My mother always stressed good deeds but my other relatives seemed oblivious to the concept. I was required to do at least one good deed a week, as were my brother and sister, and we had to report it after school on Friday. If it wasn’t considered a good deed by my mother we couldn’t go out that weekend but had to stay home and offer to do something nice for one of our neighbors.
The neighbors took advantage of us once they found out. There were many Saturday morning phone calls asking if one of us could help wash their dogs, help clean their filthy attic or basement and several times we were requested to supply one of us to act as a nurse stand-in when their home health nurse canceled.
We were no strangers to these requests and did our best to do a good deed during the week but sometime our mother decided it wasn’t good enough of a good deed and it didn’t count.
On Sunday afternoons our relatives would come over for pot luck or we’d go to their house. The talk always got around to our deeds—good or otherwise and there were times my Uncle Morris would say, “Doesn’t sound like such a good deed to me—he could’ve done better”.
My cousins were never made to do good deeds; their parents loved them and bragged on them but never really knew the kind of shit they were pulling. If they did they would only make excuses.
My brother and I, more than once, carried out little tortures that our sister would plan, to get even with those cousins who made fun of us or even participated in adding their negative thoughts to our problems.
When Sis overheard our aunt talking to our mother about her fourteen year old son, Teddy being a bed wetter it was curtains for Teddy. Every time we went to his house my brother or I would run up to his room and pee under the covers on the sheets just before we were ready to leave.
For teenage Cousin Irma we left condoms in her underwear drawer and once after we knew her parents would be going out until late the next night, I jerked off into one and left it under her bed.
We were not strangers to getting even and oftentimes, even when we weren’t being punished and went to a relative’s house we plotted against someone in the family. My aunt discovered a Playboy in Uncle Morris’ nightstand. We had white pasted a couple of spots in the centerfold and only imagined our aunt trying to pry those pages apart. We replaced a bar of soap on the kitchen counter of Aunt Mina’s house with a block of lard.
It took a good six months but finally Mom got off the good deed wagon and she told us she thought we were much better kids than our cousins. It also helped that we found out she’d been fooling around with Dad’s brother, Uncle Morris, and we never said anything but we’d pretend whisper when we knew she was coming into a room and then immediately stop and act all innocent and smirky.
Paul Beckman has two story collections, “Peek” and “Come! Meet My Family and other stories”. He has had over 300 of his stories published in print, on line in the following magazines as well as others: Literary Orphans, Connecticut Review, Playboy, Matter Press, Litro, Thrice Fiction, The Airgonaught, Jellyfish Review, and R.K.V.R.Y. He runs the monthly FBomb flash fiction reading series at KGB. Paul lives in CT.