PART ONE: THE VOICE OF THE CHILD
THE BIG CITY: 1938
THE ROYAL PROCESSION: 1939
AND ON SUNDAY
THE HOME FRONT
THE CHILDRENS' PARTY
GIRLS' GAMES: 1942
PART TWO: RENDEZ-VOUS WITH PUBERTORY
THE BOY NEXT DOOR
JACKING OFF WITH JESUS
PART THREE: BOY CULTURE
A GIRL, 1946
A COMING OUT PARTY
PART FOUR: THE WORLD MOVES IN
KEITH AND TOMMY 1948
CHAPTER TWENTY EIGHT
THE LAST CHAPTER
R U P E R T U N E X P U R G A T E D
A Novel by Robin Sharpe
"There's good kinds of pain, and there's bad kinds of pain."
Copyright 1983 by Robin Sharpe
Published by Kalayaan Publications, 2002 (June 1st)
Box 88495 Chinatown P.O.
Vancouver V6A 4A7
Produced with no corporate or government funding whatsoever.
Long before Playboy magazine, Long before that word appeared in print and pictures of naked ladies were everywhere, and when it was neither nice nor polite to talk about certain things there lived a boy named Rupert. Rupert was a very good boy who believed in God and Jesus, who wanted to make the world friendly, fair and modern and tried to be brave and live up to his ideals. Rupert never stole, never fought, hardly ever lied, never swore or used that word, and never, never played with himself. Needless to say it is not always a pleasant story. And this is as it happened.
P A R T O N E:
T H E V O I C E O F T H E C H I L D
Near Shaman Bay Mission
"Now Rupert, you stay on the porch until I finish the laundry. I don't want you playing in the dirt."
The washmusheen stop, engine, smoke stop. Mummy pull - POP - washmusheen go pee on ground. "Mummy, Mummy washmusheen go pee pee."
SMACK "Rupert, I've warned you about saying dirty things." SMACK
Shed - Mummy can't see. Pee in hand. Taste bad, bad, bad, bad. I like.
SMACK "Rupert, what are you doing? RUPERT, what have you been doing?" SMACK "You filthy boy!" SMACK "Dirty, dirty, dirty." SMACK "Now put your dirty peeney back in your pants. If I ever catch you doing that or playing with it again." SMACK SMACK
"What's your name?" the little Indian girl asked.
"You play tag?" asked the small Indian boy.
"OK - What?"
"You gotta run and touch like this, make other person IT." He touched my back, "And run away...OK?" He touched me again, "You're IT," and he ran away.
There's the girl, must touch the girl, run fast... oops, fall.... Boy's there, run fast.... there I touch him, "You're IT!" now run away fast.... Boy tag girl, now girl IT.... I like tag. It's fun.... Run fast, oops, I'm IT, quick, "You're IT!" touch girl back, run fast.... Girl still IT.... Tag is fun.... run fast.... Oops, fall, run fast.... Girl missed.... Now boy IT.... Run fast, run fast.
"Rupert, what are you doing?"
"Hi Mummy, I'm playing tag."
"Rupert, look at yourself. Now come along dear, we have to be going."
"Why Rupert, you're filthy, your clean shirt and pants, and just look at your shoes. You don't know how I slave, heating water on the stove," SMACK "and you go play with those grubby Indian children." SMACK SMACK
"Yes, you're Mummy's little baby, aren't you?... Mummy loves her little boy and you're such a good boy, aren't you?... Why your Mummy just thinks you're the best little boy in the world. Yes, yes, your Mummy loves her little Rupert, doesn't she? You're just such a good, good boy.... And you're such a lucky boy too, all your toys and picture books to play with. Nice things!... Come sit on Mummy's lap, Mummy wants to kiss her little baby.... There, wasn't that nice? You're such a good boy."
After I went and talked to the big cedar tree, he's my friend.
THE BIG CITY: 1938
"Mother, Mother, there's electric lights in every room and a sink and a bathtub and an indoor flushing toilet."
"You've had your look, Rupert dear, now start helping with the unloading. You can take this box of your toys into the room at the back next to the bathroom. That will be your room."
My room has a real high ceiling with a light bulb and string in the centre, and the wallpaper has wide bands of mauve flowers going up it, and the linoleum is made to look like a real carpet. I think it's beautiful, with my own electric light that I can on and off whenever I want to. I've onned and offed electric lights lots of times before, like when Mr. Stark in the General Store let me. But the window, all you can see is the wall of the house next door with shingles falling off. If you stand way over to the side you can see a bit of their yard and part of a maple tree, but it's not a tree you could make friends with. I wonder if there are any big cedars here.
"Mother, Mother, did you see the pretty wallpaper in my room?"
"I'm glad you like it, Rupert dear."
"It's sure a nice place, isn't it?"
"Well, I'd say trust Scroogie to pick a dump, I'm surprised he didn't buy the one next door."
"Don't you like it Mother?" She never likes anything my father Scroogie does.
"We won't be staying here very long, Rupert dear. If only Scroogie hadn't gone ahead and signed the papers before I could see it. Remember Rupert? He said it was in a good neighbourhood. Well it's crawling with immigrants and there's even Chinese. I certainly don't want you growing up in a slum. Why the children around here, they look like a bunch of ruffians."
"What are ruffians, Mother?"
"They're like the children I see around here, dirty, foul mouthed, into all sorts of bad things and not fit company for you dear.... I'll see to that. Here, here's another box for your room, and when the men arrive with the rest of the furniture I want you to put your things away."
"Will they be bringing my Uncle Albert's mirror?"
"I expect so Rupert. Now run along, you've only got two weeks before you start school."
The living room even has a switch on the wall to make the light on and off. Mother said I'd wear it out so I only use it when I really have to. Mother bought some electric lamps, an electric iron and even an electric toaster, all with cords you can stick in plug-ins. Even my room has a plug-in but Mother told me to never use it as I might get electrocuted. She said I was already `cuted' enough.
The bathtub is so big I can lie right down in it, and it has hot and cold water taps in it just like the ones in the catalogue, and the toilet will flush your dirty mess away, just like that.
"Now Rupert dear, you have no excuse for not being clean. We don't have to carry and heat well water anymore so you've no excuse at all. I'll see that you have a bath at least twice a week, and I want you to promise me that you'll wash your hands thoroughly after everytime you go to the bathroom."
"Even if I just pee?"
"No exeptions Rupert, Remember that `Cleanliness is next to Godliness', and that while we may not be rich we can certainly be clean. And also Rupert, you have to come into the house to pee everytime. It may have been alright outside in the country, but not in the city. What would the neighbours think about us if they caught you with your dirty peeney hanging out? Now I want you to promise, no doing it outside, and to wash your hands after each time.
"Yes Mother, I promise."
And I have to wash my everywhere when I have a bath and sometimes I have to wash it again before she rinses me, but I can't play with it. I know Mother has a big bottle of Dettol Disinfectant which she uses on her everywhere, which she never lets me see. Dettol is pretty strong stuff, I've smelt it and used it on my peeney to make it extra clean but it stings. Mother uses a lot and I figure women have something even dirtier down there, but I'm not sure. I've never seen a naked lady, not even a little baby. I always have to leave the room when their diapers are changed. It must be pretty ugly and dirty and I'm not sure if I want to see one anyway. I wonder if they have to use Dettol on baby girls, although boys and men don't need it. Maybe peenies aren't as dirty. I already know all boys have peenies, Cousin Andrew told me and I once saw Scroogie's. His has all this hair and really looks ugly and dirty. I hope I never get hair growing on me. I guess you can't ever get it really clean. Mother always has clean white underwear for me even if I have to wear the same socks for a week.
I liked the city at first. There's lots of cars and big buildings to look at. There's even one ten storeys high, the Commerce Bank, but Mother says we can't go in there because we have no business. I like the cars the best. There were only four cars at the mission where Scroogie used to be caretaker. There were no roads to anywhere, just the boat that came once a week. There were two 1929 Fords which weren't the same, a 1926 Chevrolet and a 1932 DeSoto, which belonged to Reverend Whitman. The Fords belonged to Indians so I only saw them at the General Store sometimes. We didn't live near the Indians and I wasn't allowed to play with the Indian children and I never did, except once. In the city there are all kinds of cars; Oldsmobiles, Packards, Hudsons, LaSalles, Plymouths, Essexes and even little ones called Austins. I got to know all of them pretty quick and I've only been fooled a couple of times. And we bought a car of our own! a 1929 Chevrolet Coupe with a rumble seat. The people next door only had a 1928 Essex but then they bought a 1934 Dodge Sedan which has blinds on the windows.
But there's no place to play in the city and no really big trees you can talk to. There are hardly any cedars and they're small, and the trees planted along the street were all just hacked back and their branches taken away. I cried, but there are lots of new trees to learn. There is a vacant lot down the block but every time I try to play there other children come and bother me. At the mission the other three white children were a lot older than me and they left me alone but these children won't, and they even say the lot is theirs. So I stay home most of the time and draw pictures of cars and tall buildings. I try to draw pictures of trees but they're too hard. They all look like hacked back trees.
I like flowers too. I know they have something to do with God, and bees, I like them too. I used to help God open poppies, I would peel back the green things so the petals can come out. And when there was clouds I knew that Uncle Albert who'd given me the big mirror and who was in Heaven could see me. When I got my puppy dog I named it Flowersy because it was pretty, but it scratched and bit me and got the fits and died and I had to cry. I don't think Flowersy loved me like puppy dogs should, I like trees and real flowers better.
Bugs, except for bees, I know are bad. But bees sting and I can't figure that out. The time we visited Aunt Maude and my Cousin Andrew I collected a whole bunch of of bugs in a jar for him. I thought he should have killed each one separately, maybe pulling their legs off first and telling them why, but he just squished them with his foot all at once. I've always tried to be nice to bugs since then except mosquitoes and flies.
But there's so many children around our place. I'd seen other children before when we'd gone to the general store and on my visit to the city a year ago. I'd even talked to a few of them that time on our visit, I met Cousin Andrew and girl cousins and we played some game with a ball which I didn't understand, but here's there's so many children all at once.
One day a week before starting school I did go out and play with the children on the street, and Mother said she'd watch. I kicked a big leather ball and fell down and got dirty, and after they all teased me because I wouldn't say THAT word and the boy next door, Jacky, pushed me and got me more dirty.
"Rupert, look at yourself. You go look in Uncle Albert's mirror and tell me what you see. And the mud, the mud on your knees. Where did you find mud on a nice day like this? And what have you done to your shirt and your hair? You're all covered with dust, dirt too. Now take off your shoes before walking on my clean floors. And I think you should shake yourself off first too.... No, not there, away from the house. Now how did all this happen, Rupert?"
I explained to Mother best as I could.
"And why did Jacky push you down in the mud?"
"Because I wouldn't say THAT word."
"Oh Rupert, you poor little angel, there, you run along and have a bath and I'll try and find you some nice clean clothes. But you must be more careful in your choice of playmates, I know how hard it is for you. Your mother understands. Sunday we will go and visit Aunty Maude and Cousin Andrew. Your aunt and I will have tea on the lawn while you boys play. She lives only two blocks from the beach and perhaps you boys might want to go for a walk. Maybe Andrew will invite some of his friends. I'll phone Aunty Maude right now, so you run along dear."
Cousin Andrew is over two years older than me and big. I'm big for my age but Andrew is huge. I wish I could remember the right word for when a person is fat. And he has rosy cheeks and tidy hair, and is he ever strong. We walked to the beach which is a big sandy cove with tall trees and a cliff with houses on top. It almost feels like being home again but I have a new home now. On the way back Andrew showed me Indian sunburn, but he had to pinch me because I didn't cry enough. Mother arranged another visit for next Sunday. In the meantime I had lots of lots of toys and picture books she says.
On the first day of school Mother walked me to the big brick school which is a whole four blocks away. It's all dark and dirty and the windows look black and the ground has all these little stones that hurt your knees when you fall. And there were hundreds of children and lots of mothers. Mother kept hold of my hand most of the time which made me feel better. Jacky, the boy next door and his mother were ahead of us in the line up and when he got up to the big desk he peed his pants. I watched it run down his bare leg and make a puddle on the floor and I pretended not to notice. Mother's right, I am better than other children.
The next day Mother only walked me to the Boys Entrance, and I was left alone in a sea of children. The school is huge, dark and noisy, I can't stand all the talking, shouting and bumping. It's just awful. I found my room, Miss Pratt's, and sat as close to the big desk as I could. She didn't arrive for the longest time and all the while there was all these children talking and fooling around, and some didn't stop when Miss Pratt did come in. She was like an aunt or granny with grey hair and glasses. I sat there quietly with my chest out and my hands behind my back like I heard we were supposed to. And then Miss Pratt made me move to the back of the room because I'm tall and I have to sit right beside Jacky.
THE ROYAL PROCESSION: 1939
"Mother, Mother, the king and queen are coming here!" I had just heard it at school.
"Why Rupert, I thought you knew."
"And the two princesses, Lizabeth and Margaret. It's the first time in Canada and there's going to be a royal procession. Can we go see them?"
"Of course Rupert dear, I wouldn't want you to miss them for the world. I thought we'd walk up to Durham Avenue and see them from there."
"Wow!" I try not to use that word because Mother says it's unbecoming, but Durham Avenue is just five blocks up the hill from our house. I've already been up there a couple of times by myself and I'm only seven. It's really nice up there with big houses and lots of trees. Mother says we're going to live up there, or some other nice part of town as soon as we can afford it, but it's Scroogie's fault. My father's real name is Matthew but Mother and me call him him Scroogie because Mother says he's a tightwad and doesn't give us anything. "Are we all gonna go?"
"Well I doubt if your father will, he doesn't approve of royalty."
"That's not the point." Scroogie replied, "I just think the child should understand that this tour is just to whip up enthusiasm for a war."
"You and your wars Scroogie, you can't stop talking about the last one. And you would deny our dear Rupert an opportunity he may never have again. You're always denying your family. I had to practically beg you to leave the mission so our dear Rupert could go to a proper school and then you insisted on buying this crummy house. It's a wonder you didn't find some South Side shack. And whenever I suggest we buy some nice things you say we can't afford it."
"But Mother," Scroogie objected, "You know we can only"
"Now don't start interrupting me, you always do that. And your politics, all these meetings you've started going to. They're just socialist, pacifist nonsense and you know it. I'm sure the church doesn't endorse such goings on."
"Now don't you start butting me Scroogie. I'm going to see that our child has a decent, respectable home. Now run along Rupert, your father and I have matters to discuss."
I knew Scroogie didn't like war, he'd been a soldier in the Great War and said all fighting was bad. I wasn't allowed toy guns because of that. He said people should believe in God and peace. Mother believes in God and peace too, and so do I. But they argue about money all the time. Mother's thrown him out a couple of times since we moved to the city. She's a lot bigger. Last time it was his sixtieth birthday and Mother made me burn the card I'd made for him with a car and an aeroplane on the front. I know I'm supposed to love both my mother and my father but I have to love my mother best and I do. And Scroogie is so old, he isn't like the daddies other boys have.
Two days before the royal procession I made a special trip up to Durham Avenue to look at the place where the king and queen would be. The man at the house on the corner was busy painting and I stopped to talk to him. He is a nice man with a brown moustache and glasses which make his eyes look big. He was very polite and asked me my name and said his was Mr. Wilson. We talked about the king and queen coming and he said that was why he was painting his house, but he only had enough paint for the front. He even let me paint one shingle and I didn't get any on my clothes. He said he was born an Englishman and always would be, but this would be the first time he'd seen the king and queen. I told him that Mother and Scroogie were were Englishmen too and asked him which princess he liked best. He liked them both and said that people could sit on his porch to watch the royal procession and drink tea for only a dollar and that children were only fifty cents. He made me promise to tell Mother. "Cross my heart and hope to die" I said to him. I had to be `going along' and waved goodbye to Mr. Wilson.
Next door they had already put up a bunch of flags and there was a picture of the king, without a crown mind you, in the window. There were a bunch children about my age playing in the yard. Some were from school. One was a boy who uses swear words like `damn' and `shit' and two of them were silly girls who giggle and talk in Miss Pratt's class. I didn't talk to them of course, and when one of them called out "Hi." I pretended not to notice and walked over to the curb.
I looked down the avenue towards Main Street where the ten storey building is. I imagined the king and queen coming up the hill towards me. There weren't any cars so I stood in the exact middle of the street and looked down. Maybe they would be in a fancy carriage with white horses, maybe on horseback or even elephants. But it doesn't matter because they are the king and queen. I skipped most of the way home.
Back home I looked through all my books for pictures of kings and queens. I studied them closely and pretended to read the words. They might not let me out of grade one because of my reading. I wished I had a picture like the ones they have in every room in school. The king is sitting on the throne with a big crown, the one you get coronated with, and his purple cape flows onto the ground and the queen has a smaller crown with lots of diamonds and a beautiful long dress. I was worried because none of the pictures in the newspapers showed them with crowns.
I wonder what it feels like when you get crowned, when the Archbishop of Canterbury himself places the crown on your head and suddenly you are king. Do you tingle all over? Or is it like church music in your head without any sound? You'd have to be able to hear still. I hoped the king would be wearing a big crown like in the pictures at school or the one you saw on the big old copper pennies.
I was up early Thursday morning all excited to see the king and queen. I dreamt that they stopped the carriage, picked me up and took me with them. Princesses aren't silly like other girls. And everything was polite and beautiful and clean.
I decided to have an extra bath to be really clean for the king and queen. I practised bowing in the mirror while the tub filled. My bows were getting real good by the tub was ready. I quickly undressed and decided on one more bow. I looked in the mirror and there was my peeney. You certainly shouldn't be wearing your dirty peeney when you meet the king and queen even if you have clothes over it. I mean the king and queen are about as high as you can get without being God. What do men do? I knew they'd cut the peenies off some totem poles at the museum so people could look at them. You can see where they did it. I shoved it between my legs but you could still tell I had something there. But then I remembered the pictures of statues with leaves on them so I figure maybe it's OK with clothes after all. I really don't want to cut it off even to see the king and queen.
I got into the tub anyway. I was just reaching for the big bar of Palmolive when I remembered Mother's Camay. Now Camay is a beauty soap, it makes your skin really soft and clean and beautiful, not like the ordinary soap I usually use. I reached over to the basin being careful not to get water on the linoleum, and picked up Mother's Camay, there wasn't much left. It was so smooth and creamy looking. I rubbed it gently over my face and arms and body. I could feel it beginning to work, I wanted to look in the mirror to see how beautiful I had become. Then I remembered my ears and neck and armpits, and began scrubbing myself hard. And my feet and between my toes every one of them. I had all clean clothes including socks, a brand new navy blazer and my first pair of long pants that I was only allowed to wear to Sunday school other times.
I left my dirty parts to the end so I could give them special attention. I kneeled up and gave my peeney and ballies a real good lathering. They felt not quite as ugly and dirty when I finished. And my bum and my bumhole I usually forget, I really wanted to get them clean. I rubbed the end of the bar in my bumhole. It felt good. I wanted to be clean more than just `skin deep', so I shoved it deeper. And lost it! It slipped right into me. It felt itchy and stung but I knew that was because of all the germs the soap was killing. But what was I going to do about Mother's Camay? I had to get it out. I tried reaching up with my fingers but I could barely touch the end of the bar. I tried the handle of the backscrubber but it was too big. I finally managed to squeeze it out and wash off the bar, it didn't look dirty, just before Mother came in.
"And did you wash your everywhere, Rupert dear?"
"And your bummy?"
"Well I'll take your word for it this time. Now stand up and I'll rinse you off with clean water.... There now, don't you look clean and beautiful dear?"
I figure it was the Camay and all the extra scrubbing.
Mother held my hand as we walked up the hill to Durham Avenue. My bumhole still itched a lot from the soap but I felt good knowing that I had the cleanest bumhole of any boy. I even smiled at some children from my school that we met on the way. The sun was hot and people were lined up three deep along both sides of the avenue. There were a bunch of ladies in beautiful dresses drinking tea on Mr. Wilson's porch. I'd forgotten my promise to tell Mother! Grown-ups made way for me to to move to the front where there were dozens of children sitting on the curb. I decided to stand to keep my bum clean. Policemen on motorcycles drove back and forth to keep people off the roadway. It seemed like an awfully long wait, I was beginning to perspire and my new necktie was bothering me. I would like to have taken off my blazer or at least undone the buttons. I felt my cleanliness and beauty fading away but my bumhole was still sore so that was good. I practised standing with my best posture, chest out, belly in and with my hands behind my back. I wanted the king and queen to notice me. Maybe they really would pick me up. I was sure I could climb into the carriage all by myself. And then we'd go off to Government House and I'd drink milk with a little tea in it with the princesses, and play nice games on the lawn. And we'd have nice talks. Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret, I like her best, wouldn't be silly like other girls. I would ask them if they would like more sugar or cream, and I would bow down every time each time I met them and take their coats and open doors for them. And maybe they would take me back to England with them and we'd live in Buckingham Palace. And I would bring Mother along and she could be a duchess or something and live in a nice house. But my father doesn't like royalty so I'd just make him rich.
Finally I could hear the cheering way down the avenue and more policemen on motorcycles came by. This time there was a whole bunch. And then a whole bunch of cars, convertibles with important people in them. One was the mayor. And then there was a big black Packard convertible. I almost missed it - it was the king and queen! They were slowly waving and I waved back but I don't think they saw me. And then just as it was beginning it was over. Mother grabbed my hand and led me home.
And Mother says I babble to myself, but that's not true.
All the children, especially the boys are so noisy, rude and impolite. And what's more they break promises, lie, steal and even cheat which I never do. And some of them fight. Oh, they're such bad children, I don't do things like that. I don't think I disliked children before I met some but I certainly do now. And there are so many of them, and at school you can't get away from them.
Why have I been put in with all these silly, bad children? It isn't too bad when the teacher is talking or making you do things. At least that keeps them quiet most of the time. Not all the time though. I remember one time when two boys, Billy and Bobby were fooling around and talking while Miss Pratt was making letters on the blackboard. "Now who was that talking behind my back?" she demanded when she turned around. I told her it was Billy and Bobby and was going to tell her what they were saying but she started shouting at them instead. It's terrible, I want to get into grade two because there I hear the teacher uses the strap on the bad boys.
There are two, perhaps well behaved girls who aren't silly either. I feel I can say `hello' to them if I meet them on the street. But other than that I wait for the other child to say `hello' first, then depending on who it is and where I am I decide if I should say `hello' back.
I find I can handle school just as Mother had told me I would. I get there, sometimes a bit late, go home for lunch and straight home after school. But recesses are horrible. You're forced out of the school building into the yard with all the other children. Ten roomfuls all at once and we have to stay in the yard. They play rough games kicking balls and hitting balls with sticks. Some play marbles and pie which I found out are gambling, and I saw one boy lose his knife. But at least you're fairly safe there from being bumped or getting dirty if you're careful.
And fighting! Two boys will actually start hitting each other, and they hit and hit with their fists and hurt each other, and one usually gets hurt a lot more than the other and cries. And it usually isn't the right one that get hurt the most. I know that you especially shouldn't hit anyone smaller than you and it's usually the smaller that ends up crying.
And then for no reason at all this boy Bobby hit me and made me cry. Just because I told Miss Pratt about him putting chewing gum in Linda's hair. He gave me a nosebleed, some drops even fell off and he hit me three whole times. And he and a couple of other boys called me names. I was so angry, it's not fair. It's just not fair and I cried and got called more names. I told Mother and Scroogie that it wasn't fair and that all the boys at school were bad.
Mother said, "You must stand up for your rights, Rupert. You show them that you are better than they are. I want you to tell them that you won't be pushed around."
"Your mother is right. You must show them that you are made of better stuff. You must hold up your head proudly and learn to face adversity."
"What's adversity, father?"
"Adversity is a condition of misfortune, affliction or suffering. I suspect it's from the Latin. Think of our good Lord in the Garden of Gethsemane, the nadir before his final triumph. Think of Jesus turning the other cheek. It is from adversity that the sinews of triumph are forged. Adversity is the test of your character. We are in times of adversity now, my son. We must now turn to our leaders. In the marrow of my heart I believe that with Chamberlain we shall have peace. God is on our side."
I actually don't understand what Scroogie says anyway but he sure knows a lot. Like he says, for some things you have to read them in a Greek language to understand. And it's in books, everything's in books too. And there are people who can think things that you can't understand, and they're very smart. And they write the books. I'm learning to read in school but I'm not doing so good.
"You should of course respect what your father says, he knows his Bible better than me, and we do know that Jesus would turn the other cheek, and we do know that fighting is bad, but"
"But Wilema, they must start when they're young. They must learn that fighting is...."
I'm very young, like all these older kids at school, and they get bigger and bigger and could hurt you but mostly they don't. They say you learn better young. That's why Mother's teaching me manners, and how to set the table with the little spoons on the outside and all those things I shouldn't do. That's why Mother made the Ten Commandments sign. Like there's `Thou shalt not lie', `Thou shalt not steal', `Thou shalt not interrupt' and there's shalts like `Thou shalt wipe your feet'. Like you really have to learn when you're young.
"Matthew, aside from interrupting like that, I think we should make it perfectly clear to the child that he should learn to defend himself, not that I want him to go around hitting other children or anything like that."
"Especially smaller children. Like what Hitler is doing in little Czechoslovakia is abominable... but perhaps neccessary for peace in our time. Your mother is right, fighting is just not God's way."
It's the smaller boys that usually get hurt fighting too, it's not fair, it's not fair at all. And me, I'm almost the biggest in the class and Bobby's the second smallest, and that's not fair either.
"You don't know the ruffians that go to that school Matthew, you didn't think of that when you got this dump. The school is lax, very lax. They should provide much better supervision and punish offenders. Next time he should report it right to the principal."
Morning recess next day Bobby comes up and pushes me while I was minding my own business in a corner of the yard. He said he got a licking from his dad because of me. "You deserve to be punished." I told him. He pushed me again and I fell against the fence. And then he pushed me again before I could get up. I think he wanted to fight me. I tried telling him fighting was bad and he pushed me more. What would Jesus have done? He kept on pushing me and started calling me names. I tried to push him away and then I grabbed him and I was going to take him to the principal and tell Mr. Rodgers what he had done and that he used swear words at me too. And then he punched me with his other hand. I held onto him tight and he punched me again. I let go and he punched me again and again. I ran home crying. I was so angry.
When I got home Mother and Scroogie were arguing, something about money, so I didn't get to tell them about anything. Mother threw Scroogie out of the house and he didn't come back for three days.
The next day a lot of different boys pushed me and called me a sissy and they would chant, `Rupert's a sissy, Rupert's a sissy.' Even the silly girls did it. Why do I have to put up with these silly, cruel children all the time? I always try to listen to Miss Pratt and remember the letters but I don't do very good, but I'm real good at numbers and drawing. But sometimes it's hard to listen all the time. Sitting at the back you see all the backs of the other children. Like all the different colours of the hair, the necks, and the legs. I can see two aisles of legs and everyone wears short pants or skirts in grade one. Bare boys' legs and bare girls' legs. You can always tell by the whole person but just legs? I just look at the legs, their shape and the skin. Boys' legs are a bit skinnier and not as roundish but I figure you can tell even a fat boy's legs. They're usually dirtier too. In the afternoon when the sun comes slanting in the windows you can see all the fuzzy hairs. I can't really tell the difference but I like boys' legs best.
Only three boys got the strap so far in grade two and I don't think that's enough. And Miss Windsor only gives them two smacks on each hand and one of them didn't even cry. I like to watch because I know I would never get the strap because I'm a good boy. I can't understand why other boys are bad because they look so good. They all have nice skin, not dry and ugly like mine. I especially like looking at boys' necks because girls mostly have hair hanging down. They look so beautiful, just like angel pictures. Mother sometimes calls me an angel when I'm supergood. I think Georgie has the nicest neck, but I look at Jacky's a lot too. I especially like watching those muscle things when they move their heads.
Everything else is old and ugly. The desks are all carved up and stained, the floor's stained even worse and paint is coming off all over the place. Outside it's all dirty and dusty and muddy and the school and the houses are old and shabby, only a few trees are nice. I wish everything in the world was new and bright and clean, just like the childrens' skin. Sometimes I pretend it is that way and that people are good and children are nice. But the other children are not nice, they don't know how beautiful they are. They hit and steal and lie to the teacher. I told Miss Windsor who hid Claudia's glasses and I told her who put the thumbtack on her chair. I'm trying to make the whole world beautiful and nice like it should be, but even Miss Windsor doesn't understand. And the other children tease me and call me bad names. The other boys are so bad I feel sorry for Miss Windsor. I want to show her I care, so I made this picture for her. We were doing Indians and I found this picture in a book of an ugly Indian with a tomahawk killing this missionary with nice white skin and upward looking eyes. It took me a whole day at home. I even pricked my finger to get the blood paint but it turned awfully dark when it dried. And suddenly I'm learning to read and write and my report card says I have `aptitude in art'. And the war's interesting. I found out where Poland is, right over by England.
AND ON SUNDAY
"Well, I thought we could at least agree on a Sunday school for our dear Rupert. There's no question that St. Georges is the place for him. He may have to walk a bit farther, but he's getting to be such a big boy now."
"But it's almost two miles, Wilema."
"Scroogie, I'm warning you, let me finish. There are other things to consider, we must think of Rupert. You know practically the entire congregation comes from the hill and the other side of Durham. He'll meet a much better class of children there than he does at St. Clements."
"But St. Georges is very high church."
"Don't start butting me."
"But they have all that papist ceremony and liturgy cluttering the simple, basic Christian truths."
"Scroogie, how many times do I have to tell you that you do not `but' me. And I'm sure our dear Rupert is not interested in the subtle distinctions between high and low church. And what right is it of yours to make these decisions. He's my child. I've been the one overseeing his moral development. I've been the one who's been seeing he doesn't end up like some of the little ruffians around here. You barely have time for the child anyway, what with your meetings and precious books. And you have the nerve to say he might be better off at St. Clements."
"SCROOGIE, I warned you."
It's like God is there. There are these great big stained glass windows and the ceiling is bricks pointed up in the middle and it's so high and big a thousand seagulls could fly around. And there's big stone columns like hemlocks, and there's almost a forest of them, and they branch out at the top like elms. And when the sun shines in it's like a sunset inside and more beautiful than the forest. There's a gold cross way taller than a grown-up above the wooden thing where the minister stands. The organ sends shudders through you. It's neat, it's like you can feel the power of God right there. They say it's the most powerful organ west of Winnipeg. Sometimes I just let it do it to me and I forget to listen or sing. You aren't supposed to forget. And I always try to to be good and not fidget or scratch especially down there. The choirboys are all in the Sunday School too and we go down to the basement halfway through for our lessons while the grown-ups have holy communion.
The basement isn't much, just a bunch of rooms and one big one. But there are all these pictures of Jesus with his halo and beard talking to little children and doing important things. Sunday school is a lot better than ordinary school. You get to wear long pants and a tie and there aren't a bunch of children, just maybe eight in the class. And our teacher is a nice old lady who tells us all these Bible stories. But there are so many people in them I can't remember too much, like Moses, Joseph and Nebblekenezzer.... he was a king. I like the stories about Jesus best, all the good and magic things he did although the teacher says it really wasn't magic.
I learnt that God made everything, the Earth, the Sun and the whole universe, and that man, or Adam and Eve had lived in a real nice place called the Garden of Eden. But man had disobeyed God and had to be punished. I couldn't understand why people disobeyed God because he was so good and powerful. It seems so stupid but the Devil had tempted them somehow. Now we are all sinners and have to wear clothes because peenies and naked ladies are dirty. I found out that even little children are sinners and babies too.
I learnt a lot more about God and Jesus. I learnt that God is all powerful, he can do anything, even more than Superman. He can go ZAP and knock out whole cities like Sodom anmd Gomorrah, and he could do it to us if he wanted to. I asked Miss Priestly and she should know because she's our teacher. She didn't think God would zap our city. I can't figure out how the Germans can zap cities when they don't have God on their side and we do. "How come God doesn't make everything right?" I learnt that it is difficult for a child to understand and that God is testing us. Jesus's work isn't finished yet and that's why there's so much suffering. God will take care of things and I shouldn't worry. I think it's unfair that others suffer more than lucky me.
I won The Common Book of Prayer when I was nine for topping my class. Mother was so proud of me and told Aunt Maude. I'd been playing with Cousin Andrew and he likes wrestle and twist arms and he always wins. I had to keep playing or he would call me a sissy but my arm got too sore so I quit.
"You must learn to be more careful." Aunt Maude told me and said to Mother, "These growing boys justy don't know their own strength."
"But it still hurts."
"You'll feel better soon, just think of the suffering others go through. Why think of the suffering of our good Lord. You should know about that. Why your mother was just telling me that you won a prayer book. How marvelous! I wish my little Andrew was as precocious. Do you read your Bible? I find such great comfort in it."
"No, Aunty Maude." I confessed.
"Well you really should. It's the true word of God. I wish I could get my little Andrew to read it more, but he's not precocious like you in such things. Why you might become a famous clergyman, a reverend or a bishop. Remember always that the Bible is the true word of God. I do think you should start to read your Bible."
"I could try."
"Well trying is one thing. If you set your mind to doing something you can. I want you to promise."
"I promise, Aunty Maude."
"And every day, at least one chapter."
"I promise Aunt Maude."
"Very good Rupert."
I imagined myself standing in the carved oak pulpit in front of the big brass cross with the congregation singing, the organ throbbing and the sunlight making the transcept and nave glow. I tried reading the Bible, I really did, but it wasn't easy, and I missed two days in the first week which I tried to make up for, but after two weeks it was hopeless. I gave up feeling very guilty. What would Aunt Maude, and God, think of me? Fortunately Mother and Aunt Maude had an argument just after that and Mother isn't speaking to her. And I don't have to play with Cousin Andrew.
I really like Sunday school but the children aren't all that good. They don't fight or swear hardly and they're cleaner and more polite, but they can be mean and the older boys will pinch you hard even right in Sunday school. Sometimes I feel I'm the only one who understands about God and Jesus and being good.
THE HOME FRONT
In grade three I'd just gotten home one day and.... "You won't take that night watchman's job because it's a war plant. You expect your family to suffer for your pacifism? And all that money you saved at the mission, and what your father left you, you've probably spent most of that. And all those ridiculous political and study groups you go to. I bet a lot of money's gone that way. And this business of leaving the church because of the war."
"Don't `but' me Scroogie, at least I know when I've made a mistake, and that was marrying you."
"But Wilema, you wanted to." She likes him to call her `Mother' and he hardly ever calls her by name.
"Well I didn't have much choice. I was almost thirty and had to get out. And you, you misled me, you lied to me. Why couldn't I have been like Maude, she knew how to marry. And that brother of yours. I bet you send him money too."
"But Wilema, we have everything we need."
"You call this dump everything? That car which won't run, and this neighbourhood, everything? You expect me to bring up this child in the midst of a bunch of ruffians? We've got everything all right, everything right here on the street. We've got drunkards, we've got immigrants who can't speak English, and that French Catholic family with nine grubby brats."
"But the Papineau's are nice people."
"Nice people don't dress their children in rags and let them sleep two to a bed. That's what I hear."
"I think you're unfair. They do the best they can, Philippe works very hard. Merely because they're poor and French"
"So it's Philippe? Getting chummy with your downtrodden poor, eh? I suppose you're inviting him to your study groups? Too bad you don't study hygiene and common decency. And as for being French, I've got nothing against the French, but they DO have their own part of the country. We certainly don't need neighbours like that."
"But Wilema, the Papineau's are not much different from us."
"From you maybe, with all your pacifism and socialism. You're quite contented here in this crummy house and shabby neighbourhood. You don't care. You'd be happy in a pigsty. You don't know the struggle it's been to make this place as decent as it is. What I went through to get a new stove and washing machine and now your saying we can't afford a new chesterfield and drapes for the living room. And you say we have everything we need? I say we have more than we need, and that more is you. That's what I want to tell you. When I found out you weren't going to take that job, I went and saw a lawyer and I filed for separation papers."
"How many times have I told you that you do not `but' me. This time it's for good. This time you pick up all your clothes, your chest of drawers and your precious books. I'm keeping everything else. And I don't want you hanging around. I'm going to get out of this slum and make a decent life for my son."
"Now, right this instant, you can pack your suitcase, or I'll throw you out bodily."
I tried to think about trees, about why oak leaves are a different shape from maple leaves.
Scroogie began gathering up his things.
As I sat at the table drawing I wondered how I would make the kitchen look modern like the pictures in the magazines, and then the whole house with modern furniture and appliances.
He came in the kitchen and phoned someone.
I wanted neon lights on the ceiling, just white, and those bent funny chromium chairs, lots of round corners and coves, and Formica and real Leatherette.
He stood beside me.
And why can't they let trees grow naturally and not hack them back so they're ugly.
"I'm a.... I'm off now Rupert.... I'll be in touch. Bye Rupert, bye."
"Goodbye Scroogie." But I did not look up because I was drawing how the new kitchen would look. Later on I noticed the picture of him in his corporal's uniform, taken in France in 1916 was gone. Mother says she's taking care of it. She threw out his old mattress and a box of old brownish photographs. I looked through them but they were mostly pictures of people. I kept two which had pictures of trees and lakes on them.
That evening Mother took me to an expensive restaurant and I had a full order of breaded veal cutlets. After she made me have a huge banana split sundae for dessert and told me that very soon we would be moving to a nice modern house in a good neighbourhood.
"Now wasn't that a nice dinner?" she said after we got home. "They say the cook used to work in a French restaurant."
"Are the French good cooks?"
"Well so I've heard, the real ones are, not like the kind you get around here. Now why don't we just sit down and have a quiet evening at home, alone together, by ourselves. Maybe we could see what's on radio, Rupert dear, or play rummy. There's just the two of us now, Rupert. With Scroogie gone you're the man of the house now. You're the only one I've got. Being the man of the house means you're responsible. It's more work and sacrifice but we'll make it through, won't we Rupert?"
"I'll try Mother." I would do extra work, I'd even wash some dishes and really keep my room tidy.
"I may even have to work full time. Mrs. Ashbury at the shop has asked if I could. I wouldn't have much time to spend at home with you, but with what the lawyer says we can get from Scroogie we can make a go of it. Can't we, Rupert?"
I told her all the extra things I would try and do. Maybe it will be nice, just the two of us. No more arguments and Mother making me take her side. I did my chores and by the end of the week I had redesigned the whole city. I worked on it every day after school. All the old and ugly buildings were torn down except the churches, and I saved all the big trees too. Downtown there were rows of modern skyscrapers, some twenty storeys high and wide boulevards. And all the houses had flat roofs so helicopters and autogyros could land on them. I know every house will have one by 1960 because I read it in Popular Science, my favourite magazine. And there would be lots of parks and big trees like cedars and oaks and maples, and even some palm trees like in California. It must be really nice in California. And children could play without getting dirty and they wouldn't swear or fight or be mean to each other. And I put happy faces on all of them. Mother says I'll be a great architect or engineer some day and she'll be so proud of me.
On Saturday my father phoned but Mother explained that "the man of the house" had had a very busy week and that "Rupert has made other plans".
"It really has been a busy week for you Rupert, you deserve a break, and I thought it would be nice if the man of the house took his mother to the movies this evening."
I was trying to design a new Main Street bridge with big arches that would look good with sailboats and children wading along the shore, but I did want to see Jungle Boy at the Dominion. It's about this boy and elephants and jungle. But I would sooner have gone by myself like I usually do. "Well I don't know." I said.
"What do you mean, you don't know Rupert? You don't know what? It's certainly not too much to expect, after all I do for you. I mean what are sons for... for a poor lonely mother?" I couldn't argue with that.
Mother decided that The Lady Has Plans, she likes Ray Milland, would be a more appropriate movie and there was a long line up. Only a few kids asked me who my `girl friend' was, while I tried to imagine Durham and Main Street with rows of tall white skyscrapers. Mother held my hand, smiled at me and said, "Aren't you glad you're not like those ruffians. I'm so proud the way you ignored them."
I do see my father sometimes. The judge said he could take me out on Saturday afternoons. Mother got very angry when I told the judge I wanted that, but I felt I should. She keeps him waiting on the porch while she gets me ready. We go for walks down by the sea or sit in his little room. Sometimes he talks about how bad the Great War was or about hiking in Wales. We go to meetings sometimes and they talk about the war and capitalists and Christian socialism. That sounds pretty good because there'd be no fighting or `exploitation' and everybody would be nice to each other. But they never talk about the children although they say they'll be happy too. Like socialism is like tearing down all the old and ugly things and building new, clean modern ones.
In grade four I've got Old Lady or Miss Welters. She's the strictest teacher in the school and gives the strap the most. And she even gives girls the strap. I like to watch her give boys the strap. She makes them hold their hands way out and she'll give them three, sometimes four on each hand. You watch their eyes when it lands. The girls she does in the cloakroom, which I think is right because they always cry. A lot of boys cry too, but not loud, just tears. Sometimes they get called sissies. I try my best to be good but sometimes I forget and daydream or talk. And then I got it, just at the end of the second week.
I was innocent, I really was, I wasn't even watching, but I happened to have the biggest grin on my face when she turned around after the spitball landed in the neck of her blouse. I wanted to protest my innocence, `It's not fair, it's not fair', I thought. I wanted to protest the injustice, I was trying to think up arguments, I was.... and I was scared. Like I'd never even been spanked before.
"Hold out your left hand." she ordered. The class was silent and watching. WHACK WHACK WHACK `It's not fair, it's not fair.' "Now your right hand." WHACK WHACK WHACK
I managed not to cry even though it wasn't just. I still wanted to explain.... But when I saw the way the other boys looked at me, like I wasn't a sissy, I just walked slowly back to my seat. Three kids including Jacky got it over ten times from Old Lady Welters that year and I got it three more times. Once it was almost deliberate because I wanted to show this boy who said he didn't cry that I was braver. I even grinned at him on my way back. I got my best marks ever and I like Miss Welters.
And then near the end of grade four and I'd just gotten home from school one day when Mother called into the living room. "Rupert, I have something sad to tell you, Your father died. A stroke they think." I stood there in dumb confusion. "His funeral was this afternoon, I thought I'd wait until now to save you the pain. I know how this must sadden you."
"What? But I should have been there!"
"The service was at two o'clock. They'll have buried poor Matthew by now. I had everything arranged properly."
"Why at Highpoint Burial Park. They had a nice plot overlooking the city."
"I know how you must feel dear. I thought we'd have dinner in a nice restaurant this evening in honour of Matthew. Oh, Rupert!" There were tears in her eyes and she reached out to comfort me.
I dashed out of the house and ran and ran. I knew where Highpoint was but I didn't what bus to take. I wished I had a bike and knew how to ride it. I caught a bus out Durham Avenue for a ways until it turned off to the left and started running again. Soon I was out of the city and into small farms. I was exhausted by the time I reached the bottom of Highpoint Drive and I walked for ages up to the cemetery gates. I couldn't find anyone and the sun was getting low. Finally I saw two workmen and ran over to them. "I'm looking for Matthew Landis, he was buried here today."
"Well, I dunno, I haven't checked my forms yet, but there was only two today."
"You don't know?"
"Well there was over two hundred at the other one and maybe a dozen, mostly oldtimers here." I looked at the low mound in the shadows. I guessed it was it. "We close the gates at eight so you haven't much time." They headed off.
I stared at the grave. Scroogie? Matthew? Father? My father didn't have many friends, just people from meetings and I'd only met a few briefly. Mother never liked them around the house. I suppose I should have cried or something. I know it's OK for boys to cry at funerals. They say you're supposed to think of the good things. I thought. Maybe back at the mission, I guess there were good times. There must have been but I couldn't remember. I imagined I had X-ray vision and could look down through the soil into the coffin but all I could see was my father pleading, protesting and trying to explain while Mother shouted at him. I stood and stood. I wasn't very sad or angry. All sorts of strange thoughts and dreamlike things went through my mind. The sunlight was just touching the tops of the fir trees in front of me. I suddenly felt chilly and walked slowly back to the gate. And then with long loping strides I ran down the long hill. I walked the rest of the way and got home long after dark.
"You needn't have run off like that. You're all I've got now.... Rupert? Rupert!"
I knew I was being very rude as I closed my bedroom door. And then I cried but I don't think I'll miss my father.
THE CHILDRENS' PARTY
A couple of weeks after the funeral Mother made me have a party for my friends. "You're getting to be a big boy now Rupert. Why you're practically a young man, so tall and handsome. Don't you think it's time you started thinking about your social position. I mean you've had such a difficult time lately what with your poor dear father passing away. I just thought it would be nice if you had a party for your friends. I'll buy some streamers for the living room and we can have fun putting them up. And they'll look so nice with the new drapes.. Why you could even make up little invitation cards, you like drawing so much it would be fun for you. What do you say to that, Rupert dear?"
I really liked the idea of a party. People standing around talking, laughing, telling jokes and drinking pop and music playing. And people slapping each other on the back. Now THAT would be fun, and nice too. And I could show people the plan of new island I've designed with palm trees and beaches in the south and mountains, lakes and glaciers in the north. It's even got a desert so children can see sand dunes and cactus. The cities would all be modern but I'd have some old fashioned towns for people who like quaint things. There would airplanes and trains and four lane and even six lane highways crowded with cars. And then I'd ask everybody what they'd like to drink and pass around sandwiches. Who would I invite? Who could I invite? Who? I didn't have any of those kind of friends. Hesitantly I replied, "Well, I would like to have a party, really, but...."
"I can understand, Rupert dear, that you feel reluctant to invite your friends into this shabby house, but at least it's clean and tidy, and those new green drapes set off the living room nicely, don't you think?"
"It's not really THAT so much."
"Well, what is it dear?"
"Well, uh.... OK." What could I say?
"Fine, I'll even try to get the new slip covers for the chesterfield finished in time. And feel free to invite all your friends, people don't like feeling left out you know, but do be careful. We don't want some of the local ruffians here, do we? Why you could even invite Jacky if you wish to. Oh, and your friend Martin."
"Morton." I corrected. He is the only boy I'd ever brought home that Mother doesn't object to.
"Morton is it? Well I think boys look nice in white shirts and pressed pants, and I remember how polite he was. Such a nice boy."
My party is to be next Friday evening so the boys, and I can invite girls too if I want, can stay up late. Mother will make a batch of home made root beer and bake some cakes and cookies. She'll also do the serving so I can enjoy muself with my friends, but it would be appreciated if they helped clean up after.
Who to invite? I don't want to invite Jacky, he's mean to me and teases me because I don't play sports very good. Not Morton, he has fewer friends than me and is a bigger sissy too, but I can if I have to. Like I know other boys and girls have parties; birthday parties, end of term parties, and even `parents away' parties. I've heard other kids talk about them but I haven't been to one. I'm never invited. And they're mostly rich kids and have things, and are always doing things together, like bike riding or hiking. I don't even have a bicycle. There are lots of kids I would like to invite but I don't really know them, like what is being friends like? There's Micheal, he's the one with the dark reddish hair and the tiny moles on on his neck. And I would invite Paulo, the boy with the big dark eyes and fuzz on his lip who sits in the front row. And little Robby, he's really tough for a little kid and has got the strap nine times already, but then he stole my ruler and said it was his.
I have to invite somebody. I must have friends. But I don't play with other boys except at school a bit. I've only been over to a couple of other kids' places and hardly ever brought any over to mine. The only time I've ever been to a movie with another boy was that time Sammy had some tickets and I found out he stole the money - from his mother! and I never spoke to him after. But I just gotta invite somebody. Maybe Willie and Mary Tidleigh and Linda. They're always borrowing my things in art class and I talk to them. I've lent things to a lot of kids. I even lent my blotter to Micheal and he used it almost all up. When I invite kids I can tell them that I've lent them things so they have to come. And Mary likes some of my drawings in Art, and so do others, and the teacher likes them too. And I could invite the those who like my drawings except the real silly girls. But I can't invite all the bad boys and silly girls I don't talk to. They're the ones who lie, steal and swear like Archie, and who make fun of me, although I don't think swearing is very bad, at least not `hell' and `damn'. I've even tried damn' a few times and it didn't do anything to me. But I would never say THAT word.
I made a list of all the possible names I could think of and picked the eight I liked best. Then I made up eight invitations by hand. In the middle is a Lancaster bomber coming straight at you and above that I printed in big letters, FLY IN TO RUPERT'S and at the bottom I put the time and R.S.V.P. which I think makes them look very professional. And I coloured them all with pencil crayons, and on a couple of them I put a Messerschmidt 109 going down in flames.
Mary and Linda laughed and said it was sweet of me to invite them, I don't think they're coming. Micheal made a dart out his invitation and almost hit the teacher. Only three said they'd come. I had to invite Morton, and Jacky too, and I had to tell Jacky we'd be having Coco-Cola even though Mother doesn't think it's good for growing boys.
Morton arrived right at seven o'clock and Mother brought out the sandwiches and sat down smiling beside us.
"Nice place you got here." Morton commented.
"Yeah, we're gonna fix it up after the war or move somewhere."
"We've considered moving for some time now, probably up the hill, the other side of Durham Avenue." Mother added.
"That would be nice."
"Would you like another sandwich? The ones with the olives on top are tuna."
"Thankyou, they sure look neat with the crusts cut off."
"Yeah, they sort of look modern."
"Rupert really likes modern things. You should see some of the things he designs." I wasn't sure if I wanted to show my island to anyone. "Rupert, why don't you show Martin the the island you designed."
"Morton." I corrected. "They're just drawings anyway."
"Well I happen to think they're very good, I like them and I'm sure Morton would love to see them." I got the drawings out of my room and laid them out on the kitchen table.
"What do those things mean?" Morton pointed to the south of the island.
"That's where there are palm trees like in California."
"Where's your island supposed to be?"
"It's not anywhere but you could probably put it in the Pacific Ocean."
"It's a fictional island?"
"Certainly not. Fiction means it's not true. Fiction's like fairy tales, the people aren't real people, and it's all made up by some writer. I once read a fairy tale about this princess and a wicked witch and it was the silliest thing I ever read. Things don't happen that way, all that silly magic and everything."
"I read all the fairy tales, some of them three times, I like them and I like other stories too."
"Well you can if you want to. Mother reads a lot of murder mysteries and stuff. I mean if you know it's not real. But I'm not going to take any chances, and besides, it's a waste of time when you can read about real things like science and architecture."
"Don't you even read comic books?"
"Very few." I replied truthfully.
"But your island's made up, just like fiction is."
"It's not. It's a plan, and it's not about people like fiction is."
"Who's going to live there?"
"Families with children like anywhere else, only it would be such a good place that the people would be better too."
"That's still like fiction." There was no point in trying to explain to Morton. If he couldn't see how I designed the rivers so they would be easy to build bridges across, except where the main city is because I think a long suspension bridge would look good, then that's his tough luck.
I refilled our glasses with root beer from the crock and we went back to the living room. I found some music on the radio and we pretended to listen to it. We also played a couple of games of checkers which I won easily. About eight thirty Mother went to the store to pick up the ice cream so that it would be "fresh from the freezer". Shortly after Jacky arrived. He 'd just come from a basketball practice. I introduced him to Morton but they'd already met. Jacky ate six sandwiches and drank the two bottles of Coco-Cola I'd put aside in the fridge and left so he could have a bath in time for Gangbusters.
Mother returned from the store with the ice cream and the two little MacGuire sisters. "Look who I found in the store. Their mother said it would be alright if they stayed for a while. We have so much ice cream and food and I trust there's still some root beer left?"
"Hi Biddy, Hi Scarlet. Have you met Morton?"
"Rupert, what happened to all the tuna fish sandwiches? I made ten of them."
"I guess Jacky ate most of them."
"Well, where is he now?"
"He had to go home to listen to a program."
"Rupert, I really think you should be more careful in your choice of friends. Jacky was taking advantage of you."
"Well, maybe." I served the ice cream for something to do but I forgot the syrup and maraschino cherries and had to take them all back.
"And what happened to the two bottles of Coco-Cola I thought you were saving for later on?"
"Uh.... Jacky drank them."
"Oh the nerve of some people!"
Mother entertained the little MacGuire sisters, she always said she adored little girls, and Morton and I went back to listening to the radio. When it was time for the sisters to go home I started to clean up. Morton said he'd had a good time, and thanked me when he left. I got most of it cleaned up before Mother got back. I said I was tired and went to bed early.
Mother came in to to tuck me in and kiss me goodnight as she always does. She's always trying to kiss me anyway. Since I was about seven if I ever cut or hurt myself I'd try not to tell her. "Let me kiss it better" she would always say. But I can't do anything about bedtime. "I so enjoyed the little MacGuire girls, aren't they adorable?" With her great weight she pinned me down with the bedcovers and kissed me on the cheeks and forehead for a long time like in the movies. If I wriggled or protested she would tell me that the least I owed her was a goodnight kiss, and she'd start all over again. "And your friend Morton is such a nice boy."
It's not fair, bad boys have friends and I don't.
GIRLS' GAMES: 1942
It wasn't long after that I ran into Marilyn and Louise at the corner store. Marilyn lives right next door to it and they're both in grade eight. They always say, "Hello Rupert." so I have to say hello back but I hardly ever talk to them. This time they told me that needed me and would buy me a chocolate bar if I helped. Chocolate bars are hard to find because of the war and the man in the store keeps them under the counter and hardly ever sells me one, so I went to Marilyn's house. They have a nicer sink and a refridgerator but their stove isn't as good as ours. I like the chromium handles on the cabinets.
They said it was a special game and they needed a boy to play it right. The rules were you sat facing each other and had to copy exactly what the person opposite did. I couldn't see why girls couldn't play that game by themselves, but maybe it would be a game that mother and I could have fun playing. Louise got to play me first because she was the one who invented the game. Louise said you lost points if you didn't follow correctly. She counted out ten big wooden matches each and said I wouldn't get the chocolate bar if I lost them all. She let me go first and I did an Indian war whoop I've been secretly practising.
"No Rupert, it has to be quiet or you lose points. You can't say anything or make any noise at all, not even when it's your turn to follow."
I lost two matches for that. On her turn she rubbed the back of her neck with both hands and pulled on her earlobes. I thought that pretty easy but she took a match because she said I didn't do it right. I told her I'd try harder next time. On my turn I wiggled my scalp, a trick I learnt from Cousin Andrew.
"You're not allowed to do impossible things. It has to be something anybody can do if they try." She took two more of my matches which I thought was unfair.
Louise began by rubbing her knees and then rubbing all the way up her legs and tummy, and even on her chest where those things are. She made me copy three times before she said I was good enough. And then she started rubbing her down there with both hands. She told me I had to do exactly the same to myself, "But that's dirty." She started to reach for my matches. It is only a game I thought and besides Mother says I should do as my elders tell me. "Well OK." I rubbed my down there being careful not to play with myself and Marilyn came over to watch and see I did it right.
I said it was my turn and I went through all the funny faces I learnt to do in my Uncle Albert's mirror. Louise just laughed, and Marilyn too, so I took two of her matches.
The next one was to be more difficult and I would have to be very careful. Louise reached over and started rubbing my knees and then started up my thighs. `Why does it feel so funny? It's not like when I touch myself there or Mother does.' I had to grit my teeth and close my eyes as the rubbing reached my tummy and went up my chest. Finally I couldn't hold the tickling and I laughed. She grabbed two matches told me to copy. I started rubbing Louise's knees and then moved along the outside but I had to go back and start all over again. When I at last got to her chest I went around the outside and tickled her armpits. Then I had only one match left. She rubbed my chest to show me how to do it and even squeezed where my nipples are. I did my best but she said it wasn't very good. Finally I pretended she was a radio with two big knobs and I was always changing the stations. She said that wasn't bad.
"Now for the second part."
"What second part?" I looked at my last match.
"Remember when we rubbed ourselves?"
"Well I don't think that's right."
"It's too late to back out now. Once you've started, you have to finish, and it's only a game."
"I just think I'd lose anyway. Even if it's OK because it's just a game, I don't think it's polite."
"That doesn't matter to us. You'll get a chocolate bar if you just try. I promise I won't take your last match. I promise."
"And I'm her witness." Marilyn added.
Louise started reaching for my down there, but I crossed my legs and she couldn't really rub anything.
"You can't do that, you have to sit with your legs apart."
"Well you can cross your legs too when I rub you. That would be fair." I hoped she would so I wouldn't have to rub her down there."
"Rupert, please!" she began gently rubbing what she could reach. My peeney and all of me down there tingled but I kept my legs tightly pressed. I closed my eyes to concentrate. `This must be temptation, what evil temptation is like.' A vision of Hell invaded my mind. I squeezed my legs together harder. I could do it. I could resist temptation. I could even resist it and enjoy it at the same time. "Rupert, don't be a square, come on." I could feel my character growing as I resisted temptation. I don't get that many chances like this to resist temptation. At last Louise gave up. "Now it's your turn to do it to me."
"You gotta cross your legs and keep them tight together."
"Rupert, don't be goofy."
"You gotta cross your legs or I won't play." I would suffer by not having the chocolate bar. Suffering builds character too.
"Come on Rupert."
"No." I said with as much character as I could. After a while I thanked them politely and left. Mother and God would be proud of me if they knew, and of course God does. But I did touch her up there but then it was just a game.
P A R T T W O:
R E N D E - V O U S W I T H P U B E R T O R Y
THE LITTLE CHILDREN IN AFRICA
I found out that God is not only all powerful but He's OMNISCIENT. He knows everything, He can see everything and He can even tell what you are thinking. And He's real, not like Superman. This business of God being omniscient bothers me a bit, because while I never do anything bad I sometimes have bad thoughts. Once I wanted to beat up this big bully with a stick, and another time I saw this Spitfire model airplane kit which cost four dollars and for a couple of days I thought of stealing it. I even wonder what Mother's down there looks like. Since I found out that God is omniscient I'm trying to be more careful, but it's hard. It's hard to think about what you are thinking about until after, and like faith is what you think, and faith is the most important thing. I know other boys do worse things so maybe God will be good to me.
He did help me once when some boys were picking on me. "God will get you for this." I shouted at them, and lo and behold one of them backed down and the others stopped. It only worked once, I guess I wasn't good enough the other times. But there was this one other time when this tough Chinese boy was pushing me, and I couldn't do anything because he was a lot smaller. Then some kids who didn't like `Chinks' saved me, but maybe it was God's way of doing things.
And grown-ups are bad too, not just the Germans and the Japs but everybody. I learnt that people had sinned and turned against God. But God is good and He's giving people another chance. He sent his son Jesus down to show people the right way. But Jesus was crucified. They whipped Him, put a crown of thorns on His head and nailed Him right through the hands and feet to a cross and left Him to die with a couple of robbers. Now Jesus really suffered, probably more than anyone else, but it was His suffering that did all the good. He died for our sins and after Jesus people had a chance again.
You have to believe in Jesus Christ and I really do. Like if everyone believed then it would be like the Garden of Eden again. But there is so much to be done. Some people have never even heard of Jesus, like in Africa. Little children grow up and die, and never have a chance. I've seen pictures in National Geographic and they hardly wear any clothes and some of the little children have none. Maybe when I grow up I will go to Africa and tell them about Jesus and make them wear clothes like us.
I always say a special prayer for the little children in Africa, well every time I say my prayers and I hardly ever miss. Prayers aren't like the Bible reading I did so bad on. But in winter when my bedroom gets very cold I have cheated a couple of times and said my prayers under the covers and not kneeling beside like you're supposed to. But then I think of how much Jesus had suffered on the Cross and do it the proper way. It sometimes takes ages to warm up the cold clammy sheets and my prayers are a bit shorter in winter. And then it's hard to talk to God all the time because He never says anything back. I know He isn't supposed to, at least not like that. I've already told Him about all the good things I want Him to do at least a hundred times, especially for the little children in Africa who've never heard of Jesus. I don't like asking too much for myself, that wouldn't be fair, and besides He's omniscient and knows anyway.
I think a lot about God and Jesus and the Holy Ghost. I can't figure out the Holy Ghost but I really like Jesus. He was a man, a real person not like the other two. I think of Jesus turning the other cheek WHAM and then turning back to the first cheek WHAM and so on. What would that feel like? I wish I could be like that. And the Crucifixion, that was really something. Getting beaten, thorns stuck in your head, nails hammered through your hands and feet. Wow, Jesus could really take it. More and more I think about Jesus suffering to give us another chance. What would it be like? I've heard that great men suffered, and that it builds character and makes you brave. I'd like to suffer but I'm a sissy and will never be anybody.
Alone in my room I began to pose in front of my big Uncle Albert's mirror, arms outstretched, motionless and trying to imagine I'm nailed to a cross. It's become my way of praying, of being close to Jesus. I want to show Jesus that I know it was His suffering that's given me another chance. I really appreciate it, I really do. Of course I know He knows but I'd like some sign or something. In winter I feel the pressure of the cold on my face and hands. It's a kind of mild, almost pleasant pain - I hate cold. I started stripping to my underwear to feel it better, and seeing myself bare in the mirror helps me to imagine His suffering. Soon I was posing stark naked. God can see my peeney anyway so it doesn't matter and I can feel the cold pain everywhere. It's like being honest, being naked, at least with God. My peeney gets stiff, it would anyway even with clothes on. and it seems to help me. I see how long I can stand before my arms tire or the cold forces me to get under the covers. If I can keep my peeney stiff I can do it longer.
There seems to be some special feeling in my peeney, a nice almost pain. I wonder if the Romans tortured Jesus there - I know my own peeny and balls are the most hurtable parts of my body. I figure the Romans must have done something to Him there because He suffered the most, but of course they can't tell you about it in Sunday school because you don't talk about such things. But I'm not sure. I remember there was something different about Jesus or His birth, and peenies are dirty and Jesus was pure.
One day I was walking by the Anglican Religious Supply and Bookstore and saw these pictures of Jesus in the window. I had almost a dollar which was almost the most money I've ever had, and I really wanted my very own Jesus picture so I went in. They were mostly shining light pictures or Jesus with a bunch of people. There was one of Jesus with a bunch of children which I sort of liked but there were no little African children. I ended up buying a big shining light one for 69 cents.
On the way home I stopped to look in the window of the Catholic Bookstore. I really shouldn't have because I know the Catholics have strayed from the true path, and are probably all going to Hell. But there right beside the door was this picture of Jesus on the Cross. His body was naked except for a piece of cloth across His down there. The muscles stood out on His pale skin and blood flowed from His hands, side and feet. His face was serene and wise. It was the most beautiful and meaningful Jesus picture I'd ever seen. Then, and I really suprized myself, I switched pictures. No one noticed me. Like everyone else I've heard the story of how the British agents switched some Nazi documents and they ended up shelling their own troops. I figure the person who buys my Anglican picture may be turned from Catholicism and become a true Christian. Now that was a pretty neat `act of sabotage' on the enemy.
Of course I know the Cross should be empty to show Jesus risen from the dead, but still Jesus was on the Cross and it was there that he did most of the suffering that gave us another chance. So I can't see too much wrong with it even if it is Catholic, and it sure looks neat.
When I got home I set the picture beside my Uncle Albert's mirror and stared at it for the longest time. I especially like the blood and white muscled skin. I can see how His hands are torn from the weight of His body. I can almost feel the ache where the nails pierced His feet. I looked for blood where they had tortured his peeney if He had one. I know it wouldn't be polite for the artist to show it, but I know there must have been some undescribable pain where his peeney and balls were. I became excited and stiff, took off my clothes and assumed my crucifixion pose. I looked at my Jesus on the Cross picture and then at my own body in the mirror. As I imagine the pain I feel closer to Jesus. It seems more real when I pinch my peeney.
I also learnt about Heaven and Hell. It isn't up in the clouds like I used to believe, but it's a very nice place and the good people go there. Hell is the opposite and the bad people are punished there after they die. My Sunday school teacherm Miss Worthy isn't sure if they really get tortured and burnt all the time. There's also a place called Purgatory which is sort of in between, and that's where all the people who were good but didn't have a chance go. It includes good people who died before Jesus came to Earth, and she told me, all the children in Africa who die before they hear of Jesus. But once you hear about Jesus and you still don't believe, no matter how good you've been, you go to Hell. You've rejected Jesus. I don't think that's fair because how would the children in Africa know for sure if they've only just heard about Him.
I'd really like to have one of those poor little children in Africa for a friend. That would be nice. I'd tell him all about Jesus and save him. I would feed him and take care of him. I'd make sure he washed his everywhere - I wonder what it looks like - and I'd rinse him off after like Mother still does me sometimes. I bet he wouldn't be a bad boy like most boys I know. And besides being civilized I would have lots of things to show him like neon lights and flush toilets. I might not be able to touch him though, some older boys told me you turn black where you do. I've never seen an African boy but there's two old Negro men around town and I've never seen anyone touch them.
I found out that I can help because the Church has missionairies in Africa. Mother always gives me two nickles for the collection and from now on I'm going to put both of them in the Overseas Missions side of the collection envelope. Sometimes I put in an extra nickle from my twenty five cents allowance, I really want them to have a chance. Even then it doesn't seem fair that I get more than the poor children in Africa who haven't heard of Jesus.
We learnt the story of John the Baptist, and how he even baptized Jesus. We learnt that all Christians are baptized, and that you have to be `baptized into the church' or you can't get into Heaven. I wasn't sure if I'd been baptized and that's how I got into the argument with Miss Worthy.
"That's not fair." `What about the baptized boys in the class who lie and swear? What about Peter who's in the choir and plays with himself?' "That's not fair." `Like there's all sorts of bad things I could have done but didn't' "That's not fair for all the poor children in Arica who die and can't go to Heaven."
"God in His infinite wisdom will take care of things. We must trust our Lord." From what I've heard about Purgatory it doesn't sound like a very good place. "And NO, Rupert. You can't go to Heaven if you're not baptized." Miss Worthy added.
"That's not fair." I thought of telling all I know about Peter and the other boys, but I didn't.
"I've been baptized haven't I Mother?" Fear and panic grabbed me when she said `No'. The best I could hope for was Purgatory! There'd been an argument over who was to be my godmother and it was never done. How could Mother do this to me? "Can I be baptized.... soon?"
Arrangements were made. The young minister talked to me for a couple of minutes before we went over to the apse with the big stone font in the centre. Mother brought along Aunty Maude, she's talking to her again, and a friend with two little girls in frilly pink dresses.
I slowly approached the font stopping to look up at the vaulted dome centred above. Everyone was watching. The Reverend himself was standing there in in his long robes. He dipped his fingers in the holy water. I raised my face towards him. `It's going to happen, I can go to Heaven now.' The mark of the Cross was made on my forehead. I tried to savour the touch of the reverend's wet finger but it was gone in less than a second. `Something should happen. I should really feel something.' But that's all there was to it. Everybody was very nice to me and we all went to Norwood Dairy for ice cream sundaes after.
At least I'm a lot safer now, and they say I'm old enough to start working on confirmation. After confirmation you get to listen to the sermon and take holy communion. Sermons don't sound like much, it's just the reverend talking, but holy communion, I know about the bread and the wine, but I figure there must be more to it. I went to one confirmation class but they didn't say very much. Peter was there too. Next Sunday I'm going to skip my class and sneak in the back and find out what really happens after the Sunday school classes go down to the basement.
Well I didn't see very much, I had a hard time staying hidden. And the sermon was more boring than anything in school. And people were talking all the time just like in school too. And I don't think there's anything more to holy communion, just that wine and bread thing and you should see the bread. And there was this one old man sitting in the corner who was scratching himself down there the whole time. Then just before the end one of the church deacons caught me and called me "a naughty, bad, bad boy" and said I should be punished, and he was going to take me to see the young minister. I told him I was going to Heaven and walked out.
I will worship God my own way. After all, I'm eleven now and the Church says you only have to be seven to know right from wrong, although I'm sure I knew long before that. I may even read the Bible again, I may have to find out a few things. And I will do my crucifixion pose prayers everyday after school.
And I did and I do. And it really helps to pinch your peeney. I think my Jesus smiles at me when I do, but then I have to be careful not to play with myself so I only do it a bit. But it's hard to make a crown of thorns, you get you hands all scratched and your head too, and stuff gets caught in your hair and you have to comb it out. Still, my crucifixion pose prayers are getting better. I hardly bother with ordinary prayers anymore except when something important comes up like when all those children in China were starving, and besides God is omniscient and he knows how I feel anyway. And then I found these big headed roofing nails where they were building a house. And are they ever sharp! I held one in each hand and made a test squeeze and took two of them home. It wasn't like stealing them. They sure make my crucifixion pose more realistic. I can sqeeze them a little bit harder or softer, just as I want, and feel the nail pain in my palms. I can concentrate longer and get closer to Jesus.
I was squeezing the nails harder and harder each day and getting braver and braver. Then one day I squeezed real hard and blood started to run down one hand, just like in my Jesus picture. It sure hurt but I so thrilled I kept squeezing harder and harder still. Wow, I was just shaking and my peeney was throbbing. I'd never felt that close to Jesus before. The blood was almost squirting out so I rubbed some on my other hand and on my side like where Jesus was stabbed. I looked at myself and my Jesus picture and then I smeared it all over me. It was like I was right there with Him, just the two of us, Jesus and me. My peeney was aching and I remembered they'd done something to Him down there so I smeared blood on it. Oooh! It felt real funny, it sort of tingled. I got back into a proper crucifixion pose right away. Was this a sign? I wasn't sure, but something had happened. It was the type of feeling you should get when you're baptized because then you'd know for sure. And I bet it would feel even better on the forehead. My peeney went soft, my Jesus's eyes smiled at me and I looked in the mirror and knew. That's it, that's how Jesus suffered. The Romans MUST have really done it to Him down there. "Oh Jesus, Jesus, I understand now."
I never had the same luck with the roofing nails again, hardly any blood no matter how hard I squeezed. I guess I was lucky and hit a vein that time. My hands got real sore one time and Mother noticed so I quit using the nails.
I wonder about my peeny and that strange tingling I had that time. It feels sort of funny other times too, especially when it gets stiff and I only have to think about it for that to happen. And a lot of times it's automatic. I know I shouldn't play with it but I made a few tests. I pinched it and then pinched my leg to compare the feelings, they weren't the same. I tried all over. My peeney really is different. Then I tried pin pricks and the only place that feels nearly the same is is my tiny nipples. I think of the Romans torturing Jesus's peeney and I push the needle right through that lump of skin on the bottom. You'd be suprised how hard it is to push it through, once I hurt my thumb. Pointed needles are best, I tried a hypodermic needle but it didn't give enough pain although it went in real easy. Hat pins are best because they have a knob for pushing. After losing some of Mother's I bought my own, I'm getting fifty cents a week allowance now. The cellophane package contained a dozen three inch hat pins with long red pearly heads. I could barely wait until Thursday because that's Mother's bingo night and I have lots of time. The other days I do my crucifixion prayers right after school and just use clothespins on my peeney and nipples.
On Thursday nights I stand in front of my Uncle Albert's mirror. I always start with with the vertical pins through my nipples first with the heads up and then I stick in the horozontal ones, heads out, to make crosses. It sometimes takes a couple of tries to get them straight. You should take about ten seconds to push the pin through, that way you get a long intense pain flash. Once you get it in sliding it back and forth doesn't give you much. You need thread for that but it makes your nipples sore. The most exciting part is pushing the the pins through that skin on my peeney. My peeney throbs, my hands shake and sometimes I forget to think about Jesus. I usually make a double cross with four pins but it often ends up crooked. At first I'd stick the extra pins in my arms or chest or wherever I thought they'd look good but I don't bother anymore. Then I do my crucifixion prayers in the mirror and look at my Jesus picture with same expression as His.
I like pins and needles, they give a real pure kind of pain and you can control it by hard you push and you can stop and start if you want to. And they are quiet and hardly leave any marks at all. I once used safety pins through my nipples. They looked really neat but they're hard to push because they're not as sharp and hurt too much. And don't use any with burrs on the point because they really hurt and tear your skin. Sometimes I use threaded needles so I can tie weights and things to my peeney skin. And a couple of times I've made a threaded triangle by stitching through both my nipples and back. I have only to arch my back to get any degree of pain I want. One day I put a knotted thread through my peeney skin and fed the other end up to my shirt pocket under my sweater. I went all over the place and whenever I wanted pain I could reach in and tug on the thread and no one would know. I did it on the bus when this lady with two little girls was sitting beside me, and I did it in front of the Catholic church. I especially liked doing it when I was talking to these boys who thought they were real tough and I pulled as hard as I could while still acting normal. But I've never got that funny tingly feeling in my peeney again. I guess it only happens once and maybe you're lucky at that.
In a school library book I found this story about Ancient Greece and this place called Sparta. And it told about this boy about my age. They didn't let them wear many clothes in winter and they used to whip the boys to make them brave. This one boy, I'm not sure of his name, he had to capture a fox, and this fox is under his tunic and it eats into his stomach and he dies standing there waiting his turn. Like he was some sort of a hero because he didn't let on that he was in pain or anything. I got really excited, my peeney got hard like it wanted to do something and I read the story over again. In the parts where the boys get whipped it's not like they're being punished but it's to see how much they can take and they're not allowed to cry or even flinch. I really like the story. I think about it a lot and wonder what it would feel like. I've heard that monks whip themselves and I know Jesus was whipped so I think I'll try it. Maybe it will make me brave like the Spartan boys.
Whipping yourself's not easy. Belts I've discovered are awkward, they twist in the air and it's hard to get an even smack. Electric cord is better for some places but the tips cut in even when I rounded them off. The best thing I can find is leather boot laces which I've tied to the end of a short stick. I carved a spiral pattern on the handle and it really looks neat now that I've waxed it with black shoe polish. It makes a pretty good whip and I can reach my back and bum, and sideways around to my chest and tummy.
I like whips because of the sharpness of the pain and the way it fades like a note from a plucked guitar string, that is when you manage to do it right. When you get a long even connection there is a beautiful flash effect. I also like the stripes they leave on your skin because you can admire them later. Actually though the whip doesn't work too good a lot of the time, especially on the chest where I like it the best. Once I got my cheek just below my eye. The easiest place to whip is the thighs but the marks show and a couple of times I've had to lie and say I left my gym shorts at home. The marks are a big problem and can last more than a week.
Doing it yourself doesn't work all that well either. You don't have much control. And sometimes I chicken out and then to make up for it I hit myself too hard and get a cut. And sometimes things get scarey even when you've done it before. You know how much it hurts and you know you can take it, but just the same.... You know you have to do it because you've promised yourself and you want Jesus to know for sure that you understand. Like when you think about it, it's not really all that much.
What I really need is a special friend, a Spartan boy like the one I read about. I figure a boy would be best because then you could whip him too. I mean you wouldn't want to whip a girl, and it would be silly to whip a grown-up, that wouldn't be right. Sometimes I think about Jacky next door. His dad whips him with a belt and he's brave and doesn't cry anymore. The Spartan boy and I would take turns whipping each other and we would both be brave. I try to imagine what it would be like to whip another boy. He would stand with his arms outstretched in front of me. First we would feel each others bodies. I close my eyes and run my hands over my own body pretending it's his. His skin would be soft with hard muscles beneath. His peeney would be stiff like mine but of course I wouldn't touch it. He would have his tummy in and chest out like a soldier on parade. He would look me in the eyes with a calm expression. I would strike him on the chest with a long slender leather whip and then watch the red line form. And then it would be my turn. I would see his arm and the whip flick back and then feel the long sharp flash across my chest. We would take turns until we had covered each other's chest and belies with stripes and blood was flowing and our peenies went soft. Then we rub against each other and smear the blood around. Other times we would use a belt on each other's bums. After we would feel the welts and wash each other gently. And then sometimes I wonder what it would be like if the other boy didn't stop and just kept whipping me and I couldn't take any more but I did. Like what would happen?
Sometimes we tie up each other. There's this beam in the basement where you could be hung by the wrists. I tried it once using slip knots I could undo, it works. I figured out a long list of tortures we could use on each other. When I shove hatpins through my nipples or peenyskin I pretend that he is doing it, or I am doing it to him. Sometimes I imagine we are back in Ancient Greece. Me and my special friend, or maybe Jacky, are tied to the great stone columns of a Spartan temple. Thousands of people are watching as the priests in their long ornate robes whip us. The crowd hushes as each blow lands and Jacky and I smile confidently at each other. When the priests can't make us cry or flinch they untie us and bathe us and we put on new white tunics.
Then a long procession of beautiful naked boys walk slowly up the temple steps towards us. They are radiantly clean with pale skin and shiny hair in all different colours. They are a bit younger than us and they all have stiff peenies. Each one bows to us and the eagerly reaches up so we can tie him to a column. We slowly whip each one until he bleeds and his peeney goes soft. Then we untie him and wash him. He bows to us again and goes down into the crowd where the people admire the stripes on his body. None of them ever cry or flinch.
I just had a dream, an actual sleeping dream about Sparta. And when I struck the first boy he cried and screamed and I had to stop. And then I don't know how, I found a long silken whip of fine hairs. And it sailed slowly and gracefully through the air and didn't hurt, but sort of stroked and carressed the boys. They wiggled and smiled at me and their peenies went soft with just a few blows. It doesn't make sense.
A few days ago I was looking at this library book on early Canadian history and it had a picture something like the one I'd drawn way back in grade two. There were a bunch of Indians torturing this guy who was a missionary. His name was Father Brebeuf, and he was converting these good Indians to Christianity when he got captured by the Iroquois. They did all sorts of horrible things to him pulling out his fingernails like the Nazis do. And they scalded him and they put this necklace of red hot hatchet blades around his shoulders and you could smell his flesh burning. I wonder if practised by whipping and burning himself? He died so bravely that the Iroquois were so impressed that some of them became Christians and were saved after that. And it all happened here in Canada about three hundred years ago. Maybe someday I will go to Africa and be tortured by savages, and they will be so impressed that will become Christians too. WOW!
But you know Father Brebeuf was a Catholic, which is a false religion, and yet he suffered like Jesus. It's all there in the book. It was almost like he suffered more than Jesus but then I bet the Iroquois didn't do anything to his peeney like the Romans did to Jesus. But how could a Catholic do that if they are wrong? Were the Indians really saved then? Well maybe if the Indians just listened to the things about Jesus and ignored the Catholic stuff. Or maybe even the Catholics was better what they had before.
The idea of red hot pieces of metal dangling on my chest does not appeal to me. I tried heating up a nail on the stove and pressing it against my tummy where it wouldn't show. But the flash you get isn't worth the soreness after. Burns take a long time to heal. I once watched two older boys play chicken with a lit cigarette. They put their bare forearms together and dropped the cigarette in the crack between them. The winner ended up going to a doctor a week later.
Other kinds of pain aren't much good either, especially the dull aching kinds. Headaches, toothaches and the kind of pain dentists give are awful. You get a chance to be brave but that's about all. I bet a lot of kids pretend the pain's worse than it really is so they can look braver. Sickness and injury pains where you really get hurt are bad and I don't want any ever again. And punches and kicks, I never been hit real hard that way but I figure they're bad too. I can't see anything good about black eyes and bruises.
Like there's good kinds of pain and bad kinds of pain. It's funny you know, at school they teach you about different colours and different notes in music, but nobody ever tells you about the different kinds of pain. I learned them all by myself and I made a list.
THE BOY NEXT DOOR
More and more I think of Jacky as my Spartan boy. He has curly brown hair like the boy in the story. People say he doesn't have an ounce of fat on him and that he's cute too. And is he ever good at sports, he plays on the school teams and has a pile of ribbons, and sports are the most important thing for people liking you. I know him better than any other boy because he lives right next door and was born on exactly the same day as me. People used to compare us all the time and pair us because we are almost the same size too. But we aren't friends and never got along. I'm no good at sports, and not as good looking but I'm a lot smarter in school. I don't really like him personally but I think he's neat.
I like his mom and dad although Mother doesn't. When I was just a little kid Mr. Rawson tried to show me how to catch and hit a ball but I was hopeless. Sometimes I help in his garden with the flowers when Jacky isn't around. Mr. Rawson coaches Little League baseball and used to be a shortstop somewhere down in Texas - Lubbock? Anyway there's a picture of him and his team in their living room. But he broke his hip and can't play anymore and sometimes he can't even work.
He really wants Jacky to be a star. He coaches him and makes him practise and buys him all sorts of expensive boots, balls, bats and gloves. He takes Jacky to ball games and on camping trips. A couple of times they took me to ball games but I felt stupid because I didn't even know the rules. One time I saw them at a Little League game and after Jacky batted in the winning run his dad picked him up, spun him around and sat him on his shoulders. Scroogie never did anything like that. Mr. Rawson is a really neat guy and sometimes he beats Jacky with a belt. Like I've never even been spanked that I remember. That's one way my Mother is modern. I think if I had a son wouldn't spank him as punishment but to make him tough and brave like Jacky.
I've heard Jacky get lots of lickings. When he was young he would cry and scream and you could hear him all through our house. But since we were about ten all you hear is the smack when the belt hits his bum. He doesn't cry anymore. He's like the boys in Sparta. I listen and count the smacks and get really excited and really admire him. One time I made up an excuse to visit their place just a few minutes after I heard him being beaten. Everything was perfectly normal. Jacky and his dad were listening to a ball game on the radio and his mom was reading.
Another time just after his dad had given him a licking me and another boy got Jacky to show us his bum. It was interesting, I'd counted the smacks and could pick out six big red welts. They went from his bum half way down his thighs and where they overlapped there was purple. There was also a thin scar where he said the belt cut him one time. The other boy looked away but I wanted to feel the ridges. Jacky pulled up his pants before I had a really good look and said it didn't hurt all that much. I was impressed, really impressed, but I didn't tell him. I want to see Jacky take it sometime but you can't ask to watch. I rushed home to my bedroom, pulled down my pants and tried to imagine in the mirror nice big welts on my own bum. I wish I had a dad who'd beat me.
Just after our twelth birthdays I did get to watch almost. It was evening and getting dark outside. I was in my bedroom playing, sticking clothespins on my peeney. Like it's really bothering me a lot these days, it gets stiff all the time like in school. I'm sort of glad we don't have gym showers like some schools do but it would be nice to watch other boys. Sometimes I get really tempted to play with it, like grab it and rub it, but I've promised God I never will. When it gets really bad I stick pins in the peeneyskin, and that big thick needle I got, and the temptation goes away for a while. I heard an argument and what sounded like a fight coming from the Rawson's kitchen. I knew what was happening. I'd been hoping a long time for this and I quickly snuck outside. I heard Jacky's dad ordering him to the basement. I climbed the high board fence between our houses and crouched down in the narrow space beside a basement window. The basement light on. Through the dirty, cobwebby pane I could see Jacky come down the stairs his hair all mussed and holding a hand over an eye. Mr. Rawson was right behind looking very angry.
"If you ever try to hit me again you'll get a lot worse than that.... Now take 'em off." Jacky nervously took off his pants and stood there wearing only a tattered gray tee shirt. I could see his right eye was swollen. He's got a good build with nice muscles but he looked awfully skinny and pale. His peeney just hung there, I thought it should be stiff, like mine was just aching and I had to straighten it out. His dad lectured him sternly. It was something about "showing more respect for your mother". Jacky was told to fetch the strap and came back with something like a school strap only leather. I think it's a cut down razor strop. I got more excited and could hardly stay still. `This is it. I'm gonna get to watch.' Jacky was told to oil the strap and his dad stood over him as he spent almost a minute rubbing oil into it with his fingers. "That should do it." Jacky stood up and handed it to him handle first. "Now put your elbows on the wall and stick out that ass of yours.... I want to see that skin stretched. More.... more.... move your feet in closer.... That's it, stretch that skin."
The wall was right beside the window and that meant I wouldn't be able to see Jacky, but he'd be inches away through the boards. I ducked over to the other side so I could at least see his dad. He flexed the strap a few times and ran his fingers along it. I'd like a strap like that only maybe with a design on the handle.
"As many as it takes, I don't want this lesson wasted on you."
I saw Mr. Rawson wind up and heard the smack. It was a good one, I could tell from the sound. And then he waited a long time, maybe twenty seconds and wound up again and gave Jacky another good smack. Like waiting in between is a good idea because it lets you get the most out of each smack, like the fading away part is neat and you don't want another smack until the first one's over. Jacky was just like a Spartan boy and I really wished I could see him. I thought of trying to imagine it happening in a Greek temple but I was too excited. I saw his dad wind up four more times and heard four more smacks. Then I heard Jacky mumble, I think he was asking his dad to stop!
"I'll stop when I'm convinced you're truly sorry for what you did."
I ducked over to the other side so I could put my ear against the boards where Jacky was. After the next smack I could hear Jacky breathing loudly. After another I heard something like a quiet scream. I looked for a crack I could peek in but all I could find was this slanted one and all I could see was his feet. His little screams got louder and his breathing was gaspy and I could tell from his feet he was squirming. I wanted to call out to him, "Come on Jacky, you can take it." His dad started taking longer between smacks and made sarcastic comments like about what a cute red bum he had. The tenth blow blow didn't really connect, Jacky had moved forward and I got a glimpse of his peeney and it was soft.
"Do you want me tie you up?" I didn't think he would but there was a post he could use.
Jacky was really restless, I could tell, his legs were trembling. `Maybe his dad should stop?' The next smack was really hard and Jacky sounded desperate. I didn't want him to cry. There was one more smack and I heard his dad say, "Wipe it up." Through the crack I could see pee on the floor. I switched sides again and saw Jacky. WOW! His bum and thighs were flaming red and bleeding a bit. You couldn't see separate welts, it was all one big ugly one and didn't look neat at all. And Jacky was crying although he didn't make much noise. He just stood there trembling with the soggy tee shirt balled up in his hands. His dad looked pleased and lit up a cigarette. "Now put it back on." Jacky hesitated and looked up like he was pleading. His dad started flexing the strap. "You'd look good with with some on your belly to match your pretty bum." Jacky looked sick as he pulled the wet tee shirt over his head. I didn't think that was fair at all after he'd been so brave.
I was cold but sweating and trembling with excitement. Back in my bedroom I pulled off my pants and underwear and got out my secret collection of belts and whips. I took out this old leather belt which is too small for me. First I rubbed some Brylcreem on it and then I wrapped the buckle end around my hand and smacked my bum. It was too long, like it's hard to get the length just right. I really wanted to do a good job but I was shaking too much. I'd just closed my eyes so I could imagine it was Jacky belting me when I heard Mother come home. She would wonder what the noise was and might just walk in. She won't even let me lock the bathroom door. She's like that.
I couldn't let Mother see me shaking like that. There'd be all sorts of questions and I can't lie very well, because I just can't. I had to do something quick so I got the big darning needle that was already threaded and just jabbed it through my peeney skin, I had to push with a shoe, and knotted the end. It helped a bit. I didn't try to make the pain last a long time like I usually do. I got dressed and dashed out the house telling Mother I had to meet someone. I tugged as hard as I could but I was still shaking. Then I ran to the top of Water Tower Hill and back, over a mile. I was exhausted and sweating but I still didn't feel right.
Just by the corner store I ran into Jacky. He said "Hi." and I stopped to talk with him. He seemed pretty normal and asked if I wanted to play some pinball. I'd only played twice so I could say I had. I said sure, I had some nickles. I really wanted to be with him, I wanted to know what his beating felt like, like he was walking natural. We shared a Coke and he talked about the bent wheel on his bike he had to fix and we talked about this old lady teacher we had for music. He won all five games. On the way back I finally got up the nerve to ask him about the licking he got. My peeney got stiff right away and I found the end of the thread.
"I see you got a black eye."
"It'll be OK in a couple of days."
"Yeah, I heard something going in at your place earlier."
"It was just a scuffle." I looked at him eagerly. "And my old man gave me a licking."
"Yeah, I could hear him giving you the belt too, sure sounded like a lot." I started pulling hard on the thread.
"Aw, he was just really pissed off.... He's like that sometimes."
I wanted to look at and feel the bruises on his bum. I wanted to tell him how brave I thought he was. I wanted to tell him he was my Spartan boy. I even wanted to hug him but not the way Mother hugs me. I got more and more excited and tugged harder and harder. I don't think I was walking proper, I felt like I was bouncing around. "What's it feel like getting really belted like that?" I gave a superhard tug and felt this tremendous, way too much pain in my peeney but tried not to show it.
Jacky stopped, looked at me, and put his hand on my shoulder and said, "Look, what's the matter? You crazy? You're damned lucky you don't get belted like me."
"I was just curious." Everything seemed to be going wrong.
"Look, it's none of your business. I try to please my old man, like I love him and he's a great dad. But I can't do it all the time. And sometimes...." Tears came to his eyes. "Sometimes it happens. I don't know.... Look, just stop pestering me. It's over, understand? Over." He ran off crying.
The knot in the thread was caught between the two layers of skin. Pulling it back through was almost more than I could take. It hurt, it was an ugly pain. I gathered up my secret collection of belts and whips, even the one with the handle I'd spent hours carving, and burnt them all in the furnace. I'm not going to help Mr. Rawson in his garden anymore. I went to bed crying, clutching my sore, soft peeney.
After what had happened with Jacky and all that I didn't feel too hot. I told Mother I was sick and she let me stay home from school next day. When she went off to work as usual I stayed in bed. And the Parks Department came along and pruned all the boulevard trees. Oh how I had urged them on since they were hacked back when we first moved into the city. I prayed for them to heal. I rejoiced when new branches shot forward. They were starting to look nice again and then this. I cried and cried.
I tried to think about beautiful and interesting things like all the bigger and better things there'll be after the war. I went over my latest plan for the city where everybody would live in skyscrapers sort of like in that book I borrowed from the public library. But even interesting things didn't seem very interesting and I kept thinking about Jacky and what he'd said, although I tried not to. I didn't want to think about Jesus either but I did. I felt sorta nervous, on edge and empty like I needed Carter's Little Liver Pills or something. About noon I decided to have a long, hot bath.
I looked in my Uncle Albert's mirror. I think I'm starting to get hairs down there. They're OK but I wouldn't want them everywhere like some men I've seen. And my body looks skinny, not much muscle on top. It's a bit better when I flex my muscles and hold my tummy in, but nothing like Paulo's or Jacky's. And those little bluish blotches on my bum look silly and ugly.
I lay down in the tub to soak and watched my peeney bob in the waves I made. It's not very sore. I tried to think good thoughts but didn't have much luck. I should be in Mr. Darcy's science class right now, that's what. He's probably talking about rocks, I know them anyway; igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic. And Micheal's probably dozing in the seat in front. He's the one with the almost translucent skin with a few little moles on his neck. I can remember trying to tell if the fine fuzzy hair grew on his moles too. I think he is really good looking, although you could say his nose is too flat. Like if it was just a little bigger and more pointed. Maybe I should start designing people too.
It's easy to make people look better, there's all sorts of things you could get rid of or improve like Max's pimples or Micheal's nose. I did a real good job on Claudia who has buck teeth, thick glasses and practically no nose at all, but she does have nice skin on her arms with real tiny golden hairs. But even if you make a lot of improvements that wouldn't make them beautiful in the way you'd want to stare at them and maybe touch. That would be very rude, but you know what I mean. And you know Kenny's got pimples and sometimes I want to stare at him and touch.
Designing a whole person is really hard. You try to put together parts but it's difficult to imagine how they'd look when you'd finished. I would have Paulo's body, Micheal's skin and I'd even keep some of his moles, and maybe Kenny's hair although I haven't studied it closely because he doesn't sit near me. I would keep my own nose and ears but I make them a bit smaller. For eyes I like Paulo's best, but they're dark and might not look good with Micheal's skin. I could use Micheal's eyes, especially the lashes because they would match the skin, but he's supposed to wear glasses and he doesn't. Like he never does as he's supposed to and he almost never gets caught. I'd keep my own peeney because it's never been played with and won't be as dirty that way. That's one thing I'd never do.
I closed my eyes and the dream I'd had, the one with the silken whips that didn't hurt but sort of carressed came into my mind. I didn't want to think of pain. I stroked my body lightly and pretended that silken whips were stroking and carressing me. They flowed over me from my neck to my knees. The bathtub was a huge font like the one at St. George's, and Jesus was there in long flowing robes smiling at me, and the naked boys were like blessing me with the hairs of the whips. I pulled the plug with my toe so I could lather more of my body. I didn't care about wasting soap. Soon my chest and tummy were real slippery. As the warmth began draining out beneath me I started rubbing faster. My chest, belly and thighs got all tingly. The tub emptied and I got slippery everywhere. They were whipping me faster and faster and my hands got busier and busier. I closed my eyes again and it was like real. `They're whipping my peeny and bumhole. WHAT? THE TINGLES! Oh Jesus, my peeney!' It pulsed like a vein and there was this long flash of pain, the most pleasant and beautiful pain I have ever felt.
It felt like the time I smeared blood me and I found out the Romans cut off off Jesus's peeney or something like that. But this time all this funny white stuff came out. It's real strange and has lumps in it, not like the lumps in the Cream of Wheat that Mother makes but little bits of jelly. I seemed to be OK though, I checked everywhere. I did feel a bit weak and you shouldn't take chances, so I figured I should take it easy for the rest of the day.
At first I thought the funny white stuff might have something to do with sex, but it didn't have anything to do with girls, I wasn't even thinking about them. And the white stuff didn't make sense anyway. Like sex and babies are blood. You hear about bloodlines in animals and how a son "has his father's blood in him". Once when I stuck a needle in the knob on my peeney a lot of blood came out. I never did that again. I'm pretty sure women bleed down there too. I figure women got needles or teeth down there and when the man sticks his peeney in the woman sucks the blood out out of it. The knob's made to suck blood out of. That's what `fucking' is. I guess the two bloods mix together down there and after a while you get a baby. I could be wrong but it doesn't sound like much fun, especially for the man and I can't see why guys want to do it. You'd have to be pretty brave to do it, maybe that's why some boys do it - to show off how brave they are, I mean I used to like sticking needles in my peeney. I figure this white stuff business is a lot better than sex.
It has to have something to do with Jesus and God. I bet that white stuff is one of those things called `signs'. That's how God gives people messages. He doesn't talk to them like he used but gives them signs instead. Like the pleasant pain is is a way to remind you how Jesus really suffered on the Cross. This way you don't have to talk about it. Like Jesus didn't talk about it, He just showed me. Maybe it's because I really am a good boy and Jesus really loves me. I mean there's all those things I don't do like swearing, stealing , lying, except when I have to, cheating except to help dumber kids which doesn't count, and I don't look at dirty pictures and I never play with myself. But I don't think I should tell Mother about it, just in case.
I said a special prayer to God and Jesus to thank them for showing it to me, that's only polite. I really appreciate what They've done for me. And I thanked the Holy Ghost too because I figure He may have had something to do with it as well.
I waited a whole week before I tried it again, I didn't want to take any chances, but it isn't something that only happens once like I thought. And then I started having baths almost every day after school and Mother wondered what was happening to her Camay. But then she was so glad I was out of that "dirty stage boys go through" and she gave me a slobbery kiss and walked away proudly. I soon found out you didn't have to have a bath to do it. And you don't have to think about Jesus either, although I always try to remember to thank him after. You can think about anything. I can do it thinking about Micheal or Kenny or Paulo. Buildings and trees aren't too good although I did it once thinking about this big beech tree which looks like it's got muscles under its smooth bark. But I never think about girls or women when I do it. That would be like sex and dirty. I know it's not playing with myself because Jesus showed me, but sometimes I wonder what really playing with yourself would be like.
I don't know why I'm so special and lucky, there must be other good boys around. Maybe if you don't pester God about a lot of silly little things He gives you something real nice. Maybe I'm the only one who knows about it. Maybe only a few wise men know and it's a big secret and ordinary people, especially the bad boys, aren't ready. Like if anybody else knew, if they'd discovered what I have, then surely everybody would know. Why there'd be books and they'd teach you about it in school like all the other great discoveries. That's obvious. Maybe there's some special reason why Jesus wants me to know. Like maybe people have to know about Jesus's peeney. Like maybe if they knew how he'd suffered there, they'd understand and be saved and everybody would be good. And if everybody did, and believed in Jesus, it would be like the Second Coming. We'd have Jesus for a real King. Maybe that's why He showed me. Like maybe other boys could learn to do it and understand. Like maybe He wants me to become a kind of missionary.
I began to imagine teaching other boys how to do it with their peenies or peckers. I know most boys call them peckers or cocks. I've heard the word, `cocksucker' which I know is dirty, but I've never heard `peckersucker' so I've decided to call them peckers from now on. First, being careful not to talk, I show Micheal, I sort of like him the best although he's not a friend. I still don't have any friends really. And then I show Kenny and Rick and Paulo, he's Catholic you know, and even little Kwok Ping who sits in front in Miss Proctor's English class. Sometimes they would be slow learners and I would have to help them out. But I'm very patient and I'm always willing to demonstrate the latest techniques I've worked out. And they are all pretty good and become my disciples.
Soon my fame spreads and I'm called upon to give demonstrations in front of large audiences. I come on stage in a white toga like in Ancient Greece followed by my twelve naked disciple boys who line up each side of me. The audience is full of scientists and important people and lots of boys because I let them in free. I do my crucifixion pose and the disciple boys carress me with their silken whips. Then a special font of silver metal is brought in and I shoot into it. I've decided to call the white stuff Holy Milk. I tell them about this special button I've discovered near my bumhole. Actually I've discovered an even better one right inside but I don't think I should mention that one. Then I dip my finger in the font and make the sign of the Cross on the foreheads of my twelve disciples. Then they all gather around the font and shoot at the same time. And then the audience can come up and be baptized with Holy Milk and try. The important people just undo their buttons or zippers but all the boys who get in free have to take their clothes off. I even do a special trip to show all the boys in Africa but I'm not sure if they look the same as us naked. You can't tell from the pictures in National Geographic And I told them about Jesus and his pecker too.
The practice I discovered spreads throughout the world and millions of boys are saved. I am another Christopher Columbus. I even dream of becoming the youngest person to win the Nobel Prize.
But sometimes I'm not too sure about doing it. It is sort of like playing with yourself, and it might have something to do with sex after all but I can't figure out what. All Mother ever told me about sex was, "Nice people don't talk about it."
PART THREE: BOY CULTURE
PART FOUR: THE WORLD MOVES IN
THE LAST CHAPTER
The Webmaster, January, 2012
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