/ / Language: English / Genre:love_erotica,

The Mammoth Book of International Erotica

Maxim Jakubowski

Here in one marvellous volume, is the cream of erotic writing from all the corners of the globe. Maxim Jakubowski has gathered together unexpurgated delights, new and unpublished gems, and classic masterpieces seldom seen before. Come play in a garden of exotic and erotic writing, with origins ranging from France and Germany to Japan and New Zealand, from Russia to the United States and Canada.

Maxim Jakubowski, Michael Crawley, Iva Pekarkova, Evelyn Lau, Françoise Rey, Marilyn Jaye Lewis, Dion Farquhar, Elfriede Jelinek, Paul Mayersberg, Anne Rice, Svetlana Boym, Sonia Rykiel, Brian Fawcett, Geraldine Zwang, Michael Hemmingson, Delilah De Silva, Carol Queen, Ryu Murakami, Mark Timlin, William T. Vollmann, N. T. Morley, Jeremy Reed, Li-Yü, J. P. Kansas, Cris Mazza, Jindrich Styrsky, Michael Perkins, Thomas S. Roche, Régine Deforges, Stella Duffy, Bana Witt, Sonia Florens, Cristiana Formetta, Carlos Benito Camacho, Bernard Noël, M. Christian, Michael Crawley, Florence Dugas, J. G. Ballard, Lucy Taylor, Michèle Larue

The Mammoth Book of International Erotica

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

MRS FOX by Michael Crawley, © 1996 by Michael Crawley. Reproduced by permission of the author and his agent Tal Literary Agency.

TRUCK STOP RAINBOWS by Iva Pekarkova, © 1993 by Iva Pekarkova. First appeared in YAZZYK. Reproduced by permission of Farrar, Straus amp; Giroux Inc.

ROSES by Evelyn Lau, © 1993 by Evelyn Lau. First appeared in FRESH GIRLS. Reproduced by permission of the author’s agent Denise Bukowski and Hyperion Publishing.

WHITE NIGHT by Françoise Rey, © 1994 by Françoise Rey. First appeared in NUITS D’ENCRE. Reproduced by permission of Franck Spengler.

THREE FOR THE MONEY by Marilyn Jaye Lewis, © 2004 by Marilyn Jaye-Lewis. First appeared in THREE-WAY, edited by Alison Tyler. Reproduced by permission of the author.

FOURTH DATE, FIRST FUCK by Dion Farquhar, © 1996 by Dion Farquhar. Reproduced by permission of the author.

LUST by Elfriede Jelinek, © 1989 by Elfriede Jelinek. First appeared in LUST. Reproduced by permission of Serpent’s Tail.

UNTITLED by Paul Mayersberg, © 1996 by Paul Mayersberg. Reproduced by permission of the author.

BEAUTY’S RELEASE by Anne Rice writing as A. N. Roquelaure, © 1985 by Anne Rice. First appeared in BEAUTY’S RELEASE. Reproduced by permission of Dutton Signet, a division of Penguin Books USA Inc. and Little, Brown, UK.

RUSSIAN DRESSING by Svetlana Boym, © 1993 by Svetlana Boym. First appeared as “Romances of the Era of Stagnation” in CHEGO KHOCHET ZHENSHCHINA. Reproduced by permission of the author.

THE OPERA by Sonia Rykiel, © 1998 by Sonia Rykiel. First appeared in PLAISIRS DE FEMMES. Reproduced by permission of Editions Blanche.

CUCKOO by Brian Fawcett, © 1994 by Brian Fawcett. First appeared in GENDER WARS. Reproduced by permission of the author.

LIES by Geraldine Zwang, © 2005 by Geraldine Zwang. First appeared in FEMMES AMOUREUSES. Reproduced by permission of Editions Blanche.

THE NAUGHTY YARD by Michael Hemmingson, © 1994 by Michael Hemmingson. Reproduced by permission of Permeable Press.

LILING’S CURE by Delilah De Silva, © 2005 by Delilah De Silva. First appeared in THE INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF EROTICA. Reproduced by permission of the author.

SWEATING PROFUSELY IN MÉRIDA: A MEMOIR by Carol Queen, © 1994 by Carol Queen. First appeared in a different form in LOCOMOTIVE. Reproduced by permission of the author and Down There Press.

ALMOST TRANSPARENT BLUE by Ryu Murakami, © 1976 by Ryu Murakami. Reproduced by permission of Kodansha International.

WHERE THE WILD ROSES GROW by Mark Timlin, © 1996 by Mark Timlin. Reproduced by permission of the author.

NICOLE by William T. Vollman, © 1991 by William T. Vollman. First appeared in WHORES FOR GLORIA. Reproduced by permission of the author.

THE NEW FIANCÉE by N. T. Morley, © 2004 by N. T. Morley. First appeared in THREE-WAY, edited by Alison Tyler. Reproduced by permission of the author.

THE PLEASURE CHATEAU by Jeremy Reed, © 1994 by Jeremy Reed. Reproduced by permission of Creation Books.

JOU PU TUAN by Li-Yü, first appeared in English in 1963, translated from the German version by Richard Martin. Translation by permission of Grove Press. Public domain.

WATCHING by J. P. Kansas, © 1996 by J. P. Kansas. Reproduced by permission of the author.

HER FIRST BRA by Cris Mazza, © 1996 by Cris Mazza. Reproduced by permission of the author.

EMILIA COMES IN MY DREAMS by Jindrich Styrsky, © 1933 by Jindrich Styrsky. First appeared in YAZZYK. Reproduced by permission of YAZZYK.

A MAP OF THE PAIN by Maxim Jakubowski, © 1996 by Maxim Jakubowski. First appeared in LIFE IN THE WORLD OF WOMEN. Reproduced by permission of the author.

GINCH by Michael Perkins, © 1977 by Michael Perkins. First appeared in PRUDE. Reproduced by permission of the author.

BLACK LILY by Thomas S. Roche, © 1996 by Thomas S. Roche. Reproduced by permission of the author.

LEONE by Régine Deforges, © 1988-1993 by Régine Deforges. First appeared in LOLA ET QUELQUES AUTRES. Reproduced by permission of Franck Spengler.

THE GIFT by Stella Duffy, © 1996 by Stella Duffy. Reproduced by permission of the author.

HOT NAZIS, DABBLING IN S amp;M, LOWER HAIGHT, TAHOE and HIGHWAY 1 by Bana Witt, © 1992 by Bana Witt. First appeared in MOBIUS STRIPPER. Reproduced by permission of Manic D Press.

A CASTLE IN MILTON KEYNES by Sonia Florens, © 1996 by Sonia Florens. First appeared in. Reproduced by permission of the Dolorès Rotenberg Literary Agency.

THE SEX LIVES OF CHAMELEONS by Cristiana Formetta, © 2005 by Cristiana Formetta. Reproduced by permission of the author.

MEMORIES THAT LINGER ON by Carlos Benito Camacho, © 2003 by Carlos Benito Camacho. First appeared in THE INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF EROTICA. Reproduced by permission of the author.

THE CASTLE OF COMMUNION by Bernard Noël, © 1990 by Bernard Noël. Reproduced by permission of Paul Buck.

LILLY’S LOULOU by Michéle Larue, © 2000 by Michéle Larue. First appeared in EROTIC TRAVEL TALES, edited by Mitzi Szereto. Reproduced by permission of the author.

ALL EYES ON HER by M. Christian, © 1996 by M. Christian. Reproduced by permission of the author.

KISMET by Michael Crawley, © 1996 by Michael Crawley. Reproduced by permission of the author and his agent Tal Literary Agency.

TAROT by Florence Dugas, © 1998 by Florence Dugas. First appeared in PLAISIRS DE FEMMES. Reprinted by permission of Editions Blanche.

CRASH by J. G. Ballard, © 1973 by J. G. Ballard. Reproduced by permission of the author, the author’s agent Margaret Hanbury and Farrar, Straus amp; Giroux Inc.

PRENUPTIALS by Lucy Taylor, © 1996 by Lucy Taylor. Reproduced by permission of the author.

INTRODUCTION

Ever since the collapse of the Tower of Babel, sex has been the common language uniting men and women (as well as other fascinating combinations all reflected by the all-inclusive and indulgent field of erotic writing) throughout the world, so following the success of The Mammoth Book of Erotica, we put together an International version in 1996, of which this is now a reissue, with a couple of handfuls of the original stories consigned to the depths of the past and replaced by another ten previously uncollected tales to refresh the volume.

Initially, it was my intention to demonstrate how wide the spectrum of writing on sex, love and sensuality could be. And how the art of the erotic tale actually thrived in contemporary writing. Little did I know that over ten years later, the series would reach over 15 volumes which have since included Historical Erotica, Short Erotic Novels, five annual best of the year volumes, Gay, Lesbian and Erotic Poetry as well as two volumes I am very proud of, displaying the best of the world’s erotic photography (an ironic state of affairs as I am known to have taken a somewhat limited number of photographs in my whole life, much preferring the art of voyeurism to the act of photography…).

So, mission accomplished and, today, the bookstore shelves are now crowded by a plethora of competing, thematic and otherwise anthologies from colleagues in the UK and America, and I would hazard a higher standard of sensuous, provocative writing than was the case when this series began.

Another fact that brings a satisfied smile to my face is the fact that since the initial volume of The Mammoth Book of International Erotica, two of the authors who willingly accepted to be part of the project have been rewarded most gratifyingly: Elfriede Jelinek of course has won the Nobel Prize for Literature and Stella Duffy made the shortlist for the Orange Prize for fiction. A random demonstration that not all occasional erotic scribes are just hacks…

And there has been resounding acclaim for a whole slew of novels and books from foreign shores singing the flesh and the erotic: viz the commercial success of books in translation by Alina Reyes, Almudena Grandes, Régine Deforges, Vanessa Duriès, Cathy Millet, Marthe Blau, Tobsha Learner, Florence Dugas, Melissa P. and countless others.

So, erotic prose is not just an Anglo-Saxon phenomenon but a universal one and this revised edition of this influential volume still only skims the surface of what is being written in France and Italy for instance, both countries so fertile right now that they could provide their own bumper Mammoth volumes of erotica and still neglect dozens of worthy writers such is the depth of talent currently active there. And I deplore my own lack of fluency in other languages like Spanish and German where, browsing through publishers’ catalogues reveals possible treasures…

But I am confident there is enough here to satisfy your curiosity and tease your senses most delightfully.

So I will end by repeating what I said in the introduction to the first edition: welcome again to a realm of bizarre and fascinating beauty as imaginations run galore in an empire of the senses that literally spans the globe. By ready for everything as anything literally goes, leave your clothes and your blinkers at the door, allow your emotions to control you, sit yourselves down and relax and follow the words of all these true artists of the flesh, the erotic writers who can blend emotion and sex into a dizzy, seductive maelstrom that will often have you catching your breath in sheer excitement.

Let the great worldwide carnival begin!

Maxim Jakubowski

MRS FOX by Michael Crawley

ELEVEN DAYS AFTER I broke up with Angie I ran into Jeff, sitting in a booth at Sombrero Jack’s. He was with a woman, so I tried to make it “Hi and Bye”, but he insisted I join them.

“Paul, this is Mrs Fox – Cynthia Fox. Cynthia – Paul. We worked at Blackstock’s together, years ago.”

I half-stood and reached across to squeeze limp fingers.

“Call me ‘Cyn’.” Did her fingertips drag on my palm for a fraction of a second? I wasn’t sure.

I knew straight away why Jeff wanted me there long enough to get a good look at her. He’d always been joking-jealous of me. I was bigger, and had all my hair. Some of the women in the old office had hung around my desk during coffee breaks, playing at flirting. It hadn’t meant anything, but they hadn’t done the same at his desk. He’d resented that.

Now he was with this woman – an older woman who was quite lovely – and I was alone. He wanted to make the most of it. I could live with that.

He said, “Cynthia and I live together.”

I said, “You’re a lucky man,” and meant it. Her age showed in the laugh-lines around her big dark eyes, but her black hair was crisp and short and her body looked lithe, with hard high breasts, half exposed by the shawl neckline of a sweater in clinging black jersey. She wasn’t wearing a bra. She didn’t need one.

Jeff ordered a round and poked the gold card he’d left on the table from side to side, to make sure I saw it. I resolved that when the time came for me to pay my shot I’d use cash. It’d spoil it for him if I used my gold card.

Jeff did the talking. It was impressive stuff – big deals with Chile and so on. He was selling prefabricated buildings or something. Maybe he was working hard. He had dark bags under bloodshot eyes. I half-listened and kept my eyes on “Cyn”, which was what he wanted me to do.

When she excused herself to go the ladies’ room I watched her hips slink away into crowded darkness.

“What do you think of her?” he asked.

“Very nice. A sexy lady.” I couldn’t comment on her personality because she’d hardly said a word.

“You don’t know the half of it.”

I was supposed to ask for details. I didn’t. I’m no prude, but some things should be kept private.

Cyn seemed jittery when she came back. Her arm stretched halfway across the table to fiddle with the little glass ball that held the candle, to adjust the condiments, to take a napkin from the holder and shred it. She had nice hands – longish fingernails – very pointed – painted deep pink. Her fingers were slender. Tiny blue veins showed inside her wrists. Higher on her pale arms I noticed some bruising and broken skin, as if a bracelet had caught in something and yanked off, or like a rope-burn maybe.

It was none of my business.

Her collar seemed to gape more now, or perhaps it was just her leaning towards me. There was a purplish mark above her collarbone and another mark, the size of a thumb-print, on the slope of her right breast.

It was still none of my business.

It wasn’t any of my business when Jeffs hand dropped out of sight and she winced, still looking straight into my eyes.

They stood to leave, with Jeff leering, “Bed time, Cynthia.”

She took my hand in a proper shake, not that “fingertip” thing. Something pressed into my palm.

I gave them five minutes before I looked. It was a note, written on that tan paper they use for towels in washrooms, and a key. The note read, “I must see you. I need your help. Midnight.” There was an address and a lipstick kiss. The paper was damp. Tears, or moist palms?

They were supposed to live together, but maybe Jeff had lied about that, or perhaps he was flying to Peru to do another of his multi-million dollar deals.

I thought for a while, but it had been eleven days since Angie, and I’ve always been a sucker for a “damsel in distress”, even when I’m not horny.

I knocked on her apartment door, but too lightly for anyone inside to hear unless they were listening for it. I still could have turned around, but I didn’t.

I used the key.

The hallway was dark. I said, “Cynthia? Mrs Fox? Cyn?”

There was a line of light under a door at the end. Something swished and cracked. A soft voice yelped. I strode on the balls of my feet and cracked the door. The bedroom was lit by candles. Cyn was on the bed, on her face, spread-eagled and naked. Her wrists and ankles were tied to the four corners of a scrolled brass frame. Jeff was stripped to his waist, his belt doubled in his hand, raised high. It came down hard, across her bottom.

When I see abuse something cold takes over. I did things to his wrist and his face and then he was whimpering on the floor. I prodded his thigh with the toe of my shoe and told him, “You have five minutes to get your things and go.”

It took him three, with me watching him. Cyn needed me but I wasn’t going to turn my back on him.

As soon as the front door closed I bent to the cords around Cyn’s ankle.

“Please? There’s some salve in the bathroom?”

It seemed obscene to leave her tied like that, but she knew what she needed first better than I did.

“It’s awkward for me,” she said. “Would you mind very much if you did it for me?”

I was as gentle as I could be. Thank goodness I’d got there on time, for there were only four weals, one high across the backs of her slender thighs, one crossing her bottom at an angle, and two, close together and parallel, blooming into darkness across her cheeks where they were fullest. There were other welts, faded to just pink lines under the translucent pallor of her skin. I smoothed ointment over those as well, though it was too late for it to do much good.

“Could you rub it in?” she asked. “It’ll sting, but it does more good if it’s worked in.”

So I smeared the stuff all over and massaged.

She said, “Harder, please. Harder than that. Don’t be afraid to hurt me.”

I felt muscles twitch and writhe under my hands. It should have been very sexy, rubbing the naked bottom of a beautiful woman, but my concern for her pain blocked any erotic response on my part.

I wiped my hands and untied her. She rolled over and sat up but she didn’t grab the bedclothes to cover herself so I found a satin robe hanging behind the door and draped it over her.

“Don’t leave me,” she said. “He might come back.” Her fingers found my hand and drew it between her breasts. “I need to have you around, for tonight.”

“I’ll sleep on your couch.”

“If that’s what you want.”

It wasn’t. Now she was untied and partly covered, my body was reacting to her body, but if I’d made a move on her I’d have been exploiting the situation, and how do you embrace a woman whose rear is so tender?

She woke me with coffee, naked under that satin robe. “Do you have to go somewhere?”

“My office, sorry.”

“Could you do my bottom again before you go?”

She lay flat on her tummy and tucked the robe up to her waist. The marks had faded to a pattern of bruises. In the daylight I could see that her skin wasn’t broken, thank goodness. The salve must have been cool and soothing on her burning flesh, because when she squirmed under my hands it wasn’t from wincing, but from pleasure. She purred once, when my fingers accidentally trailed into the crease between her buttocks.

“You’ll come back?” she asked.

“After work. About six.”

“Not for lunch?”

“I can’t. Sorry.”

When I got back she had a place set for one and a t-bone with a baked potato and mushrooms waiting. There was red wine and two full glasses. She was still naked under her robe, but dewy, as if fresh from a bath. Eartha Kitt was on the stereo, husking something about needing someone to bind her.

“Aren’t you eating?” I asked.

“I ate earlier. I’ll just watch you.”

I ate and she looked at me. “You saved me, you know.”

“It was nothing.”

“You know what the Chinese say about when you save someone?”

“What?”

“You’re responsible for them. You own them, but you have to take care of them.”

I said, “We aren’t Chinese,” but her words stirred me. The idea of “owning” her appealed to something in my libido.

“You are my knight in shining armour,” she said.

I shrugged.

“I owe you.”

“No – not really.”

“I owe you this, at least.”

She came round and wriggled onto my lap. I just had time to swallow before her head tilted up and the prickle of her nails on the back of my neck urged my mouth down to hers.

It was a nice kiss, but not a “normal” one, if any kiss can be normal. She held her face away from mine by half an inch and slavered her wine-wet tongue across my lips, from corner to corner. I went to bend lower, but she held my head in place. Her tongue lapped backwards and forwards, as if my steak had left grease on my lips and that was what she was after. With me still held in position, her tongue centred and slithered between my lips. It withdrew, and slithered in once more, making slow sensuous love to my mouth.

As her tongue soft-raped my lips, she writhed on my lap, pressing down hard. It was as if her mouth was under perfect control but her bottom was passionate. I was concerned about her soreness but my cock wasn’t. It was enjoying every urgent squirm.

She turned away at last, and took a mouthful of wine. Her lips covered mine. Wine flowed from her mouth to mine, sweet and warm with her saliva.

“Give me some wine,” she said. “Squirt it into my mouth.”

Her mouth opened like a hungry chick, giving me no choice but to jet wine in a long stream, straight onto her tongue. The more wine she swallowed, the more frantically her bottom twisted on my lap.

“Aren’t you sore?” I asked.

She jumped up. With her back to me, looking back over her shoulder, she shot a hip and pulled the skirts of her robe to one side. “See? Almost better? All it needs is…”

“Is?”

“A ‘kiss-better’.”

What could I do? I planted a peck on one cheek, but she flexed it at me, so I licked from the crease where her thigh met her bottom to the small of her back.

“Oh yes! Being a bit tender makes me so much more sensitive. More, please?”

I’d known a number of women, and no two are alike, but this was the strangest seduction I’d ever experienced. I’d licked a few women’s bums before, but never before I’d even touched their breasts, or made love to them in a more conventional fashion. The weirdness of it-the out-of-order of it -made it incredibly exciting.

I nibbled at the base of her spine.

She bent forward, hands on knees. “That’s nice. Touch me, please?”

Where? Wherever I liked, I guessed. After you’ve kissed a woman’s bottom, what caress is forbidden?

I reached around her and pulled her sash loose. My left hand smoothed up over her ribcage, enjoying the ridged smoothness, to cup her pendant breast. My right hand did spider-fingers up the inside of her thigh, touched springy hairs, fumbled, and found moist heat. I rotated three fingers on her, pressing gently. My teeth nipped at the pad of muscle just above her bottom’s cleft. My left hand spread into a fan and strummed across the tip of a springy nipple.

Cyn said, “I could get off on what you’re doing, Paul. You won’t be shocked, will you? When I blow, I blow very wet.”

I wasn’t sure which of my caresses was getting to her, so I continued with all three. My left hand flickered faster. Two fingers of my right folded up into slick softness while a third found the head of her clit, and rubbed over it. My tongue traced an inch lower, to her tailbone – her coccyx.

She said, “Harder.”

She hadn’t been specific, so I plucked at her nipple, pinching its tip, substituted my thumb for the fingers that were inside her pussy so that I could use them to manipulate her clit, and rubbed the flat of my tongue in tight circles.

In a totally calm voice, she said, “I’m going to blow now. Don’t worry. I can do it again, and again, for a long time.”

She juddered on my palm, and hot-flooded into it. She’d been right. She did “blow wet”. She soaked me to the wrist. Her spending smelled like fresh-baked bread.

“Now like this.” Her two hands took my one and slapped it up against the soft saturated lips of her sex. “Do it hard,” she said. “I’ll keep blowing.”

It made splashy sounds. I bit into her left buttock, forgetting how sore it had to be, and kept slapping up at her until she groaned and toppled forwards onto her hands and knees.

She rolled onto her back, looked at me from under hooded lids, and said, “I blew three times. Now it’s your turn.”

“I can wait a while.”

“No – I’m on the boil. Keep me boiling. I’m hot for you, Paul. Hot, hot, hot.”

I stood and tossed my jacket aside.

“No time for that,” she said. “Get it out and get it in me. Is it big? Is it a nice big one?”

How do you answer that? I didn’t try. I didn’t have to. She was up on her feet, the dishes pushed aside, and bent over the table, legs spread. That was something I knew how to respond to. Her squishy-wet pussy was poking back at me between her thighs. Its lips were spread, stuck by their own juice. I unzipped, pulled myself out, and entered her.

I didn’t have to do much more. She went crazy from her hips down, rotating, bucking, flicking her bum from side to side, jerking back at me as if it was a battle. I just held on, pressing against her hard enough not to be twisted out.

I’m not usually quick, but I was then. My cock was like a water pistol with a blocked muzzle. Her gyrations pumped the trigger until the blockage had to burst, and then I gushed and gushed until my come was squirting back at me between her sex’s lips and my shaft.

I took a step back, plopping out. “I’m sorry…”

“It’s always quick the first time, isn’t it? With someone new? Have some more wine. I’ll be right back.”

I made myself decent and sprawled in her recliner armchair. When she came back the tightly curled hairs of her pubes were glistening but the rest of her was dry. I assumed she’d used a douche or something.

She asked me, “How do you feel about oral sex?”

“I’m for it. Did you want me to… While I recover my strength?”

“No. Sit up.”

She undressed me. All I had to do was lift up at the right times. It was sexy, being taken care of by a naked woman. My cock thickened along my thigh, but it didn’t lift. It was too soon after a really spectacular orgasm.

She knelt, took me in a cool palm, and addressed the head of my cock. “We’ll soon have you up again,” she told it.

“Give it a few more minutes,” I said.

Cyn glared at me. “When I say you’ll have an erection,” she spat, “you’ll have an erection. I’ll be gentle this time.”

It sounded like a threat.

Cyn squatted, naked, between my bare feet. The light was behind her. Her delta was black shadow. I had a silhouette to look at – a long shallow curve under one thigh, an outline like the cleft blunt end of an egg, bulging down, and then the swoop of another long curve. The cleft wasn’t regular. One side had a slightly out-turned lip. There was a spiked fuzziness on the other side of the egg-shape, as if water had matted her pubic hair.

I’d been inside that fleshy egg. My cock had split it, and beyond, deep beyond, past the hot mushiness into the throttling slick channel.

The thought brought a pulse.

Cyn lifted the base of the recliner, tilting me back and lifting my feet to the level of her breasts. She took hold of my right foot and her left breast. Her nipple dragged up over the sole of my foot, from the hardness of my heel to beneath where my toes curled over. It’s sensitive in there, at the bases of your toes. I could feel the tantalizing spike there as well as with my fingertips. She folded my toes down with her palm, gripping her nipple with my toes, and writhed, prodding rigid flesh between my big toe and the next one.

“You’re growing,” she said. She was right. My cock was thickening and lifting.

Cyn plucked her nipple from my toes. Her head bent, mouth wide. She engulfed three toes, wet and hot. Her tongue squirmed over, and between, and under. She put her nipple back and flickered it from side to side, frotting its tip on my soaking toes.

My cock lifted higher.

“Keep perfectly still!” Cyn ordered.

She stood and bridged me, her arms straight and her hands on the chair’s arms. My fingers wanted me to reach out to her dangling breasts but she’d said I had to keep still. I didn’t want to spoil whatever she had planned.

My cock was straight up by then, not fully erect, but close.

Her arms bent, lowering her face towards my cock. Cyn’s mouth stretched. She paused, my naked glans an inch from her gaping lips, pointed directly into her mouth.

She swooped. My cock passed between her lips, past her teeth, over her tongue, all without touching, and butted the back of her throat. With her mouth still open too wide to make contact, she made a deep gargling sound, and pushed.

Little bubbles from her throat burst against the glossy-tight skin of my glans. There was vibration, vibration so intimate that it seemed my cock’s head had to be pressed against her larynx.

She nodded, once, twice, three times, and then withdrew slowly, closing her mouth on me as she dragged it off my stem. By the time my cock flipped out from between her lips it was hard enough to burst.

Cyn scrambled up the chair. Brief slithers of fevered skin electrified me as she climbed over me. Her knees bracketed my waist. She reached down between us, took my cock in one hand and her pussy in her other, and slammed her hips down.

I froze, letting her impale herself. She looked down at me, wild, almost hating. “Don’t move! Don’t you dare move! I’m going to have a big one. I can feel it building. Keep still!”

Her hips juddered. She glared into my eyes. Her lips twisted. Her face contorted. Her sex was slapping at me, mashing down. She wasn’t focused on the feel of my cock inside her, just on rubbing her clit’s head against my pubic bone. She wasn’t making love to me. She was using me to masturbate with.

There was froth on her lips. Her eyes were insane. She reared up, made two tiny fists, and punched down. I flinched, but she didn’t hit me. She pounded the chair’s back to either side of my head.

“Drag me down harder. Pull down on my shoulders!”

I got a grip and pressed down through her entire body, to where we were united. She bore down with all of her might, trying to squirm her way through me, not riding my cock, just frictioning her squishy pubes and stiff clit, grinding and grinding.

Cyn screamed and toppled sideways, over the chair’s arm, to plop to the floor, sprawling, limp, lifeless.

I hadn’t come. It’d been an incredible experience. I’d never known a woman so totally consumed by her passion, but I hadn’t come. She looked to be absolutely sated, but I hadn’t come and my cock was nagging at me. I gave myself a stroke.

Cyn sat up. “Don’t you dare! That’s mine.”

“I thought…”

“I told you I was multi-orgasmic. Be patient, damn you!”

She crawled around in front of the chair again, put both hands flat on the foot-piece, and pushed it down. I was lifted up. She leaned over my thighs, dragging the points of her nipples over their hairiness and took me into her mouth again. Her two hands lifted the edge, pulling me back, drawing me almost out of her mouth and then pushed down, driving me back into the steamy soft cavern. Up and down. In and out. I just lay there, letting her rock me towards…

My cock’s head exploded inside her mouth. She sucked and sucked until I was dry.

“I didn’t spill a single drop,” she said.

“No – you didn’t.”

“I never will. If I do, you must punish me.”

That was the first time she’d mentioned my punishing her. I didn’t take much notice. It was just a figure of speech, wasn’t it?

It was down before she let me rest. That was okay. It was Saturday morning. I could sleep in.

I woke at noon to the smell of bacon and eggs. After breakfast she suggested I might like to go get some wine and vodka because we’d drunk the last of her booze. When I got back she was madeup and wearing that jersey sweater and nothing else but a pair of metallic black stay-up hose.

I’d been contemplating maybe another session that evening, not at two in the afternoon, but my cock took one look at that tiny triangle of curls, black on white and framed by black jersey above and black nylon below, and made my decision for me. I took her in my arms for a long kiss with my hands checking out how well the weals on her bottom were healing.

They were doing well, but still tender. Whenever my fingertip grazed a ridge she shivered and gasped into my mouth. Her pubes bumped at me as well, which didn’t discourage me.

“I wasn’t nice to you, when you were on the recliner,” she said. “I plan to make that up to you.”

“You were fine – more than fine – fantastic,” I said.

“No – I forgot your pleasure. I feel guilty. Let me do it right, please?”

It’d been a while since a woman had asked me to let her screw me, “please”. I let her undress me and sit me back on the chair. She poured two half-tumblers of straight vodka over ice, set them on a side table, and climbed up astride me.

“I’m not ready,” I apologised.

“You will be.”

She did that shared-drink thing again, with vodka. That, and the heat that was radiating down from her pussy onto my cock, started to take effect. She chewed at my bottom lip for a while, tickle-touching my ribs and chest, brushing her fingertips across my nipples, and then she swooped down and bit one, quite hard.

“Ouch!”

She grinned at me. “Did that hurt?”

I rubbed my chest. “Some.”

She tugged her sweater up into a roll above her breasts and said, “So – take your revenge.”

I nipped.

“I bit you harder than that.”

“Harder.”

I clamped my teeth as hard as I could short of drawing blood. Cyn sucked air, arched at me, and clawed one hand down my chest.

I jerked back. She’d drawn blood. There were four parallel furrows with little curls of skin at the ends.

Cyn said, “Kiss better.”

Her tongue-tip traced them, one at a time. When all four had been tingled she sat back and said, “And antiseptic.” She poured icy vodka over my chest. It stung the scratches but then she put her tongue to work again, lapping and sucking it out of my wounds.

“More?”

I nodded.

“Watch closely. Don’t be chicken.”

I watched. She rested the heel of her hand on my sternum. Her fingers curled. Four nail-points prickled. I stared down as they made tiny dents.

“Say when.”

The tension was unbearable, so I said, “When.”

I reared from the searing, but it was good. Her nails had cut deeper this time, but that just left wider wounds to be tongue-lapped and vodka-stung. She was still licking at me when her hand groped to wrap around my shaft and she lowered herself onto it and I sunk right up into her sponginess.

Then she went berserk. By the time I came my face was soaked with the sweat she’d flicked with her flailing hair and my shoulders were sore from the gouges, but it was worth the pain. It was worth every delirious moment of it.

Then we had to have a shower together. I was sure I wasn’t up to any more but she turned away from me and had me soap her long back and her round bottom and all the time she was reaching behind and slithering her soapy palm up and down on my cock, rubbing its head over her firm smooth slippery buttock, and I found that I could get another erection, and have another orgasm. I came thick and foamy, dribbling obscenely down the back of her glossy thigh.

When you come on a woman, instead of in her, it’s like you mark her as your territory. It defiles her the way a brand defiles the haunch of a cow, making her more precious because she’s yours.

We called out for fried chicken and she licked my fingers for me and then finger-painted her own breasts with chicken-grease, so it was early in the morning before we slept again.

Sunday was the same, from noon till four in the morning. I was glad to go to my office on Monday.

She phoned at three. “What time do I expect you, and what would you like for supper?”

“Six. Whatever. Should I bring something in?”

“Lamb chops. What are you going to do to me tonight, Paul?”

“Do to you?”

“In bed, on the chair, on the floor?”

“Make long passionate love to you, Cyn.”

“Give me the details. I want to be thinking about it till you get here.”

“I’ll call you back.”

When I’d thought, and I called her, all she said was, “Is that all? You can do better than that, darling. Leave it to me tonight then.”

I came home and found her on the bed, naked except for one stocking. The other was wrapped around her wrists and tied to the bedrail.

She said, “You bastard! You’ve got me in your power now, haven’t you. I’m helpless and you can do anything you like to me.”

I can play games. I sat on the bed beside her and rested my palm on her pubes. Leering, I said, “Do anything I like to this,” and gave her a squeeze.

Her thighs spread wide under my hand. “I bet you plan to oil your hand,” she nodded sideways towards the bottle of baby oil that stood ready open, “and work it right up into me, no matter what I say.”

I took off my jacket and rolled my shirt sleeve up. The oil was cool in my palm. I smoothed it over her pubes and her pussy’s pulpy lips.

“I might scream,” she said. “I might beg you to stop, but you’ll be merciless, won’t you.”

“Merciless,” I agreed. I folded three fingers together and worked them into her.

“I thought you were going to be cruel.”

I straightened my hand into a blade and forced all four fingers and half of my palm between her lips.

“You were going to use your whole hand.”

I added my thumb and wriggled, pushing as hard as I dared. Cyn set her feet flat on the bed and lifted her hips at me.

“Deeper. I can take it.”

Women have babies, don’t they? And don’t necessarily split? I pushed harder, against slippery convoluted resistance. My hand sank in, deeper, to the heel of my palm. She was incredibly strong in there. Her vaginal muscles clamped. I struggled against the pressure. I pushed. Her constriction folded my hand into a fist. It was like my hand was in a hot wet rubber sack that was shrinking, slowly crushing my fingers.

“I have to take it out,” I told her. “I’m getting a cramp.”

“No! Revolve it first. Twist your fist in me.”

I turned it left and then right and then started to withdraw, slowly, gingerly, unfolding my fingers as soon as I was able, and finally I was free.

“I’ll be loose for about an hour,” she said. “Better turn me over.”

It took me a moment to understand, but then I did, and flipped her, and shucked my clothes. She was kneeling rump-up, ready. I oiled my cock and poured more oil over her sphincter. Two thumbs pressed her open. I got my cock’s head in place and then pushed down on it with the ball of one thumb. It slowly sank into her, and disappeared.

“Am I tight, back there?” she asked.

“Damned tight. Wonderfully tight.”

“Cocks like ‘tight’, don’t they?”

“Yes.”

“You know how I’d be tighter?”

“How?”

“If there were two of you, one buggering me while the other one screwed me.”

I stopped in mid-thrust. “I’m not into that – sharing.”

She twisted her hips, plucking herself off me. “How dare you! I’m a one-man woman. You should know that. I was just thinking of something special to make you happy. Now you’ve spoiled it.”

I apologized, but it was no good. She didn’t speak to me for the rest of the night. I felt bad, but at least I got some sleep.

We made up the next morning. I moved in on the weekend. On the Monday I found she’d thrown out my robe and bought me a new one. I understood. Women always do that when a man moves in. They think they can smell the previous woman on it.

“It was a horrible disgusting thing. I don’t know how you could have worn it.”

That wasn’t necessary. Perhaps my anger at her rudeness showed, because she instantly begged my forgiveness and suggested I might feel better if I punished her.

In the brief interludes between sex, she sometimes talked about her past. She’d been raped by a friend of the family when she was thirteen. She’d been raped again when she was twenty and working as a model. A guy she’d lived with, Bill something, had brought three friends home once and gang-banged her.

If I’d kept track right, she’d been raped on a total of seven different occasions and abused in other ways by every man she’d ever known.

We watched tv once in a while. I counted five celebrities that she told me she’d either had affairs with or fought off, including two women.

I found out what she’d been getting at when she’d suggested she’d be tighter if there were two men. She liked it if there was a vibrator deep her rectum when I took her vaginally, and in her pussy when I buggered her. When I couldn’t get it up, two vibrators were fine. It was best for her if I tied her up before going to work with the twin dildos, then “she couldn’t stop me, no matter what I did to her”.

Once she told me, “I wouldn’t need this if you were as big as Jeff was.”

Later she apologized again – and suggested I punish her again. That time I did. She complained that I didn’t spank like I meant it and my hand was too soft. Mr Fox had done a lot of woodwork so his palms were hard. When he spanked a woman she knew she’d been spanked by a real man.

One night when I was seeing to her pleasure she made a pencil mark on a pad. When I asked why, she told me I’d given her eleven orgasms so far that night and she wanted to keep score. I really worked that night. By morning the score-pad read “twenty-seven”. I remarked, hopefully, that it had to be some kind of record. “Not by a long way. Bill got me up to fifty, once.”

We didn’t go out much. When we did, she flirted with the waiter or someone at the next table and we ended up fighting.

I took her swimming in the pool in her building. That was fun until a couple of young guys came in. Somehow or another she lost the top of her bikini and that made her squeal loud enough to turn the lads’ heads. I left her chatting to them, clutching her bra-top to her breasts.

When she finally came up she woke me to tell me I’d misunderstood her natural friendliness.

“I suppose you expect another spanking,” I said.

“With your soft hands? Anyway, you aren’t man enough, you hear me? You’re a wimp, Paul, with a puny little cock. Those boys down in the pool, though, they were real men. You should have seen the size of the erections they got from looking at me.”

I grabbed her and got her over my lap but even mad as I was I had to take care not to break her arms so she managed to wriggle off me. I pushed her down flat on the bed. The cords were there, tied to the four corners, ready for “play”. I used them.

I slapped her bum four times, almost hard.

She said, “Wimp.”

I grabbed my belt off the chair, lifted it high… and tossed it aside.

She twisted her face towards me as I pulled my underpants up. “What are you doing?”

“I’m going. This is where I came in.”

TRUCK STOP RAINBOWS by Iva Pekarkova

Translated by David Powelstock

I LAY NEXT to the road – and only the sensations I desired had permission to approach me. But a hostile, disturbing sound invaded my pleasant and harmonious space, and began to come nearer along the highway feeder road. At first it sounded like the buzzing of a bumblebee somewhere in the distance, but then this bumblebee began growing and getting closer, until its buzz became the unmistakable sound of a motor.

The sound did not go whizzing by me – the car stopped, and I lazily prepared to open at least one eye: it was probably some kindhearted guy who wanted to give me a ride and would ask me envious questions about my vacation; I’d have to explain that I was sunbathing at the moment and wasn’t interested.

I raised an eyelid.

Two cops stood next to the ditch. Each one had the sun in his hair and one flat shoe half imbedded in the clay; they looked at me with a suspicious expression that struck me as kind of cute. I smiled, at both of them.

(The main thing is not to resist. Don’t be insolent, just pretend you’re an adorable, ditzy, idiot, Fialinka…) One of them said, “What are you doing here? Where are you from? Were you headed somewhere for vacation? Alone? Let’s have a look at your Citizen’s Identification Booklet; yes, a routine check…”

He said it diffidently, abstractly – it really was kind of cute the way the practiced, subtly threatening tone that saturated the voice of every law officer was shrouded by his charming Brno accent… Let’s have look – he said it as if there were syllables in L written at least a fourth part higher on the scale: Let’s have a look… Oh, Brno.

(Be careful, Fialinka, blush; most important, don’t be a wise-ass, for God’s sake, don’t be a wise ass.)

“Comrades” – but just slipped out – “I just adore the way you Brnians talk. Say something else for me. Let’s have a a look at my ID… Let’s have a look... It’s so refreshing, comrades, I just can’t get over that Brno accent, I just can’t… Let’s a have a 1 – ”

They released me from the police station in the center of town about three hours later. It was recommended that I head straight home and not even think of hitchhiking on the highway – the comrades would be keeping an eye on me. I was told that my behavior was extremely suspicious and that the comrades in Prague would be checking up on my studies. So I shouldn’t be surprised when they called… Do you understand, comrade student?

I took the tram (without buying a ticket, of course) that ran most directly out to the Southern Road. A tight-lipped, severe, not very pretty smile of determination was ripening on my lips. A sneer.

My mind was made up. I was on my way to look for that wheelchair for Patrik.

The sun had been at its zenith a long time already when my tram finally jolted up to the end of the line. I worked my way over to the prohibited highway through the honeycombed mire of dried and cracked puddles. I ran down from the overgrown embankment and took a look around. No cops in sight. And as soon as the promisingly Western silhouette of an Intertruck appeared on the horizon, I thrust out my chest and stuck out my arm. Not the usual supplicant gesture of humble, honorable hitchhikers everywhere, I stretched it out seductively and imperiously, like a girl who had the price of admission.

The rig began to slow down almost immediately, and the screech of brakes in that cloud of swirling dust on the shoulder added to my self-confidence. I didn’t sprint the few meters to the cab as usual. I picked my pack up out of the ditch deliberately and approached with the slow step of a queen of the highway. I caught sight of a face reflected in the side mirror. The driver backed up right to my feet, jumped out, and ran around to open the door for me.

And since I’d noticed a little D next to the truck’s license plate, I cleared my throat and said: “Fahrst du nach Pressburg?

I didn’t add bitte or anything like that – I chose the informal du over Sie without even being at all sure how old he was.

It made no difference anyway.

He smiled (pleased I spoke German), nodded, and, when I added a regal danke after he lifted my pack up into the cab, he observed cheerfully, “Aber du sprichst Deutsch sehr gut!

And that was the beginning of the long period, maybe too long, when I decided to become what almost every cop already assumed I was.

I had decided to get Patrik that wheelchair.

After twenty kilometers of small talk I was pleasantly surprised at my long-untested German. I smoked Marlboros (somehow convinced that without a cigarette clasped between my delicately outstretched fingers – even though they were still smeared with dirt – the impression wouldn’t be complete) and, with a few successfully composed complex sentences, brought the conversation around to the difficulty of life in a socialist state. Kurt (we’d long ago exchanged names) steered with the barest touch of his left hand and, with his face turned toward me, nodded attentively. He was taking the bait. I don’t know if he was listening, probably not, but he still kept saying how much he admired my German: God knows how few of these highway girls knew anything more than bunsen, the German word for fuck. He doesn’t look unsympathetic, and I could do worse for my first time, I thought to myself. I babbled on cheerfully – and contemplated what would probably happen. This was not like an adventure that comes to you. This was not the work of my old friend Serendipity. I still wasn’t used to my role – and I knew that I was going to have to take matters into my own hands.

Kurt asked, “Are you hungry? Do you want to eat with me? Willst du essen?”

“Sure,” I said. “Warum nicht? Ich will fressen,” I added, replacing the verb “to eat” with the verb “to feed” (like an animal).

Kurt burst out laughing and leaned over to clap me on the shoulder. His hand slipped down by my breast.

Aber du sprichst Deutsch sehr sehr gut. Wo hast du alles gelernt?

“Right here,” I lied, and pointed over my shoulder to the well-appointed little Intertruck sleeper. “Hier… hier habe ich alles gelernt.

Kurt was already sitting almost next to me on the seat and weighing my tits on his palm. “Du bist so fantastisch! Ist das möglich?

Everything is möglich, I thought for a second, everything is possible, you horny, half-assed imperialist bastard. But right now you’re going to have to wait, old boy, because first we’re going to discuss the terms.

I rolled that word “terms” around on my tongue and suddenly felt myself endowed with a power and strength I’d never known before. I was a girl who had the price of admission.

At a rest area Kurt got out and went around to the food pantry he had on the side of his cab. He returned with bread, a hunk of cheese, and a big salami such as I’d never seen in my life: like Hungarian salamis, only more tender… and the smell, God, how good it smelled! My stomach started rumbling.

Then Kurt showed me how to lift my seat and haul out from under it a huge storage chest of drinks in cans; I almost went blind gazing at all the different brands and types of juices, colas, beers, and soft drinks. I reached for one completely at random and opened it, careful not to aim it at myself. When it popped and a couple of drops sprinkled on the floor, Kurt gave me a congratulatory smile, almost like the one you give a good doggy when he offers you his paw. Oh God, how gifted I am! I can even open a soda can!

“I’d like to take you somewhere for lunch,” he said apologetically, “but I don’t know of any decent restaurant around here. And besides… in Czechoslovakia, actually anywhere in your Eastern Europe… well, I really don’t like to eat at any of the places, I like to bring everything with me… Otherwise, I get sick, and I can’t afford that, you see?”

He said it as if apologizing, but at the same time it didn’t occur to him that he was speaking with someone who practically never saw anything but the local food… It never made me sick, I was used to it… It suddenly hit me that he saw Czechoslovakia as something like a pigsty – even though I, poor little piglet, was cute enough, he wasn’t about to stick his snout into the slop that sustained me from day to day. It could make him sick.

The Southern Road, by the way, unlike the Northern Road, was definitely not lined with homey, warm and smoky, cozily bespattered taverns. On the Northern Road you could have a plate of gristly goulash for a fiver or soup for two crowns – and that’s what we ate up there. The Southern Road, on the other hand, was lined with a bunch of so-called first-class restaurants, where trying to eat for less than fifty crowns was considered to be in bad taste, and the waiters, all spoiled by hard-currency tips, would give the cold shoulder from on high to any piddling Czech who happened to stray in there. In short, the places on the Southern Road were specially designed for the filthy-rich drivers of Western semis.

Kurt unwrapped the enticing yellowish-brown loaf of imperialist bread and a packet of margarine. He sliced the salami and cheese on a paper tablecloth stretched out across the space between us – and meanwhile I spread margarine on some slices of bread. Perfect teamwork… I didn’t hesitate for a second that day: I was hungry – And good manners? Ha! Why pretend, girl? After all, is this guy really worth being proper? Is anybody really worth all those contrived social lies?

I started stuffing myself with salami and cheese. I was dimly aware that this was the best salami and cheese I’d tasted in my life – and the bread with margarine was substantially better than if it had been smeared with socialist “Fresh Butter of the Highest Sort”. I was pigging out without mercy, and Kurt, taking only an occasional bite, looked at me agreeably and hospitably, as if he were feeding his favorite dog. He injected, “Gut?

I nodded with my mouth full and bit off another piece of bread. I suddenly found myself in the middle of a dream. Or – if I had any inclination toward acting – I would say I found myself in the middle of a theater piece. I’d plunged headlong into one of the leading roles, without a clue as to how the whole drama (or was it a comedy?) began or ended. I hadn’t learned my lines, I wasn’t thinking in advance about what to say the next second, and there was no time to recall what I’d said a minute ago. I was standing in the middle of an unfamiliar stage – and yet it was as if sometime long ago I’d played this role a hundred times before. I didn’t know what I was supposed to say, what would happen or what the male lead would say to me. But a prompter (not the one who poked her head out occasionally from a booth below the stage, but one that was fixed somewhere in my head and was speaking to me directly), an unfamiliar prompter always assigned me just the right line or gesture at just the right moment to fit my part. I could see everything from the inside and the outside at the same time, evaluating my dramatic performances as I went and finding it satisfactory. As for the rest, the director and the audience were irrelevant. The main thing was that I was completely satisfied with my role, that I was comfortable in it; it seemed to me that it had been tailored especially for my body, that the author of the play had written it for me and nobody else but me, for this second Fialinka, for a worse and more cynical I. I knew that I would never have wanted this to be my everyday existence – but I had always known that such a person lived somewhere within me, and it was intoxicating to be able to act out my second I…

Who am I now and who had I really been before? I had always been playing a part, I, the notorious seeker of truth. I had lied. I had deceived with my body… Was I deceiving any more than I had before? I adapted to Kurt, my fellow player, I made myself the way he wanted me to be: supple, just the slightest bit unlike the others, not stupid, but not overly clever either, with a superficial, suggestive wit… a promising girl, who’s easy to get to know.

I stuffed myself with bread and margarine, greedily sucked at my fingers, still stained with Brno clay (my entire back and the back of my pants were caked with clay, but that made no difference at all at the time) – and the precise, perfect prompter in my head kept telling me what to do next. The prompter determined what I was to say, how to act, what faces to make, how to move my hands, my body. She decided what I was to think about. How I was to think.

(You’re a shitty actress, Fial, Patrik used to say to me. You don’t know how to transform yourself, and if someone ticks you off, you insult him right to his face. If only you could just pretend a little for the pigs. Just the tiniest bit…)

And now I could feel within myself dozens, hundreds, maybe thousands of potentially possible lives, from which I’d chosen just one at some point long ago (and God only knows if it had even been I who’d chosen it). It was embarrassing: at some point I had developed into a compete personality, fully balanced according to all the psychiatric norms. But those ten thousand voices were arguing, fighting, and voicing their opinions inside my skull, and it was making my head spin. And those hundreds of complete, plausible, legitimate lives – each of which wanted to be lived – were locked in a battle for their rights. I was feeding on West German bread and perfect, moist salami, more delicately seasoned than any I’d ever tasted – and I allowed one of those other lives to grow and dominate. I gave it permission to be lived.

No, this was no longer just a prompter. A little sadly, I closed my eyes (from the outside it looked like a blissful fluttering of the eyelids from tasting the salami) and plunged headfirst into metamorphosis.

After a good lunch, one needs a rest, observed Kurt. He drew the curtains closed, and the atmosphere in the cab, heated by the summer sun, suddenly became erotically sultry. The curtains were red and turned my little German’s cheeks pink. The remains of lunch had long been carefully cleared away. After rolling them up in the paper tablecloth, this great lover of order had chucked the whole mess out the window and instructed me to do the same with the juice and beer cans. (A guy who had until then been sitting idly nearby in his little Skoda MB had immediately shot out to scoop up this rare prize.) A few last crumbs that had slipped out of the paper were now itching me under my back as this person pulled me over next to him and started sounding the depths with his hot, impatient hands. Actually, he wasn’t doing much sounding. He was quite sure of himself.

I let him fondle my breasts a little – just through my T-shirt – and then I pulled away and got right to the point: “Ich tranche Geld.

(This time the prompter in my head seemed to have made a small mistake – even though Kurt had probably heard those words a million times, my tone didn’t quite fit the image of the average highway hooker. I said it too significantly with too much urgency: I was going to have to make a lot of money – as much as possible in hard currency – in order to get Patrik that wheelchair.)

Kurt was a little taken aback. Just the tiniest bit. Then he reached into the glove compartment. He opened it a crack, just enough to stick his hand in (I wasn’t supposed to see everything he had in there, I realized), and groped around. He pulled out a large bottle of shampoo. “Willst du das? Willst du?” He turned the fine container around in his hands, like a shopkeeper displaying his merchandise. Look, little girl, how shiny! Now, how ‘bout a feel of those titties? The shampoo really did glimmer beautifully; it was tempting stuff: even from where I was sitting I could smell its sweet apple scent. “You have such beautiful, wonderful hair, Via… This will be a little something just for you… Just a sort of small gift. Out of friendship. Would you like it?”

I shook my head – and I suddenly felt pretty awkward. I couldn’t explain my desire to him at all, why I needed cash. There was no time to go through the whole story about Patrik. He wouldn’t have listened – and if he had, he still wouldn’t have believed it. Any long-distance trucker could tell you that every single Czechoslovakian girl had, as a rule, all kinds of relatives and at least two dozen best friends, all on their deathbeds with terminal diseases.

I didn’t feel like going into that whole story. He simply wasn’t worth it.

(Oh yes, if we had met under different circumstances, I would have run up to your truck… refused your cigarettes… I would have used the formal Sie with you, at least at the beginning… and we might even have talked for real. Actually communicated. But I had already decided that my words were not going to communicate anything; I would use them only to weave a web, in which I had to catch at least a few West German marks. Perhaps we could even have gotten along, Kurt, you don’t look stupid. But you have been chosen, selected for this beginning, and you can’t change a thing about it now. Neither of us can. It’s impossible.)

Ich Brauche Geld,” I said. With shocking offhandedness (shocking to me), I pulled a Marlboro out of his pack – and without making even the slightest move to light it for myself, I waited for him to lean toward me with the lighter flame.

“Do you understand?” I said through the cloud of smoke. “I don’t need your damn shampoo. If you want it… if you really want it… then I need cash.”

With no less shocking offhandedness, I undid the button of my jeans and the fly unzipped by itself. (The majority of zippers of Czechoslovakian manufacture immediately leaped at such opportunities to unzip themselves – Patrik always claimed that this was one of the methods by which Czechoslovakian manufacturing enterprises contributed to the campaign to encourage population growth.) I undid the jeans sort of casually. They peeled away from my hips a little.

Wieviel?” he whispered. He was getting to the point.

(It occurred to me later that this must have been monotonous for him, to say the same words to various girls. Veefeel? -this much some of them must have understood. Veefeel? Veefeel?)

He didn’t look as if he wanted to pay very much, even though at the moment, by all appearances, he was longing to make love to me. Christ, why put it so delicately – I mean, he wanted to fuck, it was clear from certain physical signs. Impressively obvious physical signs, I couldn’t help thinking, and the not-for-profit part of my physical instinct had already begun looking forward to it, more or less. The commercial part asked, “How much can you give me?” and it repeated, “I really need cash, get it, I need cash.”

This was a sport, a game, I was gradually realizing. Kurt was definitely not poor, and even though he probably picked up some girl on every trip he made through Czechoslovakia and had to pay for it, I was sure he could afford to hand me a couple of hundred marks. It was a sport: pick up as many girls as possible in the East and then outdo all the other drivers bragging about who nailed what girl for how little. Supposedly, the consensus among Western Intertruckers was that “Czech whores are good whores, the cheapest whores on earth” – and except for a few insignificant cases, the truckers tried not to spoil them… it was a sport. I remember this one Dutchman, a pretty nice guy, who once gave me a lift on the same route I was riding that day, but under different circumstances: he gave Fialinka Number One a lift, while today a newborn second Fialinka rode that highway. He told me how he and his friend once made a bet on who could score a Czech highway girl for the lowest price. I had one for five marks, the Dutchman said modestly. I couldn’t get breakfast for that in the Netherlands. But my friend, he outdid me. He bargained this one girl down to one mark, one mark, can you imagine, howled the Dutchman, and she wasn’t all that bad. True, she gave him the clap…

I’d always laughed at those prices, determined more by location and nationality than by the quality and appearance of the girl. And sometimes I was ashamed for my countrymen – still, it’d simply never occurred to me just how damn personally those highway prices could affect me. “Verstehst du mich?” I repeated. “Ich tranche Geld.

And poor, dear Kurt (in different circumstances I certainly could have gotten along with him and, God knows, maybe even have made love to him on an entirely different philosophical basis), this Kurt stared at the strip of tummy below my T-shirt, sighed, and said, “Funfzig Marks? Ist das okay?

I thought it over, then nodded.

The red curtains were made for lovemaking (that is, if this particular act didn’t call for a change of terminology); the conditions were almost brothel-like. The sun, already substantially lower in the sky, shone straight into the cabin and illuminated it perfectly. Redly. Shamefully. Maybe red actually is the only color for this, I said to myself, and I noticed the shadow of the fabric pattern on that other face; maybe only red light will do, because suddenly there was not a trace of shame in that cab.

I’d never done anything like that in the cab of a truck during the day before; not that I needed darkness for such acts, quite the contrary; but that clear summer day outside somehow didn’t seem right. Actually, I just didn’t feel like it – even the other one, the buyer, didn’t show any special enthusiasm. Any real desire. He was simply buying himself a whore and he’d just closed the deal with her…

He quickly kissed me: tongue thrashing in my mouth, a kiss supposedly passionate but in reality commercial and lukewarm. I guess he figured it was his duty.

He hurriedly checked the swaying folds of the curtains, to make sure no prying eye could look in. “Gut,” he said, satisfied.

Then he pulled down his shorts.

The prompter in my head, that precise, intrusive internal voice, never let go of my hand. I knew exactly what to do, even though I’d never slept with anyone under these circumstances before: it had always started with my consciousness becoming pleasantly, mistily bedewed by someone I liked, so that the pleasurable feelings were always clear and unambiguous. But today I didn’t even know whether I liked Kurt or not – and it made no difference at all. I had always wanted to be warmly intoxicated with perfectly mellowed (though perhaps only transient) desire; I would let myself dissolve into pleasant reverie – and the truckers who caught on were then allowed to come after me. Come into me. Pay a tender, longed-for, intimate visit. Always for a limited time.

But now – now I saw everything with perfect and loathsome sobriety. Without ardor. Without desire. I examined the shameful lighting in our little cab without shame: everything had perfectly clear, absolutely sharp outlines; gone was that undulating, dewy translucence I needed so badly during my Nights of Distances, my Nights of Instants. I was stone sober and wide awake: I was an actor on the stage of my own private theater, and the role was translated by my lips and movements with perfect precision. It became the way I could seductively (like a typical easy woman) slip out of even that clay-caked T-shirt. It became the bowing of the head I used to inconspicuously avoid direct eye contact; the precise and realistic movements of body, hands, lips. I knew exactly what to do, although I had never behaved this way before. And he didn’t get it. How could he have guessed I had a prompter directing me from inside my defenseless-looking head? He surrendered himself to my hands and lips without the least sign of surprise. I did exactly what he anticipated. I did exactly what he expected and wanted, and if anything especially turned him on, it was that he didn’t have to ask for anything. He was not so experienced that I couldn’t surprise him. I was functioning. I didn’t try to assess him, to figure out whether I liked him at all. I paid attention only to myself – concertedly, critically. I did everything I could think of doing – and although I’d never studied what was most pleasing to (average) men, my intuition helped me. I kissed him deeply, a kiss no less clinging than the one he had given me before – and I let him sigh blissfully. Or semi-blissfully. It was an experienced and wet kiss, well calculated – but still just a sort of half-kiss. Everything was halves and semis… Our semi-rapport. Our semi-commercial exchange. The half-light. Semi-desire. And we were half-human. We were marionettes, waving our hands, moving, living according to the puppet master’s nimble fingers… And when that large, actually very large, and hard piece of flesh (Fleisch, it occurred to me, Fleisch) plunged into me, I realized that even this time I would feel pleasure. Semi-pleasure. I was making my acting debut on the stage of the Southern Road – and the sun had shifted slightly in the sky, so that the shameful lighting colored my rival’s face. (Yes, he was my rival, though not my enemy.) Perhaps all my old sins and loves returned to me and aroused me as I conscientiously, attentively (and no doubt artfully), rode him like a hobbyhorse, rocking and plunging. Men like it when they don’t have to exert themselves too much, reasoned the prompter in my head. And I was willing to provide good service for good money. I rocked and plunged, more vigorously and deeper, to the point where it hurt – and through the filter of perfectly sober thought I felt my eyes becoming moist and saw the same voluptuous moisture in my rival’s eyes and my thighs quivering with the first tendrils of pleasure that were beginning to spread from my crotch, after all… After all…? No, there was no after all about it, this was the approach of a powerful, compact, nearly painful orgasm, its potent, absolutely unfeigned spasms gripping my rival like a velvet vice. I bit his shoulder and neck to stifle the moans and the scream that struggled to leave my throat. We weren’t the only ones parked at that rest area. I gripped him again and again in the velvet vise and looked with my misty but perfectly sober eyes directly into his; I observed how his face twisted, how he cried out and groaned and pulled me toward him, his nails digging into my buttocks, one hand on each, spreading them. He pulled me toward him and his face twisted with the animal grimace of genuine ecstasy: the quivering spread to my thighs and groin and down my legs… I knew the convulsion would come soon – and it would be a painful one – but payment had been made. I held on, and when I felt the hot liquid streaming into me like a firehose into a burning house, I calmly realized how perfectly my prompter had everything planned: these were my safest days of the month… Soon the convulsions stopped in my thighs, replaced only by a trembling exhaustion, and my rival, or sexual partner, was still quivering too. He was overcome. And lying next to him afterward, tired, trembling, my prompter did not forget to speak up and show me precisely how to place my hand on his heaving shaggy chest so that it would seem intimate without applying too much pressure – though, of course, this meant nothing at all. I was still trying to catch my breath in the sultry atmosphere of the shamefully lit cab. That was good, solid lovemaking, it occurred to me.

A good fuck.

ROSES by Evelyn Lau

THE PSYCHIATRIST CAME into my life one month after my eighteenth birthday. He came into my life wearing a silk tie, his dark eyes half-obscured by lines and wrinkles. He brought with him a pronounced upper-class accent, a futile sense of humor, books to educate me. Lolita. The Story of O. His lips were thin, but when I took them between my own they plumped out and filled my mouth with sweet foreign tastes.

He worshipped me at first because he could not touch me. And then he worshipped me because he could only touch me if he paid to do so. I understood that without the autumn leaves, the browns of the hundreds and the fiery scarlets of the fifties, the marble pedestal beneath me would begin to erode.

The first two weeks were tender. He said he adored my childlike body, my unpainted face, my long straight hair. He promised to take care of me, love me unconditionally. He would be my father, friend, lover – and if one was ever absent, the other two were large enough on their own to fill up the space that was left behind.

He brought into my doorway the slippery clean smell of rain, and he possessed the necessary implements – samples of pills tiny as seeds, a gold shovel. My body yielded to the scrapings of his hands.

He gave me drugs because, he said, he loved me. He brought the tablets from his office, rattling in plastic bottles stuffed to the brim with cotton. I placed them under my tongue and sucked up their saccharine sweetness, learning that only the strong ones tasted like candy, the rest were chalky or bitter. He loved me beyond morality.

The plants that he brought each time he came to visit – baby’s breath, dieffenbachia, jade – began to die as soon as they crossed the threshold of my home. After twenty-four hours the leaves would crinkle into tight dark snarls stooping towards the soil. They could not be pried open, though I watered his plants, exposed them to sunlight, trimmed them. It was as if by contact with him or with my environment, they had been poisoned. Watching them die, I was reminded of how he told me that when he first came to Canada he worked for two years in one of our worst mental institutions. I walked by the building once at night, creeping as far as I dared up the grassy slopes and between the evergreens. It was a sturdy beige structure, it didn’t look so bad from the outside. In my mind, though, I saw it as something else. In my mind it was a series of black-and-white film stills; a face staring out from behind a barred window. The face belonged to a woman with tangled hair, wearing a nightgown. I covered my ears from her screams. When he told me about this place I imagined him in the film, the woman clawing at him where the corridors were gray, and there was the clanking sound of tin and metal. I used to lie awake as a child on the nights my father visited my bed and imagine scenes in which he was terrorized, in pain, made helpless. This was the same. I could smell the bloodstains the janitors had not yet scrubbed from the floors. I could smell the human discharges and see the hands that groped at him as he walked past each cell, each room. The hands flapped disembodied in the air, white and supplicating and at the same time evil.

He told me that when he was married to his first wife, she had gone shopping one day and he had had to take their baby with him on his hospital rounds, “I didn’t know where to put him when I arrived,” he said. “So I put him in the wastepaper basket.” When he returned the child had upended the basket and crawled out, crying, glaring at his father. “I had no other choice,” he said, and he reached into his trenchcoat and gave me a bottle of pills. “I love you,” he said, “that’s why I’m doing this.”

I believed that only someone with a limitless love would put his baby in a trash can, its face squinched and its mouth pursing open in a squawk of dismay. Only someone like that could leave it swaddled in crumpled scraps of paper so he could go and take care of his patients. I could not imagine the breadth of the love that lay behind his eyes, those eyes that became as clear as glass at the moment of orgasm.

He bought a mask yesterday from a Japanese import store. It had tangled human hair that he washed with an anti-dandruff shampoo, carefully brushing it afterwards so the strands would not snap off. It had no pupils; the corneas were circles of bone. He took it home with him and stared at it for half an hour during a thunderstorm, paralysed with fear. It stared back at him. It was supposed to scare off his rage, he said.

After two weeks his tenderness went the way of his plants – crisp, shriveled, closed. He stopped touching me in bed but grew as gluttonous as dry soil. I started to keep my eyes open when we kissed and to squeeze them shut all the other times, the many times he pulled my hand or my head down between his legs.

He continued to bring me magazines and books, but they were eclipsed by the part of him he expected me to touch. Some days, I found I could not. I thought it was enough that I listened to his stories. I fantasized about being his psychoanalyst and not letting him see my face, having that kind of control over him. I would lay him down on my couch and shine light into his eyes while I remained in shadow where he could not touch me.

His latest gift, a snake plant, looks like a cluster of green knives or spears. The soil is so parched that I keep watering it, but the water runs smartly through the pot without, it seems, having left anything of itself behind. The water runs all over the table and into my hands.

Tonight I did not think I could touch him. I asked him to hit me instead, thinking his slim white body would recoil from the thought. Instead he rubbed himself against my thigh, excited. I told him pain did not arouse me, but it was too late. I pulled the blankets around my naked body and tried to close up inside the way a flower wraps itself in the safety of its petals when night falls.

At first he stretched me across his knees and began to spank me. I wiggled obediently and raised my bottom high into the air, the way my father used to like to see me do. Then he moved up to rain blows upon my back. One of them was so painful that I saw colors even with my eyes open; it showered through my body like fireworks. It was like watching a sunset and feeling a pain in your chest at its wrenching beauty, the kind of pain that makes you gasp.

How loud the slaps grew in the small space of my apartment – like the sound of thunder. I wondered if my face looked, in that moment, like his Japanese mask.

The pain cleansed my mind until it breathed like the streets of a city after a good and bright rain. It washed away the dirt inside me. I could see the gutters open up to swallow the candy wrappers, newspaper pages, cigarette butts borne along on its massive tide. I saw as I had not seen before every bump and indentation on the wall beside my bed.

And then he wanted more and I fought him, dimly surprised that he wasn’t stronger. I saw as though through the eye of a camera this tangle of white thighs and arms and the crook of a shoulder, the slope of a back. I scraped his skin with my fingernails. I felt no conscious fear because I was the girl behind the camera, zooming in for a close-up, a tight shot, an interesting angle. Limbs like marble on the tousled bed. His face contorted with strain. He was breathing heavily, but I, I was not breathing at all. I knew that if I touched his hair my hand would come away wet, not with the pleasant sweat of sexual exertion, but with something different. Something that would smell like a hospital, a hospital with disinfectant to mask the smells underneath.

And when he pushed my face against his thigh, it was oddly comforting, though it was the same thigh that belonged to the body that was reaching out to hit me. I breathed in the soft, soapy smell of his skin as his hand stung my back – the same hand that comforted crying patients, that wrote notes on their therapeutic progress, that had shaken with shyness when it first touched me. The sound of the slaps was amplified in the candlelit room. Nothing had ever sounded so loud, so singular in its purpose. I had never felt so far away from myself, not even with his pills.

I am far away and his thigh is sandy as a beach against my cheek. The sounds melt like gold, like slow Sunday afternoons. I think of cats and the baby grand piano in the foyer of my father’s house. I think of the rain that gushes down the drainpipes outside my father’s bathroom late at night when things begin to happen. I think of the queerly elegant black notes on sheets of piano music. The light is flooding generously through the windows and I am a little girl with a pink ribbon in my hair and a ruffled dress.

I seat myself on the piano bench and begin to play, my fingertips softening to the long ivory, the shorter ebony keys. I look down at my feet and see them bound in pink ballerina slippers, pressing intermittently on the pedals. Always Daddy’s girl, I perform according to his instruction.

When it was over he stroked the fear that bathed my hands in cold sweat. He said that when we fought my face had filled with hatred and a dead coldness. He said that he had cured himself of his obsession with me during the beating, he had stripped me of my mystery. Slapped me human. He said my fear had turned him on. He was thirsty for the sweat that dampened my palms and willing to do anything to elicit more of that moisture so he could lick it and quench his tongue’s thirst.

I understood that when I did not bleed at the first blow, his love turned into hatred. I saw that if I was indeed precious and fragile I would have broken, I would have burst open like a thin shell and discharged the rich sweet stain of roses.

Before he left he pressed his lips to mine. His eyes were open when he said that if I told anyone, he would have no other choice but to kill me.

Now that he is gone, I look between my breasts and see another flower growing: a rash of raspberry dots, like seeds. I wonder if this is how fear discharges itself when we leave our bodies in moments of pain.

The psychiatrist, when he first came, promised me a rose garden and in the mirror tomorrow morning I will see the results for the first time on my own body. I will tend his bouquets before he comes again, his eyes misty with fear and lust. Then I will listen to the liquid notes that are pleasing in the sunlit foyer and smile because somewhere, off in the distance, my father is clapping.

WHITE NIGHT by Françoise Rey

Translated by Maxim Jakubowski

WE’D BEEN DRIVING for some time already. The night was cold and icy. Thin snow was falling. Suddenly, we moved straight into a blizzard. The flakes rushed towards us through the daze of the headlights, waltzing wildly, blinding our sight of the road. You slowed down.

“I’m married,” you suddenly said. This did not offend me, interrupting as it did a lengthy silence I had neither sought nor wanted.

“I know,” I answered. You looked down at your left hand and examined, as if it had never been there before, the ring, smiled as if confronted by undeniable evidence and my admission that I already knew. Which implied some form of idle curiosity on my part at least. Then you looked round at my own hands.

I think I wore five or six rings, but in the semi-darkness you had no time to count them as the road was becoming increasingly treacherous and invisible. You peered up through the wind-screen, changed the wipers’ speed, looked round at me again quizzically. I answered your silent question with a faint laugh and, still smiling, you accepted both my silence, and my wish to say nothing…

It was warm in the lorry’s cab, I was feeling good. Then you said: “My wife is at a ski resort, with the small ones.” I answered: “We’re also in the snow.” You put your hand on my knee and I closed my eyes.

Our meeting had been a bit of a miracle. Because of the time of year… It was the evening of December 24th…

My luggage in hand, I had crossed the road a bit too fast. There were a lot of people, many of them laden with parcels. A bike had shuffled against me, awkwardly squeezing me against the hood of a parked car, against which my case noisily brushed.

You were on the other side of the street, about to climb into your lorry. A big lorry which had probably just delivered oysters to the covered market which stood nearby. The company’s name was painted in large letters on the side of the vehicle, together with its address: “Rue B. Patoiseau – MARENNES.”

You halted in mid-ascent, then climbed down again to come to my rescue. I was a trifle shaken, no more.

“Are you OK?” you asked. “You’re not hurt?”

You picked up my case. You were much taller than me, film star-size. With a cheerful, sly glint in your winter sea green eyes, which reminded me – why not? – of clear, fresh oysters.

“You were leaving on holiday?”

“Yes,” I answered. “I was going to spend Christmas with my family in La Rochelle. But I’m worried that my train might be full and I forgot to make a reservation…”

You looked me straight in the eyes, pondered just half a second, turned toward your lorry.

“Say, I’ve thought of something…”

And there we are…

Just enough time for you to go to some office to complete the paperwork and for me to make a phone call, and we were on our way, on a long, unexpected, delicious Christmas Eve journey.

We had reached a hill. You slowed down, had to change gear, your hand left my knee for a moment, then swiftly returned. “The truth is,” you said to me, “I’m very shy.” And I was so enjoying this strange conversation where words seemed to be possessed of different meanings. The charming way you said “the truth is”, so pregnant with possibilities.

“Really?” Did I doubt you?

“Not usually,” you added.

“But tonight?” I sought confirmation.

“A bit.”

“Because of me?”

“Thanks to you.”

“And does it feel good?”

“It’s delectable!”

I thought that for a lorry driver your vocabulary was quite charming. And I loved the way you thought.

“How funny…” I said.

“Yes, for a lorry driver, eh?” you answered, and smiled once again. I looked back at you and drowned my gaze in your deeply lined brow. I had always known vile seducers had wrinkles just like yours. And I allowed myself to be seduced…

I put my hand on yours. It was warm, strong. Wise. I pulled my skirt up and encouraged your large hand to shed its innocence and explore further.

“You’re really funny!” you said. “You don’t really look like…”

“But I’m not…”

“What, only tonight?”

“Yes.”

“Why?”

“It’s Christmas!”

The disappointment on your face was almost comic.

“I thought it was because of me…”

“Thanks to you!” I corrected you.

And we sealed our complicity with an exchange of meaningful looks and smiles.

“Keep your eyes on the road. Our hands are old enough to look after themselves. Especially yours.”

“It’s not always an advantage to have such large hands,” you said, as your fingers approached the edge of my knickers.

I did not answer but pulled my buttocks up, and pulled off the piece of underwear obstructing you. And wedged myself deep into the seat, opened my thighs and again closed my eyes.

Your hand sported intelligence. At first, it made no demands. Wandered quietly over my fur, knuckles slowly skimming over its surface, a pleasing caress. The hum of the lorry’s engine and the bumps in the road echoed all the way through to my sex, where I could feel a whole network of nerve terminals vibrating in unison. It was like a sort of telephone switchboard in my lower stomach, impatiently awaiting calls and demands.

“Tell me…” you asked.

I did not misunderstand your request. All you wanted to hear from me was how I felt right then.

“I know it’s called a pussy,” I said. “I feel as if it’s about to miaow!”

“I love animals,” you answered.

“They always return your affection,” I whispered back, my voice suddenly quite hoarse as one of your errant fingers penetrated me.

You found it amusing to enter and withdraw from me in a slow, gentle rhythm. I slipped my hand under the palm of your hand, still warming my mons, found my bud and delicately landed on it, careful not to rush anything, to make this holy moment last as long as possible, this very instant when imagination moves residence and settles in highly secret places.

My dreams were at sea, balanced on the waves. My cunt was the sea, waves crashing against each other, ebb and flow, ebb and flow…

I was in the depths, dark, salty, wetter than wet and my stomach was initiating a new, steady pulse, ever increasing in strength: hold back, hold on, hold back, hold on… I was becoming an underwater cave, a dizzy abyss. Soon I would require something stronger, something to war against, to fight back, to digest. I beckoned the myths of the great sea serpent, the indefatigable swimmer, the steel-membered Argonaut. I begged to be taken…

You were still driving, your eyes on the road, a foreigner to all that was happening between my thighs. You kindly offered me another finger. It was welcome, but the angle of penetration slowed its movements, causing pain in the midst of pleasure.

“You’re wet!” you said.

“You’re the one who’s making me wet. I’m like a jetty covered in kelp, you know, after the wave has subsided… A jetty after the storm…”

I thought of mooring bitts. I placed my left hand on your flies.

You raised yourself slightly to allow me to unbutton your top button, as it was too tight. The rest came easy. I quickly found you.

It’s damn crazy to jerk off like that, a thick cock in hand, and dreaming of being elsewhere. Can drive you mad.

I don’t really know you, but there’s a place for you inside of me. Several places, even. This was the moment when I realized how perfectly we complemented each other. This cock I held in my hand, I wanted to take it everywhere into me, wherever it might fit. I also felt like devouring it, an imperious desire, a ferocious appetite, a pressing need to be one with it, to commune in agony. But if I bent towards you, you would have had to let go of me, and I did not want that. The explosion was approaching, I could no longer control it. I looked around at you, disturbed.

“I think I’m…”

“Yes, of course. Yes!” you gently said. As you would put a friend at ease. The kindness of this permission reassured me and banished all the mental storm clouds away.

But, please, don’t let it make you stop!

And you understood so well both the situation and the urgency clearly, and your fingers pursued their passionate, dizzy journey inside me, this hesitant waltz strong enough to melt all resistance, travails worthy of Sisyphus and the ocean and handfuls of planets. Forward, further, much further, gently, back a bit, almost pulling out, ever so slowly, forward, much further, back a bit gently… I keep company with you, with all my soul, with all my guts and I’m chased by a giant wave riding behind me, biting at my heels, catching me… Lo, here it comes…

I held your cock tight in the grip of my hand, froze, winced, riding the crest of the giant tidal wave lifting me up, sitting on the throne of an eruption of sheer undiluted pleasure, cushioning all its aftershocks…

You parked smoothly on the side of the road, switched off the engine. I turned towards you, short of breath, still boiling. You explained: “It was either that, or move into second gear…” I acquiesced. Yes, yes, you were quite right to do so! If you’d switched gears, the let-down would have been awful, a true low in my career… The teacher in me smiled at the analogy, but offered him no explanation… Anyway, all my energy had quite dissipated…

“It was good!” I said, with a lack of conviction that saw you roar with laughter.

“I’m absolutely delighted,” you declared theatrically, waving your hands upwards, and for just one second, I saw the sheen of my lust shine on your fingers.

Wait, just you wait and see how I can please you too!

I bend toward you. Your cock had a heady smell. Reminiscent of the corduroy fabric of your trousers. But also the smell of man. Wild. Lingering…

The joy in my stomach, which still hadn’t subsided, rose sharply again. I laid my tongue on the tip of your cock. It was slippery. A thin, appetizing, salty stream pearled out of the thin hole and I spread it all over the pink, round, bare, stirring glans. Men’s cocks are custom-made to be devoured. There’s nothing more eatable in a man. It’s firm, elastic, spongy, so soft you feel your tongue should dance on tiptoe over it, like a cheeky skater on a bed of ice.

Your cock is so thick I don’t think I could suck on all of it… At any rate, not in my present position… Under my skirt, the echo continues. My cunt is still quivering.

“Give it to me…”

“Ask, come on, you can ask better…”

“Please, please, please. I want it badly…”

“You can do better!”

“Come to me, please… I am so hot inside. Touch me, touch, I’m on fire, I’m so wet, put it inside, I’ll go crazy. I’ll suck you off so good. Come!”

“Ask! Ask again!”

“Damn it! Come… Look, how it needs me too: it can’t even stand still, it’s ready to burst if you don’t put it in, put it inside me, fuck me, please? Come. I’m hungry, hungry for you, hungry for it. Look, it will slide in so easily, it’s ready… You can’t keep it, this big dumb thing, all to yourself? Look, look, I’m opening up for it, see. See how I gape wide open, hurry, hurry, or I’ll come without you, just the thought of you screwing me… We will lose it all…”

The threats had the desired effect. You laid me down onto the seat, down on your knees on the other seat you pulled me across, pushed your trousers down… Lust stabbed through my heart. And I still hadn’t even seen your balls!

You move into me like butter. I can almost feel your taste. It’s a famished beast I have between my thighs. Eat, feast yourself, my little animal! It’s Christmas, I’m your midnight supper!

I swallow you whole with torrid pleasure. Your cock is hard, I can feel it butt against my walls, at the back, and the soft blows reverberate all the way through to my arse. It’s exhilarating… I’ve a finger on my clit, doing God knows only what, and it feels good, like a mandolin player. And with my left hand, I held your balls, heavy, thick, gorgeous. My imagination is on fire thinking of them, swollen and creamy. Eat, kiddo, eat! Soon it will be time for dessert… This guy is soon about to spurt all the way into you, the way you like it! My brain grows more excited as it pictures visions of eruptions surging upwards at the speed of light. I naively press hard against your balls, as if to empty them.

“Come, come…”

“No, not before you do. Come quickly.”

“I can’t. I just can’t, yet.”

How could I explain that my lust was dependent on yours?

“You first, you first… you keep on saying,” and I realize that you are going to wait as long as it takes while I’m almost suffocating here, suspended above the abyss.

“Tell me what you want me to do? Tell me… You’re so good to me.”

“Take me everywhere. Behind, also.”

You are obedience personified. My desires are orders. You stab my arsehole with your thick, aggressive, fiery thumb. It scares me and fills me with joy at the same time.

“Do you feel me, there? [Hard not to. I feel only you.] Are you ready to come, now? Ready?”

“If you keep on stretching me open so, everywhere, yes, yes, it’ll soon come… Listen, listen, it’s coming, it’s coming, it’s almost here, it’s… now, right now, give, give it to me, you too…”

You fell upon me. You’re much heavier than I thought you would be. And so much more gentle, too.

When I opened my eyes, the snow had stopped falling. You caught your breath back, readjusted your clothing, settled again behind the steering wheel. My chest is still resonating, my ears too, full of the roar of the giant wave that has washed me away. With sharp burns everywhere, their scars gradually declining and being replaced by a wholesome feeling of lassitude.

“You can sleep, if you want to.”

You indicate the cot, behind the front seats. No, I don’t wish to leave you on your own. I will not sleep.

And the journey continues, quietly, slowly. We’re in a sleigh smoothly sliding through a white and sleepy landscape.

From time to time, you stop. People wish you a merry Christmas. We go again. There are bells in my head, champagne flowing through my body, and my heart. Small bubbles sparkle and tickle me everywhere. You’re nice, you’re funny. I don’t regret anything.

In the morning, you lightly brush against my drowsiness.

“We’re arriving in La Rochelle. Where do you want me to drop you?”

I open my eyes, see a dead town amidst a still black dawn.

“At the railway station.”

“What?”

“Yes, I have to tell you. You know, when we met, I wasn’t leaving Lyon. I’d just arrived. I was going to spend Christmas there. I didn’t feel like it…”

“You’d just come from La Rochelle?”

“No, from Grenoble.”

“But…? Why did you tell me of La Rochelle?”

“I saw you. I saw your lorry, the sign ‘Marennes’. I thought, ‘That’s where that guy is going back to, tonight.’ And I reckoned ‘Why not?’”

Your eyes flickered with laughter.

“It’s funny.”

“Why?”

“Because, when you saw me, I was about to hand over the lorry to a mate. I wasn’t supposed to bring it back. I was scheduled to sleep in Lyon. I’d already been driving all day.”

“That’s why you had to go to the office?”

“Yes, that’s where I was meant to meet up with him. I told Dupre, ‘I’m replacing you.’ He didn’t mind.”

“Is it legal?”

“No, not really, but it can be done… He’d found this chick in Lyon. Gave him the chance to spend Christmas Eve with her. He was pleased.”

“Weren’t you supposed to spend Christmas with your family?”

“No, I was going to wait for the next lorry to do the journey.”

“So, now, what are you going to do?”

“First, sleep a bit. Then return to Lyon.”

“When?”

“Tomorrow morning, maybe.”

“So…?”

“Yes, why not?”

THREE FOR THE MONEY by Marilyn Jaye Lewis

Yesterday, I went to a funeral uptown. When I left my apartment in the morning, it had been the proverbial spring day, birds chirping, daffodils blooming in the park – the works. Naturally, by the time I came up from the subway station an hour and a half later, it had begun to rain. Funerals are a bit like rain dances in that way; people gather together in mourning, and the earth itself cries.

The dead guy, Marten Santos, had been notoriously rich and depraved while he was alive. He had never tried to pass as righteous, though, never pretended to be perfect. We all knew about his peculiar tastes and erratic passions, and loved him for that. Nevertheless, he’d been raised a strict Roman Catholic and so the funeral was a stuffy, conservative affair, held at Our Lady of Divine Sorrows. After the funeral, as the teary-eyed pallbearers removed the casket from the church and solemnly loaded it into the back of the hearse, Our Lady’s bell tolled mournfully, sounding all the more poignant in the gray drizzle of rain. He was a man who was going to be missed by a lot of good people.

In life, Mr Santos had been one of my favorite tricks. When he died suddenly of a heart attack three days ago, the newspaper said that he was pushing seventy. During the year when he’d been one of my regulars, he claimed to be fifty-five. It says a lot that after all these years I was moved enough by a sense of loss to attend his funeral. But then, he hadn’t always been a trick. With Mr Santos, I’d done the unthinkable and allowed a favorite John to become a lover, or nearly so. The shame of that slip-up on my part, and a difficult scene he put me through in a cheap hotel room, had caused us to part on uncomfortable terms. Still, it made me no less fond of him.

I don’t turn tricks anymore, I haven’t for years. I’m almost forty now. I work in a respectable office and I earn a respectable living. I present a very hard-assed, successful-bitch version of myself to the world and it’s helped me to succeed and keep my past where it should be, in the past. The frantic, frenetic survival skills acquired by all New Yorkers makes the town a forgiving place. As long as you don’t wind up at the heart of a sordid public scandal in a court of law, where New Yorkers show their ugly sides and revel in seeing your past mistakes slung at you like so much mud, you can do just about anything to get ahead in this town and not have to worry too much that it’ll come back to haunt you.

Mr Santos and I first met in an upscale espresso shop on the Upper East Side. This was back in the 80s, when a whole lot of people had money to burn. Mr Santos was friends with the owner, Hajid, who was one of my regulars, too. Hajid liked getting blow jobs behind the desk in his office. His office was in the basement of the coffee house. It was decidedly downscale in that dark, damp, vermin-infested cellar. However, a simple blow job, as long as I was willing to have my pants around my knees and keep my naked ass out for his viewing pleasure, lasted only about ten minutes and garnered me two hundred tax-free dollars, so I found ways to make even that ratskeller seem erotic.

The evening I met Mr Santos, I was actually just having coffee. I wasn’t engaged in business. Hajid and I were on friendly terms. He introduced me to Mr Santos, with a nod and a wink, and Mr Santos pulled up a chair. He got right down to the business of getting to know me better. He ended the meeting by paying my modest tab and then asking me for my phone number, which of course I gave him since it was obvious he was loaded – even more so than Hajid.

Our trysts started out simple and straightforward. Mr Santos would always arrange for me to meet him in other rich people’s high-class apartments. The people he knew went on extended vacations, traveled on business to faraway places, or had primary homes in other countries. Mr Santos was married back then, and apparently he and his other married male friends formed a cozy circle of infidels, each leaving the rest of the crew a key to his empty apartment for extramarital liaisons in his absence. I don’t think the wives ever had a clue what was taking place in the sanctity of their homes while they were off on holiday.

I was never to touch anything, never allowed to get too comfortable in the jaw-dropping luxury of our trysting places. Mr Santos liked anal and that was pretty much the sole basis of our get-togethers, at first. Without fanfare, he would unzip his trousers; let them fall unceremoniously to his ankles, along with his boxers. He’d slip on a rubber; slather it with the lube that he carried in his pocket in handy individual foil packets. Then I’d bend over anything steady and he’d slide his cock up my ass.

He fucked me like a man who had important meetings to get to, so he usually came pretty quickly. I didn’t have to say anything weird, or dress in anything unusual. I simply had to show up with an absolutely clean asshole, bend over and let him ream me; that was all he required. For that, I got five hundred dollars cash; five crisp, one-hundred-dollar bills, folded in the middle, which he’d place under my nose while I was still bending over – before he’d even pulled his cock out of me, I’d get paid.

There was something about the way he paid me that tended to make me feel a little humiliated, but he didn’t seem to think twice about it. By the time I’d turn around, he’d have the used condom off, his trousers pulled up, and would be heading to the toilet to flush the condom down. He never said anything like. “Here’s your money you whore,” or “Take that, bitch.” He just had a funny habit of leaving it parked under my nose while my ass was still stuffed with him.

I remember when we had our first real conversation. It was a day when he seemed to be at leisure. He wasn’t pressed for time, wasn’t hurrying. It was a day when he wandered around the spacious apartment we were using, looking for the perfect place to bend me over, making small talk, making jokes. “Bend over that chair there, let me see the view. Pull up your skirt. No, we can find something better.”

When he finally decided on the perfect spot – an economically correct artist’s stool – he lifted my skirt himself, pulled my panties down (an intimate gesture he’d never once done before) and then said, “You know what this reminds me of?”

My naked ass in the air, my thighs spread in anticipation, my head hanging down, I said, “No, what?”

“Church. This reminds me of church.”

He didn’t elaborate and I had no idea what he was talking about. But the thought of church seemed to make him feel even more jovial. He sank to his knees and rimmed me, his hot, wet tongue expertly stroking my puckered hole. It felt sensational. I actually moaned and felt like touching myself.

Having his nose in my ass seemed to arouse his passion, for that day he fucked my ass especially vigorously, nearly knocking me off the stool several times. The mounting pressure of his thickening hard-on sucking in and out of my ass made me cry out. When he came, he pulled his cock out a little aggressively, gave me a resounding smack on my upturned ass, and said, “Here you go. Thanks, kiddo.” And the money was once again placed in front of my face – on this occasion, I’d been staring at a parquet floor.

His breezy pre-sex conversing, combined with his sudden rugged manner with me during sex, made me see Mr Santos in a different light. He was a handsome man, I decided, as I watched him zip up his trousers and go off in search of the toilet. I still had my panties around my knees when he came back into the room. I was lingering in my little swoon.

“What’s with you?” he asked.

Snapping out of it and feeling embarrassed, I moved to pull up my panties.

“No, wait.” He stopped me. “Not yet. You feel like making a little extra money today?”

I was caught off guard. He fished out his wallet and surveyed its contents. “Well, I have ten whole dollars.” He found this amusing. “What do you feel like doing for ten dollars?”

“What did you have in mind?”

“I want to try something and see if I can make you come.”

I never, under any circumstances, came with a trick. But Mr Santos intrigued me. “You think you can make me come for ten dollars?”

“Ten bucks, and a nice dinner. What do you say to that? My wife’s out of town and I’ve got all the time in the world. I’ll make it up to you next time about the money. You know I’m good for it.”

I was feeling game. I liked Mr Santos. I wasn’t worried about the money.

He told me to step out of my panties completely, then to squat down on the parquet floor. He told me that under no circumstances should I touch myself; he wanted to do all the work. He lubed two of his fingers, squatted down next to me, held me around my shoulders to sort of brace me, and then he stuck the two lubed fingers up my ass. He wiggled them vigorously in there, pushing hard against my perineum, rubbing the wall of muscle with all his strength.

Oh god,” I squealed in sheer ecstasy, clutching him tight, a stream of piss suddenly squirting out of me and forming a puddle on the nice wood floor.

“Go for it, baby. Let everything go. We can clean this up later. Bear down on me.”

I did as he suggested, pushing my asshole down around his hardworking fingers, never dreaming that I could be launched into orgasm like a rocket without direct pressure applied to my clit. But it happened. My thighs shook as I squatted and bore down, more fluids gushing out of my open pisshole. My body was overwhelmed by waves of pleasure as his fingers rubbed more vigorously against the pressure of my now frantically contracting sphincter.

When I was through hyperventilating and convulsing like a lunatic, Mr Santos was still holding me, smiling. “Did you come?” he asked, very pleased with himself.

I didn’t take the extra ten dollars that day, but I took him up on his offer to buy me dinner and that was the beginning of a new chapter in our “business relationship.”

He continued to pay me whenever we got together, but we talked more, he took more time with me, he felt challenged to give me orgasms in unexpected ways. Soon, he was paying for rooms in five-star hotels, where we’d disappear for entire days together, relying on room service for sustenance. He introduced blindfolds, light bondage, and spanking to the list of things we were now doing with each other regularly in a lavish king-sized bed.

“Do you ever eat pussy?” he asked me one afternoon. “I mean, do you ever get asked to do that when you’re out on a calls?”

I looked at him uneasily, not at all pleased that the world of my other tricks was even remotely entering into our time together.

“Do you even know how to eat pussy?”

“Of course I do.”

“You get paid to do that?”

“Sometimes.” I didn’t feel much like discussing it.

“I’d like to see you eat pussy, you know that?”

You and every other trick on earth, I told myself. The last thing I wanted was to bring another girl into our scene, a girl who might prove to be more novel than me, a girl who might walk off with his number in her purse and then I would lose my favorite trick. Mr Santos was now the man I fantasized about when I was home alone in bed. I didn’t think he would leave his wife for me, or anything like that, but I naively considered us lovers. I’d begun to hate the fact that he still paid me.

“What’s that face for?” he said. “You aren’t into pussy?”

“Girls are all right.”

“I was thinking more along the lines of a woman – not a girl.”

He immediately piqued my interest. “You mean you have someone in mind?”

“To be honest, there’s a woman I’ve been seeing off and on for years, since before I was married. Occasinally, we get together when our spouses are otherwise detained and we have sex. I told her about you. How much fun you are. How amenable you can be.”

And whose idea was it to make it a threesome, I wondered suspiciously, hers, or his?

“She’ll pay you the same amount I do; you’ll get double your usual fee. It wouldn’t be a question of taking advantage. I would really like to see you eat her pussy. And I think she has an idea of a scene of her own. She’s very willing to pay you,” he repeated. “I don’t think she’s ever paid anyone to do a scene with her. Or to have any kind of sex with her, for that matter. She’s just a regular married woman, but a good friend of mine.”

She sounded harmless enough. But you’d think after my years of turning tricks. I would have known beyond a doubt that people who sound harmless can be the most difficult customers when it’s all said and done.

Still, I agreed to do the three-way. We made an appointment for an afternoon the following week. For some reason, we were meeting in a tacky hotel in midtown – gone was the luxury of the king-sized bed, the crisp white sheets and room service. Everything about the hotel they’d chosen was dingy, seedy, and low class.

Mr Santos had asked me to bring along an outfit that would be suitable for a naughty little girl routine. Even though I’d never gone to Catholic school myself, I had a vintage Catholic schoolgirl uniform that fit me perfectly. I figured Mr Santos would get off on the religion thing so that’s what I packed for my change of clothes.

I’d been getting steadily more into the idea of the three-way as the day approached. Anything that involved the unpredictability of Mr Santos’s lusty libido aroused my own sexual appetites. He was nothing like an average trick. So when I knocked on the hotel room door that afternoon, I was already horny, already sopping wet between my legs. Until Mr Santos let me into the room and introduced me to his woman friend.

Oh my god, I realized in sick horror, it’s Mrs Hamilton.

She’d been my tenth grade sociology teacher. A woman who’d made my life a living hell for an entire year. I was certain it was her. To this day, I don’t know if she recognized me, too. If she did, she never once let on. But I knew it was her. She was simply using a fake name, like a lot of tricks do.

“Call me either ‘Daddy’ or ‘Sir’ today,” Mr Santos was instructing me. “And this is your new stepmother, Louise.”

Louise? They couldn’t come up with anything less corny than Louise?

I had that feeling of panic in my gut that I used to get in my early days of hustling; I wanted to bolt. But then I focused on the money: one thousand dollars cash for a single afternoon’s work. It would be worth it. But I saw immediately that it was going to be just that – work.

Mrs Hamilton had never been an unattractive woman; it was just that she’d always been a mean bitch of a teacher. In my years since high school, she’d managed to stay attractive; she’d taken good care of herself. I figured that if she knew Mr Santos, she must have money, too, and that always helps women stay good-looking. Yet it made me wonder why she’d chosen to teach at all. Perhaps for the sick thrill of tormenting teenagers?

“Louise wants to help you change clothes,” Mr Santos told me. “It’ll give you two a chance to get comfortable with each other. I’m going to run across the street to the liquor store. This trashy hotel doesn’t even supply booze.”

Shit. He was leaving me alone with her. The dreaded moment was starting to look even worse. Not only would I have to get naked for Mrs Hamilton, I would have to be completely alone with her while it happened. No horny Mr Santos around to use as a buffer zone.

When he was gone, she went right into “efficient teacher” mode. “Come here,” she said flatly. “Let’s get you out of those clothes and into something more appropriate.”

She didn’t act like it made her at all nervous to be around a prostitute, to be doing a scene. I wondered if she was anybody’s horny lesbo stepmother in real life. The implications of that thought creeped me out. I had to force myself to keep my mind a blank.

Mrs Hamilton was going through my bag, pulling out my change of clothes. She seemed to recognize the uniform for what it was – something real girls wore in real high schools. “Are you Catholic?” she asked. “Not that it’s any of my business.”

“Yes,” I said. “But I went to public schools.” The sudden rudeness in my tone surprised even me.

She eyed me coolly, taking in that last remark. “Come over here,” she said.

Shit. She was actually making me nervous. But I went over to her. Without hesitating, she began undressing me. “Let me tell you something,” she explained carefully, unbuttoning my shirt with manicured fingers. “While we’re in the confines of this room, while we’re on the clock, so to speak, I have no qualms whatsoever about making it very clear which one of us is on top.” The sound of her words alone felt like a slap. She had my shirt off. She was moving to unfasten my bra then, her fingers were touching the skin on my back, her face was close to mine. I didn’t like it. “If you want to keep talking to me in that rude tone,” she continued, “go right ahead. But consider yourself warned. I’m not afraid of girls like you. I deal with your kind every day.”

My bra was off. My tits were right there in front of her, my nipples shivering to stiff points from the sudden change in temperature. How many times had I bared my tits for strange clients? But this took the cake for strangeness. I felt exposed.

She didn’t touch me, though. She barely even paused to look at my nakedness. She was already on to my tight jeans, unzipping them, tugging them down to my ankles.

I was in that state of half-undressed nervousness when Mr Santos came back to the room, carrying a fifth of gin and a large carton of Tropicana OJ.

Jesus, I wondered, how trashy are we going to get? Where was the top-shelf bourbon, or at the very least, some cheap champagne?

“Well,” he said, regarding us with satisfaction, “we’re certainly progressing here. Anyone want a drink?”

We all did. Mr Santos played bartender while keeping a keen eye on us.

Mrs Hamilton had me completely undressed, except for my panties. Those she seemed to want to take more time with. She lowered them slowly, anticipating the unveiling of my neatly trimmed snatch. She was actually squatting down in front of me, apparently wanting an up close and personal view. It made me even more uncomfortable – not so much that Mrs Hamilton was squatting down in front of me, so obviously aroused by the imminent sight of another woman’s pussy, but the fact that I was getting off on it, too. I was suddenly wet again.

Good lord,” she said quickly under her breath. She’d peeled my panties past my mound, rolled them partially down my thighs and seen the strand of gooey wetness connecting my soaking hole to the cotton crotch of my underwear. She looked up at Mr Santos, who was now standing next to us, offers of drinks in his hands. “She’s so wet,” Mrs Hamilton explained in quiet earnestness, as if the sight of a twat swollen in arousal pained her deliciously.

I took my drink from Mr Santos and gulped it down. I needed fortification. Mrs Hamilton was fucking hot. And now she was licking me, her mouth was actually on me down there, and I was getting off on it.

Jesus, I wondered; what was going to happen here? Alone, unsupervised with two horny tricks who could get me this worked up; two people apparently intent on doing a pseudo-incest scene, with me playing the part of the helpless bottom, two tops wanting to have their way with me, and all of us downing cheap gin?

I was light-headed. I parted my legs as much as I could for Mrs Hamilton, but it wasn’t easy with my panties around my thighs. She held tight to my ass cheeks, her mouth flush with my mound. She moaned as her hot tongue slid eagerly around in the folds of my pussy lips, occasionally landing directly on the tip of my clit. I was soon so aroused by the lusty sounds she made, that I actually held on to her head to keep myself steady. I had a handful of Mrs Hamilton’s hair in one hand, and a plastic cup of gin and OJ in the other. It all seemed so decadently tawdry. The cheap thrill of it made me press Mrs Hamilton’s face even closer to my snatch, rubbing her face in the slippery folds of it. The horny bitch moaned even more.

Mr Santos lit a cigarette. He stood close to us, watching it all unfold, feeling up my titties while he watched – taking firm handfuls of titty flesh and squeezing, kneading, then tugging roughly on my stiff, aching nipples. He took a drag off his cigarette and then put his mouth on mine, forcing exhaled smoke into my open mouth along with his tongue.

The feel of his tongue filling my mouth, and Mrs Hamilton’s tongue deep between my sopping lips, while Mr Santos kept up his avid mauling of my breasts – I thought I’d come right on the spot.

But Mr Santos had his thoughts elsewhere. He pulled away from me the second before I had a chance to come. “This is going to be good,” he announced.

The sound of his voice seemed to bring Mrs Hamilton back to earth. She got up from between my legs abruptly, her mouth a slick mess. She went straight for the drink awaiting her on the dresser. I could see her mentally pulling herself together; reminding herself which one of us girls was on top.

Within moments, she was in stepmother mode. “I want you to go into the bathroom and put on your clothes. Your father and I want to be alone. We’ll tell you when to come out.”

I did as I was told, stopping first to refresh my drink. I closed myself up in the small, ugly bathroom and got into my uniform. Outside, I could hear the lusty sounds of them going at each other. I didn’t know in what way. Had they managed to strip out of their clothes in record time and begin fucking? Were they only partially undressed and sucking each other, or – just what were they doing? I was not only keenly curious, I was also jealous. I didn’t want Mr Santos to enjoy Mrs Hamilton that much; after all, he was my lover.

Of course, I’d been instructed to stay put in the bathroom until I was given permission to come out. But that was all part of the scene. Naughty girls went wide-eyed into every opportunity to misbehave. Otherwise, you’d deprive your scene-mates of the chance to spank you bare-assed – or worse, depending on the infraction.

I quietly cracked open the bathroom door and peeked out at them.

I’ll be damned, I thought.

They were fucking, all right. But they were, for the most part, still dressed. Mrs Hamilton was bent over the foot of the bed with her pants tugged down to her knees, while Mr Santos, cock out of his unzipped trousers, rode her hard from behind.

I was transfixed – they were in such a frenzy of lust. Plus the cheap booze had gone to my head. I couldn’t believe I was watching Mrs Hamilton get nailed, and in such an unflattering posture. Her white ass looked huge, sticking out like that.

I worked my hand up under my skirt and inside my white panties. I wiggled my clit furiously as I watched them fuck like dogs.

As if on cue, Mrs Hamilton glanced over at the bathroom door and caught me spying on them. It seemed to make her ass jut out even more, if that was possible. But she got a queer look on her face, too, like she couldn’t wait to get down and nasty on my own ass. I quickly closed the bathroom door and tried to mind my own business.

Naturally it was too late, and the incest-punishment scene was in full swing. There was soon a knock on the bathroom door. When I opened it, it was “Daddy.” He said, “Your stepmother wishes to speak to you.”

I came out of the bathroom to find my “stepmother” stark naked, sitting on the bed. She looked good naked, but she looked angry. “Come over here,” she said.

I expected to get thoroughly spanked by her and I wasn’t sure whether or not I would get off on it; she was still Mrs Hamilton after all, a woman I had once despised. As I went to her, there was a fear in my belly reminiscent of what I had once felt facing actual punishment as a child. Of course, this wasn’t a scene remotely close to anything that would have gone on in my own house. I hadn’t lost sight of the fact that we were all here for sex.

Daddy, still fully clothed, only his cock jutting out from his pants, sat down on the bed next to the naked “Louise.” He had a stern expression on his face that made him look even more handsome. I was hoping he would force me to make it up to him somehow – all his disappointment in how I had misbehaved. But for now, the emphasis was on Louise. This was decidedly her scene, the part she was paying for.

“Come closer,” she said.

I stood directly in front of her, cowering in my schoolgirl uniform.

“What were you doing in there?” she demanded.

“Nothing.”

“It was more than nothing, young lady. You were spying on us, weren’t you?”

“Yes,” I meekly confessed.

“Weren’t you told to stay in there until someone came for you?”

“Yes.”

“And why did you disobey me?”

“I don’t know.”

“I’ll tell you why, because you’re a dirty little girl, aren’t you? What do you suppose happens to a dirty little girl who disobeys and sticks her nose where it doesn’t belong?”

I gave it some serious thought. The look in Mrs Hamilton’s eyes was dark and unpleasant. Mr Santos, however, was in the throes of lust. He was watching it all while avidly stroking himself.

“I asked you a question,” my stepmother went on. “What do you suppose happens to a dirty little girl who disobeys?”

“I don’t know,” I replied.

“I think you do.”

I said nothing.

“Answer me.”

“I guess I need to get spanked!” I finally blurted.

I was playing my part to the hilt now and Mrs Hamilton had succumbed completely to the erotic pull of her role. She was so obviously entranced by the power of her anger. “That’s right. You need a good spanking to teach you a lesson. Get over here, right over my knee, young lady.”

She grabbed me and pulled me over her knee, positioning me across her lap in such a way that everything between my legs would be facing Mr Santos. She lifted my skirt. “I’ll teach you to be a dirty little girl,” she said, lowering my panties with deliberate patience, slowly revealing the round, white globes of my ass, then tugging the panties down my thighs.

She held my wrists tight and then gave my ass a resounding spank. “Why do you dirty girls always have to learn the hardest way how to behave?” She gave me another well-placed, stinging spank.

“I want you to tell Daddy exactly what you did; tell him why I’m so angry with you.” Another severe smack heated my cheeks, making me jump.

“Because I was watching,” I cried out.

“Watching what?” The smacks were coming more quickly now, stinging, landing relentlessly on the same spot. My ass burned. I tried to wriggle away from the aim of her blows, but it was to no avail. “Answer me; you were watching what?”

“I was watching Daddy fuck you.”

“And what else were you doing?”

She pulled gently but firmly on my hair, forcing me to look up into her face. “And what else were you doing?” she asked again, her eyes nearly glowing with lust.

“I was touching myself,” I said.

“Don’t tell me, tell Daddy.”

Daddy had gotten off the bed and come around in front of me. He was slowly jerking himself off in my face. I looked up at him, now, too. God, he looked hot. I confessed to him in my tiniest voice, “I was touching myself while I watched you fuck her.”

Daddy seemed to be in a swoon. He stuck the head of his cock between my lips. Arching my head back uncomfortably with one hand, he worked his thick tool in and out of my mouth.

Louise worked two fingers up my hole then, giving me a thorough finger-fucking while Daddy worked on my eager mouth. Within moments, Daddy had pulled a condom from his pocket.

“It’s Daddy’s turn to punish you now,” he explained. “I want you to kneel on the edge of the bed and lick Louise’s pussy.” He slathered some gooey lube on his sheathed dick. “You’re to lick her until she comes, you understand me? No fingers, just lick her. Lick her while Daddy punishes you.”

I understood. Louise was laying flat across the bed now and I knelt between her spread legs. I began licking her swollen pussy with gusto, centering on her tiny, erect clit.

But Daddy’s idea of punishment was sublime. As I knelt between Louise’s legs, my smarting red ass at the edge of the bed, my panties around my knees and my schoolgirl uniform shoved up around my waist, Daddy reamed my ass. He went at my hole aggressively, going in deep and pulling out slow, thoroughly opening the hole, giving me the fucking of my life.

It was my turn to moan into Louise’s snatch while she writhed around on my tongue. She kept my face pressed close to her mound while my tongue licked furiously at her clit, wiggled it and swirled it. It didn’t take much, really, to make her come. Daddy was grunting, seriously riding my ass in the depths of his own orgasm when Louise came in my mouth. I came just moments after she did, feeling positively delirious.

But the downside of it all was that shortly after this little explosion of mutual climaxes, they paid me my fee and told me I was free to go, even though it was obvious that they were in no hurry to leave. That’s when Mr Santos’s idea of what our relationship consisted of became brutally clear to me. I was still just a hooker to him, just one that he had an unusual amount of fun with.

It had been a rude awakening for me, one that made me less inclined to arrange many trysts with him afterward. I never let on to him that Mrs Hamilton had once been my high school teacher, or that it had been an unnerving liaison for me in a number of ways. I kept my thoughts to myself and went through the motions of earning my five hundred bucks. Eventually, I stopped seeing him altogether.

But yesterday, watching his casket disappear into the back of the hearse as I stood in the chill of the drizzling rain, I wished I’d spent just a little more time fucking him. I was going to miss that guy. I felt lucky I’d known him at all.

FOURTH DATE, FIRST FUCK by Dion Farquhar

BACK WHEN THEY were dating, before they were sure of each other, before they’d lived together for years and done just about every kind of fucking – positions, places, toys – and before they’d worried about money together, before they’d fought about who-should-have-done-what in the division-of-labor, back in their prehistory, there had been a first time.

Lying in bed alone and half awake, hand cupping her cunt, she enjoyed an orderly remembering of the extraordinary week that just ended. She was in love – again. Resilience has been her forte, and this time, like every other, she hoped she’d gotten it right and chosen a grown-up who could be a full-time partner and not just a weekend lover.

Things so often go slower these days, she thought, given AIDS and the age, not to mention their age. With an inadvertent smile, she tried to account for their not jumping into bed on the first or even the second date. Sex on the fourth date was something of a rarity in her experience as opposed to the more common variety – the slam-you-up-against-the-wall, I-could-fuck-you-right-here first date kind. With Josh, it was four dates before they got to bed. A week later, now that she was spending every night with him, it seemed both fast and slow. But what mattered, was that they got there at their own pace, and that was so right, she thought, feeling a ripple of desire course through her stomach.

Although an astute observer would have pointed to the awkwardness of their leave-takings, to the close timing of their dates, to their eagerness to be together and laugh and talk until workers shooed them out of closing cafés, and other indicators of mutual desire, she had only known for sure that he was interested in sex with her because of where he sat on his couch. The body always gives it away. On their third date, the first time she had been in his house, they had sat at opposite ends of his couch. They’d had a great time, and laughed and talked until she said, sensing sex was too much to take on that night, “Well, it’s getting late, I’d better get home.”

But on the fourth date, they’d watched a video of the incredibly sexy Carlos Saura film Carmen. During the awkward transition from the video to who-knew-what’s-next, she reached over to the coffee table for the half-smoked joint and relit it. When he returned to the couch after refilling their seltzers, she noticed he was sitting much closer to her this time, only inches away from her corner perch. Unable to stop herself from smiling at him, she held out the joint to him, and her reached for it, his fingers grazing hers, returning her smile. This was fun, she thought. He inhaled deeply, and they looked at each other, smiles breaking out across their faces.

Feeling more relaxed by the minute, she took her shoes off and swung a cushion around for her back so she could sit perpendicular towards him. “That was quite a movie,” she said, smiling. “Yah, it’s pretty intense,” he replied. They smiled at each other, allowing themselves to show their delight in each other’s company and savor their effervescing desire.

Although quite relaxed from a combination of the grass and the late hour, her head was racing. This was powerful stuff. As she shifted her position on the couch slightly, she realized that she was wet, a little surprised at the effect that the film and their unacknowledged desire for each other was having on her. Her body ahead of her, telling her she wanted him, even though the movie was just plain hot. This was more than mood. Regarding him, she remembered what good sex was like. Not having had any in months since her breakup with a French Department – Romance Studies they called it at his university – Don Juan who needed his space when he wasn’t telling her he’d never been more up for it.

But here she was – falling-in-love-again – in California, a continent and three time zones away from home, on this new man’s couch, turned on and happy.

She knew what she liked – both for herself and in her men. Hungry, sensitive, passionate. And she knew what she wanted. A man who wanted sex and intensity to go on. Not just the weekend/party model. She wanted a man who, like her, refused to trade off the domestic for passion. A future, a history. Now on their fourth date (ancient history, for Christ’s sake), she sat on the same side of his couch but perpendicular to him as he sat in the middle, only inches away from her. But this time, she noted, he sat closer to her, in roughly the middle of the couch. This feels completely different, she thought. Better. In every way. Emboldened, she ventured to tuck her toes under the side of his butt. She watched his face register the contact. Instantly, with no hesitation, he gently reached one hand over to touch and then caress and squeeze her feet. She acknowledged his gesture by wriggling her toes, as she snuggled closer and less tentatively. His hand felt so good rubbing her feet. They were saying hello.

One thing led to another. Her eyes closed as she pressed against him, feeling how good their fit was. This is great, she thought. I can’t believe it. What a good kisser he is, she mused, as they moved from the discrete footrub to kissing and rolling around the couch. Mouths and tongues eager for each other. A lot of kissing, touching, hugging. “Do you think we might be more comfortable on a bed?” she ventured after a while, feeling the limits of the couch’s design. “Absolutely,” he said, “let’s go.” Another awkward move, and then the digression of the bathroom stop, each waiting for the other on the bed, still dressed and not knowing what to do, how to wait. “Would a candle be good?” he asked her, standing in the bedroom doorway, an erection visible through his jeans. “Yah, very,” she heard herself say, liking his attention to detail. This man had a life, a place, even a kitchen with food in it. While she was thinking about the ways in which Josh’s attention to detail and self-sufficiency augured well, he came back in carrying a round blue candle on a plate. She watched him place it on the dresser across the room from the bed and light it. They both “ahhed” at the light it cast.

Then he joined her on the bed. They reached out to hold each other and reestablish their very recently found pleasure in their bodies together. They lay together, alternately hugging and kissing and watching the candle flicker, enjoying looking at each other in the candlelight. Although they would go on to fuck in every gradation of light and in no light, the light of one or two candles always remained one of their preferences, one associated with particularly luscious sex.

“You feel so good,” she told him, backing away just enough to see his face. His eyes opened to meet hers and he looked at her with so much love and desire she thought she’d melt. “You feel so good,” Josh told her. Thank you, Ilene, she thought, of their mutual friend who introduced them. A sentiment they would echo often over the next several years. Though neither knew it then. This was only their fourth date.

They began to hug and kiss and wrap themselves around each other again, only briefly derailed by the move to the bedroom. Then came the undressing. She wanted to feel him skin to skin, but her desire mixed with hesitation – evoking feelings of need and loss and mistrust. Noticing her deep inhalation that was almost a sigh, she had a stoned flash of literally taking a plunge, into his arms. First-time sex is like walking off a cliff, she thought. What was she waiting for? she thought, as she felt their tongues probing each other’s mouths, relaxing into his body and into the feeling that their pressed-together groins generated. A source of heat and desire. First times are good to get over, she thought, as they pulled each other’s tee shirts off. She liked what came after first times even better.

Their chests together made her dizzy with desire. She loved the feel of his chest and its hair and texture, especially the way it made her breasts feel. He moaned as she rubbed her breasts over his chest. “Oh, I love your beautiful breasts,” he whispered, reaching up to take them in his hands, gently rubbing them in circles. They eventually moved on to unzipping each other’s resistant jeans and coaxing them off hips and legs.

At last, they snuggled under the covers and luxuriated in the feel of flesh upon flesh, the contrast of hairy and hairless legs, and hard cocks and wet spots moving around each other. Smooth against rough. Hipbones and smells of sex. They took turns running a leg up and down the other’s leg and butt. Rolling over and sliding along each other’s body, exploring all that heat and cool, breasts and penis and cunt. Ear and breast sucking, nibbling, biting. Fingers inside her, around her. Sighs of “umm” into the night. Fingers inside him. Far inside. His writhing with pleasure. Moaning. And breaks for more seltzer refills to combat drymouth. They finally brought the two-liter bottle in from the kitchen.

At one point during their kissing and sucking and touching, she heard herself say, in a low voice, “I want to fuck you soon.” “How about right now?” he replied, reaching down by the bed to get a condom. He extracted it from its package and began to put it on his erect cock. She leaned toward him and put her hand over his half-condomed cock to help him roll it on. Her hands stroking his sides. “Oh, God,” he said, as she ran her hand over his cock. She climbed up on him, and slowly, very slowly lowered her cunt over his cock. She reached down and with her hand, she guided him in. First the tip, then a little further, then taking the entire long shaft inside her, she pressed her weight down over him. What a nice big hard cock, she thought. Not too big, but substantial, and just right. She couldn’t believe how good he felt inside her.

She watched his head burrow back into the pillow, moaning with pleasure, at the same time that his hands gripped her hips, moving her slightly back and forth over him. After a while, she leaned down over him until her breasts touched and then pressed into his chest. He pulled her head over his and their tongues sought each other out, in and out and around their mouths. Their fucking went on until she couldn’t tell whose cock and whose cunt was whose. At the same time, he seemed to grow even larger inside of her, or she grew tighter around him. The result was an intensification of feeling right there in that indistinguishable cunt-cock place. Oh God, she thought, this guy can fuck. This is wonderful. Their thrusts intensified and eventually he came in a paroxysm of feeling that echoed throughout her body with an intensity that both satisfied and stimulated her.

Good fucking. Hours of it. Urgent. Him above, across, around, her. A prepositional orgy.

She awoke with a start, unsure of where she was, what day it was, gripped with the fear that she’d missed an important appointment. As she fought to remember where she was, she surveyed the large pastel bedroom pooled around her double bed adrift on a buttery plush carpet. The peach and pumpkin and beige duvets were not hers. Immediately, she remembered that she was subletting a house near the university that hosted her summer program. From a faculty member in Modern Languages. The linen closet had post-urns labelling the sheets “double”, “queen”. The holes in window screens are patched with small rectangles of mesh. Must be a German teacher, she thought, the house is too neat and clean for a French or Italian professor. They all had two-car garages, that in reality were one-car garages because of all the stuff people store in them. If you want to get two cars in, you have to get a three-car garage. She, a earless Manhattanite, pondered the diversity of national custom and life style. California was fieldwork in anthropology for her.

Every summer, lucky grant recipients scattered from their homes, fanning out across the country to major research institutions hosting seminars and institutes on a variety of scholarly topics. A kind of Fresh Air Fund for junior faculty, the hordes of unsung and underpublished wannabees, she thought, distancing herself from her fellow participants. A jobless part-timer, she thought, but at least I’m not stuck in Oklahoma or Tennessee. She laughed, as she padded across the carpet lining the floor from her bedroom in the summer rental all the way to the kitchen, at such behavior patterns in adult humans. Twenty-five competitively chosen participants (they’d had to write pages justifying their interest and experience in the topic at hand, fill out forms, garner letters of recommendation, enough to derange even a well-ordered life) had left their homes and loved ones, if they had any, and converged on this California university resort town for two months of lectures and comraderie.

When she wasn’t with her lover, during the first two weeks of the seminar, she ate dinner, a sacred social ritual in her home city, with strangers, she thought, as she put water up to boil on the glacially slow surface of the electric range in the rented house. Her new manicured suburban neighbourhood, nestled at the foot of the university hills, was plunked down in what had been two decades ago cattle grazing fields and bulb farms. The university, looking more like a state park, was donated by a logging company. Good move. Each term, more years of forest growth was consumed by the book orders of ambitious professors than the havoc the multis could wreck in a decade.

After graduate school was military training. Each recruit stuck in his own isolated warren, alone with a series of confrontations of programmed obstacles, monsters, masters, hazards he must confront and survive. Only the all-seeing administration knows/sees the behavior of each recruit from its privileged altitude. By the time the recruit has survived his trials, he believes that he merits the condescending praise dished out by his superiors. He learns to copy the masters until one day, he finds not only that he can do it, but that mastery was a bit pumped up and overinvested to begin with.

The town had beach, seals, sunlight, redwoods, cliffs, sand, and surfers, but no city. No graffiti, no garbage, no crowds. Social homogeneity instead of diversity of people. Nature in the country. Culture in the city. Here the house and its boundaries and connections to the outside were manipulable, relational categories. The two pages of instructions on “Lawn and Garden” included reference to “blue hibiscus”, “camellias”, Japanese maple, bougainvillea, rhododendrons, large fuchsia. When she sat out in the back yard, the scent of the lemon tree ever present, the sound of printers sputtered like chain saws.

After the third day of the seminar, she knew there was no one there to fuck. Twenty men out of twenty-five people, and only one interested her. But he had a live-in girlfriend in tow, so she called her girlfriend in San Francisco, who wanted to introduce her to a man. “Tell me again about your friend, the man you want me to meet,” she said, “there’s no one here.” “He’s single, heterosexual, and interested in a lot of the same things you are, the same age, divorced,” her friend said. “What’s his phone number?” She called, they made a date, and here she was, a week and a half later.

Twenty-four hours after they’d gotten almost to sleep, she slept alone the next night. Now fully awake the next morning, she let the recent time with Josh flood her memory as she poured herself a cup of tea, watching the steam rise as she stirred her tea with a spoon. What she had particularly loved about sex with Josh was that it wasn’t over when he had come. No more than, many times later, it was over when she had come first. After a pause, they always started in again until each had come enough. Although she didn’t know it yet, one of the things that made their sex so good was that it gave him as much pleasure to make her come as it gave her to make him come. She looked beyond the patio doors to the flowering trees in the backyard, enjoying her recollection of that first night, a little more than a day ago.

His hand lightly tracing circles over her cunt brought her back. They lay together enjoying the feeling of having fucked their hearts out. She felt the cool of the wet spot on the sheets made by the mix of their fluids, and shifted her body a fraction to a drier spot. He moved with her, never breaking their contact. “You have to show me what you like,” he said, running a finger gently over her cunt lips, then veering toward her clit. She shuddered with pleasure, sensing the arch of her neck thrown back, the muscles of his hips and thighs. Lying there having her clit stroked and rubbed evoked a flood of images. Multiple screens flashed images of femmes fatales, discus throwers poised and bent to throw. She became a high-heeled, bejeweled, slinky-dressed femme, and he a tango-leading, tall and black-booted stud.

He moved his leg over hers, feeling her tense against him. “There, like that,” she managed. He touched her lightly at first, in teasing motions, making her move toward him, show him with the motion of her pelvis toward or away from his hand exactly what she wanted. “Harder,” she said, and he continued, rhythmically and more firmly. She moved under his touch onto plateaus of more and more pure pleasure until she couldn’t bear it any more, coming with an arch of her back and a moan that surprised her. “Oh, my God,” she said, pressing herself onto his hand, still coming. “Oh, baby, come,” he said, smiling over at her as she opened her eyes. “Oh, God, that was wonderful,” she said, kissing him on the lips. “Next time, I’ll bring my vibrator,” she said. “Fine, I’d like to meet it,” he said.

They lay together, quietly, kissing lightly, his hand cupping her cunt. What a beginning, she thought. I like him. Josh spooned her with his body, “Good night, baby,” he said. “Good night, love.” Unbeknownst to them, this was only the beginning.

LUST by Elfriede Jelinek

Translated by Michael Hulse

IN ALL SERIOUSNESS I call upon you: air and lust for one and all!

The woman will be with you in a moment, can you hold? First she has to collect herself: for a kiss it’d be best to be collected, all five senses, collect the set. The student is well developed, a perfect picture of a man, no need for touching up, so she lets him touch her up. He places his arm between her thighs. With his eye on the way ahead and the main chance, he rummages under her clothes, which consist chiefly of a plain dressing-gown, which won’t be in the way for long. Many have to take terrible buses and regret it terribly when they remain on the wrong genitals for too long. The owner, or rather the passenger of his three-in-one wishes, grows too used to us and won’t let us out of his ground-level hospitable apartment. Let me explain that three-in-one: woman is a trinity of pleasures, to be grabbed up top, down below, or in the middle! Till at length they can move on to various amiable kinds of sport, possessing each other without understanding. Bawling and bawling. The woman is eager for the driver to drive her around a little, step on it.

It can’t simply be because the toilet’s in the corridor that we feel impelled to go out at night and, in front of the door, look slyly around to see if anyone’s watching as we stand there with our hands on our sex, as if we might be due to lose it before we can place it in its hand-painted chipboard box.

Of the many kinds of accommodation he might choose, the young man opts for this one alone. But the closet won’t keep still, no, it’s even hurrying off ahead in the dark and the cold! This Gerti beats him to the enclosure. Many a one has talked of kissing here. Spread their torchlight wide. And cast great shadows on the walls, so that for one other person they will be greater than just anyone, just anyone on a ski lift. As if sheer carnal desire could make them greater, bigger! As if they could draw themselves up so erect that they’d slam the ball straight in the basket! Players can be mighty fine specimens, tall and erect, and there they stand before their partners, fully equipped, with all the necessary tackle. So many requirements, all of them pressing, pressed into the service of hygiene and filth alike, simply to possess each other. As the phrase inaptly goes. This dusty junk shop’s where we end up. Two household objects. Of simple geometrical design. Wanting to fit together and be good as new again! Now! Suddenly there’s a woman in combinations in the corridor, a jug of water in her hand; has she been casting spells, calling forth a storm, or is she only going to make some tea? In no time at all a woman can make a home of the plainest, barest, most spartan of places. That is to say, even the plainest of women can make a man feel at home by baring all, in no time he places his spar. This young man who has entered her life might be the great intellectual? Now everything will be different from how it was planned. We’ll make a new plan on the spot. Our heads will swell good and proper. Oh, your boy plays the violin as well? But not at this very moment, surely, since no one’s punching his start button.

Come on, she yells to Michael. As if she were demanding money of a shopkeeper who hates us customers. And yet he can’t get by without us. He has to tempt us into his store or go penniless. Now the woman wants a pleasure that lasts at last. First of all, one! two! (you can do it too, sitting in your car, your speed as limited as your mental horizons) we lunge at each other’s mouths, then we plunge into all the other orifices; in thy orifices may I be remembered. And all of a sudden our partner means everything to us. Presently, in a minute or two, Michael will penetrate Gerti, whom he hardly knows and has barely taken a look at. Just as a sleeping car attendant always knocks first with a hard object. He lifts the woman’s dressing-gown over her head and with his mouth, in an excitement of his own creation, prompts her who was without form and void to make a frightful commotion in the queue. The queue at the cash desk where we’re all waiting, money clenched and balled behind our flies. We are our own worst enemies in matters of taste. People all like different things, isn’t that so? But what if we want to be liked? What will we do, in our infinite indolence: call upon sex to do the work for us?

Michael yanks the woman’s legs about him like the legs of hightension masts. In his exploratory zeal he gives intermittent attention to her undouched cleft, a gnarled version of what every other woman has on her person in a discreet shade of lavender or lilac. He pulls back and takes a good look at the place where he is repeatedly disappearing, only to reappear, a huge great thing, fun for one and all. A funster, this fellow. But flawed. Sport being one of his flaws, and hardly the least. The woman is calling him. What’s got into him? Why hasn’t it got into her? Since Gerti didn’t have an opportunity to wash, her hole looks murky, as if it were plastic-coated. Who can resist jamming a finger in (you can use peas, lentils, safety pins or marbles if you like), try it and see what an enthusiastic response you’ll get from your lesser half. Woman’s unyielding sex looks as if it were unplanned. And what is it used for? So that Man can tussle with Nature, and the children and grandchildren have somewhere to come trailing their clouds of glory from. Michael scrutinizes Gerti’s complicated architecture and yells like a stuck pig. As if he were dissecting a corpse, he seizes her hairy cunt, stinking of secret dissatisfaction and dissatisfied secretions, and buries his face in it. You tell a horse’s age by the teeth. This woman isn’t so young any more either, but nonetheless this wrathful bird of prey is flapping at her door.

Michael laughs: he’s terrific. Will we ever learn from these transactions? Will the one ever be able to cross the gap to the other, to talk and be understood and understand? Women’s genitals, so outrageously located in a hillside, tend to be quite distinct, claims the expert. Just as no two people are entirely alike. They can wear quite different headgear, for instance. And the ladies are particularly prone to difference. No two of them are entirely alike. Not that a lover cares, when they lie prone: what he sees is what he’s used to seeing on other women. In the mirror he sees himself reflected, his own deity. In the waters’ depths. Fishing, plenty of fish in the sea, just hang out your dripping rod and wait for a catch, another woman to toss off your godhead in and then toss back. Ah, the privy parts and privy arts of mankind! All that’s required of womankind is that she reck his rod (not wreck his rod), rock his godhead, toss his rocks off.

Let observation with extended view survey mankind… and what you’ll see is the gaping gawp of somebody’s integrated, semi-conducted craving for ecstasy. Go ahead. Try for something of real value! Feeling, perhaps, that guide who takes the tour party into terrain he’s unfamiliar with, burgeoning through your skull? We don’t have to watch him grow. We can choose another pupil to waken and give us pleasure. Yet the ingredients are stirred as we are. Our dough rises, puffed up with the sheer force of air, the atomic cloud mushrooming over the mountaintop. A door slams shut. And we’re on our own again. Gerti’s jolly husband, who is forever dangling his hose with a nonchalant air, as if his waters sprang from some precious source, isn’t here right now to reach out his hand to his wife or torment his offspring on the rack of music. The woman laughs out loud at the thought. The young man is ramming his piston forcefully home, every stroke an attempt to get a little locomotion going, stoke her engine, can’t you hear that whistle blow? He is taking a lively interest at present. Well aware of the changes even the least likely of women can undergo at the hands of a red-hot fresh and scented wad of male sex. Sex is the downtown of our lives, shopping precinct and leisure centre and red light district all in one, but it isn’t where we live. We prefer a little elbow room, a bigger living room, with appliances we can turn on and off. Within her, this woman has already done an about-turn and is heading straight back for her own familiar allotment where she can pick the fruits of sensuality from her private plot herself and do the job with her own hands. Even alcohol becomes volatile at a certain point. But still, almost blubbing with joy at the changes he has wished upon himself, the young man is rummaging about the cosy taxi. He even looks under the seat. He opens Gerti, and then snaps her shut again. Nothing there!

Of course we can don hygienic caps if we like, to avoid the risk of disease. Otherwise, we have everything we need. And though the lordsandmasters cock their legs and slash their waters into their women, they can’t remain but must hurry on, restless, to the next tree, where they waggle their genital worms till someone takes an interest. Pain flashes like lightning into women, but it does no permanent damage, no need to cry over charred furniture or molten appliances. And out it dribbles once again. Your partner will be willing to forgo anything but your feelings. After all, she likes to cook up feelings too. Poor people’s food. I’d even say she’s specialized in economy cooking, she’s out to have men’s hearts in a preserve jar at last. The poor prefer to turn away without being shoo’d about by tour guides. Their pricks even lay them down to rest before they do. And the source from which their waters spring is the heart. They leave the sheet unstained, and off we go.

At any rate, there are glasses that contain nothing of any greater sense than the wine. The Direktor likes looking into the glass: when it’s raised to his lips he can see the bottom, and similarly he wants to drain his own immense tank, right into Gerti. The moment he sees her he exposes himself. His rain comes pouring from the cloudburst before she has a chance to run for shelter. His member is big and heavy and would fill the pan if you added his eggs. In the old days he used to invite many a woman to breakfast, they gobbled him up, slipped down a treat, but now he no longer calls in the hungry folk to eat at his table. Deformed by the opulence of leisure, humanity reclines in its deckchairs, resting its sex, or else strolls the gravel paths, sex in its pockets, hands in its pockets. Work restores humankind and all its attributes to the savage animal condition that was its original intended state. Thanks to one of Nature’s whims, men’s members are usually too small by the time they’ve got the knack of handling them. And there they go, leafing through the catalogues of exotic women, high-performance models that are more economical to run and need less fuel. The dipsticks plunge their dipsticks in the sump they know best, which happens to be their wives. Whom they wouldn’t trust as far as they could throw them. So they stay home to keep a watch on them. Then their gaze pans across to the factory in the mist. Though, if they applied themselves a little more patiently, they could take a holiday as far afield as the Adriatic. Where they could dip their sticks in other waters. Their gangling danglers, carefully packed in their elasticated bathing trunks. Their wives wear sawn-off swimsuits. Their breasts are close friends, but they also like making new acquaintances, how do you do, a firm grip, perhaps too firm, uncouthly dragging them from the recliners where they were lounging, lazy and tender, tearing them out, crumpling them in careless fingers and tossing them into the nearest wastepaper basket.

There are signposts along the roads, pointing the way to the towns. Only this woman has to go messing about where children are trying to get their first bearings in life. Calm down and carry on! Hereabouts it is distinctly frosty and foresty. There’s a smell of hay. Of straw. Strewn for us, for the animal within. The dog in the manger. How often we’ve taken the mangy creature walkies! How many before us – who would gladly have buried their wives if they could harvest a goodly crop of women from the place – have splashed and sprayed here! Like winning a motor race! Or like giving it all away: someone, for instance, has thrown a condom away before turning homeward once again. Most men have no idea what you can perform on that keyboard, the clitoris. But they’ve all read the magazines that prove there’s more to women than anyone ever imagined. A millimetre or so more, to be exact.

The student crushes the woman to him. The hissing that escapes from his pent valve can be stopped by the merest touch, he can do it himself. He doesn’t want to squirt off yet, nor does he want the wait to have been in vain. As she reclines there in his upholstered crate, he clumsily paws and pinches the most unseemly parts of the woman’s anatomy, so that she has to spread her legs further apart. He rummages in her slumbering sex, squeezes it into a pout and smacks it abruptly apart again. Oughtn’t he to excuse himself, given that he’s treating her worse than the furniture? He slaps her derriere and heaves her onto her back once more. He’ll sleep well tonight, that’s for sure, like anyone who’s done an honest day’s work and then taken his innocent rest and recreation.

His hands clawed tight in her hair, the student quickly fucks the woman shitless, it messes the car seats but what the fuck. As he services her, he does not look out at the world, where only the beautiful come in for care and maintenance, a major service every few thousand miles. He looks at her, trying to read something in that face which has been rendered indecipherable by her husband. Men are capable of detaching themselves from the world for as long as they want. Only to take a tighter grip on their own tour group afterwards. They have the option. Everyone who has any idea about men knows who we mean: that male world, a couple of thousand people involved in sport, politics, the economy, the arts. Where the rest come a cropper. And who will love them all, that crop of puffed-up flatulent bigmouths? What does the student see, beyond his own body’s unctions and functions? The woman’s mouth, a source from which streams well up, and the floor, from where her image laughs at him. They don’t bother with any rubber protection. The man half turns away in order to watch his rigid member entering and exiting. The woman’s socket gapes wide. The piggy bank squeaks, it’s designed for paying in, only to pay everything promptly out again. Both transactions are of equal importance in this business, but you try telling that to any modern businessman, he’ll raise his eyebrows in alarm, he’ll raise the alarm, he’ll lift his kids up so high so that they don’t step in their inferiors’ anger.

Gradually the spasms the man has set going in the woman calm and subside. She’s had hers and perhaps she’ll even get a second helping. Quiet! Now only the senses are doing the talking. But we don’t understand what they’re saying, because under the seat they’ve changed into something incomprehensible.

The student spills his packetful into the animals’ cratch, fills his packet into the animal’s snatch. Now it is deepest night. Clad in deepest black. Elsewhere, people are turning over, thinking of other more finely built specimens they’ve seen in magazines before they dock their bodies alongside for love. When Michael unbuckled his skis, he didn’t pause to consider that sport, that eternal constant of our world, which hath its dwelling place in the TV set, doesn’t simply stop when you’ve shot down your slope. The whole of life is sport. Sports dress enlivens our existence. All our relatives under the age of eighty wear tracksuits and T-shirts. Tomorrow’s eggs are on sale today so you can count your chickens before they’re hatched. There are others who are better-looking or cleverer than we are, for it is written. But what will become of those of whom no mention at all is made? And their inactive unattractive penises: where shall they channel their little rivers? Where is the bed for them to flow and lay their heads to rest? On this earth they are forever worrying about their wretched little organs, but where oh where shall they spray the antifreeze to afford protection in the winter to come, so their engines don’t refuse to start? Will they negotiate union, or negotiate with a union? What ridges and ranges of perfumed flesh strew the path of dalliance, all the way till the stock feel the knife on the throat and the family feel the ramrod and lash? For those who are attractive, and who generally tend to be the most active too, are not mere decor in our lives. They want to plug their members into other people’s sockets, and will do. Always bear in mind that, in their attempt to get what they want, people will hide away far inside each other, inseparable. So the atom doesn’t split them.

Even before the minute hand of happiness can stroke the two of them, Michael has emitted a fluid, and that’s it. But, in the woman, nuclear energy is powering her higher. These are the headwaters of which she has secretly dreamt for decades. Ah, the faithful old work-horse, pulling the man’s body at the woman’s whiplash behest! These forces are felt in even the tiniest remotest ramifications of the female. They spread like wildfire. The woman hugs the man tight as if he had become a part of her. She cries out. Presently, her head turned by what she feels, she’ll be going on her way, dripping the seeds of discord in the petty principality of her household, and wherever the seed touches the earth mandrakes and other creatures will shoot up and grow, for her sake. This woman belongs to love. Now, for sure, she has to make certain she revisits this wonderful leisure centre. Again and again. Because this young man has hauled out his tool (now next to useless) and waved it about, see you again, Gerti suddenly sees his face with the pimple at the top right in a totally new and meaningful light. It is a face she’ll have to see again, of course. Her future will depend on this go-getter’s talent for gun-running, the secret arms trade hidden in his trousers. From now on, his one and only joy shall be to dwell inside Gerti. But here come the windy gusts. The breezy gusto. Bang on time. For holidays over the hills and far away are ruffling and dishevelling and tousling the desire of girls and women, so that they want a good hard regular brushing. In town, where you can go dancing in the cafés, the women on holiday congregate in deadened leaden droves. Ready to fall when night falls. Michael, who is interested in shooting off the lead in his pencil, will have to invest in rubber. And make his choice of the women dressed in their après ski best. All of them are natural beauties with natural tastes in natural sex, naturally, that’s what he likes best. Make-up painted over pimples would blow him clean away.

Long before opening time, poor Gerti is sure to be at the telephone tomorrow, pestering it. This Michael, if the signals he’s sending us and has himself received from various magazines can be relied on, is a blond creature off the cinema screen. Looking as if he’d been out in the sun for some time, with gel in his hair. Prompting us to finger our own sex, he’s giving us the finger, he won’t give us the finger for real. He is and always will be far away from us. Remote even when he’s close. He enjoys nightlife. Keeping the night alive, lively. Not a man who cares for restraint. It’s not easy to account for lightning, either: but in middle age we women are herded together in an enclosure of weekend assignations, and the bolt will strike one of us, that’s for sure, before we have to leave.

Mind how you go. You may have something about your person that men like that would find a use for!

The animals are falling asleep, and desire has drawn Gerti out of herself, has struck a spark from her little pocket lighter, but Where’s this draught come from that’s made the flame burn higher? From this heart-shaped peep-hole? From some other loving heart? In winter they go skiing, in summer they are the children of light, playing tennis or swimming or finding other reasons to undress, other smouldering fires to stamp out. When once a woman’s senses are bespoke you can be sure she’ll make other slips of the tongue. This woman hates her sex. Which once she was the finest flower of.

The simpler folk hidden away behind their front gardens will soon be silent. But the woman is crying out loud for her idol Michael, long promised her in photographs that look like him. He’s just been for a fast drive in the Alps, now she roars and turns the vehicle of her body in every direction. It’s a steep downhill stretch. But even as she lies there whining and pining the clever housewife is planning the next rendezvous with her hero, who will provide shade on hot days and warm her on cold. When will they be able to meet without the lugubrious shadow of Gerti’s husband falling across them? You know how it is with the ladies: the immortal image of their pleasures means more to them than the mortal original, which sooner or later they will have to expose to life. To competition. When, fevering, chained to their bodies, they show up at a café in a new dress, to be seen in public with somebody new. They want to look at the picture of their loved one, that wonderful vision, in the peace and quiet of the marital bedroom, snuggled up side by side with the one who sometimes idly juggles his balls and pokes his poker in. Every one of these images is better accommodated in memory than life itself. On our own, we pick the memories from between our toes: how good it was to have properly unlocked oneself for once! Gerti can even bake herself anew and serve up her fresh rolls to the Man in the breadroom. And the children sing the praises of their Baker.

All of us earn the utmost we can carry.

The meadows are frozen entirely over. The senseless are beginning to think of going to bed, to lose themselves altogether. Gerti clings to Michael; let her climb every mountain, she still won’t find another like him. In the school of life, this young man has often been a beacon of light to his fellows, who are already taking their bearings from his appearance and his nose, which can always sniff out the genuine article from among the column inches of untruth. Most of the houses hereabouts hang aslant the slope, the sheds and byres clinging on to the walls with the last of their strength. They have heard of love, true. But they never got round to the purchasing of property that goes with it. So now they’re ashamed to be seen by their own TV screen. Where someone is just losing the memory game, the memory he wanted to leave with the viewers, the bill-and-cooers at home in their love-seats, hot-seats, forget-me-not-seats. Still, they have the power to preserve the image in their memories or reject it. Love it or shove it. Over the cliff. I can’t figure it out: is this the trigger on the eye’s rifle, this eyeful, is this the outrigger on the ship of courting senses, this sensitive courtship? Or am I completely wrong?

Michael and Gerti can’t get enough of touching. Necking. Checking to see if they’re still there. Clawing and pawing each other’s genitalia, done up in festive regalia as if for a premiere. Gerti speaks of her feelings and how far she’d like to follow them. Michael gapes as he realizes what he’s landed. Time to get out the rod and go fishing again. He hauls the woman round by the hair till she’s flapping above him like a great bird. The woman, awoken from the sedation of sex, is about to use her gob for uninhibited talking, but while it’s open Michael can think of better things to do with it and shoves his corncob in, amazing. The woman’s dragged by the hair against Michael’s firm belly, then skewered face-first on Michael’s shish-kebab. This continues for a while. Scarcely conceivable, that thousands of other insensate beings are wallowing in their misery at this very moment, forced by a terrible God to be parted from their loved ones all week long, in his illuminated factory. I hope your fate can be loosened a notch or two, so you can fit more in!

These two want to wonder and wander and squander each other, they have plenty of themselves in store and all the latest catalogues of erotica at home. Just think of those who don’t need the expensive extras, who hold each other dear without the sundries! Their special offers are themselves. They flood their banks and dykes, they won’t be dammed or damned, they go with the flow of experience, the tide takes them where it will. Suddenly Gerti has an irresistible urge to piss, which she does, first hesitantly, then full force. The vapour fills the confined space. She wraps the dressing-gown about her thighs and it gets wet. Michael playfully cups his hands and catches some of the audible jet, laughing he washes his face and body, then thumps Gerti onto her back and chews at her dripping labia, sucking and wringing out the rags. Then he drags Gerti into her own puddle and splashes her in it. She rolls her eyes upward but there’s no lightbulb up there, just the darkness inside her grinning skull. This is a feast. We’re on our own, talking to our sex: our dearest of guests, though one who is forever wanting the choicest titbits. The dressing-gown, which the woman has pulled back on again, is torn off her once more, and she beds down deep in the hay. On the floorboards there’s a wet patch. As if some superior being no one saw coming had made it. The only light is moonlight. Illuminating the present. Expecting a present in return.

The pallid bags of her breasts sag on her ribcage. Only one man and one child have ever made use of them. The Man back home ever bakes his impetuous daily bread anew. If your breasts hang right down on the table at dinner you can get an operation. They were made for the child and for the Man and for the child in the Man. Their owner is still writhing in her excreted fluid. Her bones and hinges are rattling with cold. Michael, racing down the slope, chomps at her privates and clutches and tugs at her dugs. Any moment now his God-given sap will rise in his stem, his cup will overflow. Hurry up, stuff that prick in its designated slot, no loitering. You can hear her shrieks, you can see the whites of her eyes, what are you waiting for?

The young man is suddenly alarmed at the totality with which he can spend himself without being spent. Again and again he reappears from within the woman, only to bury his little bird in the box again. He’s now licked Gerti from top to toe. His tongue’s still tart with the taste of her piss. Next her face. The woman snaps at him and bites. It hurts, but it’s a language animals understand. He grabs her head, still by the hair, pulls it up off the floor and slams it back where he first found it. Gerti splays her mouth wide open and Michael’s penis gives it a thorough go. Her eyes are shut. He jabs his knees in, forcing the woman to spread her thighs again. The novelty of this has worn off, unfortunately, since he did it the same way last time. So there you are, all skin and flick, and your desire is always the same old film! An endless chain of repetitions, less appealing every time because the electronic media and melodies have accustomed us to having something new home-delivered every day. Michael spreads Gerti wide as if he wanted to nail her to a cross and were not presently going to hang her in the wardrobe with the other clothes he rarely wears, which is what he’d actually intended. He stares at her cleft. This is familiar territory now. When she looks away, because she cannot bear his scrutiny and the groping, pinching hands that examine her, he hits her. He wants to see and do everything. He has a right to. There are details you can’t see, and, in the event of there being a next time, a flashlight would come in handy. Before going in out of the night to the bodywork repairs shop. This woman had best learn to take the lordand-master’s examination of her sex. And not hang her feelings on his peg. For thereby hangs a tale.

Hay cascades over her, warming her slightly. The master is finished. The woman’s wound is throbbing and swollen. Retracting his instrument abruptly, Michael signals that he wants to retire to the tidy quarters of his own body. Already he has become a platform for this woman, from which she will speak on the subject of her longing and his long thing. Thus, without so much as being photographed in underwear and framed, one can become the centre-piece of a well-appointed room. This young man created the white and awe-inspiring mountains of flesh before him. Like the evening sun, he has touched that face with red. He has taken a lease on the woman, and as far as she’s concerned he can now grope under her dress whenever he likes.

Gerti covers Michael with soft and downy kisses. Soon she will return to her house and her lord and master, who has qualities of his own. For we always wish to return to the place of our old wounds and tear open the gift wrapping in which we have disguised the old as the new, to conceal it. And our declining star teaches us nothing at all.

UNTITLED by Paul Mayersberg

GREG AWOKE TO the fact that he was going nowhere. He didn’t think of himself as an imprecise man, but by his thirty-fifth birthday he was still without a defined career in the movies. He had had a long sequence of odd jobs: as a floor runner, assistant location manager, unit driver. He had no flat to call his own. He stayed with friends, rented when he could afford it, house sat, squatted.

His relationship with women had proved equally short-lived and imprecise. Greg had not found what he wanted in a woman. When he examined the long sequence of girls he had had he could not find a common denominator. Not in age or appearance or lifestyle. With women, like work, he took what he could get. Nothing lasted. There was no pattern to any of it. Sexually he was without direction.

Greg was naturally an optimistic man but now he gave in to depression. He found himself in a flat without a television and where the phone had been cut off. His dole cheque had stopped since he had been out of work for six months. For cash work, he went from door to door in good neighborhoods, knocking on doors, offering to wash cars parked in the street. His only evening solace was masturbation.

Looking for stimulation he rummaged through the two-room flat for books with sexy passages, old fashion magazines, women’s clothes catalogues. Underwear, swimwear, skin beauty products. The place, left empty for the summer by an acquaintance of an acquaintance, had obviously been occupied by one or two women. Among the magazines, books, junk mail and bills Greg found a typed manuscript, a screenplay.

The front page read UNTITLED. There was no author’s name but there was a date. The work was four years old. Greg started to read. It brought him back to his imagined career in films. “Untitled” was an erotic story in the style popular a few years back.

Two working girls, sharing a flat with one bedroom, took it in turns to bring their boyfriends home for the night. One night, one of the boyfriends came out of the bedroom at three in the morning and climbed into the sofa bed in the sitting room to set about seducing the other girl, while her friend was asleep.

To begin with it looked like a story of betrayal, but then it turned out that the girls had pre-arranged it. They had embarked on a programme of sharing their men. But without telling them. The next day the girls compared notes on the sexual performance of the boyfriends.

Greg read the script right through at a sitting. It was clear to him that one or other or both the girls had written it as an account of their own experience in this flat. The sofa he was now sitting on as he read it was the sofa-bed referred to on page 18 where Rick first put his hand inside Annie’s pajama top. Annie had protested to begin with but not too vehemently. She enjoyed his attentions. She let him take off her pajama trousers. She allowed him to touch and kiss any part of her. But wouldn’t let him enter her. That, she told him, would be too much. After all, he was Kate’s boyfriend and Kate was her friend.

Reading this, Greg found himself sharing Rick’s frustration. He put the script aside and relieved himself of the tension.

On page 27, four days later in the story, Annie allowed Rick to come between her breasts. On page 29 Kate laughed when Annie told her at breakfast, after Rick had gone, how she insisted that he lick the sperm from her skin. Otherwise, she said, she would never let him touch her again. Rick had not enjoyed the experience. It made him feel sick. Greg was with Rick on this. It made him feel queasy.

On page 31 Kate encouraged Rick to come in her mouth. Which he did. Then she kissed him open-mouthed and pushed his come back into his own mouth. She asked him to swallow it. After all, she had on several occasions. Greg’s throat contracted. He felt himself gag.

Greg’s sex life, his lovemaking, had been very conventional. He had read of these games but had never played them himself. The effect of reading and re-reading “Untitled” was to make him recognize that he had been as imprecise about his sexual life as he had been about his film career. In both he had taken more or less what was on offer. He had not sought more. Like Rick, he had a low expectancy of himself. Perhaps low self-esteem was the reason for his non-career.

Greg read the script countless times. He came to know it by heart. He never for one moment considered whether it was good or bad as art or craft. It was enough that it stimulated him. He lived the scenes from “Untitled” in the flat where they happened. He lay in the bed where Annie’s boyfriend, Alec, had covered his full condom with KY jelly and entered her anus. Greg had never found a girl who wanted him to attempt this. But so real was the scene to him that he bought some KY jelly with his food money in order to re-create the event exactly. It did not seem strange to him, masturbating inside a condom, when he could have done it without, without the expense of buying the thing. The point was, for those few minutes he, Greg, became Alec.

For three weeks Greg’s fantasies did not depart from the script as written. He muttered the dialogue as he re-created the scenes. It wasn’t masturbation as he had known it. He was shooting and re-shooting the script. One time he was Alec. Another, he was Rick.

Then, whether out of boredom through repetition, or through a half-conscious desire to go further, he transferred his sensuality to the girls, to what they were feeling. Until now Kate and Annie had been undefined, unspecific girls. He had imagined their limbs, their breasts, their movements, but not their faces. The script itself had not been specific about their appearance. They were in their twenties. They had hair. They did things. They talked. But it was all very general.

For the first time, it dawned on Greg that “Untitled” was not a very good screenplay. It needed crafting if he were to continue getting satisfaction from the material. He would have to re-write it, at least in his head. He sharpened his mental pencil.

What did the girls look like? He made Kate a blonde with short hair, like an old girlfriend whose name he couldn’t remember. He made Annie dark with long hair. She was based on a fashion picture from Marie-Claire in the bathroom. He gave them blue eyes and dark eyes respectively. Their breasts posed questions. If he made Kate blonde she ought to have full breasts with large pale pink nipples. Oughtn’t she?

And Annie, as a brunette, should have small tits with small dark nipples. It seemed right. Didn’t it? He designed her narrow hips with pronounced jutting bones. He could hold on to them. The pubic hair posed a problem. The familiar dark bush, or something more interesting? What about long straight strands? He could comb and part the hair. It could be something of a game, if not a ritual. Then, while he was doing that she could be painting her toenails. It would make a nice complexity of angled limbs, her hands and his hands, all reaching forward. Greg was no more a painter than a writer. But his erotic impulses moved him in the direction of art.

Kate came out quite lush-looking. Five or seven pounds overweight. So pale was her skin he could see the tracery of veins in her heavy breasts. Her pubic hair would be curly blonde, glistening, so her slit was quite clearly visible. A great contrast with Annie. Now he had the basis of conflict within himself. He might have to choose between them one day.

Greg was less clear about their faces. He kept changing his mind with regard to their mouths. When they spoke it was with the same husky voice. He discovered, to his surprise, that the voice was more important than the flesh. He started to give the girls things to say. Dialogue came into the equation. He was no writer so they talked, not just with the same voice, but like him. His thoughts, their voice, one mouth. Greg was alone in the flat. His expression was a monologue. But that too became repetitious, unsatisfactory. He needed conversation, guidance, surprise. Greg couldn’t surprise himself. He became bored and went back to simple voyeurism.

He would watch Annie and Kate, dressing, undressing, alone, together, in bed, in the bath. It worked well for a time. He was back on track, keeping within his limitations. Then, without his wishing it, the boyfriends appeared.

Rick’s presence in the flat irritated Greg. The man was in the way. How could he play with Kate in the bathroom with Rick there? What should Rick do? Stay in the sitting room reading a magazine? Of course not. He’d come into the bathroom to see what was going on. He’d get angry at Greg screwing his girlfriend. Then in another scene Rick sat on the lavatory watching them together. That didn’t appeal to Greg one bit. It inhibited him. Rick wanted to join in. A threesome. Greg wasn’t up for that, having Rick fuck Kate from behind while he was getting a blow job. No. Rick had to go.

Greg decided to write him out. What were the options? Rick could be called away on business. Or he could meet with an accident. But who was Rick? While Greg had spent days working on the appearance of the girls, Rick and Alec were faceless guys without lives of their own, or jobs. Rick became a salesman. Greg hated salesmen.

So Rick was called away to another town. Fine. Now Greg got on with his plan to take Kate and Annie to bed together. Now there was a threesome he felt comfortable with. To begin with he had the girls kneel facing each other. They moved close to each other so their nipples touched. They liked that. Then they kissed. Greg enjoyed that. But when he put his hands between them neither Kate nor Annie responded to him. They rolled over and got on with loving each other.

When Annie spread Kate’s legs and put her tongue to Kate’s vulva Greg’s hard frustration turned to resentment. They were supposed to be there for him, not for each other. Greg was furious when Kate trembled to a climax. He pushed Annie aside and straddled Kate’s thighs. He slipped in and out of her and came quickly. But it wasn’t properly satisfying. He hadn’t made her come.

Greg identified a difficulty here. In fact, it had been present all along. His characters were starting to behave the way they wanted. They were no longer under his control. Greg didn’t realize that this was the beginning of what every author longs for, characters who develop a life of their own, outside the manipulation of their creator. In his ignorance he reined them back. He urged them to conform to his desire. Specifically Greg wanted Kate and Annie to come simultaneously under his hands.

Technically this proved impossible. He would need two penises to do the job properly. So he had to content himself with sucking Annie while penetrating Kate. While each girl appeared to climax within seconds of the other, Greg couldn’t get rid of the thought that one, or both, was faking it just to please him. That writer’s problem again. Manipulation might be formally satisfying at the time of writing, but there was a residue of doubt when you read the passage back the next day. It seemed forced. The frustration remained.

If the purpose of writing was to shape random events and disparate characters into a pattern, Greg was perplexed that describing sex, creating erotic scenes for his own pleasure, left him dissatisfied. Why wasn’t there a proper climax in the words, the sentences, the paragraphs, as there was in the act of fucking? Why wasn’t writing, where you were free to invent anything you wanted, why wasn’t it orgasmic? It was exciting, yes, gave you a hard on, but it didn’t make you come.

So what was it for? The untitled screenplay, however he rewrote it, in his head or in notes, had become an indictment of his solitary life. Its intention remained vague. Being alone had metamorphosed into loneliness. The trouble was, he couldn’t think of a title for the damned screenplay. If only he could do that he’d be halfway to where he was going.

It was evening when Greg got back from washing cars. He switched on the light by the door and immediately sensed he was not alone in the flat. There was a faint smell, food or coffee, he wasn’t sure. He ought to have been afraid, but he wasn’t. He needed another human being. Curiosity and hope drew him to the kitchen.

Alec was there, naked, stirring himself a cup of instant coffee. Before he turned to Greg he said: “Is that you, Annie?”

“No, it fucking isn’t,” Greg replied.

“Come here.”

What did he mean, come here? How could Alec mistake Greg for a girl? Was he crazy?

“Come and hold this.” Alec lifted his cock in one hand. He really thought Greg was Annie. Enough.

A cheese-smeared bread knife on the green plastic-topped table invited Greg to pick it up. He advanced on Alec, gripping the knife. Alec’s penis rose to meet it. Action. And later, the plunge, the nightmare.

Greg was still asleep when the phone rang. He jumped. Was he still dreaming? No, the phone was ringing beside the bed. Someone must have re-connected it. Nervously, he lifted the receiver. A woman’s voice.

“Is Annie there?”

“Who?”

“That is 352 0251, isn’t it?”

“I don’t know.” Greg looked down at the phone. There was no identifying number on it. Panic set in. “Who are you?”

“Who are you?” The woman’s husky tone became impatient.

Greg didn’t answer. Should he hang up?

“Look, Where’s Annie?” Demanding now.

Annie? Should he tell the voice that Annie was in Greg’s head? And in the pages of a screenplay.

“This is Kate. Whoever you are, I want to talk to Annie.”

Kate! No. Impossible. Greg panicked and hung up. His hands were trembling.

Almost immediately the phone rang again. He left it. It rang a hundred times, it seemed. When it finally stopped Greg took the receiver off. But it was no solution. Greg felt unsafe. He put a pillow over the receiver to muffle the high-pitched buzz. But he couldn’t suppress his mind. That dialogue. It had come by phone this time. Last time Alec had spoken in the kitchen. But Alec wasn’t real!

Annie and Kate were his characters. They were real to him. Greg forgot they had been drawn from an untitled screenplay. He concluded that he must now be hallucinating. He hadn’t heard or talked to anyone for days, weeks. Apart, of course, from himself. The phone had unnerved him. He left the pillow on it.

Greg had been in the bath for an hour. The water was tepid. He turned the hot tap on. Behind the splashing sound Greg heard another noise. A door closing. He turned off the flow and listened. Footsteps. He sat up. The water slipped over the side of the tub.

He stared at the woman in the doorway. It was Annie. His Annie. She was dressed in a raincoat, but her face… Annie.

Greg must have said the name out loud because she said, “Yes.” Then: “Who are you?” She had the husky voice.

“Greg.”

“Well, Greg, what the fuck are you doing in my bathroom?” The mouth was perfect, an exact version of the mouth he had given her.

“I’m… staying here.”

“No, you’re not. Get out.”

She waited. Greg couldn’t tell whether she was angry or just insistent. Did she mean get out of the bath, or get out of the flat?

“Come on.”

Annie reached down for the fallen bathrobe. She held it up. Greg was now more embarrassed than fearful. He eased himself up. Annie watched him. There was no point trying to cover himself. He climbed out of the bath. He slipped. Annie caught his arm. He felt stupid.

“When you’re dressed you can tell me what you’re doing here.”

Greg pulled the robe round him. Annie left the bathroom. Greg started to dry himself. Keep calm, he told himself. There’s nothing to be afraid of. He had imagined a woman and now she had come to life. Now he had a different role, always provided that he stayed on in the flat. Would there be room for him? Or would he go the way of Rick and Alec?

Annie came out of the bathroom and got into bed beside Kate. They yawned simultaneously and laughed together. Greg loved the way their breasts wobbled when they laughed. It was strange that he hadn’t seen or heard Kate come back to the flat. She was just there. Ah well, he would sleep on the sofa. He had nowhere else to go.

“He’s asleep.”

“What are we going to do with him?”

“We’ll have to give him a name.”

“Who’s going to talk to him?”

Kate took a coin and spun it.

“Tails,” called Annie.

It was heads.

“That’s appropriate,” said Kate.

She went into the dark sitting room. Greg was asleep on the sofa wearing Annie’s bathrobe. He snored faintly. Kate knelt down. She parted the robe without untying it. She smiled. Greg was semi-erect. The tip glistened.

“Halfway house,” Kate whispered. “Unformed, but you’ve got the makings of an interesting character.” She licked him with the tongue of a cat.

Greg awoke.

BEAUTY’S RELEASE by Anne Rice

1 Through the City and into the Palace

BEAUTY OPENED HER eyes. She had not been sleeping, and she knew without having to see through a window that it was morning. The air in the cabin was unusually warm.

An hour ago she had heard Tristan and Laurent whispering in the dark, and she had known the ship was at anchor. And she had been only slightly afraid.

After that, she had slipped in and out of thin erotic dreams, her body wakening all over like a landscape under the rising sun. She was impatient to be ashore, impatient to know the full extent of what was to happen to her, to be threatened in ways that she could understand.

Now, when she saw the lean, comely little attendants flooding into the room, she knew for certain that they had come to the Sultanate. All would be realized soon enough.

The precious little boys – they could be no more than fourteen or fifteen, despite their height – had always been richly dressed, but this morning they wore embroidered silk robes, and their tight waist sashes were made of rich striped cloth, and their black hair gleamed with oil, and their innocent faces were dark with an unusual air of anxiety.

At once, the other royal captives were roused, and each slave was taken from the cage and led to the proper grooming table.

Beauty stretched herself out on the silk, enjoying her sudden freedom from confinement, the muscles in her legs tingling. She glanced at Tristan and then at Laurent. Tristan was suffering too much still. Laurent, as always, looked faintly amused. But there was not even time now to say farewell. She prayed they would not be separated, that whatever happened they would come to know it together, and that somehow their new captivity would yield moments when they might be able to talk.

At once the attendants rubbed the gold pigmented oil into Beauty’s skin, strong fingers working it well into her thighs and buttocks. Her long hair was lifted and brushed with gold dust, and then she was turned on her back gently.

Skilled fingers opened her mouth. Her teeth were polished with a soft cloth. Waxen gold was applied to her lips. And then gold paint was brushed onto her eyelashes and eyebrows.

Not since the first day of the journey had she or any of the slaves been so thoroughly decorated. And her body steamed with familiar sensations.

She thought hazily of her divinely crude Captain of the Guard, of the elegant but distantly remembered tormentors of the Queen’s Court, and she felt desperate to belong to someone again, to be punished for someone, to be possessed as well as chastised.

It was worth any humiliation, that, to be possessed by another. In retrospect, it seemed she had only been a flower in a full bloom when she was thoroughly violated by the will of another, that in suffering for the will of another she had discovered her true self.

But she had a new and slowly deepening dream, one that had begun to flame in her mind during the time at sea, and that she had confided only to Laurent: the dream that she might somehow find in this strange land what she had not found before; someone whom she might truly love.

In the village, she told Tristan that she did not want this, that it was harshness and severity alone she craved. But the truth was that Tristan’s love for his Master had deeply affected her. His words had swayed her, even as she had spoken her contradictions.

And then had come these lonely nights at sea of unfulfilled yearning, of pondering too much all the twists of fate and fortune. And she had felt strangely fragile thinking of love, of giving her secret soul to a Master or Mistress, more than ever off balance.

The groom combed gold paint into her pubic hair, tugging each curl to make it spring. Beauty could hardly keep her hips still. Then she saw a handful of fine pearls held out for her inspection. And into her pubic hair these went, to be affixed to the skin with powerful adhesive. Such lovely decorations. She smiled.

She closed her eyes for a second, her sex aching in its emptiness. Then she glanced at Laurent to see that his face had taken on an Oriental cast with the gold paint, his nipples beautifully erect like his thick cock. And his body was being ornamented, as befitted its size and power, with rather large emeralds instead of pearls.

Laurent was smiling at the little boy who did the work, as if in his mind he was peeling away the boy’s fancy clothes. But then he turned to Beauty, and, lifting his hand languidly to his lips, he blew her a little kiss, unnoticed by the others.

He winked and Beauty felt the desire in her burning hotter. He was so beautiful, Laurent.

“O, please don’t let us be separated,” she prayed. Not because she ever thought she would possess Laurent – that would be too interesting – but because she would be lost without the others, lost…

And then it hit her with full force: she had no idea what would happen to her in the Sultanate, and absolutely no control over it. Going into the village, she had known. She had been told. Even coming into the castle, she had known. The Crown Prince had prepared her. But this was beyond her imagining, this place. And beneath her concealing gold paint she grew pale.

The grooms were gesturing for their charges to rise. There were the usual exaggerated and urgent signs for them to be silent, still, obedient, as they stood in a circle facing each other.

And Beauty felt her hands lifted and clasped behind her back as if she were a senseless little being who could not even do that much herself. Her groom touched the back of her neck and then kissed her cheek softly as she compliantly bowed her head.

Still, she could see the others clearly. Tristan’s genitals had also been decorated with pearls, and he gleamed from head to toe, his blond locks even more golden than his burnished skin.

And, glancing at Dmitri and Rosalynd, she saw that they had both been decorated with red rubies. Their black hair was in magnificent contrast to their polished skin. Rosalynd’s enormous blue eyes looked drowsy under their fringe of painted lashes. Dmitri’s broad chest was tightened like that of a statue, though his strongly muscled thighs quivered uncontrollably.

Beauty suddenly winced as her groom added a bit more gold paint to each of her nipples. She couldn’t take her eyes off his small brown fingers, enthralled by the care with which he worked, and the way that her nipples hardened unbearably. She could feel each of the pearls clinging to her skin. Every hour of starvation at sea sharpened her silent craving.

But the captives had another little treat in store for them. She watched furtively, her head still bowed, as the grooms drew out of their deep, hidden pockets new and frightening little toys – pairs of gold clamps with long chains of delicate but sturdy links attached to them.

The clamps Beauty knew and dreaded, of course. But the chains – they really agitated her. They were like leashes and they had small leather handles.

Her groom touched her lips for quiet and then quickly stroked her right nipple, gathering a nice pinch of breast into the small gold scallop-shell clamp before he snapped it shut. The clamp was lined with a bit of white fur, yet the pressure was firm. And all of Beauty’s skin seemed to feel the sudden nagging torment. When the other clamp was just as tightly in place, the groom gathered the handles of the long chains in his hands and gave them a tug. This was what Beauty had feared most. She was brought forward sharply, gasping.

At once the groom scowled, quite displeased with the openmouthed sound, and spanked her lips with his fingers firmly. She bowed her head lower, marveling at these two flimsy little chains, at their hold upon these unaccountably tender parts of her. They seemed to control her utterly.

She watched with her heart contracting, as the groom’s hand tightened again and the chains were jerked, and she was pulled forward once more by her nipples. She moaned this time but she did not dare to open her lips, and for this she received his approving kiss, the desire surging painfully inside her.

“O, but we cannot be led ashore like this,” she thought. She could see Laurent, opposite, clamped the same as she was, and blushing furiously as his groom tugged the hated little chains and made him step forward. Laurent looked more helpless than he had in the village on the Punishment Cross.

For a moment, all the delightful crudity of village punishments came back to her. And she felt more keenly this delicate restraint, the new quality of servitude.

She saw Laurent’s little groom kiss his cheek approvingly. Laurent had not gasped or cried out. But Laurent’s cock was bobbing uncontrollably. Tristan was in the same transparently miserable state, yet he looked, as ever, quietly majestic.

Beauty’s nipples throbbed as if they were being whipped. The desire cascaded through her limbs, made her dance just a little without moving her feet, her head suddenly light with dreams of new and particular love again.

But the business of the grooms distracted her. They were taking down from the walls their long, stiff leather thongs; and these, like all other objects in this realm, were heavily studded with jewels, which made them heavy instruments of punishment, though, like strips of sapling wood, they were quite flexible.

She felt the light sting on the back of her calves, and the little double leash was pulled. She must move up behind Tristan, who had been turned towards the door. The others were probably lined up behind her.

And quite suddenly, for the first time in a fortnight, they were to leave the hold of the ship. The doors were opened, Tristan’s groom leading him up the stairs, the thong playing on Tristan’s calves to make him march, and the sunlight pouring down from the deck was momentarily blinding. There came with it a great deal of noise – the sound of crowds, of distant shouts, of untold numbers of people.

Beauty hurried up the wooden stairs, the wood warm under her feet, the tugging of her nipples making her moan again. What precious genius, it seemed, to be led so easily by such refined instruments. How well these creatures understood their captives.

She could scarcely bear the sight of Tristan’s tight, strong buttocks in front of her. It seemed she heard Laurent moan behind. She felt afraid for Elena and Dmitri and Rosalynd.

But she had emerged on the deck and could see on either side the crowd of men in their long robes and turbans. And beyond the open sky, and high mud-brick buildings of a city. They were in the middle of a busy port, in fact, and everywhere to right and left were the masts of other ships. The noise, like the light itself, was numbing.

“O, not to be led ashore like this,” she thought again. But she was rushed behind Tristan across the deck and down an easy, sloping gangplank. The salt air of the sea was suddenly clouded with heat and dust, the smell of animals and dung and hemp rope, and the sand of the desert.

The sand, in fact, covered the stones upon which she suddenly found herself standing. And she could not help but raise her head to see the great crowds being held back by turbaned men from the ship, hundreds and hundreds of dark faces scrutinizing her and the other captives. There were camels and donkeys piled high with wares, men of all ages in linen robes, most with their heads either turbaned or veiled in longer, flowing desert headdresses.

For a moment Beauty’s courage failed her utterly. It was not the Queen’s village, this. No, it was something far more real, even as it was foreign.

And yet her soul expanded as the little clamps were tugged again, as she saw gaudily dressed men appear in groups of four, each group bearing on its shoulders the long gilded rods of an open, cushioned litter.

Immediately, one of these cushions was lowered before her. And her nipples were pulled again by the mean little leashes as the thong snapped at her knees. She understood. She knelt down on the cushion, its rich red and gold design dazzling her slightly. And she felt herself pushed back on her heels, her legs opened wide, her head bowed again by a warm hand placed firmly on her neck.

“This is unbearable,” she thought, moaning as softly as she could, “that we will be carried through the city itself. Why were we not taken secretly to His Highness the Sultan? Are we not royal slaves?”

But she knew the answer. She saw it in the dark faces that pressed in on all sides.

“We are only slaves here. No royalty accompanies us now. We are merely expensive and fine, like the other merchandise brought from the hold of the ships. How could the Queen let this happen to us?”

But her fragile sense of outrage was at once dissolved as if in the heat of her own naked flesh. Her groom pushed her knees even wider apart, and spread her buttocks upon her heels as she struggled to remain utterly pliant.

“Yes,” she thought, her heart palpitating, her skin breathing in the awe of the crowd, “a very good position. They can see my sex. They can see every secret part of me.” Yet she struggled with another little flair of alarm. And the gold leashes were quickly wound around a golden hook at the front of the cushion, which made them quite taut, holding her nipples in a state of bittersweet tension.

Her heart beat too fast. Her little groom further frightened her with all his desperate gestures that she be silent, that she be good. He was being fussy as he touched her arms. No, she must not move them. She knew that. Had she ever tried so hard to remain motionless? When her sex convulsed like a mouth gasping for air, could the crowd see it?

The litter was lifted carefully to the shoulders of the turbaned bearers. She grew almost dizzy with an awareness of her exposure. But it comforted her just a little to see Tristan kneeling on his cushion just ahead, to be reminded that she was not alone here.

The noisy crowd made way. The little procession moved through the huge open place that spread out from the harbor.

Overcome with a sense of decorum, she dared not move a muscle. Yet she could see all around her the great bazaar – merchants with their bright ceramic wares spread out upon multicolored rugs; rolls of silk and linen in stacks; leather goods and brass goods and ornaments of silver and gold; cages of fluttering, clucking birds; and food cooking in smoking pots under dusty canopies.

Yet the whole market had turned its chattering attention to the captives who were being carried past. Some stood mute beside their camels, just staring. And some – the young bareheaded boys, it seemed – ran along beside Beauty, glancing up at her and pointing and talking rapidly.

Her groom was at her left, and with his long leather thong he made some small adjustment of her long hair, and now and then fiercely admonished the crowd, driving it backwards.

Beauty tried not to see anything but the high mudbrick buildings coming closer and closer.

She was being carried up an incline, but her bearers held the litter level. And she struggled to keep her perfect form, though her chest heaved and pulled at the mean little clamps, the long gold chains that held her nipples shivering in the sunlight.

They were in a steep street, and on either side of her windows opened, people pointed and stared, and the crowd streamed along the walls, their cries growing suddenly louder as they echoed off the stones. The grooms drove them back with even stricter commands.

“Ah, what do they feel as they look at us?” Beauty thought. Her naked sex pulsed between her legs. It seemed to feel itself so disgracefully opened. “We are as beasts, are we not? And these wretched people do not for a moment imagine that such a fate could befall them, poor as they might be. They wish only that they might possess us.”

The gold paint tightened on her skin, tightened particularly on her clamped nipples.

And try as she might, she could not keep her hips entirely still. Her sex seemed to churn with desire and move her entire body with it. The glances of the crowd touched her, teased her, made her ache in her emptiness.

But they had come to the end of the street. The crowd streamed out into an open place where thousands more stood watching. The noise of voices came in waves. Beauty could not even see the end of this crowd, as hundreds jostled to get a closer look at the procession. She felt her heart pound even harder as she saw the great golden domes of a palace rising before her.

The sun blinded her. It flashed on white marble walls, Moorish arches, giant doors covered in gold leaf, soaring towers so delicate that they made the dark, crude, stone castles of Europe seem somehow clumsy and vulgar.

The procession turned to the left sharply. And, for an instant, Beauty glimpsed Laurent behind her, then Elena, her long brown hair swaying in the breeze, and the dark, motionless figures of Dmitri and Rosalynd. All obedient, all still upon their cushioned litters.

The young boys in the crowd seemed to be more frenzied. They cheered and ran up and down, as though the proximity of the palace somehow heightened their excitement.

Beauty saw that the procession had come to a side entrance, and turbaned guards with great scimitars hanging from their girdles drove the crowd back as a pair of heavy doors were opened.

“O, blessed silence,” Beauty thought. She saw Tristan carried beneath the arch, and immediately she followed.

They had not entered a courtyard as she had expected. Rather they were in a large corridor, its walls covered in intricate mosaics. Even the ceiling above was a stone tapestry of flowers and spirals. The bearers suddenly came to a halt. The doors far behind were closed. And they were all plunged into shadow.

Only now did Beauty see the torches on the walls, the lamps in their little niches. A huge crowd of young dark-faced boys, dressed exactly like the grooms from the ship, surveyed the new slaves silently.

Beauty’s cushion was lowered. At once, her groom clasped the leashes and pulled her forward onto her knees on the marble. The bearers and the cushions quickly disappeared through doors that Beauty hardly glimpsed. And she was pushed down onto her hands, her groom’s foot firm on the back of her neck as he forced her forehead right to the marble flooring.

Beauty shivered. She sensed a different manner in her groom. And, as the foot pressed harder, almost angrily, against her neck, she quickly kissed the cold floor, overcome with misery that she couldn’t know what was wanted.

But this seemed to appease the little boy. She felt his approving pat on her buttocks.

Now her head was lifted. And she saw that Tristan was kneeling on all fours in front of her, the sight of his well-shaped backside further teasing her.

But as she watched in stunned silence, the little gold-link chains from her clamped nipples were passed through Tristan’s legs and under his belly.

“Why?” she wondered, even as the clamps pinched her with renewed tightness.

But immediately she was to know the answer. She felt a pair of chains being passed between her own thighs, teasing her lips. And now a firm hand clasped her chin and opened her mouth, and the leather handles were fed to her like a bit that she must hold in her teeth with the usual firmness.

She realized this was Laurent’s leash, and she was now to pull him along by the damnable little chains just as she herself was to be pulled by Tristan. And if her head moved in the slightest involuntary way, she would add to Laurent’s torment just as Tristan added to hers as he pulled the chains given him.

But it was the spectacle of it that truly shamed her.

“We are tethered to one another like little animals led to market,” she thought. And she was further confused by the chains stroking her thighs and the outside of her pubic lips, by their grazing her taught belly.

“You little fiends!” she thought, glancing at the silk robes of her groom. He was fussing with her hair, forcing her back into a more convex position so that her rear was higher. She felt the teeth of a comb stroking the delicate hair around her anus, and her face flooded with a hot stinging blush.

And Tristan, did he have to move his head, making her nipples throb so?

She heard one of the grooms clap his hands. The leather thong came down to lick at Tristan’s calves and the soles of his naked feet. He started forward, and she immediately hurried after him.

When she raised her head just a little to see the walls and ceiling, the thong smacked the back of her neck. Then it whipped the undersides of her feet just as Tristan’s were being whipped. The leashes pulled at her nipples as if they had life of their own.

And yet the thongs smacked faster and louder, urging all the slaves to hurry. A slipper pushed at her buttocks. Yes, they must run. And, as Tristan picked up speed, so did she, remembering in a daze how she had once run upon the Queen’s Bridle Path.

“Yes, hurry,” she thought. “And keep your head properly lowered. And how could you think you would enter the Sultan’s Palace in any other manner?”

The crowds outside might gape at the slaves, as they probably did at the most debased of prisoners. But this was the only proper position for sex slaves in such a magnificent palace.

With every inch of floor she covered, she felt more abject, her chest growing warm as she ran out of breath, her heart, as ever, beating too fast, too loudly.

The hall seemed to grow wider, higher. The drove of grooms flanked them. Yet still she could see arched doorways to the left and right and cavernous rooms tiled in the same beautifully colored marbles.

The grandeur and the solidity of the place worked their inevitable influence upon her. Tears stung her eyes. She felt small, utterly insignificant.

And yet there was something absolutely marvelous in the feeling. She was but a little thing in this vast world yet she seemed to have her proper place, more surely than she had had in the castle or even in the village.

Her nipples throbbed steadily in the fur-lined grip of the clamps, and occasional flashes of sunlight distracted her.

She felt a tightness in her throat, an overall weakness. The smell of incense, of cedar wood, of Eastern perfumes, suddenly enveloped her. And she realized that all was quiet in this world of richness and splendor; and the only sound was that of the slaves scurrying along and the thongs that licked them. Even the grooms made no sound, unless the singing of their silk robes was a sound. The silence seemed an extension of the palace, an extension of the dramatic power that was devouring them.

But as they progressed deeper and deeper into the labyrinth, as the escort of grooms dropped back a bit, leaving only the one little tormentor with his busy thong, and the procession went round corners and down even wider halls, Beauty began to see out of the corner of her eye some strange species of sculpture set in niches to adorn the corridor.

And, suddenly, she realized that these were not statues. They were living slaves fitted into the niches.

At last, she had to take a good look, and struggling not to lose her pace, she stared from right to left at these poor creatures.

Yes, men and women in alternation on both sides of the hall, standing mute in the niches. And each figure had been wrapped tightly from neck to toe in gold-tinted linen, except for the head held upright by a high ornamented brace and the naked organs left exposed in gilded glory.

Beauty looked down, trying to catch her breath. But she couldn’t help looking up again immediately. And the spectacle became even clearer. The men had been bound with legs together, genitals thrust forward, and the women had been bound with legs apart, each leg completely wrapped and the sex left open.

All stood motionless, their long, shapely, gold neck braces fixed to the wall in back by a rod that appeared to hold them securely. And some appeared to sleep with eyes closed, while others peered down at the floor, despite their slightly lifted faces.

Many were dark-skinned, as the grooms were – and showed the luxuriant black eyelashes of the desert peoples. Almost none were as Tristan and Beauty were. All had been gilded.

And in a silent panic, Beauty remembered the words of the Queen’s emissary, who had spoken to them on the ship before they left their sovereign’s land: “Though the Sultan has many slaves from his own land, you captive Princes and Princesses are a special delicacy of sorts, and a great curiosity.”

“Then surely we can’t be bound and placed in niches such as these,” Beauty thought, “lost among dozens and dozens of others, merely to decorate a corridor.”

But she could see the real truth. This Sultan possessed such a vast number of slaves that absolutely anything might befall Beauty and her fellow captives.

As she hurried along, her knees and hands getting a little sore from the marble, she continued to study these figures.

She could make out that the arms had been folded behind the back of each one, and that the gilded nipples too were exposed and sometimes clamped, and that each figure had his or her hair combed back to expose the ears which wore jeweled ornaments.

How tender the ears looked, how much like organs!

A wave of terror passed over Beauty. And she shuddered to think of what Tristan was feeling – Tristan, who so needed to love one Master. And what about Laurent? How would this look to him after the singular spectacle of the village Punishment Cross?

There came the sharp pull of the chains again. Her nipples itched. And the thong suddenly dallied between her legs, stroking her anus and the lips of her vagina.

“You little devil,” she thought. Yet as the warm tingling sensations passed all through her, she arched her back, forcing her buttocks up, and crawled with even more sprightly movements.

They were coming to a pair of doors. And with a shock, she saw that a male slave was fixed to one door and a female slave to the other. And these two were not wrapped, but rather completely naked. Gold bands around the foreheads, the legs, waist, neck, ankles, and wrists held each flat to the door with knees wide apart, the soles of the feet pressed together. The arms were fixed straight up over the head, palms outward. And the faces were still, eyes cast down, and the mouths held artfully arranged bunches of grapes and leaves that were gilded like the flesh so that the creatures looked very much like sculptures.

But the doors were opened. The slaves passed these two silent sentinels in a flash.

And the pace slowed as Beauty found herself in an immense courtyard, full of potted palm trees and flower beds bordered in variegated marble.

Sunlight dappled the tiles in front of her. The perfume of flowers suddenly refreshed her. She glimpsed blossoms of all hues, and for one paralyzing instant she saw that the vast garden was filled with gilded and caged slaves as well as other beautiful creatures fixed in dramatic positions atop marble pedestals.

Beauty was made to stop. The leashes were taken from her mouth. And she saw her groom gather up her own leashes as he stood beside her. The thong played between her thighs, tickling her, forcing her legs a little apart. Then a hand smoothed her hair tenderly. She saw Tristan to her left and Laurent to her right, and she realized that the slaves had been positioned in a loose circle.

But all at once the great crowd of grooms began to laugh and talk as though released from some enforced silence. They closed in on the slaves, hands pointing, gesturing.

The slipper was on Beauty’s neck again, and it forced her head down until her lips touched the marble. She could see out of the corner of her eye that Laurent and the others were bent in the same lowly posture.

In a wash of rainbow colors the silk robes of the grooms surrounded them. The din of conservation was worse than the noise of the crowd in the streets. Beauty knelt shuddering as she felt hands on her back and on her hair, the thong pushing her legs even wider. Silk-robed grooms stood between her and Tristan, between her and Laurent.

But suddenly a silence fell that utterly shattered the last of Beauty’s fragile composure.

The grooms withdrew as if swept aside. And there was no sound except the chattering of birds, and the tinkling of wind chimes.

Then Beauty heard the soft sound of slippered feet approaching.

2 Examination in the Garden

It was not one man who entered the garden, but a group of three. Yet two stood back in deference to one who advanced alone and slowly.

In the tense silence, Beauty saw his feet and the hem of his robe as he moved about the circle. Richer fabric, and velvet slippers with high upturned curling toes, each decorated by a dangling ruby. He moved with slow steps, as if he was surveying carefully.

Beauty held her breath as he approached her. She squinted slightly as the toe of the wine-colored slipper touched her cheek, and then rested upon the back of her neck, then followed the line of her spine to its tip.

She shivered, unable to help herself, her moan sounding loud and impertinent to her own ears. But there was no reprimand.

She thought she heard a little laugh. And then a sentence spoken gently made the tears spring to her eyes again. How soothing was the voice, how unusually musical. Maybe the unintelligible language made it seem more lyrical. Yet she longed to understand the words spoken.

Of course, she had not been addressed. The words had been spoken to one of the other two men, yet the voice stirred her, almost seduced her.

Quite suddenly she felt the chains pulled hard. Her nipples stiffened with a tingling that sent its tentacles down into her groin instantly.

She knelt up, unsure, frightened, and then was pulled to her feet, nipples burning, her face flaming.

For one moment the immensity of the garden impressed her. The bound slaves, the lavish blooms, the blue sky above shockingly clear, the large assemblage of the grooms watching her. And then the man standing before her.

What must she do with her hands? She put them behind her neck, and stood staring at the tiled floor, with only the vaguest picture of the Master who faced her.

He was much taller than the little boys – in fact, he was a slender giant of a man, elegantly proportioned, and he seemed older by virtue of his air of command. And it was he who had pulled the chains himself and still held the handles.

Quite suddenly he passed them from his right hand to his left. And with the right hand, he slapped the undersides of Beauty’s breasts, startling her. She bit down on her cry. But the warm yielding of her body surprised her. She throbbed with the desire to be touched, slapped again, for an even more annihilating violence.

And in the moment of trying to collect her wits, she had glimpsed the man’s dark wavy hair, not quite shoulder length, and his eyes, so black they seemed drawn in ink, with large shining beads of jet for the irises.

“How gorgeous these desert people can be,” she thought. And her dreams in the hold of the ship suddenly rose to mock her. Love him? Love this one who is but a servant like the others?

Yet the face burnt through her fear and agitation. It seemed an impossible face suddenly. It was almost innocent.

The ringing slaps came again, and she stepped back before she could stop herself. Her breasts were flooded with warmth. At once, her little groom thrashed her disobedient legs with the thong. She steadied herself, sorry for the failure.

The voice spoke again and it was as light as before, as melodious and almost caressing. But it sent the little grooms into a flurry of activity.

She felt soft, silken fingers on her ankles and on her wrists, and before she realized what was happening, she was lifted, her legs raised at right angles to her body and spread wide by the grooms who held her, her arms forced straight up in the air, her back and head supported firmly. She shivered spasmodically, her thighs aching, her sex brutally exposed. And then she felt another pair of hands lift her head, and she peered right into the eyes of the mysterious giant of a Master, who smiled at her radiantly.

O, too handsome he was. Instantly, she looked away, her lids fluttering. His eyes were tilted upwards at the outsides, which gave him a slightly devilish look, and his mouth was large and extremely kissable. But, for all the innocence of the expression, a ferocious spirit seemed to emanate from him. She sensed menace in him. She could feel it in his touch. And, with her legs held wide apart as they were, she passed into a silent panic.

As if to confirm his power, the Master quickly slapped her face, causing her to whimper before she could stop herself. The hand rose again, this time slapping her right cheek, and then the left again, until she was suddenly crying audibly.

“But what have I done?” she thought. And through a mist of tears she saw only curiosity in his face. He was studying her. It wasn’t innocence. She had judged wrongly. It was merely fascination with what he was doing that flamed in him.

“So it’s a test,” she tried to tell herself. “But how do I pass or fail?” And shuddering, she saw the hands rising again.

He tilted her head back and opened her mouth, touching her tongue and her teeth. Chills passed over her. She felt her whole body convulse in the hands of the grooms. The probing fingers touched her eyelids, her eyebrows. They wiped at her tears, which were spilling down her face as she stared at the blue sky above her.

And then she felt the hands at her exposed sex. The thumbs went into her vagina, and she was pulled impossibly wide as her hips rocked forward, shaming her.

It seemed she would burst with orgasm, that she couldn’t contain it. But was this forbidden? And how would she be punished? She tossed her head from side to side, struggling to command herself. But the fingers were so gentle, so soft, yet firm as they opened her. If they touched her clitoris, she would be lost, incapable of restraint.

But mercifully, they let her go, tugging at her pubic hair, and only pinching her lips together quickly.

In a daze, she bowed her head, the sight of her nakedness thoroughly unnerving her. She saw the new Master turn and snap his fingers. And through the tangle of her hair she saw Elena hoisted instantly by the grooms just as she had been.

Elena struggled for composure, her pink sex wet and gaping through its wreath of brown hair, the long delicate muscles of her thighs twitching. Beauty watched in terror as the Master proceeded with the same examination.

Elena’s high, sharply angled breasts heaved as the Master played with her mouth, her teeth. But when the slaps came Elena was utterly silent. And the look on the Master’s face further confused Beauty.

How passionately interested he seemed, how intent upon what he was doing. Not even the cruel Master of Postulants at the castle had seemed so dedicated as this one. And his charm was considerable. The rich velvet robe was well tailored to his straight back and shoulders. His hands had a beguiling grace of movement as he spread Elena’s red pubic mouth and the poor Princess pumped her hips disgracefully.

At the sight of Elena’s sex growing full and wet and obviously hungry, Beauty’s long starvation at sea made her feel desperate. And when the Master smiled and smoothed Elena’s long hair back from her forehead, examining her eyes, Beauty felt raging jealousy.

“No, it would be ghastly to love any of them,” she thought. She couldn’t give her heart. She tried not to look anymore. Her own legs throbbed, the grooms holding them back as firmly as ever. And her own sex swelled unbearably.

But there were more spectacles for her. The Master came back to Tristan. And now he was lifted into the air, and his legs spread wide in the same manner. Out of the corner of her eye, Beauty saw that the little grooms struggled under Tristan’s weight, and Tristan’s beautiful face was crimson with humiliation as his hard and thrusting organ was examined closely by the Master.

The Master’s fingers played with the foreskin, played with the shiny tip, squeezing out of it a single drop of glistening moisture. Beauty could feel the tension in Tristan’s limbs. But she dared not look up to see his face again as the Master reached to examine it.

In a blur she saw the Master’s face, saw the enormous inkblack eyes, and the hair swept back over the ear to reveal a tiny gold ring stabbing the ear lobe.

She heard him slapping Tristan, and she closed her eyes tight as Tristan finally moaned, the slaps seeming to resound through the garden.

When she opened her eyes again it was because the Master had laughed softly to himself as he passed in front of her. And she saw his hand rise almost absently to squeeze her left breast lightly. The tears sprang to her eyes, her mind struggling to understand the outcome of his examinations, to push away the fact that he drew her more than any being who had hitherto claimed her.

Now, to her right and slightly in front of her, it was Laurent who must be raised up for the Master’s scrutiny. And, as the enormous Prince was lifted, she heard the Master make some quick verbal outburst which brought laughter from all the other grooms immediately. No one needed to translate it for her. Laurent was too powerfully built, his organ was too splendid.

And she could see now that it was fully erect, well trained as it was, and the sight of the heavily muscled thighs spread wide apart brought back to her delirious memories of the Punishment Cross. She tried not to look at the enormous scrotum, but she could not help herself.

And it seemed that the Master had been moved by these superior endowments to a new excitement. He smacked Laurent hard with the back of his hand several times in amazingly rapid succession. The enormous torso writhed, the grooms struggling to keep it still.

And then the Master removed the clamps, letting them drop to the ground and pressed both of Laurent’s nipples as Laurent moaned loudly.

But something else was happening. Beauty saw it. Laurent had looked at the Master directly. He had done it more than once. Their eyes had met. And now as his nipples were squeezed again, very hard it seemed, the Prince stared right at the Master.

“No, Laurent,” she thought desperately. “Don’t tempt them. It won’t be the glory of the Punishment Cross here. It will be those corridors and miserable oblivion.” Yet it absolutely fascinated her that Laurent was so bold.

The Master went round him and the grooms who held him, and now took the leather thong from one of the others and spanked Laurent’s nipples over and over again. Laurent couldn’t keep quiet, though he had turned his head away. His neck was corded with tension, his limbs trembling.

And the Master seemed as curious, as fastened upon his test as ever. He made a gesture to one of the others. And, as Beauty watched, a long gilded leather glove was brought to the Master.

It was beautifully worked with intricate designs all the way down the leather length of the arm to the large cuff, the whole gleaming as if it had been covered in a salve or unguent.

As the Master drew the glove over his hand and down his arm to the elbow, Beauty felt herself flooded with heat and excitement. The Master’s eyes were almost childlike in their studiousness, the mouth irresistible as it smiled, the grace of the body as he approached Laurent now entrancing.

He moved his left hand to the back of Lauren’s head, cradling it, his fingers curled in Laurent’s hair as the Prince stared straight upward. And with the gloved hand, the right hand, he pushed upward slowly between Laurent’s open legs, two fingers entering his body first, as Beauty stared unabashedly.

Laurent’s breathing grew hoarse, rapid. His face darkened. The fingers had disappeared inside his anus, and now it seemed the whole hand worked its way into him.

The grooms moved in a little on all sides. And Beauty could see that Tristan and Elena watched with equal attention.

The Master, meanwhile, seemed to see nothing but Laurent. He was staring right at Laurent’s face, and Laurent’s face was twisted in pleasure and pain as the hand moved its way deeper and deeper into his body. It was in beyond the wrist, and Laurent’s limbs were no longer shuddering. They were frozen. A long, whistling sigh passed through his teeth.

The Master lifted Laurent’s chin with the thumb of his left hand. He bent over until his face was very close to Laurent’s. And in a long, tense silence the arm moved ever upward into Laurent as the Prince seemed to swoon, his cock stiff and still, the clear moisture leaking from it in the tiniest droplets.

Beauty’s whole body tightened, relaxed, and again she felt herself on the verge of orgasm. As she tried to drive it back, she felt herself grow limp and weak, and all the hands holding her were in fact making love to her, caressing her.

The Master brought his right arm forward without withdrawing it from Laurent. And in so doing, he tilted the Prince’s pelvis upward, further revealing the enormous balls, and the glistening gold leather as it widened the pink ring of the anus impossibly.

A sudden cry came out of Laurent. A hoarse gasp that seemed a cry for mercy. And the Master held him motionless, their lips nearly touching. The Master’s left hand released Laurent’s head and moved over his face, parting his lips with one finger. And then the tears spilled from Laurent’s eyes.

And very quickly, the Master withdrew his arm and peeled off the glove, casting it aside, as Laurent hung in the grasp of the grooms, his head down, his face reddened.

The Master made some little remark, and again the grooms laughed agreeably. One of the grooms replaced the nipple clamps, and Laurent grimaced. The Master immediately gestured for Laurent to be placed on the floor, and the chains of Laurent’s leashes were suddenly fixed to a gold ring on the back of the Master’s slipper.

“O, no, this beast can’t take him away from us!” Beauty thought. But that was the mere surface of her thoughts. She was terrified that it was Laurent and Laurent alone who had been chosen by the Master.

But they were all being put down. And suddenly Beauty was on hands and knees, neck pressed low by the soft velvety sole of the slipper, and she realized that Tristan and Elena were beside her and all three of them were being pulled forward by their nipple chains and whipped by the thongs as they moved out of the garden.

She saw the hem of the Master’s robe to her right, and behind him the figure of Laurent struggling to keep up with the Master’s strides, the chains from his nipples anchoring him to the Master’s foot, his brown hair veiling his face mercifully.

Where were Dmitri and Rosalynd? Why had they been discarded? Would one of the other men who had come in with the Master take them?

She couldn’t know. And the corridor seemed endless.

But she didn’t really care about Dmitri and Rosalynd. All she cared about truly was that she and Tristan and Laurent and Elena were together. And, of course, the fact that he, this mysterious Master, this tall and impossibly elegant creature, was moving right alongside of her.

His embroidered robe brushed her shoulder as he moved ahead, Laurent struggling to keep pace with him.

The thongs licked at her backside, licked at her pubis, as she rushed after them.

At last, they came to another pair of doors, and the thongs drove them through into a large lamp-lighted chamber. She was bid to stop by the firm pressure of a slipper on her neck once more, and then she realized that all the grooms had withdrawn and the door had been shut behind them.

The only sound was the anxious breathing of the Princes and Princesses. The Master moved past Beauty to the door. A bolt was thrown, a key turned. Silence.

Then she heard the melodious voice again, soft and low, and this time it was speaking, in charmingly accented syllables, her own language:

“Well, my darlings, you may all come forward and kneel up before me. I have much to say to you.”

3 Mysterious Master

A tumultuous shock to be spoken to.

At once the group of slaves obeyed, coming round to kneel up in front of the Master, the golden leashes trailing on the floor. Even Laurent was freed now from the Master’s slipper and took his place with the others.

As soon as they were all still, kneeling with their hands clasped to the backs of their necks, the Master said:

“Look at me.”

Beauty did not hesitate. She looked up into his face and found it as appealing and baffling now as it had been in the garden. It was a better-proportioned face than she had realized, the full and agreeable mouth finely shaped, the nose long and delicate, the eyes well spaced and radiantly dominant. But, again, it was the spirit that magnetized her.

As he looked from one to another of the captives, Beauty could feel the excitement coursing through the little group, feel her own sudden elation.

“O, yes, a splendid creature,” she thought. And memories of the Crown Prince who had brought Beauty to the Queen’s land and of her crude Captain of the Guard in the village were suddenly threatened with complete dissolution.

“Precious slaves,” he said, eyes fixing on her for a brief, electric moment. “You know where you are and why you are here. The soldiers have brought you by force to serve your Lord and Master.” So mellifluous the voice, the face so immediately warm. “And you know that you will serve always in silence. Dumb little creatures you are to the grooms who attend you. But I, the Sultan’s steward, cherish no such illusions that sensuality obliterates high treason.”

“Of course not,” Beauty thought. But she didn’t dare to voice her thoughts. Her interest in the man was deepening rapidly and dangerously.

“Those few slaves I pick,” he said, his eyes traveling again, “those I choose to perfect and offer to the Sultan’s Court are always apprised of my aims, and my demands, and the dangers of my temper. But only in the secrecy of this chamber. In this chamber I want my methods to be understood. My expectations to be fully clarified.”

He drew closer, towering over Beauty, and his hand reached for her breast, squeezing it as he had done before, just a little too hard, the hot shiver passing down into her sex immediately. With the other hand he stroked the side of Laurent’s face, thumb grazing the lip as Beauty turned to watch, utterly forgetting herself.

“That you will not do, Princess,” he said, and at once he slapped her hard and she bowed her head, her face stinging. “You will continue to look at me until I tell you otherwise.”

Beauty’s tears rose at once. How could she have been so foolish?

But there was no anger in his voice, only a soft indulgence. Tenderly, he lifted her chin. She stared at him through her tears.

“Do you know what I want of you, Beauty? Answer me.”

“No, Master,” she said quickly. Her voice alien to her.

“That you be perfect, for me!” he said gently, the voice seeming so full of reason, of logic. “This I want of all of you. That you be nonpareils in this vast wilderness of slaves in which you could be lost like a handful of diamonds in the ocean. That you shine by virtue not merely of your compliance but by virtue of your intense and particular passion. You will lift yourself up from the masses of slaves who surround you. You will seduce your Masters and Mistresses by a lustre that throws others into eclipse! Do you understand me!”

Beauty struggled not to sob in her anxiousness, her eyes on his, as if she could not look away even if she wanted to. But never had she felt such an overwhelming desire to obey. The urgency of his voice was wholly different from the tone of those who had educated her at the castle or chastised her in the village. She felt as if she was losing the very form of her personality. She was slowly melting.

“And this you will do for me,” he said, his voice growing even more soft, more persuasive, more resonant. “You will do it as much for me as for your royal Lords. Because I desire it of you.” He closed his hand around Beauty’s throat. “Let me hear you speak again, little one. In my chambers, you will speak to me to tell me that you wish to please me.”

“Yes, Master,” she said. And her voice once again seemed strange to her, full of feelings she hadn’t truly known before. The warm fingers caressed her throat, seemed to caress the words she spoke, coax them out of her and shape the tone of them.

“You see, there are hundreds of grooms,” he said, narrowing his eyes as he looked away from her to the others, the hand still clasping her. “Hundreds charged with preparing succulent little partridges for Our Lord the Sultan, or fine muscular young bucks and stags for him to play with. But I, Lexius, am the only Chief Steward of the Grooms. And I must choose and perfect the finest of all playthings.”

Even this was not said with anger or urgency.

But as he looked again at Beauty, his eyes widened with intensity. The semblance of anger terrified her. But the gentle fingers massaged the back of her neck, the thumb stroking her throat in front.

“Yes, Master,” she whispered suddenly.

“Yes, absolutely, my little love,” he said, crooning to her. But then he became grave, and his voice became small, as if to command greater respect by speaking its words simply.

“It is absolutely out of the question that you do not distinguish yourselves, that after one glimpse of you the great luminaries of this house do not reach out to pluck you like ripe fruit, that they do not compliment me upon your loveliness, your heat, your silent, ravening passion.”

Beauty’s tears flowed again down her cheeks.

He withdrew his hand slowly. She felt suddenly cold, abandoned. A little sob caught in her throat, but he had heard it.

Lovingly, almost sadly, he smiled at her. His face was shadowed and strangely vulnerable.

“Divine little Princess,” he whispered. “We are lost, you see, unless they notice us.”

“Yes, Master,” she whispered. She would have done anything to have him touch her again, hold her.

And the rich undertone of sadness in him startled her, enchanted her. O, if only she could kiss his feet.

And, in a sudden impulse she did. She went down on the marble and touched her lips to his slipper. She did it over and over. And she wondered that the word “lost” had so delighted her.

As she rose again, clasping her hands behind her neck, she lowered her eyes in resignation. She should be slapped for what she had done. The room – its white marble, its gilded doors – was like so many facets of light. Why did this man produce this effect in her? Why…

“Lost.” The word set up its musical echo in her soul.

The Master’s long, dark fingers came out and touched her lips. And she saw him smiling.

“You will find me hard, you will find me impossibly hard,” he said gently. “But now you know why. You understand now. You belong to Lexius, the Chief Steward. You mustn’t fail him. Speak. All of you.”

He was answered by a chorus of “Yes, Master.” Beauty heard even the voice of Laurent, the runaway, answering just as promptly.

“And now I shall tell you another truth, little ones,” he said. “You may belong to the most High Lord, to the Sultana, to the Beautiful and Virtuous Royal Wives of the Harem…” He paused, as if to let his words sink in. “But you belong just as truly to me!” he said, “as to anyone! And I revel in every punishment I inflict. I do. It is my nature, as it is yours to serve – my nature, when it comes to slaves, to eat from the very same dish as my Masters. Tell me that you understand me.”

“Yes, Master!”

The words came out of Beauty like an explosion of breath. She was dazed with all he had said to her.

She watched him intently as he turned now to Elena, and her soul shrank, though she did not turn her head a fraction of an inch or move her steady gaze from him. Yet still, she could see that he was kneading Elena’s fine breasts. How Beauty envied those high, jutting breasts! Nipples the color of apricot. And it hurt her further that Elena moaned so bewitchingly.

“Yes, yes, exactly,” said the Master, the voice as intimate as it had been with Beauty. “You will writhe at my touch. You will writhe at the touch of all your Masters and Mistresses. You will give up your soul to those who so much as glance at you. You will burn like lights in the dark!”

Again a chorus of “Yes, Master.”

“Did you see the multitude of slaves who make up the ornaments of this house?”

“Yes, Master,” from all of them.

“Will you distinguish yourselves from the gilded herd by passion, by obedience, by putting into your silent compliance a deafening thunder of feeling!”

“Yes, Master.”

“But now, we shall begin. You will be properly purified. And then to work immediately. The Court knows that new slaves have come. You are awaited. And your lips are once again sealed. Not under the sternest punishment are you to make a sound with them parted. Unless otherwise commanded you crawl on hands and knees, buttocks up and forehead near to the very ground, almost touching it.”

He walked down the silent row. He stroked and examined each slave again, lingering for a long time on Laurent. Then with an abrupt gesture, he ordered Laurent to the door. Laurent crawled as he had been told to do, his forehead grazing the marble. The Master touched the bolt with the thong. Laurent at once slid it back.

The Master pulled the nearby bell cord.

4 The Rites of Purification

At once the young grooms appeared and silently took the slaves in hand, quickly forcing them on hands and knees through another doorway into a large, warm bathing place.

Amid delicate tropical flowering plants and lazing palms, Beauty saw steam rising from the shallow pools in the marble floor and smelled the fragrance of the herbs and spiced perfumes.

But she was spirited past all of this into a tiny private chamber. And there was made to kneel with legs wide apart over a deep, rounded basin in the floor through which water ran fast from hidden founts and down the drain continuously.

Her forehead was once again lowered to the floor, her hands clasped upon the back of her neck. The air was warm and moist around her. And immediately the warm water and soft scrub brushes went to work upon her.

It was all done with much greater speed than at the bath in the castle. And within moments, she was perfumed and oiled and her sex was pumping with expectation as soft towels caressed her.

But she was not told to get up. On the contrary, she was bid to be still by a firm pat of the hand on her head, and she heard strange sounds above her.

Then she felt a metal nozzle entering her vagina. Immediately her juices flowed at the long-awaited sensation of being entered, no matter how awkwardly. But she knew this was merely for cleansing – it had been done other times to her – and she welcomed the steady fount of water that suddenly gushed into her with delicious pressure.

But what startled her was the unfamiliar touch of fingers on her anus. She was being oiled there, and her body tensed, even as the craving in her was doubled. Hands quickly took hold of the soles of her feet to keep her firmly in place. She heard the grooms laughing softly and commenting to one another.

Then something small and hard entered her anus and forced its way in deep as she gave a little gasp, pressing her lips tightly together. Her muscles contracted to fight the little invasion, but this only sent new ripples of pleasure through her. The flush of water into her vagina had stopped. And what happened now was unmistakable: A stream of warm water was being pumped into her rectum. And it did not wash back out of her as did the douching fluids. It filled her with ever-increasing force, and a strong hand pressed her buttocks together as if bidding her not to release the water.

It seemed a whole new region of her body came to life, a part of her that had never been punished or even really examined. The force of the flow grew stronger and stronger. Her mind protested that she could not be invaded in this final way, that she could not be rendered so helpless.

She felt she would burst if she did not let go. She wanted to expel the little nozzle, the water. But she dared not, she could not. This must happen to her now and she accepted it. It was part of this realm of more refined pleasures and manners. And how dare she protest? She began to whimper softly, caught between a new pleasure and a new sense of violation.

But the most enervating and taxing part was yet to come, and she dreaded it. Just when she thought she could bear no more, that she was full to overflowing, she was lifted upright by her arms, and her legs were pulled even wider apart, the little nozzle in her anus plugging her and tormenting her.

The grooms smiled down at her as they held her arms. And she looked up fearfully, shyly, afraid of the utter shame of the sudden release that was inevitable. Then the nozzle was slipped out, and her buttocks were spread apart, and her bowels quickly emptied.

She squeezed her eyes shut. She felt warm water poured over her private parts, front and back, heard the loud full rush in the basin. She was overcome with something like shame. But it wasn’t shame. All privacy and choice had been taken from her. Not even this act was to be hers alone anymore, she understood. And the chills passing through her body with every spasm of release locked her into a delirious sense of helplessness. She gave herself over to those who commanded her, her body limp and unprotesting. She flexed her muscles to help with the emptying, to complete it.

“Yes, to be purified,” she thought. And she experienced a great undeniable relief, the awareness of her body cleansing itself becoming exquisite as she shuddered.

The water continued to flow over her, over her buttocks, her belly, down into the basin, washing away all the waste. And she was dissolving into an overall ecstasy that seemed a form of climax in itself. But it wasn’t. It was just beyond her reach, the climax. And as she felt her mouth open in a low gasp, she rocked back and forth on the brink, her body pleading silently and vainly with those who held her. All the invisible knots were gone from her spirit. She was without the slightest strength, and utterly dependent upon the grooms to support her.

They stroked her hair back from her forehead. The warm water washed her again and again.

And then she saw, as she dared to open her eyes, that the Master himself was there. He was standing in the doorway of the room and he was smiling at her. He came forward and lifted her up out of this moment of indescribable weakness.

She stared at him, stunned that it was he who held her as the others covered her in towels again.

She felt as defenseless as she had ever been, and it seemed an impossible reward that he led her out of the little chamber. If she could only embrace him, only find the cock under his robes, only…The elation of being near him escalated immediately into pain.

“O, please, we have been starved and starved,” she wanted to say. But she only looked down demurely, feeling his fingers on her arm. That was the old Beauty speaking the words in her head, wasn’t it? The new Beauty wanted to say only the word “Master”.

And to think that only moments ago she had been considering love for him. Why, she loved him already. She could breathe the fragrance of his skin, almost hear his heart beat as he turned her and directed her forward. His fingers clasped her neck as tightly as they had before.

Where was he taking her?

The others were gone. She was set on one of the tables. She shivered in happiness and disbelief as he himself began to rub more perfumed oil into her. But this time there was to be no covering of gold paint. Her bare flesh would shine under the oil. And he pinched her cheeks with both hands to give them color as she rested back on her heels, her eyes wet from the steam and from her tears, watching him dreamily.

He seemed deeply absorbed in his work, his dark eyebrows knit, his mouth half open. And, when he applied gold leash clamps to her nipples, he pressed them tight for an instant with a little tightening of his lips that made her feel the gesture all the more deeply. She arched her back and breathed deeply. And he kissed her forehead, letting his lips linger, letting his hair brush her cheek.

“Lexius,” she thought. It was a beautiful name.

When he brushed her hair it was almost with angry, fierce strokes, and chills consumed her. He brushed it up and wound it on top of her head. And she glimpsed the pearl pins that he used to fasten it. Her neck was naked now, like the rest of her.

As he put the pearls through her ear lobes, she studied the smooth dark skin of his face, the rise and fall of his dark lashes. He was like a finely polished thing, his fingernails buffed to look like glass, his teeth perfect. And how deftly yet gently he handled her.

It was over too fast, and yet not fast enough. How long could she writhe, dreaming of orgasm? She cried because there had to be some release, and when he put her on the floor her body ached as never before, it seemed.

Gently, he pulled the leashes. She bent down, forehead to the ground, as she crept forward, and it seemed to her that she had never been more completely the slave.

If she had any ability left to think, as she followed him out of the bath, she thought that she could no longer remember a time when she had worn clothes, walked and talked with those who did, commanded others. Her nakedness and helplessness were natural to her, more natural here in these spacious marble halls than anywhere else, and she knew without a doubt that she would love this Master utterly.

She could have said it was an act of will, that after talking with Tristan she had simply decided. But there was too much that was unique about the man, even in the delicate way that he himself had groomed her. And the place itself, it was like magic to her. And she had thought she loved the harshness of the village!

Why must he give her away now? Take her to others? But it was wrong to question…

As they moved along the corridor together, she heard for the first time the soft breathing and sighs of the slaves who decorated the niches on either side of them. It seemed a muted chorus of perfect devotion.

And a confusion of all sense of time and place overcame her.

RUSSIAN DRESSING by Svetlana Boym

“YOU’RE FRIGID,” he told her as they passed the Gorky statue on Kirov Avenue. She was hurt that he no longer had his hand on her shoulder under the thick wool coat, but was walking aloof, chewing pink Finnish gum. Frigid -frigidna... Frigida – Fetida, Femida – probably a Roman goddess, with small classical breasts and pupilless eyes of cool marble. It might have been her in that picture in the history book, standing near the handsome Apollo with broken masculine arms. Right before the Barbarian invasion… or was it after? She caught her embarrassed reflection in the window of the Porcelain Shop. It felt uncomfortably damp and raw. She wanted so much to replay the whole scene, to put his hand back under her wool coat, to experience the meaningful weight of his warm fingers, to press her cheek against his frosted mustache in that split second before they reached the faded neon “P”of the Porcelain Shop. But it was too late now; he wouldn’t give her another chance, another touch. They had already crossed the tram routes and were parting by the park fence where there was the poster for Leningrad Dixieland. Season: 1975.

“Excuse me, miss, are you the last in line?”

“Yes.”

“Well, not anymore. I’m after you… And what’s the line for? Grilled chickens or ‘Addresses and Inquiries’?”

“Addresses and Inquiries, I hope.”

“Good… good… let’s hope together. That’s the only thing we can do these days – hope. Right? I see you’re not from around here…”

“Oh, yes, I am…”

“Oh yeah? You sure don’t look like it… Forgive my curiosity, miss, if you’re from round here, why are you waiting at the Information Kiosk?”

“I’m just looking up my school friends…”

“Oh, okay. One has to do that from time to time… I thought you were some kind of foreigner or something…”

Anya realized she had forgotten how to make small talk in Russian. She had lost that invisible something that makes you an insider, whether it’s a tone of voice, a gesture of habitual indifference, or half-words half said but fully understood. Anya left the Soviet Union fifteen years ago; then she had been told that it would be forever, that there would be no way back; it was like life and death. But now she was able to visit Leningrad again. The city had changed its name, and so had she. She came back as an American tourist, and stayed in the overpriced hotel where you could drink chilled orange juice, that item of bourgeois charm. Like other idle Westerners she began to collect communist antiques, little Octubrist star-pins showing baby Lenin with gilded curls, red banners with embroidered gold inscriptions “To the Best Pig Farmer for Achievement in Labor” or “To the Brigade with a High Level of Culture”. She wanted to pass for a native, but her unwarranted smiles were giving her away and the Petersburgians frowned at her suspiciously in passing.

Anya was born on the Ninth Soviet Street in Leningrad and now she lived on the Tenth West Street, New York. Could she make small talk in New-Yorkese? Yes, of course. During these years she had learned how to be an insider-foreigner, a New-Yorker-foreigner, along with other resident and non-resident aliens, legal and illegal city dwellers. Anya was among the lucky green-card-carrying New Yorkers and could show her picture with the properly exposed right ear and the finger print. New York felt like home. It struck her now that she was much more comfortable in a place like home than she was at home. She was a regular at Lox Around the Clock, and could spell her name fast over the phone. R-o-s-en-b-l-u-m A-n-y-a no, it’s not Annie, it’s N-Y, like in ‘New-York’ – Thank you – You too.”

Surely, she had an accent, but it was “so very charming”, a delicious little extra, like the dressing on a salad that comes free with an order of Manhattan chowder – “What dressing would you like on your salad, dear?” the waiter would ask her. “Italian, French, Russian, or blue cheese?” “Russian, please,” she would say, “with lots of fresh pepper…”

She worked free-lance doing voice-overs for commercials, whenever they needed someone with an accent. The last one she had done was “La Larta. European youglette. Passion. Fat-free – I can’t believe it’s not yogurt.” Female voice: “Remember your first taste of Larta? Was it in Lisboa? Sofia? Odessa? (A mountain landscape, Caucasian peaks and a sparkling sea – a woman with Isabella Rossellini’s lips, her face radiant with Lancôme) Remember La Larta – natural and fresh like first love.”

“Oh,” said the director, “you have to pronounce each sound distinctly. L is soft and French, the back of your tongue touches the palate – let me show you… look here, softly but firmly, and then breathe out on the A, open your lips, yes, yes as if for a kiss… Then tease me, yes, tease me with your Rrr - roll it deep in your throat – yes – rr stands for mystique, and then – suddenly – you let your tongue tickle your teeth – playful and light Ta-ta-ta-Larrta-ta ta-ta-the audience wants to taste it now, yes, yes, yes. ‘La Larta. Passion. Fat-free.’”

And then Anya had done several AT amp;T commercials, she did a voice over the video of falling Berlin Wall. But that happened a few years ago, when it was still news. In any case, these were only temporary jobs. Eastern European accents went in and out of fashion. Anya had been an understudy for the new line of soft drinks: “A Revolution is brewing in the Orient. A Revolution in Cola,” but the role was given to a Romanian. She must have had better connections.

“Are you in line for information?”

“Yes…”

“And where is the line for addresses?”

“It’s here too.”

“Well, what I really need is a phone number… And it would be great to get a home address too, but I know they’re not listed… It’s dangerous now… I don’t blame them. What you need nowadays is an iron door… Don’t look at me like that… You think I’m joking… I know you’re young, miss, you probably think – an iron door, well that’s a bit much… but let me tell you, I know a really honest guy, who was an engineer in the good old days… he makes excellent iron doors. Real quality iron. You can call him, tell him I gave you his number…”

“Thanks, I’ll think about it…”

“Well, don’t think too long or it’ll be too late… Sorry, you should spit when you say it, that or touch wood – we don’t wish anything bad to happen… Maybe we’ll have law and order here some day… or at least order…”

“Hm…”

“Come to think of it, maybe they don’t list the phone numbers either… Have you got a pen, miss? Oh this is a great one! ‘Ai luf Niu lork!’ Did you get it in Gostiny Dvor or in the House of Friendship?”

Anya began to fill out her “inquiry cards” to avoid any further discussion of iron doors. She wanted to find her teenage loves, Sasha and Misha with whom she had had her first failed perfect moments. Both relationships had been interrupted. In the case of Sasha, they had split up after he told her she was frigid; with Misha, they had parted after sealing the secret erotic pact of Napoleonic proportions. She wanted to write an end to their love stories, to recover a few missing links, to fill in the blanks. They were complete antipodes, Sasha and Misha. Sasha was blond, Misha dark, Sasha was her official boyfriend, Misha was a secret one. Sasha was beautiful, Misha intellectual. Sasha had known too many girls, Misha had read too much Nietzsche at a young age. It was almost twenty years ago and the popular song of the day had been “First Love”. “Oh, first love, it comes and goes with the tide,” sang the Yugoslav pop star, the beautiful Radmila Karaklaic, as she blew kisses out to the sparkling sea somewhere near the recently bombed town of Dubrovnik…

In his white coat with blood-red lining… Sasha was beautiful, he wore a long black scarf and the aura of a black market professional. He sang the popular song by Salvatore Adamo about falling snow: “The snow was falling. You wouldn’t come this evening. The snow was falling. Everything was white with despair…” Tombait la neige. Tu ne viendras pas ce soir. His masculine voice caressed her with the foreign warmth. French snow was falling over and over again, slowly and softly, slowly and softly… Was it possible for her not to come that evening, how was it possible that she wouldn’t come that evening? Oh, she would have to come… and she just couldn’t resist. She recalled the shape of his lips, soft, full and cracked, but she couldn’t remember at all what they had talked about. Oh, yes, she had been a bit taken aback when she found out he had never read Pasternak. On the other hand, he was a real man and sang beautiful songs. He had put his hand under her sweater. Touched her. Tried to unfasten her bra. But those silly little hooks in the back wouldn’t come undone. “Oh, it doesn’t matter, let me help…” But he felt that a man should be a man, that there were things a man should do himself. Just at that moment a noise in the corridor had interrupted them. It was Sasha’s father, a former sea captain, coming home after work. So, once again, they had nowhere else to go; there were no drive-ins, no cars, no back seats, no contraception, and only cheap Bulgarian wine. Like all Leningrad teenagers they went to walk on the roofs of the Peter and Paul Fortress. They walked under the sign that said: “No dogs allowed. Walking on the roofs is strictly prohibited…” It would get all icy there and one could easily slip down, distracted by the gorgeous panorama of the Neva embankment. But it was quite spectacular: the imperial palace, dissolving in the mist, the dark grey ripples on the river, a poem or two… Wait, do you remember how it goes…? “Life is a lie, but with a charming sorrow…” Yes, she would say, “yes…”.

They had parted that day at the park entrance. On the way there she had worried that her nose was getting too frozen and red and that she didn’t look good any more. She was too embarrassed to look at him and could only catch glimpses of his blond curls, his scarf and the dark birth mark on his cheek. Then there were some clumsy gestures and an unexpected wetness on her lips. Did she kiss him or not? She tried to concentrate because this was supposed to be her perfect moment.

“You’re frigid,” he said very seriously.

Frigid… frigid… a blushing goddess. So, that’s what it was called? This clumsiness, arousal, alienation, excitement, tongue-tiedness, humidity, humility, humiliation.

“Are you waiting for apricot juice?”

“No…”

“You mean, it’s gone? I don’t believe it… this is really incredible… All they have is the Scottish Whisky”…

“Miss, where are you from?”

This time Anya did not protest. She began to fill out the card for Misha – all in red ink. Misha didn’t know any French songs and he didn’t care much about Salvatore Adamo. They spoke only about Nietzsche, orgasms and will to power. “Orgasms: they have to be simultaneous, or nothing at all. They’re beyond good and evil… For protection women can simply insert a little piece of lemon inside them. It’s the most natural method, favoured by poets of the Silver Age…” If her relationship with Sasha had been a conventional romance with indispensable walks on the roofs of the fortress, then her relationship with Misha was an example of teenage non-conformism. They had dated mostly on the phone and had seen each other only about three times during their two-year-long erotic conversation. She could still hear his voice which had already lost its boyish pitch and acquired a deep guttural masculinity, resounding in her right ear.

When she thought of Misha, she saw herself sitting on an uncomfortable chair near the “communal” telephone, counting the black squares on the tiled floor. The telephone was in the hall and was shared by everyone in the apartment. While talking to Misha she had had to lower her voice, because Valentina Petrovna, the voracious gossip, would conspicuously walk back and forth between her room and the kitchen, slowing down as she neared the phone. The rest of the time she was probably standing behind the door to her room, busily filling in the gaps in Anya’s and Misha’s fragmented conversation. With Misha Anya had been very intimate but theirs was a safe intimacy, and distance had protected them from self-censorship. They knew they were part of a larger system of official public communication. The invisible presence of the others, the flutter of slippers in the hall had only stimulated them, provoked confessions about the things that had never happened in real life.

Anya met Misha on the “Devil’s Wheel” – a special ride in the Kirov Park of Culture and Leisure. Misha fell victim to the calumnia of Anya’s girlfriend – Ira – who observed his immediate fondness for Anya. “He’s handsome,” Ira said, “but he has smooth rosy cheeks – like a girl. You know what I mean…”

“He has smooth rosy cheeks like a girl…” – this strange sentence haunted Anya the whole day, that beautiful spring day when they were riding on the “Devil’s Wheel”, trying to touch each other in the air in an instant of ephemeral intimacy, and then pushing each other away, as they swung on the chains. The song went like this:

Just remember long ago in spring

We were riding in the park on the “Devil’s Wheel”

Devil’s wheel, Devil’s wheel

and your face is flying, close to me

But I’m swinging on the chains,

I’m flying – OH!

“Ahh…”

“Oh?”

“Ahh – ‘I’m swinging on the chains, I’m flying Ahh…’ “I thought you were humming the old song ‘Devil’s Wheel’. It hasn’t been on the radio for ages… It must be ten years old…”

“Yeah… I don’t know why it stuck with me.”

“It’s a nice song. I remember that great Muslim Magomaev used to sing it on TV on New Year’s Eve. It was when I was still married to my ex-wife and our son was in the Army… She would be making her New Year potato salad in the kitchen with my mother-in-law and I would be watching that TV show called ‘Little Blue Light’. And there would be a clock and the voice of comrade Brezhnev – first it was comrade Brezhnev himself, then it was his voice, and in the last years the voice of an anchorman reading Brezhnev’s speech… poor guy had a tic… but the speech always sounded so warm and familiar and it went so well with a little glass of vodka and herring: ‘Dear Soviet citizens… I wish you good health, happiness in your personal life and success in your labor.’ And then Muslim Magomaev would sing – ‘Devil’s Wheel’. Just remember long ago in the spring… We were riding in the park on ‘Devil’s Wheel, Devil’s Wheel, Devil’s Wheel…’ I know you’re not supposed to remember things like that these days… Now it’s called ‘the era of stagnation…’.”

“But it was such a good song…”

Anya was afraid to lose Misha’s face forever at the next swing. “Devil’s Wheel, Devil’s Wheel and your face is flying close to me”. The words of this popular song shaped their romance. But in this whirlpool of excitement, in the chains of the Devil’s Wheel, in the cool air of the Russian spring Misha’s cheeks were getting rosier and rosier. Ira’s words froze on the tip of her tongue. He blushed like a girl. They were doomed…

They would have made a strange couple anyway – he with his girlish rosy cheeks and his deep masculine voice, and she with her boyish clumsiness and long red nails painted with an imported Polish nail-polish. They didn’t know what to do with their excessively erotic and intellectual selves. After the encounter on the Devil’s Wheel came months of phone calls. They would carefully plan their next meeting and then always postpone it. Finally they decided, that it was now or never, they would conduct a secret ritual, to penetrate deep mysteries of the soul.

She left her house and walked away from the city center. She passed the larger-than-life portrait of Lenin made of red fishnet in the 1960s. Behind the statue of the Russian inventor of the radio was an urban no-man’s land, with the old botanical gardens, the ruined greeneries and endless fences made of wood and iron. This was the border zone – exactly the place that Misha wanted to perform their secret ritual. “This can be done only once in a life time,” he said seriously. “Napoleon did it to Josephine.”

She had to stand against the iron fence with her hands behind her back and her eyes open wide. He touched her eye with his tongue. He touched it deeply, trying to penetrate the darkness of her pupil. He lingered for a second, and then he licked the white around her eyelids, as if drawing the contours of her vision from inside her. Her gaze reacquired a kind of primordial warmth and humidity. They paused for a moment. Her eyes overflowing with desire.

They never deigned to kiss or hold each other; or saying romantic “I love yous” on the roof of the fortress. They despised such conventional games. They committed a single Napoleonic transgression, a dazzling eye-contact, a mysterious pact of intimacy signed with neither ink nor blood.

“Miss, you’ll have to rewrite this… We don’t accept red ink. And try to be neat…”

“Forgive me, I have terrible handwriting…”

“That’s your problem, not mine. And hurry please, we close in an hour…”

“But we’ve been waiting an hour and a half.”

“Well, yesterday, they were waiting for three hours and in drizzling rain. Be grateful that you’re in line for information, and not bread…”

“Oh, by the way, miss, speaking of bread, you should see what they sell in the cooperative bakery around the corner. Their heart-shaped sweet bread now cost five hundred rubles… I mean this is ridiculous… They used to be twenty kopecks – max.”

“What are you talking about? We didn’t have heart-shaped breads before… If it were up to people like you, we’d still be living in the era of stagnation or even worse, in the time of the great purges… You can’t take any change…”

“Hey, Comrades, Ladies and Gentlemen, whatever… Stop yelling while you are in line. These working conditions are impossible! I can’t give out any information with all this shouting!”

And in New York there were a hundred kinds of bread – Anya suddenly felt ashamed – bread with and without calories, with and without fat, bread which is not really bread at all but only looks like it. Bread that never gets stale, that is non-perishable, eternally fresh and barely edible. Sometimes you have to rush to an expensive store, miles away to get foreign bread that lasts only a day, that’s fattening and crusty and doesn’t fit into the toaster. So Anya did not express her views on the heart-shaped bread. She tried hard to remain neutral and friendly with all the strangers in line and concentrated on filling out her inquiry cards. But those two intimate episodes were her main clues for tracking down Sasha and Misha. The rest was the hearsay of well-meaning friends, rumors, that were mostly fifteen years old.

Sasha, rumor had it, was married and was drinking. Or rather, at first, he did everything right – he flirted with the black market in his early youth, but then he cut off all his blond curls and ties with foreigners and entered the Naval Academy. He married his high school sweetheart, whom he had begun to date in the resort town of Z just about the time of their romance, and who had waited for him heroically throughout the years. Naturally, they had had a very proper wedding in the Palace of Weddings on the Neva embankment and they had placed the crown of flowers in the Revolutionary Cemetery and taken lots of pictures with her white lacy veil and his black tuxedo. Sasha wanted to be a gentleman officer, like his father, a youngish-looking, well-built man who often played tennis with Sasha at the courts of the town of Z. Sasha was made of the “right stuff. But then something unforeseen happened. Some time in the early 80s he started developing strange symptoms, losing hair and getting dark rashes on his arms… Nobody was sure what it was… During his service somewhere in the Arctic Circle, Sasha might have received an excessive dose of radiation. But those were the things one didn’t talk about, you know what I mean… He quit the service, left the city and underwent special medical treatment somewhere far away. He came back completely cured. Anya’s distant cousin, Sasha’s occasional tennis partner, said that he was in Leningrad, but that he had moved from his old apartment, and no longer spent summers in the town of Z. Another common friend had spotted him down in the subway, but Sasha hadn’t said hello… Then again, the crowds had been moving fast, the light was dim, and, who knows, it might have been someone else…

As for Misha, he was considered lucky… Like Sasha, he hadn’t kept in touch with the old friends, but everyone knows that those old friends did not keep in touch with each other either, gathering only occasionally for someone’s birthday or for a farewell party. Misha started out as unconventionally as one would have expected. In the late 70s he had managed to get into the Philosophy Department, which was almost impossible to do without connections. So he had settled for the Evening Division, which meant that he had to serve time in the Army. What might have seemed like a tragedy turned out to have a “happy ending”. Misha spent two years in the Far East, in the most dangerous area near the Chinese border. He told her during one of their last long conversations after returning from the Army that he was the only person with a high-school education in his detachment. While intellectuals were generally despised and abused, he wasn’t. His will to power won. He made the soldiers polish his boots; they squatted in front of him brushing away methodically every bit of dust. He had liked it. He said that of all the things in the world, he loved power the most. Anya assumed he was still into Nietzsche. By the age of 21 he was chosen to enter the Communist Party on a special basis, that is two years before the official age of eligibility which was 23. During the 1980 Russian Olympic Games – the last epic event of the Brezhnev era – Misha was elected to the Leningrad Olympics Committee. He had called her then, appearing very friendly and promising to get her some Ceylon tea which had long since vanished from the stores and could only be acquired by the privileged few.

She couldn’t forgive him that tea for a long time. Maybe it wasn’t the tea itself but his tone of voice… That year she had become something like an internal refugee and had to leave the university, “voluntarily expelled”. She applied to emigrate and soon after that friends stopped visiting her. Occasionally they would call from the public phones and speak in strange voices, and then when something squeaked in the receiver, they would say goodbye: “Forgive me, I’m out of change. I’ll call you later.” Anya ran endless errands, as a therapy against fear, collecting inquiry cards and papers – spravki - to and from various departments of Internal Affairs… And yes, good tea was hard to get in those days, especially the sweet and aromatically prestigious Ceylon tea. She often imagined meeting Misha somewhere in the noisy subway, in the middle of a crowd. He would be proudly wearing his fashionable brand-new T-shirt with the winking Olympic Bear, made in Finland “I’ve been transferred to Moscow, you know,” – he would shout at her. “I’ve been very busy lately.” “Me too,” Anya would shout back. “I’m emigrating, you know…” She knew she would be compromising him at that moment, that she would be saying something one didn’t say in public, something one could whisper in private only and never over the phone. A few strangers would conspicuously turn around to look at them, as if to photograph Misha’s face and hers with their suspicious eyes. And then Misha would blush, in his unique girlish fashion, his cheeks turning embarrassingly rosy, like in those teenage years, and he would vanish into the crowd.

But all of this was many years ago, and Anya no longer had any problems with tea. Those fragments of intimacy with Misha and Sasha, those tactile embarrassments and unfulfilled desires were the few things that remained vivid in her mind from the “era of stagnation”. Those incomplete narratives and failed perfect moments were like fragile wooden logs, unreliable safeguards on the swamp of her Leningradian memory which otherwise consisted of inarticulate fluttering and stutters, smells and blurs.

Anya had already performed some of the obligatory home-coming rituals but they had been too literal and therefore disappointing. She had walked by the aging but still cheerful Gorky on the now renamed Kirov Avenue approaching the windows of the Porcelain store that now sold everything from grilled chickens to “Scottish Whisky” and Wrangler jeans. Across the street from the square with the monument to the Russian inventor of radio (whose invention, along the others, is now questioned) she searched in vain for the shadow of Lenin made of red fishnet. The house where she used to live was under repair and on the broken glass-door of the front entrance she found a poster advertising a popular Mexican soap opera “The Rich Cry Too”. Otherwise the facade looked exactly like it had in the old days, but it was more like an impostor of her old house, a stage set that was a clumsy imitation of the original. Anya climbed up to their communal apartment through piles of trash. The place looked uncanny. The old communal partitions, including the secret retreats of Valentina Petrovna who had borne witness to her teenage romances, had been taken apart and the whole narrative of communal interaction was destroyed. On the floor she found telephone wires, worn-out slippers and the broken pieces of a French record. She looked through the window: black bottomless balconies were still precariously attached to the building, inhabited only by a few rootless plants. A lonely drunk was melancholically urinating near the skeleton of the old staircase.

“Comrades, Ladies and Gentlemen. Remember who’s the last in line and don’t let in anyone else. Can I trust you?”

“But, of course… We’re all family here, miss. We know who’s in line and who’s out, who’s with us and who’s against us…”

“Hurry up, comrades. Fill out your inquiry cards neatly. Be sure to include name and patronymic, place of birth, nationality, permanent address… We’re short of time here…”

Indeed we’re short of time, thought Anya. We are all only a phone call away from each other. Misha, Sasha, let’s all get together… Let bygones be bygones – God, we used to learn so many proverbs in our English classes and then never had the occasion to use them… Let’s chat, remember the golden seventies, have a drink or two. What do you think? There are a lot of blank spaces in our life stories, and we don’t have to fill them all, it’s OK. We’ll just have fun. Let’s meet in some beautiful spot with a view, definitely with a view. We don’t need broad panoramas, no. And I don’t think the Church of our Savior on the Blood is such a good place either – (I heard they took the scaffolding down and you can actually see it now, it’s been restored after so many years…) Let’s meet on a little bridge with golden-winged lions. “Let’s tell each other compliments, in love’s special moments” – I didn’t make up this song; it really existed.

Relax, Sasha… I know what happened. I’ve heard… I don’t have much to say about it, only that it could have been worse… Listen, you looked really gorgeous in that white coat with red lining and I was totally and completely seduced by that silly song about the falling snow… I must have had a real crush on you. I even forgave you for not reading Pasternak. It’s just that we took ourselves so seriously in those days, you and me… But tell me how did you come up with that cruel Latin word “frigid”? In America, you know, women are rarely frigid, but the weather frequently is…

Hey, Misha, I’ve really forgotten about that Ceylon tea of yours… it doesn’t matter any more, I’ve brought you some Earl Grey… Remember our telephonic orgasms in the communal hall? God, I wish someone had taped those… Should we try to continue with that in a more sedate, grown-up fashion and shock the long-distance operator? I remember something about you, from those earlier days. The taste of your tongue in my eyes… There was spring dirt on your boots then, they were still unpolished… Where are you now? Way up or low down? As usual, beyond good and evil? I’m joking, of course, you might have forgotten your high school Nietzsche…

Me, I’m fine really. I love New York, as they say. Like New Yorkers, I love it and hate it. It feels like home and I feel a bit home-sick now, for that little studio of mine on Tenth West Street, bright but rather messy, without any pretense of coziness. Sometimes I go traveling to the end of the world, or at least to the southernmost point in the United States, Key West. Last time I nearly slipped on the wet rocks. You see, I need that, to get perspective, to estrange myself. It’s risky to get attached to one place, don’t you think?

And, yes, naturally I must be having great sex. For that’s what we do “in the West” and it couldn’t be otherwise. It’s actually almost true and not a big deal. I have a Canadian boyfriend, we work out a lot… Sometimes he says he hasn’t found himself yet (found whom? – you would ask…) I know it might sound funny here. Some people try to lose themselves and others try to find themselves. Oh well, let’s have a cup of coffee…

Where shall we go? You’re local, you must know some place. Yesterday we tried to have a drink with my old girlfriend and couldn’t find a place to sit down. It was raining out. So we ended up going to the movie theater “The Barricade” on Nevsky. They have a nice coffee shop there. We even bought tickets to the movies, just in case. They were showing Crocodile Dundee - The cleaning woman tried to get us to go see it. “Hey, kids, it’s such a funny movie,” she said, “You just can’t stop laughing… Our movies are never funny like that.”

“No,” I said, “we bought tickets but really we just want to sit in the coffee shop since it’s open till the next show.”

“But you can’t do that -” she said, “the coffee shop is for moviegoers only and what kind of moviegoers are you?”

“I already saw Crocodile Dundee,” I protested.

“It’s impossible… Don’t try to fool me. This is the opening night…”

“I saw it in a drive-in theater in New London,” I insisted…

“Look, miss, leave the coffee shop this very minute. I tell you that in plain Russian, loud and clear. Coffee is for moviegoers only.”

Maybe we’ll see a movie, Misha, something slow, with long, long takes. Wait, Misha, don’t rush… I’m sure we’ll find a place nearby… I could invite you for a bagel, but it’s far away… We could talk about Napoleon. He’s sort of out of fashion now… I bet the waitress would take us for ageing foreign students…

“The Information Kiosk closes in fifteen minutes.”

“But we’ve waited for so long…”

“This is a public abuse. I demand the Book of Complaints and Suggestions...”

“I’m sorry, comrade, we don’t have one here. You would have to go to the Central Information Bureau on Nevsky. But they close at two today, so you’re too late. And tomorrow is their day off.”

“That’s the whole problem… Whatever the reason, Russian people love to complain… I would have prohibited those Books of Complaints and Suggestions... What we need is The Book of Constructive Proposals.”

“And who are you, mister? Are you a People’s Deputy, or what?”

“No, I am not.”

“Well, we’re very glad that you’re not a People’s Deputy. People have a right to information. If they can’t get the information, they can complain…We’ve been silenced for too long…”

“So what? Before we didn’t have any information and now it’s all over the place… But who needs it when we can’t afford toothpaste! We don’t have toothpaste, but we’ve got glasnost to freshen our breaths… Information… If you want my opinion, there’s too much information these days, too much talk and no change…”

“Excuse me,” said Anya very politely. “It says here clearly: ‘The Information Kiosk is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday’. Today is Thursday and it’s quarter to four now, therefore the Kiosk should be open for another hour and fifteen minutes.”

“Hey, lady… who do you think I am? Do you think I can’t read or something? You try working here for a fucking hundred rubles an hour. I would be making twice as much in the cooperative bakery… But I stay here any way… I feel sorry for folks like you, having to fill out those fucking inquiry cards in the cold… Someone has to give people the information they need…”

“Excuse me, miss… Where are you from?”

THE OPERA by Sonia Rykiel

translated by Maxim Jakubowski

Goose bumps.

Skin bumps

moving

singing

and moving again.

Legs held up high.

Embroidered material slashed open,

Opened skirt,

unhooked, wanton.

Above him.

Brilliant gems.

Exquisite surroundings

Beautiful

Start again, and again.

On the ground for a long time,

Terrific.

Invention, insolence

Touched front and rear, everywhere

Moving again

touched behind.

At the Opera, two salons bordered with mirrors, a thousand mirrors. Warm mirrors, mirrors like the sun, cold mirrors, mirrors like the moon.

Endlessly watching myself listening to the music from Tosca, La Traviata, or La Bohème.

Was I right?

Making love to Mimi’s tune, pulling her skirt up, holding on to her legs, her arms, her heart, her cunt.

Straightening her back, holding her tight.

She is held aloft, he is under her.

Crying, screaming.

Your sex is inside me.

Unveiled.

Even filled, I will not cry.

I am hollow, flat.

But still I keep on lying.

Don’t put the phone down.

Where is chance, where is beauty? I slide, I leave, I move on.

You turn round. Look at me. I feel a need to see you in those thousand mirrors.

“Raise your face, raise your cunt. Where are your eyes?”

I can no longer see you.

The most exquisite pain takes hold of me, a moist exquisite languor. Where is my dress, where are my stockings, my shoes, my hands? Where is he, him?

I seek ecstasy.

“Get up, come here.”

Waiting to be picked up, labelled, manipulated, passed around like a bottle.

I sigh, almost drunk.

The liquid is melting me inside.

Have I fallen, am I obscene, deranged?

Like a newspaper from hell.

Made up, painted, my lips so red, my eyes so dark my skin so white, my hips so curvy, my arse so voluptuous.

No, not voluptuous, exciting, lustful, on offer.

And my pear-shaped breasts, and my thin waist.

I gifted him with all of me that evening at the Opera, in the “Moon” boudoir, in the “Sun” room.

Whose existence no one else is aware.

Beauty.

Lost.

Enigma.

There is no more beautiful sight than those two rooms connected by a long, ornate walkway.

The atmosphere is electric. In five minutes, it will be Pelleas et Melisande.

I was dressed in pink, with orange seams.

But stark naked in the golden salon.

Spread like a saint, arms laid out like a cross, legs wide open, scarlet toed feet.

Outrageously on offer.

All that is missing is a cushion under my head.

“Here, take this scarf.”

“To cover myself?”

“No, for your head.”

The man is standing, shameless, his cock at attention, handing me the scarf.

His eyes are sharp, moving from my face to the upper area of my thighs. He bends over, moves closer to me, takes my head into his hands, squeezes me, approaches, bites my lips, caresses my face, pulls my hair back, holds me still, observing me.

The curtain rises. Debussy?

Mortal passion.

He holds my body high, makes me swirl, pulls me back beneath him, enters me, slips my shoe back on.

He’s killing me.

Despite it all, I feel relaxed, my face now obscured by the scarf I have replaced over me.

Then he picks me up again, pulling at my arm, drags me across the floor, ploughs me, hammers me, ties me with the scarf. He shouts.

“What about Debussy?”

I am dizzy.

He nails me to the ground.

I had earlier noticed the patterns on the floor, wooden squares mottled with red, black and brown washes.

I’m crushed by the weight of his body, I sway from one side to the other.

Have I been drinking, smoking?

Complicit.

I swivel over, find my own rhythm again, lose my soul, close my eyes.

He holds me tight.

Assault, tenderness, scandal.

To be doing “this” at the opera.

Like Melisande, I am lost.

Do not touch me or I will throw myself into the water.

He looks at me.

“Who hurt you?”

Does he think he is Golaud?

“I can’t say.”

And do I believe I’m Melisande?

I let myself go, I want to listen to the orchestra serenading me; I want to abandon myself to the seductive voices, the sound of the violins. I want to implode.

Obsessed, he turns my lips to fire, discards the scarf concealing my face, dislocates me, pulls me to his right and then his left, rises and places his foot on my breast.

His eyes are blue, ever so blue.

Half naked on the cold floor, I slip and he catches me.

There are shadows on the walls,

Maybe I could float if only I could hear him clearly, if I could gift myself to him fully, my hair falling wildly across my face.

I pull my knees together in an attempt to get my breath back.

“I like the way you move, I like your breasts.”

I am confused, I am on display.

He draws back.

“Get up on your feet.”

“Naked in front of the mirrors?”

Naked a thousand times, reflected, reshaped, wrong.

He approaches, touches me, feels me, takes my hand, lowers it to his cock.

It’s a part, I’m an actress, the camera is rolling, I am obeying the film director.

“Caress me.”

I stroke him.

Scandal.

I love “this”.

Bodies in lust.

Pleasure at its peak, sharp and true.

I am without reason, torn, asunder.

My pearl is dripping onto the wooden floor, I am gasping.

A gust of wind.

“Don’t fret.”

I’m trying not to rush, not to interrupt the flow.

“Stop.”

Like flowers…

CUCKOO by Brian Fawcett

FERRIS CAN’T QUITE decide why the first sight of the ferry dock makes him shiver. Is it fear or expectation, or is it simply the bracing spring air? With one hand, he grips the bouquet of yellow tulips he’s carrying a little tighter, pulls his jacket closer to his neck with the other, and the shivers pass.

He doesn’t expect the island to be the same after ten years. Islands change, people change, nothing remains the same. If it has taught him nothing else, travelling across four continents has driven home the ubiquitousness of change, although too often the specific message received is twisted between “Yankee Go Home” and “Everything changes – into a mall”.

Yet from a distance, the island is at least similar, and it isn’t until the ferry closes in on the dock that the changes become visible. Vince is waiting for him at the terminal, as expected. But he’s standing beside a nearly new Volkswagen Jetta, not slouched down comfortably in the seat of a battered GMC panel. From this distance, Vince could be mistaken for an ordinary middle-aged man, his face obscured by a beard that is more grey than black. To Ferris, he’s dead easy to recognize, and anything but ordinary. Vince is Ferris’s secret life – together with Ava.

Looking at him, Ferris shivers once again. That’s the most familiar feeling of all, and it doesn’t have anything to do with the weather conditions. Ferris has seen him waiting like this fifty, a hundred times, in every conceivable kind of weather, and the shiver has always been part of it. There is uneasiness and curiosity in it, and a tingling, what now? expectancy. But ten years have changed the shiver, too. The intensities have shifted. This morning, curiosity leads.

The ferry taps the dock, recoils a little, and the ramp mechanisms drop the heavy steel plates onto the decks. Ferris hangs back as the other passengers tramp across the plates and onto the wooden dock, an anonymous surge of eager human flesh that has debarked here the same way, in the same colourful chaos ten times a day since he was last here. How many crowds is that? Ferris tries to do the calculation in his head and settles at somewhere near forty thousand.

He leans against the ferry rail and makes an inventory. The mossy cedars and firs of the bay are more sparse than he remembers, and there are fewer of them. He glimpses several plush new buildings half-hidden among them, expensive homes defined by the unmistakable ostentation of wealthy people who want solitude, comfort, and convenience at the same time. The road leading down to the ferry slip looks more congested with cars and passengers than it used to be, but the sewery-salt odour of the marina is the same, and when he peers down through its murky iridescence, he can see neither improvement nor the bottom.

Ferris knows that the changes here, whatever they turn out to be, probably won’t be for the better. Everything gets uglier and more vulgar. This island and its contents more than most places, probably. Less nature, more people, more toxins and shit. The crabs and shellfish all up the coast, he recalls, were declared unfit for eating several years ago, a combination of pulp mill dioxins and too much sewage washing through to the beaches from the new developments.

He steps onto the ramp, continuing his gloomy inventory. In the marina behind the ferry slip, the boats are bigger than they once were, more of them Fiberglas. And there are houseboats. He wonders how that happened. The islanders had once been willing to form their own navy to keep them out. Somebody has paid a lot of money for the privilege of having their living room roll around like a toy boat in a bathtub every ninety minutes when the ferries come in.

Vince catches sight of him as he reaches the end of the ramp and booms out a greeting. “Hey, hey! Cuckoo! Over here!”

Ferris almost flinches. He hasn’t heard that nickname in a long time, not since the last time Vince used it. Trust him to bring it up before anything. He looks over and sees that Vince has a wide grin on his face – and that he’s waiting for Ferris to come to him. Some things don’t change.

They shake hands and then embrace, awkwardly. Vince glances at the tulips, but doesn’t acknowledge them. “You don’t change much,” he says.

Ferris shrugs. “I’ve got a few creaks.”

“No,” Vince says, as if reading his thoughts. “You look young. Your face. And this,” he pokes at Ferris’s gut, “pretty good.”

“Well, it isn’t like I’ve had to work at it,” Ferris answers. “Good genetics, I guess.”

Vince’s face hardens momentarily. “Oh, yeah, sure. But you haven’t led a hard life. All you do is travel to glamorous places and sit on your ass. Hop in.” He gestures toward the passenger side of the Jetta.

Ferris leans through the open window and looks inside. The car is immaculate. “Nice car,” he says. “What happened to your junk heap?”

At one time Vince had four mid-fifties GMC pickup trucks in his backyard to rob for parts to keep the panel he drove running. It wasn’t that he liked working on cars, or that he was saving money. It was a gesture to his father, a master mechanic who could make or repair anything.

Vince doesn’t answer for a moment, as if he can’t quite remember. “Oh, shit,” he says, finally, “that was a long time ago. Someone hauled them all to the dump when we sold the house.”

Ferris opens the car door, tosses the bouquet into the back seat, and climbs in. When he closes the car door, it comes to with a satisfyingly soft thump. Vince clambers in, reads Ferris’s mind once again.

“The old man’s dead, you know.”

Ferris doesn’t know, but he isn’t surprised. Vince’s father had been in poor health for years, and he didn’t much like doctors or hospitals.

Ferris had been fond of Vince’s father and had got along better with him than Vince did. Ferris would have loved the old man, but that wasn’t permitted. After Ferris’s parents died, the old man had taken Ferris under his wing and offered him everything that familial love confers. He was about the only male role model Ferris ever accepted. He’d given Ferris his nickname – Cuckoo – joking that Ferris was trying to push Vince out of the nest.

“When’d he go?” Ferris asks, breaking his reverie. “How long?”

“A couple of years ago,” Vince answers after a pause. “His heart blew up on him while he was pulling the transmission on a truck. Never knew what hit him.”

“I liked your old man a lot,” Ferris says, then revises. “I loved him. I’m sorry he’s gone.”

“Yeah, me too,” Vince answers, as if it were the least important thing on his mind. “I miss him sometimes. And,” he pauses again, “sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I’m glad he’s gone. He could be a miserable old bastard when he wanted to.”

“We should have grown up to be men like him,” Ferris says.

“We didn’t.” Vince stares through the windshield for a moment, as if considering what kind of men he and Ferris had become. “That’s for sure.”

He starts the car, and they drive off the ferry slip past the line of cars waiting to load.

“How’s Ava doing?” Ferris asks.

“You know how it goes,” Vince answers, noncommittally. “Up and down. You’ll see.”

Ferris wants to ask him if Ava is still beautiful, but it occurs to him that Vince might not understand what he’s asking. There had always been a strange lack of interiority in the way Vince viewed Ava. He seemed to know that she was an attractive woman, and he admired her sexual athletics and her unpredictability – but Ferris didn’t think he ever thought of her in terms of beauty. Not the way he did. And does.

They reach the turnoff to the northerly part of the island. Vince yanks hard on the steering wheel – too hard – and the Jetta sloughs around the corner. Ferris can’t think of anything to say, so he looks out the window. The island has, to use the misleading euphemism of real estate agents, developed. New homes sear the roadside, replacing the dense thickets of alder and fir that had been there since the glaciation.

The changes are so many that Ferris doesn’t recognize Vince and Ava’s old house when they pass it. Vince has to point it out. An addition has been built on, the yard backfilled, fresh paint. It looks like most of the other houses around it – an upmarket bungalow. When Vince and Ava lived there, it looked like what it was: a prefab starter home in a swampy yard filled with wrecked pickup trucks.

“When did you sell it?” Ferris asks.

“Four years ago, when Bobby moved out. I built the addition, and then we didn’t need it…” Vince trails off into silence.

That sounds about right to Ferris. Vince was always good at starting projects, not so great at figuring out the correct scale, and lousy at finishing them. Twelve years ago, Ferris helped him put in a fancy new septic system, an experimental one that didn’t work as advertised. Whenever it rained, the already swampy backyard turned into a private sewage lagoon, replete with floating turds and streamers of toilet paper. At least part of the cause was that Vince decided to route the eavestroughs into it, for reasons Vince couldn’t quite explain and which Ferris never got his mind around.

They talk briefly about what they’ve been doing in the last few years – or rather, Ferris questions Vince about what he’s been doing – teaching retarded teenagers – now challenged pre-adults – for some government program. Vince asks no questions and seems to have no curiosity about Ferris’s doings. Several miles pass. The density of development drops off and the island begins again to resemble the island Ferris knew.

“What’s the new place like?” he asks.

“Very different. You’ll see in a minute. Here’s the turnoff.”

Vince makes a right turn off the main road and bumps down a steep gravel hill toward the water. They’ve moved closer to the ocean, at least, Ferris thinks. For a moment it looks as if they’re right on the beach, but at the last minute Vince turns left into a deep draw sheltered by huge fir trees. It’s like a park, protected from both the main road above and the ocean winds. Vince pulls into a tiny driveway that backs onto a shed-like structure, cuts the ignition.

“Here we are,” he announces.

Ferris can’t see any house, and Ava isn’t to be seen either. Ferris retrieves the flowers from the rear seat and follows Vince along a treed path around the shed. Down a short but steep incline he can see a tiny cottage. It’s covered in varnished shiplap, with deep eaves, and a roof of shingled cedar. Smoke drifts up from the chimneys at each end. Beyond it is another building, unfinished, but about the same size.

“This is a change,” Ferris says, still wondering why Ava hasn’t appeared. In the old days, she always came out to greet him, a habit he attributed to her Yugoslav ethnic background – it was not then necessary to know if that meant Serbian, Slovenian, Croatian, or Muslim. It was, as far as he could see, her only ethnic tic. Otherwise she was as disenculturated as any WASP.

Vince waves his arm forward in reply, and Ferris skids down the mossy slope after him, and in his wake, tramps his way to the cottagey wooden back door. There is a small bell over it, on a string, and Vince tugs the string before entering. Ferris isn’t sure whether to expect Ava, or Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Vince pushes the door open.

Over his shoulder Ferris can see a sign that says “NO SHOES”. Vince bends over to remove his, and there is Ava. Her dark hair is peppered with grey, but God, she’s still beautiful. Ferris drinks her in, transfixed by a sense of relief. Without being conscious of it, he’s been imagining all kinds of horrible transformations – weight gain, accident scars, the coarsening of the features that women sometimes get under extended stress. For ten years he’s seen and heard nothing of or from her except a single telephone call he made five years ago. It wasn’t a long call. Ava cut him off in the middle of the opening pleasantries, saying that she and Vince were having problems; no, there was nothing Ferris could do, please stay clear.

“Ferris,” she says. “You’re here. It’s been a long time.”

Before Ferris can hand her the bouquet, Vince straightens up, completely blocking his view with his bulk. “Take off your shoes, Cuckoo,” he orders, curtly. “Things have changed.”

The last time Ferris saw Ava, he had anal intercourse with her while Vince had vaginal intercourse with her. As Ferris waits for Vince to move out of the doorway so he can remove his shoes and continue the conversation with Ava, he recognizes that something about that night was disturbing enough that he’s completely blocked it out. He can’t, for instance, remember the physical configuration of it. And that in itself is strange. In the past few days, a thousand other details of those years have flooded his memory, but not that one. It has vanished, including any memory of pleasure.

When he first met Ava, more than twenty-some years ago, he thought she was the prettiest – no, the most beautiful – woman he’d ever seen. And movie-star beautiful rather than modelbeautiful. She was tall, dark-haired, and darker eyed, with full breasts and hips, statuesque. Her breasts were too large for modelling, and she carried and cared for herself indifferently – without any sense of glamour. She rarely wore make-up and Ferris couldn’t recall seeing her in high heels. Here, he can’t even remember seeing her dressed up except the day she and Vince got married. That was the day Ferris met her.

It took a while, but when he got to know Ava, he liked her. She seemed bright enough even though she didn’t talk much. Ferris put that down to the fact that no one talked much around Vince. He dominated most conversations, and when he talked, you listened.

He never asked them when they got into group screwing, which of them initiated it, or exactly why they were doing it, but it had started before he entered their orbit. A few years after they got married, Vince began to talk about it – proudly, as if it were a badge of their openness and modernity. At first Ferris thought he was bullshitting. Talk is cheap, and Vince was a talker. And even if he was telling the truth, well, so what? It was the aftermath of the 1960s, when everybody thought they had the duty – and maybe even a basic right – to grope anyone they found attractive in whatever configuration appealed to them at the moment. The more bizarre the better.

Oh, Ferris had his fantasies about such things, but in strictly democratic terms, as a foursome, in which he and whatever partner he was with would sleep with others. Like most men (and maybe women) in those days, he was as interested as the next person in sleeping with new partners, but giving up bodily possession of his own in the deal was just too threatening. He’d occasionally entertained fantasies of a threesome involving two women, but not with much enthusiasm. He assumed that such a configuration would be centred on the male, and he had enough doubts about his stamina and gifts as a lover that he didn’t indulge the fantasies very far. Two men and a woman hadn’t occurred to him.

The first time Vince asked Ferris to join them, he said no. Thankfully, Vince didn’t persist beyond calling him a reactionary. Ferris didn’t say so, but he was quite willing to be reactionary. It was easier just to screw around, thanks. He preferred to have his adventures one-on-one, where the social politics were a little easier to sort out.

Ferris dutifully removes his shoes and tries to evaluate what he’s seen so far – Vince’s relative silence on the drive over, the look on Ava’s face as she greeted him. He’s asked for the visit, so he can’t fault them if they don’t want to be hospitable. It occurs to him that he’d asked Vince, and that Vince has never denied him anything. Judging from Ava, she has misgivings about him being there.

Well, what should I expect, Ferris muses as he parks his shoes beside Vince’s larger ones and picks up the bouquet. He’s already frustrated by the palpable barrier between them, but he doesn’t know what to do about it. Lord only knows why it’s really there – it’s been ten years, they’ve had a rough time domestically, and he still knows nothing definite about why.

He has a theory, if you can call it that, based on what Vince told him on the phone. Eight years ago they adopted a foster child about a year younger than Bobby, an eleven-year-old girl with learning disabilities. It was Vince’s way of bringing his work home, and Ferris’s guess is that it went badly. How or why, he doesn’t have a clue. It occurs to him now that the one time he talked to Ava, also on the phone, they were probably in the midst of that mess.

There is another possibility, a simpler one. Maybe they’re just wary of him and of what he might want. That makes a certain sense, except that wariness isn’t something he’s seen in either of them before. When you’ve been in every nook and cranny of another person’s body, and that person has shown no hint of reluctance or displeasure, you don’t expect them to respond to you with suspicion, not even after ten years. Or at least Ferris doesn’t.

He’s a bit simple-minded about certain things, our Ferris. He thinks, for instance, that intimacies are permanent even though he will tell you that nothing lasts forever. Some tangled circuit in his brain insists, against logic and common sense, that anyone who has cared for him once always will. He understands that the world and human beings aren’t perfect, but he retains a perfect ego anyway. Is this familiar to anyone out there? Is there another name for this? Stupidity?

Ferris follows Vince into the tiny kitchen. Vince, Ferris notes, brushes past Ava without touching her. Ferris stops in front of her and presents her with the bouquet. He most definitely does want to touch her, to look at her, to see for himself. For a moment he just looks at her, and she stares back without taking the flowers out of his hand, a slight smile on her lips that doesn’t touch her eyes. He brushes back a stray lock of her hair and leans in to kiss her cheek.

“Well,” she says, taking a step backward but not quite flinching, “do come in and sit down. Would you like some tea or coffee?”

The three of them negotiate a pot of herbal tea, and while Ava finds a vase for the bouquet, Ferris looks around. Despite the hominess of the cottage, it is Spartan. There are no paintings or prints on the walls, and no personal mementos to be seen. Vince and Ava, Bobby, the foster daughter, and everyone else – parents and friends alike – have been disappeared.

Ferris ambles over to the couch, sits down, and surveys the cottage. The orderliness of it is startling. The Vince he knows isn’t like this, not in any way. He’s always been a bouncer – a project here, an idea there – the projects never quite complete, the ideas never entirely coherent. Ava lived amidst his chaos without any evident discomfort, or, now that he considers it, deep interest. She wasn’t a compulsive housekeeper or much of a cook. She seemed to be in her own private universe, even as a parent – not that he saw much parenting or much of Bobby – the boy was always visiting “elsewhere” when Ferris visited. Ferris suspected that Ava was competent but slightly indifferent as mothers go. But if she didn’t exert much control in the household, in the bedroom she was definitely in charge – and the bedroom had very elastic proportions.

There was the time she greeted him on arrival with a blowjob: no formalities permitted, not a word of explanation. Ferris stood in the doorway with his back to the road, his arms braced against the doorjambs and watched her slip his cock in and out of her throat with an exquisitely firm touch grasping and sucking on the in-stroke, and vibrating her tongue across his glans on the out.

Anyone driving by would have recognized exactly what she was up to, but it didn’t take very long, and the road remained empty. When she was finished, she stood up, kissed him, and slipped his own come into his mouth. Then, grinning, she told him it was an experiment – she wanted to see how fast she could make him come.

Watching Vince and Ava dither in the kitchen, Ferris has another moment of doubt. Why did he come here? With some fatuous hope that nothing changes? Aside from a salting of grey hair, Ava seems to be the same woman – physically. But she is wary, chastened, closed, and now it comes to him, unerotic. Why?

Ferris is suddenly assailed by a flood of erotic memories. The way it started, for instance: Vince invites him for dinner. Ferris is between relationships, so he comes alone, dressed in bluejeans and shirt and tie, bringing a bottle of wine and flowers – they were chrysanthemums, so it would have been autumn. Ferris always keeps his seasons straight that way.

He’s expecting a family dinner, to yap with the kid, and leave early. When he arrives there are only the two of them. Bobby is staying with an aunt.

At the dinner table the conversation rolls around to sex. Vince is doing the talking. Ferris isn’t saying much, and Ava is impersonating the Mona Lisa, watching them both with an amused expression on her beautiful face. The flashpoint is sexual jealousy which Ferris uncomfortably admits to feeling. Who doesn’t?

“I don’t,” Vince claims. “I’ve never felt a twinge of it.”

“I don’t believe you,” Ferris says.

Vince grins. “That’s just your threatened sexuality talking,” he answers. “Ava can fuck with whoever she wants. So long as she experiences pleasure, I do too.”

“I suppose you sit on your hands and watch.”

“Sometimes.” Vince answers as if it were a completely mundane matter of fact. “But usually not for long.”

Ferris eyes Ava, imagining her moaning and bucking in a stranger’s embrace while Vince calmly watches. It’s an arousing image, but one that makes his spine contract. It’s Ferris’s exgirlfriend making it with her new man, and Ferris is being forced to watch – or is it Vince watching him and his ex?

Across the table, Ava unbuttons her blouse. She’s not wearing a brassiere. She begins to fondle her nipples. They’re inverted, and as Ferris stares, they grow erect beneath her fingers. Vince is watching her too, saying something Ferris doesn’t follow. He sounds like a television game show host. With an effort, Ferris focuses on what he’s saying.

“Well,” Ferris hears Vince saying, “why don’t you show Ferris what I’m talking about?”

Ava murmurs an “Uhhmm” that is neither concurrence nor question, and stands up, sloughing off her blouse as she does so. She walks around the table, slips to her knees in front of Ferris, and begins to unzip his fly, nuzzling his crotch as she does it. Woodenly, Ferris helps her, undoing his belt and freeing his erect penis from his jeans. She inhales it expertly. Within seconds he’s on the verge of coming, and she senses it. She pulls back, holding the head between two fingers, and looks up at him.

“Oh, no you don’t,” she says.

She leads him to the couch, where she slips off her skirt and sinks back against the material. She’s not wearing panties. Ferris crouches between her thighs and lifts her legs over his shoulders. He tried to give her head, but she isn’t very interested. She grabs his hair and looks into his eyes, the same amused look on her face.

“I want you inside me,” she said. It’s an order.

It’s like a pornographic movie to Ferris, and he has to remind himself that this is really happening. He looks over at Vince, who is still sitting at the dinner table with an I-told-you-so smirk on his face. Ferris tries to slow down, to think of other things as he strips off his clothes, but it’s impossible. His sense of irony has deserted him, and for the first time he can remember, there is no part of him standing aside, watching and analyzing. Vince is the watcher, here.

For a while, anyway. Ferris glimpses Vince removing his clothes, and as he kneels in front of Ava again, Vince moves past him to sit on the arm of the couch, his erection bobbing against her face. She slurps it hungrily as Ferris penetrates her.

Ferris comes in a few strokes, and in a state that is about equal parts tumescence and culture shock he watches his first live blowjob. At a distance of less than two feet, it goes on too long and it looks awkward. Eventually Vince pulls away, and as if Ferris isn’t there, he pulls Ava off the couch onto the rug and mounts her.

Ferris does not quite know what to do, so he covers his confusion with a feigned empiricism. He lies on the rug beside them, watching Ava’s face as they fuck. It’s easier to watch her than him, somehow, or it. She remains composed and conscious, taking his hand and pulling it in to fondle her nipples as Vince pumps away, lost in his own groaning, grunting ecstasy. He takes what seems like forever to have an orgasm, and through most of it Ava’s eyes are locked on Ferris, beads of sweat rolling off her forehead and neck, her hand rhythmically gripping his wrist as Vince’s thrusts pound into her. When Vince finally does come it sounds and looks like he’s dying. Ferris is half convinced that he and Vince are from a different species. But he doesn’t get to think that one through. Ava reaches over, grabs his hair and pulls him to her. He kisses her lips, licks the sweat from her face. Behind him he feels Vince running his tongue along his spine. He closes his eyes.

Ava comes out of the kitchen with a teapot and three mugs on a tray. Vince follows with small cream and sugar jugs in matching ceramics, and some spoons. She slides the tray onto the coffee table, and Ferris realizes that she’s left the vase back in the kitchen.

“That’s milk there,” she says, motioning at the cream jug. “I trust that will be fine.”

The way she says it lets Ferris know she’s not interested in the answer.

“Milk’s fine,” he says.

Vince eases his big body into the chair across from the couch, and Ava pulls one of the wooden chairs from the table and sits down opposite him, beside Vince.

“What do you think?” Vince asks, leaning over to pour the tea.

Ferris isn’t sure what he’s referring to, then realizes that he’s being asked his opinion about the cottage.

“It looks pretty good,” he says. “But very different, no? The old place was…”

“Bigger,” Ava intervenes. “There’s just the two of us, you know. And we live very quietly.”

“I’ll show you the workshop later,” Vince adds. “You’ll like it.”

“You did all this yourself?”

“We did it,” Ava says, emphasizing the “we”.

Ferris can’t quite stifle a smile. The Vince he knew would have cut off both thumbs before a quarter of this got completed. “You mean, you did it.”

“I took a carpentry course, actually,” Ava answers, a dry smile crossing her face momentarily.

Vince hands Ferris a mug of tea, with milk and sugar already in it. Not the kind of detail he’d have expected Vince to remember, but he does. And Ferris doesn’t point it out. Instead, he recognizes that this is the most formal the three of them have ever been with one another, and the tension is exquisite. On the tail of that thought rides another: We want this to be over, all three of us. In our different ways.

Ferris doesn’t know where to begin. Nothing new in that, Ferris muses. Well, there were always interminable awkwardnesses to this. How can you have casual conversation with a married couple immediately after you’ve had sex with them? You can’t talk about the weather, because there isn’t any. The world disappears, replaced by one’s own overdrawn senses. You place your fingers in front of your nostrils and there is her scent, yours, and a third. There is a drop of come on your leg. Whose is it?

Then there were the other, trickier questions that Ferris couldn’t quite ask: What is this for? Why Ferris and not someone else? Where is this supposed to lead?

If Vince had answers to those questions, he didn’t offer them. He travelled in Ava’s erotic wake, revelling in the foam of her mysterious agenda like a dolphin in the backwash of a ship. For Ava, there didn’t seem to be any questions. She was inside, and of, the events, and one event simply led to the next.

Not Ferris. The minute the event was done, he wanted to know where, and why, and what. And the only answers he got were what came next.

There were explanations to be had, of course. The first was predictable, and it brooked no further inquiry: Why not? That was the battle cry of their generation, but in this case Ferris couldn’t quite separate the question and its answer from Why me and not others?

That got explained indirectly. There were others. A woman, whose name he was given along with explicit descriptions of what had gone on. She was Ava’s choice, Ferris gathered, although no one said so. Ferris wanted to know whose choice he’d been, but he didn’t ask.

The other explanations made his head spin. They’d wanted him for years. They loved him, in fact. Both of them, yes. Love, and friendship. Why not?

This revelation muddied things further. In theory he too loved his friends, Vince included. Maybe particularly. But neither love nor friendship would have occasioned him to invite Vince to sleep with his women, alone or with Ferris watching or participating. What did Vince get out of this? Was it just for the erotic kick he got?

“All those things are part of sex, Cuckoo,” Vince explained one night when Ferris pushed the subject. “Ava wanted you. I did too.”

“We didn’t pick you out of a police line-up,” Ava added. “Don’t make this too complicated or it’ll screw you up.”

“It is complicated,” Ferris said.

“Well,” Ava said, “you know what they say.”

“What do they say?”

“They say that when a married woman wants to sleep with another man it means there’s something wrong with her marriage.”

“What do they say about men doing the same thing?”

She laughed. “They say it just means he has testicles.”

“Yeah, well, who the hell are they, anyway?” Ferris said, getting irritable.

“They’re the part of you that wants to believe what they say.”

That didn’t quite answer the question Ferris couldn’t bring himself to ask either of them: Why does Ava love me?

The question, after ten years, is still there. In fact, it has grown. Now he wants to know how Ava loved him, not just why. And his perfect ego, stupid as always, wants to know if she still does.

Both Ava and Vince are gazing at him impatiently.

“Well,” Ferris says, pausing to sip the tea. “I guess we should get on with it.”

“I’m not sure what we’re supposed to get on with,” Ava answers, irony distributed about equally through the sentence. It coats each word with ice.

“I guess,” Ferris says, hesitantly, “I want to know what’s become of you. And I still don’t quite understand us.”

Another hesitation. Ava arches her eyebrows, Vince looks out the window. Ferris knows he sounds like a fifteen-year-old explaining why he’s come home late with the family car.

“What happened, like.”

Ava rolls her tongue around across her top lip. Ferris recognizes the gesture, but it means something quite new.

You disappeared,” she says. “That’s what happened. Not a word, no goodbye, no nothing. Why do you want to know what happened? You were there. And you weren’t. Were we supposed to come looking for you?”

Ferris shivers again, involuntarily. Was it really that open? A free choice, openly offered despite the nature of their arrangement and its strange discretions? Maybe.

He senses that it was, and then again it wasn’t. It explains how easily he walked away from it, and it explains why they didn’t come looking for him. But it doesn’t explain either what they did together. And it leaves out the intervening years, and it says nothing about the obvious truth that a menage-a-trois isn’t exactly a configuration built for stability, emotional or any other kind. It was asymmetrical, unbalanced. With them – or maybe it was only with Ferris – the imbalances shifted constantly, creating new ground that was always somehow weirder. He’d get his head around one part of it, and the norm would move beyond, out there.

Vince doesn’t say anything. He looks over at Ava and smiles, wearily. She smiles back, wryly, as if she’s explaining something obvious to an obtuse child. “Maybe it’s time you told us what was happening, Ferris.”

Ferris puzzles over the solidarity he senses between Vince and Ava. It doesn’t have anything to do with sex. Its basis is an almost monastic separateness, a formality that precludes sexuality rather than preludes it.

If he’s reading it right, it’s a dramatic change for Ava. The one certainty about her was her readiness for sex, anytime, any place, the weirder the better. She simply liked to have cocks around her or inside her, preferably more than one. Well, “simply” isn’t the right word. She seemed to take her greatest pleasures from controlling him and Vince – from making them lose control, to be exact, and in being able to dictate where, when, and how they got off. She liked to see them come – liked to see the imminent orgasms, the helpless heedlessness of them, in their eyes. Sometimes Ferris thought he detected a kind of contempt for their immense, brainless neediness.

He’s pretty sure she didn’t have orgasms herself. And God knows he tried to make her have them. For nearly a year he became obsessed by it, going down on her literally for hours, licking and stroking every fold of flesh he could get his tongue on, keeping himself glued to her clitoris while Vince fucked her, whatever he could think of to get her over.

It never quite happened. She’d reach a plateau of pleasure, cruise it for a brief time, and then subside back to her zone of control. Vince seemed oblivious to all this, and Ferris didn’t ever ask either of them about it. It was, after all, her show, and if not, then their show.

After an arduous session one night, Vince went off for a shower, leaving him to cuddle Ava. She suddenly sat up on the bed with her back to him.

“I’m in love with you, Ferris,” she said, very slowly and carefully, as if she were pronouncing some sort of curse. He felt his heart constrict. Vince had already established that she loved him, but this was different. The situation was already crazy, and this zoomed it a lot crazier. Here was a woman, someone else’s wife, a woman he’d been intimate with in almost every way except the conventional ones, and now she seemed to be saying she wanted to have an affair with him, and maybe a lot more than that.

“You know how I feel about you,” Ferris answered after a tense silence. It was a careful answer, as careful as he could make it. Ferris wasn’t sure what he felt for her, and he didn’t want to use the word “love”. Love is something people settle into, a comfortable, conventional intimacy. This wasn’t comfortable, and it sure as hell wasn’t conventional. He’d tried to convince himself that it was just sex, something they did without needing to talk about it. He knew that this wasn’t quite accurate, but it made it easier to cope with.

“I don’t know,” she said, still not looking at him. “I don’t know what you feel at all, Ferris, and I don’t know what you think. You come here and we do all this, we make love, we fuck, but what does it count for?”

“A lot.”

That was true. It did count for a lot, but what “a lot” meant, he couldn’t have said. And here was a problem. It was great sex, great. No other word sufficed. And it satisfied his hunger for transgression, his need to affront convention. But how important was that out in the world? Not very, if he could walk away from it for weeks and months at a stretch. And what did it say about how he felt toward either of them? Not much.

“A lot?” she repeated. “You leave here in the morning like you’re escaping. Where do you go? I don’t know anything about your life. Do you ever think about me – about us – when you don’t have your face buried between my legs?”

It was a deadly question – and he didn’t have to answer it. Vince came out of the bathroom, still wet from the shower, with a towel around his head and shoulders. “So,” he asked, “what are you two talking about?”

Before Ferris could dodge, Vince told him what he thought the conversation was about. “Ava wants to have a child with you. I think it’s a good idea.”

This wasn’t what he and Ava were talking about, was it? He glanced at Ava and could read nothing, either way, from her expression. Maybe this is how she explained it to Vince, or maybe it was how Vince explained it to himself, made it into a practical reality. Vince’s version was the more frightening, but either way, it scared the shit out of Ferris.

“You already have a child,” Ferris said, tentatively. “If you want another, why don’t you just go ahead and have one?”

“We didn’t think about it until a little while ago,” Vince said. “I had a vasectomy last year. Didn’t think we’d want more kids. But Ava really loves you, Ferris. So do I. And why not?”

Ferris’s head was spinning. On this one, he could think of several dozen reasons why not, the best of them practical. Whose child would it be? Who would raise it? He was number three in this relationship in every way, and so far that had been fine. But what would happen if they were to throw a child out into the mix? Would the child have two fathers?

Oh no, Ferris could see that this was altogether too crazy.

“This is a pretty amazing proposition,” he said, trying to compose himself. “I need some time to think about it.”

“Oh, sure,” Vince said, very serious now. “Think about it.”

Ferris takes a sip of tea. “I’m thinking about that time you asked me if I wanted to father a child with you,” he says. “I never understood that.”

Vince shrugs. “What’s to understand? At the time, it was a serious offer. But you would have had to make a commitment, and you didn’t. So it passed. That’s when I began to realize just how screwed up you were, actually.”

Ferris looks to Ava for confirmation. She looks out the window, and then back at him. “It was a bad idea,” she says, slowly. “We had a lot of those, if you recall.”

Oh yes, indeed. The worst one was Ferris’s, kicked off from that incident. He decided that he wanted Ava for himself. Or at least, he wanted to see what it would be like between just the two of them. An affair, or whatever it might be called in the circumstances. The nomenclature would need to be peculiar, but then his feelings for her were peculiar. Until that moment putting a name to them hadn’t seemed relevant, or rather, it hadn’t seemed possible.

Ava went along with it, for as far as it went. They met several times in anonymous hotels. Ferris was all over her, and she was either bored or diffident – Ferris couldn’t decide which it was. He did everything he could to make her lose control of her reserve, to orgasm, but even though he licked and sucked and fucked her until she was raw he couldn’t get her half as close as Vince and he did together. She let him do whatever he wanted, affectionate and slightly impatient at the same time, as if she were humouring a child. Whatever he thought he was doing, it was wide of the mark, and Ava gave him no hint of any alternative. Maybe she felt guilty because Vince wasn’t there. After a while, Ferris did.

Alone, he and Ava discovered they had little to talk about. By unspoken agreement, they didn’t talk about Vince or about the ménage-à-trois. They didn’t talk about being in love, or about having a child, although Ferris imagined that he might be getting her pregnant. They didn’t discuss how either of them got to the hotel, or how she would get back to the island afterward, they didn’t discuss work or children, and they barely talked about the weather. They were left with a present that had to subsist within the walls of the hotel room, and a future that they might be risking by being there.

They met in the hotel lobby, rushed to the room, made love, and lay in the darkness without speaking. If this was the real thing, it wasn’t nearly as exciting as the unrealities they were cheating on. Ava didn’t get pregnant, and they stopped meeting without having to admit they were going to. Ferris was disappointed and relieved at the same time.

Now, here, he has a sudden instinct that Vince had known about it all along, and that if not, he certainly knew now. “I had some dumb ideas in those days,” Ferris says, looking at Vince and feeling guilty.

“You mean like trying to take Ava away from me?” he says. “Yeah, I knew you were trying. I wasn’t worried. I thought you’d figure it out for yourself soon enough.”

“How did you find out?”

“Ava told me she was seeing you. I told you we trusted each other completely. You didn’t believe it like you didn’t believe a lot of the rest of what I said. More tea?”

Ferris decided to leave “the rest of it” alone. “Another cup is fine. Why didn’t you stop it?”

“Why should I? Ava was crazy about you… and I thought you might see what we were offering you.”

Ava fills Ferris’s cup, tops up her own and Vince’s, and goes off to the kitchen to make more. Watching her do this simple thing, Ferris tries to fathom how she sorted out complexities like the ones he’d created for her. Did she sort them out at all? He could hardly fault her if she didn’t. He hadn’t, not really.

From the beginning of it, Ferris had difficulty living with the idea that he was sexually involved with a married couple. How many times had he sat on the ferry on the trip back and told himself it was too weird, that he couldn’t handle it any longer?

Yes, but it was also the ferry rides, together with the isolation of the island, that protected it, and him. No one knew he had this other life. To his friends, Ferris was someone who sometimes disappeared for a few days, that’s all. Not generally available on weekends. If a friend asked where he was, he mentioned business. If business associates asked, he used his friends as an excuse.

After the “affair” ended, it got harder, and he didn’t return to the island at one point for almost eight months. He found several new lovers, tried hard to stay interested in them, but couldn’t. When he started coming back to the island regularly, there were no recriminations, no oblique punishments, no reluctances. But there was a subtle erotic escalation, so subtle that he didn’t notice it at first.

Ferris was conducting his own subtle escalation. He was competing with Vince, holding off his orgasms until after Vince had his, or breaking off to watch them fuck, nestling close to Ava, cuddling her, kissing her breasts or face or neck, holding her eyes with his while Vince came. Then he’d have her to himself, and he put on performances that were as much for Vince as for Ava.

They weren’t always comfortable performances, because Vince had some unsubtle ways of watching. He’d lie with his face next to Ava’s vagina, slipping Ferris’s cock out of her and into his mouth for a few strokes. Or while Ferris was fucking with Ava, Vince would play with his balls, or lick his asshole. Several times Vince insisted on joining in on fellatio – at least once, due to last-second manoeuvres, Ferris came in Vince’s mouth. Vince seemed to enjoy all of this, and Ferris, well, didn’t.

Meanwhile, the configurations and combinations were escalating, getting wilder and weirder. Each round of love-making seemed to require a new configuration. Some of them were simply contortions – easy enough to adapt to. Then came vibrators and dildos, an uncomplicated fourth partner. There was a decipherable symmetry to the escalations. Each time, Ferris was offered the more extreme posture. At the next session, Vince began there. Oils appeared, anal intercourse was introduced. At that, Ferris at first balked.

“Don’t be a prude,” Vince said. “It isn’t painful if it’s done right. You lubricate properly, and come into her from the front, just like conventional fucking. You’ll like it. She does.”

Ava, lying between them on the bed, arched her back and licked her lips.

Then Ava wanted them both in her vagina at the same time. It was a difficult, contorted manoeuvre, and Ferris was convinced that it was painful for her. A few days afterward, he phoned and asked her point-blank.

“It was pleasant,” she said, her voice cool. “Should we be talking about this on the phone?”

“It didn’t look like it was pleasant,” he said. “It looked painful. And it felt painful.”

“It hurt you?” she answered, her tone still cool.

“No, damn it. It hurt you. I hurt you.”

“Ferris, sweetie,” she said as if instructing a child. “Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between pleasure and pain. In any case, if I’d wanted you to stop, I would have said so.”

“You would have.”

“Yes. Don’t you understand that?”

He told her he did.

Ferris realizes that he’s staring at Ava, remembering being in those strange and stranger embraces with her, helplessly recalling her scent and taste and the myriad erotic postures in which he’s seen her exquisite body. He knows more about her, been more intimate with her than any woman he’s been with. At the same time, he knows nothing about her, nothing comfortably human. Doesn’t intimacy leave indelible traces? Where are they, here?

“Don’t, Ferris,” Ava says. “I don’t want to be looked at like that. Not by you, or Vince, or anyone else.”

“I’m sorry,” he says. He is sorry. “That certainly isn’t why I’m here.”

“So why are you here, exactly?”

Tough question. Mentally he goes over the list: curiosity about the events of the last ten years, an old friend’s and lover’s distant concern, some personal curiosity about how a beautiful woman has aged. All acceptable motives. But there’s a surprise item on the list, and it isn’t acceptable: Ferris isn’t sure he wouldn’t tumble into the sack with them right now if they proposed it.

He frowns, tries to rid himself of the thought. “Tell me what happened with the child you adopted.”

Ava looks at the floor, and Vince sinks back in his chair with a sigh.

“There’s not much to tell,” he says. “She had learning disabilities, you knew that. She didn’t improve, and by the time she was fifteen, we had a major behaviour problem on our hands. All sorts of incidents, one thing after another. Eventually she was caught breaking into the house of one of our neighbours, and she got sent to a juvenile home. We sprung her, but after that, it was worse. She’d be here for a few days, and then she’d disappear for weeks on end. Then she stopped coming. We don’t even know where she is, now. In jail, I think.”

“I’m sorry,” Ferris says. “What about Bobby?”

“What about him?” Vince replies. “He’s around. He has his own place in town, works, goes to school part-time. He just outgrew the island, that’s all. This isn’t much of a place for young people.”

“Are you two happy?”

Ava answers. “Sometimes. Yes.” There’s a long hesitation. “We’ve been in therapy for three years. That’s helped a lot.”

“What for?” Ferris asks, without thinking.

“It got out of hand,” Vince answers for her. “There was nothing in our lives but sex. It was an addiction.”

Their distance makes it feel more like there’s a continent between them and him rather than a few feet. The distance was there when he arrived, but now it is tangible. And it is growing, solidifying.

“We didn’t understand that, not really. Nobody does, anymore. We thought the pleasure we wanted, or whatever it is life is about, was somewhere else, something else, someone else. That’s what you were all about, what that whole thing was about. It felt like a big mountain we were climbing, but we were only climbing out of ourselves. We discovered that what matters is the village at the base of the mountain. Now we get up in the morning and work on things. One day at a time.”

Ferris can feel disappointment straining against his discretion. Vince has just given him a cliche-ridden Alcoholics Anonymous speech. It’s evidently a sincere one, and the small smile on Ava’s face as he speaks confirms her agreement.

“But you know, Ferris,” Vince says after an awkward silence Ferris doesn’t break, “we’re okay, now. It started to come around when we realized that life isn’t supposed to be easy. None of what we did was a total waste of time. We had to go through it and come out on the other side. I think that’s what you’re doing, too, in your own way. It’s too bad you have to do it alone.”

Ferris shrugs. Maybe, just maybe, it is that simple. The way they lived, the dangers must have kept growing, while the payoffs got smaller, or at least harder to find. Eventually, the accumulated discretions and indiscretions must have toppled over on them in some terrible way. Maybe in the real world, maybe just in their minds. But maybe they just got tired of the complications, and stopped. So maybe the unfinished business he came here to settle isn’t unfinished, and there are no revelations forthcoming.

Well, not quite. Ever since he got on the ferry this morning, he’s been wrestling, somewhere in his subconscious, with the puzzle of how Vince and he performed simultaneous anal and vaginal intercourse with Ava. He’s certain it took place, because he can distinctly remember the sensation of his and Vince’s penises touching through the thin membrane between them. What’s bothering him – what’s been bothering him for a long time – is the configuration.

It was part of an obscure fidelity Ferris kept, and he’d been subtle enough with it that he was certain that neither Vince nor Ava were aware of it. But throughout everything they did, Ferris had not once entered Ava unless they were face to face. Now, suddenly, he realizes the configuration he wants isn’t physically possible. He’s been deluding himself. Vince had been on his back, she kneeling forward on his chest, and Ferris was squatting behind her. In the crudest possible sense, Ferris had fucked her up the ass, impersonally, like a dog would. And for ten years, he’d been blocking the memory of it.

“What’s wrong, Ferris?” he hears Ava asking. His consternation must have shown in his face. “Were you expecting more?”

Ferris looks at the ceiling. “No,” he says. “I just thought of something. It’s obscure stuff. Nothing to do with you.”

He wants to tell Ava he’s sorry, but what he’s sorry about is so oblique there’s no way he can make her understand – even if she wanted to. It’s the truth, but sex delivers an almost infinite number of truths, all equal. It’s also true that he didn’t return after that because he was frightened to. Beyond unrestricted pleasure he’d glimpsed its opposites: violence and pain. And in Ferris’s mind, they had crossed the boundary.

Or maybe that’s what I’m seeing and saying, and Ferris is nothing but a sexual cuckoo that vacated the nest when it got too hot inside. I’d like Ferris to see it, but what’s the point of inflicting my erotic insights on him – or on Vince and Ava? I could do all sorts of comforting things here. I could make Ferris grovel for forgiveness, join their chapter of Sexaholics Anonymous – or form his own. I could force him to admit that he’d started a primary relationship soon after he left, and when that failed, another, ad nauseam. Or less comforting, I could make him confess a secret he’s kept even from himself: that sex was never so good as it was with them, not before, nor after.

But there’s nothing discreet for him to say, nothing he needs to know or say about this. By a different route, he’s come to the same conclusions they have. It’s time to go.

“I should catch the next ferry back,” Ferris says. “But you’re right. Life isn’t supposed to be easy: I just wish I’d known that twenty years ago.”

Ava smiles. It’s a real one this time, and as Ferris gets up to leave, she reaches over and grasps his hand. “So do we,” she says. “But we didn’t.”

It’s too early to leave for the ferry, so Ferris and Vince wander out to the workshop, where Vince shows him an array of power tools and a birdhouse he’s planning to elevate next to the livingroom window. It’s a mess, big enough to house a raven, but Ferris doesn’t say so.

On the ferry back from the island, Ferris writes this in his notebook:

What if our erotic lives are not written on water; but are a kind of graffiti scribbled on the planetary and cosmic slate, an inscription of meaningless insights and temporary states of emotions and prejudice by which we are nonetheless going to be mercilessly judged, not by a divine being but by the volume of darkness and misery we generate with them.

“Well then,” he says aloud. “I will generate no more darkness.”

The man sitting next to him looks up from the book he’s been dozing over. “What did you say? Were you talking to me?”

Ferris laughs. “No,” he says. “Not directly. Thinking out loud, I guess.”

He pulls his bag onto his shoulder. The ferry is nearing the mainland terminal, but he’s got time for a pee before it docks. After that, he has distant places to go, faraway people to meet and write lies about.

Over the urinal is scribbled the following barely literate message:

I guess the confusion is universal, Ferris thinks to himself as he tries to come up with an answer to the graffito. Trouble is, it exists in specific conditions. Some of them lead easily to violence, others get resolved by small bursts of insight, and some simply remain unanswered and unrelieved.

He feels the gentle bump of the ferry meeting the slip, hears the rumble of the motors as they reverse. He leaves the graffito unanswered, and seconds later he’s back in the crowd of travellers hurrying to the next destination.

LIES by Geraldine Zwang

translated by Maxim Jakubowski

It was past four in the morning when I opened the door to my flat, hesitant like a thief. I felt dirty, exhausted by what I had just come through. In the hallway’s mirror I quickly noticed the darkness surrounding my eyes, as well as a look of exaltation I had never glimpsed before. In the penumbra of the hallway, the mirror was showing me the very image of a loose woman, so far from the conservative and restrained bourgeois fifty year old image I tried to adhere to.

I silently made my way to the bathroom when I heard my husband’s voice from the corridor.

“Do you know what time it is?”

Unknowingly, he was saying the exact same words my father would throw at me whenever as a teenager I returned from parties at my friends. A wave of fear coursed through me, a fear which quickly changed into anger. Anger towards the proprietary male, the accountant in our couple. I’m anything but a submissive woman, far from it, but there has always been a kernel in me that makes any woman of my age her husband’s woman.

As a soothing April dawn neared, I knew I no longer wanted this relationship and that from now onwards I would lead a new life according to my own will.

“I’ve just been fucked,” I said, enunciating the words carefully, with an assurance that surprised me.

Sometimes silences can feel endless, but this one lasted an eternity.

“Is that your idea of a joke?” my husband asked disbelievingly.

I knew for a fact that his voice was not that of someone who had just woken up. He had been waiting for me. I wasn’t surprised when he appeared at the door fully dressed. His eyes moved between wrath, incredulity and consternation. The ironic tone of his earlier question disappeared as soon as he looked at my face. I really did look like a woman who had been fucked. Eyes tired but grateful, lips ever so swollen by kisses and bites and an overindulged body that had lost its social remoteness.

The “where have you been?” triggered an avalanche of questions: who had I been with? what had I done?

The more he spoke, the more he was overtaken by fear. Without even providing him with any answer I was already assuming a dominant position, watching him shrink with every passing moment. I was no longer afraid and could observe this man who was my husband with detachment, even with curiosity. How could I ever have been physically content with this man for so many years? I was now resentful for the cold years when physical desire had faded to just being a memory. So, in a spirit of vengeance, to test him also, I decided to tell him everything, with nothing left out and invited him into the salon and ordered him to sit, facing me, behind his desk.

I confessed that I had had an adventure with two men I had met at an art gallery opening.

My husband’s face froze and I was unable to read any of his feelings right then. It was as if he was discovering a new woman he had never truly known. All of a sudden, all his certainties were falling apart. His voice all muted, he continued his interrogation.

“But what actually happened, you didn’t go with them together, surely?”

“I did, one in my cunt and the other in… my mouth then… in my bum.”

My honesty and poise affected him even more than if he had witnessed the act. I saw him tighten his fists but, visibly excited, he still wanted to learn more. I knew from that very moment that power had shifted from him to me.

“Did you know when you followed them, what they were expecting of you?” he stuttered.

“Of course. Each one as they rubbed against me whispered into my ear what they would do to me. I was both embarrassed and flattered by their lust.”

“What did they say?”

“The first man was just about thirty years old. He was short but well proportioned. He hadn’t said a single word before he moved against me. I could clearly feel the tip of his cock against my leg. I’d noticed him a few times already moving around the art gallery and had found him handsome. I don’t know what came about me but I pressed hard against him to confirm I could feel his cock and didn’t mind him rubbing against me.”

“But what did he say to you?”

My husband couldn’t contain his excitement.

“He said: ‘I’d love to split your luscious middle-class arse open while you’re sucking my friend off.’ His lips barely moved next to my ear, but the faint breath that came from him was already making me wet with desire. He rubbed himself against me even harder. ‘Once you’ve expertly lubricated him, he’ll slide underneath you to fuck you.’ There was a smoothness and a lack of aggression to his vulgarity. Without even thinking, I asked him: ‘Where is your friend? I’d like to feel his cock against me too.’ ”

My husband’s patience exploded.

“Sophie, how could you ever say something like that?”

“I wanted that man, so why not his friend too if he was pleasant enough? Why be a hypocrite and wait for another day to gift myself to the other man?”

“It’s disgusting.”

“Why should it be disgusting to provide pleasure to two nice young men and get some in return? Would you consider it healthier to masturbate while watching your porn tapes?”

Once again I’d defeated him, and he would rather suffer and know more than order me to be silent. I continued:

“Jean-Marc introduced me to his friend Yvan. He was a very young boy, not quite twenty. He was quite beautiful and his youthful features were fascinating. I could have been his mother. I was proud of the fact they desired me. I felt young and was entertained by the envious looks of the other women surrounding us. Yvan moved towards me, his two arms outstretched as if he was about to lead me onto a dance floor.

“She looks really hot; we’re going to have great fun. You warm her up a bit more and then come and join me at the bar,” Jean-Marc said.

Yvan took me in his arms as if he had always known me. I didn’t even try and avoid the hard bump of his cock as it brushed against me. I could feel he was hard. As much in defiance as in provocation, I swivelled shamelessly against his young cock. His voice was very soft, still tinged with echoes of childhood, but his erotic vocabulary was way beyond his age.

“So what was he telling you?” my husband interrupted me.

“Do you really think I should let you know? You’re already so agitated.”

Sitting behind his desk, I could guess my husband was touching himself, but I pretended to ignore the fact.

“Yes, Sophie, tell me everything.”

“OK,” I sighed, “but you asked for it. Both Yvan and Jean-Marc were whispering sheer filth in my ear, like ‘You’ll chew on my balls to get me hard again after I’ve discharged into your clammy hole.’ These salacious words they had probably said to hundreds of women before no doubt were making me crazy. For the first time in my life, I felt like a slut and I kept on pressing my parts against his cock. Yvan said that if I continued he might even come right there and then, and as a precaution moved slightly away from me. We joined Jean-Marc at the buffet table.

“Once we had reached the table, he took my hand in his and positioned it against his cock and said quietly in my ear: ‘Look how hard you’ve made me, it’s full of come, all for you. We’re going to feed you well, you pretty slut. You’re going to love it.’

“His impudence was electrifying me and I daringly moved the envelope one step further.

“ ‘I’ll have you spitting into all three of my holes, you pretty things. You’ll throw up a white flag once my tongue gets working on you.’

“Yvan smiled in admiration and caressed my arse. I did not stand back when he moved one of his fingers into my arse hole, pushing the material of my skirt into it. I groaned, still holding on for dear life to Jean-Marc’s cock, indifferent to all the people around us in the room who meant nothing more to me any longer.

“Jean-Marc indicated it was time for us to go and we were soon in his car. Yvan sat me in the back. As soon as we drove off, he kissed me eagerly and took hold of my breasts in both his hands. My own hands liberated his cock and I began steadily jerking it off while playing with his youthful balls. Jean-Marc loudly encouraged me.

“ ‘Milk that dong, you fat cow, suck his cunt juice out.’

“His driving was erratic, he was in a hurry for us to get back to his place. I could no longer hold back; I had already swallowed Yvan’s cock to the hilt a few times while fingering myself. I felt like a young girl again, all excited, with her very first lover, my lust flying in all directions.

“In the elevator taking us up to Jean-Marc’s flat, I caught a brief glimpse of myself in the mirror and I decidedly looked beautiful, young and flushed. They roughly placed me between them and took turns rubbing their cocks against me. I moaned wordless sounds, begging for them to take me. We exited the elevator, the men pulling me out each with a finger stuck inside me.

“Once inside the apartment, I rushed towards Yvan, whose cock was sticking out of his trousers. I crouched on all fours so that my arse was well exposed and sucked him with savage glee. Jean-Marc brutally pulled up my skirt and viciously pulled the elastic of my garter belt aside and let it slam back against my thighs; it wasn’t that painful but the sharp sound it made was exciting. I heard him undress behind me. I craved for him to take me with no warning, just to feel his hard sex penetrate me before I could even feel the approach of his body. Yvan pulled his cock out of my mouth, about to come. He left the room, leaving me there on all fours. Jean-Marc forbade me to look back and ordered me to ‘polish your cunt to warm yourself up’.”

Having reached this part of the story, Sophie was increasingly overcome by excitement; she couldn’t help rubbing her legs against each other in search of further pleasure. She was intensely living the evening all over again and had banished me from her world. I had already come in my trousers. Feverishly awakened by my ejaculation and my wife’s violent story, my own cock refused to lie down as I listened to her with fascination.

“He handed me a bottle of rosé wine, a long and cold bottle, and I was summoned to fuck myself with it. The initial contact with the icy neck of the bottle saw my flesh contract and only served to increase my frenzy. Yvan was back and was verbally encouraging me: ‘Yes, fill that pretty pussy, cool it down for me.’ I had only introduced a few centimetres of the bottle into me, when Jean-Marc sharply pushed it in even deeper. I felt as if I had been split open, gaping in a way I had never been before. I screamed with pleasure, with shame and joy blending exquisitely in my mind and body. I felt Jean-Marc spitting against my arse hole and spreading his saliva across the pucker of my hole. I was scared; I hadn’t experienced anal sex often. He entered me with one single push forward, despite the bottle still filling my vagina. I was in heaven; my body had come to life thanks to the cock now ploughing my innards. Yvan was masturbating himself in front of me and I held my head high to eat him, milk him. All I could see was that dark column of flesh that I couldn’t reach and I begged him to let me have it. He found it amusing to tease me, to move his cock to the tip of my lips before withdrawing it again out of reach on a few occasions. I was going crazy and was impaling myself further down onto the bottle, spreading myself open even more. With a thrust of his cock, Jean-Marc pushed me toward Yvan’s member. Yvan had now sat himself down in front of me. He delicately pulled the bottle out and positioned me onto his friend’s cock. They must have done this before, as the manoeuvre was rapid and expertly done. I came at the very moment that Yvan’s glans pushed its way past my outer lips and again when he reached the pit of my cunt. Each thrust from the two men inside me had me screaming. As I felt Jean-Marc’s sperm flooding my arse, I shouted to Ivan: ‘Come in my cunt, come, come…’

“And he did.

“The three of us collapsed in a pile and it took some time for our energy to return.

“I needed to pee and asked where the toilet was. The two men accompanied me and asked me to pee in the bath tub with them present. Like a madwoman, I did so. Initially embarrassed, I soon let myself go and spread my thighs wide so that they might enjoy the view. Once I had finished urinating, their cocks had become hard again and I felt like sucking them. First I sucked Yvan off while Jean-Marc caressed my breasts.

“ ‘Now I feel like peeing,’ said Yvan, ‘but I’d like to pee on your pretty whorish face.’

“He had barely said the words when a warm and bitter jet invaded my mouth. I gagged but nonetheless continued to guide the stream of pee towards my face as if I were taking a shower. I had never felt so wet, inside and outside, my slit was dripping and I managed to insert four fingers into my cunt while Yvan shook his last drops against my tongue and I swallowed them.

“Jean-Marc joined me inside the bathtub and mounted me doggie style. He parked himself deep inside my pussy and began peeing inside me. I roared as the hot liquid conjured up a whole new feeling.

“Later, they both sodomized me slowly until each came deep inside my arse.

“The three of us took a shower together, still fondling each other wildly, and then they escorted me to a taxi rank.

“There you are, I’ve told you all.”

As soon as I’d finished my story, my husband leaped on me, his cock harder than I’d seen it for a very long time. Without a word, he threw me onto the settee and forced my lips apart with his girth. His lust was pleasing; my husband wanted me again. His erection was a gift for me and I sucked him off as if my very life depended on it, forcing him to spit out a torrent of come that I swallowed like a divine offering. His pleasure roared.

I gazed at my man with love, as if I was discovering him anew:

“Oh, the sort of things you have me imagining, my love.”

“Thank, you, mon amour.”

THE NAUGHTY YARD by Michael Hemmingson

YES, YES, OKAY now, it is time, you’ve been waiting long enough, it is indeed time, so gather around now, gather close, don’t be afraid to sit close to one another, maybe not too close, but close enough, all of us, around this fire, because it is story time now, it’s time for a story, a story set in the past, basically, you could even categorize this as an historical romance if you will, set in a time when there wasn’t so much fear about getting close, fear about sex amp;death, that horrid thing called AIDS was just around the corner like some foolish kid on his bike, going too fast and not looking where he’s destined – although right now (the time of this parable) it was rather remote and not widespread; you see, it is when this yarn begins, and people were happily careless when it came to (sex), careless because there was not that (fear of death), and you may not believe it now (but history proves this), as this tale (which is history) will prove it, and we will begin with the opening scene, as such: inside one of the bedrooms of a two bedroom apartment in Southern California, where we find a petite young lady of twenty-three, dark-haired, modestly tanned, in bed with myself, and her name happens to be, for the sake of this text, Kathy, she is in bed with me and we are making love, we are fucking, call it what you will, because this girl – Kathy – this girl and I don’t even know each other that well – I mean, we know each other, we’re friends as such, we have been friends for quite a while, were lovers for some time, until she called it off, called it off for a few months – that is, until this night in question here, where we have connected again, we are fucking again: at her proposal – you see, we were at this bar, drinking, talking, drinking amp;drinking (she loves beer) and we came back here, to her place, and we went into her bedroom and started to take off our clothes and then, well, you get the gist of the scenario; NEVERTHELESS, so here we are, so there we were, Kathy amp;myself, myself amp;Kathy, on her bed (which happens to be a noisy bed) the springs going eeeech eeeech with each thrust of myself into Kathy’s self, eeeech eeeech goes the bed, and she’s moaning. I’m moaning, we are, in fact, enjoying the moment, and – and I feel myself coming, yes yes yes, you understand this feeling (both you men and women listening to this), the intensity, you know it, the joy joy joy, this sudden moment where the world is ready to come apart like a badly stitched garment, where the Universe itself is on the verge of imminent collapse, as this bed is on the margin of destruction, and I come, I scream, I empty my balls into Kathy’s warm cunt (making it warmer), and in that brief moment I frightfully think of the moon, and Beth, my darling Beth now gone from me, but I push these baneful head things away for this is neither the time nor place, I should concentrate on Kathy, and Kathy grabs at me, legs in the air, going yes yes yes, come, and I am: and when I am done, I fall on her, she doesn’t mind, she rubs her hands up my back, into my hair, and I roll off her, light a cigarette, and she watches me as I smoke (she doesn’t smoke), my come starting to leak out of her, her pussy red and still open, and she watches me and she says I’m spent and she says (head propped up on pillow as Jackie Collins always puts it in her books) she says I feel good you know I’m glad you decided to come over.

I say that I am glad she invited me over.

She says well you know there we were, sitting in that bar again, that same bar we used to always go to, having the same drinks we always used to drink, and you know we were talking about all this amp;that, bric amp;brac, but you know I wasn’t really listening to what you were gabbing about.

I say you weren’t listening to me?

She says I wasn’t listening to us. She says I just kept saying to myself in my head I really want to fuck him tonight.

I tell her I had the same thoughts.

She says I was just thinking you know like we used to do.

I say it was nice the just-like-we-used-to-do – and then it stopped and there was no more just-like-we-used-to-do.

Kathy says maybe I was dumb to stop our just-like-we-used-to-dos.

I say yes you were yes you were.

There are two bottles of wine on the floor. One empty, one full. I pick up the full one, which isn’t all that full, and take a drink.

Kathy says well you aren’t supposed to say that, that’s not what you’re supposed to say. What you’re supposed to say is: no, Kathy my dear Kathy, you weren’t being dumb you were just confused so there’s a difference.

I say I was angry.

She says you didn’t show it.

No?

Maybe I wasn’t watching.

Watching?

She says you acted – I dunno. You didn’t seem all that angry; or hurt; I wasn’t sure if you cared or not.

I say no I guess I didn’t show it; I never do; I should have; I think I could have; if I had set my mind on it.

She says I didn’t know you were mad at me.

I say well not real mad.

Good.

I didn’t understand, that’s all.

She says there’s nothing really to understand.

I drink.

She says maybe I was afraid.

Afraid?

She says you used to make me nervous.

I say I don’t know what nervous is.

She says I think you still do.

What?

Make me nervous.

What?

She laughs and takes the wine bottle from me and says just kidding.

I hope so.

Don’t look at me like you’re hurt.

Maybe I am.

She drinks some wine and says are you?

Sure.

She says well oh well a lot of men make me nervous you know what I mean?

A lot of men?

Men in general.

General men?

She says you don’t make me nervous anymore.

No?

Nope. Awww contrary… she smiles and drinks wine and I light another cig and she looks around her room and she says to me I don’t know why I feel that way; I mean about men. Most of my friends have been men. Are men. Boys, men, guys, you know. The opposite sex and stuff. I’ve never really had any girlfriends, any close women friends. Female bonding! I don’t think I have ever been able to identify with women. Other ladies. Girls. They’re all strangers to me. Don’t have anything to do with them, except for a few obvious parts.

She adds to this by saying I’ll never make it as a feminist, Mike.

I say to her but you were telling me about your roommate.

She says Cynthia, yes, we met at work.

I say I thought you said school.

She says school, work – the job I had on campus; the campus work.

I nod.

She says we are pretty good friends. Much more than just roommates. We talk; we even talk about men.

I say well there you go: female bonding.

She says I was telling you about that bar Cynthia and I went to last week? was I saying that? was I telling you that?

I think so.

She says the same bar we went to six months ago.

I say well we’ve been to a lot of bars.

She says it was that 50s revival bar; all the guys in there looked like James Dean.

Yeah; okay.

She gives me back the bottle and says I went there last week but it has changed style, has changed clientele; it’s turned into a gay bar. Not discriminatory: men and women. We didn’t know this at first; we just went in. I wondered what happened to all the James Deans. Anyway, Cynthia and me were sitting and drinking some beers and we started to play some pool, just minding our own beeswax, when this drunk woman, in her late forties or so, comes up to us and she starts talking to us and her hair’s really dirty and she kinda stinks, she has on this funky dress and ratty old coat, and she smells like vodka or something, and she just stands there watching us and she says real loud-like I’m a dyke and I’m proud of it! I wanted her to go away. Cynthia gives me a funny look and this lady says wanna go have some reeeeealll fun, honey? So I tell her well I’m not your type and she says not my type and I go no and she goes don’t you lie to me I know a bitch dyke when I see one and I can tell that your sweet mouth has been muff-diving aplenty.

I say you’re messing with me. I say that didn’t really happen did it?

She says it did! Kathy says to me this is what she said I swear to you! I told her to please just go away please and leave us be we’re trying to play some pool here and this lesbian old drunk says to me I know what you do with your friend here; I know what you do with her in secret behind closed doors! I told her to die and go to hell and she just laughs at me and goes you think it’s all a dream but one day you’re gonna wake up, sweetie. That’s what she said, honest Injun.

I say weird.

She says I’m never going back to that bar again.

I hold out the bottle to her and ask if she wants more.

She says I think I’ve had enough to drink tonight.

I say so well that lez made a move on you – it’s just like that one time -

What time? Oh, at the club?

Yeah.

Kathy says I remember that now. We were dancing. It was late but we’d been doing coke. I was feeling very very good, this I do recall. Cocaine always makes me feel good. You went into the bathroom. This girl came up to me. She was wearing a polka-dotted dress. She comes up to me and says hi my friends and I were wondering and she points to the corner of the club where there’s these two other girls, looking over at us, and they were also wearing dresses with polka dots, and she says to me, she says we were wondering: are you gay or bi? and when I told her I was straight, quite straight, she just laughed like she didn’t believe me or something. Now that was weird too.

I say it is.

She says why do some people think I’m gay? I don’t understand this. I don’t look like a lesbian, do I?

I say I dunno.

She says I’m not.

I sit up from the bed.

She says I know I am not.

I am naked and standing up.

She says I’m not.

I say are you sure?

I should know!

I say have you ever had an experience? with another female?

She says have you ever had that kind of experience?

I walk about her room and I talk, I say to her look, here is your bedroom window; this is your window; you look out your window and you see things; you see outside; you see things outside; the things you see: you can hear them but they cannot hear you; you strain for certain thoughts; these thoughts elude you, these thoughts you thought you thought; your notions ask do you know me? And here is your desk, your small desk, the desk you have had since you were a child. A desk of memories. Who can say what used to be in these desk drawers, other than what is in them now; past things used to inhabit: objects of girlhood. And what do you have here now – old magazines, notes for college classes. Here is your word processor, an old model but still trustworthy. It gets the job done; floppy disks: slow amp;sloppy. A printer that prints dot-matrix. It prints the things you write. And what do you write, little girl, hmmmn? Poems? Stories? Belles lettres? What are you writing now, what is here on the screen, these paragraphs amp;words, these words amp;sentences, what could it be, eh? Not a poem or story, no, that is not you; that is not what you do; it’s – lemme look – it’s a research paper on marine biology. You are on page five. So here, Kathy, here we have a college term paper, one of them anyway. How long have you been working on it? [1] Is it important? [2] Is all the time and effort worth it? [3] How much actual research did you do? [4] Do you have your footnotes straight, [5] your bibliography, [6] do you have an MLA Manual of Style? [7] Look here, this is your chair. How many times have you sat in it? How many times have you plopped your bottom in this chair and thought about things, looked at the things on your desk? How many words were in your thoughts? What did you look at on your desk? Did you look at the computer, at the screen, did you look at this camera sitting on the desk? Do you have film in this camera? You do. How many pictures have you taken? Do you like to take photos? What if I took a photo of you, sitting against the bed, naked and smiling at me? What if I did? What if I put this camera up to my eye and take a photo of you? Here are your clothes, now, your dirty clothes, all piled up in a hamper as well as on the floor, shirts amp;socks amp;panties amp;bras amp;jeans amp;skirts, you need to do your laundry, girl, these clothes smell. And here, here, here is your closet; more clothes; more clothes. Clean clothes. They all look the same. Here is your carpet. A rented carpet, actually. Like this apartment, this rug does not belong to you. Here is your bottle of wine that I drink from (and I do take a drink, a pause in my monologue, and when I am done I continue, she looks at me, sitting naked on the edge of the bed, and I say:) here is your bed, the bed you have slept many nights in; the bed, in fact, that we have made love in, that we have screwed in, balled in, banged in, fucked in. I wonder how many other men you’ve had on this bed? Over the years. No, don’t answer. This is your room; your rented room; this room does not belong to you; and you have to ask yourself well what the hell does belong to me? We own very little. But your body is yours; you own your body; this here is your body; this body that I have fucked twice this evening; this body I used to make love to until you stopped wanting to see me – but now, here we are, here we are again; again, here is your body. But what is in a body, what’s in a face? Nothing at all that death won’t soon erase. For a second there, I almost believed that your body was special, and just for me. [8] But here, here, here we have two bottles, here are two bottles of wine; one empty, one still filled with the divine. We drank all of this other, this poor, sad, stupid bottle. We also drank a lot at that bar: beer beer beer. But I think we need more – we need something else. Need something to keep us going. How I ask do you feel now?

She says a little tired, and a little tense, too.

Still?

She says yes.

I tell her lie down. She does, on her stomach. I sit on her butt, gently, and start to rub her neck and back. She goes ummmn and I ask if she likes and she says she likes and please do go on and I say that we are still-lives, time and everything else has stopped here: this moment we find ourselves in. She says that she has been thinking about her family, her mom amp;dad thinking about how they are all different, yet alike, I say yeah: the ingredients of a family.

She says take my sister for example; she’s a good example; she’s a year younger than I am. We look alike; she tends to be more feminine in nature than me. This is what I think, anyway. No one has actually come out and said this but I think they think – well, maybe I’m just paranoid, maybe I have an inferiority complex or something. My sister goes to a different university, one back east. Here I am going to a university on the west and she’s back there with all those silly-ass New Englanders. Natch, she joined a sorority. She’s probably having a great time. I know she is. She has all the good-looking, shallow-brained guys she could ever want. All she cares about is buying things: clothes amp;jewellery amp;make-up. A new car. She’s always talking about how she needs cars, new cars, all cars, cars cars cars. If a guy has a nice amp;fast car, you bet she’ll go out with him, no matter what he looks like or what kind of personality he has. Is she easy? Dunno. Does she put out for these car guys? Who can say. I’ve never asked; I suspect she does; she does. And she’ll go out and spend forty bucks on a new make-up kit she doesn’t need with the money our parents give to her and all I can think of is that forty bucks could have bought groceries for the week. My sister gets this from my mom. My mom is just the same: always buying things that aren’t necessary; talking about buying things; wishing she had more money so she could buy more things. The desire for the material – but I’m sure this subject is mundane. Mmmmn, you have a good way with your hands, you know. I dunno – I guess I also like material objects, but not in the same way as my sister amp;mother. I like computers, or TVs, VCRs, anything electronic amp;exciting. I have this fascination with technology. My father is the same way. I get it from him. Dad is always taking things apart and putting them back together, just to see how they work; he likes to know how things tick; tick-tock like a clock. That’s how I am. Those are the differences and samenesses in my family. But we are very close.

I say you’re lucky; I don’t think much about mine; I don’t like to compare and analyze. I hate it; just would rather not think of it, thank you sir. One Christmas I went hungry and I was alone and I thought – well, that’s a different story for later on in this text and it is really depressing. Promise.

I keep massaging her and asking do you like this and she says you bet and I move my hands down even more, I spread the cheeks of her ass, looking at the openings of both her ass and vagina; I rub a finger over her asshole, my finger to her cunt and ask if she likes that and she says you’re a nasty boy do you know that? do you know how naughty you are? and I tell her I do, moving mouth down, licking asshole, licking cunt lips, feeling myself getting hard, stroking my cock as I lick amp;suck, moving up, entering, Kathy gasping like film noir, and when we are done, when we are done fucking for the third time tonight, I see that there is no more wine; I want more to drink; so I get up, leave the bedroom. I go into the kitchen and open the fridge where I find a six-pack of beer. I open a beer, drink, turning to see Cynthia, Kathy’s roommate, sitting on the living room couch. She’s wearing a light lavender suit with black pumps and a white blouse, gold-rimmed glasses; she’s looking at me, I’m standing naked, my cock still half-hard, cock coated with the products of fuck, and I’m drinking a beer. I smile and say hello to her and she says hello back and I return to Kathy’s room.

I tell Kathy about it.

She says shit.

She says get dressed.

I put on jeans, shirt.

She slips on a long nightshirt.

We both go into the living room.

Cynthia is still on the couch, watching TV.

Kathy amp; I sit on the opposing loveseat.

Kathy says what are you watching?

Cynthia says nothing really; the news; something about the economy; always the economy and how it sucks. It does suck.

Kathy says sorry about Mike, he didn’t know you were here.

I drink beer.

Cynthia says I’m sick of all this economy bullshit. The recession. And all that bullshit.

Kathy says I said I was sorry about Mike.

Cynthia says sorry? why? I’m happy for you. You’ve been complaining lately about not getting any. I don’t know why you dumped him in the first place. You should keep him; keep him like a pet, like a dog with a wagging moist tongue.

Kathy says I mean about him walking out like that because we didn’t know you were here. I thought you were at work, I thought you had to work until nine or ten.

Cynthia says maybe I’m too quiet when I come in; I’ll make more noise in the future.

Kathy says he was embarrassed and she says to me isn’t that right, you?

I go yes.

Cynthia goes why?

Kathy goes you know.

Cynthia says you don’t think I’ve never seen a naked guy before? I’m glad for you, Kathy. But are you? Are you glad for yourself?

Kathy says sure.

Cynthia says he’s a good lover, right?

I drink beer.

Kathy says probably the best I… and she looks at me and adds but I don’t want to inflate his ego, you know.

Cynthia says you like him a lot; you kept saying to me, these past weeks, why did I dump him? I like him a lot. Why did I treat him like dirt?

Kathy says I said that?

Cynthia says you sure did.

I probably did.

So how did he wind up back here?

I asked him.

Oh.

We went out for a few drinks.

Well that does it every time.

Kathy says so I said to him why don’t we go back to my apartment?

And what did he say?

Kathy says he said sure.

I say that’s what I said. So what’s up, Cyn?

Cynthia says you want another beer there?

Sure.

Cynthia says plenty in the fridge, go help yourself.

I get up to go to the fridge and I say to Kathy do you want one? and she says no and Cynthia says she looks like she’s had enough and I ask Cynthia if she wants one and she says sure so I get two beers, one for me, one for her, and sit back down with them.

I say I feel funny.

Do they know what I mean?

I ask what’s on TV.

They both say:

The news.

Cynthia says the goddamn economy; the fucking economy.

Kathy says I thought you had to work until nine or ten.

Cynthia says I was at work. She says I heard you; the both of you; I could hear you in your room, Kathy; you cannot mistake those sounds; I knew.

I ask did you know it was me?

Cynthia says not until you came out buck nekkid; otherwise you were just an anonymous male sound.

I say you remembered me: my name amp;face.

Of course.

Kathy says why wouldn’t she recall you? It’s not like I have ten zillion men waltzing through here; it’s not like it’s been a generation since your last visit.

Cynthia leans over to the TV to change the channel, saying there must be something else on one of these stations other than news – a sitcom, cartoons, a sad love story.

I say it’s almost like when you go back home. You have memories of a place, a home – of furniture and the way things are situated; the way things smell. An – an overall feeling and/or sensation. You walk in and you know the surroundings, perhaps intimately, and yet you still feel like a stranger; like you do not belong; like you’re just passing through; not a traveler, but reduced to common tourist; for a moment, you actually become one of the fixtures.

Cynthia says I could hear you both and you both sounded – happy.

I say I feel at peace and I don’t know why; I seldom feel at peace.

Cynthia says I tried picturing what was going on in your room. I had these images. I tried to imagine the positions you were in.

Kathy says the last time I was on my stomach. We made it three times tonight and that last time was really nasty. He was rubbing my neck amp;back and it felt really good; I was just relaxed and we were talking about things like normal people do; but I was more into his hands and the things those hands were doing. He had his hands on my ass. He reached down to put his mouth there; his tongue was there. I felt a chill. I wanted him. I let him take me. As he touched me, as he screwed me, I closed my eyes and thought of a film that’s soft around the edges.

Cynthia says I can’t stand the stress anymore; work work work; that’s all I ever seem to do. People yell at me at work – everyone yells at me. CYNTHIA!!!! The customers, too. My boss. My boss’s boss. No one is satisfied. All for the buck, the mighty green buck. The necessity of currency. Look at those people on the news! Scrambling on the trading room floor, the Dow-Jones Industrial Average. People on Wall Street we will never meet having nervous breakdowns as they mess up our lives in ways they may never know. I think I would be happier if I had more control over situations.

Kathy says you remember what I said the other night. Cyn? I said now look at us: two single girls and no dates; no one asks us out anymore.

I say but two good-looking single girls.

Cynthia says modify; I get asked out, but by creeps. Jerks. Older men, too. I should say old men. I bet my boss would like to do me; he hinted at it on occasion. It’s sexual harassment but who cares? If I slept with my boss – if I had - would things be different now?

Kathy says no one really asks me out; maybe I scare men.

I say you do – you scare the shit out of me.

You better be joking.

I’m mortally terrified of you!

Hey!

Cynthia says the world is running out of men, that’s all; suitable men, i.e.: desirable men, i.e.; there will always be creeps amp;jerks amp;dirty old coots. I got fired from my job, that’s why I’m home early.

Kathy says what?

Cynthia says they said you’re fired and I said well I quit. But I guess maybe it would’ve been better that I was fired, so I could collect unemployment.

Kathy says why, I thought -

Cynthia says crap biz; I just couldn’t take it any longer. I said screw you all and they said you’re fired, bitch.

Kathy says so you have no job?

Cynthia nods saying another thing to make me less desirable. But I do have some money in the bank, and I’ll get a severance check tomorrow. I have to go out and look for another job; that’s the part I hate. But where am I going to find a job? Maybe I should go back to school and get a degree finally.

Kathy says you should; you could get financial aid like I do.

Cynthia says I was never any good in school. Not in high school, not in my two years of college. I was born to work; I’ll work until I die.

Cynthia stands, stretches, takes her glasses off; she says I think I’m going to take a bath; a nice, long, hot bath; that’s what I’m going to do.

Cynthia goes to the bathroom, closes the door. We hear the water running.

Pause.

Pause.

Pause.

Kathy says I feel – I feel bad for her.

I say yes so do I.

She says I know what you are thinking.

What?

You – you want to go in there.

In?

There.

The bathroom?

Yes.

I say do you want me to?

She says I think I do. I want you to go in there. Will you please go in there? Make her feel better the way you have made me feel better.

I get up. I go into the bathroom.

I return to the living room an hour later. Kathy is asleep on the couch. I lift up her legs, sit, place her legs on my lap.

She wakes, sits up, yawns.

She says I fell asleep.

I say I see that.

She asks how long was I asleep?

Not long.

I was having this dream.

Umm.

I was – I dunno if I can say. I felt like a spy in this dream; felt like I was witnessing top secret images; felt like I should’ve been enjoined or disbarred from seeing what I was seeing.

I say enjoined? disbarred? where do you get these words?

I go to college.

Oh.

She says in this dream I was in Heaven; I was in the halls and chambers of Elysium. You knew – you could feel – that at one time there was peace, eternal accord, but it was not so everlasting anymore. No more. Peace was gone, it took a hike. The angels were fighting among themselves – they were… I’m, I’m not sure if I should reveal all this to you.

Why not?

I was… entrusted. If I told you… well, I don’t even remember what happened in the dream, so I guess it doesn’t matter… Tell me… tell me…

What?

What happened.

I say it was your dream; I wasn’t there.

She says in the bathroom, I mean.

I say Cynthia is in bed; she’s sleeping.

Kathy says I wanted to go in there; I wanted to go in there and be with you two. Instead… I fell asleep and went to Heaven.

I say she took a bath.

Kathy says I want all the details.

There are none.

There are always details.

I say I went in there, I went into the bathroom, and I said to her I’ve come to help you. She said you did: well thanks. And she said that she wanted to take a bath that was very warm and with plenty of tiny little bubbles. I thought that was a very good idea. Clean the skin, clean the body, clean one’s hair. She said she didn’t want the water to be too hot; just wanted it relaxing hot; very very warm.

Kathy says I know what she means.

I asked if she wanted my help; if she wanted me to assist her in bathing.

She said?

She said help should never be refused.

Yes, that sounds like something she would say; so she took a bath?

I say she ran the water; we both watched the tub fill; she put in bubbles and the bubbles formed quickly, like a protective layer, like some kind of nest, or armor to hide in.

Kathy murmurs thousands of tiny little bubbles…

I say I recall, as a child, I would take bubble baths with my toys.

Kathy says I’ve only taken showers all my life; I don’t take bubble baths; I never have; maybe I’m deprived; maybe someday I will take one.

I say she said my name; Cynthia said Mike and I asked her if she wanted me to leave and she replied that she thought I was going to help her; so I offered to undress her.

Did you?

No. She turned away from me, as if shy; she, yes – demure. She took off her top first; that blouse. I only saw her naked from back, her back, a naked back. Saw her tan line. Noticed a small mole on her back – small amp;dark. She then removed her skirt, as well as her nylons. I could see her breasts now.

Kathy says they are bigger than mine.

I say a little bigger but not that much.

What color underwear did she have on?

Pink.

She likes pink, always has. How girlish of her, hm? Me, I dig green. Army green.

I say she looked at me for a moment; there was no expression on her face; then she took the underwear off.

Kathy says she saw you naked a while ago, so now you have seen her.

I say she doesn’t have any pubic hair; she shaved it all off.

I know.

You know?

She told me.

She told you?

Kathy says she said I hate having a hairy bush.

Oh.

I guess the hairs bug her.

Yes; that’s what she told me too.

Kathy says actually I have seen her naked too.

You have?

Yes; we’re roommates; we’re both girls; at least I think we’re girls; we’re close friends, after all.

I say yes, yes you are; you are friends.

Goon.

I say naked, she stood before me naked; the bath amp;bubbles were ready. She put a foot in to test the temperature, just the sort of image you’d expect. She said it was just right and I knew she’d say that, like a perfect little postcard with dialogue balloon or something; then she got in.

Kathy says all those bubbles…

I say she rested into the bath; this is when I approached her.

She says so you went to her.

I knelt by the tub; asked how she felt; she said she felt much better.

I guess a bubble bath can do that for you.

I said to her I want to help.

Kathy says that’s what you wanted; you went in there for that; I wanted you to go in there and do that; make the connection.

I took a washcloth in my hand. First, I washed her back. Then her front. Cleansed her breasts. Her breasts were in my hands; nipples were pink took one nipple between my fingers – ever so gently – and caressed it; I wanted to make love to that single nipple.

And what did she say?

She didn’t say a word.

Sometimes she can be the quiet type.

I washed her stomach; she stood up then, turned around and I washed her ass.

Kathy says you like a nice ass.

She had a nice ass, yes; she turned again and I washed her shaved pussy; her cunny; her box. Washed her thighs amp;legs. Even washed her feet, although I was unworthy.

And her hair?

Yes; I put shampoo in her hair, my fingers did their walking on her scalp, all that blonde hair. Then she sat back in the bubbles. She said too bad I don’t have a rubber duck. We both laughed.

Kathy starts to softly sing rubber ducky, you’re the one, you… you make bathtime – la la la la lahh la lots of fun… rubber ducky la la la la…

I say I just stood there, looking at her. Then I knelt again. She stared at the wall. We did not talk.

Not at all?

But then we did talk; a little bit of talk.

What did you talk about?

I say nothing much; I don’t recall; I remember every other detail except what we talked of. I’m not sure how long this lasted. She stood up again and she had all these bubbles on her body. She stepped from the tub. I took a towel and dried her. Dried her from top to bottom, covering the same ground I did as I cleaned her. I helped her dress. First, the pink panties; it was nice to slip them on her, snug them around that ass. She had some PJs there that she was going to wear to bed. I put those on her. I took her in my arms, picked her up like a small wife or child. Like a child. Like an infant in my arms, I carried her to her room. I saw that you were asleep on this couch. I carried her to her bed. Drew the covers up to her neck. She looked like a turtle. I kissed her on the forehead. I came out here and found you still asleep. I sat down, putting your legs on my lap. You woke up and told me of a partial dream about war bound angels. Then I told you this story.

Kathy says maybe I should have gone into the bathroom with you.

Maybe.

Then I wouldn’t have slept or dreamt.

Tell me about your dream.

I forget the details; I’ve forgotten the dream.

I ask were you watching TV?

I was sleeping.

Oh. Yes… Did you dream?

I think so. I dunno.

Cynthia comes out of her room, rubbing her eyes.

She says I couldn’t sleep.

I say you seemed so peaceful in your bed.

Cynthia says I was lying there and I closed my eyes but I knew I couldn’t sleep. I didn’t want to sleep. I didn’t want to have any dreams. I never have nice dreams so the ones I do have I’m afraid of. Why is this? I deserve something nice now amp;then.

I tell her to sit down, to sit next to Kathy.

Cynthia sits.

I say you two look right together sitting there like that.

Cynthia says we’ve been friends for a long time.

Kathy says yes, a long time.

Cynthia says to her I took a bath, Kathy.

Kathy says I know.

He helped.

He told me.

He’s helpful amp;kind.

He can be.

Cynthia asks what’s on the TV?

Kathy says I dunno; I was sleeping; I had this very strange dream.

I stand, look at them, and sit on the other couch and look more; I say she had a dream about angels.

Cynthia says really?

Kathy says I don’t recollect all the details.

Cynthia says maybe if you went back to sleep you’d dream about it again.

Kathy says maybe I could go back.

Cynthia says I hate sleeping; too easy an excuse to hide and I hate excuses.

Kathy says I guess I could return to that time, I guess I could. I dunno if I’m sleepy or not. I dunno.

Kathy yawns.

Cynthia says I was in my room, in bed, in my rented room but a bed that belongs to me; I closed my eyes; I thought I don’t really want to be here. I wanted to be somewhere else.

Kathy lies down, her legs stretched across Cynthia’s legs.

Kathy asks am I asleep yet?

I say it’s hard to say.

Cynthia caresses one of Kathy’s legs.

Kathy asks am I dreaming again? now? tell me.

Cynthia says it’s hard to put your finger on it.

Kathy goes ummmn; she says can someone tell me a story? then maybe I’ll sleep.

Cynthia says I don’t know any stories.

Kathy yawns again and says I dunno… I’m just not ready to die yet.

I have a story. I tell her, I tell both of them, this:

One Christmas, I went hungry. I lived alone, as I do now, and there was no one in my life, unlike there is now. Usually, I went home every Christmas for a family dinner. I really looked forward to those family meals because they were the rare times I ever ate well. Ever since I was on my own – since I was twenty – let’s say I left home, well not like that, I mean to say that my parents kicked me out of the house when I was twenty, they said it was time for me to grow up and go outside into the real world, and so I lived day to day when it came to food; each day I went out to get lunch I lived on pizza, taco shop specials, submarine sandwiches for a buck-fifty, that sort of thing: this was the extent of my nutrition. None of the girls I knew (I say this with a laugh, waiting to see if Kathy might contradict me) knew how to cook. (I laugh again:) I used to say I’d marry the first girl I met who could cook; who could keep me well-balanced with all the USDA approved daily requirements, the four basics and whatnot. No, I did not eat well, except when I went home – went home on Thanksgiving amp;Christmases amp;sometimes my birthdays. Turkey amp;ham amp;mashed potatoes amp;vegetables amp;candy yams amp;biscuits that were warm to touch amp;taste, melting butter on top. Just thinking about it now, thinking about it makes me want to go home amp;feast, to just go home where it’s safe. Safe, yes, and warm. Sometimes, at home, you just don’t have to think about things. Anyway, one Christmas I didn’t go home for dinner. The ritual had always been: my mother would call the day before and ask what time I’d be coming over tomorrow and I’d say well, what time do you want me over? and she’d say whatever time would be fine. Sometimes I’d go early, sometimes late, depending how I felt; but I could taste that dinner in my mouth, I could feel it in my stomach, I could perceive the wine that went along with it, and I’d know that, that night, I’d go to bed feeling okay with the night, because I’d had, yes, that rare healthy meal. But this one Christmas in question – and it wasn’t long ago – she didn’t call; my mother, I mean to say, did not call. I kept waiting amp;waiting but the phone did not ring. I had gone out to a party that Christmas Eve, and there were girls at this party, and I got drunk at this party, and I was talking to some of these girls who were also drunk, but, although I think I could have, I did not get into a situation where I may have spent the night with any of them, for at my place, my home, I was alone and always alone, it was my area of solitude, and I kept thinking that night: my God, I might be alone for the rest of my life. I guess Christmas-time can get to you like that. When I returned from the party, I expected a message on my answering machine, from my mother, but there was none. I went to bed. The room was spinning. I wondered why she had not called. I had a dream that night; yes, Kathy, I too can dream – I dreamt that my mother amp;father came to see me and they said we’re really disappointed in you, son; we know what you did and the price you had to pay and are paying even now. They said they were saddened by the horrible things I had done, the acts committed, the crimes realized. They said you should not have abandoned Beth and left her to the wolves. I protested, I defended my innocence like a man facing the guillotine. I said I hadn’t done anything, that I was merely a victim of circumstance; I was only acting on my fears amp;needs so how could I be held accountable for being human? I said I was fragile. That speeding car, her swiftness with a knife, that violent night on an alien lawn under a full moon of dismay, none of that was my goddamn fault! I woke up from this dream and for some reason I felt my parents were dead. But no no no, I told myself, it was a dream and everything was okay. I told myself that my mother would call; she’d call and I’d go over and I’d have a good dinner that Xmas. I could just smell that food. So I waited for the phone call. Maybe they did hate me for some reason, I thought; maybe there was some validity to that dream. So I phoned home; I broke down and phoned over there to find out why they had not phoned me. My mother answered; I felt relief. She was sick, she said she was sick. The flu. My father as well, she said. They were both sick, felt very bad. I asked aren’t you going to make that big Xmas dinner? because I was very hungry and she said no, she said they were both too sick to eat and they couldn’t even get out of bed. I did not confess that I was hungry. She said well, merry Christmas: it doesn’t really feel like Christmas, does it? I said no. You see, I didn’t have any money. After I got off the phone, I looked into the fridge for something to eat. I had a few hot dogs and an apple and an orange. I watched A Christmas Carol on the TV; bah humbug and all that usual stuff. I knew this food would not be enough but it was all I had. I never felt… well, I told myself that this would never happen again; I’d never allow myself to be this lonely again; to be that lonely. Then, I’d never have to be hungry. And I would never face the full moon with such antipathy.

Kathy mumbles, eyes closed, she mumbles Christmas… family… always the same… my sister… but I love her… and my father… no matter what.

Cynthia caresses both of Kathy’s legs and says you have nice limbs.

Kathy goes ummmmn, thank you.

Cynthia says they’re beautiful.

Kathy says do you like?

Cynthia says to me hey don’t you think she just has the sexiest legs?

I say huh? oh yeah: sexy.

My mind is still on the story.

I say her legs have always turned me on.

Cynthia says this is one thing that has always made an impression on me about you, Kathy: these legs. Lesjambes de vous if my French is correct. The shape; the muscles; the tan; wonderful, wonderful columns.

Kathy says that feels good, your hands there; your hands are smooth.

I say girl hands.

Cynthia says I like touching you, I like the way you feel.

Pause.

I say I see the two of you making love, it’s very clear in my mind; I see you both undressed, on a bed; maybe Kathy’s bed. You are touching her, Cynthia, as you are touching her now, only more so, and it is obvious that you care a great deal for each other; you could be deep in love. You are both kissing, passionately necking, and holding onto one another. You make love in this room, which is dark, the only light comes from the screen of the word processor, the words amp;sentences of the text flashing on you, your naked bodies. I am sitting in a corner, sitting in a chair, smoking a slow smoke, and watch; I watch your sex, lighting one cig after another. I do not join, for this is something between the two of you. In fact, I am not invited; I only watch.

Cynthia says I can see that, too; I can see it just as you describe; I can feel it; I can taste it. I want that, I want to make love… Kathy? Kathy… Kathy?

I say Kathy?

Cynthia says hey…

I ask is she asleep?

Cynthia says she’s asleep.

I say she’s dreaming now.

Cynthia says I have a story too and she looks at Kathy, still cuddling Kathy’s legs and she says well maybe she’ll hear in her sleep and have dreams about my story and she asks do you want to hear my story, Mike? I tell her that I do. Cynthia says I have been thinking of this story, this story of mine, and trying to figure out where it begins. Where it begins, I believe, is some years ago, three, no, four years ago, on my twenty-first birthday, I had just turned the big two one, the legal drinking age, the age I could get into bars. I didn’t know Kathy then, but I would soon, I would meet her at the school. I was going to college then, before I realized that I wasn’t made for academics and was doomed to the working world. But these girlfriends of mine, Nicole and n, they decided to take me out. They were already twenty-one. So they took me out to one of those places where exotic male dancers dance; you know, men with all those muscles and have all that oil on their hairless bodies and perfect tans and perfect teeth. I won’t get into the details other to say that I enjoyed myself; what woman would not? Wd been drinking, my friends amp;I, wd been drinking and smoking a few joints. I was pretty high, and when I came out of this bar where these good-looking men danced their dance, I was horny. I was really horny and mad that I didn’t have a boyfriend. I had a boyfriend not too long before that, and he was good in bed l admit, but he was a real jerk, a creep, and this is why I dumped him, I said later days to you, boy blue. Anyway, I was mad that my desire would go, on my twenty-first birthday, unquenched. Gretchen must have seen this on my face, she suggested maybe we could go to a bar I could pick up a hunk not unlike the hunks we had seen dancing and, in fact, maybe I coulve picked up one of the hunks who were hunk-dancing, and had some fun. (You see, it was announced in that club that it was my b-day and one came up and wiggled his naked ass at me and told me I could touch him, so I did, I reached into his g-string and felt his dick amp;balls but his dick, although warm, was limp because he was probably used to this all the time.) But I said no to Gretchen. I’m not, and never have been and nor will I ever be, the kind of girl who goes into a bar to pick up a dick. So – drunk, stoned, horny and alone, I went home. I was still living with my parents at the time. It was dark, everyone was asleep, and I went to bed. I got into my nightshirt, I went to bed and, well, masturbated. I had fantasies of those men. I fantasized (almost ashamed to tell you this but I will) I fantasized that they were all in my room, a dozen or so of them, and they were all naked amp;hard, standing in a line, each one taking his licentious turn, a good twenty minutes or so from each, on me, in me, just the sort of naughty birthday present that only exists in your subversive head-thoughts, and so thas how I satisfied myself, finger to clit, dreaming of being gang-banged by a bunch of muscle-bound men I did not know, unknown faces amp;cocks in the dark. I mention this episode because where it really started – you could call my night out with the girls the prologue to this tale – was the next morning, which was Sunday morning. I woke up and looked out my bedroom window and saw, in the backyard, a beautiful boy. My bedroom window looked onto the backyard and this young boy, wearing cut-off shorts only, was mowing the lawn. I know who it was: Daniel, the boy next-door. I used to baby-sit him, when he was just a kid. But looking at him, I saw that he was a kid no longer; no, this boy was no boy but on the edge of being a man. Perhaps he had been lifting weights, as boys his age start to, for he had the beginnings of a fine definition on his chest, stomach, and arms; but certainly not as much, as abundant, as those exotic dancers the night prior. He had a nice tan, too, and I remembered that Daniel made his spending money by mowing amp;tending lawns around the neighborhood. My fathes health was poor, and I don’t have brothers, so we hired Daniel to mow amp;tend the back amp;front yards each week. Paid like fifteen bucks, I think. I had seen him before, many times, but why was I now seeing him in this light? – I mean, why was I checking him out like meat? He was only thirteen. Yes, thirteen. I remembered what I was like at thirteen, the sexual feelings I had. I didt lose my virginity until I was fifteen but the first time I had given a boy head, I was twelve. He was fourteen, a freshman in high school, the brother of this girl I knew. He had long hair, listened to Led Zeppelin all the time. He introduced me to pot and oral sex. The first time scared me and I hated it when he came in my mouth. But after a while, I began to enjoy this, especially when he did it back to me and it made me shudder. Why didt we fuck if this went on for so long? I would have let him if he wanted to, but he never wanted to. All he was interested in was oral. This lasted until I was thirteen. He got into trouble and went into juvenile hall and I never heard from him. It was a while before I had another boyfriend. Anyway, I was looking at Daniel and realized, too, he was no kid anymore, not that bratty kid I used to baby-sit. I thought this absurd, me being twenty-one now and giving the eye-ball to a fricken thirteen-year-old. I knew this must have been the remains of the night, those feelings, so, lying in bed, watching Daniel mow the yard, I masturbated again, hoping to get it out of my system. I didt think about him again, not until I saw him – it was about a week and a half later, maybe two, and I was driving home from college, at the time thinking I should quit because it wasn’t for me – and I saw him walking home from school, the junior high nearby. He was with some buddies and they all had their shirts off with slight muscles and dammit if I didt think they all looked just good. I thought there was something wrong with me, I thought I was a pervert. I shocked myself even more when I stopped the car, which was my VW bug at the time, and called out to him. Daniel! I said, Daniel, you want a ride home? Is me, your neighbor, Cynthia, I used to baby-sit you, we live next-door to each other, do you want a ride home? His buddies all made sounds and punched him in the arm and I could tell they were pushing him to go, take the ride, look at that older girl! I should have driven away. I looked at myself: I was wearing a sundress with a ribbon in my hair. The dress was cut low, showed a lot of skin. Did Daniel take my offer? Yes. Slowly, embarrassed – his face was red – he came over to the car. I asked him if he wanted a ride home, or was he doing something with his friends? Daniel said well is not that long of a walk. I said it is, it’s almost a mile. Daniel looked back at his friends; they were all watching, and I knew, as he knew, that he had to, just to impress his buddies. So he got in and his buddies all said all right! Way to go Dan! and I acted like I didt hear them and so did he, and we started to go and Daniel said those guys. I told him I was sorry if I embarrassed him and he said it was nothing. He still had his shirt off, and closer now I could admire what his body was turning into; I saw a small line of hair from the bottom of his navel disappearing into his jeans. He saw me looking, blushed, and moved to put his shirt on. I told him not to, I grabbed his arm and said no. I felt a rush of heat from him. What was I doing?! This poor kid. Was I crazy? I musve been, because I was feeling turned on. Id been some months since had any sex and I was… crazy, nuts, I guess. I asked do you remember when I was your baby-sitter, Daniel? He said sure. Now that I think of it, I baby-sat him when I was with my oral sex boyfriend. This is what gave me the dirty idea. I told Daniel not to be afraid and he said I’m not. I drove to a remote area, where they were building new houses. No people around. I parked the VW. I turned to him. I was rubbing my leg like rubbing Kathy’s, and he saw my dress go up. I noticed something in his jeans: he was getting hard in there, an erection was pleading to burst. I could tell he was nervous; he was fidgety. I told him not to be. He said what are we going to do? I said what do you want to do? He didt know. I told him, my own face flushing. I didt know why I was going to do what I was about to do but for him not to get the wrong idea. I didt know what the hell I was saying but he said okay. So I got my head into his lap. He was tense to say the least. I told him to relax. He said okay but he didn’t. I unbuttoned amp;unzipped his jeans. He was wearing white underwear, the kind boys his age wear. I pulled his jeans and underwear down and his cock sprang out. Like that – boing boing, bouncy-bounce; all red with heat coming off it. Wast a big cock; thin like a thin hot dog; would probably get bigger as he got older. I took him in my mouth and not five seconds later he came! He came so much I couldt swallow it all. It spurt, like a bottle with pressure, a good five or six times. Come rolling down his dick and all over his little balls. I have to admit I was quite shocked; I mean, with that one boyfriend I had, and other boyfriends too, there was never so much; but they were all older, of course. He was only thirteen, you know, and he probably had so much building inside him. Another thing that surprised me was how sweet he tasted. Come is always a little bitter for me, always salty; but his was kinda sweet, and I wanted more. I licked it off his balls. He was still hard, so I sucked him some more. This time it took a minute or two for him to come again. I sat up, wiping semen off my lips, and looked at him. He still smiled (still embarrassed) and asked what he should do. I didn’t say anything. He reached to touch one of my breasts, but he didn’t have any idea what to do with it. I looked out the car window, wondered if I was a dirty old lady. Me, twenty-one, corrupting this kid. But when I looked at him, I thought what a fine, handsome kid he was, and I felt turned on all the more. His dick was getting hard again, can you believe it? So back down I go; his thing still wet with saliva and come. This time he ran his hands through my hair, relaxing, getting into the flow of things. The ribbon unraveled. I didn’t take him out of my mouth after his third ejaculation, kept it there, sucking my merry way to hell. His dick was limp only for a short while. I had his little thing and his balls in my mouth. I knew, since he was so excitable amp;young, that he could achieve a fourth hard-on soon. In no time, he did. Now, this time, it took him like fifteen or so minutes to come, and there was very little, but still sweet, and when he was done I told myself that’s it, I’d just blown him four times and my jaw hurt. One of my tits was sticking out of the dress; I pushed it back in, sweaty. Daniel pulled his pants up, like he knew that was that, like he knew maybe he couldn’t get it up again. I saw my reflection in the rear-view: my make-up was smeared, my hair was a mess, come on my chin. What must this boy be thinking? I drove us home. We didn’t talk. He put his shirt on. Before he got out, he tried to kiss me; I turned my head; he pecked me on the cheek. I watched him go to his house, looking at his butt and thinking he had a nice butt and wondering what… I went in, no one was home, I washed my face, brushed my teeth, then took a bath, not unlike the bubble bath I just had with your help. Thought I was going to have a nervous breakdown. Who was I to do such a thing? But I thought, I gave him something he’ll never forget in his life, thinking of the first time my first boyfriend went down on me when I was twelve, making me come several times like I had done with Daniel, eating me out for an hour, and the wonderful memory, albeit decadent, I had/have of that time. Pondering on what I had given to this boy, I became excited, and in that bath I fingered myself, pleased myself, knowing it was not, and never had been, enough, knowing that I may go even further in this new chapter of events. What did I do? you ask. I did go further. But not so soon, because there were other things going on. Well, yes, I did seduce the kid again; he came over, when he knew I was alone in the house, and I did do to him what I did in the VW, splendor in the bug, and I could see it, I could see what he wanted: he really wanted to lose his virginity. That’s what he told me; he said he wanted to pop his cherry and I had to laugh, it sounded so funny coming from his mouth, that sweet mouth. So we did it. What other way is there to say it? I took him to my bed and we got undressed. He was so – eager, and didn’t know what to do; I thought this was sweet. This went on for a while. Not all the time. I had college, he had school, but the closer summer came, the more we got together. He seemed to mature, sprout, with each passing day (now doesn’t that sound like a cliche?). He had a slight mustache now. I was impressed with him and impressed with myself because by that time he’d become quite a good lover; he didn’t come so fast, and I’d taught him how to, well, uh, eat. He started sending me love letters then, in the mail or leaving them at my door. He was in love, I guess. This is when I started to get nervous. Hey, I was just doing this for fun, okay, you know, teaching a boy how to be a lover and having some fun in the process. I didn’t want this to happen but I guess I should’ve known it might. But that’s not the worst, no, the worst is the morning I was going to my car, I was on my way to a class, some dumb-ass class I didn’t want to go to but I had to, and I was a little hungover because I had been out drinking with Nicole amp;-Gretchen again, when I heard someone call my name, a woman calling my name, she says CYNTHIA I HAVE TO TALK TO YOU! It’s Daniel’s mother, a woman in her forties, she’s in a robe, hair in curlers, and she has this notebook in hand. She’s stomping my way, she looks furious, and she’s waving the notook like an evil wand and she says I WANT TO TALK TO YOU YOUNG LADY and I see the notebook has Daniel’s writing in it, and I’m thinking oh shit and she says I’VE BEEN READING SOME OF DANIEL’S WRITINGS and I’VE BEEN READING ABOUT YOU! I didn’t know what the hell to say so I say should you really be prying into your son’s private stuff? and she goes HE’S MY SON AND I CAN DO WHAT I DAMN WELL PLEASE and this is when she tells me that she knows what I have been doing, she says YOU’RE A DIRTY GIRL and that I should have shame. I’m just standing there, frozen; I don’t deny anything, but I don’t admit nothing as well. She says to me IS IT TRUE?!? She says OR IS HE JUST MAKING IT UP? I tell her it’s none of her business but I guess I could have lied, said, Oh, he just has boyhood fantasies. So she says YOU BETTER STAY AWAY FROM MY SON YOU LITTLE TRAMP AND YOU’RE LUCKY I DON’T TELL YOUR PARENTS ABOUT WHAT YOU HAVE BEEN DOING I COULD EVEN HAVE YOU ARRESTED FOR MOLESTATION! I wanted to tell her he was hardly a kid anymore, but the law might say otherwise. Oh, Jesus could you see it, me arrested?!? I got into my car and left. I knew it was over and part of me felt relieved that it was. Daniel wrote me a few more letters, saying he was sorry that his mother found the notebook. I ignored him. His mother sent him away for the summer and that was probably just as well. It was. When he came back, he didn’t seem to have any interest in me. Maybe he met another girl. But that isn’t the end of this story. The real end is this: not too long after the encounter with his mother, while Daniel was away that summer, I had another going-out-to-my-car encounter. From out of the bushes this boy emerges, a boy Daniel’s age, and he just gets into my VW with me, no asking, no words, he just does it. I recognise him as one of the boys I had seen Daniel hanging around with. He smiles and says hi, says his name although I can’t remember it now. I asked him what he wanted. He says to me I know what you’ve been giving Danny and I want some of it. I act like I don’t know what the heck he’s talking about. He laughs and tells me Daniel has been telling them (his friends) all about it, about us, what I do, and I believed it, you know how boys are: they always have to brag about their conquests; I was the same, actually, and still am: always telling my sexy stories to girlfriends, when I have sexy stories to share. So this bold kid says to me I want some, I want what you give him. I tell him to get the fuck out. He reaches over, grabs my hair, he says give it to me bitch my dad always says you gotta get rough when the bitches try to nigger out on what they’re born to give and my did it hurt, the way he had my hair, so I screamed and punched him in the nose. He wasn’t expecting that, I tell you! His nose begins to bleed. He puts a hand to it, looks at all the blood. He starts to cry. I say get out or I’ll hit you again you brat! and he runs out. It was after that I changed, this is when I knew I had to change: I had to readjust to a violent world.

I tell Cynthia I have a story similar to that, that I had an experience, at twenty-two, with a thirteen-year-old girl. I ask Cynthia if she wants to hear my story and she says yes, I want to hear it. We both look at Kathy, who still sleeps, legs on Cynthia’s lap, Cynthia still rubbing them, and Cynthia says so what’s your story? I say if I were ever to write this experience down, I would title it -

THE WATCHMEN LEAVE THEIR STATIONS

– but, as I think about it, perhaps the events of this encounter are not as dramatic as my memory would like to give credence to. The girl’s name was Isabelle; a very pretty young girl, and I met her through her mother. Her mother was forty or something. When we’d met in the bar, I thought she was mid-thirties, and she looked good, but it was, you know, dark, and I was kinda drunk. What was this woman’s name, anyway? You recall the daughter, but not the mother. Oh, yes: Margo. Margo the Mother. Needless to say, Margo took me back to this trailer she lived in and there we had this drunken fuck and fell asleep. I woke up before she did, saw that she was older than I was led to believe, and without her make-up… well, she wasn’t that bad, but when it came to older women, I didn’t pick them that old. Thirty-five at most. Oh well. I looked around the trailer. It was quite messy. Saw that Margo was waking up so I pretended I was asleep. I heard her say Christ, I have to get to work and she nudged me and said hey you wake up now. I acted like I just woke up and asked what time it was. She said it was late, she said it was nine o’clock.

I said the world isn’t even alive at nine.

She said not for a vampire like y’all.

We both went oh oh oh.

She said so what do you remember of last night, sweetheart? anythin’?

I said hey sure what kind of guy do you think I am? and although I didn’t want to, I moved to kiss amp;touch her.

She said ahhhhh, now.

I told her I liked doing it in the morn.

Do you now?

Mornings are the best.

Now, lovebird, last night wasn’t so bad.

Yeah, okay.

But I ain’t no mornin’ love-girl.

I should tell you, Cynthia, that she talked with this southern accent, just like I say it.

She said I really have to get mosyin’ to work.

You work?

I don’t exist on nuthin’, sweetpants. I got me a kid to feed.

Kid?

She’s a kid: a youngun, I don’t know where she is, she’s around here somewhere. She’s a good kid. You dint see her last night? She sleeps on the sleepin’ bag on the floor there. But it was dark and you were drunk.

I said you talk funny.

She said you talk funny, dear, but at least you’re all cute.

I said don’t tell me you’re from Georgia.

She said oh Gawd no. I’m from N’Awlins. Grew up there.

I told her (for the hell of it) (and maybe I wanted to) that I felt like fucking.

She said no, not here, we don’t have time, and maybe my kid might come in.

I said then I just wanted to go back to sleep because I had this very bad hangover.

She got up, naked, and she was a little chunky I saw, and she went to take a shower.

She said as she went in you’re a bum, you know, but you probably already know this.

I said sure.

She came back out, dried off, and put on a waitress’ uniform. She said look, sorry, but I gotta rush.

I told her how awful my hangover was.

She said I do have to go but I guess you can stay and sleep awhiles, if y’all want. Kay, lover? This place is tiny, so just close the door, go when you feel better.

She left.

I lay there, then lit a cig. Wondered why I was here. Thought I should probably get up amp;go.

Don’t know when it was, ten minutes later, a young girl in a long shirt down to her ankles came in. She had straight brown hair, soft pale skin, long legs, retainers on teeth. I could see small buds of breasts.

She looked at me, didn’t seem surprised, and said (with a southern slant as well) good mornin’.

I said hey who are you? Margo’s kid?

She said her name was Isabelle and she asked, real snooty like, who the hell are you?

I said she was a snot, I said you’re a snot and my name is Mike.

She just stood there so I said you’re not the friendly type are you?

She said I’m friendly. Thing is, most of Momma’s men friends don’t stick ’round long ’nuff to be friends with.

I said well I’m not going anywhere right now.

She said you will soon.

I said are you so sure of that?

She said they all leave: they come, they go.

I asked why do you say that?

She said it’s the way it is.

Your mother have a lot of men friends?

Sure; she finds them in bars.

How old are you?

She found you in a bar, right?

Well, yeah, that’s where we met last night.

I heard you two comin’ in.

Did you?

I was on the floor here.

I didn’t see you.

I sleep on the floor, in this here bag.

Always?

Not ’nuff room on the bed there, with a man friend always with Momma.

Oh.

I’m too old to sleep with Momma anyway.

So how old are you?

When I was smaller, I used to.

What?

They would do it while I was there next to them. They thought I was asleep but I weren’t.

Oh.

Like I heard you two last night.

Oh?

She said I never knew my Daddy. You like my Momma?

I said I guessed I did.

She said do you now?

Sure.

Bet she looked diff rent in the mornin’ than she did in that bar. And you’re younger than she is.

I said old story; story of my life; older women.

Isabelle asked how old I was.

I told her.

She said oh that ain’t so old.

Maybe not.

She said Momma’s forty-eight.

I laughed.

She asked what’s so funny?

Last night she told me she was thirty-eight, she told me.

Isabella said oh, then I guess she is.

I said those women always lie.

She said whaddya mean those women?!

Oh, you know.

I dunno. But you like my Momma, right?

Sure.

I think she likes you, too. But she had to get off to work, y’know.

I know. She said I could sleep a bit. But I couldn’t fall back to sleep.

Isabelle said so instead you smoke that smelly cig’rette.

I asked does it bother you?

She said yes.

I said I’d put it out, and I did.

I asked where does your mother work?

Didn’t she tell you?

No.

She’s a waitress.

That I know. Where?

This dumb ol’ diner.

Oh.

Surprised?

No.

I didn’t think so.

I asked her, again how old she was.

She asked why do you wanna know?

I said I just do.

How old do I look?

Dunno.

Guess, you silly.

Fifteen?

She smiled and said no.

Fourteen?

No.

You can’t be thirteen?

Yes.

Thirteen?

Yes.

Thirteen.

Thirteen.

I said well.

Well what?

I said young.

She said so.

I said so.

She said I was gonna make breakfast. You want some breakfast?

I said that would be nice.

(CUT TO:)

We were sitting on the floor of the trailer, eating scrambled eggs amp;bacon.

I said this is really good.

Isabelle said oh you’re just sayin’ that.

I said I haven’t had a nice home-cooked meal since – since I dunno. This is really good.

She said Momma taught me how to cook. Said I needed to know ’cause one day I’d be on my own and all that. Ahh, one day I’ll find a man and marry him and have babies and I’ll have to cook for him and the babies. Hmmmn. I wonder what that will be like.

What?

Gettin’ hitched and all.

I said that’s a long way for you.

She said I just know I’ll be happy! I’ll only marry a man that’ll make me happy. I don’t wanna be sad. Like Momma is sometimes. She still loves Daddy whoever he is.

I went ummmn, eating eggs.

She said I never knew him.

I said that’s too bad.

She said my babies will know their daddy. We’ll all be happy together. Never have to worry about a thing in the world – food or money or rapists or killers. We’ll have a house. The house will be clean. We’ll have cars. Credit cards. VCRs. We’ll go to operas and art galleries. We’ll fly to Europe.

Um-hm.

You don’t believe me?

I do.

You ever been married?

Nah.

Why not?

I was engaged once, when I was twenty-one. Just not too long ago. But that’s a different story; in fact, it’s a different life.

What happened?

Don’t remember…

You just don’t wanna say.

I don’t… I don’t remember.

What? You senile already?

I didn’t want to talk about this. Too much pain. I told her a lot of things happened… no one specific thing. What I recall most is an image, an image of… of the moon.

The moon?

Moon.

Isabelle asked did you love her?

Well… yes.

You think about her a lot?

Sometimes.

You have dreams about her?

No, not anymore. Used to – have these strange…

Seems like it was all just yesterday? Last month or what?

You ask funny questions, you know.

She said what was her name?

Who?

The intended bride.

I said Beth.

Elizabeth?

I said you’re pretty smart for thirteen.

She said I’ve been married several times.

Yeah sure.

She pointed to her head amp;said I mean up here, this is where I have been married.

I asked what, none of them work out?

She said you always look for perfection in the wrong place and then she asked me hey don’t you ever dream?

What’s that?

Tell me about your dreams.

I said they’re mostly just nightmares. Dreams, you see, are nice. What I have are not nice. They are bad. You don’t want to hear them.

She said dreams are all that matter, Michael, it’s all we ever have.

(CUT TO:)

A few hours later we were playing the board game Monopoly, still on the messy floor. She had more hotels amp;money than I. Margo, in her waitress uniform, came in as we were playing.

Isabelle said hey, Momma.

Margo said to me you, you’re still here?

I said guess I got caught up in this game.

Isabelle said we’ve been playin’ games all day and I’ve been winnin’.

Margo said oh.

I said she beats me all the time.

Margo said to me I certainly dint expect to find y’all here, sweetbuns; I just thought you’d sleep amp;go.

Isabelle said we had breakfast.

I said I was sorry and that I’d go if she wanted me to.

Margo said no, no, that was awright. I’m glad you’re all here. I was just gonna get dressed and head back to that great li’l bar where we met, you know? But I do need an escort and well you are here.

I looked at Isabelle and Isabelle nodded.

I said sure sounds great I could use a drink or two.

Margo said or ten.

(CUT TO:)

Night.

I was really drunk.

I was pounding on the door to the trailer.

Isabelle answered, wearing shorts and a tank top.

Nipples of her tiny breasts hard.

I said where’s that Momma of yours?

Isabelle said I thought she was with you.

I thought so too.

She left with you. Did you lose her?

I said she was making quite a scene in there, at the bar, that Momma of yours. Was talking to every man there. Ignoring me. Who does she think she is anyway? I thought I saw her leaving with this man, I’m not sure. I thought she might’ve brought him back here.

Isabelle said she still might, who knows.

I said do you really think she took off with another man?

She said probably; Momma often does; that’s why the men don’t stay ’round long.

I ranted well your Momma is a whore! a slut!

Isabelle looked at me, cold.

I said I’m sorry, Isabelle. I didn’t mean to say that about your Momma.

Isabelle shrugged and said it’s okay because you’re right, she is a whore. But she’s still my Momma and I love her, whore or not.

I said maybe I shouldn’t stick around; maybe she’ll bring that man here; I don’t wanna cause a scene.

Isabelle said well it’d bring some excitement to all the boredom ’round here.

I asked do you think she might bring him back?

She said Momma doesn’t always bring them here, not if the man ain’t married and has a nice place to take her to.

I said it’s cold out; I think it’s going to rain.

She said I was thinkin’ it might.

Where should I go?

We can play another game.

(CUT TO:)

I woke up on the floor.

In my clothes.

Feeling like shit.

Isabelle was on her Momma’s bed, in the same shorts and tank top.

She was looking at me.

She said Michael.

Yeah?

Get up.

I said what the hell? and looked around.

I said I guess your Momma didn’t come back.

Isabelle said she doesn’t when she has two days off from work, like now. This is her weekend as she calls it so she doesn’t come back for two days from now.

I asked what happened?

She said you don’t recall?

I saw that there were a lot of beer cans around; I asked about them.

Isabelle said last night you walked down to the liquor store, in the rain, ’cause you wanted some beer. You even gave me one. I usually don’t like beer; I like wine.

I said I remember the rain.

Yes.

I hate the rain.

It’s almost Christmas.

I hate that too.

That’s what you was tellin’ me last night. We talked a lot.

Did we?

You – you don’t remember do you?

She seemed hurt.

I said what?

She said it don’t matter none.

(CUT TO:)

We were eating lunch.

Sitting on the floor.

I said I want to take you somewhere, Isabelle.

Out?

I said we can go and have fun, even in the rain.

She said I think it’s stopped.

I said but it’s cold out there.

She said why go out there when we can stay in here?

You like being cooped up in here?

She said we create our own world here; we don’t have to play by the rules; we can make the game up in here. Out there – out there in the cold amp;rain – it’s a different game; it’s The World. There are no dreams in the world. In here, we don’t have to listen to anyone; no one can control us and tell us what to do, what is right or wrong. We have books and a small TV. We have – each other.

I said, we do.

She said I just want to stay inside here, with you.

(CUT TO:)

She said I want you to make love to me, this is the night, this is the time, I want this and I told her no, I couldn’t do it. I looked down at her, her small face, her lean, delicate body. I was surprised that I had been doing this, on her Momma’s bed, an hour’s worth of kissing, making out as she called it. I had grabbed one of her little breasts, the taste of her retainer’s on my tongue. She had a slender leg around my waist and she said you have to make love to me, I have to know. Knowing very well the trouble this whole thing could deliver on me, I pulled off her shorts. She wore yellow panties with duck imprints. I had to laugh, just a little. When I removed her panties, I was both frightened amp;delighted by her virgin sex. Yes, she was a virgin, she had told me so. She said I’ve never made love with anyone. She had light brown pubic hair; her opening small, pink, fresh. I had never seen a vagina as so, not having had sex until I was fifteen, with girls that age, girls who had already been fucked more than once. I could not help myself: I put my mouth on her, I took her in, her smell, her taste, and with like your younger lover, Cynthia, the girl was ambrosia amp;impassioned. What am I doing? I thought. But I was down there well over an hour, enraptured with my licking amp;sucking, Isabelle buckling, quivering, crying out, sweating, coming, and coming again, juices flowing into my mouth like rivers of sugar. I wondered if she’d ever had an orgasm before. Tired, I lay my head on her stomach, listening to the rain outside. Like you, Cynthia, I felt the guilt, but I knew I had just given her something she would never forget, something that she would always recollect fondly. She whispered you must make love to me now. She took my face into her small, warm hands, staring at me and saying I have to know. She said you have to make me a woman. I knew there was no getting around it. I told her it might hurt. She said she knew. I positioned myself over her, placed my cock down there, and wondered if such a small opening could take me without agony. Just getting the head in was difficult. She was wincing, in that dark, with pain, I could tell. I told her I’d stop and she said no no she wanted this now. I entered her, pushing hard. Isabelle wailed, not unlike those cries of pleasure that had preceded when I gave her oral. I felt a warm rush down there, warm amp;wet, and knew it was blood. I almost withdrew, but she pulled me closer and told me to go all the way and she didn’t mind how it hurt. So I did, slow at first, then frantic, the smell of her sweat amp;sex in my nostrils, her hair, tangled, her kisses on my neck, her hands on my back amp;ass, her grunts, soft grunts, her small ass in my hands as I lifted her butt, lifted her so I could plunge deeper, plunge fast, hard, myself breathing into her shoulder, her hair, the bed squeaking, squishy sounds at her groin as our connection made haste, her stomach against mine breathing air in amp;out heavily, her breath against my neck warm as I fucked, and came, came inside her, just coming amp;coming like it’d never end, not once thinking of the consequences should I impregnate a thirteen-year-old girl. And when I was done, I fell on her, weeping, feeling so dirty. She ran her hands through my hair and said I love you, husband: we’ll be happy together. She said we’ll have babies and they will know you. We will go places. To art galleries. We’ll got to Europe. We’ll hold hands in the sunset and be a postcard. We’ll have a clean house.

I said Isabelle, I’m sorry…

What, dear?

Sorry, I’m…

What? making love to me?

You’re just a kid.

She said I am not.

I said no, not now.

I said oh God Isabelle…

She said don’t hurt me! You can’t hurt me!

No…

She said (her blood on us both) I don’t wanna be sad! Remember what I told you? We have to be happy at all times. What else is there?

Isabelle…

And she said make love to me again, if you want.

(CUT TO:)

She said I will crown you my prince.

I said prince?

King?

I like king.

You are King and I am Queen.

Of what country?

What country do you want?

This country.

She said you can’t be King of America; you’d have to be President, and there’s no nobility in that; it’s not a life-long occupation. And I don’t wanna be First Lady. Our country – it’ll be far away. In Europe, y’know. It can be in any time we want – now or in the past or the future. It can be a small country, but we’ll be powerful. We are powerful. We are respected.

I said you decide then. We can make up our own nation.

Okay.

She said a magical kingdom! WITH beasts amp;knights amp;elves amp;maidens.

Maidens.

I was once a maiden; a damsel in distress.

Were you now?

She said you saved me. This is when you were fightin’ for your family’s God-given right to rule this land. Our country was in turmoil: evil was all around. Bad wizards and conspiring witches with trolls amp;vampyres. I was being led in a dungeon by this wicked overlord. They beat me and did bad things to me. They were not nice at all. You loved me, you did. And you and your – your merry men – came and saved me. Then you established your rule, your right to the throne recognized. I became your wife.

I said and you became queen.

(CUT TO:)

She said who can take this from us?

Hm?

She said who can deny us?

I said no one; we’re alone.

Yes, we’re alone; no one can lay a dirty finger on us.

No.

These people on the outside – they all have unclean hands.

They’re all bastards.

They hate us.

They do – but why?

She said they don’t understand that’s why.

No, they don’t.

They don’t understand dreams.

They hate us.

They bite us.

They file complaints.

They snicker.

They pass judgments.

She said no one will ever comprehend our life.

No.

And do you love me?

God, yes.

We’ll fly away.

Away.

To a never-never…

I fell asleep with her there, Cynthia, asleep on Isabelle’s Momma’s bed and the sheets stained with her new womanhood. I had this dream, too. The dream had two parts. In the first, Margo came home with some man, and seeing us in her bed, she freaked out. The man was worse. He had plans. He had a gun and he shot all of us. We were on the floor, bleeding with bullet wounds. Margo dead, Isabelle crawling to me, crying. In the other part of the dream, Margo came home, and she was alone, and Isabelle and I had to run, run away together, with my car, the law after me, and we drove through Amerika: fugitives.

Driving in a car:

She said don’t drive so fast.

I said we have to.

It scares me.

Are you afraid of cars?

No. Yes.

I know cars. Don’t worry.

But do we need to drive so fast?

Yes.

I’m scared, honey.

Don’t be.

She said we’re out in the world.

I won’t let them take you.

What we left behind…

We’re starting over.

Will we be happy?

We will.

In a motel room:

She said this room makes me nervous.

Hush.

I just feel…

I said what?

Michael?

Come here, hug me.

She asked are you happy?

I said you’re with me; how could I not be happy?

We have this: us.

It is ours.

No one can touch it or hurt it.

We should go – go all over Amerika.

She said we need to go where dreams are made; where the sun is always out and there is no rain.

Driving in a car:

She said all this driving is gettin’ to me.

I said we’ve seen a lot of Amerika.

She said we could have driven all over Europe.

We’re almost there.

To our life?

Just like we dreamed.

In another motel room:

She said I hate all this runnin’.

I said we have to run. What do you think they’ll do if they found us?

She said I don’t want to think about that.

No.

She said how much time do we have left in this play?

Not much.

We were standing in a stagelight and she was pregnant:

She said we’re here.

I said yes.

She said this is it.

I said yes.

She said we are married.

I said yes.

She said we are safe.

I said yes.

She said we’re gonna have a baby.

I said a child; my child; I always wanted a child; your child; ours.

Feel her, here. Feel her.

Her?

Her.

How do you know it’s a girl?

She said I just know. And she’ll be happy. We’ll all be happy: together. Never have to worry about a thing in the world – food or money or rapists or killers. My baby will know her daddy. All my babies will know their daddy. We’ll have a house. The house will be clean. We’ll have cars. Credit cards. VCRs. We’ll go to operas and art galleries. We’ll fly to Europe.

– Isabelle? Isabelle, where are you? Oh Jesus… I had this dream, you see. I want to tell you about this dream. We were in this gulag – this prison – somewhere, and they were torturing us. They called us names we didn’t like. There seemed to be no way of getting out of there. One night, the watchmen left their stations. They just bailed. The path was clear. We could have left, escaped, ran away. We could have been safe. We were weak but we still could move. We didn’t. We stayed. We maintained to the familiar. We didn’t take advantage of the situation.

– and then I was on the floor of the trailer, the killer was leaving. Margo was dead, I was dying. Isabelle crawled to me, to hug me, to bleed on me, to die with me.

I said it was all a fantasy, it was all a dream.

Isabelle said it’s all we have that matters.

And she died.

I woke up then, not certain if I was awake or in the dream, or dying from gun shots, and maybe I was dying or dead, or in a motel, running with Isabelle through Amerikan landscapes of the haunted, the chimeric crux of the matrix, but I saw that I was in the trailer, in the bed, and Isabelle, peaceful, was asleep next to me. My head was clear, I saw what I had done, and knew my dreams had told me what my life may be like. I did not want any of this, I did not want this at all, this terrible mistake, this error in judgment, this second of silly lust and reverie; maybe one day I would pay for it, but I had to go! I had to run like I ran in the dreams but I had to do this one solo so I carefully, quickly, quietly got out of the bed, put on my clothes, took one last look at Isabelle and the blood that was dry, and I left, I left her, I never looked back.

We sit there, looking at one another, and Cynthia says maybe we should put her to bed. I tell her I think that’s a good idea. She says will you help me? and I say I will and we both lift Kathy – she stirs but does not wake – and take her to her room, place her in bed, the bed we had been making love in not but a few hours ago, and we cover her with a blanket, and we look at each other, Cynthia amp;I, and we look at Kathy, and we leave the room. In the hall, we stop, immediately kiss. She says we have to go to her room. She takes my hand, she leads me there, we undress and lie on the bed. She says I am not like Isabelle, I am not a young virgin. I say I’m not like Daniel, I won’t need instructions.

She says you mentioned an engagement once.

I say in the Isabelle story.

True?

What?

Were you engaged?

Yes.

Beth was her name?

I don’t look at Cynthia when I say yes, her name was Beth.

What happened?

Don’t remember.

She smiles, kisses me, reaches down and grabs my cock. I’m not quite hard yet. I lay back. Cynthia goes down and sucks and I think about the four times Daniel came in her mouth. I want to do a lot of things to Cynthia. I pull her PJ bottoms, I reach into them, running my finger along her asshole, thinking of Beth. She says she likes that. It could be Beth’s voice. She looks at me, my cock against her cheek.

She says I want you to fuck me the way you fucked Kathy.

I say do you?

She says you can do anything to me tonight, do anything to me you did to her. Do anything to me you didn’t do to her.

I tell her that I had wanted to fuck Kathy in the ass but Kathy doesn’t like that, wouldn’t let me.

She says I know.

Do you?

She says that’s why you’re playing with my asshole now.

I say you like it that way?

She says I like getting fucked any way.

She stands, opens a drawer in her dresser. First, she steps out of her PJ bottoms, leaving the top on. She takes from the drawer a small jar of Vaseline. She scoops some on her fingers, squats, applies it between her buttocks. She takes another scoop, comes to me, rubs the jelly on my cock.

I say you’re not kidding.

She says I’m burning; all this tension; all this talk; all that we have done tonight. I need to be taken in a terrible way; the worst way.

I feel deviant; I feel perverse; I feel as though I am in the celluloid of one of those triple-X movies I watch now amp;then. I have often thought that no one truly leads such nice pornographic lives, doing all those kinky things, thinking these thoughts in solitude when I have rented amp;watched pornos, but recalling that, yes, in fact, I have, now amp;then in my life – as I am in this moment of my life – acting out, in flesh, my most vile fantasies. And when I have rescinded such, as I am now, when I have thought back, looking into my head for those nasty bedroom spectacles, I conjure the image of Beth, Elizabeth, crazy sweet Beth and her vampyre-look and anal sex carnalities; that is, to say, my former fiancée, Beth, could only get off if she was getting it up the ass; there was just no other way, she had to have it in that forbidden girth, and she would rub her clit going to town! she’d say going to town! as I fucked her in the ass, and she’d come, come hard, come unlike any other woman I have ever known, and I would just look at her, in stupefaction, asking myself where did I find such an odd femme? In fact, I could ask myself the same thing, as I hover over Cynthia, Cynthia on her stomach, with her rear hoisted in the semi-light of her bedroom, Kathy dreaming her angel dreams in the other room. Cynthia whom I am about to penetrate in the same manner as I had wanted to enter Kathy, as I had entered Beth numerous times in our past life together. I could ask myself how did I get into this situation tonight and I should feel lucky, for indeed, many men would feel fortunate, many men would have envy, some would call me a sick pig, some might raise their brows and some may deem me an anti-feminist, a user of women, a taker, as it were; but all in all, here I am: in this apartment with two women and I have, in the course of the night, had them both in the most intimate way possible, as I have fucked my memories as well. Cynthia lets out a deep sigh as I enter her, but not with the same ease I used to have when going into Beth. Cynthia is tight, resists, but finally succumbs. I push Cynthia’s rear down, wanting her to be flat on the bed, and she does this, turning her head to look at me, blonde hair in eyes, asking how does it feel? I tell her it feels good and she says the same. She bunches the pillow, places her head on it like a delicate object of renown, looking to the wall, as I begin to fuck her. She emits small noises from mouth, closing eyes.

I reach under her, to find her cunt, her button, hoping, at first, she might do this herself, but knowing it is a job I will have to take on myself, for she isn’t Beth, she could never be Beth, no one could be Beth; when I used to reach for Beth’s cunt, she’d tell me she wanted to do it herself. She’d say there was a special way she did it that no one else in the world could so she’d do it and she just wanted me concentrating on fucking ass. Beth, oh, Beth, what happened? I remember the first night I met her, in that underground club, where they were playing dark gothic music from England (how I wound up in that club I don’t know, I had dropped acid that night); Beth was dressed like a ghoul: with a torn black lace dress, knee-high leather boots, very pale skin, purple-dyed hair that fell past her waist, and black lipstick. In my state of mind, I thought she was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen; I had to talk to her, so I did, and we seemed to get along well. She had a soft, low, sweltering voice, almost like a child’s at times, and sometimes like a grown woman’s who has seen too much of the ugly orb. She said she wrote poetry; I asked what kind. She said the kind about the nightfall of life. I laughed. She said what’s funny? I asked her age. Twenty. I asked what do you know about life’s darkness amp;twilight? She said she did. I told her I was frying on acid. She asked if I had any more. I said I did. She held out her hand, the devil child expecting a treat. I fished from my jacket pocket a tab of LSD and she took it and said let’s go someplace. This is what I really liked: at the time I was heavily into fry and didn’t know that many girls who cared for the drug as much as I, with the pious fervor of an impassioned Baptist. Where we wound up was at her small apartment. She had a room covered in purple, draped, mantled, assuaged with that goth-favored color; on the walls were posters of The Velvet Underground, Jim Morrison, Ian Curtis, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Bauhaus and The Cure. She wouldn’t stop giggling; the acid was very strong. We were drinking red wine, which she dribbled down my chest, told me was blood, the nosferatu’s nectar. She had some coke on her person. We were quite fucked-up. She looked splendid without her clothes: oh-so-very-pale skin, not ravished by the sun. She said she hated the sun. Her skin was so smooth, couldn’t fathom it was real. She had dyed her pubic hair purple as well. I went down on her; she had an odd taste I could not place – not bad, just peculiar. She said come on baby fuck me. Bauhaus was on the stereo, “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” – how quaint, how perfect. She reached to take my hands in hers as we fucked, her legs spread out, breasts flat on her chest, nipples pinkish-brown. I kneeled by the side of the bed, taking her; she sat up some, nipples now erect, lips smeared in black, eyes Egyptian, purple hair tangled everywhere across her face amp;shoulders. I wanted to change positions. I turned her over. She asked if I was going to sodomize her. I said I didn’t have any plans but I would if she wanted me to. She said that’s the only way I can really get off. I spread her cheeks, looked, saw this was no virgin flower bud here, it opened so easily, the width of it, so I slipped in, using the lubricants from her cunt, and she cried OH YES and reached down to whack-off her clit, coming instantly. After fifteen minutes of this, she must have read my mind, she knew I was going to shoot soon, she said don’t come in me baby I want to suck you off. I lay on the purple bed and she took me in her mouth, cock dirty, and I thought this girl is really kinky. After I burst in her mouth, she told me she liked all the tastes mixed together: her pussy amp;ass, my sperm. She put her head on my chest, said she liked me a lot. She was stroking my dick and it got hard again. She got on top, slipping me back into her ass this way. I looked up, grabbing her tits, saw the joy on her face, sex amp;acid, finding this all so strange. I knew I’d have to keep seeing her. When I went to the bathroom to take a piss, she followed me, knelt before the toilet, looked up with her make-up-smeared eyes. She wanted me to piss in her mouth. She opened her mouth wide to prove it, tongue pink and long. She held it open as my urine splashed off that tongue, some going down her throat, some dribbling off her chin, down her chest, onto the linoleum floor. She wiped her mouth, made an ummmmn sound, smiling at me. She stood, tried to kiss me. I turned away. She smiled amp;said they were all like that – stick all sorts of shit into her mouth to eat but they didn’t want to taste it themselves. I grabbed her then, pushed her against the wall, and kissed her, tasting what she had to offer. This excited me. I threw her on the bathroom floor, hard. She told me yes, told me to be rough. I lifted her legs, found her asshole, and went in for the third time that night. I slapped her. I pulled at her hair. She scratched my body in many places. I shoved my cock, coated with her ass, down her gullet, so deep she nearly gagged and I told her to take it take it take it coming coming coming.

We went to sleep after that.

She made breakfast. She looked different, but still pretty: like a doll. Like something that could shatter with ease. We went to the park later. She wore all white: white skirt, white blouse, white sweater, white wide-brimmed hat amp;shoes. She said do I look like a sacrifice? We held hands like new lovers do, kissed a lot. She told me she didn’t want this to be a one-night stand. I didn’t either. She let me read her poetry: images of cemeteries amp;dead horses. Weeks became more weeks.

She said she loved me. She called me baby and dear a lot. She worked at a bookstore, selling volumes she said one day she might write herself. Somewhere along there, we got engaged. We were dropping plenty of acid, three times a week, and doing a copiousness of coke. She also liked to drink Southern Comfort. Our sex got more and more violent. Once I banged her head against the wall so hard, blood seeped from her nose. I licked it away. We would spend hours, in a drugged haze, connected by cock amp;ass. I would fuck her that way all night, into the morning, coming seven, eight, nine times until I had nothing left in my balls to give. But her ass wanted more. She had a thick dildo, and I’d assfuck her with that as she sat on my face, allowing that stranger, her pussy, to juice itself into my mouth. We would go for drives, we would stop at certain points because she wanted to give me head. Then she wanted my piss.

I was feeling more amp;more – filthy, a miscreant outside the halls of Eros. Once, she was writing a poem, sitting at her desk, naked, and she turned to me and said are we really as bad as we think we are? have we strayed from the Garden of Eden?

I said yes, we have taken up camp far from the garden, made our home in the naughty yard. She laughed amp;said I can’t wait until we get married.

Cynthia says fuck me harder and I think about marriage more and wonder if I ever loved Beth. I told her I did, mostly to please her. I turn Cynthia over on her back, Beth in the head, placing Cynthia’s legs on my shoulders, going back into her ass which is not unlike Beth’s ass after all, Beth the anal-fuck goddess of this vile state we call the land of coitus. I push Cynthia up, her feet near her ears; she looks at me with wide eyes as I drive like Mad Max deeper into her colon; she gasps, says it hurts a little; I ask if she wants me to stop and she says no and I go even harder, wanting to hurt her, I think, knowing I would not have stopped even if she said yes. Cynthia, Cynthia, I say her name, but I still have Beth on my brain, I can see her so clearly, alive: I can see those times when I would jack-off on her tongue; she’d lie there, mouth open to receive, the head of my cock at tongue’s tip, jism slowly seeping thickly. She would draw it in, suck on it, make some of it flow out, come-bubbles on her puckered lips like a European porno. Sometimes, giving me a blow, she’d spit my seed on her palm, rub it all over my cock, making me more sticky, and give me suck again, doing the same with the second load.

Beth, Beth, my decadent nymph, what the fuck happened to you! Where have I buried you at last? Have I forgotten already, so soon? Am I this insensitive to the intricacies of life? No no – I don’t want to think of Beth and our eight months in iniquitous bliss. I was a different human then, not the one I am now: here in the apartment with Kathy amp;Cynthia. I have to converge on Cynthia, but the more I try, the more I see Beth. I feel wanting for who I was; I feel excitement for who I was, and I know that I am with Beth now, and I come, I come into Cynthia’s intestines, and she grabs onto me, acting like maybe she’s have an orgasm too, and we lay like that for a bit, finally letting go, her legs on the bed now, I to her side, wishing for a cigarette or a drink, thinking of all the couplings I have had this night, the memories amp;history of my life with sex, in this far corner of the naughty yard.

I tell Cynthia that I can’t sleep here and she says she knows. She wants a kiss. I kiss. I gather my clothes and return to Kathy’s room, wondering if I’ll get aroused again, wake her, have her, top off this bizarre evening. She’s still quite asleep. I lay next to her. She goes mmmmmnnnnn and I wonder about her continuing dreams. I move to hold her, feeling grimy, Cynthia all over me, the haunting of Beth’s revenant all over me. I fall asleep, just a little, that strange place of half-sleep, having a half-sleep halam where in a car with Kathy amp;Cynthia, Cyn is driving, and then Kath is driving, she’s saying my new name is Forget-Me-Soon, your little Forget-me-Soon. They are dropping me off somewhere. They wave as they leave me in this somewhere; their car gets smaller, smaller, smaller, smaller, smaller, smaller, smaller, smaller, and then is no more. I wake, feeling chilled, knowing it was just a half-dream and I have not been abandoned to be alone on the wrong side of the garden. Kathy has turned, her face in my chest, curled in fetal position, her breath warm, a Kathy-breath. I look at her computer, still on, the document of a marine biology paper still on the lit screen. Is daylight soon? I look out the window, see the corner of the moon, a moon that was in full view just a few hours ago. The moon. What had Isabelle asked me? About Beth? I said the moon. The moon amp;Beth. Somewhere in that relationship, the engagement was broken off, and we were enemies, the sort of thing that happens to me often, and there were those few months when we did not see or speak, until that party, that night of the party, at a house in the suburbs; how we both got there I don’t know but we were, it was a big party, and when I first looked at her I didt think this was Beth, this was just a girl who kind of looked like Beth, this Beth who was not Beth but had short hair, and it was black, real short, like a bos, and she didt have the primordial black lipstick so appurtenant to the look of Beth – red lips now; and she wore a tight tight tight dark blue dress and high heels and she moved my way, slinked my way, smiling a little, saying hello Mike in a Beth voice and I knew then it was Beth. I stared at the long gold earrings she wore, for she’d never had earrings when I knew her, when she almost became a wife. She was sex. She also smelled different, but this may have been a gap in my memory. No, no: I had not forgotten my Beth, I could see this imputation in her eyes, despite the cordial smile; I wanted to say this; I dared not. What could I tell her about these months I had spent away from her; first we had been enjoying our bodies amp;minds in ways that would have made the residents of Gomorrah blush; and now back to priesthood? Indeed, I was like a monk in a citadel, for in those months of disunion, I had not slept with anyone else, I had not gone out to find new confreres. I stayed behind doors, reading, watching TV; went to work, went home, and that was that. But I wouldt tell her this, and I wouldt ask about her activities since the adjournment of our connection, fearful that she might tell me that she was having the time of her life, true or not. Even coming to this soiree was an effort on my part, but I knew I had to return to the interaction with other human beings sooner or later; that, while it was going to take time, I would have to relearn feeling at ease with the outside world, cast off those sensations that I was being stalked by the unknown; that I was free to venture out, show my face in the yard, without dread of apprsion, without consternation of incarceration and villainy. In the light of the sun or glow of the moon, I often felt I was in the lios maw, the dragon’s asylum – I was a spy in a foreign nation and any second the secret police of this countrs sovereign hand would capture me, torture me for information and protocols. Indeed, I had gone to this party at the last moment, telling myself it was time to move on. Why did other people seem so horrible to me? What did this have to do with Beth? Was this time of solitudeI liked to call it my healing process to make me feel better – necessary? It did not matter now, for here I was, and there was she: Beth; and there was no doubt about this: Beth; just a much different-looking Beth. And I considered this night, this geether: for the moon was out amp;full, the night sky clear as refined plasma in an IV tube, a California night so close to Wintes breast. I did not run away from her, as I divined I might should this chance rendezvous ever occur. I could have, and by all means I should have; maybe I should have run, that first time, in the dark smoky club where we met. I hardly make the right moves, doing what I know I should not do, straying from the mantel of righteousness and God – like taking Beth into my arms that night at this party; it was a capricious move. She almost pushed me away. I saw she had a cigarette in hand. She should have burned me with it; scorching of the flesh is what I needed. Yes, she almost pushed me away but in that single moment where all truth resides, she embraced me as well, she took me like a perplexed foundling, she was the mother I had always hoped for, a mriarch that didt allow me to go hungry when the inimical times came; for a passing moment, I thought she was going to cry – and I was certain I would break down and reveal to her what a liar I was, a coward. I thought of the intangible likeness of ecstasy when we fucked, our groveling way of fucking, and wondered if we were meant for each other, the antithesis of the first man amp;woman. It was a Jacques Monad sort of scenario: the chance and necessity of it all. She said my name over amp;over and people around us gave us inexplicable looks. Wondered if she knew anyone here, had friends here. I didn’t really know anyone, maybe one or two people. I was an interloper, and I liked it as such: I was invisible, free to move untouched in the realm, through pedestrians, space amp;time. Beth held me, said my name over amp;over again; it was nice amp;good amp;clean. People kept glancing at us, frowns on faces, as if we were vagabonds; malefactors. Perhaps our crime was the scene of affection. I took her aside, took her to a far corner where we could be alone. We had to talk over the music and the laughs and the words of others. This party was not like the kind of parties she amp;I were used to, the bacchanalia no, this party had too much order amp;uniformity. We touched each other like the classical lovers of Greece, antiquity in our gaze, having been separated for what seemed like decades, those spaces filled with discourse amp;adventures suitable to be sung by blind men with bare amp;bleeding feet. I said Beth and she looked up at me and from behind her new look, behind the average magine-type make-up, I saw the Beth I once coveted amp;cherished. She said she had some coke but I stopped her, told her she should not. I said we had to change our lives from now on, we had to be reborn in this earth. She told me she had, citing me as a relevant cause. I told her I was not an evil person, that I had, in fact, once been angel (not unlike those Kathy is dreaming of now); she laughed and said well where are your wings, Michael? I was curious, now, about her life: wanting to know what she had been doing these past months. She told me her life was like the temple Samson had destroyed when he regained his strength. She said but instead of potency she felt as if she had grown irresolute. It was then that I acceded to the overwhelming inclination to protect her, to shield her from the imps of mortality. We decided to leave this party. She said she was renting a room in a house not too far away, which was a mile from the local university, which she said she had applied to for higher educational purposes. We started to walk there. It was one of those nights; I was ready for anything. I looked up, commented on the moon. She grabbed me, pulled me down on someons front lawn. It was quiet out; the house of the lawn had no lights. She said take me take me here amp;now and I tried to fight her away and she dug her fingeails into my face amp;neck and I felt the blood, the very warm blood, run down, run out of me. Sex amp;violence, thas all I’ve ever had in my life; this castigating I accepted fully, with all the consequences amp;corruption. One moment, Beth amp;I were locked in such a callous clasp that there were no misgivings that it would be the final grasp for both of us, that we would rise to Heaven together; that, untied, united, we would cast aside our mutual cloaks of pain and go on to some premium glory. I woke up in a bed, in a cold room, and the moon was at the window, the full moon, bright. I smiled at this moon and looked at the body next to me. Bets body. She was breathing slowly, her chest rose with each intake of life. I felt good. Here we were, in this bed, alone amp;safe. Nothing in this city or world could touch us here, nothing could extend its bitter arm and caress us with enmity. I moved against her. She was warm. I grabbed at her. She stirred. She called out to her father, in sleep. I closed my eyes and imagined myself cleansed of the dirty life we once shared. I was back on the grass, the wet grass – or was that my blood? I was caught up in a grapple for both life amp;fuck. Beth was tearing at my clothes; she squeezed my balls and I screamed. She relished this wretchedness. She kept telling me that I would never leave her again, we would be bound forever, we would marry and the only way the union could end would be murder, or worse. She hissed like some snake of old, going murder murder murder. I tore her skimpy slut’s dress down the middle, pried it off her like reptilian flesh. She was naked, pale under the moon, and I said you like this bitch, yes yes, how much you so very like it, and pushed her down, her face into the wet blood grass, mounting her rear, a coyote’s cry from her – and that wonderful full moon. I lost my edge and she bucked me off, was on top of me now, her hands around my neck. In her eyes, I could read that she apprehended we could never amount to anything, we would never have anything, and she was going to end all anguish now, terminate the memory amp;image she had of me like grease on a slate, wipe wipe wipe. I clawed at her bare breasts until they bled but this did not stop her intent. I hit her in the face; her nose broke; she fell to the ground. I kept hitting her face until her visage was raw meat, my hands bloody stumps. I prolonged this vehemence because there was no turning back now. I was driven. I was going to take this perdition to its pinnacle. I woke up on the bed and looked at my hands. My hands were all right, my body was all right. I was back in Beth’s bed. I sighed; it was a dream, that grass scene a whole dream, and there was undeniable comfort in this knowledge. But Beth was not beside me. I called her name. I could still smell her; the imprint of her body remained on the mattress. I saw that the bathroom light was on. I got up, knocked on the bathroom door. Beth, are you there? No answer. I went in. She was lying in a full tub. The water was pinkish-red. There was a sharp knife next to the tub, on the floor, blood on that tiled floor, blood smooth amp;clean, blood dripping from the arm that hung outside the water: the opened gash on small wrist. She had also, I noticed with interest, opened up her neck. The artery was languid as it pumped out the final quart of essence out of the temple of Beth. Her eyes were rolled up, toward the window and the full moon: uninhabited amp;aloof. I thought I’d never see a finale as exquisite as this. This was her swan song and no one could take it from her. She was – emancipated. I went to her, I went to her, I went to her, she stood up, she got up from the grass, her face a dominion of mess. She said so this is what you wanted all along? I charged, throwing her down again, my hands at her neck this time, using more force than she had on me. Die die die I screamed as I woke up in the bed and the moon was peeking through and Beth was not there. I could still smell her and the imprint on the mattress was evident: new, so very new, so very Beth. I had been having this dream that I was following Beth’s car in my car and it was late and we were going somewhere and as she went across an intersection a fast big car ran a red and hit hers, dragging it, smashing into the wall of a building, a loud sound, and I jumped out of my car and saw that she had been crushed in her car, almost chopped in two, her eyes popped from the sockets, blood everywhere, a baby growing in her womb, a reverie of two deaths, but I was glad now it was all just a dream, but she still wasn’t there, so I called her name, I called her name, I called her name. I saw the bathroom light was on, the door partially opened. I was not going to get out of that bed; there was no way I was going to get up and go in there. Its interior would be a mystery. I would not look upon her body again. I only wanted to sleep. A simple desire. I didn’t know what was real anymore. I grabbed Beth’s pillow and hugged it to me, cried into it, cried, thinking that this will always be my prison.

I seize Kathy, hard, waking her with strident resonance, howling into her hair like a primate in Cimmerian periodicity, thinking the moon the moon the moon.

LILING’S CURE by Delilah De Silva

Liling dried her soft hands and face and applied some compact powder on her skin. Still unblemished and youthful. Next, she proceeded to roll her glossy lipstick delicately over her small, round mouth. With a heavy sigh, she wheeled herself out of the bathroom and greeted him silently with her dimpled smile.

He gazed at her and she lowered her head coyly to the floor. It was his eyes; the peaceful color of the ocean-blue. Deep and shining. On his part, he admired hers, with their thin, feline slant and brown-sugarish tone. His stare made her feel like a delicacy. The sound of ancient sitar melody lulled in the dim-orange hue of the bedroom. Wisps of smoke curled warmly in the air as they rose from the burning incense of ylang-ylang. Liling inhaled the thick and sweet scent, filling her lungs with its seductive intoxication. Her limbs loosened and she peered through the translucent darkness, watching his lean, white body rest against the wall. He got up, pulled the wheelchair closer to the bed and whispered roughly into her tiny ears, “You look beautiful, darling. Absolutely stunning.”

A tingle raced up her spine. Dazed, Liling’s lips lingered against his high cheekbones as she waited for his strong, muscled arms to lift her cautiously from her seat and plant her gently on the waterproof sheet which laid over the purple, satin cover. Two, fluffy, wine-red pillows helped prop her head comfortably without any strain. Quickly and deftly, he peeled off her silky, pink blouse, the long, floral skirt, the lacy, black lingerie which he brought with him for every visit and finally the diaper which he respectfully placed on the bedside table. He did not mind her wetting herself. Liling stroked his milky back as his fingers traced through her sleek, black hair. “I love you,” he kept murmuring, fixing his bold, blue eyes on her exotic loveliness. “I love you.” Of course she believed him. Since the car crash two years ago, never once did he flinch when he touched her. Instead, it was almost a year ago when he was responsible for her very first orgasm. There was no turning back. She was greedy for more and he willingly supplied her with his mega-doses of painkillers.

“Ouch!” she yelped. He had seized her by her hair, yanking her head back and biting her slender neck hungrily. She clawed at his sweating pink skin as he travelled down to her small breasts and sucked at her right nipple while tweaking and pinching the other in a deliberately painful manner. However, she did not protest. This sort of pain was healing. This sort of pain reminded her of her aliveness. This sort of pain freed her. For so long after the operation which sliced her lower legs off, she had remained numb and corpse-like. It was he who resurrected her, with violence.

Closing her eyes, Liling smiled as his long, moist tongue flicked with feathery sweeps over the tips of her goosepimply nipples. Descending to her navel, he smothered her golden-yellowish belly with drooling kisses and cheekily resorted to parting her stumps. Unable to bear the excruciating pleasure, she moaned, arched and pressed her chopped legs close against his blonde head. With vengeance, he prised her thighs open, digging his nails into her butterish skin. She screamed as he tugged sharply at her triangular tuft of black hair. “Bitch!” he growled and she groaned approvingly. Seconds later, just as she was struggling to gulp some air, he stuffed three of his fingers into her tiny, creamy slash and churned the flow of her sticky fluids. “You Asian chicks are so tight and cute. Makes me horny, baby.” The same lines. Each month. Each visit. Somehow, those words seemed to draw out the savage in him and transformed him further into an insatiable carnivore.

In one single move, he picked her up and flung her on her front, her backside, inviting to be slapped. Slap. Slap. Slap. Liling squeaked and pleaded. Tear-stricken, she begged it to end. Her buttocks parted, she trembled insanely as his tongue massaged her crack. Then, he paused, oiled his erection and spiked his way into her filthy exit. In In In. As expected, he finished halfway only and vented his frustration by cupping her rear and scraping its tender, lemony skin with his teeth. Once appeased, he slid back into kneeling position and overturned her dainty, quivering frame. Her supple arms flailed wildly in the perfumed emptiness and hit him against his broad, hairy chest. They wrestled. He laughed and slithered between her butchered limbs.

Her engorged lips throbbed as he expertly tickled her feminine hood. Up Down Up Down Up Down. Her bones rattled and she jerked, pounding her drenched self into his open, panting mouth. He drank her as she burst freely into him. Her agony, her bitterness, gushed out of her and he received and received, lapping every ounce of her pain and deep anger. His wide mouth was her temporary respite. No doctor, no drugs, relieved her as he did. She came and she came. Sparks of bluish white dots flashed in the semi-darkness as his licking quickened in its pace, circling her entire dripping inner and outer lips while simultaneously drilling two of his fingers into her rear hole. In Out In Out In Out.

It was at this point when Liling floated and drifted across the room, perfect and beautiful as she was before the tragedy. Her slim, tanned legs danced and flew above the humping, writhing bodies on the bed. She wiggled and jiggled and threw her head back, laughing at herself and her messiah, without whom she would not last the month.

Suddenly, she jolted and spirited back into the energetic motions of her flesh. Impaled by his massive, reddish-white erection, she gripped his waist as if holding on for her dear life. He rode into her, his hot spurts channelling tidal waves inside her dark, warm womb. Her phantom legs locked him around his powerful buttocks. She could feel them. They were real. They were there. No one could take her legs away from her. They were with her now. With him.

Liling twisted and wept, her face contorted into a mesh of emotions. His white largeness swallowed and wrapped itself around her golden-brown smallness and she desired to be crushed. Again and again and again.

He sponged her clean and towelled her dry. Feeling slightly limp, she allowed him to secure her diaper around her hips, dress her up and comb her hair. The waterproof sheet, the sexy lingerie and the satin cover were bagged and hidden in his car. The window was opened to let in the winter air and soon the fragrance of ylang-ylang faded into nothingness.

“Hello, Dad.”

“Evening, Rob.”

“Where’s Liling? What did the doctor say?” Robert helped himself to a beer from the refrigerator.

“The usual. She’s in good spirits. He prescribed more medication. I’ve left them on the dining-table.”

“Thanks, Dad. I really appreciate you for taking her to her monthly appointments.”

“That’s what fathers are for. Liling’s sleeping now. See you soon. I’ll get your mum to drive over with dinner. Cheerio.”

Arthur slipped on his coat and closed the door behind him.

SWEATING PROFUSELY IN MÉRIDA: A MEMOIR by Carol Queen

THE BOYFRIEND AND I met at a sex party. I was in a back room trying to help facilitate an erection for a gentleman brought to the party by a woman who would have nothing to do with him once they got there. She had charged him a pretty penny to get in, and I actually felt that I should have gotten every cent, but I suppose it was my own fault that I was playing Mother Teresa and didn’t know when to let go of the man’s dick. Boyfriend was hiding behind a potted palm eyeing me and this guy’s uncooperative, uncut dick, and it seemed Boyfriend had a thing for pretty girls and uncut men, especially the latter. So he decided to help me out and replaced my hand with his mouth. That was when it got interesting. The uncut straight guy finally left and I stayed.

In the few months our relationship lasted, we shared many more straight men, most of them – Boyfriend’s radar was incredible – uncircumcised and willing to do almost anything with a man as long as there was a woman in the room. I often acted as sort of a hook to hang a guy’s heterosexuality on while Boyfriend sucked his dick or even fucked him. My favorite was the hitchhiker wearing pink lace panties under his grungy jeans – but that’s another story. Long before we met him, Boyfriend had invited me to go to Mexico.

This was the plan. Almost all the guys in Mexico are uncut, right? And lots will play with me, too, Boyfriend assured me, especially if there’s a woman there. (I guessed they resembled American men in this respect.) Besides, it would be a romantic vacation.

That was how we wound up in Room 201 of the Hotel Reforma in sleepy Mérida, capital of the Yucatán. Mérida’s popularity as a tourist town had been eclipsed by the growth of Cancún, the nearest Americanized resort. That meant the boys would be hornier, Boyfriend reasoned. The Hotel Reforma had been recommended by a fellow foreskin fancier. Its chief advantages were the price – about $14 a night – and the fact that the management didn’t charge extra for extra guests. I liked it because it was old, airy, and cool, with wrought-iron railings and floor tiles worn thin from all the people who’d come before. Boyfriend liked it because it had a pool, always a good place to cruise, and a disco across the street. That’s where we headed as soon as we got in from the airport, showered, and changed into skimpy clothes suitable for turning tropical boys’ heads.

There were hardly any tropical boys there, as it turned out, because this was where the Ft Lauderdale college students who couldn’t afford spring break in Cancún went to spend their more meager allowances, and not only did it look like a Mexican restaurant-with-disco in Ft. Lauderdale, the management took care to keep all but the most dapper Méridans out lest the coeds be frightened by scruffy street boys. Scruffy street boys, of course, is just what Boyfriend had his eye out for, and at first the pickings looked slim; but we found one who had slipped past security, out to hustle nothing more spicy than a gig showing tourists around the warren of narrow streets near the town’s central plaza, stumbling instead onto us. Ten minutes later Boyfriend had his mouth wrapped around a meaty little bundle, with foreskin. Luis stuck close to us for several days, probably eating more regularly than usual, and wondering out loud whether all the women in America were like me, and would we take him back with us? Or at least send him a Motley Crüe T-shirt when we went home?

Boyfriend had brought Bob Damron’s gay travel guide, which listed for Mérida: a cruisy restaurant (it wasn’t) and a cruisy park bench in the Zocalo (it was, and one night Boyfriend stayed out most of the night looking for gay men, who, he said, would run the other way if they saw me coming, and found one, a slender boy who had to pull down the panty hose he wore under his jeans so Boyfriend could get to his cock, and who expressed wonder because he had never seen anyone with so many condoms; in fact most people never had condoms at all. Boyfriend gave him his night’s supply and some little brochures, about el SIDA he’d brought from the AIDS Foundation, en español so even if our limited Spanish didn’t get through to our tricks, a pamphlet might).

Damron’s also indicated that Mérida had a bathhouse.

I had always wanted to go to a bathhouse, and of course there was not much chance it would ever happen back home. For one thing, they were all closed before I ever moved to San Francisco. For another, even if I dressed enough like a boy to pass, I wouldn’t look old enough to be let in. But in Mérida perhaps things were different.

It was away from the town’s center, but within walking distance of the Hotel Reforma. Through the tiny front window, grimy from the town’s blowing dust, I saw a huge papier-mache figure of Pan, painted brightly and hung with jewelry, phallus high. It looked like something the Radical Faeries would carry in the Gay Day parade. Everything else about the lobby looked dingy, like the waiting room of a used-car dealership.

Los Baños de Vapor would open at eight that evening. They had a central tub and rooms to rent; massage boys could be rented, too. I would be welcome.

The papier-mâché Pan was at least seven feet tall and was indeed the only bright thing in the lobby. Passing through the courtyard, an overgrown jumble of vines pushing through cracked tile, a slight smell of sulfur, a stagnant fountain, we were shown up a flight of concrete stairs to our room by Carlos, a solid, round-faced man in his midtwenties, wrapped in a frayed white towel. The room was small and completely tiled, grout black from a losing fight with the wet tropical air. At one end was a shower and at the other a bench, a low, vinyl-covered bed, and a massage table. There was a switch that, when flipped, filled the room with steam. Boyfriend flipped it and we shucked our clothes; as the pipes hissed and clanked, Carlos gestured to the massage table and then to me.

Boyfriend answered for me, in Spanish, that I’d love to. I got on the table and Carlos set to work. Boyfriend danced around the table gleefully, sometimes stroking me, sometimes Carlos’s butt. “Hey, man, I’m working!” Carlos protested, not very insistently, and Boyfriend went for his cock, stroking it hard, then urged him up onto the table, and Carlos’s hands, still slick from the massage oil and warm from the friction of my skin, covered my breasts as Boyfriend rolled a condom onto Carlos’s cock and rubbed it up and down my labia a few times and finally let go, letting it sink in. He rode me slow and then hard while the table rocked dangerously and Boyfriend stood at my head, letting me tongue his cock while he played with Carlos’s tits. When Boyfriend was sure that we were having a good time, he put on a towel and slipped out the door. Carlos looked surprised. I had to figure out how to say, in Spanish “He’s going hunting,” and get him to go back to fucking me, solid body slick from oil and steam; if he kept it up, he would make me come, clutching his slippery back, legs in the air.

That was just happening when Boyfriend came back with David. He was pulling him in the door by his already stiff penis, and I suspected Boyfriend had wasted as little time getting him by the dick as he usually did. He had found David in the tub room, he announced, and he had a beautiful, long uncut cock. (Boyfriend always enunciated clearly when he said “uncut”.) David did have a beautiful cock, and he spoke English and was long and slim with startling blue eyes. It turned out he was Chicano, second generation, a senior Riverside High who spent school breaks with his grandmother in Mérida and worked at Los Baños de Vapor as a secret summer job. We found out all this about him as I was showering the sweat and oil off from my fuck with Carlos, and by the time I heard that he’d been working at the Baños since he turned sixteen, I was ready to start fucking again. David was the most quintessentiallly eighteen-year-old fuck I ever had, except Boyfriend’s presence made it unusual; he held David’s cock and balls and controlled the speed of the thrusting, until his mouth got preoccupied with Carlos’s dick. David told me, ardently, that I was beautiful, though at that point I didn’t care if I was beautiful or not, since I was finally in a bathhouse doing what I’d always wanted to do and I felt more like a faggot than a beautiful gringa. But David was saying he wished he had a girlfriend like me, even though I was thirty, shockingly old – this actually was what almost all of Boyfriend’s conquests said to me, though I suspected not every man could keep up with a girlfriend who was really a faggot, or a boyfriend who was really a woman, or whatever kind of fabulous anomaly I was.

Then someone knocked on the door and we untangled for a minute to answer it, and there were José and Gaspar, laughing and saying we were the most popular room in the Baños at the moment and would we like some more company? At least that’s how David translated the torrent of Spanish, for they were both speaking at once. Naturally we invited them in, and lo and behold, Gaspar was actually gay, and so while I lay sideways on the massage table with my head off the edge and my legs in the air so I could suck David while José fucked me, I could watch Boyfriend finally getting his cock sucked by Gaspar, whose black, glittering Mayan eyes closed in concentration, and I howled with not simply orgasm but the excitement, the splendid excitement of being in Mexico in a bathhouse with four uncut men and a maniac, a place no woman I knew had gone before. Steam swirled in the saturated air like superheated fog, beading like pearls in the web of a huge Yucatan spider in the corner; David’s cock, or was it José’s or Carlos’s again, I didn’t care, pounded my fully opened cunt rhythmically and I wished I had her view.

You know if you have ever been to a bathhouse that time stands still in the steamy, throbbing air, and so I had no idea how long it went on, only that sometimes I was on my back and sometimes on my knees, and once for a minute I was standing facing the wall, and when Boyfriend wasn’t sucking them or fucking me, he was taking snapshots of us, just like a tourist. The floor of the room was completely littered with condoms, which made us all laugh hysterically. Rubber-kneed, Gasper and David held me up with Carlos and José flanking them so Boyfriend could snap one last picture. Then he divided all the rest of the condoms among them – we had more at the hotel, I think that week we went through ten dozen – and got out his brochures. He was trying to explain in Spanish the little condoms he used for giving head – how great they were to use with uncut guys ’cause they disappeared under the foreskin – and I was asking David what it was like to live a double life, Riverside High to Los Baños, and who else came there – “Oh, everybody does,” he said – and did they ever want to fuck him – of course they wanted to – and did he ever fuck them well, sure – and how was that? He shrugged and said, as if there were only one possible response to my question, “It’s fucking.

When we left, the moon was high, the Baños deserted, the warm night air almost cool after the steamy room. The place looked like a courtyard motel, the kind I used to stay in with my parents when we traveled in the early sixties, but overgrown and haunted. The Pan figure glittered in the low lobby light, and the man at the desk charged us $35 – seven for each massage boy, four each to get in, and six for the room. Hundreds of thousands of pesos – he looked anxious, as though he feared we’d think it was too much. We paid him, laughing. I wondered if this was how a Japanese businessman in Thailand felt. Was I contributing to the imperialist decline of the third world? Boyfriend didn’t give a shit about things like that, so I didn’t mention it. In my hand was a crumpled note from David: “Can I come visit you in your hotel room? No money.”

ALMOST TRANSPARENT BLUE by Ryu Murakami

Translated by Nancy Andrew

IN THE MIDDLE of Oscar’s room, nearly a fistful of hashish smoldered in an incense burner, and like it or not, the spreading smoke entered one’s chest with every breath. In less than thirty seconds I was completely stoned. I felt as if my insides were oozing out through every pore, and other people’s sweat and breath were flowing in.

Especially the lower half of my body felt heavy and sore, as if sunk into thick mud, and my mouth itched to hold somebody’s prick and drain it. While we ate the fruit piled on plates and drank wine, the whole room was raped by heat. I wanted my skin peeled off. I wanted to take in the greased, shiny bodies of the black men and rock them inside of me. Cherry cheesecake, grapes in black hands, steaming boiled crab legs breaking with a snap, clear sweet pale purple American wine, pickles like dead men’s wart-covered fingers, bacon sandwiches like the mouths of women, salad dripping pink mayonnaise.

Bob’s huge cock was stuffed all the way into Kei’s mouth.

Ah’m jes’ gonna see who’s got the biggest. She crawled around on the rug like a dog and did the same for everyone.

Discovering that the largest belonged to a half-Japanese named Saburō, she took a cosmos flower from an empty vermouth bottle and stuck it in as a trophy.

Hey, Ryū, his is twice the size of the one ya got.

Saburō raised his head and let out an Indian yell, then Kei seized the cosmos flower between her teeth and pulled it out, jumped on the table, and shook her hips, like a Spanish dancer. Flashing blue strobe lights circled the ceiling. The music was a luxuriant samba by Luiz Bon Fa. Kei shook her body violently, hot after seeing the wetness on the flower.

Somebody do it to me, do it to me quick, Kei yelled in English, and I don’t know how many black arms reached out to throw her on the sofa and tear off her slip, the little pieces of black translucent cloth fluttering to the floor. Hey, just like butterflies, said Reiko, taking a piece of the cloth and spreading butter on Durham’s prick. After Bob yelled and thrust his hand into Kei’s crotch, the room filled with shrieks and shrill laughter.

Looking around the room, watching the twisting bodies of the three Japanese girls, I drank peppermint wine and munched crackers spread with honey.

The penises of the black men were so long they looked slender. Even fully erect, Durham’s bent fairly far as Reiko twisted it. His legs trembled and he shot off suddenly, and everyone laughed at the sight of his come wetting the middle of Reiko’s face. Reiko laughed too and blinked, but as she looked around for some tissue paper to wipe her face, Saburō easily picked her up. He pulled her legs open, just as if he were helping a little girl to piss, and lifted her onto his belly. His huge left hand gripping her head and his right pinning her ankles together, he held her so that all her weight hung on his cock. Reiko yelled, That hurts, and struck out with her hands, trying to pull away, but she couldn’t grab on to anything.

Her face was getting pale.

Saburō, moving and spreading his legs to get more friction on his cock, leaned back against the sofa until he was lying almost flat and began to rotate Reiko’s body, using her butt as a pivot.

On the first turn her entire body convulsed and she panicked. Her eyes bulging and her hands over her ears, she began to shriek like the heroine of a horror movie.

Saburō’s laugh was like an African war cry, as Reiko twisted her face and clawed at her chest. Squeal some more, he said in Japanese, and began to turn her body faster. Oscar, who’d been sucking Moko’s tits, Durham, who’d placed a cold towel on his wilted prick, Jackson, who wasn’t naked yet, Bob on top of Kei – all gazed at the revolving Reiko. God! Outasight! said Bob and Durham, and went over to help turn her around. Bob took her feet and Durham her head; both pressing hard on her butt, they began to spin her faster. Laughing, showing his white teeth, Saburō then put both hands behind his head and arched his body to drive his cock in even deeper. Reiko suddenly burst into loud sobs. She bit her own fingers and tore at her hair, because of the spinning her tears flew outward without reaching her cheeks. We laughed harder than ever. Kei waved a piece of bacon and drank wine, Moko buried her red fingernails in the huge butt of wiry-haired Oscar. Reiko’s toes were stretched back and quivering. Her cunt, rubbed hard, gaped red and shone with mucus. Saburō took deep breaths and slowed down the spinning, moving her in time with Luiz Bonfa’s singing of “Black Orpheus”. I turned down the volume and sang along. Laughing all the time, Kei licked my toes while lying on her stomach on the rug. Reiko kept on crying, Durham’s semen dried on her face. With bloody tooth marks on his fingers, sometimes growling like a lion from the pit of his stomach – Oh-h, I’m gonna bust, get this cunt off me, Saburō said in Japanese and thrust Reiko aside. Get away from me, pig! he yelled. Reiko grabbed at his legs as she fell forward; his come shot straight up and splattered and sprayed on her back and buttocks. Reiko’s belly quivered and some urine leaked out. Kei – she’d been smearing her own tits with honey – hurriedly slid some newspaper under Reiko.

That’s jes’ awful, she said, slapped Reiko’s butt and laughed shrilly. Moving about the room, twisting our bodies, we took into ourselves the tongues and fingers and pricks of whoever we wanted.

I wonder where I am, I kept thinking. I put some of the grapes scattered on the table in my mouth. As I skinned them with my tongue and spat the seeds into a plate, my hand felt a cunt; when I looked up, Kei was standing there with her legs apart, grinning at me. Jackson stood up dazedly and stripped off his uniform. Grinding out the slim menthol cigarette he’d been smoking, he turned toward Moko, who was rocking away on top of Oscar. Dribbling a sweet-smelling fluid from a little brown bottle on Moko’s butt, Jackson called, Hey, Ryū, bring me that white tube in my shirt pocket, OK? Her hands held tightly by Oscar, her bottom smeared with the cream, Moko let out a shriek: That’s co-old! Jackson grasped and raised her buttocks, got his cock – also thickly coated with the cream – into position and began thrusting. Moko hunched over and screeched.

Kei looked up and came over, saying, That looks kind of fun.

Moko was crying. Kei grabbed her hair and peered into her face. Ah’ll put some nice mentholatum on ya afterwards, Moko. Kei tongue-kissed with Oscar and laughed loudly again. With a pocket camera, I took a close-up of Moko’s distorted face. Her nose was twitching like a long-distance runner making a last spurt. Reiko finally opened her eyes. Perhaps realizing that she was all sticky, she started for the shower. Her mouth was open, her eyes vacant, she tripped again and again and fell. When I put my hands on her shoulders to lift her up, she brought her face close to mine. Oh, Ryū, save me, she said. An old smell came from her body. I dashed to the toilet and threw up. As Reiko sat on the tiles getting drenched by the shower, I couldn’t tell which way her reddened eyes were looking.

Reiko, ya big dummy, ya’ll jes’ drown. Kei shut off the shower, thrust her hand in Reiko’s crotch, then squealed with laughter to see Reiko jump up in panic. Oh, it’s Kei. Reiko hugged her and kissed her on the lips. Kei beckoned to me as I sat on the toilet. Hey Ryū, that cold feels good, right? Since I was cold outside, I felt hotter inside. Hey, ya got a cute one. She took it in her mouth as Reiko pulled back my wet hair, sought out my tongue like a baby seeking the breast, and sucked hard. Kei braced her hands against the wall and thrust out her butt, then buried me in her hole, washed free of mucus by the shower and dried. Bob, his hands dripping sweat, came into the shower. There’re not enough chicks, Ryū, you bastard, taking two of them.

Swatting my cheek, he roughly dragged us, dripping, just as we were, into the next room and threw us on the floor. My prick, still tight inside Kei, twisted as we fell. I groaned. Reiko was tossed like a rugby pass up on the bed and Bob leaped on top of her. She struggled, raving, but she was pinned down by Saburō and a chunk of cheesecake was crammed into her mouth, choking her. The record music changed to Osibisa. Moko wiped her butt, her face twitching. There were traces of blood on the paper. She showed them to Jackson and muttered, That’s awful. Hey Reiko, that cheesecake’s good, huh? Kei asked, lying on her stomach on the table. Reiko answered, Something’s thrashing around in my stomach, like I’d swallowed a live fish or something. I got up on the bed to take her picture, but Bob bared his teeth and pushed me off. Rolling to the floor I bumped into Moko. Ryū, I hate that guy, I’ve had it, he’s a fag, right? Moko was on top of Oscar, who rocked her while he gnawed a piece of chicken. She started to cry.

Moko, you’re OK? It doesn’t hurt? I asked. Oh, I don’t know anymore, Ryū, I just don’t know.

She was rocked in time with the Osibisa record. Kei sat on Jackson’s knee, sipping wine, talking about something. After rubbing her body with a piece of bacon, Jackson sprinkled on vanilla extract. A hoarse voice yelled Oh baby. A lot of stuff had ended up on the red rug. Underwear and cigarette ashes, scraps of bread and lettuce and tomato, different kinds of hair, blood-smeared paper, tumblers and bottles, grape skins, matches, dusty cherries – Moko staggered to her feet. Her hand on her ass, she said, I’m famished, and walked to the table. Jackson leaned over to apply a band-aid and a kiss.

Pressing her chin on the table, breathing hard, Moko attacked a crab like a starving child. Then one of the blacks stuck his shaft in front of her, and she took that in her mouth too. Stroking it with her tongue, she pushed it aside and turned again to the crab. The red shell crunched between her teeth, she pulled out the white meat with her hands. Piling it with pink mayonnaise from a plate, she put it on her tongue, the mayonnaise dribbling onto her chest. The odor of crab flowed through the room. On the bed, Reiko was still howling. Durham pushed up into Moko from behind. Her butt jiggled, she held onto the crab, her face twisted, she tried to drink some wine but with the rocking of her body it went into her nose and she choked, tears in her eyes. Seeing that, Kei laughed loudly. James Brown began to sing. Reiko crawled to the table, drained a glass of peppermint wine and said loudly, That tastes good.

“Haven’t I told you over and over not to get in too deep with that Jackson, the MP’s are watching him, he’s going to get caught one of these days,” Lilly said as she snapped off the TV picture of a young man singing.

Oscar had said, OK, let’s finish up, and opened the veranda doors. A piercing cold wind blew in, a fresh wind, which I could still feel.

But while everyone was still lying around naked, Bob’s woman Tami had come in and gotten into a bad fight with Kei, who’d tried to stop her from hitting Bob. Tami’s brother was a big gangster, and since she’d wanted to run and tell him, there was nothing I could do but bring her along here to Lilly’s place. I’d heard Lilly was a friend of hers, she’d talk her around. Until just a few minutes ago, Tami had been sitting over there on the sofa, howling, I’ll kill them! Her side had been raked by Kei’s nails.

“So don’t I always say you better not bring in punks who don’t know anything about this Yokota territory? What would you have done without me, huh? You wouldn’t have got off easy, Ryū, Tami’s brother is real bad.”

She drank a swallow from a glass of Coca-cola with a lemon slice floating in it, then passed it over to me. She brushed her hair and changed into a black negligee. Still seeming angry, she brushed her teeth and shot up on Philopon in the kitchen with the toothbrush still in her mouth.

“Aw, come off it, Lilly, I’m sorry.”

“Oh, all right, I know you’ll just go and do the same thing tomorrow… But listen, you know, the waiter at my place, a guy from Yokosuka, is asking if I want to buy some mesc. How about it, Ryū? You want to try it, don’t you?

“How much is it, for one tab?”

“I don’t know, he just said five dollars, should I buy it?”

Even Lilly’s pubic hair was dyed to match. They don’t sell stuff to dye the hair down here in Japan, she’d told me, I had to send away for it myself, got it from Denmark.

Through the hair over my eyes, I could see the ceiling light.

“Hey, Ryū, I had a dream about you,” Lilly said, placing her hand around my neck.

“The one about me riding a horse in a park? I’ve heard that one before.” I ran my tongue along Lilly’s eyebrows, which were growing out again.

“No, another one, after the one in the park. The two of us go to the ocean, you know, a real pretty seaside. There’s this big beach, wide and sandy, nobody there except you and me. We swim and play in the sand but then on the other side of the water we can see this town. Well, it’s far away, so we shouldn’t be able to see much, but we can even make out the faces of the people living there – that’s how dreams are, right? First they’re having some kind of celebration, some kind of foreign festival. But then, after a while, a war starts in that town, with artillery going boom, boom. A real war – even though it’s so far away, we can see the soldiers and the tanks.

“So the two of us, you and me, Ryū, just watch from the beach, sort of dreamy like. And you say, Hey, wow, so that’s war, and I say Yeah, right.”

“You sure have some weird dreams, Lilly.”

The bed was damp. Some feathers sticking out of the pillow pricked the back of my neck. I pulled out a little one and stroked Lilly’s thighs with it.

The room was dimly gray. Some light stole in from the kitchen. Lilly was still asleep, her little hand, with the nail polish off, resting on my chest. Her cool breath brushed my armpit. The oval mirror hanging from the ceiling reflected our nakedness.

The night before, after we’d done it, Lilly had shot up again, humming deep in her white throat.

I just keep using more, no matter what, I’ve got to cut down pretty soon or I’ll be an addict, right? she’d said, checking the amount left.

While Lilly had been rocking her body on top of mine, I’d remembered the dream she’d told me about, and also the face of a certain woman. As I’d watched the twisting of Lilly’s slim hips…

The face of a thin woman digging a hole right next to a barbed wire entanglement around a large farm. The sun was sinking. The face of a woman bent down to thrust a shovel into the earth, beside a tub full of grapes, as a young soldier threatened her with his bayonet. The face of a woman wiping away her sweat with the back of her hand, hair hanging over her face. As I’d watched Lilly panting, the woman’s face floated through my mind.

Damp air from the kitchen.

Is it raining? I wondered. The scene outside the window was smoky, milk colored. I noticed the front door was ajar. Yesterday, since we were both drunk, we must have gone to bed without closing it. A single high-heeled shoe lay on its side on the kitchen floor. The tapering heel stuck out, and the curve of firm leather over the front was as smooth as part of a woman.

Outside, in the narrow space I could see through the open door, stood Lilly’s yellow Volkswagen. Raindrops stuck to it like goose bumps, and then the heavier ones slid down slowly, insects in winter.

People passing like shadows. A mailman in a blue uniform pushing a bicycle, several school children with book bags, a tall American with a Great Dane – all passing through the narrow space.

Lilly took a deep breath and half turned her body. She gave a low moan and the light blanket that had covered her fell to the floor. Her long hair stuck to her back in an S shape. The small of her back was sweaty.

Scattered on the floor was Lilly’s underwear from the day before. Far away and rolled up small, the garments were just like little burn marks or dyed spots on the rug.

A Japanese woman with a black shoulder bag looked around the room from the doorway. Her cap bore some company insignia, the shoulders of her navy jacket were damp – I thought she must have come to read the gas or electric meter. When her eyes got used to the dim light, she noticed me, started to speak, seemed to think better of it, and stepped outside again. She glanced back once more at me, naked and smoking a cigarette, then went off toward the right, her head cocked to one side.

Through the space outside the door, now open a little wider, passed two grade-school girls, talking, gesturing, wearing red rubber boots. A black soldier in uniform ran by, leaping over the muddy spots just like a basketball player dodging a guard to shoot.

Beyond Lilly’s car, on the other side of the street, stood a small black building. Its paint was peeling in places; “U-37” was written in orange.

Against the background of that black well, I could clearly see the fine rain falling. Over the roof were heavy clouds, looking as if someone had smeared on layer after layer of gray pigment. The sky in the narrow rectangle that was visible to me was the brightest part.

Thick clouds swollen with fever. They made the air damp, made Lilly and me sweat. That’s why the crumpled sheets were clammy.

A think black line slanted across the narrow sky.

Maybe that’s an electric wire, I thought, or a tree branch, but then it rained harder and soon I couldn’t see it anymore.

The people walking in the street hurriedly put up umbrellas and began to run.

Puddles appeared on the muddy street even as I watched and widened out in a series of ripples. Played on by the rain, a big white car moved slowly along the street, almost filling it. Inside were two foreign women, one adjusting her hairnet in the mirror, and the other, the driver, watching the road so carefully that her nose was almost pressed against the windshield. Both were heavily made up; their dry skin appeared to be caked with powder.

A girl licking an ice cream bar passed, then came back and peered in. Her soft, blonde hair was plastered to her head, and she took Lilly’s bath towel off the kitchen chair and began to wipe herself dry. She licked ice cream off her finger and sneezed. When she raised her head, she noticed me. Picking up the blanket and covering myself, I waved at her. She smiled and pointed outside. Putting my finger to my lips, I signaled her to keep quiet. Looking toward Lilly, I laid my head on my hand to show she was still sleeping. So be quiet, I gestured again, my finger to my lips, and grinned at her. The girl turned toward the outside and gestured with the hand holding the ice cream. I turned my palm upward and looked up in a pantomime of noticing the rain. The girl nodded, shaking her wet hair. Then she dashed outside and came back drenched, carrying a dripping bra that looked like one of Lilly’s.

“Lilly, hey, it’s raining, do you have washing hanging out? Get up, Lilly, it’s raining!”

Rubbing her eyes, Lilly got up, saw the girl, hid herself behind the blanket, and said, “Hey, Sherry, what are you up to?” The girl tossed the bra she was holding, yelled in English “Rainy!” and laughed as her eyes met mind.

Even when I gently peeled the band-aid off her ass, Moko didn’t open her eyes.

Reiko was rolled up in a blanket on the kitchen floor, Kei and Yoshiyama were on the bed, Kazuo was by the stereo, still holding tight to his Nikomat, Moko lay on her stomach on the carpet, hugging a pillow. There was a slight bloodstain on the band-aid I’d peeled off, the hurt place opened and closed as she breathed, reminding me of a rubber tube.

The sweat beading her back smelled just like sex juices.

When Moko opened the eye that still had false eyelashes, she grinned at me. Then she moaned when I put my hand between her buttocks and half turned her body.

You’re lucky it’s raining, rain’s good for healing, I’ll bet it doesn’t hurt much because of the rain.

Moko’s sticky crotch. I wiped it for her with soft paper, and when I stuck in a finger, her naked buttocks jiggled.

Kei opened her eyes and asked, Hey, so ya stayed over last night with that whore-lady?

Shut up, stupid, she’s not like that, I said, swatting at the little insects flying around.

Ah mean Ah don’ care, Ryū, but ya got to watch about getting a dose, like Jackson said, some of the guys around here have got it real bad, ya could rot to pieces. Kei pulled on just her panties and fixed coffee, Moko stretched out a hand and said, Hey, give me a smoke, one of those mint-flavour Sah-lem.

Moko, that’s Say-lem, not Sah-lem, Kazuo told her, getting up.

Rubbing his eyes, Yoshiyama said loudly to Kei, No milk in mine, OK? Then he turned to me – my finger still in Moko’s ass – and said, Last night when you guys were messing around upstairs, I got a straight flush, you know, really right on, a straight flush in hearts – Hey, Kazuo, you were there, you can back me up, right?

Without answering him, Kazuo said sleepily, My strobe’s gone somewhere, somebody hiding it?

Jackson said I should wear makeup again, like I’d done before. That time, I thought maybe Faye Dunaway’d come to visit, Ryū, he said.

I put on a silver negligee Saburō said he’d got from a pro stripper.

Before everybody arrived in Oscar’s room, a black man I’d never seen before came and left nearly a hundred capsules; I couldn’t tell what they were. I asked Jackson if he might have been an MP or a CID man, but Jackson laughed, shaking his head, and answered, Naw, that’s Green Eyes.

“You saw how his eyes are green? Nobody knows his real name, I heard he’d been a high school teacher but I don’t know if it’s true or not. He’s crazy, really, we don’t know where he lives or whether he has a family, just that he’s been here a lot longer than we have, seems he’s been in Japan an awful long time. Don’t he look like Charlie Mingus? Maybe he came after he’d heard something about you. He say anything to you?”

That black man had looked very uptight. I’ll give you just this much, he’d said, then rolled his eyes around the room and left as if he were making an escape.

His face hadn’t changed even when he saw Moko was naked, and when Kei asked him, How about some fun? his lips had trembled but he didn’t say anything.

“You’ll get to see the black bird sometime, too, you haven’t seen it yet, but you, you’ll be able to see the bird, you’ve got them kind of eyes, same as me.” Then he’d gripped my hand.

Oscar said not to take any of those capsules, because Green Eyes had once passed around laxatives. He told me to throw them out.

Jackson sterilized a battlefield syringe. I’m a medic, he said, so I’m a real pro at shots, right?

First they shot me up with heroin.

“Ryū, dance!” Jackson slapped my butt. When I stood up and looked in the mirror, I saw what looked like a different person, transformed by Moko’s painstaking, expert makeup technique. Saburō passed me a cigarette and an artificial rose and asked, What music? I said make it Schubert and everyone laughed.

A sweet-smelling mist floated before my eyes and my head was heavy and numb. As I slowly moved my arms and legs, I felt that my joints had been oiled, and that slippery oil flowed around inside my body. As I breathed I forgot who I was. I thought that many things gradually flowed from my body, I became a doll. The room was full of sweetish air, smoke clawed my lungs. The feeling that I was a doll became stronger and stronger. All I had to do was just move as they wanted, I was the happiest possible slave. Bob muttered Sexy, Jackson said Shut up. Oscar put out all the lights and turned an orange spot on me. Once in a while my face twisted and I felt panicky. I opened my eyes wide and shook my body. I called out, panted low, licked jam off my finger, sipped wine, pulled my hair, grinned, rolled up my eyes, spit out the words of a spell.

I yelled some lines I remembered by Jim Morrison: “When the music is over, when the music is over, put out all the lights, my brothers live at the bottom of the sea, my sister was killed, pulled up on land like a fish, her belly torn open, my sister was killed, when the music is over, put out all the lights, put out all the lights.”

Like the splendid men in Genet’s novels, I rolled saliva around in my mouth and put it on my tongue – dirty white candy. I rubbed my legs and clawed my chest my hips and my toes were sticky. Gooseflesh wrapped my body like a sudden wind and all my strength was gone.

I stroked the cheek of a black woman sitting with her knees drawn up next to Oscar. She was sweating, the toenails at the end of her long legs were painted silver.

A flabby fat white woman Saburō had brought along gazed at me, her eyes moist with desire. Jackson shot heroin into the palm of Reiko’s hand; maybe it hurt, her faced twitched. The black woman was already drunk on something. She put her hands under my armpits and made me stand up, then stood up herself and began to dance. Durham put hash in the incense burner again. The purple smoke rose and Kei crouched down to suck it in. At the smell of the black woman, clinging to me with her sweat, I almost fell. The smell was fierce, as if she were fermenting inside. She was taller than I, her hips jutted out, her arms and legs were very slender. Her teeth looked disturbingly white as she laughed and stripped. Lighter colored, pointed breasts didn’t bounce much even when she shook her body. She seized my face between her hands and thrust her tongue into my mouth. She rubbed my hips, undid the hooks of the negligee, and ran her sweaty hands over my belly. Her rough tongue licked around my gums. Her smell completely enveloped me; I felt nauseated.

Kei came crawling over and gripped my cock, saying, Do it right, Ryū, get it up. All at once spittle gushed from one corner of my mouth down to my chin and I couldn’t see anymore.

Her whole body glistening with sweat, the black woman licked my body. Gazing into my eyes, she sucked up the flesh of my thighs with her bacon-smelling tongue. Red, moist eyes. Her big mouth kept laughing and laughing.

Soon I was lying down; Moko, her hands braced on the edge of the bed, shook her butt as Saburō thrust into her. Everyone else was crawling on the floor, moving, shaking, making noises. I noticed that my heart was beating terribly slowly. As if matching its beat, the black woman squeezed my pulsing prick. It was as if only my heart and my cock were attached to each other and working, as if all my other organs had melted.

The black woman sat on top of me. At the same time her hips began to swivel at tremendous speed. She turned her face to the ceiling, let out a Tarzan yell, panted like a black javelin thrower I’d seen in an Olympic film; she braced the grayish soles of her feet on the mattress, thrust her long hands under my hips and held tight. I shouted, felt torn apart. I tried to pull away, but the black woman’s body was hard and slippery as greased steel. Pain mixed with pleasure drilled through my lower body and swirled up to my head. My toes were hot enough to melt. My shoulders began to shake, maybe I was going to start yelling. The back of my throat was blocked by something like the soup Jamaicans make with blood and grease, I wanted to spit it up. The black woman took deep breaths, felt my shaft to make sure it was deep inside her, grinned, and took a puff on a very long black cigarette.

She put the perfumed cigarette in my mouth, asked me quickly something I didn’t understand, and when I nodded she put her face to mine and sucked my saliva, then began to swivel her hips. Slippery juices streamed from her crotch, wetting my thighs and belly. The speed of her twisting slowly increased. I moaned, getting into it. As I screwed both eyes shut, emptied my head, and put my strength into my feet, keen sensations raced around my body along with my blood and concentrated in my temples. Once the sensations formed and clung to my body, they didn’t leave. The thin flesh behind my temples sizzled like skin burned by a firecracker. As I noticed this burn and the feeling became centered there, I somehow believed I had become just one huge penis. Or was I a miniature man who could crawl up inside women and pleasure them with his writhing? I tried to grip the black woman’s shoulders. Without slackening the speed of her hips, she leaned forward and bit my nipples until blood came.

Singing a song, Jackson straddled my face. Hey, baby, he said, lightly swatting my cheek. I thought his swollen asshole was like a strawberry. Sweat from his thick chest dripped onto my face, the smell strengthened the stimulus from the black woman’s hips. Hey, Ryū, you’re just a doll, you’re just our little yellow doll, we could stop winding you up and finish you off, y’know, Jackson crooned, and the black woman laughed so loudly I wanted to cover my ears. Her loud voice might have been a broken radio. She laughed without stopping the movement of her hips, and her saliva dribbled onto my belly. She tongue-kissed Jackson. Like a dying fish, my cock jumped inside her. My body seemed powder dry from her heat. Jackson thrust his hot prick into my dry mouth, a hot stone burning my tongue. As he rubbed it around my tongue, he and the black woman chanted something like a spell. It wasn’t English, I couldn’t understand it. It was like a sutra with a conga rhythm. When my cock twitched and I was almost ready to come, the black woman raised her hips, thrust her hand under my buttocks, pinched me, and jabbed a finger hard into my asshole. When she noticed the tears filling my eyes, she forced her finger in even deeper and twisted it around. There was a whitish tattoo on each of her thighs, a crude picture of a grinning Christ.

She squeezed my throbbing cock, then plunged it into her mouth until her lips almost touched my belly. She licked all around, nipped, then stroked the tip with her rough pointed tongue, just like a cat’s. Whenever I was on the verge of coming, she pulled her tongue away. Her buttocks, slippery, shiny with sweat, faced me. They seemed spread almost wide enough to tear apart. I stretched out a hand and dug my nails into one side as hard as I could. The black woman panted and slowly moved her butt from side to side. The fat white woman sat on my feet. Her blackish-red cunt hanging down from under sparse golden down reminded me of a cut-up pig’s liver. Jackson seized her huge breasts roughly and pointed to my face. Shaking the breasts that lay on her white belly, she peered into my face, touched my lips split by Jackson’s prick, and laughed Pretty in a soft voice. She took one of my legs and rubbed it against her sticky pig liver. My toes were moved around – it felt so bad I could hardly stand it – the white woman smelled just like rotten crab meat and I wanted to throw up. My throat convulsed and I nipped Jackson’s prick slightly; he yelled terribly, pulled out, and struck me hard on the cheek. The white woman laughed at my bleeding nose, Gee that’s awful; she rubbed her crotch even harder against my feet. The black woman licked up my blood. She smiled gently at me like a battlefield nurse and whispered in my ear Pretty soon we’ll have you shoot off, we’ll make you come. My right foot began to disappear into the white woman’s huge cunt. Again Jackson thrust his prick into my cut mouth. I desperately fought down my nausea. Stimulated by my slippery, bloody tongue, Jackson shot his warm wad. The sticky stuff blocked my throat. I heaved pinkish fluid, mixed with blood, and yelled to the black woman, Make me come!

WHERE THE WILD ROSES GROW by Mark Timlin

This story was inspired by a song by Nick Cave which he recorded in 1995 with Kylie Minogue. I was impressed by the tune, the lyric, and the video that accompanied it, and I felt that there could be more to the story. The title and theme of the song are used with the kind permission of the songwriter.

ON THE FIRST DAY the hot wind whipped hard across the central Australian desert and blew sand abrasively against the faded paintwork of the ancient Ford pick-up truck as it crawled across the dusty blacktop, the needle on the fuel gauge banging dangerously against the peg that showed that the petrol tank was empty.

The driver relaxed a little when he saw a signpost that told him that a town called Refuge was only a few kilometres down the highway. He lit his last cigarette and tried to remember how long it had been since he’d had human contact.

As Refuge got closer, the features of the land softened slightly and as he bumped over the narrow bridge that crossed the river that ran sluggishly beside the town he noticed red roses growing bloody and wild on its banks.

Seventeen-year-old Eliza Day was staring through the dirty, fly-blown plate glass window of the diner where she waitressed, as the truck pulled into town and stopped in front of the single pump of the small gas station that together with the diner, a general store and pub called The Moon In The Gutter made up the entire commercial area of Refuge.

God, it’s so hot, she thought as she fanned herself with a menu. When will the rain come and give us a break? And she swatted half heartedly with her hand as a sand fly buzzed around her head.

The truck was the only thing that moved in the heat and she watched as the driver climbed out of the cab. He was in his twenties, tall and thin with a slight stoop in his ragged denim shirt and jeans, over brown, high-heeled boots, and his long hair was as black as a raven’s wing. Eliza’s heart lurched at the sight of him. She wore nothing under the short cotton uniform dress that her boss insisted she wear and she could feel sweat running down from her armpits and between her breasts and staining the material until it was almost transparent. My God, she thought as she squinted through the haze at the driver’s sharply featured face. He’s gorgeous. And she blushed as she rubbed her damp thighs together and felt them grow damper still at the sight of him.

She continued watching as Jo-Jo the proprietor of the garage pumped gas into the tank, replaced the cap and took a few notes from the driver’s hand.

Don’t go, she prayed. Please don’t go.

As if he had heard her, the driver turned and surveyed the decaying township, got back into the truck, started it with a puff of smoke from the exhaust pipe and swung the vehicle across the road and parked it outside the diner.

Eliza ducked back out of sight, then went back to her place behind the counter as the driver exited the vehicle again, climbed onto the boardwalk and through the door directly in front of her.

Close up he was even more handsome than she’d thought, with a few days’ dark stubble darkening his cheeks and the most penetrating blue eyes she’d ever seen.

He looked round the empty tables and seats then at Eliza before he walked across the gritty lino floor and took a seat at the counter. “Hi,” he said, pulling some notes and coins from the breast pocket of his shirt. “I think I’ve just got the price of a burger, beer and a pack of Marlboro’s.”

She smiled shyly at him, ignoring the cash in his hand. “How do you want your burger done?” she asked.

“Bloody,” he replied, as he watched her take the top off a bottle of beer, freezing from the chiller.

She felt his eyes still on her as she turned and called the order through the hatch to the kitchen at the back.

“What’s your name?” he asked when she turned back.

“Eliza. Eliza Day.” She smiled again and stared into his eyes.

He smiled back and shook his head. “No,” he said. “You’re the Wild Rose and you are the one.”

“That’s what people call me around here. The Wild Rose. How did you know?”

“I didn’t. It just seemed to fit you.”

“And I’m the one for what?” she asked, although she thought that she already knew.

“You’ll find out,” he replied, smiled again and sipped at his beer.

“What’s your name?” she asked.

“Just someone,” he said. “Someone passing through.”

“But I must call you something.”

“Must you?”

“Yes.”

“Then call me Joe. That fits me as good as anything.”

“OK, Joe. Where are you heading for?”

“Nowhere,” he said. “Nowhere special, I might hang around for a bit.”

Oh good, she thought. “Where will you stay?” she asked.

He shrugged.

“They have rooms at the pub,” she said.

“No money,” he said. “I’ll camp out in the truck. I’m used to that. Where do you live?”

“I’ve got a room at the back here,” she replied. “It’s not much, but it goes with the job.”

At that moment, Sonny, the chef, owner and proprietor of the diner, and by definition, Eliza’s boss, shoved the hamburger through the hatch and she placed it in front of Joe, who took a bite, then almost delicately wiped the bloody gravy that dripped down his chin off with a napkin.

“That’s good,” he said, washing the mouthful down with beer. “What time do you finish?”

“Seven.”

“Can I see you later?”

“Maybe.”

“I’ll call for you at eight,” he said.

She hardly had time to think before she nodded. “OK,” she said.

After he’d finished his meal he went back to the truck and drove through the tiny town back to the bridge that ran over the sluggish river. He pulled off the road to the riverbank where the breeze was slightly cooler and the wild roses grew in profusion, their petals the same scarlet as Eliza Day’s lips.

He sat in the bed of the truck on top of the old mattress where he slept when no other accommodation was available, lit a cigarette and dozed in the shade of the cab until it was time to meet the young girl.

Eliza was more excited than she could ever remember as she got ready for her visitor. After work she hurried to her room, stripped off her damp uniform and stood naked for a moment in front of the mildew stained mirror in the door of the old wardrobe that made up a quarter of the furniture in the room that Sonny allowed her to stay in for nothing as part of her meagre wages. Sonny was all right. Unlike most of the other men who passed through the town he didn’t undress her with his eyes, and although at first she’d feared it, he never came knocking at the dead of night to try and force his favours on her. When the diner closed at seven, he just exchanged his dirty white jacket for a leather one, and drove his ancient Holden back to Mrs Sonny, who waited on the small holding they owned with their two children.

Joe hadn’t undressed her with his eyes either, although she wished that he had.

She was happy with the sight of her slim, tanned body with only two white stripes where the bikini she wore covered her breasts and sex, and she tossed the long blonde hair that fell into a tangle around her shoulders off her face and stuck out her tongue at her own reflection, before she went to the little chest next to the wardrobe and carefully chose her underwear. White lace bra and panties, very brief, and she blushed again as she caught a second look of herself in the mirror as she opened the wardrobe door to choose a dress. I wonder, she thought. He said I was the one, I wonder if he’ll be the one.

For Eliza was a virgin. Unlike her school friends from the town and surrounding area, Eliza had refused to surrender her innocence to the first farm boy who asked for it. She was more choosy. She was waiting for the right one, and perhaps Joe would be it.

At eight precisely there was a knock on the door of her room. It opened directly onto the car park at the rear of the diner. Joe was standing there, a single red rose in his hand when she opened it. “I thought this must be right,” he said. “And I bought you this.” He gave her a red rose and she felt the thorns bite into the skin of her fingers as she took it from him.

“Thanks,” she said. “Come in, I’m afraid it’s not much.”

“Better than what I’ve got.” And he entered the room and sat on the arm of the broken backed sofa and watched as she filled a juice bottle with water and put the rose inside.

“It’s beautiful,” she said.

“Not as beautiful as you,” he replied, and he saw her blush and he grinned. “So what do we do in a one-horse town where it looks like the horse died?” he asked.

She smiled at his words and said, “Pub or pub I’m afraid. The diner’s closed.”

“Pub it is then,” he said, and reached out his hand as he stood up, and she took it and they left the room and walked towards The Moon In The Gutter together. And the sun was setting through the haze of the evening and the clouds that sat on the edge of the horizon were like purple ribbons on a golden bedspread.

When the pub closed he took her home and kissed her gently at the door. Eliza shuddered in his embrace and she felt tears smart in her eyes which he wiped away with his thumb before he said, “What’s the matter?”

“I don’t know. I’m just happy I guess.”

“Good.”

“Do you want to come in?”

He hesitated for a moment. “No not tonight. It’s not quite right. Can I see you tomorrow?”

“Yes,” she whispered. “Yes of course.”

“Same time?”

“It’s Saturday. We close at noon. Come in the afternoon.”

“I’ll do that,” and with another kiss he vanished into the dark, and Eliza felt herself begin to ache with want for him.

On the second day Joe arrived not long after Sonny had left the car park in a cloud of dust. Joe carried another rose and when he handed it to her he said, “I’ve been picturing your face all night. My Wild Rose, I believe you are more beautiful than any woman I’ve ever seen.”

“That’s the loveliest thing anyone’s ever said to me.”

“It’s just the truth.”

“I doubt it. You’re just a flatterer.” But she smiled and added, “But don’t stop.”

“I won’t.”

“Where did you stay last night?” she asked.

“I slept down by the river where the wild roses grow so sweet and scarlet and free.”

“It sounds beautiful,” said Eliza Day.

“It was. But still not as beautiful as you.”

She blushed again. “Come in,” she said. “I got some beer from next door. It’s cold.”

“Good,” he said and walked across the floor and put the second rose into the bottle next to the first which had already started to wilt and drop in the heat.

She gave him a bottle that glistened with moisture and he twisted off the cap and drank deeply. “What do you want to do?” he asked.

“You know,” she replied boldly.

“Are you sure?” he asked.

“Of course.”

“There’ll be no turning back.”

“I know.”

He stood, took her hand and led her over to the bed. “Give me your loss and your sorrow,” he whispered.

“I will. I’ve waited forever for this. You are my first man.”

“I know I am. I was always going to be. Wait no longer,” he said and kissed her on her lips.

He was as gentle as a man could be with her, undressing her slowly on that hot afternoon, then himself and as they lay together their sweat and juice mixed pungently together and as the rose petals fell onto the table one by one, Eliza cried out and looked through the window and saw the thunderheads gathering on the horizon, thick and black like flowers piled on a grave and illuminated by the occasional flash of sheet lightning.

They stayed together until almost dawn, making love, and for Eliza it was the best night of her life.

Then as the sun began to rise Joe left her with a kiss.

“Come visit me later,” he whispered. “I’m parked down by the bridge.”

“Stay,” she begged.

“No. Come later. It’s Sunday. I need to pray.”

“What time?”

“Do you work today?”

She shook her head.

“Give me a couple of hours,” he said, and slipped through the door and she was alone.

She could barely contain her impatience, but waited until almost midday before walking down towards the river. She saw the pickup from the bridge and ran down towards it. The truck was empty and she looked around in confusion until she heard Joe’s voice from the middle of the tangles of thorny wild roses. “This way,” he said. “Be careful. Those thorns are sharp.”

She pushed aside the ropes of bramble and found Joe sitting by the water’s edge. “You came,” he said.

“Of course.”

“Sit beside me.”

She did his bidding and they held hands.

“I’ll be moving on soon,” he said.

“No.”

“I must.”

“Let me come with you.”

He shook his head sadly.

“Please.”

“You wouldn’t like the places I go,” he said. “They’re not for people like you.”

She thought with the innocence of her youth that she could bind him to her with love and she kissed him on the mouth. He responded as she knew he would and soon they were naked with only the sound of the hot breeze in the rose bushes and the trickle of the river to remind them where they were. Eliza lay on her back and watched as the thick clouds that had been gathering all night and that morning finally shrouded the sun and the wind picked up and shook the rose vines so that the petals fell around them like red snow.

When they made love he knelt above her and said, “The roses are dying,” and picked one from its stem and carefully put it between her teeth and a thorn pierced the skin and one perfect pearl of blood stood out on her lip, and she saw the terrible sadness in his blue eyes as he whispered the words. “As all beauty must die.” And the last thing she saw was the rock that he had in his hand before he brought it down on her face and the last thing she felt was the rain that came at last and washed the blood from her eyes like the tears she’d cried all her life.

NICOLE by William T. Vollmann

THE NEXT THING Jimmy knew, he was on the street and it was dark and he was whore-hunting. He saw women dancing on the sidewalk; he was sure that they offered both acute and obtuse triangles; but they would not go to his hotel and he did not want to go to theirs because he did not like to feel trapped at the same time that he felt dizzy. – How fine the moonlight was, though! It made him retch. – He saw a whore leaning against the side of a reflective building, waggling her skinny knees although her high heels and her butt did not move and her head was cocked against her shoulder so that she could watch men out of the corner of her stupid little eyes. She said doll you want a date? and Jimmy said thank you for the offer but tell you the truth I’m looking for my friend Gloria you know the one with the big tits? – Oh that’s just an excuse! sneered the whore, at which Jimmy cocked his head very wisely and said I never excuse myself except when I burp. Do you ever burp? Gloria doesn’t. – Oh Christ, said the whore, who was as slender and unwholesome looking as a snake, and she stalked around the corner, heels clacking angrily. – Next he had several offers from a pimp who said he knew Jimmy would be satisfied, so Jimmy looked as dumb as he could and said wow pal sounds like a good one and you’ll never believe this but I left all my money back at my hotel. – Don’tcha even have twenty on ya? said the pimp. – Jimmy said don’t I wish but God’s truth is I got one hundred two hundred dollars back home in fact I got lots of money in fact I think I may even be a millionaire, so bring her by pal I only live two hours away from here what do you say? – When the pimp heard that, he didn’t even bother to answer. He crossed the street, shaking his head, and Jimmy stood leaning up against a wall and laughing inside himself with snotty little gurgles like a bottle of Scotch pouring down the toilet. Finally he found a whore who would go with him. He looked around to make sure that the pimp wasn’t watching and showed her forty dollars. Her name was Nicole, and she looked rather more than young, twenty-five maybe and strung-out, but not sharp and hard like a piece of broken glass, only used up like a dirty eraser, so he figured she would be OK with her lank hair curling around her ears and her ear-rings of white plastic pearls, so he said Well come on and Nicole looked at him tiredly with her skin stretched dry and tight across her forehead and Jimmy said Nicole your blue eyeliner’s smeared you should fix it if you want to stay beautiful and Nicole rubbed her forehead and said she had a headache. He said well come on baby come with me then you can buy yourself a painkiller.

I don’t usually go to the man’s place, Nicole said. You promise you won’t hurt me?

I promise, Jimmy said. If I wanted to hurt you, he explained to her very logically, you couldn’t get away from me anyway.

That’s not true, said Nicole. I could kill you easy.

Well see, said Jimmy grandly, you have nothing to worry about. You can kill me easy, so why be nervous?

He took her up the street and she kept asking how far it was. Three more blocks, said Jimmy. The light glowed in her hair.

The first thing she asked to do was use the bathroom. He heard her shit. I suppose she must be nervous, he said to himself. Jimmy had once been a reader, so he knew how in Auschwitz or Treblinka there was a ramp leading up to the gas chambers called the Road to Heaven where all the women had to wait naked and squatting while the men were finished being gassed (they went first because they did not need to have their hair cut off for the submarine crews), and while the sheared women waited they usually emptied their bowels and the guards laughed and laughed like hooded pimps in an alley and now history repeated itself as Jimmy stood nipping on a fresh beer and waiting for Nicole to complete the preparations for her little ordeal. Well, he said to himself, I can’t help it if she’s nervous. She’s got a job to do.

Silently he said Gloria, are you still there? Gloria?

When Nicole came into the kitchen she was naked except for her red shirt. – You want a half-and-half? she said.

Sure, Jimmy said.

Will you take care of me first? she said smiling; her face glowed, she seemed so sweet like Gloria.

Sure I will, he said, what do you want me to do? (He thought she meant for him to jerk her off or otherwise affect her. He sometimes liked to fool himself.)

Will you pay me first? Nicole said patiently.

Oh fine, Jimmy said. He got the forty dollars out of his wallet and gave it to her.

Then Nicole sat down on the chair in the kitchen and took his penis in her hand and he saw how her arms were discolored everywhere with abscesses and needle tracks and he leaned forward a little so that Nicole could put his penis into her mouth and she began to suck at it smoothly, rapidly and Jimmy looked down at the top of her head and wondered if her eyes were open or closed and then he looked at the wall and watched a cockroach crawling down between the gas pipe and the sink, and he listened to the noises that her lips made sucking his penis, and he listened to the loud ticking of her cheap plastic watch. Jimmy was not thinking about anything in particular, but his penis began to get hard right away. As soon as it was entirely stiff like some dead thing, she took it out of her mouth and rolled a rubber onto it with her lined and grimy hands. – Now take your shirt off, Jimmy said. – He stepped back from her and dropped his clothes to the floor. Nicole sat wearily on the chair, rubbing her forehead. When she pulled her shirt over her head he saw that she had a cast on her left wrist. Her breasts were big and sad like owls’ eyes.

You want my coat for a pillow? said Jimmy.

Nicole shook her head.

All right then, he said, get down on the floor.

The kitchen floor was black with dirt. Nicole lay down on it and raised her legs to make her cunt so nice and tight for him, and Jimmy stood over her watching the groping of those legs, which were speckled with boils and lesions, until her left ankle came to rest on the chair that she had sat on, while the sole of her right foot had to be content with bracing itself against Jimmy’s refrigerator. Her breasts lay limp on her belly, as round as the faces of polished brass pendulums of clocks. Jimmy stood enjoying her for another moment, liking the way she looked as she lay there between the refrigerator and the wall, brown-skinned and almost pretty, with a white plastic cross between her tits.

Are you Catholic? he said.

Yes, Nicole said.

Jimmy strode around naked except for his socks, inspecting her cunt like an emperor. This was the best part. Nicole gazed up at him and pulled the lips of her slit taut and up to show him the ragged pear of pinkness inside, and her cunt-lips glistened under the kitchen lights with the brightness of metal foil. – Your pussy is just like a flower, [9] Jimmy complimented her; all the same he did not want to get his face too close to it. He got down on his knees; he leaned his weight on his arms as if he were doing pushups (for Jimmy was always a gentleman who would not hurt a woman with his weight); then he stuck his penis into her. She had told him that he was her first date of the night, but her cunt seemed to be full of something viscous like come or corn syrup. Maybe it was just the lubricant she used. Anyhow, it stank. She had great black spots on her thighs that might have been moles or more probably the subcutaneous hemorrhages of Kaposi’s syndrome as Jimmy well knew from his profoundly intellectual studies. Every time he thrust into her she grunted. He could not tell whether this was because he hurt her or because she did it to excite him and so get it over with faster. He did not feel that she hated him and her body was trying to expel him; more probably she just endured him and trusted to the frictionlessness of the corn syrup or whatever it was to protect her from being hurt by his thrusts (in direct proportion as his sensation was diminished), but the corn syrup did not much work anymore to soothe that red raw-rubbed meat between her legs, so Nicole just tried not to think about what was happening and grunted at Jimmy’s every painful thrust and bit her lips whenever he grazed an ovary. She gripped his balls tightly all the time so that the rubber wouldn’t slip; she dug her fingernails into his balls, either by mistake or to make him come. But after thirty seconds Jimmy knew that he wasn’t going to be able to come. Maybe if she’d just sucked him off he could have done it, but what with the rubber and the stuff in her cunt he couldn’t feel much. Jimmy fucked and fucked until he got bored and then told her that he was done. – Call me, he said politely. – Later his prick started to itch, and he worried about disease.

THE NEW FIANCÉE by N. T. Morley

Meredith got home from work around midnight and discovered the beautiful woman sitting in the living room. It took her a moment to register her surprise, especially given the casual comfort with which the woman sat on the couch sipping a glass of red wine. The woman, a strikingly tall and quite breathtaking ivory-skinned brunette, was very dressed up – much like Meredith herself-as if she were about to spend the night at the opera, or had just finished doing so. The woman’s dress, long and black, was slit on both sides almost up to her hips, revealing the full length of her shapely legs. The dress was also low-cut and showed that the woman had quite ample, perfect endowments. Perhaps in her midthirties, she was strikingly beautiful, her jet-black hair and pale skin accenting her rather Nordic features.

‘Hello,” Meredith said nervously.

“You must be Meredith,” said the woman, without getting up. She looked Meredith over quite blatantly, not even trying to disguise the up-and-down motion of her eyes that focused first on Meredith’s face, then slid down her body, then slowly stroked upward to rest on the single slit in Meredith’s dress – not quite as high as that in the strange woman’s dress, but more than revealing enough to show what shapely legs the girl had – then continued up to take in the slight swell of Meredith’s small but perfect bust. Meredith felt her face getting hot as the woman’s eyes lingered over her breasts, then slowly rose to meet Meredith’s gaze, fixing her with a hungry stare.

“I’ve heard a lot about you,” said the woman.

“Ah, Meredith,” said Phillip, appearing from the kitchen with a Scotch in one hand and a bottle of wine in the other. “We’ve been waiting for you.” He topped off the woman’s drink and sat down opposite her on the big white armchair, propping his feet on the coffee table quite indelicately and taking a sip of his Scotch.

“You remember me telling you about Yvanna, my ex-wife?”

Meredith gave a shiver.

“Please, Phillip, former wife. Ex-wife sounds so unfriendly.”

“We’re anything but that, my dear,” said Phillip with a lustful glance at Yvanna. He then looked at Meredith with the kind of lascivious sense of ownership he always gave her when he knew he would soon prove just how profoundly he had his new fiancée under his control.

“With our wedding date set, I figured it was time for you and Yvanna to get… acquainted.”

Again, Meredith shivered. She saw Yvanna’s eyes flickering over her once more with the immodest gaze of the heartless seducer suddenly set loose upon an ingenue, and knew immediately what was to be expected of her.

As if to assert her independence, Meredith quickly assessed Yvanna’s body, attempting to display the same kind of unrepentant randiness that the self-composed woman showed toward her. She could see the older woman’s sensuous curves, the firmness of her full breasts capped by hard nipples tenting the thin fabric of the black opera dress. Meredith let her eyes caress those perfect tits, knowing that within moments she would be called upon to touch them, kiss them, perhaps even suckle them, before being bidden to travel further into depravity and perform services foreign to her. She knew she would be expected to touch the woman lower down, between the slits of that dress and, without a doubt, underneath the dress itself. That, she could not even comprehend; her head spun at the very thought of it. It was all Meredith could do to look at the woman’s breasts and know she would soon be touching them. But those bright green eyes of hers did not linger on Yvanna’s ample tits; on the contrary, Meredith let her eyes drift upward to Yvanna’s piercing, frosty blue gaze and, unable to keep up her facade of self-confidence, whimpered softly and dropped her eyes submissively.

She could feel her nipples hardening under her dress, standing out plainly through the thin satin, as if advertising to the woman the effect she was having on her.

“That’s a very nice dress,” said Yvanna with a smile, her eyes lingering on Meredith’s chest. “I hear you’re a hostess at a chi-chi restaurant. I’m surprised they let you wear a dress like that. Much less without a bra.”

Meredith wanted very badly to cross her arms in front of her. Her arms even twitched involuntarily, as if seeking a chance to cover her embarrassment. But Meredith did not let herself hide her breasts from Yvanna’s devouring gaze. Phillip had long since forbidden her that privilege. Instead, she stood there, her nipples hardening even more under Yvanna’s stare, a quiver starting deep in her body as she nervously answered.

“Th-thank you, Ma’am. The… the owner says it helps bring the customers in.”

“The owner? Is he the one who told you it was all right to wear that dress without a bra?”

Meredith’s face grew hotter as she blushed uncontrollably.

“Yes, Ma’am, but that’s not why I wear it that way,” said Meredith. “My Master told me to wear it this way.”

“Phillip, you dog. You’re just like you always were. If anything, you’re worse. Remember when you sent me to court wearing that see-through dress?”

“I remember,” said Phillip.

“And no bra or panties at all,” Yvanna sighed. “I thought the judge was going to charge me with contempt. Luckily, he was a man of liberal tastes. Just a few moments alone in his chambers and I was back in the court’s favors.”

“You never told me that,” Phillip snapped.

“Mmmm, didn’t I?” smiled Yvanna. “Yes, it was a striking example of judicial corruption, and quite a lot of fun. Lucky for me it’s too late for you to punish me.” Turning back to Meredith, Yvanna smiled and said, “Phillip used to send me all sorts of places without panties.” She paused and smiled broadly at Meredith. “You are wearing panties, aren’t you, dear?”

“Y-yes, Ma’am,” said Meredith. “Just – just a thong.”

“A thong. Let me see, dear.”

Meredith’s eyes went to her Master, whether to check if it was all right or to beg not to do it, Phillip didn’t notice or care.

“My ex-wife and I are very close, darling. Show her your panties.”

Meredith began to lift her dress, nervously feeling the satin bunch in her grasp. She brought the dress up to her waist, revealing her minuscule white lace thong, which barely covered her pussy and showed quite clearly that it was shaved smooth. The crotch of the garment was so small that Meredith’s full pussy lips, now unaccountably swollen, squeezed around the sides, revealing the piercings Phillip had placed there.

“Come here, darling. Let me have a closer look.”

Meredith nervously walked to Yvanna’s side, and with a glance at Phillip, knew what was expected.

Meredith lifted her foot and placed her high-heeled shoe on the coffee table, leaving her legs spread.

“My, my,” Yvanna said, reaching out to stroke the moist crotch of the thong. Meredith stifled a whimper as Yvanna touched her. “Such pretty things you buy your slaves nowadays, Phillip. And such pretty jewelry.” Yvanna’s long, slender fingers slid under the crotch of the thong and teased Meredith’s pierced lips apart. Meredith gasped and let out a long, low moan as Yvanna slid two fingers into her. She struggled to remain standing, knowing that to fail to do so would bring punishment. Perhaps a spanking, or worse.

Meredith could not bear the thought of being punished in front of her Master’s ex-wife.

“She’s soaking, darling. She’s positively gushing. She’s your own little blonde tsunami. Phillip, is she more of an exhibitionist than I was? Does showing her tits off all night turn your little slave on this much?”

“I don’t know,” chuckled Phillip. “Ask her.”

Yvanna’s eyes locked with Meredith’s, and the older woman’s two fingers slid deeper in, her thumb teasing the swollen nub of Meredith’s pierced clitoris. Meredith let out a faint whine and bit her red-painted lip as she tried to stay standing.

“Does it, Meredith? Does it turn you on to show the customers your tits?”

Yvanna’s thumb pressed firmly on Meredith’s ringed clit, and Meredith bit her lip so hard that for a moment she thought she might have drawn blood.

She took a deep breath and managed to speak.

“Yes, Ma’am. It does turn me on. But that’s not why I’m wet.”

“Then why are you wet, darling?”

Meredith had had the best intentions of confessing it, knowing that no show of coyness would get her out of the evening’s expected services. But now, she found her throat closing with embarrassment. Her face turned deep red, suddenly so hot that she felt she might pass out.

Yvanna chuckled.

“I know why you’re wet, dear,” said Yvanna. “It’s because you know I’m going to fuck you. And you’ve never been with a woman before.”

Meredith whimpered as Yvanna’s fingers slid in and out of her cunt. It was the first time she’d ever been touched like that by a woman – the first time a woman had touched her there at all.

“Y-yes, Ma’am,” said Meredith breathlessly.

Yvanna’s hand came out of Meredith’s cunt, and the younger woman let go of her dress, feeling the satin snake its way down her legs as Yvanna reached up to touch her face. Taller than Meredith by six or eight inches, Yvanna found it easy to reach Meredith’s mouth with her fingers – but Meredith, well trained, still leaned down to make it easier on her. Meredith obediently parted her lips and accepted Yvanna’s slick fingers into her mouth, licking them clean. She had done it so many times – been trained to do it – that it was second nature to her. But the taste of her cunt had always come to her ripe and fresh via Phillip’s body – his fingers, his tongue, even his cock.

Never on a woman’s fingers. But Meredith licked, hungrily, the taste of her own pussy sending tingles of electricity down into her body.

Yvanna’s fingers came out of Meredith’s suckling mouth glistening with spittle.

“There’s no point in being a flirt about it, then,” said Yvanna, her voice suddenly filled with command. “Take off your dress.”

Meredith began to turn toward Phillip, but stopped when Yvanna’s harsh voice snapped, “Meredith!” Meredith turned back to Yvanna, shocked, and the brunette’s cold eyes froze Meredith to the bone.

‘You’ve been given to me,” she said. “If Phillip wants to stop me, he will. For now, you do exactly what I tell you to do. And don’t look to him for advice.”

“Y-yes, Ma’am,” Meredith whimpered.

“Now take off your dress before I take it off for you,” said Yvanna.

Meredith felt a little quiver go through her at the harsh sound in Yvanna’s voice. She had heard that same harshness many times in the voice of her Master, and it never failed to make her desperate to please him.

Meredith took her foot off the coffee table and turned more fully to face Yvanna. Her hands quivered as she reached up to the left strap of her dress and gently eased it over her shoulder. So insubstantial was the dress that one side of it immediately fell away, revealing Meredith’s bare left breast with its firm, pink nipple plainly erect from arousal. Hesitating only slightly, Meredith eased the other strap off her shoulder, and the dress went sliding down to her waist, revealing both small but perfect breasts, showing by their glowing pearlescence that her Master never allowed her to sunbathe.

Meredith wriggled her hips, pushing the dress down over them. It slid down her thighs and pooled around her high-heeled shoes. Obediently, she stepped out of the dress, now naked except for her shoes and the quite-soaked thong.

“Lovely tits,” said Yvanna. “Quite a nice body in general. Do you have her work out?”

“Two hours a day,” said Phillip. “Mostly on her legs and abdomen.”

“Yes, I see that,” said Yvanna, running her hands down Meredith’s slender legs. “She must be able to fuck like a demon.” Meredith obediently leaned into her, allowing Yvanna to get a good, firm hold of the back of her thighs, where hours of Phillip’s prescribed workout had built the perfect muscles for pushing herself onto his cock – or anything he chose.

Yvanna reached up and grabbed Meredith’s bare ass with a slap, squeezing her firm buttocks tightly. Meredith could feel the pressure against her cunt, and caught her breath.

“Are you, dear?” Yvanna asked. “Are you a rollicking good lay, a fucking racehorse when there’s a cock around?”

“I-I try, Ma’am,” said Meredith nervously.

Yvanna polished off her red wine and leaned over to set the empty glass on the coffee table behind Meredith. “He always does it to you from behind, right? Never face to face.”

“Y-yes, Ma’am,” said Meredith, blushing furiously anew as she looked into Yvanna’s eyes. “Only from behind. He only takes me from behind. I -” she paused, her voice quavering. “I’ve actually never been taken the other way. Face to face, I mean.”

“Never?” smiled Yvanna. “Never in your life?”

“Never,” said Meredith, dropping her eyes.

“Show me,” said Yvanna with a smile, spinning Meredith around and pulling hard on the girl so she stumbled backward onto the sofa, legs spread and straddling Yvanna’s lap. “Show me how you fuck.”

Meredith could feel the heat coursing through her with the rough touch of her Master’s ex-wife. Much as she had been taught to do in lap-dancing for her Master’s male friends, Meredith leaned forward and ground her body rhythmically against Yvanna’s, working her hips back and forth. They moved effortlessly, the many hours of exercise having rendered Meredith a lithe and capable sexual athlete.

Meredith began to rock back and forth harder, pumping her hips in just the way her Master liked her to fuck herself onto him. She felt her pussy flooding uncontrollably in trained response to the motion, her copious juices soaking through and spilling over the tiny lace thong in an instant. Droplets of her juice dampened Yvanna’s dress. Yvanna firmly repositioned the hapless girl to face her now, and chuckled as Meredith rubbed her breasts in the older woman’s face. She reached to curve her arm around Meredith’s thigh, pulling the younger woman firmly against her. Her hand found Meredith’s cunt, plucked the laughable covering of the lace thong out of the way, and began to stroke it again, more firmly this time, rubbing Meredith’s slit and occasionally plunging two fingers inside. Now moaning openly, Meredith fucked herself onto Yvanna’s hand, pulsing eagerly toward orgasm.

“Kiss me,” said Yvanna. “Let’s see if he’s pierced that tongue of yours yet.”

Meredith felt a shiver go through her at the use of that word “yet” – her tongue had not been pierced.

“Please, dear,” said Phillip from behind Meredith. “You’re giving away all my tricks.”

“It’s all right, darling,” said Yvanna. “I’ve got a few tricks of my own. Now kiss me, Meredith, the way a woman likes it.”

She felt her nervousness growing as she leaned her elbows on the back of the sofa; how did a woman like to be kissed? Meredith herself mostly liked to be held down, hair tangled in her Master’s fingers and her face and buttocks rosy and tingling from an hour or more of firm slaps, as her mouth was forced open and savaged by the fiercely-thrusting heat of her Master’s tongue. But she suspected that most women, perhaps Yvanna included, wanted a gentler, more tender kiss, and so that was what Meredith gave her, nervously and tentatively pecking her before pressing her mouth against the older woman’s hungrily. But when her tongue slid gently into Yvanna’s mouth she felt an unexpected rush of excitement that both confused and aroused her, sending an uncontrollable wave of hunger through her cunt.

It took her a moment of deep kissing to recognize what was having such an effect on her.

Yvanna’s mouth tasted like Phillip’s cock.

The taste was overwhelming, and unmistakable; Meredith had swallowed her Master’s organ enough times to know every nuance of that rich, musky taste. But not just his cock was there; Meredith could also taste, mingled with it, the taste of his come. Her Master had come in Yvanna’s mouth.

Meredith almost pulled back, even as arousal ferociously took her over. But by that time, Phillip had come behind her, and his fingers snaked into her hair, holding her in place as Meredith’s mouth was eagerly taken by Yvanna’s thrusting tongue. Phillip held her there as his hand traveled up her thighs; hungrily, without even knowing she was doing it, Meredith pushed herself onto his hand when he touched her cunt. Two fingers slid into her easily, and Meredith began to work her hips again, this time even more eagerly than before.

She was wet. Unaccountably wet. Juice dripped down onto her Master’s fingers and rivulets of it baptized her thighs. Meredith fucked herself desperately onto her Master’s hand, even as the hot flame of jealousy exploded in her. She sucked his cock, she thought as Yvanna kissed her. She sucked my lover’s cock.

But Meredith knew she had long since abandoned any claim she might have had on Phillip’s sexual pleasures. She had given him unquestioning obedience – and he had chosen to dally with this woman. Meredith, then, would dally with her too, as she was being ordered to do.

She would make love with Yvanna, with the woman who had just been taken by her Master. She would service the woman, for her Master’s pleasure.

“Mmmmm,” cooed Yvanna when Phillip let Meredith go. “She tastes almost as good as you do. And quite an eager little kisser. I wonder if she’ll like the taste of me on your cock as much as she likes the taste of you in my mouth.”

Again, Meredith’s stomach churned as jealousy flashed through her, but she let the fear and envy drain away as she felt Yvanna’s hands touching her breasts, pinching the hard nipples, and Phillip began to finger-fuck her. Meredith’s hips worked fervently, pushing her cunt onto first two, then three of her Master’s fingers as Yvanna pulled her upper body forward and began to suckle Meredith’s tiny tits.

“She’s got me wet as a schoolgirl,” gasped Yvanna. “Do something about that, will you, Phillip? You know what a girl likes. You’ve seen to it so many times yourself; I’m sure Meredith will get the hang of it quickly.”

Meredith’s head swam as Phillip gently eased her off the couch, pushing her head between his ex-wife’s thighs as Yvanna swept the insubstantial fabric of her dress out of the way. There, fully revealed, was a smooth-shaved and unpierced pussy, glistening with juice. Clearly, Yvanna still didn’t wear panties.

Phillip’s hand, firmly holding Meredith’s hair, pushed her face between the older woman’s thighs as Yvanna slid her ass forward to the edge of the white sofa. Before Meredith even had a chance to think about it, she was licking.

She almost expected the taste that greeted her – the taste of Phillip’s pleasure, the sticky aromatic juice that told Meredith her Master had not only made love with this woman, but had done it twice - at least – and had been brought to completion by the shaved pussy that Meredith was now expected to service. And yet, when she did feel the thick jizz leaking onto her tongue, she felt another surge of jealousy – but by then, her Master’s hand was so firmly in her hair that she could not have pulled back if she had wanted to.

And she didn’t want to. Blessed with the taste of her Master’s come, even leaking out of this hussy’s cunt, Meredith eagerly began to worship, suckling at Yvanna’s clit and licking down to her tight opening. Yvanna moaned softly; when it became quite clear that Meredith was going to not grudgingly, not just willingly but enthusiastically service the older woman, Phillip released his grip on Meredith’s hair and firmly grasped her thighs. Meredith moved to open her legs, obediently, as she had been taught to do whenever her Master touched her there. But before she could even do that, Phillip had forced them open and tugged the crotch of her thong well to the side.

The distant rattle of her Master’s belt buckle sent a sudden thrill through Meredith; it made her dizzy with excitement to know that even after pleasuring himself with this woman twice, he could still get it up for her. There was only an instant for her to think about that before the thick head of her Master’s cock violated her, big enough to stretch her open painfully in the first instant of penetration even after she had been opened up first by two of Yvanna’s slender fingers and then by three of Phillip’s thick ones. But the flood of juice that met the Master’s cock as he sank into her slicked the way so amply that by the time Meredith was thrusting herself violently onto Phillip’s cock, only cascading waves of pleasure were exploding through her near-naked body. She devoured Yvanna’s cunt with newfound fervor as the older woman moaned and cried out, seizing Meredith’s head with both hands to force the girl’s eagerly suckling mouth more firmly against her shaved cunt. The feel of that possessive gesture was what finally drove Meredith over the edge into an intense orgasm, and her tongue only worked faster as ecstasy flooded through her. Her hips, too, picked up force, pounding her cunt so hard onto Phillip’s cock that he grabbed her hips and forced her to hold still while he ravaged her – ten thrusts, twenty, thirty, while Meredith continued to come, soaring high on her orgasm even as her swift tongue brought Yvanna off – and then Phillip let himself go deep inside her, inundating Meredith’s cunt with the same blessed issue that had so flavored Yvanna’s.

Whimpering hungrily, Meredith continued to lick even as Yvanna reclined on the sofa, practically hanging off of it. The older woman thrashed back and forth, moaning loudly as Meredith serviced her too-sensitive pussy. Finally, Yvanna pushed Meredith off, and the young blonde looked up panting, her mouth and chin running with the thick juices of Yvanna’s cunt and the pungent savor of Phillip’s come.

“Not bad,” said Yvanna breathlessly. “She’s taken to it quickly. Phillip, I think she’ll learn to become quite a little cunt-licker before the wedding, don’t you?”

Behind Meredith, Phillip chuckled. He leaned over his slave, pressing her into the sofa as he kissed his ex-wife tenderly.

“She’d better,” said Phillip when his lips left Yvanna’s. “You remember which wife Yvanna is, don’t you, Meredith?”

Her face cradled in Yvanna’s lap, Meredith said softly:

“Yes, Sir. She’s your fourth wife.”

“I thought we’d work backward,” said Phillip cheerfully. “Antonia’s flying in next week.”

“Mmmm,” cooed Yvanna. “She’s the one with those fantastic tits, isn’t she?”

“That’s right,” said Phillip.

Yvanna laughed lightly. “I don’t have to be back in Paris until the fifteenth. I think I’ll stay for that. Unless it’s an imposition, Phillip?”

“Not at all, my dear,” said Phillip. “Meredith, you’ll be happy to keep our guest entertained while she’s here, won’t you?”

Meredith affectionately kissed Yvanna’s ivory thigh, her blood quickening at the scent of her Master’s pleasure still wafting from deep inside.

“Yes, Sir,” she said breathlessly.

Yvanna caressed Meredith’s face and stroked her hair with her long, thin fingers.

“It’s so sweet of you to let me try out your fiancée, darling,” said Yvanna to Phillip. “She definitely passes the test.”

THE PLEASURE CHATEAU by Jeremy Reed

WHEN BETTY CAME to she was lying on leather. The black surface mouled itself to her body. Someone had sprayed her hands with gold body paint, for they became instantly visible to her as two fluorescent toads squatting on either side of her. She was lying face down, and the positional arrangement of her hands and feet was such that she couldn’t move. But there was no crudity of handcuffs or shackles. Some sort of invisible adhesive tape secured her immobility. Betty rested her head on the point of her chin. She was lying facing a blank maxi-screen. The room was lit by two flaming torches, one protruding from the mouth of a white statue, the other socketed into a kneeling marble form. The pervasive stillness was like being at the bottom of a lake. Betty imagined panthers, jaguars, pumas, slumped down beside her. Black on black.

What she recalled was the bizarre dinner table, the conspiratorial stretches of conversation that had been issued wide of her, the unnerving silence that pervaded the château – and green – the man’s lenses that had fixated her, as though she had confronted an alien with emerald VR contact lenses instead of eyes. Her mind was busy reassembling fragments of the narrative. The woman talking to her from behind the limo’s partly open window, and the other one in the moulded leather skirt, the sexual liturgies delivered by the midget and the two oriental pashas, the hints at a menagerie contained within the house. Visuals flashed across consciousness. She had found herself in this position often in the past, but always voluntarily. Dungeon bondage was one of her specialities, an elegant cigarette drooping from her cherry gloss lips as she hung suspended from a chain, a man kneeling in front of her, blowing her engorged erection. It was so close to death, and the mutual stimulus came from this recognition. Betty regarded each S amp;M trip as a pre-death initiation. She often hoped to die in an act that was as flagrantly anti-social as it was self-debasing. Violating convention by bringing its administrative bureaucrats down to their gold-plated knees for her whiphand was part of Betty’s attraction to being a prostitute. It allowed her to undermine those proponents of political correctness – politicians, bankers, accountants, lawyers – the whole glitterati of moral pretence had opened wide for enemas, or shouted obscene imprecations as the whip had established slats like a blue Venetian blind across delicate flesh.

Betty blamed herself for having ended up captive at the château. She should have considered the possible dangers in being transported out of town. She usually dictated her own reference points, and only rarely and to her detriment allowed a client this prerogative. Her neck was free, and she hadn’t been blindfolded. She could assess the sizeable dimensions of the room in which she was bound. The torches assisted her in this. They gave proportion to the dark. Betty anticipated anything. She was doubtless being watched on a closed circuit screen, and she knew at some stage the four people would impose their needs on her vulnerability. She remembered on another occasion having been whipped with pink roses – the man had gone on and on striking her oiled bottom with the generous heads, and when they snapped on their stems, he would place the flower to his lips and then float it in a large terracotta bowl of red wine. Betty wondered if they were discussing among themselves what they would do to her. It should be the preferences entertained by the implacably cool men and the aesthetically perverse women. Tyrannical pleasures of every kind had been carried out on Betty’s submissive body. She had acquiesced to bondage because she trusted in the master’s ability to modify his threats. Here the terms were potentially unconditional, as no demands had been raised. Her subjective fears were of orgiastic violation, at least of the kind that appeared to exploit her nature as a woman who possessed a penis. Betty liked the contradiction. To receive an orgasm as a diva and to impart that received pleasure to a woman, was to her a complementary unity.

Without warning the screen became animated. Betty was looking at an intimate love scene between Leanda and Nicole. She knew she would be punished for being made a voyeur to their amatory games. Leanda was down on all fours, her bottom filmed by a transparent pink triangle. Nicole’s tongue was working like a hummingbird’s across her slit. Occasionally she would pause, and apply a lipsticked pout to Leanda’s bottom. She would leave the outline of a red carnation on her cheeks, and then return to stimulating Leanda’s pussy. Nicole’s bottom was framed in identical panties. There was now someone behind Nicole, only the buttocks were male, despite the extreme delicacy of the cunnilingus being delivered. And Nicole was instantly excited. She began transmitting to Leanda something of the pleasure being imparted to her. Her bottom was rotating to the man’s tongue. He had instantly found the exact location of her excitement. The three of them continued in this chain of oral stimulus, only after a time Nicole offered Leanda’s haunches to the man, and she by lying on the floor in the opposite direction to the couple, and by inserting her head between the man’s parted legs, was able to suck his genitals in concourse with the rhythm he had struck up with Leanda. Nicole teased his balls like sweets. She pecked them tentatively, lipping them as a fish might the surface of a lake. The man had now slipped down Leanda’s pink panties, and had worked himself fully into her back passage. Leanda was impaled on his deep, slowly articulated strokes. He was enjoying it, and intent on making her wait. Nicole kept on nibbling, her legs spread wide, while a fourth androgynous partner entered the scene, and squatting in front of Nicole lifted her on to his engorged cock, establishing by that a complete quadruple geometry. This rhythm continued with each partner building towards climax. Nicole’s legs were hooked right over the kneeling man’s shoulders. As she moved convulsively towards orgasm, so her tongue manipulated the other man to thrust conclusively into Leanda. There was a slackening of the tension that had sustained the four.

The film cut dead, and the screen reverted to a blue rectangle. Betty imagined that this was a taster of things to come. The first in a series of films that would culminate in live action. She lay there staring at the blue meditative blank. It was like a bit of sky got into a dungeon. Betty imagined treating the space as a swimming pool, and diving into a blue membrane that parted fluently round her body.

Images jumped out at her again. This time the camera followed. Nicole from behind as she walked the length of one of the château’s corridors. She was dressed in a seam-splitting emerald sequined miniskirt. The thin indigo seams of her silk stockings pronounced the curve of her legs. She was walking with deliberate provocation in the direction of a recessed window guarded by a stone lion. And without warning, the two oriental girls who Betty had seen at dinner appeared, one in front and one to the rear of Nicole. They too were dressed in costumes that hinted at fetishistic ritual. Their manner was less challenging than oneiric. They looked like dream figures jumped out of Nicole’s head.

Nicole froze. Her hands dropped to her hips, and her bottom continued to rotate in full circles despite her immobility. The oriental girl positioned behind Nicole, began walking slowly towards her affecting the same stylized manner of walk. She looked like she had been stitched into royal blue silk, her red heels matching her scarlet wig. And simultaneously, the girl who had materialized by the recessed window began to move in from the opposite direction, her movements exactly synchronizing with her partner’s. They appeared to be moonwalking, their progress indefinitely delayed. There were rooms to left and right of the corridor, but Nicole made no attempt to consider the options of escape. Rather she seemed excited by the prospect of danger. The two women closed in on her, all three of them dressed as though they were models in a Herb Ritts shoot. Betty found herself triggering with anticipation. The oriental woman behind Nicole, at the risk of splitting her seamless dress, knelt down and brought her head to the height of Nicole’s bottom, and with unexpected ferocity slashed open the zip on her emerald skirt. The upper part of Nicole’s body looked like a flower escaped from its sheath. The skirt hung open in a V, and the two hands busy caressing her buttocks began slowly to manipulate the sequined fabric, looking to have it give, but finding an extreme flexibility in its tightness. The erotic thrill was in the difficulty of stripping Nicole. Meanwhile the other woman was kneeling in front of Nicole, and her hands slipping around the waist attempted to assist her partner in taking off the moulded skirt. Nicole was growing visibly more excited by the delay. She wanted to be free and unrestrained, but instead was confined to this glittering second skin. The constricted skirt would only give fraction by fraction, and Nicole made no attempt to assist her captors. But by degrees the crack of her naked bottom appeared. She was wearing nothing but a black silk suspender belt under the skirt. The combined efforts of the two women succeeded in finally forcing the skirt to the back of Nicole’s thighs, and from there to her shoes. The green scales sparkled like a tropical fish on the stone floor. The three women, with Nicole in the centre, walked hand in hand down the corridor towards the stone lion. Betty thought the place resembled a chapel. The tenebrous atmospherics were gothic. When they reached the lion, Nicole was transformed into an assertive disciplinarian. The creature held a riding crop in its stone jaws. The two women were made to strip, and bent over the lion’s body. Nicole began flicking the whip over their round bottoms. The decorations made by her work were like painting. Red stripes began to appear alternately on their buttocks. A series of horizontal cuts that followed the curve of the flesh. Nicole appeared excited by the correction she was administering. She would stand back admiringly, her left hand straying across her own bottom as though empathizing with the severity of her discipline. Neither of the girls was bound, and neither made any attempt to elude their voluntary punishment. Rather one, or both of them appeared to be ascending the scale towards orgasm. Their breathing grew heavier, there was a spasmic thrust from the pelvis which commented on pleasure. And as climax was anticipated, so Nicole increased the ferocity of the whipping. A throaty howl, pitched to a note of ultimate pleasure was wrung out of the throat of first one girl, and then the other. And pleasure attained, they crumpled, subsided to their knees, backs still facing the camera. Nicole stood over them, the perfect locket-shaped proportions of her bottom accented by her green spike heels. She returned the whip to the lion’s jaws, knelt down, and began kissing the buttocks she had ravaged.

At this point, the heavy reverberation of a door being open and shut announced Leanda’s entry into the film. She too was seen from behind. She was carrying a large black wooden heart in her arms. She was dressed in nothing but minimal see-through blue panties. She walked on high matching heels. The corridor was now strewn with big yellow chrysanthemums. Leanda was seen walking through that yellow ruckus. She held the black heart out in front of her, and there were diamante sprays in her hair. She walked towards the recessed window, a leopard padding behind her, the big cat evidently trained to obey her instructions. Betty froze. Her heart turned over at the prospect of a leopard inhabiting the château’s corridors, and perhaps being admitted to the dungeon. The rehearsed elegance of the film surrogatized the pointers towards implicit danger.

Betty was fixated as the leopard switched sides. It went over to Leanda’s left as though informed by some subliminal message. Leanda’s journey from one end of the corridor to the other seemed to occupy a lifetime. It was a passage through the underworld. Betty watched as the leopard waited obediently for Leanda’s instructions. Leanda stood off at a short distance from Nicole, whose tongue had shifted to one of the woman’s toes. With her bottom resting on her heels, the sensitive underside to her feet had become charged as erogenous zones. Nicole was finding those places where the nerve impulses came alive. She did this by following the other woman’s finger, for she outlined on her right foot the map that should be pursued by Nicole’s tongue. Leanda stood there imperiously surveying the kneeling triptych. The leopard remained sitting upright at her side. At a sudden command from Leanda, the big cat stepped forward and ran its tongue the length of Nicole’s spine. The latter evinced no disquiet at the proceedings and continued to excite the oriental girl through pressure on her foot. At another command from Leanda, the big cat altered its strategy, and began caressing Nicole’s bottom with its tongue. The film cut at this image, and Betty was left to reflect on the surreal juxtaposition of Nicole receiving oral stimulus from a leopard.

The screen returned to a blue rectangle. Silence packed the leather dungeon. Betty kept killing the impulse to panic. The atmospherics works into her until she felt her mind had interiorized the place in which she was captive. She was trapped in a cell within a cell. She hallucinated orgiastic excesses. There were penises in every orifice. Her lips, her ears, her bottom. She was lying on a red velvet cloth thrown over a grave sunk into the flagstones. Her masochistic convulsions were too much for her perpetrators. She objected to nothing. Debasement couldn’t touch her. She defused sexual frenzy by her inability to be shocked. And in between fantasies, she was preparing herself for her captors. She knew a door would open at some stage, and the staccato tap of spike heels articulate a direct line towards her. Would she be blindfolded and handcuffed, her neck placed in a collar? Her mind backtracked to events in the past when she had been exploited. It happened rarely, as Betty’s job was about attaining the upper hand, and when it did, the resulting imbalance had her reassess her psychology. She had never quite locked the door on the man who lived in a rented room in her psyche. He was recalled in the codification of her sexual pleasure. Her universe was still phallocentric, although in every other aspect of her life, she chose to live as a woman. On the occasions when she was exploited, the man appeared. He came out of a green painted door, and stood there a long time blinking into a light to which he had grown unaccustomed. He seemed to want to remind her that he too had a part to play in her nervous impulses. He seemed to be saying, “Don’t lock me in here for ever. The door is open even if the windows are boarded up, and besides, I need to speak. I’m left too solitary. All I have is a place in your unconscious.”

And he was here again now, as she lay there waiting for release or punishment. He was dressed as she used to be, in blue jeans with a dark tailored jacket and a white button-down shirt underneath. He was holding a pair of dark glasses in one hand. He was tentative at first, and clearly suspicious of being hurt. He stared at her as though implanting his image as a reality. He wanted to be really sure she took him into account. Betty thought how it was like seeing someone standing at the end of an alley, someone you thought you knew, but nevertheless surprised by his being there. He seemed casual but assertive, bored, but wired to immediate action. Betty felt a sense of irreconcilable guilt at having neglected the person she had once been. But there was no way in which roles could be reversed. She couldn’t any longer have him assert dominance, and herself go into the dark room and live there on periodic recall. Too much had happened to allow for this regression. But he was there to give her strength. He was called Mike. She had answered to that name for her entire childhood and youth. Mike. He had run for a red ball in a park circled by cypress trees. He had built imposing sand castles, lit bonfires in October woods, run with a dog through village streets at nightfall. But at some stage his development had been terminated. He was no longer needed in the mirror. His plain clothes couldn’t compete with the girl’s skirts and tops that Betty had adopted. But at first he had been phased out slowly. He was wanted during the day – he was Mike at school – even if Betty resented it, and his place was assured at family meals. But upstairs he wasn’t required. Foundation, lipstick and eyeliner disguised his features. Male clothes were discarded for silk panties and a short skirt. Betty had luxuriated in the feminine. Mike had grown to be a satellite on occasional recall. But he was wanted whenever Betty dressed as a girl, picked up girls, and laid them with a man’s authoritative sex. His role was increasingly confined to a testosterone level.

He was standing there sad-eyed, asking Betty to listen to his psychological advice. Mike didn’t want to be violated. She could tell that. He was holding out for respect. He was saying, “Don’t let them rape us. Think of me. I don’t want to be had like a woman. Oppose these people. They have no right to invade our body. I shall come between you and them. I shall be the reproachful image which will interpose between you and pleasure.”

Betty steadied her focus on the man she had forgotten. His awkwardness and sense of rejection were becoming less pronounced now that she gave him the space to claim a partial identity. He kept coming at her from a past given autonomy by the present. This time he was reading by the seawall in the white room. The book was opened and partly screened his face. A girl in a minimal red bikini bottom was sunning three towels away. She was listening to a Walkman. It was a beach scene from Betty’s youth. That day, that hot moment, were freeze-framed into her mind as she waited in agonized suspense for her captors. Mike wasn’t reproachful of having been denied a life. He was just there offering her his psychological support.

Without warning the screen came to life. Betty found herself facing the dungeon in which she lay, only the film had been shot with more accentuated light. A teenage girl, dressed in a black beret, a black micro-skirt and sheer tights was sitting legs arched on the leather floor. The master of ceremonies was sitting opposite her, silently reading a large book. Betty recognized the man as the one at dinner who Nicole had called John, his steel-blue hair and aesthetically delineated cheekbones drawing attention to the idiosyncratic manner in which he buried his smile behind pursed lips. This man was closed to every form of overt emotional expression. Some intrinsic editing process cancelled out all spontaneous responses. He was deeply absorbed in reading. The schoolgirl placed her thumb in her lipsticked mouth, extracted it, and began tickling herself under her skirt. Her eyes bumped up big and black. When the voice track cut in, the man was heard instructing her in the erotic arts. “The width of a woman’s shoe should be directly proportionate to that of a man’s penis. The one should fit the other like a glove. Place it.” Betty watched as the young girl slipped off a precocious stiletto, lifted the man’s erection from the folds of a silk tunic, and neatly inserted it into a pointed red shoe. With considerable dexterity she also accommodated the scrotum to the heel part. “Now blow on it, nothing more,” his voice commanded. The young girl lifted his genitals in the red stiletto and began to blow rhythmically on the sensitive glans. Disdaining to show any sense of pleasure, the man continued to read. Clearly thinking in stereo, and restraining sensory impulse for mental concentration, he continued to read. “In the course of giving head, a woman should reapply her lipstick three times, the tone dramatically reddening as climax is neared. The rhythm should be slow and investigative. The culinary etiquette of eating asparagus being one example, rolling a soft chocolate on the tongue being another, practising on Japanese toes being recommended, so too the application of lips to a red carnation. The student should begin by applying a thin coat of honey to the frenulum, and using tension points as mouthstops. Proceed.”

Betty found herself transfixed as the young girl produced a lip brush and a pot of honey, and extracting the man’s erect penis from the shoes began to coat the skin with a fine lacquering of amber honey. She applied herself with the meticulous diligence of a make-up artist. She pulled her head back and examined her work. For good measure she tinctured honey into the slit, took out a scarlet lipstick and satisfied that it was exactly the right tone, began delicately to apply her mouth to the engorged cock. Savouring the honey, her tongue flicked between her lips like a snake’s. The man registered no appreciation of her oral expertise. The girl began assiduously to work up from the base to the head in dabbing flicks, and then increasing her tempo proceeded to flatten her tongue more firmly into the skin. She applied the pressure necessary to give a love bite to the triggering head. The man continued to consult the book while the girl experimented with various rhythms. There was no least sense of synchronicity in their actions. The girl stopped at this point, checked her lipstick and applied another layer of scarlet gloss. She now took the penis into her lips, resting the shaft on her nether lip and working at it with the upper. Little by little she took it into her mouth, demonstrating the tongue rolling a soft chocolate method, her green eyes looking up at the man’s expressionless ones. He showed no vestige of pleasure at the girl’s alacritous versatility. He continued to read impassively. The girl now began to feed on his cock. She took it in like a rigid mauve banana. Her movements were vigorous, she was going down on it and taking it deep into her throat. It was like she had discovered a favourite flavour and was anxious to know it to the full. After a time of working at this committed speed, she stopped for a pause and touched up her lipstick. It was the third part of the prescribed ritual. Once again the man demonstrated no premonition of pleasure at her making up a last time to bring him to orgasm. The girl seemed instinctively to know a strategy best calculated to please. With her painted red fingernails she began tickling his balls, while her mouth was strained to an expansive oral accommodating his taut sex. There could be little doubt that the man was nearing an orgasm, despite the emotional repression he showed. And the girl sensed it too, for she took all of his cock into her mouth and increased the tantalizing motion of her fingertips. The man jolted three or four times in spasmic thrusts, and the girl held him tight inside. They remained like that for a long time, she unwilling to release him and he declining to make any comment on the climactic experience. He continued to read with the same unimpassioned note of boredom. Eventually the girl let his penis go, and the film cut out as she returned to her sitting position opposite the master of ceremonies.

Betty was left wondering what action had ensued. Did the girl masturbate to the man’s instructions? Did she ride him later on, their two bodies floating like somnambulists on a bed removed from time? Did she discover that although she was connected to his penis he was untouchably far away in another dimension? Perhaps they were living in parallel ones. Betty had known men who were never able to come. They experienced pleasure, but were unable to ejaculate. They could make love for hours but to no conclusion. She usually avoided these, for they tired her with their unappeasable frustration. She had read how Marcel Proust, when he was unable to relieve himself at the sight of a naked boy, had a cage of rats brought into the room. His thrill came from seeing the rats attack and kill each other, a perversion that Betty surmised would be sympathetically viewed at the château. Proust had a dread of direct sexual contact, and half of Betty’s clients were the same, preferring to act out elaborate fantasies than to engage in one to one sex. Microphobia. Autophobia. She just wanted to get out of this dungeon, and go back to a familiar bar by the port. But she could hear footsteps now, and the grating of hinges as a heavy door was ceremonially unlocked.

The leather floor cushioned acoustics, but Betty heard the jab of two pairs of spiked heels cross the intervening divide, and stop at the level of her feet. She couldn’t look round to see who was standing behind her, and she tensed in the uncertainty. Someone or something was licking her toes, and adrenalin shot through her circuit as she realized it might be the leopard. And if it was, the leopard might be instructed to work its way upwards to her thighs. She was still staring at a blue screen. She believed that if she projected hard enough she could travel through it. Her astral propulsion would power her like a jet. Her captors would find nothing but a hole burnt in the blue.

The asperity of a hot tongue interrogating her toes, ceased. No one came forward. Betty lay there every nerve alert, as the silence was punctuated by the rapid breathing of an animal. Then it appeared. The leopard walked along her right side on an extended lead, and sat down in front of her head. Betty was able to observe how the cat’s feet had been fitted into four high heels, the five-inch stilettos that Nicole wore with her constrictive leather skirt. The consequences were those of creating a surreal monster. It also meant that although the animal was deprived of claws, the leather heels would be equally effective instruments should the creature lash out with its paws. Betty thought she was connected with a nightmare. At any moment she would wake up and consign the incident to a dream. The leopard settled down and lay on the floor, eyes lazy with potential menace. Betty felt nothing. Fear had displaced her. She wasn’t here or anywhere. And quite suddenly there were two figures standing with their backs to her, right and left of the leopard. They were dressed in identical black leather. The curve of their figures told Betty that they were women. She imagined it was Leanda and Nicole, features disguised by masks that left holes for the eyes and mouth. Neither of the two paid any attention to her. Rather, they acknowledged the torches, and stared direct at the flame. When she looked again she could see that one of the women was performing a rite with a black dildo. She was intoning a chant, and offering the mamba to the statue. She held it to the marble lips, and Betty heard the voice engaged in a liturgical imprecation. The leopard yawned, and flexed its stiletto paws. Betty had the apprehension that the dildo was being offered up prior to its entering her. She had a vision of the two women strapping it on respectively, and violating her with the fierce pretence of being men. And where were the two men? She could hardly believe they had left the château after dinner, their long wavering headlights pushing white feelers through the country dark. Were they in a relationship, the two of them hiring a penthouse overlooking the harbours, the red and green shipping lights winking on the night waters? And did the man with emerald lenses change them to violet or orange? Betty’s suppositions were conjectural. She had lived for so long amongst people who were of indeterminate or exchangeable gender, that she took no-one’s sex at face value. She knew only the odd and the extreme. Men who dressed up as women for sex, were to her the norm. And she had been had in the past by women who strapped on dildos with the intention of entering her as men. She knew a client who kept a cupboard full of interesting shapes, colours and sizes. Some of them were personally made for her. There were green, blue, mauve, silver and gold artificial phalli which for her extended the vocabulary of sexual possibilities. How many women or men had been made love to by a gold penis on which was drawn the eye of Horus? And for purposes of pure decoration, the woman had dildos encrusted with jewels, metallic or velvet phalli which instead of flowers she placed in a vase beside her bed. That room came back to her now. The woman pleased that she wasn’t a real man, for the ritual surrounding the wearing of a dildo thrilled her. So too did the making out of instructions for the craftsman who delivered her specifications in a series of satin shoeboxes.

Having offered the mamba up as part of a weird ritual, the leather figure kissed it, and returned to her standing position facing the statue. Betty kept blanking out by closing her eyes, in order to avoid the leopard. The creature remained slack, but tensely alert. It was like a tuned guitar, waiting to be played. The two figures continued to stand with their backs to her and then one of them, without warning, spoke. “You will be released at dawn, and driven back to the city tomorrow tonight. You will never know this place again, nor will you remember whe