The plant was leading of course. It was larger than I was, and stunk. It was my first experience of intimacy….”
by laine perry
I had become the teacher’s pet by default. The rest of the kids were idiots. A few may have had unrecognized potential. Could be, there was a Mayor or stock car driver in the bunch. In 1976 they were a group of vicious fifth-graders. They took to me like a bee to soft, human flesh. Our house wasn’t even in the district.
On my first day the teacher decides we are going to make applesauce. He chooses me to assist him. For my part, I get to decide who gets how much and in what order. The next day I walk in and every kid in class lifts his feet off of the floor. They will not touch the same floor I walk on. The girls roll flavored gloss over their pre-nubile lips watching me.
Combing my hair was a gift I sometimes allowed my mom on holidays. I didn’t do it. I owned a blue soul train T-shirt, and brown cords with orange piping on the pockets. I had a pair of dark jeans, and a tank top that said keep on trucking which was mostly brown. I switched these around a lot. I delivered papers after class, usually on my skateboard. The girls at school rode horses in the afternoon. I’d sometimes see the tops of their heads moving along the iron fences.
My mom wore complicated jewelry – much of it made from forks and spoons. Some afternoons I’d just take her stuff out of her jewelry box and wear it around the neighborhood. I wasn’t sure what it was going to take to get those girls off my back.
My only friend was nineteen. Kim was the girlfriend of my mother’s-boyfriend’s-little brother. On the weekend Kim paid me a dollar to rip a leaf off of a plant in the neighbor’s backyard. I figured if a leaf was worth a buck then the whole plant could be worth thousands. I took my skateboard around the block and ran back to the patch of garden.
I pulled the plant out by the roots. The roots were like little claws still grasping for earth. The plant and I navigated the turns like two Mambo dancers. The plant was leading of course. It was larger than I was, and stunk. It was my first experience of intimacy.
Did the plant know I planned to cook it in my Mother’s oven? Did the plant feel squeamish as I shoved it stem and leaves, root and clinging bits of dirt into an my mother’s antique coffee grinder?
I ripped off squares of tin foil and placed a good mound of plant matter on each square. I rolled each square into a ball. It was Sunday so I knew people would be around. I knocked on a few doors. In one hour I had made thirty-seven dollars. I sold each package for $3.70. It was the price of the lunch I wanted to eat. I sold ten packages and quit.
I went to Kim’s and told her the news of my good fortune. She rubbed her eyes laughing so hard she farted. She pulled me inside by the belt loop of my jeans and offered me a peach. She disappeared for twenty minutes and emerged with blurred eyes and a bright mouth.
Mainly Kim would answer any questions I had about sex, or how one goes about finding an apartment, that kind of thing. She had luxurious blonde hair, and the devil in her eyes.
Later Kim had me practice fellatio on a big, scabrous carrot. She’d come in and out of the room, allowing me some privacy until I could get the hang of it. When enough time had gone by she came to give me the final grade. She sort of grimaced toward the effort I was making. She took the carrot away. She peeled it and handed it back to me. I went at it again but her look hadn’t changed. She raised her plucked, arched brows toward me. I took a bite off of the top and offered it to Kim. We both laughed. She told me never to do that in the real situation.
Kim recommended I wear stilts to class. I did, and had to transfer out of that school the next week.
(illustration: kurt eisenlohr)
Laine Perry grew up on the road with her mom, making music and telling stories. Many more of these stories from Laine can be found in the Vault of Smoke.