Friday, April 13, 2007


Dominoes: The Theory and Practice

Dogger Gatsby was lying in bed, lazily meditating about going to the bathroom, but at the same time contemplating how long he'd been without a woman until tonight. He'd been painfully celibate for the past four years and it'd made him a nervous wreck. Lately, he'd thought of nothing else. He was only in his mid-thirties and his sex-drive hadn't ceased, just the sex. He didn't know how it'd happened—or, rather, he didn't like to think how it'd happened. Something had gone wrong with his ego—that was all he'd ever admitted, even to himself.

“I like this girl,” he thought dreamily. “Uh, young woman, I mean!” he corrected himself quickly as if she might be eavesdropping on his thoughts. It was hard to remember not to call them girls any more. “Boy, I feel good now!” He was sweaty and overheated, but he didn't mind that. He was luxuriating in sex, dripping with satisfaction. Other bodily functions could wait. He was young enough, he had good control of his bladder, if nothing else.

“God, I like fucking you,” he murmured happily.

The pneumatic young blonde beside him stirred and began to look uncomfortable.

“What's the matter?” Dogger Gatsby asked. He supposed it was his frank language that had bothered her. He had always had trouble keeping his tongue in check. Karen was nearly ten years younger than he was, and she seemed to see everything from a different perspective than he did. What they saw in one another was more or less a mystery to both of them.

“Oh, I don't know!” Karen said irritably. She flung the sheet back and sat nude on the edge of the bed, holding her chin in her palms and facing away from him.

He ran his hand down the small of her back and softly sighed. His penis felt resolute, his belly firm, but in truth he had the same ordinary soft organ and the same fat stomach that he'd started with earlier tonight. (The former had experienced a temporary glorious change, the latter had not.) He felt great and, feeling as good as he did, he had no idea what was coming.

“I've just never known anybody who fucked like that,” she finally blurted out.

“Like what?” He felt relief that she was speaking as frankly as he had. Maybe now they would understand one another.

“Well, sort of stiff and self?absorbed. Like you were just masturbating inside of me. And I don't like the way you talk about it, either. It isn't a joke, you know.”

“Gawd, what a tough cookie!” he muttered, more to himself than to her.

It wasn't the kind of frankness he'd expected. He reached for the corner of the sheet and pulled it up over his crotch and stomach. He'd overcome his fear that she'd despise him for being overweight these past few weeks and then, as he always used to, forgot about it entirely when they began making love earlier in the evening. Now that she was acting like this, though, he began to feel uncomfortable again.

“Well, it might be,” he said after a long silence.

“Might be what?”

“A joke. Who sent you, anyway?” he said bitterly.

“What?” she asked, scrunching up her eyes at him. He shook his head and waved his hand. Had she never heard a rhetorical question, he wondered?

“Never mind. You know, I wonder if the problem might be that you're just too innocent.”

“What?!” she asked incredulously.

“Maybe you're only now finding out that sometimes life just sucks,” he told her.

“What are you talking about?”

“That nothing's perfect,” he said. “And if that's the case, you're sort of overreacting to the bad news, aren't you?”

“Good Christ!” She blurted out the second word with a vehemence that made it sound like the most terrible epithet in the English language.

“I just don't understand where that kind of comment comes from,” he said.

“It comes from me!”

“Yeah, well, I figure it does, but—.”

“And I don't understand you!” she added vehemently.

“I guess not. Listen, you aren't taking something else out on me, are you? How are things in the rest of your life? You aren't just punishing the nearest cock or something like that?”

“God, I just can't believe the way you talk!” Karen sneered.

“You've got an answer for everything, don't you?” he said.

She turned her back on him and shrugged. He pulled the rest of the damp sheet out from under him and tucked it under his neck, then shifted his bottom and shivered. “Jesus, now I'm naked on the wet spot!” he thought. He didn't understand why that should disgust him so, but it did. “Hell, it's my wet spot, after all.” He was confusing himself, and he knew it. He had meant to be thinking about what she'd said, not communing with wet spots on the sheets.

“You don't know a goddamn thing,” she said bitterly.

What could he say to that? Even if she'd just made it up to hurt him, even if it meant something else, it was exactly the right thing with which to crush him. He sighed and thought about pulling the sheet the rest of the way over his head. He could just wrap himself up like a dead man and hide until she left. But, no. He decided to brazen it out.

“It felt that good, huh?” he asked.

“Well, don't get in an uproar about it,” she drawled. “It isn't as if we were in love. I don't have to pretend you're a great fuck if I don't want to.”

“No, I suppose you don't,” he told her. “Where do they come from?” he added, seeming to speak to the ceiling. He had spoken sotto voce, but not enough so.

“Where do who come from?” she frowned, glancing around the dimly-lit room.

Dogger grimaced—he hadn't meant for her to hear him—but grinned at her suspicion that someone else was in the room. “Nice women like you,” he answered.

“Nice women like me?” she asked. “Why should you say that about me?”

“Irony, just irony. I mean cutthroat women. Except throats aren't usually what they cut.”

“Oh, go to hell!” she snapped at him. “You just think I'm—!”

She paused, looking frustrated and furious, unable for a moment to think of anything terrible enough. “You think I'm some kind of goddamn sex-doll, don't you?!”

“Where do they come from,” he wondered? “The same place as guys with inadequate whatchamacallits, I guess.”

Karen stood up and swivelled her head rapidly, her mid-length blonde hair swishing smoothly back and forth. Her unblinking gaze scanned the room savagely. She reminded him of a snake looking for a place to strike after it's been stepped on.

“Goddammit, what's happened to my goddamn clothes?” she demanded.

Dogger looked at her, but didn't answer. “Her stupid damn clothes might be anywhere,” he thought, “including the next damn county!” When she'd taken them off so hurriedly a little while ago, her interest in him had been as passionate and promising as her current mood was cold and condemnatory. He couldn't fathom the change in her, but he didn't want to, either.

Karen bent down and snatched her brazierre and panties off the floor. She put the bra on first, which struck him as somehow backwards. As her breasts disappeared from sight, he noted the unattractive red spots on them that she'd gotten from sitting on the edge of the bed with her chest pressed against her knees. He tried to remember a word he'd heard which might apply—was it “sanguine” or “sanguinary”? He wasn't sure, he could never remember which was which. One had something to do with blood and the other with being optimistic. It probably didn't matter much; he was always remembering irrelevant things and forgetting important ones.

“No, you're right; we're not in love, are we?” he sighed.

She said nothing, he noted, just slipped quickly into those silly pink panties with the white embroidered rabbits.

“Cute rabbits,” he'd told her when he first saw them, and she had been pleased. But he only liked her panties because she was in them and because he had expectations of getting her out of them. He hated the notion of a woman he was sleeping with wearing those little-girl rabbits. It had made him feel like a cradle-robber when he'd finally stripped them off of her.

“How cute can cute be before you puke?” he thought now, seeing them again. He was starting to get a headache and definitely didn't want to think about rabbits. He poured himself a drink from the bottle of Tangueray gin on the nightstand and made a face. There was still ice, thank God, but he'd run out of ginger ale.

“A tragedy in the making,” he muttered. He preferred to water down his drinks. Just at the moment, though, it might not hurt to get drunk as fast as he could and not be so damn fastidious. He sipped rapidly.

“No reason to be very particular, I guess,” he said aloud.

“What?” said a muffled, faraway voice.

What the hell? Where was she?! He couldn't see her, but she was there somewhere.

“What?!“ she repeated from somewhere. Her voice was louder, but just as muted.

“Good Christ, she's under the goddamn bed!” he groaned. “What is she, a root-hog or what?”

He leaned out over the edge of the mattress with an almost childish sense of trepidation as if, in the current semi-darkness of the room, he half-expected the bogeyman to jump out at him. (“Or should I say 'bogeyperson' these days?” he wondered. “Doesn't sound very scary, though.”) There was nothing to see, of course, except her buttocks and legs sticking out from under the bed. Karen's head was buried down there somewhere, assiduously searching for something, and she hadn't understood a word he'd said.

“What the fuck's she looking for, anyway?” he wondered. “Dust bunnies, probably,” he snickered. He resisted the urge to reach down and tickle her waggling behind. “Nice, though,” he conceded. “Even if she—”

“What?!” she yelled at him in a muffled, angry voice. “You'll have to speak louder!”

“Uh—I take it you mean that since we're not in love, we're not going to do anything to make the situation better?” he said, speaking louder.

Karen had come up from the floor and was pulling her sweater on over her head. When her face emerged again, she repeated again, this time clearly: “What?! Dammit, I can't hear you!”

“We're not going to make love anymore?” he yelled.

“Good god, no! What are you shouting about it for, anyway?”

Dogger frowned a moment, then nodded his head, smiled, and poured himself another shot of gin. “This is great,” he asserted.

“Do you have to drink like that?” she said.

It hadn't been very long since the last one, he was willing to admit that. But since she seemed to be more nearly making a statement than asking a question, he shook his head and stared at the ceiling. Suddenly he grinned; he'd thought of something killingly clever to say. He wanted to catch her eye, then pierce her through with his comment, but he couldn't even find her. Where the hell was she?! God, she could move fast! He leaned down to see if she was chasing dust bunnies under the bed again. No, not there.

“Christ, she's snuck out!”

Her disappearance irritated him, and yet he felt relieved, too. At least now he could get up and go to the bathroom. He swung one leg off the bed, then heard a noise and froze. He glanced down; there she was, crawling on her belly across the floor again, this time over by the sofa.

“Very odd girl,” he thought, moving back under the covers.

It wasn't her eye at all that caught his attention, but the broad dual bumps of her behind encased in those precious pink panties! Her pink posterior and the white backs of her legs were disappearing like some awkward wide-bottomed rabbit—bump, wiggle, bump—behind the sofa. He became aware of the smell of musk and sweat rising from the sheets and mingling with the gin, and he felt more intoxicated than gin could explain.

“What a butt she has!” he thought. What had always looked so good to him before began now to look more and more outlandish. “What do women have such butts for, anyway?” he wondered.

Maybe childbearing had something to do with it, but it wasn't clear to him. What did her butt have to do with that phenomenon? Just as he was ready to do some serious philosophical speculating, he heard a bump and saw the lamp on the table behind the sofa tilt suddenly and turn on its side. The lamp shade fell off and apparently hit Karen in the head.


“Don't wreck the fucking house,” he said softly, trying to keep his tone noncommittal.

Karen emerged with her dishevelled hair swept forward inelegantly over one eye. The other eye blinked repeatedly as sweat dripped from her forehead. There was an expression of triumph on her face as she held up her dusty shoes in one hand and her saggy-looking stockings in the other. Wisps of lint and fluff clung to the stockings and her forehead and forearms were smeared with a layer of ash-colored crud.

“Poor demented little Dust Bunny Queen!” Dogger chuckled. He pulled the sheet up over his head and shook until tears came to his eyes. He was overcome by his own perverse humor, almost hysterically so.

“I'm sure she doesn't think she's funny at all,” he reflected, wiping his eyes. He finally had to put the pillow over his face. He started to say something to her about how comical she looked, then remembered—they weren't on speaking terms. She'd probably just accuse him of treating her like a joke. “Even now,” he thought, “the worst thing about her is she doesn't have much sense of humor!” Of course, it was always possible that nobody had his sense of humor. “God's balls, though,” he muttered in a choking voice, “somebody's got to find this funny!”

“What's the matter with you?” She spoke disdainfully, barely glancing at him.

“You don't even want to talk about it now, do you?” he asked her.

He looked her in the eye, trying to keep a straight face. He hadn't quite given up on his question about the future of their sex together, but he couldn't get over how odd she looked, either.

“No!” she answered with annoyance. She hadn't forgotten his question either. She wasn't about to sleep with the son of a bitch!

“Not now?” he asked.


“Not later?”

“No! Would you hand me my goddamn scarf, please?”

“Are you pissed off at me?” he asked her.

“No, of course not!” she told him in an infuriated tone, her face turning crimson. “I'm just not a fool, that's all. You put a lot of energy into—this exotic sex and stuff, I give your credit for that. But what I mostly want is a nice normal fuck with no apologies and not to have to feel like I'm a watermelon or that there's someone jerking off in there. I'm sorry if that hurts your goddamn feelings!”

She didn't sound very sorry, but Dogger was in no position to judge. He was too uptight. Besides, he was just a guy who used women to masturbate with. His opinions didn't count for much. He wondered if anything could be explained to her or if any right question could ever be asked.

“I've been so wrong about her so far that it really wouldn't surprise me if she laughed in a deep voice, ripped off her tits, and called me a homo. She's a tough cookie, no doubt about that. Maybe she has to be, though, if she's ever going to get what she wants.”

What did she mean about his jokes and “exotic sex” and feeling like a watermelon, for Christ's sake?! Even if his oral services hadn't been any fun for her and if he wasn't funny, was that really a good reason to smash him to smithereens as she left? Did she think, “He's got his, now I'll get mine!”?

“She might be right; you can't trust these masturbators,” he told himself. “They might do anything.”

Up to a few minutes ago, he'd liked her as well as he knew how to like her; she was the most pleasure he'd had since God was a boy. She certainly gave great head, though now he rather wondered why she did! Was it some kind of knee-jerk trade-off? Was she paying him back for his amateurish Watermelon Act, even though she hadn't liked it? Had she been trying to prove something that he, for one, didn't believe—that she believed in fair play? Why had it taken her so long to figure out that she was pissed off?

“Maybe she's a man after all,” he thought, “someone who knows too much to be burdened with only one cock? Maybe she—uh, he—needs a lot of them, and this is how she gets 'em! Or is she only looking for that absolute rarity, the perfect one? Good luck, babe—I mean, dude—there's no such thing!”

Should he try to stop her from going, he wondered? How could he stop her? What would be the point in it? She'd just told him practically the worst thing she could say about him, with no pretence of regret and no hope of remedy: he was a self-absorbed, gin-soaked jerkoff prick, and a substandard one at that. He wasn't fit to fuck. He should probably go jump in a river.

“The problem is,” Dogger considered, carefully pouring himself another drink, “you know, the problem is—I know how to swim.”

“For the love of God, what are you mumbling about now?” Karen asked.

“Uh—well, never mind.”

“What?!” Karen spat in an exasperated tone.

He didn't answer. She knelt hurriedly by the bed to pick up her purse and car keys. Dogger noticed something askew and watched. “Ever the keen observer,” he thought disgustedly, observing himself. Somehow he couldn't stop watching things happen even when what was happening was awful.

Yet all that was happening at the moment was that one end of Karen's purse strap had come undone. For a moment the purse was held in place beneath her arm, but as soon as she shifted her arm the bag turned sideways and spilled its contents across the floor.

“Shit!” she screamed at the top of her voice.

Apparently she was speaking to the walls or ceiling, since she wasn't on speaking terms with him. She glanced at him resentfully, then got down on her knees and hurriedly began to sweep everything back inside with the flat of her hand. It seemed like it took her forever to get all her minute cosmetic devices and other junk back in the bag. Dogger leaned out over that side of the bed and watched her.

“Having trouble, cutie?” he leered.

“You drink too fucking much, you know that?” she said. He nodded and shrugged. It was too much trouble to explain to her that he seldom drank. He was bound to get sick before the night was over.

Finally Karen had collected everything and stood up. Dogger Gatsby noticed something that she'd missed, a small white index card covered on both sides with handwriting. He said nothing. While she wasn't looking he leaned down, scooped it up, and smugly slipped it under the sheet.

“That's one thing she's not getting out of here with!” he thought.

“Where's that goddamn umbrella?” she said to the walls.

She was still collecting things. She sighed in relief as she spotted her umbrella under the coffee table. Dogger understood she just wanted to find all her stuff and get out. He began to try to think of her as if she was already gone, as if she were a character in some book he'd finished and could think about her or not, as he wished. He couldn't help wondering why she kept saying, “What?” all the time. Was she deaf? She certainly wasn't curious.

“If I cared anything for her at all, this sort of shit could kill a man,” he thought. Of course, it might kill him anyway if he failed to maintain his pose.

And if she'd cared anything for him—he couldn't help thinking it—they could have tried to work something out. Sex surely wasn't as set a thing as all that. People could talk, couldn't they? No matter how wrongly he'd done it, surely something different could be done, something that would suit her. If it wasn't enough, he could do more. If it was too much, he could do less.

“Less could be more,” he thought unsteadily.

He was dreadfully drunk now, but didn't mind it for the simple reason that he'd never been more embarrassed in his life. He kept thinking that there'd been other times when he'd had unhappy sex with women who'd had enough sense of humor or patience to smile and wait, to see what happened, or just to say what they wanted. God, how he loved the ones who'd say what they wanted! But none of them had nailed his privates to the floor and kicked him in the face like this.

“I never set out to have sex with a watermelon,” he thought plaintively. “It just turned out that way!” It was hard to think that Karen was ready to give up on him so easily, so quickly. “Oh, well, fuck it—I deserve it, I guess. I don't love her either, if that's relevant.”

He glanced up and saw that she'd finally gotten around to putting on her skirt. Trying to, anyway. That same awful brown cowgirl skirt she'd been wearing the first time he'd seen her, covered with green horses, lariats, and cacti. The first time he'd seen it, he'd loved it, despite himself; now he loathed it. She was having a terrible time stepping into the skirt; she tried one leg and then the other, cursing under her breath every time she failed, hopping a little nearer the bed with every failed attempt. When she got near the bed, she jammed her foot blindly toward her skirt and struck it forcefully against the bed-frame. She yelped, then tripped, pitched forward, and landed with her elbows in Dogger Gatsby's stomach.

“Oof!” he gasped, folding in the middle and pushing at her feebly. “Get off of me, goddammit!” he croaked. The jolt she'd given him had him about ready to urinate on her, whether involuntarily or otherwise.

Karen looked at him with hatred in her eyes, struggling to get up as quickly as she could. She was as horrified as he was at where she found herself.

It was an endless comedy routine, but Dogger Gatsby wasn't smiling. Self-consciously he wrapped the sheet a little more tightly around him and poured the last of the Tangueray into his glass. He took a big sip and squeezed his legs together. God, did he need to pee now! He was ready to wet his pants, though in fact he wasn't wearing any. When he looked back at Karen, she had just finished opening the skirt's zipper. She stepped into it easily now.

“That's clever!” he sneered under his breath.

“Well, goodbye,” Karen said.

She looked around, making one last survey to be sure she'd gotten all her things together. She made a grab for a couple of heavy shopping bags she'd had with her when she came in, hooked them both with one hand, then headed for the door. Dogger had never known a woman who carried so much baggage anywhere, much less to an assignation. Had she meant to move in with him or what?

“Guess I'll see you sometime,” she said.

“I can't imagine why,” he said.

“I guess that's right,” she said.

At least now he could go to the bathroom, he thought miserably. He was sitting on the edge of the bed, wrapped in his sheet as tightly as a bug in a cocoon and squeezing his legs together. He wasn't going to get up while she was still there if he ended up having to wet the goddamn bed. When she stopped in the doorway and glanced back at him, he glared at her, wondering if she was ever going to leave. She looked at him questioningly, looking him in the face for the first time since she'd started getting dressed. She nodded as if she'd found some answer there.

“I guess that's everything. Goodbye.”

As soon as the door closed, he kicked madly at the sheet wrapped around him, grabbed the index card he'd snatched off the floor, leaped up, and scrambled like a wild man for the bathroom. As he stood naked in front of the toilet bowl, splashing noisily and sighing with relief, he read with growing consternation the spidery hieroglyphics that Karen had crowded onto both sides of the index card:

“Dear Bernie: I tried to call you, but you weren't home. Did you spend the night with a whore or something? I hope not. I love you too much to even imagine that you'd do something like that to me. Besides, I'm always here for you. I love you and I'd do just about anything legal for you. All you have to do is ask.

“The other night when we were making love, I enjoyed you so much. All I could think about was when you'd be all mine again. I hope soon and I can't wait.

“I'd like for you to come over tonight to watch TV or play dominoes with me. I do miss you so much. I can't wait to hold you in my arms. Please call and leave a message on my answering machine about whether you're coming or not. I'll be waiting for you and I should be home at around 11:00. I love you!”


Current draft: 03/11/07
©1989 Ronald C. Southern