Richard + Bobby,
Chapter 9: STATEN ISLAND, NEW YORK (Part 8)
I let myself in and go up to my room unobtrusively to avoid my parents. I don’t yet know how much of Richard’s story I want to reveal to them. Hearing Richard’s father is a gangster, well it will not sit well with them. But the only other story I have is Richard’s fabrication. It’s bad, too.
I lie on my bed and grab a book from my nightstand. Three pages later I can’t recall a word of what I’ve read. I toss it aside in favor of a textbook, algebra. I figure a subject requiring my full attention will allow me to concentrate on something other than Richard and his parents. I’ve worked through several problems, when my mother yells there is a phone call for me. I close the book and go downstairs to where the phone is, in the hallway. My mother is waving the phone. “It’s Richard.” I can’t determine if her tone is anger or irritation; it is not pleasure. I don’t think she is upset with Richard, or that Richard is phoning me. She’s unhappy with me, displeased I haven’t told her about my afternoon with the DeSantis family. I take the phone, put it to my ear, and wait for her to leave.
“Richard,” I say.
“What you doing, Babe?” he asks.
“Why not take a break? I got Bobby’s car. Let’s cruise.”
I am resentful of Bobby, of Richard’s friendship with him, that Bobby can do things for Richard I can’t. But I want to see Richard. I want to talk about our afternoon. I know he’ll be resistant, but he’ll concede to me. Maybe I’ll feel better afterwards.
“Sure,” I say.
He says he’ll meet me in front of my house in five minutes, but I tell him to pick me up around the corner in fifteen. I hang up and dial Angie. Her mother answers. Angie comes on the line a minute later. I speak softly, filling her in on my lunch with the DeSantis clan. I skirt the details and leave it that we had a pleasant lunch, that Richard’s mother is a remarkable cook, that Richard’s parents are charming. All true. I explain Richard and I want to drive around for a while. I ask her to phone me in a couple of minutes. She understands. I hang up and nosily trot upstairs. I want my mother to know I am back in my room. I solve an algebra problem before the phone rings and my mother yells, “Angie.”
I run down and take the phone from her. I shoo her away, and commence whispering secret girl talk to which no one, not even loving, caring mothers, may listen.
“Thanks, Angie,” I say.
“Share with me when you’re done,” Angie says.
I promise I will.
I’m on the phone for less than a minute. I pop into the kitchen, where my mother mops an already immaculate floor. She works constantly, labors like Penelope keeping house, hearth, and family hail and together. She tires my father, who cannot bear to watch her and usually retreats to the living room, to his chair, to contemplate the landscape on the backs of his eyelids.
“Mom, can I go out with Angie? She has to tell me something.” I speak with studied and practiced frenzy.
She stops swirling the mop. “What were you just doing with Angie?”
“This is private talk,” I plead. “You know, prying ears.”
“Hmm,” is the sum total of her comment, deeply cynical, mistrustful, challenging, a declaration she’s no fool.
“Ears, eyes, whatever. It’s a little too spicy for the house.”
“Spicy,” she exclaims. “I hope you girls aren’t doing anything you’ll be sorry for.”
“Oh, it’s nothing like what you’re thinking,” I say. “You certainly have a tendency to imagine the worst.”
“Maybe it’s because I’ve seen the worse,” she retorts, probably conjuring images of the dastardly Uncle Phil, long banished from the family portrait, but not forgotten.
“Angie has a new boyfriend and she wants to fill me in. That’s all.”
“You tell Angie to mind herself, and be back in an hour. Tomorrow’s a school day.”
I walk quickly away from my house, down the street to the corner. As I make the turn, I see Bobby’s car. I despise the car. It’s like Bobby himself, a crude and rude machine. Richard is behind the wheel and when he sees me he raises a hand. He’s parked toward the middle of the block on the opposite side. It’s an old Chevy Belair two-door, two very large and heavy doors. I have to strain to open and close those doors. The thing is a sickening color, two-tone blue, sky and sea. It’s dented all over, as if Bobby banged little pockmarks in for a reason known only to him. And it’s loud. Not pleasant loud, or expensive loud like some sports cars, but sloppy loud, neglected loud, poverty loud, angry loud, as it needs a new muffler, a tune-up, a complete overall, or more mercifully, a trip to the junkyard. All very odd, oxymoronic, considering Bobby’s one skill. Worse, it smells of Bobby, the rank foulness of somebody who lives his life under a layer of crud.
I acknowledge Richard, and shutter at the car, and walk quickly to the middle of the block. I look both ways. It’s a quiet street, the typical Creek Falls street, narrow and empty. Except today it isn’t empty. At the end of the street, I see a car, an odd blue car, monotone blue the shade of bright sky and weirdly familiar, a grotesque doppelganger of Bobby’s. It’s lumbering, drifting toward the middle. I judge I can easily stroll across the street and seat myself beside Richard before it passes the Belair.
I’m halfway across when I sense something isn’t right. There’s a roar in the air, a fire-breathing explosion of hell let loose. I turn in the direction of the onslaught of screeching rubber, thumping metal, billowing exhaust, and I see the lethargic car now transformed into a malevolent monster of motion, charging me. I want to move. I need to move. But I’m frozen.
Above the approaching racket, Richard’s voice rings through and I turn and focus on him. Strangely, he’s thrusting himself through the door window of Bobby’s junk heap, draping over the door, a giant slab the size and weight of a vault door that I struggle to open and wish I were battling with this very moment. Richard is smiling at me, dazzling me with bright teeth, brighter than human teeth could possibly be in the real world. Maybe I am in another world, a different dimension, where bright blue cars materialize on small town streets to harass young women like me. Richard gestures at me, encouraging in the most lackadaisical manner to come on over, put a move on it lazy bones so we can putter away. Why, I wonder, isn’t he rushing to me, snatching me into his arms, and racing me away from harm?
I have to get going. I turn and see the bright blue car is nearly on me. I have to get going. I’m thinking this when the car suddenly dips under me, launches me skyward. I summersault onto the hood, where I slide up to the windshield and come face to face with the driver. He’s dressed completely in blue to match his car—blue fedora, blue shirt. The fedora, brim snapped over the eyes, nearly touching the bridge of his noise, obscures his face. But as I crack the windshield and fly up and over it and bounce once on the roof, once on the trunk lid, and land on the pavement, I am convinced the man is Fred, the betrayer. Maybe he fears I will reveal his true identity. And Richard, why didn’t you help me? “Why?” I ask, my last word as my eyelids close.