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"Fifty Days of Friendship"


Prologue
Fifty Friendships

By Bill Schott

I heard someone quote someone else the other day saying that life is a series of interruptions. We start with a plan, but are delayed from proceeding by stuff that happens. Sometimes that stuff involves people who become more than a moment and a memory. It is people, or the individuals, who are the days of our lives.

When I was six I met the love of my life. Her name was Karen, and I know that I liked everything about her. She had red hair, like a Raggedy Ann doll, and so many freckles they must have been free. We played cats in the cradle and I gave her half of my peanut butter and jelly sandwich, on more than one occasion.

She had an older sister who was rather mean to me, which made Karen's smile and kindness stand out even more.

One day she got sick and never returned to school that year. She was never at any places we played during the summer and she never came back to school in the fall. She had "caught" cancer and died over the summer.

I never really mourned her loss as a child, never understanding how I felt. It was not until I had actually gotten involved with girls seriously that the red-haired girl came back to me. It was that innocent and honest relationship with her that made me wish she had made it.

I met another Karen that school year; she was totally different though, with an olive complexion and dark brown eyes. She also never came back after summer, but I knew it was because she moved away. I never knew where, until fifteen years later, after being married for a year, I realized -- she was my wife.


To be continued...

 


Chapter 1
Charlie

By Bill Schott


I ended the first chapter having mentioned my wife. I will explain about her in a bit. There are other people in the friend sphere that I should mention first, in order to create a timeline of some kind.

Friendships are really a multilayered or perhaps, in some cases, a prorated relationship. You may be friends on the playground, but nowhere else; friends in church only, or nowadays online exclusively. As a kid, my friends were typically my cousins, who visited constantly, or the neighbor kids, who I saw about the town looking for a pick-up baseball game or to shoot baskets.

I would like to say that my brother was my friend, but that would be an exaggeration. Mutual tolerance would fit our relationship better. I tended to pick up friends from my brother, who were all older than me. I suppose they started out as his friends, found him basically unfriendly, and settled for me.

Charlie was one. He was two years older and he developed from a sort of Pigpen character, from Peanuts cartoons, to the first hippie I knew personally. Playing in the town dump, driving the silently rusting, old cars, which sat there, we were totally unconcerned about the rats and snakes that seemed to be everywhere.

We played on the coal piles next to the train depot, and I would often return home to jeers from my mother as I was covered from my toe-head top to my bare feet with a layer of black, sticky resin. My mother would blame Charlie, in absentia, and I endorsed that accusation.

Hanging with Charlie meant that we got to look at his dad's nudey books, for the articles, of course, and smoke cigarettes on the back porch. Stealing his mom's cigarettes ensured a carefree inhalation of poisonous gases through a modern spun filter, separating the smoker from the foul tasting tobacco. When his dad's cigarettes were purloined, Lucky Strikes, the unpleasantness which that entailed was suffered.

Charlie collected all types of music, mostly from bands I had never heard of, which wasn't hard. I found that he listened to Cream, with Eric Clapton, before most people had heard of the band. Ultimate Spinach, Third World Rasberry, and the Beatles, when no one wanted to hear them anymore, were some of the LPs he played.

I guess we stopped hanging out when I was about thirteen. His older sister, who was graduating from high school, I think, wanted me to hang out and kanoodle in her bedroom upstairs. That was enlightening, but ended as soon as her mother discovered I was up there.

My friend left for Florida soon after and I never saw him again. I guess his parents retired and they all went south, except his sister; she married the Pepsi delivery guy she met at a family reunion.  She was a friendly girl.  


 

Author Notes Thanks to Sean T Phelan for use of the pic


Chapter 2
First Friends

By Bill Schott


When I began school as a five-year-old, my mother walked with me to the far side of our small town to attend kindergarten in the basement of Otter Lake Elementary school. I'm told that was the only time that happened. After that day I was simply sent there. I walked two blocks south, one block east, then south to the end of town to the vintage 1920 era, three-story brick school building.

It was in this setting that I was assembled with the classmates with whom I would journey through the blessed years of elementary and high school education.

By the third grade class there was Walter, my cousin; Lloyd, my cousin; Cheryl and Bobby, my cousins; Lorne, Buddy, Gina, Debbie, Vera, Suzy, Dale, Russell, who were not my cousins; and Rosemary.

All of these kids I considered my friends as we played together and seemed to like each other.

Rosemary liked me especially, it seemed, and always wanted to hold my hand when we walked home. This wasn't clear to me, of course, since a dense skull had always been one of my attributes. Even when both Suzy and Rosemary wanted to walk with me holding hands, it never occurred to me that they were doing more than trying to embarrass me.

It had occurred to Lloyd, or Lloydy, as he was called, who was Rosemary's neighbor and, I guess, wanted her to hold his hand. He challenged me to a fist fight on the way home, which I immediately agreed to while not knowing two important things: Why we were fighting or how to box. Lloydy didn't have that problem and pummeled me.

This poor showing must have awakened the girls from their infatuation with me as I was never again victimized by their attention.

Throughout the rest of our school days I had little to do with most of the kids in town. We would play pick up baseball for a couple hours on Saturday, but we were never close.

Lloyd went on to be the BMOC in high school and Rosemary achieved the status of 'Everybody's Next One".

I was expelled.




 

Author Notes Image from Bing


Chapter 3
My Friend Gene

By Bill Schott

As children, playing in the elementary schoolyard, all of the social evils of society were visited upon the youth. We climbed on monkey bars that would never pass safety standards for even a gorilla. The seesaws were designed to punish skinny kids (express to the moon), fat kids (permanently grounded), and inquisitive kids (goodbye fingers in the fulcrum of the teeter-totter).

There were also unplanned play programs like monkey-in-the-middle with the little kids cap, or king-of-the-hill on the unused mound of fill dirt between the country kids and the 'townees'. This is where I met Gene.

Many kids were bussed to school from the rural area and surrounding farms. Gene's family raised horses, which he allowed visiting peers to ride and help groom. I learned something about the tack (saddles, stirrups, bridles, etc.) and riding.

I experienced my first family drama, outside our own sibling circus, while visiting his house. Gene's mother was in the hospital and his dad was trying to call to see how she was. The phone was on the fritz so his dad had to load the kids in their station wagon to visit her. When we arrived he found she had died, and his three kids and I found out in the hospital parking lot. When we finally returned to their home, Gene's dad ripped the phone off the wall, screaming, crying, and cursing.

Gene proceeded from that day forward as the de facto 'mom'. At ten years old he began caring for his younger sisters, while his father began a decade of grieving. My friend became the most dependable, intelligent, and hardworking person I knew.

I saw him last when he attended my cousin's and my going-away party prior to our leaving for the Marines. He then went to work at the Chevrolet Bus and Truck plant, where I heard he was often warned by the union reps to stop working harder than his peers.





 

Author Notes Image from Google


Chapter 4
Cousins

By Bill Schott


The hometown I grew up in was a small village built next to a lake. When Michigan was big into lumbering, back in the late 19th century, Otter Lake was a bustling burg where trees were cut, sawn, and sent to build homes all over the 'Thumb'.

The lake provided the water for an ice plant, which also serviced a wide area back when ice boxes were a method of preserving foods.

As a result of the successful use of the area, many families took root and spread out across the county from this central spot. This made for an extended family scenario where almost everyone was related to everyone else.

When I grew up in the sixties, I was a cousin to practically all the kids in town. The ones I saw the most were Doris, Walter, Janis, and Yale. They were my mom's brother's children.

They were all a bit on the odd side, which was made clear to me by the many influencers that a kid is surrounded by growing up. Aside from the taunts from rotten kids, my father made it clear that he didn't want to associate with either my uncle or his family. That was not told to me, but gleaned from repeated comments he would make openly to my mom, or mumble under his breath loud enough to be heard. I got the message -- they were 'special'.

When I was growing up, my mother was trying to finish her masters degree in special education. Since she was a school teacher, mother of six, and had no time to do that, she had to find people who were willing to babysit me at night or on weekends so she could drive seventy miles away to Eastern Michigan University for classes. My Aunt Phyllis was nice enough to help, which placed me in her home with my 'questionable' cousins on a regular basis.

Doris was red-haired, with a pale, freckled-face complexion, and a seemingly non-stop commentary on everything known. She tended to talk to the ceiling, while she leaned into my personal space, with a piercing voice that was, at best, intrusive.

Walter was what I assumed to be mentally challenged. I'm no expert, unlike seemingly everyone else in our community, but interactions were evidence to me that he was not normal. Hirsute, he seemed a bit simian as I recall now. When he spoke, it seemed like it took all his concentration and physical assistance to complete a thought. If someone were speaking to me while he was near, he would repeat the person's last word or two, as if in agreement or parroting them to become a part of the conversation.

Both Janis and Yale were what I have always regarded as 'regular' kids, who were surrounded by ignorance and apathy all their lives, resulting in their social retardation to the extent that they were lumped into the general opinion that the entire family was substandard.

As small children, we all played together as friends, before the eventual pressures of association worked on my sense of conformity, and I too began avoiding them.

I wish now that I had been a better cousin and friend, as well as a more understanding person.


 

Author Notes Image from Google


Chapter 5
Howard

By Bill Schott

In junior high my friends and I were somewhat like the island of misfit toys. Charlie was a hippy-dippy living at home, I was a blank slate with no one interested in writing on me, and then there was Howard.

Howard was tall, skinny, and almost totally silent. Withdrawn, when in the company of outsiders, he talked endlessly about weird bands (i.e., Iggy and the Psychedelic Stooges, Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention, et al) when we were at his house.

His parents were like two caricatures from different comic books who were somehow paired together. His dad was never fully sober nor completely bathed. He swore a lot, which is to say that sometimes less shattering words were uttered. Unshaven was a constant condition and being offensive seemed to be his goal. He was apparently unemployed.

Howard's mother was, in contrast, demure, soft-spoken and an elementary school teacher.

My friend seemed to wear the skin of his mom (metaphorically) most of the time when among the rest of humanity. Even with us, he was half shy and half outgoing. What he had inside him, however, was a coiled snake.

Howard was a boxer. No one knew this about him, as he had not grown up in our town. One day one of my bully cousins, Ricky, tried to push Howard around, as he appeared to be so timid. From within a zip-lock bag of kickass Howard the Punisher appeared and totally 'pugilized' flabbergasted Ricky, who I must say I never saw again. I think he joined the army or the foreign legion.

After that day we always knew to not pick a fight with Howard unless we were prepared to battle to the death.

 

Author Notes Image from Google


Chapter 6
Vera

By Bill Schott

When I think of love stories, they follow the same scenarios that we all watched on television growing up. First there's two people who find one another and fall in love immediately. Happy together, end of story.  Later plots start out where two people dislike each other, but through the course of events they discover they are actually in love.  Then, there is Vera, and how my relationship with her evolved over time.

Girls, generally, never made a dent with me when I was young. I enjoyed games and parties, but I never made much of a distinction between the kids I played with. We played hide and seek, football, baseball, etc. with little regard for whether we were boys or girls. Maybe we just had tough girls and so-so boys in my town. We all seemed evenly matched.

Vera was a girl that I began to notice when I was twelve or thirteen. She had always been friendly and funny, but I was now beginning to see her differently. She was skinny, blond, freckle-faced, and constantly smiling. I imagined that she might like me more than other boys.

One night we were all playing hide-and-seek around the episcopal church. There were a dozen kids running about and -- well, I don't need to explain the game to you. Anyway, after using many hiding places alone, I eventually found myself in a shadowy vestibule with Vera.

I come from a long line of romancers. That may be a bit of either an exaggeration or misnomer. My oldest sister and brother married the first persons they dated. The next oldest sister was a party girl who dated frequently. Next oldest brother was a randy dog off the leash. His reputation was widespread and mirthfully scandalous. Now, since my next older brother was dating a girl from out of town, and playing slap and tickle with Vera's older sister, I figured the time was right for me to make a move.

In the darkened vestibule I leaned in for a kiss. Even in the low light of the entrance to God's house I saw the proverbial "if looks could kill" stare. I had taken a step that took me off Lover's Lane and over Dead Man's Curve.

That summer zipped by after that and the thought of Vera had been burned out of my brain.

 

Author Notes Image from Google


Chapter 7
Gilmore

By Bill Schott











My next door neighbor, Gilmore, was always the envy of me and the kids I knew. He had some supreme confidence which was a result, I suspect, of being the only child of older parents. He was sleek and slender, well-mannered, perhaps a bit smarmy, and never went without.

Garnet and Louise, his parents, were Scottish, and both projected with a brogue that made you see plaid. He was gruff and mustachioed, with silver hair which certainly exceeded conventional lengths for older citizens in the early sixties. Louise was his sweet counterpart; demure and always conservatively attired with a welcoming smile.

One might say they lavished Gilmore with whatever he thought necessary. He was the first to own and master a ten-speed, twenty-six inch Schwinn. He was soon pulling block-long wheelies, while the two-inch diameter balloon in the rear spokes gave the two-wheel vehicle the sputtering sound of a moped.

His dad ran a pool hall which closed after his death in 1965. His mother sold all the tables, and then purchased enough slot car equipment for Gilmore to establish a ballroom sized race track. It had to be forty feet long on both sides, with a straight side and a ramp, loop, tunnel, and obstacle side. It was about twenty feet wide at the far end and five at the low-speed curve end. Only two cars could run at a time, in case you thought his design was ostentatious.

There was a secret passage in the far wall, between the Oasis cigarettes and Falstaff beer signs. It led to his parents' walk-in closet (which I hid in once playing hide and seek).

When Gilmore's mom was out, we sat about smoking cigarettes which had somehow come into our possession. I remember Gilmore smoked Newport, Randolph (I'll get to him at a later time) had Camels and Winstons he snuck from his parents, and my brother Albert and I had either Pall Malls or L&Ms, depending on what our dad had bought.

We learned smoking styles from Gilmore. The first rule was that cigarettes most be held in the crotch of the index and middle finger; never by the finger tips, unless you were a girl. Another important rule was to never hot-box a smoke you were taking a puff from. Also, never let the ash get too long so it's not under your control. Though it should go without saying, always light the right end.

Gilmore was the first to get a motorcycle. It was an Indian. He had his own car, a '69 Corvair convertible, that I heard he bought when his trust fund kicked in.

Gilmore, or Gizmo, as some called him, was like a Bugs Bunny character to me, who was always a step ahead of everyone.

 


Chapter 8
Eve and Clifford

By Bill Schott

Going through school exposes us to all types of people. As we get older we recognise others through a broad lens that compares new individuals to existing friends. When I was younger, however, I was only able to evaluate other kids through the narrow view I had at the time.

Rodeo enthusiasts are big in some parts of Michigan, but not others. I lived in a town, in a county, that was just on the outer fringe of a growing Western-lifestyle community. The rodeo was a summer event that moved through our county like the circus. Those who owned horses, farmers, or anyone else who wanted to watch these shows would flock to the county fairgrounds during a particular week in July. Bronco busting, bull riding, barrow chases, roping contests, and other farm and ranch festivities were in full display.

Eve and her brother Clifford were part of this rodeo community. They had moved to Michigan from somewhere southwest and tried to fit into our seemingly perfect world.

Eve was a nice person with a round, friendly face that usually displayed a smile. She was perpetually dressed in what I perceived as 'cowboy' clothes. She would typically appear in blue or red-checked blouses with a kerchief, and a long denim skirt. Other times she would be in a full-length cloth dress with a hundred buttons going from neck to knees. I'm sure she wore other things, but these are what stick in my memory.

Her brother, Clifford, was taller than the rest of us. This is at a time when I was probably ten or eleven and five feet tall. Clifford was about six inches above that. He would wear this double-breasted Western-style shirt at least three times a week. I assume it was laundered multiple times to allow its frequent use. He had cowboy boots, and I think I remember his wearing a stetson to school once. I can only imagine he was asked to leave it home.

I recall these two because they were happy and trying to assimilate into the school, but were not really blending in.

Eve seemed to always be the girl who would satellite others in a group, but couldn't wedge in with anything interesting to the circle of the elite. She wasn't a good student either, and was often failing. Clifford was high energy, but a bit awkward when we were at play. He was out of place playing baseball, always looking fierce, but never quite able to hit the ball or field one. Not a strong student either, he eventually became a bit of a bully on the playground.

I never really felt bad about Clifford; I mean, he was a guy.  Eve, I always felt for as she seemed like such a nice person who was never given the time of day by other girls.

When I think about all these people now, I wish I could get in a time machine and return to those days to help them get through that soul-crushing ordeal of being an outsider.

Both Eve and Clifford moved away and I can only hope they weren't too badly damaged by having to face the scarring self-importance of school children.

 

Author Notes Image from Google


Chapter 9
Scratcher

By Bill Schott

I remember 1973 as quite a year for change. The year prior, President Nixon changed the age of majority to eighteen. My birthday in May gave me access to new responsibility and entitlements.

Being a disciplined and thoughtful individual, my first stop after graduating high school was to find a barstool in the saloon close to my house. It was crawling distance.  Next, I found that getting into x-rated drive-ins was now a breeze. Who knew that men and women could reach so many creative positions while grinning and telling corny jokes?

I had been a 'pump jocky' since my sixteenth birthday, and one of my fellow gas station attendents was Dean; we all called him Scratcher. He was a cool dude with kinky, blond hair he could tease into a whiteboy afro. His folks had money and had bought him a new Mustang when he graduated. He maintained a job in the gas station to pay for gas, insurance, and beer.

Now that I was eighteen, he and I would get off work at nine p.m. on Friday nights, when the station closed, and go out either bar hopping or ramming the roads with a couple of six-packs of beer. Cheap wine had become popular then, so we would grab a bottle or two of Mad Dog or Boone's Farm and crash various and sundry parties.

Dean would tell me of his female conquests and I told him about my girl friend in high school, whom I never defiled beyond kissing in the hallway. Currently I was sort of dating a girl that one of the patrons of the service station asked me to take away from her other boyfriend whom they didn't like.

"So, when are you going to tap that new filly?" he asked once.

"Any day now," I probably lied, having zero percent slickness and even less courage in those matters.

"I heard she's been around, son. Just get a six pack and go for a ride."

The next weekend I did do that and eventually parked behind her folks' house. From there I was thoroughly educated on the ways of teenage sex. I'm sure I was as cool as milk toast dropped on an open-toed sandal.

The next day I announced my triumph to Dean, who gave me an acknowledging nod and some advice.

"Don't go telling everybody that you popped your cherry. They already think you did that Catholic chick in high school."

"Why would they think that?"

I recall his sigh and chortle before letting me know that Yvonne, my high school sweetheart, had "been around" too.

After a last summer of hanging out, Dean moved out of his folks house and down state. By December of '74 I had joined the Marines, finished boot camp, and, while on leave during Christmas, gotten married. Dean showed up to be my best man. The bride was my cherry-popper. 

That was the last time I recall seeing or hearing from Dean. I spent years in the South and only visited Michigan once a year, if that. He joined the Air Force and aimed high. 


 

Author Notes Image from Google mustangspecs.com


Chapter 10
Buddy System

By Bill Schott

I believe I mentioned one time or another that the area where I grew up was dense with relatives. No one could marry anyone else from within the county without the fear of breeding two-headed babies.

One of my cousins was Bobby. He, his sisters Barbara and Nona, and younger brothers Lloyd and Timmy, were my mother's aunt's grandchildren. None of us really got along very well for most of our childhood.

In high school though, Bobby and I became closer. We would play a lot of pool, gamble at cards with pop bottle caps, later money, and eventually cruise bars looking for low-hanging fruit in the form of fun-loving girls.

I had gone through some social changes at this stage. Having become sexually active, I was now motivated to BE active on that front. The opportunities did not present themselves as often as I would like though.

Bobby didn't seem to have any problem. He was slick and smooth, one might say swanky, as he emulated the Rat Pack attitude and was always on for a good time.

He was a hard worker as well. His dad had brought him up as a carpenter and he was able to get lots of off-the-books construction work. He would give me a call and I would be his helper for drywall, paneling and drop-ceilings (it was the 70s), and even a couple exterior house paintings.

One day we were in the Otter Lake bar and a Marine private, in uniform, home on leave from boot camp, came staggering into the tavern. He looked like a soup sandwich with his uniform open and shirt tails out. What a sight.

Bobby turned to me and said something to the affect that "We could do better than that."

The next day he and I were talking to the Marine Recruiter in Detroit. Within an hour, Bobby was sworn in with a guarantee of Intelligence, and I was promised Communications.
This is when I discovered that Bobby was also guaranteed an automatic promotion to Private First Class as he had brought in another 'bone'. That was me. So, my cousin had been here earlier, and became motivated to find someone else to join for his bonus.

I felt like a bit of a sucker, but accepted it as part of the magic of the Marine Corps experience.

We were enlisted and placed on the DEP (delayed entry program). We were to leave for San Diego in October. I was later called by the recruiter and asked to ship in mid September. I said yes, and then promptly forgot about it.

Bobby and I partied at his father's house for a couple of weeks until my girlfriend called me and said the Marines were looking for me. She said they told her I was AWOL and would be hunted down if I didn't report immediately to the recruiting staition.

The station was about twelve blocks away so I walked speedily there. They were happy to see me; threatened to have me arrested if I didn't ship the very next day. I called Bobby, he said 'Sure'. I had lost my guarantee, however, and would be seen as an 'open contract'. So, at some point the Marine Corps would tell me what job I would have.

I'm not going to elaborate on boot camp in this piece, as that would be best taken in smaller chunks. "What a Long Strange Trip It's Been" would be a good title.

The last thing to say about Bobby was that we entered boot camp on the 'buddy system'. What that resulted in was that we were in the same company, but in different platoons, so we never saw each other, except briefly, for three months.

We both graduated and I was made a ballistic meteorologist and Bobby joined the S1 as an intelligence operative. He wound up involved in Operation Frequent Wind which was the evacuation of Saigon at the end of the Vietnam war.

He eventually became a Warrant Officer, then resigned to return to being a carpenter in the town we grew up in.

I see him from afar now and then, but we haven't spoken in forty years.



 


Chapter 11
Johnny

By Bill Schott


In my later teens, both of my parents were out of the house more and I had a liberal range of hours on my own. My dad was hopping up and down work shifts at Buick, as they were moving people to different plants to meet changing goals. He would be gone all day one week and all night others.

My mother was a school teacher and my next older brother and I were her last kids at home. She was also pursuing her Masters in Special Ed which put her on the road nights, weekends, and in the summer to complete her requirements.

With all this freedom of movement and level of trust, I found that I was totally unreliable when required to stay out of trouble.

Johnny was a hot-tempered Texas transplant who liked to farm, re-build cars, and ram the roads looking for thrills.

A couple friends and I got mixed up with Johnny for awhile as we discovered the finer points of drinking beer and whiskey, making big engines fit into small cars, and riding rum-runnin' cars as we raced throught the back roads like we were on a mission.

Johnny's father, I'm pretty sure, was living in our state because Texas wanted him in their jail. He was a tough old buzzard who was a cross between a psycho Popeye and someone a nun would shank without a tear. He would get cross with Johnny and punch him in the face like he wanted to kill him. The son took it, but passed the joy on to others. No one crossed Johnny.

I recall the last night we were running around with him, I got into the most trouble I'd ever been in.

We had been working on dropping a 427 into a Chevelle, which had taken some expanding of the engine compartment via cutting torch, drilling out adaptor motor mounts to connect it to the frame, and then towing the car, in high gear, to loosen the cam shaft and pistons.

This last action placed me on a tractor with a chain pulling the car. I set the idle too high, popped the clutch, and immediately pulled the front end off the Chevelle.

Johnny was livid and insisted it was time for me to go home. Being rather menacing, as well as my ride, I agreed with his decree.  I rode on the fender of that same tractor, while Johnny hit every pot hole and went past every low-hanging limb, all the way to the outskirts of my town. I was very drunk, possibly even drugged, I learned later. I wandered three blocks to my house and sang dumb songs while hanging onto the telephone pole outside my family's home.

They brought me inside and, the next morning, sicced the county sheriff on me. The deputy interrogated me, told me Johnny was a drug dealer, had likely spiked my 'kool-aid', and was a suspect in several investigations. I was told to get my act together and forget about Johnny.

That was the last I saw that guy. (Sob) He simply disappeared, I guess.  I never asked where.



 

Author Notes Image from Google.


Chapter 12
Steve, Not William

By Bill Schott

My later teen years were filled with missteps and misinformation. When I was seventeen the drinking age became eighteen. Essentially that meant that younger people could buy us beer. It seemed as though we were in the Wild West as far as the law was concerned. We were often approached by law enforcement and asked if we'd been drinking. With bottles clinking and pimpled faces suppressing snickers, the blushing driver would say "No" and we would be on our way.

I recall we kids used to meet at the community center outdoor basketball lot for pick up ball. We were mostly average players and typically played the baskets across the narrow sides of the rectangular asphalt court.

One day this guy showed up; his name was William, but wanted to be called Steve.

Steve had game (as one might say today). He moved to our town from the city, and brought what was considered average dribbling and shooting skills there. It was like the circus had come to town. Steve drove through all of us like we were nailed to the ground. He would spin into a lay-up, leap and shoot between his legs in the air, and hurl a nothing-but-net ball from half court. We were totally impressed.

Steve and I hung out a lot. We both worked at gas stations. This was back when there was an attendant who not only pumped gas, checked your fluids, and washed your windows, but also changed tires, exhaust systems, brakes, and did car tune ups. As a result, his abilities on the basketball court were never transferred to the high school team. This limited his circle of friends to us "also-rans".

As it turned out, his sister was becoming my brother's girlfriend. This was the topic of a few discussions, as she was a bit odd. He couldn't imagine anyone liking her, though my brother (and others) found she offered a chance to explore the sweet mystery of life.

Steve and I would ride our bicycles most places, since it was still cool to have a driver's license, but continue to ride a bike.

Sometimes we would be each other's alibi. If he decided to hang out with a rough crowd, he would tell his folks he was with me. They liked me.

In the same way, when I found myself hanging out with some fast girls (too fast for me) and some other outcasts with whom it was verboten to associate, I would say I was with Steve. Parents -- so trusting.

One night, however, we stayed out too late running around and the driver needed to sleep before attempting to drive a hundred miles back home. We spent the night sleeping six people in a '64 Mustang. It wasn't as enjoyable as you might imagine.

Anyway, I dragged in around seven a.m. to find my mother had slept in a chair by the door all night fretting I had been in an accident. I apologized and told her that Steve and I had been in his car (non-existent) and had run out of gas up north. She was fine with that explanation until Steve knocked on our door, entered, and asked where I'd been all night. My eyes widened as I turned to my mom, whose eyes had narrowed considerably. My credibility took a big hit that moment.

Steve
eventually moved back to where he used to live. His sister hung around and my brother ended up marrying her and hauling her to live with him in Alaska.

I eventually regained my mother's trust. I believe I was thirty-five, married, and a father by then.

 

Author Notes Image from Google


Chapter 13
Karen wth the Brown Eyes

By Bill Schott


I was walking down the main street of my home town on a Thursday evening in the summer of 1973. I recall it was Thursday, as that was bingo night at the community center.

Walking towards me from the direction of the before mentioned community center, was a tall, slender girl with long brown hair. She was as skinny as the proverbial rail and sported a pair of BC glasses.

She was across the street from me when she stopped, pulled a pack of cigarettes from her small purse on a long strap, tapped one out, lit it, then proceeded to my side.

Exchanged some kind of greeting and I discovered that she was in town with her mother and aunt who were both at the bingo hall. We walked around a couple of blocks, talking like we had known each other a long time. She told me where she lived, but I forgot it almost immediately.

Eventually a Chevy van pulled up to where we stood and the passenger window went down. Her aunt stuck out her head and called for her to get in. They had been driving around looking for her for a half an hour. That was likely an exaggeration as one could circle the town thirty times in that amount of time.

I had told her where I lived and that I worked everyday at the gas station across from my house.

Time went by, I saw her once in her boyfriend's car. She came to my house. She was no longer skinny and had definitely blossomed in the chest area. She had also upgraded her glasses to wire frames, which made a huge difference as well.

We talked a bit and when she left I wished that she was my girlfriend.

Within a week or so, her mother, who regularly stopped for gas at the station, asked me to do her a favor. She wanted me to ask her daughter out. It seemed that no one liked her boyfriend and she, her mother, thought I might steal her away from him. He was out of town deer hunting at the time.

For whatever reason I said yes. That evening I stopped in at the bar she worked at and asked her out. She said she had a boyfriend, but I could pick her up after work and we could hang out. I did, we did, and then she made a move on me.  At no time did her easy availability cause me any alarm. It was the seventies; right?

We kissed and groped for a while until I had to get home to get a couple hours of sleep before going to work. It was a few days before I saw her again, and then she said she was going back to her boyfriend. I think she missed his car.

Their relationship was actually dead, but she didn't want to live at home anymore. I lived in my brother's home, so convenience dictated her housing. Eventually she asked me to pick her up to go and see a movie. I brought my car, we bought some beers, skipped the movie, and parked behind her parents' house.  In the front seat of my Dodge Dart, I experienced my first intercourse. I would not recommend this vehicle for having sex, but I do endorse the sex whether in a car, boat, or wheelbarrow.

I guess I had won her heart and I actually proposed marriage, because I figured that was what people do who have sex. Naivety was my strong suit. She just laughed at me every time.

At some point while we were looking at some pictures of her and her brothers and sisters when they were five or six, I realized that Karen was a girl I liked back in kindergarten before she moved away. Somehow I had found her again. It was kismet in my mind.

One day, between getting ready to begin Marine Corps boot camp and figuring out what to do about Karen, I proposed again. This time she accepted.

So, in September 29th of 1974, I left for boot camp. On December 24th, I graduated, returned home, and got married on the 28th.



 

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