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The Revenge Of Fabian Forte

Fabian whistled into the mirror as he tightened the knot in his tie and ran a comb through his hair. His whistle soured off into a squeak as he saw four extra faces staring back at him. The Fabulous Four had slipped quietly into his hotel room. It wasn’t enough that they accompanied him for recordings and personal appearances—they had to sneak in and watch him dress! . . . “Got a heavy date, Fabe?” Junior Pirollo asked innocently. Fabe didn’t answer. . . . “Your tie clashes with your suit,” Jimmy Testa observed. . . . “Bet you fall asleep before the evening’s over,” said Judge Milaro. “You’re dead for sleep.”

Fabe walked past as if they were invisible. Bobbie Finzio skipped ahead, held the door open and bowed deeply. Jimmy called, “Hey, why didn’t you tell us you’re i taking Irene out?”

Fabian froze in his tracks. He asked, “How did you know that?”

Jimmy held up a slip of paper. “Because you’re careless,” he said. “Because you leave names and phone numbers lying around. Because I’m a snoop.”

“Okay. So I’m going out with Irene. So you know. Anything else?”

Judge said, “Yeah—where you been hiding her? None of us saw her since high school. You been sneaking out after we’re asleep?”

“It’s none of your business,” Fabian said. Then he weakened. “She sent me a letter and I sent her one back and here I am in the town where she lives now and I’m curious to see how she turned out so I called her for a date.” He ran it off in one breath.

There was a silence. Bobbie said, “Well . . . if you haven’t seen her for five years . . . don’t forget to speak loud enough.”

“Loud?” Fabian echoed.

“Real loud. Remember, she used to sit in the front row and was kinda shy? That’s because she’s hard of hearing, almost deaf.”

“Gosh, that’s a shame,” Fabe said. “She seemed okay on the phone.”

“They all do on the phone,” Bobbie nodded. “But face to face—well. maybe she reads lips, but you better play safe and talk up or you’ll embarrass her.”

“Thanks,” Fabian said. “I will.”

A real loud girl

When Fabian met Irene that night she was even prettier than he remembered. Sweet face, simple, colorful sweater and skirt. No frills, no doodads. Round where girls should be. Nice.

“Hello,” he said. His voice was soft with admiration. Then he remembered. He shouted, “Hello!”

“Hello!” she shouted back. He was startled. But then he figured, “Poor kid, she has no idea how people sound, so she shouts.”

They shouted at each other through dinner, on the way to the movies, at a drugstore over ’burgers and Cokes. She was sweet, she was fun, but the shouting was beginning to hurt his ears.

Later, walking slowly down her quiet Street, they shouted about old times back in South Philly. He told her how Junior, Jimmy, Judge and Bobbie started accompanying him at the Atlantic City Steel Pier on Labor Day, 1960, and toured with him ever since.

“Yes, I know,” she shouted, “they told me . . .” She broke off sharply and bit her lip.

“They what?” He was so surprised that he forgot to yell. Yet she understood him—she answered.

“I shouldn’t have said that,” she replied. “I promised them—oh, now I am in a mess.”

“Look,” he said, “I want to know everything. When and what did they tell you?” Irene stared at the ground. “They called me tonight,” she answered. “They told me . . . they said . . . you were—well, almost deaf. And I should shout so you’d understand me. They reminded me you used to sit in the front row in school because . . .” Her voice trailed off.

For a moment Fabian was silent. Silent? He was speechless! He said, “Irene, I only sat in front because you did. I hear fine!” She looked at him, shy and embarrassed. She said slowly—but still loudly—“They said you would deny it.”

“Look, Irene,” he pleaded desperately, “I’m turning my back on you. Whisper something. Anything.”

She whispered something.

He whispered back, “You said, ‘Fabe, I’m so sorry. I realize you’d want to keep your secret.’ See, am I deaf?”

“You certainly are not! But why were you shouting at me all evening?”

“Because they had me fooled, too!” he burst out. “Until just now—when I whispered and you heard. They . . . oh, never mind, they fooled us both.” He added eagerly, “Look, I won’t have another evening off till Monday, so let’s start from scratch then. Okay?”

“Okay,” she said. And smiled.

“Now I’ve got to murder four guys.”

When Fabe entered the suite he shared with the boys, their bedroom door was closed. He put his ear against it and listened. The sounds of heavy breathing and snoring were too synchronized, too harmonious. He walked in, switched on the lights and hollered, “Okay, you creeps. I know you’re awake.”

Nothing but groans and grunts. “On your feet,” Fabian yelled, “or it’s ice water in your beds.”

In one second all four of them were up.

“It wasn’t funny,” Fabe snapped. He glared at four innocent faces that suddenly cracked up. Junior giggled, Bobbie guffawed, Jimmy cackled, Judge rolled on the floor. Fabe waited till they laughed themselves out.

“it wasn’t funny,” he snapped again. “Deafness isn’t funny, blindness isn’t funny—no handicap is funny.”

Jimmy paled. “We only thought . . .”

“You didn’t think. It was stupid.”

Junior admitted, low and ashamed, “You’re right. İt wasn’t funny. Sorry.”

Forgive and forget

“Okay, we’ll forget it,” Fabe said, softening. “But I hope it’ll teach you guys to lay off the jokes. Anyway, I’m going to bed—I’ve got that breakfast interview in the morning.”

“You’re actually getting up for it?” Bobby demanded. “You’re crazy.”

Fabian shrugged. “So I’m crazy. Goodnight.” He went to his room. Immediately, Junior said to the others, “You know, if he doesn’t quit knocking himself out, he will go nuts.”

“Right,” Judge agreed. “And we should teach him a lesson before it’s too late. Now I’ve got an idea . . .”

When Fabe’s alarm rang that morning, he moaned as he reached to shut it off. He could hardly open his eyes, but he climbed out of bed. The breakfast interview was for nine o’clock, so eight was none too soon to get up. But he felt as if he hadn’t slept at all! He stumbled across the room—those blinds sure made it dark. He shuffled into the bathroom. The shower was like ice—brrrr—but it helped wake him up. And awake, he was hungry. He came back to his bedroom and phoned for room service.

“Orange juice,” he ordered cheerfully, “two scrambled eggs, bacon, toast and a glass of milk.”

There was a small silence at the other end. Then. “I don’t know if the kitchen’s open yet,” said the voice. “But if not, we’ll send out for it.”

What s the matter? Fabian asked. “Your chef on strike?”

“Of course not—he’s home in bed,” said the voice. “Where would he be at two in the morning?”

“What time did you say?”

“I said two in the morning. . .”

Fabian groaned. “Forget the breakfast,” he said. “Sorry. It’s—a mistake.”

By now the clock said eight-thirty. He set it back to two, rewound the alarm and fell on his bed. What should he do? Go pour ice water on the Fabulous Four? He pulled the blanket over his head—to think better—and slept till morning. Real morning this time. The alarm clock was ringing its head off, and the Fabulous Four came bursting in to shut it off.

“Late, late,” they yelled in chorus.

“Listen, you . . .” Fabe began, then saw the time. He dived out of bed and into his clothes. Bobbie asked innocently, “What, no shower?” Then, “Fabe, I dreamed the craziest last night—you got up and took a shower. It was so real I could hear the water running.”

Fabe started for him, then said, “Oh the heck with it,” and walked out.


A few hours of peace

It was a relief not to see his pals the rest of that day until onstage for the matinee. After it, they went to the hotel ahead of Fabe. When he got in they were ordering a pre-supper snack. Junior, doing the phoning, asked if he wanted something. Fabe wanted a cherry milkshake.

“I’m going to my room and lie down.” he said. “Somehow, I didn’t sleep well last night. Will you call me when the shake comes?”

“Sure you want it?” Jimmy asked. “You’re getting a little lumpy around the middle—and those movie cameras don’t lie. Your fans won’t like . . .” Fabe’s door slammed.

When the shake came, Junior brought it in, but he went out again and let Fabe drink it in peace. It was so delicious that when he heard the little slurping sound which meant he’d reached the bottom of his glass, he used the straws like chopsticks and scooped out the froth. Then he settled back and closed his eyes for a few minutes.

Dinner-time. He washed his face and walked into the other room.

“How was it?” Jimmy asked.

“How was what?” Fabian asked.

“The shake.”

“Great,” Fabian answered. “The best. Who paid? How much do I owe you?”

“Thirty-five cents for the shake. Dime share of the tip. Thirty-three cents for the mouthwash, plus a penny State tax. That’ll be seventy-nine cents in all,” Jimmy said.

The mouthwash!” Fabian yelled. “What do you mean the mouthwash?”

“I told you he’d never notice,” Junior said sadly. “After we slave all day mixing him a special drink with the only cherry-flavored mouthwash in the world.”

“We thought you’d love it,” Jimmy said brightly. “It cleans your mouth while you stuff your stomach.”

“We wrote a commercial,” Bobby said with pride. He hummed an opening note, raised his hand to conduct and they sang: “Whether you’re a lummox or only just a lummox, it cleans your mouth while it goes down south.”

Judge asked. ‘Can we have your endorsement, Fabe? We’ll advertise ‘Fabian Flips for Fabulous Mouthwash Shake. The favorite drink of the well-rounded man.’ ” Fabian managed to say feebly, “Mouthwash hasn’t any calories.” Then he ran into the bathroom.

The next day, Wednesday, there was no matinee, but Fabian appeared on a woman’s radio program, signed autographs in a department store and gave two interviews. He returned to the hotel beat, but rather than go upstairs and maybe play victim again for those creep pals of his, he dropped into the drugstore off the lobby.

“A cherry malt,” he told the waitress, “but hold the mouthwash.”

“What?” she asked.

“Sorry—just double cherry malt.”

“He’s cute,” Fabian heard her tell another waitress, “but he’s crazy.”

Who wouldn’t be, he brooded. Lately those four had him through the wringer. What got into them. anyway, what started them off? Then he remembered—it began last Saturday when be was posing for those colored beefcake pictures. They’d sneaked into the studio secretly, he couldn’t see them behind the bright lights. He and the photographer were all set for the first shot when that high. girlish voice came from nowhere. “Fabe darling, don’t move! There’s a bee on your chest!”

Of course he moved, and of course there was no bee. But from the darkness came coos of “Lover” and “Muscles” and “Nature Boy” until the photographer kicked them out. It was after that they got going on the deaf date, the middle-of-the-night interview and the mouthwash shake.


Oh, to fix their wagons!

Now, moodily sipping his drink, and their laughter still ringing in his ears, he burned to laugh at them. Suddenly it was as if a large title card flashed on in his mind, like an old-time silent movie: The Revenge of Fabian Forte, or How Fabian Got Bugged By Four Cruel Cats Who Clawed Him Till He Started His Own SPCH (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Humans). Then a picture appeared on his mental screen, and another and another. He smiled. He laughed—out loud. The waitress hurried over. She asked, “Anything the matter?”

“No,” he said. “everything’s perfect.”

At exactly 11:22 A.M. next day. Jimmy Testa answered the phone. Junior, Judge and Bobbie were horsing around, but he quickly shushed them. “Yes, yes, sure,” he said into the phone. Right after the matinee show. Fine. In our room—that’s suite 706. Yeah, we’ll be ready.”

He hung up and said excitedly, “That was a photographer—from Photoplay. They want to do a picture story on us.” “With Fabe?” Judge asked.

“No, just the four of us. Here in the hotel. Backstage. At home in Philly. Three days of shooting. Candid stuff for a big picture layout. He’ll follow us around for three days.”

“Great,” Bobbie said. But then he added, “You know something? I’m scared. We’ve never done something like this. Maybe Fabe should stick around to advise us.”

Jimmy agreed. “Let’s ask him.”

That afternoon the Fabulous Four, a photographer named Max and Fabian gathered in the hotel suite. Slicked up, dressed in their best clothes, combed, scrubbed and shined—Junior, Jimmy, Judge and Bobbie were trying to act “casual.”

The photographer took some preliminary shots to test the light and then he wanted some action pictures. “How about one of you lifting weights?” he said to Jimmy, pointing to a set of heavy barbells in the corner.

“Sure,” Jimmy bent to lift the bar.

“Not with your jacket on,” Fabian suggested. “This has to look natural.”

Jimmy took off his jacket.

“The shirt, too.”

Off came Jimmy’s shirt.

“And the undershirt.”

“Aw, Fabe, do I have to?” Jimmy pleaded.

“You have to.”

Off came the undershirt.

Jimmy bent over and slowly hefted the barbell. The camera clicked away.

“What do you think?” Fabian asked Max.

“Looks too easy—like he’s faking it,” the cameraman replied. Fabian slipped another large iron disc on the bar. Jimmy lifted it again—more slowly this time.

“Still too easy,” Max said. “More weight.” Fabian added another disc. Jimmy was sweating. He could hardly get the bar off the floor.

“Not realistic enough. More discs,” the photographer declared. Fabian added another disc. This time, though he huffed and puffed, Jimmy couldn’t raise the bar even an inch from the floor.

“Come on. Muscles,” Fabe said, “really try.” Jimmy managed to lift the barbell two inches. Then he keeled over and lay gasping on the floor. The camera kept clicking.

“You three next,” said Fabian.

Bobbie, Judge and Junior stripped to the waist and soon they, too, were grunting and groaning and lifting. For more than an hour they kept at it, with Max insisting. “Not natural. Not believable. More weights.”

Laid out for a layout

Finally the Fabulous Four were stretched prone and panting on the floor. Fabian looked down at them and said, “Not bad for a start—now get up and shower. He wants to take some shots of you eating dinner.” He took them aside and said, “You boys make Max feel at home—pick up his dinner check and get him a room near ours. Pay all his bills. He’ll expect it.”

At dinner Max ordered a bottle of imported wine, a shrimp cocktail, a special steak, cherries jubilee and brandy with his coffee. When the check came the boys winced, but they pooled their money and paid it.

“He didn’t take pictures of us eating,” Bobbie whispered.

“He’s an artist, don’t push him,” Fabe said. “Did you get him a suite?”

“We got him a room.”

“Won’t do, he’s used to the best.”

That night, after the show, Junior and Judge were taking two girls out on a double date. The photographer grabbed two of his cameras and joined them.

“You mean he’s going to be with us the whole time?” Judge wailed.

“It’s his job,” Fabe explained. “Relax and enjoy yourselves.”

“With him photographing every move we make? Thanks,” Judge said.

Next lunch, Max did take shots of them eating. But not before he’d packed away a mammoth meal himself, for which the boys got a mammoth bill.

Fabian was along again as supervisor, but nothing seemed to go right. The boys ate a huge plate of spaghetti and meat balls apiece, but Max wasn’t satisfied with their expressions. Along came four more orders of spaghetti and meat balls. The boys ate more slowly this time, while the camera clicked.

“What do you think?” Fabe asked.

“Not natural enough,” Max replied. “They’re eating too fancy. Like high society. Not down to earth enough. Let’s try once more.”

Four more plates of spaghetti and meat balls arrived. Jimmy looked sick. Judge mumbled, “No more, I can’t.” Bobbie and Junior were too full for words, they just gazed pleadingly at Fabian. But he remained firm.

“Start eating,” he said, “and this time be natural. Sloppy.”

They started again.

“Think you got something?” Fabian asked Max.

“I’m not sure,” he began, but the Fabulous Four didn’t wait to listen. They squeezed out of their seats, again pooled their money to pay the check, and hurried into the fresh air.

That night they all returned to South Philly. Max stayed overnight at Jimmy’s house. In the morning, Fabian made the rounds and woke them all up. He started with Jimmy at 5:30 A.M. “Gotta take advantage of the early morning light,” he explained. “Essential for mood shots.”

“Mood shots?” Bobbie asked, wiping the sleep from his eyes. “What kind of mood shots?”

“Sexy. Glamour shots. Romantic portraits,” Fabian explained. “Come on. We’re meeting Max in the park.”

For three hours Max and Fabian put the Fabulous Four through their paces. Bobbie posed for a thousand pictures with his lower lip jutting out like Charles Boyer’s. Fabian sprayed water on Junior’s face to make him look “rugged and rain-swept.” Jimmy, under Fabian’s direction, ran around a field three times so he’d pant like a dog and look “passionate and breathless” in the camera. Judge lay in the grass with a dried leaf in his teeth to produce what Fabian labeled an “earthy effect.”

The hecklers heckled

By noon every kid in the neighborhood was packed in the park. They heckled, cheered, laughed and cackled as The Fabulous Four went through their paces. Fabian stood on the side chatting with old friends and signing autographs for his fans.

That night Max took the train back to New York, promising to send them some “contacts” as soon as the pictures were developed.

“He’s a nice guy,” Judge said. as Max’s train pulled out.

“Nice but expensive,” Jimmy added. “I’m beat. Let’s go home and hit the sack,” Junior said.

“Bed at 8 P.M.?” Fabe asked.

“To you it’s 8 P.M. To us it’s 4 A.M.,” Bobbie said. “Good night.”

On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday the Fabulous Four asked Fabian if he’d heard from Max yet. He hadn’t. On Thurs- day he said, “It’s here—the picture.”

“Whadeye mean, the picture?” Judge protested. “Pictures, man, pictures.”

“One picture is all,” Fabe said. “And there it is, boys.”

Propped on a table was a huge enlargement: Jimmy with three shirt buttons open and his hair hanging in his eyes; Bobbie with his Iower lip curled to show his teeth; Judge lying in the grass munching on a dead leaf; Junior looking like he’d been hit by a hurricane. And in the foreground—Max. Or rather, Max’s back.

“What’s Max doing in the picture?” Bobbie spluttered.

“He’s in because I took it,” Fabe said softly. “From the sidelines. With a box camera—while you were all busy posing.” “But all the shots Max took? What about them?” Jimmy screamed.

“They didn’t come out.”

Didn’t come out!” Junior screeched. “Why? He took thousands!”

“He had no film in the camera.”

“What kind of a photographer is he?” Bobbie yelled.

“Boys, please,” Fabian grinned, “I’m not deaf—remember?” He flopped on his bed and rolled helplessly with laughter. When he could talk he said, “Max isn’t Max—he’s Sam. He’s no photographer—he’s a drummer. But he’s out of work, so he sure enjoyed your hospitality.”

“Hospitality!” Judge cried. “That robber! Of all the dirty tricks. . . .”

“Oh, I don’t know,” Fabian said. “I’ve heard of dirtier.”

They stood eye to eye, the Fabulous Four glaring. Finally Jimmy said, “Okay, Fabe—we’re even. Now can we have that picture?”

“No. I think I’ll send it to Photoplay,” Fabian answered. “Make a good full-page spread. Very revealing.”

Jimmy snatched the photograph and began to tear it. Junior, Bobbie and Judge helped. Soon it was ripped to tiny bits.

“Glad I have the negative hidden,” Fabian said calmly. “Come in handy if you guys step out of line again. Right now I’m thirsty. Send down for a double cherry shake, no mouthwash. And when you pay the bellboy, give him a good tip. I have a feeling you guys will be paying for a lot of things from now on.”


Fabian’s next is “The Longest Day,” 20th.



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