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Dad, Me, and Muhammad Ali
Dad, Me, and Muhammad Ali is the heart-warming story of the strong bond between a boy and his dad and the Greatest Boxer of All-Time, Muhammad Ali!
Jo-Jo's dad is an Aliologist, someone who considers himself an expert on all things Muhammad Ali! When Jo-Jo accidentally damages his dad's favorite Muhammad Ali autographed picture, he knows that he must do whatever he can to make it up to his dad, even if it means spending all of his money to replace it. But how can he do that? It's a one-of-a-kind picture! What can he do to make it up to his dad?
Then a miraculous opportunity opens up for Jo-Jo and his father. So he takes his dad on an incredible adventure to Harlem in New York City that he hopes will show his dad just how much he means to him. And they meet some pretty wonderful people along the way!
Dad, Me, and Muhammad Ali takes the reader on a journey through a son's heart as he tries to find the best way to make amends for an accident that damages his father's most prized possession. It's the heartwarming story of a loyal son and his loving father and a magical afternoon that changes both of their lives forever!
It Wasn’t My Fault
It wasn’t my fault. I swear. It was an accident. My sister, Jalissa, and I were playing catch with a plastic ball in Dad’s sports room. Jalissa is four years younger than me. She has long, straight brown hair, light brown eyes, and doll-like fingers. Jalissa is the star of our family. The way my mom treats her, even you would think she was a star, too. She gets everything she wants, and gets away with a lot as well. We were just having a little fun. I tossed the ball, and it skipped off of Jalissa’s tiny hand. The ball tapped Dad’s autographed picture of Muhammad Ali.
I glanced over at Jalissa and watched in horror as the picture toppled. It was like watching a slow-motion replay. There was no time to stop it. The picture clanged and bounced onto the floor, and the glass broke. It sounded like it smashed into a million pieces—and that didn’t sound good. I felt my heart pounding against my skinny chest as if it wanted to jump out. Jalissa
panicked and scurried up the squeaky stairs.
“I’m outta here, Jo,” she said, already halfway to the kitchen door.
“Help me pick it up! You dropped the ball! Come back and help me!” I yelled.
Very slowly, very carefully, I picked up the frame. The glass was shattered into tiny pieces. The reflection of the tiny pieces looked like small diamonds. Shiny. The picture was a full-color autographed photo of Muhammad Ali swinging his muscular right arm and huge fist with full force toward a punching bag. Ali’s eyes were big. He looked focused. Glistening sweat dripped from his nose.
As I looked closely at the signed picture, I noticed a long L-shaped scratch and a wide wrinkle on the corner edge. The picture was ruined. My body froze. I took a deep breath and gulped. It felt like a frog was caught in my throat. I trembled. Dad had a lot of autographed pictures, but this was his favorite one. He told me he loved this picture because it showed Ali’s determination and strength. He also told me that this photo, hand-signed by Ali, was hard to find. I closed my eyes, hoping the damage would disappear. When I opened them, Mom was standing at the bottom of the stairs with her hands on her hips, glaring at me.
My mom was sweet, but tough. In my house, you can’t win a battle with my mom. Dad tries, but I always end up feeling bad for him. She has beautiful short brown hair and shimmering dark brown eyes, but when she glared at
you, watch out.
“Felix Joeză Rodriguez, what happened here?” she asked.
For some reason my mom always yells my full name when she’s upset with me. When I’m upset, I don’t yell Jennifer Lynn Rodriguez. I know better. Mom never allowed us to argue with her or Dad. My parents said it was disrespectful.
“Mom, it was an accident. I tossed the ball to Jalissa and she didn’t catch it.”
“How many times does your dad have to tell you guys not to play with balls down here?”
I tried to ignore her, but she was right. I just kept my head low.
“Start cleaning up,” Mom said.
I placed two books on the floor to protect my knees from the broken glass. Glass cuts are the worst kind of pain you can have. Dad and I were at Lakewood Park one time—I was probably four years old—and I was zooming down the slide. As I came to the bottom of it, I felt a sharp pain in my foot. Glass! I screamed and Dad came running and quickly squeezed my foot. He told me he was putting pressure on the wound to stop the bleeding. My dad is skinny, but he carried me to the car and put on a Band-Aid.
“Be very careful,” Mom said, as I carefully gathered together all the glass pieces.
I pulled out the broom and dustpan to sweep up the tiny slivers. Jalissa and I played down there barefoot sometimes, so I made sure not to leave any glass on the floor. Then I placed thedamaged photo inside an envelope and left it on my dad’s tool cabinet. I dragged myself to my bedroom, shut the door, and lay
down on the bed.
I glanced at my Little League trophies, school certificates, and baseball cards. Then, I saw the Que Pasa magazine on top of my desk. A picture of a sunny, beautiful island with old, pale stone buildings and the words “Welcome to Puerto Rico: La isla del encanto, island of wonder” made me wish I were there. I could see myself swimming in the clear blue waters with sparkling, colored fishes. Right then, I wouldn’t even have minded swimming with jellyfish if I could have avoided Dad.
I heard two beeps outside. I jumped off the bed, pulled the curtains to the side, and looked out the window. I saw Dad getting out of his car. I gently tiptoed over to open my bedroom door just enough to hear Mom and Dad’s conversation.
“Hi, honey, how was your day?” she asked him as he walked in.
“It was fine, but long,” he answered. “Where are the kids?”
Dad always asked for us when he came home. But on this day, I had hoped he would have forgotten.
“They are both in their rooms. I sent them there because they did something wrong.”
“They accidentally broke one of your picture frames,” she told him.
It wasn’t that we just broke the picture frame, it was the ruined autographed picture that I was worried about.
“What are you talking about? Which picture frame?”
“One of your Muhammad Ali pictures. I think it’s the one
you have had for a very long time,” Mom answered.
Dad didn’t say a word. I heard the basement door open and heavy footsteps going down the stairs. Dad was finally going to see the damaged picture. I felt even worse. I felt like my pretty, popular, cheerleader girlfriend had broken up with me for my best friend—and I didn’t even have a girlfriend. I have to apologize, I thought. I'll write him a sorry note. It will read something like this: To Dad, I am sorry for breaking your picture. I didn’t mean it. Love, Jo-Jo.
Then I heard Dad’s heavy footsteps again. This time it sounded more like King Kong was walking up the stairs. The loud footsteps sounded like they were heading straight to my room. The noise got closer and stopped at my bedroom door. I covered myself
with my blanket. Sure enough, Dad came into my room. I closed my eyes and pretended to be sleeping.
“Hey, Jo,” he said, lightly tapping my back.
I grumbled the kind of grumble that means “I am sleeping, go away.”
“Can you tell me what happened?” Dad asked.
I grumbled again.
“Listen, I want you to know that I’m upset, but you’re not punished. Mom told me it was an accident. I’ll let you rest, but we will talk later, okay?” he said, and then he walked out of my room.
© 2009 Felix M. Rodriguez, All Rights Reserved