You can hear Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini blasting from the jukebox in the snack shack at A Lion’s Beach.

Three songs for a quarter. Sometimes they play Itsy Bitsy three times in a row. A stupid song that sticks in your head because they play it a lot.

Some girls at A Lion’s Beach wear bikinis. You don’t, of course.

Tan Shoes and Pink Shoelaces plays. Another song you sing along with, but think is stupid. Come Softly to Me is one of your favorites.

But they never play Come Softly on the jukebox.

Now it’s 16 Candles.


One of your favorite things is to dance. But never ever in the snack shack at

A Lion’s Beach where the teenagers dance.

You dance with a cement post in the cellar when Dick Clark and American Bandstand come on the radio. After you finish packing the eggs at the grader and no one is left down in the cellar anymore, you jitterbug with the post, so good for pushing against.

You even do slow dances with it.

Marty saw you once from the cellar steps and started yelling.

Annie’s kissing the post. Annie’s kissing the post.

Another time you wanted to kill him. Well not really kill him.

Just make him shut up and mind his own business.

Now your father comes to where you’re sitting on the sand, wrapped cozy in a towel, drying off from swimming. Not like the teenagers who never go in the water because they’re afraid their bikinis might slide off.


Your father says he needs a pack of cigarettes, right now.

He wants you to go get them. You don’t want to.

Don’t say yes.

Don’t say no. He’s just doing this because he doesn’t want you to be shy, which you are, and even more shy about going where the teenagers are.

To get to the wooden door with its top half open where people buy things, a person has to go into the small wood building with the jukebox and the teenagers in it. Your eyes water and get blurry just walking up the sand hill toward it. They sell Fudgsicles and Creamsicles at that half open door, but you would sooner not have any

than have to go in there to buy one. Your father knows this even though you never told him. He holds out a quarter for a pack of Kents. An extra quarter to play three songs in the jukebox.


He says you have no choice. You have to go because he’s telling you to. He pulls you up. When you’re standing, he opens your hand. Puts the quarters into it. Now go.

You don’t. I said go. What? Are you afraid they’ll eat you?

When you don’t move, he hollers I don’t understand you. Nobody is going to bite your head off.

He pushes your back. Go!


three album coversYou take small steps. Drag your feet in the sand.

You aren’t afraid anybody is going to bite your head off. You just aren’t like him. You never will be a person who’s not afraid of anything.

You aren’t like him and never will be. No matter how hard he pushes your back. Or pushes you with his words. He can’t force you to be different than you are.


The music gets louder the closer you get. Your eyes get blurrier.

You’ll never be one of those confident teenagers who talks loud

and mixes with a big crowd. You just aren’t a crowd person.

And you don’t want to be. Well maybe sometimes, just a tiny bit.

Once in a while you do wish you were confident like he is.

Like the girls in the snack shack who talk loud and laugh and wear bikinis

and are not one single bit shy or embarrassed, whose eyes never get blurry

when they have to look at lots of kids at once.

They never think for a minute of running away and hiding. Never wish to be a turtle and not come out when they don’t want to.


Getting closer you look down. That’s how you will go in and buy his cigarettes— looking down. You’ll only look up for a second when you

have to give the money and take the pack from the person

behind the half open door. You hear that stupid song again about

an itsy bitsy teenie weenie yellow polka dot bikini.

You wish you would never hear that song again. But even more you wish you had the power to make yourself invisible. To disappear into thin air. You think of the name of a song you heard once. Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.

You don’t know the words but think that song is about what you feel now.

If you could be surrounded by smoke,

that would be the next best thing to being invisible.


You have an idea when you are about to go up the three wood steps.

You’ll pretend to be invisible. Pretend that no one can see you.

Only you will know you are there. For just one magic minute,

the person selling Kent cigarettes will hear your voice, see the quarter

in your hand, trade the pack for the quarter and then won’t see you.

Of course, you won’t put the other quarter in the jukebox. Though it would be funny if Come Softly to Me all of a sudden started to play

and nobody knew how it happened.


Headshot of a person with brown hair wearing a blue shirtAni Tuzman is an award-winning poet, author, and writing mentor who for over 40 years has helped people of all ages find and free their voices. She is the author of a historical novel, The Tremble of Love: A Novel of the Baal Shem Tov. JUKEBOX” is a vignette from her new memoir, Angels on the Clothesline. To learn more about her work visit