I've pretty much stumbled my way into my "life in books." I mean, I never even had the focus (or money) to go to college. Instead I went to broadcasting school and did some DJ work in my 20s. Probably my favorite job though was working at a little doughnut place in Richland, Washington. But they weren't called doughnuts. They were called... well, let me just tell the story. Some names have been changed to "protect" the people who still "work" there.
My Life in Taternuts
This is how I learned about cunnilingus from a policeman's wife at the age of 18. This was during the time I became a legendary fryer.
First off, I was a graveyard waiter at a place called The Top Hat. It was a place in the "bad part" of the town I grew up in. A small town, but one with parts all the same. Hookers and unwashed people came in and I had to serve them coffee and pie.
On my way home after work I started to stop off at this donut shop. The reason being of course: Because it was there. And because it was open, which many places weren't at 5:30 in the morning.
A man wearing an Ocean Pacific shirt and a mustache as thick as Gene Shalit's was strong-arming a blob of dough on a floured surface near the entrance. I checked out his action over the plastic sneeze guard.
"Whatcha up to?" he asked me.
"Uh, I just got off work. I wait tables at The Top Hat. Graveyard." I chewed out the words, amidst cake donut debris. "These cake ones are awesome," I commented.
"They're called spuddies," he enlightened me.
"We don't make donuts here. These are made with potato flour. The cake ones are spuddies and the raised ones are taternuts." He folded up the flattened dough three times and then plopped it atop a machine that fed the dough through a doughnut cutter. "This is taternut dough. It has yeast, so it rises in here." He opened a metal door under the counter and showed me some hot racks. "The spuddie dough doesn't have yeast, so it stays cake." He let me think about this.
"Want a job?" he asked me.
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A few days later I went from graveyard shift waiter to early morning taternut fryer. It was closer to where I lived and the pay was better. The man I worked with was also named Kevin. He was about 30 and built like a tight end, about 6'3", 240 pounds. During my first few weeks we were known as Big Kevin and Li'l Kevin. Kevin's sister was a big woman named Vickie and she was real bossy some times and real funny at other times. Whenever we got busy — which we did a lot it seemed for just a donut— I mean, taternut shop — Vickie would say things like: "C'mon Kev, you want me to take over back there? Gotta get crankin'!"
It was easy to get pissed at her but she knew how to make you work harder. She would have made a great basketball coach. Maybe it was the fact that she was getting married to a dopey cop that came in all the time. You know, it's funny; I never really thought about it until now: A cop marrying a woman who runs a donut/taternut shop.
Most of the people who came into the shop were people who worked out at the nuclear power plant. Also there were teachers, retired folk, suits, and assorted early risers. It seemed like a requirement to like sports if you were a regular. And if you were a regular that also meant having the same thing every day. If Vickie saw you coming from across the parking lot (even at a snail's pace) she'd be like, "Sedale, chocolate taternut and a decaf for Joe. Quick." If a customer came in and his usual diet wasn't set up at his everyday spot there must've been something wrong somewhere. We were a well-oiled machine.
Sports were the reason I became known as Sedale. I was mostly into music at the time, but still had a passing interest in sports clinging to me from my days as a statistics-hoarding football fan in junior high. Big Kevin and I went out after work a few times and played some playground basketball. His stiff but powerful inside play reminded me of Robert "The Chief" Parish of the Celtics, while my quick, slashing aggressiveness and hustle earned me the alias Sedale Threatt, who was a backup point guard at the time for my favorite team, the Philadelphia 76ers.
So we'd be working in the midst of some mad rush and our pace is faster than the taternuts can fry in the fryer and just to keep the mood fun for all, Kevin would shout out my nickname in an exaggerated PA announcer voice: "Sedaaaale Threeeeeeatt!" Then I would go, "The Chieeeeeeeef!"
Customers were also special enough to receive trumpeting treatment. Murphy was one. He was a slouched 62-year-old who we'd greet by announcing, "It's the Armeeeeenian!" Other regulars had nicknames too, like Big Dog, Chi Chi, and Buster.
Whenever we had the dough rolling through the cutter Kevin and I had to stand on each side and gather up the uncooked taternut shapes. They went into the warm racks where they would rise, then we'd plop 'em on a wire tray and stick them in the fryer where they cooked in the oil. All the extra dough was rolled into a little football and thrown around the shop when it wasn't busy. For a little joke, we'd sometimes plant a small piece of dough on the ground where we knew that someone would step on it. Stepping on one of these things felt like you were stepping on a small squishy turd.
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At some point during this job, I started going out with a girl who lived in Hermiston, a little Hicksville about a half-hour south. She was an adopted Hispanic girl whose parents feared evil so much they even threw out her Corey Hart cassettes.
Elvia was her name, my first real post-high school girlfriend. I knew it was time that I learned about this mysterious and tribal-sounding ritual known as "eating a girl out." All the oral sex I'd seen in magazines were photos of women giving it to men. I had no idea that oral sex was such an equal opportunity activity. The first time a girl asked me to give her oral sex was on a one-night stand with a 16-year-old devil worshipping runaway. We were making out and I had her shirt off. I began licking her breasts when she asked, "Will you eat me out?" I thought about it for a second before politely answering, "No, thanks."
My mother and I were never close enough to have sexual talks. I think she knew something was up as regards to my sexual blooming, but she never pried. Mostly she stayed in her sewing room at home and made me some pretty cool Miami Vice style jackets. My style of choice was paisley. I took pride in my paisley clothes and could easily dress in different paisley every day of the week without a repeat. I was also wearing stretch pants and brooches. My dad questioned my mom once about this. "I don't want him looking like a girl all the time. All that jewelry and crap. The next thing you know he'll be wearing a dress," he warned her. My scotch-taped photo of Ralph Macchio on my wall may have also alarmed him.
Possibly my best bet for sex advice from an older, more experienced person: Big Kevin.
"Gotta grow yourself one of these first," he pontificated, sticking his mustache out as far as the tip of his nose. I decided not to explore his further wisdom.
After work that day, Vickie cornered me in the back room. "You want me to just tell you how to do it and save ya some time?"
I tried to think of something funny to say, but settled for: "Sure, if you want to."
She explained several things; the taste, the labia, the clit, the secret button, the canal. She mapped out certain methods: the vibrator, the fingers, the tongue, lips, teeth, etc. And finally, she soberly gave me a few warnings: yeast infections, periods, excess pubic hair in the teeth, gagging on excess pubic hair, pubic hair that seems to be either absent or shaved.
I didn't ask her about how the cop did it to her. Actually it might have been against the state law.
The results were: I loved it! Even despite close calls with yeasty girls and others who looked like they had Jimmy Walker's head sticking out of their groin, the giving of oral pleasure was high on my priorities list on every date. I was going through a big slut phase since Elvia lived in a different town, but still, she was the one I practiced and practiced on. She was my favorite nectar. Until she moved to Yakima with some other guy.
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As I prepared to leave my job and my hometown for broadcasting school in Spokane, it was nearing time to hang up my apron and retire from the taternut biz. "You were a legend in the fry zone, Sedale," reflected Kevin on my 18-month career.
I was glazing up a batch and doing my best Dick Vitale: "It's SHOW TIME, baby!"
Kevin splashed water on his face and wiped faux tears from under his eyes. "We're gonna retire your apron, man. It'll hang from the rafters."
I looked at my early morning work companion with respect.
Murphy rattled through the door. "It's the Armeeeenian," I announced.
Murphy stopped for a moment and asked over the sneeze guard, "This is your last day, isn't it?"
"Yeah, off to the medium city, old man."
"Well, you make one heck of a taternut, kid," he informed me. Then he paused to let me prepare for some wisdom. "Just remember," he started, "when you get there and get settled, you can't go home again."
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Kevin Sampsell runs the small press section at Powell's and is the publisher of his own micro-press, Future Tense Books. His books include Creamy Bullets, Portland Noir, and the memoir A Common Pornography.
Books mentioned in this post
Kevin Sampsell is the author of A Common Pornography: A Memoir