“Is Buddy home?” I remember asking my mother back in the 1970s. She was busy spreading meringue on a lemon pie.
“Don’t go bothering your brother, Valerie. He’s in his room studying.”
As I suspected, my seventeen-year-old brother was hard at work playing Pong on his Atari. “Buddy,” I said quietly, opening his door.
“Val, it’s you; good. Here, take this.” He shoved an Atari paddle into my hand, and I reluctantly sat on the edge of the bed next to him.
“Man, this is slammin’,” Buddy said, his eyes alight and focused on the TV screen. “See how fast it is?”
I wiggled the joystick on the paddle. “So, I need a favor, a big one. Would you drive Kit and me to Milwaukee on the eighteenth to see David Cassidy?”
I relaxed a little since he hadn’t said no. “David Cassidy. The Partridge Family. He’s got a concert and—”
“Oh, that guy! No.”
“Buddy, please. Mom will let me go if you go with, and you don’t have to actually go to the concert—”
“Yeah, right, ’cuz why would I want to see that guy?” He was furiously moving his joystick left to right. “That guy blows, Val.”
Later, as Buddy was leaving to go see Blazing Saddles, the new movie everyone was raving about, I attacked him at the front door. “Pleeeeez, Buddy. I’ll mow the lawn for you. For a month.”
“No. I kinda like mowing the lawn.” That was true, but only because it gave him an excuse to go bare-chested, which apparently held some sort of attraction to the sixteen-year-old Bermondsey twins who lived three doors down.
Next morning at breakfast: “How about I write your English essay on To Kill a Mockingbird?”
“Don’t need ya; I’ll see the movie.”
And at dinner that evening: “I’ll wash your car.”
“And vacuum the interior?”
“Yes, yes,” I said eagerly.
“Still no; you’re not going near my Mustang.”
Finally, that night I had to resort to Plan B, which involved my dad, which in turn meant it involved my mother. “Daddy, David Cassidy has a concert in Milwaukee on the eighteenth, and I was hoping—”
“David Cassidy—doesn’t he work at Oswald’s Pharmacy in Naperville?” my mother asked.
“No, Mom. Well, maybe a David Cassidy does work at Oswald’s, but I mean David Cassidy the singer—”
“Ya call that singing?” Buddy piped up.
“You know, from that cute TV show, The Partridge Family.” I looked at my father, who appeared clueless, but my mother chimed in.
“Oh, that David Cassidy. By the way, I really admire his mother’s hairstyle.”
“You mean his mother on the show, Shirley something?”
“No, I mean David Cassidy from Oswald’s. His mother has a stunning French twist.”
I retreated and concentrated on my meat loaf. “This is so good, Mom,” I said, hoping to butter her up some. Twenty minutes later, when she was slicing the lemon meringue pie, I launched my second offensive. “So, Daddy, do you think you could drive Kit and me to Milwaukee on the eighteenth? I know it’s a two-hour drive, but perhaps you could—”
“What, Valerie?” my mother demanded. “What would you have him do? Drive around Milwaukee hoping not to get shot by the Balistrieri Crime Family while you are enjoying your rock and roll?”
“True,” Buddy said. “Because in Chicago we don’t have any crime families.” He gave me a wicked grin.
“Sorry, honey,” my dad finally spoke. “I will be out of town on the eighteenth.”
“So, that settles it.” My mother looked thrilled. “No concert for you, young lady.”
I felt tears of frustration sting my eyes. I pushed my plate of lemon meringue deliciousness away, and Buddy quickly moved it in his direction.
“I’ll take ya.” He spooned a heap of yellow and white fluff into his mouth.
My tears suddenly vanished. “You will?”
He continued chewing. “I will. But only you and Kit, and you have to leave fifteen minutes before the show ends, and no David Cassidy cassettes in the car—”
“Done. Oh, thank you, Buddy, thank you.”
“I haven’t finished yet. My essay on that dead mockingbird thing is due on Friday, and you can vacuum my car, but not wash it. And you can start on the lawn tomorrow.”
I remembered then that the whole Bermondsey family, including the twins, was out of town.
“You got a deal,” I said. Triumphantly.