the eighth grade at the John S. Stark, Brattleboro, Vermont Middle
School, we were “alphabet” mates. He was a Regalado.
I was Peter Reese. Mrs. Bellamay, our educational harridan, had
a simple philosophy. Learning should never stop, not even during
the short homeroom period each morning. Every student had to choose
a book of cultural merit and read short passages from it for a
week before another luckless soul took over. When his turn came,
Roger Regalado folded his arms in obstinate rebellion and was
therefore slapped with detentions. Two days later, I introduced
myself and mediated a truce by offering to stand in for him. Bellamay
fell for the compromise, and Roger’s time after school was
I was reading The Iliad anyway so it wasn’t that big a deal
to spout a few chapters for two weeks rather than one. It wasn’t
the first time I’d stepped into the breech. Brownnoser that
I was I usually volunteered to read for people who were absent.
I never expected anything from “Regs” as the others
called him. I can’t even recall his nodding a thank you
my way. Yet, towards the end of the year, he came up to me one
afternoon and clandestinely pressed a pack of Marlboros into my
palm before walking away to join the bevy of his leather- jacketed
We moved up to the big time at Brattleboro High School the following
year. It was a bigger building, combination lockers, juice machines
and a similar, lackluster morning homeroom period. Once again
we were seated next to each other. He was in the vocational-technical
track. I was in the Academic program. I took Honors Algebra II
and Geometry. He occasionally carried a battered Consumer Math
book. The second semester of our freshman year was the only time
we ever took a class together. We were cattle-prodded into Mr.
Tompkins’ Computer Applications period for an hour a day
right before lunch. There were twenty-four students and twelve
stations. Regs and I were assigned an outmoded Packard Bell.
Both the textbook and the instructor were light years behind the
technology curve. We spent the first class filling out forms,
learning the ten commandments of classroom etiquette and listening
to how computers were revolutionizing the world.
Each class required a daily task for a grade. We worked in teams
and were told to complete an exercise from the workbook and put
it on the screen. Tompkins came around with a clipboard and viewed
our monitor. If it was correct, an “A” was placed
by our names. If it was close, some suggestions were made and
then a mere “C” was the mark.
Grades meant nothing to Regs. They meant everything to me. He
had considerable computer skills and usually took command of the
keyboard, following his whim of the day, leaving me an appreciative
audience of one. Since we were “R’s” and sat
in the back, it took Tompkins a while to get to us. Therefore,
the timing of getting out of whatever clandestine site Roger was
probing and putting up the day’s problem was always a heart-stopping
affair like those scenes in the movies where the resourceful diamond
thieves slip out of the house just before the well-to-do couple
comes home from a dinner party. Needless to say we often didn’t
make it and an “F” went into the mark book. When I
received the first warning notice of my life for below average
work, it was time to voice my concerns. Regs nodded, said he’d
do better and pulled me closer to the screen as he navigated his
way through filters and blocks to search out web sites that all
red-blooded males would find interesting.
We were an odd couple. My way was to follow every rule, do everything
the school, teachers and parents wanted of me in apple pie order.
Regs could give a shit about anything. The computer course killed
my pristine “A” average and my customary high honor
roll slot that semester. I did, however, learn a few things. Metaphorically
and as a computer novice, my world was restricted to the left
click world of the mouse. I always sailed close to land and any
time the vast technological ocean overwhelmed me, I just had to
turn my head and there it was—Mr. Tompkins or the textbook,
terra firma, a comforting night light.
But Regs was a right click sort of a guy. It was a world few of
us beginners ever dared to explore. His right clicks brought up
menus, properties, advanced tabs, micros and boxes to check and
uncheck that I never imagined existed. At least once a period
he froze the computer as he reconnoitered the unknown. Tompkins
switched our work station and Regs froze that one as well. Our
grades were subsequently lowered for offense. It mattered little
to him. Each morning he strapped himself in, powered up and took
off. In his view teachers were the enemy; their sole function
was to thwart us from finding and enjoying the many pleasures
on the internet. Each time he was taken down a peg or two he,
like a member of the French underground, fought back. He worked
out a program whereby the message “Tompkins Sucks the Big
One” flashed up on all the other screens, thus becoming
a school legend. Despite all the blocks and security software,
he still accessed the internet with relative ease. We always began
the class by checking out “Tami’s Love Nest”
for the Pic-o-the-Day. On a morning I was fortuitously absent,
Regs got caught with Tami in flagrante delicto, was suspended
and a consultant had to be called in to patch the window he had
discovered to such porn sites.
For the ten days he was gone, my grades soared. When he came back,
it took him two days before he admitted his hacking skills were
stymied. He sulked and, in disgust, he turned over command to
me. To bring him out of his funk, I asked him to teach me how
to explore his computer world, right clicks and all. This perked
him up enough to stay in the course. I ended up with the only
“C” I ever received in high school, a new buddy in
Regs whom I dubbed Right Click to symbolize our relationship and
his odd approach to the world. Computer Apps was the only course
he passed that semester for which he thanked me with a personalized
“I love Peter’s peter” nude photo from Tami
and a sandwich bag stuffed with marijuana. I wished him a great
summer, kept the dope and picture for a week before tossing little
bits of them in different locations, hoping to avoid detection
and incarceration in the Big House upstate.
* * *
I saw little of Right Click during our sophomore year. He came
to homeroom for the first few days. We shared a locker, but he
was in the vocational program where he alternated weeks at the
high school. During his academic week he rarely made it to morning
homeroom. At certain times in the day I would go to our locker
to change books and find a jacket or other telltale signs that
implied he was in the building or its environs. He had taped a
manila envelope to the inside door for exchanging notes. He also
developed the habit of cutting out pictures from Playboy or other
skin magazines and slipping them into my texts or notebooks. I
suspect it was his fondest amusement to have me discover these
at the most inopportune times and places. When we did meet face
to face, that was his main topic of conversation. It amused him
no end when I related how an August playmate had flopped out of
my chemistry binder, skidded across the floor and landed under
old man Sehcrist’s very desk.
In late October there was a newer development. Girls began showing
up at the locker at day’s end. I had never seen many of
them so whether they went to Brattleboro High was highly suspect.
Most were heavily made up, particularly in the eye shadow department.
Body piercings and tattoos abounded as did heavy metal concert
tee shirts, constant gum snapping and the mingled aromas of perfume
and tobacco smoke. The usual query concerned Roger’s whereabouts.
I answered as best I could. I’m sure many left thinking
that I really knew his location but was sworn not to tell. To
others, whose requests seemed urgent, I offered to deliver a message
and explained the brown envelope system we had cleverly devised.
I often had to supply both the paper and pen as they scooched
down at my feet, mini skirts revealing way too much flesh and
wrote their notes (little flowers often dotting the “i’s”).
They were folded in that intricate origami way girls have of insuring
privacy. I always suppressed the urge to read those missives.
Some girls, however, seemed in dire enough straits for me to contact
Roger directly. Before Thanksgiving an abrupt blonde with flat,
lifeless hair and clothing several sizes too tight informed me
in no uncertain terms that I was to tell Roger that if he wanted
his “dick sucked next weekend,” he’d better
call her tonight. I labored as to how I could put this into words
for our message box and decided that a straight, unedited version
would serve the communiqué best. The note stayed in the
locker for the rest of the week then I dumped it out with the
rest of the trash. I hoped Roger’s penis survived any deprivation.
Three weeks later a senior, Trish Pillsbury, was waiting for me.
She was a bouncy, cutesy cheerleader type who was on the student
council, an organization I had just begun to plumb the electoral
depths of. We made small talk for a few minutes and then she asked
how well I knew Roger. I feigned knowing him much at all, joking
that he was a great locker mate as he never had any books or came
to school, opening the locker to prove my point. She grew serious
and asked if I’d get in touch with him quickly for her.
There were tears welling up. I explained our mail system but counseled
that delivery was uncertain at best.
you please, please tell him that I don’t want to do it.
Tell him to keep the money if he wants. Can you remember that?”
With that she turned away and went down the hall, trying to regain
some composure with each morose step. It was then that I felt
enough was enough and scribbled a note that I was getting so many
important messages that I needed a phone number or some other
way of reaching him; that’s the only way I would stay in
the courier business. The next day I found a neatly printed phone
number with the message, “an answering machine but don’t
give this to just anyone.”
The following week I found a small envelope with $57.00 cash tucked
inside it and a Post-it note explaining that I was to give this
to Trish. A similar Post-it in his handwriting was attached to
one of her twenty dollar bills with an apologetic, “Sorry,
to (sic) late. No won (sic) can know anyways.”
I delivered the money to her. She slipped the envelope into her
French book so adroitly that I felt we were professional spies
passing atomic weapon secrets. A few days later Roger made a surprise
homeroom appearance and asked how things were going. I made mention
of “the drop” and got up the nerve to ask him what
was going on, adding that if it was drugs I’d rather stay
out of it.
When the bell rang we went to our locker, and behind a blind of
thick ski jackets, he passed me a 5 X 7 envelope. “This
never, NEVER gets seen by anybody but you! Am I right or am I
I burn it after I look at it?”
your own judgment. Have fun at Student Government this afternoon.”
When I got home from basketball practice that evening I went up
to my bedroom and carefully opened the envelope as if it were
the Dead Sea Scrolls. There were three pictures of Trish. She
was naked in all of them. In one shot she was acting the coquette,
using a Red Sox cap to cover her breasts. The other two were less
artistic. She lay on her back, legs spread-eagled to better reveal
the inner workings of the female anatomy. The last pose was the
same as the second except that a penis hung tantalizingly to her
right. She feigned photogenic ecstasy as she stretched her neck
to receive it.
I was simultaneously fascinated and repulsed. At fifteen I had
no clue as to what treasures abounded in a naked female. I stared
at the second and third photos. So that’s what it looked
like. The neat, hairy triangle, the asymmetrical folds of skin,
the pink, the white, the deep purples; it was all revealed in
one swift stroke. And this was Trish who, just that afternoon,
had made an impassioned plea for the faculty to consider instituting
the A+ grade on the report card to reward those students who deserved
it, looking in my direction several times as an intellectual case
in point. Had I but known.
Later that evening, when my prurient interest was finally quenched
(it was my first experience at masturbation), whatever shell of
human decency I had left took over. I replayed her earlier first
visit to the locker. The look on her face as she repeated the
message I was to give Roger. What had brought them together? She
was a senior applying to big name schools. He was still classified
as a freshman due to credit issues. I had seen nothing from either
to indicate a love interest. And what of the fifty-seven bucks?
Was she a prostitute and was he her pimp?
These questions ran through my mind as I stumbled through my homework
of Act II in Macbeth, a knot growing in my stomach. I felt pity
for her and despised Right Click. I thought of all the things
he had done to me that I had put up with. Why did I like this
guy anyway? Was I afraid of him? Certainly not! Right Click had
never shown any indication of violence. By eleven I was still
wired and had done a piss poor job of preparing for my classes.
I took a hot shower to relax, got out Trish’s pictures and
pleasured myself again to her graven image. Pandora’s Box
had been flung wide open.
Just before Christmas break I got to question Right Click about
the pictures. The matter was pretty straightforward. The business
venture was an internet porn site. His partner was a gentleman
named Manny who was thirty-five or so. Right Click supplied him
with younger models as well as doing some of the photography.
The girls got a flat fee of two hundred and a percentage of whatever
was sold to the webmasters. The web sites were based in Denmark
so there was a little chance of discovery or so the girls were
told. Models came to him by word of mouth, friends of friends
of friends. It was Trish who had first contacted him, and there
were four other Brattleboro High girls who had been at the photographic
event that night, along with Manny’s dick. She had gotten
her two hundred plus a few other chump change payments, but he’d
pulled her pictures from the web anyway and personally given them
all back to her except for a few extra copies. There was a wink
here and then a slap on my shoulder.
not big on Christmas spirit but to show you there are no hard
feelings, here.” He pushed an envelope my way. “In
case you get bored with just Trish over the holiday break.”
I took it and stuck it into my parka’s inside pocket, dreading
what would happen to me if I were killed by a car on the way home.
I had a vision of the police handing my grieving parents a package
with my worldly possessions: one wristwatch--Boston Red Sox logo,
one pocket dictionary--used, one Swiss Army knife—case cracked,
750 hardcore porn pictures of Brattleboro teens and bored housewives--poses
* * *
That year in Mrs. Posten’s Honors American Lit class we
read a Hawthorne short story, “Young Goodman Brown.”
Never has any literary work hit me as hard or as personally as
that did. Brown sees his wife, Faith, and several of the community’s
shakers and movers dancing naked in the forest as they worship
Satan. Is it a dream? Or did it actually happen? In my case and
for the next few years I was always blindsided when I met someone
who appeared in Right Click’s plain brown envelope. True,
my parents and relatives weren’t represented, but I was
stunned to have a substitute teacher for Latin one morning during
my junior year who had photogenically displayed her muff (Right
Click’s term). In fact the evidence was sitting home taped
to the bottom of my dresser drawer. During a crucial basketball
game that same year I was at the foul line and ten rows up in
the bleachers a rather chubby couple were shouting encouragement.
I made the first shot easily, took a step back and glanced in
their direction. They were a pair who had contributed mightily
to the envelope, creatively exploring every orifice the human
body offered. My second free throw missed the backboard completely.
When I got a yearbook at the end of my junior year I pored through
it and identified some thirty faces that were part and parcel
of the envelope. There were a number of photos where the faces
were hidden and my mind ran riot as to who those girls might be.
* * *
I never dated in high school. I was captain of the football, basketball
and baseball teams. I was president of this and chairperson of
that. I graduated number one and gave a stirring mumbo jumbo valedictorian
speech with a roving eye towards the audience to see who from
www.pudenda.com was in attendance.
By way of explanation I need to add that midway through my junior
year Right Click and Manny had parted ways. In was not so much
philosophical as judicial. Manny had signed on some models that
were fronts for the Vermont State Police. Right Click (I had begun
calling him RC and he called me PR), wanted to start up his own
net site. We kicked it around and I gave him two pieces of advice.
Use people from anywhere but Brattleboro, maybe go to a place
where there were plenty of college girls and, two, the names he
was toying with (Big Cunt.com or Wet Pussy.com) might be a bit
over the top. He agreed and a few days later I came up with pudenda
(the plural form), my classical education finally bearing forth
great, PR. You’d make a terrific public relations person—PR,
Peter Reese, the best PR man there ever was.” He was beaming
and in his largesse offered me a percentage of the business. “I’ll
handle the technical aspect; you work the paper blizzard side.
Forget Dartmouth. That is unless you want to do a little recruiting
while you’re up there?”
I thanked him for the gesture, but I was off to plumb the depths
of the Greco-Roman empire for four years. We shook hands, said
we’d keep in touch, and he promised that I’d have
free access to the web site when it was up and running. As a graduation
gift he passed me some more envelopes with a quip about this was
how Rome fell.
* * *
I spent four years at Dartmouth majoring in the Classical Studies.
I was in the NROTC program so I owed the navy four years after
graduation. When I got out of the service, I did a year of graduate
work at the London School of Economics and then went to law school
at Boston College. When I graduated and could legally sign Esquire
after my name, I headed back to Vermont and joined a Burlington
area law firm that specialized in environmental concerns. At thirty-something
I felt I was making a difference, as pedestrian as that might
Periodically during those ten plus years I accessed RC’s
website but it was only during my early stay at Dartmouth that
I got any results. I never subscribed for more than a three day
trial. I recognized very few in the pictures. This could have
been because he was using outside talent or that each year I was
further distancing myself from Southern Vermont’s nubile
population. When the site was no longer available I assumed he
was in jail or that he’d moved on under another name.
My own life concerning any meaningful relationships was decidedly
dormant. I did meet an attractive, intelligent woman, Molly Devon,
while studying in London. She had a PhD in art history and was
on the staff of the Tate Gallery. We had reached a dating stage
when she began talking about a next step. This was always left
vague and could have meant a promise not to date others, moving
in with each other or an engagement ring. One evening I gave her
a copy of Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown.”
you trying to tell me something about religion? You worship Satan
while I’m Church of England? That’s why you want to
hadn’t thought of it that way, but maybe that’s it--religion.”
I could convert if it’s that big of a deal to you. I think
we have too much in common to split over something this silly.
think the problem is that I see things differently.”
you psychic or something?”
know what. This conversation’s not going anywhere. When
you get your head screwed on straight and want to talk to me without
using Nathanial Fucking Hawthorne as a go-between, give me a call.”
That was similar to what my other close encounters were like as
I drifted in and out of relationships. Truth be told I had gotten
used to bachelorhood. My law work took up quite a bit of time
and involved traveling to meet clients. During any leisure time
I stayed close to home and watched sports on ESPN, although I
did sign up to do some Little League baseball and Pee Wee football
coaching. Just as my life was in a nice comfortable groove the
past came back, a left hook out of nowhere.
* * *
Right Click called during halftime of a Monday night football
game between the Browns and Steelers. There was a jaunty lilt
to his tone. It took me a minute or two to place him. The voice
was raspy, something a chain smoker might have. He spent a good
five minutes telling me how hard I was to get in touch with. I
countered with, “I’m in the phonebook.” He ignored
that and went on to say he’d even hired a private cop to
track me down.
When the conversational ball came rolling back to me, I filled
him in on what I had done in the past and was doing now. He complimented
me as well as himself with a “who would have ever thought
we’d both be tops in our fields.”
what field are you in?”
I gave up the porn stuff long ago. I’m strictly a legit
business man, have been for years. I’m into art, oils and
such, which is why I need you. I’ve got some legal hassles
that I need someone of your caliber to handle, you interested?”
specialize in environmental stuff.”
now there’s a big natural gas company that wants to buy
a harbor in Maine and make it into a terminal and processing station.
They’re willing to pay everyone who lives there eight thousand
and guarantee no taxes for as long as they hold the property.
I represent a few people who think it’s a bad take.”
chickenshit compared to that. I own some warehouses outside of
Boston, Somerville to be exact. I sold them six months ago and
leased one back but now the city wants me out. They think I’m
a moral detriment to the neighborhood. “
Christ’s sake, PR, this is the most legal operation I’ve
ever run. You need to see it. If you don’t think so, all
it will have cost you is a day catching up on old times and a
great meal. I’ll put you up overnight at the best hotel
in Boston if you want. Name a day next week. Whatever you charge;
that’s what I’ll pay.”
I took a rain check on the hotel and a week later spent a Thursday
morning making the six hour drive down to where he was located.
It was a rabbit warren of industrial buildings and railroad tracks
with almost no numbers to guide me. I had to use my cell phone
and he guided me to him as if talking down a plane that had lost
all instruments and was feathering one engine.
The outside of the warehouse had a plaque on it which stated this
was the home of PUDEN Associates, Purveyors of Fine Art for Discriminating
Tastes. I entered and took an elevator to the fourth floor. Despite
an exterior of smoke and grime worthy of Charles Dickens, the
inside was tastefully done. Not my taste exactly but the decorators
had done a respectable job. Had I “discriminating taste
for fine art” I would not have felt uncomfortable.
Seeing Right Click was a shock. He was never a big individual,
but here he was positively shriveled. He had lost considerable
hair which he compensated for by wearing a hairpiece. His natural
hair was now grey and had not been cut in some time, making his
toupee look like a brown hen sitting on its dingy nest. Despite
what I thought was an uncomfortably warm room he had a sweater
on under a sports jacket and had a scarf wrapped around his throat.
I saw a pair of gloves beside him on the desk. He was genuinely
emotional, greeting me with a handshake and then a tight, prolonged
here I am all dressed up to meet a hot shot lawyer and you come
in wearing the L. L. Bean catalog. No wonder all those tree huggers
He opened his bottom desk drawer and pulled out a bottle of Maker’s
Mark. “I’m not supposed to have this stuff, but I
wanted to toast your taking the time to meet with me.”
He poured two generous drinks, raised his glass to me and took
a small sip. I followed his lead, and we both put our nearly full
glasses down on his desk.
do you think?”
not much of a drinker, but I appreciate the gesture.”
the booze, the desk.”
I stepped back and gave it the once-over, desperately looking
for something to hang a compliment on. “Seems solid enough
and imposing; the bigger the desk the more important the position.”
used to belong to Larry Flynt. I’ve got a certificate that
says so. My decorator found it.”
I could think of nothing to say so we stood there in silence until
he walked to the other side of the room where a draped easel stood.
He flicked the cloth off a painting as the same time saying, “This
is what I do.”
It was a large, non-descript oil painting. The colors were subtle
oranges, yellows and browns. The pattern, if there was one, was
wavy and rounded. There was something in it that reminded me of
Edvard Munch’s The Scream but also the bleakness of Georgia
O’Keefe. It was professionally done and strangely addictive.
like it. I can’t say why but I do.”
He was beside himself with happiness. “I knew it. I just
it have a title?”
He was busy taking it off the stand and placing another in its
stead. “What does it look like to you? Get up real close.”
As I did, he took out three more of the same ilk in varying colors
and pattern configurations, lining them up along the baseboard.
“Nothing pops out at me. It’s like mountains and valleys,
ridges and caves or something.”
He was beaming now. “Pussy—what you’re looking
at is pure pussy pictures but in a real high class artsy-fartsy
way.” He then began to trace the anatomical features with
the outer lips and the labia or whatever the fuck you call it
and then you’ve got her hole right here.” He pointed
to the area I thought resembled the mouth in Munch’s The
Scream. “This little dot blob here is the clit. See how
it all fits once I show you!”
is your business, making and selling these pictures?”
you knew how much we get for one of these, you’d shit a
brick. You see, it started when I got busted and did six months.
All the time I was there guys were drawing cunts all over the
place. Photos were a dime a dozen too as men were always having
girlfriends or wives send them shots with their bush spread open.
They would sit and stare at those pictures for hours. One con
in our unit said he could stare at a girl’s pussy all day
long, didn’t even have to touch it. If you put a painting
of a cunt up in the Louve, the line for the Mona Lisa would be
down to a trickle. Then it hit me. Why not? Why not paint it?
But do it in a high class way. So that’s what I’ve
been doing for the past six years. Puden Associates, which is
a shortened version of the pudenda thing you thought up when we
were in school together.”
His spiel had both excited and exhausted him. He made his way
back to the desk and took a sip of bottled water. “I’ve
don’t have as much energy as I used to, old age I guess.”
you do the paintings?”
no, I mean I have done it, but we can turn out about ten a day,
more during the holiday seasons. I have kind of a factory going,
four artists and an overseer of sorts, Magda from Bosnia. I’m
strictly a desk man now. Sometimes we get special orders. A guy
will want his wife or main squeeze painted to order. Magda does
those, but I always have to supervise the session if you catch
was sitting now, visibly exhausted. “What’s the legal
problem you spoke of?”
few months ago I sold this building. I got rid of all the real
estate I had to different people but leased this place back. The
owner’s getting some heat from city officials and such and
he wants me out, like I was a whorehouse. I want to stay.”
you’ve got the money, why not just pack up and go. These
things can get messy, newspapers, picketing from women’s
stubborn, I guess. I’ve moved twice in three years. That’s
one reason why I sold my property. If I was sued, they’d
have a tough time taking any assets. Are you going to help me
have to nose around—zoning laws, agreements you signed and
the like. It will also depend on how high up certain connections
go. It could get rough; sometimes there’s a fire or people
can lean on you pretty heavily.”
gave me the “whatever” shrug and began a spastic cough
which brought out an inhaler the size of underwater breathing
apparatus from the bottom drawer. I was about to go over to him
when the door opened and Magda the overseer walked in. She was
in her early thirties with dirty blonde hair which had evidently
been dyed several different colors over the past six months, each
leaving its own kaleidoscopic residue. Her eyebrows were shaved
and then darkened in comma-shaped arcs. She was thin and wore
a filthy artist’s smock down to her knees. Socks with multi-colored
bands covered the rest of her legs. The crowning touch was an
unlit, half smoked cigarette hanging from the center of her mouth
which contrasted nicely with her yellow teeth. Behind her was
an older woman with a squarish face who looked Southeast Asian
and whose short, squat frame was nearly obscured by large poster-size
pieces of panel board.
went to the cabinet to the right of RC’s desk and removed
a small prescription bottle, poured a spoonful and held it out
for him. He used the inhaler one last time and then swallowed
the medicine, holding the spoon in his mouth longingly. Within
a minute he was close to whatever normal was for him.
stuff I have to take nowadays has a lot of codeine in it so I
will probably be nodding off in a few minutes.” He gestured
over to a leather chaise lounge and night table with water and
a few other small bottles on it. “Magda can fill you in
on things. She’ll also give you my accountant and lawyer’s
address. I’ve already told them what I’m doing. They’ll
help you out.”
got up and took the posters which were blow ups of photographs.
There were five of them and they were all photographic close-ups
of the female genitalia. He stood them around his desk like wooden
soldiers. “You wouldn’t believe me if I told you who
this was, but, if I did, there are a half a dozen movies you would
never see in the same way even again.”
pulled out a laser light pen and pointed to the first picture
moving the orangish beam in a small circle to call attention to
is a big dilemma. Should we do a realistic rendition or make it
like a freshly opened rose. Husbands always want the real thing--moles,
uneven lips, discolorations and the like. But this client wants
us to clean her up. Forget that she’s had two kids. See
where Magda’s pointing, her left lip is longer than her
right. It even sticks out when she’s not spread.”
shifted the light to the fourth photo to prove his point. “We
know her favorite colors. We use a computer to lay it out and
spruce her up and send her the proofs. Once she picks one, Nugen
here has a daughter who will do the detail work in oil and I have
two other immigrants who specialize in backgrounds.”
squat woman did a mild curtsey at the mention of her name, causing
me to wonder how Magda, Mde. Nugen and whomever else he had working
for him communicated.
could barely keep his head up after this information explosion.
He beckoned Magda and she helped him up and over to the chaise.
“Time for my nap now. If you come back this afternoon we
can have graham crackers, milk and trade action figures.”
He settled back to rest still chuckling to himself as the three
of us left the room.
* * *
spent the next three months working on his case. I was at an impasse
until I played my ace in the hole. I’d learned from Magda
that RC had “the AIDS” as she called it. I suspected
as much and then spoke to RC about it. His days were numbered.
He had waited too long before seeking help. He wasn’t a
fag and had picked it up from some skanky girl just after he left
prison. Each bout with infection was treated with an antibiotic
which his system immediately got used to. The next onset of pneumonia
would do probably do him in.
I went to A & L Reality Trust and persuaded them to drop all
litigation for a calendar year. By that time their problem would
have died out. The sick pun seemed to work, and I gave RC a Thanksgiving
present of no court dates for the foreseeable future. He wrote
much too large a check and, when I protested, he countered with
the idea that it was a retainer of sorts. When he was dead and
gone, Magda could handle the artistic running of things, but she
was out of her league in everything else. He had had a will drawn
up that was pretty specific. I wasn’t exactly the executor,
but it would be up to me to find someone to run the show or else
sell the damn thing. I agreed. We shook on it. The many pills
he was on made him very emotional, but he held it together pretty
well until I was in the doorway.
it strange that after all these years, you’re the one person
I trust the most. I knew it the first time you stuck up for me
in homeroom and never rat-finked on me once.” He began to
cry which quickly evolved into a hacking cough as he waved me
out with the back of his hand.
* * *
days before Christmas I got the call. It was monosyllabic Magda
who gave me the news without any attempt to gild the lily.
am I supposed to do?”
many crazy things. Sign check.”
a fashion we discussed a few more things. I gathered that RC was
to be cremated and that was that. Two days after Christmas I battled
a snow, sleet and finally rain storm inside of Boston’s
495 and met with Magda. She wore a bandana over her hair, and
a black cape not unlike the kind a barber uses which covered a
dirty tee shirt and what may have been boxer shorts. Despite the
cold weather, she had on shower thongs and her legs were nearly
as hairy as mine. She showed me into RC’s office where a
sealed letter was sitting on his Larry Flynt ex-desk. I sat down,
slit it open and began to read.
gone. You’re not. I’m giving you first crack at the
biz. Check with Slausen and Sons and you’ll see what a gold
mine it is. If you don’t take it, please do right by Magda
and the others. They put up with me when it wasn’t so pretty.
I gave some of my money to AIDS research but there’s enough
to keep the wolves from the door for a few months. If you take
over, the biggest perk is in the wall safe behind the painting
of something that looks like bulrushes in a swamp but is really
Magda’s rather hairy snatch. The combination is the same
as our old high school locker. You’ll find pictures and
names of some pretty famous people including the movie star I
showed you last time you were here. That should keep you hard
for a few years anyway.
friend in porn,
Regalado aka Right Click
put the letter down, swung the chair around and gazed out at the
Boston skyline. It was late afternoon but the city lights were
already on in full force, casting an eerie glow in the cold drizzle.
In the distance I heard the freight elevator start up and clunk-a-chunk
its way onward and upward. Magda was behind me clearing her throat
to let me know she was still there. A babble of angry or excited
voices in Cambodian and some other tongues I didn’t recognize
filtered through from workroom next door. A propos of nothing
the old locker combination flashed before me, 12-27-03. I was
surprised I remembered it. I swung the chair around and faced
need to get into the wall safe, Magda.”
crossed the room, took down the painting, held it out at arm’s
length and then glanced back at me sheepishly. Poker-faced, I
never even blinked.
want about pussy papers?”
E. Fredd lives in Townsend, Massachusetts. He
has had or soon will have fiction appear in several literary journals
including in The Transatlantic Review, The Southern Humanities
Review, Rosebud, The Armchair Aesthete, Word Riot, Prose Toad,
Tribal Soul Kitchen, WriteThis, LitVisions, Grasslands Review,
Verb Sag, Bullfight, The Pedestal, 3711 Atlantic, Megaera, Double
Dare, Slow Trains, Pointed Circle, Raging Face, Cautionary Tales,
Poor Mojo and SNReview. Poetry has appeared in The Paris Review,
The Paumanok Review and the Café Review. He teaches Writing
and Literature courses part time at New Hampshire Community Technical
© 2005 by D.E. Fredd
All rights reserved.