Summer On Grandpa's Farm
The new playmates were at the door before Judy and David finished their breakfast the next morning. "Good morning, neighbors," called Dr. Martin. The children passed through the wide hall, entered the kitchen, and went out the back screen door. "Come with me to help finish cleaning the chickens for tomorrow," Dr. Martin called after them.
The little group followed Dr. Martin to a wired chicken yard. They closed in around the white-haired doctor as he plucked the feathers from two black and white hens. "Now kids," he said, drawing a handful of entrails from the first hen. "You can get some idea of the way your own intestines twist around by looking at these."
"We don't have a gizzard, do we, Grandaddy?" Judy asked from the rope swing.
Dr. Martin dropped the entrails and gestured toward the automobile. Everyone piled in and they rode down the long lane, crossed a stone bridge over a pebbly stream, and wound up a hill to another white house on top. "That's where your grandmother was born, children. Isn't it nice that Aunt Lavinia can live there? I think I see her at the door."
As they drew up to the side entrance, Aunt Lavinia came down the steps. "Hello, Favorite Niece and Nephew," she said. "Randy is a little busy at the moment. I'll have to take you into the bathroom to see him."
A minute later, they stood around the boy who stared at them all. "Aunt Lavinia, how long does Randy have to sit on his toilet chair?" David asked.
"Until he has a bowel movement, David. I want to train him now while he's young so he'll get into the habit of emptying his bowels every morning."
"What would happen if he didn't?"
"All that waste food would crowd together in his colon, the large intestine, you know, and make him uncomfortable," Dr. Martin answered. "I hope you're listening to this too," he said to Judy who was kneeling at Randy's side.
"I am. Mother says it's just as important to keep clean on the inside as on the outside."
"Yes," Grandpa Martin said. "There's a saying that 'Nature never wastes anything.' Your father uses cow manure in his garden, doesn't he?" He bent his head down toward Judy and gave her a long wink.
"Are testicles supposed to be the same size?" David asked.
"No," said Grandpa Martin. "The left is usually a little larger than the right. You will also notice that heat and cold affect their size. They appear slightly larger in summer than in winter, when they seem to draw together because of the cold."
"It's strange the way the penis gets stiff sometimes," David replied.
"That's called an erection. It may happen at any time, even to boy babies, as you know, but it is necessary when the penis is to carry sperm into a female body."
"Grandpa, could I have an ice cream cone?" Judy piped up.
"Yes, Chickabiddy. And a spanking." Grandpa's soap-bubble pipe bobbed slowly up and down between his lips. "By the way," he continued, "Who are your new playmates? I don't think we've been introduced."
"Meet Petrel and Crabstick" Judy boomed, shoving the youngsters into the crowded room. The force of her push knocked them over the edge of the tub and their heads smacked into the basin, causing them to fall unconscious. Grandpa laughed and brought out a gunnysack.
"Mmm, Teddy Fudge Bars!" said David. "But first, one more question."
"Ask away!" spouted Gramps, wiping off the suds that had just exploded from his bubble pipe. He reclined in his chair and adjusted his tennis shorts. "Damn hearing aid is on the fritz and I'm an insomniac," he sighed. "I'm a bit older than you kids and sometimes I have panic attacks. As a whippersnapper I was frequently abused."
"Did you say 'ask away' or '"cast away'?" said Crabstick, now perched on the windowsill. He grinned and proceeded to tumble out. 20 seconds later a splash was heard.
"Quick, Judy! Fetch the dumbwaiter!" Grandpa's voice seemed muffled. Evidently he'd locked himself in the storage closet. His paper tennis shorts were pinned to the door. Randy continued to moan from inside the gunnysack.
"Well," said Judy, coughing up a large hairball, "Lunchtime I guess." As if on cue, Petrel trotted out his rusty field knife. He glared at David. "I think that answers your question."
*Portions of Part One adapted from Butterfield, Frances W. "From Little Acorns: The Story of Your Body." New York. Renbayle House, 1951.
Many questions were answered on the farm in the company of Grandpa Martin and his Farmyard Mentors. For Judy, David, Petrel, and Crabstick, truly it was a summer they would not forget.
"Your prescription umbrella sir," said the shop girl. "Oh, and the generator and 300-foot extension cord."
"Yes, I suppose it's Monsoon season," replied Dr. Martin. He stepped away from the high chair and rung out his kneesocks. "It nearly slipped my mind. Have a towel?"
"Of course," the child responded, producing what appeared to be a small raft shaped like a zebra.
Dr. Martin pulled a spadefoot toad from his pocket and placed it on the counter. "Excellent," he replied.
- - - -
After the storm, Petrel emerged from his house in his customary play clothes--denim cutoffs and a tank top with "COULDA-SHOULDA" on the front and "NEVER DID" on the back. Dissatisfied with the deploy mechanism, he tossed the prescription umbrella into a puddle and bolted to the playground where the Red-Rocket Twisty Slide beckoned. He had heard about the man recently thrown from a rollercoaster and was anxious to give it a whirl.
After filling his pockets with as much dirt as he could carry, he climbed the ladder. He paused at the top to survey the playground. Empty as usual. "Once again, no audience. Oh well ..." He studied the gleaming metal trough of the slide and then reached in his pockets and tossed their contents down the hot track, rubbing a bit of leftover dirt into his jeans. Then he squatted, curling himself like an upturned beetle, and placed both hands on either side of the trough for leverage. It was in this fashion that he flung himself down the slide.
The G-force of the curve and the frictionless glide held him to the outermost banks but he did not fly over the edge. Seconds later he shot out the end, uncurling himself as he smacked into the dirt. He amused himself this way for the better part of the afternoon, rising, descending, pausing at the top every now and then for another look around. Not once did he manage to get himself thrown.
At the end of the day he didn't bother fetching the umbrella. It had long since disappeared into the depths of the puddle anyway. Instead, he went home and patiently awaited the arrival of his mail-order underwater goggles: the rose-colored ones that guaranteed its wearer would "always see pinkish skin when gazing up from the bottom of the pool."
- - - -
That night, somewhere in the vicinity of downtown, the umbrella emerged from a drainage pipe. It looked around tentatively, then opened like a flower in all its glory, shooting heavenward. People tried to hook themselves on it but missed. They collided in the air and landed on the street in a pile, disappointed. They rolled home like barrels.
In his dream, Petrel went back in time exactly one year. That way the earth would be at the exact same place in its orbit and he would not be left floating in empty space.
"Just as I expected," he said upon arrival. "The reexamination of time/space/kookla is just beginning to take shape." As he had a year before, he gazed out the window onto Grandpa's backyard where members of the Silver Bullet Brigade were burning flags and dancing to The Old Grey Goose Is Dead.
The next morning he awoke to find Crabstick in his room scooping handfuls of dirt into his new computer. Crabstick nodded toward the open plastic case. In his hand was a fresh geranium. Petrel pulled down his eye patches, turned back the sheets, and leaned forward to lace his shoes. He stood and slipped on his denim cutoffs.
That afternoon they met up with Grandpa, David, and Judy to go for a dip in the baby pool. They undressed and packed themselves in like sardines. Half an hour later, Judy said, "Wouldn't this be better with water in it?" The old man and the young boys exchanged knowing glances and Crabstick rolled his eyes toward the hornet's nest. He chuckled. In the neighbor's yard, a few hours before, a flock of dead geese had been found.
About the author:
Bryce Newhart is known primarily for his proficiency at throat singing (where the singer uses the mouth cavities as tuned resonators, allowing strong emphasis of the harmonics of the sound generated in the throat. In theory, this allows the singer to produce two (or even three) notes at once, with the high notes sounding a bit like a flute). He lives in Brooklyn, NY. Doltus Effings, once a child prodigy, was touted as "Ventroloquist Extrordinaire" for three years running at St. Mary's Star of the Sea grade school in Hampton, Virginia. This promising start, however, was cut short due to repeated classroom whippings from Sister Rosalie's red Hot Wheels track. Having recently turned to penning gut-wrenching doodads, Doltus hopes to make up for lost time and reclaim his right to have "pure fun." Doltus co-exists in Queens, NY with a delightful Mrs. Effings and the ever-so-lucky Doltus, Jr.