who would have turned 100 years old today, I am going to go ahead and post a story in which I used her name. She loved this story and thought it was hilarious, and showed it to all her friends at her retirement village down in Margate Florida when it first came out. I hope you like it, too, and will join me tonight in toasting Aunt Tillie's fun-loving, bubbly memory.
Some warnings beyond this is going to be a very long blog post:
1. I might not be supposed to post this whole thing here. If that turns out to be true, I will take it down.
2. This is not appropriate for all audiences. There's sex. Between teenagers. So if that is not your cup of tea or you think your parent would be very unhappy to learn you were reading such a thing, please join me in wishing my Aunt Tillie a happy birthday and skip on down to the lovely JUSTIN CASE video below.
3. My sons helped me make that Justin video and I am very proud of them.
And also the video. So please do check it out. Whether you read the story or not. (But please don't read the story if it's inappropriate for you. See above.)
4. My mom pointed out to me this morning that Aunt Tillie would be totally tickled if the new royal baby is born today, on her hundredth birthday. I had no real interest in the royal baby (other than vaguely wishing the new parents, whom I don't know, well) until my mom said that. Now I hope the baby will indeed be born today. And will live a long, happy, productive life. And will be named Aunt Tillie.
5. You never know.
6. I would put the story on a separate page and just insert a link here but I don't know how and I have to get back to work on my current book. Also sorry about the messed up random moments of single-spacing. It started perfect except for about 3 lines that were insisting inexplicably on being single-spaced. I keep trying to fix it and it just gets worse and worse. If I fix it any more I will make such a mess the whole thing will explode. Or maybe just my head will.
7. This story appears (nicely spaced) in a collection of short stories edited by the wonderful Judy Blume.
The collection is called Places I Never Meant to Be and all the stories are written for the collection by authors whose work has been censored or challenged. If you enjoy the story and/or want to know more about how authors have dealt with such challenges, I encourage you to check out the book.
8. I love Mackey and Jodie so much I have never stopped thinking about them. Or writing about them.
9. Here is another story about Mackey and Jodie. This one is fine for middle graders. It is an earlier point in their relationship -- in fact, I think it's the moment Jodie truly falls in love with Mackey.
10. Happy birthday, Aunt Tillie. I did and do love you so.
by Rachel Vail
“I have to call Aunt Tillie,” I said. As soon as the words were out I closed my eyes.
“What?” Mackey asked, out of breath on top of me.
“Nothing,” I whispered, trying to refocus on losing my virginity. With my eyes squeezed shut, all I could see was Aunt Tillie’s face, which didn’t help.
My mind had wandered. It started with thinking, Oh my god, I’m losing my virginity. Then since I didn’t know what to think about that, I thought, Well, when I’m done I have to let the dog back in and make sure the footprints are wiped off the foyer floor so my mother won’t know we’ve been here, cutting school and losing our virginity. That led to realizing I should remember the date, because this is an Important Milestone. And then I remembered that the date is January 14 – Aunt Tillie’s birthday, she’s turning 80 today, and out it fell from my mouth, “I have to call Aunt Tillie!” My one utterance during the loss of my virginity. No I love you. Just Aunt Tillie.
By the time I finished reviewing my space-out, we were done. Mackey lay beside me on the playroom floor, and the sheet he had spread beneath us was crumpled over near the Ping-Pong table. My back felt sand-papered from the indoor-outdoor carpeting my parents had industriously put down themselves one weekend last year. They live for home improvements. My parents. Oh, god. Busy, rolled-sleeve Lutherans who would never tolerate a mess or doubt my virginity. Which reminded me, I had to remember to fold the sheet.
I almost popped right up to do it but instead I looked over at Mackey first. He was blinking sleepily, one palm resting on his forehead, his other arm under my neck. His naked hairless chest is probably as familiar to me as my own. We’ve been best friends since fifth grade and a couple since seventh. People are shocked we’ve waited this long, but I felt like we should at least have our driver’s permits. Mackey protested, “They don’t check,” but he was joking, not pressuring. He may have a neck as thick as my waist and a stomach so hard you can stand on it, but inside he’s a total softie. Anyway, I got my license a month ago. We’ve both been taking deep breaths with eyebrows raised and shrugging at each other since then. Our chemistry teacher was absent today which meant we’d have to spend the period in study hall staring at the walls. He looked at me with his gray eyes wide and pleading. I said, “Good a time as any.”
He yelled, “Much!” and did a little dance in the hall. I grabbed him by the jacket before we could get detention and dragged him out to my car. We couldn’t find anything good on the radio on the way to my house, so we listened to the traffic report. We decided that would be our song.
He’s the one who thought of the sheet, which he spread out gently across the playroom rug. He stood in the center of it and said, “Come ‘ere.” Then we did it.
“You OK?” he asked me, pushing my face toward his.
“Mm-hmm.” I kissed him on his warm rough cheek with my eyes closed. My hair flopped into my mouth.
He lifted my hair and tucked it behind my ear, and whispered, “You were really into it, huh?”
“No, yeah, it was fine.” I stood up and pulled my underwear out of my sweatpants. “We should fold the sheet.”
“In all those sex stories in Penthouse,” Mackey said, up on his elbow, watching me struggle into my clothes, “The women never moan, ‘I have to call Aunt Tillie.’”
“I’m sorry; it’s her birthday,” I said, trying to maintain my balance while pulling on socks standing up. As long as we’ve been together I still can’t get normal when I’m naked and he’s watching. “Come on. We gotta go.”
He sat up to fiddle with the condom. I turned around and yanked my sports bra over my head. Not to be immature but he could’ve gone to the bathroom.
I heard him stand up and walk over to me but I didn’t turn toward him. “Do you want to go get a, something?” he asked, wrapping his arms around my waist. “A coffee? A cigarette?”
I shrugged him off me. Neither of us has ever tried coffee or cigarettes. We’re both athletes and besides, his father died of a heart attack at 40, probably because he smoked. Obviously Mackey didn’t mean literally. I got the reference. It just pissed me off anyway. “Mackey,” I said. He was still naked.
“Now, she murmurs my name,” he complained, heading for the bathroom. While he was gone, I grabbed my basketball shirt from on top of his half-inside-out sweatshirt. I pulled it on, then flipped my head over and gathered my hair into a ponytail. That’s that, I told myself. Got rid of it. No big deal. Fold the sheet.
I was up in the kitchen by the time Mackey had finished in the downstairs bathroom, and he wandered up to find me. He looked a little bewildered, holding his green-striped tube socks loosely in his fist. I forced myself to flash him a quick smile as I closed the back door behind the dog.
He smiled back. He grinned, actually. I shook my head, but felt myself smiling in return. I can never help it, when he gets that look on his face, so pleased with himself and me and life in general. I reached into the cabinet to get the dog a treat, to bribe her for her silence. The only witness to what we’d done. Sort of witness. There’s no window in the playroom so she didn’t actually watch or anything.
With my face deep in the cabinet I said, “That wasn’t so bad, huh?” My hands were shaking a little on the box of biscuits.
“Oh, great,” Mackey answered. “Not so bad. I’m new at this, too, you know.”
“No,” I protested. I gripped two Snausages in my fist and squeezed. “I meant….”
“I know what you meant, you crank,” he said, balancing on one foot to pull on his sock. “Me, too.”
I didn’t want to get into a whole thing so I pushed past him without making eye contact to give the dog her treats.
“What’s your rush?” Mackey asked, trying to catch hold of my face as I went by him.
I turned on the kitchen faucet to wash my hands. “I have a game,” I said.
“Come on, Mackey. Let’s go.” I picked up my keys and wet a paper towel. He followed me to the foyer and sat beside me on the mat, as we always do to put on our shoes. His red high tops are size thirteen wide. We really do know everything about each other. He uses only green pens. He worries how he’ll pay for college and that his nose is too big. His locker combination is 13-2-22. I backed toward the door, using the wet paper towel to wipe our footprints off the white tiles. He held the door open for me. I locked up. In movies there’s more, well, something. Sweat. Background music. Staring. They don’t have to pull their underwear off their sweatpants, after, and drive the rusting Toyota over to the high school gym.
Mackey turned on the radio while we were stopped at a light. “See if you can find the traffic,” I said.
He laughed, but then I guess I hit the gas too hard when the light changed. He was still looking for a station so he got flung back against his seat. He turned the radio off and watched the houses, out the window.
While I was pulling into a parking spot, Mackey whispered, “Do you feel different?”
“About you?” I yanked up the emergency brake.
“Yeah. Or yourself? Or us?”
He leaned across the gear shift to force me to look at him. He’s lucky he’s so hugely muscular because his mouth is very pretty, almost girly, the way the lips are so red and almost pursed, and his soft gray eyes that lock on me like there’s nobody else.
“You’re not going sentimental on me, are you?” I asked.
“Damn,” he said. “You really have no appreciation of how smooth I am at all, do you?” He smiled and tried to kiss me. I let my lips brush his, then turned off the ignition and flung open my door. He ran after me. “It didn’t hurt, did it, Jody?” he whispered.
“No,” I said.
“Promise?” He rested his heavy arm on my shoulder.
“I have to get to the gym.” I checked my watch. I was early and he knew it.
“OK,” he said. He slowed down or maybe I sped up, and didn’t look back.
In the locker room I turned my combination and carefully pulled out my basketball shorts and high tops, setting them on the bench. I had time to kill so I did some stretching, sitting on the bench.
Well, that’s done, I told myself. In a totally responsible way, with someone I’ve been going out with for four years, in the middle of the afternoon, in the safety of my home. No big deal.
No big deal.
When I sat up again some of my teammates had come in, and there was the usual ruckus of getting ready for a game. The visiting team sucked so we were feeling pretty cocky. Still, by game time we were all focused, concentrating, our hair pulled back tight, our laces double-bowed. I hadn’t said a word to anyone about the afternoon. Just “Hey” a few times, to teammates getting ready near me. “What’s up.” That’s about the extent of it.
Mackey is my best friend, always has been, so I’ve avoided the whole girl-politics thing. It occurred to me that if I were someone else I would’ve been crammed into a stall with another girl, my best friend, telling her what had happened, sharing every detail and making it feel more real, more important, more special somehow. I’ve watched girls caucus about their boyfriends, do you think he likes me what does it mean that he looked at me that way why didn’t he say hello. I’m just not the romance and intrigue type. I’m five-ten, allergic to makeup, and can bench one-and-a-half times my weight. It’d be hard to pull off acting girlie.
During the pep talk, while Coach was reminding us Get back on defense, I scanned the faces around me. I could trust any of them to be where she should be to receive a no-look pass. That’s about it. Which of them could I imagine gripping by the arms and whispering with wide eyes how it had felt, this afternoon? No, not one of them. Well, I’m a very private person and some things I think are nobody’s business but my own.
Like, what does it mean if you feel just nothing much, after?
I was a little sore, actually, I realized, down there. I walked out with the team into the white lights and echoes of the gym. Get back on defense. Don’t start in on maybe it’s not true love. True Love. What did I expect? Like, a symphony? Flowers? Slow motion? It’s just me and Mackey. JodyandMackey, one word. Maybe if you’ve been going out forever, there’s not that much romance left. Maybe that’s why people do it with a fling – maybe there’s more passion.
Passion. Not a word I’ve ever once in my life said out loud. I’m a jock, for god’s sake. What do I want with passion? Romance. That’s for girls who rush home after school to pant over their soaps.
I low-fived my teammates when my name was called, and crouched to wait with the other starters for the opening whistle. The ball thumped into my palms, its hard nubbiness solid and reassuring. I dribbled twice and hit an open teammate, and she sunk a quick lay-up to put us up two points before the other team had touched the ball. “Yes,” a few of us huffed, slapping one another’s butts, ready to bury the suckers.
I shuffled backwards on defense, in the rhythm of the game now, sneakers squeaking, hands up, breath coming fast but regular. No way was this girl was getting past me, I was so on her, so sure of myself I had time to flick my eyes up to the stands.
I stopped center court when I saw him. The girl I’d been guarding so tight crashed into me and fell on her butt. The ball rolled toward the sidelines, but I didn’t budge, didn’t grab it to make the easy put-in alone at our basket. My teammates were screaming my name but I just rested my hands on my hips and smiled up at Mackey who was grinning triumphantly down at me. He was standing alone, his size-thirteen-wide red high tops spread far apart, on the top row of the bleachers. His arms were straight up, clutching a sign made out of oak-tag he’d clearly yanked off the wall behind him, where there was a gap in the line of school spirit posters.
In giant green letters he’d scrawled:
HAPPY BIRTHDAY AUNT TILLIE
© Rachel Vail