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Why I Share My Smile with No Man by Paul Brucker


by Paul Brucker



















You can say, “No, thank you.  Not right now.”

You can say, “No, I don’t want to pose.”

Or you can simply say, “No,” in a very loud voice.


If someone puts his hand on your shoulder and it feels bad,

You can remove it.

You can run across the street to the Moore’s

And tell them about it.


I used to think if someone offered me candy

And I wanted it, then the person wasn’t a stranger.

But if I didn’t want the candy, then the person was a stranger.


Some kids are more vulnerable than others.

Some kids shouldn’t take shortcuts home.

Some kids shouldn’t play alone in the park or woods,

Or go by themselves to the bathroom at the movies.


Grandfather told me about Chet’l

Whose eyes glistened like sparks of red fire.

Chet’l seized the most beautiful children.

He thrust them into narrow wooden chests,

Forced down the lid and made fast the lock.

He carried the chest to a dark little room

That no one was permitted to enter.


For awhile I was afraid of Chet’l

When I walked home in the dark.


Mr. Brown lived next door.

He was an adult, so he had eyes in the back of his head

And always knew what was going on.

As an adult, he was always right

And could tell any child what to do.


Mr. Brown would rub against me

For no good reason or pretend it was an accident.


One day, he asked me to come see his puppies.

I went there but there were no puppies.

He asked me to lie down on the bed with him

And look at his pee-pee.

He said everybody does this

And that if I didn’t, he wouldn’t like me anymore.


He told me to hold on tight to his pee-pee

Because a ghost was approaching

And if I let go, the fiend would cling to my nose,

My pretty little nose,

And carry me off to the land of Bobbety Shooty,

Because of my wicked deeds.


Mr. Brown kissed me everywhere and said he loved me.

He gave me a G.I. Joe and said it was my treat

For not telling anybody about our special game.


I used to get free things all the time.

Lollipops from the bank,

Nails from the hardware store.

All they wanted in return was a big smile and a thank you.


Besides, I asked for a G.I. Joe for Christmas.

But Father wouldn’t let me have one

Because he is against war and violence.


Mother wanted to know why I always visited Mr. Brown.

I said I had to or the ghost would carry me to Bobbety Shooty.


A lot of adults asked me a lot of questions.

They said my answers were important,

But I don’t know how many I answered right.


Mr. Brown was made to move out of his house.

Father said the state would make sure

Mr. Brown never touched a child again.

Mother said Mr. Brown was sick in the head

Even if he wore no bandages.

Without me to hold him tight, I know what really happened.

The ghosts pounced on him and carried him off 

With their jaws of the lion and their claws of the scorpion.


Today, I know that adults are not always right.

They can make mistakes and have problems,

Just like me.

Even nice adults can do mean things sometimes

And things that feel nice can be mean.


It’s not as simple, anymore.

Mr. Brown said that he loved me

And love means so many different things.

The good thing is I’m not afraid of ghosts anymore.

But, people find me fussy and unfriendly,

Now that I’m in the second grade

And my smile is hidden

Where Chet’l shares it with no man.

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