Thou Shalt Not Curseth in Thy Backyard

Nervous as chihuahuas... That's how I'd describe my best friend, Josette, and I in grade school.

Both of us were only children who suffered from the microscopic examination and evaluation of our daily existence.

Me, I was nervous about grades and piano lessons and being three years younger than everyone else in my Reading class and braces and glasses and scoliosis and gym class and saying the wrong thing and getting beat up on the playground and having to buy all my clothes from thrift stores.

So, nothing much, really.

Poor Josette spent a lot of quality time in Sunday school classes so she had been convinced that even though she was a good student, a kind daughter and an overall nice person, she was still somehow teetering on the precipice of Hell.

I bring this up because Josette and I are great friends to this day, and she'll be coming to hang out with me over the Fourth of July weekend. Undoubtedly, we will get to laughing about our very biggest, most stupid fear during this time of our lives-- one that prompted many a cold sweat and sleepless night...

That our parents would find out we had been swearing in Josette's backyard.

It's absurd now, of course. I mean, just during the average evening commute I have been known to say things that salty longshoremen would deem colorful and piquant. But at the time, the issue was terrifying, all-encompassing and destined to lose me phone and TV privileges until possibly high school graduation.

Plus, you know, Josette had that whole Eternal Damnation thing to deal with.

The fact is, that no swearing ever even took place in Josette's backyard. In retrospect, I kind of wish it had. Because frankly, my adult mind has a hard time coming up with a scenario where we'd actively have gone out and practiced our blaspheming techniques, in the backyard, front yard or anywhere else.

If anywhere, possibly, a good f-bomb could have been dropped over the mushy olive-green three-bean salad in the lunchroom, the inevitable and mandatory side-dish to the glorious pizza, a side which we all threw away the moment we got to our tables.

But even so, neither of us really had that much inner rage.

But one of our classmates-- we'll call him Arnold Kosninsky-- HE started this rumor about our honing our powers of obscenity in the outdoor location.

Arnold Kosninsky was a small boy comprised mostly of nose. Metaphorically, I'd say that was an accurate description of his personality, too. Where he would have become corned beef hash in any physical confrontation, he instead used words to harass his fellow students, rooting out their emotional weaknesses and preying upon them like a mini Hannibal Lecter with a perpetual sinus condition and a bowl-shaped haircut.

For Josette and I, our weakness was the desire to keep neatly under the radar in the dynamics of Kiddom. Arnold made that impossible.

For a good two years, Josette and I trembled at the thought of the Omnipotent Parent Grapevine and how eventually, word would spread of these slanderous misdemeanors to the wrong people. Josie feared the flames of perpetual hellfire. I just really wanted to continue to see the A-team on Tuesdays.

Our highly-intellectual confrontations with The Enemy would go like this:

Arnold: I saw you guys out swearing in Josette's backyard. I'm telling your parents.

Me: You did not. When?

Arnold: I did, too. And you know when.

Josette getting cagey: Where do I live then? If you saw us, you'd know where I live.

Arnold: I know where you live. I don't have to tell you. And I'm telling your parents.

Two years of this. And Josette and I really believed that Arnold not only knew where Josie lived, but that he had enough solid evidence to blackmail us.

I often wonder what Arnold is doing now. Last I'd heard, Josette had seen him at the local mall, trying to get people to take surveys. (I kid you not.) I imagine this job would appeal to his intrusive nature. He could learn all about innocent strangers. Probe their buying habits and deep, personal concerns. And then call them up for follow-ups...

"I saw you buying Rogaine in the grocery store. How would your girlfriend feel if she knew you were balding?"

He could probably make some big bucks that way.



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NJTomboy said...

Jenn - let me be one of the 1st to say.. this is absolutely HIL-arious!

WOW - thanks for the laugh out loud!


Jenn Thorson said...

NJ- You bet. I always enjoy it when past traumas make for funny-ish posts. :)

Da Old Man said...

Brilliant and hysterical as usual. Difference between boys and girls-- at some point Arnold would have gotten socked. How's that for use of a nostaligia driven word? :)

Jenn Thorson said...

DaOldMan- I like "sock" very much.

Also, and I've heard Gregory Peck use this-- "biffed."

I can't specifically say I never socked or biffed Arnold, I just don't recall doing it. Perhaps Josette will remember if I bring it up.

Alice said...

I have a terrible mouth now, but I can still remember the first time I threw out a cuss word on the playground and immediately felt like I was going to be swamped by the playground police. And yes, I lived in fear that it would get back to my folks.

Jenn Thorson said...

Alice- Oh, you too, then! Well, I don't feel so bad. And as kids, things DID have a strange way of working themselves back to our parents, so we just NEVER KNEW...

The terror!! :)

Greg said...

Well, of course, everyone at the church probably knew of the swearing because of Josette going to those Sunday school classes...and it's well known that nuns and priests could read children's thoughts THROUGH the classroom INTERCOM system back then.

(I guess now they must co-op kids' Ipods or something...)

You are on a role lately. Did you plan these posts out in advance, or was the connector to the earlier post about mall surveys just a lucky bit of delightfulness?

Either way, you go, girl.

No really.


Jenn Thorson said...

Greg- I'd been planning to do the Arnold story for a while-- and Josette really did see him being one of those survey jockeys. After my weekend survey incident, well, I just got thinking more and more about Arnold again and finally wrote the piece.

My brain is funny that way.