Sûrah VI
CATTLE
"They follow naught but an opinion, and they do but guess."

6
CHAR-BROILED STEAKS

Eartha, here, has siphoned my groin to the last appreciative drop; I'll need a transfusion to restore my reservoir of sperm. No joke; I'm drained. Feels like the inverse of consuming a twelve-course meal; not stuffed but sapped—to wit: "I will never indulge again"; I'm sure you know the sentiment. If you're male. I gather females view sex differently; feel just the opposite; girls absorb. I've often wondered what a nether-mouth might be like—sans tongue and teeth, if no less suitably equipped to do some super-size devouring. Can't imagine it. Sure wouldn't want one: all that blood every month; sitting down when you take a leak; and having to wait in line at too-few stalls, no thank you. True, girls vent bladders faster, but they can't take proper aim, can't write their names in snow or disintegrate floating cigarette butts. It's simpler to be a guy; I won't say superior—though, from a plumbing point of view, we're better designed. Not to mention swifter, stronger, more aggressive, traits that may fall shy of virtues but distinguish masculine from feminine, is all I'm trying to say. Without sounding sexist. If people could choose their gender, I, for one, would be a male—who lusts after females on account of our dissimilarities. Gays are narcissistic, in my straight opinion. Might as well jerk off, if it's you your wet dreams crave—in lieu of introducing parts where they mostly don't belong.

Hm. Seems I'm on the verge of political incorrectness. "Write about what you know," advise the literati. Okay; Franchone is a boy who wouldn't want it any-other-way. And Eartha, bless her heterosexual girlishness, wants it every which-way possible. Married and estranged, she's the ideal squeeze—commitment and yours truly being close to natural enemies; Reverend Pinkney's censure least of my concerns. Besides which, Eartha's ex is a bona fide no-good-nick. Oil man. 'Commuting' to the Yukon. Bottom-feeder pedophile. "Step dad's bad." "How come, Sweets?" "Put his big ol' dingdong right down here." Eartha threw him out; she's raising Chickpea by her lonesome. "Bed, sometimes, too wide"—her overture to me. I pay visits, now and then, no strings attached. Whoops; cliché. Things break out like zits—hard job to suppress them—symptom of immaturity. Must grow up, or pack it in. Good grief, another one! They're contagious. Lacking savvy stuff to say—I mean like insights, writerly profundities—commonplaces spread. Guess I'll stop for now, or phrased banally, 'call it a day.'

Franchone caps his pen, flips closed his tablet, drops them to the floor, interlocks his fingers—placing palms behind his head—and leisurely reclines on a bank of ductile pillows.

Eartha stirs... her ample shapes obscured by a coverlet... that lifts and falls... lifts and falls... in ultra-mellow cadence with her Sunday morning breathing... peaceful breathing... grateful breathing... no alarm, no rushing Kathryn off to daycare, no commute, no nine-to-five... her dream of finding permanent companionship on stand-by, waived, postponed... to gratify needs immediate, savor fickle manly closeness, Franchone's phantom-lover status nonetheless indulged in, much obliged, a wave of got-me-mine contentment flooding Eartha's dozy consciousness.

FRANCHONE

Who's that?

KATHRYN

Kathryn.

Franchone veils his mouth with the covers as Eartha's age-5 "crumbsnatcher" clings to the bedroom doorframe.

FRANCHONE

Don't know "Kathryn." Do know Chickpea. You got a twin?

KATHRYN

Chickpea's me.

FRANCHONE

Nah! Chickpea's too polite come snoopin' round Mama's bedroom—un-invited.

KATHRYN

Why you hidin' yo' face in that sheet, Franchone?

FRANCHONE

"Franchone"? My name's Francine. You're in my harem. Ladies only. So you can just skedaddle.

Kathryn reconnoiters.

KATHRYN

I's a lady.

FRANCHONE

Nah! For real? Well, in that case, come on in.

She ventures forth a step; Franchone affects stern scrutiny.

FRANCHONE

Halt!

She stops.

FRANCHONE

You sure you're a female?

Kathryn eyes her Roadrunner Pj's, then her inquisitor.

KATHRYN

Mo'e than you is.

FRANCHONE

Point well taken, Chickpea. Must say I'm impressed with your powers of observation.

KATHRYN

C' I come into de bed wit' y'all?

Her small-fry eyebrows arch in eager expectation. Franchone pats the counterpane.

FRANCHONE

All aboard.

Eartha sounds a warning.

EARTHA

Don't you dare! Go watch cartoons.

KATHRYN

But, M...

EARTHA

Don't "but" me.

Kathryn's irresistible charms—angelic eyes to impishly pucker—plead but cannot win her playmate-seeking case. Eartha's word is Law; her edicts are irreversible. Rebuffed, the toddler pads down the hallway's threadbare runner, spanking her flannel-clad bottom with each dejected step.

EARTHA

Ain't she somethin'? I's strict but no less lovin'—may the Good Lord be my judge. No chile o' mine be wantin' for motherly affection.

FRANCHONE

She's a sweetheart.

EARTHA

Sure has taken to you, Franchone; got her a instinct fo' folks that's good.

FRANCHONE

"Good" as in good-for-nothin'; can't hold a job, can't finish grad school, can't even scrawl a decent line.

EARTHA

You been writin', Franchone?

FRANCHONE

Been tryin'.

EARTHA

What; like essays an' such?

FRANCHONE

A book.

EARTHA

A book! You don't say; ain't you somethin'! What's your book about?

FRANCHONE

Wish I knew. I just got started when my heroine up and took a powder. See? Pat phrase.

EARTHA

You ain't messin' round with drugs, Franchone!

FRANCHONE

Huh?

EARTHA

Why you writin' 'bout heroin?

FRANCHONE

Not the drug; the female hero—heroine; you know, ends with an e? Mine misconstrued an author's interest as bachelor on-the-prowl. All I really wanted was to ferret out her story.

Eartha's only comment is a sumptuous, drawn-out sprawl that disengages the covers from her chocolate-fondue pulchritude. Squinting at the nightstand's clock, she balks at the time.

EARTHA

Noon! It's twelve noon? No wonder that chile's been pesterin'; mos' like' she's half-starved. You mus' got magic in that groin, Franchone, inject me with fo'getfulness, make me sleep so sound my mind's mos' blank. Top o' that, I's starved myself. Get up; you promised us a barbecue. An' don't you start tomfoolery; I got to pee.

Franchone tries to nuzzle Eartha's freed-from-the-bedclothes bosom, lured by its heady muskiness, re-aroused by its bouncy heft, but catches hold of nothing save its aromatic wake. His lazy lunge having missed, he retrieves pad and pen from the street-clothes-littered floor.

Isn't that the way of it; brain says enough's enough, body resurrects a hard-on? Seems like Evolution's hardly stepped out from the cave. 'Neanderthal' describes contemporary sex drives, mine included. How compose sagacity when one's constantly in heat? Then again, how suppress desire for mammary glands like Eartha's: big but not unwieldy, oblong at their tips, nourishing when excited—her milk supply still tappable—and unequivocally linked to her vacuum-cleaner twat? Strike that; accurate but crass. Devoted mothers rate a more refined description.

Struggling with his chronic use of idioms and clichés, Franchone fails to notice Kathryn's mute reentry. When at last he does—too late—he wrestles on his shorts with a rare display of modesty...

... painful recollections already having stirred..."fun" her step dad called it, tickling Kathryn's "peepee," and fun, at least at first, their "secret" surely seemed, until he made her straddle his thighs to better compare their genitals. Naughty, she had thought it, during and afterward. Warned, then, not to "snitch," Kathryn tattled anyway.

KATHRYN

Go a-way!

Franchone acts like his nose has been struck, recoiling from the force of a phantom blow.

KATHRYN

Go a-way!

Doubling up, he emits an audible "OOPH," hands clasped to the pit of his mock-assaulted stomach.

KATHRYN

Go a-way!

Ricocheting, bed to wall, wall to floor, then floor to bed (his antics unrestrained and agreeably ridiculous), Franchone takes the edge off Kathryn's animosity...

KATHRYN

Go 'way! Go 'way!

...as he teeters / totters from a right-left combination...

KATHRYN

Go a-way!

...as he topples over backwards...

KATHRYN

Go 'way.

...felled by an ersatz punch... this one definitive, evidently, for it knocks him flat...  inert; not a grunt, groan, grumble, or grimace escapes the prone anatomy... mouth agape, exposing a lolled out tongue—Kathryn notes upon approaching—this bogus death betrayed by Franchone's panting lungs.

KATHRYN

Okay, you can stay.

One lid blinking open, the 'punching bag' revives.

FRANCHONE

Sure I'm welcome?

KATHRYN

Did I hurt you, Franchone?

FRANCHONE

Just my feelings. Must've deserved it, though. Forgive me?

Somber for a moment, Kathryn finally nods.

EARTHA

What all this ruckus! You two been rough-housin'?

FRANCHONE

Chickpea, here, is innocent. I'm the guilty party.

EARTHA

Well git up off that flo', Franchone, an' light us up some coals. Kathryn?

KATHRYN

Yes, ma'am.

EARTHA

Dress.

KATHRYN

Can Franchone he'p me?

EARTHA

Dress your ownself; he's got chores to do. Gwon, now, scoot.

Kathryn scampers off. Franchone gathers his widely scattered clothes and puts them on posthaste.

EARTHA

You scoot, too. Steaks in the icebox. Have a beer, you want one. I'll be there directly.

Eartha bends to make up the bed; Franchone pauses in the doorway.

FRANCHONE

Woman, your rump could stampede a whole herd of' stallions. How 'bout one more giddy up?

Glancing over her shoulder, Eartha shakes her head.

EARTHA

You heard me; scoot!