Lifestyle Choices

I went through my first two years of college scared to death and feeling like a moron.  The tone was set in that week of indoctrination.  I had read Walden 2 pretty carefully, and, as I said, I had pistolthoughts about it, though I was not sure I had the right ones, the ones I was supposed to have.  Overall, I thought, you know, that a world controlled along rational guidelines by scientists was not an entirely bad idea.  I am speaking here, to be sure, of ideas.  The book seemed to me sort of dumb at another level, or let’s say it was dumb if it was anything other than pure speculation.

For example, in a rational universe, people would say, cigarettes are bad for you. They kill people; therefore we should ban the sale of all cigarettes. That’s pretty damn logical and right there you have the problem.  People are too stupid to know their own self interests; they are ignorant and self-centered.  Also self-destructive.  If people were rational they would have all already decided not to smoke on the basis of a response to the evidence.  So people were too dumb, stupid, and self-centered for them to ever go for Walden 2.

That’s sort of what I thought, although perhaps not quite as articulately as I have put it here.  Finally, the time for discussing the book came around.  I was in a room with about 15 other people I didn’t know and a professor.  I gave up almost immediately on the idea I was going to say anything.  These people were smart and they were articulate, and they didn’t mind being in the spotlight.  They didn’t say just yes or no or this is what I think the author means.  They immediately lit into what they thought about the book, and they didn’t like it.  The best I could gather was that Skinner was an evil bastard who would strip persons of their rights and their freedom.

I felt bad.  I let myself down that day.  I got snowed under.  I was for rights too, and being a teen-age existentialist, nothing was more important than freedom.  I just didn’t understand what I was getting into.  Just as I didn’t understand my reaction to the word “lifestyle.”  

I don’t think I can think of any other moment in my life when I remember the first time I heard a word.  But I can remember that time.  I can remember where I was sitting in the room, over towards the windows, with the afternoon light slanting in.  I was in my first ever “English” class, a special one for majors like myself, and the Professor had asked some question maybe about abortion, and a student said, “That’s a lifestyle choice.”  I had heard the word, but not seen the speaker.  But I turned round to see who it was, as the teacher indicated that was the correct response.

My reaction was involuntary and strong.  I was angry and disgusted.  A life was not a fucking lifestyle.  Deciding whether or not to have an abortion was not a fucking lifestyle choice.  I mean back then abortion was illegal.  I couldn’t imagine that any of the people I had known who mightnoose have had to get one would have seen getting one as a lifestyle choice.  It would have been a grueling, horrible and debilitating decision, and you might not have been able to get one at all.

So I let myself down again.  I didn’t say anything.  I mean what was I going to say?  I hadn’t heard the word before.  I didn’t know the fucking word existed, so I didn’t have any rational objection to it.  All I could have said was something like, “Lifestyle!  Lifestyle!  Who the fuck dreamt up that abomination!  Lifestyle my fucking ass.” 

Hell, I was already having problems fitting in.

Baby Box

The college I went to had a five day indoctrination before you actually started classes.  I got a list of activities and such,and also we were supposed to read a book for discussion purposes, B.F. Skinner’s Walden 2.  I couldn’t figure out the 2 part because I didn’t know about Walden 1 yet, but I read it anyway, immediately, of course in my eagerness for higher education.  I got the feeling they had assigned the book for some reason and that I was supposed to think something about it, but I wasn’t sure what.

babyboxTo me, the idea of a society constructed along rational, scientific principles didn’t sound all that bad.  I read a bit more too about the Skinner box, this plastic box, with air conditioning, and other features that made life more comfortable for an infant.  Like, in the box, you didn’t have to wear diapers because of the special absorbent pads and air condition that would dry the baby off so that you cut down on diapher rash.  And you didn’t have to worry about the infant rolling out of the box onto the floor or having something fall on it because it had a plastic lid too.

Skinner’s idea was that people are animals that adjust to their environment and that if their environment is screwed up they will accordingly become screwed up.  But if their environment is constructed according to scientific principles there was less chance of that happening.

Given what I already knew about my infancy, I figured I might have been better off raised according to scientific principles since I had been raised in a pretty fucked up environment.  I was born early—as I have already noted—with jaundice, and then my mother’s breasts caked so that it was painful for her to breast feed me, so she took to feeding me by bottle according to the clock for her own personal convenience and to spare her nipples wear and tear.  And since I still got hungry and cried a lot, she concluded I was “excessively needy.”  I think I would have done better with a Skinner’s box.

Maybe a lot better because, according to the old lady who is not to be trusted, I had shown no signs of being ready to walk and she had gone off to the kitchen or probably to the bathroom and I suddenly got up and WALKED straight out of the room, down a little corridor, and put my hands directly on one of those old fashioned wall heaters thus burning the living shit out of them.  Then, according to the old lady, she took me to a nurse who put cotton balls or strips on my hands, and taped them up, so that when all the blisters burst they had to go through and pull out strands of cotton that got stuck in the pus.

So according to the old lady the first time I took that elemental assertive step known as WALKING I burnt the shit out of my hands.  

Lord knows what damange this did to my primal psyche.

Baby Box

The college I went to had a five day indoctrination before you actually started classes.  I got a list of activities and such,and also we were supposed to read a book for discussion purposes, B.F. Skinner’s Walton 2.  I couldn’t figure out the 2 part because I didn’t know about Walton 1 yet, but I read it anyway, immediately, of course in my eagerness for higher education.  I got the feeling they had assigned the book for some reason and that I was supposed to think something about it, but I wasn’t sure what.

babyboxTo me, the idea of a society constructed along rational, scientific principles didn’t sound all that bad.  I read a bit more too about the Skinner box, this plastic box, with air conditioning, and other features that made life more comfortable for an infant.  Like, in the box, you didn’t have to wear diapers because of the special absorbent pads and air condition that would dry the baby off so that you cut down on diapher rash.  And you didn’t have to worry about the infant rolling out of the box onto the floor or having something fall on it because it had a plastic lid too.

Skinner’s idea was that people are animals that adjust to their environment and that if their environment is screwed up they will accordingly become screwed up.  But if their environment is constructed according to scientific principles there was less chance of that happening.

Given what I already knew about my infancy, I figured I might have been better off raised according to scientific principles since I had been raised in a pretty fucked up environment.  I was born early—as I have already noted—with jaundice, and then my mother’s breasts caked so that it was painful for her to breast feed me, so she took to feeding me by bottle according to the clock for her own personal convenience and to spare her nipples wear and tear.  And since I still got hungry and cried a lot, she concluded I was “excessively needy.”  I think I would have done better with a Skinner’s box.

Maybe a lot better because, according to the old lady who is not to be trusted, I had shown no signs of being ready to walk and she had gone off to the kitchen or probably to the bathroom and I suddenly got up and WALKED straight out of the room, down a little corridor, and put my hands directly on one of those old fashioned wall heaters thus burning the living shit out of them.  Then, according to the old lady, she took me to a nurse who put cotton balls or strips on my hands, and taped them up, so that when all the blisters burst they had to go through and pull out strands of cotton that got stuck in the pus.

So according to the old lady the first time I took that elemental assertive step known as WALKING I burnt the shit out of my hands.  

Lord knows what damange this did to my primal psyche.

Virginity

I got to know BJ bussing tables.  We got to talking and she had a sense of humor.  And then she went away for a year to Germany because she was a German major. And then she came back and comedytragedywe got to talking some more, and then necking, and dry humping and whatnot.  And that might have just gone on forever because I was afraid of getting her pregnant and just couldn’t bring myself to ask if she was on the pill.  I was also afraid of venereal diseases, but after I got to know her a bit I figured she wouldn’t give me one of those or at least tell me if she had one.

But we studied together and one night she went off to the john and left her diary, I guess you would call it, sitting there.  And I didn’t have to reach out or move it or anything to read that she had recorded that she had been taking the pill for over a month.  And after that things preceded apace, and I was able to unburden myself of the terrible stigma of my virginity albeit, if I am to believe other guys, rather late but still somewhat in the ballpark for what might be called “normal.”

I was terribly concerned about being “normal” since I was pretty sure I wasn’t.  But the idea that I might want to fuck a woman just to get rid of my virginity troubled me.  That seemed like using a person to satisfy your needs, and I didn’t want any woman I knew to think I had used her just to get rid of my virginity.  That felt awful.  I didn’t get drunk and go to parties, so I didn’t have an opportunity for casual sex and besides I was incapable of casual sex.  I mean a guy who worries that a woman might feel used if he has sex with her to get rid of his virginity is too screwed up for casual sex.  

But I was pretty horny and that overcame any compunctions I had about using a woman to get rid of my virginity.  Besides I liked BJ.  She was smart and liked to laugh and anybody who is a German major has got to have a bit of a tormented side too.  Just my cup of tea, the tormented side I mean.  I liked too that, when she had gone to Germany, she really had insisted on going to Germany, and not some place where everybody spoke English.  Instead she stayed with a German family that hardly knew English and nearly had a nervous breakdown for her troubles.

 Afterwards I felt pretty good for a while.  In fact, a professor said, Nick, what’s going on, you seem in a better mood.  I didn’t know any professor had noticed my mood and I figured I must have been in a pretty vile one if people could actually see the change.  I wasn’t going to tell her I had just got laid.

That lasted for a little bit.  But then things got complicated again.  Because having sex with a woman that you know brings about an increased degree of intimacy whether you want it or not.  Getting laid and losing my virginity I saw was a pyrrhic victory.  I hadn’t really changed any.  Things were as fucked up as ever but more complicated.  Before I got laid, I knew at least where I was headed, but afterwards I had no idea where we were going.

Sophisticates

Hindsight they say is 20/20.  But really it’s not.  Or let’s say it depends on what you are looking at or for.  I have spent a long time looking and reviewing and contemplating to come to the teaconclusion—or sort of conclusion—that the persistent angst I felt at college was not entirely the result of my having no social skills, or being emotionally stunted, or being tortured by my inability to get rid of my virginity, like it was the plague or something, but at least partly from my just not fitting in.

I attended a relatively exclusive, tiny, liberal arts college that affluent middle class people sent their kids to.  I was a poor white.  That’s why I got all the free money I got to go there.  I was like part of their quota for poor white people, and it was no skin off their nose because the government gave them money to help people like me. Naturally, I didn’t know or think of myself as a poor white person.  I didn’t really notice even that only a tiny percentage of us worked in the student union and that alone put me in a different category.

 That was part of the deal I got.  The college made sure I got a job to cover my books and stuff like that.  I didn’t mind, really.  I worked 20-25 hours a week, and that was nothing.  All I did was go to classes and study, so working in the student union was a break and good for a little exercise especially when I worked washing dishes.  Sometimes I didn’t wash the dishes; sometimes I bused the tables after everybody ate.  

Sometimes I worked the line tending the tea, the coffee, the milk and making sure the deserts didn’t run out. The soft drinks were out in the open so I didn’t have to mind those unless one ran out. I wore a sort of super-starched white smock, I guess it would be called, and a floppy version of a chefs hat.  I didn’t like the hat thing at all, but was happy they didn’t make me wear a hair net. 

So the sophisticates who were too good for soda pop, would look at me and say, “Tea, please.”  And I would get a cup and a saucer and put hot water in the cup, naturally, and place a tea bag on the saucer and they would say, “Thank you.”  And I would say, “You’re welcome.”  And somebody would say, “Coffee please.”  And I would do it all over again except I would put coffee in the cup rather than hot water, and so on for twenty minutes or so, till most of the stragglers came in.  By that time, people were leaving and I would go out with a cart and start picking up the slop they had left behind.  The amounts of wasted food I could not believe.

While most of my peers constantly complained about the dorm food, I didn’t.  Well, I did so I could fit in, but really I liked it better than home food because a) there was a lot of it and b) there was more variety.  Once I was eating with a group of guys and I said, “Damn. This is good.”  And jabbing my fork at it, “What the fuck is it?”  The guy across from me, the guy who later went to jail busterrather than be drafted, laughed and said, “Lamb.”  The laugh was good natured; a laugh of recognition, or rather non-recognition, like, “Who the hell is this guy?” 

 I didn’t know anything about Chinese food either; I mean I knew of course that the Chinese ate food and that it was called Chinese food.  But I hadn’t eaten any of it.

Tomato

I have wasted a good deal of time in my adult life looking for the mythical tomato of my youth.  Now at the stores, you can buy things that resemble tomatoes.  But the tomato of my youth was so tomatojuicy the skin was about to burst, and when you cut it the smell filled the room.  Once I grew some beefsteak tomatoes that almost reached the mark.  We had a hot summer, but the next year when I tried again, the crop was covered in the most god awful worms I have ever seen.

Such is the farmer’s life.

Once we visited Uncle Baxter in Georgia.  I don’t know whose Uncle he was exactly, but we were related somehow.  He lived out in the middle of nowhere.  We drove along a paved road for a long time and then we drove off  on a dirt road for a long time.  The land was all Uncle Baxter’s and he rented it out to blacks.  Finally we got to Uncle Baxter’s house.  It didn’t have a lick of paint on it and was lifted up off the ground.  Underneath the house was a pack of dogs.

They came yipping and snarling out into the yard, and boy, you knew, you had better stop.  So we did and they stopped too but still yipping and snarling till Uncle Baxter came out and called them off.  I guess living off like that Uncle Baxter was scared of strangers or something what with the dogs and right inside over the front door was not one but two loaded firearms.  Maybe he was worried about being the only white person around and the landlord for many black people—landlords being universally hated. 

Uncle Baxter showed us around the place while Mrs. Baxter made us up a light lunch.  We sat down to ham that had come straight out of their smokehouse and biscuits that Mrs. Baxter had whipped up on the spot and sliced tomatoes right from their garden.  And a little pan gravy from frying the ham if you wanted it.  That was one of the best lunches I ever had.  And the tomatoes! Well, they were real tomatoes straight from their garden where they had been a few minutes before we ate them.

Sometimes you have just got to be there; there’s no other way.  Ham straight from your own smokehouse is completely different from the hams you buy at the store. The same for a tomato.   If you grow corn, you learn that the sugars in the corn begin to change within minutes of having been picked. So first you get the water boiling and then you pick the corn and shuck it and turn off the heat and just sort of dip the corn in the hot water and it will taste like nothing you had ever had before. 

The same with ham from your own smokehouse or tomatoes straight from your own garden.  Most of us don’t know, these days, what anything “really” tastes like or even if there’s a “real” way for anything to taste.

Pathetic

Having arrived in CA in the mid-50s my family witnessed the great boom in development.  Things were relatively stable in Casa De Ora till the mid-sixties.  A small tract went up on our hill.  And in the 70’s the truck farmer out back sold his land for a fortune and houses went in there too.

whitetailekiteThe top soil in that area varied from about six inches in depth to, depending on the spot, a couple of feet.  Below the topsoil were rock and that stuff we called leche, meaning white like milk, a kind of soil left over from when the whole area had been under water.  You couldn’t grow anything in that stuff.  The developers came in and would terrace the land for their houses and in one afternoon clear off the top soil that had taken maybe a couple thousand years to get there.  And then they would truck in topsoil and put it around the houses so people could grow insane lawns.

One year, during my time in the basement, a white tailed kite, a kind of hawk, showed up towards spring and settled in on one particular branch of one particular tree in a gulley down back.  I guess they called it a kite because it would fly up, face into the wind, and hang there like a kite especially towards evening.  When it spotted something, it would fold its wings and drop like a damn stone and disappear in the weeds.  And then it would pop back up out of the weeds sometimes with a mouse and sometimes with nothing.  Had it not been for that bird I would have had no idea how many mice were in those weeds.  

Then it would go to its particular spot on the particular branch of its particular tree.  I observed this spot through a telescope.  It was stained from the bird’s kill.  I don’t really know how the damn bird did it, but having settled in with its prey it would gut the mouse and start to pecking at the entrails almost immediately.  

When fall started to settle in, the bird left and went lord knows where; and amazingly it came back to that particular spot and that particular tree and that particular branch for five years in a row.  In the second or third year, I started waiting for the bird in the spring, wondering where it was and would it show up.  And when it did show up, I felt satisfaction.

But one summer, the developers came and with their bulldozers starting filling in the gulley area where the bird had its tree.  I watched as the dirt piled up and up and finally toppled the bird’s tree.  It had been off hunting and I swear, when it came back, that it flew exactly in SPACE to the spot where that tree had been and was no more.  It tried to land in SPACE and began to fly in a troubled manner looking for its tree that lay on its side maybe 15 feet below the spot now in space where the bird always landed. 

I don’t know why but I found the whole thing fucking heartbreaking.  I wanted to say, stupid bird, stupid bird, go away.  Your tree is not there.  But it kept trying to find the tree and finally it did.  It even went to its particular spot on its particular branch.  But now it was way too close to the ground.  That day it left and never returned.

I wrote a short story about the incident trying partly to explain to myself why it had affected me so.  I mailed it off and the editor wrote back that it was one of the most overdrawn and hysterical (in the unfunny sense) story he had ever read.  Obviously, I had taken some creative writing courses—which I hadn’t—and had taken from them the worst possible lessons.  And as a final gratuitous insult, said I had the worst pseudonym he had ever seen.

Pathetic

Having arrived in CA in the mid-50s my family witnessed the great boom in development.  Things were relatively stable in Casa De Ora till the mid-sixties.  A small tract went up on our hill.  And in the 70’s the truck farmer out back sold his land for a fortune and houses went in there too.

whitetailekiteThe top soil in that area varied from about six inches in depth to, depending on the spot, a couple of feet.  Below the topsoil were rock and that stuff we called leche, meaning white like milk, a kind of soil left over from when the whole area had been under water.  You couldn’t grow anything in that stuff.  The developers came in and would terrace the land for their houses and in one afternoon clear off the top soil that had taken maybe a couple thousand years to get there.  And then they would truck in topsoil and put it around the houses so people could grow insane lawns.

One year, during my time in the basement, a white tailed kite, a kind of hawk, showed up towards spring and settled in on one particular branch of one particular tree in a gulley down back.  I guess they called it a kite because it would fly up, face into the wind, and hang there like a kite especially towards evening.  When it spotted something, it would fold its wings and drop like a damn stone and disappear in the weeds.  And then it would pop back up out of the weeds sometimes with a mouse and sometimes with nothing.  Had it not been for that bird I would have had no idea how many mice were in those weeds.  

Then it would go to its particular spot on the particular branch of its particular tree.  I observed this spot through a telescope.  It was stained from the bird’s kill.  I don’t really know how the damn bird did it, but having settled in with its prey it would gut the mouse and start to pecking at the entrails almost immediately.  

When fall started to settle in, the bird left and went lord knows where; and amazingly it came back to that particular spot and that particular tree and that particular branch for five years in a row.  In the second or third year, I started waiting for the bird in the spring, wondering where it was and would it show up.  And when it did show up, I felt satisfaction.

But one summer, the developers came and with their bulldozers starting filling in the gulley area where the bird had its tree.  I watched as the dirt piled up and up and finally toppled the bird’s tree.  It had been off hunting and I swear, when it came back, that it flew exactly in SPACE to the spot where that tree had been and was no more.  It tried to land in SPACE and began to fly in a troubled manner looking for its tree that lay on its side maybe 15 feet below the spot now in space where the bird always landed. 

I don’t know why but I found the whole thing fucking heartbreaking.  I wanted to say, stupid bird, stupid bird, go away.  Your tree is not there.  But it kept trying to find the tree and finally it did.  It even went to its particular spot on its particular branch.  But now it was way too close to the ground.  That day it left and never returned.

I wrote a short story about the incident trying partly to explain to myself why it had affected me so.  I mailed it off and the editor wrote back that it was one of the most overdrawn and hysterical (in the unfunny sense) story he had ever read.  Obviously, I had taken some creative writing courses—which I hadn’t—and had taken from them the worst possible lessons.  And as a final gratuitous insult, said I had the worst pseudonym he had ever seen.

Perve!

Mr. Smith and his family shared a property line with the Whites; though “share” with its hippy-dippy overtones is probably not the right word.  The two families warred constantly. 

telescopeI don’t know if it had anything to do with the war or not, but I have to mention that Mr. Smith’s house was oddly situated on his lot.  His putative front door pointed directly out onto the White’s property; mere feet separated his front door from their property.  To get to the front door, you had to walk along the side of the front to get to the front door. I never saw anybody use that front door.  People came in from the street; that’s where the driveway was.  It terminated in the back of the house.  So you’d park the car in the drive way and enter through the back door which was the de facto, if not de jure, front door of the house.

But as I said the families warred.  The Whites did not like the animals that Mr. Smith kept out back, and they didn’t like it either that his backward was a mess, with pieces of cars and old tires sticking out of the weeds. They especially did not like the geese.  Mr. Smith’s old dog died and instead of replacing it with another dog, he bought three geese that he had heard made good watch animals.  These suckers were big and if you came onto the driveway they would come at you making violent geese noises and snaking their ugly pea brained heads at you.  One guy drove his car onto the drive way, Mr. Smith said, and before he could do anything the geese had pecked paint right off the car.

 Mr. Smith claimed the Whites threw their garbage onto his property and that their son Richie that everybody beat up except me was using his telescope to look through the windows of his house.  And what do you know but somebody started leaving obscene letters addressed to his daughter under their putative front door.  These pretty graphically described what the author of the letters wanted to do with Mr. Smith’s daughter sexually.

 So Mr. Smith stood watch one night and caught Richie sticking a letter under the door.  He had been apparently using his telescope in inappropriate ways and had over stimulated himself or something.  Richie was under 18 so he didn’t go to jail or anything; instead he had to go to counseling so that he could learn the error of his ways.

Mr. Peace—whose son Richie had stuck in his one testicle with a pencil–worked as a volunteer policeman on the weekend, doing crowd control and stuff like that.  He caught wind of the Richie affair and through police contacts got hold of the actual file on Richie.  He had heard that Richie was applying to a military academy; so he wrote a letter to all of the military academies and attached portions of Richie’s file.  Mr. Peace said he considered it his patriotic duty to make sure perverts like Richie did not serve in our military.

 Richie did not attend any of the military academes; whether Mr. Peace’s letters had anything to do with that nobody will ever know.

The Only One

Perhaps every one is prone to it—the attempt to feel and assert that one is superior to somebody.  To all appearances the low man on our local neighborhood totem pole was little Richie White, the guy everybody, except me, beat up. 

santaheadPlease understand I could have beaten him up.  One day he was there; I had to go into the house to see a man about a horse, and told Richie to stay OFF MY BIKE.  No sooner do I turn around than he jumps on it.  I knock him over; he’s like a paper bag.  I assume the beat the shit out of Richie White posture by jumping on his chest.  And I look at the guy and see him slobbering and snorting and wincing and I haven’t even hit him yet.  I got up and said, “Just go home, will you.”  And he did.

But one guy might have qualified as lower than Richie because he was funny looking and kids are not kind to strange looking people.  Fred Peace had been born a bit different.  For one thing he had been born with terrible eye sight; he had these huge coke bottle lens glasses and you really couldn’t see his eyes swimming around in those things.  And he had this very light, too fleecy hair, and skin that looked sort of leathery with little tiny bumps all over it. And he had no eyebrows to speak of. Something had gone a little tiny bit off in the genetic factory.  Clearly he was human but distinctly odd and pretty small too.

He got picked on, of course.  But after elementary school anyway people stopped it.  There was something about him that just took the fun out of it.  For one thing, he was remorselessly polite.  If somebody hit him in the teeth, he was as likely to say as not, “I apologize if my teeth got in the way of your fist.  I hope I did not damage your knuckles.”  So if you got to beating on him, you found yourself looking at this guy who was not going to beg, or flinch, or cry out in pain, or holler for help or anything.  He was just going to fucking take it because at some level he felt the situation was completely hopeless and there was just no use in whining about.  It was like whatever troubles he had with his genetics had taught him that nobody is in control and that whatever happened there was no point at all in being frightened.

Fred was a Boy Scout like me, and I liked him alright.  It was impossible to have a conversation with him because he really didn’t have much to say.  But he was a good companion if you didn’t want to talk.

The first year we went to high school we didn’t have what would be our high school yet, so they bussed us to another one.  People wore black leather jackets and such there, and there were people called “hoods.”  So one afternoon coming back on the bus,  Richie White, just as Fred is going to sit down, sticks up his pencil just where Fred is going to sit down, and the pencil goes right through the pants and hits Fred in the scrotum.  Fred like jumps up, he doesn’t yell or anything but tears start to run out from under his glasses. 

And somebody across from Richie hits him right in the side of the head and his glasses go flying and Richie says he didn’t mean to and it was an accident, and Fred you are alright aren’t you.

What a dickhead. 

People said that when Mr. Peace got home and heard what had happened to Fred he had to be restrained by Mrs. Peace and Fred from going down the Whites and beating the shit out of Mr. White and little Richie.  Because more was going on here than met the naked eye.  Maybe because of those genetic issues only one of Fred’s testicles had descended.  And that goddamn pencil had gone right into the one that had descended, though the doctor had told them that it would be all right..  Still the family jewels and the line of descent had been threatened by that errant pencil as wielded by one Richie White.