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Authors: William Saroyan

Boys and Girls Together

BOOK: Boys and Girls Together
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WILLIAM SAROYAN

Boys and Girls Together

Tasol nambawan taim God i wokim ol samting, em i wokim man na meri. Orait.

(Gud Nius Mak i Raitim. St Mark's Gospel in Neo Melanesian, or Pidgin English.)

That's all number one time God he walk them all same thing, he walk them man and woman. All right.

(Saroyan-American, or Buzzard English.)

But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female.

(The Gospel According to Saint Mark, Chapter 10, Verse 6. King James Version, or Chicken English.)

Contents

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

A Note on the Author

Chapter 1

They were sitting in the parlour they both hated so much but somehow liked too and there wasn't a thing doing. They were married, there were two kids out of it, the boy first and then the girl, and now the kids were asleep at last, or at any rate in bed. They were trying to think what to say so they wouldn't be just sitting there, but there wasn't really anything to say unless they fell into dirty talk, which they frequently did.

‘I saw Charley's wife when I took the girl walking,' the woman said. ‘Who did you see when you took the boy walking?'

‘I didn't see anybody. Who's Charley's wife?'

‘Ellen. Didn't you see a girl?'

‘I saw a girl standing on the corner waiting for a streetcar.'

‘Would she be as good as me?'

‘Once or twice maybe she would, but I don't want a fight.'

‘If you don't want a fight, why do you look at every girl you see and wonder how she'd be?'

‘It's a habit.'

‘She was a dog and you know it.'

‘She didn't seem a dog when I saw her. She seemed clean and hopeful, but later on she could easily become a dog.'

‘Do you mean that's what I've become?'

‘I don't know what you've become.'

‘Oh yes you do.'

‘What have you become?'

‘I've become a good wife, and a good mother, and damned tired of it, too.'

‘It's what you wanted. It
is
tiring, though, I suppose. Now, if you'd take a bath and get yourself relaxed once the kids are out of the way every night, maybe it wouldn't be so tiring.'

‘I'm too tired to take a bath. I'm so hungry I can't stand the thought of eating the things we know how to cook.'

‘If you'd take a bath, you'd be able to stand the thought.'

‘No, I'd just want to put on my best clothes and go out and have two or three drinks and a real supper.'

‘Well, we can't do that, but if you'll take a bath and put on your best clothes, I'll open two cans of chili. I'll have everything ready for you when you're ready and we'll have two or three Scotches apiece before we eat the chili.'

‘After we eat, what'll we do?'

‘Let's eat first.'

‘Do you think we'll know then?'

‘We
ought
to. Go ahead, take your bath and take your time.'

‘I'll put on some perfume, too.'

‘I like the way you smell after a bath without perfume, but maybe you don't, so put some on if it makes you happy. I like the smell of clean skin that's breathing.'

‘I won't put any on, then. Don't you smell the soap?'

‘I like to smell the soap.'

‘If the boy gets out of bed, spank him.'

‘O.K.'

He went to the woman and hugged her. She smelled tired and dirty and frightened. Her skin was suffocating with dirty sweat, and the expensive perfume she'd used that afternoon made the smell worse.

‘Don't kiss me now. Don't spoil it in case we think of something after the chili.'

‘Go bathe.'

The wife went to the bathroom and the husband heard her singing softly, almost happily. When she was in the tub the door of the bedroom opened and the boy came out in his bare feet.

‘Where's Mama?'

‘She's bathing.'

‘I want to bathe with her.'

‘You can't. Now, go right back and get into your bed.'

‘I want a drink of water first.'

The father let the water run out of the kitchen faucet until it was fresh and cool, and then he handed the son a glass of water and the five-year-old drank it all and handed back the empty glass. The water always satisfied him. He always had the same expression of satisfaction on his face when he handed back the glass. It was something like a wink.

‘Why don't you take a bath, too?'

‘I will.'

‘I mean with Mama.'

‘O.K. Get back in your bed.'

‘Good night.'

‘O.K.'

He saw the boy back into his bed, still almost winking with satisfaction. He went across the room to have another look at his two-and-a-half-year-old daughter's bare body, with the bottom up in the air. Her little body was just about the prettiest thing he had ever seen. He went out of the room wondering what it was she was always thinking about in her sleep.

He knew what it was he was always thinking about in his sleep because he'd had thirty-nine years to find out.

He went to the kitchen, got out the two cans of chili and began to read the label on one of them for instructions, and then decided to have one drink before the body of the girl in the bathtub came out to have one with him.

Chapter 2

After the drink he went to the bathroom door and said, ‘Don't misunderstand this, but I need a bath myself and the boy wanted to know why I didn't bathe with you, but don't get any ideas about it.'

‘Did you spank him?'

‘Hell no. He wanted a drink of water. He's fast asleep again. But forget it. I'll take a shower after the chili. I don't want to spoil your bath.'

‘The door's open. Come on in.'

He went in and saw that she was already looking cleaner and more hopeful, and the boy sat there almost as if it were in a boy's dream.

‘I'll brush my teeth, and shave.'

‘Will you scrub my back? I can't reach it.'

‘Sure, but don't hurry your bath. Don't make another job out of it. After you're all relaxed and clean, get into the shower and cool off.'

‘I don't want a shower,
too
.'

‘The shower gets all the sweat and dirt and soap off
your skin, and then when you make the water cold it tightens your skin all over and brings out all of its colour. You should always take a shower after a bath.'

‘O.K., then. Do you think I'm too fat?'

‘You're not fat at all.'

‘Oh yes I am.' She stood suddenly. ‘Here, and all in here, and how about up here?'

‘That isn't fat. That's woman. Another thing entirely.'

‘Was she as woman as I am?'

‘Who?'

‘The girl you saw waiting for the streetcar that you think was so clean and hopeful.'

‘Oh.' He rinsed the toothpaste suds out of his mouth. ‘No, she wasn't.'

‘There you go again being a crook, just because you're beginning to think of something to do after the chili.'

‘No, she was kind of skinny.'

‘I know you're trying to con me just because you've hit upon some sort of idea for after the chili, because every time you hit on an idea something happens to your voice.'

‘What happens?'

‘It gets horny. In spite of everything you do to keep it from getting horny, it gets horny, because once you get an idea you're a dead Indian. I could make an awful fool of you any time I felt like it if I wanted to go to the trouble of taking off my clothes.'

‘You'd make an awful fool of yourself, too.'

‘I don't mean when we're with people or anything like that. I mean when we're alone. I found out all about that before we were married when we went swimming naked at night and the water was so cold you'd think it would freeze a man's balls off. I thought it was because we weren't married yet, and that's why I made all that fuss a couple of months after we were married about going swimming that way again. I wanted to find out.'

‘A couple of months after we were married you were pregnant, and it wasn't supposed to be good for you to go swimming that way.'

‘Doctors don't know too much about things like that. Anyhow, it didn't do me any harm, and I found out that it wasn't because we hadn't been married. It was because you go a little nuts when you see a girl's body. You can be freezing and still go a little nuts. And it's not because the body's mine. It could be any girl's.'

‘Maybe it
couldn't
.' He began to shave.

‘Not only that. Any
woman's
body, any woman at all, not just the body of a twenty-year-old girl, but the body of a thirty- or forty- or fifty-year-old woman. I'll bet you've had women who've been
more
than fifty.'

‘Maybe I have.'

‘
Old
bags. Any kind of woman at all.'

‘Except intellectuals.'

‘You've had
them
, too. You know damn well you have.'

‘Some. But I didn't like it.'

‘You've had
plenty
of them. What about that woman who's so active in the Communist Party? Who lies down with all her clothes on to anybody at all, and opens up and takes away the clothes that are in the way, while her husband's handing drinks around to the guests downstairs. Before we were married I saw you go upstairs with her, and when you came downstairs ten minutes later I knew you'd had her because she was so sweet to me, and superior, and because you were so friendly to her husband. I suppose you didn't have
her
that time?'

‘So what?'

‘And she didn't even take off her clothes. She
couldn't
have. There wasn't time.'

‘There was.'

‘She
couldn't
have taken off her clothes. What kind of a woman is a woman like that? How could she take off her clothes and do it and be back downstairs in ten minutes?'

‘Eleven or twelve minutes.'

‘Well, what kind of a woman is
that
? What did you say to her?'

‘We talked about Russia.'

‘You
didn't
.'

‘She told me about the time she was in Kiev and I told her about the time I was in Kharkov.'

‘And then, you were in
her
.'

‘Well, yes, but she talked about Kiev as if she had just won the hundred-yard dash.'

‘And you talked the same as ever, the way you always do. Is it that way with other men?'

‘
You
tell me.'

‘You know I've never been with anybody in this whole world except you. You know I didn't know my ass from a hole in the ground when I met you. Is it that way with
her
husband, or does he squeal and squeak the way a woman sometimes wants to do? I've always been ashamed to, because I've been afraid you'd laugh at me.'

‘You can squeal and squeak any time you feel like it. I won't laugh at you. I guess every man does everything his own way, and maybe some men squeal and squeak but I wouldn't know about her husband.'

‘How would you feel if I took a man at a cocktail party upstairs and did that?'

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