Bingo Brown's Guide to Romance (3 page)

BOOK: Bingo Brown's Guide to Romance
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At that time he had not, of course, been aware that he had sent the Xerox of the letter, or that she would be offended by it.

He looked down and his eyes took in the letter's closing.

Hungrily yours,

Bingo

There was a knock on his window.

“I'm busy, Wentworth,” he called without turning his head.

“Did I lie?”

Bingo decided to play it cool. “About what?”

“About that girl.”

“What girl?”

“Melissa.”

“Yes. Yes, I saw her.”

“Then did I lie?”

“No, Wentworth. Not this time.”

“And I know something else about Melissa—but it'll cost you.”

From the living room his mom's voice cut into his conversation. “Bingo!”

“I'm busy,” he called back.

If only everyone would leave him alone while he was in anguish. He couldn't concentrate on his anguish while people kept interrupting. There was no respect for anguish anymore.

“Bingo!”

His mother was in the doorway now. She stood with the basket of wet clothes on her hip.

Bingo did not want to have another conversation with his mother like the one he had just had. He had come in from the laundromat hot and flushed, as stunned as if life had hit him over the head with a baseball bat. And his mother had unfeelingly said—no, his mother had snapped—“Where's the laundry?”

“Oh, it's still on my bicycle, I guess. Mom, the most terrible thing in the world happened!”

“Well, bring in the clothes so I can dry them. Jamie is in his last clean diaper, aren't you, snookums?”

Jamie, on her shoulder, had begun to drool with excitement. He always did this whenever he saw Bingo because Bingo bounced him up and down better than anybody. Bingo didn't have time to bounce him.

“Mom! Mom, didn't you hear me? The most terrible thing in the world has happened.”

His mother had put one hand protectively on the baby. “What?”

“Melissa's back.”

“Melissa?”

“Yes, Mom, Melissa—at least I think it was Melissa. It was her shirt and teeth—I know that much.”

“Melissa from Oklahoma?”

“Yes!”

“Well, what's terrible about that?”

“Mom!”

“Now you can save money on all those long-distance calls. I should think you'd be delighted to have Melissa back in town.”

“Mom!”

“Bring the laundry in and we can discuss it.”

“Mom!”

“Now.”

So he had brought the laundry in, but by then she had started playing with the baby.

“Look, Bingo, he can almost stand alone.”

“Mom, here are the clothes. Do you want to discuss Melissa now?”

“In a minute. Oh, look, he's standing alone he's standing alone he's standing alone—oh, how long did he keep his balance? It was at least a minute, wasn't it, Bingo?”

“I didn't time it.”

“I've got to write that in his baby book. ‘Stood alone for one whole minute.' You are the most wonderful baby in the world, yes, you are. You're probably going to be in the Olympics.”

Now, his mother was apparently feeling guilty—and rightly so—about her lack of interest. She had come to his room to make up. Now she would want to hear about Melissa—every single detail, only now he did not care to talk about it.

Bingo gave her an aloof look. He was determined not to tell her one single detail of the trauma in Health Supplies, no matter how much she begged.

“Mom, I would like to be alone. Certainly I no longer want to discuss my meeting with Melissa, which was not so much a meeting as a sighting. That's all I can say. I am—I don't know how to explain it—sort of caught on the roller coaster of life, and I don't know if I will ever get off.”

“Well, you better get off your roller coaster, and quick.”

She shifted the basket of laundry from one hip to the other. And her next words did indeed bring the roller coaster of life to a screeching halt.

“These are not our clothes.”

Following Melissa

“I
HOPE FOR YOUR SAKE,” BINGO'S
mother said over her shoulder, “that no one has made off with our laundry.”

“I hope so, too,” Bingo said.

He was sitting in the backseat of the car between the car seat containing Jamie and the basket containing a stranger's load of wash. He was concentrating on making his mind a blank, because there was not one single thought in the entire world that would not bring him discomfort.

His mother kept interrupting the process with a list of the valuable garments in the missing laundry.

“You are aware,” she continued, “that all of Jamie's diapers were in those loads.”

“I am aware. You told me.”

“As well as your father's underwear.”

“I know.”

“And your father hates new underwear.”

“Mom, no one is going to make off with Dad's old underwear.”

“Well, you made off with somebody's old sheets.”

“I was upset, Mom. I had just had the shock of my life.”

Bingo turned to Jamie, who was playing with a set of plastic car keys, shaking them so enthusiastically Bingo had to blink his eyes for fear of being struck in the face.

“So you said. I've had a shock myself today, but I am managing to go on in a reasonably intelligent way.”

Bingo looked at his mom. “What kind of shock? Mom, you aren't going to have another baby?”

“Not that big a shock.”

“Good. Does it have to do with work?”

She shook her head.

“Me? Is it something I've done?” Bingo broke off before she answered. “Mom!”

“What?”

“There she is! Mom!”

“What? Who?”

“There! See those two girls?”

“Yes.”

“Well, the tall one's Melissa.”

“Want me to honk?”

“No! No! Whatever you do, don't honk!”

Bingo ducked out of sight because his mother's favorite part of the car was the horn, and she didn't just go
honk,
like that. She went
honk-honk-honk-hooooonk.

He was not ready to have attention called to himself in that manner. He could not bear to have Melissa's first glimpse of him in a year be of him riding in the backseat of a car with a baby and strange laundry. It was as bad as having her glimpse his face on top of a pyramid of dog food.

“Go around the block, Mom, please.”

“What for?”

“Mom, I've got to see where Melissa and her friend go. I've got to!”

“Well, you can't see anything crouched down on the floor of the car.”

“I'm not crouched on the floor of the car, Mom. Give me a break.”

“I won't go around the block. That takes too long.”

“Mom!”

“But I will pull into Wendy's parking lot and wait until they pass by.”

“Oh, all right. Mom, thanks.”

“I don't know why I'm doing this. If our clothes aren't already stolen, they will be by the time we …”

Her voice trailed off as she parked and cut off the engine. There was a silence.

“What's happening?” Bingo asked.

“Nothing. Oh, I'll announce it—like on football. They're coming by. The tall one—are you sure that's Melissa?”

“Yes.”

“The tall one is reading something off a box. I'll roll down the window—wait, I'll get out of the car and open up the trunk, like I'm checking the spare tire. That way I can hear exactly what they're saying.”

“Don't get out of the car!”

“Oh, all right.” She paused to listen. “They're talking about a home permanent.”

“They can't still be talking about that. They were talking about that in the store an hour ago.”

“Be quiet so I can hear.”

“I don't want you to hear. Mom, I just want to know where they go.”

“Melissa just said something funny, and one of them sort of snorted like a horse.”

“It wasn't Melissa. Melissa doesn't snort.”

“I hope not.”

“Are they gone? Can I look?”

“No, they stopped. Wait! The short girl is looking across the street because there are two boys there. At last, some action. Apparently she knows the boys and wants to cross the street. But—here's some good news—Melissa does not want to cross the street and pulls her back.”

“Mom, are you making this up?”

“No. If I were going to make something up, it would be a lot more interesting.”

There was a pause, and then his mother said, “That's it. They've gone. You can get up now.”

Bingo raised his head. He could see the back of Melissa's Declaration of Independence T-shirt as she and her friend moved out of sight.

“So are you satisfied? Can we go retrieve our clothes?”

“No, Mom, no! I've got to see where they're going. That's the whole point of this.”

“Surely you don't expect me to follow Melissa all over town.”

“Mom, I won't ever be able to find her! Maybe she'll go back to Bixby and I'll never see her at all. And … and I'm almost ready to face her now.”

“If you're so crazy to face her, get out of the car, catch up with her.”

“Mom, please!”

“I'll make a deal with you.”

“Mom, this is no time for deals. Melissa is walking out of my life forever!”

“Here is the deal. We go to the laundromat. You get our clothes. And if,
if
they're all there, we'll come back and follow Melissa.”

“She'll be gone by then! Mom, please!”

Bingo's mother drove out of the parking lot. “Get down on the floor, we're passing them,” she said.

Bingo ducked just as his mother sounded the horn. “Mom, what did you do that for?”

“My hand slipped.”

“It did not. You did it on purpose. If your hand had slipped, you would have gone
honk,
one time, like that, instead of—”

“Well, she didn't look.” They drove the rest of the way to the laundromat in silence. Bingo got out with the basket of laundry and entered.

There was one lady putting bedspreads in the oversized dryer, but she gave him only a disinterested glance. She did not have the look of a lady who had recently lost a load of sheets.

Bingo went down the line of washers, opening the lids and peering inside. In the fourth washer he recognized Jamie's sleepers, his father's worn underwear, diapers, his own T-shirt.

With a cry of relief, he took out the twisted laundry and replaced it with the stranger's twisted laundry.

With the basket on his hip, he rushed out the door and to the car.

“Go, Mom!” he cried as he slipped into the backseat and slammed the door.

She turned and looked at him. “You got the right laundry this time, Bingo?”

“Yes, Mom, yes! Go!”

“You're sure?”

“Yes! Look! Here's Dad's old underwear. Here are the diapers. Here's my SCUM T-shirt.”

“And you put the other laundry back?”

“Yes, go! Go!”

And with what seemed to Bingo incredible slowness, his mother stepped on the gas.

The One-Way Disaster

“T
HIS REMINDS ME OF
being in high school,” Bingo's mother said as she tore through an intersection.

“Mom, watch what you're doing!”

“Frances Mimms and I used to trail Binkie Bambridge to see if he was two-timing her.”

“Mom, watch it!”

Bingo was genuinely alarmed. Suddenly it had become his mother who was determined to find Melissa. She was almost in a frenzy. Bingo began to believe the shock she had had was more serious than his.

Bingo's brother had fallen asleep, but every time his mother took a corner too fast, he sucked on his pacifier as if he knew this careening was not ordinary behavior.

“Mom, can we go home, please?”

“I want to try one more street. They could have turned down Madison.” She applied the brakes. “I can't turn, though! It's one-way!”

“Mom, it is one-way
our
way,” he explained with patience.

“No, Monroe's one-way our way. Madison's—”

“Mom, look at the sign. Look—at—the—sign. And if you're going to turn, you better get over in the other lane! Mom, now you've missed it.”

“I deliberately missed it because I am going to turn onto Monroe, which is one-way
our
way!”

“Mom!”

“Trust me.”

She made the turn, and they faced a solid line of oncoming cars. “Bingo, you were right,” she cried. “It is one-way. And the stupid idiots are not going to let me through.”

“Mom, we are the stupid idiots.”

“Well, what should I do? Back up?”

People began blowing their horns, and his mom—never one to miss an opportunity—blew back.

Jamie awoke, sensed the general air of panic, spit out his pacifier, and began to wail—exactly what Bingo himself felt like doing.

“See what's wrong with the baby.”

“The same thing is wrong with Jamie that's wrong with me—he doesn't like sitting here facing the wrong way on a one-way street. Mom, what's wrong with you? Let's go home.”

“Well, there's no reason for it to be one-way.” She leaned on the horn to show her displeasure.

“Mom, back into the K Mart parking lot if you can.”

“Watch for me.”

As she backed into the parking lot and stopped, she cried, “There they are, Bingo! We didn't miss them after all! They're in front of K Mart!”

Bingo poked Jamie's pacifier back in his mouth.

“This is the most excitement I've had since the baby came, which gives you some idea of how dull my life has become.”

Bingo slumped down in the backseat.

“Maybe we should just sit here a minute until I calm down. Do you mind?”

BOOK: Bingo Brown's Guide to Romance
5.34Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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