Friday, June 12, 2009
Shaddy and Our Gang
The following short, short story is a piece of creative non-fiction based on an actual day in my life at least fifty years ago. I've embellished it out of necessity; too much time separates me from the exact details of that particular afternoon.
EVERY FOURTH CHILD BORN IS CHINESE
My two younger brothers, Carl and John, and I are watching Spanky and Our Gang on television after school. In this particular episode, Alfalfa, one of the main characters in the show, opens his piece of bubble gum and reads these words inside the wrapper: Every fourth child born is Chinese. The remainder of the half-hour follows Alfalfa and the rest of the gang as they proceed to the Chinese laundry downtown to observe a Chinese family first hand.
My attention shifts immediately from Alfalfa to on my brothers, sitting on the floor in front of the TV. My eyes come to rest on Carl, the fourth child born into our family. Poor Carl. He’s so easy to pick on because he's so sweet; without hesitation, I pounce because sweet, I'm not.
“Well, Carlie. Did you hear that? You know what that means, don’t you? Tom, Bob and I, we're one, two and three; you're next at number four. No doubt, you're Chinese! How about that! You can start up your own Chinese laundry when you’re all grown up. Meanwhile, here are a few shirts for you to clean and press. It'll be good practice. Hop to it, would ya? Please? Pretty please with fortune cookies on it?
Carl goes into the kitchen. “Mom, Shaddy says I’m Chinese. Am I?”
“Shaddy, what nonsense are you feeding him this time? Stop it before I come in there,” Mom calls out to me from the sink where she's peeling potatoes for supper.
Carl comes back in the living room looking content with Mom's reassurance that I'm talking nonsense.
“Mom doesn’t want you to know the truth,” I whisper to him. “You heard what they said on TV. They don’t lie on TV,especially on a show like Spanky and Our Gang! It's a kid's show. Really now!
Carl looks a bit puzzled, but not really upset. Darn! I don’t think he cares one way or the other if he’s Chinese or not as long as he’s fed when he’s hungry and has a bed to crawl in when he’s tired. That wasn’t much fun, I think to myself. Hmmm. Where’d John go? Maybe I can convince him every fifth child born is a raving lunatic.
“Hey, John. Where’d ya go?”
(As I look back on that afternoon and many other days as I was growing up, I wish I had it all to do over again. I wouldn't be so mean. Fortunately, neither Carl or John harbor any resentment for the stunts I pulled as their older sister, at least they don't appear to. Hmmm, maybe they're waiting for just the right moment to show me otherwise).