Chapter 16:
     Harold was sitting next to Rudolph at a large oval table. The red and white gingham tablecloth was barely visible beneath at least a dozen dishes filled with the remains of red, white and brown pasta-related edibles. Rudolph’s father had retired from the dinner table, rambled over the simulated Michelangelo throw-down rug in the hallway, then slumped down heavily in an enormous simulated leather easy chair in front of the simulated wood-grained television set. His mother was humming the ‘Aria’ from ‘Madame Butterfly’ as she passed back and forth between the dining room and the kitchen, cleaning the table where they had just finished masticating the noodle delicacies and piling the grimy dishes into a sink full of hot, sudsy water. Occasionally, she would squint her eyes and peer through the greasy brown oven window, checking on her pineapple upside-down cookies that were baking within. Kimi, Rudolph’s adopted little sister (like we mentioned earlier) was sitting adjacent to the boys, sucking up the last strings of the spaghetti from her plate. (Actually, she was the same age as Harold, but seemed about six years older in maturity, bringing evidence to the truth that ‘girls’ always seemed to mature faster than ‘boys’, even though biologically those little s-o-b’s could impregnate those so-called grown-up ‘hotties’ with their so-called premature sophomoric wise-crackin’ cheese-cuttin’ juvenile-influenced spermatic spillage, all the same. Did I forget to mention that they were serving salty Miracle Whip® sauce as a condiment?) Harold didn’t want to seem interested in Rudy’s younger sibling, but couldn’t help noticing her beautiful features and behaviors as she completed her meal. He would quickly catch a glimpse of the girl, then turn to Rudy and display some goofy-faced grin, then nonchalantly look back at her out of the corners of his eyes. Rudolph sensed what all of his other friends within three or four years of his own chronological age had previously been enraptured with at his house and hastily started a game of ‘quarters’ with Harold at the candlelit table (using raspberry Kool-ade®, of course), where they waited anxiously for the dessert to finish baking. [The adult version of ‘quarters’ would come a pee bit later.]
      “This is a really fun game, Rudy. Where’d you learn to play?”
     “Aw, jeeeez’us,” Rudolph stopped and flinched as his mother slapped him on the back of his head with an audible whack. “Momma don’tah like me usin’ da Lord’s name’ah inna vain.”
     “Serves you right, chicken legs,” Kimi quipped as she left the surroundings, then trailed off, “I betcha gonna throws it all up, too! Then, what…eh, hozers?!?”
     “Yeah, Rudy! Then what?!?” Harold smirked as he kept watching her butt wiggle out of the kitchen, into the hallway and up the staircase towards her room. Something sure felt familiar within his marbled memory with the episode that just played out. He noticed a white vase with little blue flowers painted upon it sitting on the countertop by the spice shaker.
     “THEN WHAT’ah! You little wise’ah ass! Hey, Harry? I’m ah’talkin’ heres! Anyways, we start’ah playin’ quarters way back, when Poppa anno Momma live inna dump, back inna Big Apple. Capisce? My amico Antonio, God rest’ah hissa soul,” Rudolph sighed, kissed his finger tips and crossed his chest, “he show me how ta’steal other people’s moolah while I wassa gettin’em drunk widda quarters. One time…it gotta my nerves, you know? Well, Harry…I quit’ah stealin’ an’ jussa play widda friends. Ya got dat, pallie?”
     Harold bobbed his head in agreement, “I guess so.”
     “And dat’s da story, eh?”
     “Hey, Rudy?”
     “Yo, bro?”
     “That was pretty thoughtful of you for sharing that with me. What are friends for?” Harold intoned, then frowned quietly to himself for a moment, then brought up, “Ugh…whatever happened to that guy Antonio?”
     “Aw, he’sah stupido! It’sa not important. Jus’ shadduppa ya stupid face-hole an’ play da game, okay?”
     “Okay! Well, Rudy…drink up, ‘cause I just popped and dunked a quarter into your cup while you were talkin’!”
     “Aw, cheeze’ah whiz, ya little chizzler…you slip’pah da quarter inna my drink when I wasn’t lookin’, didn’tcha? I nev’ah heard no PAP on toppa table, eithers. Didn’tcha?”
     Harold wiped that gleeful expression off of his face and peered down into his lap, “Yeah, Rudy…I did. I faked you out.”
     “Well, abalone…ya didn’t have to tell’ah da truth, did ya?”
     Harold sort of looked back up in surprise.
     “Listen, white’ah bread, iffa ya wanna be a proper Italiano, ya gotta learn how t’ lie like’ah one, eh?”
     Harold blurted forth in agreement,completely out of his depth, “Right!”
     “Well, den, ya don’ta wanna make it looka like you’ah lyin’ when you actually tellin’ da truth. Ya wanna make it looka like you tellin’ da truth when you ah’lyin’. Got it, il mio amico?”
     Harold’s eyes lit up as he embraced this wonderful new concept, “Yeah, elmo make’oh, I guesso!”
     “Great! Now, how’d ya like’ah Momma’s cookin’, eh?”
     “I thought it was outstanding!”
     Rudolph stood up angrily and gave Harold a shove on the shoulder, “Whaddaya means it was outstanding?!?”
     “What?!? But…” Harold stammered, as his triumphant expression of the moment before started to decay into one of dismay. Rudolph burst out laughing, but before Harold could ask what was going on, Rudolph’s mother popped into the dining area with a fresh baked platter of aromatic cookies.
     “Hey, mio crazy bambino,” Rudy’s mother mentioned, “stoppa playin’ widda you new friend’s mind! Ya gonna scares ‘em away before he even getta chance ta taste’ah deez bravo cookies! Nows, take’ah da cookies anno go outsides an’ be ah’good or I’mah gonna slappa you silly! Got that?”
     “Save some for me, too, noodle heads!” his sister hollered down the staircase from her bedroom.
     “Deez’ah cookies are ah’too fat’toning, Kimi…they make’ah you bigga anno round like’ah Momma!” Rudy yelled back up the stairs, then cracked a devilish grin.
     “You betta watcha you mouth, wise ass,” chastised his mother, then directed her finger to the back door, “you go now and play’ah outside before da sun go down…or, I might’cha take’em all back!”
     “Thanks for da cookies, Momma,” Rudolph said as he stood up and kissed her cheek, “I loves ya!”
     She smiled fondly, “I love’ah youz too, sonny. Now, GET OUTTA HERES!”
     “Thanks, Mrs. Coletti,” Harold replied politely as they left the room.
     “That’za Momma ta you, too!”
     “Yeah, paesano…youz part’ah family, nows! Like’ah said…good fellas.”
     They stepped quietly down the hallway with the plate of cookies (about three dozen of the most heavenly smelling confections Harold’s nose had ever encountered), then slunk around the staircase. Harold whispered to Rudolph, “Hey? Aren’t you gonna leave some for your little sister? I thought she wanted…”
     “Aw, mamma-mia! She jussa screw ‘round widda guys a lot!”
     “No kidding?” Harold asked perceptively, with an interested inflection.
     “Not like’ah dat, stunado! I means, she knows she no getta cookies ‘cause she knows I steal’ah her own gelato iffa she getta my own cookies when I notta ‘round. So theres!” Rudy gestured by kissing his fingertips and throwing it out into the air.
     Harold shrugged, “I still think she’d like some of the cookies. She can have a couple of mine. I wouldn’t care…”
     “You ah weak-hearted Nazi stoolie pigeon! Deez OUR COOKIES, notta beauty queens!”
     “OKAY! Okay! Sorry…I just think she would like some. That’s all. She was being nice about it…Rudy.”
     Rudolph blew some air out between his lips, moved around in circles a couple of times, then reached over and pick the top three cookies off of the platter and placed them on a napkin, “There! She canna have’ah three of your cookies. Okays?”
     “Okay. Thanks, big fella.”
     They left the kitchen area and entered the living room where Rudolph’s father was watching an old gangster movie on the television. Sneaking behind his easy chair, they had almost reached the back screen door when the old man turned quickly and froze them with a resounding bellow, “HEY? STUNODS! WHERE D’YA BOYS THINKS YA GOIN’ WIDDA PLATE OV’AH COOKIES?”
     Rudolph winced, then begged, “Aw, c’mon Poppa…ya nev’ah leave nottin’…”
     “Who za’marry Momma? Youz or’ah meez, eh?”
     Rudy glanced down at his feet, flinched, groaned, then admitted, “Aye’ah…you Poppa.”
     “Den shudduppa an’ gimme da cookies.” Rudolph reluctantly handed his father the plate and watched in horror as the unbuttoned-shirted man with a fat hairy belly scraped half of the contents off unto his lap. He handed the sparsely populated cookie tray back to his son and spat, “Nowz, you twoz get outta heres before I get da rest o’ dem!”
     Rudolph and Harold darted out of the door and into the back yard.
     “One’ah deez days, my Poppa gonna have ah’ heart attack, den I’mah gonna getta all da cookies! HA!”
     Harold stood motionless, helplessly watching Rudolph devour the cookies left on the plate. Rudolph looked up with a half-eaten morsel hanging in between his lips and noticed his new friend watching him. “Oh, jeezus…God rest’ah my souls, Harry. I’mah zo sorry!” He handed the plate towards Harold, offering some of the half-broken cookies to his guest.
     “It’s okay, Rudy…really,” Harold said reassuringly, grabbing five half-cookies just to be on the safe side.
     Rudolph smiled, “Good! Nows, let’sa waste ‘em!”
     They started stuffing their mouths, laughing and spraying each other with sprinkles of pineapple upside-down cookie bits. Soon, small clumps of saliva-soaked cookie wads started dribbling out of the sides of their mouths. [No one has ever been able to determine why this sort of thing is so funny to young boys, but there you have it. It’s just nature’s way of identifying another oafish habit of the male species.] They laughed so hard, and tried hard to stop laughing, that they both collapsed to their knees and started heaving uncontrollably, throwing up the delicious meal they had just consumed into miniature piles of red, white and brown pasta-related gooche.
End: Chap. 16