Fifteen Minutes of Fuck
Steve slurped loudly as he finished the last few drops of his beer. He grabbed Jen’s hand and scooted closer, aided by the unique properties of the vinyl seats in their favorite sports bar. As Jen stared intently at the closest big-screen TV, Steve looked around the bar. They’d been to The Duchess dozens of times, but he wanted to take it all in for posterity; the bottles behind the bar, displayed on shelves all the way to the ceiling, the stained gray carpeting, the year-round multi-colored Christmas lights, and the rows of video poker machines by the back wall.
He rubbed the sleeve of her faded, University of Portland Soccer T-Shirt, and said, “Are you really going to keep wearing this for the rest of the season? It’s so old it might just turn to dust and blow away at any minute.”
“I have to. Every time I wear it they win.”
He held his glass aloft, the universal gesture signifying “another beer.” The skinny waitress who never seemed to leave the bar or take a breath without a cigarette between her lips, nodded and pointed at his empty glass.
Manchester United scored on a corner kick, and Jen cheered wildly. She tapped the top of his head once, and kissed each cheek twice, her long-standing post-goal ritual.
She squinted quizzically and looked at him playing with her sleeve. “You’re affectionate today.”
“There’s a reason.”
“Well, now that we’ve both graduated, and you’re going to be coaching at Wilson, I think we should finally take the plunge and get married. There’s really no possible reason for you to delay it any longer.”
“You mean right here in The Duchess? Watching soccer on a Sunday afternoon?”
He scooted even closer, his hip bumping hers. He licked the tip of her nose.
“Yuck, you know that creeps me out. It’s almost as bad as touching me with your eyeball.” She dabbed her nose with a napkin, and held it up, pointing to the damp spot. “See. Ick. Bad boyfriend.”
“I’m serious.” He punched her lightly on the shoulder.
“And so am I.” She punched him back.
He moved to the other side of the wooden table. He grabbed her beer and held it directly above his head, partially blocking her view of the TV.
“What are you doing? Give that back.” She half-heartedly waved an arm near his head, and sighed. “I need it. Manchester’s got the ball again and I have to drink whenever Hargreaves gets a touch.”
“Only if you answer me.”
She reluctantly averted her eyes from the TV. “You’re serious?”
“Okay. Wow.” She stood up and grabbed her beer, and twisted from side to side to pop her back before sitting thdown. “Well, it’s very sweet of you to keep asking me. Really, I’m touched. But before I answer you have to tell me something.”
He folded his hands under his chin and fluttered his lashes. “Yes…?”
“I’ll give you my latest answer, but only if you tell me what you’d do if you had godlike powers for one day.”
“Now it’s my turn to say, are you serious?”
“This is why I love you.” He leaned across the table and puckered his lips as far out as he could, like a zoo baboon hamming it up for the camera. He couldn’t quite reach her. “C’mon, a little help here.”
“No, not until you answer.” She pushed his lips away with her glass.
The waitress delivered his beer, and he took a big swig, wiping the residue on his sleeve. He burped. “Okay, if I had one wish, or could be god for a day, or have some amazing superpower, I know exactly what I’d do.”
“There was only one option. To be godlike. Your listening skills are a recurring problem in our relationship, you know.”
“Thank you for the constructive criticism. But, getting back to your question, I’d only need 15 minutes of godlike power to change the course of history—forever. Someone else can use the other twenty-three hours and forty-five minutes.”
“Are you sure? I gave you the whole day, don’t you think you should use it to impress me?”
“I don’t need it. I’m that good. You see, most people, when posed this proverbial question, blurt out something without thinking. They say they would stop global warming, or cure AIDS, or free all the blind puppies and kittens in the shelters. Something normal like that.”
“I don’t think there’s anything normal about wanting to free all the blind puppies and kittens.”
“OK, maybe not that choice exactly, but my point is that most people would choose something that would have just a momentary, localized effect. But, believe it or not, I’ve actually thought this through, and I decided long ago if I had a great superpower, I would decree that for 15 minutes no one in the world could speak, write, sign or gesture anything but their local version of fuck.”
“Oh, I believe you’ve thought about it before. I figured you’d come up with something pretty fucking weird.”
This time his lips managed to reach hers. He said, “That’s why I love you. You get irony. But let me illustrate it with a story. The 15 minutes of fuck would begin the minute the main character awakens.” He moved back to her side of the table. “Ready?”
“Yes. I’m not the one with the listening problem.”
Steve awoke at 9:00 a.m. on a Sunday morning, with a start. He quickly relaxed when he saw that his beautiful new bride was still in the bed. He was so happy that this angelic creature had said yes to his proposal that he lay there for 30 seconds, admiring her pulchritude.
“Excuse me for interrupting, but will the whole thing be this cheesy? And what the hell is pulchritude?”
He kissed her cheek and said, Good morning my dearest cupcake. I love you. However, it came out as, fuck, fuck. He wondered if he was dreaming.
His sounds awakened Jen. Even with big, sticky sleep boogers in the corners of her eyes, she was a vision of perfection. She looked at her handsome new husband, and uttered, fuck. No one knows what she was trying to say.
They looked at each other, then sat up.
They tried to speak, and said fuck, simultaneously.
They tried again, and both said, fuck, fuck, again at exactly the same moment.
Steve jumped out of bed, and with eyes wide, he grabbed his throat, then his mouth, and then looked in the mirror and checked the contents of his boxers. He held them all at the same time, and attempted to speak very quietly. Even though it was barely audible, it was fuck.
He grabbed a pad of paper and a pencil from the nightstand. Jen attempted to encourage him by pointing to the pad, but instead gave him the finger. He looked surprised, and tried to gesture that it was okay, but instead gave her the finger back.
He was trying to write What is happening? Is this a dream? Instead, he wrote fuck, fuck, fuck?
He was too upset to realize what he’d just done. She read it, and with fear in her eyes, held it up to him. He screamed, Fuck! and jumped back, hitting the wall.
She took the pad, her fingers shaking. Sweat ran down her beautiful forehead, her cute tongue stuck out to the side like it always did when she was focused. She pressed too hard and the lead broke. She collapsed onto the bed.
He grabbed the pad and saw:
They rushed to the window. They looked to the left, at their elderly neighbors, Earl and Norma. They were walking in circles in their front yard, she pointing up at the sky, wailing, fuck, fuck, fuck, and he looking at the ground, his head in his hands, moaning, fuck, fuck, fuck. Their dog was howling, and there was only one rational way to interpret it.
They then looked to right, at the Miller house. Bob was working on his truck, revving the engine. He dropped a wrench and yelled Fuck, still unaware of the world’s plight.
Bob’s wife ran out and grabbed him by the shoulders, and yelled, Fuck!
He replied with confusion and a hint of anger. Fuck?
She yelled fuck, then he yelled fuck, then they rushed into the house screaming you know what. A few moments later the whole family came outside and they looked at their fucking elderly neighbors, then back at each other, and both yards erupted into a raucous fuckfest. Bob’s kids joined in the uncontrolled cursing, but they were quickly reduced to giggling and waving the finger to each other. Bob gestured fuck you to the kids and yelled fuck and herded them all inside.
Steve and Jen turned on the TV. Every channel displayed the rainbow test pattern. They rushed to their computer and stared at the keyboard. The letters and numbers had been replaced with fuck. They pressed the key formerly known as Enter, and it brought up a page of photos of obviously concerned politicians and news anchors. They clicked on one. George Bush was in the White House pressroom. He said fuck, fuck, fuck, f—u—c—k, then laughed and gave his own throat the finger and left the podium. His press secretary stepped up to the podium, gave the finger to the room of reporters, said fuck, and scurried off.
Steve grabbed a book on the desk, and pointed to the cover. The title, author’s name and publisher were still in the same typeface, but they were all just plain old fuck. He opened the book, and, of course, all the words were now just fuck.
The two lovers sat on the bed and held each other, weeping, afraid to speak or gesture. When Steve couldn’t take it any longer he kissed Jen on the lips and said, “I love you.”
They jumped up and down, laughing and talking normally. The 15 minutes had passed.
Jen jumped right in. “Pretty good. It’s twisted and brilliantly silly, like you.”
“But, I do foresee a few problems. Don’t you think people like brain surgeons and air traffic controllers might have trouble if they can suddenly only say fuck?”
“Not really. I’m pretty confident that if I start it at 9 a.m. on a Sunday it will go smoothly. I guess if we’re gonna get technical I could make some of the life and death services exempt. No, actually, I take that back. I think they’d handle it pretty well. They’re trained in these kinds of emergencies.”
Jen jumped back in. “But even if I’m willing to overlook these issues, why should this make me want to marry you? I have to admit I was hoping you would use your powers in some way that would be related to us—and your proposal. And it concerns me that your story could easily be interpreted as an indictment of marriage. Is it supposed to be some kind of allegory about our future or our sex life? Does it mean we’ll never be able to communicate successfully?”
Steve frowned. “No, no, nothing like that. I just thought it was a cool story, a way to showcase my romantic funny side, show that I can make laugh. Nothing serious. Please don’t read too much into it.” He put his head on the table and moaned.
She tapped the top of his head. He looked up, and she and kissed each cheek twice. “I was just kidding, honey. I agree with you. We’re all fucked in the end, and even if your story’s message was unclear you probably meant well, and you’re pretty darn cute, so why not tie the knot? I just hope our next 15 minutes of fuck are more enjoyable than in the story.”
Steve grinned and pointed at her. “See, now that’s why I love you.”
| COPYRIGHT 2006-2011
Portland Fiction Project
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED