Art by Geoff Grahn
I was third in line the first time I ever actually "did it." This was 1970. I was 15. The girl involved was a plump, freckled nursing student named Sharon Schmidlap, a ponytailed barber’s daughter who lived with her parents three blocks from the small-town boarding school to which I’d been shipped and who had, apparently, been of special service to a select few of my schoolmates for a season or two before my own arrival in 11th grade.
"Who’s the Nervous Nellie?" young Sharon giggled, gaping up at me through gapped teeth while Number Two in line, a carbuncled Southern boy named Tennie Toad — on account of his Tennessee roots and his bumpy epidermis — humped away and turned his sizable head to wink repeatedly in my direction.
Number One was a boy named Farwell whose father’d been Ambassador to Turkey until Farwell’s mother found him hanging from a chandelier in the embassy banquet room. Rumor had it Daddy Farwell checked out in stockings and heels, and his mother’d slapped the body in a tux before the guards came. His son hadn’t said one way or another.
On account of he’d only just come back from Istanbul, where he met his bereaved mom and waggled smelling salts at her nose on a State Department jet, Farwell got the leadoff slot with freckled Sharon. This seemed like the least we could do. It took no more than a minute for him to do his job, and he didn’t take his khakis off.
As it happens, we were all of us fatherless sons. My father had stepped in front of a streetcar the previous spring, and Tennie’s died in a boating mishap when he was 9 and a half. "Before we could grab him, the sharks ate his calves," the toothy Memphis boy liked to say. "He was six-three in life, and five-two in the coffin. The bastard thought he was John Wayne, but we buried him like Mickey Rooney . . ."
When Tennie was done, or when I thought he was done, he hopped onto his knees, reached under Sharon’s ample hips and kind of flipped her over to her stomach on the wall-to-wall shag that covered the rec room floor. "This is what she laks," he giggled, in that half-screechy, half-cackling way he had, like Alfalfa from the Little Rascals, but grown up and nasty. "My gal laks a li’l bit o’spankin’, don’t you honeybutt?"
Before I knew what to make of that, Sharon gave a little coo, adjusted her pillow-sized nether-globes for maximum impact, and Tennie let rip with a meaty thwack to her left buttock. I was amazed, horrified, nervous, and sort of in love. Sharon kept whipping her head from side to side. Her chocolate brown eyes rolled back, so that the whites showed down to the bottom, reminding me of pictures I’d seen of horses in barn fires. She looked scared. She looked content. I thought my brain would leak out of my ears.
By the time Tennie rolled off of Sharon and onto the shag, her whole body had sprung a sheen, a glistening coat of sweat that made me think of supermarket chickens. Skinless and boneless. ã
I’d become so transfixed, when it was my turn I all but forgot I had to mount the girl myself.
Sharon wrapped a strand of mousy hair around her finger and ran it between her incisors, teasing. "Whatsa matter, Hercules, your pants glued on?"
I never even liked undressing in gym, and now I had to de-pants in front of two older guys and a girl who looked like she could eat me on toast. But I had to do it. I had to!
Without letting myself think about it, I took a deep breath. I fixed my eyes on the rec room TV, a Motorola with tinfoil balls wadded on each rabbit ear and a one-armed brass bowling trophy plunked beside it. That trophy began to speak to me.
Weird but true. I knew the thing was just broken. I knew that Sharon’s barber dad had probably gotten drunk after a tournament and dropped it stumbling out of his Pontiac. But still. . . It may have been the marijuana — we’d huffed a busload on the way over — but that trophy wouldn’t let go. "Look at this little bowler,"I thought to myself, "he’s got one arm, but he’s not afraid! He’s not ashamed! HE’S not going back to his room and sitting under a blanket. HE’S got a goddamn trophy!"
By the time I finished my crippled-bowler meditation, I was loaded for bear. I was finally hard, though not so much from the sight of Sharon’s spread pudenda as my own visions of handicapped tenpin glory. The noble feelings it instilled. I must, however, have looked like I was dawdling, because Tennie Toad stepped up and shoved me hard between the shoulder blades, right into Sharon’s saddle.
Amazing, the softness of her, the slightly tangy, slightly vinegary taste of her skin. But when I tried to kiss her, she moved her head so I got just a lick, a slurpy smush from below her chin up under her ear.