Galaxy of Stars
    Vince Samarco
The night we were forced from our third apartment in a year, the Jerry Lewis Telethon set records for donations. It was 1976 after all. The bicentennial and the close of a lost war made people want to believe again.

We saw what people believed in as we sat in the empty room near the Tv's glow: the parade of saccharine celebrities in sky-blue suits, ruffled shirts. And Jerry's Kids, smiling white, helpless smiles from beneath Vitalis-slicked hair, ringlets.

Nowhere in the camera's pan did we see a welfare mother and her grubby kids. Mom tried to sell Maria and me on the show anyway. She told us how her whole family watched each year over cookouts and poker games. She'd say things like "Oh, your Uncle Felix used to love him." But she soon stopped. We had heard the call to the park service earlier. Twenty bucks for the week.

Mom wanted to believe, in the value of people balancing plates on sticks, in the gaping yawn of a ventriloquist's dummy.

Maria and I twisted elsewhere.

Now mom held her head in her hands. Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin had been reunited, she said. We watched the padded men hug their deep hug.

Maria's fingers moved expertly beneath the lid of her Stuckey's jewelry box. Before he turned on and dropped out, Dad had given it to her for her 12th birthday. She lit the joint, hit it, and passed it to Mom. Mom stared at it forever. She stared so long the light at the end began to fade. Then she moved it to her lips. She held it there a long time.

Frank Sinatra stood between Martin and Lewis, their bow ties limp butterflies, and introduced the estranged remnants from Mom's youth to the world. People were starting to feel better again. Even we could feel it.

An Installment Plan

    Vince Samarco
Did it matter that I couldn't remember the exact moment my mother's hands pinched my shoulders to the tub's curved descent, or how her face, grimacing as if she were working out a difficult stain, floated above me? Did it matter that I couldn't recall how my father fell upon us, his thick blue shirt still bound at his neck, the darkness of his widening mouth filling the room? Did it matter that I couldn't recollect how my brothers in their fading pajama bottoms filled the door's frame, depressions in their chests like flesh swirling down a drain? Did it matter that I couldn't locate when the word "chore" was removed from my vocabulary, or when it became practice for me to sit in my father's ample chair after the others had been banished, the jeweled chips of peppermint ice cream slowly melting before me, or the first time my mother walked me to school while my brothers drifted away? Did it matter in the least that I could not pinpoint the exact moment I began to see myself as someone for whom things came easily? I knew, if I looked just so, she'd pay my rent anyway.

Vince Samarco has previously been in In Posse as well the Mississippi Review-Web, Flashpoint, Pif Magazine, and elsewhere. He is presently teaching creative writing now at Saginaw Valley State University.


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