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.

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