Steady Eddie

Steady Eddie

by T. Glen Coughlin


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781569472217
Publisher: Soho Press, Incorporated
Publication date: 01/28/2001
Pages: 250
Product dimensions: 5.76(w) x 8.60(h) x 0.99(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Saturdays, I get paid. Next to the Pantry Pride's penny-candy machines, and the twenty-five cent pony ride, I count $220 in twenty-dollar bills. In my back pocket the money makes my wallet feel fat, nice and fat. Customers, pulling kids by the arm, steering squeaking shopping carts, push in, push out.

    Between my fingers fish scales stick to me like a second skin. Somehow they survived a thorough washing in the restroom sink. I flick them to the pavement. The smell of the fish department, the shop, the chicken walk-in box is under my fingernails, behind my ears, in my hair. A soak in a tub gets rid of the odor. My hands are swollen, a mess of small infected cuts. I form a fist and the pain makes me remember my boss's voice. Kurt calls me "kid." "Hey, kid, you got a truck on the dock with your name on it. Kid, I said no sugar. I don't take sugar in my coffee, go back and get me another. You got that, kid?" Reggie, one of the butchers, says I have to prove myself before I get any respect, before I cut red meat. But, bad as it is, that's how good it is. I like showing them I can lift and handle off-loads. I go crazy cutting and bagging chickens, probably setting records.

    Street kids cut the parking lot and slam a shopping cart into the side of a dumpster. "Hey," I yell, just for the hell of it. "You think that's funny?" They see me and run toward the alley between the Grove Apartments. Probably one of them knows me or heard the name Eddie Trottman. In Freeport High School I had a reputation. It wasn't entirely earned. Some of it came from my father. Some from the guys I hung outwith at the school. Last year I barely squeaked through and graduated Phi Beta Crappa. The school guidance counselor told me to get a job in the trades, meaning carpentry, electricity, plumbing. It was what they told all the guys they thought were going nowhere. He was right about one thing, I'm in a trade. I'm only nineteen and I'm going from apprentice to butcher. As soon as my one-year probation ends, I'll be a member of Amalgamated Meat Cutters Union, Local 342.

    At the end of the supermarket I sit on a concrete barrier. Egg-foo-something is in the air from the China Inn. The sun is low just over the Gulf Station at the corner. I loosen my boots and watch the traffic roll on Merrick Road. Every other car goes south on Grove Street down to the restaurants on the Nautical Mile.

    Freeport is on the south shore of Long Island. Some people still call it a clam digger's town. The railroad slices the town down the middle. The north is filled with blacks that hang out on Main Street near the liquor stores, and the south is filled with clam diggers and fishermen who line the bars on the canals. There's some rich Jews that bought waterfront property near Cow Meadow Park when real estate was cheap and some big doctors' houses in northwest Freeport. Behind the old movie theater across from Wetson Hamburgers, hookers stroll up to cars asking, "You need a date?" Just down from the library there's one house full of Hare Krishna that I've egged every Halloween since I can remember.

    I live where the town is cut in half, in the middle of everything, where I belong. I'm half Puerto Rican, and half German. My father says I'm one of a kind, then adds, "Which kind I have no idea."

    The sun disappears. Car headlights flash on me as they turn from the street. Loopy is late again. Nothing new. I'm losing a good buzz. I'm an hour into drinking beer. I slipped a few bottles under my butcher apron each time I went from the meat department out into the supermarket to straighten the meat case. The supermarket doesn't carry cold beer. I poured the beer into plastic chicken liver containers, then added clean chipped ice from the machine in the fish department. I tossed the empties into a hole in the wall. Someday someone will remodel the supermarket and there'll be an avalanche.

    Saturdays, from eight in the morning to five in the evening, I'm at the bandsaw halving chickens. The saw is noisy, there's no point for a radio, or conversation. From five to closing time, I'm alone behind the meat case mirrored windows doing all the shit jobs; bleaching the boards, scrubbing the blocks, breaking the machines down, rolling the fat cans into the walk-in box. Last thing I do is throw down the sawdust. When I finish the place smells like a hamster cage.

    Loopy rumbles in. The Hollywood mufflers on his GTO sound like hollow thunder. The rear bumper bears his life's philosophy, GAS, GRASS OR ASS, NOBODY RIDES FREE. He's wearing his standard muscle shirt, smoking a Marlboro.

    "Asshole," he says.

    "Douche." I hop in.

    "What's up?"


    "You stink," he says, giving me a grin and a warm Miller bottle. Loopy is tall, lanky, and bow legged. His real name is Larry Louperino, thus the nickname. On the dashboard a half-eaten hero on wax paper slides to my side as he turns out of the parking lot.

    "Finish that, it's meatball," he says. "Still hot."

    "Where'd you get it?"

    "Screw you, 'Where'd you get it?' You want it, or not?" Tomato sauce is leaking out on the paper. "But, if you got to know, I bought it at Zuro's," he says.

    I grab the whole mess and take a bite. Zuro's Deli, near the Freeport Raceway, has the best heros in town, better than 7- Eleven's.

    We cruise with the windows open. Loopy's hair whips around his head. From the side all you see are hair and nose. Loopy's half Italian and his nose is about half the size of Italy. But nobody ever insults him to his face. He's got this stance, an attitude, like he's just about to flick his cigarette in your face. Since about the fifth grade, Loopy's done construction for some Mafia-owned company. The calluses on his hands are thicker than the ones on my feet.

    At the beer distributor, I help Loopy fold the top down on the GTO. Sometimes we just hang at the distributor waiting for someone to come and pick up a keg of beer. Then we follow the car to the party. On the hood we crack fresh beers. Across the street the canal that leads to the Baldwin Bay is black and calm. It's late April. The really nice weather is still weeks off. The yachts, wrapped in canvas covers, wait like moths in giant cocoons. In June they'll be open, sailing to Fire Island for the weekend or Short Beach for a day trip.

Shotgun in the GTO, the engine presses me into the seat. I feel as indestructible as any moving object at sixty-five miles an hour with a four-hundred-cubic-inch under the hood and a pose-traction rear. I slam in my eight-track. The Boss and a sad sax wail about the Jersey Shore that I have passed through once on a class trip to the Liberty Bell. Loopy puts up with the music. He's into Black Sabbath, Bachman Turner Overdrive Meat Loaf, and shit like that. I bought the Boss's tape after I heard "Born to Run."

    On Saturday nights we hope that something will happen, maybe the two girls we hang with, Dirty Drawers or Armpits, will be at Violetta's. Maybe the boys from Merrick, with their Firebirds that their daddies bought for them, will cruise Atlantic Avenue and find the balls to line up next to Loopy's Goat and punch the gas pedal at a red light.

    I open another Miller. The breeze whipping in the car sucks the cap away as we soar down Atlantic Avenue, past the hobby shop, Sam's Shoe Repair, the Galley Bar, the A&P.

    We roll next to a Nova: lifted rear, custom air scoop, Cragar rims. Loopy revs the engine, makes eye contact with the other driver. The driver glances at us and burns rubber on his fat-boy slicks. Smoke rises from the dry concrete and smells like Saturday night at the Freeport Speedway. The seconds at the red light tick by slowly. The green light flashes. The cars explode forward. For a moment we're even, then the Nova catches rubber in fourth gear and blasts ahead. With another red light at the next block, the Nova decelerates. Wearing a giant shit-eating grin, they guy behind the wheel looks back at us.

    "Think it's funny?" asks Loopy. Doing twenty, he bangs the GTO into the Nova's bumper, then hangs a quick right to Bayview Avenue. Nobody wins when they race Loopy.

    Checking the rear view, he makes a few turns. I know where he's going. It's been on Loopy's route since Ginny and I broke up. On a narrow block he coasts past large houses with porches, trimmed border hedges, and station wagons in the driveways. Ginny's house is coming up fast on the left.

    Loopy's already downshifting from third to second to first. We do five miles an hour past the house. I know she's dating Jay. That sick feeling, like l just went up a fast elevator, begins to creep into the pit of my stomach. I can't think of them without that feeling. Saturday night is dating night for Jay, who picked a red VW Rabbit for his graduation present from his parents, who can play the oboe, or the elbow. Jay, who I could blow away with a look, not even a look, I'd like to yell, Hey, Jay, you asswipe, come on out and ... But, I am sealed tight as the Tupperware Ginny's mom hawks at Friday night parties. Ginny's mother, holding her glass of year-old California white, couldn't look me in the eye when Ginny suggested that my mother be invited to a Tupperware party.

    "She's out with Jay," yelps Loopy, gunning the engine.

    My sick stomach seems to twist. I'm sick over how we broke up, sick as I imagine them sitting in some wine-and-cheese place, or worse at the Met game, her wearing his baseball cap and him knowing all the players' averages, sick inside, sick of this town and cutting meat, not even meat, chicken. We sail under the trees and the black sky through Saturday night. "Let's go look up Pits," I say.

    The GTO roars.

At the pizza parlor in the corner of the strip mall Pits hangs on the pay phone yakking. She eyes us. We rip across the lot right toward her. The car brakes and tires squeal, but she doesn't flinch. The Goat bumps her and she pounds the hood with her fist. I'd like to smack Loopy for getting so close, but I let it go. "Aw, it barely touched you," yells Loopy.

    From her oversize flannel shirt she flips us the bird and comes to my window. "If it had hurt, it would have been later for you asses," she says, trying to sound tough. She's really cute, with a big unearned reputation for B. O. Loopy came up with the nickname the day she climbed in his car with the top up. I found out later that she had spent a few days on the street because she couldn't go home. The nickname stuck anyway.

    I snake my arm around her neck. Pits lives in Merrick, the town east of mine. In the mornings almost every house has a pool truck or a lawn service in front. But, Armpits lives on the south end of Merrick, behind a golf course down by the dump. A garbage mountain rises right at the back fence of her house. About a hundred yards up exhaust pipes let the gas out of the mountain. Her father is my mailman in Freeport and her mother gets the great honor to vacuum Merrick's custom wall-to-wall and scrub imported tiled walk-in showers and sunken Jacuzzi tubs with adjustable jets.

    Tonight Pits' brown owl eyes are caked with blue mascara like someone in the bricklayers' union applied the shit with a trowel. Under her open flannel shirt, her tight-ass jeans and tube top show off her flat belly and navel, her usual uniform. Dirty Drawers is hanging on another pay phone, probably talking to herself. She's a flake. She tells everyone that she's nineteen but she's really twenty-two. I found out from Pits that her brother fingered her all through grammar school, which in a way was worse than rape, at least then she could have screamed rape. He's doing time upstate for ripping off anything and everything. A year ago he tried to pay me twenty bucks to distract a clerk at Richmond Hardware Store so that he could stroll out the door with a belt sander or set of socket wrenches. I told him to go scratch and Loopy would up dropping a bin of nuts and bolts for Henry. The plan worked perfectly, all of it, except Loopy's twenty bucks.

    On the warm hood the girls fit themselves between our legs. Pits moons me with her owl eyes. "What'cha gonna do tonight?" she asks, smiling.

    "What you wanna do?"

    "Cruise." She puts her hand between my legs.

    "But we got dates," says Drawers.

    "Who the fuck would waste time and money on you?" asks Loopy.

    "Dates with you two assholes," she says.

For no good reason we head to Long Beach. I slide over the white leather seat, across the hump, and throw my arm around Armpits. Drawers takes her perch on the console and Loopy bangs the Goat's gears right into her crotch.

    Roaring down Atlantic Avenue, Pits and me tongue kiss. Her mouth tastes like an ashtray. Her kinky-curly brown hair whips me in the face. Ginny doesn't smoke, has straight hair, and barely drinks. Pits didn't know about Ginny. That was one good thing about having girls in different towns. Sometimes, when the night was just about over, and Pits and I were saying good-bye she would ask me when I would call, when I would see her again. I'd tell her I'll call, for the tenth time slip her number in my wallet. Like I hoped Ginny would last, Pits must hope I'd call.

My hand is squeezing Pit's left breast. My fingers circle the nipple. With one quick move I lift her tube top up. She's got pointy nipples with half-dollar areolas the color of calf's liver. Her flannel shirt covers most of her, but I see a guy almost drive off the road as he passes.

    "What the fuck have you been smoking?" she yells, yanking down her tube top.

    I kiss her again and her tongue swirls in my mouth like a live eel. Pits is so easy. It almost isn't fun. She's like one of those blowup punch clowns. No matter how hard you hit'em, they come right back for another smack in the nose. She once told me that I was the only one in the world who understood her. I pretended I hadn't heard.

    Off and on, Pits and Drawers have been hanging out with us for a couple of years. We don't call them, write them, buy them anything, but still they're waiting every night at the pizza joint, drinking beer at a buck a bottle. Pits doesn't talk much, she just makes the heavy eyes at me as if they were answers to any question. She nuzzles her head against my chest. I give her a hug and she peers up. "I'm glad you came by," she says.

    "Me too," I say. She smiles and pulls me in for a kiss.

    We come up for air and I open her a bottle of Miller.

    Drawers is a million-times worse than Pits. She wears the same baggy jeans every day with these two holes above the cheeks of her ass. As she walks, her drawers flash. Loopy bangs her when he wants, usually in the parking lot after the pizza joint closes. They are always fighting. Last summer Drawers stabbed Loopy in the ribs with a Bic pen over some bullshit, I don't know what. Even at the emergency room she didn't stop. She jumped him, scratched his face in front of the doctors, and yelled that she would have him busted someday.

    Stopped at a red light on Long Beach Road, a guy rolls up in a mint-green Bird. "Your daddy teach you how to drive," yells Loopy.

    "Your mother."

    The light changes before Loopy can respond. After thirty feet of banging gears, Loopy is side by side with the Bird. Pits's face beams. With barely enough space for the two cars to ride side by side, we charge past the parked cars. The Bird stays with us, sometimes a few inches ahead, then a few behind. If some schmuck were to open his door it would be whacked into orbit. I'm not even horny, but I unsnap Pits's jeans and slide my hand down to the top of her panties. Watching the Bird, she power slugs her Miller. The angle is killing my arm. I inch down her soft stomach until my fingertips reach the top of her curly pubic hair, all the time half hoping she stops me, or at least pretends to care.

    "I love Firebirds," she screams in my ear.

    I pull my hand out. Loopy is a car length ahead when the Bird falls behind then hangs a right.

    "Pussy," yells Loopy.

    In high school there were the jocks, the academics, the band, the leftover hippies, and the hitters. I was a hitter. None of us were black, Jewish, rich, or even middle class. None of us lived on the water, went on family vacations, or away to college. We went to high school for auto shop, or metal shop. The hitter girls went for cosmetology. A few hitters got into the community college for welding or computers and, every once in a while, a hitter made it big. But, most of the time, hitters got locked up for prying open the skylights on drugstore roofs or busted for beating their girlfriends. Some were killed in DWI accidents, or worse, got spine injuries from falling off their Harleys. Some of my old hitter friends are still in town, like the guy over at the Shell station pumping gas.

    My official "hitter" label came in the ninth grade, after I did four months at the Westbury Children's Shelter. I got arrested for counting quarters, dimes, and nickels for two guys that were hacking heads off parking meters and beating them open with sledge hammers. My buddy, Loopy, and I got ten dollars for every one hundred dollars we rolled. Loopy didn't show the day the cops raided the house. It was just me, the guy who hired me, and his partner, a guy with pimples all over his face and neck.

    My grandfather took a cab every Saturday all the way from Freeport to visit me at the shelter. In the dayroom, after long silences, he'd talk about repairing dry rot on his boat, tuning the old straight-eight engine, hooking fluke and flounders, or the price of fuel. Then, he'd lean uneasily on the Formica table and ask me, "Why'd you do it? Did you need the money that bad? Why don't you have a paper route? How did you get involved with those guys?"

    To answer my grandfather's questions, I wanted to tell him that my father had once toppled the refrigerator down over my mother. Her legs were sticking out of the side and I thought she was dead. I wanted to tell him that my father had a blond-haired girlfriend. I wanted to tell him that when my mother drank Fresca with vodka, she went crazy and once flicked matches on my father when he was passed out drunk. The couch caught fire and for a month its black springs stuck out like giant corkscrews and stank up our house. But all I asked my grandfather was why my parents didn't visit me. Were they that mad at me?

    Trying to make sense of it, my grandfather would look away at the caged windows. One afternoon after a slow Ping-Pong game in the recreation room he gripped my hands and squeezed them. "You're from a no-good mix," he said. "But, you don't have to be bad." He told me that I wasn't like my father and mother. "You understand that?"

    Back at high school, hitters hung by me. A rumor broke that in the shelter I shattered a kid's jaw. I have big hands and thick wrists—a gym teacher told me I was built like Jerry Quarry—so I rolled up my shirtsleeves and, without doing much of anything, my hair and my reputation grew. Kids passing in the halls nodded at me as if asking permission. Once after class my tenth-grade English teacher told me I had scored high marks on a placement test. He said I was bright, I had a future, and had to shake off the shelter and the hitters. For a while, I studied, did homework, then my grandfather died and I started spending school days in Nunley's Carousel, grubbing money over the sound of the merry-go-round organ music, living on greasy pizza and six-ounce Miller ponies that I carried in my army jacket like glass grenades. By junior year, the teachers didn't bother me if I was late or left early. When they called attendance, the teachers said Trottman as if not expecting an answer. The principal put me in the afternoon program, nicknamed the "Air Force" because by afternoon all the hitters were so high they were flying. I smiled through automotive classes rebuilding the shop teacher's '36 Ford three-window coupe that he sold and made a nice profit on.

    Looking back, I realize I spent too many afternoons with one girl or another, too many nights standing like a jackass at the beer distributor holding a bottle of Miller, or riding shotgun in Loopy's GTO, blasting Bachman Turner Overdrive, shooting the shit about I don't remember what. I only wish I had paid better attention to my grandfather's lectures about dry rot and the old straight eight.

Decrepit old-age homes line the street, blocking the ocean view. Behind them the weathered boardwalk stretches for a few miles. A senior citizen, pulling her gray poodle, eyes us. The dog, nails scraping for footage, struggles to squat on the sidewalk. On a street sign a seagull watches us cruise by. In the center of town an old man, wearing gray chinos high around his waist, crosses the street. I almost call to him. "Jesus, that guy looked just like my grandfather," I say.

    "He looks like everyone's grandfather," says Pits.

    My grandfather wore gray chino pants, a button-down shirt, and boat shoes every day. When I was fifteen, he died of a massive heart attack in his apartment. From his side window I saw him lying on the floor near the bathroom. I banged on the neighbor's door and they called the police. There was nothing much else to do. The cops took a lot of photos and rolled him into a special vinyl bag with a long zipper. I was crying and the ambulance attendant kept telling me that he was at peace and shit like that. During the wake at the funeral parlor my father acted like an asshole, drinking beer right next to the coffin, bragging that he knew all of Pops's secrets. On the second night I smacked the bottle out of his hand and it sprayed on the flower arrangements and across the thin red carpet.

    My father kept saying, "Eddie, you're pushing it, pushing it."

    "Pops wouldn't want you here," I yelled. "Why don't you get your scrawny ass out of here?"

    "He's upset," said my father, smiling to the guests, swirling around in his blue crushed velvet jacket and ruffled shirt. A few days later, my grandfather's will was read and I inherited his thirty-two-foot Egg Harbor cabin cruiser, named the Glory, and his 1968 Plymouth Fury that needs a transmission. My father tried to sell the boat, almost gave it away for three thousand dollars to the first guy who wagged cash in his face. But the title is in a vault in my grandfather's lawyer's office and the deal fell through. My father woke me up in the middle of the night and yanked me around my room, screaming, "I was the son, I was the son." The next day he gave me a phony apology and begged me to sign the boat over to him. I got near the back door on the other side of the kitchen table and told him to fuck off.

    Loopy parks a few blocks down from the rides and the food stands.

    "Where we going?" asks Drawers.

    "Where do you think," answeres Loopy.

    The salty breeze from the ocean seems to cheer us all up. I run toward the boardwalk after Pits, grab her, and swing her around. Loopy says something to Drawers. She smacks him with her big leather bag that she lugs around. Waves pound the short, deserted beach. Brown foam races across the mottled, gray sand toward overflowing wire trash cans. Night has closed in. Music and voices from the amusement park drift in on the wind. The aluminum railing that runs the boardwalk is lined with seagulls, all facing the ocean, some standing on one leg. Sauntering lazily, arm in arm, Pits's sexy hip bumps me. Loopy and Drawers come alongside. "I'm going to give her the banging of her life," says Loopy in my ear. At the first entrance to the beach, Drawers and the Loop slip under the boardwalk.

    Out of the wind next to a closed concession, Pits lays her head in my lap and I stroke her face. I wouldn't tell anyone but I think she is beautiful sometimes. I like her full lips, crazy-owl eyes, and small sharp nose.

    "What are you thinking?" I ask.

    "See that star." She points at the dark sky. "I wish that was me." She rolls over on her side. "I was practicing today and made a demo tape for my brother."

    Pits wants to be a singer. Her brother plays guitar for some Los Angeles loser band called Plastic Diamonds. He's got hair he washes about four times a month that is down to his ass, and arms about the size of elbow macaroni. I've heard Armpits's voice a few times in her basement singing along with Gloria Gaynor and Carly Simon. She does "Someone Left the Cake Out in the Rain," or whatever it's called, better than Donna Summer.

    "You want to hear my new favorite song?" she asks. "Midnight at the oasis," sings Pits. "Send your camel to bed. You don't have to worry, or hurry ..." She goes on singing and actually sounds like the record.

    "That was great." I kiss her.

    "What are you thinking about?" she asks.

    The dark ocean twinkles with light from the amusement park under a round moon that puts a streak of shiny white all the way to the breakers. "I wish I was out in the ocean fishing," I say. "Far out, where the big fish are."

    "I never caught a fish," she says. "When I was a kid, I went to this place where the fish swam in one direction in this giant cement pool. All the kids put a little kernel of corn on their hooks. The fish were flipping all over the place. Kids were screaming. I didn't catch one."

    I lean back listening to the wind whistle and the soft sound of the surf. "I've caught two fish at a time," I say. "My grandfather used to say that when you catch two at a time, you got to let one go."

    Thinking about this, she lets her tongue rest between her teeth. "How come you never took me out on your boat?"

    "It needs a lot of work," I say, which is half true. All the mahogany on the Glory is begging for a coat of varnish. Tied up in the slip, my grandfather spent spring and summer days working on the boat. In the winter, he worked on her in the boatyard. He showed me how to refinish the deck, how to repair dry rot, how to overhaul the motor.

    "You probably take other girls out," she says.

    "I don't take out girls that wear clogs." I stroke Pits's hair away from her forehead. She looks straight at me until I have to look toward the ocean. Drifting on the Glory in Reynolds Channel, Ginny caught her first fluke. In the bunk over the anchor storage, we made love as waves rolled into the boat from passing wakes. Taking Pits out on the Glory would be an official date; I don't even call her on the phone.

    "I don't know, Eddie, sometimes I think you just come around because you got nothing to do."

    I lift her head off my leg and stand.

    "I got feelings, you know," she says.

    At the boardwalk rail, the seagulls flap their wings clumsily and land on the beach. I grip the rail and I'm surprised it's still warm from the day's sun. I half expect Pits to jump on my back. I turn, she's lying across the bench. Down the boardwalk, the lights are bright. If I was with Ginny. I'd be at the rides and games, not here next to a closed knish place, waiting for Loopy. Walking slowly, I peer down through the dark slats in the boardwalk looking for Loopy and Drawers. I'm sure I hear Drawer scream, then it's quiet. A chill passes through me. I don't envy Loop, under there in the lines of light, in sand adorned with millions of cigarette butts, damp dark sand that never dries completely, and Drawers with her old jeans and panties around one ankle. Sometimes getting laid is worse than not.

    After a block I duck into a candy store that's called Saltwater Taffy and More. Behind the counter a woman with gray hair and a gray mustache watches Edith Bunker argue with Archie on a small black-and-white TV. I stand there for a couple of seconds before she looks away from the screen. "There's a little bit of me in all of youse," yells Archie.

    "Nice night," I say.

    "I wish it were over. You're the first person that's been in here in an hour."

    On a chrome scale she weighs a half pound of chocolate-covered jelly rings, then slides them into a white bag.

    I hurry to Pits. She's at the boardwalk rail. "Where the hell did you get off to," she says. "I thought you flat left me."

    "Here's some candy."

    "Take me out on the boat," she says, grabbing the bag.

    "After I get it fixed up a little."

    "You promise?" She opens the bag and bites a ring.


    On the bench she rests her head on my shoulder.

    "You wanna go under the boardwalk?" she asks.

    "Nah," I shrug. "I don't like closed-in spaces." Once I took a girl under and screwed her on a blanket. This girl was big, a German, her father was a doctor and had his office on the side of their house. She got whatever she wanted, so I let her get the top all the time. On my back under the walk, staring through her clean straight hair at the rotted boards and shafts of light, was as close to buried as I ever felt. She humped me like she was making butter, pounding the shit out of me. I didn't come, actually lost my hard-on, so she slapped my face. I drove her home and told her to have a nice life. I didn't care that all the guys thought this girl was so hot. I heard from one of her girlfriends that she nicknamed me The Corpse.

    Pits pulls herself up and clicks her fingers in front of my face. "Hey, handsome," she says and kisses me. I attempted to finish what I started in the car.

    "Do it like I showed you," she says in my ear. A few weeks ago, in her bedroom she held my hand and showed me how to move it, told me to use just two fingers and the palm of my hand. It was the biggest turn-on. She moaned and broke out in a sweat. I try to maneuver my fingers around, but her jeans are tight.

    Tonight Pits comes, maybe she fakes it. Sitting right there, she unbuckles my belt. When a couple strolls by, I raise my eyebrows to them as if to say, What are you going to do with kids now-a-days. Inside, I want it all to stop. I want Pits wearing a clean dress, maybe high heels. We could be in a restaurant, or even one of those clubs over on Hempstead Turnpike where the Jewish American Princesses go on Friday nights.

    The couple hurries by and I know more than ever that Pits is wishing she were a zillion miles from here, a star in the sky, unreachable. She starts in again tugging at my pants. I see the ocean reflected in her eyes. I see a dozen nights like this one. I see Pits studying me. I feel myself choke up, my eyes almost filling.

    "What is it? Did you know them?" she asks.

    "I could have."

    I buckle my pants. She covers my hands with hers. On each of her fingers she wears a silver ring. Some of them have blue stones, some black. I try to imagine her buying them, picking them out, trying them on for size. I touch her heart-shaped silver earring. "You don't have to do whatever I want," I say.

    "I know," she says pulling out her cigarettes.

    "Then why do you?"

    "You know what your problem is, Trottman?" she says getting up. "You don't know what you want." She stares at me, waiting for a reply.

    I put my head down and look between the slats at the darkness below.

    "You're no better than me," she says, then goes to the rail and smokes. Her flannel shirt flaps behind her. It's not that nothing is good enough, it's just that what I've gotten isn't good enough. I get up and go to her, put my arm around her shoulder.

    "And what about for you?" I ask. "Is this good enough?"

    "You're good enough," she answers with her face next to mine.

    I'm sorry about hurting her, but don't say it. Somehow, I feel better, about her, about the night. We kiss for a long time. She has that type of mouth that can kiss for hours.

Loopy and Drawers return. All Drawers needs is a broomstick and a wart on her nose. Her hair is every way, full of sand. Yellow cigarette filters stick to the back of her shirt that's ripped along the front and, she is pissed, major-league pissed.

    "Eighteen dollars, Mr. Bigshot," she keeps saying. "Eighteen dollars."

    Loopy finally opens his wallet and lets a few bills go blowing down the boardwalk. Drawers runs, stomps them with her sneakers and sticks them in her jeans pocket.

    "That was like her favorite shirt," says Pits.

    "I use nicer shit to wash the car," says Loopy.

In the Goat, Loopy drives the deserted streets back to Freeport, blasting his Zeppelin eight-track so loud the floor vibrates. Near Atlantic Avenue we blow through a red light. I look behind expecting to see flashing police lights. Pits snuggles against me, tucking her head half under my jacket.

    We fly into the pizza parking lot. Drawers gets out without a word and slams the door. A second later the only thing near her is the burning rubber smell of the GTO's tires as we peel away.

    Past the quiet streets, past the trim lawns, and dark houses with three cars in the driveway, Loopy takes the cut-off road behind the golf course. The dump hits us as if someone had opened a garbage pail. A dog runs in front of the Goat and Loopy swerves. Pits and I are slammed into the side of the car. She bangs her head. "Hey, Jerkoff, slow down," I yell.

    At her house, Loopy leans over and watches us kiss. I put my hand over his face and he pulls my arm between the bucket seats.

    "Why don't you grow up," says Pits.

    "Me, grow up, me?" jokes Loopy. "How would you like me to show you how big I am?" He pretends to unbuckle his belt.

    Pits climbs out of the backseat. "I'll see you tomorrow, Eddie?" she asks, ignoring Loopy.

    Before I can answer, we're off. I look back and she's standing in the road.

    "What are you in love, or something?" asks Loopy. "You got the same look as Drawers after I banged her."

    "And what's that look?"

    "Like you just found out the rubber broke." He laughs, drives with one hand, and locks his arms around my neck. "Hey, come on," he hugs me. I grab him and tug at his arm. He releases me and drives around the curve of the golf course. Suddenly, the air smells clean.

    "We got to figure out a plan," I say, thinking out loud. "Maybe next weekend we could go into the city and hang out."

    "With them?"

    "Why not?"

    "Didn't anybody tell you? Those aren't the type of girls you bring home to Mamma. You don't spend money on them."

    "I know," I say.

    "Let's go check out the girls," he says.

    "What? The tittie joints?"

    "Yeah, maybe that bald girl with the wigs will be dancing."

    "I'm not in the mood."

    "You got your cotton friend?" he asks in an exaggeratedly high girl's voice. I have to smile. He's such a nonstop douche bag.

    "You want to go out on the Glory for some blues?" I ask, getting out in front of my house.

    "What, you need a ride?"

    "Yeah, I do."

    "Are they running?"

    "We could check, they could be in the inlet."

    "What time?"

    "Be here by seven, the latest." I say seven because he's always late.

    "Seven thirty," he says. Tires squeal and he's off.

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Steady Eddie 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I don't read many books, but this one I could not put down. I am from Long Island and I found this book gave me an insider's view of life in the 1970's. It is also very funny and the writing is comlex with it's simplicity.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book because it had a tight plot line and real characters. Coughlin didn't make them sentimental, or sappy. He told the story the straight. The writing was like a good salad, crip, and freash. This book can be compared riding a roller coaster without the ups and downs.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The narrator of Steady Eddie is a 19 year-old young man living in a Long Island South Shore working class neighborhood whose mother is a drunk and whose father makes smut photos in the motel room where he lives. Eddie¿s best friend has been charged with raping his girl and Eddie is named the accessory. This might have been a sappy, sensationalized drama. In the hands of this narrator, it is anything but. Eddie is a lonely young man, as all the best narrators are, with an authentic yet sensitive vision. More than a gripping story, what makes this book memorable is that Eddie¿s voice goes straight through the heart.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this book in two nights and couldn't put it down. Coughlin knows his characters. The story come at the reader like a race car on jet fuel. If anyone wants to know anything about Long Island, or grew up in Long Island, this is the book. Eddie is accused of a rape that he didn't commit and must not only clear his name, but must learn to respect women. A respect that comes across like the scent of a cigerette on a cold night. Coughlin doesn't sell out like some authors. Read it.