Frank Ridgeway was combing his hair when he heard the car horn begin to honk and Eddie Wilson’s voice calling, “C’mon, Frankie, let’s go!”
Frank smiled. He and Eddie and Joann were going on what Eddie called a “cruise,” getting in Eddie’s car and driving, with no plan or destination, simply ending up wherever they ended up. It was September. Fall was coming, and mornings and evenings were cool, though afternoons could still be almost summery. Frank grabbed his jacket and headed out the door and down the stairs from his second-floor apartment. It was still a bit chilly, but the sun was shining and the sky was a crystal clear blue. It promised to be a beautiful day.
Eddie was leaning against the driver’s door of his Chevy convertible, honking the horn. He smiled when he saw Frank. He was dressed as he always was, in jeans and his leather jacket (a white t-shirt this time instead of his usual black “tee”), while Frank was in khaki trousers and an Oxford shirt. “Eddie! The horn!” Frank called, but he laughed.
Eddie smiled at him. “C’mon, kid, let’s go!”
Frank paused with his hand on the passenger door handle. “Where’s Joann?” he asked, puzzled.
“She decided not to come. Said she has a headache.” They both got in the car. Eddie leaned over to Frank and said in a low voice, “I think it’s just that time of the month.”
“Oh,” Frank said, raising his eyebrows, a little embarrassed by that information. He liked Joann, and he knew Joann liked him, but he was secretly pleased that she wasn’t coming on the cruise. He liked the idea of having Eddie to himself for the whole day.
Eddie put the car in reverse and backed out of the gravel driveway below Frank’s apartment. As he turned the car around, he said to Frank, “You hungry?”
“Sure!” Frank replied.
“Good,” Eddie smiled. “I know a place. Great breakfast for a buck and a half, and all the free refills on coffee you want.”
The “place” was a diner out on the highway. Eddie was right: the breakfast, ham and eggs, was great, and so was the coffee. Eddie insisted on paying, so Frank left the tip. Then they hit the road.
Instead of taking the Garden State Parkway north, they took the old road, Route 9, past Atlantic City and the Shore towns of Tuckerton, Manahawkin, and Barnegat, blaring the car radio, laughing, and talking. At Toms River they turned northwest to Lakehurst, to see where the Hindenburg crashed. When “On the Dark Side” came on the radio, they both cheered, and then Eddie sang along with himself while Frank pretended the dashboard was a keyboard and made hand motions as though he were playing his part in the song. When the song was over, they both laughed so hard that Eddie nearly drove off the side of the road.
They continued northwest, taking back roads, stopping at farm stands, flea markets, and a diner for hot apple pie with ice cream and mugs of strong coffee. Frank thought he’d never seen Eddie so relaxed and happy. It made him happy to see Eddie in such a good mood. They made it to the Delaware Water Gap just in time to watch the sun go down over Pennsylvania. Eddie found a place to pull off the road where they could park and watch the sunset.
As the last sliver of sun slipped below the horizon, Eddie turned to Frank to say something about the sunset only to find that Frank was staring at him.
“What are you lookin’ at?”
“You’re supposed to be lookin’ at the view, not at me.”
“Yeah, I know.”
“Got somethin’ on your mind?”
“I was just thinking how much I envy you.”
“Envy you. I wish I could be more like you.”
“Why?” Eddie sounded genuinely puzzled.
“You’re so … so … I don’t know. Cool, that’s for sure. Maybe charismatic’s the word? From where I am at the piano I can see how the audience reacts when you sing. It’s amazing. You’re gonna be bigger than Elvis someday. I know it.”
“That’s bullshit.” But Eddie smiled. It made him happy that Frank had such a high opinion of him.
“No, it’s not.”
“Yeah, it is. I’ll prove it. You think I’m so, what was it you said? Charismatic? Some night I’ll have a sore throat. I’ll put you out in front of the band instead of me.” He gave Frank a sly look.
“Oh, no. When you sing, girls try to tear your shirt off. If I sang, they’d just throw things.”
Eddie turned serious. “Don’t sell yourself short, Frankie. Don’t envy me. You got so much goin’ for you just the way you are.”
“Like what?” Frank looked skeptical.
Eddie was thoughtful. “The way you act, the way you talk, the way you treat people. I never heard you say anything bad about anybody except yourself. How you are with words.” He paused a moment. “I mean, you know Sal’s my oldest friend, but Sal gave me ‘Betty Lou.’ It’s an okay dance tune with okay words, but you gave me ‘Tender Years’ and ‘Boardwalk Angel.’ They’re beautiful songs, Frankie.”
He went on, “The words you wrote? They’re not just words, they’re lyrics. They got real emotion in them. They got somethin’ real to say. I could never write songs like that. But you can. You got a real talent for words. That’s better than havin’ girls try to tear your shirt off. No,” he said, shaking his head, “don’t go wishin’ you were somebody you ain’t.” His voice got a little quieter, a little husky. “I think you’re perfect just the way you are.”
Eddie put a hand behind Frank’s head and slowly brought Frank’s lips to his. He kissed him gently. When they separated, Eddie’s voice dropped to a throaty growl. He said, “Let’s get in the backseat.”
“Why?” Frank asked.
Eddie grinned. “’Cause the steering wheel’s in the way.”
Smiling, Frank used the car doors to get into the backseat. Eddie didn’t waste time on doors; he just vaulted over the front-seat back. Frank slowly lay down. Eddie got on top, straddling Frank’s leg. Frank could feel Eddie’s erection against his thigh. With one arm Eddie held Frank close and kissed him again, long and deep. With the other hand, he undid Frank’s pants. Frank was hard. “Eddie, Eddie,” he murmured as Eddie held him close, nuzzling and kissing Frank’s throat.
“Oh, Jesus, Frankie,” Eddie moaned quietly as he got them both out of their trousers. He raised Frank’s legs up onto his shoulders. He spit in his hand and rubbed the slick secretion onto himself and into Frank. He ran his hand up Frank’s full erection (Frank gasped at the feel of Eddie’s hand) and used some of Frank’s own copiously leaking fluid to lubricate him further. Frank wrapped his arms tightly around Eddie and pulled him close till their mouths were together. He groaned slightly as Eddie entered him. Eddie took it slow to make it last. And when they were done, Frank lay on the car seat, saying nothing but smiling shyly up at Eddie, who returned the smile.
“I like it when we do this,” Frank said quietly.
“Me, too,” Eddie answered just as quietly. He kissed Frank again. “But it’s gettin’ cold. We oughta get our pants back on before we freeze our asses off.”
Frank threw back his head and laughed.
When they had pulled themselves together and were back in the front seat, Eddie smiled and threw an arm around Frank’s shoulders. “Let’s go home, kid. It’s been a good cruise.”