The Adventures of the Odd Boys: A True-story—Part Three
Rob AKA "Shaggy"
Fred AKA "Fatz"
Javier AKA "Toro"
Francois AKA "Paris"
The continuing adventures of four teenage best friends in Brooklyn NY, during the 1980s.
Intro: These remembrances are true events from my teenage years. They take place in Brooklyn, NY, between Spring 1983 and Summer of 1985—my “glory days” and the best time of my life. These stories are about friendship and young love. My recollections revolve around the close group of friends I had back then, and about my first love—the one that got away. The one you never forget!
Games Odd Boys Play.
August 1983: The summer was winding down and college was only weeks away. I didn’t want to think about that, though. I just wanted this summer to go on and on forever. It had been a magical, wonderful time. I had never enjoyed myself so much.
Part of the reason for my happiness was that I had three best friends to share my adventures with. In the previous chapters, I introduced you to my best pals. Collectively, we called ourselves the Odd Boys. I was “Shaggy”, and my buddies were “Fatz”, “Toro” and “Paris”. Fatz was carefree. Toro had a temper but he guarded my back. Paris was the crazy kid who would swallow a bug if he thought it would get a laugh. We were the Four Musketeers—one for all and all for one.
Another reason for my joy was Gina. I’ve written about Gina in previous chapters. She was my dream girl, my first love. I’d been obsessed with her since the previous year when we started working together in the Waldbaums supermarket in Bensonhurst. I had admired her from afar, only occasionally daring to speak with her. But recently, things had changed. About two months before, we had a bonding moment at Coney Island (See chapter two for that story) and ever since then, we’d started to become friend. Very close friends, in fact. We’d had lunch together a few times and I sometimes went shopping with her, carrying her bags while she trekked through the Kings Plaza Mall. We spent many nights over those two months talking on the phone. I’d become her counselor. She told me when she had trouble with her boyfriend—not knowing I was in love with her and hated the fact that she had a boyfriend—or when she had a fight with her mother about something. I loved being with her, even if I couldn’t tell her how I felt. I was in awe of her. If she suspected at all, she never let on.
This particular weekend had the added benefit of being one of those weekends where my parents were away. They had some very good friends who lived upstate in Putnam County and would spend one weekend a month—from Friday night till Sunday night—at the friend’s house. So, now that my older brother had moved out, I had the place all to myself for one weekend a month. Well, except for Grandma and Grandpa who lived downstairs, so I couldn’t throw any wild parties or Roman orgies.
On Saturday, my buddies and I had planned to go to the beach in the afternoon and later, in the evening, we were going to attend one of those free outdoor movies that they show in various venues in the city during the summer. I believe they were scheduled to show Hitchcock’s The Birds that day. However, best laid plans of mice and Odd Boys are at the mercy of the weather. It rained and it rained and it poured all day. That was the end of our plans. None of the rest of the guys had any money to do anything that required paying, so our options became very limited.
We decided to take advantage of my parent’s absence to have a sleepover. The guys brought their stuff and planned to stay the night at my place. We rented some VHS tapes from the local video store. As I recall, we watched Raiders of the Lost Ark and Star Trek 2: the Wrath of Khan. And we played Dungeons and Dragons. Others guys might get together for a poker game but we held our freak flag high and went with the geek game.
Dungeons and Dragons is a fantasy game where you make up your own characters—warriors, wizards, thieves and various medieval types—to go on a quest. I was the “Dungeon Master”. The Dungeon Master sets up the plot and plays the bad guys parts, creating obstacles for the good guys, which they have to get around using their pre-described abilities. The characters succeed or fail depending on the role of the dice.
The game can typically last for hours. Our first game had lasted over three hours and then we started all over again. It was almost 7:30 on Saturday evening and we were in the fifth hour of our marathon weekend Dungeons and Dragons session.
My dog lay at my feet the whole time. Also, Rusty had joined us for the second game. 14 year old rusty was a bit of a pain because he was a klutz and a bit of a dim-wit, which is why we sometimes called him “Gilligan”. But he was a nice kid and when he rang my bell in the rain, I couldn’t turn him away. Toro and Paris had little patience for Rusty but Fatz and I felt sorry for the kid.
“You can’t do that!” Paris yelled at Rusty, after he’d broken the rules for the umpteenth time.
“I’m gonna explain it to you again,” Fatz said.
Once again, we tried to explain the rules to him, hoping he’d get it this time. But I could tell by the look on his face that it was sailing over his head. After he broke one of my mother’s drinking glasses, I needed a break from him and we sent him out on a food run. We wanted some munchies for the evening and elected Rusty to do the errand. We wrote down what we wanted him to get and even had him rehearse it five or six times, just in case he lost the note. Chocolate chip cookies, potato chips and coca cola. He left smiling, promising that he had it all under control.
Twenty minutes later, he came back with cereal, pretzels and Pepsi cola. Exasperated, we just decided to go with it. I got out the milk and cereal bowls. After the first course of Rice Crispies, we had pretzels and Pepsi for dessert. Naturally, we never let Rusty live down his dopey error. My yorkie Scrapper whined and begged for a bit of food, which I always give him. I'm a soft touch for dogs, especiialy my scrapper.
Anyway, as I said, it was about 7:30 in the evening and I got a phone call. (A tethered phone, with a cord. Remember those?) I figured it was probably my mother checking up on me.
“Hello,” I said, and heard what appeared to be sobbing.
“Rob?” said the familiar voice of my lovely Gina. She sounded like she was crying.
“Gina?” I asked. “Is that you?”
“Uh-huh,” she said, her voice all choked up.
“Are you okay?” I asked, concerned.
“Are you busy right now?” she asked.
I looked around and saw my buddies waiting impatiently for me to return to the game because the game can’t proceed without the Dungeon Master. “Nope, I’m not busy at all.” I lied.
“Can I come by?” she asked. “I really need to talk to you!”
“Yeah, of course,” I said.
“I’ll be there in five minutes,” she said. ‘I’ll honk the horn.”
"Ok,” said and she hung up. Now I had to tell my buds. “Hey guys, we need to take a break.”
“What for?” Toro asked.
“A friend has an emergency”, I said.
“I thought all your friends were in this room,” Paris pointed out. He wasn’t wrong.
“This is…well, it’s a girl,” I said.
“Hey, check you out!” Paris said. “Shaggy the stud!”
Fatz knew me the best and said, “This is Gina again, right?”
“Hey, bros before hoes, man!” Toro said.
“Leave ‘em be,” Paris said. “The guy never gets laid.”
“I’m not getting laid!” I yelled. “This isn’t about that.”
“Who’s getting laid?” Rusty asked. “What’re you talking about?”
“Never mind!” I snapped at him.
“Shaggy’s in love,” Fatz told him.
“With who?” Rusty wondered.
“None of your business!” I roared. “Why don’t you just watch TV till I get back.”
I went down the stairs. The guys, in unison, all started singing “Shaggy and Gina sitting in a tree. K-I-S-S-I-NG!” I found it very childish at the time.
I stood on the front porch, watching the rain pour down. I wondered what was bothering Gina. I hoped it was nothing too terrible. Did someone die?
Her car—or rather, her father’s car—pulled up in front of the house. I spotted the brown Pontiac Grand Am from down the street. She lowered the window and gestured for me to come to her. I ran around the car to the passenger side and got in. Gina had that raccoon-eyed look that indicated she’d been crying.
“Hi,” I said. “What’s going on? Are you Ok?”
She nodded. ‘I’m just having a real $#/++% day.”
“Talk to me.”
“I just had a big fight with Steven,” she said.
‘Steven!’ I thought. There’s that name again. The boyfriend! I hate that guy!
“Okay, so you had a fight,” I said. ‘I’m sure it’ll pass.”
Gina looked me in the yes, looking pitiful. ‘I think he’s cheating on me!”
‘Aha! I knew it!’ I thought, trying hard to hide how happy I was to hear this. Maybe this would make her dump the jerk. I couldn’t let on that I was enjoying this. ‘Take the high road,’ I told myself.
“Are you sure?” I asked her, as compassionately as I could. “Ican’t imagine anyone would cheat on you.”
“I’m pretty sure,” she said, and began to lay out the evidence that she’d accumulated. It all sounded pretty damning. It was a challenge for me not to smile but I couldn’t let her see how happy this made me.
“I’m so sorry to hear this,” I lied. “I can’t believe he’d do this to you. Can I do anything?”
She shook her head. “I just needed someone to talk to. I tried talking to my mother about it but she told me I was crazy. She isn’t really biased when it comes to Steven.”
A little background here: Gina’s boyfriend Steven was a big, muscular jock. (No surprise there.) His father owned a successful local towing company called Active Towing and Steven was the heir apparent who’d be running the company one day. Gina’s father liked the fact that Gina was dating a guy with a financial future and Gina’s mother had a strange fascination with the guy. Gina thinks her mother was attracted to him herself, which was why her mom would never let Gina criticize the guy.
“So after fighting with Steven about this, I had to fight with my mother, too,” Gina said, angry and sad. “I can’t believe she’s taking Steven’s side. I just had to get out of there. I didn’t know where else to go. Sorry to dump all this on you.”
“No, don’t be silly,” I said. ‘I’m always here for you. You know that.”
She managed a smile. “You are so sweet. Why can’t more guys be like you?”
I wanted to yell, ‘Forget the other guys! I’m right here!’ but I bit my tongue.
“I don’t know what to do,” she said. “He denies it and I want to believe him but I’m just confused. I’m supposed to be going out later with some of my friends but I feel so rotten now, I just don’t feel like going! I don’t want to be in any night club where guys are going to be hitting on me. And I don’t want to be drag on my friends. I’m afraid I’ll ruin their night.”
“Why don’t you call them and cancel,” I said.
“And do what?” she asked. “I don’t want to go home. What am I going to do on a Saturday night?”
“Do you want to come inside?” I asked.
Gina looked stunned. “You mean, me and you in your place alone? What are you asking?”
“No, that’s not what I meant!” I said. “I’m not alone up there. My friends are up there. There’s a whole bunch of us. No privacy at all.”
“Well, I don’t…”
“Come on,” I said. “Even for a few minutes. You might feel better.”
“Okay,” she finally said.
She pulled her car into the driveway around back and I let her in the rear stairway. I entered first. They guys heard me coming up from the back.
“Why’d you come in that way?” Fatz asked.
“You done with your emergency?” Toro asked.
“The stud is back!” Paris said. “That was quick. Didn’t you get any…?”
Mercifully, he spotted Gina before he finished saying whatever perverted thing he was going to say. The four of them went silent when Gina came in. She stood framed in the doorway, looking uncomfortable as they all stared at her. Scrapper ran over to greet her, hopping up and down on his back legs.
“Guys, this is Gina,” I said. “Gina, you’ve met some of these guys, I think. This one is Fred.”
“Hi,” Fatz said.
“I remember you,” she said. “You threw a lobster at me once.”
“It was a crab,” he corrected.
I pointed to Paris. “And this is Francois.”
“Oh yeah,” she said. ‘You insulted my friend Lori once.”
He nodded. “And a good job I did of it, too.”
I gave him a dirty look and then gestured toward Toro. “This is Javier.”
“I’m the good-looking one,” he said, flexing one of his big biceps.
“And this is Rusty,” I said.
“I’m Rusty,” he said.
I pulled out a chair for her. “Have a seat. You want some Pepsi? Or a pretzel?”
“How about some cereal?” Paris added.
“Huh?” Gina wondered.
“Forget it,” I said. “Don’t mind him.”
Gina looked at the table where we had the Dungeons and Dragons set-up laid out. The character descriptions, the dice, the player’s handbook, the monster manual and the battle grid. “What are you guys doing?”
“Dungeons and Dragons,” Fatz said.
I suddenly felt extremely nerdy. She probably thinks I’m a total geek now!
“I’ve heard of that,” she said. “How do you play?”
“You want to join the game?” Paris asked.
She shrugged. “Maybe. I guess. What do I do?”
We explained to her that she had to create a character. We helped her come up with a character called Princess Emerald, who had a crystal ball that shot lightning bolts. “You’re the first Princess we’ve had in this game,” Paris said.
“That’s for damn sure,” Toro said.
“I feel honored,” she said.
Gina got involved with the game and played with us for about an hour. She seemed to be relaxing and having a good time. She noticed that it was after 9:00.
“I’m supposed to meet my girlfriends at 10:00,” she said.
“Are you still going?” I asked. “You said you weren’t in the mood.”
“True”, she said. “Maybe I’ll call them. Can I use your…”
My moment of triumph crumbled when my Grandfather appeared at the top of the steps. “Whose car is that in my driveway?” he asked.
“That’s mine,” Gina said.
Grandpa pointed at her as if he was seeing Bigfoot. “Hey, you’re a girl!” he cried.
“Yeah, that’s a girl, Grandpa,” I said.
“No girls in here while your parents are away!” he roared.
“Grandpa, there’s no reason to make her leave,” I said. ‘We’re just sitting here playing this game.”
“No girls!” he said. “Your mother doesn’t want any girls here when she’s not home. She told us so.”
I was mad. My mother had my grandparents spying on me to see that I didn’t sneak any girls in while they were out. “Grandpa, look, I…”
“No girls!” he yelled. “This isn’t that kind of house. We’re church people.”
Gina touched me on the shoulder. “That’s all right. I should be going anyway.”
“You’re going?” I said, disappointed.
“Yeah, I think I’m going to go to the club with my girlfriends.”
“But I thought you weren’t in the mood?” I said.
“I wasn’t,” she said. “but you guys cheered me up. Thanks guys.”
“No prob,” Fatz said.
“No charge,” Paris added.
“It’s was cool playing with you,” Toro said.
Gina got up. “I’m leaving, sir.”
“Good,” Grandpa said. “Tomorrow morning is church. Can't have this stuff going on the night before church. And move your car out of my driveway.”
“I’m moving it right now,” she said.
With an angry sneer toward my grandfather, I accompanied Gina down to the car. I noticed my Grandmother watching us disapprovingly from the window.
“Sorry about that,” I said.
“No problem,” she said. “I’m just gonna go meet my friends.”
“If you’re sure,” I said.
“I am,” she said. “But thanks for being there for me.”
“Always,” I said. “What are going to do about Steven?”
“I don’t know,” she said. “I have to think about it. But at least I don’t feel like crying anymore. Thanks a lot. And thank your friends for me. They’re completely nuts but they’re okay.”
“I’ll tell them. And if you need anything…”
“I’ll send up a flair,’ she said. Then she gave me a kiss on the cheek. “My hero.”
She got in her car and drove off. I watched until the car was out of sight. I stood there in the driveway alone for a minute. ‘She kissed me’.
"Come in out of the rain, you fool!" Grandma yelled.
I held out my hand, palm up. “It stopped raining,” I said, smiling.
. . . . . .
So, that’s it for part three. If you’re enjoying this, part four will be here soon, when the Odd Boys go to the park and do some exploring. And more to come about Gina, too.