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author:  Margie Culbertson

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High School Days:  First Date


Danny Dunne

drive–in movie scene

Late in my high school career (fourth period, 12: 40 PM) I agreed to go on a double date. It seemed like a good idea at the time, though the girl in question was later suspected of being a gang member. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

The date came about mainly because I had a car. A couple of friends, Mike and Sharon, wanted to double date. Sharon's angle was she wanted to go out with Mike who didn't have a driver's license yet. Sharon set me up with Suzy, the new girl in town. This was big of her.

I had agreed to pick up everybody at Sharon's house. I pulled up in my snazzy 1951 Plymouth and jumped out to open the passenger door for Suzy.

"What are you doing?" Mike asked. Sharon shot him a look as though he might take a lesson. Suzy didn't seem to be impressed by my gallantry. She was a decent looking girl if you didn't mind a few tattoos.

We were going to a movie at Casey's Fairview Drive–in, a nine–mile trip. We had barely gotten out of the driveway when Suzy decided to light up. There was nothing wrong with that—I smoked myself.

I thought I was a pretty cool smoker. I had a pack of Marlboros hidden in my right sock, which made walking a little tricky. The preferred method, the coolest, was to have the pack rolled up in your T–shirt sleeve. That wouldn't have worked for me, as I didn't want my folks to know I was smoking.

Mike and I decided to light up as well. He had a decent lighter. I carried a box of matches, which meant my sock runneth over. Suzy dug an industrial strength Zippo and a pack of Camels out of her purse.

Of course I had to keep driving while lighting up—something I overlooked when I bent down to get my cigarettes. I felt a sudden flash around my eyebrows. Suzy's lighter—a blowtorch really—had singed me.

I handled it well. My car was equipped with an emergency brake that I managed to engage while trying to see if I had any eyebrows left. The sudden braking pitched us all forward. Then the car, which seemed to be operating on its own, took off for a block or so before the brake kicked in again. After a couple of blocks of me riding the Plymouth like a bucking horse, Mike finally yelled, "Shoot it–kill it–turn it off!" We were on a quiet residential street—nobody was hurt unless you counted my eyebrows.

We pressed on to the drive–in, which was just out of town next to the cornfields. I found a parking place and rolled the window down to attach the speaker that was mounted on a post.The posts were planted in gravel with a splash of crabgrass that attracted local livestock, who generally grazed there during the day. Usually by show time they were in bed, but occasionally a cow would appear at the snack bar and order popcorn. I had just got the speaker sound adjusted when Suzy announced she was going to the snack bar to make a phone call. Sharon tagged along.

The girls had barely got out of the car when Mike said:  "You wanna kill her, or do you want me to?" He was speaking of Sharon, of course, who had engineered this double date from hell.

In a few minutes Sharon came back. She had overheard enough to learn that Suzy was planning to meet another girl who had just escaped from the State Home For Budding Gang Girls. Sounded like they had big plans to start their own sewing circle. Sharon said we had to get Suzy back to her foster parents and call them later about their would–be runaway.

We then sat through a double feature of "Reform School girls' and "The Explosive Generation" shown in thrilling black and white. Suzy seemed to be rooting for the bad girls. During dramatic moments she would fish out her Camels. Just to be on the safe side, I hugged the driver's seat window whenever she fired up.

We got Suzy back to her foster parents, but we weren't looking forward to seeing her at school, as she would know we had turned her in. We figured she had gang member friends—Sharks or Jets—who would be looking us up. But we never saw her again. The rumor was she was sent up the river, or to reform school as we used to call it.

The following year I thought I saw her again; she seemed to be in a movie called "Gang Girls Behind Bars." She was obviously playing herself. I noticed the other actors gave her a wide berth. Especially when she lit up.

©Danny Dunne

Danny Dunne was born in Hidalgo, Illinois (POP. 100) in 1945. He is the second–best–known writer from Hidalgo. The best–known writer is Winfred Van Atta whose novel, Shock Treatment, was made into a movie.

Mr. Dunne has been employed at the same bank for the last forty–five years. He and wife continue to work to support their puppy dog in the style she's become accustomed to. Although he has always liked to read funny stuff, he himself has only been writing for three years. This shows up in his work.

The highlight of Mr. Dunne's career thus far is that he landed a column in the local paper, where he's published as space permits, or whenever the Amish Cook column includes less than a half dozen recipes.

You can find more of Danny's writing at his Blog:    Click HERE


Margie's note:    Danny is also the author of a book entitled "Back to Hidalgo," which is a collection of small town tales of a boy and his runaway pony, followed by high school days when he discovered he wasn't ready for the "Wonder Years." Reviewers have said:  "Learn about Danny and his Pepsi–soaked peanuts when he was a kid who was a cowboy without his horse (but not his bike); when he was a high schooler who had:  ‘a knack for being in the wrong place at the right time", especially at the gym; who, when he was around girls, couldn't ‘carry on a conversation and stand upright at the same time;" who had a friend who deputized a bystander; and who as a teenager worried about shooting a Plymouth." This reviewer entitled his review "Read This Book!" This, and the fact that I find the above story wonderful, is why I am making Danny my featured writer of March and April 2008.

You may either read his book free online or purchase it by clicking   HERE

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©Margie Culbertson

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