Bobby Mazzone (not his real name) and I were great friends growing up. We would play Wiffle Ball in the back yard, Strat-O-Matic in his basement, Ping Pong, sleepovers – the works. It was a strange day when we weren’t together. He was just a normal childhood friend, until the day when our friendship took a surreal turn.

But, before I tell you that story, you need to know that my friend Bobby’s mom was a bit different. She was nice enough to me, but she was quite strict with Bobby and he was terrified of her. My first inkling that something might be strange with her was the first time Bobby asked her if he could stay overnight at my house. She called me and, with great concern and in a serious tone asked if there was a gas main running under the street by our house.

To me, though, the most striking example of Bobby’s fear was one time when a bunch of us were playing football in my backyard. Bobby attempted to tackle one of my other friends, and the guy, who was a bit bigger than Bobby, swung around to avoid being tackled. This motion spun Bobby through the air, where he seemed to freeze briefly until he crashed face-first into a wooden picnic table in my backyard (I can still picture the scene clearly in my mind. It is one of the most amazing things I have ever seen).

Bobby was ok, but he had decent-sized cut on his mouth and a couple of his teeth felt a bit loose. We were all concerned about his well-being and asked him if he wanted to go to the hospital for stitches, but all he was concerned about – practically to the point of tears – was how his mother would react to any potential damage to the braces on his teeth (there was none). He ran home in a panic. Odd.

So, you get the point. Bobby was afraid of his mother. Now back to the story.

It was a fall afternoon after school, and Bobby and I were alone in my house, listening to music and talking about some thing or another. Suddenly, he got quiet for a minute and looked at me, as if trying to figure something out. Then, jutting his chin at me a little, he asked, “Your sister still lives in the basement, right?” (Note: My sister is 11 years older than I am and at the time she was living with us prior to getting married)

“Yeah.”

“Do you mind if I go try on her underwear?”

I turned my head, attempting to get a better angle on the conversation. I wasn’t sure I understood him, or maybe he was joking, so I asked the first question that popped into my mind, “What?”

“Would you care if I went down there and tried on some of your sister’s underwear? I’ve just always been curious about what it would feel like. I think it would be sort of smooth and soft and I think I might like it.”

Now, in my life, when I have been faced with a strangely surreal situation, my first instinct has generally been to just go with it and see what happens. Plus, I was still at least fifty percent sure that he was pulling my leg and wanted to call his bluff. I shrugged my shoulders and said, “Sure, go right ahead.” (I haven’t asked her, but I am fairly sure this is not the answer my sister would have preferred).

“Ok,” he said, looking relieved, “you have to stay up here.”

“No problem.”

With that, he headed down into my basement and closed the basement door behind him. As soon as I heard him go down the stairs, I walked over and locked the basement door handle. I then walked over to our kitchen phone.

Now, back in the day, there used to be a number you would dial and get a high pitched tone. You would then hang up, and a moment later your phone would ring. I very quietly dialed this number (we had a rotary phone), heard the tone, and softly placed the received back on the hook. A moment later, the phone rang. I answered it on the second ring.

“HELLO?” (I spoke loudly so that Bobby was sure to hear me)

“NO, I’M SORRY MRS. MAZZONE, BOBBY CAN’T COME TO THE PHONE RIGHT NOW…”

There was a flurry of activity in my basement and then pounding feet sprinted up the stairs. Bobby encountered the locked door, tried it again hurriedly, and then began to pound on it.

“HE’S IN THE BASEMENT TRYING ON MY SISTER’S UNDERWEAR.”

A cry of anguish came from the basement steps, and the violence of the pounding increased. There might have also been some adult language, mixed with perhaps a bit of whimpering. I felt sorry for him, and for the door, so I unlocked the handle.

A blur darted past me toward the kitchen door. I tried to explain, “Bobbyitwasajokeitwasn’treallyyourmother” but he had dashed outside, down the steps, and was away.

I had a vision in my mind of him trying to explain this to his mother. That was more problem than I had ever intended from my little joke, so I had no choice. I crashed out the door and began to chase him.

Bobby was much faster than I when he wasn’t in a fully terrified sprint, so there was no chance of me actually catching him. Luckily he was, at that moment, just a bit slower than the speed of sound. He finally heard my shouts and stopped. I lumbered up to him and breathlessly explained the joke. And then he punched me, which I still don’t think was entirely fair.