An Acceptable Compromise by Colin Kelly

Sometimes using correct words causes a problem.

Caution: Explicit language and graphic descriptions.

“Jeffrey! Come here! Now!

Uh-oh! It’s never a good thing when one of your parents calls you using your full given name instead of your nickname. And when it’s my mom, it’s especially worrisome. I could pretend that I didn’t hear her, but that wouldn’t work — it hardly ever does. It would be a very short, very temporary reprieve with a less than acceptable outcome.

So, I put a bookmark in my Algebra 2 workbook, got up, and walked down the hall to the kitchen. She wasn’t there. I looked around.

“Mom, where are you?”

“In the laundry room,” she called out.

The laundry room? That didn’t make any sense.

I walked from the kitchen through the hall to the door to the laundry room. I stood there, looking at my mom, wondering why I’d been summoned. She was looking at a pile of sheets that were on the floor.

She looked up. Her expression was one of disgust like she’d just found an intrusion of cockroaches. (The collective noun for cockroaches is ‘intrusion’ — look it up if you don’t believe me.)

Anyway, back to my mom’s glare which was riveted on me and hadn’t changed one iota. (I could have said “and hadn’t changed at all,” but I like uncommon words.)

Okay, I guess mom got tired of me just standing there not saying anything. She picked up a sheet off the floor. One of mine, because my sheets are light gray. My sister’s are light pink. My little brother’s are light tan. My folks’ are white.

I looked at the sheet she was holding up. “Uh… that’s one of my sheets. I don’t understand why you’re showing it to me.”

“What are these stains?”

“What stains?”

She shook the sheet. “These!” she growled as if shaking the sheet like that was going to make any stains more visible.

I stepped forward, looking for stains on the sheet she was holding. Oh! I finally saw what she meant. Semen stains! Well, I wasn’t about to let her off the hook.

I shrugged my shoulders. “I guess I had a wet dream,” I said.

She looked shocked.

“A what?”

“A wet dream.”

“You didn’t wet the bed. This isn’t urine.”

“A wet dream doesn’t mean I wet the bed. It means I had a nocturnal emission. It’s semen.”

Now she really looked shocked. “I don’t want you to use words like that!” she shouted at me.

“What word do you want me to use? That’s what it is. That’s what happens when a boy has a wet dream. They explained it in my sex-ed class.”

She squinted at me. “You shouldn’t be dreaming about immoral things like that, things that would cause… this!”

“Things like what? I don’t understand what you mean. Wet dreams are natural, they start when a boy starts puberty. There’s nothing I can do about them. They happen, and semen is ejaculated while I’m asleep.”

“What you were dreaming must have been indecent.”

“I don’t remember dreaming about anything indecent. But I almost never recall what I dream about, anyway.”

“Are you sure you didn’t have an urge to… to touch yourself? Down there?” she asked. She was blushing.

“No, I didn’t touch myself. I think you mean was I masturbating. When I masturbate, I’m awake, and I catch it in and wipe it off using tissues so it wouldn’t leave stains on my sheets.”

“What!” she shouted. I’m sure our next-door neighbors could have heard her.

“We learned about that in sex-ed, too. It’s normal. Boys masturbate. I’m a boy. I masturbate.”

“That’s a sin! You should suppress those… those immoral urges! Our church is very clear about that.”

Okay, she’d pulled out the religion card. My family is more or less religious. My mom is at the more end of the scale. The rest of the family is toward the other end of the scale. I’m absolutely at the other end of the scale, where religion equals zero. But nevertheless, I’m willing to pull out and use the religion card when necessary.

“Lying is a sin, too. I don’t lie. If I’d said I didn’t masturbate, it would have been a lie.”

Mom dropped my sheet on the floor and glared at me. “I will talk to your father as soon as he comes home. Go to your room.” She stuck out her left index finger and pointed down the hall.

I shrugged my shoulders. “Okay. I have homework to finish, anyway.” I turned around and walked out of the laundry room and down the hall to my room. I sat down and opened my Algebra 2 workbook and started on the next problem I had to solve.

After a few minutes, I heard a knock on my door, even though it was open. It was my sister, Beth. She’s fourteen, almost a year and a half older than me. If you need further clarification, I turned thirteen three months ago.

“Hi. Come on in. I need a break from Algebra 2.”

Beth walked in and shut the door.

I yawned, clasped my hands behind my head, and stretched my back and shoulders.

“What was all that about between Mom and you?” she asked.

“Mom found semen stains on my sheets and went ballistic.”

“They from jerking off or wet dreams?”

“Wet dreams. When I jerk off, I use tissues to wipe it up, so nothing gets on my sheets.”

Yeah, Beth and I have a relationship where we talk to each other about anything and everything. I’m a freshman, she’s a sophomore. She took the mandatory sex-ed class the year before me. And we talked about it, including what happens at puberty for boys, like wet dreams. And for girls, like what a period is all about. And oh my god, when I heard her explanation about that, I was, and still am, so glad I’m not a girl!

“So, what’s next?” she asked.

“Mom’s going to talk to Dad, and I assume he’ll talk to me.”

“How’s that going to go?”

“I hope there won’t be a problem. He should understand. When he was a boy, he must have gone through puberty, too.”

“Dad had the sex talk with you like Mom had with me, didn’t he?” she asked.

“Yup, two months ago. The good thing is he didn’t repeat all the stuff we already had in the sex-ed class. He talked mostly about safe sex and STDs and keeping things private.”

“Keeping things private? What did he mean by that?”

“If I was messing around with another boy, that we need to keep it private between the two of us.”

“Do you mess around with other boys?”

“Yeah, sometimes. It’s a hell of a lot safer than messing around with a girl.” I smirked. “Since you brought it up, do you mess around with other girls?”

“Yes, sometimes. Like you said, it’s a hell of a lot safer than messing around with a boy.”

“Yeah, pregnancy would be a bad thing when we’re still in high school.”

“When we’re in college, too.” She grinned. “I better get back to my room in case Mom comes looking for me.”

“Okay. Thanks for checking on me. I’ll update you after Dad talks to me.”

“Okay, thanks.”

I returned to my Algebra 2 homework and finished the rest of the problems, then went back and checked them to make sure they were correct.

I opened my backpack and found the handout that Mr. Benson gave us for our English 1 homework. It was a printout of a short story, The Hat by Daniel Reef. We had to read the story and write a response, at least one page but not over two pages long, double-spaced, twelve-point type, etc. etc. as usual. It was due to be uploaded on School Loop the day after tomorrow. I started reading.

I’d read it twice — it was only twenty-one pages long — when I heard Dad come in from the garage. I decided to start on my response. I knew I had a lot of time because Dad would have to clean up and change, Mom would have to tell him about me, and he’d have to figure out what to say to me. That might not happen until after dinner. Though if it took that long, then the atmosphere at dinner would be tense. Better if he talked to me sooner than later. But I couldn’t control when it would occur.

I started to write notes about the story — it’s about a man who buys a hat, and he puts it on. Then when he gets home, it’s stuck on his head, and he can’t get it off. Weird, right? But it was funny. Thing is, I wasn’t sure if it was supposed to be funny or tragic or some of both. Maybe it was supposed to be a metaphor, which we’d been studying. If so, I didn’t understand what it meant. I decided I’d go to class early tomorrow and ask Mr. Benson if the hat was a metaphor and if so for what. He liked it when we asked questions.


As it worked out, my talk with Dad happened sooner. I heard him knock on my door, then he walked in and closed the door. He sat on my bed; there’s only one chair in my bedroom, and I was sitting on it.

“I understand you had a debate with your mom, and it didn’t go very well.”

“She asked me about stains on my sheet, and I told her what they were. I don’t think she understands about what happens to boys when we’re going through puberty.”

“She said you used vulgar language.”

“That’s not accurate. I told her the stains were from having wet dreams, and they weresemen. She said I shouldn’t use that word. But there’s no other word I could use that isn’t a lot more vulgar or worse. I told her it’s natural for boys, and we learned about it in our sex-ed class. Then she asked me if I ever pleasured myself down there. I said it’s called masturbating and that I did. She was shocked and yelled at me and said she would talk to you then sent me to my room. I assume she talked to you.”

My dad took a deep breath and let it out. “You gave her too much information, and it was too explicit. But I don’t know what you could have said other than what you said. Still, we’ll need to resolve what caused the debate.”

“What’s that going to be?” I asked. I was a little worried.

“First, you’re not to talk about wet dreams or masturbating or anything like that with your mom. Okay?”

“Okay. If she asks me any of those kinds of questions, I’ll tell her I can’t answer that kind of question. So, that’s an excellent resolution. Thank you.”

“Don’t jump ahead, Jeff; that’s not all. There are a couple other things that your mother and I agreed on, and you probably won’t like them very much.”

Uh-oh! Now what?

“You’re going to wash, dry, and fold your sheets and your underwear from now on. And you’re going to make your own bed from now on.”

I took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “Okay.”

Dad got up, said, “I’m glad we’re in agreement, Jeff,” and left my room.

Well, bummer! The washing and drying isn’t that big a deal. But having to make my bed will definitely be a PITA. Have you ever tried to put one of those stupid fitted bottom sheets on a mattress? It’s just about impossible!

I thought about it for a few seconds. Hmm… washing my own sheets means I can forego having to use tissues from now on. Just put the sheets in the wash. The stains will wash out, so a few more won’t be a big deal. I guess I can live with having to make my bed. I grinned.

Yes, that was definitely an acceptable compromise!

The End

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