Nobody slings a yo-yo like Benny James. Behind the back, through the air, between his legs, suspended at a hundred and twenty-degree angle, he’s sold out arenas nationwide wowing and kapowing audiences with his yo-yo. But still there’s a hole in Benny’s heart. He just can’t get over the girl who got away. And no amount of fame, fortune or after-hours masked crime-fighting will ease that pain. But as Benny navigates his weird world he learns life really can be like a yo-yo. Sometimes it’s up, sometimes it’s down, and sometimes it smacks you right in the face.
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Chapter one is offered as a free sample below…
Tuesday, September 20, 1988
Henry James was a pencil pusher. No, he didn’t sell pencils to math addicted children. He was an accountant for Friendly Bank. He double checked the balances and debits and it wasn’t exactly how a young Henry would have pictured his life at 56, but it put food on the table. And without Henry none of this story would be possible. Eventually Henry will take some pride in that fact.
But on this day, Stan Friendly, the president of Friendly Bank saw Henry wasn’t radiating his usual bliss. Stan walked toward Henry’s desk and commented, “You’re looking a bit down in the dumps.”
“Am I? Sorry, Stan.” Stan Friendly was the type of boss who liked to be addressed by his first name.
“No, I’m the one that’s sorry, Henry. What’s got you so down?”
Henry spoke into the light reflecting in his boss’s shiny forehead. “I’ve had a lot on my mind. It’s mostly my son. He graduated from college a couple months back and he moved back in with us. I thought we could help him get on his feet, but it’s been three months and he hasn’t done a thing. Nothing. Just watches TV and plays with his yo-yo.”
“Yo-yo? Like the toy? That’s not a pornographic reference is it?”
“No, no Stan. He’s not a deviant. He’s just got no ambition.” Every word hurt so much for Henry to say. He had such high hopes for his boy.
Stan took a deep breath, a signal that let people know he was thinking deeply. “Is your son good with the yo-yo? Does he know any tricks?”
“He better. He spends all day playing with it. Why?”
“Just an idea. See, ever since Phil and Murray were nabbed by the Feds, I’ve wanted to improve the bank’s image. I’m sick of Friendly Bank being thought of as the bank with Vice-Presidents who launder money. Now I got a plan, but your son had better be a heck of a yo-yo man.” Henry didn’t have time to ask what the idea might be because Stan continued, “If he’s good we can book him for assemblies at the schools. He’ll work a say-no-to-drugs message into it and we’ll hand out yo-yos at the end that say ‘Friendly Bank says no to drugs.’ The community will eat it up. What do you think?”
Henry thought he better keep his opinions to himself. But it could get Benny out of the house. “I’ll ask him tonight.”
“You’re not doing anything important, are you Henry? Go get him now.”
And with that Henry left his air-conditioned workplace to see what his son was doing at one o’clock in the afternoon. Henry imagined his son perfecting his technique. Maybe one day Benny could be a motivational speaker? CEOs from across the nation would send their junior executives to hear Benjamin James spread wisdom with his yo-yo. Just like the magician at the accountants’ conference motivated Henry last April.
But Henry was disappointed yet again. Instead of Benny preparing for a lucrative career of inspiring capitalists in the Tropics, his son was blasting loud rock n roll music while munching on a bucket of Crackerjacks. Henry couldn’t put into words how let down he was that his son wasn’t playing with his yo-yo. He sat next to Benny on the couch. Benny turned his head and asked, “Dad, why are you home so early?”
Henry turned off the music. “Benny, go shave and shower. I got you a job interview with Mr. Friendly.”
“Right now? But I don’t know what to say.”
“Get cleaned up and put on some nice clothes and I’ll tell you exactly what to do.”
Benny followed his Dad’s orders. He soaped up, dried off, combed his brown hair into a sharp part, put on clothes and clipped a bow tie under his chin. He greeted his Dad with a “What am I supposed to do?”
“You’re going to shut-up, smile, and wow Mr. Friendly with your yo-yo tricks.”
A quick drive and the father and son were back at the bank. Both of their hearts were shaking with nervousness. In the bank’s lobby they saw Mr. Friendly chatting with a patron. Mr. Friendly made sure to smile and wave at Henry and Benny as they walked towards him. After laughing at a client’s attempt at a pun Stan walked over to his accountant. “Henry! So this is your son. Hi, I’m Stan Friendly.” Stan said as though they were never tied together in the three-legged race at the company picnic a couple years earlier. Stan put out his hand to shake. Benny took out his hand too, but not for a traditional handshake. Instead he lassoed Mr. Friendly’s hand with his yo-yo, they shook and with a flick of his wrist, the yo-yo released Stan’s hand and returned to Benny.
Tellers stopped counting money. Kids stopped licking complimentary lollipops. Henry James wanted to know where his kid learned such awful job interview skills. Everyone was too shocked to talk but Stan Friendly. “That was amazing. Do you know any other tricks?”
Without a word Benny James pulled out half his repertoire. Around the world. Walking the dog. Rock the cradle. Sleepers. UFOs. All the easy tricks. But the applause was tremendous. A kid asked Benny for his autograph. Benny’s little league coach when he was a kid patted his back. Stan Friendly wasn’t a fool, he grabbed Benny leaving the audience wanting more. He took the father and son into the safety deposit room.
“Young man, how would you like to perform every Friday afternoon right here for a hundred dollars a show?”
“I’d love to, sir.”
“I haven’t finished yet. What’s his name Henry?”
Benny answered for him. “It’s Benny, sir.”
“Don’t call me, sir. Call me Stan. I’m also having you give inspirational speeches at the elementary school. I golf with the principal. He’s always looking to book people for assemblies. I’ll pay you $150 for the assembly. What do you think, Benny?”
“Sounds like a dream come true.”
“Don’t start waking up yet because I’m not done. I’m thinking world tours, tv specials, and maybe even a major motion picture.”
“Are you joking?”
“Tell him, Henry, do I ever joke about politics, religion or making money?”
Henry chimed in, “Never, Stan.”
Stan continued, “You might not know this Benny, but yo-yos used to be huge. Kids all over the world had them spinning around their fingers. There’s just something about a yo-yo.” Stan said as he held Benny’s toy with reverence. “And all it will take is to watch someone like you to get all those kids now grown up to take out their yo-yos once again. Do you think you have what it takes?”
“Gee, I hope so.”
Stan palmed Benny’s yo-yo back to him with a handshake. They shook firmly as though a deal had just been struck. Then Stan let go.
“Well then Benny, go back out there and meet your public.”
Benny walked out with his yo-yo jamming. Stan whispered in his accountant’s ear. “Just you wait, Henry. I promise your son is going to be a star.”