I got up the next morning started to get ready to report to Defonte’s Sandwich Shop and assemble a couple of hundred sandwiches for the Football Wedding Mr. Nick told me about. It was still early; I don’t have to report for work until 11AM. All of a sudden I hear a knock on our door. I open the door and find Roger standing there and I say. “What do you want? Did you come down to screw me out of more money? If you did I’m sorry to say I’m all tapped out of cash.” He said “no, no, I thought that you might want to play a game of checkers with me this morning. My uncle Sammie gave me his old checker board and an old set of wood Chess pieces. I know how to play checkers but I never played Chess before. What do you say?” “I know what checkers is. What the hell is Chess? And what makes you think that I would spend time with you playing any game?” Roger could see that I am still pissed off at him, because of the screwing he, and his friend Joey Hook Nose, gave me yesterday. He tried to calm me down, and reminded me that he will work with me to spruce up that old Bike. Anyway, I had to kill some time before I report for work, so I said okay.
We walked up to his apartment, which is right above me and we went into his room at the far end of the building. I like Roger’s room, it’s so private, and it’s not like my bedroom in the middle of our living room. We sat at a little table in his room, which doubles as his laboratory. Roger’s is so smart. He is always working on some invention he thought up. He put out the white and red Checker set on the table and started to explain to me the rules of the game. He told me that you can only move one checker at a time, forward in the boxes on the board. If your red checker lands next to the other players white checker he can jump over your red checker and take it off the board. If there is room he can also double jump your checkers and take two off the board. If one of your red checkers manages to go all the way to the end of the board in front of you, you can call out “King Me”. The guy that’s playing against you now has to place a red checker on top of your checker.
The King checker can now can move in any direction around the board when a single checker can only move forward. The winner of the game is the player who jumps and clears the board of all of your checkers. We played this game for a couple of hours and Roger won every game. But with a little practice I think I can beat his ass. It was getting late so I got up from the table and I told Roger that I had to go to work at Defonte’s. He said okay, and he promised to teach me how to play Chess the next time we get together.
I got to Defonte’s and worked for almost six hours. I am getting real good at assembling the Wedding Party sandwiches. It turned out that the order was for 350 sandwiches not the 200 I had thought the order called for. But it didn’t matter; I was assembling sandwiches so fast that Mr. Nick gave me an extra two dollars. Wow, now I have twelve dollars, plus five left over from my last job for a total of seventeen dollars. I went up to our apartment, my father was still at work, so I had dinner with my mom and sister, listened to the radio and went to bed around ten.
I got up the next morning to the smell of tomato sauce cooking on the stove. Then I realized it must be Sunday morning. Every Sunday my mom gets up at dawn to crush the tomatoes, mixed them with olive oil, Basel, spices and meatballs. My Mom told me that making tomato sauce is an art. Every Italian family has their own tradition on how to make the tomato sauce, no two families make it the same way. Even if you’re related, the mother’s sauce will be different from her daughter’s tomato sauce. You would think that the daughter’s sauce would taste the same as her mother’s since her mother taught her how to make it. But no, there’s always a difference, it could be lighter, thicker, hotter, sweeter or whatever. My mom and our grandmother, many other Italian generations of our family before us say that the perfect tomato sauce has to cook slowly for a minimum of six hours. That’s why my Mom gets up so early. Every Sunday we have our dinner in the afternoon so we can get out of our apartment and chat with our neighbors. When I got to the kitchen I also found my mom making fresh wide noodles.
Wow! We’re going to have Lasagna today. My Dad has been working crazy hours for weeks, which means that we have a little extra money for food. I can’t wait to sit down at our dinner table to eat this meal. But, not so fast, my mom is getting ready for church and it looks like she will drag me along with her. So she gets after me to but on clean pair of shorts and a white shirt with sleeves and collar. I really don’t want to go with her but if I say no she will whack me with her wooden spoon and I’m not in the mood to fight with her. I get dressed and I go down stairs to wait for her. After she comes down she holds my hand and we walk to Visitation Church near Coffey Park. It’s a beautiful day, and I think that I’m the only kid going to Church with my Mom. I Love God, but I’m not crazy about Church.
We get there and my Mom meets a number of her friends from our old town in Italy. After they talk about how great it was back in Italy, I often wonder why in the hell did they leave such a beautiful place to come here. We’re in Church and it’s so boring. I don’t understand a word the Priest is saying. I sit when they sit. I stand when they stand. I kneel when they kneel. I even make believe I’m praying in Latin, I don’t think that anyone around me understand it anyway. They all seem to go through the motions of doing what they think they should be doing when praying to God. But all I can think about is getting home to eat the lasagna my Mom is making for our afternoon dinner. After dozing off a few times my Mom shakes me to tell me that mass has ended and we’re going home.
When we cross the street next to Coffey Park I tell my Mom that I will run in the park ahead of her and meet her at the other end a block away. It’s such a beautiful day so she lets me go into the park. I like to run in the grass but I have my good shorts and clean white shirt on so I can’t roll in the grass the way I would like to.
So I run around with a bunch of kids that I don’t know and I clime the metal statue of a World War I soldier that was put there in their memory because they died fighting for our country. What I can’t understand is that if all these men died to keep us free why did our soldiers have to fight again in World War II. Maybe my teacher can tell me the answer when I go back to school next month.