Freedom triumphs

19087834781_d8e5aef2e7_kTony Luzi stared at the back of Melvin Heller’s stupid head. “You know we gotta fill out the worksheets Mr. Street gave us, right? This isn’t just some lark.”

The group groaned in unison. “Take a day off from hall monitor, Anthony,” said Rose.

“Tony, look at these Good Citizens. You’re wearing the right clothes, but that Roman nose is all wrong.” Melvin leaned in to get a closer look at the photo. “How you gonna sign the Freedom Pledge with a clear conscience?”

“Go soak. All of you,” said Tony.

“At least they let Mussolini here on the train,” said Gabe. “Hugh can’t come on until after noon, with the others.”

“Ain’t no chestnut-skinned Good Citizens in this picture, neither,” said Melvin. “Maybe that’s why.”

Rose read from the worksheet. “‘Indoctrination in democracy is the essential catalytic agent needed to blend our various groups into one American family. Without it, we could not sustain the continuity of our way of life.’ We need to find out who said this.”

“Why bother? Blah, blah, blah,” said Melvin.

Rose shrugged. “It’s on the sheet.”

“Thomas Blessed Jefferson said it,” said Melvin.

“Doubt that,” said Gabe.

Tony’s face soured. “Screw it. If yous aren’t taking this seriously, then neither am I.”

“Attaboy, Tones,” said Melvin. “You may not be a Good Citizen, but you’re a damn fine American.”

“Besides, what do they mean, anyway? Freedom Triumphs?” said Tony. “Freedom to do what? Wear wool skirts and suit jackets? I walk dad to the plant every morning past the Franklin stop. Ain’t nobody smilin’ like that at seven a.m. in July wearing tweed. Those bums headed downtown look miserable.”

Gabe pinched his jacket. “What’s wrong with tweed?”

“Nothing at all, dreamboat,” said Rose.

Melvin sneered. “Your pop don’t wear tweed to make the money to buy you tweed, Gabriel.”

“He does his best,” said Gabe.

“Then what’s better than his best?” said Melvin.

Rose grinned, pointed to the exhibit. “Good citizenship.”

“What he wants for me, I think,” said Gabe, “is more than that.”

“Yeah, well, good luck with your better than best,” said Melvin.

Tony slapped Melvin’s shoulder. “Watch this, shithead.” He flipped to the last page of the worksheet packet and pulled a pen from his pocket.

FreedomTrain_BackInset

“Feel better, Saint Dago?” said Melvin.

“No,” said Tony. “But you ain’t no different than the rest of us.”

“Don’t I know it,” said Melvin.

Another group of classmates trickled in from the door behind them. Rose, Tony, Gabe and Melvin moved along with their chums to the next car on the Freedom Train.

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