A Child of the Fifties

by Paul Schroder

Chapter 19

Monday seems to roll around pretty regularly and very quickly after a fun weekend. And you know what? Monday also brings another week's worth of school! I was struck with that realization as Dick dumped me out of my bed this morning.

"Get your ugly butt up boy. You're old enough to suffer along with the rest of us now."

I lay on the carpet that I was so unceremoniously dumped onto and give him the stink eye. It's a waste of time though, as he doesn't pay me any more attention. But it appears they woke me up late once again and I'm dashing about in order to get my face washed and get dressed with enough time left to eat some cereal before the school bus arrives.

I get maybe five big mouths full of cereal before Mother pushes my lunch sack into my hands and pushes me out the door.

The next thing I know, I'm sitting next to Jimmy as the bus carries us on our forced journey to knowledge land.

"Jimmy," I say, to him, "I don't think I like school."

"Okay," he responds.

"In fact, I don't like growing up at all."

"Okay," he responds.

"If we lived in the olden times we wouldn't even have to go to school."

"Okay," he responds.

I look over to Jimmy and his chin is pressed against his chest and he's close to falling back to sleep.

"Jimmy," I say, "Samantha isn't wearing any clothes this morning."

"Okay," he responds.

"And Michael took off all his clothes."

"Okay," he responds.

"Samantha is on her knees, kissing Michael's wiener." I state.

"Okay," he responds. "Tell her to use mustard. Wieners need mustard!" He expounds.

He turns his head towards me and says, "I may still be sleepy, Paul, but I'm not stupid."

I grin back at my friend and say "I'd probably use ketchup."

Jimmy looks out the window to see where we're at. Actually we're just pulling onto school grounds.

Next, he looks behind us to see how our friend Samantha is doing. Then he remembers she isn't on the bus today. Her mother has to bring her to school to talk with the principal.

The good news though is that Michael has made friends with kids his own age and is no longer buzzing around Samantha like a bee looking for some pollen. Good news, as far as me n' Jimmy are concerned, any way.

Samantha's father kinda hired us to watch over her and protect her from boys. We already accepted payment for the assignment, although we would have done it for free.

Samantha, through some feminine subterfuge, became friends of me n' Jimmy. She pretended she wanted to be a boy. And we could understand that. After all, who would ever want to be a girl? She even asked us to call her Sam instead of Samantha.

But she's back into her girl phase once again. Me n' Jimmy aren't willing to give up on her yet cuz "once a friend, always a friend." It was getting harder to keep our affection towards her though as she became more and more an obvious "her". I mean, let's face it, oil doesn't like water, and little boys don't like girls!

But I had made a sort of deal with Samantha's father. Like all fathers, he is worried about people taking advantage of his little girl. I told the man that me n' Jimmy would look out for her and he accepted that and was really, really grateful. (He even gave the two of us two dollars apiece to seal the deal!)

I figure we have earned our payment as Michael, being two years older, seems to lose interest in Samantha. I don't know how this make Samantha feel, but I really feel relieved!

The bus sets its brakes... "Chuufff." And the door swings open. Kids pile out to stand in front of their individual classrooms. Me and Jimmy are about the last ones to line up for Miss Sweeny's classroom. She taps everyone on the top of the head as we finally march into the room. She counts "one, two, three..."

We go through a reading exercise that I find rather boring. I was anxious to learn how to read so that I could read my comic books. This was incentive to really forge ahead in this area. Mother's been helping me. But in class, as we take turns reading a Dick and Jane book, my imagination turns towards my comics and the latest episode of Scrooge McDuck.

It seems that Scrooge was swimming in his pool of money and the Bowrey boys used a giant vacuum cleaner to empty out the pool. They flew away with his money in a big helicopter. So, Scrooge hires his nephew, Donald Duck to find his money. Big mistake there. Donald got into a fight with a rake he kept stepping on and it kept bashing him in the head and finally knocked him out. His nephews let him sleep while they found the money for Scrooge. They filled Scrooge's pool back up with millions of gold coins and he gives them each a dollar as a reward. No wonder he's a millionaire! And I guess the boys really aren't any smarter than Donald.

I swear, Donald is such a dumb duck. But my friend, Jimmy, can talk like Donald and it really "quacks" me up. Sometimes, when Missus Sweeney asks him to do something, he says "awwww... do I weally have to?" in Donald's voice. Everybody loves it except for Missus Sweeney. He's careful not to say it more than six or seven times a day.

My thoughts are interrupted by the teacher who says, "Paul, you pick up the reading from there, please." Whoops... I have no idea where we are in this exciting and absolutely riveting story about Dick and Jane doing absolutely nothing. So, instead of reading, I pretend I'm the public address system that the principal talks on every morning.

"Pshhhht... this is your principal speaking. We are having an extra long recess this morning. All students please leave the building. That is all... pshhhht."

Of course all the kids are laughing and a few are cheering, wanting to go outside now. Missus Sweeney just shakes her head, but at least she's smiling.

"Look, Paul," she says, "I know you've really gotten ahead of the class on your reading and what we are reading now is kind of boring. But, there are words in here I don't think you know yet, and I want you to pay attention to the story."

"Okay. Sorry Miss Sweeney. Where are we at?" Then I read...

"My, what a nice bike you have, Dick." I look up at the teacher to see if I picked the right line. She nods her head yes.

Jimmy whispers in my ear, "my, what a nice Dick you have, Bike."

I'm having trouble reading now because I want to laugh so bad at what Jimmy whispered to me. I glance up at the teacher to make sure she didn't hear him. If she tol' his mother what he said he'd get a whipping. I was really having trouble holding it together while reading out loud.

"Thank you, Paul. You can stop there. I didn't realize that this was such a humorous passage for you. Who would like to continue from there?"

She points at a girl and I hear Jimmy let out a relieved breath. He'd been holding in laughter too and was praying she wouldn't call on him.

Later, it's quiet time and we are all expected to put our heads down on our desks and rest for about fifteen minutes. But when you're six years old, fifteen minutes can seem like two hours and some of us were getting restless. You could hear kids rustling about, sighing and just bored to tears. And then there was Jimmy, sounding like a miniature buzz saw. Everybody took turns raising up to look at him to see if he was really asleep. A rather copious amount of drool said yep, he's truly in la la land. More than a few kids were giggling at him, including yours truly.

Jimmy had acted really tired on the bus this morning and now he's fast asleep. I'm wondering what the story is behind this. I'll have to quiz him at recess or lunch.

Anyways, our fifteen minutes are up and Missus Sweeney gently shakes Jimmy's shoulder to wake him. He snorts and sits up and everybody laughs and claps their hands for him.

He looks embarrassed and gives everyone the stink eye. The teacher hands him a tissue so he can undrool himself.... hahaha.

Recess time and "Red Rover, red Rover, send Susan over!" My team makes the chant and Suzy Stunman, on the other team, comes rushing towards us. All the kids on my team have our hands locked together to form a chain. If Suzy breaks through the chain somewhere then she gets to capture one of our players to take back to her team. If she can't break our link, she has to stay on our side.

This recess is what Missus Sweeney calls 'structured recess'. That means the whole class plays together and our teacher chooses the game. Most of us haven't played Red Rover before so she gives us instructions in the classroom. Me n' Jimmy were gonna team up, of course, but we got fooled. The teacher says the two teams both need captains and she choose Jimmy as captain for one team and me as captain for the other team. She's a pretty smart lady and I think she's noticed that the two of us tend to do everything together. She probably wants to give us the opportunity to shine on our own.

We just stared at each other, open mouthed. We'd always been on teams together as long as I can remember.

Jimmy gathers his team together in a huddle and I guess they're making plans. I dunno what to say to my team so I just yell out "kick some booty!" And everyone cheers.

So Suzie is rushing towards us and she's heading towards these two skinny girls. Wham... she breaks through their grip. She points at one of them and the girl follows her back to Jimmy's team. Now I realize what Jimmy was setting up. He has the weaker kids holding hands with the stronger kids to keep us from breaking through their line. My kids are holding hands with their buddies.

So, I start grabbing people and pairing them up and rearranging our line. Jimmy is yelling at me "too late, too late... you have to play the way you are!"

I keep arranging kids and yell back at him "tell it to the Red Rover police!"

At last, I have a strong line just like Jimmy's team. We play to the end of recess and never lose another player. But Jimmy's team doesn't either and they already have one of ours. That means they won the game. Grrrrr.

It's too nice a day to hold grudges. So, since it's warm and the sun is shining, the two of us are sitting outside at lunch time, eating the lunches our mothers had made for us.

Everyone brings a quarter on Mondays and that buys us a carton of milk for lunch each day for the five days of school. A pint of milk is just 5¢. I have my peanut butter, jam and potato chip sandwich and an apple. Jimmy has the same, because I taught him how good it is with the potato chips in it. He had a tomato instead of an apple though.

Mother puts the potato chips loose in the bag for me. If she puts them on the sandwich they're all soggy by lunch time. I put them on the sandwich myself. Of course, they are usually all busted up from the trip from home to the school. I just pour the chip dust outa my bag onto my opened sandwich. Voila... still crunchy.

Anyways, we were eating our lunch and I asked him why he was so tired today.

"My uncle Steven is visiting us and so he slept in my bed last night. I had to sleep with Suzie. I can't count the number of times she kicked me or jabbed me with her elbows and woke me up each time. Then she started smacking me a bunch of times in a row and yelled out, "get away from me or my brother will beat you up." Well, the punches really hurt, but I was kinda proud that I was her protector in her dream. But then I saw she was grinning and I knew she was faking it. She made up the dream as an excuse to smack me! I got up and went into the living room to sleep on the couch."

I thought about Jimmy's situation at home and realized I had it pretty good at my house. Sure, I had a bigger brother that picked on me but he couldn't do as much as he liked because our Mother would punish him. Poor Jimmy wasn't allowed to do anything to his little sister to get even. She'd tell their Mom and Jimmy would get punished. Yep, girls are just a royal pain in the tush. When I grow up, I think I'll just marry my dog, Patches, and raise puppies instead of kids.

"So, Jimmy, do you reckon Suzie's still planning on getting even with me for showing you her card cheating trick?"

"I dunno, Paul. You brought her an ice cream sandwich last night as a peace offering. Of course it would have helped if it hadn't been all melted."

"I tol her to just put it in the freezer and it would be just as good as new. She put it into a cup instead and ate it with a spoon. That's almost as good, ain't it?"

"I guess. It is to me. But then I ain't no girl. I heard my Mom tell my Daddy once that men think with their dicks! Maybe that's why we are just a little bit smarter than women. We got that extra brain!"

"I don't think so," I answered. "I heard Dick's girlfriend tell him that if he were to think with his head instead of his dick he'd be a fucking genius!

"By the way, I asked my father what 'fuck' meant and he said he'd tell me when I got older. So it has to be something bad."

Jimmy starts laughing like a hyena. "Maybe we should go ask my little sister. It's her life's work to find out about all that stuff. I think she knows more than even Sam does. And, I think my own mother has told her all this stuff! Mother won't tell me though, she says that's my Dad's job. But Dad says I need to be older. Jeeze Louise... my sister's five and I'm six; she knows stuff that I don't. Tell me that's fair!"

Jimmy's getting all worked up. We decide to go ride the merry go round cuz it uses less energy than kick ball. It isn't a real merry go round with horses and music. It's just a big round disc that spins in circles and has bars on it for you to hold onto.

We sit on the disc and sort of push with one foot to get a lazy spin happening. It's a way of doing sumthin' without really doing nuthin'. This lasts all of two or three minutes until a big fourth grader walks up and starts spinning the dang thing. He doesn't get on, he just grabs the bars and shoves, trying to get as much speed going as he can. The purpose, of course, is to get us two little first graders to come flying off and going for a tumble.

Well, this would probably work on most smaller kids, but me & Jimmy have been teased by some of the best. We can be pretty stubborn. So we both grab onto a bar and hold on for dear life. This kid looks like he's eaten more than his share of mashed potatoes and deserts and can probably put one hellacious spin on this thing.

Inertia can be a force to recon with. I would get my father to spin me around in circles by a leg and an arm when I was just a tot. He would spin fast so that he could raise me high into the air. Of course he was only good for a half dozen spins before he had to set me down to prevent his passing out and shooting me off like a shot put. Cigarettes and physical activity are pretty much like oil and water it seems.

Anyway, as our revolving speed steadily increases, the amount of muscle required to hang on increases in proportion. Now Jimmy is a really really stubborn guy. But, he's also has the physique of a string bean and the muscles to match. His legs start slipping.

"Hang on, Jimmy! You can do it." I yell.

In answer he just sort of screws his face up like he's trying to take the world's largest poop. Only it's his 'holding on' face. It doesn't work though as his legs fly out of the merry go round. He's stretched straight out now, body distended at 90 degrees but still refusing to let go!

Well, mister laughing dorf, who is propelling us, doesn't notice Jimmy's new position, extending some three feet out of the contraption. He only notices when Jimmy's legs and upper torso sail into him at about a billion miles an hour. Jimmy hits the kid at knee level and forces him to do a cartwheel and then a face plant. This is my cue to stick out one foot and start braking us to a halt.

When we finally come to a standstill, Jimmy gets to his feet. He'd never let go, not even during the collision. El Dummo, on the other hand, is lying on the ground groaning. He'd managed to do a 360 degree spin plus another quarter turn that had him plopping down onto his belly. Lucky thing for him that nature padded him so well. That prevented any broken bones but it couldn't stop his broken dignity. There were a chorus of laughs and 'hee haws' all around the playground. It seems that spinning little kids until they puke is a popular pastime of the older boys. So there were plenty of witnesses to this boy's unintended gymnastics.

This did not endear the guy to either of us and we would have future run ins with him on this same playground. That lasted until I mentioned his unwanted attention to my friend Craig, who's in the fifth grade, and he sets the kid straight. My brother taught Craig how to fight, so me and Jimmy are safe at our school. It's nice to have a variety of friends.

Thank you for all the great emails. That was the incentive I need to continue. I see myself writing slower but then I'm doing everything slower these days. No promises as to how long until the next chapter. Reach me at callmepaul@graffiti.net.

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