I’m looking around. It’s terrible when a kid begins to reject his home. I love it here! Coming up the back steps yelling, “What’s for supper, ma? Oh wow, red cabbage!” Up to this moment, nothing is greater than mixing five big gobs of red cabbage with mashed potatoes, pouring ketchup on it and gulfing it down. And now, I’m sitting there with my fork. My father is reading the sports page, my kid brother is whining that he wants to get up, my mother is yelling at him to shut up and finish his supper.
This night something has changed. It’s Friday night. I don’t know how to say to my mother, “Mother, I’m going out tonight and I won’t be back till maybe nine-thirty.” Ours is strictly a nine-thirty house. My kid brother eight-thirty. He’s a year-and-a-half younger and rank has its privileges. Nine-thirty I’d come reeling in from a tough game of kick the can, sweating, mosquitoes all over me. I’d smoked something back of the garage and I’m hiding the odor with gum. I’d get in and my mother would say, “It’s nine-forty. Your father doesn’t like it!”
Okay, fateful Friday night and I’m sitting there. I say, “Ma, I’ve got a date tonight.”
She says, “Esther Jane is a nice girl.” She likes girls who would come in and talk about baking cakes and stuff.
I say, “No, I’m going out with Pearl.”
She says, “Pearl?” Pearl? Every kid in the neighborhood is known and cataloged. There is Dawn, there is Esther Jane, there is Christine, etc. Every last kid.
I say, “Yeah, she lives in the next neighborhood, on the next block.”
“Where does she live?”
The old man puts down his paper. He’s interested—his kid’s got a chick.
I say, “She lives over across Kennedy.”
My mother says, “Where? Where does she live?”
And I say, “Oh,…I don’t know. I don’t remember.”
The old man says, “Where does she live?”
“Beacon Street.” It’s as though eight floodlights have gone on in the room.
My father says, “Beacon Street?”
My mother puts the pan down and she says, “Where?”
I say, “Beacon Street, mom.”
“Where does she live on Beacon Street?” On Beacon Street, like all rich streets, there is a kind of rich end and then there is the rich-rich end.
I say, “Well, she lives down by Morton Street.”
Morton Street and Beacon Street go right to Olympus and meet there, and my mother knows there are only three houses at that corner.
She says, “Pearl who?” Kids don’t know these special subtleties.
I say, “Pearl Johnson.”
My old man turns and looks at me, and I think I’ve done something terrible. It is that funny thing in the air. His eyes bug open. He says, “Johnson?”
“Yeah, Pearl Johnson. I met her in Biology 3.”
He says, “You mean the Johnsons from Morton Street and Beacon?”
I say, “Yeah.”
More to come