Brother’s Book: Hidden Pages
By Robert Wanless
24 January 2021
I remember finding my oldest brother’s “Little Black Book.” I had heard that these things existed, but I had no idea that they were real. Like, Really real. I was fourteen, and love and girls and all of that was barely real. A girl from the public school kissed me and I almost died, or exploded or something. I thought about it for a long time afterward. I mean, she kissed me. I was confused at the time. I wasn’t sure what to do about it. My brothers talked about this sort of thing frequently, but I usually stayed at home and read books and built model planes.
Now, I was a great lover. A girl had kissed me. I was like everyone else. I joined football that year.
I was terrible at football, but the exercise was very good for me, I heard, anyway. I had a full head of fluffy long hair. But my helmet didn’t fit, so my father shaved my head. The helmet fit after that. I was attending Catholic Highschool, so the shaved head was not uncommon in the early 1970s Pennsylvania. I wondered if the girl would think to kiss me now that I did not have a full fluffy hair of a rock and roll singer now.
And that girl went to a public high school. The boys on the Football team sometimes spoke at length about the morals of the girls unencumbered by Catholic-ness. I listened, but I knew sort of instinctively that it was wishful thinking.
I had five brothers when I entered high school, two of them were older, three were younger. I had a little sister who fought with her brothers. I spent a lot of time raising them as mom and dad both worked. It was expensive playing football, but I felt almost obligated to join the team for some unknown reason. I would go to practice immediately after chorus (Chorus was a class immediately after school), and then I would leave football practice and go immediately to work at a fast-food place. I was busy, but my life was good.
I found out that the girl that kissed me had a name. I mean, I knew that she had a name, but I found out the name, and I saw her again. While I was at work, she came in, and I was working the counter and I almost puked.
“Hi, welcome to Wendy’s, may I take your order?”
“Hi, it’s you.”
“My name is Rob, please tell me your name?”
“I’m Della,” she smiled at me. I melted on the inside.
“I can’t stop thinking about..” I was interrupted by our manager,
“Bob, there is a line forming, take her order and let’s move on.”
“Yes, ma’am. So, may I take your order and may I talk to you in the dinning room later?”
“Yes,” She ordered, I took her order, passed it into the mix of cooks and servers and then took the orders of I don’t know how many in the dinner rush. But soon it was seven o’clock and the dinning room was empty. It is amazing how quickly time flies when we’re working fast food. I ran into the dining area, but everyone was gone. I started cleaning up, glad that I didn’t have to close that night. I could leave and clock out just after I finished cleaning the dining room.
No Della, darn it.
My oldest brother was gone. I mean, I know he wasn’t dead, he was “gone.” He left school to get high, as so many did in the 1970s. He disappeared for a little bit, but then he appeared in a psyche ward at the local Catholic Hospital, St. Joseph’s.
My Oldest Brother was a wrestler with a great body. I was jealous at how “buff” he was. I had heard the mothers of my friends remark about that. I was jealous, not really understanding, but sort of understanding. He was a great physical specimen. And he was destroying all of that with drugs and alcohol. I visited him on the psyche ward. He tried to talk to me to explain how important getting high was compared to the BS that the school was trying to “Stuff down our necks.” I nodded, I pretended to listen. I was afraid of him and afraid for him, but I loved him, and did not want to just let him go.
I thought about finding his “little Black Book,” but decided against mentioning it. My brother sort of asked me to go. Visiting hours were over. I left and did not see him again for seven years.
I paged through the little black book. I knew most of the girls in the book. I mean, I knew who they were. There were ten or twelve pages of names written in my brother’s tight hand. And then I found the actual reason for the book. There was a “hidden” page. I had seen this trick in the movies. Three pages are glued together, essentially hiding the middle page.
There was the address and phone number of a dealer on that hidden page: a Drug dealer.
I did not use drugs. That was a lie. I quit using drugs and focused on trying to be a “good guy.” Mom and dad both worked, I worked, and my oldest brother was gone because of this dealer person. I debated for two days before deciding to wander over to that part of town so see this address.
I stayed about a block away from the house and watched as car after car stopped out front. A young person, probably my age, would wait by the curb and make some sort of exchange with the cars. The car would pull away, and another would pull into it’s place not long after.
This was gold! I could turn in the drug peoples and I could get a sort of revenge for my brother. I was going to “burn” these people.
Instead of walking home, I walked to the police station. I asked to talk to someone about drugs and I had to give my name. It turns out that there was a warrant for my arrest. And, everyone I knew was in their “mug books.” Ok, the warrant was for my father, not for me, and it was a “bench warrant” for a traffic violation, not a serious crime, how could they help me?
I told them about the house, about my brothers, about the drugs. I almost told them about Della, the girl who kissed me, because I was sort of proud of that.
One detective was interested. He had me describe in excruciating detail everything I saw at that house. This went on for a few hours. I had to call out of work that evening, but this detective essentially wrote a novel, or maybe a solid narrative, of the house and what I saw. He had me repeat things in such a way that he said that he knew I was not lying. He apologized about my brother, but I should stay away from this now.
I walked the mile and a half back home in the dark. There was a girl with strawberry blond hair waiting for me on the front porch.
“Hi, I got tired of waiting for you to find me, so I came to you.”
“I don’t understand. Why did you kiss me?”
“Cause I wanted a good boyfriend, not one of those losers where I’m from.”
“I’m,” I didn’t say confused, but I remember this moment, even though it was long ago, “I’m going to help bust a drug house.”
“Where?” Della asked, suddenly getting to her feet. I told her the address.
“Let’s go, we should go there,” she held my hand. It was strange, maybe a little, but I got to look at her. She was not skinny and stringy like the cheerleaders. Her hair was not so well kept. She had hastily pulled it into a ponytail and she wore cheaper blue jeans and a shirt that gripped her body tightly, that made my teenage eyes steal glances at her hoping to feel those curves with my eyes if nothing else.
We walked and half ran all the way to that part of town. It was a little dirtier here. The houses cost less money here. I came from a poor family, but this area was poorer, Della was from here. We arrived, stopping a block away. She bade me stay. I was near the same place I hid when I watched the house the first time. Della made me stay, they she walked to the house and went straight in. I stood, my eyes were glues to the house. Della came back out, this time she had a purse. She did not go in with a purse, but she came out with one. The purse was a large leather thing that was very popular at the time. She half skipped, half walked back toward me.
“Let’s go, now, we have to go now,” She grabbed my arm and pulled me with her and we walked away quickly. I glanced back on to see the obvious “unmarked” cars that we joked about at home, now in real life, with officers getting out. I heard a gunshot, and while that was now three blocks away, Della seemed to feel the shot. She handed me the purse.
“Screw those people, man, they only wanted me to carry their poison.” She was crying. I continued to hold her hand. “You gotta promise to be my boyfriend. A good boyfriend, and take me to the movies,” she was crying hard now and she had to sit down. I held her while she cried.
Della and I “dated.” I was a “good” boyfriend as promised. She gave me the purse with the eight thousand dollars of drug money. All of it in wadded up bills. The newspaper article said that the police uncovered something on the order of thirty thousand dollars. A figure of great magnitude in the early 1970s. Della disappeared not long afterward. She was my first real girl friend, I guess. I looked for her in her old neighborhood, but I think we will never find her. The Drug people have a code about that sort of thing. I slowly deposited the money into a savings account with both our names on it, just in case one day she would come back. That money is still there, if she ever comes back.