What Happened to Danny?
By Paul Teodo & Tom Myers
IN ’74, I COULD DO THE STAIRS TWO AT A TIME. Four flights, no problem, without even breathing hard, though I smoked way too much dope back then.
So I get to the fourth floor. Door’s open, smells like reefer. Van Morrison’s voice rising at the chorus of “Wavelength.” Loved that song. I follow my nose. Bathroom. Balancing on a tiny folding chair in the middle of a dirty gray bathtub Danny sat in the dark, a joint in one hand, a sixteen-ounce Diet Pepsi in the other. “Wavelength” still too loud in the tiny apartment.
I MET HIM ON THE FOOTBALL FIELD. He was a tight end. I was the fullback. His old man had played for the Bears. He never called Danny anything other than asshole.
My ma didn’t treat him like an asshole. He loved her cooking and he ate more than any friend I ever had. That pleased both my ma, and the old man.
He shunned his old man and became part of our family. Like a brother. Loyal as hell.
ACROSS THE ALLEY I SEE HER, lathering, sudsy soap rolling down her back. Long dark hair glistening in the light. Eyes closed.
He had wanted to get married. Janice dumped him. He enlisted.
“What the fuck you doing?”
Danny waved me off. A spark from the joint floated in the air. He hit the Pepsi hard, eyes fixed across the way.
“You could get arrested.” The chorus repeated over and over. Listen to the song, you’ll see. Again and again.
HE WON “MOST HANDSOME” IN ’69. Right before he went to Vietnam. Taut muscular body. Flowing rich brown hair, hazel eyes. About six-one — one hundred eighty-five. A bass player with a good voice. They called themselves The Evening Guests. Didn’t play British Rock, Motown, no surfer shit either, it was stuff like Van, J. Geils, Allman Brothers, The Zombies. Standing perfectly still, he picked the bass, only moving his fingers, staring into space. Disinterested and sexy as hell. The chicks dug it, a lot.
Discharged a year ago. Now damn near four hundred pounds. No longer “Most Handsome” he was buried in wild hair, a wild beard, behind wild eyes. No longer Danny. He was “The Buff.” A Wild Buffalo.
THE VICTIM OF HIS VOYEURISM PEERED INTO OUR WINDOW moving that sponge thing in her hand slowly. “She can see us all right.” The Buff said, too loudly, lifting the Pepsi to his lips, swallowing rhythmically. Her gaze made me uncomfortable.
Buff didn’t move, except for the slight smile from behind his beard. Our place was dark. “She’s lookin’ this way.”
He waved me off, hitting the joint harder, sparking seeds popped in the air landing in the tub.
“How long you been here?”
“Ain’t keeping time.” He would not turn his head.
Her hand reached for the shade. She smiled, paused. Danny froze. “Please no…,” like a prayer.
I could sense the insanity in his obsession.
“This is sick.”
His calloused knuckles caught me flush in the mouth as he backhanded me without turning, his meaty arm the only part of his huge body that moved. Years of bass playing made him good at those kinds of moves. I flew backward, ass landing in the toilet, cold water soaking my jeans. “You sick fuck.”
He turned, the sly smile now visible behind the bushy beard, exposing his yellow teeth. “She didn’t pull it down.”
It was what he had after he got back. A joint, a Diet Pepsi, and the hopes for a hard on from a woman who knew he spied on her and didn’t pull the shade down.
He was twenty-three, honorably discharged. Out of work, living with me in a run-down fourth floor walk-up doing anything that would get him high.
I rubbed my jaw, checked for loose teeth, and began to talk.
He waved again. I ducked, still in the toilet. He didn’t want to hear what I had to say.
He hit the joint then finished off the Pepsi.
The song had ended. The Buff still hummed along to a silent beat. A tear welled in his eye.
The arm of the turntable lifted in the quiet.
The sudsy soap slid slowly down her dark skinned body.
Danny had been sent away while we were in college getting high and laid.
“Wavelength.” Thank you Van.
Thank you Buff.