Copyright © 1999, Kellis
“Gosh, Hilda, are you sniffing our come?”
The boy was standing at the door behind the woman. He saw her bent, one knee on the bed, nose to the crumpled sheet, but he failed to see her eyes widen with alarm, then narrow in determination. Instead of jerking guiltily erect, she rose slowly and turned about. With cocked eyebrow she asked, “What did you say?”
Both boys were standing in the bedroom doorway. Larry, the leader by fifteen minutes seniority, stood in front of Barry. Before them was a sight familiar from their earliest memories: the fortyish housemaid, Hilda, plump in blue uniform skirt and lace cap. She saw two skinny sixteen year-olds dressed only in T-shirts and boxer shorts. They were identical except for a tiny scar at the edge of the right eyebrow, sustained by Larry in a prepubescent fall. Both faces were alight with mischief.
“What were you smelling?” Larry demanded.
“Smelling?” the woman repeated, the other eyebrow rising to join the first. “I thought I saw a mosquito.”
At that reasonable answer much of the light departed from Barry’s face, also from Larry’s. But his eyes narrowed. “In both beds?”
He saw from her face that his shot, though only a guess, had been accurate. In fact the boys had whirled barefoot from the adjacent bathroom only in time to witness her attention to the far bed.
She went on the attack. “What’re you doing home?”
Larry grinned at her. “Did you forget, Hilda? It’s Armistice Day.”
“Armistice Day!” she snorted. “That’s for the wrong war.”
“But they still let school out for it. You really were smelling our come, weren’t you?”
Her chin came up. “What a thing to say!”
“You were smelling something!”
“Your mother says washing powders are getting hard to find. I wanted to see if your sheets could go another day.”
Larry’s face fell. “Oh.” But his brother perked up. “Then what was all that about a mosquito — in November?”
“It’s been warm. I thought I saw where Larry mashed one.”
“Well, did I?” asked Larry.
She shrugged, turning back to the bed. “No, it’s just a big stain.”
She snapped the sheet to smoothness and pulled up the counterpane that had been thrown to the floor.
“What kind of stain?” asked Larry over his shoulder, going to the shared dresser.
“You know what kind!” she retorted, turning to the other bed.
“Just wanted to see if you did,” the boy commented, handing out folded clothing to his brother.
“I know all about it!” the woman claimed with a smirk, snapping the covers over a similar stain on Barry’s bed.
By habit the boys proceeded to replace their slept-in underwear with fresh, an action involving brief periods of nudity, insensitive to the woman’s presence. Also by habit she surreptitiously observed them, pretending to fluff Barry’s pillow. They quickly donned long pants and long-sleeved shirts.
As they pushed past her toward the hall, her claim finally penetrated. Larry stopped suddenly. “How could you know all about it?”
“I wasn’t born yesterday.”
“But you’ve been living here ever since … I can remember.”
She grimaced at him. “And you thought I was an old maid?”
His eyes widened. Obviously he had so thought.
“Well, I’m the maid, and I’m old as your mother, but I’m not an old maid! Now, go on to breakfast.”
She followed them out into the hall and down the stairs, which the boys descended side by side, conversing in their habitual undertone. She overheard only one part, Larry confirming to his brother that “old maid” meant retention of a “cherry” at least to middle age.
The boys took seats at the kitchen table. As Hilda poured the cornflakes, Larry asked, “Where’s Mom?
“Gone to the war bond drive.”
“Oh, yeah? Where’d she get the gas?”
The maid grunted. “Your mother always gets what she needs.”
Barry said hopefully, “Maybe this time she’ll have enough to let us practice driving.”
“I wouldn’t count on it.”
They heaped sugar onto the corn flakes. Larry grinned at the woman’s frown. “You gonna tell her?”
“Why shouldn’t I? You know it’s rationed.”
“If you do, we’ll tell her you sniffed our come.”
The woman snorted. “You think she’ll believe that?”
But he had seen a flash of something on her face. He studied her thoughtfully while he chewed. She pulled out a chair and sat down across from him. Her eyes returned his gaze coolly. She extended her question: “Just how would you tell her that?”
Larry frowned as he took the next mouthful. Barry looked from one to the other.
The woman continued, “You’d have to be very careful.”
“That she didn’t send you both to Doctor Pritchard.”
His eyes widened. “What for?”
“With your father overseas, I’m surprised she hasn’t already.”
“You know we’re in good health, Hilda. Why would she do that?”
“To stop you from jacking off.”
Both jaws ceased to masticate. The boys stared at her. “Stop us?” breathed Barry.
“If your mother learns about it, she’ll come unhinged. She’ll probably think you’re sick.”
“Sick!” Barry repeated. Both spoons dropped into cereal bowls. Barry’s splashed milk back onto his finger, which promptly went into his mouth.
“We’re not sick!” Larry declared positively. “Everybody does it.”
“Well, all the boys.”
The woman nodded. “I think so, too, but your mother won’t.”
“How would they stop us?”
The woman’s eyes twinkled. “Tie your hands to the bed posts.”
“God!” Barry exclaimed.
The woman frowned. “Watch your language!”
“Sorry,” the boy replied automatically.
Larry cocked his head and grinned. “That wouldn’t work.”
The woman studied him. “Why not?”
“You can come by rubbing on the covers.”
She chuckled. “A teenage boy can do it to a cored apple stuck in a fence.”
“He can?” breathed Barry. “Who told you that?”
She only smiled, then cocked an eyebrow. “You do know where it’s meant to go, don’t you?”
Barry nodded. “Girls.” His voice contained no enthusiasm.
She studied him. “What’s the matter with girls?”
Larry answered mockingly, “All they talk about is soldiers.”
Her eyes twinkled. “So find younger girls.”
“Their mamas watch them like a hawk.”
She snorted. “You give up too easy.”
Larry’s eyes widened. “Say, Hilda! You can tell us.”
“Tell you what?”
“What to say to them.”
She grinned. “Betray my sex?”
They stared at her. She laughed. “Did you forget I was once a girl, too?”
“I guess so,” Larry admitted grudgingly. They picked up their spoons and resumed eating.
She watched them thoughtfully. After awhile she said, “One thing I want to warn you about. It’s very bad.”
“You mean disease?” asked Larry around his wet mouthful.
“Disease! Who told you about that?”
He shrugged. “Guys talk.”
She smiled slightly. “Until you learn how to get the girls, disease is no problem. No, it’s not disease. It’s something much worse.”
Both boys regarded her in wonder. “What do you mean?” asked Larry.
She studied them with a serious expression. “If you don’t get girls pretty soon, I’m afraid you’ll start using each other.”
Barry began, “What do you — Oh.”
She did not miss the guilty look they exchanged.
“I was raised in an orphanage,” she announced, grunting with amusement at the responding expressions. “You didn’t know that, did you?”
They shook their heads, again forgetting to chew.
“I stayed there until I was nineteen and I saw a lot. I know what boys and girls do with each other — and without each other. One thing I saw was how boys leave messes in the morning. The only thing worse than boys is boys and girls together, but at least that’s natural. And girls will usually clean it up.
“You’re right: I’ve been studying your messes. Several times lately I’ve found a big mess in just one bed.”
Again the spoons fell into the bowls. Heads drooped, but not so far that she couldn’t see the flush on both foreheads. She leaned across the table, extending a hand to touch each hot cheek. “You little rascals! You know I love you. Now tell me how far you’ve gone with it.”
“Wh-what do you mean?” Larry asked, looking up warily.
She withdrew her hands. “You’ve jacked each other off, haven’t you?”
They looked at each other. Both nodded.
“Have you sucked each other’s dicks?”
Both made choking sounds. She studied them narrowly. Barry looked up at the ceiling, face flaming. Larry looked away from the table.
The woman said dryly, “I see you don’t deny it. How many times, Larry?”
He licked his lips and sighed. At last he said in a weak voice, “Twice.”
She repeated, “Twice. All right. Have you done anything else?”
“You tell me.”
“Well … We sucked tongues.”
He finally looked into her eyes, where it seemed another question trembled. If so, she decided against voicing it.
She took a deep breath. “I want to tell you fellows something important. In this state it’s against the law for men or boys to do what you’ve just admitted. It’s considered a crime almost as bad as cold blooded murder. They can put you away for 40 years if they catch you. 40 years! Do you understand?”
Their eyes were large. Both nodded.
“So point one.” She ticked her points off on her fingers. “I’ll never tell, but don’t you ever admit it to anyone else. Point two: stop doing it! Anything done long enough and often enough is sure to get noticed. And point three: I’ll see that you don’t want to do it anymore!”
Larry cocked his head. “You’ll tell us how to get girls?”
She smiled. “Girls are another kind of trouble, especially just now. When you get older, they’ll come around. No. What I mean is …”
Their attention was rapt. She smiled fondly at them. “Your father hired me when you were babies. I couldn’t love my own children, if I was able to have any, more than I do you. Your parents have reprimanded me many times for indulging you. And it’s true: if you’re spoiled it’s mostly my fault.
“In one sense you’ve grown up beyond what I can give you. But in another you’ve just now grown into it.”
The boys studied her familiar face. They looked at each other, then back to her. Larry asked, “You mean …”
“I was once a girl, too. I’ve still got everything I had then, only more so.”
Both boys pushed back their chairs and stood up, staring at her. Larry breathed, “You mean you …”
She nodded. “I do mean me. I may be the only woman you ever find who’ll love you both together.”
“But how …”
“I’ll arrange all that. With only four people in the household it’ll be duck soup — that is, if you loud mouths will keep quiet about it. I can count on that, can’t I?”
At their vehement nods she added, “Now sit down and finish your breakfasts.” Her eyes sparkled above an anticipatory smile. “You’re going to need your stamina.”