I remember walking into our house on Juanita Avenue in Redondo beach one afternoon and finding my father sitting on the couch with a woman. I must have been four years old. I’ve had to piece together some understanding of the event as an adult, and only began thinking seriously about the logistics of it recently, so here is some background as I have reconstructed it from memory.
When I was four my family lived on Juanita Avenue in Redondo Beach. It was a very different time, 1960, and things were a bit looser vis a vis kids in those days. I realize now that I must have been under the care of Mrs. Golding, who lived a few houses down from us. I don’t remember ever going to a nursery school, or being taken elsewhere while my mother was working as a substitute teacher. But I do remember spending a lot of time at the Goldings’, going to a shopping center with Mrs. Golding and her son Danny, watching and listening to one of the Goldings’ Mexican laborors play the guitar slouched back on the couch (oh, my first guitar exposure!). I assume Mrs. Golding was baby sitting me, because I know my mom worked, and I know she wasn’t around in the middle of the day.
But being baby sat by Mrs. Golding was not much like being supervised, as we, the kids in general and me in particular, pretty much had the run of the street all the way down to where it teed at the street the ran along the high school football field, and all the way back the other way to the street we had to cross to get to the neighborhood store where we bought candy, where I got my first candy bracelet and stood on the wood floor inhaling the aroma of it. I don’t recall ever being told I couldn’t wander off by myself from the rest of the kids, and there were lots. The Goldings had six that I can remember — George, the oldest at 12, I think, then a girl, them Loren, the mentally retarded one (George was said to have caused this by hitting Loren on the head with an iron when he was a baby), then another boy whose name I can’t remember who must have been seven or eight, and yet another who was a little older than me, maybe five, then Danny who at three was a year younger than me. They all had light hair and California-kid tans — not so dark, but deep.
Those were just the Goldings. Then there was Jeff Holly, who live between us and the Goldings, and another kid whose name I don’t remember who was several years older than me, and who I remember mostly because he is the only person I ever saw actually slip on a banana peel, which I thought was quite funny. That is the first time I remember bursting out in in appropriate laughter. I mean he slipped on a banana peel, just like in the cartoons. I felt pretty bad almost immediately, as had hit the concrete pretty darn hard, and started crying as he ran limping back home after giving me a hurt, dirty look, the last time I remember him deigning to play with me.
And there was some little three year old girl on the block who I assumed was my future wife, as she was the only girl in my age range around. I may have explained that to her once as she sat on her trike, but I think she was pretty much pre-verbal, either that or dumbstruck — marriage was a pretty big deal, I knew even then.
And there was my brother and sister Bill and Lalage, twins, eight years old, four years older than me. I could spell her name: L-A-L-A-G-E. I slept in the same bed with Bill, much to his annoyance, or rather, disgust. I probably wet the bed on a regular basis.
I remember summer, as I remember running up and down the block in the sun wearing shorts and tee shirts, and the slant of the sun in the afternoon the day I got hit by some big stranger kid on a bicycle and my knee was scraped and bruised in the pattern of his tire. And I remember nobody was wearing coats the day Bill cut his knee severely on a broken bottle when he was tumbling through the thick ice plant that covered the slope down along the football field. George Golding and another big kid picked Bill up and ran him home screaming and bleeding like crazy to my mother, who took him to the hospital for stitches and tetanus shots.
But about the woman sitting on the couch with my father. That was probably in the fall, because my mother definitely was not home at the time, and the time was the afternoon. So it must have been in the fall because my mother must have been working that day, because my father would surely not have brought a strange woman to my mother’s house were my mother likely to walk through the door.
And this was a strange woman to have in our house. She was blond, for one thing, and very different from my mother. She smiled at me. My mother smiled at me, too, but not the same way. My mother smiled when something made her smile. This woman smiled AT me, directed her smile out from her face toward mine. And she was, well, glamorous. My mother was many things, but generally one would not call her glamorous, at least not if one saw her in her element, up to her elbows in preparing dinner or washing the dishes. This woman wore makeup, mascara and face powder. I know. I got that close to her. And her hair was probably bleached to its bright shade of yellow, and kind of stiff looking in my glimpse of memory.
I don’t remember if she beckoned me to her, or if I was just drawn to her otherness — maybe she didn’t want me on her lap after all. I remember my father’s expression. It was one I would see later in my life many times, and would finally come to understand to mean that he thought he was totally getting away with something. I don’t think he would have been a great poker player, at least not after a drink or three, which is about where he seemed to be. There were cigarets being smoked, and alcohol of some kind, probably hard liquor, since my father had a certain amount of class when he wanted. And there was my father getting up quickly from the couch as I walked through the front door.
Did I already mention that supervision was not Mrs. Golding’s strong point? I don’t know why I would come home in the middle of the day if no one was supposed to be there. Maybe my dad’s car was there. I doesn’t matter. It only matters that I just walked through the door like I lived there, causing my father to get quickly up from where he had been on the couch. It was a small house (I realize now), actually an over/under duplex, and the couch was against the wall on the left as you walked through the door right into the living room. The house may even still exist; there is a small house on the street visible from Google Streetview that could be it.
So here is the thing. I’m four years old. But at that age I already have a very real interest in bleach blondes with substantial makeup, especially when they have appeared somewhat like magic on the couch in my family’s living room. And here is the thing I remember that was the most strange and compelling — the smell. I was very close to her. I had walked right into the blast of that outward smile, right up to her. I don’t know if my father introduced her or me. Frankly, I had pretty much forgotten all about my father. I was this close to this strange woman that looked like women on the TV, looked the way real women looked, i.e., not like my mother. And I was this close to her and this is what I noticed — the smell. The smell of her, cutting through the cigarets and the alcohol. I may have wrinkled my nose; the smell assaulted it in a way I had never known a smell to do. It was so different, and not necessarily pleasant, really, but maybe just because it was so different from anything I had smelled before — but not bad either, not not bad at all. Compelling, in fact. Like her smile — strange, reaching out, aggressive, yes, almost assaultive, pushing against me, but also drawing me in, compelling me to move into it, closer.
In my memory now I inhale deeply through my nose — did I then? Or is that something I’ve added over the years? And I remember looking down on the top of her breasts, my first decolletage. I don’t remember if there was brassiere to be seen, but I’m pretty sure there were no buttons undone, so I think she was wearing a well-fitting sweater. Damn I’ve wished many times I could remember more than I do, but I’ve also tried hard not to remember things I didn’t experience — something about this memory has always warned me against embellishing it, against dulling it with figments and wishful thinking.
But that’s all I remember. Shit, maybe I passed out, for all I know. That would be pretty funny — four year old passes out at first whiff of woman. But I really don’t know. Maybe my dad gave me a nickel to run outside and play. Maybe he sent me to my room for a nap, though I doubt he would have known how to make that work. I wish I remembered more, of course. Maybe if I did, I would have told this story more often — to my brother and sister, or even to my mother. I can’t remember telling anyone; surely I must have, at some point in the last fifty years, but maybe not. But I do know that the quality of that smell never left me — sharp and strangely intrusive, but becoming and compelling. And I have met that quality in the scents things other than women — freshly roasted coffee, really good Scots whiskey, unlit fine cigars, dark chocolate; while I don’t remember the first time I smelled any on these things, I do remember that when I did, part of me stirred back to standing in the complex scent of that woman on the couch in our house in Redondo Beach.
I’ve visited Juanita Avenue several times from afar, or rather, from above, via Google maps, and I have never failed to get the early indications of an erection. Most of the old bungalows were torn down in the 70s and replaced by shitty LA tract houses. The swimming pool that was being built at the high school (my first scent of freshly poured concrete — not quite the same) shows up from the distance of space, but when I zoom down it turns out to have been recently demolished, and the scene of much new excavation. The tennis courts are still there, as is the football field and school buildings that look like they were built in the late 60s or 70s. They were at the bottom of a shallow arroyo, the east end of which was filled at some point all the way up the street at the end.
Before the end of arroyo was filled, that street ran over a viaduct, and under that viaduct neighborhood kids had carved a fort of sorts, trenches and cubbies, into the side of the arroyo. There we went on more than one occasion to play. My brother must have been laid up with his bandaged knee as I don’t remember him being there, and I think I would have. I do remember the packed smooth dirt of the trenches was cool to the touch, especially cool to our bare skin. And I mean bare, since we were butt naked in the shadows under the street, with cars passing on the road over our heads playing how we played under there, which was licking each others assholes. I imagine older kids played more sophisticated games, but Danny Golding and I and whoever else happened to be there in our age range pretty much stayed with asshole licking. I much preferred to be the licker than the lickee, as getting licked tickled but then my butt would be cold.
I remember at least a half dozen kids of various ages all naked under the viaduct. This was a very different time in America, apparently. We really did run wild and unsupervised. I suppose the idea was that we’d lose a few as a matter of course to perverts, but no more than to automobiles and plastic laundry bags and jars of aspirin. Hell, it was 1960 and nobody on Juanita had a bomb shelter, so might as well let the kids enjoy a little freedom before being incinerated. I remember that in a vacant lot across the street from our house the older boy had dug trenches and covered them with scrap plywood and old doors and such, and then covered those with more dirt to make an underground bunker you had to crawl through on your hands and knees. No doubt some assholes got licked in there as well, but all I remember was that some kid had brought a candle down there in the cold dirt to light the the tunnel. Another great way to die, in cave in a warren just below the surface of a vacant lot — not that anyone did, but the potential surely existed.
Danny Golding and I had other fine adventures. He didn’t talk much, and when he did he didn’t impress me with his smarts. We once argued about the relative value of my dime versus his nickel. That was something I knew, that a dime was worth more than a nickel. He wasn’t having any of that. His coin was bigger, therefore he could buy more with it. He didn’t grasp the concept value, just size. I probably didn’t either, but I did know a dime was more. We finally took the argument to his mother to referee.
“The nickel is bigger. It’s more.” And taking stock I realize that this was the firs experience I had of realizing an adult was intentionally lying to me.
Bitch! I realize now she may have resented my superior intellect, or at least the superiority I felt over her child.
She also stuck it to me once when I came in their kitchen to find Danny eating a grapefruit. Being rather good a stating the obvious, I said something like “You’re eating a grapefruit.”
To which Danny replied “It’s a big lemon.”
“No, it’s a grapefruit.”
To which Danny’s mother piped in “It’s a BIG LEMON.”
To be frank, I would rather have been hanging around with just about anybody else than Danny. I mean, he was three. I had lived one third longer than him already, and so was that much more experienced. He was a convenient target for the shit running downhill from my brother to me, but I would have much rather gotten more shit than hang around with Danny.
I think it must have been fall, because no one else was around. The older kids must have been in school, even Boy Two in kindergarten. My mother was not around, so I assume she was teaching. Danny and I were virtually unsupervised by his slattern of a mother. One afternoon we got hold of a coffee can in his dad’s garage that was full of paint thinner in which soaked a paint brush full of white paint. It was my fine idea to walk around the block painting the concrete steps of the nicely kept bungalows. I remember being especially proud of our improvement of some steps that had already been painted a dark brick red. And I remember being rather confused by the old man who came out of the house screaming at us while we were doing him the favor. I remember nothing of that incident after that point, maybe too traumatic, but maybe I was already a little spacey back then.
Really, it’s only little bits I remember from that time. There was the older couple who lived across the street. I remember them as retirement age, much older than my parents. He had a weight room with dumbbells and a bench and was not too pleased that I just wandered in one day; she seemed nice as she shooed me out the door. There was the day one of the the middle Golding boys decided it would be cool to make an adobe wall, and we mushed up straw and mud for bricks. There was a day when the rain came down in a deluge, hitting the ground so each drop splashed way back up so the the sidewalk and street were blurry; a big shaggy dog was out in the rain, as was I for some reason, and he was nosing something on the ground that turned out to be a cylinder of concrete, as if it had been poured into a soup can and then the can was stripped away — I don’t know why I thought that, or if I made that part up later, but I definitely remember the rain, the dog, and the concrete cylinder. Bits and pieces, but no narrative thread.
And then there was the morning Danny and I went down to the high school football field all by ourselves. We had to cross a street to get there; not a busy street, but a street nonetheless, a three year old and a four year old. I think we were already pretty adept at crossing streets, at least I don’t recall it being a big deal. I do remember it was raining. A light drizzle in a cold wet morning, and we were both wearing coats, and maybe even hoods or hats. We walked on the track around the football field. I remember the lack of color, the misty gray rain obscuring the even the slope just the other side of the filed, the ice plant slope my brother sliced open his knee on. Or maybe my attention was just so focused on my immediate surrounds — the edge of the football field, the red cinder track just before me.
Walking around the far side, we came up on a big kid sitting on the edge of the track with his back to the field. He was older even than George Golding, maybe 14 or 16, but not a grownup. I remember him as wearing a raincoat and having light hair, but I can’t remember his face. His cock, though, was uncircumcised. This wasn’t apparent from a ways back, but became so when we approached after he called to us.
“Do you guys want some candy?”
No, really, I don’t remember the exact words, but yes, he offered us candy. this must have been before people caught on that strangers offering little kids candy was not necessarily a good thing, as I don’t recall any concern on my part. And having licked my share of butts under the viaduct, a penis in the hand was no cause for alarm either.
Danny and I probably said something like, “Sure,” because the next thing you know, he was shaking a lemon drop out of a box. He tucked it into the fold of the foreskin of his dick, which he held in his other hand. He wasn’t particularly hard as far as I can remember, but he must have been a little aroused — he had to pinch the skin closed over his head to keep the lemon drop in.
“Which one of you can suck it out?”
Well, I was a good year older than Danny, so I wasn’t about to let him beat me out, so to speak. I may have even shoved him out of the way to get to the guys dick and my reward. I remember the head of his dick was warm and salty in my mouth. I think he may have held the back of my head as my tongue circled between his foreskin and his glans until the lemon drop popped out. I pulled abruptly away from him triumphant with the lemon drop in my mouth, but before I could say anything Danny had clomped on in my place.
“Danny, I got it!” I gloated. I won.
“No, there’s another one!” the guy said quickly, and with what I recognize now as some urgency.
Danny made no response — he was too busy sucking this guy’s dick, really going at it. I briefly thought that I must have missed the second one, but no — I was really thorough, and besides he only pulled one drop out of the box.
“There is not — I got the only one,” I was insistent and indignant. I won. I had the lemon drop — the ONLY lemon drop the guy stuck in his dick.
Danny kept sucking and the guy seemed to have forgotten I was even there. This was going to be just like the dime and nickel argument and the grapefruit argument. I was right. I won. But the guy was pretending that I was NOT right, and that I hadn’t won after all. Then it dawned on me that the reason this guy was lying about my getting the lemon drop was not just to give Danny a win he didn’t deserve. In fact the whole sticking a lemon drop in his dick thing was not about delivering us candy in a novel fashion at all — it was about getting us to suck his dick for the candy!
And that really kind of made me mad. It was dishonest, and it made the whole thing seem kind of shabby. Fact is, we probably would have been happy to suck his dick for as long as he would let us, candy or no candy, truth be told. I mean, he was a really big kid and pretty nice and we were learning a new trick (at least I was), and I was kind of enjoying myself until he started lying about the lemon drop.
I remember backing away, saying something like “I’m going Danny — I got the lemon drop.” I remember Danny’s head still in the guy’s lap when I turned and went on alone, sucking on my lemon drop and feeling aggrieved and unsatisfied with my unacknowledged victory. And come to think of it now, Danny probably DID get a lemon drop for his efforts — probably a lemon drop and more. And it’s funny, I’m still a little pissed — not about sucking the guy’s dick, but because he lied about me winning the lemon drop.
We moved from Redondo Beach on my next birthday. That’s what I remember; it was my birthday and the Ford station wagon was loaded, heavily, and we were moving — my brother and sister and I with my mother. And my father was not going. And I remember that we had an Easter Egg hunt in a motel room in Ukiah, and then got into the car to drive some more, and we saw the Easter Bunny walking along the side of the road in the rain with his shoulders hunched and a basket hanging from his hand. My mother didn’t stop even though we wanted her to.