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.
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.
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
legs, her breasts, her lips; the glow of stained light in her
hair: as I said, my feelings are religious. I confess my impure
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.
Broader,” the man addressed me and put out his hand.
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.
Silvio requests your presence.”
Silvio?” I asked, taken aback.
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.
you be able to come for lunch?”
looked at my watch, all four dials and six hands of it. “Now?”
Silvio would be most appreciative.”
looked to the curb as another limousine pulled up. The summons
wasn’t a request.
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.
man who fetched me made the introductions: “Don Silvio,
Bill Broader. Mr. Broader, Don Carlos Silvio.”
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.
got a job for you,” he said.
didn’t insult him by telling him I wouldn’t do anything
illegal. “What would you like me to do?”
daughter needs a bodyguard.” The double entendre hung between
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.”
looked in my eyes and nodded. “No offense taken.”
He folded his arms across his stomach. “Nevertheless, you’re
the man I want.”
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.”
are chances we’ll have to take.”
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?”
weren’t my choice. I never thought of you, but I didn’t
have any say in the matter.”
didn’t have any say?” I asked, incredulous.
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.”
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.
gave him credit. He wasn’t the kind of man who apologized
easily. “So, who picked me?”
wife? She doesn’t know me. She hasn’t known me since
I was a kid.”
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
didn’t know your wife and my mother knew each other.”
women. What man ever knows? Drink?”
don’t drink, but I’ll make an exception. Whisky. Anything.
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.
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.
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.”
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?”
the question I examine. Would you like to read my work?”
rather have you tell me about it.”
be happy to. I’m sure you have an interesting perspective
perspective is to avoid it. Who do you need protection from?”
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.”
should chop his balls off. Put them in one of those shears they
use to cut off chicken heads. Chop! Problem solved.”
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
wondered if he was a boyfriend. I was jealous.
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.
thanked her, silently, for caring about my feelings.
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
looked into her eyes and tried to tell her I’d take care
of her forever, if she’d let me.
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.”
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.
lunch Viviana took me to her bedroom, in a far off wing of the
house, to work out the details.
still live here?” I asked.
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.
it’s you they can’t resist.”
flattered by their attention, but there isn’t one of them
room was a drug. Her bed with two pillows cried out for me. “I’d
like you to trust me,” I said.
of them have been in my bedroom.”
gave me pause. I shouldn’t ask, I thought, but I think she
wants me to.
you ever been in one of their bedrooms?”
shot me a gaze that pierced my heart. Time stood still. “I’ve
never been in any man’s bedroom,” she said.
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.
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.”
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.
touch him again, you fucking slut, and I’ll kill you.”
don’t own him,” the blond protested, petulantly. “He
wants me. Don’t you?” she asked, batting her eyes.
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
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.
one is he?”
took a quick glance. “He’s the guy with the blue jacket,
leaning on the wall. Do something.”
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
know, I know, but I can’t stop thinking of what he did to
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.”
him go away. You can talk to him some other time.”
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.
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
boxer’s stance did it. It wasn’t his type that I recognized,
it was him. “You’re a boxer,” I said.
want her, come and get me first.”
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.”
you. I’m going to beat the shit out of you, and then I’m
going to take your girl.”
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.
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?”
shook his head slowly, indicating he understood. He relaxed and
rose from his crouch, and he and his buddy took off.
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
hadn’t hit her hard, but she wasn’t used to playing
rough. “You bastard,” she said, tears in her eyes.
“You hit me.”
you. You could have gotten me killed.” I turned and walked
out and left her with her preppy friends.
had tried to play me, but I’d done what I said I would.
I went to collect my money from Don Silvio.
owe me ten grand,” I said.
expected an argument, but he handed me an envelope with a pile
of cash in it. I started to walk out.
Broader. Bill, if I might be so presumptuous.”
like you to go see Viviana.”
lied to me. I think you did too.”
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.”
I’ll hear her out, but don’t expect much.”
you. If you ever need help, call me.”
opened the door. She seemed surprised to see me. Her eyes were
red from crying. “I’m sorry,” she said.
are always saying ‘I’m sorry.’ It doesn’t
wanted to marry you. I still do.”
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.”
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
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.”
way to pick a husband, I thought, sarcastically, but I wasn’t
about to protest.
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.”
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
eyes got glassy too. Next, was going to be the hard part. “I’d
love to marry you, but I can’t.”
jaw fell. She looked devastated. “Why?”
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.”
twice any man I ever met,” was her answer.
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.
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.
liar,” she yelled, looking at my prick. She licked her lips.
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.
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.
religious feelings came back. I was in heaven.
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.
2007 by Matthew Proujansky