Semester 1 Excerpts
From Snippet 1: Nuke #1
I guess I got officially and irrevocably gay on the last day of The Seventh. That’s when Sister Mary Genesius (patron saint of clowns and torture victims—and on the last day of The Seventh I was about to be a little of both) told us to spend our summers reading books and urging our parents to take us to the Classic Cinema in Milwaukee. “Has anybody ever heard of the Little Tramp?” Genesius asked.
Then the hand in the air that permanently changed the life of one of the nuns’ favorite athletes, scholars, altar boys and paperboys:
“The Little Tramp? Of course, I live with The Little Tramp—my sister Dipsy!”
Biggest laughs I ever got. One of the biggest looks of angered chagrin I ever got from a nun, too. I swear I only knew of the term “tramp” in terms of “hobo.”
From Snippet 2: The Eighth: Inside Dickie’s Mind: A Time to Fructify the Whole Frame
To prove myself Wayward-worthy, I was assigned the task of depantsing Dougie Carroll in front of The Fine Nine.
From Snippet 3: Lamar’s Dad In Stir? Dry’s Soon “BZ” on the ‘Ol Suckometer and
his Brat is Charred Beyond Redemption
It’s hard for a veteran Packerland fry-out guy to burn his bratwurst. After all, most everybody likes the brat dark brown and a bit on the hard side anyway. Plenty of time and plenty of room for cooking error. Nonetheless, Landry “Dry” Lander, my best friend’s dad, Lamar’s dad, once did have his brat charred beyond redemption. At the time, evidently, his soul was already in such a state.
Absolutely, Lamar’s dad played an influential role in the “all what?” maelstrom of The Eighth about to upheave Dickie Fleegle. In retrospect, perhaps Mr. Lander played a minor role, but it’s tough to ignore the influence of a best friend’s dad who could transmute a brain vessel like Dry Lander could. Sometimes I think he even had more influence on me than he even did on his own son. The guy held strong opinions, and I wanted some. Dry “BZ” had a talent for speaking and acting. I felt I did, too. I watched and I listened to the one man I knew in The Springs who wasn’t going to get his vessel of a mind stuffed like a prolix gut. This hulking, outspoken man wasn’t about to take, swallow and digest anybody’s s***, and I was beginning to admire that. One spring Sunday in 1967 his car washing fun was interrupted by some major s***: three nuns cruising for action in a 1957 Ford Country Squire woodie wagon.
From Snippet 5: “Epic” and Murder get him in; “Anus” gets him out: Forgive me,
Father, for I Have Sinned and I Know not What I do
“God forgives you, Dickie,” said Mrs. Lander.
“Golly, I’m just not very hungry, Mrs. Lander. I mean no disrespect. The cookies smell good,” I said.
“I’m referring to the ‘Anus’ incident. I’m sure your dad will forgive you, too,” she said.
“I dunno, Mrs. Lander. Dad holds a grudge for a long time. Longer than God, I suspect. I kinda let him know how bad that Epic was, you know, kinda like the way your husband did the day Lamar and I played that Joan Baez record on your family stereo: 'Get rid of that s*** or I will explode like Nagasaki!’”
From Snippet 14: Recognition of Artistry Through One’s “Anus” and a Voyage
for Peeping Toms
For my journal only (fall of 1966)! I just found out what a “voyeur” is! No, not from Gary Long. It was in the unabridged dictionary, not the ones the nuns hand out. I did then ask Gary, just to see if he could really be trusted regarding knowledge of sex terms. “That means somebody who is going on a long trip, usually by boat,” he said. Duh! “Gary, I think that’s a ‘voyager.’ The dictionary says it’s somebody who gets erratic (sp?) pleasure from sneaking peeks at somebody else.” “Yeah,” Gary said, “but you gotta go on a long trip to get that sneaky viewing pleasure. You sure don’t wanna get caught doing that kind of nasty Peeping Tom s*** in your own neighborhood, right? People would think you’re a perv. Double duh!” That kind of makes sense.
From Snippet 41: How Strap got the Nickname that Stuck
As is the case with many kids in The Eighth throughout the year, nicknames tended to change and change often. Ellerman was mostly known as “El” or “Skeeter,” until before the first football game of the season. His mom had burst into the “locker room” that had no lockers. It was a rundown house next to the church and just across from the comparatively ritzy Bleak House. The guys were putting on their uniforms. In her hand, she waved a bit of the uniform that we usually put on first: “Johnny, you forgot your strap!” Jesus, the guys went howling nuts. Instantly, Ellerman was branded.
“Ma, please leave!”
“As you change into a man, you need support!”
“I was just gonna pull up my underwear extra tight, Ma!”
“You think years from now I’m gonna be blamed if some accident on the field leaves you unprotected and you can’t have kids?” his mom announced. We barely could hear her, as the laughter regarding her fear Johnny might end up sterile was so loud.
Johnny had to find a way to live that new nickname down, and that was not going to be easy, as Gary Long immediately started calling him “Strap.” In fact, that was one of the few nicknames from The Eighth that stuck with anybody for life, although, unfortunately, it turned out to be a very short life for Strap.
“Ha! Johnny’s mommy is afraid that no jock on the c**k might make ‘Strap’ Ellerman stereo!” taunted Gary Long all during the football season. True, Gary had come to rely on me to fix his vocabulary, but I passed on this one. Too much fun.
From Snippet 46: A “Defining Moment” for Dad, the Scribes, The Springs and
the Parish, Although They Eventually Did Stop Talking About it to His Jimmyness
and Paul VI Never did Call Back
“I just don’t see what the big deal is!” Dry BZ Lander said on “Onions” that afternoon. “I mean, even Jesus had an anus, right?” Jimmy Twaddle bleeped the word “anus,” now knowing it was not the word mispronounced for the spice.
“Jimmy, I bet you bleeped my ‘anus,’ right, Jimmy?”
“Twice now, Dry. Now speak the rest of your ‘Onions’ on this topic of obscene poetry that denounces moral Christians. We’ve got lots of others waiting to talk.” Dry hung up the phone. However, about ten minutes later, a call came in from “Rome.” Jimmy Twaddle was flattered and stunned. With a brief introduction, Jimmy immediately put the Assistant Pope on the air. (Puggy: Remember that these were the Dark Ages prior to caller I.D. and way before the Internet when you could stream radio.)
“Folks, I guess news of the obscene poem that denounces Christians has already gotten to Rome! I have on the line our Vice Pope. Go ahead, your…uh…Vice Papalness…”
“Assistant Pope, Jimmy. Vice Pope sounds a bit weird, like I might be doing naughty things. First-time caller!”
“So would you, the Assistant Pope, excommunicate anyone who writes such poetry?” Jimmy asked “I am confident that you would excommunicate anybody who participates in the…uh…act of sodomy, right, Your Assistant Holiness?”
“I am not sure, Jimmy. In a way, I find “Anus” refreshing.”
“Refreshing? your Assistantness?”
“Well, when we Catholics were persecuted and had to hide in the catacombs, hey, we realized what prejudice was all about. So we can identify with homosexuals,” said Jihad.
“So the Assistant Pope is partial to “Anus”?
“I didn’t say that, your Jimmyness. I just said we ought to take a long look at that ‘Anus’ before we cast the first stone. But more later, after I consult with the pontiff. I’ll get off the line now and listen in. I hope that Chink Laundry guy calls in today. He’s such a hoot!” A few minutes later he did.
“Hey, Chink here! Why da heck do you and Assistant Pope get to say duh A-word but other folks get bleeped out duh anus (bleep!), huh? It ain’t fair, Jimmy!”
From Snippet 51: Rock Makes it to the Springs Late—After the Threat of the Pregnancy
Siren Dies Down
Now back to our regularly scheduled tragedy of The Eighth, which includes a bit of Greek tragedy: Dickie being so ignorant as to think the rock-music pregnancy “sirens” they were talking about on “Onions” and writing about in the Astonisher were the loud, warning blasts like one would hear before the Ruskies dropped The Big One. It turned out those Sirens were the mythological creatures in The Odyssey who lured sailors to their watery graves.
How the hell was I to know “Sirens” applied to the supposed dangers of rock music was an allusion to ancient Greek lore? We weren’t to study Edith Hamilton’s book until The Ninth. I didn’t read any of that crap in The Eighth—just The Graduate (actually skimmed part of it), Jacqueline Susann’s Valley of the Dolls, parts of a medical book when I could get my hands on it, the newspaper I delivered and all the photo-spread captions in Boobs Galore! Triple duh, Dickie, voyager in the perilous seas of The Eighth. Plug your ears with wax before ignorance of the sounds of those seductive female creatures destroys you. Or in the least, tune out Nancy Sinatra’s “Sugar Town” when it’s on the air because you saw the album cover in the store and the song alone now gives you a tell-tale bikini boner. Jaguar’s raw-voiced “Satisfaction” s*** might be your Orpheus singing a strident distraction on a different frequency. No boners when that ugly . . . wails. In other words, God, that Nancy Sinatra was hot! And the single? God, the B-side of “Sugar Town” was “Summer Wine”! I bought the 45, but I had to hide it. I so much ached to be that silver-spurred cowboy with those strawberries, cherries and an angel’s kiss in spring. Hell, forget the fruit, I’ll just take the kiss.
From Snippet 56: Dapper Dickie Bests the Prez by a 4 to 0 Vote
I had four friends I could trust in The Eighth: Lamar Lander, Johnny Ellerman, Craig Stone and Joe Baker. The day after journalist Ogilvy talked to our class, I posed the same question to all four, on serious, separate occasions to make sure I got their real reactions and not just the banter I would get with four guys in The Eighth joking around.
I started with my best friend: “Suppose Tiffany had an opportunity to be with Dickie Fleegle or JFK, Lamar. Which one would she choose, and why?”
“Who the hell is Tiffany?” asked Lamar.
“That girl in stretch pants making chocolate chip cookies,” I replied.
“The one with her . . . hanging over the sink in Boobs Galore! That Tiffany?"
“Yes! Who wins? Me or JFK?”
“You do, Dickie.”
I was elated.
“See, Dickie, I know for a fact that JFK was allergic to chocolate.”
“Lamar, get serious!”
“You want me to get serious over a question like that?”
“Well, you still win, Dickie,” Lamar said. “JFK was a devoted Catholic and a married family man. No way he would fool around like that. Even though my dad says JFK ain’t never gonna be named a saint, I know for a fact that he would never stray, even for stretch pants, fresh-baked cookies and sweet, succulent melons seductively hanging over the sink.”
“Nice, spontaneous alliteration, Lamar!”
“I have my moments,” Lamar said.
Strap also voted for me: “Are we talkin’ the alive president JFK, or the soon-to-be-saint-but-dead JFK, Dickie?”
“Does it really make a difference, Strap?”
“Come to think of it, probably not. Saints are above all that sex stuff. Sainthood is supposed to be even better than sex. Then again, if you were married to that beautiful Jackie, would your **ck even need to be put anywhere else, Fleegs? That would be dumb. Kennedy was a smart man.”
“Good point, Strap. And thanks for voting for me over JFK. It means a lot.”
Then C-Man: “Of course, the C-Man Stoner would be Tiffany’s stud of choice. But otherwise, I gotta go with Dickie Fleegle. As president, JFK musta got hold of lot better porn than Boobs Galore! Therefore, he wouldda had a lot more and better options than Tiffany, and maybe their phone numbers, too.”
We almost got into a fistfight. C-Man, however, immediately detected my anger at his having disrespected my Tiffany. He was not a fighter. Besides, I was his employer, and he did need the money he brought in from subbing on my paper route. “On the other hand, Dickie, since I have seen the shot of Tiffany hanging over the sink with her cookies, I’d say JFK would have been a fool not to go for Tiffany. Still, I give the edge to the Fleegs…uh…just because Dickie Fleegle has an even better sense of humor than JFK did, and you know how chicks go for that.”
So C-Man did redeem himself and save his job.
And Joe Baker: “So you gonna tell the nuns that I really don’t charge money for my math tutoring, right, Dickie?”
“But you do. You want me to lie, Joey?”
“No. But just tell them it’s a nickel. Just a nickel, OK?”
“Oh, and you. You easily over JFK, Dickie. Why the hell would Tiffany go for a real old guy, even if he was still alive? They want the young ones.”
“I thought they went for the guys with money and fame, Joey.”
“Uh, yeah, that’s true. And Dickie Fleegle is the richest kid in The Eighth, right? Who the hell else has a route that brings in 10 bucks a week?” Baker said. “And Fleegle is one of the most popular guys in The Eighth.”
“Good point, Joey. Now just give me one more bit of advice. If I ask Tiffany on a date, what should I wear?”
“That’s easy, you dapper son******ch!”
“Dapper? Who the hell ever uses that word?”
“My dad does, Dickie.”
“Whatever. What the hell makes me dapper?”
“The Full Cleveland, Dickie. Wear The Cleveland and you’ll not only have Tiffany topless over the sink mixing you cookies, but that babe will also be yankin’ off those stretch pants in record time! And don’t forget to tell the nuns I only charge a nickel, Dickie. Yeah, that Tiffany will definitely fall for the Full Cleveland and Dapper Dickie. Definitely! said Baker.
“Do you think she wears panties under those stretch pants, Joey?”
“Let me know, dapper Dickie. Be sure to let me know.”
It’s good to have close, honest friends to boost your spirits in The Eighth.
From Snippet 57: Seagull Gets the Dips to Talk Mini-Skirts and the F-Word for Ten Bucks
“Dickie, your father and I believe those skirts are so obscenely short that the outline of the symbol of femininity you talk about can practically be seen by God and everybody!” Mom said.
“But wait! Are you saying that feminism and femininity are the same thing, Mom? What’s your take on that, Dad?” I said.
“Your dad knows that those feminists are hardly feminine, don’t you, Senior?”
“Well…” Dad began. But Mom had the momentum and, whenever she wanted it, she had the floor.
“Now, can I make it any more straightforward than that, kids?” Mom said. “Wearing a mini-skirt is another clear-cut example of the sin of pride. No Fleegle will succumb to that sin!”
“OK, Mom, you caught me,” I confessed.
“Caught you doing what?” she asked.
I intended on wearing a mini-skirt to school tomorrow,” I said. The impertinence was worth it: Dad had to pretend to cough to cover his laughter.
“Stop being such a smartass, Dickie!” said Mom. “This is a serious matter. Your father and I think the nuns have every right to act for an embarrassed God and punish any slutty sinner in a mini-skirt,” Mom said as the semi-final words spoken at supper that night. Dad’s eyes stayed fixed on his mashed potatoes and Dipsy slunk low in her chair.
From: Snippet 59: Doing What is Best for Dry “Below Zero” Lander, and I Don’t Have a Girlfriend!
“Is it possible to be selfish and yet charitable at the same time, Stir?” No way—with my reputation as a big mouth established halfway through The Eighth—was I going to ask Albia that one during Catholic Doctrine Q & A. So I got Dougie to do it.
“Douglas, a very interesting question! What do you think?” asked Albia.
“I think the two bucks Dickie Fleegle gave me for asking this question was absolutely worth it!”
Damn. Dougie with a sense of humor? We all knew he had one, but willing to try it in front of all of us and a nun? Impressive.
“Douglas, when somebody in The Eighth talks to God, what does he or she ask for?”
“Stir, you never ask God for anything. That would be selfish,” Dougie said. “You ask God what He wants from you.”
“Suppose your goldfish is dying, Douglas.”
“OK, I then might ask God to save Pookie.”
Pookie? That guy had to be a bona fide, flaming sissy. Pookie?
“So is that selfish?” Albia asked.
“In a way, Stir…”
“Would you use a standard prayer, or do you compose an original one to save Pookie, Douglas?”
“Of course, I would start out with the specific request, because to my knowledge—and correct me if I’m wrong—there are no specific prayers asking for continued life for a goldfish.”
From: Snippet 63: The Ticket. Also, Grabass Gary Sets a New Conduct Card Points-Deduction Record
Some kids said that when she got promoted, as a reward and sign of authority that should not be challenged, the pope sent a mother superior one irrevocable, emergency, automatic Ticket to Hell that she could use on anyone she pleased. Only one per nun per lifetime, so, obviously, the nun would have to use that Ticket under the direst of circumstances. The rumor: Butkus told Gary she would cash it in on him if he ever breathed a word to anybody about the bleachers grope with Miss Becker. Gary Long was a self-professed Christian hell-raiser. However, Gary was terrified that someday he would raise hell but hell would not go back down—until Satan had Gary trapped inside. In his own, minimal, narrow way, Gary Long was the perfect Catholic: He believed it all, particularly stories about the consequences of bus hits without benefit of confession and tales of superior nuns with one costly Ticket for a quick and one-way ride to eternal damnation. So the Butkus Ticket threat did terrify Gary.
“If they can hand out indulgences to make your stay in purgatory shorter, they sure can hand out a Ticket to Hell,” said Gary. “Maybe they don’t zap your sorry ass Down There right away,” he told Dougie after what became known as “The Grope Game,” “but who wants to live his entire life knowing that no matter how good you are, you still got to cash in that Butkus Ticket to Hell? Not Gary Long.” Gary also told Dougie that he had a dream where Butkus was driving a bus into the woods “busting up trees like she was driving a tank… and just after I had committed the mortal sin of feeling up a woodsie, Butkus ran me over and sent me immediately to hell, no ticket even required.” That’s as close as anybody ever got to hearing Gary talk about The Grope Game and its hellish consequences.