"Hey, Pop!" Laverne said, skidding a bit on his clean floor in her new pumps. "Sorry, I'm late. Woah, that's--" she had caught sight of the huge box of new records by the jukebox, and all the spring decorations around the place. "I thought you said you needed help movin' things outta the closet?"
"Your boyfrien' were here. Helped me move it all."
"Who, Pop? Fonzie?" she said, popping a cold french fry into her mouth.
"Nah, the tall one. Red jacket. Big dumb." He flapped his hand through the air, dismissing his existence.
"Yeah, dat's the one."
She nearly choked on the fry. "He ain't my boyfriend, Pop!" she shouted, voice rising an octave in an incredulous whine. "Boooy, why would you say a thing like that!"
"Well, what you plasterin' yourself all over him for!" he shouted gruffly, volume rising to match hers.
"I ain't ever!"
"Ya did too. He's got a 'L' big as life all 'cross his back."
"He needed one," she said simply.
"I forbid it. I forbid it! What are you thinking?" Shirley Feeney burst through the door of their apartment, coat and handbag flying and flailing in her irritation.
"Whaddaya talkin' about, Shirl?" Laverne had been painting her nails, toes propped up on the coffee table, bottle of red lacquer balanced carefully between thumb and forefinger. She'd jumped so hard she didn't know how there wasn't a Hot Rod Red glaze on the entire couch. She set the bottle down on the coffee table and checked all her nails for smudges.
"Laverne, I've known you since the second grade and I know you put those big ugly Ls on everything you own."
Laverne swatted at the L on her shoulder, a dramatic pout on her face. "What's that supposed to mean?" she said, voice rising in warning.
"I just saw Lenny and Squiggy at the Pizza Bowl. Oh, Laverne how could you do that? Putting one of your super, special, signature monograms on that hideous thing! As if you'd ever want to own it!"
"What, his jacket? Hey, maybe I stole it then, huh?" She grinned.
Shirley bugged her eyes at her friend.
"What?" Laverne said, word loud and nasal. "So what if I did?"
"Leonard. Kosnowski. That's what! Oh, Laverne, haven't I always begged you to set your sights higher than the bottom of the barrel? All those times in high school I warned you off--"
"Hey! Len ain't bad. And anyway, Shirl--"
"'Ain't bad!' Laverne, he brushes his teeth with SenSen! If at all!"
"Anyway, Shirl, he needed the L and I've got plenty. What's it matter?"
"What's it matter? Oh, Laverne, Laverne. Anyone who sees him out in that horrible thing will think you've staked your claim!"
"What is this, here, about 'claims' and me and Lenny. Nobody's done nothin'!"
But Shirley just kept glaring at her out of the side of her eyes all afternoon and through the evening.
Caught stirring the spaghetti noodles so they wouldn't stick to the bottom of the pot, Laverne shouted "COME IN" at the knock to the door. Odds are it was either Carmine or--
"Greenbaum," she spat venom at the voluptuous redhead flouncing through her door. "Whadda you want?"
"So you finally bit the bullet, eh, De Fazio?"
"What are you talkin' about?"
"Come on, De Fazio, you slapped your 'L' on his back like you were brandin' a cow" Greenbaum said.
"You'd know all about cows, being one yourself," Laverne sniped.
Rosie cocked her hands on her hips, just waiting.
"Is this about Len again? Go on," Laverne laughed the words out, like this was some huge joke everyone was trying to pull on her. "He just needed the letter."
"You tryin' to tell me that's the end of it? 'Needed the letter.' And you expect me to believe that?"
"What else is there to believe?" Laverne asked, all innocence, stirring the spaghetti to within an inch of its life.
"Oh, I don't know, Laverne. He's only hovered around you like a fly around dead meat since we were kids. You get in fights with all his girlfriends. He's proposed to you once a year since you were in pigtails. Which, heh," she sneered, amused with herself in one long appraisal of Laverne from head to toe, "is bout the only proposals you can 'spect now, I'll bet, what with you gettin' up in the years."
But Rosie held up her hand, surrender or defense it didn't matter, Laverne's fist stopped, resting at her hip, still clenched. "Will ya just listen? Who's gonna see that big ugly 'L' on his back and not think somethin's up, heh?" she finished off with a cross between a deriding sneer and a question.
"Len's my friend," she said. "He needed the L. Otherwise he looked dumb as he is." She tried to laugh it off.
"And you sewed it on yourself. I can tell your shoddy workmanship a mile away, De Fazio. Of course, that's what friends are for. Sewin' on each other's clothes like little domesticated house wives."
"Get outta here!" Laverne sneered, pointing her finger so sharply that Rosie, with a grin, made to leave.
"Listen, Laverne," she said, turning just at the door. "You oughta finally go for it. I knew you'd always end up with some bum like Kosnowski. Bimbos always do."
"Len ain't a bum!" she said, leaping to his defense before, eyes wide, she realized she probably should have leapt to her own.
Rosie winked, sashaying out the door in a swish of silk, fur, and wild red hair.
The knock on the door set her anger going immediately. She was cleaning in a furor, trying to ignore the world. She was sick of trying to explain. Shouldn't it be obvious? Obviously, something was obvious. "I swear, if one more person is here to chew me out about Lenny Kosnowski you can go away."
"What about Lenny Kosnowski?" Lenny said, poking his head through the door.
"Oh, uh. Hey Len," she smiled halfheartedly.
"What about me?" he asked again, stepping inside and closing the door behind him.
"What's up?" she fiddled with the feathers on the duster.
"Oh, there's this picture called Curse of the Undead down the drive-in and I thought 'that sounds just like somethin' Laverne would like.' And I was comin' to see if you'd drive on 'count of me and Squig got banned for parkin' the beer truck up front last time. What about me?" he finished, asking the question again as if the subject had never changed.
"You dope," she said, rolling her eyes. "'Curse of the Undead' what's that s'pposed to mean?"
"I dunno. Sounds like a neckin' picture to me."
"So, of course, you invite me. Uh, listen Len. I ain't neckin' wi'choo."
"I know," he said. "Gotta keep trying my luck though."
"I don't know if I can take you to the drive-in neither."
"What? Why not? Come on, Laverne, I'll pay!" he said, face eager.
"S'just everyone and my father been onto me about," she pointed over his shoulder and he turned to see what at.
"About... about, that" she said, stepping into his space to grab his shoulder and run her finger over the big cursive L. "Said it was like I was claimin' you as mine or somethin', and--"
"I am," he said simply.
"Right," she said, confronted with that naked adoration he let onto his face when they were alone. "You're my friend," she evaded.
"If I'm your friend, I can take you to the movies," he said, without missing a beat. "Come on." He snatched her hand.
"Lenny! I'm covered in dirt!" she pulled her hand back, pushing at the scarf on her hair, the feather duster raining even more dirt onto her face. "I ain't goin' to the movies like this!"
He rolled his eyes, shoulders slumping dramatically in that way he had. "Well, go get changed," he said in his dopiest voice.
"Right," she said, rushing back into her bedroom. "Right, I'll--"
"Don't take too long, the movie starts at nine!"
"It's six-thirty right now, Len!"
"I know, but we gotta go to dinner first."
She poked her scarf-less head back around the door frame. "I ain't goin' on a date with you."
"Don't have to be a date," he said, lounging crookedly on the couch.
Screw it. She threw on her pedal pushers and a tie crop-top, swiping at her face with a washcloth in the bathroom mirror. Maybe if she looked terrible people would stop bugging her about him.
"All right," she said, rushing back out of the room and snatching up her handbag. "Let's go." She took him by the elbow. "You know, you're the only person all week ain't bothered me about you."
"You want me to?"
"No," she said, grin on her face. "I'm sick of hearin' your name."
"I'll try not to say it, then."
She wouldn't tell Shirley where she'd gone tonight, or with whom. They walked out the door, arm in arm, L's matching.