I wrote a piece about growing up poor and how I exacted revenge on a young man who made fun of me for it. It’s one of my favorite funny pieces and it’s very near and dear to my cold, steely heart. I’d been looking for a good home for it for a long time and I didn’t want to trust it with just anyone.
Hand to Mouth is a special edition zine dedicated to writers responding to living in poverty, and is hosted by Kissing Dynamite. This issue is full of poetry, creative nonfiction (that’s what I do, suckas), and artwork – and you should read it cover to cover and support the heck out of it because they’re good people doing good in the world…
…unlike me, a person who basically works for pizza money and unfettered mirror-time.
This means that you’re a good person if you print it out 10,000 times, wallpaper the entire inside of your house with it, invite me over, I’ll walk in and get freaked out that you’re a stalker, then pepper spray you and kick you in the jimmies with a sensible shoe.
And won’t that be a story to tell at your next court-ordered group therapy session.
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Once upon a time in 1988, there was a keychain. A dirty, dirty keychain.
A keychain so dirty, so coveted by all of the middle schoolers in town, had this story taken place in Hobbitville or Dorkville or wherever those Lord of The Rings movies happened, any one of those damp, sexless nerds in cloaks would have tossed that ring off a cliff to get their hands on it.
That’s not fair. Maybe they’re not all damp, sexless nerds. I think maybe the Elves weren’t damp, sexless nerds, but I can never remember because I fell asleep during all three of those movies. In the theater.
Know why? Because those movies, like most movies these days, are:
ALL MOVIES SHOULD BE 90 MINUTES.
Come to think of it, I’m pretty sure the Elves were hot in that classy, useless way, like Gwyneth Paltrow, where they look beautiful in long, silk gowns but you have a really hard time imagining them humping.
Don’t send me weird emails about this.
Which brings me back to the keychain, or as I shall hereafter refer to it:
I first heard about The Keychain from my friend Jenny, who’d taken a babysitting job for the then-current holder of The Keychain, Marlene. Marlene was a divorced single mom to a well-behaved child named Justine. Jenny loved babysitting for Justine because she was a cool kid and Marlene paid well.
Jenny was babysitting Justine one afternoon when she had to search through a kitchen drawer for some Scotch tape. In the back of the drawer, under a few layers of miscellaneous stuff, resided The Keychain.
As the story goes, Jenny pulled it out of the drawer and said, “What the hell?” as she inspected it.
The Keychain was made of a bronze-colored metal, and featured two cartoonish people – a man and a woman – in profile. The woman had huge boobs, and the man was standing across from her with his pants down and his…you know…ding-dong…sticking straight out.
Justine rolled up and said, “Oh, you found Mommy’s keychain. We’re not supposed to play with that.”
She took it from Jenny and said, “Hang on. I can show you how to make it move, but then we have to put it away.”
There was a mechanism in The Keychain where if you pulled on a lever at the bottom of it, the man’s hips moved forward and his…ding-dong…appeared to go into the woman’s…hoo-hah.
The Keychain was no ordinary keychain. The Keychain was the dirtiest keychain in the world, or as I shall now hereafter refer to it:
The Humping Keychain.
Jenny was stunned. She had never seen anything so magnificent.
Obviously, Jenny had to have it, but despite the fact that she was a filthy-mouthed little thief (which is why we got along so well), she knew better than to take The Humping Keychain that day. Justine had just seen her with it, so she would’ve been able to testify in a Court of Dirty Keychain Law that Jenny was the last person seen holding it.
Jenny told me about The Humping Keychain in vivid detail. “You won’t believe it,” she said. “It’s the coolest thing I’ve ever seen.”
I knew Jenny’s filth standards were high, so I took her at her word. After all, she was the one who discovered a cornucopia of “marital aids” at our acquaintance Tricia’s house, hidden away in Tricia’s parents’ nightstand, and chased Tricia around the house with something that looked like a red zucchini (barehanded!) yelling, “Dude! Your mom’s teeth marks are on this!”
We were not invited back.
The next time Marlene called Jenny to ask her to babysit, she asked if she could bring me along.
We hit the kitchen as soon as we arrived. Jenny pulled The Humping Keychain out of the drawer and it was everything she’d described and more. The cartoon sex people even had these goofy expressions on their faces and the man’s eyes were all bugged out of his head, something Jenny had, surprisingly, neglected to mention.
The Humping Keychain wasn’t just sex. It was sex and comedy. The total package. As far my dirtbag middle school comedy tastes were concerned, Andrew Dice Clay might as well have been standing right there in the kitchen.
We put it back in the drawer when we heard Justine coming out from her room. That kid wouldn’t leave us alone for a single second for the rest of the evening. That may have been the night I officially decided that I never wanted to have kids.
Jenny wasn’t available the next time Marlene needed a babysitter for Justine, so she directed her to me – and this was going to be an offsite, awesome babysitting job. Marlene worked at a beach club a couple towns over, and since her boss wouldn’t be around that day, she was taking Justine to work with her. She just needed someone to watch her in case something came up. I was going to get paid to hang out at a beach club all day! It was like one of the lesser orphans in “Annie” getting a spa day. I was going to steal SO much food.
Marlene asked if she could come pick me up at my house, and then I remembered:
The Humping Keychain.
As much as a day at the beach club sounded like the best thing ever, it did lack a certain sex/comedy element that only The Humping Keychain could provide.
I told Marlene I would just walk over to her house instead of her picking me up, since it was only two blocks away from my house, and we could go from there.
Naturally, I stole The Humping Keychain within five minutes of my arrival at Marlene’s.
Also, naturally, someone must have hipped Marlene to the fact that I had stolen it, because even though we had a great time that day at the beach club, I was never called to babysit for Justine again. That kid must have put two and two together, realized I was the last one in the house, and then went turncoat on me and told her mother.
Don’t care. Worth it! I was now in possession of The Humping Keychain.
But stealing is wrong!
Is it, when you really think about the circumstances? If anything, I was saving poor, impressionable Justine from having to live in a house where something as disgusting (hilarious) and pornographic (double hilarious) as The Humping Keychain was just left in a drawer for anybody to find. I stole The Humping Keychain because I was concerned about the welfare of that child! How dare you question my morals as a thief?!
I later traded The Humping Keychain to another sixth grader after an excruciatingly complex and protracted negotiation. I had recently watched both “Working Girl” and “Baby Boom”, and I fancied myself a tiger lady businesswoman.
If you’re not already following this blog because you have “standards” or whatever, please feel free to click the Follow button on the home page and you’ll get an email anytime I post some of this hogwash, usually around once a week. You can find me on “The Twitter” as well under the name RomComDojo.
“Nobody appreciates your sense of humor, you know. As a matter of fact, everyone’s just about to puke from you. If you’ve got a hard-on for trash, don’t take care of it around us.” – Steff McKee, “Pretty in Pink”
Special shout out to my sister Julie for doing such a superb job running interference with FPL all those years ago. Happy birthday, old lady! Did I mention that you’re old? Because you are. So, so old.
Thanks to The New Southern Fugitives for giving this essay a home that feels just right and, as always, thank you all so, so much for being freaking awesome.