by Benjamin Drevlow
My baby says there’s a complicated past behind it, but won’t go into the details. Long story short, she ain’t gonna do it that way ever again. She lies naked on her back, her legs entwined with our comforter, the bed reeking of almost sex. Her wavy brown hair and dimpled chin are propped up on all four pillows and hidden behind the zebra print of today’s paper. She ignores me and does the Times crossword puzzle. I massage her feet, kiss her toes, then climb into bed and spoon my body to hers. “Come on, baby,” I say. “If we can’t even talk about this, what does it say about our relationship? What happens if one of us contracts a disease—genital herpes, say, or AIDS? Would we talk about that? No, with the way you’re handling it we’d just keep on business as usual—standard operating procedures?”
She asks what a four-letter word is for copies.
“Apes,” I tell her, “apes is always copies. So what if there were a bad blood transfusion? Somewhere some doped-up lab technician named Stewie drops the ball at the blood bank. Stewie takes a hit of some bad shit that morning. Comes to work with a wicked buzz mixed with some god awful nausea. Stewie’s all fucked up. He’s gagging and dry heaving, but floating on Cloud Stewie at the same time. Finally, he gets to it, looks under the microscope, but Stewie can’t tell good cells from bad cells, good dots from bad dots. Just a bunch of fucking dots! Stewie thinks. ‘Fuck it,’ he mutters. ‘I need a different gig. Go back to Rent-A-Copping at the fertility clinic,’ he tells himself. ‘Less stress.’”
She looks up from the paper and wants to know who Reese of baseball is. “Six letters?”
“Peewee,” I tell her.
“No,” I say, “Peewee Reese from the Brooklyn Dodgers. If it’s Former Bear Dick,” I say, “it’s Butkus. But if it’s Fast Dick, it’s Trickle. Now, if it’s Pitcher, Big Unit it’s Randy, but if it’s Pitcher, Johnson, it’s still Randy. They get tricky sometimes,” I tell her and wink. “So Stewie tosses the microscope culture in the trash, signs off on the blood—fit as a fiddle, fine and fucking dandy, one-hundred percent, grade A—AIDS-free blood. And heads off to vomit in the can and masturbate into a little cup. Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you, honey. Stewie’s got a side gig. Sells his spunk to the sperm bank. It’s right next door to the blood bank, and when Stewie drops by the drive-thru window after work, he’s got a hippy friend, Shropshire, on the inside who signs off on his semen samples in exchange for free drugs. Healthy as a horse, clean bill of health—each and every one of Stewie’s little soldiers.”
“Aha!” she says. “Marriage partner, question mark is love,” she says. “Like the song.”
“But that’s all beside the point,” I tell her. “The point is two weeks ago when I slammed my finger in the front door and got those stitches, suppose that it wasn’t the front door. Suppose it was a car door. No, a truck door. A blue Ford F-150 with Calvin pissing on Chevy in the back window and naked women perched on the mud flaps. Suppose it wasn’t my finger; it was my whole left hand—my finger-bang hand! And honey, you know how much you enjoy that? Suppose it was my whole finger-bang arm. Suppose it was the whole finger-bang side of my body—my finger-bang toes, foot, knee, hip, rib, arm and clavicle. Like I was some sawed-off finger-bang Siamese twin or something. Think about it?”
“No. Adieu is Ta-ta to Gigi. Ado, as in Much Ado About Nothing—Brouhaha. Well, maybe, my whole finger-bang side is a bit melodramatic, a bit of histrionics, I suppose. But my finger-bang hand? That could happen. Just suppose Stewie couldn’t get his job back rent-a-copping and decided to work construction with me. But I don’t know anything about Stewie because I still have my hand at this point and no AIDS, so I hire Stewie on a trial basis until the piss test comes back.”
“Oiled—five letters, second letter U?”
“Lubed, and so when my truck’s in the shop like last week, Stewie comes to pick me up in the morning with his beater Ford pickup with Calvin pissing on Chevy in the window and women posed on the mud flaps and you know Stewie never comes to work clean. He’s gonna wait until the piss test comes back and he gets fired. Only Stewie’s got a drug-buddy at that lab, too. So there I am: I walk over and open up the driver’s side door. Tell Stewie, ‘Um, buddy, I don’t know how to tell you this, but the blood vessels in your eyes look like they’re about to pop like two big bloody whiteheads. Why don’t I take the wheel this morning and you can sleep it off?’ Only Stewie’s working through some nasty hallucinations and he’s already a bit paranoid about getting caught smoking weed by a bunch of burly construction workers with heavy machinery. Stewie freaks out. Slams my entire left hand in the door and whips the truck in reverse. I scream fuck so loud I think Mormons from around the world are going to start humping on cue. Like I’m the voice of God or Joseph Smith or something. But it doesn’t matter. Stewie shakes the fuzz out of his eyes and slams his foot on the gas. And there you have it, honey—snap, crackle, pop—I don’t have a hand anymore. I’m standing in the driveway holding my bloody stump. The wrist bones are sticking out like two loose copper wires and the skin’s peeled back, too, like my whole arm is an open electrical cord. Like I’m Robofreak or Darth Slutboy or something. Only I’m not and my arm is gushing blood like some small river with four letters that ends in L-L. My thoughts are seeping from my brain like thirteen across two day’s ago—four letters, third letter Z. And I’m starting to get light headed.”
“That’s bullshit,” she says and slams down the paper. “No one says procreate anymore. And who cares who the fuck Pierre’s father is?”
“How many letters?”
“Pere. P-E-R-E. It’s French. If it’s Pierre’s head, it’s tête. At last, Stewie finally comes out of his hallucination when he sees my bloody hand sitting on the bench seat next to him instead of me who’s currently standing where the truck used to be with his stub that used to be an arm that used to be attached to a hand. And Stewie may be many things, but Stewie’s got a heart, plus Stewie really needs this job, so he pulls the truck back up, stuffs my hand in his lunch cooler on the floor, and rushes me to the hospital. So there I am, passed out from blood loss, no hand, and no knowledge of Stewie’s last job at the blood bank, Stewie’s bad trip that day, or the bad blood cells that Stewie signed off on. No knowledge that Stewie’s bad blood just happens to be O-neg, which just happens to be a perfect match for my blood, of which I am in dire need, on account of my missing hand that’s currently on ice in Stewie’s lunch cooler.”
She looks up and starts to ask, “Four-letter name of Valhalla bigwig,” but I snatch the paper out of her hands, look her in the eyes.
“The point is, Baby,” I say, “now I’ve got AIDS, no hand, it’s two weeks later, we’ve been fucking three squares a day just to keep my mind off my no-hand, the AIDS I don’t know about, and the worker’s comp. I’m not collecting on account of it happened on the way to work not at work. And now my penis is starting to feel a little too flaccid—like that might fall off, too. So now you’ve got AIDS, too, and it’s all your fault, I don’t care one bit, I’m happy you’ve got AIDS, serves you right for not trying new things, and not explaining why you won’t. But when you ask me what’s wrong with my penis, I shrug, shake my head, pick up the crossword, and say, ‘There’s a complicated past behind it.’”
She throws her pen at my face. Flops over on her stomach, puts her face down toward me, and rolls her eyes back. “How would your entire hand get stuck in a door?” she wants to know. “How would the door shut? You got twelve stitches from the front door,” she tells me. “In your pinky finger. And Stewie rides his bike to work every day. Give it a rest,” she says. All she needs is two more words. “Twelve letters,” she says.
“But it’s the principle,” I say. “The slippery slope. First it’s this, then it’s that, and then it’s AIDS. Stewie’s infected me and I’ve infected you, all because you wouldn’t explain why you wouldn’t try something new. Said there was a ‘complicated past behind it.’ Fine, let’s suppose I didn’t lose my hand in a car door at all. Suppose it was something more run-of-the-mill like, say, I was just impotent. Wait, no. No, no, no, suppose my sperm didn’t get along with your ova. Suppose we tried every different baby-making position from the Kama Sutra, and still my sperm couldn’t get over the plain fact that your ova were all a bunch of bitchy little prima donna eggs too good for everything. So one day you finally up and walk into a fertility clinic. You say, ‘Gimme some of your healthiest, grade-A sperm. My biological clock is ticking and my husband’s penis is about as potent as leaky faucet—but more flaccid.’
“Only, as luck would have it, it just so happens that the fertility clinic you walk into also happens to be the same sperm bank where Shropshire, Stewie’s hippie friend, works and where Stewie donates. So sure, a couple weeks later, you’re pregnant and all, but after a while the doctors start to act funny. They make frowny faces and shrug a lot. They run a lot of tests, then make more frowny faces. And about eighty tests later, you find out you’re pregnant with Little Stewie and Stewie’s Super AIDS.
“All this time, see, Stewie, himself has been infected with Super AIDS on account of outside his lab technician gig, he’s also a dirty pothead and crack dealer with a weak spot for crystal meth. So now you’re eight months pregnant with Stewie’s AIDS baby, and Stewie’s Super AIDS, and I’m working days at Jiffy Lube and nights on the tow truck just to pay the bills because I’ve lost my construction gig after two months of rocking in my easy chair and holding my no-hand, and not workers’ comp. And now? Now you’re on your back all day like the dirty tramp you are: little Super AIDS in the oven and you’ve got a mean hankering for pickles and Rocky Road.”
She rolls back on her stomach, pulls her body closer to mine, kisses me hard and looks me in the eyes. “Don’t you worry your pretty little tête,” she says with a wink and a smile. “You and I aren’t going to procreate any time soon.”
“But that’s it,” I say. “That’s why we should do it my way. No babies. No worries.”
“Do you know what it feels like?” she asks.
“Is it God?” I say. “Because God only has a problem when it’s two men or when you’re unwed. We’re okay.”
“God? God only likes it when you’re having babies,” she says. “Do you know what it feels like?”
“Well, we can try to make a baby after we try it this way.”
“There’ll be no making babies after you’ve tried that on me.”
“Then what’s the goddamn omplicated history?” I ask. “What’s the big friggin deal? You make it seem so mysterious—like the Kennedy conspiracy or Colonel Sander’s secret recipe. What happened?”
“Three times!” she groans. “I told you.”
“Three times, three times, three times. Three times I tried it with him, but it only worked once. He was my first boyfriend, my first time, my first everything. We were in college, we were high a lot, we drank a lot, we were everything a lot. And you know how charming Stewie can be.”
“He got in. It came out. It was over. Stewie was a lot of things, he just wasn’t very equipped in that department. You know how jumpy he gets. You gotta have patience to do it that way. Slow and steady. No bunny-rabbiting.”
“Did he use and stuff? I had this girl ask me once if I had stuff to do it with,” I say. “Did Stewie use any stuff? You know, to lube it? I could get some.”
“Sure Stewie lubed, but do you have any idea what it feels like?”
“How would I?”
“I thought you’d never ask,” she says and takes my hand and holds my pointy finger up like a mother trying to teach a child how to finger paint. “No, better yet.” She picks up the pen off the bed and shoves it in my hand like a light-saber. “Here,” she says, “now down on all fours like the dirty mongrel you are.”
“Make sure you present, darling. If you’re too low, it’ll never work. And arch your back. Slow and steady; no bunny-rabbiting. Any bunny-rabbiting and we’ve got a real morass on our hands.”
“Don’t worry, honey, you’ll be fine. Just remember: don’t get frustrated if it doesn’t work right away. It took Stewie three times, so don’t feel bad. More importantly, if you start to tense up, you can injure yourself and wind up in the ER with a colonoscopy and a blood transfusion. Here, I’ll give you some privacy, honey,” she says and grabs the crossword from off the floor. “I’ll be on the throne and nursing a nasty urinary tract infection. Give a knock on the bathroom door when you’re done. Remember twenty-two down from yesterday? Five-letter word for persistence?”
“No, spunk silly. Now go get ’em, tiger.”
by Quinn Hull
Indy had strange longings inside her. She had never touched or been with a boy, though she wanted to be. She attempted to reconcile this inner turmoil with the night and fell into strange habits. With the darkness around her, she sometimes removed all her clothes and lay stretched out, first in the backyard, and then the front lawn, completely naked, waiting for some tempted passerby to at the very least touch her, violate her to meet her precocious desires. Once, towards night, in attempts to abandon herself to this wantonness, she swallowed five sleeping tablets belonging to her mother, Tetra, who kept these in a vile orange bottle in the drawer of her nightstand, and snuck out after curfew. Indy wore no shoes or underwear, clad in a cotton dress she walked the summer streets, through woodpaths until she came to a pasture along a deserted road beyond a split-rail fence and lay down in the unmown grass and soon fell under the drug, prey to the unwary passing cyclist or motorist. Towards dawn she awoke, feeling a tug at her dress, thinking her moment had come. Indy was aware of a viscous slime covering her belly, faintly yellowish, before she perceived the widely set docile taurine face of an ordinary farm cow looking at her, faintly muzzling with nuzzling lip hairs and callous tongue, breathing rank flaring nostril blasts of hot lung bellows ruffling her hair. In disgust she kicked the cow’s head away. In a subdued cultured manner the cow returned to its herd. The humid dawn rose from the earth as she buttoned her dress and returned home to her familiar bed. Even her softened crazy-quilt could not quell the chill of her endeavor, all before her mother awoke for the weekend. Indy would ask the boy from her algebra class to the Sadie Hawkins dance in two weeks.