September 25, 1946
Sitting on the ground in the corner of the playground with their backs resting against the chain-link fence, making a small mound between his legs, Mitchell let pea gravel run through his fingers as Norman stabbed the hard earth with a blunt-pointed pocket knife.
It was a clear, Indian summer day, perfect for football, baseball—anything but Hebrew school.
“Oh, God, I don’t want to go in there today,” cocking his head in the direction of the blistered-paint doors. “I hate it here an’ I got another full year to go… I’ll never make it! Shit!” For emphasis Mitchell threw a handful of the small, round stones; a few accidentally hitting the leg of a girl who was leaning against a fencepost reading.
“Hey!” she yelled, turning towards the boys, rubbing the calf of her right leg. “That’s not funny!”
“Amy, I’m sorry. I didn’t see you there!”
“What do you mean, you didn’t see me? You look at me all the time, you big, stupid jerk! You’re always looking at me and now you throw stones at me and say,” mimicking sarcastically, “‘I didn’t see you there’! Well, open your dumb, stupid eyes!”
Blushing, Mitchell looked away.
“You big, dumb, stupid jerk!” Squatting to pick up the stack of schoolbooks at her feet, her skirt hiked up over her knees and instinctively, without thinking, cocking his head downward, Mitchell tried to see up her skirt. Repeating, “big, dumb, stupid jerk!” With an annoyed flip of her honey-colored hair, Amy Pearlman angrily walked across the playground, well away from the boys.
“Shit! Of all the people in the world, I gotta throw stones at her, an’ then I look up her dress! Jesus! I am a jerk!”
Having had a crush on twelve-year-old Amy Pearlman since the first time he’d seen her, sitting two seats behind and two aisles to the left, staring at her, Mitchell often daydreamed… trying to imagine Amy Pearlman naked.
Slightly overdeveloped for her age, Amy’s mother recently had her fitted with a training brassiere, which she proudly wore, so while most of the girls in her classes were breastless, or appeared to be breastless, Amy was outstanding, looking almost like an “older woman.” To add to this impression she was also beautiful and, even at the age of twelve, Amy knew it.
Amy Pearlman had light brown eyes and soft, wavy hair. She was the girl, and later the woman, that boys, and later, men, would stop to stare at and following longingly with their eyes. To top it all off, Amy was smart, always in the top five percent of her class. It was as though the genes of her parents had combined to make one flawless, beautiful, self-affected person.
Mitchell Lipensky loved Amy Pearlman, and showed it.
Amy Pearlman hated Mitchell Lipensky, and showed it.
Mitchell could not understand why. Why’s she hate me so much? he’d think. He was always courteous, slowing up, dropping behind so he could hold the door open for her when the bell rang. If Amy dropped something he’d practically fall all over himself picking it up. “Here, Amy,” he’d say, handing it to her, giving her his number-one prize-winning smile, and all he ever received for his effort was a reserved, “Humpff!” Never a thank you or, God forbid, a returned smile.
The worse she treated him, the more he loved her.
The reason Amy Pearlman hated Mitchell Lipensky was simple—and not so simple. Of all the people she knew,—relatives, acquaintances, friends—of all of the people Amy knew, Mitchell Lipensky was the only person better looking than she. This fact did not register with her, though, and truly, Amy did not know the reason for her animosity, or why she was so hostile while he went out of his way to be so nice. At times she was even angry with herself for treating Mitchell as badly as she did.
“Conceited bitch!” Watching Amy as she’d strutted across the playground, Norman hit the crook of his elbow, giving her the Italian salute.
Following her with his eyes, “Yeah.” Mitchell sighed, then, a few seconds later, “Normie,” he said, “I’ve an idea, I been thinkin’ a lot about…”
“Yeah?” Norman Parminter was wary of Mitchell’s “ideas.”
“Well, you know how you’n’me’s been wantin’ to see what a girl looks like,” touching his crotch, “here.”
“Anyway, my idea’s…” Mitchell hesitated a moment, “that you should sneak into the girls’ toilet so, uh… so’s you can see it an’ then tell me what it looks like.”
“Me? You want me to sneak into the girls’ toilet?” Laughing, Norman fell over, onto his side, into the gravel.
“Shhh!” Starting to giggle Mitchell forced his growing laughter down. “Yeah!” reaching over, he pulled his friend up by the front of his shirt. “It’ll work! Listen…” His giggle returned but he suppressed it. “Listen to me, Normie, it’ll work!”
“You gotta be kiddin’! You want me to sneak into the girls toilet so’s I can watch ’em pee an’ see what her pisser looks like, an’ then I’m supposed to come an’ tell you, huh? Why me?”
“Yeah! It’s gotta be you, ’cause you’re smaller’n’me.”
“You know what’ll happen to me if I got caught?” Without waiting for an answer. “My mom’ll kill me, that’s what!”
“You won’t be caught! But how’s come your mom’s all you ever worry ’bout? How’s ’bout your dad? Don’t he ever kill you, too?”
“Nah, I don’t worry ’bout my dad killin’ me”
“Why, Normie? You dad’s a bull, an’ your mom’s a peanut.”
“Yeah, that’s why. He’s so strong, he’s ’fraid if he hits me he’ll kill me, so he only pretends to hit me. My mom’s the tough one! An’ that’s why I ain’t gonna sneak into no girls’ toilet.”
“Normie, you won’t be caught! All’s you gotta do is…”
“Nope! I ain’t gonna do it!”
“…Just before recess, you come up with some reason to get out early,” he laughed, “like puke on your desk or somethin’.”
“Nope!” Norman shook his head.
Ignoring him, “The girls’ toilet’s just like ours, two sinks an’ three toilets, only theirs got doors. You go in the middle one, close’n’lock the door an’ kinda fold your socks down so’s they look like bobby-socks, an’ when a girl comes in, you stay quiet a minute then, real quiet like, you stand on the toilet an’ look over the top, an’…”
“Oh, yeah, sure! What if she sees me… uh, you?”
“She won’t! Who ever goes to the toilet lookin’ up at the ceiling?” Answering himself, “No one goes to the toilet lookin’ up at the ceiling, an’ then you get a perfect birds-eye view! So, you gonna?”
“Nope! You’re the guy that’s interested in seein’ what girls pee out’a, so you do it!”
“Parminter, you’re a chicken-shit, schmuck!”
“Yeah, Lipensky, but a live chicken-shit, schmuck.”
4:00 p.m.: Sticking his arm through the door, Rabbi Meitzner shook the brass bell.
The kids shuffled into the stuffy building.
4:52 p.m.: Reading to themselves, with the exception of the rustling of clothing, the turning of pages, the occasional clearing of a throat, and the buzzing sound of Rabbi Berkovitz’s snoring, the room was silent…
“Gaaaggghhh!” Hiding his face behind the book with his index finger shoved down his throat, “Gaaaggghhh!”
The harsh, gagging startled Rabbi Berkovitz, who’d been dozing holding the book in his left hand and the side of his face in his right. “Vuzzit?” The old man had to catch hold of the edge of the desk to keep from falling off his chair.
The class looked in Mitchell’s direction.
Standing on wobbly legs, “Vuzzit?” Berkovitz asked. “Vos is doos?” Looking about the room with bleary eyes. “So, who’s sick?”
Holding his arm up, “Me, Rabbi, I’m sick.” Closing his mouth, Mitchell brought air into his cheeks causing them to puff outward, as though holding off vomiting. “Can I… ulp, go to the toilet?”
“Yes, Lipensky! Go! Go already.”
Glancing at Norman—who was holding his hands together as though praying for the life of his dumb, but not chicken-shit friend—doubled over holding his stomach, Mitchell rushed from the room into the hall, where he hesitated a moment considering the consequences if he got caught. But because he had told Norman he was going to do it he was committed and had to prove that he was not a chicken-shit schmuck. So he went on, into the girls’ toilet, into the middle stall, where he closed and locked the door, folded his pants legs up and his socks down, took a deep breath and waited for the recess bell.
Mitchell’s legs were moderately hairy, but he knew that he had less hair on his legs, and for that matter, on his face, than a number of the girls there. With his crew socks folded into bobby socks, wearing a pair of nondescript sneakers, unless asked a direct question that he couldn’t answer with a grunt, he could not see why he wouldn’t pass for some hairy-legged girl using the toilet.
5:00 p.m.: The recess bell rung. He waited… but no one came in. Maybe it’s for the best, he thought. No, come on! I may never have the guts to do this again…. The door opened. Wanting to see what girl came in, he looked through the crack… Oh, my God! It’s Amy Pearlman!
Going to the stall on the right, she closed the door.
He heard the sound of paper being torn and by bending down was able to see the position of her feet. She’s covering the seat so she won’t have to put her tush where every one else’s tush goes. Her feet turned in the opposite direction. He heard the rustle of her skirt and the crinkle of cheap toilet paper as she lowered herself onto the toilet seat. Sitting still, hardly daring to breathe, he heard a sound, a soft tinkling sound. How cute! Then the harsh expulsion of air being forced through her rectum. A fart? He could not believe what he’d just heard. Amy Pearlman farts? God, he thought, I love Amy, and if I look at her here than I really am a jerk and she’ll have every reason to in the world to hate me. But, he rationalized, so long as she hates me anyway, and so long as I’m here… Reaching back, covering the sound of his getting up and standing on the ring, he flushed the toilet, and the sound of water running through the pipe seemed to be deafening. Standing, he put his right foot, then his left, onto the cracked, wooden toilet seat. Rising from a stooped position, he carefully centered both feet and turned his body so he was facing the steel partition, but his position seemed precarious so, shifting his body slightly, moving his feet apart, leaning forward, looking over the top of the partition he could see the top of Amy’s head. Leaning further, he could see her bare thighs. Amy was squeezing a pimple! What, he thought, Amy Pearlman got pimples on her thighs, too! Standing on tiptoes, leaning further to the left, Oh, shit! Girls don’t pull their skirts down like guys pull their pants down when they gotta make. Girls pull their skirts up! Why can’t Amy be like other girls and wear slacks or jeans? Trying to see past the bulk of the bunched material, Mitchell leaned still further to the left.
The toilets had been installed in 1910, and the pins holding the seats had thirty-six years to rust, to say nothing of (during the years this had been the boys toilet) miss-aimed urine.
Just a little further and maybe…
His leaning weight forced the seat back, putting a strain on the badly rusted pins…
One pin snapped and the seat slide backward and to the right…
With fingernails screeching down the metal partition, falling to the left, his shoulder thumping against the door, kerploop, his right foot splashing into the bowl, Mitchell suddenly found himself standing with one foot in the toilet and the other on the floor.
Oh, shit! What do I do now?
Startled by the sounds coming from the neighboring stall, looking at the partition, “What’s going on in there? You okay?” Amy asked. Getting no answer, “Jesus Christ,” she said, “I come in here to take a god-damned pee…”
Amy Pearlman swears, too!
“…and some idiot falls in the toilet! How’d the hell’d you do it? You okay?”
He had to say something. “Uh-huh,” in a high pitched, falsetto voice.
“Who’s in there?” Amy demanded. “Who the hell are you?”
Not answering, in spite of the cold, wet foot kerplunked in the toilet, Mitchell began to sweat.
The clanging of the bell.
“Oh, well, whoever you are,” Amy said, “there’s the bell and I got to get going.”
He listened to the tearing and crinkling of toilet paper. Once, twice, three times. Finally, the toilet flushed, the door opened and, going to the sink, Amy washed her hands.
“See you, whoever you are.” she called over her shoulder, then rushed back to the classroom.
Alone. What do I do now? Lifting his foot from the toilet, he shook it, then, sitting on the seat, removed both—the water-soaked sneaker and sock—and wrung them out. Only one thing I can do.
“So, vere’s our Mr. Lipensky?” Looking about the room. “He’s so sick, maybe ve got lucky und he vent home. So, nu, anyone see Lipensky?” Rabbi Berkovitz turned his head as the door opened.
Coming into the room, “Uh, here, Rabbi. I’m feeling a little better.” Mitchell, squeek-squish, walked across the floor to his desk.
Grating, squeek-squish, his sopping sneakers left wet, shiny footprints on the worn, dirty linoleum.
Mitchell did not look at Amy Pearlman
But, oh, yes! Amy Pearlman did look at Mitchell.