A Mississippi River Romance - Part 5

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A Mississippi
River Romance

Ummm. Would You Like
to Take a Walk?

by Andrea Lena DiMaggio
all this terror in my life
paints a picture of my soul
and fading time

hardly noticed
hardly recognized that my sight
had gone

Romance Along the Mississippi


“I don’t know...today...when I saw Miri...the real Miri...she was so....like I’ve never felt before Dan.” He put his head down in anticipation of what he was going to say.

“Let me guess. You thought about Jerry, right? And you wonder if you’re...well, jeez i don’t know what to call it...gay, straight? Jeez, Vin...What can you call yourself when you don’t know what you are? You certainly don’t know where Jerry is coming from.” Vinnie frowned and looked out off the roof to the St. Louis skyline in the distance.

“Let me clue you in.” Danny said, patting his brother’s knee.

“First...don't go rushing to label yourself; folks will do that without any help. You are who you are, Vin. And second? If I had half the support you have now when I was your age? I might have made different choices.” He slapped his prosthetic leg.

“Don’t get me wrong? I still would have joined, but I don’t think I would have been in such a hurry, because I might have been joining to be a part of something rather than get away from Daddy’s belt.”

Vinnie winced at the word ‘belt’ and began to cry.

“Hey...it’s okay. We’re going to get through this...every bit of it, and I want you to know that you can tell me anything, bro. Or sis.” He didn’t laugh at the word ‘sis,’ but instead smiled and nodded.

“I don’t know, Danny. It’s like I’ve never felt before.” And it was. At nearly fifteen, Vinnie’s confusion had blossomed, unhindered by any attraction to a single sole. His fear of his father’s wrath had nearly destroyed any self-esteem he had, and a relationship with anyone, boy or girl, had been furthest from his mind...until today.

“I’m no expert, but I know enough to know that Dr. Megan would probably tell you that figuring out who you are is the most important thing you can do at this point. You’re not even fifteen yet, so relax and enjoy the ride.” Vinnie shook his head.

“I’d like to pull over at the next rest stop, Mr. Bus Driver!” He laughed but the tears began to pour in earnest. Danny stood up and pulled his brother up into a hug.

“It’s okay, Vin...It’s going to be alright.” From anyone else, the words would have seemed hollow and vain, but the tears in Danny’s eyes gave Vinnie hope that things would indeed be alright.

A while later at the Pearson home…

“Hi Mom!” Danny said as he hung his coat on the rack behind the kitchen door. She looked up and smiled, pointing at the pot on the stove with the wooden spoon in her hand.

“Just in time…Made your favorite…Chili…” She smiled again. Chili wasn’t his favorite; it was Rick’s. That it was too rich and spicey for Vinnie wasn’t even a consideration, so long as Rick got what he wanted.

“Thanks, Mom,” he said as he kissed her cheek. He walked over to the fridge and pulled out the milk and poured a glass for himself and Vinnie.

“Oh crap…whole milk.” He thought. He didn’t mind whole milk, but he had read that skim milk was better for Vinnie’s stomach. He was about to say something when Vinnie walked in.

“I pulled the cover over the truck bed.” He tossed Danny the keys to the pickup.

“Vinnie…your father called again. You really need to call him back. He’s been waiting for a decision, honey…it’s only fair you let him know…He is your father, dear.” If their mother was anything she was consistent. She continued to make excuses for their father’s abuse, which continued to enable him to believe he was a good father instead of the abuser he actually was. Vinnie turned to Danny and shrugged his shoulders before walking up the back stairs. Danny noticed that his brother had been crying.

“Mom…He’s not gonna move in with Dad. It’s not gonna happen.” Danny tried not to raise his voice, but weeks of the same insistence from his mother had been followed almost immediately by his brother’s retching in the upstairs bathroom.

“Mom…I talked to Dr. Megan today.” Danny took a sip out of his glass of milk, which reminded him of the urgency of his need to explain to his mother how serious things actually were.

“Well…I don’t understand why he has to go to a stranger to talk about the family.” Danny seethed inside; angry that his mother continued to minimize her son’s problems. He loved his mother, but still remained frustrated over her enabling and denial.

“Mom…Mommy…please…Vinnie is sick…he’s throwing up every day…” She cut him off.

“Well, there’s that bug that’s going around.”

“Mom…he gets sick when he thinks about…you know.” Danny winced, feeling his own pain of his father’s blows with the belt against the back of his legs, as if he were being beaten then and there.

“Well…my father beat my brothers…” She looked at him as if to defend her ex-husband…”after all, everyone does it...it must be right?”

“Mom…Dr. Megan thinks Vinnie has an ulcer.” He frowned and put his arms out wide.

“Now why would a boy have an ulcer? She’s a psychiatrist…what does she know?”

“Mom...she’s an MD…she thinks the stress of thinking about moving in with Daddy is what is making Vinnie sick. Mom….he beat us….Rick used to laugh at him. And then he’d run away. He slapped me around enough to put me in the hospital…And what he did to Vinnie.”

“Your father isn’t like that…I refuse to believe he did that. No, Daniel…Your brother must be…he’s…. mistaken.”

because I would rather hear a lie
than to finally see all of this eye to eye
oh its the truth
it's more than I want to know


“No…Daniel…He couldn’t have… I would have known…” She looked down at the floor. His glare pierced her like a laser, but had no effect. He spoke for the first time as someone who knew Vinnie’s pain.

“Mommy…he did it to me, too.” Danny’s guilt was weighing him down like a stone around a drowning man’s neck, but his deliverer cut the stone from his neck.

“He’s right, Mom.” Both of them turned to see Rick standing in the doorway of the living room. His face was etched with pain and he looked ill.

“Daddy hurt us all, and you did nothing to stop him. Nothing.”

“No…I won’t hear of this in my own home. You’re…lying.” She yelled, but her words failed to convince even her. Danny practically sobbed as he grabbed his mother’s shoulders.

“No, Mom…not now…not ever. He’s sick and he needs to get help. I won’t let you send Vinnie over there. If I have to take him to the doctor myself, I will….Dr. Megan says she’ll call social services if you don’t get him some help.”

She raised her head and began to speak but Rick cut her off.

“Danny’s right. It stops now. Dan…I’m so sorry…I….I should have said something…I thought it was just me…but then when Vinnie started getting sick…it was like it was happening all over again.” Rick turned to the wall and punched it hard, putting a hole in the plaster. His mother grabbed his arm but he wrenched it away.

“NO! Mom…I swear to God if you send Vinnie over there I will go over and kill the fucking bastard with my bare hands. I will fucking kill him!“ He turned to Danny once again. He wanted to hold onto his rage; to remain strong and in control… the head of the house. But he realized just how much he was beginning to sound like his father.

“Dan…I…I’m so….sooorrrrieee.” He walked to the kitchen table and sat down. Putting his arms on the table he cradled his head and sobbed over and over….”Mommmy…pleasseeeee….Mommy….”

Julia Pearson fell to the floor as if she had been shot. Rick’s voice was that of a twenty-four year old man, but she heard the voice of a nine year old boy screaming in terror while she lay in her bed; her head covered to deaden the horrific bleating of a helpless child. She knelt at Rick’s feet and grabbed his head, lifting it from his arms. Her face was etched with undeniable pain and guilt.

“Ricky…Ricky…please…please forgive me…I didn’t…I am so sorry…Ricky…Danny….” She called out to her younger son. Danny walked over and put his hand on his mother’s head and prayed a quiet prayer for his mother. And standing on the steps leading upstairs, Vinnie began to shake. A moment later he lay at the foot of the stairs, blood coming from his mouth.

“Oh, God nooo…Vinnie…kid…wake up…Rick…call 911…for God’s sake….Vinnie.” Rick jumped up and pulled out his cell. A few minutes later they heard the sound of a siren and saw the gleam of flashing lights peeking through the part in the kitchen curtains. Julia had gotten up, but remained sitting in the chair at the kitchen table, almost catatonic.

“His psych thinks he might have an ulcer…and look at my Mom…she’s in shock.” Danny had a little medical training from his time in the Marines.

“Okay, kid…we’ll take it from here,” the EMT said as she leaned over Vinnie. He was breathing but appeared unconcious. And at the table Julia continued to sit, but had begun to speak softly, almost as a chant.

“I’m so sorry.”

At the Magliano home a while later…

“Jer…come on…sit up, okay?” Miri didn’t wait for her brother and grabbed his arms, setting him against the headboard of his bed. What little makeup he had put on earlier had either washed away or decorated his cheeks with black stripes, almost like odd camoflage. He sniffled once as she spoke.

“Hey…It’s gonna be alright…I promise…you know…twins forever, right?” He nodded his head weakly before raising his arm to wipe his face.

“Hey…none of that. Here...let me. She pulled the sweater off of him and rested his head back on the pillow against the headboard. Rising quickly, she ran into the bathroom and grabbed a wash cloth and hand towel and hand mirror off the shelf over the toilet.

“Here…wash yourself off. I’ll be right back.” She raced out of the room and was back in a few minutes, her hands filled with cosmetics.

“Now…let me do this right…” He raised his hands weakly in protest but she smiled.

“Listen…I know this is hard for you. I think you and I need to figure out just what it is that you need. Right now you’re like standing on the dock and the boat is drifting, Jer. Ya gotta get in the boat or stay on the dock, kay?” She laughed softly at her words, feeling as clever as they sounded. A few moments in her care and he was done. She picked up the mirror off his lap and held it before him.

“Pretty good, huh?” She laughed softly and turned the mirror to her own face and gazed a moment at her reflection.

“Well…we’re not identical, but no one would mistake us for anything but sisters!” She turned the mirror back to Jerry who stared wide eyed at his reflection. The difference between his boy self and ‘girl’ self was…unremarkable. It really wasn’t much of a transformation. Not because he didn’t look like a girl…he did…just not the glamour girl or cheerleader type you might read about in one of ‘those’ stories. He did look just like his sister, who was pretty in an athletic sense like Mia Hamm or Misty May Traynor.

Jerry turned away from the mirror, almost to see if the image would still be there at the return of his gaze. He turned back to the mirror and put his hand to his face. His eyes began to tear and he shook his head.

oh where are these
days going I can't say
but I have to stay

“Listen…It’s just you and me and Adele and Mom…you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to. This is just a way of seeing yourself differently. You don’t have to stay this way or change, Jer.” She leaned forward on the bed and kissed Jerry’s cheek before pulling him into a hug. Her own eyes were filled with tears.

“You have looked as sad as I can ever remember lately. I don’t know what else to do to show you I care, but I do. You’re my brother…or sister…or brother…ya know? I mean Jer…what the fuck…we’ve never been normal…not with the way things went when Mommy was drinking all the time and Tony…. sorry… when Adele was taking care of us”

“I don’t know who I am anymore. I mean…I told you and Mommy that I like boys…am I supposed to like girls? Am I even a boy? What am I supposed to do…when they were here…When I ran away?” Miri nodded her head in encouragement as Jerry continued.

“I wanted to crawl into a hole and die, Mir….but part of me…wanted to stay. I’m so fucked up, sis. I don’t know what the fuck I am.” He looked away, embarrassed.

“You…liked him….right?” Miri thought of her own attraction to Vinnie and laughed to herself. She laughed to herself.

“What’s so funny?” Jerry say, almost indignant.

“O, Jeez Jer…lighten up…” She started to giggle. Jerry tilted his head in puzzlement.

“Jer…Remember when me and Violet Rubio stopped bein’ friends back in eighth grade?” He tilted his head again, straining to recall what his sister meant.

“We both had a crush on David Goldberg…the kid in the next neighborhood who used to skateboard over here?” He nodded, remembering the red-haired kid from two blocks over.

“We fought over him for a week or so and then figured out we were much more important to each other than any boy ever would be? Ya know?” Jerry didn’t know.

“Well…” She started to laugh once again.

“I never thought that my next biggest rival for a boy would be my own….sister.” She poked him in the ribs and put her hand to her head as if to flirt. She expected Jerry to feel odd, but he went further and burst into tears.

“Jerry…it’s okay…I mean it…If you like him…that’s cool…that’s way cool, ya know?” She hugged him and smiled and then put her head on his shoulder and squeezed. He couldn’t see the tears streaming down her cheeks. It wasn’t easy to give up on a boy she had just met and fallen for, but if anyone was worth losing a boy over, it was Jerry.

“Now…uummm would you like to take a walk? Just outside and just down to the corner and back. If anyone stops us and you feel bad I can just say you lost a bet with me over the Rams game last Sunday…okay? But Jerry…if someone stops us or we run into someone and you don’t feel uncomfortable? That’s way cool, okay?”

He nodded reluctantly. Part of him wanted to pull all of Miri’s clothes off and hide in the bathroom, but a little bit…maybe a big bit of him wanted to go outside where he would be free.

“Okay…sis.” He said softly as he climbed off the bed.

“Okay,” Miri said in return. She grabbed his hand and kissed his cheek.

“For luck!” She said and they both smiled at each other and laughed softly as they headed out.

there's no other place for now
whether I am here or I'm down in doubt
cause no one knows my name
they can hardly see my face
no one can hear me when I sing

friend and foe
together, forever we'll be
friend and foe
the place that drags me down will be
friend and foe and when I look up in the sky
and when I look up in the sky
the birds they know, ooh

spread your wings
now you know
I can hear you sing, ooh

Next: It's Okay...Really!

Friend or Foe
as performed by
The Watson Twins

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