Unnecessary Noises, page 1
Joseph M. Bianchi
an imprint of Calvary Press Publishing
Copyright © 2011 Joseph M. Bianchi
All Rights Reserved. No portion of this book may be reproduced in any form, electronic or otherwise, without the written permission of the publishers, with the exception of brief excerpts in reviews of this publication.
P R I N T E D I N T H E U S A
Dedicated to my family, and all those who have patience.
I assert that nothing ever comes to pass without a cause.
Wherein we are introduced to the history of the family and our hero.
It was strange how quickly the years had passed. These were years that were driven by some sort of strange wind; the memories were all there, some faint, some confused; some better left alone. He had hoped for more during all this time; perhaps more assurance that his actions had been done with good intent and a hint of morality. Mostly, however, there was an air of mystery to all that had happened.
He took much solace in the fact that at least some of his childhood dreams had come true. Other things were consigned to the dustbin of past failures, and perhaps rightly so.
His parents were hard working, if not well educated. It was obvious as he grew up that that his father was tortured by some hideous demon of the past. The source was still unknown. His mom, always at the ready, made keeping things—and people—together her stock in trade, with minimal results and little reward. An artsy brother made things troublesome because in many ways they were alike, and a righteous competition ensued. In other ways they were unalike, producing nothing but conflict. He reasoned that the ennui of daily life was at least relieved by this bit of pugnacious rivalry. His only other sibling was his sister. For the life of him he could not figure out what had motivated her; the rants, the hatred of all things living that seemed to shoot from her eyes; a strange creature indeed. On one hand he had wanted to just avoid her, on the other his crusading spirit made him determined to change her. She lived now in the recesses of his mind as an enigma.
Well, they say that communication is everything, and he communicated. Perhaps that was the crux of the problem. Those who speak little can expect little resistance. Of course, the opposite is true. Some people are just destined to rattle cages, and in so doing make life-long trouble for themselves. He had spent his early years as a hermit, or at least that is what others thought; he never saw it that way. “You’re like a bear,” his father would say, “you hibernate!” And so perhaps he did; in his room, devouring book after book, thought after thought…possibility after possibility. He would later look back at these years with a touch of nostalgia and a bit of indifference. After all, were they not the beginning of sorrows? Yet, he wasn’t really sure if it was this or just fate that had thrown him into the quandary of despair. His whole life had been driven by what he termed his “mission.” But it was a vague one at best.
Now, years and years later he sat in the living room of his mother’s house gazing out the window. Like a ticker tape, the memories flowed past, some pausing briefly to be examined, others fast-forwarded into oblivion.
“Are you gonna sit there all day with your thumb in your ear, or take care of business.” The voice came into his consciousness like an electric shock; albeit a post-menopausal one at that. He slowly turned his head toward the voice in question, but his eyes stayed fixed on the window.
“Aunt Mary,” he said, “there’s plenty of time for that… can’t I just be left alone to think?” His deep-set brown eyes seemed ablaze with energy, yet they carried a sense of sadness.
“Think, think, think,” she mocked, “You spent your whole life doin’ that. Where’d it get you?” But realizing what she had just said and the possible impact, she quickly moved into damage control mode. “I mean, well, you know…you had sort of an adventure. Like, well, we all admire you despite what happened. We admire you, really. You’re smart, John. Real smart. But now it’s time to take care of stuff. You’re the executor of the will. I know nothin’ about this stuff. So I need your help.”
“My dear aunt,” he said softly, “I know that. I was prepared for this.” His eyes were now fully engaged on his aunt’s face; a stout face that was a mixture of street tough and Mother Teresa. “I know you think that I’ll somehow drop the ball, but I promise I won’t. Not this time. When everybody comes, I’ll know what to do…and say.”
“Well, deary,” she began affectionately, “I have faith in you. Yup. I do. No matter what they…” Her voice trailed off. “Well, you know…right?”
With that the doorbell rang several times in a flurry, as if to indicate an emergency. “I’ll get it,” John said, snapping to his feet with vigor. He opened the door and was quickly swept aside by a tall figure in a black coat.
“Mary, Mary,” the figure exclaimed bursting into tears, “Oh…what will we do without her!”
“Listen, Joan,” Mary barked, without even raising her eyes, “You were never close to her to begin with. Now, let’s see. Over the past two years I think you saw our sister…oh, maybe once, right?”
The figure in black instantly changed expression and halted the crying as if on cue. “I can’t believe you would say something like that. I’ll have you know that she always called me for advice!”
“Excuse me, Aunt Joan,” John interrupted. “Why don’t you…”
“And another thing,” she continued, ignoring John as if he were a specter, “I’ll have you know that it was I who looked after the children years ago when she first got sick, and don’t forget…”
“Oh, it’s you, John. Poor baby. Are you alright?”
“Good. Now where was I? Oh, yes, the children…”
More frantic doorbell ringing, a scuffle of noises and then the sound of wailing. In came the parade of crying relatives, some John had not seen for years. Was it a family gathering or rehearsal for sad clown night? There was a smattering of cousins, an uncle or two, and his brother. His palms now sweaty, his heart racing, he attempted to bring order to this human cortège.
“May I have your attention,” he yelled over the din. No response. Now, somewhat louder, “May I have your attention?”
Aunt Joan came up from behind and roughly grasped him by the arms, “John boy, you’ll hurt your throat. Why don’t you just go sit down. Would you like me to get you a drink? Gin and tonic? Rum and coke?”
“No!” he blurted, as they both began a macabre wrestling match in the middle of the living room floor. “Let go!” But his aunt could tussle with the best of them, and the two jostled their way across the room.
“Now, John, listen to me. Don’t start up!”
“Start what? I’m the son, I have the right to organize this group of…wha
Old Pete, the next-door neighbor was wheeling the roving bar into the room. He could always be counted on in times of trouble. This time, things were a bit more intense; this was no normal family gathering, because this was no normal family, and the deceased in question had been dear to him.
The wrestling match continued unnoticed, save for the relative or two that was blocked out of the way during the disturbance. However, from the corner of the room, Uncle Bill had been watching in stoned silence, his hands resting on his enormous belly, his four hundred pound frame showing no signs of wanting to move anywhere. The two combatants made their way across the room until they were under the shadow of his gaze.
“Why don’t you two just grow up? Is this any way to love one another?” he said, curling the side of his mustache.
Aunt Joan looked up. John had been attempting, unsuccessfully, to put her in a full nelson. Her hair danced crazily across her face as she struggled.
“Shut up, Bill. Just shut up! Can’t you see I’m busy?”
“Oh, I see alright! That’s what I like about you Joanie, you’re spunky. That’s it, spunky!”
Cousin Sue had suddenly taken notice of the rumbling parties. “My, my. What do we have here? Did both of you miss some time at the gym and decide to get your work out some other way?” Both John and Joan paused, looked up, and then simultaneously: “Shut up, Sue!” The noise of chatter in the room was moving toward a giant crescendo as more relatives piled through the door. The scene began to take on the appearance of a giant Brueghel painting gone amok.
Good Ol’ Pete was making the rounds with his liquor cart; the dutiful servant wanting only to please. Unfortunately, his trajectory put him in the direct line of fire of the dueling relatives. Almost in slow motion, they tumbled into the cart. There was the sound of crashing bottles; glass and liquor shot across the floor. The occupants of the room did a quick Mexican hat dance to avoid the carnage. For a moment there was silence. The battling parties made a quick recovery. John decided that an auspicious moment had been presented. “Well,” he began, pulling a small shard of glass from his hand and futilely trying to wipe the liquor from his pants, “You’re probably wondering why I called you all here today.”
“Not funny!” yelled a faceless relative hidden from view. John nervously cleared his throat.
“Honestly, my mom wanted you all here to…ah...hear… something…”
“Like what?” Once again, the faceless relative.
John tried a smile, but it came across quite badly; more like a knowing smirk. “Eh…as you may know, I’m executor of the will. Now, listen. Mom wanted me to take care of all family matters and…”
“Oh, brother!” yelled a cousin.
“Get me a drink, quick!” said another.
Aunt Joan was busy cleaning herself up by the kitchen sink, but froze in disbelief when she heard this bit of news.
“Ok…I think something bad, real bad, has happened to my hearing. Your mother, that is, my sister has put you in charge? I really didn’t think her illness had affected her brain.”
“Yes, the will says quite clearly that I am in charge of all family affairs.”
“Well, now,” Joan continued, “what about the family business and bank accounts?”
“Ah…she willed both to me.”
At first, complete silence. Then, slowly, the room began to buzz with “Oh, no’s” and “I can’t believe it’s.”
Uncle Bill stepped to center stage. “Alright, alright…let’s not over react. Now, John, surely there was some cash payouts…I mean some money willed to your nieces and nephews…and maybe an uncle or two?”
“Perhaps some savings bonds…an annuity?”
“This is outrageous!” bellowed the faceless relative. “Is this what I came five hundred miles for?” Others chimed in as once again the cacophony built to a climax. Uncle Bill began to wave his hands in the air vigorously like a boxing referee after a knockdown.
“Ok, ok, calm down! I’m sure there is an explanation. Now John, you can’t be serious…” He paused for a moment, waiting for the chatter to subside. “Really now. Why would your Mom hand everything over to you after you’ve failed so…that is, after your problems?”
John’s face turned deadly serious, his eyes looking right through his Uncle; he then said softly: “Because she trusted me, Uncle…..she trusted me.” His lip quivering, John plopped down on his favorite chair, the one he used to curl up and fall asleep in as a child. His father would then carry him to bed. It was a nightly routine. Now, he wondered momentarily why, considering the general rudeness about him, no one was occupying it. His uncle managed a smile, a sincere one at that, and then dropped his eyes to the floor.
Through the window, under the wings of a setting sun, John could see children playing in the adjacent yard. One little girl was swaying back and forth on an old swing. “Childhood,” he thought, “Horror of horrors, there is no way back to it! Yet, when I was a child, I wanted nothing better than to escape from it. Why?”
“Well, if it isn’t the old philosopher!”
John, jarred out of his nascent daydream by the familiar voice, stuck out his right hand to receive a shake. It was a reflex action, but it was nonetheless received heartily by the handsome older man standing over him.
“Uncle Tony! They said you wouldn’t be here…but here you are!”
“Here I am!”
“Oh, man…I’m glad you’re here.” John then pulled his uncle down to him and said sotto voce, “You should have been here earlier…you missed the fun.”
His uncle smiled. “Oh, really? I’m sure I did. So I guess my timing is perfect!”
And so it was, and always was. Uncle Tony was the voice of reason, the pillar of logic; and the only one that could be counted on in a family emergency. The fact that he was John’s favorite relative didn’t hurt also. There was no need to go into detail about what had just transpired before his arrival, for Uncle Tony’s sixth sense about these things was in high gear. He looked John over carefully like a sculptor examining his work.
“They gave you a hard time, John-boy, huh?”
“Uh…yeah, uncle. That’s one way of putting it. It was more like a general mocking. But should I have expected anything different?”
At this, his uncle smiled broadly, and then suddenly got very serious. “Why, yes, you should have expected something different. This is your family, right? We’re supposed to love one another, right?”
“But uncle, after all I’ve been through. I’m a big joke to them.”
“Big joke? How so? Because you had the guts to take chances?”
John looked at the floor while tapping his foot nervously. “It wasn’t that I was taking chances, it was because I must have been off my rocker. It was just crazy stuff. Not only did I make a spectacle of myself, but I embarrassed my family.”
“Nonsense! You simply set a course to do what you felt was right. So, maybe you had some stumbles along the way. So what? At least you did some things that most people have never even tried to do.”
John looked away and took a deep breath. “Yeah. Well that’s all well and good, but I’m just about nowhere now.”
“Oh no you’re not,” his uncle said quickly, pointing to his head. “It’s all up here. It’s called memories.”
“What good are they? The memories I have hurt. The memories I have keep me up at night.”
“That’s because Johnny baby, you don’t know how to interpret these memories.”
“Yup, you heard me. Interpret,” he said, again pointing to his head. “Either the memories will use you, or you will use your memories.”
“That’s crazy, uncle. Just crazy.”
“Think so? Hey, look, I’ve lived for seventy-five years on this earth. I had many experiences, met all kinds of people, you know? I’m still learning. Got me? And you have a long way to go yet.”
“Long way to go? Uncle, I’m pushing fifty.”
Uncle Tony shook his head and wagged his finger in reprimand: “A mere child, my boy. A mere child.”
“Well, in any event. What about this present situation?” John said pointing with his thumb to the assemblage of relatives.
“Kid, watch closely and learn. I’m gonna work a little magic.” With that, he removed his coat, straightened his tie, and cupped his hands over his mouth. “Ok, everybody, listen up. Now, all of you, I’m sure, are puzzling right now over what you may have heard. But I want you to give Johnny here your complete attention. Like it or not he’s the man. Now, let’s behave like we should. Ok? Good!”
There were some low rumblings, but these sounds soon gave way to what seemed like more pleasant and normal chatter. “Kid,” Uncle Tony said turning proudly to John with a look of satisfaction, “they’re all yours!”
“Unbelievable,” John said, barely audible, “Unbelievable.”
Where we travel back in time to the early days
Buddadutta ding dingdoinzbuttabobo……
Tata tat tatta ta ta ta….
“Hey, hey, what’s that?”
Bokabo to do…
“John? Johnny? Cut that out now…ya hear me?”
“Yeah, dad...I hear ya”
“Hey, are you mocking me young man?”
“Good, keep it that way. And stop making those noises.”
“Sorry. I always make ‘em when I don’t feel so good.”
Showing a mild bit of concern, John’s father dropped the newspaper he was reading, and turned slightly in his easy chair toward the voice from upstairs. “You’re not sick or somethin’ are you?” he shouted.
“Just in my heart.”
“You gettin’ heart problems at nine years old?”
“No, no…I’m feeling down, that’s all.”
His father’s face crinkled with disgust. “Right. What do you have to be so upset about, you lead the life of Reilly. You got everything you need Johnny Boy. Everything!