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Who's Who in What It Was Like

The Narrator

"Even if I ever get out of here, I'll always be that kid from Long Island, the Ivy League Killer, the Kid Who dot dot dot. From all the newspaper and radio and TV coverage, everyone thinks that they know me. "Experts" were certain that I was "using" her; other "experts" were just as sure that she was "using" me. They were all fools who knew nothing about love and how it works. But, in a way, it doesn't matter anymore—everyone now knows my name (which is precisely why I'm not going to use it anywhere in this testimony). So let me tell you right now, right up-front: no one knows me."

Rachel Prince, the Girl

"Don't even bother," muttered Marcus. "She teases a couple of guys to death every summer. It's really nuts. Nothing happens."

"Looking back on everything now—with my vulture eye—I can't even begin to describe Rachel Prince in a way that would do her justice. It wasn't just her physical beauty (the hair, the eyes, the perfect nose); it was her restless, intense attitude and the way that she used her beauty and charm and wit almost as weapons, but selectively, that made her different from any girl I'd ever met. After all, there are a lot of medium-height, nicely shaped, moneyed, long-dark-haired beauties from the Island and in this world, but none of them had the Life Force that Rachel possessed. If she was selfish and moody sometimes, she could just as easily turn gentle and almost angelic in a moment. If that made her difficult for some people to take, it made her attractive to me. Some people say that Rachel was self-centered. I guess that was true, but if you had a self like Rachel Prince's, you'd be centered on it too. But there was no objective, external reason for my feelings. Love is not logical, and a great, all-consuming love, which is what we had, creates its own super logic. Only It matters; only It makes sense."

Eleanor Prince, the Mother

"I tried not to react to the sight of her face as I extended my hand, but Rachel's mother was not a pretty woman. In fact, with all her make-up and puffy reddish hair and mouth and fingernails and jewelry, she was quite the opposite of attractive. I'm not saying she wasn't expensively and carefully dressed, but everything about her was a little too much, and it was especially off-putting, next to the pure beauty of her daughter. It was no wonder that she resented Rachel."

Manny Prince, the Father

"Manny Prince. He was a trip-and-a-half. If you thought I got a frosty reception from Eleanor and Herb, you can imagine what Rachel's actual father thought of me.

"Come on in," he said with a tone of voice that said Get the hell outta here, punk! as I walked into the foyer of his top-floor unit in the big fake-limestone, fake-chateau apartment building.

"Why, thank you, Mr. Prince," I replied, extending my hand for a handshake that felt like I was offering my arm to a shark's mouth. "Nice to meet you."

Manny was a large, slope-shouldered man, wearing a heavy gold watch on his thick wrist and one of those white embroidered shirts with lots of pockets that they wear down in the Caribbean. I made eye contact with him as we shook hands, and I instantly saw where Rachel got her blue-blue eyes. But Rachel's eyes were alluring and warm; Manny's eyes were as cold as a threat."

Nanci Jerome, the Best Friend

"Nanci was definitely a strange girl, but there was something I liked about her. Her honesty, I think. And I liked that she was Rachel's friend. Rachel seemed so isolated; she needed all the support she could get. That's why I was worried about this Eric. I wasn't around all week. Maybe he was."

Herb Perlov, the Mother's New Boyfriend

"No!" she said, pushing me away. "You don't understand! I don't want to go back there! Herb has been very creepy, and I'm afraid if I go back there something might happen."
"What do you mean, 'creepy'?" I said, suddenly feeling that blank-white rage I felt on the Princes' porch begin to rise. "What's he done?" Mental pictures of that hairy sleazeball peeking in at Rachel, doing things to her, flashed through my mind, and I was infuriated. "Tell me."

“Nothing specific,” she said. “I mean, he didn’t rape me or anything yet.”

“What do you mean, ‘yet’?” I said.

“It’s the way he looks at me,” she said. “He leaves his bathrobe open during breakfast, and it’s disgusting. And sometimes some of his greasy gangster friends come over to watch TV, and they look at me too.”

“And what does Eleanor do?” I asked.
“Nothing,” she said. “She laughs as usual, and blames it on me.”

Stanley Marshak, the Camp Owner

“Stanley welcomed me at the front door with a firm handshake, as if he were testing my character or something. He was a tall man, broad and balding, with a bushy moustache that curled a little at the ends. I smiled and held his grip, just as firmly. He walked me downstairs to the basement, all done in green and white: Camp Mooncliff’s colors.

Stanley told me all about the camp and its illustrious three-decade history, how he and his brothers founded it, and how he, Stanley, a life-long bachelor, was “married to Mooncliff.” It was sort of amusing, how enthusiastic and how proud of the place he was.”

Jerry Mays, the Head Counselor

“I especially didn’t like it when Jerry, passing on the way into dinner, cracked “Feeling lonely, hero?” He walked away before I could think of a fast comeback that didn’t have a curse word attached. Something to take the buzz off the Crew Cut. It was probably best that I kept my mouth shut. He was still my boss, and it was only a few days until the end of camp. I could hang on and hold my tongue that long. But what I especially didn’t like was that Jerry started punishing the Doggies as a way to get at me, giving them extra chores like “policing the grounds” around the Mess Hall or his Shak (which meant picking up cigarette butts and any little scraps of paper or trash on the ground). It was one thing to go after Rachel and me; it was quite another thing--completely unnecessary and unfair--to penalize the Doggies.”

Marcus Miller, the Counselor Next Door 

“One thing: this Marcus could talk. As we waited for the bus to load, Marcus started a running commentary on the camp, the owners, the campers, the quality of the bus we were riding, the box lunch they gave us, everything. I found out that Marcus had to have either something going into his mouth (food) or coming out of his mouth (talk) at all times. But I was happy to let him chatter on—it was really too early in the morning for me—and I learned a lot about Camp Mooncliff and the summer that awaited me.”

Stewie Thurman, the Co-Counselor

“I’m great with kids,” he said, looking into a round shaving mirror he had set up on his dresser. “So don’t worry about anything. Just follow Uncle Stewie.”

As he talked on, I set up my Sony clock radio. After some fiddling with a straightened wire hanger I attached to the antenna, I found, amid the static, “Louie, Louie” on WABC-AM.

“Yo!” shouted Stewie. “Turn it up, dude!” He danced around, trying to step into his underwear while still looking in the mirror. “Louder!”

I was glad to oblige. Stewie was a big, happy guy, and I knew that the kids would probably like him a lot; he was like a big kid himself. Which was going to make my job a lot easier. So I counted myself lucky and turned up the crackling volume.

“‘Ohhh, baby! . . . Me gotta go now . . .’”

Dale Buckley, the Group Leader

“This is how I work: you play by the rules, you don’t make me ride you, you watch your kids, you don’t call attention to yourself . . .” Dale paused to let that sink in. “Then you should have a good time this summer. I can’t be fairer or plainer than that.”

Fair and plain: that was my first impression of Dale, and it stood up for the entire summer. No matter what, he tried to be a good employee for the Marshaks, a good boss to us counselors, and was a good leader for the Inter boys – —all at the same time. All in all, Dale was super-fair to me later after the difficulties started, but I’m getting ahead of myself.”

Sharon Spitzer, the Bombshell

“Rachel’s lucky,” she said. “Rachel Prince has always been a fairly lucky girl. But”—she stopped for suspense—“I think you’re the one who’s going to need some luck.”

She rose as quickly as she’d sat down. I didn’t move. Her legs went all the way up to those tiny white shorts.

“Thanks for the wisdom,” I said, shielding my eyes. “…Sharrrron .” I liked saying her name, drawn out like that.

“On second thought,” she said, backing away from me. “If I were you, I wouldn’t worry too much. Summer things never last.”

She smiled, turned, and walked away, satisfied with our encounter, knowing that she got in the last zinger. She knew that I was watching as she walked away; I could tell by the bounce in her step and that perfect sway of her perfect . . . everything. She was not a nice person and yet I was still flattered by her attention. Such is the power of pretty girls. She had that in common with Rachel, that power. I was glad that Rachel used her power for me, and not against me. And even if what Sharon said about “summer things” had some objective truth, it didn’t necessarily apply to Rachel and me. We could be the exception to the rule.

Eric, the Old Boyfriend

“But before we went our separate ways, one of her campers, the pudgy one with frizzy hair from the rowboat, shouted to me, “She’s still in love with Eric! . . . She gets letters from Eric!”

 I turned to see Rachel swatting at the little girl who darted laughingly away, just out of her grasp.

“You little snoop!” screamed Rachel, chasing her, and not in fun.

I watched as Rachel caught up to the little girl, twisting her T-shirt in her grasp and holding her tight. She marched the little girl away, obviously giving her a good talking-to. Rachel didn’t take any lip from her kids. Good for her.

But that name couldn’t stop reverberating in my mind: “Eric.”

“Roommate A”

“I’m not going to say too much about my roommate, anymore than I have to for the sake of my story. I’m going to call him Roommate A. If you want to know his real name, you can look it up in the newspapers. He testified at my trial, so it’s all there in the transcripts. He was subpoenaed, so he had no choice in going on the witness stand. I know that he did not enjoy the experience, so I don’t wish to prolong his public exposure. I’m sure that he already feels that I’ve ruined his chances to become Governor of New York or a Supreme Court Justice or something, but there’s nothing I can do about that now. I will tell you this one thing about him and let you be the judge: he puts actual shined pennies in his penny loafers. (Now you see why I’ve chosen to call him Roommate “A.”)”

“Professor Brilliant”

“The problem was that I’d had to see Professor Brilliant, and he had office hours only on Friday afternoons, from 2:00 to 4:00. How considerate. He said it was to build character. I think it just built resentment. I don’t want to get into too much detail about my relationship with Professor Brilliant because he testified at my trial, but later I may have to, if I’m going to tell the absolute truth (which, by the way, I have been doing all along).”

Amy Hendler, an Old Friend

“I suppose at that point a normal guy would have put a move on Amy Hendler. She knew me and seemed to like me. She wasn’t any beauty, but as you know, neither am I.  I could have asked her about Adelphi, or if she liked the Hendrix that was playing, or if she wanted to challenge the team playing ping-pong in the next game, or if she’d like to go someplace else (like the backseat of my car).”

The Narrator’s Parents

Dad

“My Dad likes to joke and tease, but in a gentle way. Sometimes we fight, like all fathers and sons, especially since I’m an only child and fairly strong-willed anyway, but I don’t think there’s a mean bone in his body. Of course, he could be tight with a buck. We weren’t the richest people in the world, but still, in winter, he would refuse to turn on the furnace until you could almost see your breath. Mom and I would tease him, calling him “Heat-ler.” He did not like that one bit, but we still called him that because it was funny. All through everything that’s happened to me, through every horrible downturn, he has been my rock.”

Mom

“You have everything?” asked my Mom, who was washing dishes when I came downstairs to the kitchen for my last dinner at home. “Did you take extra Q-Tips?”

“Thank you, but I have Q-Tips,” I said, controlling my annoyance. “I know how to pack.”

“Those mountain lakes can be very chilly, and you don’t want to get a cold in your ear.”

“A cold in my ear?”

“Don’t laugh,” she said. “You have to be careful in the mountains.”

And the Doggies 

“I gotta drain my lizard!  Real, real bad.”

“The sun is the archenemy of chocolate!"

“Would you like some groin on your salad?” 

“Well, they didn’t melt, did they, numbnuts?”

“You can’t have sex anyway! You’re eleven, you dork.”

 “Look who’s talking? The human zit!” 

“Very sorry, Assistant Groinmaster, sir!”

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