Chip pushed the notebook across the table. “It’s not what I expected, Jan. Not at all.”
“What do you mean?” His sister’s blue eyes, so much like his own, narrowed as she opened the worn leather cover and scanned the first page. “I knew Mom was working on her memoirs. Didn’t you? She talked about them a lot, especially at the end, in the hospital. What did you expect?”
“Frankly, I thought there’d be more about us in there. You know, us kids.” He took a paper napkin from a stack on the table and started to tear it into tiny bits, which he scattered over a plastic place mat. “But it’s not. She hardly mentions us at all! Jeez, you would think we never existed.”
Jan fingered the orange bookmark, one of several. “What’s this?”
“Those are the parts you won’t believe.”
“The good parts?” Jan chuckled.
“You might say that.” Chip grinned, but his smile faded quickly. “It’s not fair! Over two hundred pages, and it’s all about her! And some of it — I can’t believe it really — oh, damn it!” He got up, scraping his chair across the tile. “I’ve got to mow the lawn before the sun goes down.”
In the meantime, Jan curled up on the couch, accompanied by the sputtering drone of the lawnmower outside. She considered starting at the beginning, as she would with any good book. But something about the orange markers taunted her, fiery temptation smoldering along the edge of the page, so she gave in and turned to the first one. With a sigh, she leaned back and began to read her late mother’s spidery handwriting.
* * *
I can’t stop thinking about Margaretta. I see her twice a day at the school bus stop, and I look forward to it. In the morning, she arrives with her hair half-combed and falling in her face, wearing sweat pants and a denim jacket, her sweet little daughter skipping ahead of her. Even in such humble clothing, she is a goddess. And in the afternoon! She sweeps down the hill from her house, swinging her arms, her face raised to the sun. I love her bold flowered skirts, the way her sandals make a little smack-smack noise as she crosses the street. She calls my name and I turn around, trying to make it look so casual. Little does she know that I’ve been watching for her all along.
“Ann! I was hoping I’d see you!” She strolls up to me and I catch a hint of citrus cologne. “What are you doing this weekend? Are you busy?”
“Of course I am,” I tell her. Doesn’t she realize that I’m always busy, every weekend? Why should this one be any different?
“Let’s do something,” she says. “Let’s give our husbands some money for pizza. Tell them to take the kids to the movies.” She touches my arm. “Let’s have a girl’s night out.”
Startled, I turn away, my toes clenched in my sneakers. “I don’t know, we’re going to be pretty busy. Mike has to work overtime on Saturday morning, and Chip has soccer practice.”
“But what about later? Couldn’t we do something in the evening? Just us?”
At this point, the conversation is always interrupted by the appearance of the school bus, the growling cheese-colored monster coming around the bend in the road. It pulls up and deposits our children, who run to us waving crayon drawings and spelling tests with big red A’s on them. I swoop mine up and we head home, but not before I glance over my shoulder to look at Margaretta. She peers back at me and winks. “Maybe next weekend,” she mouths as she walks away.
* * *
Jan looked up, catching a glimpse of her brother’s curly hair as he rode past the window on the lawnmower. Margaretta? She thought back to the house on Gideon Street, the only place they lived where it was too far to walk to school. Yes, they were not the only ones to take the bus, but she could only recall the other children, not their parents. Who was Margaretta? Maybe Chip would remember — he was two years older, after all.
She turned the page. Something soft fell out and landed on the floor — a lock of hair? Jan scooped it up in the palm of her hand and as she brought it closer to study it, she started to laugh. “What the hell?” she said out loud. “A fake mustache?”
* * *
Last weekend, we finally got our chance. It was sheer luck, sheer happenstance, the stars aligned in exactly the right places at last. The school sponsored a “Science Sleepover” at the Children’s Museum downtown, and much to my amazement, Chip and Jan actually wanted to go. Of course, they had to be accompanied by a parent, and I would have gone if they’d insisted, but no, they asked for their dad this time. Mike readily agreed (he secretly loves the Children’s Museum). They packed up their sleeping bags and their toothbrushes, along with a huge bag of jellybeans, which (I’m told) is an absolute necessity for any sleepover.
As I dropped them off at the museum, I noticed Margaretta’s car pull up behind mine. Her husband got out, hoisting their daughter onto his broad shoulders. In my rear view mirror, I watched them wave goodbye and disappear into the crowd, and I waited to see if she would drive off right away. But no, no, my wish had come true. She pulled up next to me and rolled down her window.
“Tonight, my house, eight o’clock!” she called out. “Okay? Okay?”
I nodded, too thrilled to speak.
* * *
“So, what do you think?” Chip stood in the doorway, using his grass- stained T-shirt to wipe the sweat off his neck.
He shrugged. “I don’t know. I don’t remember. Wasn’t she Rosie’s mom?”
“I don’t remember any Rosie.”
“Come on, sure you do! Little kid? Real thin? Always eating Skittles?”
Jan shook her head. “Not ringing any bells here. Sorry.” She turned the page. “Go take a shower and let me finish this. You stink.”
“Thanks a bunch,” her brother muttered, shuffling off to the bathroom.
* * *
It took me forever to get dressed, and as it turns out, I wasted my time. I arrived at Margaretta’s house in my favorite purple silk sundress, the one with the fishtail hem. Yet as soon as she saw me, she shook her head. “I love your dress, darling, I absolutely do. But for where we’re going, it’s just not right.”
She took me by the hand and led me through her house to the master bedroom, to her closet, a huge walk-in affair that smelled faintly of cedar. I had only been inside her house once before, and only as far as the foyer, so this visit was a real treat. I wanted to take my time, savor the paintings on the walls, the feel of the thick carpet as it received my footsteps. But Margaretta was a woman with a plan. She slid back a door, revealing two racks of clothing, jackets and shirts on the top, pants on the bottom, all with the feel and the look of sumptuous quality. “You’re my size,” she said. “A little shorter, maybe, but we can fix that with some shoes, yes?”
She pulled out a pair of gabardine slacks and tossed them over my shoulder, followed by a starched white shirt. Then she left, and I could hear her bumping around elsewhere, opening drawers and talking softly to herself. She returned with a bright red tie, obviously her husband’s. “Go get dressed. You can use the bathroom. Let me know if you need some help with the tie.”
“I’m confused… where are we going?”
“You’ll see,” she said, as she gently cupped my chin with the palm of her hand. “A very special party. One you will remember for the rest of your life.”
I did as I was told, making my best attempt at a Windsor knot with the tie. When I returned, I found her in a similar outfit, tucking her long black hair up under a gray fedora, another item stolen from her husband’s closet. With my short summer haircut, of course, I wouldn’t need to resort to such measures.
“Oh, you look lovely!” Margaretta cried, clapping her hands. “Now, one more thing. One final touch! Close your eyes!”
“Come on, Ann, come on!”
So I put my hands behind my back and closed my eyes, waiting for what would come next. I felt her finger slide along my upper lip and smelled the pungent odor of glue, which made my eyes water a little. Then I felt her press something below my nose, something prickly. “Don’t you dare open your eyes until I say so,” she whispered.
“I won’t,” I tried to say, my words impeded by her fingers.
In the mirror I saw a whole new version of the face I had been born with. Yes, I still had my blue eyes, my long nose and pointed chin. But now I had a mustache, thick and perfectly matched to my dark brown hair. With the red tie and my bangs swept away from my forehead, I was no longer a woman — but a handsome young man.
Margaretta leaned against me, her lips mere inches from my ear. “You truly take my breath away.” I could feel her body, its weight, its heat — and against my hip, I thought I felt the sweet hardness of a man.
* * *
“Holy shit,” Jan said, looking down at the little row of brown bristles, now sitting on the cover of the latest Sports Illustrated, a little glue still clinging to the edge.
“What?” Chip had returned, wearing clean shorts and a T-shirt from his favorite automotive supply shop. “What part are you on now?”
“I’m still reading about Margaretta. The night they went out.”
“Oh, jeez.” He walked toward the kitchen. “I couldn’t finish that part. Too freaky. You want anything?”
“No, thanks, not right now,” Jan said, turning the page.
* * *
Margaretta drove, and although the streets were familiar at first, we soon went through a neighborhood I did not know, ending up at a narrow little townhouse near the university. “We’ve been invited to a party!” she said as she skillfully parallel parked. “Oh, we’re going to have such a good time!”
The rooms were packed with people, shoulder to shoulder, not a single face I knew, except for Margaretta’s, of course. She, on the other hand, seemed to be friends with everyone, and often stopped for a quick kiss or an affable hug. “This is Andy,” she told them.
I nudged her. “Wait, that’s not my -”
“Shh!” She raised her finger to her lips, then turned back to the partygoers. “Isn’t he the handsomest thing you ever saw?” she said, squeezing me closer. “God, I could just eat you up!” Once again, I felt something hard pressing into my backside. I stood up straighter, enjoying the weight of expensive gabardine against my thighs.
“You’re not so bad yourself,” said someone, another woman, although her brush cut and square jaw had at first led me to believe she was a man.
“Oh, no, no, I’m nothing compared to him.” Indeed, although she had worn slacks and a shirt like mine, Margaretta had forgone the tie, leaving her collar open instead. The fedora, cocked at an angle, gave her a rakish look. I must admit, she too was good-looking, in her own way. “Come on,” she said, nudging me through the crowd. “Let’s get something to drink.”
An enormous washtub held a particularly potent mix of whiskey, cognac and cranberry juice, which we ladled into tall plastic cups. The warmth of the room, with its press of bodies, forced us to drink even more, and soon my legs started to shake. I reached for Margaretta, who slipped an arm around my waist. “What’s wrong, darling?”
“I-I think I’ve had a little too much.”
“Ah, come with me. I know where we can go.”
She led me through the kitchen, where we stopped briefly to scoop pretzels from a huge bowl. I nibbled gratefully, the crunchy snack absorbing the alcohol. Behind the house, a tiny garden was sandwiched between two stockade fences; a metal gazing ball sat on a concrete stand at its center, and benches had been placed under a young maple. A couple embraced a few feet away, their hands furiously moving from shoulders to backside and up again. “Don’t mind them,” Margaretta said. “Let’s go over here.”
She leaned against the fence and looked up into the sky. “Ah, look, Andy, darling — do you see the stars? Do you?”
I followed her gaze and yes, I could see the Big Dipper, hanging from the tip of the TV antenna on the house next door. “Yes, Margaretta, I can.”
“You know, when I told them you were handsome, I spoke the truth.” She shook her head. “I can’t get over you. You’re so incredible as a man. So perfect.” Then she laughed. “Do you feel different?”
I nodded. “Yes, I do. I really do.”
“Let’s pretend, shall we?” She glanced down at her hand, hooked through her front belt loop. “Let’s pretend we’re young men, in the prime of our lives, single, attractive, in love. Oh, there are others around us, we have our admirers, but we only have eyes for each other, you know? Do you know how such a couple would show their love?”
“No, I don’t.”
“Then I will teach you. Kneel down here. Don’t worry, the ground’s soft.”
I got down on my knees before her, my eyes level with her fly. She unzipped and with her fingertips, drew out the largest penis I have ever seen. Even now, all these many years later, I have never seen anything quite like it, which is how I knew with certainty that it was man-made. But that didn’t matter to me. Its girth, its length, its lifelike glans and veins in the soft evening light — they all looked so real to me. I ran my tongue across my lips, along the bristly ends of my false mustache.
“You will worship me,” she said. “You will worship me with your tongue, your mouth. I have such pride in this gift for you, my love. And it’s all yours. Come, darling. Enjoy.”
I cupped my lips and took the tip of her penis in my mouth. She’d put some sort of flavoring on it, the dear girl; I could taste sweetness, like honey or maple syrup. I licked, exaggerating my movements so she could see my tongue.
“Oh, yes!” she laughed, throwing her head back for a second. But only a second, for in truth, she could not keep her eyes off me. I advanced on her, going deeper, deeper, a quarter in my mouth, then a half, then even more. The tip began to bump against my throat, and I had to take long, deep breaths to control the urge to choke. At one point, though, I couldn’t help it, and I began to cough. Strangely enough, even this delighted her. “I’m big, aren’t I? Too big for you, lover? Too big? Spit on it, darling, make it nice and slick, and I’ll show you a real surprise.”
* * *
“Oh, my god,” Jan said to herself as she closed the notebook. No wonder Chip couldn’t read anymore. She heard him on the phone in the next room, talking to one of his guy friends about the upcoming Penn State game. This is our mother’s secret life! Jan thought. She rubbed her eyes, tempted to set the book aside. But something drew her back, the sense that more lay ahead. She had to go on.
* * *
With the gabardine slacks around my ankles, I stood with my palms pressed into the splintery wooden fence. I could feel Margaretta’s hands, cupping my bare ass, massaging and admiring it, accompanied by a running soliloquy, half of which I couldn’t even hear. “Lovely, lovely,” she kept saying. Soon her fingers slipped into my crack and invaded that dark little hole of secrets, one finger, then two, making it wider, wider. “Shh… relax. Get ready, darling, I’m going to fuck you.”
And then, yes, without warning, she did fuck me, her ersatz penis spreading me wide. I received her with an adoring moan. I’d often fantasized about such activities, and Mike even tried once, but he found that place too tight for his liking and gave up, never to attempt it again.Margaretta, on the other hand, had the patience of a great teacher, and I let her take me and like any good teacher should, I allowed her to broaden my horizons. I wanted it, I needed it. Completely inside now, up to the hilt, we moved together, bumping against the old fence and feeling it give against our weight. “Thank you, darling,” Margaretta kept saying, over and over. “Thank you, thank you’do you feel it, too? I’m going to — yes! — I feel it, I feel it, I’m coming, dear Andy, dear -” Soon her words were nothing but moans, and as for me, I was beyond all power of speech. The heat of orgasm swept over me, and I could not stop it. God only knows how long it went on, but at the end, we were both limp, spent, wilted flowers, but with our beauty still intact.
“I love you, Margaretta,” I remember whispering into her hair, the gray fedora long since fallen away. “I love you, so much.”
* * *
“Okay, that’s enough.” Jan shut the notebook and put it back on the bookshelf, between One Hundred Great Operas and Chip’s college yearbook.
He was off the phone now and busy clearing away the bits of torn napkin he’d left on the table earlier. “Too much information, huh?”
“And not much about us, either,” Jan said.
“Yup,” Chip replied. “Hardly anything about us at all.”
© 2006 J.Z. Sharpe. All rights reserved. Content may not be copied or used in whole or part without written permission from the author.