Freddie Prinze’s Children
Winner, 2014 Bethesda Magazine Adult Short Story Contest
(Letter from Shari Mailman to Eric Bright dated Dec. 18, 1976)
142 Charles Lindbergh Avenue
Staten Island, New York
I bet you’re wondering why I’m sending you this letter when we see each other every day in Mr. Caruso’s fourth period algebra class. Luanne Martini sits between us.
By the time Mr. Caruso gives us our homework assignment (you know, do the even number questions on the odd pages but skip the odd number questions on the even pages blah blah blah) you strap your books together, put your Levi jacket with The Who album logo on the back, and you’re out the door. It’s not like you avoid me. You avoid everyone.
I couldn’t help but notice that one of the books that you carry around is my favorite book of all time. Of course, I mean Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon. Did you get up to the part—well I guess it’s OK to mention from where your bookmark is—where this guy realized that he might have made out with his long-lost daughter? That part is my favorite.
I see that you’re also reading Lord of the Flies for Miss McMann’s English honors class. You’re lucky. I’m in non-honors English so I’m forced to read Johnny Tremain.
I hate all my classes. I’m not even supposed to be going to this crummy school. My family was planning to move to Denver. I had already told the principal’s office and all my records got transferred. My father thought he had gotten a job as an accountant for the Broncos but he must have heard wrong, or my mother must have been confused, or the Broncos must have actually met my father because the deal didn’t work out.
So I’m stuck here in Staten Island being forced to read Johnny Tremain. Everyone here is into disco which, I’m sure you agree, sucks.
But then, I saw that you were reading Gravity’s Rainbow and that you’re also into The Who. If you ask me, Keith Moon’s drums have the same passion as Gravity’s Rainbow. It makes me feel that.
being stuck here isn’t all that bad after all.
I know this sounds a little weird but I hope you answer this letter. I hate the telephone and it’s a little hard for me to use it because my mother likes to listen in.
I’ll wait for your letter.
Signed and Cosigned,
(Letter from Joey Basso to Shari Mailman dated Dec. 23, 1976)
104 Father Capodanno Boulevard
Staten Island, New York
Eric showed me the letter you sent him. Well, he didn’t really show it to me personally. He hates me. He showed it to everyone who’s in the percussion section of the band and since I play the xylophone I was close enough to see it too. I know you wouldn’t be crazy about your letter getting passed around thirty-five drummers but I only tell you so that you’ll know what a weird guy Eric is.
I guess he’s smart because, like you, he is reading Gravity’s Rainbow and that’s nine hundred pages long. I couldn’t read it. Still, Eric is a psycho.
Do you know that his project for the science fair is Farrah in Formaldehyde in which he shows what color a Farrah Fawcett-Majors doll’s hair turns in different solutions?
The guy’s a space cadet. None of the band likes him. If I were you I wouldn’t bother with him.
But I thought that maybe if you like writing letters we could write each other.
We’re in the same hygiene class and I liked you ever since we did that skit on plaque. I love the Groucho Marx tee shirt that you wear every Wednesday. I do an impression of him.
Well I guess everyone does, but I do a lot of other famous people like Jack Benny, Carol Channing, and Freddie Prinze.
I’m planning on becoming a stand up comedian like Prinze. He started out at this club called Catch a Rising Star in Manhattan where he worked for free. He did impressions too.
I wanted to go to that club to do my impressions but I couldn’t find the place. (Manhattan streets are kind of confusing to me.) But, I plan to go back there soon—someday.
Shari, I’m glad you’re staying in Staten Island and not moving to Denver.
I was hoping you might want to write me. You can’t call because our phone isn’t working right now. As my mom says, it’s not like anyone calls us anyway.
Take care, Shari.
P.S. By the way, what’s so bad about disco?
(Letter from Shari Mailman to Eric Bright dated Jan. 10, 1977)
Hope you had a happy New Year. As usual, I just spent it watching Dick Clark. He only had disco singers on the show so it sucked.
I heard from Joey Basso that you showed the letter I sent you to everyone in the Band. After that, your mother must have thrown it out thinking it was junk mail from the Book of the Month Club. That’s why you forgot to write back. I accidentally throw things out all the time. In the school hallways you still act like you don’t know me.
And you’re tall; I’m short. Maybe you don’t always see me. I notice that you don’t carry around Gravity’s Rainbow anymore. You must have just finished it. Didn’t it blow your mind?
We’re probably the only two people in Staten Island who read it. Man, it would have been banned from Staten Island if they knew it was about Tyrone Slothrop’s erections causing the enemies’ bombs to go off.
I’ll tell you this and I think you’ll understand. My mom and I had kind of a frightening experience late last night. My dad cut his wrists with his new Gillette razor that I got him for Christmas. He didn’t cut very deep. Mom drove him straight to the hospital and an hour ago they transferred him to South Beach Psychiatric. I guess he’s been upset that he hasn’t been able to find a job in a long time. He’s been acting strange lately like criticizing me for watching TV, even when I’m watching public TV. And I haven’t played a record in so long, even a quiet one, like Olivia Newton-John’s, because that really sets him off.
I’m walking on eggshells here. I hope you write me back soon.
(Letter from Joey Basso to Shari Mailman dated Jan. 23, 1977)
Did you get my last letter? I was hoping to hear from you. Well maybe it got lost. Anyway, I want to let you know that I got my first gig as a comic! I persuaded the manager of Lenny’s Clam Bar on Hylan Boulevard to let me do my impressions there next Friday at five P.M. That’s sort of before the customers come in and I won’t get paid, and also I’ll have to work refilling the salad bar. Still, this is the way Freddie Prinze started out! I plan to wear my Freddie Prinze tee shirt. Some of the guys in the band said they might try to come. It would mean a lot to me, Shari, if you could be there as well. We could take the 103 bus there together if you want. Please let me know in hygiene class if you’re interested. Anyway it’s next Friday, January thirtieth, at five p.m.