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Old 02-08-2007, 11:14 AM
gary_wagner
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Default Danglers (1500 words)

Full blown puberty wouldn’t hit until my sophomore year (it’s a heredity thing – I come from a long line of late bloomers) so as a freshman, I was the still the smallest person in most of my classes. I was desperate for something that would let me be one of the guys, show that though I might look like an eleven-year-old, I was really in high school.

I got a bit part in the all-school production of “The Mouse That Roared”, a comedy, about a mythical country who declared war on the United States just so they could surrender and collect war reparations. I was number three of the twelve soldiers and had one line. I probably got the part because I was so small which was used for comedic effect.

The director was Mr. McSorely or Mr. Mac as he allowed us to call him. Mr. Mac was in his mid forties, had grey thinning hair, and wore black horn-rimmed glasses. We loved Mr. Mac and he loved what he was doing.

Mrs. Carmichael, veteran teacher just a few years from retirement, was in charge of set design and costumes. We never saw her laugh out loud but she would occasionally cover her mouth and giggle if something struck her funny. She was our grandma by proxy.

We soldiers wore black tights, green tunic, wide belt, green Robin Hood hat with red feather. During dress rehearsal, Mr. McSorely noticed white underwear showing through some tights and declared in his bellowing voice, “You soldiers will not wear your white underwear under your tights. I don’t want to see one pair of underwear.”

Ahh, the literal mind of a fourteen-year-old boy. He didn’t tell us to wear anything else so I wore nothing but those black DanSkin tights. I quickly discovered that tights are designed for girls and do nothing for holding in the extra parts that boys come with.

Opening night was typical opening night chaos. The set was not finished and there were nails and screws sticking out of some of the flats. I tripped on a board laying in the shadows and a protruding nail caught my tights at my inner knee and caused a run that went all the way up to my crotch.

I looked down in shocked disbelief. I quickly found Mr. McSorely, showed him the run, and asked what I should do. He looked impatiently at his watch and said, “That curtain goes up in ten minutes! Find Mrs. Carmichael – she’ll know what to do, but I don’t want you out there with that big tear in your tights, so snap to it!”

I found her helping the set crew paint the flat skirts black. I showed her my leg and she pursed her lips and shook her head slightly. She reached out and started to lift the hem of my tunic to see how bad the damage was but without even thinking, my hand jerked down and pushed her hand away. She looked at me in surprise and I quickly whispered, “People can see me here”.

She nodded, picked up the bucket of paint and the brush and whispered back, “Over here”. I followed her to the back corner of the stage behind one of the side curtains. I’ll just put some black paint on your leg and no one will even see this run. She lifted my tunic, handed me the hem, and said, “Here, hold this up.”

She was squatting down as she said, “Now, there’s nothing to worry…”. She stopped in mid-sentence and released a puff of breath in a quick exclamation of, “Oh!”. I felt a breeze across bare skin where I never expected to feel a breeze. The blood rushed to my head so fast I thought I was going to faint from embarrassment. I didn’t know exactly how much of me was hanging out of that ripped pair of tights, but any at all was entirely too much.

She didn’t look up, didn’t say a word. She dipped her brush in the paint and wiped it on my leg from knee to upper thigh. She dipped the brush again and I squinted my eyes closed from the touch of wet brush across nether regions. Now I knew the extent of the damage. The palm tree was safely covered, but the coconuts were hanging free. She pulled the hem out of my hand, my tunic fell back down, and she silently walked away.

My mind was racing in horrified panic. She saw me. Not only did she see me, she painted me. This had all the earmarks of a nightmare but I knew I was awake. Then my panic increased when I thought ahead to the play. I was supposed to be pushed to the ground in my first on-stage scene. I couldn’t go out there like I was – black paint or no black paint. I had danglers! I briefly considered running out the back door, finding a passing freight train, and riding it to a faraway place where I could spend the rest of my life in secrecy. But, what about the play? The show must go on.

I ran to the cafeteria where we had left our street clothes in little neatly folded stacks (the girls) and heaps (the boys). I grabbed two large safety pins. I thought about it a few seconds and realized that pins alone wouldn’t be enough to keep me from exposing myself on stage when I took my fall. I needed a piece of black cloth.

I spotted a pair of shoes on the floor with black socks draped over them. Not in the least concerned with whose they were, I grabbed a sock and ran to the boys bathroom to close the hole and banish the danglers.

I put the pins and socks on one of the sinks, pulled my tights down around my knees, raised my tunic, and tucked the hem under my chin to keep it out of the way. In hindsight it would have been a better idea to take the tights off and fix them in a more controlled manner rather than standing there bare-assed with my tunic under my chin fumbling with a sock and safety pins between my knees, but a frightened fourteen-year-old faced with the possibility of indecent exposure in front of the cast and an audience doesn’t always think logically and rationally.

I managed to get the sock fastened to the back waist-band of the tights and was fumbling to fasten it to the front when the door of the bathroom opened, and Mr. Mac walked in. He stopped in mid stride with one foot still off the ground, squinted his eyes when he saw my look of a deer caught in the headlights, looked down and saw the stripe of paint running up my leg and over the danglers, and burst into uproarious laughter.

He stepped closer, took the pin from my hand, and started to fasten the sock to the front for me. He was still laughing and his hand was unsteady. The pin popped loose and stabbed me in the side of my leg. In an involuntary reaction, I jerked my leg up and my knee caught him in the chin. It knocked him off balance for a moment. He stopped laughing and looked up at me in stunned surprise.

I was appalled. As bad as things were, I had just made them worse by smacking the director in the chin with my knee. I expected him to yell but instead he started to chuckle, then laugh, and then one of the loudest guffaws of laughter I had ever heard. It was infectious and I started laughing along with him. He was able to get the second pin fastened and I dropped my tunic, as if I had any dignity left. He grabbed a couple of paper towels out of the dispenser, wiped his eyes, and blew his nose. He was still chuckling when he left the bathroom.

I pulled my tights up and arranged my danglers in my makeshift thong. Not satisfied with just bending over and looking between my legs to check for escapees, I climbed up on the sink on my knees, lifted my tunic, and checked things out in the mirror. Satisfied that the black paint was hiding the white skin below the run and that everything would stay in place, I hopped down and ran backstage to wait for my entrance.

Mr. McSorely and I never said a word to each other about the incident, but every once in a while when he caught my eye he would chuckle and I would grin. However, through mutual unspoken agreement, Mrs. Carmichael and I never made eye contact for the remainder of that school year. She unexpectedly announced her early retirement just before the end of school and I’ve always wondered if the black tights, black paint incident had anything at all to do with it.