by Peter Clothier
We are in the bath, my cousin Donald and I. This would be during the war, with his family visiting from their home in nearby Cambridge. It is a big family. My sister and I both dread their visits because the children seem to us so wild, so unruly. Brothers and sisters, half a dozen of them, all over the place. Their father, an army chaplain, is away at the war.
So it’s bath time. Nearly bed time. We are in the bath together, Donald and I, because there are so many children to be packed off to bed. We must share everything, even bath time. So there we are, playing with our toy boats in the foamy water, in the big old upstairs bathtub at the Rectory. Donald at his end of the bath, I at mine.
I think I have not given much thought to my penis before now. Not consciously, anyway. I suspect that I must have discovered it to play with, as all little boys do; and played with it, certainly, in secret, under the covers, away from my mother’s eyes. I suspect there is already a sense of shame attached to this part of my body.
Not so Donald. No shame. His fun is shameless, unaffected, delighted. He raises his buttocks from the bottom of the bath and sticks his penis proudly up out of the water. It’s his lighthouse, he says. His testicles are the rocks. He roils up a storm in the water with his hand, and crashes his boat against the lighthouse. The boat sinks. All souls are lost…
Your turn, he tells me. But I am too shy. Astonished, a little abashed by my cousin’s boldness, I stay down under the water where my penis can’t be seen. But I know now that I have one. I know how it sticks out. And if only I dared, I’d play lighthouse too. Like Donald.