John Carlson: A Truncated Tale

New swim trunks make you look on the bright side. Photo by: Nancy CarlsonNew swim trunks make you look on the bright side. Photo by: Nancy Carlson

By: John Carlson—

Nancy and I were vacationing recently at a favorite place on the Gulf Coast of Florida when a sobering realization hit.

I could probably wear my ancient swimming trunks into the water, but there was a 99 percent chance they wouldn’t be walking back out of the water. Not with me in them, anyway. Either I was getting smaller or my trunks were getting bigger. Making matters worse, I didn’t see enough sea kelp and clam shells handy to fashion a codpiece to keep the ladies on the shuffleboard court from screaming, fainting or gagging as I snuck past them to our room.

This proved to be a real dilemma, because there was no way I was going to shop for a new pair of trunks myself.

See, unless it’s dancing or getting root canals, there’s nothing I despise more than shopping. This is good, because I’m totally incompetent at it anyway. Hating it as I do, I would probably just stumble blindly around Trunks R Us, grabbing the first pair I ran into off the rack, then rush back to our resort in a blind panic, only to discover I’d bought a pair of Speedos.

To my way of thinking, Speedos are just underpants you swim in.

You, not me.

My strong feelings had been reinforced on this vacation by an 80-year-old guy who, for the most regrettable of reasons, I soon came to think of as “Mister Jiggles.” He kept parading around the pool at our place wearing a pair of swimming trunks that looked like they had been applied with a can of spray paint. What was this guy? French? Anyway, a normal American like yours truly couldn’t “unsee” a disturbing sight like that.

I know. I tried. I tried really hard. I even tried aided by whiskey, but no luck.

Luckily for me, it turned out Nancy was going shopping for our groceries.

“Hey,” I begged her. “If they have swimming trunks at the grocery store, can you buy me a bulky pair?”

This turned out to be a brilliant fashion move on my part. Who knew grocery stores down South were where the coolest swimming trunks were stocked and sold, so you could throw a pair into the cart while shopping for beer and Moon Pies?

Taking them from the bag and yanking them on, I noticed these babies were tighter around the waist, but nice and big everywhere else. These were trunks firmly in keeping with my old sense of Baptist modesty and propriety. I mean, Billy Graham could have worn these swimming trunks. Maybe even Mike Pence. Best of all were the colors, which looked like the result of an explosion at a Day-Glo paint factory. Indeed, these trunks were like emergency locator transmitters that cinched around your waist. Should I somehow be washed out to sea by a riptide or dragged there by a giant grouper I was trying to catch for supper, the Coast Guard choppers would spot me in no time.

Naturally, with me thus “be-trunked,” all female eyes turned my way as I seductively strutted down to the pool and then the beach. And the fact that I had already spilled a dab of mustard from a hot dog on them? It didn’t matter. These were trunks a fella could spill a whole platter of nacho supremes on and nobody could tell.

What’s more, I soon realized they weren’t just swim trunks. They were shorts, albeit real outlandish shorts with polyester webbing gently coddling you inside them. The thing is, most of us old dudes down there visiting Florida felt perfectly comfortable walking around in public wearing stuff we wouldn’t be caught dead in anywhere north of the Mason-Dixon Line.

These trunks were so colorful, it turns out they matched every shirt in my cheap but gaudy wardrobe.

So now this is making me think that I ought to wear my new trunks up here in Muncie after all, at least until the snow starts flying. Then I might keep them in my truck this winter, so I can wave down help if I end up stuck in a snowdrift.

If when approaching you must avert your eyes from the unnatural glare, that’ll be me. Or more correctly, my new swimming trunks.

A former longtime feature writer and columnist for The Star Press in Muncie, Indiana, John Carlson is a storyteller with an unflagging appreciation for the wonderful people of East Central Indiana and the tales of their lives, be they funny, poignant, inspirational or all three.