I got this e-mail. "Do you want a really big penis?" it said. I thought, Why not? Sent away to the address. Paid them the 50 bucks. It arrived by UPS about a week later. The box was waiting on the doorstep.
By the time I got down through all the Styrofoam peanuts and the layers of bubble wrap, the thing turned out not to be very big at all. In fact, I'm not really sure it was a penis. Maybe I'd been ripped off. Sort of like ordering that stuff out of the comic books.
Like x-ray specs, which I knew didn't work. The picture showed a pervy-looking man staring at a woman in a skirt. A dotted line went from his eyes over to the woman. That means, in comic-icon-speak, "I'm looking here." They used it a lot in the comic "Nancy," the one with her little boyfriend, Sluggo. She had to use dotted lines to show where she was looking because her eyes were just two big, black dots.
The x-ray specs idea was stupid anyway, because if you were looking at a woman in a skirt, why would you want to look at her bones? Can you even tell girl bones from boy bones just by looking at them? I'm no forensic anthropologist.
But there were some things that were worth ordering.
Like the ventriloquism kit. Throw your voice! The laundry hamper says, "Hey! Let me out of here!" And you mom doesn't know what's going on.
But the ventriloquism kit arrived in an envelope, which wasn't encouraging. An envelope from Honor House Products in Lynbrook, New York.
Inside the envelope was a booklet, the size of those religious comic tracts from Jack Chick. And a pill-sized metal tube with an accordion reed inside. You were supposed to stick the tube under your tongue, where it made buzzy sounds when you talked through it. I learned later that it's called a swozzle.
The booklet told you all the secrets of ventriloquism. I'd tell you some of them, but that would violate the ventriloquist's code. Anyway, it didn't work. Not any better than the x-ray specs.
There was other stuff—the secret book safe made of plastic. The hot pepper gum. The whoopee cushion. The soap that turns your hands black.
The auto fooler—stick it up the exhaust pipe, and it makes whistling noises and shoots off sparks. Jimmy Walsley got one of those. Stuck it in his dad's car, but he put it in the wrong way around, and the car went up in a big fireball. Lucky for him, Jimmy's dad had gone back in the house for the key to the motel room where he was supposed to meet Amy Beatty's mom at lunch time.
The flames peeled the paint off the garage door and made everything smell like the inside of a fireplace.
They suspected Amy Beatty's dad, out for revenge, but they couldn't prove anything. The cops thought the clues pointed to a gang working out of Lynbrook, New York, and they didn't have the resources to pursue it.
So after that Amy's mom and dad had a reconciliation, and the state victims' compensation fund bought Jimmy's dad a new Chevy Impala. Jimmy slipped the auto fooler package down between the holes in the storm drain and didn't read comics for a long time after that.