, September 2023

They’d been driving around South Brooklyn all night, Carl visiting from Long Island and alone in the back seat of Tommy’s Olds 98 sipping quarts of Budweiser and packing his little brass pipe with some fine green they’d bought at a red light somewhere near Coney Island. Big Scott “Buddha” was riding shotgun, pager in one hand and roll of quarters in the other, the pager beeping every few minutes and he would tell Tommy to pull over at the next pay phone.

For hours everyone had been calling each other from pay phones trying to figure out where to meet. Carl had some serious munchies and they stopped at Roll-N-Roaster for a dripping Roast Beef-N-Cheez sandwich and Fries-n-Cheez, which was fine with Buddha because he was always up for food and there was a bank of clean pay phones there. An hour later they stopped at Lenny & John’s for pepperoni slices and Grape Crush, and Buddha gave Carl one of his quarters to play Super Punch Out but was knocked out in the second bout by Dragon Chan and his flying leg kick.

At midnight they were back in the car and still without a place to meet up with everyone else.

“Yo, this is fuckin’ boring!” Carl suddenly blurted out from the back. “Just pick a fuckin’ place and tell everyone to go there!”

Tommy hit the brakes and the tires chirped. He and Buddha turned around and stared at Carl, making him paranoid.

“The silent stoner speaks!” Buddha finally laughed.

“He’s right, though, Bood,” Tommy said. “This is fuckin’ boring.”

“Alright, let’s forget about trying to meet up with everyone. I know exactly what we need to do. We need to turn this boat around and drive into Manhattan and find some fuckin’ hookers!”

“Fuckin’ Jesus, Bood, we’re not goin’ into fuckin’ Manhattan.”

“Let’s ask Cheech & Chong back there. Whadda ya say we feast on some whores?”

“I only have a few bucks left and I need another quart,” Carl said. “And I have to piss again.”

“Jesus fuckin’ Christ,” Tommy said.

Buddha’s beeper started beeping and they pulled over again. Buddha made his call, then Carl pretended to be making a call but was pissing on the pay phone pole.

It had finally been decided that everyone meet at Brighton Beach, a good thing because Buddha was nearly out of quarters. Carl knew that Betty would probably be there, the girl he liked who now thought he was a coward. A couple of months earlier, Tommy had a party at his house that was interrupted when the Avenue T Furies started driving by, a local gang who’d mistaken Tommy for a rival gang member trespassing on their turf. A couple of Tommy’s friends hoisted him into the attic crawl space and the rest of the guys went outside with bats and chains and metal pipes, except Carl, who was told by Tommy’s cousin to stay inside because it didn’t involve him. So he stayed inside, which is when Betty called him out in front of the twenty or so other girls in the living room, one of whom stepped in to defend speechless Carl, which didn’t help.

At the next bodega, Carl switched it up, going with a quart of Miller Genuine Draft and another nickel bag. After a quick hop on the Belt Parkway, they drove around some neighborhood for twenty minutes until Tommy finally found a parking spot.

Everyone else was already on the beach drinking and smoking. Carl was dragging in the sand twenty yards behind Tommy and Buddha, then went right by everyone, ignoring their calls inquiring where he was going. He continued on to the lifeguard chair and climbed it, then packed his pipe, but it was breezy and he couldn’t get it lit. Then the chair began to shake.

Carl looked down. Betty was on the ladder looking up at him.

“Can I come up?” she asked, softer than her usual tough-Italian-girl-from-Brooklyn tone.

“I brought my balls this time and I’m not in a good mood.”

She climbed the rest of the way and sat next to him and slid her arm into his and leaned her head against his shoulder.

“I’m really sorry,” she said. “Tommy got so mad at me for how I treated you and I was drunk at the party and I’m sorry.”

“I’m not a coward.”

“I know. You want me to help you get that thing lit?”

Carl stopped trying to light the pipe.

“Here,” she said, unzipping her hoodie sweatjacket, revealing tank top cleavage. “Go ahead.”

He leaned in and she wrapped the hoodie around his head and flicked the lighter. It was like he was in a small tent with a pair of candlelit breasts. He took a hit, then pulled out and exhaled. He offered her a hit, but she declined and told him to finish it. He went back in and took another, then pulled out and exhaled into the wind.

“Got a condom on you?” she asked.

“In my wallet.”

“How long has it been in there?”

“A while.”

“Well, if it’s still any good, I wanna fuck your brains out right here.”

The wrapper was wrinkled, but the condom was still lubricated. He was already hard and she put the condom on him, then unzipped her own pants and rolled her petite body on top of him. She was nimble and knew what she was doing and slid him inside her and fucked his brains out in the same wild manner she had kissed him that first night.

Condom in the sand, she leaned her head against his breast. Carl wanted to say something, but he didn’t know what and she started falling asleep.

When the sky started getting light, Tommy came over and said they were going.

“What does this mean?” Carl asked Betty.

“It means it’s time to go home,” she said, sleepy. “And I know that’s not what you meant, but I don’t wanna fuckin’ talk about it right now.”

They held hands walking across the sand. Tommy was ahead of them and nobody said anything. At the car they kissed like teenage lovers, then she walked away without a word.

Carl climbed into the back of Tommy’s car and packed his pipe. Tommy didn’t say anything. Buddha was snoring, then woke with a start and asked if they were going for breakfast.

They stopped at the Oasis Diner on Flatbush. On the way in, Carl bought a pack of Marlboros from the cigarette machine next to the gumball machines.

Within minutes their table was covered with pancakes, bacon, sausage, ham, eggs, toast, hash browns, orange juice, coffee, and an assortment of Smuckers jellies.

Carl put out his cigarette and took a bite of sausage.

“Forget about her,” Tommy said, then bit his toast.

Buddha, chewing, nodded and said, “He’s right. You better fuckin’ forget about her.”


She kind of has a boyfriend,” Tommy said.

Kind of?

“They’re broken up, but she thinks they’re more broken up than he does.”


“And he’s kind of psycho,” Buddha said.


“Don’t worry,” Tommy said. “He doesn’t know your face, and no one around here really knows you.”

Carl stopped eating and lit a cigarette.

“Just forget about her,” Tommy said.

“Yeah,” Buddha said, chewing, “and maybe don’t come back around here for a while. A few months or so. Maybe more.”

“And you better fuckin’ forget about her,” Tommy repeated, then gave Carl a light slap on the cheek and laughed.

He never did forget about Betty, not a chance of that. But he never went back to Marine Park and he never saw her again. ▪