Tag Archives: Italian America

Spanish Peanuts.



Antonio’s daughter was always the misfit. Squinting, nail biting, and a fixating stare. Dark eyes, the kind that didn’t fit the decor. In junior high, all she’d wanted were knees that didn’t show when she walked, calves that met each other when she stood, and a nose that looked like it belonged to her head. High school was horrid; those “must have” Ali McGraw hats had made her look like a bowling ball on a stick, and she would never know, until all the vicarious Y-Co dances and even the senior prom had burbled their wake, that her brain was bigger than her face.

But most everything else, she knew. She knew that God had made the heavens and the Earth, that Jesus had died and risen on the third day, and that everybody who went to the Gospel Hall on Sunday and got saved was going to Heaven. She knew who her mother was, and her grandparents, and her two brothers, and all her cousins and aunts and uncles. She knew her father had met her mother on a train and married her, twice. And, above all else, she knew that she was Daddy’s girl.

The drunkard, who could bed her like no other and love even more deeply, was the one. He would appear on the cusp of the sixth decade of her miserable life, right when she was sure that wringing out the rest of it as anything but a spayed hound shape shifting into a human that used to be female just in time to leave the house for groceries was beyond any hope. And, he would tell her. In the midst of a brew-infused gourmet meal of sirloin and cremed spinach, between entree and foreplay, he would bring her the news.

Antonio hadn’t merely been a butcher. He’d been the Man. He’d run the whole city.

Even the cigar store owner, the biggest bookie in the tri-state, had answered to him.

Just what being that Man had meant in her lifetime only the movies could say. Something about broad shouldered henchmen with pea brains, envelopes stuffed with cash, sudden gunfire, and blood, and lone cars bursting into flames by the side of the road.

This was like finding out that UFOs circled the house while you slept. That flies were aliens readying their ranks to magnify for attack. Or, that Jesus was just the son of a Moroccan trapeze artist, marketed to the known world by some disaffected Turk with a hookah and a scribe.

No wonder the idea of selling their house after Antonio’s death had left her dry. The Spanish peanuts in their tiny cardboard cannister he’d always hand her through the window of his DeSoto when she was 5, the salt stinging her tender, nailbitten fingers, were mold in her memory now. There was simply no such thing as reality. Now, she was sure.

Yes, now. Now, only Rufus Wainwright could sing “Nuthin’s Gonna Change My World.” The one thing she couldn’t have known at the time was the only truth which remained. Antonio’s daughter could never go home, ever again.




© Ruth Ann Scanzillo  7/6/17    All rights those of the author, whose story it is, and whose name appears above this line.  Be a good person. Yeah, whatever that is.






“Once Upon A Time in America” – a Review.

Originally written circa 1989

“Once Upon A Time in America”…….Who would we have become were we the characters in this story?

It seemed in that era of survival of the fittest, and of subsequent male domination, women and men were so taken with the need to stay alive that their individual emotional needs were never either addressed or fulfilled. Their roles were both sexually defined and, at the same time, sexually insignificant. In paradox, this was an inherent problem not easily solved and, in the end, became one of the casualties of the era.

In the society of that age, women and men rarely did anything which engendered mutual respect. Men had an unspoken honor for one another but, in the eyes of men, women never achieved that level of regard. In “Once Upon A Time”, there were no women whose choices or character were painted as worthy. The closest thing to an act of love from a woman was the blond’s request that Noodles blow the whistle on his buddy to save his life. But, one wonders if, like the Moon Queen in Munchausen, her desires were suspect. (“Baron! Don’t LEAVE me!”) Even the dancer was characterized as a condescending bitch as she read to him from Song of Solomon. It was clear that, though she felt something, she found him unacceptable — soiled, beneath her. All other female characters were either dogs or whores. They were all ultimately both alienating and dispensable, because their motives were perceived as self-serving.

The male characters might have been arrogantly so, but seemed to get away with it to a point. Noodles appeared to be the only character with genuine humility. All the male characters had violently destructive profiles, but Noodles alone was able to express his in defense of the innocent.

Fascinating that none of the boys in the gang were characterized as members of real families. We never saw Noodles’ father or mother. We never saw any models of men or women in their lives beyond the older gangland members. We never saw how Noodles or any of the boys could ever come to view women as anything beyond expendable objects. The boys were always isolated, existing side by side, always alone together.

Perhaps the girls were, as well. The film does not set up their lives as bonded in any way. They seemed significant only as tangent to the lives of the boys, appearing singly, never even in pairs. Not surprising, then, that the first encounter between Noodles and a girl took place in the bathroom — a base, animalistic scenario at best. At worst, it was their only perceivable common ground. None other had ever been established, and their ascent barely edged them beyond it in the course of a lifetime.

But, Noodles idealized the dancer from the first moment. He watched her from his post in the john, his only known vantage point. Much as we all instinctively keep our distance from the object of our ideal (when eyes meet across a room) or from something which we perceive as unattainable, Noodles never left the bathroom.

Sadly, the dancer was not worthy of his idealism. She, too, embodied the essence of her environment’s demands. Aware of his voyeurism, she tantalized him purposefully. Yet, her restraint, her withholding from him, was born less of self respect than of self preservation and, ultimately, self importance. His first attempt at interaction with his ideal was gruff, familiar, in the manner to which he was accustomed, and ineffectual. She truly condescended to him from the beginning, and he adored her. He adored her art, and believed that she embodied his idealism.

His devotion to her, however, she cast aside – seeking the only open door to the survival of her identity: a career in dance. Her self love was the most poignant by-product of the unfulfilled needs of the era; she sacrificed the deepest, most potentially abiding love – Noodles’ – for the sake of her only perceived path to survival. So close, yet so far; in the end, she survived – only to succumb to the disease of emotional loss.

Noodles, capable of the purest love, was also a victim. There were no ideals produced beyond those he wanted to see in this woman by any redeemable source other than those he could contrive for her to possess. Only in this way could he possibly tell her that the choice she had made was a good one. He looked beyond her mask, the face that froze in time, to what he had hoped to believe in from the beginning. He continued to see in her until the facts convinced him otherwise that she was a deserving, noble creature. He saw the value of her personhood, the reality of her identity, and was powerless to legitimize her. Time had swept them both beyond, toward tragic heroism. They sacrificed the truest personal reward for the sake of the mission imposed upon them from birth.





© Ruth Ann Scanzillo

circa 1989

all rights reserved. Thank you.