The Russo collection

 

Chapter One – Takes all kinds

She was the tiniest whore I ever fucked. Hard to tell how old she was. Out there you never know with all the makeup and dim lighting — caked up and standing in the shadows you find them. And even when they’re indoors delivering the goods you can’t always be sure. I’ve done 60-year-olds who passed for 30 when you saw them out there on the street. Conscientious workers nevertheless. Performed like 30-year-olds. Of course you would have to at that age if you wanted to stay in business. But, as I was saying, you can never be certain, and I have, no doubt, made some dodgy calls at the lower end of the scale. Not intentionally, for Christ’s sake — I am not into that sort of thing. I’m just assuming that through the years they haven’t all, technically speaking, qualified as bona fide consenting adults.

Dr. Russo?

No, I don’t think that’s good. I take pride in setting high moral standards, and besides, I have kids of my own. But really? Should all the responsibility be on my shoulders when it’s so easy to be duped — specially if you’re in a rush? I believe that there should be some sort of control, some sort of authority who steps up to the plate in these matters. In Germany they have licenses, and check-ups and so on, and they are generally more organized over there.

Dr. Russo?

Anyhow, this one was no teenager. Could have been in her thirties or even forties for all I know. She was just so, so tiny. When she took off her heels I almost backed out. She wasn’t technically a dwarf — which would be under four foot ten as we learned in med school — but close to that. Certainly not a case of Achondroplasia. She had nice proportions — only miniaturized. Anyway, I’m not griping. She did her job all right. Kept up her end of the bargain and at the end of the day that’s what counts.

There is a limit, you know. There is a limit to how much a person can take. The lies. The cheating.

She was from Eastern Europe. They’re primitive peoples, the East Europeans. Materialistic as all get out. Kill their mothers for a Goddamn Lana Marks handbag or some Gucci crap. That’s what communism did for them. But at her height, let’s be honest, she picked the wrong profession. Whores shouldn’t be that tiny.

I don’t care if they’re taller than me — within limits, of course. And the tall ones do seem to do well. I once did a six-foot-fiver. I had to check first if she wasn’t a man. Asked to feel her crotch before I made the deal. None of that Bois de Boulogne kinky stuff for me, thank you. She was cool with that. A pro.

Dr. Russo, i am here against my will. I didn’t ask for this. We need to get on with our own separate lives. Separately! Separated!

She might have been a basketball player. They do have professional women’s basketball now, you know. Got their own league. Maybe she did play basketball. I didn’t ask. I’m not there for the conversation.

My job doesn’t pay me to take time off for this.

For a man in basketball, six-foot-five is short. It’s a regular freak show — basketball. If it weren’t for basketball all those guys would just be side-attractions in a circus. Those Chinese guys . . . like, Yau Mau or Sun Ming Wing or whatever their names are? And they breed them that way. Did you know that? Where will it end?

Really? Since when did you have a paying job?

I’ve never had Chinese— not that I know of. I’ve had Vietnamese, and Nigerians, and Japs and Thais. Lots of the latter. I was in Pattaya for two weeks once. One week would have been plenty! You’ve got to have stamina for a stint like that. But I don’t think I’ve missed out on that much not having had Chinese. You’ll find the same basic routines and equipment wherever you go. The world’s a lot more homogeneous than most people realize. Like they say over there: Same-Same.

Why are you so aggressive?

Ah ha, who is calling who aggressive?

Same-Same. I’ve been doing couples counseling now for over 20 years and I can tell you a thing or two about same-same. Same-same bullshit day after day. Same-same jealousy, deception, avarice, envy. Like these two in here right now. And they think they’re unique. They think they’re special.

The right term is compulsively abusive.

Total crap. That’s all you can come up with?

The Chinese speak lousy English, not that it would matter. If I haven’t already made it clear — you’re not there for the chitchat. One of the worst things that can happen is doing one who can’t keep her flapper shut. Like that Las Vegas hooker who wanted to talk politics the whole time? Kept jabbering away. Said I should vote for McCain ’cause he’d been tortured. Would never stop. I mean, like, who was being tortured? That evening should qualify me for some political office.

Screw you!

I have to listen to a lot more than my fair share of self-serving blabber as it is. It’s the downside of my job. But at least then I’m the one getting paid. I’ve learned how to handle it, though. I’ve got my Moleskine notepad. I’ve got the Montblanc Meisterstück Laura gave me on our 20th. From the clients’ end of the table, it might look like I’m taking notes — transcribing their failure as coexisting humans, while actually I’m spending my time profitably, recollecting and writing down those succulent little moments that make life interesting. Like doing that tiny ‘midget’ from Poland. I just might publish it all one day — anonymously of course.

He is totally not the man I thought I married, Doctor. The man I married was thoughtful and considerate. The man I married cared for me.

Incidentally, the correct term for people with growth deficiencies is ‘dwarf’, not ‘midget’. Midgets are these two self-righteous misfortunates sitting across the table from me now. These are mental midgets who, one can assume, kept themselves consistently plastered while dating, and high on who knows what hallucinogenic when deciding, against all logic and reason to — why not, what the heck — tie the knot.

We are talking about hell — basically from day one, Doctor. And we are talking about some financial maneuvers bordering on embezzlement.

So totally not true. All of it. A result of your pathological paranoia.

Asshole

Shitface

You’re so fucked

At this point I must intervene and remind my clients that indecent language will not be tolerated in my sessions. Unless we keep a civil tone and show courtesy and respect towards each other we won’t get anywhere. I ask them to behave like grownups.

That is asking a lot of her, Doctor. When we first met she came on like she was an intellectual. Claimed to love music and art and the classics. Now her life is just facebook and twitter and those other . . . Whatever they’re called .

Let’s talk about this. Let’s talk about who made me do my breasts and then afterwards said it had to come out of my savings. Let’s talk about that, Chuckie.

That’s a lie. The breast implants were your idea.

You’re the lie, you’re just one big lie . . .

Breast implants? I once had a guy in here who told me that his wife had deceived him: She hadn’t let on that her tits weren’t “real” and he hadn’t discovered that until after they were married.

So, like, what in the fuck does that matter? What is he complaining about? He couldn’t tell the difference until he saw the scars? So what? Not real? Blubber or silicone — why should he care? What does that tell us about men? It’s this sort of crap that made me a feminist.

You’re worse than ridiculous.

Listen up! We men go around all day with our doodangles totally concealed. Little porky-dorky weenies or bilge pumps — or what the hell, we could have a tarantula in there — no one’s gonna know. Tinker toys or boas — it’s our secret. Get it? Men never have to compete publicly with their dicks. Women, on the other hand, are expected to strut their stuff and exhibit the goods 24/7. Females are not only forced to struggle against what time does to all of us, they must always be in competition with each other to boot, while we guys can just sit back and enjoy the show. Those muslim ladies wrapping themselves up like mummies are not as dumb as we think.

Dr Russo? Dr Russo, are you listening to what i’ve been telling you? This is all such a waste of everyone’s time.

And so here we have this dude who falls for his woman’s XXL jugs and though he can’t see or feel the difference between the blessings of science and the fruits of nature, when they finally get around to doing it with the lights on, he notices some scars and feels cheated. Makes me ashamed to be a man. Makes me wanna puke.

Why don’t you tell the doctor what it’s really about, Chuck? Why don’t you tell him about that cocktail waitress . . . Or that girl in lucky’s . . . Or why not melissa . . . My, so disgusting, best friend.

And while I’m on the subject, let me just say that nothing is more overrated than big melons. As a matter of fact, the whores with the whoppers — and remember this is coming from a guy who should know what he’s talking about — tend for the most part to be lazy and complacent. They think just ’cause they got those water balloon knockers they don’t have to put in any effort — just slap those mobys on you and pocket your dough. Take a tip from Dr. Russo: The smaller the breasts, the more sensuous the woman. That’s right. That’s the bottom line.

Like Yolanda in Tahiti. She couldn’t have filled an A-cup, but, oh boy, was she dynamite. Sweet little almond joys she had. On principle I don’t do repeats. As a happily married man I’m not looking for relationships. But if I ever was tempted to do reruns, Yolanda would be right up there at the top of my list. She claimed to be the great granddaughter of Paul Gauguin. Who knows? But she was one hell of an artist in her own right. Of course it’s not everyday you find yourself in Tahiti.

That is so totally crap. What this all comes down to is the money, and the house, the cars . . . These are issues for lawyers— not therapists.

Such sorry sods. Does their marriage sound like a lost cause to you? You think? Perhaps, but it’s not for nothing that I get the lion’s share of court-mandated couples counseling in this city. Take a guess on who’s got the highest rate of ‘saved’ marriages in the state — or make that the entire midwest? That’s right, you nailed it — your humble servant, Dr. Benjamin Russo, M-D.,Psy.D.,Ph.D, You can Google that if you like.

Dr Russo? Dr Russo, are you listening to this? Do you hear how so obviously there is no point in going through with these sessions. Can’t we just tell the court that we went to you for the stipulated time and that nothing came from it.

I patiently explain that I am being asked to break the law, which I simply will not do. Their failure to attend court-mandated therapy would put them in contempt and net them substantial fines. Besides, they might just be in for a surprise, these two. I’m a winner, you know. I’ve got the knack —an uncanny knack. It’s not on account of my medical degree. It’s not because I did my psychology studies under that old fart Mahoney (he is so overrated). It’s because I was born with a gift.

Such bullshit.

I’ll do my best to make sure these two stay together. And I rarely fail. They deserve each other. And face it, they wouldn’t do any better a second time around. New partners — new squabbles. I’ll let them talk it off for a few sessions. Get the venom out of their systems. Let them complain and bitch until they’re totally bored with their own garbage. And then I’ll put in the fix. Doctor Russo will prevail. Oh-oh. They’re back at it.

Grandstanding narcissist.

Pathological liar.

Sanctimonious, arrogant bastard.

Session’s ending. Time to get these people out of here. First, I sell them a copy of my book, “The Perfect Match: Love and marriage in the 21st Century” — two copies, because at the moment they’re not capable of sharing things. I put it on their bill. And now for some parting advice:

Alright, our first session is over. I want you two to go home and think. I want you to think hard. I want you to search your hearts. Search your souls. For just a few moments, put aside the negative, the critical, the debilitating. Put aside the ill-will, drudge, and disappointment and think instead about what brought you together in the first place — the magic that once attracted you to each other. Recall those qualities. Those qualities that made your lives spent together more rich and fulfilled than your lives lived separately.

But, dr. Russo—

No, now it’s your turn to listen to me. Lift yourselves up, Allison and Chuck. Get out of the mud. Steer your course above the storm, above and beyond the squabbles and trivialities that are plaguing you at this moment, poisoning your minds, polluting your sense of reason. Remind yourselves of the good times, the joy and satisfaction, the fulfillment and pleasure you’ve shared. Together. As a team!  Look for the love that, deep inside, you both know still lingers on—still aglow somewhere, yet for now hidden by your frustration, smothered by your anger. Do that for me, Allison and Chuck, and I’ll see you here again at the same time next week.

 

Chapter two – Mom, Linda’s an Atheist


Mom, Linda’s an atheist.

No I’m not, you liar.

She doesn’t believe in God, Mom. She thinks praying is useless.

Let Linda speak for herself, Billy . . . Linda, is this true?

He was praying for the Wild Cats to win on Sunday. I just told him how idiotic it was to ask God to get involved in a high school football game.

She laughed at me in the middle of my prayers and she pulled my hair. Isn’t that some kind of sin? I’m on my knees talking with God and she sneaks up from behind and pulls my hair.

You shouldn’t have done that, Linda.

He used the S-word, mom. He was praying for the Wild Cats to beat the S-word out of the Tigers.

She’s lying. I didn’t use the S-word. I used the C-word.

God doesn’t want to hear swear words, Billy.

But ‘crap’ isn’t a swear word. You use it,
Mom.

I do not . . . well maybe when I’m very upset. But I certainly wouldn’t use it in my prayers. And you shouldn’t either.

Billy’s lying. He said s – h – i – t. He said, Dear God, please help us beat the s – h – i – t out of the Tigers . . . and for your information ‘crap’ isn’t the C-word. Do you wanna know what the C-word is?

Watch your tongue, young lady! You’re going to get yourself in very big trouble.

I didn’t say ‘shit’. Billy did. I just spelled it .

Well you just said it now, Linda! I’m shocked.

I’m just quoting what Billy said in his prayer. Billy said ‘shit’ to God. He was swearing — I was quoting. Two totally different concepts.

She’s so freakin’ full of it, Mom.

Did you hear that, Mom? Now Billy said freakin’ when what he really meant was the F-word. It’s what you mean that counts, Billy. If you say freakin’ in your prayers, don’t think God won’t know exactly what word you were really thinking.

Alright. That’s enough, both of you. I don’t want to hear any more profanity in this house — spelled, quoted or intended. Have I made myself clear? This is God’s house. God doesn’t want to hear filthy language. Your Dad will be back soon and I don’t want to bother him with this. He has enough on his plate as it is.

Actually, unknown to them, I am already home. I’m sitting in the next room trying to concentrate on the WFF keynote speech I’m going to give in Philadelphia at the end of the month, and their squabbling is making that impossible. I shout at them to shut the fuck up in there.

Just kidding:-) Of course I don’t tell them to shut the fuck up. If I acted like that? Used that kind of language? Would turn this family upside down. Hopefully they will soon take their bickering elsewhere so I can get back to work.

 Why should God care one way or another if the Wild Cats win against the Tigers, Mom?

God wants us to talk to him, Linda. It’s okay to ask God for his help. God decides when and where he wishes to work his wonders. And God does answer our prayers.

Whatever . . . but you never want to second-guess God. No telling what he may come up with. God might just turn those pimply-assed teenage Tigers into real-life, 500-pound, sabre-toothed Bengals, just like that, and turn ’em loose on the playing field. That would give the fans in the bleachers something to get excited about. God might choose to have his real-life tigers devour the Wild Cat linebackers and gobble up their plump little cheerleaders to boot. This sort of thing has happened before you know. If you are up to spiff on your bible studies you’d know that.

Anyway, Laura is right. This is God’s house and we are all his children. That’s the way she wanted it. And I’m good with that. I’m all in. We’re a 101% percent Christian family here and God bless us for it.

Billy does have a foul tongue, though. When he was younger we had to regularly wash out his mouth with soap: a practice, which they tell me, has fallen out of favor with today’s parents. That’s a shame, as washing out mouths with soap has much to be said for it. It’s both a lenient punishment and a fitting metaphor, and that is more than one can say for confinement to rooms and spankings: “You stole a candy bar. Pull down your pants and bend over so as I can whip your little fanny pink?” Where is the metaphor in that, I ask?

Thank God for religion. I grew up in an atheist home and it sucked. I had two arrogant, know-it-all parents who had answers for everything — thought they had all the mysteries sewed up tight. Idiots. I mean, like, how stupid, is it not, to assume that the seven billion assholes currently trashing this tiny planet are the supreme honchos in the universe; that we humans, who are about three chromosomes genetically removed from fleas are as good as it gets? Denying God is like denying, on principle, anything we can’t put in a test tube or see through a telescope.

Yeah, my parents really sucked. What kind of parents tell their kids at the age of four that Santa Claus is a retail industry myth? Mine, Mr. and Mrs. William Russo — that’s who. And what kind of parents comfort their weeping child, as he crawls into to their bed in the middle of the night, terrified by dreams of demons, death, eternity and nothingness, with bullshit like . . .

“Well Benjamin, we all have to die someday. But there is no God, so don’t worry about being sent to hell, because it doesn’t exist. Paradise? No that doesn’t exist either. Those are illusions made up by the ruling classes to keep the masses from demanding what’s due them here on the earth. Now go back to bed.”

Laura, on the other hand, was brought up on faith. And it’s done her well. She glows with it. What a treasure it is for her. And I’m totally on board as well. As I said, we’re a Christian family with Christian family values, and proud of it. Those arrogant English bastards — Dawkins, and, what’s his name . . . Hutchens or something, who smoke and drank himself to death. God fixed that guy good. There’s all the proof you need. God smote him down.

See what’s happening? I’m trying to get some work done here, trying to put together a nice little talk for those WFF ladies up in Philadelphia, and my kid’s arguing has got me sidetracked into thinking about religion, which invariably leads me to thinking about our local church, which invariably leads to me thinking about our dear Reverend DeVos, that pious prick who obviously would like nothing better than to get his hands into Laura’s pants. There’s a real dickhead for you. But I need to clear my mind from those debilitating thoughts and concentrate on the task before me. Get to work, Benjo!

And I am truly excited about keynoting the WFF conference on marriage equality. After all, I’m an expert who should know what he’s talking about and a little getaway from the drudgeries of my everyday routines will do me good. They do have some fairly decent brothels up there in Philly that I’m interested in reacquainting myself with.

I’m going to talk about . . . hey, what am I going to talk about? Well, first I need a good title that grabs their attention.

Love and Marriage Equality in the 21st Century

Boring, boring, zzzzzzz

Why Arranged Marriages are the Most Successful (and Equal)

That’d provoke ’em good.

Giving Child Molesters a Second Chance

Now that would knock them out of their seats. And it’s totally off-topic. Love to see the look on their faces if I whipped out that PowerPoint.

I had a couple in once who were in pretty bad shape. A suitable challenge for my exceptional skillset if there ever was one. The wife had come down with P-PAWS (Periodic—Pervasive Arousal Withdrawal Syndrome), a calamity previously only diagnosed in the children of refugee families denied asylum in Sweden. She came to the first session in her bathrobe and slippers and fell asleep before I could ask her name.

And the guy — he was in even deeper shit still.

Like most Americans he had an overly optimistic view of the protection granted by privileged information. After a few sessions he let on that he had a collection of videos and pictures in his possession that were probably — probably is the word that dumbass used — illegal. He later suggested that LBGTQ should be complemented with a P.

Sorry, buddy, LBGPTQ is not going to fly. Nobody wants you guys in their club. They don’t want any more letters in that alphabet soup to start with — least of all a P! Sorry, but you are at the bottom of the pit. Better to want to hump sheep. Even Necrophiliacs come off looking good compared with your crowd. Sheep and corpses don’t seem to mind. LBGPTQ? Forget it.

I felt for the him, though— the poor bastard. Even if there is no cure for my particular compulsion (if there was I wouldn’t be interested in it, anyway) there is a quick fix and I exercise it at every opportunity, sometimes legally and sometimes not. But for this guy there is no fix. Nothing out there but catastrophes waiting to happen. Nothing but fragile lives to fuck up.

I recommended frequent ice baths for the wife. And for the hubby I prescribed chemical castration. As far as I know, these two are still together as man and wife. Another Dr. Russo success story.

But like I said, I felt for him. As Christ teaches us, true empathy can never be qualified by weighing in the deeds of the subject in question, no matter how much evil they have done. A sinner hurts and bleeds just as badly as a saint. Jesus gave his love and compassion unreservedly to the worst of sinners. Zap these guys good — sure, but Bin Laden’s toothaches, Eichmann’s rheumatism,Ted Bundy’s hair loss, Bernie Madoff’s fallen arches all deserve our Christian empathy. And that goes for this guy’s lot as well.

And while I’m on the subject:

In the barbershop I frequent there are magazines with pictures of grinning bozos in Abercrombie & Fitch fishing vests posing with their catches. As far as I can tell some of those creatures are still alive, drowning in the air, writhing in pain from the hooks in their gills, and horrified — you can see that horror in their eyes. These Abercrombie & Fitch fishing vest guys are oblivious to all that suffering. They are beaming. Proud as punch, they are. Fish don’t deserve their empathy because fish don’t wear vests, can’t drink beer and grow beards, or order Grand Slam breakfasts at Denny’s. Fish are slightly dumber than we are and they’re not cute like dogs and cats — thus fish deserve to suffer. I wish Jesus was still around to tell those guys a thing or two.

But now I have got to get started on this damn speech and remember to make sure they book a few extra nights for me at the Sheraton. Did I mention that they’ve got some great brothels up there in the City of Brotherly Love? The industry is thriving in that town.

 

 Chapter three – Roman Arches in Philadelphia

Okay, so here I am at the WFF conference in Philly. The plenary session I’m keynoting is tomorrow morning at 8:30. Between now and then what are my options?

  • Street & Bar — dodgy, to say the least, and you can end up in jail
  • Cat houses — entertaining, often congenial, offer a large selection, reasonably priced, illegal outside of Nevada, rarely in the center of town
  • Legal escort services — convenient though pricey, with possible complications that I will elaborate on shortly
  • Internet entrepreneurship — adventuresome, no guarantees, can be confusing for old boys like myself

I am not going to say one can’t do well on the street & bar scene. There are deals to be had and you can always get lucky and score yourself a diamond in the ruff. But — and this is a big BUT, fellows — there is a hell of a lot of misery out there, particularly on the stroll, most often drug related, and you don’t want to be a contributor to that. What’s more, streets and bars are where the police run their stings. In Philly they say if you spot a hooker on Torresdale Avenue in short sleeves with her teeth intact, she’s probably a cop.

You can get it wrong indoors as well. I once met a whore in an Anchorage bar who aroused my interest and I bought her a few drinks and so on and so forth, and only as we were walking back to my hotel did I discover she wasn’t in the trade at all — just a lonely woman looking for some love and companionship. She was genuinely taken aback when I asked what she charged for her services, though perhaps somewhat flattered that I thought she had what it took to turn tricks. I feigned a sudden onslaught of tummy pain, jotted down my (bogus) telephone number on some scrap of paper and waved her goodbye from the backseat window of the first cab to come along.

Often the simplest solution is to call an Escort service and have someone sent to your hotel. There are seven highly recommended agencies in this city who can arrange that. But how embarrassing could that not turn out for me? As a keynoter and one of only 25 men amongst 422 women at this conference I am not exactly an anonymous figure, and the WFF position on prostitution is unequivocal = traffickingmale oppressionand enslavement. If word got out that our venerated relationships expert and keynote speaker, Dr Jonathan Russo, was bringing, not just one, but a steady supply of escort girls (read oppressed sex slaves) up to his conference hotel suite, how would that go down with the WFF ladies? Not well, I assure you.

Sex workers are slaves because no one would freely choose that line of work? Okay, hard to argue with that. But, I ask, who of us would do whatever we’re doing — professionally that is — if we didn’t have to, for one reason or another. Who would work at anything potentially unpleasant, tedious, or physically exhausting if we didn’t need the money? Would I, for example, voluntarily subject myself to wallowing in the craptub of hubris and deceit my clients bring into my office if I didn’t have a family to clothe and feed?

I’ve heard it said that some people like their work so much they would keep at it even if they didn’t get paid because what they’re doing is creative, satisfying and self-rewarding. (This is particularly true if they are in a position to order the poor slobs under them to do their noncreative, unsatisfying and unrewarding shitwork for them). But I can with assurance say that the majority of us (certainly the aforementioned shitworking slobs), once the paychecks stopped coming in, would tell our bosses to go fuck themselves straight off and spend the rest of our fat-assed lives bathing in the putrescent shimmer of 75 inch flatscreens gulping down PBRs and Doritos. Who knows, we might even take up smoking again.

Ah, but there’s a difference, they say. Think about the integrity of the body, the inviolate personal space, the social stigmatization of sexwork. You can’t compare sexwork to selling used Mazdas, filling in mortgage rates on Excel charts, or cleaning toilets. They have a point there.

How about the Internet? I check out Naughty Reviews and backpage.com on my laptop. The listings for Philadelphia are as numerous as they are uninspiring, but the following post does catch my eye.

For the man who wants have some serious fun, and a great time. 38e-24-36, white creamy complexion, Angelina Jolie lookalike, green eyes. I am model and performers in the Adult Entertainment Industry. Very much into what I do. I focus on the kinkier side!!! Very physically fit and slender, although busty. I have a slender waist and beautiful heart shaped porky behind!! Multiple hours, overnights, weekends and travel available. Into bsm, bondage, forced feminization, couples, spanking, golden showers, or just staying at home and having an enchanting time. / Didi

Sounds like a nice girl. And she knows how to get her message across in as few words as possible. More of us could do with that skill. Phrases like ‘beautiful heart shaped porky behind‘ tells us we might just have a poet in the making here. If forced feminization and golden showers are your cup of tea then you might want to give Didi a buzz, but yours truly is an old-fashioned vanilla-play John. I’ll have to pass on this one.

BTW, an important detail with the Internet thing is that if you piss a provider off they can put you on nationalblacklist.com with your name and contact information and then you are in trouble big time. National Blacklist postings just don’t disappear and they tend to pop up high on Google searches. Not only can blacklisting adventure your marriage and your job, but you could also find yourself shut off from the better half of the industry, as most serious upscale sex workers consult the National Blacklist before confirming a booking.

Get this: I’m on that list — twice! In the first instance due to a financial dispute where I was wholly in the right, trust me, and in the second, an attempt at blackmail from a very unpleasant pimp. No need to worry on my account though. In that world I use only false names, untraceable email addresses and cash cards which I regularly discard. Pisses me off to be on there never-the-less.

But, I’m wasting time. It’s already 2.30 and if I am to get in any action before dinner it’s time to get moving. I decide on a traditional old style cathouse which I’ve heard good things about and I call to see if they’re still in business: “Welcome to Philadelphia, Sir. Of course, the K-club is open 24/7. Please do come and pay us a visit. You wont be disappointed. We have the most beautiful ladies in the state and we accept all major credit cards.”

Credit cards? Is this woman serious? How many idiots have not made that mistake?

She: “Darling, there’s an item on your Amex statement here for something called the Mustang Ranch. What’s that?

He: “Huh? Oh that. We needed some recreation after those grueling negotiations with Allied Chemical, so we went horseback riding. Really fun.

She: “800 dollars? That must have been one hell of a mustang?

Of course I pay only in cash, even though Laura wouldn’t dream of snooping in my private papers. She’s not the suspicious type; true believers, people who have the gift of faith like Laura never are. Anyone who can swallow that the creation of the world was a seven-day project and enthusiastically listen to Reverend DeVos, the biggest hypocrite in Omaha (God’s messenger, my ass) wax on about family values week after week — such a person will not suspect their loving husband and devoted father of being a serial consumer of commercial sexual services.

It takes one to know one, you see. For example, if you’re one of those individuals who enjoys lurking under public staircases in the hope of some hot scenery you probably assume that most, if not all, of your brethren share your interest. But if you have never felt the urge to shoot beaver, on the contrary, are shocked to learn that such a base and vulgar activity even occurs, then you, upon hearing of some weirdo ‘caught in the act’ — “I saw that bastard looking up my wife’s dress” — would naturally assume that the perpetrator was a freak of nature, a weirdo who should be confined to a mental institution.

Down in the hotel lobby I run into Victoria Cobble the president of the WFF. She gives me a Roman arch hug. Roman arch hugs are SOP at WFF conferences. Fine with me. If you’re looking for grizzly bear hugs, half-nelsons, full body presses that incorporate leg entwinement and that sort of thing, you won’t find them here. Of course I’m not looking for that, but I will say that hugs communicate in a way handshakes never could. A handshake can be wimpy because the shaker never learned any better, or bone crushing if some dipshit is trying to prove how macho they are, like Laura’s friend who almost broke my hand at that Sunday brunch, but other than that there’s not much of a message there, while hugs can express a wide spectrum of emotions and status.

Handshaking originated with our primitive ancestors assuring each other they weren’t armed.

“Look no weapon!”

“Me neither.”

“Let me feel your hand just to make sure.”

Did you know that women didn’t start shaking hands until the onset of the industrial revolution? My daughter Linda learned in school that if only people could stop shaking hands with each other we could reduce the spread of contagious diseases in the world by 30 percent. They didn’t say anything about hugs. I assume that roman arch hugs are fairly hygienic. Properly executed there is no skin contact at all.

Victoria tells me how excited she is over my keynote. She’s also pleased to hear that I will be staying on for the duration of the conference. Keynote speakers rarely stick around at conferences after they’ve given their talks. It would lower their stature. Get down off that podium and you’re just one of the crowd.

She put down her Starbucks before giving me the roman arch hug. I take this as a sign of respect. Being separated from one’s Starbucks at today’s conferences is akin to an amputation — serious conference-goers are rarely seen without these five dollar status symbols permanently fixated at the end of their right-angled arms.  Some conferences have apparently foregone plastic identity badges in favor of delegates’ names scribbled on their latté cups. Judging from the improbable coffee stains on the backs of several conference-goers suits some people here are doing their roman arch hugs without first detaching their Starbucks.

Victoria. How should I describe Victoria? Well, frankly, she looks exactly like you would expect of a WFF personage. I don’t want to generalize and say most of the women at these conference look and dress alike, but I do have a hard time telling them apart. They’re primarily short, wear conservatively-colored business suits with heavily padded shoulders. They say what they have to say repeatedly and loudly, and tend to have New York accents.

What more can I say about them? Being daughters of the upper middle class few of them, as Laura puts it “have let themselves go”, a state of affairs which she, in her pro bono social work, is all too familiar with. Of course, letting one’s self go on kale-walnut salads, jammy zinfandels, and TED talks will not have the same effect as letting one’s self go on Judge Judy, hydrogenated grease snacks, and 32 ounce buckets of Dr Pepper.

I noncommit to Victoria’s invite for that evening’s WFF-VIP get-together and have the bellhop flag me a cab. I give the driver an address which is a few houses up the street from my real destination. Never can be too careful. “That’s not a valid address”, he says. “I take it it’s the K-club you are heading for and that would be number 23b”. Impertinent bastard. That indiscretion cost him his tip. To boot, he feels compelled to tell me jokes during the entire ride. Stuff like:

Taxi cab driver: Hey, you know what the missionary in Liberia answered when they asked him if he was concerned about Ebola?

Me: No, I don’t.

Taxi cab driver: He said, “No problem, I always use a condom.”

There is predictably no sign identifying the entrance to the K-club, which occupies the cellar of a rundown, gone-bust, sausage factory in the Cherry Hill suburbs. A malicious prankster has spraypainted ‘Jesus is cuming here’ over the corrugated steel door that opens up on a stairway leading down to the K-clubs reception. The interior is tacky, ruby red plush, and dark, but in better shape than the building it’s housed in. Experience tells me that the opposite might be true for the service providers who are about to parade before me.

The Madame looks disturbingly like my grandmother Wilma around the time lung cancer finnished her off at the age of 92. Uncannily, just like Wilma on her deathbed, this woman is enjoying a chain of heavily mentholated cigarettes over a glass of milk. Her smoking has mentholated the entire room with a deceptively antiseptic odor that makes you think the place is cleaner than it probably is. She looks me over, rings a buzzer, and seven ladies of the night saunter into the room for the lineup.

‘Lineup’ is a bit of a misnomer. The girls just don’t stand there in a row like suspects in a police station, but rather sit or slouch in varying poses they hope hilite their most stimulating features. Each of them has something to offer, qualities mostly related to the successful production of offspring, which is the last thing on any of our minds. As is typical in better class brothels, we are expected to converse, getting to know a little bit about each other before I make any decisions. As an icebreaker, a short redhead with a Polish accent asks me If I am a naughty boy, which immediately disqualifies her as a candidate for my business.

Lineups are practical and in a client’s best interest since you are provided an opportunity to check out what you are about to pay serious money for, but on the negative side there is always that unpleasantness that comes from turning someone down, rejecting a fellow human because they aren’t good enough for one reason or another.

Which of us has not in their youth stood huddled in a group of peers and heard their name not called out as two assholes alternately pick who is going to be on their team for some idiotic school sporting activity which at the time seems to be the most important event on the planet? (Almost everyone I have questioned on this claims they were always among the last chosen which would imply that the early selected have all died premature deaths. Serves ’em right. )

I am offered a drink and more chitchat.

Are you from out of town?

Yes, I’m here from Colorado. I’m visiting with my aunt.

Does she give you good handjobs?

This is typical. Every topic no matter how quotidian in its origins is eventually channeled into something to do with sex lest I lose focus on what I’m here for.

But I already know what I want. Her name is Sabina and she’s Cuban. She is wearing 4-inch heels and a limegreen cocktail dress. I have had a lot of positive experiences with women from that country even though I prefer them in their natural habitat. Sabina has only been in America a few months and hopefully hasn’t been completely corrupted by our dog-eat-dog materialistic society.

Excellent choice, says Madame, as Sabina takes my hand and leads me down a corridor of doors bearing flattering portraits just slightly resembling the girls I have just talked to. We enter Sabina’s room and sit on her bed. She keeps her hand in my lap while we negotiate.

 

 Chapter four – Best of Friends

But we are. And we always will be.

No we won’t. And you know it as well as I do. Some dude is gonna come between us. That’s what happens, Linda. Hashtag fact-of-life.

No dude is going to . . . and even if . . . it wouldn’t change what we have.

Yes it will. The sexual thing always screws up the platonic thing.

We tried the sexual thing, Xena. It didn’t work for us.

That was embarrassing, Linda.

We’re still twin souls. Soul-twins forever, Xena.

But they’re hunting you, Linda. Kevin, Todd . . . Pierce even,  whatshisname in Biology, the track and field guys? They hang around like we’re all just good ol’ high school buddies, always joking and messing around, but I know they’re drooling for you, girl.

Drooling? C’mon, Xena. Those guys are our friends.

Sure, Linda.

And why do you go on like I am the only female here? You could be with someone just as well.

Because you’re the one. You sizzle. I’m nothing.

Well, I think you’re beautiful, Xena. And you’re smart.

Smart girls are threatening, Linda.

Why do you diss yourself all the time?

Plus, you’re black, Linda.

What does that have to do with it? And, incidentally, the term is biracial.

Biracial or whatever. Being, like, the only black girl in our school is totally awesome. You’re the shit and you know it. Those guys aren’t your friends, believe me.

That’s sick, Xena. My grandmother was in the Civil Rights movement. She hanged out with Rosa Parks and she was with Medgar Evers in Jackson when they shot him.

I know all that.

And the hospital at first wouldn’t admit him as he was black. My grandmother was standing on the street outside with Evers’ family when they pronounced him dead. They wouldn’t let the family in to be at his bedside . . . because they were black, Xena.

I know. I’ve heard that story many times. It’s disgusting.

So what would my grandmother say hearing you talk the way you do? It’s, like, racist.

Maybe. But it doesn’t change the situation. You’re hot. You’re the shit. I’m a mole. And any day now you are going to start going with some guy, and from then on our relationship will never be the same.

It doesn’t have to be that way. You’re such a gloomer.

Because you’ll have secrets together. Friendship and sexship — they mess with each other.

But—

Sex is the mother of all lies, Linda: “We didn’t do anything. We were just talking.” Remember when I asked you what you and Todd were doing in the janitor’s room after math class? We were just talking, you said.

Because we were just talking, Xena.

It’s OK to tell your best friend that because it’s OK to lie about anything having to do with sex.

Xena, our class starts in 10 minutes. Mrs. Henderson locks out students who don’t come in time, including paranoid little white girls with sexual hangups.

Your dad says sex is the mother of deception.

Hello? Are you serious? You talk sex with my dad? Since when? That is so totally not cool.

Whaddya expect? He’s my mentor. We talk about lots of things.

He’s your bible study mentor.  You are supposed to be discussing the bible, Xena. Jesus!

We discuss the bible — Adam and Eve, the snake, the forbidden fruit.

Xena, I’m so totally not OK with you discussing sex with my Dad.

Sorry. He’s so knowledgable. I’m learning a lot. After all, he is a sexologist, isn’t he?

No, he’s a relations therapist who happens to have a bunch of degrees because he never wanted to leave college. And most of the time he’s full of shit, Xena. You’ve got to promise me . . .

I asked your dad if opposite sexes could ever be friends, truly friends, you know?

That’s a question boys ask, Xena.

Well, I asked it, Linda,  and he said that it depended upon our sexual coefficient scores.

Oh, no. Here we go.

Yeah, the sexual coefficient is, like, a combo of people’s self-assessment, their moral standards, and their target range.

Target range?

Yeah. Possible conquests, you know — what we feel we can obtain based on how we rank ourselves. Humans are constantly making this calculation with everyone around them.

My father told you that everyone in the world is sexually obsessed?

No, mostly this works on a subconscious level. But according to Johnny every human being is either subconsciously or consciously thinking that because I am this — I can obtain that, even if ninetynine percent of the time we don’t act on those calculations for whatever reasons.

According to who?

Johnny — your dad. Johnny says that when these coefficients are low it is possible to develop friendship — otherwise not. Normally the scores are low between members of the same sex and that’s why men can be friends with other men and women with other women.

You call him Johnny?

Yeah, what am I supposed to call him — Doctor Russo? I’ve known him since, like, you and I were small and he’s been my mentor for five years.

I’ve had DeVos as a mentor for just as long, and I still call him Reverend DeVos. I wouldn’t dream of calling him Harry.

Yeah, but Reverend DeVos is a slimebag and your dad is OK, Linda.

That’s debatable, Xena.

Johnny says males are born with an inflated self-assessment valuation which explains how those track and field dorks could ever imagine you in their target range.

For god’s sake, stop calling him Johnny. And leave me out of everyone’s target range.

Alright. Dr Russo. Dr Russo says that inflated male self-assessment is the fundamental cause of inequality between the sexes.

That’s part of his “I am a feminist” rant. Don’t get taken in by that, Xena.

The self-assessment plus target range thing kind of explains who goes with who, Linda. It’s why you’ll probably end up with Matt Rilke.

Matt Rilke? Varsity quarterback Matt Rilke? You’re crazy.

Considering that you both have maxed-out self-assessment numbers, considering he’s the biggest sports star, considering you’re beautiful . . . and black . . . considering you two are obviously at the top of each others target ranges . . . it makes sense. God and Darwin would agree on this.

Hey, Xena, we gotta run. Mrs. Henderson is going to lock us out.

And once you and Matt Rilke are a pair then I’m out of the picture. You will share stuff I won’t be part of.

Mrs. Henderson, Xena!

Case in point. Mrs. Henderson is so drab she makes me itch. She is the most dull and boring person you and I are ever going to meet — on the surface that is. But after school’s out she goes home and dresses up in Nazi lederhosen and beats Mr. Henderson with a toilet brush while listening to Slipknot. And then they hang themselves upside down in ropes and chains and hump like coyote bats.

You know that for a fact?

Sex sanctions lying. Secrecy. Deceit. Look at everyone around us: Hello, How are you? Nice weather. Cute dog. Enjoy your smoothie. But that’s our public bullshit side. It’s our frontage. On the inside our sexual calculation gears are spinning away. The only people who are honest about sex are porn stars, swingers, and prostitutes. All credit to them.

Did my dad tell you that as well?

Not exactly.

You know your preoccupation with this is pretty alarming. Maybe you need someone to talk to —  professionally I mean.

Why? I’ve got your Dad.

 

 Chapter five – All in for Baldwin

FROM THRILLING OUTDOOR ADVENTURES AND CULINARY NIRVANA TO ROMANTIC GETAWAYS, LUXURIOUS SPAS, AND SECLUDED BEACH RETREATS, THE BAHAMAS OFFERS EVERYTHING YOU COULD IMAGINE…AND SO MUCH MORE.

Oh Baldwin, you’re amazing. You are simply wonderful.

Larry, you’re spoiling him … as always.

How can you spoil this guy? He deserves the best. Don’t you Baldy?

Dr. Russo says —

Pardon my French, Penny, but fuck Dr. Russo.

You’re not even reading his book, Larry.

No, Darling. But I am doing what’s asked of me. You read the book — you tell us the program. That’s sufficient. You’ve gone whole hog on Russo. Fine. You explain the routines and we go along with them. Baldwin seems enthusiastic and I’m doing the best I can. I’m going that extra mile aren’t I?

Not willingly.

That’s irrelevant, baby. I’m complying — Reconstruct your everyday habits … CHECK. Promote the positives in your relationship … CHECK. Think about what’s best for loved ones affected by your decisions — that would be you, Baldy … CHECK. Avoid angry verbal confrontations; if you have objections put them in writing … CHECK. Lock your written objections in your fucking peace capsules … CHECK, CHECK, CHECK.

You’re not doing it enthusiastically, Larry.

No? Did I not adventure the future of my company by taking this week off? Haven’t I booked us on a ludicrously expensive Caribbean Cruise? When I look out over our cabin balcony right now do I not see, or would see, if 566 cruise ships weren’t blocking our view, something called Nassau? Change your environment, create a new narrative together… CHECK. I’m all in, Penny.

Don’t get so riled up, Larry.

I’m not riled up. If anybody should be riled up it’s Baldwin. All we have put him through to be on this trip? All on account of Russo. Those terrible shots. You’re such a Braveheart, Baldwin.

And please stop feeding him lobster.

He likes lobster, Penny. Don’t you, Baldy? … Okay, let’s get down to business. What’s next on the list?

Taking reversed positions.

A sexual exercise?

Not even funny, Larry. We are going to go ashore and take Carnival’s recommended walking tour, but primarily we are going to talk to each other. We’re gonna assume each other’s outlook. I take on your point of view, seeing things your way. And you imagine yourself in my position. Russo calls it Converse Extrapolation.

Sure. Why not? Hey Baldy, do you want to explore the Bahamas? Up for an excursion? Meet some local ladies maybe?

WELCOME TO NASSAU, SPARKLING GEM OF THE CARIBBEAN. ON LEAVING THE SHIP AT PRINCE GEORGE WHARF YOU WILL BEGIN YOUR 3-HOUR WALKING ADVENTURE THROUGH HISTORIC DOWNTOWN. THE TOUR INCLUDES SHOPPING OPPORTUNITIES AND INDULGENCE IN OLD NASSAU’S RIVETING HISTORY, VIBRANT CULTURE AND CHARMING MIEN.
COMBINE DELICIOUS AND AUTHENTIC FOOD AND DRINK WITH SOME SERIOUS FUN AS YOU DISCOVER NASSAU’S OFF-THE-BEATEN-PATH SITES AND WONDERS NOT FOUND IN YOUR GUIDEBOOKS WHILE GAINING FASCINATING HISTORICAL, ARCHITECTURAL, AND CULTURAL INSIGHTS. YOU WILL LEAVE THIS TOUR FILLED WITH NEW PERSPECTIVES AND KNOWLEDGE — MEMORIES TO TREASURE FOR A LIFETIME. SUITABLE FOR ALL AGE GROUPS AND FITNESS LEVELS. HAT, SUNSCREEN AND SUNGLASSES ARE RECOMMENDED.

My God, this is worse than Disney World. It’s mob tourism.

Relax, Larry.

You relax. We’re, like, in a lemming migration. Baldy is going to suffer agoraphobia or whatever it’s called.

Don’t let these crowds spoil the moment for us. Remember, we’re not tourists.

We’re not? What are we?

We’re explorers. We’re adventurers, Larry. It’s all about attitude. The crowds will thin out as soon as we get off the beaten track. Now let’s get down to business.

You go first.

No, you go first.

Why do I have to go first? I always go first.

Alright, I’ll start. Are you ready?

Yeah, we’re all ears. Aren’t we Baldy?

I have been selfish, Larry. I forget how important your career is to you. I realize that all those extra hours you are putting in at the office now will pay off further down the line when you’re tremendously successful and we’ll have more time for each other.

You do?

Larry!

Sorry.

Now it’s your turn.

Well Penny, I’ve given it some thought and I think I understand your wardrobe needs. It can’t be fun hanging around the house waiting for me all day, even with Baldwin to take care of. I don’t think 18 new outfits, 10 pairs of shoes, 3 or 4 handbags, and, what was it? 5 items of jewelry? last month was excessive. Not to mention that your consumption levels are helping bolster up the US economy.

That’s bullshit. You’re being sarcastic. Either we do this right or we don’t do it at all.

Okay, you do it right then.

Like this, Larry … I no longer blame you for that thing with Keisha. I realize that you didn’t start that. She took advantage of your kindness. She sucked you in, seducing you against your will, luring you to those motel rooms.

Thank you.

But why did you have to bring her on as a receptionist in the first place? Couldn’t you have hired —

Now you’re breaking the rules, Penny.

Alright. I realize that in a company like yours it’s a big advantage to have a half-naked erotic dancer in the office to make your clients feel welcome and get excited about your insurance policy offerings even though she lacks any clerical training whatsoever.

Penny!

Okay. I appreciate that you need attractive office personnel.

That’s better. And I am not going to fault you for flirting with that asshole from Texas at our dinner table last night — although his wife might have a thing or two to say about your obvious intentions.

What? That’s not how this is supposed to go, Larry. That is an accusation, not an apology. If you have an issue with me talking to that guy you are going to need to write it down and file it in our peace capsule. Building new relationships with other couples is part of the program. This cruise gives us an excellent opportunity to do just that.

Did you hear their snide remarks about Baldwin? Asking about his service qualifications? Questioning if we had the correct authorization?

No, I didn’t hear that. He seemed like a very nice guy and she was having an unfortunate seasickness thing.

Speaking of Baldwin, I’ll take this opportunity to say that I am sorry for accusing you of trying to influence him into loving you more than me. Trying to turn him away from me.

I could never do that, Larry.

Nevertheless, I appreciate you not trying.

Fine, and I respect the fact that you normally need to smoke a few joints and down a stiff drink before we have any serious conversations.

Thank you, Penny. And I feel, despite what I might have said in the past, that you look even more beautiful with all those extra pounds!

Fuck you, Larry!

No, really. You were too skinny when we met. 195 is a good weight for you.

I’m sorry for not realizing how important it is for you to always have the TV on. I never understood that there are so many essential sporting events; that you feel anguish when you and Baldwin can’t watch your favorite games undisturbed. I regret trying to make conversation during those games and, since I don’t understand the significance and technicalities of what is going on, I know I have interrupted your concentration at very inopportune moments.

It’s sweet of you to say that, and I’m sorry for calling you a fat toad and a clam brain, Penny.

And bitch slime?

I don’t remember using those exact words but I’ll apologize for it anyway.

Retarded slut?

I might have used the term ‘retarded slut’. Sorry, baby.

Apology accepted. And I’m sorry for ramming your new car into the back of that dump truck because I was distracted by your argument with my mother.

Thanks, fifteen hundred bucks later. And I regret telling your mother to fuck off.

You shoved her out the car door, Larry!

I was just helping her leave. I’m sorry if that could be interpreted as a shove.

For Christ’s sake Larry, she broke her leg. And you frightened the hell out of Baldwin.

I’m sorry if my attempt at helping your mother out the door, which might possibly be construed as a shove, is in anyway connected to her bone fracture, which, with all probability, is more directly related to her destructive lifestyle choices, such as chain smoking, long-haul couch sitting, and a nutrient-deficient, sugar-charged diet. And I have done my utmost to make it up to Baldwin. Haven’t I buddy?

Okay. And in retrospect I regret asking my mother to come live with us. I thought it would help our problems.

You know, we might be getting somewhere, Penny. I feel better already. And Baldwin seems to appreciate this … Incidentally, why have we stopped in front of this parking lot?

Because this is the site of the famous Royal Victoria, built in 1861, the haunt of spies, fortune seekers, royalty, pirates and smugglers. It says in our guidebook that this was the largest and most commodious hotel ever built in the tropics.

Penny, look up from your guidebook — we are standing in front of a goddamn parking lot.

Former guests have included Neville Chamberlain, Winston Churchill, and Prince Albert. This is a very important landmark, Larry.

I repeat. There is no hotel here, Penny. It’s a fucking parking lot.

That’s because it was destroyed by a fire in 1971. It says here we should take time to imagine the former splendor of the Royal Victoria before heading south along Parliament Street.

What bullshit. The former splendor of a parking lot?

If you had read Dr. Russo’s book you would know more about P I P, Positive Imagining Power. If we can imagine the splendor of the Royal Victoria even though it burned down fifty years ago, we should be able to imagine anything, for example the upside of our lives together.

Our marriage is a parking lot?

You could say so.

Penny, the judge ordered us to go to Russo for plain vanilla marriage counseling, not to hear a lot of pseudo-psychological crap like Positive Imagining Power.

Doctor Russo has saved hundreds of marriages, Larry. People in a lot worse shape than us. Russo states clearly that there are no hopeless marriages. He’s highly respected everywhere, you know. This very weekend he’s up in Philadelphia accepting an award for his achievements from one of the top women’s organizations in America. We should consider ourselves lucky to be in his care.

Well, when he said we owed it to Baldwin to work together to solve our problems, that did strike a chord with me. That made sense. I’ll grant him that.

Baldwin is the most precious thing we have together, Larry. Of course we owe it to him. Dr. Russo says our splitting up could cause Baldwin irreparable psychological damage. Just see how he reacts when we fight.

I’m all in for Baldwin’s sake, Penny. You know that. You know that too, don’t you Baldy?

The Russian princess Alexandra Feodorovna was brutally murdered with a shower head by a runaway slave in room 127 of the Royal Victoria, during the drought of 1905. That’s important history, Larry.

Yeah, well that’s really fascinating to learn, but do you think we can move on to some place where we can get something to eat. Baldy must be starving.

Chapter six – Doctor Russo, I presume

Doctor Russo, I presume?

Ha. Yes, I’m Doctor Russo.

Doctor Russo, the phenomenally successful couples’ counselor? Author of The Perfect Match?

I’ve had my moments, thank you. What can I do for you?

You’ve saved hundreds of marriages—and indirectly, through your book, perhaps thousands. You—

Excuse me, Sir, but I have a plane to catch. Is there something specific you wish to ask me?

I have a proposal to make, Doctor. A partnership, so to speak.

I’m afraid I’ve all the work I can handle—fully booked. If you are having relationship issues I can recommend a colleague.

That’s not it, Doctor. You and I have a natural connection. You mend marriages when they go haywire. I create them.

Really?

One-hundred fifty marriages in this state alone, Doctor.

You’re Reverend Moon.

Very funny. Actually, I’m Clarence Dicky, the president of myThai555.com. And unlike Moony marriages my clients get to know each other before tying the knot. Have you heard of myThai555.com?

No. And I —

We arrange tours to Thailand where our clients meet the woman of their dreams, selected from an extensive catalog of guaranteed-no-bullshit profiles and legitimate photos. Wonderful girls whom our clients have already gotten to know via our exclusive myThai555 video-chat rooms.

You’re a pimp dealing in sex tourism, Mr. Dicky. That’s disgusting.

May I continue? Upon arrival our clients are chauffeur-driven to their bungalows at luxurious five-star resorts where their chosen one, after inspection and a clean bill of health from our medical team, will be awaiting them with champagne on a bed of roses.

How romantic. Now, if you could just move out of my way—

It is romantic, Doctor Russo. So romantic that in six cases out of ten it leads to marriage. In six cases of ten–bingo! Church bells! Two souls from opposite corners of the globe will come under the spell of true love and join in holy matrimony. All thanks to myThai555.com.

Why? Why don’t you just let them shack up and have the guy pay the girl off?

Now that would be prostitution, Doctor Russo. That would be sex tourism. I’m helping people find a partner for life. This is not about inconsequential sex. It’s about love and commitment. The great majority of myThai brides are unspoiled when they meet their husbands-to-be. They’re not whores. MyThai555.com not only reveres the traditional values of marriage, we also promote cross-cultural understanding, combat racism, abate poverty, and in our own small way promote world peace.

Sounds like they should give you the Nobel prize.

I appreciate your sense of humor, Doctor. But are you ready to hear my proposal now?

I’ve heard enough already. Why would I want to get involved in your immoral and most likely illegal activities? Hooking up dorky misfits and sorry slobs who couldn’t get a woman here to give them the time of day, much less sleep with them . . .matching these lonely, tragic bozos with impoverished third-worlders who are ready to sell themselves for dreams of Western opulence and some trinkets from Forever 21. Shame on you, Sir.

You’re painting a cruel picture of our operations. And totally incorrect. Happiness is what we deliver. Very successfully I might add. We are the uncontested leaders in the industry.

If you are so successful why are you pestering me, Mr. Dicky?

Because some of my marriages do run into problems once the couples are settled here in America. Every single marriage is important to us and when one goes on the rocks myThai555.com suffers. Word spreads that Thai marriages don’t last—that Thai women can’t be depended on. With your expertise and acumen, we could keep these marriages vibrant and strong and squash those rumors.

I’m totally not interested. Like I said, the whole thing disgusts me.

Tell me, Doctor Russo. Who are we to feel disgust for those you call misfits and slobs and deny them their happiness? Likewise, who are we to condemn those who are willing to trade their one and only asset for a reasonable lifestyle and the chance to lift themselves out of poverty? Doctor, I have read your book. I have read what you write about arranged marriages in Asia and why they last longer than marriages here. When you write that freedom comes from the recognition of necessity, I stand up and listen. That is so true.

So have your clients buy my book. And would you please let go of my arm?

Okay. I didn’t want to have to mention this.

Mention what?

Doctor Russo, I have reason to believe you are familiar with an establishment here in Philadelphia named the K-Club. Correct?

No. Never heard of it. What is it?

Foregoing circuitous language, it’s a whorehouse, Doctor. My mother runs it.

Somehow that doesn’t surprise me.

Would it surprise you to learn that my mother is also a member of the WFF?

What do you want from me, Mr. Dicky?

Mother says you gave a really fine speech the other day at the WFF conference. I don’t suppose you recognized her in the audience. Her presence might have seemed incongruous to you. But she was there—right up front. And she just loved your talk on feminist family values. She’s a staunch feminist, Doctor.

I’m sure she is.

Well, Mother found it hard to fit that really fine speech about family values together with the gentleman who had visited her K-Club the previous day and spent a considerable amount of cash on a deliciously wild and hot Cuban chica named Sabina.

That’s ridiculous. Your mother has mistaken me for someone else.

Yes, she thought so too. She had to check her security tapes to be sure.

Security tapes in a brothel?

You can’t be too careful, Doctor.

My research takes me into a lot of improbable places, Mr. Dicky. I need to know why happily married, caring family men seek sex outside of wedlock, which you realize is one of the foremost causes of broken homes. I have no recollection of the events and people you are referring to, but if I ever was on the premises of a place like that it was because I was carrying out research and nothing more.

No doubt, no doubt. But will you hear me out now?

Extortion is a criminal offense, Mr. Dicky.

Please, Doctor. I’m not a blackmailer. I’m a man with some very serious problems. I need help. You see, Thai-American marriages just don’t break up naturally—they are sabotaged. Thai women are normally among the most loyal in the world. Have you heard of the Yam Kun Chiang?

No.

It’s the Thai mafia here in America. A crime syndicate run entirely by women. The Yam Kun Chiang target my wives and sow discontent. They approach our girls on false premises and indoctrinate them. They convince them that the men they have married are losers and that the girls deserve better.

True that.

They kidnap them from their homes and enter them into slave labor at Thai take-out joints, massage parlors, and nail salons.

I thought the nail salons were all Vietnamese.

Most are. But that is irrelevant. The Yam Kun Chiang have multimillion dollar business interests. They are very powerful. Don’t look now, but the two women sitting on the couch at the far end of the lobby are Yam Kun Chiang operatives. They launch cyber attacks on our websites, steal clients’ addresses, and they shadow me constantly.

Sounds to me like you should work together. If you didn’t bring the women here in the first place they wouldn’t have anyone to recruit. What do you care if your myThais leave their husbands anyway? You’ve already made your money from their sucker husbands.

Such cynicisms are unbecoming for a man in your line of work, Doctor. I’m not a scoundrel.

So what is this thing you want me to do that I’m not going to do?

I want you to start group sessions locally with four or five of my couples. I want the experience from those sessions to be the basis of a program, eventually a book, authored by Doctor Jonathan Russo. A sequel to The Perfect Match focused on Thai-American marriages.

Which is, of course, out of the question, Mr. Dicky.

There is one more detail, Doctor. A sad and very personal detail. My own wife, Saowanit, the original myThai bride, the light of my life, and the inspiration for my business has herself been abducted by the Yam Kun Chiang. She has been missing for the past six months. You see I am one of those lonely, tragic slobs you spoke so condescendingly of.

Sorry buddy, but I can hardly do anything about that.

They tricked their way into our home with talk of my wife joining their Thai cultural circles, self-identity strengthening and all that. But, of course, it was just a ploy to get her alone and brainwash her. That’s the way they work and I fell for it and let them in. And now she’s gone. Probably massaging some fat bastard in a basement as we speak.

Sounds rough, Mr. Dicky. But—

Doctor, with your expertise, we can save hundreds of myThai marriages, ease the pain of my own personal loss and, who knows, perhaps your message would reach Saowanit and jolt her out of her brainwashed condition. Bring her home.

Okay, Mr. Dicky, Let’s get this straight. You’re barking completely up the wrong tree. I am leaving now. If you ever again try to contact me with any sort of reference to your mother’s security tapes you’ll be hearing from my lawyers.

I didn’t expect you to say yes right away.

Don’t expect me to say yes ever.

Think about it.

I won’t.

 

Chapter seven – Billy Russo does his homework

Dear Mrs. Hornbacher

I know our assignment is to be reviewing a book by a writer named Jack London, but as much as I have tried I can’t get past the first few pages. I’m sorry, Mrs. Hornbacher. I really am. I’ve tried many times to read that book. You may know or maybe not that many of the other kids in our class are not really doing their assignments either. I’m not going to name anybody, but it is quite easy to get a review from internet sites such as bookreviewsforstudents.com which your stopstudentsfromcheating.com app will not detect because these reviews are originals. Ten dollars is all it takes. They say that kids in India and China are writing these reviews because they really need the money and that these kids are smarter than we are anyway.

I maybe not that smart but I refuse to cheat. I guess I am going to have to learn to read books some day. You’ve told me I will have to do that if I want to go to college. But if you can put something in a book you can probably just as well put it on YouTube and it will be better that way and not so hard to get into and I’ll learn more and I think that’s the future.

To prove to you that I am not lazy I am going to write about a YouTube video instead of that book I couldn’t read. Okay? And I am going to give you a link to that video so you know what I am writing about, but you make us turn in our home work on paper so you are going to have to copy this link for hand on to your computer or your smart phone if you had one and you might get something wrong so you see it would be better if we could just email you our homework assignments or post them on your Facebook page if you had one. I think that’s the future Mrs Hornbacher.

Here is the link to the video. Be careful when you copy it so you don’t watch the wrong video.

Here is my assignment

Eva Vergilova – Girl Guitar player

by William Russo

Class 11A

Eva Vergilova is a girl guitar player from Bulgaria, Europe. Bulgaria is not a rich country and has a population of 7 million. (source Wikipedia) I think Eva has a cheap guitar. Anyway it says CHEAP on it. Eva plays other peoples songs. That’s called making covers. In this video she plays a song called Purple Rain first done by a guy named Prince (source Wikipedia) and there are purple candles and the sign is in purple which shows that Eva has good ideas and is thinking smart about what she is doing but she forgot to capitalize rain and I spotted that!

0:00 At the start of the video Eva checks her sound system I guess. We don’t see her equipment so I’m just guessing.

0:07 Eva’s hair falls in little bunches from her right shoulder. She probably had it all combed back before the video started. Eva has very nice long hair.

0:17 Eva closes her eyes just a bit probably thinking about what she is going to play and everything like that. Even though Eva is making a video for thousands of viewers I think she is basically a shy person like me.

0:19 Eva looks at the camera and seems to have trouble focusing. It seems like Eva should be wearing glasses but she doesn’t think they look good on her. I wouldn’t mind if Eva wore glasses if she needs them. My sister wears glasses some time and everyone says she is still pretty.

0:34 Eva is surprised by something or someone in her room. Is there someone else in the room? I hope not. I hope Eva is alone doing this all by herself without some guy telling her what to do. But I can’t be sure.

0:45 Eva opens her mouth and you can see she is concentrating. She is preparing to do something harder with her guitar because up to now she hasn’t done anything very hard. But just wait and see.

0:49 Eva moves a switch on her guitar with her little finger. You have to look carefully to catch that. The switch changes her guitar sound and makes distortion (source: yahoo.com).

0:51 Eva starts playing hard. I’m not very musical as you might remember you had me kicked out of the school orchestra for screwing around but I think Eva is just as good as any guitar man I have ever heard of. There are lots of clips on YouTube with millions of views of girls who don’t do anything at all read the news or something and they’re not naked or anything they are just pretty or they have big breasts. Some people on the internet thinks Eva is faking her guitar playing because she is so pretty but I don’t believe that. You never know on YouTube but I still don’t believe it. I think Eva is a great guitarist even if she is beautiful and a girl.

0:55 Eva has a tattoo on her right arm. First I thought it was dirt but that wouldn’t make sense and I checked out her Facebook page and its a real tattoo, but the tattoo is obfuscated (source: thesaurus.com) here like maybe she tried to cover it up with makeup because she isn’t totally happy with it.

1:00 Eva shrugs. Eva shrugs a lot but this is her biggest shrug. Her left shoulder is bare an account of the shirt she is wearing. My sister has a shirt like that which she is always adjusting but of course it will always slip off one shoulder or another and need more adjusting like girls butts that are always sneaking out of their bathing suits and they keep tucking them in though that has nothing to do with this homework assignment, just a thought that came into my head.

1:04 Eva parts her lips just a little. Eva has alluring (source: thesaurus.com) lips.

1:25 Eva’s hair is covering her face. This happens a lot.

1:32 Eva’s face is covered by her long dark brown hair and I can’t see what she is thinking I can only see her hair which she probably just washed and dried before making the video and probably smells good if they have good smelling shampoos in her country which may not be the case.

1:40 Eva looks very serious now. She is playing her hardest. She makes her playing look easy but I think she must practice a lot. Maybe she took violin lessons to learn how to move her fingers like this. Girls usually play violin and not electric guitars. Eva has nice long fingers too and that probably helps.

1:50 Eva smiles. There are 237 muscles in the human face. (Source: Wikipedia) Eva only uses around 5 of them most of the time. but i’m OK with that. Eva is understating her emotions (source: my Father). She has little creases at the ends of her mouth. And her nose is more round than pointed. Eva has an aquiline (source: thesaurus.com) nose.

2:13 Eva isn’t moving very much so I watch her guitar string vibrating. The guitar string shows that there is stuff going on in Eva’s body that only the guitar string knows about. but if you don’t look carefully you will miss that.

2:28 Eva blows away a wisp of hair without missing a note. Girls can do two things at a time like that.

2:34 Eva looks at the camera. This is a furtive (source: thesaurus.com) look.

2:45 You told us in class about the elephant in the room. And that seemed a weird thing to understand and I even figured you were talking about me. But Eva’s right breast hangs over her guitar in this whole video as if it was made for that purpose. Not the breast, but the curve in the guitar. And now I understand that Eva’s right breast is the elephant in the room that we are not supposed to talk about even though, and if I was to ever meet Eva and say anything about that she would probably get angry with me and besides I think Eva’s shoulder is her best body feature anyway. I am not making an inappropriate (source: theasurus.com) sexuall comment here. I just wanted to show you here that I do understand what an elephant in the room is.

2:50 Eva kinda bites her lip. And I have learned to like this song very much. And if I was better with words I could explain how the music and Eva and Eva’s face and her moves and her playing and everything all goes together and makes this such a great video and makes it easy to watch it 1245 times very carefully so that I could write this assignment and show you that I am not lazy just because I can’t read books.

2:55 Eva smiles for the second and last time in the video. She knows she has done good. I would like to write a comment on her page telling her she has done good but there are so many stupid people making comments and I wouldn’t want Eva to think I was one of those very stupid people.

Conclusion

This is a serious school homework assignment and I have looked up stuff on Wikipedia and I have checked my facts and done research and named my sources and used a spellchecker and everything and printed it out like we are supposed to and held back my own personal feelings. And if Eva and I were to meet we probably couldn’t talk to each other anyway because they don’t speak English in Bulgaria and she probably has a boyfriend though I hope not and she would think I was stupid for going over to that country to see her when we couldn’t even talk and I think she is much older than I am and i think a lot of guys would like to go to Bulgaria and meet Eva but I think it is wrong to forget how good a guitarist Eva is just because she is a beautiful girl and anybody who says anything else is going to be in trouble with me.

 

Chapter eight – Mrs. Hornbacher gives Billy an F

Dear William,

I do appreciate the apparent time and effort you have put into the class’s Thanksgiving vacation homework assignment: A book review of Jack London’s Call of the Wild in 500 words due no later than January 15! Since your homework completion rate in the past has been, to put it mildly, sporadic, I interpret this current work as a step in the right direction. Congratulations!

Be that as it may, I received your “book review” on February 1st, two weeks later than the date required for you to have received a passing grade. You have explained this tardiness as the fault of your father for not helping you correct and print out your assignment on time.

That’s not a valid excuse, William. Even if we here at Jefferson High encourage parents to be involved in their children’s schooling, at the end of the day, your homework assignments are yours and yours alone and can never be dependent upon other people’s participation. Real education is learning how to do things ourselves, utilizing our own thoughts, honing our own skills.

Furthermore, even if you had turned in your “book review” on time, I still would have had no choice but to give you an F since you elected to write about a subject so far removed from that assigned to you.

You claim you couldn’t read Call of the Wild despite repeated attempts. Instead, you chose to devote your study time to watching a YouTube clip of a Bulgarian woman playing her guitar. This is unacceptable, William. You are not illiterate. You are not mentally challenged. Jack London’s classic story is well within your comprehension span. The fate of the magnificent dog, Buck, has captivated readers of all ages for many generations, yet you just “couldn’t get past the first few pages”.

The word for that is laziness, young man. You will eventually learn that life entails a long succession of tasks that require effort, most of them much more demanding than reading a good book. One day, after leaving the sheltered existence of your parent’s home, you will discover that for most of our lives we must do what we have to in order to do what we want to in those brief moments that are left over.

I for one – though this might come as a surprise to you – given a free choice would not spend my weekdays in the company of a pack of unmotivated, ill behaved, slovenly teenagers. Given a free choice, William, I would rather be on a Caribbean cruise ship, or playing tennis, or dancing in nightclubs or any one of a hundred activities more enjoyable than having, for example, a wastebasket thrown at me while I’m conjugating verbs on the blackboard for couldn’t-care-less ignoramuses.

(I am not claiming that you were the culprit, but your typical behavior in class makes you a prime suspect, so be warned.)
While on the subject of abnormal behavior, even though I am not qualified to judge if this Bulgarian woman, whose performance you purport to have watched over a thousand times, is as gifted a musician as you maintain, your obsession with her does strike me as alarming. Internet-induced excessiveness of this nature is, in my opinion, unwholesome and potentially dangerous. I suggest you discuss this affliction with Nurse Peterson here at school or perhaps have a man-to-man talk with your father.

It is apparent that your extracurricular activities are having a negative impact on your schoolwork. Two days ago the class was asked to write down the past tense of any ten irregular verbs. You could only come up with one – artichoke – which you misspelled in two places, and, for your information, is neither irregular nor any other sort of verb at all. What’s more, I believe you copied this ersatz verb from your seat neighbor, Holly Newman. A bad choice, William, as Ms Newman is, if anything, even less interested in bettering herself through education than you are.

The Bottom Line

If you wish to remain in my class for the remainder of the term I want to see on my desk by next Friday an essay in 500 words or more elaborating on the Seven Golden Rules of Teenage Hygiene to be written in your own hand in the school library, after class, under the supervision of Ms Yossarian. In this essay you will utilize and underline at least five irregular verbs.

Good Luck, William!

Sincerely Yours,

Lilliane Hornbacher

PS. I am encouraged to see that you understand the importance of citing the sources for your “facts”, even if the source, in your case, is exclusively Wikipedia, which I must remind you is seldom free from error, subjectivism, and self-promotion. Even then, I must question how carefully you carried out your research.

You write, for example, that according to Wikipedia there are 237 muscles in the human face when actually there are only 43. Either you made your number up and attributed it to Wikipedia or you were very sloppy in copying it. You can do better, William!

Chapter nine – Bible Studies

I hear Billy might get kicked out of school, Dr. Russo.

Hey, Xena, what’s with the ‘Dr. Russo’, suddenly? I’m still OK with you calling me Johnny – here in church at least.

Linda doesn’t like me using her dad’s first name.

What’s Linda got to do with it?

She’s my best friend, duh.

Well, Billy’s not going to get kicked out of school whatever you might have heard, Xena.

He trashed a lot of books in the school library, Dr. Russo. Apparently they are going to make him – or you, I guess – replace them all.

He only wrote a few lines on the title pages of those books, Xena. Those words can be pasted over. We are going to work that out with Mrs. Yossarian. Writing those screwball dedications was very foolish of Billy, but the school doesn’t need to buy new books and they can’t expel him for a harmless teenage prank.

Well anyway, he wrote some pretty weird stuff. Kids who didn’t even know we had a school library went in there to read all those authors’ desire for Mrs. Hornbacher. Somebody named Henry James wrote he couldn’t wait to get cozy between her . . .

You don’t have to repeat that, Xena.

Well, I didn’t know Billy could even write – or that he had a sense of humor that stretched beyond grabbing my ass every time I come over to your house. Linda has bashed him over the head with a lacrosse stick a couple of times, but it hasn’t helped. Ironic that a son of yours could be so horny.

He’s at a difficult stage in life, Xena.

Aren’t we all . . . but Mrs. Hornbacher has it in for him, Dr. Russo. First the wastebasket . . .

. . . which hasn’t been proven, Xena.

. . . and now making x-rated fun of her in those dedications.

Listen, Xena, you calling me Dr. Russo seems like a step backwards from the confidence we’ve built up in our bible studies together. Can I be Johnny again?

Sure, Dr. Russo . . . Johnny.

Thank you. And I will share a little secret with you, Xena. Mrs. Hornbacher’s unfair treatment of Billy is all about getting revenge on me.

Oh my God? On you? Why?

Well it just so happens that she and her husband did marriage counseling with me last year when Lillianne – Mrs. Hornbacher – was trying to get a divorce.

But Johnny, isn’t that, like, what do you call it, privileged information? Should you really be sharing that with me?

The counseling was court mandated. It’s in the public record.

But they’re still married, aren’t they?

As are most of my clients, Xena. You know my success rate. I just had to convince Lillianne that the extramarital affair she was having wasn’t going to lead anywhere because the guy she was involved with was taking her for a ride.

Eew. But that can’t be in the public record, Dr Russo – Johnny?

No, that’s between you and me, Xena. Lillanne was in deep with a married man who promised to run off with her to Bora Bora. Of course it was all a lie. I convinced Lillianne of that. It wasn’t the first time this guy had duped a naïve woman.

You’re going to tell me who this guy was too?

No, he’s someone we both know. It wouldn’t be ethical.

Wow!

Yeah – mum’s the word. But now Mrs. Hornbacher blames me for keeping her trapped in a quote-unquote failed marriage. She can’t stand her husband, Herb. She’s in a double bind. Hates both her job and her spouse. She’s hammering on Billy just to get back at me.

Yuck, that’s so sick. And Billy is playing right into her hands.

Exactly. But time’s running out here. We need to cover this week’s assignment. Do you have any questions about John VI 16-19?

No, but I have a question about Genesis 3.

Xena, we’ve covered that topic so extensively in the past. You just can’t keep harping on that subject.

Yeah, I know, but it interests me. Adam and Eve were living shamelessly – free from guilt in a beautiful garden, right?

Xena…

They were totally naked and made love like animals. All over the place, on the grass, in the water, even in the trees.

Xena, please curb your imagination. We don’t know anything about that – the bible doesn’t go into that kind of detail. We don’t even know if they had conjugal activity before eating the forbidden fruit.

Uh huh? But after the snake tricked Adam and Eve into eating the fruit God punished them so that they were ashamed of their own naked bodies.

No. When they ate the fruit they learned what was good and bad and knew they just couldn’t run around naked anymore. They got that knowledge from eating the fruit – not from God.

Sure Johnny, but the nakedness has to be about sex. Nothing else makes sense. The Garden of Eden had perfect tropical weather – like Hawaii or the Bahamas. You wouldn’t need clothes. It was then and there that God made sex something to hide and lust something to feel guilty about.

Except that God had already said, be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth and subdue it. How does that fit into your theory, Xena?

Yeah. Multiply. But what I am saying is that God forced us to become deceitful. That God told us to cover up the truth. Hide our feelings. Sex is as powerful as nuclear energy. It’s cooking in everyone all the time. But it’s also shameful, so we got to keep our thoughts hidden.

Xena, this is extremely off-topic. And you are sadly wrong thinking that sex is on everybody’s mind 24/7.

But Johnny, it is you who taught me about sexual coefficient scores and target ranges and all that stuff.

Only because you keep bugging me about a lot of off-topic subjects, Xena.

Isn’t it a fact that men think about sex every seven seconds and women every minute?

No, that’s a myth, Xena. We couldn’t lead normal lives if everyone went around thinking about sex all day.

Nevertheless, it’s okay to lie and cover up and hide your secret thoughts because that’s what everybody does.

It’s not about lying – it’s about respect and self control. That is what separates us from animals.

Well let’s just suppose you had the hots for me, Johnny?

Whoa, hold on there, young lady!

Do you have the hots for me, Johnny?

Xena! That’s absurd. And shocking. And here in the House of Our Lord, of all places. I’m appalled.

Of course, but my point is that your answer means exactly nothing. That’s what I’m getting at, Johnny. Because if you did, what do you call it, covet me, you would lie about it.

But I don’t what-do-you-call-it-covet you, so there’s nothing to lie about and you’re out of order.

Even if I’m not beautiful like your daughter, my pimples are drying up and I’m beginning to think I have a nice body. I have always hated my body, Johnny, but you’ve helped me to believe that I actually have a pretty sexy bod.

I’ve done nothing of the sort, Xena. I have never once commented on your figure. This conversation is totally off-limits and has to stop now. You are adventuring our years and years of valuable bible studies together.

Well, you told me to lay off the fries, which is the equivalent of saying I was fat. Don’t you think I look good now?

You look healthier. I suppose you are doing more sports in school.

No, Johnny. I don’t do sports. My femaleness is developing.

Well you should consider doing sports.

Haha, Johnny, I’m just gaming you. Had you sweating there for a while, didn’t I? Come on, I know how devoted you are to Mrs. Russo and I know you would never look at another woman, least of all a mousy teenager.

It’s not something you should joke about, Xena.

I just wanted to illustrate my point. People are always asking for transparency – transparency in politics and transparency in business. But transparency in sex . . . ?

Xena,this obsession of yours . . . are you having troubled thoughts? If you are having troubled thoughts, you should perhaps consult with someone about it. Do you have someone you can talk to?

I have you, Johnny.

No, you don’t have me for that, Xena. You have me to guide you in your understanding of Christianity. That’s a red line we must never transgress.

But Christianity has to have an answer to sex?

Christianity has an answer. It’s called marriage.

Well, that’s a big help, Johnny.

Xena, under the current circumstances, perhaps it’s a good idea that you continue addressing me as Doctor Russo.

Sure, Johnny – er, Dr. Russo.

 

Chapter ten – Christmas Dinner

 

He’s such a smoothie, Johnny is – inviting the Hornbachers to the Russo’s Christmas dinner and all. And think that Mrs. H actually agreed to it. Johnny’s apparently got her by the gonads on account of what she’s told him in therapy sessions. And, just like he said things would play out, Billy’s not getting kicked out of school and his grades in her class have gone up from F’s to C’s.

Yeah, Johnny sure knows his stuff, but considering all those marriages he has saved he should. I wonder if he could have pulled it off with my parents. That would have been one for Guinness. Their fighting had gone carnivorous before Dad finally split. Anyway, I’m gonna ween out of Johnny sooner or later who Mrs H. had her affair with. I know he can’t hold out telling me for long.

I had a dream about Johnny last night. I mean – like, so disgusting. Okay, Johnny’s not really disgusting, but to dream about him? Ugh! It was an unmerry start to this Christmas ordeal. Not only are the Hornbachers coming, but Reverend DeVos and his wife as well. I could think of a lot better combos to celebrate Christmas with, but Mom and her dipshit are doing the holidays in Cancun and Dad’s in Montana, so here’s little me, sharing Linda’s room and family for the holidays. Ostensibly, Linda’s my best friend, which should make this a great stay, but she spends all her time chatting with fuckface on her phone. We used to be so close before he came along.

I wish her brother had someone or something to keep him occupied as well. Billy’s still a pain with no gain. Like, he three times tried to get into the bathroom with me this morning – Oh, sorry, Xena. Didn’t know you were in there. Sure, Billy.

The day’s events began with a prayer breakfast to which everybody was expected to contribute. I’d worked out a climate change piece which Johnny congratulated me on – and justly so, for I had put some real effort into it, while Linda just read some stupid Nativity poem on her phone straight off an internet site. Billy prayed for God to help the needy, a category which obviously included Billy, as made clear in his stirring plea for awesome Christmas gifts for himself, which, by the way, wasn’t going to happen.

You see the Russo tradition is to only give one present to one family member who’s name’s been drawn out of a hat. I was included in this year’s draw because it was already known that I would be staying here and I had drawn Billy. It’s supposed to be kept secret who gets who, but it didn’t take long for the little rat to find out I was his ‘main man’ and phone me up.

– Xena, I hope you don’t think I’m out of order saying this, but you would make me the happiest kid in the world if you’d consider getting me a hoverboard.

– Uh huh?

– Do you mind me thanking you in advance?

– Piss off, Billy.

After breakfast we moved into the living room to gather around the tree. It’s a real tree – not plastic like at our place, but it looks kinda oversized against the skimpy pluck of Christmas gifts under it. I know families who put fake packages under their tree just to enhance the Christmas spirit, but that is not the routine here.

Let me give you a short rundown of who got what from whom:

Johnny to Laura – an apron patterned with angels which she immediately put on and wore right up until our guests arrived. (I know aprons are practical items, but Mrs. R. wears it like a domestic worker’s uniform. A statement about her role in the family. Johnny sports a jacket and tie even when he’s in leisure mode.

Linda to Johnny a framed picture of herself. (Technically speaking this was just as much my present as hers since I took the photo and I did the instagram filters. She just ordered the print from some website using her dad’s credit card.)

Billy to his sister – a promissory note: This is to certify that I, William Russo, will do 5 (five) hours of your housework chores during the upcoming year. (A promise which Linda and everybody else knew wasn’t worth the paper it was written on.)

Mrs. Russo to Xena – A two year subscription to ‘Christian Teen‘. (I thanked her mucho times for this wonderful present, even if I couldn’t stretch myself so far as to say it was exactly what I had wished for.)

Xena to Billy – A hoverboard? Dream on, Billy. I gave him a Judy Blume book. (Too bad he doesn’t read.)

The entire gift exchange process took, like, ten minutes max, and though I suppose most American families would now spend the rest of their morning doting over their presents, doting was definitely at a minimum here.

After a short prayer, the frequency of which in this place has gotten on my nerves, everyone took off to his and hers and I ended up in the kitchen alone with Mrs. R to help make the dinner, well at least my part of it, since nowadays I’m a vegetarian, you know.

Mrs. Russo is a good cook – not like my mom who usually just warms up frozen TV dinners in the microwave, even on the hollidays. Mom has this thing about how we should eat to live and not live to eat. And she doesn’t allow salt, pepper or ketchup on the table either because, One) If extra flavor was needed the experts at Swanson’s would have added it and Two) It would be an insult to her cooking.

The Hornbachers and the DeVoses show up around five and both couples seem surprised that the other has been invited. Johnny takes the Hornbachers, who are here for the first time, on a tour of the house and then we all gather in the living room and have eggnog and everybody compliments Mrs. R on the wonderful job she has done with her Christmas decorations. Linda and her brother made lamely excused getaways but I had to stay and listen to a lot of meaningless, polite conversation until it was time for the main event.

Mrs. R’s diningroom spread was pretty impressive, with candles and flowers and miniature pine trees and angels and reindeer and santa clauses and a lot of other shit with metallic glitter spread all over it. All the traditional stuff was on the table plus my little soybean thingamajigs which kind of ruined the mien and had everybody saying ‘how interesting’ and then Mrs. R brought out the turkey and Johnny carved it right there at the table. Our guests made a big deal out of Johnny carving the stupid turkey, like that somehow matched up all the work his wife had done to make the dinner. I mean, like, how hard is it to carve a turkey?

Reverend DeVos, since he’s a pro, did the blessings and he drew it out long enough so that the food got cold and I had to hold hands with Billy in our ‘circle of fellowship’. The little weasel was doing that scratching thing on the inside of my palm the whole time.

I hope it’s not a sin me thinking so, since he is after all God’s representative, but I got to say there is something rather slimy over DeVos, and his purple trousers, yellow blazer and reindeer tie has to be the worst color combination since dog barf.

We discussed the new school building, some upcoming church events, the price of gas and other stuff, and Mrs. D, while sucking away on some disgusting turkey organ, told me how ‘awesome’ it was me becoming a vegetarian, and then Billy, out of the blue, asked DeVos if he thought Muslims would take over America one day. Reverend D laughed and said that was extremely unlikely, but he was sure that people of different faiths and races could get along as, after all, at the end of the day, we believe in the same God even if we address him by different names. He pointed out that Johnny and Laura’s marriage was an excellent example of how different races could get along together and threw in something about what wonderful children their union had produced.

Then Billy came up with this weird thing about how dog kennel owners must be racists because it was so important for them to keep their animals purebred, to which Mrs. Hornbacher pointed out that there were considerable differences between dogs and humans, but you could tell she was being cautious about criticising Billy even for such an idiotic statement.

DeVos told us that there was much to be said for the preservation of species when so many are dying out and how important is was to protect our heritage in many areas, but not to forget that humans, though separated by national borders, race and religion, are all the same. Which led Billy to ask DeVos if he thought all the races would eventually combine and turn into mongrels – a mix of all the Chinese and those other people in Asia and even the Arabs and Mexicans and Bulgarians and all, you know, like mesh together so that we are all the same muddy color with dark hair and slightly slanted eyes. I’m quoting Billy verbatim here in case you wondered.

Everybody laughed and Mr H said that sounded pretty unlikely but reminded Billy that it’s what’s inside us that counts and not the color of our skin.

I thought it rather strange that DeVos and Mrs H avoided contact with each other. All in all she was pretty quiet. Her husband when prompted by Johnny, in an effort to change the subject, told us about an invention for cars he was working on called the Hornbacher DynoHorn. He said it was a shame that all honking came off at the same intensity when though sometimes you did need a hefty blast to avoid a serious accident, at others you might just want to nudge someone on at a stoplight or get the attention of a friend on the sidewalk. Hornbacher DynoHorns were loud and brash or soft and harmonious depending on how hard you pushed them.

Johnny told Mr. H that this was a great idea and that he should get a patent on it before telling too many people, but I’m not sure if Johnny really meant that. He’s had a distant look on his face all day like he’s dreaming about being someplace else. He’s more fun in our bible studies where I can get him pissed off and jive with him.

Linda spends most of the dinner chatting with Fuckface on her phone under the table and faking her attention as to what is being said. I think Mrs. R’s asked her to put it away half a dozen times.

After desert we’re back in the living room to sing carols together. Mrs Russo has one of those organs with a rhythm section so she can play to waltzes and tangos and so on. As a teenager of the world I am well aware that standing around Mrs. R’s organ singing Jingle Bells and Silent NIght with the Ds and the Hs is not cool. I am being sucked into this uncool behaviour on account of me being a guest in the house and Linda is taking advantage of this by filming me with her phone, making snapchat videos for the amusement of Fuckface and other evil friends.

Mrs. D, as the lead singer in our church choir is both loud and annoying, but she covers up how bad the rest of sing. Billy just moves his lips like those athletes in the Olympics who don’t know their own national anthems.

We are in the middle of Walkin’ in a Winter Wonderland when right out of nowhere Mrs Hornbacher hauls off and punches Reverend DeVos in the face.

Jesus Christ! Unbelievable. Totally unbelievable.

At first, Mrs. Russo just keeps on singing and playing along like nothing has happened while the rest of us are zonked to our socks. When she finally turns around to see what’s going on she forgets to turn off her drummer thingy, so there we all stand around blown out of our minds to the rhythm of what, according to the LED display on her organ, is a RHUMBA.

Everybody’s paralyzed except Linda, who continues to film away like she was documenting police brutality or something, focusing in on Reverend DeVos who covers his face with his hands and checks for blood.

What now? Well, it turns out Mrs H hasn’t had enough yet. She breaks out of the restraining arms of her husband and delivers a karate kick to D’s solar plexus.

(I don’t actually know what a solar plexus is, but that is how Mrs Russo was later to describe this second assault. If you ask me Mrs. H was aiming for – successfully so – Reverend DeVos’s dickydolittle. Nomenclature aside, this brought him down withering in pain on all fours.)

At this point Mrs. DeVos springs into action and appears to be making a lunge at Mrs. H, only she is actually just fainting, luckily for her close enough to Johnny so that he can catch her from also falling to the floor.

All the time I am thinking, can Johnny fix this situation? Johnny can patch up anything, but this? Can you guess what’s the first thing he says to Mrs H? He says: That’s a no-no Lillianne.

A no-no? Jesus, Johnny, is that the best you can come up with? She almost kills the poor slob and you call it a no-no?

By now Mrs. R has shut off the Rhumba and says she thinks it best if Lillianne were to leave, which was unnecessary as the Hornbachers were already going for their coats. Mr. H apologized for his wife’s behaviour and even managed a ‘thank you’ for the wonderful dinner.

After they’ve gone and DeVos is given a towel to wipe the blood from his face, which was only a tiny scratch, everybody is wondering what in the fuck this is all about, DeVos, rather than giving us some sort of explanation as to why Mrs H would want to harm him, has us all get on our knees to pray for her.

Despite my age I am fairly blasé to fighting. I’ve seen quite a few in my day, handed out some blows myself, but the unexpectedness of this, and the rage shown by Mrs. H really really was a shock.

Shocking, but sort of thrilling as well. You can’t deny the entertainment value of terrible events. Even tragic events are exciting. You can’t get around that. Just look at how TV stations cover mass shootings and atrocities and what people are looking for on the internet and what we want to talk about.

The reverend is going to be okay, but I can’t imagine how this is going to affect Mrs. H’s life. Her job? What made her do it? What sort of a grudge could she hold against DeVos. Where did the hatred come from? I guess we’ll find out pretty soon.

Chapter eleven – The Shingleback Skink

Married her for her tits, Doc. That’s the plain and simple of it.

I appreciate your candour, Brad, but In retrospect that might not have been a brilliant decision.

Nevertheless, did it for her tits. She had a fairly yummy derriere back in the day as well, but frankly, between you and me, man to man, it was all about her fantastic booberoos.

You didn’t mention that in our first session.

Well, of course I didn’t. I could hardly say that with Sheila in the room. This is between you and me, Doctor. I assume I can let it all out here, you being sworn to secrecy or whatever.

Sheila strikes me as being an intelligent, attractive, charming woman, Brad.

Yeah, well that’s what people said about her when we first met, but I wasn’t in it for the charms and smarts. I was dedicated to staking my claim on those gorgeous melons.

And now you’ve grown weary of those objects of your obsession?

Years ago. That’s history. I’ve come to the realization that Sheila and I are incompatible in every possible way.

And that took eight years?

I’ve been procrastinating, Doctor.

Could there be something else here, Brad? Have you perhaps become involved with other women? Are you seeing someone?

You already asked me that last week.

Yes, but that was when Sheila was in the room. As you said, this is man-to-man talk now. Apparently you two have some secrets from each other.

What did she tell you in her private session?

Brad?

I know you can’t divulge details, but you did just say ‘we’ have secrets.

Right now this is about you, Brad. This is your turn to give your side of the story. Has your fascination with breasts possibly led you astray?

Astray? Jesus, what is this, anyway? I’m a man, aren’t I?

You’re a married man.

Well I’m trying to do something about that, Doctor. I’m finally going to correct that unfortunate mistake I made eight years ago. Better late than never, as they say.

How much do you know about the Shingleback Skink, Brad?

The what?

They’re lizards, Brad. Tiliqua rugosa is the scientific designation. Being lizards they don’t have tits and yummy derrieres. So do you know what Shingleback Skinks find sexually enticing about each other? What gets them hot and bothered?

Obviously I don’t.

Blue tongues and pink gums, Brad. The bluer the tongue and the pinker the gums, the stronger the attraction.

Dr. Russo, I don’t see the connection here.

The Shingleback Skinks are monogamous, Brad. They stay together for life. You married Sheila for her tits which you’ve acknowledged as a rather frivolous – some would say imbecilic – motive. Most people would say that sort of marriage was doomed to fail.

Which it has. Totally.

The Shingleback Skinks hitch up, so to speak, driven by sexy blue tongues, which doesn’t either sound like the wisest motive for matrimony in God’s strange and wonderful universe, does it? But they stick it out, Brad.

You don’t say?

Those reptiles have got staying power. Long after blue and pink pales into grey, year after year, you’ll find Mr and Mrs Shingleback right there in their cozy little habitat enjoying life together as an inseparable team. I think that teaches us something, Brad.

Very touching, but with all due respect, Doctor Russo, I think that teaches us absolutely zilch. Lizards? I knew these sessions were never going to influence my decision to move on in life – afterall I am not here of my own free will, but neither did I expect to hear such drivel from a man with your reputation.

Have you read my book, Brad?

Sure, you more or less said it was a compulsory part of this therapy. You coerced both of us into buying a copy, remember?

Well if you actually had read the book, Brad, you would know there’s a whole chapter in there dedicated to monogamous animals including the Shingleback Skink.

Well maybe I skimmed a few chapters, Doc.

This tells me something about you, Brad. It tells me you dally with the truth whenever it’s convenient. Isn’t that so?

No, I read the important parts. I skipped the animal husbandry stuff. OK? Big deal.

My guess is you’ve also just lied to me about not seeing other women. Hasn’t it dawned on you that a person with my training and experience can see through your smoke screen. This isn’t about incompatibility. My assessment is that you’ve got something cooking on the side.

What the f . . . ? Are you a marriage counselor or the DA?

Brad, you need to confide in me. If I’m going to help you I need to hear the truth, the whole truth and nothing but.

I’ll tell you what the truth is, Doctor Russo. Here’s my little story free from lizards: You know how they always talk about the old great bands like U2 or Queen, AC-DC and so on and so forth? They talk about those bands as if everyone in them was equally important when it’s really just the lead singer and sometimes the guitarist who were the real stars. The rest of those band members were dispensable. They were cut and paste material. Nobody gave a shit whether they came or went.

You’re forgetting the Beatles.

The exception that proves the rule . . . Sheila’s and my marriage is like one of those bands, Doctor, and I’m the lead singer who also happens to play all the guitar solos.

And your wife?

Sheila’s does backing vocals and once in awhile gets to shake her tambourine.

And that’s your cruel, egotistical, way of saying your wife is dispensable?

That’s me being totally honest, Doctor. But don’t worry. We’ll do these sessions just like the judge ordered. We’ll go through the motions and listen to your lizard crap and you’ll score your fat fee, but I’m looking for a new gig and nothing’s going deter me from that.

You’ve made that apparent.

Thank you. Are we done for today?

Not quite. According to your paperwork you’ve filed for divorce on no-fault, incompatibility. In my opinion you did that because you are looking to get off cheap, Brad.

We filed on incompatibility because that is what this is all about, Doc.

Only it’s become apparent to me that infidelity and desertion might be more appropriate grounds in this case.

What kind of counselling is this, anyway? Are you threatening me? Sheila and I are in agreement on this. She’s on board with the incompatibility claim. She’s gonna come out of this with a fair share of everything I own . . . more than a fair share, more than she deserves.

Please calm down, Brad. I’m just pointing out that our judicial system, when awarding judgements and arranging settlements, looks quite differently upon incompatibility as opposed to, say, adultery and abuse.

What fucking abuse? What are you talking about?

Restrain yourself, Brad. My job is to make sure you two come to the right decision. And in that capacity it’s my duty to inform you that I see some serious financial implications for you if certain unpleasant facts were to see the light of day.

Kiss my ass, Russo. This is ridiculous. I’m out of here. Don’t expect to see Sheila ever again either. And I am definitely going to lodge a complaint with the ethics board.

There is no ethics board to lodge a complaint with, Brad. You’ve been watching the wrong soaps.

Well I am going to lodge a complaint with someone. You’re a disgrace to your profession.

I assume you realize that failure to attend these counselling sessions will put you in contempt of court.

Fuck you, Russo!

I assume you realize that your actions indicate you have something to hide.

Fuck you in the ass big time, Russo!

I respectfully caution you–

Suck my wiener, Russo!

Goodbye, Brad.

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