‘Mom, You Don’t Wash My Clothes, The Washing Machine Does.’

6

The school bus stops at the corner of Mulberry and State streets. It’s red light flashing, a stop sign sticks out from driver’s side, the driver opens the door and Vinnie jumps down the three steps from the bus and onto the sidewalk. He turns around and waves, and says, “Thanks for the great ride, Mrs. Walker and for the candy bar. You’re the best.”

Mrs. Walker has her hand on the handle that opens and shuts the bus door. She shakes her head and smiles at Vinnie, “Your mom must a saint, Vinnie.”

“My mom’s not a saint yet, Mrs. Walker, she’s still alive. I gotta go. My two best friends in the world are waiting for me,” says Vinnie taking off as if he were a fighter jet streaming down a runway down Mulberry toward home.

Mrs. Walker mumbles, “Dear Lord, bless Vinnie’s mom, she has her hands full with that boy.” She closes the bus door, turns off the flashing red lights and drives off down State Street. 

Vinnie’s mom stands on the porch holding Dexter’s leash. Dexter sees Vinnie racing down the sidewalk, he strains at the leash nearly pulling Vinnie’s mom off balance. Dexter begins yelping and his yelp soon turns into a howl. Vinnie’s mom says, “Dexter, please everyone is staring at us. Can’t you bark like a normal dog?”

Vinnie’s mom’s words only encourage Dexter, his howling quickly accelerates to a cross between a tornado siren and an ambulance approaching a red light. Vinnie crosses the lawn and slides into his mom’s favorite rosebush, “Was I safe or out, Mom?”

“Vincent, you’re going to kill the rosebush if you do that every day.”

“It’s not a rosebush, Mom. It’s second base. I got a jump on the pitcher and stole second. Was I safe?”

“Yes, Vinnie, you were safe.”

“How was my slide. I’ve been working on it?” asks Vinnie rising to his knees, then standing up.

“You’re almost ready for the big leagues. Do. you understand when you slide into the rosebush with your school pants on I have to wash them, their not fit to wear to school with all the grass stains and dirt on them,” says Vinnie’s mom.

“Mom, I’m not being wise, but the washing machine washes them and they fit perfect, they’re the right size,” says Vinnie. Vinnie continues, “Let Dexter go, Mom. I’m home buddy. It’s time for some fun.”

Vinnie’s mom releases Dexter’s leash. Dexter’s not the most athletic beagle, but he leaps off the porch onto the sidewalk and runs to Vinnie. Vinnie grabs Dexter around the neck and hugs him. Dexter’s tail is wagging at the speed of sound, or, as close to as a beagle can get. She shakes her head, utters a silent Hail Mary and wonders if it is all a dream.

“Sit, Dexter. I got a treat for you,” says Vinnie, taking his backpack off and setting it on the grass. 

Vinnie opens his backpack, reaches in and pulls out a half of a bologna sandwich on white bread and says, “Shake. Good boy. Here you go.” Vinnie puts the half sandwich three inches from Dexter’s mouth. Dexter snaps at it and pulls the half sandwich into mouth. Six chews and a hard swallow later, Dexter is on his haunches wondering where is the other half of sandwich.

“Vinnie, where did you get the bologna sandwich? Tell me you didn’t eat the other half,” says Vinnie’s mom.

“That was Larry’s sandwich, Mom. His mom always gives him two sandwiches. She gives him cookies, and she gives him a chocolate bar. Larry has the best lunches. Mom. Will you give me cookies and a chocolate bar in my lunch tomorrow?”

“I will not. What happened in school today? Did you have fun?”

“It was great, Mom. I got to talk to Pete the custodian and Mrs. Nokowski and I got to tell the class all about our vacation. The class thought my story about our vacation was the best because we did so many different things. And, I got to do a lot of other things too. I think Mrs. Navis is really happy to see me back from vacation. I think she missed me. I’d like to talk to you, Mom, but Rupert is waiting for me.” 

Vinnie runs up the steps, past his mom.

“Vincent, did you forget something?” says his mom.

“Awe, Mom, do I have to?”

“Yes, come here and give me a hug,” says Vinnie’s mom.

Vinnie turns around, runs to his mom, he hugs her, and as soon as she lets go, he breaks for his bedroom. 

Vinnie’s mom watches him, she shakes her head and begins to enter the house when her cell phone rings. She stops, reaches into her back jean’s pocket and pull her cell phone out. She checks caller ID. Kennedy Elementary School. 

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Vinnie Returns on Monday

Vinnie slides into his Mom’s favorite rosebush. He says, “It’s not a rosebush, Mom. It’s second base.”

It only gets better. LOL

“Vincent, I Sent You To The Office”

5

Vinnie opens the door to room 107. Mrs. Navis stares at him with a look that melts an iceberg faster than global warming. Vinnie steps in the room, he sees Larry standing in front of the class. Vinnie says, “Hi Mrs. Navis, can I have my turn after Larry?”

Mrs. Navis assumes the stern teacher position, AKA, arms akimbo, lips pursed, and foot tapping, “Vincent, I sent you to the office.”

Before Mrs. Navis can express another thought, Vinnie responds, “Thank you, Mrs. Navis. I needed a time out. I was out of control. I went to the office and now I’m back. Here’s my note.” 

Vinnie walks over to Mrs. Navis and hands her the note.  

Mrs. Navis reads the note, rolls her eyes and thinks, five more minutes and we’d have finished. She stares at Vinnie, who’s smiling at her, and says, “After Larry it’s JoAnne’s turn, then you can have your turn. 

Vinnie says, “Thank you, Mrs. Navis, you won’t regret it.”

Vinnie turns and walks down the third row toward his seat. He crosses his eyes and squints his nose. The class laughs.

“Children, that’s enough. There’s nothing funny about being sent to the office.”

Vinnie sits down, opens his desk, takes out three blank sheets of paper and a box of crayons, and ducks down behind Joey.

Mrs. Navis tries standing on her tiptoes to see what Vinnie is doing. She’s knows it’s something, but he’s quiet. She says, “Larry, tell the class what you did on spring break.”

Vinnie stops doing what he’s doing and sits up to listen to Larry. Larry says, “We didn’t do nothing.”

“Anything,” says Mrs. Navis.

“That too,” says Larry. The class laughs.

“Surely, you did something. What was the most exciting thing that happened to you during your break.”

Vinnie raises his hand, “I know. I know. Larry told me all about it on the bus. It’s great. It’s one of the best things that could ever happen.”

“Vincent. Please, let Larry tell his story.”

“Mrs. Navis? Mrs. Navis?” asks Vinnie.

“What is it Vincent?” says Mrs. Navis her voice sending a signal she running on empty and it’s only 9 a.m.

“How come you call Larry, Larry, instead of Lawrence? Why don’t you call me Vinnie. My mom and dad and my Uncle Mickey, and Pete the custodian and my gramma and my grampa …”

“Please, Vincent. I, uh, call you Vincent because it is such a nice name.”

“You don’t think Lawrence is a nice name, Mrs. Navis?” asks Vinnie.

Mrs. Navis begins to think, I am a good Christian woman. I sing in the church choir. Why did you send me this burden, Lord?” 

Larry turns and looks at Mrs. Navis, “It’s okay, Mrs. Navis. I don’t like Lawrence either. I was named after my mom’s first boyfriend, they had me, and then they split. My current dad’s name is Luther. I like him, but I don’t like his name. He doesn’t like it either. He goes by his nickname, Beak. He got the name because he has a huge nose. You should see it. Mom says he can hide secret messages in it.”

The class laughs.

“Children, enough. Larry, please tell us your story.”

“You sure you want to hear it, Mrs. Navis?” asks Larry.

“Yes, Larry. Please begin, and Vincent, no interruptions.”

“It was last Wednesday, that’s the night, they have all you can eat at Fast Eddie’s Barbecue. My mom and dad and me went to Fast Eddie’s. They got the best ribs. Mom ate two buckets of ribs and I ate one bucket of ribs and Dad ate four buckets of ribs, three ears of corn and four pieces of cornbread.”

“What a wonderful story, Larry. Sit down.”

“I’m not finished. I didn’t get to the best part, Mrs. Navis,” says Larry.

“Well, be quick about it,” says Mrs. Navis.

“When we got home, Dad went to the bathroom and was in the bathroom for twenty minutes. The whole house stunk worse than a skunk attack. When he finished, the toilet was clogged and he couldn’t get it unclogged. We had to call the plumber.”

“That’s  enough, Larry. Sit down.”

The class laughs.

Vinnie Flushes All the Urinals

4

Vinnie walks down the hallway. He stops in front of the closed office door. He stares at it. He reads the words on it, School Office. All Visitors Must Sign In. He opens the door and walks inside. Vinnie says, “Hi, Mrs. Nokowski. How are you feeling today? You look really busy. Is this a bad time?”

Vicky Nokowski is the school secretary. All the teachers agree, Vicky Nokowski runs the school. Vicky has the landline phone cradled against her ear while she works on her computer. She stops and glances at Vinnie, takes the phone away from her neck and covers the receiver with her hand. “It is a very bad time, Vinnie. Dr. Morrow is in an important meeting, and I’m a very busy. Is it important?”

Vinnie smiles and says, “Everybody knows you run the school. It’s not important. I wanted to see how you were doing.”

Vicky Nokowski is familiar with Vinnie. He gets sent to the office at least twice a week. She doesn’t understand why Vinnie is sent to the office because he’s always polite and he has the cutest smile. When Vinnie is sent to the office he engages her in non stop chatter. She decides she doesn’t have time for chatter today. She says, “Vinnie, go on back to your room, tell Mrs. Navis you spoke to me and I sent you back to class.”

“I don’t think she’ll believe me. Can you give me a note?” asks Vinnie.

“Okay.” Vicky smiles and scribbles something on a piece of paper, “Thank you, Vinnie, here’s a note for Mrs. Navis, now run along.”

Vinnie stops at the door, turns back toward the counter, “Mrs. Nokowski, you are the best ever, bye.”

“Bye, Vinnie,” says Vickie making a mental note to give Mrs. Navis fewer supplies than she requests this week.

Vinnie decides to tour the school on his way back to his classroom. First stop, the boy’s restroom. He walks in and sees it empty. He flushes each of the urinals and toilets. He washes his hands in each of the six sinks. He carefully wipes his hands after each washing, dries them with paper towels and practices shooting baskets with the wet paper towels. Each time he misses, he walks over, picks up the paper towel and walks back to the sink. As he does, he makes a fake dribble, a fake pass, and impersonates an announcer, “Vinnie is deep in the corner. There is only time for one shot. He’s in the air, he let’s the ball go, swish. Game over. Vinnie wins another game.” It takes Vinnie sixteen attempts to get all the used paper towels in the trash container.

He leaves the bathroom, turns left and sees the custodian, Pete, halfway down the hall. Vinnie waves and hollers, “Hi Pete, what are you doing? Need any help. I have some free time.”

Pete knows Vinnie and figures Vinnie doesn’t want to go back to class. He says, “I think you told me once, but I forgot who you have for a teacher.”

“Mrs. Navis, Pete,” says Vinnie.

Pete rolls his eyes. 

Vinnie hurries down the hall and stands next to Pete. He  says, “I wish I could skip the third grade, Pete. I’m smart enough for fourth grade.”

Pete puts his large hand on Vinnie’s shoulder. He says, “I was like you. I didn’t like my third grade teacher and I’d run out of class and out of school. I drove my mom and the teacher crazy. I wish I studied more. Now, I got this job. It’s okay. I think I could have done better if I paid more attention in school. Why don’t you go back to class. You’re a smart boy. One day, when you’re famous, I want your autograph.”

“Really, Pete,” says Vinnie.

“Really, Vinnie,” says Pete, giving Vinnie an ear to ear smile.

“I can give it to you now. It might be worth more than if you have to wait until I’m old.”

“I think I can wait. Now off you go.”

“Thanks, Pete.”

“Keep working on your shooting in the bathroom, you’re getting better,” says Pete.

“How’d you know, Pete.”

“I gets around.”

My Vacation Was Better Than Your Vacation – Vinnie’s at it Again!

3

Mrs. Navis stands behind her desk regretting her decision to have the children take turns telling about their spring break. Her eyes scan the room for Vinnie. Vinnie sits in the third row, three seats back from the front. She sees him hunched over on his desk busily doing something. She takes this as a good sign, Vinnie’s mind is already off to something new. 

Mrs. Navis says, “Children, we’ll start with the first row and work our way over to the window.”

Mrs. Navis is quietly pleased with herself. Vincent won’t complain about being last. Mary will be the first one and she’ll set a good example. And, since Vincent is in the middle, she can hurry him along because everyone will need a chance. 

A voice from the middle of the classroom interrupts Mrs. Navis self congratulatory thoughts, “Mrs. Navis. Mrs. Navis. Mrs. Navis.”

Mrs. Navis doesn’t have to look up, the wave length, the pitch, and urgency of the voice can only belong to one human being, “Yes, Vincent?”

“Why can’t we start with the third row? We can go third row, fifth row, fourth row, second row, and first row. Change is good, right, Mrs. Navis?”

Mrs. Navis takes a deep breath trying to remember she learned about handling difficult children at the last professional development day. She says, “It’s too confusing, Vincent. We’ll go in order. Everyone will know when it’s their turn.”

“Mrs. Navis. Mrs. Navis. I’ve got it covered. Look,” Vinnie holds up a sheet of paper with the number 3 on it. “I’ve got four other sheets each with the number of the row. No one will be confused. It’s really a good idea, right, Mrs. Navis?”

Mrs. Navis sees the class starting to enjoy Vinnie’s bantering with her. She knows if she disagrees, Vinnie will come back at her and the class will start laughing. The whole exercise will be over. She sees Sara in the front seat. She says, “Sara, are you ready to tell us about your spring break?”

“Yes, Mrs. Navis. My family and I went to Washington D.C. I can tell all about it and I took a lot of photos and I can show them on my iPad to the class.”

Mrs. Navis smiles, “Class, we’ll go in the order Vincent suggested. Vincent will hold up the sign for each row when it is that row’s turn. Are you ready to do this, Vincent? Vincent?”

“Oh. I’m on it, Mrs. Navis.”

Sara Wallers stands up at her desk. She carries her iPad to Mrs. Navis’s desk, sits the iPad down on Mrs. Navis’s desk and turns around to face the class. Sara begins, “My family and I had the best vacation …”

“No, you didn’t. I think my vacation was better than yours …”

Before Vinnie can finish, Mrs. Navis interrupts, “Vincent, no interrupting. Sara was only using a common expression meaning the family enjoyed themselves.”

“Oh, no, Mrs. Navis. I’m sure no one else here went to Washington, D.C. We even saw the White House,” says Sara.

“Tommy lives in a white house, too,” says Vinnie.

“Please, Vincent. Let Sara finish.”

“Okay, Mrs. Navis, but it’s already boring,” says Vinnie. He smiles as the class laughs.

“Class, enough! No laughing. You don’t want anyone to laugh at you when you come to the front of the class, do you?”

“I do, Mrs. Navis,” says Vinnie. The room fills with laughter.

Mrs. Navis turns red. Her voices takes on the tone of a judge issuing the death sentence to a drug dealer convicted of murder, “Vincent, to the office. Now.”

“Can I still have my turn when I come back, Mrs. Navis?”

The class laughs.

Vinnie walks to the door, Mrs. Navis’s eyes follow him. Vinnie stops at the door and turns around, “Could we do this in the afternoon, Mrs. Navis. I don’t mind missing math?”

“To the office, Vincent

Vinnie’s Back & His Teacher Isn’t Happy

Mrs. Navis stood in the hall chatting with Ms. Stillman. The school buses will be arriving any moment. Spring break was over. Mrs. Navis says, “Jill, how was your spring break?”

“It was awesome, I didn’t want to return. Tom and I went to Cancun. It was the best time ever. How about you, Mavis?”

Mrs. Navis felt her stomach turn at the mention of her first name. If Vincent ever knew her first name the rest of the year would be a living hell. She says, “We didn’t go anywhere. It wouldn’t have done any good if I did. I would have taken him with me.”

“Are you talking about Dick? I thought you guys got along,” says Jill.

“We do. I was talking about Vincent. He’ll be here any moment. I pray to God every night they won’t make me a fourth grade teacher. Vincent aged me ten years and the school year is not nearly over.”

“He’s such a cute boy, Mavis. And, he always seems so polite. Are you sure we’re talking about the same boy?” says Jill.

“Jill, Jill, Jill. You’re a first year teacher and you are so naive. It wouldn’t surprise me if Homeland Security already has him on a watch list,” says Mrs. Navis. 

Mrs. Navis lets her emotional floodgates open, “The school holds the science fair in six weeks. Every grade participates. Right before spring break Vincent asked me if he could build a nuclear reactor for his project. A nuclear reactor! Of course, I said no. You might think that would discourage him. He didn’t miss a heartbeat. He said if he can’t build a nuclear reactor can he build an anti bomb, bomb. Can you imagine what the school board would do to me if I let a student build a bomb. I don’t care if it was anti bomb, bomb.”

“That’s silly, Mavis. No third grader can do those things. He only has a lively imagination,” says Jill.

“I’m not finished, Jill. Please don’t interrupt me. I have to get this off my chest. I hardly slept during spring break thinking about what Vincent might do. There is no way of predicting what he will do. He’s very smart. If he weren’t so smart, I’d pass him anyway. I never want to have him in class again, ever. When I told him he couldn’t build an anti bomb, bomb, he said it didn’t matter. He’d build it for fun at home. His poor mother and father. I think his mother is a little ditzy. She says Vincent will grow out of it and I need to be patient with him.”

“She might have a point, Mavis,” says Jill silently wishing the school buses will arrive and she go to her students and escape from Mrs. Navis.

Mrs. Navis touches Jill’s arm, “You have to hear this. After I told him he couldn’t build the anti bomb, bomb, do you know what he suggested for his science project?”

Jill shakes her head.

Mrs. Navis says, “He wanted to dissect a cadaver. Can you image a science project where a third grade child is dissecting a cadaver? I asked him, “Vincent, where are you going to get a cadaver?” He said, “His Uncle Pete is a funeral director and he’d ask him to loan out a body for science fair.” The whole family is certifiable. I was thinking of asking Child Services to look into the family. My husband told me to let it go. They have one of those last names that ends in a vowel and you never know what they’ll do if you cross them.”

Jill wants to say something, but her tongue is frozen, her brain unable to process the simplest pieces of information. She looks around for help, she finds it as students stream into school from the school buses. “I better get to my classroom, Mavis. The kids are here.”

“I can only pray Vincent and his parents decided to move away,” says Mrs. Navis.

From fifty feet down the hallway a voice raises above the student noise as they stream toward their classrooms, “Mrs. Navis, Mrs. Navis. I need help with my science project. What is artificial insemination?”

Mrs. Navis places a hand on Jill’s shoulder, “I think I going to be sick