Tag Archives: 1950s

Clubius Incarnate Part 38 – Ted Williams (June 1960)

I was excited. Dad and I were going to go to a Detroit Tigers baseball game with Molly and her dad. Dad said that mom and David should come too, but mom didn’t want to.

“I would love to see the game”, she said, “But there is no way I’m going to try to change a diaper at Briggs Stadium, and we don’t have the money to pay Margie to babysit.”

Since Molly’s dad’s car was one of those little “sports cars” that only two people could ride in, dad was going to drive us in our car.

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Clubius Incarnate Part 32 – Bicycle (March 1960)

I felt someone banging their hand on my shoulder and I heard someone saying “Coo”, over and over so I opened my eyes. I was in bed under the covers and David was looking at me and hitting me with his hand on my shoulder. I could tell he thought something was different. Something DID feel different.

David pointed at the window between our beds. It was happening outside, but we could feel it inside the house too. He said “open” over and over again. So I got out of bed and I opened the window. It felt kind of cold, but not as cold as it felt yesterday, and the air smelled different. It smelled like something was cooking outside that was kind of sweet, or that smell when you opened a box of candy.

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Clubius Incarnate Part 16 – Roomette (December 1958)

Pullman Roomette

[Note: Having finished my backpacking through Europe memoir, Two Inch Heels, I’m returning to writing a more imagined “memoir” of my life starting at age three. This is chapter 16. If you’re interested, you can see the first fifteen chapters by clicking here.]

I was so excited! Today we were going to take the train to go “back east”, wherever that was, to visit my “grandparents”, whatever they were. I did know what trains were, because I had seen them on TV, on cartoons and other shows. I had also seen them for real when we were in the car and we had to stop and wait for a train to go in front of us. But I had never gone on one myself.

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Clubius Incarnate Part 14 – Cider

Molly was excited when she came over to get me. I was going with her and her mom and dad to the Dexter Cider Mill. It was a cold, cloudy, windy day, and I almost forgot to bring my jacket, but my mom reminded me. Molly and I walked across the street together, looking both ways like our parents had told us.

Molly’s mom and dad were coming out of their front door and Molly’s mom called out to her, “Molly, you and Coop can sit in the way back if you want!”

Their car was called a “station wagon”, because it had more seats than a regular car. A regular car had a front and back seats. But a station wagon had another seat behind the back seat. Molly called it the “way back”, because her parents had told her it was the seat “way in the back” of the car. Molly and I both liked the way back seat because it was far away from the adults in the front seat. Also because it was different, when you sat in it you were looking out the back window of the car. You could not see the adults driving, so it was easier to pretend you were driving, even though the car was going behind you not in front of you.

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Clubius Incarnate Part 13 – Tom Swift

Dad read books and sang songs to me when it was bedtime. He told me it was the favorite part of his day, to sit in the wood rocking chair across from my bed and together get “lost in a good story”, and then “raise our voices in song”.

We finally finished reading the Tom Sawyer book. I was sad when it was done, because I liked hearing about all the things that Tom did. I did my best to keep pretending I was Tom sometimes down in the basement or out in the backyard. I knew that Tom was special because his life was an adventure that was in a book.

“So Coop”, dad asked as he sat in the rocking chair, “What should we read tonight?”

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Clubius Incarnate Part 12 – Television

My mom had shown me that you could “divide” things into four “quarters” by drawing an “imaginary” line across the middle and another one up and down the middle. Where those two lines crossed was the “center”. She said it worked for things that were square or round. She liked doing things like that, thinking with lines and numbers, and writing them on a piece of paper.

So it worked for square things like the basement. When you walked down the stairs to the bottom and turned left, that was my quarter. It was perfect for me because I was left handed and liked to go that way anyway. It had my toys and the shelves my mom and dad made out of bricks and boards to put the toys when I wasn’t playing with them. They never did anything in that part of the basement. I could always play there whenever I wanted to. They called it “Cloob’s area”, though now they were calling it “Coop’s area” because of my new nickname.

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Clubius Incarnate Part 11 – Cooper

I heard the doorbell ring out in the living room. My mom was in my bedroom with me helping me button up the special shirt she had bought for me for dressing up. She said it was a “Campbell tartan” because “Campbell” was my “middle name”.

“Jonathan Campbell Zale”, she said. “That’s a name you can run for President with some day!” Her eyes twinkled when she said it. I knew that was something very special for boys to do when they grew up. We were dressing in special clothes to go to a party across the street at Molly’s house. My mom was wearing a bright white shirt under a blue “dress”. That was one of those things that only women wore that was open at the bottom instead of pants or shorts, which was what she wore the rest of the time. She had on the black shoes, “heels” she called them, that made her very tall but also walk kind of funny. Her lips were very red and shiny.

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Clubius Incarnate Part 10 – Brother

This morning dad told me that mom was finally coming home from the hospital with my brother that had been inside her. He took me over to Molly’s and then he drove off in the car. I still did not know what was really going on, so it worried me. I had seen a baby before but it just cried a lot. Why did we need to have one of those at our house?

Molly and I had been playing up in her attic bedroom when dad and Molly’s mom came to tell Molly and me that the baby inside mom had come out and was now my brother. Dad had asked me if I wanted to go and see my new brother at the hospital, but I didn’t say yes or anything else, so I stayed at Molly’s house.

Earlier that day, Molly and I had hidden in the spruce tree and didn’t tell mom where we were. Mom got mad and said angry words to me. Then her body started hurting because the baby inside her was ready to come out, and dad took her to the hospital, and I went over to Molly’s.

Mom had told me a lot of times about having a baby inside her that would become “part of our family”. It might be a boy like me or a girl like Molly, but mom didn’t know which one until it came out. Where it would come out of her I did not even dare to ask. What she did know is that she would have to go to the hospital when it was ready to come out. The whole thing made no sense to me or to Molly. I already had Molly so why did we need anyone else.

After it got dark dad finally had come back to Molly’s house and taken me home, but mom wasn’t there. He said she had to stay at the hospital until she and my brother were ready to come home.

This morning he asked me if I wanted to go to the hospital with him. I still wasn’t sure what this all meant and how it might affect me, and I did not say anything. So he took me over to Molly’s again.

I was still thinking about all those things that had happened, when Molly saw from the window that our car pulled into the driveway of our house across the street. She and I looked out and watched as dad got out of the car and walked around to the other side to open the door for mom. She got out carrying something all wrapped up in a white bundle. I could tell that that thing was what this was all about.

Molly said, “Let’s go see it!”

I looked at her unsure and worried.

She looked at me and figured out what I was thinking. “You can stay here if you want”, she said, “But I’m going to go see it!”

I said okay, but I didn’t want her to go. But when she headed out of the room I decided to follow her. I was having trouble thinking of anything except that I felt strange.

When we got down the stairs to the front door, Molly called out to her mom, “Coob’s mom is home and we want to go see it!”

“Oh my god”, Molly’s mom appeared from the kitchen, climbing up the stairs into the living room, “This is so exciting! Yes, let’s go see Cloob’s little brother!”

She opened the front door. Molly ran out down toward the street.

“Whoa there Molly Wheeler”, her mom yelled out, “Watch for cars before you cross the street!” I could see Molly jerk her body to a stop on the edge of our street, swing her head to either side, and then run across. Molly’s mom puffed her cheeks and pushed air out of her mouth and shook her head.

“C’mon Cloob”, she said, taking my hand, “Let’s see your brother!”

She and I walked across the street. Molly had already disappeared inside the front door of our house.

When Molly’s mom and I walked in the front door, mom and dad and Molly were standing around this basket thing with legs that had appeared a few days ago in the living room. All three of them looked at me and smiled, but I was worried.

Mom patted dad and Molly on their shoulders and came over to me and took my hand, looking down at me.

“Cloob”, she said, making her biggest smile but her eyes looked sad. “I really want to say I’m sorry for yelling at you yesterday. I just was so scared that something had happened to you and Molly when you didn’t say anything and you were right there hiding in the spruce tree. I need you to tell me you’re okay when I ask you!”

I nodded my head. The things she said always made sense like that. Her face got less worried.

“But now I want you to meet your brother David”, she said.

She took me over to the basket thing and there was a wrinkled little face with big blue eyes looking up at me. He was unwrapped from his little white blanket and was wearing tiny blue pajamas. His little pink fingers grasped at the air and his legs kicked. His eyes moved around like he was trying to see things and they finally saw me. He smiled at me and seemed happy to see me. I could tell in his eyes that he wanted me to like him, so I felt better. The grownups all seemed happy, and Molly too, so that made me feel better too. I wasn’t sure yet it would be okay, but it was okay so far.

Looking at me and then at Molly’s mom, dad said, “The doctor said it was an easy delivery, and Liz did well.”

“Jane’s a trooper”, Molly’s mom said. Then she looked down at the baby and she made a funny expression with her mouth. “He’s a beautiful boy!” Dad nodded. Molly looked at me like she didn’t know what they were talking about. I didn’t either.

Mom nodded too, “He is Joan. It still seems like such a miracle. Just like when Cloob was born. It changes your perspective on things.” She let go of my hand and rubbed my shoulder and neck.

“So Cloob sweetie, what do you think?” mom asked.

Since I started talking she liked to ask me what I was thinking. And if I said something, she liked hearing it. But I didn’t want to tell her I felt worried, but I felt I should say something because everyone else had said something, even Molly.

“He looked at me!” I said. That seemed okay to say.

“He did sweetie, he’s looking at all of us, trying to connect with us”, mom said looking down at him and touching his face.

David looked at me again and smiled. I smiled back.

“Can he talk?” I asked.

Mom laughed. “No not yet sweetie. Not for a while. He’ll cry and make other noises too. But he’ll be doing a lot of listening and watching, like right now.”

“He’s so precious!”, Molly’s mom said. Molly pushed her lips together and made a face.

We all continued to look at him and touch him and say things about him for a while and then mom said she had to feed him. It still all felt strange to me. The kid Kenny across the street, who lived in the house next to Molly’s, had a “little brother”, that Kenny didn’t talk about much, but when he did, seemed not to like. xxx

“Let me fix up his formula!” It was the first thing dad had said and he seemed glad to say it and do something other than look at the baby. He went into the kitchen.

Molly’s mom said she needed to go home to do things. She put her hand on mom’s shoulder and said, “He’s beautiful Jane. You have a beautiful family. Please let me know anything I can do to help. Any time. Anything you need, just call me, I’m right across the street.”

I thought it was funny that she said that last thing because we all already knew that they lived across the street. It was one of those things grownups did, say things you already knew. Anyway she said that Molly could stay and play with me and that made me happy. Molly’s mom said goodbye to dad and “congratulations on your growing family”, and told him too she would “Help out any way I can, if you or Jane need me”. Then she asked him if he would make sure Molly looked both ways before crossing the street to come home and then left.

Molly wanted to see how my mom fed the baby, so we went into the kitchen to watch dad make the “formula”. Dad figured out that was why we were there looking at him and started to tell us what he was doing. He was using a “measuring spoon” to take the “powdered formula” out of a box with letters and a picture of a baby on it. He mixed it with the big wooden spoon in a pot with water heated up on the stove, hot enough to “dissolve” the powder, but not too hot or it would burn the baby’s mouth. Molly and I peeked in the pot as he stirred it, and watched the powder disappear and make the water white and look like milk. He carefully dipped his little finger in the pot to “test” if it was hot enough, but not too hot. As soon as his fingertip dipped in the milky liquid we both looked at him.

“Litle bit more”, he said, continuing to stir the pot. “It’s like making cocoa, except the water turns white instead of brown.”

Grownups were good at using words to explain things, if they wanted to.

Finally the formula was warm enough and dad poured it from the pot into a clear glass “baby bottle”. I liked those baby bottles because they were thick clear glass with sides and edges. When you held one it was heavy and you could feel those sides and edges. If you looked through it, what you saw on the other side was kind of broken up by the edges. Then as you looked through and turned the bottle, different parts of what you saw shifted and were broken up.

Dad then put a “rubber nipple” on top of the bottle. He gave the bottle to Molly and asked her if she wanted to bring it to mom. Molly nodded, and when she took the bottle she slowly and carefully walked back into the living room, holding it in front of her with both hands. I thought it was funny because she usually ran everywhere. I followed her into the living room.

Mom was sitting in the rocking chair next to the basket thing with the baby in her arms. She took the bottle from Molly and said thank you. She showed us how she dripped some on her arm to test if it was the right “temperature”. Then she put the nipple part between the baby’s lips, and his lips closed on it and the baby started drinking. Mom looked at him while he drank, I could tell her mind was doing lots of thinking.

“So Eric”, she called out to my dad in the kitchen, “Did you talk to the Hutchinson’s about their crib?”

Dad appeared at the kitchen door. “Yes. They said we could have it. It looks like it is in okay shape, may need a little work. Could use a coat of paint too.”

Still feeding the baby she said, “Well we still have half a quart of that oil-based white that we used on this bassinet.”

Dad nodded and smiled. His eyes sparkled. He and mom liked working together on things like that.

Then he frowned, “It doesn’t have a pad or a mattress though.”

Mom frowned too. “Could you get a piece of foam, cut it to size, and cover it somehow?”

“Schlenkers has foam and will cut it to size”, he said, “Then we could cover it with one of the flat sheets. I think we have an extra one.”

The baby coughed. Mom pulled the bottle out of his mouth and a bunch of white stuff squirted out and down his cheek. Mom took the cloth from her shoulder and cleaned up his face. She lifted him and held him against her chest with his head over her shoulder and gently patted his back. She smiled at Molly and me.

“David needs to burp I think”, she said, “It’s been three years since you were born Cloob, and I’m still trying to remember all the tricks of the trade!”

I couldn’t remember ever being a baby like David and not being able to do much of anything except look at things and suck on a bottle. David made a noise. Guess that was a burp.

Mom looked away from us at dad. “We’re lucky David is a boy because we have that box of Cloob’s old baby clothes somewhere right?”

Dad frowned and looked up at the ceiling. “I think we gave those to the Drakes for Henry.” Then back at mom. “He’s over a year now, he may be done with them!”

“Yeah but…”, mom shook her head, “You can’t slap a coat of fresh paint on ratty old clothes. We’re not going to dress him in rags.”

Dad puffed out his cheeks and blew air out. “Well, I could do a couple evenings at the fraternity. Those frat boys’ rooms and laundry are not going to clean themselves! Otherwise I’m going to have to rob a bank Liz!”

She looked back at him very seriously. “Eric, how many different jobs do you have?”

He looked up at the ceiling again thinking. “Five… six actually if you count the proofreading.”

“You get paid for it right?” she asked, “That counts!”

“Well”, he scratched his chin, “They give me free books.”

“That counts!” She said, taking the baby off of her chest and back down in her lap. “But at some point it becomes penny wise and pound foolish. If it slows down you getting your dissertation done, it delays you finding a real job that pays and has benefits even.”

“Well”, he said nodding his head, “I told you I’m close to starting on my dissertation!”

They were always talking about his “dissertation”. He had tried to explain it to me that it was something he had to write to get his “PHD” thing so he could work as a “professor”, but it didn’t make much sense.

“Eric”, her voice was a little bit angry, “You didn’t tell me that! That’s a big milestone isn’t it? You need to talk to me about these things. It helps…”, she rolled her hand around in a circle in front of her, “Keep me going.”

“You’re right Liz… sorry!” he said.

Molly finally looked at me and I knew she wanted to do something different.

“Let’s play in the backyard”, I said.

“Let’s play Sky King”, she said.

“Let’s play pirates and Sky King”, I said.

“Okay”, she said, and she ran into the kitchen and out the side door. I got up and followed her. I could hear mom and dad and Molly’s mom chuckling at us as I left the room following Molly.

Clubius Incarnate Part 9 – Hidden

I liked to hide. I liked to be in a place where no one could see me or find me until I wanted them to. A place where no one could tell me what to do, or even say that they liked or didn’t like what I was doing, like grownups did. I liked it the most when, from where I was hiding, I could see and hear other people but they couldn’t see me. Then I could watch them without worrying about them watching me back. If another kid was hiding with me, that was okay, because they didn’t count. Especially Molly. I never wanted to hide from her.

Molly’s mom brought Molly over to play with me. Molly’s mom always wanted to talk about the baby in mom’s stomach.

“Jane”, she said, “You look like you’re ready to pop any day now!”

Mom nodded, rolled her eyes and said, “Joan, I’m a week from my due date. I’ve had some contractions, but my doctor says they’re not real labor yet.”

“They say the second one generally comes quicker than the first!” Molly’s mom said. She was always trying to tell mom things like that.

“I’ve heard that too”, mom said, “I’d be happy if it was quicker this time. Cloob…”, she paused and made a funny face like she wasn’t sure what to say next, “I was in labor with Jonathan for twelve hours! I’m counting on this one being a lot quicker.”

I had no idea what she was talking about. She had used that word “labor” before but I was afraid to ask her what it meant. It seemed like something that women talked about with each other but not with men because men would think it was yucky. If I asked, I was afraid that she would think I was being bad, or that word I’d heard, “naughty”.

“So know that Jack and I are always ready to take you to the hospital if Eric can’t do it for some reason”, Molly’s mom said, “You have all our phone numbers, right?”

Mom pointed down at her foot. “I do. You and Jack are sweethearts! I keep the list in my sock all the time, since these damn pants don’t have any pockets! I’d show you but I’d have to bend over.”

Both of them laughed. I started to laugh too but I didn’t know what we were laughing about. Molly didn’t laugh, and she looked at me and made a funny face.

Molly’s mom took mom’s hand and looked at her very seriously. “Jane, I appreciate you watching Molly while I do the shopping. It won’t be more than an hour. I’ll be at the A&P if you need to call and get them to find me there. You know I’ll watch Cloo…” she paused then said, “Jonathan anytime you need me to. And when your time comes, call me or call Jack and we’ll drop whatever we’re doing and take you to the hospital if you need that, or watch this guy”, she said pointing at me.

Again I didn’t like it because they were talking about serious things and I felt I couldn’t do anything. I wanted mom to get that baby out of her really soon so things would be regular again.

Mom got that look where her big blue eyes got kind of watery and she made a sort of pretend sad face. “Joan, that means so much to me! And make sure to tell your Jack that he’s a sweetie!” They squeezed each other’s hands one last time and Molly’s mom went out the front door and walked across the street, got in her car and drove off.

Mom looked at the two of us and smiled. Then she looked at Molly like she was thinking what to say to her.

She said, “I’ve been telling Jonathan that I’m going to have a baby any day now and he’s going to have a younger brother or sister. Your mom said she talked to you about it?”

Molly nodded and said, “Yes Misses Zale”, like she was using words someone else told her to say but not her own.

Mom made her biggest smile and said, “If I can call you Molly, you can call me Jane. Okay?”

Molly’s shoulders relaxed and she nodded, and I could tell that she was happy mom said that.

Still looking at Molly, mom said, “We won’t know whether it’s a boy or a girl until he or she is born, but I feel like it’s going to be another boy. We’ll see if I’m right again this time. Not that I wouldn’t be thrilled if it was a girl like you.”

Molly kind of squeezed her face thinking, and finally nodded.

“Well, okay”, mom said, clapping her hands together. “I’m going to sit in the backyard and try to get a little sun. You two are welcome to play in the basement or in the backyard.”

Molly’s eyes found mine. “Show me the island”, she said. I had told her the day before about what I had made with all the dirt.

“Okay”, I said and I started to run around the side of the house and Molly ran after me.

I stopped by the big tree and looked at the fort I had built under it. I had used pretty much all the dirt dad and I got. The green good guy soldiers were along the walls and in the towers of most of the fort, but the gray pirates had captured part of the fort and were in that part.

Molly came up next to me and looked at everything, thinking. She got down on her hands and knees and slowly crawled around looking at everything even closer. She pointed at the green soldier that had one hand pointing and the other holding a pistol.

“Is that the goodguy captain?” she asked.

“Yep”, I said.

She crawled over to the part of the fort where the gray soldiers were.

“These are the pirates?” she asked.

“Yep”, I said. I was happy she was getting it and that she was taking so much time to look at every part.

She pointed at the gray figure with his hands on either side of his waist and his elbows sticking out.

“Is that the pirate captain?”

I nodded.

“What about these guys?” She pointed at three green soldiers lying on their side in the dirt in the part of the fort where the gray soldiers were.

“They’re dead”, I said, as seriously as I could.

“And these guys?” She pointed at two more green soldiers surrounded by gray soldiers.

“Captured”, I said.

Mom walked by carrying a clear plastic bottle. She was wearing white shorts and a white shirt that covered her big stomach.

“Not to interrupt you”, she said, “But I was wondering if Molly wanted to see how the tomatoes and cucumbers are growing.”

Molly bounced up on her feet all excited, nodded, and ran across the grass towards the back of the yard. She let her body fall to her hands and knees in the grass right in front of the garden. I was mad that she seemed to want to see the plants rather than the dirt island, but I ran after her. Mom more slowly followed us.

So when mom got to the garden she got down on her knees and showed Molly the tomato and cucumber plants like she had shown me before. I got down on my hands and knees next to Molly, not so much because I wanted to look at those plants again, but because I didn’t want to be left out.

But Molly was done looking pretty quick at the green tomatoes turning red and the tiny hotdog shaped cucumbers with their little pointy things, which she ran her fingers over. She stood up again, her knees and elbows green from the grass. She looked up at the sky and made a funny face with her mouth.

Mom saw that and said, “Well okay, I just thought you’d like to see how they’re growing. Again, you two are welcome to play here out back or in the basement.”

Mom stood up groaning and slowly walked over to that “lawn” chair and carefully sat down on it, doing more groaning as she did. The sun was shining on her body, and she put a pair of glasses on that were dark in front of her eyes. She squeezed some clear liquid into her hand from the clear plastic bottle she was carrying and rubbed it up and down her other arm. It made her skin look all wet and shiny. She did the same thing in the other hand on the other arm. And then on each leg from inside her shorts down to and over her feet. Next was her ears and neck and down under the top part of her shirt. Finally she put some of the liquid stuff on parts of her face, sticking her lips out in a silly way as she did. When she was all done, her body was all wet looking and even more shiny in the sun. She put her head back and just sat there quietly. It all seemed like a strange thing to do. Just one of those strange things grownups did. When I looked at Molly, I could tell she was thinking that too.

Molly looked back at me. I could see the little blue circles in her eyes in the sun. She put her thumb in her mouth and bit on it. I could tell she was thinking things, lots of things, but I couldn’t tell what. When she was thinking just one thing, I could usually tell what it was. I always liked it when I was with her. I liked watching her think, and waiting for her thinking to turn into talking.

“Let’s hide!” she finally said.

Her idea surprised me. “Where?” I asked.

She looked at me and tilted her head. “I don’t know.” I could tell she thought I should know where because it was my backyard.

I tried hard to think of a place but couldn’t right away. She gave me a fierce look like she was waiting for me to come up with a good idea. I finally thought about that “spruce” tree.

I walked over to it and she followed me. I moved a big low branch with lots of needles, and then a second one, to where an open space was on the ground by the trunk between those two and other low branches. It was dark in there and the ground was covered with needles that had fallen off the tree and turned brown.

Molly nodded, like I was showing her a good hiding place. I held back the branches as she crawled in, the needles crunching softly under her knees and hands.

“Now close the branches and see if you can see me”, she said from inside.

I did, and walked away from the tree and turned to look at it.
“I can’t see you”, I said.

“I can see you”, I heard her voice from inside the tree. “Now you try it!” She crawled out, pushing her way between the branches. She held back the branches like I had and I crawled in. The needles pricked at my knees and hands and the smell went up in my nose and tickled inside it.

She was right. From inside the tree I could see her but she said she couldn’t see me. It was strange how that worked, but it was a perfect hiding place.

She was able to move the branches apart herself and crawl back in. The hiding place was small, and for the two of us to sit in it together we both had to squeeze right next to each other with our knees together and pulled up almost against the top part of our bodies. I felt her arm and leg press against mine. She felt warm. The smell of her body mixed with the smell of the tree. I was happy and not worrying at all. I could tell she was happy and not worrying either. Pressed against each other I felt we were two parts of the same thing.

“Coob”, she whispered my name but she didn’t need to, since it was only the two of us. I liked the easy way she said it. It would just pop out of her mouth, rather than the “Cloob” that mom and dad were calling me now, that was harder for your mouth to say. I knew my name was supposed to be Jonathan, but mom and dad only called me that when they were talking to other grownups. And I knew that it was not supposed to be “John” or “Johnny”, which was what other grownups tried to call me and made mom tell them not to.

“Mom told me a baby is going to come out of your mom’s stomach between her legs”, she said.

“Mom told me too”, I said, wanting Molly to know that I knew as much about it as she did. Though mom had not told me the between her legs part. How could that happen anyway?

“It could be a girl like me or a boy like you”, she said.

I heard her say that and I remembered that Molly was supposed to be different than I was, but I couldn’t figure out that she really was. The only thing was that her hair WAS longer than mine and I wondered why that made us different.

I tried to think really hard to figure it all out, but I couldn’t. I could tell she was figuring out what I was thinking about how boys and girls might be different.

“It doesn’t make any sense!” I said.

“I know”, she said, “Mom said that it will when we get older”.

She paused, thinking, then asked, “You think you and I will ever be a mom and dad and have a baby?”

I couldn’t imagine I would ever be like MY mom and dad or the other grownups. It made sense to me that I would get older and get taller, but they were completely different than us.

“I don’t think so!” I said, but now I wasn’t sure and it made me worry.

She patted my hand with hers. “Don’t worry about it Coob!”

We sat there quietly for a while. I figured she must be thinking a bunch of different things because I couldn’t tell what she was thinking. My mind was doing all kinds of thinking that I might be different than Molly, and that Molly and I might be grownups someday like mom and dad. It was a strange world outside of our hiding place.

“Cloob! Molly!” It was mom’s voice calling out, making my mind stop going places. She worked hard to get out of the chair and stand on her feet. We could see her looking around but we knew she couldn’t see us.

We looked at each other but didn’t say or do anything. We just watched. She called our names a couple more times then picked up the clear bottle of the stuff she had rubbed on her body. Then she slowly walked by us and into the side door of our house. I could hear her calling our names inside. Finally she came out the side door again looking worried and walked to the front yard and called out our names with her loudest voice. Then she came back into the backyard not far from the spruce where we were hidden and called our names once again.

“Oh dammit”, I could hear her voice almost crying. Molly and I still did nothing and said nothing. Mom went back out into the front yard.

“This is the best hiding place”, Molly whispered in my ear, “We can stay here forever if we want to”.

“Yeah”, I whispered back. All sorts of strange thoughts went around in my head. Things were changing too much out there. Something was going to come out of mom between her legs and change everything. Molly would get a big stomach too and she and I wouldn’t be the same anymore. The grownups were in charge of everything. It wasn’t fair.

A car drove up across the street and stopped. It was Molly’s mom. She got out of the car and ran across the street towards mom who was sobbing.

“Oh my god Joan, I can’t find them!” Mom’s voice sounded very scared. “They were in the backyard with me and I think I dozed off and now they’re gone!”

Molly’s mom said, “Take a deep breath Jane, they’ve got to be around somewhere! You stay here and I’ll go over and look in our house and backyard, and then look in the park and walk around the block!”

“Okay”, mom said, taking quick deep breaths now. She put her hand out against the side of the house and cried. Still next to Molly, hidden in the spruce, but less than ten feet from mom, part of me wanted to come out and tell her that we were here and everything was okay. But now I felt afraid that she would be mad at me for not doing anything when she had called for us. Molly was quiet next to me but I could feel her worried too.

Molly’s mom looked very serious. “I’ll be back in five minutes, ten tops! We’ll find them!” She ran across the street towards their house.

“Jonathan! Molly!” Mom yelled the words in her loudest voice. “Where the hell are you two? Oh my god… please no!” She was breathing fast, her eyes were red and wet, and her face was afraid.

Still Molly and I were quiet and did not move. It was like we weren’t really there anymore, even though we were.

After a while, our car pulled into the driveway. Dad got out and went over to mom.

“Eric dammit. I can’t find them! Where the hell did they go?” She sobbed some more and dad looked like he was thinking very hard.

Dad’s voice was quiet but like he was trying to be in charge, “Liz, don’t worry. We’ll find them”, like she was making it a big problem but it really wasn’t. “They can’t have gotten far! Did you look everywhere in the house?”

Mom made a very angry look at my dad. “What do you think I am Eric, an idiot? Of course I looked everywhere in the house, ten times!” She put her hand to her forehead and leaned against the house, still sobbing.

Dad looked hurt by her words. His mouth closed and his face got very stiff.

At that moment, Molly sneezed. Then she giggled. Both mom and dad turned their heads toward the spruce. Dad quickly came over to the tree and moved the branches enough to see us.

“Here they are Liz. They’ve been right here all the time!” His face relaxed to a smile.

Mom came over and looked in the space now between the branches to see the two of us. She looked fierce at me and said, “What the hell do you think you were doing? Why didn’t you say something when I was calling you? I thought something awful had happened to you two!” She put her hand on her forehead and closed her eyes. “Oh my god!”

I felt hurt and mad that mom had said those angry words to me, and my mind was blank, like I couldn’t think, or feel anything else. Everything was suddenly moving slowly and I felt very, very calm.

“Get out you two”, dad said like he was in charge and mad. Molly and I crawled out, crunching over the pine needles.

Mom’s eyes were still closed and her hand still on her forehead, now leaning against the side of the house. “I don’t feel well”, she said.

“Liz”, dad responded, “Are you going into labor?”

“Let me sit down for a minute and get my bearings”, she said.

Mom started to walk to the side door, but Molly’s mom appeared, running up the sidewalk towards our driveway where we were all now standing. “Oh thank god, you found them!”

Dad explained to her that the two of us had been hiding in the spruce the whole time.

As she listened to what he said, Molly’s mom rolled her eyes, shook her head, and let out a big breath. She kneeled down in front of Molly.

“Molly Wheeler”, her voice was quiet, not loud and angry like mom’s, “When Cloob’s… Jonathan’s mom called you two, you didn’t say anything?”

Molly’s eyes narrowed and she squeezed her lips together and shook her head.

“Did you know she was scared that something might have happened to the two of you?” her mom asked.

Lips still squeezed together, Molly said nothing. She looked at me and I could see in her eyes that she was trying to help me.

Molly’s mom stood up and looked at mom. “I am so sorry Jane!” then seeing how mom looked, “Jane? Are you all right? Are you having a contraction?”

Mom breathed hard and nodded. Finally she said, “I believe I’m having one right now!” She looked down at her wrist. “It’s two-fifteen”.

“Have you been having them today?” Molly’s mom sounded concerned, “You didn’t say anything when I left Molly here and went to the store!”

“I’ve been having them off and on but nothing strong or regular”, mom said, puffing air out of her mouth, “But this one feels much stronger”. More puffs. “When it finishes, let me lie down and pull myself together and see how long til the next one comes.”

Molly and I stood there not saying anything. The three grownups were talking about things that we couldn’t figure out, almost like they still couldn’t see us. I thought about Molly having to grow a baby in her stomach some day. I thought about mom’s angry words to me a moment ago and I still felt mad. Now there was silence all round as mom continued to puff out air.

Finally mom put her hand on Molly’s mom’s shoulder and took one long deep breath. “Okay, it’s done!”

Molly’s mom put her hand on mom’s, and patted it three times, “Okay… Jane… Eric… how can I help?”

Dad said, “Liz, should I take you to the hospital?”

Mom stretched her eyes open big after having them closed while she was puffing air. Her eyes quickly looked at dad, then at Molly’s mom, then Molly, and finally looked at me. I felt her looking deep into me. Her eyes weren’t angry anymore, but I felt like they were saying, “Well… here we go”, and for just a quick moment she didn’t seem like a grownup, but seemed more like a kid like me and Molly.

“I’m going to lie down”, she said. And then she was like the good guy captain telling his soldiers what to do. “Eric… can you fix me some tomato juice on the rocks and then sit with me until the next contraction comes. Joan… can you take these two characters over to your place for now? I’ll have Eric call you when we decide what’s what.”

“Okay dear”, Molly’s mom said, “Call me as soon as you know!” Then looking at Molly and me, “Okay you two, move out!”

We followed her across the street to Molly’s house. I could feel things were going to change. At least Molly and I were okay, for now.

Clubius Incarnate Part 8 – Dirt

Killins Gravel Company

I woke up. Dad was wiggling my toe under the blanket on my bed.

“I’m going to drive the car to get fresh dirt for the backyard. You want to come along?”

I nodded. I was excited. This was what he called “an adventure”.

Mom was still sleeping. It was early morning. The light coming in through the windows in my room was different when it was early. It was fresher and softer. I took off my pajamas and put on my clothes. Dad made me a peanut butter sandwich for breakfast. We quickly ate and drank orange juice sitting at the kitchen table.

Outside the air was cool and quiet. The sun was a big orange ball just hanging there over the trees in the park. It was just hanging there over the trees and it was hard not to look at. Dad said not to look too long or it would hurt your eyes. That made the sun seem kind of scary. He put two empty trash cans in the trunk of our car but the top wouldn’t close so he tied it with a rope. He put the grownup shovel on the back seat. It looked kind of like my shovel but much bigger. I got to sit on the other part of the front seat of the car.

We drove down our street away from the park to the big street that dad called “Stadium”. Across the street was a giant “yard” with a really long building on the other side. He called it the “high school”, and he had taken Molly and me on our tricycles to explore it a couple times. After he looked both ways and no cars were coming, something he had taught me to do when I crossed a street, we turned right. I knew it was right because that way was the hand I didn’t throw a ball with. It was a wide street that had a curved part.

Dad stopped the car when we came up to one of those big metal poles with the hanging lights way above us, because the red light was turned on instead of the green one. He saw me looking up at it so he told me how it worked.

“So when you come up to the light in your car, you have to stop if the red light is on, but you can keep going if the green light is on.” So we had to wait, but not very long.

While we waited I was thinking so much about the lights and what you had to do that I asked a question. Dad was good at figuring out what I was thinking and answering my questions without me having to ask. But this time he didn’t, so asking was the only way he would tell me more that I really wanted to know.

“Why do we have to stop?” I asked.

He nodded. “Good question!”

I was glad it was a good question, though sometimes when grownups said that they did not have a good answer.

“It’s a rule we all agree to follow so our cars don’t crash into each other where big streets cross each other. Does that make sense.”

That sort of made sense. I had heard about those “rule” things before. And once we had gone by two cars that had crashed together and it had looked really bad. So I nodded.

When the red light turned off and the green light turned on, dad turned the car onto a different street he said was “Liberty”. This time we turned toward the hand I threw a ball with, so left. We drove under another road that was way up high with a bridge so we could get under it. Now there weren’t any houses, stores and sidewalks, but just trees, bushes and fields. It seemed very different. Dad said we were now “outside of town”. We turned left on another street and then left again onto a bumpy road that made a crunching noise and made dusty clouds around the car. There was a tall building ahead with no windows with a giant slide thing coming down from it.

It was so big and strange looking that I said, “What’s that?”, before even thinking about whether I was going to say that or not.

“That’s the elevator they use to take dirt or gravel way up there so they can dump it into dump trucks down there”, he said pointing at the different parts of the slide and the building. Then the next question was in my mind but he answered it without me asking. “The dump trucks take it to the people who need dirt or gravel for building or landscaping.” It all filled my mind up so much just looking at it that I stopped asking questions and just looked.

There was a man there in a blue shirt and blue pants that were the exact same color and a shiny yellow cap like he was playing baseball. Dad told him we just wanted a couple trash cans full of dirt. I kept staring at the giant building and the slide.

The man nodded and said, “Help yourself”, and pointed at a giant brown pile next to a giant gray pile of tiny rocks.

We got back to our car and dad drove it over to the edge of the giant brown pile. He untied the rope holding the top of the trunk and stood the two trash cans up in the bottom of the trunk so the open parts were on top. They had been shiny silver when we got them but now they were less shiny. Dad got the shovel out of the back seat. He stuck the shovel in the edge of the dirt pile so some dirt stayed on it so he could carry it over, lift it up, and dump it in the top of one of the trash cans. He did that a long time before both trash cans were full of dirt. By the time he was done there were drops of water all over his face, his white t-shirt had wet spots and his cheeks were a little pink. He wiped his face and head off with a white cloth from his pocket and grinned at me.

“Now we have to get it home”, he said, like that would be hard to do.

The top of the trunk could only close a little bit on top of the cans of dirt standing up in the trunk. But the rope was long enough to tie the top to the bottom part. He took a red cloth out of the trunk and tied it to the top part of the rope.

“That should be okay”, he said, ”The cans are so heavy with the dirt that it would take a really big bump to tip one over.” Then he looked at me and his eyes got fierce. “Here we go!”

He put the shovel in the back seat and we both got in the front. He drove the car very slowly by the dirt and stone piles and the crazy building with the slide, all the time there was the crunching noise under the car and dust everywhere. Back out at the regular road we didn’t go the way we came.

“In case you’re wondering Cloob”, he said, “We are going to take the long way home because there are less cars and we have to drive slowly to make sure the trash cans don’t tip over.”

I nodded, feeling worried. I didn’t like it when grownups were around and there was something that they were worried about but I felt there was nothing I could do to help.

We drove slowly down the road. We drove by lots of fields with bushes or trees by the road. It took a really long time, but there was only one other car that drove by. I sat on my knees on the seat so I could look at the trunk in the back part of the car and stuck my head out the window to see the edge of one of the trash cans in the trunk. I could feel the wind on the back of my head. It felt nice and the air smelled good.

When we did hit a bump the whole car bounced up and down.

“Cans still there?” he asked.

I could only see the edge of one, but I figured that if the other had fallen out I would see it behind us in the road. So I pulled my head in the window and nodded, then stuck it out again. I liked being the lookout.

“So we’re on Wagner Road headed south”, he said. “We are looking for Scio Church Road, where we’ll turn left back to Seventh.”

Pulling my head in the window I nodded and then stuck it out again to keep looking at the can.

Finally the car stopped. I turned my head and looked forward. There was another road crossing the one we were on. We turned left and moved slowly forward.

I knew what the dirt was for. Dad had gotten some before but I didn’t come with him. He would put it in a pile just behind the house under the big tree and right by the window that I could see into my room. Then I could play with it and make things like hills, roads and forts, whatever I wanted, and then set up my soldiers there.

I could tell dad was happy. And when he was happy and mom wasn’t around he liked to start singing, which he did now as he drove the car slowly down the road. It was a song he had sung many times, and when he sang it was fun for me to sing with him…

Oh, give me land, lots of land under starry skies above
Don’t fence me in
Let me ride through the wide open country that I love
Don’t fence me in

By this time I had joined in though my head was sticking out of the car window looking back at the trash can…

Let me be by myself in the evening breeze
Listen to the murmur of the cottonwood trees
Send me off forever but I ask you please
Don’t fence me in

It was funny that we drove by a fence while we were singing about fences. It was silver and looked like the fence around the football stadium where dad would take Molly and me on our tricycles, only not as tall. I remember him saying that when you saw a fence you had to figure out whether it was for keeping you in or keeping you out.

Finally the car stopped again. Then we turned left again and soon came to a stop by a tall pole with lights hanging from it, the red one lit up.

“Almost home”, he said, stopping his singing.

I pulled my head in from the window and said, “Still there.”

“All right!” he said.

The green light came on above us and he crossed the big street. I remembered it was the one we had gone on earlier. Stadium. As I looked down the street we were crossing I could even see the stadium in the distance. A few right turns and we came up to our front yard. He drove the car slowly by our house then stopped. Then he made the car go backward and turn into our driveway all the way back to the corner of the house where my room was. The back of the car was right by where the dirt pile would go.

“Made it”, he said, turning the car off. “Thanks for coming along Cloob, it was quite the adventure!”

I said, “Yep!”, and nodded.

He untied the rope and pushed up the top part of the trunk. He used the shovel to dig some of the dirt out of the top of one of the cans. Then he just pulled on the can until it tipped over and the dirt spilled out. It was interesting how it dumped out like water but not the same, it didn’t go as far. But it did go mostly in the right place. He did the same thing with the other can, then used the shovel to put the dirt now on the ground in just the right places in the area with no grass under the tree.

Mom came out of the side door of the house while dad was shoveling. She still had her big stomach that she said had my brother or sister in it, but that made no sense to me. She walked different now like it was harder. She looked carefully at all the things dad was doing and the places he was putting the dirt.

“Fresh dirt”, she said, “Good work guys!”

I looked at the dirt carefully too, and saw hills with forts on them, guarded by soldiers but about to be attacked by pirates. All the area with bare ground where the dirt was could be an island. All the area around it with grass would be the sea where the pirates would come from. My mind was getting excited thinking up all the stories there could be.

“Well Cloob”, mom said, “It’s all yours! I’ve got to do the wash.”

Dad pushed his lips together and nodded. “And I’ve got to work on my thesis”, he said.

Mom and dad went inside the house and left me outside with the dirt. I wondered if the sun was still orange, and I walked around the house to where I had seen it before hanging above the trees over in the park. It was still there, but higher above the trees, and now more white than orange. When I stood where I could see it, my body felt warm. When I moved back to where I could not see it I did not feel the warmth anymore. This morning it had looked like a ball just hanging in the sky. Now it seemed like just a flat circle and so bright it made my eyes hurt. I remembered that dad had told me not to look at it too much. But how could you not look at it when it was the only thing in the sky. I could lie on my back and look at clouds in the sky for a long time. But today the only thing to look at in the sky was the sun, but you weren’t supposed to, so I went back to the backyard.

I liked our backyard. It had different parts that were interesting and fun in different ways. It started with a very big tree just behind the window to my bedroom that mom called a “maple”. She liked to tell me the names of all the plants and what they did that was different in the summer than the winter. It went up higher than the roof of our house and the dirt was piled underneath it just outside the window to my room. It had shiny green leaves now because it was summer. They had come out tiny before in the spring, but were much bigger now. She said they would turn orange, yellow and brown and fall off before the winter came. I couldn’t imagine that happening, but I did remember winter with the snow on the ground and this tree with no leaves and just dark branches reaching up towards the sky.

On the other side of the maple tree was grass going back to the back of the backyard. It was fun to run on and when you fell down on it it was soft and did not scrape your hands, elbows or knees much, just made them green. It smelled good too, especially when dad cut it with the mower. On either side of that grass there were two trees that looked very different than the big tree that mom called “spruces”. She said they had dark green “needles” instead of bright green leaves and were “evergreens”, because those needles did not all fall off in the winter. Though their middle part went straight up like the maple, they had a lot more branches, branches really close to the ground so I could hide inside all those branches like in the lilac bushes across the street in the park. All the branches of the maple tree were way up above my head, and when you looked up you could see parts of the sky between the leaves. On the other side of each of the spruces were the backyards of the people that lived next to us.

Farther back over the grass beyond the spruce trees was a garden that mom made with dirt and seeds. She was growing plants that grew up like tiny trees and were getting round green balls on the branches that mom said were “tomatoes”. She had shown me how they started out as tiny flowers. Then the flowers fell off and they turned into tiny little green balls that got bigger each day we looked at them. Now the balls were bigger and starting to turn red. She said once they got really red you could pick them and eat them. A different plant grew along the ground around the little tomato trees. It had tiny flowers too that turned into tiny little green hotdog shaped things with prickles on them that kept getting bigger. She said they were cucumbers and when they got big enough you could pick them and eat them too. I didn’t think so, but she seemed to be pretty sure.

I went inside the side door of our house and walked down the stairs into the basement. Dad was over in his office corner reading a book and writing things on white cards. I could tell he saw me but he didn’t say anything. I went over to my corner where my toys were on the shelf and found the box with all my soldiers in it, the green good guy American soldiers and the gray bad guy German ones. Looking at the gray soldiers, I started thinking that when making stories, sometimes the bad guys did more interesting things than the good guys. They caused trouble that made the story interesting. That’s what happened in Treasure Island.

I took the box of soldiers outside by the pile of new dirt. I took out all the green soldiers and put them in a long line with the captain in front. They were coming to the dirt island to build a fort before the bad guy pirates came. All the grass around the dirt island was the sea where the pirates were. I decided that instead of turning all the dirt into a fort and then putting the soldiers into it, I would have each group of soldiers go to one part of the dirt island and start working on it to turn it into part of the fort.

So the captain climbed to the top of the dirt island and started to tell his other soldiers where to go and what to build. Some had to make walls and others made towers. Still others had to build places where all the soldiers could sleep when it was nighttime. I piled and pressed the dirt into the different parts of the fort. For the sleeping places I first tried making big mounds of dirt that I would dig out the inside of like a cave. But as I tried to dig it out just a little more the top parts of those places kept falling down.

Having this happen several times, I started thinking really hard about some other way to make the top part so it didn’t fall down. I thought about the box my soldiers were in. When it had shoes in it it had a top part that was now on the bottom of the box instead. I didn’t keep it on top of the box, because then I couldn’t see what was in the box if the top was on. So I used it as the top part of my sleeping place for the soldiers, and it turned out that it was strong enough to let me make the sleeping place bigger so more soldiers could sleep there.

After the good guy soldiers had worked for a long time mom came out and said it was time for lunch. She looked at everything that had been built in the dirt, now full of soldiers watching out for pirates while others were sleeping.

“Cloob, you really put in a lot of work on this!” she said. Her words made me feel shy. I didn’t like grownups saying things about what I was doing, even if they liked it. So I just nodded and said nothing, and tried to wipe the dirt off my hands.

“Please take your shoes off in the landing when you come inside”, she said, “And wash your hands before you eat!”

She had made “grilled” cheese sandwiches in the oven. The bread was brown, warm and crunchy and tasted like butter. The cheese was warm and soft, and it all felt good in my mouth as I chewed it.

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