Debbie, Marsha, Twyla, and Other Disasters
Her name was Debbie Halloway, the younger sister of one of my high school pals. She was a goofy fourteen-year-old. I was a suave sixteen-year-old. I’d never looked at her twice until she and her brother returned from a yearlong visit with their grandparents in sunny California. When she arrived at school that fall, Debbie had, well...grown up. The goofy fourteen-year-old had become a sultry, exciting woman. I homed in. And not with the typical five dollar (a buck each for the movie, a buck each for food, and a buck for gas) date. For the rendezvous with Debbie, now called Debra, I went all out. I made dinner reservations for steak and lobster, followed by a concert from the University of Illinois Jazz Band. It was a twenty-dollar evening. Some big money for a small town hopeful in 1963. I picked the lady up at her parent’s farm, and she was lovely. I escorted her to my grandfather’s 1957 Plymouth, and we were off, she sitting way over there on her side of the front seat. But, the night was young and hope springs eternal.
Before heading for the city, I had one stop to make. The next day was Sunday, and I needed to drop by my church and open up some massive, roll-up connecting doors. We went into the darkened building, I turned on minimal lights, and started off through the dim, creaky structure. Debra, lovely in pale blue chiffon and white heels, claimed the joint was too spooky. She clutched my arm tenderly and asked to go with me. Swollen with manly pride and testosterone, I slipped my arm around her waist. She snuggled appropriately, and off we went.
The short route to our destination was through the baptistery, a six-hundred-gallon tank with steps leading down into both ends and a large mural on the back wall of what we were told was the River Jordan, complete with rapids. The shadows were thick as we started down the steps on our way through the tank. Accidentally, I managed to hook her foot and we fell the three feet to the bottom of the baptistery. It should have been empty. It was full. Baptists practice total immersion. To the best of my knowledge, Debra did not speak to me for a full year.
Then there was Marcia Pasley. Marcia was a rowdy redhead, also sixteen, whose family had moved to our small community that fall. She was a strapping lass of startling endowment with bright blue eyes and a bawdy laugh that captured my complete attention. I was spun. I pursued. I cajoled. I persisted. I may have even begged. I acquired a date with the magnificent Marcia for homecoming. Full formals were in order and she was outstanding, even wearing an ankle bracelet. WOOF!
She gushed hello, planted herself firmly next to me in the front seat, said she didn’t have to be home until two a.m., and whatever were we going to do for the three hours after the dance? Visions of sugarplums were cavorting behind my fevered eyelids, and Marcia was munching on my earlobe, as I pulled into the school parking lot. Aware of Marcia and little else, I didn’t notice the black-painted concrete blocks a disgruntled freshman had placed in some of the parking spaces. When I hit the obstruction, Marcia was just leaning over to adjust her ankle bracelet. She broke her nose on the dashboard. White poofy gowns and bleeding broken noses are not a good combination. After the trip to the hospital, she stopped speaking to me, too.
Rejecting a life of celibacy, I decided my hometown was not the place to continue my search for victims and went looking for companionship in a small city a few miles away. A friend’s girlfriend gave me a number to call which belonged to a young lovely named Twyla Hefner. We conversed at length via landline and, two nights later, I collected her at home. Twyla’s parents were nice, and she was wonderful: petite, pretty, with long black hair, fast brown eyes, and an off-center grin from full lips. We giggled our way through the comedy at the Rialto Theatre, chatted and laughed all through dinner at the Steak n’ Shake as we fed each other fries, bumped shoulders and thighs, and raised our collective body temperature by several degrees. At around eleven p.m. we returned to her house and planted ourselves on the playroom couch. A few moments later, her mother shouted down to us to have fun. She and Twyla’s dad were going to bed.
I was in heaven. This young woman was bright, funny, cute, lovely and aggressive. So far, I had done her no physical or emotional damage, and she seemed to think highly of me. What could possibly be better? Unfulfilled, but full of expectations, we parted, panting, at her front door an hour later. As I floated toward the Plymouth, a large figure loomed in front of me, grasped my shoulders, and slammed me across the hood of the car. It then stood me upright, shook me, and informed me that it was Twyla’s brother. Resenting his attempts at intimidation, and being a big husky, I swung on him and landed a shot to his forehead that nearly broke my hand, and didn’t even make him blink. Telling me, in vivid detail, what he would do to me if I ever touched his sister again, he slowly folded me up like a taco and deposited me in the front seat of my car. By the time he returned to college and out of our way, Twyla’s father was transferred and her family moved. I never saw her again.
So went my sixteenth year, disaster after disaster. The following summer, ten days after my seventeenth birthday, I went off for two weeks of music camp at a college about fifty miles from my hometown. One of the counselors there was a nineteen-year-old university sophomore named Mary Sue Hack. She was a tall willowy blonde of outstanding appearance, generous attitude, and amazing endurance who pounced on yours truly like a duck on a Junebug, beginning an educational experience that lasted until I went off to college.
Sixteen sucked. However, to quote Francis, when I was seventeen, it was a very good year.