THE ONION CLUB
The summer of ’69. Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. A gallon of gas cost
thirty-two cents. Abraham, Martin, and John made even twelve-year old Donny cry. We
three boys never missed an episode of Land of the Giants. And our thirteen-year old
cousin Christie yanked down her shorts, spread her thighs and showed us her crotch.
“Medusa Pussy,” Donnie called it when we were back in our pup tent, zipped
tight, flaps tied.
“I had to look away,” he explained. “Before I turned to stone.” He laughed twice
as hard as usual, thinking Dennis and I wouldn’t get the joke.
Donny had been having mighty erections for a year and even a couple wet dreams
that he’d dramatized in great detail for me and eight year old Dennis. At ten, I still
thought my plumbing was for watering weeds, spelling my name in the snow.
I figured reunion week at Grandma’s would be more of the usual. Fishing with
red and white bobbers and catching little but logs and turtles. Playing ball in the only
field Grandpa still mowed. Sailing our plastic boats down the creek and through the
culvert, racing across the gravel and sliding down the hill, hoping to beat the boats to the
other side. And never making it.
After two days of this routine, Christie and twelve-year old Bobby were
bored. They invented The Onion Club. All the cousins were invited to join. The first
meeting would be after supper in the deep ditch on the far side of the barn. Christie said,
“Bring an onion. We’ll tell you more then.”
Everyone came. Donny, Dennis, me. Bobby and Christie. Jimmy, who was born
just a month after me. And nine-year old Melinda holding hands with her eight-year old
sister May, both wide-eyed and blinking too fast.
We jumped and slid into the ditch. Bobby lined the girls up on one side, the guys
on the other, and told everyone to take a bite of their onion, chew and swallow it, without
spitting, if we wanted to be in the club and see something really cool. Melinda and May
coughed chunks. Bobby let it slide.
He said the onions were Christie’s idea because the tears would make it harder for
us to see. But after watching the way she whipped down her shorts and proudly presented
herself, I knew what she really wanted was for us to think of her whenever we picked
onions off our pizza, ordered extra on a hot dog.
After Christie we took turns, oldest to youngest, britches staying at the ankles
until everyone was exposed. Bobby, Donny and Jimmy proudly showed. When it was my
turn I wanted to bail, but I knew it was too late. I dropped my pants, thinking this can’t
last forever. Dennis tugged down his shorts and grabbed himself, nothing but his little
peanuts dangling beneath his clenched fingers. The little girls huddled and cried. Bobby
said they could pass, but he’d gut their dolls if they told.
We dressed and climbed out. And pretended nothing strange had happened. May
and Melinda ran for the house. Christie climbed astride the tire swing and rode it like a
Bobby hollered us guys to the creek, passed us our boats. He knew we needed to
get our hands in that cold water, splash some on us and chase those boats.
At dark we gathered for a game of tag. As usual the security light was base. Just
one change, Christie was It and whoever she tagged had to go with her behind the barn
and stay there for three minutes. No other rules. I wasn’t worried. Christie wouldn’t
bother with me when she could have Bobby or Donny or even Jimmy.
She ran straight for me, grabbed my shirt, and said, “You’re It!”
I could have pulled away and run like a wimp, but I had four more days to spend
with these guys. I followed without a struggle, but silently prayed for a face-saving UFO
abduction or a call of Fire! from inside the house.
The bit of light that reached us behind the barn turned our bodies to shadow. We
became whispers of our everyday selves.
I leaned one hand on the barn; the other guarded my crotch. Christie popped the
snap on her cutoffs, dragged down the zipper and let them fall. She pulled my hand from
the barn and shoved it between her legs, nested it there in her warm curls.
I didn’t know what I was supposed to be feeling or finding there. I thought about
Mr. Armstrong, his boots in moon dirt, and all that odd possibility spread out before him.
I knew how his heart skipped and thumped and how he had to fight the urge to look over
his shoulder and see if the mother ship was still near by.
Kelly Miller’s work has appeared in Flashquake, Nano Fiction, Word Riot and Others. Writing Flash Fiction is one of my passions. When not writing she works with children on the Autism spectrum.