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Sooz & Sid by Walter Bjorkman

September 8, 2010 6 comments

  [From a collection scheduled out Jan 2011]

In a Brooklyn bar, in late August of 1971, Sid had troubles. He was soaking up the suds with two friends. “Guys, I pulled 117 in the draft lottery, they’re gonna call me up in a few days, I’m dead.”

Fred, who always lucked out, had drawn 364, next to last, safe. “Man, too bad buddy.”

Mitch, exempt as a Conscientious Objector, commiserated. “Yeah, sucks.”

The three sat there, not knowing what else to say, Sid couldn’t do the Canada thing, too many reasons to stay.

“Effin system” Sid moaned.

“Yeh, effin’ system” from Fred.

Then the light bulb. “Work within the system – use bureaucracy!” from Mitch. “Move!” “Legit!” “To our bud Eddie out in California!”

They worked out that Sid flies out there immediately, walks into the draftboard and tells them that he has moved.

“Then, when Eddie gets your notice, you mosey into the draftboard here and tell them ‘No work in California, I moved back’.” Mitch always had ideas.

“Yeah, then each time they gotta ship your records back and forth. By the time they get back, Bingo, its ’72, they’re saying the cut will be around 80 next year, and you’re safe!”

Maybe the combined twelve years of college and student deferrments weren’t wasted, it sounded fool-proof on paper, but this was beer-soaked bar napkin paper, so things couldn’t be all that easy.

*

“Scccrrrrrrreeeeeeeeeeeeecccccccccccccch!

The ’69 Chevy Impala, grey-black smoke pouring out of its tailpipe, came to a crunching stop on the top of a hill fifty miles to go on the road to Portland, the smoke mixing with the fog and remnant’s of brush fires that, with the burnt rubber, gave the air the smell of Secaucus if it had farms. Sooz looked over her shoulder from the driver’s seat to the two shadows she passed about 200 feet back.

“What’cha think Gertie? Should we go back for them?”

“Ehh, Sooz, think they’re like freaks, wasn’t sure if they even were guys at first. Thought we were goin’ into the city for some big studs, not skinny freaky gawd knows what. ”

“Ever do one, Gertie?”

“Do one what?”

“A hippie. I did one once, everyday for a week.”

“No way – eccch, was he dirty and smelly, they don’t wear Brut, or any after-shave, or even deodorant, I heard. And where’dja meet him? Down by the roadhouse, you didn’t go down there, didja?”

“Naw, you know my brother knows a few, for the pot, I mean Richie’s not a freak, but he likes to get stoned. Anyway, this guy, he actually was good, I mean it wasn’t just slam, bam; he went down on me.”

“Sheesh! Sooz, that only happened once for me, ‘member Chuck? His first time, I tole him he hadda, he never did it again.”

“Well, this guy liked to do it, didn’t wanna stop. But he hadda go back to Arizona, or someplace. Never saw him again.”

Gertie stopped to think. “Alright, let’s take ’em, as a backup. If we can’t find any real guys before we dump these off, I’ll give it a go, if they’re not too freaky.”

Sooz gunned the Impala into reverse and screeched back to Sid and Eddie, who had just about given up hope for a ride and were about to snooze down in the ditch at the side of the road.

“Hop in fellas”, Sooz and Gertie’s voices mixed with “you would cry too if this happened to you” coming out of the AM oldies station.

Sid and Eddie got in the back, Sooz popping into forward just as Sid got his foot in the door, shutting it as they tore off.

“Where ya goin’ guys?” Gertie asked as blasé as she could be while picturing swirling tongues.

“Uh, Sid here is headed back east, and I’m going back down south of San Fran, but thought we’d take in Vancouver and the Canadian Rockies on the out of the way.”

“We’re goin’ ta Portland for the night, lookin’ for some fellas to hook up with, so wese can take ya that far” Sooz took command, snapping her gum. “You guys ok with oldies, I could change it to FM if you want, look like you’re FM guys.”

“Anything is fine with us” Sid replied, trying to see Sooz over Gertie’s puffed up, teased hair.

Eddie and Sid looked at each other, saw the dice from the mirror, hula girl on the dash, capri pants and shiny dacron tops on the bodies, bee-hives, smelled the gum. Sid leaned over to Rich and whispered “What are we, in a 10 year time-warp?”

Sooz switched the channel anyway. After a commercial to the Pepsi Generation, “I remember holding you while you sleep . . . bring it home baby make it soon.” That was a little better, although it was pop-rock, not the blues or underground stuff Sid and Eddie were into. Harrison and Ham traded some good slide work though, and maybe it was telling them something.

Now, Sid and Eddie were not averse to doing some time-sex traveling, after all it was four years earlier that they popped their cherries in Chattanooga, along with Fred, on the same night, with the same woman. She had a bouffant and leopard-skin patterned bra and panties, but it wasn’t so far removed in time then, and she was older, from that time. She also charged, this could be a freebie. Had to be – Sid and Eddie were as poor as their torn jeans.

As the asphalt ribbon became the main strip leading into Portland, bars and clubs started to appear at the side of the road. At each one, Sooz would turn into the parking lot, drive around and she and Gertie would size up the guys hanging outside.

“Ehh. Bikers, they’re just hippies with only half their teeth and beer guts. Sheeeet, real hippies, we got two in the back.” Gertie wasn’t reticent to assess the attributes loud enough for Sid and Eddie to hear. “Look, some nervous kids, we could break ’em in Gertie, but they might go cryin’ home to mama.”

After about a half-dozen of these, with no success, they reached downtown.

“Alright guys, we’re going to a club we know. Got any money?” Sooz kinda made it sound like the only way they were gonna hang was if the guys would pay the way, their last shot.

“Naw, that’s why we’re hitchin’. But, hey – there’s the City Forest we heard about. Allowed to sleep overnight, where we’re gonna stay.” Sid leaned over and put his hand on Sooz’s shoulder. “You gals wanna join us, why bother fishin’ all night when we got the goods right here ?” Sid couldn’t believe what he just said, it must’ve been the hairspray fumes.

“OUT!! GETTA OUTTA HERE RIGHT NOW YOU CHEAPASS FREAKIN’ HIPPIES, SCREW IN THE WOODS? WITH YOUSE? THINK WE EVEN WANNA TOUCH YOUSE?” Gertie was apoplectic at the thought of bugs nesting in her beehive, swirling tongues nothwithstanding.

Both Sooz and Gertie started pushing the guys out as best they could with one arm, whacking them with the other, giggling all the time. Sid and Eddie tumbled out of each door, but as Sooz burnt rubber, Sid’s leg got caught up in the door and he got pulled along the ground for about twenty feet, wrenching his knee socket in every direction.

Sid spent the night in the hospital, Eddie ordered take-out for them from a Sambo’s nearby then fell asleep in the chair next to the bed. The next day they had to drain the knee and pull out a few tiny cartilage fragments.

*

The bureaucratic ruse didn’t work. Sid had to report for his physical on December 20th, they missed by 12 days.

The induction letter arrived on Christmas Eve. It stated that due to the temporary injury to Sid’s knee, he was to wait two months for it to heal, and report his status to the draft board at that time.

In 1972

Free and clear. Turned out Sid did score with Sooz afterall.

Godfrey’s penis

August 29, 2010 10 comments

“First had the suspicion the penis was shrinking the morning after Jeremy’s wedding.”

“How was it, old boy? Good do?”

“Yes, yes, very smart. Excellent service.”

“Good-oh. So, the penis, you say?”

“Yes. Bit of a shrinkage situation.”

“Had a chap out to look at it?”

“No. Doctors are terribly busy these days, doesn’t seem appropriate to bother them with penis deflation. Wouldn’t you say?”

“Well, yes, when it’s put like that…”

“After all, one expects some attrition with age.”

“We’re not the young men we were.”

“Way of the world.”

“Yes. Yes.”

“Surprised, though, how noticeable the difference was. It was rather…”

“Rather?”

“Abrupt.”

“Goodness, that does sound a tad alarming, if I might say so.”

“Thought at first it was perspective; a little wide around the midriff these days.”

“If you don’t mind me asking, in percentage terms, what sort of a, um, reduction have you experienced?”

“Percentage? Oh my dear boy, there’s hardly any of it left.”

“Nothing?”

“The bare minimum.”

“Perhaps a doctor would be in order nevertheless?”

“That’s the funny thing, Not sure I want patching up.  Never been happier.”

“My word.”

“Taken a weight off the old shoulders.”

“Excellent, excellent.”

“Yes. More whisky, old chap?”

“Wouldn’t say no. Much obliged.”

French Kiss by Michelle Elvy

July 20, 2010 6 comments

(Written a few days ago for 52|250’s Union of Opposites challenge, snatched up by SLEEP.SNORT.FUCK. Can’t help myself; this belongs here at VOICES, too. )

The date began badly. First, she turned up her nose at my suggestion of sushi: “Ew! I want real food!” So we found ourselves at a picnic table eating hamburgers and fries, hers dipped in a large pile of blubbery mayo.

Back in the car, she switched the radio from Waits to Madonna. I thought about kicking her out right then.

But I’m a gentleman, so I suggested wine at my place (she was French, after all), but she said, “No, that’s boring,” and next thing I know we’re down by the lake drinking Jaegermeister. Jaegermeister, for chrissakes! Haven’t drunk that stuff since college. I managed not to puke this time, even when she said, “I’m going to fuck you now, oui?” What could I say? I was powerless in her hands, her mouth, her cunt. She scared the hell out of me, from her rock-hard nipples to her abundant thighs to her curious tongue. I envisioned news flashes next day: Culture Clash: Carniverous Frenchie Fucks Shy Biology Teacher Dead. She was all energy, grinning and grinding, sound and sexual fury. I ached for days, especially where my knee wedged into the dashboard. How she fit all those ways I never did figure.

I kept her number for a long time. “Call me,” she said as she slipped the paper into my jeans pocket. Not a question, more a demand. I wanted to, I really did.

Hey! Where? Georgie Girl! by Walter Bjorkman

July 14, 2010 5 comments

 

Hey! Where? Georgie Girl!

The Decade of Myth didn’t start
with the year six-oh
nor did it stop with the one
ending in six-nine
It started in sixty-three
with the death of Young John the Debaucher
and ended in seventy-four,
with Sir Dickie the Trickie’s departure
we all got that straight? – solid, man!

    

[In The Beginning And In The End]

I met the Fair Maiden Georgie Girl
on an Ivoryton Sixty-Nine summer night
my Boys of Summer campin’ cross the lake
as were your hippie-chicks

    

[Original Boys of Summer, Fantasy Hippie Chicks]

Welfare and rich, mixin’ & matchin’
in each other’s sleeping bags
thirteen year old Elke Sommer’s kid shackin’
up with the Gypsy Queen’s daughter
so we figured why not us too

    

[Elke Sommer, one of my kid’s Mom, Gypsy Queen, one of yours]

While my tongue was in your nethers
on that misty-meadowed night
and yours on my fair lance
I felt another on my foot
thought “How can she do that?”
I had to give a glance

In the heat of a passion
I look back and see
that a goat of the pastures
decided to make the scene

[Three’s a Crowd on My Cloud]

“Man, you know what yew got there, compadre?”
said old Ed the cook – “just one word, man
you’ll understand, she goes to the same
school as Jackie O’s kid!”

    

[Did Caroline Ever Eat Camp Slop?]

Your name was Georgette, your brother’s Carroll
I should’a got the clue
but we talked not of backgrounds
we just wanted to screw

That mescalined night in the pond
skinny-dippin with three others
in front of the Ivoryton post office
doin’ it in the road
an early train-spotting with cars
none came, we did

                            
[Ivoryton Post Office, No Worry, it was after midnight]

Man – we got two days off – where we gonna’ go?
it’s the weekend of a gig on Yasgur’s Farm –
but we had not enough time for the show

Off instead to my poor man’s heaven
on the other side of the LI Sound
meeting those children of god
all going the other way

Starry, Starry Night
we slept, talked and did the nasty
where I, in innocence once
built a raft of driftwood
to take me twenty miles across
to the shore from which we ferried
escaping my Father’s demise

    

[Yasgur’s Farm and Sound Beach
We were only two at the beach, wonder how many made it to the farm?]

“Wake up! Wake up!”
roust the commie, preppie, philosopher, hippie and jock
I had one of each sort in my troop
Neil the Man’s about to take his midnight walk!
we herded them into the mess tent to see
the moon violated by mankind’s knee

    

[It Takes All Kinds watching Armstrong]

Back in the City, you One East End Ave
me from across the Gowanus
riding the subway to the stars
wondering what I was doin’

your nanny plopped with a death thud
to the floor above us
in your private-elevator duplex
as we were loving in full window view
of the 59th Street Bridge – that wasn’t groovy

    

[The Gowanus – Bridge Over Dirty Waters, 59th St Bridge – Feelin’ Groovy]

You off to bucolic Pine Manor in Brookline
with your mama’s Standard Oil money
me back to CCNY turmoil
in Harlem on my night cabbie’s pay
visits on weekends, further apart –
we did start to grow away

    
[Protected in Brookline, Protesting in Harlem]

One last stab – I your debutante escort
at your coming out debut
for the Grosvenor Ball in the Plaza
you were both loathe and loving to attend
four months after you first came with a man
or rather this boy from across the facts

Dine with a Kennedy here, a Lindsay there
under a blanket in a horse carraige ride
in Central Park, thereafter
you sneak into my room
for our last bedding

                                    

[The Poor Got Richer, if just for a day]

Remember back when we got kicked out
of that snooty Boston Common’s hotel
for me refusing to wear a tie?
you laughed all the way with me
to the cheap shack up the block

Time driftwooded on, we left each other
my only contact with your world
became the green of the bluebloods
as I ferried them around the town


We met again in seventy-four on Mass Ave
just up from the Coop
me with my Nancy girl, you with
a Japanese artist, your Yoko
spurning your parent’s wealth
he hair down to his calves

Maybe we had an effect on each other,
maybe the Sixties mattered
or maybe we were all just
Fools on the Hill

                               

Twins by Michelle Elvy

July 8, 2010 3 comments

When we turned 50, my twin sister and I inherited money from an uncle. It was a modest amount, enough for me to enroll in a night course at the local college and to buy a new pair of glasses, not the $20 frames at JC Penney but an obscenely expensive designer pair which my made me feel sexy and smart, and which my boyfriend told me to keep on when we made wild rodeo love that night.

Some weeks later, my sister called. “You gotta come visit, see what I purchased with the help of Uncle Robbie’s money!” She sounded excited, so I drove across the state line the following weekend. I rang the bell and adjusted my new glasses, sure she’d notice them right away. She threw open the door with her characteristic enthusiasm and greeted me with a new set of D’s, maybe even Double-D’s. I hugged her, mindful not to squish her new acquisitions, and followed her in, my mind responding in overdrive: Good Lord, Patricia, what have you done? I am reading Foucault, have a copy of Discpline and Punish right here in my bag. Wanna read it? No, of course you don’t. I wonder if my $300 left over would get me a downpayment on a set of those. I couldn’t afford D’s of course (and they are ridiculous), but C’s might be quite sensible…

“You have new glasses!” Patricia interrupted.

“The better to see you with,” I replied.

Plum-Woman by Michelle McEwen

June 27, 2010 8 comments

Mama’s got a name made for trouble. That’s what the meat-man down at the store said. “Vyla,” he said, “now that’s a troublemaker’s name.” (He said troublemaker as if it was the same as a shoemaker). When he had finished up slicing mama’s ham he said, “How many hearts you done broke, Vyla?” Mama didn’t answer; she just said thank you for the ham, told me to come on, and walked off. I could have answered for her, though. Could have said “three” and named them, too— daddy, Jasper, and Clementine.

Now daddy had it coming. He let mama run all over him. When we had but one car in the garage, he always let mama have it to go wherever she needed to go. He’d take the bus or walk. “Vyla,” he’d say, “I got that car for you.” Knowing full well he bought the car for himself ’cause I was with him when he bought it. He had told the car-man to give him somethin’ in red. “I love red,” he told him and they went up and down the lot looking for the red that suited him— not wine-red, not blood-red, but cherry-red. He knew it when he saw it and that’s the car he bought. He drove that car but twice— once off the lot and once to take my mama to the hospital when she had this fever that wouldn’t go down. Fool, that’s what the people in the neighborhood called him— behind his back and to his face. Didn’t he know, they said, what all Vyla was doing around town in that car? Didn’t he know, they said, she had another fellow in the passenger seat most times? And sometimes they had even seen that fellow behind the wheel— driving daddy’s cherry-red car like it was his. But daddy would just say how town talk was just that— talk. But it wasn’t just talk. Once, when I was standing outside the candy store with a boyfriend of mine, I saw mama fly by in daddy’s car. Then a few minutes later, she flew by again with Jasper in the car. Jasper was the fellow the people in the neighborhood tried to tell daddy about. My boyfriend said, “Ain’t that your mama?” And all I did was nod. My boyfriend said, “But that ain’t your daddy in the car with her— that’s Jasper McGhee!” And he went on tellin’ me how Jasper was the football coach for the high school two towns over and how Jasper was gonna turn that team around. “So!” I said and something in my stomach made me spit out the gum I was chewing. “So,” my boyfriend said “if your mama’s messing around with Coach Jasper, your father don’t stand no kind of a chance!”

And he was right because when my daddy found out about Jasper, it was too late— mama was already round-&-radiant with Jasper’s child. Daddy had tried to put his foot down— had said, “Vyla, I’m sick of this foolishness.” And he buried the car keys in the backyard as if the car was the real problem. But mama just smiled and said, “You act like Jasper don’t own a car.” My father was through with her after that. He dug up the keys out the back yard and left. Before he left, he kissed me and told me to look after mama ’cause “she needs lookin’ after.” But I didn’t have to look after her on my own; Jasper moved in shortly after daddy left and he and mama were always off at the doctor’s office ’cause mama was always complainin’ about being so sick. “I can’t do nothing by lay up,” she’d say and point the finger at Jasper. She got sick of Jasper real quick, so he was with us but only for a little while. Mama got to the point where she couldn’t even stand the sight of his face. “Look at him,” she said to me once while Jasper was out in yard mowing the lawn, “don’t he gotta face like bruised fruit?” And she laughed. I wouldn’t have laughed like I did if it wasn’t the truth. She put Jasper out shortly after that and that boy who used to be my boyfriend said Coach Jasper wasn’t the same after my mama had got hold to him. No sooner had Jasper gone, mama’s roundness and radiance had gone too. “What I want with another you,” she told me while we ate breakfast and that was that. A few weeks later, I told mama how I missed her belly. Her eyes got real big and I almost thought she’d hit me, but she didn’t; she just hugged me and started crying— real tears, too! And mama hardly cried. She said that she had missed her belly, too. But that didn’t last long ’cause in no time, she was wiping her eyes and laughing, saying, “Supposin’ the baby had been a boy, huh?” And there were no more tears. She said, “And what I want with a boy taking after Jasper Mcgee with that bruised fruit skin of his!” I didn’t laugh this time; mama did and she kept on laughing, too, until her dinner got cold. But she was sad about the baby, I could tell— every day, she’d be on the phone with her friend Clementine talking low and gloomy-like. Once I overheard her on the kitchen phone talking to Clementine. She said, “Clem, you know, I have these dreams about what I done…” And in no time, Clementine would be sitting at our kitchen table rubbin’ mama’s back and listening. Sometimes, she’d come over to fix up mama’s hair.

“You can’t be sitting around the house like this, Vyla,” Clementine said to my mama one night.

“Why not,” mama said and Clementine would go on and on about how mama never used to let herself look like this— this unkempt, this slouched over.

“Ever since I’ve known you,” Clementine said, “you’d put on lipstick just to sit around the house— this ain’t you!” And she fixed mama up and dragged her out the house.

“You gon’ be alright here by yourself,” Clementine said to me and I nodded and said “Yes ma’am” like I was told to call her. Clementine didn’t look like a ma’am, though. She was a slim girl with slim fingers and slim, long, feet. She wasn’t bad looking, but she never had a man. Mama said it was because “Clem is real picky, you know?”

Well, when they got back the next morning (goin’ on somethin’ like six in the morning), mama was all better. They came in the house loud as morning roosters— waking me up. So I joined them in the kitchen. You should have seen mama showing me the moves she and Clementine did on the dance floor— they were hand and hand and leaning all over each other.

“So y’all went dancing,” I said, having nothing else to say.

“Mmm hmm,” mama said, “and can’t nobody dance like Clem!” At first I thought she had said him and I was going to say, “him who?” But she said Clem. I made a face and said:

“Mama, what y’all doin’ dancin’ together? I bet y’all looked funny.”

“Naw,” Clementine said, “we didn’t look funny. We were the best dancers out there.”

“Mmm hmm,” mama said and she grabbed Clementine by the waist and started dancing to the tune Clementine was humming. They were drunk, too, so I left them in the kitchen dancing while I, up for good, went to bathe. All throughout the day, though, Clementine and mama couldn’t stay away from each other and Clementine would be all up under mama like she was her man— tucking mama’s hair behind her ear and whispering in it. She started staying over nights. Sometimes, they’d go out dancing. Sometimes, they’d stay in and watch a late night movie in the living room. Then it got so Clementine was never leaving. She’d be here for breakfast, go to work, and come back for dinner and stay. We ain’t have but two bedrooms and Clementine wasn’t sleeping on the sofa downstairs. I don’t know what mama thought I thought, but I know woman-woman love when I see it. I just kept my mouth shut the whole time Clementine was with us. I made like I was too young to know what was goin’ on. I thought, this one day, Mama might sit me down and tell me what-all was goin’ on between her and Clementine. This one day, we were on the front porch while Clementine was at work, and mama sang a little ditty about her Clem being as sweet as Clementines (the fruit).

“You made that up?” I said

“Mmm hmm,” mama said, smiling. “I didn’t even know I was singin’ out loud.”

“You must be happy, then,” I said.

“Sorta,” mama said and closed her eyes. I left her on the porch— that ditty stuck in my head. Something about that ditty got under my skin, made me miss daddy and even miss Jasper. My old boyfriend stopped by one day and said, “Your mama messin’ with Clementine?” And I told him no. I said, “I don’t know what you’re talkin’ about.” He didn’t believe me, though. He just laughed and said that folks were talking and that Jasper McGhee was going crazy over the idea of being replaced by Clementine. “He don’t feel too good about that,” my old boyfriend said, looking back at me, as he walked down the street. I knew folks were talking about mama and Clementine— the same way they talked about Jasper drivin’ daddy’s car. But this was different; they had laughed a little at Jasper behind the wheel of daddy’s cherry-red car. They weren’t laughing now. They talked about mama and Clementine in the grocery store with frowns on their faces. Even the meat-man joined in on the talk, saying to this one woman: “I hear Clem got Vyla wearing a ring.” And that was no lie. Mama was wearing a ring— nothing fancy, just this gold band on her ring finger. Clementine brought it home one day and mama just put it on. Just like that. But I knew that ring would be the end of things. Mama don’t like being owned and, to me, that ring was Clementine trying to own mama. She said that’s what Jasper was trying to do when he slipped that baby in her. “He was trying to own me,” she had said. And so I told the meat-man, when my number had been called and it was my time to place my order, I said, “Nothing’s goin’ on between mama and Clementine.” And he laughed this laugh that told me he thought I was just a young’un who didn’t know woman-woman love when I saw it. But I only said what I said because I knew soon what was goin’ on between mama and Clementine would be over. ‘Cause I knew mama would get sick of Clementine the way, say, plum-people, who, trying somethin’ new, get sick of peaches after a while. And mama is a plum-woman— that is to say, if plum were men. And I was right because no sooner had that ring gone on, it came off. She wore it for about a month and then one morning she told Clementine she had dropped the ring down the sink. Clementine got down on her hands and knees and unscrewed the pipe and searched for the ring. She hollered for me to “get in here and help me look for this ring!” I said “Yes ma’am” and helped her.
“Ain’t no ring here,” she said and I knew then mama had probably tossed that ring in the trash somewhere.

“You see a ring anywhere?”

“No ma’am,” I said with the biggest smile on my face. They fought long and hard the rest of the day— Clementine accusing mama of lying about the ring and mama hollering that she did drop the ring down the sink.

“How can a ring just up and disappear, huh?” Clementine said and when she left the house, she was shaking with anger; her face wet with tears.

Mama’s cousin Lew came to stay with us after that and he brought his gun. He didn’t like what mama had said about how angry Clementine was when she had left and he felt like Clementine might could do somethin’. He told me to stay away from Clementine if I saw her in the street. Clementine didn’t bother us, though, but cousin Lew stayed just the same. I don’t know if Lew was really mama’s cousin or just somebody she called cousin, but he stayed with us and kept his gun on one of the pantry shelves. He called that gun “Clem” ’cause he said it was only to be used on Clementine. Something in his eyes told me he’d use it on her even if Clementine had just come over to pick up something she had forgot— like that bra she left hanging on the door knob on mama’s closet. And it’s a good thing Clementine never did show up for that bra; I don’t think Lew cared too much for what went on between Clementine and mama. I think, maybe, someone sent him up here to watch mama ’cause I heard mama and Lew talking one morning in the kitchen. Mama had said, “You don’t have to worry about me, Lew, I like my lovers thick-necked and wide-backed.” Lew laughed at this and as soon as mama was gone out the kitchen, Lew got on the kitchen phone and told somebody on the other line about how he had knocked that nonsense right out of mama.

Introducing Stella and Humphrey

June 14, 2010 9 comments

Dear Dr. Ichovitzsky:

I recently read your article, “The Sex Lives of Starfish,” and viewed the accompanying video with your photograph on its cover. I found it all most elucidating. I perfected my PHD thesis, “The Sex Life of Octopuses” (due to be published in the March edition of “Sealegs”) last night, and I must tell you that there are striking similarities between starfish and octopuses when it comes to the mating ritual; the only striking difference is (of course) the role reversal. As you discovered, it is the male starfish that gives birth, a breathtaking phenomenon, rare in nature.

When a male octopus is in heat, he wriggles his legs, just as a female starfish wriggles her points. By employing a marine audio laser, I was able to hear the subtle song of the male octopus in heat, as he wriggles his feet. Oddly enough, it sounds like a cross between Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” and an obscure folk song by Bela Bartok that has never been published or performed. You can imagine: the song is riveting. It attracts all female octopuses within a radius of 31 miles. What happens next is truly esoteric. The female octopuses vie ferociously for first place with the male, forming a totally out of control football huddle. It’s exceedingly difficult to tell what’s actually going on without employing sea opera binoculars, which, as I’m sure you know, are very hard to find. I procured a pair and was thus able to discern a rhythmic flapping of a plenitude of legs all entwined. My audio laser registered a hissing whisper.

Eventually, the legs of the female octopuses form a tight sailors’ milleoctocross knot and when that occurs, the male octopus jumps onto the knot as if it were a trampoline. During the ensuing mating ritual, the male bounces on this knot at a rate of 53 bounces per second and the voices of the male octopus and the female octopuses crescendo to attain an almost inaudible high-pitched screech, similar in tonality to the death song of the Samoan conch (with which I am sure you’re familiar) but also reminiscent of the screech uttered by the male starfish.

This bouncing and screeching activity lasts for 3 to 346 seconds, depending on the age and physical endurance of the male octopus, who collapses and dies when he can no longer keep it up. At that point, the female octopuses sing a dirge remarkably similar to the 17th mournful aria sung by Isolde in that opera by Wagner.

At least half of the female octopuses give birth to baby octopuses (affectionately termed “little leggies”) within the following three days. This gestation period, is of course, identical to that of the male starfish.

I propose that we get together to discuss the ramifications of our research. Just let me know when and where and I will make myself entirely disposable. I understand that you have been studying the mating habits of the Fijian seaworm. What a fascinating project! You must tell me all about it. Incidentally, I’m 6’1,” with long red hair, green eyes, and well-developed mammary glands. Seriously, I’m kidding about the mammary glands.

Sincerely,
Stella Marinaro
(soon to be Dr. Stella Marinaro)