“IN ANOTHER COUNTRY,” BY JOSEPH SCIUTO

IN ANOTHER COUNTRY

 

By Joseph Sciuto

 

The old gentleman sat slowly down onto the bench. His grandson sat beside him, and reached up and fixed the mask on his face so it covered both his mouth and nose. The young boy, Joseph, also wore a mask that covered his mouth and face.

 

The old man, his grandpa, looked closely around the courtyard and remarked, “It looks so much different than I remember.”

 

“But grandpa, we were just sitting out here yesterday. Don’t you remember?”

 

“Of course, I remember,” he replied as he lovingly touched his grandson’s head and continued, “But the grass doesn’t smell, and the roses, and Lotus, and hydrangeas have lost their luster and inflorescence.”

 

Joseph looked more closely at the flowers and his grandpa was right. Yesterday, the flowers sparkled, but today the petals were limp and weary. It was the middle of spring, but they looked like they were dying, like the entire world.

 

“How do you know so much about flowers?”

 

“Because your grandma was always in her garden. She loved playing in the dirt, and she used to love to tell me little stories and facts about the different varieties of plant life. She loved the Lotus flower, and used to say it symbolizes purity and perfection. ‘Isn’t it the most beautiful of God’s creations?’ She would ask and I used to replied, ‘No, the most beautiful of God’s creations is you,’ and she used to blush like a little girl.”

 

“You have never stopped missing her?”

 

“I used to miss her when I went off to work in the morning, and couldn’t bear being away from her that eight to ten hours I was at work. She always found a reason to smile, even during the darkest of times. She was so beautiful. She looked just like your mother, but your mother never smiles.”

 

Joseph lowered his head as he looked across at the flowers and could not help thinking that even the loveliest of flowers, in full bloom, start to die when one even mentions his mother.

 

“They say there might not even be a baseball season this year. Can you believe that?”

 

The old man looked sadly down at the sagging flowers and replied, “I don’t remember a year when they didn’t play at least some games. Even in the year they had the strike, they played almost half a season.”

 

“In 1994, they played into August and then stopped, but this year they might not play at all and if they play there will be no fans allowed to attend the games. That would be so strange.”

 

“No fans in the stands…” The old man remarked absent-mindedly and continued, “In 1994 you weren’t even born yet, and your mommy wasn’t much older than you.”

 

Joseph looked up at his grandpa and noticed a few tears roll down his wrinkled cheeks. He was thinking of his wife, the grandmother, Joseph never met. He had always talked about her, but since moving into this ‘Assisted Living Home’ she was all that he talked about. Joseph kept a number of framed pictures of his grandmother by his bed. She was lovely, and in all the pictures she was smiling and her dimples were like orbs of divine light and when Joseph had a nightmare he would immediately look at the pictures of her and everything was suddenly okay. No evil could harm him with her looking down at him.

 

He lowered his eyes as he fought back tears of his own. He tried not to hate his mother, but it was because of her and that man she calls her husband that grandpa was put into this home after a few accidents which he and Marguerite cleaned up. Grandpa had lived with them ever since he could remember. In fact, the house they lived in was his gift to grandma after he became a partner in the advertising firm he worked for. They always wanted to own a home, and so he bought her a beautiful big home with an extra large garden.

 

After grandma died, he signed the house over to his daughter who was still in law school. In was the sensible thing to do because after his wife died, he did not think he was long for this world and he wanted to make things as easy as possible for her. He could never have imagined that an Italian daughter, who had known nothing but unconditional love, would ever turn him out of his own home. She said, “It was the best thing for him. That they could provide him with the best care, that he could never get at home.” Yet, she never provided any care at all. It was always his grandson, and poor Marguerite, that his daughter used to abuse and yell at for no reason, who took care of him.

 

Marguerite was a live in housekeeper who kept the house immaculate and cooked wonderful meals, and who taught Joseph how to speak Spanish and loved looking at the Yankee games with them. She and Joseph would keep their own scorecards for each game, registering each out and hit and run. Now, with no games being played Joseph would look at the Major League Baseball channel and watch classic games that were played long before he was born.

 

Natalie, a nurse at the home, walked over to them and said, “Joseph, your mother is waiting out front in the car for you.” Joseph looked at the nurse and then at his grandpa. He replied, “Thank you, Natalie.”

 

He helped Natalie lift his grandpa off the bench, and with the use of his cane he walked in the direction of the entrance to the home. Joseph reached up and fixed his grandpa’s mask that had fallen down below his nose and said, “Grandpa, don’t forget to keep your mask high enough up to cover your nose and mouth.” He gently hugged him, and continued, “I love you so much, and I’ll see you tomorrow.” He ran off as a flood of tears poured down his face. Natalie remarked, “He’s such a good kid.”

 

“Yes, he is a wonderful grandson,” He replied as he and Natalie slowly walked through the corridor of the home.

 

Joseph stopped about fifty feet from the back end of his mother’s black, luxury SUV. He wiped his face, and then opened the front passenger seat and slipped in, placing his backpack on the floor before him. His mother looked at him and before she could reach over to put his seat belt on, he grabbed it and put it on himself. He did not want her touching him. She started to say something to him, but then the car phone rang and she answered the call, “Angie, the paperwork finally came through. We’ll probably be here all night going through it, but we’ll get it done.”

 

“I don’t care if you’re there all night and into the morning. That paperwork needs to be filed with the courts no later than 10am. Do you understand, Nancy?”

 

“Yes, have a good-night…”

 

“Holy shit! I just remembered our housekeeper Marguerite is in Mexico for the funeral of her mother who has died at least ten times in three years. They can’t build that wall quick enough to keep these lazy bastards out of our country. Get to work Nancy. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

 

His mother pulled into the lane of a drive through fast food restaurant and Joseph said, “Why don’t you put your mask on, mom? You could infect the person working at the window.”

 

She looked at him and replied, “Don’t you ever tell me what to do? It’s more likely the illegal immigrant working at the window will infect me, than the other way around. The only thing these stupid masks protect you from is smelling other peoples’ bad breath.”

 

She ordered the same meal for both of them without asking her son what he might like. She handed him the bag with the food, and drove to their lovely home that grandpa bought for his wife, and which his daughter turned into a house of horrors.

 

Joseph took his food and drink, and went up to his room. He turned on the Baseball Channel as he looked across at the pictures of his grandmother, and a few with his grandpa and Marguerite. He sat at the edge of the bed and tried to concentrate on the sixth game of the World Series between the Cincinnati Reds and the Boston Red Sox’s in 1975. It was the game that Carlton Fisk hit the extra inning home run, and seemed to will the ball to stay fair as he waved his hands fanatically away from the left field foul pole. It was a classic World Series and his grandfather, who was a huge Yankee fan, admitted that even he was rooting for Boston in that series. Sadly, Boston lost the final game and the Reds won the World Series.

 

Joseph heard the front door open and it was his mother’s husband who he believed was his father until recently. They were both lawyers, and when at home all they did was argue. He would call her a whore, and she would fight back by saying that she had only made that one mistake and if she had to take it back she never would have told him and had a simple abortion. He wouldn’t have been the wiser, but by the time she had told him she was already in her seventh month and he was thinking all along that it was his child. Guilt overcame her, possibly for the only time in her life, and she told him the truth about the one night affair and that he was not the father. He wanted her to have a late term abortion, but she refused.

 

They argued about this over and over again, and despite his grandpa and Marguerite’s attempt to shield him from hearing the argument and the term abortion, it came through too many times, too loud, for him not to hear what they were talking about. He looked up the term, abortion, on the computer and it came across simple enough: she regretted ever having Joseph, and her husband held the affair over her and anytime they argued it came up. If she accused him of having affairs with other women, he would simply call her a whore, less than six months married, and already screwing around and getting banged up by a guy she probably didn’t even know.

 

Joseph had often felt like telling her that she should have killed him when he was in her stomach. At least that way, she might be a happier person, but he could never summon up the courage to tell her.

 

He went to bed without saying another word to his mother since she handed him his dinner, and as for her husband it was like the boy did not exist. At about three o’clock in the morning, the house phone rang. He quietly picked it up on his end, and listened to the head attendant at the Assisted Living Home tell his mother that her father had passed away peacefully in his sleep, and that they would be happy to make arrangement to have the body picked up by the funeral home of her choice. She gave them the name of Rizzo’s Funeral home, and asked the attendant if she would be so kind as to tell the funeral director to have him dressed in his black suit, white shirt, and black tie and shoes that he took to the home with him. The attendant said that she would be more than pleased to do that, and she would also put together all his belongings, which she could pick up at any time at the home. Joseph waited for his mother to hang up, and then he hung up the phone on his end.

 

He turned on the night light on the stand by his bed, took down his backpack, and placed all the pictures of his grandpa and grandma and Marguerite into the pack. He opened the drawer in the nightstand and looked down at the pictures of his mother graduating law school, getting married, and one with her mother and father standing proudly by her as she held her diploma. He took out a black magic marker and crossed out all the images of his mother and left the pictures in the drawer. He took some money he had saved, a few clothes, and his school books and quietly left his room, walked down the stairs, and out the front door.

 

In the morning his mother hurriedly ran about, getting ready, to go to the funeral home while her husband sat at the kitchen table drinking coffee and reading the newspaper. He remarked, “I have to go to the office for a short time, and then I’ll drive over to the funeral home. It’s better for the old man. Ever since your mom died, he has been walking around like a zombie.”

 

She kept her mouth shut, and was in no mood to get into an argument at that moment. She went up to her son’s room, and yelled out, “Joseph, we need to go, now.” She checked the bathroom and then looked at the nightstand with the missing pictures. She then opened the drawer and saw the pictures of her that he blacked out. She couldn’t find that stupid backpack he carried around all the time, and in a frenzy she ran back down to the kitchen and asked, “Have you seen Joseph?”

 

“No,” Her husband replied and continued, “Maybe, we got lucky and your dad stopped by on his way to Heaven and picked him up. That would certainly save us a bunch of money and one large headache.”

 

She looked at him and asked, “What did you just say?”

 

“You heard exactly what I said, you little whore. Maybe, without that bastard son around, we could have a normal life, unless you decide to step out again and get pregnant by another stud.”

 

She turned around, boiling with rage, reached into the very back of a top cabinet and took out a revolver her father always kept there. She pulled out a slicing knife from a wooden chef block, turned toward her husband who went back to reading his paper, and stuck the knife under his chin and said, “Go ahead and make a move and I will slice your throat right open.”

 

“Are you crazy, Angie?”

 

“No, this is what I should of done years ago.” She pointed the gun at his head and told him to stand up slowly. “You’re not thinking straight with everything that has gone on,” He pleaded with her.

 

“Listen really carefully, you piece of shit. In a couple of days I will be filing for a divorce, an uncontested divorce, and you are going to simply sign on the dotted lines.” He took a step toward her, and she pulled the trigger and sent a bullet whizzing past his head and into a cabinet. “I’m not joking. You even attempt to contest the divorce and all those dirty secrets, and secret bank accounts you and your partners have set up, won’t be so secret anymore. By the time I come back home from the funeral home later today, I expect you to be completely moved out of this house. Go live with one of your mistresses… with all the money you have stolen you should have no problem holding onto one long enough until you get tired of her. Now, get out of my sight, you piece of loathsome shit.”

 

He moved away from her and walked out the front door and got into his car. The house phone rang and it was the funeral director. He said, “Your son is down here and wants to see his grandpa. If you want, I could let him into the visitation room. Your father has been placed in his casket, and is ready to be seen.”

 

“Yes, please let him see his grandpa. I will be down shortly. Thank you.”

 

Angie got into her car and started to drive to the funeral home repeating to herself, “Oh mommy, daddy, what have I done? What have I done? What have I become?” She pulled into the parking lot, and parked, and looked at a small statue of Saint Jude that her mother gave her and that she had placed, consciously or unconsciously, on the dashboard of every car she ever owned since she was a teenager. Saint Jude, the patron saint of desperate cases and lost causes. “I have no right to ask for forgiveness, but please give me a chance to make things right with my son.”

 

Angie walked into the visitation room and looked at her son standing over her father’s casket. She took a few steps forward and sat down in a chair and listened to her son speaking to his grandpa. “I know you are happy to be with grandma, but I am going to miss you so much. Please let grandma know how much I love her, even though I have never met her. I will always keep her picture by my bed because when I wake up from a bad dream I simply look at her and everything is better. I told Marguerite that you went up to Heaven and that now you are with grandma. She was very sad, and cried the whole time I was on the phone. I haven’t told mom that she has left for good. She wants me to go live with her, and I think that might be the best thing to do. At least, I know that she loves me. I don’t think I could go back in that house. Mom hates everyone. I know you told me not to speak badly about her, but she treats everyone so badly and I know she hates me. It would have been better if she just killed me when I was still in her stomach, then I would be in Heaven with you and grandma.”

 

He bowed his head and cried, and through the tears he managed to say, “I’m sorry for speaking like that… I’m sorry.” He shook his head as his mother stood up and said, “Joseph…”

 

He turned and looked at her, reached down and grabbed his backpack, and ran in the other direction away from his mom.

 

“Joseph!” Angie exclaimed, and continued, “Please don’t run away from me. Please, Joseph!”

 

He stopped, but did not look back at her. She continued, “I know you don’t love me, but please, please Joseph, don’t hate me.”

 

He, once again, started to walk away and Angie screamed, “Joseph, don’t you walk away from me, please… I need you. I need you more than you can ever know.”

 

Joseph turned and looked at her and then at the funeral director who walked into the room holding a bouquet of white Lotus that was placed on a metal stand. He placed the arrangement on the side of the casket as Angie asked, “Who are they from?”

 

The funeral director opened the small card attached to the bouquet and replied, “To grandpa and grandma. Forever in our hearts. Love, Marguerite and Joseph.”

 

“Thank you. They were my mom and dad’s favorite flower.”

 

The director walked out of the room as Joseph walked over to the bouquet and took out two of the flowers. He looked down at his grandpa and placed the two flowers on the lapel of his grandpa’s suit. Angie walked up behind him and hugged and kissed her son. “Can you smile, mommy?”

 

“Of course I can smile,” She replied as he turned around and looked into her smiling face and he hugged her tightly with his head resting against her stomach.

One thought on ““IN ANOTHER COUNTRY,” BY JOSEPH SCIUTO

  1. My friend Joe, Your writing has always moved me. This blog is my favorite, and some of the personal stories are the most intuitive and compassionate—another heart-rending blog entry. Thanks, Joe, for sharing your story with us.
    Ken,

    Like

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