I had just been released from the army after the Korean War and it was a fine spring day in Manhattan. I was strolling along watching the girls go by and trying not to remind myself that I’d have to get a job soon or find some way to avoid it, when I saw Sin approaching from half-way down the block. His face and bouncing gait were unmistakable. He had a pretty girl on his arm, to whom he was talking animatedly, which made me wonder because the last time I saw him he was a seminarian studying to be a priest. I waited till they were close and said, “Sin, is it you?” He stopped in his tracks and stared at me while his mind processed who I was. "Frankie, I can’t believe it.” We shook hands and he introduced the girl, Wanda, as his fiancée. “C’mon, old buddy, I’ll buy you a drink,” he said, and we went into a bar, “The Shamrock”, I think it ws called. It had the familiar green clover hanging on a sign over its entrance.
After we’d brought each other up to date over cold beers – Sin had left the seminary after one year, “bullshit” was how he dismissed it – Wanda asked, “Why do you call Simon Sin? Is he Sinbad the sailor?” Sin and I looked at each other and we both laughed. “It’s a nickname I had in the old neighborhood in Brooklyn,” Sin said. “Let Frankie tell you about it. You’ll love it.”
So I told Wanda how Simon got his nickname. I didn’t tell it exactly as I’m telling it now, I mean I left out some of the more embarrassing details, but aside from that I told it like it was.
He wasn’t what you’d call a fat kid, but he wasn’t thin either. Bill the Bully called him Podgy Pig and there wasn’t anything he could do about it because Bill was older and tougher. Besides, he was podgy. Someone else might have called him Porky Pig, but Bill had imagination, you had to give him that. That was before Simon acquired the other name, the one that said something about the way he was, not whether he was fat or thin. It was an awful name, but he liked it better than Podgy Pig; in fact, he was kind of proud of it.
Ironically, it was Bill who started the whole thing, probably because he was older and more interested in sexy stuff than the rest of the kids. It wasn’t that we weren’t interested, it’s just that we hadn’t realized how interested we were until Bill brought it up. Bill called a meeting in front of the basement entrance of the last building in the row of apartments we all lived in on East 22nd Street in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn. The entrance led down a short flight of steps into the basement, so if we sat on the steps we couldn’t be seen by grownups passing by, although hardly any passed by there anyway. There were Bill and Simon and me: the boys, and Muriel, Miriam and Janet: the girls. Muriel was born sexy, not that she was sexy, but she was very interested in sex. Like when we played our brand of Leap Frog, when one kid would stand with his back against the wall and the next kid would bend over and put his shoulder against his waist and the others would form a line by putting their heads under the ass and between the legs of the kid in front until a line of five or six bent-over kids was formed that looked like a giant worm caught on a hook. Then the first kid of the other team would run and leap up over the line and land as far up on the worm’s back as possible. Then the next until if all of the opposing team was able to jump on the worm and not fall off and the worm didn’t break, the worm won; if it did break under the pressure the opposing team won. Our parents thought it was good clean fun. Whenever I got to stick my head under Muriel’s ass she started to squirm around on my neck and if the game lasted long enough, wet my collar. What a smell, wow! But she was homely and had braces on her teeth.
Miriam was Puerto Rican, at least her parents were and she was born there. I think she was sexy too, but she was scared shitless of her father, who would have beaten her to an inch of her life if he ever heard what we were up to. She was kind of pretty, but her nose was too big.
Janet was different, dark, pretty and shy, and we were all secretly in love with her. I say secretly because no boy at that age would dare to admit that he had anything more than a passing interest in girls. You know how it is. Janet kept still when your head was under her ass and she didn’t wiggle around when she jumped on your back either, like Muriel did.
Bill had the habit of scratching his pimples when he was nervous. He scratched his ass, too, which meant that he probably had pimples there as well. His proposal was simple, direct and exhilarating. He wanted to look at the girls’ sex organs; in exchange, they could look at ours. (I don’t remember what words he used, probably he said something like “thing” or “what you pee from”; times change, you know.) We all sort of sat there with our mouths open, turning various shades of pink. But no one said no, so Bill went on. We should think of some place to go, like one of the apartment house cellars (he had one in mind) and just look. He made it sound scientific. Simon, to everyone’s surprise, was the first to agree, albeit monosyllabically: “When?” Bill, who had never said a kind word to Simon until that moment, patted him on the shoulder. “Soon,” he said, “right now if you want.”
“I don’t want to go into no cellar,” Janet said demurely. What did she mean – that she didn’t want to do it at all, or she only didn’t want to do it in a cellar? I wanted to say something so they wouldn’t hear my heart beating, but I couldn’t think of anything, so I just stared at Janet’s knees, pressed firmly together, imagining what wonders lay north of them.
“It don’t have to be no cellar,” Muriel said. “Light’s no good anyway.”
“We could take a flashlight,” Bill insisted.
“Your parents both work, Miriam,” Muriel, who didn’t like the cellar idea much either, said. “How about your place?”
“Oh no,” Miriam gulped, “my father would kill me if he found out.”
“Why should he find out?”
“Leave her alone if she don’t want to...” Simon said.
“I want to, just not in my place,” Miriam said and blushed scarlet under her olive skin.
“I’ll think of something,” Bill offered. “The question is if you all want to.” He looked at the girls one by one, taking it for granted that we boys certainly wanted to. The only girl who hadn’t agreed emphatically was Janet, but she was the most important one, possessing the tropical Shangri-La between her legs that we all wanted to examine, if only from a respectable distance. “I don’t know,” she said. “I gotta think about it.”
“What about right here?” Simon said eagerly, “now?”
“Are you crazy?” Bill admonished, and punched him on the same shoulder he had fondly patted a minute before. “Any one of those windows could open” – he pointed upward with his thumb at four stories of flats above us – “and we’d be seen. Shut your stupid trap if you can’t say nothing intelligent.”
“I gotta think about it,” Janet repeated and stood up from the step she’d been sitting on and smoothed out her cute little skirt. (Girls wore skirts then, remember?) “I gotta go home now.”
“Me too,” Miriam said, and followed Janet around to the front of the building. The rest of us sat there a while deep in dirty thoughts, until Muriel, realizing she was the only girl left, jumped up and yelled, “Hey, wait for me,” and ran after them.
Bill sneezed three times hard and held his head. “Jeez, I got a fuckin' headache.”
The next morning, Saturday, Simon rang my bell at eight o’clock. I was up already, in fact I woke up at six and couldn’t get back to sleep for thinking about what we were planning and if anything would come of it. My parents were sleeping and my father yelled: “Who the hell is that?” I told him it was only Simon and I had to go out. He grumbled something and went back to sleep.
“I couldn’t hardly sleep all night,” Simon said as we ran down the three flights of stairs. “Do you think the girls will do it?”
“Do what?” I was trying to seem calm about it.
“You know, it, what Bill said.”
“How should I know?” Then, after letting Simon suffer a while, “They seemed pretty hot to go, though. At least Muriel and Miriam.”
“What do you think we should do?”
“About finding out whether they’re gonna do it.”
“Ask them, I guess.”
“Yeah,” Simon grinned. “Should we go ring their bells?”
“Nah, that’d be suspicious. They’ll come out. It’s Saturday.”
“What about Bill?”
“What about him?
“Does he have to know?”
“It was his idea.”
“Yeah, but he’s a pain in the ass.”
“And he’ll bust our asses if we try to do it without him.”
That convinced Simon that Bill couldn’t be avoided, so we went to his apartment and rang the bell. His mother opened the door: “Yeah?”
“Can Bill come out?” I asked her.
“Bill’s sick, I think he’s got the flu or somethin', though I don’t know how he could have the flu in summer.”
That was too bad, but I never saw a happier kid than Simon. Actually I was glad too, because Bill was a pain in the ass, although he sometimes had good ideas. We hung around for an hour or two until the other kids started coming out. We kept by ourselves though, like we had a secret, which we did. Finally Miriam appeared.
“Should we ask her if she wants to do it alone?” Simon asked.
“Nah, she’ll never do it alone. Let’s ask her to get Muriel and Janet.”
Simon ran up to her before she could get involved in something with the other kids and said, “Hey, Miriam, how about gettin' hold of Janet and Muriel?”
She didn’t ask why, she knew. She ran to Muriel’s building first and about five minutes later we saw the two of them running to Janet’s building, and after another five minutes the three of them came sashaying out arm in arm. Simon and I put our hands in our pockets and walked towards them, not directly of course, kind of diagonally, and at the last minute we swerved as though we’d just thought of something and intercepted them.
“Hey,” Simon said, his face all red. “How about doin' it?” which was probably the worst thing he could have said.
“Doing what?” Janet said, looking at me instead of Simon with her big black eyes and throwing her hair back. God, she was beautiful.
“Ahr..what Simon means is doing what we talked about yesterday.”
“Where’s Bill?” Muriel asked, looking like she wanted to drop her panties right then and there.
“Bill’s sick, can’t come,” Simon explained anxiously, “but that don't matter, we’re here.”
“That makes us three to you two,” Muriel said, probably disappointed at having one less pecker to look at.
“Good,” Janet said. “I’m not about to show anything to him anyway.”
“You’re right, Janet, absolutely right,” Simon almost panted. “He’s a pain in the ass.”
“Watch your language,” Janet said, frowning.
“Yeah, watch your language,” Muriel repeated.
Simon looked like he didn’t know what language they meant and didn’t say anything, which was just as well.
“But where?” Miriam asked. “Not in my house, that’s for sure.”
They’d obviously already decided to go for it, but were still worried about the place. My mouth was dryer than the Sahara desert, but I knew I had to talk fast. “You know, the perfect place just occurred to me.” Like Hell! I’d been thinking about it since six o’clock in the morning. They say that inspiration hits when you just wake up and that’s what happened to me. They were all looking at me expectantly.
“The church around the corner,” I whispered, leaning close to the girls.
“The Protestant one?” Miriam asked.
“That’s the only one around the corner.”
Janet, Miriam and I were Catholics and Muriel and Simon were Jewish, so we couldn’t have cared less about a Protestant church. In fact, it was the perfect place to sin. There weren’t many Protestants in Brooklyn those days, probably still aren’t, so they came from all around to go to that church. All doomed to hell for being Protestants, while we Catholics could go to confession any time and get to heaven eventually. Muriel and Simon would probably go to the same place as the Protestants, but that was their business.
“The church is locked on Saturday,” Janet said sensibly.
“I don’t mean inside the church, I mean in these pits they have in front of the basement windows.” They all knew what I meant. In order for the basement meeting hall to have natural light, rectangular cavities had been cut into the ground and iron railings put around them so no one would fall in. They were swell hiding places in games when you had to hide, and we had all used them for that purpose until everyone knew about them and they had become too obvious.
“Yeah, that’s perfect, Frankie!” Simon exclaimed, beside himself with excitement.
“They’re kinda small for all of us,” Janet said.
“With Bill, yes,” I agreed, “but we’re not so many now.”
“Oh, let’s just take a look,” Muriel said. Good old Muriel.
“OK, but I still don’t know,” Janet said, looking at me again.
“Let’s go,” Simon said and started down the street. “C’mon!”
“No,” Janet said. “You boys go the other way, around to Ditmas Avenue. We’ll go this way.” See how smart she was?
“Sure,” Simon agreed. “And we’ll meet there.”
Janet strode off quickly with the other girls at her heels. Simon was hopping up and down in place, “C’mon, Frankie.”
“Don’t run,” I admonished him, “everybody’ll be looking at us.”
“Hey, Frankie,” one of the other boys yelled. “Where ya goin’? We’re gettin’ up a game of stickball.”
“Nowhere,” I answered over my shoulder and Simon and I walked as casually as we could in the opposite direction from the one the girls had taken. Once we’d turned the corner, though, we broke into a trot, then a gallop, turned the other corner and finally came to the church. The girls were nowhere in sight.
“Do you think they chickened out?” Simon asked, biting his nails.
“Nah, they’re walkin’". We ran, that’s all.
A minute later they turned the corner and approached us, Muriel and Miriam ahead and Janet now hanging back a step or two. Simon and I entered the churchyard cemetery, passed the time-worn tombstones (it was one of the oldest churches in America) and waited at the railing of one of the cavities. It was a perfect spot, well protected by two tall chestnut trees. When the girls came into the cemetery, we climbed over the railing and jumped into the cavity. We looked through the meeting hall window just in case, but it was empty.
“C’mon down,” Simon whispered hoarsely to the three girls peering down at us like full moons.
Muriel and Miriam were ready to climb over the railing, I’m sure, but Janet said, “I’m not going down there.” She had class, you see.
“But how we gonna do it if you don’t come down?” Simon pleaded.
“From up here,” Janet said.
“You first,” Muriel said, meaning us.
Simon fumbled with his fly and finally got his dick out. He was so nervous he didn’t even have a hard-on and it looked real puny there in his palm. I was nervous, too, but I had half a hard-on at least. We looked up and saw them gazing down at us with what I can only call a mixture of interest and amusement. Passion? Not that I could tell. I guess they were nervous too. Suddenly Muriel spread her legs like a cowgirl getting ready to draw and pulled her panties to one side with two fingers, revealing an incipient black bush of pubic hair. Muriel did the same and we could see her cunt real well, because it was covered with a transparent mantle of blonde hair. We stared at Janet’s knees. Finally she shrugged, took up the cowgirl stance, placed two fingers on her crotch and pulled aside her panties.
It was gorgeous, a plum of shiny dark hair with a crease in the middle that allowed the essence of her pulchritude to shine through like a purple sun. Our jaws dropped and Simon’s dick began to grow and glow like a sausage with special effects. Mine had long since reached epic adolescent proportions. But the revelation lasted only a few seconds. Janet released her fingers and the panties snapped back into place eclipsing the sun. The other girls followed suit and they all turned and left. Simon and I lay there primed to the gills. I won’t mention what we did then; I guess you can imagine.
At nine the next morning, Sunday, the phone rang. It was Simon. “Meeting in a half hour, same place, the girls are coming,” was all he said in a voice that sounded like he was gasping for air. I got dressed and was waiting at the meeting place when the others arrived. Simon got right to the point.
“It was real good, I mean doing it, yesterday.” He was still panting for air. “Now I think we should do it again, but...but...but this time you girls come down with us, one by one or in twos if you think there’s enough room, and this time we touch too.”
We all gaped at him. A second later it came to me in a flash. Simon wanted to utilize all of the five senses that we had learned about in school. We’d already seen, now we would touch. Was there anything to hear? I didn’t see how there could be, but you never know. But next would come smell and I knew from when I had my head between Muriel’s legs playing leap frog that there was something to smell. And taste? I pulled a curtain down over my mind. It was too much to even contemplate. No one said anything. Were the girls having the same thoughts? No, I couldn’t believe that they were as perverse as us.
“It'd be easy,” Simon went on, still gasping, “you take off your panties instead of just holding them aside and......
“YOU SINFUL BOY...!” Our hearts boomed in unison as we looked up and saw Mrs. McIntyre leaning out her first floor window with plastic curlers in her hair waving her fist down at us. “GET OUT OF HERE WITH YOUR FILTH.” We stood up and ran, girls in one direction, boys in the other. Her parting words reached me like an arrow piercing my heart: “And I’m gonna tell YOUR mother!” Simon and I stopped running three blocks away and leaned against a lamppost, panting. "Sinful boy", she said. Who’d she mean?”
“You, Simon,” I said, worried that he wanted to pin it on me. “You were the one doing the talking.”
“Yeah, that’s what I think, too. Whose mother do you think she meant? She didn’t say mothers, did she?
“No, but she might’ve meant it.”
“Yeah. Janet’s at least, they go to mass and novenas and all that crap together.”
I nodded. “Poor Janet. She won’t tell Miriam’s mother though. She don’t talk to Pordaricans.”
“No,” Simon agreed. “She don’t talk to Jews neither if she can help it, the old bitch, so that leaves Muriel and me off the hook.”
“Yeah, but I’m Catlick.”
“Yeah,” Simon sighed. “Anyway, I guess that’s the end of it".
That night the phone rang at home and Mom answered in the bedroom: “Yes, Mrs. McIntyre, how are you? ….Oh? (long pause)....Really?.......(long pause).......Yes, certainly, thank you for calling, Mrs. McIntyre.” Mom came into the living room where I was reading a comic and stood for a second before me. I dared to look up in time to see a faint smile on her face as she turned and walked into the kitchen. That’s when I learned for the first time what a great Mom I had.
Mrs. McIntyre swallowed her prejudices, given the seriousness of the offense, and told all the parents. Simon got a long lecture from his Dad about the birds and the bees. Kinda late, he said, when he laughingly told me about it. We didn’t see the girls right away, Janet because she got hell and was dragged off to confession immediately at Holy Innocents, the Catholic Church nearest to us, about ten blocks away, and the other two because they weren’t allowed to come out. When Bill got better he wanted to take up where he left off, so we had to tell him what happened. At first he was furious that we had gone on without him, but when he heard about Mrs. McIntyre yelling at Simon that he was a sinful boy, he laughed and said, “Sinful Simon, that’s who you are.” The name stuck and was soon shortened to just plain “Sin”, which is what everyone called him from then on.
Sin grinned wolfishly at me and turned to Wanda. “So that’s how I got my name, Wanda. Do you like it?”
“It’s perfect, darling, I love it,” Wanda said, wiping tears of laughter from her eyes. “Fits you like tights.”
“It just goes to prove, Frankie,” Sin said, “you can’t escape your past; a ghost like you is bound to show up sooner of later.”
“Right,” I agreed, ”especially if it’s a sinful one.”
“Well, here’s to our three little ladies, bless their elastic souls, wherever they are.” He lifted his glass like a chalice. “I hereby forgive them their sins - past, present and future."
“But only on the condition that they never repent,” I added.