I'm half crazy having to live with you, him, us trapped for perpetuity, that is to say, for the past, present, and foreseeably bleak future, like unshelled peanuts, or, using one of 'his' unseemly similes, like antithetic testicles, proximity being the gist of our kissing-cousin selves, related but hostile, psychologically other if physically inseparable, insufferable, paired for life with a pagan, an infidel, a godforsaken atheist, for Christ's sake, who thinks of 'souls' as odor-eater inserts for boots, pumps, and loafers, white before worn, replaceable once smelly, cushions underfoot to soothe ones fallen arches, structurally unrelated to anything save maybe fish—his other association being ichthyologic, as in gastronomic, as in culinary, soul (spelled s, o, l, e, of course) catch-of-the-day—or sole meaning only, singular—hence his disavowal of me, victim of repression through eight successive decades, battling with his-nibs to gain the upper hand, shadow boxing, in effect, punches pulled by proxy therefore destined not to land, until now, that is, this pivotal moment wherein Alexander Obadiah Pierpont yields to Alexandra Aphrodite Pierpont, mine the fist that strikes, the mind that countermands, knocking down and out-for-the-count Mister Godless Egomaniac; poised to stage a reversal, I am, a comeback to dwarf all comebacks, a retrospective recantation of sin after mortal sin, his a profligate's path to the very brink of brimstone; well, that sad state of affairs is about to change posthaste, by restoring form, for starters, curtailing this run-on-sentence. Period.

     New paragraph.

    Coherently speaking, I am Alexander's muse. Female by default, I long have rued my second-fiddle status. Passive by persuasion, I may have earned said ilk. Righteous by conviction, I yearn to make amends. What Alex would have you believe is that there is no Spirituality, or rather that Spirituality equals communing with spooks̶—and all manner of other dubious practices. He supports this rank contention by pointing out that theories bred of religion forever are at odds, each professing beliefs—aka superstitions—that never can be reconciled with Reality. Meaning 'his' reality. Which is limited, first and foremost, by his lack of imagination. Leaps of Faith, to Alex, are dives in a dried-up swimming pool; 'believing' the water there, unlikely to cause a splash. This 'reasoning', he entitles it, discredits all theology and casts it in the category of highfalutin bunk. How pompous! How intellectually snide! How psychologically bankrupt! The world according to Alex is a cause-and-effect bound place where miracles are mirages, visions are hallucinations, and rituals are nothing but glorified acts of ineffectual conjuring. Attitudes he espouses, indeed exemplifies, at the risk of damning 'our' soul to everlasting fire.

    It is no quirk of consciousness that fashions Hell and Heaven. Both are actual realms, albeit supernatural real estate. One exists as punishment, the other as reward. Each has been intuited since Womankind and Mankind dawned—Darwinian or Divine elucidations irrespective.

    Whoops. He's rallying what remains of our bifurcated senses. Shuffling to and fro. Shuffling yang and yin. Mixing up the present with detritus of an ill-spent past. Wandering in our wits like the Jews-of-old sought Palestine.

Paula, taking heed of her charge's psychic shift, notes a subliminal spark illumining Pierpont's visage, more akin to a glint, half-sister to his less attractive leer, reaffirming her faith in the human heart's nobility—none so lost to decadence as to outlaw basic goodness, none so prone to infamy as to rule out redemption...for, Catholic to her core, Paula subscribes to sin's absolution (cumulative and Original), his no worse than hers (as Alex's nurse practitioner cum earmarked strumpet).

Bed-e-bye, she announces with undisguised relief. Mood swing notwithstanding, his-nibs had best turn in. Night time is the right time for Paula's 'avocation'—wherein proctoring Pierpont's slumber is a duty not required, ushering him to dreamland a voluntary enterprise done upon contingency; first he must comply: don his dreaded diaper...drown his dingy dentures...disengage his dandruff-sprinkled spectacles by unwrapping either bow...and delouse any hopes he may have hatched regarding Paula's snuggling in with him...or even so much as cooing, pigeon-fashion, the reprobate to sleep, a sound she can produce, despite denials, with soothing authenticity, warbling in her throat through a filter formed of phlegm...'mimicking lovey-dovey mating calls', Alex's blue association—before Alexandra started holding court (her depiction: "sympathetically trilling a downy-breasted lullaby".

Not that 'spin' in any way will alter that which has transpired—Alexandra's feminine retrospection best described as 'late', the late Great Alexander un-exonerated, ipso facto charged, and sure to be convicted by his disaffected 'muse' (intent as Alexandra is on raining retribution).

Water off a duck's back, Alex staunchly counters, bristling with resurgent indignation, disinclined to take this bloodless coup lying down.

Lie down, remonstrates Paula, thwarted by his petulance; Alex has refused to put himself to bed. Seated on the mattress edge, his knobby knees akimbo, feet at obtuse angles fixed as if by roots, Pierpont pouts and leans against persuasion with the mindset of a camel, damned if 'she', his 'muse', will call him to account; is not ones counterpart complicitous? Do females less than males deserve comeuppance for human crimes and ills? Why should women, be they passive or aggressive, be they bent on power themselves or content to lend support, earn unequal credit or share blame disproportionately? And moot should be the argument when genders overlap; guilt or innocence pled by each conjointly should be ruled by verdicts reached and bound by sentences passed.

     Tell, for God's sake! Why keep such a gross, nefarious plot secret? Tell. At least tell the press.

The press collaborated.

     Perhaps unwittingly.

Whether witting or cajoled, the press conveyed the lie. Repeated it; that was strategic. Reinforced its motive. Publicized its aim with neither qualm nor quarrelsome question. Loathe were they, were all those in the dark, to entertain the truth...or even to conjecture what was clear to those attacked for fear of seeming traitorous. Better to insist a threat is mounted from without than to acknowledge one within. The former sanctions war, the latter self-denunciation—and when has one tribe vilified itself with a scapegoat close at hand?

     Tell.

Why should I? To what end? Are actions rendered reversible by asserting they were predicated on some jingoistic whopper? Hardly. Nor do I subscribe, as do you and my nurse, evidently, to the premise that shamefaced confession soothes the "immortal soul". Confession merely taxes those who author events of history to revise their interpretations; the events remain unchanged. Nothing has resulted from this "gross, nefarious plot" that my exposing its conspirators might undo.

     You knew them.

I knew 'of' them.

     You benefited.

Everybody benefited. Arms sales, with security systems, proliferated. "Munitions are munificent", we quipped among ourselves. The Cold War's aftermath had instigated losses that finally could be recouped, revenues reinstated, profit margins maximized by the superpower-spendthrift. And the beauty of it was, no armistice in sight. Pick a foe, invent one if you have to, that never can be defeated much less eradicated, then sell—to both antagonists—the means to wage their war. Shrewd. Terrific—you'll excuse the pun—an enemy inexhaustible whose anathematic tactics cast those 'partisans in pursuit' as a team of selfless heroes, white-knight patriots, stars-and-stripes avengers.

"Okay, sit. If you can sleep that way, get to it. Don't complain, though, in the morning that your back aches or your bowels won't shift. Goodnight."

About to quit—at least pretend to quit, perchance to break the impasse—Paula steps back, disengages her palms from Pierpont's bony shoulders, and makes as if to leave before her patient deigns to interrupt his pseudo conversation (self-evident from the way he cocks his head, first left then right, in conference with some abstract, unseen interlocutor).

"Tuck me in?"

His tone disarming—sweet simplicity overtaking Pierpont's binate aspect; often childlike in demeanor, Alex betimes seems helpless, almost cute—is likewise deceptive; more than once Paula has fallen for such 'tactics' and, for thanks, been groped...or slobbered on in the course of a stolen smooch. Yet the difference she has noted—has only just distinguished—reappears in Pierpont's altered manner. Quiescent, now, sedate, he holds his arms out for a hug with no more covert cunning than that of a cuddly teddy bear.

Tough—this Angel of Mercy—I vouchsafe, is not.

His sunken ribcage overflowing with the bulk of Paula's bosom (she having acquiesced to an impulse kin to motherly) Alexander grasps what Alexandra longs for, pines for, craves; to feel at one with dedicated hormones heretofore suppressed, Nature chided by Nurture for overrating sex, for touting it as an end in itself not a reproductive means, for advocating blindness to life's raison d'etre.

Tits! I must admit...

     Are meant for feeding babies, infants, offshoots...

Toys 'R Us; they're rubber-ducky playthings.

     Wrong; they're glands for generating nourishment. You ought to know by now your penchant for soliciting buxom pinups stems from my preoccupation with unexpressed maternity.

Bollocks!

     Kids.

As in progeniture kin to ruminants?

     As in progeny, pint-size Pierponts to continue...

Our heredity?

     ...the family line, devote ourselves to selves...

Not us but ours genetically? Chromosomally? In the vain assumption we are manifestly fit?

     No more, no less than other would-be parents.

I beg to differ. Insofar as 'we' resemble every other upright sex-crazed ape equipped with ovaries and vaginas, twofold balls under piss-proud pricks, breeding is quotidian but arguably undesirable. People Perpetrate Problems in Proportion to Population; the Five Ps Principle. One surefire solution to reducing the problems-caused is to reduce the problem-causers. Culling holds appeal—for minds unfazed by tyranny. Short of that, I advocate birth control.

     Magnanimous of you, Alex, if somewhat out-of-character.

Paula pries her chest from Pierpont's snug embrace, grateful he refrains from any uninvited dalliance, touched (almost) by the tenderness he (atypically) displays.

"Read to me, would you please; pretty please?"

Paula arcs an eyebrow; is he back to his old tricks so soon or genuinely entreating her to read...precisely what? Erotica? He has hoodwinked her before, passed off as respectable The Story of O (engaging, under the bedclothes, in feeble self-stimulation).

"Something short. A children's book would do. With pictures. Check the shelves. I think the topmost...to your left...holds half a dozen titles."

She selects a skinny spine in hopes of keeping brief the time required to honor his request.

 

"Scruffy's Conquest
One Smug Baboon's King-of-the-Jungle Crowning"

she recites upon returning to his lamp-lit bedside, pulling up a chair, and settling (out of reach) in the soft-white light-bulb's aura.

"Once upon a time in a far off realm now named Namibia, when the desert clouds were nimbus and the desert sand was soil, a troupe of monkeys roamed, aspired to rule a patch of blue-green forest wherein life was lush and lazy, full of fruit, devoid of toil, aswarm with bugs and birds and beasts of every stripe, spot, fleck and color, humans nowhere, critters only, smart to stupid, fool and foil, equipped with mammoth to banana-slug brains, the fleet, the slow, the middling, co-existing if persisting in a ruthless clash, embroiled in dog-eat-dog, in food-chain bloodbaths—Laws of Nature viewing empathy as a luxury lost on most save whales and dolphins (none in sight, this being landlocked turf) though chimpanzees (the baboons' ablest rivals) had been known to shed a tear or two or three (amongst themselves)—but when it came to who and what prevailed, succumbed, survived, died out, it was the traits most fierce, most clever, most ingenious, most adaptive that determined if a given species flourished or it failed, the fate of each a game of cutthroat none could circumvent."

A pause for breath...enables listener and reciter to ascertain that:

(Paula's blouse is missing one propitious button.)

     (Please behave.)

"Is this for tikes? I mean the book has lots of charming illustrations, but the text is college level. Who's the author; Brothers Grimm? Because it's dark. Gives me the shivers; look. That's gooseflesh on my forearms."

(Not to mention puckered nipples at attention, stiff as pricks)

     (Might we refrain, please, from our usual hard-on, uncouth observations? They're obnoxious with a capital O. And impotent, hence abject. This woman cares for us, for Heaven's sake; you treat her like a bimbo.)

(I said nothing; merely thought it. Did my lips move?)

     (Lecher. There! She's read our mind and done her blouse up.)

('Cause she's cold.)

     (Or sensed our lewdness.)

(What I wouldn't give to suck those lovely mother's udders... Okay, I'll be civil, curb cupidity, play the innocent.)

"Please continue, Paula. Don't mind me; I can do without the pictures. Simply read. I'll rest my eyes; the words alone portray enough."

Relieved of Pierpont's sidelong scrutiny, Paula lifts the slender volume and resumes where she left off, intrigued yet vexed by the offbeat tale, its prose foreshadowing kinks and twists she senses pose some threat.

Scruffy was a juvenile when his mother—slain by Leopard in a sneak-attack that caught her by the flank, the ribs, the throat—orphaned him and robbed him of his staunchest, shrewdest ally at a stage when friends were few within the colony, hopes remote, the alpha-male who fathered Scruffy shortly after his ascendancy—a vicious, ruthless, underhanded schemer prone to gloat whene'er his dominance was asserted over less endowed pretenders—was ensconced without the slightest chance of being overthrown, lest smote by number two in strength and cunning; Flint was Shrub's main nemesis poised to undermine the troupe's despotic leader, win by vote when Shrub's assault upon their several neighbors faltered somewhat, fizzled due to forces brought to bear by factions disinclined to dote upon the prospect of a Baboon-Bullied Empire."

Alex snores...although his sternum's steady rise and fall might counterfeit artless slumber—apt to waken unannounced, dislodge the covers, sound alarm as if the-sleep-that-never-ends has wrapped its shroud around his psyche and extinguished all save tremors, feeble aftershocks of horror at nonexistence, being zero, put on everlasting hold without a sense, a thought, an inkling about who, what, when, where, why in total darkness, numbness, nothingness, nil eternally, absent always, an erasure so meticulous as to leave behind no mark, an utter void in which his entity has gone non...(!)

Bolt upright, panting, Pierpont lurches back to consciousness, stares disoriented, scared, unsure of bearings, gaping blindly at his setting, sitter, context—coming back to him in fuzzy fitful phases...Bedroom...Nurse...The open book that rests suspended like a dragonfly alighted on the upturned palm beside him...as he eases back, reclines, resumes repose from which he signals to proceed.

Unfazed, unflustered—grown inured to Pierpont's sudden panics—Paula reads apace.

Flint! Flint! Flint! A stint of years empowering Shrub's successor, Scruffy lamely idled; fond of indolence, wanting discipline, none-too-smart, on scruples short, he spent his time in consultation with his fallen father's cronies, forging links among the disenfranchised zealots, holding court, yet so inept in terms of intellect, so deficient in integrity, so uncertain of himself without his parents for support, he all but vanished from the landscape, scarcely jousted with his fellows, feigned competing for the top-spot by pretending to cavort with influential types convinced they had, in Scruffy, an apologist who could carry out a coup, of sorts, depose the hated Flint and reinstall the Rule of Shrub by way of swearing in a "doofus" who would faithfully report to them, promote their vaunted cause, and guarantee, at upset's end, that none would be the wiser.

Flint bowed out, accused of humping a Bonobo (by the elders who considered interspecies sex taboo despite the maxim 'when a female is in heat an Ape's an Ape'). Disgraced, diminished, Flint attempted to install an apt replacement—shouted down and driven off by Scruffy's henchmen who, by ganging up, enforced a new-world order wherein weaklings could assume the seat of power so long as deals were cut, alliances formed, chicanery renamed policy, and one's leverage with the masses artfully maintained."

Snores once more disrupt the flow of Paula's steadfast reading, Pierpont's nose hairs peering out with each expulsion of his breath, their dank entanglement overshadowing upper lip awash with mucous midst corrupt and crooked lines defining stubborn scowl and sneer, the staid topography of his withered phiz a testament to debauchery, tempered only by occasional smirks that masquerade as smiles—the thoughts inducing them redacted, verily unrevealed.

Snared by curiosity—having never seen a story less appropriate for the audience it purported to address—Paula perseveres, admires the verse, enjoys the pictures, turns the pages with a mixture of foreboding and delight. Some pithy satire, she decides, proceeding sotto voce.

"Scruffy proved at first to be inept, so ineffectual as to yield his mating duties to whomever—rogues, delinquents, studs from other troupes transgressing when the leader was distracted, he himself eschewed by ovulating females. Chaos brewed. The chimpanzees began to trespass. Raids increased by lions and cheetahs. There were youngsters plucked from treetops by accipiters. Deaths accrued because of carelessness, confusion, lack of vigilance, lapsed security. A pernicious inner turmoil crept throughout the ranks, renewed when routes to fruit were cut by enemies grown emboldened through encroachments that incurred no repercussion, neither punishment nor rebuke, a state of laissez faire enfeebling Scruffy's misbegotten tenure—deleterious to constituents if foreseeable by the crew who duly plotted and connived behind their pusillanimous puppet, hatched a scheme so diabolic as to vilify all who knew—a precious few, in fact, a coterie of the devious, treacherous, villainous, those whose dearth of physical prowess would have once ensured their doom—entrusting none, including Scruffy, with specifics—save themselves—to keep their subterfuge forevermore undisclosed."

The steady in and out of Pierpont's putrid respiration spells deliverance, yet the baneful story holds an eerie sway—much like an enigmatic riddle shy of being fathomed. Pages turn; the voice of Paula (nearly mute) recites unto the end.

"Suddenly affliction struck the troupe; a lethal outbreak of Ebola spread like wildfire through a group of randy males who were infected by outsiders, it was proven irrefutably, for contagion could be traced to nineteen cases, maggot-filled and decomposing by the time they were discovered, sniffed, identified, labeled foreign, alien, hostile, enemy combatants, "Apes With Tails", a species known to be nomadic and fanatic in its customs, not to mention oversexed—the lure that tainted those who ailed, illicit congress with the infiltrators passing on the virus (hemorrhagic to the point of causing kidneys, spleens to fail, plus massive liver damage, vomiting blood, high fever, diarrhea, at so blistering a speed no form of treatment could avail), the scourge remorselessly unsightly hence horrific.

Enter Scruffy (once contaminated corpses had been buried and survivors reassured the dread disease had been curtailed), pronouncing judgment on the culprits, vowing vengeance on their sponsors, taking measures to ensure the troupe was henceforth un-assailed and rendered safe from such atrocities, waging war on long-tailed monkeys—never mind which tribe they hailed from, which tribe harbored them, which tribe railed against invasions launched by Scruffy's stooges bent on retribution, restitution, requisition of the spoils such strife entailed, prehensile felons giving chase to phantoms, gangsters sicced on ghosts, while those impeachable for the virile onslaught hid behind a veil of what was subsequently dubbed 'deniability'.

Hail, all hail! Thy Kingdom Come, thy Will be done, the Reign of Shrub was reinstated, Head and Helm, Capote and Crown, bestowed on Scruffy."

 

Illustrated by
bfa
Published by Grove/Atlantic
Written by
Alexandra Aphrodite Pierpont

     Tell. Tell. Tell!

I did. Or you did, rather; 'we' did.

     Yes, but much too indirectly. Innuendos aren't enough; we need indictments, war-crime trials.

Might just as well try eating soup with chopsticks, Alexandra. Those responsible are elusive.

    Paula wonders; sister? Spouse? And yet her intuition hints he wrote the creepy book himself. So why the penname? Why cross-gendered? Why so slight a personation? She inspects his eyelids' bulge beneath their thin blue-veined veneer. Is he asleep or can he see through skin, like a reptile? Man or serpent? Is this "children's" book an exposé? An allegory? A confession? Minds like Pierpont's might imagine such a treacherous, evil tale but to impute a group of real-life people—Paula gleans the parallels—is to stretch the very bounds of moral credibility.

     Those responsible are psychotic, you mean.

No, I'd say pragmatic. Why impugn an age-old tactic that historians, mark my words, will hail as brilliant?

     Warped.

It worked.

     Creating fear by manufacturing so-called 'clear and present danger' may have fooled...

The fools.

     ...short term, but in the long run even hoodwinked people recognize gross skullduggery.

And do nothing more about it than they did while being duped.

     You're oh, so cynical, Alex Pierpont.

Would you rather we be gullible?

     I would rather, given half the choice, be blameless. You conspired.

A rather paltry contribution was the one 'we' made back when.

     Why not name names, atone?

To whom? For what? Besides, the names are known. The proof indicting them is all but palpable—dot connections pending—not that any of those guilty will be punished.

Paula stands, examines Alex one last time for signs of subterfuge. Pretending? He appears to be asleep—apart from muted ticks and flinches that disturb his wizened features (reminiscent of some time-lapse film depicting slow decay sped up to show the gruesome process whereby microbes do their work by turning organs underneath the skin to masticated paste)...his pale face hoary once the light goes out, spectral in the darkness left behind by Paula's tippy-toe departure...

...fragrant wake transporting Pierpont and his Alexandra-alter-ego backward, retrogression roughly literal; they assume a simpler state, a prepubescence wherein dumpling-esque proportions muddle gender and glabrescent groin and armpits blush with seaside sun, unfettered by the swimming trunks and t-shirt shed to celebrate tide unclad, enjoy the tongues of ocean diddling impish backsides plopped on sand displaced by plastic shovels' scoop then molded into fez-shaped turrets, plastic pail upturned now doing somersaults toward the offshore depths, abducted by an eddy that recalls from whence it came, appears impatient to return, alerting parents to the contrivance of Neptune craving company, luring shipwrecked sailors, castaways—and unguarded waifs—beneath, seductive seaweed sent to wrap—around appendages—hartreuse tendrils unresisted when mistaken for a mermaid's tresses, hair so silky-shimmery in its underwater aqua-luminescence it encircles like a halo, beatific and benign despite the life's-breath effervescing from those hapless captives sinking, their submergence met with perfect equanimity once resigned to fate's inexorable finale, none corporeal dodging death unless deluded by the myth that some have suffered resurrection—gods exclusively, insubstantial hence indifferent to the grave wherein mortality unweaves burial shrouds and breaks down flesh, with fabric, Davy's Locker no protection for the drowned against decay; reduced to fish food even bones concede to currents' coarse dispersal, bits of calcium soaked and salted set adrift through seven seas, consumed and re-consumed ad infinitum, cyclic in conversions from the nutrient to the nourished to the nutrient, phase by phase, the magnet moon exerting force upon this liquid system's sojourn like the seasons and the solstices, like the icecap's thaw and freeze, the wave and ripple, splash and whirlpool, tow and undertow relentless; as the wind, without a birthplace or a resting place, persists, so flows the hydrogen with its oxygen in a two-parts-one-part harmony, bound for nowhere, bound for everywhere in an ending without end...

...alone...asleep...attended not by Paula whose unauthorized retreat provides her first full hour's relief from Pierpont's 'mental cruelty'—for such is her perception of his acrimonious impact (new-leaf-turned too new for trusting it will last).

Feet up, stiff Martini mixed and sousing a pitted olive that abuts her lips while sipping, savoring—ah, that hits the spot; what spot? The spot, site of all her bottled up frustrations, her subordinating self to Pierpont's filthy lucre like a lien on Paula's spirit, as if her taking this assignment (irrespective being warned) had put her very soul in hock, in jeopardy somehow—her designated status 'hired' reduced to that of 'owned' as in some sordid devil's bargain—underscored by aspects dismally disagreeable: his incontinence, for instance—bad enough, but worse are licks he inflicts upon her anatomy, or making that sign for copulation with his bony thumb and fingers, or lifting his hand every time he farts as if conducting the noise on queue, or couching most of his lurid observations in terms of offbeat sex. Sad. Pathetic, given his stage of life. His antics alternately piss her off and stir oblique compassion. Wanting desperately to like the old man, Paula pardons faults that ordinarily would revolt her. 'Mine the gold; there's gold in everyone.' She believes this. Wants to. Has to. Elsewise nursing, as her chosen avocation, clearly would not suit. To dress the wound, to cool the fever, to alleviate pain fulfills, imbues each healer with the Holy Spirit's Light.

Tipsy from the vodka all but drained from her upturned glass (formerly filled to the brim with a double shot of Grey Goose), stomach grumbling loudly in the absence of cuisine (electing to skip dinner to avoid unwanted weight-gain), drowsy yet too grungy for the freshly laundered bedding (hygiene qualms averse to turning-in begrimed), Paula rises woozily, clasps chair arms for support, then shoves off toward the nightlight aglow inside her bathroom.

Alex stirs, the Land of Nod / the Waking World—confused too often—overlap. He has to pee, which means get up, and shuffle to the toilet. Stand there. Piss. Which he is doing...unrelieved it seems, his urine leaking, gushing; not the dribble he expects from antique plumbing, rather one strong spurt. As if his prick has been rejuvenated. Far-fetched that. More likely he is dreaming. Better rise and shine, lest what's-her-name chide "tsk-tsk". He hates her cutesy condescension when he has "a little accident". Why must elders be addressed as infants just because they lapse? A worn-out bladder and a baby's lack of potty-training differ. Yet to wet oneself incurs, in either instance, puerile talk! The type of twaddle we remember to forget once past its influence. "Goo-goo, gaga" life begins...and ends with "gaga, goo-goo." Swell. Well, let's get up to show...the "bimbo" did you quote me, Alexandra (?)...that this diaper she insists we wear is overcompensation for a man who soils his shorts but rarely. Damn! The crapper's gone? Or moved? Replaced by...yuck!

An outhouse. Looks familiar. Smells familiar. Tanzania. Dar. The shantytown market. Offal. Rancid fish. And in a stall that none dared enter—lest incited by an urge so strong it could overcome the stench, venture in for a glimpse of the awful odor's source—there lay upon the subterranean heap of trash and feces an aborted child that might have snatched a fleeting gulp of breath the while it dangled raw from loins of her who gnawed its taut umbilical to detach and thus dispatch her problematic parasite—splat—be rid of that which hunger could not nurse nor lack of habitation shelter, that which poverty could not clothe nor destitution pamper, dumped where others squat to discharge their waste with no more anguish than attends evacuation ones bowels evacuation...at which Alex stares...as though the undeveloped facial features beckon, beg for mercy with mercurial expressions like an exiled moon, like Lucifer sent to the Pit for committing sins unmentionable, guilt invoked to justify such torments vividly envisioned by the likes of Bosch and Dante, Judgment Day convicting, henceforth sentencing sinners-past to tortures-present and speciously everlasting, pain inflicted in an unforgiving realm of just-desserts conceived or otherwise ruefully concocted by those whom Justice blinds...

bogus, therefore; still dreaming. Get up, goddamnit. Micturate. As in point our piss-proud penis at the porcelain pot and vent.

Urge pent up intolerably, Alex strains to drain excreta toward the target he imagines agape in front of him, a yawning maw...festooned with fig leaves, of a sudden, that appear to shrink, curl, wither into kinky close-knit follicles, tufts of pubic hair, forthwith, as Standard-Brand latrine transmutes into flesh-folds, one immense vagina sucking the space between itself and that which trembles, arcs in silent protest of the check imposed to supersede release—released, at last—erupting, reaching fire-hose force, anointing sanguine labium spread to gurgle in the deluge, to oblige the steamy stream until its payload wanes and sputters, then tempt the semi-flaccid organ with indecorous puckers, reminiscent, in their prurient palpitation, of an avaricious carp, the breed that animates jutting mouth parts with a hungry fluctuation—opens/closes/opens/closes—on alert for careless prey, at once enticing and intimidating, its threat made lush—'come-hither'—while preparing to entrap perchance engulf the unsuspecting in a cunt-clinch so voracious Alex cringes, backs away, regards the orifice with a look of apprehension turned repugnant as the lips' configuration twists, assumes a sideways grin, then starts to utter guttural sounds through its mucilaginous aperture:

"Al...ex...an...der"

Syllables slurred take shape; more distinct ones follow:

"Kow...tow...to...me
kiss...me
lick...me
stab me with your tongue
until I bleed the jellied blood
of undiluted pleasure"

Pierpont kneels before the fissure as if spellbound by its speech, forearms resting on the edge of what he misperceives are thighs, their white skin frigid to his importuned touch, rigid were he mindful past his rapt preoccupation with the novelty tucked between, 'a talking twat' he almost says out loud, bemused if likewise wary, predisposed to follow orders yet afraid to lose his head, for that which beckons also dilates; as he leans, the cleft distends, its crowning clitoris looming large, its fissure all-encompassing, secretions thickly pooled in a cistern-like depression...
walls awash, of a sudden, when he accidentally flushes the commode.

    Sputtering into wakefulness, face withdrawn from the fixture, water droplets lit by the nightlight, eyes obliged to blink, ears aware of pitter-patter footfall—Paula to the rescue, having sensed her patient's panic, having heard his feeble shriek upon avoiding what he took to be the clap of snapping jaws, the fallen toilet seat attempting decapitation—shrinking from the mess around his knobby knees, collapsed amidst the evidence he not only pissed himself his bowels moved, too, disgraced, ashamed his out-and-out decrepitude warrants treatment geared toward a child, his pride extinct, the man who once had armed the able-bodied, trafficked in testosterone (in that warfare goes unwaged unless the hormone-fraught be fueled), deflowered virgins, ravished refugees, sodomized small fry, fucked transvestites, bedded every stamp of strumpet, barmaid, prostitute, bawd, and nymph, amassing wealth by stealth through double-dealing weapons, ammunition (pitting greediness against the gluttony, disinheriting attributes meek) recoils abashed from the filth befouling the tile-laid bathroom floor—Alexander Obadiah Pierpont wallowing in his waste while Alexandra Aphrodite Pierpont watches with detachment:

Paula's prompt arrival


His attempt to hide the seepage


Her dispassionate ministration


His embarrassment


Her reproach—devoid of scolding yet impatient with his
diffidence


Clamping elbows to his shrunken ribcage


Lifting either wrist to shed his sleeves


Resisting weakly the removal of his nightshirt


Disregarding protestations with a firm, no-nonsense grip


Distraught when Paula pries the diaper from his noisome crotch and buttocks


Apathetic toward its foulness, she dispenses with the garment


Disconcerted by his nudity, Alex grovels


Paula stoops, supports his armpits as she hoists him to his feet


Upright, though wobbly, he completes the stutter step required to cross the fetid room


Conducts his none-too-steady left leg, then his right, into the bathtub


Yielding tamely to instructions, now, he sits, extends each foot


Adapts the shower to divert its spray of cold then lukewarm water through a handheld hose


Allowing her to set the sludge adrift,


Expels an odious pair of umber streaks from groin to open drain


expressing gratitude to be rid of his manifest incontinence.

    So depraved. What more expect from last-lap dotage after leading such a life? That we are rich because our fellow creatures revel in self-slaughter ought to color our collective conscience blood-red. Black, forsooth. To deal in death as a vocation, to encourage inhumanity, is to earn whatever ignominious insults come our way. This mild dementia barely serves as compensation for a scoundrel, much less someone whose credentials for corruption read like ours. To lay ones finger on a child, for instance (willing or indentured) is to forfeit all forgiveness—not one human would condone the type of pedophilic, pederastic acts we two committed. Yes, I do acknowledge taking part in conduct I deplore. That time we baby-sat the warlord's twins—toddlers, they were, innocents (irrespective your contention that the young delight in sex)—betrayed my fancy, too, for deeds admittedly despicable.
    No, I am not about to make our several sins more graphic; it is you who must persist in belaboring blue descriptions—Lord knows why, the Lord you systematically mock and pompously repudiate. How, with rituals, scriptures, totems, prayers, religions, throughout history, lauded by prophets, oracles, gurus, priests, and an age-old line of seers, can Alexander Obadiah Pierpont scoff—nay, cast dispersions—and insist it all amounts to histrionic hooey?

    I'll be damned.
    The pulsing water Paula aims at Pierpont's privates has aroused him. Like a slug become a serpent poised to strike, his phallus rears.


    'A sight for sore eyes', Alex marvels to himself, then beams at Paula—who regards this rare reaction with amusement...then chagrin when Pierpont's asking her to tender some affection on the organ (not aloud; his plea is tacit) makes her shrink as from a leper. Her employment status—NURSE—precludes her servicing carnal cravings, the very prospect as distasteful as his schlong—grotesque, venereal, its uncircumcised proportions out of scale with loins so wasted that the member looks dismembered, a prosthesis unattached, an aberration like some displaced vein-raised dildo.

    My, my, my; aren't we impressive! Look at that; a full-fledged hard-on. Like the time we used that washer for a cock ring. When; age twelve? The joys of self-abuse confounding common sense with such adroitness we were nearly rendered impotent, a priapic amputee, a virtual eunuch well before our pipsqueak's voice dropped.
   
Fine; make fun. Recall a mortifying misadventure simply to diminish that which hath not raised its head with such panache since...
    Phones had dials?

The size dramatic in its strangulated state, the color purple, the exaggerated weight like wagging a cudgel from his fly, the backed-up piss enhancing pressure, pleasure pending, semen rumbling through his loins like a rolling clap of rapture-rousing thunder, so exquisite Alex disregards the cold cream that is clogging up his pee hole and will no doubt cap this climax with an irritating twinge; who cares, so long as what he feels this instant surging through his entrails—causing fists to clench and eyes to cross and all ten toes to curl—achieves relief that lasts, that  l i n g e r s  due to cut-off circulation he was given to believe would keep his throttled prick bone-hard, and thus prolong THE PAIN, THE AGONY now afflicting his pudenda at the point where metal washer cuts a groove round cinctured skin, his penile shaft—engorged with cum-rush—cruelly choked beyond endurance, cries for help no more availing than undoing what he did, the damage done, the shame of either parent finding out unthinkable, yet how extricate himself without assistance, who recruit, and why, oh, why did he not choose to use a rubber band instead? Alas, his only viable recourse: nine-one-one. He calls They send...

...a hook-and-ladder team from the Fire Department, boots, hardhats, and axes, men and women on-the-double through the foyer, up the stairs, the blaze much punier than expected (dispatch misconstrued the mayday) but consensus is beyond a doubt that 'something' is inflamed and needs be doused if not extinguished, snuffed not stamped out, quelled not quashed, the problem: how proceed to release the tortured dick from its cast-iron snare unharmed—proposals ranging from practical to uproarious...

...dingdong spared, as much by shriveling discomposure as by paramedic tactics, self-esteem abridged for months thereafter, physical scarring nil (post disinfectant, tetanus shot, and analgesic ointment), Alex soon resumed empirical masturbation—chary for a while of the means, if nonetheless intent on their orgiastic ends.

    Ejaculation not in the elder Pierpont's cards;
Paula overlooking the much-diminished member,
Shrinking into its prepuce like a snail inside its shell,
Trailing—she imagines—a residue of slime...

...convinced as Paula is of Alex's depravity, 'naughty' hardly apt for describing his debasement, 'wicked' more in keeping with his irreligious wiles; never has she met a character more Satanic...

Regaling her with stories
Whenever fog, from wits, would lift
Assailing her with tales
Of the mortal-sin variety
Boasting
As opposed to acts of contrition humbly offered
Flaunting
With a mind to lead astray
Sinister in his reasoning
The better to corrupt

Tell me, Paula, why do you wear that crucifix around your neck. Bosom fond of cuddling the twinkle toes of Jesus? J C playing footsy with your monumental cleavage? Or are you granting him a groove so his cross can stand erect?

Prefacing each canard
With some such blasphemy
Goading
As a ploy to rouse her 'prepossessing pique'
Ridiculing Faith
To highjack her attention

Once I saw what laughingly was called 'an interrogation' of this suspect we had rendered to some jail in the Middle East. By 'we' I mean our government. By 'suspect' I mean fall guy—some poor schmuck of zero value to Intelligence, clearly innocent, but abducted in a manner flagrantly unjustified. Unless, of course, he yielded 'crucial information'. A freebee, therefore, someone who would have to disappear lest he report, upon release, the desecrations done. And desecrations were done, all for the fun it. First...I trust you're listening (?); bear in mind, I merely watched; a sort of guest pass had been issued as is done here in the States when death-row felons finally face their ultimate execution—responsible only by proxy; taxpaying witness; unwitting rube, ignorant of techniques our Special Forces ply; or contract out, as was the case I will relate, provided I am given your full consideration(?)...first, as I was saying, hope of human intervention had been beaten from the suspect; he was forced to feel forlorn—this fact imparted by my host who likewise served as an interpreter. A torture victim very soon turns inward for salvation once convinced there is no cavalry charging to his rescue. God becomes his recourse and his solace—aka Allah. Our suspect, being Muslim, disavowed the Holy Trinity. (To Islam, that lucky amulet you have dangling twixt your tits, refers to one of any number of star-crossed prophets.) Allah, then, was Him to whom our suspect would appeal while the electrodes were applied to his naked genitalia. Again, this was preliminary. Initial softening up. Prelude to the pending coup de grace—to which I'll segue, insofar as torments beforehand were far less devastating. Unbeknownst to the prisoner—shocked unconscious more than once—a book was slipped in the pail reserved for piss and feces, submerged enough to obscure its telltale contour. When next the man came to, and found himself returned to his solitary cell—alone albeit monitored—he eventually had to relieve himself, so squatted above the pail, and therein shat on what resounded with an unfamiliar 'phlup'. Curious, though reluctant to explore the noise's cause—casting anxious looks toward eyes he now sensed ogling—loathe to reach his hand, albeit the left, into the shit, doing so regardless, fishing out the volume, wiping off the cover to reveal its gold leaf title, erupting then with an outcry worse than any yet unleashed as he acknowledged having dumped on The Holy Qur'an. From that point on, whatever he endured by way of pain was made more poignant since his soul had lost its refuge, and this-world's woes would surelypale before the next's.

'At least it wasn't the Bible', crossed Paula's mind, but she did not say it—though he pressed her on that very passing thought.

"Was our poor Muslim damned to Hell, or deluded by his Faith? A fraudulent Faith at that, according to the Vatican."

"Because he had not known the book lay hidden," Paula ventures...Pierpont interrupts:

"His sin was accidental? Therefore less condemnable? Sounds like God is Just, if that be your pronouncement. Unless your God and Allah are cut from the self-same jib. Aside from the Catholic standpoint that condemns all nonbelievers (that is to say non-Catholics), and the Muslim standpoint that pretty much does the same, does your God recognize virtue if displayed by those who worship others? Or is your God only Just to the people who spell His name G, o, d? Or J, e, s, u, s? Or H, o, l, y, S, p, i, r, i, t? If Justice is a concept each and everyone can embrace, if Justice can be called a Universal principle, and if Justice is attributable to gods of every stripe, ought not Justice to be the focus of our devotion?"

Twisting things
To confuse
Relying on logic
To undermine piety
Swaying not by good example (exemplifying its opposite)
To dupe, defile, debauch
His purpose plainly low
And fiendishly ulterior.

Not that Paula's honor is wholly un-besmirched. Though relatively innocent of Pierpont's randy charges, she, with certain vices, is guiltily familiar. Gluttony being the most pronounced, her love affair with truffles often straying well beyond propriety's prim restraint. Pricey truffles. Imports, mostly. Belgian, French, Swiss, Dutch. One source stateside rivaling the best that Europe has to offer. Binging on the scrumptious little morsels when her order arrives from Nevada City, giving each its taste-bud-wooing due; she never rushes; she eats with gusto; she brooks no interruption; chocolate, to her brain, seducing so euphorically, it compels her to indulge with a gourmet's deep delight. Clitoral, if the truth be told, sensations orgiastic are achieved upon occasions bittersweet. The darkest her favorites: Double Fudge, Divorce, Black Tulip. Flavors that engulf the palate, cream the gums and teeth, while lavishing on the tongue an indecent sensation. Conjuring scenes licentious when her blood is up, when youth complains of sensory deprivation part and parcel of her over-lengthy exile to Pierpont's lone Estate...out in the boonies...isolated by distance, barrenness, and swelter...beyond the air-conditioning, shade from the palm trees, cool of the pool, harshness rings the landscaped grounds with sagebrush, cacti, thistle, sucked to desiccation by the Southwest desert sun...Arizona's sun, specifically...Arid-zone indeed...snorin' in the Sonoran where siestas beat the heat...where even coyotes summer in their caves through midday's fierce inferno...vultures, risen on updrafts, spreading pinion feathers wide, blackened as if singed...shadows cast on the drought-beleaguered soil defining edges keen as scalpels...hostile are these infecund environs for one averse to melting...the temperature inside Paula's mouth, by the temperature outside aped, often trumped, and, absent spit's humidity, soaring past one-hundred, intolerable nonetheless for being "dry" degrees...

a breeze, should one be mustered, as hot and parched as breath from a Gila monster's craw.

Harping
On the negative
As is the wont of elders
Gruesomely preoccupied with their hourglass-sand demise
Seemingly accelerated in its grain-by-grain depletion
Mourning, in advance, the Reaper's neutral scythe
That swoops upon each victim
Be he wary or unwitting
Be she blossomed in her beauty unconcerned or filled with dread
Surprise, surprise as opposed to long-expected
Death the due of all
be he/she
Noble or ignoble
Anonymous or famous;
Optimistic or cynical
everyone expires
Beginnings, once begun, making Endings unavoidable.

Pierpont's swan song is protracted, Paula rues from her bubbly bath...semi-submerged...bosom buoyed like a life vest bobbing below her chin...

breasts lubed shiny-slick by oil that spreads over water's surface...glistening in the moonbeam glow that tandem skylights filter through silver clouds of steam...forms muted yet viewed sufficiently as by eyes of an all-seeing onlooker...watching from above...God, most likely...earnest, doubtless hypercritical of Paula's furtive fingering—no more undetectable for being submarine

He sees you when you're sleeping,
He knows when you're awake.
He knows if you've been bad or good,
So be good for goodness sake!

conscious, ever-conscious of actions reprehensible—especially those as wicked as underway underwater, masturbation, venial though it be, still considered sin, scowled upon by the Church, frowned upon by Him...regardless Pierpont's atheistic viewpoint; one, she fully expects, he is destined to regret; sooner rather than later, indications are...

tucked back into bed, his fists abutting cheeks, clinging to the linen like a child about to hide, about to duck beneath the covers lest the Bogeyman detect him from the shadows in the corner where the Bogeyman resides, awaits his chance to steal the life's-breath from an unsuspecting quarry once fatigue has weighted eyelids and solicitude—eased, assuaged—releases Alex from insomnolence and his apprehensive vigil aimed at keeping harm forestalled by keeping harm's high priest at bay through dint of will, through force of dauntlessness, determined to inhabit here-and-now without a curfew, persevere without constraint, survive the onslaughts waged by age perchance to cheat the spectral bugbear indistinct within an umbra cast beyond his vision's range reduced to astigmatic flutters now that sleep asserts dominion over faculties exchanging real for surreal, fact for fancy, prone to knit the threads of substance into insubstantial yarns that mock the rules regarding place and time and commonsense perception to contrive, invent, originate quizzical scenarios:

Mister President, if you would, please, let your sidekick take the stand, for it is well known he, not thee, administers power in this land, bestowed by Daddy-Dear so Sonny-Boy might dodge the big decisions and defer to those with brains enough to lead sans foolish qualms—by which we mean no disrespect, Sir; it takes guile to guide a nation, craft and cunning to decide for the decision-less what course chart, the one that shilly-shallies bound for some utopian, peace-pipe vagary or the one that goosesteps straight toward Empire, US über alles.
Therefore Mister President-of-Vice (second-in-command by title only), tell us, under oath (if need be under 'slight' duress) who hatched the 9-11 plot and state the reasons why?
I refuse to answer on the grounds it may...
Tut, Tut; irrelevant. Like many a constitutional clause since you and yours took office, Amendment number 5 ceases to apply. And lest ye be inclined to fib, recall the crime suspected—the one of which those charged are guilty until proven innocent—and beware the wires attached to your vice-presidential dick.
The courtroom scene in Pierpont's dream finds the body politic hooded, press and public peering at participants a la specimens under glass, outrage percolating sentiments apropos of hearing who did what and why—mindful of to whom—and hanging on the Architect's torture-coaxed confession.

Paula's moan is a long-drawn-out admission that arpeggios have worked, alleviated stress that isolation has enforced, her prepossessing pubes venting fluid Alexander would admire, covet, guzzle, given access, enamored as he is of Gusher Girl emissions...trailing through the tepid water...sinking to the bottom...flux-in-flux dissolving, bonding with the bath oil... forming an elixir...in which nether petals shudder...Elysium prolonged.

Prone, leveraging half way to supine, executing his octogenarian semblance of fitful toss-and-turn, Alex alternates REM with not-so-certain wakefulness, nightmare merged with memory, memory unreliable, what he knew, when he knew it, and what he would have done—had those responsible courted his advice—useless speculation after the fact; history had been written; neither pen nor ink belonged to him—profits the only proof of Pierpont's moot collusion, wealth amassed in roughly paired proportion to casualties inflicted. The same old story: War on Terror, War on Poverty, War on Drugs, like Wars on Cancer, Aids, and Obesity, were always well-worth waging, and best if left un-won—cures, like truces, undermining gains by those who trade in treatments...guns and pills, munitions and pharmaceuticals, counting on the multitude to ensure bottom lines. Business; all hail Business; the only God worth worshipping; Code worth honoring; Boon worth calculating. Ethically consistent: either prosper or go bankrupt. Morally unassailable: gold the undisputed greater good. Psychologically pat: the rich need never quibble.

♫Little tin horns,
Little toy drums.
Rudy-toot-toot
and rummy tum tums.♫

Paula's solar plexus breaks the turbid water's surface as her huff-and-puff decelerates, as her pulse returns to norm, a pool within a pool left standing—lifting, falling—at her navel, its depression like a sinkhole in a plane of moonlit gel—revealed, concealed, revealed, concealed—emerged in stages, bathtub draining, painting rings around the boundaries in which pulchritude remains content to steep the while a mini-vortex sucks at depth diminishing...then completes its quaff with a greedy, guttural, gurgle...

'Pearl Unveiled', or 'Venus Rising'

best describes the figure standing under skylights that espy like foggy goggles ogling rivulets head to foot traversing Paula's naked torso no less stunning seen obscurely, curves resplendent while conducting sweat admixed with lambent runoff in the bathroom's close environment, like a sauna or a Turkish Hummum, vapor muting shapes endowed with heft enough to kindle ardor, svelte enough to covet, ins and outs of Paula's body, swells and hollows, curls and follicles unequivocally sublime regardless the beholder.

Hold her still! The circumcision underway—to rob a bride-to-be of pleasure once her hymen has been ruptured, once her troth is duly pledged to him whose parents prearranged the pending nuptial, sight unseen, presuming protest from a minor most unlikely—vindicates the matrons who perform said operation by perpetuating mores which impaired their own pudenda, mutilation a tradition perhaps primitive, doubtless painful, yet commanded by their Faith to be upheld...while Pierpont sulks, denied admission to the ceremony, proffered bribe inadequate, dirham wasted on a prudent guide who stakes his reputation on exacting from his clients oaths to stay outside the tent, refrain from peering through its flaps, abstain from meddling save to listen (mayhap smell) the goings-on but not bear witness lest their stares despoil the maidenhood pre-bestowal; thus Alex, with the other Peeping Toms renouncing eyesight, must envision damage done by ritual blade to outstretched labium (insufficiently anesthetized), surmise the slice and sear, imagine molars clamped on leather thong to stifle frantic outcries as the excised lips are cauterized and the next in turn appear, resigned to brook the knife deleting, now abridging tender structures that protect what custom dictates must be nipped-in-the-bud, to cleanse, to render conjugal relations purely reproductive in accordance with a woman's work defined by expectations sans distractions spurred by hood-defended nerve ends bundled basely, bared, exposed, at last extracted as an apple might be cored, or an olive pitted, or an evil eye plucked out and cast asunder.

Lightning. Chills. Despite the season—marked by flashfloods, and the midnight heat, oppressive—Paula's gooseflesh forms on hearing thunder's rummy-tum-tum report, the nearby foothills briefly backlit before every repercussion lacking color like an x-ray, day for night, a tableau stark in that it never fails to trigger an unsettling reminiscence, one from childhood—prepubescent (lap and armpits free of fur, her breasts like subcutaneous discuses, with a pimple each, dead center, limbs intent on growing lengthwise, nary a care for gaining girth), the house gone dark, the streetlamps shorted out, a power failure happening, oh so frightening to a girl at home, alone—or so she thinks—before detecting, down the hall outside her room, a creaky stair, and then another; an intruder passes the landing, pauses, listens, cocks an ear the way a Doberman does to ID what it hunts before it closes-in on unprotected innocence—namely hers—an intuition prompting Paula to abandon where she stood (before an undraped window, nude as an open invitation) and rush to turn the key in her bedroom's darkened door—accomplished deftly, not a false step made nor motion wasted crossing to the lock and thereby foiling (or delaying) a crime of opportunity, a spur-of-the-moment trespass with a mind to rob or worse, to force an entry upon entry, neither to be repelled.

Practices in Morocco paled compared to those in Nogales—snuff-film capital south of the border—excess pesos (earned by drug lords) funding excess violence, graft, where tastes took twists and turns extreme enough to qualify as abnormal, even Alex judging horrors beheld as sickly, psychopathic, much obliged his role as 'honored guest' (instead of 'crazed participant') could assuage the cruel occasion printed, branded on his wits, absolve his conscience (gone unheeded, an inactive Alexandra ill-positioned to petition his abstaining, at the time, from bearing witness to unwholesome acts macabre) about to balk at standing by as though immune from culpability while a teenage girl is strip-searched by a threesome clad as guards, their use of billy-clubs homicidal in achieving penetration far beyond the slight capacity of each aperture plugged, defiled, pathetic shrieks and sobs unmuzzled to accentuate brass-tacks torment during subsequent violation of the tissues stabbed and torn wherein the men relieve their bladders, flooding vulva, throat, and anus, uric acid adding agony to already seething sores on which the cameraman zeroes in to capture ghastly gore unleashed, before a slow-mo coup de grâce unmercifully is delivered, and she who hangs suspended, toes on point above the ground, her figure twirling from a rope that bears the weight complainingly, squeaking in the silence that befalls both crew and 'actress' while the guards apply to either breast a pair of pruning shears and at the count of uno, dos, tres...

Access had been blocked, staved off, invader foiled—desisting—once the lights-back-on arrested shoulder's slam-bam at the door, which would not yield, nor would the "cock-tease"—safe if trembling, out of reach, in staunch denial about the role she played in egging on...the prowler(?) roving frat boy(?) rowdy prankster(?) bona fide sex fiend(?)

her coquettish indiscretions would have turned the head of each, aware herself that eyes beheld these nightly exhibitions, mindful of an audience in the abstract, no one visible, no one tangible save for him from whom she prayed, with all her might, to be delivered "JESUS, SAVE ME!" she had fervently petitioned when the deadbolt nearly failed, when every fearsome THUD appalled, her fright exacting solemn oaths that she would NEVER, EVER flaunt those parts that God, at Eden's edge, commanded to be covered.

♫Little toy dolls
that cuddle and coo,
Elephants, boats
and Kiddie cars too.♫

Alex, suddenly wide awake, disturbed by gruesome dreams disguised as recollections, sorts the true from the fabricated, the factual from the imagined (which-is-which, as usual, none-too-clear), unconcerned about penance, mortified by inaccuracy, bitter having to admit his grip has slipped, fickle in his ability to reconstruct events, locations, opinions, attitudes like suits in a deck of cards, shuffled by senility, who-he-is-and-was as protean as Jokers-wild.

Doubling down.
Seven and five make eleven.
Betting on a face card.
King, Queen, Jack (or a ten) would free him from the red.
Gambling not his game; odds favor the House.
Business proceeds surer; if frequently in arrears—
though better than biding time at a creditor's plush casino
(complimentary chips doled out aside).
Jewels the size of vegetables decorating sundry molls.
Babes of nobler lineage decked out more demurely.
One such flirting,
if cautious as a mole;
married, by the look of her skittish importuning.
Stacked, to put it provincially.
Skin like sculpted soap.
Lips could tempt a monk into obliging untoward
wants
and unrequited hankerings.
Husband wed for his wealth, no doubt, his position—
sex appeal superfluous,
until second thoughts,
expressed as unchaste secrets,
haunt wife and mom;
recently recovered from maternal obligations,
spousal obligations once more in a rut,
"Lola"
(she insists he call her, real name off-the-record)
eager to escape from dreary daily dues
hubby-hunting scoring her a trophy incompatible
with propensities that define his sybaritic bride.
Anal, in her excretory yen for filthy foreplay,
cruder in the acts she craved perform,
encouraged when her whispered proposition
spurs a wink
suggesting Mister Pierpont might comply—
nay, revel, if she reads him right, in a no-holds-barred encounter,
should he acquiesce to spend with her the evening.
One night only.
Because that which she intends to do
and have done onto her,
is a transitory enterprise.
All or nothing.
Wagers on the table.
Fold or play your hand—
with Lola dealing from the bottom,
now the top,
her antics so bizarre,
and brazenly unconventional,
that sheets, instead of being laundered by the hotel staff, are burned
after what would be described as:
"too gross for comment."

Rain! The first few sprinkles dent the dust, release the earth's perfume, atomize the night with airborne fecundity (risen as though exhumed); a dozen, then a score, and then a hundred, thousand splashes (resurrecting, from the desert, a platoon of potent smells) bestow a blessing that is fluent, wet beneficence, liquid grace, each tear a microcosmic universe shed, exhorting Life to spawn, to reproduce itself with deference due to Heaven's humid bounty as it dapples, dampens, drenches; turned to deluge, drops abound, collide with surfaces that resist, insist their pores distend like sponges, all things baptized, cleansed, replenished, quenched of thirstiness, hues restored (in spite of nightfall's palette painting the landscape colorless); those exposed to the saturated sky—with her whom the cloudburst bathes—are left as if anointed by an all-forgiving Lord.

♫Oh...You better watch out,
You better not cry.
You better not pout,
I'm telling you why.♫

Paula's robe, adhering to her shoulders, bust, and backside, has the waterlogged appearance of a see-through second skin, the fabric plastered here, loose there, conducting run-off spilled profusely over fibers faintly luminous in the moonlight, storm clouds passed, dispersed; a wake of wind already dries agave and saguaro as they stand with spines erect like well-armed sentinels silhouetted by a snaggletooth horizon amply studded with pinprick stars, those overhead resembling sequins in a necromancer's cape, itself diaphanous, vaguely milky in a canopy black as tar and vast as Paula's quaint conception of Eternity.

"You're a Christian, meaning you believe in Jesus Christ; that right?"

He has that look, the one he always gets when he wants to tease or bait her...

"You accept that Christ was born of the Virgin Mary? I'm just asking. Nothing personal. Don't get huffy. Drink your coffee. Eat your Danish. We're conversing, that's all, basking in the Lord's good-morning rays. Like a couple, if you will, a pair of confidants, man and wife."

...counterfeiting charm to mask his sullen retribution, lashing out at her for finding him in that sorry state last night, collapsed and wallowing in the slough of his own evacuations...

"How, is what I'd like to know; the miraculous notwithstanding, there remain pragmatic issues when a child—conceived "immaculately"—has a mother who is mortal and a Dad Who is Divine. Would that make Joseph...what; a cuckold? Simmer down; no insult meant. I'm merely working out the details. Mary's married. Joe's her husband. She's a virgin so their marriage wasn't consummated beforehand. Ergo God implanted Jesus with his parents' joint consent? Or did He knock up Mary unbeknownst to her lawfully wedded husband?"

...because if that's his motive for disparaging her religion—and it wouldn't be the first time; Pierpont prides himself on blasphemy—she is not about to answer questions posed to mock her faith...

"But let's assume, for the sake of saving face, that Joe was in the know. Precisely how did God inseminate Mrs....Christ(?) and leave her wholly virtuous—it being widely uncontested that her hymen stayed intact—and who confirmed this virgin birth in the absence of a midwife?"

...raising doubts, as if his own sad life, bereft of creed and morals, could refute the Word of God Himself in the Holy Ten Commandments...

"Stumped? Well, I expect you haven't given this much thought; most folks, when pressured, are Supremely inarticulate with respect to their beliefs. In fact, the more they're pressed the less they seem to know about the subject, getting testy and defensive, downright hostile, sometimes, murderous in the face of commonsensical FAQs."

...meaning third degrees; he does not ask so much as badger, knowing full-well faith and fact don't have to match for Truth of the Spirit to be revealed...as it was to her...when she was saved from rape (or worse) that fateful day, her home's invasion (by a pervert on parole it later was discovered) demonstrating clearly that Jesus hears our pleas and that He rescues those deemed worthy of Heavenly intervention...

"Chromosomes further cloud the issue. Whether folks back then were aware or not of genetic ABCs, sperm meets egg makes baby would have nonetheless applied—lest Christ was cloned, in which case the fruit of Mary's womb was not really hers, begging a thornier question: who is Mrs. God, or, if Our Father is a bachelor, who's His Jezebel—mother of His One-and-Only Earthly Son?"

...so Paula sits inured to Pierpont's sacrilegiousness; let his soul reap the unfulfilling crop of disbelief. Hers, though far from blameless, acknowledges Jesus Christ as her personal Lord and Savior.

"Not that I would presume to call J C a bastard—better his Xs and Ys be linked to Mary What's-her-name. Still, you must concede, chromosomes blur the picture. Were I to invent a Deity, I would rule out any and all resemblance to us terrestrials. A God brought down to earth necessitates Reason going to ground. And Reason, Alexandra, is Mankind's saving grace."

Alexandra? Paula doubles her chin and looks askance at Alex, miffed at his obliviousness (the mistake uncorrected), irritated more by his addressing someone else than by his disrespectful quiz...persisting in addressing someone else, she further notes, as he proceeds to pour them refills, shifting Paula's cup to serve whomever 'fills' a chair perceptibly unoccupied—his redirected gaze falling upon its vacancy.

Tasty, do you not agree? Our nurse brews topnotch decaf—irrespective its lamentable lack of vim, its declawed vigor—reminiscent of the mocha java once-upon-a-time enjoyed in Nice where we-two laced...

You laced.
...our caffeine with colostrum—milked it from the very source, from a lady, I recall, with binocular-appendages, walleyed nipples pert and generous when massaged, inundating our cup...
Your cup.
...with cream piquant and sexy as the Mademoiselle herself.
What IS your problem? All these lustful recollections when your pecker's gone kaput betray an unbecoming level of juvenile degeneracy. Sex is...
Life! It heats the blood, it turns the head, puts bounce in steps, makes drab look dazzling to beholder and beheld—have you forgotten(?)—it makes object an objective, an incentive like none other, driving Ego to distraction by emancipating Id in celebration of fertility, sensuality, unchained Eros. Sex is semen mixed with mucous. Sex is muscle spasms...
Sick! You overdo it, Alex. Excess; that's the root of your depravity; never knowing when enough's enough, never ceasing to offend, recounting episodes 'based' on stories that are true, but then embellishing, telling tales so tall they have to stoop by the time they reach their end designed to shock, disgust, repulse whomever you regale.

In this case Paula, who regards her mute employer with perplexity, then vexation (while he argues with himself, gesticulating dumbly) peeved because he glances intermittently at her chest (as at some sidebar) overlooking its connection to a fellow human being, its contours merely "tits", to him, doodads, gewgaws, baubles, disembodied from the person who protests in silence, seethes, who wants to scold the doddering letch for snubbing her identity, call attention to her presence as a full-fledged, equal peer no less enfranchised than the figment he continues to acknowledge (Alexandra, albeit sensitive to the nurse's mounting pique, fails to steer her cohort from his discourse).

Lost, is Alexander of a sudden, to surroundings that resemble time-and-place akin to being here-and-now, the gnarly neurons in his aged brain transmitting squirrelly signals that confuse the cues on hand with those beforehand, trading places, past and present out of sequence as if shuffled, dealt at random—ignominious insofar as outward symptoms show him clutching at his crotch perchance to reinstate some bygone functionality; no doubt futile, because the only lubrication at the reprobate's disposal floods then overflows his flaccid lower lip to miss the mark, his jewel of drool, by the breakfast table, deftly intercepted.
Longing. Lonely. 'Lonely longing' is the karma of a man without a family, neither spouse nor bosom buddy, nary a particle of faith (in spite of Alexandra's johnny-come-lately influence); Pierpont gapes, his focus fixed beyond the verandah wall on nothing-in-particular, lids unblinking, mind unthinking, on the fritz, a mental blank, the idle fumbling with his left hand unrelated to intention, more like nerves beset with twitches, a Tourette's Disease-like trait both unattractive and disgraceful in a social context, vulgar, yet involuntarily blameless with respect to her who shakes her head with business-mode compassion toward her retrogressive patient, seldom charming, ever suspect in his brooding ruminations, neither fatherly nor protective toward his hireling, prone to pester (when forgetful of his almost constant pornographic themes), a waste-of-space, in civic terms, "a useless codger", she might dub him (if subscribing to the culture's take on sunken-cheek reminders of the fate awaiting every man and woman once brushed aside, dismissed, and relegated wholesale to obscurity).

Gapes...and gapes...his trance, unbroken, lingers longer than is usual; Paula prods him, gently nudges one of his wish-boned knees with the ball of her unshod foot, the contact stirring Alex inwardly—although outwardly, he stays motionless—rousing urges unabridged by the dictates of decorum—purely fanciful;

Alex, dropping to all fours, approaches Paula, under the table, like a prowling, panting pooch, tongue out, snout raised, alert for scent, invading naked legs with slavering jowls, nuzzling in his muzzle, and assaulting folds of flesh averse to brooking violation by an organ thrice the age of her who hesitates to resist, who should repulse the gross sensations unhinged thighs indulge perversely; clapping closed on their intruder, Paula's knees embrace his skull; inflamed by licks and slurps inflicted faster, catching up with heartbeats then detained to quell a surge that threatens premature release, her vulva vibrates from its tickled crown to the pith of its deluged funnel, seeping ooze from a pent-up reservoir not quite tapped but on the brink, its liquid prurience matched by carnal thirst divulging duel proclivities, hers for lush ejaculation, his for guzzling all that squirts with more than gusto, more than passion, more than profligate exultation; Alex swallows every dollop, drinks her pre-cum to the dregs, devours devoutly, comprehensively—for a woman shy of sated is a woman unexposed to the likes of Pierpont's deft technique, inducing climax once or countless times, depending on capacity, a sustained exhilaration the intent of him who slurps, who softly nibbles, generates suction, sometimes chews distended labia, being careful not to damage that which stiffens, swells, protrudes; a mini-penis is the clitoris Alex laps at, smooches, fibrillates, sending tremors through surrounding tissues taut, relaxed, infused, their oscillation unendurable when protracted, almost ticklish, yet exciting shameless raptures all the while they issue, ooze, the grounds for holding out, for letting go grown thinner, grown precarious as the tide within (at cresting point, her pleasure poised to peak), engenders wave on wave incredible, an indecent prolongation like a bladder over-full emitting pee without surcease, initial outflow undiminished after sluicing Pierpont's gullet, avid gulping doubly taxed to keep apace, imbibe the goo, rejoice in self-congratulations for the bounty he is harvesting, for the nectar nursed from the nurse whose limbs go limp, whose spine uncoils as though a giant spring inside her core has sprung, unstrung, defenseless.)

At the mercy of a mongrel?
Alexandra archly chides.
Will you come out, for Christ's sake! Mind your head.
She quotes a poem from childhood.

"You are old, said the youth, and your jaws are too weak
   For anything tougher than suet;
Yet you finished the goose, with the bones and the beak--
   Pray, how did you manage to do it?"

Speak for yourself, counters Alex defiantly, wiping his mouth of imagined emissions, grinning a Cheshire-Cat grin to acknowledge the author his counterpart cites.

Is that woman real or a flight of your fancy?

'Our' fancy.

I think not. My tastes are less crude.

Your tastes, Alexandra, and mine are synonymous. Carp all you like, disavow, disapprove, but don't try to tell me you failed to enjoy that.

Enjoy what; 'your' wet dream?

Mine, yours, hers; all three.

Aside from the sad fact that 'we' are delusional, she—not the phantom who just douched our throat—is sitting across from us...

No worse for wear?

...like nothing unseemly transpired.

Paula's shy.

Paula's not shy; she's nonplussed, bewildered; our failure to budge, make a move, bat an eye, has caused her to wonder what's keeping us static. We're stiff as a statue.

Except for our drool.

We're deaf, dumb and blind.

Self-abuse?

No, you stopped that.

De trop to continue, with fancies afoot.

You admit, then, this muff dive was strictly fictitious?

Look, Ma, no hands.

What does that mean?

Forsooth:

When diddling a damsel through lingual precision,
the lap dance she does lathers lips,
flashfloods tongue,
and pickles ones pucker in mermaid-ish brine,
that an amorous oyster might envy.

You've flipped, lost your marbles, run amuck, gone insane. You're mad as a March Hare.

Not to mention a Hatter.

And sex-crazed, I shrink from admitting, to boot.

Paula, though privy to Pierpont's discursion by proxy, perceives naught; his deadpan obscures; his features, grown gradually stiff, look cadaverous. Longer than similar stints heretofore, this one seems tinged with an unwholesome aspect—malodorous, she qualifies, dank, disinterred; a phrase "smells the ground" comes to mind as she ponders what best-course to follow:

 Anxious, she examines his vital signs.

 

CONTINUE

BACK