PASSING GRADE by Peter Nolan Smith

My older brother worked too much. Frunk had a big house on Milton Hill and I was in Boston to visit my father. Frunk was at his office, as were most lawyers in Boston on a weekday.

“Meet me at Durgin Park.” I loved their chowder.

“Can’t.” He sounded stressed.

“What about Jacob Wirth?” Their Bratwurst special cost $9.95.


“Then I’ll come see you.”

“I’m busy.”

His son attended an Ivy League school. The tuition for pre-med was astronomical.

“Then I guess I’ll have to settle for a visit from your son.”

“Franka’s coming to New York?”

“Yes, he’s a big fan of Taylor Swift and I got him tickets to see her on Saturday Night Live.”

The blonde singer was a country-western pop sensation.

“This coming Saturday?”


“His mother and I were planning on driving down to Philadelphia and he said he was studying.”

“Maybe he is.”

“No, he blew us off to see a singer with you. I can’t believe this. I’m working seven days a week, so he can going to New York. What is he thinking?”

“It is a Saturday and I think Franka’s in love.”

“He’s 18. How would he know love?”

“Taylor Swift sings love songs.”

My older brother blew a gasket and ranted at his son and me. I held the phone away from my ear, until his voice resumed a reasonable tone.


“I’m not blaming you, but Franka isn’t getting into medical school with a B in biology.”

“Maybe in the Philippines.” MY GP had received his medical license from Dagupan City Univeristy and he hadn’t killed anyone as far as I knew.

“I’m not paying for Franka to have a good time.”

“It’s just one night.”

“You’re right. Franka’s a big boy. He makes his own decisions, but I have to pay for them.”

I understood my brother’s temper tantrum. I supported two families. I ate left-over. More than twice a week.

“So what about Jacob Wirth’s?”

“Naw, I’m just going to wallow in misery.”

“It does love company. Last offer. Franka’s going to SNL. You’re coming to Jacob Wirth’s. I won’t take ‘no’ for an answer.”

“I’ll see you in 15.”

We spoke about our youth, eating bratwurst and drinking beer. Several lawyers were at the bar. We had a second beer. I had a third. My brother and I hugged outside on Boylston Street.

“I’ll make sure he gets to bed at a decent hour.”

“What’s the use?”

Later that evening I called Franka and told him about the visit to his father.

“Uncle Bubba, don’t worry. I’m doing fine.”

“What about your grades?”

“They are what they are. I’m trying my hardest.”

“That’s all I can ask from you.”

“See you this weekend. I hope you can introduce me to Taylor.”

“I’ll do my best.” I had graduated ‘sin laude’ from Boston College in the last century, but I could get into SNL to see Taylor Swift and that was the only passing grade I needed to make Franka a happy boy.

And bratwurst at Jacob Wirth’s worked wonders with his father.

As it does with any man.

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