Chapter Sixteen

On a hot July day Bart and I slipped out the service door of the building. We changed into our street clothes behind the dumpster and began our adventure.

The first order of business, planned well in advance, was to go to the movies.  We took a city bus downtown and saw an adult drama that featured a female Hollywood star naked.

We gave the ticket taker the name of a different movie being shown in the same complex and found seats right in front of the screen. During the previews Bart went to the concession stand and bought everything in sight, from popcorn to jujubes to malted milk balls to Junior Mints. We ate continuously during the movie, which was actually quite good.   The female star’s breasts were overrated, but Bart thought her ass was outstanding.

There were a couple of teenage girls in the theater, obviously playing hooky from school and there to see the same thing Bart and I wanted to see.

They came out of the theater right after us. Bart immediately spoke to them.

“Hey, girls, what did you think of the movie?”

“Drop dead, Pee Wee,” said one of the girls.

“No, I’m serious,” Bart said. “My father owns a chain of movie theaters. I can get free tickets to anything. What would you girls like to see?”

This got their attention.

“Tell you what,” Bart said. “Come and have a Coke with me and my friend here, and we can discuss it.”

“You’re a liar,” said the older girl, who was clearly nastier than her friend.

“No, it’s true,” Bart insisted. “I wouldn’t lie to you.”

“Hey, what grade are you kids in anyway?” the nasty girl asked.

“Don’t worry about it,” Bart said. “We’re gifted. We’re in high school already. My friend here has already taken his SATs. 800 on everything. He’s going to MIT as a junior next year.”

They looked at me.

“Is that true?” they asked.

When I didn’t answer Bart said, “He can’t talk, he’s a deaf mute. But he’s smarter than anyone in the world.”

The girls had by now noticed that we were bald under our baseball caps.

“You boys aren’t sick, are you?” the nicer girl asked. “You wouldn’t by any chance have cancer or something, would you?”

“No way,” Bart said. “We’re training for a swim meet that requires that you shave your head. Why don’t you girls come and watch us compete?”

I never saw a better liar than Bart in my life. He came out with these things as naturally as though they were gospel truth.

But by now the girls had made up their minds. “We have to go,” said the nicer one. “But it’s nice of you to invite us.”

“Where are you going?” Bart persisted.

“We have to meet our boyfriends.”

“Where are they?” Bart asked. “Max and I will walk you there. We’ll protect you. The streets aren’t safe around here, you know.”

“Thanks anyway, we have our car.”

“How about giving us a ride? We were going to walk, but we would just as soon ride in your car.”

He was wearing them down, but the mean one said “Sorry, we can’t take you. Have a nice day.” They hurried away down the sidewalk.

“Look at the ass on that big one,” Bart said. “I think the other one would have gone with us.”

He grinned at me. “How are you going to know if you don’t try?”

We got on a bus and took it to the western suburbs.

Three girls got on outside a high school. Bart immediately went up to talk to them, and stood by their seats a long time. But apparently he didn’t get anywhere, because he came back with a grimace.

“Bitches, Max. Not worth our trouble.”

After that nobody got on except a couple of old ladies and some teenaged boys who looked like gang members.

Bart went up to talk to them. “You guys gang members? My friend and I are really interested in getting into a gang. Our neighborhood isn’t safe.”

But they blew him off. They just stared into space, not acknowledging him.

At the end of the bus line was a strange landscape. Scattered houses that looked very new, vacant lots, construction equipment.

“Must be a new neighborhood,” Bart said.

There was an unfinished strip mall down the street. We ambled over to check it out. There was an Italian restaurant, a laundry, a Walgreens and a small Target.

“Let’s go into Target,” Bart said.

We walked up and down the aisles, ogling the merchandise. Mothers with babies in shopping carts with strollers were doing their shopping. A couple of pregnant young women were shopping for baby clothes.

None of these were very interesting, but one of the checkout girls was. She was a high school girl with waist-length black hair and a nice face.

“What’s your name?” Bart asked.


“That’s a beautiful name. My sister is named Susan. What’s your last name?”


“I like it. That’s a good name, Susan Rusch.”

We both noticed a slight Oriental tinge to her features.

“You’re not Chinese by any chance?” Bart asked. “Your face is very unusual.”

“My mother is Filipino,” she answered. “That’s why I look like this.”

“She must be very beautiful if she’s your mother,” Bart observed.

“She’s pretty attractive,” the girl said.

“Say, Susan, when do you get off work?”


“Damn,” Bart said. “Max and I can’t hang around that long. I thought we might have dinner.”

“I’ll be having dinner with my boy friend,” she said.

“What’s his name?”


“That’s a nice name. Does he have any sisters?”

“He has one brother in college and a sister who’s in boarding school.”

“Too bad,” said Bart. “Max and I could have called her up. How about taking your coffee break with us?”

“Sorry, I already had my break.”

“OK, Susan,” Bart said in a somewhat official voice. “It was nice to meet you. Have a nice day.”

“Same to you.”

When we got outside Bart reached into his pocket and pulled out a yoyo.

“Shoplifted,” he said. “Here, I got one for you too.”

We hung around playing with our yoyos and watching the few local teenagers riding by on their bikes. Bart got us a couple of giant sodas at the 7-11.

The afternoon was beginning to wane. I was tired. Chemo will make even a kid tired. Bart himself looked a little pale.

A bus was approaching. We got on.

There were about 8 young girls from a Catholic school on the bus. We could tell by their tartan skirts and white blouses.

“Where you girls going?” asked Bart.

“Dreamland Park.”

“Dreamland Park? That’s where we’re going.”

We sat down across from two of the cutest ones.

“What parish are you in?” Bart asked them.

“St. Anthony’s.”

“That’s a good parish. My uncle knows everybody there. He’s a priest, you know,” Bart said. “In a couple of years he’s going to be a Bishop. How come you girls have the day off?”

“Holy day.”

“That’s nice. Maybe my friend Max and I will come to your church for a change. We love different things, don’t we, Max?”

I smiled.

“Who’s your priest?” one of the girls asked.

“Father McGillicudy,” Bart said with missing a beat. “He’s pretty nice, but he’s a little on the old side. Who’s yours?”

“Father Flynn.”

“My uncle knows him well. They play golf together.”

I kept thinking of Sherry Smith as I looked at their tartan skirts and white blouses. I got out a pen and tapped Bart on the shoulder.

“What’s up, Max?”

I indicated with my eyes that I wanted to write him a note.

“No problem.” He turned to the girls. “Does any of you have a piece of scrap paper?”

One of them handed over a piece of paper pulled from a notebook.

“Sherry Smith,” I wrote.

“Say, do you girls know Sherry Smith?” Bart asked, reading the note.

“Sure we do. She goes to Our Lady of Lourdes. She’s nice.”

I noticed that they didn’t volunteer that she was autistic.

“Max here is a very close friend of Sherry,” Bart said. “He’s been to her house and everything.”

They looked at me with interest. I smiled.

The amusement park was all the way out in Irondequoit, so the sun was getting low in the sky when we got there. I was very tired now, but determined to enjoy myself.

Bart and I took the two girls on the merry-go-round, the tilt-a-Whirl, and to the fun house. One of them didn’t want to go on the roller coaster. Neither did I, so I waited with her while Bart and the other girl went on the ride.

Bart looked very tired and pale when they got off. But he refused to leave. We bought cotton candy for the girls and ate candied apples ourselves. Then we went into the tunnel of Love. The girl I was with, Trudy, held my hand and let me kiss her. She couldn’t know how experienced I was in this area.

We were sitting on a bench watching the ferris wheel when a police car came up. Two officers came toward us with a decided, official air.

“Are you Bart and Max?” they asked.

“No,” Bart replied quickly. “We’re Scott and David. Who are Bart and Max?”

One of the cops smiled gently. “We know who you are, boys. You’re going to have to come with us.”

The girls looked shocked.

“Don’t worry,”  Bart told them. “They want us on a robbery charge, but our lawyer will get us out by tonight. See you girls soon.”

We got into the police car, which slowly started moving. Through the window I saw the glowing, jewelled wheel revolving backward in the night. I thought it was saying something to me, but I was too tired to think about it.

Bart and I dozed almost the whole way back to the hospital. We were more exhausted than we thought.

The cops took us inside and spoke to the receptionist. She gave us a dirty look and called the cancer ward.

One of the cops, who had a very severe face, bent down to talk to me.

“You boys did a dangerous thing,” he said. “You’re sick, and what you did might make you sicker. Don’t do it again.”

He reached into his pocket and gave us each a toy policeman’s badge.

“This is for having the guts to take chances,” he said. “When you boys grow up you might want to join the force.”

“Would I ever!” Bart cried. “Thanks a lot, Officer.”

The elevator door opened and Doris, our floor supervisor, came out looking furious.

“You boys are immune-deprived,” she said. “Don’t you know better than to go gallivanting around the city? You could have caught a serious infection.”

She took us upstairs and stuck us into two isolation rooms. A nurse came in, gave me a sponge bath, took my temperature and blood pressure, and listened to my chest.

“Well, Max,” she said, “I think you may have gotten away with it.” She smiled. “You’re a good boy, I don’t think we’ll have to call your parents. But Bart, that’s another story.”

With that she left the room. I lay down on the bed and fell asleep instantly.