It’s not cheating if I don’t have sex with them, that’s what I tried telling Beth. But she left me anyway. Twenty-six years of marriage, two kids and an upside down mortgage because we used the house to pay for Paul and Emma’s college, and she’s gone. She says she won’t put up with a man she can’t trust. Then she had the nerve to call me a pervert.
I told her she’s the one that hired the private detective, so she’s the one that can’t be trusted.
And who’s calling who a pervert? I reminded her of the stuff she likes to do in bed, that sexy talk when she gets hot and the thing with her tongue. But I didn’t go crazy and pack my bags and threaten to tell the kids or her boss, did I? I respect her privacy.
“That’s different,” she says. “And you know it’s different. That’s why you tried keeping it secret.”
We all have our secrets, I told her. We keep some things to ourselves because we’re afraid other people won’t understand. Well, Beth sure as hell proved me right.
She’s mad, she said, because I was spending our money. She spent our money getting her hair done and her nails, even her toes. You think I care what her toes look like? But I never complained. Why can’t I spend some money on myself? I earned it just like she did. I don’t drink and I hardly ever eat lunch with the guys at work because I save my money for my little treat.
Once a month–and sometimes not even that often–I put an ad in a local adult newspaper and within a day or two I get a response. I rent a hotel room and we have some fun. No sex. I don’t even ask them to take off their clothes, and I leave my pants on.
But this private detective she hired found the ad and showed it to her. All hell broke loose for no damn good reason. She cried and asked why I don’t find her attractive. I told her I think she’s beautiful. And I wasn’t lying. I’ve loved her since I was eighteen.
She just can’t do what I want. I don’t blame her for it. She just can’t, like I can’t dunk a basketball.
Look, here’s the ad:
I have a simple proposition to offer. 45 minutes of tickling. No nudity/video. You must be a very ticklish female. Send pic.
Is it my fault Beth isn’t ticklish?
Lookit’ ‘Johnny-come-lately. Wouldn’a paid him no mind ‘cept he blares that goddamn yuppie music so loud a man can’t get a decent rest n’ recuperate in.
Sorry. I’m Motown. Hey you got a smoke? People around here, they know me. Go ahead & ask around. They know I’m an okay guy. I ain’t got the best manners about me, but anyone around here will tell you I ain’t ever asked that much of no one. I never bothered no one. I don’t see why I can’t get as good a mornin’s rest as anyone.
Started a month or so ago. Didn’t even know what’n the hell it was first few days. Jus’ some loud ass squawkin’ blarin’ up and down this whole side of the park. Problem is, once I’m awake I can’t go back to sleep.
So round about the third, mebbe fourth day of this shit, I go check it out and see one of these goddamn Jap aluminum spaceships parked all cockeyed in that driveway entrance there. He’s done splayed his car out over 3 or 4 parking spaces. I didn’t get a good look at him that time. Come the next mornin’ I manage to scramble out my bag a whole lot faster when I hear that damn radio blasting.
So this kid thinkin’ he’s some kinda hippie gets out of the Jap car. Got the beard and scraggly hair and everything, ‘cept his hair is so damn pretty and poufy you just know he’s got somewhere to shower. I’m pissed ‘cause I seen him smoking a cig and it reminds me I ran out two nights ago. I deserve that cig more than he does. What the fucks he know about sacrifice? What’s he know about chasin’ a dream? Hey you got a smoke? Oh shit sorry, forgot I asked already.
I’m not sayin’ my path is the only one a man should follow. Certainly ain’t no path for a woman to follow. Suzy down the way there don’t make that so hard to figure. But I am sayin’ this kid just bought it y’know? He don’t really know what it is to earn the right. To take that chance on throwing it all away. To pursue the passion man. My generation knew how to do that. Just like my parent’s generation knew how to. These kids today don’t know shit about any of that. Ain’t none of ‘em got no resolve. They can’t think for themselves like we did.
Y’know that piece of shit is prolly happy just havin’ some job where he gets to make honest, hard working people feel small. And I know that ‘cause I see him every day out here, and it never occurs to him that other people are livin’ out whole lives around his sloppy ass shit. He thinks he’s so cool he can get away with whatever. Leaves his car runnin’ the whole time while he takes his important little key and goes and opens his important little black box for some UC business shill. Ya know, ‘cause his precious suck ass friends on the college radio station are so motherfuckin’ important to listen to at 7 in the morning.
Yeah, I know you gotta, but seriously can I get a smoke before you…? Really?! Oh man, thank you. Ha-ha. I knew you had one on you! Oh yeah, sshh. Sorry. Oh, thanks, thanks! But see, you understand. I knew I had you pegged. I can tell you understand. Bitches like him over there don’t. But you know he was askin’ for it right?
Who around here could blame me? I started waiting; watching for him. Knowing he was gonna be there every morning making the same fool mistake. Always leavin’ the car running; always taking up extra parking spaces; that radio yappin just so he could feel cool while he fucks up some real people’s sleep.
It was so easy. I was coming up on him before he even got the driver side door open. Wan’t payin’ no attention; he was too busy makin’ sure his cigarette was sticking out between his cock suckin’ lips at just the right angle. Came right around the front of his car as he was walkin’ up to that drop box. Didn’t notice shit till he heard the car door close. I saw him come running back, dropped his cig and I started laughing. Took me extra long to figure out how to lock the doors on his ass. Almost didn’t make it. Jap cars all made like star wars and shit these days.
So he starts a yellin’ and poundin’ on the window. I was bustin’ up man. Funniest goddam thing I ever seen. I’m laughin’ the whole time and now he doesn’t look so cool, no sir. And then come the look on his face when I figure out how to get the damn thing in drive! If I hadn’t been laughing so hard I prolly woulda seen that telephone pole. Can’t really say where I woulda gone anyhow.
Naw thanks, I don’t worry none about a little blood. My nose has been broke a few other times. Slap ‘em on officer. I’ll cooperate. I’m a good guy really. Ask anyone around here. How long till I get my call?
Everybody was looking at her when she walked into the bookstore. All legs, gorgeously tanned and curved, a heavenly highway leading up to a soft white summer skirt.
“Hurry up, sweetheart,” said the old guy standing beside her. He looked like Captain Kangaroo on a weekend drunk, maybe more than twice her age.
The chick with the legs turned at the waist, toward his voice, and they could all see her face. Jagged monster teeth, rough chewed and boiled skin full of zits surrounding the horror of her smile.
“Yes …” she almost drooled.
Joe, working beside Frank said, “What a waste, a butter face.”
“She’s young,” said Frank. “A good orthodontist, some face cream, a chisel, some prayer, hell, she just might make it.”
A female employee overheard the guys. “You guys are so lame,” she said, “beauty is only skin deep.”
“If that’s true,” said Joe, “then she’s not beautiful, because her skin is wicked fucked up.”
“You guys seemed to like her before she turned around.”
“Yeah,” said Frank, “her stems are fine, but her face is like Picasso scary.”
“Well,” said Karen, “at least she reads. That’s better than most.”
“You’re right about that,” said Frank.
Joe looked like he was thinking. “You know, maybe it’s the guy.”
Karen rang up a paperback copy of The Martian Chronicles. “What do you mean?”
“Look at that guy. What’s he doing with her?”
She frowned. “So she can’t be with anyone, right, because she’s not pretty?”
“I don’t think that’s what he means,” said Frank. “You gotta figure either he’s with her because he’s older and can’t get anyone else, just keeping her like a piece of property, turning out the lights and working the good parts, or worst, maybe he made her that way.”
“Yeah,” said Joe, “maybe it starts with the face. He hits her and her smile turns upside down. He calls her names and her face breaks out.”
Frank said, “She’s worried and she grinds her teeth at night.”
Karen nodded. “He doesn’t keep her safe and she creates a mask to ward off the evil.”
Everybody looked at her as she walked out of the bookstore. All legs, gorgeously tanned and curved, a heavenly highway leading up to a soft white summer skirt.
The T-Shirt he was wearing when he came in, looked as if it had been dragged behind a vehicle in a fatal tractor pull
accident, that was somehow intimately connected with how he ended up in the bar. Barely discernible beneath the layers of caked mud and dried blood on the cloth were the words WILD THING.
He didn’t look much like a wild thing anymore. Quite the contrary, in fact. Flashing lights were switching on and off at random behind his eyes, causing flickers of pain to extend down his face in spasms, new involuntary muscles operating beyond his control. It was almost as if, Wild Thing was playing an outdated Space Invaders game in his head, toting up unbeatable scores no one would ever know about or see.
Somewhere, out there, just beyond the reach of his imagination, on a spitting, arcing printed circuit board of his mind, were the planetoids, and ringed moons of his life orbiting dead worlds and desert planets he would wake up on. Wandering in space, lost without his life support systems or coins of the realm of these foreign lands he now occupied, he is driven to barter strangers for vital fluids; large draught beers.
Misunderstanding as always, he is encouraged to tell it all to Emergency 911 when they arrive.
“911,” He manages, “What’s that?”
“The new pinball game, right behind you. Check it out.”
It’s the greatest thing he’s ever seen since the War of the Worlds. I could almost hear, Orson Welles in the background with that wonderful voice over saying,”Today, in New Jersey, space ships landed–”
And Wild Thing would have been among them, temporarily blinded by the flashing of camera lights, of sirens and Emergency 911, raising his hands to shield his pained eyes–
It could only happen in a bar I was working in, on a full moon Sunday Night, in the depths of a hot summer night with no air conditioning, just like all those other alien invasions that never happened to anyone else.
Manx stood in the center of the vacant lot, surrounded by dead weeds, crumpled aluminum cans, which shimmered in the midday heat, parched and shiny. An old tire lay near the corner, abandoned after years of loyal service, forgotten like an old man in a rest home. Here and there, tiny shoots of life were sprouting, like the bits of hope emerging after a riot.
A path bisected the lot running on a diagonal, a shortcut that shaved seventy feet off the journey around the corner. About halfway across the lot, very near to where he now stood, two shallow holes, midget graves, were slowly eroding into ruts.
He kicked the ground with his boot. It was hard like the faces of the men who stood in front of the casual labor hall, waiting. They waited, always. They were timeless and empty, waiting for someone to buy their time and put them to good use, like this lot. There were many such lots in L.A. and many such men. Waiting for a resurrection.
He leaned over and scooped up a handful of dirt. It was dry and gritty, like a mermaid’s nightmare. It turned to smoke and suddenly blew out of his hand. He leaned over and flipped open his Swiss Army knife and stabbed at the ground impatiently. More sandy dust was dredged up. He continued the search, expanding the perimeter. And as he hacked away at the ground, he began to remember another time.
It was twenty years ago or more, he wasn’t sure. The images were sporadic and mixed-up-crazy like, a jangled mess, patched together countless times with no care to order. He had nearly died a couple of years ago and he’d seen his life flash before his eyes and vanish, as if each frame of his personal movie had stayed too long in the light and was vaporized before his very eyes. Now scenes of his past rattled off before his mind’s eye like an “edited for television” movie, with just enough scenes missing to make it interesting.
Manx remembered pushing his hands into the damp Redondo Beach earth. It was two-thirds dirt and one- third clay, so that in a rain it became the kind of mud that would hold you down. He’d lost a shoe once, left it behind in the mud, crossing the garden with an arm load of freshly cut vegetables.
Gawd! He thought. Had it been that long since he’d been up to his ankles in Mother Nature? He couldn’t really believe that but he knew that it had been a long time. He really missed the dirt and its world of green shades and growth and death. He missed the taste of the dirt under his finger nails. He couldn’t remember when they hadn’t tasted like car grease or oil. He missed its smells: after a rain or when it was freshly turned up, like a new idea or an old friend.
He returned to the vacant lot; too quickly. His longing for dirt weighing him down, like two shovel-fulls on the chest. Surveying this personal archeology that had progressed during his recent mindlessness, he saw that he had dug a small oval into the sandy soil. It was about as big as a tub. The hole was a foot or so deep. It revealed only more sandy loam with bits and pieces of the city imbedded in it. Nothing else, at least, not what he searched in vain for. And this became a metaphor for the greater search that he had been on for months now, without even knowing it. His search for dirt was also a quest for a more natural way of living. He wanted to float away. He wanted to sleep in that garden again. Curled up among Bok Choy and Broccoli, Celery and Cabbage. He wanted to reach back into his past and pull out a handful of rich, dark, fecund soil; as alive with possibilities as the womb of Mother Nature herself. He stood up, savoring the mix of desire, nostalgia, and solitude; for it seemed to him that no one in this asphalt-loving town could share this dream.
Then he saw the other holes, and, as old as they appeared, he knew he was not alone.
I have a friend who saved hundreds or maybe thousands of lives. She went to the airport, to take a flight to DC, and met a man. It was basically love at first sight. Turns out, he was a terrorist, and was totally planning on fucking shit up on that flight. Until he met my friend, and decided that if there was a God, that God was nowhere but in his new love’s pussy. He decided that when she led him into the airport bathroom to consummate their love.
They missed the flight, and she never suspected he might be a terrorist. Neither did security. He eventually told her, because who can really keep a secret like that, and she laughed about it. Sometimes when he would get angry with her, she would make flippant remarks like, “What are you going to do, blow me up?” and it always lightened the mood. Except during dinner parties where his brothers and her parents were present.
I couldn’t help but think my friend must have one magical vagina to save lives and shit.
That year was not a success to me. A leap year, yet it meant something in my life. And I lived it through to some reason. What for, I wonder? What did I comprehend? And what surprised me?
I was surprised to contact a fantastic girl in Brazil, an actual top model. She put down in her questionnaire that was indifferent to sex and preferred female in general. I did prefer women myself and it affected me then, I don’t know why.
Her name was Nicolle. I had to examine her, to prove that I’m a male. Well, just try and do it if she lived in San-Paolo. Do you know the city?
So I wondered in Internet if she could recall a snow smell on Christmas Eve. I asked her how the Moon looked on the other side of the planet. I had to know that to some reason. And she answered me, I don’t know why. Then I made up my mind to win her, to make her never forget a man.
And there she had been enjoying in a cocoa warm sea in Brazil. And there she had fun with black people hot like coffee in morning. And she never looked up into the sky, light blue like empty jars at my dacha in autumn. So, what was I to do in order she felt miserable without me and yielded to me at once? How would you act? You do not know, do you? Neither did I.
But I wrote to her about Russian sky stuffed with clouds, long and deep a sky, ever blue. I told her how the clouds drifted around driven by wind and never float away. And they can’t drift away – so great Russia is! And I said her about a little girl run after the clouds above. And that she wanted to follow them up to the horizon. And then she fell down and burst to tears because nobody could ever overtake the clouds in the sky.
And Nicolle fell into tears like a little one, as if she pressed herself to me. And she asked me not to let her go. And she begged me to write more from Russia, where the sky was native to her, where folks wept when were going to relatives via Moscow.
Very likely, that’s all what I learned that year, a leap year, I say. Nothing to add, perhaps…
P.S. Well, I wonder if she has read Coelho there, in Brazil.