"World's Fair" is the raw and witty true story of a dysfunctional Southern family's harrowing motor-home roadtrip from South Carolina to the Montreal World's Fair in 1967 (aka "The Summer of Love"). Told from the point of view of the author -- who was 15 at the time -- this intimate coming-of-age story shines a bright light on the issues of alcoholism, adolescent sexual confusion, family violence and the universal need to love those who hurt us, despite their frailties.
Warning: Contains strong language and mild sexual content; may not be suitable for all audiences.
CHAPTER 12: Mission: Impossible
It was bad enough sleeping in the camper with everyone, but worse still waking up with a raging hard-on. I wanted to get to the showers before anyone else, but my boxer shorts didn't hide my predicament. Keeping the sheet over my midsection, I prayed that I could simply slip quietly into my pants without exposing anything or waking anyone. I then stepped over Daddy on the floor of the camper. I grabbed my towel and shower supplies, and as I turned to close the camper door behind me, I noticed that Daddy was smiling up at me. Damn, I had awakened him.
There were very few people out and about that I could see. If the gods, like Daddy, were smiling on me today (I'd even accept smiles from the Greek and Roman ones that had been thrown overboard ages ago), I wouldn't have to worry about anyone seeing me with a boner. The first day I'd been alone, but if I didn't get there quickly I'd be showering with a bunch of naked men I didn't know -- strange men who might have weird fungal and bacterial parasites on them. I was in a foreign country, after all, so what could I expect?
As I approached the building with the showers I imagined I was starring in an episode of Mission: Impossible. I was going to the showers to get the tape that would have the secret message about the assignment I could choose whether or not to accept. Of course I would accept it. And then the tape would self-destruct five seconds after I'd listened to it. It would be an assignment about an international spy ring conducting business in Montreal at Expo '67.
I'd forgotten all about my fear when I heard water running. Had someone gotten to the showers before me and listened to the secret tape? Before entering the room, I hesitated long enough for someone to come up behind me, so I had no choice but to go in. And what did I see? Every one of the shower areas was occupied, and there were people milling around, some drying and dressing while others were undressing and waiting for their turn. The only other noises were throats clearing.
It wasn't like the boys' locker room at school, where we'd all be yelling at each other and trying to snap our towels on each other's asses. At least none of the boys at school would grab for your dick anymore. (That was what some of the boys had done in elementary school.) That was something to give thanks to the gods for -- the gods who'd apparently just abandoned me.
Since my prayers about being alone had gone unanswered, I knew there was no hope that my prayers to not get a hard-on would be answered. And as for hot water, it was being washed down the drain right before my eyes. Should I shower, or not? That was the question. But it was too late: I had been seen entering, and if I turned around and walked out they would know that I was scared -- no bones about it.
Well, I found a space to put my towel and supplies, and started undressing. It was weird being so close to these men. I wondered if maybe they wouldn't let the boys make fun of me if I got a hard-on. Facing the wall, I slipped out of my tennis shoes, shirt, unbuckled my belt and zipped down my zipper. I let my pants drop to the floor and stepped out of them as I wrapped my towel around my waist and slid out of my boxers. I looked over to my right and there was a man with a big smile on his face. I was screwed. Even the adults were going to laugh at me. Holy shit. I couldn't tell if they could see that I was shaking. Then I realized I was shaking because it was so damn cold. We were all freezing because there was no heat in the damp, slimy shower room.
The space below each showerhead was occupied, so a line of naked men had formed. I got in it. So far there were about six of us waiting our turns and trying not to watch the other men shower. It was so bizarre. Most of the people in the room were adults. They were tall, short, skinny, fat, bald, knock-kneed, bow-legged, pimply, with warts, scars, scabs, scratches, and bruises. They had skin that was fair, sunburned, tanned, dry, oily, with hair that was blond, red, brown, gray and black. They stood on white, super-skinny legs supporting big bellies; had fat asses or no asses; were hairy or hairless. They had big nuts, tiny nuts, nuts that hung almost to their knees; had little button dicks, long skinny dicks, short fat dicks, long fat dicks, curved dicks, hairy dicks and plucked-chicken dicks. Some were circumcised and others were not, like me.
All the boys I knew at school were circumcised. The only uncircumcised penises I'd ever seen were my brothers' and cousins'. But there was the time one of Daddy's friends, Rod Miller (who worked at Smith-Outz Drug Store behind the prescription counter), had babysat. I was in the bathtub when Daddy and Momma were leaving, and Daddy brought him into the bathroom and told me he was going to give me my bath. I was around four and considered too young to bathe myself. I started to make a fuss and rolled over on my stomach. Daddy told me not to worry; he wanted me to feel okay about not being circumcised. So he asked this man to show me his penis, which was uncircumcised like mine.
It seemed odd to me that we were different from Daddy. I once asked Momma why. She told me that when Daddy had joined the army they had circumcised him, and had cut off too much of his foreskin. Ouch! Momma said it was still painful for him, and she didn't want it to be painful for us. When I asked how it was painful now, she told me that when Daddy got an erection it hurt him. Shit. I guess Momma had done us a favor. She also told me it was more enjoyable for both the man and woman when the man was uncircumcised. I had no idea if this was like the time she'd told me my freckles were kisses from the fairies, but I figured I'd find out -- until one day I'd realized I never would know because I'd never have sex circumcised. Either way, I knew it hadn't stopped Daddy.
It dawned on me in the campsite shower room that my brothers and I weren't so strange after all. At least half the men and boys in there were like we were. The others were like Daddy, whom I noticed had come into the shower room and was undressing. It was a room full of a mix of all kinds of penises. Of course, mine looked to be the smallest by far.
None of the men or boys had boners, and they were washing themselves -- thoroughly. Shit. I was a freak. When I got under that water I knew I'd be in a real Mission: Impossible situation: I'd get a hard-on and they'd all laugh because I was the only one. How did they stop themselves from getting hard? Matthew had told me not to wash my dick. But these men were all washing theirs, and... nothing. I kept repeating to myself in my mind, over and over, Please don't get a hard-on. Please don't get a hard-on. Please don't get a hard-on. Please....
The line was moving at a decent pace. I studied the men in the shower and noticed that they wet themselves all over, then washed their faces and hair at the same time, then their armpits, balls and asses. After a quick rinse, they were done. They didn't even bother turning off the water since another person was taking their place. No one was lingering, enjoying the hot water tingling across their bodies, but quickly doing their business and moving out. And no one was peeing in the shower. What a relief knowing that at least I wouldn't have to stand in piss from the guy before me.
And then it was my turn. I put my towel on a hook and moved towards the showers. There I was, buck-naked in a room full of strangers. Yes, and my little dick was sticking out above my nuts, which were hugging my crotch for dear life. I looked over and saw that I had to move into the middle of the group of showers and walk in front of everyone so they could watch me like I'd watched them. And there was Daddy now in line. I couldn't look at him. I was so embarrassed.
And what does Daddy do? He calls out to me. Fuck. I looked over and weakly smiled. Now every single person in the room had their eyes on me. Shit. It was a long walk to that shower position. The whole way there all I could do was keep repeating to myself, Please don't get a hard-on, please don't get a hard-on, please....
The water was warm, thank God. I kept my back to the room. Shit, where was my Dopp kit? I'd left it on the bench. Shit. Do I leave the shower and go get it? If I do, someone will move into my place and I'll be standing there all wet. What a fuck-up I am. There I was, looking like I had a semi-hard-on with my nuts acting like someone was going to attack them. I didn't have any soap or shampoo, and I didn't know what to do. I was so nervous I wanted to cry, to yell, to do something other than simply stand there in the running water with everyone looking at me wondering what I was doing and how long I was going to take up one of the shower spaces.
"Here -- take my soap." The voice was Daddy's.
I turned around and looked at him. He knew I was on the verge of tears, so he took my hand and put the soap in it. I was in shock. If there had been one single person in that shower room that morning who had not noticed me before, they sure did now. Here was a skinny, uncircumcised sissy who needed his daddy to take care of him. I was mortified.
Okay, so I was skinny. And half the men were uncircumcised, too, so they probably wouldn't even think about that. But the sissy thing... well, yes, goddamn it, I was a sissy like my brother Matthew. But I didn't want to be, and I didn't want anyone to know. And now Daddy had to give me soap because I couldn't even remember that part of how to take a shower. Dumb, dumb, dumb!
I swiftly washed my face. I didn't like putting bar soap in my hair, but these were real men showering like real men, and real men didn't, evidently, use shampoo. Then I washed under my pits and down my stomach and, shit, how could I even think about touching my dick and nuts? So I went around to my ass and washed there. But now I had to rinse my ass. Shit. How stupid! Fuck. I had to turn and face the room to get the soap out of my ass crack with only one hand since the other was holding the bar of soap. I turned around and let the water run down my back, and as I spread each ass cheek, the water ran across my crack.
The time had finally come. I now needed to wash my dick and nuts. I squeezed my eyes tightly and took matters in hand. I pulled my foreskin back and washed and ran my soapy hands over my nuts. And then, holy shit, what was I going to do with the soap? I needed to rinse my dick, and it required both hands, one to keep the foreskin back and the other to run across it to make sure there was no soap left. But I had no place to put the soap. I hadn't seen how the other men did this. Shit. Shit. Okay, I had to do it one-handed like my ass. Fuck, I knew this would happen. I knew I was going to get a hard-on. And here it comes. Fuck. Fuck. Take a deep breath. Deeper.
"Let me have the soap." Daddy's voice again. He was smiling at me as I handed it to him. At least I had cleaned myself. One final rinse under my pits, and under my balls and then a quick turnaround to spread my cheeks with both hands, and I left the shower.
It was as if I was moving in slow motion traveling the few steps to reach my towel. When I finally got there, I faced the wall, dried my face and hair, back, stomach, ass and legs. Then I took my dick, which, thank God (even though I now knew God had nothing to do with it), was only partially hard, and quickly dried it and my balls and wrapped my towel around my waist and walked over to where my clothes were with the front of the towel jutting out where my dick was pressing against it. No one said a thing; they simply kept on going about their business. No one cared.
Before leaving, I turned to see where Daddy was. He was already under one of the showerheads doing a full body wash. I hadn't seen him naked since I was really little. I remember being about as tall as his knees, maybe a little taller, and being in the shower with him. I looked up and saw a monster hanging between his legs, all hairy and with one eye. I had tried to hit it to make it go away. Daddy had yelled at me, which scared me and made me cry. The angle certainly makes a difference when viewing something: From a distance, I now noticed that his nuts were hanging down between his legs and his dick was resting peacefully next to them. I couldn't wait until I was older and didn't have to worry about getting erections when I showered, or even look like I had one with my nuts pushing up against my dick so it stuck out. I couldn't wait.
By now, I had forgotten all about being in an episode of Mission: Impossible. But perhaps my mission -- and I had accepted it -- had been to shower and come away clean. I had succeeded, and knowing that gave me a lift for a few steps as I left the shower building.
But as I made my way back to the camper, I hung my head and watched as each blade of grass swiftly passed. If I slowed my pace, so that each piece of grass would take hours to pass, would the rest of the day never come? No. I was still trying to get the twins to stop beating on me. And we were all on a mission to get Daddy to stop drinking.
We had all accepted that mission, but so far, we had failed.
COMING UP IN CHAPTER 13: Matthew get us singing... we're given the once-over... phones of the future.
Want to read "World's Fair" from the beginning? Click the following links....
Prologue, Part 1
Prologue, Part 2
For more on becoming fearless, click here.
HuffPost Lifestyle is a daily newsletter that will make you happier and healthier — one email at a time. Learn more