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Chapter 10 - Mr. 72

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I tell those guys, “Porn babies.” Shaking my roses at the 137 guy and Branch Bacardi, I say, “They exist.” Petals fluttering everywhere, I say, “There are kids who get conceived during adult movies. I mean, when those movies get made.”
Mr. Bacardi shakes his head, saying, “Urban legend.”
Guy 137 says, “Love child.”
“That’s a stretch,” Mr. Bacardi says, “to call anything conceived during an all-leather backdoor dog-pile gang-bang video a ‘love child.’”
And I tell them that’s not funny.

The 137 guy says, “No, wait.” He says, “Rumor is, there was a kid conceived during The Blow Jobs of Madison County.”
Mr. Bacardi says, “No.” Shaking his head, he says, “She terminated.”
And guy 137 says, “That’s what the industry calls an ‘outtake.’”
I tell them that’s really not funny. My hands shake so hard the petals pile up around my feet.
And Branch Bacardi asks me, “Who, then? Can you name even one performer who had a porn baby?”
I point up at a video monitor, where Cassie Wright’s wearing rice powder on her cheeks and ink-black geisha eye makeup, playing a lovely demure Japanese-American heroine in Snow Falling on Peters. Cassie Wright, I tell them. She had a child.
Her folks live in Montana, I say, where her mom still works for the local school district and her dad does dry cleaning. Twenty years ago, they say, Cassie came home and told them she was pregnant. Cassie didn’t look pregnant. She’d bleached her hair and dieted away half herself. She was driving a Camaro so new it still had dealer plates, painted midnight black. Their little girl told them she’d just shot her first masterpiece, World Whore One, and she tried to explain to them about an internal pop shot. The way, sometimes, it doesn’t work perfectly. Cassie said she’d been late for three weeks and pissed hot on a pregnancy stick. She’d asked to stay with them until she’d had the baby, and they’d told her no. World Whore had made Cassie an instant star, and her hometown was too small for people not to recognize their prodigal daughter.
In secret, her mom mailed her money every week. So did her dad. To an address here in the city. But they never saw the baby.
Guy 137 and Branch Bacardi just look at me. Guy 1 37 holding and petting his stuffed dog. Mr. Bacardi fiddling with the gold locket around his neck, rolling it between his thumb and gun finger.
“Parents,” Mr. Bacardi says, “they’ll screw you up every time.”
This isn’t a joke, I say. Porn babies, they’re more than just the by-products of the sex industry. The leftover veal calves of adult entertainment. A spin-off product like new strains of hepatitis and herpes.
Guy 137 lifts his hand, wiggling the fingers in the air, until I stop talking.
“Hold on,” he says. “I have to ask: what’s an internal pop shot?”
I stare at him a beat.
Mr. Bacardi says, “I can take that one.”
I nod my head for him to take over.
Branch Bacardi looks up and clears his throat. His voice flat and even, as if he were reading from a book, he says, “The male performer achieves orgasm inside the female performer, without wearing a condom. After he withdraws, the female performer contracts her pelvic floor with enough force to forcefully expel the ejaculate from her vaginal orifice.”
Any color drains down from the 137 guy’s face. Pale and wide-eyed, he says, “Hardly the best form of birth control ...”
My point exactly.
But, Mr. Bacardi says, you can’t wear condoms and expect your product to sell in Europe. His head still tilted back, he’s looking at Snow Falling on Peters, where Cassie Wright is being marched at bayonet point and shipped off to a Japanese-American internment camp.
Still fingering the locket, Mr. Bacardi says, “She was so pretty ...”
Guy 137 sighs, saying, “The face that caught a thousand facials.”
My point is, these kids aren’t a joke. Or an urban legend.
Another sprinkle of rose petals spiral to the floor.
Branch Bacardi says, “But can you name one?”
On the monitors, Cassie’s embroidered silk kimono slides to the dusty floor of her barracks in the Nevada desert. In the background bubbles a hot tub overflowing with giggling women, their faces powdered white with rice flour. Pouring sake on each other’s bare breasts. The internment-camp commandant walks into the barracks, carrying a coiled whip.
My roses are almost nothing left but stems and thorns.
The girl with the clipboard and stopwatch is walked all the way across the room, over next to the food. With my free hand, I wave for Mr. Bacardi and guy 137 to lean in closer. Keeping my voice lower than the noise of the whip cracking, I whisper.
Tapping the tip of my gun finger to my chest I mouth the word “Me.”
I’m not a joke or a legend.
I am that porn baby.

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