You had a super-low draft number, so you just enlisted in the navy when the recruiter promised you data processing training, but then they said it had to be a choice of radar tech work in a carrier, probably in the South China Sea, or 3 years of Shore Patrol in Oceanside and complete college education after. Well, you’re from down near Richman School and kind of dislike cops, but dude, you’re no genius and you maybe could get into Cal Poly SLO and study Marketing. OK, the day before you’re scheduled to begin Navy Cop College, they say something fell through, and would you like to drive brass from DC to the Pentagon, Langley, Camp David, 24 call? Or straight duty in Panama. You choose DC but you miss 51st Street and Killer Dana, Huntington, too. You get the blues. You’re driving a preppie from the US Embassy to the UN, to the War College in Alabama and Quantico. Turns out he’s a cool guy, reminds you of ***** and ***** at SHHS. His regular girlfriend is an Israeli translator at the World Bank, a sabra from the Negev, and hot stuff, Daddy-O. Like a brick house, if you catch my drift. You think she likes you, too. Shira. All right, look. Your boy Morty appreciates a fine lady and vice versa. On a trip to Camp David, you get snowed in in Manhattan, and this dude knows Jessica Savitch, Marisa Berensen, Peter Jennings and their crew. They want to know about Jackson Browne, Tommy’s Chili Cheeseburgers and the San Diego Zoo. Luciana Paluzzi has a little sister, and she’s sitting on your lap feeding you yellow and green M%Ms when Michael Caine walks by and winks at you. You make that trip once a month, and from the War College, a detour to an antebellum mansion in the Audubon District of New Orleans, where a board member at Toyota asks you if you’ll please explain surfing to his three granddaughters, studying Arabic at Tulane. You try your best. Morty calls Andre Previn to come over with Mia Farrow, and she develops a crush on you immediately. On your way out of a posh restaurant there, you pass by Warren Beatty coming inside, and he whispers, “You DAWG!” Morty lets you listen when he calls his broker and you’re actually ahead 117 big ones after eight months. You might open a surfboard shop in Dana, maybe. Anyway, Morty has to attend his uncle’s funeral in Boston, so Esther asks you if you’d please help her make 000. It kind of splatters on her Nike running suit front while she stirs it, so she asks you to take over while she goes to change. She comes back in a ratty old bathrobe from the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, and she let her hair down. A Bossa Nova album plays on her stereo while the meal simmers, and she asks you if you like to dance. A while later – well, ever see the eating scene in the movie “Tom Jones”, with the turkey drumstick. Well! You went out for wrestling one year and grappled with Gregg Nussle in practice? Will you need to walk with a cane by morning? Now Esther writes you little poems she reads you on the phone late at night. If the Speech team could only see you now. All right. You spend a lot of time waiting for Morty at Langley, CIA headquarters. Spooky place. One evening you and Morty drive over to Fairfax where an old buddy of his owns a steakhouse. After you order, Morty asks you if you’d be interested in an unusual assignment. You say I don’t know, what? He explains the emperor of Japan, well, he has a cousin whose daughter writes folk songs, OK? She’s a freshman at Stanford and he would like someone who knows the territory to escort the girl down to LA so she can sing her songs for a producer who agreed to listen.
“We thought maybe this is one you’d be interested in? There’s a sizable bonus.” Drive her down, you ask? Yeah, keep her company, hold her hand if she gets worried, take your time and drive safe, take her to this guy’s office, make sure he doesn’t hustle her. There’ll be his people and ours following you. We just want to make it comfortable and pleasant for her. Three days. Take a week, see your folks. So you say why not, sure. Esther’s got you a little worried. Morty smiles. “Can you fly out tonight?” he says. Well .. sure. You get a good nap, land in San Francisco at 5:43 AM, and over scrambled eggs, bacon, a waffle with maple syrup and hash browns, one of Morty’s men explains:
She goes by “Brenda”.
She and her parents have converted and become Latter Day Saints.
Do not touch.
She loves movies and animals. She’s 17: skipped a grade.
She’s never had a date or a boyfriend. She loves baseball. Undeclared major.
You’d regret it.
You said fine and the guy dropped the keys to a new forest green Bentley sedan in his hand.
“Everything’s been handled. Aloha.”
The mist cleared when you reached the campus. In the lobby of Brenda’s dorm, the students stared at you as if you were a mortal human being or something. You introduced yourself at the front desk and a girl in a granny dress looked up from her copy of WAR AND PEACE in the original Russian and said, “How may I help you?” with heavy sarcasm. You couldn’t finish saying Brenda’s name when she popped up next to you and smiled. The desk clerk said, “Is this going to be cool, Bren?” “Oh, yes,” Brenda piped in an unmistakable Oxford accent and an odd contralto voice. She wanted to shake hands. Dog my cats, you said to yourself. She was gorgeous, and kind of resembled Los Angeles TV newswoman Tritia Toyota, with that lustrous thick black hair.
Brenda giggled, socked your arm, and said, “Then let’s go!”
She wanted to change over and go down Highway One. She politely asked you about your family, school and town, and when you mentioned getting Sandy Koufax’s autograph at the Coliseum, she squealed and jumped up and down in her seat.
“Sandy is my favorite Dodger! How about Norm Larker? Don Demeter? Joe Pignatano?”
Sorry, no. Brenda was visibly disappointed. But she began narrating the highlight of a game she saw at Candlestick Park. She spoke the names Don Zimmer, Johnny Podres and Willie Davis with special delight.
“D-Dog, you know?”
Karen Carpenter! That’s what her voice sounded like.