Galaxy of Stars
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
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
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
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.
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.
An Installment Plan
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.
Potentially, might be ...