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Sex Is Still A Laughing Matter

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Cover photo of Lieko English by Pompeo Posar.A collection of humorous and bawdy stories by Allan Sherman,

Alexander Kng, Jean Shepherd, Joan Rivers, etc. . Playboy Press, Chicago, 1972.
Year:
1972
Publisher:
Playboy Press
Language:
english
File:
PDF, 19.57 MB
Download (pdf, 19.57 MB)
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1

小资产阶级的思想改造

Year:
1952
Language:
chinese
File:
PDF, 1.42 MB
2

Table of contents

Year:
2004
Language:
english
File:
PDF, 2.32 MB
*nom

PLAYBOY

I

on th@ Oft and antics Of loue

sex is
still a
laughing matter

4VP
PLAYBOY PRESS

I

J.

SEX

IS

STILL A LAUGHING

MATTER

Cover photo of Lieko English by Pompeo Posar.
Copyright © 1972 by Playboy. All rights reserved. From
PLAYBOY magazine: Copyright © 1957, 1963, 1964, 1966,
1967, 1969, 1970, 1971 by Playboy.
Published simultaneously in the United States and Canada
by Playboy Press, Chicago, Illinois. Printed in the United
States of America. Library of Congress Catalog Card
Number: 72-88584. First edition.

PLAYBOY and Rabbit Head design are trademarks of
Playboy, 919 North Michigan Avenue, Chicago, Illinois
60611 (U.S.A.), Reg. U.S. Pat. Off., marca registrada,
marque deposee.

f-^

contents
PREFACE

*

preface
fun has never seriously been questioned.
jimny would not be open to question,
either, were it not for long-faced doom dealers who
make it out to be a thing of torment, tears, heartbreak and frustration.
"The debauching of virgins and the amours of
strumpets are the subject of comedy," wrote Lactantius back in the Fourth Century. His somewhat
stiff, disapproving tone may be attributed to the fact
that he was an early Christian, still reacting to the
excesses of the pagan world in its frenzied twilight.
Sex need not involve debauched virgins or strumpets in order to be humorous, however. This press

That
That

sex

is

it's

also

has proved the point many times by publishing
books that poke fun at the world's oldest sport. A
recent such volume was Sex Is a Laughing Matter,
That one was so thoroughly enjoyed by all that we
do not hesitate to come forward with the claim that
Sex Is Still (and let us hope always will be) ^ Laugh-

ing Matter.
In the pages ahead you'll find today's cleverest,
most original wits, subjecting sex to the humor test
and watching it pass with flying colors. To cite a
few examples: Art Buchw^ald tells us why he can't
write a dirty book. Allan Sherman unveils his amazing invention, the Porn-o-Phone. Jean Shepherd
nostalgically recalls the juni; or prom. Ray Russell
offers 33 affectionate euphemisms for the human
posterior. On the distaff side Joan Rivers does a
devastating number on women's lib.
It's their way— and our way— of celebrating the
comic side of sex.
don't you join us in the
celebration?
—the editors of playboy

Why

5

gni$elcia

and the
ponn-o-phone
ollan

Sherman

>

Griselda Thrindle was born in Puritan Ethic, Wisconsin, and raised by her father, an insanely ambitious janitor.

"I am nothing," her father would say. "But for
you^ Griselda, I dream the Impossible Dream. You'll
see— one day you'll be the greatest charwoman in
the world."
On Griselda's first birthday her father gave her a
dollhouse. The walls were shabby, the floors scuff-

marked, the windows smudged with soot. The little
doorknobs were tarnished, the tiny tables dusty;
ev-en the miniature dishes were caked with microscopic t%^ yolk. There was an itsy-bitsy broom
closet with teeny-weeny dustpans, feather dusters,

Windex
made from a

squeegees, infinitesimal bottles of Clorox,

and

Drano,

and

a

garbage

can

thimble.

Griselda spent

all

her time sanitizing her marvel-

ous house. She never associated with other children
of either sex. When she reached puberty, her father

GRISELDA AND THE PORN-O-PHONE

took her aside to

"Men

are

all

tell

7

her about men.

the same," her father said.

"They

only want you-know-what."
"But I don't know what. What?'' Griselda asked.
"Never you mind," her father said. "Just remember, men ain't reliable. But a clogged drain— that's
something you can depend on. Removing stubborn
grease stains— that's where the real action is."
When Griselda was i8, her father gave her a bus
ticket to Los Angeles and said, "Make me proud of

you, my darling daughter. Go on out there and
scrub your way to chardom."
Griselda registered at the Hollywood Career
Girls' Club, unpacked her apparatus and began
feverishly pursuing her sacred calling. She never
went out. She never thought about boys.
Then one night, about six months after she moved
in, the phone in the hall rang. All the other girls
were out on dates; so Griselda answered.
griselda: Hello?
MALE VOICE: Oh, baby, I'm hot for your body!
When I get my hands on you again
GRISELDA: You ought to have your mouth washed
out with new enzyme detergent.
MALE VOICE: Come on, Florence, baby— you raun-

chy

little

GRISELDA:

My name

is

Griselda.

MALE

VOICE: You're not Florence Gundlefinger?
GRISELDA: No, I'm Griselda Thrindle.

MALE VOICE: Oh,

When

sorry. Bye.

Male Voice hung up, Griselda felt an inexplicable pang. It went away. Then, an hour later,
the same voice called Florence again, murmuring
sensuously about getti?ig it on. This time something
deep within Griselda began to flutter. That night—
and the next— she dreamed about Male Voice. After
that she couldn't sleep at all. She tried to lose herself

I

ALLAN SHERMAN

8

but it was no use. Every
found herself subconsciously scrubbing
her way into the hall. Griselda was a woman possessed; now she knew what y ou-know-njohat was.
She took to Simonizing the telephone day and night.
in a wild binge of sanitation,

nigiit she

No

other telephone in history ever sparkled so

Then, after a week that seemed an
rang— right there in her chamois.

brightly.
it

eternity,

griselda: Hello?
VOICE:

Where

in the hell are you, Florence,

I'm here at Bumbles' waiting.
or not?
griselda:
Thrindle.

But

this

Florence.

isn't

VOICE: Gosh! I'm sorry, Griselda.

making

this

obscene phone

baby?

We gonna ball tonight

call to

It's

You

Griselda

see, I

was

Florence. Well, so

long.

griselda: Wait! Don't hang up!
I feel so awful, Griselda.

VOICE: I've got to.

sound

like

You

such a— swell kid.

griselda: But there's no

harm

in trying.

Go

ahead,

talk dirty.

No. I'm not good enough for you. I'm just
phone caller. I would only
bring you unhappiness.
VOICE:

a disgusting obscene

griselda:

me

I

don't care. Please— for

my

sake. Strip

human decency. Degrade me. Corrupt me.
Turn me into a whore and then laugh in my face.
Go ahead, be a rotten bastard. Ask me anything—
of

all

won't refuse.
VOICE: Anything?
griselda: Anything.
VOICE: OK. If you see Florence, would you tell
her I called? {Hangs up)
Griselda was unhappy. She was feeling all kinds
of strange new feelings, and she didn't know how to

GRISELDA AND THE PORN-O-PHONE

9

Suddenly her career seemed meanShe tried to concentrate on Ralph Nader's
Dissertations on Dish-water, but after hi??t it seemed
dull as dishwater. On Sunday night she sought out
Florence Gundlefinger.
"Florence," she asked, "why don't I ever get any
phone calls? I'm jealous. How can I get one of those
hot-pants people to call me in the, middle of the
night? There must be more to life than maldng toilet
bowls shades whiter."
Florence was reluctant. But Griselda, in her pentup sexual ardor, began to throw things and scream.
"All right, all right!" Florence said. "I'll tell you.
Subscribe to Porn-o-Phone, like I did."
"Pom-o-Phone? What's that?"
"Porn-o-Phone, formerly Call-a-Ball," said Florence, "is a trademarked new telephone service of the
Micro-Morals Division of Sex-a-Tronics."
"Where can I find it?" Griselda begged.
"In the Yellow Pages."
Early Monday morning Griselda Thrindle was
at the Hollywood office of Porn-o-Phone. She filled
deal with them.

ingless.

out her application in the purple, incense-filled reception room.
chime rang; she was ushered into
the office of the young, bearded president, Darryl
Krudd. He asked her to lie down on his giant bed
for her interview.
"I'm very shy," Griselda said. "If it's all right,
I'll just curl up on the perimeter here."
"Whatever turns you on," Krudd said. "Now,

A

what
"I

is it

want

you want?"
to be a sex symbol."

"What do you mean?"
"Like Mia Farrow, Ava Gardner,

Jane Fonda,
Ann-Margret, Raquel Welch, Jacqueline Kennedy
Onassis

'*

lO

ALLAN SHERMAN

"Why

do you think they're sex symbols?"
Griselda blushed. "Why— er— they must be fantastic— uh— in bed."

"How

do

yoii

know?" Krudd

asked.

"Have you

ever been in bed with any of them?"
"Of course not," Griselda said.

"Neither have
office intercom.

I," said Krudd. He turned up his
"Has anybody here ever been in

bed with Mia Farrow, Ava Gardner, Jane Fonda,
Ann-Mar gret, Raquel Welch or Jacqueline Kennedy
Onassis?"

There was only

silence.

He

started to dial the

phone.

"What are you doing?" asked Griselda.
"I'm calling Joe Namath. If anybody knows, he
will. Or George Plimpton. Maybe he's writing a
book. Or Justice William O. Douglas. Or Strom
Thurmond. I'll call everybody and find out if anybody's ever been in bed with anybody."
"Never mind," Griselda said, "you've made your
point."

"All right, then. You finally understand. Sex image
has Jiothiiig to do uoith bed. It has to do with what
other people think you do in bed."
"Remarkable," Griselda said. "Whatever it is, I

want some."
"You've come to the right place," Krudd en"At long last, even a mousy type like you
can have a red-hot reputation, for as little as twentyseven cents a day. American technology has finally
caught up with our ever-advancing morality! By
George— I'm going to do it!"
"Do what?" Griselda asked expectantly.
"L/p your sex iuiage, GriseldaP''
"I beg your pardon," said Griselda.
"1 can see it's going to be an uphill battle with
you," he said. "We'll have to do it by degrees. We'll
thused.

"

GRISELDA AND THE PORN-O-PHONE
Start

you

dollars a

II

off easy, with the Beginner's Service— eight
month, plus five dollars for Total-Coverage

Call Insurance."

"What's that?"
guarantee that no call is ever wasted. You
get a completed obscene phone call every timey
"Fantastic!" Griselda said. "But what if no one
answers?
"In that case," said Krudd, "our Degenerate automatically calls your next of kin. Here, read this."

"We

subscriber's next of kin:

Himmelfarb

resi-

dence.

degenerate: Mrs. Himmelfarb?
S.N.O.K.:

Speaking.

degenerate:
S.N.O.K.: Is

It's

she

about your daughter Shirley.
right? I begged her to wear

all

something warm. It's those goddamn miniskirts.
She's always catching colds in her thighs.
degenerate: It's nothing like that. I just want
to leave a message for her.
S.N.O.K.: Whatever. Thank God she's alive.
degenerate: Have you got a pencil?
S.N.O.K.:

Yes, shoot.

degenerate: Tell Shirley I'm going to screw
her brains out.
s.n.o.k.:

Mm-hmm. Can

degenerate:
s.n.o.k.:

At

least,

Lawyer? Doctor? Indian
degenerate:

I

know.
are you

say

who

called?

She'll

a professional

man?

chief?

Hey— just

give her the message,

OK?
s.n.o.k.:

Do you work

for a profit-making

Are you salaried or self-employed? Do you earn more than
degenerate: Jesus. {Hangs up)
organization?

Excitedly, Griselda wrote out a check and

went

ALLAN SHERMAN

12

home

to wait for her

ner's Service,

it

first call.

would be

Since

it

was Begin-

a Soft- Voiced Stranger.

Other than that, she knew only that it would come
during non-rush hours. (Porn-o-Phone research had

shown

that the least sexy times are lo: 30-1 1:15 a.m.

and 4:45-5:30 P.M. on weekdays.) The
came at 11:02 on Thursday morning.

first

call

griselda: Hello.

STRANGER: GHselda Thrindle?
griselda: Yes?

stranger: I'm calling to persuade you to join me
meaningful interpersonal relationship.
griselda: I don't understand.
STRANGER: Well, it might include certain— er—

in a

intimacies.

you be a little more specijfic?
STRANGER: I'm afraid not.
griselda: Aren't you going to use any rotten
language?
STRANGER: Sotry, for eight dollars you get euphemisms.
griselda: Could

griselda:

Aw,

shit.

what they all ^ay. Well,
{Hangs zip)
The calls became the most important thing in
Griselda's life. Her career was going down the drain.
Her suds ranneth over. Her finesse with the Jonny
Mop grew stale, her short strokes careless. She lay
awake nights having fantasies about men. She called
Porn-o-Phone. She needed stronger stuff, and she
str.\nger:

Yes, that's

toodIe-00.

needed it quick.
For an additional

six dollars a

month

she ordered

the Clinical Titillation Special. These calls came in
the sexier evening hours. The new voice was manly

and concise,

a

no-nonsense Sex Technician.

griselda: Hello.

technician: Miss Griselda Thrindle?

3

GRISELDA AND THE PORN-O-PHONE

1

griselda: Yes.

technician:
activity to

my

It is

your

labia

intention to apply frictive
majora and uimora, thus bring-

ing about oblate dilation of the voluntary sphincter
musculature.
griselda: Groovy, but what's in it for me?
technician: Well— I propose a program of erotogenic conditioning, including excitation of the clitoral reflex system, with consequent release of

psychomotor
griselda:

inhibitions.

OK—if

I let

around afterward? You

you do all that, can we fool
know what I vntzn—tit for

tat.

technician:

Fm

sorry,

my

dear,

I

don't have any

tats.

griselda: Don't feel bad. I don't have any
technician: {Hangs up)
Griselda was hooked. She had to escalate her dosage—but she was out of money. In desperation she
sold her most prized possession— her masterwork—
the brilliant formula she had once hoped would catapult her to the heights of chardom. No one had ever
become a superchar without a secret ingredient.
Griselda had worked for years perfecting hers—
Propho-lax-o 26, with Instant Barnacle-Removing
Action, for rubber ducks, plastic warships and other
bathtub toys. It was to have been Griselda's gift to
the children of the world— but now it would never
see the light of day. The barnacle lobby snatched it
up cheap— to keep it off the market. As soon as
Griselda cashed the check, she called Porn-o-Phone

and advanced herself to the
($48 a month).

The

calls

came from

high, reedy voice

exciting to girls

and

who

Omar Khayyam

a Poetic Stranger.

Service

He

had a

a soft, erotic lisp (especially
like to

by rescuing males from

prove their femininity

the brink of faggotry).

14

ALLAN SHERMAN

These calls came
would wake up all

at truly ungodly hours. They
the girls in the dorm, who were

then forced to eavesdrop and, of course, would later
gossip about Griselda's weird love life. An Omar

Khayyam

transcript:

griselda: Hello.

My

POETIC STRANGER: Ah!

heart at thy sweet

voice!

griselda:

Wha?

Thy

POETIC stranger:

my

silv'ry voice

Transporting

me

to Shangri-La.

That thou shouldst deign

Thy

enchants

ear,

sweet immortal

griselda:

to let

me

hear

Wha?

Wha???

POETIC stranger:

Once more thou

speak'st,

O wondrous voice!
My blood bestirs; my loins rejoice—
My heartbeat leaps, my tongue doth bum
To

sip the honey from thine urn.
Yea, kiss thy hollow love balloon!

Alas, that's
griselda: Oh— could

you repeat

that?

We've got

a rotten connection.

POETIC stranger: Oh, certainly. Where was
griselda: Kissing my hollow love balloon.
POETIC stranger: Oh, yes.
Yea, kiss thy hollow love balloon!
Alas, that's

all. I'll

The foulmouthed

call

I.^

back soon. (Hangs up)

gossip of her

good

friends be-

gan to bear fruit. As soon as word got around that
Griselda was really freaky, she began getting calls
from young men who were not employees of Porno-Phone but genuine Hollywood studs, with almost
new Porsche Targas.
Since Griselda never knew which was which, she
would answer the real studs with such comments as

5

GRISELDA AND THE PORN-O-PHONE

1

"That don't rhyme, man" or "Prose won't get you
nowhere, baby." These quips strengthened her reputation as a really hip chick. She began to comb her
hair back. She covered her wart with mascara; it
became a beauty spot. Her vacant stare became the
talk of Laurel Canyon; everyone called it the look
of love.
Griselda was close to a big breakthrough. All she
needed was the right gimmick to burst onto the
Hollywood scene as a full-fledged sex symbol. The
registered letter from Porn-o-Phone was timed perfectly. For an additional $ioo she could buy the
exclusive Graffiti Service.

She could compose her

The Porn-o-Phone
it,

own

advertising message.

graffiti artists

would reproduce

in easy-to-read black felt-tipped pen, at

eye level

(20-34 inches above urinal top) in Hollywood's
100 most eligible men's rooms. Their demographics
analysts had carefully selected the top loo for good
traffic flow, easy access and availability of prime
space. Griselda's copy would be read by an audience of eligible bachelors held captive by their own
bladders. Furthermore, it was just the kind of highclass readership she was looking for.
Griselda composed her copy carefully:

GRISELDA THRINDLE

IS

ONE GREAT BIG
EROGENOUS ZONE
213-483-1483 DAY OR NIGHT

The phone in the hall began to ring incessantly,
always for Griselda. Though she was still a virgin,
every stud in Hollywood claimed to be making it
with her. No one dared give a Hollywood party
without inviting her. Her name appeared in Joyce
Haber's column. She became the envy of charwomen all over the English-speaking world. Gri-

1

ALLAN SHERMAN

6

selda Thrindle

was where

ifs at.

Chester Standish came to Pom-o-Phone through
different channels. Chester

was

self-oriented,

much

too shy to ever approach a girl. He lived completely
in fantasy, forever studying what he called the good
book— his leather-bound first-folio edition of Portnoy^s Complaint, thoughtfully thumb-indexed by
the publisher.

Chester had never taken out a
ago, he had noticed one. In a

Once, long
he liked her—

girl.

way

especially those big round bulb things on top. But,
though they fascinated him, the big round things
also scared him. Chester's mother had had some.
When the 30-day free offer from Porn-o-Phone

came
hell.

in the junk mail, Chester thought,

He made

What

the

X

in the square for the Narcissus

later

Porn-o-Phone engineers came

an

Service.

A

few days

to his apartment. After Chester filled out the ques-

him with a script. He made
and once a week his own voice
him— always a pleasant surprise.

tionnaire, they supplied

a tape recording,

would

call

CHESTER: Hello.
Chester's voice:

It's

me, you beautiful hunk of

man.
CHESTER: I know, I've been waiting for your call.
Chester's voice: Oh, God! I love you, baby.
You're all I think of. You're my reason for being.
Oh, how I want you.
Chester: I want you, too. No one else matters.
Chester's voice: Are you naked.^
CHESTER: You know I am.
Chester's voice: You drive me crazy, you get me
so horny.
CHESTER: Oh! Wow! Zowie! Oh, fireworks! Spiral

—

7

GRISELDA AND THE PORN-O-PHONE
nebulae! Domino effect!
Chester's voice: Wait for me!
for

Wait

for me!

1

Wait

TELEPHONE OPERATOR: I'm sorry, your time is up.
if you wish to continue.

Please deposit ten cents

At

first this

service sent Chester into indescribable

ecstasy. Eventually

wanted

it

began to

pale.

Somehow

Ches-

come out

of his shell and face the outside world. He consulted the Pom-o-Phone experts.
His tests showed that he was not yet ready for girls.
He was still afraid of those big round, strange bulbs.
But for I28 monthly Chester enrolled himself in
the Eyes-Have-It Voyeur Service.
Through the miracle of closed-circuit pay TV,
Chester was able to tune in channel 28 for one hour
a night and watch qualified sexual athletes exposing
themselves and indulging in complicated gyrations
ter

to

for his viewing pleasure— without commercial interFor each extra quarter in the special coin
box, Chester observed 15 minutes of additional
ruptions.

obscenities.

Though

Chester was not basically a voyeur, this
helped him overcome his phobia of big
round, strange things. He was now ready to try a
telephonic confrontation with an actual girl. Porn-oPhone started him off with a service that was simservice

plicity itself.

CHESTER: Hello.
GIRL (Breathes heavily)
CHESTER: Hello? Hello?
GIRL (Begijis to pant)
CHESTER:
is this?
GIRL (Gasps and groans softly)
CHESTER: This is Chester Standish.

Who

is

May

I

ask

who

calling?

GIRL (Shrieks. Heaves deep sigh. Moans)
CHESTER: I don't understand. Would you repeat

1

1

ALLAN SHERMAN

8

that,

please— a

little

slower?

Oh, wow, baby! You know what I just had?
I just had an
CHESTER: Attack of asthma?
GIRL {Hangs lip)
Chester was doing well. But he still lacked selfconfidence. For an extra $20 a month he took the
Male Ego-Booster Service. The calls came from a
Throaty- Voiced Young Lady.
girl:

CHESTER: Hello.

THROATY VOICE: Ate you Chester Standish?
CHESTER: I'm sorry,

I

can't help

it.

THROATY VOICE: Oh, God, Chester, you drive me
mad! Just hearing your voice causes sensuous heaving in my enormous pink breasts— my erectile nipples press their maddening imprint against my
diaphanous peasant blouse. You arouse my deepest
jungle desires and awaken in me gigantic reservoirs
of primeval lust.
CHESTER:

No

kidding?

THROATY VOICE: No kidding. I dream of you every
night. Deftly, you insinuate your experienced hand
under my blouse; with incredible adroitness, your
sensitive fingers open the clasp of my brassiere— yet
I feel nothing but the warm, delicious love pains of
your pulsating lips and masterful teeth as you nip
at the delectable ecstasy meat of my succulent earlobes.

CHESTER: Say, you're some smooth talker.
THROATY VOICE: Thank you. Then, tenderly, you
insinuate your throbbing tumescent member into

my

the burning, moist cavern of
insatiable desire
CHESTER: Are you absolutely sure you dialed the
right number?

THROATY VOICE: Ycs, damn it!— and plunge within,
mighty thrust. Heaven and earth dis-

thrust after

appear

as

our fire-frenzied bodies fuse into one glori-

9

GRISELDA AND THE PORN-0-PHONE

1

ous Star shower. Oh, yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes!
CHESTER: Oh, me, too! Me, too! Sock it to me!
THROATY voice: And then, by the light of dawn,

we
CHESTER: Don't

tell

me! Let

me

guess— do ive

dis-

solve in the molten lava of erupted passioji as our
limpid souls ivhisper fareiuell to paradise.^

THROATY

VOICE: Right on!

I'll

call

back Thursday.

(Ha?igs up)
Chester Standish was hopelessly addicted. He had
to have more dirty talk or die, but he was broke.
Desperate, he took the good book to an auction
gallery. He couldn't bear to watch; he didn't want
to see

who bought

With

it.

proceeds,
Phone and ordered the
the

Chester raced to Porn-oa Trois Plan—

new Menage

an Obscene Conference Call.
Then came one of those trillion-to-one coincidences that give true love its serendipity: Griselda
Thrindle was assigned to the same menage! When
the time came, the operator plugged Chester and
Griselda together, but the third party never showed
up. Pom-o-Phone's soft-spoken menageman, LowKey Pierre, had taken his customary place in his
deserted phone booth, but just as he inserted his
dime, the Pasadena Chastity Squad came and busted
him.
So Chester and Griselda had no one to talk to but
each other. She found his midwestern twang refreshing; he explained he was from Aiaidenhead
Falls, Wisconsin (a stone's throw from Puritan
Ethic). Emboldened by love, Chester suddenly
asked Griselda, "Why don't you come over to my
apartment for a nightcap?" To the surprise of both
of them, Griselda agreed.
From his first sight of her, all Chester's childhood
fears evaporated. This girl didji't have strange big

20

ALLAN SHERMAN

round bulb

things.

She had

a

wide

flat

space.

Griselda began to examine Chester's apartment.
"Just look at this place!" she exclaimed.
"I'm sorry," Chester said, "it is a bit messy."
"Look at all that tough caked-in dirt in those
hard-to-get-at crevices."
"I shouldn't have brought you here," Chester said.

"I'm ashamed."
She looked inside the toilet tank. "Look at that
corroded flush ball."
"Can you ever forgive me?" Chester whimpered.
"And the kitchen linoleum— those ugly scuff
marks." Griselda began to weep uncontrollably.
"Please don't cry," Chester said. "It's my fault. I
ruined everything. You're a princess— and I brought

you

into a place that isn't fit for a charwoman."
"That's not why I'm crying," Griselda sobbed.
"I'm crying because I'm so happy. It's a miracle.
sign from heaven. It's kismet."
"What.:^" Chester asked.
"Your filthy apartment," Griselda said. "It's exactly like my filthy dollhouse!"
"Will you marry me?" asked Chester and Griselda
simultaneously.

A

"Oh,

yes,

my

darling right number," they both

replied.

With

destiny's telephone ringing in their future,

happy couple embraced.
And they and AT&T lived happily ever

the

except during periods of interrupted service.

after,

a fledgling
ofllamoup
alexanderbing

lot of water has flowed down
the Danube since I was a boy, and I often sit and
speculate about what could possibly have happened
to all of the people whom I had known during those
long-lost years in the Vienna of my childhood.

Well, a hell of a

dare say the sudden transference from that life
York of my adolescence was perhaps
the most shattering single event of my whole existence. The immigrant's traumas are like the aftereffects of a second birth, only nobody swaddles or
feeds you or gives a damn what really happens to
I

to the

New

you. Believe me,

wonder
vive

it

of

it is

it's

that

with even

quite a bit of something. The
to sur-

anybody ever manages

a small

fragment of sanity

left at

all.

A

couple of weeks after I'd landed in the United
made a friend— a boy who lived on the same
block with me and whose name was Walter Portson.
His people had come out of Scandinavia somewhere
and had brought Walter along when he was just a
States, I

21

ALEXANDER KING

22

few months
tried to

do

awkward

old.

He was

stages of

my

and he
over the most

really a decent kid,

me

his best to help get

foreignness.

I

liked

him

a lot,

we

kept track of each other for quite a number
of years. In fact, we went on waving to each other
in a friendly way even over long distances, until
when he finally died, in 1939, and his widow, Mildred, asked me to come to his funeral.
Well, anj^vay, during those first few weeks of
our acquaintance, he did his tactful best to wise me
up—to lift me out of the darkness of my greenhorn
status and to make me as acceptably American as

and

everybody

else.

"Let's play ball," he said to

buy

"Let's

"Fine,"

a ball

me one

afternoon.

and play catch."

I said.

So the both of us went into a most unmemorable
stationery-and-candy store, and for three cents we
bought a ball.

Come

to think of

it,

that stationery store wasn't

unmemorable after all. I can remember that one
hot day I walked into its characterless dinginess

so

man behind the
me a small chocolate soda."
"What flavor?" he said.

and

said to the old

counter, "Please

give

So,

you

see,

he didn't actually live for nothing,
I can still recall his peculiar

since after half a century

condition.

By

the way, this ball that

called Bully

Boy, and

its

we

purchased was

name was stamped

right

on its unresilient exterior in black ink. I noticed at
once that there was an absolutely leaden weightiness about this ball of ours, and when I tried to
bounce it off the sidewalk, it just lay there like a
dead bull turd.

Now,
Boys

let's

in

get this thing clear.

Europe hardly ever played

ball at

all.

A FLEDGLING OF l'aMOXIR

23

They

played soccer, of course, avidly and pasand once in a while, just to oblige a
particularly attractive girlfriend, we'd even condescend to toss a few rubber balls around with
them in the park somewhere, but you may believe
me, those balls of theirs didn't even have the vaguest
resemblance to anything like Bully Boy.
Those balls in the old country were called Salon
Ballen, and they were about the size of a full-grown
cantaloupe, and most of them were decoratively
pasted together out of red and black strips of latex.
They were not too tightly filled with air, either,
and when they bounced off anything, they went
"boing" ever so softly, like a dowager's bosom
sionately,

that has accidentally

come

into

momentary

collision

with a marquetry table.
Well, my friend Walter was standing about 30
feet away from me when this ball game of ours
began, and without a word of warning he suddenly
hurled this Bully Boy straight at me. Luckily, I
was always rather agile in those days, because if I
hadn't gotten out of the way of that missile, he

nailed me right
the wall of the house in front of which

would probably have

my

up
I

against

had taken

stance.

a while he showed me a small leathercovered mattress that fitted awkwardly over your
hand and with which you were supposed to catch
these deadly projectiles. I can assure you that I
realized then and there that my days of Austrian
daydreaming were definitely over, once and for all.
A country in which children were encouraged to
hurl Bully Boys at each other required a posture
and an attitude for which certainly nothing in my
past had properly prepared me. Yes, sir, if a mildly
disguised rock was considered an amiable plaything
in this new land of mine, I had better readjust my

x\fter

24

ALEXANDER KING

and my bearings and learn to get a hell of a
tougher than I had ever imagined I need be.
But ball playing wasn't the only startling novelty
I encountered right off. There were lots of other
surprises and astonishing contradictions waiting to
be assimilated by me.
For instance, I was enormously puzzled by the
kids I came to know later on in school, because a
good many of them who were already 15 and 16
years old were still so confoundedly ignorant on
a subject Kke sex. If the matter ever came up at all,
they just sniggered like a bunch of half-wits, and
even the more intelligent ones among them became
obviously quite embarrassed.
It didn't take me too long to discover the reason
for all this. I found that although the streets of our
neighborhood were full of pregnant women and the
cats and dogs of the town were feverishly fornicating all around us, the citizens of this great republic had decided, seemingly by common consent,
that sex was, by and large, something secret and
sordid or that it was at best an extremely recondite
ritual only clandestinely indulged in by some especially licensed initiates. Furthermore, it was considered the height of bad taste, and to a certain
degree even dangerously antisocial, to discuss any
aspects of sex with young people on any levels
excepting from those thunder-and-brimstone platforms where the horrors of syphilis and gonorrhea
were delineated with meticulous, clinical detail
and properly anathematized before an audience
sights
lot

consisting exclusively of males.

Women

were not supposed to know about such
and the belief was certainly held and
widely encouraged that no decent girl would ever
things at

all,

show curiosity about such subjects.
As Jimmy Durante would say, "Those were

the

A FLEDGLING OF L AiVIOUR

25

conditions that prevailed."
I had had a much better break, of course, simply
because European kids from the middle-class category to which I belonged could hardly get into
their teens without knowing at least as much as
the birds and the bees, even in those benighted
times. I was also particularly fortunate because my
sensible and loving parents had given me the chance
life without
having to obtain such information in its most
degrading aspects from a foulmouthed slum urchin
or some slavering, hydrocephalic farm yokel.
One day, when I was still extremely young, I
recall that I introduced some aspect of sex as a
conversational gambit. My mother, showing neither
surprise nor indignation, took a pencil out of her
sewing basket, and on the back of a laundry pad,
which happened to be lying on the table, she made
me a drawing of an inverted bottle and told me,
without the slightest embarrassment to either of
us, that this, in a rather simplified form, represented
a woman's uterus, in which babies were conceived.

to find out about the critical facts of

Briefly, she also

outlined for

me

the particularly

and ambitious nature of the male spermatozoa, and when that short period of elucidation
was over, I was possessed of a damned sight more
wholesome information on the subject of sex than
most of the men and women who were graduating
from high schools in New York City during some
volatile

good old days.
suppose these intimately personal questions have
to be tackled according to the highly individual
concepts of morality that happen to prevail within
each family unit. However, there can be no doubt
that in all matters pertaining to sex, the majority of
people are bound to be influenced by the general
climate of ethical prejudices and predilections that
of those
I

ALEXANDER KING

26

are sometimes

dominant within

a certain

geographic

community.
witnessed a fascinating example of peculiarly

I

national mores

when

I

was

living in

France some

years ago.

My wife and I were staying in an apartment,
and although we had a competent maid and had
most of our meals at home, we had fallen into the
habit of taking dinner from time to time in a pleasant
little cookshop in one of the side streets near the
Quai Voltaire. Since it was quite close to our home,
we used to go there at least once a week, and after
we managed

while

a

to

be accepted on really

by

the owners of this establishment,
and even the poisonously parochial clientele showed
a certain tolerant acquiescence toward our presence

friendly terms

in

their midst.

We

had reached

nobody gave any outward

a

point where

signs of astonishment

when we
quiet,

appeared, and we were treated with the
smiling civility which is so rarely to be

found

in Paris.

rate, one night when we dropped in for
noticed that at a conspicuously well set
table, almost in the center of the room, a rather
strange-looking couple had established itself.

At any

dinner,

That

I

boy of

woman was certainly a total
young man who sat facing her,

to say, the

is

stranger, while the

very most, seemed vaguely
me; but it was not until after our soup
course had been served that I finally managed to
decipher his true identity. He was undoubtedly our
neighborhood coal dealer's eldest son, but he was
so elaborately smartened up on that particular
evening that I could hardly believe it was the same
a

i6 or 17 at the

familiar to

boy.

His lady,

who was

certain proprietary

constantly eyeing him with a
demureness, was surely many

A FLEDGLING OF l'AxMOUR

27

years his senior and was, without any possibility
of error, quite obviously a prostitute.

Now,

please let

categorical

me

clarify this seemingly cruel,

pronouncement and permit me

to eluci-

exact sociological context.
This female companion of Maurice's (that was
the boy's name) was extremely pretty and unobtrusively well mannered, and, what's more, she
date

it

in terms of

its

lavishly decked out
her black suit and dark-green
toque with its half veil would have seemed perfectly
appropriate on any other well-dressed woman in
the room. She ate and drank with evident relish
but with the modest decorum one generally associates with orderly domestic circumstances.
And yet I knew with absolute certainty that she

was rather smartly but not too

for the occasion;

a professional prostitute because she had lacquered her nails with some sort of highly iridescent
fluid and was wearing noticeably elaborate facial
makeup. No woman of the French petty bourgeoisie
would under any circumstances have worn such
makeup, at least not during the period of time which
is here under discussion. I'm talking about the year
1937, and I think that this state of affairs held true
even until shortly after the close of the Second

was

World War.
So, as I've been telling you, there they sat, almost

middle of the room, and all around them the
tradesmen and their wives were munching
away at their veal cutlets and their lamb vinaigrette,
and these simple delicacies were accompanied by
in the
local

various appropriate wines, as well as by crisp seasonal
and fruits not too terribly prepossessing in
their appearance but which, nevertheless, gave off
an unbelievable rich and appetizing fragrance.
salads

Now,

get this straight!
in that restaurant

Everybody

knew

perfectly well

ALEXANDER KING

28

that Maurice, the coal dealer's eldest son,

to have his
night. It

first

was

all

was about

real sexual experience that

so patently obvious that

very

somehow

I

couldn't resist the notion that even the half-dozen
children sitting all around us must have been completely aware of the true state of things.

yet let me say, to the eternal glory of that
gathering assembled in that Parisian cookynooky, that nobody in that room, either by word or
gesture, gave the slightest outward sign that anything untoward was about to happen. There was, I
will admit, a certain submerged feeling of festiveness
about the place. Indeed, an almost tangible vibration
of communal goodwill seemed to emanate from that
small gathering of average folk, and only very
rarely was I able to catch some busily masticating matron casting a furtively appraising sideward
glance in Maurice's direction. However, I must
insist that these subtle, visual reconnoiterings were
completely bereft of even the slightest contamination of any soft of pruriency.
Later, while we were having our dessert, I
discreetly consulted our waiter, whose name was
Hilaire, about Maurice's impending splash into manhood. Since Hilaire had a little English, we conducted our soft-spoken dialogue in that language.
"Yes," he said, "Maurice is going to be seventeen
in a few months, and he has really been pretty
restless of late. He is a very nice boy and very
devoted to his family. He is doing all the paper
work for his father now, and he is certainly a great
help to him."

And

little

And

that

was

that.

could just imagine it all. I could imagine
Maurice's mother at some time during the past few
weeks complaining to the old man that the boy
seemed unusually irritable and most uncharacterI

A FLEDGLING OF L AMOUR

29

short-tempered toward everyone and that
might perhaps be a good notion to speak to the
local padre about him. I could also easily guess the
father's reaction to this suggestion and the knowing,
fugitive smile that must have lurked about his
grizzled moustache as he patted his wife reassuringly
istically
it

on the back.
"It will be quite all right, Marguerite," he had
probably said to her. "I think I know what is wrong
with the boy. He is a very good lad, and I think all
he really needs is just a little holiday. That is all."
I can also conjecture how, later on, papa had
quietly given his son 300 francs, had playfully
pinched him on the cheek and said to him, "Amuse
yourself a little, my boy. It is spring, and you are
young only once."
I'd be willing to bet my neck that there was
no more to it than that. The rest a French boy

know how

to manage for himself.
was nothing dirty or underhanded
in what was about to happen, Maurice saw no reason
for being furtive about his actions, and so he had

would

And

easily

since there

naturally brought his lady of the evening to the
restaurant of his own neighborhood. Indeed, I don't

think

it

was too farfetched

to imagine that he would
Hotel Seville that was

finally take her to the little

located close by, right around the

comer from

his

home.

When Maurice and his companion were nearly
done with their meal, the waiter suddenly approached their table and presented them with a
fresh bottle of wine, which nestled luxuriously in a
napkin-draped basket.
Maurice looked at the waiter in evident surprise,
upon which Hilaire pointed significantly to the far
side of the room and said, "Monsieur Robillet sends
you this bottle with his compliments and hopes you

30

ALEXANDER KING

will drink to his health."

Maurice rose from

his chair as

a retired police official, half rose

Monsieur Robillet,
from hiSy and after

the cork had been cleanly drawn, the two men
smilingly Kfted their glasses toward each other and
drank bottoms up. The lady at the table had also

taken a modest sip, and when Robillet was finished
wiping his moustache, he held up a freshly filled
glass and said, "Good hunting, my boy!"

No

more than

Maurice and

that.

his

companion stayed long enough

to finish half their wine, and

I

noticed that Hilaire

wrapped up the bottle and placed it in
the pocket of the young man's overcoat, which was
hanging on a clothes rack right near the cash desk.
At last they rose to leave. In the doorway Maurice
turned around and bowed to the assembled company, who responded by presenting faces of unanimously jovial encouragement. His lady friend gave
a smallish nod in the general direction of Monsieur
carefully

Robillet,

and

after she

escort's muffler

with

had straightened out her

a gesture of

concern and protectiveness, they

almost maternal
stepped arm

finally

arm out into the soft Parisian night.
Well, maybe you don't care too much for this
story. Maybe you are one of those lucky ones whose
first sexual experience happened under idyllic circumstances—on a moonlit night somewhere, in a
leaf-shadowed arbor, on moss-covered turf— while
the nightingales were singing their little hearts out
in the swoon-inducing fragrance of the nearby
jasmine bushes. It may even be that the angel you
were involved with was your childhood sweetheart,
whose father owned a flock of oil wells and whose
mother thought you'd make just about as ideal a
in

son-in-law as she was ever likely to find.
I

said

maybe, didn't

I.^

daphne bicielouj
and the
spine-chilling

saga of the
snail-encnusted

noose

tinfoil

jean shepherd

fWhy

.

does a

when is
when he

man become

that precise

a revolutionary? Just
instant of stark realization

perceives with unmistakable clarity that
but a humble tenpin in the cosmic bowling
game of life? And that others are balls in that game?
Look closely into the early private life of any great
revolutionary and you will find a girl. Somewhere
along the line a pair of elfin eyes put Karl Marx
down so decisively that he went home and wrote
the first words of his Manifesto. I well remember

he

is

31

>

JE.\N

32

my own

SHEPHERD

turning point. Like most pivotal moments
it came unexpectedly and in the guise

in our lives,

of rare good fortune. Her name was Daphne
Bigelow. Even now, ten light-years removed from
the event, I cannot suppress a fugitive shiver of
tremulous passion and dark yearning. Her skin was
of the clearest, rarest form of pure, translucent
alabaster. She had no "eyes" in the mundane sense,
but, rather, she saw the world, or the world saw her,
through twin jade-green jungle pools, mirrors of
a soul that was so mysterious, so enigmatic as to
baffle ninth-graders for yards around. I hesitate to
use such a pitifully inadequate word as hair to
describe that nimbus of magic, that shifting cloud
of iridescence that framed a face of such surpassing
beauty that even Buddha would have thought long
and hard before staring straight into it.
I go
on with this self-flagellation I do not know. Nevertheless, I cannot but continue.
There was something else about her, something
I am not quite sure I can adequately convey through
the sadly lacking means of imperfect human language. Daphne walked in a kind of soft haze of
approaching dawn. A suggestion always lingered
about her that she wasn't there at all. Rosy-gold
and blue tints flushed and were gone; soft winds
blew. Somewhere exotic birds called out in their
sleep as Daphne drifted into Biology I trailing
mimosa blossoms and offering ecstasies not yet

Why

plumbed by human experience.

Way down
the

deep among the lower one-third of
amid that great rabble of faceless mankind
squat among the rancid lunch bags and musky

class,

who

galoshes of academe,

who

are forever

condemned

view the great pageants of life from parked
thirdhand jalopies amid the apple cores and beer

to

cans of drive-in movies,

I

sat

hardly daring to

hope—

:

DAPHNE BIGELOW

33

from over a gulf so vast as to make all earthly
distances pale to triviality— and devoured her daily
with my eyes from behind a Biology I workbook.
Heretofore my relationship with girls had been
simple in the extreme. My concept of them was
based largely on Little Orphan Annie and Esther
Jane Alberry. One was in the funnies; the other was
short and squat, sang alto in the glee club and
played third base. She looked like a fat Judy
Garland. We had a certain relationship that had no
sexual overtones whatsoever, being mainly involved
in various athletic contests in which we competed.
Until Daphne, it had not occurred to me that there
was more to the game.

Throughout the entire first semester after she
came to Hammond High, my wonder grew like
some dank, unclassified toadstool in the coal bin
of my subconscious. At first, dimly and with naive
believed myself to be secretly blessed. I
in the halls, on
the stairways, in auditorium crowds, in the sullen
joy,

I

watched for her face everywhere:

herd who waited numbly outside the doors to be
admitted in the early-morning hours, in the rumbling hordes who poured out of school after the
last classes. Everywhere. From time to time she
would drift briefly into view and then disappear.
Her name never appeared on those lists of kids
involved in what are known as "activities." She
was above that. As day after day faded forever into
history, as my intricately contrived glandular system
ripened and matured, so my carefully concealed
passion for Daphne Bigelow burgeoned, until finally
it engulfed me and I was swallowed up like Jonah
into the inky blackness of the whale's belly.
The midsemester exams came and went. Over
Christmas vacation I had been haunted by nameless
fears, since Daphne was out of my sight. Now a new

34

JEAN SHEPHERD

terror—would I be assigned to the same biologyclass with her next semester? Finally the dread day
arrived. I could scarce credit my senses. Not only
had Daphne Bigelow condescended to remain among
us; our new biology teacher— a dapper gentleman
wearing rimless glasses, black shellacked hair and
squeaky shoes, named Mr. Settlemeyer— had, in an
exquisite moment of insight and compassion, assigned Daphne Bigelow to me as my Biology II
lab

partner!

we would

Together

mysteries of the great animal
we were but a small part.

Well do I remember
Daphne and

investigate the

kingdom of which

that blissful afternoon

when,

pinned a limp, formaldehyde-dripping frog to a cork specimen board and
I, being the man of the house, bravely took up
scalpel and showed her the stuff of which I was
made. At the head of the class, Mr. Settlemeyer,
pointer in hand, described various portions of frog
anatomy, while beside me Daphne smiled with the
faintest suggestion of approval, of perhaps even
admiration, as I rose to magnificent heights of skill
and daring. She averted her eyes delicately as I
together.

I

performed the autopsy. Her tiny moues of girlish
fright and squeamishness drove me on to even
laid bare the vitals of the
I
both received an A-H
unfortunate amphibian.
f or the afternoon's work.
From that deceptively unprepossessing yet starkly
symbolic beginning, our love took root and grew.

greater pinnacles as

We

By

the end of the third

week we were on

a first-

This may seem a small achievement, but
it is not every man who is privileged to call a
genuine goddess by her first name and to be answered in kind.
I learned more about her every day, but mostly
from outside sources. She spoke little of her home

name

basis.

4

DAPHNE BIGELOW

35

life, her joys, her aspirations, her dreams. While I,
being a male, babbled on endlessly, weaving about
both of us a rich cocoon of myth and grandiose

philosophical generalities.

As winter

faded into the soft sensuality of
strengthened and took
specific form, though I never saw Daphne outside
of biology class. Officially, that is. Unofficially, I
shadowed her like a maniacally devoted dacoit, one
of the sinister footpad tribe of early India. Watching
her from afar, I cataloged her every movement. I
covertly made a note of every article of clothing she
wore; her wardrobe was immense and infinitely
silently

early spring,

varied.

My

a holdover

my

resolve

maroon corduroy slacks, meanwliile,
from the Christmas before, grew in-

creasingly repugnant to me.

My

purple pullover
somehow
faded block-lettered
did not sing to me as it used to.
Daphne never rode the school bus or the streetcar
or hitchhiked home like me and Schwartz and Flick.
She just magically disappeared. One day I thought
I saw a fleeting form enter a long, black, waiting
Cadillac down the block from the school, but I
could not be sure it was she.
When we passed in the halls, I always wore my
carefully rehearsed debonair Fred Astaire smile,
evincing private amusement at this unexpected
coincidence. But she always smiled back even more
enigmatically as she drifted past— always alone and
aloof from the grubby, normal kid hoopla of highschool life.
The time for the spring dance was fast approaching. It was the custom for dates to exchange
invitations well before the event. Posters appeared.
Mickey Iseley and his Paradise Honeymooners, a
big-name local band, were engaged to officiate. I
decided to lay the groundwork for a move so daring.
sweater, with

its

H

36

JEAN SHEPHERD

if I had ever confided my scheme
Schwartz or Flick, they would have immediately
wrestled me to the ground, hollering that I had
finally completely gone off my nut. But I had not
breathed to a soul, even to myself, that I had designs on the most magnificent woman in all of
Hammond High, if not of the known universe.
Few common gophers ever entertained designs on
prize- winning
thoroughbred fillies
I
did— and
learned a lesson that I have never forgotten.
One night, while safely huddled in the familiar
lumpiness of the bed I had slept in ever since I had
first crawled out of the playpen, staring up into the
blackness— the faint sounds of distant, romantic
whistles on trains bearing magic people off into
the mysterious outside world drifting in through the
cracked window shades and limp curtains of my
bedroom— I decided to bestow my invitation to the
big spring dance on Daphne Bigelow. My mind
reeled with the mere thought of it! Craftily I began
to piece my plan together. First I must have a date—
a casual everyday date— with her, and from there,

SO hazardous, that
to

.

I would lead her to that dazzling ballroom where our love would finally be consummated

inevitably,

had zealously perfected
sweaty practice, a
knew neither Daphne nor any other
could ever resist: the lindy. Among

in the throes of a

dance

I

in long hours of loose-limbed,

dance that

woman

my

I

alive

peers,

those

creativity, the

who

really

appreciated

subtle

beauty of the withheld statement,

knew no rivals.
The next day my sardonic,

my

lindy

Biology

II

me

martini-dry wit during

flickered like a flame as

Daphne hunched

over a huge night crawler that together
we were dissecting, the heady aroma of her exotic
French perfume blending provocatively with the
rich fumes of preserving alcohol and dead worm.
next to

"

"

DAPHNE BIGELOW

37

My courage grew as my bons mots became more and
more epigrammatic. Oscar Wilde would have stood
tongue-tied in

amid

a

my

brilliant

presence. And then, casually,
of Mr. Settlemeyer's

analysis

I prepared to drop my bomb.
"Oh, say. Daphne, heh-heh, pass me another
roundhead pin."
Snakily I watched her from the corner of my eye
as she turned her gaze away from the benighted
night crawler and reached her delicate hand, with
infinite grace, over to the pin box. For a moment,
panic almost stilled me. Her beauty was such that it
took the breath away. Rallying quickly, however,
I plunged on:
"Ah, heh-heh
I took the pin from her hand, the light brush of
her fingers over mine sending goose pimples all the
way down to my argyle socks and out the ventila-

teaching deficiencies,

—

my Keds. Without thinking,
came out in a rush.
"Howaboutyouanmehavinadate?
tion ports of

I

did

it.

It

Instantly, I bent over my friend, the deceased
denizen of the underground, a distinct ringing in
my ears as the classroom faded from my consciousness and I stood alone, unafraid, in the bullring.
From somewhere off in the hazy distance I heard
a flutelike voice say softly:

"What?"
Did I detect

a note of incredulity, or was it my
repeated my question, not daring to
so much as glance at her. After a three-century
pause came the answer.

imagination?

I

"When?"
From a distant

auditorium the school band struck
Cannons roared; bugles blew.
I had scored beyond my wildest dreams! The rest of
the conversation went by and is now mercifully

up the

18 12 Overture.

38
lost

JEAN SHEPHERD

from memory. But

I

remember mumbling some-

thing about a John Wayne movie and that I would
pick her up. She told me where she lived. The next
night, a blessed Friday, was going to be it!
Realizing that there was much to be done and
no time to lose, like an arrow loosed from the bow,
I shot homeward the instant the doors of our pen
were grudgingly thrown open. Closeting myself
immediately in the bedroom, the scene of so many
sweaty, erotic daydreams, I went over every item
in my vast wardrobe, carefully calculating piece by
piece how best to achieve the magnetic effect I
knew was necessary. Overlooking nothing, including
my American Legion Ball left fielder's uniform, I
considered, weighed, rejected, wavered, selected
each tiny link in my crucial costuming for what
was to prove a fateful night. Individual socks were
pored over with infinite care, held up to the light,
smoothed and laid reverently aside for a final
screening.

Through my locked door filtered the usual family
sounds: pots banging, my kid brother's occasional
whimper and, finally, the roar of the old man's
Olds up the drive. The shadows darkened and
lengthened. At last my ensemble was complete. If
the outward man has any shield against the slings
of outrageous fortune, I was more than ready.
I was at the supper table, ready to let the
family in on what could very well be a turning point
in all our lives.
old man, seated to my left in,

Now

My

long underwear, dug lustily into his
meat loaf— wliich, as usual, he chopped up into small
pieces, the better to mix with his mashed potatoes
and peas, over which he splashed a heavy puddle of
lush, piquant Heinz tomato ketchup.
kid brother, his snout buried deep in his
as usual, his

My

plastic

Mickey Mouse Drinkee Mug, slurped

noisily

a

DAPHNE BIGELOW
at his

Cocomalt, which he attacked with

a

39

venomous

hatred, recognizing the stuff for what it was—
cheap trick to get him to drink milk. The nightly
fight that

before

preceded

my

this ritual

arrival at the table.

had come and gone
As he drank, he per-

daily rite that my mother referred to
"playing with your food." For some obscure
reason, he had found that mashed potatoes, meat loaf
and red cabbage tasted better when molded into
the shape of an inflated football. He occasionally
varied this pattern by constructing other symbolic
structures such as propellers, and once even a fairly
good likeness of Tillie the Toiler. He then asked

formed the
as

everybody:

"What does this look like?"
Nobody ever told him. Our family did not use that
kind of language

at the table.

My

mother shuttled between the stove, the sink
and her chair, wiping up debris from around my
brother, refilling my old man's coffee cup and in
general keeping the action going. In the midst of
asked casually, of no one in particular:
"Do you remember one time I told you about

all this I

Daphne Bigelow?

In Biology II?"
mother, not accustomed to actual conversation from anybody, at first did not grasp the
meaning of what I had said, thinking that I had
asked for more gravy. The old man, who rarely
listened to anything said in the kitchen, banged
his cup down with a clank on the white enameled
table as a signal for more coffee, a beverage to which
he was passionately dedicated. I began again:
"She sure is a great girl."
Behind me the refrigerator chugged and squeaked
to itself, a sound that provided night and day a
musical obbligato to our Hves. My kid brother had
extended his tongue to its fullest length, at least a

My

JEAN SHEPHERD

40

foot and a half. He was using it to
sworls in his red cabbage.
"Stop playing with your food!"
a

make

great

My mother slapped him smartly on the arm with
wet dishcloth and shoved a fork into his greasy

he glowered straight down into his
announce that it was going to be another
of those nights. There were times when he was fed
through the use of a funnel and a ramrod, my father
prying his teeth apart with a screwdriver while my
mother poured the turnips into him. Absentmindedly
my father, glancing up from the sports page, said:
mitt. Silently

plate to

"Girl?"

"Daphne Bigelow."

My mother, now seated and trying to wrench the
Mickey Mouse cup from
placed

it

my

brother,

who had

atop his head, asked:

"Who.?"
"Daphne Bigelow."

"STOP FOOLING

My

AROUND AND

EAT!"

father raised his head again and asked:

"What about

her?"
Bracing myself for the big plunge, I looked
meaningfully around the table at our tiny brood
wallowing happily at the trough.
"Well, me and Daphne Bigelow are going on a
date. I'm going to take her to the Orpheum to see
John Wayne in Hearts Aflame at the Old Corral,
She's really a great girl."
It

was

out! Irretrievably!

"I'm going to take the bus and go over

The old man cut in:
"The bus? Where does

"

she live?"
kid in the neighborhood had ever dated anyone who lived more than 150 feet away from his
own warren. The idea of taking a bus to a girl's
house was a truly revolutionary concept, and I

No

1

DAPHNE BIGELOW

knew
javelin

it.

Picking

my

words

carefully,

I

4

laid the

home.

over on Waverly Street. On the
Side! In one breath I had
evoked an image of a land, a world, so remote from
ours, so inaccessible as to be almost outside the
realm of reality. I might as well have said the North
Pole. The North Side was a legendary fairyland
of vast lawns, great elm trees and sprawling fief doms
reached only by winding private drives through
landscaped wonderlands.
My father, recognizing instantly the emergence
of a new and possibly dangerous generation being
nurtured in the bosom of his own home, was now
alert and intensely interested. My mother lay back,

"Oh, she

North

lives

Side."

The North

suspecting a trick.
He asked:
"Did you say Daphne Bigelow?^^

"Yeah."

"On Waverly

Street?"

had struck pay dirt. I played him like a rainbow
trout on opening day.
"Yeah. She's in my Biology II class."
My mother, not fully realizing the import of what
she had heard, fuzzily threw in:
"What happened to Esther Jane?"
I

The

faintest trace of

the corners of

an enigmatic smile curled

my lips. My father carefully smoothed

out his Chicago Heraid- American. He folded and
refolded it with exaggerated care and then said:
"Daphne Bigelow. I wonder if she's the daughter
of Mr. Bigelow over at the Second Calumet Region
National Bank?"
"Isn't he that tall, thin man at the second cage?"
asked

my

mother.

My

father,

radiating disbelief

from every pore and speaking with some wonder,
said:

42

JEAN SHEPHERD

"No, he's the chairman of the board."
This was news to me! But at the time I did not
fully grasp what kind of news it was. I was to find
out all too soon.
At the time, I thought a chairman was somebody
who sat at a desk holding a gavel. I had no idea what
a board was, other than the two-by-fours that Flick
and I stole from time to time to use in various ways.
"Maxwell Bigelow is the guy who gave that iceskating rink to the park," said my old man. He was
looking at me now with a very funny expression on
his face.

"Oh, it can't be the same one. Does anybody want
any more mashed potatoes before I put them back
on the stove?" When confronted with inexplicable
developments, my mother often pretended that they
didn't exist.

"You've got a date with his daughter?" My father
slowly stirred his coffee, steaming and black.
"Yep, we're going to a show."
"How did you get a date wuth her?" my mother
asked.

"She's in

With

my

biology

class. I

asked her."

and deliberation, the old man
cup on the tabletop. He was not a veteran

infinite care

placed his

Edgar Kennedy fan for nothing.

"You mean to sit there and tell me"— he paused
dramatically— "that you just asked her?"
"Yep."
"Maxwell Bigelow's daughter? Maxwell Bigelow
from the Second Calumet Region National Bank's
daughter? You just asked her for a date?"
"Yep."
"Well, I'll be damned!"
Upward mobility had at last hit Hammond. It
was the first recorded instance in Indiana of its
occurring at the grass-roots level.

DAPHNE BIGELOW

My mother, who

43

had been gradually sucked into
a situation that even more

what she now saw was
mashed potatoes would

not* change, decided to go
along with it.
"Well, you be nice to her parents."
I never quite understood what she meant by this
advice—which she always handed out over the years.
On various occasions she had advised me to "be
nice'^ to teachers, to people on my paper route, to
steel-mill foremen and, later, even to first sergeantsall people or institutions that she recognized to be

in absolute authority.

She continued, "I don't want anyone to think you
weren't well brought up."
"Well, I'll be goddamned!" The old man, who
had played such a large role in Bringing Me Up
Well, used this favorite expression to cover all
occasions.

"Yep, I'm taking her to the Orpheum.

And

the

Red Rooster

afterward."
"Well, don't you keep her out too late so that
her mother and father will worry." With that, my
mother concluded her entire catalog of counsel
about life and its problems. She took it as it came
and felt that as long as you were nice along the way,
things would work out fairly well, provided you
got home early enough.
All through dessert— her famous rhubarb rice
pudding— technical matters of transportation, dress
and behavior were discussed. Obviously I had scored
heavily, and the awe that they felt about this unparalleled achievement slowly gave way to righteous
pride.

My old man unbuttoned the top of his long underwear and began to talk of great dates he had had in
his feckless youth. In sullen silence my mother
cleared the dishes off the table and resumed her old

44

JEAN SHEPHERD

hanging over the sink, Brillo pad in hand,
amid the lingering aroma of red cabbage, meat loaf
and coffee grounds. The squeaking of the refrigerator blended with the sound of Bing Crosby singing
about some Hawaiian babe from the radio in the
next room. I began to feel my new status.
By bedtime, as I checked over my outfit for the
great adventure, I found myself— for the first time
in my life— a full-fledged hero in my own home, not
an experience one has often, I have later found. But
being a kid, of course, I was under the impression
that this was only the natural state of affairs.
Station,

Later, in the dark, incredibly witty things to say

Daphne tumbled end over end through my
churning mind. I sifted through my assortment of
jazzy stories, which I had picked up from the ball
field and the gym. In the dark I could see my
to

Daphne to a seat
Orpheum. And then
—whisked magically— we were in the number-one
lean-flanked

figure

escorting

in the fabled lushness of the

booth next to the jukebox at the Red Rooster.
Casually I drop a coin in the slot, and, amid admiring
bursts of applause,

waving

I

casually for

demonstrate

Bucky

my matchless lindy,

the counterman to

knock

together another of my specials. Daphne, her eyes
shining in unabashed adoration, poured out her
heart to me. Squeezing her hand, looking deep into
those jade-green jungle pools, I knew at last the
meaning of true soul communication. The night was
full of laughter, song, dance and awakening love,
all against the backdrop of soft spring skies— and,
of course, the clean thrust of my chiseled jaw.
Waves of ecstasy coursed up and down my body
as I tossed on my monastic pallet. Outside in the
darkness a few distant rumbles of early spring
thunder mingled with the soughing of the eternal
train whistles reaching into the dark, going away,

DAPHNE BIGELOW

45

going away again. A few drops of
on the rusty screen outside my bedroom window. Gradually I fell asleep, but not

coming

closer,

rain pattered

without a struggle.

At

first, as I

awoke

in the gray-green light that

trickled in through the battered window shade and
the roar of sparrows holding their morning orgy

the room with whooping and hollering, I did
not remember what day this was. Then I noticed my
Number-One, Heavy-Artillery, Important-Occasion Sports Coat hanging on the back of my bedroom door and I knew. This was D day.
I dressed absentmindedly in my school clothes,
my mind deep in scheming. At the breakfast table
the aura of wonder was still rich and ripe. As I
spooned in the oatmeal, my kid brother abortively
attempted to wrest from me the glory that was
rightfully mine by relating some trivial cock-andbull story about a silly pumpkin he had drawn at
school and that was being hung on the bulletin
board. I smiled tolerantly and headed off for school.
That morning, when I joined my hitchhiking
companions, my fellow freeloaders who every day
pocketed— and squandered— the dime that was given
filled

them by their parents to ride the school bus, it
was all I could do not to tell them that although I
was briefly among them, I was no longer of them.
Flick particularly, that morning, seemed to be not
only disrespectful but somewhat insolent. He had
gained some degree of fame on the hitchhiking

to

corner by an alleged exploit which, at least according to his overblown account, he had shared

with a certain Juanita Clobberman. I, naturally, did
not pull him up short, knowing full well that when
the word got out that I had had a date with Daphne
Bigelow— in full public view— there would be no
question as to who was who and what was what

JEAN SHEPHERD

46

among

the hitchhikers.

approached biology class, however, with certain
trepidations. Perhaps she would chicken out. But,
no, it was like any other day, a routine class. As I
crouched over our pickled grasshopper, Daphne
was as cool and detached, as cliillingly beautiful, as
ever, but now, deep inside myself, there was a
mounting conspiratorial excitement that could not
be denied. Almost at the very end of that session, in
my most urbanely offhand manner, I came straight
I

to the point:

"Uh, heh-heh, what time

Ah

She smiled that
smile

shall I

pick you up?

"

which

lemon twdst of a
remember above all smiles

faint extra-dry

to this day

I

that have ever been aimed in

my

direction.

"Tonight?" she asked. An ice pick of fear jabbed
up my spinal cord. She paused and went on:
"Oh, anytime."

"Ah—how

'bout after supper?"

"Supper?"

Without knowing why,

I

knew

that already

I

had ticked off a foul ball.
"Oh, you mean dimier,'' said Daphne.
Dinner? Dinner was something we had in the
middle of the afternoon on Sundays, Thanksgiving,
New Year's Day and Christmas. It was always eaten
with the sun high, around 3:00 p.m., after which,
immediately, my old man, his belt opened, lurching
across the living room, burping loudly and bellowing, "Boy, am I stuffed!" would topple over on the
sofa and instantly plunge into a snoring coma. I
did not, therefore, see how I could pick Daphne up
after dinner and decided to play it safe.
"Well, uh— how about seven-thirty? We can
catch the eight-twenty show."
"That'd be nice."
She smiled, and we returned to the world of the

DAPHNE BIGELOW

47

grasshopper, the cricket and cockroach. The rest
of the day passed in a kind of dreamy deliriunrL
Bells rang, chalk scratched, basketballs swished
through hoops, papers were passed from hand to
hand, poems were read, questions asked. School
droned on.

At last I was home. Into my bedroom I went.
Every item of clothing I had selected the night before I carefully rechecked twice, going back over
my entire wardrobe to be sure that in my enthusiasm I had not committed a sartorial faux pas. I
hadn't.

"NOW, DON'T ANYBODY TOUCH ANY
OF THIS STUFF!" I shouted out into the hall.
My mother's pans rattled; my brother stolidly
threw a ball against the side of the house out in the
driveway as I went into the bathroom to begin the
meticulous ritual of ablution that would result in a
vision of masculine beauty so blinding that there

could be no conceivable chance for anything but a
spectacularly triumphant evening.

my face, the door locked
behind me, I worked with a surgeon's
dispassionate skill over my usual blossoming array
of bruises, blackheads and what my father called
"old juicers." Applying steaming-hot water between
Carefully examining

tightly

operations,

I

worked

steadily,

until

finally

there

shone out of the bathroom mirror the fresh, pink,
beaming image of dynamic handsomeness.
I leaped into the shower. This was an important
enough occasion to warrant a second shower for
the week. The water roared, and I spread a thick,
vibrantly aromatic layer of pungent Lifebuoy lather
over my Olympian torso. I had read enough ads to
know what happened to those who OflFend. I took
no chances. The water ran alternately hot and cold,
until finally I stood as pure and clean as the driven

JEAN SHEPHERD

48

snow

in the

heady steaminess of the bathroom, bufbriskly with a terry-cloth towel.

down

fing myself

Reaching up to the top shelf of the medicine cabinet,
I took down my father's can of Old Spice talcum
powder, a gift that he had received many Christmases before and never, to the best of anyone's
knowledge, used. I shook billowing clouds of its
cloying sweetness down over me, dusting, brushing
here and there, smoothing, anointing myself.
Stealthily using his heavily guarded razor, I then
shaved myself to the veritable quick. All 17 of my
downy golden fibers, undiscernible to the naked
eye, washed down the drain with the shaving lather
and warm water. My leonine mane of manly auburn
hair, which had been thoroughly shampooed, I
now massaged with a heavy elixir of what my father
scornfully called "bear grease," a concoction put
out by Vaseline to abet the ambitions of countless
generations of midwestern Lotharios. Its scent was
more of a direct statement than a suggestion, being
violent, highly volatile and— some said—inflammable

when

in close quarters.

Now

came

the most crucial task of all. I was
and wide for my "cute wave," which
did not come easily. Dragging a comb through my
greasy locks, I began to mold my classic Grecian
coiffure. Time and again I redid my masterpiece,
only to be driven, as the true artist always is by the
elusive dream of perfection, to start anew.

known

far

At long

last,

there

I

stood, the finished product:

American manhood at its ultimate. Teeth agleam,
seven pounds of carefully sculptured hair, exuding
all the aromatic mystery of a thousand mingled
scents enveloped in a palpable nimbus of pure Lifebuoy, the soap of those who care for others. As a
final fillip,

my mouth

I

gargled at great length, swirling it about
voluptuously— a generous draft of Lis-

DAPHNE BIGELOW
terine.

Well

I

knew

49

of the Pitfalls of Halitosis, a

dread disease that had struck down many a burgeoning romantic career at its very inception.
Springing light as a gazelle into the bedroom, I
began to don my armor. Layer upon layer I carefully
girded my loins. Zero hour was rapidly approaching.

Tonight I would skip supper. First, a crisp new pair
of Jockey shorts that I had kept concealed in my
drawer for just such a state occasion. I debated
briefly about whether or not to wear a T-shirt,

My

finally deciding that I w^as sexier without.
white-on-white dress shirt, which I had received
as a birthday present and worn only for genuinely high moments in life, was painstakingly
unbuttoned. I admired its vast, razor-sharp, seveninch-long collar points, its Tony Martin high-rise,
its

crackling,

crisp

French

cuffs.

Pulling

it

on

inch by inch so as not to create the slightest wrinkle,
I buttoned it using only the tips of my sanitary
fingers. Then, reaching into my dresser drawer, I
brought out the most effective weapon of my arsenal, a pair of magnificent bull's-eye cuff links,
each link a great bull's eyeball outlined in dazzling
gold. I loved to hold them in certain lights; they
seemed to glow— a malevolent, baleful, virile shaft
of masculine aggression. True, they made movement
of the arm rather difficult, since their combined
weight was several pounds, but it was worth it.
Now the tie. thing of transcendent beauty. It
had been given to me as a graduation present from
eighth grade by my Aunt Clara. Tying my widest,
fattest, sharpest Windsor knot— about the size of a
man's fist— I drew it up under my collar with geometric precision. A glittering opalescent silver-gray,
100 percent satin, five and a half inches wide at its
fulcrum, it bore in its center the hand-painted image
of a beautiful red snail and hung tastefully well

A

5©

JEAN SHEPHERD

below

my

belt. It

was the

greatest tie I

had ever

seen.

My slacks were a rich chocolate brown, high
and pinch- waisted, beginning just under my armpits.
They cascaded down over my loins, my kneecaps,
and finally clung tenaciously to my ankles. Billowing, pleated, alligator-belted, they were the slacks of
a

man who worked

in the lindy as other artists

thought briefly of wearing my
golden key chain with the emerald initials but decided tonight I would underplay. Voluptuously,
I then drew on my gray-and-maroon argyle socks
and then neatly tied a perfect bow on each lace of

worked

in marble.

I

my

perforated, Scotch-grained-leather, full-dress,
blunt-toed, crepe-soled bluchers; burnished to a

high gloss, the rich, dark-red

Thom McAn cordomy bedroom.

van leather glowed in the gloom of

moments of dramatic climax in the
Mine came when I donned my
greatest pride— my sports coat. With infinite care,
so as not to wrinkle my cuffs, I drew each waffleweave woolen sleeve down clutched by the fingers,
There

rite

are

of dressing.

at its low, sweeping hem, squared its massive,
looming, horsehair-packed shoulders, straightened
its fashionable six-inch delta-wing lapels and finally
fastened its tasteful mother-of-pearl button. It lit up
the entire room, its unique electric-blue shade sending off a lambent radiance of such promise, such
rare, delicate, aesthetic excitement as to crown my
entire ensemble.
Rummaging through my socks in the little drawer
of my dresser where I kept my secret papers, I
hauled out my invitation to the spring ball. Carefully I tucked it into the inner pocket of my coat.
After all, this was the reason for it all. Tonight I
would present Daphne with the ultimate gift!

tugged

1

DAPHNE BIGELOW

Walking

my

5

carefully so as not to disturb a hair of
I ambled into the kitchen

billowing pompadour,

—not without some difficulty, since I had to inch
sideways through my bedroom door to squeeze my
enormous padded shoulders into the next room.

The

applause was deafening.

"Wow!"

My

kid brother, openly

awed

at

my

entrance,

from the mound of creamed
which he had burrowed— chipped

raised his head dripping

chipped beef into
beef being the regular Friday-night chef d'oeuvre
familiarity with this
of our weekly menu.
epicurean dish was to prove invaluable basic training for my later years in the army.
As I walked in— a veritable human Christmas
tree—the pulse of family life noticeably quickened.

My

"My, you

certainly

look

nice."

My

mother

approved.

"Do you

my

think you'll see Mr. Bigelow tonight?'*

father asked, always hoping for an opening,

some

slight crack, in the wall

between us and

real

life outside.

"I don't

know,"

I

answered, breathing Pepsodent,

Listerine and Sen Sen into the already rich mixture
left permanently in the air of the kitchen by millions
of boiled cabbages, fried bacon, souring milk and

moldering dishrags.
"See if he looks like he does in the pictures in the
paper," the old man said.
"Well, I better get going."

glanced up

clock hanging over the stove,
white plastic made in the form of
a large chicken, with two red hands. It didn't have
actual numbers to mark the hours; instead, golden
plastic letters marched around the rim spelling out,
"it hasn't scratched yet." My mother had gotten
I

at the

a clock of purest

JEAN SHEPHERD

52

by saving Bon Ami cleanser labels. It was
considered the most beautiful thing in that part of

the clock

the house.

"WeU, rU

My

see you."

my mother smiled
kid brother stared blankly, chewing
slightly. With a casual flick of my left hand in farewell, I slipped out into the night. It was a cool
evening, with just the slight edge of winter coldness
to it, the kind of night made for warm bodies
snuggling together, for dark exchanges of deep
thoughts, out of the wind, away from the unfriendly
father smiled proudly;

proudly;

my

night.

Under the streetlight
for the crosstown bus,

two blocks away,
little

I

waited

realizing that a

man

named Charon would be at the controls. As I waited,
not daring to move lest I disturb a crease, a button,
a single undulating wave, I watched the mundane
neighborhood life go on around me. The Bluebird
Tavern halfway up the block flung open its doors
briefly. A flash of light and Air. Kissel reeled out
into the darkness,

his

unmistakable starboard Hst

instantly recognizable even at 200 yards.

was

Durham

And

there

on the wall of the
old candy store (where I had spent many an hour
of my callow youth in mortal combat with Old
Pulasld's Bull

sign

Man Pulaski over the purchase of jawbreakers,
Jujubes and root-beer barrels), looming high
against the glow of the steel mills on the horizon.
I could barely make out the familiar slogan under
the massive bulk of that subtly humorous old bull
on the sign: her hero. I looked up at him; he looked
down at me. We were both in the same business.
The bus slammed to a stop, breathing out hot air
and carbon monoxide. In I went, dropping my fare
box with the practiced nonchalance of the
true sophisticate, a man of the world out on the big

into the

DAPHNE BIGELOW

53

town. There were no other passengers in the bus
that night; I had my choice of seats. I sat immobile,

my

razor crease, for the entire journeystreets, traffic, long stretches of
used-car lots, junkyards, machine shops, car barns,
gas stations, gray battered houses huddled in the
shadow of monstrous gasworks. On and on.
Gradually the neighborhoods changed, until at
last I was on the North Side. The bus rarely stopped
now. Few got on or off except an occasional maid
or elderly people carrying little bundles. Somehow
the night was different over here, darker and yet
more exciting. I watched the trees grow thicker and
higher outside the bus window— hedges and graveled
protecting

through darkened

walks, until finally we reached my stop. I got off,
and the bus roared on. Again I was alone under a
streetlight. There were no Bull Durham signs. Mr.
Kissel was light-years away. Even the street sign

from those on the other side of town;
Olde English sort of plaque swung
the breeze under the short, stubby little street-

was

different

a kind of carved
in

WAVERLY STREET.
Daphne had told me that her house was the
third one from the corner, on the right. I followed
lamp:

the broad, grass-lined sidewalk into the night, the
air fragrant with well-tended lawns, rare budding

Here the houses were
not hard by the street but, rather, buried deep in the
velvety blackness, a glowing yellow light through
the trees, here a glint of silver, there a splash of
blue. I drifted on, knowing that at last I had reached
a safe harbor, the world I had always known was
mine.
There is something about the smell of well-being
that is a balm for the most savage of souls and yet
contains the vaguest whiff of nameless dread. Now
I stood at the foot of a curving asphalt ribbon that
tuKps, freshly graveled drives.

JEAN SHEPHERD

54

wound through a grove of overhanging trees, weaving between sculptured beds of rich loam.
small
white sign read simply, "bigelow." No street number, no explanation; just bigelow. The lure of the
unknown, Circe calling from the rock, enticing
ancient sailors to their doom— it was all there, beckoning; but in the American night, what 15-yearold with seven dollars in his pocket knows of this?

A

Or

cares?

It

was one of those porches modeled loosely
Lincoln Memorial: neo-Greek and noble.

after the

I felt the tiniest twinge of fear, like the faint beginnings of a toothache. Never, outside of a Vivien

Leigh movie, had I seen anything like this. A bronze
hung amid the snowy vastness, casting a

lantern
soft

amber glow on the welcome mat before a
door— carved, sparkling, gleaming.

stained-glass

The

veranda
and right.

rest of the

ness to the left

trailed off into the black-

I knocked. Nothing happened. I knocked again,
peering through the colored panes into a hall, dimly
lit, arched and vaulted, silent. I knocked again. It

had been under that amber
maybe more, before I
noticed a tiny carved-ivory button sunken into one
of the fluted Doric columns that framed the vast
doorway. A doorbell. I pressed. After a discreet
interval, floating as if from a vast distance away,
came the sound of two chimes. Then silence. I
waited. The sound of approaching footsteps. Finally
the door swung open, and an elderly man dressed in
black stood in the gloom.
"Master Shepherd?"
."
"Yeah
I.
"Miss Daphne is expecting you."
I followed him down a short, wide flight of stairs
to a vaulted hallway lit by a giant crystal chande-

seemed

though

as

I

lantern for perhaps a month,

.

.

.

.

.

DAPHNE BIGELOW

^^

Her and then through two sliding oak doors into an
enormous, darkened chamber lit here and there byglowing bronze lamps.
"Won't you sit down? Miss Daphne will be down
presently.

her you're here."

I'll tell

"Uh-thanks."

He

disappeared.

I sat

on the edge of a high-backed
though it had been hand-

leather chair that looked as

carved by a Spanish conquistador.

I

looked around.

Books with leather binding, thick and wide, ran
from floor to ceiling, fading off into the distance. A

mammoth carved desk of black wood lit by a small
green lamp stretched along one wall. Above it a
tall man with white hair, wearing a black suit,
holding a book in one hand, his other resting on a
dark-brown globe, looked down at me with a faint,
familiar smile from a gigantic painting. I looked
again. It was Daphne's lemon-twist smile.
A distant voice filtered down the curved, arching
staircase that disappeared upward in the hall. Somewhere a light went on. I caught a glimpse of a long
table,

sparkling

crystal,

snowy-white linen, the
I had seen only in the

kind of table and glassware
movies.

Then, suddenly, through the door came a

tall,

gray, dignified man. For a minute I thought he was
the one in the portrait, but, no, not quite. I rose.
For the first time I noticed that my shoes squeaked.
His face was jovial, pink, a few white hairs over the
ears, his suit

brown,

striped, elegant.

"Hi, there. You're here for Daphne, aren't you?"
he asked, sticking his hand out toward me, thumb
skyward. It was the first time a grown-up had ever
offered to shake hands with me.
I yanked my mitt out of my right pocket, spraying
change all over the oriental rug. Nickels, dimes,
streetcar tokens and a rare bottle cap I had been

JEAN SHEPHERD

^6

saving softly distributed themselves in artistic patamong the furniture legs. He laughed as he
both bent simultaneshook my sweaty hand.
sports
ously to pick up my dropped effluvia,
coat hunched up over my shoulders, burying my

terns

We

My

deep in horsehair. Together we scavenged
about under rich cordovan leather, behind carvedebony claws holding cut-crystal orbs.
"By George, this is interesting," he said as he
scooped up my Magic Tom Mix Good-Luck Charm
Bar passwith the embossed secret Tom Mix
word.
ears

TM

"Heh-heh

.

.

.

yeah ..."

I

replied.

it was no use.
dropped my rare collector's item
before I finally got it back into my pocket.
"You're Shepherd, aren't you, son?" His voice
was yeasty, deep; it bounced off the oil portrait.
."
"Yeah. Heh-heh.
"Sit down, my boy. Care for some sherry.^"
"Uh
yeah. Heh-heh. ..." I really Uked
I

tried to hide the bottle cap, but

Three times

I

.

.

.

.

.

cherry pop. How did he know? He pulled a cloth
cord on the wall. A minute later the old guy who
had let me in appeared in the door.

"You

rang, sir?"

"Yes,

Drew. Bring

us

some of the

sherry, will

you? Well, young man, it certainly is tiresome
waiting for the womenfolk, isn't it?"
."
"Yeah, it sure is. Heh-heh. It sure is.
." He looked at me with great interest,
"Say!
his white brows arched, his magnificent teeth
glowing healthily. "Aren't you one of the Pittsburgh
Shepherds?"
."
"Uh.
He continued, "The Pittsburgh steel Shepherds?"
.

.

.

I

red.

.

.

.

could feel, actually hear, my face getting beet
The Pittsburgh STEEL Shepherds! All I knew

DAPHNE BIGELOW

57

about Pittsburgh was that the Pirates came from
I did have an uncle who worked in the
40-inch soaking pits at the steel mill. I couldn't see
how Mr. Bigelow would know him.
"Well, yes ... I guess so. I do have some relatives
there, but

in steel."

He

slapped his knee and laughed.

"By George,

I

thought you looked Kke old Goo-

haven't seen the old rascal since our class
reunion at
Haven! The next time you see him,
tell him Max Bigelow said— now get this, he'll know
what it means— Bango!" He roared.
gle!

I

New

"Heh-heh. I sure will."
"Don't forget, boy. Bango!"
Over his shoulder, off in the middle distance, I saw
a maid moving back and forth along the immense
table, touching a glass, arranging a napkin. A huge
grandfather clock, seven feet tall, all brass and dark

wood, ticked quietly

in the rich

air.

under my nose
and smiled. Panicky, I reached for the thinnest,
tiniest glass I had ever seen. It looked like my Uncle
Carl's eyecup, only tinier. I had it for a brieJf instant
between my thumb and forefinger, its stem barely
discernible. And then, suddenly, it tipped over, and
the warm amber fluid soaked into my best slacks,
dripping down inside over my kneecap and down
my leg, to be absorbed by my argyles.
"Oops!" Mr. Bigelow bellowed.' "Bad luck!" Immediately, the old guy was back with another glassful. I took it and held it tight.

The

old

guy shoved

a silver tray

"Cheers!"

"What?"
"In your eye!"

"What?"
was then that I think he began to suspect. He
sipped his drink and watched me narrowly as I
It

JEAN SHEPHERD

58

my

raised

my

glass to

single gollop.

A

mouth and drained

raging bolt of

fire

streaked

it

in a

down-

ward.
*'Gaaahhhkkk!"

"What

did you say, boy?"
Gork!" My eyes watered, my throat burned.
Deep in my stomach a pot began to boil. Never in
".

my

.

.

life

sip of

had

I

had anything stronger than a fleeting

my Uncle Tom's homemade

root beer.

Mr. Bigelow settled back in his deep leather armchair and for the first time really looked at me. It
was then, inexplicably, that my sports coat began to
glow in the dark. His beautifully cut muted mocha
creation looked like no suit I had ever seen before.
It was not a Cleveland Street pick-'em-off-the-piperack special. Even / knew it. My father's only good
suit was a kind of yellowish color with a tasty kellygreen plaid. Its lapels, high and sweeping, jutted out
like the mainsails on a Spanish galleon. He always

wore

his lodge button stuck in the left sail, a pin the
of a nickel made in the shape of a Sacred
Beaver, He belonged to the Royal Order of the
Beaver, Dam 28. Mr. Bigelow wore no pins.
Stealthily, I tried to hide my left cuff link, which
had somehow begun to send a shaft of purple light
to the ceiling. No sooner had I gotten it under my
electric-blue sleeve than the other one switched on
even brighter. I pulled it out of sight and sat with

size

both arms clamped behind me,

my

French

cuffs

noticed that my beautiful shoes
were getting wider; the soles of which I was so
proud had grown thicker and squeakier. I tried to
hide my argyles by tucking my bowling balls under
the chair. Mr. Bigelow watched but said nothing.
Finally he called out:
"Daphne, your
date is here." His voice had
changed.
"Well, have fun," he said to me. "Don't stay out
crinkling.

Then

I

.

.

.

DAPHNE BIGELOW
too

late."

Daphne

He

smiled, again that

59

lemon twist that

used, then rose and left the room.

Almost on cue Daphne appeared atop the broad,
sweeping balustrade and glided gracefully down the
thick-carpeted stairs. I stood, my cuff links jangling,
shoes squeaking, the bottle cap in my pocket
clanking loudly against my Tom Alix lucky charm,
my enormous padded shoulders swinging back and

my

But I was not at a loss for words.
"Heh-heh. ... Hi, Daphne."
"So glad to see you."

forth.

"Yeah, likewise."
"Well, shall we go?"

We

moved from room to room, down the marble
entrance hall and finally out onto the dark, amberJit veranda.
"Dad said we could use the car."
"The car?"
long black Cadillac gleamed like an ebony crypt
in the driveway, the one I had half seen near school.
man in black darted out of the bushes and opened
the back door with a sweep. Daphne stepped in. In
my panic I cracked my shin such a thump against
the doorsill that my teeth rattled for an instant.
"Heh-heh. ... By George!" I hadn't lost my
presence of mind.
I hobbled into the car, stumbled across a deep
wall-to-wall rug and groped my way to the back
seat, my leg throbbing dully.
thin trickle of blood

A

A

A

oozed

down my

shin.

We waited in the
who had opened
seemed

like

drive. In the front seat the man
the door sat quietly. After what

20 minutes,

Daphne

finally

came out

with:

"Well?"
it sure is a nice night out." I was really
sharp tonight.
The driver turned and said, "Where to?"

"Well,

JEAN SHEPHERD

6o

Daphne waited. The Cadillac waited. The driver
waited. Fuzzily suspecting they were waiting for
me, I took the plunge:

"Uh
The

... the

inflection that
it

Orpheum."
"The Orpheum?^'* with a rising
was familiar. Many teachers had used

driver said,

on me before, an

effective oleo of dignity

and

scorn. Daphne, her voice calm, said quietly:

Orpheum." The note of
was one she did not use in
had not seen this side of Daphne. It

Raymond,

"Yes,

the

stainless-steel authority

Biology

II.

I

interested me.

We

Silently the car began to roll.
wound through
the trees, past the flower beds and out into the great
night through the tunnel of green, past looming
hedges, wrought-iron gates, antique lanterns, and
finally into the street.
I flayed my jelly like mind for something to say.
Where was my agile whipcord brain? What had
happened to my famed cool irony.^ Finally I

quipped:

"Boy,
"Yes,

"It sure

A

sure

it

it is

is

nice out."

a lovely

evening."

Boy."

is.

of inspiration percolated through the
my cranium: "Old Settlemeyer's
really a gasser, isn't he? Boy!"
amusing."
"He is
I did not know till that moment how wide, how
vast, car seats could be. Daphne was at least 30 yards
out of field-goal range, perched miles away from
me on the billowing dove-gray cushion we shared.
Raymond, two and a half miles ahead of us, was
obviously clearly out of earshot.
Dauntless, I wondered how she would react to a
quick clinch. I watched her out of the corner of my
eye to see whether there were any outward signs of
flash

coffee grounds of

.

.

.

1

DAPHNE BIGELOW

6

was hard to tell at that distance.
decided once again to play it safe, a
tendency that has cursed me all of my fife.
were now in the streetcar-hot-dog-standneon-sign belt. As the terrain became more and more
jazzy, more familiar, my courage rose. I was just on
the point of making a quick grab for her deficately
turned ankle and risking the whole caper on one shot
in the dark when we drew up before the Orpheum.
Such was my frenzy that I w^as caught off guard
and didn't notice that the car had stopped and
Raymond was holding the door open for our descent
back into the real world.
"Well, here we are," said Daphne pointedly.
Coming to, I stepped out of the limousine,
cracking my good ankle heavily against the curb.
Where I came from, cars had running boards.
Raymond, alert, shot a hand out as I pitched forward, grabbing my left shoulder pad in an iron grip
like a quarterback about to throw a 6o-yard pass.
Of course, all he got was a handful of the horsehair,
excelsior and tiny bedsprings with which my coat
was equipped to give me the stylish Chicago Bears
lineman look that was so admired in the sophomore
class. A few threads snapped and gave, but I stood
passion yet. It

Finally

I

We

upright.

"Are you all right, sir?"
was just kiddin' around."
I playfully belted him in the ribs. He coughed
slightly and drew back, his eyes flat, opaque.
"I

"Just havin' a little fun,
did not laugh.

Raymond."

He

Daphne

joined

me on

brilliant glare of the

the sidewalk under the

white

Orpheum marquee. The

lights of the friendly old

usual motley rabble that

hung around the Orpheum entranceway every
night— to watch the girls go in or just to look at

JEAN SHEPHERD

62

the red-and-yellow posters displaying sinister Japanese soldiers tying iMerle Oberon to 500-pound
bombs—openly gawked at the black land yacht,

Daphne and

my

Quickly I
one envious
face. There was none. I bought the tickets, and we
passed inside. Mr. Woscowski, who had replaced
Mr. Doppler as manager after the infamous
Orpheum gravy^-boat riot of my youth, took the
two tickets, ripped them across and dropped them in
the slot with one motion. I tried to catch his eye
in order to let Daphne know how widely known I
was, but he ignored me.
Into the blackness we went. Some of the more
meaningful moments of my life had been spent in
this dark, warm cocoon. The Orpheum had always
seemed to me one of the greatest places in the world.
electric-blue

scanned the crowd, hoping for

coat.

at least

With
down

suave assurance, I convoyed Daphne safely
the littered aisle, popcorn crunching underfoot, ankle-deep in candy wrappers, to my favorite
row of seats in the left-hand section halfway down.
sat directly behind a couple who, if not engaged
in actual copulation, were certainly doing a good
impersonation of it. On the screen a 75-foot John
Wayne glared stonily into the rolling hills.
Since I had seen the picture twice before, I
hoarsely outlined the part we had missed into
Daphne's fragrant, shell-like ear. But I got the
distinct impression of a lack of concentration on her
part. Ahead of us the two seats squeaked and
groaned. The girl, if that's what she was, giggled
briefly as they battled on.
masculine voice in the
darkness ahead mingled with the sound track, overriding it sharply:
"Aw, for chrissake, Nan, come on!"

We

A

"Stop

The

it!"

slap of flesh sharply striking flesh,

followed

DAPHNE BIGELOW

63

by

a burst of raucous laughter.
became aware of a movement behind as a large
seat and rested on
knee crept up the back of
I

my

my

my

seat
right shoulder. It pushed forward, tilting
tbjree or four inches nearer the combatants ahead.
I turned and said politely into the darkness:

"Do you mind removing your knee?"

A

blast of alcohol

"WHO'S

engulfed me.

GONNA MAKE ME, YOU SON OF

A BITCH?"
Now,

in

the

Orpheum under normal circum-

a direct cue for action. For a
almost forgot myself. Fighting for control,
however, I forced myself to ignore the outrage and
said to Daphne through clenched teeth:
"John Wayne is sure good."
She said nothing. She was sitting bolt upright,
a rare sight in the Orpheum, and seemed to be
peering around in the darkness at the huddled

stances, this

was

moment I

surrounded us.
ya lookin' at, baby?" a merrymaking steelworker asked bluntly. Another challenge.
Daphne, tilting her head gracefully, whispered
figures that

"Who

into

my

ear:

"This is a very ijitereswig place."
It had never occurred to me that the Orpheum
was a very interesting place, at least not the way
she put it.
"Yeah, it's great. Really great."
Somewhere far off to our right, someone unleashed a gigantic, resonant burp, after a prolonged
rasping gurgle, a guy really dredging it up from the
bottom. Scattered applause and laughter followed.
From the balcony a shower of Cracker Jack drifted
down over the center section, accompanied by three
folded airplanes that danced briefly in silhouette
over the western prairies.

64

JEAN SHEPHERD

"Wouldja like some popcorn?"
"No, thank you."
"How 'bout a Coke?"

"Maybe

We

sat

I

asked.

later."

numbly together

in

the rickety

seats.

Comparative calm reigned for half a reel or so, and
then the final collapse of the evening began. During
a tense moment on the screen— in dead silence as
John Wayne waited for the attacking rustlers to
come over the hill, the audience crouching forward
in nervous anticipation. Daphne herself showing
discernible signs of interest— a low rumbling began.
At first I thought it was a DC- 3 flying over on its
way to Chicago. It got closer and closer, louder and
louder. It seemed to come from all directions at
once, a low bass thrumming. It grew in volume.
In the dark my palms turned to ice. Oh, God, no,
not now!

My

stomach was rumbling!

It was a great joke
missed supper or a meal
was late, the old gut would bang it out like an anvil.
As the roaring gurgle sighed off into the distance
like a freight train crossing a viaduct, the voice
behind me, still on the muscle, barked out:

in the family that

"Cut

More

it

out,

when

I

ya slob!"

cackles.

Daphne

cleared her throat.

"Excuse me," I said.
After all, I didn't want the Bigelows to think I
wasn't well brought up. My gut settled down to its
regular idle after the first clarion blast and continued
muttering throughout the movie.
I had always taken the Orpheum for granted. All
of it. But now I began to notice things that I had
never been aware of. Somewhere off behind us
there was a continual flushing of plumbing. I could
hear the projector whirring, accompanied by the

DAPHNE BIGELOW

6$

low-voiced, nonstop argument between the

two

operators.

I

hoped Daphne

caught something

didn't notice.

But she

else.

"Certainly smells funny here."
"What d'ya mean?"
"You don't notice.^"
"Oh, yeah. Yeah, sure."
After all these years coming to the Orpheum, how
was it I had never before been aware of all those
feet? I sat quietly, sorting out scent after scent,
hoping desperately that Daphne didn't recognize

most of them.
picture neared the end. John Wayne told
Charles Bickford, the cattle baron, how he'd have
to move on 'cause he was the roamin' kind. I knew
fingers crept softly over
it was now or never.
my knee, over the armrest, poised in the dark for

The

My

then dropped slowly over Daphne's
modeled hand. For a few seconds we
sat unmoving, her fingers, cool and smooth, nestled
in my sweaty palm. I stared straight ahead, afraid
to break the spell. Even my stomach stopped
rumbling out of respect for this magic moment.
Ahead of us the tangled couple had fallen into a
comatose state, lulled perhaps by satiation or maybe
by the tender sentiments of Hearts Aflame at the
Old Corral. Thus we sat to the final frame, the last
a

moment and

exquisitely

slanting rays of the western sun outlining a lone
rider galloping into the distance.

came up. Unfastening our hands, we
together back up the aisle and out into the
glare of the marquee. Welders, steam fitters, kids,
old men wearing black hats pushed and shoved
around us. The Cadillac waited, Raymond at the
wheel. Daphne said the first thing either of us had
uttered for hours, it seemed:

The
moved

lights

JEAN SHEPHERD

66

"That was certainly a very
you brought me to

really glad

interesting place. I'm
it.

Do you come

here

often?"

"Nah,

I

just

thought you might find the place

interesting."

"Well,

it

certainly was."

We were back inside the chariot.

Already its rich
dove-gray aroma seemed homey and familiar to me.
I was about to instruct Raymond to wheel us down
to the old Red Rooster when Daphne said in a small
voice:
"It's
it

certainly late, isn't

it? I

had no idea

how

late

was."

Raymond, without
against the traffic,

North

Side.

For

a

word, turned

a

and

his battleship

we headed back toward

few moments nothing was

the
said

as the limousine hummed silently along. The heady
excitement of social triumph surged through me.
Stealthily my hand crept like a predatory spider
over the soft mohair, closer and closer to Daphne, as
I whistled a few snatches from the Hammond High
Victory Song. Raymond tooled on, coolly, discreetly, as the trees grew higher, the privet hedges
appeared and the neon signs receded.
Closer and closer.
touched! For a single
quivering instant, and then quietly she drew her
hand away, laying it in her mysterious lap.

We

"Did you

finish

that caterpillar drawing?" she

asked.

"Caterpillar drawing?"

"In lab."

"Oh,

We
some

yes. You can copy
rode on in silence.

feeble straw,

some

it

I

Monday."
groped frantically for

last bit

of flotsam to cling

keep the conversation going. It was no use.
"I sort of like Mr. Settlemeyer," she said finally.

to, to

DAPHNE BIGELOW
"He's

all

right,

I

67

guess."

We

pulled in the drive, up to the veranda and
stopped. Raymond whipped the door open. This

time

I

knew how

and shook
same night!
"I've had

it,

a

to get out.
the second time

my hand
had happened in the

Daphne took
it

very lovely time, and

I

want

to thank

you."
"I

had

a great time, too. It sure

was

great."

w^ould be glad to drive you home."
"Oh, no, I'll walk. I live just a few blocks over,
on Harrison," I lied spectacularly.
"Well, see you in class. Good night."
She was gone.
"Sure you don't want a ride, bud.^" Raymond

"Raymond

had changed.

Without a word I turned and walked down the
long curving asphalt drive between the flower beds,
under the trees, past the stone sundial, the iron gates,
the white sign that read, "bigelow," out into the
night, walked in my electric-blue sports coat, my
hated, rotten,

crummy

electric-blue sports coat,

padding squishing and banging against

my

its

shoulder

blades, its hem flapping against my knees, walked
with my long, fluttering tinfoil noose with its
monster