Archive for June, 2012


Philip Comes of Age

by mdjb

There were less than two months until Philip’s thirtieth birthday, and all his hinting to Tony about the thing he wanted most seemed to be aimed at deaf ears. Big Mama had given him one hundred dollars so he could get a tattoo saying “Mom” on one of his shoulders, preferably the arm of the hand he wrote with, but she could not remember which one that was. He had opted instead for a charm on the back of which he had had inscribed All my love, Big Mama, and made up the difference to purchase the gold chain he would wear around his neck and from which the MOM would dangle. He could not fathom why she had suggested a tattoo this time, but was fairly certain she would appreciate the charm just as much.
In front of the monument on Barrow, he stood waiting for Tony, his oldest friend, and if anyone should remind an old-timer of the role John Travolta played in Saturday Night Fever, it was he. Other acquaintances remarked on Tony’s brown teeth, but Philip paid them no mind. To him, Anthony Manzana in his leisure suit was a vision. So, he couldn’t see how he was trailed after by the younger boy as if by some large forlorn puppy—no sorrow there. Shit, he thought, in two months I won’t be a boy anymore.
Big Mama, whose Christian name was Bunny, though nobody called her that since she had put on all the weight, was going to make a party for Philip’s thirtieth, and it was going to be a blow-out. She had told him to invite all his friends, and checked with him every Friday for updates on the guest list. He had invited many people, but in the end the only one he was counting on was Tony. Ray, whom the B.M. liked to refer to as Big Daddy, even though he was not Philip’s father, and wasn’t even big, really, would borrow the neighbor’s karaoke machine in return for a few beers and some of the B.M.’s special lasagna, and the two of them would get bombed sitting, watching from a corner, and there would probably be a few kids whom no one knew in attendance, but hey, good times don’t come cheap.
He looked at his tiny watch and started fretting a bit. Tony was late, and Walmart was going to close. He asked himself why he was always the one waiting, but as he knew the answer, he did not dwell on it. “Never any benefit from fretting,” Big Mama was wont to say, “All things come with time.” And she was right of course. In any case, here came Tony, ambling down the street. God, he was still wearing the clothes he’d worn last night to the bar! And who was the ugly, skinny number walking beside him?
“Hey, Curly Joe,” Tony said, “Here you have me. Let’s go shopping.”
Philip wanted to fret despite his philosophy, wanted to glance at his watch and glare at the other, wanted to shout, “You always do this. It’s too late, now,” but said nothing. Instead, he eyed Tony’s friend and nodded.
“Oh, this is Ralph,” Tony said, “He’s a dental assistant and helped me with your birthday gift in return for a little, er, personal attention. Look,” and he smiled widely, showing off his mouthful of newly whitened teeth.
The insufferable…it was too much! Philip gave in to his base instincts. “And where is my gift?” he asked.
Quick-thinking Tony went for a save. He leaned close and whispered, “ I figured I’d grant your greatest wish, later, after we ditch Ralph.”
“What is that, sloppy seconds?” Not whispered, causing Ralph to look up from his nails.
“Not sloppy at all, my dear, and I’ll be beaming down at you with my new pearly whites.” Tony grinned broadly.
“You have no clue what I’ve always wanted.”
“Don’t be like that. That’s not very friendly. Have you heard from your parents? Are you in a bad mood?”
Suddenly, synapses sparked, and like a rose coming into bloom out of season, a measure of understanding that had never visited him before, passed through Philip’s mind. He would never be able to deal with those teeth. And he hated karaoke, and leisure suits.
“I was,” he said, “But not anymore. Ray is not my father. I have only one parent I take after, and no friends that I can see.”
With that, he waddled away feeling for all the world like a gentleman, tall,  dignified, and righteous.