The Proposal
A Short Story by Tim Josephs
Written using the suggestion "Water"
Originally featured on 03-14-2008
As part of our series "Elements of Style"

“’The streams of water cascaded onto Jake from the showerhead like long strands of al dente spaghetti. The pink loofa in his hand was like a spongy meatball and the flecks of soap sprinkled his chiseled chest like parmesan cheese. The shower curtain opened and Jake turned to see a naked Penelope. He followed her strawberry-colored cheeks down to her soft, vanilla shoulders. When he got to her pert, olive-shaped nipples, he felt his kielbasa begin to stir-‘“

“I think that’s enough, Monica, thank you.” Barbara said from the end of the long conference table.

Monica, the short, mousy woman in the pale pink business suit blushed and sat down next to her.

“That’s from ‘Afternoon Snack’,” Barbara said. “One of Mr. Sutterman’s stories.”

“And that’s just a sample of the kind of stuff I can do,” Larry Sutterman said from the other end of the table. He straightened the large lapels of his powder-blue suit and leaned back in his chair.

“Well, Mr. Sutterman,” Barbara said. “I have to admit I was surprised but also intrigued by your letter. That’s why I’ve called all our editors together.”

“I can see that, and may I say what a lovely bunch of editors they are.”

Everyone but Theresa, sitting closet to the door, smiled.

“Mr. Sutterman, what are your qualifications again?” she asked.

Larry smiled.

“That’s an excellent question and please, call me Larry. I’ve been a writer primarily in the field of erotica for almost thirty years. You don’t have to do the math, let’s just say I started young. I’ve written for Seymour’s Sex Stories, Tales from Below the Equator, Dong Diary, most of the better known erotic story websites. And you know those Penthouse letters?”

Larry surveyed the six women sitting in front of him. Only the oldest, sixty-four year old Florence was nodding. Larry winked at her.

“I’ve written hundreds of those.”

“That is impressive,” Gloria said, “but do you really believe this is the right kind of material for Martha Stewart Living?”

“This is a sharp group,” Larry said to Barbara. “I certainly do and here’s why: The way I see it, and no offense to you and your fine magazine, but it’s pretty much just for the ladies, am I right? You have the recipes and the doily-making and what have you, which is all fine and good, but if you get some other stuff in there, whether it be the occasional letter to the editor about picking flowers in the forest for the perfect centerpiece that turns into an orgy, or like the story the beautiful Monica just read from that utilizes food imagery to tell an erotic tale, you’re gonna attract a lot more male readers, am I right?”

Larry’s tongue darted out of his mouth and glided over his top lip, just under his brown mustache, for a split second. Tammy, the youngest of the group at age twenty-eight, sat up suddenly.

“What else do you have?” she said loudly. All the other women glanced at her and she reddened and looked down at her hands. “I mean,” she continued quietly, “if we were to hire you, what other kinds of things could you write?”

“I’m glad you asked. I’ve got lots of stuff that would be right up your alley. I have a story called ‘Meat Curtains’ that puts a sexy spin on home decorating. There’s another one called ‘Suction Problem’ that involves a vacuum salesman and a lonely housewife and includes a tip on how to get pesky wine stains out of the carpet. I’ve got holiday stories about Halloween, Easter, Kwanza, you name it. In fact, I just finished a Thanksgiving one called ‘Stuffing’ about a pilgrim and her turkey baste-“

“Thank you, Larry,” Barbara said. “I think we get the idea.”

Larry grinned, the gold fillings in his teeth glimmered. “I’m sure that you do.”

“Well, if there are no more questions…” Barbara looked around but no one moved. “I’d like to thank you so much for coming in to see us.”

She got up and walked to the other side of the table. “You’ve certainly given us a lot to think about.”

“The pleasure was all mine,” Larry said. He stood and shook her hand, gently caressing her palm with his thumb. “Ladies, it was wonderful meeting you all.” He bowed slightly and walked to the door.

“So, what do you think?” Barbara asked after Larry had left.

“I like him,” Florence said.

“He’s certainly…charismatic,” Monica said.

“Yes, I have to admit he seems passionate about what he does,” Theresa said, “but is this the right thing for the magazine?”

“Well, I’m not sure,” Barbara said. “But to tell you the truth, it probably doesn’t matter what we think.”

“What do you mean?” Tammy asked.

“Apparently Martha loves the idea.” Barbara smiled and shrugged. “Alright, everybody, back to work. This magazine’s not going to put itself out.”

They all got up and headed for the door.

“Gloria, how’s that article on doily-making coming along?”

“Should be ready by this afternoon.”


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