March 10, 2015

Fifty years ago tonight, practice for the Alton High School spring show, “Wonderful Town,” the musical version of “My Sister Eileen” had just let out. I hadn’t wanted to be in “Wonderful Town,” but our music director George Heidbrink had more or less threatened me, that if I didn’t do this, if I wasted my talent, he was done with me and did I know I was being groomed to play the lead next year? I did not.

So I played an Irish cop, among other teensy parts and sang “Darling Eileen,” with my two fellow Irish cops and amigos, Steve Darr and Paul Glassbrenner (now my brother-in-law).

Paul and Steve and I stood outside in the pit and made plans to drive to Burger Chef and chow down. They knew I had a crush on a senior, Carla P. and they were teasing me unmercifully.

And who should bound out the stage door but Carla herself. My partners had secretly offered to give her a ride home. Carla was tall and rangy, with glasses and an amazing array of braces. She always wore puffy dresses and sweaters buttoned at the top. So she and I climbed into the back seat and my snickering pal Steve started his car.

There are women who read this chronicle who can verify this: I was/am afraid of the opposite sex. So Carla was scaring me just by sitting next to me. She couldn’t go for burgers, so we took her to her house. I walked her to her back door.

And there we stood, a warm spring night. Five minutes went by. We didn’t talk. We looked in opposite directions and hemmed and hawed. Finally: “It’s your birthday tomorrow.” “Yes,” I stuttered. I was gawky and girl-voiced and shaky and shivery. Only while singing, was I angelic. The real me was 100 % USDA certified spaz. “I got you a present,” Carla said, her braces reflecting street lights. I looked about but didn’t see any prezzies.

At that moment, Paul Glassbrenner rolled down his window and yelled, “Kiss her, goddamnit!” He and Steve were pounding the dashboard and laughing.

Carla grabbed my head, pulled it forward with two hands and smashed her glasses and braces and lips against my glasses and lips—BAM! And ran inside her house, and I stood there, my lips bloody, my heart going KAPOW KAPOW!, my brain going off like a barge horn BRRAP! BRRAP!

At home, I rushed downstairs, picked up my box turtle Robin Hood and went into my room and lay on the bed, lit only by Libby Boedecker’s bedroom lamp across the driveway. I told Robin Hood all about the kiss. I showed him the blood, the scar from girl-kissing, and on my mental list of things I wanted to do was added “kissgirlskissgirlskissgirls kissgirlskissgirls.”

Kiss girls.

“Away with your fictions of flimsy romance/Those tissues of falsehood which folly has wove!/Give me the mild beam of the soul-breathing glance/Or the rapture which dwells on the first kiss of love.”

George Gordon, Lord Byron















About Eugene Jones Baldwin

I am a writer: non-fiction, fiction, journalism (Alton Telegraph), essays (The Genehouse Chronicles) and have a website: I've published a couple dozen short stories and had eleven plays produced. Current projects: "Brother of the Stones" (available on Kindle), a book of short stories; "The Faithful Husband of the Rain, short stories"; "A Black Soldier's Letters Home, WWII,;" "There is No Color in Justice," a commentary on racism; "Ratkillers," a new play. I am an avocational archaeologist and I take parts of my collection of several thousand Indian artifacts (personal finds) to schools, nature centers, libraries etc. and talk about the 20,000 year history of The First people in Illinois. (See link to website) I'm also a playwright (eleven plays produced), musician, historian (authority on the Underground Railroad in Illinois, the Tuskegee Airmen) and teacher.
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