Waxman went to his next class without Deborah Sterling. She renewed relations with other classmates who she hadn’t seen much during the summer. He listened to their talk about how much they grew and changed. He laughed at how the girls looked each other over checking out bust development and asking about having periods and who dated who at camp or whatever. He was glad he walked alone. Just before lunch Waxman went to his locker and stashed some books. As he closed the locker Sterling appeared with a muscular teen.
“Hey Michael, this is Wendell Golden. He’s in the college course and he’s one of us.”
“One of us?”
“Jewish. I told him about you. I have to run to lunch and meet some of the other girls. Bye.”
Golden held out his hand. “Wendell Golden. Call me Dell. Never call me Wendy.”
“Deborah told me about something called AZZ and BBG.” They walked slowly to the lunchroom.
“Everyone calls her Deb. AZA not AZZ. We meet every Sunday morning in a converted garage behind the Temple.” Golden patted his pushed back dark brown hair. Every hair was in place.
“What’s AZA stand for?”
“It stands for the Hebrew letters Aleph Zadik Aleph. It started out as a Jewish youth organization in Nebraska in 1922. There are about 45 of us from sophomores to seniors. It’s like a fraternity. I’m a pledge–all sophomores and new guys are pledges. The only way to learn about it is to experience it. You’re invited this Sunday as my guest. We can be pledges together. My friend Bibsy will drive us–he’s a senior.”
They could hear the din of the eating, animated students as they approached the corridor with the lunchroom sign arrow pointing to their right.
“Hey. What do we have here? Two Jew boys.” A dark-complexion student wearing a lavender silk roll-collar shirt and white-saddle-stitched black pants signaled his two cronies to face Waxman and Golden.
“What do you want Ganelli? Why don’t you go eat with your friends from South Medford?” Golden tightened his muscular arms. He looked at Waxman’s lanky frame and flashed back to Ganelli.
“I think you two should pay the admission fee to the lunchroom. It’s fifty cents apiece for Jew boys.” Ganelli signaled his two pals to complete an arc facing Golden and Waxman.
“You’re gonna have to take it from us and the first one near me gets a broken nose which will cost more than fifty-cents to fix.” Golden squared off facing Ganelli.
“Maybe we should pay them and get on with lunch.” Waxman looked at the other two facing him. Two on me and one on Golden. Fuck this.
“No. I’m gonna like rearranging your face Ganelli. It’ll be worth a few lumps.”
Ganelli looked at his cronies. “Petro, you take the new guy. Two of us can smoosh the Golden Jew Boy.”
“I think not.” A deep voice boomed as Santo turned the corner and ran into them.
“Stay out of this Carli.” Ganelli pointed with his right index finger.
Santo stared at Ganelli with his clenched fists on his hips. “I think not.”
“You siding with the Jew boys?” Ganelli began perspiring.
“Hey, you meet Michael? He lives down the street from me. He’s Frankie Pistacci’s cousin. And Dell here works out with me at the gym. They’re my friends. You pick a fight with my friends and you pick a fight with me.” Santo moved next to Golden.
“Okay. It’s three-against-three now.” Golden took a step closer to Ganelli.
Ganelli saw his two buddies start to look around and twitch with uncertainty. “Okay. Okay. I won’t forget this Santo.”
“I know you won’t.” Santo moved in front of Golden and brought his fist square onto Ganelli’s nose. A slight “crack” was followed by a gush of bright red blood. “Go down to the school nurse and report a fire-door rammed you in the face.” He turned to Waxman and Golden. “Let me know if they bother you again. They give Italians like me a bad image.”
Waxman and Golden headed to the lunchroom.
“Hey Michael, you owe me two favors now,” Santo yelled and disappeared down a side corridor.
“Two favors? You know Carli Santo?”
“I live near him. I don’t know about any favors.”
“Just watch out. You don’t want or need to be beholden to those wops. That’s why we have AZA. Do you know why Santo smashed Ganelli’s nose?” Golden grabbed a food tray from the stack.
“Because if he didn’t, the AZA would retaliate against those greaseballs. He didn’t want to start a war. Santo is a good guy to have on your side.”
Waxman moved down the food line. “How long is the AZA meeting on Sunday morning?”
“We meet from nine to twelve. The BBG meets in the afternoon. You know what BBG stands for?”
“Deb told me–B’nai Brith Girls.”
“In AZA we call them the Big Bad Girls–BBG.”
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