Blogging about Beats, tween fiction, parenting tweens, rebels, rule breakers, historical 1950s fiction and an 11-year-old who wants to meet Jack Kerouac.
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Sunday, March 2, 2014
Greenwich Village, 1958. If you didn’t see her, you might think she was just an
ordinary girl. Serving pasta and wine in her parents’ place, scooping ices
behind the counter. You could be nattering away at your table. Suddenly she’s
there, like a cat or a bird.
You look up and see her and I know just what you’d be
thinking. Sophia, like Sophia Loren. Dark eyes, wavy dark hair framing her
face, full red lips, body like a movie star. I’m not going to say any more ‘cause
I don't want to be impolite. But you get my gist, don’t you?
e were both just fifteen when we met and I thought, I
got to start working out. You know how it is when you see something and think,
I gotta have this in my life? Not like once or twice, mind you, but always. I
gotta make her look at me, just once, but I gotta build up the muscles before I
More than muscles. Elena, she’s no ordinary girl. You
gotta be special for Elena. For one thing she’s got gypsy blood or something; she
sees things other people don't, like ghosts and things. And you know she's
truly seeing them because she knows things, like a little girl who died in
their house, and Elena saw her when nobody else did. She was a long-ago little
girl, with a little cap and a long skirt. Elena knew all about her.
I'm not that way but it doesn't give me the willies. I
had to have something though, something I do that would impress her. I can cook
pretty good, but her mom can too. I started lifting weights and I got pretty
strong. But that wasn't enough either. Then I started filling out, getting
older, you know, and she started to look at me more.
Still couldn't figure out what to do with myself so I
started being nice to people. I mean extra nice, opening the door for ladies,
giving bums my nickels, that sort of thing. Smiling a lot so they called me
Smilin' Jim. And Elena started noticing. You're not like the other boys, she
said, and I said, I'm just being me, Elena. And miracle of miracles, she
started to like me.
Now and again I’d get in the boxing ring, for a little
bread, if you know what I mean. Pretty girl don't come cheap, she wants to go
out dancing, go to a different restaurant than the one her parents had. I want
her to be happy and give her what she wants.
You gotta be tough in the ring, but I didn’t tell her
I was doing it. Wanted her to think I was always nice, you know, listening to
people’s troubles and buying their kids lollipops.
hen one night I'm in the ring, beatin' the stuffing
out of some poor sap, and I look up and see her. Staring at me plain as day and
I think, that’s it, I'm done for. Practically started crying right then and
there. But when the fight’s over she comes over and I think, she’s gonna slap
my face. Instead, she throws her arms around
me, shaking like a leaf.
I knew you could do it, Jimmy, she says in a whisper.
I always knew you were holding back. I don't say nothing, just stare at her. And
just like that, she kisses me so hard I’m nearly faintin’ in front of the guy I
just knocked out.
Now we're engaged, and she says she'll be my wife as
soon as she’s done with high school. I'm still nice as pie to everyone I meet
at the bakery, or anywhere else for that matter. Just stay tough in the ring.
But that’s okay with my Elena, and if it’s okay with
her it’s okay with me. Women, you know? What can I say but go figure?
Parents still don't know we're engaged, mine or hers. Not
going to worry, though. We'll cross that bridge when we come to it. In the meantime... life is good.