Getting Mamasu Safari by Jerry Vilhotti
They were going to get "the tiger" who was stalking mountains. Nine year old Johnny had often escaped her claws when he was visiting his closest friend,
brother-cousin Elvio, in Brokenland Country. He dreaded this one hundred mile trip to Gunhill Road but he had no choice since his parents insisted he go with them
to have a pseudo friendly atmosphere of fluffy clouds to prevail making the capture
occur with less ugliness—hoping the scowling tiger would be lulled into a false
sense of seeing a family come together to lovingly bring her to the zoo called Burywater where everyone with souls cast in deep shadows said: "Have a nice day!" but really meaning—"Drop dead!" Most all were religious people.
Johnny sat in the back of the car totally engulfed by cigar smoke which was coming from his father's nervous puffing which grew more frantic the closer they were approaching the foothills; the Father swore he could smell her pee that delineated her area.
Johnny increased the sounds of his gagging to make it fully known he was suffocating and in the ugly sound was the real threat he was about to vomit. He reached for the handle to open the window. The move was seen by his father who was peering into the rear view mirror as if looking for enemy white hunters driving bigger cars.
"No, don't! For the love of God don't!" his father shouted into the flesh of the back of his hand; leaving bite-sized track marks all over it.
"Why not? I'm suffocating to fucking death!" the boy said in his tongue. When two tongues were being used the harshness of curse words were lost in the not understanding the full meaning in shape and form of one's own language.
"Because the wind might tilt the car over!" the Father shouted nearly
losing control of his steering.
If there had been six people on the pretend safari, the father would have spent
a long time arranging everyone by weight and height to maintain a proper balance
preventing the car from overturning.
"How?" Johnny asked being the only one among his siblings to dare challenge
the great white hunter; being his favorite.
"The air becomes another damn person —that's how!"
"OK, so I'll throw up on the seat!"
"Wait! For the love of all the Saints! Let me pull over!" the father said
while hitting himself in the head with a closed fist; forcing his wife to grab the
wheel preventing them from falling headlong into deep black waters.
They began to go through the land that was once a county seat with its streets pockmarked by huge holes the shape of giant deformed. Its gnarled dwarfed trees added to the mood of foreboding. Cars abandoned on the side were totally stripped as if eaten by hoards of starving jackals, lions and tigers.
They finally reached the oasis with lush plants surrounded by a tall fence. The
Father whispered Johnny and his mother from the vehicle and then he tentatively
led them up a stair path and nervously unchained the gate.
"The evil one has escaped! She is hiding among the bushes!" Uncle Sensio
shouted. He was Johnny's mother's older brother sort of another kind of
white hunter but could never fully eat a whole supper since he would be asked by
his three children and wife to go to the cellar for more wine and upon his return
would find his plate empty. His wife made meals for three mouths.
Johnny shuddered. He attempted an escape for his life. He complained about the hunger attacking him; projecting his fear of being eaten. He warned his mother if he did not eat that very minute—inside the safety of the large three family building—he would starve to death before her very eyes.
The growl that began to blanket his whine made him begin a run for anywhere but
he was tied up by his mother's arms that kept his neck, if not his legs, in place.
"Mamasu! Come out Mamasu!" Johnny's father pleaded.
The growl deepened making the boy wrestle out of his mother's stranglehold—to
be caught by Uncle Sensio.
They walked slowly through the thick vegetation. Johnny's heart began to beat
faster as he spotted bitten cabbages strewn about looking like so many severed heads among crushed tomatoes with their red juices flowing.
"We have food for you! Come out and eat!" Johnny's mother and her
sister-in-law Pasqualina took turns shouting.
"For the love of God, Mamasu, it's only for two months. Burywater has more
trees and grass and it is our turn to care for you like we promised," Johnny's
father pleaded with his long time nemesis; yet, remaining true to his obligation
of what a husband owed a wife if not a mother-in-law for if he didn't there
would be no comfort zone for him to rest deep inside.
"We have those things here too my dear brother-in-law!" Uncle Sensio yelled
as he and Johnny waded through a section where tall corn plants had had their necks broken.
Johnny heard a soft sobbing. It was his grandmother.
"Nonna, come home with us and tell me stories!" he said feeling compassion
and not pity for her.
She appeared from behind some plants nodding.
"So you're still alive, Mamasu?" Johnny's father said; attempting a greeting. The word he had invented telling Johnny it meant "my dear grandmother" actually meant "her mother".
The eighty-one year old replied: "And you still eat?" Hidden among her
words was the threat of how easily she could kill appetites with her little nasty
doings at an eating -like playing with her coughed up phlegm to make it become alive like strings of spaghetti to shocked staring eyes beginning the first saliva to
begin the first gouging out from stomachs of recently semi-digested foods.
The whole trip home—no one spoke. The silence permeating the car was like a bunch of sharp needles attempting to stitch a past of shattered fabric full of conflicts and after four summers of his grandmother's stays Johnny would learn all about them: how since before Roman times his father's people and his grandmother's people had moved mountains to get at each other's throats and he would pay for all the sins of the past as if he had sculpted them from inside a thirty-nine year old womb.
Under Water by Jerry Vilhotti
The eighth grade teacher, Miss Egan, sent for the second grader Johnny who would wear the sins of his older brother Leny One N's for the rest of his life.
Her face was the meanest Johnny had ever seen; having in it all the hate that had happened between her people whom their rulers considered "niggers"; proud to have been perpetuators of a superior caste system to separate the worthy from the unworthy.
She was hunched over her arms as she asked: "Where is Leonard?"
Johnny thought and he thought for he didn't want to get his brother into trouble and after she repeated the question again — only louder — he said: "He left for school!"
"Well he isn't here!" she said, attempting to slap him while doing
a tavern Hill cough molded from Hogen's beer place on top of Buywater's
Washington Hill where Indian children were once killed to death by bullets and gifts of pock-infested blankets, as he flinched back away from her reach which got all the big people to laugh wildly in that certain way Burywater people laughed; nervous tics with full anxiety.
Leny did get into trouble and Johnny was pinched by the principal, who looked exactly like the pictures he had seen of George Washington whom many of the "Founding Fathers" wanted to make a king but being a true "Free Mason" believing in the mason's lever and stayed on the level, and after every twisting pinch on his arm — she asked him if he were going to be like his two time stayed back in the eighth grade hooky playing brother.
Her pinches hurt very much. She wore the same hatred on her face as Miss Egan. Johnny wondered if all the people in this place called Burywater, a hundred miles north of his beloved The Bronx where he had been born among people who could laugh and cry and still believed a better day awaited, were born with that hate etched on their faces? It was one of Dante's circles of hell but he would learn this after graduating Harlem College in New York City where Cornell Wilde the actor - whom a male librarian Mister Maddan thought he resembled and accused him of stealing his books and many girls glances and Colin Sell Out would graduate. He would not become an actor or a killer of innocent people.
He would become a teacher and a writer using syntax his teachers taught the dying of hunger to learn so to become eligible to die for medals for a fourth world order. He would treat all his students equally and attempt to teach them thinking in a world that lost its native intelligence and was drowning in polluted waters.