One Does What is Right, Not Even One
by Curtis White
"Come on in!"
Two young men--one dark and attractive, neatly dressed and fit; the other portly with long stringy hair and dressed in jeans and ripped T-shirt--come into the living room of a very functional but also sterile-seeming townhouse in a new housing development on the outskirts of Austin, Texas. The portly man carries several digital cameras around his neck as well as a case of photographic equipment.
A young and very pretty woman looks through a short passageway from her kitchenette. Beyond the kitchenette is a sliding plate-glass door looking on a tiny backyard with a chain-link "Hurricane" fence.
"What it is, guys? How's it goin'?"
"Fine, Michelle. How are you?" says the neater of the two.
"Hey, guys, would you mind takin' off your boots? I just cleaned the floors."
The two take off their boots.
"Couldn't make it. Something about her daddy being sick. Out in the Amarillo area somewhere."
"Amarillo? Sick daddy or no sick daddy, I don't go to Amarillo."
"I hear you." The neater man is doing all the talking. His partner is busy unloading the cameras.
"Guess I'm on my own this month. Can't believe it's time to update the site already. How'd I make out last month, Mr. Numbers?"
"Ten thousand hits. About two thousand made it specifically to your site. Then the usual cut of surfers, members and new members."
"Wow, come on! Tell me! How many new ones?"
"About a hundred."
She claps her hands and smiles as if to say "yippee."
"And so my total is what now?"
She frowns and stomps a bare foot. Feminine petulance. "Shoot, that means I also lost a few."
"Still at twenty bucks a pop," she's doing a lot of math in her head, a math she has plenty of practice with, "That's $24,000 for the month and I take half.
"You got it."
She pumps her fist. "Bitchin'! That'll keep us in dog biscuits for awhile."
"Dog biscuits, caviar, whatever."
"Screw the caviar. Did you see what's in the driveway?" She drags Mr. Numbers by his sleeve back to the front door.
"That would be a Lexus."
"That is indeed a Lexus."
"What do your student friends think of that?"
"I just say I'm independently wealthy. Daddy's in oil or cattle or whatever."
"Don't you ever worry that one of them might happen to crawl over your site?"
"Crawl. I always think of snails when I hear that word. I think of something leaving this yucky, scummy trail behind. I guess they could chance upon it." She sucks her thumb and ponders the consequences. "Could create some comfort issues for me. Nothing I couldn't handle, though."
"Sure. You're a pro. And English majors are notoriously tolerant. They'd probably try to include you in some sort of diversity program."
She giggles. "Funny! Funny, Mr. Numbers! Well, let's get this over with. I got aerobics at eleven, lunch with Chad, then two classes in the afternoon, and one tonight. Man, I thought I worked hard as an undergraduate. Grad school is a straight bitch." She turns a can-you-believe-it expression on the two. "I work my ass off!"
"I don't know why you think you're ever going to need a job. Not everybody is willing to do what you do. Even when your body goes, which will be a while with all the aerobics you do, there'll still be work. Or just save some of this dough you're making now."
She winks. "Oh. Boys. I do. I do. And you know what? This isn't always a real upbeat way to make a living. Chad freaks about it every once in a while. And that's no damned fun."
"How is Chad?"
"Oh, fine. He's a fiancé. A pretty predictable quantity on the whole."
This remarkable young woman, this Michelle, radiates when she speaks. She has an intellectual brightness. And she really is a remarkably beautiful woman. That's clear even through her loose workout clothes. Then, without transition, she removes both her top and bottom sweats and is standing naked in the middle of the kitchen. Her breasts are enormous. Heavy, but perfectly round. Round as in circular. Round as with something outlined with a compass. You can only just see the light line where the plastic surgeon inserted the silicon.
"Ready," says the chubby, stringy man.
She goes to the backyard door and calls. "Murphy! Murph! Here boy."
A large Irish setter comes bounding up to the door and into the kitchen.
"Oh damn. I just washed you and look at your feet. Just a minute. I gotta clean his feet a little or he'll get these red clay paw prints all over everything."
When the setter sees the two men, he gets suddenly agitated and begins whining and pawing at the woman.
"Ow! Shit, Murph, you scratched my leg! Ooh, look how red it is already. Damn it."
"Don't worry we'll just shoot from the other side."
She gets down to face level with the dog. "Oh, Murph, I know you didn't mean it. I know you're a good boy."
"I don't know about good, I just hope he's better than last time," says the camera man.
She glares at him, blue eyes flashing. "Oh like you could do better, Marky?" Back to the dog. "You were just excited, huh, Murphy-wurphy." She rubs the animals ears and nuzzles the fur around his neck. "You're my little furry woodsman, aren't you?" She looks defiantly at Mark. "As for you, you know nothing about the wielding of wood. Fat techie voyeur. The word for you is 'difficulties.' If you tried, you'd have 'difficulties with wood,' Mr. Marky. Little difficulties. Maybe even tiny." As if in agreement, the dog lashes out with his muzzle and licks her mouth.
"Yuck! Murph. Cut it out." She wipes her face aggressively. "Okay. Time for work, honey. Time to earn our dog biscuits. Okay?" She waltzes to the refrigerator and pulls out a small tube of something.
"What's this, Murph? Do you know? Can you beg Mommy for it?"
Murphy whines. Wags his tail wildly. Barks once.
"That's right. Your favorite." She looks to the men. "He loves anchovy paste."
She looks around. "Okay, what do you guys think? Right here?" She frowns. "No, we need something really daring this month. Weren't we in the kitchen just a few months ago? I forget." She looks right at them. "I'm not going to lose one single member this month. Not one! We're going into the backyard. Public bestiality! WWW. twobackedbeast.com will be the talk of the web!"
Mr. Numbers laughs and rolls his head back. "You gotta be kidding. What if someone sees? You got neighbors, remember?"
"Yeah, I know I got neighbors, but what do I care? Besides, we don't have to go way outside. The sun is shining right up to the house and I'll just pull that shade so you can't see from the apartment complex next door and nobody will be the wiser...except my fans! And they'll just be the happier!"
"Whoakay. Whatever. That okay with you, Mark?"
"I don't give a fuck."
"He don't care."
"Well, let's do it then so I can get on with my day. 'Kay Murph?"
They walk out into the back, Murphy still whining in agitation, and she climbs onto a chaise lounge and spreads her long, Playboy-esque legs. Her quads are especially well-developed from thousands of weight-room squats. She takes a bit of the anchovy paste and rubs it around her clitoris.
"He really only needs this as an incentive. It's kinda like a treat. Once he gets goin', he likes it for its own sake. I'm as good as anchovy paste. I guess that's a compliment. Is it, Murph?"
She grabs Murphy by his collar and places his head between her legs. He begins lapping. Mark begins snapping photos. Looking for good angles.
"D'jou guys see that that Carson Pirie anchor store at the South Side Mall was going out of business?"
"Gotta pay attention. I heard they had some unbelievable sales goin' down. I wonder if they've got those Coach bags marked down. I'd love to have one of those. But three hundred bucks! Give me a break. Ooh, Murph!" She strokes the top of the dog's head. "It's amazing how nice that cold little nose feels. And he always seems to get it right on my clit. Good boy!"
"You'll bet," she mocks. "What would you know about it. Okay, Murph, that's it. Get enough shots, Mark?"
"Oughta be a few good ones in there."
"Well, Zip disk 'em to me. I like to choose."
"Alright, honey. Ready for what's next?"
"Ready? He's a fucking puddle."
"Shut up!" She fondles the dog's head. "He's my little sweetheart. Plus he's more fun to take a walk with than you'd ever be."
She gets up and the dog leaps onto the chaise. He's trembling and whimpering. A long thin, red erection has already come searching tentatively out of his shaggy foreskin.
"Calm down, honey. It's okay," she coos, as if to her child. "You know you like it. Just relax."
"I hope he doesn't like it as much as last time. He came like that and we didn't get a penetration shot."
She scrunches her brow and pulls back Murphy's ears. "Hmmm. What are we gonna do, Murph? The breeder told me you Irish Setters were a little high strung. Maybe I should have got something calmer. One of those Chocolate Labs. They're pretty. They look like logs to me. I'll bet they're calm. What do you think, Murph? Would you like a buddy? Then you could retire."
"They'd probably be out here goring each other all day thinking about when the next shoot was."
"Hey! Murphy is no faggot! Are you, Murphy? Okay. Let's try to get just a couple quick shots of me and him with his little peenee in my hand and a couple with his peenee up to my mouth. Got that trigger ready, Speedee? Mark? Ready? Be quick!"
"I'm ready. Don't worry. Just tell him to hold on. Tell him to replay the last quarter of the Citrus Bowl in his head or something. Sometimes a guy's got to take his mind off the matter at hand. I like to do the starting lineup for the '86 Mets. Gooden, Carter, Hernandez, Nails..."
"Shut up, Mark. I thought you were a pro. Don't listen to him, Murph, he's a jerk and you're my puppy."
She reaches for his glossy erection and Murph gets a look of worried ecstasy on his face. She looks at Murph, thinking.
"You know, that expression they get on their faces just cracks me up. They really like it. I mean, they get very excited, but it also--don't you think?--half looks like they think you're gonna kill 'em. I mean, they really look crazed. Did you see that Great Dane on Allysa's site last month? That thing looked deranged! Happy but deranged. You know what I mean?"
She slowly strokes Murphy's cock. It's rigid now and very pretty in a sort of colorful, abstract way. But it's also not unlike a prop from some science fiction movie. Something that would pop out of the alien's mouth. Mark is snapping rapidly.
"I wonder what this means to them? Do you think dogs think you love them when you do this? Are they as dumb as men? And what does this mean in terms of dominance stuff? Am I the Alpha dog? I oughtta read a dog book or something. Seriously, I really do think it means, and I've put a lot of thought into this, 'I can't help myself, I need this feeling, and you can kill me when it's done, I expect to die but that's okay.' I really think that's what's going on in their little dog heads. I mean, to judge by the expression on their face. You know, it's strange but kind of lovely." She's pensive. "I really think dogs have a very remarkable attitude toward sex. They're really committed to it. They see the death all around it, but they're totally committed."
"Maybe you've thought too much about it," says Mr. Numbers.
"Oh there's more where that came from. For instance, it's occurred to me that one of the things I do with him puts him in the most passive and vulnerable position he can be in. I've heard that when one male wolf lets another male wolf lick his dong that he's saying, 'I'm done. You win. You be the badder wolf. Take all them girl wolfies. I'm out of it.' But, on the other hand, the thing he does to me is the most aggressive and powerful position."
"When he lasts that long."
"Mark. You know, I don't know why, but you really bug me. Too bad you're such a good photographer. 'Cause you really help me to hate men."
"He must get confused," says Mr. Numbers. "In dog land, you're not alpha today omega mañana."
"He can handle it, can'tcha boy?" Her slow rhythmic stroking has not faltered, nor has Mark's snapping. "And on the bad days we always have those new doggy serotonin boosters."
"Tell me, how is he around Chad?"
"Oh generally okay. When things get tense, Chad just gets out the old jingle ball and pretty soon they're pals again. After all, Murphy and I only have this encounter once a month."
"Sounds like me and my wife. But maybe that's Murph's problem."
"Well, if he did it more often, maybe he'd feel more natural and calm about it. You know."
"True. Teeroo. But forget it. I'm not that into it, to tell you the truth. This is business as far as I'm concerned."
"Oh, crap, Murph, you did it again."
Murph had come all over the cushions of the chaise lounge.
"Oh, buddy, I'm sorry. I should have been paying more attention. This is my fault."
"He's not Mr. Longevity."
"Just see if you can get a few of me with my mouth up there while it's still kinda hard. Got it? Got it? God, this stuff smells! Reminds me of rotting mushrooms."
"Okay, Michelle, I got it or something. We'll have to see. They're not going to be ace shots though. You might lose a few subscribers. But you never know, one or two of them might be okay."
"You're right. All we got is a few anchovy shots and me playing with him. That's crummy. What are we gonna do about the penetration?"
The two men look at each other.
"We've gotta go," says Mr. Numbers.
"Damn it! You can't wait fifteen minutes?" She looks down. "I think I do need more dogs. Yeah, like there used to be three or four Rin-Tin-Tins, I heard. Dozens of Lassies. Why not two or three Murphys? Poor Murph!"
Murphy is at last mostly relaxed. He wags his tail which thumps on the cushions. His cock is almost entirely back in its sheath.
"Forget the penetration, Michelle, the real question is what are you gonna do about that guy gawking at you from his Chevy."
She turns and looks beyond the fence where a young man, an undergrad between classes, no doubt, stares from his Chevy Malibu.
She turns her chest toward him and waves. "Hi sweetie! Bet he's whackin' it."
"Either that or throwing up."
"We call that full-frontal silicone. Nothin' else quite like it."
She looks at Murphy, apparently asleep already. "And besides, that guy can't possibly see that far. I'm just naked in my own backyard. That's all he cares about. He's just some kid."
"Shall I give him one of your cards with the site address?"
"Hey, you know, if he's eighteen...I think that's where we're moving. I give head to a teenage boy while Murph does me from behind."
"If ol' Murph goes on like this, there'll be some timing problems."
She frowns once again and looks back to Murphy. "Poor baby. Such a good doggie. And I do love you. Not like this, believe it or not. But I love you." She turns to the men. "I really just love him as a pet. I might even keep him when I leave the site."
"That's some commitment. You really gonna leave your site?"
"Sure, I'll have to when I get a teaching gig. I guess we better go inside. I don't like the way that kid is hanging around."
Michelle and Mr. Numbers move back into the kitchen.
"We gotta go anyway, Michelle," says Mr. Numbers.
"Can you come back later this week to do the penetration stuff?" She's putting her blue sweats back on. "You know how my fans love those humpin' hounds. Something about those twitching hindquarters throws that little switch you guys got up in the old reptilian brain."
"Don't do nothin' for me."
"Really? You don't like this?"
"Not really. What about you?"
She thinks. "In general, no. But like I said, I do like Murph. He's sweet."
"Well, if you don't like this stuff and I don't really like this stuff, who likes this stuff?"
"I don't know, but twelve hundred of them give you twenty bucks every month."
"Yeah. Twelve hundred." She looks up. "I'm sure they're all guys. This is what happens when you give reptiles access to digital culture. The Net has really changed things. You can hear Lizard Lounges all over America going bankrupt, turning to dust, blowing away. This is the New World Order, baby.
"But what about you, Mr. Webmaster, Mr. Overseer of Accounts, Mr. Compiler of Numbers Infinite as Grains of Sand? Where are you at? If you don't like this stuff, what do you like? You don't have a girl friend that I've heard of, or a boy friend, heaven forefend. That's worse than dogs in my mind. I can't even remember your name from time to time. You're just Mr. Numbers. Is it Harold? Greg? Ken? Here's what I think. I think you're just the most recent modern man. You have your own aesthetic. You like the music of bits. Bits on bits. Sand on sand. The sound of dry time. Like a universe of crickets rubbing their legs together. That's our webmaster."
Mr. Numbers looks at Michelle in some discomfort and uncertainty. He isn't used to revealing himself and he's not sure he trusts her to hear what he has to say now. He's thinking about what he should say. Mark, the photographer, is still out back casing equipment and mumbling to the spent dog. He seems to be having a heart-to-heart with Murphy. Fatherly advice, no doubt.
"It is in fact Greg," replies Mr. Numbers-Now-to-be-Known-as-Greg. "You know, you're quite the thinker."
She folds her arms and frowns at him. "I am the Silicon-Boobed-Material-Grrrl-Who-Fucks-Dogs--well, one very special dog--For-Money, but I've also taken the prerequisite courses in feminist and cultural theory. Hello! We live in Austin! Body as site of power/knowledge. That stuff? If you roll a bag lady in this town you'll find a copy of The Cyborg Manifesto in her pocket."
Webmaster Greg smiles. "Well, if you really want to know, it's complicated with me. I like the money which you girls bring in. I have to upgrade my own equipment annually and that ain't cheap. So there's that. But I also like to think about what's going on. We're a lot alike, except I don't suck dog."
"Very funny. I'm sure you mean that in the most flattering way."
"So, what are you thinking today?"
"Actually, I concluded something. I concluded that women who like to fuck dogs or horses or whatever are actually much more intense in their moral sentiments than most people. But they're not aware that their intensity is in fact the intensity of moral sentiment. They think their intensity has something to do with sex, which it doesn't."
"Do tell." Michelle reclines against the kitchen counter top and crosses her legs.
"Sure. Most people who wouldn't have anything to do with a dog, say, don't believe that sex is dirty or evil or nasty. These are so-called healthy people. I'm not sure they exist anymore. I sure haven't met one. Sex as 'normal function' people. They all died with the last fraction of hippy logic. The hippies were eaten by Lotus. The other not-inconsiderable group of people is the sex is dirty, filthy, evil group. Now, this group sub-divides into two. At least two. First, there's the more or less celibate group, especially women who think of sex, if they think of it at all, as about marital duty. Sex as distasteful obligation. They think of it in the way anyone thinks about cleaning out gutters in the spring. Disgusting with all the rotting leaves and stuff but necessary for domestic harmony. These people are all over the damn place, but they're not worthy of consideration not because they're wrong (in the long view, they're as right as anybody else) but because they're clueless about what it means to be alive right now. In this moment in time."
"But the other sub-group here is those people who are convinced in a hyper-moral way of sex's essential dirty evilness but who will engage in it anyway. That's where things have always been a little more interesting." Greg raises his finger and lowers his brow. "Because some of this group actually see that there is a relationship between the evil and the pleasure. The more evil, the more pleasure. And the evilest thing one can think to do is fuck with beasts. For that is strictly forbidden by the Lord in the earliest covenants with his people. The interesting question is, how did he and Moses or Aaron or whoever think to mention it? Was it like with don't lust after your neighbor's wife? 'Hmmm, now that you mention it, that's a hell of an idea!' I mean, after that injunction do they ever look at old Wanda out sun bathing in the backyard without also thinking this other thought. Yeah, my neighbor's wife. What will that cost me? This is David and Bathsheba, right?"
"So this is how you spend your time when you're out keeping Mark company and negotiating with the working girls. You generate your little philosophies?"
"Yeah, well, it gives me something to do. Like you said, it's Austin."
"Amazing what passes for profundity among Webmasters. Ever hear of the Marquis de Sade? Genet? Artaud? Any of a large number of French guys?"
"What about them?"
"Never mind. I don't want to queer your deal."
"Sorry if I disappointed you with my trite notions. You asked me what I thought."
"And where do I fit in this scheme of yours?" She crosses her arms and scowls, obviously expecting the worst and prepared to chew his ass for it.
"You don't. You're obviously none of the above. You're post-all-that. You do it for the money. I wouldn't be surprised if you didn't even have sex with poor old Chad"--she flushes guiltily--"and not because you don't like it, or you like dogs better, but because it just never occurs to you. Or rarely. Not on your radar. In terms of my schema, it's like you don't exist."
Michelle is getting pissed. "Well, I like that! What do you mean 'don't exist'? What do you call these?" She lifts the baggy UT sweatshirt revealing her heavy boobs.
Greg has a disturbed look on his face not because she has revealed her breasts to him, which he has obviously already seen, but because she has revealed to him the limits of her understanding of her own situation, and it strikes him as shocking and sad. But he continues on. "When I say, 'You don't exist,' I mean that you don't exist through any of the old human modalities and perplexities. You go beyond that. You really are 'of the moment,' and you can take some consolation in that. Because there is something worse than fucking a beast: fucking the dead. I mean, look at your gesture. You've revealed your 'breasts' to me but they're prosthetic breasts, my friend. They're exactly not real. Just as the sex you provide on the internet is not sex. It's exactly not-human. It's a sex prosthesis. Admit it, sex has lost its body. Oh well, you might argue that the body was always a prosthesis. But it was God's prosthesis! I'm telling you, this is death we fuck with! Why am I the only one who sees this?"
Greg is getting carried away and he can see that he is upsetting Michelle, so he tries to calm himself. "Please, don't take me wrong. I like you, Michelle. I mean that in the very best, most old-fashioned sense. But it's as if you're dead, if you can understand not-human as the equivalent of dead for a human. And the saddest thing is that if you wanted to become human again, fuck poor Chad for example, inhabit your own body, you wouldn't know how. You forgot to leave bread crumbs."
Michelle's angry scowl turns to a quivering pout that is clearly about to generate tears. Greg feels some remorse for what he has said.
"Hey, don't take it so hard. I said we were a lot alike. I mean, what am I doing every day? Learning to play Haydn sonatas on the piano? Or am I feeding myself to my computer jones, losing myself in hyper-life, hanging out with lost souls like you? I'm a webmaster, for Christ's sake. I'm just more conscious of the situation, which just makes me all the guiltier. All the more lost. In fact, I'm so lost that I'm capable of the cruelty of pointing out to you your lostness when I know for a fact that there's nothing you can do about it even if you wanted to. So just go on with the dog sucking, babe."
Suddenly, Mark thrusts his head into the room.
"Hey! Murphy says he's ready to go again."
The above story is from a work-in-progress, called "Requiem," about music, the Bible and cyber-life. White plans to present it in its entirety as an online hypertypetext, and Dalkey Archive Press hopes to publish it next spring (2001) in book format.
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