When I was thirteen-years-old my parents were killed in a car crash and I was sent to live with my uncle Jack and aunt Rose on their sheep farm in rural New Zealand.
Funny how easy that is to say that now, all these years later, but at the time it came as quite a shock to me.
I think it came as quite a shock to my uncle Jack and aunt Rose, too, when I arrived on their doorstep. They’d never had any children of their own, so you might say that with my arrival they had parenthood thrust upon them, rather than have searched it out voluntarily.
I was a gawky, introspective kind of kid who didn’t adapt very well to my new country. Believe me, it’s not easy being an orphaned immigrant. I especially found school difficult, where everything was so different than what I was used to in America.
Uncle Jack, trying to be helpful, said that I should ‘buckle down and try harder.’
So on schooldays my usual nighttime occupation, after helping with the chores and feeding the dogs, was homework and more homework.
“Better hit those books, Rusty,” said Uncle Jack every night after supper.
“Yes, sir,” I always answered.
He liked me to call grownups sir or ma’am.
Then off I went to my bedroom, where I hit the books.
I also kicked them around a bit, for I detested schoolwork.
Instead I’d draw or read and listen to pop music on the radio until I drifted off to sleep.
I don’t know about you, but that’s how I do it. Drift off.
It was about this time that there began to come to me unbidden in the night as I innocently slumbered, realistic visions of an extremely sensuous nature.
I’m sure there’s no need to go into it. We’re all grownups here. We’ve all had our dreams, wet, dry, and otherwise. So, if you were expecting to hear some details from the adolescent wet dreams of Rusty Pliers, forget it. I’m sorry to disappoint you, but you’ll have to go home tonight unsatisfied.
Which is a rare thing to hear from the lips of Rusty Pliers.
Ah, but the jealous gods demand a price for what they give! Rather than lay back and enjoy these wonderful dreams, the morning found me covered in shame, and the sheets spotted in semen.
Or was it spotted in shame and covered in semen?
Boy! There sure seemed to be a lot of it!
And how did some get on the ceiling?
I’m sure I’m not the first person that has happened to, awakening to shame and semen, but that didn’t make it any less disturbing when it was happening to me.
I felt guilty, somehow, as if I’d done wrong, so I did my best to hide my shame, and the soiled sheets.
Naturally, Aunt Rose discovered my secret almost immediately.
“You’d better talk to your uncle about this,” she gently said, blushing a little. She wasn’t disgusted, as I feared she would be. “It’s a natural thing that comes to every growing boy,” she said.
My shame shrank away some and I felt relieved, but questions flooded my mind.
“Yeah,” I started. “But what about when my…”
“Your uncle will explain everything,” she promised.
And explain he did.
I think he was more nervous than I was, as we sat down to talk.
“Ever hear about the birds and the bees, Rusty?” he began.
“Uh. No, sir. Not really,” I answered.
“Your father never told you?”
“Told me what?”
“About the birds and the bees… about the, er, facts of life?”
So Uncle Jack began to tell me.
Being a farmer, Uncle Jack used barnyard examples to get his lecture started. (Which came close to destroying the possibility of me ever having a normal sex life with human beings, but I didn’t know that at the time.) Try as he might, I found my uncle’s explanation vague and rambling, with, I later learned, many important parts glossed over or left out entirely.
After the first hour, my head was dizzy, my innards were knotted, my faith was crumbling. Maybe it was me, although I’m usually not so dumb about a subject I’m interested in. Babies came from where? Why would you put it there? Below the belly button? What good would that do?
It sounded painful and unnatural, the way Uncle Jack was describing it.
(Which, I also later learned, can be fun, if that’s your thing…)
At the second hour we called a halt for a bathroom break and sustenance. Aunt Rose, bringing in the tea and hot-buttered scones, glanced nervously at us, then departed in silence.
Eventually Uncle Jack’s voice grew horse and he started to draw crude diagrams on pieces of butcher’s paper… and when that didn’t work he resorted to a strange, nervous kind of dance… as if a spastic flamingo were describing the sexual copulation of a Komodo dragon with a water buffalo on a Coney Island rollercoaster during a ferocious three-state thunderstorm.
(Which, I again also later learned, can be fun, if that’s your thing…)
Aunt Rose later related, as the hours passed and we hadn’t emerged, that she was getting ready to call in the marines, although how in the heck they could have helped she didn’t say.
Finally, Uncle Jack collapsed into a chair and said, “There! Do you understand now?”
Sensing no other answer would do, I said, “Yes sir, Uncle Jack, I sure do!”
“Good!” he answered, plainly relieved. “Good. If you ask me the best thing to do now is to leave the whole subject alone for a while. Maybe let it sink in a little bit. You know, sort of let it marinate in the old bean for a spell.”
I nodded my bean, glad it was over, and said, “Thanks, Uncle Jack.” But I wasn’t so sure I wanted to know about the birds and the bees anymore.
“Now run along and hit those books!” he ordered.
Luckily, within a few weeks I met the eldest daughter of the school principle, who thought my American accent was so cute, and she showed me what the birds and the bees was really about.
And what to put where.