Authors: Rita Mae Brown
Mother was sitting in her green stuffed rocking chair when I walked through the door. “You can turn around and walk right out. I know everything that went on up there, the dean of women called me up. You just turn your ass around and get out.”
“Mom, you only know what they told you.”
“I know you let your ass run away with your head, that’s what I know. A queer, I raised a queer, that’s what I know. You’re lower than them dirty fruit pickers in the groves, you know that?”
“Mom, you don’t understand anything. Why don’t you let me tell my side of it?”
“I don’t want to hear nothing you can say. You always were a bad one. Go on and get outa here. I don’t want you. Why the hell you even bother to come back here?”
“Because you’re the only family I got. Where else am I gonna go?”
“That’s your problem, smart-pants. You’ll have no friends and you got no family. Let’s see how far you get, you little snot-nose. You thought you’d go to college and be better than me. You thought you’d go mix with the rich. And you still think you’re dandy, don’t you? Even being a stinking queer don’t shake you none. Well, I hope I live to see the day you put your tail between your legs. I’ll laugh right in your face.”
“Then you’d better live to see me dead.” I picked up my suitcase by the door and walked out into the cool night air. I had $14.61 in my jeans. That wouldn’t get me half to New York City. And that’s where I was going. There are so many queers in New York that one more wouldn’t rock the boat.
This edition contains the complete text of the original hardcover edition
NOT ONE WORD HAS BEEN OMITTED
A Bantam Book / published by arrangement with the author
Daughters Publishing Company edition published 1973
Bantam edition / September 1977
Parts of this book have appeared in the AMAZON QUARTERLY
All rights reserved
1973 by Rita Mae Brown
Interior artwork designed by Loretta Li
Author photo copyright
1988 by Peter Cunningham
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No one remembers her beginnings. Mothers and aunts tell us about infancy and early childhood, hoping we won’t forget the past when they had total control over our lives and secretly praying that because of it, we’ll include them in our future.
I didn’t know anything about my own beginnings until I was seven years old, living in Coffee Hollow, a rural dot outside of York, Pennsylvania. A dirt road connected tarpapered houses filled with smear-faced kids and the air was always thick with the smell of coffee beans freshly ground in the small shop that gave the place its name. One of those smear-faced kids was Brockhurst Detwiler, Broccoli for short. It was through him that I learned I was a bastard. Broccoli didn’t know I was a bastard but he and I struck a bargain that cost me my ignorance.
One crisp September day Broccoli and I were
on our way home from Violet Hill Elementary School.
“Hey, Molly, I gotta take a leak, wanna see me?”
He stepped behind the bushes and pulled down his zipper with a flourish.
“Broccoli, what’s all that skin hanging around your dick?”
“My mom says I haven’t had it cut up yet.”
“Whaddaya mean, cut up?”
“She says that some people get this operation and the skin comes off and it has somethin’ to do with Jesus.”
“Well, I’m glad no one’s gonna cut up on me.”
“That’s what you think. My Aunt Louise got her tit cut off.”
“I ain’t got tits.”
“You will. You’ll get big floppy ones just like my mom. They hang down below her waist and wobble when she walks.”
“Not me, I ain’t gonna look like that.”
“Oh yes you are. All girls look like that.”
“You shut up or I’ll knock your lips down your throat, Broccoli Detwiler.”
“I’ll shut up if you don’t tell anyone I showed you my thing.”
“What’s there to tell? All you got is a wad of pink wrinkles hangin’ around it. It’s ugly.”
“It is not ugly.”
“Ha. It looks awful. You think it’s not ugly because it’s yours. No one else has a dick like that. My cousin Leroy, Ted, no one. I bet you got the only one in the world. We oughta make some money off it.”
“Money? How we gonna make money off my dick?”
“After school we can take the kids back here and show you off, and we charge a nickel a piece.”
“No. I ain’t showing people my thing if they’re gonna laugh at it.”
“Look, Broc, money is money. What do you care if they laugh? You’ll have money then you can laugh at them. And we split it fifty-fifty.”
The next day during recess I spread the news. Broccoli was keeping his mouth shut. I was afraid he’d chicken out but he came through. After school about eleven of us hurried out to the woods between school and the coffee shop and there Broc revealed himself. He was a big hit. Most of the girls had never even seen a regular dick and Broccoli’s was so disgusting they shrieked with pleasure. Broc looked a little green around the edges, but he bravely kept it hanging out until everyone had a good look. We were fifty-five cents richer.
Word spread through the other grades, and for about a week after that, Broccoli and I had a thriving business. I bought red licorice and handed it out to all my friends. Money was power. The more red licorice you had, the more friends you had. Leroy, my cousin, tried to horn in on the business by showing himself off, but he flopped because he didn’t have skin on him. To make him feel better, I gave him fifteen cents out of every day’s earnings.
Nancy Cahill came every day after school to look at Broccoli, billed as the “strangest dick in the world.” Once she waited until everyone else had left. Nancy was all freckles and rosary beads.
She giggled every time she saw Broccoli and on that day she asked if she could touch him. Broccoli stupidly said yes. Nancy grabbed him and gave a squeal.
“Okay, okay, Nancy, that’s enough. You might wear him out and we have other customers to satisfy.” That took the wind out of her and she went home. “Look, Broccoli, what’s the big idea of letting Nancy touch you for free? That ought to be worth at least a dime. We oughta let kids do it for a dime and Nancy can play for free when everyone goes home if you want her to.”
This new twist drew half the school into the woods. Everything was fine until Earl Stambach ratted on us to Miss Martin, the teacher. Miss Martin contacted Carrie and Broccoli’s mother and it was all over.
When I got home that night I didn’t even get through the door when Carrie yells, “Molly, come in here right this minute.” The tone in her voice told me I was up for getting strapped.
“I’m coming, Mom.”
“What’s this I hear about you out in the woods playing with Brockhurst Detwiler’s peter? Don’t lie to me now, Earl told Miss Martin you’re out there every night.”
“Not me, Mom, I never played with him.” Which was true.
“Don’t lie to me, you big-mouthed brat. I know you were out there jerking that dimwit off. And in front of all the other brats in the Hollow.”
“No, Mom, honest, I didn’t do that.” There was no use telling her what I really did. She wouldn’t have believed me. Carrie assumed all children lied.
“You shamed me in front of all the neighbors, and I’ve got a good mind to throw you outa this house. You and your high and mighty ways, sailing in the house and out the house as you damn well please. You reading them books and puttin’ on airs. You’re a fine one to be snotty. Miss Ups, out there in the woods playing with his old dong. Well, I got news for you, you little shitass, you think you’re so smart. You ain’t so fine as you think you are, and you ain’t mine neither. And I don’t want you now that I know what you’re about. Wanna know who you are, smartypants? You’re Ruby Drollinger’s bastard, that’s who you are. Now let’s see you put your nose in the air.”
“Who’s Ruby Drollinger?”
“Your real mother, that’s who and she was a slut, you hear me, Miss Molly? A common, dirty slut who’d lay with a dog if it shook its ass right.”
“I don’t care. It makes no difference where I came from. I’m here, ain’t I?”
“It makes all the difference in the world. Them that’s born in wedlock are blessed by the Lord. Them that’s born out of wedlock are cursed as bastards. So there.”