I’m excited to offer a free story from THE CHEAT SHEET, reprinted in its entirety below. It's called...
It was both the best and worst annual day at his job. He always found himself trying to stifle laughter as the salesman showed him the latest. This year's hot item was an erect penis that actually simulated ejaculation. It came with seminal fluid refill kits which, when you ran dry, you'd load into the bottom of the unit, which was actually where the pubis bone would be on a normal human, not just a sturdy rubber cock pointed upward toward the room's fluorescent lights as if they were a nursery's blue spectrum metal halides and the unit was actually a tulip.
It simulated ejaculation when stimulated, har har, by the rather bland act of pushing a button on a tiny LED remote. You didn't have to, say, go hide in a corner, or behind a lab table, or under a tarp like you were at a Gallagher show—not that the kids knew who Gallagher was any more—because you didn't have to worry about the faux seminal fluid hitting you—unless you were into getting peppered by a nine second rapid fire enfilade of one-half cup sifted, unbleached flour mixed with one cup of distilled water and a dash of Elmer's paper mache art paste brought together via light simmering—because the unit was only supposed to be simulated, stimulated, after a prophylactic was already firmly in place.
This year's catalog also included new items such as highly sophisticated intercourse puppets Ana-Tommy and Anna-tomy; educational board games Contraception (based on Concentration) and a Battleship knock-off meant to show how random and easily STDs could be passed on (“B-2?” “Ugh, you sank my...I mean, you gave me gonorrhea.”); and countless new Blu-Ray releases; but product #97B, the ejaculation simulation, was the only one that had made Arthur Lampkin almost lose it and begin laughing. Which was something that salesman Thomas Jude would have surely made mention of to assistant school superintendent Deborah Henke, who also happened to be Arthur's fiancee, not that any one in the school district knew of this fact.
Arthur didn't even know why he bothered looking through the catalog every year. His school district's budget only allotted him $250 per annum and that wasn't nearly enough to buy the more high end stuff. Item #97B, the ejaculation simulator, cost $685 itself. That was an item more for private school budgets. Every year, Arthur was only able to authorize purchase of the same antiquated slide presentations that were in use when he was a student, a few lame brochures the kids would never read, and of course 10,000 condoms (an avg. of 6.4 per student) of a brand name he'd never heard of (Diplomats) and one whose integrity he certainly didn't trust. Certainly for his own personal usage. Then again, his fiancee, upon the two of them getting engaged, had immediately gone on the NuvaRing (for a monthly co-pay of $50) so he didn't need condoms at all any more, whether Diplomats or the finest KlingTite brand lambskins. Though, of course, Arthur knew that lambskin was totally porous and unsafe in protecting against STDs despite the high cost.
Arthur was, had somehow become, the sex ed teacher for the Horatio Alger Schools, a small group of five middle and high schools ranging from middle lower class to lower middle class socioeconomically and scattered throughout Staten Island. Most days he was transitory, hoofing it around on foot like a vacuum or carpet salesman trying to hawk his wares. Though, instead of trying to sell wet-dry uprights with fourteen accessories or 9,000 feet of cream heavy-duty, Arthur wheeled around a beat-up Samsonite carefully filled with all the sex ed tools he had acquired over the past seven years.
Most nights, assuming neither of them had meetings, Arthur would wheel his suitcase to the Staten Island Ferry where he'd meet up with Deborah to ride back to Manhattan together. Arthur never understood why Deborah so insisted he wait for her every day, because she would spend all twenty-five minutes of the ride talking on her Blackberry, recapping significant events of the day with each of her five schools' principals. Today, as Arthur watched Deborah yak away, he began wishing he was a cigarette smoker so he'd have some activity to keep him occupied. Unfortunately, he'd never even tried a cigarette once. His mother had scared him away from all illicit substances from a very early age. Arthur had an iPod but he wasn't much into music so he never listened to it, and, though he was a voracious reader, the bouncing of the ferry made focusing on a book quite difficult. So Arthur typically stood on the top of the ferry, held firmly onto the rail, and felt the gusts blow through his hair, the little speckles of the Upper New York Bay splash occasionally onto his face as he dreamed. As he fantasized.
Children at lower income schools are notorious public masturbators. They aren't necessarily trying to be crude, and though they might even know better, they just can't help themselves. You see, and there was no truly PC way to say this, but since lower income school children were a little less intelligent—of course, through no fault of their own—they were also less imaginative. Higher income schools like, say, the East Medowick School District which Arthur had attended K through 12, rigorously encouraged kids to use their brains, their imaginations, to put on their “thinking caps” from an early age. And, thus, in the whole nature/nurture debate, these schools happened to form smarter and more imaginative children. Both in the classroom and elsewhere.
What this meant was that Horatio Alger children, unlike Arthur as a child, were unable to sit in their bedrooms privately and imagine nude men and women, think of the kinds of images that would titillate them and lead to them masturbating. It was only when they were out and about, when they saw an actual man or woman that they got excited and thus began playing with themselves. Arthur thought they could easily curb this rampant public masturbation in their schools by just slyly distributing pornography to the children for them to take home—surely they could find tons of old Playboys and Penthouses on the cheap at a local flea market—but Deborah, always by the book and worried about how things would look to outsiders, quickly nixed that idea. So, instead, Arthur simply had to try and teach the children that masturbation should only be done behind closed doors, especially as a much safer alternative to sex.
“How would you like if every time you wanted food, you needed someone else to cook the meal for you?” was an analogy he started his masturbation lesson with.
“Pretty good, yo!” was a typical response he got.
Back at Whitehall Street on the other side of the bay, Arthur and Deborah would take the 1 Train back to their tiny studio high on the Upper West Side where they would immediately jump into bed. Not for sex, no way, but rather because the apartment was so tiny they had no other place to sit. So, they'd sit side by side in bed for the rest of their night, eating take out food, while Deborah would do school work on her laptop and Arthur would quietly watch reality television which Deborah would silently judge.
Above the head board of their bed hung their two undergrad diplomas from Harvard and MIT respectively. If lambskins didn't do a great job of preventing pregnancy, then a sheepskin from MIT sure did. A joke Arthur and his friends at MIT had often made during their years at the college, which Arthur had entered as a virgin. A biology major, he had met Deborah, a management school major at Harvard, at a spring blue-grass festival along the Charles. It had been on the first night he had ever drank a beer, and that magical beer had somehow given him the ability to talk to this beautiful nerd. They were quickly in love, quickly each other's first love, each other's only love, and you could have even put scare quotes around “love” there to mean sexual partners, too, and after both graduated, they enrolled in Teachers Without Borders, expecting just to do the program for a year before enrolling in grad school. They both fell in love with teaching, though and, when the year was up, they decided to go back to school not for business and advanced molecular biology masters, but for education.
Their diplomas would have been right at Arthur's eyeline during missionary position sex, one of the only three positions Deborah would have sex in, if they still had sex. Arthur used to jokingly call his and Deborah's sex life pretty “vanilla,” but at least it was an all-you-could-eat vanilla, like those buffets in Las Vegas with soft serve ice cream machines at the end of them. Now, however, the vanilla had melted away to nothing. Thus, Arthur masturbated a lot. Luckily, he had a remarkable imagination. Living in such close proximity to his domestic partner, he really couldn't watch any televised pornography, and he was too scared to ever visit adult websites on the school-issued Dell laptop he lugged around all day, even though he probably could have called it job research, so he really had no choice but to use his mind. He'd put on his thinking cap and dream about sex with the slinky midtown businesswoman he'd seen on the subway, fantasize about finally getting to try doggy style with that new civics teacher, imagine actually getting a blow job to completion including swallowing. Then, he'd sprint to the bathroom, pump two pumps of Deborah's fancy vanilla bean moisturizer into his left hand, and peel one off in a non-suspicious amount of time. Returning to their bed, he always prayed Deborah didn't smell the vanilla wafting up from his crotch region.
Arthur was always humiliated, if not downright jealous when, during private consultations with schoolchildren, they'd explicitly and intricately discuss their sex lives with him and inadvertently reveal that theirs were more advanced than his. It sounded like they were bragging! Tenth grader Tony Luogo was well into double-digit notches on his bed post, despite sharing a bunk bed with his younger brother Tito. Eleventh grader N'ichelle Jardine discussed strange positions with such breezy familiarity that Arthur would wait until after their meetings to look up online just exactly what these positions entailed. And Twelfth grader Gilbert Cruz had already had several threesomes!
It certainly didn't help that in Arthur's rolling luggage he lugged around a large vulva made of soft velvet and satin which he would often use to show both the boys and girls the specific parts of their bodies or their partner's bodies that they might not be aware of. Which confused him. Why was he helping encourage kids to have good sex? If they wanted the kids to slow down on the fucking, should he have really been teaching them where the clitoris and G-spot was located? What did that have to do with good health?! As a sex ed professional, wouldn't he have been better served trying to trick the kids into utilizing bad techniques? Or, better yet, having a non-sex life as boring as his and Deborah's which would eventually leave them disinterested in the whole shebang? Whatever the case, Arthur always felt funny giving advice to someone who could be called “mommy” or “daddy,” even if said mother or father was eighteen years younger than his age thirty-two.
Arthur had once read in some magazine that you're officially in a relationship with someone the first time you sleep with them but don't “sleep” with them. That sounded pretty spot on, he thought, and especially incisive for some stupid women's magazine (meaning the magazine was stupid, not that it was a magazine for stupid women, although he imagined plenty of stupid women read the stupid magazine). There were some caveats, of course, to the sleeping and not “sleeping” thing. Maybe one or both of you had gotten too drunk earlier in the evening to perform. Or maybe you'd opted to merely engage in oral or anal sex for the night and didn't officially consider those to be sex, even though they had "sex" in the name of them. Or it could have simply just been that time of the month for the female. But, assuming those things played no part, if you were sleeping with someone and not "sleeping" with someone, you were in a relationship with them claimed the CityGirl magazine he'd been forced to read while waiting for Deborah's mani-pedi to be completed.
Arthur thought about that quote a lot and always wondered how it applied to religious people. Because, even though many of them might have “saved themselves” until marriage in the sexual sense, surely they didn't wait until their actual marriage nights to first sleep side-by-side in bed together. That would be downright bizarre. It was a big enough dice roll to assume the man or woman you were about to marry would be sexually compatible with you, but to wonder whether he or she would be sleep compatible was a whole 'nother ball of wax. You didn't have to “sleep” with your spouse every night for the rest of your life but you almost certainly had to sleep with him or her. What if you didn't find out until a few hours after “I do” that your new spouse was a snorer, or a tosser and turner, or a restless leg syndromer? It was simply too risky.
Arthur had known many religious people from his childhood growing up in Manhattan, Kansas, but he'd never really explored their relationships to sex back in the day. He simply knew that next to no one was having any, himself included. And, ever since he'd become known as the one weirdo who not only left the state to go to college, but who also was majoring in some Darwinian shit, well, let's just say he had become the prodigal son around the Little Apple, not that he exactly knew what a prodigal son was since that was a story from the Bible which he still had never read. It was further strange to him that many of the New York City students he taught were just as super religious as his childhood classmates. But, while his friends at East Medowick High let their religiousness manifest into them being chaste, the students at Horatio Alger only brought up their convictions after they became pregnant. The rare religious student at East Medowick that actually had sex and then accidentally got pregnant would always secretly have an abortion—there'd been plenty of murmurs—but all the kids at Horatio Alger had sex and it was only when they got pregnant that they'd invoke their religious beliefs to explain and justify why they wouldn't have an abortion, no way, no how, even though their lives would probably be much better off if they did (not that Arthur was allowed to say that).
Arthur realized that many of these kids probably just wanted to bring a new friend into the world since many of them came from broken and unloving homes. Their new baby would possibly be the first person who had ever loved them unconditionally. Thus, Arthur always tried to be a loving friend to his students, to show them that there was someone out there that cared for them despite what they might think.
Late Friday afternoon brought Arthur a typical meeting with a student. Kendra Broyles, a pretty girl who actually behaved herself and did well in school. Mr. Keller had even recently mentioned to Arthur that she was getting college scholarship offers, a huge rarity for Horatio Alger students. He'd hate to see her throw away a promising future just for some meaningless sex with the losers she went to school with so Arthur focused extra hard on letting her know he cared and wasn't there to judge.
Arthur had a policy to allow students to take as many condoms as they wanted, as often as they wanted, no questions asked, which lead to questions never being asked at all. That was why it was such a welcome surprise when Kendra starting grilling Arthur on birth control methods.
“Now, Kendra, there are several types of birth control...excuse me...'protection.'”
It had become mandated that condoms no longer fall under the semantic umbrella of “birth control” any more as that could be perceived as offensive to homosexual students who, of course, were practicing “birth control” simply by being homosexuals.
“There are lambskin, made of sheep intestines, which date back to the Roman Empire, the days of Julius Caesar who I believe you will be reading about in Mr. Keller's literature class later this year...”
A bit of a pedant, Arthur always liked to stress the education part of sex ed, as much as the sex part, especially to a rare sharp cookie like Kendra. Which didn't mean he also didn't try and act like a cool, hip, gettin' laid, knows the ropes kinda guy the kids could confide in about pregnancies and threesomes and orgies and sex positions he only had learned about recently via urbandictionary.com.
“However, we don't endorse lambskin in this school district because they are simply not safe enough in our opinion.”
“Gross. Why would I want my man to put some lamb guts on his dick any way?” is what most of his students would have said when Arthur gave this little sexual history lesson, but Kendra coolly replied, “Yeah, I've read the same things online.”
Arthur next explained about latex condoms and polyurethane and the new polyisoprene. He discussed spermicide Nonoxynol-9 which he explained coats the condom in too slight of amount of spermicide to actually prevent pregnancy and which he noted had even been found to possibly increase the chances of HIV acquisition due to its propensity for causing micro-lesions in the tender mucous membranes of the vagina. He explained about the pill, The Pill (always capitalized in the same way The Bible usually is), and about all the other ways to prevent pregnancy and the spread of STDs as Kendra just sat their nodding. It was truly a bravura performance by himself, thought Arthur, the rare time he actually felt like he was making a difference in a child's life.
When he was finished, after he took a breath and sipped from his coffee mug filled with water fountain water, Kendra scrunched up her face in that look children get when they are embarrassed and struggling to get something off their chests. It was a face Arthur saw less and less as kids became less and less embarrassed by their behavior, less and less aware that things like filming each other having sex with a Flip Cam, or having a contest to see who could win an unofficial senior class superlative for Biggest Slut, or arranging an orgy via a Facebook group were outside the norm of typical teenage behavior.
“Mr. Lampkin, I'm really embarrassed to come to you...”
“Please, don't be, there's nothing to be embarrassed about, Kendra. Our bodies compel us to do weird things sometimes...”
“...but I feel like I need to.”
“Go ahead, please.”
“You see, it's my mom...”
Arthur got a lot of student visitors who wanted to discuss sexually inappropriate touching acts perpetrated by family members and by now he felt at home handling it, getting to the root of the issue, calling children's services, even visiting the household to play a tough guy, saving these children, his children, from the awful lives they'd been dealt.
“She's a prostitute. Over on Richmond Terrace.”
“Terrace. Yeah. And Broadway. Anyway, Mr. Lampkin, I'm worried about her. She's not cut out for this life. She's smart. She used to be a paralegal at Wessen & Lang before she got laid off last year. She couldn't find anything else and she got desperate. She didn't know where else to turn and one of her disgusting cousins showed her this easy way to make a buck. Now, I'm afraid she's obsessed with it. She's gone all night, every night. I'm worried she's not being safe. She didn't have teachers like you when she went to school. She doesn't know these things. She had me when she was only fifteen herself. My dad, well, the idiot who fathered me, split town and headed to the Bronx before I was born. I've never even met him. And, my mom hasn't been with another man since. She's put all her time and effort into raising me. She did a great job. I guess now that I'm almost an adult and almost self-sufficient she thinks she can go back out there on her own. But she can't! I'm scared for my mom! I'm scared!”
Kendra fell into Arthur's arms, sobbing all over his Century 21 dress shirt. You weren't technically, legally allowed to hug children and, of course, Arthur never instigated hugs, but there was no way he was ever going to turn away a desperate child who needed a hug, rules be damned.
“You have to talk to her, Mr. Lampkin. Tell her this lifestyle is dangerous.”
Arthur knew more about female bodies than 99.9% of most females and he never even got to put that knowledge to good use. Of course, being one of only six non-janitorial males working in the entire school district amongst hundreds of female faculty and administration, scads of women hit on him thinking him single, not knowing that Arthur was with Deborah, especially since she never wore her engagement ring during school hours. But, of course, Arthur had to rebuff them all. Even if he'd wanted to cheat on Deborah, she would have easily found out.
There's no real great public transit system on Staten Island and the walk to Richmond Terrace took Arthur nearly twenty-five minutes. Luckily, it was a nice cool fall night as the sun started setting over New Jersey. On the first Thursday night of each month, Deborah met for dinner with several school administrator cronies from various school districts throughout the five boroughs. Arthur always cherished those first Thursdays as nights he could be his own man. Eat out on a burger or some buffalo wings, maybe grab a beer or two, watch some NBA games and the sleaziest reality TV possible, loudly masturbate (in bed!) til his heart's content.
Ms. Broyles wasn't that hard to locate being the only African-American amidst a group of Latinos. In real life, prostitutes don't look like they do in the movies, Arthur thought. He didn't mean he expected them to look like Pretty Woman prostitutes. Of course not. He expected them to look like prostitutes on the other end of the spectrum: beat-up and spit-out drug addict types. But these girls, these women, looked fairly normal if not just a little less clothed, a little more dolled up. Ms. Broyles appeared shy, too, less brash and confident that her brethren, almost embarrassed to look Arthur in the eye when he asked: “Ms. Broyles?”
She turned toward Arthur and he felt the sudden urge to explain further.
“I'm your daughter's, I'm one of Kendra's teachers. Mr. Lampkin. Arthur is my name and I...”
“Mr. Lampkin. Arthur.”
Ms. Broyles moved closer to Arthur as the other women scattered.
“What you want me to do for you tonight, Arthur? Suck your dick? Fuck you? Doggy style? Reverse cowgirl? I can get another girl and we can have a threesome. I can get all those girls and we can have an orgy. Or it can just be you and me. Any position you can dream of, any way you like it. I will make you come.”
Arthur tried to stifle his laughter but he couldn't. He couldn't stop. He couldn't stop laughing.
© 2010 Goldfarb
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I think you'll love the rest of the collection too, all stories about the sexes, sex, and sexiness in New York, which features these ten other tales:
"The References" -- The final few lines of one's resume are usually devoted to references that can tell a would-be employer you're the right person for the job. One's life references are a little different, but even more important.
"The Ambiguous Woman" -- A man struggles to figure out exactly what a woman is thinking while on a date with her.
"The Boyfriend Trials" -- A fed-up thirty-year-old woman has a most interesting methodology in searching for the perfect partner.
"Health" -- Arthur Lampkin is the sex-ed teacher at a Staten Island high school whose life is a living hell of comical sex-ed tools, oversexed teenagers, and an undersexed home life.
"The Feminist" -- Kelly Meyers is the only male professor at an all-girls college.
"Comedic Romance" -- Love in real life never happens like it does in Hollywood rom-coms.
"He Proposed" -- The day a woman gets proposed to is the most exciting day of her life. And, she can't wait to tell you all about it.
"Born. Again" -- What happens when a sexually promiscuous New York atheist spends a weekend with a chaste Midwestern Christian?
"Gross Humans" -- If you knew what most couples did behind closed doors, you'd be repulsed.
"Ain't Nothing Like a New York Romance" -- There can't possibly be a better place to fall in love than New York City. Can there?
"The Cheat Sheet" - [plot redacted]
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