The Glorious Fit, fiction by Ray Norsworthy

Novem­ber 1, 1961:

Gib­by is in the hayloft of the barn look­ing at the pages he tore out of the Sears and Roe­buck cat­a­logue. This morn­ing when he was look­ing at the Christ­mas toys and mak­ing a wish list, Eli showed him the pages of women wear­ing brassieres and panties. If you wet your fin­ger and rub, you can see what's under­neath, he said. The thought hadn't real­ly occurred to Gib­by before, but now he can't stand not know­ing what the pret­ty women look like naked, espe­cial­ly at that mys­te­ri­ous V where boys have some­thing to stick out and girls have some­thing to hide. It makes him feel almost like he has a fever, and kind of queasy inside, but not sick. He has caught glimpses of Arlene naked lots of times, but he has nev­er seen her down there. They all have to take baths in a tin wash­tub in the kitchen sur­round­ed by the dinette chairs. She has big tit­ties, but it makes him feel nasty to think of see­ing Arlene the way oth­er boys see her. Eli says all the senior high boys that ride the school bus talk about Arlene's tit­ties.

Gib­by leans back on some bales of hay and peels down his britch­es over his ten­ny shoes. Then he pulls off his under­wear. His doo­dle snags and then pops free, wag­gling back and forth. It's as hard as he has ever seen it; even hard­er than when he wakes up in the morn­ing and has to pee real bad. The hay is itchy on his butt, so he lifts up and pulls his jeans up under­neath him.

Eli must have been play­ing a joke on him. When he licks his fin­ger and rubs between the legs of the women in the cat­a­logue all it does is smear and rub a hole in the page. Eli prob­a­bly tried it him­self in anoth­er cat­a­logue and knew it didn't work. Gib­by knows he shouldn't be squeez­ing his hard doo­dle and yank­ing on it, but it feels good and even though he wants to stop, he can't stop, he just can't stop. It's like some­thing inside is mak­ing him do it and he doesn't know why. Could it be the dev­il? His Sun­day school teacher, Broth­er Del­bert, said you shouldn't touch your pri­vates except when you're using the bath­room. He said if you do it might lead to temp­ta­tion.  He didn't say what the temp­ta­tion might be, but it sound­ed bad. Gib­by tried not to touch his doo­dle. He tried so hard.

But he knows Eli plays with his all the time. He puts his hand around it and goes up and down, up and down, real fast, like he's milk­ing a cow's teat. He does it almost every night. Last sum­mer some of Eli's friends came over after church to go fish­ing on the creek and instead of fish­ing they sat on the creek bank and played with their doo­dles for a long time while talk­ing about see­ing girls naked. Ron­nie Cal­houn even claimed he saw Arlene's panties on the school bus. Gib­by ran home and told Dad­dy and Arlene about their sin­ning against Jesus, but they didn't seem to care. Dad­dy was read­ing his bible; he kind of cough-laughed and told him not to wor­ry about it. Arlene was out­side swing­ing in the swing Dad­dy fixed up on the big oak tree, and singing "How Much is that Dog­gy in the Win­dow?" She just gig­gled and said, just wait a year or two and you will be doing the same thing. Gib­by said, oh, no, I won't! Jesus is watch­ing! It made Gib­by mad for her to think he would do some­thing Jesus didn't do, and he said so. How do you know Jesus didn't do it? she asked him, he was a man, wasn't he? Uh uh-h-h, Gib­by said. He was just Jesus. Well, they hung him on the old rugged cross, she said. So I reck­on he felt things the same way a man does.

And now Gib­by is doing the thing he said Jesus didn't do, and he can't stop. He wants to stop, but he can't stop. His hand and arm are tired, but he can't stop. He tries think­ing of Jesus, but he can't stop try­ing to imag­ine what is under­neath these women's under­wear. How long does he have to keep this up before he is able to stop?

For some rea­son he isn't aware of, he gets into a crouch like a catch­er in base­ball and rais­es halfway up like he is going after a high pitch. The strain makes him feel dif­fer­ent. It reminds him of when he was in the first grade and he used to hang by his arms from the mon­key bars on the play­ground and strain to pull him­self up. He would get the most won­der­ful feel­ing all through his body. He would hang there with his arms bent until he couldn't hang any­more and then he would drop to the ground, feel­ing limp as a used washrag. Maybe the feel­ing he is feel­ing now will lead to the feel­ing he felt back then.

He low­ers his grip on his doo­dle so that he has more skin in his grasp. Then he length­ens the stroke and speeds up his hand. He feels like he is about to col­lapse when he feels the tin­gle he remem­bers from first grade start to spread through­out his body. It feels so good he wants it to last for­ev­er, a blessed wild­ness crawl­ing from some­where deep inside him and sud­den­ly he is hav­ing a glo­ri­ous fit and he clos­es his eyes and sur­ren­ders to it com­plete­ly, shud­der­ing, rejoic­ing, born again. He lets go a final drawn-out moan that sounds like it comes from some­one else, and col­laps­es back against the bales, shud­der­ing one last time.

After a few deep breaths, he rais­es his head from the itchy bale and looks down past his bunched-up shirt at the foun­tain of sal­va­tion he still holds in his hand. Lord have mer­cy, he says to him­self. He real­izes now he has acci­den­tal­ly dis­cov­ered a great secret that will change him for­ev­er. A few sec­onds lat­er his joy turns to dread when he lifts his hand and sees clear, sticky goo on the back of his hand and splat­tered on his shirt. He puts his hand up to his face and wipes some of the gooey stuff off his cheek. Lord have mer­cy, he says to him­self again, only this time he means the words.

Ter­ri­fied and pray­ing for for­give­ness, he tugs on his britch­es and runs back to the house, even though his legs are as wob­bly as Jell-O. Eli is in the liv­ing room watch­ing car­toons, but if he asks him about it, he'll prob­a­bly make some­thing up or else make fun of him. Arlene is in the kitchen rolling out dough for bis­cuits. Even though he is embar­rassed, he is too scared to wait until Dad­dy gets home from help­ing Mr. Hess with a spring­ing heifer try­ing to give birth to a stuck calf. When he tells her that he was pee­ing when all of a sud­den he got this strange feel­ing and some sticky stuff came out of his doo­dle, her eyes get big and she cups her flour-cov­ered hand over her mouth.

— Is some­thing wrong with me? Gib­by says to her.

She nods, but he can tell she's not seri­ous. — There sure is, she says, wip­ing the flour on her face with the sleeve of her dress. — You're a boy. Besides that, you're just peachy. Don't try to tell me you were pee­ing, though. I know bet­ter than that. I've caught Eli a dozen times. I swear, I think he wants to be caught.

— I promise I won't ever do it again. I'll pray to Jesus to help me.

— Shush. You'll prob­a­bly be back at it this evenin'. Noth­in' to be ashamed of, but don't talk about it in your Sun­day school class, okay? All boys play with their thing.

— All of 'em?

— Sure 'nough.

— But what about this stuff? He holds out his hand.

— Yuk! Get that away from me, Gib­by. It's nat­ur­al, okay, but so is pee and I don't want that on me, either. When­ev­er you do that, clean up good. And don't go messin' with any lit­tle girls, cause that could be big trou­ble, you hear me?

— Uh huh. He sighs. — Arlene?

— Uh huh?

— What do girls do, you know, uh, you know, um, to get that feel­in'?

Arlene's face turns red. — You'll find out one of these days. Now go on and play. I have to get din­ner ready. I think Dad­dy needs to have a talk with you, lit­tle broth­er.

While he stands there, try­ing to think of how to ask the ques­tion that is burn­ing a hole in his con­science, she lights the oven.  — Arlene, that was the best feel­in' I ever felt in my life. How come it's sup­posed to be a sin?

— I don't believe it is a sin, she says. — I wouldn't wor­ry about it. Just because some­body tells you some­thin' doesn't mean it's true; not even if it's Sun­day school teach­ers. Shoot, they do it, too. Like I said, you'll prob­a­bly be back at it by this evenin'. Just don't wear it out. She sniffs like she is about to sneeze and turns away, chang­ing the sub­ject. — Bout time to gath­er the eggs, Gib­by. Watch out for that rat snake.

Arlene is wrong. He doesn't wait until evening; he is back at it thir­ty min­utes lat­er. The sec­ond time is even bet­ter than the first, only this time the sticky stuff is whitish. Wob­bly legged, he goes to the chick­en­house and gath­ers the eggs. The snake is nowhere to be seen.

A. Ray Nor­swor­thy hides out in the Ida­ho moun­tains and runs with the wolves. His sto­ry col­lec­tion, Indi­a­homa: Sto­ries Of Blues And Bless­ings, is avail­able online at Ama­zon and Barnes & Noble.  His fic­tion has appeared in Eclec­ti­ca, Sto­ry­glos­sia, Night Train IIIZoetrope All-Sto­ry Extra, The Sto­ry Gar­den, and 12 Gauge. Read his inter­view in the Octo­ber, 2006 issue of Eclec­ti­ca and in the Jan­u­ary, 2006 issue, his sto­ry, All The Way To Grangeville, which was run­ner-up in the 2006 Mil­lion Writ­ers Award con­test. Besides Indi­a­homa, he has writ­ten two nov­els and a num­ber of plays and short sto­ries. The most recent nov­els are True Rev­e­la­tions: A Love Sto­ry of the Apoc­a­lypse, and Becom­ing One: An Exile from Dream­land.

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