Old Gardens; Old Toys
by Rob Loughran
forum: Old Gardens; Old Toys
speculative fiction for the internet generation.

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Old Gardens; Old Toys:
Two Stories Celebrating a Writer's Freedom of Voice within a Genre




All, everything that I understand, I understand because I love.

                                        —Leo Tolstoi


        The Fiat’s wipers cut half moons in the steadily falling snow. Lawrence downshifted and eased the car around another switchback. He drove slowly, wary of the icy, slick, anaconda-like road that led them deeper into the mountains of the Abruzzi. His hands, with long almost feminine fingers, danced from the gear shift to the steering wheel and back at every corner. “I didn't realize Italy was so cold,” he said.

        “Only in winter,” said Rose. “I'd bet on it.”

        “Is that a road sign?” asked Lawrence. “How much farther?”

        “Even if I could see the sign, Lawrence, you know I can't figure out these kilometers.”

        “It's kilometer, not kill-O-meter.”

        “However it's pronounced, they're a pain in the rear,” Rose cracked her window and a swirl of snow dusted her shoulders. She fumbled in her purse and extracted a cigarette and a gold-and-red pack of matches from the Tivoli Gardens. She lit up and dropped the match onto the floor of the rented car. She inhaled and savored the smoke, relaxing visibly. Rose exhaled slowly; the smoke was sucked in tendrils through the open window.

        The Fiat’s left headlight had failed and Lawrence was guided by just a single beam of light as he negotiated the mountain road. Past Italian cypress and olive trees—looking incongruous in the snow—to higher elevations where the landscape was dominated by spruce and pines. Rose lit another cigarette.

        “Do you have to smoke, Rose?”

        She patted his leg as it danced from the brake to the gas. “It relaxes me. Quitting now would be like closing the barn door after all the animals had gone.”

        “You could try giving them up.”

        “Lawrence, darling, it wouldn't help.”

        “It couldn't hurt. What if there is something at the clinic in Lanciano to help you?”

        “There was supposed to be something in Mexico City and Toronto.” She sucked at her cigarette. “Not to mention Helsinki and Baden-Baden.”

        Lawrence ignored the pert summary of last year's itinerary. “I hate it when you smoke. I detest those putrid butts.” Lawrence, as if to punctuate his sentence, ran the Fiat into a snowbank. “Jesus!” He slammed his fist against the dashboard.

        Rose tossed her cigarette into the storm and laughed.

        “Did I miss a joke?”

        “No joke, Lawrence. I just truly do love you. The way you vent frustration on foreign objects.” She patted the Fiat’s dash. “Although, I suppose, since we’re in Italy, a Fiat’s a domestic automobile.”

        Lawrence punched the domestic Fiat again.

        Rose inched toward Lawrence and smiled. “I love the way you rattle ice cubes in your gins-and-tonic, how you line up a putt, the fact that you can't even walk barefoot down the driveway to get the Sunday paper.”


        “Lots of women would think that you’re over-delicate and a bit of a flake but I love you and have cherished every moment of the thirty-seven years we've been married.”

        Lawrence leaned over, cupped his wife's face in his hand, and kissed her forehead, nose, and lips. He hugged Rose, feeling her bones, frail and fragile as a schoolgirl's. He rubbed her neck and buried his face in the collar of her coat. He smelled coffee, cigarettes and her slightly sweet body odor: Rose’s aromas. “Yeah,” he said, “it's been a good life.”

        “And then I screwed it up by getting cancer.”

        Lawrence pulled his wife closer. “You are not going to die.”

        Rose whispered, “And that's what I love most about you. Your incredible, concrete belief that life is fair.” She closed her eyes and kissed her husband.

        Lawrence held Rose and hoped that the specialist in Lanciano would be more effective in stemming the spread of his wife's cancer than the other doctors who had poked, prodded and injected her with everything from enzymes and vitamins to liquefied sheep placentas. Since the doctors in the US had declared her brain tumor inoperable and chemotherapy had only succeeded in removing her fingernails, toenails and hair, Rose and Lawrence had hop-scotched across North America and Europe searching for a cure. Not only were they running out of money, they were running out of doctors who would even see Rose. Her cancer had metastasized, and oncologists, much like major-league pitchers, were paid in accordance to their Won-Loss record. And with Rose, there were two out in the bottom of the ninth.

        Rose shivered in her husband's arms. “I'm cold,” she said. “Let's get going.”

        Lawrence nodded. He pumped the gas and turned the ignition key.


        “Maybe it's flooded,” said Rose. “Try again.”

        Click. Click.

        “What's wrong?” asked Rose.

        Lawrence flicked on the wipers. They scraped away the quickly accumulating snow; then quit. “Dead battery.”

        “What should we do?”

        “We either sit here and freeze, or freeze trying to find a farmhouse. Or something.”

        Rose shivered, then smiled. “I suppose some air would do me good.” She pulled on her gloves and looped her hood over her crew-cut-length, gray hair. Lawrence removed a scarf and wrapped it around her neck, tucking it into the front of her coat.

        “Thanks, loverboy,” said Rose.

        “You're welcome, Rosa.”


        “When in Roma—”

        “You're sweet.” She yanked his watchcap down over his ears. “Let's go.”

        They opened their doors, exited, and then slammed them shut at precisely the same instant. Rose smiled across the car's roof and said, “Synchronicity.”


        “Nevermind. Which way?”

        Lawrence could only discern where they had been; the road up the hill could have continued in any direction. The white-shrouded trees that poked through the drape of snow could either be pampered vegetation on the lawn of a villa, or thin forest growth on the side of the mountain. Lawrence couldn't tell; against the white backdrop, he was blind. He scooted around the back of the Fiat and took Rose's arm. They slip-slid down what appeared to be a path.

        Silently, they walked through the whiteness. Twice, Lawrence had to remove his eyeglasses and rub them on his sleeve to remove the sticky wet snow. He could feel Rose trembling. “Over there,” he said.


        “In between the sheets of snow, when you can see, it looks like a barn.”

        “We should go back to the car, Lawrence. I'm like fishsticks.”

        Lawrence stopped and hugged Rose. He kissed her coat; snowflakes melted on his lips. “At least in the car,” said Rose, “we'd be away from the wind.”

        “Okay.” Lawrence checked his watch; they been walking less than 20 minutes. They turned and tried to find the footsteps they'd made only moments before. After two steps Rose’s legs buckled and she hit the snow face first. Lawrence turned Rose onto her back. She was unconscious, but breathing. The landscape, except for the malformed snow angel where Rose had landed, was a smooth ubiquitous white. He lifted his wife fireman style, and trudged toward what he thought might be a building.

        Minutes later, stumbling beneath Rose’s insulated weight, he found the building, a solid substantial white amid a pale swirling storm. Lawrence walked to his right, keeping his left hand on the wall. After three minutes Lawrence, chest heaving, spittle frozen to his chin, touched a slatted wooden fence. He looked up into the inexorable snow and lowered Rose to the ground; she curled, instinctively, against the cold. He kicked at the fence.


        And again.

        Lawrence finally broke through. He pulled the shattered slat away and attacked the adjacent board. He ripped at the fence and within minutes he had cleared a shoulder-width passage. He dug both hands under Rose’s armpits and dragged her through the ragged hole in the fence. Quivering from exertion, Lawrence collapsed to the ground alongside his wife.

        She groaned; Lawrence watched her chest rise and fall, relieved to see her still breathing. He removed his gloves and massaged her cheeks. Her face was suddenly warm. The snowflakes on her hat and coat had melted. Lawrence knelt in the damp grass and adjusted his glasses: they were in a huge garden. The sky overhead was stark blue; no snow. All the garden’s fruit trees: figs, cherries, and apples, were blooming. Sweat trickled down his neck and pooled in his closed collar.

        “Rose?” he said. He peeled off his coat and hat, dropping them onto the turf. Beyond the fruit trees were beds of vegetables: peppers, zucchini vines, armored artichoke bushes. He peered back through the rift in the fence; snow eddied and swirled, but did not enter the garden. Rose stirred and sat upright. “What happened?”

        “We got lost. In the snow. You passed out.”

        Rose touched her face and came away with melted snow on her glove. “It's January,” said Rose. “We should be in a snowstorm on an Italian mountain.” She yanked off her gloves and ran her hand through the damp grass. “Apparently, I've blown a gasket.”

        “Come on,” said Lawrence. He stood and offered Rose a hand. “You all right?”

        “A little unsteady on the pegs.” She leaned against her husband, smiling. “I thought I'd never be warm again.”

        Lawrence nodded and guided her through the garden. Nestled, randomly, it seemed, in the garden were little shrines: a statue of a saint here, a crucifix there, all with freshly cut flowers arranged in front of them. The garden had been planted in a crazy patchwork of vegetables and flowers. Grape bowers served as boundaries separating the various plantings. Olive and pomegranate trees were scattered everywhere. Portobello mushrooms grew, like little cities, in raised boxes of humus. Rose and Lawrence stood alone in the garden. The three-story stucco building that ringed the garden was roofed in red tile and slanted in toward the garden. Tendrils of ivy climbed the walls.

        “A wind break,” said Lawrence, “maybe.” He gazed up at the white nimbus, laced across the cobalt sky. Although tall enough to provide a wind break, there was no way, Lawrence knew, that the walls could chisel out a portion of springtime in the middle of an Italian winter.

        “There's a path,” said Rose.

        They walked, Rose leading in single file down the path, pea-gravel crunching beneath their feet. Rose stopped and linked her hand in his. “I'm better,” she said. “Much better.” The path wound, for 25 yards, beneath the bower of wisteria before it reached massive double doors. The couple stopped and stared at doors that could secure a bank vault. Swallows banked, swirled, and fluttered overhead. Lawrence smiled at Rose. He released her hand and seized the right-hand-door’s rusty iron ring with both hands. Digging his heels into the pea-gravel, he swung the door open.

        Rose and Lawrence stepped into the high-ceilinged vestibule of a chapel. Candles burned and guttered on and around the altar; the air smelled of incense. Hushed, whispered prayers and Latinate murmurs sounded in the empty chapel.

        “Lawrence, one moment we’re freezing our elbows off, then were strolling through a Botticelli landscape.” She motioned at the altar. “Then we attend a disembodied Mass—”

        “That's strange.”

        “I know,” said Rose. “No one passed the collection plate.”

        Lawrence laughed. “Let's see if someone is in the garden.”

        Out in the garden, beneath the wisteria bower, was a wooden table set with steaming bowls of pasta and chicken. “I don't know where we are, but the food smells wonderful,” said Rose. She sat on an overturned wine cask and filled her plate.

        Lawrence watched Rose eat; she actually had an appetite. She sipped some red wine: color appeared in her cheeks. Lawrence ignored the food as he scrutinized Rose.

        She looked up, a smudge of olive oil glistening on her chin. “What?”


        Rose and Lawrence found a small room on the third story, beneath the overhanging, terra-cotta-tiled roof. After eating, they sat for hours at the open window, listening to Latin chants reverberating from the bowels of the unoccupied stone building. They watched swallows build nests in the eaves. Tirelessly, the birds flitted and flew, diving for sticks and twigs to fortify their homes. Silently the couple held hands and watched the sky above the monastery darken to violet. A sliver of moon rose over the far wall, barely illuminating the garden. For hours Rose and Lawrence sat together, comfortable in silence, knowing that they each shared the same thought.

        That Rose would live.

        While searching for a cancer cure they stumbled onto a miracle.

        Miraculously Rose felt and looked happy; healthy. Whole and ecstatic. They both knew she would live; they would return home. Yet neither spoke, knowing that words would only destroy these moments. After midnight they were still speechless, communicating with shared glances.

        Lawrence closed the windows beneath the eaves and led his wife to the tiny bed in the center of the room. He kissed Rose's eyes and unbuttoned her blouse. Her hands fumbled at his belt. They stood naked in the thin moonlight, touching. She smiled, sat, then reclined on the bed. They made love, slowly, without haste, savoring the moments by prolonging them. Eyes closed, they made love to memories of each other—younger, firmer versions. They recalled all the afternoons and nights of trying to conceive. Then Rose opened her eyes, spread her fingers and gently pried Lawrence's lids apart. Wife and husband stared at each other breathlessly.

        “Thank you for never giving up,” she said. Lawrence hugged his wife, making love with every part that touched her: his thighs, arms, stomach and hands. Even with his eyes, as he cried, puddling against her neck.


        Lawrence walked slowly toward Rose, who sat beneath a flowering almond tree. Swallows banked and dove; the sun burned away the dew. He stepped over a hedge into the almond grove where Rose sat, leaning against the tree. Tiny white flowers littered her skirt, legs and bare feet. The grass in the grove was long, clumped and wet. He leaned against the tree and spoke to Rose: “Thirty-seven years years. Not bad for a mismatched country girl and her beau from the city. Looking back, I know I’d do it all over again just to sleep on my half of the bed. Just to know that you were always right there.” He laughed. A breeze swirled, dislodging more flowers. “The best part is that through it all we've remained friends.” Lawrence spoke for another minute, remembering the good times. He spoke of dreams accomplished and unfulfilled. He said Thank You.

        Then he realized that Rose had stopped breathing.

        Her legs had settled into the grass; her fingers were stark, paler than the blossoms on her denim skirt. A bee buzzed around her head. Lawrence bent and brushed the bee away. It reluctantly retreated from the sweet smell of Rose's perfume. Lawrence kissed her cold cheek, placed his hand over her heart and said, “Goodbye, Rose. My Rose.” He snipped off an almond blossom with his fingernails. He cupped the flower in his hand. He shut his eyes and inhaled, happy that Rose had smelled these blossoms once more before she died. He dropped the flower and the wind blew it across the grass to Rose's feet.

        Lawrence walked away, slowly, through the garden until he arrived at the broken fence. Without glancing back at Rose he squeezed through the ragged hole he had made, back into the proper and uncertain winds of winter.

* * *




Things are not what they seem to be; nor are they otherwise.

                              —The Lankavatara Sutra


        “My name is Katherine, and I’m an alcoholic.”

        “Hi, Katherine,” responded the fifteen people in the classroom. The room’s fluorescent lights flickered harshly; a sliver of moon was scarcely visible outside the window.

        “God,” said Katherine, “it’s so strange to be back here.” She stood and touched the chalkboard, leaving a glossy handprint in the residual chalkdust. “I went to school here; not just in this town, but in this room. Third grade; Sister Mary Louise.” Katherine poured herself a cup of coffee, sat, then blubbered into her hands.

        The person to her left, a wrinkled man in a Yankee’s cap, said, “Talk to us, sister. We all been there. The important thing is that you don’t drink. Talk to us.”

        Katherine nodded. Her mascara had puddled. “I haven’t been back to Petaluma for fourteen years. I live in Portland. I teach English at Lewis and Clark college. Ph.D., first female chair of the department, all that. Before I left this town, I weighed ninety pounds. I drank a quart, sometimes two, of gin a day. Getting by on that and a lot of speed. I was married, but all that was bullshit. A teenaged romance that hadn’t seen a single sober day. My husband, Ronnie, was a drummer in a quasi-famous band. King Rat.”

        “I remember them,” said a balding man. “Sleeping with my Sister went Top Ten, didn’t it?”

        “Yeah,” said Katherine. “For four, five years it was great. We opened for Dire Straits, Aerosmith, The Dead. Sex—with everyone—Drugs, and Rock 'n Roll; just like the movies. Then I had a daughter; she was born preemie, because of my boozing. I named her Suzanne, after the Leonard Cohen song. It was about the only decent thing I ever did for her.”

        “What happened?” asked the Yankees cap. He listened without judgment, just as other members of A.A. had listened to his story.

        “I gave Suzanne to my mom and left town. I split and got myself straight. I quit the speed first. That was easy. I left all my connections down here; but the booze, shit. Hallucinations, shakes, puking. I felt like a saint getting down to a pint and a few beers a day while I was in college, just to maintain and keep the phantasms away. I still have them, driving at night or when I’m stressed.”

        “What ever happened to Ronnie?” asked the balding man.

        “I don’t care,” said Katherine. She laughed. “Yes, I do. I hope he’s sitting in a meeting like this somewhere.”

        A murmur of approval rippled through the room.

        Katherine faltered, biting her lower lip. “This week, Suzanne and my mother were killed in a car crash. The funeral was today. It was terrible. Horrific and confusing. The guilt of abandoning my daughter and running from responsibility hit me. Hard. My mother and I had never reconciled—she thought I was a slut and a boozer.”

        “Talk to us,” said the black man.

        “I got into trouble this afternoon. I wanted to drink. No, I wanted to get fucked up. I’m staying at my parents’... my father’s house. After the funeral, he had family and neighbors over. They were drinking. Everyone but me. The house, everything, was so familiar. I poured a drink. Over ten years sober, more than ten years—four thousand days—of sobriety, almost shot to hell. I ran from the house, called A.A. and got to this meeting. I’m sober one more day. But I’m scared; as Thomas Wolfe said, 'You can’t go home again.'”


        Katherine couldn’t sleep. Her father had insisted she stay in her old bedroom, a room her mother had kept intact, like a shrine, since Katherine had dropped out of school to tour with King Rat. Her old bed wasn’t big enough; she couldn’t stretch out and relax. She had watched t.v. until 2:30 a.m. and read for an hour after that, but sleep would not arrive. She threw back the covers and stood up, the hardwood floor chilling her feet. She flicked on a lamp and tiptoed across the bedroom to her doll collection. As a young girl she collected every type of doll imaginable: delicate porcelain-faced baby dolls, Barbie, Ken, even the scar-faced G.I. Joes. Katherine pulled her huge Barbie dollhouse off the top shelf. She returned to the bed and sat cross-legged with the dollhouse in front of her; it seemed mint and pristine; new and exciting.

        Katherine smiled.

        She longed to dress her Barbie, Ken, and Skipper. To arrange her G.I. Joes into Action Poses. To play with her dolls the rest of the night—morning—and forget her failure as a mother; to allay the anguish and sorrow she felt. To return to a world of certainty she once had shared with these dolls: before she had traded these old toys for sucking and fucking and drugs and drinking.

        Katherine flipped two latches and opened the plastic-red-tiled roof. Barbie, Ken, Skipper, and the four G.I. Joes were lounging on plastic chaises. “Welcome back, Katherine,” said Skipper.

        “What?” said Katherine. She grabbed Skipper and shook her. Skipper continued speaking. “For me, it began easily enough. I started drinking right after you stopped playing with us. I know it’s not cool to dump on a co-dependent, but it’s true. After you lost interest in us, we had to find lives of our own.”

        Katherine parked Skipper in her chaise, closed her eyes and ground the heels of her hands into the sockets. Tracers exploded across her inner lids. She exhaled and opened her eyes. The light show had faded but Skipper still sat cross-legged and smug. “For all of us, Katherine, like you, it led to booze and sex and drugs. Thank the Higher Power we all made it back to the Barbie and Ken Substance Abuse Recovery Center.” Skipper licked her upper lip and continued, “I’d sneak a glass of your mother’s wine—I’m sorry for your loss, Katherine, truly—at first that was enough to get me buzzed. Pretty soon I’d guzzle your dad’s bourbon straight from the bottle. I’d drink NyQuil, cough syrup, anything. Sex with Ken and the Joes was a natural progression; they were older and bought me booze, fed me the occasional line of coke so I could stay awake and keep the fuck-train going. I didn’t have sex with one-guy-only until I found Christ and got sober.” Then Skipper said, with a conspiratorial wink, “I kind of miss the gang-bangs. You know, the groping, the pawing. Thank Jesus I’m sober, but Katherine, I do miss that cluster fucking; the sexual mayhem.”

        Katherine looked to her left at the blue-clad Air Force G.I. Joe. He said, “You look great, Katherine. Continued luck with your recovery. My problems began in the mid-eighties. I started blackout drinking. Before me and the boys hit the bars I’d slam a pint of vodka and BOOM! That would get me a nice glow and I’d maintain all night with shots and beers. Then I’d pass out. I never drank socially, just to obtain sweet oblivion. But the booze wasn’t the biggest problem; before I could even think about quitting I had to come to terms with my sexual identity. I finally realized I abused myself because I didn’t have the courage to come out of the closet. Funny thing, I fly 116 combat missions in ‘Nam and I’m afraid to admit I like a robust cock up my ass. That macho-military thing cloaked my sexual preference for years. When I left the Air Force, I turned to booze. But I’m dating a wonderful man right now; he’s been through recovery so he knows what it’s about. It’s the first stable relationship I’ve ever had. I had a slip last week, but I’m fine back here. Back home.”

        Katherine, speechless, picked up the next doll, a black Marine G.I. Joe. “I was hooked the first time I shot up, Kate. It was in South Korea. We were on leave. Looking for some gook pussy when I hooked up with this brother from Oklahoma. We chased poontang for three days, drank, fucked, smoked and I said, ‘Kaniel, Bro, it don’t get no better.’ That’s when he brought out the needle. I tied off and shot up. Fucking Nirvava! Nothing like it—the stick of the needle and the rush. I started shooting up five, six times a day. When I couldn’t score I ripped off first aid kits for the morphine. I snorted raw opium, I didn’t eat. I lost weight, got hepatitis, they gave me a goddam Purple Heart. I’m an addict and they send me home with a medal. But I’ve been doing my time here, girl. Getting myself right.”

        Katherine picked up Malibu Ken and said, “What the hell has happened?”

        “I can only tell you my story,” said Ken. “That’s all that’s valid for me. Life was good—after you stopped having us do everything together, I finally got Barbie out of my life. I finished my B.S. in Microbiology and was accepted into U.C.L.A. Med School. I started dating girls with nipples! Then my internship—consecutive twenty-hour days—you’ve got to do bennies to get through. Everyone in med school uses them. So you pop a few, not for a high, just to get through the fucking day.

        “Then you can’t sleep. No sweat! Wash down a couple of Seconal with a quart of Coors Light and you’re snoring like a baby. But you wake up fuzzy. No problem, a couple of whites and the motor’s purring. What a rollercoaster! After a year I said ‘Fuck It!’ and moved back to Malibu where I manage the Gold’s Gym. I do a couple of weeks a year here, just to launder my karma.”

        Exchanging the bronzed Ken for Army G.I. Joe, Katherine didn’t have a chance to speak. “I’m a victim,” he said. “All these assholes say I’m in denial, but that’s bullshit—if I ever hear the word denial again I’m gonna do the Twelve Fucking Steps on someone’s fucking forehead. Listen, I busted my ass in Vietnam—I know that it ain’t popular to say this—but I’m proud of the job I did over there and I’d go again tomorrow if my country needed me. So twenty years after the fact I develop lymphatic cancer because I got shit on one-too-many times by Agent Orange. I have a series of operations—VA picked up the tab, they were great, don’t believe a single word you hear about them in the fucking media—but I needed Chemotherapy. And the Chemo drives you apeshit. So I start puffing some weed, you know, like an appetizer with breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Two years of chemo, I’m cured but I can’t make it through the day without five, six joints. Turns out I get busted on a Possession with Intent to Sell and if I don’t do this candyass program I lose my job and do jail time. Don’t tell me I’m not a fucking victim.”

        She tossed him to the bed and picked up Barbie. Katherine was sweaty, dry-mouthed, and disoriented. “The turning point, for me,” said Barbie, “was when a priest paid me to… I still can’t talk about it. I’d been hooking about two years—coked out of my wits—but I was class. No scumbag hotels, no park bench action. Penthouses, private parties only. A grand for a straight lay, fifteen-hundred for suckie-fuckie, a deuce for Around the World. Hey, I used to be a STAR. So what if most of the money went straight up my nose, I still had a wardrobe, I traveled. I put Ken through college—the ungrateful eunuch always conveniently forgets to mention that. But I was doing okay, I unloaded that grotesque pink Vette and bought a black Porsche. But when Father Dominic gave me two-grand—collection plate money!—to dress up as the Virgin Mary and suck him off in the confessional I knew my life was out of control. So I’m back here and doing better; and even if he won’t admit it, I still think Ken feels something for me.”

        Katherine replaced Barbie. Only G.I. Joe Navy remained mute. As a child, he was Katherine’s favorite: the golden crewcut and blue eyes more than compensated for the scar on his cheek. She caressed the dungaree-clad sailor. “I tried quitting, Katherine. But I can’t and I don’t care. I’ll never amount to anything, but I’m carrying around a slab of shrapnel in my leg, I’m on permanent disability and I’m gonna blow every fuckin’ cent on booze and drugs. Fuck the taxpayers! My goal is to waste their money. Why not? America wasted my life. When I was nineteen, I should have been playing football and balling cheerleaders at Ohio State; but I lose my student deferment and I’m up to my ass in blood. Fuck it; I’m staying marinated for the rest of my life. America owes me that.” He lit a joint and exhaled.

        Delightfully—suddenly—he was sitting next to Katherine on the bed, staring into her eyes. He offered the joint to Katherine, who waved it away. “You’d be amazed at how easy it is to score dope in here.” He looked around the room, then down at the teeny dollhouse. “In there.” He snuffed the joint between thumb and finger and swept the dollhouse from Katherine’s bed. “Fucking hypocrites.”

        He returned the joint to his pocket and kissed Katherine, a soft muted lingering greeting. They touched and tasted for a long minute before she abandoned his lips and caressed the crease of his scar with her lips and then her tongue. He unbuttoned her short nightshirt and guided her backwards onto the rumpled bedsheet. “I’m going—”

        “No words,” said Katherine. He closed her eyes. “We hear too many words. Show me.”

        He brushed her eyes, nipples, and belly button with his lips before he arrived at her hedge. Henna and unruly, growing slightly into the furrow of her upper thighs, he took the upper junction of her lips where he supposed her clit was—he couldn’t see through the bush—and bit with the pressure he’d use to crush a grape. Katherine moaned; he felt her brim swell and smelled the moisture that puddled against his chin. He backed off, used his fingers to roll back the hairy lips and tickled her urethra as he watched her clit redden and engorge. With his tongue he coaxed the fleshy teardrop between his lips and rolled it in time with Katherine’s low groans. He dragged his chin through the jungle covering her pubic bone and left a moist trail that led to her breasts. He augmented her juices with his saliva and slid his face and lips across her neck and breasts. Each time his scar passed roughly over her nipples Katherine sobbed and threw her head back into the pillow. He cupped her left breast and trilled his disfigured cheek across her nipple. He clamped his free hand over her mouth and nostrils and forced the sobs to resonate and echo inside her. He released her nostrils and with her breath arrived a gushing release for Katherine, who had proven Thomas Wolfe not only wrong, but moot.

        No one ever truly leaves home behind.



copyright 2006 Rob Loughran.

Rob Loughran:
Rob's first novel High Steaks won the 2002 New Mystery Award. He's been published, fiction and non-fiction, 200+ times. His freewheeling comic sci-fi novel Teenaged Pussies From Outer Space will be released on 06.06.06: Yes that's correct: The Invasion of Teenaged Pussies begins on 6.6.6.

Check out Rob's new young adult novel Norman Babbit, Scientist at amazon.com Check out his nasty jokebooks at www.lulu.com

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