Thursday, May 18, 2006

The Saga of the Stray Condom, part four

(Before you read this, read parts one, two and three. Otherwise this will make no sense whatsoever...)

My condom was tainted now, though. I barely wanted it. Exciting objects like that only cause trouble, I decided. Still, I couldn’t bring myself to get rid of it. It isn’t every day that a boy finds a rubber, after all. I swore that I’d only put it to benign uses–the aforementioned grossing out girls, or maybe I’d slip it into my brother’s macaroni and cheese when he wasn’t looking. There was also the distant possibility that my best friend Eric would give me one of his patented empty-film-can bombs if I loaned it to him for awhile.

I wasn’t a bad kid. I wasn’t a bully. I would take good care of it. My loving husbandry would redeem it, in my care it would be cleansed of Frankie and Dave’s cruelty. Somewhere on the short walk home, I decided that I would keep my condom. That poor knocked-around little kid would have wanted me to, I rationalized, he would far prefer it to be in my possession than for it to be wielded by his tormentors. I was doing all the Timmies of the world a favor by keeping the rubber out of the hands of miscreants.

In less than a block, I had gone from feeling guilt-ridden to feeling self-righteous. Now all I needed to do was sneak it past my mother. When I was still a few houses away from my place, I stuffed it into my pocket. I made sure none of it was poking out and then I strode up my steps and through my front door.

“Hello, Kevin,” my dear, sweet, long-suffering mother said.

“Hi, Mom,” I said, and I’m sure she immediately picked up on my nervousness. Back then, I wasn’t slick enough to hide much from my mother. Nor am I today, but that’s another thing entirely.

I could hear her suspicion in her inevitable follow-up question, “What have you been up to?”

“Nothin’,” I said. It was my catch-all answer, something to use in virtually all situations, under every known circumstances. The only problem was that nobody ever bought it.

“What kind of nothing did you do?” she asked and I knew I had to get away fast. Otherwise all my plans would be foiled by her damnable persistence.

I dashed up the stairs, shouting back, “I gotta go to the bathroom!” This was a lie, of course. I made my way straight to my bedroom. Once I was there, I yanked out my crumpled and maltreated condom and stuck it underneath my pillow. No one will find it there, I thought, and then I went back downstairs, all sweetness and innocence again. With the benefit of hindsight, I can’t help but figure that my mom was tipped off by the conspicuous lack of toilet flushing.

She started in right away: “Where did you go?”

“To the park,” I answered. Only nine years old and already I knew that short, concise answers were the best. You stand less chance of getting tripped up on the details that way.

“Oh, the park? Was it nice?”

“It was okay.”

“Did you see any of the neighbor kids?”

“Why would I see them?” The trap was being sprung and I was too gullible to notice it.

“Because it’s a nice day out.”

“It’s kind of cold.”

“What did you do at the park?”

That was it. I was caught. My mother should have been a homicide lieutenant. All of a sudden, and for reasons that still escape me, I blurted out: “I found something...”

Mom, predictably enough, honed in on this. “Oh? What did you find?”


But it was too late. “Why don’t you show me?” she asked, and I couldn’t think of a handy way to refuse. I had already used the bathroom gambit. She would suspect something was wrong with my bladder if I tried it again, and I’d be hauled in to see Dr. Dooley. I didn’t want that. I had no other recourse but the truth.

“Let me go get it,” I said before I trooped back upstairs to retrieve my trophy. There was a wistful moment as I stood there, in my well-lighted and cheerful bedroom, staring down in the first and only quiet moment we would share together. We could have had fun, my condom and I, but the world had conspired against us. I sighed and stomped downstairs with a heavy heart.

I don’t know how I imagined my mother would respond to the sight of her youngest boy offering up a limp and battered condom, but I have to say I didn’t expect her to scream so. When she collected herself, she told me to throw it out right away. And not to throw it out in the kitchen trash can, but to go all the way out to the alley garbage and put it in there. Once that was accomplished, under her watchful eye of course, I was sent into the bathroom and forced to endure a hand-washing session of unsurpassed vigor and duration, all the while subject to an impassioned lecture on how I ought not just pick up every little thing I find on the ground. Then, my hands scoured and raw, I was packed off to my room to think about what I had done.

It worked out alright, though. After that, my mom didn’t force me to go outside for an entire week. So I got lots of stories written. And I made a real badass fort out of my mattress and the cushions of the couch.