Thanks to everyone who has made Ice Cream Camelot such a huge success! I know you've waited, but the paperback version will be released late this Spring. I have had numerous inquires as to what happened to young Billy beyond grade school. I am hard at work on a follow up memoir titled A Change Is Gonna Come. Picking up where Ice Cream Camelot left off, it follows me as I move through high school, the army and beyond. Look for a possible winter release. In the mean time I'll be posting random chapters here, works in progress, for your enjoyment.
Be sure to comment, like, link and share the love!
By the time I escaped the killer
nuns at St. Pius X Grade School my drinking was starting to get out of control.
Dad had even caught me one night returning home drunk from a session of singing
doo wop with my older buddies. With an expression that told me he knew what I’d
been up to, he sent me off to bed.
I knew there would be more to come.
It wasn’t so much that I’d been
caught that upset me. But the look of disappointment in Dad’s eyes brought back
memories of all the other times, the times I’d been high or drunk and manage to
escape detection. It had been over four years since I started drinking,
sniffing glue and smoking pot. Fooling myself into believing it was all under
control, I teetered dangerously close to the abyss of addiction. I’ve yet to
completely figure out if my parents ever knew of my activities. I prefer to
believe that they were simply clueless, doing the best they knew how to raise a
rebellious, stubborn and curious son.
As it turned out I was right, Dad
was waiting for me the next morning at the breakfast table. The absence of my
sister and mother told me this wasn’t good. But once again my particle and
loving father surprised me. In no uncertain terms, tempered with homemade
waffles and maple syrup, he advised me of the dangerous game I was playing. His
words made sense and I think for the first time I began to see the damage I was
doing. I had already blown my internship at WIBG radio, working with DJ legends
Hy Lit and Joe Niagara. My pitching arm was stronger than ever but I’d been
banned from every Little League organization in the area for my drinking and
obnoxious behavior. Yet in my stubbornness, I refused to see the long term, bigger picture as my dad explained.
Drinking was interfering with things I wanted to do, that’s all. My young mind
said simply, “Be more careful and slow down a bit.” That was all. Even my
father’s stern reminder of the pact he and I had made allowing me to attend
public school made little impression.
I could handle it.
The summer between eighth and ninth
grade still remains mostly a hazy memory. Most of what I recall comes second
hand by way of friends and some long gone writings. But I do remember the date
June 2, 1965 was the last Wednesday
of grade school. I was saying goodbye to St. Pius X, and killer nuns, and
school bullies and, as it turned out, to my friends. I knew that I would be
attending public school in the fall; that most all of my classmates would be
going on to Cardinal O’Hara High; that things would change.
I didn’t know how quickly they would
My long time girlfriend Amy and I
had already come to terms with the idea of different schools. After four
wonderful, turbulent, exciting, confusing, and memorable years of growing and
learning together, we agreed that our relationship had come full circle. We
still cared greatly for one another. But it was time to move on, learn new
things, and meet other people. We agreed we would remain friends – close,
special friends – while we explored the world beyond St. Pius X Grade School, the
Lawrence Park Shopping Center, and our click of friends.
Neither of us suspected it would be
the last time we’d ever see each other.
I remember the look in her eyes,
those gorgeous mysterious hazel orbs that had held so much excitement and
intrigue for me, on that final Wednesday. Sister Joann made a touching if a bit
contrived and overlong speech about moving on and becoming young adults. It was
just a bit too pat and rehearsed for my taste. Amy agreed. The Sisters of the
Sacred Heart were as eager to see us go as we were to leave.
From behind, a slender well
manicured hand with the pinky nail bitten down found my shoulder. Amy’s soft
touch lingered. It was a touch I’d grown to know and love over the last four
years. A minute later the bell rang and it was over. Nine years of growing, and
learning; of confusion, and being bullied; of friendships, and falling in love
and discovering myself and the world around me, with the shrill tolling of a
bell it all came to an end.
Memories came rushing back in a
flood of bittersweet images. I thought of failing the fifth grade and the
friends that had moved on ahead of me; of the first day of fifth grade part two
and my father’s chiding words of encouragement, “New faces; new experiences;
new friends to make.” I thought of the
new friends I’d made. I remembered my first meeting with the beautiful and
beguiling Amy Johns who confounded and captivated me so. And I thought about
Chris, the best friend I’d lost to a careless game of chase.
My eyes began to mist.
Fighting back tears of confusion and
wonder, I turned in my seat. Amy stood at my side looking down. Her hazel eyes
“Well…” she said softly before
“Yeah…” I managed.
Later that day we talked and
reminisced with her mom over chocolate ice cream. In her back yard play fort,
Amy and I awkwardly clung together. There didn’t seem much for us to say. Amy
returned the simple silver friendship ring I’d given her, and that was that.
The main difference between the
summer of ’65 and past summer vacations was that I was alone. Amy and her
family were once again summering in Atlantic City. My other friends, Tommy and
Frankie and the rest, were busy with their own activities. I never saw any of
them again. Instead I returned to my routine of sitting in the bleachers at the
Little League games and then wandering up to the public grade school where I’d
find my older friends.
But all this too was changing. The
baseball games held little interest for me if I couldn’t play. And most of my
hanging buddies had moved on, too. Even my beloved transistor radio was unable
to cheer me. Long time rocker WIBG was quickly giving up the fight against the
British Invasion. As doo wop and traditional rock ‘n’ roll slipped from
popularity, Philadelphia began to vibrate to a different beat. After a couple
of false starts, the Beatles along with other English acts had finally
established a foothold in American rock ‘n’ roll. Their influence would change
the fabric of popular music forever. Even stalwart greaser DJ Jerry Blavat saw
the writing on the charts. He began spinning more Motown and less doo wop. I
remember the evening I switched on WHAT and heard the Righteous Brothers’ You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’. It
seemed to announce the end of the world as I knew it. Sure, it was a cool song.
But in my perfect world mind set it belonged on WIBG, not being spun by the
ultimate in coolness, the Geator With The
Heater. In another year the torch would be passed and the takeover complete
as upstart WFIL and their Boss Jocks ruled
the Philly airwaves. Removing the nine volt battery from its plastic case for
the last time, I parked my trusted old musical friend in the top drawer of my
I was totally alone now.
With nothing better to do, I
continued my old routine, usually with a pint of bourbon or gin secreted away
within a casual Pepsi bottle. My parents were gone a lot, Mom deep into her
acting, convincing Dad to join her and handle lighting and effects for local
performances. And my sister Mary, now a licensed driver, was spending much of
her free time on dates and with friends.
I stared at the lush green ball field
blankly. I didn’t even know who was winning. I didn’t care. Taking a long pull
from the ersatz Pepsi container, visions of Ronnie flooded my mind. It had been
a long time since I’d seen her, too long, but she remained as fresh in my
memory as yesterday’s sunset. We had met right here, on these bleachers, both
of us pretending to watch the game, both of us looking for something more;
neither of us knowing what that something might be.
She was different from Amy in almost
every way. I think that was what intrigued me so much about her. Ronnie and I
didn’t talk a lot, there was no need. We’d meet after dinner, sit in a corner
of the bleachers and share a bottle of whiskey. Often we’d wander deep into the
woods behind her house. There Ronnie allowed me to touch her; explore her young
body while she laid motionless, smoking a cigarette or just staring at the
trees. But we never spoke of the things we did. If the petting became too heavy
or uncomfortable for her she’d simply turn away.
Despite the quiet distance between
us, or perhaps because of it, I found I had strong feelings for Ronnie. I
missed her when she moved away. I loved Amy as best my young years were capable
of loving. But lying in my bed late at night, with the open window and roaring
attic fan doing little to alleviate the burning fever in my young body, it was
Ronnie I recalled.
A loud clash of thunder stirred me
from my brooding. A sudden summer shower was blowing in from the south. Within
minutes, bleachers and field alike lay deserted as parents hurried their kids
to the safety of the family sedan.
“That’s a good way to get
I looked up, finding a pair of cold black
sardonic eyes. “I know an easier way,” I replied.
A drop of rain found her slightly
turned nose. She didn’t flinch, continuing to return my stare. I felt the rain
on the back of my neck. “I’ll bet you do,” she answered with a disconnected dullness.
It was the same kind of response you got from parents and teachers who were
more interested in the things you didn’t say. “C’mon, I don’t feel like being
struck by lightning right now.” Without looking back she turned and headed off.
I don’t know why but I just sat
there, a child stubbornly defying his parent’s orders. The rain picked up. It
was cold; felt good. Taking another hard pull form my bottle, I finally slipped
from the aluminum bleachers and slowly walked home.
The rain persisted, ebbing and
flowing in sprinkles and showers throughout the night. As I figured, no one was
home to shoot me despairing looks and tell me to get out of those wet clothes
before I caught cold. I stared blankly at a rerun of The Man From UNCLE, and then went off to bed.
Sunday after dinner I headed out the
door. Mom asked where I was going. I had no idea. “To the ball field,” I called
back. I knew Little League games weren’t played on Saturdays or Sundays. I
doubted if my parents knew.
“Have a nice time,” was mom’s reply
as the screen door hissed shut.
I sat in the deserted home team
dugout nursing three fingers of rum. It was all I had left, and with my
neighbor Mike doing thirty days for drag racing down West Chester Pike while
drunk I didn’t know where or when I’d be getting my next fix. Tipping back the
bottle once again released more ghosts along with the tart liquid. Unwelcome
phantoms are the hidden prized at the bottom of every bottle of liquor. It was
right here, in the home team dugout I’d lost my virginity. It had been about a
year and a half ago but seemed an eternity. She was a gift for my thirteenth
birthday from my older doo wop singing buddies, her and a bottle of Seagram’s
Try as I may I couldn’t recall her
name. Involuntary selective memory is the bother and bonus for regular
drinkers. But her face came into sharp focus as the last drops of rum burned
their way down my throat. The girl was nothing more than a fish, a groupie.
Except for her face and the warm sensation between her legs I remembered
nothing of the encounter. But that cold December night we both got what we
wanted. She was accepted as a member of the gang that hung out at the public
school making a nuisance of themselves, singing and drinking.
And I became a man.
I laughed out loud at the thought,
coughing up thick green and brown phlegm in the process.
“Didn’t your mother ever tell you
you’d get sick sitting out in the rain?”
I spit the slimy wad to the far side
of the floor, holding up the paper sack wrapped empty bottle. “Not sick…”
A flash of white teeth approached as
she made her way across the narrow dugout. “So, what ya got for me?”
I tossed the bag after my luger. It shattered
in the corner as she flopped down next to me. “I got nothing, I’m tapped out.
All I got is my memories.” I turned and found a familiar pair of cold black
eyes. “And memories suck. At least mine do.”
“I’ll drink to that.” Slipping a
denim purse from her shoulder, my visitor produced a bottle of Thunderbird
wine. “You don’t think I carry this thing because I’m a girl do ya?”
We both laughed as she cracked open
the fresh pint. “That shit sucks worse than my memories.”
“You said it.” Taking a long pull,
she passed the bottle over. “But, whatcha gonna do?”
I accepted the offering.
“To memories,” it tasted awful, and
I had to swallow hard to get it down. I never cared much for the taste of wine
or beer. But at fourteen you couldn’t be picky.
We sat in silence for a long time. I
didn’t know what to say and she didn’t seem interested. The sky was slowly
clearing and a waning crescent moon spilled its light into the dugout. She was
someone I’d probably ignore on the street. Pretty in a plain sort of way,
piercing black eyes and tight figure were her best features. Our two brief
conversations so far bespoke of a cynical, sarcastic attitude.
I liked her immediately.
“What did you mean about knowing a
better way?” she asked, breaking the silence.
“The other day, in the bleachers,
you said you knew a better way to get electrocuted.”
“Oh…that…” More ghosts; little did I
realize at the time how large a part in my life to come those ghosts would
play. Perhaps if I’d kept a tighter rein on the endless bottles of liquor they would
have stayed put. I thought about what she’d asked. I didn’t have to think long.
The day was burned indelibly on the insides of my eyelids. It shadowed my days
and haunted my nights. “May 18, 1962.” I turned and our eyes met. “I was in the
fifth grade. I watched my best friend get fried by a high tension electrical
She didn’t blink or even stiffen the
way most people reacted when I spoke of Chris’ death. For just a moment her
eyes softened and her detached demeanor slipped – for just a moment, “I’m
sorry. Now that must have sucked!”
I laughed. I couldn’t help myself. I
laughed out loud. She laughed, too. I could picture my old pal Chris looking
down, laughing and grinning from ear to sugar bowl ear right along with us. It
was exactly the way he’d want to be remembered, with laughter.
Trudy turned out to be a combination
of both Amy and Ronnie; a mysterious amalgamation of the good and bad of both
my former girlfriends. Like Amy she was fun and interesting; unlike Amy she was
shy and withdrawn around most people. Like Ronnie she drank and smoked, and we
engaged regularly in sexual activities; unlike Ronnie she participated freely
and eagerly. We became friends, or as much of friends as she would permit. I
discovered Trudy didn’t trust many people, kids or adults. Nor did she allow
anyone into the private thoughts and feelings and fears she kept tightly
sequestered behind those impenetrable black eyes. I was afforded cleft note
glimpses of her inner mind set and rhetorical reasoning. Some of it reflected
my own; some of it frightened me.
Her drinking was a result of a
dysfunctional alcoholic home life. Trudy’s dad began feeding his daughter
liquor when she was six. After she passed out he’d sexually abuse her. When she
grew old enough to understand what was going on she started drinking on her
own. One night when she was twelve she broke a bottle of cheap rye over her
father’s head while he slept. In a day an age when abuse was spoken of in
whispers and most people preferred to look the other way, Trudy was sent to
live with foster parents. The situation only abetted her anti-socialism.
But we were a pair, Trudy and I,
soul mates, kindred spirits cast from the same flawed mold. Without
explanations or questions we understood each other. Later, perhaps too late, I
came to realize it was more than just an errant storm that had brought us
together; and more than mere alcohol that kept us together that summer. With
Amy’s departure, I had nailed my emotions to my bedroom wall and placed my
heart in the desk drawer. It was obvious Trudy had long ago done the same.
As with Ronnie, the Little League games
formed the framework for deceiving nosy parents. We’d meet and watch the game
from the bleachers while sipping bourbon or rum or gin from a Pepsi can that
fooled no one. Later we’d hang around the vacant dugouts or slip into a small,
tightly concealed clearing in the woods. One evening I introduced her to what
remained of our thinning doo wop group. The guys were cool and seemed willing
to accept her as part of the gang. As it turned out Trudy had quite a pleasant
and natural singing voice. Problem was she disliked doo wop and adored the
Beatles. After that I began spending less time hanging out and singing. New,
younger faces soon began to replace the old bunch, and by fall doo wop days at
Loomis School, like doo wop itself, were a thing of the past. I missed those
times of adolescent camaraderie. I still do. Those nights of simple songs and
innocent dreams hold some of my fondest memories.
Among the many things Trudy and I
didn’t talk about, our feelings for one another ranked right at the top. It
wasn’t necessary; we shared a quiet understanding that transcended anything I’d
experienced with Amy or Ronnie. We weren’t in love; co-dependent would be a
better term. She never cracked the door to her feelings more than her safety
chain allowed. I kept mine locked up in the drawer with my transistor. We wore
our pain and loneliness like stealth armor, visible to anyone who cared to notice;
most didn’t bother. Sex mirrored our drinking; both defined our relationship:
selfish, detached, indulgent and satisfying.
It probably should have been a
memorable summer – crossing the threshold between adolescent and teenager,
moving on – it wasn’t. I did my best to hide from the changes going on around
me and to ignore the ones that lay ahead. With Trudy I succeeded. The rest of
the summer is a blur. I remember Trudy moving away the first week of August,
sent off to live with yet another foster family. It was probably the only time
I ever saw her show any signs of emotion. “This sucks,” she said flatly, “I’ll
A week or so later I sobered up long
enough to realize junior high was just around the corner. I’d better get my act
together. I cut down on my drinking, mainly because I’d begun to hate drinking
alone. By now there was no one left to hang and sing with, and I’d lost all
touch with my old St. Pius gang. The week before Labor Day was spent shopping
with my mother. She let me pick out most of my own clothes. That turned out to
be a mistake on both our parts.
September 9, 1965 was the first
Thursday of junior high. It was the start of ninth grade; the beginning of the new Billy. I felt nervous, scared and
alone. Maybe that was because I looked like a clown.
"Love is being happy just knowing she's happy... but that isn't so easy."
Growing up I suffered from un-diagnosed dyslexia. A Peanuts coloring book helped me learn to read. Later I discovered good ole Charlie Brown had a lot more to teach me about life and about love. So for Valentine's Day here are some of the lessons I learned, and a few I probably should have learned from Charlie about love.
"Nothing takes the taste out of peanut butter quite like unrequited love." "Love is not giving up on someone when they don't love you back." "Love is a baseball." "Love is standing in a doorway just to see her if she comes walking by." "Love is visiting a sick friend." "Love is being able to spot her clear across the playground among four hundred other kids." "Love is wishing you had enough nerve to go over and talk with that little red haired girl." "Love is getting someone a glass of water in the middle of the night."
Thanks Charlie. For more on love from the Peanuts gang click here.
As you may or may not know, 2013 was a pretty rough year for me in many ways. I can see a light at the end of the tunnel, I just hope it is not a speeding train headed my way! I've had the chance to do a lot of thinking and contemplating about life recently, who knows, perhaps too much time. I can honestly say I've come up completely blank. The answers I seek just aren't there. In a classic case of speaking something into existence, it would seem one of my poems has returned to prove itself, or perhaps to haunt me:
The older I get
The further I go
The more I learn
The less I know
My work, my money, many friends, and even my softball team have been taken from me. And I have no answers, reasons or explanations as to that ultimate question: 'Why?'. I am left with just my health, my writing and my thoughts, and, once again, I have come up short. So I'll just sit back and let you good people fill in the blanks.
"The (most)______________________man is the one who has nothing left to lose."
"A man with nothing to lose is _______________."
I've had several requests to post this story from a few years back. It is one of my favorites and since this is the month of love, it seems a bit fitting. Enjoy, and be sure to 'like', 'link', comment and share the love!
hated Wednesdays. Wednesdays to her represented everything that was wrong with
the world, her world anyway. Wednesday was not a day but a hole, an unfilled
gap – like the inside of a cheap jelly doughnut – between Tuesday and Thursday.
teachers always seemed to spring pop quizzes on Wednesdays. Her annoying baby
brother, as much of a surprise to her parents as to her, arrived on a
Wednesday. Wednesdays are neither here nor there. You are neither just starting
nor almost done with the week. It’s too far to care about last weekend; not
close enough to plan the next.
ever happened on Wednesdays either. It’s a lousy night for TV viewing that is
if Melissa cared about T.V. Back in her parent’s day new movies opened on
Wednesdays. But with few exceptions, most multi-plexes now premiered on Friday.
and D.V.D’s are released on Tuesdays. Magazines generally hit the stands on
Thursdays. Sunday is family time and Monday back to school. Friday nights are
for friends, Saturday date night. Although, since being dumped by Bobby three
Wednesdays ago, Melissa’s social life progressed at the rate of an arctic
who ever came up with that ridiculous spelling: Wed-nes-day? There aren’t even
any good songs about Wednesdays. What possible good was Wednesday? Nothing! No
good at all as far as Melissa was concerned.
stood in front of her full length dressing mirror this Wednesday morning, as
she did every Wednesday morning, grousing about: her clothes – too nineties; her
hair – not nineties enough; her eyes – not blue enough; her legs – not long
enough; her nose – too big, and her breasts – too small for a fifteen, almost
sixteen year old. And that was another thing – why did all these problems seem
to come up on Wednesdays? In Melissa’s mind it was just more proof that
Wednesdays hated her.
is definitely a Wednesday blouse,” she said aloud, stripping off the pink Oxford
in favor of a pale blue cotton pull over.
that’s definitely NOT Wednesday.”
a medium length gold rope chain – the one that once held Bobby’s class ring –
around her Audrey Hepburn neck as her mom called it, Melissa decided jeans; a
sweater and Reeboks were the best she could hope for on a Wednesday.
she brushed her buckskin hair, a deafening thunder clap shook the two story
colonial style home. It was followed by lightening which turned the battleship
grey skies amber. The sound of heavy rain filling the aluminum gutters reached
her ears. Melissa rolled her eyes.
she muttered through gritted teeth, then gathered up her books and headed down
morning, Princess, and a happy hump day!” Tom Evans just missed with a kiss to
the top of his daughter’s head as she hurried past.
day? What’s that some new age save the whales’ slogan or something?” she asked,
pouring herself a glass of orange juice.
the kitchen table, Melissa’s mom Julie, a taller version of Melissa – the pair
more closely resembled sisters – struggled to get two year old Andrew to finish
his now cold oatmeal. “No, silly, hump day is Wednesday, as in over the hump.”
Turning back to her son she found the oatmeal piled in a mound on the floor,
the boy smiling innocently.
flopped down on a chair, giving her dad’s morning kiss a chance to find its
mark. “Sounds stupid to me,” she said.
not at all, your mother and I met at a hump day happy hour.”
mean you picked her up in a bar!”
looked at his wife who was busy cleaning the floor. Her expression offered no
help but to say, you made that mess, you clean it up.
thought for a moment. “Well, not exactly. It was a club, a night club. I wanted
to dance, so…”
picked mom up in a disco?” Melissa made a face. “Yuck! Where was I conceived,
in the back of a Ford Tempo?”
enough, young lady.” Her mother glanced out the window as she rinsed an oatmeal
clogged dish rag in the sink. “Your father was quite the charmer, and quite the
a car horn sounded above another roll of thunder. “Your ride is here. Don’t
forget your umbrella,” Julie chided.
Melissa let out a quick breath. Parents were bad enough, but parents on
Wednesday – hump day – were positively exasperating. “Ok, Tom Travolta…”
just don’t forget to pick me up after school. We have a driving lesson.”
her English textbook over her head, Melissa dashed out the back door. By the
time she climbed into the waiting van her hair was flat. Rain dripped off her
nose and ears. The two girls in the back began to giggle, as did Mrs. Coleman,
the car pool driver. Susan, Melissa’s best friend, sat next to her, grinning
like a Cheshire Cat. Unable to contain herself, she swallowed hard and burst
closed her eyes, trying to disappear into the bucket seat.
rest of the week was marginally better. For Melissa marginally better usually
meant disastrous. Her luck held true: arriving at school, she discovered not
only she forgot her lunch money, but that her math and English homework, which
if truth be known, took her all of fifteen minutes to complete while on the
phone, had melted and run thanks to the rain. It now resembled the Picasso’s
and Dali’s she studied in art class. And, her father, ever the absent minded
professor, did indeed neglect to pick her up after school.
the rain continued harder, and the pop quiz she hoped the math teacher forgot
on Wednesday showed up. By Friday the car pool more closely resembled Noah’s
Ark as it plowed through the rain swollen streets. It smelled as bad too,
thanks to Susan’s Black Lab who was headed for an appointment at the vets. When
the girls piled out of the van in front of the school, Melissa’s cardigan
smelled like wet dog. She was sure Wednesday had cursed her.
you, honey. I think you are catching a cold from all this rain.”
fine, mom, honest.”
was Saturday afternoon. Melissa and her mom sat outside J.C. Penny’s, eating
hot, soft pretzels from Auntie Anne’s. Mother daughter malling became a
Saturday tradition at the Evans home just as soon as Andrew was weaned from his
mother’s breasts. Tom spent time puttering around the house doing guy stuff
with his young son. Meanwhile, Julie and Melissa mined unexplored shopping
grounds. This Saturday it was the Exton Square Mall, less than thirty minutes
from their suburban Philadelphia home.
I wish you’d be more conscious of your health, especially in the rain. You
never wear your boots or take your umbrella.”
and umbrellas are for geeks. Very Wednesday,” Melissa said, wiping mustard and
cinnamon, her favorite pretzel toppings, from her lip. She tossed the crumpled
napkin into the trash.
mother smiled and shook her head. “Honestly, I don’t know what the big deal is
with you and Wednesdays.”
hate me. But that’s ok, I hate them back. They’re useless. I wish Wednesdays
would just go away. Who needs them?”
laughed at her daughter’s remark as the two strolled past K-Bee Toys. “Just
remember what Nana says, ‘Be careful what you wish. It might come true and you
just may regret it’.”
well, Nana lives alone with six cats and talks to George Washington’s ghost.”
both laughed out loud causing a passing security guard to stop and turn. “Well,
you know,” her mother added, “that old house is said to be one of old George’s
stop over’s. It has just never been satisfactorily verified.”
old and spooky enough,” Melissa agreed.
the center court a banner announced the opening of a new cellular phone store.
Directly before them, in the center of a wide aisle, between Kay jewelers and
Gadzooks, sat an eight by twelve foot open kiosk. A large red sign overhead declared:
GRAND OPENING EVERYTHING ON SALE.
mommy, look!” Melissa ran ahead a few steps then turned, wide eyed. “Look, it’s
a sale! Can I please have a cell phone, mommy? Please?”
knew her daughter’s mommy tone all too well, including the innocent deer caught
in headlights look. “We’ve talked about this before.”
know, I know… but…” Melissa paused, searching for the right buttons to push.
“My birthday’s coming up, and besides…”
here it comes, her mother thought smiling to herself.
dad forgot me at school three times this week! I could have called to remind
him. And when I get my license it will be a great safety thingy to have,”
Melissa said all in one rushed breath.
daughter’s logic stopped Julie in her tracks. “It was only two times your dad
forgot you, but at least you didn’t say, ‘Everybody has one’. And the safety
thingy does make sense.”
took a hold of her mother’s hand, half leading, and half pulling her. When they
reached the booth, a middle aged woman appeared as if out of thin air.
I help you?” she said through lavender painted lips. “I’m Glenda, the owner.
Welcome to OZ Cellular.”
and daughter looked at each other. “Glenda… OZ?” they said in unison.
woman blushed. “Yes, well, this used to be an occult shop. You know, candles
and dragons and the like. Unfortunately, cell phones and accessories sell much
better than love potions these days. And I couldn’t afford a new sign and
letterhead and such, so… what are you going to do?”
took a moment for Julie and Melissa to decide if the woman was serious. She
was. As if to assure them, she motioned to the glass case separating them. “Oh,
I still have a nice selection of amulets and tokens and of course spells and
potions. And a fine vintage Grimier, very reasonably priced.”
on the shelves, next to the latest in cellular technology from Verizon and
Sprint and AT&T, sat an assortment of rings, necklaces, amulets and coins,
plus detailed pewter statuary of castles and wizards and dragons. In the next
case, surrounded by ear phones, car adapters, and other accessories, were
beautiful crystal gazing orbs of varying sizes and hues, along with a thick,
ancient looking leather bound book.
blinked to be sure her eyes weren’t playing tricks on her. The store owner
smiled pleasantly from across the counter. Her age was indiscernible. Her pale
skin and long straight hair the color of cigarette smoke, straw like in
texture, reminded Julie of a witch. Her eyes were mysterious and cat like, and
the simple black dress which reached to the floor seemed to be that of someone
err… Glenda…” Julie said, forcing herself not to stare. “I thought maybe a
phone for my daughter.” She looked around. Melissa was engrossed with something
in a counter at the end of the kiosk. “It’s her birthday.”
think I have just the right thing. And it seems your daughter has found it.”
moved to the end of the booth. Glenda slid open the counter and produced a
coffin shaped box about four inches long and two inches wide. It was bright
ruby red colored and adorned with mysterious looking gold markings. To Julie’s
surprise and Melissa’s delight, the hinged cover flipped down, revealing a
fully functional phone with an L.C.D. screen, and a large keypad inscribed with
the same strange signs, as well as the normal alpha-numeric table.
very unusual,” the woman said. “There were very few made. It was hand fashioned
by a small company in Salem, Mass.”
doesn’t begin to describe it,” Julie replied.
she finished speaking, Melissa had the device in hand, pressing buttons and
dialing numbers. “Oh, can we get it, mommy? Please? It’s perfect!”
I don’t know…”
me assure you,” Glenda said, “it is very reasonably priced, has an excellent
warranty and service policy, and I can set it up for you in a matter of minutes
on most any network you choose.”
looked at her daughter. Melissa was squealing into the coffin phone, as Julie
found herself calling it, deeply engaged in a conversation with Susan.
throw in a complete set of accessories: head set, extra battery, charger, car
adapter, case; the works,” Glenda offered. “Free, since it’s her birthday.”
in her daughter’s expression, Julie raised her hands in surrender. “Ok…”
the time the contracts were signed and the activation completed, Melissa had
made calls to half a dozen of her girlfriends. Glenda placed a large bag on the
counter and handed Melissa a slip of paper. “Here’s your number and all your
accessories. There’s also an owner’s guide. Please, read it carefully,” she
said, placing a hand on Melissa’s arm and looking her in the eye. “Your phone
has some… unique… features. Use them wisely.”
more shopping and burgers and fries and chocolate shakes at T.G.I. Fridays –
Melissa liked the name – mother and daughter laughed and joked about the weird
little kiosk and its weirder owner as they drove in the rain down Route Thirty,
Sunday the rain changed to a light drizzle and the thermometer dropped. Before
the rains arrived the northeast was experiencing a balmy Indian summer. But
now, the third week of October, temperatures fell into the forties and it
looked like there may be snow by Halloween.
day the Evens family was visiting with Nana, Tom’s great aunt. No one knew
exactly the age of the mysterious old lady who lived in the spooky ancient
house on the hill. Not even Tom. When asked, she’d smile a crooked smile, flash
a gold tooth, wink and reply, “I stopped counting at one hundred.” Few doubted
lived in a three hundred year old farm house. The three story wood and stone
building was one of a small handful of homes situated within Valley Forge Park,
which still remained privately owned. It commanded a stunning view of the park,
overlooking a rolling hill where determined American patriots drilled and
practiced in the cold and snow, preparing to do battle against the British and
Hessian troops. The house was not only well known for once housing George
Washington and some of his officers, but for being haunted by those very same
over, Melissa’s parents busied themselves in the kitchen while Andrew slept.
Melissa sat on a mushroom shaped ottoman, chatting with Nana. The old woman
relaxed in an antique Bentwood rocking chair, lovingly stroking the large
brindle cat purring on her lap. Six feet away, a pine log crackled and split in
the huge stone fireplace warming the room.
what I got for my birthday, Nana.” Melissa proudly held out the ruby coffin
phone, and then flipped it open.
my,” The woman leaned forward and accepted the device. She looked at it
curiously then flipped it shut. “What do we have here, Pywacket?” The cat
stirred on her lap, as Nana traced the gold markings with a wrinkled fingertip.
you know what they are?” Melissa asked.
held the phone closer to her eyes and hummed quietly. Finally she spoke,
my dear… runes… ancient letters…” She looked at Melissa who now knelt next to
her, intrigued. “Some say witch’s writing.”
yes. For a spell to work it must be written in runes. These are the letters of
the witch’s alphabet, and these symbols represent the planets and the zodiac.”
eyes grew wide. “Really…? Do you know what it says?”
Nana studied the lettering carefully, then gazed into the fire. It cast an
eerie, flickering shadow across her face. “Yes… yes,” she said looking at the
phone and reading:
Full of woe
To make it right
By runes write”
Melissa wrinkled her nose,
“Yes,” her aunt replied. As in the
Is fair of face,
Is full of grace,
She smiled at Melissa. “You were
born on a Wednesday you know.”
sank back on her heels, her soft blue eyes rolling, “It figures!”
stretched on Nana’s lap. Sniffing the ruby coffin phone, the cat let out a
guttural yowl, then jumped down and ran out of the room. The old woman nodded.
“Some say cats can see and understand things humans can’t.”
pondered the cat’s actions, and then turned her attention back to the enigmatic
phone. “Yes, but what does it mean, the inscription?”
aunt looked at the words again then handed the phone to Melissa. “I believe it
means it only works on Wednesdays.”
the phone, Melissa flipped it open, the L.C.D. and buttons coming to life.
“That’s silly… it works all of the time…”
evening Melissa lay in her bed studying the owner’s guide. In the section
explaining text messaging, she discovered a button which permitted writing to
the L.C.D. screen using standard characters or the strange witch’s runes. She
realized each unique symbol – glyphs the booklet called them – stood for a
letter of the alphabet.
the end of the section she came across a cryptic warning:
TEXT TO * - Б - 1- 1
(STAR, PLUTO, ONE, ONE)
CAN NOT BE UNDONE!
tired to read anymore or try to figure out the warning, Melissa closed the
booklet, turned off the light, and fell fast asleep. As a freezing rain played
against the window, she dreamed she and Nana were witches chanting a victory
spell to George Washington and his men on the eve of a great battle.
at school Melissa excitedly showed off her new phone. She decided the witch’s
runes and glyphs were just a gimmick, a marketing ploy to sell phones. She
didn’t care. The ruby coffin phone was a hit and Melissa was the envy of the
At lunch, she and Susan programmed
the phone’s memory with the numbers of friends, the movie theatres, home, her
dad’s work, and other phone numbers vital to a fifteen, almost sixteen, year
“What’s that?” Susan pointed to the
button with the odd looking Б marking.
“I don’t know. The book doesn’t say
anything about it except you shouldn’t use it or something.”
“Beats me, dad says that’s the
symbol for the planet Pluto, only it’s upside down or something,” Melissa
replied, snapping the phone shut.
“Pluto, wasn’t he the guy in charge
of the underworld or something like that? Exactly what did the instructions
Melissa thought hard. “It said,
‘Texting a message to star, Pluto, one, one can’t be undone’, I think.”
“Whose number is that?”
“Probably some geek service tech.”
“Billy Campbell’s older brother is a
service tech and he’s cute,” Susan said, her voice turning dreamy.
The two girls looked at each other
Melissa flipped the phone back open.
“What shall we say?”
“I don’t know. Say you are having
trouble with the ring tone.”
Nervously, Melissa tapped the
lighted buttons, words appearing on the screen as she typed:
having trouble with my ringer.
you help, please?
“Go on, send it.”
two giggled. “Oh, my God,” Melissa said, taking a deep breath to calm her
giddiness. Then she hit send.
afternoon Melissa sat in the school’s library staring blankly at her math book.
She was depressed. Not only was it another stupid Wednesday but snow had begun
to fall. If it kept on, by the time her father picked her up from school she
wouldn’t be able to take a driving lesson.
was her birthday. Because of the number of students requesting Driver’s
Education, she wasn’t scheduled to take the course until January. Now with the
weather changing she might not get her license till spring.
looked out the window at the snow then at her math book. The numbers seemed to
be laughing at her like in an old Looney Tunes cartoon she’d once seen. Melissa
felt about math the way she did about Wednesdays. And math on Wednesdays was
the worse. Finding herself idly scribbling in her note book, Melissa got an
idea. She didn’t really believe in magic and spells, but at least it was
something to do, something other than math.
what she had unconsciously written in her notebook, she pressed the keys on her
phone’s lighted key pad. One by one the words appeared on the L.C.D. screen:
snow go away
Let me go
out and play
- Б -1-1
read the impromptu poem over then hit send.
phone stared up at her.
its Wednesday!” she whispered.
something occurred to her. What was it Nana said? Spells have to be in runes
to work. With nothing better to do than math homework, Melissa shrugged,
hit clear and then the button which activated the glyphs. Carefully she
retyped the short poem, this time using the witch’s alphabet, then * - Б-1-1.
She crossed her fingers, hit send and closed her eyes.
she opened them ten seconds later a ray of yellow light shone across the table
where she sat. Melissa shook her head and looked at the ruby coffin phone in
her hand. The message she typed was gone, replaced by another. It read:
nice day. Б
Outside the snow stopped and the sun
was breaking through the overcast.
The school bell shook Melissa back
to reality. Closing her books and tucking the coffin phone into her purse, she
headed for her next class.
her homework, Melissa sat in her room after dinner thinking. It really hadn’t
been too bad a day… for a Wednesday. True it started off as well as any
Wednesday, which wasn’t well at all. But things seemed to slowly improve as the
day progressed. Her last two periods went smoothly. She thought she might have
even aced the pop quiz in history.
surprisingly, her dad was actually on time picking her up from school. And the
driving lesson went well. According to her father, with a couple more lessons
over the weekend she’d be ready to take her test. All in all it wasn’t too bad
a day… for a Wednesday.
looked at the ruby coffin phone sitting on her desk. The scene in the library
came back to her. She had made it stop snowing.
up the phone and flipping on the glyphs, Melissa began to type:
I’m the fairest of them all
why doesn’t somebody call?
“This is stupid,” she said as she
punched in * - Б-1-1 and hit send.
phone blinked three times and her message disappeared. A second later it was
Have a nice day. Б
The ruby coffin phone rang.
It was Bobby.
awoke to another Wednesday morning. But she wasn’t depressed. It was a
beautiful day and the past week was a new chapter in the new Melissa Evans’
passed two major tests on Friday, one in math. The weather was mild and
pleasant again. Her driving lessons over the weekend went great and today after
school she was going for her license. She didn’t even care that it was another
best of all she and Bobby were back together. The night he called they talked
until the battery on her phone went dead. Thursday he drove her home from
school, and Saturday they went out for her birthday. Bobby gave her his class
ring and she wore it on a chain even now as she lay waking.
she tried to conjure up more magic with her phone and failed. But she didn’t
care. It didn’t matter. From now on every day was going to be a great day.
ran through the front door, past her mother and up the stairs. Julie heard her daughter’s
bedroom door slam shut. She was sure Melissa was crying. A moment later the
sixteen year olds father walked into the house.
what’s going on?” Julie asked. “What’s with Melissa?”
sighed and sat heavily on the living room sofa. “Well, let’s just say this
hasn’t been a banner day in the life of our daughter.”
what happened?” Julie now sat next to her husband. “Was it the driving test?”
driving test was a disaster. And from what I gather that was the highlight of
dear, maybe I should go to her.”
touched his wife’s arm. “You’d better know what you are up against first.”
how happy and chipper she was this morning?” he began. “It didn’t last long.
From what I can tell she failed two quizzes today, English and math. Then at
lunch she spilled mustard and ketchup on her new sweater.”
the cashmere one Nana bought her for her birthday?”
nodded. “I was a few minutes late picking her up from school and while she
waited her and Susan got into a big fight.”
“Oh, no, the poor child,” Julie
looked at her husband almost afraid to ask the question. “Her driver’s test…?”
Tom’s face went pale. “A pretty
badly dented fender, fortunately it was a concrete barrier she hit, not another
Julie stood. “Well… maybe I can…”
“That’s not all. On the way home we
stopped at a red light. That boy she’s dating… Bobby… he was in the car next to
us with Melissa’s friend Susan.”
“They were kissing.”
Julie sat back down on the sofa. Her
heart ached for her daughter. “Did Melissa say anything?”
Tom shook his head. “She just kept
mumbling something about Wednesdays.” He patted his wife’s leg. “Give her some
time to herself. Melissa’s a smart girl. She’ll figure things out.”
Upstairs, Melissa lay across her bed
crying. The day’s events played over in her head like a bad movie. She thought
about calling Susan and having it out with her. Or maybe it had all been a
Wiping tears from her eyes, Melissa
sat up and reached for the ruby coffin phone. She looked at it. She was getting
better at reading the witch’s runes.
make it right
course,” she said aloud, reading the inscription over. That was it! “It only works
on Wednesdays. Wednesdays! That’s what it meant. That’s what Nana said. The
spells only work on Wednesdays.”
thought. Several ideas passed through her head. None were very satisfying. She
couldn’t harm anyone. Not even that rat Bobby. What she needed was a final
solution; one that would take care of all her problems in one swoop, and for
good. If it wasn’t for Wednesdays…
open the ruby coffin phone, she punched the button that activated the glyphs.
it worked she wouldn’t be able to do anything else.