Archive for the ‘Fiction’ Category

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Worst. Sex. Advice. Ever.

April 3, 2011

Loose Change

Loose Change is Sara Davidson’s autobiographical novel, or minimally fictionalized autobiography. She and her friends were students at Berkeley in the midst of the Free Speech Movement.

In 1963, Candy went to a gynecologist who “informed her about the difference between vaginal and clitoral orgasms and advised her to practice having the vaginal kind.”

Candy herself is quoted:

My mom told me it took years for her to have vaginal orgasms. This doctor said you could practice by putting a plastic shampoo bottle in you and pulling it out fast.

Wouldn’t that cause, like, a ruptured uterus or something? Plus, the opportunity for infection. I’m guessing there are several excellent reasons to not do this.

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The Very First Note

January 4, 2010

The Very First Note
by Gayle

I went back to my hometown for a few days. I had to sign some papers. It was almost New Year’s, 1978, and Nadine invited me to her shindig. Parties ebb and flow, of course, but maybe 15 people were there at the most, some I knew from the past, some I didn’t. In the main room, the furniture was pushed to the edges, for a place to dance. The stereo was at one end and the food and drinks table at the other. Downstairs, it was the alternate refreshment room, relatively quiet. Yeah, it’s the midwest, but they’ve heard of pot. Then, out in the back yard, they had a firepit.

I go out there, three guys are sitting on a bench, I don’t know any of them. One guy is playing the drum that he brought over. He gets up and hands me the drum. I’m not really into it, but it’s cool that the guy just offered it so readily, so I sit down with the drum between my knees and make a little rhythm for a couple of minutes.

Meanwhile, Nadine comes outside and joins us at the fire. I stand up, and the guy asks Nadine if she wants to try the drum. She says no, but he kind of coaxes her, then he says to me, “Go ahead, convince her. Talk her into it.” That makes me feel kind of bristly. It’s like he’s saying all women are together in a cabal, and he’s enlisting me to communicate with Nadine in our secret woman-speak, and talk sense into her, for her own good.

Of course, when you’re in a bit of an altered state, you take that into account. We see everything through our filters. A lot of what we see is stuff from the past, oozing up into the now. You make allowances for it, and try to catch it if you can.

I go, “This drum is getting heavy, so I hope you guys figure it out pretty soon.”

The drum man tells me, “Try hitting it a little harder,” but I shake my head, and he takes the drum off my hands, and sits back down.

Maybe I’ve been rude, so I try to explain. “When I’m into percussion, it’s for the intricacy and complexity, not the loudness factor.” I go in the house. It’s really not an atmosphere for conversation. The stereo is cranked up, and half the time I don’t know what people are saying. I don’t enjoy talking loud. So fuck it, I’ll just dance. Nobody else is, but so what?

Folks from here need a couple of drinks in them before they let the music take them. No, that’s not true. They keep time with various body parts. Anyway, most of the evening, it was an empty dance floor, except for me, and somebody or other would drift in, or dive in, for part of a number, then drift or dive back out again. And always two or three on the edge, moving in rhythm while holding onto their beer bottles. Later on, around midnight, and for a while after, there would be four or six or eight people dancing.

It’s not like anybody’s going to push a contract in my face and beg me to be on their TV show. Especially not here in Hometown, USA. It’s not like I’m trying to show off – and there’s that goop from the past, seeping in again – I just feel like dancing, dammit! Talking and hearing are stressing me out, and there’s really nothing else to do, in a place that isn’t mine. It’s not like I can sneak off to my desk and type up some paperwork for Cooley’s five-state tour. My desk is a couple of thousand miles away.

Nadine’s husband is changing the records, and he tells me, “I’m putting your Traffic on after this one.”

The drum guy comes inside just in time to hear this, and he says, “Did you bring an album?” I tell him no, I just asked for this one because I wanted to hear “A Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys.” He gets all enthusiastic about what a great album it is, and how much he likes that song particularly. His name is Tom, and I tell him mine, and he asks if I’m from here.

I really don’t want to get into what I’m doing here, instead of taking care of the house on the canal and protecting the ducks from any reveler who might fancy a barbecued snack. Am I from here?

“Yes and no,” I tell him. When the music starts again, I slide away and get back to dancing. I overhear talk that sounds like Tom is in some aspect of the music business. Part of what I do for Cooley, is reach out to other people in the field. How bad can this Tom guy be?

After a while, I go to the bathroom, and when I come back, whatever’s on the stereo doesn’t really grab me, so I’m at the edge of the “dance floor” just kind of swaying. Tom approaches and takes my hand lightly, a minuet kind of move, and leads me a few steps out. So okay, fine, we’re both dancing. I just don’t dig this “dancing with” notion. In my universe, dancing is basically not a team sport. I don’t aspire to be one-half of Ginger and Fred. I’m not interested in learning dance as a science or a gymnastic feat. It’s just not something I want to do with a partner.

Slow dancing, that’s different. Yeah, “Blue Velvet,” the lights are low, you’re barely moving around on the dance floor, just rubbing and grinding where you stand, and groping each other – with the right person, that’s definitely a couple activity. And even so, there aren’t many people I want to be that close to. And none of them are here. And this isn’t a make-out party. It’s New Year’s Eve! It’s supposed to be lively. It’s a celebration, for chrissake.

Anyway, I’m a feeling impinged upon. I get the impression that this Tom character is making some kind of attempt to direct me. To tell you the truth, I’m trying to not even look at him. But I don’t want to close my eyes, because that seems affected. Also, I don’t want to bump into anything. So I’m aiming for a state of seeing but not seeing, where a part of my brain will monitor the environment, while most of it takes a vacation. But it can’t. Because it’s busy thinking about bullshit like not wanting to look like a total air-headed poser by dancing with my eyes closed.

And there’s this nagging feeling that he’s trying to get me to do something, to mirror him or synchronize myself with him. He’s seriously putting a dent in my high. It taps into some of that old stuff in my head. The connections that people make, the implications they draw. I can just imagine old Tom thinking, “If she can’t dance with me, she must be a lousy lay.” Which to my mind is a whole different thing. When I get naked with somebody, I know what to do. That’s the time and place where you feel your way into the other person, where you act in harmony. I can play a duet. But dancing? Dancing is all about me. And whatever Tom here thinks about it, who cares? I don’t want him speculating about how good I’d be in bed, because I’m pretty sure we won’t be finding ourselves there any time soon.

Saved by the doorbell. I love a cliché. Somebody rings, and since Nadine isn’t close by and neither is her husband, Tom goes to open the door.

But he turns up again later on, with the astonishing question, “What’s your story?”

“What do you mean?”

“You’re from here, but you’re not from here. You’re dancing all alone…”

There go the bristles, up again. I’m hearing an implication that I should be dancing with somebody, that I’d be better off that way.… I don’t know, maybe I’m reading too much into this guy’s innocent tries at conversation.

Should I go into it? Should I tell him, where I’m really from, we dance in the sun by the ocean, to the beat of twenty drums, or to a three-piece band on the boardwalk, and sometimes we’re not even drunk? Should I tell him about the big room with the polished hardwood floor, the secret world above a store in Santa Monica, where we play all kinds of records and dance however we please – yes, even alone? Should I bother to try and explain that for me, dancing is not a thing you do with another person? Do I tell him that who you dance with is the music, and sometimes a whole bunch of other people, but it doesn’t have to be two-by-two like Noah’s fuckin’ Ark?

“Who are you?” the guy says.

That tears it. This is Mr. Clueless. I play it straight. I tell him, “Gayle.”

Pretty soon he gives up and sits at the sidelines, watching. This, I’m not too crazy about either. I feel like I should stifle myself, because I don’t want to look like I’m trying to attract him or, Goddess forbid, seduce him. All I want to do is dance, but I can imagine this Tom, after some unthinkable play-out, insisting to some third party, “She was coming on to me all evening.”

Then, I hear Cooley’s voice, I mean, really hear it, from all those miles away, over the music, and over all my imagining and analyzing. He says, “Dance as if nobody’s watching.” And nobody is. And every so often, I forget about the whole thing and get out of myself for a spell. And then the static in my head revs up again. I can’t be natural because I’m all hung up thinking about why I can’t be natural. It’s exhausting.

After a while, I’m in the kitchen talking with Nadine, and we’re really into whatever the topic is, it’s the first and only exchange I’ve had all night with any kind of value. I hear “A Low Spark of High Heeled Boys.” Nadine is telling me something, and Tom pops into the room and goes, “Hey, it’s your song.” I kind of nod at him, but I’m listening to Nadine. And then I’m saying something back to Nadine, and Tom goes, “Your song is playing.”

It’s almost overwhelming, the impulse to turn on him and spit out, “Idiot, you think I don’t know, from the very first note?”

But I don’t say a word. It’s New Year’s Eve, and I’m a long way from home.

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Love Scene from Steps to Beach #3

April 11, 2009

by Felice Jordan

Still nervous and with a jacket wrapped around her like a cape, Norah paced as freely as Jesse’s small room would allow. He lit a joint and offered it.

“Not now. I’m too paranoid. At the least provocation, I’ll be ready to check into Camarillo. It’s not that I don’t like weaving pot holders, but…”

“Remember,” Jesse interrupted, “crisis equals danger plus opportunity.”

“Opportunity to what? Get my ass shot off? What happened to that woman at the pier, it was meant to happen to me. That innocent bystander who is laid out on a gurney in the emergency room with a slug in her, was supposed to be me. I know I didn’t want a normal nine to five job, but this has gone way beyond the limits of sanity.”

Jesse was on the cot, hoping things might mellow out. He said, “Everything is gonna be all right. We’ll find the kid, you’ll get your twenty grand or whatever. You can retire and start a gourd farm.”

“Or I could join a cult.”

“Funny you should mention that. Did you know I’m starting a cult? One of the requirements is, every day you have to eat a lot of hot fudge sundaes.”

There was no reaction from Norah, who continued to pace. Finally she said, “I suppose it could be worse.”

“Yeah. It could be me.” This didn’t get a laugh either. In search of some distraction, he took up an art book and opened it at random. “Hey, look what I got at the library. How do you like this? She’s a princess of the Este family, by Pisanello. ‘Thought to be Sigismondo’s first wife, Ginevra d’Este, who died in 1440 at the age of twenty-two, quite possibly murdered by Sigismondo.’ I don’t wonder.”

Norah started to cry, and Jesse was sorry he brought it up. Best not to dwell on the subject of murder, he supposed. Quickly, he moved on. “Here’s a nugget of art history for you. When Michelangelo was taking too long on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, the Pope climbed up there and whacked him with a cane.”

Norah stopped pacing. Jesse got up and went over to her. “Maybe that would help you feel better, a little aggression. You want to hit me? Go ahead. Sorry I don’t have a cane.”

“Oh Jess, don’t be ridiculous. I don’t want to hurt anybody. And I don’t want to get hurt, either. I feel like such a coward.”

“Nothing wrong with that. Seeking pain is stupid. It’s counter-evolutionary. Even an amoeba knows to avoid pain.”

“It’s just all getting to be too much. Next I’ll be finding plutonium in my cold cuts.”

Jesse leered and waggled his crotch at her obscenely. “I got your cold cuts, baby, right here.”

Norah giggled through her tears. He pressed his advantage and put his arms around her.

She balked. “I’m too nervous.”

He persisted in kissing and hugging her, incrementally replacing foolishness with carnal intent, and she began to calm down. Starting at the waist, he ran a finger down the back seam of her jeans. He undid her zipper and slipped his fingers inside the waistband and ran them around to the small of her back where he traced small circles, barely ruffling the little hairs that grew there. Inside Norah, an outrageous amount of heat flared. Jesse moved her to the cot and stripped the jeans and panties from her. He all but ripped his own clothes off and made as if to drastically impale her.

She resisted. “Wait a minute, Speedy. First you got to pre-heat, then you can cook.”

Jesse obligingly changed his pace. Much more gently, he helped her out of her shirt and bra. He coaxed her knees apart and went down on her. It wasn’t something he did often, and Norah figured it was in honor of a special occasion, namely, her having been shot at. She soon realized that what she really wanted was to be totally filled up with Jesse.

“Get inside me. Please.”

Jesse adored being said “please” to in that tone of voice. He brought his cock and set it in place. It moved into her by stages, consideringly, almost reflectively. It reminded her of a cat exploring a new apartment for the first time. Interested yet cautious, eager go on to the next new vista but content to absorb all the details of the present surroundings first. For Norah, the intense full-body firestorm went back into action. Jesse picked up some momentum and got a rhythm going, then another. He experimented around in there, fine-tuning the responses, getting exactly the right color onto the palette. After a while, he slowed into a holding pattern, a kind of intermission.

Norah said, “Do you think you could get off to it, if I moved, and you held still for a while?”

“Could I! All my life I been waiting for a girl who moves.” Jesse stayed where he was, stabilized his limbs, and let Norah grind against him. He could tell when she really got caught up in it, because that was when she slowed down. Her movements against him grew not only slower but lighter, almost insubstantial touches. Then all at once there was an explosion of frenzy. Norah’s head arched way back and she ground her crotch against him with pulverizing force and made a sound half way between a groan and “Ahhhhhh.” He plunged immediately into the abyss. When eventually he stopped moving, they stayed linked. Norah squeezed with her cunt muscles and sent a roaring aftershock through him. Each time she did it, the sensation diminished, and he fell asleep to the continuing rhythm. When he started to snore, Norah rolled him off her and held on with one arm and went to sleep too.

———–

Steps to Beach is an unpublished novel

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Love Scene from Steps to Beach #2

March 23, 2009

by Felice Jordan

It was dark outside and they were in Norah’s living room. She was busy with her stash box, removing seeds and filling a pipe, while Jesse paced the floor. He wore a t-shirt he’d found in a dryer at the laundromat. On its front, a bear climbed into a toilet, saying “Flush twice, it’s a long way to Westwood.” Jesse was in the midst of a monolog.

“The cure for admiring Reed’s work is to go and look at it. He could have settled for being only the greatest living artist working in oil – but no, he wants to wipe his ass with rose petals.”

“Settle down. What we need right now is to get Thai’d up.”

“I tried to tell him, but the guy’s an asshole.”

“Well, you know what they say, it takes one to know one. And you know a million of them, so what does that make you?”

“He didn’t believe a word I said.”

“The best way to convince an asshole that he’s an asshole is to let him have his own way. Come on, let’s get wrecked.” Norah held out the pipe.

“Call the wreckers! Get the demolition team in here!”

Later in her bedroom they listened to Bessie Smith on the stereo. Norah sat at the card table writing in her notebook. Jesse, across from her, bent several small pieces of cardboard into L-shapes to make them stand, and set them up in a circle.

“Know what this is?”

Norah looked up and said, “No.”

“Cardboardhenge.” He started to get up rather clumsily and toppled back into his chair. Cardboardhenge fell down.

“You okay?”

“The grabity is kind of strong over here. How is it where you are?”

Norah didn’t answer.

“It takes you in its clutches and pulls you down. But no more. I shall prevail over grabity.” This time Jesse got up successfully and went to the overhead light switch and turned it off, leaving only a small lamp lit. He swayed to the music. “If that ain’t the blues, I don’t know what is.”

“Why’d you turn the light off?”

“So it would be dark.” He hovered over Norah, who was trying to concentrate.

“You’re blocking my alpha waves.”

“What are you doing?”

“I’m making some notes, as any fool can see.”

“I’m not a fool, so I didn’t see. I thought we were gonna smoke another bowl.” He bent down and put his arms around her.

“We already did,” Norah reminded him.

“Oh. Sometimes I forget whether I did something or just thought about doing it. What do you say we fill it up again?”

“How come you only hug me when you want some pot?”

“Baby, that’s not fair,” Jesse crooned in her ear. “I hug you when I want other things, too.”

Norah gave him a shove. “You oughtta lay off that stuff. Research shows it can make you grow tits.”

“I know. I already had to go to Sweden last year and get a sex-change operation. Back to male.”

“And it lowers the libido.”

“Does not, and I can prove it six times a night. Come on, what are you, some kind of tea-totaler? Get it? Get it?”

“Another one of those,” Norah said, “and I’ll have to ask you to leave. Get it?”

But of course they did ignite another bowl, and soon found themselves lounging on the bed. Norah had shed her “young professional” disguise of the day and now wore only a slip. Jesse still had his jeans on. He pretty much kept his legs under wraps because he thought they were too thin. They many have been, but Norah couldn’t care less.

“I think I’m worried, Jess. What if I can’t find that little boy? There’s nothing to go on. I’m scared.”

“You know, I used to study Chinese calligraphy.”

“I’m pouring my heart out and he’s not even listening.”

“The Chinese word for crisis is made up of two other words: danger and opportunity.”

“So?”

“So get with it, kiddo. You’re the one decided to be a detective. You asked for it, you got it. No guts, no glory. Dare to be great. You think you have troubles? I was accused of virulent apathy and fanatical indifference, both on the same day.”

“That’s different. You’re an artist. You’re not suited for life in the material world.”

“I know. I get caught between the fibers.” He poked his finger into Norah’s cleavage. “Say, Doctor, after I buy a waterbed, will I be able to screw?”

“Of course.”

“That’s funny, I never could do it before.”

Norah pounced, vigorously nuzzled his neck, panted and snorted like a lust-crazed beast, and pawed at his zipper. He made a show of trying to fend off her advances.

She persisted. “Can’t take authentic passion, huh? Can’t handle a real woman? Is that it?”

Jesse wrestled her onto her back and sucked on her nipple, knowing from their long experience together how thoroughly it would set her off. Then he sucked on the other one. He was a firm believer in bilateral symmetry in bed, if not in his paintings. Somehow at the same time he got out of his jeans. He pushed the hem of the slip up around Norah’s waist. “I love sluts who don’t wear panties,” he said. He entered her and it seemed like they were on the way to some serious lovemaking when there was a pause and both of them broke out laughing.

He said, “I don’t know about this here new-fangled waterbag of yours, lady.”

“It zigs when it oughtta zag. What shall we do?”

“Why do you think God made floors?” Jesse pulled the quilt and Norah off the bed, and for good measure, pulled the slip off of her.

She loved the way the hair grew on his arms and legs, and especially on his chest. When she stroked it, the springiness made her palm tingle. The insides of his thighs were cool, smooth and hairless. There were things about Jesse she truly appreciated: his unfailing erections, for one. And his follow-through. Sometimes he wasn’t sure, at first, whether he wanted to mess around, but once he committed himself to the project as far as taking his clothes off, there was always a cheerfully cooperative hard-on. She didn’t care about short or long, but thick was definitely a preference. Jesse’s cock was solid and hefty.

She squeezed it now, and in return it surged toward her. Grasping it, she led Jesse to where she wanted him to be, kneeling over her with his legs apart. On her back, she slid downward and took the gorgeous thing in her mouth, and used her hands all over his butt and teased at his asshole with one fingertip. Jesse pulled away, moved downward himself, and pushed her legs apart. Taking his dick in hand he introduced it into her with a purposeful attitude that brought Norah to a new level of anticipation.

He settled on his elbows, and his cock explored around inside her for some time, and found a very agreeable angle of approach. He simply fucked for a while, then segued into a two-stage motion. He would push partway in with a moderate amount of force, pause, and finish the drive inward with a much more energetic shove. Sounds escaped from low in Norah’s throat. In a voice equally hoarse, Jesse said, “Get it…. Get it.”

He put his lips to her neck and took a morsel of flesh between his teeth and bit into it. Norah started to go over the edge, clung frantically, and took him over with her.

When he got his breath back Jesse, always the romantic, asked, “Did you ever come so hard, you thought you broke something?”

————————————-
From the novel Steps to Beach

RELATED:
Love Scene from Steps to Beach #1

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Love Scene from Steps to Beach #1

March 15, 2009

by Felice Jordan

Norah turned off at one of the side streets and found the Brunelli Gallery, not far from the boardwalk. When she pounded on the door, the sound level of the stereo inside dropped precipitously. Jesse came and led her through the dark gallery to a door signified by an Indian blanket that stopped two feet short of the floor. He lived in the gallery’s back room, a small and crowded space furnished with picturesque detritus. He had a paint-stained table, two folding lawn chairs, a broken easel, and a hot-plate. One wall was lined with utility shelves crammed with empty tin cans, light bulbs, odd pieces of wood and hardware, and a hundred other items. A folding cot squatted in one corner, equipped with dingy mis-matched sheets and an army blanket. A few clothes hung limply from a hook. Several paintings were stacked against the wall, facing away.

“There’s no place like home,” Norah remarked.

“Yes there is. The Salvation Army store resembles it a lot.”

“What do you eat?”

“Big Macs, mostly. I wouldn’t cook here.”

They sat at the table. Jesse cleared a space amid the clutter of paint tubes, gesso cans, and fast-food wrappers. He pulled out a baggie and papers and rolled a joint.

One of the paintings on the wall was a landscape, viewed from not very high in the air. Under purple skies, the flat earth was paved with wall-to-wall skulls. Part of an airplane wing was visible in one corner. Norah took notice of it and said she liked it.

“That’s what I thought I saw, coming into LAX after my discharge.”

“Whacked out of your skull, no doubt.”

“Who wouldn’t be? On mescaline. Fucked up to the max. When I got off the plane and went to the conveyor belt, every fucking suitcase that rolled in looked just like mine. Then I caught sight of the big dog they had sniffing for dope.”

“Were you holding?

“Only half a lid in my sock, and about forty caps of mind-frying hallucinogens. I couldn’t remember if my bags were clean. I was pretty sure they were, but just for grins I ask the guy next to me, what happens when the dog smells something? ‘Not much,’ he says, ‘they just rip apart whatever the dope is in until they get it. The dogs are addicted to that stuff, you know. They feed it to them for breakfast.’ ”

Jesse extracted a canvas from the stack leaning against the wall and propped it up for her inspection. It showed the baggage claim area of an airport, crowded with people. A four-loop conveyor belt held an endless procession of identical suitcases. None of the people in the picture seemed to be aware of this.

“I freak,” Jesse went on. “Every time a bag comes through the flaps and that dog jumps over it, he gets bigger and more looking like a wolf. I can actually feel him breathing on my kneecap and drooling on my shoes. I can hear the satisfying crunch of his molars as he totals my anklebone. I decide to go sit in the crapper for a while, get some peace and quiet and figure out how to identify my suitcases.”

“What about the little stubs with numbers on them?”

“I knew you were gonna say that.”

“Well?”

“Sure, like I’m gonna station myself at one bend of the belt and check tags. Everybody else knows the suitcases are all different sizes and colors. Fat ones. Plaid ones. How’s that gonna look? So on the way to the facilities, what happens? I walk right by one of those monsters.”

“A dog?”

“Fuckin A, a dog. It brushes right up against my leg. Cardiac arrest time. And you know what? That son of a bitch walked right on by. Didn’t say a word. I almost shit. When I got to the can I had to check my drawers.”

Norah had gotten to her feet during this story, and was moving about in a sensuous way. She said, “He must have been off duty.”

“It was weird. My theory is, the trainer was a closet pot head. Probably puts ammonia in its nose. May I ask what you seem to be doing?”

“Practicing. I took Belly Dancing for Beginners to get in shape.”

“It worked. I noticed you’ve dropped a few pounds. Better watch that stuff, or you might get your bones jumped on.”

“I’m holding my breath.”

“If you turn blue, I’ll sign you, set you out front, and high bid gets it, folks.”

“I’ve heard about those people who climb the ladder of success over the dead bodies of their friends.”

“Now you’ve met one.”

Norah relaxed on the cot, but Jesse, despite his talk of bone-jumping, still sat at the table. “Speaking of friends, she said, “I assume this place belongs to one of yours?”

“Armand Brunelli. An old art school buddy turned entrepreneur. He made it young and developed a very advanced attitude: ‘I’m okay – you suck.’ ”

“He hasn’t paid enough dues?”

Jesse sneered. “An overnight success at twenty? My dear, have no fear. He’s only begun to pay.”

“Well, you never liked A-list parties anyway.”

“Or even B-list. I’m starting my own. The F-list, for fuckup.”

“So where is this guy now? Will he be barging in here in the next hour?”

“He’s in Europe, discovering new pets for the bourgeoisie. So I hang around rent-free. Somebody’s got to keep out the moths. You can tell how much he trusts me by the way he had the phone shut off.”

Norah diagnosed Jesse’s problem. “You just think everybody should love you.”

“Not necessarily. But I don’t see any reason why they shouldn’t, either. Actually Brunelli is no worse that the rest. Most of the people who call themselves artists are just picture dealers – except they make the pictures themselves.”

“I noticed there’s nothing of yours out there.”

“After being told to fuck off by numerous galleries, including this one, I’ve decided to paint for posterity.”

“And meanwhile, lie, cheat, and steal.”

“It’s just something we dedicated artists do,” Jesse admitted modestly.

“You’re telling me? I haven’t forgotten the time you sold my TV to buy paint.”

“You didn’t need it. You said you were wasting too much time in front of the tube, so I helped.”

“Yeah, helped yourself.”

“Well, what was I supposed to do, mix my own? Have you ever tried to make Cerulean Blue from Rit dye and Crisco? It’s not a pretty sight.”

Norah had by now arranged herself on the cot rather seductively, but Jesse missed or ignored his cue and took down the baggage painting. “I don’t know about that perspective,” he mused. “Fuck a gallery anyway. Who needs them? At least then I can say I did it all myself.”

“Sure, but who will you say it to?” She gave up on the idea of luring him, at least temporarily, and asked to see more of his work. Jesse put up another canvas. It was a mother holding a baby to her breast, all curves and softness. Yet something wasn’t right. A jarring shade of blue permeated the surface with disturbing effect.

Norah put on a Viennese accent. “So. Now, you will tell me please about your childhood. Your mother. Did you love her?”

“I’m gonna gesso over this one. I could never get that one hand right. It looks like a claw.”

“It does not look like a claw.”

“You can’t see it?”

“Nobody can see it but you, and that’s only because you know you had trouble with it.”

“You think so?”

Norah sighed. These artists. “It wouldn’t be obvious to anyone else.”

“You mean they’d see it, but it wouldn’t stick out right away.”

“Jesse, it’s fine. Take it from me. I know.”

“I don’t want to look at any more of these now.”

“Hey man, you know you’re great, what’s the matter? I think you’re just indulging in artistic temperament. Relax, make yourself at home.”

“Why did you have to remind me?” Finally Jesse collapsed on the cot. Norah snuggled up next to him. But he hadn’t run out of words yet.

“I guess I’m doing good work. I still wouldn’t do anything else. You now what they say: The better you get, better it gets for you.”

Norah saw her opening. “Why sir,” she said with mock innocence, “whatever could you be referring to?”

Jesse finally got the message. “Come right over here, my dear,” he purred, “and I will explain. This is one of those cases in which only through the specific can an understanding of the general be arrived at.”

Norah fell into his arms and exclaimed, “She falls into his arms!”

“But can I fall into your arms without falling into your hands?” That had always been a major question between the two of them.

Once he got with the program, Jesse made up for lost time. For a person so haphazard in most of his undertakings, he got them both out of their clothes with surprising efficiency. He had two kinds of lost time to make up for – the stalling he had done since Norah started sending him signals tonight, and the months of coldness between them since the last time things got a little too close. Suddenly he was impatient, and even rough.

Norah whispered, “Baby, remember you’re an artist.”

He did remember. His style of fucking became slower and more eloquent. Norah relaxed into it. Suddenly Jesse remembered something that had several times in the past brought her to interesting heights of erotic tension. He withdrew, and guided her to a new posture, with them lying on their sides facing each other. He maneuvered his cock into position, between her closed legs, slightly between the lips of her vulva, so its head rested firmly against her clitoris. He stroked the shaft of his penis to please himself, but she felt it every bit as much. When he rubbed himself this way she felt a mysterious psychic connection, like being plugged into his nervous system. It was almost scary.

When Jesse resumed the missionary position, he put that position to a use those good people may have never thought of. With demonic inspiration, he alternated between energy unleashed and energy held in check. Whenever Norah started to move, he stopped and let himself be carried on her wave for as long as she desired. Jesse was better at doing that than anyone she’d ever balled. After she came, he didn’t start hurrying up but instead actually slowed down. When he was about to come, she worked her fingers up inside herself next to his cock and felt the juice move along its length on the way out.

Happy and drowsy, they stayed tightly entwined.

Norah said, “You share so nicely.”

Jesse felt a need for distance. “Did you ever see a seagull fuck?”

“No. How does it look?”

“Like a fuckin’ seagull.”

Norah groaned and folded the end of the pillow over his face. “I can’t take any more of your alleged humor.”

Jesse pushed back the pillow. “You say that now, but someday when I’m gone you’ll be sorry.”

“And the sooner you go, the sorrier I’ll be, so why don’t you really punish me and go right now?”

“Well, for one thing, this is my place. More or less.”

They were silent, perhaps thinking of the last time she was at a place of his, and the intervening months.