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Mark M Lichterman

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BECOMING 37:Violent Rage
By Mark M Lichterman
Posted: Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Last edited: Sunday, August 26, 2012
This short story is rated "PG13" by the Author.

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“Well, Mom…” Thinking a moment: I almost got killed by two anti-Semitic, Italian hoods, then met a girl with a dirty neck’n’ears’n’green teeth, an’ got stinkin’ drunk on homemade Dago Red, an’ told her’n’her girlfriend’n’Frankie how Jews get their dicks wacked off, then her’n’me went into a bedroom an’ got undressed an’ I sucked on her tits an’ put my finger into her cunt, but because I was so drunk I puked my guts out an’ never did get screwed. “Uh,” he said, “not too much. We just, kind’a, you know, hung around.”

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… An’ her ears are dirty.”


“So? So don’t fuck her in the ear.” Thinking this very funny, Frank began to laugh.


It was the laughter Mitchell remembered, Frank’s laughter, and up until then he hadn’t fully realized how much he had missed it and, his serious expression changing, raucous laughter came painfully from his throat—still sore from vomiting. “An’ worst of all! The baddest thing about her,” forcing himself to stop laughing, “are her teeth! Shit, Frankie, who’s got green teeth?”


His expression suddenly serious, Frank stopped laughing. “Now, Mitch, now you may have a problem!”


The smile fading from his face, “Why,” Mitchell asked, “would I have a problem now? I ain’t gonna fuck her in the mouth!”


“Yeah?” Frank said. “We’ll see about that.”

 ______________________________________________________________________ _______



Chicago, Illinois

June 18, 1949


The odor of dinner overcoming whatever lingering nausea he may have had, by the time the boys sat down to eat Mitchell was well enough, and easily able to consume two servings of lasagna, salad, half a loaf of garlic bread, fresh string beans with almond slivers and two custard filled cannoli.


“Frankie, this one, he’s’a not so bashful like’a you other friends. This one, he’s’a like to eat. I like’a this one! Mitchell,” Mrs. Rizzo asked, holding the tray forward. “You like more cannoli?”


“No, ma’am, I’m stuffed.” He looked at the tray. “Well…” he’d never had any pastries that tasted better than this cannoli. “Oh, okay. Thank you, Mrs. Rizzo.”


“Gee, Ma,” Frank laughed, “guess you twisted his arm.”


“An’ such’a good manners, this one. You should learn such’a good manners from’a you friend here, Frankie.”


“Yeah, sure, Ma.” Frank pushed away from the table. “Lipensky, ain’t you never gonna get done? Come on, we ain’t got all day!”


Swallowing the last of the cannoli, “Thanks again, Mrs. Rizzo.” Following Frank from the dining room,

“Frankie, I was supposed to call my mom when I got here this afternoon an’ forgot. Okay if I call her now?”


“Yeah, sure. Phone’s in the kitchen.”


“…Mom, it’s me, Mitchell.”


“I know it’s you, Mitchell! Why didn’t you call?”


“I am calling!”


“Yes, now!” Myra said angrily. “I thought I told you to call when you got there!”


“I forgot. I’m sorry.”


“You’re sorry? Big deal, you’re sorry! I sat by the phone all day waiting for you to call and you’re sorry!”


“Mom. I’m sorry! I forgot!”


The line quiet a moment, then, “So, okay already. How’s Frank? He look different from the last time you saw him, from the way you remember him? Tell him hello from me.”


Mitchell looked at Frank who, flexing his wrists and forearms, had both elbows on the table, watching the muscles in his arms expand and contract, “Frankie, my mom says hello.”


“Yeah? Tell her hello back.”


“Yeah, he really does look different, and he says hello back.”


“Did you have lunch?”


“Yeah, sure I did.”




Where? Like what difference does it make? “A place Frankie knows; his godmother owns it.”


“What did you eat?”


Jesus! “Something Italian. You never had it before.”


“Okay, so I never had it before. So what did you eat?”


“Pizza! It’s called pizza, Mom.” Catching Frank’s eye, Mitchell moved his right hand, index finger extended, in a small circle around his right ear, making the universally accepted “she’s nuts” sign.


“Pizza? I never had pizza. What’s it made with?”


“Uh, it’s kind’a like a big pancake, an’ it’s got lots’a stuff on it.”


“What kind of stuff?”


Sighing deeply, “You know, cheese’n’onions’n’green peppers’n’sausage. All good healthy stuff, just like you like me to eat.”


“Sausage?” Myra said sourly. “It had pork sausage?”


“Well, yeah, I guess. We eat pork sausage, don’t we?”


“Yes, but our pork sausage is ko…” About to say kosher, she caught herself. “I know what’s in our sausage,”—though, truly, she had no idea—“and God only knows what’s in that goyisha trayf!” [Gentile junk] “So, what’s done is done, and it probably won’t kill you. So, what did you and Frank do today?”


“Well, Mom…” Thinking a moment: I almost got killed by two anti-Semitic, Italian hoods, then met a girl with a dirty neck’n’ears’n’green teeth, an’ got stinkin’ drunk on homemade Dago Red, an’ told her’n’her girlfriend’n’Frankie how Jews get their dicks wacked off, then her’n’me went into a bedroom an’ got undressed an’ I sucked on her tits an’ put my finger into her cunt, but because I was so drunk I puked my guts out an’ never did get fucked. “Uh,” he said, “not too much. We just, kind’a, you know, hung around.”


“Come on,” Frank whispered, “we’re gonna be late.”


“An’ now we’re at Frank’s house, an’ we just finished a great dinner an’ we’re getting’ ready to go to a movie an’ we’re really late now, Mom.”


“Well, Mitchell, it sounds like you’re having a good time,” Myra said, not wanting to hang up. “And I

suppose your father was right about this being a learning experience.”


“Yeah, Mom,” his mind going back to Lisa’s bedroom. “I’m learnin’ lots’a real neat stuff.”


“Okay, honey. Be careful, and don’t stay out too late.”


“Yeah, Mom, I’ll be careful.”


“Okay… Oh, by the way, if you should decide to come home tomorrow instead of Monday, were going to be at Aunt Bea’s all day because it’s Uncle Al’s birthday and we’re going to surprise him with a special brunch and,” not too happy about him being away from home, in that neighborhood, and well knowing the way to her son’s heart, “everyone is going to be there.”


Everyone? “What are you having to eat?”


Not above bribing him, “Oh, the usual,” Myra said. “Lox and bagels and all that, but much, much more—pastries, and of course a birthday cake. You know that when all the cousins get together they bring all kinds of good things to eat.”


“Yeah,” momentarily digesting, literally digesting, all that his mother had said, “I know!” His eyes flicked to the clock on the wall then down to Frank, who was cleaning his fingernails with a pruning knife. “Okay, if I don’t see you tomorrow, I’ll see you on Monday. Okay?”


“Sure, honey… Well,” reluctant to say goodbye, “Goodbye.”


“So long, Mom.” Dropping the receiver onto the cradle, “Frankie, what’a’we doin’ tomorrow?”


“First thing, I gotta go to church, an’ I’ll be home ’bout ten, ten-thirty. If you want, you can stay in bed or watch television till I get back. Why?”


All kinds of good things to eat! “Oh, just askin’.”


“Come on, s’almost six-thirty an’ we gotta get dressed. You bring somethin’ decent to wear, at least?”

In Frank’s bedroom, “Yeah! Sure!” he opened the canvas bag, removed his shirts, khaki slacks and underwear, and laid them onto the guest bed. “See, I brought lots’a decent stuff to wear.”


“Yeah, I see. Who packed this? Not your Ma!”


“Nah, me.”


“Figures.” Taking the khaki slacks off the bed, unfurling them, “These look like shit!” Frank said, “You can’t wear ’em on a date!”


“Hey, I didn’t think we were goin’ to a formal.”


“You’re too big for my pants, but my shirts’ll fit fine, an’ I’ll ask Ma to iron these slacks.”


“What the hell’s the difference how I look? We’re only goin’ to a movie. An’ if I gotta be with Gina, it won’t matter if I roll in horseshit. Shit! I don’t think she’d even notice.”


“Mitchie, ain’t’j’ya never been on a date before?”


“Yeah!” Actually, no, he never had, but he didn’t want to tell that to Frank. “Sure I been on dates, lots’a times!”


“Lots’a times, eh? Bullshit!”


“Okay, bullshit! But it’s only with Gina, for Christ’s sake!”


“You can’t go lookin’ like a slob no matter who you’re with! An’ remember, you’re gonna be with me’n’Lisa, too, an’ you’re supposed to be a wop not a Jew, an’ wops don’t go on dates lookin’ like fuckin’ slobs… That’s my closet,” pointing his thumb. “Take any shirt ya want. I’m gonna ask Ma to iron these,” waving the khaki slacks. “Go on! Go find a shirt.”


Opening the door to a small, walk-in closet, pulling the string hanging from a bare ceiling light fixture, Holy cow! Mitchell was amazed at the neat rows of slacks, jackets and shirts that hung from wooden bars on all three sides of the closet. Separated by color, the shirts hung precisely and neatly to the right and left. Directly ahead were a number of jackets on wooden hangers and, hanging by their cuffs on metal pants hangers, the sharp creases in the slacks all faced outward.


Myra ironed her son’s clothing with her prize possession, a mangler, then she would hang the shirts on wire hangers and the pants on cardboard-covered pants hangers, then hang the shirts and pants neatly on the wooden rods in Mitchell’s closet where they would remain neat and orderly till he pulled the first pair of pants or shirt off a hanger causing the hangers on either side to hang askew and within a day all the hangers and all of the clothing in his closet were cockeyed.


Mitchell’s favorite color was yellow. There were four yellow shirts in varying shades in Frank’s closet. Carefully, so as not to jar the adjoining hangers, he took one down, studied it, put it back and took another. Coming out of the closet, standing in front of the mirror, removing his shirt, he put Frank’s on. The short-sleeved shirt was pale yellow with two breast pockets and military-style epaulets.


Studying his reflection he smiled, showing his white teeth to the deeply tanned figure that smiled back at him. Using his palm, Jeeze, I look good! pushing the wave in his hair an inch closer to his left eyebrow, It’s a shame that my first real date’s gotta be wasted on Gina.


…Walking briskly, “Frankie?”


Taking one last deep drag on the cigarette, Frank flipped it into the gutter before answering, “Yeah, Mitch?”


“You know, they seem so different.”


“Who do?”


Going along with the gag, “Dey do.”


“Dey do? Who dey?”


Becoming serious, “The girls. How’s come they’re such good friends? Lisa seems like a nice girl, and Gina’s such a…”




“Well, yeah.”


“They grew up together. Gina used to live upstairs from Lisa.”


“At where we were today?”


“Yeah. Lisa’s ma’n’pa own the buildin’ an’ Gina’s folks rented the apartment upstairs. Anyway, one day Gina’s ma’n’pa had this big argument an’ her pa took off an’ disappeared.”


“Yeah, she tol’ me her dad’s gone.”


Even though he and his father did not seem to be particularly friendly at times, and that occasionally he would go out of his way to avoid Walter, Mitchell felt a hollow core of sadness as he attempted to even imagine life without his father, and in so doing felt empathy for Gina, then felt anger at himself for disliking her as much as he thought he did.


“Jesus, Frankie! How can a father just take off an’ leave his wife an’ kid an’ never see ’em again?”


“Don’t know, Mitch, but Gina’s pop sure did.”


“When’d this happen?”


“Right before the war started. Gina was about eight then.”


“God, things had’a be really tough for ’em!”


“Yeah. Gina’n’her mother had’a move to a smaller place over on Campbell; it’s just a couple’a blocks away, but it’s a real dump. I guess bein’ without a father made it real hard for Gina an’ she just kind’a… you know, kind’a got wild ‘that way.’ An’ Lisa, bein’ as nice as she is, felt bad for her an’ they stayed friends, an’ I know Lisa’d feel real bad if somethin’ happened an’ her’n’Gina couldn’t be pals no more.”


“But hangin’ ’round with Gina? Don’t that make guys think that, maybe, she’s kind’a like Gina and, you know, try to get her to do the kinds’a things Gina does?”


“Well, yeah, they used to, an’ sometimes some guy still does, an’ you ought’a see how Lisa shoots ’em down. An’ for the last year, ever since her’n’me’s been together, almost everyone in the neighborhood knows, an’ mostly leave her alone or they know I’ll break their fuckin’ faces.”


Trying to think of a way to say what was on his mind, he was quiet a minute then, “Frankie, don’t misunderstand me. I like Lisa, but really, if she’s such a nice girl, then why’s she let you do it to her? To go all the way! Like today, an’ with Gina’n’me there, just in the other room.”


Knowing that his friend was right, searching for an excuse, also taking a minute to formulate his thoughts but, unable to come up with a creditable excuse, “If we hadn’t’a drank all that wine, an’ if you’n’Gina weren’t in the bedroom makin’ out, Lisa’n’me wouldn’t’a done it, then.” Quickly adding, “But Lisa only does it with me! An’ she does it because we, uh, like each other, a real lot!”


“Frank, lots’a girls like lots’a guys, but the nice girl’s don’t go all the way with their boyfriends. Yeah, I know they may touch each other an’ stuff, but…”


“’cause we love each other, an’ we’re gonna be married!”


Incredulous, “Married! Jesus, Frankie, you’re only… what? Sixteen! How do you know you’n’Lisa are gonna be married? How can you even think about marryin’ anyone now, when you’re only sixteen?”


“Nearer seventeen! An’ ’cause we love each other!” Frank repeated. “…An’ Lisa’n’me really love doin’ it with each other!”


“Frankie, I d’know a whole hell of a lot about it, but from what I’ve been told, hell, even a shit-head like Skorupsi loves doin’ it! An’ I don’t think fuckin’, an’ lovin’ fuckin’ someone means you gotta marry ’em, least way’s now!”


Frank stopped walking and, “Mitch,” grabbing him by the shoulder, spun him around so they’re facing each other. “I tell ya, Lisa’n’me love each other! Okay?” Poking his stiffened finger into his friend’s chest. “An’ it ain’t none’a your fuckin’ business, anyway! Okay?” Balling his right fist, cocking it beneath Mitchell’s chin. “I invited ya here to get laid, not to give me a fuckin’ lecture! Okay?”


He looked at the clenched fist, then into Frank’s anger-flushed face, and saw something he’d never imagined he would see coming from Frank directed towards himself: rage—pure, violent rage.

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Reviewed by Annabel Sheila 11/17/2010


Books by
Mark M Lichterman

For Better or Worse

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The Climbing Boy

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