Front Nine

“Then”, he said, after striking his ball cleanly and watching it disappear over the top of the crest before them, “She said I was an alcoholic…and mean.”

Peter gave no immediate indication that he had heard. He approached his ball with a seven iron, comfortable that he could get to the green. “But you are”, he said casually measuring with an easy practice swing.

“Yeah but it wasn’t a problem until…” Evan paused to allow Peter to hit.

“Fuck!” He topped the ball and it skated up to the top-almost got over-then rolled back a foot, then settled.

“It wasn’t a problem”, Evan went on, “Until….”

“She quit drinking.” Peter finished the sentence for him. “I know. You’ve said.”

That was the bitch about golfing with your internist. There were no secrets.  “Go ahead, hit again.”

Peter walked to the top and looked over scanning for Evan’s ball. “Where are you?”

“I’m betting ninety yards down-ten o’clock…”

Peter squinted down the fairway and, satisfied, stepped to his ball. He looked comfortable on the hill, one long leg bent on the uphill side-the other straight. One practice swing then a clean stroke and with the clear CLACK of a well hit shot the ball flew up and out of sight.

“One twenty”, Evan said turning abruptly toward the cart. “You got me by thirty but you’ll never make up that stroke.” Peter grinned as he got in and they whirred silently down the cart path.

Peter reached into his bag and pulled out two cigars handing one to Evan. He admired it in spite of himself-it was a favorite but he wouldn’t buy them. No matter how much money he had, spending thirty bucks on a cigar was stupid especially when his old man happily smoked himself to death on generic cigarettes. He took the offered cutter and sliced the end, then lit up. It was a Wednesday morning and they were not pressured. There was time to enjoy a smoke. Even a thirty dollar smoke.

“There was the time you told me you didn’t fear cancer because you were married to her”, Peter said picking up a thread of conversation that should have died.

“I did say that, didn’t I?”

“Many times”, He said exhaling a plume skyward.

Evan puffed deeply and considered the lighted end of the Cuban. He flicked the ashes from the red glow gently and blew on it, suddenly swallowed by the thought of jamming the fiery tip into someone’s eye. Reflexes would win out and undoubtedly the eyelid would close and there would only be a burned eyelid and the requisite screaming.

But what if he were quick enough to get the smoldering tip into the eye proper-would it sizzle like water hitting hot grease and fall into itself? Or would it pop like an egg, oozing down the face and dripping from the cigar like yolk from a burnt toast tip?

Peter stepped out of the cart and picked through his five thousand dollars-worth of clubs. Ridiculous clubs-he wasn’t a good enough golfer to be outfitted this way. Evan came out with eight clubs in an old bag he’d had since college. That’s probably one of the things she liked about him-he was flashy. She’d come to like flashy it seemed.

“I imagine you’re going with your wedge for this one, right?” Peter asked from behind him.

Just don’t pick today to tell me you’re fucking her, Evan thought darkly. Not today.

Peter chose his club and walked brightly to his ball eyeing the flag on the green. He didn’t really notice that Evan hadn’t answered as he was distracted by a sumac leaf. It was a beige sumac leaf shaped birth mark that Evan’s wife, Janie, had right along the inside of her ass cheeks. It was hardly visible until she opened to him-her favorite sex position was face and knees. He ran his thumb over it as he rode her, imagining the skin felt rougher there. It didn’t though; the inside of her crevasse was as soft and luscious as the rest of her.

“How about double or nothing on the next hole?” he called back over his shoulder without really looking.

“Sure. Why not?” Evan answered. He was up fourteen hundred over the first seven and wasn’t giving anything back. He watched Peter take that lazy practice swing of his and smoked.

Don’t be THAT mother-in-law…

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“That’s right Tim. I said I will help you two over this rough patch and we will definitely do it together. But before we can work as a team, we’ll have to go over some things individually. As soon as I have this little discussion with my daughter I’ll come into the drawing room and speak with you. Run along now. Oh-before you go, would you be a dear and hand me the hairbrush on the bureau there? Thank you honey.”

…On second thought…

Image uncredited on Tumblr.

An Unquiet Mind…

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I was listening to an early Murakami audio book on the train home. So, of course, I was horny. Just as reading Jim Harrison makes me hungry for rich food and wide open rivers, and Ron Rash makes me yearn for the hollows, hills and murders of my youth, Murakami fills my mind with visions of young women in white cotton panties-even when he’s writing about cats. Maybe it’s me.

So at home I go straight to the freezer for the Tito’s and pour three fingers into a short glass. No icy dilution needed when your liquor is teeth achingly cold straight up.

My beloved looked up from her ledgers to regard me coolly. Her glasses perfectly framed her dark eyes which showed the wear of the day, but still sparkled.  When she pushed them up onto her head her hair bunched and tangled roguishly around them-offsetting and accenting her perfectly formed cheekbones.

Rough day… she said more than asked unwinding her legs from underneath and standing. Without pausing she seemed to float over to where I leaned against the granite countertop still in my coat. She looked at my knuckles to find them unbroken and not bloody. She got up on her toes to pull my collar down to examine my neck for rope burns or the slice of the garrote. Nope. She gave a certain quizzical smile before sliding the back of her hand gently across the front of my pants. Ah…she said.

Ah, I replied. You still have those white cotton panties?

Sure.

Would you put them on?

I’m wearing the black ones you like.

Has to be the white cotton.

She gifted me with that crooked smile and turned away, her body swathed in the long sweater she wore around the house. You want the skirt too?

Glass at my lips-warming fumes filled my nostrils. Sure I croaked. And keep the glasses.

In the study with a fresh cocktail I pulled a chair into the middle of the room and lit a few lamps casting almond colored shadows along the paneled walls. Outside the dusk had deepened with the first freshet of a cold February rain. Should have put a fire in I thought looking at the dark, lifeless fireplace. Too late now, though.

My wife walked tentatively through the open door. The plaid school girl skirt fell no further than the middle of her strong tennis playing thighs. Definitely shorter than would have been permitted at the Academy. We had established that previously. The knee socks were new and very nice. She wore the crested white oxford shirt we had found in a Shadyside consignment shop last spring.

Just inside the door she paused and looked at me with a perfectly rehearsed mix of anticipation and trepidation. She reached up a quivering hand and delicately pushed her glasses, which had slipped, up on the bridge of her nose. You wanted to see me Mr. Travis?

I explained as best I could about the missed assignments and the unrecorded tardiness and reminded her of what we had agreed at our last meeting. I’m afraid Miss Jensen, you’ve left me no alternative but to spank you.

She pouted beautifully and dropped her chin. I understand, sir. I’m sorry.

No need, Miss Jensen. Let’s get on with it then.

She walked haltingly to the chair where I took my seat. Eyes demurely downcast she lowered herself over my lap. My breath caught as I lifted her skirt up over her back revealing the white cotton panties tightly sheathing her bottom. I cupped her right cheek and was about to draw back when…a folder on the edge of the desk caught my eye.

It was the Kisama account folder that I’d brought home the day before. What a clusterfuck that had turned out to be! It had seemed simple enough-fairly straightforward Statement of Work but someone had neglected-it had been Elizabeth-to include the upcharges for the custom work outside of scope now they were balking at the cost.

Ahem, coughed my wife draped over my lap patiently waiting. Oh, right. Miss Jensen, I muttered. It’s time I dealt with you… I raised my hand then…I really couldn’t put it all on Elizabeth though. There was a team of five working on the document-that’s four too many to my liking. I would have one person shepherd it through from front to back…No matter. Done is done. I’ll just have to fly out there and…

Ah, Mr. Travis? my wife asked upside down. You may have to take my panties down so the spanking really sinks in…You have been rather naughty. Lift up. She rose slightly onto her toes and I rolled the white cotton down slowly revealing my wife’s bottom ready for Miss Jensen’s spanking which would …the word naughty struck me. We never really used it-seemed overly childish.

Like impure. Maybe impure was just mine. I had confessed to a priest once when I was eleven or twelve to having impure thoughts. He wanted details! I didn’t give him any-mumbled something about girls in bathing suits-right!-and he asked me if I jacked off. Just like that! I couldn’t wait to get out of there. What did you tell him?  Frankie asked me later when I told the guys about it. I told him no! You lied to a priest? We all laughed about that…

Tommy! I heard my name being called. It was my wife stuck in downward dog over my lap her panties at her knees. My shoulder’s getting a little creaky, she said lifting a hand off the floor.

Yes, right. Sorry. I reared back and delivered the first smack fully on her right cheek. She moaned lightly at the impact and relaxed-settling comfortably onto my lap. I regarded the perfect pink handprint on her bottom and thought a moment. It put me in mind of those turkeys we drew in grade school…where we would trace our hands on a piece of construction paper-I would go with the goldenrod color- then we would…

Tommy! Focus…

Yes, honey, I said lifting my hand.

King Ragnar

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My queen was otherwise engaged so I kicked around a few local watering holes unattached.

Usually content with silent rumination I was pulled gently into conversation with a comely drinker on the next stool. “Describe yourself to me” she said “As a TV character.” Easy enough; insomnia and on-demand keep me current.

“King Ragnar”, I said. “From Vikings.”

“Huh. Really? How so?” she asked, then quickly added “in five words or less.”

A deliberate, if not particularly effective, editor I chewed for a moment before saying, “Aging alpha. Going mad.”

The crooked half smile would have been enough. Would have sufficed. But then she reached over and tousled what’s left of my hair. Get it? She tousled my hair! What was I to do with that? By her hands, I figured her a decade my junior. At least. She wore no ring but neither did I. She patted my hand and slid off the stool for the ladies room. I was careful not to watch her walk away.

Leaving a twenty on the bar I followed my hard-on out the door where the chill December night hit me like a splash. Little Tommy led me down the street to a place where the drinks were cheaper and women were scarce.

Training Day

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From Google Images

She breathed heavily eyeing the line of barrels before her. Despite the cool of the morning a bead of sweat-not the first-broke free between her shoulder blades and traced down her back. Gripping the reins a little too tightly she nudged the horse forward briskly.

First barrel, second, third, they cleared them well enough but she was dirt-kicking choppy, not gliding-not smooth. Fuck! She pulled off the last barrel and away from them. “Come on Sandy…”she implored under her breath as she moved toward the fence line.

“Nothing the matter with Sandy”, Braxton Taylor growled as she passed him. This guy heard everything! she thought. “Run them again”, he ordered, “and finish this time.” She yanked at the reins-digusted.

What a shit morning! Every drill-every run-had been off. She lifted her hat and wiped her sleeve across her forehead. Stalling, she stood in the stirrups and pushed her long, dark hair behind her ears then settled the hat back in place. Maybe bringing Braxton here was a mistake-she’d felt that when he first stepping into the ring. Then she relaxed and felt better. Now worse. The forested ridges of the Appalachian Range pushed skyward around her. Often shrouded in mists with fog tumbling down the hollows, today the sky was clear and the air crystal and piney. If only Lynette Holt’s mind were that clear.

Why had she pulled off the barrel? Braxton wondered. She hadn’t completed one course this morning. For a few moments she would look in control-the horse and she one-as she had during her six year reign as the state’s barrel racing queen. Then-for no reason-she would fall apart. Maybe not so badly that a layman could tell, but he knew, she knew and the judges would know.

At the top of the line of barrels, she took a breath and leaned a little forward. “Go”, she breathed and Nancy launched forward. One! Two! Three! Four! All clean then she leaned too far right and missed the last one again. “FUCK!” she barked aloud then slumped in the saddle.

Braxton hated swearing in the ring. He hated harsh words around horses. Everyone thought he was some kind of damn horse whisperer. He was good-she’d give him that. She hadn’t lost one championship in the years they were married. Of course, she hadn’t won one since they split. Didn’t place last year. Fuck it, she thought. I’m paying him. It’s my place now. I’ll swear if I want.

That was better, thought Braxton reading her body language right up until it wasn’t. The racer he knew was in there but was only showing up in spurts for quick peeks. They’d been out here for the better part of an hour and he’d cajoled her to this point-but it was like trying to wring water out of a dry towel. He sidled up closer to where she moped, Sandy pawing at the dust.

“Any chance at all you might get your head out of your ass so we could get some actual work done today?”

She could almost hear the blood rushing to her head. “You’re not exactly helping!” she barked.

“Only room in the saddle for one.”

Her chest tightened and a low keening sound-like a steam kettle-started in her ears. She white-knuckled the reigns and leaned over Sandy’s neck; her horse’s signal to “GO!” And Sandy went. They wheeled away from the barrels and in a flash were out of the circle, through the open fence and up along the edge of the field. They veered past the lone walnut tree and jumped lightly over a deadfall she had been meaning to move. With a tight turn she came back and jumped it again. There she is, Braxton thought watching her loose in the field. One with the horse, anticipating moves, initiating others…Finally, in the middle of her little tantrum, he caught a glimpse of the rider she had been in her twenties. Not so long ago in years-but decades in attitude and confidence.

She pulled Sandy up. What the hell was she doing? That hadn’t helped at all. The bands around her chest still constricted, her ears still rang and she was squeezing the reins like they were rattle snakes. Breathing in gulps, she settled into a soft lope back to where Braxton was watching her. His eyes were hidden deep in the shadow of his hat but she knew they would be slits-not so much against the sun-he squinted at night. No, he’d be trying to figure her out-overthinking as usual-trying to find a different answer to the question they both knew too well.

“Why did you hire me?” he asked as she pulled up beside him. “There are a slew of trainers in this valley would work for free for the chance to put you through your paces.” She jerked her head and met his lidded gaze with her own sharp glare.

“Already had them!” she snapped with more venom than she intended.

“And how did that work out?”

She opened her mouth to snap again but bit her tongue. She needed to look away and pulled her eyes over toward the cursed barrels.

“I think it’s time we take a walk to the tool shed”, Braxton said flatly.

Lynette looked away from the barrels and over to the small outbuilding-more workshop than toolshed-beside the barn.

“Not likely”, she said, avoiding his eyes.

“Pretty likely” he answered.

“No way.”

“Get off your horse.”

“No. Fucking. Way.” She spat every word like it was poison to be expelled.

His implacable gaze didn’t waver and his stance betrayed none of the roilings starting to rise in him. He looked up at her, into her and through her, watching the veins in her neck redden, twist and climb like pulsing vines. “Suit yourself” he said breaking the look and turning away.  “Let’s run it from the top”, striding toward the barrels.

Her hands-squeezing and releasing the reins-sweated and the tightness hardened in her breast. She sucked air in quick swallows and watched a red film cover her eyes from her temples in.  Sandy was calm-but attentive-awaiting any signal.

Walking away Braxton heard her grumble “God Damn It!” then a leather creak, then the sound of boots hitting dirt. He turned to see her stalking away from him toward the tool shed. He absently stroked his jawline with his knuckles watching the perfect inverted heart of her taut backside stomp off then disappear through the open door into the dim interior. Which then disappeared itself when she slammed the door. At that he grinned-he didn’t even know that door shut. “Come on Sandy”, he led the horse into the ring, taking his time. He closed the gate and headed to the shed.

Inside, dust motes rose and whirled in the slashes of sunlight burning between the roughly hewn barn siding. She had a corner of the shed where she kept her tack and some odds and ends but didn’t spend much time in here where the memories lay thick like coats of old milk paint. The old saddle shone on the stall rail where she kept clean and oiled after swearing to get rid of it. The low bench was in the same place it always was but she stayed clear of it.

She took off her hat off and hung it on a peg, shaking her hair back to hang loosely around her shoulders. Her breath was coming easier – still shallow and quick-but easier. The bands she felt in her chest were loosening but replaced by cold flutters low in her gut. She knew these feelings well having many times gotten herself into something that there was no way out of.

Outside the open widow she watched a small flock of chickadees swarming the thistle bushes along the back fence. Further down the line a few wild canaries flashed and lit and beyond them the dark green of the foothills rolled. She was finally seeing the beauty of the morning when the door scraped open behind her. Her heart quickened.

Because she had closed it, he pushed it shut behind him and stood waiting for his eyes to adjust. Lynette was a silhouette backlit by the window until she eventually clarified and materialized out of the gloaming. She kept her eyes averted-not down-but not looking at him. He ran his hand over the smooth leather of the old saddle-not really surprised that she kept it so well.

She thought she wanted to say something but decided to let it be. She could manage her words well enough but was afraid her voice might betray her. Did she want this or not? Was she wrong to want this? Why couldn’t she just ask-just take what she wanted? Why, why, why? The badgering questions were tightening her chest again.  Still watching out the window she listened and knew what he was doing. She heard him lift the old saddle then place it on the bench. Waiting for Braxton to speak first would be a fool’s errand. But she engaged in the game…listening to the birds and waiting. Truth was, she was weak in the legs and suddenly concerned that she might stumble.

Ready in time, she turned slowly and walked carefully, almost weightlessly, as she might wade through a deep hole down in the creek.  Gone were the sharp angles and precise stomping of a few short minutes ago. Her head swam slightly as she walked up on the saddle for the first time in close to three years. She glanced over at Braxton who was also hatless and spending an inordinate amount of attention on rolling up his sleeves.

The window was still her focus as she loosed her belt from the buckle then unsnapped her jeans. With a deep breath she pushed the zipper down then pushed the pants down off of her hips squatting slightly to send them all the way down to her boots. Then, linking her thumbs in the waistband of her panties, pushed them down as well. The cool air on her naked parts excited her.

Braxton watched as she rubbed her butt up under her shirt tail as if trying to smooth the creases. He really hadn’t expected his day to wind up here but had prepared for it. Had set it in his mind as a possibility. But nothing could prepare him for the sight of Lynette Holt lowering herself over the saddle and pulling her shirt up her back.

The woman he had loved and lusted after for years before was splayed before him-backside high and luscious-hands flat on the dirt floor in front of her, boot toes dug in behind. The sight hadn’t changed much in three years. He knew the contours of her body better than his own. Maybe a little thicker, maybe a little rounder, maybe the dividing crease between the two milky moons a little deeper, but only something he would notice.

Finally it was Braxton who, stepping close, spoke first.

“Are you ready for this?” he asked.

“Yes”, she hissed but he couldn’t tell if it was still in anger or something else.

She heard the dry rasp of his belt being pulled through the loops. She had noticed the belt he wore as soon as he had walked into the ring that morning. It was an old one-one she had bought for him when they were married. One she had felt before. He eyed her bottom goose-bumped in the cool shade of the shed and took measure with the strap swinging in his right hand.

She expected the pain-but pain in memory against reality. She gasped when the first lash fell hard and squeezed at the dusty floor. The second cracked across the middle of her backside and she opened her mouth wide but made no sound determined to take it stoically. She tensed as the third slash whistled and gasped when it landed. He slapped the fourth swat above the others-below the tan line but high enough to burn anew.

Yes, she expected the pain but what she hadn’t expected were the burning eyes. She didn’t cry. She once finished a ride with a separated shoulder and no one was the wiser. She remembered that now as she squeezed her eyes tight in a futile attempt to hold back the tears that would not be denied. She coughed a sob, then another-tiny cracks and trickles in the face of a dam that finally broke with one more brilliantly placed slash dead center on her bottom.

Her wail chased the chickadees and finches into the woods. The next slash angled lower to kiss the top of her right leg and she screamed afresh. This was new-she had been stoic under his strap before. But this time she cried and kicked her boot toes into the dust.

She spread her legs as wide as her confining jeans would allow-wide enough for Braxton to see her womanhood open to him. He pulled his eyes toward the floor looking up only to bring another lash down on her heaving bottom. It was like looking at a favorite place from the seat on a train-he’d been there, would love to be there again-but right now couldn’t reach it.

And it was harder to avoid knowing how wet she would be in there now. How thickly welcoming would be her embrace of him. He could feel the warm pull of her, sucking him in-gripping him tightly as he thrust deeply into her the heat of her strapped bottom rubbing against him. He felt his own surge lifting from inside and…Jesus! He blinked and shook his head. He cleared his throat and swung-hitting high again leaving a strawberry ribbon across the deep dimples just below her belt line that he oddly, suddenly remembered the taste of.

But he was with Vera now. And she had been less than thrilled as it was that he was going back to training his ex-wife but the money was good and she relented. Obviously not knowing what all training Lynette Holt entailed. He couldn’t very well go home with his ex-wife’s scents and juices drying over him. But there it was.

Braxton paused and gulped air almost as raggedly as she did. Lynette’s bottom glowed red like the coals of a banked cooking fire.

“I’m done if you’re done”, he said huskily.

The wave of tears ceasing, she caught her breath and looked back over her shoulder. The hair stuck to her face and he couldn’t see her well. “Six more”, she said. “Across the bottom.” That second direction could seem redundant but he knew her “bottom” meant the bottom of her bottom-the sit spots-where her legs met the swell of her cheeks.

After the sixth and final lash she collapsed like a pricked balloon over the saddle. The tension and hard muscles deflated as she lay limply breathing. Braxton glanced at the work bench seeing-and secretly happy-that there wasn’t the jar of aloe unguent that they used to keep there. He felt he would have been somehow duty bound to rub some on her hot and tortured bum and that might be more than a man could stand.

She heard him stride across the floor and saw the light spread across the room as he opened the door. Not a word. Not a touch. She was fine with that, she thought pushing herself upward and standing slowly. She bent in the knees slightly and cupped her cheeks feeling the heat. “Damn, Braxton”, she whispered squeezing and rubbing lightly-gingerly. “Damn…”

Outside Braxton leaned against a fence post and lit a cigarette with a shaking match. He pushed himself down his left leg to make standing more comfortable. Sandy came over and nudged at him. He was careful to blow the smoke away from Sandy’s muzzle. He stroked the horse gently and scratched at her ears. “Sandy, you are about the only woman I understand”.

He heard her walking up on them. Her face was blotched and red-eyed and her hair was pulled back severely into a pony tail. She stood beside him and breathed deeply, gazing at the ridgeline.

“Sorry about that Brax. I shouldn’t have…”

He cut her off. “Never a problem Nettie.” She smiled for the first time that morning at the nickname she hadn’t heard in three years.

She walked around to Sandy. “Let’s go to work”, she said pulling herself up into the stirrups and settling-very gently-down into the saddle.

Firing for Effect

 

Emily

 

It was a bruise. That wasn’t up for debate. The question was how she got it. It was a small one-no bigger than a thumbnail-but high enough on the inside of her thigh to make a man wonder. No matter. She had a matching one on the outside of the other thigh that was a little larger. She had always been a klutz-even when she was light on her feet, she wasn’t really. Great dancer but liable to trip coming off the floor. But still. It could have been a love bite, a hickey, a sucker-bite like they called them in high school. No telling. Unless he flat out asked and he wasn’t drunk enough to do that. Wasn’t really drunk at all.

She wore the same high tight shorts and tank top that she rocked thirty pounds and twenty years ago. Still drove him mad. Maybe because he rarely saw her in them these days. He would see her in the warehouse and mostly imagine. If you could call remembering, imagining. But the ache he was starting to feel was not an ancient memory. It was here and now.

She was larger than she had been but who wasn’t? It was well-earned size. One kid, living over in Ohio with his dad coupled with over a decade of physical work-lifting and stacking and running a forklift-left her scant time or energy to run on a treadmill for hours like the women in the office. Nah, this one was built by life for life.

She shifted to her left and pulled her right foot up onto the chair further stripping her right thigh. Her shorts climbed high enough that their next move would be inside of her. Jesus, she didn’t even know what she was doing. At least he hoped she didn’t. That would have just been cruel. He stopped caring about the scant camouflage his sunglasses provided and stared.

He almost jumped-startled out of his leggy reverie-when Teddy slipped a cold 16 over his left shoulder. No idea that the guy was behind him. So not good. “Thanks, Bra”, he covered and popped the snap top. “No worries”, he said loping past them on his way to the shed no doubt engrossed in one of dozens of projects that he starts but never seems to finish. Their acre back here always looks like a shop class after the lunch bell rings.

“How is it with him?” he asked her crotch.

She watched him disappear into the shed. “Its fine, you know? He’s Teddy”, she shrugged and dropped her foot creating a large expanse of smooth, bare lap. “He’s okay-I mean he wouldn’t have been my first choice, you know? But he was there.” She shrugged. “Sometimes it’s good to come home to somebody. Even somebody goofy.”

“I might have something open up in the early shift for him-not a full 40-just part time.”

“Anything you can do, sweetheart”, she said.

His mind went to a place where he could feel that bare lap under his. He felt himself riding them-flying like Superman in the comics-arms straight out and his legs kicked back and himself grinding between her thighs.  The back of his throat went dry. He sucked at the beer warming in his hand and shifted uncomfortably.

“You flat out stopped texting me. It’s like a have to hunt you down during the day to just see you.”

She looked over her sunglasses at him. “I know how it is with you. But you’re married to my best friend. If we did it and it went sour-and face it, with me it usually does-I’d lose you and that would hurt. But I’d lose her and that would be tragic.”

He knew the words from his wife’s romance novels that were scattered about the house. “Yearning” was one, “aching” was another. He always thought the aching wasn’t real-just a feeling. Not like a bad shoulder or twisted knee. But this was worse. Though sunken deep in the old chaise, playing the cool cat behind his shades, he felt like he was leaning forward directing the pain in his heart-and lower-at her. Firing for effect.

How do you know when it’s time?

You’re standing there, nude, at the mirror;

Red, scrubbed and powdery fresh from the shower.

I’m sitting on the edge of the bed not wearing much.

To me, you look the same as you always did-

Nothing’s fallen, nothing’s spread.

This moment used to lead to others where we would come together,

Slide, slip, push, grunt, scream and collapse.

Again and again.

Now you’re curling your hair telling me what I need to

Pick up at Costco.

(Was I supposed to be taking notes?)

I’m not really listening;

Busy trying to get sports talk through the static on the clock radio.

I let my eyes wander to the fullness of your bottom-imagining the dark secrets enveloped there;

The sleek firmness of your gym-toned legs.

Why imagine? I wonder. You’re right here. Just reach.

Not like I haven’t before.

For a moment I imagine my tongue like a frog’s-

Flicking and diving deeply between your bum-cheeks from over here.

A test.

I asked if you wanted to come back to bed.

We had time, after all.

Your reflection froze and said “Sure, if you want” with the same enthusiasm

Put into listing produce.

“Shhh, wait!” I said, holding up a finger, finally getting the station clearly.

“No, then?” the curling iron high-in a holding pattern.

“I’ll go make coffee”, I said. “It’s getting later…”

“Okay.” You said, getting back to the hair.

“And don’t forget it’s the frozen strawberries we want.

Not the mixed berries you got last time.”