Dining out with my friends Sue and Joe always meant a night of live entertainment. Joe shares the comedic DNA of his cousin of Jonathan Winters, adding his own artistic genius and twisted sense of the ridiculous. The man can sketch cartoons on a napkin that eclipses the edgy humor of Gary Larson’s The Far Side. On this moonlit evening of glowing candles and flowing wine, Joe reached into his bag of stories about his Midwestern childhood and pulled out a genuine screamer.
He was just five years old. The older woman in question was eleven, maybe twelve, known only to him as one of the neighborhood girls. Nothing seemed off the beam about Jannie Young until the day she led him off to a secluded pine stand, dropped her panties, sat down to reveal her hidden jewels and told Joe to touch them.
Knowing in an instant there was no way he could touch anything that scary-looking, he reached for the longest possible twig he could find. Unfortunate choice for Jannie, since pines are notorious for rough bark.
Not that he knew what that unspeakable, unforgivable word meant but surely this dark deed had to be it.
After the briefest moment of twig-to-jewels contact, Joe's sense of horror and impending doom far outweighed his innocent curiosity. He dropped the stick and ran home at warp speed, bursting into the living room where his mother was ironing clothes. The confessional door was open and the penitent was beyond ready to pour out his heart and soul.
"Mamma! I just fucked Jannie Young!" he blurted out in breathless anguish. Not that he knew what that unspeakable, unforgivable word meant but surely this dark deed had to be it.
Sue and I were coming unglued, tears streaming down our faces. I was struggling to cover my howling mouth, hold my sides and right myself in the chair before I fell off or tipped over. This one of those times when a woman of any age would be trying like hell to keep from wetting her pants. We were in a fine dining establishment, after all. Sue was in worse shape, so this was obviously the first time she had ever heard the name Jannie Young. No matter how long you've been married, you haven't heard all the stories.
Like every great comedian, Joe understands the critical element of timing in a flawless delivery and waited for the gales to subside. Pulling myself back together and wiping away the tears, I finally managed to croak out the question that anyone would have asked, "So what did your mother say?"
Most of us would be flashing back to images of bulging blood vessels on the foreheads of our parents the first and only time we dared to utter that darkly powerful but ever-so-confounding F-word. Just those four little letters are enough to topple an entire roof down on a kid's head.
Joe's mother looked up, fixed her eyes on her small son, then returned her attention to her ironing. Not a single word. Nothing.
We'll never know what she was thinking. Maybe denial was preferable to lifting even a crack of the lid on that particular Pandora's box. We can only hope that little Joe translated that critical moment of dead silence into total absolution.
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