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American Dream Serialization (Early Chapters)
Introduction to Jim Chaffee's Studies in Mathematical Pornography by Maurice Stoker
Introduction to Jim Chaffee's Studies in Mathematical Pornography by Tom Bradley
Studies in Mathematical Pornography: American Dream Title Page by Jim Chaffee
Studies in Mathematical Pornography: Chapter 1 by Jim Chaffee
Studies in Mathematical Pornography: Chapter 2 by Jim Chaffee
Studies in Mathematical Pornography: Chapter 3 by Jim Chaffee
Studies in Mathematical Pornography: Chapter 4 by Jim Chaffee
Studies in Mathematical Pornography: Chapter 5 by Jim Chaffee
Studies in Mathematical Pornography: Chapter 6 by Jim Chaffee
Studies in Mathematical Pornography: Chapter 7 by Jim Chaffee
Studies in Mathematical Pornography: Chapter 8 by Jim Chaffee
Studies in Mathematical Pornography: Chapter 9 by Jim Chaffee
01-01-2015
Modern Tragedy, or Parodies of Ourselves by Robert Castle
01-11-2014
Totally Enchanté, Dahling by Thor Garcia
01-04-2014
Hastini by Rudy Ravindra
The Satyricon of Petronius Arbiter Volume 5 Translation by W. C. Firebaugh
01-01-2014
Unexpected Pastures by Kim Farleigh
10-01-2013
Nonviolence by Jim Courter
The Satyricon of Petronius Arbiter Volume 4 Translation by W. C. Firebaugh
07-01-2013
The Poet Laureate of Greenville by Al Po
The Apocalypse of St. Cleo, Part VI by Thor Garcia
The Satyricon of Petronius Arbiter Volume 3 Translation by W. C. Firebaugh
04-01-2013
The Apocalypse of St. Cleo, Part V by Thor Garcia
The Apocalypse of St. Cleo, Part IV by Thor Garcia
The Satyricon of Petronius Arbiter Volume 2 Translation by W. C. Firebaugh
01-01-2013
The Apocalypse of St. Cleo, Part I by Thor Garcia
The Apocalypse of St. Cleo, Part II by Thor Garcia
The Apocalypse of St. Cleo, Part III by Thor Garcia
The Satyricon of Petronius Arbiter Volume 1 Translation by W. C. Firebaugh
10-01-2012
DADDY KNOWS WORST: Clown Cowers as Father Flounders! by Thor Garcia
RESURRECTON: Excerpt from Breakfast at Midnight by Louis Armand
Review of The Volcker Virus (Donald Strauss) by Kane X Faucher: Excerpt from the forthcoming Infinite Grey by Kane X Faucher
01-07-2012
Little Red Light by Suvi Mahonen and Luke Waldrip
TEXECUTION: Klown Konfab as Killer Kroaked! by Thor Garcia
Miranda's Poop by Jimmy Grist
Paul Fabulan by Kane X Faucher: Excerpt from the forthcoming Infinite Grey by Kane X Faucher
01-04-2012
Operation Scumbag by Thor Garcia
Take-Out Dick by Holly Day
Patience by Ward Webb
The Moon Hides Behind a Cloud by Barrie Darke
The Golden Limo of Slipback City by Ken Valenti
01-01-2012
Chapter from The Infinite Atrocity by Kane X. Faucher
Support the Troops By Giving Them Posthumous Boners by Tom Bradley
01-10-2011
When Good Pistols Do Bad Things by Kurt Mueller
Corporate Strategies by Bruce Douglas Reeves
The Dead Sea by Kim Farleigh
The Perfect Knot by Ernest Alanki
Girlish by Bob Bartholomew
01-07-2011
The Little Ganges by Joshua Willey
The Invisible World: René Magritte by Nick Bertelson
Honk for Jesus by Mitchell Waldman
01-04-2011
Red's Dead by Eli Richardson
The Memphis Showdown by Gabriel Ricard
Someday Man by John Grochalski
01-01-2011
I Was a Teenage Rent-a-Frankenstein by Tom Bradley
Only Love Can Break Your Heart by Fred Bubbers
10-01-2010
Believe in These Men by Adam Greenfield
The Magnus Effect by Robert Edward Sullivan
Performance Piece by Jim Chaffee
07-01-2010
Injustice for All by D. E. Fredd
The Polysyllogistic Curse by Gary J. Shipley
How It's Done by Anjoli Roy
Ghost Dance by Connor Caddigan
Two in a Van by Pavlo Kravchenko
04-01-2010
Uncreated Creatures by Connor Caddigan
Invisible by Anjoli Roy
One of Us by Sonia Ramos Rossi
Storyteller by Alan McCormick
01-01-2010
Idolatry by Robert Smith
P H I L E M A T O P H I L I A by Traci Chee
They Do! by Al Po
Full TEX Archive
Side Photo for The Big Stupid Review

The Diddling of the Immensity

By Thor Garcia

It was at one of the trashier class establishments, in one of the middling rungs of the upper downtown. He was there with a buddy. She had come with a number of friends.

Out in the night, a tassel of bums hacked each other with rusted shivs, rolled, spat, got up again. Under a coppery yellow streetlamp, a gang of sexually-active children assaulted a poor, haggard woman. She stumbled, collapsed and sighed in the alleyway. On the other side of town, commando vans loaded with police in armor motored with steely professional determination, en route to a Neighborhood Watch meeting that had gotten out of hand.

Inside the classy trash establishment, they drank.

She was mid-twenties and tall, slender and delightfully svelte, her hair a gush of golden blondish-brown. Her face possessed the smooth lines of a calm and natural sensuality (if brokered, some said, by the merest hint of brutality that seemed certain to grow more pronounced with age). In the center of her face lodged a pair of sumptuously carved and cleaned nostrils. And when she smiled, well… When she smiled that left cheek mole might wriggle; her jaw might jut; her head might slightly cock; and something not unlike sunlight would pour through that throbbing joy of a carmine cavity. And her chalky dark blues, perhaps imbued with a suggestion of vulnerability, would shimmy and slash at whomever lay in the immediate vicinity.

It was said she had been a swimmer in college.

She did no work that anyone could cite (rumor had long loosely linked her with a certain design institute), yet was able to live in a comfortable neutral area of the city — somewhat beyond the lower rungs, yet rather snug against the highly cosmopolitan homosexual district.

But it was really her beauty — ah, her beauty. She was ogled at, moaned after, despaired over in passing. Hers was not the beauty of skin-moisturizer adverts and network television alone. That wasn't enough anymore: not in these times; not in this town; not with this bunch. She was more apt to don the rare Ecuadorean beanie; the occasionally unexpected brown argyle; the suddenly appearing German high-collar; the vaguely unfashionable Vietnamese sandal.

Or, as on this night, the flimsy cloth summer floozy dress, which she had snapped up for eight dollars at the refreshingly dilapidated K-Mart downtown.

Dan said something to his buddy, Greg Hernandez. Greg nodded — and muttered something himself. Then Dan went over. He moved himself next to the woman.

She was positioned at the bar, sandwiched among friends — Edith and Shalamar and Peg, to be exact, and also her housemate Enrico, who professed to read only Asian babes.

Dan strode up. He ignored the rest. He honed in. He went and straightaway plucked up the woman, even as she stood amid her partisan throng.

Dan was like that. He had the confidence. It wasn't completely unearned. He was pretty tall himself. His chin was brief but firm, while his hair fell in controlled swoops to just above his shirt collar. His eyes hinted of grimly tender chestnuts, which nevertheless were wont to sparkle.

Dan focused in. Within seconds she had spoken her name: "Janice."

Dan paid, unfumblingly, for a round of drinks. He hoisted a foaming beer to his lips. Janice smiled and lifted a goblette of lambent wine.

Dan gazed at Janice, grinned, spoke. Janice, glittering in the hazy neon dimness, bantered back. Dan seized the opening to chance another observation of his own. Janice, her neck mildly pinkening, lifted her eyebrows. Dan chuckled, burped softly and glanced at his watch. He then said something that caused Janice to convulse with laughter. Dan, taking the cue, took the opportunity to convulse as well.

The dialogue was severely in motion.

* * *

Everyone had drifted toward the parking lot, the evening predictably disintegrating in a chaos of hugs and shouts. The noise of speeding long-distance trucks, whipping nervily along the nearby interstate, could be discerned atop the eddying tides of fervid spring air.

Dan put his lips to Janice's lipstick free mouth. He grazed his hands over Janice's bare shoulders, her bare arms. He gently massaged her middling mounds, which were smugly cosseted in a bra of gunmetal gray.

"Oh, God," Dan moaned. "Oh, babe."

"Christ Jesus," Janice whispered. She licked a single stroke against Dan's underlip.

Dan grabbed Janice by the hand and maneuvered her among the cars. He pressed her against the rear wheel hub and trunk of a rusting and pitted yellow Mustang. He threw his face against hers, then plunged his right hand under her flimsy red skirt, pawing at the top of her legs. Janice squirmed, loosening her hips enough to let Dan slip two fingers between her thighs.

Dan panted, scampering his lips along Janice's neck. His right hand worked frenziedly, but Janice had locked her hips and he made little headway. He brought the hand up, scraped it against her breasts, then returned it to the panties. One finger crawled over the elastic edge of the panty rim, tested the intensity of the tension, then withdrew. His left hand squeezed a vealish chunk of her upper thigh.

At that point Shalamar yelled.

She and some of the others were standing on the sidewalk, about 30 yards away.

"C'mon, you guys!" Shalamar shrieked. "This is no time for playing hide the soup spoon!"

Soup spoon?

That stupid girl, thought Dan — yelling out in the street like that. He heard Greg Hernandez laugh drunkenly. Enrico and Peg shrieked.

Dan hesitated. By the time his pause was complete, Janice had slipped from his grasp. She was out of his reach, smoothing down the flimsy floozy dress. She reached for her purse.

* * *

Dan was standing, thinking. His mind touched briefly on the pair of special-frame sunglasses he'd purchased at the new sunglasses store. It grazed over the braided shoelaces he'd recently installed in his burgundy wing-tips. It glanced over the texture of the roasted sunflower seeds that had dotted his lunchtime salad. And next, for the 888th time that day, his mind feasted a blinding few seconds on Janice. In his mind's eye, Dan had frankly seen himself crawling under Janice's warm naked body — his tongue groping and stabbing, groping and stabbing, wherever and whenever it saw fit. And that was pretty frequently. Janice's tongue appeared again, flashing wetly in the darkness, in the navel vicinity of Dan's nearly hairless belly…

"Yes, that's right, Bob," Dan found himself saying all of a sudden. "It is a kind of intelligent gel. An intelligent plastic, if you will."

Dan was at the chemicals company. He surveyed the members of the Investors Group Associates (IGA) conference. A ruddy-faced balding man raised a hand. Dan eyed his seating chart.

"Yes, Richard Stevens?"

"Dan, I'm impressed with your work, but — when can we expect to see the first wide-scale commercial application? Realistically, how far away are we?"

"Good question," said Dan. "Perfect, excellent in fact. I'm glad you asked."

Dan reached under the wooden, sharp-cornered table and grinned. He winced, licked his lips, and brought out into the open a sleek, glinting blue roller-skate of fine engineering. A built-in stand was attached to the appliance. Dan set it upright on the table.

"This prototype model is, as we speak, being test-purveyed at a number of retail institutions," said Dan. "East coast – Boston, New York, Connecticut, Miami, that region. Just shipped from the factory at the start of the month, I believe. Totally legal-vetted and regulatory-cleared. It's got the gel right here in the ankle. Responds, as you know, to the body's natural heat to make a full conformed fit. Your chip is located right here in the toe. Makes contact with the satellite at 4800/1, 63/400. Modular molecular stabilization as a matter of course… and off you go."

Dan spun a wheel. The men murmured.

"But gentlemen," Dan continued, "the thing to remember is: This is just one of the potential applications. This is a roller-skate … a thing with wheels that one puts on one's foot. I ask you, respectfully, to think about that fact carefully. The truth is, we're only at the top-most tip of the proverbial iceberg. I think you'd agree the potential licensing options/opportunities are darn near boggling."

The men murmured. Dan swiveled and snatched a folder from a white and beige stack two feet high.

"Gentlemen, we've compiled some technical-research data for you and your lab folks. On page fourteen, I believe, you'll find the composites framework, followed in succession by the application index, estimate portfolio, cladding/coating funicular, regional matrix, liability extract and facility redux…"

* * *

Later, work over. Dan went to Greg Hernandez's apartment. Greg was spread out on the couch, watching a video on his home computer.

"Did you bang that chick yet?" Greg asked, staring at the screen.

"What chick?"

"You know, whatever her name is."

"Oh, Janice. Yeah, I banged her."

"I thought you would."

The video showed a naked brown woman with black hair, an archipelago of gold and jade hanging from her neck, situated on all fours upon a platform in the center of what appeared to be a warehouse or auditorium. Dozens of naked men of all races and creeds, some still wearing socks, queued around her. A few did excitable calisthenics-type moves, while most of the rest stood blank and slump-shouldered, apparently dazed as they stared at the stage action. The video showed the men pulling and squeezing at implements of diverse pigmentation and structure, sometimes helped along by lips belonging to the members of a small crew of friendly, tired-looking bikini-clad aides.

The camera went close-up on a red digital counter: 56 … 57 … 58 … 59 … Time up. Four or five fellows who had been variously entering the woman were led away by a team of men in white T-shirts and green ball caps. One team member ran up to the woman and, using a yellow sponge, wiped her shiny, unsagging buttock cheeks. The movie cut to a shot of the woman smiling. Vim and hearty, her eyes somewhat low-lidded, she flicked her tongue between her lips, rolled her eyes, brought the tongue out again. She flashed another huge grin. Her breasts, filled with cellophane, tumbled in a controlled jumble between her elbows.

Five or six fresh naked men stepped forward and took position. The camera cut to a slick floor littered with slack glistening condoms and torn condom-wrappers. Good promo for the condom companies.

"Is this real?" asked Dan Bunn.

"Yeah, you bet," said Greg. "New World's Record. Hooray."

"Hip, hip hooray," said Dan.

Greg gulped from his beer, then put the beer down. He cleared his throat and said, "So when?"

"When what?"

"When did you bang her?"

"Who?"

"The Janice chick."

"Oh, yeah. After we went out last week."

"Where'd you go?"

"Took her to that Italian place, you know the one. Then we went back over to her place. Did it there." Dan nipped from his beer.

"Nice apartment?"

"Yeah" said Dan, shrugging. "I guess it was all right. Not too shabby."

"That's cool," said Greg, lifting his bottle. "What about the gay guy?"

"Her roommate?"

"Yeah, him."

"He was around when I went over there. Then he disappeared somewhere. Probably some gay thing."

"Yeah, probably," said Greg.

* * *

Dan Bunn strolled through the downtown business district. It was the early evening. Cars sped, people walked, joggers suffered. Dan walked, thinking about not very much at all.

He was tired but a good ways from exhausted; he was perhaps a shade indolent, but far from shiftless. A brisk, balanced economy, consisting of a splendid affability and an ecumenical imperturbability, attended his mindset. Work was over for the day, after all. It was over. Already he could hardly remember what had gone on.

Dan walked. His gait contained a slight rocking motion, making it something short of a swagger, but perhaps four-fifths of a full strut. A blast of faintly sulfurous city breeze ruffled his hair. It swept a wad of yellow newspaper across the plaza and into a swollen, sleeping bum. It lofted a child's shout far down the colorfully pullulating boulevard. Dan looked up at the glinting pandemonium of skyscrapers encircling him. Whippets of breeze flayed and flared his eyelashes.

A truck painted in the blue and yellow striping of a well-known wafer company hustled down the broad avenue, its clutch grinding with a slight diffidence. Dan observed the vehicle and was reminded of his friend Greg Hernandez. Hadn't, Dan wondered, Greg once worked for the corporation that controlled that particular company? Indeed, perhaps Greg still worked there – now, today, at this moment.

Greg Hernandez, of course, continued to "temp" — often for computer companies, sometimes food conglomerates, and sometimes, for frugal weeks at a time, for no one at all. He'd been doing it for about three years now. While Greg often remarked that he "liked it," the young man also maintained an official policy of alertness for "a good full-time position." Over the years a couple jobs had looked possibly promising — but nothing had ever quite converted into a permanent placement with benefits.

Jeez, Dan mused, nobody'd ever offered Greg a full plate. It was a pity, really, a darn shame. To think of it happening in the strongest and richest and most spectacular nation in the world – in the history of the world. In the gobstobbingest bad-assed nuclear mutha of them all. To his good friend, Greg Hernandez.

Dan forced bursts of air from between tightly held lips, causing a phtupt-phtupt sound.

Dan passed out of downtown and into the first of the outer regions. Flat-eyed youths coasted on bicycles and skateboards, maintained security around trashcans and dumpsters. Dogs sniffed; cats shrugged; men pushed shopping carts brimming with rags, cans and clothes hangers. Inside overheated cafes, slow-moving kitchen workers spread aging tuna salad across recently toasted bagels. Young fellows in expensively ironed t-shirts huddled together silently, punching buttons on individual mobile phones.

The declining light fired the buildings and hardened the shadows. The blues seemed very blue, the tans and browns lustrous. It was as though all the sun that had been soaked up during the day had risen to the surface and now seeped back into the air. Lights began to burn in apartment windows, radio sambas traipsed into the avenues on tin feet. The smell of cooked food wandered out, fast-food together with prickly ethnic herbs, everything mixing with bus exhaust. The buses honked. Some of the cars went too fast around corners, screeching their tires.

Dan saw a girl, a group of girls, near the corner. They stood next to a beat-up low sedan that had dirty white primer smeared on its front end. Older guys were in the car – a goateed fellow up front, backward ball caps in the back, a murky tattoo on a bicep out the window. Dan looked at the girls. Cut-off shorts and tights snaking up their asses, chunks of bare ass and leg hanging out. Not a bra on a one, it seemed. Tits sticking out like that.

* * *

Dan moved on into a particularly neutral area of the city and knocked on Janice's door. Her housemate, Enrico, answered. Dan handled it well, he always did. "Gay guys" didn't bother him. In fact, when he thought about it, which wasn't all that often, he rather admired them. For one, they dressed well, generally, and their level of education and income was high, collectively. Indeed, it seemed that overall there was less to "worry about" with gays than with the rest of the population. Because gays were good citizens, good people, caring people, and solid voters. Dan had read articles.

Janice appeared. She wore a pure lime mini with low black heels. Dan glimpsed the outline of her underwear elastic embossed upon the dress. In a lightning spasm, his eyes tracked the entirety of her legs — from the acme of her hip-waist combine down to her epicurean and delicately crafted ankles. He looked into her face. Her eyes were radiant, her lips seemed to have been recently moistened. Her slender arms bare but for a silver, intricately-notched Honduran bracelet dangling sweetly over the petite and insolent knob of her left wrist.

She smelled, too — so fresh. A scent of definite freshness, yet of a hovering and elusive quality. There was absolutely no telling if it was a commercial scent or something divinely her own, something preciously primal, perhaps derived from the ocean aeons ago.

Dan handled it well. He did these things well. He didn't think about it, it came naturally. Almost reflexively he grew a quick briar of repartee; puffed off a patch of pun-based by-products; enlivened the air with effortless bursts of bonhomie. Janice and Enrico laughed easily. Because Dan had the timing.

He grabbed Janice by the arm and they bid Enrico ciao. They were off to an Italian restaurant.

The place was called Tony Zack's. They sat in the immense trellised Main Room, beneath a giant pearly flower of a chandelier made of molded plastic and steel fittings. The restaurant specialized in wilted radicchio and sage, honey-balsamic calamari and oyster linguini. Crusty bread came with each table. The waiters wore black pants and pleated shirts. Combined, these things were enough to make Tony Zack's, located adjacent to the downtown sector proper, crowded almost every night. Dan had made the reservations a day in advance.

Janice had the sautéed tilapia with caper berries, fergola, arugula and hazelnuts, while Dan opted for grilled beef filet on Sicilian potato cake, with Sardinia peppers, rapini, chick peas and parmesan polenta. The waiters whisked the mess away briskly, and what crusty bread crumbs they hadn't whisked, Dan had — with swift kicks of his forefinger while Janice used the restroom. Dan had talked some about his work, and Janice had talked some about her family. "Dad" was an orthopedist or orthodontist, while an older brother was posted in The Foreign Service — Guatemala or Guangdong.

Well, and so they dined. The dialogue ensued apace. Intimacies were revealed, a certain rapport established. Inevitably, the discussion veered toward sex.

"Me too, I've always enjoyed sex," Janice Ungmann said. What seemed to be the pinkest part of her tongue moved between her teeth — only to vanish as though it had never existed.

Dan studied her with an intent, really-wanting-to-know-you gaze. He asked questions, supplied a quantity of personal data, laughed apparently shyly, asked more questions. Janice replied, frequently with tangy, brisk humor.

She swept her tongue along the entirety of her upper lip. A fresh frosting of pink seemed to re-tinge the tans of her face and neck. She regarded Dan with a pleasant and puissant acuity.

"No, really," Janice said, her lips curving into a perfectly symmetrical smile. "Don't get the wrong idea or anything. I'm a nice girl. I really am. I like kissing and petting, foreplay and doggie-style, all that stuff. I mean, that is, unless you got a couple of whips and rods handy somewhere, some handcuffs and a blindfold, hot wax and a mature donkey…"

Janice released a burst of laughter, her tongue flourished brazenly into the open — before making a thrilling retreat nearly as fast as it had sprung.

Dan forced himself back into the linguistic volley. His mind groped for something appropriate to say — or better yet, something just the right bit inappropriate.

Under the table, Janice's knee shot forward. It caught Dan on the inside of a thigh.

"Sorry," she said.

"No problem," said Dan.

* * *

Dan set his tumbler of pulpy cider on the coffee table. They were in Janice's wineless apartment, which at this hour smelled faintly of pollen and hollandaise sauce.

The dialogue had continued apace.

Dan lifted a forefinger and switched off the porticoed end table lamp.

"What are you doing?"

Janice's voice was not the least bit curious.

"Come here," Dan said, striding toward her through the dimness.

He swept up Janice's hand. He led her out the open sliding glass to the balcony. The city lights were strewn, xanthic and twinkly.

Tufts of warm ocean breeze attacked from the left, right and center, whirling up Janice's skirt even with her panty line. Above, clouds swirled and seethed, mixing and mutating in inscrutable patterns. Dead leaves skidded and scratched along the pavement in ineluctable harmonies. Trees branches flapped, heaving and shaking.

Dan grabbed Janice at the waist with both hands. He leeched his mouth to hers. She drew in her breath suddenly; tightened her mouth; and loosened it as Dan's tongue entered. Her lips slackened; then firmed. Dan worked his way in. Their tongues probed, tasted, discerned texture, pulled back. The tongues rushed forward once more.

Dan pressed Janice against the railing. His left hand caressed her midsection, pressed against the restraining bodice of her bra, wandered amongst the finely bunched breast tops. His right hand climbed purposefully around Janice's neck, his fingers trawling through her soft blondish-brown.

The sky flickered. Over the ocean, a low rumbling gave forth, spreading across the city. The winds quickened yet again. Tree branches banged. Leaves skittered and fled.

Dan closed his eyes and wove deep his tongue; he brought it out; he licked the space between Janice's upper lip and nose; the space between her chin and lower lips. Janice thrust herself into him, her thigh roughly massaging his testicles.

"Jesus," she whispered. "I'm wet. I am so goddamned wet."

"You dirty bitch," Dan panted.

God, he enjoyed saying that. Every time he had the chance. No woman had ever complained. Dan shoved Janice against the railing and pressed himself between her thighs. Janice gasped. Dan gnawed and sucked at her chin.

Thunder boomed over the city. Electric discharges danced unseen through the air. A penetrating smell stung at the nostrils. The boomlets recoiled. Then Dan felt the wetness. A drop, three drops, on his wrist, which lay against the back of Janice's head. A flurry of wet pellets shattered against Janice's left shoulder, broaching the lime fabric, re-depositing themselves in new configurations on her skin.

* * *

Dan Bunn was at his desk. He had returned from lunch and was due for a meeting with Mr. Rudikoff, the elderly co-founder of the company.

His desk phone beeped. It was Rudikoff's executive secretary, Elaine. He was to go see the old man immediately.

Dan floated down the brown-carpeted hall. He entered the corporate chief's chamber.

"Good morning, Dan. Have a seat, if you would."

"Yes, sir," Dan said, moving toward one of the dark chocolate leather chairs.

Rudikoff appeared grim, irritated. The old man picked up a sheaf of printed papers and straightened them with an impatient rustling. He beheld his employee with unblinking sanguinary eyes. Dull window light glinted off Rudikoff's lined but tanned forehead. A cloistered armada of skyscrapers shot up sleekly and greyly behind him.

"Now, Dan," he began, "we try to run a pretty above-board conglomerate here. I don't need to tell you that — you're already well aware of it. And I've got nearly, what is it" — he looked at his watch — "nearly 35 years of my life invested in this corporation. As you well know, I was here at the very beginning with Dr. Sanderford. Do you know what that's like, Dan? Thirty-four-plus years in the chemical plastics adhesives business?"

Dan started to speak. "I, uhn —"

The older man cut him off. The executive's voice was heated and pitched.

"Save it, Dan. Seriously, just save it."

Dan inhaled sharply. Rudikoff glowered.

"You haven't even been alive 35 years, so just save it. Hell, Dan, your daddy probably barely even knew what a pussy was 35 years ago — let alone think about putting his five-point-two inches inside your mommy. God bless her."

Rudikoff crossed himself quickly. He sank his eyes once more into Dan.

"Thirty-five years," Rudikoff continued. "An awful lot of blood and gristle goes into 35 years, Dan. A lot of putting yourself on the line and building up a reputation. Any idea what that's like? You don't go from nothing to a high-ass listing on The New York Stock Exchange for nothing. You got to keep your heart hard and your cock clean, don't you? Your nose clean. And Dan, we're on that New York exchange. We're up there. And Dan — you don't get high-ass classified government clearances — crissakes, man, I've got a security clearance that can take me straight into the White House lobby at a moment's notice. Crissakes, half the government spooks themselves aren't supposed to know the things we're supposed to. And let me tell you — that's not beans on toast, young man. That's not shit on a plate."

Rudikoff clapped his hands down on his desk. His jaw shot forward.

"Young man, are you listening?"

"Y-yes," said Dan. "Of course, sir."

"So perhaps, Dan, you can understand my concern when I see this …" Rudikoff knocked the sheaf of papers "… when I have to put my eyes on something like this report, let me tell you, boy, it is really something."

Rudikoff gave a slow wag of his head. "You, one of our finest employees. You. We believed in you, Dan. We were almost ready to hand the keys to the place over to you. We were preparing to hand them straight over to you one day. You were the guy, Dan. None other than."

Rudikoff shook his head again. It was a sad shake.

Dan looked at his boss, struggling to control the suddenly unbearable twitching of his nose and lips. His mind strained to decipher what Rudikoff was talking about. But he could think of nothing. Unless —

Rudikoff re-straightened the papers. He cleared his throat and began:

"On the evening of April - -, a one Daniel Walter Bunn was observed in the dwelling of a one Enrico Eugene Cowen, a known and confirmed homosexual. After lingering with a one Janice Michelle Ungmann, a young Caucasoid female, in the sitting room and balcony of the residence, Mr. Cowen returned to the dwelling. Mr. Bunn was observed undressing to the point of nudity. He then entered the bed of the aforementioned Mr. Cowen. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Cowen emerged from the bathroom wearing a white terry cloth bathrobe. Mr. Cowen entered the bedroom, removed the bathrobe, and joined Mr. Bunn in the bed. The two men began a conversation, at which point Ms. Ungmann, entered the bedroom. After a brief discussion, Ms. Ungmann joined the two men in the bed. She proceeded to remove her clothing, including undergarments. The three individuals including Mr. Bunn then proceeded to roll around upon the bed together for nearly fourteen minutes. Mr. Cowen was witnessed using Ms. Ungmann's genital undergarment to restrict her from speaking, while Mr. Bunn violated her genital/anal precincts. Mr. Bunn and Mr. Cowen were then violated orally and internally, by each other, while Ms. Ungmann, still gagged with her own undergarment, was witnessed violating Mr. Bunn with a purple object of an estimated plastic origin. Soon thereafter, Mr. Bunn exited the bed, reapplied his clothing, and exited the apartment house."

Rudikoff glared.

"But wait&mdash" began Dan.

Rudikoff cut him off savagely, clapping his hands down on the desk. "No, sir," he intoned. "Just no. Not today, sir."

Rudikoff held up a page of the report and crushed it in a palm. He tossed the wad toward a circular trash bin. The wad hit the rim, bounced, caught the rim again, then rode about halfway around the circular ridge before plunging and disappearing from view.

"Let me explain, Mr. Bunn. This is via satellite — a paid-for top-dollar security-technical-military assessment. Crissakes, Dan, pay attention for once. This isn't some game — it's the so-called real world, my friend. They got triplicate copies, photo, video, whatever the hell it is, and they are ready to provide that to us… Should it come to that. And I sincerely hope it never does. I never want to have to lay my eyes on something like that. Let alone bear the responsibility for bringing it into a civil court of law."

Both men looked down. Neither said anything for a moment.

At last Rudikoff spoke. His words contained a meditative, reflective quality.

"I'm sorry, Dan. But being sorry doesn't change a damn stupid thing, does it. I've got to do what I've got to — to do what I've got to do. A person in my shoes just can't ignore it. Too many people know by now. The board would never sanction it."

Rudikoff sighed. "Listen to me, Dan. We are prepared to give you a fairly generous severance package, which will include the first six months of your therapy costs. Then we'll seal the documents forever. That will be the end of it. You can get the help you need, we can move on, and no one else will ever know. I personally guarantee it. You've got my word on it."

"But—"

"Dan — just no."

Rudikoff's words shot forth in a rasping whisper-growl. The corporate leader stared, his dry milky brown eyes locked on Dan.

"Dan," he continued after a long pause, "now you listen to me, and I mean it. My very serious advice is: Take this deal. Do yourself a favor and take it. You drag us into court; you want to be a funny guy; you want to fight it — crissakes, man, we'll have so many attorneys down your pants you won't know what hand you pick your nose with. And that's not happy stuff. We'll bring in the reporters from all the big papers. TV, media, helicopters, internet, the whole works. It'll happen so fast your head will fuck-friggin' spin. We can get it done — believe you me, son. We've got the people. We've got the resources. We've got the machinery. We can make it happen."

Dan was speechless.

"Here," Rudikoff said. "The paperwork's all ready already. I would advise you to sign it. I think it's your best shot. Sign and you've got a good chance of getting a fresh start. Anybody calls us, we'll say you worked here, you were competent, you left on your own volition. That's what the paperwork says. All voluntary. You'll be able to get another job when this is over, somewhere. I really think so, Dan."

Dan realized Rudikoff was holding out a pen. He rose from the chair, took the writing instrument between his fingers, and shakily signed his name.

"Fine, Dan, fine," Rudikoff said. He sighed, inhaled tartly, and licked his upper lip.

"Now go to lunch. You've already had lunch? Go again. Go out and get yourself a nice hot bowl of chili, two scoops, you'll need it. I'll have the secretary make your copies. You come back, clear out your desk, and that'll be the last of you. I'm sorry it had to come to this, but a man in my position — well, perhaps you understand?"

"Okay," was all Dan could muster. His voice was thick. His eyelids batted uncontrollably…

* * *

The phone buzzed. Dan shook his head, blinked, shook his head once more and picked up the line. It was Rudikoff's executive secretary, Elaine. Rudikoff was ready to see him. He rose and entered the corporate captain's chamber.

"Dan, my man, nice to see you," Rudikoff said, smiling.

The old man stood from his leather swivel chair and gave Dan a taut but lingering handshake. Behind him, out the wall-sized window, the city sat bristling and majestic in the wan afternoon sun.

"And you, sir."

"Indeed." Rudikoff grinned warmly and leaned forward. "Indeed, indeed. Well, well. I won't take too much of your time. How does a nice performance bonus sound? To the tune of about 50,000 U.S.D.A-certified greenbacks?"

Dan gasped. He audibly gasped.

"How about stock options?" Rudikoff went on. "Feel like any? How about unlimited stock options to the extent the federal law allows? How does that sound? That's not chicken-fried steak by the pound, now is it? That's not ham and Hawaii pizza, I don't think."

Dan's mouth hung open.

"Actually," Rudikoff said, "forget how it sounds. In fact, fuck it. Fuck it all, young Dan, that's what I say. It's already yours. The cash has already been transferred to your account. Nothing you can say about it. Everything's already been cleared by the bozos in accounting and the personnel goons. You're out of the loop, my friend."

Rudikoff leaned back and laughed.

"Excuse me, but are you serious?" asked Dan.

"Serious my ass," Rudikoff said, letting out a fresh yowl of laughter. "Ha, shit-dippy I'm serious. Our stock's gone out the roof the past year, and it's thanks to guys like you, Dan. You're out there meeting the folks, aren't you? You're the one pressing the flesh, as they say — if you get my meaning. My drift."

Rudikoff chuckled. "Anyway, the fact remains, our stock just keeps going up and up and up-up-up! And there's no sign of it coming down, maybe not ever. That's what the jerks tell me — not the way the world is now, the line were in – this stuff we do. Don't ask, don't tell — ha ha, get it? Do you get it? Ha! Dan, do you get it? Ha ha!"

Rudikoff leaned back and let out another blurf of laughing. "Doesn't it feel great to be rich! Shit-dippy it does!"

Dan swallowed. "Gosh, I don't know what to say. Thank you, I guess."

"Don't say nothin', Dan." Rudikoff's face was reddening now. "Just keep doing your little bit to make us a big old smelly old mess of old messy mess money. In fact, take the rest of the afternoon off. I insist. What's a good young man like you doing around here anyway? Go out there and get yourself a nice slice of clean pink pussy, Dan. Crissakes — go get a nice slice of pussy! Already got a nice slice? Hell, then go buy her a nice slice!" Rudikoff cackled. "Pussy for everyone! This is the goddamn free world!"

Dan sat there. He wasn't sure what to do. He thought he should probably do as he was told.

Rudikoff, laughing, began to cough. Dan, breathing heavily through his nose, got up and walked out.

* * *

Dan went home and ate half a can of low-sodium chili. He called Janice Ungmann's phone and set up an appointment for later. He then went over to Greg Hernandez's.

The young men sat in straight-backed chairs, looking into Greg's home computer set-up. The computer was hooked on to the internet.

They watched the computer. It whirred and clicked, hummed and banged.

© Thor Garcia 2009