A Child of the Fifties

by Paul Schroder

Chapter 9

My brother Billy was on a date, my parents were working and so it was my brother Dick who was stuck watching me. We were in the living-room, watching television. The commercial comes on and I ask Dick...

"Why are commercials so dumb?"

Dick's response... "Why are commercials so dumb?"

I nod my head in reply and say, "yeah, really."

Dick responds... "yeah, really."

Me, after a brief hesitation... "are you copying me?"

Dick... "are you copying me?"

I feel my face getting flushed. My brother is trying to get me flustered. He's probably hoping I'll use a word that get's my mouth washed with soap when Mother gets home.

"You better stop that, Dick."

Dick... "you better stop that, Dick."

A moment of silence while I gather my thoughts.

"Dick eats boogers!"

Dick... "Dick e..." silence.

Me... "Ha, ha, ha. Dick goes poopy on a plate."

My brother... silence.

Me... "gibber dibber snibble bibble ruggy buggy toot toot... ha, ha, ha."

Dick... "shut up, the commercial's over."

My Mother occasionally takes me to visit my Grandmother Schroder. That's Father's mother. She lives alone in a high rise apartment across the street from the Orpheum Theater. She's older than my GG, who is my mother's mother. And, she is very heavy set. She is also very boring to visit. She and my Mother jibber jabber while my brain slowly melts.

Grandmother Schroder isn't imperceptive, however. She sees me sitting there with a vacant look in my eyes and so she reaches for her purse.

"Here Pauly. Here's a dime. Go down to the corner and get yourself a comic book."

My synapses snap out a message to my brain telling my consciousness to return to a functioning level. I feel a grin stretching the corners of my mouth.

"Thank you Grandmother."

I'm outta there and standing in front of the elevator faster than you can say "rubber baby buggy bumper," which I cannot say... at all. When I get in, I'm the only passenger and I forgo punching all four buttons. The corner drug store has a huge comic rack and I'm antsy to get there.

Just my luck, I think. The grouchy bald headed druggist is in charge. He watches me from the time I enter the place. He looks at me like he expects me to steal the air I breathe in the store and not blow it back out again. But, oh well, whatever keeps him happy and busy.

I stand in front of the rack, scanning the comics. Although I'm not able to read yet, I know the names of all the comics. Surprisingly, I don't find a lot of interest in the super hero stuff. I like the cartoon ones the most. I like Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Bugs Bunny, Popeye and all the major cartoon characters.

I spot a new issue of Little Lulu and reach for it when the druggest says...

"This isn't a library. You don't read them here. Pick one, buy it, and take it home to read."

He says the same thing each time to every kid that reaches for a comic, unless, of course, they are with their parents. If the parents are shopping, their kid can plunk down in front of the wrack and read away. The druggist does a slow burn but keeps his yap shut.

His attitude just makes me feel ornery. I yell out...

"Eeewww... some kid musta had chocolate or poop on his hands when he was reading that one."

"God Dammit... you little rug rats are all potential plague carriers. If you got some on you, go wash your hands" and he points towards the rest room.

"Naah.. thanks though. It ain't that sticky and I guess it's just chocolate because it doesn't taste like poop."

I carry my Little Lulu comic over to the counter. He pushes slightly away from the counter as I walk up. All the while the druggist is looking at me like I might be another Typhoid Mary. I set my dime down on the counter, give him a big grin and then leave the store. I look at him through the picture window as I walk away and he's just staring at my dime. He's probably trying to consider whether he picks it up or pours bleach on it.

The rest of the visit goes just fine. I stretch out on Grandmother's rug and look through my comic. Maybe I can get Mother to read a bit of it to me when we get home.

I went over to Jimmy's house. He was able to come out today. Yesterday he was grounded. We're sitting on his steps talking and I ask him why he was grounded. He said he told his Mom he wished he was a dog. When she asked why he said "so I could lick my balls." Me and Jimmy just laughed and laughed.

"Did you really mean it?" I ask him.

"Nuh-uh," he says. "I heard it somewhere and just thought it was funny."

I thought about it for a minute. "Well, it was funny. I guess it just wasn't a Mom joke."

Later I told my brothers and they cracked up. Billy said he heard a joke like that once.

"It seems there was this young boy and girl sitting on a lawn. The girl's dog was nearby, licking its balls. The little boy sighs and says, I wish I could do that. The girl looks over to her dog and says... you could try, but he'll probably bite you."

My brother Dick exploded in laughter. I didn't get it. Why would the dog bite him if he saw the boy licking his balls? Billy had to explain it to me and then I thought it was hilarious.

I had my Roy Rogers outfit and Jimmy had an Indian Chief's headdress. He also had an impressive looking peace pipe so we decided one day that we were going to act out a peace deal between his Indian tribe and my cowboy tribe. Today we would say Native American, and rightfully so. But when I was a young'n, Roy Rogers or Davy Crocket would refer to them as Injuns.

His mom had some bean poles from the garden she'd planted the prior year. I held the poles together while Jimmy wrapped some ropes around them near one end, making a bundle of about six. They were tied close to that one end so we could spread the poles out into a tepee shape and the rope would hold it together. It worked beautifully.

The next part really got Jimmy into trouble the following day when his mother found out about it. It left Jimmy's butt as red as a cherry tomato. She had hung two large sheets on the clothesline to dry. We borrowed them to use as the hides covering our tepee. They worked swell.

This solemn occasion required I put on the chaps as well as my twin six gun holster. I added a long sleeve shirt that looked kinda cowboy like. Then, besides my cowboy hat, I finished my outfit with a scarf around my neck like Roy Rogers wore. The scarf was one of my Mother's. I thought I looked like I'd just stepped out of a movie screen. Jimmy thought so to.

Jimmy went all out too. He stripped down to just his underwear, then he tucked his t-shirt into the front of his Hanes to look like a loin cloth.

His folks had a barrel out back to burn trash in. Most of us did in those days. The barrel had some partially burned sticks in it. We used them as charcoal to put zig zags on his chest and two stripes on his cheeks. When he put his headdress on he looked pretty realistic. Of course, I don't remember seeing any red haired, freckled Indians in the movies.

This was fantastic. We were totally dressed for the part and we had a tepee to boot. We got on our hands and knees to crawl through the opening we'd left in the tent. Jimmy crawled in first. The leg holes in his Hanes were all stretched out so I could see his wiener. I started to sing the Oscar Meyer song and Jimmy hushed me. We wanted this to be a very formal occasion. We climbed inside and sat cross legged in the center, facing each other and sitting ramrod straight. We were nearly knee to knee.

Jimmy picked up his peace pipe that he'd filled with tobacco from one of his mother's cigarettes. He handed me a book of matches he'd purloined from his mother's supply so I could light the pipe. It was too long and cumbersome for him to light on his own.

He just kind of puckered his cheeks to draw the smoke outa the pipe. This way he could draw smoke into his mouth without inhaling it. This is something we learned from the cigarettes we had stolen and tried in the past.

We both kept a straight, dignified face as he raised the pipe into the air before passing it over to me. Putting the pipe up to my lips, I had a chest spasm which caused me to draw the smoke into my lungs.

Okay, let me tell you about that pipe... The bowl was carved from a corn cob and the stem was a thin length of bamboo. The burning tobacco quickly got the cob burning and the tobacco and cob together was producing some pretty pungent and potent smoke. I managed to draw in a goodly amount of smoke along with some liquid tars that instantly coated the inside of my mouth.

Recalling it sometime later, Jimmy said my face got this real surprised look and turned completely white. I was coughing out small puffs of smoke like the "Little Engine that Could." The white on my face only lasted a few seconds until I quickly turned a greenish color. My face then just twisted up in disgust and kerboosh... I threw up my lunch and breakfast in one tremendous heave.

Well, since we were facing one another, Jimmy was the inevitable target of my stomach's disapproval of cob smoke and tar. He wasn't about to be outdone though... oh no. I had just primed Jimmy's pump, so to speak. Jimmy launched a payload right back at me that hit me square in the face.

My system was already on overload. My mouth tasted like the La-Brea Tar Pits and my lungs were on fire. This just amped me up so that I was able to launch another partially digested load at Jimmy. And I'll be darned if he didn't reciprocate once again.

Finally, Jimmy just fell over to his side and then rolled over to his hands and knees. His face was a mixture of tears, snot and... well, you know. He just slowly crawled out of the tent. I was right behind him. He was gasping and gagging and, all together, was one sad little creature to behold.

I don't know what recess of my brain dredged up what I said next. As he was crawling out I said...

"So, you give up then... ya damn Indian?"

He stopped crawling and looked over his shoulder at me, surprise written all over his face. He looked at me for a few seconds, then his face screws up and he starts laughing and hiccuping. He rolled over on his side and just laughs and laughs. I was howling and gagging right beside him.

He finally settled down and, with a more serious expression, said..."damn you Paul. You guys always cheat the Indians."

Mom made my brother Billy hose me down in the backyard both with and without clothes before I was allowed inside. My cowboy hat was never stain free after that. Father said it just made me look like a working cowboy. Humph... how many cowboys work in a puke factory?

Jimmy showed me how red his bum was the next day. He wasn't doing much sitting down. His mother also had to throw his headdress away. I guess turkey feathers don't wash very well. He said I owed him a new headdress because I puked first.

Me and Jimmy and Barry were leaning on our bikes at the end of the street. We were by the end house on the block where the old couple had lived. They passed away, minutes apart about two weeks ago. Their kids had a for sale sign on the house the day after the funeral. Our Moms said it was scandalous. That didn't stop them from going to the estate sale though.

And now, the new buyers were moving in. It was only a moving truck parked on the street and three movers. No people had driven up or anything. So we tried to determine if there were any kids or not by the stuff they carried inside.

"That's a big assed bed so that's the parent's bed" Barry said.

"If they are parents," Jimmy ads. "What if it's more old people."

"That might be all right" I add. "Maybe they would pay us to shovel their walk in the winter or mow their lawn."

Jimmy looked at me. "I can't mow the lawn. I can't push the mower."

I could understand the dilemma, I shared it. I didn't know anyone that had a power mower in those days. They were all the old fashioned push jobs.

"I know..." I say, as a light flashes in my brain. "We could hook a pull rope to the front and one of us could push and the other one pulls."

"You guys are nuts," Barry says. "As soon as your folks see you've figured out how to mow a lawn, you'll have to do your own first before you do anyone else's."

"Ewww," Jimmy responds. "We'd have to do three yards."

The topic switched though as soon as we saw a second bed being carried inside.

"YES" we all shouted at once.

"Hold on..." Barry says. "We still don't know how old he is. He might be a teenager and be a butt hole."

Jimmy hocked a loogie by way of commenting. He's still practicing though and he got some on his knee.

Barry points at Jimmy's knee and laughs.

Just then a car pulls up into the driveway at the house.

We stop gabbing and are watching like hawks. A couple gets out of the front seat and the lady pulls her seat forward so someone can get out of the back.

A leg and arm swing out, then a whole person.

"It's a GIRL!" we echo one another.

She looks to be about Barry's age, maybe seven or eight. Shortish brown hair not quite to her shoulders. At least she's wearing pants though instead of some flowery foo foo of a dress. She sees us and no smile or anything. She follows her parents up to the house. The parents go inside while the girl turns around and looks at us again. She raises both hands and gives us the middle fingers before going inside.

Three jaws drop.

Barry says "I ain't never seed a girl give the finger before."

Jimmy grins and looks towards me. "I'll bet she can kick Barry's ass!"

Barry looks at the two of us and says "I sure hope she don't try. I ain't allowed to hit no girl. I'd have to let her whoop me or else my Ma would kill me."

Well, the next morning is Saturday and I'm watching cartoons on the television. I'd just finished a bowl of cereal. Mom was in the kitchen peeling vegetables. She put her head part way out the window and I can see she's talking to someone.

"Yes," she says. "The blond boy does live here. Do you want to come in and visit, sweetheart?"

Cartoons are completely forgotten. There is a sweetheart outside that is asking about me. "What the heck???"

Mother turns to me and says, "Paul, turn off the television and go outside. Your new friend is here to see you."

I do it but I'm totally confused. I don't have any new friends. Oh wait... I told a bully named Craig that he could come over and play with my toys. I bet it's him.

I open the door and step out onto the porch and feel my eyes try to bug out of my head.

It's that new girl! She's sitting on the bottom step. She's sorta half turned to look up at me. She pats the step next to her and points to it. I follow my unspoken orders and sit next to her.

"My name is Samantha, but I want you to call me Sam," she tells me. "I'm seven. How old are you?

I swallow and then say, "I'm Paul, and I'm six and a half."

She nods her head and says, "I don't like girl stuff. I climb trees and throw rocks and I wrestle and spit. I even know how to pee standing up!"

For some reason that last part was important to her. In actuality though, I'd never thought about a girl's pee arrangements one way or another. I'd assumed they stood up to pee just like guys do. So it just sounded like a weird thing to say. But I'd started to warm up to her because she didn't talk like a girl.

I cup my hands and lean in close to one of her ears. I mumble something low so my Mother can't hear it if she's listening."

Sam grins and leans close to me and whispers, "fuck, shit, piss, cock, ass, cunt!"

My eyebrows arch up and I grin. "Okay" I tell her, "you pass! Let's go get my friend Jimmy. He'll think of some stuff for you to do too."

I tell her to wait in the backyard in case Jimmy's little sister, Suzie, might see her and want to play dolls or something. She steps around the side of the house.

"Hey Jimmy," I holler at the door. "Come on out."

I hear a chair scrape somewhere in the kitchen and footsteps make a quick trot over to the door. Jimmy opens it and says "gimme a minute. I gotta rinse my bowl and spoon."

He closes the door so I go around the side to Sam. She's grinning and her face has two dimples in the center of her cheeks. Her cheeks have a healthy red glow because I think she plays outside a lot. I grin back. I never liked no girl afore, but I'm starting to like Sam.

I hear the door slam and Jimmy comes sailing full blast around the corner. He skids up short when he sees who's standing there with me.

"This here's Sam and she's here to fight," I tell him, just as we planned. Samantha punches her fist into her hand a couple of times.

Jimmy's eyebrows shoot up. He looks at me, wondering, I guess, why I'm helping the enemy. He backs up a bit and is about to turn around and zip back to his front door again.

"Wait Jimmy. We're kidding... we're just kidding. Sam just wants to be our friend."

Jimmy kind of cocks his head sideways and looks at her. "Sam?" he repeats.

"It's really Samantha but she don't like being called no girl's name."

I turn towards Sam and whisper... "tell him what you told me."

"Fuck, shit, piss, cunt, cock, ass."

Jimmy grins at her. "You got a bike?" he asks.

"Yep" she says.

"Go get it. You get yours too, Paul. Let's go riding."

We spent the day showing Sam the three or four block radius that we considered our neighborhood. She got the lowdown on who lived where and who it was good to know. Oh, and Jimmy thought up his initiation for her. I said Sam had claimed she could piss standing up. Well, he had a sister so he knew about girls.

He looks at me and asks, "did you know girls always sit to pee?" I shook my head no. "It's cause they ain't got no wiener," he says.

"Okay, Sam, prove it!" He challenges.

Prove it she did, and proved it well. She pissed further than Jimmy. She's our newest bud.

Good news. I'm not gonna make you prove anything, except that you know how to write. Send me an email or I have Sam kick your butt!

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