School is the making of a man.. or a saint.
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Growing Saints. By Jerry Vilhotti.

Johnny went to his first day of school in Burywater, having already done six months of kindergarten in The Bronx at the school Julie Garfinkle, later to become John Garfield, would attend. His relatives sent him away from the tough gangs of Brownsville where he learned to fight well. He used his slightly awkward moves in the fight movie where he would use his soul to make his body win over the sell outs of the world.

Left off at the bottom of the steep hill, his father said he did not want to kill his clutch, Johnny climbed upward and was approached by a big blond blue-eyed boy who told him he wanted his new book bag, but since Johnny was holding it firmly in his grip; the frustrated third grader, named Bulldog Horrigan, said it wasn't fair that a wop should have such a nice thing.

Johnny would hear the word "fair" often in Burywater and finally realize that when that word was used the opposite would more often happen.

"So why can't I have your shitty bag?" Bulldog said using the dirtiest word his "race" used when disgusted with all of humanity.

If the boy had asked for it in a nice way, Johnny would have gladly given it to him; thinking when his mother gave him the bag that morning - which in a way was a little miracle since pennies for his mother were like dollar bills seldom seeing the light of day - that it was sissified to be carrying one; instead, he said: "Because it's fucking mine!" His oldest brother Leny One N had taught him to fight as a three year and by four Leny had Johnny fighting older kids from "aroun the cawna" to make bigger odds. Johnny had never lost a fight

Running away with a shocked expression, Bulldog plunged up the hill toward the wooden structure, that housed eight grades of unholy saints, called Saint Anthony. Johnny followed him.

"Class look bright like the saint who said war was a good thing. We have a new pupil with us today and his name is John Santi." the nun saying capturing the insanity of war that was going on against dictators, who would be replaced by home grown ones called "Deciders", which was being marshaled with great vigor in all the military music she heard on her hidden radio before she came to school ready to produce more killers against those who wanted to strip her country of dignity and freedom.

"No Sister Kathleen of the Holy Miseries - it's Sanque. S-a-n"-

Not hearing him, manifesting a certain air of indifference, the Sister turned to the blackboard and began to write the alphabet along its wide width; copulating capital and lower case one above the other.

Till lunch all the pupils wrote them combining a memorization along with a practice of meticulous penmanship that often flew off the paper that produced frowns and a few slaps on heads of pupils who refused to correct their sinning ways. In one case she hit the one Black pupil so hard on the head she she fell over the desk.

With a point of her big ruler, after they ate their sandwiches brought from home, she ordered the class to go out to recess.

There were two large groups of boys facing each other - ready to do mighty charges.

Johnny was among the "Roosevelt's" whom Johnny liked despite his maternal uncle named after Mozart who would babble on about how the crippled president had forced the gentle Japanese to bomb "Pel Ob" and fortunate for him the Federal Bureau of Incompetence agents investigating him, thinking he was a spy for Mussolini, could not figure out the two words were his pronunciations of Pearl Harbor.

The "Deweys" prevailed having in their ranks some seventh and eighth graders.

Bruised and disheveled, Johnny sat half-way on his chair following Sister's wish that they allow room for their guardian angel.

An hour before they would be released, Sister's catechizing began as she whispered the page they were to go to which forced the boy next to Johnny to ask him the page number.

"Did you speak just now, Mister Santi?"

He nodded not even thinking of correcting her.

"That's not a fair thing to do, Jerry. Why did you speak in my class?"

He would not say for the code of his East Bronx streets prevented him from doing so - sensing the first talker would be in trouble as he seemed to be. In a very few days he would marvel at how easily and quickly his classmates would tell on each other in the name of patriotism.

"Do you know where Father Flanagan's office is?"

He nodded again; having been there with his mother and older sister just a week before when enrolling in the school: "That made saints".

"Go see him now!" she said helping up by the ear.

Johnny walked past statues of sad-faced saints; recalling how his father would say his phrase after someone sneezed that a new saint had grown into being and a painting of Christ and his wife - the Holy Grail.

"Come in," a gentle voice instructed the soft knock.

"Yes James, what can I do you for?" Father Flanagan had the same kind demeanor as the priest in the movie Johnny had seen that weekend.

"I talked in class, Fodder." Johnny would call one of his new friends "Oil' and the motor oil in his father's car "earl".

"Did you have permission to speak, Tony?"

Johnny shook his head.

"You do see that's unfair. Please put your hand out, son", the smiling Father said as he brought out the long black leather strap from his desk drawer to begin ten hits on Johnny's slightly trembling hands.

Fully spent, Father Flanagan asked: "Are you sorry, miscreant?" The Father thought the word was a synonym for the evilest word evacuated from the dirty little mouths in his little village called Saint Anthony.

Not only did Johnny fire his guardian angel that day - never allowing him or her to sit on his chair by not leaving a large space as instructed by all the nuns. He would talk to no more priests nor to Sisters for within a few months after leaving "niggertown"; the name Burywater natives affectionately called the neighborhood once populated mostly by hyphenated-Americans who came just before the others who were going to take away their low paying jobs -
Johnny would tell his parents after they moved to the peel-less side of Burywater called "The Hill" that if "they" didn't let him go to "the leave no child behind" public school, he would change religions and, being the father's favorite, he was allowed to go to a school named after a founding father whom the principal Miss Moriarity eerily resembled.

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