One day in the winter of 5th grade, when I was ten years old, a cute boy named Mark approached me after school.
"Wanna go out to eat?" he asked.
That was an odd dating request. Boys usually just invited you over to play, or to Dewey's Candy Store. If they were were rich, they invited you to a movie downtown.
"When do you want to go?" I asked, expecting him to say "Friday night." But he said "Right now."
"Is your Dad here?" I looked around for a car.
"No, just you and me."
"That's dumb! There's no restaurants in the neighborhood."
Our "neighborhood," the parts of Rock Island we could roam freely through without supervision, was bordered by 18th Avenue on the north, 31st Avenue on the south, 38th Street on the west and the city of Moline on the east.
There was nothing in it except Dewey's Candy Store and Schneider's Drug Store.
Was there some new place that I didn't know about?
"I have to go home first, and tell my Mom where I'm going."
"Don't be a baby!" Mark exclaimed. "We'll be back before Captain Ernie is over."
We walked right past my house -- it would take only a second to go in and tell Mom. But Mark, and his blue eyes, and his muscles, led me on, past 20th Avenue, all the way to the corner of bustling 18th Avenue. There were cars streaming in both directions, and the only traffic light was way down on 38th Street.
There were several restaurants on the other side of 18th Avenue, but the one that caught my eye was the Hasty Tasty Pancake House.
I had never seen anything so beautiful. It glittered in red and gold like a palace from the Arabian Nights.
The Forbidden Fruit.
"I'm not allowed to cross 18th Avenue by myself," I protested. "It's too busy. We'll get run over."
"I do it all the time! It's easy -- watch." Mark waited until there was a momentary lull in the traffic and darted across the street. My heart pounding, I followed.
The other side of the world!
Everything was different here. The sky was darker, the air was cooler. The houses were small and grey and shabby.
We went inside and sat at a garish red booth, and Mark bought us pancakes and milk.
They didn't taste good. I felt too guilty for being on the other side of the world without telling Mom.
It was 4:00. Sometimes I played after school, or went to Dewey's, but I always got home by 4:00, in time for Captain Ernie's Cartoon Showboat. Mom would be wondering where I was.
"I have to get home to watch cartoons," I said.
"Come to my house. We can watch Captain Ernie there."
"Well...it's late, and..."
"I'll let you feel my wiener," Mark offered with an evil grin.
"Um...well..." I had only seen a few wieners before, and I never felt one. Bill never let me. And Mark was cute...
"It's real big, As big as my brother's, and he's in high school."
That sealed the deal. We darted back across the street and walked to Mark's house, on 20th Avenue near the border of Moline.
Mark had a portable black and white tv set in his room. We sat side by side on the floor, watching Cartoon Showboat for a while. There was no clock, so I couldn't tell what time it was.
Dad got home at 4:00, and we ate dinner at 5:00. I had to go! What was the hold up?
Finally, after an eternity of cartoons. Mark turned the tv off and drew the blinds. Smiling, he took my hand and pressed it against his crotch.
"No fair! All I can feel is your pants!"
"Ok." He started to unzip.
Then we heard a noise in the hallway outside, and he quickly zipped up. The door opened, and a big boy came in. Darryl, the high school athlete! He had his shirt off -- he had muscles!
"What you dorks doing in the dark?" he asked, leaping onto the bed and turning on the light. "Whoa, what a workout! I need a massage! Either of you guys an athletic trainer?"
"I am!" I said with a grin.
"Ok, great -- it's right there in my shoulder. Dig in good."
I got to sit on the butt of a semi-naked high-school boy and rub his muscular shoulders! But still, I felt guilty. I shouldn't be here! Dinner is at 5:00 -- Mom and Dad will be worried!
Eventually Darryl said "Thanks, little man" and left. Mark shut the door behind him.
It must be almost 5:00 by now. I had to hurry. "You said I could..." I began.
"Oh, sure." Mark unbuttoned his pants, and pushed my hand inside.
It was nice, bigger than mine, with an impressively solid shaft.
"Now I get to feel yours, too."
I unzipped, and we fondled each other for awhile.
"I know how to make it get bigger," Mark said.
"But I have to...."
Then a voice yelled up the stairs, "Mark, is your friend staying for dinner?"
We quickly zipped up again. He looked at me. "Do you want to?"
"If my parents say it's ok," I said. "Can I call them?"
"Sure. The phone's in the kitchen."
There was also a clock in the kitchen. 6:30!
My heart started to pound with fear. "6:30! But you said it was dinnertime!"
"That's right -- we eat at 7:00."
I was three hours late! Without saying goodbye, I rushed out the door, into the winter darkness, and raced home. Mom was calling all of my friends, and Dad was out scouring the neighborhood. They thought I had either been kidnapped or fell into a ditch.
Years later, I learned that I could get away with any misdeed by claiming that I had been trying to meet a girl or impress a girl.
But "I was trying to feel a wiener" obviously wouldn't work. I was grounded for two weeks, and forbidden from playing with Mark again.
See also: A Hippie to the Rescue: My First Date and A Glimpse of Cousin Joe's Shame