By Robert Hamill
Saturday morning at breakfast, I asked
Dad, "What do you think President Johnson should do about
He lifted his eyes above the sports section. "I
think," he turned the page, snapping it brusquely, "Gabby, you
shouldn't worry about things you can't control."
frying pan clanged on the stovetop. Mother stood behind me. She hated
it when Dad called me Gabby. I didn't mind ... too much. He usually
called me Chet, but when he wanted some quiet, it'd be Gabby. He'd
been doing it as long as I could remember.
Maybe I was bugging
everyone by talking too much, asking too many questions, bringing up
too many subjects. Maybe other people were just too polite to tell me
I decided to try an experiment. How long would it take
before somebody asked me for my opinion?
After an hour of
chores, I met the two Tommys at the double lot. Tommy One was the
Scooter--short, smart, athletic, and quick on his feet. Tommy Two
was the Haskell--tall, sort of clunky, plus he made our parents
wince with his insincere flattery like Eddie Haskell in the "Leave
It to Beaver."
The two Tommys huddled next to the low bush
which served as out-of-bounds for football games. "Hey, Chet,"
the Scooter threw the football to me. "One more and we can have a
I nodded. Phase 1 of Chester Almond's
psychological experiment had begun. How soon before someone would
notice that I had changed? That I no longer chattered about
everything that occurred to me. How long until I was asked my
opinion on something?
I listened to Scooter and Haskell swap
stories about the metal shop teacher who kept a shiny alcohol flask
under the soldering rosin, how this girl or that girl looked so good,
and what chances the school's football team had.
to the neighborhood high school. I took the city bus to the all-city
magnet school--all guys, just guys. Took an important interest out
of school. Best thing was the ride to and from school. Girls from two
other schools were on our route and rode part of the way.
Betsy Kaiser, the girl of my dreams, was at the corner when I caught
the morning bus. Hazel eyes, a quick wit, a welcoming manner, and a
nicely developed body.
Scooter and Haskell stories were sort
of interesting, but they never required more than a yea or a slight
nod from me for their conversation to keep going.
neighbor who went to school with the Tommys, saw us as she walked
down the street towards the grocery store. We walked over to the
hedges. After some chitchat with Scooter, she continued on. Me, I
still had not been asked anything.
I formed a tentative
hypothesis. No one was ever going to ask me what I was thinking
My tentative hypothesis held firm all weekend.
On Monday morning I left for the bus stop at 7:05. I would get to
school way early, but it increased other odds.
I zipped my
jacket as I walked across the big grocery store's parking lot. When
I reached the far side, I saw Betsy. Alone at the bus stop. A
I nodded hello to her.
"What's up, Chet?"
Close enough. A counterexample
proving my hypothesis wrong. Eureka!
A pent-up explosion of
words gushed out of me.
Cover image of Gabby Hayes
in 1953. Public domain via WikiMedia Commons