"Ain't that bad," said Dennis D. "I went through the therapy myself."
"Cause you busted up fourteen bones and was in a coma for six weeks-twice," said Tarr.
"Had a death wish but didn't know it. That's why I was always doing 90 on the motorcycle without a helmet along the Gowanus Expressway."
"I don't drive," said Tom McGuirk, smiling.
"You can't teach your classes with a Jimmy Stewart voice."
"What the hell is this country comin' to when a great American like Jimmy Stewart is banned from the classroom."
"Fuck Jimmy Stewart," said Jimmy Love.
"And the same goes for you," said Dennis D. "What's this shit with the Mohawk haircut and the DeNiro."
Both Tom McGuirk and Jimmy Love were actors, even though they had been teaching for seven years. Now they were depressed because it was well known after seven years a teacher became a "veteran." They did not want to be veterans, but since their careers were going nowhere and each had five kids-due to their strict Catholic upbringing-they had no choice.
"What's my crime?" I asked.
"I got the greatest respect for you, Bernstein," said Dennis D. "After all any human being who could last a quarter of a century in the classroom got to have superior qualities, but you can't sit and say nothing all period..."
"That's called Meditation."
"Not in the classroom."
"Best thing for turbulent souls, and I got some real turbulent souls in my class...soothes the spirit and gets the mind straight."
"You're burnt toast, Bernstein. Admit it," said Tarr. "But me, what I done I should be put in the category with these here loony dudes?"
"A grown man who cries every twenty minutes ain't playing with a full deck," said Dennis D.
"A real man don't fear to show his feelings."
"And what's with asking students for advice about your love problems?"
"Well, uh, many a young heart got, say, insight into such matters we older folks lost, years ago, in the hum and clatter of getting old, so to speak."
Just then the Principal stormed into the Teacher's Center. "You didn't attend the first Rejuvenation Therapy session yesterday."
"Who you talkin' to?" asked Jimmy Love in his DeNiro voice.
"I ordered each of you to be there."
When Tom heard the word "order" his face changed. An angry look shot into his eyes. "I ain't no Nazi."
"My old man was tortured by the Krauts but he didn't give up his battalion." Tom rubbed his eyes with his right hand and we saw tears. "Pulled every tooth outta his mouth and then rubbed gunpowder on his gums."
I moaned, sweeping my tongue across my own puffy gums.
Tom's shoulders trembled as he sobbed.
"The bastards," said Tarr, raging.
"Uh, Tom," whispered Jimmy Love, "your old man didn't get it in the war...wasn't even born yet."
"Well, uh, yeah, but it's better than sayin' your old man fell off a curb on 15th street and cracked his skull cause he was dead drunk.'
"Can't argue with you there."
"How was I, Bernstein?" asked Tom, eagerly.
"Whatta ya mean?"
"For the audition with Scorsese. Think he can use me?"
"I think so. You got that amazing quality of 'believability,' like Brando and all the great ones had."
"I went to take a piss one morning when I was nine," said Jimmy Love in a quivering voice, "and I seen my old man drowned in the bathtub, musta been there all night cause he was blowed up like a balloon." Jimmy Love bent over and crossed both arms around his waist and shook back and forth in jerky movements. He straightened up. "I went into the bedroom to tell my mom. She started screamin' and screamin'. Finally she went to look." Tears streamed down his cheeks.
"Ya overacted, man," said Tom, "Right, Bernstein?"
"I don't know."
"Right, Tarr?" asked Tom. "Wasn't real like me."
"Mind you, I'm not no critic, though I been a life long devotee of theater and cinema, so, uh, I have some knowledge of these affairs. There was a touch of, what?...say, the burlesque in Jimmy's monologue. A bit exaggerated for my taste. I'm more of a minimalist."
"I can't take a piss, even today, without seein' a blue tongue floatin' in soapy water," said Jimmy Love.
"Enough, already. Scorsese's gonna see right through the sensationalism," said Tom. "I got the part."
"I want you to report for Rejuvenation Therapy immediately. Levi Stern is waiting in room 221," said the Principal.
"I don't follow orders. I ain't no Nazi. I'm an American. I think for myself," said Tom in a very realistic Jimmy Stewart.
"You are indeed boring."
"If I did this Rejuvenation shit cause I got an order to do it, and did it, against my conscience, I would be a man without dignity. And what's a man if he ain't got his integrity?"
"Dignity," said Jimmy Love.
"You said 'integrity.'"
"Both. You need 'em both, to be a man. That's what's wrong with this here younger generation," said Tom, somewhat inexplicably, in Brando's husky Godfather voice. "No responsibility. They think the world ain't nothing but cock and booze." Then he switched to Arnold Schwarznegger. "Booollshit." He paused to gauge his audience's reaction, and flipped to DeNiro. "They're running away but they don't know they're running away. I know they're running away. A man gotta take a stand, come hell or high water. That young buck gym teacher, Billy Goate, says, 'I fucked Isabella Hyde on Monday. I fucked Emma Pettengil on Tuesday. I fucked Johanna Wisthaler on Wednesday. I fucked Bessie Sullivan on Thursday. I fucked Louise Habermeyer on Saturday. I fucked Margaret Ingalls and Lulu Stone..."
"NEVER," roared Tarr, "NEVER WOULD SHE..."
The ferocity of Tarr's response shocked Tom from DeNiro, and he sighed in his own voice, "I'm just tellin' you what Goate said, Michael. He could be lyin'. I don't know..."
"The woman is a Goddess," moaned Tarr.
"What happened to Friday?" asked Jimmy Love.
"Forget about Friday. Who cares? The point is the man is wasting his life," said Tom.
"Plus the man got no class. You never mention names."
"That Emma Pettengil is somethin' though. No wonder her class always got perfect attendance."
"She can't hold a candle to Lulu Stone," said Tarr, passionately.
"Emma's a gorgeous woman," I said.
"Lulu's a Goddess, Bernstein, pure and simple, one of a kind, a gift from God." Then he closed his eyes. A dreamy look floated into his face. "There's been many a time I beat my meat dreamin' of her..."
"Disgusting," said the Principal.
"Whoa there, Tarr. Did I just hear what I heard?" asked Tom.
"What'd you hear?"
"The Bible says beatin' your meat is a sin, though I done it for a bit myself when I first felt urges, but after the Priest informed me I was bound for Hell I ain't never done it. And, correct me if I'm wrong, but you're a married man."
Tarr removed his glasses. His eyes appeared pensive and sober. "God forgive me for what I am now about to say. I love Lulu Stone more than any woman I have ever known. If I met her before...my wife, I woulda married her. But it didn't work out that way, and I'm not unhappy, no sir. I'm a happily married man. I love my wife. But Lulu...there's something else there, more than love, like destiny...a mingling of souls, like we evolved from the same womb. I undressed her a thousand times. Sue me. After the 47th time I found if I toyed with the little fella her image became more clear and realer...oh, the conversations we had at the Twenty-One club, and along the Seine, and Venice, who could ever forget Venice? I been all over the world with her...and the help of the little fella. Sue me. But after the 102nd time I felt I was goin' too far and had to put a stop to it, but she seemed cold and distant, like she missed bein' with the little fella. I held out for awhile but then she convinced me I wasn't hurtin' no one, so I started up again, and been goin' at it, here and there, ever since."
"I don't know," said Tom, "'Thou shalt not spilleth they seed on the earth.' That's what the Bible says. And the Bible is the word of God. We gotta follow it or else we're bound for Hell, and that's a fearsome place."
"Well, uh, I been listenin' to Billy Graham for well on all my life and he never said, 'Don't beat thy meat, Michael.' And I stepped forward many a time to the TV and welcomed the Lord into my heart and if I was doing somethin' wrong I don't think the Lord woulda come into me. He woulda blowed up the TV or somethin' like that, but it's workin' fine. I had it, oh, eight years now. And the picture's still sharp as a tack."
"Don't your wife satisfy you?" asked Jimmy Love.
"Lord, yes, but the matter at hand is one of the soul."
When Tarr said that Jimmy began to laugh and laugh. Everyone stared at him. Tarr seemed angry that Jimmy should find his confession funny so I asked, "Why you laughing, Jimmy?"
After I said that he stopped because he must have realized he should not have been laughing. "Sorry. It's just when Michael said the word 'hand' I thought of Mickey Mantle, being that he's recently deceased..."
"MICKEY MANTLE," roared Tom. "What in the hell he got to do with Tarr's banging his baloney?"
"The switch hittin' part. You know, he could go right or left, so I was picturing Tarr wiggling his weenie with his right hand on Monday, and with his left hand on Tuesday, and so on and so forth, but I meant no disrespect."
"Boring," said the Principal. "I suggest you give up this fantasy of being an actor. Now, if you want to save your job you better see Levi Stern in room 221 immediately." I expected him to leave the Teacher's Center since he had used the word "boring" several times already, but he remained.
Everyone stared at Michael, but no one said a word. Then he scratched his balls. "Well?"
"Well?" I asked.
"There are some matters best left unsaid, Bernstein."
"There was crap floatin' in the tub with my old man," said Jimmy Love, his voice quaking. "I picked it up cause it wasn't right it being there and all, and when I grabbed it...it squished." Then he held out his right hand in front of him and stared at it. A moment later he slowly closed his fingers into a fist and made a squashing sound.
"The fuckin' audition is over with. Forget it," said Tom.
"If only I could...if only I could," said Jimmy Love.
Then Tarr held out his right hand in front of him and stared at it. Suddenly he began to jerk it up and down, and as he did so he began to laugh, but the laughter didn't last and soon dissolved into a whisper of words, "Confession is good for the soul."
"I done it," said Jimmy Love. Then he began to sob so deeply he could not catch his breath.
"Calm down," said Tom, gently. "We all done it, at one time or another, but the Lord is merciful. He forgives the masturbation done in youth. As for Tarr-that's between him and the Lord."
"I crapped on my old man...had to...after all he done to me. Say the Lord forgives me, Tom."
Tom stared at Jimmy Love, but remained silent.
"Forget it," said Tarr, blithely.
"If only I could," moaned Jimmy Love.