Tuesday, December 05, 2006

From Swerve of Shore to Bend of Bay: Part II, chapter 1 from The Edge of the World (a novel in progress)

"My name is Lemuel," I said to her. "I work with dogs."

I had walked into Macy's one hot day and was wandering around the ground floor when I saw her—a tall brunette with big tits, no bra, and eyes like a hungry mongrel. I knew right away she was one of those sexy and smart types—into books, theater, liberal politics—but who nonetheless liked men with a bit of a rough side to them.

"Attack dogs to be specific. I train them for use in stores, offices, anyplace where they need tight security after hours but can't trust a human to do the job."

"That sounds interesting," she replied, bringing her hand up to the base of her neck.

"It is," I continued. "To be able to take a tiny innocent puppy and bring out its natural instincts—its original sin, if you will—so that it develops into a ferocious killing machine is—how shall I put this?—exciting?"

I smiled at her. She brought her hand up to her mouth.

In the evening I came back to meet her. I knew that after my strange introduction the best way to intrigue her even further was to start our date in the most conventional manner possible... I took her to dinner at Houlihan's, then to a French film at the Cineplex. As I sat in the theater I kept thinking how later I'd take her to my house in Staten Island. How I'd be fucking her on the kitchen floor while out back my dogs are going crazy, listening to my wild grunts and her Banshee-like shrieks and moans. How the movie we were watching would be far in the back of her mind like a remembrance from childhood. But still, she would feel it...It would affect her actions. The distant memory of the Eiffel Tower lit up after midnight would make her thrust her hips a little harder. The faint vision of the Arc D'Triomph and the headlights of the hundreds of cars beneath it would make her rub my cum over her breasts more vigorously. The recalled sounds of conversation and the clanking of bottles and glasses in a Paris barroom would make her scream, "Fuck me, monsieur," or better yet, "Fuck me, mon Dieu," as I plunge into her with all my weight and determination.

In the morning I showed her the dogs. When they rushed up to the fence, growling, baring their teeth, she didn't blink an eye.

"These dogs have already been trained," I said.

I put my arm around her. We stood there for a long time, she laying her head on my shoulder as the dogs continued to growl, salivating as they watched with almost covetous interest this tender moment between humans.

Standing there with Maria I felt that at last I was far from Athens, Georgia, the absurd little town where I grew up. And that I was even farther away from Lily and, for that matter, Leonard. Leonard, hopelessly and perversely romantic, in love for all time with our sister Lily. Lily, who with either long blonde tresses or fashionably short locks was an exquisitely holy fuck and consummate master at sucking dick.

Ever since I could remember I wanted my sister Lily. But it was my very birth—by a rather difficult caesarian procedure, my father told me—that brought her and Leonard close together. And while the more acceptable pattern would have been for me to develop an Oedipal complex, I was jealous not of my father for being foremost in my mother's affections, but of my brother for being, metaphorically speaking, the apple of my sister's eye.

It was Leonard who, despite all my efforts to get myself noticed, occupied all of Lily's time and attention. When she was sixteen, though, she started dating Jimmy, a big dull brute from the school football team. I thought that at last she was ready to give other guys a chance, and that I might be among those she took on. But instead of slowly fading from the picture, Leonard proceeded to begin fucking her and even convinced her that he was the only one with the right to do so. It was almost too much for me to take. And although I was only ten years old I understood that to inform our parents of their activities would preclude any chance I had of ever being with her.

So I listened. I put my ear up against the wall between my room and Lily's room. I heard them moaning softly—they were trying to be quiet. I put myself in Leonard's place, imagining I was the one sucking on her nipples, sticking my finger in her tight little asshole. For a minute I actually believed I was fucking her, over and over to the point where she was ready for death, ready to be eaten by worms until there was nothing left but a satiated skeleton. But when I again realized I was alone, on the other side of the wall, a tremendous sense of anguish came over me. I fell back onto my bed, exhausted by the strain I had placed on my imagination.

They, not Jethro and Ellie Mae, were my inspiration for sex. When they ran off the following spring, without a word to anyone, I felt helpless. Lily was gone... And everyday for the next two years I sulked, pined, moped, languished at the very thought of my absent sister. It was my one period of romantic obsession, a time of illness during which I experienced headaches, chest pains, and convulsions for which the doctors had no explanation. I came out of this difficult time by realizing that what I needed was distraction, a new more obtainable object of my obsession. And furthermore I needed a new order of obsession, an obsession that was pure and true, and thus untainted by even the slightest afterthought of love.

Eva was the name of my new obsession, and although I always addressed her as "Miss Dupree," in my mind I thought of her as "Eva." She was twenty-three years old, from New Orleans, had a mild Cajun accent, olive complexion, dark hair, big tits, and was my seventh grade science teacher. In school she was somewhat reserved, sullen even, and aside from the proportions of her bosom had nothing in common with Lily. But I knew that with a little work I could reach her, make her smile, laugh, toss back her hair, open her arms, and spread her legs.

I began innocently enough by paying attention, for the first time in two years, to what was going on in science class. I was trying, as undignified as it may sound, to become the teacher's pet. Whether or not that made me unpopular with the other kids in class was of no concern to me—being the teacher's pet would be my introduction, as it were, my opening line.

By the end of first semester I had gone from a "C" in science to an "A." In class I had become the student who in addition to asking the most difficult questions also gave the most precise, involved answers, answers that showed I had developed an understanding of science way beyond that of the other seventh graders. Eva was pleased, very pleased, and when she first congratulated me on my new found interest and excellence by patting me on the shoulder, I had to stop myself from responding to her gesture by grabbing onto one of her breasts. I was on my way, I knew, but I had to remind myself to be patient and carry my plan out to its conclusion.

Over the course of several months Eva and I got close, close to the point where although she was still reserved with her other students, with me she was warm, light-hearted, talkative. "Hello, my friend," she'd say when I ran into her at the end of the day. I always lingered about on the school grounds when classes were over so I could see her. "So...what's going on?" she'd inevitably ask as if she were speaking to a fellow spy or conspirator. "Same old shit," I'd answer, then ask, "What's up with you?" She'd then continue with whatever was on her mind, be it the weather, Watergate, or even the state of her being as in "it's that time of the month again." To get her to speak to me, her student, of such personal matters was in itself quite an accomplishment. But she had come to understand that I was advanced not just in my understanding of science, but also in my view of the world, and rather than feel threatened by it she was, on the contrary, intrigued.

The time to make my move finally came in the spring. We were at the annual school picnic at Watson's Mill Park, a half hour drive from Athens. While all the other kids spent the day playing volleyball or riding down the creek in inner tubes, I stayed right where the parents and teachers were. I had to stay near Eva and wait because I knew that here, away from school, was where I would get my chance.

And so it was four in the afternoon when one of the parents started cutting up a watermelon. Eva walked over to get a slice, and when she went back to take a seat underneath a tree I sat beside her, my own slice in hand. As I sat there making small talk about how nice a day it was I noticed that each time she took a bite her eyes widened, as if every bite and every successive taste of watermelon surprised her somehow. When the watermelon juice began to slide down her chin I knew the time was right to change the topic of conversation.

"Miss Dupree," I said, "I've been thinking about this seriously for a while now, and I've come to the conclusion that, when I'm done with school, what I'd like to do is work with animals. Most likely for the purposes of medical research."

When she turned to me the juice gathered on her chin, ready to fall. She tried to catch it with the back of her hand, but when she reached up several drops fell inside her blouse.

"Really?" she asked.

"Oh yes," I answered. "I'm not at all squeamish about dissecting live animals and performing experiments on them. I think it would be rather interesting and besides, it's important work."

She gave me a quizzical look, then continued eating. But now, rather than savoring the taste of watermelon, she was merely going through the motions of eating. When she was finished she let out a sigh of relief and looked down.

"My hands are so sticky now," she commented.

I turned to her, noticing the wet spots on her blouse and the heaving of her bosom.

"Mine are too," I said.

I suggested we walk over to the creek where we could wash up. Standing first, I held my hand out to her. Looking up at me Eva's eyes widened and her lips parted slightly as if she were about to speak. She said nothing, though, and simply stretched her arm so I could help her to her feet.

Knowing that all my classmates had gone downstream, I led Eva in the opposite direction. When we got to the creek we squatted at the water's edge and reached in. Eva rubbed her fingers together, then brought a handful of water up to her face as she looked upward. I did the same but then, pretending to lose my balance, I let myself fall into the water. Eva looked down and started laughing.

"Eva!" I shouted, holding out my hand.

When she reached out to help me up I pulled her toward me. As she fell I spread my arms, than wrapped them around her back. I immediately kissed her hard on the mouth, worked it open, and stuck in my tongue. It didn't take Eva long to realize she wanted it. I unbuttoned her blouse, undid her bra, and tossed them out of the water. I pulled down her pants and tossed them to the side as well. By the time I got to her panties I was impatient and when they cleared her feet I just let go, allowing them to drift downstream. I was already hard, and after pulling my pants and underwear to my ankles I entered her. I was doing well, I thought, especially for my first time with a girl. She started moaning, screaming, shrieking, "Oh God, oh Jesus, oh...oh..." and no longer was I just on my way. I was there. I was doing it. With Miss Dupree no less.

When we were done we stepped out of the water and wrung out our clothes. As it seemed to be the polite thing to do, I apologized for losing her panties. We walked along the creek for a while until our clothes felt dry, then headed toward the picnic area. When we were near I let her go ahead of me—she didn't want to be seen returning with me. I stayed behind and waited ten minutes before moving on. When I got back to the picnic area one of my classmates came running up behind me.

"Look what I found," he said.

He held out a pair of panties.

"Wow," I said, pretending to be impressed. "Where didja get that?"

"They were floating down the creek."

"Wow," I said again.

He reached up, holding the panties high above his head for all the parents and teachers to see. He was smiling as if he'd just gotten the prize of his life.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

My TVC15: Part I, chapter 10 from The Edge of the World (a novel in progress)

Leonard was not at all like me. Which, perhaps, was why he fascinated me so much. Because unlike me he was never able to lose his memory. No matter how far he traveled, his memory was with him. Lines from a popular song, a drop of liquid, a television program, a piece of furniture—the insignificant details and sentimental emotions always caught up with him in his universe.

To him the years he spent in the outside world were a blemish upon that universe. Every night he had gone to bed with Annalisa had darkened it. Every day when he hadn’t used his imagination had diminished it. But as his universe collapsed, his memory expanded.

As for me, I learned to put my memories behind me. To build something with them, a monument which will speak of my heritage. And this history which I’m now writing, and with which I will soon be finished, will serve as my monument. A monument I can carry with me. A monument I can slip into the right hand drawer of a desk, or leave at the bottom of a duffel bag. A monument which will never harm me like the gun with which my great grandfather—and later my grandfather—killed themselves. And although I will know at all times where the monument is, I will never again think of what it says.

When Leonard got back home everything was the way he remembered it—the television, the stereo, the furniture. The only difference being that although Lily and he were still married, it was Lemuel who was now, for lack of a better word, her lover. That and my four year old sister Marly.

Marly was a quiet child, and her eyes always seemed to follow you around the room like those of a suspicious cat. Still, Leonard saw that she was a beautiful little girl, looking exactly the way Lily did when she was that age. And though she would stare out into space when she wasn’t staring at you, there were moments when she would abruptly run in the direction she was staring. As if there were something out there only she could see. When she’d get across the room she’d look around frantically—she was, in her own way, a very active child. Then rush back to where she’d been and once again stare across the room.

I was now seven years old and had gotten into the habit of watching television. I’d set myself in the middle of the living room, on my hands and knees, and gaze at the television for hours. What was on television didn’t matter to me—Leonard could change channels in the middle of a program and I wouldn’t even blink or show the slightest change in the expression on my face. Because although I was now aware of what was going on around me, I had no desire to take part in any of it.

Since the television was in the living room, which was now Leonard’s room, he began watching it all the time. The show that interested him the most was The Cosby Show, because it presented what to him seemed the ideal situation for a young boy to grow up in.

Theo, the boy in the fictional Huxtable family, had parents who were both professionals. With his father being a doctor and his mother a lawyer, it was ensured that he would be well provided for. But what was more important was that Theo had not just one but four sisters. And so if things didn’t work out with one of them, Leonard thought, Theo still had three others from which to choose, one of whom was bound to make a suitable mate. Though naturally he should sample each of them before making any kind of decision.

Leonard always thought that the perfect match in the family would be Theo and Denise. Although their personalities were rather different, Theo had a way of connecting with Denise that seemed more profound than with any of the other sisters. And although Leonard saw him getting his dick sucked by young Rudy, doing the six-pack with Sondra, and fucking Vanessa up the ass while playing with her ample breasts, Denise was the one he saw Theo going back to time and time again. She, of all his sisters, was the one Theo wanted the most. She was to him what Lily was to Leonard, the only difference being that Theo had alternatives, while Leonard did not.

After a time Leonard came to believe that it was his own fault that he lost Lily to Lemuel. When things had gotten difficult, he had failed to put the proper effort into their marriage and went so far as to completely abandon Lily for nearly five years. As he had been gone for such a long time, he couldn’t blame either Lily or Lemuel for taking up with each other. Because, like Leonard, they had no alternatives. If only their parents had had more children, Leonard thought, things might have been different. And he wouldn’t have to spend the rest of his days without a wife.

Shortly after Leonard returned to town Lily got a job as a waitress at a nightclub on Fort Myers Beach. Lemuel, who was still at the greyhound track, had decided not to go back to school, having taken an interest in dogs. He wanted to breed them, which was something he could learn about from being there at the track.

For Leonard it was enough to stay home and take care of the kids. He stayed home all the time now—he never left the apartment. He had concluded that in the last five years, from the time he set out west hitch-hiking to the end of that long bus ride, he had seen enough of the world. At any rate, all that he needed to experience first hand.

He began living through Marly and me. He’d watch us all the time, hoping we’d begin to pay attention to each other. Which, to his disappointment we never did. The closest we’d get to interacting was when somehow the same toy attracted our attention. This was a rare occurrence, since all our toys—the teddy bear, the firetruck, the Barbie doll—usually just lay on the floor unused.

Sometimes Leonard would put the teddy bear in my hand, then point to Marly, pulling at my sleeve in an attempt to get me to bring it to her. I’d look in her direction, usually towards her feet, but would never approach her. Other times Leonard would try to get us to roll the firetruck back and forth to each other, but he’d always end up rolling it back and forth himself as we wouldn’t even look at the truck or at each other. And instead would merely gaze at the floor.

Leonard tried playing tapes or records. But music didn’t affect us any more than silence. He’d play the old Tommy James and The Shondells tape. And when “I Think We’re Alone Now” came on he’d look at my eyes, then at Marly’s, hoping that somehow this song would inspire us. All he saw were our blank stares which to him revealed not a trace of recognition or understanding.

Things went on this way for a long time and he resigned himself to the idea that Marly and I would never take an interest in one another. But one day the following spring Lily came home with the news that she was pregnant. Leonard was happy for her, and for himself as well, as he believed that the presence of another child would be the catalyst that would finally bring Marly and I together.

Lily and Lemuel immediately left the apartment. Leonard thought they were going out to celebrate down by the river, but that wasn’t the case at all.

As they shut the door behind them Leonard began to hear the sound of rain falling on the window, followed, in the distance, by the sound the thunder. He turned out the lights, lay back on the sofa and closed his eyes as the sounds grew louder. Despite all the flashing lights and noise, Marly and I, sitting by him on the floor, didn’t cry, didn’t even stir. This, he believed, was a good sign.

He clasped his hands together and dreamed of the day when Marly and I would make love for the first time just as Lily and he had some fourteen years ago.

He could see it all very clearly, and it wouldn’t be long, he thought, before Marly and I saw it too: Rudy, in the sixty-nine position with Theo, sucking on his dick as if it were a popsicle; Sondra, the most conservative of the girls, lying beneath him and moaning, “Oh God, oh my dear dear God”; Vanessa, rubbing his cum over her breasts, then licking her fingers clean; and Denise, after having sucked him off, washing her mouth out with a steady stream of his urine. With the images of these fictional lovers in mind, he believed that Marly and I would create our own world and make our own way within it. Creating new legends, building new shrines, new monuments, and devising new ideas.

He believed that one day we would walk out into the storm to be by the river. That rolling around naked in the shallow water, caressing, kissing, we would spill our love over one another. That the day would come when our screams, the first sounds ever to leave our mouths, blend in with the clamor of thunder. When our bodies, in a fearless act of discovery, flash with each burst of light.

He believed that the day would come when Marly declares “I want you” as I push my middle finger in her ass—“I love you” as I slide my thumb inside her pussy. When gasping for air, she rises, then settles her young head between my legs to suck as if sucking and breathing were the same. When finally, with her mouth full of my cum, she brings her face up to mine.

He believed that the day would come soon, when in our perfect world we’d feel nothing but the gentle gift of rain in all its forms. That and the touch of skin upon skin.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

By the Time I Get to Phoenix and Other Gentle Rants of Madmen: Part I, chapter 9 from The Edge of the World (a novel in progress)

In September of 1984 Leonard had been living with Annalisa for over four years. After spending the entire afternoon of their day off watching television, he told Annalisa that they should dress up and eat out for a change. He took her to Le Moulin, the best restaurant in town, and at the end of the meal he ordered champagne. When the waiter brought it out, he knelt before Annalisa, and as people in the restaurant began to take notice he held out to her the diamond ring which he had bought the previous day.

“Annalisa,” he asked, “will you marry me?”

She looked at him lovingly and extended her hand as a smile came to her lips. A smile that reminded Leonard of television ads and movies. A smile that seemed to connect him to the world.

“Yes, Leonard,” she answered, “I will.”

He was aware that he was still married to his sister—a circumstance Annalisa, of course, knew nothing about. Although it was a marriage which would never be considered legitimate in a court of law, it was a marriage to which Leonard felt bound. And as soon as Annalisa had said, “Yes, Leonard, I will,” it occurred to him that he hadn’t thought this out as thoroughly as he should have.

Still going with the moment, he slipped the ring on her finger. They stood up, and as they kissed and embraced the couple at the table closest to theirs began applauding. Leonard and Annalisa then picked up their glasses and made a toast to their upcoming life as a married couple.

On bringing the glass to his lips Leonard came to the realization that in the years he’d spent with Annalisa he hadn’t been conducting himself in a rational manner. It all became quite apparent to him, at this late point in the proceedings, that he hadn’t been true to his own nature. And now, having turned away from his ideals, from what he understood as right and wrong, he had gone so far as to ask this strange but decent woman to marry him.

As he sat with Annalisa the image of Lily, which he had banished from his memory for so long, came vividly back to mind. He could see Lily just as clearly as he saw Annalisa who now sat beside him at the table. But while Annalisa had a drop of champagne clinging to her lower lip, the image of Lily had what was plainly, in its color and consistency, a drop of semen. And he felt for a moment that Lily was actually watching them—Annalisa with her wide innocent smile and he with his nervous, guilty grin.

Having given in to practicality, to the false ways of the world, Leonard decided that now was the time for him to start thinking clearly again. And the expression on Lily’s imagined face seemed to be telling him that he had to be strong, that he had to take action. Just as he had long ago on the night of Lily’s prom.

When they finished the bottle of champagne he ordered another one. Annalisa was blinded with joy and drank more and more, not noticing that Leonard was hardly touching his drink. When they got home he picked her up and carried her to the bed where she immediately passed out.

He dug up his old duffel bag and threw some old clothes in. When he was packed he looked in on her. She was still sleeping, and after listening for a minute to the peaceful sound of her breathing he took out a piece of paper on which he wrote, “I’m sorry.”

He knew that in the morning things would be bad. He’d be in Phoenix by the time she woke up to find his note. “Suck my dick,” she would scream as she jerked up her shoulder. “Motherfucker,” as she contorted her face. Leonard leaned over and kissed her on the forehead. Then turned away and went out the door, his sentimental universe weighing heavily on his mind.

He walked down the street and got money from the machine at the bank. Just enough for a ticket and meals for what would probably amount to a three day bus trip. He got to the station in time to catch the last bus heading east. It wasn’t the most comfortable ride he’d ever had, but he imagined it would be easier, and quicker, than hitch-hiking.

The only seats available when he got on were in the back of the bus which was where the more sociable—and crazier—of the passengers were to be found. The man sitting directly behind Leonard, in the very last row, felt the need to sing:

And love is just a passing word
It’s the thought you had in a taxicab
That got left on the curb
When he dropped you off
On East 33d...

And when he’d gotten tired of singing he’d mumble to himself. Bitter words, curses. Utterances only he knew the meaning of.

While he went on with his singing or mumbling, other people were telling each other their life stories.

One woman spoke about her old boyfriend—her only true love—whom she had lost touch with. When she mentioned him by name the man sitting in front of her, who explained that he worked as a bail bondsman, said that he knew the name. That he’d gotten a man by that name out of jail not too long ago. And that he might be able to help her find him.

An old woman across the aisle from Leonard talked about growing up in Arkansas, getting married young and having kids who, now that she was old and widowed, never visited, never called. And now, for vacations, she’d just get on the bus and ride for a couple of weeks, stopping in different towns during the day then sleeping on the bus at night while en route to some other place.

The man in the seat next to Leonard talked about his Filipino friend from World War II. His friend was going to come to the States so the two of them could start a farm. “He seemed sincere,” the man said. “I mean, we were good friends and after the war, when I was back here in the States, we were writing back and forth, making plans for our farm. But suddenly he stopped answering my letters. I kept sending them, but I never heard anything back. I never knew what happened to him.”

A sad, regretful look came over him, and Leonard wished he could tell him his own story. He was suddenly in the mood to let out his personal history and say, “Well, when I was fourteen, my sister and I ran off and got married. You see, she was the only woman in the world for me...”

But of course Leonard couldn’t tell him that. So he sat back, shaking his head, saying, “Yeah, it’s a damn shame how things seem to get lost in this world.” Whatever sentimental observations came to mind. Then he kept quiet, lest he be overcome by the perverse desire to talk to strangers.

It took over two days to get to New Orleans, and in this time the man behind Leonard never once got off the bus for food or simply to stretch his legs. Whenever Leonard went to use the bathroom in the back of the bus he’d look towards him, trying to get a brief glimpse of a madman.

But the madman would invariably be facing the window as he sang or mumbled words which, for some reason, Leonard felt were directed at him. In New Orleans, however, the man finally got off the bus and it was here, during the morning breakfast stop, where Leonard got his first good look at him.

The man was sitting in the waiting area at one of the television booths where one puts in a quarter and gets to watch for fifteen minutes. While staring intently at the screen the man suddenly turned just as Leonard passed by.

“Do you see that? Do you see that?” he shouted after Leonard.

Leonard didn’t know it was the man until he heard him speak. A deep gravelly voice that whether it was shouting or whispering seemed to carry across a room.

“Do you see that?” he asked again, pointing to the screen.

He was a tall, muscular man, not much older than Leonard. Sitting there in the TV booth, he reminded Leonard of an overgrown school kid, the kid who kept getting held back a grade and was too big for the desks in his classroom.

“You know what that is, don’t you? You know!” He looked solemnly at Leonard. For some reason it was important to him that Leonard know what he was watching. “Come on, you know what that is.”

Leonard looked down to the screen. The man was watching a cartoon.

“You see that? You know what that is? You know what that is.”

Leonard watched for a minute. It wasn’t something he was familiar with. Even as a child, Leonard had never watched cartoons. With their garish colors and oddly shaped figures, they were set in their ways and left no room for his imagination. He preferred the filmed images of actual people, because it was only upon actual people that he had the chance of imposing his own order.

“Oh, yeah,” Leonard finally said, looking down at the man. “I remember now.” And walked back to the bus.

As soon as Leonard got off the bus in Fort Myers he headed straight for his old apartment building where Lily, Lemuel, and I still lived.

It was noon on a hot, overcast day near the end of summer. I was at a point in my life when, although I had yet to look into anyone’s eyes, I had begun to understand the things that went on around me. I had known since earlier that day that Leonard was coming home. That he was coming home believing he could repair what had gone wrong between him and Lily.

By eleven that morning I had grown quite restless, knowing what no one else in my family knew. Soon Leonard was inside the foyer of our building, checking for the name on the mailbox and seeing that it still read “Bodine.” He wiped the sweat from his brow, tucked in his shirt, and breathed deeply. Then walked upstairs and knocked as I sat in front of the television watching the same cartoon the madman from the bus had been watching.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

All Concern Rests with the Dead, Annalisa: Part I, chapter 8 from The Edge of the World (a novel in progress)

Leonard was on the road for a month. He went through El Paso, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland, Seattle. He circled around to Billings, Bismarck, Minneapolis, Des Moines, Denver. At the end of the month he was in Reno, the town where Lily and he got married, and he had decided, after being away from her for the first time in his life, that he wasn’t going back to her.

Having considered his situation in every respect, he had come to the conclusion that he was too young to be married. He needed to spend some time by himself, he thought—one year, two years, perhaps the rest of his life. And after a long month spent wandering in an attempt to be alone, he now, at last, actually felt alone.

He found a job bussing tables and washing dishes at a restaurant. After being on the job for a week—and getting his first paycheck—he moved out of the cheap hotel he’d checked into upon his arrival and into a one room apartment over a wedding chapel. Moving meant picking up his duffel bag, walking down North Wells Street a few blocks, then up the stairs to his new apartment where he set his bag down again. He then used what was left of his paycheck and went out to buy a used mattress at the Salvation Army thrift shop.

Back in his new home, he put the mattress on the floor and lay down. It was, he had to admit to himself, a very inauspicious start as far as beginning a new life was concerned. He had no radio and no television—none of the things that made a person feel connected with the world. But he knew that soon, very soon, things would get better.

He worked the night shift at the restaurant, and when he left at three in the morning he would walk home, taking a route along the Truckee River. He’d take his time, sometimes stopping along the way to sit down under the stars and watch the river. Since he didn’t have a television, he had found himself taking long walks to entertain himself when he wasn’t working.

Leonard’s day would invariably begin around noon when he’d awake and walk across town to Idlewild Park, the main attraction of which was a statue called The 53d Whispering Giant. Over thirty feet high, it caught the gesture of a man in the act of whispering, his hand held near his mouth as if he were imparting some great secret to whoever was standing beneath him.

Leonard would watch the tourists. Families from northern California with young children taking a cheap vacation. Young men and women from back east or from across the Atlantic backpacking across the states. Gazing up at the statue’s face, they’d try to guess what message the giant had for each of them.

Usually they came up with such quaint messages as “You will get married before the end of the year” or “A great fortune will come your way”—the sort of messages one would get from reading a horoscope. But to Leonard its message wasn’t so quaint, and when he looked up at the statue for the first time—unaware that he was supposed to be receiving some kind of communication from it—the words that came to mind, and which he actually thought he was hearing, were, “You will die with a smile on your face.”

Leonard wondered what the meaning of these words could be. At first he was frightened. But after reflecting upon them, he determined that the statue was telling him he would die happily, in his old age, while fucking some athletically inclined girl some fifty years younger than he. Which meant that somewhere along the line Leonard would have to start fucking girls who weren’t related to him—and he was determined that now was the time to start. Doing so would be strange, he was sure, but since he was a young man with many years ahead of him, it was something to which he’d have to get accustomed.

He had been at the restaurant for a month when Annalisa began working there as a waitress. She was twenty years old with reddish-brown hair that draped over her shoulders and fell all the way to her waist. But even more impressive, like a building rising stoically from the snow, was her body. All breasts and hips, it seemed ready to burst out from beneath her waitress’s uniform, which was a size too small for her. She was the first girl other than Lily who could give Leonard a hard-on by the mere sight of her.

And like a widower whose sense of mourning and reluctance was beginning to disappear, Leonard began to consider the possibility that being with another woman might not be as difficult as he had thought. That blood ties went beyond family.

Still, there were some peculiarities about Annalisa which disturbed him, the first of which were her various tics and twitches. Sometimes Leonard would see her, when she thought no one was looking, suddenly jerk up one of her shoulders or contort her face in what looked like an impersonation of a frightened school girl. Then he began to notice, when he was working her tables, that she often mumbled things underneath her breath after taking a customer’s order. “Motherfucker,” “fat ass bitch,” or “suck my dick” were the words Leonard heard most often.

Soon other people began to notice—indeed, it would have been difficult for people not to notice as Annalisa’s looks alone drew attention to her—and after a couple of days the restaurant manager brought her into his office for a discussion. He asked her blankly if she were taking drugs. Or, if not that, simply crazy.

These were questions she’d been asked many time before. Questions which, despite their ill-informed brusqueness, bored her. Annalisa had to explain that no, she was not crazy, nor was she on drugs, but that she did suffer from an affliction of the nervous system. After she pleaded with him that she really needed the job, and that she actually enjoyed working there, the manager made a compromise. He switched her job from waiting tables to bussing them, a job where she wouldn’t actually have to converse with the customers and so would be less likely to let forth some obscene whisper.

It wasn’t much of a compromise—anyone else would have been fired on the spot. But Annalisa’s looks let her get away with things. They gave her a power which she was never aware of. With her body she could have easily made it as a dancer or as a call girl down in Vegas, yet she was too naive to take advantage of it. And although she was smart enough to know that the life story Leonard would later tell her was fictional, she was naive enough to believe that the real story, whatever it was, was all part of the past.

The next day the manager told Leonard that he was no longer a busboy but a waiter. Annalisa, who was now bussing his tables, acted coldly towards him and would sometimes mumble “fuckhead” or “stinking asshole” as he walked by.

This was, obviously, not a good beginning for them. But then beginnings rarely are. This isn’t simply some trite or excessively romantic observation on my part. I’ve found that anything worth striving for involves at least a few false starts—it’s always the things that eventually turn bad that have good beginnings. Which isn’t to say that anything good that’s been achieved stays that way, as bad endings are always with us. Like Leonard’s true past, they always seek us out no matter what measures we take to avoid them. Which is why it’s best to create our own bad endings before someone else creates them for us.

And so it was that one afternoon, as Leonard sat in Idlewild Park before going to work, he saw Annalisa. She was standing in front of The Whispering Giant, gazing up at its face. He watched her for a few moments. Her body, for once, was completely calm, as if the steadfast carriage of The Giant had transposed itself upon her. And as she stood there listening for its message not a single “motherfucker” or “suck my dick” came from her mouth.

“It told me I’d die with a smile on my face,” he said as he approached her from behind.

Annalisa glanced at him, then quickly turned back to The Giant.

“What does that mean?” she asked after a moment of silence.

“I’m not quite sure,” he said as he stood beside her. “What message did it have for you?”

“It hasn’t told me anything.”

Leonard looked down Annalisa’s blouse and noticed the freckles over her cleavage. He was beginning to get a hard-on. Annalisa turned to him, then glanced down at his pants.

That night they left the restaurant together. Although he didn’t show it, Leonard was nervous as they walked home. Feeling as if he were about to do something that had to be kept hidden, he kept looking around to see if anyone was watching. When they reached the door to his apartment he opened it quickly, let Annalisa inside, and promptly shut the door behind them. Being with Annalisa felt dirty, which excited him even more.

Without even bothering to offer her a drink, he immediately pulled down her skirt and panties. Then kneeling he stuck out his tongue, momentarily holding it half an inch away from her pussy as if to savor the sense of anticipation he felt at receiving what was to him a perverse gift. Finally he grabbed her hips, shoved his face forward and licked her pussy as she leaned back against the door running her hands through his hair.

Annalisa was surprised by the lack of ceremony with which Leonard took her. Yet she was intrigued by him, and rather than being frightened by what she didn’t know about him, she gave in to it.

“Oh Leonard,” she moaned, “you...” as he tongued her clit and slid his finger in and out of her pussy. When she was about to come he stood up and put his dick inside of her, pushing in and out as he pulled her shirt over her head.

In another minute they were done. Annalisa put her arms around him as they fell to the floor, laughing as they caught their breath. But despite his laughter Leonard felt a twinge of guilt that bordered on regret. Indeed, he nearly found himself mourning, as if he had lost his humanity and fallen victim to the ways of a corrupt world.

The first time they were out in public Leonard had to keep reminding himself that being with her was not something he had to hide. They were sitting in a restaurant that evening, waiting for their meals, when he leaned over the table to kiss her. They had been holding the kiss for a few seconds when Leonard suddenly jerked his head away from her.

“What’s wrong?” she asked.

“Well,” he said, pausing as he tried to think up an explanation, “I’m not all that comfortable showing affection in public.”

“Didn’t you ever make out with your high school girlfriend in front of other people?”

“That was different,” he said after a moment. “I was a kid. I guess I’ve become a bit conservative since then.”

“You’re too young to be so conservative,” she answered as she stood up. Then putting her hand around the back of his neck, she pulled him towards her and kissed him on the forehead. “But it’s all right, so long as you don’t get that way when we’re behind closed doors.”

Two weeks after they started seeing each other Annalisa moved in with him. Because Annalisa had brought with her, among other things, a television and a stereo, the apartment was now a comfortable place to relax. They found themselves spending most of their free time at home, listening to music on the stereo or watching television which, aside from fucking, was their favorite activity.

In the early afternoon, before going to work they’d watch the soap opera All My Children. Annalisa had been watching the show for years, and after watching it with her for a week, Leonard was hooked. The Brady Bunch, which was now on in reruns and showing opposite All My Children, no longer interested him. Taken on its own terms, without pretending the Brady kids were having wild orgies, The Brady Bunch became just another boring situation comedy. All My Children, on the other hand, was interesting the way it was—Leonard didn’t need to use his imagination and create his own little stories for its characters. He could just sit back and watch without having to strain himself in the least—the show would do it all and give him tales of romance, intrigue, and even, here and there, action sequences. And although what happened on the show was never as wild as what he had created with his own mind—and in so being was more like real life—it was something he could openly discuss not only with Annalisa but with other people as well.

Annalisa and he soon began inviting friends from the restaurant over for dinner on their days off or for drinks after work. Their apartment was now completely furnished—they had a sofa and coffee table for the living room, another table with chairs for the kitchen, plus a queen sized bed and a dresser for the bedroom. They threw out the mattress he’d bought at the Salvation Army.

Although Annalisa and he didn’t make a lot of money at the restaurant, each of them had—Leonard for the first time in his life—a credit card. And in addition to using them to furnish the apartment, they also bought a set of china, flatware, a food processor, a coffee machine. They also began buying records.

Every week Annalisa would pick up one or another of the latest disco releases. Being with her he grew to like disco, and when she came home with a new record they would immediately put it on the stereo and dance, which would inevitably lead them into the bedroom. By this time sex with Annalisa had ceased to have the slightest trace of dirtiness about it, and in fact seemed completely natural, wholesome even. Because they were just two small people in the world. Because her blood and his were the same. And although they never peed together, never did the six-pack or had sex outdoors, Leonard found that their sex life was never anything less than exciting.

It wasn’t long before Leonard realized that he loved Annalisa. It was something he didn’t think he’d ever be able to feel for another woman. But besides that he understood that they were also good for each other. When she was with Leonard, or even when he was just nearby, as at the restaurant, Annalisa rarely exhibited any symptoms of her nervous disorder. With him she was living a normal life, and rather than being a beautiful freak, she was, simply, a beautiful woman.

As for Leonard, he felt, for once, at peace with the world. His thoughts, his desires, were no longer at odds with everyone else’s. Were without dislike or suspicion. He no longer had to stretch his imagination, creating a universe of his own, as the real world with its common ideas and routine conventions was now good enough for him.

Dancers and Other Freaks Staying up Past Midnight: Part I, chapter 7 from The Edge of the World (a novel in progress)

Leonard packed just a small duffel bag—he didn’t want to carry a heavy load—and walked down to the highway ready to hitchhike west. After being on the side of the road for almost an hour he got a ride from a young couple in a station wagon. They were on their way to New Orleans.

“We’re going there for our honeymoon,” explained the woman.

“I take it you just got married,” Leonard replied. Then added hesitantly, “Congratulations.”

“Thanks,” she said, jutting out her chin. Raising her eyebrows and widening her already bulging eyes, she smiled like a six year old girl who had just won a stuffed animal at the carnival.

“Yeah, thanks,” the man said as he looked into the rear view mirror at Leonard. “It’s too bad you couldn’t make it to the wedding.” Every time he spoke the tone of his voice gradually rose so that with each of his sentences Leonard felt as if he were being asked a question. “But we’re mighty glad you could make it to the reception.”

“Oh honey...” the woman exclaimed as she looked to the dashboard.

He eased up on the gas pedal and moved into the right lane. “Good Lord, I was going five miles over the speed limit there for a minute.”

They were good people, this couple. Bank tellers from up north who always rose before dawn and went to sleep by ten. Sports fans whose love of sports was curiously devoid of enmity for rival teams. Model citizens who in all sincerity wished their neighbors “a nice day” and believed in fellowship and the dignity of man. They were the sort of people I liked when I was a child—the sort of people who now fill me with disgust. As for Leonard, he too found them disgusting. But later he would change his mind.

Lying on the seat next to Leonard was a boom box. Leonard looked down at it and for a moment his thoughts turned to Lily. Noticing his interest in the boom box, the woman handed him a tape.

“Here, put this on.”

“I love disco,” the man said as a song began to play:

Tommy Mottola
Lives on the road
He lost his lady
Two months ago...

Although for once the tone in the man’s voice didn’t seem to beg for a reply, Leonard asked, “So, you two go out dancing a lot?”

“Oh no,” the woman declared. “Discos always start way too late for us.”

“Though last night we were up past midnight,” the man said as he looked into the rearview mirror and winked.

“We just love the music,” the woman continued. “And we just put the music on the tape player there whenever we want... and dance whenever we want. Like sometimes after work we’ll put the tape player on the roof of the car, and then dance right there in the bank parking lot. It’s so much fun. And people passing by think we’re getting in some extra practice for some kind of contest but we’re not. We’re just dancing for ourselves.”

Leonard tried to picture them during one of their afternoon dancing sessions and chuckled to himself. He imagined that their moves would be clumsy, like those of two drunks who, rising from their bar stools at closing time, end up dancing because they’re unable to simply walk. Only with this couple that clumsiness was natural, and the afternoon sun—not the turned up lights of a bar at closing time—was what shone in their faces. But just as the drunk couple would go home to fuck, or try to anyway, so would this couple.

Leonard coughed, then cleared his throat, feeling, for a moment, as if he were about to vomit. The image of this couple fucking made Leonard feel slightly ill. That and the thought that there were millions of Joes and Marys in the world just like them.

They had just passed through Tampa. New Orleans seemed a long way off to Leonard—especially while riding with this obnoxious duo whose ways were completely different from his and who seemingly had no idea of the life that went on beneath the surface of things.

But like an insect shedding its cocoon, he began to discard his old ideas and opinions. Like a tourist in Times Square watching a game of three card monte, he was taken in by the scam. Believing that paradise was gone, he took the bait. And by the time they reached New Orleans, Leonard had decided that he wasn’t all that different from them. That the blood that ran through their veins was the same as his.

At midnight, eight hours after they’d picked him up in Fort Myers, they dropped him off in New Orleans near the French Quarter. Leonard thanked them sincerely, smiling at them as he’d never before smiled at anyone outside of his family.

It was November and at midnight it was too cold for Leonard to be sleeping outside. After wandering around the French Quarter for a couple of hours he went to the train station. In the waiting area he sat on one of the hard plastic chairs, setting his duffel bag beside him. He’d been asleep for half an hour when a man in a uniform woke him.

“Sir,” he said looking down at Leonard, “if you’re not waiting for a bus or a train you’ll have to move on.”

“But I am waiting,” Leonard answered, without looking up. “Only my train doesn’t leave until morning.” He was suddenly afraid, startled by the sound of his own voice.

“May I see your ticket?” the man asked.

“Well I haven’t bought it yet,” Leonard argued. Tilting his head upwards, he looked directly in the man’s eyes. “Because I don’t want to fall asleep here and have someone steal it from me while I’m sleeping.”

He eyed Leonard suspiciously for a moment then moved on. Leonard sat back again and closed his eyes but he was wide awake now. He sat there the rest of the night, and during the whole time he waited the thought of Lily never entered his mind.

In the morning Leonard went to the rest room. Studying himself in the mirror he saw that he had a strange, untrustworthy look about him again. He was just twenty-one years old now, but with his beard grown ragged and his slept-in clothes, he looked like a long time vagrant.

Leonard pulled a razor from his bag and worked at his beard. Soon it was all gone. He washed his face and hair in the sink, then hit the button on the hot air dryer. Leaning over, he placed his head beneath the nozzle and dried himself. When he looked into the mirror once more, he combed his hair away from his face. He looked better now, he thought—almost like a clean cut kid just out of college.

He picked up his bag and walked outside. In twenty minutes he’d found the highway again. Standing by the side of the road, staring down at the cars coming from back east, he held up his hand, ready to make his way through the world. And with the bright, almost blinding sun shining upon him, he stuck out his thumb.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Cut Your Hair: Part I, chapter 6 from The Edge of the World (a novel in progress)

Leonard had gotten a new job shortly before I was born—he was now the manager of a sporting goods store at the local shopping center. Although it was a harder job with longer hours than he’d had at the liquor store, the pay was much better, allowing Lily to stay home and take care of me.

But with Lemuel now living with us they had a baby sitter in the evening. Lemuel didn’t mind staying home, he said, having grown rather fond of me, his nephew. So nearly everyday after dinner, Lily and Leonard would go down to the river, something they hadn’t done since I was born. Making love there on the river bank again, they felt as if they’d stepped back in time. And though they never for a moment forgot that back in the apartment was their son—who, despite his seemingly oblivious nature still required a certain amount of attention—they sensed that they had somehow regained the freedom they’d had before I was born.

They had set up Lemuel in the living room—it was now his room. After being with us for two months—and having found a job at the dog track—he announced that he wanted to stay in Fort Myers for at least another year. He offered to get his own apartment, but Lily and Leonard told him that if he didn’t feel the need to be on his own he should just stay with us.

So he stayed. To Lily and Leonard it seemed the ideal situation because Lemuel, in addition to taking care of me, also acquired things for the apartment. He bought a color TV that was about three times the size of the old black and white one, a new stereo system with huge speakers, a dresser drawer for Lily and Leonard, and a sofa bed for the living room so he’d have a more comfortable place to sleep.

Things went well for the first five months, but as Lily grew more and more comfortable with our increasingly cramped apartment, Leonard grew less so. Lemuel often fell asleep in front of the television, snoring loudly or mumbling in his dreams while Leonard tried to watch a show. Lily began spending hour upon hour reading novels in bed, and when she wasn’t doing that she was at the kitchen table, going through the newspaper from front to back. The act of reading seemed to take her into that distant world—she paid no attention to Leonard when she was reading. And he imagined that even if, on some occasion, he were to go so far as to push his entire fist and forearm up her ass, she probably would have just continued licking her index finger and turning the pages.

I, on the other hand, did nothing but pay attention to him, and took to following him around the apartment whether he was going to the kitchen to get a drink of water or to the bathroom to take a piss. All the while I’d stare at him, fixing my eyes on his as in his mind he cursed me, his retarded little devil child—which was how he’d begun to think of me. And though I was his son, whom he loved, what he felt towards me—more than anything else—was a resentment that turned his blood into bile as his arms and legs stiffened.

And now, whenever Lily and he went to the river—which at this point they did only about every two weeks—he’d lose his sense of the moment. He’d think about their honeymoon, those five weeks when they fucked under the sky in different places all over the country. He’d think about The Brady Bunch and the stories they made up as he licked her hairy cunt in bed with the TV on.

He missed those nights when The Brady Bunch was on. But what he missed most were those places around the country. Like a senile old man doting upon his youth, he found himself saying their names aloud as he went to work in the morning: “Denver,” “Niagara Falls,” “Galveston.” He’d imagine that he was sitting on the moonwalk in New Orleans, riding through the barren landscape of the Bonneville Salt Flats, playing slot machines in Las Vegas. He could see each place clearly, and what accompanied every image that came to mind was the peaceful feeling that he was alone.

And one Saturday, when he’d slept late, he awoke to find that Lily had already gone out. He sat in the living room talking to Lemuel—who was telling him about an incident that had happened at the dog track the previous day—when Lily walked in. To his dismay, Leonard saw that she’d cut her hair, leaving just short blonde locks which barely covered her ears.

“That looks terrible,” he barked suddenly.

“Well I like it,” she snapped back. “And it was too much work taking care of it when it was long.”

“Oh, it looks all right,” Lemuel said, acting as if he were trying to stop what might be the onset of an argument.

But there was no argument. Leonard didn’t say another word, and neither did Lily, who simply went into the bedroom, picked up a book, and started reading.

A week after Lily cut her hair Leonard quit his job. He told Lily that he had to get away—it didn’t surprise her at all—and that Lemuel would be taking care of her and me while he was gone.

Although Lily understood what was troubling Leonard, Leonard did not. All Leonard knew was that he had a feeling, a pain. A suspicion that the world was against him and had defeated the universe he’d created. A suspicion that told him he had to run.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Another Time, Another Place: Part I, chapter 5 from The Edge of the World (a novel in progress)

On June 16, 1979, Lily and Leonard celebrated their seventh wedding anniversary, and it was on this very day that Lemuel showed up at their door. By this time I’d been born and baptized. Given the name Leonard Bodine II, but nicknamed Kiddo, I was a quiet little boy who never cried, never ate much, and mostly just stared out into space. It was a beautiful way for me to be, Leonard thought, to just sit there and piss and shit in my pants. Which isn’t to say that Leonard thought there was nothing going on in my head. It’s just that he thought I’d never choose to express my thoughts or feelings—or whatever it was I had inside of me—and that I probably never would.

Leonard remembered very well the day Lily came home from the doctor with the news that she was pregnant with me. He’d just gotten home from work when she walked in with a worried look in her eyes. Having a baby wasn’t something they’d planned on.

Lily had been on the pill the whole time. But, as the doctor explained, sometimes even the pill will fail, making my birth either a great miracle or a bizarre accident. Neither Lily nor Leonard were certain at first that she should go through with the pregnancy. But, after discussing it for an hour, they decided the time was right to start a family. And so given the choice between accident and miracle, they chose what they believed was the lesser of two evils.

Leonard went down to the liquor store and got there just as his boss was closing up. On hearing the news his boss gave him a bottle of one of their best wines as a present. Leonard brought it home to Lily so she could have one last glass of wine before settling into a healthy regimen for her pregnancy. Since this was a special occasion he had some as well, and so got drunk for the very first time.

Leonard discovered that it was a good feeling. He found himself laughing wildly as Lily and he conjured up images of their future as parents. They saw themselves changing diapers, enrolling their child in grade school, taking him—or her—out to a baseball game or a Disney movie where he’d probably watch what was going on for a few moments then start touching himself. They saw themselves having other kids, both boys and girls—their own little Brady Bunch. And after Leonard had finished the wine and fried some eggs, they walked down to the river.

As her pregnancy wore on, Lily’s already large breasts grew even larger, and her nipples turned from a delicate pink to a dark brown. Leonard loved the first taste of her milk, loved it even more than his first taste of wine. He loved it so much he didn’t want to share it with his son, and soon after I was born he started buying baby formula. He’d feed it to me from the bottle while Lily cradled his head in her arms. Turning to her breast, he’d suck and swallow until he felt full. Then he’d hold some in his mouth and spit it into Lily’s hand. She’d reach over and jerk him off while I, my eyes closed, sucked harder and harder at the nipple of my plastic baby bottle.

I was two years old when Lemuel found us. Walking into the apartment, he spotted me sitting in a chair by the window as I stared at the trees behind our building. Putting his hand on my shoulder, he turned to Lily and Leonard.

“And who’s this?” he asked.

Lily and Leonard said nothing. Lemuel put his hand to my cheek and slowly turned my face toward his.

“I don’t believe this,” he muttered.

“But he’s a beautiful boy,” Lily said after a moment of silence.

“Maybe,” Lemuel answered. “Still, I don’t think mom and dad would approve of this as a way of making them grandparents.”

“But Lily and I are married,” Leonard said. “And we’re happy this way.”

Lemuel turned towards Lily and Leonard. He’d grown tall in the seven years since they’d seen him, his hair as blonde as Lily’s and his nose sharp and thin, showing that he took after Grandma’s side of the family. His presence, which they had barely acknowledged while they were growing up, was no longer easy to ignore.

“Mom and dad will be... how shall I put this?,” Lemuel said, shaking his head. “Perturbed.” Like an actor who had run out of words and purposeful gestures, Lemuel remained still and silent for a moment. Then brushed the hair away from his eyes.

“You can’t tell them,” Lily exclaimed.

“But I have to,” Lemuel protested. “They have to know what’s happened to you, and what you’ve done.”

Lily walked hesitantly towards Lemuel, then put her hand on his shoulder.

“Leonard and I are in love,” she said to him. “And we have a beautiful son. Don’t go back and tell everyone. Not just yet. Stay with us a few days and you’ll see. We have a good life here, and there’s nothing wrong with that.”

Lemuel picked me up, then eased into the chair and sat me on his knee. The two of us sat there before the window, with no one saying anything as we stared straight ahead.

Two hours later Lemuel phoned Grandma and Grandpa. He told them he hadn’t found anything new about Lily and Leonard, but that he was going to keep looking, following up on some other leads he had. “I’ll stay in touch,” he told them.

Lemuel had decided, at Lily and Leonard’s urging, to stay with us for a while. And that night, after they’d put me to bed, Lily and Leonard told him everything about themselves, how they’d decided to run away, how they’d travelled all over the country, how they’d come to adopt Florida as their home. Lemuel, in turn, brought them up to date on events back in Athens.

He told them how their sudden disappearance had become a big mystery there. How people had devised a variety of theories concerning their fate—some mundane, some outlandish—including, as Lily and Leonard had joked about, the possibility of their having been abducted by aliens from outer space. But fortunately, which pleased both Lily and Leonard, there wasn’t a single theory that took on the possibility that they’d left of their own accord.

Lemuel explained that he was taking a break from college. That he’d already been taking courses for two years at the University Of Georgia, having finished high school a year early. That in that time, during which he majored in chemistry, he’d grown restless and had found in himself a desire to travel. That he then informed my Grandma and Grandpa that he was taking a year off to do so. And that in the course of his travels he would also investigate the disappearance of Lily and Leonard.

It had been two months earlier when he left Athens, he insisted. And since then he’d been, among other places, to Rock Springs and Galveston. How he’d figured out to search for them in these cities was beyond Lily and Leonard. And in the end he declined to explain exactly how he managed to find them.

“Let’s just say,” he concluded, “that you and Lily never realized how clever your younger brother was.”

Lemuel slept on the living room sofa, and in the morning went out with Leonard on his way to work.

“I’m going to find a job,” he said. “I should help you out with the money while I’m here.”

He was planning on going back on the road in a couple of months, he said. Then, when he was done travelling, he’d finish school.

“You should go back to school yourself,” Lemuel added.

Leonard thought about it for a moment. “No, I don’t think so,” he answered.

And Lemuel, looking out towards the distance, pondered the measures he’d have to take—the plans he’d have to make to get where he wanted to be.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Moving to Florida : Part I, chapter 4 from The Edge of the World (a novel in progress)

It was two weeks after the prom—right after Lily’s graduation ceremony—when Lily and Leonard left Georgia. They spent the time between these two events preparing for their new lives, with Lily arranging to get money for their trip while Leonard made fake birth certificates and drivers licenses. He changed his name from Leonard Bay to Leonard Bodine; Lily Bay, in turn, became Lily Paisley.

All this time Jimmy kept showing up at their door, flowers in hand, asking to see Lily. He’d call her on the phone every couple of hours and each time she’d decline to take the call. He wanted to fuck her again.

Lily, of course, refused to do so. Refused to even see him except for a few minutes one Saturday night during which she returned to him his high school ring. He’d given it to her on the night of the prom, which was, to Leonard’s satisfaction, the first and last time Jimmy would ever fuck her.

On the night before they left a UFO was sighted over the woods near their house. Lily and he were right there at the time it was seen, but even if it had been hovering right above them, flashing its multicolored lights and letting loose some otherworldly whoops and sirens, Lily and he, each facing the ground as Leonard fucked her in the ass, wouldn’t have noticed a thing. And while they were driving out of town after her graduation, Lily and he joked that the UFO would be the explanation for their disappearance. That it had returned the following day, whereupon its occupants abducted them, spiriting them from Lily’s car as they were en route to a graduation party.

There had to be some explanation, no matter how strange it was, because they left Athens without a word to anyone. They’d decided that they had to leave it completely behind. Its faces, its buildings—and all the shadows they created—were to be banished from their memory. The only thing they would keep were their moments alone. Moments when there was no world, just the universe they’d invented.

So as they set out from Georgia they fabricated stories to go along with their new identities. Stories which, however fanciful they may have been, were at least more believable than the UFO scenario.

It came to be that he, Leonard Bodine, was born twenty-one years ago in Rock Springs, Wyoming. He was the only son of Donald Bodine, a rancher, and his wife Carmen, who once represented that great western state in the Miss America Pageant, and who would have won if not for a horrible mishap during the talent competition in which she accidently gouged her eye out with a baton. Lily Paisley, Leonard’s bride to be, also twenty-one years of age, came from Galveston, Texas. Her father, Arnold Paisley, was a baptist minister; and while there wasn’t anything noteworthy about her mother Anne, aside from her great beauty, it was worth noting that Anne’s brother was Jimmy Webb, composer of the songs “Up Up And Away,” “By The Time I Get To Phoenix,” and of course, “McArthur Park”—a song which was inspired, in fact, by the brief infatuation he had with his young niece. It was in college where Lily Paisley and Leonard Bodine met, at the University of Miami, where they took classes for a year before dropping out. After leaving college they moved to the Gulf side of the state, to the town of Fort Myers. Which was where Lily and Leonard actually found themselves five weeks after leaving Athens.

That they settled in Florida was simply a matter of circumstance. They had been driving all over the country—it was their honeymoon—just going wherever their impulses led them. They first went to Reno, where they got married, then on to San Francisco and Los Angeles. After that they drove east to the Grand Canyon where they decided they should visit both Rock Springs and Galveston, as these were supposed to be their home towns. Because the places they wanted to see were often in opposite directions, they ended up driving back and forth across the country several times. And although they could have drawn up a set itinerary, they enjoyed moving about in this aimless manner. To be able to decide ten minutes before arriving in Denver that they also wanted to see New York City was preferable to having fixed travel plans which, although that would have saved them money, would also have diminished the sense of freedom they felt after leaving Athens.

By the end of their fifth week on the road they were on the Gulf Coast of Florida and their money was running out. They’d been to New Orleans, Chicago, Seattle. They’d seen Niagara Falls, Plymouth Rock, the Bonneville Salt Flats. They’d played slot machines in Nevada, gone on roller coaster rides in Texas, camped out in the Arizona desert. Leonard had finger fucked Lily in some thirty states, she’d sucked him off in four different time zones, and together they had peed on the beach on two different coasts. But now, after all that wandering, all that driving—all the fast food dinners and mornings waking up under the sky—it was time to settle down.

They sold Lily’s car, and with the money put down a deposit and paid the first month’s rent on a small apartment on McGregor Boulevard in Fort Myers. Now they needed jobs, something that would give them enough money for rent, food, and an occasional night out. They didn’t need much. They were, as they say, young and in love.

Within a week Lily found a job at a flower shop down the street from their apartment. The owner of the shop, an old widower in his sixties, on hearing the name Lily, decided it was fate. To have a woman named Lily working in his flower shop was only appropriate, he thought—though of course Lily’s beautiful face and body weighed heavily in his quick decision to hire her. Lily and Leonard were sure that when her boss went home that night he went to sleep and had wet dreams in which he saw himself misting the smelly flower between her legs. Dreams from which he awoke, out of breath, as from a seizure, when all it was was a nocturnal retreat into childhood. A longing for his better days.

With Lily settled in her job, Leonard went out looking for work of his own. Because he was young—too young to be out of school and working—he grew a beard.

But it was more a bird’s nest than a beard. Scraggly and ill shaped, it made his eyes look smaller, his nose seem wider, and his mouth became a crack in a buzzard’s egg. Although it added years to his face, when he looked in the mirror he saw the face of a criminal. An arsonist, a thief, even a murderer—all were possible in his tiny eyes, while his nose signified his crude origins. And as for his mouth, it was one which would never speak the truth.

It took some time, but after fashioning his beard into a tidy goatee he found that he looked older but honorable. Setting out one morning with his new face, he had a job at a liquor store by noon of that day. One of the benefits of being an employee at the store—in fact the only benefit—was that he got a discount, and although he didn’t drink, Lily did. So he got into the habit of bringing home a bottle of wine every few days.

Lily would have a glass or two with dinner, which she always prepared since Leonard had no skill as a cook. Then once a week he’d take her out to eat, usually at the noisiest place he could find. They’d sit in the restaurant and play with each other under the table while waiting for their meals to be served. After dinner they’d go to the movies where, if the film got boring, they’d make out like teenagers who didn’t have a place of their own.

For their first few months in the apartment they didn’t have a television. All they had was Lily’s portable radio and tape player, which she had remembered, at the last minute before leaving Athens, to bring with them in the car. She didn’t, however, remember to bring any of her tapes, so all they had to play on it was the tape that was inside when she took it. But that tape, Tommy James & The Shondells’ Greatest Hits, was one they especially liked, in particular the song “I Think We’re Alone Now.”

Sometimes they’d take the tape player with them and walk a mile or so to the river. They’d found a secluded spot on the river bank where they’d make love while listening to Tommy James sing,

And so we’re running just as fast as we can
Holding on to one another’s hand
Trying to get away into the night
And you put your arms around me
As we tumble to the ground
And then you say, “I think we’re alone now...”

Sometimes when it was raining they’d leave the tape player behind. Still, they’d pretend to hear the music while they danced naked and slow, their fingers in each other’s ass as they peed in the shallow water. And when there was a thunderstorm they’d lay down low at the water’s edge. Leonard would suck on Lily’s nipples, wrapping her hair, which looked dark and mysterious in the rain, around the back of his head. Then he’d move in and out of her, slowly at first, then picking up speed as the storm grew stronger. They’d fuck like wild animals, their screams blending in with the sound of thunder, their bodies flashing with each burst of light. When they were done they’d lie back, exhausted, letting the rain, falling steadily on their bare skin, invigorate their bodies until they were ready to fuck again.

When they had enough money, and had bought a small black and white television, they were disappointed to find that The Beverly Hillbillies was only on during the day when they were at work. But then, in the evening, they discovered The Brady Bunch, and came to like this show even more than The Beverly Hillbillies.

Because on this show there were three boys and three girls whom they could pretend were not just step brothers and sisters but actual blood relations. They imagined elaborate brother and sister orgies with Jan Brady sucking off Greg, taking Peter’s dick in her pussy and Bobby’s dick in her ass, while Marsha and Cindy did lesbian golden showers on each other. They saw Greg peeing on Marsha while Peter jerked off on her tits as she sucked off Bobby, with Cindy and Jan in another corner of the room sticking black rubber dildoes in each other’s pussy. They saw Marsha and Jan eating fried eggs off of Bobby’s ass as Bobby ate out Cindy who was jerking off Greg, while Peter finger fucked both Marsha and Jan who were now rubbing egg yolks over their tits as they each yelled, “Now do me like a six-pack you fucking fuck.”

The combinations were almost infinite, and the night The Brady Bunch was on was a night when they always stayed home.

Overall, Lily and Leonard had a perfect married life, and the only thing that could have made it better was if they didn’t have to work and be separated during the day. Because even though they had no friends in Fort Myers—and associated with no one except when they were at work—they couldn’t get enough of each other. They were happy that they’d run away and gotten married, with Lily skipping college and Leonard dropping out of high school. Because in doing so they’d gotten a head start on life.

So while many of the girls in Lily’s class were now in college, taking courses and going out on dates with frat boys, she was with Leonard, her husband. And while Leonard’s classmates were doing lab experiments in school, going out on dates and trying to score for the very first time, or just hanging out at the pinball arcade, he was working, living with his beautiful wife, and making love every night.

It was fine with him that he was missing out on those teenage years, that so-called age of “exploration and discovery.” Because ever since he was ten he knew that he didn’t want to subject himself to the horrible process of adolescence. Like a boy who had grown much older than his years, and who knew much more than he should, he wanted to pass it by—but of course the possibility of that happening seemed to be nil. And like a boy who was moving along more slowly than everyone else, he thought that skipping his awkward years was a fantasy he could never fulfill. Yet with Lily and the town of Fort Myers, in the phallicly shaped state of Florida, he had.
Note: Alternate chapter title: Drink the Muddy Water in the Vaseline Stain.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

School of Love: Part I, chapter 3 from The Edge of the World (a novel in progress)

Lily and Leonard lived with their parents, and their brother Lemuel, in Athens, Georgia. Their house, the house I had lived in from the age of nine until I left for New York with Marly, was on the southern side of a street called Horseshoe Lane which, appropriately, was shaped like a horseshoe, the ends of which led into the woods. Even though Horseshoe Lane was only a five minute walk from the University of Georgia—the center of activity in town—the neighborhood had an almost rural atmosphere to it. Having lived there since they were small, right on the edge of the woods in a house with an enormous backyard, Lily and Leonard always felt as if they had grown up on a farm.

Their parents were both professors at the university. Louis Bay, my Grandfather, taught physics, while Ellen, my Grandmother, was in the English department. Being academics, they had always stressed to Lily and Leonard the importance of education.

“Never let a day go by when you haven’t learned something,” Louis used to say to his children. And, “You’ll never be too old to learn something new.”

Even then Grandpa was already talking like an old man. And despite his status in the community as an intellectual, every moment for him was a time to express either sentiment or an almost antiquated sense of optimism, the basis of which was his faith in learning. To him, knowledge was power. And to him, knowledge was a force which could overcome any disadvantages one was born with.

Although Lily and Leonard were expected to spend a good amount of time on school work, they were also allowed to lead normal lives. As long as they did their school work—and did it well—neither Louis nor Ellen had any objection to their watching television, listening to rock and roll music on the radio, or taking part in after school activities like other children. All in all, it was a typical household, and their childhood a normal one.

When Lily and Leonard started fucking it was the fall of 1971. Leonard was in his first year of high school and on the junior varsity football team, while Lily was a senior and a cheerleader. But with Lily and Leonard fucking, and she giving Jimmy the occasional blow job, there wasn’t much time for football or cheerleading.

They promptly quit these activities which, for them, had become boring and unnecessary. Leonard would ride home right after school with Lily. And every day they’d make a stop along the way for a quick fuck in her car.

When they got home they’d watch television for an hour or so—reruns of The Beverly Hillbillies had become their favorite. They’d fantasize about Jethro and Ellie Mae, making believe they were brother and sister like them and not just cousins. They’d imagine Jethro and Ellie Mae fucking in the cement pond, on the fancy eating table, or even in Granny’s bedroom when she was out back making lye soap. They could almost see Ellie Mae, her big breasts hanging down firm and heavy, as she sucked on Jethro’s huge dick; then hear Jethro, the sweat pouring down his brow, screaming, “Oh Ellie Mae, you hot fucking slut,” as he came all over her sweet sexy face.

Since she couldn’t go out on school nights, Lily went on dates with Jimmy on the weekend. While Leonard wasn’t pleased that she was still seeing Jimmy, he was able to live with the situation because Lily, having taken to heart his advice on this matter, still adamantly refused to let Jimmy fuck her. That she saved this act for himself seemed only proper to Leonard. After all, he was her brother and such intimacies, he felt, should be kept in the family.

With Lily and he fucking all during the week, Leonard’s first year of high school went quickly. He ended up getting A’s in all his courses. His teachers—who considered him the brightest student in his class—began referring to him half seriously as “Young Einstein.” By the way they spoke it was clear they expected great things from him. Winning their praises, however, was of no importance to Leonard, as he had never really worked at nor had the slightest interest in his studies. Because for Leonard school work was just something that had to be done well so that it was completely out of the way: the only thing that mattered to him was Lily.

Before long it was June and time for Lily’s senior prom and high school graduation. She had decided, after having been accepted at several schools around the country, to attend college in town at the University of Georgia. That she was staying home for college was, Leonard thought, because of him and not because Jimmy, having received a football scholarship, was also staying home. But on the day of the prom Leonard noticed Lily was acting strangely towards him.

When she went into the bathroom to take a shower, he followed her. Again, he was joking with her, trying to hold her up so she’d be late. But this time, as he began to kiss her breasts, she got angry.

“This is a special day,” she said, “and I don’t have time to fool around.”

Her reaction surprised him. Usually when she was in a bad mood all she needed was a quick fuck to lift her spirits. But what concerned him more was to hear Lily, after they had dropped all their other school activities, refer to the prom, of all things, as a special event. It seemed that something strange was going on in her mind, something which wasn’t the result of her period—she’d had that the previous week, and when it was over he fucked her and she felt fine. No, it was something else, and when he began to think what it might be he grew worried.

That night he stayed awake, waiting for her to come home. When she walked in the door, at five in the morning after what had been the longest night of his young life, he looked up at her. And he knew, without her having to say anything, what had happened.

“You fucked Jimmy,” he said.

Lily turned away.

“You fucked Jimmy!” Leonard repeated loudly.

“Well he’s my boyfriend,” Lily yelled, turning back to him. “How can I expect to keep him if I don’t fuck him?”

Leonard calmly took Lily by the arm and led her out the door. They walked in silence until they reached the edge of the woods.

“You don’t need a boyfriend,” Leonard said bluntly. “You have me.”

“But I can’t go out on dates with you,” Lily answered. “You’re my brother. We can’t let anyone know about us, and I’m tired of that.”

“That’s only here,” Leonard said after a moment’s thought. “Anywhere else who would know?”

Lily blinked. She didn’t quite understand. Because what Leonard was encouraging her to do was something that was beyond her imagination.

“Run away with me, Lily,” he said more as a command than as a plea.

But before she could say anything he put his hand on her cheek and kissed her hard on the mouth.

“It’s the only thing we can do,” he said as he unzipped her dress and pulled it down from her. When he removed her bra she remained silent. He kissed her breasts and reached below, pulling her panties to her knees.

“Marry me,” he breathed, then pulled her to the ground. She tried to stand but he held on tightly to her hips. She tried to struggle free but he pulled her closer. She kept trying until finally all resistance left her. Until finally she understood.

And now, ripping his shirt open, she kissed him on the chest, pulled down his trousers, his underpants. Now rolling around naked on the patchy grass, sweating and moaning in the moonlight, they could see the dirt smeared on their hands and bodies.

“I want you,” she declared as he pushed his middle finger in her ass. “I love you,” as he slid his thumb inside her pussy. Then gasping for air she sat up, as if from a nightmare, bringing her mouth between his legs and sucking as if her breath depended on it, as if she were the Ellie Mae Clampitt of his dreams. Then bringing her face to his she said, “Yes”—as his sperm dripped from her mouth onto his cheek. “Yes,” as she kissed him with her syrupy tongue. “Yes, I’ll marry you.”

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Teenage Lust: Part I, chapter 2 from The Edge of the World (a novel in progress)

As for my family history, I experienced very little first hand. But like the stone and sand and dirt that comprise the history of New York City, it was something I understood. And little by little, I came to know the details, the most important of which was that Marly and I were not the bastard son and daughter of Lily and Leonard—though “bastard” does somehow seem to describe what we were. Because although Lily and Leonard were married, they were also brother and sister. Which would indicate that regardless of their marital status we were, in many ways, illegitimate.

That was a word I’d have no problem living up to. A word which, once I was able to give voice to it, seemed to define me. And soon afterwards it would define Marly as well.

Although I must admit that Marly’s fall from legitimacy was all my doing. Just as our mother’s fall was perhaps the responsibility of our father. And the result of his learning the difference between right and wrong.

Because it was on the day after his fourteenth birthday that Leonard, my father, followed his sister, Lily, into the bathroom as she went to take a shower. She was getting ready for a date with Jimmy, her boyfriend at the time. All the while Leonard had been telling jokes, teasing her, trying to hold her up so she’d be late. He thought it would be even more amusing to have Jimmy get there to pick her up and find that she hadn’t even gotten out of the shower yet. Jimmy would have to sit downstairs with Grandma and Grandpa as they questioned him about his plans for the future. And, more importantly, his intentions as far as Lily was concerned. These were tough questions for Jimmy, who at twenty was a little too old and experienced, or so my grandparents thought, to be seeing a girl of sixteen like Lily.

Despite his age, Jimmy was still in high school, having had to repeat both eighth and ninth grades. School had become too difficult for him at that point, with algebra, biology, and history being beyond his understanding. But when Jimmy became a star player on the varsity football team, teachers were told to go easy on him.

Like almost anywhere else in the world, sports meant something to people there. Almost more than war, they were what made a man a man—at least in the eyes of most people. Because war was something that was best left forgotten. Something to be studied by intellectuals—those dour, bespectacled creatures whose primary emotions were self righteousness and a detached sense of pity for those surrounding them. Sports were for everyone else. They made for more pleasant memories, and people there needed something to remember.

For the moment Jimmy was what they remembered. On Sunday mornings after church it was always, “Good Lord, that was a glorious game yesterday, Jimmy Boy.” On Monday mornings in school it was always, “Hey, Jimmy, you were, like, possessed on Saturday!”

He was a piece of work, Jimmy, the kid who was as strong as an ox and as fast as a horse. Lily’s eyes would light up as she walked down the halls with him. She would carry her head a little higher, her breasts heaving as her arms swayed beside her. Lily, one of the prettiest and liveliest of the girls, thought he was quite a prize.

Leonard, however, thought that Jimmy was something else altogether. That he was a false hero, a pathetic clown in a champion’s body. Leonard thought Lily should be seeing someone as smart as she was. Someone who could see that she was something more than a cheerleader. Someone who could make her laugh and dance and sing as she and Leonard had done since their brother Lemuel was born.

Because when their brother—my uncle Lemuel—was born, Lily and Leonard became best friends. They began to like the same television shows, the same songs on the radio. They spent all their free time alone, as if there were no one in the world but them. Because alone they were king and queen of a universe they themselves had created.

When Lily got older and developed an interest in the world around her, Leonard got jealous. Until Jimmy came along the world offered nothing that could compete with him; and having Jimmy rise from the depths to become his most formidable opponent seemed absurd. Because Leonard, the consummate romantic and genius of their universe, was her true inspiration. All Jimmy had going for him, Leonard thought, was his talent for playing a fool’s game—take that away and you had a dull, humorless boy who didn’t know the difference between a good time and a bad time.

But despite his deficiencies, Jimmy played a prominent role in the outside world. It was what made him seem like a prize to Lily. Tall and blonde, he was one of those people who, upon hitting a streak of good luck, would never lose it, would never have to work very hard to keep it. While Leonard, despite his many talents, was of those people who would never really make it in the world.

“I’m thinking of letting Jimmy go all the way tonight,” Lily told Leonard on the day he followed her into the bathroom.

Not taking her comment seriously at first, Leonard simply shrugged it off. But when she insisted she was going to go through with it he shut the bathroom door behind them.

“It’ll be wonderful,” Lily said to Leonard. And though she truly believed it would be, she was also trying to provoke him. To goad him into speaking or into taking action. She wasn’t sure which.

“No, it’ll be terrible,” Leonard argued as he put the cover down on the toilet and sat down. “He won’t know what to do. He’ll be fumbling around like the stupid brute that he is.”

“Well I think he’ll be gentle,” Lily answered as she turned to the mirror. Then she faced Leonard again. “He’ll start like this.”

Lily pulled the ribbons from her hair and shook her head until her long blonde ponytails fell apart like a wave over her shoulders.

“And he’ll know just how to undress me.”

She smiled, darting her tongue over her lips then stretching her arms, letting her bathrobe fall to the floor. She was the first girl Leonard had ever seen naked. Her body, to him, seemed like nothing less than a great gift from god. And when she stepped into the shower he had no choice but to take off his clothes and follow her inside.

He watched as Lily soaped up her body, rubbing her hands over her full breasts, sometimes stopping to pinch her nipples, then moving down to her belly, her thighs, her pussy, her hand moving up and down over her shiny wet pubic hair.

At first he just watched and laughed, listening to the sounds Lily made as she moved her finger in and out of her pussy. But soon he began touching himself, rubbing his dick till it got hard. Lily watched and knelt in front of him. Taking his dick in her hand she began stroking it madly. When he came she rubbed his sperm over her breasts and when the water washed it all away she stood up, pushing his face between her legs. Without pausing to breathe he slid his tongue over and around and between her pussy lips until she started moaning and breathing hard. Lily, his true love, was shaking so wildly he had to hold on tightly to her ass to keep her heat on his face.

When she was done and had caught her breath she knelt and began licking his dick until it got hard again. She sucked on it fast and strong and after he squirted inside of her she looked up at him, smiling sweetly with her mouth full of cum, and swallowed. Standing up, she held him close as they both peed, letting the yellow liquid run down their legs. Letting it mingle with the soapy water as it circled down the drain.

When they finally got out of the bathroom Leonard went downstairs and Lily to her room. Sitting on the living room sofa between their mother and father was Jimmy.

“Where’s... Lily?” Jimmy asked slowly, sounding as if he had a mouth full of food.

Leonard brushed his wet hair away from his face. He tilted his head upwards as his wide dark eyes caught the light from the living room lamp.

“She’s drying her hair,” he said. “She’ll be down soon.”

“Oh,” Jimmy nodded. “Okay,” as Grandma and Grandpa looked not at Leonard but at Jimmy with a trace of apprehension in their eyes.

Leonard went outside, sat on the porch steps, and laughed.

That night, when Lily came home from her date with Jimmy, she whispered to him, “It’s all right. I only gave him a blow job.”

And when everyone in the house was asleep he went to her room. She was waiting for him.