If you want my book TYKES, just have it already! It's free. Take it from me, you scoundrels!
But besides that, here's the first story from TYKES, "Churchy Past", to read - right here in the comfort of now. Amen:
He’d walk the six blocks home from Church after practice and he’d count those six blocks with quick-back-steps as he side-skipped his way home facing left, then facing right, and so on.
“Right. Left-right.” 1. “Left. Right-left.” 2. “Right. Left-right.” 3. And so on. It would take Larren 28 counts per block if he took long side-strides. He usually did. He liked to get home fast.
Larren would take the mail from his family’s mailbox and run it up the stairs, across the porch, and through the screen doors that opened the wrong way. His Momma would be making dinner and if Larren got the letters to Pops before Wheel was over, his Pops would usually ask his Momma to give Larren a carrot-from-the-soup-broth to slurp down and tide him over until dinner.
He’d run with the dripping carrot up the stairs and catch the drops of soup in his cupped left hand. He’d run into his bathroom, slurp the puddle from his hand, hold the carrot over the sink, and speak into the mirror.
“Thank You Jesus for Momma for Pops for music for carrots for meat to make stuff tasty for my house for Pastor Greene for sunflowers for safety and for You, Your glorious Name, and the strength You and the Father give me. Thank You Lord for keeping me peaceful and blessed Amen.”
Then Larren would gobble down the carrot, staring at the chicken juices dribbling down his chin. He’d closed-mouth smile and chomp the four or five chomps it would take to gobble the carrot. Then he’d swallow the luke-warm stew in one gulp, letting out a burst of a chuckle as soon as the orange mess had tunneled down his gullet.
Though, once, it went different.
That day, he had counted to about 17 on the third block. He was facing to the left. And he stopped.
Larren stared up at Cindy Carmichael on her porch. She was in high
school! And Larren had heard, though he didn’t like to gossip, that she was still suspended for smoking pot. She had her hand in her shirt and was feeling around in there, staring back at him, kind of smiling a little. Larren didn’t leave the safety of the sidewalk.
Larren did not know what to do, but he also could not keep going home. With God’s Hand, he felt out the situation. He squinted to see how her hand was groping her chest. God told him sternly to watch without coveting. God told Larren to check in with how watching this made him feel. Strange, tingly. After a while, God told him to watch Cindy’s face and not look away. Then Larren checked the sky for any signs from Him.
He finally spoke up. “Why are you touching yourself like that?”
Cindy didn’t answer for a couple moments, then she sighed. “I’d tell you it’s to check my breasts for lumps like we’re supposed to, but I’d be lying. So I won’t say that.”
Larren liked her, but his hand trembled. His timid smile sneaked through his lips. Cindy was about 8 years older so she was a little not-to-be-trusted. She continued.
“I’m doing it because it kinda feels good for me. Sexually. Do you know what ‘sexually’ means, Larren?” She chuckled a little.
Larren thought about this question as he looked at Cindy’s feet from 20 feet away on the sidewalk. He tried to remember the times he had heard or saw the word. They were blurry and few, but he ventured a guess at the definition.
“I’m not sure. I think it has to do with people who get married or are married, but less so after the marriage. So… here’s my guess:
1. Done in the aftermath of getting married.”
Larren thought about this and nodded his head as he waited for the real definition.
Cindy smiled and laughed once pretty loud. “‘Sexually’ means done to try and make a certain type of pleasure. Physical pleasure. It’s nice having my boobs touched like this. Everybody tries to bring emotions into ‘sexually’, but that’s not what it means really. And ‘sexually’ usually implies that there’s more than one person around. You’re here. Watching. So I guess that’s why I said it felt good for me, sexually. Maybe that’s wrong.”
Larren processed all this. Then Cindy said, kind of smirking, "Do you want to touch my boobs, Larren?”
Larren was pretty sure he had an answer for this one.
“I don’t think so,” he said, twiddling his fingers on his thigh. He pointed at the sky, “I think… I think He doesn’t want me to. So, no thanks.” Larren tried to smile but wasn’t sure if that was right.
Cindy controlled herself, smiled again politely, and looked to the sky. Larren looked too and, together (though still 20 feet apart), they watched the day start to end. They watched night begin to paint its colors in the clouds. They watched for a minute or so. Then Cindy looked back at Larren. She was warm.
“Good choice. I wasn’t sure what I’d have done if you said yes.” A moment. “Anyways, if you don’t want to … if He doesn’t want you to…” she ‘hmm’ed and they looked down for a couple seconds. Larren had to get home, so he just thought he’d leave it at that. Larren bounded forwards as he rotated 180 degrees clockwise, landing to the right and saying “18”.
Larren made good time on the way home that day despite the hold-up. He slowed down and began to walk normal as he got to his mailbox. His mouth was twisted and his forehead was scrunched-up as he took the rubber-banded batch of letters and junk mail from the mailbox. He lumbered up to the screen door to creak it open towards him.
Pat Sajack and Vanna White were side-hugging each other and waving goodbye on the TV screen when Larren walked into the living room.
“Just in time, Larr,” said Pops with his eyes on the screen still. He flopped his hand out to ask for the mail. “Your Momma’s got something special for you in the kitchen.”
“Pops. Do you, and Momma, ever do stuff to try and make a certain type of… of pleasure?”
Pop’s eyes furrowed and then widened, shifting uncertainly from the start of Jeopardy toward his son.
Larren went on. “Like… together? I guess, I mean, do you do it… often? Or… ever?”
Pops began to shake his head and gulp like his mouth was dry.
“MOMMA!” Pops spurted out spittle as he hollered for his wife. “OUR ssSON! H-he GOT uh-a question…. OHHHhhhh.” He was jumping out his seat now and swiveling his head owl-like.
“WHAT!?” Momma hollered back from the kitchen.
“Oh, just come here, Momma this is just… something.”
“SOMETHIN?” came with the sound of Momma’s hand slapping the kitchen counter.
“YEAH! Something. A q-question. Now, just come on now, Momma I… Well, I… I guess. I guess, I need you.”
Silence erupted in response. After a couple seconds, Larren heard Momma dip her ladle into the soup broth and start to click-clack her way to the living room. She walked in wearing Larren’s favorite apron and holding her ladle at shoulder height. Momma’s wary-eyes were looking at Pops. Pops was sitting mouth-open and shaking his knee with his panic-eyes looking at Larren. Larren looked back and forth until Momma gave up on Pops and turned on her detective-eyes to look at Larren. She took two steps slowly toward him while she held the ladle high.
“My, Larren. What’s going on?” She looked expectant which made Larren look down. She leaned over to kiss his forehead. That brought his eyes back up.
“Yeah, Larren, what’s going on?” Pops whimpered and whined but quit it when Momma hushed him with her stillness.
“Well. I asked Pops if you two give each other… pleasure. Physical pleasure, I guess.”
Momma turned on the crazy-eyes. Larren loved Momma’s crazy-eyes. Her eyeballs kind of stuck themselves out to get a better look while the rest of her face retreated into her head. Larren couldn’t hold in a little chuckle.
“Now this ain’t a laughing matter, Larren.” Larren looked down and forced a frown to make his face normal. “Where’d you get this from, now?”
Larren hesitated. “I… I got it from Jesus,” Larren felt like it was just a white lie, and it wasn’t that bad. Larren wanted to say it totally true, but that felt bad too. Momma would’ve called Noah’s Storm down on the Carmichaels if she heard about Cindy. Larren liked Cindy, even though her family didn’t follow the Bible too close. But they’d find Him. Larren knew it. Besides, God probably brought her out there to tell all that stuff to him. It’s not normal for a high-schooler to talk to an elementary-schooler. Larren’s lie was true enough.
“Now don’t play funny with me, Larren, or you won’t get your juicy veggie!” Momma lifted the ladle slightly higher.
“I wasn’t funny!” He believed that. “God was kind of tickling my neck when I was looking at the sunset. And I felt it - everywhere! And God was telling me that someday-not-now someone would make me feel that way more and that that’s how life keeps going.” He made that last part up before continuing, “And I just want to know whether you and Pops make each other feel. Pleasure, that is. I- I’m just… wondering…”
As he trailed off, Larren’s parents breathed in at the same time. Then they exhaled, looked away, and then looked at each other. Pops looked terrified. Momma looked back serious for a second, staring him down. Then, from nowhere, Momma burst out a victory “HAH!” and started laughing crazy all over. Pops, suddenly blessed, had his mouth jump up into little cautious smiles a couple times before finally just letting himself chuckle along with Momma. Larren didn’t know why they were laughing, but he couldn’t stop himself.
Momma got herself together a little, squeezed a bit above her stomach, then shook her head and moved the ladle down to Larren’s height.
It was a sweet potato! Larren snatched it before asking permission.
Then he remembered manners and looked up at Momma. Her smiled faded as she looked down but her face was still warm. Larren felt some drips coming from the sweet potato and cupped his hand underneath.
“That pleasure stuff,” Momma warned him, “you’ll learn someday. And don’t worry your head right now about us,” she touched her stomach softly and looked at it. Pops got up slowly and walked to her. When he got there, he asked with his eyes to touch her belly too. She let him. They looked down tummy-side like a couple of dreamers.
“Now go upstairs and eat your tasty veggie before it’s too cold. Dinner’s in 10 minutes.”
Larren ran up the stairs and into his bathroom. He slurped the puddle from his hand, held the sweet potato over the sink, and spoke into the mirror.
“Thank You Jesus for Momma for Pops for running around without shoes on for sweetness for animals for new friends for pleasure for surprises and for You, Your glorious Name, and Your generous-ness. Thank You Lord for blessing me without telling me everything Amen.”
Larren gobbled down the sweet potato with pride. He swallowed it slowly, savoring each little bit as it went down. It was heaven.