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this morning i went back to that sultry summer night in the big old farmhouse in altamonte springs. florida was always humid in the summer. the clear lake at the bottom of the hill bred mosquitos. the tall green grass undulated with melodic waves glimmering in the moonlight. and the zephyr forbade the bugs from the house that night. but it was hot.

it was midsummer 1958.  the three of us were propped on pillows in the big bed. nancy on one side and mary on the other were listening sleepily to the fairy tales from “the princess and curdie” by george mcdonald.
saturday night and frank and victoria were off at a party. i always slept with the kids after storytime.

but this night grace, who was thirteen, came whispering in complaining that i never slept with her and maybe i would come and tell her a story and stay with her. i really thought nothing of it and clambered in beside her. grace had on a summer shift. i had taken off my shirt because it was so hot. it was all quite innocent at first. by the light of the full moon i told her an adventure from my past and she snuggled into my arms comfortably.

hot summer night

now i must confess though i felt no shame at the time that my inquisitive fingers did travel a bit and grace’s breathing changed as my curiosity grew. yes, she was nubile. when she stopped me, i didn’t mind and we both fell asleep in a double fetal embrace.

frank and victoria came home and all hell broke loose. remember i am only two years older than grace. victoria woke me up and with her usual sweet and gentle southern voice said, “frank wants you in the living room.”

frank had already taken off his wooden leg and was propped up with his knee and stump on the hand grip of his metal crutches. in his hands he had his thirty-ought-six. that’s a high powered rifle. remember, he was a marine scout. he was fuming. his face was bright red. he blustered out some accusations and i denied that anything had happened. i explained how grace had said it wasn’t fair that i always slept with the little kids.
he began to calm down. victoria had talked with grace in her room and she had gone back to sleep. victoria told frank that nothing was amiss as far as grace was concerned.

i think i slunk up to my lair in the attic.

anyway, that’s how i got kicked out of ‘paradise’ due to a little innocent petting. frank and i remained friends, or master and apprentice, for many years afterwards but he had reasoned that i must go; first, because aaron, who was fourteen, was showing signs of resenting the time that he spent on my training. and then there were the other dangers, of course.

that’s when i took off for the village in the city.