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30Jan/110

“The Cheat Sheet” — FREE STORY #2

I'm returning to my beloved alma mater of Syracuse tomorrow because a class at the prestigious Newhouse school actually has THE CHEAT SHEET on its syllabus.  Do you believe that shit?  Yeah, I don't either.  You actually have to read my curse-filled short stories in order to get a diploma.  What a world.

In honor of that, I thought I'd give out another story from the collection.  I mean, if students have to study it, you normal folks might as well get it for free.  It's called...

THE REFERENCES

Larry Clarence sat across the table from Shannon Doe. Doe wasn't really her last name, but Larry dealt with a lot of women whose last names he never learned, so, just like an autopsist at the morgue, when he didn't know a last name he'd throw a tag with "Doe" on their toe until he learned otherwise. Then again, Clarence, the surname he'd given Shannon Doe, wasn't his last name either.

Clarence and Doe sat in a dark romantic restaurant on the Upper West Side surrounded by other couples of a similar age. Larry was fifty-two, distinguished and classy looking, Shannon assumed he was a businessman with a closet full of nice suits in a nearby Columbus Avenue high-rise. He had inferred as much. Shannon was a forty-five-year-old divorcee who lived across town on the Upper East Side. They'd first met in the middle at Central Park's Boathouse, where Larry stood waiting for his grown daughter while Shannon read on a nearby bench. Larry mentioned that day that he had a father/daughter outing at least once a month.

“You really think you're done having kids?”

Older people on first dates are typically more forward than younger people, asking questions more probing than those asked by a generation still trying to find their way in the world.

Larry closed his eyes and smiled.

“Look at me, Shannon.”

“Look at you what? I'm sure you're still...virile.”

Around them the rest of the pairings in the quiet restaurant were clearly long-time wedded couples out on a date night. Shoveling food into their mouths and not really speaking to each other, just excited to be away from the kids for a few hours.

“You're doing pretty well on this first date here, Shannon,” Larry joked, “maybe you'll get to find out about my...virility.”

Shannon giggled. It felt good to flirt. Men her age never flirted any more, they just expected a crass economic exchange. They ask out, I accept, they pay for food, I eat the food, I tell them about my life, they listen and act interested, if I wanted another meal I may have sex with them. But this felt good. Different.

“Perhaps. But not on a first date. Never on a first date.”

Shannon always said that line but who was she kidding, she would definitely sleep with Larry if he continued acting normal enough and didn't turn into some psychopath like a lot of hot shot Manhattan businessmen out there.

“Fair enough.”

She admired his placid restraint. All men acted like they didn't care when she mentioned she wouldn't have sex with them any time soon, but she could always see the seething hiding behind their eyes. The number crunching in their head. "I paid $500 for this prix fixe? I could have had a hooker threesome for a lot less and still watched the Knicks game."

“So...you got any pics of your kids? Mike and Jessie was it?”

“What do I look like? Some proud papa so in awe of his two amazing kids' abilities, achievements, and successes that I carry around five-hundred photos of them in my wallet?”

“I just...”

Larry laughed as he pulled out his phone.

“I keep those five-hundred pictures on my phone!”

Shannon laughed. She really liked Larry. He was smooth and cool, not sleazy in the least. How could a guy so in love with his children possibly be?

He started shuffling through the pictures.

“There's Mike and Jessie when we went ice skating in Central Park last year, and there's Mike winning an award at his job, Jessie with her sorority sisters...”

*

Jessie sat on a stool across from Keith in a Soho wine bar.

“Is your brother looking forward to meeting me?”

“You know how it is. I'm sure Mike will feel a little awkward.”

“Mike's not one of those big brothers who's gonna want to kick my ass since I touch his sister?”

Jessie playfully punched Keith in the shoulder.

“I'll kick your ass if you ever stop touching his sister.”

Keith smiled.

“Any how, baby, does my brother look like much of a tough guy?”

Jessie held up her phone and showed a picture of her and Mike in matching Christmas sweaters.

“No, I guess he doesn't, babe.”

*

Mike sat at a table with Katie, both sipping on margaritas.

“I must admit, Mike, I'm kinda nervous.”

“Don't be, honey. My dad's a big softy. Yeah, he'll make a lame joke or two, but nothing worse than that. And, I bet you'll be best friends with Jessie before the meal is through. All women love Jessie.”

Just then the waiter escorted Larry and Jessie to the table. Mike excitedly stood, shaking Larry's hand and kissing Jessie on the cheek.

“Glad you could come, sis.”

Katie was elated to see Mike had such a nice-looking family. It's hard being a single girl in such a tough city and stumbling upon a guy with a close-knit family made her feel at ease.

“It's great to meet you two. Mike's told me so much about the both of you, even though we've only been dating a few weeks.”

Larry smiled mischievously at Mike.

“Oh, he has, has he?”

“He has, sir.”

“I'm sure, Katie, he's neglected to mention I tell the funniest jokes this side of Jackie Mason. You ever hear the one about the bullfighter in the china shop?”

Katie instinctively reached down and squeezed Mike's hand. She could definitely see herself being part of this nice family one day.

*

Mike was the first to arrive at the Russian Vodka Room in Midtown where they held their meetings on the first Saturday of every month. He took his preferred seat in the back corner of the dark bar and pulled a blank check from his wallet. He couldn't believe he was still having to write checks in the year 2010. When would everyday people be able to swipe their credit cards amongst each other? Writing checks was such a pain and this check was a real pain—some $245 paid personally to Larry Darrow.

“Vodka neat, Sergei. I got some economic pain to numb.”

Just then Larry Clarence Darrow entered the bar.

“First one here, eh Mikey? Give me a vodka neat, too, Sergei, and a plate of gravlax.”

Larry sat down across from Mike just as he signed Mike Euclid to his check and slid it across the table to Larry.

“Nice work, Lar'. I appreciate it and you nailed it. But ordering two apps was kinda sleazy, you can't deny that.”

“I was hungry!”

“Fair enough. But I'll get you back on Thursday night.”

“Be my guest.”

Just then several more entered the back room, pretty much all men in the 25-40 age range, but also Jessica "Jessie" Jones who sat down next to Mike, pounding fists with him in a mocking way.

“'We are family, talkin' bout my brotha and me...'”

“What are you so happy about, Sister Sledge? You're smiling like you just lost your virginity.”

“Yup, for about the 1000th time, Mikey. I'm just so absent-minded with it!”

Larry snorted and Mike smiled wryly.

Then, Terry Jordan, the founder and head of their little networking organization entered the back room, closing the door behind him.

“OK, hello, welcome everyone to this month's meeting. Of course, I don't need to check today's minutes to know our first order of business is finishing up last month's still-open topics.”

Mike grumbled under his breath, whispering to Jessie.

“Do you believe this tool? Has to follow Robert's Rules of fucking Order for every meeting? I didn't join this club to sit in student council meetings on Saturdays. I could be watching the Knicks.”

“Shhh...”

Jessie glared at Mike as Terry read from a legal pad.

“I wanted to start out with salutes for some particularly good work. Let's give it up for Carney Davis who played his first son last week.”

Everyone politely applauded as Carney cockily waved.

“I also want to give it up for Mark Raines and Shelly Stein who convinced their dates that they weren't just twins, but identical twins. Very impressive.”

Heartier applause as both Mark and Shelly nodded, neither looking like the other in the least.

“And lastly, I have to salute our elder statesman Larry Darrow, who later tonight will be handling his first ever role as grandpa.”

Even louder applause. Larry threw his hands up at everyone: “Oh, stop it.”

*

An hour later the meeting was over, their assignments for the week distributed, and some final orders of extracurricular business now being handled. In one corner of the room, Carney took pictures of Mark and Shelly with their arms around an older man, Dave Wendt. Tony Mulligan and Jeff Dunvy sat in a booth toasting beers as numerous pictures were snapped. And Terry patted some talcum powder into Larry's hair, making it look grayer and him older.

*

Larry Darrow had been a white collar con man and had spent two decades bilking naive venture capitalists—oh, those exist—out of their money based on various made-up entrepreneurial ideas. That was why Larry could never give out his last name. If you Googled him, you would quickly and easily find a laundry list of charges which had found him in minimum security prison from the ages of 45-49. Honestly, Larry wasn't a bad guy. He was smart and ambitious but grew up in circumstances that never allowed him to take a normal path to career success. Oddly enough, "con man" is not a job for the lazy and for his entire adult life until he got busted, Larry was working non-stop. If he'd had the childhood and connections to have gone to college and gotten a legitimate job at age twenty-two, he would have worked far less hours and made far more money. He had always been a smooth talker and two decades of his career made him even smoother, but he'd never had the time or know-how to meet any women and thus hadn't had much sex in his life and had never had a relationship. Leaving jail, he decided that was the most important thing in the world to him. But no classy New York lady was going to date an unemployed former felon with no career or family or friends. Luckily, Larry met Terry one day at the Central Park softball fields and Terry told him about the club.

*

Jessie Jones had a tough childhood in Iowa after her parents died in a fluky car accident when she was four. She was the only one to survive the accident but was now forced to live in foster home after foster home for the rest of her childhood. She had no real family, her foster families only liked her because she made them around $1500 extra a month in stipends, and she obviously had no friends and was frequently bullied in school because of her shoddy clothes and learning disabilities. By twelfth grade though she had become the classic movie stereotype and the poor, gawky girl had become a real beauty. She moved to New York on her eighteenth birthday to pursue a modeling career but her hips were a little too wide, her face a little too asymmetrical, and she hated the lifestyle—she had gone eighteen years without much food on her plate and wanted to finally change that. She earned money waitressing at a cruddy little bar on Chambers Street, had no friends, only drunken Wall Streeters trying to hit on her, and she was very lonely. Terry flirted with her one day as she walked through the South Street Seaport, thinking her a tourist, and, in a later conversation, though he'd claimed his club was purely male, he encouraged her to join.

*

Mike Euclid had been raised by highly religious parents who shipped him off to an all-boys seminary boarding school at age eight because they thought he had become a bad child (he was caught chewing gum in his second grade class). It was at the Ozarks Divinity School where Mike learned to talk and listen to people so well, good skills for a would-be priest to have. But as Mike got older, he became more self-aware and curious. He wasn't sure if religion was or was not for him, but just like the Amish rumspringa, he wanted to know what else was going on in the world. He wanted to actually have an interaction with someone he didn't have to call Sister. At age seventeen, he snuck off the school compound and with part of the mere $500 he had saved from odd jobs got a Greyhound to New York City, the only American city he had really ever heard of and only in novels. There, he spent his next $200 on Hell's Kitchen prostitutes. He didn't have sex with them, he didn't even really know what sex was yet, or how to have it, he was just so excited to talk to girls. Quite rapidly, Mike integrated into society and, within a year, no longer felt like a boy raised by Catholic wolves. Always fresh-faced and handsome, Mike was even able to start attracting women by his early twenties, tourists usually who were very interested in taking a “real New Yorker” back to their Times Square hotel room for a romp. But Mike was really a sweet, moral kid at heart, and what he really wanted, now that he was nearing thirty, was his first girlfriend. Girlfriends were hard to attract, though, when you had no family and friends. He was the first one to reply when Terry posted an intriguing ad on Craigslist back in 2007.

*

When applying for a new job, the final few lines of one's resume are usually devoted to references—those certain people in your life who can tell a would-be employer that you're the right man for the job. The references in your actual life are a little different. A person can say things like that they are smart or funny or caring or loyal, but why would any one take another person's word at face value? That's why we all use shortcuts and get personal information from a person's references—their parents, siblings, friends. You know, that whole “company you keep” thing? These references carry a ton of weight. It's much more believable when one's sister says he's a nice guy than when the guy says it himself. That's how Terry's little group got started.

If one, and only one, person believes something, they're either an iconoclast or crazy. Two people and you've got an idea worth listening too. Three and some traction is forming and soon, even if the original idea is a lie, if enough people respect it and believe it, then it might as well be true. How could Mike not be a nice guy if all these people from his life claimed he was?

Terry realized this. Terry was that weird breed that neither wanted a girlfriend nor a one-night stand. Oh, don't get me wrong, he had no problem with one-night stands, but they were a lot of work to consistently acquire. He'd much rather acquire committed companions and sexual partners for brief three, four, six month periods. This wasn't easy if you were a guy like Terry without any family or friends. After a few dates the girls would always get curious, if not downright creeped out—“There's no one else in your life? You have no friends?!”—and this would send up a massive red flag and soon the relationship would be over.

Keeping a girl in his life was easy for a few weeks when he was flying solo and lying up a storm, but at some point Terry would have to let the girl delve deeper into things. That's how Terry's little group, unofficially known as “The References,” got started. A group of like-minded people who, for whatever reason, didn't have genuine references in their lives, and who needed these phony ones to help them in whatever they were trying to accomplish. Terry and Larry and Jessie and Mike were essentially players in a repertory company, playing whatever parts were needed that week.

*

Every Saturday after their meetings, Mike and Jessie would go to some plastic paddy pub around the corner to drink beers, watch sports, and try to pick up tourists. They never discussed anything of consequence. Knew really nothing about each other other than surface stuff. They were pretty much only warm body company. Neither Mike nor Jessie had a single friend in this world and one couldn't even really tack on “aside from each other” because they weren't really friends either. They simply didn't know how to be a friend to another person. If a conversation ever occurred between them, it was usually to discuss strategies of their lied lives.

“Abraham Lincoln said, 'No man has a good enough memory to be an effective liar,'” Mike noted.

“Tell me about it.”

“That's why I started keeping track of all mine in this.”

Mike removed a tiny Moleskine notebook from his jacket pocket and Jessie eagerly snatched it, quickly thumbing through. While Jessie snickered at some of the entries, Mike eyed a tourist en route to the ladies room.

“Lemme guess: Albuquerque?”

The tourist turned, confused.

“Are you from Albuquerque?”

“Flagstaff.”

“Close enough. One state over.”

“You sure know your geography.” She curiously glanced at Jessie still thumbing through the Moleskine.

“Oh, don't worry about her—that's my sister.”

The girl slightly nodded and tried to hide a grin as she broke off and got back on task toward the ladies room. She would inevitably return to speak to Mike. Tourists were always impressed by Mike's ability to guess where they were from. It wasn't that hard. Every state was close to countless other states so if you just picked a semi-obscure city in the region you'd be “close enough.” And, figuring out the region was just a matter of knowing accents and styles of that region. Like this tourist, who had a solid (real) tan, washed out blond hair, and wore the kind of pastels only assholes from the Four Corners region wear.

Jessie handed the Moleskine back to Mike.

“Not for me. I never worry about getting caught. I can wing it for four or five months before any man gets suspicious. By then, I'm over the relationship any way and onto something new. Though, I will admit I've been considering taking improv classes at UCB to help get me quicker on my feet.”

“Typically, I'd agree with you but I think I'm actually starting to like Katie. I don't want it to end.”

“It has to end. When you're attracting people to your life through lies, once the lies come to the surface, the relationship has to end.”

Mike looked seriously at Jessie, in almost a pathetic way.

“What would be the harm in pretending we're siblings for the rest of time?”

*

Mike and Katie arrived first to the East Village Thai place, then Jessie and Keith.

Katie had liked Jessie so much that she thought it would be fun to double-date with her.

If Mike and/or Jessie were normal people they would have probably thought it a tad weird to go on a romantic double-date with a sibling—even though they weren't really siblings—but instead, Mike was simply pissed that Jessie had played her part so well that Katie had wanted to actually be friends with her. Jessie hadn't tried to play her part any better than competently, but now she was kind of touched that Katie had specifically asked to see her again. Jessie had never had a friend, especially a female friend, and the possibility of Katie being her first excited her.

But she didn't tell Mike that.

Mike was still fuming that he would have to continue his lie and surely make it even more complex, just to continue dating the first girl he had ever thought he might truly love.

The initial dinner conversation actually focused more on the dynamic between Keith and Mike, who were finally meeting for the first time. Keith had joked that he had been nervous to meet Mike but now he seemed like a real cool guy—“Do you like college football?”—and Keith had loved that picture of the two siblings wearing geeky turtlenecks with snowmen and reindeer on them. Mike only marginally recalled posing for that particular picture with Jessie even though it had occurred just a month ago on a sweltering June day totally inappropriate for turtleneck sweaters.

While Keith yakked Mike's ear off about his thoughts on the wishbone making a comeback in the Big Ten—Mike actually didn't like college football—Katie and Jessie used their side of the table for girl talk which Mike struggled to monitor. He didn't like that. He especially didn't like how Katie and Jessie were instantly acting like the best of friends. And Mike'd had enough when, after one too many bottles of Singha, Katie had tried to make a funny joke after Jessie ordered a Happy Family platter, noting: “Just think, Jessie, we could all be a happy family one day!”

Keith chuckled and Jessie smiled and Mike exploded.

“No we couldn't, Katie! You know why? Because Jessie and I aren't even family! I barely know her! She's nothing more than a fucking actor in my life!”

*

After Mike had calmed down and carefully explained to a stunned Katie and Keith what was actually going on—Mike thinking this honesty would finally free him to have a happy life with Katie—and after Katie had stormed out, throwing the remaining Singha in Mike's face, and Keith had called Jessie a “lying bitch” and left, too, and after the dust had settled and the kindly manager had formally asked Mike and Jessie to leave The Holy Elephant, and after Jessie had apologized to Mike, but not specifically, and Mike had apologized to Jessie, but not specifically, the two references went down the street to d.b.a. to have a pint and lick their wounds.

“I'm sorry for torpedoing your relationship with Keith.”

“You torpedoed your own, too. Any how, men are kind of pathetic, Keith will soon realize he's lost out on a lot of future sex and come crawling back to me, regardless of the fucked up person he just found out I am.”

“You're probably right.”

“I'm sorry for trying to make Katie my friend. I've never had a friend before.”

“I'm your friend, Jessie.”

“No, you're not. You just admitted as much in the restaurant. You were right. You're nothing more than my reference.”

“No, I'm your friend.”

“Then what's my middle name? What part of town do I live in? Where was I born?”

Mike grimaced.

“What's your middle name? What part of town do you live in? Where were you born, Jessie?”

Jessie smiled softly.

“Janice. Murray Hill. Iowa City.”

“Jack. Hell's Kitchen. Memphis. Do you think we can be real friends? No longer brother and sister? No longer office mates? No longer cousins or whatever else we've been? No longer references?”

Jessie thought about it then kissed Mike on the cheek.

“Tell me, Mike, are your parents still alive? Do you have any brothers or sisters? What do you do for a living? Who are you, Mike? Tell me who you are.”

© 2010 Goldfarb

*

If you enjoyed that, please feel free to link to it, Tweet it, post it on Facebook, and e-mail it to your friends.

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 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]

*

You can purchase THE CHEAT SHEET on Amazon Kindle for a paltry $2.99 here:

Or, if you'd rather read a beautifully-designed PDF edition, Paypal $5 to aarongoldfarb@gmail.com and you will receive a copy.  All majors credit/debit cards (except Diner's Club) accepted as well here:


Cheers and enjoy!  And, if you're a professor, hey, why don't you teach my shit at your college too?

25Jan/112

Eulogy of a Writing Companion

Writers live lonely lives.  It's part of the job.  Alone with your brain while everyone else is working.  (Believe me, they'll never consider what you do "working" until you become J.K. Rowling or Stephen King and then they'll assume you live a charmed life and the books just write themselves .)

Many writers set up at coffee shops, just to be around other humans, but I've never really liked that in the long term.  I'm so chronic of coffee drinker my daily overhead would be a fortune, I enjoy writing in clothes typically unacceptable if not unwearable in public, plus the great writing break inspiration/procrastination of onanism is a good way to get permanently 86'ed from the 'bucks.  This fear of all-day loneliness is why so many join writing teams for shitty sitcoms or magazine staffs or college faculties, just to be around others with some 9-to-5 camaraderie.

I never needed any of this because I had a writing companion.  His name was Steven.  He was a good friend.  He was a cat.  He died last week.

Over the past five years, I doubt I've spent more time with any one over Steven.  Sure, laugh, call me pathetic, but most other writers "spent most time with" rankings would probably be headed up by an aloof barista, a crazy bum who uses the one comfy sofa in the corner as his bed, or an annoying editor or dean.  Luckily, I had Steven.

Steven was my friend and former roommate Lisa's cat and after I met him he soon became one of my friends.  My bro.  (You can't really tell people you're friends with a cat.  They'll assume you mean you own a cat.  "Nope, I don't own him.  I'm just friends with him."  They will snicker at you.)  While Lisa was at her office (just like everyone else), she encouraged me to hang out with Steven while I worked.  So there'd be someone to feed him, play with him, take care of him.  So he wouldn't get lonely.  He wasn't feeble or anything--far from it--he was just kinda needy.  He loved being around people (as long as they weren't ethnic delivery men or shrill women).  He loved being around me.  He totally destroyed the archetype of the haughty and independent feline who treats humans like his servant.  Over the last few years, I spent many of my daily work hours with Steven as opposed to anywhere, or with anyone, else.  There was surely no better and more productive environment.

Steven was the ideal writing buddy.  So much better than a person.  People have that unfortunate ability to talk.  For all his brilliant attributes, Steven didn't.  Thus, there was no one to verbally annoy me, to try and converse with me, while I tried to work.  But, even though, he couldn't talk, that doesn't mean he lacked personality.  He was a hoot.  Yeah, I know, everyone thinks their animal has a great personality while everyone else's animal is lame and stereotypical, but you've got to believe me.  Steven was the best.  He liked to run around the apartment like a maniac, beg you to feed him some of your food, jump on you for hugs, and sometimes just flat out lay on my computer.  So, come to think of it, even though he couldn't talk, he did screw with my productivity quite often.  But, I didn't care.  So I wrote a few hundred less words a day, did a little less networking and marketing and freelancing.  Big deal.  I was much happier.

I missed him while on my 30 Bars in 30 Days book tour and, like the crazy cat lady I had apparently become, made Lisa text me pictures just so I could see what he was up to.  What he was up to, though, was losing weight.  A typically zealous and insatiable eater, late in 2010 he started disdaining his food.  Had he finally become that stereotypical snobby cat, refusing his cheap pelleted chow?  Always egotistical, I kinda just figured he was bummed out and missed me (though, to my knowledge, Steven wasn't asking Lisa to acquire daily iPhone pics of me).  He got frequently checked out at the vet and they said nothing was wrong with him, he just wasn't eating.  By the time I'd finished the tour, he was under ten pounds.  I was confused, but not all that concerned.  He was as happy go lucky as ever, still running and jumping around, sleeping on the warm radiator, yapping out the window at his hated pigeons, and flopping on my lap or astride my Macbook as I wrote.

On Thursday, Lisa took him to the vet for yet another check-up and, this time, the vet found he had aggressive and previously undetectable kidney lymphoma.  By the end of the day he was gone.  It had happened so quickly.  The vet was shocked he had held on this long, that he had been so playful and happy until that day.

Over the past year I've told lots of people I couldn't have written How to Fail without their love or inspiration or flat-out help.  Sometimes I was being honest; other times, just blowing smoke.  But I really couldn't have written How to Fail without Steven's friendship and companionship.  I would have been too bored, unfocused, and lonely.  He was one of the first few people I thanked on the book's dedication page.  And, yeah, it's cheeky to thank a cat, but I really meant it.  I'm not one of those Sylvia Plath or Kurt Cobain types that derives creative writing flourishes from sadness.  I need to be happy or, at least, placid to produce.  And with a fat orange ball of fur by my side, by my laptop, I was never alone and never that unhappy (and only unproductive when we were goofing around together).

This is the first thing I've written in a long while without Steven next to me.  I hate the idea of having to write more things without his help.  I always thought one day, after the How to Fail fortunes started rolling in (ha!), after I became a wise "man of letters," I'd get a nice office in the Village.  A place Steven and I could commute to every day with the other working stiffs.  I'm sad that'll never happen.  I'll miss him for the rest of time.  I miss you badly, Steven.

I chose to make this a fitting first edition in what will be a new, consistent series called A Life of Writing, about writing and shit.

19Jan/113

Inspiring “How to Fail”

Now that HOW TO FAIL is apparently starting to inspire people--wouldja look at that table placement?!--I thought I'd give a shout out to those that inspired me.

As previously discussed, the question I get asked most before someone reads my book is the peculiar "How long did it take you to write this?"  But the question I get asked most after someone has read my book is, "Wow, that was great.  I'm thinking I might continue doing this reading thing.  Got any recommendations?"

Well, as a matter of fact, I do.  You can obviously move straight to my short story collection THE CHEAT SHEET (now a mere three bucks on Kindle), but here are the other key works that inspired me and the writing of HOW TO FAIL, some of a completely similar satirical comedy profanity-laden vein; others, not so much.

"A Confederacy of Dunces"

Surely the funniest book ever written and perhaps the best too.  It breaks my heart to think John Kennedy Toole committed suicide before this book was ever published, thinking himself a failure with a crummy novel.  He was clearly wrong and with massive sticktoitiveness from his mother and author Percy Walker, this masterwork eventually found publication.  Protagonist Ignatius Reilly is a hoot, and a little too much like people we all know--if not us--and the book is a nonstop riot of hilarious set piece after hilarious set piece.  The book begins with an epigraph by Jonathan Swift:  "When a true genius appears in the world you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him"  I'd add, "When dunces appear in the world you may know them by this sign, that they don't realize 'A Confederacy of Dunces' is a comedy."  Works every time.

"A Man in Full"

I'm embarrassed to admit I didn't discover Tom Wolfe until "I Am Charlotte Simmons."  Oh sure, I knew who he was, the nattily dressed guy in the white suit who invented New Journalism, but I'd never really read anything of his.  Until that fateful day seven years ago when I picked up "Charlotte Simmons" in a Barnes & Noble in Hoboken and never put it down for the rest of the weekend.  "This guy writes like me!" I thought.  And, indeed he did.  Or, rather, I wrote like him.  A conversational style with eccentric punctuation and a liberal adherence to the "standards" of grammar.  And he was having such fun too!  His writing was so playful.  I read Wolfe's entire oeuvre immediately after I finished "Charlotte Simmons."  Literally.  From "The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby" and "The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test" to "Hooking Up" and including as many magazine articles I could find in between (but my favorite was his 1996 novel about Southern stoicism (or something like that)).  It was a crash course on Wolfe who instantly became my writing idol and inspiration.  The man that made me realize that the way I write is the way I write and there ain't nothing wrong with that.

Tucker Max

I suppose it's easy to blast Tucker Max nowadays, to claim you only liked him when you were younger and stupider; to claim he's not a "real" writer, just a literary shock jock, maybe even a phony; to claim you're "above" him.  Yet, his most recent book "Assholes Finish First" still made it as high as #3 on the NYT Bestseller List.  Hmm...curious.  No.  Not at all.  Tucker Max was and is an iconoclast, the first guy to honestly write about the mores and zeitgeist of this era, MY young adult era.  Everyone else was too chickenshit or nerdy to do likewise.  The original stories on his website in the early 2000s (eventually gathered in "I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell") were a breath of fresh air, letting me know that it was OK to write about the politically incorrect "honest" things I'd always wanted to write about, had always been writing about, that creative writing professors and publishers were disavowing me from writing about. Glad I listened to him instead of them.  I'm eternally grateful to him and I continue to admire his business sense and marketing savvy.

"Happy Hour is For Amateurs"

The anonymous Philadelphia Lawyer took the single serving story groundwork that Tucker Max created and catapulted it to the next level, spinning a cohesive, full-length tale of debauchery and wisdom.  And, the book was fucking funny, man, perhaps THE comedic masterpiece of the last decade.  Along with Tucker, the Philadelphia Lawyer showed you one could talk about the "low brow"--drinking, drugging, fucking--and still be fucking smart about it.  And inspiring.  The subtitle of the book--"Work Sucks. Life Doesn't Have To"--is arguably more important than the title.  It was an honor of the highest regard to have him blurb "How to Fail," even if I still don't quite know who this mad genius is.

"How I Became a Famous Novelist"

With a title like that, I was obviously going to give the book a shot and so glad I did.  Released right around the time I was doing early edits on "How to Fail" (and dreaming of becoming a famous novelist myself), this book is a spot-on satire of the book industry and absolutely nails all the various genres.  Steve Hely has an uncanny ability to mock everything from chick lit to Tom Clancy-esque thriller to, shit, even self-help books.  I doubt I recommended any other book more than this one in 2010 and I urge any literary fan or literary writer to read it.  You won't be let down.

"American Psycho" & "Fight Club"

These are arguably the iconic book of the 1980s and the iconic book of the 1990s.  And rightly so.  But that doesn't mean that, even after the movie adaptations and cultural deluge, they don't still demand careful reads.  Both are a lot funnier than you recall, and still hold up with insight on the present day.  Must reads and probably should be must taughts in high schools nowadays.  Of course, high schools are still busy teaching the every so timely "Scarlet Letter."

"The Pint Man"

I have a friend who is spot on in his frequent pop cultural recommendations.  He tells me I need to see a film, I do.  Tells me I should be watching a TV show, I catch up on the DVDs over this weekend.  And I make sure to read every single book he sings the praises of.  Having said that, I was a literally leery when he recommended this novel by Steve Rushin.  Wasn't Steve the bald, bulbous headed guy who wrote fairly mundane columns for Sports Illustrated before marrying Rebecca Lobo and riding off into the sunset?  Could he really write a book for a cool guy like me?!  My friend insisted and damn if he wasn't incredibly right.  "The Pint Man" isn't really about anything, but it's such a strong and hilarious book full of clever wordplay, terrific characters, and brilliant scenes.  Highly recommended.

"Pimp:  The Story of My Life"

The modern classic of "transgressive fiction."  Iceberg Slim was a, no shit, genuine pimp who decided to go straight after years in and out of prison.  A chance encounter with a literary professor and he decided to tell his tales.  And, what tales they were!  Spanning a good dozen books, but none better than his first effort.  Slim inspired me with his honesty, his rawness, in showing a seedy side of life that few authors even have the knowledge to discuss, and for his amazing ear for authentic dialogue and eye for character detail.  (Skills which no doubt made him an amazing pimp.) You might be embarrassed to read this one on the subway, but you'll be so enthralled you won't care.

"Thy Neighbor's Wife"

Gay Talese--and with a name like that, he had no choice but to be a heterosexual lady killer--is another practitioner of New Journalism and perhaps the greatest essayist of all time ("Frank Sinatra Has a Cold" still stands as a masterpiece of the genre).  But my favorite work from Talese is his opus on the emergeance of modern sexuality, which gives us one of my favorite lines in all of Wikipedia:  "In preparation for writing the book, Talese had intercourse with his neighbor's wife for several months at clothing-optional resort Sandstone Retreat."  Whoa, talk about New Journalism.  But, though we laugh at antics like that, it's this closeness to his subjects, if not his immorality, or at least amorality, that made him one of the most eminently readable and wise writers of his time.

Others favorites:

"Wake up, Sir!" -- Jonathan Ames's hysterical comic novel about a most fastidious and neurotic writer who has his own man servant.

"Downtown Owl" -- Like Ames, Chuck Klosterman is most famous for his essays, but it's his novel about small town North Dakota nightlife that is far and away my favorite work of his.

"Hollywood" -- Every single drunkard of a writer needs to admire Charles Bukowski at least somewhat and "Hollywood" is my favorite of his, a roman a clef takedown of the Hollywood schmucks who fucked up his semi-autobiographical screenplay (though I can't deny digging the eventual movie "Barfly").  Besides being a roman a clef, he pulls no punches.  As usual.

"Age and Guile Beat Youth, Innocence, and a Bad Haircut" -- Before Tucker Max and Phila Lawyer there was P.J. O'Rourke, a heady genius and inveterate fuck-up.  His massive collection of books are all must-reads, but "Age and Guile" is his masterpiece, a collection of satirical essays.

"Red Lobster, White Trash, and the Blue Lagoon" -- The conceit of the good lot of Joe Queenan's books are:  "I'm a ton smarter than you, and now I will make fun of people dumber than me."  He does it no better than in "Red Lobster," a work where he intentionally tries to figure out why people like such lame cultural touchstones as John Tesh, Red Lobster, and "Cats."  Wickedly hysterical.

And some favorites from the last few months:

"Freedom: A Novel" -- Jonathan Franzen

"The Unnamed" -- Joshua Ferris

"The Ask: A Novel" -- Sam Lipsyte

By the way, could these books quit telling us--in the title--that they are "a novel." Uh, yeah, no shit. And that's not exactly a selling point nowadays, let me tell you.

In a few days I'll discuss some more inspirations...

Filed under: "How to Fail" 3 Comments
11Jan/110

“The Cheat Sheet” — FREE STORY


I’m excited to offer a free story from THE CHEAT SHEET, reprinted in its entirety below.  It's called...

HEALTH

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.”

“Prostitute?  Richmond...?”

“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.”

“Yes.”

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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If you enjoyed that, please feel free to link to it, Tweet it, post it on Facebook, and e-mail it to your friends.

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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You can purchase THE CHEAT SHEET on Amazon Kindle for $5.99 here:

Or, if you'd rather read a beautifully-designed PDF edition, Paypal $5 to aarongoldfarb@gmail.com and you will receive a copy.  All majors credit/debit cards accepted as well here:


Cheers and enjoy!