Disclaimer: This story has been told here before but I had a critique group to go to at BYU today and needed something to read so I re-wrote it at 1:30 in the morning. It was originally called "The Birds and the Bees and the Dragonfly's." This version is better. Unless you are my sister and then you would take the word "diarrhea" out right away--that's what she said when I read it to her, today. The first person at the critique group said, "Oh, I see the word 'diarrhea.' I love it already." She soothed my wounded spirit. And then they laughed as it was being read and I was restored.
So, here it is:
I was washing my hands at the bathroom sink when I felt cool air on the back of my neck. Mom was standing in the open doorway. We didn’t lock the bathroom door. If it was closed that meant, “Don’t come in.”
“Do you need to use the bathroom?” It must be an emergency for her to come in when the door was closed. Maybe she had diarrhea.
“No.” She closed the door and locked it. I looked at the locked door and then up at her with wide eyes.
“Sit down.” She pointed toward the toilet seat. She didn’t smile. Was I in trouble?
I wiped my hands on my pants and took another quick look at the door. Mom sat on the edge of the bathtub.
“So,” she said, “Aunt LaVern and I were talking last night and we decided it was time for us to tell you and Holly…um, it was time for a little talk. So, you know about a man and a woman, right?”
A man and a woman? “Uh huh,” I nodded. The best way to get past mom, unlock the door and get out of the bathroom was to agree.
“Well,” she said, “When they get married—they fall in love first. You understand love, right?”
I thought love was stupid. My sister said she loved her boyfriend, even though he was a geek. Who wanted to marry a geek? But I wanted out of that bathroom. “Yah, I understand love.”
“Good. Well, when a man and a woman love each other and get married—you understand they get married first, don’t you?”
I nodded. Julie wasn’t going to marry the geek, was she? She wasn’t that stupid. Maybe this was about me having to be a flower girl. Maybe Holly was going to have to be a flower girl too.
“Well, this man and woman—that are married—they go to bed at night and lie really close together and kiss and, well, they are close. Real close.” She wiped her hands on her pants—maybe she had washed her hands somewhere else.
“He gets, well, he…um….” She took a deep breath. “He and his wife—she’s his wife now, you understand that they are married, right?”
“Uh huh. She’s his wife.” The toilet tank was pressing into my back.
“Yes, that’s right, she’s his wife, and a husband and wife, well they cleave together, like it says in the Bible. You know the Bible.”
I nodded. Daddy had bought me a white Bible for Christmas even though I thought a Bible was not the kind of present he would buy on his own. I thought Mom bought it and just said he bought it so maybe I'd read it. In my white Bible every word that Jesus said was printed in red. Maybe Jesus knew what Mom was talking about. I could read all the red words and find out.
“Well, they cleave together and then later she might have a baby and they would be very happy.”
She clasped her hands and leaned toward me. Her breath smelled like dill pickles
“So, that’s what it’s all about. A man and a woman are in love and they get married and, well, they cleave, they do these things in bed, and then they have a family and live happily ever after. It’s really quite nice, you know. You understand, right?”
“Good. Any questions? Because you know you can ask me any question.”
I wanted to know why her breath smelled like pickles. She didn’t usually like pickles, at least not dill pickles. I hoped she wasn’t going to start to eat them because maybe then we would run out. Was this the kind of question I could ask, about her eating dill pickles?
I shook my head.
“Oh good, you understand then, the man and woman, who are in love, and married, and close in bed, and the babies and everything. You understand all that, then?”
I looked at the locked door and then back at Mom. I nodded.
“Well good,” she said standing up, dusting her hands as if she had flour on them like when she made bread. “Good." She laughed in a funny little way that I’d never heard before. "I already said that didn’t I? I’m glad we had this little talk.”
She tried to open the door, yanked on the door handle and then glanced over at me and laughed that funny little laugh again. She unlocked the door and left.
“Whew, glad that’s over,” I heard her say.
I went upstairs to look in my white Bible to see if Jesus said anything about husbands and wives and cleaving in bed but I couldn’t find it so I went outside and rode my bike until Mom called me for lunch.
That afternoon Holly called.
“Where’s your mom?” she said.
“She went to town. She won’t be home until 4:00.”
“Good. I’m coming down. I’ve got something to tell you.”
We sat at the kitchen table, dunking potato chips in Ketchup and Miracle Whip mixed together. The bag of chips had been opened a long time and the potato chips were little pieces. We sucked Ketchup and Miracle Whip goo off our fingers.
“My mom had a little talk with me today,” Holly said. “That’s what she called it, “a little talk.”
“She did? So did my mom but it didn’t make a bit of sense and she locked the bathroom door with both of us inside. How creepy is that? She talked about a lot of nonsense. She smelled like pickles. Isn’t that weird? She doesn’t even eat pickles.”
“Forget the pickles. That little talk was about sex!”
“Sex is what a man and a woman do and then they have a baby and I’m never having sex, not ever! And neither should you.”
“Mom talked about a man and a woman having a baby, too but she didn't call it sex. She said something about cleaving. She said it was in the Bible.”
“Well, it has nothing to do with the Bible or cleaving--whatever that is.” She took a deep breath. “You won’t believe it.”
Then Holly told me about sex. I didn’t eat any more potato chips and neither did she; we threw them away. We vowed that we would adopt all our children and pinky-swore for good measure.
That night I wanted to eat dinner—corn on the cob and fried chicken and fruit salad with whipped cream—but I sure didn’t want to sit there and look at Mom and Dad and think about them cleaving in bed—which was really called sex—so I put the milk bottle in front of my plate and hunched down behind it.
There was a little dish of pickles by Mom’s plate. When she wasn’t looking I reached around the milk bottle and took it. I was not happy about all the cleaving business but at least I’d have pickles. And then I remembered I was going to adopt my children and everything would be all right.
As soon as the blessing was over I said, “Amen,” and took a big bite of fried chicken. I smiled to myself because I’ll bet Julie didn’t know about adoption and by the time she did know it would be too late for her. For once I was going to be the smartest.