Nov 13th, 2000 by Clark Humphrey

ONE MONTH AGO, we posted a list of potential characters for a proposed little fictional corner of the site.

Due to your underwhelming response, we (the characters and I) have spent a lot of time in behind-the-scenes retooling of the whole concept.

Herewith, the pilot episode of our ongoing commentary-with-character:

THE SCENE OPENS in our quasi-friendly local coffee shop with Kirsten the sullen barista complaining about the recent election results to anyone who’ll listen and everyone who won’t.

“No matter which jerk ends up on top, we’re just gonna get four more years of the same old corporate crap,” she says while “mistakenly” preparing a decaf beverage for a customer from the dot-com office next door. “Sometimes I wonder why I even bother to vote.”

“But you don’t vote,” interjects Janis, Kirsten’s middle-aged punk friend. “Every year you say the same thing, that there’s never been a politician worthy of your attention. Migawd Kirsten, it’s just picking a guy for public office. You’re not fucking him.”

“Yeah, but they’re fucking us.”

“Still, Kirsten, you’ve gotta admit this time’s been a lot of fun. It’s out of control! The world’s only fuckin’ superpower, with nobody in real control!

The dot-commer, whom Kirsten has nicknamed Benny Bucks, takes his drink, triple-checks to make sure the lid’s really on, and heads off in his $300 shoes, his facelifted eyebrows buried in the stock pages, mumbling his hopes for a post-election market bounce. As soon as the door closes, Kirsten suggests aloud that Benny Bucks “probably voted for Bush.”

Janis quickly adds in, “But I bet he wished the race wasn’t so close so he could have voted for his real heroes, the Libertarians. You know, the guys who think big business still doesn’t have enough power.”

“I wouldn’t worry too much about any of that,” Kirsten interjects. “Whoever the new guy is is gonna do everything to make politics even more corporate than it already is. He’ll say we’ve gotta make sure this messy democracy thing doesn’t get this crazy ever again, so we’ve gotta have more big money in campaigns, more central control, stop those pesky third parties…”

Janis bellows back, “But it’s so much more fun this way. I mean, look at it. The future course of all life on Earth depends on the margin of a few hundred people in fuckin’ Florida! The guy who plays Goofy! Some old couple running a little Bible theme park. Maybe some alligator poachers and drug runners and old Jewish widows and Castro-haters and gay boys in Miami and lap-dancers in Tampa and retired circus freaks. Sweetie Kirsten, this is what America’s supposed to be all about!”

Janis then says she knows she and Kirsten would love to spend the rest of the day enjoying one another’s misery, but there’s a big day going on outside the warm confines of the coffee shop. Janis’s daughter Anais is desiging her costume today for her very first unsanctioned anti-Thanksgiving pageant in school.

Anais, Janis relates, can’t decide whether to be one of the generous Indians or one of the ungrateful, genocidal Pilgrims.

“The eternal dilemma,” Kirsten mutters aloud. “Whether to

figuratively absorb a half-millennium of victimhood for one’s own, or to parade one’s descent from the Oppressor Race like the proverbial scarlet letter.”

“Kirsten,” Janis says as she rises and gathers her slightly-cracking leather jacket, “you could make heaven itself sound like a miserable experience. That’s what I like about you.”

As usual, Kirsten doesn’t know whether to feel complimented or insulted. So she just responds with a polite stare.

TOMORROW: Why people write book reviews; why people read book reviews.


Oct 13th, 2000 by Clark Humphrey

SOME OF THE GREAT COLUMNISTS in the art form’s long history have used fictional alter egos to liven up their regular output and to give a different spin on the events of the day.

The legendary Mike Royko sometimes spoke through the identity of a hardboiled Chicago bartender named Slats Grobnik (or something like that).

Don Marquis occasionally submitted columns in all lower-case lettering, which he claimed had been typed by “archy,” a cockroach with the mind of a reincarnated human. (Archy, as Marquis claimed it, typed by jumping on the typewriter keys, so he only could manage lower-case letters.)

Flann O’Brien, as we’ve previously mentioned, essentially wrote his entire Irish Times column in a pseudonymous persona, Myles na gCopaleen.

Never one to let a good writing shtick go unstolen, I’ve been pondering adding one or more imaginary guest voices take over the online column every now and then. (This is not to be confused with the real guest voices who show up here now and then.) (It’s also not to be confused with the phenomenon of “hearing voices” from inside one’s own head, something I must assure you I don’t do.)

Here are the nominees for a new Kolumn Kharacter:

  • Kirsten, the sullen barista. She hates her job, her apartment, her town, her parents, her boyfriend, her body, other women’s bodies, and earthly existence in general. Her only joy in life is deliberately mixing up the coffee orders of the obnoxious rich bastards from the dot-com office next door.
  • Derek, the 55-year-old record collector. Longs to return to a bygone analog world in which Clapton was God and working-stiff guys like himself still had a chance to make it. Can barely maneuver his 235-pound frame around his LP- and memorabilia-laden apartment.
  • Janis and Anais, the mother-and-daughter punks. Mom has taught her precious girl how to do everything–how to go to high school with a hangover, how to dye one’s own pubic hair, how to fall off a skateboard without serious injury, how to out-party any man, how to play the “power chord,” how to adapt “I’m A Little Teapot” into a defiant hardcore anthem.
  • Eudora Flies-With-Eagles Schwartz, the new age shaman. Claims to be descended from a different Indian nation every month. Has never been to a reservation or powwow, but knows all the secrets of the Way of the Warrior (and will share some of them with you for a modest fee).
  • Freddy, the fetishist. If it hurts, if it embarrasses, he likes it. Believes women exist to serve men by punishing them.
  • Demographic Debbie. The perfect representation of the upscale target market. A career, a house, a minivan, a husband, an ex-husband, two-point-five children (the “point-five” kid lives half the year with the ex-husband). Lives to shop; loves romantic getaways and fashionable restaurants; is devoutly middle-of-the-road politically; has never held an extreme voice or idea since high school. Favorite color: Beige.
  • Riot Rosie and Radical Randy. They know exactly what’s wrong with the world and won’t stop telling you–it’s the wasteful lifestyles of people other than themselves, and the fascistic hypocrisies of all governments that outlaw pot and legalize meat. Their only moments of self-doubt arise when they realize their failure to fully meet their own stratospheric standards of behavior.
  • Pratt, the programmer. Doesn’t know much about dating or grooming or healthy eating, but knows tons about Linux coding, Star Wars, multi-player networked games, Japanese candy, and why the Internet used to be so much better before the tall guys in suits took it over.
  • Benny Bucks, the poor little rich man. A tall guy in a suit, forever complaining about how hard it is to make ends meet on $235,000 a year. The government and the PC thought police are always meddling in his life. Why just last week, the Forest Service wanted him to pay a fine for merely executing his God-given right to go off-roading in a sensitive area. And that sullen barista next door to his office never gets his order right.

Based on your responses, via email and at our MISCtalk discussion boards, one or perhaps more of these witty phantoms will make a full-length column appearance soon.

MONDAY: Awaiting the big Hollywood strike.


  • New stadia like Safeco Field“appeal to fans’ nostalgia the way Pottery Barn plays on urban consumers’ kitschy rural yearnings: by delivering a pristine, expensive simulacrum of something that, historically, was neither….”
  • Can’t conceive kids? Blame hubby’s old disposable diapers (found by Fark)….
Jul 18th, 1999 by Clark Humphrey

Returning to Life

Story fragment by Clark Humphrey

July 18, 1999

It would be Caroline’s first sexual experience since her husband died. She chose the circumstances carefully.

She would not fall in love or pretend to fall in love. That would stir up too many of the painful memories she was trying to quell. Nor would she submit herself to the ridiculous, unbecoming rituals of dating. She’d seen too many of her divorced friends turn into obsessed, self-concsious neo-teenagers trying too hard to make that presumably all-important first impression to some bar patron or personal-ad respondant.

No, sex ought to be like it had been with her husband. You need; I need; we both understand that; let’s figure something out.

But when his 4-wheeler rolled over, on the first time he’d taken it off-road, a part of her seemed to have died with him–the part she’d entrusted to his care. Barely a week after the death, she’d known she’d need to bring that part back to life if she were ever going to completely recover.

So when she felt as ready as she was going to feel, she began a methodical search for just the healing she desired. It would be tender. It would be personal without ripping open the scars still on her heart.

And it would be discreet. Which meant it would be professional.

At first, she figured it would also mean out of the country. The only male prostitutes she’d ever heard about in her city all worked exclusively or primarily for men. That would not do. She needed a man who knew just how to properly touch a woman.

After she’d already booked her off-season trip to Holland, a local opportunity presented itself. After a regular meeting of her grief-support group at the hospital, she happened to overhear a particularly loud woman, about her age, in a before-meetiing coffeeklatch at the hospital cafeteria. She enjoyed the mixing of all the different members of all the different support groups that used the hospital’s meeting rooms at night. Her own grief-support group didn’t giver her half as much relief as she got just from the weekly in-your-face realization that a hell of a lot of other people were living through situations as miserable as, if not more miserable than, her own.

But this was a special case, the fiftyish woman who seemed to want the whole cafeteria to know how this handsome and just-so-charming young con artist came into her life, then came into her heart, then came in her, then (after coming in her many more times) persuaded her to trust him with a house key, allowing him access to her now-missing jewelry and discontinued Beanie Babies.

Caroline could tell the loud woman hated being cheated and robbed, but Caroline could also surmise from the depth of the loud woman’s histrionics that the sex would probably have been worth the price if the man had settled for stealing cheaper goods.

Caroline suddenly found it remarkably easy to come up and lie to the loud woman, to claim she herself may have been victimized by the same scam artist, and to thusly finagle the man’s current phone number from the loud woman.

While driving home, Caroline realized she’d preyed upon the loud woman’s heartstrings for her own selfish needs, just as the con man had done. But Caroline quickly justified her actions to herself. She’d taken no money or material possessions from the loud woman, and may have even left her more encouraged to retake control of her own life.

And now Caroline would retake control of HER own life. She would go back to the loud woman at the after-the-support-group group and learn more about how the con man operates, where he lives, where he hangs out.

Caroline would let the thief find her, alone and presumably lonely. Caroline would “hesitantly” allow the confidence artist to ease his way into her life.

She would laugh at his jokes, let him pay for drinks, fall for his relaxed manner and well-laundered clothes. Then, soon enough but not so soon that he might suspect he was in fact the one being scammed, she would allow him to take her. She would let him reassure her that everything was going to be all right, that it was time for her to re-acquaint herself with her own inner feelings.

She would respond first nervously, then receptively, as he ever-so-slowly undressed her, caressed and kissed every inch of her body. He would enter her meekly yet confidantly at first, then would steadily build the force and pace of the lovemaking until her mind and body separated in a strong tidal-like sequence of orgasms. She would scratch deep into his back with her fingernails as she came, then kiss each scratch mark sweetly before surrendering to a contented sleep, his large hands cupping her breasts.

Then, Caroline would awaken and leave before the beautiful man stirred. He would wander nude through her house, looking everywhere, only to find she’d left the house (indeed, had left the continent) with nothing of significant value remaining on the premises. How she’d snuck out the valuables he’d seen the previous evening (a TV, a VCR, a stereo, the better pieces of her wardrobe, a computer setup, a microwave, some decent living-room furniture, and a framed oil painting or two) in the middle of the night, without disrupting his slumber in the least, will probably take him a few days to figure out.

By that time, Caroline’s stuff will be snug in her newly-rented storage locker. And Caroline will be in Amsterdam, receiving orgasm after rolling orgasm from a cute young ex-member of one of those downsized eastern European armies, who’ll get paid for his intimate services thanks to the insurance Caroline thankfully signed up for just before her household was completely stripped of everything by that horrible sneak-thief who’d unconscionably preyed upon her at her time of emotional weakness.

Jul 10th, 1999 by Clark Humphrey

Preventing the Inevitable

Story fragment by Clark Humphrey


The Match That Would End Everything was underway, and there was nothing anyone could do anymore to stop it.

When Hannah and Marcellus were born, on the same hour of the same day in the same hospital, their respective parents knew something was touched about each of them. When the two first met, at some public function when they were six, the parents saw the instant connection between the two and knew it must be stopped. The parents could tell by the way those two talked and laughed and smiled and answered one another’s jokes and finished one another’s sentences. And by how the kids’ eyes lit up like 4th of July sparklers when the kids first eyed one another.

The two sets of parents set up a plan the very next day.

Both moved their families to different towns.

Both set to teach the potentially troublesome children to be sexually repressed and socially inhibited, to trust no one, to speak only when spoken to and sometimes not even then. Hannah and Marcellus were trained, individually, to see their own bodies, especially their own genitalia, as disgusting, stinking, abhorrant things to never be shown or mentioned to anyone else.

Time, of course, has its way of changing young people, no matter how the adults who love them might wish otherwise. Hannah and Marcellus indeed entered puberty as social cripples, totally unpopular in their respective towns, incapable of speaking out or standing up for anything they wanted.

So when their glandular urges started to rev up, they each fantasized about no one in their own schools or churches. They longed only for one another, for that perfect connection that came to them so briefly, so long ago.

Each did not know where the other was, but knew, somehow, they would reunite.

Somehow, but not someday.


Marcellus’s voice-cracking and Hannah’s first period took place the same week, over 200 miles apart. They’d been quietly obsessing about one another all this time; as longing memories, as fantasy companions through their present-day loneliness, and as their sole hope for a better future. But once their adolescences became physically manifest, they knew. They would track one another down, meet, and never be split up ever ever again.

This took a hell of a lot longer than they wanted. At times each of them, separately, felt the crushing fear that it might not happen.

Then sometime in her fifteenth year, Hannah found Marcellus’s address on an email search engine. They immediately began a secret electronic correspondence which took up their entire private lives. Their respective parents thought the two were simply shuttering themselves away in their respective bedrooms as a continuation of their exactingly-trained loneliness.

But Marcellus’s mother, spying in his room as was her frequent wont, came across an un-encrypted file of the pair’s love emails. That set everything in motion.

The two families immediately took their children out of school the next day (Hannah had two siblings; Marcellus none) and embarked on open-ended, cross-country road trips. When asked, the four parents claimed it was because they’d suddenly realized what a mistake it had been to shelter their poor wistful little innocents. They now had to catch up and get a crash course in experiencing life, and the best way to do that was to take them out of all comfort zones, especially those mind-absorbing computers.

They found one another anyway, in a cute and semi-improbable way.

The four parents met up as they realized Hannah and Marcellus were off somewhere they couldn’t get to, fucking their brains out, and nothing could stop it. Some toasts were made to the inevitable and how, just like aging and death and losing in certain video games, we try to forestall it but it happens anyway and the best you can hope for is a high score along the way.


1. Why are the four parents so disturbed by the connection?

Could be the lovers-to-be are of different races, or the two families could be feuding rivals (that’s been done).

Or, there could be an emotional-mental-psychic connection among Hannah and Marcellus whose power, and potential danger, is evident from the start. One moment you have two individual children, not really all that different from any other children in the city park or at the annual carnival. The next moment, a hyperactive, ultraintelligent being-with-two-bodies was upstaging all the other children and adults in the place. Winning all the rigged carny games through either telekenesis or instantly calculating the proper throwing trajectory or both. Politely declining the company of all other children, who had instantaneously begun to appear unformed, incomplete, and, yes, immature. They don’t turn into instant geniuses–they don’t instantly know any more than they did at the beginning of the day, but they’re better and more avid learners. Each is eager to know what the other knows about absolutely anything–what makes the bubbles in a soda pop, why bird poop is white, what fireworks are made of.

They could have become such totally different creatures when they were together, it would be easy to understand why their respective parents would get scared, even if it was the best thing that would ever happen to anyone in their respective families. One of the mothers might be a fundamentalist Christian, and convince the other three parents that a Hannah/Marcellus combo might have more personal power over the universe than any mortal human is meant to have. She fears they could even grow into demons on Earth, avatars of the Antichrist. The world would not be safe if those two otherwise-innocent little ones ever spent another second together. Especially considering the children would reach sexual maturity right around the end of the millennium, which wouldn’t necessarily bring The Last Days (since, Hannah’s mother knew, the Bible warned that mankind would not “know the day nor the hour”) but still just might.

It would also be easy to understand why, once separated after a mere afternoon together, they would devote the next ten years of their lives to missing one another, then attempting to reunite. And why they would be so damned miserable and frustrated during these aching years apart (which would eventually last more than one and a half times their pre-meeting lifespans). And why they’d feel doomed to spend the rest of their pre-adolescence, and then their early adolescence, feeling cut off from the only connection that had ever really mattered or would ever really matter to them. They’d feel lonely and lost even without parents and schools doing everything to make them feel cut off from the world.

2. How do they actually, finally, reunite?

Perhaps their few months as teen email correspondents help them to develop a psychic bond. Enough that they could sense when they were, say, ten miles apart or less, and could silently plot to each run away at exactly the right time-space coordinates so they could meet before their respective parents could contact the authorities to track them down.

Or, if you don’t want to get that supernatural, it could be established that, during their email correspondence, they’d discussed the places in America they’d most like to see, or the places they think they could most successfully run away to. Remember, every moment they’re together, either in person or in Internet chat rooms, they feed off of one another’s intelligence, they each become smarter (or at least capable of faster, more thorough absorption of knowledge). At the time they’re separated from their respective computers, they could have already been plotting their rendezvous.

Hannah might be the first to run away from her traveling family. She could spend the entire open-ended road trip looking for just the right opportunity–scouting out every motel, every gas station, every truck stop and chain restaurant. But the parents spspect her motives, and don’t even allow her to use a restroom except in the company of her mother or one of her sisters.

The opportunity might finally avail itself two and a half months into the trip. They could be at one of those new mini-theme parks popping up along the American suburban landscape, on the site of a defunct shopping mall. In a funhouse-type attraction, she slips away from the family. She spots an overdressed boy her size, leads him into a dark corner, and offers sexual favors short of intercourse if he will giver her his baseball cap, sunglasses, flannel shirt, and jeans. Upon the conclusion of the favor, she gives him her T-shirt and a pair of unisex shorts she’d been hiding in her large purse for just such an occasion. She also tells the boy to tell his own parents that he’d accidentally fallen into the drink at one of the park’s water rides, had ruined his clothes in the fall, and had been given these replacement clothes by a kindly park employee. Hannah even told the boy how to make real-looking bruises on his arms and legs, to make his story more believable.

From that point, Hannah finds it easy to sneak out of the funhouse and out of the park. Hannah’s parents and sisters immediately fan out across the park once they realize she’s out of their sight, but all they find is a darting glimpse of a boy wearing a t-shirt exactly like Hannah’s. But it’s a popular shirt design (though the parents don’t think it odd that a boy would wear an N’Sync shirt), so they don’t pursue him.

The cops are called. It makes the news. Two states away, Marcellus hears about it on a car radio. While he doesn’t hear Hannah’s or her family’s name, he knows it’s her. Within an hour, he’s plotted his own escape. Three days later, he executes it. With fewer family members to watch him, he doesn’t have to work as hard as Hannah had. He simply waits for a moment when both parents are out of the car, yelling at some motel desk clerk; he sneaks out of the car by himself, and hops on a commuter bus heading into the town.

They know in advance that traveling to their predetermined rendezvous point, alone and underage and with old photos of them all over the news media, won’t be easy. But, after several harrowing misadventures hitchhiking, taking small regional bus lines that don’t require picture ID, riding in vans with touring rave DJs, hopping the rails, and each teen charging the occasional meal or commuter-plane flight on the other teen’s dad’s credit-card number, they arrive. Marcellus gets to the spot (relatively secluded but in a city they could quickly disappear into) exactly at the predetermined hour of high noon. Hannah’s thirteen minutes late. Marcellus does not panic. When she appears, running and gasping, he is not alarmed.

3. What happens next? They know exactly what they will do. They will find an even more private place and then make out like the teens-in-heat they are. No thought will be given to making their first time slow or tender. That can happen later. For now, they must have the simultaneous orgasm which will bond them for all eternity, and they must have it before anyone recognizes and separates them.

They almost complete the task then and there, but an older woman sees them, with Hannah’s bra half off, and glares disapprovingly. They reassemble their clothes, pick up their backpacks, and run off.

They finally do it on a ferry boat. The ride takes almost half an hour. Their first time, under a grocery truck parked on the boat’s car deck, takes less than ten minutes (closer to five, actually) from first unzipping until completion. At the exact time she grasps his penis and shoves it inside her, without even a moment’s pause to look at it, her parents run into his parents back at the ferry dock. They all realize it will be useless to ask the cops to search the boat when it arrives at its destination. The inevitable has occurred. And only the universe knows what terrors will follow.

Jul 7th, 1999 by Clark Humphrey

The Matchmaking Mom

Story fragment by Clark Humphrey


Charisse was, if anything, personable and persistent. She would do anything for her son. Well, maybe not everything–one thing she never did was consider whether her son’s brooding, carefully-constructed “loner” stance was a rebellion against her own gregariousness.So when she decided to break her son out of his self-imposed social isolation, it would be with her own well-honed social skills.

Teaching her skills to him proved ineffective this time, as it always had. She took him to assorted wholesome family-type gathering spots, paraded him before families with teenage girls, and did everything she could to make him open up, shed his inhibitions, and become more comfortable among new acquaintances.

None of it worked.

He was the only person on whom her instant-friendship techniques never worked. He’d spent his entire life, at least since toilet training, making sure they never worked on him.

Video-game parlors, barbecues, softball games, family reunions, church potlucks, monster-truck shows, the town’s annual carnival. Nothing Charisse dragged her son to ever excited him enough to widen his eyes or perk up his spirit or persuade him to say or do anything more than he absolutely had to.

Her next scheme was, if anything, ingenious. She took him to the hippie country fair, held every summer at a private campsite in the woods just out of Salem. She promised him the event would be full of tolerant, laid-back people who’d never put him down for being intelligent but quiet. Nobody there, she tried to assure him, would demand he be anything but the beautiful, smart, centered young man he was.

They went. She had a good time, except for her constant worries about how he was having a dull time.

But her own personability paid off when the asked a group of teens heading to the camp site’s swimming hole to ask him to come along with them. She knew it was they who had to ask him. They did ask him. They refused to accept no for an answer. Some of the youths literally grabbed his arms and pulled him away toward the secluded river bend, away from the craft booths and the drum circle where he could at least be anonymous among a crowd.

Charisse smiled as her son disappeared down the trail with the other teens. Charisse knew this would be the first time her son would be naked in front of girls; and she was also pretty sure it would be the first time her son would see naked girls in person.

She also knew, having staked out the site earlier that day, that there was a brush-obscured spying spot on the other side of the river. She went there to monitor what, she was certain, would be his at-last breakthrough out of his personal prison.

She saw and heard the girls and boys laughing, splashing, telling dumb body-part jokes, mildly roughhousing, making just-a-joke passes at one another, sunning on the rocks, drinking beer and smoking pot. Charisse was glad to see her son politely decline to share in the beer and the pot. She was disappointed to see her son politely decline everything else. He didn’t laugh at the other teens’ jokes and, when asked, tersely said he had no jokes of his own to tell. After repeated, increasingly insistent pleadings from the other teens, he eventually did undress, wade into the water, splash some of the water over his head, and return to the shore.

Even from a hiding spot across the river, Charisse could tell in her son’s facial expression and his posture that this was just another instance of her son doing as little as needed whenever she or others would try to force him to have fun.

But Charisse, as any good social butterfly would do, perservered. She employed the next phase of her scheme, involving a digital still camera she pulled from its discreet spot at the bottom of her canvas-mesh bag. Within a week, she’d made one close-up shot of her son on a color inkjet printer.

The week after that, she was at one of her regular round of coffee-klatch visits at the home of a neighbor; a neighbor who happened to have a teenage daughter. As she’d done once or twice before, Charisse told the neighbor mom what a cute couple the neighbor mom’s daughter and Charisse’s son would make. As had happened once or twice before, the neighbor mom expressed discouragement, accurately noting that Charisse’s son had never displayed any particular interest in persuing even the most aloof of social ties with the neighbor mom’s daughter.

This was Charisse’s cue for secret-weapon time. She took a manila envelope from her canvas-mesh bag, then opened the envelope to pull out the color inkjet print of her surreptitiously-photographed son. Before the neighbor mom could turn her head away in feigned shock or embarrassment, Charisse perkily explained how experts are now in agreement that a teenage girl’s early sexual experiences form such an important role in developing her adult personality. A rough or abusive introduction to sex, Charisse expounded, could scar a girl for life or at least force her into years of therapy. Best to create a situation where the girl could feel in charge, where she would do the seducing of a nonthreatening, beautiful boy. Note, Charisse said, the air of stillness in her son’s face, so deep and potentially servicable. Note, she said, the boy’s physique, slight yet muscular enough in the arms and thighs. And, yes, Charisse asked the neighbor mom to examine Charisse’s son’s penis, so pretty and so delicate-looking in the photo yet of sufficient length and girth as to undoubtedly ensure any lucky girl a pleasantly memorable rite into womanhood.

And, Charisse added in an aside, her son had great work-study habits and was a sure thing for a great scholarship offer.

Jul 1st, 1999 by Clark Humphrey

Family Day

Story fragment by Clark Humphrey


I had to escape Family Day. I knew that. I just didn’t know how.

My city’s “progressive liberal” government had had proclaimed the Sunday after a major holiday to be a one-shot test of Family Day. The concept was to appease the “family value” conservatives by testing the renewal of Sunday bar closings, a post-Prohobition state law that had been thrown out back in `63. The only exception, now as then, was that private clubs could still serve booze to their members.

Only finding such a club, one that would let me join on the day in question, proved a problem. I finally tracked one down on the Internet. It was a small outfit I’d never heard of, in a remote and slightly run-down residential neighborhood I’d seldom if ever visited.

The bus driver wouldn’t let me off at the stop nearest the club. I had to keep riding nearly a quarter-mile beyond the place, until one of his regular riders also had to disembark. Both the driver (a curly-lipped 30ish man) and the other passenger (a prim old lady) gave me icy glares as I walked down from the bus’s steps to the sidewalk. They both had surmised where I was going and expressed a loud-silent disapproval. I looked like I always looked; a little rumpled but clean and shaven. They could probably tell I was no alcoholic desperate for a sauce-dose on this dry day. No, I was deliberately defying both the letter and the intent of Family Day.

(I had no family anyway, at least none around this state. But that didn’t matter to the politicians, nor to the conservatives who’d pressed for the dry day. Indeed, some futile opponents of the law had complained on talk radio that the conservatives wanted to make anybody outside a standard nuclear family feel lonely and guilty.)

Six blocks of cracked, weed-strewn sidewalk after leaving the bus, the grey winter midday found me outside the former neighborhood Masonic Temple storefront, now housing the independent private club whose name you’ve all heard of by now. The quaint little building was surrounded by a closed video store and a closed hair salon. (Retailers, restaurants, theaters, and other destination businesses hadn’t been forced to close on Family Day, but were strongly encouraged in the media to do so.)

Other little storefronts on the half-block bore small window signs announcing meetings to discuss the future of the neighborhood–meetings which, I later learned, were intended to force the club to close. Attempts which, I am happy to say, have yet to succeed.

Past the main lobby was a big, dark room with black-painted walls and a once-beautiful wooden floor. The bar, at the room’s rear, was just as I’d expected, a worn-down, `50s-style installation with more plastic than glass bottles (i.e., the cheap stuff), more duct tape than upholstery on the stools, and plastic-relief signs promoting once-popular beer brands. Everything had the distinct patina of too many years of cigarette-stained air, including the 60-ish bartender and his somewhat younger clientele (about two-thirds male).

Now that I’d asserted my right to drink, I didn’t really feel like drinking. Especially here. Especially after a polite young man in a mall-bought suit quietly informed me of the cover charge, which he was careful to call a “membership fee and first month’s dues.”

I’d have left, if not for a darting glimpse of the day’s entertainment. The polite young man informed me the club was holding a “Family Day Cabaret.” It was planned to celebrate the cameraderie of the membership as a family-of-choice, just as real and deserving as any biological family. The entertainment consisted of six young women, seen in my first glance while they were sitting in an even-darker side area of what was a pretty dark room to begin with. They were smoking cigarettes and adjusting their make-up and costumes. Their faces were not like those of the currently-popular fashion models; they were clearly women of this neighborhood or other neighborhoods like this. Their hair and faces were done up to a kind of perfection. I could not tell the shape or form of their costumes from my vantage point, but they were clearly colorful and clearly thin. I paid the polite young man and sat at a small, wobbly table.

The cabaret did not begin until an hour after I arrived, a half hour after the polite young man said it would begin. During this interval, I nursed a sequence of whiskey sours, made from some of the best plastic-jug liquor Oregon produced, and waited, alone. I did not seek the friendship of the club’s regulars, nor was it overtly offered to me as of yet.

After this interminable brief moment, it began. The dim lights were dimmed further, if that were possible. The green EXIT light above the lobby doors was the brightest spot in the room; that and a few spots where light snuck in from windows whose black paint had begun to peel.

From somewhere near the bar, a tinny boom box issued forth lilting, ethereal electronic music of the old 4AD Records variety. My first thought: Totally inappropriate for this pre-copmuter-age room. My second thought, after a minute or so: Nice, homey, cute even.

The women didn’t enter the room. They just stood up from their corner table and began to dance across the room with a slow, serene, Butoh-like grace. My eyes were now sufficiently darkness-adjusted to that I could see their costumes–combinations of diaphanous long shawls and veils, in colorful silky cloth and in that sheer grey stuff dressmakers use to test their cuts. From the way they started twirling them about, it was quickly obvious there would be some undressing. But they took their sweet (in their case, quite sweet) time at it. They didn’t exactly “tease” so much as they very deliberately led my eyes, and the eyes of the other patrons, toward each body part they emphasized in turn with each stance and motion they smoothly led into. By the time nipples began to appear, I felt as if I’d already seen them many times before, that each of these women had long been a special friend to me.

After an indeterminate amount of time, each woman had her upper shawls completely off. Some had their lower veilage also removed. These strips of cloth were either strewn along the floor, lying on patrons’ tables (or, in one case, draped over a bald male head), or were still in the women’s arms, being used as faux stoles or boas.

For the final stage of the performance, the women invited members of the audience to take turns dancing with them. Some of the men performed traditional ballroom steps with the women, while the men’s wives/girlfriends sat and admired. At least one man attempted to engage a dancer in what commercial strip joints call a “lap dance.” The dancer politely declined that, but did invite him to stand up and dance a real dance with her. He agreed, and began a prom-style slow dance. During this, he hesitantly attempted to touch her breasts, first with his shirted chest and then with his hands. She allowed this, smiling her approval into his stricken eyes.

Some time after that (this segment took up the rest of the day and evening), he had left the room and I found myself dancing a prom-style slow dance with the same dancer. I also caressed her tender bosom and her muscular, dancer-trained back, looked contentedly into her captivating eyes, and even shared a few closed-mouth kisses. At the end of the song, I turned to see some of the non-dancer women in the room making out with some of the men in the room, not necessarily the same men these women had been sitting with back when I’d entered. Despite having not spoken to most of these people, I began to feel I was being welcomed into their realm, their tribe. A kind of indirect connection, via being touched and enraptured by the same women, came between me and these other men, and (a further step) withthe dressed, non-dancer women.

If anything further happened among anyone there, it did not occur in any part of the building I was in. The perfume, the smoke, the stronger-than-my-usual drinks, and the other contributing factors caused me to feel like I was about to pass out. Before I did so, the bartender had already called a taxi for me, which arrived promptly and sent me back toward my home, away (for the time being) from my new, and only real, family.

Apr 11th, 1999 by Clark Humphrey

Real Girlfriend

Fiction fragment by Clark Humphrey


In the ever-market-segmenting world of nudie magazines, “reality” had become the fad of the moment. One year, a new magazine promised only “real” breasts. The next year, another new magazine promised only “real” women (i.e., supposed “amateurs” instead of professional models).So it should not have come as a surprise to any industry observer when Real Lover appeared with its pictorials of models who looked like women the magazine’s readers actually stood a chance of dating.

The magazine’s chief feture was the “First Night” pictorial, in which the camera took the point of view of a man about to consummate a relationship with the model.

The editors spares no effort to come up with photo-caption quotations the model might be expected to say in a real pre-sex environment.

“No, no. Not the hair.”

“That’s not my clit.”

“That’s not it either.”

“Nope. Still not there.”

“I SAID, not the hair.”

“Don’t bite me.”

“Well, OK, but not where it’s going to show.”

“Ah. That’s the spot. Now lick slowly. No, not that fast.”

“I hope you don’t mind sharing the bed with Clio. She has the run of the house.”

“To tell you the truth, Clio was supposed to have gotten declawed last week but my car broke down and I couldn’t get to the vet’s that day.”

“If you can do it again, I’ll give you a cookie.”

“I hope you don’t mind but I’ve got an important meeting at 8 I’ve got to get dressed for. So let’s just get you in a cab, OK?”

Feb 8th, 1999 by Clark Humphrey

A Life With the Nakeds

Fiction fragment by Clark Humphrey


Once the cost-cutting fad of ’90s corporate life had given way to the spend-to-grow fad of ’00s corporate life, all manner of consultants and subcontractors blossomed blossomed amid the urban-office landscape, claiming to have the latest and greatest schemes to improve worker productivity while ensuring a happy, fully-functional work environment. From this came the mini-industry that became known by ’08 as the Nakeds, women hired by major corporations to do nothing but be beautiful.It’s a wonder nobody thought of it before–a whole industry of hiring young women to stand and walk around naked. And not in the protective environment of nudie bars but in ordinary lounges and restaurants, malls, offices, stores, factory break-rooms, anywhere the sight of an attractive body would be an unexpected treat.

In workday environments, regular female employees got to mock the Nakeds under their breaths, and also got more work done as male co-workers’ sexual attention was diverted away, efficiently and chastely, by the ever-polite Nakeds.

(Indeed, some female middle-managers arranged to have their open-office landscapes decorated by only the largest-breasted, bubbliest Nakeds–the types of women proven in clinical studies to turn men into inattentive idiots, thus giving the female middle-managers a distinct advantage in the old corporate-ladder-climb.)

Before state and local health departments started to crack down on the presence of Nakeds in foodservice environments, they stimulated appetites and could, by their carefully-timed appearances and disappearances, regulate seating durations.

This story will relate the life story of a soon-to-retire Naked. Her geisha-like training in propriety, poise, grace under intimidation, and service (even while essentially doing nothing). How the career’s affected her private life (does she, like some other Nakeds, try to dress up as lavishly as possible whenever not working? Is she only comfortable having sex while wearing something?).

What happened to her career standing when male Naked began to infiltrate the profession? How well she shrugged off and/or internalized the sometime uncouth remarks of some men and the often-condescending stares of some women. Living for up to 40 hours a week in situations where everybody either felt superior to or secretly admired her or both. The friends and occasional admitted admirers she’d met.

What she’ll do now that she’s finally hit the age when no amount of working out will keep her looking delectable and heavy cosmetic surgery can no longer be considered a worthwhile investment.

She could even have been one of the first Nakeds in an office, hired after the bosses determined they could no longer justify on the balance sheet the sexpot secretaries who did nothing, and reclassified them as human-resources workers. From there, it was only a step to have them wear less and less, until Casual Friday, at one office on one day, turned into Naked Friday.

Legend has it that it was a female junior executive who thought of this final ingredient, strategizing that her male rivals for promotion would be distracted into unproductivity. It didn’t quite work out that way, but the junior executive did get to launch her own great company, supplying Nakeds for all social occasions and fighting legal battles in one jurisdiction after another to have Nakeds allowed in just about any private-property setting. Our heroine was one of the first, and may be the last of the original team still working.

Feb 10th, 1998 by Clark Humphrey

Hell Is Perfection

Fiction fragment by Clark Humphrey


He tired of his remote exile.Not that there was anything to complain about, at least not anything the authorities would recognize as a legitimate complaint.

His air supply never failed to provide a medically-approved proportion of oxygen, hydrogen and other nontoxic gases.

His water supply was never leaden, never harsh or bitter.

The lighting system in his compound used only the rare incandescents; not a single fluorescent was to be found.

Electricity, recirculation, even the plumbing never gave out.

The molecularly re-created foods were perfect. Uniformly perfect. They always tasted “fresh” and always had just the right temperatures, even the baked Alaska. The sauces were never too thin, the wines never too smoky.

And the women.

Because of the special conditions of his exile, he was assigned one of almost every type available.

Perfect breasts of all sizes. The most glamorous faces from every continent. Never tiring, never complaining. Always eager. Programmed in the erotic arts of Japanese courtesans, the spiritual sex rites of India, the power disciplines of Britain, the lush lovemaking of the Pacific islands, the stern yet tender maternalism of Mexico, the unbridled passion of Brazil, the smothering harem rites of certain parts of Africa, the unabashed sleaze of an old American massage parlor.

They could recite classical love poetry, sing soaring arias, talk trash talk, or chant hypnotic tribal trance songs. They never had periods, unless you asked them to as part of a fetish game. They never got pregnant.

They couldn’t give you STDs (even if there had been another human around to share one of his lovers, they all had built-in sterilization systems). They smelled just like real women and in the right places; or, depending on your preferences, they could instead give off a pheremone-based perfume scent.

But as the years wore on, just as the authorities predicted, he lost interest in what were essentially technologically-enhanced masturbation dolls. The more he bathed in perfection, the more he yearned for the one group of sensations his lovers could never provide–the sensations of imperfection.

He wanted to be argued with, yelled at in non-dominatrix ways.

He wanted to be disliked, disapproved of.

He wanted the touch and taste of skin that aged, got bruised.

He yearned, ached, for a woman who got tired as he did, who wasn’t always in the mood for it, who could tell him things he didn’t already know, even if they were wrong.

At the time of his initial capture, he was only five crucial tasks away from plunging the world into a regime of brutal predictability. Over the preceding years, his pusuers had become ardorous in their drive to stop him. Their rallying cries had come to revolve around passionate defenses of the flaws of existence.

So their vengeance upon capturing him would naturally entail a lifetime attempt to make him see the error of his wish for errorlessness. But having shut off all contact in either direction once the compound was completed and installed, his captors would never know the extent of their success.

Jul 29th, 1997 by Clark Humphrey

Do Granny

Story fragment piece by Clark Humphrey


A 58-year-old woman, dressed in beach cap, sandals, pink sunglasses, and loose, comfortable clothing, is wandering along what she thinks is a public beach, putting the occasional seashell into a loose-fitting canvas beach bag and trailing behind a battery-powered metal detector, which so far today has not peeped for anything but bottle caps.Around a bend, she confronts what’s obviously a private beach segment: landscaped little bluff cleaved in two by a gravel pathway up to a slightly rundown house. Five young women and/or old girls, all topless. Three bottomless, the other two in thongs.

Two of them are reading paperbacks while lying on towels, exchanging droll barbs about whether the getting or the dumping of a man is the most enjoyable part of a relationship. The other three are sprinting down the short walkway from what appears to be a plastic backyard hot tub, ready to follow up the hot-water experience with a cold-water skin brace.

As their bare feet “innocently” kick cold salt water onto their Bain de Soleil-smeared friends on the towels, the sunbather who’s lying on her stomach jumps up, looks for the culprit, spots our fully-clothed metal-detector walker.

Does she scream, reach for her clothes (nowhere in immediate sight), or shoo her away? No, she smiles, calls her “Granny” (something she doesn’t show immediate offense about), and invites her to join them for a soon-to-be-eaten lunch. She agrees.

She doesn’t undress (beyond her cap), but does sit up on a convenient small hillside rock and allows the women to run around and service her with beer, chips/salsa, and a microwaved hot dog. In exchange, she regales them with stories about some of the odd and not-really valuable things she’s found with her trusty metal detector.

About fifteen minutes or so into this routine, a young man or an old boy comes running up the beach from the other way. It needn’t be said he finds the sight of the young women and/or old girls a most pleasant surprise. The women can tell this from the enlargement of his eyes and mouth and cutoffs.

The older woman looks a little disoriented and confused; but one particular young woman, the one who had initially been splashed by her friends and who was now sharing a Bud Light with extra-extra-extra lime with the older woman, immediately has an idea. She whispers to the older woman that she, the older woman, is jealous. Not of the younger women’s beauty or audacity but of the man, who this very moment threatens to take the attention of all the young women and leave the older woman back alone again with only her metal detector for company.

The Bud Light drinker immediately announces a plan. She announces the man can have any one of the young women of his choice, except for one who’s more or less in a relationship and another who’s having her period (this remark visibly embarrasses the older woman but not the woman in question).

The condition in the deal: The man has to agree to “do Granny first.”

Granny, who has not been previously consulted on this deal, is the focus of everyone’s attention, including the man’s. She can see his eyes capturing her figure and she can sense his mind subtracting her clothes from the received image. She can sense both him and the other women excitedly awaiting her reply of refusal or agreement.

Jul 23rd, 1997 by Clark Humphrey

101 Mona Lisas:

A Variety of Female Smiles for the Actress or Caricaturist

Fiction piece by Clark Humphrey


  • The slightly confused yet totally happy glare upon eating ice cream for the first time
  • The restrained, pseudo-modest giggle upon sharing a dirty joke with a girlfriend in the presence of the girlfriend’s mom
  • The beaming, catty grin upon being told a particularly juicy joke by one’s manicurist
  • The teeth-grinding fake fake smile upon listening to the most stuck-up girl in school boast about how great a lay her football-star boyfriend is
  • The absolutely-not-guilty satisfied juice-lapping smirk upon completing a boyfriend-stealing blow job to the football star
  • The satisfied shriek upon seeing the most stuck-up girl in school spitting in one’s face
  • The sigh of relief at the end of the first day on the job
  • The wearier sigh of relief at the end of the second day on the job
  • The wearier-still sigh of relief at the end of the 253rd day on the job
  • The enthusiastic faked response to a joke told by a man with money
  • The simple, content nod upon marrying a man with money
  • The less simple, equally content nod upon leaving a man with money
  • The scornful, yet not really unhappy, laugh upon responding to the man-with-money’s divorce attorney’s first offer
  • The unplanned exclamation of hope and fascination upon being introduced to a man with perfect hair
  • The almost painful, involuntary gaggle upon being mercilessly tickled in bed by the man with perfect hair
  • The almost painful, involuntary rapture upon being expertly licked in bed by the man with perfect hair
  • The ambiguous, wistful pondering upon seeing a “plus” sign on a pregnancy test
  • The not-embarrassed-at-all snort of faked surprise upon having wedding cake shoved in one’s face by the man with perfect hair
  • The innocent, joyful glee upon nursing a baby
  • The forced, embarassed participation in group giggles upon suddenly having to clean up a diaper accident while hosting company
  • The smug, we-are-not-amused greeting to one’s daughter’s horny, completely inadequate teenage boyfriend
  • The letting-loose howl upon rounding the last slope, completely unaware of the stray snowboarder just ahead
  • The relieved sigh upon feeling the painkillers starting to work for the last time
Jul 11th, 1997 by Clark Humphrey

A Nude Beach Play

Fiction concept by Clark Humphrey


The scene opens with a woman sitting up on a towel on a beach, nude. Her undies, T-shirt, sandals, and cutoff shorts are in a neat pile to one side of her towel. She’s listening on a personal stereo to something. At her feet is a paperback book. With sunglasses half on, she alternates between staring out at people and broadcasting a variety of colorful, scornful expressions at anyone who stares out at her.She makes pithy remarks about women who are so flat it’s pathetic or so big they probably have never seen their own feet, and about men who are big, bigger, and almost big enough.

After about four minutes of this tableau, she finds herself looked at by someone who apparently doesn’t flinch when she looks back. Instead, she looks on with official disgust as he walks closer to her and finally appears onstage. He’s wearing only a baseball cap (worn frontwards) and generic knock-offs of popular sneakers. In one hand, he’s holding a six-pack; in the other, a large clear-mesh tote bag with his clothes and towel.

(Direction note: No attempt is ever made to hide any part of either character’s body from the audience.)

They argue over who looked at whom first, who looked at whom most obviously, and who was treating whom as an object. Under her questioning, he admits he rather enjoyed it when she gazed directly (and, he likes to imagine, longingly) at his crotch.

As he helps himself to putting down his towel next to hers, she insists he must really be annoyed to be on the receiving end of the sex-objectification process.

He flatly denies the presumption: to him, and, he insists, to probably any man, to be thought of as a sex object by a highly doable woman is the highest possibly compliment.

He quotes his favorite rap lyric, in which a man boasts to other men about how women adore his (the rapper’s) dick.

The man at the beach continues by explaining that since raw animal sex is what he personally wants most out of life, to be even potentially considered as a candidate for such sex is at least a small triumph of approval. He then guesses at what she wants most out of life: to be swept off her feet, but remain completely in charge. She adamantly denies this.

Upon repeated goading from him, she relents and tells him her ultimate fantasy (while he opens a beer and hands her another, which she accepts). She puts her sunglasses all the way on as she describes her dream experience.

She flails her arms and hands (including the hand holding the beer) around herself sensually during this, but doesn’t actually touch any part of her body (or his). While her story’s relatively long, at nearly four minutes, it settles into a “having it all” scenario, which the man quickly summarizes as close enough to his guess.

After about ten more minutes of these exchanges, the woman notices the sun’s about to go down behind the bluff hiding this nude beach from general-public view.

Without saying a word about any near- or far-future plans, they stand up together, help each other de-sand their towels, gather their things, and walk off, still agreeing to disagree.

Jun 23rd, 1997 by Clark Humphrey

Miss Sally’s Place

Fiction fragment by Clark Humphrey


Miss Sally’s Place has had three or four Miss Sallys over the past 13 years. Turnover of “owners” (all of whom were well taken care of at the time of their “retirement”) was a strategy by the house’s shadowy investors to help prevent its shutdown. Another was incriminating evidence: the house’s network of clients who refer new clients had, by now, included a few public officials, several local business hotshots, and the daughter of the newspaper publisher.Besides the usual outcall and less-than-usual incall escort services, Miss Sally’s Place offered special clients (those with extra money, those with useful connections, and those with friends among the first two groups) special fantasy role-play experiences. Not the violent or humiliation-based role-plays you could get elsewhere, but sensuous experiences you could only get in the whole region at Miss Sally’s Place. Miss Sally IV had herself previously been an expert in the role-play rooms.

Her specialty: The immersion dance.

In slow, Butoh-like motions, she and two other women would hover and glide around the client, seated on pillows on the floor in the room’s center. The women wore sheer chiffon robes and capes, which included full head masks. The material was opaque when two layers thick, but fully sheer at just one layer. The dance took no less than twelve minutes, no matter how hurried the client claimed to be. The women gently flailed their robes up and down as they ever-so-slowly circling the room.

For a moment, the client could see a breast but not a behind.

Another moment: A full view of a backside, but no visible frontside.

By the tenth minute, the client would finally realize the dancers’ clockwise motions had been inching closer, with each one-minute revolution, toward the center, toward him or her.

At exactly 12:00, the women, who by now were standing directly above the still-seated client, lifted their robes, and then themselves, over the client’s head. From that point on the dance became more of an improvisation. The only set piece being the application of the condom, which had been heretofore hidden in a pocket in one of the women’s robes.

May 19th, 1997 by Clark Humphrey

Your Video Date

Story/video idea by Clark Humphrey


A series of two shot-on-video (perhaps with Filmlook digital processing) productions, one with a female protagonist, the other with a male protagonist. In each, this is the only person shown on screen (except for bit parts like cab drivers and waiters). She/he is Your Video Date.Each is a six-hour EP-mode video, shot in almost-real time. (During the sleeping parts there will be some time-cutting.) The premise is a one-night-stand date with this idealized partner.

The date begins at the door of YVD’s (Your Video Date’s) apartment. You (represented by the camera’s point of view) take in the view of YVD’s sumptuous surroundings while s/he finishes getting prepared. S/he does all the talking, sometimes asking you a rhetorical question. You get to learn all about this fascinating person and her/his amazing life story.

You get into a cab with her/him and listen to more pleasantries, stopping at a cozy little restaurant (modeled after the Capitol Club or Marco’s Supper Club). YVD plays, flirts, and toys with you all the time, while admiring the scrumptuous food and tasty beverages. Slowly, surely, YVD draws you into her/his world.

This continues after another cab ride to a convenience store (for a bottle of wine to go) and from there to a moonlit waterfront stroll. You pass a friend who remarks how sharp you look and how lucky you are to be with YVD tonight.

The stroll ends at a secluded little spot. The two of you sit on YVD’s coat, laid out on the ground. YVD’s chatter becomes quieter, slower. Eventually, YVD quietly announces she/he cannot continue without a kiss. YVD puckers up to the camera.

Two minutes later, YVD pulls back and begins caressing other parts of “your” body. YVD then stands back and performs a playful yet plaintive striptease.

The startling presence of an onlooker (maybe a cop) prompts you and YVD to quickly get up, readjust clothes, and head back to YVD’s pad. The two of you are now arm-in-arm, laughing and cuddling as you walk. YVD’s pad turns out to be within easy walking distance of the secluded little spot.

Once inside, YVD’s first urge is to rip some garments off of you immediately, then to do the same to her/his own attire. Then some bear hugs. Then some of the wine, drank straight from the bottle. Then YVD’s mood turns totally seriously intimate and sensual. She/he disappears into another room of the apartment. As you wait, the lights are turned low; soft ambient music begins to play. YVD emerges in a crimson robe, soon unfurled to reveal sultry underthings. Your hands reach out to remove the garments. YVD offers her/himself totally, in a sequence of emotionally intense softcore poses and movements (no hardcore shots) in the living room and then in the bedroom.

Following this is some pillow horseplay, some Kleenex cleaning up, a trip into the bathroom together, and then some cuddling in bed.

During the night, you awaken several times to gaze upon YVD’s sleeping nude body, changing positions, breathing, with quiet street noises and refrigerator hums as the only soundtrack. There’s as much as a half hour of this footage on the final tape.

The last time you awaken, YVD’s face is bathed in drape-hazy morning sunlight. She/he awakens to greet you. Hugs and caresses are interrupted when YVD notices the time on the digital clock radio and apologizes for having to get to work. You and YVD shower together. YVD either shaves or applies make-up in the bathroom mirror. YVD finishes morning bathroom activity while you go back to the bedroom, dress, and enter the kitchen. You spy on YVD’s unfamiliar kitchen, gazing at her/his fine food choices. You prepare a breakfast of coffee, juice, toast, and melon slices.

YVD emerges into the kitchen, looking radiant with love. For one last time, you dine and listen to her/his storytelling (finishing anecdotes begun and left unfinished at the dinner table the night before). YVD kisses you one more time and announces her/his carpool will be at the door any second now.

As you watch her/him leave, she/he says you can stay in the place as long as you like. You take one last look around the apartment, looking at knick-knacks, books, records, and other possessions that reveal more of YVD’s heart and soul (your hand occasionally enters camera range to caress an old family portrait photo or an article of YVD’s clothing).

The last thing the camera sees is the bedroom ceiling as you return to the bed for a little extra shut-eye, holding her/his robe softly in your arms.

ALTERNATE PLAN (or fundraising short-subject version): Just the sleeping scenes.

Oct 23rd, 1996 by Clark Humphrey

The Tethered Rope:

A Graham Greene-style comedy of manners

Fiction fragment by Clark Humphrey


We open in a darkened house on an island off the Atlantic coast. Which Atlantic coast, it’s not yet revealed; possibly Maine.A late-20s man arrives in the main room of the house and lights oil-fueled lamps. As light invades the room in installments, we see a room that might look like it was designed after 1930 by a regional architect under instructions to make it as coldly Victorian as possible. The walls are impracticably tall for a cold climate, not to mention for the room’s other, somewhat small, dimensions.

The man removes his thick sweater to reveal an old yet still handsome dress shirt on a nearly sympathy-eliciting thin frame. He leaves via a swinging door toward the kitchen when a knock is heard on the heavy oaken front door.

It is his date, a comely lass who isn’t from the island and doesn’t know his whole story.

Not that he’s that willing to tell much of it.

He serves her a meal involving Cornish game hens smothered in some sort of sauce, but she does not dig in right away. He plays a haunting melody for her on a 78 record on a classic wind-up Victrola. When she asks if he could play something a bit more contemporary, he apologizes for not having electricity. He carefully removes the needle from the record, lifts the record off, and writes LADY DOESN’T LIKE on the inner groove with a felt-tip marker, using a lamp for writing light.

The girl takes this opportunity to inspect the kitchen (coal-fired stove, ice box) when she opens a cabinet (heavy, oaken) and a small but finely honed carving knife flies at her from a trajectory above and behind her, missing her shoulder by inches. She panics and flees. The boy enters the kitchen and, realizing what happened by the shiny ENSO brand knife lying on the countertop (heavy, oaken), mutters something to himself. He carefully puts the uneaten meals (his and hers) in a restaurant-kitchen metal tray, which he deposits inside the ice box.

A narrator informs us that this is the opening chapter in a miniseries based upon a novel. The novel was set on an English Channel Island and was annotated with maps, “aside” stories, postcards, flyers for island businesses, board-game cards, and other ephemera.

The following scene is in a room similar to the young man’s house, but larger. It is a mansion redone as an inn. The attempts at providing comfy furnishings and light-motif wall art clash with the heavy, oaken walls and the heavily leaded glass in the small window panes. From the co-ed group of five travelers (Boston Brahmin scholars in this version, proper Londoners in the original) we learn a few things.

This island was a fishing village, pop. 300, before the eccentric sole heir to the ENSO knife fortune bought it (houses and boats and everything) for his own combination resort, retreat, and experimental community.

The young man we saw earlier was his illegitimate son via the descendant of a local fisherman’s family who stayed on to be servants. He was “provided for” in the old man’s will with a “small” guest house on the estate but no cash. He’s lived there alone since age 12, some 15 years ago. (The old man bought the island in 1932 at Depression prices, impregnated the maid in 1960 when he was old and she was young; she died before the old man, of a work-borne illness of some sort. That puts the “boy” as 28 in 1988, when our story is set.)

The son, we are told, lives by himself in that house to this day, unelectrified, phoneless, and speaking only to the inn’s staff, sometimes bringing home food from the inn’s kitchen. It is implied that over the course of the miniseries we will slowly learn what befell the poor mother, what hideous “games” were played in the knife man’s experimental community, and what locked-up passions might be simmering within the soft-spoken son.

But before that, we must suffer through the pent-up emotions of the scholars: a stuffy old man and two middle-aged couples. There’s sexual tension and the implication of marital betrayal, either ongoing or previously committed or presently desired. One of the younger couples finds two leftover cornish game hens in unknown sauce in the inn’s kitchen (otherwise closed for the night) and decides to microwave them for a late-night snack. Upon opening a cupboard in search of plates and utensils, a miniature Enso pocket knife flies through the air and, missing the couple widely, lands harmlessly on the tile floor.

A narrator promises us more mysteries will be introduced, but not resolved, in the next chapter.

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