Less Time to Spend With Hermaphrodites ~ A Short Story by Allen Kopp
Chick came home at seven in the morning, quietly letting himself in at the back door. Mother was waiting for him in the kitchen.
“Where the hell have you been?” she said loudly, startling him.
“I thought you’d still be asleep!” Chick said.
“Well, I’m not! I want to know where you’ve been!”
“I told you I was spending the night at Squeamy’s house. You said it was all right.”
“I called Squeamy’s mother and she said you weren’t there.”
“Well, I wasn’t in the house. That’s what she meant. We slept out in Squeamy’s tent in the back yard.”
“Me and Squeamy.”
“Vic Barker and Arden Halton.”
“So there were four of you?”
“Isn’t Vic Barker the one with the harelip?”
“Yes, but what’s that got to do with anything? He’s going to have surgery in August.”
“And Arden Halton,” she said, leaning her backside against the range. “Where have I heard that name before?”
“How should I know?”
“Isn’t he the one that…”
“He doesn’t go to regular school. He goes to special school.”
“Why? Is he retarded?”
“No! He doesn’t go to regular school because people there are too mean to him.”
“I know now!” she said. “He’s the one that…”
Before Chick knew what was happening, she was on him, slapping at him with both hands. He raised his arms to protect his face.
“What’s the matter with you?” he said. “I didn’t do anything!”
“You’re thirteen years old! What do you mean by spending the night with a freak?”
“He’s not a freak!”
“So, it’s a ‘he,’ is it? How do you know tomorrow ‘he’ won’t be a ‘she’?”
“What difference does it make?”
“You come from a respectable family! You know you should not be spending the night with people like that!”
“We didn’t do anything!”
“Everybody in the neighborhood will know you spent the night together.”
“It wasn’t the way you make it sound!”
“What do you do in the tent all night with a hermaphrodite, if that’s what you even call them?”
“There were four of us! We didn’t do anything!”
“I’m going to call the law! Freak kids should be locked up and should not be allowed to associate with normal kids!”
“Please don’t do that!” he said. “You embarrasses me!”
“I embarrass you? You’re the one spending the night with freaks!”
“He’s not a freak! I like him! We all like him!”
“Well, that says a lot about you, then, doesn’t it?”
“He’s smart and funny. He’s been to Washington, D.C. and New York City. He’s seen ghosts and he’s been inside the embalming room at a funeral home.”
“I want you to promise me that you won’t ever associate with him again and you will, above all, not be seen with him in public!”
“No!” he said.
“I won’t promise that I won’t see him again!”
“You little shit!” she said, slapping at him again. “When you’re thirteen years old, you do as you’re told! I’ll tell you who you can go around with!”
“I’m going to invite him over so you can see he’s not as bad as you think!”
“And do I address him as ‘sir’ or ‘ma’am’?”
“Don’t address him as anything! Just be nice to him!”
“Hah-hah-hah!” she said, lighting a cigarette and throwing the match in the sink. “You’re just a punk kid and you don’t know shit!”
“We’re all going roller skating together on Saturday night!”
“I don’t think so! You are as of this minute permanently grounded! If you don’t know what that means, just ask your sister!”
When father came home, mother went outside to meet him as he got out of the car. Chick was watching from the upstairs window. He knew exactly what she was saying as she stood there in her ugly gray housedress that looked like a prison matron’s uniform.
Father didn’t rant and excoriate the way mother did, but he was judge and jury. At the dinner table, he looked solemnly at Chick and said, “I hear you’ve been keeping some inappropriate company.”
“I didn’t do anything,” Chick said, looking down at his plate.
“Starting tomorrow you can scrape the old paint off the garage and give it a fresh coat. Also you can take over the cutting of the grass for the rest of the summer. That should keep you busy right up until time for school to take up again.”
“Why don’t you just take me out in the back yard and hang me from the tallest tree?”
“We could also do that,” father said.
Copyright © 2016 by Allen Kopp