Dear Mr. Battaglia:
My name is Ricky (short for Eric) Walker and I am 11 years old. My Sunday school teacher, Miss Peabody, is teaching us about being nice to other people and gave us homework to write to someone who is in the hospital or in the army or can’t find a job or is in jail like you. I saw you on the news and you seemed like a nice old man. I can’t believe you did all the bad things they say. Anyway, if you write back I will get to go on our church trip to Disney World so please write back. Thank you!
Your new freind, Ricky
What a nice surprise to receive your letter. I do not get a lot of mail in here, unless it is from someone who is angry at me or some shyster looking to make a quick buck at my expense. Speaking of lawyers, that is the reason I am doing hard time. My mouthpiece really dropped the ball on my plea deal and I got the short end of the stick. The good news is that my new attorney assures me we have grounds for appeal. She is a real sharp cookie from one of those Ivy League schools. I wish I hired her from the beginning and I would not be here now writing to you. (No offense.) I am sure you are a fine young man and I am happy to help out. Besides, what else am I going to do in here besides play a little rummy and watch sports on TV? I hope you get an A on your assignment and go to the Magic Kingdom. Say hi to Mickey for me. That mouse always makes me laugh.
Vinnie (short for Vincent) B.
Dear Mr. B:
(I hope you don’t mind me calling you that. It’s easier than spelling out your whole name.) Thank you for writing to me. I showed your letter to Miss Peabody. I thought she would be all happy but at first she seemed a little upset. I could tell because her face got red and she couldn’t get her words out. But then she took a deep breath and said it was good because Jesus forgives sinners and we should try to be more like Jesus. I get confuzed because sometimes she says we’re all sinners, but I guess some people are bigger sinners than others. Are you a big sinner Mr. B? Is that why they put you in jail? I hope Jesus will forgive you so you can go to heaven when you die (which I hope won’t be for a long long time). Anyway, Miss Peabody says I can keep sending you letters.
Your freind, Ricky
To answer your question about am I a sinner, let me just say I have done things I am not proud of. But they could not be helped, especially in my line of work. However I always tried to be a standup guy. I never welshed on a bet or ratted out an associate or hurt a woman or kid. I hope the man upstairs will take that into account. In the meantime, my attorney has gotten me a new hearing so I might be getting out of here one of these days. If I do, I would like to meet you and buy you an ice cream. What is your favorite
flavor? Your pal, Vinnie
Rocky Road. In a dish with sprinkles. Can I get 2 scoops? My mom only lets me have 1. She says 2 gets me all hyped up. Anyway, I was wondering if I could ask you for advise. There’s this kid at school who has been picking on me. His name is Josh. He’s like twice as big as me and calls me names like Four Eyes (because I wear glasses) and Metal Mouth (because I have braces). He likes to push me around in front of the other guys. I think he hates me because I’m smart, especially in math and reading. I told my mom and she said just to ignore him which is hard because he always starts it. I told Miss Peabody also and she said to turn the other cheek but I don’t even know what that means. I don’t have a dad. He fell off a roof and died when I was little. So you’re the only one who can help. I hope you don’t mind.
Your freind, Ricky
I do not mind at all. In fact I am honored that you would ask. I will tell you exactly the same thing I told my own boy when he was your age. The only way to stop a bully is to stand up to him. The next time he starts in on you, look him straight in the eye and say “Back off or I will break your fucking jaw.” Please excuse the language but it is important to get his attention and let him know you are serious. It will shock him and while he is thinking about it, you hit him right on the button which means his chin. Since he is twice your size, you need something to level the playing field. Get a roll of nickels and wrap your hand around it when he is not looking. The extra weight will make you hit harder. And this is important, you do not need a big wind up and swing, because that will telegraph your punch. Just a short shot will do. Be sure to practice at home against a pillow so it becomes second nature. He will not expect it and he will never see it coming. It will do the trick, I guarantee. Good luck!
Your pal, Big Vin
Dear Big Vin (you sure do have a lot of nicknames):
Guess what. It worked! Just like you said. I practiced and practiced and when Josh started like he always does, I said what you told me to say. (I practiced that too when my mom wasn’t around.) His eyes got real wide for a second and then I hit him in the jaw with the nickels and he went right down and stayed down. One of his friends hit me in the face when I wasn’t looking and broke my glasses, but you know what? It didn’t hurt as bad as I thought, and then I punched him in the nose and it bled everywhere and he started to cry. Then we all got sent to the principle’s office and they called my mom and Josh’s dad and the other kid’s mom and we got suspended for a week. And then my mom said she didn’t know what got into me and she grounded me for a week and Miss Peabody made me write an S.A. but it was worth it. Because now we’re back in school and everyone is leaving me alone and Katie Bradshaw is looking at me different and I think she likes me. And I think I like her too but I don’t know how to talk to girls. So anyway thank you for everything. I’m really happy you’re my freind.
Your freind, Ricky
That is the best letter I have ever received. I know you have learned valuable lessons that will serve you well as you go through life. Sometimes you have to take matters into your own hands. Also a sock in the face does not hurt as much as you imagined (unless the other guy has a roll of nickels too). If your own father was still alive, he would be very proud of you. And so am I. By the way, in regards to one Katie Bradshaw, you do not need to be afraid to talk to her. In my experience when it comes to females of the opposite gender, just ask them questions like what is their favorite class and movie and color and let them do all the talking. She will think you are an excellent conversationalist. Besides, women like the strong silent type and she already thinks as much now that she has seen you in action. So you are in like Flynn. And if you go out with her and she leans in at some point and bats her eyes, it means she wants you to kiss her. So kiss her softly on the lips with your mouth open just a little but do not slip her the tongue because you are a gentleman and a gentleman always waits until the second date.
Your best pal, Vincent
PS I make some dough here on the side and I am sending you a check in the amount of $50 to buy your mom a new pillow and also a little something extra to show Katie Bradshaw a real nice time.
Good news! You give the best advise ever. I did what you said and asked Katie to go to a movie with me and she said yes. My heart was beating so fast and I couldn’t catch my breath but I did it anyway. Plus I asked her best friend ahead of time what her favorite thing is and she said Katie collects frogs (not real ones) so I got her this stuffed frog and she gave me a hug. And then my mom drove us to the movies and was saw Madagascar 3 or 4 or 5 and that was great and I didn’t have to talk because we were watching the movie. My mom sat in the back which wasn’t cool, but she couldn’t see when Katie held my hand so I guess it worked out OK. And then we went for ice cream and I kissed her just like you said and it was the best day of my life so far. And it’s all because of you.
Your best pal, Ricky
I am so happy things worked out. You are a fast learner. And I have news of my own. My attorney got my sentence reduced to five years. With good behavior, I will be out in three. I cannot wait for us to meet. I am thinking about going back into business and if you are interested, there are more things I could teach you. I was always a little sad that my own son never followed in the old man’s footsteps. This could be a great opportunity for a sharp young fellow like you. Please don’t say anything to your mom or Miss Peabody for now. I think we should surprise them later.
Your best pal, Vincent
Dear Vincent: It’s a deal.
Your best pal, Ricky