Margie was supposed to be getting ready for school, but instead she was sitting at her vanity, examining the pin on
her sweater. On her bedside table, the needle on her record player scratched along to Buddy Holly’s “That’ll
Be The Day.” She hummed along to the song, pulling her hair into a high ponytail and tying it up with a pink ribbon.
The night before, Jimmy had taken her to a dance at the Surf Ballroom and pinned her in front of all of their friends.
For permission to go, seeing as it was more of a concert than a dance, she had to do twice the amount of chores and get straight
A’s on her quarterly report card, but all of the hard work and studying was worth getting pinned and being able to see
Buddy Holly sing in person.
“Margaret-Anne, if you don’t hurry you won’t have time for breakfast before school,” Mrs. McKinney
called up the stairs. Margie straightened her pin, grabbed her books, and pushed the needle off of the record before hurrying
down the stairs to the kitchen. As she sat at the table, her father asked her about her night out with Jimmy.
Before Jimmy came to work for the summer at Mr. McKinney’s hardware store, Margie wasn’t allowed to go
on dates. However, after only three weeks working at the store, Jimmy became the only exception. Jimmy had work ethic, good
grades, and an interest in stocking hammers and plungers. Margie quickly caught on that the only way her father could possibly
think any more of Jimmy was if he became a member of the family and she knew exactly what he was hinting at when he said Jimmy
was the kind of boy who would take good care of a family.
Margie had resented her father for assuming she would just marry a boy who never talked to her at school or when she
occasionally stopped by the store on her way to pick up groceries for her mother. It wasn’t until the last week of summer
at Frankie’s Soda Shop that Jimmy came up to her and asked if she would like to share a banana split with him. Margie
could still remember the smile on her father’s face that afternoon when she and Jimmy pulled up in his father’s
1957 Chevrolet Bel Air. Now, her father was very pleased to see Jimmy’s pin on her sweater.
The beeping of a car horn outside signaled that Jimmy had arrived and was waiting. Margie grabbed her books, pulled
on her coat, gloves, and hat, kissed both of her parents, and rushed out of the house. She noticed the newspaper sitting on
the stoop and knelt down to pick it up and bring it in to her father.
“C’mon, Margie, we’re gonna be late,” Jimmy called out from where he was holding open the passenger
door. Margie forgot about the paper and hurried to Jimmy’s car. As she got closer, “Chantily Lace,” flooded
her ears. They smiled at each other as she got in and buckled her seatbelt. As Jimmy got in on the driver’s side and
drove off, Margie turned up the volume and sang along with The Big Bopper. Jimmy
just shook his head and laughed, taking her hand in his and holding it for the entire ride.
Once at school, a group of girls crowded around Margie in the hallway, commenting on how beautiful the pin was and
how cute Jimmy was, while Jimmy stood by her side and held her books. Margie had never seen such a big deal made about any
of her classmates getting pinned, but she loved the attention and by lunchtime every girl in her class had asked her about
the dance and Jimmy.
At lunch, Margie and her friends sat together and chattered excitedly about how amazing the dance was the night before.
It was all they had talked about for weeks and now that it had happened, they were even more excited and had much more to
discuss. Susie, Margie’s best friend, was convinced that Ritchie Valens had winked at her and all of the girls laughed
over how funny The Big Bopper had been.
As the students piled into Miss McGillicuddy’s Geometry class after lunch, Margie could see the frown on their
teacher’s face. Miss McGillicuddy always greeted them with a smile and the rest of the class seemed to quickly catch
on that something was wrong. They settled into their seats, quieter than usual. Miss McGillicuddy didn’t move for a
few minutes after the class had sat down, then she reached behind her and picked the newspaper off of the desk. Margie wondered
what could have possibly happened that would put Miss McGillicuddy in such a bad mood and focused her attention on what her
teacher was about to say.
“Mr. Jackson has decided to dismiss everyone from school early today.” The class exploded into cheers and
chapping, but Miss McGillicuddy still wasn’t smiling. She raised her hand to silence the class, and when they were once
again quiet, she turned the newspaper so the students could see the cover. “Last night there was a terrible plane crash
that killed everyone on board, including–”
“No!” Margie could see the picture of Buddy next to the picture of the wreckage before Miss McGillicuddy
even said his name. She could no longer hear or feel anything. She slid out of her seat and onto the floor, her skirt flowing
out around her. The room dissolved into a long black swirling tunnel. At the end of the tunnel was the picture of the wreckage,
flashed over by images from the night before when Buddy smiled at her while singing “Maybe Baby.” Then, the tunnel
swirled closed and blackness surrounded her.
When Margie’s eyes opened, she was no longer in Miss McGillicuddy’s Geometry class, but rather laying on
a cot in the nurse’s office. She looked at the Miss Johnson, the school nurse, opening her mouth to speak, but the old
nurse tried to shush her. Margie just shook her head and ignored her. She needed to know.
“Is it true?” Margie asked. The words came out almost as a whisper. She was hoping the nurse would shake
her head and tell her it was just a terrible daydream and send her back to class, but she didn’t. Before the old nurse
could even respond, Margie could feel the shivers running down her spine.
“I’m afraid so,” Miss Johnson said, helping her sit up. Margie could feel the tears burning the backs
of her eyes as the nurse told her that everyone else had left and Jimmy was waiting to drive her home. Margie just nodded
as she stood up. She made her way to the door and her body still wavered with every step. Jimmy was sitting on the bench outside
of the door. He jumped up and took Margie into his arms while nodding to Miss Johnson’s instructions to take Margie
straight home and let her rest.
In the car, Jimmy kept the radio turned off. They were talking about the crash on every station and Margie didn’t
need to be more upset than she already was. Margie curled up under Jimmy’s right arm, choking out sobs into his chest.
Every few minutes Jimmy pulled her a little closer, assuring her that everything would be all right. Margie knew, however,
that nothing with be all right or the same again, not when such young and talented people could perish so quickly and painfully.
Margie’s parents were standing in the doorway when Jimmy pulled into the driveway. Jimmy helped Margie up the
walkway, then Mrs. McKinney took her upstairs to put her to bed while Mr. McKinney invited Jimmy in, told him he looked starved,
and made him a ham and cheese sandwich.
When Margie woke up a few hours later, she had to blink a few times before she realized that she was now in her bedroom.
Again, she thought the whole day was a bad dream until she pushed the blankets aside and saw she was fully dressed. She went
over to her vanity and sat down, thinking of how just that morning she was admiring her pin in the mirror. Now, her reflection
looked terrible. Her face was red and puffy and her ponytail of rich chestnut hair was pushed to one side of her head. She
pulled her hair out of the ponytail and began to brush it in the darkness. With each brushstroke through her tangled hair,
more tears spilled out of her eyes.
After getting all of the tangles out of her hair, she slid on her shoes and went into the bathroom to wash her face.
The cold water took her out of her daze, but did little to soothe the soreness of her puffy red face. Once all of the old,
streaked makeup was washed away, Margie went back to her room to put more on before going downstairs.
Margie clung to the railing as she made her way down the stairs. She saw Jimmy was still over and sitting on her couch
with her parents. He looked up at her and stood up. Her parents noticed Jimmy stand and looked up at Margie, then watched
him cross the living room floor to the foot of the stairs.
“Everyone is going to Frankie’s,” Jimmy said. Margie looked at her father, who nodded his head in
approval. Margie really didn’t want to go see everyone at Frankie’s, but she also didn’t want to sit around
her house and have her parents ask her every five minutes if she as all right. Instead, she put on her coat and hat and followed
Jimmy out to his car.
Unable to sit in complete silence, Margie turned on the radio. Just as she assumed all of the DJs were talking about
the crash. Jimmy shook his head, reaching to turn the radio off, but Margie grabbed his arm to stop him. He looked at her
as though he was going to protest, but then pull away. They sat without speaking for the entire ride to Frankie’s, doing
nothing but listen to all of the reports on the crash.
Frankie’s parking lot had more cars in it than it ever had. It seemed as though every teenager in town was there.
The only places to park were in the back behind the dumpsters, so they had to walk all the way around the building to get
to the front door. Through the window, Margie could see that the soda shop was filled with all of their friends. She held
onto Jimmy’s arm, wishing she had decided to stay home.
“Can we not stay for long?” Margie asked quietly. Jimmy looked at her and nodded. He pulled her close and
kissed her forehead.
When Margie and Jimmy walked into Frankie’s, the first thing she noticed was the quiet. No one was talking and
the jukebox was unplugged, its lifeless cord laying curled up beside it. In the four years that Margie had been coming to
Frankie’s, the jukebox had never been turned off or unplugged.
Jimmy led Margie over to the booth where all of her friends were sitting and all off the girls scrunched in closer
to make room for them. There was a basket of cold french fries sitting in the middle of the table that everyone was staring
at, but not touching. Margie took a fry from the basket and ate it slowly, taking tiny bites at a time. She had no desire
to eat, but the pains in her stomach were reminding her that she hadn’t eaten since lunch.
“It was everyone’s plan to come down here, but no one has said a word for hours,” Susie said after
Margie just looked at her and thought, What do you expect them to say? She looked around at all of her friends
and regulars at Frankie’s mourning over the deaths of Buddy, Ritchie, and J.P. and realized that the era that had started
just under five years before was coming to an close that also marked the end of her childhood.
In a few months she would be graduating and by the end of the summer her father would be talking about marriage with
Jimmy. She predicted her life to be just as her mother’s had been: having no real freedoms outside of the home, being
given an allowance like a child while not being allowed to get job, and what she viewed as the worst, having to raise her
daughters to sacrifice more than her sons.
She looked over at Jimmy, wondering if he was destined to turn out exactly like her father or if he was capable of
being different. He noticed her staring at him and smiled slightly, asking her is she was feeling all right. She just nodded,
wanting so badly to ask him all of the questions she had.
“You look like you’re going to be sick, are you sure you don’t want me to take you home?” Jimmy
asked again. Susie chimed in that Jimmy was right, and that Margie shouldn’t be out after the fall she had earlier that
day. Margie just shook her head. She didn’t want to sleep through the end of her world, but Jimmy was pulling her up
from the booth.
“I don’t want to go home,” Margie cried as Jimmy buttoned up her coat and pulled
her hat on her head. Susie climbed out of the booth and hugged Margie, assuring her that she would feel better in the morning.
Margie just shook her head, but then allowed Jimmy to walk her out to the car.
Margie sat in with her head rested on the window, watching the snow fall outside. Jimmy didn’t
say anything, and Margie knew her display of emotions at Frankie’s had probably scared him. She wanted to apologize,
but her anger wouldn’t allow it. She couldn’t believe that Jimmy was worth an apology until she knew he felt just
as strongly as she did on certain things.
“Would you allow me to go to college and get a job if I wanted to?” Margie asked, breaking the silence.
Jimmy looked at her, raising an eyebrow. Margie just stared at him, and then repeated her question. Jimmy still looked confused,
so Margie added, “Well, would you?”
“Is this why you’re so upset?” Jimmy asked. When Margie didn’t respond,
Jimmy shook his head and added, “I’m not you’re father, Margie. You know that.” He reached across
the seat and took her hand in his. Margie sat quietly for the rest of the ride home, thinking hopefully about all of the positive
changes that could possibly come out of the death of her era.