The Skinny Choice
Little Joe Pinkerton, or Pinky, as he was known to me, and most of his other friends, was just an ordinary sort of fellow, with mousy, gray-brown hair.
Probably the only thing that would make him stand out in a crowd of other eleven year-olds would be his height, and he kinda’ liked that.
There were times as we were growing up, that I wondered what I’d ever do without him if we decided to not be best of friends anymore. We did everything as one. We skipped rocks on the pond behind the school, climbed trees, shared our homework with each other, and even “played hooky” together.
No one in our class, except maybe the teachers, could look down on Pinky, so very few kids at school gave him a bad time. Not only was he tall like me, but he was as thin as a pencil, too. Some of the tough
guys called him “Skinny”, but when recess came around and it was time to play softball, he wasn’t called anything of the sort.
The captain with the first choice usually picked Pinky, for he could get a hit from the best or the worst of pitchers, and he could run like he was being chased by a spook.
Pinky’s love for sports began and ended with softball. Basketball, football, kick-ball, and soccer held no glory or attraction for him. In fact he had never even bothered to learn the rules to those confusing and boring games.
One day when the kids went out to play soccer, Pinky hung back with a group of the girls that never played soccer either. This particular day as he dawdled with them discussing the absurdities of the dumb game, he allowed as how he’d rather be playing house under the school building.
That is, if one of them would like to be the Mom, and some of the others would be babies or children.
He would be the fireman, policeman, carpenter, or plasterer. Maybe he would even be the husband if they promised not to give him sloppy kisses when he came home from work.
They would if he would, so that settled it. Now, his carpenter role would be called into action as he pried and pulled at the access door leading to the cavernous area under the old schoolhouse.
The school we attended was a large white, wood-frame building constructed so that the main floor was several feet above the ground.
There were three classrooms, two large restrooms, and a hallway connecting the rooms and separating them from the restrooms. The two end rooms had separate coatrooms where we kept our lunches and coats, and fought over who got to carry the bats out for recess.
As I said, the building was built up off the ground, so that each entrance had seven steps leading up to a covered porch. Two of these porches had loose fitting doors that led to a mysterious shadowy world for make-believe under the building.
Diligence and patience are virtues, but persistence puts virtue to flight. At least it did with an access to the dark underworld of this schoolhouse. So it turned out that Pinky and his playmates did not remain virtuous very long. Four giggling girls yearning for womanhood, and a world of discovery whet Pinky’s appetite, and life would never be the same for any of them.
If sex education had been then what it is today, many of Pinky’s trial and error educational techniques might have taken a different turn.
Take the matter of kissing. There were, we all understood, several different kinds of kisses. For instance, the kiss your mom gave you was quite different from the ones that Aunt Ruthie gave, and both were totally different from the sloppy ones that Grandma forced on you when she handed you a big sugar cookie!
Well, this was the day Pinky discovered a new kiss with Sandy, as in the midst of playing house, he swaggered “home” from “work.” It wasn’t a mamma kiss, nor an Auntie kiss, and most decidedly it was not a Grandma kiss.
It was, well, sort of warm and soft. But the most delightful thing about it was the way it made him feel. It was so nice he immediately kissed her, “Good- bye,” so that he could rush off to “work”, and hurry home for another kiss before they got too involved with their dolls.
In quick succession he had “married” all four of the girls, hurried off to “work” and back again just to see if they all could kiss that same, soft, delightful way. Alas, Vola kissed like his Grandma, except she giggled when she backed away!
When the bell rang signaling an end to recess, the five of them didn’t know what to do. Since they had more or less secreted themselves away, they certainly didn’t want to come out from under the building while everyone else was filing into the classroom right above their secret entrance.
Nor was he crazy enough to come wandering into the classroom with four girls. Why, he’d be the laughing beanstalk of all the guys in his room.
No, he’d make it easy on himself and the girls. They must go into the classroom a few minutes late. He’d stay there under the building and sneak out on the playground just before the lunch recess began. Maybe Mr. Bruce wouldn’t miss him.
Maybe teachers are dumb. Maybe eleven-year old boys are dumber. At any rate, would you believe that Pinky was never called on to read aloud or work Math problems at the chalkboard? I don’t think that the teacher even noticed the empty desk that had been warmed all morning by Pinky.
That crazy skinny kid had pulled off the greatest bluff of all time, and when the rest of us bounded onto the ball diamond he was already bopping grounders out to center field.
That was truly a red-letter day. Not only had he learned that girls were quite capable of kissing him in a way that raised his heart rate, made his hands get sweaty, and made him feel as though he were glowing, but he had learned that teachers don’t necessarily have eyes in back of their heads. And, can sometimes be fooled.
Freddy hadn’t been fooled for a minute though, “Where ya been?” he snarled at first base, “I needed some help with those dumb fractions.”
“Kissing Sandy and the girls.” Pinky hissed with a silly grin on his face.
“You were not, you dumb cluck, they were in class and you weren’t.
“I’ll give you the low-down after school,” shouted Pinky as he made a dash for second base.
Back in the classroom after lunch hour the old wood-burning heater needed some wood added to keep the chill out of the air, so Pinky volunteered to stoke the fire. On the way to the back of the room to do this good deed he was exploring his pockets. From among the
collection of springs, ball bearings, a few nuts and raisins, a complete game of jacks, and at least two jackknives, he pulled out a .22 shell.
For a moment he contemplated the havoc it would create if it were added to the firebox of the stove. Then as though it had a mind of its own, the shell seemed to jump from his hand into the fire. With a gasp of desperation and astonishment at what he had just done, he quickly latched the door and raced for his seat.
“Pinky!” shouted “Chromedome” Bruce, our teacher, “That’s enough running in the room.”
“Ya’sir.” was his weak reply as the teacher dropped back into his monotone with the other grades’ lesson.
For Pinky the near silence was deafening. That awful thing he had done should be having results of some kind by now. Glancing up at the clock on the wall, his mind fell into cadence with the second hand sweeping the face of the clock. Each jerk of the second hand banging at his heart.
“What if the stove isn’t strong enough to hold the bullet in,” grimaced Pinky, “and it come flying out through the side to chase me around and around the room? I’d probably get tired, maybe fall down only to be shot in the butt by my own bullet!”
Suddenly girls were screaming, guys were shouting, and Allan fell completely out of his desk. I looked over at Pinky all hunched down over his desktop trembling uncontrollably from spasms of laughter. Pinky was relieved and still alive. I just knew he had to be at the bottom of this ear-crushing noise.
In an instant a livid-faced, “Chromedome” Bruce had his shoulder in a vise-like grip. Jerking him from his desk in one deft movement, he was marching skinny Pinky like a frightened Ichabod Crane toward the coat room shouting, “What have you done, Pinky? What have you done?”
Poor, terrified Pinky, with his arms wind-milling for balance, and his feet barely touching the floor was screaming, “I don’t know! I don’t know!”
That was a day to be remembered for days, and decades. For when the word of Pinky’s dastardly deed got out, it became a copycat prank.
Three more times that week our classrooms were rocked by the resounding blast of .22 shells in the stove. Much to our credit no one tried any larger ammo, and thanks to the good sense of the teachers, they started stoking the fires themselves and declared the heaters off-limits for us kids.
The other kids were never caught in the act though, it was Pinky alone who carried the Purple Heart of Bravery. He was the originator of a noble diversion.
Dumb, but nevertheless a diversion.