back was turned to Carl as he made Carl’s sandwich. He stopped making the sandwich and turned around, “What do you mean?” Nick said.

“Your dad’s stupid. It happened last Friday. When our shift finished, the company put on a Christmas spread for us. There were sandwiches, cookies, cake, and coffee. It didn’t last long, maybe an hour. Your dad got a call on his cell, he stepped outside for a minute to take the call. I was looking out the window and saw him wave to the town bum, Johnny Balboni. Balboni’s fishing through the trash cans. Your dad finished his call and waved Balboni over. He said something to him. Balboni nodded. Your dad came in and picked up two sandwiches, a couple of cookies and cup of coffee and took it outside and gave it to the bum. I didn’t say nothing about it. But the supervisor saw him. He was angry. When your dad came back, the supervisor started hollering at him. Your dad turned and walked away. He didn’t care. You know what happened. He got laid off. It should have never happened, your dad had seniority.”

Nick was angry. Life was really unfair. You do something good and you get fired. It just wasn’t fair. At the same time, he felt a deep respect and pride for his father. His father didn’t mention it to the family. Nick made up his mind, he wouldn’t complain. He’d work hard to help support his family. If he had to go to college in town, he’d make the best of it.

 

Will Nick catch a break? Is the friendship between Nick and Buttons over? The Christmas story continues.

Trust Your Instincts

Don’t be afraid to follow your instincts. Trust them. One of my mentors gave me that advice early in my career and it made all the difference for me. Our instincts will tell us what we cannot yet see. Others may scoff at you and tell you you’re crazy. Go ahead and be one of the crazy ones and listen to the voice within. Dare to be different. Dick Forsbury did and revolutionized the high jump. Get inspired in the following 2 minute YouTube video. Trust your instincts. They’re usually right.

Quote for Today – December 11, 2017

For all that has been, Thank you. For all that is to come, Yes! – Dag Hammarskjold

A Worn Scarf – A Warm Smile

Chapter 4

Nick slipped on his dark hoodie. He walked out of the house without saying goodbye. He heard his mother call and say, “Wear your winter coat, it’s cold.”

Then he heard his father say, “Leave him alone. He’s got to work through the change in his plans. He’ll be okay.”

Nick thought, “No, I won’t be okay. I’ll never get the scholarship.”

He looked at the night sky and wondered if anybody really cared about him. He wondered if his parents even tried to understand him. He felt angry. He wanted scream at the top of his lungs, but suppressed the desire, he knew he’d be making trouble for himself. Five minutes later he was standing in front of Martini’s Deli. Tino was behind the counter waiting on a policeman.

Nick stood outside. He was cold, the night temperature dropped to near thirty and a brisk wind kicked in. Nick remembered hearing about a cold front coming down from Canada. His hands were cold, he blew on them. He started jumping up and down to stay warm. Then he heard a voice.

“Hey, Nicky. You cold. Take this and put it around your neck.”

Nick turned and saw Johnny Balboni handing him a wore scarf.

“Thanks Johnny. I can’t take it, it’s yours,” said Nick.

Johnny came a step closer, “No, you take it. I want you to have it. It’s my best one. But you stood up for me today. If I was thirty years younger, they wouldn’t have bothered me. But now, now is different. I’m not as strong as I used to be.”

Nick didn’t want the scarf, but he took it and wrapped it around his neck the way Johnny wanted him to wrap it.

“There, you feel better. I bet you not so cold now. Tell me the truth, you happy Johnny gave you his scarf?”

Nick did feel warmer. Okay, he wasn’t a fashion plate but the 18 degree wind chill didn’t feel quite as bad as it did a few minutes before. He looked at Johnny, still wearing his old fedora and giving him his broad smile showing mostly gums and few teeth. Nick said, “I feel much better, Johnny. I’ll drop it by your place tomorrow.”

“No. It’s yours Nick. I want you to have it. You know where I got this scarf. I’ll tell you. A long time ago, I had a girlfriend. I used to be good looking in those days. She gave me this scarf for Christmas. It was the best gift I ever had. I know she would want you to have it.”

Nick stared at Johnny. He couldn’t picture Johnny ever being good looking.

Johnny said, “I gotta go. See you around, Nick.”

Johnny picked up his black plastic trash bag, one-third filled with aluminum cans, tugged on the brim of his fedora and headed up the alley between Martini’s Deli and Eddie’s Barbershop. Nick was watching him when he heard the deli door open.

“You gonna stand out there all night. Your dad called and said you was on your way,” Tino Martini sounded more like a Marine drill sergeant than a deli owner.

Nick followed Tino into the deli. He took a quick glance for the policeman. Only Tino and he were in the deli. Nick surmised the policeman left while he was talking with Johnny.

Tino went behind the counter and Nick stood in front of the counter. Tino was a big guy. Not big in the way of a basketball player, but big in the way of looking like he could pick up a two-hundred pound bag of sand and toss it like it was filled with air. Tino’s arms were covered with black hair.

Tino wiped his hands on his apron, then he placed his hands, palm down on the counter and bent forward. He said, “I’m doing your dad a favor. I owe him, now we’re even. Don’t ask him about the favor. I also like what you did earlier today taking up of Johnny. He don’t hurt nobody. These are my rules. While you work here, you don’t play on your phone or your computer. I don’t care if there is nobody in here. I find out, you’re done. Understand?”

Nick nodded.

“Here’s another thing. You gonna work from two in the afternoon to ten at night on Saturday and Sunday. That’s when I normally close. I’ll show up to take the cash. You’re going to clean up and then leave. It will take about an hour. If you work out on the weekends, maybe I’ll give a few nights during the week.”

Nick nodded.

“You got any questions?”

“Okay if I start next weekend?”

“No. You start tomorrow. I’m going to take Janet out. We ain’t been to a movie in years.”

“Okay. Thanks for work, Mr. Martini,” said Nick. He didn’t mean it.

“Don’t mention it. Tell your father I said hello.”

“Okay.” Nick walked out of the deli. His heart felt as heavy as a ship’s anchor. Some Christmas he thought. He gave the scarf another wrap around his neck, stuck his hands in his jean’s pockets and headed toward home.

Just when Nick thought his day couldn’t get worse, it got worse.

What Takes Your Attention?

What we seek, we usually find. Psychologists tell us where we place our attention becomes our reality. If you and I could focus our attention on our dreams and block out as many distractions as possible, we have a chance of catching our dream. The power of attention is within us. We have to decide what is important in our lives and measure it against the distractions. Are we giving our distractions power over our dreams? Perhaps it is time to take control of our attention. Enjoy the following entertaining YouTube video on attention.

Life Is Tough

Chapter 3

Nick went around to the back of his home. It was one of the ground rules for Nick and his two younger sisters. Nick was six years older than Laura and eight years older than Stella. Laura was in middle school and Stella in elementary school.

Nick scuffed his shoes on the outdoor mat, another ground rule and opened the door. His mom stood in front of the stove working on dinner. Nick knew what he was having for dinner before he opened the door. It was Friday and Friday’s were always the same, the family was having bean soup. That’s what Nick called it. His mom and dad called it pasta fagioli.

“Hi mom,” Nick said taking off his backpack and setting it on a chair. He walked to the refrigerator, opened the door and stared into it.

“Don’t ruin your dinner, Nick. We’ll be eating when dad comes home from work. It’ll be another hour. Have an apple or orange. How was school?”

“It was okay,” said Nick reaching for a small to go box he knew contained two pieces of pizza.

Nick’s mom’s back was turned to Nick. She said, “If your trying to take the pizza, don’t. Dad wanted to eat it while he watched the Celtics play on TV.”

Nick didn’t know how his mother could always tell what he was doing, even when she wasn’t looking at him.

She said, “If you’re really hungry, on the top shelf, is a Tupperware bowl with three meatballs in it. Heat it up in the microwave for a couple of minutes. You know where you can find the bread.”

“Thanks, mom. I’m starving,” said Nick.

Nick made himself a meatball sandwich, put it on a plate, and said to his mom, “I’m going to my room to study.”

“Okay, but you need to relax a little, Nick. Give your brain a break. You have the whole weekend,” said his mom.

“The SATs are next week. I need to ace them to have real chance for a scholarship,” said Nick.

“You know you can always live and home at go to college in town. It’s as good as any other university,” said his mom, her back still turned to Nick.

Nick couldn’t count the times he’d been down this road. He knew he’d never win the argument. He said, “I know.” Then he walked out of the kitchen with his backpack over one shoulder, and the plate with his meatball sub in his left hand.

Nick sat on his bed. He placed the plate to his right, took his laptop out of his backpack and text his girlfriend, Cara. “Hi, want to study for the SATs with me tomorrow?”

Cara text right back, “Sorry, Nick. We’re all going to visit my nonna in Providence. We’re going to spend the night. How about Sunday night?”

Nick text back, “C U Then. Love U.”

An hour and a half later, there was a knock on his door, “Nick? Dinner’s ready,” said Laura.

“Okay, Laura. Tell mom and dad I’m on my way.”

Nick’s mom and dad sat at the ends of the table. Laura and Stella sat on one side and Nick on the other. Nick’s dad said, “Nick, it’s your turn to say grace.”

This was another family rule, no ate until the family said grace. The family joined hands. Nick said, “Lord, thank you this food and bringing us together to share it. Please bless the food and each of us. And, let me make a high score on the SATs.”

Each member of the family made the sign of cross. Nick’s dad looked at him, “Don’t worry about it, Nick. Do the best you can. You know you can always live here and go to college in town.”

“I know,” said Nick.

Nick’s mom ladled soup into each bowl. A platter of hard crust Italian bread was passed around as well as a small dish of parmesan. Nick’s mom asked the obligatory question, “What happened at school?” Nick and his sisters gave the obligatory answer, “Not much.” The meal was unusually quiet. Normally, Nick’s dad liked to talk about politics or sports, not tonight.

When the family finished the meal, Nick said, “May I be excused, I want to study?”

Nick’s dad said, “Stay for a minute, there’s something I want to tell the family. I already told your mom.”

Nick and his sisters looked at their dad. Their dad took a deep breath. He said, “Christmas is in three weeks.”

Laura and Stella nodded with great anticipation. Nick listened.

His dad continued, “It won’t be as great as other Christmas’s. I got laid off today. I wasn’t the only one. They cut two-hundred jobs. We’ll all have to tighten our belts until I can find work. Nick, if you don’t mind, I talked to Tino Martini. He likes you. It will be a big help. You can work Saturdays and Sundays and be on call for the week after school when he needs you.”

“It’s not fair, Dad. I have SATs, I going to train hard for the 800 meters. If I qualify for states, I have a chance at a scholarship.”

“Nick, life isn’t fair. Stuff happens over which we have no control. We have to pull together. Everything will work out the way it is supposed to work out,” said his dad.

Nick’s heart sank. “Okay, dad. I’ll see Tino tomorrow.”

“Could you go over now?” asked his dad.

Nick took a deep breath and nodded.

Are Nick’s dreams evaporating? What will his dad do?

Change the Perception – Change the Reality

When I worked with groups as a university professor, I collected data as a qualitative researcher. My colleagues and I often said of the people we worked with, “Perception is reality.” We frequently discovered that differing perceptions of the same event was the source of conflict. We knew if we could change the perception, we could change the reality. The following brief YouTube video shows a former magician demonstrating why we may see something that is not actual reality. Enjoy.