"Anyone planning to go to the Bicentennial Dance at the community center tomorrow night?" Josh Riker asked as he reached for the next to last piece of pizza.
"I might," Stephen Scott answered, "if Laurie wants to go."
Much to the annoyance of his friends, Stephen was practically incapable of answering any question without pointing out that he was the only one of the group with a steady girlfriend.
"Hey, is it true that you have to ask her permission to go to the bathroom too?" Jack Lawrence chimed in.
"Fuck you, Lawrence," Stephen shot back, "I don't see you having a steady girl to go out with every weekend."
"That's because there's only one of me and it's not fair to confine that to only one girl," Jack retorted.
"Keep believing that," Stephen countered.
It was a point of contention among three of the four young men sitting around the back table of Scarpacci's Pizzeria as to whether Stephen was actually getting some from Laurie. They'd all known each other since grade school, with Stephen and Laurie being a couple since sophomore year of high school.
"How bout you, Simon?" Josh asked the last of the group who had been content to just sit there and drink his soda.
"I think I'm just about Bicentennialed out," Simon Clarke said after putting his soda down. "I think I'll pass."
After a senior year in which just about everything from the yearbook to the colors for graduation revolved around the fact that 1976 was the two hundredth anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, Simon wasn't the only one who felt that way. And the actual 4th of July was still a week away.
Still, it had been a fun filled senior year, even if, unlike Stephen, he didn't have a girlfriend. His eighteenth birthday was still a few months away, so when he started college in the fall, he would still be seventeen. Chronologically, he was always the youngest kid in his class, with his birthday falling on the last day the school district picked as the cut off point for a school year. If he'd been born a day later, he'd just be finishing junior year.
"What about you, Josh," Stephen asked, "you going?"
"Might as well," Josh answered. "After all, what else is there to do around here on a Saturday night?"
Stephen and Jack nodded in agreement. The summer was only beginning and they were already bored. They figured this year would be different, after all, now they were eighteen and men - or at least three out of four of them were.
The last of the pizza now gone, the quartet made their way out of Scarpacci's. Stephen excused himself, saying he had to go and meet Laurie.
"Yeah, we know," Josh and Jack said almost in unison, as he hurried off to meet her.
"You think she's really putting out for him?" Josh asked for what had to be the hundredth time once Stephen was out of earshot.
"Damned if I know," Simon answered, "but even if he hasn't ever said she does, he certainly acts like it."
Even if Stephen wasn't, Simon well knew his friend had certainly lucked out with just having Laurie for his girlfriend. Back when they were kids, Laurie had been the proverbial skinny, pigtail-haired girl. Add to that braces and glasses and you had a pre-teen that only a mother could love. Still, Stephen lived just across the street from her and they'd become best friends, no matter what anyone else thought. Then came high school, the braces came off, her eyes grew stronger, and Laurie filled up and out, sprouting a respectable bust, the nipples of which were, under the right conditions, visible even through her bra and blouse.
"You know what I think?" Jack offered.
"If we said no, would you not tell us?" Simon replied.
"I think he hasn't even gotten to second base with her," Jack stated, ignoring Simon's question. "In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if mister big shot Stephen spends his nights whacking off to her picture."
"And whose picture do you use?" Josh asked Jack.
Both he and Simon laughed at the retort, so true that even Jack finally joined in. Not that he would admit it, Simon would be happy to regularly get to second base with a girl. That was a place he'd only been twice. First with a another counselor at the summer camp he'd worked at the last few years, and once with Cindy Lyman. And just about everyone had been to second base with Cindy.
"We're gonna head over to Jack's house and hang out," Josh said, "you wanna come?"
"Nah, I promised my uncle I'd stop by and help him with a few things," Simon replied.
"Okay, we'll see you later then," Josh said, "let me know if you change your mind about the dance, we'd probably have some fun."
"Okay, I'll do that," Simon offered as the two older boys headed down the block.
Simon's uncle, Ryan Peterson, lived on the second floor of the same apartment building that his family lived in. In fact, both his father's and Ryan's parents had lived there since before either of them were born. So it was no surprise that Ryan had married Donna Clarke soon after he came home from the service. Despite Ryan being six years older, they had practically grown up in each other's apartment.
His Aunt Donna had passed away fourteen months before at the age of sixty-four, but Simon was till close to his uncle, even if that relation had only been by marriage. His own father, the youngest of the previous generation, had died in a car accident when Simon had been ten. In the seven years since, Ryan Peterson had done all he could to fill that void.
"How's it going Uncle Ryan?" Simon said as he walked into the living room of his uncle's apartment after letting himself in with the key he'd given him.
"Can't complain," Ryan replied with a smile, "and even if I did, who'd listen?"
"I would," Simon grinned back.
"Yeah, you would," Ryan agreed.
"My mom said you had some things that you needed moved," Simon said.
"Just a box with some of your Aunt's old things," the seventy-one year old said. "I want to donate them to the senior's center, I'm sure someone over there can use them."
"No problem," Simon said as he walked over to one of the boxes Ryan had indicated and tested its weight. "I might have to borrow your shopping cart to take these," he judged,
"You know were it is," his uncle replied.
"Anything you want me to bring back?" Simon said after getting the cart and loading the two boxes into it.
"No, I'm fine," he insisted.
"I noticed that you haven't been going to the center that much lately," Simon pointed out. "I know you like to play cards with the guys there. You feeling okay?"
"I'm feeling fine," Ryan insisted, "or at least what passes for fine when you get to be my age."
"Then how come you haven't been going?" Simon repeated.
"Well if you must know," he finally answered. "I've been trying to avoid running into Helen Petrowski."
"Why would you want to avoid her?" Simon asked further.
"I have my reasons," Ryan said without elaborating further.
"I don't understand," Simon replied, "You've been going to the center since before Aunt Donna passed away. Why stop now?"
"Because she makes me uncomfortable, that's all," Ryan quickly said.
"She makes you uncomfortable?" Simon repeated. "How could she..."
He paused in mid-sentence as it hit him. Mrs. Petrowski, whose own husband had passed away last year, was hitting on his uncle.
"Uncle Ryan, you should go for it," Simon said after his uncle had confirmed his guess, feeling a sort of role reversal in giving the older man dating advice. "There's no reason you should be alone if you don't have to be. I know Aunt Donna wouldn't want you to be."
Simon vaguely remembered Mrs. Petrowski from back when he was a Cub Scout. She had been one of the den mothers but had left when he was about nine. Still, what he remembered of her was that she was a really nice woman.
"It's not easy to explain," Ryan said.
"You can tell me anything, you know that, right?"
"If she was just looking for someone to keep company with, well then that would be fine," he began to explain. "After all, we grew up in the same neighborhood and have a number of things in common."
"Then what's the problem?" Simon asked curiously.
"She ... she wants someone in her bed too," he finally answered after hesitating a long moment.
"Well, nothing wrong with that," Simon smiled.
"Damn thing doesn't work."
"I said the damn thing doesn't work," he repeated. "hasn't worked in years. It didn't matter to your Aunt, she hadn't been interested in that part of marriage for a long time."
"Well maybe that wouldn't matter," Simon offered, "You said Aunt Donna wasn't interested, maybe she isn't that interested either."
"Oh she's interested all right," Ryan corrected him. "She was very specific as to what she had in mind the last few times she's invited me over."
Curious as he was, Simon thought it best not to ask what she had so specifically said.
"I still think you should take a chance," Simon offered. "What do you have to lose?"
"Only my pride," Ryan insisted. "It's not like I could take a magic pill and suddenly act like I was eighteen again."
"I'm almost eighteen and I don't get to act like that," Simon thought before turning his thoughts back to the matter at hand. "Suite yourself then," he added as he took hold of the cart and said goodbye.
"Do me a favor, if you see Mrs. Petrowski at the center, tell her something that would make her leave me alone."
"What should I tell her?"
.... There is more of this story ...