An excerpt from ‘Rampart Red‘ – Copyright © 2015 by Michael A. Kuch
JUNE 22, 1979
After The Last Day Of High School …
Milo and Percy sat shoulder to shoulder stooped like pigeons on the front porch steps of the Como’s bungalow watching Donny and Sam in the driveway.
“No freakin’ way,” Donny said, sucking on an orange popsicle. “Not a chance, my man.”
“What’s the problem?” Sam asked. “It’s got plenty of room.”
Sam was rinsing the hood of his mom’s 1964 Rambler American convertible. Rampart Red.
“Hey, Donny,” said Milo. “Don’t worry, your fat ass will fit.”
“Your skinny ass is grass, Milo,” said Donny, gnawing the last chunk as orange syrup slid down his knuckles. Popsicle stick dangled from his numb lips. “You don’t shut your stupid face up.”
“You goofs knock it off already.”
“No way five of us are getting in there unless we dump Milo the midget in the trunk.” Donny grabbed the hose, took a long sip and rinsed his hands before spraying Milo. “You got a better idea, Pissy Pants?”
“Four,” said Percy. “Jay can’t make it. His old man’s ragging about his shitty grades.”
“What’re we supposed to do now?” asked Milo, rubbing his crotch in protest. “We’ve been planning this trip since Christmas.”
“Relax and shut your stinkin’ pie hole,” said Donny. “Jay’ll figure it out. He’ll show.”
LINDA COMO WAS FIXING A PITCHER OF ICED TEA
Tuna and egg salad sandwiches with a side bowl of corn chips.
She’d baked a double chocolate Bundt cake and was smoothing the crown with a cascade of icing. She studied a photograph clipped from a past issue of Good Housekeeping magazine, disappointed she’d forgotten to buy the colored sprinkles earlier that morning. She finished icing the cake and smacked her lips on her thumb to catch a smidgen of chocolate. She sang through the kitchen window, “Sammy, boys, lunch is ready.”
The boys walked around the side of the house to the backyard where Linda had laid out four place settings under the green canvas awning overlooking the pool.
Frank Como was lounging poolside in the midday sun wearing a shiny black Speedo partially cloaked under a pot belly. Jiffy Pop gut. His third highball of rum and coke sweating away. Frank’s hairy body lacquered in baby oil, roasting to the darkest known shade of chestnut brown.
He’d scratch his groin after a sip from the glass, tug a little to realign himself, then curl his toes. Frank’s trifecta of blissful contentment. A portable radio with a two foot long antenna was tuned to an AM station playing Motown songs.
FRANK BEING FRANK
He watched Sam run into the house and dart back out to the patio table. Sam held up a road map open to the Eastern Seaboard. He’d traced the route from Toronto to Key West.
“Two days to get there, a few days in the Keys and a couple days back.”
“That gives us one day.”
Sam folded the map. “All we need.”
Linda shuffled and shimmied her way around the table. Little hip sway. Cha, cha, cha. Toned legs sprouted from her Daisy Dukes didn’t go unnoticed by Percy and Donny. Singing when she knew the chorus. None of The Supremes should be concerned. “What’re you boys up to?”
“Just talking, mom.”
“About the big trip?”
“Watch your mouth, Sammy.”
“Sorry, nothing, your father hears you.”
Frank appeared at the table. Oily. Boozy. “Chrissakes, honey. He’s nearly eighteen already. Swear all you like, Sammy.”
Linda shot Frank a death stare.
“Yeah, watch your mouth in front of your mother.”
The boys laughed.
“What’s with the map?”
“Figuring out how to get there.”
“Don’t need any dumb map. Want some advice?” Frank didn’t wait for a response. “Get rid of it. Life ain’t about no stupid maps. It’ll kill the fun of getting lost.”
“They’re doing fine on their own, Frank. Go relax before you have one of those episodes the doctor’s been telling you about.”
“Anxiety doesn’t kill you. A wife’s complaining is what gonna bring men to an early grave. It’s a medical fact. Watched in on Carson the other night.”
“Enough, you.” Linda shushed Frank back to the pool, said she’d fix another drink. “Be there in a wink.”
Frank kissed Linda on the lips and squeezed her butt.
“What?” Frank shrugged. “Wasn’t me.”
Frank poked a finger in the icing, fixed himself and walked back into the sun like it owed him a favor.