Thursday, April 14, 2016


Many years ago during my senior year of high school, the senior class received a new classmate. His name was Benny and came straight from the streets of Brooklyn with his “jitterbug” stories and nickname: The Buffer. He had close set eyes, and rather large proboscis, to go with a scarred face and tough reputation.

One day he decided to meet me and we learned all about each other. His parents were Italian/American, he was living with an uncle and aunt and his uncle owned a business that my dad’s company worked with.

Benny’s dad sent him to Long Island to get away from the streets of Brooklyn and gang wars, hoping to reform him to some kind of decency. Benny was a good hearted kid, had the latest car and talked street-wise with a heavy Brooklyn accent.

If Benny had a problem, it was that he was not a student, and how in Hell he made it to his senior year I am still figuring out. So Benny attached himself to me and I became his mentor, he needed academic help with such subjects as: Health, Gym, Shop and English, Social Studies and Math (Basic) and I some how got the call!

If he failed to graduate high school, his grandmother was going to disown him, as she threatened in Alto Italiano to make herself clear! “Joe, you gotta help me out here, you like to eat, I’ll buy you lunch everyday, whatever you like, but I can’t fail high school man, my father will kill me, my mother will get hysterical and I loose a nice piece of change when my grandmother goes.”

For ten months everyday after school, Benny would sit with me and do his homework and we would work on what he couldn’t get, and everyday at lunch time he would buy me lunch at Ricky’s Hamburger stand.

Finally, the day came for the posting for who would graduate! All the students were nervous except for the exceptional ones, and Benny was dreading the news.

“Joe, you gotta look at that list for me!”
“Sorry Benny, but this is far as I can take you, you have to look for yourself.

He goes up to the bulletin board, sees a piece of paper with the words:” Senior Graduates” Listing, and it’s a list of students, and as he scans it he doesn’t see his name!
Dejected he walks away and I feel very bad, not for anything but with all the work I did with him, you’d think he’d read the paper correctly! It was a list of seniors who needed to turn in a paper or assignment to graduate! As I looked at the bulletin board, there was the list he needed to see, the one with his name on it.

And so the night of graduation, we get our diplomas and are standing with our relatives. Benny is standing with his parents and grandmother who happens to be about 4’ 1” tall. We are all feeling awkward at the sight of Benny in his cap and gown when grandma turns to her grandson Benny and says: “You sonomabitcha, YOU GRADUATE!!!”

I never saw Benny again after the moment.


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