AHA Books




by Jane Doe



Chapter Six

In the beginning of the third grade, I had to change schools. The Second World War was over.  My Uncle Jim was home from France where he said those girls used perfume instead of soap.  Now that they no longer made tanks, dad needed a new job.  He cashed in all of our war bonds to buy a small run-down grocery store in a medium sized run-down town.  Dad had some romantic notion about being his own boss.  One can't run a grocery store alone, so mother gave her days to the front of the cash register, while dad unpacked and priced the cans and boxes.  They both found out that the customers, bills and decay were the real bosses.     

To save money we didn't have, we lived in another deserted store about two blocks down the street.  I slept in the front room with the couch, a chair, that carved leg end table from my earliest memories, the piano and set in the corner behind the couch was my bed. The first morning I awoke in my bed, the village idiot was staring at me through a tear in the butcher paper taped over the wall to wall display window. We bought an enormous venetian blind and became good friends with the shy smiling half-wit.

The first day in a new school makes the smartest person feel like a half-wit, especially if one arrives on Thursday when the rest of the class has been studying the same set of lessons since Monday.  Mrs. Cox put me in my place by having a spell down.  We had to stand  up along the blackboard instead of sitting securely in our seats.  The words were mostly new to me, so Jason, the red-haired clown who never studied or cared, kept trading places with me for the lowest position in the class. I was so embarrassed with my poor performance that at recess I was surprised and flattered when all the nicest dressed girls wanted to teeter-totter with me. 

Amid the whir of so many faces and voices, each trying to outdo the other in protests of possessions, I noticed a fuzzy headed girl wearing an obviously homemade dress in dull browns and purples with outsized adult buttons.  The way she stood there, her head cocked to one side and squinting as if she was looking at me out of her left ear, made me want to stare at her.  Out of politeness, I'd pull my eyes back to the curled and be- ribboned horde to concentrate on who was saying what.     
"I have a new bicycle you can ride if you come to my house after school.  It's a two wheeler!"

"You can play in my playhouse with all my dolls."  

"I have rabbits." said the girl I wanted to look at.  


"If you don't believe me, come to my house after school."

 Jane O'Dell's father dug ditches.  Between the railroad tracks and their house were pyramids of red clay pipes.  We weren't allowed to play on them, but they made good walls to keep the world away.  Here we could sit and talk and make up our campaigns in the sun and out of the wind.  To us, the pipes were storage tubes for ideas that only we could unlock. The huge curved pipes pretended they were giant ears that listened to all our secrets. 

The clay pipes weren't the only ones with ears.  Jane had a brother, a bother-brother Marvin, who wouldn't go to school until next year.  He had no one on his block to play with, except us.      School mornings were the end of the world for him.  He'd stand on the porch with tears in his eyes and call to us as we tried to escape him, "Good-bye, be good, and God bless you!"

 That would alert Mrs. O'Dell that we were sneaking off to school. Jane's mother had a hard and fast rule.  Jane could not leave for school until she had her daily bowel movement.  Not every day did Jane feel like having it at 8:15 in the morning. I would stand outside the bathroom door, watching the big hand on the clock swing down toward the six.  Like a disc jockey I broadcast the time and weather reports through the keyhole to Jane, urging her to hurry up with her business so we wouldn't be late for school.  We drew up a list of thoughts to shit by:

                       SHITTY THOUGHTS FOR JANE
Imagine you are sitting above the head of Mrs. Cox.     
Imagine you are a magic princess and every time you shit it all turns to gold.  Another reason for not flushing the toilet so her mom could check that she had really accomplished the job!
Imagine you are the only person in the whole world who can shit.  Each morning all the people wait for you to shit. When you do, they ring bells, open their stores, and begin their day.     
Imagine you are in prison and had accidentally swallowed the key.  When it comes out, you get out of the bathroom!

     We would get even with Marvin when we got home in the afternoon.  We'd invite him to listen to us tell made-up stories in one of our weed lined nests among the tiles.  The stories out of our heads usually had a storm, an old stone mansion, a winding staircase, a beautiful young girl with floating blonde hair, a door that opened verrrry slowly, blood that either trickled out under the door as it opened or from the fingers of the hand that pushed the dark panel aside.  The descriptions of the monster waxed long, wet and colorful with thirty kinds of slime and gore.  As the monster came closer to the frightened young girl in her nightgown, Jane and I would stick our fingers in our noses and mouths, pulling us into ugly shapes as we crossed our eyes, moaned and howled.

The stories were never troubled with endings, because at this point Marvin would either wet his pants and have to stay in the house as punishment, or would run away with his hands over his ears.  Either way, mission accomplished.     

These stories we told Marvin were considered to be the lowest level of our talents  the commercial use of our gifts. The really creative stuff we saved for the wallpaper books. Mrs. O'Dell had an unending supply of books of wallpaper samples which she doled out to us according to our need for paper and her need for quiet.     

We devised a system for the books.  All the pages with pale striped patterns were torn out and saved for Jane.  She wrote.  These were our word pages.  I did the drawings for Jane's stories, so I got the palest all over patterned pages, that interfered the least with my crayons.  The treats were the pages with trees or flowers that could be used for the woodland stories to save time and talent drawing repetitious details. The deep colored pages with stripes or blue edged dishes or jagging zigzags were saved for Marvin.  He would howl about us being unfair to him, Mrs. O'Dell would preach to us about being kind to little kids and a whole rush of creatively would ensue so we could use up all the good pages before we had to give any to Marvin.  We learned to create under pressure.     

Jane had two themes on which she wrote.  She preferred the stories about children being abused by their parents.  Here the descriptions sparkled with vividness and cruelty.  Terrible crimes were committed on these models of goodness and  light. In the end some disaster proved to the parents what good children they had had so they all felt remorseful for the heartless way they had treated their children.  Always one girl escaped all the horrors.  The sweetness of her reunion with her parents made the regrets of the mean fathers and mothers more bitter.     

These were the hardest stories for me to illustrate because I couldn't draw people.  The pictures needed to show the tortures were the only ones I could do well and with interest. These were the best parts of the stories anyhow; even Jane liked them best.     

When we showed Mrs. Cox some of our stories, she smiled benevolently on us and our pile of papers and offered to read one to the class.  During the public reading we missed  hearing the grizzlier parts of the child torture scenes.  We were sniffing our first whiffs of censorship.  When Mrs. Cox gave us our papers back after school that day, she asked Jane where she got the gruesome ideas about children being hacked into pieces. 

Jane hung her head for the lack of an answer. I knew where those images came from. Jane and I preferred to play in my dad's store.  There was candy for the taking (if you were subtle and ate it outdoors), weird people to giggle at, sales pads to write on and strange caverns in the stockroom.  The only time Mrs. O'Dell would let Jane stay with me was when she had an appointment and couldn't be home to keep her eyes on us herself.  These precious times in the store were often lost to discussions of what we really wanted to do.  While we debated the smells coming from Mr. Henry's part of the store pulled us over there. 

My father owned all the store except the meat counter and the long narrow cement block building that ran parallel to our stockroom, all the way back to the alley.  In this very separate part, Mr. Henry butchered the pigs and cows that came into his meatcase as pork and beef.  In these spooky depths we saw all the shapes and colors of gore Jane needed for her stories.  She only had to transpose cows and pigs into boys and girls and she had her best parts written.  For me, it was harder to think of animal parts while drawing people parts.  If we could have told Mrs. Cox this, perhaps she would have understood the drawings better, too. 

I liked best Jane's tales about elves and dwarfs and creepy places in woods and under bridges.  They were more fun to illustrate.  Occasionally, just to keep me happy and drawing, and when the best pages of the wallpaper book were used up, Jane would write a story for me that pulled out all the stops on our imagination.  Mrs. Cox always requested these works.  That fact cut their production down to a minimum.

 Our success and attention were the seeds of our downfall. Jealousies developed, fermenting a counter revolution.  The leader was Margaret Ann.  Margaret Ann with her smooth bouncy curls that never hung limp around her pug face. She who looked  like an advertisement on a cereal box, radiating good, clean, wholesome Americanism, became our arch enemy.  She had three older  brothers  one was even in high school.  With them she drew from the deepest well of school pornography in word and rhyme. At recess, the kids would gather around Margaret Ann, begging her to recite the latest of the favorite bawdy. Giggling and smirking, looking over the heads  to judge the size of her crowd, she'd begin:

When I was young and had no son,     
I took my gal behind the barn.    
I gave her a dollar not to holler,    
I gave her a dime to say she's mine.     
I gave her a nickel to hold my pickle.     
I gave her a cent and in it went.

At that point, showman that she was, she would stop to tell us that, yes,there was more to the story and she knew what it was.  She would tell those who, at noon, came back with treat from their lunch pails for her.  It was a racket we all recognized and joined willingly.  After lunch, short of dessert, we'd hear from the beginning:

When I was young and had no son,      
I took my gal behind the fence. (She got it wrong!)     
I gave her a dollar not to holler.     
I gave her a dime to say she's mine.     
I gave her a nickel to hold my pickle     
I gave her a cent and in it went.
The first three months she felt well.     
The next three months she began to swell.     
The last three months she began to crack,     
And out came a son that we named Jack.
Kids would see Jane and I in the group gathered around Margaret Ann and ask us if we were so smart, why didn't we write stuff like that?  Wise that they were, they knew competition would lower the price of the goods, and add to the quality.  The vision of many desserts for lunch, added to classmates' taunts, tumbled us into dubious literary endeavors. For days we sat with the childish equivalent of writers' block. Margaret Ann came out with new stories and poems.

Having been declared the competition, Jane and I weren't invited to listen anymore. Banished, we jumped rope with the nice kids who were, in our eyes, sheep.  A dull lot they were, but it was one of the jump rope songs that broke Jane's block and made us geniuses.     

Inadvertently, we created the words that made jumping rope appeal to boys as well as girls.  Our penalty was that our group of rope jumpers had to play in the farthest corner of the playground where the grass had gone to dust, and we mumbled a lot.

The simplicity of our plan continued to startle us.  We took the jumping song:
Way down yonder under the Papaw trees,
Lives a little girl and her name's Louise.     
Come on boys, let's go find her,
Come on boys, let's go find her,
Come on boys, let's go find her,
How many kisses did they give her?  One, two three...

 The song already had certain implications, or it wouldn't have lived this long.  We just modernized it by changing the last line to:      Fuck her till the middle of tomorrow.     
The brilliant stroke came later.  Instead of saying: "Come on boys, let's go find her," we added the name of the girl's boyfriend or the name of the boy jumping rope, to personalize the poem with:
 Come on Bill, he always will,
Come on Bill, he always will,
Come on Bill, he always will,
Fuck her till  the middle of tomorrow.     
How many times did they fuck?  One, two, three-

We drew up a list of all the boy's names.  With some effort, we got a rhyming line for every name.
Come on Sam, we know you can. 
Come on Brian, he ain't lying.
Come on Denny, (he was the rich kid in the class) give her a penny.
Come on Mike, (the class bumbler) do it right.     
Come on Jack, lay her on her back.
Come on Jason, balls in a basin.     
Come on Rick, bring your prick.
Come on Thomas, bare ass in the grass.
Come on Bobby, his is knobby.
     A combination of jealousy and a cold spring rainy spell put an end to our non-profit enterprise.  Some one told the teacher.  Probably Margaret Ann, but nothing could be proved or pinned on any one of us.  There was no punishment or righteous  indignation.  Just a withering away of response.  Jane and I both recognized that our efforts, even at their height of popularity, could never rival the old jump rope song the good girls sang:

Fudge, fudge
Tell the judge,
Mother had a newborn baby.     
It isn't a boy,
It isn't a girl,
It's just an ordinary baby.    
Wrap it up in toilet paper,
Throw it down the elevator,
First floor stop.     
Second floor stop.     

Jane went back to writing her stories primed with the new ideas.  Now each story had some sexual slant, large or small, vertical or horizontal, which made them unacceptable to Mrs. Cox. Jane's lack of original experiences limited the stories to parroted phrases with much repetition and illogical order.

Some of the boys in the class asked if I could draw pictures of people fucking.  I drew stick figures stuck together, which the guys didn't think showed much talent.  Kids in the class with older brothers and sisters, without talent, drew more realistic and detailed pictures than I could.  It was embarrassing.  I studied their drawings and made my own adaptations. 

The walls of the metal cabinets surrounding each toilet in the restroom had some noteworthy examples on them.  One drawing, done rather high up, fascinated me.  I tried to always use that cabinet, in order to study that cartoon in peace.  I knew it represented a male penis, but it was drawn so unlike all the little boys I had seen.  This penis seemed hard and thick, sticking up at an angle, with a big mushroom on top.  Below hung an enormous sack with two eggs in it.  

It wasn't until summer that I knew what the artist had seen.












































Copyright © the Estate of Jane Doe 2010