Right Click

by D.E. Fredd

In 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 his own.

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 cohorts.

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.

“Would 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 wrong!”

“Should I burn it after I look at it?”

“Use 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.

“I’m 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 various.

* * *

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 fruit.

“That’s 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 sound.

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.”

“Are you trying to tell me something about religion? You worship Satan while I’m Church of England? That’s why you want to break up?”

“I hadn’t thought of it that way, but maybe that’s it--religion.”

“But 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.

“I think the problem is that I see things differently.”

“Are you psychic or something?”

“Or something.”

“You 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.”

“And what field are you in?”

“Oh 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?”

“I specialize in environmental stuff.”

“What’s that mean?”

“Right 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.”

“Mine’s 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. “

“Are you?”

“For 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 hug.

“Christ, 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 love you.”

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.

“What do you think?”

“I’m not much of a drinker, but I appreciate the gesture.”

“Not 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.”

“This 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.

“Well?”

“I like it. I can’t say why but I do.”

He was beside himself with happiness. “I knew it. I just knew it.”

“Does 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 his finger.

“Here’s 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!”

“This is your business, making and selling these pictures?”

“If 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.”

“Did you do the paintings?”

“Christ 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 my drift.”

He was sitting now, visibly exhausted. “What’s the legal problem you spoke of?”

“A 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.”

“If you’ve got the money, why not just pack up and go. These things can get messy, newspapers, picketing from women’s groups.”

“I’m 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 or not?”

“I’ll 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.”

He 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.

Magda 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.

“The 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.”

He 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.”

Magda pulled out a laser light pen and pointed to the first picture moving the orangish beam in a small circle to call attention to certain features.

“This 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.”

Magda 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.”

The 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.

He 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.

* * *

I 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.

“Isn’t 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.

* * *

Two days before Christmas I got the call. It was monosyllabic Magda who gave me the news without any attempt to gild the lily.

“He dead.”

“What am I supposed to do?”

“Business many crazy things. Sign check.”

“What about arrangements?”

“No arranges—dead.”

After 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.

Dear PR,

I’m 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.

Your friend in porn,

Roger Regalado aka Right Click

I 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 Magda.

“I need to get into the wall safe, Magda.”

She 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.

“You want about pussy papers?”

“Please.”

_______________

D. 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 College.

Right Click
© 2005 by D.E. Fredd
All rights reserved.

 
     
     

 

 



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