Henrietta, Texas, 1957: Since we were Methodists, I don’t see why it was so important.
In our town, being a Methodist was considered kind of easy. The story goes that a fellow had died, and was being shown around Heaven. In one room folks were dancing because, being Catholics, they couldn’t dance on Earth. In another room folks were drinking, because they’d been Baptists. And in one room, folks just sat around; being Methodists, they’d already done everything. Ha ha ha ha ha.
I suspect it was some jealousy of the Catholic rituals that caused the trouble.
Well, of course, it was only trouble for me and Eddy Frank.
Our church had decided to have altar boys. They already had choir robes, so they just had to get a couple of short metal poles so two of us could walk down the aisle and light some candles. This particular Sunday, it was me and Eddy Frank.
We did our holy duty, walking real slow and looking solemn, lit the candles, then retreated back out the same way. In the cloakroom we shucked our gowns, and he suggested we go sit in his parents new car — a blue 1958 Chevrolet, very classy — to hear the radio for a few minutes before joining the service.
Gosh, I don’t know what happened. I guess we were just yakking, and suddenly realized a long time had passed. Eddy Frank looked plenty worried.
“If we go in there now, everybody’ll stare,” he said.
I agreed. But what to do?
We cudgeled our brains, but were unable to think of anything workable. So we gave up and walked home. When church had let out, my mother came home, screeching the tires, real mad.
“I was so proud of you!” she said. “And then we were waiting, and waiting, and waiting!” There was no explaining. I got spanked. So did Eddy Frank.
Back then, Eddy Frank was probably my best friend. We started stamp companies at the same time. Or, rather, he started one and I copied him. I never sold any stamps, though, and finally sold my stock to him. I don’t think he sold any stamps either.
Later, we took Latin together. We drank some terrible wine together. We were in egg fights. We hung a dummy from my Uncle Doc’s radio tower, unseen with the town cop cruising on the street below. We painted Class of 61 on the water tower. But in the dark I got the spray can backwards and sprayed my chin day-glow orange. Then, figuring this might be a clue revealing me as one of the perpetrators, I had to remove this evidence. This required a lot of scrubbing with Ajax cleanser, and not a little pain.
Oddly enough, not long after, I asked Eddy Frank to come over to my house to make rockets, and he declined. “My mamma says I can’t play with you any more,” he explained. “She says you’re a bad iffluous on me.”
A bad iffluous indeed.