Friday, November 30, 2018

Smell You Later

 “Guys, I need to warn you about something. Mom, I don’t want you to get mad,” My brother Wendell said one night at dinner. It was three weeks before the start of school and the team had just begun pre-season football camp. All summer, Wendell had been lifting and running and now a rising sophomore, he was looking forward to putting to together.
We stood in suspense. He was fifteen going on sixteen. Was he suffering from depression? Was it an academic issue from the year before? Did he get a girl pregnant although we never even saw him associate with a woman? Was he hurt?
“I am in camp and we are having a contest. So for the next few nights I will not be bathing.” Crickets chirped in our Western Pennsylvania Florida room as the dusk set around us. Our mouths hung open.
I said, “Wendell, you need to spend less time around those muscle heads.”
“Shut up April! You have no friends.”
Wendell was caked with mud, sweat, grass, and smelled terrible enough to be used for chemical warfare. My dad, still in his business suit in contrast to Wendell said, “Son, I am with April. This is pretty bad and you smell bad enough to devastate an enemy village.”
Wendell said, “You never support me! You wanted me to play football and now I want to fit in! Where is your sympathy.”
My dad said, “It falls between shit and syphilis in the dictionary. Now take a Goddamn bath.”
Skipper tried to play the peacekeeper. The ten year old sliver of a woman with strawberry blonde hair proposed, “Maybe Wendell needs to do this to make friends. Why don’t we try to be sensitive to his needs?”
I looked at the sprite, “Our needs are that we need to breathe.”
Skipper, who was well beyond her years said, “I realize that. But it’s also lowering his immune system against opportunistic infection. Give him a day.”
Shorty, our mom, sat silent during the proceedings. We nicknamed her that because she wasn’t even five feet tall. Wendell’s odor, which was getting worse by the second, wafted through the room. My dad held his nose and got up. My dad and brother bickered about his lack of willingness to bathe as Skipper and I laughed. This was free theatre for sure.
Wendell had the highest GPA on the team and dreamed of attending an Ivy League university. However, at this moment no one would have suspected it. As my dad made his exit Shorty sprung to life. She turned to Wendell and said, “No son of mine will win this stupid contest. You are done participating.”
Wendell said, “Stop ruining my life. All you do is ruin my life, Shorty.”
With that, Shorty took him by the ear and began to drag him. As Wendell yelped in pain she said, “You want to talk about life ruining?! I let you live in my womb for nine whole months and you destroyed my waistline. Then instead of coming out in nine months, you were nine months and two weeks!”
Skipper and I laughed as Wendell was dragged upstairs. He protested, “That’s not fair!”
“Not fair! It was 24 hours of labor, an emergency C,  and then I breast fed you and you sucked my beautiful chest away! Since before day one, you have been a dick ass!”
Wendell still in pain said, “Those things werent my fault!”
Shorty wasn’t having it, “And that's just what your ungrateful father would say.”
She let go of Wendell’s ear, took his foot, kicked him straight in the ass and he sailed into the bathroom door. Wendell had a look of defeat on his face. Shorty said, “Shower now or die!”
Whether Shorty knew it or not, she was a hero to the whole family. While her force was excessive, it was understood and warranted. The Brucker’s could breathe again.
The next day at camp, it was revealed that a vast majority of the team were disqualified from the contest as well as Wendell. To his pleasant surprise, this bonded him with his teammates who felt they were the only ones who were disenfranchised. And those that lasted an extra day because they had absentee or permissive parents withdrew when their girlfriends threatened to dump them.
One fellow lasted three whole days. It was Luccio Lazarro, who’s father owned the local pizza joint. A dirty and filthy sight, Luccio would have given any bum on the Bowery a run for their money in the stench department. At this point, Wendell was not only socially encouraged to shower, but necessary. As he said at dinner, “I am doing science fair this year. Maybe I could get a new bacteria off of him.”
However, Luccio’s reign was soon ended when the Coach Marzelle, a West Virginia native who was “all fired up” with a thick mountaineer accent, got a garden hose from the grounds keeper and said, “Boy, you have been stinking it up for far too long,” and then without warning sprayed him. Marzelle told the lad that he was to take a shower, run, and then shower again to make up for lost time. And Marzelle warned that anyone who refused to shower would be getting the same treatment.
From that day forward, Wendell bathed without argument. My brother learned a very important lesson though. Unless someone is paying your bills or your rent, you don’t need to do stupid things to get them to like you, especially things that endanger your health. Hey, it gets better.


Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Talk Dirty to Me (Poison)

When I was in 10th grade we went on a class field trip for some elective somewhere. It had been a long day since none of my other friends were in this particular class. The class was mixed with kids of all grades as it was an elective, so the array of people I wasn't friends with spanned all high school age groups. This was before the days of cellphones so I was not only alone but stranded without a companion to shoot the shit with.  For the first time in my teenage life, I wanted an excuse to go back to school.
Like Robinson Caruso, I was stranded without companionship on a bus that bumped along the hills and valleys of Western PA. I had to pee and had a stomach ache. To make matters worse, Bethany McKendrick was sitting behind me. How did I know? Aside from the inane high pitched voice she always doused herself in way too much perfume. The odor was so pungent it could have killed a small rodent.
I nicknamed the smell in my mind Cum Dripping Slut because that was kind of her MO. At the beginning of the school year she had blown several football players behind the bleachers only to be busted by a PE teacher. To say she had a reputation was an understatement. Bethany looked the role of town skank too. She always wore a spray on orange tan regardless of the weather. Then there was the badly dyed jet black hair, and when it wasn’t jet black it was pineapple blonde with the roots showing. Her clothes were always two sizes too small, and sometimes she looked top heavy and at other times her stomach poked out like the Pillsbury Dough Boy. Bethany always wore a frosty pink shade of gloss, which always made her look not only like she swung from a pole but got her paycheck in slimy quarters.
Bethany was the town skank and her family was equally as gnarly. Her dad was a bit of a womanizer who left his wife for his secretary. Mrs. McKendrick, not willing to take it lying down, burned his clothes on the front lawn. Always willing to skip on a bill, she tried to get my dad to represent her during the divorce. My dad said he didn’t practice divorce law, and admitted he would have helped her if she was anyone else but Betsy McKendrick liked free stuff and no thanks.
Bethany’s guidance counselor, taking pity upon the child, appointed my brother Wendell to tutor her. A scholar athlete who was doing his first year at Brown, Wendell tried to help his charge pass math. It was a lost cause as Bethany was hoping Wendell could get her dates with the football team. And when his only interest was helping her pull up her grades, she abandoned ship. But judging by her bleacher report, apparently she didn’t need Wendell anyway.
“Love you in that dress,” a familiar voice said. It was Chad Barker, the senior lacrosse captain. The dress was so tight anyone would suffocate but hey, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, right?
Chad Barker had also been tutored by Wendell. He had lasted slightly longer because he needed to be academically eligible to play lacrosse. Wendell lamented that Chad only had one braincell, whom he nicknamed Floyd. Chad also told Wendell he didn’t need to do math, he would make money on lacrosse. Oh what tangled webs we weave with the peroxide blonde hair and preppy clothes. Chad then said, “You know, Misty says I give the best head. Her clit gets real wet when I eat her out.”
McWhat? Was this his girlfriend Misty Davis? The Jesus Freak who bragged about going to Congo on a mission trip last summer, and who had dreams of converting the godless and would tell anyone who listened? The Misty Davis who wore a promise ring and led the prayer circle around the flag pole? The promise ring meant she promised to save herself, but it looked like a promise apparently broken.
“Isn’t she a complete Jesus freak?” Bethany was asking the question that had raced through my mind.
“Yeah, but those Jesus freaks are horny. She gave me a hand job during youth group.” Shiz! Then I remember Chad and Misty went to the same youth group. I didn’t understand the match up personally, as Misty wanted to do missionary work and Chad was just going because his parents made him. Then Chad added, “If I knew youth group would be this good I would have gone sooner.”
You and the whole world, Pal.
“This doesn’t sound like her. Misty is pretty serious about Jesus.” I had to agree with Bethany there.
“Yeah but those church chicks are off the chain. She fucked me when her parents were out of town in three rooms in their house and we even did it in their hot tub.”
Damn, The Book of Revelations suddenly had a whole new meaning. Now I had my popcorn and I was hooked. What was going to happen next. Bethany then said, “But what about the wet noodle effect?”
“What’s that?”
“Your dick goes soft in a hot tub.”
Chad said, “This dick didn’t go soft because 007 was on a mission. That’s the name of my dick.” I already thought lowly of Chad, but when I discovered he nicknamed his penis I thought even less of him. Bethany laughed with glee. Yuck.
Then he said, “But I am getting fed up with the youth group and God stuff. She wants to stop giving it to me. So I’m getting ready to dump her.”
And then as we pulled into school Chad said, “I really liked chilling with you today. Maybe you could come over next weekend. We won’t tell Misty.” I didn’t know what was worse, the fact someone like Chad Barker found someone to have sex with him. Or that in the end, a slut like Bethany McKendrick was about to win out. Either way, now I wanted to be off the bus because I was about to vomit for a whole new reason. If this was what it all came down to, I was okay dying alone.
This was not the end of this dramatic tale but the mere rising action. The next day, in the hall, on my way to my third period class, above the hustle and bustle of students talking, slamming lockers and gossiping, I heard a high pitched voice yell, “How could you lie! How could you lie about me!” The voice was all too familiar. It was Misty Davis!
Out of the corner of my eye I saw the familiar almond colored pony tail, stud earrings, and cross she always wore. She screamed, “You said you were okay with me saving myself! Instead you lie to everyone and say we were having the sex we werent! I HATE YOU!”
Tears rolled down her face. Chad stood there, his hands in his pockets. His one braincell Floyd was trying to get out of this one as 007 had clearly failed his mission. He said, “Baby, you know Bethany McKendrick likes to lie. She’s a real slut.”
This was a plot twist if I ever saw one. All this time I had thought Bethany McKendrick would do anything that walked. Apparently she not only had standards, but did the right thing by ratting this weasel out. At that moment I realized Bethany McKendrick wasn’t the slut, but in fact Chad Barker was.
“Maybe she strayed from God, but she’s been my friend since elementary school. She would never hurt me and when she told me what you said and did......” Misty burst into tears. This was as if we were on Springer and it was all going down. As her crying grew louder, the whole hallway stopped. Sure, Misty could be annoying but she didn’t deserve this. And the more the story unfolded, the more Bethany was a hero. I not only felt bad that Misty was shedding tears over the waste that stood before her, but I felt bad for judging Bethany so harshly.
“But baby…..”
“IT’S OVER!” Misty, who always said she spoke directly to Jesus and asked what he would do, closed her eyes, took a breath, lifted her right hand, the one with the promise ring, and took a swing. When they said turn the other cheek, they never talked about when the promise ring becomes a weapon and the Jesus freak has a wicked George Forman hook. Chad was knocked to the ground yelping in pain. There was shocked laughter, gasps, and even some scattered applause. While Misty preached the word of God, hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.
As Chad yelped, Mr. Donnelly came out into the hall. A stocky man who coached ninth grade football he said, “Alright everyone, get to class. The excitement is over.”
Chad, still down for the count said, “Mr. Donnelly, Misty hit me. Make her go to time out!”
Mr. Donnelly shook his head, “Son, I have been hearing you run your mouth all week about the action you aren’t getting. And you are lucky that this was all you got. If this was my sister, your teeth would be missing right now, Pal. Now get up and go to whatever class you are barely passing.” I had no idea if the God Missy Davis prayed to existed, but if there was any God/Godess/Diety, He/She/They hated the same things the rest of us did.
From that point onward, I made it my business to defend Bethany McKendrick against shitty rumors regarding her sexual behavior. Maybe she was more expressive and adventurous than the rest of us, but at the end of the day she didn’t hurt the people she cared about and there was a lot to be said for that. And I got to know her a little bit and yes, she was actually an alright person. It’s amazing how you make a friend when you stop being an asshole.
As for Misty, while her Jesus stuff still annoyed me I respected her for sticking to her guns about what was important to her, and that right hook is still emblazoned in my memory.
Chad hung his head low for the rest of the year and graduated by the skin of his teeth and went to play lacrosse at a small school. He would later flunk out because apparently this was too much for Floyd. After two years at Junior College, he went to some state school and graduated. He found some girl to marry him. Either her self esteem was low or he morphed into a subhuman who wasn’t brazen enough to nickname his dick 007. I hope he changed for his sake, I really do.
Misty went to a Christian college, met her husband and became a missionary. She’s still just as annoying and admitted to voting for Trump to “save the babies.” But she’s sincere which you got to give credit where credit is due. And maybe she is intense, but she truly does believe she helps people. I just hope she doesn’t become convinced she can go to a remote island and help people, but that might be her husband’s exit strategy if the right hooks become too much.
Bethany took her interest in tanning and hair dye, for better or for worse, and turned it into a business. She went to beauty school and now has a salon where she lives close to Harrisburg with her husband. She overcame a shitty homelife and the even shittier label of town slut. Maybe she needed to find her niche so she would stop hurting herself behind the bleachers with dudes who clearly werent worth it. And she is making the world a beautiful place and is making people feel good about themselves, just like she did with Misty all those years ago.
As for me, I am still a weirdo who listens in on people’s conversations. And now I just use them for blogs and scripts. Sometimes I judge people harshly, but these days I know it’s my shit that makes that shiteous behavior possible. We all grow up, and that process is gradual. Just like Bethany, Chad, and Misty were works in progress, I was one too. I still am.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Sweet Fantasy (Mariah Carey)

When I was a kid, I had the biggest crush on a guy I called “Senor Hotness.” It was because in my 16 year old opinionation he was hot and spicy. He had hair that was either dyed blood red or icy blue. He was tall, thin, and wiry with several piercings. Senor Hotness got his name because the first time I laid eyes on the most perfect man on the planet I was leaving Spanish class. When he walked by I thought, “Heaven Walks on Earth!”
When you have a teen crush, it means planning a massive future with a stranger you don’t have the guts to talk to. This meant I was marrying Senor Hotness, having his 2.5 children, and putting my future on hold to be the future Mrs. Hotness. What could possibly go wrong?
The man I created in my mind was utterly perfect. He loved history as much as I did, and didn’t think my dreams of being onstage with puppets and creating my own work were stupid. Like the characters in Felicity we would be in New York together making it happen, me with my writing and performing and him with a skill he would later discover.
Sweet, sweet fantasy baby.
I would feed my addiction to this stud muffin by walking past his lunch table just to hear him laugh with his friends. I would walk past his locker to see him socializing with his friends just to hear his voice. There was a shorter way I could have gone to class and the detour always made me just get in the door when the bell rang, but any time with Senor Hotness was worth it.
Then he got a girlfriend. That mutherfucker! He broke my heart. She had jet black hair, a nose ring, pale skin, and a banging perfect little body. They were always holding hands and sucking face by his locker. I prayed for her to be hit by a bus or taken out tragically. Or he would find out she was the tawdry tramp we always knew she was and Senor Hotness would come running into my arms. Then we could begin our love affair.
Each time I saw her, and I will call her Skankola McFee, I looked to see if there was anything wrong with her and painfully measured myself up against my perceived competition. I was blonde and gentlemen prefer blondes, right? Her skin was pale and made her look dead, but flawless. I had bouts with cystic acne. Her nose ring was probably a nuisance when she got a cold but she was cooler than me. And she had the perfect body and I struggled with my weight. I had heard Skankola McFee wasn’t on the advanced track like I was. So at least I was smarter than the tramp. But guys don’t care about that. They want it now and they want it easy and she was entrapping him with her feminine wows.
They say God does for us what we cannot do for ourselves. Senor Hotness was spending so much time socializing and was consumed by the face sucking going on by his locker that I guess he forgot to get his books because he was failing all of his classes and wasn’t set to graduate on time. And he got fired from his after school job, and this meant his ladyship had to pay for everything. That got real old real quick and she dumped him. And to top it off, I heard from other people that he had been a controlling shithead to her and that she was actually a sweet person. And the worst part was, when I finally talked to Senor Hotness was the biggest dufus ever. I had fallen out of love as quickly as I had fallen in.
After high school I forgot about all of them. I went to college, had actual relationships with losers that I sadly did not make up, and moved towards happy destiny in a life I carved for myself. However, facebook makes us all curious about parts of our past that we unearth at our own risk. So I decided to see what Senor Hotness and his old flame were up to.
His old flame was married with two kids and working as a legal assistant. She looked happy but strange without the jet black hair or nose ring, but I suppose motherhood will make you grow up. I felt bad about hating her with no basis for my hate, and regretted calling her Skankola McFee. We had been kids. We were all stupid. She grew up. The guy in the center of this struggle I had in my mind was no prize anyway. I was glad life seemed to be working out for her.
Then I went to the page of Senor Hotness. He is now living in Texas and is a member of a white separatist group. In one singular facebook post that began with, “White pride worldwide,” he used slurs against lgbtq people, immigrants, and blacks. And he even misspelled them too. What a charmer and a mind. Trump should give him a job. I also want to add that he had gained about 100 pounds and had a ZZ Top beard. Back in the day I could justify this idiot because he was Senor Hotness, but now he was as ugly on the outside as he clearly was within. 
He had two kids because as he explained, “I need to keep the white race going.” They were dressed in camo and looked like future school shooters. His wife was nondescript and you could tell she spoke only when spoken to and perhaps had a suggestion box when she needed to express grievances against her husband. Behind them the family had their Confederate flag as their father proclaimed liberals, “LOSERS!”
Well Sir, if you would have taken your books out of your locker you would have known Robert E. Lee had to surrender. And you would also know how to spell. Sigh, all of this could have been mine.
It always blows my mind when a young person cries about a crush or love affair that doesn’t work out. I know it feels like the end of the world, but it isn’t. If there could be a crystal ball to show the future and they could see stuff like this, they would not only embrace it not working out but they would celebrate. Alas, it does get better. But you got to go through it to get through it I suppose.