A Child of the Fifties

by Paul Schroder

Chapter 17

Samantha's Dad dropped us off at the skating rink. Her mother gave her a whole five dollar bill to pay our way, rent me n' Jimmy's skates and buy snacks for all of us. We can only skate until 5pm when they close the rink to get ready for the evening crowd. They charge more for admission in the evening so there are fewer younger kids then. That's the time the adults and older teens prefer to skate. But that works out really swell for us cuz the older teens get real bossy and adult ladies are always telling you to 'slow down' or 'act your age.'

It's not even noon yet so we've got lots of time to skate. Mister Humphreys went inside with us. He said he wanted to check it out and see if it was something they could do as a family one evening. He was telling us, on the ride over, about how he would take Sam's mother on ice skating dates before they were married. Samantha looked at us and winked and then told her Dad... "I didn't know they had skates in the olden days." That didn't set so well with her Dad. Then Jimmy laughed his high pitched Jimmy laugh and said... "I didn't know they had ice in the olden days.... hahahaha!" Mister Humphreys just shook his head and grinned.

Remember how I said there was a guard fence that went around most of the skating area? This blocked off the skate rental and seating area. A little further down, the fence protected the snack counter and eating area. Well, me n' Jimmy was putting on our skates, sitting next to the guard fence and facing the skating rink. Samantha was taking our street shoes over to a locker and Mister Humphreys was standing next to us boys. Just then a boy, about nine or so, came flying across the rink straight at us. His eyes was big and he looked a little panicky. He didn't slow down one bit as he neared the fence and the look of panic on his face sorta tripled. Me n' Jimmy leaned way back cuz we expected the worse. There wasn't time to jump out'a the way.

Well, the boy hits the fence at his waist level and kind of grabs the top rail at the same time. This caused him to flip head over heels and land on his butt on our side of the fence. All the chattering around us came to a stop as people just kinda got used to what they was seeing. He looked so pathetic sitting on the floor that people giggled and tried hard not to laugh at him and embarrass him any more than he was. He looked at me n' Jimmy all red faced and said... "what ever you do when your skating, don't fart. It blasts you like a rocket ship!"

Me n' Jimmy just howled. Samantha's Dad shook his head and grinned. We know he was just joking cuz I've farted a lot while skating and it didn't push me any.

Samantha skated over to us as the kid was picking himself up and she reached down a hand to help him up. He kinda looks her over and grins. "Thanks" he says. "I'm Mickey. I think you go to my school." His eyeballs keep dancing around, checking her out and it's starting to piss me off. Before I can say anything though, mister Humphreys says, "okay, glad you're fine Mickey. Now these youngsters are skating together." In other words... buzz off.

"Oh, okay Sir. Glad to meet you." And he heads towards the gate that goes back into the rink. I think Samantha's Dad saw that boy's dancing eyeballs too and wasn't too happy about it. This made me pause to actually look at my friend Samantha.

Now Samantha had been just plain ol' Sam to me n' Jimmy for quite awhile. We were able to treat her like one of the fellas and, really, that's the only way we would consider getting close to her. Real he-men don't take to no girls. But Sam wanted to be treated as a boy and that suited us just fine.

Lately, at least since school started, she's decided she wants to be a girl again. So Jimmy n' me are giving her a trial run at it. We still ain't all that happy being seen with no girl but we keep forgetting that Sam, I mean Samantha, actually is one. Jeeze... she's even wearing dresses and stuff.

So I look at Sam, trying to see her the way that boy did. Of course she's wearing a dress again. Why you'd bother to wear one when skating makes no sense to me. Jeans is way better. And her dress is super short and has a bunch of frilly petticoats. She said it was a skating costume. I figure if you're gonna wear a costume, make it Superman or Flash Gordon. So, the dress is red like her skates and she has this little red bow in her hair. She actually looks real nice but I ain't gonna tell her that. For one thing, Jimmy would pop me in the arm.

Well, Mister Humphreys chased Mickey away before Samantha got a chance to tell him her name. I gotta feeling Mickey'll watch out for her on the floor. I think me n' Jimmy outta go check this guy out. Sam told us she likes boys and we ain't gonna let any ol' dirtbag hang out with her, or us, for that matter.

I look up at Samantha's Dad and he has a frowny face. I think I know what he's thinking. And I don't think he came in here to check it out for a family night. He sees how nice his daughter looks in her 'costume' and this place is filled with boys... older boys to boot. Poor guy, I'm thinking.

I crook my finger at poor ol' George and he bends down to hear what I have to say.

"Not to worry, Mister Humphreys. Me n' Jimmy ain't gonna let no bad guys anywhere near our Samantha. We know the owner of this place and he can kick some real butt!"

That earns me a pat on the shoulder and a nod. He calls Samantha to his side.

"Listen honey. I want you three sticking close to one another all the time you are here. If anyone gives you a problem, Paul here knows who to tell, okay?"

"All right Daddy. I've seen a few kids from my class here to so I'll be all right. Don't worry, okay?"

"Well," he says, "if I had an extra two or three daughters kicking around to take your place, I probably wouldn't be so concerned. But you can see my quandry can't you?" And he gives a forced chuckle.

Then Jimmy pipes up with, "if you had two or three extra daughters you'd only see Paul n' me when we came by to throw rocks at your house!"

Mister Humphrey's chuckle changes from forced to a real laugh and he shakes his head at Jimmy. He's kinda adopted me n' Jimmy cuz he doesn't have no boys of his own. I think he was even sorta happy when Samantha was being Sam. But that's only because he feels so protective over his little girl. Before he leaves he gives me n' Jimmy an extra two dollars each and says "take care of my little girl, boys."

Well, the three of us push open the gate and slip onto the skating rink and do a slow, outside traverse around the rink. I can see Sam is a little wobbly on her skates yet. She's only had them for about a week and has been practicing on the sidewalks at home with me n' Jimmy.

Jimmy slides up next to her and says... "take your time, Sam. Just skate until you're relaxed. That's what Paul had me do."

"Okay, Jimmy. It gets a little easier each time we go around. I already see how easy it is to turn by leaning in the direction I want to go."

I'm just watching Samantha and Jimmy. But I'm mostly watching out for that Michael guy. There are a ton of kids here today, even more than last time we skated, so he could be almost anywhere.

And of course I miss him altogether as he pulls up to Sam, on the opposite side of her where Jimmy's skating.

"I really didn't get the chance to thank you for not making fun of me when I landed on my butt earlier. So.... thank you!" He tells her this while skating alongside and smiling real friendly like. He quick turns and is skating backwards so that he can face her while he talks to her. Show off! This lasts about 5 seconds until he collides with someone and lands on his butt again.

Samantha keeps going because she hasn't learned the art of stopping quick yet. She has a surprised look on her face though. I know I only have a minute or two until she makes the circuit around the rink and comes back to the accident site.

Jimmy continues on with Sam, and I stop by Michael. He sees me standing next to him and he reaches out a hand so I can help him up. But, instead, I bend over him to say, in private, "me n' Jimmy might be smaller that you, but the two of us together can kick your butt. You better be super nice to our friend Samantha! Don't be thinking of no sex business."

I was kinda nervous and shaky after saying this cuz I knew this kid was big enough he could have popped me in the jaw while I leaned over him and sent me flying. He didn't though. He just sorta smiled at me, picked himself up and said "I ain't a bad guy, kid. I get good grades and I'm polite and I don't hurt nobody. I just want to be friends with you guys cuz I don't know nobody. We just moved here."

He said that real honest like and I believed him. I said "my name's Paul and my friend is Jimmy. You met Samantha already."

Jimmy and Sam came by after a trip around the rink and Sam says "are you okay, Michael?" I replied, "Michael was embarrassed because he's kinda klutsy, but he's okay."

Samantha grinned at him. "I'm new at skating too. Do you want to skate awhile with me and we can practice together?"

"Gosh, yes, Samantha. Ummm. Michael looks over to me and asks "Paul, are you guys gonna skate with us?" Sam gives me a barely noticable shake of her head and I say "nah, me n' Jimmy are going to the snack bar." Sam smiles at me. And the two of them skate off side by side.

I get a punch in the arm. "What for did you say that for?"

"Ouch... Jimmy!" And I rub my arm. "I got a secret signal from Sam that said she wanted to skate with him."

He gets a serious frowny face and says "I didn't see no signal. What kind of signal?"

"Oh for crying out loud, Jimmy. She fell to her knees and kissed the guy's weeny. How's that for a signal?"

Jimmy's eyes pop open like I'd just attached a blood pressure cuff to his neck. "WHAT?" And a couple seconds later his skates slide out from under him and he's on his butt laughing like a hyena. He laughs for the longest time and, of course, that sets me off too.

The two of us left the rink for a bit while we spent a little of the money that Samantha's dad gave us. We both had a banana split with vanilla and chocolate and strawberry ice cream. It had strawberry syrup on the vanilla, chocolate sauce on the strawberry and marshmallow on the chocolate. There were also sprinkles, nuts and a cherry! It was huge and we spent an hour eating it. (Later that evening we both got into trouble when we didn't eat any of our dinners.) But, oh man, it was worth it at the time.

Stuffed and slow, we entered the skating arena once again. We had watched Samantha the whole time and she was having a great time with Michael. They announced 'couples skate' and me n' Jimmy didn't even hesitate, we held hands and continued around the track. I purposely took us by the seating area, looking for more bullies. I had spotted the owner of the rink sitting at his desk and so I felt empowered.

There weren't many kids sitting down though. Most of the guys my age had grabbed their best friend's hand, like me n' Jimmy, and were skating. This made me feel good. Us younger kids didn't feel all constrained to act macho like we would when we became teenagers. But in the 50's there were strict lines drawn between the sexes, between what was permissible and what wasn't. I am thankful for the freedom I had to move around outdoors as a 50's youngster, but I'm glad society has progressed and it's possible for kids to be themselves today, and not hide in the closet.

Me n' Jimmy spend a little time with Michael and find he's a nice enough guy, even if he does like girls. He's in the 4th grade and goes to our school. Sam is in the 2nd grade and I don't think her dad would be too thrilled about her having an older boy as a friend. But, our new friend Michael was still a ways away from puberty yet and so his friendship with Sam was honorable enough. Give him a couple more years though and his trouser snake would start taking over his thinking.

A week later we were watching an Our Gang comedy, which was one of the shorts at the Saturday matinee. Chubby was making out with a cardboard cutout of some movie star and said, "Darling, can you hear the plea in my whispers?" His little sister, listening in, answered..."Yes, I hear the fleas in your whiskers!" Oh Lord... I spit Root Beer outa my nose on top of a little girl in the next row up from us. I didn't mean to, I just took a sip at the wrong time. Then Chubby said "If love is like a rose, I'll pick my rose as a bud." His sister chimed in with, "If love is like a rose, I'll stick my nose in the mud."

Me n' Jimmy n' Samantha was just laughing our butts off. Of course every kid in the theater was. Then Chubby said, "My heart is filled with joy, I wanna trip and dance." His sister repeats..."My heart is filled with joy, I want to rip my pants." All us kids was hysterical! Only one kid wasn't, it turns out it was the big brother of the little girl in front of me. He's kneeling on his seat and looking back at me.

Oh oh! This isn't going to end well, I gulped.

I had filled my shirt chest pocket with napkins at the snack counter and I grabbed a couple and reached up to dab the back of the little girl's hair. Her brother slapped my hand away.

This didn't set to well with Samantha. She rose up and got nose to nose with the kid and said "he was just trying to show he was sorry. What are you, some kind of a bad ass bully?"

Bully or not, the kid backed down. No macho man would ever consider fighting a girl. Especially a girl that talked like she figured she could kick your ass!

He says, "just let him know there will be hell to pay if he spits on her again." And he turns around.

I was actually feeling bad that I'd spit my Root Beer on the little girl's head. I leaned across her seat back, on the opposite side of her brother, and whispered, "I'm really sorry I got Root Beer on you. It wasn't on purpose."

The girl actually got up on her knees and turned to face me. "I know," she said, "I'm not mad. You were just laughing."

She sees Jimmy and her face lights up. Oh my Gawd... this is the little girl from our class that has a crush on Jimmy.

Jimmy recognizes her. He kinda goes slack jawed and looks a little panicky. He's starting to slide down in his seat. There is an empty seat next to Jimmy and this girl just swings herself over her seat back and lands in the vacant seat by my friend. Jimmy looks at me as if to say "help me, help me, help me." Which I would have gladly done for him but I was entirely to busy laughing my rear end off.

I whisperingly explain who the girl is, to Sam, who gets a big grin. She leans across me and whispers to Jimmy... "Jimmy and a girl, sitting in a tree, k-i-s-s-i-n-g!" That earns her a double barreled finger from Jimmy, of course.

The girl's big brother is looking a bit panicky at this point. He was obviously appointed protector by their mother when they went to the movies. Now his little sister has defected to the enemy. Is he gonna have to fight some bad ass girl to protect his sister's honor?

The poor guy's swiveled around in his seat with his brows all furrowed and his eyes darting back and forth between his sister, Jimmy and Samantha.

I take pity on the guy and lean into him. "Don't worry. Gloria is in our classroom at school and her and Jimmy are friends. But Jimmy ain't all that cozy with girls yet so if you called your sister back it'd be okay."

The boy nods his head and tells his sister "you better get back over here or our mother's gonna hear about it."

She gets a frowny face and slaps her arm rest, and tells her brother "tell our mother, I don't care. Jimmy's my friend and I'm sitting next to him. Then she gives Jimmy a kiss on the cheek, leans across me and tells Sam, "see... we aren't even sitting in a tree."

Jimmy's the color of a ripe tomato and me n' Sam are giggling and chortling. Oh my God! Oh poor Jimmy!

She has that vapid, empty look on her face again as she stares up into Jimmy's face. She just seems to swim in emotion. Samantha looks at her and goes "oooh, isn't that sweet?" Jimmy's head snaps towards Sam's direction and his look seems to say "sweet my ass!"

Meanwhile, the girl's brother is peering over his seat back towards Sam, then me, then Jimmy as if to send a message of pure gratuitous violence. He looks at the boy that his sister is swooning over and tells him, "don't you even think of kissing her back."

Samantha reaches over his seat and places her hand on top of his head. "Hey, big brother," she says, "can't you see your little sister has feelings for this boy? He doesn't even LIKE girls yet, so it's not his fault at all. I"m pretty sure your sister is safe."

"Humph... well, she better be." His implied threat fades out as the next cartoon begins. Poor ol' Jimmy is stuck with a girl for the rest of the matinee. I don't help any cuz when he looks in my direction I just wiggle my eyebrows at him." Finally he hollars out "I gotta pee" and he gets up and dashes down the aisle. I figure I might have teased him a bit too much so I get up and run behind him. I catch up to him in the men's room.

"Jeeze, Jimmy. She ain't gonna bite you or nothin. Why you gotta be scared of a little girl? Pretend she's your sister. You already did that once."

"Yeah, but my sister never whispered in my ear that she wants us to kiss! So what do ya think a them apples?"

I thought about that development for a minute. "Well, even if she kisses ya it doesn't mean you gotta kiss her back. Look how many time Patches has given ya kisses and you never kissed her back."

"Dang it, Paul. Patches doesn't kiss me, she licks me. And if this girl licks me I'll deck her."

Well, long story short, Jimmy survived and didn't have to kiss or lick anyone. The girl's brother patted Jimmy on the head and said he could see he was a good kid. "At least you didn't spit up on her!" And he sorta gave me the evil eye. But, it was another successful day at the movies.

How have you managed to hold out for so long without emailing us? callmepaul@graffiti.net.

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