FROM THE STORY…
“JOHNNY REBEL UNION”
All day Johnny was thinking hard about his baseball glove, about its oldness and badness and how much better he’d play with that new one in the PLAYTIME Store for $44.99. But, Dad was mad at him for fooling around. He’d say “No” like nothing, and he wouldn’t forget, which meant no glove for a long time.
“Jose Alvarez will sure beat me out for second base by then,” he told himself. “I need that new glove more than anything!”
Johnny had a good idea about his Grandpa, though. If he charged Grandpa $10 for each kiss he gave him, five kisses would be enough to buy his new glove! Still, it was awful, those sharp greasy whiskers scraping his face and the old-guy smell. Eww! He hated that. But, he’d do it, he needed a great new glove so bad. Sometimes Grandpa tried to get more than his money’s worth by holding Johnny tight, and planting a big gooey one. But that meant he’d have to pay another 5 bucks. For the whole 45 bucks he’d let him do it. Definitely.
He couldn’t wait to say something at dinner. “Mom, when are we going to Grandpa’s again?”
“Next month,” Dad answered, not looking up from his book. He sounded angry. Next month was forever, there were only a few months of baseball in the whole year.
“Why do you want to know?” Mom asked. “You don’t
talk to your grandparents when you’re there.”
“I talk. I like driving late at night, and stopping for a hamburger. Can’t we go this weekend?”
“Your father has to work on Saturday,” she answered. “But that reminds me, we’re going to the Coffman’s in the afternoon. You’re invited, too, you know,” she told Johnny. “They have children your age.”
“The Coffman’s?” Dad said, surprised. “Oh, no! I told Percy I’d be at the factory all day!” Now he was mad.
“But, Henry, you know it’s Ari Coffman’s wedding, how could you?”
“I forgot, Dolly, that’s all.”
“Dolly, please. Okay? Percy asked me to work and I forgot. I didn’t think. That’s all.” Dad was re-organizing his food on his plate, clinking his fork. “Did you buy anything?”
“Well,” she said, getting up from the table. “I thought of picking up one of those gifts they reserved at Macy’s.” She looked in Johnny’s direction. “Would you like to come to Macy’s with me?”
“No, thanks. Why don’t Grandma and Grandpa ever come over here? I don’t want to go to the Coffman’s, either.”
“Nobody’s forcing you to go.”
“Yeah, but I wanna go to Gramma’s.”
“You heard what your father said.”
Then there was a big explosion—Dad’s fist slamming on the tabletop! “Darn-nit!” he yelled. “He just wants some money to buy a thing, Dolly! That’s all! Whatever he wants, I don’t care what, do not give it to him, is that clear?” Mom didn’t answer right away. “Okay, Dolly?” he repeated louder.
“Whatever it is this time, little Johnny-boy…” He waggled his finger. “You’re not gonna get it. Nope, no matter how much you beg or wheedle or cry.” Now Dad acted very happy. “Not this time. So, forget about it. I had it now.” He picked up and threw his napkin down in the same place. “Let’s have no more arguments at the table. Dolly, please, come and sit down. Come on,” he told her.
“Can I be excused?” asked Johnny.
“Yes,” Dad answered, all pleased with himself.
So, Johnny left the table with just one thing on his mind—how he was going to get that glove. There was never a time when he couldn’t figure out some way to get what he wanted. Maybe he could beg Auntie Grace or even Uncle Charlie. But Dad would be angrier if he wheedled them behind his back now. There had to be a way without him finding out. Ever. This was terrible. He couldn’t think of anything or anyone. He wished he could do it all by himself and show him! He was so mad at Dad for doing this to him!
Johnny stopped in the hallway, listening to them argue about his job. Just because he had money, he wasn’t so big. It was only 45 lousy bucks. If he had his own money he wouldn’t even need them. Then, Johnny decided he didn’t want their money anymore. He could mow lawns. No… He couldn’t, either. Freddie Pomeroy tried it and the older kids beat him up so he couldn’t cut in. They’d do that to Johnny in a second. At that moment he hated his father, hated Dad for trapping him this way. He wanted to be alone, on his own, free from having to ask for his things. But Dad’s voice was big and loud downstairs, like a thick hot blanket all around him, smothering his whole life. Johnny was fired up inside. He wanted to punch something hard. The wall. He flexed his fist at the wall. He was about to hit the wall, and then…then, he held up, noticing Mom and Dad’s bedroom down the hall. For some reason he thought of going inside. They were still arguing in the dining room. Johnny hardly thought about it but then he opened the door and went into their bedroom.
It was cool inside and smelled fresh. Right on top of the bureau was Mom’s pocketbook. It was the first thing he spotted. He went over there like being pulled, his heart pumping in his stomach. What in the world was he thinking? Stealing? Yes…he was thinking about it. He picked at the clasp on the pocketbook…then got back near the door… Still arguing… He returned to the bureau and pressed on the clasp. It popped wide open! Over to the door again… Still arguing. Then, quickly back to the pocketbook. He plunged into envelopes and brushes and keys, the sweet smell of lipstick or perfume made his dizzy. Then, he saw money in an envelope! Right near the top!
This was all perfect, as if God wanted Johnny to have his glove even if Dad didn’t. It seemed so easy, so good like a miracle happening. Or, was it just temptation but the devil was behind it all instead? He wondered if the devil could do a miracle, too. So Johnny whirled around, and began throwing punches behind him, punching hard into the air where he could almost feel the devil dodging and weaving but not going away.
Suddenly everything went quiet, no more voices! Johnny jumped back to the door. They stopped arguing! He went crazy in fright! Caught in here with the open pocketbook!