Embarrassing memories are something of which I have no shortage. That’s why I decided to give this memory a number. I was thinking the other day that if I told you about all the embarrassing situations I’ve found myself in during the course of my life, I would have enough material to keep this blog going for at least thirty years. Succinctly put, my ability to humiliate myself is phenomenal. The situation I will be serving up for you today was not only humiliating but a tad horrifying as well. It is the story of how, at 9 or 10 years old, I came to get my penis stuck in the business end of a Hoover vacuum cleaner. What can I say, I was a preadolescent pervert.
I must apologize for not being able to pinpoint the age; however, you must understand that it was not only a long time ago but also that I had made preadolescent perversion something of a profession. By the time this incident occurred, I was already a veteran with a long career that had its beginnings in kindergarten. Yes, kindergarten. My memory is clear on this because it was in kindergarten, behind the giant Bozo the Clown beanbag target, that I copped my first feel. Her name was Laura Finklestein, and despite the absurdity of her name, she was quite pretty. One day I invited her into my fort. My fort was the dark space behind Bozo’s smiling face, which was set up diagonally across one corner of the main playroom. Bozo’s eyes and mouth were holes through which beanbags were to be tossed. It was an excellent fort. It provided protection from prying eyes and the holes provided a way to spy enemy forces approaching from without. I will always have fond memories of Bozo. I should be clear, though, that what happened between me and Laura Finklestein behind Bozo was not what you would call sex. It was more of an I’ll-show-you-mine-if-you-show-me-yours experience. And it provided me with a major shock. Up until that point, I had no idea girls weren’t equipped just as I was. I remember looking between her legs and thinking, what the hell are you supposed to do with that? What I meant by “that” I’m not sure. There was no “that.” There was nothing. I didn’t get it. I felt sorry for her; she had no toy. She had no little soldier that would stand to attention. Who would wake her in the morning? And where would she hang her towel while she brushed her teeth?
It was a few years and many hushed whispers in the boy’s club later that I began to appreciate the mystery of the female body. Many of the boys that were instructing me about this mystery knew less about girls than I did, but at least they were optimistic. I took heart. And then, I discovered the Holy of Holies. It sat hidden deep in the bottom of my father’s sock drawer. Its name was Penthouse. I looked through it with great interest, and my little soldier stood at attention and looked at it with me. We were both instant fans. We especially liked the fantasy stories. They were full of fascinating terminology and techniques, and we found them both educational and inspiring. Particularly intriguing and certainly exciting to us was the concept of oral sex. Little Soldier noticed that ‘suck’ seemed to be the operative word; it involved inserting himself into something that sucked. He tapped me on the belly. He pointed to the vacuum cleaner.
Well, what can I say, that is the basic function of a vacuum cleaner…its core competence, so to speak. It made sense. Why not?
I took the vacuum cleaner into the living room and plugged it in. It was a Hoover, and it looked like a decapitated version of R2D2. A long corrugated tube snapped onto the top of the canister. At the far end of the tube, the business end, it had a 12-inch metal extension protruding out for connecting various attachments…it was the perfect diameter for the attachment I had in mind. I clicked the power on. Little Soldier pointed his helmet at the hole and prepared to go where no man had gone before.
THWAP! He was in.
At first, it seemed to be going well. I closed my eyes and imagined one of the scenarios I had just read about in the Penthouse, though I admit I embellished it somewhat. In my version of the fantasy, I was incredibly handsome, tall, and didn’t wear glasses. I was such a stud. And the Hoover was pretty sexy, too. And talented. I do remember thinking, however, that it would have felt better if the metal tube was softer and lubricated with Vaseline. Little did I know that lack of lubrication was about to prove very important indeed. At that moment, though, it felt nice, certainly different from anything I had experienced to date. I did notice the pipe becoming increasingly snug but I assumed that was just the raw suction power of the Hoover at work. Besides, the snugger it got, the better it felt. I drifted off into my fantasy. It was waxing without a single wane, but just as the fantasy was waxing to the best part of all, I realized something was wrong. Terribly wrong. The immense pleasure I had relished moments earlier was gone and in its place was a feeling of…well, intense discomfort. To be blunt, it hurt like a motherfucker. My father had always bragged about how well I endured pain, but even I had my threshold and I was quickly reaching it. The situation required immediate attention. I hooked my ankle around the cord and yanked it out of the wall. The vacuum went silent. I stood motionless with my chin on my chest and looked down at the situation. I felt throbbing. This was not good. I cautiously gave the pipe a slight tug. It didn’t budge. I pulled harder. Nothing. It wasn’t going anywhere. I was stuck.
Now you out there reading this are thinking things are pretty bad at this point, right? Wrong. Things were about to get a whole lot worse because it was at that moment that I heard a car pulling into the garage below me. My eyes shot up and stared straight ahead as I felt the power of the ’68 Thunderbird’s V8 engine vibrate through the floor. My mother had come home early. I looked back down at my predicament. I said the first thing that came into my mind, namely, “Oh shit!” I reached down and took the Hoover’s handle in one hand, the tubing in the other, and began to waddle towards the stairs leading up to my room. The power cord dragged behind me through my legs. I must have looked a sight. The car engine shut off. I heard the car door open. I repeated, “Oh shit!”
Going up the stairs intimately attached to a vacuum cleaner was going to be difficult to do without an occasional yelp or whimper, but I had to do it quietly. I adjusted my awkward waddling technique for the climb and started up the steps. Progress was slow. I paid close attention to the tubing and the power cord because, well, I instinctively understood this would not be a good time to trip and fall. Halfway up, I remembered the small metal pedal at the bottom of the canister that retracted the cord. I sat the canister two steps above me and used my knee to hit the pedal. And as soon as I did, I realized my mistake. The retractor that Hoover installed on their vacuum cleaners worked with amazing proficiency. It had a pull force that could yank a horse off its feet. And this presented a problem considering the cord passed through my spread legs with the plug about 12 feet behind me. As the retractor whipped the cord home, the plug bounced on the steps and made most of the journey airborne. My eyes got so big they almost popped out. I raised myself up until I was tippy toed and held my breath. It was no use. The plug’s aim couldn’t have been better. It hit my balls with an audible smack. My back arched inward and my chin reached for the light fixture at the top of the stairs. Air rushed into my lungs and I froze as if suddenly paralyzed. Every muscle in my body had tensed until I felt like one big rubber band stretched to its limit; it was like the silence before a massive explosion…then I heard a tiny squeak deep in my throat. I remember being afraid to look down to see if my balls were still there. I was convinced I had just experienced castration.
I heard the car door slam shut. I sank forward and leaned against the canister, exhaling for the first time. I was still on my tiptoes. I wanted to cry. I looked back up at the top of the stairs. It might as well have been the peak of Mt. Everest. I would never make it. I willed myself dead. Invisible. Better yet, never born. The basement door opened and finally some good fortune came my way. I could hear the rustling of paper bags. Mom had been to Safeway and had an armload of groceries. That meant she would walk directly into the kitchen, in the opposite direction of the stairs where a ten-year-old boy stood naked with his penis inserted into a vacuum cleaner. I pushed myself up and willed myself to continue. The basement door slammed. She started up the steps to the main floor as I inched my way upward.
Just as she reached the kitchen and started emptying the bags of groceries, I reached the landing. The rustling of the bags had helped mask my progress. I turned right and crab-walked into my bedroom. I sat the vacuum cleaner on the big oval space rug and unsnapped the tube from the top of the canister. The throbbing continued and the pain was escalating. I gave the tube an experimental tug but I knew I was wasting my time. Then I walked to the full-length mirror on the closet door to examine myself. It looked like an elephant was molesting me. I pictured my mom walking me into the emergency room with the tube sticking out of the fly of a pair of Levis. Everyone would stop and gawk because, let’s face it, no matter how elegantly I draped the hose over my shoulders and around my neck, I was not going to be able to achieve a natural look. It was hopeless. My mother would disown me. Or worse, send me to military school. My mother’s favorite threat when I was bad, which was often, was military school. I would be sporting epaulettes and become some cadet officer’s butt boy. I was doomed…and screwed in both the present and future tense.
I had to think but the pain was making me panic. My dad’s WD-40 sounded like just the thing, but it was down in the garage and I wasn’t about to risk that journey. And then I remembered how my mom would use dishwashing soap to get her wedding ring off. My spirits lifted a second until I remembered the dishwashing soap was in the kitchen with mom. My shoulders sagged again. Then I cheered up again realizing the bathroom was right across the hall and there was soap there. It was bar soap but it was soap, and I knew from experience it could make Little Soldier quite slippery. Wait! Shampoo! There was shampoo in the bathroom. That would be even better. If I was lucky, I might just survive this.
I edged my way to the stairs and peeked around the corner. I could hear my mom mumbling to herself in the kitchen. I tiptoed into the bathroom. I tiptoed because the last thing I needed was for my mother to hear me and call me down to get groceries out of the trunk. If that had happened, I think I would have died on the spot—there is only so much a ten-year-old heart can withstand. But I made it. I locked the door and started drawing a bath. The pretense of taking a bath would give me a reason to make her wait if need be.
I grabbed the Johnson & Johnson baby shampoo and then stood there staring at it. I didn’t have a clue how to proceed. I remembered there was a small bucket under the sink. I got it and poured a generous amount of shampoo in it. Then I added some water and used handfuls of the mixture to lather up the end of the tube where Little Soldier had entered. The plan was to get some of the soapy mixture to seep in past the swelling. It didn’t seem to be working. I tried to be optimistic but it was difficult considering the prodigious amount of swelling by this point. Then a scary thought occurred to me: the doctor would have to amputate. Unless I did something and did something fast, I was going to go through life built like Laura Finklestein. I was now in full panic. I think if I’d looked in the mirror at that point, my hair would have been standing on end. I tried to calm down but I had to do something now before the swelling got any worse. I took the bucket and poured half of it into the far end of the tube. I hopped, I jiggled, I shook, I tugged and I whimpered. There was at least one yelp and I almost screamed at one point. Johnson & Johnson promises no tears, but I’m here to tell you they are lying sons of bitches. It didn’t seem to be working but just when I was about to give up, I felt him move. After a few more jiggles and generous helping of excruciating pain, Little Soldier emerged. It hurt so much I was saying cuss words I had yet to learn. Little Soldier was cussing, too. He was a shade of red that reminded me of the sirloin steaks at the grocer and swollen to a size that you would think would make me pleased but only made me gasp. He was deformed. He had gone in looking like G.I. Joe and come out looking like Orson Welles.
It was over. I sat on the side of the tub…gently. I was breathing deeply. I slowly slid into the water and let Little Soldier float on his back. He was in bad shape; the poor fellow deserved a medal. As it turned out, he would have to convalesce for three days before he regained his original color and shape. It was much longer before he would think about sex, but he did eventually recover. Then it was as if it had never happened. He was once again tapping me on the belly and whispering his perverted ideas to me. I was once again listening to him and going in whatever direction he pointed. And it wasn’t the last time he would point me into an embarrassing situation either, but none of the subsequent situations he would get me into would be as terrifying as this one. Little Soldier had outdone himself with this one: this one involved both emotional and physical discomfort and a touch of horror as well. I still shudder when I look back on it.
[I dedicate this post to Beth Wareham (known on Twitter as @giantsweettart). My love for Beth is beyond words. It was either directly or indirectly through her that I met many of the great people I follow on Twitter. For that, I owe her a debt of gratitude. And I think she is the perfect person to dedicate this post to because she is something of a connoisseur of the perverse. I figure it is a good thing that Beth and I didn’t know each other when we were children. Together, we would have been dangerous. We would surely have made the six o’clock news in some way or other…I picture Walter Cronkite saying something about how a 14-year-old boy has baffled world of science by becoming pregnant. I’m sure Beth and I could have figured out a way to make that story happen.
I’m not going to detail Beth’s professional resume, but most people in the publishing world already know her. She is both famous and infamous at once—I’m so proud of her. You should follow her on Twitter and you should buy her book, The Power of No, which is excellent.]