This is an alternate version of Patrick’s autobiographical story East End, a bit more crude, as found in As Chance Would Have It. The one posted earlier was likely submitted for publication.
Our daddy bought a piece of land on Lee Road that had until then been a watermelon patch, and on weekends he proceeded to build our house. It was a simple structure, four rooms on six cement pillars. It was small, but housed so many dreams that it seems immense in retrospect. The previous owner of the land was Lee Rhodes, who lived with his wife Carlee on our right. His son Bill lived on our left with his wife Lorena.
Over the years I got to know Lee as a drunk often lying passed out under the bleached dead hickory tree on the path down to the creek.
Father is Paul.
Mother is Gin.
Sister is Sue.
Brother is Jack.
I am Pat.
Father is a thin man with what they call a widow’s peak, fine black hair slicked back over his skull. He is all but blind without his rimless spectacles, as thick as the bottom of a pop bottle.
Gin insists he is a master carpenter. He builds our house in East End from the ground up. Weekends we walk out from the rented house on Bunker Hill to the lot, previously a watermelon patch belonging to Lee Rhodes.
I am five years old. Father holds a big nail in his left hand and hits the head once with a claw hammer so it sticks up in the flooring. He hands me the hammer. I hold the smooth hickory in both hands and hit it for all I am worth. The nail bent double.
Father tousled my hair. “That only means your pecker hasn’t stopped growing yet.”
Now I am the father of a son myself, a son who is now as old as my father was when bent the nail. Now I discover that although my sincerest wish growing up was to distance myself as much as possible from my hick background, my father being only a polished hick, a sort of Hollywood country boy with a bashful smile and a thirst for drink and women, and although I wanted to evade forever more the roughneck miners and loggers of that place and time, I have come to think I am exactly like him.
I have always loved chasing girls since I was thirteen years old, and I am sure Paul was the same. Work he was good at too, but only because of a certain cleverness and natural intelligence that got mean jobs done with absolute minimum of effort, and them done right so you wouldn’t have to do the same one ever again.
When it came to women, if one was available, he could not say no. It seemed stupid to say no. There was plenty of it to go around, none of them lost a bit of him. He wasn’t going to give any one of them his full attention, anyway. However when he was with any one of them, she was convinced he was one hundred percent there, and that’s what we all want. To be one hundred percent where we are, in as near a state of ecstasy as we can manage is what it’s about, in my opinion, and I believe in his opinion as well, though to be sure we never discussed this or much else.
Once I had a photograph of him at about twelve years old. He was standing in the middle of a bed with his shoes on. He wore long socks and corduroy knee pants. His mouth was set in that lop-sided grin he wore into adulthood, and his eyes were magnified by thick glasses. He was about as ugly as me, his son, at that age, and I hated the photo. I can’t imagine why Gin thought I would want it.
She must have been cleaning out old storage; she also gave me a picture of myself in my band uniform, standing at attention in front of the screen door to our house in Winter Park. The star on my shoulder announced I was captain of the high school band. On my chest were medals earned playing solos on the sousaphone at county and state competitions. The most recent was earned in Tampa, and the oldest I had received in Huntington, back when we lived in West Virginia. I spent the entire night before the competition with a girl named Elaine or Eleanor under a picnic table in a park by the river.
This was the dream of my adolescent years come true. For a couple of years I had been playing around once or twice a week with Patsy. A couple of times we almost succeeded in actually making it but somehow she always got me off before I could really dig in and enjoy it.
Joanne, however – that was her name, I remember now, was different. Joanne I picked up in the hall of the high school where the state competition took place. After I played my solo for the judges – variations on Carry me back to ole Virginny, for BB-flat sousaphone and piano, I wandered the corridors with another bass player named Mark. His plan was perfectly logical, if not socially acceptable. We wandered from classroom to classroom, looking in the doors while the teachers continued talking. Mark’s theory was that if we waited until the break between classes we wouldn’t get a chance to have a gander at the maximum number of girls in the building. On the other hand, if we stuck our head in fifty doors, roughly one a minute, we could do a quick cull and station ourselves outside the room with the most likely candidate to be molested by us, to put it most crudely.
Joanne and Betty were our choice targets. We closed in on them, made them laugh and leave the building with us instead of go on to the next class. They knew each other, and I had the feeling this was not the first time they had skipped out fire doors and wandered off to the amusement park.
Later we wandered down to the river bank.
Mark picked his spot with Betty, and I forgot about them. It was nearly dark. Joanne had grabbed my penis on the roller coaster, and hours later, nearly dawn, I had been pumping the same erection into her. But it turned out she liked to talk, mostly about her twenty-five year old boyfriend who never got it in before he shot his was, he was that hot for her body she said.
The trouble is, her talking about Johnny did do my ego any good, and once or twice we had to start again from scratch. Again and again I rose up toward a pinnacle, but she would suddenly open so wide there was no friction, only a sodden swamp into which I tried vainly to sow my spunk.
So it was that only when the sun came up and she was afraid someone would sooner or later notice us naked in the grass that we gave it up. I was on a high point that could get somewhere if her attention and mine were in the same place. It would have been such a pleasure, the first time to have an orgasm inside a girl, but it was not to be. With the greatest reluctance I put on my jeans. It looked as though I carried a banana in my pocket. There was nothing to do about it except to ignore it. Her dress was grass-stained and we both looked as though we had slept in our clothes. Actually we had slept on our clothes, clutching at each other in every possible handhold we could imagine. There weren’t maybe folks about at this early hour anyway, and the ones we encountered looked away immediately once we were close.
I got into my room just as my roommate, Tommy from the Cherry Lane Farm was leaving for band practice for the contest. I brushed my teeth, changed shirts and got to the auditorium just in time for the sight-reading.
By the time we were all loaded into the bus heading back home, I was ready to sack out, but Tommy wouldn’t have it. He kept wisecracking about my getting in at dawn. He worked it over from all angles, in a loud whisper two rows behind me. When he got to the part of clap and syph, I lost my cool.
It was an explosion, as unexpected to me as to the others who until that moment were not paying any attention to what he was saying. One second I was dozing with my face against the glass, eyes closed, trying to ignore his clowning, and then I was all over him in the aisle. He fought to get up, but there was no elbow room between the seats, so I managed to hold him down.
I failed to get a good punch, my forearm glancing off the metal armrest, and a flood of my tears poured onto his face. He began kicking first I would swear, but soon we both settled for kicking only and that’s where we were when a couple of seniors pulled us apart.
Mr. Mackey made me sit in the front with him to avoid more trouble. He wrinkled his nose when I first sat down. It only then occurred to me that although I had brushed my teeth, I had not washed. The aura that rose from between my legs was pure juicy sex. I could see Joanna’s face in that aroma. I turned my back to Mr. Mackey and tried to dream without sleeping, to revive the state of tingling awareness and hang in there till I could get home, to our own bathroom.
I telephoned her once from home. I caught hell when the phone bill came. The funny thing was I had been jerking off every night thinking of her, and she couldn’t remember who I was.
The incident gave me a certain reputation. Nice girls avoided me. Others I had been invisible to till now brushed against me in the corridors. One girl two years ahead of me in the eleventh grade was door monitor. You had to pass her with permission to go to the toilet. She stopped me each time just outside the door, brushing her breasts against me, tracing her fingers on my chest. It’s almost impossible to urinate with an erection.
After Pearl Harbor, it was not long before Paul was drafted. With three kids he was low on the list, but eventually they got to him. He was sent to the Great Lakes training center. In basic training his glasses held him back in Judo and combative skills, if he told me right. So, being a carpenter by trade, he was put into the Navy SeaBees. He said the SeaBees were the toughest guys in the navy. They went onto beaches ahead of everybody else to set up roads and landing strips. I always wondered whether he was putting me on, John Wayne’s movie The Fighting Seabees notwithstanding.
Just inside our front door hung his photo in sailor outfit. There was another on Gin’s bedside table, the whole family, him with a crooked smile and a glint on his specs. Later Gin said she was sorry he had gone off, because he came back as a drinker and skirt-chaser.
He and Skeets Corker were a team in the building trade when he came back home. Skeets too was a heavy drinker.
By 1946 we had a used maroon Ford, so Skeets rode to and from worksites with Paul. Back when they both had to walk to work or hitch a ride, they went their separate ways, but with the Ford, it was too easy to stop off at a beer joint along the highway.
For me it was good the Skeets and Paul were buddies. Skeets had a daughter named Patsy, and she became my first real girlfriend.
After publishing this story on this site, I discovered I’d already shared an expanded version elsewhere as Recollections of Childhood. That story expands the tale, including what happened after leaving West Virginia.
Patrick Meadows 1934 – 2017.