13 February 2013, The Moth StorySLAM, Madison, Wisconsin, USA
'Love Hurts' was the theme of this High Noon Saloon in Madison. This is one of the most popular stories in The Moth's history. Tom's was the winning story that night.
Hi. This may come as a shock to many of you, but, I was not always this handsome. No really. In 1933 I was ten years old. I'll give you a chance to figure out the math there. I was a new kid St. Mathew's school in Milwaukee, south side, and I was in the 3rd grade probably for about a third of the year. No, anyways. It was St. Valentine's day at the school, and it was a Catholic school, and the nuns had ... see we were allowed to bring valentines ... in those days the depth of the Depression, I was able to buy a five pack of valentines for two cents. So I had to choose my gals very carefully.
The one gal of course that was everybody's choice was the beautiful Betty Jane Hayes, just gorgeous. Even the nuns were in awe of her, she was just crazy.
The second, of course, was the sultry Patricia Gilbert, and she was very nice but John Gordon had her cornered. So, anyways, I thought, "Well, I'll risk it."
So the third one was ... Thomasina Welch ...these are actually names, by the way, I hope they're not here. Thomasina Welch, was a flaming red head gal who during recess loved to play the games with the boys. All the girls were by themselves during recess, the boys had Thomasina Welch, and we used to play a game that was called 'Break the Camel’s Back.' What you'd do is you would line up and you'd grab a pole, and the person behind you does, and then what happened is you'd take a running jump and you'd jump on top and try to get the guy to collapse, that was breaking the camel’s back. And Thomasina Welch was part of that. That was thrilling.
My fourth choice was Delores Behowski. Now Delores was not plain, she was sort of pretty but the main attraction for most of us was that she was an early ... maturer ... of majestic proportions.
And ... I don't remember what the fifth one was, but anyway, we had to go up and we had this big box that the nun Sister Mary Judanna, very sweet lady, very devout ... not your stereotypical nun, this was a very sweet nun.
Anyway ... They had the box up there and you had to drop your valentines in there, and near the end of the day she would take them out and she would call out your name, and you had to come up and get your valentine. Well, Betty Jane Hayes, to nobody's surprise got ... first of all the class was about forty, and I think that-pretty much evenly divided boys and girls - and Betty Jane got more than twenty, which means that there were some girls that really gave her valentines as well.
And Patricia Gilbert came in very close second, and then at the end of the time for some reason ... I don't know to this day why for some reason she would do this ... she said "Now who got the least amount?" This was Ricky Parkinson, who had adenoidal problems, and always carried a sodden handkerchief in her hand.
So anyways, then we started with the boys, and to nobody's surprise the boy that got the most was Billy Behot, that starred ... Who later become a really great football player, played for Creighton. He was tall and handsome, blonde, good looking guy. Donald Levelle was a close second. Levelle was kinda sly, he was my idol. I liked his style. Then later down the line, I don't remember who was third and fourth, but finally she said, "Now let's see who got the least." And somebody says, "Jimmy Sweeney." And Jimmy Sweeney got up and she says, "How many did you get Jim?" And he says, "Two." So it should have stopped right there but, Jimmy Sweeney - damn his soul - said, "Sister, Tom Sitter didn't get any."
That's precisely. Anyway, now there's nothing worse than pity. You could hate me, you could detest me, you can ignore me, isolate me, but don't pity me. So anyways ... So after that mantle of pity was lifted, kind of forgotten about, during the end of the day Sister Judanna says, "Oh my goodness, what have we here?" She reached in the box. "Oh there's a valentines stuck at the bottom of the box, imagine that. Well well, let's see who its for. Oh it's for Tommy Sitter. Get up here Tommy."
So I had to go up, open it up, and it was signed, in very fine Spenserian script, "A friend." So twice, the mantle of pity descended upon me, a wet sodden blanket, and I was ready to deny, I was ready to kill, oh I was just so angry. So anyway, I knew that at that point, I mean like Catholics I believed sincerely that if you punched a priest or nun you'd go straight to hell, I mean it was a straight shot. Do not pass Go, do not collect a hundred dollars, do not even think about stopping at purgatory, you're going straight to hell. And at that time I thought about punching Sister Judanna, and I'm glad I didn't cause she's pretty strong. She'd have whipped me.
But then I thought about big mouth Jimmy Sweeney. Then I used to have dreams ... Did you ever wish that you could choose your own dream at night? I used to have this daydream about someday I'm gonna meet Jimmy ... Now Jimmy, if he's still alive today, he's gonna he's 92, 93 like I am, and he could be in a wheelchair but ... I'd like to find him and go down there and I'd like to take him out for a nice walk in his wheelchair, maybe go down a hill ... And then inexplicably my hands would slip and he would careen down the hill, which ended at a busy intersection, and into traffic. Anyway, if anybody knows where Jimmy Sweeney is, let me know.