Last time: The year is 1974. Robert "Eli" Whitney, sexually-overactive high school senior, is somewhat pressured by circumstances into taking an unpopular albeit attractive sophomore named Karen Hoffman -- known as "Boris Karloff" or simply "Karloff" for no reason other than the fact that high school kids are predominately vicious little creeps -- to a John Denver concert.
That's all you get, except for the following illustration of something which figures just prominently enough in the story to unnerve those of you who don't know what a "pushbutton transmission" is:
And if you're really interested in the car described in this storyline, you can view a version of it here!
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It was almost a fifty-mile drive to Boston, the site of the concert, but Eli's well-preserved 1964 Plymouth Fury was more than adequate for the task. He and Karen barely spoke, a fact which was glossed over by the portable 8-track player which rested on the seat between them, blaring out "John Denver's Greatest Hits." (Eli's car had only an AM radio.)
One of the few times either of them did talk to each other was when Karen questioned Eli's choice of music. "Why are you playing all the songs we're probably going to hear tonight anyway?" she asked.
"Cuz I like them, dummy."
"So do I, but we're going to hear every one of them at least once on our way. We might get sick of them."
"If you can get sick of them, you shouldn't be going to this concert!" He shook his head. "Man, I should have gotten a real date..."
"I didn't really mean I'd get sick of them..."
"Then you shouldn't have said that, idiot."
Karen suddenly made a strange, almost-inhuman sound of frustration. "Why do have to do that?"
"Insult me like that all the time! 'Dummy.' 'Idiot.' What did I ever do to you?"
"Nothing... It's just the way I talk."
"Well, it stinks, and anyway... that's no excuse."
"Sorry. Geez! I didn't mean anything by it."
"Then you shouldn't have said that... idiot," she said, repeating his earlier words to her.
He laughed at that, in spite of himself. Then the two fell silent.
At the concert's start, John Denver shouted "Hello, Boston!" which naturally got applause. "Shining pearl of the East..." A mild laugh from the crowd. "Home of the Bruins and the Celtics..." Even heartier applause than his opener. "Gateway to... South Boston." That got the laugh he was presumably expecting.
For Karen and Eli, the rest of the concert was pleasingly predictable, except for a welcome surprise when Denver and his back-up band played "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down."
On their way home, the two began talking about the concert they'd just left. At last, they seemed to have something in common.
"I don't know what it was, exactly," said Eli, "but there was something really cool about Denver's bass player."
"Oh, Dick Kniss? Sure, he's been with John for years. He's backed up Peter, Paul, and Mary, too, on a lot of their stuff."
"Peter, Paul, and Mary?" Eli replied, with a tone of voice that Karen immediately found offensive.
"Yeah. Something wrong with them?"
"Not if you like folk music..."
"What would you call John if not folk music?"
"I love the way you say 'John' like he's your buddy."
"Well, he feels like a friend sometimes."
"Anyway, he's not folk, he's... country rock."
"He's not country!"
"Not like that twangy shit... I mean, stuff, sorry... but country rock."
"Folk rock, maybe, like... ohh... Simon and Garfunkel."
"You can't compare John Denver to Simon and Garfunkel!"
"So says the musical expert who doesn't even read the credits on albums!"
"Who says I don't?"
"I do! Otherwise you would have known the name Dick Kniss." Eli didn't reply. "You don't read them, do you?"
"No," he said defensively. "Why should I?"
"So you can hold up your end of a stupid conversation with..." She trailed off, as a certain realization struck her. "I guess you don't usually have to talk to your dates."
"You're not my date, dummy."
"You know what I meant. All those chicks you date are just there for one thing. And it's not conversation." She paused, adding "I guess they're right about you," under her breath, but not so softly that Eli didn't hear her.
"Up yours, Karloff! Whether I date two chicks, or twenty, and what I do with them when I date them, is none of your business!"
"More like twenty..."
"Look, you'd better keep your mouth shut."
"Oh, yeah? Why?"
"Cuz it's a long walk home for you from here." His mind suddenly flashed on a much earlier conversation with her. "No 'put out or get out,' either. Just get out!"
"You wouldn't do that to me, dump me off on the turnpike. I'd get arrested if the state police saw me, and raped or worse if somebody else came after me."
Eli took his eyes off the road briefly enough to look at Karen. He was about to make an extremely insulting comment to the effect of "Who'd even want to rape you?" but overruled his obnoxious tendencies, for once.
Instead of speaking, Eli reached for the 8-track player and inserted the "John Denver's Greatest Hits" tape. "Is it okay if I play this?" he asked Karen, with only a slight sarcastic edge in his voice. "Wouldn't want to make you sick, or anything."
She smiled. "You won't. Huh! You sure calmed down in a hurry."
"I'm like that sometimes. Hey, do me a favor?"
"Reach in that cooler in the back seat, and get me a beer?"
"You brought beer to the concert?" she asked, shocked.
"Well, not to the concert, exactly, but... So what? I'm old enough!" (The legal drinking age in Massachusetts at the time was eighteen. Eli was eighteen. Life was good.)
Karen draped herself over the back of the car seat and lifted the lid of a styrofoam cooler. Eli characteristically checked out her butt. "Why didn't you drink on the way to the show?" she asked, as she reached into the icy water and took out a can of Schlitz.
"Are you nuts? I spend ten dollars per ticket, I'm not going to get so drunk I can't remember it." Karen handed the beer to Eli. "Thanks. You want one?"
"Ummm... okay," she said, leaning over the seat once again in order to get a can for herself. And Eli glanced over to check out her butt again.
For the rest of the time they were on the turnpike, Eli and Karen didn't talk. They just drank.
By the time they'd gotten to her house, Eli had consumed three cans of Schlitz, and was comfortably "buzzed." Karen was still working on her second, and she was completely drunk.
When she saw that Eli was approaching her home, Karen panicked. "Don't bring me home!" she screamed.
"What? Why not?"
"Are you kidding? If I walk in sloshed, my parents will kill me."
"Well, what the hell am I supposed to do with you? Drive around until you sober off?" He drove past her house, then looked over at her. She was noticeably intoxicated. "That could take months."
"I'm going to be sick."
"Do you mean that literally, or..."
"I'm going to be sick!"
"Not in my car!" Eli yelled, pulling off the road and stopping. His Plymouth had a pushbutton transmission. He moved the "park" lever downward, taking the car out of gear. "Get out! Quick!"
"Where's the door handle?" she slurred.
"Oh, God...! Roll down your window, then!"
She nodded, saying, "Sure. Where's the cranky thing?"
Now it was Eli's turn to panic. He leaned across the seat. Actually, he leaned across Karen, as well. His left hand found the door handle that had been so elusive for Karen, and his right hand gripped her left forearm tightly. As the car door swung open, Karen tumbled outward (but not all the way out, thanks to Eli) and just in time. Two cans of beer and whatever she'd had for supper exited rudely from her mouth and splattered into the bushes.
Eli was sprawled across Karen. Karen didn't move for a moment, but instead gloried in the cool night breezes that played across her face. Then she realized that Eli was more or less on top of her. "You can stop pawing me now."
"Well, you're on top of me!"
"That's to keep you from rolling out of the car and landing in your own puke!"
"Okay. Thank you. Now let me up?"
Eli sat up and re-positioned himself behind the driver's seat. Karen straightened up as well. He looked at her, cautiously. "Are you going to throw up again?"
She looked outside -- she hadn't closed the car door yet -- and said, "I don't think I have anything left."
"Very funny. Now close your door," he said, raising the "park" lever and pushing the "drive" button on the car's dashboard. She closed the door as he steered back onto the road.
After only a few minutes of silence, she said, "I guess I spoiled your little plan, huh?"
"What plan? What are you talking about?"
"Well, you obviously planned to get me drunk, and that worked, but my getting sick wasn't on the menu, was it?"
"What are you talking about?" he repeated. "Did you think I was going to...?" He glared at her. "You did, didn't you? I mean, you do, or... I don't know what I mean!" he sputtered.
"Well, it's kind of hard to take advantage of someone when she's puking her guts out..."
"Look, you, I have had it with all these accusations. You don't know me at all. Now I am bringing you home." Suiting the action to the word, he looped around at a wide point in the back road they were on and began driving back to Karen's house.
"Wait a second! Wait a second! What about my parents?"
"That's not my problem."
"Don't be a jerk!"
"Jerk. Right." He shook his head, angrily. "You know something?"
"Maybe I shouldn't insult you as much as I do, but your way of insulting me is even worse!"
"You keep insulting me based on nothing but what other people have told you. That makes you just as bad as all those snobs who call you Karloff."
Karen thought about what Eli had said for the rest of the drive to her home. Before she got out, she admitted, "You were right about my misjudging you. You can be kind of rude and all, so I should just stick to the first-hand stuff like that."
"Is that supposed to be some kind of apology?"
She opened the car door and stepped out. "Yeah, I guess it is. And thanks for bringing me to the concert, too. Hey! I never paid you for my ticket!"
"Don't worry about it. My treat. I feel like I owe you for all my wisecracks. You know, calling you dummy and idiot, and Karloff, and everything." He smiled at her and mouthed "See ya!" as she closed the door.
He'd surprised her by refusing the money for the ticket.
And Eli surprised Karen once again about a month later, when he asked her if she'd like a different kind of ticket, this time one to attend his high school graduation.
To Be Continued...