I was sixteen, living in suburban Chicago, vaccinated from the pains in bones of the world’s citizens who suffered, then died. My dad, a top lumber company exec, got me a summer job in one of the firm’s yards.
“You did fine for the first day. How about a cold one?” Rudy said. By that I thought he meant the next day would be cooler, keeping my spirits up. I had keys in my hand to my car parked in front of the yard’s office. Rudy scanned my face, gauging my reaction to “cold one.” He lived not half a block away from the yard’s entrance, Rudy’s house at the end of a dead-end street.
“Come to Betty’s kitchen and we’ll have a beer,” he said, lunchbox in hand. He sucked on his cigarette as we walked abreast to the two story house, badly in need of paint.
“But they’ll wonder why I’m late.”
“Tell them you worked overtime, your dad will never know,” he said.
We entered the house through the kitchen door. Rudy took off his hat revealing short-cropped hair, male pattern baldness, looking older than in the yard. He put the lunchbox on the counter, sat down, told me to relax, Betty will be here shortly.
“Hey, hon, we have a guest,” Rudy said, raising his voice to summon her.
She was as old as my grandmother, maybe fifty-five years old, dressed in a knee-length red robe, sheer knee nylons exposing varicose veins, a Braille map of ragged lines indicating she had done a lot of factory work, standing at machines, or working in cafeterias. Unlike women cafeteria workers at school, Betty raised her bathrobe and showed off her white underpants. She had a red scar on her cheek beneath a yellow eye, as faded as the wallpaper. Maybe Rudy had cut her.
“It’s Jim,” Rudy said. “His dad’s a big muckety-muck. What does he do, Jim?”
“Invests money. Passed the accountants’ exam the first time,” I told them. Shit, why boast about Dad? Rudy and hon will hate me for it. We drank beers, the TV in the next room our noisy companion.
“When you’re finished that one, have another,” Betty said, her voice slushy from a day sitting around the house, sipping beer or eating the salty pretzels on the table.
“Watch soap operas today, hon?” Rudy said. “I like the good-looking men,” she replied.
“I like the pornography I stash in my drawers,” he said, rubbing his crotch.
“Rudy’s a real pal. Pretty hard to get through life without one,” she said. She scratched her bare arm. I saw hairy moles, and when she raised her sleeve, flabby skin.
“I’m more than a pal, Betty, you’re playing nice with Jim,” he said, opening another round. Betty flushed from an all-day booze rush, high blood pressure blowing its stack? “Chug it down, my lad, drink eases everything.”
I watched them down their beers in big gulps. I needed tiny fast ones before I emptied the bottle. Other beers went down swifter. Rudy’s face, redder than before, highlighted a scowl or was it hostility towards the bad old world.
“He’s lived here since ‘49. A war veteran. This stumblebum knocked on my door, and asked if there’s anything he could do for a meal or two. I sized him up and down, telling him, sure. He cleaned the place, gardened. Me living alone, my husband ran away, I needed help if you get my drift.”
After more beers, Betty’s hand moved to my knee and towards my groin.
“What if your tenants see us,” I asked.
“Rudy’s my only one, love,” she said.
Buddies of mine had girlfriends do this to them. Me, I was strictly virginal. Rudy stood behind her and massaged her breasts. She rubbed until I got hard, then unbuckled my pants, pushing them down below my knees. Rudy stepped back, undoing his overalls, and a big crooked pecker bounced out at a ninety-degree angle. Its big red knob surprised
me. Betty opened a cabinet, pulling out ropes. She said, “It’ll go better if you let me tie you up. A gentle tug with a rope around your neck makes for a better shot to the moon.”
I was wobbly drunk, unable to fend her off as she tied my hands, and then the noose, knotted just like in movie execution scenes. “Thirteen knots, hangman’s noose” she said. “For pleasure, not death.” The rope was just beneath my Adam’s’ apple.
Betty’s reptile hand hardened my dick. Rudy pulled the noose that begat my lust as Betty stroked my dong. I thought of hard two by fours I unloaded and slid down on sloped rollers to Rudy. She pulled off my jeans then sucked my hard-on. Rudy stuck his big one into her rear when Betty bent over. I could not tell if it was snatch or ass but it made her groan. Rudy grabbed me and forced my head to the floor and thrust his shaft into my ass, then pulled out. “Need some butter, Betty,” he said. He greased my rectum, sticking his meat deep into my asshole, and pulled the noose tighter.
I had heard a boy in the high school washroom say, “It’s taint, neither ass nor snatch,” so I knew a bit about ambiguity. My bound hands above my head, I supine, Betty pulled me to the floor, angled my hard pecker into her vagina, her fat legs against my thighs, and I “Ahhhhed,” emitting a foreign gutteral sound. The noose tighter than before, pain made me think how lives died: the bestial fluid shot through my cock dizzied me.
Betty begged him, so Rudy took over, moaned, nasty-talked for ten minutes before he pulled out of her quim, splashing Betty’s naked rear end and robe. Afterwards, Rudy said,
“That’s how it’s done in stag films.”
Betty stood up, adjusted her robe, covered her breasts and pudenda, and pulled up her nylons. She offered me a Camel.
“I don’t smoke.”
Betty loosened the noose. “The red marks will go away.” I rubbed my neck: blood stained my hand.
I was tired, Betty untied my red and raw wrists, and I coughed up blood, spitting into the sink: the beginning of my sexual history
“I’ll light it for you,” said Betty. She put the cigarette between my lips, then scratched a wooden match. I puffed and deeply inhaled.
“What kind of rifle did you use over there?” I asked hoarsely. I had to say something.
“I used a flamethrower and if I still had one I’d burn that damn yard down.”
“Dad told me that when arsonists torched a lumberyard, they’d get sexually aroused.”
I wondered how safe I was, what the two of them might say. I was a wiseacre from a suburb wealthier than this town. Instead of retaliation, they grinned.
“I was kidding about torching.” He handed me a beer. “One for the road.”
Betty set a slice of apple pie and two doughnuts on the table. “It’ll sober you up.”
I pulled my underwear and pants up, buckled-up and scarfed down the food. After I finished eating, Rudy gave me the pack of Camel’s, sliding it into my shirt pocket, and I said stupefied, “Thanks for everything.”
I started the car and headed to Northwest Highway. I got sleepy driving and rear-ended a car at a stoplight. The driver got out, told me off, smelled my beer and cigarette breath, and cursed me. Finally, I made it home, trying to look sane and sober. When I entered, their eyes showed fear, their faces paler than ever.
“I worked overtime. Had a drink or two with nice folks, smoked fags, had fun you said I should be getting around here, like going on dates.” I had zipped up the windbreaker which concealed my throat.
Mom cowered at Dad’s side. “Where did you get that welt?” she said.
“A boxcar did it.” I smelled my liquor as I breathed, smoke poured out my skin.
“You didn’t keep your nose clean as I told you.” Mom had to hold back his arm or he would have beaten me bloody. I let him down and was proud of it.
I drank the warm beer slowly in my room, smoking the heck out of Camels. Not everyone had a partner who had used a flamethrower. Dad earned a Bronze Star for killing Germans. I worked in the yard till summer ended. Every Friday after work, the hangman’s noose, blood, and glorifying pain.
After I graduated, an East Coast university accepted me. My parents expected me to graduate with a B.A. degree in Business Administration, but I never did.
It was 1965, and two classmates joined the Marines. Rudy had served in WW II, my father fought in the Battle of the Bulge.
I enlisted in the Marines, boot camp eons away from the roughest day unloading boxcars. We shipped out from Camp Pendleton, landing at Da Nang Air Base in South Vietnam.
In a matter of days, our platoon worked our way through jungles of South Vietnam. After fifteen clicks, we came to a village and poked M-16s at scared old men, frightened old and young women. Children cried and stared at us like we were aliens from the planet Krypton. My fire team, three enlisted men from the Midwest, I the only suburban jarhead of the entire platoon.
A private kicked in a door and found a pregnant woman holding a small child to her breast. The mother was a beauty, we four admitted aloud. A private said, “Sure looks like Suzy Wong, a great fuck. She must give good head in the bargain, too.” I yelled, “Shut up, you pussy, she’s protecting her child.” The other three yanked the baby from her
arms, then ripped off her clothes with their hands, slashing them off with their bayonets. They each jammed their bones into her split-legged body, taking turns, the Suzy Wong private doing what he said was the rough bargain.
I wanted to help her, knowing this was not what we learned in boot camp, getting rocks off rather than seek and destroy certifiable Viet Cong. Rudy and Betty burst into my mind, my eyes, my heart, he and Betty and I in the kitchen, the Dictatorship of the Limbic System, that sweet zone where anything goes.
After the three had had their way, I undid my deuce gear, tossed off my pack, pulled down my pants, then took out my Ka-Bar knife, grasped its leather handle and stuck the seven-inch blade into her belly and ripped out fetal shards, then gouged her in the vagina with the blade, moving it around quickly like a mix-master and then with my dick as she lay dead in the dirt.
I stood up and blood from her womb covered my uniform. I stared at my bodywork, the corpse’s face mingled with wicked Betty’s face and what was left of her torso reminded me of blood seeping out my rectum. Rudy’s flamethrower prick lit the huts until the entire village burned down, all the while the hangman’s noose tightened around my neck. I could hardly breathe in the jungle heat, asphyxiation at my throat. I grabbed my neck with both hands then looked at my red-shredded-dead-fetus hands. I slid my bloody fingers over both flanks of my bare butt, and jammed my fingers into my anus. After sticking Mr. Ka-Bar into my rectum, four marines dragged me to earth.
I served less than a month in South Vietnam, and hallucinated in my hospital bed during insomniac nights the face of the Vietnamese woman, her thin nose, dark-plum, blood-streaked eyes, her face blurred with Betty’s, a huge Ka-Bar image raised on a flag, its pole stuck atop a mountain of my buttocks. They gave me an honorable discharge.
Years later, after countless jobs, I work in a chicken processing plant, whole chickens hung by their feet pass me at eighty per minute as I kill them with a rotating saw, faster and faster the line speeds up, I the world’s great slaughterer.
I’ll take Mr. Ka-Bar when I search and destroy Rudy and Betty.