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Don't Get Fancy Nancy

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Don't Get Fancy Nancy
Don't Get Fancy Nancy

  Mark Fitzgerald

  Copyright 2012 by Mark Fitzgerald


  Don't Get Fancy Nancy

  I don't think you can be more in love than you can be at age eleven. I've never been.


  Kids aren't steered by facts; they are guided by the "sh_t" their parents say and by gossip. So, I don't know if Nancy is really the "poor child from the other side of the tracks". I don't know where the tracks are in fact.

  I have a feeling that boys and girls have a greater purpose than being just traditional rivals. And I sure know that girls can be so pretty and that their prettiness almost makes me woozy in a way that is very exciting. Nancy most of all.

  She's the only girl I ever saw that had really dark freckles all over her face and didn't have red hair. Her hair was long and thick and wavy, and her skin, where it didn't have a dot on it, was white as snow. Her eyes were icy blue and, I swear, her lips were red. Snow White with pepper on her.

  She dressed more like a boy than a girl. She wore blue jeans sometime and even blue jean overalls. None of the other girls wore anything other than skirts. Her shirts were always "girly"; you know with little flowers and stuff. And she wore Basket Masters; those cheap black and white athletic shoes most of the boys wore. Year round.

  She NEVER said a word in class. And, the teacher never seemed to ask her to.

  I sat one row over and two seats behind and I watched her all day long and fell in love with her and have loved her ever since.


  The kids said she was from a poor family and, in consideration of that, no one played with her at recess or before or after school. If she was from one side or the other side of the "tracks", I knew the "tracks" must be on my side of the school. One the side of the school where my house was. She walked in the same direction as I did, at then end of the day. I never saw her walking to school. I think she got there extra early for some reason.

  This is kind of strange to say. But I started walking behind her on my way home each day and I couldn't stop watching her bum. I liked the way the crease at the top of her jean legs switched from one bum cheek to the other with each step. Her bum was rounder than the other girls. It seemed to waggle from side to side more than the other girl's did. I liked that. I made me woozy. like I said. Her waggle made me woggle. Ha.


  Yesterday, I didn't walk so close. I wanted to follow her longer… maybe all the way to her house. I wouldn't want her to know that though. I had never been so far from home before. I would have been in deep doo doo had my mother known I was all the way to the other side of the "tracks". Yes, there were tracks and I went over to the "wrong" side of them. Not that anything on her side looked all that different from my side. Her house was as nice as mine, I guess. But, as soon as she went inside, and I turned to go home all I could think about was what being on the wrong side might portend.

  Portend? I am the smartest kid in my class. Always have been and, like the smart kids, I read a lot. I know a lot of words. I use them; except with my friends. I accelerated too. Went right to grade three after first grade. I think Nancy might have accelerated too. She's little like me.

  Today in class, just as I sat down and scarcely ten seconds before the last person was to be seated ( Nancy) …Nancy stood right at the side of my desk and said," next time your in the neighborhood, drop by."

  I blush easily and intensely. I think my eyes even were bulging.

  I dreaded lunch hour. Nancy didn't say much generally, for sure.. but she wasn't shy. I was sitting with my back against the wall with the other boys, soaking up sun and eating a sandwich when Nancy stationed herself right in front of me. And stared. Stared until I got up and walked away from the others, pulling her along by some abstract force.

  I spoke first. Might as well have. I was going to be speaking no matter how this came down.

  "You have a nice house?"

  "You're thinking of buying one?"

  Crap, she really expected me to answer. To set me up for her reply.


  "Then I guess you just followed me all the way home to see if the stuff they say about me is true?"

  I had one defensive strategy. I had nothing to lose. I went for it. "I followed you because I like you."

  I stung her with that one. Her eyes widened and she looked askance and gasped. For a second, I thought her eyes had watered up.

  "I like you too." And she walked away. I would have joined the guys kicking the soccer balls around but instead I found myself just shuffling around until the bell went off. I was really woozy.


  After school, Nancy came up to me before I even had the chance to look for her. We started walking home as if we had been doing so, just like this, for all our lives and, maybe, for the rest of our lives. I hoped so. What a chatterbox she was. Smarter than me. I could tell that already. I missed walking behind her, if you know what I mean. But seeing her pretty face every couple of seconds was ample compensation.

  "Show me your house," she insisted.

  "Okay," I replied.

  "So why do you "like" me?"

  That was a great question. I answered as boldly as I could... since I had nothing else to run with. "You are the prettiest person I have ever seen. And I guess I just sort of believe you will be the nicest person I will ever meet."


  "Why do you like me." I held my breath.

  "Probably because you are smart but probably mostly because you like me first."

  I knew I'd never sell it on the basis of looks. Too much nose in my bloodline and my nose hadn't even made it to puberty yet. I don't mind being smart though. And it is easier to like someone if they already like you. It made sense. It was good enough.

  "Can I be your girlfriend?"

  I could have fainted. Woozly/wooglely!!!

  "Sure. That's my house over there… the yellow one." Well, that went well. "Wanna come in and see my room?"



  Having Nancy in my room at age nine, evoked none of the tension it would have only two years later; were it to occur. I showed her my things. Mostly, my monster models. I had almost everyone one of the Aurora Monster Models. It was the early sixties; monsters ruled. I was not the best model assembler. And plastic model glue was a cruel concoction. It actually caused the plastic to "melt" so any smear caused immediate damage to surfaces. I had neither the steady hand or the fearlessness to do the precise paint work. My mother did. That was fun. Something we shared.

  The other thing I was good at was drawing. Not great but vastly better than most. I can freehand copy anything... sort of draw a person face from real life... and cartoon really well. Nancy could do everything I can, artistically; only she could do it twice as good.

  I saw proof of that when she showed me her room and her stuff.


  She wasn't a "tom-boy". She dressed like one. That's were it ended. Her's was a little girls room, with a respectable number of stuffed animals, retired dolls and posters of young boys much cuter and famous than I. And her remarkable drawings.

  I wondered if my house smelled as different to her as her's did to me. Funny how that is. Funny how, we distrust the smells of other houses. My friend Wayne is the second smartest kid in our class; not so much because he has my talents but because he is the son of a divorced woman who rules him absolutely. HIs house smells constantly of cleanser. Everything, and there is nothing extra, is in its place all the time. HIs room looks like no one has been in it for years. She makes her own bread. That's when that house smells good. Good doesn't even begin to describe it.

  My house smells like cigarette smoke. Under the base
ment stairs, where a month's worth of beer bottles would accumulate, it smells like a bar.

  Nancy's house smells like a grocery store. Clean, with smells of food and things. I think, my house probably smells like that underneath all that cigarette smoke.

  Nancy has an older brother, Todd. He's in junior high. I've never seen him all this time that Nancy and I have been going steady; all these two weeks so far.

  Today I asked Nancy, "So what does you dad do?"

  "I don't know."

  "How could you not know what your dad does for a living?"

  "Just don't". She paused, "What does you dad do?"

  I paused. Laughing, I had to admit, "I guess I don't know either." I really didn't know. He wasn't anything cool like a fireman or a doctor. He wore a tie at work and another clean white shirt everyday. I usually could beat my kid sister to claiming the perfect white sheet of cardboard the shirts came folded around. They were good for lots of things.

  Nancy clarified, "I think my Dad is in some sort of business of his own. I mean, I don't think he actually works for a company or anything like that. He's home a lot more than most dads… he "goes to work" sometimes too. I don't know. "Our moms were "moms". They were both pretty moms. It's nice when your mom is pretty. Just is.


  For the rest of the school year and the entire summer to follow, Nancy and I were never apart. Every day we started a new project or labored diligently on the current project. Gosh, when we were painting the sets for our upcoming production of "Doctor Jekyll and Mister Hyde", I was amazed that she just seemed to know exactly what stuff looked like. I was just her helper. Until the day, I kissed her. I can't remember even why I did. I can't remember that I even planned it. But I did. And moments later she said she had to go home. And she did. The play never opened. The set was recycled.

  Later she would tell me that I had scared her with that kiss. By later, I mean fifty odd years later.

  Our other thing was to go hiking. We would pack a lunch and trek a distance of five or six miles, surely, to the hills on the edge of town. Later in the afternoon my mother would drive up and bring us home. Isolated as we were on those hills, I resisted my urge to kiss her again.

  Sometimes we went on unscheduled hikes. To the house. It was an abandoned farm house on what was still the edge of town. A two story thing. Lots of kids made a destination of it. One afternoon, for whatever reason, Nancy and I spent hours cleaning it up. Like it was our own home.

  We dug caves. And crawled in them. That we did not suffocate in a collapsed one is all the proof I will ever need that God exists.

  We also had our indoor cave. It was the space below the stairs to the basement of her house. At her house there weren't a hundred cases of empty bottles there. There were these three big cardboard barrels and a bunch of other boxes of their stuff. We arranged them one day so that we had a secret cave under the stair that was accessed by way of a tunnel along the basement wall created by the carefully stacked boxes. We would go there to read with flashlights. I should have kissed her again.

  Oh…. our other best thing. Sewer travel. We lived about a mile away from the river. On a plateau about three hundred feet above the river elevation. All the storm drains from our neighborhood and those even beyond ours, drained into the river. Which meant they were huge at their outlets and did not diminish in size for miles. We could ride our bicycles in them. Once we popped up a manhole easily four miles from our point of entry. Another proof of God… even in a slight rain, we would have been easily drowned.

  We garden raided in the summer. The most despicable of acts. But peas right out of the pod and young carrots right out of the earth are simply delicious treasures and, acquired as part of a caper, they are "booty" too. And, less "vandalizing and malicious, was stealing crabapples. I knew every good crabapple tree in the neighborhood. Mostly, I liked the sour ones.

  Every Saturday we went to the matinee at the Plaza theater. Always a full house. Three hundred screaming kids, "sugared up" on the mass of candy even a quarter would buy, watching four or five cartoons, a serialized short and some dreadful movie. Stuff flying through the air constantly, bullys, flirty girls and me and Nancy and my kid sister in our little imaginary cocoon. God, even in the dark I couldn't bring myself to kiss her.


  The sixth grade was not as good to me. Nancy was settled in. She was beginning to have female friends and, worst of all, what I saw in her was becoming visible to other boys. I wasn't the coolest kid in school by any stretch. I was the shortest boy with a huge brain and a nose that seemed to be trying to match it.

  A couple of weeks into the school year we broke up. Not officially. It was just that the first day we didn't walk home together was the day after that last time we ever did.

  It was a year of much anxiety for me anyway. My parents were going through the preliminary rounds of an unsuccessful divorce attempt. My dad had a girlfriend, I guess. Not me. I was single that year. I took to having stomach aches a lot. I missed a lot of school; strangely most commonly on days when the afternoon movie was particularly appealing. I could fake death to stay home for a horror film. It never came to that because, as much school as I missed, I simply couldn't fall behind. My mom just went along with my ruse.


  I, like all my male buddies, came out of the six grade and the summer break with working wieners and sudden shrubbery down there. And evil intent. Evil is not the right word, of course. It was just that we knew we were not a liberty to do what we wished with our weapons. Mainly because girls really were frightening now and they didn't seem to want us to be that happy, anyway.

  I was frightened of girls. Not so the Johnson twins. The Johnson boys were fraternal red-headed twins. Of mainstream intellect but fearlessly gregarious. Even the lesser handsome of the two was on the same social par as his brother. They were both on the par vicariously because they had a truly brilliant and handsome older brother; who was not red-headed like their father or a brunette like their absolutely beautiful and independent, working entrepreneurial mother. Hmmm?

  I stepped aside in the sixth grade as they, and their gang of confident friends, began their assault upon the girls; even upon my Nancy.

  Our junior high school was not, like the elementary school had been, the epicenter of our neighborhood: which had been quite peripheral to Nancy's house. The junior high was on the outboard side of Nancy's house now; across the tracks; which a twelve year old could be trusted to cross safely, twice a day.

  I never passed her house on her side of the street and when I did pass, in the midst of my buddies, I made sure I seemed fully engaged with them. But I watched her house the whole time until it was at least a half a block away; coming or going.

  Strangest of all was the times I would be walking home quite a bit later in the afternoon for some reason or another. Chess club maybe. I would be alone. That entire block on which her house was actually centered seemed like a time warp zone or something strange like that. I almost couldn't breath. I know I just hoped she would see me and come out or call out.

  She did once.

  And that is what this story is really all about.


  It was mid February… about 5:30 in the afternoon as I trudged home through the snow; passing Nancy's house. In the dark. In sub zero temperature.

  I think I failed to mention before, I live in Canada; in Calgary. I was wrapped up so tight, including a scarf around my face that I could barely see out. I would have been unrecognizable to anyone not knowing my parka and touque. Still, when I passed Nancy's house, I took a peek; though I had to turn my head to actually aim my porthole at her house. All the lights were on in the house. She was silhouetted in the back light of the open front door and waving at me. Screaming at me. She started to run down the front steps and out onto the sidewalk. In socks. No shoes. She was still waving her arms frantically when I came up to her.

  "Nancy… what's wrong?"

  She just grabbed my sca
rf and was already dragging me to the doorway when she spoke, "just get in the house."

  Who am I to say no… to Nancy.

  She slammed the door behind us. She must have been freezing. Luckily it was too cold for the snow to have melted onto her feet. She would warm quickly. If she even cared.

  "My parents and Todd have been kidnapped." She was no longer hysterical. Correction, she was not hysterical and had not been hysterical. The screaming and waving of moments ago was of necessity; to get my attention.

  "What are you talking about?" That's all I could say. I couldn't immediately embrace her comment as being true.

  "Just what I said. They have been abducted... kidnapped… snatched." She was in constant, deliberate motion.

  Both her house and mine had silly fake fireplaces. Long brick plinths with a "fire box" on one end which housed a stack of ceramic logs, back light by a light bulb and concealing an electric element. The silly things put out less heat than a toaster. Randomly placed along the remaining face of the brick plinth were copper niches. Just like at my house those copper inserts could be pulled out, revealing a space behind. Nancy had already pulled out one with a sigh and was just getting the second to budge when I realized what she was doing.

  "What are you looking for?"

  "I don't know exactly but he said it would be here."

  It was. It was a metal box, like the one I keep change and my few treasures in. It wasn't locked. I could tell by the way she carried that it was fairly heavy. I like heavy. Like the Christmas gift this year that made metallic sounds and was so heavy and so mysterious in its wrapping. It was one of the spring chest exercise things; which are fun to use until you accidently lose your grip and it knocks out a tooth.

  Nancy carried the box to the dining room table and commanded me, "Mark, close the front door okay."

  I guess it is because she is courteous. Maybe she was a bit afraid too, but she didn't open the box until I was back at her side.

  I had never seen a real handgun before. I reached for it immediately and was immediately scolded.

  "Don't touch it Mark! It might be loaded." But she touched it. With gingerness, or rather gingerly and with the respect it deserved. She had to remove it from the box to get to the other contents; which we could see consisted of a clip and several boxes of bullets. Once the gun was out you could see that there was an empty hole in the handle. I guess that is where the clip goes. I don't think this is what they call a revolver. I don't know much about guns. It's a Canada thing. The are virtually extinct here.

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