, September 2023

Carl had been looking forward to the party because Betty would be there, the girl who kissed him a month ago. That was the first and only time he and his friend Pete had come to Brooklyn from Massapequa, Long Island. Pete’s cousin, Tommy, lived in a townhouse in Marine Park, and, on this night, his parents would be away.

They arrived while some of Tommy’s friends were in the kitchen tapping a keg of Budweiser. In the living room there was an ounce of weed and a torn-open carton of Marlboros on the coffee table. People started showing up, but not Betty, which was good because for the past month all he’d been thinking about was her promise to kiss him again, and hopefully more, when he came back to Brooklyn, but he’d thought about it too much and was now paralyzed by fear. Then the blunts started going around and he got paranoid and hid in the kitchen next to the keg trying to get the beer buzz going, but the blunts followed him in and the shit was good.

“Dude, your eyes are so fuckin’ red!” Tommy laughed, leaning in to get a closer look at Carl’s bloodshot peepers.

Then he heard her in the living room. She was a Brooklyn girl and her voice was loud and she was tough and seemed a little crazy, a girl the likes of which he had not encountered in Massapequa.

Then the voice started getting closer to the kitchen and would be there any second. His mind went blank.

“There you are, Long Island,” she said, smiling, holding out her red plastic cup. “Wanna fill me up?”

“Sure,” Carl said, taking the cup. He picked up the tap and it started squirting foam.

“I was beginning to think you were hiding from me,” she said, watching her cup fill with tiny bubbles.

“No, I got stuck in here and everyone started handing me blunts.”

She leaned in and looked into his eyes.

“Jesus Christ, you are fuckin’ high,” she said. “If you manage to get any beer into that cup, why don’t you bring it into the living room and sit next to me on the couch.”

He spent the next several minutes filling both of their cups, scooping out the foam with his fingers then filling a little more, until the layer of beer was finally visible from the top. He then rinsed his hands and brought the beers into the living room.

Betty was on the couch with a vacant spot next to her.

“What took you so long to come back?” she asked, then sipped her beer.

“I tried to get the foam out, but I was having some trouble with the tap.”

“No, I meant back to Brooklyn.”

“Oh. Well, this is the first time since then that Pete wanted to come out—”

“You could have told Pete that you wanted to come out here to see me.”

“Oh. Yeah, I didn’t think to—”

“Or you could have just got my phone number through Tommy and called me.”

“Oh. I didn’t think of that.”

“I thought you liked when I kissed you, Long Island.”

“I did! That’s all I’ve been thinking about! But I didn’t know it would be okay to just call you.”

“You didn’t know. Well, now you’re going to have to work for that next kiss.”

“What do I need to do? I’ll do anything.”

“Sit here and say nice things about me and tell me how beautiful I am and how much you want me.”

There was a commotion in the kitchen. Some of the guys were talking about a car that kept driving by out front that they thought belonged to the Avenue T Furies, the local gang that had no tolerance for other gang members passing through their turf. A girl across the room started telling someone how Tommy had walked down Avenue T the other day and one of them thought he was with another gang and the next thing he knew he was running for his life. He got away, but they were still after him.

Moments later, one of Tommy’s friends passed through the living room with a metal Easton baseball bat, then another guy with a piece of iron pipe. Then Pete came in with a thick piece of chain.

“You stay here,” he said to Carl. “This doesn’t involve you.”

Upstairs a couple of Tommy’s friends were hoisting him up to the attic crawl space, while the rest of the guys, except Carl, went outside and formed a wall in front of the house with weapons in full view.

“Aren’t you gonna go out there?” Betty asked Carl, serious now.

“Pete said to stay in here.”

Pete said… Don’t you have any fuckin’ balls of your own? Are you just gonna sit in here like a coward and hide with the girls? Do you listen to everything Pete says? Is he your fuckin’ father?”

The room became silent as Betty and the twenty or so other girls in there awaited his answer, but he was stymied.

“What’s the matter, sweetie? Do you need Pete to answer for you?”

“Shut up, Betty,” said Stephanie, another girl Carl had met last time. “He’s a fuckin’ guest.”

“Tell me to ‘shut up’ again and I’ll knock your fuckin’ teeth out,” Betty warned her.

A siren chirped outside. The guys started streaming back in with their bats and chains and hammers. There were about fifty people squeezed into the living room and kitchen, but it was quiet and tense, and several of the guys were peeking through the curtains.

The cop drove by several more times, then didn’t come back, nor did the Furies’ car. Eventually it was deemed safe to retrieve Tommy from the attic.

“I’m outta here,” Betty said, getting up from the couch and hugging Tommy, telling him to be careful. On her way out she gave Carl a sharp glance, then looked away.

After everyone was gone, Tommy, Pete, and Carl were in the kitchen cleaning up.

“I should have gone out there,” Carl said to Pete.

“No,” Pete said. “I had to go out there. If he wasn’t my cousin, I’d have been in here with you.”

“Yeah, the T-Furies are fuckin’ animals,” Tommy said. “You don’t want to get mixed up with them. You might wind up dead like Freddie.”

“Betty called me a ‘coward’ in front of the rest of the girls.”

“Don’t listen to her shit,” Tommy said. “She’s got a big fuckin’ mouth. Half my friends can’t stand her. You’re better off stayin’ the fuck away from her anyway. Dude, for your own sake, just stay the fuck away from her.” ▪