“Whatcha doin?” Ansel Head asked his friend Wilbur.
They were at Wilbur’s parent’s house at Smyer Lake. Head often spent the weekends with Wilbur and his family; it was much closer to Birmingham than Lake Martin and because it was not a Power Company lake, it never went down and was useable year round. Like all Alabama lakes, it was warm enough to swim in except for the few winter months.
“What are you doing?” Head asked again more clearly and emphatically.
“Turning down the lights and putting on records. The girls wanta practice kissing,” his friend answered.
It was only 9:30 but Wilbur’s parents were already in bed. Their cocktail hour had extended well beyond the grilled steak dinner, and they were tired. Wine was not yet in style; Kentucky bourbon was their drink of choice. There was little chance they would interrupt the program.
“Practice kissing!” Head was taken aback. When he had accepted Wilbur’s invitation for the weekend, this had not been part of the advertised curriculum.
Wilbur’s only sibling was eighteen months older. She was always around. This fateful weekend she had brought along a friend. Head hadn’t noticed anything unusual during the day. The girls had been doing their own thing, working on tans, and seemingly paying no attention to the boys. Yes, there had been the occasional glances followed by whispers that Head could not hear, or when they were loud enough to hear, they had made no sense. These displays had been followed by giggles which girls often do when together.
The boys had done their own thing which excluded paying much attention to the older girls.
During the day, they had been shooting a 22 at beer cans up the road from the house. When Wilbur’s father joined them, they got to shoot the 30-30 rifle and 38 pistol; unlike the 22, these weapons were considered dangerous and required adult supervision. As with most Alabama families, guns were a vital part of a boy’s practical learning and these boy’s loved to practice the practical.
“Yea, my sister likes this older guy but doesn’t think she’s good at kissing, so she wants to practice. You get her and I’ll take her friend,” Wilbur instructed.
Wilbur rightly suspected that his friend might try to withdraw from this game, but a brother kissing his sister was a no-no; that left only his friend to do his duty. Wilbur offered no words of encouragement to steel Head’s resolve. His plan had been to give him little warning to avoid a cowardly retreat.
“You take this couch and I’ll take that one,” he instructed.
His sister was now approaching Head blocking any exit and angling him towards their designated work bench. She had removed her glasses. He had often seen her without them, even that day, when they were swimming and skiing, but he had never really looked at her with or without them, not as closely as now. For the first time, he now noticed interesting curves here and bulges there, the soft glow to her cheeks, her lips, her eyes staring right at him. The aromatic aroma of baby lotion, shampoo, and hair conditioner, now so near, stirred surprising sensations. Her hand now on his arm was also new and different from the playful punches and wrestling holds that had heretofore constituted their physical relationship. She was now no longer chattering away which was his final clue that things were about to change.
Practice began without the customary whistle. All contact with his friend only a few feet away was severed. Smelling of dirt and gunpowder, he now found himself laying on a couch with lips touching the lips of his friend’s older sister while the Lettermen harmonized in the background in the dimly lit den down the very short hall from her hopefully sleeping parents in their small house on a high bluff overlooking Smyer Lake in the early Alabama spring.
Practice also ended without a whistle.
It had lasted for the entire LP record and into the next one. Head thought the effort not un-enjoyable but clearly not as thrilling as driving an opponent out of a hole while his friend Henry advanced the football, or turning, jumping, and sinking the basket from the top of the paint. It was also not as frightening as a fast ball approaching his head from a little leaguer pitcher. Actually he hadn’t disliked the tingly feeling in his lips and he had felt good about doing his duty well or so he hoped.
As if on cue, both girls got up together. Neither offered any thank you’s, attaboys, nor comments of any kind. They simply disappeared to their room closing the door behind them. Giggles alerted the boys that normalcy had returned to the little house high on a bluff overlooking Smyer lake.
The exercise had been kissing and kissing with no other purpose than practice. This was Head’s first foray into the amorous arena. Afterwards, his friend Wilbur was nonchalant as if he were an experienced hand at the game which of course he wasn’t. Head would always be curious about this blasé attitude which was so common among his male friends following female encounters. Head was nonchalant but his wasn’t an act; kissing his friend’s older sister had been an exhilarating experience but not so rewarding that he thought it should be made into a suitable career. Maybe this ambiguity had had to do with the indifference of his partner whose romantic interests obviously lay elsewhere, but that would be unfair to her because she surely meant no harm to the young Head’s quest for an education. There were friends in his future, good friends, whose principal purpose in education was, as far as he could descern, acquiring trophies of the opposite sex. They bagged quite a few or so they bragged. On the other hand, Head’s indifference appeared to most as only a lack of talent and aptitude for the subject; he was considered by those in the know a slow and unconcerned student in amorous matters, which of course he was.
The Saturday night class with Wilbur’s sister had not extended to second base nor had either boy attempted the steal since neither had ever heard of second base. They would have to wait several years until more experienced girls revealed the path to that base.
After graduating from college, Wilbur’s sister married the boy she had been worried about kissing. Head liked to think he had been instrumental in her mastering the art of the kiss which no doubt led her and her future husband to additional arousing acts.