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Chapter Five

Palumbo had spit up Genny Ale all over himself, he was laughing so hard.

"God damn!" he slobbered, "Did we do it or what?!"

Rog Davis nodded and chugged the better part of a brew.

"Whahoo!"

"God damn!"

Roberta rolled the latest in a battalion of doobies in her sweet red lips. She presented it for Rog's approval, just the slightest bit sexily, like there was more than just good weed in them there lips. Why all these chicks thought Davis was hot stuff I will never know, but they did. And now Joanie hadn't been out of the picture an hour and even her best friend Roberta was not above making the beginnings of a move.

"Yessir!" Palumbo didn't know whether to suck brew or sweet smoke, so he sat there stupidly, riding shotgun, a joint in one hand, a beer in the other, his eyes glazed over with the memory of Gracie Whitlock in all her fat dead glory. "Kick Me!" he wheezed, coughing sinsemilla.

"Whahoo!" Davis shook the Deathmobile back and forth across the road cause he couldn't laugh with his mouth full.

"Fuck with Davis…" he boasted at last, "you fuck with the King!"

He took a long hit on Roberta's fattie. Impetuously, she hooked an arm around his neck and snuggled in against his curly hero's hair. It was like Yasmine Bleeth meets David Hasselhoff in an alternative universe on Anything Can Happen Day.

"So listen, Rog, what're we gonna do about Joanie, hunh?" snuffed Palumbo. (Imagine Winnie the Pooh on pot and steroids.)

"Yes, Roger," cooed Roberta. "What about Joanie?"

"No sweat. She'll come crawling back."

"Hunh," goes Roberta, "I don't know. She was pretty mad."

Roger tromped on the accelerator. The Deathmobile took a corner on two wheels.

"She's just gonna have to get glad again," he said. "She's got too much to lose."

"Yup," agreed Palumbo, squashing a beer can against his forehead. "I mean this is our goddamn Senior Prom. It's a goddamn once-in-a-lifetime trip."

They drove on, not speaking for a while, Rog's big old stereo blasting, Guttermouth's Hopeless underscoring the scene:

Seventeen and hopeless and I don't care
just want to get laid and drink some beer
no responsibility, nothin to do
I can do anything I put my mind to
born in this world
die in this world
life goes on

"So we still gonna go?" asked Palumbo dimly, like the guy in A Clockwork Orange.

"Fuckin'-A yeah we're still gonna go!" said Rob. "We hit the airport at eleven and an hour later we're in the Big Apple, buckeroos. And the party never stops!"

"God damn!" yelled Palumbo.

"Yessir!" echoed Davis.

Roberta Eliot flung herself back on the soft nap of the Deathmobile's carpet. Visions of Lear Jets danced in her head.

Davis had planned the gnarliest, most outrageous prom night escapade ever in the history of Freeman High. He'd chartered his old man's company plane. By the time the rest of the kids were waking up in their own vomit, wishing they hadn't drunk so much so they could have gotten laid, Rog and Joanie and Palumbo and Roberta would be drinking champagne at the Plaza. And that'd be just the beginning. He had tickets for Radiohead, and he had lined up a pharmacopoeia of recreational drugs. It was scheduled to be a Lost Weekend of mythical proportion. They'd stay in the city and boogie till they just couldn't boogie no more, and then they'd head on down to Bermuda to dry out. Sorta. It was beautiful.

Rog Davis grit his teeth and drove on. Joanie might be pissed off now, she might have a soft spot in her heart for the poor downtrodden assholes like Meader, but when all was said and done, she was well aware that rank had its privileges. And when it came time to get down, Joanie Snowland could be as rank as any of the rest of them, the little slut.

He'd give her some time to cool off, drop off the others, and they'd all rendezvous sil vous plait at the dance.

"Yessir!" screamed Roger Davis. "Gone for a freakin' WALK!"

Palumbo spluttered beer up on his doobie. In the back, Roberta was astral projecting herself into the fifteenth century. She was the foxiest babe in the Boscharama that played out across the walls and ceilings of the Deathmobile, and she was thinking about Roger Davis's cock.

________________

Joanie sat dejectedly, elbows on her knees, long sweaty blonde hair hanging down past her face. She was in a hell of a funk. Charlie Washington plinked open a can of pop and thrust it hopefully towards her.

"Thanks, Charlie," said Joanie. "I appreciate it." She sipped daintily. "I should have known she'd be too loaded to even understand me," said Joanie. "I mean it's headed for six o'clock."

"Mom won't pick ya up, hunh?"

"In another hour she won't be able to pick herself up. Besides, " she formed the words with naked disdain: "She's entertaining."

"Yeah," said Charlie. It was Friday night, after all.

"Oooh," Joanie bleated, "look at me. I'm a mess."

"Now," said Charlie, speaking truthfully, "you don't look so bad."

She was sweating, and a little hot-looking from the walk from McCloud's, but aside from that, well, Charlie didn't figure there'd ever be another prom queen to compare.

"Listen Joanie," he said. "It's getting kinda late n all, n, well, maybe you could just call up Rog and he could swing by and pick ya up--"

"No way!" said Joanie. "I'd sooner sit here and watch Gilligan's Island reruns than get within ten feet of Roger Davis again."

Charlie nodded. She seemed to have made up her mind.

"So you're not going to the dance tonight, hunh?"

"Oh no, said Joanie with determination. "I'm going to the dance all right. If I have to walk there like this, I'm going to the dance. Just because Rog thinks he'd God's Gift to Women is no reason for me to miss out on my prom. Where I'm NOT going…" she set her coke can firmly down on Charlie's desk, "is to that airport. I'm not going to the crummy Davis company jet, and I'm not going to the crummy Plaza Hotel in crummy New York City with Rog and crummy Allen Palumbo."

She sniffed a little bit, and then acknowledged a final fact: "Roberta Eliot should be real happy about that."

"Jet, hunh?" said Charlie. "New York?"

"Oh yeah. It was Rog's big idea of a big prom weekend: New York and the hotel and Radiohead and then we go to Bermuda and…whatever."

"Whew! Well…them that's got…"

"Yeah, well one thing Rog Davis has not got is ME. We're through."

"Well no offense," smiled Charlie Washington, "but I'm real glad to hear that." He paused to see how she'd react. She gave a small smile. "And I know another guy who'll be real glad to hear that too."

Joanie looked at him. Charlie had a handsome smile.

"Archie?" she asked. Charlie nodded. "Oh, Archie's so sweet," she said. Charlie smiled broader. "I like him very much."

"Listen Joanie," said Charlie after a beat, "I'm supposed to get a dinner break around seven. If you like, I could maybe drive you home—you know, if you wouldn't mind—and then I could drop you off at the school, seein's how you're all set on goin and all."

"Why Charlie," she said, her voice all honey and nice, "that's very sweet of you."

"'Snothin'," said Charlie. "I'd be happy to do it. I could grab a bite while you're changin'."

A car pulled up to the pumps. Joanie nodded her approval of the plan. If you knew her, you could see the wheels in her head working real hard. She was on her way to making Roger Davis look like the asshole he really was.

"Have a hot sandwich there in the microwave," said Charlie as he left the office. "You're gonna need all the energy you can muster tonight."

The bell over the door clinkled and Joanie was watching her new friend cross to the waiting car. She was filled with a kind of glow. It's the way you feel when you come across really decent people. She took another swig of soda, sat, and put her feet up on the desk. She felt young and alive and, well, perfect. If she lived all the rest of her life and it never got any better than this, she could die happily ever after.

________________

Archie had just managed to get Gracie Whitlock into the cooler and made a beeline for the upstairs bedroom to remove the evidence of the foiled seduction when McCloud returned. With unerring instinct, the old man lumbered up the stairs to his apartment. Archie was in the process of smoothing the bed when McCloud exploded through the door with the force of a three hundred pound bowling ball. He came to a smart military halt and eyed Archie suspiciously:

"Are you on drugs?"

Archie continued to try to make the bed, and at the same time appear to be doing nothing. He wasn't having much luck.

"No," said Archie, very nervously and—let's face it—rather unconvincingly, since his adrenal secretion must have been something obscene.

McCloud stalked past Archie like a Gestapo agent with a good nose. He sniffed tentatively at the bed.

"And what have we here?"

Archie said nothing, deciding rather to try to move around the bed to where the lace and silk Balenciaga lay on the floor. He kicked at the dress in a badly-coordinated effort to conceal it under the bed. McCloud tore around to the other side of the bed with uncanny speed:

"Ah hah!" he said. "Ah ha ha hah!" He grabbed up the gown. The silk lining swished as it brushed Archie's knees.

"I suppose…," said McCloud, as he held the gown at arm's length with great distaste, "I suppose you go through your Auntie's closet when she's not home too, eh?"

He eyed Archie with the kind of suspicion you get a lot of in the army.

"Archie," he continued on a note of sadness, "this is…sick."

Archie foolishly began to stammer out an explanation:

"I--"

"Do you think I'm a fool?" McCloud edged closer. The Balenciaga touched both of them. "Do you think I don't know what's going down?"

Archie started to move backwards, but McCloud crowded him. The dress swished again accusatorily as McCloud handed it back to Archie. McCloud whispered this last, with a bitter bile rising:

"Do you think I don't know the score?"

Archie took a big deep breath, preparatory to telling all. McCloud cut him off:

"You have been sleeping on the job!" It was like the worst possible sin in the worst of all possible worlds. "Five-eighty an hour I pay you to sleep?!"

"It was just a little nap," explained Archie, in an attempt to embroider what was now the official truth.

"Just a little NAP!" screamed McCloud, squashing the gown in his hands in supreme frustration.

Exasperated, he stalked out of the room. It was like his only child, after years of angelic behavior, had committed a string of armed robberies. It's possible tears came to his eyes. At any rate, he couldn't face the boy. He half-whispered to himself:

"What's wrong with you, Archie?"

Archie hurried after him, stopping him at the top of the stairs with:

"Mr. McCloud, there's something I have to tell you."

McCloud whirled around, trying to prepare himself for what he imagined would be a confession of epic proportion, something he definitely wasn't prepared to hear, a truth that would certainly rock his world.

"Uh…I've…decided I, uh, you were right, sir, about my attitude. Uh. Right. Uh…Positive thinking, sir, is…uh…really Right On!"

McCloud looked at him and shook his head.

"You're a very sick boy, Archie." He turned and started to descend the stairs. Archie sighed with relief.

"Perhaps," said McCloud quietly, as he continued downstairs, "you'd like to join me in the prep room." He turned after the last step and yelled back up: "That is if you're not too tired!"

Archie stood at the railing, looking for all the world like a half-wit apprentice transvestite.

"And put that dress away!" screamed McCloud. "Jesus D. God!" He continued muttering to himself, gallumphing towards the prep room.

It was like a tornado had been bearing down on Archie all day long and suddenly veered away at the last possible second. McCloud had avoided the subject of Gracie Whitlock altogether.

Yes, Archie considered as he finished making the bed and headed for the prep room with Joanie's gown under his arm, McCloud was definitely a queer old bird.

He wondered what would happen next.


Next: Prom night at last.

Forward


and if your teacher is also a pervert?
the end of the beginning
telephone, for thee!
one thing you don't want is a thaw
our little life is rounded with a sleep
"Those suckers are alive!"
In the darkness the undead quarterback
highway to hell in a handbasket
fill 'er up and check the oil
hell hounds on my trail
are you on drugs or just having one of those days?
Freeman and me and the rest of the world


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