Covert Porn: Hanes Underwear

8.25.2007

By Tom Spanbauer

My mother was pregnant with my brother John, so that makes it 1952 and I'm 6 years old. We were living at the Servel Place on Tyhee Road, 12 miles out of Pocatello. My father had just hired a new hand.

His name was Neil Haverman. Neil had just gotten out of the Navy, and everything about him said sailor. His hair was dark blond and thick, cropped close around his ears, with a big old wave he combed into a pompadour with a black comb he kept in his left back pocket. From the left he combed the pompadour that he kept in place with VO5. That's what he smelled like, VO5, and Mennen aftershave on Saturday nights when he took a bath in our bathroom.

This man was amazing. So unlike my father. My father had black hair, and he never smelled of anything but how he smelled in the bathroom and sweat. My father hardly even looked at me, while Neil, Neil Haverman'he looked his blue eyes right into mine to see who was living in here. Neil had been all over the world. My father had never left Idaho. Plus Neil liked to talk. It would be a good day if you got a grunt out of my father.
Neil told wondrous stories about being a sailor in Shanghai and Singapore. Everything about him was exotic. He told us once that he'd eaten just about everything that was fit for human consumption'and even more. Another time he talked about eating deep-fried flying ants.

I asked him once if he'd ever eaten a 'sweep steak,' and that man laughed so hard I thought he was going to fall off the chair. My father never laughed like that, and certainly never at something I said.

Gray work shirt and gray khaki pants and a brown belt and a gray cap with a bill. Brown desert boots and in the winter big black lace-up boots. He stood shorter than my father, but stockier.

My father had moved a one-room house and poured a foundation just past the pump house, and that's where Neil lived. He ate breakfast, dinner, and supper with us. He always complimented my mother on how good she could cook, especially her pies and cakes. I think she was a little bit in love with him too.

The most wonderful thing about Neil Haverman was that he liked to play cards, and since nobody would play cards with him, he taught me how to play gin rummy. Those were the days before TV. I can't tell you how great it felt at night after I'd finished my homework, to sit down with Neil and play gin rummy. I learned fast, and he even let me win a game every once in a while.

This next part that happened'some of it I remember and some of it I don't. I was inside Neil's house'a place where I was forbidden to go. But I was 6 years old and I was in his house, and my hand was in his underwear drawer and I was smelling his shorts. I remember very particularly the pair of Hanes underwear size 34 and how they smelled like Mom's White K soap and something more. I was holding those shorts up to my nose when I turned around to see Neil Haverman standing there. I don't remember what happened next. I remember that what he said made me very afraid. I think he threatened to tell my dad, but he never told.

After that day when I got caught smelling his underwear, Neil refused to look at me or talk to me or play gin rummy with me. I felt so lonely. And scared. Then somehow along the way I forgot about the underwear incident, and after supper one night I got out the playing cards. I shuffled the cards and set them on the table next to the beautiful blond hairs on Neil's arm. Finally, I got the gumption up, and I asked him why he wouldn't play with me.
'You know why,' he said.

But I didn't know why.

Yet I did.

Some time after that, Neil asked to borrow Dad's pickup to go out one Saturday night, and my Uncle Bob saw the pickup parked in front of the Five-Mile Inn in Chubbuck. My father was so pissed that Neil would park his pickup in front of a bar like that, and my dad said he was going to fire him.

I remember that day. I was so afraid. Any kind of confrontation made me want to throw up or go hide under my bed. Neil was out feeding hay in the feedlot. Dad walked out to the feedlot and I knew what was going to happen. I was afraid that they would fight, and then what would I do. I would have to defend my father, but Neil was the one I loved. My heart was in my throat.

Dad told me to finish Neil's job, that he wanted to talk to Neil. I was far enough away to know they yelled back and forth. I didn't hear all of it, but what I did hear was Neil say what a good woman Mom was and how lucky Dad was to have her. Then Neil walked away fast, and as he walked, he walked past me. Just as he passed me, he said, 'Little queer.'

And I didn't know what 'little queer' meant.

Yet I did.

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