The Truth, Mainly - 05/22/1995

It's that time of year again
by Leon Satterfield

I don't know what it was like going through puberty where you grew up, but it was pretty unsettling in my hometown. It made us a little crazy. Sex attracted us and scared us at the same time, and we got it mixed up with all sorts of things, even candy bars.


It's 1948 and I'm 14 years old and I don't know how to pronounce Nestle with an accent mark over the last e. I'm in the drugstore and I just found out last week in eighth grade boys gym class that they sell condoms under the counter here. That's what I'm thinking about—not that I'd ever want to buy one—while I'm sitting at the soda fountain being waited on by Elsie May or Elva Kay Schumann.

They're identical twins and they're 17 and about the prettiest girls in town and I can't tell them apart. They're also fast, if you know what I mean. I'm not sure what that means, but it maybe has something to do with their not being Baptist and their mother being divorced and a smoker and a drinker and being named Belle. It probably has something to do with their being identically pretty and probably sleeping in the same bed and wearing each other's clothes and maybe even each other's underwear. And it certainly has something to do with the way they lean over when they're dipping ice cream so you can see that they have what we call real knockers pooching against their blouses that are maybe open too far at the top and you're pretty sure they know you can see and you think probably they don't care.

And it must have something to do with the way they talk and look at you when you give them your order. Like last week when I heard Elsie May—or Elva Kay—laugh a little to herself when Billy Don Hofferber said "I want a Baby Ruth." Then she said "Hey, bud, my name isn't Ruth," and she laughed a little more, not loud, just a little to herself, and Billy Don is only 12 so he didn't get it. "Huh?" he said. "I got a nickel and I'd like a Baby Ruth please." So Elva Kay—or Elsie May—smiled like she knew something he didn't and gave him the candy bar.

I was there and I heard it. I thought about it and that night decided it was kind of funny in an un-Baptist sort of way. And later on I got to thinking about what one or the other of the twins might say if you asked them for a Bit O'Honey or a Milky Way or a Butterfinger or a Tootsie Roll. So we talked about it in eighth grade boys gym class and after that we all stopped eating Cherry Mashes because we were afraid of what the twins might say when we ordered one.

And I wasn't there but I heard from Norman Steggers that when Bob Sturgeon, the quarterback on the football team, said he wanted an Oh Henry, Elsie May—or Elva Kay—just rolled her eyes and said real soft and slow, "Oooooh Henry!" And Carlyle Bobson said that when Greg Jason, who was 19 years old and home on leave from the army, told one of the twins he wanted a Hershey Bar, she said "Do you want that plain or with nuts?" She knew Carlyle was listening too.

So I should know better than to ask for a Nestle candy bar when I don't know how to pronounce it, but I'm still wondering about those condoms under the counter—not that I'd ever buy one.

"Hey, bud, what can I get you?" she asks me from the other side of the soda fountain.

I look at the candy bar display.

"I wanna Nestle," I say, pronouncing it like "wrestle" instead of like the candy bar.

She laughs a little to herself and says, "Well, come on back here."

"What?" I say.

"Come on back here," she says. "You wanna nestle?"

Then I understand that she is making the same kind of joke she'd made with Billy Don, except I can figure out what she means. I feel my face get hot and I look at myself in the big mirror behind the counter and I can see that I am red and I never get red and I can see her back side in the mirror at the same time I can see her front side facing me and from behind I see her skirt nipping in at the waist and something full and firm moving below and from the front I see what we call knockers pooching out against her blouse and so I get off my stool and out the door without my candy bar.

Except I nearly trip on my way out when I step on my own shoestring.


Satterfield is a college professor and writes as a means of discovery.

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