From the author: Listen to the soundtrack of joy and tension in three teenage sisters' lives.
"Oh what a night,” Frankie Valli sang. I sat on the back porch steps watching Jenn twirl her glistening baton in the setting sun. The lilac tree bent towards us, burdened with too much growth. Red, blue and purple beads on the friendship pins on the laces of my Keds felt cool and smooth under my fingertips, like craft store pearls. “Do, do, do…” Off-key doo-wop burst from my throat as sweetness danced on my sugar-stained tongue from the Pixy Stix I’d just downed.
Jealous of my sister’s fringed Majorette boots, I watched her pivot into the next section of her routine. She tossed, turned and caught without looking, an agile swan in her white and blue polyester uniform. As Annie opened the screen door and walked out, the powerful scent of the chunks of beef, carrots, onions and potatoes mom was simmering in Guinness mingled with my middle sister’s Love’s Baby Soft perfume. The screen rattled as it shut behind her. My afternoon snack of candy and Tab roiled in my stomach.
“Tell me they gave you better music for fire baton!”
Jenn didn’t answer until she’d tossed her baton even higher, twirled twice, and caught it with a smile.
“Give us that final stance.” Annie croaked, imitating their aging coach.
I rolled my eyes. “Mrs. James thinks she’s better than everyone because she was a champion at throwing and catching a stick.”
“A stick that you can’t catch!” Jenn said, and tossed her baton at me. Leaning over to catch it, I knocked over my Pixy Stix, and a thin stream of red sugar traveled down the steps like blood. Her baton landed next to my foot with a small thud.
“The red dye in those things will give you cancer,” Jenn said.
“No, that’s Pop Rocks. Duh. Dinner in ten.” Annie opened the door to go inside, but paused. Our parents’ voices rose in the kitchen.
Annie shut the door gently and sat down beside me on the porch. She pushed her long, feathered hair back from her face and a few soft strands of it brushed across my arm. Jenn looked at us. We looked at her.
“Turn it over,” she said, motioning towards the boom box. I scurried to the cassette player, removed the tape labeled “Baton Mix” in red sharpie marker, turned it over, pushed the cassette back inside, and depressed the play button. Annie nodded, so I turned the black volume dial up to 10.
“Yeah, don’t touch the knobs…” Peter Wolf’s bluesy pleas drowned out the yelling in the kitchen about forgotten dinner rolls.
“Wicked!” I said at the same time as Annie.
"Two more calls last night. Someone hanging up when they heard my voice." I said to Annie, never taking my eyes off Jenn's perfect turns. "Think they're for you? Or for him?"
"I love this song."
We nodded our heads and swung our hips to “Give It To Me” as the sun faded over the suburbs. Oh what a day, late September, nineteen eighty.