View Full Version : me and marthajane

indian aviator
07-27-2011, 08:53 AM

The story herein is told as best as I can recall it. It occurred during 1948-49-50. There are continued incidents that occurred 1952-58. Over the years I have relived these events countless times, carefully reconstructing in my mind many forgotten details and conversations -- at one point undergoing hypnosis to recall details or events that lay buried under a lifetime of other thoughts and concerns.

What follows is presented as clearly as I can remember...

During this first period, 1948 to 1950, I ranged in age from 6 to almost 9. This doesn't make me an "old man" -- fortunately, a youthful look runs in my family (though we tend to lose our teeth early, for some damn reason). I look 35. I am 5'8" and appear slightly taller because I am muscular but slim. When I was age 8 to 13 I actually looked older and was often mistaken for 12 to 18. Luckily, that trend later reversed itself.

Over the years I've discussed these incidents with professionals (i.e., headshrinkers and other counselors), most of whom were scandalized by my tale. In discussing it, and in going back over childhood memories with parents and relatives, I managed to gather a number of facts about me as a boy:

I was mentally and sexually precocious. Not that I was a young Einstein or a certifiable "prodigy", but I was quite bright and mentally overactive. From the time I was able to crawl along the floor I was poking my nose into everything. In this regard I was difficult to manage; my mother couldn't keep pace with my endless questions and habits like peeking under everything in sight. When entering a new room or building the first thing I did was wonder what was in the closets. I used to look under the sofa and the chair cushions just to see what was there (I found lots of pennies doing this, and a wedding ring lost by a visiting aunt). I also loved listening to the 78rpm records on Mom's then-new Philco tabletop radio-phonograph. The Philco was on several occasions a source of wonderment to my Mom and relatives -- whenever they brought me a child's record, I would set it aside untouched and start playing a symphony (Dvorak's Eighth was my favorite) or the Peggy Lee album, and I listened to Tex Ritter platters until I wore them gray and had to ask for replacements. I knew more about the Philco than Mom did, once producing for her a crayon drawing of how the old vacuum tube "tuning eye" worked. My hearing was sharply developed: I could tell when the steel-tipped phono needle was beginning to wear before anyone else could hear the difference and I knew how to change the needle myself -- something my mother was never able to figure out.

Before I started grammar school I would read the morning paper to Mom while she fixed breakfast. This was something I picked up from my godfather, who every Sunday read the comics to me, pointing at each word as he read. An Italian immigrant who never finished grammar school, he was a slow reader who always read that way, his index finger leading him along word by word across a page. The first time he read to me I was curious about how the printed letters corresponded to what he said aloud, so each time he went through the comics with me I made him break down the words he pointed to, and soon I had him breaking down the syllables in the words until I learned to put words together on my own. The first words I learned to recognize by myself was the phrase, "You betchum, Red Ryder!," a phrase I used until everyone around me grew sick of it. My great-aunt Frances once caught me in her back yard trying to lift a heavy old castiron Underwood typewriter that someone had abandoned. I was barely six then, and the ancient 1920's-vintage machine was almost as heavy as I was. She wanted me to throw it away, but I insisted on keeping it and cradled it heavily on my lap the day I found it as she drove me back to my Mom's and stared at me, amazed that anyone would want such a piece of junk. But the old machine's feel and construction fascinated me, and did so for years. Quickly and easily bored, I drew my own comic books (mostly stick-men and outer space battles), once filled the apartment with acrid smoke and ruined a pot trying to manufacture my own crayons -- the odor made Mom sick for days, and it took weeks for the stench of paraffin to fade. These and other feats of my daring and heedless youth caused most of my stodgy family to consider me a holy terror. They labeled my behavior as weird and inscrutable.

Most of these activities were the result of prolonged self isolation and boredom. I was as impatient with adults as they were with me. They addressed me as if either they or I were idiots, mumbling among them- selves as if they didn't think I understood what they were talking about (some of them knew that I knew, so they would mumble in Italian -- which of course I didn't understand and which infuriated me!). They usually answered my questions with religious myth, fantasy, or old wives' tales -- none of which I accepted, especially quaint tripe about storks deli- vering babies and women getting big bellies from eating too many popsicles. I soon learned that adults -- especially my overly religious mother -- could not be trusted. I became emotionally and intellectually estranged from them at a very early age, probably around age four. Rather than ask questions, I did my own investigating. This often got me into trouble: I once jammed my arm into the ancient Westinghouse laundry machine Mom had in the kitchen corner, the kind with a mechanized feed-by-hand rinser-wringer attached to the top of the washtub. The thick rubber rollers on this machine happened to be engaged at the time, and the rollers pulled one of my arms through the wringer, threatening to squeeze the rest of me along with it. My mother heard me yelling, ran into the kitchen, smacked the roller release lever, and rescued me.

Unfortunately I learned absolutely nothing from this incident. I kept right on distrusting the advice of any and all elders and continued to snoop, probe, and experiment. My active spirits were so unpredictable that my mother arranged for rest on weekends by sending me out of the house to spend time with my grandparents and godparents. I gave this Puritanical crowd the same case of the heebie-jeebies, so they placated me with plenty of money for movies, comic books, magazines, and whatever else would keep me occupied in a corner or otherwise out of their hair.

I was not mean-spirited or destructive. In fact, I considered other children to be insensitive, dense, selfish, often brutal. My feelings were easily hurt by name-calling and arm-punching. I had a nauseating fear of violence, whether directed at me or at anyone else. Yet physically I was fairly muscular and aggressive, tending to spend my time in risky games such as purposely dashing back and forth across Lauderdale Street, the 6-lane, heavily trafficked main boulevard that ran through our project, and early on conducted my own far-flung explorations of the nearby downtown area without the slightest idea how I would find my way back home. I once wandered around the downtown Memphis waterfront until I truly got lost; I didn't find my way back until 9 o'clock that night and on returning home I found my Mom had called every relative in sight; several of them were pacing around our living room talking with some cops. I casually entered the front door and walked across the room with a carefree "Hi, folks!" and everyone immediately descended upon me with yells, threats, moans and tears of consternation. And though I knew this would be the result if I ever wandered off again, I wandered anyway -- but not without first studying a map of the city and learning all the routes of the city bus lines -- not so I would not get lost again (I did on several more occasions), but so I could find my way back in time to avoid their hysteria.

My neighborhood was a Federal housing project. But It was nothing like modern projects, so it's difficult to describe. The place was in downtown Memphis, Tennessee, and was built in the 1930's to house retired veterans, their widows and children, and government employees needing housing. World War II made this housing available to war widows and disabled vets and their families. The rent was $30 a month, which in the 1940's was still a fairly hefty sum for a widow or disabled vet. The housing staff maintained the area almost antiseptically inside and out. It consisted mostly of small, single-level housing units with 4 to 6 1-bedroom apartments in each unit. The project extended 6-by-8 city blocks. Each apartment had its own small backyard, which some tenants equipped with picket fences and even flower or vegetable gardens. Housing staff inspected the interiors of each apartment every 30 days to make certain the tenants kept them maintained. The grounds were webbed with sidewalks, dotted with trees, shrubs, and benches here and there. Those who are familiar with the life of Elvis Presley will recognize this project near downtown Memphis as the same one Elvis lived in during the early 1950's, at roughly the same time I was there.

In the late 1950's, a few years after my mother and my new stepfather moved out of the neighborhood to suburbia, the Feds handed the project over to the state. Housing for military and government people had been moved into the 'burbs, so the project became tenanted by state welfare recipients. In the 1960's the project was turned over to the county and city, at which point it was populated only by the homeless, the chronic- ally unemployed, and those living strictly on the dole. By that time it had decayed into a crusty slum and looked not at all like the well kept, flowered neighborhood I remembered.

My mother was a World War II widow. In many ways this contributed to my early feelings of isolation from her. I distinctly recall receiving from her the impression that, since my father's death in combat earning a Silver Star in the B-17 battles over Europe, I had been a great burden to her (There was more to this story than his death in the war, but that's another tale.) Certainly, my Mom being suddenly left alone to raise me and my younger sister could have had this effect on her. She never openly voiced any of this, but I clearly remember having received this "message" from her in many subtle ways. I had a sister almost two years younger. The two of us in that small apartment were too much for Mom; so it happened that by the time I was 5 or 6 my sister wasn't around often, having been taken under the wing of her very large godmother, who allowed my sister to spend months at a time with her and her husband. My sister wasn't enamored of life in the project, preferring to be thoroughly spoiled and pampered by her doting godmother (who did her best to play the role, usually to excess). Sis, whom we called Miss Priss, would stay at our apartment for a while, then ask to stay at her godmother's for prolonged periods, until at the age of 12 or so she practically moved in with her semi-permanently. This same godmother was also our great-aunt. I seemed to barely get along with this shrill woman, and our relationship probably survived due only to the fact that she had a great affection for her favorite nephew, my departed father. I found the woman too smothering and exacting for comfort.

So I was left most often with Mom, whom I didn't trust. I had the feeling I was in her way. She was attractive and quiet, but a sad and moody woman, usually too tired or worried to spend much time with me. I can't fault her; she married too young, got caught up in the tragedy of the War, and was simply doing her best to cope. With my sister usually away and with most of the kids in the project being too roughneck for my taste, I was left pretty much to myself from a very early age. Very likely this same attitude caused me to leave home later, at 18, and strike out on my own.

The single bright spot was the family next door. Another war widow lived there with her two daughters. This woman and my mother became close friends, a relationship that continues to this day even though the lady moved to St. Louis years ago. Her oldest daughter was a tall, attractive, brunette young woman nearing her twenties at the time and whom I seldom saw. She possessed a highly valued high school diploma, enabling her to find work and help the family financially. In the South in the 1940's women could expect only minimal pay at clerical or similar jobs. But she earned enough to keep her younger sister in high school. This younger sister was Martha Jane. My earliest memory of Martha Jane was when I was 6 years old and she was 15. I had a very serious crush on her.

I don't mean that as a 6-year old sexpot I had the kind of crush that centers on sexual fantasy. I don't recall ever sitting around fantasiz- ing sexually at that age about Martha Jane. I simply had a strong and memorable affection for her. And she had similar feelings for me -- in later years my mother would say to me, "Yes, I remember Martha Jane -- she just LOVED you! She thought you were the sweetest, cutest thing on earth! She was the only one who could make you behave."

It was true. With little instruction or any warning that I can remember, Martha Jane's presence seemed to soothe my savage beasts. I would knowingly do nothing -- nothing -- to upset her in any way. Actions that I knew were upsetting to others were automatically filtered out of my behavior when I was around her. By the same token, Martha Jane always approached me as though I were a person rather than an imbecile. She gave honest, practical, concerned answers to my endless questions and she had a fondness for stories and science and movies and music similar to mine. Obviously my insistent questioning and troublesome behavior were attempts on my part to get attention and establish some sort of meaning- ful communication with a mental soul mate. Most of my large family of relatives were half-literate, working- or middle-class folks -- nothing immoral about that, and such is the human stuff that gets work done and is often referred to as the "salt of the earth." There was no lack of a certain modicum of family attachment and devotion. But they and I lacked, shall we say, compatibility and understanding. Martha Jane apparently fulfilled many of those needs and shared my mental interests, sometimes sitting for hours telling me stories or reading to me or simply listening. After spending some time with her I usually felt serene for a few days. My frequent bouts of instant boredom and hyperactivity were, for a while, minimal. Martha Jane reciprocated by treating me with intelligence, playfulness, and a seemingly endless supply of affection. And she and I simply seemed to establish an instant rapport together. Adults were boring and stultifying: she never was. She never raised her voice or hand to me, and she never had reason to.

At 15, she was a sunny faced, fairly short, trim teenager with a very poised manner and auburn hair that was so light it often appeared blonde. She often wore black horn-rimmed glasses. Her hair was medium length and usually frizzy (I called it fuzzy-cute) rather than long and curled like most women and girls I knew. She had strong eyes that appeared alternately hazel or bright green, depending on the light and on her mood. She wore very sparse makeup, and had a soft musical voice that I found hypnotic. Pugnosed, a little delicate and with a bright face that hinted of a few tiny freckles, she was the typically pretty, early 50's teen. She also had a very evident West Tennessee Southern twang, which her older sister didn't seem to have.

(* P.S.: In later years I became an accomplished astrologer, and eventually astrology combined with my computer skills. Astrologically I calculated her birthdate: Martha Jane was a Virgo, born September 9, 1933. I later found out that this birthdate was correct. But I hope I never again have to do the amount of work required to figure this out!)

Martha Jane didn't spend a great deal of time with me or in my mother's place. She was an avid student. At that time, poor kids who wanted to get anywhere in life -- especially to move out of Federal housing projects -- had to get through high school, or else! It was that simple. We would usually see each other on our shared front porch if we happened to be entering or leaving our apartments together. She would greet me out front and spend a while talking to me there, and we'd go on our way. It was always a pleasant exchange, though today I remember little of what was said. I do remember that she would often hug me, kiss my nose, let me give her a kiss, or in some other way express herself affectionately and attentively to me. On a few occasions she visited my mother for an afternoon. They would sit in the small kitchen and chat over tea or coffee while I played elsewhere in the apartment.

Martha Jane and I did not spend time alone together until late in my 6th year, when my widowed Mom began dating the man who eventually became my stepfather. This started in late 1948. Mom and my future stepdad didn't date often, since they saw each other regularly during the week when she did her grocery shopping at the supermarket on the corner; my stepdad-to-be was manager/owner of the place, with others in his family. They dated only every few weeks or so; and as staunch conservative Catholics, they had a long and leisurely courtship that continued for years. When she did have a dress-up date, Mom engaged a sitter for me.

Originally my sitter was my maternal grandmother or one of my mother's younger sisters. But grandma moved to the distant 'burbs and my two aunts found husbands. My mother could only occasionally afford to pay a babysitter, and she refused to accept as little as a dollar or two from my stepdad-to-be (now I know where I got most of that independent streak of mine! It was her own independence that kept her in the project for so long. After my father's death she was too embarrassed to accept help and was determined to make life work on her own. Unfortunately the right to that streak wasn't looked upon so favorably in my case).

So it turned out that my sitter became Martha Jane, who offered her services freely. My Mom tried slipping her a bill or two now and then, but Martha Jane would have none if it. "You don't have to pay me to stay with him," she'd say. "I love Speedy!"

This brings me to my nickname. Why I found this name so embarras- sing, even then, is a mystery to me. But I came to be known as "Speedy." My other nicknames were Mikey (from my godmother) and Butch (from my great-aunt). Where the name Speedy came from has many myths behind it, but most people say it had a lot to do with the legendary speed with which I ran away when caught at something. Martha Jane addressed me by Speedy and sometimes by my proper name, Steven. Being called Speedy by most people deeply annoyed me, but I didn't seem to mind when Martha Jane did it. I have no explanation for making an exception of her when it came to my otherwise despised nickname. She said she liked both names, and that was OK by me.

During these infrequent babysit sessions she would usually study. Sometimes she would do a little cleaning or straightening, purely out of a desire to help my Mom, and I would always help. I felt "right" with whatever we did together. I do recall the one time that I upset her during a babysit session: I was in our small bedroom. There was a black phone set in the room and I wanted desperately to find out what happened when I dialed 411. The telephone directory listed it as a free public information number. So I picked up the phone and dialed 411. An operator answered.

"Number, please?" said the voice on the other end.

"Oh," I said nonchalantly, "I don't want a number. I just wanna talk to you."

Martha Jane must have heard this ridiculous conversation, because right away I heard her cry out, "Speedy? What are you doing in there?" She rushed into the room and stood in the doorway, stunned and shocked. "What are you DOING?"

I was so alarmed that I immediately said into the phone, "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to bother you, Miss," and hung up. Martha Jane quickly came to me and took the phone away. I told her I had only called 411 and was talking to the operator. She looked at me blankly, and then couldn't help but giggling. "You did WHAT?" All I could do was look up at her (she was not that tall, but she was then taller than I). I took the hem of her skirt and scrunched up against her; I was really afraid I had offended her. I kept saying I was sorry. She knelt down to my level and patiently explained to me about telephone operators and how the poor overworked gals got so many crank calls. "I'll call up one of my girlfriends sometime, okay? And you and I can talk to her together and you'll see what it's like." I said it would be fine, and I hugged her and apologized again and again, and she accepted and hugged me back and got me ready for bed.


The fact is, Martha Jane was an upright, well behaved, socially poised, and even a classy young lady. She seldom displayed anger, apparently never gossiped or had anything critical to say about anyone. As far as I can tell, she was just a very conscientious, proper, very pretty teenaged girl. She did have an active and playful nature but for the most part she behaved with the kind of politeness so common among girls whose Southern moms brought them up as "proper" and "sociable".

But obviously Martha Jane had her other side. On rare occasions during that period when she first was sitting for me, I would now and then look up and find her staring at me. Not "at" me, I should say, but "toward" me as though thinking of something very deep and ponderous. Or now and then she would, indeed, look right into me with a serious and careful gaze, but she'd say nothing. I would turn away and go back to what I was doing. I had no idea what she was thinking.

One of these incidents occurred in late 1948, just before or after Thanksgiving. I was six, Martha Jane was fifteen. She arrived at our place from next door at about 7 o'clock as my Mom was getting powdered and done up. I was on the floor of the living room and had spread old newspapers around to work on the treasured but broken Underwood type- writer that I had retrieved from the trash only a few weeks earlier. Martha Jane said hello and hugged me and chatted with my mother. Mom said, "Just let him play down there and he shouldn't be any trouble." Martha Jane laughed and said, "Betty, Speedy never gives me any trouble," at which Mom grumbled, "Give him time."

Martha Jane stood over me and asked what I was doing. My Mom broke in and said, "He's making a mess with that old typewriter. I don't see why he doesn't throw it away, it's nothin' but a...hunk of junk."

Martha Jane bent way down to smile at me on the floor and survey the spread of springs and spare parts strewn over the newspaper. "Hey," she asked, "are you taking this apart or putting it together?"

"Both," I said, not looking up from my work. "I'm gonna make it work again."

"But what'll you to do with it, Speedy, after you get it to work?"

"I'll figure somethin' out," I said arrogantly.

"You certainly have enough parts there for inspiration."

My mother came into the room, screwing on an earring. "Don't you make a mess and drive Martha Jane crazy. She has to study tonight."

"Oh, Betty," Martha Jane said, "he'll be all right."

My mother continued, "I don't know what he wants that thing for, it must be twenty years old. His godmother buys him toy trains and toy this and toy that, and he has to fool around with that and make a mess!"

She left to finish dressing in the bedroom. I sat on my knees, hunched over, laboriously studying the puzzle before me. I was so deeply absorbed that I was startled to hear someone breathing behind me. I looked up at saw Martha Jane staring at me. I turned so quickly that she barely had time to change the studied expression with which she had apparently been watching me.

Quickly, she smiled and gave me a big wink. She mouthed the words, "It's okay."

My Mom left a few minutes later. Martha Jane settled down to a pile of books on the sofa and studied silently while I knelt on the floor struggling with my project. Using pliers and a screwdriver, I managed to straighten most its typeset arms, but some of them were still getting stuck on certain letters. I worked on it until I became frustrated and threw the pliers on the floor and pouted.

"What's wrong?" Martha Jane asked, and she came to sit on the floor beside me.

I showed her how the keys for certain letters were still bent out of shape and that if I bent one properly, the keys next to it became misa- ligned. Martha Jane said, "Speedy, why don't you take it to a repair shop?"

"It's too old," I said. "Nobody wants to fool with it."

"Tell you what, maybe your Aunt Frances would buy you a new one."

"She won't," I said.

"But she gets you everything you want."

"No!" I said, angrily. "She told me I'm too young to have a typewriter."

"Too young?" she said, surprised. "You probably know more about typewriters than she ever will, hon."

"Besides," I added, holding the black albatross by the ends of its heavy roller platen, "it's mine! I found it."

"And nobody wants it but you," she pondered. She hunched down beside me and surveyed the damage. "Maybe I can help."

I sighed, "It's no use. It's just too old and banged up."

"Well, Speedy, let's be patient and see what we can do. I'm sure you can figure it out. Show me what's wrong with it."

I was reluctant and pessimistic at first, but Martha Jane put on her hornrimmed glasses and made me show her what the problem was. She studied everything closely and showed me how to set up the keys so that the problem was always repeated exactly the same way every time. She told me how to work on one part at a time and not try to fix everything at once. Finally we had the machine in one piece again and I showed her how straightening one key would throw several others out of whack.

Martha Jane sat back and scratched her head. I stood up beside her. "Martha Jane," I said, "you don't have to do this. You have to study."

She said, "No...now you've got me as puzzled about this as you are."

Suddenly she snapped her fingers and ran into the kitchen. She came back with some popsicle sticks. We kept popsicle sticks around for making our own cheap popsicles out of soda poured into ice trays. She showed me how to hold the line of keys in place with parts made from popsicle sticks, and that would let me work on one key at a time and keep the others in place.

"Hey," I exclaimed, "Neat! That's pretty smart for a girl."

"Hm...boys!" she huffed with a laugh, and she went back to the sofa and her books.

An hour passed while I worked feverishly. And finally the damn thing worked! I ran to the chest in the corner for paper and put a sheet into the roller, and used a piece of popsicle stick to replace a missing part that kept the wrinkled old ink ribbon aligned. Then I typed and typed and watched amazed as the page filled with perfectly straight rows of letters for the first time. I was so pleased, I filled the page from top to bottom with letters that soon were words instead of random characters. I watched as my thoughts magically unfolded in printed sentences before my eyes. I typed until there was no more room on the page, then I ripped it from the roller and ran to Martha Jane, who was startled by my sudden leap onto the sofa next to her.

"Look!" I said, shoving the paper under her face.

"Well," she said, impressed. "That's very nice. See? I knew you could do it."

Embarrassed, I said, "Look at the last line."

Along the last line I had typed "Thank You Martha Jane Thank You Martha Jane" across the page.

"Oh, that's sweet!" she exclaimed. She gave me a hug. "Can I keep this?"


"Is it all right? It's yours, you made it all by yourself. You sure you don't want to keep it so you can show your Mama what you did?"

"She don't care."

"Now why would say something like that about your Mama?"

I shook my head. "She don't care. I didn't make it for me, I made it for you. You helped me make it work."

"But, hon, your Mama cares about what you do."

I shook my head no.

"She does!" Martha Jane insisted.

I shook my head again. "She tells me kid stuff like...she says babies come from storks, and the storks deliver the babies in diapers hangin' from their beaks. She's always tellin' me stuff like that."

"And I take it you didn't believe it."

I shook my head no. "That can't be where babies come from."

"Well," she said, "maybe you ought to talk to your Mama about that."

I shook my head no again.

"So, have you figured out where babies come from all by your self?"

"Not yet. But it ain't from storks."

"You're probably right," she murmured. She gazed at me inscrutably for a long moment, during which I squirmed and stood on the floor but bent down to prop my chin on an elbow that I leaned on the sofa cushion beside her. Then she looked down at the page I had given her and smiled. "This is so nice of you. I'll take it, but...you can have it back whenever you want it."


She held her hand on the back of my neck and drew me toward her so she could kiss me on the nose. "Thank you!"

"Thank you too!" I smiled and blushed and looked at her slender fingers and her auburn hair and the gentle lines of her face. She could not have ignored the way my eyes stayed glued on her. She smiled at me.

"Kiss me back," she said, pointing to her noise.

I did and said, "I like your nose."

"Yeah?" she said. She winked at me. "I like yours too."

I feigned an overdramatized blush and a baby-like "Aw, shucks."

"Don't be silly," she laughed, and pointed at my project on the floor. "I hate to say it, hon, but it's nine o'clock. You have to clean that up, and I have to get you a bath."

I said okay and quickly straightened things up while she went into the bathroom and drew the bath. It was time for our bathtub ritual. The apartments had no showers, but they had big new tubs in the small tiled bathrooms. Martha Jane would fill the tub to just the right warm temp- erature for the pink bubble-bath. The magic moment came when I was fidgeting nude by the tub while the water level slowly rose. Martha Jane would hold the packet of bubblebath powder high over the tub.

"Almost ready-y-y..." she'd chant, as I waited.

"Looks okay NOW!" I'd say.

"Nope," she'd say. "Almost...almost...." And finally, "There she blows!" And she'd upturn the packet until just enough of the pink powder fell out to make the right amount of bubbly stuff that I liked.

I would hop into the tub and splash and stir up the bubbles until they overflowed the tub. The bubble-baths were better with Martha Jane than with anyone else, because others insisted on fewer bubbles and less time in the tub. But Martha Jane was herself a bubble-bath lover and seemed to know just how much would be the most fun -- which in my case was enough bubbles to not only fill the tub to its rim but to cover most of my head as well, by the time I fluffed it up.

Martha Jane did not dry and dress me. That was up to me. I was a fidgety kid anyway who liked to dress under my own power. Usually she stayed in the living room and listened to the radio or studied, and I would bathe, dry and dress and empty the tub myself. On those occasions when she did stay in the bathroom as "supervisor", she was there to make sure I cleaned up my bubbly mess. When this happened, Martha Jane removed her skirt and blouse and wore her bra and panties, or sometimes a delicate silk slip, if I were still in the bath; this was to keep her clothes from being splashed when we got playful and threw globs of bubble-bath at each other during our occasional bubble-fights (Martha Jane, neatnick that she was, insisted on cleaning up every single remnant of any mess we made).

On that night she stayed in the bathroom with me, fully clothed until I climbed into the tub. She stood in the opened doorway and watched contemplatively. After a minute she came into the bathroom and began removing her skirt and blouse. She was almost down to her slip when I announced, from under the mountain of bubbles that reached to my nose, that I had to pee.

"Go ahead," she said.

I insisted, "But YOU'RE in here!"

"For goodness' sake, it won't bother me."

But I refused to pee with her in the room and would not get out of the tub. I remained hidden behind my hill of bubbles.

Seeing my reluctance she said, "all right, I won't embarrass you. Is Number One all you have to do?"

"Just Number One," I said. "But I hafta do it a hunnert and sixty three times."

"Yeah, right...keep it under one-fifty, bubble-man, and don't take all night. Do what you have to do, hon, and call me when you're finished."

That was fine with me. She left the room and closed the door. After I peed I got back into the tub and shouted that the coast was clear.

When she opened the door she wore only her bra and panties.

For a while she watched me from the opened doorway while I splashed and scrubbed, but when it was time for me to finish up she came into the room and knelt near the tub, watching me as before. I don't remember what I said to her, but she was laughing about it when I pulled the stopper from the tub and stood up to dry off while the water drained. After my upper body was dry I got out of the tub as usual to dry my legs and feet on the little pink rug in the middle of the tiled floor. Martha Jane knelt and stared at me with that same probing look. I was drying off when she reached up and put two of her slim fingers around the head of my penis.

"Dry this too?" she asked, smiling.

"Yep," I answered innocently.

She continued fondling my tip with her two fingers, gently and slowly, squeezing lightly or running a finger around the tip.

I stopped my drying and looked down at what she was doing. I studied her fingers closely, feeling a new and beguiling pleasure at her touch.

"Feel good?" she asked, her eyes studying my reactions. Her voice had fallen to a whisper. She half-smiled with what appeared to be great interest, curiosity, and uncertainty.

"Yeah," I whispered back.

Our voices were so low that the drip drip drip of the bathtub faucet was easily twice the volume. I remember hearing the faint drip, thinking that the hot water handle had to be tightened to make it stop, but her touch had me spellbound. My tip itched strangely and the skin of my glans seemed to cling to her soft, tentative fingers.

"You like that?" she whispered.

"Yeah. Feels nice."

"Like it when I squeeze this way?"

"Yeah. Keep doin' it."

Constantly observing my reactions, she continued fondling me and asking questions. She had a very secretive, whispered manner as if no one was supposed to hear us, and I fell into this pattern by whispering back my own answers in the same secretive way. As she played with me I grew larger -- something else quite new to me -- and after a moment she set me on the edge of the tub and knelt in front of me, tickling and stroking my cock, explaining how it would get bigger as she did it. Soon I was erect enough to allow her entire hand to enfold me, at which point she began delicately pumping me toward a larger erection.

Still whispering furtively, she was delighted at the size of my young hard-on and made several remarks about how my penis, which normally was hardly bigger than her thumbnail, could grow to about 4 inches and get much fatter. I was far too young to have an orgasm at that point, a fact she apparently discovered after several minutes of this activity. But for quite a while she continued fondling me, and I grew more and more pleased at the sensations. Vaguely I recall that she attempted an explanation of the birds and bees (I found this much more sensible than that crap about storks!), but I absorbed precious little of what then was a great deal of heady biological detail. At that moment I was more interested in the pleasant physical sensations of her touch and the strangely enticing intimacy in her voice and manner.

She studied my facial reactions as much as she did those of my penis, and with every new touch or change in technique she asked me how it felt. I would tell her it felt good and told her the kind of hand movements and touches I liked best.

She said, "Now don't tell anybody we do this."

While this may have seemed an odd request to any other young boy, it didn't seem so to me. From the very beginning Martha Jane's secretive manner conveyed to me an air of deliciously naughty discovery, of shared and precious secrets. Obviously I wouldn't do anything Martha Jane didn't want. My distrust of grownups in general had made me adept at developing many covert activities on my own that offered refuge from meddling adults. I was intrigued to find that Martha Jane also had secrets that she kept from grownups but that she was willing to share with me.

From slightly above her I saw a soft swell of flesh extend invitingly down into her bra, and I ran my finger over it. "Why do girls always wear these?" I asked.

Martha Jane told me a bra held a woman's titties securely (Now, the word "titties," as compared with "breasts", was a valid "Southern" term. "Breast" sounded too clinical and seemed to apply mostly to packaged chicken parts. The people I grew up around came from rural farming families before they lived in the city. The word titties was perfectly acceptable. I heard it used often in connection with everything from cats and dogs to cows, auto tire aircaps, and baby-bottle nipples. But from the outset, body words had special connotations for me and Martha Jane. They were spoken with a unique vocal, emotional, and sensual coloration that I find indescribable. These same words would sound entirely different when I heard them used by others. This use of certain words in certain ways became a part of our strange relationship at a very early stage. The singular meanings we gave them appeared to grow entirely under their own power -- the same way the relationship itself seemed to have powers of its own).

She opened her bra and let me touch her flesh and her nipples. The feel of her gave me goosebumps. She explained how babies were nursed. "Babies suck on the nipples," she said, and I asked what it tasted like. She said she had never had a baby so she had no milk in her but she said that a baby sucking its mom's tit was a very important part of the way babies grew up. She asked if I had ever sucked my mom's nipples. I said I probably didn't (which in retrospect, considering my mother's staunch puritanism, was more than likely true). I asked her how it felt and asked to suck her titties. She held one breast up for me and told me I could lick her nipple and see for myself. I did. The sensation of her marshmallow-soft flesh on my tongue has never been duplicated. I was aware of her smiling down and encouraging me as I took my sample lick. She was delicious. So I took another, longer lick. Hearing her breath become oddly deep and pleasurable, I licked yet again.

It was a memorable moment. She left me with the impression that she enjoyed my tongue on her in a way that was an equally unique experience for her. She told me that licking her titties was very, very personal and that she would never let anyone do it but me.

After a while she had me as erect as I would ever get at that age. I was in a state not only of physical warmth, but of gratitude for her having revealed to me actions and pleasures that no one but Martha Jane and I would ever know about. And Martha Jane was greatly pleased and surprised at the size of my erection and at my ready complicity in our naughty game.

"We'll do it again later, okay?" she said, holding my very hard penis still in her warm hand. "But don't tell anyone else, hon, because...well..."

She paused. She searched for words.

"Well, they would say this is nasty. They wouldn't like it and we'd be in trouble."

I asked, "Why do they think it's nasty?"

"They just do. Lots of people don't like doing this."

"I do."

"You do? Really?"

"Yes. I like it with you."

She grinned. "Let's get you dressed and we can do it again sometime."

I don't remember anything else about that night. But I am certain this was the night that a significant language with its own coloration and associations, its own set of gestures and responses, and a heavily secretive atmosphere introduced themselves into our relationship.

Good little boy that I was, I got dressed. She did, too, and then she put me to bed, kissed me goodnight, and went into the living room to study while I fell asleep. I was perfectly content. It was not so much the physical sensations that left me pleased as it was a new serenity, a feeling of closeness with the only person in the world I could trust.

That was the beginning. I did not invest much time thinking about the details, nor was I old enough to live in constant anticipation of the next event. I knew only that I was extremely fond of Martha Jane. I was also aware, at the time, of her apprehension and tension. But she needn't have worried; indeed, I never told anyone about us and was never tempted to. This was Martha Jane's secret and mine, a haven from the coldness and fickleness of the outer world. And there was no way I would ever hurt Martha Jane by getting her into trouble that might keep us apart. Unwittingly, we had formed a compact and a revolt.