This morning at breakfast I asked Dad, “What do you think the president should do about Israel?”
He lifted his eyes above the sports section. “I think, Gabby, ” he snapped the city paper brusquely, “you shouldn’t worry about things you can’t control.”
My mother clanged the frying pan down on the stove top. She stood behind me, but I knew she hated it when Dad called me Gabby. I didn’t mind … too much. He usually called me Chet, but when he wanted some quiet, it’d be Gabby. He’d been doing it as long as I could remember.
Maybe I was bugging everyone by asking too many questions, by bringing up too many points. Maybe other people were just too polite to tell me so.
I decided to try an experiment. I’d see how long it took for someone to ask me for my thoughts.
After chores, I met the two Jimmys at the double lot. Jimmy 1, we called the Scooter. He was short, smart, athletic, and very quick on his feet. Jimmy 2 was the Haskell. He was tall, not too clumsy, and made our parents wince with his insincere flattery like Eddie in the old ‘Leave It to Beaver’ reruns.
They sat next to the low bush which served as out-of-bounds for football games. “Hey, Chet,” the Scooter threw his football to me. “One more and we can have a game.”
I nodded. Phase 1 of Chet Lemon’s psychological experiment had begun. How soon before someone would notice that I had changed? That I no longer chattered about everything that occurred to me. How long until I was asked my opinion on something?
I listened to Scooter and Haskell swap stories of a metal shop teacher who kept a flask under the rosin, how this girl or that girl looked so good, and what sports they were going out for.
They went to school together. I took the city bus to an all city school. All guys. Took an important interest out of school. Best thing was the ride to and from school – girls from two other schools were on our route and rode part of the way.
Sometimes Betsy Kaiser, the girl of my dreams, was at the corner where I caught the bus. Hazel eyes, a quick wit, a welcoming manner, and a nicely developed body.
Scooter and Haskell were sort of interesting, but they never required more than a yea or a slight nod from me to keep up their conversation.
Mandy saw us as she walked down the street. We walked over to the hedges. She had a list to fill at the new grocery store. After some chitchat with Scooter, she left. Me still not being asked anything.
I formed a tentative hypothesis. No one was ever going to ask me what I was thinking about ever.
My tentative hypothesis still held firm after the weekend. Monday morning I left for the bus stop at 7:05. That would get me to school fifty minutes early, but it increased other odds.
I zipped my jacket as I walked across the big grocery store’s parking lot. When I reached the far side, I saw Betsy. Alone at the bus stop.
I nodded hello to her.
She smiled. “What’s up, Chet?”
Close enough. A counter example proving my hypothesis wrong. Thank God!
The words gushed out of my mouth. And she didn’t call me Gabby or tell me to shut up.
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