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Nicholas Fillmore


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My father leaned against his locker in suede bucks and an argyle sweater vest. As the last bell rang a diminutive girl in a blonde bob hurried past. My father watched her (rather correct ballet stride) all the way down the hall; and for some seconds after she’d dissappeared, his gaze lingered. Then a door opened next to him and a bald head poked out. “Get in here Fillmore, you’re late.”

Each day for the next month he took up his watch in the hallway. Each day the little blonde hurried past, paying little or no attention. And each day the bald head stuck itself into the hall. “Get in here Fillmore, you’re late.”

“What are you looking for out there, Fillmore?” Mr. Johnson asked my father one morning as my father made his way to his desk in Johnson’s American History class.

My father turned, blushing, then angry, then blushing again.
“Something,” he said, as much to himself as Johnson.

Saturday night Calvin took my father up to Riverside Park Speedway to watch the stock cars. As the cars buzzed around the quarter mile track like a nest of angry hornets and the grandstand crowd stood and cheeered each time someone made a move on Jocko Maggiocomo, my father stared out over the arc lights filled with bugs rising out of the river.

“Man that dog can run,” Calvin said in praise of Maggiocomo. It was one of their few points of common interest. And he finished his pint bottle and tossed it away in the parking lot.

Route 159 wound through the dark. Every mile or so a glint of river shone through the trees. The old Pequot trail and Boston Post Road would be an archaic backroad in just a few years with the completion of I-91.

Calvin gunned the DeSoto through a turn.

On a long straightaway he steered the car up onto the crown and mashed the accelerator to the floor. The eight cylinder hemi roared and the car began to accelerate as Calvin made a show of fiddling with the radio.

My father shifted in his seat and glanced at the speedometer. In the light of the dasboard his face had that look again: blushing, then angry, then blushing.

Then his face assumed a blank expression and he tuned the radio to a Springfield station that played those crooning love songs all night long … amore, amore, something … and watched the road rushing toward him in the headlights while Calvin smiled to himself and drank furtively from a can of Narragansett.

In Suffield or Windsor Locks a car came around a corner in the opposite direction and Calvin dropped the Desoto back onto his side of the road a little too fast. My father sensed in an instant they couldn’t hold the curve. For some seconds it felt like they were going airborn. Then the car started to slide onto the shoulder.

Calvin oversteered and the rear end started to come around.

My father watched his stepfather’s mechanical reactions: “Hold onto your hat,” he said through clenched teeth, and pumped the brakes once, twice, three times, then stood on the pedal and turned the wheel back into the skid … the rear fender skimming a section of guardrail and sending a thin shower of sparks over a short embankment, and then a loud cachonk as rear bumper met guardrail and the car fishtailed back onto the road.

“Gawd damn,” Calvin hollered. “Wasn’t that something, though?”

“That was something alright,” my father said, down in his seat.


Monday morning my father stood by his locker, and when the little blonde walked by he took a half a step and cleared his throat.

The girl hesitated and looked up in alarm, my father thought.

“Hi,” he managed to squeak.

Which made my mother giggle. And that emboldened my father.

“You’re new here, aren’t you. My name’s Nick.”

“Dottie,” she said, surprised at her own quick response.

“Dottie who?” My father said, downshifting, regaining a measure of cool.

“Holowieszko,” my mother said brightly.

And my father, reigning in his mirth just enough that only a momentary darkness shone on my mothers face, then the usual brightness … smirked and attempted to be light.

“Run that by me again.”

“Holowieszko,” she said.

“Polish,” my father said, soberly.


“Just a little Dot.” he said.

And she looked up at him queerly.

And when he laughed my mother noticed his straight, square teeth.
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