Music, Monologue and Madness


My family kept the washing machine in the bathroom next to the toilet.  And one day while sitting on the throne, I leaned his head against it, there was this loud buzzing noise and ...   


I was talking in tongues. 

Mind you now, I didn’t know what I was talking about.  The gift of tongues is one thing, the gift of interpretation another.

After the noise stops, I find myself sitting up in bed.  The full moon is streaming through the window.  Bathed in an eerie, surreal, translucent light are my nineteen fifty-seven, championship, Little League baseball pennant, my bowling trophies, my model cars, my historic navel vessels, the globe I later use to map my voyage to Peru in search for Inca gold, even my life-sized poster of Errol Flynn as Captain Blood.

It feels like a dream.  But, when I pinch myself ... nothing.  I appeal to the statue of the Virgin Mary.  “Mother of God!  Mother of God!”  I reach out to turn on the lamp, something, anything to break the spell.  But before I can, click, it turns on by itself.  And with my arm left hanging towards it, slowly, slowly, inch by inch, it begins to rise.  Up.  Up.  Floating.  The lamp.  The lamp is floating in mid-air. ... “Dad!” I scream.  “Dad!  Dad!”  

I race into my parent's bedroom.  Dad, a giant, burly man with dark brown curly hair and hands the size of meat hooks is sprawled face down on the bed, his head buried deeply in his pillow.  Mom is barely visible, no more than a lump under the covers on the far side of the bed.  And there facing me, lying on top of the covers, halfway down between them with her head propped up by her arm is a woman ... a strange, beautiful, haunting woman with violet eyes and long, shining, jet-black hair.  Her expression, courageous, tragic, long-suffering, is laced with an impatient boredom, as if she’s been kept waiting for an intolerably long time for something ... or someone. 

From the waist down her black negligee lay open.  Her long white legs part like mirrored crescent moons peeking through backlit clouds on a volatile hot summer's night.  And in that space between neither dark nor light, where the tips of the ivory crescents kiss, her delicate fingers move in smooth, even circles as if comforting a frightened, lost child.

“Wake up, Dad!!!  Wake up!!!”  Now, I reach for dad’s bedside lamp.  And, wouldn’t you know?  Without touching it, click, it turns on by itself, and blast-off, up it goes. 

Shielding his eyes from the light, Dad groans and reaches to turn it off, but finds his hand groping in space.  “Mother of God!” he cries, after opening his eyes and seeing the airborne lamp.  “Mother of God!” he cries, seeing the woman.  Like father, like son.  We use a lot of the same expressions.

I try to explain, but Dad clamps his massive hand over my mouth. 

“Hush!” he says.  “Don't wake your mother.  Is she awake?” 

Awake?  I ponder the question.  Is she awake?  Actually, I’d never thought about it.  In fact, truth is, I can’t remember ever really seeing her.  I lean across the bed and pull back the covers.  Sure enough, only pillows.

“Not much sign of life here, Dad.”

And hearing my words, the beautiful woman with the long shining black hair begins to weep.  And Dad quickly starts in on me, as if the whole thing is somehow my fault.

“I should'a never sent you away to college,” he says.  “I don't know who you are anymore.  My son can't sit still.  My son has to go away.  My son travels to strange places and does weird things.  My son thinks he's Sabu the Indian boy.  He floats lamps around the house.”

“But Dad,” I interrupt.  “I'm only nine years old.  I’ve never been to college.”

He hates hearing this.  I mean he’s a lunch pail kind of guy.  He can’t fathom being part of a prophetic dream.  “Listen, smarty pants,” he goes on, grabbing Sonny by the shoulders and trying to shake some sense into me.  “Listen, before it's too late.  You're my boy,  Jimmy Mossuto from Jersey City, New Jersey.  Get it?  We don’t do these kinds of things around here.  Get it?  Now get that lamp back on the dresser and do it quick!”

I’ve no idea what I’m doing.  But I point my hand towards the lamp as if I have some crazy power and try to will it down with my thoughts.  But lo and behold, just my luck, instead of the lamp coming down, it moves higher, higher and over to the right, above where his mother is, or was, or had been ... once ... maybe … who knows?  And the more the lamp moves, the more I notice how aroused the beautiful woman with the shining black hair becomes.  Now she’s yelling and screaming and gyrating every which way.  Right direction or not, she obviously likes a man who can make things happen.

Dad is now pleading with me to do something.  But, what can he do?  And after the lamp finally falls, the beautiful woman lets go of an earth shattering, “Yesssssss!” And Dad screams at the top of his lungs.  “Noooooooo!”


While studying Ancient history in sixth grade, I talked some of my classmates into sailing to Peru to search of Inca gold.  I showed them an old, secret, Peruvian treasure map I'd drawn up in his room the night before.  I told them that I'd stolen it from a sleeping wino in the marshes not far from his grandmother's house in Jersey City, now known as the twenty-yard line of Giant Stadium.  “There I was,  me, the wino, the map, and if rumor holds to be truth, buried six feet under, Jimmy Hoffa.”

After producing it, there it was, just as I’d told them, an X marking the spot in Gallo red next to a pot of gold.  It wasn't long before I sold myself on the story, I wanted to believe so bad.  And each day after school, I’d race home to trace my route on the globe.

According to my calculations, we couldn't miss.  If we launched a boat down the Jersey shore, if we kept the City to our backs and the beach to their right, if we followed the coastline and never, never, EVER lost sight of land and then made a left turn after the Panama Canal?  Well, there you have it.

It wouldn't be the quickest voyage in maritime history, not after calling a number of boat dealers to find the best we could do with the money we had was an aluminum rowboat.  Nonetheless, picturing myself as Errol Flynn, the romantic swashbuckling hero in the movie Captain Blood, I continued to fan the embers of my friends’ imaginations. 

“MEN, I can assure you.  It’s not going to be easy.  There'll be dangers.  Some of us may never return.  But MEN, as sure as my name is Jimmy Mossuto from Jersey City, New Jersey, for those of us who do, when we round that last cove and tie up at the Steel Pier between the Incredible Diving Horse and Luige’s Hot Mussel stand, our rowboat will be spilling, dripping, overflowing, with gold.  Gold, MEN, think of it.  Gold!”

Now gold was cool, especially to one of my classmates, Mario Constanti, a kid who'd swallowed his dad's words, “never be ashamed to make a buck,” hook, line and sinker.  Tossing pride overboard with the bait, each day Mario would scramble after pennies we’d thrown down the marbled school halls.  But Mario was the exception and I knew it.  What my MEN really wanted to hear about was “da goils.”  And, I was quick to oblige.

“MEN.  Trust me, Men.  The day we return, every girl in our class will be lining the beach.  They'll be teary-eyed from happiness.  All their heads will be tilted to the left like the Madonna.  They’ll be frantically clutching their chests in a feeble attempt to keep their pounding hearts from bursting through the Kleenex and flopping on the sand like a school of dying fish.  Every last one of them, MEN, every last one of them, including Donna Fitachio herself.”

Ugamafugana!  Donna Fitachio.  Just the mention of her name brought squeals of delight from the gang.  Not only was she the most beautiful girl in class, according to Tomboy Annie, she was the only girl in sixth grade with real breasts.  My MEN were hypnotized.  And from that day on, each and every one of them secretly slipped me their lunch money, afraid they'd be left out when it came time to choose a crew.

Of course, selling the idea to my Dad wasn’t as easy.  “Stop worrying so much about Inca gold,” he said.  “Try worrying more about the lawn.  You won't have enough money to buy an ocean worthy boat for at least another twenty years and by that time your friends will be married with kids and only allowed to go as far as the bowling alley on Thursday nights.”

Is it any wonder I’d never marry?


Oh, Donna.  Oh, Donna.  Oh, Donna Fitachio.  Donna Fitachio was the first in the flesh Lady Breck sparkle I’d ever know.  She had an angelic face, framed with long, heavy, dark tresses that fell over her Our Lady Of Sorrows navy blue pinafore like a moonless night on winter solstice and eyes so black, I questioned them having pupils at all.  The combination played my heartstrings like a Neapolitan round-backed mandolin.  And every time I laid eyes on the girl I had this odd, baffling urge to stamp grapes and dance the tarantella.

Night after night, I lay in bed, teary-eyed from longing, a fever burning in my loins, a hot and restless blood pounding in my veins.  White knuckled, I’d choke my Hop-along Cassidy cowboy bedspread, trying for the life of me to avoid another type of choking, a choking of the chicken, and yet another embarrassing trip to the Father Paragallo’s confessional before Sunday Mass.  Excruciatingly, hour after hour passed with the volume of my bedside radio kept low so my parents couldn't hear it, as I waited for the song Young Love to be played. 

“Young love, first love, filled with true emotion.”

Years later, trying to recapture what it felt like to be in love with Donna Fitachio, I chose to write about the day I'd watched her from behind the home free pole during grammar school recess.

“Head slightly bowed, staring down at the ground, a courageous, tragic and long-suffering look on her face, Donna Fitachio leans against a cold, sharp, school-yard wind.  Her long, thin arms hang straight by her sides with nowhere to go.  Her small, harmless fists clench tightly in anger, with nothing to pound.  Her shoulder-length black hair streams into her short but tangled past.  

When the lunch bell rings, the hordes of untidies jostle and push her.  They pinch her breasts and spin her in circles as they race for the door.  When she finally regains her bearings, she's missing her homework.  A tear falls from her eye as she sees it sail over the fence.

Later that night I polish my armor.  I vow to defend her from pirates and thugs.  She'll dress the wounds I receive from each battle.  She'll kiss these eyes that burn with love.  Oh, Donna Fitachio.  She'll kiss these eyes that burn with love.”

How quickly things had changed in a year.  One year prior, I’d always be the first to enter the classroom.  I'd race to my desk, take out my notebook and dive into my stories of vampires, werewolves, mummies, Frankenstein, blood, guts, gore.  James Plywaski, this fat, blond, Polish kid, most famous for his questionable cleanliness (rumor had it he picked buggers from his nose and chewed them), would try to squish into his seat unnoticed.  He'd fallen into a mud puddle, his clothes, wet and torn from the pavement, matched the color of his underwear, which forever caught in the battle for truth, justice, and the American way, stuck out the back of his pants like a flag. 

“Just one moment, Mr. Plywaski,” our teacher, Six Foot Sister Archangela, would say.  “You've been running!”  You see, running wasn't allowed in the playground anymore.  Not since this idiot of a kid used it as an excuse to cover the fact that he’d actually taken a nose dive out the upstairs rectory window to land right on top of the blessed Donna Fitachio and break her arm .  But that’s another story.

As for now, slowly, painstakingly, Ol' Six Foot would clean her tiny round spectacles.  And then, like lightning, the long wooden pointer she’d always carried by her side would strike his ass.  And wouldn't you know?  Not that he didn't have enough trouble with his reputation; snot would fly from his nose onto Mary Priscatelli's desk.  Mary would scream.  Skinny George would fart from the back of the room.  I’d always wondered how such a skinny kid could fart so loud.  The best I could come up with was that the kid had a body shaped like a trumpet.  Harry Krapsho would hit Big Pete Catalano with a noogie.  Big Pete would pulverize Harry’s Pez dispenser, exploding a cluster of sugared pellets across the room like a Quaker Oats commercial.  And, me?  Well, forever feeling separate, I’d steal Laura Lynn’s peanut butter and jelly sandwich and put it on the radiator to melt.  At least I was a part of something.

And so, that’s how it used to be.  But now, in sixth grade, just one year later, the whole thing had gone topsy-turvy.  Ever since watching Donna Fitachio struggling in the playground that day, whenever the class went bonkers, I’d jump from my desk and dive in front of her, trying to shield her from flying debris.

“Young love, first love filled with true devotion.”