Tommy got me in a lot of trouble. Oh, not the usual boy and girl trouble you’re thinking of. Three years older and much worldlier, he fed me jokes like a gambler shoveling quarters in a slot machine. Most of the time, they sailed right over my head, but Tommy made it clear theses were high humor and bore repeating. By the time I was six, I was sophisticated enough, by reason of experience, not to get caught (Mother’s instructions exactly. “Don’t let me catch you …)repeating jokes using the major problem words, goober, titty, doo doo, pee pee, dooky, in front of adults, or Phyllis. I might as well have spit them out in front of Mother as Phyllis. She was sneaky. Outraged, she’d hold me hostage for a couple of hours before tattling. By the time she got around to doing the deed, I’d wasted a good bit of time worrying when I could have been getting in more trouble. Eventually, when the time was right, she’d break the ghastly news of my sin to Mother. By that time, I’d forgotten I needed to be on good behavior and get whacked for a couple of things.
The biggest trouble Tommy helped me into, involved the Standard Coffee Man. Making his rounds every couple of weeks, he peddled coffee and household goods to the ladies. Sure he’d come just to be entertained by me, I hopped up on the sofa, sitting cross-legged beside him, telling him the latest offering from Tommy’s repertoire. Much to mine and Tommy’s discredit, it covered all the major societal wrongs. It was politically incorrect, long before anyone bothered with that title, sexist, ethically-biased, insensitive, filthy, and totally disgusting. As further evidence of my innocence, I had no clue what it meant, only that Tommy had told me. Of course, I waited till Mother was out of the room before I launched into it. I was immorally bound to pass it on.
Rattling it off, I waited for his response. He burst out laughing, probably from shock, and then got a terrorized look on in his face. Mother was standing in the doorway. She looked twelve feet tall and hot as a firecracker! She’d heard the whole sorry mess. “Here’s your two dollars, Mr. Stanley. I don’t believe I’ll need any more of your coffee.”
Like a true coward, he snatched the money and ran, leaving me to dance with Death. Mother’s spankings were usually of the “Ah, who cares,” variety but she made a believer out of me that day, first dusting my britches for repeating anything Tommy Lindsay had said. Then she let me rest up a minute and served me up another round for sitting on the couch with my dress “over my head.”
I’ve had no problem with jokes since then, but I still hate wearing dresses!