I got a letter from my college roommate, Anne, today. She sent me a funny clipping and asked me to send her a copy of a English paper I wrote during our freshman year. My professor loved it - he gave me an A+ - with the following notation: In a stack of very serious papers from a group of very serious freshman, I was pleasantly surprised with your essay. I look forward to reading more of your work. Of course, his kind comments haven't spurred me on much over the years, but one day... I wonder if publishers take into account that a writer got an A+ in her freshman English composition class? At any rate, re-reading my essay, I thought it really was pretty good, after all, and I thought I'd share. By the way, Consumer Reports has nothing to say with regard to unhygienic eleven-year-olds.
(written in the fall of 1976)
(written in the fall of 1976)
Once or twice a year, my 11 year-old cousin Lester comes to visit, and it's like entertaining the skunk works. Mom says that Lester is simply a typically untidy 11 year-old, but I say he's a slovenly slob who ought to know better. Lester, I firmly believe, wears the same pair of socks from January to June and the only thing he doesn't eat with his fingers is soup. The real corker, though, is that when you criticize old Les, he starts reciting the books of the Bible backwards, like he's so holy you can't touch him or anything. Aunt Agatha paid him 50¢ to learn to do it, and now you can’t shut him up.
This time, I said to myself when he arrived for week’s stay, I am going to get Lester into the bathtub if it's the last thing I ever do.
First, I bought him a bar of soap that looked like a baseball and washcloth shaped like a catcher's mitt. I told him that it was a gift from me and suggested that he use it. He promptly took them both outside to play catch and lost the soap in the bushes. Next I gave him a book of mystery stories and suggested that he relax in a tub of hot water and read it. An hour later, he emerged from a dry tub where he had camped out on the sofa cushions with a box of crackers and a jar of peanut butter. In desperation I offered him a dollar to take a bath, but he offered me five bucks to lay off.
There was only one thing left to do. As I was carrying a pitcher of lemonade out to the pool, I tripped over Lester’s feet and spilled it all over him. He began screaming and yelling and Mom came running out.
“Lester, darling! What in the world?”
“She did it on purpose,” Lester bawled, while Mom glared at me.
I didn't answer. I'd suffer the consequences no matter what if it would only get Lester into the bathtub. But I didn't know old Les. He spent the rest of the afternoon on the patio, licking lemonade off his arms and legs like some senile old dog. All during the rest of his visit, he stuck to everything he sat on. Even worse, the flies swarmed about his marinated clothes and I wanted to puke whenever I heard him coming. The only pleasure I got out of it was following him around with a fly swatter and whacking him every time he said, “Revelation, Third John, Second John, First John. . . “