A Short Story by Jason Moore
Written using the suggestion "Embarrass"
Originally featured on 12-31-2007
As part of our series "Relatively Forced Holiday Laughter"

Rick steered his Vespa into the driveway, removed his helmet and jacket, and looked into the scooter’s mirror. He brushed a few flakes of dandruff from his shoulder and picked a small seed from between his left incisor and canine tooth. He checked his nostrils, spotting a white hair protruding near the bridge of the left opening. Always a problem spot. It took three tugs, but it finally accepted the inevitable. He flicked it into the flowerbed as he climbed the steps.

Ann was seated at a barstool at their kitchen counter, working on a crossword puzzle. “Hi Honey. How was the drive?”

“Just fine Schmoopy Pie.”

They kissed. Rick reached around, groaned, and squeezed her butt with both hands. “God, you’re hot.”

“Rick, behave yourself.” Ann tried to hide her smile, and squirmed away and grabbed a bottle of wine from the cabinet.

She was in her mid thirties, a full 20 years younger than Rick. They’d met when she worked as a caterer on the set of one of his movies, and they’d been together ever since. He was attracted to her long black hair and generous curves. When asked why she was with him, she usually answered with vague platitudes. But then, feeling pressured for more concrete details, she would cite his athletic build, unflappable optimism and full head of hair.

Rick plopped down on the leather couch in their dining room. “I had an epiphany on the way home, and you’ll be happy to know that this time I wasn’t touching myself in an impure manner when it happened.”

“That’s nice.”

“No, really. I’ve made a decision and I’m very excited about it. I think it’s going to be a turning point in our relationship.”

“It sounds so final. Want a glass?”

“Yeah, that sounds good. I’m parched.” He grabbed the bottle and turned the label toward him. “Ah, Pinot Noir, 2002, the year we consummated. Do you remember?”

“Yes, I remember. How could I forget those 30 seconds?”

“Yes, I agree, it was a great way to start. Anyway, that seems like a good segue to a discussion of my epiphany. There doesn’t seem any way to ease into this, so I’ll just blurt it out.” He sat straight up, set his glass on the table, and ran his fingers through his hair. “I’ve decided that you have to tell me by six p.m. if we aren’t going to have sex. It’s that simple. You know I’m not usually one to put my foot down for fear of stepping on something squishy, but I can’t have another night like last night. I didn’t fall asleep until four.”

“Rick, what the hell are you talking about?” Ann furrowed her brow, staring at him over her glass of wine. She twisted the stool from side to side.

“Well,” he began, “It just doesn’t seem fair for me to plan my whole day around having sex, and then to be crushed, nay shunned, just because you’re a little tired or sore from some new yoga position. I know you probably married me hoping I’d be tiring out about now, but it looks like I’ll be your personal stallion for some time to come. So, until I’m too old to care, I just think it would be courteous if you told me by six if we aren’t going to do it. You know, just say, ‘Rick, I just don’t think I’m up for it tonight.’ Come to think of it, you can say it however you want, as long as I get the message before six. For example, if you’re feeling biblical you could say, ‘Rick, I don’t want to lay with you or any of your brothers tonight.’ Or, if in a literary mood, ‘Sir, I doth protest your advances and my chastity shall remain unsullied until another sun has set.’

“Now, before you jump to conclusions and start thinking I only have my needs in mind, it did occur to me that we might be in public at 5:55 p.m., as you panic and realize you only have five minutes to convey your lack of desire. So, as a symbol of my commitment to this relationship I suggest that we will use a code word when necessary. That way you don’t have to be embarrassed to announce to the world that you aren’t interested in being ravaged to the point of nearly unbearable bliss that evening, as crazy as it sounds to me that you would ever want to deny yourself that otherworldly pleasure.”

Ann replied, “I really don’t think you’re a necessary component of my otherworldly pleasures.”

“We can discuss that later. However, I think I’ve thought this through and come up with the best possible word, and I’ve decided that you just have to say ‘snuffaluffagus’ when sex is to be cancelled. I should also add that silence implies consent. So, to clarify, if you say nothing, sex will be my option. But, a quick snuffaluffagus will imply — no, signify is better, that the bar has been closed and no more drinks will be served that evening. Of course, and I think this is very important to remember, if you utter the word you can still opt back in at any time, at your discretion, using any combination of the lexicon of our relationship. I don’t think we need an official undo word. Just say anything to signify the game is back on.”

“Everything is a game with you.”

“Perhaps.” He paused for a moment, lost in thought, then continued, “You know how some couples say strange things in front of you at a party—a non sequitor that just stumps you? Like when we were at the Tefflestein’s party and we were talking about Romanian Architecture and Seth turned to his wife and said, ‘Honey, I just love the pinky toe.’ Do you think that it was an innocent aside, a reflexive terret-like outburst? No, no, I say! It was a sign about something. Probably sex.”

Ann spun her wine glass on the countertop, smiled condescendingly, and sighed. “Rick, are you finished?”

“No baby, I’m just getting started. So, for example, we might be at dinner and you’ve finished nibbling your asparagus and catch a glimpse of the hairs on my sexy forearm and feel a tingling in your loins. At that point you wouldn’t want to accidentally say anything like, ‘I wonder who would win in a fight, Snuffaluffagus or Oscar the Grouch?’ Or, you would want to avoid sneezing and accidentally muttering snuffaluffagus.”

Ann snorted. “So, Rick, if that really is who you are tonight and this is not your night to ‘experiment with new personalities’ as you put it, if I do tell you that I don’t feel like it, say, for example because I’m still mad that you told the guy in the checkout line that I like it rough, I just say—what was the word, sluff-a-bus-like-us?”

Rick giggled. “Oh that’s grand. It’s snuffaluffagus. He’s the big, gay, mocha-brown, 80’s rock star-looking-creature from Sesame Street. They don’t call him Snuffaluffagus because he looks like pan fried chicken steak, if you know what I mean.”

“I have no idea what you mean, but that’s nothing new. I think you’ll have to write it down. Maybe print it on a T-shirt. Or better yet, a necklace with the word in big, gold letters, to symbolize our love. But, I’m just curious, what would you do? I mean, if I dance the snuffaluffagus dance, and we’re not going to have sex, how will that help you.”

“Well, my love, once I recover from the shock I can then start planning my evening accordingly. And most plans will involve one word: detachable showerhead. Or, if you’re out for the evening, who knows? Lunch meats? Couch cushions? A sock?

“But that’s not the point. I’m relatively healthy and virile for someone my age with Eastern European heritage, and I just think that it’s perfectly reasonable for me to have the option of self-medicating if need be. But, I need time to plan. The worst thing in the world is to get pumped up and then have to let the air out of the New Year’s Day float just before the parade, if you know what I mean.”

“I rarely know what you mean. But, that’s for another weird day with you. And what if you don’t want to have sex? Is it the same? The same unpronounceable word?”

“Ah, good question. Improbable as it is that I would be the one to pull the pie out of the oven before its ready to be served, we should, in all fairness, have a male analog to snuffaluffagus. So, I think I should say ‘flacidophilous.’ Get it? Flacid-ophilous? I will say it as though I am discussing the virtues of well-cultured dairy products, and no one will be the wiser. Mind you my self-flacidophilization will be rare, but it is good to be prepared.

“At dinner with friends, I might just say, ‘I wish I could have a rum and flacidophilous right now.’ Or, I might look you in the eyes and say, ‘Ah, I hear the flacidophilous are beautiful this time of year. Want to drive out to the country and see them next weekend?’ Or, I’ll just stand on my chair and sing, to the tune of Annie, ‘flacidophilous, flacidophilous, I love you, flacidophilous, you’re only a day away.’ I’m actually quite excited about the possibilities of proclaiming my lack of desire. It might usher in yet another emotional genre for me.”

“Hmm,” Ann mused, “you mean you already have more than one emotional genre?”

Rick continued, “I can see that you’re not taking this very seriously. Really honey, I think you need to think about my needs more. It’s not the same for you. You don’t need it like I do. I am a man, and a force equal to the power of a thousand raging buffalos courses through my body, and when it expects to feast on the grasses of the open range you can’t just stop the stampede and expect the bulls to abandon their longings. If they do, the herd becomes cranky and lost, then listless and depressed. It wanders aimlessly, staring into the distance with no purpose. Then, when it finally realizes it’s been denied its feast it stamps its cloven hooves and looks for food wherever it can, until it falls asleep.

“But for you the feeling is more like that of a flowering vine growing over the trellis of a stuccoed Italian balcony. A fast growing vine in the spring mind you, but a vine none-the-less. It wants to bloom and bear its fruit, it really does, but if the conditions aren’t right its attention will turn elsewhere, and it will lay dormant until the next season, content in the knowledge that its flowers will be enjoyed in the future.”

“Rick, you are seriously demented and narcissistic. You see me, or my longings, as mere crawling plants, and you command the libidinal forces of herds of wild animals?”

“Yeah, that’s about right.”

Ann stood up. “Well, considering that it’s seven right now, and I haven’t told you yet, I have decided that I choose to exercise my right of ‘grand rebuke.’ This law states that in cases of undue chauvinism and misogyny the recipient of said behavior has the right to exercise her grand rebuke, thereby superceding any and all previously undeclared snuffaluffagi. In short, it’s an atemporal, automatic snuffaluffagus exemption.”

“I see.”

“Yes, and you have clearly, perhaps unknowingly, committed acts which warrant said grand rebuke, and no jury in the land, once I had laid the facts clearly and simply before them, would see it otherwise.”

“Would it be a jury of my peers?”

“You have no peers.”

“Thank you.”

“That wasn’t meant as a compliment.”

“Oh.” He finished the wine in his glass. “So, are you really serious? We aren’t going to have sex tonight? Are you aware that it will be two nights in a row?”

“Nope, not tonight. You might want to self-medicate. And it’s not just because of this whole code word tirade either. Mostly, I just don’t feel like it. But, if you’re up at 12:01 a.m. wake me up. It will be a new day and I might be interested.”

Ann went to bed at 9:30, and Rick new better than to pursue his prey when a denial of service had been expressed. Instead, he made himself a turkey sandwich with extra meat and removed his shoes and socks, settling in for a few hours of watching women’s beach volleyball and adult cartoons. He finished the bottle of wine, and half of another, and kept thinking of Ann waiting for him in their soft bed. However, as the evening wore on and the UCLA volleyball team kept winning, the trip up the stairs seemed longer and longer and the couch more and more inviting, and when morning came he was still in front of the TV. He smelled coffee and dragged himself to the kitchen.

Ann said, “I found parts of a mangled turkey sandwich and your socks laying on top of a couch pillow this morning. I couldn’t even bring myself to inspect them, so I wrapped them all in an old sheet, and tossed them in the garbage can, just to be safe.”

“For the best, I’m sure.”

Ann jangled the car keys. “I’m having breakfast with Terry. Oh, and don’t forget about dinner with the Millers tonight.” She leaned over and whispered in his ear with a breathy, deep voice. “My blooming flower and I waited for you until 12:30. Too bad you didn’t make it.”

With a closed fist, he lightly pounded the table. “Ugh.”

She walked toward the front door, and turned just before she closed it behind her. “And by the way, snuffaluffagus.”

Read More By Jason Moore

COPYRIGHT 2006-2011
Portland Fiction Project

Archives Archives