Extracts from The Diaries of 'Professor' Cornelius Crane

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August 3rd, 1968

Today mother sent me on an errand to buy bread, milk, sugar and butter.

As Pop’s have all these items in stock, I had convinced her to include a lime-flavored milkshake on the grocery list.

She had answered, as she had been doing ever since that fateful day that I returned to the past, “Fine, but just a small one. Don’t forget what happened the last time you had a large!”

“How can I? You’re forever reminding me!”

“Don’t be giving me any sass, young man, or you won’t get one at all!”

“Sorry, ma.”

“Off you go! And don’t spend all day looking at the comic books! I don’t want melted butter!”

“Okay, ma!”

I was halfway through my milkshake when an automobile screeched to a halt outside by the curb. I recognized it immediately.

It was Frankie Hollywood’s beaten up old Chevy.

The fact that he had a set of wheels under his arse was the main reason his shares were high with the young male population, but even more so with the gullible, swooning female element that traversed the movie theaters, soda shops, high schools and The Strip (Although it was officially named Church Street, the main street through the centre of town was better known to the younger generation as The Strip.) of Sedgefield.

He and his two misfit pals fell out of the car and proceeded to lean against the side of it while lighting up a single Lucky Strike that they then passed around between the three of them.

The sight was painfully pathetic as they did their utmost to behave as cool as possible, winking at girls of any shape, size or age that happened to pass by on the sidewalk.

I almost felt the urge to throw up the small milkshake.

I grabbed the bag of groceries next to me and decided to clear off home.

“Hey, little Crane!” exclaimed Frankie as I passed them. “Me and my goons have been cruising The Strip for a little action. It’s been a kinda dull morning so far. So, when’s Hannah gonna be babysitting you and your little sister again?”

“Frankie Numbnuts! How the shit should I know? Besides, you seem to know Hannah’s work schedule better than anyone else in this town. By the way, have you molested any school kids lately, big guy? How’s it hanging, arsehole? Caught any venereal infections yet? No? What a goddamned crying shame? But…keep watching this space.”

He was stunned speechless for a moment. “That’s…some serious vocalabory you got there, little guy. Your momma know you…”

“The word is vocabulary. Repeat after me slowly - vo...ca...bu…la…ry!”

“Sheesh! Who rattled your bloody cage?”

“Only one around here that belongs in a cage is you.”

“You need to cool down, hot rod. I was just trying to be friendly.”

“Yeah, I know. You should get the Sedgefield award for Friendliest Phallus!”

“Damn right! Ain’t a person in this town that don’t love dear ol’ Frankie Hollywood.” He ran a hand across the air in front of him. “One day when my name’s up on that big screen, they’ll all be saying, ‘We once knew that guy personally. He was a great guy even back then already!’”

“They don’t know you like I do. I’m betting you’ll never leave Sedgefield. And the closest you’ll get to having your name up in lights will be…” I ran my hand across the air. “Frankie Hollywood’s Used Car Dealership!”

His cheeks reddened as his two pals were unable to conceal their mirth. “For a little kid, you got a damn big mouth. Think you’re a tough guy, hey. Wanna play with some real men?” He held out the cigarette towards me. “Take a drag? Come on; show us what you’re really made of?”

“No thanks!”

“He walks like a man, but he talks like a chicken. Come on? Just one pull? It’ll put hair on your chest!”

“Great! Then I’ll end up looking like a greaseball-gorilla like you.”

Again he blushed at his friends’ laughter, only this time he quelled his frustration by slapping the back of my head. “I’m trying to make a man outta you, and you just keep sassing me!” He quickly rubbed my head then held out his hand, “Sorry about that, sport. Come on! Shake? No hard feelings?”

“Sure,” I said shaking his hand. “Don’t worry, Frankie, you still got my vote for Friendliest Phallus!”

“Attaboy!” After a short deliberation he said, “Listen, me and my two goons here are gonna have a couple of sodas and check out any talent that might be inside – if you get my drift?”

“Loud and clear!”

“Good! You’re a bright kid! Although you shouldn’t concern yourself with those sort of matters at your age. Although I had my first screw at fourteen already. For Sedgefield that’s a goddamned record – and proud of it too.” He pulled a comb out of his sock and fixed his hair before asking, “How’d you like to make a little pocket money?”

“Doing what?”

He patted his car’s bonnet. “Bessie here don’t like to be left alone. You keep an eye on her while we go keep an eye on the talent inside, and I’ll give you the price of a soda.”

“How long you gonna be?”

“Twenty minutes tops!”

“Deal, but I got a brick of butter here that could start melting. You take longer than twenty, I start charging overtime!”

“Deal!” We shook hands and he looked at the entrance to Pop’s. “Ladies, fasten your seatbelts – Frankie Hollywood is about to enter the building!”

It was almost an hour later when they exited again. Frankie was unwrapping a pack of gum.

I held out an open hand. “You owe me the price of three sodas, thank you very much!”

He gave me the price of one soda and a stick of gum. “Here, go chew on that. Now move along and stop bothering the men, kiddo. Right now, me and my goons got some more cruising to do on The Strip. Hurry home now before your momma’s butter melts, okay?”

They all laughed as they sped away with a screech of tires.

I smiled as they disappeared over the rise.

By next week, Frankie and the boys would have to cruise The Strip on bicycles.

I gazed down at the money in my hand. It would be just enough to buy another packet of sugar. The other one had somehow found its way into Bessie’s gas tank.

In the future, the more sophisticated fuel filtration systems might be able to prevent any serious engine damage, but we’re still back here in the Dark Ages. There was no way Bessie was ever gonna cruise The Strip again. And with Frankie’s status symbol rusting in the junkyard, his sway on the Sedgefield prey would be dramatically decreased. I hurried into Pop’s.

By the time I exited again, the butter had started to soften! I ran all the way back home, but I didn’t mind at all; it felt as though I was doing a victory lap!!!

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