Part 76: Cream Pie
© copyright 2019-2022 Stacya Silverman. All rights reserved.
n. Vulgar Slang
[Yiddish shlang, snake, penis, from Middle High German slange, snake, from Old High German slango, from Germanic *slangō; akin to Old High German (sih) slingen and Lithuanian slinkti, to slither.]
It’s been a minute finishing this blog, number 76. Weeks, months maybe. I still have that COVID time thing where I’m not sure what happened when, but also, I’ve been procrastinating. I thought too hard and long (pun intended) about what words to use to describe sexual organs, words needed to tell this part of the story. Even though in my family, foul language or “curse words” were woven into everyday conversation, (except racial slurs––only ignorant people, “idiots” as my parents called them, used those terms) I’m uncomfortable with most of the words used to describe genitalia for some reason. I use foul language frequently––fuck, shit, motherfucker. People that are uptight about cursing bother me. But there are words I don’t like reading, hearing, or typing. I guess a Buddhist would say I have an aversion to work out.
Even the word “vagina” is disappointing somehow, the word is just not as good as the actual thing itself. The female “C” word is especially off putting, as is the male “C” word. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, too bad. Not gonna type them out. With an accent though, someone from the United Kingdom, New Zealand, or Australia, the “C” word is somehow improved. They use the word and “cunty” in such a different way than we do here, as an insult hurled at men, women, animals, situations. Somehow, it’s better in that context.
Both male and female “C” words were used in the porn books my father wrote. I’ll have to think of a creative way to tell the story without using those words, or I’ll never get on with it.
Since this story takes place in 1974 when I was nine, I’m not sure I would’ve used the word “penis” even though I knew that word and was familiar with bodies and how they worked. When I was five, some family friend gave me a cheaper version of a Barbie doll. I took a black pen and gave her pubic hair where her crotch was supposed to be. My parents thought it was hilarious. Even so, I’ve been spinning on word choices for sex organs. Most I find cringeworthy, whether slang or medical. Even “sex organs.” Weird.
Yesterday, a word sprung into my mind during breakfast with my husband, David.
“What does schlong mean?” I asked. I kind of knew, but wanted confirmation.
“You know, ‘dick,’” David said.
“Is it Yiddish or Hebrew or what?”
“I don’t know.” David was laughing now.
“But you’re Jewish. Hebrew classes all through grade school. Don’t you know where it comes from?”
“Is this for your blog?” He rolled his eyes.
I nodded. David gestured to my computer. “Look it up.”
“You look it up,” I said. I wanted him to read it aloud to me.
Finally, I found a replacement word for dick that really flows. Schlong. It has such a nice sound and feeling.
I didn’t know the word “schlong” when I was a kid, but I’m going to put it to good use later. Riley probably knew it, and our music friends Joe Tansman and Bud Sherman certainly did. It’s such a good word. For some reason, it doesn’t bother me. I wish there was a similar word for the female parts. Hoping by the time I get to that part of the story I’ll figure something out.
The word pussy freaks me out now. When did that happen? Around the time we moved to Oxnard, we were isolated, having left all our friends back in Hollywood, so Riley and I watched a shit ton of movies together, more than usual. We watched a silent film starring Fatty Arbuckle, and my father gave me a grim lecture about how Fatty’s career ended. “He was falsely accused of shoving a bottle up a woman’s pussy,” Riley said, shaking his head, as if it was the saddest story he’d ever told. He paused for a moment, then added, “She died, and the press went crazy.” He went on to tell me that the public was high on moral outrage, and how the press made money by publishing stories about famous people and their corrupt ways. “None of it was true, but his career was ruined,” he said. The point of his lecture was how America was puritanical and out to destroy artists deemed immoral. But I was stuck on the first part, the bottle-up-the-pussy part. Back then, I believed that someone, maybe not Fatty, shoved a bottle inside the woman, and somehow she died. I wondered why she didn’t pull the bottle out. Or did it break inside her? What was going on with her pussy?
Is that why the word makes me uncomfortable? Did it go from being a potentially sexy word in my future to reminding me of a grisly crime scene? Recently I found out that the bottle story was fabricated by a woman who wanted to extort money from Fatty. But it’s too late, I’d believed it all those years. I’m scarred for life. Pussy. The word just doesn’t work for me. When Donald Trump bragged about grabbing women by the pussy, I thought to myself, "It seems like a word a guy like that would use, and something he'd say." Gross.
In my last blog, I left off when we moved to Oxnard. Our tenth move, to an apartment, but then, suddenly, we had to move again, and that’s where this story begins. Riley hustled up a three-bedroom rental house in Oxnard on Cypress Road, which was a dead end. Not just any dead-end street, but one that faced an empty field full of biting weeds, which I discovered in the most painful way when I ran into the patch of land barefoot, then had to hobble back out, my ankles and feet thrashed and itchy. On one side of the house, an acre filled with rows of corn and sunflowers, towering well over my head. I used to run through the corn field to get to an alley about a block away to see two brown and white horses in a green field. Packs of dogs roamed the alley, they growled and barked while they charged full speed, you could hear them coming. One minute I was feeding a horse grass, the next I was high up clinging to a chain link fence; the dogs nipping and snapping at my feet. It was terrifying. We didn’t have packs of dogs running loose in Hollywood.
Currently, I live in an area where there’s rarely a stray dog, and if there is, everyone gets involved until the owner is found. I take the strays home, shop for dog food, call around, post pictures until I find the owner. Apologies are given: the nanny left the door open, we’re having our house remodeled–– our contractor didn’t latch the gate, thank you so, so much. I’m gifted a Starbucks card or a bottle of wine, and then I never see them again, the dog or the person.
Back in Oxnard, it was chaos. Packs of dogs roamed free, without tags, and no one was looking for them. Sometimes people from Oxnard will say that they’re from Ventura, or Ventura County to class up their past. In college, I met a girl in my theater program who said she was from Ventura.
“Really?” I said. “I used to live in Oxnard.”
“Oh,” she laughed, covering her mouth. “I’m from Oxnard, too.” We realized that we went to the exact same Junior High at the same time, even had the same friend, Crystal Sasaki, but we didn’t remember meeting each other. The school was huge, named “Ocean View Junior High” although it had no view of the ocean or anything else.
I’m digressing with these anecdotes to postpone the inevitable: I don’t have a word like schlong to replace pussy. But I must soldier on.
The Cypress house, where the events unfolded, call upon me to be accurate and use the female “C” word as well as the male “C” word. Let’s see how I get out of it.
The old house came with a detached garage with electricity and a big freezer. Riley made the garage his office, but he had multiple projects going which spilled over into the back of the house, in an enclosed porch. The television was right where it always was in each place we lived, in the living room. Jan and Riley watched the evening news together, while I wandered around bored, languishing.
I went to the porch area, and on a long table, several manuscripts were piled, covering the entire surface. Nearby an 8 x 10 black and white photograph caught my eye. The image was so strange, it took a while for my little nine-year-old kid brain to grasp what it was. In profile, a young blonde woman with light eyes and heavy eyeliner was horizontal, staring upwards as if pondering the ceiling, perfectly serene like nothing was going on, except there was a huge erect schlong laying across her lips and nose. I picked up the picture to get a closer look, then wandered out to where my parents were in the living room. The Symbionese Liberation Army had snatched Patty Hearst from her Berkeley apartment, and the story blared from the set.
“What’s this?” I said, holding the photograph to face them.
Jan and Riley met eyes, the same look they gave on the rare occasions when deciding what to tell me. Usually there wasn’t much of a parenting plan, but they did the same “look” when I was around four, babbling about Santa Clause, and after exchanging that look, Jan said, “There’s no such thing as Santa Claus. Bud Sherman gave you those gifts, and the other ones are from us.” They waited, as if I was going to cry, but I didn’t give a shit who brought me the stuff, I just wanted the presents.
Now, on Cypress Road in Oxnard in 1974, the same pause, deciding.
“You left those out?” Jan said, glaring at Riley.
“I didn’t think she’d go back there.” Riley said.
“We should just tell her,” Jan said, shifting her gaze to me. “People like looking at pictures like that, and they pay to see them, so Riley’s making books with a business partner so we can get the money.” There was another long pause. Then, turning back to him, she said, “I don’t want her to grow up to be a prude.”
My mother is still alive, so I’ll say this: Mom, despite your best efforts, I’m a prude. I don’t know if I was born that way, or if too much information made me one, but the result is the same.
They returned to the evening news. I took the photograph back to the table, thinking about the woman and how pretty she was, and how maybe she could’ve been on “Get Smart” or in the movies instead of having a schlong on her face.
Riley made his little garage office like a second home. He had the big freezer, an electric coffee pot which he kept on all day, cans of condensed milk, and shelves for books and stashing candy. Every day was Halloween, Easter, Christmas, and the ice cream man in that office.
Jan became the bad cop. Her ideas about health food peaked at this time, spurred on by books like “Pure, White, and Deadly” which warned the public about the dangers of sugar consumption. She made rules about what I ate. No more cold cereal or Twinkies from Riley’s well-meaning friends. When we could afford the health food store, Jan bought fruit leather, carob instead of chocolate, and whatever else she decided was lower in added sugar. Jan’s stated goal was to eliminate sugar all together, slowly cutting back as if I was a little junkie, the fruit leather serving as methadone.
Riley, on the other hand, devoured sugary treats (when he wasn’t chain smoking cigars) baking up a storm when he had extra cash––cakes, chocolate fudge, cinnamon rolls as big as my head, with creamy, white icing made from scratch. He was especially fond of making cream pies, which I very recently found out from a guy named Peter (there’s a good euphemism) that “cream pie” also means pussy. I did not know that, but it’s news I can use. And I will.
How could I stick to the rules with all of that baking going on? Riley loved desserts and candy, especially Chunky, the big, thick, square chocolate bars filled with raisins and coconut shreds. He bought huge cans of candied peanuts, the rough, sugary candy coating taking up much more territory—by a large ratio— than the nut buried somewhere inside. Sometimes it seemed as though there wasn’t a peanut at all, just a ball of sugar and salt. If you ate too many, which I often did, it felt as if you had sandpapered the inside of your mouth.
This Riley/Jan rift about sugar made me realize that my parents weren’t on the same page. The minute her new low sugar lifestyle was announced, he moved all his snacks into his office, and put all kinds of ice cream in the freezer, rocky road and fudge ripple, ice cream sandwiches, fudgesicles, frozen candy bars––like a hoarder. Nothing was under lock and key though, and the two of us had an understanding, the rules Jan made didn’t apply the moment I crossed the threshold into his office. We were subversive, me and Dad. He might’ve said “don’t tell your mother” once or twice, but brewing beneath the surface, an unspoken undermining of her authority.
Her restrictions intensified my cravings, turned me into a sneak, a liar. I knew Riley would never rat me out, he never made me feel guilty or bad, even if I ate something he was saving for himself. He’d give me shit when I’d raided his stash, but never in front of Jan. Looking back on it, I realize that my father’s relationship to food was compulsive, which can be symptom of trauma.
Riley found an old car for sale, refreshed himself briefly on how to drive, and Jan learned to drive for the first time. Riley was aggressive behind the wheel, Jan a strange combination of spacey and frantic. One day they took off on an errand, the old car lurching down the street, while I stayed home alone. I took the opportunity to go foraging in Riley’s sugar palace.
I opened the door and closed it behind me, reaching up to the chain hanging down from the bare light bulb above, clicking it on. I wasn’t sure where they’d gone or how much time I had, so I quickly scanned the room. Dad’s cigar smoke lingered. The flat bottom coffee pot gave off a burnt smell, his desk was a messy still life: A heavy square ashtray piled high with stubs and ashes, inky black typewriter ribbon pulled out of the cassette and flung around on top of his Corona typewriter. His typewriter ribbon sometimes drove him to madness when it tangled, he’d curse, drawing out the “sh” in shit.
“Shhhhhhhhhiiiit” he’d say, under his breath, like the beginning of a furious whisper.
To the right of his typewriter, a few unpaid bills, and discarded candy wrappers. I picked up the empty foil wrapper from a Chunky bar, held it to my nose and took in a deep breath, imagining the creamy milk chocolate I’d missed out on. Under the wrappers, there was a small pile of cards. I picked them up, flipping through, trying to figure out what they were. I read through the names, and under them, numbers. Some had the same sequence of the same nine numbers, others had different numbers.
Richard R. Cooper. Richard Hawley. Harley Shepard. Richard K. Hawley. Richard Hall. Richard Blake. Richard D. Blake. Richard R. Shepard.
Baffled, I put the cards back where I found them, hoping they were in the same order as before. The snooping made me forget my cravings for a moment, and I continued to dig around the piles on his desk, at the same time trying to remember how things were so I could put it all back the way it was.
I flipped through a few sheets of paper, that’s when I saw what Riley was writing, the name Zachary Quill in the byline. I picked up the first page, and as I began reading, a feeling came over me, that the page wasn’t meant for me, just like the picture of the woman with the schlong on her face. I couldn’t stop myself, though.
It was a scene between a man and woman, both naked, and the man was coming towards her. The scene was from her point of view, we were seeing this–– a man with an unusually gigantic schlong coming towards her. She tried to run––but no place to go, she was cornered, couldn’t get away fast enough. He grabbed her, knocking her down, forcing her legs apart with his knees. When he entered her cream pie, his “hard, throbbing member” was so enormous, she felt as if he would rip her body apart, every thrust shattering her pelvis in half.
I felt disgust, but also, fascinated. I held the page in my hand for a moment, then set it down where it’d been. I placed the candy wrappers back exactly where they’d been on the page. A feeling of uneasiness came over me. I already knew stuff about adult things—my parents didn’t want me to be like one of those repressed, uniformed, religious kids. They never censored what I saw on TV. But this was different somehow.
I looked around the room one last time before giving up on my original mission. Glancing up, I saw a large can of sugar-coated peanuts on a high shelf. I got up on my tiptoes and held the sides of the can with both hands, pulling it down. Not much left, but still, I grabbed a handful.
Standing over Riley’s desk, I ate one crunchy mouthful after another, holding the lid right under my mouth to catch any crumbs, and then I ate all the crumbs, too. The roof of my mouth felt scraped clean off. I pressed the lid back on the empty can and put it back up on the shelf as if nothing had happened.
Correction: So..."cream pie" isn't exactly what I thought. Peter got back to me. "But one note: the sexual slang cream pie is a verb, not a noun," he said after reading the piece. Should've looked it up in the Urban Dictionary. Don't Google it, whatever you do.
© copyright 2019-2022 Stacya Silverman. All rights reserved.