Monday, February 7, 2011
It began the day before when Robbie West said he had something to show me.
Robbie was a key figure in most of my childhood mishaps. The Evel Knievel incident, the Knickerbocker Toy Factory debacle, and of course, the Courtship of Debbie's Hooter. He was a nice enough kid, but trouble seemed to find him and he was always eager to share it with the rest of us.
"Whatcha got?" I asked.
"Check this out." He showed me a ball-point pen. But it wasn't just any pen. This pen had a picture of a gorgeous bikini-clad hottie on it.
"Cool," I said.
"Wait, there's more." Robbie turned the pen upside down and the bikini disappeared! The chick was totally naked!
In today's world, a nudie pen would be no big deal whatsoever. Any eight-year-old with a computer and moderately clueless parents can pull up all sorts of sexual debauchery with a couple mouse clicks. But in 1973, a glimpse of boob was a lot harder to come by.
"Where'd you get that?" I asked.
"Swiped it from Stop-N-Shop."
"Trade ya for it."
When the haggling was done, I'd obtained the nudie pen for my Nerf basketball set and five pieces of Bazooka bubble gum. I thought I'd gotten a great deal.
Didn't really work out that way.
My first mistake was taking the pen to school with me. I was eight, what did I know? I tucked it away in my desk, hidden safely in my pencil box. No chance of the teacher finding it.
And then came my second mistake. I took it out to lunch with me and showed it to Gordon Wackerman. Why I chose Gordon is a question that perplexes me to this very day. He was in my class, but he wasn't a particular friend of mine. In fact, most kids didn't like him because he smelled bad and picked his nose a lot. But for whatever reason, I walked over to his lunch table and sat down.
"What do you want?" he asked, digging for another nostril nugget. Gross.
"Lookit what I got." I showed him the pen, and demonstrated its magical powers. Curiously, Gordon didn't seem all that interested. "Isn't that cool?" I asked.
"I guess so." He took a bite of his baloney sandwich, essentially ignoring me. This boggled my mind. What guy our age wouldn't be interested in a peek at a naked lady? That's Gordon, I guess. Captain Weirdo.
"Okay, well, see ya later." I got up and headed out to the playground for recess.
I was playing on the swings when I noticed Gordon talking to Brenda the playground aide. Their conversation lasted about ten seconds, and when it ended, Brenda headed my way. The booger-eater had ratted me out!
Brenda was a scary figure, as lunch ladies and playground aides tend to be. She weighed about two-eighty and wore way too much makeup. She looked like Humpty Dumpty with a wig. She gave me a withering scowl.
"Do you have something that you shouldn't?" she asked me.
If I'd been four or five years older, I would've snapped out a smart-ass reply. "Yeah, a pair of your daughter's underwear" maybe, or "a bad case of the clap, if you believe what my pediatrician says". Instead, the terrified and un-witty second grade version of me reached into my coat pocket and, without a word, handed her my stripper pen.
This was uncharted territory for me. When the recess bell rang, we all headed back to class. Kids were laughing and skipping, but for me it was more like the Bataan Death March. I sat down at my desk and started working on the cursive B's.
Mrs. Michaels hung up the phone and headed over to my desk. "Mr. Skyler wants to see you in his office," she said.
I walked down the hallway, picturing the horror that awaited me. Did they still paddle kids in school? I didn't know, but I had a feeling that I was going to find out, one way or the other. For sure my parents would get a phone call, which meant a severe grounding or worse.
I entered the main office and said to the secretary, "Uh, Mrs. Michaels said I had to come see Mr. Skyler."
"He'll be with you in a minute," she said. Was she smiling? What's THAT all about?
I waited in the reception area for what seemed like four hours. Suddenly, the door to the inner office swung open and with a thunderous explosion of flame and smoke, Mr. Skyler appeared. He stood about seven foot five, and wore a long black cape and derby hat. His eyes glowed red, and a thick green liquid oozed from festering sores on his face. When he smiled, his fangs sparkled in the fluorescent glow of the ceiling lights.
Or so it seemed.
"Come in and have a seat," he commanded.
I went in.
I had a seat.
Mr. Skyler sat down behind his desk, opened the top drawer, and took out a pen. MY pen.
"Tell me where you got this."
There were a lot of things I could've said at that point. I could've feigned ignorance. I could've said that I found it on the school bus that morning. I could've really given the story a twist and claimed that the pen was Gordon Wackerman's and he was just trying to get me into trouble.
I didn't say any of those things. When the cards were on the table, I panicked and turned snitch.
"Robbie West gave it to me."
I was eight years old, give me a break. I'm not proud of it.
Mr. Skyler then gave me a very stern and dignified lecture about how the human body is a wonderful creation, and that it should not be thought of as dirty, blah, blah, blah. To be honest, I wasn't really listening. I was too busy trying to keep my bladder under control.
The lecture ended, and he sent me back to class.
I sat by Robbie on the bus ride home. He got called to the office right after I did ("I have no idea how they knew you gave it to me," I insisted) and apparently received the same lecture.
"Did you get the pen back?" he asked me.
"No. Skyler probably kept it." Wouldn't have surprised me. He could've stashed it in the drawers with the skulls of former students and the keys to the school dungeon.
It was a long time until Robbie and I got anywhere near illicit nudie stuff again. If I recall correctly, it was fourth grade when he found his dad's stash of Playboys.
We didn't take them to school, that's for damn sure.