(From the unpublished novel copyright 2010 Donald Riggio)
The Cavelli house on West 226 Street in Cleveland, Ohio looked just the way Danny described it, a working man’s home in a neighborhood of working men’s homes, a two- story, wood framed dwelling with nothing much to distinguish it from the house next door or the one across the street.
It was hot and muggy when Joseph Rabinowitz arrived in front of the house. He’d walked from the bus stop on the corner. He paused to gather himself before continuing through the gate of a picket fence. Joseph walked up the steps to the porch that ran the entire length of the house. The long bus ride up from Louisville, Kentucky jostled and jolted him. The heavy duffle bag he carried made his injured back ache.
Days earlier, he’d telephoned Danny’s father, Vince Cavelli to ask if he could stop by on his way home to New York. A sense of unfinished business haunted him. He wanted to visit Danny’s grave and say a final farewell to his friend. After Vince granted his request, Joseph telephoned his parents and told them of his plans.
He signed the papers severing him from the U.S. Army and collected a hefty sum of back pay. Chanticleer drove him to the bus station in Louisville where their parting was an emotional one. They shared a friendly embrace, which raised some eyebrows in the segregated atmosphere of the public bus terminal.
There were knots in Joseph’s stomach as he rang the doorbell. The knots rose to become lumps his throat as the door opened and Janet Cavelli stood before him, smiling.
“Janet?” He managed to choke out passed the lumps. “I’m Joseph Rabinowitz.”
None of her pictures did her justice. She wore a short sleeve, red and white plaid blouse draped out over a pair of loose fitting blue shorts. Her slender face accented by her hair pulled back in a ponytail.
“Hi, Joseph, come on in.” Janet shifted backward. He entered the small foyer and she closed the door behind them. “Why don’t you put your things in the corner there? We can go into the parlor and sit down.”
She pointed to a spot beneath a mirrored coat rack hanging on the wall. He put his duffle bag down and followed her through an archway into a large living room, neatly kept and nicely furnished. Joseph sat on a sofa in the middle of the room.
“I made lemonade. Would you like some?” She asked.
“That would be great, thanks.”
Janet bounced from the room through a doorway that Joseph guessed led to the kitchen. He studied his surroundings. He noticed a lot of family photographs on tables and shelves around the room. He stood up to have a closer look. Many were photos of Janet’s parents. Others depicted Danny, Janet or both at various times in their childhood. But the wedding picture of Mr. and Mrs. Cavelli caught his attention the most. He picked up the metal-framed picture to study it more carefully. The photographer captured the image of two people so much in love that it transcended the boundaries of time more than any spoken word could ever hope to do.
Joseph noticed the strong physical resemblance between mother and daughter. He believed Janet was well on her way to equal or perhaps even surpass her mom’s beauty.
“My mom was really pretty wasn’t she?” Janet asked. She carried a metal tray containing two tall glasses of lemonade. She put it down on a coffee table in front of the couch.
“Yes she was.” Joseph replied, keeping his speculations to himself. He put the photograph back in its place and returned to the couch. He picked up a glass of lemonade. “Danny told me she got sick?”
“Tuberculosis. She’s gone two years now. I still miss her.”
“Yeah, I’m sure you do.”
Janet crossed the room and picked up another framed photograph.
“This is one of my favorites.” She handed the picture to Joseph and plopped down cross-legged on the opposite end of the couch.
The photograph, smaller and more recent was of Danny and Joseph in their dress uniforms. Joseph couldn’t remember where or when it had been taken.
“I’m sorry I never got to see Danny in person in his uniform. He looks so handsome. You do too.”
Her compliment embarrassed him somewhat. Drops of perspiration inched down his face. He reached into his pants pocket, took out a handkerchief and wiped his brow. Janet sat bolt upright when she noticed his discomfort.
“Look at you, you’re sweating bullets!” She took two quick butt hops across the cushions getting close enough to take the handkerchief away from his grip and help him.
“I can go get a fan,” she said.
“No, I’m okay, honest. I don’t know why I’m so nervous. I mean, I know we just met and all but I feel like we’ve known each other for a long time, it’s almost like - ”
“Like being on a blind date?” Janet interrupted. They both laughed and Joseph nodded. She’d hit upon it exactly. “I know, I took two showers before you got here. I was afraid my skin was gonna’ get all pruney.”
The nervous tension between them was now broken. They relaxed and spent the rest of the afternoon talking about a great many things.
Janet spoke of the letters she’d received from Danny with all sorts of silly basic training stories about something stupid they’d done, some of which still made Joseph embarrassed to hear. She giggled and smiled a lot which proved infectious allowing Joseph to enjoy himself more than he had in a long time.
The conversation took on a more serious tone when Janet asked him about the accident and the painful aftermath. On her part she spoke of the sadness that prevailed around their lives in the days after Danny’s body came home in a closed casket. His wake was attended by many family and friends and the funeral on a dreary day not long ago. Tears came to her blue eyes. She turned away so as not to let Joseph see them flow down her cheeks.
“I’m sorry,” was all she managed to say when she faced him again. “Would you want to go to the cemetery…visit Danny’s grave?” She asked after composing herself.
“Well, that’s one of the reasons why I came to Cleveland. But we don’t have to go right now if you’re not up to it.”
“Actually I go every day at about this time.”
“It’s not very far. We can walk. Just let me go run a brush through this mop.” She hurried off again this time up a long flight of stairs...
Rock and Roll quote of the day: "Good golly Miss Molly, sure likes to ball. You got me rockin and a rollin' till you hear your mama call." From: Good Golly Miss Molly" By - Little Richard