December 18, 1955: 12:15 p.m.
On The Road: Dirty Words
For the past half hour, from the time they’d loaded the last of their clothing and what wedding gifts they were taking, and kissed and said goodbye to their families at the curb in front of the house in Skokie, Marsha had sat on the far side of the car saying practically nothing. As he drove, glancing at her now and then, taking her quietness as a sign of sadness because she was leaving home, respecting her silence, leaving Marsha to her own thoughts, Mitchell didn’t speak either.
Nearly nine hundred miles from Chicago to New York City, the trip would take them through the states of Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and into New York. Once out of Chicago they’d travel on a “super highway,” but would not pick a state turnpike until Ohio.
A cold day, the sky was murky-white, but the wind was minimal and, thankfully, there were no predictions of snow for this portion of the mid-west or eastern states.
Because it was mid-day on Sunday, traffic was light, and they were quickly on Lake Shore Drive, approaching the turn-off for Solidarity Drive, the road to the Adler Planetarium. “Hey, Marcie,” breaking the silence, “you want to stop for a while and fool around?”
“Huh?” Shaking her head, realizing where they were, moving closer, putting her hand on his knee, “Sorry, baby, I kind of drifted.”
Draping his arm around her shoulders, “Don’t be sad. They said they’ll be out to visit, and before you know it, we’ll be coming back. And just wait till you see the apartment.”
“Are you kidding, Mitch? I’m not at all sad because we’re leaving here! I’m so glad to be with you that I’d go anyplace!”
Glancing at her, “What’s the matter, then?”
“I’d rather not talk about it.”
“Hey,” insisting, “what’s the matter?”
“Okay. My mother knew I had my period, and of course she had to tell your mother, and knowing her, she had to make a joke of it, and now, not only your dad knows and my dad knows, but your brothers know, too, and by the time the day’s over everyone who calls to tell her they had a good time last night will know, and by tonight the whole world’ll know that I have my period and we didn’t… uh, sleep together! And that stupid story she had to tell about the guy that couldn’t, uh…”
“Get a boner.”
“Yeah! Get a… what you said… on his wedding night. God! Why’s she always have to try to be so funny all the time?”
Surprised by her vehemence, “Marcie, she didn’t mean anything by it!” Coming to the defense of his mother, “And I think you’re making a mountain out of a molehill. I really don’t think she said anything that terrible for you to be this upset!”
Looking at him, “You don’t, eh?” she said angrily.
Matching her tone, “No, I don’t!”
“Mitchell, you’re married to me now! Don’t you think it’s about time you started defending me, your wife?” Moving back to the far side, once again Marsha stared out the window, and once again they drove in silence, until…
Knowing it was about time to end this, “Holy smoke! That was just about the funniest thing that’s ever happened to me!”
Turning her face from the window, knowing it was about time to end this, too, but Marsha’s stubbornness not allowing her to say the first word, “What was?”
“What was? Jesus!” He laughed. “How’s about dropping about a million pennies back there! And we didn’t want to be conspicuous.”
Passing the “State of Indiana” sign, “Almost the funniest?” Marsha smiled her first smile in almost two hours. “What could possibly be funnier than that?”
Reaching to her, pinching the collar of her coat, urging her to sit closer, again placing his arm onto her shoulders, “Did I ever tell you about the time I blew up our kitchen?”
“No, I never heard that one… Really, you blew up your kitchen?”
“Yeah! Well, come to think about it, it’s only funny thinking about it now, because it sure as hell wasn’t too funny then!”
“Yeah, I’d guess not! How the heck’d you blow up your kitchen?
“It was back on the west side. I was, oh, sixteen”—in retrospect, knowing it was a really stupid thing to do, he did not want to tell Marsha that he was just weeks away from his seventeenth birthday—“and this shvartzer kid, his name was Junior Johnson, gave me a bullet…”
The story told, “You’re lucky they’d bought the house in Skokie, I’d’a killed you. That ain’t so funny.”
“Yeah?” Thinking a moment, “To look at me, Marcie, would you ever think that I’m probably the only person in the whole world that’s ever, uh”—using one of her words—“pooped on a bird?”
“You pooped on a bird?” Laughing, “You’re right, I don’t believe it.”
“It’s true !” Making the motions, “Cross my heart.”
“Cross your heart, huh? I still don’t believe it!”
“It’s true !”
“How’d’j’ya do it, then?”
Looking at her, smiling, “I’ll tell you when I get to know you better.” Considering, he thought he might tell her about the episode with Ina Dorfmann, but in order to tell that story he’d have to go into details that he was positive he didn’t know Marsha well enough to tell, either. There was also the time he fell in the toilet, in Hebrew School, but how to explain that?
“Well,” she said, “so far as I’m concerned, you still haven’t come up with anything funnier than the pennies.”
“How’s about you? Anything funny ever happen to you?”
Quiet, thinking of the loneliness of her childhood, and her life due to her mother’s mental ostracism of her from the time she was an infant right up to the time she’d announced her engagement to Mitchell, “No,” she said after a long pause. “Nothing too funny has ever happened to me.”
Sensing a newfound sadness about her, “Oh, yeah!” he came up with, “There was this time I fell out of a basement window.”
“Mitchell, how could anyone fall out of a basement window?”
“Oh,” grinning at her, “it wasn’t easy.”
At five-ten, almost five hours into the journey, inside the state of Ohio they stopped at a Howard Johnson’s Restaurant.
Finished eating, they used the washrooms, replenished the Ford with gas and were back on the road within forty-five minutes.
Nearly six o’clock, on the road for about six hours, it was becoming dark. Pulling the knob that turned the headlights and dashboard lights on, glowing a cheery, radiant green, now was the first time they had see seen the dashboard lit.
Warmly comfortable, with her legs folded beneath her, snuggling even closer, Marsha lay her head upon Mitchell’s shoulder.
Putting his hand onto her lap, she held it.
“You don’t ever swear, do you?”
“No, I guess not… Well, sometimes I do, when I get real mad.”
“Back at the hotel, when pennies were rolling all over the place, you did say damn or damned.”
“I don’t remember.”
“Well, you did! I heard you. You said damn or damned. But all those pennies had to be worth a fuck, or, at the very least, a shit. But only a damn?”
“I never swear.”
“Oh, yeah you do! I’ve heard you say much worse than that!”
“Oh, yeah? When?”
“Yesterday morning, in the car, you said fucking and fuckless.”
“Mitchie,” said good-naturedly, “you’re such a liar!”
“No I’m not! Really, you did say…”
“I did not… Oh, yes,” Remembering, “you said it first, and you made me real mad so it doesn’t count.”
“Well, that’s true , of course. No one ever swears when they’re mad. What do you mean, it doesn’t count? Who says fucking and fuckless don’t count?”
“Me do! I says!”
Smiling at this exchange, “Come on,” he prompted, “say fuck.”
“Okay, fuck’s kind of a hard word to learn on because it’s kind’a like the king of all swear words. What say we start with something easier. How’s ’bout, uh, shit? Go on, say shit.”
“Okay, shit’s kind of a, uh, shitty word to learn on. How’s ’bout piss?”
Trying to keep a straight face, “Uh-uh,” but couldn’t, and began to laugh.
“It’s not like I’m trying to get you to say a real high-powered word like fuck anymore. Piss is a nice word. Come on, Marcie, it’s real easy. Say piisss.”
“No,” she giggled. “I can’t.”
“Okay, then, how’s ’bout, uh, pee? Try to say pee.”
“That’s not fair! I’ll bet you said pea, like in mashed potatoes and peas.”
“You said it like in piss?”
“Yeah, that’s what I said, pea, like in pea.”
“I don’t believe you. But I guess a pee’s a pee. Okay, but you sure I can’t get you to say fuck, or maybe, piss?”
“Ok, then, what do you say when you get mad, really mad?”
“When I’m really, really mad?”
“Yup. When you’re really, really mad!”
“Kockie, doodie, pea, pea.”
“Kockie, doodie, pee, pee?”
“Yup, that’s what I say, kockie, doodie, pea, pea.”
“Oh, yeah, I can see it now, I’m on the ship and some son-of-a-bitch… You wouldn’t consider saying son-of-a-bitch, would you?”
“I didn’t think so. Anyway, some son-of-a-bitch is giving me a hard time and I level off and call him a kockie, doodie, pee, pee. Yeah, I can just see me doing that!” Kissing her forehead, “I love you, you kockie, doodie, pee, pee.”