“Mitchie, I’m sorry, but you’ve got to!” Taking her son’s chin in her hand, lifting his face to hers, “And for God’s sake, Mitchell, don’t say anything to Pa and Ma about going to, uh…” as if loath to say the word, “church, because I’m sure they wouldn’t understand and it would only make them feel bad. As a matter of fact, Mitchie, it would probably be for the best if you didn’t say anything to anyone back home about it. Okay… Okay?”
His eyes cast downward, “Okay,” he’d said, nodding his head.
Girl’s What’ch’ma’call’it 2
Sunday mornings after breakfast the tables in the mess hall were moved to one side of the large room and the chairs aligned in straight rows. As each boy filed into the room he was handed a Bible and a hymnbook.
After a short Bible study class, Captain Whyet, in his best oratorical
voice, read from the new testament as the boys, most of the boys, followed along with silently moving lips, each—most—reading from the Bible they held in their hands. Accompanied by Mrs. Whyet on the old Steinway in the corner, the entire assembly stood as each hymn was sung, as all the while, fighting to keep his eyes open and his head from nodding onto his chest, Mitchell pretended to read and sing. It was only the frequent standing that kept him awake, until, finally, they stood for his favorite hymn, favorite because of its volume, but mainly, because it signaled the end of the session:
“Onward Christian Soo‑ol‑diers,
Marching off to war,
With the cross of humm-humm…”
“Thank you, men,” Captain Whyet would say. “You’re excused.”
The boys filed out of the mess hall, and the rest of the day was theirs to do whatever they wish: to read, study, play games, work on their stamp collections. Or, once a month, the boys from each of the four decks were given the opportunity to see a movie at the local theater, if Captain Whyet approved the film. This day it was the turn of Eisenhower Dormitory, deck two, and Mitchell was looking forward to seeing that week’s double feature of “Tarzan Triumphs,” “Wake Island,” and assorted shorts.
“…Mitch, you told me you’d trade… Hey! Gunner to pilot!”
“Huh?” Forcing his mental focus back to there and then, turning from the window, Mitchell looked at Frank Rizzo, his sergeant and best friend at Baylor. “Oh, yeah.” Opening the thick book lying on the desk, he turned pages till coming to Costa Rica. Removing one of two identical stamps, he handed the tri‑cornered stamp to Frank, who gave him a New Zealand in exchange.
“Whats’a’matter? You don’t look so hot. You feelin’ okay?”
“Yeah, sure.” Reaching into his pocket for another lemon drop, “I’m fine. Here, you want one?”
“Yeah.” Taking the box, putting the open end to his mouth, up‑ending it, “Thanks, Mitch.” Tossing the now-empty box back, “You’re okay, for a Jew, “
Catching the box, looking inside, “You wop pig! I didn’t tell you to eat ’em all!”
Stooping, reaching under the desk, “Die, Jewish peeeg!” Frank said, in a bad imitation of Gilbert Roland’s Cisco Kid, as, grabbing Mitchell by the ankles, he dragged him off the seat.
As they scuffled on the floor in make‑believe fight:
“Stinky dago, wop, fart!”
“Hey, you creeps!” Rolling about the floor, they’d accidentally, on purpose, bumped into Pete Marcos.
A hand reached up, grabbed Pete by the belt and, “Die, Greek peeeg!” Pete was pulled into the melee.
Sitting nearby, not wanting to be left out of the ruckus, Stan Carmody jumped into the entangled mass of thrashing arms and legs.
“Stop it!” Hearing the scraping of steel-legged school desks and the thumping of bodies on the hardwood floor, Miss Stoldig had come into the room. “If you boys care about the movies this afternoon, you’ll stop this this instant!”
As if doused with cold water, arms and legs disentangled and the mass became four red-faced boys who, standing instantly, tucking their shirts into their pants, brushed themselves off.
“No more horseplay!” Miss Stoldig looked from boy to boy.
The boys snapped to attention.
“That’s better. Straighten those desks, then get ready to eat.”
The magic words: breakfast, lunch, dinner; eat; food. Oh, yeah! Especially on Sunday!
Mitchell Lipensky always looked forward to lunch on Sunday.
Lunch on Sunday usually consisted of baked chicken and roast beef, mashed potatoes with thick, dark gravy, vegetables, salad, homemade rolls, and a dessert of freshly baked cherry or apple pie with a scoop of rich chocolate or vanilla ice cream.
As it was first-come first-served, the squads did not assemble for lunch on Sunday, and if you wanted a choice slice of meat or a second drumstick, you’d best be in line early.
Mitchell always was.
Moving forward in the chow line, as he approached each of the three civilian ladies, smiling, “Hi, Miss Trankie,” he would say. “How are you today? I’ll have roast beef, please.” And, “Hi, Miss Dormier. How are you today?” and, “Hello, Mrs. Schmitz. How are you today?”
The ladies would look at Mitchell’s face and those innocent green eyes and, like Sam and Abe, Miss Trankie, Miss Dormier, and Mrs. Schmitz would give him a choice piece of roast beef or chicken, a larger portion of mashed potatoes, and a bigger scoop of ice cream, then… “Next!” The next boy moved up and got whatever was plopped onto his tray.
The vintage black and yellow school bus pulled up to the Dwight David Eisenhower dormitory at precisely twelve o’clock noon.
Rushing aboard, 53 boys scrambled for the window seats.
Frank and Mitchell ran to the rear of the bus where there was a pulling, shoving, pushing contest as each struggled for the seat next to the window. Stretching the material of Mitchell’s sleeve until it was inches beyond his hand, Frank pulled it through the handhold of the seat across the aisle and, using it as one would a block and tackle, he was able to hold him back long enough to slip beneath him and into the seat, as all the while Mitchell tried to keep a straight face, but was laughing and couldn’t stop.
“No fair, you, uh…” trying to think of a name, “…schmuck!”
Laughing as hard as his friend, “‘Schmuck’? What’s a schmuck?” Frank asked.
“Something my uncle always calls my dad whenever they play gin rummy.”
“Schmuck, eh? You keep this up, Lipensky, an’ I’ll know more Jewish words than you. What’s schmuck mean?”
“Jeez, I d’no. Maybe somethin’ like, uh, ass.”
“Madonn’, you’re dumb! Even I know the Jewish word for ass! It’s tuckas.”
“Oh, yeah, I forgot.”
“You forgot! Lipensky, you’re such a, a…” looking for a word, Frank smiles, “shmegegi! I can’t believe it—me, a wop, teachin’ you, a Jew, his own language.”
Watching the tree-bare, winter scene, the boys were quiet a moment.
“Mitch,” speaking softly, “you ever wonder about girls?”
“Girls?” Lookin’ at Frank. “Nah. What about ’em?”
“You ever think… you ever wonder about their, uh, things?”
“Things! What things?”
“Mitch, don’t be such a dope! You know, their things! The only things that make girls different then guys is their chests an’ that they got different kinds of pissers than us. You ever wonder about ’em, about what a girl’s pisser looks like?”
But he had. One day last summer, standing on the stairs a few steps beneath her, he was talking to Marlene. She was sitting with her knees spread and he was able to see between the gap of her shorts and the inside of her skinny thighs. For some reason she wasn’t wearing panties and, maybe, knowing he was looking, “putting on a show” she had opened her knees even wider and, out of curiosity, so he could see better, he’d even stepped a step lower, but all he saw, and what he had thought was: The crack in Marlene’s tushie goes all the way up the front.
“Do you?” Mitchell asked.
“Yeah!” Frank answered. “Once I saw Cynthia, my older sister, when she didn’t think anyone was home an’ she left the toilet door open.”
“Yeah? You saw her pisser then?”
“Well, she was naked, gettin’ washed at the sink, an’ I saw her tuckas an’ her, uh, chests in the mirror, but she didn’t have any more here…” he playfully pinched Mitchell on the chest. “…than you’n’me. Matters of fact, you got more’n’her. Guess girls don’t start growin’ chests till they get older.”
“An’ you didn’t see her here?” pointing to his crotch.
“Nah. I saw her butt, but girls’n’guys got the same kind’s’a butts. I waited for her to turn around or step back from the sink so’s I could see her pisser, but then she saw me in the mirror and threw the soap at me, an’ when I ducked she slammed the door shut.”
A distant, fuzzy thought came to mind. Trying to pull it into focus, Mitchell closed his eyes… Remembering, “I saw a naked lady once.”
“Yeah!” Frank looked intently at Mitchell. “You saw a naked lady! How’s come you never told me?”
“I forgot! An’ besides, this is the first time we ever talked ’bout naked ladies and girl’s pissers. Remember?”
“Yeah, okay! So you see her pisser? What’d it look like?”
“There’s this guy, Dominick Diamond—we call him Dom—an’ he hated his older brother, Sal, that’s short for…”
“Yeah,” Frank said impatiently, “Salvatore! I’m a Dago, too, remember? So? So what happened?”
“Anyway, Sal got married to this real pretty girl that used to baby-sit me when I was littler. Her name’s Louise Ann; Lou Ann we called her. Anyway, one day Dom comes to me an’ asks if I wanna see somethin’, an’ I say sure, so Dom takes me between the buildings an’ we looked through the window, an’ Lou Ann an’ Sal are doin’…”
“Yeah? What were they doin’?”
Screwing his eyes shut, trying to remember, “They… they were… I don’t know what they were doin’,” he said, “but Lou Ann’s layin’ naked on the bed…”
“Yeah. They’re both all naked. Lou Ann’s layin’ on the bed on her back an’ ol’ Sal’s, uh, I guess kind’a kneelin’ on the floor, at the end of the bed, an’…”
“J’ya see ‘it’ then? J’ya see her pisser then?”
“No, I couldn’t, ’cause Sal’s got his head there, between her legs, an’ he’s doin’ somethin’ with his face.”
“With his face? What could he be doin’ with his face, there? Lookin’ at her? Smellin’ her? What was…? Wha’ch’ma’call’it doin’?”
“Nothin’! She wasn’t doin’ nothin’… Well, yeah, she was doin’ somethin’.” Concentrating. Once again closing his eyes, “She was kind’a, uh, bumpin’ up’n’down… Oh yeah! An’ she was smiling’.”
“She was smilin’?” Not knowing what to make of this, “You saw her chests then?” Frank asked excitedly. “What’d they look like?”
“Uh…” He tried to remember, but it had been well over two years, a long time for someone his age. “They were kind’a…” moving his hands in a fluttering motion in front of his chest, “flopped over.”
“Yeah, an’ they had real big, uh, kind’a like brown bumps on em’.”
“Big brown bumps? Where?”
“Here,” touching his fingers to the left side of his chest.
“Probably, when girls get older, their bumps get bigger’n a guys, too. So what happened then?”
“Sal saw Dom’n’me an’ he got real mad, an’ he jumped up an’ ran to the window…”
“Yeah! J’ya see her pisser then?”
“No, Sal was in the way.” Another remembrance coming to mind. “I didn’t see hers, but I sure saw his. Wow!”
“‘His’? ‘Wow’? Wha’d’ya mean?”
Holding his hands widely apart, “Sal’s, uh, thing was this big!” greatly exaggerating the size of Salvatore Diamond’s penis.
Knowing at least this much, “He must’a had a boner,” Frank said.
“Jesus, Lipensky, where’ve you been all your life? A boner’s, uh… You ever wake up in the mornin’ an’ gotta pee, an’ your, uh, thing’s all big’n’hard?”
Actually, he’d thought that “that” only happened to him and was surprised to know that it happened to his friend, too. Nodding, “Yeah,” Mitchell said.
“Well, when that happens it’s called a boner, only with big people… uh, guys, I heard ’em talkin’, an’ they get boners when they’re with girls, or talkin’ ’bout girls, like now, when you was talkin’ ’bout, uh, what’s’er’name, I was gettin’ a boner.”
Most of this incomprehensible, looking at Frank’s lap, “Why? You gotta pee?”
“No, I don’t gotta pee!”
“You think maybe Sal had’a pee?”
“Shit! No, Lipensky.” Not knowing if he’s serious, “Sal didn’t gotta pee! So what happened?”
“Anyway, ol’ Sal tried to catch Dom, but Dom was too fast an’ Sal couldn’t catch ’em, and Dom called him a, uh…” trying to remember, “Yeah! Dom called Sal a… somethin’ like a ‘muffin driver,’ whatever that is, and he asked Sal if Lou Ann tasted good.”
“What the hell’s a muffin driver? An’ ‘if she tasted good’? What was he doin’ to her,” beginning to giggle, “eatin’ her? What’s he, a… what’ch’ya call, a cannibal or somethin’?”
Mitchell shrugged his shoulders. “Don’t know. Anyway, when Sal couldn’t catch his brother, he got hold’a me an’ wanted to kill me.”
“Yeah! ’cept Lou Ann jumped off the bed and tried to grab Sal away from me.”
“An’ you saw her pisser then!”
“Nah. She was standin’ behind Sal an’ her, uh, chests were smooshin’ all over him, an’ I saw them real good, but I couldn’t see nothin’ else she had.”
“So, what happened then?”
“I thought he was gonna kill me, but Lou Ann yelled at him, so he called me a bunch’a dirty names an’ le’me go.”
“Jeez, Mitch, were you scared?”
Scared, he thought. Me? Scared? Nah, I just pooped in my pants. “Nah,” he said, “I wasn’t too scared… Hey, Frankie, I wanna ask you somethin’, but don’t get mad at me, okay?”
“Yeah, I won’t get mad, I think. What’d’ya wanna know?”
“Like Sal, when I saw him naked…” He didn’t quite know how to ask the question. “When I see some’a you guys in the shower, uh,” he didn’t want to hurt Frank’s feelings, but it had been on his mind and so long as they were talking about it, “how’s come you got such ugly pissers?” he asked.
“You think I got an ugly pisser?” Frank couldn’t believe he’d say this. “You’re the guy with the ugly pisser! Don’t you know Jewish guys always get the ends of their pissers whacked off when they’re babies?”
He’d heard some of the older guys on the street talking about this once, too. “My pisser’s just the way God made it!”
He laughed, saying, “Then God sure made it ugly!” and filed a question away for future asking, if he could find anyone to ask: “Was the end of my pisser really whacked off when I was a baby, and why?”