Monday, July 21, 2014

Review of "Slave Girls: Erotic Stories of Submission" ed. D.L. King


There’s a lot of terrific writing in this abundant, sharply-focused theme anthology from editor D.L. King. Slave Girls is a collection of twenty-one surprisingly diverse short stories exploring the ‘s’ in D/s, from the sometimes breathless, needy, longing, hungry, curious, occasionally reluctant, perpetually horny point of view of the submissives themselves. Several of these stories are undoubtable masterpieces of the subgenre: Alison Tyler’s Cubed; Lisabet Sarai’s Muse; Dirty Pictures by Thomas S. Roche; the beautiful, imaginative and poignant My Master’s Mark by Lydia Hill; Erzabet Bishop’s The Red Envelope; Teresa Noel Roberts’ Bridle Party. I particularly enjoyed Summer Marsden’s stylish, character-driven, inward-probing Breathe:  
 
Breathing is the first thing an anxious person forgets to do, and then they wonder why they feel as if they’re drowning. Breathing is the first thing that Nick helped me with when our relationship went from part-time play-and-fuck-buddies to something more. He tells me what to do at times like this. I do it.  It is simple and perfect as that. A mystical symbiosis on which words would be lost.
 
Nina Fairweather’s Press My Buttons deftly explores the inner workings of a would-be submissive’s mind:
 
I didn’t want to be gagged. It limited my speech. I couldn’t communicate effectively. It objectified me. Yet when Lynn threaded the scarf through my teeth, under my hair and around my head, I could feel my sex throbbing. While she tied it tightly I could think of little else except the fact that I wanted to beg, and beg, and beg to be touched, but I could not. That seemed only to make my excitement more profound.
 
Equally impressive is the understated yet wholly ineluctable eroticism of Donna George Storey’s Passing the Final. Not relying on kinks or paraphilic gimmickry, never descending into raunchiness or vulgarity, the aphrodisiacal potency of the writing is nonetheless undeniable:
 
His bedroom was illuminated only by two thick, round candles arranged on the nightstand as if it were and altar. A satin robe lay shimmering in the golden shadows across the pillow. She hung her dress in his closet, kicked off her shoes, and slipped the robe over her lacy, bride-white bra, matching thong and thigh-high stockings. She paused to check her reflection in the closet mirror.
 
Don’t be afraid. The Master said you were ready.
 
He hadn’t elaborated exactly what she was ready for, but she would find out soon enough.For some reason he’s removed his quilt and flat sheet, but fortunately the room was quite warm. She stretched out on the bed, realizing she’d never been here without him beside, above, or below her.
 
So, clearly, what’s good here is very good indeed. It would not be honest, however, to say that everything is equally good—I’m not giving out trophies for T-ball after all—there is, unfortunately, a whiff or two of “bad”, and here and there even a soupçon of “ugly”. Several issues plague what I will diplomatically refer to as the “second-tier” stories in this collection; poorly conceived points-of-view; amateurish malapropism, a retreat to platitude and shallow stereotype, and a discouraging sense that some of these authors’ hearts weren’t in the project.
 
I have always tried to adhere to a set of simple rules for reviewing; foremost among these is never give a bad notice based on my bad mood. But what if the writing itself puts me in a funk?  Second-person POV is infuriating when it isn’t boring. Aside from the fact that I have no interest in being made a de-facto character in an author’s story, the conceit doesn’t—can’t—work because the author doesn’t know me, doesn’t understand my motivations and desires, what turns me on or makes me tick. Second-person also lends itself to a kind of soporifically sing-songy backing and forthing “I do this/You do that” ad sempiternum nauseum. Employ this kind of writing in erotica and what inevitably results is the literary equivalent of a checklist for an oil change. Thus, Evan Mora’s Noise was probably not the best choice for the opening story in the collection, and the title of D.L. King’s What’s Not to Like begs a very loaded question indeed.
 
Malapropism, if sufficiently glaring, can effectively put me off a story, especially if other issues have already gotten my attention. Please repeat after me; crescendo does not mean climax; you don’t “build up to a blazing crescendo” (again, Evan Mora’s Noise); the crescendo IS the building up.  I was already sufficiently annoyed with Graydancer’s sloppily written Savoring Little One not to overlook the author’s use of ‘attenuated’ when the word obviously ought to have been ‘acclimated’. Honestly, one can look this stuff up—and, clearly, there are many people who need to.
 
Beyond these basic technical considerations, there are a few aesthetic and philosophical issues to give thoughtful readers pause. I have to admit that I am weary of power-exchange stories in which Domination is reflexively (and simplistically) equated with Sadism and, conversely, submission with weakness. There is, too often, an unarticulated assumption to the effect that submissive tendencies indicate a psyche that is less than whole and submissives—especially female submissives—are accordingly portrayed as naive, airheaded pushovers, willing to be used, humiliated, and hurt beyond the point of reason and safety simply in order to feel loved and wanted. In fact, the best subs in fiction—and in life—are often plucky, strong-willed, fully actualized, “totally together” human beings who know precisely what they want, just as the best Doms know when to lighten up and show affection.
 
In addition to negative stereotypes, I got the impression that some of the authors here either had no real life experience on which to draw (or, perhaps, no life whatsoever), or were simply going through the motions of telling a steamy story without stretching their imaginations too terribly far. Is it possible to write convincingly about an act that doesn’t really turn one on? An act one would never truly enjoy in real life? Some writers pride themselves on their imagined ability to work in any genre, slipping into the established modes of convention the way many people change clothes in the course of a day, but just as genuine passion always shines through, indifference renders even the most engaging subjects drab and tedious. I do not like having to read that kind of writing.  
 
Still, on balance, the good and the great far outweigh the mediocre and the bad in this collection. Highly recommended for its ample trove of gems.
 
 
 
 

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Review of "Darkly Delicious Short Stories" by Elizabeta Brooke


Stella: An Erotic Kidnapping
 
 
Elizabeta Brooke is that rare creator of erotic fiction that is at once beautifully written, sharply perceptive, and probingly intelligent, but also thoroughly entertaining. She occupies her character’s heads with such seeming ease and naturalistic empathy that readers cannot help but be drawn in. Brooke’s work is always sensually charged, with rich, vibrantly erogenous atmosphere, never failing to touch us on an acutely visceral level. And yet, she does not shy away from psychological conflict or moral complexity—all-too rare in literature nowadays, and virtually unheard of in erotica. More than anything else, this is what makes Brooke’s work extraordinary, and, ultimately, destined to last.

It is thus something of an occasion to celebrate the appearance of this new collection of five short stories. Representing Brooke’s entire output in the form to date, Darkly Delicious Short Stories offers readers the rarest of gifts; sexy tales that they will actually want to read more than once.   

All these stories have been published separately before. Poe was included on EFTBB’s Best of 2012 list, and Knock: An Erotic Housecall was reviewed here just a few weeks ago. The new stories (including Knock) reveal the author’s movement in a somewhat more accessibly mainstream direction. Stella: An Erotic Kidnapping is a diverting, if fairly lightweight action/adventure piece with flashes of comic irony and a satisfying last-second twist; a heist caper infused with nostalgic “what-if-ing” and a bit of marvelously steamy present-moment “why-not-ing” as well.  

 
 
 
Wryly satirical on one level, funny, poignant and perceptive, Prissy: An Erotic Act of Kindness offers a sardonically delicious take on adolescent voyeurism, and the bewildering nature of “old sex” as seen through the eyes of relative inexperience. Prissy is a still-somewhat sheltered seventeen-year-old for whom thirty or—gods forbid!—forty seems unfathomably “old”. She is at once naïve and cynical, but it is a cynicism born more of ignorance and youthful absolute certainty than real-life experience. Will what she sees, hears, and learns broaden her horizons and open her mind, or leave her still more confused than before?  With its realistic and sensitive portrayal of adolescent emotion in the context of satiric fantasy, this may well be one of the most enjoyable stories I’ve read in a quite some time.

 
 

Brooke’s superbly affecting Roj, begins with the promise of a psycho-erotic masterpiece. Harried, constantly put-upon, thirtysomething housewife Lynne finds herself nearing the end of her rope, and contemplates the most extreme and final of escapes from a deeply unsatisfying existence. That is, until she is interrupted by a handsome young man, a school friend of her son’s, still almost a stranger to Lynne, a creature half-shrouded in mystery, the boy seems to possess everything her husband lacks; fire, passion, intelligence, and a terrifying beauty.

Lynne tried to smile at that but it was too hard. The weight of her sadness was a rock inside her chest that couldn’t be dislodged. She swallowed against it, trying to get some of her composure back. “It doesn’t matter, Roj,” she said, her voice husky and unfamiliar. Nothing mattered anymore.

“Yes it does,” he said, giving her shoulder a little squeeze.

His fingers felt big. Strong. She tried to remember the last time someone had consoled her. Couldn’t.

Brooke so skillfully builds tension in what is, after all, a fairly simple narrative structure, and so effectively brings us along with her, that it is almost painful when she overshoots the psychological climax, keeps the characters talking too long, dwelling too heavily on process when the time for words has passed, lets them turn away from each other, however briefly, when their sexual focus should only deepen. There is a point in any truly successful erotic narrative at which sophisticated mind-reading and metacognition needs to give way to simple sensuality and pure carnal release. While there is some tantalizing sexual tension here, and some wonderfully titillating potential, it feels, in the end, more like a tease than a full-blown erotic experience. Roj is thus a flawed erotic masterpiece, if not a true masterpiece of literary psychology.

While the four newer stories in this collection do endeavor to reach a broader audience, their genre aspirations do not detract from their decided literary quality and substance. Though I may complain from time to time about the excesses of genre erotica, ultimately, the only unredeemable sin as far as I’m concerned is bad writing, a crime of which no one will ever honestly accuse Elizabeta Brooke. Her Darkly Delicious is enthusiastically recommended.
 
 
 

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Review of two short story collections by M. Christian


(The Mammoth Book of Erotica)

Love Without Gun Control


Is there any style or genre that M. Christian can’t (or won’t) write in? After reading these two very fine short story collections from one of today’s most prolific professionals, I’m leaning heavily towards “no”. The ‘m’ in M. Christian seems to stand for “multi-faceted”, or possibly “mega-multi-tasker”. The guy certainly is versatile, as well as daring, imaginative, often funny, and seldom—if ever—unentertaining, one of those writers who seems to be everywhere at once, though if he has, in fact, cracked the saintly secret of bi-location, he’s not talking.   
 
Betty Came, a gathering of half-a-dozen of Christian’s erotic short stories, is part of super-editor Maxim Jakubowski’s on-going Mammoth Book of Erotica series, which, to date, includes some of the best, biggest, and brightest names in contemporary sex literature. My only serious complaint about this present volume is that, with over 400 erotic stories to Christian’s credit, six is hardly a very satisfying sampling—rather like one of those teeny weeny boxes of Godiva chocolates that seem to appear out of nowhere during the holiday season, containing barely enough to whet a healthy appetite.
 
Not that what is here isn’t worth sinking one’s teeth into. I like the pungent, near-future-ishly noir atmosphere of Everything but the Smell of Lillies, its character’s perverse motivations, and the way the author plays a fearlessly seductive game of literary Chicken with one of erotica’s major taboos, skirting, but never straying completely over the line. I like the title story’s portrayal of life on the edge of subsistence and sanity, and, in The Colour of Lust (related from the point-of-view of a pool hustler’s perpetually frustrated girlfriend), the edge of love and ennui. But Christian always has his lighter moments, too, as in the darkly comic Regrets (think Boccaccio meets The Hangover), and the crafty foray into Steampunk in The New Motor:
 
It is not our place to say, via hindsight, what exactly happened that one particular night. It’s easy to dismiss, with scorn, or even a kind of parental, historical fondness, that he was just visited by vivid dreams, a hallucinatory fever, a form of 1854 delusion (after all, we smile, frown, grimace, laugh or otherwise; this was 1854); or some hybrid kin of them all; a vision one third unresolved traumas, one third bad meal of steak and potatoes, one third nineteenth century crippling social situation. What we cannot dismiss—because it’s there with miniscule precision, in detailed blocks of blurry type in rag pulp sidebills, in the fine filigreed pages of the genteel or just the skilled—was that John Murray Spear, a spiritualist of some quite personal renown and respect, did indeed depart Miss August’s Rooming House for Gentlemen of Stature (near the corner of Sycamore and Spruce in Baltimore, Maryland), and go forth to tell anyone who would listen—sand some did, as those newspapers reported and those diaries told—about his visitation by the Association of Electricizers . . .
 
The sexy bits aren’t bad either! Highly recommended.
 
 
 
 
 
Love Without Gun Control
 
Readers get an even broader sense of Christian’s range in Love Without Gun Control, the author’s 2009 self-compiled and –published collection of short fiction, most of which originally appeared in genre anthologies, now-defunct niche-specific literary magazines and long-since cached or dead-linked websites. These fourteen stories run a dizzying—and impressive—gamut of mood and style, each with its own carefully measured ratio of light to shadow, buoyancy to seriousness, horror to humor, and hope to despair.
 
Christian has clearly learned from, and distilled the essence of the best examples of 20th-century American fiction, everything from Ray Bradbury and Jack Kerouac to Cormac McCarthy and Stephen King. He does not shy away from his influences, but has wisely allowed them to sing through him as he delves the deep, sometimes silly recesses of the American psyche. The title story is a broad, campy social satire in addition to being a pitch-perfect sendup of old Western movies and TV shows, while Wanderlust and Orphans pay dark homage to the uniquely American mythos of “the road”—think Steinbeck’s musings on Route 66 in The Grapes of Wrath, or the arid, windswept, dread-haunted vistas of Stephen King’s The Gunslinger and The Stand.
 
In Needle Taste, Christian shows that he is no less adept at horror of the decidedly psychological variety. Techno-thriller melds seamlessly with High Fantasy in The Rich Man’s Ghost; political satire meets The Zombie Apocalypse in Buried with the Dead, while knotty existential drama and the classic Post-Apocalyptic narrative come together in 1,000, and Nothing So Dangerous, a story of love and betrayal in a time of revolution. Perhaps my favorite stories in this collection are the beautiful, elegiac, Bradbury-esque Some Assembly Required, a narrative at once clever and poignant, and the brilliantly breezy Constantine in Love:
 
It was called The Love Shack, and it sold all kinds of obvious things: candy, flowers, poetry books, jewelry, balloons, perfume, lingerie, and many other sweet, frilly, and heart-shaped items. It stood alone, bracketed by two vacant lots. Its busiest days were just before Valentine’s and Christmas. It was described by many newspapers and tourist guides as “. . . the place to go when love is on your mind.”
 
The night was dark, the place was closed. The streets were quiet.
 
Then the Love Shack exploded—with a fantastic shower of fragmented chotchkes, and flaming brick-a-brack, it went from a shop dedicated to amore to a skyrocket of saccharine merchandise.  Flaming unmentionables drifted down to land in smoking heaps in the middle of the street, lava flows of melted and burning chocolate crawled out for the front door, teddy bears burned like napalm victims, and cubic zirconia mixed with cheap window glass—both showering down  the empty, smoldering hole that used to be the store. 
 
A few complaints as well. In several of these stories, I found myself wishing for a stronger editorial hand. The text is rife with typographical errors and the kind of occasional omission of verbs and articles typical of the “cranked-out-in-a-terrible-hurry” manuscript. Several otherwise excellent stories (Hush, Hush; 1,000; Friday) are simply too long to effectively maintain the emotional impact for which the author aims. I found them overly repetitive and rather dull, with the narrative lines collapsing into nebulous incoherency. After all, the “short” in short fiction should be a clue to the essence of the form; all unnecessary baggage and ballast summarily jettisoned to achieve an economy of language, and, with it, maximum expression. These are all issues a good, personally detached editor, or even an honest beta reader might have helped to resolve early on. Christian is an established and well-respected editor in his own right, but no matter how skillful or perceptive an author may be as an editor of other people’s work, when it comes to self-editing, even the best and brightest have their blind spots.
 
Still, there’s far more to like and admire in this collection than to kvetch about or pan. Readers will be well-rewarded for what is, in the end, a ridiculously modest price of admission. Recommended.
 
 
 
 
 
 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Annoucing EFTBB's new "sister" site

Classics for the Big Brain is now live. This is a site dedicated to some of my "other" passions; classical music, record collecting, and movies.

http://bigbrainclassics.blogspot.com/

EFTBB won't be going away; there'll still be regular posts with the reviews and commentary regular readers have come to expect. (Look forward to something new this coming Sunday.)

cheers

TAS

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Review of "Knock: An Erotic House Call" by Elizabeta Brooke, and "A Year Abroad" (1-4) by Nadia M. Joliet


Perfect light summer reading, here are two well-written, entertainingly steamy erotic romps with accessible, down-to-earth storylines, realistic, relatable characters, and a surprisingly intense turn-on factor. (Let’s be frank here; I read so much erotica for review that it is quite rare any more for me to experience a physical reaction. The philosopher David Hume spoke of “the proper observer” of a work of art; the observer who, under the right conditions, can appreciate, understand, or simply “get” what an artist is trying to do, and, even when it comes to erotica, oftentimes I wonder if I am that proper observer. Here, my body left little doubt about my ability to “get it”, exhibiting the kind of reaction I'm pretty sure both authors were looking to elicit when they sat down to work, or, at least, the male equivalent of that reaction, which is certainly a credit to their descriptive abilities.)

On a more cerebral level, what I like about both stories, is that these authors have made an effort to get into their heroine’s heads, and stay there, describing not only the complex of novel physical sensations each experiences, but their emotional response to those sensations, their (usually futile) attempts to put them into some kind of rational context. (How will feeling this way affect my life? How will doing this thing that is objectively so wrong, but feels so damn good change my relationship with the other people in my life?)

Both authors tell their stories from the point of view of a sexually-frustrated heroine. Elizabeta Brooke’s Susan and Nadia M. Joliet’s Ariel are both self-described “good girls” who (initially at least) would “never do anything, you know, like that”. Stifled by claustrophobic convention, hemmed in by inhibitions too-long unquestioned, both women are in or recently escaped from unsatisfying relationships with inadequate (lazy, unimaginative, unmotivated, cheating, out-of-shape) significant others to whom they constantly compare the exciting, mysterious, handsome, oh-so sexually adventuresome strangers they encounter. It’s sheer escapism, and clearly resonates with many readers.  



While not as yet a highly prolific author, Elizabeta Brooke is nonetheless one of the most accomplished young eroticists to appear on the scene in the last few years. Her brilliant debut novel Never: An Erotic Retelling of Peter Pan, and her beautifully crafted short story, Poe, have stayed with me like the most pleasant of memories, and are among the first titles I think of when asked to list the very best of contemporary erotica. In this new short story, Knock: An Erotic House Call, Brooke stakes out somewhat more conventional, less rarefied fantasy real-estate, considerably lighter in tone and feel than her earlier outings, perhaps more broadly accessible, but still, as expected, impeccably written while ever viscerally engaging.

The general plot description makes the story sound mundane, almost like a softcore vignette, far more ordinary than it truly is. Susan, a thirtysomething housewife, reduced to selling cosmetics door-to-door (what in the states we call an Avon Lady) rings her best friend’s  bell, only to be met at the front door by the friend’s handsome eighteen-year-old son in nothing but a towel . . . and you can probably guess where things go from there. Except that Brooke has a few interesting new twists and turnabouts with which to surprise her readers.  The story is too short either to excerpt or fully synopsize, so I will simply recommend the book, and let readers happily discover those twists on their own.



 

Nadia M. Joliet’s Year Abroad (Parts 1-4) falls comfortably inside the lines of erotic-romance convention; pure genre fiction, but genre fiction at a high level of competence and craftswomanship that sets it pleasantly if not-too-far apart. Ariel, an American YUPPIE, fresh from a bad breakup and the subsequent dissolution of her stolidly predictable life, seeks new experience in the tourist hostels and on the beaches along Australia’s eastern coast. Needless to say, there are lots of “hot guys” to help Ariel get her groove back, with very little in the way of inhibition or plot conflict to interfere with their good times. Of course, we get the romance heroine’s never-ending self-doubt, the obsessive-compulsive second-guessing, and the perpetual analysis of  every move the current object of her fancy does or doesn’t make, with lots—I mean LOTS—of good, vigorous, rafter-rattling sex in between. It’s good, it’s fun, it’s undeniably lubricious, and well worth a look.



Sunday, May 18, 2014

Who are we writing for?

If you write about sex, sooner or later somebody somewhere is going to take offense. It doesn’t matter how well you write, how elegantly you express yourself, how subtly or artfully you strive to convey your vision. It doesn’t even matter whether the offended party has ever bothered to read a single word of your novel or story or poem. Some people simply get off on outrage. Some people actually live to be offended. In the West, a few of those people are even paid to be pissed off. There’s a whole class of professional contrarians out there, those so-called “watchdog groups”, self-appointed defenders of “traditional family values” and their highly paid spokes-prudes, making broad statements about the decadence of society, the corruption of “culture”, the decline of civilization, and all the luridly imagined evils of “porn” (which turns out to be anything that even remotely hints at the possibility of undraped female flesh, or, for that matter, fun of pretty much any kind). Never mind that these bloated, hypocritical fascist gasbags cannot even define their own terms, keep changing the premises of the argument to suit themselves, and cannot frame their poisonous pronouncements of “absolute certainty” with anything approaching an accurate historical perspective.

Many so-called grownups in America—including a lot of aspiring erotic writers—still talk about sex in breathless, flippant tones born of secret embarrassment, as if somewhere in the back of the mind is a nagging belief that our Puritan ancestors were right. We want to believe that we’re adults when it comes to sex; unflappably liberated citizens of a more enlightened age; but we’re still looking back over our shoulders, afraid of getting caught, afraid of those joyless holier-than-thou finger-wagging scolds who continue to imprison our imaginations from beyond the grave. In effect, we have allowed the anti-intellectual heirs of medieval theocracy to frame the Twenty-first century debate in Seventeenth-century terms. Their narrow worldview has infected everything, and made it virtually impossible to move forward. Far too often, the practical result of this mindset is self-repression, a resort to infantile euphemism at best; outright self-censorship in more extreme cases.

In the United States we tend to take our freedom to say and write whatever we want for granted, while, in practical fact, exercising those rights very little. We may gripe about what we perceive as censorship or editorial prior-restraint, scoff at straight-laced pundits or the antics of the professional whining class, but under the protections of the First Amendment we can express ourselves in more or less any way we like without too much fear of reprisal or serious existential consequence. It’s when we try to publish that we can run into difficulties, not only because too many editors and publishers are afraid to offend anyone.  We see signs of a suffocating, atavistic cultural climate in small towns where teachers and other “figures of trust” can lose their jobs and have their careers destroyed simply for writing erotica under a penname. Courageous authors in other parts of the world often risk far more than career or reputation to write about sex. Erotic writers in the Middle East, authors of LGTB-erotica in the Russian Federation and much of Africa are actually making meaningful political statements with their work. Risking arrest, imprisonment, and even the possibility of execution, these “smut-peddlers” have become de facto human rights activists. (Think about that next time you’re afraid that what you’ve written is “too hot” or “not explicit enough”.)

Of course, it’s hardly news that American society is totally schizoid when it comes to sex and sexuality. Part of the problem is that everybody wants to control the flow of ideas about sex, but nobody’s willing to be honest. The prudes and “family-values” crusaders don’t want these things talked about at all—funny how they can’t seem to think about anything else—and, once having been allowed to frame the debate in terms of their own obsolete morality—that is, sex is dirty. Period.—it becomes virtually impossible for anyone else to explore new ideas. Regardless of who’s saying what on either side of the argument, there’s always this tacit concession to the Forces of the Uptight; a sense deep down that sex really is dirty and talking about it is naughty.  

That’s why the radical Left and the reactionary Right sound almost exactly the same when talking about sexual matters. They both want to do away with “pornography”—in the most nebulously-defined sense of the word—and tell people what they can and can’t think, do, say, read or watch. It’s all about social control regardless of which direction it happens to come from. In fact, these extremists represent two sides of the same perverse coin; intellectually and spiritually straight-jacketed nut jobs whose whole mission in life is making sure nobody has any personal freedom, privacy or fun.  (The only difference is that speakers on the left largely tend to eschew religious imagery or scriptural references.) Few people notice this lack of dichotomy because everybody is so shrill in expressing their opinions, so full of hate and fear of the other side that they become exactly like what they hate and fear. Ultimately, the so-called “anti-porn left” is just as stultifyingly dogmatic and doctrinaire as the flat-earth chauvinist reactionaries they so claim to despise.  

The irony of it all is that a large chunk of the business world depends on this sort of erotic cognitive dissonance to sell its products. If sex is more exciting because it’s forbidden, then associate products with sex and they automatically become exciting. The daily commute takes on the thrill of a hum-job from a super model if you’ve got the right car. Buy this or that brand of disposable razor and gorgeous scantily-clad women suddenly come out of the woodwork all turned on at the prospect of stroking your nice smooth chin.

But it’s not just mainstream Madison Avenue that thrives on taboo. The truly low-down sleazy degrading type of pornography (the very antithesis of genuine erotica) would not and could not exist in a society that was open and honest about sex. If people suddenly all grew up and felt comfortable about it—not just doing it, but talking about it—that kind of pornography would disappear overnight. There’d be no need to go underground, no need to talk about sex in these hushed breathless tones as if it were some kind of embarrassing secret or dirty little joke, no need for the nudge-nudge-wink-wink bullshit that keeps so many bad writers employed.

I dream of a society and a world where we have all evolved past these petty hang-ups and deep-down feelings of guilt. (Shucks! I dream of a society where we’ve all evolved beyond religion and money as well!) Once we are truly grownup, can accept all modes of love and sexual expression, can stop criticizing others for the way they live and love (whether that be hetero, gay, lesbian, bi-, pan-, omni-, a-, kinky, vanilla, or anything else), stop trying to impose our own narrow views on the rest of society either through legislation or doctrinal fiat, then we will have evolved into a society that can effectively deal with the real problems in this world.

The point I was hoping to make when I started working on this meandering mess of an essay is that we who choose to write about sex are often acutely aware of whom our audience is not. We usually have an extremely clear idea of who isn’t supposed to read our stuff, or probably shouldn’t read it, beginning, of course, with minors, but also including the excessively uptight, the narrow-minded, the humor-impaired, the overly-impressionable, the prickly, the prim, the prissy, the priggish, the prudish, the squeamish, the bearish, the Amish, and the criminally insane. This can be a stifling realization, to be painfully cognizant of all the many ways readers might conceivably take offense at what we do.

So the more important question to ask ourselves is, who are we writing for? Do we have a clear picture of our “typical reader”? Do we write for that imaginary fan, careful never to offend? Or, understanding that we cannot please all the people all the time, is it enough to please ourselves and hope that others will be interested as well? But whomever we decide to write for, though it may be inevitable that somebody somewhere takes umbrage at what comes out of our imagination—and hopefully, our hearts—it should never be inevitable that somebody somewhere is bored by what we do. 
 
TAS

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Kiss-Off the Devil--A short story by TAS

This is the title story from my latest collection, which you can find here.




 
“Ever done it with a fairy?”
The skinny chick in the Tinkerbelle costume had slipped into the space beside me at the bar. I’d been too involved with my third beer to notice her standing there until she tugged at my sleeve and asked who I was supposed to be—the standard ice-breaker on that particular night of the year.
“Nixon as a leper,” I’d replied, somewhat curtly.
I was sucking the beer through a pair of straws so as not to have to remove my disguise. The old novelty mask had been a bestseller once, back around the time of Watergate. Now it was clearly starting to show its age—and out me as a nerd to boot. The cartoonish papier-mâché Tricky-Dick ski-hook schnoz was all crumpled and caved in, lending the wearer (in this case, me) the appearance of somebody with a voracious long-term coke habit, or possibly the pre-real-boy Pinocchio with a bad case of termites. I’d picked up the thing for a song some years earlier at a fire sale in a flea market. (Never mind that I was the one who’d started the fire.) This night I’d simply thrown it on before going out, not thinking much about its condition, or its history.
Tinkerbelle thought my answer was a laugh riot. Then she’d come right out and asked if I wanted to do it—just like that.
Only on Halloween, I chuckled to myself.
She repeated the question, “Ever gotten it on with a fairy?”
“Not . . . voluntarily.”
“Well, I’ve never been with a leper,” she said, and I guessed she was being completely serious.
“You know what the leper said to the call-girl after they had sex, don’t you?” I asked.
“No. What?”
“Keep the tip.”
“Good one!” she spoke in a half-nasal, babydoll-meets-valley-girl voice, every sentence coming out like a question, “But seriously, you wanna do me?”
Why was I even considering it? This chick was so not my type; tiny, waifish; about 5:2; pale, and grotesquely scrawny, like some prepubescent pornographer’s dream girl, a stick figure with big fake fun bags. Her face gave the impression of a worried angel on an extended hunger strike; high cheek bones under sunken, darkish, otherworldly eyes focused on things no one else could see. It was hard to guess her age; anywhere from twelve to twenty-seven, I reckoned, though there was no way to be sure. This alone made the proposition iffy if not downright dangerous given my record.
Her improvised fairy-princess getup was nothing more than an old satin chemise with a couple nylon wings hot-glued to the back, and a plastic toy tiara pinned into her long stringy black hair. The size-zero arms and legs were bare and blue with cold, while the nipples on her bizarrely over-ample knockers stood at stiff attention, clearly visible through the glossy, worn-to-the-point-of-see-through fabric of the slip. Her breath carried a sour yeasty insinuation of serious drinking before noon, and I had the distinct impression of being in the presence of a real-life space cadet.
“What did you have in mind?” I asked.
“Ever hear of the famous Black Angel of Iowa City?”
“You mean, in the Oakland Cemetery? Sure. Everybody around here knows that old urban legend.”
“It’s not an urban legend!” She seemed offended.
“Don’t tell me you believe –” I had a feeling things were about to turn surreal.
“I’ve heard if you do it in the angel’s shadow at midnight on Halloween, Satan will appear.”
“Funny, you don’t look like a Goth.”
“Wanna get laid or not?”
“I dunno, Tink, having The Prince of Darkness show up right in the middle of the cum-shot? Sounds like a mood-killer to me. Besides, why would you want Satan to appear in the first place?”
“Dude owes me money.”
“What?”
“Took fifty bucks out of my purse.”
“And this happened . . . exactly . . . when?
“Satan and me dated a few times, off and on, starting when I was in eighth grade. Me and some of my friends would play Mary-in-the-Mirror, y’know? Just for shits and giggles? But this one time it actually worked, and Satan showed up, all snarly and pissed off because we invoked him right when he had a really good hand at his Thursday-night poker game, and he says that now we must pay His Infernal Majesty homage—also, cover his losses at the table.”
“And let me guess; homage involved, among other things, letting him do the nasty with you and your friends?”
“Yeah, pretty much. But first, each of us was compelled to kneel in supplication before His Awesome Presence and offer a hum job. Unfortunately, his presence wasn’t quite so awesome once he’d unzipped his fly. The other girls took one look at the weird little shrunken-prune thingy between his legs and started laughing. Well, that kinda hurt his feelings—he’s a lot more sensitive than you’d think—so he turned two girls into geckos, or salamanders, or something lizard-y like that, and stomped on them with his hooves. Then he slaps his forehead, kind of embarrassed, like he’s forgotten something, says “Oops!” and pulls out this freakin’ humungous strap-on dildo, which was totally gross, with these huge horny spikes sticking out all over, and a rusty chainsaw blade wrapped around it. Everybody who hadn’t been turned into a newt or an iguana ran away screaming—except me, that is.”
“And what happened next?”
“What do you think happened? I offered up the sacred jewel of my maiden virtue to the Infernal Majesty of the Underworld—doggie style, right there on the shower room floor. Of course, he totally knocked me up on the first try—isn’t that always the way?”
“Wait; he impregnated you with a strap-on?”
“Oh, jeez, no. The dildo’s just for show—basically he uses it to cull the unworthy—that’s his fancy way of saying ‘scare the shit out of the tourists’. See, Satan’s what you’d call a “grower”. The shrunken prune thingy between his legs turned into a monster mutant sweet potato right there in front of me while I was on my knees, supplicating his awesomeness.”
“And you went on to have a one-night stand with the Dark Lord of Lies and his ginormous prize-yam-like wing-wang?”
“It was more like a forty-five second stand, but yeah, pretty much. He was a perfect gentleman about the whole thing, though. Stuck around afterwards for nearly five minutes just to cuddle and spoon, and later, he even paid for my abortion.”
“What?” I said, rolling my eyes behind the mask, “He wasn’t pissed off about you not carrying his hell-spawn to term?”
“Of course not! Satan’s totally pro-choice. Besides, he said that a hell-spawn would only cramp his style and he was already so backed-up with alimony and hell-spawn support he could barely make the payments on his pre-owned Subaru. That and he wasn’t ready to be tied down again so soon after his latest divorce.”
“Ah . . . I see.”
“It’s true!” Tinky was emphatic. “Anyway . . . you’re a lot cuter than Satan—and I’ll bet you drive a cooler car, too. Plus, your regular dick’s probably way bigger than his before it starts growing. (But don’t tell him I said that; he gets really insecure about those sort of things, and when he gets insecure, bad things have a way of happening.)”
“Not a word,” I should have been looking for the nearest exit, but I was mildly entertained and it beat being alone.
“Why don’t we go back to my place?” she suggested. “It’s not too far.”
“What about the cemetery? I thought you were all gung ho to see the Black Angel?”
“Too crowded—especially tonight. It’s always lousy with tourists, but on Halloween the lines are out of control. They even bring in some snobby demon-bouncer with a guest-list on a clipboard, manning the velvet ropes—or would that be demon-ing?—deciding who gets in and who doesn’t. And—big surprise!—it’s always the beautiful people who get chosen to hump each other’s brains out under the statue and invoke Satan while the crowd counts down the seconds till midnight; the tall, blonde Paris-Hilton clones and their Justin-Bieber-y wannabe jailbait boy toys. It’s all gotten way too clique-y and I’m not into the whole club scene anyway.”
“So . . . your place then?”
“If you still want to. But I should probably warn you ahead of time that my psycho ex-boyfriend-slash-pimp, Kyle, will be watching us doing it from between the slats in the closet door, and he’s liable to pop out and kick the living crap out of you if he thinks I’m enjoying it too much.”
“No danger of that,” I said, “I can practically guarantee you won’t enjoy it at all.”
“Ooh! Fantastic! Will you wear the leper mask while we do it?”
“Sure, I’m easy.”
“That’s funny,” she said, “So am I.”


* * *

 
Halloween! It’s the most wonderful time of the year; that one, glorious, crazy, mystical, magical night when it’s cool to be ugly and easy to blend in; when sickos wriggle out from beneath their slime encrusted rocks, whack-jobs and weirdoes step forth from the shadows, molesters go unmolested, freaks get a free pass, and all the little perverts come out to party. It’s the only night I know when a registered sex offender can put on a mask and go trolling for pussy in a bar full of un-carded minors, or get himself picked up in said bar by some anorexic bimbo with delusions of demonic infatuation.
But then, somehow, the crazy ones always find me. Maybe it’s pheromones or an invisible aura of trustworthiness. Maybe they just dig the mask. Who knows? It’s not like I advertise. Yet still they come—and come on—to me, these curious, half-sane creatures, looking for a bad-ass or crushing on their first older guy, latching on to an imaginary protector in the big scary crowd as they try to work out their own drearily predictable “daddy issues” with a total stranger. They vector in on me, drawn like hapless addlebrained moths to a backyard bug-zapper.
And I let them come; let them “project” and “transfer” to their silly hearts’ content, or live in whatever delusional world-of-make-believe works for them, so long as I get what I want in the end. They do most of the talking anyway—if they haven’t already talked themselves into it ahead of time. I look up from wherever I’m sitting, and there they’ll be, waiting, hanging on my every word, wanting something without quite knowing how to ask for it.
Just like that first time with—what was her name?—Brittany? Candice? Dawn? Lindsay? Tiffany? Janelle? I can’t remember the specific details anymore; only that she took me by surprise as I sat at my desk, buried behind a pile of ungraded history tests, late one afternoon, long after the final bell had rung. She was the first of god-knows-how-many—their faces blur together in my mind—all of a type, unextraordinary variations on half-finished themes; long straight hair and a little too much makeup, calf-eyed princesses in turtleneck pullovers and plaid pencil skirts or simple white school-uniform blouses under dark-navy jumpers, too self-conscious to be irresistible, yet almost unbearably alluring in their awkward naivety as they strike their gangly-legged poses for me, aping the pouty, pissed-off look of a Teen Vogue cover model, the same pretentious put-on that young, inexperienced girls have always mistaken for sexiness and maturity.
But oh! When she sat on my lap and let me do those things—let me touch her . . . that way; what did it matter? She didn’t try to stop me, never once said no, only bit her lip a little as I began to unbutton her blouse; froze, uncertainly, for the briefest of seconds as I slipped my hand beneath her skirt. I kept her happy with kisses, glimmered her with artful misdirection; plied her with lies and chocolate, all the while running my fingers through her hair in a cynical parody of tenderness, filling her delicate shell-like ears with shiny sugar-coated fibs.
“You’re so beautiful,” I whispered, “Has anybody ever told you that before?”
“Ohmygodohmygodohmygod, Mr. M!”
“Call me Edward.”
Edward! Ohmygodohmygodohmygod!” The little genius wouldn’t shut up. “I love you—”
“I know, honey. I know.”
“—really, really love you!”
Clearly not one of my brighter students; this one was all Twilight and Harlequin for Teens, a steady diet of happily-ever-after that only fed her frustrations, made her that much more curious—that much more gullible. Would that I might have sparkled for her. As it was, whatshername swore on her very soul that she would never betray the sacred secret of our eternal undying love, cross her precociously well-developed heart and hope to repeat eighth grade. She was still professing her deathless adoration as I led her into the supply closet and told her to get down on her knees.
“Ohmygodohmygodohmygodohmygod . . .”
Yes, I was old enough to know better, but a young man has his needs—moral-turpitude clause be damned! I may have been an authority figure—an adult in a position of trust as they say—but I was also a horny twenty-three-year-old kid, barely out of college, “teaching”—more like spoon-feeding—Social Studies and American History to a bunch of hormone-stoned hick-tards in the public middle school of a small Iowa town with not a single legally-available woman anywhere, quite literally, for miles.
The only fruit in sight was of the strictly forbidden variety; too young, too old, too married—all the standard non-starters. I was isolated, lonely as fuck, living in a place where I couldn’t even say ‘fuck’ without everyone knowing about it inside of five minutes and subsequently convening a school board meeting on the matter. There was no adult conversation—even among adults—and no such thing as intimacy. Discretion was impossible. I couldn’t pay for what I needed or risk being seen with anybody who’d give it away. Celibacy was about my only option.
So what the hell was I supposed to do when the Bella Swann fan club started holding meetings on my lap? How was it my fault when they practically threw themselves at my feet, offering their lithe-little, taut-little, toned-little bodies without even having to be asked to stay after class? True; I probably should have said something when they started sexting me—other than sexting them back, that is. But if they were as bored, and lonesome, and desperate as I was, who could blame them? Beyond the odd older brother, most of them had probably never seen a guy my age driving anything other than a pickup truck or a corn-combine. I’d come roaring into town on a motorcycle, instantly becoming “the cool teacher” by default. So what if my bogus-badass bomber jacket-with-a-tie look would have been a metrosexual punch-line anyplace else? In that podunk shite-hole I was the second coming of James Pattinson, and the last man on earth.
Eight months, two pregnancy scares, and as many as thirteen possible counts of statutory rape later, I wasn’t quite so full of myself, having made the one incredibly, unbelievably stupid mistake lust-boggled fiends always make. I forgot that girls of a certain age are, by nature, utterly incapable of keeping secrets from each other. Throw Twitter and Facebook into the mix and no secret is safe anywhere, anytime. Mine came out when somebody uploaded the video of a breathless round of Truth or Dare, taken at a local pajama party. After that my victims started talking to each other. Texts flew fast and semi-literate—the “Oh Em Gees” were off the charts. Then somebody—maybe the same somebody—posted five or six of the racier mirror pics from our sexting sessions, and things got ugly. “OMG!” morphed into “WTF!” as real-world rumor metastasized into full-blown cyber-scandal. Eventually, some pesky tech-savvy parents got wise to what was going on, wheedled the truth out of their newly-repentant princesses, and informed the school administration. After that it was only a matter of time. Once innuendo took flesh and became fact, I was all but ass-fucked. I mean, straight up the Hershey Highway without a jar of Vaseline in reach.
The public defender assigned to my case advised me to cop a plea; roll over on eleven counts of indecent contact with a minor; surrender my teaching certificate, do eighteen months in a residential treatment program, and spend the rest of my life in the sex-offender’s database, classified as a low-level, non-violent monstrosity. Not a bad arrangement, given the alternatives. Unfortunately, the judge had a different idea. Bitch decided to make an example of my case; threw the book at me with one hand, and the deal out the window with the other.
She might as well have handed down a death sentence. One day the so-called correctional system swallowed an innocuous vanilla-flavored nerd. Eight years later it pooped out a predator with an on-line degree in Modern English Literature. (I was done with Social Studies for good). I landed back on the street with a hardcore authority complex, a wicked—and easily identifiable—Mark-of-Zorro scar crisscrossing my once-pretty face, and a raging case of PTSD manifested by recurring nightmares about gang rape in the shower and the use of foreshadowing in the novels of David Foster Wallace.
I live under a bridge now, camping out with the others of my kind, a loose-knit clan of misanthropic trolls, jobless, homeless, hopeless, self-loathing, dirty middle-aged men without prospects or futures, sharing nothing in common but our mug shots in the post office, poor impulse control, and the deathless contempt of society. We spend most of our time scrounging sustenance, panhandling, dumpster-diving, or evading the roving gangs of civilian vigilantes who’ve taken it upon themselves to monitor our every move and make sure we don’t get too comfortable.
I’ve never had “normal” consensual sex in my life, whatever that means. I don’t consider what happened in prison sex—it sure as hell wasn’t consensual. I walk around in a constant state of anger and confusion, craving pussy almost as much as I hate the whole capricious race of Womankind. Not just the little airheads who couldn’t keep their mouths shut all those years ago; I mean every snobby, ice-hearted, ball-busting, vagina-owning ho on the face of the planet. I despise them for having what I need—and myself for needing it so much.
And on that rare occasion when I find it—or when, as in this case, it finds me? I like it weird, and I like it nasty, lowdown, gonzo, kinky, off-the-chain, push-the-envelope, break a few eggs, draw some blood and leave some bruises perverted as truly befits the sick fuck I’ve become. It’s the only way I can get it up, and Halloween’s the only night I can get it on.
 

* * *

 
Ten minutes later we were rolling around together on a leaky waterbed in her crummy one-room basement apartment. The place reeked of damp carpet and old cat pee. A disdainful black tom paced fretfully back and forth near the closet doors just to the right of the bed, pausing on occasion to fix me with a baleful eat-shit-and-die look, or curse me outright with a low guttural hiss. There was no sign of Kyle, the vaunted psycho ex-boyfriend-slash-pimp, who, I quickly assured myself, was yet another figment of Tinkerbelle’s hyperactively warped imagination.
I draped my faux-leather trench coat over one corner of the bed. It was nowhere near as cool as my old bomber jacket—the thing lent all the drab dignity of a campus operative for the Young Republicans—but I liked the pockets, especially the hidden inner ones. They were perfect for secreting the sort of stuff the “monitors” didn’t think I should have—like, for example, the line of condoms I’d purchased from the machine in the men’s room at the bar earlier that night, or the miniature box-cutters I always carried for special occasions such as this.
They say that making love to a skinny chick is like falling on a pile of wire coat hangers. This, of course, assumes that you’re banging her in the missionary position, which I wasn’t. Even so, an extra layer or two of padding would have been nice. Tinkerbelle had so many sharp edges, what with all the bones poking out through her scraggy, cadaverous flesh, that I could just as easily have pleasured myself with a package of frozen spare ribs.
The girl was straddling my crotch, still fully costumed, wings and all, trying to decide which orifice would be more fun to fill. Finally, she plugged me into her pussy and commenced flopping around randomly without generating a great deal of friction. Given her mostly-otherwise tiny dimensions, Tinky’s vagina was uncannily roomy. She could easily have accommodated three good-sized dicks in addition to mine, with parking space left over for a minivan and a Vespa.
I lay back, closed my eyes, and thought of England.
“Hey!” she punched me in the shoulder, “You’re not paying attention! No fair, zoning out on me like that. You’re supposed to be fucking me, remember?”
“Where’d you get those tits?” I asked.
“These? Oh, Kyle bought ‘em for me; said he knew a couple producers who could get me into porn.”
“How old are you anyway?”
“Uh . . . twenty-two?”
The safe answer; simultaneously young enough still to be considered “fresh” in the trade, while yet sufficiently mature to do with as one pleased without any tiresome legal complications. It was also very probably the truth, though I didn’t have to believe it if I didn’t want to.
“Is that what your pimp told you to say?”
“Nineteen—” Her reply was still inflected like a question, and way too tentative.
“Don’t bullshit a bullshitter, little girl.”
My interest was suddenly on the rise.
“Seventeen.”
Something else was on the rise as well.
“C’mon! You can do better than that.”
Her pussy-walls began to tighten around my rubber-sheathed dick. We were getting warmer.
“Sixteen?”
The age of consent in about thirty states, including the one we were presently in, but still . . .
“You telling me or asking me?” I felt myself getting harder—
“Fifteen.”
—make that exponentially harder.
“Really?”
“Well, no,” she whispered, “I’m only . . .”
The words trailed off.
“Yes?” I could feel my scrotum tautening like a drawstring bag.
Fourteen.”
Ah! That was more like it. This chick definitely had my number—knew exactly what I wanted to hear. I thrust my happily-deceived hard-on upwards, taking charge of the fantasy, nearly knocking its flesh and blood object off my lap. Christ! I could marry this little skank in Kansas. Her precariously ersatz underage pussy was spasming and quivering like a bowl of Jell-O in an earthquake. I threw my weight against her hips, rolling her onto her back, then hovered above her, staring down with sadistic delight, getting off on the rapidly seguing expressions of pleasure, pain and fear that darkened her face like roiling cloud-shadows in the wind. Never underestimate the sheer aphrodisiacal power of an imaginary truth.
Her big fake porno titties were jiggling and heaving beneath the threadbare translucence of her chemise. My perpetually enquiring mind wanted a better look. I stopped in mid-thrust and pulled out. Then I reached for my box-cutters. A second later I’d deepened her décolletage, however inelegantly, by about nine inches, opening a ragged gash in the material just wide enough for me to reach inside. As boob jobs go hers wasn’t half bad. She would have been a major hit with the hooter-fetish crowd—might even, with a little more meat on her bones, have been pretty. I tore the slip apart with my bare hands, ripping it all the way down to the hem as I stripped her naked. I yanked the ruined garment out from beneath her, shredded the remnant into a long strip (like in a magician’s endless-handkerchief trick), and knotted the end around her neck.
“You ever played this game before?”
Tinkerbelle nodded, dark eyes dilating with arousal and dread.
“Turn over. Get on your hands and knees.”
She obeyed.
“You know what’s coming?” I gave a quick tug on the free end of the improvised leash, jerking her head back towards me. “Tell me!”
“Please . . .”
“Please . . . what?” I wedged four longish fingers deep into her sopping pussy.
“Oh . . . god!
“Please, what?” I added my thumb, and the first third of my palm, and more, and more, until the whole hand was buried up to the wrist, and my fist was clenched inside her, working up and down, virtually punching her womb from within. “Please what?”
“Please . . . Mr. President?”
I pushed her ass-cheeks apart with my knee. . .
“Please, Mr. President . . . what?”
. . . gave them a good, hard swat, crosswise from right to left . . .
“Please, Mr. President” she panted hoarsely, “. . . fuck me in the ass? Fuck me with your big, hard, tricky dick?”
“Good.” My cock-head flexed against her bud. “You ready for this?”
“Oh fuck yeah! That is . . . I mean . . . Hail to the chief!”
Surging forward, I could feel my burrowing body parts on either side of the thin wall of flesh that separated her holes; sharp knuckles chafing my swollen dick even as it slithered back and forth against my hand. It was like jacking off through a glove.
Tinkerbelle stared at me from over her shoulder. I jerked on the leash, pulling her whole body backwards until her butt slammed into my crotch with a dullish thud.
“Don’t look at me!” I laid my hand flat between her shoulder blades, and pushed her face into the pillows. “Stay there.”
She was loosening up now, relaxing into it as her breathing picked up momentum, pulsing in short sharp gasps and gulps. Muffled plangent cries contorted her bowed upper body, as if the air roaring into her lungs was ablaze with poisoned fire. She whimpered in that inscrutable, girl-caught-between-pain-and-ecstasy voice that never fails to turn me on. The sound was like an old hand saw ripping into an unbraced board, the syncopated protest of the wood rising in pitch as each new plunge draws ever closer to the edge. I leaned into my work, bent over and bore down, moving faster and faster, each thrust another bite of the saw, splitting her apart.
I took the leash between my teeth, and began to spank her ass with my free hand, watching the deep red welts rise on her tiny cheeks, virtually in time to the squeaky death-rattle noises breaking from her half-strangled throat. My balls were tingling pleasantly, swaying freely in the breeze, a tender pendulum swinging to and fro, occasionally lolloping forward far enough to brake against her inner thigh. This was starting to feel like fun.
The cat seemed to think so, too.
I barely noticed as the old tom hopped up onto the bed behind me. The fluid-filled mattress was in constant motion, rising and falling in time to the movement of our bodies, a gentle tidal wave rippling from foot to head with every thrust, stroke and push. Then the mangy bugger took a swing at my scrotum.
“Jesus H—” I turned around, craning my neck to note the source of sudden pain. The stupid thing was batting at my ball sack the way a boxer goes after an automatic punching bag. Except this boxer had claws—viciously, sadistically, unbelievably sharp claws. “—Christ! Get lost, you little fucker!”
Apparently, the little fucker didn’t answer to ‘little fucker’ as it ignored me completely, and continued to spar with my man parts. I grabbed for it. “Come here, goddamit!” The black beast took another swing and leapt out of the way, landing just out of reach, near the corner of the bed.
“You disgusting, drool-faced varmint—”
“Don’t talk about Natasha that way!” Tinkerbelle protested in spite of her restraints.
“First, shut up. Second, ow! Third, I’m pretty sure Natasha’s a boy—”
Encouraged by the sound of its name—or deeply offended by the boy reference—the cat lifted its tail straight in the air, arched its hind end and began to urinate on my trench coat.
“—make that a dead man!” I fumbled for the box cutters, which I’d left lying on one of the side-rails. “I’m going to cut you open and use your guts for bungee cords! Do you hear me, you mangy little piece of shit?”
Natasha continued to mark his territory, unconcerned by my threats, though he never took his big yellow eyes off me for a second. His snobby feline nonchalance drove me crazy with rage. I kicked at him as viciously as I could, which was none too viciously at all given the position I was still in vis-à-vis the fairy princess I was trying to ass-bang. If nothing else, the motion made waves in the mattress, enough to throw the furry snot off balance and knock him over the side of the bed.
“Now,” I spat out the leash as I turned back to Tinkerbelle, “where were we?”
“I think we were—”
     The cat leapt onto my back, in full kamikaze attack mode, all four sets of claws fully extended.
“Fucking shit!” I roared.
“Exactly!” Tinkerbelle said.
I withdrew my fist from her pussy in one quick pull. It came out with a sickish queefing noise, somewhere between a slurpy fart and a disappointing firecracker.
“Get this goddamned thing off me!” I flailed around blindly, desperate to dislodge the fuzzy parasite from the middle of my back. It was like trying to scratch one of those unreachable itches, always maddeningly just beyond the range of either hand.
Natasha stretched his forepaws to the back of my neck, and began to yowl.
Mrrrrower?
“Shut up!”
Mau?
“Yes, you, you flea-bitten piece of—why the hell am I talking to a fucking cat?”
Maaaauuuu?” He started kneading my flesh with his paws, purring all the while.
“Get off! Get off!”
M’rrr’uh uh.
“I said get off!”
You first, asshole.
“What the fuck?”
M’rau! M’rau! M’rau!
Tinkerbelle raised her head from the pillows.
“Don’t mind her, Mr. M—”
“What?”
“Natasha; she doesn’t mean anything by it.”
“No, not that; just now, the cat said—wait! Did you call me Mr. M?”
“What are you talking about?”
“You called me Mr. M. How did you—”
“No I didn’t. I called you Mr. N. You know? N for Nixon. Mr. Thirty-Seventh President of the United States of—”
“What’s going on here?”
“Nothing. I . . . hey! How ‘bout them Hawkeyes?”
“Stop trying to change the subject. I’m not going to—”
“Not going to what?” A deep male voice boomed from somewhere behind me. A hammy fist wrapped around the back of my neck where the cat’s paws had been only a second earlier.
“What the hell?”
“Bingo, dipshit!”
“Satan?” Tinky turned around to look. “Is that you?”
“Who else?” the newcomer rumbled, “Didn’t you ever stop to think what Natasha spelled backwards is?”
“Ah . . . Satan?” she worked it out, “So Natasha really is a boy?”
“Uh, yeah!” his voice echoed in spite of the small space, “Didn’t appreciate the pink bows and miniature ballerina costumes, by the way.”
“And you’ve been watching me all this time? That’s so creepy and gross.”
“Gross? Me? I’m not the one picking up lowlife assholes in bars and bringing them home for cheap, meaningless sex.”
“Excuse me?” I didn’t like being called a lowlife.
“Hey! If the enema tip fits . . . just sayin’.”
“What are you doing here, S?” The girl’s tone was too matter-of-fact for comfort, “And what’s that smell? Eeeew!”
“How can you smell anything in here?” I said, though I had begun to notice it, too; a whiff of something like sulfur and spoiled meat on top of the original cat-pee and mildew bouquet.
“Ah, you mean this.” The interloper said helpfully. The closet doors flew open all on their own, and a very dead body spilled out into the room surrounded by its own personal entourage of buzzing flies. Tinky’s psycho-ex-boyfriend-slash-pimp Kyle, no doubt. The corpse slumped forward as its neatly severed head dropped to the floor and rolled towards the bed.
“Satan!” the girl gasped, “What did you do?”
“Look, Brittany, I—”
“Brittany? That’s your name?” Something clicked in the back of my head—in concert with an impatient punch from the guy standing behind me. “Not Brittany Vander Sloot . . . from Petalfield Middle School?”
“Don’t you remember me, Mr. M.—or should I call you Edward?”
“No freakin’ way!”
“Small world, huh?”
“What happened to you?” I asked, “I mean, aside from you used to being a blonde?”
“You happened, Mr. M. You happened.”
“So, tell me this; I’ve always wanted to know; were you the one who posted those mirror pics on the web?”
“Hello!” Satan snarled. “Some of us are trying to have a grownup conversation here.”
“What do you want?” Tinker-Brittany demanded.
“Well, I was in town for the Black Angel appearance thing anyway; had a few hours to kill before midnight, and thought maybe we could go out for a cup of coffee or something—”
“Or something. I’ll bet,” she said.
“—but really, isn’t it obvious? I want you back. I realize, after all this time, that you’re the only one for me. Can you ever forgive me for not seeing it sooner?”
“Oh, Satan! I don’t know what to say!”
“At least say you’ll think about it. In the meantime, would you like me to dispatch this lowly worm for you as I did the other?”
“Whoa! Take a chill pill,” I said, “We’re all consenting adults here.”
“Really? Five minutes ago you couldn’t wait for her to say she was only fourteen. I’d say ‘what you are’ is an unregenerate sleaze-bag who gets off on playing rough with underage girls.”
“Look who’s talking!” I still hadn’t seen the guy’s face.
“Hey! I was invoked, fair and square.” He squeezed the sides of my head till I thought my eyeballs would pop out through their sockets. “What’s your excuse?”
“I . . . I . . . I did my time. Eight fucking years in the pen! I paid my debt to society—”
“And you still don’t get it,” Satan said, “You still won’t admit that any of it was your fault. It’s all ‘they were the ones coming on to me’ or ‘how was I supposed to help myself when they were begging for it’ and whatever other line of bullshit pervoid sickos come out with to justify themselves. Oh yeah; I’ve been keeping an eye on you, buddy boy.”
“But . . . but Tinkerbelle—I mean Brittany here—has to be at least—what?—twenty-three now?” I tried nodding towards the girl, “No way you can bust me for this.”
“Think again, soul-bag! I’ve got a nice, heavy millstone with your name on it all ready to go around that tender little neck.”
“So, you’re saying I’m doomed to Hell?”
“As a matter of fact, we’re expecting you in . . . gosh! What time is it?”
“Alright,” I said, “I think you guys have taken this joke about as far as it can go. Best Halloween prank ever, and all that. Bravo! Extra points for special effects; the body falling out of the closet was a nice touch—and the flies! How’d you do that?—but it’s not funny anymore. So get lost, jerk-off, whoever the hell you are.
“Whoever the hell I am?” The newcomer twisted my head back to the right. For a second I thought he was going to break my neck. Then I saw him out of the corner of my eye. It may not have been a very good look, what with the beady eye-slits in the old Nixon mask impeding the view, but it was still good enough to know that I was completely screwed. My worst experiences in prison were about to seem positively PG-13-ish by comparison.
“Foolish mortal!” a clap of thunder accompanied his reverberating basso, “Did you think you could escape the wrath of Perdition? Did you think you would be spared the culling of the unworthy?”
“Not the strap-on!” Tinker-Brittany wailed.
“Yea, verily! That is to say . . .” Satan cleared his throat as he snapped his fingers, “S’cuse me while I whip this out.”
“No, please don’t,” I whined, “I’ll leave. I’ll never do anything like this again. I’ll—”
“Squeal like a pig fer me, boy!” the Prince of Darkness drawled.
“Wh . . . what?”
“I’ve always wanted to say that,” he laughed, “No, but seriously, how am I doin’?”
“I—”
“Don’t,” Tinkerbelle cautioned, “You don’t want to piss him off.”
“Got that right, baby-cakes,” Satan said, “Take a deep breath, Eddy!”
Something huge and hard was rammed into me from behind. I screamed, not so much like a pig, as a talentless little girl auditioning for the lead in Annie, letting my inner-soprano come out to sing one long, stratospherically earsplitting note that made the big finish in Tomorrow seem positively pedestrian. The naked 40-watt light bulb that hung above the bed popped and shattered, along with all the mirrors and windows in the apartment.
The gigantic invasive whatchamajig was ice cold and razor sharp. It filled my innards like a puppeteer’s hand stuck up a sock, animating my flesh without any regard to the spirit. The accompanying sensations were almost unbearable. My already-bloated stiffy was swelling up to blimp proportions and I couldn’t tell whether I was about to come my brains out or totally lose control of my bladder, let alone decide which would be more embarrassing under the circumstances.
“We havin’ fun yet?” Satan’s belly laugh reverberated through me, out to the tip of my cock, and deep into the girl’s quivering entrails. I was vaguely aware of something going on down underneath me as well; His Satanic Majesty’s tiny prune-like pee-pee was doing its amazing magical metamorphoses, growing into the monster mutant schlong Tinkerbelle had spoken of earlier. It pushed my aching scrotum aside on its impatient way to her pussy.
“Oh, baby, yes,” she moaned as he entered her, “keep fucking me just like that—both of you. Don’t stop even for a second.”
At least somebody was pretending to enjoy herself.
I emptied my spooge into the tip of the condom. The pressure on my prostate kept me erect, and I couldn’t have stopped going through the motions of fucking even if I’d wanted to what with Satan pulling the strings. With the strap-on, he could keep things up—quite literally—for as long as he wanted, and I had no say in the matter. I tried to think of something else—anything to detach myself from the horror of the present. I searched my imagination for that proverbial happy place they always tell you to go to in stressful situations, but gave up after realizing I didn’t have one.
In Hell this would be my happy place. I’d probably end up joined at the dick for all eternity with somebody like Kyle, or worse, somebody exactly like myself.  If the Infernal Office of Ironic Punishments was really on the ball, I’d be reincarnated as a ditzy schoolgirl, and stuffed into a phone booth full of dirty old men. At that moment I had no doubt I deserved it.
The torture went on for lord-only-knows how long. By the time Satan was done with it, my body was a limp dishrag wrapped around a blob of blood-soaked hamburger. He disengaged abruptly before pulling me off Tinker-Brittany’s back. The girl, orgasming with every breath she took, whimpered in soft complaint as he withdrew.
“Hang in there, baby,” Satan spoke soothingly, without the thunderclap accompaniment, “Gonna make sweet missionary love to you before I have to head out. Just gotta deal with this douchebag first.”
He slammed me up against one of the cinderblock walls, holding me there by the neck, my feet dangling inches above the floor.
“You think this gets you off the hook, pervert?”
“Uhhhlllgggghhhh,”
“Wrong!”
“Uhhhllll—”
“Shut the fuck up and listen. You got off easy tonight—Gee! Come to think of it, so did I!—but don’t fool yourself even for a second, worm. You’re not being let off with a warning here. The day of reckoning will soon be upon you. You won’t know when and you won’t know where—you’ll never even see it coming. But have no illusions, your true punishment still lies before you. Do you understand?”
“Uhhhggghhh huuuggghhh agggghhhh.”
“Alright then,” he loosened his grip enough to let me breathe. “Just one or two more things we need to discuss. One . . .”
He kneed me in the balls.
“That’s for Brittany, fuck-wad. Two . . .”
He dragged me out of the apartment and threw me into the middle of the cold, wet street, running up to me with well-aimed kicks to my naked groin and stomach, perfectly timed to underscore the fury of his admonitions.
“I am SO sick of dealing with horny ASS-wipes like YOU. You’re all the same; it’s all take, take, take, and gimme, gimme, gimme, till they send you down to me, and I have to listen to you BITCH and MOAN about how you got a bum rap for ALL. FUCKING. ETERNITY. Do you know how IRRITATING that is? PISS me OFF why don’tcha?”
I tried to crawl away, but the big guy planted a steely hoof in the small of my back.
“. . . and one more thing, shitbird!” he rolled me over with his foot, glaring down as he pointed a long, bony finger at me, “Nice mask.”
I felt a sudden burning, as if someone were pouring a vat of molten plastic over my head, scorching and blistering the skin. I put my hands up to my forehead and howled. The mask had been transmogrified, ruined nose and all, into real living flesh, permanently fused with my own face. The good news was that my mug shot in the post office was no longer current. The bad news—pretty much everything else—was that I now looked the part of the twisted freak I’d always been on the inside.

 
* * *

 
Somehow, I made it back to my spot under the bridge, the sound of Satan’s laughter ringing in my ears. It still does. I can’t get it out of my head, and I keep looking over my shoulder, expecting to see him, leveling a skeletal index finger at my chest like an executioner’s pistol. Can they call you paranoid if somebody really is out to get you? I spend my days in an old packing crate, curled up in a fetal position, dreading the hour he shows up to make good on his promise. I fear it may be soon. It won’t be much longer before I feel that gigantic fist clapping around the back of my neck, dragging me down to the place I’ve always been destined to belong.
And there, I have no doubt the tortured souls of my victims will seek me out; the girls whose lives I so casually destroyed. They’ll pick at my mind and tear at my flesh through an eternity of torment—
“Ohmygodohmygodohmygodohmygod . . .”
—a giggling, squealing, gum-snapping orgy of junior-high horror, schoolgirl gossip and excruciatingly unfunny jokes about burgeoning body parts and farting farm animals.
“Ohmygodohmygodohmygodohmygod, Mr. M!”
Their names burned into my memory along with every lie I ever told, and every silly gushing word they ever spoke to me.
“Oh! My! God!
But then, it’s the crazy ones who’ve always found me. And it’s the crazy ones who always get you into trouble.