Mingling with riff raff... The words echoed through young Thomas Stephen Ericsen’s head as he drove to his new high school. Being a child of privilege, he’d always been enrolled in private boys schools. Attending private school was excellent for education. Going to Cotillion was better than nothing when it came to socializing. But, Tommy was tired of seeing the same people year in and year out, first at school, then at this coming out party, or that social event. He and Lydia Brownstone had seen Rebel Without a Cause at the Drive-in movies the night Tommy’s parents gave him the keys to a flame red 1957 T-Bird. They both thought there had to be another side of life by the end of the show. Tom coolly wheeled the car into the school parking lot, and parked in the first space he spotted without a name painted on the curb. It made little or no difference at all to him that it was the teachers lot. Perhaps he really didn’t know.
A number of kids were hanging around outside. A rough bunch of boys we milling about. One didn’t have to examine too closely to notice they were smoking, but even teachers, and administration didn’t seem to care. It was the beginning of a new school year at Central High, and there were always going to be the goodie goodies, and the greasers. Seeing the guys reminded him of the riff raff remarks both his parents, but mainly his dad had made. Tom also knew that Central had one of the best public school basketball teams. He thought, strike that... He knew he could make it the best. His looks were a plus with his sandy blond hair, and very dark brown eyes. Odd combination for sure, but it added to his mystique. He was tall, athletic and very rich thanks to trust funds, and his knack for knowing which horse to keep, and which to sell. Seems that was one good quality that he inherited from his stern father.
The girls that had been standing not far from the greasers suddenly shifted their attention to the person that took forever to get out of that hot looking car. Their jaws dropped when they realized that he was a student, and not a teacher. The guys didn’t pay him much mind. They could tell by his looks that he was a jock and not one of them. One of the guys spoke, “Hey, Ericsen, how the hell are ya?” The guy tossed a cigarette butt in the grass.
The girls all gasped at his boldness using the “H” word right in front of them.
“Cookin’ Angelo. How you doin;?” Tommy answered. They had met at the Burger Barn after the movie when he and Lydia stopped in for a soda.
“Animal, you call me Animal, not Angelo, and you’ll be just fine here Ericsen.”
“Okay, cool. Animal, great seeing ya again.”
The girls watched his tight buns in his too tight black slacks as he walked past toward the brick two story building. There was suddenly an outburst of giggles. Tom thought it was at him, but when he turned around to look, he saw they were laughing at a beautiful tall blonde girl about as big around as a pencil, getting off the yellow school bus. It was obvious by her clothing that she was poor, but she was a knock out in looks, and clean as a whistle. He figured in due time, he’d learn her name. He lingered then opened the door for her as she approached. She politely said, “thank you” and went on her way to her locker.
The weeks passed with no major events, or upsets. One day Tom was at his locker when an arm covered in a black leather sleeve came up behind him and slammed the locker door shut. Animal stood laughing. “Hey, heard you knocked that jerk Hinkley out of the top spot on the basketball team. The bastard deserved it.”
Mr. Finch the principal just happened to walk by in time to hear that remark. “Keep your low life opinions to yourself Miltonelli, and watch your foul mouth while you’re at it.”
“Yes, Sir.” Animal saluted him, then gave him the finger as soon as he was past the boys. “Anyway, Hinkley thinks he’s God’s gift since he’s a basketball star. He don’t show me shit, but he gets laid more than the rest of us. He’s set his sites on the blonde you held the door for the first day of school. So, that dolly you were with at Burger Barn... She your baby?”
“Lydia? No, she’s just a good friend of the family.” Tommy liked her, but she wasn’t his girl.
“Okay, cool man. Gotta split. Slam dunk one for me, Ricsen!”
Tommy was no closer to learning the blonde’s name than he was the day he first laid eyes on her. He knew she was a sophomore. He had all the credits he needed transferred from the boy’s school, so there was no chance of having a class with her since he was a junior. He did see her in the gym after school though. She sat quietly. So quietly in fact he wondered why she was trying out to be a paper shaker. When it was her turn, she wowed the crowd with her ability to perform. He thought for sure she would make the cheerleading squad. And, now he at least knew her name, Renée Jorgensen.
What he liked best about that girl was she seemed unphased with him. He wasn’t deaf, he could hear the other girls squeal as he approached, then clam up, and start giggling as soon as he passed. Frankly, it embarrassed him. One day at his locker, he saw a folded up note inside. It must have been shoved through the air vents. He reached to pick it up, unfolded it and read, “Tommy, you send me... If you take me for a ride in your car, I’ll let you unbutton my blouse!” Signed, “Guess Who?” He had no clue, but he refolded the paper and forcefully shoved it in the snug front pocket of his too tight pants. Tom only hoped it was Renée that dropped the note, but he knew in his heart it wasn’t. She was poor for sure, but she was well mannered and always neat as a pin. No way could she have done such a thing, yet in his heart he wished that she had.
Tom was busy with his Saturday morning chores at the ranch. “Thomas! Get in here immediately!” Tommy knew that call. He’d been grooming his best horse when he heard his father bellow. He put down the brush at once, and went into his father’s “office” inside the barn. He wondered what he’d done to piss off the old man this time.
“The laundry maid found this in your pants pocket. Care to explain?”
“It’s just a note I found shoved in my locker at school.” Tommy hoped that would be sufficient since that’s truly all he knew.
“Any idea who ‘Guess Who’ is?”
“No, Dad I don’t. It could be any number of girls I suppose.”
“You’re sure it’s from a girl?”
Tommy wasn’t sure what his father meant by that remark, but he answered just the same, “Dad, it says ‘unbutton my blouse’. Men wear shirts.”
“Guess you’re not as dumb as you look. If I were you, I’d be trying to find out who this dame is. Sounds to me like she’s riff raff ripe for pickin’. Hear me, boy?”
“Yeah Dad, loud and clear. There’s a million of ’em out there.”
Tom’s dad nodded his head. “Get back to work. Keep it up, one of these days you’ll have that old nag looking like the fine animal she should be.”
Tommy breathed a sigh of relief. He hated it when his father called him into the barn. The house with the belt was bad enough, but with a variety of riding crops available, he never knew what would be lashed across his back if what he’d done was too displeasing. Grooming his horse, was one of the few activities at home, that gave him pleasure. Shooting hoops on the well maintained basketball court was the greatest. There, he could move and jump, dribble and slam dunk in his element. He knew he excelled in basketball. His grades were great too, but they didn’t give him the joy that basketball did. Tommy finished up his task, then went down to the court. His concentration was precise as he practiced shot after shot from any angle, and at any speed. At school, the girls giggling annoyed him. Here there was perfect peace. His mind drifted to the girl that watched every move he made intently, without any of that foolishness. Thinking of Renée seemed to make him focus harder. It was like he was performing just for her as he dunked ball after ball.
He stopped and turned toward the feminine voice coming toward him. “Hi, Lydia. What brings you here?”
“Tommy can we go someplace where it’s safe to talk? I’ve got something to tell you!” She whispered.
For the sake of whomever may be spying, Tom leaned down, and brushed his lips across Lydia’s cheek. She grinned at him knowingly as they walked hand in hand toward the lake.
“Tommy, Animal wants me to meet him at Patsy's Pizza tonight! He actually came to my house and asked my father if he could date me. Dad threw him out of the house saying something about staying away from his daughter, and going back to his goombah’s. Whatever that means. Anyway, do you think we could go out tonight? That is if you aren’t busy.”
“I’m not busy Lyd. Sure we can go. I’m sick of the way these old coots treat both of us.”
Tommy spoke to Animal before he and Lydia went to sit in the back booth. Different girls came up to him as he sat alone at the counter. His eyes drifted to the buttons on their blouses, wondering which one wrote the note. Renée was not among them, and hers were the only buttons he was interested in.