THE DUKE

Part XXVIII

Darren slunk down in the back seat of the Corvair, bracing his arms and legs against the jerky half-wild movements of the car’s body as Jimmy drove even wilder than normal.  Star seemed highly entertained by the dangerous driving exercise, laughing at the most fearful moments for Darren.  Not that it mattered, Darren thought, as he tried to put together the rest of his day, and the evening of work beyond that.

Dinner would be early, as his dad got home from Pearl religiously every afternoon at three-thirty.  Dinner was at four and work at the Cannon Club for Darren began at five, or at least used to when he was doing the pre-dinner scut work for all of the wait staff.  No matter what, he wouldn’t go in late, however.  The Elvis event had raised him up in Sergeant Cross’s opinion but he knew the sergeant was nobody’s fool.  If the Elvis event did not go down, there would be no job, and he had to plan for that too.

Before home, he had to face Mrs. Levy, and he had to do it alone.  He had hoped never to be alone with her again but, deep down, he knew that the favor he was asking was very personal and quite extensive, if not risky for Mrs. Levy.  The woman’s daughter was nearly betrothed to Elvis, and the damage that could be caused between them over something so seemingly innocent as a set-up invitation with he and Jimmy showing up by ‘accident,’ might grow into a huge chasm between mother and daughter if Elvis broke up with her over it.

Jimmy guessed that he wasn't invited to the Levy house, stopping out front and then waiting with the motor running for Darren to get out.

“Cannon to the right of him, cannon to the left of him, cannon in front of him, volleyed and thundered,” Star murmured with half a giggle, as Darren crawled over the door frame and stood by the side of the idling Spyder.

“Very funny,” he replied to Star’s adaptation of Tennyson’s Charge of the Light Brigade.

“Well, are you going to take Star home, or what?” Darren said, when Jimmy made no move to drive off.  In spite of the fact that he didn’t want to enter the house alone, he also did not want the car sitting outside idling away with Jimmy and Star in it.  Darren knew Jimmy wouldn’t shut the car off again until he was home, for fear that it wouldn’t start again.

“We’re going, after you go through that door,” Jimmy said, pointing at the Levy home front door.

“Why?” Darren asked, in surprise.

“Because we’re afraid that you’ll run,” Jimmy replied.

“Ridiculous,” Darren whispered to himself, as he walked slowly to the screen door.  He knew there was no point in knocking, as Mrs. Levy never answered the door.  The house rule was that anybody who was a friend would know to simply walk in and introduce his or her presence.  Anybody else could call and make an appointment, or not.  Mrs. Levy didn’t care, although her husband had thrown some huge rages, according to Judy, in the past over such cavalier behavior.

The Corvair took off slowly once he was inside the screen door, Jimmy and Star talking away although their voices quickly grew too distant for Darren to make out any meaning.

The spring tensioned door swung shut behind him.  The aroma of the plumeria flower scent, blown by the trade winds through the open front windows. It gave a dissonant, yet not unpleasant, context to the difficult situation Darren found himself in.  He walked down the hall, feeling the wind pushing him forward and the flowers trying their best to make him feel better.  Darren loved plumeria trees, with one right outside his bedroom window at home.  He always wanted to climb them because their branches were low, interlinked and looking so comfortable to climb and hide within their nearly complete umbrella of flowers that were always plentiful and waiting.  The branches were too fragile, he’d discovered many years earlier when he’d tried to climb one, however, so he’d given up on that idea.  Plumeria leis were the cheapest flower adornment to buy on the island, and he loved the aroma, which always made them his choice to give his dates for military balls.

He walked slowly, knowing that the door swinging shut would have alerted Mrs. Levy that he was there, but he heard no welcoming comment from deeper inside the home.  He turned right at the end of the hall and walked into the combined kitchen and dining area, where he’d met Mrs. Levy before.

She was there.

Darren breathed in and out deeply but silently.

“Sit down,” Mrs. Levy commanded.

Here remark was delivered in a ‘Maryknoll Nun’ tone.  There was to be no arguing about it or even questioning.  Darren didn’t hesitate for even a second. He grabbed a chair at the table where Mrs. Levy sat, pulled it out, and sat down as ordered.

“You are a remarkable boy, and I think very few people understand that,” Mrs. Levy began, waving her hand for Darren to shut up when he tried to respond.

“Judy is going to begin dating Joe Pillsbury,” she went on, as if that news was like discussing the weather.   She said the words, but Darren also noted that she didn’t look him in the eyes when she said them.  “She doesn’t want to hurt you so she wanted me to tell you.”

Darren sat and stared, his mind almost a blank.  A beautiful young girl’s mother was assigned the task of telling her boyfriend he was dumped.  It didn’t make any sense. Mothers did not do such things. Daughters didn’t ask their mothers to do such things.  Not in the real world.

“Pillsbury?” was all that Darren could get out.  “What’s a Pillsbury?”

“You don't cook much, do you,” Mrs. Levy answered.

Darren looked across the table intently for the first time.  Mrs. Levy was dressed in a beautiful blouse and skirt ensemble, with high heels and earrings and everything.  She looked like the women who attended Sunday Mass every weekend where he was required to attend.  Looking at the wonderfully attired and made-up women on Sunday’s was the best thing Darren got out of going to mass.

“Ah, no, not really,” Darren replied, not having a clue as to where Mrs. Levy was going with her conversation.

“Pillsbury is the premier maker of flour in the world,” she said.  “Joe Pillsbury is the son of the current majority owner of that company.  He’s a rare catch, particularly out here in Hawaii.  Elvis is probably never going to marry my daughter, but if Joe Pillsbury marries Judy then we’re made, as a family.”

Darren suddenly didn’t want to talk about Judy, Pillsbury, or any of what might be happening inside the Levy family.

“Is Elvis coming?” he asked, more to change the subject than anything else.

Darren’s emotions were racing everywhere and he didn’t know how to control or understand them without getting time alone to spend in his room or seeing Jimmy to have him interpret what might be going on.

“He’s coming,” Mrs. Levy said.  “This Friday.  I told him the whole story, all of it.  He loved it.  You being paid off by the Air Force to make it all happen.  He particularly loved that part.  So, you and Jimmy can come and ‘break-in’ on Friday at about five.”

Darren’s emotions were on a roller coaster.  He’d dived down into the depths with the news that he was dumped for Joe Pillsbury, or rather for Joe’s family and money.  Slowly Mrs. Levy had guided his roller coaster car back up a big hill, and then let the brake lever go and he was screaming down the tracks toward another bottom, with an unknown climb coming up in the far distance.

Elvis was coming, and he’d meet him again.  Maybe he could steal his parents coveted Argus 35 mm camera and take a picture of the great rock star.

“Okay, I know you have to go home and have dinner and then work at the club,” Mrs. Levy said, pushing her chair back and standing up.

Darren’s relief was palpable, all of his worries about Mrs. Levy’s strange attractiveness toward him put at ease.

“Come and give me a hug,” she said, holding out her arms.

Darren stood up, unsure about what to do. Once again, mixed signals shot back and forth through his mind.

Mrs. Levy didn’t wait for him to move, stepping forward, and around the edge of the table. She clasped him tightly and close, both her arms circling his torso, her perfume overcoming his senses, her face pressed hard into his neck.

He stood, frozen in place, not knowing what to do or what to think. He could not help but feel her substantial breasts pressing into his own chest, the intimacy of her hug beyond any he’d ever received, and that included from Judy or Gail before her.  Only his fright kept Darren from being truly aroused.  He wasn’t her son, and he wasn’t anything else to her that he could think of, but the fact that she obviously felt so strongly about him, he could not ignore or keep from his mind.

She let go and he stepped back, trying to make it appear that he was not escaping, although he was.

She didn’t follow him to the door.  Darren opened it and once again felt the warm aroma embrace of the Plumeria tree out front.  He walked out, closing the door soundlessly, and stood under the tree, breathing in and out gently.  He had to somehow keep his job by making the Elvis party happen.  He also had to rid himself of any feelings he had about Judy.  He knew he’d been right to be afraid of her, as Star had so brilliantly pointed out.

Darren walked home and, upon arriving there went to his room.  He could not close his door because that was not permitted, but at night he could lay on this bed, stare longingly at the surface of the moon reflecting back at him from the huge poster on the wall at the foot of his bed.  The cold moon, orbiting in the night, somehow felt like a place of relieving warmth to him.

“Dinner,” his mother yelled from the kitchen.

Darren eased up out of the bed and headed for the dining room.

“You weren’t here to set the table,” his mother said, attacking as soon as he walked into the room.

“Sorry Mom,” Darren got out, knowing better than to offer an excuse that would not be accepted no matter what it was.

Darren sat at his usual place at one corner of the table.  His sister and brother came in silently and sat at their own places.  Finally, his dad came into the room and sat at the head of the table.  His mom would not sit.  She waited at the table for every meal, only eating herself when the meal was considered to be over, which was always announced by his dad.  However, while she hovered and worked away at serving everyone, she talked.

“Your little dark-haired sweetheart came to see me at the shop today,” his mother began, causing Darren’s heart to beat faster and his facial expression to freeze in place.

“We went surfing,” Darren responded, weakly.

“She was delightful,” his mom replied, causing Darren to almost fall from his chair.

“She was?” was all he could reply.

“Yes,” his mom went on, bringing out the main course, a fully cooked whole chicken, and setting it in the very center of the table.  The chicken would have to be cut, which his father would do, but only after the other elements of the dinner were on the table.  “She said you were a troubled young man with an outsized ego, and it was likely that you’d wet the bed to an advanced age.”

Darren swallowed hard and then tried to keep a big smile from appearing across his features.  Star had read it all right. If she’d complimented him then his mother would have torn him and her apart in her presentation. There was nowhere for her to go, however, with such an attack being delivered by a supposed friend of Darren’s.  Once again, how the ‘little dark-haired sweetheart’ had somehow been able to figure out Darren’s miserable family life and make a comment that would help rather than hurt him. How Star was able to understand his situation so well was a mystery, he realized, but then just about everything about the strange girl was a mystery.

The rest of the family dinner went on in silence. Darren worked at light speed to clear the table and wash the dishes after dinner. Drying them would simply have to wait until later in the night, in spite of the fact that both his parents believed, for unknown reasons, that it was not healthy to ‘air-dry’ washed crockery.  He had to make it to work and be ready for whatever was going to occur there.  The big Elvis night would happen in two weeks if Elvis agreed, which it looked like he was prepared to do.  Not long after that, Darren would head off the island to attend St. Norbert College and leave Oahu, Waikiki, and all of his experience there well behind him.

He thought about the four hundred and forty-dollar bonus that the Air Force might unaccountably pay him.  That amount of money would change the whole first year at college, giving him room to breathe and allow the time to really work and study instead of working three jobs just to stay in the place.

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