Mandel and Danny had no classes together, but they met every day for lunch. Mandel never took him to Harry's but instead to other places a little farther from school. Sometimes, when he had the use of his mother's car — a 1953 Chevy Bel Air, cream-coloured with green trim — Mandel would drive off to Morse Avenue and they would have lunch at the Ashkenaz Delicatessen. Danny had long since changed his Smokey Joe wardrobe, and now came to school, like everyone else, wearing Levis and a V-neck sweater over a white T-shirt. If Danny made any other friends at Senn, he never mentioned them to Mandel. Whenever he saw Danny in the halls between classes, he walked alone. The darkness of his skin, made even darker by his long summers on the tennis courts, made him a fairly exotic figure. Mandel once asked him if he wanted to meet any girls, and Danny told him thanks but he already had a steady girlfriend in his neighbourhood.
Danny's happiness at Senn wasn't a question Mandel felt he ought to ask. He wasn't sure he was all that happy at Crane Tech, either, at least he never spoke fondly about missing it. With a Filipino father and a white mother, Danny would always, Mandel supposed, be without any definable group into which he could easily slip. What went on in the classrooms was of less than minimal interest to him. At their lunches together, Danny and Mandel talked chiefly about sport, girls, offbeat places in the great city in which they had both grown up. He never rationed his marvellous smile; his walk had a natural spring to it; he had enormous cordiality. If Danny was unhappy, he kept it to himself.
When the tennis team held one of its autumn practices, Mandel usually drove Danny over to the Loyola El Station afterwards. One night, Danny had dinner at the Mandels' apartment, and that night he drove him home. Dropping him in front of his building on south Hoyne, he was reminded of the toughness of the neighbourhood in which Danny and his family lived. Mandel in those days had begun reading the popular novels of that day, many of them set in slums, The Amboy Dukes, A Stone for Danny Fisher, The Hoods, Knock on Any Door, books that, as he would later understand, eroticised the lives of the poor.
One Saturday afternoon in November, Mandel picked up Danny at his apartment. In the hallway, two mailboxes, sprung from their hinges, hung open. Unappetising food smells — cabbage, maybe — clung to the air. When he rang the bell, Danny came down, wearing a dark brown leather jacket, in which he looked great. He told Mandel that his parents were out back, and they walked around to the rear of the building, where Danny introduced him to his mother and father.
Danny's mother was hanging washing on a line in the concrete backyard. She was shapeless and not wearing any makeup. Her hair was stringy. She wore a gold cross over a housedress. She seemed worn-out, though she was probably then not more than 40. She said only that she was pleased to meet Mandel, and went back to hanging her laundry.
Mr Montoya, who was handing his wife clothespins, stopped to shake Mandel's hand with enthusiasm.
"Nice to meet," he said, in choppy English. "Danny tell all about you. How kind you are to him. His mother and I grateful for this."
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