Small Change

short stories by George Amabile

Synopsis

This is a book about growing up and coming of age in the inner city, an unpredictable adventure filled with risk, spontaneous invention, bizarre hilarities, moments of grace, and all those magnified intensities of perception that seem to leave us as we enter the adult world. These six stories and the longer excerpt from a novel in progress are fueled by the resilience and creative energy of children approaching adulthood, getting in trouble and finding a way out, making choices, discovering who they are and where their lives might lead them.

A young nun's left hook decks the class bully and converts him into a teacher's pet. Escaping from a street gang initiation, a schoolboy hops a slow freight, nearly chokes to death in a smoke filled tunnel, and emerges into a world he never knew existed. A pre-teen hears his ankle crack while wrestling with the sexy older sister of a friend. In the novel excerpt, Rick Salerno, whom the Jesuits think should become a priest, has been busking for dimes in a subway station with his friend Clifford James. His mother and the Church do not approve, but when the boys meet "Boots" Grebofsky, a tomboy drummer, they form a band called Small Change. Friendship and loving what they do develop their musical skills to the point where they can work through a bewildering maze of obstacles, challenges and minor disasters to the sweet lift of success as they play their first paid gig before a tough audience.

Excerpt

Sammy's In Love

The first truly religious event I ever witnessed... well, maybe not the first, but the most impressive, was disguised as a fist fight.

It happened on the first day of school in grade five.

Sister Margaret really did look like somebody's sister. She was a blue-eyed, pug-nosed nineteen-year-old with frizzy blonde hair that kept working out from the tight edge of the black wimple that framed her face. I remember thinking how much it reminded me of something that had caught my attention so strikingly and repeatedly over the summer. I had spent weekends at my grandfather's summer house at South Beach on Staten Island where there were dozens of young women in bathing suits, strolling on the board-walk or on the sand, and I was totally enthralled by one in particular, a blonde in her twenties whose pubic hair peeked out from the hem of her black one-piece and took my breath away every time I saw her. This was not an appropriate thought to have about a nun or a teacher, so I tried to imagine what Sister Margaret might look like in street clothes. Jeans and a plaid shirt, for instance, to go with her tomboy walk and that grin she had that curled up the side of her mouth, like Mickey Levine's older sibling, Anita, as she swaggered demurely across the front of the classroom, picked up a blackboard pointer, and lashed it a few times over the desk, scattering notes, paperbacks and pencils. I guess she wanted us to know she was a tamer. I was ready to jump through rings of fire, just for a shot of light from those blue eyes. But Sammy Ferretti was not impressed.

"In these economical little gems about growing up in the forties, Amabile's recreation of a child's perspective is near perfect: the adult world appears as a puzzle with a few crucial pieces missing, while childhood is an intricate maze of rules and loyalties quite alien to adults."
– Amy Barrat

About the Author

George Amabile has published his poetry, fiction and non-fiction in the USA, Canada, Europe, England, Wales, South America, Australia and New Zealand in over a hundred anthologies, magazines, journals and periodicals including The New Yorker, The New Yorker Book of Poems, Harper's, Poetry (Chicago), American Poetry Review, Botteghe Oscure, The Globe and Mail, The Penguin Book of Canadian Verse, Saturday Night, Poetry Australia, Sur (Buenos Aires), Poetry Canada Review, Canadian Literature, and Margin (England).

The Presence of Fire (McClelland & Stewart, 1982), won the CAA National Prize; Durée placed third in the CBC Literary Competition for 1991; "Road to the Sky" received a National Magazine Award for 2000, "What We Take with Us, Going Away" was shortlisted for the CBC Literary Prize in 2003 and he is the subject of a special issue of Prairie Fire, (Vol. 21, No. 1, May 2000).

"Diminuendo" was awarded third prize in the Petra Kenney International Poetry Competition for 2005 and "A Raft of Lilies" won second place in the MAC national poetry contest, "Friends" (2007). He has performed his poems on the CBC, at numerous venues in Canada and the USA, and at the Olympics in Montreal. A long poem, Dancing, with Mirrors will be published by Porcupine's Quill in 2011.