Several folks have asked me recently whether I'm writing a new book.
Yes, I am. It's a book about women.
"What?" Annie chirped. "Are you nuts?"
"I don't think so," I said. "I've lived with women for almost 60 years. Write what you know, they say."
"But you don't know a thing about women. Believe me. I know. I'm your wife."
"That used to be the case," I admitted. "But not any more. I had an estrogenous epiphany this morning while standing in the shower. I've got women all figured out now."
"Fat chance," Annie said. "You're not writing about me are you?"
"And our daughters, and your mother, and my mother, and my sister, and Gretchen ... ?"
"Yep, all of them. It's a book about all of the women who've graced my life."
"And old girlfriends? You're not writing about them are you? Surely you're smarter than that."
"Yep, my old girlfriends, too. Full disclosure, so to speak."
"Lordy, Lordy, Lordy," Annie said. "This is going to be another disaster. I can't watch."
That little exchange got me thinking that if a fellow is going to write about old girlfriends, he'd better do some careful and judicious thinking before putting pen to paper. Well, I did the careful part -- but messed up on judicious -- and remembered Candy Jenkins, the most beautiful girl in junior high.
I'd asked Candy -- twice -- to be my girlfriend. She never said no, but she never said yes, either. She looked at me occasionally and smiled as we passed in the hallway at school. She always whispered something to her girlfriends. She had a devoted entourage. They giggled and twittered and shook their heads.
That was as close as I got to Candy Jenkins, until one day in late September of my seventh-grade year when she stopped me in the hall, sent her minions on to class, told me I should run for president of the seventh grade, win, and then she'd be my girlfriend. She offered to be my campaign manager. We'd be a team, she said.
She developed this slogan: GIVE A DARN! VOTE FOR SAM! SAM! SAM! SAM!
Pretty good, huh?
The day before the election I stood at the podium on the gymnasium stage and promised my classmates radical changes in the cafeteria -- free butter brickle ice cream on Mondays, cheeseburgers every day, chocolate milk in pint-sized cartons. I promised shorter class times, an extra recess period, and half days on Fridays.
The next day I won the election in a landslide and Candy said yes, she'd be girlfriend. It was a good day.
Serving as president of my seventh-grade class was a big responsibility. My first stop after winning the election was Mr. Hicks' office. He was the principal. I laid out the promises I'd made. We talked about leadership, personal freedoms, empowering young people to explore their passions, and ice cream. I made my demands.
"Those are some interesting changes you're suggesting, Mr. McLeod. Let's start with the ice cream. Am I to understand that you've promised your classmates free ice cream?"
"Yes, sir. Only on Mondays. Just butter brickle. Not vanilla or chocolate or strawberry. Butter brickle is my favorite."
"And you've promised cheeseburgers, and chocolate milk, and shorter classes, and half days on Fridays?"
"Yes, sir. And an extra recess period."
"What was it that led you to make those promises, Mr. McLeod?"
"I wanted to win the election, sir."
"I see," he said. "Well, perhaps ..."
"And Candy Jenkins."
"What did Candy Jenkins have to do with this?"
"She thought up the promises and told me to make them. She said it was the only way to win."
"Mr. McLeod, are you in the habit of doing whatever Miss Jenkins tells you to do?"
"She said she'd be my girlfriend."
"She'd be your girlfriend if you made those promises?"
"No. She said she'd be my girlfriend if I won. But she was pretty sure I'd win if I made the promises."
"Did it ever occur to you that you couldn't deliver on those promises without getting my approval, Mr. McLeod?"
"Sure," I said. "But Candy said not to worry about it. She said we'd figure that out later."
Mr. Hicks smiled. "Well Mr. McLeod, I'm afraid we won't be making any of those changes. You'll have to face your constituents and tell them you made promises you couldn't keep."
"That's what Candy said you say. But that's OK, she says, because I've already won and she's my girlfriend. She says folks will get over it."
She was right. They did.
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