The radio blared
"Why Do Fools Fall in Love" by Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers as Eddy and Frankie strolled unhurriedly on the grounds of
their alma mater, Roosevelt High School. Each man was lost in his own private reverie, Eddy sipping from a can of Coke, Frankie
taking long pulls from a bottle of beer. Eddy paused for a moment to raise the volume on the radio, carefully so as not to
spill his drink; Frankie chuckled at him. "Didn't realize you were such a big fan of Frankie Lymon, Steinberg."
"I like this song, always have," he said. Hefting the bulky boombox, he resumed walking, Frankie ambling alongside. "I guess
you might say I have something of a sentimental attachment to it. It always seems to have been playing whenever anything significant
or exciting happened in my life."
another gulp of beer. "This is the song that was playing on the car radio the first time you got laid, right?"
but couldn't help smiling. "No, that was 'Earth Angel' by The Penguins. I remember that very distinctly." He paused, then
chuckled with embarrassment. "'Why Do Fools Fall in Love' was one of the songs that was playing on the radio the first
time a girl made me come."
"'ONE of the
songs'? How many songs did it take you to accomplish that little task?" Frankie retorted. "I wasn't no slouch in them
days, but at the age of sixteen I can guaran-damn-tee you that the song wouldn't even be over yet before the situation came
to a happy ending."
sheepishly. "Well, it didn't ... I mean, I didn't ... well, I guess I was kinda nervous and I just—"
up and slapped Eddy on the back. "Stein, you haven't changed a bit. Not a bit!" He paused, then asked, "Do you still remember
her name? The girl who took your cherry, that is."
responded without hesitation. "Her name was actually Angel! That's how I remember. I thought it was such a coincidence that
'Earth Angel' was playing at the time." He laughed. "And on that particular occasion there was plenty of song left
over at the end of it. I don't think I lasted more than fifteen seconds."
"Yep, good memory.
Except her name was actually Stella. Stella Diamond. 'Angel' was just a nickname. You might say she was a real popular
gal back in those days. Her and her younger sister, Debbie. Denny and I got to know Debbie really, really well." Frankie grinned
at the memory. "Yeah, theirs was a really friendly family. I'll lay you ten to one odds that half the male high-school population
lost their virginity to one of the Diamond sisters." He glanced over at Eddy's boombox as the song ended and the radio station
went to commercial. "And back then we got our music either from the car radio or a transistor, not a damn suitcase like
you're struggling with there. We might not have had window-rattling, earth-shaking turbo bass, but it was good enough for
"Yeah, it was,"
Eddy agreed, pausing again to lower the volume on the unit. "That's what it was all about in those days. The music, and the
girls, the cars ... and the action."
with laughter. "'Action'? Exactly what 'action' you referrin' to, Stein? You never saw any action. At the least sign of trouble,
you'd high-tail it for home, usually so fast that I never saw you leave. Most of the time you'd be in your house watchin'
TV by the time I realized that the D.A.'s were suddenly a trio."
"Well ... hell,
yeah, I mean, you and the guys showed me how to defend myself, and I was confident, but I wasn't stupid. I stayed around plenty
of times, but I drew the line at some of those gorillas from the other part of town, the ones who looked like linebackers. A
few of 'em outweighed me by a hundred pounds or more. I knew what the inevitable result would be if I messed with them,
and I didn't feel like sticking around to prove my own theory. You know as well as I do that they always picked on the little
"Yeah, but you
also knew that me and the guys wouldn't let anything happen to you," Frankie said. "It wouldn't have looked good for the D.A.'s."
He laughed. "Especially Tony. Anybody harmed a hair on your head, Tony woulda killed them."
killed," Eddy retorted. "Like my father always told me, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. I just figured it would
be safest for everyone if the weak link got out of Dodge. But, let's be fair, I stayed around for a good number of incidents.
I might've hid behind Tony's back a few times, but I was there."
"Yeah, you were," Frankie conceded.
The men continued walking for another couple
of minutes, neither speaking. Eddy smiled as the last commercial in the segment ended and the deejay, Artie Wynn, announced
the next song, "The Stroll" by The Diamonds. Artie, like the D.A.'s, was a member of the Roosevelt High Class of 1958 and
had emceed several of the high-school dances at the time. Wordlessly, Eddy nudged Frankie's arm to get his attention, gestured
toward a stately oak tree, then started heading in the direction of the tree, dancing the Stroll for most of the way.
Frankie kept pace with him but didn't bother participating in Eddy's choreography. Eddy gratefully placed the boombox on the
ground by the tree, then sat down next to it, sighing with pleasure as he leaned against the trunk. Frankie paused to yank
a long blade of grass from the ground and stick it in his mouth, then he too sat against the tree, about three feet from Eddy.
The men sat quietly, Eddy finishing the last of his Coke, Frankie placing his empty beer bottle on the ground between him
and Eddy and then turning his attention to the blade of grass between his lips. He perked up when "Hound Dog" by Elvis Presley
came on the radio, but he didn't speak.
Finally, Eddy commented, "Sometimes it
seems like such a long time ago ... yet not really, if you know what I mean. I can remember most of it with such clarity.
Like it happened only yesterday."
Frankie nodded as he nibbled on the grass.
"Yeah," he said after an interval. "I know what you mean."
"It seems like we've never been out of
touch with each other," Eddy went on, staring into space at something only he could see. "Yet how many times have we actually
seen each other since graduation? Not that many, really."
"Well, let's see." Frankie took the blade
of grass from his mouth and used it to count off the years on the fingers of his other hand. "There was the five-year reunion
... that would've been in 1963. You and Tony were both married by then. Tony's wife Peg was pregnant, I remember. Then there
was the ten-year reunion. Denny missed that one because Brenda was about to have Sean and he wanted to stay home
with her because she was having a hard time with the pregnancy. That one was in '68. Then there was the fifteenth ... no,
wait, there wasn't a fifteen-year reunion. We didn't see each other again until the twenty-year reunion, which would've been
1978. I remember Denny was divorced and had started gaining a little weight; he was probably around twenty-five pounds overweight
and I was teasing him about it, calling him Denny the Doughboy. Then there was the twenty-five-year reunion, but two days
before I was set to head on out, my son Vincent was born, a month ahead of schedule. So I missed that one. That was in 1983."
Eddy laughed, interrupting Frankie's flow.
"You're really good at remembering all those years, Frankie."
Frankie chuckled. "Not so much remembering
them; just figuring out when they were based on the year we graduated. The twenty-fifth was easy to remember because of Vincent,
"Impressive," Eddy commented, as he shifted
position on the ground.
Frankie grinned at him. "Well, hell, I
had the best math tutor in the world." He leaned across the space between them to give Eddy a poke in the arm.
Eddy laughed again; then his mood changed
and he grew sober. "And of course there was that special thirty-year reunion. June of 1988. The one that Charlie Bonner put
together. That one was ... well, not to over-use the word, but it was special. A lot happened during that month. That was
the reunion that changed all our lives."
"Especially Tony's," Frankie murmured,
almost under his breath. He resumed his contemplation of the blade of grass.
"Yeah, especially Tony's. But we were all
impacted one way or another. Our lives all changed, to the point where there was no looking back. You remember what happened
with me. And I'm sure you remember that little incident with Sean. I know Denny was blaming himself for it for a very long
time afterwards. And of course we can't forget the changes that took place in your life too." Eddy settled his back against
the tree once more, then turned and smiled at Frankie. "I've always thought that our thirty-year reunion would make one hell
of a book."
Frankie laughed. "And who the hell do you
think would buy it?"
Eddy laughed also. "You never know," he
said, placing his Coke can on the ground where it clinked against Frankie's beer bottle. "You never know."
The men were silent for a few minutes,
then Frankie spoke up again. "Hey, Steinberg?"
"Yeah, Frankie?" Eddy responded.
"Why the hell are we sitting under a tree?"
Eddy laughed. "I have no idea."
"C'mon." Frankie stood up. "Let's blow
this popsicle stand."
"You got it." Eddy stood, stretched, and
leaned down to pick up the boombox. He then hurried to catch up to Frankie.
"A book, huh?" Frankie muttered as "My
Prayer" by The Platters faded out, and "Whole Lotta Shakin'" by Jerry Lee Lewis came on. Eddy paused again to crank up the
volume on the boombox.
"Yeah, a book," Eddy said firmly. "Hey,
a guy can dream, can't he?"
"Well, that's your whole damn problem right
there. You spend too much time dreamin' and not enough time doin' ..."
"Now, wait a minute, that's not fair! I
do as much as any of you guys ..."
"You're as bad as Tony! You need to get
your head outta your ass, Stein, and start payin' attention to the real world. A book. Sheesh ..."