52 comments

American Coming of Age Funny

Billy Putnam shot my dad in the butt with a BB gun. It was quite a feat, as nailing a middle aged man on a ladder cleaning out his rain gutters couldn’t have been easy all the way from the house next door—a house whose gutters were always full of old leaves and debris. 

My father’s screams of outrage brought my brother Sam and me tumbling right out of our backyard tent. The tent itself was a heavy canvas monstrosity, one held up with bent aluminum poles, yet perfect for us to play in. We’d been taking Polaroids, scrawling down dates and times on the back, to add to our Summer Fun collection. At the end of every summer, Sam meticulously filed the Polaroid pictures, dutifully recording our memories and storing them in a shoebox. 

When we saw our father, Sam was holding the Polaroid camera in his hand. We looked at each other, then at my dad rubbing his backside where a BB-sized hole appeared in his pants. I nodded at my brother, who quickly took a picture of our father, still on the ladder, still cursing a blue streak. We added it to the box. 

🜋 🜋 🜋

“I tell you, Evie. This neighborhood is going to pot—literally going to pot—with that marijuana-selling hooligan next door.” My father punctuated his remarks by stabbing a piece of Salisbury steak. He chewed malevolently. “He dented the station wagon, too. I saw gold paint on the front bumper of his Chevy. Where’d a boy get a car like that, anyhow?”

“I don’t know, dear.”

“Well, I’ll tell you something, Evie—I do know. I know exactly what that societal parasite is doing over there. He’s selling marijuana. Right here in our neighborhood. You keep our kids away from that punk. Any day now, we’ll have junkies strung out on the front lawn!”

“Do you think so?” 

“It’s the gateway drug, Evie. I blame Jimmy Carter. It’s a good thing we'll have a new president one day who understands that those types of people need to be locked up!”

“Do you think we should move?” my mother asked, eyes wide open.

“We may well have to, Evie. We may well have to.”

Sam and I looked at each other. From that day on, Billy Putnam represented everything completely amoral in the universe, an agent of chaos to orderly Christians everywhere.

🜋 🜋 🜋

When I started middle school, my father and Billy Putnam were still engaged in a holy war. On Saturdays when my father mowed the lawn, he’d balefully stare at the few cars who briefly dropped by the Putnam’s home. Sometimes my father would write down license plate numbers. In return, Billy Putnam would simply walk over and boldly present him with both middle fingers.  

“How do you flip the bird?” I asked Sam. “I can’t get my pinkies to stay down.” We had set up the canvas tent in the backyard, determined to sleep in it one more night. 

Sam pumped the Coleman lantern, trying to get it to light. “Why? You’re a girl.”

“I might need to flip off someone,” I replied, slightly aggravated. 

“Girls don’t flip the bird.”

I sulked, picking up his handheld electronic baseball game. I watched the red lights beep before tossing it aside. 

“Lawn darts?” I asked. 

“Nah,” he said. 

“Toss Across?”

“Boring.”

“What do you want to do?” I asked, finishing the last of our Jiffy Pop.

“I want to spy on Billy Putnam,” Sam replied, grinning. 

We unzipped the tent flap.

🜋 🜋 🜋

The fireflies blinked on and off as Sam and I scrambled quietly out of the tent. Barefoot, we muttered childish swear words whenever we stepped on an errant aluminum pop-top. 

“I think his room is in the basement,” Sam informed me. “We can hop the fence and crawl along the bushes. I hear he’s got a pachinko game in his room and everything.”

“Okay—” was all I could manage, as my brother’s wealth of knowledge on Billy Putnam impressed me. We dropped and crawled like commandos on the ground, which smelled of loam and moss. I followed Sam closely, sure that if I deviated even an inch, Billy Putnam would murder me.

The blinds were open. As we peered into what was clearly Billy Putnam’s bedroom, we noticed posters with blonde girls in tiny bathing suits hanging on the wall, the legendary pachinko machine with its lights glittering, and a tangle of bodies in bed linen.

“Don’t look—” Sam loudly whispered, a warning that only made me look harder.

“What?” I exclaimed, sure I was missing something fantastic.

“They’re doing it.”

“What?!”

“It. They’re doing it,” Sam said, scrambling backwards like a crab. I followed him, saying nothing until we returned to the tent. We didn’t say much after that, either.

🜋 🜋 🜋

It didn’t take long to learn I would be a total failure in middle school. The girls seemed to dress and wear lip gloss in a way a tomboy like me could only imagine. Alone in the backyard where Sam and I no longer set up the tent, I looked heavenward.

“Hey, kid.”

I looked up. Billy Putnam.

“You want to throw that back?” I looked at a frisbee that had sailed over the fence. I quickly retrieved it for him. 

"Here."

"Thanks."

"You're welcome." I started to walk away.

“Hey, you look sad,” he remarked.

“School sucks,” I replied, my voice breaking as I tried to hold back hot tears. 

“What part?” he asked, folding his lanky arms on top of the chain link fence. 

“The friend part.”

“Well, people totally suck,” he explained. “But why would you want to be friends with anyone who didn’t want to be your friend? That doesn’t make any sense.”

“I guess not,” I decided. 

“You’re cool. Just wait until everyone figures it out, too. Okay?”

“Okay,” I smiled and watched Billy Putnam flick his wrist, sailing the frisbee high across our yard, right onto our roof where my father would have to climb a ladder to get it down on a Sunday morning. 


July 20, 2021 02:56

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52 comments

R.L. Wood
01:47 Aug 06, 2021

Loved this. Transported me back in time.

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Deidra Lovegren
07:52 Aug 06, 2021

Yep. 1970s…great time to be a kid!

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Andrea Magee
22:35 Jul 26, 2021

Excellent nostalgic story..... just missing a lemonade stand and freeze tag! It perfectly captured an innocent childhood/ coming of age...... that has long ago died out. Well done.

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Deidra Lovegren
22:43 Jul 26, 2021

I do miss a good game of Kick the Can or Midnight Ghost.

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Jubilee Lubov
03:38 Jul 25, 2021

Strangely, the beginning reminds me of "A Prayer for Owen Meany"? Anyway. I absolutely adore the dialogue and the way the characters interact and perceive each other (even if indirectly).

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Deidra Lovegren
14:11 Jul 25, 2021

A comparison to John Irving?! I'll take it :) Thanks Jubilee!!

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Anna Chen
21:51 Jul 24, 2021

You captured such a youthful energy in the narration. What a capturing read--it felt like a real recollection, so if this was not, incredible work in bringing this to life, and if it was, I want to know more about this Billy Putnam fellow and if he's living life like a true king.

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Deidra Lovegren
22:14 Jul 24, 2021

Let's just call it "historical fiction..." The real pothead next door was a very nice young man who grew up to be an old stoner, brain utterly fried eventually by drugs. Shame, but not surprising. For a short time, he was living the life -- girls, convertible cars, money. But ended up a cautionary tale.

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Deidra Lovegren
22:15 Jul 24, 2021

And my father hated him like the devil :)

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Rachel Smith
15:20 Jul 23, 2021

Awww I loved this so much I didn't want it to end. Great narration. Very funny. I laughed out load at "He chewed malevolently." Good job !

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Deidra Lovegren
22:16 Jul 24, 2021

Yep. Dad's in the 1970's chewed a lot things up. Generational Gap Rage. hahaha

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Patrick 64111
20:09 Aug 30, 2021

https://lindsayauctions.hibid.com/lot/98438323/set-of-lawn-darts Closes 31 Aug 2021

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Deidra Lovegren
20:19 Aug 30, 2021

Absolutely buying these. Great weaponry for imminent Civil War Pt. 2 - Mask Edition.

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Wow. Amazing. Fantastic. Great. All of it. You did a great job on this story, Deidra. Never stop writing. Breckin- ;)

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Deidra Lovegren
17:17 Jul 26, 2021

Thanks, BN :) Your encouragement is wonderful -- YAY

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Thank you Deidra. I loved reading this beautiful peice. Breckin- ;)

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Kate Winchester
19:43 Jul 25, 2021

Cute, funny, and sweet! I loved it. 😊

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Deidra Lovegren
21:05 Jul 25, 2021

Thanks, Kate :)

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Kate Winchester
21:14 Jul 25, 2021

You’re welcome ☺️

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Corina Savu
16:56 Jul 25, 2021

A great story!

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Deidra Lovegren
21:05 Jul 25, 2021

Huzzah! Thanks for the accolades.

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15:28 Jul 25, 2021

What a sneak peek into the fun and frolic that goes into a great childhood. The characters were so real, and yes the dialogues were spot on. As I said earlier too I am a huge fan of your writings, and every single story of yours is tike worth spent. This was too, short, sweet a d with enough dollops of tanginess to keep the literary taste buds tickiling. P.S. Would appreciate if you could any one of stories and critique. I would understand if you don't

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Deidra Lovegren
21:06 Jul 25, 2021

I always appreciate your wonderful support, Neel. It's been very hectic with my travel schedule and school starting shortly. I'll zip over to your page as time permits. :)

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07:07 Jul 29, 2021

Thanks, really do appreciate it. And with your tight schedule, I do understand, Deidra.

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06:10 Jul 25, 2021

EXCELLENT : Characters were real, story flowed.

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Deidra Lovegren
14:10 Jul 25, 2021

Woo hoooo - thanks for the ALL CAPS comment. Thanks for the read.

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Charlie Murphy
22:31 Jul 24, 2021

Great story! Short with a positive message.

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Deidra Lovegren
14:11 Jul 25, 2021

Appreciate it, Mr. Murphy :)

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Also, If you would check out one of my stories I would be delighted. Obvoisly they are not as good as yours(Well duh) but I would be very happy If you checked one of em out. _Breckin N ;)

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Deidra Lovegren
05:08 Jul 22, 2021

I’d love to read one of your stories—which one should I start with?

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It would be great if you started with which ever one you want.

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Deidra Lovegren
11:30 Jul 22, 2021

You got it :)

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Wow! This was a great story and I absoloutly loved it! I was one of my favorites that I have read on reedsy so far. The ending just light me up and was even better than the rest of the story. Keep on writing and follow your dreams-Breckin N ;)

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Deidra Lovegren
22:17 Jul 24, 2021

Thanks, Breckin. Same wishes for you :)

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Philia S.
05:20 Jul 21, 2021

Hey Deidra! This is probably the first time I'm commenting on your stories, but yep, here I am, after spamming your notifications with what would seem a liking spree, but is actually not. I read each one of them before liking and found myself stifling my laughter each time. This time again, the first few paras sent me in fits(sadistic lil me) and kept me hooked throughout to the point that I didn't want the story to end. As usual great job and looking forward to reading the rest of your stories! :D Also, I hope you can leave critique on min...

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Deidra Lovegren
10:49 Jul 21, 2021

You got it, Queen 😃

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19:10 Jul 20, 2021

#freebillyputnam.

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Deidra Lovegren
19:26 Jul 20, 2021

ROFL. ROFL. ROFL. This is my favorite Reedsy comment ever. Kate Mengel wins Queen of Everything.

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21:16 Jul 22, 2021

already won, deidra. 👑 (and guess who posted? yup, that's right. me.)

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H L Mc Quaid
14:02 Jul 20, 2021

Greetings! This was just the refreshing jolt I needed on a humid, simmering day. Gosh reminded me so much of my (nerdy, tom-boyish) youth. I liked everything about it. Only one tiny thing that I stumbled over was this: "Sam meticulously organized the Polaroid pictures at the end of every summer, squinting at my childish scrawl from years gone by." It sounds like she's older now, looking back at what Sam used to do when they were kids. After re-reading it a few times, I think it means that they'd been doing that for years, and he's still ...

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Deidra Lovegren
18:03 Jul 20, 2021

Great catch :) I'll go tighten it up -- Absolutely appreciate the wonderful comment and close read. Thanks for being a great colleague!

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H L Mc Quaid
15:39 Jul 21, 2021

My pleasure. :)

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Phil Manders
11:26 Jul 20, 2021

Hi D I love these stories that glimpse right into childhood. Makes me wish I was a kid again. Good work.

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Deidra Lovegren
11:35 Jul 20, 2021

Hey Phil — I’d go back to being a kid if I could skip adolescence. Ages 13-23 were kinda useless…haha Hope all is well in the UK

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04:51 Jul 20, 2021

Wow. This was hilarious/friendly. A nice mix! Tbh when I read your stories, I feel a sweet savoury mix, which is really awesome. Btw, I visited your website, its awesome, and I gulped down 6-7 comedies :), they're really nice though. Awesome read!

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Deidra Lovegren
18:12 Jul 20, 2021

YAY -- I am so honored. Thanks for giving me your time to read my random babblings.

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03:37 Jul 21, 2021

God, no, I am! Haha, of course, I enjoy it!

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15:28 Jul 23, 2021

I dare you to write a story on the prompt: "End your story with 'I'm never going out with you again' lol I want to see this, and, I have a hunch that another Jax and Jillian might come out on the introvert-extrovert best friends one ;)

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Deidra Lovegren
15:37 Jul 23, 2021

Oooo you’ve inspired me…

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15:55 Jul 23, 2021

*evil laugh*

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Ruth Porritt
05:38 Aug 08, 2021

Hello Deidra, If I were an agent, I would get this story published. (Sadly, I am not.) Brilliant from beginning to end, and I wish I'd written this tale. I smiled and laughed out loud at this part: “I tell you, Evie. This neighborhood is going to pot—literally going to pot—with that marijuana-selling hooligan next door.” My father punctuated his remarks by stabbing a piece of Salisbury steak. He chewed malevolently. “He dented the station wagon, too. I saw gold paint on the front bumper of his Chevy. Where’d a boy get a car like that, any...

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