Looking back on the days...
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Time passes by too fast. If you misuse it while you have it, it will catch up to you when it's running out. You can spend your whole life rushing to grow up and move on, but when you get there, you wish you were young again.
A pair of blue eyes stared out across the floor of the old nursing home. They were dull and faded from years of age and lessons learned. The face they belonged to held many wrinkles. The body, old and crippled. Clarence Mincioti sat in his wheelchair, watching the dust fly through the light coming in the window. For some reason, the heavenly glow always reminded him of days past.
A loud beep came from the nurse's main office and Clarence shifted his gaze to the wall, waiting for whomever had come into the lobby to come into view. His mind made up stories for him. His memory had begun to fade, but he still remember Joey Barnes, the man who had sworn to kill him in the old days of street gangs and afternoon brawls. Every time someone came in, Clarence saw Barnes coming for him at last. In a way, he wanted it. The part Clarence didn't remember is that he himself had killed Joey Fingers with his bare hands.
Instead of a grease slicked gangster coming into view, Clarence saw a young man and his wife and children come in. The young man looked rather like himself and he wondered if he knew him.
"Hey Pops." The young man said. Clarence narrowed his eyes at the man. Brown hair, slim face, blue eyes. James. The name came to him slowly. It took him a few minutes to realize he was looking at his son.
"How are they treating you?" James' wife asked.
Clarence stuck up his nose to her. "Who are you?" He asked gruffly, his voice hoarse and raspy from years of cigar smoking.
The woman looked hurt for a moment and looked at James. James came over to his father and sat down in a chair next to him. "That's Claire, Dad. My wife." James added, sighing and looking at the television. A war veteran sat on a couch in front of it, silently watching Ricky Nelson complain to his brother about a sweater. James quickly lost interest in his father.
Claire, however, pulled up and chair and sat in front of him while the kids played in the corner with some toys that had been supplied for them. "How are you doing Clarence?" She asked, taking Clarence's hand.
Clarence looked down at their hands. For a moment, her hand reminded him of Bella's hand. Bella was his wife. The gold ring on Claire's hand made Clarence want her even more. He looked up at Claire. "Where's Bella?" He asked.
"She's dead, Dad." It was James. "She has been for twelve years."
"Jimmy!" Claire said, turning back to James. "She's gone, Dad." She said.
Clarence glared at her. "Was it that damned Barnes? I'll kill him."
"Here we go again." James groaned, getting up and walking over to his kids.
Claire and Clarence were silent for a moment. Clarence had focused back on their hands. Her hands were so soft and smooth, small and slender. But his own hand was big and wrinkled. Years of age showed on them. "I was a knight you know." He said finally, looking up at Claire's brown eyes. She bit her lower lip and didn't say anything. "We were the best street gang that ever walked the streets of Manhattan."
"Hey Clarence!" The brown haired, blue eyed kid turned to look at his friend, Benny, and then turned back to his sweat heart.
"Gee Clarence, every time we get close, you always have to leave." Bella said, taking Clarence's hands in her own.
Clarence smiled and kissed her cheek. "I know Bella, but this time it's important. This time we're fighting the Blazes. Joey Barnes is in the Blazes."
"Oh you and that stupid Joey Barnes." Bella said, pulling her hands away and pouting. Clarence sighed and looked back at Benny, who held a baseball bat in his hand. "What's he got against you anyway?"
"I stole you." Clarence said, turning around and kissing her again. Then he jumped off his car and ran to Benny, taking the crow bar from Benny.
Bella jumped off the car as well. "You be careful Clarence Mincioti! I want our baby to have a daddy!"
"He's going to have one!" Clarence yelled back. He then ran alongside Benny all the way to their hangout in front of Curly's Parlor. They met with the rest of their street gang.
Their leader, Vincent Marcos, stood forward. "Listen up. We're going to fight the Blazes. They're coming to the park, so that's where we'll brawl. They've got weapons of their own, so be careful. And remember, no one messes with the knights!" Vince shoved his hand in the air and a resounding cheer came from the rest of the boys.
"Are you getting enough to eat in here?" Clarence looked at Claire. Geniune worry had come across her face. Clarence hadn't seen worry like that since Bella.
"Eat? Whose got time to eat, Curly." Clarnece said, his vision fading to another memory. Claire looked towards the nurse. "Oh God, they're everywhere! Every where, every where, every where." Clarence started yelling.
Claire stood up and James came up behind her, shoving past her rather roughly and placing his hands on his father's arms. "Dad, Dad calm down. There's no one around but us. You're in a nursing home Dad." James tried desperately to calm his father down.
A few nurses came from their desk and one got a syringe ready. When James saw it, his eyes widened. "Dad please." He begged.
Clarence stopped yelling and looked at his son. He relaxed again and James relaxed to. The nurses looked accusingly at Claire, but she just glared back.
There was blood every where. It was a royal massacre. Clarence hid behind a parked car as he heard gun shots and screams of dying boys radiate throughout the park. He had never imagined it would go this far. No one had imagined. When the Blazes had shown up with gun, the knights weren't ready for it.
Clarence covered his ears, rocking back and forth. He started sailing his Hail Mary's.
"What's the matter Clarence?" A voice asked. "Chicken?" Clarence looked up and saw Joey Barnes standing there. The man who had sworn to kill him. He gritted his teeth, thinking of his newborn baby at home.
"Piss off you bastard." Clarence screamed, rushing to his feet and catching Joey in the midriff.
Joey held his ground though and swung his arm around Clarence's throat. "I'll kill you here and now Clarence, I swear I will. Then, when I'm done, I'll go for your girl and your baby. We can't have your genes floating around."
Something snapped in Clarence's mind. He growled loudly and brought his legs back, hitting Joey hard in the shin. Joey let out a scream and let go. Clarence whirled and brought his fist into Joey's face. There was a crack and a spray of blood flew across Clarence's face. He hit Joey again and Joey fell backwards. Clarence jumped on top of him and kept bringing his fists down again and again onto Joey's face. The boy never retaliated. The boy never woke again.
Benny ran over to him, pulling him off of the deceased boy. "Come on Clarence, the pigs are here. We gotta go." Benny said, practically dragging a blood soaked Clarence behind him.
"I would do anything for him." Clarence screamed at Joey's body. "My son means everything to me!" He screamed again as Benny dragged him away.
James sat down in Claire's seat as she went to go play with her kids. He stared at his father, studying him. Clarence stared back. "Where's Bella?" He asked.
An obvious sadness came over James' face. "Dad, for the last time, she's gone." He said, getting angry, but then looking at Clarence's eyes. There was hardly a man behind them anymore. Not like there had been when he was a child.
James remembered looking up at his father when he was a small boy and watching as his father laughed, smiled, and got angry. He watched the emotion on his father's face. He loved it when his father picked him up and swung him around. Now, there was nothing but an empty shell.
"Where's James?" Clarence asked. It hurt to hear his father say that.
"I'm right here Dad." He whispered, knowing his father didn't hear him.
"I'd do anything for him." Clarence said. James' eyes started to tear up. He took his father's hand, but the old man didn't feel it. James put his head down on the old man's hand, wanting his father to stroke his hair like he used to. Clarence didn't move. "I'd do anything." He repeated.
"I know Dad." James whispered, openly crying into the blanket covering his father's legs.
Clarence walked into his apartment, gently closing the door behind him. He leaned against the door, taking in steady breaths. He was scared out of his mind and still shaking with anger towards Joey Barnes.
Bella came out of the hallway, in her nightgown. When she saw all the blood covering Clarence, she put a hand to her mouth and ran over to him. "Clarence? Oh Lord Clarence, are you all right?" She asked, examining his whole body for injuries.
Clarence wept them. Bella was shocked at first, but as Clarence sank to the floor, she fell to her knees in front of him. "What happened?" She asked, tears coming from her own eyes as well. "Clarence for God's Sakes tell me what happened!" She cried, pulling on his shirt. Clarence just shook his head, crying.
A little boy appeared from his room, rubbing his eyes. "Daddy?" He asked, seeing his mother and father.
Clarence looked from his son back to his wife. "You know I'd do anything for him. I had to do it Bella, I had to." He cried.
The little boy came running forward and hugged onto his father. The three of them sat crying together. "I would do anything for him." Clarence cried, looking over at his wife. She only cried with him.
James felt Claire's hand on her shoulder. She had the kids all ready to go. He nodded and Claire and the kids walked out, giving James a moment alone with his father. "I gotta go now Dad." He said.
"I was a knight." Clarence said, looking up at his son.
James nodded. "I know Dad." He said, looking down at the floor. "But not anymore." He added before letting go of his father's hand and walking to the door. He stopped in the doorway, seeing Clarence's eyes fall back to the dust in the sunlight. "I love you."
Clarence didn't answer.
"I was a knight."
Dedicated to Clarence J. Groff
I miss you Grandpa