Conclusion of Chapter VII
One day as I was happily returning home from the Upper Village, a girl about my age crossed my path and placed herself in front of me.
“I want to show you something”, she said. To my surprise she quickly pulled down her panty and lifted up her skirt. Without waiting for my reaction, she demanded, “Now you pull down your pants!” Puzzled by this naughty request, I stared at her for a moment and then ran home as quickly as my legs could carry me.
Around supper time there was a knock at the door. When Mother opened it, I heard from inside the living room a soft, but ominous voice in a very accusing tone. Soon a woman, accompanied by the girl with whom I had just had this embarrassing encounter, entered and immediately continued to speak more menacingly than before.
“My sweet little girl was on her way home, when your naughty confronted her with the most indecent request. He asked her to expose herself. You can imagine, Mrs. Klopp, how shocked and disgusted she was with this display of improper behavior. When she turned around to run home, that brat grabbed her from behind and pulled her panty down.”
While the woman continued with the story about her ‘sweet little girl’ being harassed in broad daylight, I felt so stunned by the accusations that I was unable to utter a single word in my defense. We all know the old adage: silence is admission of guilt. And nobody got to hear my side of the story, not even my own mother. The shame I felt over something I did not do was so overpowering as if I had indeed done what I had been accused of. So I remained silent.
“Look, Mrs. Klopp, how guilty he looks! It was good I came by to tell you. Hopefully this will be teaching him a lesson.” And with that remark she took her ‘sweet, little girl’ by the hand and added, “We must go home now and fry our fish for supper. Good night!”
Father loved to smoke his pipe. I often watched him, as he was preparing to light it, a process that seemed to be like a relaxing ritual for him. With fascination I was watching him gather his pipe, tobacco bag and the matchbox. He opened the bag and held it under his nose to savor the aromatic delight in his nostrils. Then he grabbed a pinch of the brown fluffy stuff and loosely filled the pipe’s chamber. After he had carefully closed the tobacco bag, he struck a match to light the pipe. This was the moment I had been waiting for. With a few puffs the aromatic scent of smoked tobacco filled the entire room, and I vicariously participated in my father’s delight. Even though I never turned into a smoker in my later life, I do have fond memories of the cozy atmosphere surrounding Father and his pipe.
One day, when I came home from playing outside, I noticed to my great surprise Father’s pipe on the kitchen table. I was surprised indeed, because Father would always put it away in a secure place. Then there were also matches on the table, but what amazed me the most was that the pipe’s bowl was stuffed with bits of crumpled-up paper, leaves and old cigarette butts. The attraction to smoke Father’s pipe was irresistible like sweet honey to a bear. Within seconds I held Father’s pipe between my lips, lit a match and brought its flame near the bowl filled with that poisonous concoction of paper, leaves and cigarette butts. I sat on the chair like Father inhaling the disgustingly acrid smoke. A few puffs later, I suddenly felt sick to my stomach. Pale and green in my face I slid off the chair, on which I had just sat proud and strong like Father. Holding the glorious pipe in my hand, I landed on the floor with a thump, threw up and passed out all within less than a few minutes. It was then when my older brothers came rushing out from their hiding places, whence they had been watching the spectacle. They had set me up for their macabre entertainment. I was sick for a long time, so sick actually that this horrid experiment with tobacco served as a form of effective inoculation against nicotine addiction for my entire life. And for that I will be forever thankful to my brothers!