Authors: Sonia Pilcer
Coward, McCann & Geoghegan, Inc.
For permission to quote from copyrighted material, the author gratefully acknowledges the following: Schwartz Music Company for the excerpt from “Teen Angel.” Debmar Publishing Company for the excerpts from “Bobby Sox to Stockings,” © Debmar Publishing, Co. Used by permission. The Cherio Corporation for the excerpt from “In the Still of the Night (I’ll Remember),” Copyright © 1965 Cherio Corporation. Used by permission. Kalmann Music for the excerpt from “Let’s Twist Again,” © Kalmann Music, Inc. And Don Kirshner Entertainment for the excerpt from “Venus”: words and music by Edward H. Marshall, © 1959 Kirshner Songs and Welbeck Music. All rights reserved. Used by permission.
Copyright © 1978 by Sonia Piker
All rights reserved. This book, or parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the publisher. Published on the same day in Canada by Longman Canada Limited, Toronto.
Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data
PZ4.P6357Te [PS3566.148] 813′.5′4 78-5376
To my mother and father,
with special thanks to
From where Sonny Palovsky sat, she could hear everything. The whole soundtrack of Humboldt Junior High School 115, and no one bugged her except when she had to go back to Homeroom and face Mrs. King, who had a mug like a rotting eggplant, only it was uglier. But in the stall, with her and Ruben Ortega’s initials carved above the toilet paper dispenser, she was royal. Queen Pee of the third-floor girls’ room, second stall to the right. Look, if Dobie Gillis could hang his haunches on “The Thinker” (you know, that sculpture where you could swear the guy’s sitting on a pot), why couldn’t she? All who sought audience with Her Royal Hindness, née Lady Bullshitsky of Washington Heights, visited her here. She granted favors.
I’ll let you copy my algebra homework
. But not too many people came except for Paulette Williams. While she mopped and stacked paper towels, she told dirty jokes that were pissers.
What did the blind man say as he passed the fish market? Hi, girls!
She’d be sitting in History and think of one and
die laughing all over again.
What’s the difference between a young prostitute and an old whore? One uses Vaseline; the other, Poly-grip
. Ha ha ha! And once she started, she couldn’t stop laughing, and then the teacher would make her stand out in the hallway until she could control herself.
Why do farts smell? So the deaf can enjoy them too
. But how could anyone stop laughing
from a real good joke? Especially when you were stuck in a special class for snots with high reading scores who all thought they were D-g’s gift. So she was sitting fifth period out,
Thanks, I don’t think I’ll dance this one
, when a folded piece of three-hole looseleaf paper was passed to her under the stall. She unfolded it and gasped. “Palovskee, wait till everyone leaves. TEEN ANGEL.” She almost
into the bowl. Could they want her?
Sonny peeked under the stall and recognized D.B.’s fat calves.
(Peek and ye shall find.)
Her Midnight Coffee stockings had a run from ankle to thigh like the painted lines between lanes of the New York State Thruway, which her family chugged every summer, pots and pans clanging, to some crummy bungalow colony in the Catskills with a name like Blue Paradise. D.B. wore an ankle bracelet with pearls and two golden hearts, and black leather ankle boots pointy enough to castrate a roach. Sonny’s heart bounced like someone was dribbling it.
Jezus. A Teen Angel wanted to talk to her. They fought, fucked (all she ever did was fart!), even the teachers were scared of them. Their hair was teased higher, their eyeliner painted thicker, darker, a solid black line from the bridge of the nose out to both lobes, their lipstick a ghostlier shade of white. Cross a Teen Angel and say
to your life. They didn’t take no shit from nobody. And they wanted to talk to her?
Sonny waited until the bathroom was empty, not daring to breathe.
“Okay, listen carefully ’cause I ain’t going ta repeat myself,” D.B. (short for De-Bra which held Humboldt’s most colossal bazookies) whispered. “If you want to see what being a Teen
Angel is all about we’ll meet you in the alleyway of 725 Riverside Drive. At four o’clock sharp. That’s on 155th Street. Okay?”
Sonny nodded eagerly, only D.B. couldn’t see her.
“Do you hear me?” she demanded.
“Oh, I’m sorry. Yeah, I’ll be there. Sure.”
“Okay. I’ll walk out first. You are forbidden to leave until five minutes have passed.”
Sonny’s eyes followed the boots out of the stall, past the sinks. “And make sure you come alone-unarmed!” The bathroom door slammed.
JEZUS IN A JALOPY! Me? They must really be hard up
She unlatched the door and examined the stall next to hers. All kinds of stuff was scribbled on the wall, but there was a fresh entry scrawled in Flame-Glo lipstick: a big heart with TEEN ANGEL printed in the center, pierced by a knife. What was she getting herself into? She could be murdered. Slaughtered. Even die.
As she walked out of the stall, Sonny prepared her face for the mirror. Tough-but-sort-of-sexy-yet-sweet-but-not-good-goody.
Okay, stick ’em up. Got you covered. You just can’t get away with that kind of shit anymore. Oh, hello beautiful. Yes, I’d love to go dancing with you. Do you really think I’m terrific looking?
Rummaging through her patent leather clutch, she found a plastic comb with a long, pointy tip which she poked into her beehive. On good days, when there was no humidity so her hair didn’t frizz, it stood four inches. She teased a few stray hairs and sprayed with a can of extra-hold hairspray.
Okay. Even better than that. I love you. SMOOCH!
At least, she felt decently foxy, sort of, until she had to go to Algebra and face Mr. Gross (he had long hairs growing out of his nostrils and blackheads the size of raisins), who suggested she eat rice “cause it’s binding, Miss Palovsky” and all the flatulence in her class cracked up. Lenny Weinstein said out loud so everyone could hear how she ate Shit Krispies for breakfast, and that’s why she went to the bathroom all the time. At least, she went when she had to. The chickenshits in her class were so scared they crossed their legs and
held it in all day. No soiling their special behinds. After all, you could get germs from
, a disease of the privates.
“But Mister, I is a sergeant.”
Even pregnant. Sonny’s mother taught her to crouch above the seat like she was a raincloud about to shower. But how could anyone drop a decent-sized whopper mid-air?
Tinkle, tinkle, little turd, how I wonder–oh, my word–BLITZKRIEG!
They’d all die if she became a Teen Angel. No one would dare mess with Palovsky.
At ten minutes to four, Sonny, who sometimes called herself Suzanne, even though it wasn’t her real name (no one knew that), stood in the alleyway of 725 Riverside Drive, slouching so that most of her weight fell on one bent knee and she looked two inches shorter. She always did that when she had to stand on line somewhere and towered over everyone like a tree. Adults said she was tall for her age and how she’d appreciate it when she got older. Tall? She was a prehistoric bird with long spindly legs that looked like linguine in stockings and size nine feet. Her figure was nonexistent and the most prominent part of her body was her old yapper. The boys in her class came up to her ribs, the girls fit in her shoe. And all the teachers hated to look up to her and besides “you’re not made out of glass and no one can see through you”–did she ever say she was?-so she always got seated way in the back of the classroom like an avocado plant. As hard as she wished on birthday candles, first stars, dandelions, as often as she crossed her fingers and toes (she could, too) that puberty would wave its magic wand over her sixty-nine-and-a-quarter gangly inches of length, ninety-five pounds of from hunger scrawn and arouse her body from the deep sleep of premenstruation–
Please, God. I’ll go to temple. One set of knockers. I’ll learn Hebrew. And an ass that’s round and curvy–nothing
For the third time, she went out to make sure she got the building number correct. A loud banging sound startled her. A rat scurried out of the water pipe and took a flying dive into a half-eaten
can of ravioli sticking out of the garbage can. Sonny shifted her weight to the other leg. Maybe they told her to come as a joke, like the time Rose Steiner invited her to a party at her house and when she got there with a present bought with her own money, no one would open the door.
Why would they want her anyway? Even if she
devoted her life to being like them. Ever since seventh grade, she wore her makeup just like a Teen Angel. She even tried to talk like them. But she’d never be one of them. They thought she was a
, but she wasn’t. At least, she didn’t want to be anymore and maybe if she tried real hard, but then again … She heard footsteps approaching from behind. “Don’t move an inch,” a muffled voice commanded. Sonny’s heart galloped.
. That was something. She was scared shitless.
Ten long fingernails painted the color of teeth held a black scarf in front of her. It was placed over her eyes and tied in the back of her head.
Hey, fellas, it’s dark in here!
She tried to save her hairdo, but a hand slapped her fingers. Someone else started to turn her around several times, then pushed her to another person, and then another person spun her around. Sonny’s Hostess Twinkie from lunch threatened to erupt.
You better be cautious, I’m getting nauseous. YECHHHH … Only kidding …
Now she was led down a long ramp and then it seemed as if she was walked for several miles but the air never changed. It continued to smell of garbage and she could hear the distant rumble of washing machines and dryers. A door groaned open and another voice announced, “Non-initiates cannot enter the House of Teen Angel with their eyes open.” Sonny was led in, pushed roughly and then thrown down on a cold metal surface. The blindfold was removed. Sonny looked around.
It was blacker than Sidney Poitier’s asshole, no offense. But with the little bit of light that leaked through from under the door, and as her eyes adjusted to the darkness, Sonny made out an enormous
black-bellied boiler with a thick pipe running over her head. Wherever she looked, a pair of Teen Angel eyes peered back at her.
Smile. Oh, shit! Cheese
Judy Gucciano, Teen Angel Warlord, known as the Gooch, stared at Sonny without moving a muscle in her face. She had a Danny Thomas hook that hung so close to her mouth that she could pick her nose with her tongue. When she drank soda from the can, she almost drowned. She was short, curvy, with a reputation for giving out as many free samples as the Fuller Brush man. When you were that ugly, you had to. But she had smarts. The Gooch masterminded all Teen Angel extracurricular activities like breaking into Lynn’s on 182nd Street so’s everyone could have a new fall wardrobe. What the Gooch said went. Even guys were scared of her.
“Name,” Mary Kelly commanded. She was secretary because she had the best penmanship. All her t’s were crossed with curlicues and her i’s were dotted with daisies. She held a spiral notebook with TEEN ANGEL stenciled in sparkles on the cover which was their Slam Book. It contained all the confidential information about who went with who, and how far they went, pet names, favorite songs with all the words to them, boss expressions like “It is better to have loved and lost than not to have loved at all,” and everyone’s measurements. She wrote with a pen that had a flashlight on its tip.
“Thpell that,” Mary lisped. She couldn’t pronounce s’s, c’s, th’s and z’s, and whenever she tried, she spit all over herself. Every Tuesday and Thursday morning, she had to go to Speech Clinic on the fourth floor where Mrs. Alexander gabbed about being in the theater and how she once
with Sir Laurence Olivier.
See you later, masturbator
. Mary just sat there, staring miserably into a mirror as she tried to make the tip of her tongue touch the roof of her mouth–“The thells thea thells by the thea thore”–without
swallowing her gum. She saved Bazooka wrappers. That’s how she got her transistor radio. Mary was so thin and small-boned she didn’t have a shadow. That was because her mother was a fat slob. So she was permanently on the two-finger diet which consisted of sticking her two fingers down her throat after each meal. But she had a ponytail down to her waist like Connie Stevens, except hers looked like a garden hose.