even than being cut off from hot pastrami sandwiches for four
years was having to go to an all-boys' high school. For the whole
time you never saw a girl. We felt sorry for those guys because
they were just the years when nothing seemed more important. The
song, "Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life At Last I Found Thee" said it
in one line. All our spare time was spent looking for them and
searching for the mystery.
girls were, naturally, from the neighborhood, not what you would
call movie star material, but okay. I mean, not imported quality
like say a Greta Garbo, more the wholesome home-made type, like
say, blintzes. And they didn't know any more what the mystery
was than we did, although everybody was chasing it. In the end
a hunk of it blew right up in our faces in a way nobody saw in
was getting closest to catching on, or thought he was. He was
the first to discover soul kissing, and when he did he called
a meeting right away. That Saturday night we took our dates to
Stretch's sisterąs house to baby sit for her and practice soul
kissing until she came home. It was also the first night this
Betty Boop showed up. We were all experimenting with the mystery,
which of course included a little necking. Betty Boop wouldn't
so much as dance close, let alone kiss, with or without her soul.
Hold hands is all she would do. The best looking cookie there,
her makeup made the rest of them amateurs. Her lips were firecracker
red, her figure zoftik. Her eyes were a come-on baby blue with
eye shadow. She knew how to put it on, all right. Including her
name which was not really Betty Boop. But she looked and sounded
like the character in the cartoon, cute as hell, that everybody
called her that. Neither was she from around our block but had
a friend here who took her along.
I don't do that!" she chirps when her date only wants to put his
arm around her. Stretch walked her back to her friendąs house
one night and tried to kiss her. She socked him with her fist
and broke his glasses. Everybody but Frankie soon gave up. Maybe
it was her perfume. Frankie went for strong smelling girls. She
wore stuff that could have come out of an opium den. She wouldnąt
go to the movies either. She said we didn't go to the movies to
see the movie but to sit in the darkest part of the balcony for
only one purpose. She was wrong. We saw the movie, too.
the local Sinatra, tried everything. He sang to her, took her
to the ice cream parlor for double chocolate sundaes with extra
whipped cream and sprinkles, and when she made it a point to tell
him what perfume she wore he went out and bought her a small bottle
of it. That alone set him back two dollars and twenty-five cents.
He was wearing himself to a frazzle.
ain't even gonna kiss her husband," Petey told him. But nothing
would shake him. He had a swelled head about it and kept trying
different schemes to make her give in. He bet Lenny three dollars
heąd do it by the end of the summer. About the middle of August
he came up with his last sure-fire plan. For a couple of days
he wouldnąt tell us what it was until we finally got it out of
"Coney Island," he said. "I'm gonna take her to Coney Island."
At first we laughed. Then he explained it. "The rides," he said.
knew what he meant. Steeplechase especially had some wild rides
that threw you as close as a sheet and a blanket. On one of them
a whole crowd got spun around in a huge wooden bowl with what's
called centrifugal force until bodies were falling all over each
other, stuck together. Then there were the roller coasters and
a lot of other stuff. Steeplechase Park had fifty rides on one
ticket. We thought it was worth a try especially since she'd never
been there and was dying to go. The next Saturday the whole bunch
of us went. It wasn't easy. She inspected every ride before she'd
get on. After a few of the simple ones, like the Ferris Wheel
and a Drive-Ur-Self car ride, Frankie headed for the Horse Race.
The Horse Race was something else. Six merry-go-round horses lined
up racetrack style, each mounted on its own single track a couple
of feet off the ground and running for about half a mile, the
horses slid with some speed over their rails to the finish line.
Two riders rode each horse. It wasn't the ride Frankie apparently
had in mind but what happened after it, because the exit from
the ride led the unsuspecting riders on to a stage. The stage
jutted out into an auditorium filled with customers of the park,
a free show. A couple of dwarfs dressed in clown costumes hopped
about on the stage carrying electric prods. They didn't give you
much of a shock, but they made you jump. The popcorn-eating crowd
yelled and waited for the big moment. That came when the dwarfs
prodded the people to the blowers, spots on the floor under which
unseen pipes blew up powerful jets of air catching whoever was
standing over them in their blasts. The dwarfs controlled the
was one of the hottest, muggiest days of the summer, the kind
only Brooklyn can produce. We started to get on the horses. At
first Betty Boop refused to ride on the front part of the saddle
because her partner behind would have to put his arms around her.
Instead, she rode on the back and put her arms around him. The
starting bell clanged and the horses were off skimming over the
rails, everybody screaming and laughing, swinging the turns as
we went speeding to the finish. Excited and shouting with the
thrill of the ride we slid off the horses and were funneled into
the exit that wound up on the stage. Betty Boop drew the immediate
attention of the dwarfs. She stopped short, surprised. Surprised
to be on the stage. Surprised by the dwarfs. Surprised by the
howling audience. She slid away from the dwarf prodding her, to
escape the shock, waltzing this way and that until he had her
over the pipe. Suddenly, with a loud hiss, it blasted off. Her
dress flew up over her head. She didn't have a thing on underneath.
The crowd went wild. The rest of us, bunched up, fell all over
each other and the dwarfs began to prod us toward the real exit
as we scrambled to our feet. Outside, we stumbled about trying
to control ourselves. When we did, Betty Boop was gone. We never
saw her again.