The Guido Boys

Joey Guido had this nervous energy condition in his face, his jaws were constantly in motion, chomping up and down,restlessly gnashing his molars. We all made believe we didn't notice it, but as kids are wont to fix upon one another's defects and make of them descriptive handles and all it was inevitable that Joey would in no time come to be known as Joey Jaws. The popular psychology had it that Joey was caught in the act of masturbating and the jaws action was some sort of self-administered contrition. Catholic boys, you know, are dearly aware--if not haunted--of their shortcomings. The post-naughty-boy-guilt-stress-factor makes of all a Heaven or Hell predicament. As for myself, I always believed that if you didn't get caught you may just as well forget about it. This is the lie-and-deny tack. Of course if God really is omniscient then we don't stand a chance, in which case there's always the confessional, I suppose.

After school one day Joey snuck out his air rifle and commenced with the birds in the trees. The skittish ones were startled off by the puffs, but then this one rather hardy starling with a big oily head wouldn't so much as budge. Joey aimed and fired and clipped its wing. His brother Tommy hollered, Lookit whatcha doin'! But Joey was having himself a fit.There was no way stopping him. The bird fluttered down into the gutter. Joey stood right on top of the damn thing, severing off its head. It took about a hundred pellets.

The Guidos owned a restored townhouse just a block north of Sutton Place. Father Guido had a contracting business. He built high-rise office buildings. He bought a new blue Wagoneer every two years. Their CB handle was "Li'l Blue Jeep." On Saturdays Joey accompanied his father to the work site. He was being introduced into the business. Mother Guido was very strict with her boys, if someone said anything critical or disparaging about someone she'd reprimand him on the spot. Once while we were watching TV in their basement, Joey remarked that the singer looked like she had breast implants. Mother Guido heard him from her kitchen. She came down and smacked him on the head. That evening Joey ran away, he said he was fed up with her riding him all the time. He came to my apartment with his sleeping bag. In the morning Mother Guido rang the buzzer. She didn't know my parents were away. She made us breakfast and she did all the dishes. Then Tommy came over and we all wound up at the Central Park zoo. Joey remarked that the gorilla looked like one of the janitors at school and Mother Guido smacked him on the head for it. When Tommy got cancer and lost his leg, Mother Guido gave him marijuana. She picked it up at the work site. It helped him with the chemotherapy.

My first real fist fight was with Joey Guido. It happened on Christmas Eve during midnight Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral. See, Tommy was a confirmed Mets fan and he wore his Mets cap religiously, even during winter. He had his Mets cap on and Joey insisted that he remove it saying it was some sort of sacrilegious to wear a baseball cap in church. Tommy said he was praying for the Mets and that the cap was his way of showing God that he meant it. Joey smacked him on the head and knocked it off. Now I was seated between them and as Joey did this his arm sort of rubbed against my nose and as I always had a cold during Christmas some of my snot rubbed off onto his sleeve. Tommy said, There, it's good for you! And Joey, this time from behind me, smacked him on the head again. Tommy told him to lay off and I said yeah, leave him be! Joey said Shut up and wipe your nose! I said, you're just like your mother, riding him all the time! Then Joey got this stunned expression on his face and proceeded to pommel me right there in the pew. Hey! I said, just wait 'til I get you outside! By the end of the Mass I wasn't angry anymore, but Joey was secretly fuming. The second we got to the outside doors he proceeded to pommel on my head. Tommy, prosthesis and all, jumped him from behind and rolled with him down the steps. This was going on in front of everybody. They said take it across the street as though they didn't mind us fighting just don't do it on the steps of St. Patrick's, for Chrissake. I managed to get my balance and as Joey had by now thrown Tommy off we proceeded to exchange punches to the face. My nose was gushing snot and blood. Joey was bleeding from his ear. I don't recall throwing punches at his ears but as these things go you take what you can get. Then Joey somehow had me in a headlock and was doing this wrestling move he saw on TV. I was amazed at how strong he had become. I suppose it was from all that lifting he was doing every Saturday at the work site. He managed to get me into an abominable backbreaker hold and was about to smash me down when Tommy landed one straight for his solar plexus. That knocked the wind out of him. Then Mr. and Mrs. Guido made it over to us and Joey caught a smack on the head.

Now Joey's in the contracting business. We still call him Joey Jaws when we speak about him, but we don't call him it to his face anymore.Tommy got real sick and we called on him every day while he was in the hospital. He died on Joey's birthday. I've never been to Joey's office, but I hear he has a fresh bouquet of flowers on his desk every morning.

About the author:

Gregory Vincent St. Thomasino's poetry and prose have appeared in a variety of print and online publications including Barrow Street, jubilat, Oyster Boy Review, Xcp: Cross-Cultural Poetics, and at Nthposition, Ghoti, Onedit, In Posse Review and elimae. His interview with the writer Colin Wilson appears online at The Argotist Online. He lives in Brooklyn Heights, New York, where he edits the online journal, eratio, and works as a private docent.