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Old 07-23-2014, 10:10 AM
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Join Date: Sep 2007
Location: Sarzana,Italy
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Default The Class Dunce

The Class Dummy
Three blocks away from the long gray apartments I lived in on Gillis Street was the new the school I attended. It was much different from the two room country school where I started my education. There were six grades and many more children.
I had come from a school where everything was printed I had no trouble with the math, and reading provided it was printed. At my new school nothing was printed, all was written in cursives on the blackboard and it was to me an incomprehensible bunch of squiggles. This made the third grade very difficult; consequently I became the dummy of the class.
One morning on my way to school I stopped at the corner store and bought a stick of chewing gum and popped it into my mouth. The teacher soon noticed it and took the gum away from me, admonishing me that if I could have a piece of gum so should the rest of the class.
I had seen money in a jar by the newspaper stand where early in the morning people would pick up their papers and drop in a nickel or a dime into the jar and continue on to work. One day I stuck my hand in that jar and took as much change as I could get out. Then I went into the store and bought all the chewing gum my loot would purchase. I took the bag of goodies to school, and like Santa Claus started handing out gum. Soon every kid in class had a piece, while I, the hero of the day, sat at my desk chewing happily away. My joy in new found friendships lasted all school day, but on my arrival home I was faced by my mother and the teacher. At school I had of course lied to the teacher and said that my mother had given me the money. The teacher being much smarter than me had stopped by to check the veracity of my claim with my mother and I was caught up in my lie. When my new stepfather came home I got my whipping, then marched by my mother to the grocery store and made to confess. I was punished for my sin and had to work after school delivering milk and eggs to the people’s houses that lived nearby until my debt was paid. It was a very good lesson and I learned to be a better liar.
Adoption papers were filed. I stood in the Catholic Church while the priest sprinkled Holy Water on me and christened me. “Joseph Robert Lavernois’ in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, Amen. I now at the age of nine finally had a real father that I did not like...
Ernest’s family was much larger than my mother’s. He had six brothers and four sisters. I acquired overnight a couple of dozen cousins, aunts, uncles, and a grandmother with a beard under her chin and one leg.
Grandmother Agnes had lost one leg to gangrene; she had an artificial one that was kept in the hall closet. Sometimes, when I visited her she would have me put her leg away or fetch it out for her so she could strap it on. My Grandpa Oscar spent lots of time playing pool and drinking boilermakers in the workman’s bar. I really liked him and I looked forward to his visits because he would always give me a 25-cent piece.
There were good times on Gillis Street with family picnics in the back yard on Saturday. There was the penny anti poker games in the evenings.
I slept in my own room upstairs and on weeknights Ernest’s brothers would come to our apartment to drink beer and play poker. In the hall was a vent that let the heat from the kitchen warm the upstairs. That hole was over the kitchen table where the gambling was going on. I would crawl out of bed and tiptoe to the vent lay down next to it and watch. From my spot I could see the cards the players were holding
My mother was a good player and sometimes I would see her rake in a mountain of pennies and nickels. I did this for many weeks without being noticed. One night my mother was holding four Aces; I got so excited that I said out loud “four aces.” And that’s how I learned poker, and caught the gambling bug which I still have to this day, and then got my butt whipped.
It was while I lived on Gillis Street I started earning money in the summer riding the running boards of a big green produce wagon that serviced the homes of the working class neighborhood. Mr. Garibaldi would drive his truck slowly up and down the streets with me and other kids sitting on the front fenders or standing on the running boards. He would stop at the curb and we would all take off running, going from one apartment to another taking orders for bananas, melons, potatoes, tomatoes, fresh corn, everything he had in the truck. We would run up the sidewalks yelling, “Fruits and vegetables for sale,” take the people’s orders and run back to Mr. Garibaldi, yelling as we ran. “Ten cents worth of onions and fifteen cents of potatoes.” He would fill the orders and we would run back singing. “Fruits and vegetables, my pockets full of pennies”. Then in the winter I would shovel people’s driveways and sidewalks clear of snow. Mother kept my money. When school ended I was not advanced.
The painting is almost completed now. It turned out reasonably well. I am sure that my Great Aunt Lillian has been looking over my shoulder as I worked
Thank you for looking and reading
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