The Last Time I Looked: (Stories, Real and Unreal) - PARTNERS Chapter Three
March 11, 2013

HOWIE

He was a very clean, twelve-year-old boy with plastered down blonde wavy hair. He wore a modified zoot suit, a closely fitting collared shirt, and a tie with musical notes all over it.

Brooklyn hip, Bea thought, another Sinatra clone. His mother sat next to him and never stopped fussing with him or herself. Momma was a tootsie. She had thick dark hair with an active life of its own. A latin type, as they were called then. She was probably in her late thirties; she had a young, good body and good legs. Even with her overly made up face, she was tidy. What gave her away as a seriously flawed class act, was her rayon print dress with a musical notes all over it. Honey, thought Bea, It ain’t cool to match your kid’s tie.

Bea’s own mother, “Her Drabness”, as she secretly called her, at least had the good sense just to fade into the folding chair, the way any self-respecting stage mother should.

There was no question that this show had real edge to it. The winner was going to get a night’s engagement at a Catskill Hotel. Mid-week for sure, but a real paid job, at one of the places where the biggies, their idols, got their start. All the kids were nervous. Brian Broderick, the Irish tenor, started off with his heretofore prize winning “Danny Boy”…During “the pipes…the pipes are calling”, Brian’s pipes left for lunch. His voice cracked and he became a man and a loser at the exact same time.

Red-headed Rhoda, the girl of a thousand voices was next. She should have winnowed them down to fifty. She imitated Jack Benny and Rochester having a conversation, then onto Fred Allen, Molly from the Goldbergs, and wound up with Jimmy Cagney and Humphrey Bogart singing “You’re a Grand Old Flag”. You had to give her a C for chutzpah. Nobody was quite sure what happened, but she was sweating like a lawn sprinkler and making manic faces. Her applause was sparse, and relieved.

Wanda the Witch didn’t seem quite such a threat. She got through her aria yet again, but the thrill was gone. Bea could tell.

Now it was Bea’s turn, and she instinctively tied her nerves down, this time with invisible twine, shut everything out, and gave it to them. She was on the money. She delivered. No contest.

Howie and his matching Momma who played the piano for him were next. He was so pro, she wanted to puke. He must have been born in a suit with a mic in hand. He was a pint-sized crooner, who made himself swoon, and unfortunately the audience as well. Instead of just singing “Bess”, he did the medley of all medleys of “Porgy and Bess”. He finished with “Oh Lord I’m on my way”…and boy, was he. The audience went loony and so did Bea.

She started to panic and breathe too fast…she was applauding so violently that her hands were stinging, and she inadvertently started a second wave reaction. The judges and everyone else noticed; they thought that she was just the most generous and selfless contestant they’d ever seen. She was a big favorite of theirs anyway, and although they had decided to give the prize to Howie, this last bit of hers tipped them enough to award a double prize…Bea and Howie…destined for stardom…The little suit…and the big voice…a pair made in Hell.

Click here to read chapter four.
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