French Kisses

It was dark in the foyer behind the front door. Nobody could see him licking my face when he kissed me hello. I tried to turn my head and let him kiss my cheek instead. But he put his hands on my ears and held my head in place. His breath stank something awful. When he finally let me go, I ran down the hall as fast as I could toward to bathroom yelling “Yuck!”

On the way, I bumped into my grandmother.
“Why are you running in this house?” Granny demanded to know.
“Uncle Ober put spit on my face and it stinks! I need to wash it off! Let me go!” I said while trying to squirm my way past her. Granny placed a rigid fore finger in front of her mouth.

“Shhhhhh!” She said. “Keep your mouth shut and stop acting like that! You’ll hurt your Aunty Bella’s feelings if you don’t be nice!”

Aunty Bella was Granny’s sister and Great Uncle Ober was Aunty Bella’s husband. It seemed rather peculiar to me that Granny wanted me to be nice, keep my mouth shut, and let Ober lick my face for Aunty Bella’s sake. But I dared not ask any questions because it was perfectly clear that she was very serious about this matter.

I guessed maybe it would embarrass Aunty Bella for people to know that her husband had stink breath, or something. Adult logic was always incomprehensible to me as a child. But I knew that my granny had to be obeyed. Because she would use the flat edge of a butcher knife to give us grandkids a whipping if they didn’t behave.

“Don’t you dance or I’ll cut your leg off!” She’d say. “Stand still and take this punishment! You be still! Be still! Don’t you dance! I’ll cut your leg if you don’t stand still and take it!” It was funny to watch my mean practical joking cousin get what he deserved from granny. But I didn’t want her using the butcher knife to whip my legs too.

So I took a deep breath and held it to avoid smelling the stink, slowed my pace down to a calm deliberate walk, and marched stoically to the bathroom like an obedient little soldier. Once alone in private, I shuddered and quietly muttered “Yuck!” to myself, while washing my Great Uncle Ober’s saliva off my face with soap and water until all traces of the smell was gone.

Much to my surprise and disappointment Granny also insisted, once again, that everybody in the family give Aunty Bella and Great Uncle Ober a kiss goodbye when they left!

“She must be in the habit of saying that, and it’s a hard habit to break!” I thought to myself, as I softened and accepted my fate. Ober let go of me more quickly when I stopped resisting his face licking ordeal. My subtle shift toward submission was financially rewarded as well, as he silently reached into his pocket, and then pressed a nickel into the palm of my hand.

Being nice to my Great Uncle Ober seemed much easier once I realized that he was going to be paying me. And I softened even more the next time I saw him. One time his tongue accidentally touched my tooth and he gave me a dime instead of a nickel! Eventually I psyched myself up to let his tongue touch mine, and I got a quarter that trip. By the time I was 11, I knew I could count on him giving me a fifty cent piece if I swished my tongue from side to side against his. He probably thought I was enjoying myself. But I was just saving up money to buy a horse. That was all.

With the exception of Great Uncle Ober wanting to French Kiss me, he was an okay fellow. I especially appreciated his willingness to pay me for politely enduring the most unpleasant thing there was to not like about him. Although Granny said I had to be nice to him for Aunty Bella’s sake, my mother kept warning me to stay away from him. I wasn’t sure how to mind them both. It was all very confusing. If I obeyed Mama and stayed away from him, I didn’t get paid anything. If I obeyed Granny, he gave me money. I needed that money, because I wanted to buy a horse.

So I did my best to stay away from my Great Uncle Ober whenever Mama was around, and I obeyed Granny when she was not. But it wasn’t always possible to mind them both. One time I was walking down the hall past the bedroom that Aunty Bella and my Uncle Ober were staying in. The bedroom door was open and Ober was standing in front of the dresser looking at himself in the mirror wearing nothing but his boxer shorts.

When he saw me walking by he yelled, “Come here girly, I want to show you something!” as he reached down and scratched his crotch. I knew better than to go in that bedroom because Mama was in the kitchen just a few feet away, so I didn’t. But when Mama overheard him calling me, she ran down the hall, grabbed me by my arm, and dragged me down the hall whipping me all the way yelling, “Haven’t I told you to stay away from him?!” Aunty Bella was in the kitchen. She knew Mama was giving me a whipping.

I was terribly embarrassed, so I went in pantry to sit in the dark. When Granny opened the pantry door, she demanded to know what I was doing in there.

“Sitting on the floor!” I said.
“Get out of there!” She snapped. “You’re not allowed to play in the pantry!”

I kept thinking that it must have been terribly embarrassing for Aunty Bella to see Mama give me that whipping. I wondered why Granny didn’t have a talk with her, and tell her that she needed to be nice about Great Uncle Ober for Aunty Bella’s sake. None of it made any sense to me. But I was afraid to ask any questions.

Aunty Bella and Great Uncle Ober had two daughters named Hilda and Dee Dee. One time Mama let me stay at their house and play with Dee Dee while she went shopping with Hilda. After lunch Aunty Bella and Dee Dee decided to take a nap. I wasn’t sleepy so I was in the living room watching TV when Ober came in the house and asked me to go out in the garden with him and help him pick some peas for supper.

I couldn’t imagine Ober licking my face out in the broad daylight in front of God and nature. And picking peas sounded like fun. Besides, Aunty Bella could see the garden from her bedroom window, so it seemed like a safe thing to do. Besides, I was hoping he would pay me for picking peas. It seemed like a realistic expectation, since picking peas is a whole lot more important than kissing.

Gardening with my Great Uncle Ober was fun. He was explaining to me which peas were ripe for picking, which peas were too big and should be left on the vine to be used for seed, and how to select a few little ones for snapping. He was very patient, kind and sweet while teaching me how to pick peas. I was pleased to get to know this side of him, and lingered for too long.

Mama came back unexpectedly from shopping and discovered where I was. She stomped out into the garden, grabbed me by my arm, and dragged me to the house, whipping me all the way saying, “I have told you and told you and told you to stay away from that man! When are you going to start listening to me?” Needless to say, I did not get paid for picking the peas.

And for some strange reason, I felt sorry for Uncle Ober, even though I was the one getting and whipping. As angry and humiliated as I was, I dared not question anything Mama did or said. Because I was sure she had her reasons.

Another time Mama left me at Aunty Bella and my Great Uncle Ober’s house, I was playing in the back yard when he yelled at me to come in the garage because he wanted to show me something. He was my elder and I was afraid he would give me a whipping with his razor strap if I didn’t mind him, so I went to see what he wanted. Ober showed me a case of Lava Soap. He said it was the best soap that had ever been made. I already knew about that soap because Dee Dee told me that he washed her mouth out with it one time. And it tasted awful. I didn’t want taste that soap too.

After Uncle Ober showed me his Lava soap and told me how good it was, he unzipped his pants and showed me his penis. It was shocking. I could not imagine why he wanted me to look at that, but there it was. It was horrifying. I could hardly believe my eyes when I saw how big it was!

Then he pulled down my panties, lifted me up, sat me on his workshop counter top, and began to lick my pee hole! When he got done, he told me to watch while he rubbed his penis until it squirted something out that smelled awful and looked like mayonnaise. Some of that stuff got on my dress. It smelled awful and I was terribly afraid Mama would smell it and give me a whipping. My mind began racing with terror.

Then we heard the screen door slam and footsteps coming toward the garage. I felt the blood run out of my face and I am sure that I must have turned white with fear. Ober lifted me off the counter top and gently stood me on the floor. Then he quickly zipped up his pants and told me to pull up my panties. Mama opened the garage door, grabbed me by my arm, dragged me out of the garage, and whipped me all the way to the house. But I don’t think she ever noticed that stinky stuff Uncle Ober squirted on my dress, because she never mentioned it.

As an adult, I started getting therapy as soon as I could afford it. One of my therapists encouraged me to ask Granny why she told me to keep my mouth shut and be nice to Uncle Ober. Granny said she was afraid that Grandaddy might find out what Ober was doing and kill him if I didn’t keep quiet. And if Grandaddy went to prison for murder, Granny wouldn’t have any way to survive without him. It seemed unusual that Grandaddy never wondered why Mama kept giving me whippings every time Great Uncle Ober was around. I would have liked to ask Grandaddy about that, but he was already dead by the time I was in therapy.

When I asked Mama why she didn’t want me going anywhere near Great Uncle Ober when I was a child, she said that she was afraid he would molest me, like he did her, when she was a child! I told Mama it always seemed to me like she was over-reacting. I didn’t think it was such a big a deal, especially after he started paying me for the kisses. Mama was shocked.

“He PAID you?!” She exclaimed.
I nodded. “Yeah! Didn’t he pay you?” I asked.
“No! He never paid me anything!” She said angrily with a hand on her hip.

If that is not the night I decided to go out and get drunk with my friend Teenie, it should have been. We went to a bar named GG’s on south Congress that was next door to Willie’s Pool Hall. When the band at GG’s took a break, Teenie and I went outside to get some fresh air. Right about then, a man who looked just like Willie Nelson came out of the pool hall and walked around back. I figured Willie was probably going around back to smoke a joint. So I followed him intending to ask if I could have a hit.

Much to my chagrin, he was not smoking a joint. He was urinating. In a frantic attempt to make the most of an embarrassing situation, I said “Hi there! Do you want me to hold that for you?”
He said, “Sure.
So I stepped up behind him, wrapped my arm around his waist, and held as best I could. When he was done, we walked around to the front of the building. Teenie was talking to somebody and waved at us to come on over. I asked my new acquaintance if he would like to meet my friend Teenie.
He said, “Sure!”
As we approached Teeny said, “This is Paul!”
I shook Paul’s hand and said, “Hi!”
“Do you know each other?” Paul asked.
“We just ran into each other out back.” My friend said.
I reached out my hand and said, “Hi! I’m Gayle!”
“Hi! I’m Rusty!” He said.

Rusty and Paul came to my house after the bar closed that night. Rusty sang and played the guitar. He even encouraged me to sing along with him. But Mama always told me that I couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket, so I was too shy to try. Years later I took voice lessons and overcame that.

Teenie slept with Paul that night. I shared my bed with Rusty, but I wasn’t sleepy. Since I couldn’t sleep, I laid there all night long touching him as tenderly as possible.

It wasn’t long before Willie Nelson cut a new album. There was a song on it called “If You Could Touch Her at All.” And for some reason, that song has always reminded me of the night I spent with Rusty. These are the words to the song:

Funny a woman can come on so wild and free
And insist I don't watch her undress
Or watch her watch me
And stand by the bed and shiver
As if she were cold
Just to lie down beside me and touch me
As if I were gold
One night of love can't make up
For six nights alone
But I'd rather have one than none Lord
'Cause I'm flesh and bone
And sometimes it seems
She ain't worth the trouble at all
But she would be worth the world
If somehow you could touch her at all
Right or wrong a woman can own any man
She can take him inside her
And hold his soul in her hand
Then leave him as weak
And as weary as a newborn child
Fighting to get his first breath
And open his eyes
One night of love can't make up
For six nights alone
But I'd rather have one than none Lord
'Cause I'm flesh and bone
And sometimes it seems
She ain't worth the trouble at all
But she would be worth the world
If somehow you could touch her at all Sometimes it seems
That she ain't worth the trouble at all
But she’d be worth the world
If somehow you could touch her at all

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