Sunday, June 26, 2011

#Sample Sunday: Class Reunion

Frank thought Spiro Agnew got a bum rap, and that Pam Shapiro was the hottest thing in the Class of '73. Neither Spiro nor Pam knew that Frank existed, although one of them spent four years at Niles North with him. When the chirpy announcement arrived in the mail ("Hey Gang, Can you believe it's been 25 years already?") Frank Loginsky remembered Pam, and Spiro, and all the torments usually reserved for quiet, acne-infested boys with tape on their glasses.

Pam, on the other hand, had perfect eyes and perfect skin. She wasn't a fluffy, air-head cheerleader, a McGovern-lover, a liberal. She was sensible and thoughtful, a member of Students for Environmental Action as well as Students for Israel. She didn't wear micro-mini skirts, and then feign offense when whistled at. She wore tasteful maxi skirts and peasant blouses, never showing more than she was willing to share.

Neatly lined up on the shelf beneath his nightstand, as if they mattered, were four editions of Saga, Frank's yearbook. He opened 1972 -- junior year: the year the teachers went on strike, the year of the gasoline shortage, the year Agnew resigned. Agnew got a bum rap. 1972 was the year of the Arab-Israeli Conflict, as if that were an isolated event instead of a way of life. 1972, junior year, was the year Frank screwed up his courage enough to ask Pam to sign his yearbook.

"Best Wishes, Pamela Ruth Shapiro" she signed on an otherwise empty page. Junior year was a year of momentous events, some public, like the Watergate fiasco, and some private, like a treasured autograph, a Nobel Prize for a tremendous act of bravery.

Frank caressed the aged ink on the autograph as if it were an icon. The flowing R in Ruth became her flowing brown hair. The S in Shapiro was smooth, as he imagined her legs had been under the maxi skirt. Even as an icon, though, he dared not touch the firm P in Pamela, and what that might represent.

Time passed -- minutes, an hour or two maybe. Frank sat up with a start and unfolded the reunion announcement again, checking the affirmative "You betcha I'll be there!" box. He crisply folded the form and placed it in the return envelope, placing his own postage stamp on it ("cheap reunion committee!"), and precisely printed his return address.

The next day, when it was too late to retrieve the envelope from the mailbox, the other memories came back: sitting in the cafeteria, minding his own business, and being picked up and carried to the large garbage can, thrown away by Gordon and John and Dan. Matthew Levin and his water pistol filled with dollar-a-gallon perfume, spraying Frank and other losers ("so we can smell you coming!") -- that was his worst memory, junior year.

Senior year was better. Frank actually found himself respected by some of the teachers. He told himself that they were proud to have a student who was actually entering college because he was academically gifted, and not simply buying his way in. His way in: In Frank's mind, college tuition was the modern version of a dowry, in 1973. Of course the girls in Skokie bought their way into college; it was their down-payment on a husband. The women's lib movement only meant girls could get a decent job while they were waiting for a decent husband.

Senior year was the year Frank finally hit his growth spurt, able for once to look Matthew Levin in the eyes. By Hanukkah, Frank was actually taller than Matthew -- the greatest gift he could have asked for. This was the year Frank got a job, and a car. Senior year was the year he felt like a man, driving up to Wisconsin to buy beer for the kids at school, or driving along Lake Shore Drive, just because he could. He'd imagine Pam beside him, their son and daughter in the back seat, the four of them on a family outing. That made it worth it, working all those hours in that little booth selling tickets for a movie theater that was smaller than the language lab at school.

The Class of '73 had a lot to remember, and they recorded most of it in their yearbook. LBJ and Harry Truman died, and a peace pact was signed ending the official war in Vietnam. Nixon was re-elected, POWs released, and several members of the Israeli Olympic team were murdered. Gale Sayers came to the Homecoming pep rally, and Pam probably would have gone to the game with Frank if Dan Posner hadn't asked her first. She might have gone with Frank to see "Bye Bye Birdie," but Matthew Levin was quicker. She even might have gone to the prom with Frank, except that John Willens made that date with her at the end of March. Pam might have signed Frank's yearbook, too, but she didn't have time.

Things were hectic the end of senior year. Last-minute college applications had to be filled out and mailed, graduation announcements sent to all the relatives ("It would mean so much more if you addressed them yourself, Frankie!"), and senior pank had to be prepared for. The toothpicks-in-the-locks thing last year was a little pathetic, although the loose mice in the cafeteria was a nice touch. But Frank wanted his class to be remembered, and thought he should do his part to help it go down in infamy. That's why he thought of the Limburger cheese.

Fully half of the stairwells had no ventilation, and surely Limburger cheese smeared on the stair railings would be remembered for a few years to come. Frank went to his Uncle Seth's deli and got the pungent cheese, and was nearly late for school. He hurried, though, and saw that his homeroom teacher herself was only now pulling into the parking lot. He was sizing up that parking lot on his right, looking for a promising gap as he headed toward the entrance, when he felt a bump, and looked forward just quickly enough to see a maxi skirt bounce onto the hood and then off to the side.

Frank changed into his (only) suit, and took the yearbooks with him, downstairs to his parents' garage. He put them next to him on the front seat, and started the engine. The fumes started to make Frank feel sleepy, and he began to dream of a special class reunion, just he and Pam.

4 comments:

  1. A wonderful write and most enjoyable to read.

    Yvonne.

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  2. Thanks! I'm always glad when you come by!

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  3. Oh man, high school reunions. Who can't relate to all those feelings coming back. Fun read.

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  4. This was for a college assignment! The assignment was to write about a setting where there would be conflict. I thought a class reunion would be perfect, because everyone would be bringing their baggage with them! :-) Thanks for commenting!

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