Can A Bad Breakup Get Worse? Yes LOL
Joey is distraught over being tossed out.
“Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self.” ~ Cyril Connolly
Vinnie’s mom is waiting on the front porch as Vinnie’s dad pulls the car in the driveway. She waves at him. Vinnie’s dad waves back. He turns the engine off and climbs out of the car. He opens the back door and gets his laptop and briefcase. He turns back toward the porch. He says, “What’s wrong?”
Vinnie’s mom says, “Is it so obvious?”
“I don’t see Vinnie or Dexter. What’s he done?” says Vinnie’s dad walking toward the front porch.
Vinnie’s mom says, “That’s just it, nothing yet. But, I know the four of them are planning something.”
Vinnie’s dad reaches the porch, climbs up the three steps and kisses Vinnie’s mom. He says, “I had a tough day in court. I could use a beer before dinner. Where’s Vinnie?”
“He’s in his bedroom. I checked on him and he’s sitting on the floor on the side of the bed away from the door. He stuck his head over the bed and said high and bye. Then he disappeared.”
“Did you walk around the bed to see what he was doing?”
“Well, I thought it was kind of nice he had his own little space. When I was a little girl I made a space for myself in the closet. Mom and dad never bothered me when I went in there. I guess he needs his space too, but there’s something mysterious going on, Al.”
“What makes you think somethings up?” asks Vinnie’s dad.
“Right before everyone went home, they put their hands on top of each other’s hand and said, ‘All for one and one for all and none for Mrs. Mavis.’
Vinnie’s mom is at the fridge, she pulls out a beer bottle and the cabernet. She pours cabernet into a wine glass and screws off the cap to the bottle. She returns to the living room with the drinks. As she’s sitting down on the sofa with Vinnie’s dad, Vinnie’s voice comes from his bedroom, “Don’t set a place for me. I’m too busy to eat. I’m still full from yesterday. If you tell me I have to eat dinner I won’t be able to hear you because Rupert is blocking my ears with his paws. His paws are sound proof.”
Vinnie’s mom sets her wine glass on the coffee table. That’s it, he’s up to something. What are we going to do, Al?”
“Can I finish my beer, first?”
Before Vinnie’s mom can answer, her cell phone rings. Vinnie’s dad says, “Leave it alone, it’s probably a robocall.”
Vinnie’s mom checks the caller ID. She holds it toward Vinnie’s dad? “It’s Sara’s Mom, Teresa. The only time the Johnson’s call is when there is a problem. Do you want to answer it?”
“I really had a hard day defending the mob,” laughs Vinnie’s dad.
“He’s just like you, Al,” says Vinnie’s mom touching the answer icon on the cell phone.
“Hello, Teresa. How are you?” . . .
“No, I didn’t know anything about it.” . . .
“I resent that, Teresa. I keep a close eye on the kids when they’re here. I can assure you nothing happened.” . . .
“They’re not serious. It’s all an imaginary adventure.” . . .
“Yes, read me the note Sara showed you.” . . .
“Thank you, Teresa. We’ll speak to Vinnie. . . . Yes, I’ll tell Vinnie Sara can’t play with him and his friends for a week. Bye.”
Vinnie’s dad looks at Vinnie’s mom. He says, “Harry and Teresa overreact to everything. Last Saturday, Harry asked me to have Dexter stop pooping on his lawn. I told Harry there are lots of dogs in the neighborhood and Dexter poops in our yard. Harry apologized. He told me he’s thinking of getting a surveillance camera to catch the phantom pooper.”
Vinnie’s mom says, “It is Dexter.”
“Oh,” says Vinnie’s dad.
Vinnie comes running in the living room, “One quick thing, Mom. I need a four month advance on my allowance. It’s important. I’ll take twenty dollars out of your purse and leave an IOU. Thanks, bye.” Vinnie turns around and runs toward his bedroom.
“Hit the brakes, Buster,” says Vinnie’s mom.
Vinnie skids to a stop, turns around, and says, “What, Mom. Rupert and me are really busy.”
“Sara’s mom, called,” says Vinnie’s mom.
“Busted, I knew Sara would break the vow of silence. Don’t worry, Mom, I’m teaching her my tricks. She won’t spill anything next time.”
“There is no next time, Vincent. Go get cleaned up for dinner.”
Vinnie’s dad whispers, “I have ten dollars the next time happens before sundown tomorrow.”
Vinnie, Joey, Larry, and Sara are huddled in Vinnie’s yard. Rupert is on the ground between Vinnie and Sara. Dexter is lying between Vinnie and Joey.
Sara says, “Vinnie can you check with your dad, he’s a lawyer. He can tell us if it’s legal.”
Vinnie says, “He’s pretty busy working for the mob. I heard Dad tell Mom one time it’s better not ask permission, it’s always better to ask forgiveness.”
“I guess that’s why they have confession at church,” says Joey.
“Makes sense,” says Larry. “When I went to confession three weeks ago, I told Father Pete I copied all your answers on the math test.”
“Did you tell him we were the only two to get one hundred,” asks Vinnie.
“I did. I told him my mom was really happy I got an A,” says Larry.
“What did Father Pete say?” asks Sara.
“He told me I had to tell my mom the truth,” says Larry.
“Did you?” asks Sara.
“I’m going to when I think she’s in a real good mood,” says Larry.
“That’s not fair. I got a 98 and I should have been second best,” says Sara
Joey chimes in, “I wish I sat on the other side of you, Vinnie. Then the three of us could have got a one hundred.”
“I hope Father Pete gave you a hard penance,” says Sara.
“I also told him I twisted my little brother Vic’s arm until he said uncle.”
“What’s wrong with that?” asks Vinnie.
“I kept twisting it until he started crying. But, he deserved it because he hid my baseball glove and wouldn’t tell where it was and I had to use Tommy Smith’s glove.”
“Wasn’t Tommy playing?” asks Sara.
“Tommy’s not too good. He was sitting on the bench making faces at the pitcher so he didn’t need a glove,” says Larry. “Anyway, Father Pete told me I had to do something nice for Vic every day for five days.”
“That’s really a hard penance,” says Joey.
“Do you think we’ll have to tell Father Pete we’re going to do something and not tell our parents?” asks Sara.
Vinnie answers, “Uncle Mike told Dad it’s only a crime if you get caught. I think he knows because he’s been in court a lot of times.”
“That doesn’t sound right to me,” says Sara.
Joey jumps in, “I think it’s right because one-time Mom told me not to eat any of the cupcakes she made for a party. They were chocolate and she filled the middle of each cupcake with fudge. When they were cooling on the table I took one and moved all the others around so it looked like they were all there. Since I didn’t get caught I didn’t do anything wrong.”
“Can I ask Rupert what he thinks?” asks Sara.
Vinnie picks up Rupert and holds him in front of his face. Rupert is facing Sara. Sara says, “Rupert have you been listening this?”
Rupert answers, “I wish Joey brought me the cupcake he took off the plate.”
“Rupert, you know that is wrong,” says Sara.
“I don’t think so, because Joey’s mom didn’t tell me not to eat one. She told Joey not to eat it.”
Sara says, “Vinnie, you are right, Rupert is the smartest person on Earth. Can I ask him if what we’re doing is going to get us in trouble?”
Vinnie sets Rupert on the ground and says, “Rupert’s going with us. He’s going to be our guide. Here’s my plan. I’ll ask my mom for a four month advance on my allowance. That will give us enough money for the boat at the lake. Joey, you have your mom pack enough food for four days.”
“What should I tell her?” asks Joey.
“The best thing is tell her the truth. That way you can’t get in trouble,” says Vinnie.
“What’s the truth, Vinnie?” asks Joey.
“Tell her you’re going to come to my house and sleep outside in a tent with the three of us,” says Vinnie.
“I don’t have to tell her we’re going to take a boat to the island in the middle of the lake and play survivor?” asks Joey.
“No, if she asks, tell her you got to go to your room and pack your stuff,” says Vinnie.
“Where do you learn all this, Vinnie?” asks Sara.
“Uncle Mike. He’s really a cool guy. He knows stuff most normal people don’t know,” says Vinnie. “Larry, you got to get us about four six packs of soda. None of the diet junk. Only the good stuff.”
“Easy, squeezy. My mom stores soda in the pantry in case company comes over. I’ll sneak it over tonight,” says Larry.
“Sara, can you get us some of the bug and sun screen stuff?”
“I can get it, Vinnie. But, I think I need to tell my mom we’re going to the island in the park pond to play survivor. Mom and dad will be worried about me,” says Sara.
“Rupert has a great idea how to take care of our parents. Rupert, it’s your turn,” says Vinnie picking Rupert up and turning him toward Joey, Larry, and Sara.
Rupert says, “Everybody has to write a note that says, ‘Dear Mom and Dad, don’t try to find us. We’ve gone to the jungle and we’re playing survivor. It’s something I dreamed about all my life. If I survive I will be home in a few days.’”
Vinnie sets Rupert down and says, “It’s the perfect letter. Our parents won’t get nervous.”
Vinnie’s mom calls out from the deck, “What are you kids planning?”
Vinnie’s looks over to his mom and says, “We’re planning a cool adventure, Mom.”
Vinnie’s mom’s first thought, this is so cute. Her second thought, ‘what kind of adventure? Oh, dear.”
It is early evening, the sun is stretching toward the horizon, Vinnie’s mom and dad sit on lounge chairs on the deck sipping iced tea. Vinnie’s mom touches Vinnie’s dad’s forearm, “Al today was the best day so far this summer. I think Vinnie’s turned a corner.”
Vinnie’s dad is holding his iced tea in his left hand and his iPhone in his right hand. He’s streaming live baseball from somewhere on planet Earth.
“Al? Al?” says Vinnie’s mom.
“Are you listening to me?” asks Vinnie’s mom.
“Un huh,” says Vinnie’s dad.
“Okay, what did I say?” asks Vinnie’s mom.
“Do I have to answer now? The game is at a crucial moment. There is a no hitter going,” pleads Vinnie’s dad.
“Vinnie’s mom says, “I have two questions: One, what teams are playing? And, two, what inning are they in?”
Vinnie’s dad turns his head away from his ball game and says, “Can I plead the 5th amendment?”
“We’re not in court and you’re not talking to Vinnie. You didn’t hear a word I said, admit it.”
“Not true, Marti. I heard every word you said. I don’t remember them, I was singing the national anthem along with the crowd. Was it important?”
Vinnie’s mom remembers what she said and wonders if men ever mature. Her psych teacher in college never lectured on male emotional intelligence. She’s taken out of her thinking when Vinnie’s dad interrupts. He says, “What are you thinking?”
Vinnie’s mom turns toward Vinnie’s dad and says, “Vinnie’s following in your footsteps.”
Vinnie’s dad beams. “That’s so nice of you to say. I try really hard to be a good role model for him.”
“Believe me, Vinnie’s taking it all in,” says Vinnie’s mom. “Where is Vinnie, Al? I haven’t seen or heard him since dinner.”
“Didn’t I tell you?”
Vinnie’s mom anxiety alarm is beeping. “Tell me what?”
Vinnie asked if he could go to Joey’s house with Larry and Sara to work on their bug project.”
“Dear God, you let him go to Martha’s kitchen? Did he take Rupert and Dexter with him?” says Vinnie’s mom sitting straight up on the lounge and reaching for her iPhone.
“Vinnie didn’t say anything about going in Martha’s kitchen. He said they were going to watch a show on the Discovery Channel that will give them some ideas. He promised he’ll be home by 7:30,” says Vinnie’s dad checking the time on his iPhone. “He’ll be home in twenty minutes.”
“What show? Do you have any idea how many calories of junk food he’ll consume in twenty minutes?”
“He didn’t say anything about junk food,” says Vinnie’s dad.
“Why do you think he always wants to go to Joey’s house? Martha greets people with cookies and cake and that’s at the door,” says Vinnie’s mom, “There’s no telling what she’s going to give them while they’re watching TV. They’ll probably get pizza, fries, popcorn, and ice cream.”
Vinnie’s dad’s eyes light up with the thought of grabbing a piece of Martha’s homemade pizza. He stands up, “Don’t bother calling, I need the exercise, I’ll walk over and get them.”
“Dear Lord, is there any hope?”
“You talking to me, Marti?” says Vinnie dad as he’s leaving the deck.
“Mom, Mom, Mom, can I come out of my room? How long do I have to stay in the slammer?” Hollers Vinnie from his bedroom.
Vinnie’s mom glances over at Vinnie’s dad, “Al, Mike is not a good influence on Vinnie. Listen to his language.”
“Mikes a good guy, Marti. You know he’d be here in a minute if we needed his help,” says Vinnie’s dad, his eyes glued to the TV screen and a man and woman ready to parachute into the Amazon with only a Swiss jackknife and the clothes on their back.
“Pay attention, Al. I’m serious,” says Vinnie’s mom.
“Mom, Mom, Mom, are you in the house. If you don’t answer me by the time I count to ten Rupert says it’s okay if me and Dexter and Rupert to run away and live the rest of the summer at Joey’s house. One . . . two . . . six . . .”
“You missed three, four, and five,” calls out Vinnie’s mom. “Are you ready to talk about the play?”
“Can I pout for two more minutes before we talk? Are you mad at Sara and Joey and Larry?”
“No, I’m not mad at anyone. Yes, you can pout for two more minutes.”
“Yes, Vinnie,” says Vinnie’s mom knowing the questions are going to last the two minutes while Vinnie is pouting.
“How come Sara and Joey and Larry didn’t get put in the slammer?” asks Vinnie.
Vinnie’s dad glances away from the TV screen and looks at Vinnie’s mom.
Vinnie’s mom says, “I thought the courtroom play was very good until . . .”
“Until what, Mom?”
“Until you told Rupert to tell the truth and stop lying or you’d hit him in the head with the gavel.”
“I wasn’t telling that to Rupert, Mom. I was speaking to Mrs. Mavis. Remember you interrupted and asked Joey to object?”
“Well, yes. Joey was Mrs. Mavis’s attorney. He should have objected. Instead, you told me I was out of order and the next time I’d have to leave the courtroom.”
Vinnie’s dad whispers, “It’s what a real judge would say.”
“Whose side are you on? Al, quick, they’re parachuting into the jungle. You don’t want to miss this part,” says Vinnie’s mom.
Vinnie’s mom turns her attention back to Vinnie, “Well, when you found Mrs. Mavis guilty of everything, you asked Sara what she wanted for the penalty. Sara said she thought Mrs. Mavis could apologize and that was enough. You didn’t listen to Sara. She’s such a sweet girl, you need to listen her more often. Instead, you said, Mrs. Mavis has to clean all the toilets while Pete the custodian takes over her classes for two-hundred years.”
“I was going easy on her, Mom.”
“Vinnie, you’ve only been on summer recess for ten days. I’m going to think of something to keep you busy so you don’t get into trouble.”
“Can I help Uncle Mike? I heard him tell Dad he needs a bouncer.”
“Al, talk to Vinnie about working with Mike,” demands Vinnie’s mom.
Vinnie’s dad feels his attention drawn away from the Amazon jungle. He says, “Do I have to do it now? Bob and Karen have to swim across a river filled with piranha.”
“Mary, you need to talk to your son for me, please,” pleads Vinnie’s mom.
“Mom, I’m through pouting. Are you through talking to Mary?”
Vinnie’s dad opens the living room door. He’s holding a treat in his hand for Dexter. He doesn’t see Dexter. He doesn’t have to brace himself to catch Vinnie running down the hallway toward and leaping at the last second into his arms. He’s not getting a kiss and hug from Vinnie’s mom. He tentatively steps into the foyer and peeks around the corner. Vinnie’s mom is in the Lotus position, eyes closed repeating, ‘I will survive. I will survive. I will survive.”
“Survive what, Marti?” asks Vinnie’s dad.
Vinnie’s mom opens her eyes and stares at Vinnie’s dad. She says, “Vinnie.” She closes her eyes and resumes her deep breathing and mantra.
Vinnie’s dad rushes to the kitchen. He opens the fridge. He doesn’t remember pizza being in the fridge, it doesn’t matter. He picks up a cold piece of pepperoni pizza, takes a big bite and puts the remainder back in the pizza box. He reaches for the merlot and takes it out of the fridge. He half fills a wine glass with the merlot. Puts the merlot back in the fridge and carries the glass into the living room. He kneels beside Vinnie’s mom and puts the glass under her nose.
Vinnie’s mom’s nose twitches. The mantra stops. She sniffs more deeply. Her eyes open. Vinnie’s dad puts the glass to her lips and gently tips it upward. Vinnie’s mom takes a sip. She says, “Al, you may have saved my life.”
“Do you want to tell me about it?” says Vinnie’s dad.
“I don’t know where to begin?” says Vinnie’s mom.
Vinnie’s dad helps Vinnie’s mom to her feet and the sit on the sofa. Vinnie’s mom holds on to the wine glass as if it is priceless crystal. Vinnie’s dad says, “Tell me the important parts.”
Vinnie’s mom stares at Vinnie’s dad.
“What?” asks Vinnie’s dad.
“Did you eat some of the pizza in the fridge?”
“I only took a bite. That was so nice of you to buy a pizza for dinner tonight. I’m starving.”
“I didn’t order it. Vinnie did. He used Sara’s phone and called Mike. Mike brought three pizzas over and came in through the fence door. He sat with Vinnie and his friends for at least 45 minutes, ate pizza with them and gave them first hand advice on the play their making. I listened to them. When Mike was leaving, he looked up at the window and waved at me. He knew I was there the whole time. Al, you know Mike is always in trouble with the law. He’s a shady character. I don’t want Vinnie to turn out like him.”
“Mike’s a good guy. He’s always trying to help someone out of a jam.”
“How many times have you defended him in court for free?” asks Vinnie’s mom.
“I got him off six times, had his penalty reduced to a fine twice, and once had his sentence reduced to time served.”
“Oh, dear God.”
“Why did Vinnie and friends want Mike’s help with their play?” asks Vinnie’s dad.
Vinnie’s mom takes a long sip of wine, sets the glass on the coffee table and turns directly toward Vinnie’s dad. “Al, Vinnie and his friends are staging a court drama.”
Vinnie’s dad says, “What’s wrong with that? Maybe I can give them some pointers.”
Vinnie’s mom ignores Vinnie’s dad. She says, “Vinnie is the judge. Joey is the DA. Larry is a cop. Sara is the defense lawyer. And, Rupert is the defendant.”
Vinnie’s dad says, “That’s cute. I can’t wait to see their play.”
“Let me explain a bit further. Rupert is playing a character charged with cruelty, meanness, bad breath, and out of date clothes.”
Vinnie’s dad starts laughing. He says, “This has you upset?”
“Rupert is playing Mrs. Mavis.”
“Well, how does Mike fit into all of this?” asks Vinnie’s dad.
Vinnie’s mom sips her wine, then says, “Vinnie says to Mike, “Uncle Mike, how long can we throw Mrs. Mavis in the slammer? Can we keep her there until we graduate?”
Vinnie’s dad laughs. “That is so rich. I love it.”
“You want to know what Mike said?” says Vinnie’s mom.
Vinnie’s dad’s internal alarm sounds. He says, “What did he say? Do I need to talk to him?”
“Mike says to the kids, “Since she probably don’t have a court record, she might get three to five years and be out in two years. If she got your dad, Vinnie, as her mouthpiece she might not even get convicted. But if she goes away for three to five I got friends on the inside who can fix the way she thinks”
Vinnie’s dad says, “Mike said I was his mouthpiece?”
“Oh, there’s more,” says Vinnie’s mom. “Where are you going, Al.”
“Can I join you and share the merlot?”
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.