The Verdict

Another Exciting Adventure in … THE GRIND
(Act I: All Wounds)
(Act II: The Status Quo)
(Act III: Covet thy Neighbor)

***

previously…

Ten years ago, when Heather, my first kiss, my first sexual encounter, and my first love, became my first devastating heartbreak, I went on a dating spree, which really hasn’t come to an end. With that kind of quantity, it only stands to reason that not all of these dates were successful.

But none of them went as poorly as this one. The weird part was that we’d already engaged, repeatedly and with vigor, in third-date-style activities, if you know what I mean.

So what happened to that wild animal I’d spent most of last night tasting and feeling? Where were the throaty giggles and that unbelievably focused, blue-eyed stare? Where was that woman?

And then I saw her. She was strutting out of the restroom in that turtleneck I should have been yanking off of her torso; that miniskirt that needed to be pushed up to her waist; those gray-stocking-covered legs that belonged wrapped around me; and those fingernails running through those cinnamon-colored curls, both of which would be better served tickling my naked chest. There was that crooked smile that melted me, and it was flirting with some bridge-and-tunnel doofus at the bar. It was then, as she left him and headed back toward me, all enthusiasm fleeing her body, that I had my idea.

But first thing’s first: “Give it,” I demanded.

“Give what?”

“His card.”

She handed it over, and I tore it to pieces while she growled.

“Fair’s fair,” I said, referring to the way she’d disposed of the phone number the cute waitress had given me earlier. Okay, so I had rescued it, but it was the spirit of the thing, right?

She pouted. “You know, this is such a disaster, anyway. I don’t see why you had to go and make it worse.”

“Em, I need you to listen to me very carefully.”

“Don’t call me Em.”

“I think it’s safe to say that we have no business dating each other.”

She folded her arms.

“And I’m betting that you’re interested in being with someone you actually like, but dating is not particularly easy, especially in this town; the reason being that you’re trying to be sexy when you’re not actually sure you are.”

“Speak for yourself.”

“Don’t jerk me around, Em.”

“My name’s not Em,” she snapped.

“And about the only time you’re that positive you’re sexy is when you’ve just had sex.”

“Oh, come on!”

“I told you not to jerk me around, Em.”

“My name is Emma.”

“I was watching you talk to that jackhole over there, and you were hot.”

“Too little, too late, dude,” she told me.

“Yeah?” I told her right back. “Then how did you get that guy’s number after ten seconds? And how did I get cute little Dakota’s attention just now without even trying? It’s because, at this particular moment in time, we both knew that we drove someone so crazy that, less than eighteen hours ago, they ripped our clothes off.”

“Keep talking,” she breathed.

“The only thing you and I have in common is that we enjoy fucking each other’s brains out.”

She smiled a little. “All right, I’ll give you that.”

“There are just some days when you really need to get laid, and handling it yourself just isn’t going to cut it. Now, I’m not saying that we become one another’s sex toy…”

“Dude,” she told me, “that’s exactly what you’re saying.”

“I guess it is.”

She took a long look at the doofus at the bar. “I was hot, wasn’t I?”

“We made it this far without talking.”

There was that crooked smile again. “For a condescending asshole, you make a lot of sense.”

“For a childish, superficial nerd, you have great taste in sex partners,” I replied.

Emma threw enough cash to cover a half-bottle of wine onto the coffee table in front of us. “I’m going to talk to the jackhole.”

I grabbed her arm, and a current shot through me, telling me I needed to find a nearby solid surface right away and bend her over it.

She gasped, leading me to surmise that she needed to find the same solid surface.

I noticed that I’d been holding my breath for quite a while, and so I let it out.

She yanked her arm away from me and swallowed a lungful of air. “What?”

“What what?”

“Why did you grab my arm?”

“Like this?” I reached out, because, right now, my body craved that current with more urgency than the most powerful of nicotine fits.

She dodged me and whispered, “The deal.”

“I’m just grabbing your arm.”

“Dude.”

I blinked the lust out of my eyes. “Right.”

“Later, dude,” she said and strolled away toward the bar.

I called after her, “What about the deal?”

“The deal was that you and I don’t sleep together tonight,” she said. “We said nothing about other people.”

“Yeah, we did.”

“Our own beds, remember?”

She growled. “Promise me, then, that you’re not coming back for that little girl with the corkscrew.”

The number I’d planned to call later burned secretly in my pocket. “I promise you that I will not return to this bar to pick up Dakota.” I wasn’t being totally dishonest.

She eyed me with little-to-no trust, which was a perfectly legitimate reaction to me. “Let’s go, then.”

Our cab ride was short and quiet, but excruciating, since we were overly conscious of the space between us. The merest touch would probably lead to the deal being broken, and we couldn’t have that–though I wasn’t sure why anymore.

When we finished climbing up four stories to our respective doors, she beckoned me with a sexy finger.

I drifted over cautiously. “Yeah?”

She wrapped her arms around me and stared deep into my eyes.

“Hey, now,” I said.

“Shush,” she replied.

My mouth went dry, and all the warmth in my hands and brain headed straight below my belt. Her hands caressed my back, sliding lower and lower, over my waist, and into my back pockets.

“Oh,” I said, resigned to the obvious.

Behind me, I heard her fingers tearing the waitress’s number to confetti.

She leaned closer to my ear and whispered, “Fair’s fair.” Her hair left burning trails across my cheek as she withdrew her head, her arms still around me. When I whimpered, she just gave me that same smug look she’d used last night to seduce me.

Since I was here anyway, I kissed her hard and slammed her against the nearest wall. She moaned, and her fingers stayed in my pockets and dug in. My hands gripped her face, until one crept down her neck, past her collarbone, and found its way to her breast.

That’s when we both snapped out of it and pushed each other away.

“Deal,” she panted.

I gulped. “Right. Deal.”

She struggled to fish her keys out of her purse and dropped them to the floor. The sight of her bending over to pick them up anchored me there. She caught me looking, and she too froze.

“Deal,” I said.

“Deal,” she agreed.

I unlocked my door and forced myself inside. From there, I charged straight for the mattress on my floor and masturbated furiously.

From what I could hear on the other side of the wall, she was doing the exact same thing.

to be continued…

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Reinventing the Wheel

Another Exciting Adventure in … THE GRIND
(Act I: All Wounds)
(Act II: The Status Quo)
(Act III: Covet thy Neighbor)

***

previously…

“I’ve never actually been to a wine bar before,” Emma told me as we sat down on a pair of comfortable easy chairs.

“Neither have I,” I admitted. “I thought this would be a nice place where we could relax and not have to be in a bar.”

“Oh, no,” she insisted, “I didn’t think it was a bad idea.”

“I didn’t think you thought that.”

Even though she tried to keep it to herself, I could hear her grunt. This was going to be a long night.

Ever since my last girlfriend dumped me, my neighbor Emma was one of the only two women in my life with whom I’ve had any sort of relationship. Both simultaneously aroused and frustrated the hell out of me, but I could deal with my coworker, Gretchen, pretty easily; I just tuned out her prattle and fantasized about having conversation-free sex with her while in the privacy of my own home. Emma, on the other hand, was more persistent. For starters, she called me Dude, which is not my name. In addition, she seemed to delight in invading the sanctity of my apartment building and fire escape. Also, we can’t seem to stop fucking each other.

In retrospect, we should have just left well enough alone.

“So,” I said.

“So,” she replied.

A minute passed.

A cute waitress showed up at the table with a bright smile and a tray under her arm. “What can I get for you today?”

I smirked at her. “Hi, I’m Max.”

Her smile went from being commercial to intrigued, and the pitch of her voice lowered just a little. “Dakota,” she replied.

“North or South?”

“East.”

“Nice.” I asked her, “What do you recommend?”

“Red or white?”

I shrugged at Emma.

She replied, “Whatever you want.”

“I’ll put it to Dakota, then.”

“Casual or serious?” she asked.

“Casual or serious what?” I clarified.

“Your date.”

Emma and I glanced at each other. She said, “We’re not on a date.”

After I took a moment to frown, I returned my attention to the lovely Dakota. “Casual acquaintances.”

“I’ll be back with a shiraz,” she replied.

Turning to Emma, I said, “I thought you wanted a date.”

“Well,” she told me, “I’ve been thinking about that. If we were serious about getting to know each other, then we absolutely, positively cannot have sex tonight.”

“Just with each other, right?”

She glared over at Dakota. “What do you think?”

“Fine,” I admitted. “That does make sense.”

She leaned forward and extended her hand. “Swear?”

I peered longingly at Dakota before shaking Emma’s hand. “I swear that, no matter what happens tonight, that our clothes will stay on, and we will sleep in our own beds.”

We both sat back.

“So,” she said.

“So,” I replied.

A minute passed.

Dakota returned with a bottle of wine, which she corked and poured with professional grace, all the while making eye contact with me. When she finished, she asked, “Can I get you anything else?”

“I’m sure I’ll think of something,” I replied. “How about I call you?”

She scribbled in her little server’s notebook, tore out that page, and handed it to me. I didn’t even need to look to know what was on it, so I folded it up and dropped it in my shirt pocket.

She winked at me and sashayed away.

Emma reached into my pocket, removed the paper, wadded it up, and dropped it on the floor. “Just because we’re not on a date that doesn’t mean you get to pick up girls.”

I sighed.

“So,” I said.

“So,” she replied.

A minute passed.

“I don’t know where to start,” she told me.

I gulped down some wine, and she played with her fingernails.

“Um,” I said, “So what’s your favorite movie?” Yes, I was getting desperate.

Derelict,” she replied.

I guffawed. “Really?”

She recoiled. “Yeah,” she said. “It’s based on one of my favorite comics, and it’s got some really thoughtful ideas about patriotism and loyalty, all wrapped up in people getting kicked in the head.”

“Oh, my god, you’re serious.”

“I didn’t say it was the best movie.” She shrank a little in her seat. “I just said it was my favorite.”

“The dialogue,” I moaned, “the explosions; I swear that thing was written by a thirteen-year-old boy.”

“So you’ve seen it?”

“Tragically.”

“Why would you do that then if you hated it so much?”

“I had to watch a screener to prep for an interview with Reese Kensington.”

Her eyes widened in admiration. “You’ve met Reese Kensington?”

With a shrug, I said, “I drank him under the table.”

“Why would you do that?”

“I bet him an exclusive that he couldn’t keep up with me.”

“What could you, of all people, possibly have given him if you lost?”

“I didn’t lose.”

She rolled her eyes. “So what’s your favorite movie, Mr. Critic?”

“Easy,” I replied. “Janine.”

“Isn’t that that British one?”

A little surprised that she was familiar with it, I nodded.

“Starring what’s-her-name?”

“Sophie Atkinson.”

“That’s her.”

“You are such a girl!” It was clear from her tone that she wasn’t kidding.

“So shit didn’t blow up in it.”

“Nothing,” she moaned, “happens.”

“It’s called subtlety.”

“It’s called ‘the most boring two hours of my life,'” she snorted.

“Clearly you and I won’t be watching movies together.”

She sighed. “Favorite band?”

“I don’t really listen to music.”

“How can you not like music?”

“I said I don’t listen to music,” I explained, “not that I don’t like it.”

“That doesn’t make any sense.”

“People are way too possessive about music,” I told her. “They get mad when others don’t like their favorite songs, and they look down at other people’s tastes.”

“Kind of like you and movies.”

I took a few moments to glare at her, hopefully disguising the fact that she was totally right. “I just don’t think it’s worth getting that worked up over.” I asked, “Who’s your favorite?”

She spoke with the confidence of someone who didn’t give a fuck about what I thought of her. “Easy: Upward Feedback.”

“What’s the front-man’s name again?”

“Shane Brown.”

“Right,” I said. “That is a guy is a self-absorbed asshole, but a self-absorbed asshole with really good hashish.”

Emma drained her glass and refilled it. “Do you name-drop because you’re trying to impress people; or does it make you feel more important?”

“Ouch.”

“You were right,” she told me. “This was a big mistake.” She rose and strode past the bar and into the ladies’ room.

Massaging my eyes, I waited until she was out of sight before retrieving the wad of paper from the floor, smoothing it out, and stuffing it into my back pocket to keep it safe from the immature, self-righteous monster I’d come here with. There was no point in wasting the entire evening.

to be continued…

Disappear

Another Exciting Adventure in … THE GRIND
(Act I: All Wounds)
(Act II: The Status Quo)
(Act III: Covet thy Neighbor)

***

previously…

Something I’d never really thought about before was whether my sex voice sounded like my not-sex voice. Noise in these apartments bled through the walls like gauze, and if my grunts and moans were at all familiar-sounding, then my roommates might realize that I had spent most of the late evening enthusiastically fucking my neighbor. This was a problem, inasmuch as it was important to my living situation that they believe I was homosexual. It was a thin disguise, to be sure, but it seemed to work.

I could always pretend I’d been engaged in sodomy in my own room, but then they’d want to meet the guy. Besides, Emma was pretty damned vocal herself, and no amount of biting my shoulder could restrain that.

Jesus my shoulder hurt.

I didn’t know what time it was; only that I had to leave for work in a few hours–a prospect that seemed so much more daunting now that I was weighed down by marijuana and sheer physical exhaustion. My body and mind agreed that if there ever was a time to doze off, this was it.

“Dude!”

I really didn’t need to hear that sound right now, and so I willed myself not to be there anymore.

“Dude!”

That didn’t work. I settled for mumbling, “I don’t know anybody by that name.”

“Come on,” the voice insisted, “wake up!”

“For crying out loud, Em,” I moaned, “I’m a man, not a machine.”

My name’s not Em.”

“My name’s not Dude.”

“Fine,” she said, “you call me Em, I’ll call you Dude.”

“Good.” I began to drift away again. “I’m glad we had the chance to work this out.”

“Dude!”

I tried to ignore her.

“Dude!”

“Em!”

“I wanted to talk to you about something.”

Okay, now I was awake. Nothing good ever starts with a phrase like that. “Is that why you led me here?”

“No,” she said condescendingly, “I lured you here because I wanted to fuck your brains out. But now that we’re here, maybe we should talk about us?”

“What about us?”

“Exactly! I don’t even know anything about you. It’s not like we’ve ever had a real conversation.”

“Oh, yeah?” I replied. “Then what did we talk about the night we met?” That wasn’t a rhetorical question; I don’t remember a thing about that conversation, and not because I was drunk.

“Um,” she muttered, “I was only pretending to pay attention to what you had to say.”

“Are you telling me you were only interested in my body?”

“Is that a problem?”

Not really.

Without giving me a chance to respond aloud, she continued, “Most people have sex after the third or fourth date, and here we’ve had sex four times…”

“Technically eight.”

“And we haven’t even had a real date.”

“You want to go on a date?”

“Can we?”

I sighed. “You know, there’s so many ways this is a bad idea.”

“I know, but…” She breathed.

“But what?”

“I hate this girl shit.”

“What are you talking about?”

She brushed one of her cinnamon curls behind her ear and looked at everything in the room that wasn’t me. “I’ve been thinking about you constantly since the last time. You remember, when you propped my up on the dresser and did that thing?”

“I seem to recall being there for that.” Mostly because I didn’t think I had that in me. Although, to be fair, I was kind of possessed.

“And I’m just thinking about…” She waved her hand up and down my body, lingering an extra moment just below my waist. “… that. I’ve been thinking about your cocky smile and your sarcasm and your crooked nose and I just want to know all about you and I’m so sorry I am such an idiot!” She threw herself back onto the mattress and covered her face with a pillow.

I took a few deep breaths. “You’re right.”

“I know!” her muffled voice groaned. “That is so stupid! I’m sorry!”

I growled. I needed some goddamn sleep.

Suddenly she tore the pillow away and sat straight up. “Really?”

“Really,” I replied. “Why not?” Part of my agreement was pure curiosity, but most of it was the desire to bring this conversation to an end.

“It doesn’t have to be anything special,” she blathered. “We can just have dinner here. I know a great Thai place down the block.”

“I don’t think we’d actually do a lot of talking if we ate here.”

“True,” she said.

“Can we iron out the details tomorrow?” I asked.

“Thank you,” she sighed happily.

I dozed off, knowing what a disaster this was going to be, but preferring to deal with the fallout later.

However, it took only a minute for her to whisper, “Dude!”

“Dammit! It’s…” I squinted at her alarm clock, but it was covered by her sports bra. “… late!”

She didn’t seem to care. “Do you think you could do that thing, you know, horizontally?”

“I am so tired, Em.”

“Okay then,” she giggled, “can I do something to you?”

“For the love of God, no,” I groaned.

Her fingernails bit into my inner thigh.

“Yeah, okay.”

to be continued…

Gobsmacked

Another Exciting Adventure in … THE GRIND
(Act I: All Wounds)
(Act II: The Status Quo)
(Act III: Covet thy Neighbor)

***

previously…

“Mitchell?” I asked my roommate within moments of arriving home.

“Yeah,” he replied.

“Why is there an ATM in the living room?”

“I’m holding it for a friend.”

“Oh,” I said, as if that explained everything. Well, almost everything. “Mitchell?”

“Yeah.”

“We live on the fourth floor.”

“Yes, we do,” he confirmed.

“Of a walkup.”

I’m not sure I understand what you’re getting at,” he said.

“How did this get up here?”

He shrugged. “You know.”

Before I could ask what it was that he assumed I knew, he’d wandered away.

I’m going to bed,” I concluded and headed straight to my room. If the world was going to fling crap like that at me like it was some kind of inbred monkey, I was just going to have to put myself in the proper state of mind. With enough marijuana to intoxicate a water buffalo, I crawled out my window.

After the day I’d had, nothing was going to make me happier than this bowl. But just before I touched flame to green, a voice from my neighbor’s apartment called out, “Dude, is that you?”

I considered taking a hit before replying, but I wanted to savor every moment with my green, foul-smelling victory. “No.”

“Dude,” she said, callously disregarding my falsehood, “I’ve got to show you something.”

“I don’t got to see it.” Unless it was herself clad only in a lacy pushup bra, preferably in cerulean blue, which would brighten up her eyes. That was negotiable.

“Aren’t you even curious?”

“No.”

“Guess.”

I took a deep breath, unfortunately, of regular air, uncontaminated by cannabis. What was it going to take to get some goddamned peace in my life. “Will you leave me alone if I do?”

“Only if you want me to.”

“Oh, I want you to.”

“We’ll see about that.” She added, “Go on, guess!”

I folded up my pipe. This was going to take a while. Now what the hell could be so exciting that I had to endure this? I took a stab at it: “Is it…?”

“It’s apple butter!”

My mind said, “What?” My mouth also said, “What?”

“Come inside and I’ll show you.”

“Can you show me out here?”

There was a long pause as she considered her answer. “Please!”

“Fine,” I growled, prying open her window.”

“I’m in the kitchen!”

Stepping out of her bedroom, I found myself completely disoriented. Her apartment was only two-thirds the size of mine, so why couldn’t I find the kitchen? “Marco!” I shouted.

“Polo!” she shouted back.

Following the sound of her voice, I muttered, “How does one get the apple milk to make the apple curd you need to churn to… Oh, my.”

I had to conclude that the unlabeled jar in her left hand contained apple butter, because she was sucking on the finger of the other one, and she appeared to be enjoying it. When I opened my mouth, I’d planned on asking her about that, but what I actually said indicated what was really on the forefront of my mind: “You’re not wearing your shirt.”

She didn’t say anything; she just grinned an enormous, smug grin. Below her waist were her unremarkable track pants–the ones I had once torn off so eagerly not long ago–but above the waist she wore only a periwinkle, pushup bra.

Periwinkle. Okay, I was willing to compromise.

I needed to say something right now. It needed to be witty, but not so funny that it would kill this hypnotic stare-down we had going on. I said, “Apple butter?”

She took a moment to finish licking her finger clean before she asked, “Want some?”

With the grace of a zombie, I reached for the jar.

She pulled away and scolded me, “Like this!” She dipped her finger into the jar and held it held it in front of my face.

Without breaking eye contact, I steadied her hand with mine and enjoyed my first taste of the touted apple butter.

“Although,” she said, “there may be one way to make it even better.” With that, she dunked my pinkie in the jar and licked it.

Using my free hand, I braced myself on the nearest door frame, seeing as my legs were now useless to me.

“Not bad,” she purred. “So what to you think?”

I grabbed the back of her neck, pulled her closer, and kissed her ravenously. From that point forward, only one thought in my head had any sort of coherency, and it demanded that she leave that sexy-as-hell bra alone as long as possible. The rest of the clothing in the room, however, was fair game. Sure enough, my pants, shirt, and tie joined her track pants in a pile in the corner. Don’t ask me how they got there. I don’t even remember how my boots and socks got off of my feet, and those were usually the things that crippled momentum.

The rational part of my mind only surfaced for a moment when it heard her gasp, “Wait.” She fumbled around the counter until she opened her silverware drawer and retrieved a condom. A few minutes of frenzied grappling, fumbling, and thrusting later, she caught her breath and asked, “Can we lie down on the floor now?”

I nodded and helped her off the counter.

After we rested and enjoyed some air, we both laughed. She helped herself out of that beautiful, beautiful bra. “What did you think of the apple butter?”

“It made me forget all about getting high.”

“You’ve got some weed?”

Pretty regularly,” I replied.

“Can I have some?”

I thought you didn’t like to smoke because,” I started to say before good sense caught up to me. “Yes, you can have some.”

to be continued…

Appropriation

Another Exciting Adventure in … THE GRIND
(Act I: All Wounds)
(Act II: The Status Quo)
(Act III: Covet thy Neighbor)

***

previously…

Tyffanie Grant was only sixteen, but she had spent the past five years selling out pop-music concerts and acting in her all-ages sitcom, Mac and Daddy. She’d always dressed and acted provocatively, yet maintained her virtue. Tonight, she was going to put money on it. Judging by the decorations and the size of this yacht on which I stood, I’d say it was a lot of money.

For a purity ball, I was expecting more white clothing. Even the boys, all athletic and bobbing their heads in unison to the music, wore mostly baby blue shirts tucked into their meticulously pressed khakis–too cool, of course, to dance.

The girls unanimously wore black cocktail dresses with skirts that reached down to their mid-thighs and kept hiking up as they wriggled, writhed, and sweat to the bubblegum blaring out of the unnecessarily large speakers in every corner. To Ms. Grant’s credit, none of the tunes were her own.

After hours of this, I barely even noticed my colleague, Gretchen, finishing her photographing orbit of the room and gliding over. “Max, look at this.”

I am looking.”

She smacked the back of my head. “Not there.”

I turned my attention to the display on her camera. “What am I looking at now?”

“Who’s that?”

“Phil Ferris,” I replied, “the washed-up comedian who plays the titular father in Mac and Daddy.”

She smacked me again. “That’s for saying tit in a yacht full of teenagers.”

“It means title, you idiot.”

She shrugged. “I know, I just like hitting you.”

“That’s nice,” I told her. “Can I go back to being a creepy pedophile now?”

This time, when she swung at me, I caught her wrist.

“Do you think you could tell me what’s going on without hitting me again?”

“I’m not talking about Phil Ferris,” she said, liberating her arm, “I’m talking about the guy behind him.”

I squinted. “Looks like a ferret in a sweater vest.”

“Yeah, but who is he?”

I scanned the room and caught sight of him swaggering over in this direction, with his loosely knotted tie, well-worn pants, and scruffy blond hair. I’d never seen him before, but it was obvious to me exactly who I was dealing with: my arch-nemesis, who worked for my rival paper and had been snatching exclusive interviews right out from under me.

I said to him, “Allen Dean, I presume.”

“Wayne,” said someone nearby.

“Say what?” I turned to the voice to see a towering slab of Nordic beef. His blond hair, like Gretchen’s, improbably swept over his head in the most stylish manner imaginable. His lips, like Gretchen’s, puffed alluringly. His chest, like Gretchen’s, threatened the integrity of his button-up shirt. And he brandished a camera, just like Gretchen.

The Aryan repeated, “I’m Wayne.”

“I’m Gretchen,” she purred, checking him out.

“Knock that off,” I hissed at her.

“You must be the lauded Max Fuentes,” the ferret said.

“You must be…”

“Not lauded much longer,” he added.

“That’s a declaration of war, Dean,” I told him.

A bit of a one-sided war, don’t you think?”

“This sexual tension is killing me,” I said. “Should we make out now, or should we trade a few more barbs?”

He shook his head. “You’re funny. But redundant. I’m about to score an exclusive, and all you’ll have left to write are captions.”

“You’re so cute,” I told him before cupping my hands to mouth and turning toward the dance floor. “Tyffanie Grant! Come on over!”

A few moments passed, and she emerged from a cloud of giggling teenage girls without a word, just a curious smile.

“If I promised to dance with you and all your friends, you think I could get an exclusive?”

She glanced at the line of subtly bobbing boys, looked me up and down, grabbed my hand, and said, “Deal.”

As she pulled me away, I made sure to blow Allen Dean a kiss.

A half hour and a full notebook later, I rejoined Gretchen, who was standing alone and fanning her face with the hand not occupied with a camera.

“The hormones in there are suffocating,” I told her. “If I don’t fuck something tonight, I am going to die.”

She let out something between a moan and a sigh. “Oh, yeah. It’s a good thing I have a boyfriend to go home to.” I couldn’t tell if the sigh was one of relief or schadenfreude. It didn’t matter, because I spent the rest of the evening inebriated to the point of nausea by youthful lust.

When I got home hours later, I tried a cold shower, but I couldn’t wash the hormones off of me. It made it worse, actually, as I became aware of how nude I was, and how badly I wanted to share that nudity with someone who richly deserved it.

I tried masturbating, but I kept remembering how young the objects of my fantasies were. Whenever I tried to change the subject, I found myself recalling the skinny, immature limbs of my high-school sweetheart. Whichever way my mind’s eye went, it landed on jailbait.

And so I tried climbing onto my fire escape and getting some fresh air laced with tetrahydrocannabinol, but this was the worst idea of them all, because of my neighbor.

I could have fled at that moment, because, facing away from me with her cell to her ear, she had no idea I was there. Yet I was paralyzed by her neck, exposed by a loose ponytail and glowing with sweat, by the damp polyester clinging to her back, and by her workout pants.

Damn. Athletic women: my only weakness.

My mind, already on fire, ceded control to my body, which maneuvered my feet right up to her. The fingers of my right hand slid over her hip so they could tug loose the knot that held her drawstring together. The rest of them stroked her stomach and crept under the hem of her shirt.

She told her phone, “I’m going to have to call you back, Mom.”

Fifteen minutes later, give or take, I rolled onto my back and wheezed, “Sorry.”

She also rolled onto her back and attempted, with limited success, to slow down her breathing. “Why?” she panted. “Fair’s fair, after all.”

to be continued…

Cesspool

Another Exciting Adventure in … THE GRIND
(Act I: All Wounds)
(Act II: The Status Quo)
(Act III: Covet thy Neighbor)

***

previously…

The door to the holding cell opened, and the officer on the other side told me, “You’re free to go, Max.”

With a yawn, I asked him. “Hey, Jason. What’s going on?”

“You know, the usual.”

“Really? Because the last time I was in, they told me you and the family went to Florida for the week.”

Rolling his eyes, he said, “Not much of a vacation when you got to stay with your in-laws, if you know what I mean.”

“Not personally, but I’ve heard things.”

“Lucky.” He shook his head. “You know the way out. Stay out of trouble.”

We smirked at each other.

When I got to the check-out desk, I said to the uniform sitting behind it. “Hey, Roger.”

“Hey, Max,” he replied. “Says here you were trespassing backstage at the Staplebitch concert.”

I shrugged.

“My daughter loves that band.”

“Your daughter has lousy taste in music.”

“That’s what I keep telling her,” he said, “but you know kids.”

“Not personally, but I’ve heard things.”

He handed me my belongings, I signed for them, and he told me, “See you next time, buddy.”

Upon exiting the building, I was greeted by my colleague and photographer, Gretchen, leaning on a lamppost, playing with her fingernails. Her voluptuous hair was tied up into a stringy ponytail, her pin-up-girl figure was hidden under too-large jeans and a T-shirt, her bright eyes were bloodshot and framed by the ugliest pair of glasses I’d ever seen, her lips were pale, and her smile was absent. I’d recognized her only by the sound of her gum-chewing.

“Gretchen,” I told her, “you look like shit.”

“You look like the shit that shit shits,” she replied.

I took a moment to comprehend what she had just said. Failing that, I closed my eyes and exhaled.

“We done?” she asked.

I nodded.

She strode off, and I turned on my phone to see what the world had been up to in my absence. “You have one new message,” the ethereal voice inside informed me.

“And I bet you a dollar I’m going to hate it,” I mumbled in reply.

“Max,” the first message growled, “this is Myron. You know, your editor? The one who keeps having to bail you out of jail? That Myron? I expect to see you in my office within a half-hour of you getting you out, and I expect you to have an interview for me with the notoriously difficult-to-interview it-band of the moment with the stupid name. If not, I will murder you, chop up your body, and throw it in a compost heap.”

Seeing as I’d failed to get said interview, I figured I should try to make a run for it.

“If you failed to get said interview, and you try to make a run for it,” the message continued, “I will hunt you down, then murder you, chop up your body, and throw it in a compost heap.”

Scratch that.

My phone went off while I was a dead man walking to the train, and I went ahead and answered it, given that I was too numb to give a fuck anymore.

“Am I talking to Max Fuentes?” it asked.

“Who wants to know?” I replied.

“I need you to confirm or deny the veracity of a recent news-related rumor.”

“And what rumor would that be?”

“That an exclusive, all-access, behind-the-scenes story about Staplebitch is not running in your paper this weekend.”

I’d never heard the voice before, but the cockiness of my arch-nemesis could not be mistaken. For starters, it rivaled mine. “Allen Dean,” I moaned.

“I also need you to confirm that I scooped you. Again.”

It didn’t even occur to me to ask how he got my number, because I was too busy informing him, “Dean, I am going to fucking kill you.”

He laughed and hung up.

I sighed, “Myron is going to fucking kill me.”

Forty-five minutes later, however, my editor sentenced me to a fate worse than death. I blinked. “You want me to do what?”

“Not you,” said my editor as he pointed a finger at my colleague and photographer, Gretchen, who had somehow gone home, showered, washed and blew out her hair, dressed, and applied most of her makeup, since I last saw her not all that long ago; “both of you.”

“I’m clear on who’s involved, Chief, but it’s what you want us to do that I don’t quite understand.”

“Go to a purity ball,” he repeated. “And you should probably stop calling me Chief. You’re already skating on thin shit.”

Gretchen snorted. “Max isn’t exactly pure, you know.”

“Well,” Myron continued, “it’s not your purity in question, but you’re still attending.”

“Yeah,” I said, “I’m not going to do that.”

“Since when did this become a democracy?”

“Since 1788,” I replied, “when the Constitution was ratified. Mind you, it excluded blacks, women, and poor people, but we’ve since made improvements.”

During the course of this back and forth, Gretchen produced a vial of mascara from God knows where.

“Max,” Myron said as he absently produced a mirror and held it up for her, “if you don’t shut up and do as you’re told, I’m going to physically kick your ass.”

“I’d like to see you try.”

“I’d pay money to see that,” Gretchen muttered.

“You’re young,” he told me, “but I could take you.”

“You’re probably right,” I admitted. “So, I totally forgot with all the banter, what was our assignment?”

to be continued…

Sated

Another Exciting Adventure in … THE GRIND
(Act I: All Wounds)
(Act II: The Status Quo)
(Act III: Covet thy Neighbor)

***

previously…

Most pornography is produced by males for a male audience, and therefore it tends to favor male fantasies. Whether we dream of being all powerful or powerless, one thing is for certain–the pleasure is all about us. For example, if a woman suddenly finds herself consumed by an unexpected, libidinous frenzy, porn would dictate that she begin by performing furious fellatio on her partner.

It turns out this is not the case at all. She finished four times before I even had a chance to finish once. Between that and the weed, she fell immediately to sleep.

Being objectified sexually was something most men didn’t really mind, and, Lord knows, I’ve had a lot of sex with a lot of women who really didn’t know much about me. In this real-life porno, however, something seemed off. I existed only to scratch Emma’s itch.

I remained in her bed for quite a while, wondering what the hell had just happened, until I finally decided that any thinking could be done better in my own bedroom. All I had to do was find my clothes.

My khakis and underwear were easy; they were dangling, inside-out, from my left ankle. The reason they were hanging there was the same reason I only needed to locate my right boot and sock. My tie, still knotted around my neck, was clenched in her fist. I tugged gently, but it didn’t give. I tugged harder, but it still wouldn’t give. I yanked, and that caused her to roll over in the other direction, taking my neck with it. Slipping it over my head, I twisted and arched and squirmed my way to freedom.

The condom plopped into her wastebasket before I untangled pulled my pants and pulled them up. I located my missing boot on top of her bureau, my shirt in her half-open closet, and my sock in the tiny hallway outside of her room.

After dressing, I wondered if I should take my boots off to tiptoe over her hardwood floors to her window, but a long, deep snore from the bed informed me that I’d be okay. All the same, I’d prefer a few moments to myself to get my thoughts together, so I crept as softly as I could for the exit.

And then, just before I made it to safety, she began muttering. I froze. My ears strained, until they heard, “Just bark if you need me.”

I retrieved my belt from the fire escape and returned home.

Work the next day was tedious, which was just fine with me. Had anything exciting happened, like, say, former child star Julian Glass getting arrested for DUI as he had twice already this month, and had I been stuck standing outside the courthouse with all of the other alleged journalists, our tape recorders and notebooks in hand, I likely would have snapped.

Every inch of the news floor sensed my frustration and confusion, and all stayed away, except for Bill, who didn’t know the meaning of the word couth. He said, “You look like someone beat the hell out of you last night. And you look like you kind of enjoyed it.”

I enjoyed it a lot, actually.

That evening, I knocked on her door the instant I’d made it to our floor. When she didn’t answer, I tried again fifteen minutes later, and again after another twenty minutes. After the fourth attempt, I gave up and headed to my room.

During the immeasurable amount of time lying on my mattress, staring at the ceiling, I’d completely forgotten that my favorite way to alleviate boredom and stress was smoking weed. When that factoid came back to me, I headed immediately to the fire escape, reaching for my pipe and matches; I mean, if there ever was a time for getting thoroughly baked, this was it.

On second thought, if there was ever a time for not getting thoroughly baked, this was it.

I had nearly made it outside when a barely audible shuffle rattled from the wall. My legs propelled me to her door, upon which my knuckles rapped.

She answered immediately, my tie exactly where I’d left it–in her hand. “Here for this?”

“Yeah.”

We both alternated between looking at each other, looking at the floor, and looking at the ceiling. Finally, I coughed out, “We should talk.”

She sighed and beckoned me inside.

We shared a long, anxious moment until she spoke up. “I don’t know where to start.”

“I’ll go,” I said, choosing my words carefully. “I have serious, serious opinions… beliefs, actually… about taking advantage of someone under the influence of… you know… anything.”

“I know!” she moaned. “I’m so sorry!”

“I know!” I moaned. “I’m… ” I frowned. “Did you just apologize to me?”

“Why wouldn’t I?”

“Because I came here to apologize to you.”

“For what?”

“For taking advantage of you.”

She laughed. “Dude, wasn’t I the one who tore your clothes off?”

“Yeah, but you were under the influence.”

“So were you.”

I’m a professional,” I told her. “You smoke, and you turn into this lust-crazed monster. That’s what I took advantage of.”

She paced back and forth, composing her thoughts. “You’re saying I was so strung out that I would have fucked anything, and you just happened to be there?”

“I wouldn’t have phrased it quite like that.”

She sighed. “Dude, if it were anyone else, I probably would have just run away and played with my toys.”

“Really.”

“Maybe not anyone else, but you catch my drift.”

“Oh.” I asked, “So what does that mean, exactly?”

“Dude,” she replied, “let’s not turn this into a thing. Let’s just chalk it up to a bad night.”

“I don’t know if I’d call that bad.”

She grinned a crooked grin and pushed a cinnamon curl behind her ear. “How about ‘poor judgment’?”

“Close enough.” We simultaneously sighed, letting the air out of our shoulders. “I should probably go then,” I said.

“Yeah, dude,” she replied, “you probably should.”

to be continued…