Some Assembly Required

Start here … before something happens. Start with your main character, a girl, a young girl because nobody’s interested in old people. Make her in her twenties or not quite twenties, make her 19. She has to be pretty, of course, but let’s make her fat. Really fat with a pretty face. Yeah, that’s it, a pretty face.

Begin with a sex scene. No exposition at first, just the sex scene, a young girl, a young, pretty girl (albeit fat) sits on the edge of the bed. She’s fully clothed but don’t worry, very little of her clothing is going to come off because she’s mightily self-conscious. Besides, she doesn’t need to take her clothes off for this kind of sex.

Now the boy. Also 19, good-looking, skinny in a young-boy way. His chest is bony, hairless, pale. He is standing a few feet away from the girl, totally naked. He has an erection that curves up towards the ceiling, a divining rod predicting rain. He is posed like the statue David, one hand on his shoulder, the other dangling down by his thigh. The reference to David would not make any sense to this boy. In his mind he is posed like a major league pitcher waiting for the right signal from the catcher. The girl is the catcher, the boy is the pitcher. This is standard sexual rhetoric.

The boy says, “I don’t like the way your dog looks at me when I am naked.”

Pan to the dog in the room, a medium-sized dog, a mutt preferably, but it might be a Cocker Spaniel or Golden Retriever puppy. The dog could be symbolic. Pay attention. Most important at the moment is that the dog’s gaze does seem to be fixed on the young man’s erection.

Now the girl says, “It’s your cock. Fluffy thinks your cock is a toy.” The girl elaborates, “All Fluffy’s toys look like your penis. There’s a squeaky newspaper toy,” she points to something black-and-white-and-read-all-over sticking out from under a tower of clothes piled on the floor. The rubber newspaper has been majorly chewed on. “And there’s her squeaky hot dog toy and her rawhide chew sticks and her rubber bone. All phallic.”

“I don’t need it explained,” says the boy. He whines when he says the word “explained.” This is character development at its most basic. The boy is a whiner. He doesn’t understand why women don’t like him after a few weeks. Quite simply, they don’t like his whining… the needy inflection on certain words. Also he sniffs. Not snuff, if that’s what you are thinking. Or glue. He sniffs the air every few seconds. When he was little kid, he was allergic to everything. He’s grown out of the allergies but the sniffing remains. It’s now a full blown tic. He is, in actuality, a mostly kind-hearted, self-absorbed college boy but the girls he likes don’t like him. The aforementioned whining and sniffing is a turn off.

Not a turn off to our heroine, our fat but pretty heroine sitting fully dressed on the bed. We’d better give her a name now so we don’t confuse anyone. We’ll call her…Patty. Or maybe not. That’s awfully close to Fatty, isn’t it? Let’s see, let’s see… what’s popular these days in names? Or if not today, what was popular nineteen years ago? Crystal is good. All see-through and shining, honest, breakable, maybe evoking of Humpty Dumpty in a fragile, feminine way. A name given by parents who had high hopes for their little baby’s future. Or maybe they had a drug problem and no hopes for their baby’s future. We don’t know if Crystal’s parents are even relevant at this point. This is not a novel, for Pete’s sake.

Our Crystal has known and loved the boy, (we’ll hurry up here and just call him Pete, we’ve already introduced the name Pete in “for Pete’s sake”, we can’t take too much time naming everyone, why we hardly paused at “Fluffy,” which is a terrible name for a dog, more cat-like really), Crystal has known and loved Pete since they were children. Back in Pete’s sniffing days, but probably before the whining began. Whiners usually start in adolescence. Crystal doesn’t mind and/or notice the sniffing and/or the whining. It’s a part of who he is. Crystal met Pete in kindergarten when they were both five. They have been friends for many years. They are still friends, really good friends, and nothing more, unless you count blowjobs as something more.

We need to get back into the action. Peter has just said, whined, “I don’t need it explained.” Then he says, “I want you to make her stop.” If you have forgotten what is going on, well, that’s our bad, we have way too much back story in there, but what else are we to do. It had to come out at some point. You can go back and reorient yourself if you like…we’ll wait.

* * *

Pete says, “I want you to make her stop.”

And Crystal says, “She’ll stop if you pull off your penis and throw it for her.” Crystal is trying to be witty. She often makes a few jokes before oral sex. Usually she will grab Pete’s penis and do a few impromptu lines, like a comedian with a microphone thrust in front of her — she can’t seem to stop herself. This one is not one of her better jokes. For starters, men never find penis dismemberment jokes funny. But for enders, a nude man with an erection anticipating a blow job will laugh at anything, even if only politely, maybe out of nervousness or perhaps out of a fear of hurting his partner’s feelings, which may threaten the outcome of the blowjob. Crystal doesn’t realize this. Crystal thinks of herself as funny.

“Ha, ha,” Pete says, reaffirming Crystal’s misconceptions.

There are reasons Crystal makes this particular joke. Lately, she has begun to consider that all body parts are detachable. Maybe it is because of the way she feels during the blowjobs. Maybe it is because of her new job. She works at a warehouse, minimum wage, but with the potential for health insurance if she makes it past three months. The warehouse where she works stocks accessories for amputees and paraplegics. Crystal is responsible for the foot-and-hand section. There is no penis section, though tucked backed in a corner of a different section are boxes of testicle prosthesis arranged according to weight. Crystal heard this from a woman friend she made in the break room. This friend works in the house wares sections where she is responsible for stocking and pulling kitchen supplies for people who only have the use of one hand. Or no hands. The friend, Ilene, we’ll call her (whose name, purely coincidentally, has a kind of one-legged ring to it, you know, but that’s how the writer’s mind works, we can’t help it, though this Ilene has two legs and conjures to mind our mother’s best friend from 1976 to 1980, a lurching, tall woman with long pterodactyl toes), was recently promoted from the foot-and-hand section thus creating the employment opportunity for Crystal. This is Crystal’s first full-time job.

Business is booming, what with the war in Iraq and all.

For eight hours every day, Crystal is surrounded by disconnected feet and hands. The feet are in shoeboxes. Crystal likes to take them out and examine them as she fills her orders. “Men’s Size 12, Athletic, Black” or “Ladies Size 6, 1–½ inch Heel, Sandal-Toe, Tan.” She removes each one from its box and turns it over in her hands, flexing her own foot subconsciously. There are even women’s feet designed to fit into three-inch high stilettos, for come-fuck-me-pumps, for street-walking, for dancing.

The hands are less interesting. They are rubbery or plastic, inert, and lifeless which is how they will look when the owner slips them on over whatever prosthetic arm they use. A hook, presumably. A claw. These hands are made to hide behind. The feet are full of life, waiting to be screwed onto a leg and used. Walked on, kicked with, swung up onto an ottoman.

“Ha, ha,” Pete says, laughing politely, nervously. He is getting impatient for the blow job to commence while we pontificate on Crystal’s job. It is not Pete’s place to initiate and/or rush the proceedings. Crystal is doing him a favor. As a friend. She seems to enjoy it but there will be no reciprocation, in any way whatsoever, on his part. Because Pete would not enjoy that. Not that he doesn’t love Crystal, hell no, that’s not true, it is just that he is not physically attracted to Crystal. It’s not something he can do anything about. It’s not his fault. It just is, like in a Zen way. He accepts that. And if Crystal wants to give him a blow job anyway, well, that’s fine with him. Ol’ Pete does not say “no” to blow jobs.

At this point we must examine why Crystal does this. Her mother (we weren’t going to go into her parents, but they insist on being heard), if her mother knew she was doing such a thing, besides the fact that she would be appalled, her mother might say that Crystal was suffering from penis envy having grown up with four brothers and a tom cat as the family pet. If her mother actually said that she would be wrong. Wrong about the number of brothers, in particular; Crystal has only two brothers. A mother ought to know that but Crystal’s mother is prone to hyperbole.

Her father, if he became aware of such hanky-panky, would hang his head in shame, having left Crystal and her mother when Crystal was only five, and everyone knows little girls who grow up without their daddy spend the rest of their lives looking for a father figure or a penis, whichever appears first.

Ilene would simply think that Pete was a manipulative jerk.

Oprah Winfrey would explain a lot of teens today are not interested in the whole pairing up and going steady thing like people did in the last century. Now, it is more common for teens to experiment sexually with friends rather than do the “traditional fall-in-love-and-get-married” scenario. Then Oprah would turn to the camera, which would zoom in to a close-up of her most serious, slightly disgusted but also slightly sympathetic expression and say, “We’ll be right back.”

But truly, without waiting for any other minor character or celebrity guests to chime in with their opinion, we all know why Crystal does this. Crystal knows why she does this:


Okay, okay, give her a break for thinking this way, especially with the ALL CAPS. Crystal is only 19 and fairly naïve. We’re lucky she didn’t throw a couple of exclamation points in there.

It was hoped that Crystal would have some sort of epiphany during this narrative, that is the way a good story is supposed to work, but unfortunately, it is not going to happen right now. She’ll figure it out — we can scatter some insights around this time and hope for the best. Like Johnny Appleseed, we may come by this way again and be pleasantly surprised at the growth that has transpired. Or we could come back and not even recognize we have been here before.

But for now Crystal is dropping to her knees. She grabs the mic and says, “Thank you. Thank you. I’ll be here all week.”

“Ha, ha,” Pete says. “Ha, ha, ha … oh.

Crystal’s mind disconnects. Her eyes stray to the her alarm clock on the bedside table, to the pile of laundry that needs to be done, to her dog lying in a pool of sunlight warming the carpet under the window. The dog is staring at Crystal now, her sweet, old dog, yes, yes, earlier we mentioned that it might have been a puppy, but we weren’t looking closely — it is clearly an old dog, it’s lower jaw slack, it’s teeth brown, it’s eyes filled with shame and sadness and embarrassment and perhaps a glimmer of hope. All directed at Crystal.

Maybe dogs can see right into people. Maybe they can see into the future. Maybe Fluffy can see Crystal, wiring her jaw shut and losing 150 pounds. There she is, seeing Pete as the selfish whining air sniffer that he is. There she is, eating cake at a party at work, the party for her promotion to regional sales manager. There she is, having gained back half of the weight she lost, lugging a saleman’s case of hands and feet across the United States. There she is, entering a hospital room where a male nurse feels his heart leap out of his chest, in a good way, at the sight of her appearing in the doorway. There she is, all in one piece.