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The Big Stupid Review


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
Modern Tragedy, or Parodies of Ourselves by Robert Castle
Totally Enchanté, Dahling by Thor Garcia
Hastini by Rudy Ravindra
The Satyricon of Petronius Arbiter Volume 5 Translation by W. C. Firebaugh
Unexpected Pastures by Kim Farleigh
Nonviolence by Jim Courter
The Satyricon of Petronius Arbiter Volume 4 Translation by W. C. Firebaugh
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
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
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
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
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
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
Chapter from The Infinite Atrocity by Kane X. Faucher
Support the Troops By Giving Them Posthumous Boners by Tom Bradley
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
The Little Ganges by Joshua Willey
The Invisible World: René Magritte by Nick Bertelson
Honk for Jesus by Mitchell Waldman
Red's Dead by Eli Richardson
The Memphis Showdown by Gabriel Ricard
Someday Man by John Grochalski
I Was a Teenage Rent-a-Frankenstein by Tom Bradley
Only Love Can Break Your Heart by Fred Bubbers
Believe in These Men by Adam Greenfield
The Magnus Effect by Robert Edward Sullivan
Performance Piece by Jim Chaffee
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
Uncreated Creatures by Connor Caddigan
Invisible by Anjoli Roy
One of Us by Sonia Ramos Rossi
Storyteller by Alan McCormick
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
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The Right Woman

By Robert Castle


It amused me the lengths John G. went to create circumstances — not necessarily favorable ones, either — to meet women. You'd swear he did nothing else with his time. Every move in his life seemed calculated to meeting as many women as possible. It wouldn't surprise me to learn that John had discovered that architects met the greatest number of available women and then chose that as his profession. His rationale was simple and disturbing: he was bound to get lucky! His habit of carrying matches everywhere illustrated this point. He didn't smoke, but you’d never knew when a lady needed a cigarette lighted. No matter if she had a flame going from a fifty dollar gold-crested lighter, John G. offered his paltry match. He felt that a woman derived sexual pleasure from having her cigarette lit by a man; invariable, while she took the first drag, he would ask her name. You're in her good graces subconsciously, you made small talk, and you hoped another match will be struck later.

One evening at a bar John G. told me how England was a better place to live than the United States and how he wouldn't mind setting up a consulting firm there. He was crazy, people interested in making money were leaving that country by the score. Its standard of living was somewhere near Israel's. And if he thought he paid too many taxes here… Yes, he responded, he was aware of these problems, but the English women were more open and encouraging after you had bought them a drink. The drink represented part two of his pick-up scheme: light the cigarette then get them a drink, preferably hard liquor. I wondered if he had been to England.

"Sure, two week vacation a couple years back. Almost everyone smokes in England and Europe."

"Don't you like the French women?"

"I don't speak French."

"I'd be a little more selective…I mean, you can't go after any old thing."

"I'll take any babe that wants me."

He was surprised to hear my reservations. We had known each other for several years and he assumed I was after the same thing. He wanted to know why he was doing something wrong.

"I'm not arguing against aggressiveness; it's your over-aggressiveness. Listen to me, don't you realize if you meet too many women, take them to bed, you'll never realize which one was the right one for you."

He was relieved, thinking I was going to caution him against the diseases waiting to catch him.

"There's no such thing as the right woman for anyone. Besides, who said I wanted to get married."

"Who ever said any man ever married the right woman?"

"Didn’t our parents?"

"What do they know about love? They never experienced it like us. All the sex, especially."

John G. thought that his way was the only way to find the right woman. Experience. Eliminated many wrong women.

"Not in the least," I said.

"How does a person know?"

"You feel it, that's all. There's nothing certain about it. Put your faith in the gods." I changed tack. "If you go out with too many women, you dull the sensors. You won't know who's the right one or who's the fraud. It involves taste, not democracy, not anarchy." I felt as if I were defending the Constitution in 1787 and John G.'s love life was Shays' Rebellion.

"What makes you such an expert?"

This question was inevitable. What did John really know about my life? Did I say we were friends? I wouldn't call him a real friend. I rarely see my real friends. What passed for friendship at the workplace, in the neighborhood, was just the shadow of true friendship. You bumped against people long enough, they'd say hello to you, you found out about each other, kidded around, did things together, but you weren’t really friends, you just called yourselves that because life didn't tolerate exact definitions most of the time. He had thought I was with him to pick up girls at the bar. Now my authority on the question of women and delicate relationships was being challenged.

"I know of cases."



John G. wanted an example. I had had enough booze to lose all my decency. I not only drew the example from the family, my brother-in-law, but I mentioned the guy by name. It was conceivable that he knew Eric Coates or that they would meet one day; Eric would've been the more displeased. I wasn't thinking straight, maybe I had forgotten what Eric did, but I managed to botch the story anyway, I became too impatient and blabbed the ghastly end, and I never got to the point about the right woman. Maybe I wanted to shock John and spring on him something he wouldn't forget. Really, not even Eric was sure he killed anyone. Screwing up the story, not really enlightening him, irritated me. Because I had an important point…

Now that I'm sober, or soberer, less inclined to adjectival slobbering, less willing to tolerate interruptions, in no hurry to get to the point, I'll get the story straight.

deer in the yard: threesome

It was midnight, and we needed a couple rounds to wind down. Eric was a line cook, not yet a chef; I, the assistant manager of the place. One of my duties was to hire and fire, and that's how Eric got the job and, ultimately, met his wife.

This particular evening we weren't having a conversation, just talking, exchanging groans and grunts about the restaurant business, actually, about people, he against the idiotic waitresses who messed up his smooth-flowing evening in the kitchen while I trashed the more idiotic customers who ruined a fistful of my days all at once. Eric picked up my lighter, flicked the top, but before producing a flame, this woman said: "May I?"

Her hand touched his, guided the lighter to her cigarette end. Eric nonchalantly turned his head, surveying the situation, and his thumb popped down hard and the flame leapt.

Satisfied, she took the lighter from his hand. He let her tug at it before surrendering; she examined the front.

"See anything that interests you," Eric said. Like John G., he was always ready for action, his come-on line equivalent to John's book of matches.

"What's the R.C. stand for?"

We had noticed her when we sat but thought the guy beside her was her date or husband. Now there was an empty chair between her and Eric. She was older than us by ten years. Creamy complexion, a bit made up, pink lipstick which didn't show well. Shoulder length black hair. She was small but medium height with an ample bosom. Eric tended to stare at a woman's breasts and occasionally I would poke him in the back to break his trance.

"I don't know," Eric said. She opened her mouth as if disappointed. His response was actually my cue to get lost or to shut up and finish my drink. "A waitress found it. Customers are always leaving things like that on our tables. Makes up for all the salt and pepper shakers they steal."

"You work here." She now seemed delighted.

Then, like a reflex, she lit the cigarette which had been dangling from Eric's lips.

"What's your name?" she asked and handed back the lighter.

She didn't listen to his answer as she slid into the seat beside him. She's sloshed, I thought; I was worried the guy sitting there hadn't left. Suddenly, I saw him walking around the bar from the men's room. I was going to tell her but was afraid to ruin Eric's situation. The man sat in her old seat, didn't say anything to her, just ordered another drink.

The woman asked Eric if he were from California and what was he doing on the east coast. Why'd she think that? Just the blonde hair. Didn't he see that she was only making stupid conversation? He stared at her lips. On the side of her jaw was a light scar, as if from a childhood accident. She sat with an elbow across the back of her chair and a hand against her head engulfed by a long wave of black hair.

"I haven't seen you here before," he said.

"Are you still serving dinners?"

"The kitchen closed at eleven." He ordered another pair of drinks and added: "I know a diner that's open late."

It was one-fifteen when they left. They had danced a few slow numbers, and I used that time to move to the other side of the bar. I had to see if they left together. This was my future brother-in-law and the wedding was four months away. Not necessarily to protect my sister's interests. Eric always womanized; marriage was only a means to curb his appetite not suppress it. He had no will when it came to women. They were attracted to him and he adored their attractions, they made love to him, then he dumped them. My sister wasn't as nearly as adoring, in fact he adored her; I didn't think much of the marriage but kept my opinions and morals at a respectful distance.

They finished dancing and the woman began searching her purse — I thought for another pack of cigarettes — and pulled out her car keys.

"Are you coming with me to the diner?" she asked.

He was agreeable. Why not, he had come to work with me.

Eric couldn't figure her out. The situation demanded they go to bed. She approached him; she led the grinds while they danced. When they kissed outside the bar, she pulled him closer. She was stone drunk but wouldn't let him drive. Eric told me that he rode in near perfect fear to the diner. The center of the car seemed attached to the roadway's center stripe. They were dead if they met traffic. She seemed better after eating and on the way to Eric's apartment. I was surprised to hear she resisted his advances. In the bar she was all over him; I've seen legions of women throw themselves at Eric. Why should she have been different? Of course, the woman feigned interest about his life. In this case, what was a college graduate doing working in a restaurant. The only thing that justified it, and he told her so, was the excellent pay. It was in this part of the conversation that Eric learned about her husband. Not that he had illusions. Her ex was a college professor.

At the diner she emphatically refused his offer to pay and brought a wad of cash out of her pocketbook. Five hundred dollars. The diner was full and the clink and chatter immediately subsided when one hundred bucks in twenties fluttered to the floor. She thrust fifteen dollars at Eric and put the cash back as if it were Kleenex. When they got to the car, he asked why she had so much money on her. She explained that she owned a florist shop, that she had come from work to the bar.

When she stopped in the parking lot of the apartment complex, she left the motor running. Pulled in between two vans but only halfway. Eric had to wonder if this were it. He placed his hand on her thigh.

"Why don't you come in for a drink?"

"No, I shouldn't." Then she whacked him with the line: "I'm old enough to be your mother."

"Some of us like mothers."

She didn't respond, verbally or facially.

"Thanks for the breakfast," he said weakly.

"I was only too happy for the company."

"Do you work tomorrow?"

"Everyday. I told you."

He didn't want to get out of the car and ask if she worked with anyone.

"My partner, Carl Walker." She paused. "You know, you've very nice lips."

Eric described his face as floating toward hers and trying to say before their lips met, "So do you."

Her mouth opened to his. Their tongues twiddled and sloshed and were sucked deeper and deeper. This lasted for a few minutes when she began moaning: no, no, no, no, no, yet the clasp around his neck tightened. He was aroused more by the negative supplications.

Soon they were lying across the front seat, his hand underneath her bra fondling her nipple. With his other hand he reached slightly behind himself to turn off the ignition. Then he stopped the caresses. She quit moaning and he whispered what was wrong.

"The car should be moved all the way into the parking space."

She didn't listen and worked her tongue into the vortex of his ear. He pulled away. He was serious. She opened her eyes and put her chin in her hand.

"The cops might see us and pull right over. They love finding this kind of shit. We'd be much more comfortable inside."

"I could take you to my place," she said. "It's only twenty minutes from here."

Why didn't she take him there in the first place? Not that he would've gone. Policy. Never go to the woman's pad (in contrast to John G.). Actually, the surprising thing with Eric here was that he gave her his right name. Usually, it was his policy to lay a fake one on the girl so she would have trouble tracking him. Of course, Eric couldn't tell this woman his policy. He made another bid to get her to his apartment.

By this time, they were sitting up, the early passion wearing off, only Eric was on the driver's side. Without waiting for an objection, he started the engine and moved the car forward six feet.

"Okay," he said, and she followed him into the backseat and they took off their clothes.


"I feel stupid not getting her name," he told me when we drove to work.

"And her telephone number," I said.

"Don't laugh."

He asked if I had seen Lorraine or talked to her; she hadn't called him and he thought she had divined something was wrong.

"No. You're lucky she's a nurse and has twelve hour shifts."

"You won't tell her anything."

I should've expected more serious things to develop, he never asked this.

I don't know how long she had been waiting in the bar. I had gone in at eleven o'clock to wait for Eric after passing through the area several times without noticing her. Her hair was tied in a bun, this could have been why. Neither was I expecting her the very next night. I sat beside her and she turned and said hello. She thought I hadn't recognized her. Remember her, sure.

"I left the bar with your friend."

"Yes, yes." Something in my voice silenced her. Eagerness? My tone may have suggested that I knew a great deal about the previous evening. "How have you been?"

She pulled out a cigarette from a pack on the bar. I lit it. She nodded. So I was R.C. This allowed me to ask her name. Laura. I said that Eric would be out very soon.

We talked for twenty minutes. I bought her a drink. Long enough time to permit me to dream that Eric wouldn't show up, that I would take her to the diner and then home, hers or mine. We talked about the flower shop, because I knew Eric hated flowers, and I talked about my role at the restaurant, a troubleshooter.

"I suppose you're a college graduate also."

"Isn't everybody?"

By this time my arm was on the back of her chair. I looked to see if Eric was coming and glimpsed him up against the entranceway to the dining room. How long had he been there? I tapped Laura's elbow, then got out of the chair and went over to him.

"I ought to punch your face in," he whispered through gritted teeth.

"Fuck you, she's been waiting for you all night."

"How long have you two been talking?"

"Everything was innocent. Calm down. I was keeping her company."

"Did you tell her I was engaged?"

"Fuck you, friend."

He brushed by me, I didn't feel like going back for my drink. Five minutes later he twisted in every direction to find me. I was in a booth, raised my glass, and just like that we became friends again.

Eric wasted no time inviting Laura back to his place. They didn't want to repeat the backseat performance. They said goodbye as they were leaving. I wouldn't see him for the next three days, her never again.


My sister Lorraine started bugging me. What was wrong with Eric? Why couldn’t she get in touch with him? I must know why he's avoiding her.

I didn’t tell her that Eric hadn’t shown up at work and that I would probably fire him when I saw him. I had called and he didn’t answer the phone. When I went over to the apartment, the place was empty.

Then ten o'clock in the morning on the fourth day, waking me up, he knocked at my apartment. Laura waited in the car. He told Lorraine this morning that the wedding was off. She was more mad at me, he said; he told her I knew what was going on. He had come this morning, however, to talk about Laura and apologize to me for the other evening. What about his job or my sister? Was he giving them up without thinking about it for some older flooze? He claimed that it was more than sexual attraction. Spent the last two days exclusively with Laura, hanging around the florist shop, dinners on the town, and late evenings at nightclubs.

"What do you know about her?" I asked, imitating the voice of reason.

He could think and talk only of her, Laura, his Laura, a woman who possessed him more than any other had. The freshest, maturest person he had ever met. She made all other women stale in his mind. Conversationalist, sexual athlete. She never fussed or nit-picked. He claimed her body never sweated but emanated a lemony aroma caused by her brand of bubble bath. I had thought it a perfume. Eric was prepared ( so he thought) to hear the worst, that Laura was not divorced from Mr. Schunlust (pronounced shoon-loost), that he and Laura would forever meet in secret. He didn't want to find out. If she decided to tell him, if she wanted Eric to know, that was fine. I wanted to know and told him to get to the point. Yes, she had been married, once, and had obtained a divorce several years ago. No children, thank God; Eric didn't cherish playing stepfather to an unloving miserable brat. There was a miscarriage, however, which caused her husband's attentions to wither, never wanting to touch her again, not wanting to sleep in the same bed.

Mr. Schunlust (never got a first name) taught at the City University of New York and was thirteen years Laura's senior, which made him old enough to be Eric's father. Laura moved out of their Long Island house after the divorce and settled in New Jersey. She never indicated where her share of the investment in the flower shop originated, from the divorce or Mr. Walker or her own savings. She hadn't heard from her husband in three years but doubted he remarried.

I thought Eric a bit stupid for not wondering more about this Walker guy. Maybe she had a thing for him or he a hold on her. They worked together, they had the opportunity to be intimate.

Eric was more worried about the difference in their ages. The remark about being old enough to be his mother cut him. She didn't appear to be much older that him, but she acted far more experienced. She felt old beside Eric. He didn't want to be called a gigolo; I thought the world would judge more harshly his broken engagement with Lorraine. He felt as if he were being stared at when he took out Laura. I asked what was his next move.

"She wants me to stay at her place."

"That's a big step."

"I convinced her." He paused. "I guess I can tell you this, but don't ever mention it to your sister." He paused another few seconds. "Laura's the right woman for me. I knew it the first night I was with her. I was willing to let her escape, after that first night, because we were drunk and I was engaged and I thought she might be married. That's why I was so furious when I saw you hitting on her."

"I was trying to…"

"I know, I know. We're friends. That's why I'm here now. Laura understands me. If I weren't engaged to someone I might never have noticed. It was a duty to be around Lorraine since we got engaged. I didn't want her to care for me. I wanted Laura to. I'm going to marry Laura."

"You asked her."

"I will."

How was he going to live? I might have got him the job back at the restaurant.

"Laura said she would take care of me. Money doesn't mean much to her. Whether I'm rich. Your sister's always worried about money, about me getting a better job."

"You're beyond hope. Don't listen to reason. You just have to screw up your life so bad you'll finally see the light."

"Who's asking for advice. I know what I want."

"Isn't Laura waiting for you," I said to get rid of him.

"If that's the way you feel."

"That's the way I feel."

"I don't see why you're mad at me," Eric said as he reached the door.

"I'm not mad. Not mad at what you're doing to Lorraine, at least. I have no feeling about it one way or another. Only that you're acting like an asshole and you'll realize it too late. And when I feel so indifferent, it agitates me. So leave."


In a way, I wish the events I'm about to relate happened to me. I don't resent Eric's actions, but it's frustrating to watch someone in a critical situation where I not only would have acted differently, I would have acted the right way. This is the curse on a man who never finds himself in a dramatic circumstance. I work, I chase women, I'm unlucky. The romance between Eric and Laura most painfully exemplifies my ill-fate. Why didn't Laura throw herself at me? Only because I sat on Eric's right side. Whose fault was that? The one time alone with her I held back my feelings, I wouldn't steal her from Eric. I'm stupid, also. I shouldn't consider the feelings of others.

A dirt driveway twisted through a strip of woodland, Laura's house couldn't be seen from the road. They had dinner in town, and it was an hour drive to the outer suburbs where the cow pastures and cornfields became common. Past the woods the car drove over the lazy hump of a bridge straddling an artificial pond. The car’s lights illuminated a white-structure for half a second before she pulled to the side. With one glimmer, one fast frame, already he imagined a shared life with Laura and five bedrooms, a library, two-and-a-half bathrooms, a pool table, and a greenhouse.

"Any neighbors?" he asked, bringing the suitcases to the front door.

"Do you see any? Maybe a couple hundred yards down the road. We're surrounded by trees and ponds."

Laura unlocked the door. A slight, chilly breath sighed from inside. She slapped along the wall for a light switch. Upstairs lights were flicked on.

"Aren't you going to show me the place?" he asked.

"Tomorrow," she said, "let's go to bed." She started upstairs. "Come on. You're going to love it here."

Eric was less convinced of this venture than he was a half-hour earlier. He was accustomed to cramped apartments with half-pint refrigerators and naked light bulbs; the bathrooms in Laura's house were more livable. He wondered how he got there and what was he doing with her. He thought of the ways he wouldn't fit her mold, and the age difference haunted him again.

"How can you afford this?"

She linked their arms and kissed his cheek.

"I'm tired. I told you, I'm renting it from friends."

He thought she had said it was part of the divorce settlement.

"I don't remember what I said," she brushed it off. "You can see the rest of the house tomorrow."

He had as little interest in houses and gardens as she had in housework. A maid, Jasmine, came twice a week, and was hired and paid by the landlords.

"My fiancé had a cat by that name. Pure white. Until it was squashed by a truck."

"You say horrible things."

"It's a true story. Can I help it if that's what happened? What was that?"


"I heard a noise downstairs. I'm going to check it out."

"It was nothing. Please, stay here. Make love to me. It was probably the wind."

"It might be an intruder. Do you deep many valuables?"

"Mostly in the bedroom."

Eric wanted to call the police and asked where the telephone was.

"Don't be silly," she said. "You exasperate me. I can put up with so many of your tendencies. Always looking for something to make you jump out of your skin. Relax. Let me unbutton your shirt. You're in my house. Don't you think I'll take care of you?"

She was right, he was shaking.

"Let's go to bed," she went on, "I'll make you feel better."

Around midnight, Eric asked her what she meant by his tendencies.

"You woke me for that." She started sucking on his shoulder advancing toward his neck. "I didn't mean that, darling."

He persisted. She must have meant something. It reminded him of what Lorraine might say: a tendency to be jealous or selfish or silent. He didn't think he'd get the same treatment from the right woman.

"I wasn't criticizing you," Laura said.

"You sounded critical."

"It's only a few things I noticed. It's nothing." She reached for a cigarette from the night table. Eric declined, never enjoying a smoke in the dark. "You probably heard about them before from your fiancé."

"Maybe I didn't like hearing them from her. But I want to hear them from you."

"Now I know you'll get mad."

"I promise not to."

Eric thought he had called her bluff. She wouldn't dare say something awful about him, little realizing that he had opened floodgates which would not be easily closed.

First was a tendency that bothered not only Laura but all of Eric's acquaintances: an incessant popping and cracking of his bones. Most annoying was the snap induced from his neck, usually two or three times in succession. He maintained that it stiffened all the time and to prevent it from giving him a headache — pain always worked from south to north, he theorized — he would relieve the tension by shaking his head side to side. To me, the snapping sound seemed to originate from the head and that's what bothered me.

"You're only rationalizing a bad habit," she said.

"It makes me feel good."

He flung the bed sheets aside and stood. She grabbed his hand.

"What's wrong? he asked.

"I knew you'd get mad. I should have never…please don't leave me."

"I'm only going to piss."

"I want to screw again now. To make up for the time we were fighting."

"I'll be right back."

"I may not be ready to screw three minutes from now, but I may be ready to discuss your other tendencies."

How quickly women can adjust the emotional thermostat. I've known them to discuss marriage with guys that they're ready to ditch — and the thing is the women are sincere. Men lack ability to dwell on several emotional planes simultaneously. To Eric it was a matter of relieving himself; he had no control over the timing. His leaving the room for a minute or two meant that he would not sacrifice himself for her; if he stayed, his performance in bed would have suffered although Laura would have attributed it to a lack of real affection.

Eric chose to go to the bathroom.

"I'm going to sleep," she yawned. "Set the alarm for six-thirty when you get back."

Eric heard a noise again, someone coming upstairs. He hit the bathroom light switch and waited in the doorway. A man's figure appeared at the top stair. Eric waited to see if he would enter Laura's room or continue down the hall. Then Eric realized he had come to the bathroom naked. Blindly he reached inside the bathroom and found hand towels beside the sink. He inched inside toward the tub and found a bath towel, wrapping it around his waist. Peeking out, he saw the man open the bedroom door.

"What the hell are you doing here?" Eric called down the hall.

The man faced Eric. He wore a bathrobe and slippers. Putting his hands into his pockets he calmly replied: "I heard someone come back with Laura tonight. I was just looking in to see how you were doing."

"You the landlord?" Eric approached him. "Don't you believe in knocking?" Eric went into the bedroom and asked Laura if she knew the guy.

"I hope you aren't upset with me," the man said to her.

"I better explain it to him alone," she replied almost bored in her tone.

The man started downstairs. Eric switched on the light. Laura grabbed a bathrobe. Eric wanted to follow the man downstairs, thinking he had recognized the face. Laura told him to let the guy alone.

"Who is he? What's going on?"

He pushed Laura onto the bed and shut the door. He cursed her, called her everything ugly and inhuman. He didn't know exactly why he was mad, maybe for what she hadn't explained to him. The man could only have been one person. Nearly fifty years old. Loosely fitting the physical requirements for the college professor husband. Parts of her story unhinged. Her apartment had turned out to be a rented house; the trip had taken an hour and not twenty minutes. Instantly, he was a sap who had chucked a moderately stable life for what? Worse, the source of his turmoil and self-loathing was the self-same right woman.

"Do you want to let me speak?" Laura asked.

"I'm the one who should sound mad."

It was indeed her husband, but the marriage was exactly as she'd described. He could not stand to touch her but psychologically wouldn’t let go. She exacted a price for the torment of staying with him: she could see any man she wanted, bring him home to live here if she desired so. The professor agreed. Eric wasn't the first she brought home, but she loved him more than the rest combined.

"You let me destroy my engagement for some kinked-up arrangement. I loved you more than any fucking thing else before."

He slapped her with the back of his hand. Laura wanted to stand and fight back but he then smacked her full on the face. He thought he broke her nose; she didn't move from the bed. Bunching part of the spread against her face, he absorbed some of the blood and tried to stop the flow.

In the living room, Eric saw Mr. Schunlust sitting on the sofa with a glass of orange juice. Apparently he hadn't heard the fight.

"Leaving so soon? I hope I didn't shake you up."

Eric was shaking. The question sounded flippant and mocking.


The man laughed.

"No stamina. Worn out. Or don't you like to share? She raved about you. Soul mates, I think she said. Even before she met you."

"What are you talking about?"

"I was sitting between you and Laura in the bar. I left for the little boys room so she could introduce herself. Yes, you do remember! I hope you're not going to hit me."

"What kind of sick guy are you to let your wife…"

"You left your fiancé, friend, I'm still with my wife."

"You don't love her."

"I love her too much. Her body disgusts me, I admit, but no ordinary love can withstand that kind of alienation. Mine does. I certainly do love her."

"I couldn't love her under these circumstances."

"I encourage her boyfriends and love her through them." He laughed. "She doesn't have to sneak around, she has a regular life, no getting in at four in the morning. She has a job to maintain. I recommend that you stay. Laura will be happy. You and I will be glad she's happy."

Eric didn't know why he was listening to this crap. Only his conscience made him inform Schunlust to go upstairs and see his wife, but he didn't say Laura might be dying. Lastly, he warned the man that if he ever saw him after tonight he would beat the shit out of him.

He drove straight to my place. Kept me up from four a.m. talking about his escapade. What he really wanted to know was whether Lorraine would take him back. I assured him that I would smooth the path; in fact, he had little to worry about. I was also interested in the details about the Schunlusts. He nearly expected to be arrested for hitting her.

But we never heard from the Schunlusts. Eric forgot about it as quickly as he had been captivated. I think the episode, the small portion Lorraine was told, caused her to love him all the more, made her value him as one would an enviable possession. No wonder their marriage never lasted.


When the right woman enters your life, be prepared to grab her. She might not give you a second chance, but the heartache she'd cause would last forever. Did his affair with Laura Schunlust doom Eric's marriage? I only know he and Lorraine would have been better without it.

This was the point I was going to make with John G. Eric may have lost his chance for... I don't want to say "happiness" because the right woman more than not will make you unhappy, maybe not as unhappy if you know she's slipped between your fingers, but a more difficult kind of unhappy, the melancholy which besets after a great triumph or drinking binge. At best, finding the right woman means holding the means to attain a blissful life. Bliss is good for individuals but not for society. That's the problem with the right woman, that's why you shouldn't marry her.

Laura Schunlust attracted many men, including me, because of external attributes and her self-assuredness. Was she really the right woman for Eric? I can only believe what he said. It is a very subjective thing and, hence, uncertain. I also believed she was the right woman for me, more so than for Eric. How can I say that? How can you trust my judgment? I have one answer: I wouldn't have given up on her if I had bumped into Mr. Schunlust.

I would have accepted the situation as long as Mr. and Mrs. Schunlust would have it. A week, a month, a year, a decade.

That's what it means to find the right woman.

You accept all the circumstances no matter how much they hurt. You may die of grief. You don't care.

This was beyond John G’s grasp.

I didn't tell him the complete story. He wouldn't have understood how I fit in. But he also wouldn't have accepted the fact that one could miss the right woman, that there was no second chance, worse, there might not be a first chance, that one might miss the privilege of suffering so greatly. I was trying to be a friend, for once, and give John his chance. However slight it was, I'm glad I had mine.

deer in the yard: threesome

© Robert Castle 2009