ONCE UPON A TIME IN MY AMERICA - PART 7: TOMMY GUNS AND…COMEUPPANCES?

Recap: When last we left our hero he had just been triangulated by movie theater gadflies at a showing of Once Upon a Time in America. Will he swat them?
________________________________________________________________

I followed through on my deal with Sergio to re-watch his film and by the time midnight rolled around everything had changed: Once Upon a Time in America was now the greatest film ever made; the Ladd Company, which mutilated the masterpiece and released a bastardized version in the States, was the epitome of evil; and Sergio Leone was God, albeit a portly one with an unfulfilled hankering for spaghetti and meatballs.

I’d had a cinematic epiphany. My life’s purpose had been revealed to me. I was the chosen One and my mission was to spread The Word about Once Upon a Time in America to the ignorant masses. One way or another people were going to learn The Truth - first family and friends, then the world. It was five minutes to midnight, and as I lay in bed awaiting Sergio’s visitation, I formulated a plan of action:

  • Trivial mealtime “family talk” is over. No more meaningless “How was your day?” or “Did you look for a job?” bullshit. That’s out. From now on the only “conversation” at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, not to mention snack times, will consist of my lectures on the ins and outs of Leone’s masterpiece, followed by a Q&A session.
  • I will not tolerate dissent - any family member who finds fault with this flawless work of art, or with my interpretation of it, will be unceremoniously disowned.
  • I will spread Once Upon a Time in America-themed graffiti far and wide.
  • I will drive around neighborhoods in the family convertible extolling the merits of Once Upon a Time in America through a megaphone.
  • I will distribute literature on, purchase advertising space for, and deliver speeches about The Masterpiece.
  • I will create a death list of film critics who panned the film. At the top of the list: Rex Reed.
  • I will issue an ultimatum to film critics around the world: put Once Upon a Time in America on your top ten list for the upcoming 1992 Sight & Sound poll or be added to my death list.
  • I will kidnap the editors of film magazines and threaten them with slow, agonizing deaths unless they devote an entire issue of their respective magazines to the greatness of Once Upon a Time in America.
  • I will force my True Love to watch the 4-hour film with me repeatedly, at which time she will be expected to sit quietly, pause the tape when I say so, take dictation of my running commentary, and, let me repeat, because this cannot be stressed strongly enough, sit quietly. Talking by anyone but me during this sacred time is strictly verboten, and violations will be dealt with swiftly and harshly, first through threatening looks and/or assertive shushes, then, if necessary, through punishing bitch slaps. I will drag her, kicking and screaming if need be, to libraries and bookstores on research excursions to help me find Once Upon a Time in America-related material, which she will obediently print out, sort through, and organize. Finally, it will be her womanly duty to comfort me on those long nights of the soul when I’m tossing and turning in bed cursing the Fates for taking Leone just before he made his WW2 masterpiece on the siege of Leningrad.
  • I will form a mob with my friends, with me as Godfather. First order of business: strong-arm video store owners into devoting significant floor and wall space to Once Upon a Time in America: posters, display cases, multiple VHS copies, etc.

Of course, to form a mob I’ll need Tommy guns. But wait, to afford Tommy guns I’d have to rob a bank. But to rob a bank I’d need Tommy guns. Damn catch-22s! Ah, but that’s all right, between Mom and Sergio I can scrounge up enough cash. Then it’ll be easy. Just go to a gun show and find a private, unlicensed seller - or, as they call themselves, “collectors.” So-called collectors aren’t legally obligated to run background checks, so just show them your license, if they even ask for it, and anything you want is yours, no questions asked.

Next I’ll assume a gangster persona, using the stylish 30s gangster as my model. First, the attire. Mom! I’m going shopping! Let’s see, I’ll need a black and white 4-button, double-breasted pinstriped suit with matching vest; a black shirt and white tie with a diamond pin; a silky hanky in the breast pocket; jazzy white spats over black shoes buffed to a spotless sheen; and, to complete the look, because no gangster worth his moll should be without one, a black snap-brimmed fedora.

Finally, and this should go without saying, I will adopt the dated lingo, nasal intonation, and clipped delivery of that famous 30s gangster, Edward G. Robinson. Why sure, who’s gonna stop me? Nobody, that’s who. There ain’t nobody tough enough, see.

Now equipped with a rat-a-tat-tatting Tommy gun, a snazzy wardrobe, and an Eddie G. sneer, I’ll really get down to business by bumping off my drug dealer and taking over his territory, which will accomplish several things at once: 1) bring in  a steady flow of cash, 2) get my pain in the ass, did-ya-get-a-job-yet Dad off my back, and, 3) provide easy access to more drugs than I could ever hope to smoke, snort, shoot, or swallow.

I can see it now…

Drug Dealer: No! I don’t want to die! Oh, please! I don’t want to die! Oh, please! Oh, please let me go! Please don’t kill me! Oh, don’t kill me, please!

Me: Shuddup, ya dirty, no-good, yellow-bellied rat! Ain’t nobody gonna peddle dope around these parts but me, see? Ya told me to get a job…well, I got one - yours!

But just as I was about to pump his skull full of lead…

…odorant molecules from hickory-smoked bacon sizzling in a skillet wafted out of the kitchen, up the stairs, down the hall, under my door, across my room, and into my nose, sending my ultra-sensitive smell receptors into a flurry of neuronal activity, which my olfactory bulb interpreted as the unmistakable aroma of Mom’s exquisite home cooking.

BREAKFAST!

I luxuriated for a moment in the bacony splendor. But before long my acute olfaction detected more aromatic goodies. Ooooh, is that what I think it is? I sniffed the air and caught whiff after whiff of another heavenly aroma wafting its way upstairs to greet my welcoming nose. I inhaled deeply, permeating my nasal cavity with its lovely fragrance. Ah yes. Now I was enveloped in velvety, cocoa-and-caramel-coated plumes of roasting coffee.

I leapt out of bed and tore downstairs, sniffing the air as I went, detecting delightful hints of eggs frying in pools of melted butter, hotcakes slathered in maple syrup, smoked cheddar sausage simmering in its own savory juices…

BREAKFAST!

It was going to be a big day, a big glorious day, what with my spreading the word about Once Upon a Time in America and all, and I’d need plenty of mouth-watering fuel to get me going.

So imagine my distress when I found the kitchen empty. Empty! What the hell? That’s when I heard them in the dining room. The dining room! Why were they eating in there? That room is supposed to be reserved for formal dining occasions, not fucking breakfast. More troubling still was that the room was abuzz with conversation; it sounded like Mom and Dad were holding a mini convention in there. Who the fuck was here?

A hush descended over the dining room when I walked in. There they were, all twelve of ‘em, sitting around our custom-made, hand-carved cedar and cypress dining table, giving me the evil eye. Dad, of course, sat at the head of the table. Sitting to his immediate right on the side of the table was Officer I’ve Got My Eyes On You, followed by Chip, Skippy, the hippie, the mother of the shattered little girl, and my girlfriend. Mom sat to Dad’s immediate left, followed by my brother, sister, baby sister, an ominously empty seat, presumably intended for the now-institutionalized little girl, and, finally, the girl I fucked at the drug store.

I moseyed nonchalantly over to the buffet table, casually loaded my plate with savory deliciousness, coolly poured myself a frosty glass of Valencia OJ and a piping hot cup of burr-grinded, hand-dripped Mocha-Java coffee, wordlessly sauntered over to the seat at the foot of the table, and glancelessly sat down…

…then stood up and walked out of the room, went upstairs to Mom and Dad’s room, got a pin out of Mom’s sewing kit, went back downstairs, returned to my seat at the table, and dropped the pin on the floor. Just as I suspected - you could hear it.

Soon the sounds of my cacophonous feeding frenzy reverberated throughout the room. With my utensils a-clinking and my crockery a-clanking, I chomped and champed, gnawed and gnashed, crunched and munched with blissful abandon, shoveling mouthful after delicious mouthful of breakfasty goodness into my churning jaws. All that deliciousity had to be washed down, of course, so in between mouthfuls I slurped coffee, guzzled water, and quaffed OJ with unbridled gusto, accentuating the glug-glug-glug sound of the liquids flowing down my throat, and capping it all off with a satisfied “ahhhhhh.” Had to have fruit too. Ah! A banana. Perfect. I slowly unpeeled it, removed the strings, took a hearty bite, and chewed with exaggerated smacking noises, squishing and squashing the fruit into a gooey mush. No doubt I was the recipient of twelve disapproving stares, but I wouldn’t let that deter me from my joyous feast. Fuck ‘em. Behold a gluttonous man!

Finally, Dad spoke up.

Dad: Let us pray.

The true believers crossed themselves, reverently put their hands together, and piously bowed their heads in prayer, while I smacked my lips, picked my teeth, licked bacon grease and maple syrup off my fingers, blew my nose into a napkin, unleashed a room-rattling eructation, and continued to engorge myself.

Dad: Bless us, O Lord…

CHOMP

Dad: …and these, Thy gifts…

SLURP

Dad: …which we are about to receive from Thy Bounty…

CRUNCH

Dad: …Through Christ, our Lord…

GLUG

Dad: Amen

BELCH

They blessed themselves and looked at me with contempt. Fuck ‘em again. My noisy mastication carried as much meaning as their futile prayer to a nonexistent god. Man, what a tedious bunch. But at least they furnished the opportunity to test out my 30s gangster persona. First, I’ll Cagney-fy my girlfriend.

Me: Ain’t you got a drink in the house?

Girlfriend: At breakfast?

Me: I didn’t ask you for any lip. I asked you if you had a drink.

Girlfriend: I know, but I wish that…

Me: Don’t give me no wishin’ stuff. I wish you was a wishing well, so that I could tie a bucket to ya and sink ya.

Girlfriend: Well, maybe you’ve found someone you like better.

I looked for the grapefruit. No grapefruit. Where was the grapefruit? We had other citrus fruits - oranges, clementines, tangerines. But no grapefruit! I needed grapefruit!

Me: Ma! Where’s the grapefruit?

Mom: We don’t have any, dear. We have oranges.

Me: Fuck oranges! Don’t you get it? It has to be grapefruit.

Mom: Sorry, honey, I’ll get some tomorrow.

Me: Fuck tomorrow! I need it now. Ahhhhh! Forget it…the scene is ruined.

Girlfriend: I’ve got grapefruit.

She pulled grapefruit from her purse…

Girlfriend: Want some?

…then shoved it in my face and twisted it around.

I got Cagney’d.

To stop the laughter, Dad pounded the salt shaker on the table like a gavel.

Dad: Order in the dining room!

I got…Cagney’d.

Dad: Son, we’re gathered here today for one reason: to judge you.

Pfft

Dad: And so without further ado I’ll hand it over to Officer He’s Got His Eyes On You, who’ll review the list…nay…the catalog of immoral, unconscionable, and downright criminal behavior of which you stand accused.

Copper: Thank you. Let’s begin with last night’s shenanigans.

Me: Listen, copper, if it’s trouble you’re lookin’ for, why, that’s what I got the most of, see? Why sure, I got a surplus of trouble, enough for the lot of ya. Get me?

Copper: It began in the parking lot of a hardware store, where you’d just bought duct tape, presumably to bring to the movie theater in case anyone needed shutting up. Apparently, a gun wasn’t enough.

Me: Ah, where’d ja learn to talk this monkey jabber? Get to the point, copper, or I’ll slap ya right in the kisser, see.

Copper: Anyway, according to eyewitness testimony a man in a wheelchair confronted you for parking in a handicapped space.

Cripple: That’s a handicapped space. Who do you think you are?

Me: I am he who parks in handicapped spaces.

Cripple: But you’re not handicapped!

Me: One need not be handicapped to park in handicapped spaces.

Cripple: What? Only handicapped people can park in handicapped spaces!

Me: And yet I, a non-handicapped person, just parked, as if by magic, in a handicapped space.

Cripple: You shouldn’t park in a handicapped space!

Me: Why?

Cripple: Because you’re not handicapped!

Me: Yes, I’m not handicapped, but why shouldn’t I park here anyway?

Cripple: Because it’s not right to make people with limited mobility park further away than able-bodied people!

Me: Why is that not right? I value my own convenience over accommodating the parking privileges of cripples. Nothing wrong with that.

Cripple: It’s just common decency!

Me: Why should I treat others with decency if doing so inconveniences me?

Cripple: Fuck off, you selfish asshole! You can’t park here! It’s the law!

Me: Yes, it is the law, but why should I comply with the law?

Cripple: If for no other reason, because you’ll get a ticket!

Me: But the convenience of parking here outweighs, for me, the potential cost of a parking ticket, so why shouldn’t I park here?

Cripple: You just shouldn’t - it’s the law!

Me: Is/ought fallacy. Also, circular.

Cripple: That’s it! I’m calling the police!

Me: No…no you’re not.

Copper: That’s when you duct taped his mouth shut, taped his flailing arms to the armrests, and, “cackling like Richard Widmark in Fear of Death,” pushed his wheelchair toward the exit, launching him out of the parking lot and into oncoming traffic, which caused a massive multi-car pile-up.

Dad: And the man?

Copper: Let’s just say that…before the man met your son…he was a mere paraplegic.

Me: Yeah, what of it, copper? I’m gonna remove those defective fucks from the gene pool, that’s what I’m gonna do. Why sure, and ain’t nobody gonna stop me, see.

I hope Dad bought off this oinker.

Copper: Your night of terror continued inside the movie theater. The man who sat in front of you suffers from a medical condition called macrocephaly, which is characterized by an abnormally large head. Witnesses say you mercilessly taunted him with big head jokes, like, “the wrecking ball company called - they want your head back.”

Dad: You think that’s funny?

Me: Well…kinda.

Dad: Yeah, you’re a regular Cyrano de fuckin’ Bergerac.

Copper: After the man refused to move, you proceeded to “chop his head down to size” by cutting off his “unruly shock of hair” with a pair of tiny scissors, then duck taped said hair over his eyes and led him, at gunpoint, to the corner of the theater, where you told him to sit quietly or else, and I quote, “I’ll plug your megalocephalous head with lead, see? Why sure, that’s what I’ll do, you dirty, no-good lusus naturae.”

Me: Why, he had it comin’, copper. Ain’t nobody with megacephaly sits in front of me and gets away with it, see?

Copper: Next you turned your attention to the “lardaceous fuck” two seats to your right, who had the audacity…

Me: Lardacity

Copper: …to eat popcorn…

Me: To englut popcorn like swine at the trough

Copper: …at a movie. Witnesses say you stared at the man until he looked in your direction, then engaged him in “conversation.”

Me: Good popcorn?

Popcorn Man: Ah, yes…

Me: May I have some?

Popcorn Man: Um, get your own.

Me: But I want yours. It must be especially tasty to inspire such a spectacular display of slobsmanship.

Popcorn Man: Fuck off.

Me: Where do you get the unmitigated adiposity to talk to me like that?

Copper: That’s when you stuffed fistfuls of popcorn down his throat, duck taped his mouth shut, and plugged his ears and nostrils with popcorn.

Me: That’s right copper. I popcorned him. I popcorned him but good. Yeah, that’s what I did.

Copper: As for the “teeny-bopping bubble-blowing giglet” sitting to your left, well, I’m not even gonna mention where you stuffed her bubblegum.

Me: Aw, whatsa matta copper? Ya scared? Lost your noive? Listen, you’re gonna say what I done, that’s what you’re gonna do, and like it, see?

Dad, whose face now resembled an inflamed pimple about to pop, which usually indicated he was kinda mad at me, pounded the salt gavel on the table, then held up a roll of duct tape and screamed:

Dad: SHUT UP WITH THAT GODDAM “COPPER” AND “SEE” TALK OR I’LL DUCT TAPE YOUR MOUTH SHUT, SEE? WHY SURE, THAT’S WHAT I’LL DO!

Why, I outta…?

Dad: We brought you up better than this, mister. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Me: I do unto others as others get done unto by me. I do the unto’ing. There are two types of people in the world: those who do unto others and those who get done unto. Others get done unto.

Chip pointed a gun at me.

Chip: There are two kinds of people in the world: those with loaded guns and those who shut up. You shut up.

Then Skippy, yes little fucking Skippy, index-fingered a shush at me. At me! First I get Cagney’d. Now I get Chip’d and Skippy’d. Am I getting my comeuppance? Mother of Mercy! Is this the end of me?

Dad: Now, you’re going to sit there and shut up until Officer He’s Got His Eyes On You finishes listing your catalog of offenses.

And so the copper continued his monkey jabbering.

Copper: We also accuse you of reckless driving; driving under the influence of alcohol, marijuana, and magic mushrooms; public intoxication; public nudity; public indecency; having sex in public; having sex with underage girls, i.e. statutory rape; contributing to the delinquency of minors; shoplifting; drugging your parents with stolen sleeping pills; assaulting your brother, totaling his car, threatening to cut off his mullet - his mullet! - and blackmailing him to keep his mouth shut; calling your older sister a cunt and a twat , threatening to cut off her gargantuan hairdo, and warning her to keep her mouth shut; frightening your baby sister by telling her that she has no soul, and that there’s no God, heaven, or Santa Claus, but that the Boogeyman is real and that there’s nothing wrong with raping and murdering small children; putting a porno movie in the children’s section of a video store; stuffing two dollars down a peaceful hippie’s throat and disrespecting his kindly soul; making a young boy change his name from Skippy to Barnaby and then threatening to rip out his vocal chords; inflicting grievous bodily harm on a wannabe-but-isn’t-and-never-will-be alpha male named Chip; carrying a firearm without a license; threatening numerous people with said firearm; providing false information to a law enforcement officer; mentally reciting a blasphemous version of Our Father; living by the maxim that whatever you want is good and whatever gets in the way of what you want is bad; not caring about starving children; holding up traffic while chastising a haughty duck; claiming there’s nothing wrong with slaughtering 6 million Jews; jaywalking; and contemplating ax murdering your parents.

Mom: Oh, but he’s really a good boy.

Me: Thanks, Ma!

Hippie: Right on, ma’am. I know he has good in him, man. The cat just needs to control his D & T’s.

Baby Sister stuck her tongue out at me.

Dad: Oh, and by the way - both girls sitting next to you are pregnant with your baby.

Me: What’s that got to do with the price of eggs? ← line from Little Caesar

Dad: Quite a lot, actually, since it was you who inseminated the eggs. That makes you responsible for them.

Me: Fine, I’ll assume responsibility…for getting them aborted.

My girlfriend and the girl I fucked at the drug store spoke up in perfect unison.

Girlfriend + Other Girl I Fucked: We have absolute sovereignty over our own bodies and we choose to have the babies. You have no say in the matter.

Me: Very well then, I relinquish any and all responsibility for the little critters. I wash my hands of them.

Girlfriend + Other Girl I Fucked: Oh, so I suppose you played no part in the pregnancy? Sorry, but you are as responsible for these babies as we are.

Me: Sorry, but if you two have absolute sovereignty over your bodies now, when you’re pregnant, then you also had absolute sovereignty over your bodies when you were getting pregnant, when, that is, you let me squirt 6 million of my sperm into your absolutely sovereign bodies. You can’t have it both ways. If you’re excluding me from the decision whether or not to have an abortion, then, to remain consistent, you must also exclude me from the responsibility for the pregnancy.

Girlfriend + Other Girl I Fucked: Bullshit! You’re partly responsible!

Me: My position follows necessarily from the claim that you have absolute sovereignty over your own body. You freely chose to risk getting pregnant. If you wish to hold me responsible for the pregnancy, then you must accord me some say in the matter of the outcome of the pregnancy. It’s a matter of symmetry.

Girlfriend + Other Girl I Fucked: Symmetry smymmetry!

Me: It’s not as if I raped you. You freely let me fuck your absolutely sovereign bodies. Therefore, the responsibility for the entire pregnancy rests with you…absolutely. This isn’t my fault.

Girlfriend + Other Girl I Fucked: Oh, so it’s all our fault! Unless a woman is raped it’s the woman’s fault! And the father is absent and blameless!

Me: You’re saying that your body is your own, but that when you allowed me to impregnate that body suddenly you’re only partly responsible. If you’re going to hold me responsible for what happens inside your bodies then you must also concede to me some rights with regard to the fetus of which I am as much a parent as you. I say abort!

My logic was airtight, of course, but that didn’t matter to these emotional creatures.

Girlfriend + Other Girl I Fucked: You sexist jerk! You should be neutered!

Dad: Look mister, at the risk of sounding asymmetrical, these girls are having these babies, your babies, and you will do right by them.

Mom: Honey, you are partly responsible for these babies.

Me: But Mom! That’s not fair!

Brother: Ha! Listen to the nihilist now.

Dad: I don’t know and I don’t care if we’re being inconsistent or unfair or asymmetrical or whatever, but listen to me and listen good boy, you are going to take responsibility for those children.

Me: Am not.

Dad: Are to.

Damn! Dad brought out the “are to.” That’s it, when Dad lays down the “are to” all is lost, further argument is futile, it’s over.

Looks like my comeuppance is complete.

Suddenly a rotund glowing orb appeared and hovered over the table. It slowly began to change shape, first transforming into a swirling funnel-shaped mist, then taking on the distinct form of the upper torso of a human body - a torso with a Buddha-like paunch, which gave away who it was even before his bearded and bespectacled visage came clearly into focus.

Me: Hi, Sergio

Sergio: Sveglia!

Me: Huh?

Sergio: Wake up-a! Wake up-a!

Sergio had arrived for his midnight visitation. Ha! Comeuppance, smomeuppance!

Me: Oh man, am I glad to see you. Listen, I saw Once Upon a Time in America tonight…

Sergio: Never mind dat. You must-a come with-a me. I take-a you to Heem.

Me: Heem who?

Sergio: Da Almighty God, dat’s-a who.

To be continued…

Comments are closed.