"I'd almost given up trying to clasp my scantily-clothed body to the
overturned lifeboat. Only when the swells lifted me to wave crest did I
see the island, green against the blue of the sea. It was the vision of
the island that kept my free hand holding my cello, the only other thing
floating after the shipwreck. Cast upon the sand of this uncharted strand,
like a leaf of seaweed lost in the vast expanse ocean, I was a castaway!"
Bobbi thought that this was a nice beginning. The really fun part would
be how she encounters a Lieutenant from the HMS Conqueror. They'd be
castaways together and make love under a coconut tree.
To write about finding breadfruit, etc., she'd need to go to the library
to see if it resembled regular bread. Was it "coconut", or "cocoanut"?
She'd given most of her thought to how the Lieutenant would feel her up.
Her friend Betsy would want steamy allusions, how you said that he had a
big cock without using certain words. Bobbi was toying with "ready
manhood" or "unsatiated desire".
It was too bad that she had to write about less-engaging things for
English, the plight of Central American immigrants, for example; her
castaway story was so much more engaging. Bobbi's friends loved her plots
when she read them at sleepovers and usually she'd end up with ten more
ideas. Her girlfriends, for example, thought that rather than being a
shipwreck, it should be more modern, a plane crash. Be a stewardess on a
jet carrying the Beatles before they broke up and be castaway with Paul.
Actually, her friends voted, Paul should be in the surf and she'd drag
him to safety. She'd have to tear off his trousers to bind the wound and
use her blouse to make a bandage. Then they'd make a baby, get rescued and
form a new band.
The girls left it to Bobbi to titillate the sequence. Next sleepover,
Bobbi would have a spectrum of nouns, adjectives, verbs and adverbs. Not,
for example, "They stripped naked", but something that spoke of shedding
Though some of their classmates might have more personal tales to
whisper, Bobbi's closer friends still found solace in speculation. Betsy
once even announced how a particular scene got her sliding on the sheets.
Bobbi, always on the lookout for word usage, figured there to be more
phrases for self-satisfaction than for mutual gratification.
Despite setbacks, Bobbi's heroines persisted until willing surrender.
Her women combined the attributes of resourcefulness and intelligence.
Everybody thought Bobbi to be resourceful. She saw how to put odd things
together, say chocolate and cherry pie recipes. Quite tasty. Bobbi's
heroines tended to be smart, intellect being an attribute appreciated by
the right sort of lovers. She used bimbos for literary contrast.
Bobbi liked climax. As her friends were infatuated with the term's
common use, she had to explain that "climax" in fiction requires bringing
events to a crucial point. Bobbi's heroines achieved climax by both
Modern maidens, unfortunately, had scant possibility of being castaway
on a desert island with a Beatle. Girls that didn't read, Bobbi
recognized, probably didn't know how such romance used to happen. So
what's a 13-year-old to do? It's not like she had pimples or was six feet
tall. There just wasn't the 13-year-old guy at her school that her
heroines would go for.
SEARS FALL AND WINTER CATALOG
Bobbi's friends spirited the catalogs to their rooms before their folks
sorted the mail. There it was, right on page 602, like everybody said --
two men in an underwear ad. The one on the left, anybody could see what's
hanging out of his boxers! Telephones were busy, but girls in their early
teens talk all the time anyway.
Bobbi didn't actually see the photo for several days. The catalog was
too big to secrete to school and nobody dared tear out the page. Their
folks would notice. Bobbi's first photo of a real penis was thus at
Nancy's. What Nancy called his "ding dong", Bobbi just saw as something
rounded below the model's boxers.
It was at Karen's sleepover that the girls voted 4-1 that it was the
real thing. Sandra had seen one for real and she was in the 4. She'd not
say whose real one against which she verified the advertisement, so it had
to have been an accident, probably her father, Bobbi guessed. If Sandra
had seen a boy their age, she'd have said who. If it were in Sandra's
family, but not an accident, she'd have said nothing. So it must have been
in her family, but just an accident. Maybe opening the bathroom door.
Actually Bobbi had almost seen her own dad's. She'd never walked in on
him peeing, but she'd seen him in his underpants when he hadn't shut the
door. Plus his baggy bathing trunks draped his front when he'd lie back on
a pool chair.
So there on page 602, there one hung below the cuff. Pretty fat, unlike
the pencils on little boys when they peed. The troubling thing, Bobbi's
girlfriends realized, was that it wasn't even a boner. Then they stick
straight out. In Health, the girls had learned about reproduction. Their
book, which they had to leave in the classroom, had a diagram of male
genitalia, but to no particular scale.
That Sears Fall and Winter Catalog raised consciousnesses, a stamp of
that decade. Ninth-graders who studied page 602 knew that the times they
were a-changin', to quote from a decade of better music. They might live
far from Haight Ashbury where the hippies were, but things were going to
change. Just at more of a staid Midwestern pace.
Bobbi figured that love stories might at least help a reader (well,
maybe just the author) figure out something about the topic. "All you need
is love," to quote the song. At sleepovers, her friends complimented her
that the tales were sexy. But the fact of the matter was that they'd
rather look at a model with his cock hanging out.
Bobbi studied her competition. "Shirts, Boxers and Briefs in a luxury
blend of 50% Kodel polyester and 50% combed cotton. Assorted print
PERMA-PREST Boxer Shorts: Full cut. No roll elastic waist... No ironing
necessary if machine washed, warm; tumble dried... No color choice." The
model had the right length of hair over his ears. His boxers were
checkered with little designs but apparently you had to take the print and
color Sears shipped. The no-ironing bit was pretty good. Bobbi pondered
the "no roll elastic waist". What if you started to roll them down? That
might be something good for a story if she knew enough not to sound stupid.
Of the boys in her class, Geoffrey's feature was that he fit in so well.
Never the best or the worst, he'd just always be there. In style, just not
the first with it. In the band, just not first chair trumpet. He too
liked English, but didn't have what Bobbi considered her greatest asset,
imagination. Not all writers could have that, she granted.
Geoffrey's best quality, in Bobbi's eyes, was that he didn't have a
girlfriend. As she didn't have a boyfriend, their parallel lives sort of
paired, she mused. "Well, then you make the move," suggested Nancy, but
Bobbi didn't want to flub it up. It was better to navigate known terrain:
the yearbook staff, drama, the poster for the school dance.
"Thing is," Geoffrey told Bobbi the next day, "I can make the poster
kinda of psychedelic, but they might think it's about drugs or something."
"So we just say 'Disco Disco Disco' a bunch of times," her suggestion.
"I guess." Of course she was going, dummy! But you couldn't act too
excited about a school dance where nobody asked you and the teachers would
be trying to strike up lame conversations. "You?"
"Maybe I'll see you there," Geoffrey's closest approach to commitment.
"Think I should start the D here?"
The question evoked Nancy's "ding dong" reference. A dare hit her, but
not too much of one. "You know, I've got an idea, sort of one anyway." Did
boys know about page 602 as well, she wondered? She couldn't ask, but
maybe she could figure it out.
"Like putting something on the poster that might be a number, but might
just be a design." She fidgeted with her glasses.
Geoffrey was concentrating on his D. "Why a number?"
"To see if we can, like how 'bout," she decided to say it, "six-o-two."
Geoffrey looked up from his felt pen. She knew that he caught it.
"You know about it?" Bobbi tried to sound unfazed, a penis being the
"Who doesn't?" Geoffrey fidgeted.
"We thought maybe the boys didn't." Bobbi admitted.
"Like we're blind?"
"Like you're guys."
"Maybe down here inside the o?" Geoffrey pointed, as if art were the
"We're fried if they find out," she backed off.
"The curly-cues just came out that way, we say," Geoffrey co-conspired.
"Maybe down in this corner," she suggested, bending over in case he
might stare down her sweater, but he didn't.
Later, when Bobbi looked again at the catalog, she wondered if Geoffrey
was looking too. It was just an advertisement, she knew, but it almost
felt like they were looking together.
When she resurrected her castaway story, maybe Paul would be wearing
something like those boxers when she pulled him to shore. That sort of
fabric and cut. She'd know the size of his cock (better word to be found),
but never reveal this as she nursed him back to health, maybe brushing it
accidentally sometimes. She wouldn't let it hang out like a ding-dong,
though. To help Paul sit up, he'd lean against her front.
The strobe flashed off the mirrored ball as the crowd discoed. Well not
exactly a "crowd", decided Bobbi, in her black mini that necessitated
leotards. A few couples were on the floor, the kids who'd learned the
steps from American Bandstand.
Bobbi's girlfriends were clustered by the DJ. Most of the boys were
standing hands-in-pockets. Geoffrey was in a polyester shirt with a wide
collar, a Christmas present from a mom who knew that at the rate he was
growing, it made sense to buy Sears specials.
She'd studied the posters taped to the wall and grinned back when the
artist waved her a smile.
"You think there are maybe six teachers here?" asked Geoffrey, an odd
question, especially how he emphasized the number.
Surprising herself, she caught it. "Oh! I just saw two," she coded.
The two laughed, but brought it within the bounds of disco blare. If they
admitted their coup to anyone, everyone would know before the 45 was done.
The DJ succumbed to the girls' clamor. "OK, OK, Disco Duck!" The tune
blasted through the sound system.
"Went to a party the other night.
"All the ladies were treating me right.
"Moving my feet to the disco beat.
"How in the world could I keep my seat?"
"Come on Geoffrey, I know how," grinned Bobbi, beckoning him on to the
gym floor. She didn't actually know all the Quack Quack, Flap Flap, Waddle
Down, Waddle Up moves, but who cared? She put her hands under her armpits.
"The thing is..." countered Geoffrey, but she was flapping elbows with
"All of a sudden I began to change.
"I was on the dance floor acting strange.
"Flapping my arms I began to cluck.
"Look at me. I'm the disco duck..."
Bobbi sang along with the last line, something she'd not have done solo,
but by now the floor was filling. Some of her friends seemed to have given
up on the boys and were dancing together. The music pounded.
Backup Singers: "Disco disco duck."
Donald Duck voice: "Ah get down mama, oh mama shake your tail feather,
ha ha ha ha ha..."
"You have to yell, 'Quack, quack'," ordered Bobbi, opening and closing
her hands like a mouth.
"Like this? Quack! Quack!" Geoffrey successfully maneuvered himself in
"Plus this," throwing her thumb out, trying to catch a ride.
Backup Singers: "Disco."
Elvis voice: "Thank you duck."
Backup Singers: "Disco."
Elvis voice: "For gettin' down...."
Backup Singers: "Try your luck, don't be a cluck, disco, disco,
"Wow," offered Geoffrey when they'd exited the quacking mob. "That was
so weird it was really fun!"
Geoffrey clarified, "I mean I don't really know how to dance or
anything, but you just have to act like Donald Duck!"
"You're Donald and I'm Daffy," agreed Bobbi, but he missed the hint.
She had to do the asking for the slow dance, her quicker feet dodging
his when she tried to let him lead. By no means did they dance close, but
his hand on her back was pretty nice. Her hand perched on his shoulder,
not cradled around, as were the more adventuresome girls, the skinny ones,
high breasts dimpling their boyfriends' sports shirts, thighs exploring,
explored. Though not nearly so engaged, Bobbi too hoped that the song
But songs do end and kids go home when parents pick them up on the front
Later that evening, Bobbi composed a story in which Donna Summer sang
"Love to Love You Baby" and the heroine succumbed to passion beneath the
twirling ball. Or maybe it should be to Abba's "Fernando".
Bobbi was the story's dancer. Together supine on the disco floor, the
man on page 602 would be within her. She'd describe the throbs of
fulfillment. She liked that phrase, but needed to decide whose
fulfillment. Imagining the hardwood made her think that maybe the two of
them should go some place softer, more secluded, and her story lost its
focus. Sort of like her evening, she decided.
Bobbi's friend Karen invented the game, an idea to giggle about. A boy
would take the Sears Catalog and have to match an underwear picture to what
he thought a girl was wearing. Then the girl would do the same for him.
You'd have to show enough to prove the guess wrong. If the guess were
correct, you'd have to strip to it.
There'd be some sort of accuracy allowance, "Say if your bra is a little
padded and he points to one that isn't, it's still OK," explained the
inventor. The girls saw difficulties. If he pointed to a style that
pushed up, but yours didn't, but the cups were more or less the same, how
would you call it? It wouldn't be fair because you can't really hide your
bra style anyway. How about panties? There weren't that many styles, but
there were tons of colors. Would saying colored ones be enough? For a
guy, what about boxers that had designs?
The girls decided that as long as everybody ended up in underwear, it
would be fairest. Presumably after you played, you'd get dressed again.
Nancy said it was like strip poker where you didn't strip all the way.
Thus, "Catalog Poker".
Discussion turned to hippies who get naked at concerts. It was even on
the news, but pretty far away. Sandra had a picture of a guy body painted,
but the magazine had cropped it. She said that the way they do it was for
a guy to paint a girl then have sex to get the paint on him too.
Bobbi composed a scenario. She and the man on page 602 had played
Catalog Poker. She had on her best bra, the one that helped her side view.
She looked at him in his boxers. Oh no, did he realize? Others were
coming! They'd hide behind a wall and then make out. He'd unhook her bra,
but she'd keep it on. Then he'd lay her back, always kissing her.
Bobbi and Geoffrey were doing algebra at her kitchen table when the
subject of record players arose. Music was more fun than fence length
around fields of given shape. She got the catalog. Geoffrey, who knew
about Hi Fi's, showed her about woofers and tweeters. The ones that could
drop an LP from the spindle were nice, how you could put on a stack of
records and forget it.
Glad for the excuse to stop doing homework (they were almost done
anyway), the two thumbed through the toy section, remembering what had been
fun and when.
Bobbi was just goofing around, actually, when she wrote "602" on the top
of her homework sheet where Geoffrey might see it.
His eyes followed her pencil. She'd thought that blushing was more of a
girl's thing. Had she looked away more quickly, perhaps his response might
have passed. Had he looked away more quickly, he might not have giggled
"Don't make me look," whispered Bobbi, "or I'll sing the song."
"You can't," Geoffrey replied. "It's a guy song." The two laughed at
"You know what?" queried Bobbi. "Karen invented this game, just
pretend." She hadn't intended to reveal the silliness, but when Geoffrey
asked, she told him the essentials. Everybody ends up in just underwear!
They laughed at the sight.
After they put away their math books and promised each other that they'd
ace next week's quiz, Geoffrey grinned, "Wanna play?" Bobbi was still
gulping as he pushed open the door, not waiting for dismissal.
No, of course she didn't want to be in her underwear where Geoffrey
could see. She didn't want to see him in his, either. No way! Her
nipples were hard, exactly the reason she wouldn't want to play such a
The story Bobbi made up that night involved Geoffrey as a Sears model
and herself on the page facing. She remembered the story for little kids
about teddy bears coming alive after lights-out. What if the Sears
pictures came alive when the catalog was closed?
She played Catalog Poker with imaginary Geoffrey. She found her bra on
page 423, the "baseball" for its seam up from the center front. If your
breasts were round enough (which hers weren't) the correspondence was
close. Imaginary Geoffrey's guessing was a giveaway because she had on her
The model's panties were cut like Bobbi's, but hers were "misty
lavender". A guess of "colored" would be close enough. The girl on page
432 seemed to be getting ready to go some place important in her underwear.
So she'd have to strip to those two things.
The boy on page 597 had on plain white briefs. Bobbi knew what to guess
from when the back Geoffrey's shirt pulled up when he was bent over
drawing. Unlike the man on page 602, this younger model revealed nothing.
In fact, as best Bobbi could fathom, there was no suggestion of content.
She and Geoffrey would be in their underwear together!
She let the shower massage her neck, rivulets streaming over her
breasts. She wished she were tall and thin, but it didn't matter. She
sudsed her belly and let the foam flow between her legs. Her fingers
glided with the bubbles. Emerging, she played the towel against her blush.
Talcum mist enveloped her as she dashed back to her room, latching the door
She drew back her blanket to leave a single sheet and pulled the linen
taut between toes and nipples, then let the cool fabric settle over her
belly. The cotton rose and fell with each breath until she felt her
Only then did a hand release the corner of the cover and slip along her
powder. One finger ascended to trace the frontier of hardening areola and
a second finger joined to capture the nipple, waiting and tender. The two
digits tantalized their captive brusque enough to cause flinch, but lightly
enough to provoke its texture.
The palm sculpted Bobbi, and then passed to her stomach, resting there
until she drew it in. Then it slid into her down, new hair sparse and
resilient, where fingertips parted the flaxen wisps.
A fingerprint found the dip above her crease and pressed to the
succulence until Bobbi's knees acquiesced to open the cleft, already moist
to the front. The finger teased Bobbi's emerging pea-sized hardness and
drew into her increasingly wet fold. Onward it slid.
When the digit at last arrived, it turned to penetrate, not pausing at
the constricting muscles, though she tried to squeeze. Nor did it tarry to
reciprocate against Bobbi's slipperiness, though she tried to drive herself
against its inevitability. The finger came to rest at its fullest
extension, its conquest complete. Bobbi, fucked and ready, waited with
thighs again together, trapping the invader.
When she could refrain not a second more, she opened her legs. The
finger retracted and came to rest against her own erection, coaxed from its
remaining protection. As before with her nipple, a second fingertip
encircled to counterbalance the stroke of the first. The pair brushed the
sides of her nubbin, swelling and firming.
Bobbi's hips began her bolero. The fingers played her flesh, finding
the key. The mattress swished in tempo as Bobbi pushed up the timbre.
Touch spread the melody.
Her forehead glistened. The hand yet holding the sheet faltered,
letting her cover slip aside. Her nipples, pinkenend, rose and fell
erratically. The hand that fucked her so deliberately now writhed between
her legs, the odor of woman on her palm. The bed frame slapped with
Bobbi's orgasm was hard and protracted, a young woman's discovery,
though from her perspective, nothing so describable. It was music, the way
that notes together make something bigger under a ball of flashing lights.
The lanky, late-20's, hairline boding bald-by-40, Assistant Manager of
Sears Home Furnishings, Mapletree Center, Lincoln NE, always carried a
second business card, "Geoffrey Paulson, Guitar, The Bellicose Buzzards,
Bluegrass without Saxophones." It wasn't as much to snag a paying gig as it
was to evoke a reaction from people who knew him in his Sears shirts. The
Buzzards were more fun than retail, he'd freely admit. He never met a
manager that imagined differently.
Geoffrey had happily given up trumpet after high school and only later
discovered his passion for rhythm. As good as he flat-picked, he earned
his keep by his steady beat under a fiddle that sometimes dragged and a
banjo that preferred acceleration. The Buzzards weren't destined for
Nashville, of course, but Lincoln liked their enthusiasm. Country music
has room for Sears managers. Country has room for saxophones too, of
course, but not as bluegrass.
Not that Geoffrey paid that much attention to the broader field, but
having the American Folk Music Association's 1990 Convention in Lincoln was
a chance for the locals. Pickers in bands like the Buzzards could rub
shoulders with players who'd actually quit their day jobs. Three strangers
pass in the hotel hallway, eye one another's cases, and viola, an impromptu
"Old Home Place". Geoffrey would be there every possible minute.
And then there was the Potluck Extravaganza. Sign up, indicate your
instruments, pay $5 and the organizer randomly defines the bands.
Forty-five minutes to introduce yourself and figure out two tunes. Then on
stage. Winning band gets all the entry fees. Country simple.
The list put Geoffrey in Band 8. None of the other names looked
familiar, but this was where an unknown 14-year-old banjo player could
steal the show. 5:45, Warm-Up Room C. Geoffrey was tuned up.
The bass player was from Texas; the fiddler Geoffrey recognized from a
band from out West, the very-thin banjo was from Florida and the mandolin
was late. "Ya'll know Blackberry Blossom?" suggested the bass, shooting
for a sure start. It was a good one for warm up, to feel the others'
They were starting to jell when their mandolin player walked in the
door, already chording. Geoffrey looked up, a woman, then looked up again:
tending toward roundish, mid height, brown hair to the shoulders, round
glasses, eyes that he knew. Could it be? Was it Bobbi from school, all
those years ago?
She squinted at him, tipped her head, and mouthed, "Geoffrey?"
When the guitar falters, so does the band. Blackberry bottomed.
"Bobbi!" "R. Jackson" on the Band 8 list hadn't meant anything. How could
it? Bobbi had played clarinet.
The two hugged, instruments almost colliding. It took a few of the
band's precious 45 minutes to explain that they'd known each other in high
school and had no idea that the other was still a musician. "Things like
this happen all the time in bluegrass," commented the banjo, retuning as
they're prone to do.
Time to catch up later. They had music to make. Something from the
Bluegrass Cardinals? Nah, too predictable. None of them were good enough
to propel a standard beyond its settled form. Something interesting,
The mandolin chorded, "Look and see, you'll agree, he's got
personality." Thirteen chords like a tenor banjo might have at it.
"The Sears catalog one?" wondered the banjo from Florida, three-finger
picking the same. "We could burn 'em."
The Texan started to chuckle.
The fiddler took charge, the fiddle's prerogative according to fiddlers.
He, Bobbi and Geoffrey could start, "Look and see" a cappella. Banjo had
the resonant voice for the verses and there was plenty of room for
instrumentals not on the 45. Five minutes and they had the basics, a
fiddle's leadership once more proven.
A bass player's job is to speak rarely and sing never. Thus his words
merit consideration. "Back home, anyway, that one was right when they
disco danced," the "they" establishing distance from those who neither
line-danced nor two-stepped. "So what if we discofied a middle part?" He
looked around, "After all, we never have to play together again."
"Like Disco Duck?" seconded Bobbi.
Band 8 took center stage with "Fox on the Run", the mandolin doing 1-5-1
for the first 16 and the base bowing the melody. Most bluegrass basses
don't even own a bow that's not fiberglass. Most bluegrass basses aren't
also in the Houston Symphony. Good start.
And really absurd ideas can turn out brilliant, especially a bass and
fiddle duo evoking a disco beat. Guitar, mandolin and banjo stepped
forward, hand under armpit, to do the Quack Quack, Flap Flap, Waddle Down,
Waddle Up and then the hitchhiking thumb. Then they hurried back to
country's roots. It didn't hurt that a judge was standing when they
concluded a cappella, "Staying alive," Bee Gee perfect.
"Good thing we're not a real band," drawled the bass as they divided the
loot, "or we'd get signed. And damn," to Bobbi, "that was one heavy-duty
Bobbi looked at her hands. "PMS."
The Texan nodded, "This chick band from Ft. Worth were all PMS and
kicked our butts at Lone Star. Won belt buckles. Said they all get the
same monthlies when the play a lot together."
Afterwards, the ex-classmates had ten years to catch up. Threading
themselves through knots of music in the lobby, the found a restaurant by a
booth selling picks. "Always lose 'em," confessed Geoffrey, giving a good
one to Bobbi. "You probably break them."
He'd never taken Bobbi on what might be defined as a date, but they'd
done some of the youth group things at church and they'd sometimes end up
together on a field trip or at a game. The fun parts of those years
The two had discovered stringed instruments in college, too late for the
folk music era, and ended up playing bluegrass for the sociability. Bobbi
had moved to Des Moines, was still single, and, "Believe it or not,
Features Writer for the Register. I get paid to be here! Well, not
overtime or anything, but at least my expenses." She played in a group
called "The Mercurial Mamas", with gigs at events held by feminists who
didn't really care what the music was. "Too many butch haircuts,"
complained Bobbi. Niche smart, thought Geoffrey.
When Geoffrey admitted that the he worked for Sears, Bobbi noted, "Sears
guys singing about the catalog can only be bluegrass. You're not fat,
though, with slicked hair. Actually, Sears is still where I still buy my
She did admit that she might not have thought of the tune, had he not
been there. "After all, at 13 or whatever, my buddy Geoffrey and the
catalog were my social life," laughing at the memories. "Remember our
"I never danced much until you showed me the duck one," admitted
Geoffrey. "Actually, I haven't danced much between the duck ones."
His life was stable. He had a decent job, got to play guitar, jogged
pretty regularly, read a lot. His sister Janice, whom Bobbi remembered as
a fashionable flower child with her own car, always invited him for
holidays. "She's got two kids. Sometimes old Uncle Geoffrey takes them to
Chuck E. Cheese or maybe to a movie. If I'm over there at bedtime, I
always read their story to them."
"That's special," agreed Bobbi. "I don't have much of a family, I
guess. Folks split up, gone. Holidays aren't big things. It helps to work
a lot, keeping busy, you know. The Mamas is sort of my break from reading
and writing, writing and reading. It's OK."
"I'll bet you're the ace reporter," offered Geoffrey. "You write a
kids' book and I'll buy it."
"You want to know something?" she brightened, not waiting his answer.
"I used to write stories for my girlfriends. Remember Betsy and Lisa?
Anyway, once I started one about that Sears page, but I didn't finish."
"Too bad. We could have put in the paper." He'd been as good a writer,
but when it came to interviewing people, hers were the better questions.
Like finding out that Mr. McDowell, the science club advisor, had been a
pilot in Viet Nam and joined the protesters after he came back.
"You were in my story, as much as I thought it out, anyway. You or a
Lieutenant in the Royal Navy or Paul McCartney." So what if she told? It
was way back when.
"In your underwear. But I never read it to my friends or anything," she
reflected. "I was in mine too. Both of us. Silly, no?"
Geoffrey was startled.
"Those were pretty good times, right?" she continued. "Imagining
"Was I a little out of it, maybe?" admitted Geoffrey. Years give
license to acknowledge past realities.
"Guys usually are, that age anyway."
"Don't be. We turned up here." Bobbi grinned ear to ear. Then so did
Geoffrey's transfer to Des Moines was what Sears encouraged, an
advancing manager willing to relocate. Bobbi didn't mind their subsequent
move to Abilene, the smaller city being a good place to raise kids. Young
adult literature is a tough market, but not for an ex-Mercurial Mama Des
Moines Register staffer.
The pair is in the same band now, one that wears black cowboy hats and
white scarves; Texan they are. The band's shirts are Sears, Abilene Sears,
that is, figures Bobbi, as no Midwestern Sears would carry cherry red with
white piping. When they saw the Huston bass player at Lone Star, he said
he knew they'd get together; things work out in bluegrass.
Geoffrey books the Abilene/Lincoln tickets early. Thanksgiving is where
you do things the same way. Bobbi says the X-ray machine makes her
hand-carry pumpkin pie Lo-Cal. Her sister-in-law knows to pick up a
half-pint of whipping cream to blob on top. None of this pressure-can
They'd just been classmate friends a bunch of years before -- been in
the school band, worked on the school paper; that was about it.
Fantasizing about boys who weren't your boyfriend was what girls did back
then, what you laughed about at slumber parties. It wasn't as if she'd
spent her life thinking about some catalog, she told herself. It wasn't as
if she'd not dated other guys. Geoffrey had just been parked in her mind
somewhere, a little tune that stayed remembered. Maybe the real song
helped, the way an adult can sing "The Itsy Bitsy Spider" decades after
second grade. She bet that she could work Itsy Bitsy into Orange Blossom
Special, right after the rundown.
That night at the hotel, she'd no idea. She was lonely, another
castaway in a world made of islands. He'd had no idea about her, other
than she didn't smoke. They both admitted later that the other lighting up
would have ended it. Their intersection was that precarious.
They'd had dinner, remembering things easier than page 602 or faded
fondness as they perused the menu. There was so much else to compare.
Sears manager-trainees start out on the floor selling goods like
lawnmowers. Des Moines Register new-hires copy edit for a week. By the
time they'd finished the lasagna, he'd admitted he probably hadn't put into
his marriage what it took to keep it healthy. She'd lived with a guy with
no intention of anything, as seen in hindsight. It takes work, they'd both
discovered, to stay together.
She'd given him the peck on stage when they'd received the prize. That
was just about winning. A girl's nipples always come out a little at times
like that, so that wasn't anything either. He'd probably not seen anyway,
At the table, his touching her hand made her heart flutter, just the
brevity of it. It wasn't a come-on he'd pulled; he'd just wanted to know
she was there, maybe. Later she'd reached back and left her hand on his.
She knew she was reacting sexually, but what she felt was as if she were
again innocent. Anybody could seduce somebody at a convention, she
supposed. She surely needed the sex, but there was more here.
"Just tonight," she'd volunteered without prelude as they ate apple pie.
She knew that her loneliness again showed, that she'd probably come across
like some sort of music groupie, a babe that came places to get laid.
After all, she'd told him about thinking of undressing. Maybe she was
still high about winning the prize, she later wondered. He hadn't even
hinted about sex.
He'd nodded as if to say he was lonely too. Outside her door, "No big
deal. We're big," she'd justified, feeling not big.
"We're probably still just us, still," recognized Geoffrey. "I liked
you back then, but maybe didn't tell."
"Like let's see your underwear?" as she turned the latch. She knew she
should act like this was for laughs, going to bed with a not-ever
He was still serious. "I'd never had sex when I knew you then."
"Me neither," then looked at him. "Just imaginary by myself." For some
reason, she didn't want there to be secrets, things you'd feign for a
one-nighter, if that's all it was.
He'd hesitated. "I don't have a... You on the pill or anything?"
She'd smiled, "Not been much reason," adding, "If I'm PMS, no problem.
You play rhythm guitar, right?"
He didn't get it, but then her word-play was sometimes a bit wry, she
admitted to herself. "I'm fine," she clarified.
Bobbi had turned shy about undressing, switching off the lights. If
she'd known, she'd have chosen something sheer, something designed for a
date to unbutton. Her lacey briefs were, as always, in her second drawer.
Her skirt was the type you had to rotate to get at the fastener, hardly a
come on for sex.
But when she'd pulled off her sweater, she'd turned her back to him and
flicked on the bedside lamp. "Look at the tag." She'd wanted him to know
that she was still just Bobbi in a Sears one. She left the light on when
she swiveled to face him, even if her tummy wasn't all that firm, even if
her thighs looked pallid. She was who she was.
What if when you closed the catalog, the models came to life inside?
Geoffrey still wore briefs, not page 602 boxers. White. She wasn't at all
surprised. Guys probably don't change. Except for gaining weight, girls
don't much either, except for dress-up.
Unlike the well-hung male on page 602, Geoffrey was obliquely erect,
angling under the cotton. His squirm, Bobbi could tell by the way he
hunched, was to minimize it. His earlier "We're probably just us, still"
They kissed in their Sears underwear and she let him remove her bra. He
didn't seem to notice that her breasts turned too far outward as he touched
the side of one, then the other, but not yet her nipples. She switched off
the light and they removed the remainder of their clothing. The dispersed
light from the curtains illuminated her ivory waist and ebony curls.
Geoffrey found her left breast, his palm pushing it inward. His finger
ascended the softer flesh and circled the firmer areola. A second finger
at last claimed her nipple. His hand dropped to Bobbi's waist, resting
there until she sucked it in as if to allow passage under a belt buckle.
He slid into her bushy tangle, unruly and coarse, yet soft and permissive.
He combed a path through the triangle, fibers springing back as he trailed
downward. From the dip above her crease, he ventured inward, pausing until
Bobbi's knees parted. His finger followed her wetness to where she trapped
Bobbi traced her knuckles from his hip until she met the side of his
erection, likewise moist. She stoked, the two of them watching it thrust
and retract in reciprocity. She wanted to kiss beside it, to feel it brush
her cheek, to feel his chin against her groin. But no, more she wanted to
just make love, to be filled with his climax. This might be their only
time, not to be squandered on some triumph remembered for the physical.
When she felt him quiver (or was it she?), she brought him to where his
tip brushed within the folds of her own need. As much as she wanted not to
hurry, the time was now.
They kissed as he penetrated and came to rest fully within. Conquest.
Taken, she closed her thighs to prolong his presence, the kiss yet
unbroken, surrender as pure as if they'd made love after the school dance.
Geoffrey waited until her knees again parted. This time however, she
rose to match him stroke for stroke. She squeezed against him, then
relaxed to pull him further. What had entered so purposefully now plunged
forward and back, forward and back.
Bobbi's hips thumped the cadence. Hardness pressed into yielding flesh
found the melody, creating a duet resonating ever-resolving chords. The
bed clapped in chorus. The lovers surged into crescendo. The harmony
lingered past the closing note.
Sex seeped into the sheets.
Afterwards, she'd reflected, "You know, looking up when we came, there
was this mirror ball going around with all sort of lights."
Geoffrey grinned in satisfaction, "Like when we danced that time."
"Like when I used to pretend about that Sears ad. But what I saw now
wasn't about lights. It's because you're better than the guy on page 602."
"I didn't say longer; I said better," she said seriously. "But that's
not the point, I guess. I'm really glad I came to this thing, that I ran
into you, that I didn't act stupid."
"Me too," he agreed. "I almost didn't last, though," frowning.
"I'd have hurried, then," she assured, "to make us the same." The two
held each other, their heartbeats syncopating. "It's good to be together."
"Don't move. Just squish them like pancakes." They looked at her
flattened bosoms. "Shoot, this could make a story," not wanting him to see
her incipient tears. Or maybe she did want him to see; she didn't know.
Geoffrey pondered the possibility. "A nice story, right? About two
people." He paused. "How 'bout you write two. That one about two people
and another one, sort of silly, for kids. You come to Janice's and we'll
read it to her two for Thanksgiving. She'd love to set the extra place."
"I guess I could." She didn't care about the water in the corners of her
Another pause and Geoffrey added, "You could stay at my place, if you
"I'd like that, to sleep at your place."
"Don't forget to write the kids a story."
"How 'bout a kids' song for a country duet?"
"Probably better. No future in disco."
A LITTLE SONG
Here's the song that Bobbi wrote. It goes to "Fox on the Run", but if
you don't know that tune, "Itsy Bitsy Spider" works for the verses. The
hand motions are obvious.
"Two little crabbies, Swimming in the sea.
"Pinchie was a her, And Pinchum was a he.
"Little crabs (little crabs, little crabs). In the sea.
"They played kickball with pearls, And floated in the water.
"Ate seaweed for lunch, And pinched Mr. Otter.
"Little crabs (little crabs, little crabs). In the water.
"Along came a wave, And cast them on the beach.
"Pinchie headed west, And Pinchum headed east.
"Little crabs (little crabs, little crabs). On the beach.
"In a little coconut, They made their little nest.
"Being together, Is what they like the best.
"Little crabs (little crabs, little crabs). In their nest."
Afterwards as the women Tupperwared leftovers, Janice asked, "You bake
as well as you write lyrics?"
"Cookies and bad rhymes. Why?"
"It was so sweet... We'll need another pie next year," placing her hand
on Bobbi's wrist. "The kids really liked your song too, but you know what
Bobbi was silent, then asked, "You think maybe...?"
"Known him longer than you," little doubt from an elder sister. "You
got a recipe for a pumpkin one?"