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“Secret Sex, A Book Alive Online,” written and lived by John Scott G.
Chapter 9 – Playing in the Poison.
My dad was speaking on the telephone. Well, mostly he was listening intently on the telephone. From what he was saying, it sure seemed like it was a Very Serious Conversation. Which was no big deal to me as a kid except for one thing: this Very Serious Conversation was about me. I wanted so much to be in on both sides of the discussion but of course could only catch one-half of it.
“I see,” said my dad into the phone. There was a long pause. From my standpoint, it was an ominous pause.
“I see,” he said again. There was another long break in the action. My mom and I watched from across the room, trying not to make any noise, hoping that somehow we’d be able to catch some of the words the other person was speaking.
“My thoughts?” asked my dad, his voice sounding too loud in the room, although he was speaking in a normal tone of voice. “Well, what you’re saying is not entirely surprising.” Pause. “That’s right,” my dad said, “because we’ve heard this before.” Pause.
“Yes, at other schools. And bible study class. And Indian Guides. And the Cub Scouts. And the Boy Scouts. And Little League. And the little theater group. You are making a fairly common observation, I’m afraid.”
Short torturous pause.
“Um-hm, future. I agree.”
Long torturous pause.
“I agree with that as well.”
Frighteningly long torturous pause.
“You can rest assured I will do so.”
“Not at all. A pleasure talking to you. You have a good rest of the evening, too.”
He hung up the phone.
We endured yet another hiatus. The seconds dripped by like, well, like something taking a long time to drip.
“So?” asked my mom. “Yeah, so?” I thought to myself. But I kept silent. It just didn’t feel as if this was the right time for me to be saying anything.
“Well,” said my dad, “it appears that the IQ test you took a few years ago has once again come back to haunt you, young man. That was your school’s Boys Vice Principal and it seems that you are, and you know what I am about to say . . . ”
We all did. And so we all said it together:
“Not living up to your potential!”
We all laughed. Except my mom and dad.
“This is serious,” he said.
Uh-oh. How serious? Serious as in I’m going to have to really buckle down and apply myself and make an extra effort to pay attention in class and not show up the teachers whenever they say something that was not accurate? Or serious as in for the love of God just keep quiet and pretend to go along with the crowd so we don’t have another one of these phone calls? Or (gulp) worse?
“First of all,” said my dad, “you’re going to have to really buckle down and apply yourself.”
I nodded. My mom nodded, although it seemed less like moral support and more like the threat of Armageddon.
“And,” my dad continued, “you’re going to have to make an extra effort to pay attention in class.”
I nodded again. The soul of reason and responsibility, that was me.
“And it’s very important that you not show up your teachers whenever they say something that is just plain wrong.”
I nodded. Vehemently. Earnestly. You know, as if I really really meant it.
“And for the love of God,” said my mom, “would you please just keep quiet and pretend to go along with the crowd so we don’t have another one of these phone calls?”
Whew! I was off the hook! Until the next time.
Okay, now folks, whether you’re a parent or not, just consider that phrase. “Paying attention.” Should attention be something that you pay for? Think about the cost of it. What the hell is supposed to be paid for getting useless information that’s supposed to widen my imagination but only succeeds in creating walls of conformity . . .
The whole thing makes me think about those terrible late-night TV commercials. “How much would you pay for the twelve zinc-encrusted commemorative coins AND the electric-powered sofa pillow polisher? Wait, before you answer, you’ll also receive the complete instruction manual to picking up beautiful women in bars PLUS six of the nineteen hidden secrets of the Universe! NOW how much would you pay???!”
[Note: for those of you who cannot wait for the coins, the pillow polisher, the women in bars instruction manual, and the secrets of the universe, just send twenty dollars to John Scott G c/o eNewsChannels, Los Angeles, CA. Mark the outside of the envelope “Contains cigar ashes — do not open in drafty areas.” Allow 6 to infinite weeks for delivery.]
But for those of us stuck in classrooms run by martinets, morons, and old maids, the price of attention was too damn high. Better that we should read something not in the curriculum. Better that we should engage the fantasy center of our craniums. Better that we should just go outside and play.
“Go outside and play,” said my mom, who said she wanted to “talk with your father,” which seemed innocuous enough to me but which I later found out meant something closer to “Get out of the house now because I’m going to fuck your father’s brains out.” Good for mom! And way to go, dad!
While the parental components were playing inside, I joined my friends and acquaintances to play outside. And we were in luck that evening because the fog trucks were hitting the streets.
“Whooooooooooooosh!” said my friend Danny. Arms outstretched, head cocked to one side, he raced forward, then drifted to the left, and then back to the right until he disappeared into the swirling clouds of ground-covering vapor.
“Whooooooooooooosh!” said Danny’s brother Beau as he similarly ran through the haze.
A dozen “Whoooooooooooooshes!” rang out in the dusk of the evening, as many boys and several girls pretended to be jet airliners, jet fighters, jet bombers, or rockets. Some, of course, added the cockpit noises. “Roger, you a cleared for takeoff.” “Come left to zero niner four.” “Enemy engaged, target locked-on, fire at will,” followed by those krsssh-tschsh-czrusssshhh sounds of imitation automatic weapons fire and explosions.
Some of the other kids favored Frankenstein, Dracula, or The Shadow, so they were not “flying” through the clouds but rather lurching, gliding, or sleuthing through the mist. “Rrrrrrrrrrrrgh!” said one. “I’ve come to suck your blood!” said another. “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows!” said a third.
One kid always wanted to be Sherlock Holmes. “Look Watson, the footprints of a gigantic hound!”
“Those are your sister’s footprints, dumbass,” came the reply.
“Who said that?”
“Wow, great detective!”
“I can’t see anything in the fog.”
“No shit, Sherlock.”
And it was so: once you were close to the fog trucks, there was no discerning who was who or what was where. Did this lead to occasional collisions?
Yes, it did.
That’s what we called them. About once a month during the summer, the streets of the city were closed as pick-up trucks and vans rolled slowly up and down the thoroughfares. Each vehicle would be carrying a large stainless steel tank and spraying equipment. Dense white clouds were propelled into the air behind the truck. The clouds would stay rooted to the ground but billow up about six to eight feet high and basically just kind of hang around for several minutes. And, of course, we could easily keep up with the slow-moving fogmakers.
We would run through the cotton-candy whiteness, lost in our own private worlds of bravery, adventure, intrigue and excitement, breathing in the seductive, mysterious and eddying clouds of Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane.
Let’s all say it together! “Die-chloro-die-phenyl-try-chloroethane.”
There, isn’t that fun! It really should be a song on “Sesame Street.”
We’re talking DDT here, an insecticide used mainly to control mosquito-borne malaria. (Yes, I know: so much of my youth seems to revolve around mosquitos that you’d think this would be a science-fiction book.)
Anyway, DDT. Also known as Anofex, Cesarex, Chlorophenothane, Dedelo, Dinocide, Didimac, Digmar, Genitox, Guesapon, Guesarol, Gexarex, Gyron, Hildit, Ixodex, Kopsol, Neocid, OMS 16, Micro DDT 75, Pentachlorin, Rukseam, R50, and Zerdane.
It was really popular, as you can tell. They were making it then like they make designer water now.
DDT is now known to have problems. Well, to cause problems. Turns out that DDT is effective against mosquitos at first, but there are possible downside risks for other creatures that chance to breathe it. Studies have been shown that DDT brings with it some hazards that include chronic ill effects on the central nervous system, the liver, the kidneys, and the immune system. You know, minor stuff.
Plus, DDT is not rapidly metabolized by animals. Humans are animals, so you see the problem. With a biological half-life of around eight years (meaning it can take that long for an animal to metabolize half of whatever has been assimilated), DDT can build up inside you over time.
But none of us knew that. Not the kids. Not the parents. Perhaps the government scientists knew it, but if so they weren’t talking. “Hey, it kills the bugs, don’t it?” was how one of the truck drivers put it. And if he was satisfied, why should we worry? Voice of the people. A precursor to Joe-the-Plumber.
So we played in the clouds from the fog trucks, never once imagining that our parents or our civic leaders or our large and important corporations would let us do anything that would be harmful to any of us.
All that is different today. Right? Today, we live in more enlightened times, with proper oversight and intelligent governmental regulations that are firmly in place for the betterment of all and the protection of everyone in our whole society. Right?
Oh look, a politician is being interviewed on TV. And the fog trucks are back.
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“Secret Sex, A Book Alive Online,” written and lived by John Scott G, is Copr. © 2011-2012 by JSG, all rights reserved under U.S. and international copyright conventions. Commercial use in any form is forbidden without express written permission of the author. Originally published on eNewsChannels.com with permission. Credits: Book cover design: Phil Hatten; Author Photo: Brian Forest.