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David Shapiro

 

Perididdle

 

"Perdiddle," I said.

"What?" said Kelly.

"The car we passed had one headlight out," I said. "That's a perdiddle."

"Meaning?"

"If we see a perdiddle and I call it first, you owe me a kiss."

"Right," she said.

"You don't want to mess with a perdiddle," I said. "According to ancient myth, anyone who doesn't honor the legend of the perdiddle will lead a cursed life."

"Ancient headlights, huh?" Kelly knew this was a myth made up by 16-year-old boys who couldn't think of a more clever way to break the ice. She took pity. "Well, you can put those perdiddles in the bank and see if you can collect later."

This date was finally showing promise. I had ridden my Yamaha 250 to pick up Kelly at her run-down home. She waited for me in the overgrown yard, stroking an orange cat while a white puppy ran around her feet and a billy goat stood guard on the roof of an old Plymouth. That was Kelly -- short, blond, stacked, face of an angel, friend to all creatures, pure as the snowy fluff on the pup's belly.

We were cruising into town with Kelly sitting snugly behind me when the  Plymouth roared up and pulled over my motorcycle. It was Kelly's mom backed up by her burly young boyfriend. The mom could have been Kelly's twin except for the hard miles she had on her. She dragged Kelly into the car, yelling that no goddamn daughter of hers was going to ride no goddamn motorcycle with no goddamn punk like me.

I retreated to the coffee shop where we all hung out and related my sad tale. Dickie had his dad's Ford Galaxie, but no date. He loved to ride my bike and offered to swap for the night. I called Kelly and, to my surprise, her mom said she could come out if the goddamn punk returned to pick her up in a goddamn car. Dalton and Candy, who were hot to get at each other but had no wheels, jumped in Galaxie's huge back seat.

"Just be back by 11:30," Dickie said. "My dad will have my ass if I'm not home by 12. Don't screw me up."

"Don't worry," I promised.

When I had collected enough perdiddles, at Dalton's suggestion we parked in the old cemetery overlooking the highway leaving town. While Dalton and Candy quickly got at it, Kelly and I were tentative -- our kisses more sweet than passionate. Even that came to a halt when my hand started to wander up her blouse. Kelly pulled away emphatically. "I don't go that far with anyone," she said.

We sat uncomfortably silent until I blurted, "Can I at least have the tag off your bra? The guys are collecting them."

I had managed to gather a half-dozen bra tags without ever getting my hands on an actual breast. I wasn't nearly as ashamed as I should have been that two of my tags were lifted from my mom and sister.

Kelly declined to contribute. "People will think I let you feel me up."

There was a loud rustle from the back seat and Candy's bra came flying into the front. Kelly suggested we get some fresh air.

We sat on the grass among the graves and talked, mostly about the biggest thing we had in common -- a determination to blow this town the minute we graduated from high school the next year. Kelly wanted to get away from her mom. I was just restless for reasons I didn't fully understand. The talking was far more comfortable than the kissing, and when I looked at my watch it was 11:35.

"Crap," I said. "Dickie's going to kill me."

We ran back to the Galaxie and told Dalton and Candy we had to move out. They scrambled to cover themselves as I started the car.

"Has anybody seen my bra?" Candy whined. Kelly picked it off the front seat. Before passing it back, she tore off the tag and handed it to me with a sly grin.

It was 11:50 when we got back to the coffee shop. Dickie wasn't there. "He went looking for you," someone said. "He was pretty pissed."

"Christ," I said. "If he comes back, tell him I'm running Kelly home and I'll be right back." I was nervous. Dickie became unhinged easily and I didn't know what he might do to my Yamaha.

I was eager to get back to the coffee shop, but Kelly asked me to turn off the engine in her driveway. When I hesitated, she said, "You've still got one of those perdiddles left." She didn't have to ask again.

This kiss was different. It started soft, but soon went deep and long. As I wondered if it was time to pull back, Kelly scooted closer. She lifted my hand and put it to her bosom. The feel was just through her clothes, but I was soaring. When the kiss finally ended, she gave me a shy smile and jumped out of the car, disappearing into her house with the puppy at her heels.

Driving back to the coffee shop, I saw a single headlight approaching. "Perdiddle," I said giddily.

As the light got closer, it seemed to head straight toward me at a high speed. I skidded to the side of the road to avoid a collision. The driver went 100 yards down the road, then turned back toward me. As he pulled up tightly next to me, I saw it wasn't a car but Dickie on my Yamaha.

I rolled down the window. "What are you doing?" I demanded. "I thought you were a car with a missing headlight coming right at me."

"Perdiddle," he said, and punched me in the face.

 

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