This is the story of Frankie and Leo, two good altar boys who, one cold winter morning, stepped out of an orphanage on the West Side and began the long walk to St. Joseph’s.
It was very windy and Frankie was freezing as he walked along beside Leo. They were both bent to the wind, gloved hands deep in their pockets, as they hurried down the empty street. “Hey, Leo, I’ve been thinking.” he said. “You know, what if when we get to church Father Bill tells us that, because we had the two highest scores on our catechism exams, we would never have to do early morning Mass again. Wouldn’t that be great? ”
“Well, it would be all right by me. But that ain’t gonna happen. So?” Leo was used to these little games of Frankie’s.
“So just this; even if it did happen it’d be no big deal. And if we both won the Lottery today and got a million bucks apiece for the rest of our lives, that wouldn’t be the most fantastic thing that could happen to us. Not really.” said Frankie.
“You’re nuts.” Leo said, not even bothering to look over at his best friend.
“No, Leo, I mean it. Let’s say that God decided to make you and me into prophets, where we can see the future and know all the answers to test questions and read girl’s minds and everything. Maybe he even made it possible for us to see where our fathers are and what happened to ‘em– even that wouldn’t be the best thing that could happen to us” said Frankie. He was breathing rapidly and his face was rosy in the morning light, with the cold or the exertion or excitement – Leo couldn’t tell. Anyway, Frankie wasn’t making sense and Leo was starting to lose patience with him.
A couple a blocks later Frankie said “Hey Leo. If Father Mike were able to perform a miracle and bring our mothers back to life, even that wouldn’t be the most wonderful thing that could ever happen to us.”
“What?” Leo stopped cold and looked over at Frankie. “Are you crazy? That would be the greatest thing –ever!! For anybody. Can’t you just shut up for five minutes?” He shook his head angrily and tucking his head back in his collar hurried on ahead of Frankie. The cold wind began to make his eyes water.
Frankie ran to catch up. He grabbed Leo’s shoulders and pulled him around so he could look him in the face. “Leo, listen to me. Even if we knew for sure that when we died that we would go straight to heaven, no purgatory, no nothing- just right through the pearly gates, even that wouldn’t be the best thing!”
They had stopped less than a block from the church. “All right Frankie, get to the point. What would be the greatest thing that could ever happen to us?”
“I just got it, Leo. This is it- it’s this simple. Let’s say when we get to church this morning the sanctuary doors are locked, we can’t get in and it starts to rain. And we bang and we bang and we bang and finally someone comes to the door. And it’s Father Mike. And instead of giving us his big smile and some hot tea he’s really mad at us! And he starts calling us all kind of names and accuses us of trespassing. And it’s not like he’s nuts – he knows who we are. For some reason he just starts to hate us. And not only won’t he let us come inside and get warm he calls the cops on us – accuses us of trespassing. Says he’s gonna kick us out of the boy’s home. Says the director has been looking for an excuse, they need the beds. And the whole time sweet old Sister Paul is standing right behind him and she’s frowning and nodding her head like she agrees with him. Before we can figure out what to do the cops show up and are all set to throw us in the paddy wagon and take us away to juvey hall. This time for good.”
“This is supposed to be the best thing that could happen to us? Did you bum some squeeze off a wino or somethin’?” Leo’s arms were folded and he was stamping his feet back and forth to keep them from freezing up.
“But it is! Don’t you see? Even with everyone else against us we can know for sure that he is for us. He’s already given up everything for us! No matter how bad it might get for you or me, we can handle it. Because he taught us how and he will never leave us.”
Leo stared into his friend’s face.”Who? Who is this you’re talking about? You just said Father Mike and Sister Paul hated us? Even the director of the boy’s home turned against us. Who else is there for a couple of guys like us?”
Leo spun around and looked up to the roof of the old church. He brought his arm up and pointing a gloved finger, said excitedly “See Leo, there it is; the Cross. No matter what life throws at us we can get through it, with joy even. Because of that. Because of what He did on that cross.”