Miles inspected himself in the bathroom mirror while he brushed his teeth. Was that a zit, godammit? He rummaged in the vanity drawer until the found his concealer and dabbed some on the growing pimple. This would be his seventeenth date with Peg and he was certain she would open her shirt for him this time. He wasn't about to let anything like a disgusting blemish queer the deal.
"Dude! What the fuck? Are you putting on makeup?" asked Charlie, one of Miles' roommates whose face suddenly appeared in the mirror behind him. He tilted his head back, drained his beer can, and burped as he crushed the can in his fist. Miles didn't answer, but Charlie continued, undeterred.
"So what's tonight's bribe going to be? More flowers?" Charlie asked. "Maybe lease her a new car and get her a... ." His words turned into a faint mumble as he walked away.
"It's not a gosh darn bribe!" Miles insisted. "We have rapport. She deserves to be treated like the goddess she is. Besides, it's a sorority formal. Needs to be a little special."
"Dude, you haven't even fucked her yeaaahrt," Charlie said, his words ending in a deep, prolonged belch punctuated by the tab popping on a fresh beer.
Miles smiled. "Maybe not," he said to himself. "But when I do, it'll be glorious." He gave himself one last look in the mirror. "You're a catch," he said out loud to his reflection, "and even you don't deserve her." An empty beer can flew spinning through the bathroom door and landed in the bathtub with a clank.
"You're a piece of shit!" Charlie yelled from the other room.
* * *
Miles parked the rented red Mercedes convertible on the street near the sorority house and walked to the door. He was careful not to let the bouquet of flowers he was carrying brush the fabric of his suit. He wanted each petal to remain unbroken, glistening with the droplets he'd misted on them with a spray bottle before getting out of the car.
Inside, Peg was already coming down the stairs, those slightly pointed, pouty breasts he couldn't stop thinking about bouncing beneath the thin, tight material of her pale pink formal gown. It clung tightly to her tiny waist and flat stomach. He smiled. That body! he thought. Benefits of being a college gymnast. And no bra. Got to be a good sign.
"Hello, Miles," she said when she reached the bottom of the steps, her voice even and direct. She briefly and stiffly hugged him. He kissed her on the cheek.
"You look beautiful, Peg. Just beautiful." He handed her the bouquet.
"Thanks you so much. Such pretty roses," she said. "But you remember what I said right? Just friends?"
"Sure, Peg. Sure. But I think you need to know how I feel about you."
"I do," she said. "You've made that very clear. But you know I see you as a good friend. A true friend. Why can't that be good enough, for now? We both have our entire lives ahead of us."
Miles stood there and looked at her breasts testing the fabric. Those fucking tits! he thought. All he could think about was grabbing the top of the shoulderless gown and pulling it down, releasing those magnificent cupcakes into the wild. Maybe if I walk away, she'll chase me now, he thought.
"I know but--."
She cut him off. "I understand, Miles. I really do."
"But Charlie said--"
She perked up when he mentioned Charlie, and cut him off again. "Charlie! I wouldn't listen to anything he says. He's always been a liar. The way that boy uses girls is just—disgusting! Is he going to be here?"
Goddammit! Miles screamed silently to himself. She doesn't give a shit! That asshole, Charlie, was right! He turned to go.
"Uh, Miles," she said, catching him by the shoulder.
He felt his heart quicken. Holy shit! he thought. It's working! He couldn't believe a little hard-to-get was all it took! Charlie was right! He turned quickly to face her, his smile wide, his face beaming.
"I still need a ride," she said sweetly. "And someone to record me at the dance."
He held the door for her on the way out.
"Hey!” she said. "Is that a Mercedes?"
* * *
Miles inched the Mercedes along the slow-moving car line at The Coventry Inn and Club toward the covered entrance. As they neared the drop-off point, he felt awkward and tense. When they got close enough that the valet began walking toward the passenger door, Peg put her hand on his shoulder.
"Thanks for being such a super nice guy," she said.
Miles flushed. He was beginning to sweat and could feel his heart pounding in his chest. He couldn't let it end like this! I need to man-up, he thought, and then, locking eyes with her, he gave voice to the cinematic ending playing in his head.
"Look, you know I love you with every atom of my being," Miles said. "And I know there's nobody out there better for you than me."
"Oh Miles, let's not ruin a perfect drive over--" she said. "Get your phone ready so you can get footage of me getting out of the car. Try and keep me on camera as I go inside."
Miles fumbled with his phone and hit the record button.
"Just listen," he continued. "I know you're saving yourself for marraige. So if you're still single in twenty years or whatever, come find me. I'll marry you on the spot."
"You would do that?" she asked.
"I'd be stupid not to," he said. "Any guy who locks you down would be the luckiest guy in the world."
"Aw Miles," she said as the valet opened her door and stared down into her cleavage, her nipples already stiffening from the cool night air. "You're just the best."
Then she took the valet's outstretched hand.
* * *
The petite blonde had smeared icing on her body effectively creating an edible bikini.
"Happy Birthday, Baby!" she shouted when Miles entered the bedroom. She walked up to him and removed his robe. "How does it feel to be forty?" she asked.
Miles smiled and squeezed her ass and bent down to lick icing off her tit. He came up with some icing on his chin. She stood on her tiptoes and licked it off.
"Not a day over thirty-nine," Miles said with a chuckle. "How does it feel to be nineteen?" he asked in return, but she had already dropped to her knees and couldn't talk with her mouth full.
He had just started face-fucking her when the doorbell rang. She looked up at him for instructions without breaking stride. "Ignore it, honey," he said and wound her ponytail around his fist as a tall, lithe brunette entered the bedroom.
“Started without me again, I see,” said the brunette.
Miles savored the moment. All of this, he thought. It had become his mantra. The years had been good to him because he had been good to himself. Wealth. Women. Success. His progress had been so fantastic and fulfilling that if he did think of his weak, younger self, it always struck him as though it were someone else. It was as if...
The blonde's liquid, smacking sounds and the clicking of the brunette’s heels as she walked toward him broke his reverie and brought him back to a reality far better than anything in his imagination or memory.
* * *
A week later, a man in a cheap, ill-fitting suit approached him in the reception area at his office.
"Hey, aren't you Miles Noe? Cumberland College, Class of Fifteen?" the man said.
"Do we know each other?"
The man handed him a padded envelope. "It's me, Charlie!" he said as Miles accepted the envelope. "You've been served."
"Charlie? Holy shit, man. I thought you looked familiar. What's this abou--"
"There's one of them holograph players in the envelope," he said as he turned to go. "Guess you're not a simp anymore. Just a rich douchebag." He laughed. "I'll see myself out, guvna."
Must be a joke, Miles thought. Anna, probably. Maybe Lara. Back in his office, Miles poured himself a few splashes of Laphroaig and took his glass and the little hologram projector over to the leather couch. He set the device on the coffee table, spinning it so that the arrow pointed out in front. He pressed his thumb against the scanner to verify his identity and unlock contents, then settled back into the couch expecting another naughty performance by one of his girlfriends.
A bluish-green hologram of a woman appeared a few feet in front of him. This was not a girlfriend but he still thought it was a joke. Had to be. He sipped his scotch and tried to place her. She looked familiar, but he didn't know any chunky women with skin like shoe leather. Something was off and he was trying to think. There was something familiar about her eyes and sharp, small nose set in the doughy face. The projector scanned his face to locate his eye level and the hologram blinked and reappeared slightly higher and larger until the image towered over him. A soft female voice from the box's speaker said, "Autoplay selected".
Miles squinted. Holy shit! he thought. That looks like--"
"Hi Miles," the hologram said. "I'm Lillith Seventeen. You knew me as Peg in college, remember?"
Miles set his drink down on the coffee table and stared at the projection. Her face looked puffy and he could perceive no appreciable shape in her tits apart from some loose mounds of flesh pushed together by some kind of power bra so that they spilled out over the top.
"I've so been looking forward to this day," she continued. She was beaming, and while the years had not been kind to her, the giggle sounded just as cute and lilting as it had twenty years ago. "I know, blue isn't my best color. Time, huh? Anyway, I'll make this quick. Now that we're both forty I'd like to take you up on your offer which I hope you remember."
What. The. Fuckity-fuck? thought Miles.
"I've booked flights and made reservations for Vegas--we'll be staying in a tower villa at the Wynn--and I hope you don't mind but I went ahead and bought a wedding dress. Don't worry, I kept the receipts. I was so relieved and impressed to see how successful you've become. One thing: I did book a two-bedroom unit because I was going to bring the kids too, but we lucked out and they're all headed to their dads' houses for winter break. The wedding will be in their grand ballroom and we're booked for Saturday afternoon at five."
Miles downed the rest of his drink. He walked over to the bar to pour another, never taking his eyes off of the hologram. The usually cheerful, successful businessman's countenance had turned ashen, defeated, as he poured a fresh drink, this time pouring to the rim.
"As the years wore on I realized how right you were that night," she continued. "I was such a silly girl. But your love and commitment means more to me now than ever. I'm the luckiest girl in the world, and I'm in love with the best man I've ever known. The man who won in the end. Won my heart like you've always wanted. See you soon, baby! I can't wait to start our life together." She blew him a kiss and her image disappeared.
Miles stood there swallowing more whisky when the small projector whirred back to life.
A blue-green image of a man began talking to the still-visible depression in the soft leather sofa where Miles had just been sitting a minute earlier.
"Hello, Mr. Noe, I am Earnest Frank, an attorney for the Bureau of Domestic Relations contacting you on behalf of performance artist and protest organizer Lillith Seventeen. As I'm sure you're quite aware," he continued, "any pledge or promise of financial support made to a woman is subject to the force of law pursuant to the Domestic Fairness and Equity Protection Act of 2032. Namely, in accordance with the act, your promise of future domestic--which, by definition, includes financial--support made on October 17, 2015 and executed on a video made that night, a video in Ms. Seventeen's possession and included here as an attachment, is fully executable and binding under the statute of limitations retroactive to twenty years and one day unless otherwise adjudicated by a federal court. Because this offer was executed with a consensual physical act by at least one of the parties, which, by statute, includes affectionate physical touch anywhere on one's person, the Bureau is satisfied that all requirements have been met, and, barring any successful contest of this contract, your notorized holograph indicating your intent to comply is expected in this office no more than ten business days from receipt of this notice. Thank you and please contact me with any questions."
Miles tipped his tumbler up and downed nearly eight ounces of scotch in two long gulps. An avid scotch collector and indulger, the quantity nevertheless made his throat burn. It was good that it did, he thought. It pulled him out of his initial shock and confusion.
Moving quickly, he pulled the couch away from the wall and removed the bag of cash and cryptocurrency wallets and other basic supplies from the hidden compartment, thinking all he needed was twelve hours to start a new life with a new identity. Eight hours if all went well and the plane was ready. But it was too late. The GPS in the hologram had been activated the moment he scanned his thumb, and several domestic justice enforcement officers were already moving quickly toward his office, tazers drawn.
The Degenerate’s Cookbook: Part I
Road trips. Everyone has a plan.
I may drink my fair share of Pellegrino and decent whiskey, but make no mistake, I’m a mutt. I’m what you get after generation upon generation unceremoniously overfucks the “wrong” people across Europe and back. My Ancestry.com percentages read like a dishonest actuarial table. My kin didn’t even make it to America until the end of the 19th Century, and by then it was touch and go. All the good shit–land, steel, mineral rights–had largely been scooped. My ancestors certainly didn’t see themselves through Lady Liberty’s eyes as wretched refuse, but they were ignorant peasants and what did they know? We just didn’t want to be serfs. Tolerated but not exactly welcome in the better serfdoms of the old country(ies), we rolled the dice and became Neil Diamond fodder instead, working in steel mills and butcher shops, which as it turned out, ain’t too shabby. All of which is to say, I lack pedigree. Not quite the unpardonable sin in America, even these days–especially these days, but close. Still, we did our part, fought in the wars that came around in our time. Dad got bullied hard, I’ve been told. After Vietnam, he made decent money, but he didn’t have money. I played football and fucked popular girls who came from real money. Dad died broke and sometimes remembered me. I preferred when he didn’t. Seemed easier for him which made it easier for me. Shortly before he went into the coma, I took him out for coconut shrimp. He seemed to enjoy it although I’m pretty sure he cast a few sideways glances at the stranger in the booth grabbing the occasional shrimp.
Pellegrino and wadcutters
Last minute preps on a mid-morning in July, ten months into the divorce and ten minutes away from a five hour drive to a mile high rendezvous in the Smokies with a woman. A married woman. Awaiting me (us) was a cabin on a mountain top with a large hot tub enclosed by a screened porch on a property that itself was enclosed by an area full of black bears and tourists. The cabins were spaced far enough apart that tourists weren’t typically an issue unless you went into town. As for the bears, it was more a less a game of musical chairs involving secure garbage can lids. And the grill. The grill was always the real problem. It sat far enough from the cabin door, a bridge too far. Equidistant from the tree line and the side door, its placement emphasized the need for hyper-vigilant situational awareness while getting liquored up and grilling ribeyes. Dripping globs of melted beef fat exploding on hot coals in the fading light of dusk sent up mixed smoke signals. Up here just about anything might answer that call: bears; tourists; hobos? I was pretty sure we were too high for the latter. Hobos don’t hike. I remembered that there had been some buzz over the area’s increased UFO sightings of late. Hobos, bears, and tourists I could juggle, but the prospect of ETs gave me pause. The timing wasn’t great. I often experience moments of existential dread just before long road trips. I pushed that shit down and contemplated my open gun safe. After some deliberation I packed the nickel-plated forty-four magnum, clipped the Glock to my belt, and hit the road. Came back once for the case of Pellegrino.
Phantasmic Nazi Chicks and the Blackguards Who Love Them
I started out with the usual road music. Clash. Iggy. Ramones. What better than classic punk for riding those initial gas pump fume-driven expectations and jizz dreams. My weekend companion was married but, as she had explained it, just barely. The ink on her divorce was still wet and not quite legally executed by her home state. “It’s imminent,” she would say when I’d phone. Always imminent. But she was stacked (I’m from the 80s) and smiled with teeth so white it was practically racist. She reminded me of Eva Braun for no reason whatsoever. It was a handicap because in fantasyland that made me Hitler. So I edited on the fly. Added storylines. I was a jazz guitarist like Django Reinhardt, some kind of gypsy (kind of am, genetically) who she was obsessed with. We’d sneak off when Der Fuhrer and the inner circle got together at Berchtesgaden for drunken dirty limerick contests or whatever the fuck. It had to be that way. Jazz dudes wore suits. Nazis wore ridiculous uniforms or lederhosen. Because of her ridiculous teeth and my brain riffing like a runaway bus I now also had to be sure to avoid anything resembling fetishized Nazism, real or imagined.
I was six months into a quest to find some kind of counterculture–any counterculture–to attach myself to. Anything that wasn’t the suburban dad weekend beer and baseball blitzkriegs I’d been heading up for two decades. That’s not a complaint. I enjoyed that shit. Pro tip: Always pick one kid with a hot mom and one who had a pool for the little league team you’re coaching no matter their athletic ability. Everyone enjoys having something to look at and my ex received her fair share of eye fucking and was no worse for wear. Now, with two grown kids and one ex-wife, the sky had once again become the limit, the world once again my oyster. Always an overthinker, I took my time, started slow, ran through the possibilities. Drugfests and the music scene? Swinger parties at lake houses owned by fat doctors and their fatter wives? Digital pimping? I was good with tech after all. Surely not all of these cam girls were frustrated geniuses working their way through college. “Surely a few would be hot and talentless,” I told a married friend one afternoon over Cohibas and bourbon. His name was Francis Laughlin Couch, but we’d called him “Couch” since eighth grade for obvious reasons. Now a rich attorney with a cute wife running to fat and three daughters, he struggled with business cards. He hated his given name but “Couch” drew too much fire from clients when he traveled. So he went with Frank for business but I always called him Couch, as I did now trying to calm him down. It had been a mistake to say anything. Dude was a crack addict for thinking out loud, for schemes. Upon hearing my jest, Couch sprang to his feet and offered cash in exchange for points in the enterprise. Just like that it had become real to him.
“Look!” he said crossing the room and waving a wad of cash at me. “These are hundreds.”
He’d jumped at that a little too fast, I thought. This was getting out of control. “Shut the fuck up, man, and give me the bourbon,” I said in a low growl. I snatched the crystal and slammed it down on antique walnut. Even that sounded like wealth. “Your wife will hear and then she’ll ban you from road trips! She already refers to me as, That fucking guy.”
“Sometimes,” he said. He returned to his chair and slumped like a defeated little leaguer.
“Just act normal,” I said. “For the time being. Say nothing and I’ll get back to you.”
I finished his glass of Pappy with one boorish gulp. No counterculture here, I thought. Just a defeated middle-aged lech gliding in for a few more landings before lap blankets and soft cookies. It didn’t have to be this way. I knew his wife still fucked him. He showed me the video. Tried to surprise me when I was looking elsewhere. Doggy, sure, but where was the style? I once quipped then headed for the bathroom.
“You’re missing the best part!” he shouted after me.
I was going to have to figure this out. The back nine of my life would need to be a largely solo enterprise. No unreliable wingmen and no friend zones. Sole proprietorship or get the fuck out. The dudes my age were all beaten, and the ones coming up were all taking pictures of runny eggs on burgers and posting that shit online. I was pretty sure they fucked like dickless puppies if they fucked at all. I would start slow. Yeah, methodical with a lot of A/B testing sounded right. Build. Pivot. For now my moves would be to continue offending society with minor league debauchery like barely married younger women with impossibly beautiful smiles. It had its merits and I was already in progress. Rome wasn’t burnt in a day.
The Routine and Self-Banishment.
I’d spent a good bit of my twenties hanging out with musicians and artists, and while I was usually the most conservative of the group, bohemian culture–or whatever you call its southern country cousin–was what I enjoyed when I wasn’t off in the woods or on the water. As my 50s neared I began drifting back toward a less predictable, edgier lifestyle. Not quite rock and roll, but something on my terms, so I was going to need to find some kind of counterculture, some “weirdness,” to combat The Routine. The Routine can get you through things like marriage and raising children but it’s not great for long periods of silence or road trips. But what does counterculture, or individualism, even mean when entertainment has morphed into some kind of distributed virtual greed monster sporting offers of fake self help and girls graduating from high school straight to aiming their buttholes at a web cam for money? “Sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll” seems downright quaint against such a backdrop. It’s practically a retreat. Voluntary self-banishment. What used to be countercultural has become white suburbia through some bizarre transmogrification. So I was determined to find something or, if need be, create the motherfucker in the vast stretches of new space and freedom that now presented itself like a staff dancer in the VIP.
New opportunities and rarified air. Hiking above the clouds. Peace and quiet. The first two hours are always easiest. I’d reveried myself all the way to my first pit stop.
COMING SOON: Travesties and road food. Some elk. Nutters, busters, and nut butters.