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Chapter 23 - Mr. 137





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The talent wrangler does her best to show me the door. A couple laughs, not two puffs on a cigarette after I ejaculate across Cassie Wright’s lovely breasts, my sperm still warm and crawling around, and the wrangler’s shoving a paper bag full of clothes into my arms. She’s telling me to get dressed. Me, I’m telling Ms. Wright how moved I was by her performance as a struggling, unstoppable teacher yearning to make a difference among the disadvantaged students of a gritty inner-city school. She was inspired. Just inspired. Her character’s vulnerability and determination, she was the best part of watching The Asshole Jungle.

Later released as How Reamed Was My Valley.
Later re-released as Inside Miss Jean Brodie.
Ms. Wright squealed. She actually squealed over the fact I knew the film. That I knew all her films, from Angels with Dirty Places to Sperms of Endearment.
Her favorite color is fuchsia. Her favorite scent: sandalwood. Ice cream: French vanilla. Pet peeve: shops that ask you to check your bags as you enter.
Sniffing my hair, she squealed again.
The two of us, we chatted about cotton sheets versus poly-cotton blends. We gossiped about Kate Hepburn, dyke or not? Ms. Wright says: Definitely. We nattered about our mothers. Through all our small talk, I’m pumping away, in her vagina, in her bottom, in her hand, between her breasts. Us having our little hen party, just yak-yak-yakking away, and my erection’s going in and out, in and out.
The talent wrangler stands next to the bed, just off camera, holding a stopwatch in one hand.
Wouldn’t you know it? Ms. Wright and I, we’re barely into the subject of favorite diets when the wrangler presses the top of the watch with her thumb and says, “Time.”
Next, I’m holding a bag of clothes, being herded toward an open door filled with sunlight. My briefs are still looped around my ankles, so I’m waddling, my erection swinging in front of me like a blind man’s cane, and the talent wrangler has the nerve to say, “Thank you for coming . . .”
One shove from me standing in the alley, naked, my skin still hot from the set lights, I look in the bag and see an off-brand acrylic men’s two-button rugby shirt with a one-piece collar and contrasting stripes, banded sleeves, and not the slightest hint of taper, and I put my foot down.
These are not my clothes. Yes, the bag’s marked “137,” my number, but my clothes, my shoes, Mr. Toto, they’re all still back in the green room. The wrangler needs to let me backtrack. She doesn’t let me go back and look, I tell the wrangler, and I’m calling the police. My bare foot tap-tap-tapping the concrete hallway one step from the alley, I wait.
And, looking at her watch, the wrangler says, “Okay.” She says, “Fine.” She sighs and says, “Come back and look.”
At the top of the stairs, looking down on the few actors still waiting, I say, Gentlemen. Wearing only my briefs, bowing from the waist, I spread both arms and say, You are no longer looking at a perfect Kinsey Six.
Mr. Toto tucked under his arm, a potato chip stopped halfway to his mouth, the young actor 72 says, “Is she dead?”
Branch Bacardi says, “What was the point?” Tapping a finger on his forehead, he says, “They couldn’t shoot your face. That means no publicity.”
To draw out the moment, I take a step down the stairs. I take another step. On the monitors, Cassie Wright takes the hand of a deaf and blind actor. She folds his fingers into a pattern and presses his hand into her crotch, saying, “Water ...” My favorite scene from The Miracle Sex Worker. With another step, I take another moment. A long pause of quiet as I stroll across the concrete to where Bacardi stands. Wordless, I nod to accept Mr. Toto from the young man.
Still silent, I smile and lift one hand to brush back the hair from my forehead, the skin revealed, and written across it: “How I loVe U . . .” inscribed and autographed by Cassie Wright.
To the young actor 72 I say, “Her own idea.” Patting the fingers of one hand against my lips, I blow a kiss toward the stairs and the set, saying, “Your mother is a bona fide angel.”
His shaved chest bare, empty, Branch Bacardi rolls his eyes. The locket is gone, and he says, “So you managed to fuck her.”
Not to brag, but I performed so well that I’m beginning to wonder if my poor dear father in Oklahoma isn’t in fact the pervert he confessed to be.
Actor 72 makes a fist around something—the locket, with its chain dangling between his fingers. He looks at Bacardi and says, “I’m starting to wonder the same deal.”
From her perch at the top of the stairs, the wrangler shouts, “Gentlemen, may I have your attention ...”
The row of bags line the wall, mine still among them. The room’s grown darker since I left. The ambient light from the monitors, less bright.
Actor 72 says, “Mr. Banyan?” He opens his fist and lifts it to under my nose. Two pills rest in the hollow of his palm, and he asks, “Which of these did you give me for an erection?”
“May I have the following performers,” the wrangler shouts.
Both pills look the same.
“Number 471 . . .” the wrangler says. “Number 268 . . .”
I blink. Squint. I lean forward too far, too fast, and knock my face against the actor’s hand. “Hold still I say. With my right eye shut, I’m blind. Open or shut, I can’t see anything out of my left eye. Wouldn’t you know? That mini-stroke or whatnot the wrangler and Bacardi were harping about.
This moment, when Branch Bacardi’s under my thumb, this magic shining moment when he’s my bitch, I’m not letting him be right. I stumble until my hip brushes the edge of a buffet table; not seeing, I reach down and grab the first snack my fingers touch. I pop it into my mouth and start chewing. Relaxed. Nonchalant.
The wrangler says, “… and number 72.”
The young actor nods at his hand. He says, “Hurry, please. Which one do I take?”
On the young actor’s hand I smell cheddar cheese, garlic, butter, and vinegar. And roses.
But I can’t see. The room’s too dark, the pills too small.
The snack in my mouth, my teeth gnawing away, it’s a rolled-up, brand-new condom. Lubricated, from the taste of it, the bitter flavor of spermicidal jelly. That slippery feel of K-Y on my tongue.
The wrangler shouts, “Number 72, we need you on set—now. Right now.”
Branch Bacardi, everyone, waiting.
So ... I just point. “That one,” I say, still chewing, choking on the bitter taste designed to kill sperm, prevent life, and I just point at a pill. Any pill. It doesn’t matter.

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