Charles Pendelton
      © 2008 Marty Langdon
Chapter 32 (1972) pt 4


My cousins were always fighting with one another over the silliest things, and no one
could really piece together why they did it. Sometimes when Harmony wasn’t
I would go to their house and listen to them bicker. What began as idle chitchat and
giggles would soon escalate into arrogant persiflage wrapped in disdainful sarcasm.

Even my youngest cousin,
Roberta, would throw in a few words every now and then to
break balls. She was a 
mischievous child who found pleasure in tormenting others, as
did most children of this
particular time period when boredom struck. Ever so conniving
to get her own way, she would do little things like hide the hair
dryer under Gloria’s bed
when Patty needed it to restyle her hair and then say she saw
Gloria put it in the closet.
You know, turn one against the other in an attempt to have
some fun, at which point my
Aunt Paula, who was usually at her wit’s end by now,
would wind up having to rush in
and separate them before it got too crazy.

The following day, I was there again, only this time Patti and Roberta weren’t home.
“Good luck with that, and never be afraid to say what’s on your mind. Got it?”

“Thanks, Glor,” I said, strolling out of the house with a renewed sense of confidence.

Love was in the air, for even before I reached the last step, I could clearly see
Young, Mary Haskell across the street, caressing the shoulder of some strange
boy. There were no words spoken, and there didn’t have to be because sometimes
the use of body language combined with distinct facial expressions says it all.

The world was dripping with love.

Immediately, I headed home using a small portion of the allowance money I had saved up
over the past several months. I then hurried to the stationary store and picked out the
most beautiful card I could find. This took close to an hour because I had to sift through
over forty cards, looking for one with just the right degree of sentiment inscribed.

I wanted it to be classy but sensuous as well. Not that I understood the true definition of
the word, ‘sensuous.’ Being in third grade was tough, and trying to think like an adult
you could even master basic English skills was more difficult. Nevertheless, I picked
out a
romantic birthday card that would have appealed to any female who was deeply in love.

                                                   The Savages - Roses are red my love

You should have seen the look I received from the cashier.
Knowing I didn’t have to explain myself, I decided to do so anyway.

“My dad’s working late tonight, and my mom’s birthday is tomorrow.
He always forgets.”

On my way out, I heard the old lady say to herself,
“What a sweet little boy.”

I then said to a lady passing by with a stroller, “That came
from a woman who was born before there was music.”

She smiled strangely and had no idea what the hell I was talking about.

As I approached Bagel Eddies, three teens could be seen up in the distance,
headed my way. They were talking jive and clamoring for attention as they
merrily strolled down the sidewalk. It was nice to see them proudly adorning
their afros, (which was so befitting of the times) while they took turns singing
the interconnected melody of a pop song and then laughing...

“I can dig it”
“He can dig it”
“She can dig it”
“We can dig it”
“They can dig it”
“You can dig it”
“Oh, let's dig it”
“Can you dig it, baby?”

As I rounded the corner and began walking down the other side
of the street, I paused to read the messages spray painted
on the
side of the old and weathered Grants department store edifice.

“Voice of the ghetto”
“Join the Black Panthers”
“It’s time for a revolution”
“Our nation is uprising”

These, along with a slew of various names and obscenities, scrawled
high and low upon the brick surface in black markers and spray paint.

The offenders were merely expressing themselves in
an age in which no internet, nor online activity existed.

I loved reading graffiti on walls when it was an intended statement and not a vile 
defamation of character designed to insult one’s integrity. It was a sign of the times,
and we couldn’t tell if it was slowly getting better or slowly getting worse. Summer
would arrive with a vengeance, and fire hydrants would be opened throughout the
city. Where children less fortunate than myself could cool their heels and try not
to harbor so much animosity toward those who were born into better households.

Somehow the television always painted a different
picture of what life in the slums was really like.

       The Human Expression - Sweet child of nothingness

Along the way, I saw an older woman walking a very strange dog. So odd was
this dog that looked like it couldn’t be real. Hastily he pranced in an uneven
manner before trying in vain to maul a pigeon that anxiously fluttered away.

“Wow, I’ve never seen a dog with braided hair.” I blurted out in amazement.
She smiled faintly before speaking.

“When he sprawls out on the floor, he looks like a giant mop-head.”

“I’ll bet,” I belted out before waving goodbye. I then continued along my merry way.

At the edge of my block, adjacent to my cousin's house, I saw little Kenny sitting
on the sidewalk making mud pies like a champion. “Hey Kenny,” I yelled out, as
he swept the dirt and debris that covered the street into a nice-looking mound.

“Hey Charlie,” he responded, as he continued to craft and shape what looked
like small brown hamburgers. “You want one?” He asked in an innocent voice.

“Sure,” I said elated, and he handed me one.

“Here you go, buddy,” I exclaimed, while handing him a quarter for his efforts.

“For me?” He responded, wide-eyed and full of glee.

“Of course,” I said, you did all the hard work.

“Would you like to come in? My mom got me Sea-Monkeys last night!”

From where I stood, I could hear a baseball game playing through the open window,
and I assumed the New York Mets were on television. Kenny's family were big fans
of the team, while I, and my family embraced the Yankees. However, after the recent
death of Gil Hodges, I found myself sympathetically rooting for the Mets; if nothing
more than to simply encourage team spirit and boost the morale of the fans.

“Thanks for the offer, but I have something really important to do.”

The following day, when I arrived home from school, little Kenny
was in the same place. He was doing the same thing as yesterday,
only now he had a painted sign that read, “Mud Pies 10¢.”

I guess he lowered his expectations.

Scurrying into the house via the rear entrance, I hastened up the staircase until I
reached the quiet comfort of my secluded room. Carefully examining the birthday
card, I became increasingly aware of the dangers involved should anyone get wind
of what I was doing. Because of this, I did not write anything inside the card until the
appropriate time called for me to do so. Earnestly, I searched for a good hiding spot.

I hid this card well by taping it to the underside of my bedroom chair.
Of course, I had a plan all mapped out, just in case, that would be put
into effect should anything happen to go wrong.

Back then, parents weren’t worried about their children disappearing. Everyone knew
each other, and we all coexisted together in peace. Aside from that, the store that sold
greeting cards was right around the corner. I will admit every time my mother strolled
into my room unannounced, I got this clenching feeling inside my chest that wouldn’t
quit. It wasn’t butterflies. It was more along the line of two bears fighting.

She never caught on to it, though, that I was hiding something big. 

Soon it was Saturday, June 10, and I was home with my parents. The high for today
would only reach 49 degrees Fahrenheit, breaking an all-time record low for this day.
I kept a small journal of weather-related facts and changes that occurred in the city
from this year until that of my darkest hour when nothing would matter anymore.

I was scouring through the yellow pages for a reputable florist
and was in the process of copying the name and number down
when I heard someone making their ascent up the stairs. . .

It's my father; hide everything quick.

Back then, we had a cute little thing called telephone exchange names that were
applied to each given district. This made it easier to remember someone’s telephone
number on the rotary dial phone, such as ELgin 1 5844, (or) MUrray Hill 5 9275.

When he walked back downstairs, I went into my parent’s room again.
Inconspicuously, I dialed the number.

“Hello,” said the voice on the other end of the line, “how may I assist you?”
“Yes, I was just wondering how much a box of long-stemmed roses costs?”

“You want a dozen?”


“You’re in luck because they’re on sale this month for twelve fifty.
If you need them in a vase, that’ll be fourteen even.”

“Thank you so much.”

Wow, I thought, roses are expensive.

                                                                                                                     Pg 183

The time read 5:20 on my parent’s bedroom alarm clock as I lay
the bright red telephone receiver back in its cradle. I then went
downstairs and announced I was going over to Timmy’s house.

“Be careful and watch both ways,” shouted Mother 
from the dining room table, she was cleaning.

“Yeah yeah, I know.”

As I exited the front door, closing the screen door behind me, I turned my
head and looked down to the end of the block opposite the apartment complex.
There I could see all the reeds surrounding the swamp where I sometimes
walk when Harmony is not around. It gives me a chance to think.

Who knew that five years from now, the swamp would be gone, and in its
would be built a park with a playground and two baseball fields?

One day, Harmony decided to come with me, and I showed her the old rowboat.

To get to it, you had to walk through a long maze of trampled reeds, or
milkweeds, as I often referred to them. She was quite astounded when
saw it and said it had to have been there for at least sixty years.

wasn’t much left to see, but somehow it remained. The bottom had pretty
much rotted away in all that muck, but somehow its shape was still perfectly
intact. Maybe it was the murky swamp water, so black and thick, that held it
all together and kept it from going anywhere. Not that it had anywhere to go.

The old wooden dock, which had decayed to a point where it could not even
be approached, seemed to be almost painted upon the landscape of the earth.

It was wonderful to be standing in a place that reflected so many memories.
Even my father told me he remembered seeing the old boat in his youth.
It was an inconceivable thought to imagine anyone ever harming it.

As Harmony grew fonder of me, her positive attitude would begin to take
on a seemingly obsequious nature.
Even though I was developing a strong
moral compass
and establishing my own set of values, I was smart enough
to grasp what very few children my age actually could, and that was to
never mistake kindness for weakness.

Closing the newly installed metal gate separating the sidewalk from the
walkway, I was greeted by an old friend. It was Mugsy. A neighborhood dog
who was even older than me. He was always around like a good luck charm,
and whenever he wandered by, I played with him, and he licked my face.

Mugsy was one-part Boxer, two parts mutt.

“I wish I could take you in, old boy, but I know you belong to someone,
and I would hate for them to worry about you not coming home tonight.”

Sometimes, he would wander the area and end up in the strangest of places.
For example, last year when I made a visit to my maternal grandmother’s
house and was relaxing in the above ground swimming pool, Mugsy made
a most
unusual entrance, nonchalantly shuffling over to greet my grandparents,
who were sunbathing on towels by the pool, and very excitedly began licking
their faces.

Casually disregarding a group of kids who were chasing the mosquito man’s
truck and could be seen engulfed in the delightfully sweet-smelling haze of
the alluring DDT. A harmless chemical sprayed as a pesticide to further
the destruction caused by bugs and insects across our land.

(Or so we all thought at the time)

My Grandfather greeted him as though he were a second grandson, and
after ruffling up his fur and flopping his ears around, proceeded to fetch
him some water and a half-eaten sandwich from earlier. That noble dog.

I knew he was being cared for. How else could one explain the immaculate
condition he was in? For instance, he always looked well-groomed, as if he
had just pranced out of a showroom, and his handsome brindle coat always

smelled clean, like fresh linens. I patted him on the head and told him to
back tomorrow if he wanted some food.

Apprehensively, he motioned away before stopping and turning to look back at me.

“I promise,” I said, and that must have dispelled
any suspicion the dog had of me telling him a fib.

As I approached the side door, I went to use my key but found the door unlocked.

It didn't look like anyone was home, so I entered discreetly. As I found my way into the
living room, I saw Harmony sound asleep on the couch. How peaceful she looked in her
loose-fitting slacks and matching shirt. She was in a faraway place, dreaming of us growing
older together in another time. Her face, notably, still wore an expression of sadness that
appeared to be shrouded in doubt. I curled up next to her, and she instinctively cradled
me in her arms. It only took a matter of minutes before I fell asleep alongside her.

                                                   Johnny and The Appolos - And it's with you

Like pages to an archaic novel no one will ever read, for the wind
has blown them away, I rush onward. Trying to gather as many as
I can before the hands of senility move in to upheave me.
How it
burns my eyes to remember those halcyon days of my youth.

Apart from all the trivialities that comprise everyday learning,
I did not feel what I was being taught by Harmony could ever
compromise my values, nor my beliefs for that matter.

I knew when to behave like a child and when I had to switch
gears to try to act like an adult in our unique situation. Still,
there were times when I failed miserably, and of those times,
I knew I would never give up but always remain steadfast.

The difference between becoming an adult and remaining
a child is simply knowing that you are going to make mistakes.
However, if you cannot learn from your mistakes, then how
can you ever expect to grow to maturity on an adult level?

Harmony woke me at 7:30 by massaging my neck and shoulders.
From there, she
went on to work out all the kinks in my lower
back. How I loved it when she did
that. She then announced
dinner was ready and escorted me into the kitchen.

“Your mom called while you were sleeping.
I told her you were upstairs playing.”

I walked over to the table, where I sat down and waited for Harmony.
In a tired manner, I yawned, holding my hand over my mouth so as not
to be impolite. I was still half asleep and in somewhat of a dreamlike
state, where I watched her stirring the pot ever so slowly.

“What is that?” I asked curiously, smelling the thick,
rich broth of a partially congealed amalgamation.

“Mulligatawny soup. Don’t sit down, c’mere;
I want you to tell me what you think of it.”

As I walked over to the stove and breathed in deeply
the enticing aroma of faraway spices, I honestly didn’t
know what to make of it, but it sure smelled good.

Harmony then plunked her finger into the
simmering pot of thick, yellowy soup.



She then put her finger into my mouth and pulled it out slowly.

“How is it?”

“I’m not sure what I like better, the soup or the finger.”

“Hmmm, then I guess we’ll have to try again, won’t we?”

Harmony was now smiling so exuberantly that I could
only see the top row of her sparkling white teeth.

In an accelerated motion, she dipped two fingers in and out as the condensed liquid ran
down her wrist. This time, however, I could see by the expression Harmony exhibited that
she had gotten stung by some of that goopy broth. As she slid those sensuously hot fingers
into my mouth, I took hold of her hand and could not stop seducing them with my tongue.

“Easy, you’re going into a frenzy.” Harmony said, giggling loudly as I twisted
my serpent tongue around her index finger like it was the rod of Asclepius.

“I can’t help it,” I said in my ecstatic fervor, “everything tastes so good on you.”

She threw her head down hard and fast, and for a brief moment,
her long black hair covered my entire face.

“That is by far the strangest thing you have ever said to me.”

                                                                                                                     Pg 184

Before we sat down to eat, Harmony dimmed the lights and lit
a candle that
was situated in the middle of the dining room table.
Lifting my fork, I was ready.

“Wait,” she stressed, “give me your hands.”

She told me to close my eyes, and together we gave thanks
unto the Lord for what we had. As we were indulging, Harmony
spoke of all the places she wished to visit in the world.

“I can wait until I’m thirty to see them,” she said, with
eyes piercing. As if to imply,
“Don’t make me wait ten
years if you are going to have other plans then.”

I was very good at listening when Harmony spoke, but considering I had
not voiced my opinion on anything, it was beginning to feel more like a
one-way conversation. This was making me feel uneasy, for I honestly
had nothing to interject that could in any way enhance the topic.

Regardless, I decided it was time to speak.

“I would go with you tonight if you took me.”

(She gave me a long cold look before speaking)

“Let’s say for argument’s sake I did, then what?”
“Then it’s just me and you, free to do what we wanna do.”

“We’re just going to up and leave, like two animals in 
the night without even saying goodbye? Then what?”

“Then we call them in a week to let them know I’m okay.”

“What about school, or do you just stop going?
Didn’t think of that, did you?”

“They have schools in every state.
What are you so worried about?”
“You’re a missing person. How could I enroll
you in school if you’re not even my own child?”

“Then you could teach me. I learn more with you
than I do with those asshole teachers anyway.”

“Watch your mouth,” she said calmly while analyzing me at a
respectable distance. As if trying to separate the man from the boy.

“I’m sorry, I’d just rather be with you than them.”

“That’s not the point.”

*The conversation was now becoming serious*

“I don’t care about them; I only care about you;
why can’t you see that?”

“I do, and it frightens me.”


“Because if I ever did something like that to your parents,
I would deserve to go to jail for the rest of my life.”

                                                            The Whigs - You're gonna lose her

She spoke as though I should have kept my mouth shut from the start.
There are some things that should not be spoken aloud, and this was
one of them, but I was foolish, I guess, for I kept riding it.

“Imagine if there was a place we could go, and everyone accepted
us as we were. We could be free there. We could kiss in public,
and there would be other people like us there too.”

                                                             Elton John - Val-Hala

“There was a place like that once,” said Harmony, while
down into her bowl of soup and getting lost in it.

“What happened?”

She threw her eyes at me like a locked and loaded shotgun. . .

                                                               “God destroyed it!”

Springing to her feet quickly, Harmony walked over to the sink where she stood for some time.

So shocked was I at the way she reacted; I just sat there. I have to be very careful what I say from
now on, and I can no longer just say what I’m feeling. In my mind, I tried to analyze what I did that
could affect her so deeply. I came to the conclusion that women were emotional creatures, and a
man had to be able to think on their level. Of course, that is impossible for any man, let alone a child
struggling to understand the fundamentals of life. How is it that a couple of words thrown in either

too soon or not soon enough can alter a whole relationship? It was baffling for me to comprehend
the entire aspect of what was happening, and so I just sat there, disillusioned and equally as hurt.

                                                    His Majesty's Coachmen - Where are you bound

She was now either dwelling upon how dumb I was to be thinking like that
or wondering how she got herself entwined in this mess in the first place.

I thought about walking over to her and putting my arms around
her waist 
but I was afraid she would swing around and strike me.

“I’m sorry,” I said again, this time with all sincerity.

There was no answer for a while, and then she
spoke to me indirectly through the window. . .

“You should be.”

                                                                                                                     Pg 185

I decided to keep quiet and not make a sound until she shook whatever it was,
she was going
through. As she turned around, she threw me a scathing look and
made sure that I saw it. Harmony then unveiled the main course, chicken tikka
masala, along with some puri
bread, and a small vat of mango lassi which was
kept in the fridge. The meal was served on
a bed of rice, which I now assume
was basmati, but who can really say? I’m going back a long time.

If I tried to explain how delicious this meal was, I would surely fall short.
The poultry was so tender it practically melted in my mouth.

“Everything you cook is fantastic,” I shouted in my ebullience.

“You’re just saying that 'cause you love me.” She spoke the words like she
was putting on a dressing gown while trying not to be overly seductive.

For dessert, Harmony brought out gulab jamuns,
floating in a ceramic bowl of warm rosewater syrup.

I took one bite of those amazing pastries and fell in love all over again.

“First the balloon bread, and now this? You make food exciting.”

There wasn’t a cannoli in the entire universe that
could make me turn around and leave voluntarily.

“Some Indians feel the same way about American food.”


She giggled playfully, “Of course not, boring.

If you went to India and saw for yourself how many different types of food

we have and how many intriguing combinations there were. Let me tell you
that India has over 700 dialects, and for every one spoken comes a more
diverse food culture. Meaning it would probably take you a lifetime to try
everything. One day I will take you there, and then you’ll understand.”

Sunday morning, June the 11th, I awoke to my mother yelling,
“Rise and shine, I made pancakes.”

I struggled to pull myself out of bed and lumbered down the carpeted
staircase. Uninterested in participating in the weekend ritual.

Upon entering the kitchen, I asked, “Where’s dad,” I asked?

She shrugged her shoulders without implying a gesture
and said in a heartless tone, “Don’t know, don’t care.”

Few words were exchanged at the breakfast table, where Mother
seemed to be preoccupied with her husband’s whereabouts.

When she got up and placed a 45 record on the turntable, it appeared
to be more of an intended statement she was making, and she wanted
me to hear it too. Any other kid might not have noticed, but I wasn’t
your average kid. I could read between the lines better than most,
and you didn’t have to be an intellectual to notice the marriage
was deteriorating at an exceedingly rapid pace.

As the heartbreaking song of despair played, I couldn’t help but pity
the female vocalist singing. It was a song of love and pain
that brought
suffering to a new whole level, and I just listened solemnly.
The name of
the song was, Which way you goin’ Billy by The Poppy Family, and in that
very moment, I truly understood my mother’s sorrow as the song seemed
to be a direct reflection of the anguish she felt within her own heart.

Indeed, it would go down in history as one of the
saddest songs ever to be sung by a female artist.

                     The Poppy Family - Which way you goin' Billy

Afterward, I said I was going across the street to play with Timmy.

“You better bundle up because it’s cold outside.”

It turns out that today is even colder than yesterday, with a high of only
46 degrees. Now that’s cold for June. Who could have possibly known
that on this exact same day next year, the entire city would be caught
in the grip of a powerful heat wave?

The temperature for this day next year would hit 95 degrees.

I knew this not only because I was a weather buff but because
me and Harmony watched the weather together in the comfort
of the central AC. We cuddled up together on that couch with
very little clothes on until it was time for dinner.

How amorous and tender was the veneration of our windswept love.

In a time and place where two gentle beings who only
sought shelter from the cackle of derision are comforted
by each other’s unending love and support. 

In a world where heartfelt devotion reigned supreme.

All the scribbled writings from that period of time
have been adjusted and recomposed for this book.

                                Maywood - Since I met you

How we used to dote on each other.

Bringing solace into a life that was so lacking of it
while apricating in the warmth her eyes conveyed.

Tender moments in an ethereal void of our own creation
have been tediously reconstructed by my hand.

Our love, conjoined by a juncture in time, shall always be,
for it had been written in passion by two gentle souls.

In those tumultuous times, Harmony was my anchor, and I was
her bridge over troubled water. And no matter what happened,
I would stand by her side, because the love I felt for her could
not be admonished nor reproved.

Oh God, how I adored her.

Mom preferred me being over there when the heat index, or the actual air temperature,
topped out at over ninety degrees. She said I could stay there as long as I didn’t wear
out my welcome, and why should we all die of heat exhaustion if we don’t have to?

“Thanks, ma, you're the greatest.”

As I can barely make out in the third journal, we broke a record
the following day as well. From what I could see here, it was a
Tuesday, June 12, 1973, and I was with Harmony after school.

Spontaneously, she said that she wanted to take a drive. It was one of many times
I would accompany Harmony as she took the old car for a spin. “I think we need to
escape for a while,” she said, and I bolstered, “Sure.” After starting the car, we had to
wait a few minutes for the air conditioner to kick in. Watching her maneuver the gear
shifter, which was cleverly mounted near the steering wheel, she then depressed the
clutch petal. It was an interesting configuration of moves to watch; considering it was
almost twenty years old, I just assumed that these manual shifters had more or less
progressed and evolved into fully automatic transmissions.

I mean seriously, why would anyone want to do all that
work in this modern age when they didn't have to?

Harmony pulls into an Esso station that was in the process of rebranding
itself into Exxon, before telling the attendant to fill-er-up.

“Yes ma'am, just a second,” he vocalized, before wiping the sweat from his brow.

“34¢ a gallon,” I said while looking at the happy tiger on the inflated sign.

“You want to see me make this guy's day? Watch this...”
Signaling him over with her finger.


“This is for doing such a wonderful job every day.”
Harmony then proceeds to hand him a crisp five-dollar bill.

“For me, oh my gosh; thank you so much.”

He stumbled while checking the oil before proceeding to check all the fluid levels.
Then he cleaned all the windows, and I wouldn't have been too surprised if he had
escorted us out of the vehicle while he attempted to clean the inside as well.

“You folks have a nice day now, and stay cool.”
Said the gas attendant in his clean-pressed uniform.

“I think you may have forgotten something,” said Harmony
while conveying a whimsical expression.

At first, he appeared to be baffled, but then it kicked in.

“By golly, I am so. . . Oh my gosh. That-never. . . Wow.”
As he scrambled for the gas pump, I couldn't contain my laughter.

Harmony, with a smirk, then said, “He reminds me of someone very familiar.”

“Hey, come on, I was never like-that.”

“Not exactly, but close enough.”

After the leaded gasoline had filled the vehicle and the nozzle had been returned to its
holder, the gas station attendant returned to the vehicle for payment. He then asked, “Who
is this handsome young squire?” Harmony responded by saying in an almost seductive
voice, “This is my boyfriend.” She then extended her arm with an open hand, and I gently
placed my hand in hers. As his expression dropped, the blood drained from his face like
a knife had been thrust into his abdomen. We then began laughing hysterically, and the
attendant, now realizing the joke was on him, tried his best to retain his composure.

“You. . . You” he said while wagging his finger and trying not to turn any redder.

“Oh my God,” said Harmony in amazement, “Look at how red he got.”

“Look-look,” I yelled, “he's turning a shade of purple!”

He then shuffled into an awkwardly fast pace and went inside.
Harmony then started up the car and continued to drive.



“Can you promise me you won't go back to that filling station unless I'm with you?”

“No way; you're jealous.”

“I'm not jealous. I'm concerned.”

“You're jealous, say it. . .”

“Okay, I'm jealous.”

“To the core?”

“Yeah, to the core; happy now?”


As we rode down Hylan Boulevard, the sheer number of potholes was staggering.
They ranged in size from pockmarks to medium-sized craters. Further on down the
road in Prince's Bay near Richmond Memorial Hospital is where Harmony swerved
the car, nearly losing control of the vehicle to avoid hitting a very deep chuckhole.

Pulling over to the side were the remains of shredded tires, mangled rims, two iron
fenders, and what remained of some poor fellow's axle. It was at this moment that
Harmony lost her cool, and it was one of the few times I ever heard her swear.

“These fucking roads are atrocious, an absolute disgrace.”  

“How can they allow this to happen?” I railed.
“Doesn't the city have money?”

“They have it, but apparently only to line their own pockets. Believe me,
it's all graft and corruption running rampant. It saddens me to say that
the streets are better in India than they are here, and that is pathetic.”

From there, she drove exceedingly slow and made damn sure the car
was coming home in one piece and not on the back of a tow truck.

By the middle of 1974, approximately a year before President Gerald
Ford would castigate the city of New York by having a message relayed
to the newspapers stating in no uncertain words for New York City to -
and I quote, “Drop Dead,” the roadways would go from treacherous
to downright life-threatening.

The streets became so bad that Harmony refused to leave New Dorp.

In the same way President Richard Nixon waved the double peace sign outside
Air Force One during his resignation, I always felt that President Gerald Ford
should have shown his true colors by flipping New York City the double bird.

At least if you're going to implode, do it with a little integrity,
and never be afraid to make a few enemies along the way.

As she parked on a side street and turned off the engine, her hand gently touched
mine. It was then I heard her say, “You do realize this can't go on forever, right?”

“What do you mean?” I uttered.

“I just have this terrible feeling I cannot shake that we're running out of time. Somehow,
someway, we are going to get caught, and my family disowning me will become the very
least of my worries. It's not seeing you anymore that will utterly destroy me.”

“Please, don't talk like that. I mean, if that ever happened, I would tell everyone
that I forced you into it. That if you didn't play along and did everything I said,
I would expose you.”

Harmony pulled back fast, releasing her hand from mine.
“Do you even realize the words you are speaking?”

“I'm just saying...”

“Shut up, and stay in the car.”

As she exited the vehicle and gently closed the door, she leaned back against the car.
If I'm not mistaken, her hand was covering her face; no, it was covering her mouth.

Yeah, I did it again. I tried to console her with words, and I ended up putting my foot
in my mouth. Why can't I ever learn to just be quiet? To clam up instead of rambling
on like a broken record? Maybe there really is something very wrong with me.

As Harmony got back into the car, I knew how the scenario was going to play out.
Especially with her eyes being as red as they were, and the way she was sniffling.
The silence in the car was beginning to frighten me. She hadn't started the car as
abruptly as I thought she would and was just staring out the open window as if to
be in a mild trance. Lost in a sea of thought, and I would remain as cool as a kitten.

“If I find I am creating a monster, then I will end this here and now.”

“You’re not; I was just talking crazy.”

“Let it be the last time.”

And with that said, she turned on the engine, and we took the back roads home.

As we entered the house and began to celebrate her birthday together,
her family arrived unexpectedly.

“Oh my God, my family is here. Quick, you have to go. Out
the side door and wait until they’re all inside before crossing.”

At first, I thought she was fooling around, but when I realized the joke was on me,
I was hurt beyond words. Just to see her scrambling for a paper towel, licking it,
and then scrubbing her forehead like she was polishing chrome. All to get that
little red dot off so no one could ask questions nearly tore my heart in two.

I could not understand why she was still so ashamed of me. So, I was young,
but it didn’t make me a leper. Maybe if Harmony had communicated with her
parents a little more, all this could have been avoided. Maybe if she told them
she was watching me because my parents were having marital problems and
I that had nowhere else to go. Then perhaps they may have found a shred of
pity within themselves, whereby allowing me the dignity to love them and care
for their only daughter.

Any customary ritual or body purification I would have gladly undergone to be
accepted in the eyes of her parents and adored as their own. But nothing I could
do, or say, or even think, could ever change the fact that I was different from her.

Why can't we all live amongst one another in peace
if that is the way we are happy?

Is that not what God wants?

Why should a country dictate how two human beings choose to live their lives?
Shouldn’t it be their choice? Taking all things into consideration, I have learned it is
not about two people coming together for an evening of illicit sex; it is about finding
true love in the eyes of an endearing companion whom we cannot live without.

Do I sound unreasonable?

Even so, I could not understand why falling in love had to come
with an age requirement. One day perhaps, I would be able to
comprehend this, but for the time being, I was distraught.

                                                   The Lollipop Shoppe - It ain't how long

                                                                                                                     Pg 186

Obediently, I waited with my back pressed tightly against the sandy textured exterior of
her impressive home. I could now hear them chatting away while speaking so fluently
in another tongue. Maybe if I was Spanish or spoke Gujarati, they would embrace me.

No, they would still scorn me.

Not only because of my size and lack of knowledge but because of our age
difference. And logically, because I have yet to complete elementary school.

I’m sure it wouldn’t raise much concern if Harmony happened to be dating a nice
college graduate who was both handsome and intelligent. One who earned a large
sum of money and was insightful. But I’m just the little boy next door they wouldn’t
hesitate to chase with a stick if they had even the slightest idea something was
forming between us.

As I listened, I could hear people laughing and clapping,
and from what I could tell she sounded happier now
than when I was with her.

Painfully, I staggered away.
                                                                 The Midknights - Why

As I forced myself across the street that day, it felt like I had been lobotomized.
I was wrestling with the anguish that burned deep inside of me, while at the same
time, I was trying desperately to hold back an insatiable urge to just burst into tears.

I’ll admit my emotions were confused, but deep down, I knew men aren’t supposed
to cry. A man must always hold it together, even if the world is coming apart.

                                                                          The Zoo - I cry

Entering through the back door, I was met with a rush of hot air.
It was stifling in there like I had walked into a gigantic oven.

Since we lived in a rather small duplex dwelling, that whole side
of the house had no windows, and because of this, the air never
circulated well. If the big Westinghouse air conditioner wasn’t
on in the living room, you more or less suffered.
                                                    The Squires - I don't care

I walked through the kitchen to the bathroom, which was located by the rear entrance,
and looked at myself in the mirror like I was confronting a bully in the school cafeteria.
I spoke in a very calm and mildly assertive tone, which among other children, would
have implied an immediate, almost certain danger.

“If I lose Harmony because of you, I swear to God, I will kill you.”

Elton John - It's me that you need

I then went up to my room, where I waited in torment for four solid hours.
Trying to be a man and not cry was a lot harder than I thought, so I figured
I might as well just let it out and accept it. No one would ever know, so it
didn’t really matter. Being up there alone to myself until my mother arrived
at 6:30 was like being in a part of hell I never again wished to revisit.

                                                       The Romans - After you go

Not knowing I would one day have to live in it forever.

By the time seven o’clock rolled around, I could see Harmony’s relatives were
still there, so I decided to stare at the alarm clock. I watched the numbers
so intensely it began to feel like I would have grey hair by the time they left.

Then at seven thirty, which felt like seven hours, I thought of something so
terrifying it made the sweat from my forehead enter my eyes, and it burned
like fire. What if they don’t leave, and I’m condemned to this room all night?

I was panicking and thought I might even cry again.
Not knowing what to do I did absolutely nothing but wait.

The Beloved Ones - My year is a day

At eight o’clock sharp, her family left, and so I walked down the retro orange
staircase to find my mother watching a television program alone as usual.

She was startled to see me standing there sweating rather profusely
like I had just stepped out of a pool to put on clothes.

I said I had returned for some things, and mom looked
at me very confused. She knew I’d been in the house
since she got home and that something was wrong.

She also knew that ‘getting a few things’ didn’t mean
leaving the house with nothing in your possession.

God, why am I so stupid?

As I exited my house, the outside air provided no relief whatsoever.

The Papillonis’ were home, and I could hear Nina listening to some
really hip tunes by her bedroom window. She was bouncing around,
and the music was much sharper and clearer than it sounded through
the dividing wall of our humble duplex.

Ah sugar, (Ba-Ba-Ba-Ba-Ba-Ba)
Ah honey honey (Ba-Ba-Ba-Ba-Ba-Ba)
You are my candy, girl.
And you've got me wanting you.

It sickened me to see someone having such a wonderful time,
while I churned with misery. Even the song reflected my emotions,
causing me to pause and wonder about the mighty estate of an
almost certain higher power.

The Human Expression - I don't need nobody

As I hurried across the street, I could almost feel my mother’s eyes burning
a hole through my skin. I don’t know how or why, but I knew she was watching
me from our living room window. She had a look of utter suspicion etched on
her face, and I couldn’t erase that image from my mind.

Now she was thinking, and there is nothing
worse than when a mother begins to think.

Not that she was a problem solver or anything so dire as that, thank God.
I just didn’t want her to concern herself with matters that did not welcome
her concern. I checked by listening first, just to make sure no one stayed
behind, and heard Harmony alone washing dishes.

Lucky for the streetlight that had blinked off as I was approaching her door,
or the problem may have been even more compounded. The door was
unlocked so I entered. Walking in, I closed the door, so she could hear it.

Passing by the recessed alcove, I found my way into the kitchen.

“Please forgive me for making you leave
like that, but our love has to remain a secret.”

“It’s okay,” I said, feeling rather disoriented as
if I were being slowly colored back into reality.

Harmony then hugged me as tight as she could for
almost five minutes. As she rubbed my back in a slow,
gentle motion, I didn’t think I would be able to let go.

That night as we watched the news, the weatherman said we hit 93
degrees in central park. That whole week I was allowed to sleep
over and mom drove me up to the station as she did each morning.

Not to worry, Harmony always made sure I was ready on time.

                                                                                                                     Pg 187

As Friday rolled along, it was now time to go home. Harmony accompanied
me across the street to send me on my way, and to tell my parents what a
wonderful time we both had in each other’s company. The entire house
was as dark as could be, but next door seemed to be swinging.

Wally Papilloni, who worked as a public accountant in a swanky high
rise by day, had thrown another one of his famous jazz parties. A social
gathering of business acquaintances and partners in crime that would
come together for an evening of hors d’oeuvres and cocktails.

At the party, it was not unusual to hear Bossa Nova or Mambo music
playing into the evening hours, as well as the typical jazz albums of
the 50s and 60s. It was unusual, however, if you factored in that no
one smoked or cursed, and almost everyone, including Wally himself,
seemed to resemble Clark Kent and (or) wore glasses.

I guess they would be considered ‘nerdy’ by today’s standards, but in
those days, the fabric of modern-day society was just being woven.

Indeed, they were an eclectic bunch of eager young men trying hard
to make an honest living and, from what I could gather, appeared
courteous, well mannered, and in a sense, exceptionally bright.

Yes, it was the age of astronauts and rockets soaring
high in the sky to the tune of an evening jazz record.

                                                             Mambo for Cats  

The fanfare of a simpler time would far outweigh the extravagances of a
high-tech world that was yet to come. At least for memory’s sake, when
I look back into the mirror of time to find that everything I could not fully
appreciate then, I’d come to long for now.

How our minds filled with glee at the thought of Neil Armstrong taking
his first step on the moon and an infinite solar system of immeasurable
galaxies waiting to be chartered. Life was too busy being enjoyed to think
of anything that could otherwise offset the moment.

There were no cell phones ringing, or internet traffic pouring in. Neither
were there video cameras in pants pockets or high-definition televisions
by the street corner on the outside of subway stations. No, the age of
electronic billboards was still buried in the hearts of dreamers that, if
mentioned, would be laughed at. . . Or at least given another drink.

Adaira, who was Mrs. Papilloni, always made too much food,
and so, an excitable knock on the door frequently sent Mother
into a tither, scrambling for her purse.

Before we approached the steps, Harmony grabbed my arm.

“I can’t go in there.”

“Why not?” I replied in an almost innocent voice.

“Have you seriously forgotten?” She threw me a horrified,
piercing look that sent shivers down my spine.

“Timmy,” she uttered in a loud whisper before
slapping the side of my head really hard.

Pulling me close, she said in a dark, threatening manner,
“Do not ever do that again. Five minutes, then I leave.
Are you listening to what I’m saying?”

“Yeah, hon, I hear you.”

“I knew that’s what you said that day.”

“What day?”

“Never mind.”

As I entered with Harmony by my side, I could see my mother sitting
alongside my father on the sofa with a cigarette dangling from her lips.
She appeared to be attentive and coherent, so it would appear the effects
of the alcohol had not yet made its way through her bloodstream.

Here we go, I thought. She’s smoking in our neighbor’s house, and
they don’t smoke. It was more of an uncomfortable feeling than it
was embarrassing, and Harmony greeted them with a kiss.

“I’m thinking of adopting your son, do you think that would be a problem?”

My parents laughed while I inadvertently flared my nostrils. I was taken
aback by the inappropriate comment and could not close my mouth. This
made Harmony laugh, which in turn, made everyone in the room laugh.

Now I had another problem that filled my head with thoughts of unease
and despair. A room full of men who didn’t appear to be married were
now charmed by the exquisitely beautiful woman who had just made
them laugh, and for a brief moment in time, I kind of went deaf.

                                                                                                                     Pg 188

At least, my father thought I did.

“Are ya deaf? I’m talking to you.”

“Oh, hi, dad.”

“I was asking you, how’s everything goin’?”

“Everything is great,” I said, in a state of complete
disillusionment, before smiling wholeheartedly.

“Are ya stayin’ at Harmony’s tonight, or are you comin’ home?”

I froze up and could not speak.

“It’s funny you should ask that because my sister stopped by this afternoon
to visit Timmy. He hasn’t been feeling well these days, and since she rarely
takes any time off from work, it wouldn’t be a problem. She’s going to spend
the weekend here, and Charlie is more than welcome to stay too.”

“Thank you, that’s all I wanted to know. Why don’t ya stay awhile? They’re gonna
be bringin’ the food out in a few minutes, so have a cocktail or two. Join the fun.”

“That is a good idea, but I think I’ll stick to a beverage that doesn’t make me tipsy.”

Adaira came over and asked us what we would like to drink.
I told her I would have a soda, and Harmony requested soda as well.

“I believe you know where the refrigerator is,” said Mrs. Papilloni
with a devil-may-care grin and a wink. Thus implying I would be
doing the honors of serving the beverages tonight.

“I’ll be right back,” I told Harmony and made
my way into the kitchen to fetch us two sodas.

Yanking open the door, I saw a soda in there I had never tried before,
so, I grabbed two bottles and forcefully slammed the door shut.
Anyone witnessing this might have thought I was a presumptuous
child with no manners or proper upbringing, but Adara treated
everyone like family. I then headed back out into the living room.

Handing one to Harmony, I, in turn, opened mine and took a nice
big gulp. As soon as it went down, the only thing I could think of
was running into the bathroom and throwing up.

“Stop,” I said to Harmony, “don’t open it; it is horrible.”

She then took a sip of mine and agreed. So, I instantly returned hers for
a Pepsi. Upon my second entrance into the kitchen, I could have easily
emptied it into the sink and grabbed two bottles of Pepsi, but I wasn’t
that type of person. I opened it voluntarily, and so I’d drink it willingly.

Needless to say, I eventually finished it
because as it got warmer, it got worse.

I will never forget that despicable three letter word as long as I live. . . Talk About Bad.

And for the next two hours, I had to act the part of a child in the company of adults,
which wasn’t very difficult, because I knew I would be in the arms of my endearing
angel when the clamor of the evening finally subsided into a feeling of calm serenity.

Nina came down to say hello, and then retreated back into
the comfort of her embellished room and was not seen again.
After about an hour, Harmony asked me if I wanted to leave.

I wasn’t sure how to reply, but rather than answer with a question, I simply said, “No.”

“Okay,” she said joyfully, and I knew she didn’t want to leave either.

Together we ate a lot of food and listened to soothing jazz music in a true retro fifties
environment, where the metal and wood atomic ball clock hung adjacent to the odd-
looking boomerang barkcloth chairs. This house had to be the hippest in town in terms
of being a stylishly modern throwback of 1959. Such magnificent decor, that was both
eye catching and appealing to the senses. As soon as you walked in, there was just
something about being there that made one feel as though they did not want to leave.

The tan abstract linoleum tiles neatly covering the kitchen floor truly accentuated
the brown wraparound wallpaper of atomic starburst patterns. How I loved that
antique white Philco refrigerator with the giant handle that had to be yanked

downwards to open it. Don’t get me wrong, I liked our light blue Hotpoint
refrigerator and matching stove too, but this one was just unique.

At nine o'clock, Harmony thanked Mrs. Papilloni for being a gracious hostess
and for allowing her the privilege to attend such a wonderful gathering. We
then bid everyone farewell, and together we departed into the night.

As Sunday was nearing its end, and I was preparing to leave, a song
came over the airwaves. A song
I had never heard before, but judging
from its lyrics
, it seemed to know me better than anyone else.

Will you be staying after Sunday, or go home on Monday?

Your lips are warm on Friday night; the next two days you hold me tight.
But when it's done, you always run, and I'm alone.

I'd give the world to keep you here - Why do you need to disappear?
And when I press, you do your best; you stall for time.

Will you be staying after Sunday, or go home on Monday?

We gotta let this feeling grow or let it end.
You say you care, well if you do, don't ever go, I'm begging you.

Don't let a lonely Monday come again.

As the song finished, I bolted out the side door and curled up in one of the
densely covered yew plants. Those coniferous shrubs with dark-green linear
needle-like leaves and red berries with a hole on the other side exposing the
seed. Something was happening to me, and I didn't know what it was. I felt like
everything was coming apart because I needed to be with Harmony, but at the
same time, I had to go home because it was Sunday. I clasped my hands to my
head and shut my eyes as tight as I could. I stayed there for maybe fifteen
minutes before dusting myself off and walking to my house in a state of duress.

                                                                                                                     Pg 189

                  *Returning once again to the previous year of 1972*

I will never forget April 22nd, Easter Sunday. It was a comfortable afternoon, with the
temperature peaking near or around the 85-degree mark. I was finishing up a lamb
dinner cooked to perfection with my family. My grandparents on both sides were
over, talking about the day’s events and everyone was getting along just swell.

The mint jelly that had once graced the table in a fancy white ramekin was all
but gone as I lay my utensils down beside the plate. I then finished my third
and last bottle of Coca Cola before placing it down on the dining room table.

I was stuffed to the gills, and if my maternal grandmother dared to put that
very last sweet potato on my plate, as she had been prone to do in the past,
as God is my witness, I would have hurled it straight at the dining room wall.

                                    How I hated those things.

Whether it be yams or sweet potatoes, they always seemed
to gravitate toward my side of the table. Why couldn’t they
be left in the ground where they belong, I wondered?

Luckily, Harmony never took a liking to them.

As my maternal grandfather strikes a wooden match and begins puffing on
his pipe, my paternal grandmother begins to talk to my mother about a new
line of clothing at Macy’s. With this, my father begins talking to my grandfather
about being the last of the Pinkerton detectives and how close he came to
being gunned down in the early nineteen sixties by the mafia.

“I arrested so many of them, that I knew it was just a matter of time
before they got me. And so, I said to myself, I better find a new career.”

Even though it was only a few years ago, in those days, everything seemed so
nostalgic. As the smell of Argosy Black pipe tobacco encircled the air, my mind
filled with thoughts so peaceful I ceased to hear any more of the conversation.

Pipes were usually reserved for winter months, but it was not unusual to see
grandfather puffing away during the summer. To forego Camel cigarettes in
exchange for something much more pleasant. Indeed, that heavenly white cloud
moving around the light like an angry ghost made a wonderful air freshener.

As I was transported away, I began to daydream. It was last summer and I was with
my grandparents at the A&P. Grandma was picking things off the shelf while I carefully
steered the shopping cart, making sure not to catch her heel like the last time we were
there. My grandfather wandered about puffing pleasantly on his pipe while observing
things that were on each shelf. As the lights became brighter in the store, the darkness
of an electrical storm formed outside in its intensity.

As we were preparing to exit, the rain could be heard coming down in buckets.
"You better put your pipe in your pocket grandpa," I said.

"Now why would I do that?" He chuckled, and I pointed up at the sky.
"Don't worry pal, the pipe won't go out."

"I'll bet you a quarter it does," I yelled out as the rain fell like a monsoon
drowning out our voices.

My grandmother then hunched over and said in my ear, "You just lost a quarter."

"Well, I guess we're going to have to see about that."

You two stay here while I get the car," he hollered, at the wind as he stepped
into the pouring rain. He soon pulls the car up to the curb and we get in.

"How is it still lit?" I exclaimed in my bewilderment.

"Always try to remember that there are two sides to every coin."


My grandmother swiveled her head around from the front seat before
laughing and covering her mouth, "He turns it upside down in the rain!"

I was awakened from my trance when my mom and dad clinked glasses.

My paternal grandmother was now talking about my father as a child.

“In the winter months, before Richard went to school, I would have him go
outside to the chicken coop and bring me an egg. I beat the egg, poured
in some vermouth, and let him drink it. Just to warm him up because he
had to walk all the way to Public School 41. Do you remember, Richard?”

“I certainly do, ma. Now, if somebody did that today,
they’d be brought in for questioning, I’m sure.”

“Well back then, there were only twenty or thirty houses in each borough,
and before that when we first came to live here in 1927, this place was
like being up in the country. You could buy a house with a huge piece of
property for a few thousand dollars. Today, you would have to pay thirty.”

Just then, the bell chimes, and my maternal grandmother, who is closest to the
door, stands up and abruptly answers it. It’s Harmony, and I’m overjoyed.

I had no intention of leaving the house, but how quickly that changed.

“I was just wondering if you’d like to ride with me,” shouted Harmony with
an enormous grin that melted my heart and made me feel so jubilant.

“Would I ever,” I shouted back like some delighted
kid from Brooklyn in the nineteen fifties.
“Well, you better get moving,” said my father with a sarcastic look, and
I got the uncomfortable feeling he knew exactly what we were up to.

Without hesitation, I jumped up from my chair and bolted toward the door.

“Don’t you say goodbye to anyone?” questioned my mother, while my
grandfather disregarding her words, shouted, “Go have fun and don’t worry.”

Making my way to the tin shed, I slid the rusty doors open before wheeling
out my Schwinn Manta Ray. It was a tangerine color like those yams I hated,
but this bike I adored. It had a wide orange banana seat, that people of today
would call queer, and brakes that could only be activated by jamming down
hard on the pedal. With this iron monstrosity, I was ready to conquer the world.

Harmony hopped on her teak colored ten speed and
together we
sped off down the block like Bonnie and Clyde.

In no time flat, I was ahead of her.

When she moved up alongside me, I always remained close and
would not excel further. Though I could have easily taken the lead.

As we approached Ebbitts Street, we turned right and continued along that route
until we reached the private community of summer bungalows. There, the road
became Cedar Grove, and so we turned left. How nice it must have been when
my parents were children growing up. The beach would attract visitors from afar,
and all the neighboring streets and dwellings, I am told, were immaculately clean.

People took pride in their community, but I can gradually see it all slipping away.
Nowadays, everything is on a downward spiral because of kids rebelling, drugs,
the Vietnam war, the word Freedom being misused, and a whole lot-of-greed.

As we were passing Herman Street down New Dorp beach along Cedar Grove
Avenue, an ominous-looking car approached. Oh no, I thought, it’s the Torre
brothers. Three guys who were always wasted were now hopped-up on Pabst
Blue Ribbon beer.

The other two chuckleheads were just neighborhood punks who smoke and drank
in the vacant lot that would later become an oasis for hoodlums. Desecrated with
spare tires, kitchen appliances, old mattresses, and whatever could be vandalized
with graffiti. In the midst of it all stood an archaic tree with old carvings that, to
an innocent passerby, may have resembled a scene straight out of purgatory.

“Hey baby, show us your stuff,” said Joey from behind the wheel of his 1961
Seafoam Green Chevrolet Biscayne. “Yeah, come on, baby, give us a little taste
of heaven.” Shouted Donnie from the back seat while wagging his tongue around,
as if any woman in her right mind could ever want it between her genitalia.

Harmony threw up her middle finger, and
Joey smoked the tires to try to impress her.

Them dopes don’t know the first thing about love, was my initial thought.
At night they hang out on the sand like beach bums, sucking faces and
groping each other’s body parts like animals in a zoo. They disgust me.

As my ears bore witness to the barrage of flagrant profanity laced with
hidden undertones of incestuous brooding and pejorative connotations,
nothing would have made me smile more than for a mortar to misfire
propelling it inside the vehicle to incinerate them.

Their only purpose for existing was to go against the grain of mankind.

As we made a detour down one of the narrow one-way side streets,
Joey slammed on the brakes. Thankfully, a milkman using a Weissglass
company milk truck to run some miscellaneous errands on this glorious
Sunday followed behind us, whereby thwarting their advances. 

I can't explain what it was about that little truck that made my
eyes light up whenever I saw it. All I can tell you is that it was a
Divco milk truck with such a weird shape; it was almost surreal.

“My grandfather has one alongside the house. Come
on Harmony, I’ll show you," I said, feeling exhilarated.

We could now hear them burning rubber down the street as they peeled
out in haste. Without exaggeration, that weather-beaten eyesore was
two oil changes away from heading to the local junkyard. As we casually
rounded the block in a U turn fashion to ride down the other one way
street, we turned left at the corner while continuing onward down the
road until we reached my maternal grandparents’ driveway.

"Oh no," I said in exasperation. "I think someone stole the milk truck."

"That was your grand..." was all Harmony could utter.

"Let’s go; we have to tell them."

And off we rode as fast as we could back to the
house to completely destroy Easter Sunday.

As we cycled past Miller Field down New Dorp lane, I could
hear a car screeching away in the distance and thought to
myself quietly, we’ve come a long way since the velocipede.

I was really hoping to hear that it broke down and was in the shop
or anything along those lines, but as fate would have it, that was my
grandfather’s milk truck. The one he kept parked in the driveway.

In those days, he would park it at the house, and in the morning,
he would drive to the Staten Island dairy plant and load the truck
before going happily about his way.

Holy Cow, was my grandfather pissed about that one.

"Oh, them sons a bitches... I wish I could have caught
them, because I would’ve broken their goddamn necks,"
he responded in the empty driveway.

"No, you wouldn’t have daddy," replied my mom, sounding
like she was rehearsing a scene for Leave it to Beaver.

"Don’t tell me what I wouldn’t do, god-damn it."
hollered my grandfather, enraged and uncontrollable.

He was even more upset when he realized he forgot the keys in it.

As it turns out, some neighborhood kids, obviously looking for kicks,
decided to take it for a spin. There was no harm done to it, and
Tommy Breen, who was my grandfather’s fishing buddy, found
it by the side of the road with the keys still in the ignition.

                                                                                                                     Pg 190

Finally, it was Monday, the 12th of June, and Harmony’s birthday had arrived.
Upon returning home
from school, I made a telephone call to Colonial Florist
and placed the order. The
flowers were delivered a block away to room 4D in
the apartment complex down
the street so as not to arouse any suspicion from
curious neighbors. After summoning
the elevator and taking it to the fourth
floor, I tried to be as inconspicuous as possible
as I waited by the narrow
brown door where tenants disposed of their garbage.

Of course, I had to be seen by someone. That was an inevitable part
of life, and so
I nodded to the old gent who nonchalantly carried his
bag of trash to the incinerator
chute in a pair of outdated pajamas.

“Can I help you with something?” he asked
while opening the
narrow brown door to that small closet-like room.

“No thanks, I’m just waiting for my girlfriend to come out.”

“Can’t have too many of them now, can we?” he bolstered
before making the sign of the pistol and going click-click.

After almost thirty minutes of waiting, the delivery man walked out of the elevator,
and I was right there to greet him. I paid for the flowers and gave him a small tip
before exiting the building. From there, I shuffled awkwardly over to the house
of my lover and placed the long, slender box on the counter. By the kitchen
I sat, waiting ever so patiently for Harmony to arrive in the blue beauty.

Just as an added precaution, I made sure to walk around the block before slithering
in through the back-entrance gate, where the threat of vying eyes was almost nil.

As Harmony entered, she was overwhelmed by my gift. More so, that I did it all on my own.
I felt proud but, most of all, honored to be cared for by someone so lovely and charming as she
that the very thought of just seeing her made me tremble with joy. That night she bestowed upon
me the nickname little prince. I knew it was going to take years to mold me into the kind
man her heart required, but once I put my mind to doing something, consider it done.

Even though time moves at a snail’s pace, it will not pass between us.

I can do this, baby. I just need time to grow.

I told her I wanted to experience everything there was to know and
understand about love, but most of all, I wanted to make out with
her in the lair of the shadow dwellers, as she so often called it.

“Please,” I entreated, “take me with you when you go,” but she
looked at me with such conviction and told me I had to wait.

“When you come of age, you will see that world, I promise. And
in there, I will be the one to show you the meaning of true paradise.”

However, I did not want to wait.
I wanted to experience it now, but she outright refused.

“Aside from not being mentally prepared, you are far too young to see that
world, and I would be a monster if anything were to go wrong. When you
become a man, I promise to take you there. I’ll show you all the wonders
you never dreamed existed, but not a moment sooner. Agreed?”


As I looked into those irreproachable eyes, her lips gently met mine.

                                                                                                                     Pg 191

In my mind, I think I just wanted to bond with her more than anything else. To become
that one union of love. That rare sacred joining that defies all logic to mesmerize the
heart and keep one locked in its hypnotic spell. An inseparable banding together of two
human beings in the most precious of ways. Any mortal who could find even a blemish
of impurity in the love we shared would have to be a sinner who once committed a
heinous act and is now looking for redemption in the eyes of Almighty God. Within the
sanctity of all we embraced, I wanted to create something so fantastic, so real, it might
move even the most divine spirit and fuse our very souls together forever.

Aside from this intense craving that would only become more prevalent as time moved
on, I wanted to be able to please her for hours on end. I needed to become her right-
hand man. Her personal property, so to speak. I wanted to belong to her, even if it meant
becoming a slave unto her, for I could no longer exist without seeing her. All for the one
hope that in return, she would not stray from me but love me without end. I wanted the
very thought of me leaving to produce such inner fears and torments that she would not
be able to live without me. To yearn for me as I have yearned for her for so long. To worry
when I am not there. When the very thought of me leaving becomes inconceivable.

But something went awry in the process.
An ingredient fell into the mix, which changed the chemistry
of the whole equation. Now instead of creating a form of
paradise, a batch of pure madness would be concocted,
and heaven help the one who drinks from that cup.
That is the cup of anguish and bitter sorrows...

It was not meant for mortal man.

Something fell outside; it sounded like a rake.

What was once so pure and precious was now turning.
I could not see this, however, for I was enveloped in passion.
As we kissed and hugged on the couch and on the rug, I found
two silver eyes peering in at us. So calculating in his approach
was he, ever watching
our every move in fine detail.

In a pleasant atmosphere, with a soothing ambiance, Harmony prepared
show me the finer points of love. Using the tip of her instructive finger
in an overly delicate manner, she directed me. What was where, and
the art of loving her should be performed. Considering how technical
it all 
looked down there, I would never have known such pleasure could
from something so incredibly tiny. Her little love bump.

As I parted the warm, sensuous petals of her flowery love,
I felt a tinge of panic.

Is this real?

Am I supposed to be doing this?
Shut up, I said to myself, this is your woman.

The most beautiful woman in the universe, and you're going to make
her the happiest, or you can always go back to playing with G.I. Joe.

Her scent was making me dizzy, and my heart couldn’t keep quiet as I
slipped my tongue inside her moistened groove. Gently lapping her labia
while attempting to suck on the hood of her glistening clitoris. Her being was
emanating with love, and the compelling taste was making my senses reel.

I felt like I had been injected with a very powerful drug that was beginning
to alter my own body chemistry. I was feverish with lust and could not
rightfully obey what Harmony had carefully instructed me to do for her.

I'm sorry baby,
I said to myself, but I can't stop.
Her taste was just too delectable.

Why is it so terrible, I thought?
Loving and being loved. Why is it such a sin?

Of this, I could not understand. The human body is beautiful, and I would
fight to the death to defend it. At least Harmony’s honor I would anyway.
(((((((((((((The rest
of the world I had no interest in knowing)))))))))))))

So warm and loving was she in the heat of passion I could have almost cried.

How could something this beautiful even happen? Indeed, I had been blessed
above all men to partake in the feast of kings. As I ran my tongue along the
folds of her love, she writhed like an exquisite doll. I loved loving her
and had
absolutely no compunction about stopping until she was at peace
with her emotions.

                                                                                                                     Pg 192

With the AM radio playing softly in the background, I listened to Ohio Express
sing Chewy Chewy, and I could think of nothing else than the anatomy lesson
I was learning and the love I was feeling within the skyline of my soul. While
Harmony used two hands to keep her glorious orifice open, I continued swathing
about until my jaw began aching, and she released, throwing her arms back.

Parting the hair, I put my lips to her soft puffy flesh as if it were a more
gentle, more 
loving mouth. I then gave it an adoring French kiss.

Halfway through this delightfully sensuous kiss, I could taste all of my angel’s sweetness.
She screamed into her hand, 
and it sounded like she was being murdered. Suddenly, she
quivered and bucked as 
I brought her to fulfillment where my cup runneth over.

In truth, I drank from that cup and I never looked back. Therefore, I never
knew what had begun to take shape in the dark region known as despair.

An ill wind began brewing, and heaven help the soul left stranded by
the river’s edge. It is so cold and lonely there; my eyes begin to water
at the mere thought of it. There in that wretched place of all forlornness,
the mighty angels who circle above,, will not circle above it.

Whereupon, when all was quiet, I lifted my head from the most sacred
of all human places and placed it upon her belly. I couldn’t really tell,
but the way her stomach was now quivering, I thought she might very
well be laughing. She cradled me in her arms and began to cry as she
talked to God in her native tongue.

Why was my lover so sad, and what had I done to upset her so?

I deviated from the plan. I changed something that should not
have been changed. I had not done it exactly the way she had
anticipated it would be, and now I have ruined everything.

Why was I so stupid?
What the hell was wrong with me?
Never change the plan.

As I turned my head to look at Harmony, she was borderline hysterical. It was
very first time had I ever performed oral pleasure, so of course, I wasn’t
expecting it to
be perfect. But I did somehow think she was overreacting.

She is going to get rid of me, I thought. I am a terrible lover
and cannot please the only woman on earth I long to satisfy.

I hate myself. I hate myself so much, and now I don’t know what to do.

I felt this abominable pain in the pit of my stomach, and it seemed to run straight
through the bowels of my very soul. I could not hold my sadness in, and so I began
to tremble and broke down and cried as well. I was so hurt by her disappointment
because I believed I did so well. That just goes to show you anything that feels
more perfect than it ought to be is bound to be wrong.

I didn't know what else to do; I was only nine.

Upon seeing this, Harmony pulled me by my arms along
her wet body until we were face to face with each other.

“No, baby, no, you don’t understand. You made me climax.
You took me all the way home.”

“Then why do you look so unhappy,”
I said, sniveling, “and why are we crying?”

“I’m crying because I’m happy. Because I love you so much, and I’m
not sure what I am going to do when you grow older and tire of me.”

Harmony was now covering her face and crying inconsolably.
“Please don’t cry; you’re not going to lose me.”

                               The Charles Pendelton Orchestra - Evening Shade

                                                                                                                     Pg 193

I cried for almost ten minutes, and Harmony wept for almost twenty, but who was
really counting? When at last she regained her composure, Harmony said the cutest
thing to me. With a stuffed-up nose and adorable accent, she uttered the following
words, “Can you please get me a tissue?”

Just the way she looked at me as she relayed that sentence, I could not even begin
to describe. When I came back with a newly opened box of Kleenex tissues, she
smiled. I pulled out several of them and extended my hand to her. So graciously,
she gave me the saddest, most sincere smile I had ever seen, and I absorbed it
like a sponge. She then sat up, crossing her legs Indian style. It was then I spoke.

“I just need you to know that this love I have inside for you. . .”

“Go on,” she said in a gentle voice while running her
sensuous brown fingers through my boyish hair.

“This love I feel for you inside is real, and that’s forever,” I exclaimed in
an almost inaudible tone while falling into those dreamy eyes of hers
and immersing myself in that blissful lake of undeniable enchantment.

*So endearing was she, so divine*

“I see girls in the hallway every day, and I never think of talking to them.
I never think of kissing or holding them. You’re the only person on the planet
I want to be with. To spend my life with. If not for you, I’d feel nothing.”

Rather than speak, she held my face in her warm, seductive hands
and, with her eyes, seemed to be examining my heart.

“If every man in this world had your little brain, we women would live in paradise.”
She then let go of my face and erupted in a fit of laughter.

“What’s so funny?” I asked, in a worried tone.

“Men have little brains in little heads, but at
least your little brain is in the right place.”

                (I didn't understand)

Suddenly, everything in the world was perfect.

She would teach me, and I would learn. She would show me, and
I would do, and in a few short years from now, when I finally come
of age, I will ask her a very serious question, and she will say yes.

After that, we will wait a little longer to be properly
betrothed in a dwelling of the Lord; and as God is my
witness, I promise to treasure and adore her forever.

Forever till the end of time.

I thought I heard the wind blowing outside and said to myself,
“there's a storm brewing on the horizon.”

Oh, you poor child, thought the winter raven to the moon
as his white eyes flickered. That is no ordinary storm. . .

                       That's Dark Monday. 

                              Pink Floyd - If                                           

                                                                                                                     Pg 194


                         This review was posted on Apr/4/23




                                            This review was posted on May/8/23
                                                             alits29's review




                                                               This review was posted on Aug/1/23
                                                                         Reviewed by labia_1903




                                                             This review was posted on Aug/18/23 (Evening)
                                                                                 Reviewed by rupalrao




                                                          This review was posted on Aug/20/23
                                                                        Reviewed by pazkou





                                                             This review was posted on Oct/6/23



                                                         This review was posted on Oct/13/23

                                                                   nehanegi1905 's review
                    The Embryo Man and Other Tales of Woe: Chapter 32 (Pt 4) - The Embryo Man

                                                         Reader's Report by nehanegi1905



                                                         This review was posted on Nov/1/23
                                                             Reviewed by sampriktaada813


                                                             This review was posted on Dec/2/23
                                                                        Reviewed by hinaspatel



                                                            This review was posted on Jan/13/24
                                                                         Tayyaba17's review
                                            The Embryo Man: Chapter 32.4 - The Embryo Man
                                                                 Reader's Report by Tayyaba



                         Saleha Zainab - Feb 27 - Chapter 32 (Pt 4)


This part evokes a sense of nostalgia and warmth, enveloping readers in the tender
embrace of cherished memories. The narrative is imbued with a palpable sense of
innocence and wonder, inviting readers to relive the simplicity and joy of childhood
experiences. From the playful banter of cousins to the endearing interactions with
neighborhood friends, each scene evokes a sense of familiarity and fondness. At
the same time, the narrative elicits a bittersweet sentiment, as the passage of time
becomes a recurring motif. Through the narrator's introspective reflections, readers
are reminded of the fleeting nature of youth and the inevitability of change.

Yet, amidst the backdrop of societal unrest and personal growth, there remains a resilient
spirit of optimism and resilience. The narrative's exploration of interpersonal dynamics and
societal themes lends depth and complexity to the overarching narrative, inviting readers
to contemplate broader issues of identity, belonging, and empathy. Through moments of
introspection and poignant observations, the narrative fosters a sense of connection and
empathy, encouraging readers to reflect on their own experiences and perspectives.

Certainly, the age difference between the narrator, adds another layer of complexity to
their relationship. This significant age gap underscores the power dynamics at play and
raises questions about the appropriateness and legality of their interactions. The narrative
portrays the narrator's innocence and naivety, highlighting their vulnerability in contrast to
Harmony's maturity and life experience. This power imbalance is evident in their interactions,
with Harmony often taking the lead and making decisions for the narrator. The chapter also
suggests societal taboos and potential legal ramifications associated with their relationship.

The narrator's awareness of the need to keep their love a secret and Harmony's fear of
being caught reflect the societal stigma and potential consequences they face due to the
age difference. Furthermore, the passage touches upon themes of manipulation and coercion,
as seen in the narrator's suggestion that Harmony could claim they forced her into the
relationship if they were caught. This dynamic raises ethical questions about consent
and the boundaries of a relationship between a child and an adult.

It is a deeply introspective narrative that chronicles the experiences of the protagonist as
he navigates through various stages of life, reflecting on moments of love, longing, and self-
discovery. The story is divided into two main parts, each capturing distinct periods in the
protagonist's life. In the first part, the narrative transports readers back to the protagonist's
childhood and adolescence, painting a vivid picture of his surroundings, family dynamics,
and budding romantic relationships. Through nostalgic recollections, the protagonist
reminisces about significant events such as family gatherings, encounters with neighbors,
and moments shared with his first love, Harmony. Themes of innocence, exploration, and
the bittersweet passage of time are prevalent as the protagonist grapples with the
complexities of youth and the allure of newfound emotions.

The second part of the narrative fast-forwards to the protagonist's adult years, providing
glimpses into his romantic entanglements, personal growth, and existential ponderings. Set
against the backdrop of societal changes and personal challenges, the protagonist grapples
with the complexities of adult relationships, confronts his own vulnerabilities, and seeks solace
in the enduring memories of his past. Themes of love, loss, and self-acceptance resonate
throughout this section as the protagonist navigates the complexities of adulthood with a sense
of longing for the simplicity of youth. The author's use of descriptive language and evocative
imagery serves to immerse readers in the protagonist's world, capturing the essence of each
moment with remarkable clarity.

From the bustling streets of a bygone era to the intimate moments shared between lovers,
the narrative is filled with sensory details that evoke a strong sense of nostalgia and longing.
Thematically, the narrative delves into the complexities of human relationships, exploring the
intricacies of love, desire, and personal growth. Through the protagonist's journey, readers
witness the transformative power of love, as well as the inherent challenges and sacrifices
that accompany it. Additionally, the narrative grapples with larger existential questions
surrounding identity, purpose, and the fleeting nature of human existence.


                                                            This review was posted on Apr/4/24
                                                             Reviewed by mariya





                                                           This review was posted on Apr/7/23
                                                                     Reviewed by sarah1409





                                                            This review was posted on May/25/24
                                                                    Reviewed by sababaloch292



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PG 183) The strongman by John Newton Howitt -

PG 183) First Valentine
By Richard Sargent -

PG 183) Unrest
by Amanda Sage -

PG 183) Vintage rotary dial

PG 184) Harvest of the union
by Jaga Karkoszka -

PG 184) Boat H
by Anatoliy Koncub -

PG 184) Alex's Boxer
by Kat Corrigan -

PG 184) L'apocalyse par le papier
by Claude Verlinde -

PG 184) Meta, the mystery of the two Aesculapians
by Diana Vandenberg

PG 185) Steps of Annwn by Shaun William Kerr -

PG 185) These parties disgust me
by Shepard Fairey -

PG 185) The tree, the cloud by Stanislav Plutenko -

PG 185) Santa Adela
by Raul Cruz -

PG 185) Mahakali poster

PG 186) Contes Erotiques
by Vladimir Kush -

PG 186) Esso tiger ad by Humble Oil & Refining Co. (1966)  -

PG 186) Stag Magazine cover of June 1968 by Mort Künstler

PG 187) Yasoda
by Unknown -

PG 187) Sikhiyan
by Gopal Khetanchi -

PG 187) The house that Hanuman built
by Michael Pucciarelli -

PG 187) Polar distress
by Leah Palmer Preiss -

PG 187) Blue nights by Piotr Paczkowski -

PG 187) Maskepi (Masque)
Thor Lindeneg -

PG 187) The Good Listener
by Josh Agle -

PG 188) Mambo for cats
- Artwork by Jim Flora (1955) -

PG 188) Funny face by Josh Agle -

PG 188) Confidential information
Dragomir Minkov -

PG 189) Raiders of the Schlitzbox
- Jos. Schlitz Brewing Circa 1958

PG 189) Vintage TAB advertisement
Circa 1965

PG 189) Her second night in the city by Josh Agle -

PG 190) Coca Cola advertisement,
Circa 1942 -

PG 190) Pinkerton's National Detective Agency advertisement Circa 1880 -

PG 190) Half and half tobacco ad Circa 1962

PG 190) RCA room air conditioner,
Circa 1953

PG 190) Boehm's Beach advertisement, Circa 1930's - http://www.secretstatenislandcom/

PG 190) Burning desire
by Adrian Borda -

PG 190) I love you
by Annie Gryshchenko -

PG 190) The new velocipede
by T. Fane & Co.(circa 1887) -

PG 191) Stopped moment
by Vladimir Kush -

PG 192) Romeo and Juliet
by Sir Frank Dicksee -

PG 193) Venus with Cupid the honey thief
by Lucas Cranach the elder -

PG 193) Our lady of water
by Gyuri Lohmuller -

PG 194) Kiss me
by Edward D'Ancona -

PG 194) Cupid with the wheel of fortune
by Tiziano Vecellio -