Quite An Evening


          It had finally arrived – the County Fair.  In all of his twelve years he could remember no anticipation that had even remotely rivaled that he felt now.  He was taking his best girl – and, by the way, his only girl – Lisa Ward to the Rodeo and this would be the night it would happen.  It was quite an event in a boy’s life, and I suppose the same would be true for a girl, but this story is being told from the standpoint of the boy.  Other boys in his grade had done it years before.  Some did it earlier in that same week.  Some did it everyday!  Tonight would be his chance.


          Everyone knew what his plan was, and so they were watched closely.  Everyone wanted to see what would happen and when and where and how.  They had “dated” for years, if you will call it dating.  This was the first time they had ever actually “gone” anywhere, but in the way boys and girls were considered boyfriend and girlfriend back then these two had dated.  I suppose they were as much of an “item” as any two others.


          He showered – on a Friday afternoon, no less, and it wasn’t even hot outside… He was careful to comb his hair just so and even applied hairspray.  He went to his grandparents’ house and borrowed a splash or two of Granddad’s Old Spice aftershave and cologne.  Grandma had him wash his face in Seabreeze first, but he just applied extra Old Spice to cover the smell.  Granddad was watching the evening news, so Grandma had a little talk with him.  She told him how important it was to treat a young lady properly.  She said that he should open the door of the car for her – to which he rejoined that they were to meet by the big hamburger stand at the Fairgrounds and he would have no chance to open the door for her.  She told him to be sure her needs were met before his – ask her if she wants a drink or a hamburger or anything else and then, when you have taken care of her, get your own.  She said he should not walk so fast that the girl had to struggle to keep up, and, above all else, to remember that God was watching him.  It was a pretty effective pep talk.


          At about 6:30 he left – the walk to the Fairgrounds would take him about 40 minutes and he was to meet her at 7:15.  As he walked along he began to think about the evening and all the talking he had done in school that day.  He remembered his boasts to the other boys in Study Hall.  He thought of the confidence he exuded at Lunch.  Everyone knew what he wanted to do and that he hadn’t done it prior to tonight and that he had promised that this would be the night.  He passed the old High School building and crossed the highway near the old Catterton Bait Shop.  He looked to his left and thought about the times he had mowed Mrs. Russell’s lawn and about the time he tore the shed in her back yard down for her – and for money.  He remembered how angry the policeman was when he discovered that the service alley had been blocked off for the weekend because “time ran out” before he could finish.  He really got into trouble that time.


          As he continued on his journey, he found his confidence beginning to wane.  Oh, sure, it was one thing to brag about something everyone else had already done far removed from the actual doing of it, but quite another to take the boasts and turn them into actions.  He passed the crossroad where he used to turn to see his other grandparents before they moved.  He began to sweat – and it was 42 degrees!  As he passed Curly and Mattie Hitt’s house, his great-grandparents, he began to feel sick – not really sick, nervous sick.  The feeling in his stomach would have kept an honor student home from school.  He was now only about a quarter-of-a-mile from the front gate now.  He teetered between sickness and confidence, doubt and certainty, longing and dread.  He would be there in just a couple of minutes.


          It dawned on him that she might well be as nervous as he was.  What if she didn’t want to?  What if she said no?  What if she had invited along some of her girlfriends?  Then he realized that no girl in her right mind would try such a thing with him.  After all, she should consider herself lucky to have such a boy as himself.  But the doubts lingered.


          “That’ll be five dollars, sir.”


          He paid the lady and pressed down his hair and made sure his shirt was evenly tucked in and that his zipper was up – and those are both most appropriate concerns for a twelve-year-old boy going on his first real date.  He made his way through the parked cars and headed toward the big hamburger stand.  He scanned the crowd in search of Lisa.  He saw Sterling and Robert and Joey and Kenny and Luther and Greg and Theresa and Mona and Merry and Karen but no Lisa.  She must be on the other side of the stand.  He made his way around the corner and there she was.


          She wore her best blue jeans and a pink sweater.  Her hair, blond and straight, was pinned back and she had on a jacket as well.  She walked to meet him and, like the gentleman Grandma had taught him to be, he offered to buy her something to eat and drink.  She said that she didn’t want anything and that they had better go because the Rodeo would be starting in just a few minutes.


          They made their way through the crowd toward the arena and as they passed by those students who were savvy to his plans they found themselves stared at and the girls, starry-eyed and hopeful, smiled while the boys, taunting and teasing, slapped him on the back.  One of them, Joey, whispered to him as he passed that he should take her hand.  He thought about it but decided it might not be gentlemanly so he would wait.  They arrived at the ticket gate and he bought her ticket – the first time he had ever used his own money exclusively to gain admission to anything, let alone to gain admission for someone else.  All of a sudden he felt pretty grown-up.  He took her arm and they made their way into the arena and found a seat on the bleachers at about the mid-point of the grandstand.


          As he began to think of the evening ahead the Rodeo started.  Before he knew it folks were standing up and making their way down the bleachers to leave.  They remained seated and when the crowd was pretty well gone they got up to leave.  They passed through the gate and he heard her ask something about the Rodeo or make a comment about it or something, he wasn’t exactly sure.  As they reached the parking lot she stopped him.


          “Aren’t you supposed to do something this evening?”


          “What do you mean?”


          “You know, the whole school has been talking about it.”


          “Well, I did intend to…”


          “What’s stopping you?”




          “Are you chicken?”


          Now that was a curve ball!  Why would she try to pressure him into this thing?  I mean, after all, that was something he should decide first, not her.


          “Well, no – I am not chicken, I am just waiting for the right time and place.”


          “My dad is parked right outside the gate so if you don’t want him to see us you had better find the time and place fast.”


          About that time Greg walked by and said, “We knew you’d chicken out.  All talk.  Are you ‘funny’?”


          “Mind your own business, Greg, I am a gentleman.”


          “Is that what they call sissies now, gentlemen?”


          Now his heart was beating at about twice the normal speed and, despite the fact that the temperature had fallen to thirty-four degrees he was in a full sweat.  His hair was sticking to his forehead and his shirt was drenched and he had yet a four-mile walk to make it home.   Lisa, growing impatient, said, “It’s now or never, Tim, let’s get this over with.”


          That wasn’t exactly the romantic line he had imagined her speaking at such a time as this, but then neither was this the location he had in mind nor were his actions exactly what he had planned.


          “You know, Lisa, we don’t have to do this if you don’t want to.”


          “Don’t talk to me about my ‘want to’, you are the one holding out.”


          Well, the moment of truth had arrived.  It was now or never, and he certainly didn’t want it to be never!  He looked into her eyes, reached out with his right hand to take her left hand, squared his shoulders and started to make his move.


          “Hey, brother, I’m supposed to walk home with you tonight.  Are you ready?  It’s already time we should be home.”


          His brother!  How could he come at such a time as this?  Didn’t he know what was about to happen?  But then he remembered his big-brotherly-duties.  He couldn’t do this now – think of the example it would set.  After all, he didn’t want to be the cause of his brother becoming a sex fiend.  No, that just wouldn’t do.


          He turned to Lisa and whispered, so as not to be overheard, “Well, Lisa, I was going to kiss you tonight, but I think that it would be irresponsible and selfish of me to do it in front of Tony.  I’ll just owe you a kiss for later, OK?”


          Just then he felt a tug on his right hand and, before he knew it, she was pressing her mouth hard onto his.  He was stunned!  What had happened?  Then it dawned on him – she kissed him.  Right there in front of God and everybody she kissed him on the mouth!  Suddenly the influence such an encounter would have on Tony meant nothing.  He scanned all about to see who had witnessed this momentous event.  There were the guys from Study Hall.  There was the older guy he worked with pitching hay on the farm.  There was even a teacher or two standing not far, but he couldn’t be sure they had seen him.


          When he gained his composure, he looked at her and said, “Was it good for you?”


          She smiled, giggled, then took his left hand in her right hand and said, “Daddy will be waiting.  We had better get on.”


          So it happened that he passed from the ranks of the “unkissed” to the incredibly experienced – all in an instant.  As he walked through the crowd he felt a little bigger and stronger and older than he had felt coming.  He was practically a man now.  He might even start shaving.  It was quite an evening.


H. L. Gradowith


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