Not Even A One Night Stand
knocks me out how people keep repeating old junk they pick up. And believe
it. I have yet to see the apple that kept the doctor away. And if opposites
attract it doesn't happen around here. Chinese don't marry Eskimos and
millionaires don't hang around with pushcart peddlers. It would be a
good thing if they did. We're all the same species but most of the time
you would never know it.
Sadler's father was such a hot Republican that every year he looked
more like an elephant. Bernie agreed with his old man that Roosevelt's
election would destroy not only Brooklyn - where he owned three sporting
goods stores - but eventually the Woolworth building and the stock exchange.
Bernie had come down from college with his new moustache in time for
his high school reunion, two of which he had missed. Over the summer
he planned to help out in the family business, although it had predictably
fallen off since, according to Mr. Sadler, the new president had introduced
Bernie was headed for a degree in business. Now anxious to meet old
school friends, he had spiffed himself up in his gray flannels, college
tie, blue blazer and white shoes, standing lean and tall. But he never
expected to meet anyone like Sybil Miller. She wasn't even a member
of his graduating class. She was a senior taking part in the reunion
welcome-back program delivering an impassioned speech on the suffragettes
as Bernie Sadler walked into the auditorium. He scarcely followed a
word of it so absorbed was he in looking at her. She was well worth
more than a look as plenty of guys in her class agreed. Her immediate
appeal, flashing black eyes, and smooth skin with a touch of the desert,
caught his attention. People whispered to him to sit down as he stood
in the aisle listening. But she had finished, and during the applause
he strode back to the door and went around to the stage entrance. She
had gone. She had descended the steps at the front of the stage and
walked up the aisle and out the same door Bernie had used. He nervously
searched everywhere for her, having obtained her name from a student
backstage, then ran into old buddies and girl friends, excusing himself
after brief hellos, looking for her. Almost an hour later, at the dance
in the gym, he saw her as she headed for the exit. He left his partner
in the middle of the floor with a quick beg pardon, and ran up to her.
"Sybil!" he called. She turned and saw him coming
toward her. He looked familiar. "I heard your speech. It was great,"
"Thanks," she said. "Sorry I can't stop now, I'm late."
"Wait, wait," he said. "I'm Bernie Sadler, an alumnus.
I came down for the reunion . . . "
"Bernie Sadler? The Bernie Sadler who was school president?"
"I voted for you!" she said, laughing. "I was a sophomore."
"Oh, my God!" he cried.
"I really have to go," she said, starting for the
"Wait. Please," he said, accompanying her. "I just
want to talk for a minute . . ."
"Why don't you call me?" she replied, hurrying toward
the bus stop.
"No! I have to be back at college tomorrow for exams.
How about tonight?" The bus came down the street where a group of students
"Tonight? No, tonight I have to be in Manhattan."
"I'll tell you what. I can meet you in front of Kleins.
You know Kleins?"
"Yeah, sure. What time?"
"Eight o'clock," she called back as she got on the
arrived near the famous clothing emporium at seven forty five to find
Union Square jammed. A rally was breaking up, the chanting crowd surrounding
a platform, police on foot and on horseback everywhere. A light drizzle
had begun to disperse the crowd rapidly to the subway entrances. A banner
coming down from the platform read "Free The Scottsboro Boys", and the
rigged lights blinked out. Bernie walked quickly across to Kleins from
which people were pouring at the store's closing. He saw Sybil huddled
near the entrance in a beat-up raincoat and rain hat. She grabbed his
"I'm awfully sorry," she said. "I can't stay. An emergency
came up and I've got to do something. You want to come along, it's okay."
"What's the emergency?"
"I can't stop to explain. I've got to deliver something.
Maybe I can meet you later..."
"I'll take you. I've got my car parked around the
"Oh, that's great! Where is it?"
his father's Buick she directed him to drive her to an address not five
minutes away. She went into a spooky looking old commercial loft building
while he waited patiently in the gloomy, drizzly street planning to
drive her back to Brooklyn and park the car in a dark neighborhood he
had already selected. About ten minutes later she popped out followed
by two middle-aged men in open shirts carrying six bundles in brown
wrapping paper each tied with yellow cord. She opened the rear door
and the men tossed the bundles onto the rear seat then ran back into
the building. She hopped into the car.
"Thanks. Let's go," she panted. "Burnside Avenue."
"The Bronx. Didn't you ever hear of Burnside Avenue?"
"How far is it? I can't keep the car out all night."
"It's not that far, I don't think. Let's get directions.
Once we're there I'm all right."
"We'll have to find a cop..."
"A cop? A taxi driver is what you want. Go back to
They found a taxi in front of a coffee shop as the driver came out of
it chewing a toothpick. He gave them directions, got back in his cab
and drove off.
"That's far. That's very far," Bernie said.
"I didn't ask you to drive me. You offered. I can't
carry all that stuff in the subway by myself. If you didn't have the
car I wouldn't have taken all that stuff. I'd have gone right back to
with the territory, Bernie's sense of control began to fade, though
the excitement she had roused inspired him to go through with it in
the hope that after the packages were delivered he could have time with
her once he got back to Brooklyn. He drove cautiously, conscious of
his father's admonition never to take the car out of Brooklyn alone.
Sensing his discomfort, Sybil engaged him in conversation.
"I think it's swell that you're doing something like
this for someone you don't even really know," she said.
"Yeah, well, I'm doing it because I want to know you
better. Maybe we can, I mean, sit around in the car for a while later
"You mean neck."
"With you, anytime." He flashed his most devastating
"My father's horse's advice is never neck with a stranger,"
"Your father's horse? Is your father a jockey?"
"No, he's a milkman. Up at three every morning. How'd
you like a job like that?"
"No, thanks. I'm majoring in economics."
"Take a right here. Did you take eco in high school
with Mr. Popkin?" she asked.
"Yeah, I did. Popkin was a great teacher."
"He's an idiot. Teddy Roosevelt made him drool."
"What's wrong with Teddy Roosevelt?" he asked, surprised.
"He was an imperialist."
"He was a good imperialist," Bernie replied.
"Are you taking a course in good imperialists?" she
"There's no such course," he said, annoyed.
"So where did you learn all that shit about good imperialists?"
Startled, he glanced at her as she stared at him with her piquant face,
her black marble eyes. She was right out of Ortchy Chornya, Dark Eyes,
his father's favorite romantic song. His father sang it in a menacing
baritone. But Ortchy Chornya would never have used such language. It
bothered Bernie to hear it from the delectable lips of a girl like Sybil,
Sybil whom his every tingling fibre had responded to, Sybil whom he
felt he had to have even if he had to marry her. The word love never
came to his mind. It was more overwhelming than that. One of his mother's
favorite sayings was coming true: "You'll know her when you see her."
Right now, though, his feelings were complicated by the endless drive
into the Bronx: a place totally unknown to him, the streets numbering
into the hundreds ‹ hilly, deserted, wet, the sudden word she had thrown
at him causing him to tense up and drive erratically.
"Watch out," she cautioned as he nearly swiped another
"Where the hell is this place?" he asked.
"We're real close now," she said. They had been driving
almost half an hour. "Want a cigarette?" she asked.
"I don't smoke," he said. They were silent for a few
minutes. He glanced at her as she lit up. He couldn't explain it but
it thrilled him to see her do that.
"Turn right next block," she called. "Up the hill.
I'll show you the first house."
"What do you mean the first house?" he asked, shifting
into low gear as the car climbed the dark street.
"I have five deliveries back there. Stop at the building
with one shade up and one shade down. Good. Don't get out. Turn off
your lights." She leaped from the car, grabbed two bundles and went
up the front stoop. She had marvelous legs. She rang once, twice, then
once, waited, the door opened into an unlit vestibule where she handed
the package to the unseen ghost within and then got back into the car.
"Okay," she said as the car started moving. "Make
a right." They proceeded according to her directions for another ten
minutes, located the next drop where she emerged from the car, and entered
a dilapidated tenement five stories tall. She disappeared inside. Bernie
turned around and looked at the remaining bundles on the back seat.
He reached over and tore the wrapper exposing a section of the front
page of what was apparently the top copy of the newspapers beneath.
In bold, black type the name of the press came to light, The Daily Worker.
At that moment Sibyl came out of the doorway followed by a pale, skinny
teenager in an undershirt and gym shorts, his left arm partly paralyzed,
though he was able to carry two of the bundles she thrust at him. She
kissed him and sent him staggering back into the tenement.
"Okay, let's go," she whispered.
"I'm not going anywhere," he said.
"Bernie! This is Coughlin country. Let's get out of
"Father Coughlin's! The fascist radio preacher. Bernie!"
A quintet of males, shabbily dressed, some carrying
bats and smoking, came around the corner under the thin light, singing
and pushing one another. Bernie started the car with such a jolt that
she was thrown against the windshield banging her forehead. When they
came to a lighted avenue where some stores were still open and a movie
theatre brightened the sidewalk before it, he pulled over to the curb.
"Why didn't you tell me you were transporting that
stuff in my father's car?" he asked coldly.
"You never asked me," she said, rubbing her bruise.
"Did you ever read it?"
"That!" he exploded. "You think I'm crazy?"
"How do you know what's in it if you never read it?"
"I can smell it. I don't have to step in it."
"That's brilliant. I have to remember that," she said.
"You're working for the communists, aren't you?"
"No. I'm just a volunteer."
"You're a communist," he said.
"You're a Republican," she said.
"Jesus Christ!" he said.
"He was a communist, too. He wanted to share everything.
Can you imagine that? He drove the stock market gamblers out of the
"They didn't have a stock market!" he shouted.
"Listen, Bernie, I've got two more deliveries to make.
Then you can go home to your mama and your papa and tell them how you
slugged a commie with your own two hands..."
"Who said I was going to do that?"
"Well, then let's get going for geezus' sake. I've
got two more deliveries to make."
He gripped the wheel and stared out the windshield
then started the car and drove off slowly. "Tell me how to get out of
this dump," he said, hoarsely. She told him. "When I get on a familiar
street, I'm going home."
"That is not your gentleman's agreement," she said.
"You are a gentleman, aren't you? At least a bourgeois gentleman."
"I told you what I'm going to do," he said.
"I wouldn't advise you to do that," she said evenly.
"Let's end the class war just for tonight and carry out your promise."
"No," he said, driving faster.
She pushed his knee down and his foot struck the accelerator.
The car shot forward. He braked. "Damn it!" he cried. "You crazy?"
"I got to do this," she explained. "A couple of the
newspaper's delivery vans were burned and some places won't get the
He drew up at a subway station. "Get out," he said.
"Here? I'll scream. They'll come running out of the
houses. I'll tell them you tried to rape me in your father's Buick.
You don't know the Irish cops around here, Bernie. They're very family.
One of my best friends is an Irish cop. When they get revolutionary
you never saw anything like it. Bernie?"
Tense, furious, he started the car, and drove at her directions. "I
know how you must feel," she said. "You do your best and I'll do mine."
"A Russian communist!"
"I'm a fourth generation American, Bernie. When did
your parents come over?"
"Where is this delivery?"
"A Hundred Twentieth Street. In Manhattan."
"That's where it is."
"I don't care what happens to your goddam delivery,
I'm not going into Harlem! And if you try banging my foot once more
I'll stop the car and you can sit here all frigging night if you want
"Oh, that's real bad language," she said.
She sat back resigned. "Well, I guess some spots won't get their
morning edition tomorrow. Okay. Let's go. Brooklyn, here we come. And
by the way, I live off Kings Highway." And as the car moved along
the road, picking up speed, she asked with a chuckle, "You still
interested in necking, Bernie?"
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