The Book Of Todd
By David Christensen
Up ten spots this week to number 2, �Band on the Run,� by Paul McCartney and Wings. The music got louder.
I pulled the skin back. It felt weird. Stripped. I let go of it and the skin moved part-way over the tip.
�All the way back.�
I pulled it back again, and this time I held it there. Dad leaned in close, like my doctor at a checkup. He stared at it, like something was wrong with it. I twisted it around once in each direction until he�d seen all of it. Then he took hold of it. His thumb and fingers felt rough on it. He pulled the skin back even more. It hurt like when I forget to put on Chapstick in the winter and my lips get cracked.
�That�s not supposed to hurt. Are you taking care of it like I showed you?�
�Yes! It�s just�that was too hard.�
Dad sighed and rolled his eyes as he let go of it. Then he unbuckled his belt and unzipped his cords.
�Look,� he said.
The radio got louder. Ladies and gentlemen, Billboard Magazine�s Number 1 single�
He pulled his out. �This is how it�s supposed to look, son.�
�Bennie and the Jets,� by Elton John. It was hanging out of his pants. The tip looked like a closed-up rose.
�Here,� Dad said. I heard those big piano chords start up, and then Elton singing. Hey kids, shake it loose together� �Here,� Dad said again. He reached over, took my hand, and put it on it. The spotlight�s hitting something that�s been known to change the weather� It felt like a hot dog, the kind Mom puts on a bun with mustard and wraps in foil and heats in the oven so when it comes out it�s warm all the way through, not like when you get one at a ball game and even if the dog�s warm the bun�s all cold and dry. You�re gonna hear electric music, solid walls of sound� �Skin it back, Jack.� I did. The rose opened up like in one of those science shows with sped-up photography. Say, Candie and Ronnie have you seen them yet�? The tip looked glisten-y, like a gum drop, the big kind of gum drop, the kind that�s so huge it�s hard to get all of it in your mouth at once, Oh, but they�re so spaced out� and if you do get it in your mouth it kind of gets stuck in there, you can�t really chew, you just have to keep it in there while your mouth fills up with spit, B- B- B- Bennie and the Jetssssss� and the sugar coating scratches your tongue, the kind of gum drop that if someone gave it to you for Halloween -- just dropped it right in your trick-or-treat bag -- that�d be gross and you wouldn�t want to eat it, Oh, but they�re weird and they�re wonderful� but if it came out of a plastic bag and, say, only your mom had touched it when she handed it to you, well, that�d probably be OK, Oh, Bennie she�s really keen� and while it�s in your mouth the only thing you know for sure, the one thing you keep thinking over and over is, This won�t last forever, she�s got electric boots, this can�t last forever, a mohair suit, it�ll soften up and you�ll be able to chew it and your mouth will fill up with good flavors, you know, I read it in a magazine, like purple-y grape, oh-oooh! red berry, black licorice orange B- B- B- smaller B- B- B- softer until it�s B- B- B-
Dad had already zipped up and was buckling his belt. �Remember,� he said, �skin it back every day. Now finish your bath, Jack.�
And there you have it, ladies and gentlemen: Billboard Magazine�s Number 1 single, April 13, 1974. The bathroom door clicks when you shut it, even if you can�t lock it. I�m Casey Kasem, and this has been American Top 40.
I got back in the tub. The bubbles looked melty, scummy, on top of the cold water, and I was thinking, I won. I won the bet with Brett and Brent Johansson and now they owe me an Almond Joy, two Almond Joys, one from each, and some day soon, I was thinking, I�ll trade those Almond Joys in for a ticket to England, and I�ll go there and live in an all-white mansion with locks on every door, and I won�t have to take baths and go to church on Sunday, and all day long I�ll make batches and wear white suits and hats, and I�ll sit down at a grand piano and sing out loud in a high weird voice for everyone to hear, I�ll play those giant chords from �Bennie and the Jets,� just bang and bang and pound those chords out like Elton does, I was thinking, and I�ll play even better than him.