Scooby-Dooby-Doo, Where Are You? (R)

DREAM DATE

 

The comedy cast, all that remained were the rehearsals. Needless to say, Daphne and Fred really hit it off; I say needless be­cause it was fated, inevitable, doomed. But these two star aligned lovers held their heads high and accepted their fate with full pearly smiles and the sort of safe dignity only beautiful people seem to get away with.

Sometime into that next morning Daphne’s euphoria slammed headfirst into the brick wall of my artistic angst. Sunk into my mattress with nothing for company other than a snowy TV screen and the repetitive stutter of my lowercase “x” key masking the less than genius opening lines of a short story entitled, if memory serves, “Murder Most Fowl,” I was not prepared for the skipping fire­storm that burst into B34. My eyes red from hours of staring down the muse of my frustration, I was less than eager to bask in this pre­mature dawn that had broken all over the place.

“How could he be so perfect? How, I ask you, can two people be so perfect together?”

“How could a crazed housewife kill her entire family with a frozen chicken?” I countered.

She ignored me and carried that glow with her into the bath­room. She draped that glow in her pastel green peek a boo nightie   the one she usually saved for the eyes of her many rich as they are gorgeous as they are horny suitors. She lay that glow between little-girl sheets and sighed as she drifted away. A sigh only I heard. I dropped “Murder Most Fowl” and gave myself over to other dreams.

Dreams were just about all I had for the next few weeks. That and Western Lit. 101 and Moon Pies and the Late Late Show. My friend Daphne was little more than a guest star in those early days of bliss. Her time belonged to one Frederick Allen Jones of the Palo Alto Joneses and her time card was being punched regularly in the back of Fred’s blue-green custom van. And me? 10:30, Channel 9: Double Indemnity followed by Mark of the Vampire. Ah, romance.

I can’t even imagine where the idea first occurred to them. Was it in town over malts at Renny’s Diner? Was it strolling along the small rocky cliffs at the ocean’s edge? Or was it lying red faced and sticky in a tangle of sweaty sheets that one or the other said, “Maybe we could set Velma up with Shag?” No, I’ll never know just who to thank for formally introducing me to Norville Rogers. By “formally,” I mean I had already briefly met the man everyone (including myself eventually) called “Shaggy.”

Born into a powerful small-town family (Pop was the mayor of Wrightford, New Jersey), Norville “Shaggy” Rogers only did one thing his elders approved of   he went to college. If he didn’t exactly attend classes or learn anything, well, Norville had still gone to college. Shaggy was actually quite brilliant in his own subdued way, a genius in matters of life and laughter. Such a religion this man followed. If thou art hungry, so shalt thou eat until thou art not so hungry. If thou art tired, so shalt thou sleep until thou art tired of sleeping. If thou art bummed, spare everyone else the trip. This timely philosophy as well as his seemingly inexhaustable supply of various mind tampering substances got him into Kappa Kappa Omega. He became Fred’s fraternity brother and source to a sizeable percentage of PC’s experimental student body. On my first day in Rhode Island, he had replaced my glasses with gentle hands and a dopey smile. The night I was introduced to him, Shaggy had no memory of that moment, that afternoon, or three days on either side. But he still smiled and was very pleased to meet me.

What an odd foursome we made that wintry night outside of the Palace movie house arguing over whether to see Doctor Zhivago or The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming. The Redhead and The Chin opted for Alan Arkin’s newest funny accent while I held out for epic snowy romance and Julie Christie’s red flushed nostrils flaring and snorting the mist of passion. Shaggy was, as he always would be, pleasantly neutral. “Y’know, they both sound good. Mm, hot-buttered popcorn.” Point taken. An hour and a half of medium sized yocks later, we were back into the cold laughing our way down the sidewalk to Renny’s. Fred and Shaggy took the lead, mimicking Arkin’s mangled Russian/English at twice the courteous volume. “EEMAIRGENCY, EEMAIRGENCY! PLEZ TO GET FROM STRIT!”

Fred, Daphne, and myself each had a burger and fries. Shaggy managed two double-cheeseburgers, a bowl of chili, fries and gravy, a vanilla milkshake and a slice of apple pie à la mode. This is documented; I kept the receipt as proof.

Somewhere between Renny’s and B34 things got a little bit tricky. Put succinctly, we parked behind the Fine Arts building. The engine was turned off and the radio was turned up. ” y soul and my highest inspiration; without you baby what good am I? What goo ood am I?”

Our options were made perfectly clear: Shag and I could sit in the front seat and pretend nothing was happening behind that groovy bead curtain, or we could, like, vanish. Either way the perfect couple weren’t about to wait for the returns from our precincts, they were already celebrating the landslide. Without a word between us, Shaggy and I both reached for the door handle. My last glimpse inside the van as we slid the door closed was the slightest accidental view of Daphne’s back through the plastic curtain beads. Her sweater worked up but not yet off, her fine smooth skin. Fred’s hands, wide and strong, seemed to hold her together and tear her apart at the same time. A lick of jealous color burned my neck, and I was startled to find I had no idea what I was jealous of. I shut the door on their increasingly frantic kisses and felt —  shame.

I walked hurriedly along those snowy concrete paths from parking lot to dorm, but Shaggy loped right along behind me. His gait carried him easily, his few uttered pleasantries expressed him just as easily; this unique and refreshingly decompressed man, free of the inclination to force his agenda on the world at large. Shaggy followed, gave me space, and had lit up a pretty serious joint by the time we had reached my doorway.

“Want a hit, Velma?”

My eyes bugged. Once that oh so specific odor hit me I stopped breathing (Just one whiff you’re hooked for life! Reefer Madness   the weed with roots in Hell!). This was every sin my parents back in Plum City feared I would succumb to rolled into one spit sealed Zig Zag paper! I shook my head in a complete failure of casual coolness and stuttered, “N-no, I – I, uh-“

Not so dimmed by chemicals as I suspected, Shaggy picked up my squirming vibes. He apologetically put the joint out by poking it in the snow. “Hey, that’s cool. No problemo.” Finding its way back into his pocket, the joint was saved for later.

Customary “good night, I had a nice time”s were exchanged and I was bequeathed yet another of his warm, easy smiles. On the still winter wind, we could faintly pick up Fred’s radio; Tommy James telling anybody who cared to know that his baby did the hanky panky. Shaggy bobbed his head sweetly and turned to lope away. And here is where I surprised myself. I watched my hand reach through the night and grab Shaggy’s arm. I spun him to face me (ridiculously easy to do), hoisted myself on tippy toes, and collided with his dopey, confused expression in a sizzling imitation-Lauren-Bacall kiss. I held it as long as they ever allowed it in the movies   eight Mississippi, nine Mississippi, ten Mississippi   and let the boy go.

He rocked on his heels for a second. “Zoinks!” was all he managed. Poor Shaggy.

Shag mumbled something else and slunk away into the cold shadows. My first college date, my first ERA kiss, and all I could think as I let myself back into the womb of B34 was “Take that, Daphne Blake!”

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