and the Library
The thing about research is that it’s so
much more fun with two. And the thing about a library is that
it’s like a superstore for people who love books and secret,
seemingly random knowledge that suddenly gets found, as if part
of a quest. So, I was excited about you helping me dig up a very
hard to find book in the main files.
On the surface, it was a legitimate, innocent venture. Two smart
people, who wanted to spend time together, doing something productive.
It wasn’t something suspicious. The shortness of your skirt?
That was just part of the play. There’s no harm in a young
sexy woman teasing an older man. It’s a sign of affection
and respect. Part of the game. And if he really does get a furious
hard-on for her, and that thirst in the mouth, as if for a stem
of rye grass when he was walking home from school as a lonely
kid, when demons started appearing and people died or wished they
had, that’s a good thing.
Besides, it was raining very hard and you couldn’t have
predicted that. Spring thunderstorm. Black licorice and ozone
smell. It would be good to get inside the library. Where it was
dry. And where our minds wouldn’t wander.
I’d come a long way to find an original of a very old book
called The Trials of Great Men Accused of Magic, which as it turned
out, was to be found down in the lower basement, down in a very
quiet labyrinth of books arranged on very high shelves. It was
a lovely bonus that the only library in the U.S. to have a genuine,
undamaged copy was at least a little close to where you live.
It gave us the excuse of not doing what I wanted to do straight
up—and take you to some lost Magic Fingers motel or some
resort along the coast where people in uniform bring the rum to
your room and discreetly turn away. This was going to be work.
I couldn’t help but notice the shortness of the skirt though.
And I knew instantly, in some animal way, that you weren’t
wearing panties. Which made me think all kinds of thoughts as
we descended to the basement. Do I kiss her? Do I fondle her?
Or do I just let things run their course? Do I behave?
The basement was silent, a veritable maze of old, unlooked-at
books filled with who knows what. I was intrigued, however, to
see a ladder of a particular kind resting against one of the shelves.
I’d often dreamed of having just such a ladder, in the private
library of my brownstone on the Upper West Side of New York (of
course!). It was very tall, neatly made of individually dowelled
rungs, with hooked ends at the top and lubricated wheels at the
The curious thing about such a ladder, however, is that it’s
very ingenuity undermines its function. You would think that it
would allow a single person to scurry up to its full height and
pluck out a book from even a very high shelf. And so it does,
they do. But with a catch. Someone must brace the ladder, because
the freedom made possible by the wheels is offset by the fact
that the wheels can turn in their brackets—the ladder’s
height making it too heavy for the wheels to only move in one
direction, the designer of such things having apparently decided
it was easier to find a person to “mind” the ladder
rather than to help move the ladder.
I think you were inclined to climb up it just for the fun of it—or
to see my reaction. But as is it turns out (and don’t things
have an interesting way of turning out, when you start off properly?),
the book we were looking for was supposedly on the top shelf where
the ladder was.
So, you being young and spry (and wearing a very short skirt),
were selected as our ambassador to the heights. And while you
were rummaging around trying to find the book in question, batting
away the dust and dead moths, you came upon another volume called
The Chains of Desire. It was on the very top shelf, near where
the other book should’ve been. It looked old and the spine
was broken, but the original making was clearly of a very high
standard. You couldn’t resist having a look, having climbed
up to the top of the ladder and blown away a cloud of dust to
boot. And you couldn’t help thinking that whatever page
you opened up to would mean something. A special stop on the journey.
A clue in the treasure hunt. Balanced on the top step of the ladder,
you opened to a scene. And, to your surprise, this is what you
saw…you see it now…and you will never quite forget
The picture is sumptuously illustrated and deeply obscene. It
shows a man, naked and tautly muscled, wearing a glistening metal
mask in the shape of a bull’s head—like the suggestion
of a minotaur. There is something evil and yet inviting about
the beast face...something forbidden and perverse...and yet proud,
noble, even tragic. You can't quite bring the impression into
focus, for there are other things to consider. Like the height
of the ladder.
And the size of his penis. While the rest of his body is that
of a human male, the organ is that of a bull—or a monster.
So swollen and erect it seems to be like another creature...making
an angle with his rippled abdomen that reminds you of the cleft
between the first thick branch and the trunk that made a favorite
tree easy to climb when you were a little girl. But this is no
room for little girls. All innocence has been swept away in this
private world...with the sight of the shining cock head, sculpted
like some kind of medieval battering ram.
And then there is the room. It is richly appointed, like something
from 18th century France, the curtains not quite drawn, with a
hint of rain on the leadlight pane. So, this moment too, that
you’ve just stumbled upon is another afternoon of rain and
possibility. Lust. Perhaps things unleashed. Another piece of
Before the bull-man lies a naked woman, porcelain white of flesh,
but coated with a fine sheen of perspiration and fragrance—spread
wide on an amethyst and black sheeted bed of silk with fat tasseled
pillows, like a giant version of a pearl butterfly she had made
for her at great expense by a blind jeweler who died when it was
finished and she only bothered to wear once.
She has the air of grotesque wealth and depravity, the kind that
is only shown in secrecy. Her legs are parted fully, so that you
can see how neatly she has been shaved by a serving girl, how
smooth her thighs are, her clitoris unusually large, bulbing up
from under its hood of skin in monstrous mimicry of the minotaur’s
giant phallus. Her whole sex is gaping, like an overbloomed rose
torn apart in a single swift gesture by strong hands. You can
see all the way inside her...all the way to the words she wants
to say...her mouth open like a second ravenous, meat-eating flower.
There is a blood-red sleep mask in her right hand—you can’t
tell if she’s just removed it or longs to put it on, confronted
as she is by the monster—the wall-splitting girth of him
poised before her. Does she feel horror and fear...or insane longing?
Beside her, on the floor by the bed, is another woman, also naked,
much younger, and even though you can’t see her face, you
realize she is much more beautiful. Perhaps she is the serving
girl who has done the immaculate shaving and grooming...plumped
the pillows, misted the room with aromatic spray.
You can tell the younger woman has a very different bearing than
the woman on the bed, even though her position argues against
this. She is bent over, with her hands tied with black velvet
behind her back...her ass curving up like...like the ass the older
woman wished she had. It is round and rude, and yet exquisitely
shaped, so that even in its intense lewdness, there is some sheltered
modesty. Completely exposed. Flaunted. The skin is the same color
as the inside of a snow apple, the kind that only come into season
very suddenly and then are gone. So sweet it’s like tiny
crystals of sugar have been ladled into full cream...and yet savory
too...a confliction of tastes...a flavored ice treat and a chunk
of just shot game, cooked hot and fast on spit-burst charcoal.
A perfect ass, bent over in total supplication...the skin and
curve of the young girl, the flow into her lower back and up the
spine, all suggestive of that hint of divinity the ancients used
to claim lay hidden for all to see in the white meat within a
This delicacy intrigues you, and saddens you. For the girl too
is neatly groomed, so that her tender pussy lips are visible between
her legs, as pink as a shellfish, but thick and tactile, like
a puckered fig.
There are other things in the room. Objects of disturbing implications.
Hairbrushes that look too sharp, too big. A kind of chair seemingly
made of bones—and iron. A draped veil that looks more like
a net to catch something in. Paper masks hang from long hooks
in the shape of hard penises. Masks of distorted faces, some animal-like...goats,
pigs, wolves. Some like faces of the damned. Swirled and cracked...or
bloated and leering.
You begin to realize that this is not a single scene, but a ritual
you are witnessing...something which has happened before. More
details emerge then. The wood and leather crop that lies beside
the bed...just fallen from the hand of the older woman perhaps.
You notice a faint but still cruel line of blush across the full
rounded cheek of the younger woman’s buttocks that you hadn’t
seen before. And you see that the light reflects off the minotaur’s
mask in a strange way that hadn’t earlier caught your eye—the
stack and line of his carved body and the massive organ having
He is not staring at the woman on the bed, eager to ream her—to
plunge inside her and thrust her inside out. He is mindful of
the girl on the floor. The serving girl with the ass made by God’s
And then you understand the terrible truth of the picture.
This is not the minotaur’s game. The mask can never be removed.
It is fixed to his head forever, like a kind of cage. He is a
slave, wanted only for his virility. He is but another implement
in the room...and the servant girl with the voluptuous ass and
tender other mouth of young female succulence...she is what has
been used to entice him...to bring up the blood and thicken his
root. She is the one he wants...and can never have...
All this of course, has been taken in very quickly in real time.
Meanwhile, I have been fixated on a picture myself.
Perched on the tall ladder, your skirt falls in such a way, that
by standing behind the ladder I can not only glimpse, but luxuriantly
examine, the curve of your ass. If I move forward, slipping between
the ladder and the shelf, I can look up and see your pussy just
above me…and more than that. Stopped still in mid air above
me, I am close enough to catch your scent…
The way the canals and markets of Venice smelled to me when I
came down out of the chalk-blue frigid-faced passport thumbing
police-ridden Balkans, broke and hungry, so sick with fever and
bronchitis I saw huge candelabra before my eyes at midday and
all the pigeons in St. Mark’s Square were like angels…and
people I didn’t know offered me food and wine instead of
clubs and jails.
Like the mirror tidepools of Apollo Bay, each volcanic indentation
of seawater a miniature miracle world of writhing, watchful life.
Like slivers of spring onions hissing in a pan of Spanish olive
oil in a Chelsea flat at 2 AM, the police still mopping up the
murder down on the street below.
Like saltwater taffy and ozone when the thunder rolled in over
the roller coaster in Santa Cruz long ago when I thought it was
cool to carry a switchblade, and I drove a Dodge Charger with
baby shoes hanging from the mirror, the same baby blue as another
girl’s eyes, that I’d bought with money working in
the lettuce fields where no one spoke English.
Like summer. The kind you never really have, but only dream about,
and later, pretend that you remember—that you can hold onto.
And then it occurs to me—having often wanted to own just
such a ladder, and a huge climbing matrix of books—and always
having dreamed of such a vantage point—that the trick to
these kinds of ladders is that they can be readjusted. From the
ground, even with someone up on the highest rung, the wheels allow
it to be readjusted, to be ratcheted down a shelf—which
strangely has the effect of making things more precarious for
the person on the ladder, not less. With the center of gravity
neatly engineered to be in my control, you are suddenly out of
balance—lower to the ground, but still too far to safely
reach. You have to lean more into the cage of the ladder, clinging
to it to maintain balance. What a good joke, you think.
But it isn’t a joke. You’re stuck, like someone in
a hammock strung too high. You would have to not only jump, but
to roll first—and if you did, the ladder would give way
from the shelf and so would collapse. It takes but a moment for
you to fully appreciate the physics involved. You can only come
down the ladder if I let you. Until then, you are there, balanced,
needing both your hands to retain equilibrium.
I, on the other hand, unlike the minotaur man (who retains his
vividness in your mind…with his fearsome appendage and awful
mask) am now free to do whatever I like. If I make use of the
stool down the aisle of books, which has been made available to
those who want to browse the lower shelves, I’m exactly
the right height to do many things. If I stand on it and poke
my head through the square of neatly dowelled wood to the front,
I can lift your skirt and gaze without concern at your femaleness.
I can breathe over your vulva. I can tongue your thighs. I can
bury my face in your pussy and smear myself into it like devouring
a ripe, slit-open mango. There’s nothing you can do. You
can’t loose a hand to guide me, stop me, or stroke yourself—or
you’ll tumble to the floor.
If I want to suck your clit like a single pea from a freshly snapped
pod, I can. If I want to duck behind the ladder, part your cheeks
and lick your asshole, I can do that too. You’ve really
gotten yourself into a bit of a muddle. And you laugh at that
at first…and sigh…because of course, why would you
want to fall to the floor when such things are happening?
But here’s the thing. When you really are trapped between
the ceiling and the floor…when you no longer have any control
or power over what happens…when your clit can be mercilessly
teased, your butthole not only rimmed but greedily sucked…you
begin to find the edges in yourself. Once, twice…again…and
again…you come right up to the brink of climax. The nastiness…the
frankness…the sheer reality of what’s happening begins
to drive you into another state. All your mechanisms for showing
or hiding your reactions are gone. It’s undeniable when
you’re about to come…and the frustration is scentable
when the stimulation stops. A deep mouthful of haunch…a
pulling back of your lips with lips. The fire of it moves from
your cunt—and suddenly you want to shout the word “Cunt!”
at the top of your voice in the silent, civilized world of the
library—up into your belly and then your breasts—your
nipples so hard now they feel soft and precious—like raindrops…
Which makes you think of the hint of rain in the picture in the
book that is still so close you can smell its old pages. And the
long forgotten rain outside—which world? You can see the
girl naked on the floor with her ass offered, the monster in his
prison head, the exaggerated penis jutting forward. You think
you are ready for the beast creature now. To not simply be entered,
but to be split apart…exploded and remade. You want more
than anything to be fucked. To be fucked asunder.
But you are not ready yet. It takes more time still. More rain
outside, in the world beyond the ladder and the library. You must
be taken again and again to the precipice…until you are
annoyed, angry. Until your body starts to cramp on the rungs.
Until you are ready to jump, so that you can fondle and even mash
yourself, and find relief.
You find yourself becoming vicious. The teasing is more than you
can take. You are becoming the words the woman on the bed in the
picture was about to say. You must have a fucking orgasm now…the
way sometimes you have to piss and shit—to eat. You cannot
last another minute. You hate me. You want my mouth, you want
my cock. You want to be safe on the floor. You want to cry. You
want the minotaur man to pound you open and put you back together.
And then you hear a sound you’ve never heard before.
In the stately silence of the library basement, with only the
vague hum of the electrical infrastructure behind the walls, and
the muffled sky sluicing down outside, you hear the soft steady
wet of your own desire falling like secret, intimate rain, striking
the floor. You have never been so soaked and open…or suspended
from a height great enough to hear that private precipitation.
That sounds frees you. To beg. Not just plead. Not just moaning
in play. But to really beg—to be fucked. The way someone
in serious pain begs for morphine. A total loss and surrender
of all dignity and shame.
Only when I hear that telltale timbre in the voice, do I lower
the ladder. Lift you off. Plant you on all fours and lift up your
Then, with your ass arched up, which in your mind is just like
the beautiful younger woman in the picture book, I do fuck you.
I slice you like a fig. I smash myself into you, balls slapping
up under you, your asshole still glistening from my saliva. In
a dead quiet aisle of dusty forgotten books I fuck you like a
man released from a cage.
It’s wet and messy—squishy and loud. I slap your ass.
I crush the meat of it in my hands as I pull you into me, pushing
more of myself deeper, so that you get the whole man and not only
the cock, fucking you until the monster in us both is pooled and
fluorescent on the floor…whole rows of books toppled and
gaping open for the first time in years, as if in sympathy and
release, gobs and jets of me, splashes and flecks of you on the
tired linoleum—wrinkling a little, it seems, like hard dead
earth after a sudden heavy rain.
And fallen on the floor in the mingledness of us…is the
very book we were looking for, a ladder and a lifetime before.
We found it.
first novel Zanesville was published by Villard Books in late
2005. The Austin Chronicle called it "The most original novel
of the year" and it received a Starred Review in Booklist,
which praised it as "brilliantly inventive black comedy."
is a native of the San Francisco Bay Area but for many years has
lived in Australia and the Pacific Islands. A painter as well
as writer, his work has appeared in such publications as The Boston
Review, The Hudson Review, The Antioch Review, River Styx, ZYZZYVA,
New Letters, Prairie Schooner and The Hawaii Review. This excerpt
is taken from a novel in progress called ENIGMATIC PILOT, which
is scheduled by Random House for publication in 2008. For more
information see www.saknussemm.com
and the Library
© 2009 by Kris Saknussemm
"Is a website run by two very different writers and two good
friends, Katie Arnoldi and Kris
Saknussemm. It’s a mindscape where the language
fetish is openly celebrated - where we support and promote the
work of friends and fellow travelers - and where we investigate
and discuss the lives and achievements of some major figures in
the arts and sciences."