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The Curse Of Alphonso

Publsihed as
House Of Cards
The Oath Of Alphonso


Father, is it wistful, the thought, to be born a tree...
My pennant a bark of strength, beauty, and serenity!
To plant my feet beneath Thy sacred earthen ground
And guard thy torment without a sound.
With a message of brotherhood written on my leaves,
For all humanity, broadcast to the breeze
And the seeds of peace cast to the sea
Sap wars of man; deliver true victory!
Then to depart this world from which I sprout
Begetting a dozen seedlings --hear them shout?
Their heritage of Father, their respect for Thee,
Through branches of wisdom as if to please;
Thy thoughts, Thy dreams, Thy future's hope
That now lie dormant, buried in the slope
From which they sprung with vigor and pride,
Two Thousand Years before I died.
How wonderful it would truly be,
If You had ordained me an oaken tree?!


Intro. Two: Harry, A new demon's appointed...

In the year of our Lord, Nineteen Hundred and Sixty Two...

Thousands of sunken, piercing, blood-red eyes, grimly reflecting off the chalk-white, contorted masks of howling skulls, created the perfect macabre atmosphere. The repugnant Knight of Darkness, The Beast of Death, stood above the masses of bowed infantry upon a platform built from an orgy of human skeletons; his voice, booming above the vociferation of lamenting souls, in conduction of ceremony

"Bring to me his soul!" Demanded the Beast. "I desire the fulfilling of the contract! It called for all generations... Do you hear me... ALL GENERATIONS! It is the Earth Day of One Thousand, Nine Hundred, and Sixty Two! I am DEMANDING HIS SOUL!"

"But Sire, we realize your concern." Captain Antonio "Squirm in Blood" Feranzi of the Red Forward Warriors of the Evil Knight's Devils Brigade, cried out. "We are presently working on him, but Sire, he is a Squire of The Knight of Good over Evil, he is with the Holy..."

At the near mention of the Holy Spirit the enormous cavern went into exclaimed silence; mouths of skulls jittered in speechless dread. A full ten seconds passed before the Beast recovered and, in a display of torrential anger, lightening flashed throughout the regimented soldiers of the devils brigade as the Beast's right arm shot forward, it's jeweled hand-claw, index probe extended, pointed directly at the Captain.

"You dare to deliver a message of failure? You dare to use an excuse of such minor consequence... To ME? The All Mighty, Most powerful, Awesome, Evil Knight of Darkness? THE ONE WHO CONVERTS, CONNIVES, SUBJUGATES AND INSTIGATES ALL THAT IS EVIL IN THE UNIVERSE, IN THE HEAVENS, IN THE EARTH... IN MAN?" The Beast shouted in a firestorm of disbelief.

Captain Squirm in Blood stepped forward cowered in fear as the dreadfully horrendous screaming and moaning resumed: permission ordered through the resumption of the Beasts terror.

"Sire, understand, I do not come to bring you a message of failure on the part of your Warriors... Just that a change of plans..."

A crash of ear splitting, thunderous rage erupted within the cavern, interrupting the Captains sniveling reply.

"All I have heard in the last eleven years is your excuses and innuendo. You have become a constant failure! You have had your plans backfire. The very oath that has delivered ten thousand souls is in jeopardy because you screwed up! How did the information of your past planning reach those that have caused this disaster! You were given the responsibility of inducing the sin I required of this individual eleven years ago! Your plans have not succeeded! I never requested his fathers early demise. It was you who caused his fathers skull to be impaled in my throne before he had the chance of converting and instigating his proper share of misery upon the earth! His children are now free to learn of the OTHER ONE! It was you who informed me of your plans to engineer a birth defect on the reasoning that this would add to his son's misery and therefore plant the seeds of subversion upon his soul! All it has done is empower him with more..."

"But Sire, I have brought you many Souls to Dress your Throne and fill your Tomb of Future Torment. It was I whom engineered his families demise and subjugation through the oath of allegiance taken by his forefathers! It was I..."

"ENOUGH OF THIS "I" STUFF! How dare YOU interrupt ME!" The Beast screamed. "It was I whom bargained Alphonso's Soul, not YOU! You just fouled up! Joe has invoked The White Knight's name! HE IS IN THE POSITION OF ENDING MY RULE UPON HIS PEOPLES! TELL ME WHY I SHOULD NOT TAKE YOUR SKULL FOR MY THRONE? RIGHT THIS INSTANT!"

Hypocritical, pleading, begging voices soon joined in a chorus of : "Take His Skull, Take His Skull!"

The Captain, sensing his abrupt demise into eternal damnation of pain, grief and misery -- a thousand fold return of which he had given -- dropped to his knees and began to beg..."Oh, Mighty Master, Ruler of The Dark and Evil World of The Living Death, It is I, A loyal and Faithful Soldier of The Devils Brigade, A servant of twenty centuries of service..."

Captain Squirm in Blood never had the chance to complete his points of dedication, for the Beast, edged on by a symphony of misery, arose in full display of his hideous form and, with an electric, blue-white energy that momentarily danced a static maze of angles around the throne, shouted the oath: "I, The Knight of Darkness, of Evil over Good, Command you to join the court of mournful gesture. There you will remain for eternity as pleasure for my ear tufts!"

Suddenly, the multitude of moaning, pleading voices rose in pitch and fervor into a crescendo of hate and misery. Echoing throughout the vast chamber of horror, they combined into a deep, appalling, electrifying burst of black energy, as pitch as the darkness of a moon-less, star-less, immortal night, streaming from the Beast towards the Captain, devouring all with in it's path.

The Captain, along with several thousand Warriors, was swept into the void: they appeared as moaning, fleshless, chalk-white skulls, implanted in the throne, walls, and very heart of the cavern....

"Now, step forward -- my new Captain!" Lucifer demanded of Lieutenant Gregory "Snatching Soul" Rumkof. "You are promoted to the rank of Captain, you will take the name of Feranzi from this day foreward. Now, journey hence forth and deliver Joe's Soul... NO MATTER WHAT! HEAP MISERY, CAUSE PAIN AND SUFFERING, ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING.. DELIVER TO ME THE BALANCE OF THE CONTRACT! EVEN IF YOU HAVE TO FOLLOW JOE TO THE ENDS OF THE EARTH!!"


Chapter One: A New Order


When we are young and growing old,
Life, a story, often told:
"Life so simple,trusting and true,
never a worry...
How 'bout you?"

Then the midnight comes and goes.
The age of reason. Don't you know?
"Life not so simple, trusting and true.
Always a worry...
How 'bout you?"

It is Easter Sunday morning, 1961, one the of most sanctified days of all good Catholic, Italian-American families. There will be a grand celebration of the rebirth and ascension of Christ, a sharing of family goodwill and happiness, an egg hunt and feast that would include an abundance of Italian delicacies reserved for this special occasion. Aunts, uncles and cousins will attend this banquet adorned in their finest attire, strutting and squawking like a flock of resplendent peacocks--each one seeking the acknowledgment these displays entail. Elders will narrate tales born of heritage and legacy. But most of all, eight year old Joe, excited and anxious, will be there with his father: wearing a pin striped suit, brim feathered fedora, and diamond pinkie ring -- just like him...

Convulsive sounds of thunder awoke him, not the alarm clock so carefully set the night before. 'The forecast called for a bright and sunny Easter Sunday, not rain and lightning', he thought with dismay. Rolling toward his window's beckoning flash and vibration, he pulled on a frayed cord that held down it's stained and discolored shade, releasing it to snap back to its place of refuge. Through the sooty, dirt-specked window, torrents of rain battled in conflict with filth and grime shrouding the city. But, like the seldom cleaned, perpetually oozing grease trap in Uncle Tony's pizza parlor, the outcomes predictable conclusion paralleled man's own battle between good and evil: the storm would rage with honest intensity and cause, only to exhaust it's self against the over-powering and ever present shadow of dusty gloom... testimony of it's fierce battle, those remnants of vigor and pride with which it attacked it's enemy--small pools of water and minute pockets of moisture--now befuddled and entwined in filth's death grasp; themselves infected with the stain of sin, doomed to evaporation... a legacy of grime in their wake...

Surveying the panorama below, a never ending megalopolis of cars, people, confusion and noise, Joe surmised that man had precipitated a horrible mutation of nature's once tranquil and orderly countryside. His family had recently moved from Ronconcomo, Long Island. A place of beauty and serenity. How he longed for it's clean, damp, moss covered woodlands, where the only sounds were the whispers of the breeze as it gently stirred the acorn studded oaks, and the occasional call of his friends--squirrels, chipmunks, birds--as they scurried about their business gathering nuts, building nests, all in harmony. A beloved place where he could shed his emotions in privacy with only his small companions, those magnificent silent trees, and God bearing witness.

His mother had a problem with living "out in the country": his father. His father was always "in the city working". His arrival home was as unpredictable as the weather. To invest in an Italian restaurant on 79th Street in Manhattan, NY, his father decided to sell their house to raise the down payment. At first his mother was dead set against selling, but the fact that they would move to the city and be with his father compelled her to concede. She was now the happiest woman he ever saw! Singing and dancing while she cooked, laughing and hugging them all the time. Joyous in every way! A flash of lightning transported him out of his daydream and back to reality...

On the street corner, Bianco's Deli was open for last minute shoppers, whom, like bees to honey, swarmed, buzzed, and gathered the fruits of harvest abundantly displayed. Joe did not have to look to hard to see the ever present figure of Old Man Bianco. The old man stood upon the sidewalk, protected from the deluge by a huge green awning which proclaimed in bold white letters: "Bianco's Deli and Meats". He wore a bright yellow raincoat and hat; a perfect imitation of a ripe oversized banana -- blending perfectly with the brilliantly hued fruit and vegetables amassed on the stands.

Old man Bianco, the neighborhood counselor, therapist and medicine man, would gather, store, and analyze massive amounts of intelligence each and every day. Then, with uncanny, precise, almost mystical powers, he would will his deductive reasoning to those it concerned. A left over from the "Mustached Petes", he began providing his legacies in '23 from a vegetable cart located on Mulberry Street and knew Joe's father, Grand Father, Great, Grand Father, and even his Great, Great, Grand Father! Presently, Charlie Pinito, owner of the Three Chair Barber Shop, was the humble recipient of some of his words of encouragement or advice. As he viewed this familiar sight, the rain began to abate and all the men in the neighborhood began calling on Mr. Bianco. They were purchasing carnations, pinning them to their lapels, receiving their advice, and swaggering away. Joe had recently earned thirty-five cents -- enough to buy a carnation -- running errands after school for his father, a job his father had given him just a week ago. After he got dressed, he would go to Mr. Bianco, purchase a carnation, pin it on his lapel, receive his advice, and swagger away!

Jumping out of his bed with an enthusiasm he seldom possessed, he dashed to his closet and carefully grasped his brand new, black, pinstriped suit. Delicately laying it on the bed, he thought of all the trouble he had gotten into the past two weeks day dreaming about egg hunts, feasts, and dressing up. Turning back to the closet to reach for the hat box holding his most prized possession -- a miniature duplicate of his father's favorite fedora --he knew it was worth all the castigation he had been through. After removing the contents of the glossy black container with all the dignity and reverence this ritual deserved, while still in his pajamas, Joe walked to the mirror and gazed at his reflection. He donned the hat and proceeded to tilt and adjust it, this way and that... "he'd look as sharp as a ten dollar razor standing with father" he told the character in the mirror with a grin. He turned, walked back to the closet and, from a recess above it's top shelf, grabbed his least favorite possession: a brown, paper wrapped, Macy's shoe box containing a pair of black, Italian made, "pointy-toed fence climbers".

"How could something so beautiful cause so much pain?" He asked of his father after suffering the abuse of wearing them for the first time.

"When you get older, you'll learn that many beautiful things can cause pain," he replied.

Not understanding what his father meant, he drew his own conclusion: It had to be an Italian tradition -- the pain that is -- for father and all the men that came to see him always wore them.

He next searched his dresser drawers for that elusive shoehorn (he would never even dare attempt that most laborious and dreadful feat of putting these toe crunches on without it). All that was left to complete his attire was the crowning jewel, one which all men of respect possessed: A diamond clad pinkie ring -- and he had one!

His ring had what was called a diamond chip, but he imagined it to be a ten carat diamond. It was kept in his father's jewelry box and only with his permission, on special occasions, could he wear it. His father always told him it was a symbol of respect and tradition. The words respect and tradition were very important to his father. To him, they represented more then mere words, they were a way of life and he made sure they were etched indelibly in his mind. Realizing he had spent so much time perusing his wardrobe, Joe decided to find his father to obtain his ring...


Harry, to better illustrate this narration, I must eliminate the embellishment of the following paragraph and stick to plain, "flat", simple, descriptive verbiage -- after which we will resume our discourse.

Joe lived in an apartment called a "box car flat". Resembeling a series of railroad cars, it was composed of a succession of rooms end to end, each of which had doors that slid into the side walls when opened, thereby creating a corridor of space from the front of the flat to the back with no hallways. His mother and father's room (shared with his 1 year-old brother Eddy) was located on the opposite end of the flat, followed by the living room, then the kitchen -- with the only offsetting room being the bathroom -- followed by his sister Angela's room, and finally, the bedroom he shared with his brother Carmine.

Joe slid open his bedroom door and looked out into the flat in an attempt to locate his father. It was immediately apparent the usual noises and aromas associated with this grand occasion were blatantly missing: His mother was not skirmishing with his sister Angela -- an everyday occurrence even on a typical morning. The kitchen symphony, composed of the clanking and banging of various pots, pans and utensils, conducted by his mother, grandmother, and assorted relations, were mute. Ancient, musty odors which identified their worn flat as being home were not replaced by those tantalizing fragrances of the preparation of the feast --which certainly would have commenced by now. It was like the time his television malfunctioned: a fuzzy image with no sound. Though his conscious mind was slow to grasp the events which were unfolding, his unconscious mind was already assimilating this vignette at a phenomenal rate.

In the far off bedroom was his mother, laying in full repose, encircled by a group of women who were gesturing and whispering in a frenzied and chaotic manner! In his shocked conscious state, he could see their lips moving, but no sound came forth. A sudden movement provoked his eyes to dart to the left. There stood Nana Lou, his grandmother, changing the diapers of his youngest brother, Eddy. She turned to him and their eyes met. He immediately knew something was dreadfully wrong. The eyes that bore into his were not the beacons of warmth and radiance he knew so well -- they were blackened embers of a once proud fire. Her smile, always present to convey love and understanding, was transformed to a grim, red slash, sending shock waves of sadness and confusion. Her movements were those of a robot... programmed in slow motion!

Like the thunderstorm that appeared so suddenly on his anticipated bright and sunny morning, fear and anxiety replaced his cheerful enthusiasm. Without a word, he darted towards his mother's room desperately seeking the answer to the question he was too terrified to ask.

Angela's voice stopped him dead in his tracks, temporarily halting this presumable nightmare... a nightmare that had voraciously annihilated every thought and feeling he eagerly envisioned.

"Joe, there's been an accident," Angela said, her voice trembling with pent-up emotion.

His sister's words had the effect of clearing the screen and turning the sound back on that broken television with a magnitude and intensity of an exploding bomb. Sound and vision which weren't there seconds before overwhelmed his senses. Nana was mumbling to herself rapidly in Italian as she wrestled with the arduous task of diapering Eddy. His aunts were not whispering -- they were weeping. Absent was any evidence of the presence of his father, brother Carmine, or any of his Uncles.

'An accident?' he thought. 'Did she say accident? What did she accident?'

Turning toward his sister, he noticed she was sitting on her bed -- a bed still rumpled from her own dreams of the coming day's excitement; excitement which now seemed to be nothing but a fabrication of those dreams. She was dressed in her nightgown and appeared as if she had inherited all the sorrow and loneliness in the world. Instinctively, his arms moved to comfort her as his mind raced like a roller-coaster attempting to sort the gravity of this information.

Some of his father's words of wisdom came to him: "Father I'm lonely and miss you. When are you coming home?" He once asked him on the phone.

"You don't worry about that. Just worry about taking care of your mother, sister, and brothers. I love you and until I get back, you're the man of the house!" Was his reply.

Needless to say, after that phone conversation he assumed the air of a dictator. His lofty position did not last long as his mother put him back in his place "with a swift kick in the butt."

Some of his mother's words of wisdom came to him: "Mommy, what does 'man of the house' mean?" He asked her after the swift kick-in-the-butt program.

"It means that you help take care of the family. Do you remember the time your sister hurt her leg and she cried?" She asked.

"Yea," he replied.

"Well, do you remember what I did?" She asked.

"You bandaged her leg and held her till she stopped crying," He replied.

"Well...that was taking care of the family. As the oldest son you are the 'little man of the house'. When I need you to be the man of the house I will let you know. This is not the time. Now go and throw the garbage out." She quipped.

In his mind, this was an appropriate time to temporarily assume that position of responsibility and respect. This thought brought a semblance of sanity back to him. As soon as he could calm his sister down he'd find his father -- "he would know what really caused this horrendous change of events."

"What happened. What's going on? Who had an accident?" He asked her.

At that moment, the menacing dark clouds that were on Angela's horizon erupted, a flood of tears that had been secretly held in check burst forth.

"Angela don't cry.... Calm down, listen to me!" He exclaimed to her. "You must calm down and tell me what happened. Who had an accident?!" He asked, imbued with authority as the transient man of the house.

She interrupted her tears for a moment and softly said, "Father had a accident...."

The only time his father had an accident that he knew of was when he was "pinched" (later he would learn this meant he was arrested). They were living on Long Island, and one Sunday before dinner, his father went to the store to pick up some Italian bread. When he had not returned after several hours his mother began to worry. Late the next night, after they had gone to bed, he heard the commotion of his father's return. He slipped out of his room and silently went to the hallway door to see what had happened.

There stood his father: suit rumpled, a stubble worth two days of shaving, yelling in an agitated voice: "Those bastards pinched me!"

He had never seen his father in such an unkempt and distressed manner. Not understanding, the only thought he had was of his father standing in the doorway of an old house with a group of Uncle Tonys --his father he would always call his Uncle Tony a bastard-- pinching him over and over. For the next few nights the nightmare of this thought continued to plague him. Finally, he questioned mother.

"Why did Uncle Tony pinch father?"

His mother, not wanting to cause further distress, replied with a laugh, "Uncle Tony did not pinch your father. Do you remember the time you caught your hand in the door and it pinched you?"

"Yes." He replied.

"Well, that was an accident. Your father just had an accident." She said.

Returning to the present, he held his sister in his grasp -- not so much to soothe her pain as to quell his own emotions that were boiling over. He wanted to scream out for someone to wake him; for someone to tell him it was all a dream; he wanted to cry!

Joe's father had forbidden him to ever cry. He would be ashamed of him if he let his feelings show. He would say: "Men of Respect Don't Cry."

The last time Joe remembered crying in the presence of others occurred when he was five. Born with a birth affliction of severe club feet and curved leg syndrome, he was plagued with constant pain. This fact, combined with a disassociation with other children, became an hindrance to normal childhood developement. Joe was a late bloomer to normal progression. Along with walking, one of the other top priority's was potty training -- which became a great source of consternation to his father. While preparing for an extended business trip, Joe's father demanded that his mother have him "sitting on the stool" by the time he got back. When he arrived home -- along with two of his brothers -- the first thing he did was ask his wife, Jeanette, if Joe was "using the stool." Jeanette replied, "He is making progr..." But, before she could finish her answer, he grabbed hold of Joe's arm, and along with his brothers, dragged him to the bathroom. Once there, he pulled down his pants and shoved him on the commode. Frightened and embarrassed, Joe started to cry. His immediate reaction was a slap across his face as he exclaimed: "Men don't cry or wet the bed!" He then snatched the electric hair trimmers and shaved his head. Needless to say (with his mothers assistance) he never wet the bed again.

Those reflections of his father along with his new position as "man of the house" appeased Joe's raging emotions. Everything would be all right. With relief, he now knew why the women were weeping and moaning. Women were sensitive and inclined to dramatize trivial incidents -- such as pinching. A change of garments? A shave? Come on, a little aggravation? Is this what they're crying about!? As his father would say: "Take it like a man... of respect!" The only remaining thought he had difficulty with was the image of Nana. It kept appearing in stark contrast to the assumption he had imposed upon his mind. He shoved it to a remote corner and replaced it with a vision of his father coming home and everyone telling him he did not cry!

"Angela, Angela, don't cry. Listen to me"... he whispered, looking directly into Angela's beautiful brown eyes -- eyes which were now a tempest of tears and subjects of her grief -- "stop crying. It's O.K.! I know what happened, father got pinched!"

Angela's bellowing was reduced to rapid series of sobbibg and it seemed as if she wanted to say something...

Joe, feeling much more the man of the house, continued in earnest: "Do you remember the time father went for the loaf of bread and didn't come back for two days? He had an accident... He just got pinched! I know because mother told me!"

A look of confusion and amazement replaced the tears of anguish that proclaimed her disarray. It became evident she had regained her composure for she spoke in a clear and compassionate voice.

"Oh, Joe, Joe, Joe, you don't understand... Father and Uncle Carmine will not be coming home! They can't. They're in heaven!" They're with God!

When he heard the words "They're in heaven" his life came crashing down. At that moment in time, everything was suspended:

There were no visions, thoughts, feelings, dreams, his world turned jet black. Gone were the thumpings of his heart -- thumping even when he was physically hurt sending it's message of life. He did not hear... He did not see... He was not there. He ceased to exist. PERIOD!


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