White Hot Lies

by Matthew Proujansky

Stand in the middle of every formation. Don’t volunteer. Hide and survive. It started that way, but it didn’t last. I was too good a soldier. They suckered me in, they sucked me dry, and when I got blown up, they shucked me off. But I survived.

* * *

I went to church as a kid. I’m not religious, but I have religious feelings. When I came back I started again. I long for the familiar. I love the women in their pretty dresses: the young like candy, the old like whisky, those my age like all-night missions.

Viviana’s black dress was expensive, tasteful, and short. It pushed the limits for church. Every man watched her, but she sat in my pew, one section over. My eyes hurt, straining to take her in. Sitting, she showed her legs. I memorized every luscious inch, and what I couldn’t see I imagined. Standing, she was regal—head up, shoulders back, chest out. She could have been a good soldier too. My favorite was when she kneeled, head bowed in supplication. I imagined her kneeling in front of me, begging forgiveness, offering everything.

Her legs, her breasts, her lips; the glow of stained light in her hair: as I said, my feelings are religious. I confess my impure thoughts.

I wondered what she thought of me. It had been ten years since high school, hers Catholic, mine public, and over fifteen since we’d played together as kids.

* * *

“Mr. Broader,” the man addressed me and put out his hand.

“To whom do I owe the pleasure?” I responded, though my pleasure had been interrupted—watching Viviana’s dress ride up her legs as she parted them, entering her father’s limousine.

“Mr. Silvio requests your presence.”

“Mr. Silvio?” I asked, taken aback.

He turned and pointed to the limousine as the door closed on a last glimpse of Viviana, daughter of Don Carlos Silvio, patriarch of the crime families of Sin City.

“Would you be able to come for lunch?”

I looked at my watch, all four dials and six hands of it. “Now?” I asked.

“Mr. Silvio would be most appreciative.”

I looked to the curb as another limousine pulled up. The summons wasn’t a request.

“I’d love to,” I said. I’d never met the Don. I hoped he couldn’t read minds, though when it came to Viviana, reading a man’s mind would be trivial.

* * *

The man who fetched me made the introductions: “Don Silvio, Bill Broader. Mr. Broader, Don Carlos Silvio.”

“My greatest respect, Sir,” I said, with sincerity. A mason’s son who rose to become the most powerful man in ten counties had to be a battle hardened survivor.” We made small talk as we sized each other up.

“I’ve got a job for you,” he said.

I didn’t insult him by telling him I wouldn’t do anything illegal. “What would you like me to do?”

“My daughter needs a bodyguard.” The double entendre hung between us.

“I can’t do it,” I said, immediately. “I find her too attractive.” I needed to get the obvious out of the way. “I hope you’re not offended by my saying so.”

He looked in my eyes and nodded. “No offense taken.” He folded his arms across his stomach. “Nevertheless, you’re the man I want.”

I wondered if I was the man she wanted. “I’d be distracted. Maybe I’d miss something. Maybe she’d get hurt. Maybe you’d get angry.”

“Those are chances we’ll have to take.”

“I haven’t talked to Viviana in a decade, and today she sat in my row in church. Then you offer me a job protecting her—I don’t know from what, and when I tell you I can’t do it, you want me anyway. What’s going on? And why me?”

“You weren’t my choice. I never thought of you, but I didn’t have any say in the matter.”

“You didn’t have any say?” I asked, incredulous.

“I could have refused, but it wouldn’t have done any good. Then I looked into you. You’re as good as it gets, despite your distraction, which you’d better keep in your pants if you don’t want it cut off.”

“Talk like that, and you’d best watch your back. I don’t care who you are.” No one threatens to cut my prick off, despite its recent underachievement, and gets away without a warning.

“Sorry,” he said.

I gave him credit. He wasn’t the kind of man who apologized easily. “So, who picked me?”

“My wife.”

“Your wife? She doesn’t know me. She hasn’t known me since I was a kid.”

“She thinks she does, and she’s usually right. She’s always right,” he corrected himself. “My wife tells me my men are crude. She’s friends with your mother. My daughter needs a bodyguard. That’s what you do. Two plus two equals four.

“I didn’t know your wife and my mother knew each other.”

“They’re women. What man ever knows? Drink?”

“I don’t drink, but I’ll make an exception. Whisky. Anything. Straight up.”

* * *

Lunch was served on a table that looked a klick long and a Humvee wide. The Don and Mrs. Silvio sat at an end. Viviana sat across from me. She’d changed into clothing that was modest, but with a body like hers, modest was a relative term. She’d grown up to be one of those women who make men nervous—when you’re around her you can’t stop wanting to see under her clothes, and you’re afraid it will show. But she wasn’t flaunting. It wasn’t her fault she looked the way she did. It wasn’t a fault at all.

I kept trying to remind myself that looks aren’t everything. I tried to think of her as the brat I knew in pigtails, but the trouble was, that brat and I played girlfriend-boyfriend when we were prepubescent—you show me yours and I’ll show you mine. After that our parents sent us separate ways, and we didn’t see each other until she asked me to be her date at her high school prom. A memorable night of kissing and my first feel of breasts lay on the table like glasses of spilt milk between us. Bodyguard, Ha! A fox guarding a henhouse was more like it. I wondered if the hen was willing, but I wanted to eat her up and keep my prick too.

“I’m finishing my law degree,” Viviana said. “I’m working on my thesis. It’s called Guilty Innocents. It’s about the abuse of legal technicalities that allow guilty men to go free.”

Sounds like rebellion, I thought. “If a man is found innocent, by any means, it’s not abuse. It’s a protection for the rest of us. Isn’t that so?”

“That’s the question I examine. Would you like to read my work?”

“I’d rather have you tell me about it.”

“I’d be happy to. I’m sure you have an interesting perspective on violence.”

“My perspective is to avoid it. Who do you need protection from?”

“I’m being stalked by the last man I interviewed. He’s scary as hell. He’s been in and out of jail since he was a juvenile, but he never spent more than three years inside for any one crime. That was for assault. Then he raped a woman. He was looking at twenty-five years, but she couldn’t bring herself to testify, and he got off. I know her, and I know what he did to her. And the way he looks at me I know he wants to do the same to me.”

“They should chop his balls off. Put them in one of those shears they use to cut off chicken heads. Chop! Problem solved.”

Viviana gave me a look like I was from another planet. “When I went to see him, I took a man who’s a friend of mine—another law student.”

I wondered if he was a boyfriend. I was jealous.

“He wasn’t up to the task. I told him to shut up—it was my interview, but the idiot opened his mouth one too many times and got punched out, and I had to spend the night with him. Nursing his black eye,” she added. “Here in the house,” she added after that.

I thanked her, silently, for caring about my feelings.

“I should have taken someone beefier,” Vivana continued. She stared at my beefiness like she wanted to bite it. “Now I need someone who can take care of himself, so he can take care of me.”

I looked into her eyes and tried to tell her I’d take care of her forever, if she’d let me.

I turned to Don Silvio. “If you want me to proceed, I’ll guard her twenty-four hours a day, and I’ll try to convince the son of a bitch to crawl back in his hole. If he doesn’t, I’ll dig him a new hole, six feet deep, and put him in it. My fee is ten thousand.”

If Viviana had asked me I would have done it for free, but the money was there for the taking, and a man can’t live on lust alone.

* * *

After lunch Viviana took me to her bedroom, in a far off wing of the house, to work out the details.

“You still live here?” I asked.

“I’ve got my own place, in town, but this is where I come when I want to feel safe. Men are always after me—a Don’s daughter is a prize they can’t resist.

“Maybe it’s you they can’t resist.”

“I’m flattered by their attention, but there isn’t one of them I’d trust.”

Her room was a drug. Her bed with two pillows cried out for me. “I’d like you to trust me,” I said.

“None of them have been in my bedroom.”

“This bedroom?”

“Neither bedroom.”

“None?”

“Never.”

That gave me pause. I shouldn’t ask, I thought, but I think she wants me to.

“Have you ever been in one of their bedrooms?”

She shot me a gaze that pierced my heart. Time stood still. “I’ve never been in any man’s bedroom,” she said.

* * *

Viviana’s classmates held a graduation party in a mansion owned by one of them. Everyone seemed to play poor little rich kid, outdoing each other to criticize the government, get women rights in third world countries, help the poor—without getting dirty, kill the death penalty, save the world or at least the dolphins, and get rid of guns and illegal drugs, except for the drugs they were snorting in some back room. The men were pompous, and the food was mostly vegetarian, but the women were hot.

Viviana introduced me as an old friend from the neighborhood, meaning not a boyfriend, meaning available. I was in far better shape than any man I saw that night, and because I knew a hundred ways to kill a man I didn’t have to pretend I could. There were a lot of women who checked me out, and a couple who made it clear they’d like to get to know me, maybe even in the biblical sense. Then I got propositioned by a bombshell in a fuck me dress and no underwear. She was drunk and leaned on me in a full frontal assault, and she came right out with, “take me upstairs.”

I didn’t have a chance to thank her before Viviana appeared out of nowhere and ripped the busty blond off me by her hair. “Owww,” she screamed.

“You touch him again, you fucking slut, and I’ll kill you.”

“You don’t own him,” the blond protested, petulantly. “He wants me. Don’t you?” she asked, batting her eyes.

Viviana lunged for the woman and would have decked her, but I grabbed Viviana and manhandle her across the room, getting a feel I enjoyed as much as fucking the blond, though I’ll never know for sure.

It was after midnight when Viviana jumped me. She clung to my torso and tried climbing me like a vine, her nails biting into my chest, and she looked frightened to death. “He’s here,” she squeaked, turning me to face the archway that entered into the ballroom and turning herself away from it.

“Which one is he?”

She took a quick glance. “He’s the guy with the blue jacket, leaning on the wall. Do something.”

“Easy now, I’m with you. This is what we talked about. This is what we want. Remember what I said, that I’ll have to meet with him.”

“I know, I know, but I can’t stop thinking of what he did to that woman.”

“This is no place to accost him. If he wants to get tough, I don’t want to do what I’ll have to do in front of people, especially not in front of a hundred lawyers.”

“Make him go away. You can talk to him some other time.”

I took a long look at him. He looked familiar—I knew his type. He looked me in the eyes, and watched Viviana trying to disappear like a sparrow in a tree with a hawk. Then he turned his back and slipped out of sight.

The party was in full swing. No one was about to leave. “Get in the middle of the biggest crowd of men you can find, and stay there until I get back. I’m going outside.”

“Don’t leave me!”

“I’ve got to talk to him and take care of myself. I don’t want to have to take care of you at the same time.”

“I don’t think he’ll get violent with the two of us there, and I have to know what happens. I have to know that he’s really not going to come after me any more. And if there’s going to be violence I want to witness it. Then I can testify it was self defense.”

I hoped Viviana’s imagination was working overtime, but she knew the man’s record. “Consider this an education, then. Stay behind me, and if things start happening get out of the way. Let’s go.”

We went to the parking lot and found him waiting near the woods. He had another man with him. That concerned me, but I took comfort from the revolver I had in an ankle holster, and from the SOG Seal 2000, the official knife of the Navy SEALs, strapped to my thigh in its Kydex sheath with its grip accessible through my cutoff front pocket.

I walked briskly forward. As I got close, the man in the blue jacket took a boxer’s stance. It was a good one, down low, head protected by fists in leather gloves. The man had been trained, but he hadn’t been trained to kill. The other man leaned on a car to the side. I was careful not to get between them. If I had to I would to take them fast, one after the other.

The boxer’s stance did it. It wasn’t his type that I recognized, it was him. “You’re a boxer,” I said.

“You want her, come and get me first.”

“You used to box at Jimmy Chow’s Gym, when I was a kid.” I saw a twitch of doubt in his eyes. “I saw you take Bobby Baxter in a ten round bruiser. It was some of the best boxing I’ve ever seen.”

“Fuck you. I’m going to beat the shit out of you, and then I’m going to take your girl.”

I backed up a couple of steps, pushing Viviana back with me. I watched the men while I took off my jacket, and then my shirt. Viviana gasped. I showed the man my back—a mass of scars.

“Those are from getting blown up,” I said, turning to face him again. “I’m an army ranger. My back is my proof. I’ve got a gun and a knife on me, and I know how to use them, but that’s neither here nor there. I figured out the game you’re playing, and it’s over. Get it?”

He shook his head slowly, indicating he understood. He relaxed and rose from his crouch, and he and his buddy took off.

With my hand gripping her biceps I roughly pulled Viviana back to the house. When we entered the door I spun her around and smacked her. “What the fuck kind of little girl game do you think you’re playing?”

I hadn’t hit her hard, but she wasn’t used to playing rough. “You bastard,” she said, tears in her eyes. “You hit me.”

“Fuck you. You could have gotten me killed.” I turned and walked out and left her with her preppy friends.

* * *

Someone had tried to play me, but I’d done what I said I would. I went to collect my money from Don Silvio.

“You owe me ten grand,” I said.

I expected an argument, but he handed me an envelope with a pile of cash in it. I started to walk out.

“Mr. Broader. Bill, if I might be so presumptuous.”

“Yeah?”

“I’d like you to go see Viviana.”

“She lied to me. I think you did too.”

He stood and stepped close to me and looked me in the eyes, man to man. “I did what I had to. It was my doing, not hers. I’m asking you for a favor. She’s my child, and she’s hurting. Hear her out. Please.”

“Okay. I’ll hear her out, but don’t expect much.”

“Thank you. If you ever need help, call me.”

* * *

She opened the door. She seemed surprised to see me. Her eyes were red from crying. “I’m sorry,” she said.

“Women are always saying ‘I’m sorry.’ It doesn’t mean anything.”

“I wanted to marry you. I still do.”

That took me aback. I was still angry, but the idea of making a life with Viviana was high on my list of fantasies, and it wasn’t all about sex. I don’t make friends easily, and those I have are from when I was a kid. “You put me at risk, and you did it with a lie,” I said. Tally is a boxer, but outside the ring, as I’ve heard it, he’s one of the nicest men you’d ever want to meet. He’s no rapist.”

“My father insisted. You’re not in the family, and he didn’t want me to marry you. We fought about it, and he finally agreed to let me if you passed his test. The other man, with Tally, is one of my father’s. He was there to see how you handled yourself.”

“How did I?”

“You couldn’t have done better. You won, and no one got hurt. It was stupid, just like my mother said. She wanted me to marry you from the first. You were her idea, but once I thought of you I couldn’t get you out of my mind.”

Some way to pick a husband, I thought, sarcastically, but I wasn’t about to protest.

“I lied to you a second time when I told you I’d never been in any man’s bedroom,” she confessed. “I’m not a virgin. But it wasn’t a total lie. They were boys. I’m so sorry. And what I said about no man, or boy, ever being invited to my bed is true.”

Then Viviana got down on her knees, like I’d seen her in church, and she clasped her hands and bowed her head and begged. “Please forgive me,” she said. She looked up at me, her eyes filled with tears. “I’ll never lie to you again. Please marry me?”

My eyes got glassy too. Next, was going to be the hard part. “I’d love to marry you, but I can’t.”

Her jaw fell. She looked devastated. “Why?”

“The shrapnel, in my back, there was more of it, lower down. I can’t make love to you. I can’t get erect. I’m only half a man. It wouldn’t be fair.”

“You’re twice any man I ever met,” was her answer.

* * *

We couldn’t resist each other, and we married. I told her I’d make love to her in whatever ways I could. She told me we would do the best we could, together.

On our wedding night she undressed in front of me and came to bed. What she found was an erection, proud and tall, standing at attention and not likely to go away any time soon.

“You liar,” she yelled, looking at my prick. She licked her lips.

“That’s one lie for each of us—one test for me and one for you. I told you I couldn’t make love, but you married me anyway. You’re twice any woman I ever met.

She jumped on me, but I laid her down and gave her the touching of her life before getting down to basics. I kissed every inch of her, and told her, over and over, all over, that I’d love her forever. She couldn’t stop crying until I pushed inside her. Then she couldn’t stop smiling.

My religious feelings came back. I was in heaven.

_______________

Matthew Proujansky is a husband and father. He studied electrical engineering and creative writing at Cornell in the sixties. Today he designs hardware and software for the printing industry and lives in the realms of logic and love, nanoseconds and lifetimes, and plot lines and lines of code.

White Hot Lies
© 2007 by Matthew Proujansky

 

 
     
     

 

 



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