In bed late that night, Larry dribbling into his pillow beside me, I wrote two new headings on the pad: Liabilities on the left, including the fees for the twins’ exclusive girls’ school underneath. And Assets on the right. And included Larry’s life insurance.
I hadn’t meant to turn it into a Joan Crawford moment, but when he stood in the hallway weeping into his hands saying, “I’ve lost my job,” I looked down at my Charles Jourdan pumps with the gold pom-poms and immediately went online and bought twenty Versace t-shirts.
And after I bustled Cashmere and Chambré off to bed, fear in their eyes as they wondered at the strange noises coming from Larry in the toilet, I’d sunk against the 100% goose down pillows with the amazingly high thread count Egyptian cotton pillowslips and I’d started my first list.
Decant cheap wine into more expensive bottles, I’d written.
The litany of tough decisions scrawled on.
Stencil Gucci on no-name jeans.
I looked over and watching the saliva encrusting in the corner of Larry’s mouth, my heart sank. I knew a breach of promise suit, charging we were not being kept in the manner to which we were accustomed, would not deliver the desired result.
So I tore up the first list and started the second.
eBay’s been good to me. We’ll see what it delivers this time.
Category Archives: Matt Potter
Their jaws drop. Tears well in my father’s eyes.
“You’ve turned this into a circus!” I say. I fold my arms and glare.
My mother lays her pen on top of the seating plan. “And disappoint your father?” she says. “When that’s all he’s looked forward to throughout his illness?”
Dad sniffs. I don’t look at him.
I jab the plan with my finger. “You’ve put all my anorexic friends on the table nearest the buffet,” I say. “And all my bulimic friends on the other side of the room away from the buffet and the toilets.”
“There’s no point wasting good food,” says Mum.
Flicking my veil behind my shoulder, I stomp out of the room and into my bedroom, slamming the door behind me.
I slump on the bed, twisting on my bottom so my head hits the pillow and my feet, in their dental assistant-like white, rest at the other end, beneath the cross on the wall.
Mum taps on the door and stands in the doorway.
“Sirên,” she says, using the Christian name I’m giving up. “This going away party is the last time we’ll be able to do anything like this. Soon you’ll be in the convent. Have a heart and let us do this the way it should be done.”
She looks at me doe-eyed.
“At least while your father’s still with us.”
I roll my eyes. People think being a Christian means you’ll put up with anything.
Home sweet hoe, it said in red stitching.
Her ancestors weren’t great spellers but who cares when it’s worth a bucket of money.
Took it to the framers after I found it in her old girl’s shed. “Need this framed yesterday,” I said, thumping the counter. Two hours later had a massive gold frame with flowers and shit all over it. Scratched it up a bit so made it look old and the auction bloke fell for it.
“It’s not spelled right,” I said. In case he didn’t know.
“The mistake gives it its value,” he said.
“Well, the wife’s family weren’t too bright in the upstairs department, if you know what I mean.”
Took it home, banged a nail in the wall and stuck it up.
Janice’s jaw dropped when I told her how much we could get for it. “Enough to never work again and get a nice new pair of these,” I said, squeezing her tits.
And the wife said the same that night when she got home from shotput practice.
But Janice didn’t want to wait. “When am I gonna get my new tits?” she said.
Booked tickets to Bali and got Janice a perm. Told ’em at work I wouldn’t be in Monday.
Went to grab it from the wall but only the frame was there, and a note.
Sold the cross-stitch and have run off with Barb my shotput coach. We’re somewhere on the Great Ocean Road, ya miserable fuck!
Went to work Monday.
“It’s about basic working conditions!” she says, rubbing ice cubes on her nipples.
I hand her her plate and she clicks it into place in her mouth. It’s her signature look, buck teeth. Heaven knows what the punters would think if they knew even her teeth were fake.
I hand her the vermillion-sequinned g-string. Stepping into it, her flashing platform shoe snags on the crotch. I grab her elbow.
“Fuck those cockies,” she says, steadying to snap the g-string into place. “It’s them or me.”
“So you’re a match for a million-year throwback?”
She bends over in front of me. “Am I straight?”
Fingering the waistband, I shift the t-bar a centimetre to the right.
“I hate the bastards in this business.”
I pick the plastic raincoat from its hanger. Holding it out, I slide the sleeves over her arms then button up the front. “When you’re on-stage, don’t let the cockroaches in this dressing room get you down.”
She grimaces, checking her teeth in the mirror, then picks up her umbrella. ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ is her biggest strip.
She stands in the doorway. “The Hungry Doughnut has offered me twice as much money and a cockroach-free clause: for every cockie I see I get an extra $100.”
“Oh,” I say. “So … you want me to collect as many cockies as I can so we can take them with us?”
“Yeah.” Her cheeks rub the raincoat as she turns around. “A little bit of pre-history never hurt anyone.”
Smoke is pouring outta my ears! (And outta my mouth and nostrils, but that’s normal.)
The Fast-o-matic Supermart has changed their coupons. Now you can’t swap them for plastic surgery. So all those tubes of New Orleans-style Cottil-i-Lard dog sausage were bought for nothing.
And New Orleans-style Cottil-i-Lard flavour is not my favourite.
“Next election is gonna be real interesting,” I said, wearing army fatigues as I stood in the check-out line swapping coupons for rubber sheeting.
“Why’s that, Maureen?” said LaVern, patting her hair.
“The little people have had enough and there’s gonna be a revolution.”
“All ’cos you can’t get discount face smoothing anymore?”
Where that LaVern leaves her brain, I got no idea.
“It’s more than just my face, LaVern,” I said, handing her the coupons. “Even my thighs have crow’s feet.”
“It’s a free country,” she said, popping the coupons in the cash drawer and pushing the rubber sheeting towards me. “No one ever made you smoke.”
“If the government wants us to smoke so they can take our taxes, they should give us free plastic surgery so we can get rid of our smokers’ wrinkles.”
LaVern leaned over the conveyor belt and said under her breath, “Sounds like socialism, Maureen.”
Ever since LaVern went to that community college last summer she uses these big words.
“Have fun looking socialism up in the dictionary,” LaVern said, as I stuffed the rubber sheeting in my titanium-dipped carry-all.
I love this country but it’s going to the dogs.
Get the angle just right and you can create a pile-up.
I’m the Good Samaritan of Highway 57. Twice I’ve been cited for a Medal of Bravery but I’ve turned it down.
I don’t want the scrutiny medal-giving brings.
I live atop a cliff behind a clump of trees, in a Frank Lloyd Wright knock-off bought in the last property bust. From the balcony you can see for miles across the ocean, and even in winter, as the sun sets, it’s a million dollar view.
But there’s no welcome mat in front of my door and I work long hours in Emergency at the large hospital twenty minutes up the coast anyway.
Have you seen my photo in the paper? I always have a serious expression on my face, am usually in a white coat and probably look completely unapproachable but there I am, and pasted in my scrapbook: Local Doctor Saves Another Life.
I keep it in a secret cavity the Frank Lloyd Wright wannabe designed, under the kitchen floor. Dragging it back from the bushes atop the cliff without gouging the lawn is a challenge, but neatness is next to godliness in my profession.
Catch the glint of the afternoon sun in the large mirror and rush hour on Highway 57 somersaults to a halt. Half an hour later I’m working miracles with battered bodies and there I am in the local newspaper again.
My ex-wife had four children after we divorced.
“Put it down to experience,” Tess says, beginning our next ascent.
Our glockenspiels glint in the sun. Ahead of us: eight more glockenspielers. Ahead of them: Wanda our blonde-bobbed Manager, high-stepping in leatherette boots and cowgirl fringing, waving a baton in the refugee camp breeze.
Booooooooooompppp sounds the tuba, wrapped around a lumpen guard bringing up the rear. Any slower and he’d be marching backwards.
The Happy Times Elevenette is the camp’s official cheer-up squad, marching the hilly streets dispensing goodwill. Tess and I are seconded from our English-teaching positions.
Clunk, ting, ping, sounds my hammer on the gleaming keys. One more bum note and I’ll be struck down by lightning.
“Wouldn’t it be easier if Wanda just learned to do her job?” I say, spying refugee residents (‘clients’ in the official parlance) curtain-twitching at their windows.
In over her head managing the camp’s education and activities programme, Wanda has morphed her job into something she can do: a weekday version of her weekend brass band-conducting hobby.
Wanda high-steps aside as we crest a curve, evil-eyeing me through Jersey-cow-length false eyelashes, and waves her baton: dispensing rhythm or casting a curse, I can’t tell.
I hammer a high C.
“It’ll look good on your C.V.,” Tess whispers.
Marching down the hill, I think of verbs I could be declining in my classroom-tent. And of my growing bank balance, each jolting step, each clunking hammer-dong more money towards the hitman I’m paying to release us from this tinkling hell.
I ripped the glasses from his face and throwing them on the floor, stomped them into the polished floorboards.
Eight blank faces looked on. So I picked up the platter of anemone shells and tortoise shells and quail egg shells left over from the Mauritian bouillabaisse and tipped them over his balding head.
Still no reaction. Least of all from the tippee.
Balling my fists, I banged them on the retro-formica tabletop. The taste of pufferfish balls in an oleander-infused reduction with a seaweed and pomegranate side-salad tossed in a geranium-rottweiler vinaigrette rose in my throat.
“I resent subsidising the meals of those who had three courses AND A BOTTLE OF WINE when I only had one course and paid for my drinks along the way,” I said, looking at him as the broken shells slid down his face. “Especially when they earn more than double what I do.”
Recognition flickered in the eyes of those who, like me, have to watch their spending.
I slapped thirty-two dollars and seventy-five cents down hard on top of the hand-written account.
“I am NOT splitting the bill.”
And walking out the door, I made a mental note to contact my Anger Management Coach as soon as possible.
Pink-faced, he glowered in the corner, champagne in hand.
“I didn’t realise just how much you’d got around,” he said. “You’d only had five men when we got together.”
That was twenty-three years ago.
What could I say? Sorry my sex life has turned into a gay cliché? None of these men meant anything to me?
Bring something that will remind me of you, the invitation said. I’m turning fifty.
Even with the noise of the thousand men in the room, I could hear Jasper’s angry breathing. Had I really fucked them all?
“Who’s that anaemic-looking group over there?” Jasper pointed to a pale-faced quartet. Even in the middle of the room, they looked backlit.
“I think they’re dead,” I said. “You want me to ask?”
Jasper looked away. My heart lurched inside my chest. I wanted to put my arm around him but didn’t dare.
“I’m surprised you haven’t fucked yourself to death, too,” he added, “given your record.”
I would have said, Well, I’ve given it my best, but a well-known face walked in. Conversation lulled, just a second, as he made his way through the crowd.
He – the newest guest – was well known for a long-running series of so-bad-they-were-unintentionally-funny TV commercials. Buck, he’d say, holding a deodorant stick at the camera. For the man in you.
“You fucked old man deodorant?” Jasper smiled. Now my face turned pink.
Jasper downed his champagne. “I’m gonna see if I can score,” he said. “Some freebies.”
Red-white-and-blue pennants fluttered overhead. The night breeze cooled my naked nipples.
“So it’s a bit like an initiation?” he said.
“Yeah,” I nodded, hard-on tenting inside my shorts.
He hurled the brick I gave him at the car window. Glass shattered onto the front seat and the car yard asphalt.
I reached around inside and unlocked the back door. Sliding onto the seat, I released my waistband. My hard-on thwacked against my stomach.
Pulling my knees onto my chest, my toes touched the padded roof. It was the first time I’d been in an older model BMW, and the plush brown leather sighed against my back.
Pushing his jeans down around his ankles, he knelt, and pressed his moist dipstick against my hole.
“Do you always do this on a first date?” he said.
“Fuck my exhaust pipe,” I answered.
With each stroke of his crankshaft, my carburettor purred. And as he accelerated straight into third gear, all six cylinders throbbed.
“Play with my gear stick,” I moaned.
He smiled, and with his hands, surprisingly smooth and soft and clean, began –
“Hey!” I signalled, thrusting my palm at his chest. “I thought you were a mechanic.”
“No, a mechanical engineer.”
I reached up and, hard-on limping against my stomach, pulled my shorts down from my ankles. “Sorry,” I said. “I only fuck mechanics.”
“Too bad,” he said. He backed out of the car and stood up, penis dewy in the breeze. “’Cause I’ve got two tickets to the motor show.”
“Get ya hands outta there, ya filthy old cunt!”
I look up, his distorted face hurling more abuse.
Blurring my eyes, I look over the roofline of his fruit and veg store and to the sky beyond. Then back down into the bowels of the rubbish bin.
His anger floats over me as I fossick inside, Wednesday gloves black with grime. Thursday’s, Friday’s and Saturday’s pairs, washed and dried, sit in wait beside my front door.
Newspapers, a banana skin, fast food wrappers and then gold! A soft drink bottle, two cans and – lucky me – three iced coffee cartons. We get a refund on those here too.
“Take ya fucking trolley and ya shitty bags and fuck off!” he yells.
Why doesn’t he uproot the rubbish bin from the footpath, if he doesn’t want me here? No one else would blame him.
I straighten my back, and push the bottle, cans and cartons inside the plastic bags in my trolley. Then I stare at him, my arms hanging loose at my sides, my polyester frock – my work uniform – worn and faded. And I flash him a smile, sucking my gums: I keep my teeth at home.
“I could be your mother,” I say.
His jaw drops at the sound of my voice.
Grabbing the trolley handle, I push it up the street. Home is fifteen minutes walk. Once inside, I’ll sort out the takings, shower and change, and play Mozart on my iPod.
The smell wafted from the open Bible. I gagged behind my veil, dewy mood shattered.
Cameron picked it from the pages and tried to slide it on my finger but I snatched my hand away.
His eyes searched mine.
“It smells,” I whispered.
Father O’Donoghue leaned towards us, sour breath fluttering the tulle. “You got cold feet?”
“There’s something wrong with the ring,” Cameron said.
A cough rose from the front pew.
“The ring smells, Father,” I said.
“What of?” he said. “Formaldehyde?”
My brain blanked. Which word was appropriately churchy? “Excrement,” I said.
No look of recognition spread across his face.
“Shit,” I whispered.
“Shit!?” he said too loudly. Murmurs filled the church.
The priest took the ring and sniffed it, then turned to Cameron, raising his eyebrows.
“You buy shit, it’s gonna smell like shit,” he said. “You should’ve come to me like I told you and got a good deal with my nephew.” He sniffed the ring again then threw it on the floor. Its tinny roll echoed through the church. “Cheap Chinese shit.”
He reached into his pocket, pulled out another ring, and tossed it on the open Bible.
Sighing with relief, Cameron took the ring and grabbed my finger.
I pulled away again. “But it’s not the ring I chose.”
“I am the word of God!” the priest hissed, my veil blowing in my face with such force it tangled in my eyelashes.
Luckily, Father O’Donoghue’s other nephew catered the reception.
3D is killing my porn career.
So I stand at the end of my driveway wearing a matching white halter and latex micro-mini, pitcher in hand, selling homemade lemonade to drivers-by.
Traffic on the street has tripled since I started. Many drivers recognise me from Squat and Cough 7, my last big success. And there have been quite a few rear-end collisions too.
A frequent driver-by is Barney, my ex-husband.
“It’s your fault I’m doing this, Barney,” I screamed through the driver’s window of his BMW as he pulled up yesterday.
“You got the house and the pool boy in the settlement,” he yelled back.
“And you got the plastic surgeon!” Bending over, I had to hitch up my halter. “Now I can’t go within 200 yards of his practice or house or mother!”
Never marry a divorce lawyer. And if you do, never divorce him.
Barney buzzed up the windows and I saw my tits in the dark reflection: sagging, especially around the edges. I threw the pitcher at the car and smashed the window, lemonade and glass splattering everywhere. Tyres squealing, he sped off.
It’s hard getting work done that’s cheap and reliable, so sagging anything is a major career-crisis.
Tottering on my ten-inch wedges back to my lemonade stand, I imagined how many more glasses I’d need to sell before I can get my new super-size-me, gravity-defying rack.
As my career counsellor once said: Be proactive! If life hands you lemons, make lesbian porn.
“I’ve met someone,” Trent beams down the phone.
Thank God, I think. The drought has broken.
“You must meet him.”
Standing on the corner, I wonder if Trent’s new boyfriend will look like any of the exes: tall and muscled, like Rodrigo, Manny and Bruce? Petite and muscled, like Kim, Jackie and Ba? Or hairy and muscled, like Spike, Max and Bruce (doing double duty ten years and a new body later)?
“Hi, stranger.” Trent’s arms enclose me. A bursting warmth shines through his eyes.
“This guy’s worked wonders,” I say.
“I’m like a new man,” Trent trills. Then holds up his hand, as if pledging allegiance. “Wait: I am a new man!”
“Come in,” he says, leading me through a side door. And into a church. Which I’d noticed while waiting but thought was just a meeting point.
Trent stops before a statue of a buff Jesus. “Meet the new man in my life.”
Trent’s had many phases: Madonna, Bette, leather, water sports, rollerblading, haiku, chicken queen, rice queen, muscle queen, daddy. But religion? This is new.
But there’s no denying Trent looks a different – certainly happier – person.
“How serious is this?” I say.
He lays his hands on my arm. “Come with me to my prayer meeting tonight.”
I look for a chink, to find the Trent I’ve always known.
“I can’t,” I say. “I have a date with the devil.”
“Oh,” he says. But I see the familiar spark in his eyes. “Tell him I said hello.”
Look at the pain in her eyes.
Look at mine.
Feel the joy as she follows the yellow brick road. But watch her shortened breath as she dances over the cracks. See the tears well just behind her eyes. And hear the throb in her voice.
Then watch as I gasp, stepping off the bus. See tears flow as I tread the cement footpath to work. And hear me sob as I pass colleagues en route to my desk.
Eight hours at work, then home on the bus and only once inside can I unbind and breathe free.
But my toes disappear until morning.
The surgeon pincers a fat measurement of my breasts.
“You have an impressive pair there,” he says, hands warm as he cups them. “Shame they’re on a man though.”
He sits behind his desk as, holding the binding close with one arm, I start winding it ’round my torso with the other.
“Still,” he says, flipping through the pages of his operating diary. “They could be nice little earners on the freak show circuit.”
I fasten the binding under my armpit.
“Judy Garland was too old for the part in The Wizard of Oz,” I say. “So they bound her breasts too.”
The doctor scribbles on the page.
“But she would’ve seen her feet at night when she took the binding off,” I add.
“April 1st there’s an opening.” He smiles. “And just think, after the reduction you’ll be able to see your cock again too.”
“Do Afghanis eat ice cream?” I ask.
Her muscled biceps chaff inside regulation short sleeves as we tour the distribution point. “Yep, they love it.”
I’m unconvinced. Actually, I am not sure of anything here. I’ve left my assumptions at the front gate, beside the green wire fence that is being built around the refugee camp perimeter.
“Do they even know what an ice cream scoop is?”
We leave the open boxes of ice cream scoops and she swaggers, walkie-talkie on hip (I walk) past boxes of spatulas and cutlery sets and wooden spoons and serving spoons. I peer at the saucepan sets and chopping boards and springform cake tins as we pass those too, and stare open-mouthed at the walls of electric kettles and toasters and drinking glasses and tea towels stacked opposite.
But those ice cream scoops call me.
“What about the other groups coming here?” I ask. “Were they asked what they wanted in these houses?”
She turns and looks at me, like I’ve suddenly come onto her radar.
“They’ve been living in motels and barracks, some of them for more than a year,” she says, as if I’m an Introduction to Refugees student at the local community college. “They’ll get their own houses here and they’re gonna love it.”
I look at the set of her chin. And decide now is not the time to suggest, in my Activities Coordinator role, that I take them shopping for kitchen utensils they might really use.
George thrust a photograph of a sexy female model in a boxy fur jacket before me.
“Long-haired rabbits. The next big thing in fur.” And he made a balloon with his hands and blew out his cheeks.
I remembered Mum when we were kids, listening to Dad pitch his latest idea that would earn millions, making him a household name.
“No one wears fur in Australia anymore,” I said.
“They do at the opera, Frank.”
I’m a theatre critic, and we attend opera openings. Where old ladies wear furs they bought forty years ago.
“There’s cheap land at Cudlee Creek perfect for breeding long-haired rabbits,” he added. “They can’t jump high so fencing costs are low.”
“But rabbits burrow, George.”
“Not with mesh on the ground.” He held up the photograph. The woman was wearing what looked like fox. “Free range long-haired rabbits grow extra long hair too.”
I looked at him squarely. “What about the Rose D’Amour jewellery in the garage?” I said. “And the Gift-O-Life mini-defibrillators in the shed? And the Hot-and-Ready Quik-Grow-Rice-in-a-Can in the spare room?”
“I got really bad advice on all those deals. And the land at Cudlee Creek’s going for a song.”
I shook my head.
He sat, shoulders hunched. “Don’t you want me to be a success?” he said. “Why do you always stand in my way?”
“Okay. Do it.”
George chatted all night about how rich he’d make us. Again.
Sometimes gay men marry men just like their fathers, too.
“Yeah, she’s a real slut,” many contestants’ mothers say.
“If he could only keep it in his pants, he’d probably be able to stay in the country,” others say about their sons.
I sit in my beanbag, sipping beer and semi-flaccid, watching the new dating show Loose Connections, previewing it for a local community TV channel. I have to give it its correct classification. So I’m the one who decides which large letter flashes on your TV screen, and if you should send your kids out of the room now.
To become a contestant on the show, people you know have to answer a series of questions about you: this includes people you’ve had sex with, people who’ve watched you have sex with others, people from your church, and your parents. (It’s a New Zealand production.)
Once you’re on the show, it’s downhill – or even further downhill – from there.
What sort of people will watch this new low in trash-TV? Sad fucks, that’s who; people who have nothing better to do than sip beer late at night while lying in beanbags trying to muster the energy to rub one off.
I put my beer down and looking at my clipboard of guidelines, close my eyes and stab the page with my pen. G, for general exhibition.
OK, it’s not a foolproof system. But I’m also on the station’s Publicity Committee and being so far down on the dial, we need all the publicity we can get.
| Clapping my hands against my cheeks, I shriek, then throw my arms around the chunky woman beside me. Screaming, we hug each other tight, jumping up and down.
“Amazing!” says Cherie. “Did you feel the emotion? Was it real?”
We nod, gasping for breath. My heart is pumping.
Cherie turns to the class. “Great pairwork! Imagine what that feels like with an entire audience doing it? It’s electric!”
The class claps as we sit down again.
I smile. The four-week training course has boosted my self-confidence: no athlete or dancer or ninja is more dedicated.
A normal day begins with hair, make-up and wardrobe, then the gym for weight training and stamina building and the pool to cool off.
After lunch it’s vocal coaching: shrieking, screaming, crying Oh-my-God!-Oh-my-God!-Oh-my-God!, panting and face fanning. Next it’s ‘situational training’, where we pretend to be audience members on real talk shows and practice everything we’ve learned that day.
Every Friday afternoon we’re strapped into chairs and tests are run on our excitement levels. We’re given a grade on sweat, tears and blood pressure and how much noise we make. (Thursday nights are practice practice practice.)
Rumour says we’ll be tested on how we throw ourselves about, but I’m not sure how they’ll do that: a padded room with sensors and a camera, maybe?
I start work experience soon. I get to sit in the audience of a real talk show. I’m working on getting so excited, I piss my pants.
No one around the long table wore a grin or a smile or even a slight smirk.
“How do you expect to find a husband, Leona, if you have such high standards?”
“I know, Mum,” I said. “And normally I adore Americans.”
My counsellor insists I call her Mum. At first I thought it was strange, but I see her point: she’s the right age, my own mother is extremely deficient in the role and we don’t look unalike. Especially after she bleached her hair, lost weight and started dressing like me.
I pushed my sunglasses on top of my head – she says wearing sunglasses inside makes me look like I’m hiding something, though with my pink eyes, usually it’s just to keep the harsh light out – and examined the cuticles the Vietnamese nail girl had just finished.
“You’re not in Saigon anymore, Mai Bi’ch,” I said, craning to read her name badge. “They’ll need to be much better than that if you want to stay in this country.”
Mai Bi’ch looked at me, looked at the nails, and pushed my fingers back into the bowl of nail softener.
“I said, I love chips with tomato sauce, and he said, You mean French fries with ketchup? Now, where do you go from there?”
Mai Bi’ch readjusted the facemask over her nose and mouth, pulled my hand from the goo and attacked my cuticles with an orange stick.
“Ow!” I said, though it didn’t really hurt. And turning to Mum I added, “And he double-dipped his chips in the sauce.”
“Oh,” said Mum. “I see what you mean.”
The flames shot higher and hotter and flushed my face amber and orange and red. Holding my breath, I closed my eyes.
“It’s a new beginning, Madeleine,” Rob said, his breath warm on my face. “You can do it.”
Stepping forward, I opened my eyes to watch her glossy face wrinkle and crackle and curl. Magazine covers ripped from their spines, defaced articles and slashed film posters, all collected since 1983 in scrapbooks and albums and shoeboxes, when (we were both sixteen) she stole the part of Judy in BMX Bandits from me and launched her international career.
“Do it, Madeleine.”
I nodded my head. Loosening my fingers, the Nicole doll dropped from my grasp and landed just out of flames’ reach. I bent to pick it up but Rob sprang forward and kicked it into the fire.
Noxious fumes rose as flames licked around the perfect face and the plastic body and blonde hair melted. And the voodoo pins pinged as, folding and imploding, she was reduced to a petro-chemical puddle.
“Repeat after me,” he said. “Nicole Kidman did not steal my career. BMX Bandits was a shit film.”
“Nicole Kidman did not steal my career,” I chanted. “BMX Bandits was a shit film.”
Rob wiped away tears.
“Nicole Kidman did not steal my career. BMX Bandits was a shit film.”
I smiled him a recovery smile.
Back inside, Rob hummed while doing the dishes.
And sneaking on the internet, I ordered a life-size Nicole Kidman doll.
Instantly he’s in the doorway, face pale with concern.
“I was just about to email my story,” I say. “And I’ve realised I got the fucking theme wrong!”
“Oh,” he says. “Can you re-write it to make it fit?”
“That’s not the point!”
This bloody story! I even downloaded Rhapsody in Blue to help – I loathe those blaring trumpets and that stupid circling clarinet at the beginning – listening countless times, pretending – hoping – to be inspired.
And all I kept seeing in my head was the black and white opening sequence from Manhattan.
“Write a story about how you got the theme wrong,” he calls out, safe on the other side of the house now.
“I hate this-is-a-story-about-how-I-can’t-write-a-story stories,” I say. “It’s a hack’s cop out.”
I glare at my laptop. I’m to blame. No one made me mistake v for c. Or c for v.
For two days, I bashed out words with grimacing fingers, wrenching images from my whining consciousness – a weak, lumbering, uninspired piece – and now for what?
I thump my fist on the desk, like so many of my characters, and stare at the keyboard.
Urban concert. All those fabulous images I hoped would inspire me – skyscrapers, bridges, traffic lights, traffic jams, parks and gardens, freeways, taxis, rubbish trucks – all stuck nowhere, lame and hopeless and wrong wrong wrong.
No. Urban convert. Whatever that means.
The deadline ticks closer, outpaced only by my lack of enthusiasm.
Blank blank blank.
Justin cradled her head in his hands as she breathed her last. Berniece had been a good dog. But she was also twenty years old – blind, bald, bedridden, deaf, diabetic, and doubly-incontinent. We should have had her put down years before but Justin couldn’t bear the thought.
We buried her in the back garden with full honours. Then I snuck off to make the call from my mobile in the car.
“I offer a professional service, Mr Smith,” the hitwoman said over the ’phone. “I charge a cancellation fee.”
“But Berniece died of natural causes,” I said.
“I’m not an amateur.” Her voice was measured and menacing. “You told me your home had smelled of dog excrement for five years. And I offered you relief from that. I expect 50% of the agreed fee. In cash.”
I dropped the envelope at the designated spot and parked up the street.
Leisure-suited at a snail’s pace, she came walking three ancient, droopy dogs. Dipping behind the bush, she took the envelope, put it in her pocket, and walked on.
I got out of my car as she drew nearer. She glanced at me from behind huge sunglasses, red lipstick bleeding into the wrinkles around her mouth. Serious grey hair, svelte and bobbed, framed her face.
“Nice dogs,” I said, knowing they were probably dribbly and demented.
“Yes, they’re my life,” she said.
I watched her turn the corner. And wondered how much blood money was keeping those dogs alive.
They sit inside my bag, hanging from my shoulder, swaying with each turn the bus takes.
(How are you? both postcards say. Hope you’re good.)
The bus turns right. The Siegessäule, gilt and angel-topped, rises tall and imposing on the left.
(One postcard features the Siegessäule with die Siegessäule embossed on the front. Victory Column, it says on the back. The other shows the view from the column crown, east past summer trees to Brandenburger Tor.)
Veering right, the bus cruises through Tiergarten. Left, I see parkland and cyclists and sun. Right: picnic blankets, naked men and lunchtime assignations.
(It’s sunny and humid here in Berlin, I wrote on both postcards. And I miss you.)
I get off near Kleiststraße and walk towards Kurfürstendamm. My bag’s leather strap rubs sweat into my chest, and I stop at a yellow postbox.
(I wish you were here with me. Berlin is meant to be shared.)
The postcards stick together with my stamp spit. I prise them apart.
(And fucking you in this sticky heat would be fun …)
Right names? Check. Right addresses? Check. Right greetings? Yes, all correct.
(… gripping your ankles …)
I kiss them both on their names and closing my eyes so I don’t know which is first, slip them through the slot marked Andere Postleitzahlen. Other Postal Codes, not Berlin.
(Ich liebe dich, Me xxx)
They drop silently inside.
I picture kissing their mouths. And wonder who will get his postcard first.
Last night aliens invaded our dishwasher. They activated the heating element. Everything inside that’s plastic melted into the base of the dishwasher and we woke up coughing smoke.
“Fuck!” I said.
Brent rushed about, throwing all the windows open.
“Those aliens are fucking with our lives,” I said later, filling the coffee machine.
Brent clasped his hands around the dishwasher. “I’ve found a website with many stories of the same thing happening with this model,” he said. He pulled the dishwasher from under the benchtop and dragged it across the kitchen floor.
“Yeah,” I said, stirring my coffee. “Those aliens are really fucked.”
Brent pulled the dishwasher through the back door. “They’re being recalled,” he said. “They have a faulty timer switch.” He pushed the dishwasher across the back porch.
“Exactly,” I said, buttering an English muffin. “Aliens are getting inside and fucking with the timer switch.”
Groaning, Brent lifted the dishwasher, hauling it to the bottom of the steps. Easing it down, he yelled, “Would you stop this alien bullshit, Tony! And stop saying fuck all the time!”
Munching on my English muffin, I watched Brent pull the dishwasher towards the driveway.
I went inside and turned on my computer.
DRAG THAT SHIT ONTO THE FUCKING STREET!!! I wrote on my blog. ALIENS ARE BURNING DOWN OUR HOMES!
Sitting at the computer, I could hear Brent’s grunts as he pulled the dishwasher down the driveway.
And I wondered when to tell him about the alien in the hard drive.
She looked at me, morning-hazy, brows skewed but hopeful.
“Frau Kanzlerin,” I said. “Be honest with them. Deutschland will love you for it and it could carry you beyond the 2013 election.”
“Ach so,” she said. She patted her hair – typically, a mid-morning mess – and sipped her seventh coffee for the day. “Dietmar, ich glaube, du hast recht. Dietmar, you are right, I think.”
I sat on the corner of her desk, and crossing my ankles and swinging my feet, looked past her hangdog wrinkles – caused by sleepless nights worrying about the Greece bail-out, immigration problems and Berlin’s shitbag local economy – and smiled. Angela Merkel can be a sweetie when she wants to be.
I patted her on the hand. “Now, we can leak it through usual channels,” I said. “Or do it officially. Or you can make a personal appearance on the new shopping channel premiering tomorrow.”
“You choose, Dietmar,” she said. “Ich bin zu müde. I am too tired.”
Leider, the new shopping channel was scrambled – another victim of the Global Financial Crisis, just another wrinkle for the hardest working woman in German politics – so she said it off-the-cuff quasi-officially in a Bunte interview: “Ich bin wohl eher ein Morgenmuffel.”
She hates mornings, she said. Next day, it made headlines in all the important newspapers, including die Berliner Zeitung. Look at her face and hair, they all said. Let her get up later and everything will get better.
Good call, though. Honesty is changing the course of history.
She pulled the car over to the kerb. And the man in the front passenger seat reached through the window and took the ice cream from the puffy clasp of a fat guy standing on the footpath. He licked around the cone’s rim, smacking his lips – the passenger, not the fat guy – while the driver idled.
It all went like clockwork. Like a perfectly timed drop in a Mafia movie.
I watched this as I waited at the bus stop on Turmstraße. Sure, it was a hot day, but the driver was in the middle of a driving lesson! The car said Fast Fahrschule on its roof.
I dipped my head so I could see the driver. And over my sunglasses, I saw her say something, just as the ice cream began to melt down his hand.
“What, you want some?” he said, in German loud enough for me to hear above the mid-afternoon traffic, licking his hand, tongue dripping white and creamy.
She replied – drowned out by a truck’s exhaust brakes – and he said, between slurps, “What, you want me to starve?”
Meanwhile, the fat guy with the puffy clasp stood on the kerb, waiting. For what, I don’t know. Perhaps a tip.
Perhaps a lick.
The driver turned the car into the traffic, and the fat guy watched them disappear.
I got on the bus, and he watched that disappear too.
After that, I don’t know what he did. Though I’m sure it was something interesting.
Packing it was like playing tetris. One thing on top of another, building layers, my multi-coloured life seen through the large windows of a 35-seater bus.
“It’s not working,” Veronica said. “There’s no way we’ll make the emergency evacuation queue in time, Dad.”
I studied her fifteen-year old face, seeing nothing similar between us. She looks just like her mother, I thought, whomever the anonymous egg donor was.
“That’s very obsessive compulsive gay,” she added. “You can’t take a chandelier on an emergency dash across a nuclear desert.”
Ah, but her eloquence! That she gets from me.
The back door slammed as Marvin stepped outside.
“Dad wants to pack a chandelier in the event of a nuclear attack,” Veronica said. “It’s ridiculous.”
“Could it be used for something besides providing an elegant setting for dining?” Marvin asked, stroking his beard. “Multi-purpose objects should be given a chance to prove their manifold uses.”
Veronica threw her hands in the air. “Neither of you are taking this seriously,” she said. “You think it’s a joke.”
She walked away and stood against the fence post, arms folded, scowling. My heart thumped in my chest. Times like this I truly loved her, her grumpy teenage face a life force.
I walked over and put my arms around her. “What do you want me to take out?” I said softly.
She leaned into my shoulder. “Those caftans for a start,” she said. “Except the white one. That could work well at a post-apocalyptic toga party.”
I’m squatting naked over the hand mirror, feet cold on the terrazzo floor, looking at my winking arsehole. It reminds me of her face: eyes sloe, nose tiffed, lips harrumphing. And the badge bobbing above her right breast: ‘Tiahna – your friendly trainee’.
I glop the paintbrush in the crab lotion and slather it on my hole, perineum, under my balls. I favour broad strokes – no pointless pointillism – but stab the cracks and folds precisely. The crab lotion tingles and burns, stinging all senses.
And I have my entire body to go! Arms, chest, stomach, underarms, back, pubic hair, legs, feet, toes.
Yes, I am that hairy. Yes, the crabs have taken over.
Tiahna – factory-fresh, rust-free, go-go-figured circa nineteen year-old Norwood Chemist junior – inched the Benzemul Application bottle from the top shelf.
“Do you sell paintbrushes too?” I asked.
She handed the bottle to me, nostrils glaring.
My head steamed. “I might be forty-nine but I can still get crabs!” I said. “Which you get from fucking.”
Distaste churned in her face.
“I’m infested with pubic lice,” I spat. “I need a lot of paintbrushes to apply this stuff. Although a dipping vat would be better, but I bet you don’t sell vats either.”
Tiahna shook her head, scanning and bagging the Benzemul bottle.
I unfold to a stand, forty-nine year-old knees cracking. Swapping to a broader brush, I slather my chest. Then stop.
A paint roller would work so much better. And I’m scratching to see Tiahna again.
“I grew tired of waiting,” she said.
White-knuckled, she gripped the clacking needles so ferociously she could have knitted the booties in gale force winds and they still would have turned out ankle-stranglers.
“You were always too busy building your train set.”
She smoothed her new pink-and-white-vertically-striped way-too-roomy smock over her stomach. Then counting stitches under her breath, she cast off.
She was right. Building the train took over a year. I gutted the second bedroom, turning the bay window into storage for spare rolling stock. Then I built a mezzanine for a replica of the Berlin U-Bahn, the grungy flower kiosks and bored commuters painstakingly realistic.
Now the thought of pulling it all down to make room for a baby zapped my strength.
“I can’t believe you went ahead and got pregnant without me,” I said.
“Well, you have a whole six months to get used to the idea,” she answered, knotting baby-blue yarn on the end of the row. She resumed her clacking, loudly. My lack of energy was fuelling hers.
“Don’t worry,” she added. “You’ll get a crack at the next one.”
“I could have downed tools for – what, two minutes? – to impregnate you myself.”
She threw her knitting in her lap. “Stop it, Brian! Just be thankful it’ll have red hair like you and no one will notice.”
That was true too. My identical twin brother had stepped into the breach and defended the family honour. Born five minutes before me he was still coming first.
Here’s one I prepared beforehand, I’d said. Please note the word “prepared”.
Still, the world runs on celebrity.
I was good-looking, marketable and ambitious. And that never hurt anyone cracking it big, even daytime big, the coveted 2.00 – 2.30pm timeslot.
And nobody seemed to notice only the guests did the actual cooking. Sure, I chopped, smiled at Camera 3, recommended sponsors’ products: These Chopperholic knives are great for chives. Nothing stirs custard better than a Stir-a-Durable frost-free spoon.
Or gave hints: It’s all in the wrist, and Just like Great-grandma used to make, but without the indentured labour.
So I was unprepared when making Overeasy Eggs Kilpatrick for Two – Here’s one I prepared beforehand – and there they were, in the Unbelieva-steel frypan, still thawing inside their generic brand packaging.
Damn cross-promotional live demonstrations during the news hour.
(I also had new ill-fitting contact lenses and the steam from the toaster – I was using frozen bread – fogged them up. No wonder I didn’t see that the Overeasy Eggs Kilpatrick for Two were still in their plastic packet!)
Celebrity Chef Can’t Cook for Nuts! headlines said. Not true, I responded: I’ve always been a fan of mental illness.
They fired me but I sold my story to another network. They’re hoping to revive – or recycle – an old genre by turning it into a TV Movie of the Week.
The contract states I must play myself. But I’m hoping they’ll realise I can’t act and pay me extra not to do the job.
|“Practice makes perfect,” I barked. “Now sing!”
I opened the suitcase on the bed, tossing tap shoes and Tovar-Tresses wiglets inside.
“Please, Francine,” she whimpered, red-rimmed eyes sodden. “Not again.”
I pulled her stage costumes from the wardrobe, wire hangers screaming against metal rod. “You’ve got God-given talents and you’re gonna use them.”
She moved to the window as I folded faux chinchilla and cerise velour into the suitcase.
“That’s what I want,” she said, looking outside.
I glanced too. Next-door neighbours were at their mid-afternoon carpool routine.
She sighed. “That high school carpool looks like heaven.”
I grabbed her shoulders, shaking her from lacquer-laden hair-do to fishnetted-feet.
“Listen, Mother – you’re my ticket out of this burg and I’m not about to cash it in!”
“But vaudeville’s dead, Francine!” she cried, head jerking. “It’s been dead seventy years.”
“But variety television’s still alive. Don’t let the dream die, Mother!”
I let her shoulders drop.
She stumbled, tapped her foot in awkward rhythm, then stopped. “This isn’t the life your father dreamed for us before he died,” she sniffed.
“I quit high school and worked three Dairy Queens to pay for these costumes,” I snapped, slamming the suitcase shut. “I’m only doing this for you.”
I dragged the suitcase down the stairs. Maybe Mother was right – maybe we needed a new act, something original, entirely extra original.
The suitcase clunked to the bottom of the stairs. A lightbulb flashed. The answer was obvious.
Mother … and Grandmother.
My mother was never the happiest of people.
She turned to me one day, rubbish and other detritus piled high around her in the garage and said, “I want to give you this.” It was a numberplate from a car. Just one.
I did not recognise the numbers, but took it gracefully and wondered aloud why she wanted me to have it.
“It has great sentimental value to me,” she said, eyes misting. It was clearly painful for her to talk about, so I let it slide.
After she died, clearing out her safe deposit box at the local bank, I found more numberplates. There were ten, all polished and shining, just one each, not both to complete a set, and of different vintages. I had no idea she had ever collected them.
And with them was a brief letter, on which was written, To be opened in the event of my death, Marion Slipkowiecz, in her familiar scrawl.
My life has not been the best, often miserable, she had written on the paper. But whenever I had a nice time, I would take the numberplate off a nearby car, as a memento. Perhaps you could track down the owners and give them back. They are the milestones of my life.
Of course I kept them. They hang above my desk, alphabetised and descending. I have no idea which happy moments they marked in my mother’s life, but despite their minimum cheer, they oddly connect us.
Casey is a big woman. I was reminded of this at the airport, my hug unable to circumnavigate her.
So Berlin summer 2009 proved challenging. Because fat people were banned from taking the S-Bahn.
Dicke Leute verboten, the black and yellow signs read. Fat People forbidden.
Scales were installed on station platforms. Those who were overweight were turned away.
These were extenuating circumstances. S-Bahn authorities had not kept up regular maintenance. A derailment revealed faults with thousands of carriages. Some train lines went from running every three minutes to every twenty. Others were cancelled indefinitely.
Commuters were also asked to leave bikes and pushers home, saving space on the too-infrequent services. And Berlin newspapers published Die offizielle S-Bahn Diät. It included – as exercise – not taking the S-Bahn, and eating low-fat würstchen.
Still, one day, we shoehorned Casey onto the S-Bahn. Other train-goers glared. And her voice – brash, nasal, American – echoed throughout the carriage: “God, it’s so crowded in here!”
“Yes,” said an older Berlinerin, her English accented. “And you are taking all the oxygen.”
The comment was fair. Casey is a heavy breather.
We soon realised the six-station trip to Alexanderplatz was impossible, and got off at Bellevue. We thought we would work on our tans in Tiergarten. But we were stopped at the entrance to the park by a guard, forbidding grimace barring our way.
Casey was too fat for the park, he said. There is an official allowance of sun per person, and Casey had exceeded the limit.
“We should start a virgins’ support group,” said Cindi one autumn afternoon. We were sitting in the bay window of the Campus Coffee Cavern, musing on ways to further international relations.
I was lukewarm about her idea.
But I was also new in Zwingle, Iowa – a political science exchange student from Australia – and first impressions are important.
“What would the criteria be for joining?” I asked. “Would there be a test?”
“You’d have to be a virgin,” said Cindi, eyes cloudy with thought. “But I can always tell, anyway.”
We sipped our steaming double super-skinny latté moccachinoes through heat-resistant plastic straws.
“I knew you were a virgin when I first met you yesterday,” she said, humming into her drink. “You have that … glow.”
I licked my straw, up and down the shaft.
“But could you still become a member if you lost it … in a riding accident?” I asked.
Cindi’s straw slipped back into her froth.
“Then there was the time I sat on a pencil,” I sighed, my head shaking.
Cindi reached across the table and placed her hand on mine. It was cold, odd considering the warmth of our double super-skinny latté moccachinoes.
She looked deep into me. “The important thing is keep trying, Bronny. If you fall off the virginity wagon, the Lord wants you to get back on straight away.”
We smiled, sipping our drinks again.
Cindi hunched over her froth, her seat squirming. “Gee, I bet that pencil felt amazing.”
The man lying beside me – did I remember his name? – cradled the pillow, snoring.
Morning sun peppered his three-day growth.
And then, he broke the reverie: a guffaw, long and low and rolling. His eyes opened. “I was just dreaming about you,” he said, sleepy-voiced. “What’s for breakfast?”
“Breakfast is not included,” I said, hospitality affronted.
I walked naked into the kitchen. Marie sat at the table, coffee cup in hand. She was as pretty as the day I had married her.
She set the cup down and pushed her blonde bob behind her ears as I pulled a chair out and sat opposite.
“When is this need for constant confirmation of your sexual attractiveness going to stop, Barry?” she said. “It’s getting a bit lame.”
“I’m not even forty yet,” I snapped. “So it’s got a way to go.” I stood up. And there I had been thinking how pretty she still was!
“I just don’t think this is the best environment to be bringing up children,” she added. And paused. A smirk played on her lips. And her eyes sparked.
I rushed back into the bedroom. “Get dressed!” I said. “We’re going out for breakfast – my shout. I’m going to be a father!”
I threw clothes at his startled face and jumped into my jeans.
Marie stood in the doorway. “Hey,” she said. “I’m just thinking of getting a dog.”
“Oh,” said the man. And a guffaw, long and low and rolling, escaped his lips again.
The key scratched in the lock and his travel bag skidded across the floorboards as he threw it inside.
Floating candles glowed on tables.
‘His’ and ‘His’ towels hung in the bathroom.
The poppers, the Viagra, the chorizo – all had been ordered and all had arrived.
I hugged his broad shoulders, kissed him long on the lips, and then I saw it – a tattoo.
“Where did you get this?” I asked, fingertips tracing the 666 on his forehead, red and bumpy.
“What?” he said.
I looked into his eyes.
“Oh, that,” he said, hand closing his fringe over the new scar. “It’s a lot less offensive when I stand on my head.”
He smiled, walked down the hallway, and closed the toilet door behind him.
My knuckles rapped softly against the wood.
“Who is it?” he said.
“I think we need to talk, Nathan. What’s happened?”
He opened the door a crack, fully dressed. “Oh, you know,” he sighed. “My endless search for meaning. Sometimes things can take a bit of a wrong turn.”
I reached for his forehead through the doorway but he flinched.
“No,” he said.
I stood beside the closed door for a full five minutes. Once, perhaps, I heard muffled sobs.
“Can I get you anything?” I asked.
“Some chorizo would be nice,” came his voice from the other side. “You can leave it on a plate by the door.”
“I was Miss Bulgaria 1938,” she said, poised against the cyclone fence. “I was born posing for photographs.”
She tucked the helmet under her arm, beaming for the cameras. Out of range, I held her make-up bag, a packet of Delicious Doggie Dollops, and her poodle Spritzi, limply sedated.
The rocket shone in the distance. Cape Canaveral had never looked so pretty.
Perspiration trickled down my face as cameras clicked. My sticky armpits pinched and my crotch rubbed against the silver man-made suit. Late fill-ins were not correctly sized by Kennedy Center Wardrobe.
“How do you think you’ll find Space Camp?” one of the reporters asked.
“Marvellous,” she said. “Outer space is wonderful for the skin.”
My eyes rolled in their sockets. I had told her that fact, when she gave me the job.
“I will return to Earth looking years younger.”
Spritzi nestled further into my arms and supremely comfortable, farted.
“You will not recognise me probably,” she said. “I will look younger than even my daughter. And she has had five facelifts.”
The rocket groaned. Heads snapped towards the launch pad. A gleaming silver dagger, larger than a Zeppelin, sheared, smashing to the ground. We rushed to the fence, fingers gripping wire as open-mouthed, another massive shard exploded on impact.
Instantly, billions had been lost.
But even she could not stand this reverence.
“Come, Sylvester,” she told me. “I now can make my appointment with Marcel. Beauty waits for no one.”
I pasted a sample paragraph of my writing on the website Who do you write like?.
The response was immediate. I suddenly saw myself in long beard and flowing tunic, dispensing wisdom and loaves and fishes.
Switching off the computer, I caught my enigmatic smile on the blank screen.
My wife hurried past, holding an empty tray. “What’re you smiling at?”
She disappeared, no time for an answer, door slamming.
I sat, considering this new enormity. I could found my own religion. Some man – prophet, seer, philosopher – develops a system of thinking and wham! they’re building worship centres and theme parks and re-naming interstate highways after him.
Makes you think.
My wife hurried through again, tray stacked high with plates.
“I pasted a paragraph of my writing on the website Who do you write like? and it said I write like The Bible.”
She glanced as I followed her into the kitchen. She put the tray down, filled the coffee machine with tap water, spooned coffee into the two-cup filter, stamped it down vehemently, snapped the filter holder into place, flicked the on-switch, and stood, waiting for the first hiss.
She looked me in the face. “So I guess you’ll be starting your own religion, then?”
“Why do you say that?”
“Because I did the same thing and it said I write like the Dalai Lama, so I thought we should move to Tibet. Coffee?”
Normally I’m allergic to bullshit but sometimes it can be a sneaky bitch.
“Your gums will be red raw and a perfect entry point for HIV,” she said. “Never clean your teeth beforehand if you’re going to suck cock.”
I shrank into the kitchen chair. It was 1989. I was seventeen. Two minutes earlier I’d told her I thought I was gay.
“Are you fucking anyone, Dudley?”
She was my mother. And unfortunately, a sexual health nurse.
“Are you a bottom or a top?”
My eyes stared blankly and my lips clamped shut, stilling the screaming voice inside.
“First impressions really count. You need to make up your mind.”
I shifted in the chair. My mother’s favourite child-rearing mantra – I can talk to my children about anything – was swallowing me whole.
“No one likes an indecisive sexual partner.”
Oh, I definitely knew I was gay, but my sexual experience amounted to nothing beyond constant furious masturbation and watching men’s gymnastics on television. In practical terms, I didn’t know one end of a hard-on from another.
“It’s a big world out there, and there are plenty of cute, well-hung men just waiting to get into your trousers, sweetie.”
She had never called me sweetie before.
She hummed. “Maybe I should give you my old dildo to practice with.”
I stood up. I left the room. I walked outside and down the driveway and to my best friend Daren’s house. And vowed to learn all I could about menopause, and assault her with the hair-raising facts just after her first hot flush.
Damn, but he was sexy, sitting astride the horse, chest hair poking above his polo shirt. Normally his buttoned-up doctor’s coat revealed only a tanned jawline.
He threw his polo mallet on the ground as I offered him the tray of tumblers.
“You look strangely familiar,” he said, taking a drink and swinging his leg over the horse, landing on the ground beside me without spilling a drop of Jamaican rum.
“Don’t know why,” I said, tossing my raven hair. “I used to be an alien in a previous life.”
Really, I was simply out of my nurse’s uniform, and his probable myopia made seeing me for the person I really was, improbable.
“My contact lenses fell out on the playing field,” he said. “Perhaps everyone looks strangely familiar.”
He downed the glass as I watched his Adam’s apple throb. I was giving him my best signals and he was lobbing them in all directions. Frankly, I wanted to take the polo mallet and smash it over his head. These diet pills were getting me nowhere.
I dropped the tray of drinks on the ground. “Oh, I’m so clumsy,” I gasped. “I hope my mysterious illness isn’t flaring up. No one seems to know a cure.”
He bent down and picked up the tray. His subservience was immediately unappealing. This paediatrician stalking was a joke. Perhaps I should try another profession as my friend Marta suggested. She had snared a nice psychiatrist and a great couch to boot.
He had a C & A shopping bag, sweet sleepy eyes, and white socks above blue sneakers.
The U-Bahn sped on for Gesundbrunnen and I grabbed the overhead rail, flexing my biceps and easing my pelvis in his direction.
Behind me as I flipped the door handle to get off, sleepy eyes caught mine in the reflected glass. Definitely Deutscher.
No chance for Hallo, we sank into an unlit station doorway and he fumbled through my shorts. Nicht hier, I said. And followed him in the dark to a nearby park.
Swatting bendy boughs, striding through the thicket all purpose and haste, the C & A shopping bag rustled as he tossed it on the ground. Kneeling in front of me and unzipping my fly, Hast du einen Partner? I asked.
A breeze blew. Passers passed by. A gate clanged, feet shuffling as they followed a footpath.
And I wondered if his purchase, nestled amongst the dirt – perhaps an inexpensive t-shirt or two? – was for him or the partner he might have.
I groaned. And zipped my fly.
Danke schön, I said, so perfectly polite in the English language way.
He wiped his smile, grabbed the C & A shopping bag, and left.
As I walked back to the station, I caught him lighting a cigarette and exhaling as, getting into a car, he kissed a man on the lips and began talking with great animation.