You ask me what the oddest and most embarrassing episode of my life was, and one particular weekend in 1943 has to be right up there. This was a weekend that I was home from college, my younger brother Adam was home on leave before he went overseas, and my husband Dennis, who was not my husband at that time, was not home because he was up visiting some relatives of his in Tuttle, OK.
My brothers and I have always gotten along pretty well. Part of it was because I was the oldest and they knew better than to try and run my life, not that I would have put up with any shit from them if they'd tried. At the same time, we looked after each other, and if you messed with one of us, you were going to have the other two all over your ass. Ask anybody in Koenigsburg, TX. It was true then and it's true today. Still, while Eugene (nobody ever called him that) and I have always been cool with each other, it was with Adam that I had a special relationship—no, not that kind of special! Well, I guess. Sort of. That one time. All right, I'm getting there.
As I've said, we always looked out for each other. I beat up people who picked on him, right up until he graduated high school and joined the Army, and he always knew how to pick me up when I was feeling blue. When we were little kids I had scarlet fever so bad that I had to go to the hospital. They wanted to cut my hair off, but I wouldn't let them. Adam was not supposed to be there, because little kids were not supposed to be in the hospital, but you could not have kept him out any more than you could have kept out air or roaches. So the nurses just gave up: they showed him how to wash my hair and look after it, and even after I got well, he did it from time to time for years after that, to cheer me up. I've told him that if all else failed he could always be a shampoo boy.
It was late summer, hot as hinges and all the stuff in the garden coming ripe at once. I had been at school all summer, taking as many courses as I could so I could graduate ahead of time and come back and work in Dr. Muldaur's veterinary clinic. Now it was the time between the end of the summer and the beginning of fall, and I was ready for a break. I had caught the train up from A&M, and jumped off at the whistle-stop in Koenigsburg. Dad was there waiting for me and he helped me throw my stuff in the back of the truck.
As we went down the hot, dusty highway, we talked. The garden had done really well, and Mom expected to do a lot of canning. It looked like the sorghum crop was going to do well. Most of the local farmers had given up on cotton; it seemed like the boll weevil was still king in the land. He talked about people who were overseas, and who had lost a son or husband or brother. Also, Gene had left home.
"That's crazy, he's only eighteen! Did something happen? Where did he go? What can he possibly be doing?"
"You know how all he's ever wanted to do was fix cars. Well, Mr. Haller offered him a sort of apprenticeship in his garage and he jumped at it. He was so set on it, there wasn't much I could do; I at least got Haller to promise that he would still go to school until he was old enough to graduate. And he'll still come home and help us if we really need it. There's an apartment over the garage and he's living in it.
"So, what do you plan to be up to during your short break?"
"Oh, I don't know. Helping at home, I guess. Working in Dr. Muldaur's clinic. Palling around with Dennis. He's around, isn't he?" I didn't know where he would be if he wasn't. He was the sole support of his family, since his father had died, and an only son, so he was exempt from going off to war.
Dad gave me a sideways look. "He'll probably be around in a few days, but he isn't right now. He's in Oklahoma."
"Oklahoma! What in God's name is he doing there?"
"Visiting kin, believe it or not. Old Jake had an aunt or something he was estranged from, but now she's dying and she wants to make her peace with Dennis since Jake is dead. She has some land up there, too. For what it's worth."
"Hah! For what it's worth," I said. And what could that be? How many acres of dust were we talking about?
Immediately some of the shine went out of the day. I'd been looking forward to seeing Dennis. He wanted to marry me, and I had been resolutely putting him off as far as that was concerned, because I wanted to get my degree and get started in my work, but that didn't prevent me from having a ton of fun with him when I was in town. I'd looked forward to seeing his blue and gold eyes light up when he saw me, and feeling his brawny arms around me. And when we were alone together…
I love me a big man, I purely do. I knew I probably would marry him when I'd taken care of those other matters first, because any big, or tall, woman who's got a big man is a fool if she lets him get away. Ah, the bliss of it! Never to have to slouch in an effort to look short, and to be able to wear high heels, assuming that one wanted to wear such torture devices. Besides, all the way home on the train, with the hum and vibration of the rails beneath me, and each irregularity of the tracks, I'd been getting surreptitiously soaking wet with excitement, thinking of the meat and drink of his kisses, and how we'd be so eager to get at each other we wouldn't even bother with a bed, at first: we'd get each other's clothes off, and then I'd take a standing jump into his arms. He was tall enough and strong enough to take me standing; he'd cradle my ass in his hands and stick me onto his cock, which was built just like he was, wide as well as long, and I'd wrap my arms and legs around him like a lemur and just go to town, laughing and groaning, braced between him and the nearest wall.
And now he was in Oklahoma. Damn!
"Boy, did I ever sour your milk with that news! Hey, he's going to be back before school starts again. Besides, I have another surprise for you. One that you'll like a little bit better than the one I just gave you."
I gave Dad a jaundiced look and slumped against the passenger door of the truck, trying to imagine what a pleasant surprise could be. What could you surprise anybody with in these days? A new wardrobe? What was that? Every bit of cloth was rationed. Besides, I didn't care about that kind of thing. A new car? Now, that was something I'd like. Or any kind of car that ran. Fat chance! The richest man in town didn't have a new car.
We pulled up into the gravel drive in front of the house, and Dad tooted the horn. Mom came out, wiping her hands on her apron. Beside her was a tall, lanky figure in an Army uniform.
With a whoop of delight, I tore out of the truck and ran to meet him.
"Goofy!" I cried, as my little—ha! Not so little now—brother swung me into his arms and whirled me in a mad circle before setting me down on the grass. "When did you get in? How long have you been here?"
"Couple days," Adam said. "Now, can I please go and get into something more comfortable? Mom's made me stay in uniform half the day, because she wanted you to see me dressed up."
He gave me a couple of resounding kisses on my cheeks and dashed into the house.
"Now, I do feel better," I said. "I didn't think we'd really get to see him before he had to go to Europe. How long is he staying?"
Mom sighed. "Not as long as I'd like," she said. "I think he's going to be here for a week. Lord, I'm going to be so worried about him."
"He'll be all right," I said. "They're not going to use him for cannon fodder. He's far too knowledgeable about electrical stuff and blowing things up. He'll be something technical for sure. EOD or the Engineer Battalion or something."
"I hope so." We got my things out of the truck and put them in my room. Adam was back in civilian clothes, and typically, foraging around the kitchen in hopes of finding something to munch on. Ever since he had hit adolescence, he had been a walking appetite, and that hadn't changed.
One thing had, though. He had reached his height of six feet, two inches so fast, the rest of his growth was some time catching up to it. When he got out of high school, he weighed one hundred and thirty-five pounds soaking wet. But regardless of what you heard about Army chow, it seemed to have agreed with him. I thought he'd gained about twenty-five pounds, which meant that he actually weighed more than I did. It was all nicely distributed and none of it was fat. He was still too skinny to be Mr. Universe but you had to admit he'd improved.
When the sun had begun to retreat towards the horizon and it wasn't so hot, we came outside and sat down on the porch steps.
"It sure is nice to have you back for a while," I said. "You been into town? I mean, besides when you got off the train."
"Couple of times," he said. "Mom wanted everyone to see me in uniform, so I dressed up to please her the last time we went."
"You get any looks from the girls?"
Adam grinned. "Got all kinds of second glances from girls who wouldn't have looked at me the first time when we were still in school."
"Have you taken any of them out?"
"Do you think you will?"
"What's the point? I am exactly the same guy they shot down before I signed up. Surviving training and putting on a uniform isn't going to have changed me that much."
He had a point. For some reason, he'd tended to miss with girls all the time we were coming up. I could never figure out quite why. That's not true. I knew why—I just didn't regard it as a sufficient reason. As much as we in the family all loved him, we'd have been lying to claim he was normal. Most girls like being able to add a man up, but my brother didn't add up. At least, every time you tried to add him up, you got a different answer. Even I, who knew him about as well as anybody, couldn't put my finger on what made him different. Maybe it was the air he gave of being a half-step out of synch with the parade of life. Or the inability to carry on the kind of small-talk conversation so dear to the heart of a teenaged girl. Or his blind need to bend your hapless ear with whatever he was currently enthusiastic about, or knowledgeable about, whether you wanted to talk about it or not. Or the idea you got that, behind his visionary eyes, he was carrying on some kind of dialog with someone and it wasn't you. He used to be a lot odder than that as a little kid, but Dad, afraid that he would end up not being good for anything and be a charge on the family when he got older, determined that he was going to instill normalcy into him, and he partially succeeded, though he used methods which would certainly draw the attention of Child Welfare if you used them now.
But for whatever reason, I can't think of a single honest to God date or dating relationship that he ever had all through high school. He made pretty decent grades, especially in math and science, and he was a track star—there was a shelf in the curio cabinet in the parlor that was reserved for all the trophies he won for good old Koenigsburg High, but if there was a dance or a party going, he went stag.
It pissed me off. "Phony bitches," I grumbled.
Adam gave me a sidewise grin. "Language, sis! Better watch out that Mom doesn't hear you," he said. "I let one slip this morning—she said she wouldn't take the coal tar soap to me because I'm Serving Our Country. However, you don't have that going for you."
"I am part of the effort to ensure the health of the nation's animals," I said. "That counts for something."
"But you aren't wearing a uniform."
"All right, all right!" I said. "So, Little Bro, you look like the Army's done you a lot of good. By the way, did you ever at any point along the way, manage to lose it?"
His long-lashed gray eyes widened as he gave me a look of phony innocence. "Lose what?"
I socked him on the upper arm. "You know what I mean!"
He looked away from me, out across the sorghum fields. "Yeah."
"You don't say! Anybody we're likely to hear about?"
"I doubt it. After I made it through boots a bunch of the guys took me into town to celebrate. We went to…this place. I'd gotten paid and everything. And…well, you know."
I knew what society and the churches and all taught us about morals—and didn't believe most of it, at least not the sex part. It struck me as an institutionalized raw deal for women—where women were supposed to come to the marriage bed all pure and innocent (read: ignorant) and the men experienced. I didn't think ensuring men were just as ignorant was the solution, but it made me sad to think of my nice kid brother, whom a lot of girls could do worse than, getting it like that. But that was just the way things were.
"You be careful, now. You don't want to be picking up a disease from one of those places."
"Don't worry about me; I can take care of myself. They showed us a film in training. And we can get protection cheap."
"That's good. So, how was it? Was it what you hoped?"
"Yeah. I guess." He continued to look out across the fields.
"It wasn't, was it?"
"Well…it didn't seem like that much of a stretch from what you can do with yourself—and what you can get, um, other ways—"
I would not like to say that my brother had never had any action of any kind. There were a very few girls, mostly out-of-town visitors, who thought he looked interesting, got told by the friends they stayed with that being seen with him would do nothing for them socially, but didn't mind a little secretive fooling around with him—the kind of thing that felt good but resulted in no pregnancy, which we were all scared of in those days. None of them would walk up the main street with him, but they didn't mind necking and petting with him in some out-of-the-way place, and he accepted their terms, and got what fun he could out of it, because he would do anything for attention, for the feel of a woman pressed against his body.
"It taught me something about myself," he continued.
"And that was—?"
"I want someone to be with on a regular basis—not to have to go chasing it here and there like some of the guys do."
I couldn't think what to say. I didn't see this happening if he stayed in Koenigsburg.
"It'll happen someday," I finally said. I felt like getting up and moving around, and I got up from the steps, using one hand on top his head, with its pelt of short, thick, off-black hair, for leverage. He was ready to take the slight weight I exerted, because I had been doing this for years. I dug in my pocket for my pack of Luckies and shook one out, putting it to my lips. "Want one?"
"No thanks," he said.
"Huh! So you didn't take up smoking when you got out in the world," I commented, lighting up.
"That stuff's bad for you," he said. "Besides, it makes your hair smell. 'Course I guess it doesn't matter if Dennis smokes too. Say, I heard you were real sore when you found out he was out of town."
"I expect to be even sorer after he's been home for a while," I said. I didn't know why I said that—it just came out. A wash of pink ran along Adam's cheekbones, and I could feel my own face heating up.
"This conversation's getting wild," he said. He got up from the porch steps, brushing dust off his skinny butt, and went into the house, leaving me alone outside with my smoke.
The next day Mom asked me to pull weeds in the vegetable garden and that was when I saw the cucumber. Earlier in the summer, the garden had been full of them, but Mom had caught and pickled nearly all of them when they were small. I knew that in the pantry there were jars of pickles of all kinds: sweets, dills, bread-and-butter sliced. This one had been overlooked and was even bigger than salad cucumbers were allowed to get. It was so late and ripe it had a bronze flush to it. I bent down and picked it, hefting it in my hand. It was hard and vaguely three-sided, and warmed from its exposure to the sun. It felt exactly like a cock, I thought. All it lacked was the knob. Holding it with one hand and sliding my hand up and down it, I realized my pussy was getting hot and swollen, like a sun-ripened fruit.
I took the cuke into the house and washed it very thoroughly. This was necessary, for cucumbers straight out of the garden were not the sanitized things you see in the grocery nowadays. Those are waxed, and slick and oily to the touch. This one was knobby, slightly grainy with garden dirt. When I had cleaned it and dried it, I stuck it under my pillow. I was looking forward to bedtime tonight. I had not planned on a date with a cucumber when I came home, but it was better than nothing.
However, after dinner, Mom and Dad had to take the truck into town. I didn't feel like going with them. They didn't take Adam with them, because he said he was going for a run. That boy loved to run, even when he wasn't competing. You'd have thought he'd have enough running in basic training, but go figure! It was almost like an addiction with him and he felt out of kilter if he didn't get his run every day. Nobody knew from endorphins in those days, but he knew what was good for him.
I had seldom found myself alone in the house when I was coming up. Mom and Dad preferred to load us kids in the truck and haul us along when they went into town, and the boys were always in and out when we were home.
I went to my room and lay down on the bed. It was hot, and I had to close the curtains against the sunlight and keep the windows open to let in a breeze at the same time. A small fan sat on the high old bureau next to the bed, and I turned that on, training the air to circulate onto my body.
I took off my pants and pushed them down to the end of the bed, and unbuttoned my shirt. Under my shirt, I almost never wore a bra. Then, my breasts were pretty small, and they were very high and firm, so I didn't really need one.
I hadn't really planned to play with myself during the day, when it would have been so much more convenient, as well as safer, to wait until everyone else was in bed, but I suppose then I should have chosen something different to read. One of my friends at school had a copy of Tropic of Cancer which her brother-in-law had smuggled from overseas, and she'd lent it to me. It was pretty raw stuff, but it worked; fresh moonshine may not taste very good but it can still get you drunk quicker than you can say.
Nevertheless, I found that I preferred my own imagination to Henry Miller's misogynistic musings, and I put the book aside and caressed my body and let a montage of images and remembered sensations pass through my mind. I twirled my thumbs over my hard nipples—oh, if only Dennis were there to lightly pinch one and flick the other one with his tongue! Ah, tongues—the dance between Dennis' and mine when we kissed…the taste and feel of that one little place on the underside of his cock, up near the slit, that when I licked it, he absolutely could not keep his hips still and he could not keep his voice down. The way he sounded when he was spurting deep into my cunt or into my mouth.
I couldn't stand it any longer. I brought the cucumber out from its hiding place under my pillow. It was still slightly warm from having been out in the sun, and I had taken care to maintain its temperature by washing it in hot water. Holding it in both my hands, I put it in my mouth, to get it wet and because I was still thinking of Dennis' cock, hearing him say that's it honey, you get down on your knees where you belong and open wide. Take it! You'll take it from me, Zandra!
I stripped my panties off and kicked them down to the end of the bed to join my slacks. Parting my legs wide, I nudged the tip of the cucumber between my swollen labia. I needn't have wetted the thing; I was already hot and slick down there, and the cuke went up inside me as easily as a plug into a socket. It was so long there was plenty of it for me to grab even when I was full, stretched nice and tight around it. I lay still for a second, savoring the feeling of having something between my legs even if it wasn't what I'd planned on. Then I began to work it in and out.
God, it felt good! It had been so long since I'd gotten to pleasure myself. My dorm at school didn't have housemothers and proctors who actually came around to make sure we were sleeping with our arms outside the covers, but it was a living memory; it didn't happen now because there was a war on and people had other things to think about—and I had roommates who slept lightly. It had to be a very quick and sneaky affair.
Slowly at first. We couldn't always measure our time together in hours; often we just got minutes. But when we did get time, there were times he liked to start out that way, just a little bit too slow, and he'd tease me along moving not quite in sync until I frankly admitted I was in pain for it and begged him to let me ride, and when I did, he'd lie back and watch me move until I'd stroked to a finish and finished him along with me.
Moving on my own, I discovered an angle to come in at that just drove me crazy—a delicious itchy place deep inside, up near the top somewhere. A feeling of nearly unbearable tightness and suspense. Sometimes when Dennis was holding me bent over by the hips and thrusting into me from behind like the animal he sometimes could be, he found it, but tended to change the angle just a tad too soon…God damn this felt good! I forgot about even fantasy. What I was doing felt good in itself. I pumped and rocked, my thighs tensed, my heels digging into the bed, my head pressed back into the pillow, giving it to myself good. I wished I could show him what I was doing—then he'd really know how to work me! Then suddenly it all started coming together. I strummed a finger on the hard ridge of my clitoris, and over the edge I went.
I felt like I was imploding. I trembled and gasped as my belly muscles tensed and my toes curled almost to the point of cramping. I wanted to shout, to growl and roar like a beast. Maybe I did make some noise; I hardly knew now where I was or what was going on. The world consisted of the part of me convulsing around the cucumber and under my hand.
Spent, I let my head roll to one side, feeling the contractions ebb out of me like distancing rumbles of thunder after a storm. When I did, I looked out the corner of my eye and saw someone standing in the door of my room.
Oh murder. Oh woe. Oh shit!
There not five feet away from me, stood Adam, his mouth open in what would have been a brain-wiped expression except that his eyes were blazing wide, more focused than I'd ever seen them in all his life.
He had a hand gripping his cock through his running shorts, not, I think, out of a desire to participate but because it had dealt him a monstrous betrayal, and he just wanted to keep it under control before it went and did something worse. His nostrils dilated; he took a deep, catching breath, and his throat worked; he'd always had a nose like a hound, and the air between us was heavy and humid with my scent.
Oh, why hadn't I locked the door?
My shock and fear and embarrassment found its most immediate expression in anger.
"You twisted little fuck!" I screamed. "OUT!" And for good measure, I picked up the book and hurled it at him. Emotion spoiled my aim, and I forgot to aim high; instead of hitting him in the head like I'd intended, it struck him in the chest. He let go of himself and caught the book. His dark eyebrows rose halfway up his forehead as he looked at the title. Then he looked at me. I had withdrawn the cucumber and pulled my thighs together. At sight of the cuke, he briefly put his hand over his eyes.
"Jesus!" he said. "I suppose I should be thankful you threw the book at me." Then he said, "Don't you know, you're not supposed to play with your food?"
He turned on his heel to leave the room and ran smack into Mom, who had been there who knew how long. And behind her, Dad, his eyes, not wide with shock, but squinting a little, as if what he was seeing was blasting them. What else could go wrong?
Mom said, "Adam. Mary Alexandra. What is the meaning of this?"
"It was an accident!" came out of us simultaneously, just like in the days when we'd be chasing each other through the house with make-believe swords and lances and a picture fell off the wall.
"An accident," Dad said. "Lord, I'd like to think so. Mary Alexandra, get decent, for Christ's sake. You two go sit out on the porch; your mother and I need to talk."
Even though it was still hot, it now seemed cold—I know I felt that way. We stood out there feeling even more frightened and miserable than we had the day we'd accidentally opened the door to Mrs. Sanderson's stock trailer and the half a dozen shoats had escaped and found their way into the town hall. Or the day that Louise Menoch caught me and her son Luther playing doctor at their house.
Smoking a cigarette seemed like an excellent idea. Mom hated my smoking, and I always had to do it outside, but I was in enough trouble as it was. And I was outside. I lit up a Lucky. I extended the pack to Adam, in case he would have changed his mind about the soothing qualities of nicotine. He hadn't.
"Thanks but no thanks, sis," he said. "I don't think it'll help."
I had gone through three of them when the door opened and my father came out onto the porch.
"Your mother will talk to you now," he said. We came into the house. He went into the kitchen and said something to Mom we didn't catch; then, I heard him say, "Don't give them any of that hellfire stuff, Marie. I don't believe in it and I won't have it. I think they've scared each other out of a year's growth, anyway." He went off to replace the tractor part which had occasioned his trip into town.
Mom was waiting for us in the kitchen. She motioned us to sit at either end of the oilcloth-covered table in the middle of the room, while she stood in a position of doom and judgment in front of the stove.
"You say it was an accident," she said. "I'm trying to figure out where the 'accident' part came in. I don't guess it was what you were doing, Mary Alexandra. I guess the accident was you barging into her room, Adam—care to tell me why you didn't do the gentlemanly thing and duck right back out?"
"I forgot." He sat with his head bowed, looking down at his clasped hands in front of him.
"This is a very serious thing that happened today," Mom said. "I just hardly know where to look, but that's nothing compared to your father. He's very upset; why he's left me to talk to you about this. I'm concerned with the state of your souls, but since I haven't been able to make you go to confession or Mass for two years, I'm not going to require you now."
I hated to think of the penances we'd have to do if we did.
"But—here's what you're to do. You're to go through the first five books of the Bible and make note of all the references to your sin—"
"Jesus, Mom!" Adam protested. "I didn't plan to spend my entire leave reading the Bible! It's going to work out to the whole Old Testament. Everybody in the Bible was married to their half-sister—"
I ducked my head to cover a smile. Oh, yes, and Lot.
"I am aware that," Mom said acerbically. "Therefore, the references to Mosaic law will do. You can get started this evening. Son, you get on out of here; Mary Alexandra, I want to talk to you alone."
I gathered I was still in trouble. I hadn't been called Mary Alexandra that many times in a single day since before I'd left for college.
Mom dropped into the chair that Adam had vacated, and sat regarding me silently for a couple of minutes. Her narrow face, which my brother had inherited, was creased with worry and her hazel eyes looked weary and old.
"I've always been proud of the way you looked out for your little brother," she said. "You always tried your best to protect him. I never thought he might need protecting from you."
"I never meant this to happen," I said. "Do you think I meant it to happen?"
"It never did before, has it?"
"No, Mom! Not like that. He—a long while back he, he sort of caught me with—with Dennis. I had to explain to him that Dennis wasn't hurting me…we talked. There were things he needed to know and I told him."
"I wish you'd hurry up and marry Dennis already," Mom said.
"I plan to."
"Don't wait too long. I hope you know how lucky you are that he's after you like he is. Most girls who think they can be a law unto themselves end up having to leave town and go where nobody knows them in order to marry anybody. And that brings me to what I want to say. You must know that your brother isn't exactly like—like other men. I think he'll be able to look after himself, make a living, but it's possible he might not ever marry."
"He needs to get out of Koenigsburg," I said.
"Even then," she said. "Zandra, there's a streak of odd in this family yea wide; and your father seems to think it might have come from—somewhere up the line, family members being too close to each other. I don't know if that's the reason, but why take chances? It's anathema anyway. I've always been worried about the two of you, the way you've always been so close. I know you've got hot blood; you came by it honestly, from both sides. It's another thing we've got; nothing wrong with it, as long as it expresses itself through—proper channels. A lot of parents wouldn't let a daughter be as free as we've let you be, because that's not the thing that your father's worried about. He's afraid that if your brother doesn't find anybody, and he gets too lonely…I know how much you love him; you'll want to help him, and—Zandra, promise me that you two won't ever turn to each other! After today, don't think we won't be looking out, but after your father and I are gone…promise me!"
"Mom! That's never occurred to me, and I don't think it's occurred to him!"
"I do not believe we are having this conversation! Is anybody else's family having this conversation?"
"Other people's families are not at issue here," Mom said. "Just ours. Is there anything that would prevent you from keeping a promise like this? Is there any reason you would not wish to?"
"Of course not! All right, all right, I promise! God, Mom!"
And that is how I spent much of my semester break and my brother spent his leave. Sometimes we served our sentence sitting at opposite ends of the kitchen table, shooting each other the occasional dirty look. For the next day or two, I felt too unsettled and diminished and abashed to think about sex very much, which was quite unusual for me.
I wanted to talk with him about what had happened, but at the same time I was afraid to. And, in fact what had happened? I thought of the way Mom always referred to him as my little brother, even though he was taller than Gene and Gene was the youngest of all of us. But Gene was more self-sufficient…not vulnerable the way Adam was. I wondered if something about today would end up warping him for life.
There is always stuff to do on a farm, and I swear, it was like they saved scutwork up for us—we could have been doing missionary work in Timbuktu for five years, and when we came back for a visit, besides the daily grind, there were always fence posts to be reset or weeding in the garden or the chicken coop to be cleaned out—always something.
As a matter of fact, a day before Adam was supposed to get on the train to report for his overseas duty, I had to do just that last thing. It needed doing, and Mom swore by chicken litter—she said there was nothing like it for conditioning a garden. After I was through with the stinking, miserable job, I washed my hands at the pump and went into the barn to replace the tools I'd used. While I was in there, I went looking for the pot of hand lotion that we kept as part of the agricultural worker's first line of defense against the sandpaper hands that would announce our station in life and put off our dance partners, and while I saw the Bag Balm in its usual place, the lotion was missing.
I knew where it was—my brother had taken it up into the hayloft. It was something both he and Gene did, at various times, going up into the hayloft to at times to daydream, but more often to jack off. I'd known about that, of course—I'd picked up the info here and there, from books and conversations with friends, and the merest inadvertent sightings of the boys. What I hadn't known was that they used the hand lotion, and I was outraged. My dad laughed for over five minutes, and even my mother, who tried so hard to maintain order and rectitude in the family, could not hide a smile.
"That's disgusting!" I'd yowled. "How am I expected to use this after they've been in it? Get 'em their own!"
That was what Mom and Dad had done, except that the solution did not work perfectly; they were always going and using theirs up or misplacing it somewhere, and then they'd carry off the family supply, just the way they borrowed my eyebrow tweezers to hold tiny parts while putting model airplanes together and Dad took Mom's funnel and used it to pour oil or gasoline into.
It figured, I thought; lubricant for their extracurricular activities was figured into the household budget and I caught hell.
A devilish smile curved my lips as I very slowly and stealthily mounted the ladder leading up to the hayloft, taking care not to tread in the middle of the third rung, which creaked. At the same time I remembered what my mother had said-- don't think we won't be looking out—and I realized that if I got caught this time I would probably get written out of the family Bible.
But I was reasonably sure they were not looking out right at this time and this was something that had started before the promise had been made.
He owed me this one.
I ghosted up the ladder, feeling like a spirit made of heated air.
Hay is itchy prickly stuff, and I am always amazed when I read about people getting even part-naked and love-wrestling around in it. Over the years, a couple of horse blankets had found their way up there, and because it was hot in the loft, he had stripped down. A shaft of westering, dust-moted light coming in through the upper door lit the planes and angles of his body—wiry, sinewy arms, long, stringy-muscled runner's legs, the wide bony rack of his shoulders, the sharp curves and points of his collarbones, his ribs and fleshless belly. It glimmered on the fairness of his normally unexposed skin and in his body hair, with that iridescence you sometimes saw in dark hair.
I had seen him working shirtless in the field and I'd seen him in his track suit, but I had not seen him totally naked since he'd been a little boy. He'd changed.
I'd duly made note of what I'd learned from that time with Luther, and I'd had fleeting glimpses of the penises of the men in the family—three of them, in good health, and only one bathroom in the house, how would I not? I'd seen all of them padding to the bathroom in the wee hours of the morning with morning boners, and they'd all presented fairly startling profiles.
God, he was big! There was no way he had any more than Dennis, but he was so much thinner than Dennis that what he had seemed…not quite real. But it was real all right, he had it in the grip of his right fist and I could hear the sound his lubed hand made sliding up and down on the shaft from where I was. His strong, slender neck was extended, his head thrown back; his face was intent, transcendent, the mouth drawn tight in concentration. His eyes were shut; I wondered what he was seeing behind his eyelids.
I didn't want to know. I watched his face go through the expressions I had seen on it when he doing any kind of hard physical work—every movement of his mouth or his eyebrows; it was almost as fascinating as what he was doing with his hands.
He had been sitting with his legs parted and folded under him, and now he leaned back on his left hand so he could rise with his hips—the better to get that necessary tension in his quadriceps that meant that he gathering himself to finish. It occurred to me that there was beauty in his thin, gold-limned body; his utterly absorbed face, even in the act he was performing. I had read that some pagan faiths believed that the gods had created the stars and the worlds and peopled them this way. I was seeing Adam as no one else might ever see him.
He was handling himself roughly and frantically, his hand almost a blur, his body tensed. It should not have been possible, but I seemed to see all of him and everything at once: the second all coherent thought abandoned his face; as his balls drew up and prepared to release their payload; the pistoning movement of his cock in his fist; the look of agonic bliss as his orgasm caught and took him over.
His first spurts flew incredibly far, into the hay somewhere; the rest fell in pearlescent streams over his hand. It was time for me to get out of Dodge. I was back down the ladder and out of the barn in nothing flat, my mind and body ablaze with what I had seen. I took off running. I've heard of a runner's high. Adam says he has had it. I've also heard, less frequently, of a runner's orgasm. It happened to me, just that one time. It didn't seem to count; it was bound up with the wild tenderness and sense of beauty I'd felt, looking at him. I arrived back at the house, winded. I leaned against one of the posts that held up the porch, listening to the sound of my breathing, still hearing the sound of his, as sharp as blade against stone. My body echoed and clanged. The scent of earth filled me. From within the house, I heard the crackle and tinny music from the radio. Out in the distance, the cows started making their leisurely way home, and my father, out on the tractor, turned it to start coming home, too. And time resumed its normal forward motion around me.
The next day we all took Adam into town to catch the train. He was dressed up in his uniform, looking natty and heroic, with his duffel bag beside him; we waited at the stop behind the general store for the train to come around the bend and puff and screech to a stop.
We all hugged and kissed him good-bye. Seconds before he stepped aboard, he said to me in a low voice, "I'm sorry I scared you like that, Sis."
"It's all right, Goofy," I said. "I'm sorry I called you a bad name." Then he swung his duffel aboard and climbed in after it. It would be a while before the train took off, but we did not stay around for that. Those running-alongside-the-train farewells work so much better when you have a long platform. Better yet, in the movies.
When I got home and went to my room to change out of the dress Mom had made me put on to go to town in, I saw that my pillow was not as I had left it on my bed. I lifted it up, and there was a half-burnt altar candle, obviously lifted from the sacristy at Our Lady of Sorrows. It had a piece of paper wrapped around it.
"Dear Sis," it read, in my brother's angular handwriting, "Maybe this will keep you out of the garden." I sat down on the bed and laughed until I cried.
The day after that, Dennis came back from Oklahoma, and we made up for all of our lost time.
That all happened more years ago than I care to think about. I married Dennis right out of college and went to work for Dr. Muldaur and eventually took over his practice. Our tribe has increased like Abou Ben Adhem's. Adam failed to justify Mom's worries about him; he married out of college—his wife was knocked up—later was widowed, and married again. I got along fine with both his wives, women with knockout figures and ten times as much education as he deserved. And he has had twice as many kids as either Gene or I, three daughters—one of whom is my favorite niece in the entire world—and a son. The boy was as odd a child as his dad had been; they diagnosed him with some kind of PDD thing and he keeps a team of neuropsychologists, behaviorists, and I don't know what all else, in yacht payments. Adam worked in avionics down in Houston for many years, retired, and now operates a wholesale rose growing business on his share of the land the folks left us.
Who knows if he remembers that time? It's not something we talk about, even in our family which is kind of infamous for saying exactly what's on our minds. As I said, it was long ago. I probably wouldn't think about it that much, myself, except that every now and again, we will have occasion to dine together, whether at a family gathering in one of our homes, or in a restaurant.
He always picks out and lays aside the cucumber in every salad you set before him. He says it upsets his system.
Author's note: It has been widely accepted in the autism spectrum community that such conditions as Asperger's syndrome, HFA, and other PDDs run in families. However, Adam and Zandra's parents were incorrect in supposing that whatever condition their son might have had was the result of inbreeding further back in their line. That is not to say that incestuous unions would not lock the condition in. In the time in which this story was set, autism spectrum disorders were neither clearly understood nor were they diagnosed. Even a dozen years ago, information about them was not easy to come by. Today, you can type the keyword "Asperger" into a search engine and come up with upwards of two dozen sites dealing with it and related conditions. You could say that autism spectrum people constitute a family of their own. But to assign the word incest to their couplings and breedings would defining the word much too broadly.