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Vol. 3, No. 1

Making Book
by Dale Peck

~

    The thing about Ace is that he's always had good luck with girls. On the one hand he's so big and on the other so sweet and dopey, and so whatever--what I'm saying is that it wasn't long before he came back to the dunes with this girl in a yellow bikini with this totally eightiesed-out short spiky haircut that actually sort of looked good on her. From where I sat I couldn't really see her face--especially since Ace's was more or less glued to it--but I could see his hands, making like Lewis and Clark and exploring her entire body. Ace was good. He'd told me the secret: never let your hands sit too long in any one place, that way the girl'll never have an excuse to push them away. And like I said, Ace's hands were busy, traveling from top to bottom and back to front, he kept constantly moving so the girl never got nervous like some girls do if you cop a feel while you're making out. Which I don't think this girl would've got nervous anyway: her hands were as busy as Ace's, and if anyone seemed a little put off it was him, what with me in the bushes with the camera and the girl's hands snaking inside the back of the loose waistband of his Jams, and through all this the two of them were doing this sort of slow descent to the blanket, like, first one of Ace's knees went down, then one of the girl's, then Ace's other knee, then the girl's, and so on, until eventually they were stretched out on the blanket and somehow even while doing that Ace had managed to untie the neck string of the girl's bikini top, and two tiny triangles of fabric hung below her breasts like banana peels. It wasn't until Ace, you know, actually laid himself right on top of herself that I could tell the girl was reaching her stopping point, and thank god she did or I don't know what I would have done. Before she left I heard her say that she went to Coram and Ace said maybe he'd drive over there one day and the girl sort of smiled and said she was going to have half days on Tuesdays all next year. When she was gone Ace just fell down on his back with his arms and legs spread wide open, and I was about to slip out of the bushes when he made this noise, it sounded just like a hungry dog watching someone open up a can of food which they then, like, eat themselves, and this noise stopped me dead in my tracks.

 

~

My mom stood up now.
      "Boo's right," she said. "I really must call Angela and Tony." Meaning Ace's parents.
      "Barbara," my dad said. Meaning my mom, who was heading for the door.
      "It will only take a moment. It's Angela's turn to bring the wine, and you know how she always `buys' that same terrible Chianti. I know they're Italian, but still."
      My mom supplied the quotation marks with her fingers. And even though I knew she was just trying to create a diversion, it was also true: Mrs. Ferucci did always bring the same kind of wine, and just one bottle at that, by now it should be pretty obvious that one bottle wasn't going to go very far in that crowd--believe me, the Feruccis could match my folks drink for drink any night of the week.
      Before she called Mrs. Ferucci my mom came back over to us and just sort of dropped her empty glass in my dad's lap. "You two carry on in my absence," she said, and then she marched unsteadily out of the room.
      When my dad got up to "refresh" her drink--that's another word my mom always puts quotation marks around--I grabbed the underwear off the table. They didn't really fit in my pocket and so I just stuffed them down the front of my jeans and kind of pulled my shirttails over the little bulge they made.
      If my dad noticed the missing underwear when he got back with the drinks, he didn't say anything. He sat back down, and nodded his head at me. I nodded back and then he nodded again, but I remembered the smiles thing with my mom and so I forced myself to look down at the coffee table. That's when I saw the videotape. I guess my dad must've grabbed it when he got the drinks. It was just an ordinary videotape, I mean, there was no reason why it should've creeped me out the way it did, except maybe the way it was placed between my mom's glass and my dad's beer exactly where my underwear had been, and then too there was the fact that the tape was labeled Making Book, which the ink was kind of faded and the label half peeling off, but you could still read it.
      Making Book. No quotation marks.
      The phone was just in the other room, and my mom's voice came sailing through the door.
      "Angela? Barbara Davis here." My parents have known the Feruccis since way before I was born, but my mom still always uses her full name when she calls them. My dad once said this was a sign of my mom's insecurity, to which my mom said drinking was a sign of insecurity but using her full name on the telephone was simply good manners.
      "I've discovered the most amazing Camembert," my mom was saying, which I suppose is the sort of thing you'd expect to hear from an editor at a food magazine. "It's so creamy it's like pudding. Anyway, I was thinking that a Le Grand Cru St. Emilion would be perfect with it, you know, something just full of tannic acid. Oh, well, Chianti. Did you by any chance try that zinfandel I--well, if you've already been shopping. I'm sure that would be fine. No, no, don't bother. We don't want to hold up the game, after all."
      At the word Chianti my dad looked at me and nodded, and, unable to control myself, I nodded back. We were just about to go into the whole marionette routine when my mom came back into the living room. My parents both picked up their drinks and I sort of fluffed my shirttails over the front of my jeans, and the first thing my mom did was ask me how "Ace" was. She always does the quote thing with Ace's name, too, because it's not actually his real name, which is Tony, like his dad's. Anthony. My mom says the Feruccis gave Ace his nickname just to imitate us, meaning the bridge thing, I guess--meaning making book--because ace, besides being a card, is also a kind of title that really good bridge players get.
      "He's fine, I guess."
      "Tony was saying Ace was going to start on the football team this year." This was my dad.
      "I guess." I was pretty sure Ace was only second string, but it wouldn't've been the first time Ace's parents had overstated the case--or mine for that matter. Mr. Ferucci certainly knew I hadn't made the team, which I'd only tried out for because my dad more or less insisted, and so I just nodded at the video on the coffee table, which was now covered with water rings. "What is this, like, a tape of you guys playing bridge or something?" At which point my mom tittered so loud it was practically a guffaw.
      "Well, no," my dad said. "Not exactly."
      "Really," my mom said. "Is this really, I mean, do we have to do this?" But my dad--like I said, he doesn't really say much, but when he does set his mind to say something there's no stopping him.
      "I think we are in a position to offer Boo a unique gift," he said. "After all, how many people can say they actually know where they actually come from?"
      Well, right then who flashed in my mind was Ace Ferucci. Ace's parents, according to my mom, liked to think of themselves as "liberal," which is how my mom characterized the fact that they'd like videotaped their son being born. They played it for me once about a year ago, and I mean, it--I mean, the tape--it was kind of interesting and all, but still, every time I looked at Ace I just had this vision of his face all covered with slimy goo. And plus too, and this is something I didn't realize, but the umbilical cord looks like a hose growing out of your stomach when you're born, and that is just gross.
      "A unique position," my dad was saying, or saying again.
      "I would hardly call it unique," my mom said. "It was more like missionary."
      "A special gift," my dad said, "to help you through what you're going through right now."
      "But really," my mom tried one more time. "We should be discussing that weak no-trump opening. Angela and Tony will be defenseless against it."
      "A special gift," my dad repeated, "to help you understand where you come from."
      My mom just kind of sighed then, and held up her glass, which it seemed like she'd drained it pretty damn quick. "You want to know where you came from, Boo?" She kind of waved the glass a little. "Look no further," she said. "Boo," she said, "you came right out of this glass, which if you get right down to it is where most children come from."
      "Barbara."
      My mom made her noise, but she didn't say anything.
      "Maybe we should just play the tape," my dad said.
      At this point I was too freaked out to say anything, and so when my dad asked me to put the tape in the machine I just did it. In our house the TV and the VCR are in this mahogany armoire my dad restored, a pretty fancy piece of work with burled columns on the sides and a relief running along the top of it, and so anyway I put the tape in the machine but I didn't start it, just brought the remote back to my dad, which he took it, and held it in both hands, the way you might hold something you wanted to buy but knew was too expensive. And then, you know, then I guess he decided that whatever it cost it was worth it, and he started the tape. And what was on the tape was my parents. And they were . . .
      Well, like I said. The tape was called Making Book.

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