By R.B. Scott
Note: This story was adapted and updated from the author’s first novel: Closing Circles: Trapped in the everlasting Mormon moment, 2013 Gray Dog Press.
The Little League baseball season was barely underway that Spring of 1956 when I noticed that my left breast was swollen slightly, like a glob of Jello had been inserted between the nipple and ribs. By July, it had risen to the size of an adolescent girl's breast. By summer's end, the T-shirt I wore constantly, even in the swimming pool, couldn’t obscure the shameful fact that Jedediah Pratt Russell of Canyon Mills, Utah was the owner of one rather nicely shaped wad of firm softness that any teenage girl would have been proud of.
On the other hand, it was impossible to ignore another prominent appendage that verified I was every bit a boy. Thereafter, friends in my new neighborhood— friends is what I hoped they would become eventually-- took to calling me such things as "one-tit" and "homo" and "morpho."
The doctor brushed off the eruption with a vague and unhelpful diagnosis: "It's normal, a natural result of adolescence, you’ll outgrow it soon enough." I wondered just exactly how many normal ten-year-old boys were walking around with one female breast attached to their chests? I told him what my friends were saying, asked him what "morpho" meant. He just looked away, embarrassed, advised me to ignore the taunts, which I thought would be a whole lot easier to do if I understood the meaning behind them.
My neighbor Dave Richards maintained homo and morpho described confused and bizarre creatures that were half boy and half girl. Say what? No loving God would allow anyone to be born that way, least of all one of his chosen sons.
Getting no help from anyone I turned to Webster’s. I discovered that "Morpho" was synonymous with "form, shape and structure," and "homo" meant "the same" and was slang for homosexual, a person who had a sexual desire for someone of his (or her) own gender. As I knew nothing of "sexual desire" at the time, I turned to Roget's Thesaurus hoping that synonyms that might offer a few clues. And, that's where I found: Sexual Abnormality: homosexuality (I already had read that one); homosexualism (ditto); intersexuality; intersexualism; epicentism; epicenity; and, voilla, hermaphrodite. Maphro and morpho did sound a lot alike -- so I looked it up. Here's how Webster's defines "hermaphrodite": a human being possessing sex organs of both the male and female gender.
There was no God. Otherwise, there would be no such thing as "hermaphrodites," as defined by Webster’s. There certainly wouldn't be one living on East Cumorah Road in Canyon Mills, Utah right under the noses of His anointed and revered living prophet, seer and revelator, and the other apostles who ran the church I seemed to have inherited in the DNA from my parents and theirs and theirs and so on, dating all the way back to its founding in 1830.
As the left side of my chest expanded so too did the expedient heroic back story I spun on-the-fly, adorning it with fresh details it with each telling. These were acts of self-preservation, acceptable ways to salvage what little remained of my self-confidence and budding manhood.
By freshman year of high school, I had developed and refined a rather credible macho explanation for the sickle-shaped mastectomy scar on my chest, the marker of the incision the surgeon made when he removed the breast before I had to endure junior high school locker rooms and gang showers. Thereafter, whenever anyone inquired, I shrug nonchalantly, "no, it’s not from heart surgery," I'd say.
Depending on the circumstances, my personal fable unfolded this way, more or less, embellished as the spirit and circumstances moved me (Sort of like President Trump and Kellyanne Conway et al).“The bases were loaded. No outs. I was playing third base when a line drive screamed into my chest. Usually I revealed how, grimacing with pain, I miraculously, held onto the ball; how my parents feared the lump in my chest might be cancerous; how the doc had wisely opted to cut an incision around what turned out to be an and extraordinarily stubborn bloody mass of tissue that had somehow attached itself to my chest muscles.
My father and the doctor were more matter-of-fact about the matter: "It's a healthy young breast.” This was not exactly music to my ears, even if it was accurate information. "Worse things could happen to you," they said dismissively. I couldn't imagine anything worse. Well, perhaps a mohel with shaky hands!
Soon my personal fable had become something of an urban legend with a life and legs of its own. The boy who hit the ball that smashed into my chest apologized every time he heard the story. For the benefit of others present, he recounted how hard he’d hit it that day; his utter astonishment that I’d been able to get a glove on the ball before it fell to the ground and had the presence of mind to step on third, throw to second to end the game: triple play. He and some of my teammates vividly recalled rushing to my assistance; unbuttoning my shirt and watching in utter amazement and horror as my left breast arose right before their eyes.
As the years wore on, even my straight-talking father speculated that the blast from the baseball may have indeed triggered the eruption on my chest, like earth tremors provoked Paricutin’s rise into the sky over the Mexican landscape in 1943.
The compelling tale spilled off my tongue so effortlessly and persuasively that I began to believe it, myself. It was then I first considered pursuing a career as a journalist, novelist, presidential speechwriter, or White House flack-in-chief.