Donna, Patti and Deb were in this real good mood, singing, dancing down the hallway. It was real sweet and funny, them singing that commercial. They sounded good, they really did.
"Bee-oh! (Clap!) En-oh! (Clap!) Em-oh! (Clap!) Bonomo! Oh! Oh! Oh! (Clap!) It's Bonomo! Turkish! TAFFY!"
Of the three, Donna's the best looking. She's the best looking girl in the whole junior high, maybe even the entire world. I mean, name any movie star, and she puts 'em all to shame. She really does. Her hair's strawberry blonde, in a beehive. It always reminds me of the cotton candy you get at Coleman Brothers Carnival. And she's got these green eyes, like glass, and this spray of freckles across the tiniest nose. You wouldn't think a nose could be so cute, but hers is, and it hovers, like a hummingbird above a flower, over this easy smile. And her voice just sends me, it reminds me of church bells off in the distance, I swear. I love that voice.
Donna never wears makeup. All her friends do, but she doesn't. And she looks better than them, better than anyone, really. And today she was wearing a plaid skirt with suspenders, the hem short, above the knees, a white blouse with french cuffs and her really tuff little ankle-high black boots. I mean, she's just perfect. And the best part is, she's not the least bit stuck up, she's a really good kid. Some of the sharp girls are stuck up, but not Donna. I love that perfume she wears. All the sharp girls wear it. I should find out what it's called and buy a bottle someday, so I can sniff it whenever I want.
Yeah, I'm in love with Donna. I was from the moment I saw her, the first day of seventh grade, in home room, I'll never forget seeing her that first time. Sometimes we talk on the phone. I love her voice. After we hang up, I kiss the receiver, honest, I do.
If you saw her, you'd be in love with her, too. You really would. But Owen's her boyfriend. They've been going steady since, like, forever. Fifth grade, she told me. They'll get married someday, for sure. Still, I love her. I think about her all the time. I can't help it.
Anyway, the Bonomo song. That's how it began, the last day of seventh grade.
It's been quite a year, really, when you stop and think about it. I mean, it started off nice and fun, everything was Sugar Shack and My Boyfriend's Back, but then Kennedy got shot, and everyone seemed gloomy until just after New Year's. Then everything was Beatlemania, everyone was excited again with The Beatles and The Dave Clark Five and The Searchers and everything.
Just before Christmas vacation, though, there was one good day. Banjo Eyes, I mean, Mr. Gagliardi, cancelled gym class, we didn't have to suit up, and it was boys and girls together, he held a little dance right there in the gym for us. He said it was time we started preparing for sock hops and stuff. He played some 45's over the PA system: The Marvelettes, The Impressions and Major Lance. And Mickey's Monkey, I love that song, I really do. So we danced around, Twisting, Donna lost her footing, slipped a little, but caught herself without falling and said, "Woops! La dee dah!" never missing a beat. It's stuff like that that makes you love her even more, if that's possible.
At the very end, Mr. Gagliardi held up a 45 and said, "In my opinion this is the most significant popular song of 1963." He's a young guy, for a teacher, so he listens to WPOP and all, he's pretty sharp for a guy with banjo eyes, I'll give him that. Then he gave the record a spin.
"Deet! Dunt dunt dunt. Dunt dunt... Louie lew EYE aye... We gotta go now, yi, yi, yi, yi... LET'S GO!"
Marvin says it's got dirty words, but no one can understand most of them, although I can make out some of them, and they are pretty dirty. Anyhow, that was a real good day even if Kennedy was dead and all.
I don't tell people this because I'm not exactly winning too many popularity contests, but I felt sorry for Oswald, when I saw him get shot. Don't get me wrong, I liked Kennedy and all, he seemed pretty sharp, and I felt bad for his wife and kids and all. But when I saw Oswald get shot, that's when I got real sad. Like I said, I don't tell that to people, but it is how I feel.
After The Beatles hit, it was Beatlemania: Beatle hours, Beatle magazines, Beatle cards and stuff. One day, Lenny, this real weakling kid, wore a Beatle wig to school and got some attention for once, he was kind of a hit for once. But when he went to the boys' room, a bunch of hoody kids, eighth-graders, were in there, smoking. They yanked the thing off Lenny's head and tossed it in a toilet. He started blubbering, said his sister bought it for him, and Stanley, the leader, called him a crybaby and told him The Beatles were fairies and told him to get the hell out, go piss in the girls' room with all the other girls. On the way out, Stanley gave Lenny a kick, a hard kick, on his behind. I think that was really uncalled for, that kick. I mean, Lenny was already crying, how much do you want out of a guy?
I never had money for Beatle records, but when the old lady's out of the house, I'd listen to them on the radio. I love The Beatles, not as much as I love Donna, but I do love them.
I remember when Mr. Deros intercepted that note Owen sent to Donna. He read it out loud to the class. And this is what it was, Owen had written out the lyrics to PS: I Love You. That was so tuff. We laughed and all, even Owen and Donna, especially the way Mr. Deros read it, all lovey-dovey, but, really, it was pretty tuff for Owen to do that. They'll get married someday. I wish I could hate Owen, but I can't, he's a real good kid. Actually, I'd like to be him, if you want to know. He has it made. I wish I was Owen.
The thing is, after school today, I got this real bright idea to skip the bus ride home, I'd walk it. My report card was real bad, one C, the rest D's, even worse than last semester. I was in no hurry to get home. So I walked, all the way down the long hill, around the corner, past The Pizza Palace and all the gas stations, stopping at the one with the '51 Ford custom, I love that car. It's candy apple green, so tuff. Then I got going again, along the factories, over the bridge - the air smells so good up there on the bridge, and spitting in the river is real fun. Then into town.
From town to home is one long walk, and I'd already had a real long walk, I was beat, but like I say, I was in no hurry to get home with this report card. My old lady's been the Creature From The Black Lagoon ever since the old man split. It's just the two of us in that crummy little house. There's times I've wished her dead, I swear. She's always on my case. It can drive me nuts. And with this report card, I knew I was done. Order the tombstone.
As long as I was in town, I figured, why not go to Woolworth's, thumb through the records? It don't cost nothing to look, as my old man used to tell me. I made a beeline to The Beatles bin, and when I saw Meet The Beatles, I just had to have it. But I don't have money, I don't have an allowance. My old man don't send us nothing, we're on relief, the idea of an allowance is a joke. Now, I know what Joey said: No one, not even him, has ever shoplifted even a 45 out of Woolworth's, let alone an album, on account of The Witch, this old bag who watches all us kids like a hawk, like we're mice for her to eat or something. But that made me want it all the more. And I remember seeing, on this TV show, that if you walk out a door, backwards, they won't notice, they'll actually think you're walking into the joint. And it was warm out, all the doors propped open. So I picked up the record, like I owned it, acting real casual - even if I was sweating icy bullets down my ribcage and my knees were flubber.
Anyhow I did it, just started walking backwards out the door, whistling. That's when I heard The Witch. "What do you think you're doing?! Come back here with that record, you little punk!"
I was shoving people out of the way, running down Main Street as fast as I could, as fast as you can run in these shoes. I mean, pointed toes, cuban heels - with cleats?! Try it sometime - in tight pants! My heart wasn't in my throat, it was in my mouth, I could practically spit it out on the sidewalk. Then I started skidding along on my cleats, slammed into a fat man, sent him sprawling. I heard his pants rip, he was cursing, but I had no time to learn some new swear words, I just kept going, sprinting, past McCann's Hardware, I knocked over a mom and her little boy, saw Bondi's Barbershop go by in a flash. Then a hard right, down Bank St., a left, up that hill, the big one, to where all the dormitories are for the college kids, until I knew I was safe. My sides hurt SO much, and I was gasping for air, like a drowning guy, but I was safe. And I owned Meet The Beatles.
I tore the plastic off the cover, a gust carried it away. Then I decided to lie on the lawn, face down. The cool grass felt so good, so refreshing, like Coca Cola, so I just stayed like that, holding my record. I could hear the college kids walking near me, one laughing, "What's with that kid? Did he die?"
I fell asleep.
I woke up, all groggy, it was getting dark and chilly, and I had a forty-five minute walk ahead of me, my legs were all shaky and I was thirsty as anything, no dough for a soda.
What a drag it was getting home to that dump with the peeling paint. I was dead tired, dying of thirst, my feet were blistered and killing me and I knew the old lady was going to slit my throat. I was scared. Exhausted and scared. Actually, I guess the word is dread. I was filled with dread.
I tried to sneak in, but she was at the door in a flash. You wouldn't believe a fossil could move so fast. She'd been in the kitchen dicing onions, chopping them to bits with the knife, the big one, but there she is, in front of me, yelling at me. I hate it when she yells. It drives me nuts, it really does, I can't stand her voice - even when she's not shouting.
"Where have you been?! Why weren't you on the bus?! Where's your report card?!"
Then she spots the record and says, "Where'd you get that? You don't have no money! Where'd you get that?!"
"A kid gave it to me."
She called me a liar, ripped the report card right out of my hand, sent my record flying, slapped my mouth. When she saw those grades, she exploded all over again, said I was no good, just like my old man, the drunk. Then she remembered the record, started in on that a second time. She knew I boosted it, she can read me like a book, she's like a gypsy fortuneteller. She slapped me across the face again and again. I screamed, "STOP IT! STOP IT! YOU'RE HURTING ME! WAIT A MINUTE! WAIT A MINUTE! WHAT'RE YOU SO MAD ABOUT?! AT LEAST I PASSED EVERYTHING! I WON'T HAVE TO REPEAT! A KID GAVE IT TO ME!"
I shielded my face with my hands, but then she slapped the back of my head so hard I saw stars, I swear to God.
She kept whacking me, screeching, calling me a liar and a crook and a retard.
I ran into the kitchen - but still with the hitting and the screaming.
All I could see was red. I can't stand being yelled at. Why couldn't she just, at least, have shut her trap?! That voice of hers drives me crazy, it's like it's all out of tune or something. Why couldn't she have just hit me, but kept her yap buttoned?!
But no, she kept at it. And at it... I tried to make a break for it, but she was stationed in the kitchen doorway, blocking me like some kind of Green Bay Packer, shifting left to right, on her toes, left to right, on those little feet, snorting like a beast.
Officer (deep breath... exhale)... that's when I picked up the knife, the big knife she was chopping the onions with...