As I tucked my daughter into bed later the same night after I had interviewed her for this podcast, I could tell she was upset about something, so I asked her what was wrong.
I want you to erase what we recorded earlier, she told me.
I didn’t understand why, but she told me she didn’t think it was funny and she wanted to do it again. Something funnier, she said.
I promised her it was fine and plenty funny - that we would do another episode where she could be funny the way she wanted to, but honestly, that scares me a little. Why? Because I was once a young child and the things that I thought were funny were, in fact, not funny at all, when adult me looks back on them in horror and once more realizes how much more … oh, what’s the term my grandpa would have used? BUTT WHOOPIN’! How much more butt whoopin’ I should have had coming my way. And if you wonder why I was such a deviant child, don’t forget that most of my badness had a partner. If you’ve listened to all of these episodes, you ought to know by now that right beside me stood my cousin, who did stupidly stupid things with me. Yes, it’s more evidence that I should have been locked in a padded room for a lot of my Funny Messy Life.
There’s a large Ingles grocery store there now, but in the eighties, it was a strip mall. It was before Sam Walton had staked his flag firmly in the We-Sell-Everything retail market and and there were several different chains of bargain department stores. Sky City was the only one in Elberton, Ga, so if you wanted to buy blue jeans, a new spatula (spatchler, if you have the right amount of Georgia clay running through your veins), and a box of Marlboros, all from the same place, you made a trip to Sky City. They still sold music on vinyl back then, unless you were fancy enough to have a tape player, and live tank fish, which were right next to the fishing tackle. I always thought was a tad cruel. It was like telling the goldfish, Hey … we might be selling you to entertain us if there’s nothing to watch on the three tv channels, but you see that big hook right there? That’s about to stab your uncle Carl through the lip part of the face and drag him out of Lake Russell flipping and screaming.
My cousin and I used to get to go to Sky City together sometimes when our mothers took a fancy to trying on clothes. Small town living had not yet realized the dangers of allowing nine or ten year old children run around a store unsupervised and we were set free to do as we pleased as long as we promised to behave. So we promised.
Our first trip would be to the toy department so we could see what new items hung deliciously in blister packs. They were items our moms would say no to just a little bit later, and then it was off to the music racks. We took particular interest in the album covers of Ozzie Ozborne because he somehow knew that fake blood and deranged images would sell albums. That grew tiresome quickly, though, because my cousin and I had developed a ritual we thought was hilarious and as long as it was the dead of summer, so that the fans they sold were all going full blast to battle the heat due to the lack of air conditioning. I guess the initial blame might belong to poor design of the departments and displays. Because had the fans not been only one aisle over from the fishing tackle and supplies, my cousin and I might not have realized how comical it would be to do a stupidly stupid thing.
I fished because my cousin did. Otherwise, I didn’t care too much for it. But he was just getting into it and the day we came up with our scheme, which we repeated over and over again, to the dismay of store management, we were looking over the equipment and baits they had to offer. At one point, we came upon a type of bait used to catch catfish. It came in a small plastic container and on the lid were printed the words, Blood and Cheese.
It couldn’t really be blood and cheese, could it? I mean, why would any normal thinking person do that, right?
We opened the container to see what was really inside and found out that it was, indeed, very much filled with a mixture of blood and cheese. I pray you have never had the priviedge of smelling that combination. I think it’s what they shove up into your nostrils as a welcome gift the second you get to hell.
We both reacted the way you would expect anyone to react when the odor hit our noses. We quickly put the top back on it and backed away, making crosses with our fingers like you’re supposed to do when you want a midnight snack, only to find there’s a vampire between you and the leftover taco salad.
But then, adolescence gripped us around the frontal lobes, and suddenly we had a sneaky, evil, disgusting plan.
It was hot in that Sky City. They didn’t always air condition the stores back then and the fans on the next aisle over were all blasting away, and rotations back and forth at maximum velocity. How funny would it be to open a container or two of the blood and cheese catfish bait and place them strategically behind a couple of fans on such a steamy, sweltering, Georgia summer day? Our answer to that question? Hilarious. And so we did.
And then we ran. This became a tradition every time we were together in that store, until one day, magically, the fans had been moved and the establishment no longer seemed to carry the blood and cheese catfish bait. Do you realize the amount of tearing up our behinds that would have happened if we’d ever been caught?
Eventually, my cousin and I got old enough that our parents would let us ride our bikes around town unsupervised.
There have been many,many times recently, when my own son has made the statement, You don’t trust me, dad. To which I reply, No, son. I do not. He’s asked me why once or twice, too, and I always say the same thing … Because I was a boy once. I know what boys do. Then I promptly go into a closet and fall to my knees, asking for salvation again. Just in case.
It was easy to get bored in the small place where we grew up, so it didn’t take much for a young boy to become what my Grandpa used to call a Baddun In The Town. He used to call us that when we were mere babies because he could probably see the rottenness in our eyes. Double that and give two boys bicycles, and no good was gonna come of it.
Our favorite thing to do for a while was to ride over to the same strip mall where we’d thoroughly sickened the customers of Sky City, and park ourselves on a bench outside of another store called, Otasco. I can still smell Otasco. They sold a lot of tires and the smell of the rubber and whatever else was in there was distinct.
The goal, as we sat on the bench, was to engage in a hearty game of Truth or Dare. Of course, neither of us ever chose truth. We knew everything about each other anyway, and what would be the fun in that? We intended to compete to see who would break first and refuse the dare, resulting in a punch to the shoulder as hard as we could. My cousin was a lot stronger than I was and I didn’t like him punching me in the shoulder, so I doubt I lost the game very much. And knowing him, he probably didn’t either. I imagine he probably refused the last dare and then told me he wouldn’t be taking any punches to the shoulder, and if I did, he’d punch me in the shoulder. So the game would end in a tie because, you’ll recall, I didn’t like him punching me in the shoulder.
The dares usually took the form of something embarrassing we would say to the next customer coming into the store. Bark like dog, or call the next old lady Mister. I only remember the specifics of one of the dares I have to complete and I wish I could take it back. I also hope they didn’t know who my mama was, or she would have been the conversation over their dinner table - she and her lack of good parenting.
My cousin asked the question … Truth or dare?
I thought over it for a second. You had to do that just to make it seem like you were playing the game right. Dare! I said.
Okay. The next old person who comes by, you have to pretend they look familiar to you. You have to ask them if they’re any kin to … (snicker) … The Janittles.
I was a little confused. Why would that be a dare? What was embarrassing about asking somebody if they were kin to the Janittles? Who were the Janittles, anyway?
Then it hit me. It wasn’t spelled J-A-N-I-T-T-L-E-S … it was spelled … G-E-N-I-T-A-L-S.
I shook my head crazily from side to side. I ain’t doing that!
Then you’ll have to take a punch to the shoulder, he told me.
I’ll punch you back in the shoulder! I threatened.
Then I’ll punch YOU back in the shoulder two more times!
Check mate. I had to do it, and lo and behold here came a blue haired lady, parking her enormous 1980s vehicle right in front of us.
I swallowed hard and waited for the lady to exit the car and walk up. In my mind’s eye, I think she had the look of the world’s stodgiest librarian, who had her funny bone extracted by aliens. Either that, or she didn’t like hooligans, and, having taken one look at us, recognized us to be exactly that. Which we were.
Ma’am, I stopped her as she was heading in, hoping to ignore us. My cousin was already having to cover his mouth to stifle the gales of laughter that would be coming shortly thereafter. You look familiar. Are you kin to the Janittles?
What did you say, young man?
Are you kin to the Janittles?
We hadn’t anticipated a question in rebuttle and my cousin, who did stupidly stupid things with me, wasn’t prepared for it.
Because you favor one, I replied.
BWAAAAAA HA HA HA HA HA! My cousin erupted and the poor lady went inside without another word. I can’t believe you said that … I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU SAID THAT!
I didn’t get a bruise on my shoulder that day, but there was always a bit of a scar. Even at my young age, I realized how words could hurt. That lady probably shrugged it off without a thought and maybe poor-mouthed a mother she didn’t know over meatloaf later that night. Old birds like that are usually real tough and the shenanigans of two adolescent morons on a bench outside of Otasco probably didn’t come close to piercing her skin. And then again, you never know how deeply your words might dig into a person. If they've had a particularly bad day, or perhaps they battle a bunch of insecurities, something like that could actually make matters worse for them.
Nowadays, I try my hardest to make those I meet to feel better after they leave me and I’m not lying when I tell you that over the years, I’ve revisited those games of Truth or Dare and people we might have affected by our actions in Sky City. I’ve spent a lot of my adulthood feeling regret over the childish things I did when I was young, but I also realize that the past is the past. We can only move forward from today. If there’s an opportunity to make amends, we should do so. Otherwise, I think our best move is to learn from our past and try to do right by people.
Hmph. Janittles. You gotta be kidding me.
Are you the creator of this podcast?
and pick the featured episodes for your show.
Connect with listeners
Podcasters use the RadioPublic listener relationship platform to build lasting connections with fansYes, let's begin connecting
Find new listeners
Understand your audience
Engage your fanbase