The Time Mom Lied
Hollie Loveless
My next door neighbor Stephen Smith offered me a piece of gum, but he'd only let me have it if I'd touch his penis.
He held up the neatly wrapped, streetlight-yellow package and taunted me with it. Of course it had to be Juicy Fruit, my favorite kind.
But I wasn't so sure about this penis business. I had only heard the word maybe once or twice. I knew enough to be skeptical, namely, because boys had them and girls didn't. Another thing that held me back was how intent Stephen seemed on me doing it.
In most of the difficult decision making scenarios I'd faced in my first five years, I'd sought the advice of my mother. This situation seemed no different than those. So, leaving Stephen sitting on the bed in the guestroom, I headed to the kitchen where my mom was sitting with my grandmother playing cards.
"Mom," I said. She didn't look up. I tugged on her sleeve.
"Mo-o-o-m, I need to ask you something."
"You're interrupting Sarah, wait until we're done with this game."
"But it's important," I said.
"It always is," she said, winking at Nanny. "Where's Stephen?"
"In the guestroom."
"Well, go on, go play with Stephen. He's going to have to go home pretty soon."
I trudged back to the guestroom. Stephen was still there on the bed with his gum and his penis. And I was no closer to making a decision except now I was under added pressure since he had to leave soon and would no doubt take his gum with him.
I thought about the fleeting cloying flavors that came from the gum. I usually went through the entire pack in one sitting because in only seconds that fruity-blast morphed into an insipid gray putty. That flavor could only be reignited if you added in another piece, and even then it was never as good as it was the first time.
I tried to get Stephen just to give me a half-piece, even though I hated half-pieces. It would be better than none, and I wouldn't have to touch anything. But Stephen just wouldn't relent.
"How long do I have to touch it for?" I asked.
"Just for a second," he said.
I imagined that he was doing this all so he could run home and tell his older brother that I touched his penis. But why would I do that? Why did he want me to do that? I could not make a proper decision without more information.
Again, I told Stephen to wait there on the bed and I tromped back to the kitchen.
"Mom," I said, my purpose reaffirmed.
"What now Sarah?"
"I need you for a second," I said.
"I said not now, honey, we're in the middle of a hand," she dragged a pile of cards toward her.
Nanny loved to play canasta and whenever she visited that's how mom entertained her. I hated to interrupt, but this was important. I was pretty certain that this penis word wasn't something that you just threw around in casual conversation but mom left me no choice.
"Stephen wants me to touch his penis," I said.
I knew I'd made the right choice in consulting my mother on this matter from the look of incredulity on her face. She dropped her cards while at the same time trying to maintain a sense of composure in front of Nanny. Nanny didn't talk much but her lower jaw seemed to slacken a little.
"Excuse us," mom said, while she grabbed my arm and walked me into the living room. She sat down next to me on the couch. Finally I had her attention.
"Now, what did you just say?" she asked.
"I said that Stephen wants me to touch his penis. Why?"
"Well never mind why, Stephen shouldn't ask you to do that. Stephen is going to be going home now."
"But why?"
"Because you're too young to do that sort of thing."
Now this wasn't doing anything but make me wish I'd have kept my big trap shut and gone for the gum.
"Why am I too young?" I asked.
"Because that is how you get pregnant and have babies."
Wow. That was certainly not the direction that I thought this conversation was going. But now that I thought about it, all my dolls were older, like Barbie and the Cabbage Patch Kids. I was sort of bored with them.
"I want a baby," I said.
"Well, that's too bad, you can't have one," mom said.
"Why not? I want a baby right now. I am going to touch Stephen's penis so I can have a baby!"
"You can't," mom said. She had taken a new tone. This time she was declarative in the same way she was when she taught me something new— like that you don't talk to strangers, or that you put forks on the left side of the plates when you set the table.
"Why not?"
"Think about it. Do you see other girls in the kindergarten who are pregnant?"
I thought about it hard.
"No," I said. I was reluctant. I never paid that close of attention, and there was one girl in the a.m. class who was sort of big for our age.
"That's because it's too dangerous."
"But why?"
"Because... if you get pregnant when you're that small, you'll, well... you'll blow up, you'll explode."
I looked at mom with wide eyes. Blow up? Disgusting. Stephen was such a jerk. I knew he was up to something. And all that for a piece of gum? No sir.
I marched back to the bedroom. Mom was behind me. I looked at Stephen through squinty eyes.
"I don't want your gum," I said, hands on my hips.
"Come with me Stephen, it's time for you to go home," mom said.
Stephen didn't look that surprised.
Hollie Loveless has been published by the Indianapolis Star, Indianapolis Monthly, the Downtown Express (NY, NY) and the now-defunct SHUZ Magazine. She lives in Houston, Texas.