Paradise Found By Steve Carr

I awaken feeling the warm breeze coming off the ocean through the open doors that lead out onto the veranda. The air is perfumed with the scents of salt water and lush island flora. I hear the waves ebbing and flowing on the nearby white sand beach and macaws chattering in the canopy of trees. It is early and the light coming into my bedroom is soft and hazy. The bed is surrounded on all sides by gauzy mosquito netting and a wooden fan rotates slowly in the middle of the ceiling. During the night I have accidentally kicked off the white satin top sheet which lies in a heap alongside the bed. Naked, I look down at my body, at the hardness of my pecs, the flatness of my stomach and the stiffness of my hefty cock. I tanned quickly, having been on the beach for only a few hours the day before, and looking down at my large feet they alone reveal the true whiteness of my skin; the tan lines from the sandals I wore clearly visible, separating white skin from tan. I swam nude, and afterward covered in tanning lotion I sunbathed nude except for the sandals on a flat rock on the edge of the beach, turning my body regularly like a roasting fowl. Lying here even after showering before coming to bed, I can smell the remnants of the coconut in the tanning lotion along with the subtle scent of my sweat. I wrap my large right hand around my member and slowly begin to slide it up and down from base to head, slowly, luxuriating in the moment and the pleasure my own body gives me.

When Nani opens the bedroom door that leads from the living room, I instinctively cover my erection with my hand and try to smile innocently at her through the netting. She says nothing as she carries in a tray with a plate of fresh cut fruit; pineapples, papaya and bananas, and places it on the stand at my bedside. She is not wearing a sarong as she did yesterday, and is now clothed in a simple cotton flower patterned dress that has buttons from her ample cleavage down to the hem at mid-thigh. Both the top three buttons and the bottom three are unbuttoned and even with her simple movements of walking or slightly bending over she reveals the outermost boundary of her dark brown areolas. She moves with unintentional sexiness, the dress clinging to and shifting over her large breasts, around the curves of her torso and between her smooth legs. There are no panty lines. Her long black hair hangs straight and shiny down to the middle of her back, and as she moves she pushes stray strands back from her beautiful face with a gentle flick from her hand. When she glances at my face, she smiles with perfectly white aligned teeth showing between full lips lightly touched with red lipstick.

“You are awake,” she says in a mixture of question and statement.

“Yes,” I say. “Good morning.”

She stands up straight from having placed the tray in its spot, the opening at the top of her dress between her breasts closing. “I hope you slept well,” she says.

“Very well, thank you,” I say feeling pre-ejaculate oozing in the palm of my hand covering the bulbous head of my throbbing dick.

“Breakfast will be in an hour,” she says as she begins to leave the room. “If there is anything you need Hori and I are here to serve you. Just ring the bell on the stand by your bedside.”

“Thank you,” I say as she leaves the room.

I take my hand from my dick and put the palm of my hand to my lips and lick it free of the salty-sweet juice. I lie here pondering my good luck, winning this trip to this tropical paradise in a radio station promotion raffle. I can feel the weight of my hard dick lying on my lower abs.

“I see you are ready for the day.” It is Hori. He is standing in the door leading out onto the veranda. He is shirtless and barefoot and wearing white cotton shorts. Like Nani, he has perfectly smooth caramel-colored skin and his hair is coal black. His body is trim and his muscles well defined. He is holding a broom made of bamboo and straw. He is pressing the broom against his genitals.  His thick hard cock is bulging and clearly outlined in the thinness of the material of his shorts.  He is glaring at me.

“Yes I am ready,” I say not bothering to hide my erection.

“You will be staying with us for a few days?” He asks still rubbing the broom handle against his swollen member.

“Yes I am,” I say. “I read in the brochure that I can get a massage. Would that be possible after lunch?” I ask.

“Certainly,” he says, “if it is okay that I am the one giving you the massage and not Nani.”

“That’s fine with me, Hori,” I say sitting up and swinging my legs over the side of the bed. “I should get my day started.” I stand and my erect penis sticks straight out, pushing against the netting.

“I will see you after you have had lunch and give you the massage,” he says turning brusquely and walking off the veranda and down a path leading into the jungle.

I pick up a ripe banana from the tray and peel it and slide it into my mouth as I go into the bathroom.

# # #

At breakfast I sit at a small table by an open window looking out at the jungle and watch as blue and yellow macaws roost in the large branches of candlenut trees and carry out their unmelodious chorus of squawks. With a fan whirling about gently over my head I sit in a padded bamboo chair across from Nani. She sits with one foot up on the chair, her legs slightly spread, and between bites of macadamia pineapple pancakes I steal glances at the pink lips of her pussy surrounded by a thick bush of black hair. Beneath the table my immense hard on resists the cotton board shorts that tries but is losing the battle to keep my cock constrained. Looking down occasionally at my lap I can see the glistening head of my cock poking out the left leg of the shorts.

“We lived in the United States for several years,” she says, “but we like it here much better.”

“You don’t see many people on this island, do you?” I say.

“No, just the guests who come to stay. Usually they are older married couples. It is a treat having a single man like you visiting us,” she says, leaning back in the chair, her vagina bared between the golden hues of the skin of her thighs.

“How long have you and Hori been married?” I ask.

She laughs. “We are not married yet but soon will be, but not much will change when we are. What we share now we will also share then.”

“You mean the work and living in the servants’ house behind this one?” I say.

“Yes, what else is there?” She asks.  She reaches into the top of her low cut dress and adjusts atit and pulls her hand out. The hard nipples of her breasts are pronounced and pressed against the cotton material.

“You are not married?” She says.

“No, I date,” I say, “but no one exclusively. I have found plenty of sex but no love yet.”

“True love requires your heart and your body,” she says.

With my breakfast finished I remain seated hoping my erection will deflate as she goes about clearing the table. When I finally stand up the leg of my shorts and my thigh is wet with pre-cum. “I think I’ll take a walk,” I say and go into my bedroom and slide my feet into my sandals and go out onto the veranda and then down the path to the beach.  A slight breeze is being carried in from the turquoise waters and the ferns and coconut palms sway at the jungle’s edge. I stand on the warm white sand and watch Hori out in a canoe as he casts a small net into the water. His dark skin stands out in relief against the backdrop of the colors of the sea and the brilliant baby blue of mid-morning sky. I slide the boarder shorts off and carry them in my hand as I stroll down the beach feeling the warmth of the sun on my naked flesh.

A mile down the beach I turn off into the jungle and walk a short ways and come into a small circular clearing. There is a wall of jungle all around it, but along the periphery of the cleared space are four polished stone statues of female figures. The figures each have short thick legs upon which sits protruding stomachs and large breasts. I look at each one closely noticing that the stomach and breast of one of them is spotted with remnants of what looks to be dried sap. Behind me I turn quickly and see Hori standing in the path on the edge of the clearing.

“I didn’t mean to startle you,” he says.

“It’s okay,” I say. “I was just admiring the statues. What are they?”

“They are fertility goddesses,” he says. “They have been there for many generations of my family.”

“Your family is from this island?” I ask.

He comes closer to me and stands looking at the statue with the stains. “Yes, I was born and raised on this island.”

I look at the statue and point to the stains. “What are those?”

“They are my seed being offered to that goddess,” he says. “You are invited to offer yours to her also if you would like.”

I can feel my cock becoming engorged thinking about it, but turn to him and say, “maybe another time. I should get back to the cabin and take a shower and have some lunch before you give me that massage.”

“As you wish,” he says. “It’s your vacation do to with as you please. I will bring the massage table to your room.”

# # #

After lunch I am sitting in a wicker chair in my bedroom when Hori comes in from the veranda carrying a folded up massage table. “I see you are ready,” he says as he begins to unfold and set the table on its metal legs.

I stand, the towel wrapped around my waist slipping down just slightly to the top of my light brown pubes. “Yes, I’m ready,” I say crawling onto the table and placing my face in the hole at the table’s end. I can only see his feet through the hole noticing again the beauty of his skin coloring just as with Nani. I can hear him but do not know what he is doing until I see his shorts fall to his feet and him step out of them and kick them aside. When he begins massaging my upper back the apprehension of being massaged by a naked man quickly fades and I relax my body on the pad of the table. Wordlessly I hear him as he shakes a bottle of lotion into his strong hands and then returns to rubbing and massaging my skin. He reaches under me and undoes the towel and pulls it from my body and tosses it onto his shorts. As his hands caress and kneed the hard mounds of my ass and up and down my inner thigh I lose the battle to keep from getting a complete erection. With my one arm hanging over the edge of the table I feel the pressure of his thick hard cock as it brushes against it. When at last he has me turn onto my back, my dick is spewing a stream of semen. I look down and watch as he lowers his mouth onto the head of my cock and begins sliding his lips up and down on the fully swollen shaft. As I cum I wrap my hand around his massive cock and feel him shoot his ejaculate onto the floor.

# # #

At night as I sit on the veranda in the glow of a full moon I hear the frogs croaking from the nearby lagoon and watch butterflies dance from flower to flower along the border of the jungle. I am sipping a tropical drink of rum and mangoes and staring up at the night sky pinpointed with white shimmering stars. When Nani comes out onto the veranda from my room I almost do not hear her bare feet on the painted boards.

“It is a beautiful night,” she says.

“It’s paradise,” I say.

She goes to the railing of the veranda and turns and raises her dress high on her thighs and sits on it, her legs slightly spread. “Hori told me he gave you a massage this afternoon.” she says. “Did you enjoy it?”

I hesitate briefly, “yes, very much. It was different.”

“He is good with his hands,” she says.

“Yes he is,” I say realizing he did not tell her everything.

She raises her left leg placing her foot on the railing also, her crotch fully exposed. In the shadow between her open legs I try to see the crevice of her pussy. I feel my breathing become more rapid and my cock begins to swell in my shorts.

“Do you find me attractive?” She asks, placing her hand on the inside of her thigh.

“Yes, very,” I stammer.

She slowly unbuttons her dress and opens it revealing the fullness of her breasts that are tipped with large brown circles around pointed brown nipples. Even before I stand my penis is rock hard and as I slide my shorts down to my feet I feel the warm night air envelop my body. Stepping out of the shorts I walk to her and take her breasts in my hands and bend down and lick each nipple. She moans as I slide my large thick middle finger into the moistness of her vagina and begin to thrust it back and forth inside her. She grabs the back of my head and covers my lips with hers as I guide my big hard dick into her juice-dripping pussy. When we climax together she collapses against my bare chest with my cock still hard and dripping cum inside her.

“Do not tell Hori what you and I do,” she says. “If it weren’t for Hori, I could love you.”

# # #

During breakfast I watch rain fall onto the lush jungle growth. The moisture and humidity in the air is palpable and I can taste the salt in the air on my tongue. Nani has been mostly quiet, serving my breakfast and then removing the dishes afterward without saying much. She is wearing a sarong and her bare shoulders glisten with sweat. When I rise from the table I say “I’m going for a walk” and start to leave.

“Hori is gone also,” she says. “If you see him send him home.”

“I will,” I say, then walk through the bedroom and out onto the veranda and stand watching the rain dripping from palm fronds before stepping out onto the path leading to the beach. Without the cover of jungle I see the sky is full of billowy dark clouds. The waves washing against the shore are choppy and the seagulls are scurrying back and forth in the wet sand as if disoriented by the change in weather. I take off my sandals and carry them as I walk along the shell-scattered beach. Hori is nowhere in sight. At the path leading to the statues I turn and re-enter the jungle. On the edge of the small clearing where the statues stand I stand and watch Hori as he stands naked in front of the same statue as the day before, his massive hard cock in his hand, stroking it very slowly. I start to turn and leave and he turns, looking at me.

“Come give your seed to the goddess,” he says raspily.

I hesitate briefly then slide my shorts down and off and hang them on a fern along with my sandals. At his side, my arm touching his, I take my member in my hand and begin to slide my hand up and down the shaft and over the thick head until I am hard.

“It is beautiful,” he says looking at my hard dick.

“Yours too,” I say while looking at the goddess.

He places his hand on my chest and slowly slides it down my abs and into my pubes. I move my hand as he takes my cock in his hand and strokes my dick to the same slow rhythm as he is stroking his own.

“Make me your goddess,” he says as he puts his arms around the statue and slightly bends over presenting his smooth muscular ass to me. I go back to jacking my cock. “Not that way,” he says, reaching around and spreading his cheeks, revealing his pink starfish shaped hole to me.

“Are you sure,” I say.

“Yes, do it,” he says spreading his legs more and pushing his butt against the head of my cock. “Last night while Nani slept I jacked off imagining what it would feel like to have your big cock inside me.”

I add spit to the pre-cum on my dick and slowly slide it into him, opening him, entering him inch by inch until the full thickness and length of my member is completely inside him. When I begin to thrust back and forth with my hands holding onto his slender hips he moans with pleasure while he strokes his cock. When he cums on the statue my jizz explodes deep inside him. As I pull my cock out of him he looks over his shoulder at me.

“Do not tell Nani what you and I do,” he says. “If it weren’t for Nani, I could love you.”

# # #

On the speedboat leaving the island going to the mainland I look back at the beach and am not surprised that neither Nani or Hori are there watching me go. In these last few days on the island  I made love to both them frequently, sampling every part of their bodies and them sampling every part of mine. Last night while Hori lay naked on his stomach on my bed and I thrust my rod in and out of his smooth, firm hole Nani came into my bedroom and cried out in anguish.

“How could you do this to me?” She said, leaving quickly and slamming the door behind her.

While shooting my load deep into Hori’s warm insides I wondered who Nani’s statement was aimed at. Before I get into the boat they hardly speak to me, or to one another.

I imagined that each of them was waiting for me to tell them that I could love them also. On the boat ride from the island to the main island the young man steers the speedboat sitting with his legs spread, the bare skin of his smooth muscled chest glistening in the sun. From under his lava lava I see his huge hard cock bobbing up and down and dripping pre-cum with every bounce on the waves. He watches me closely, licking his gorgeous thick lips as I unzip my pants and take out my rock hard cock and offer it to him.

“I can love you,” I tell him as he stops the boat in the water and gets on his knees and takes my big cock into his mouth.

Charlie’s Room By A. A. Garrison

When Randy returned from the Gulf, on leave, Charlie wasn’t with him.

He’d promised to visit her personally, Charlie’s ma. It was Charlie’s last coherent request, before the fever and delirium swallowed him up. Randy made it his first stop, before even his own ma, or changing out of his fatigues. It was how he was.

Charlie’s house. Or just his ma’s house, now. Their little Carolina hometown wasn’t too much to start with, and the property was a good few miles outside of it, off a nameless dirt road that went to hell in heavy rains. Still, the house wasn’t so bad, tall and brick, a kind of poor-man’s Georgian, incongruous to the woods. Randy had liked it as a child, the backwater property and its big funny house, had always invited himself over come Friday night; it was where Sherlock Holmes would live, he’d thought. His rental car spit gravel all up the driveway.

He parked beside a pragmatic coupe that could belong to an old woman, and camped the driveway for a time. The house had changed since his last visit, not so much a physical thing as perceptual, a pall drawn by his upcoming task. Unshuttered windows stared out, lifeless. It was summer and the lawn was healthy and cared for – Billy, the woman he’d come to see, had two green thumbs – but the landscaping was somehow wrong, contrasting, the property’s vacancy. It might’ve sensed Charlie’s end.

Randy made a false start. Billy. This was impossible. It caught up to him all at once. He lifted his camo hat and brushed away sweat, breathing deep. It had been easier fighting in the desert.

Another few minutes, and he at last left the safety of the car, a flagstone walk to the door. He caught muffled noises from inside, and his guts sunk; a part of him had been hoping she wasn’t home, or was in bed or the shower – anything for a reprieve. He sucked another breath and thumbed the buzzer.

The door swung open at once, perhaps on a switch, and there she was, the bereaved. For a dilate moment, the two kept to their respective sides of the door, long enough for him to see lazy jeans and an around-house tee-shirt, a face that had aged more than it should’ve. Then she was in his arms and sobbing, neither saying a word, Randy in a consoling mode learned in the army. The two swayed like tired dancers.

After some time on the stoop, she said his name twice and led him out of the heat. The living room was wholly unchanged from the old days, Randy saw, dark and windowless in the home’s center, twin recliners and a big friendly couch. Along one wall was the heinous Panasonic console TV they’d had forever, Charlie’s old movies and video games. Randy went sick with grief, suddenly, but he choked it back, for her.

Billy was a mess. Slumped shoulders, a tremor to her. Gone was the graceful strut she’d always shown, full of womanly confidence; she walked the way dogs pant, seeming to follow Randy despite going first. She set him down on the couch and filed beside, intimately close. She smelled vaguely of cinnamon.

“The funeral was nice,” she said afterward, in the even, unaccented voice he knew her by.

Randy nodded. What to say. He realized she was still holding his hand, and let her.

“Just tell me,” she asked. “Was it quick? Just… was it?”

A roadside bomb, shrapnel in the gut and leg and face. Three days’ waiting. “It was quick,” Randy said.

A shadow fell over her. “Don’t lie.” Her hand pulled away some, as animals do before taking off.


She searched him, those deep Spanish eyes, then said “Okay.” The hand eased and she sucked into her lap, kind of, tears bombing down.

Randy said nothing more. Consolation mode. She stayed in her lap, and he studied her. Olive skin. Browny-colored hair in a perm that needed refreshing, just showing white in places. Textbook Mediterranean. She hadn’t changed much from the woman of memory; there were some crow’s-feet and laugh lines, and some deckle-edge wrinkles around her lips, but she was the same old Billy. It was odd, seeing her this way, her shiny side covered over with pain. Loneliness shone through her like a bulb, and he supposed that the worst; Charlie had been an only child, and his dad had been dead before Randy came into the picture, in third grade. Billy had never remarried.

She looked up, wearing a strained grin that was for Randy’s benefit. “Your mom came by last week. Brought a pie. Peach.”

Randy returned a perfunctory smile of his own. “She bakes a helluva pie.”

“Ate the whole damn thing.” Back to her lap. “Comfort food, I guess. But.”

“It’ll do that to ya’. Loss, I mean.” And it did; Charlie wasn’t the only of Randy’s missing friends.

“Yeah. Last thing I need is pie, though.”

Randy appraised her without meaning to do so. She was alright for a woman looking at fifty, could probably get by with a pie or two. He thought of telling her so, but it seemed wrong. “Said he loved you,” Randy said instead. “Charlie.”

She raised up again, the face already crumbling. Her eyes misted and she melted into him as she had outside, really bawling now. Her hand squeezed his as if shocked. He wrapped his free hand around her shoulder, bedding her in his clavicle.

Ironic: It was like his knee, almost exactly.

Randy had been eleven or close, over at Charlie’s for another Friday night, the two up to no good out in the woods, when he’d hurt his knee. They’d been playing army, with orange-capped versions of the M16s they would be issued not ten years later, and Randy had slipped on a mossy shelf of rock, his left knee meeting the rock’s sharp. Randy had freaked, not from the pain but the sheer disaster of it, all the blood. Charlie had walked him back, their arms tangled over each other’s necks, and Randy hadn’t been able to hold back, him wailing in full audience of Charlie and, later, Billy, who’d had the mense to send Charlie off. Randy had been unable to stop, now from embarrassment and his inability to stop, perversely, and she’d set him on this very couch and held him to her chest, soothing him quiet just like he was, currently, her. Life is a circle, another army-lesson.

She cried no less than twenty minutes, soaking a lapel. When she at last quieted and came up, she looked a little better – puffy and dopey, as if roused from sleep, but better, the way we do after a good cry. “Oh, Randy,” she sighed, blushing.

“No, it’s fine,” he said, reading some embarrassment.

She still had his hand, and gave it another squeeze, with what tried to be a smile. Her eyes sharpened behind their glaze of tears, as if just recognizing him. “Do you remember when- ?”

“I skinned up my knee?”

She smiled, now genuine, showing teeth. “Yeah! Funny, huh?”


“Yeah.” Her brightness faded as fast as it had arrived, perhaps on a dial.

A silence then, this one uncomfortable, tensioned. Their eyes found each other and locked, and something passed between them, too big for words. Her mouth slit a little, as if she had something to say but couldn’t quite get it out. In a movie, it would’ve preceded a swooning kiss.

But they didn’t kiss. She gave his hand a quick pat, sandwiching his between her own, and then let it go and hunted up some Kleenex. Several boxes cluttered the coffee table, some empty. She blew her nose and dabbed her eyes, then quit the couch, forcing him to follow.

“Thank you, Randy,” she said, with a tender clap on the shoulder, the kind older women give young men. “You don’t know.”

“I told him I would. Was nothin’.”

She leaned in for an asexual peck on the cheek. “No no, it is. Your mom was here, and Pierce’s folks and the others and, but it wasn’t the same.” Pierce was her late husband. “Thank you,” she repeated, firmly. Randy could remember her real smile, from Before, and saw it now, in her eyes.

And again, that creeping tension, like they were on a date. Randy indicated the door. “I’m gonna… My folks’re… “

“Yeah. Come on,” she said, and walked him out.

She never asked about his time in the Gulf, and that was fine.

# # #

When Randy’s mother requested he take a second pie over to Billy Wilcox’s, Randy was more than happy to, and not because he wanted to cheer Billy up. He needed out of the house.

Life back home was just short of a nightmare. Mom, Dad, Randy’s kid brother Jake: they all wanted to know. The temperatures, the people, his routine there, how was the food and… ? Jake, at twelve, had even asked if Randy had “bagged any rag-heads.” His parents had sent the boy disapproving looks, but Randy had seen the interest in their eyes, no less than their tactless son’s but worse because they would deny it. They had a God-given right to these facts, apparently, maybe in the Bible somewhere. Too much cable news, Randy thought.

He’d answered the questions, curtly, but he’d answered – except for Jake’s. Miraculously, the phone had rung just after, providing an out. What he would’ve said, he didn’t know. Yes, he’d shot people, bombed people, reduced them to ugly lumps of meat like Charlie’d ended up, and it was nobody’s damn business but his own. He tried to give his parents as much of their son as possible, but there was a division there, and not a small one. The contrast between Here and Over There… it was light and shadow. He’d been warned, by leave-veterans, about feeling “removed” upon coming home, but there was no preparing for this. When he’d entered the house he grew up in, the distance had been nothing short of leprous. After three days, he felt more kinship with Rodney, the family labrador, than these strangers.

So Charlie’s was fine. Randy had expected his votive visit with Billy to be the worst of his leave, but after his experiencing home and all it entailed, she was actually preferable. A solidarity there. His family was still living The American Dream, what he’d risked his life to defend and was no longer a part of, whereas Billy shared his grim reality, his secret partner in this tragedy. On the other hand, Randy couldn’t blame them, his family, and refused to let their ignorance bitter him; not their fault, after all. He’d once been like them – been them – and now, he just wasn’t. But there was that gap, all the same, and it was ocean sized.

He called Billy first, this time, and her voice changed upon hearing his, became younger. It reminded him of calling his last girlfriend, before she’d heard he’d enlisted and found reasons to dump him. Yes, Billy would be home all day, and Randy could only bring the pie if he promised to eat some. He agreed; Mom did, in fact, know how to bake a pie. He got the pie from Mom, threw out some goodbyes, and went out to his truck, in the carport it had occupied for the past year.

The pickup had been his baby before shipping off, a rebuilt ‘70s Ford jacked up on candy-colored shocks, mud tires up to his hip, tread deep enough to hide in. He hadn’t been so vain as to take real pride in the thing, not like some men, but it had been something to sink spare time and money into. Charlie had been the truck’s real fan, and, really, it had been mostly for him. They would swan off in it on weekends, to the movies or the taverns in the next town over, with whatever insignificant others they were seeing at the time. Randy could’ve done with a cheap beat-around pickup, truth be known, but with Charlie such a car freak and never able to afford his own, it had gone from there, Randy an enthusiast by proxy. But now, even with Charlie in the ground, it was still a blast to drive, especially after Randy’s year of being driven.

He keyed the ignition, loving the whipcrack roar. After recalling the basics of operating a motor vehicle, he backed the behemoth down the driveway and into the suburban street — if anything here could be remotely urban. He and Dad had returned the rental days ago, but this was the first he’d been out in the truck. He gunned the engine and tore down the road, and it was orgasmic, as much from blowing off his folks as seeing the street go in fast-forward. This brought a zing of guilt, but the rush dissolved it. He drove the hilly country roads, to Charlie’s.

Billy’s economy Geo remained in the driveway, looking unmoved from three days ago. The day was clear and overwhelmingly pleasant, but the house still stared with those dead windows, evocative of Charlie just before he went. Randy again traversed the flagstones, now in mufti. The door opened before he’d let off the doorbell.

“Hey,” Billy said, smiling warmly, like those Fridays a million years ago. “Hey.”

Randy said “Howdy,” and froze a moment, the pie in both hands: Billy was different. She was made up, for one, her face powdered, earth-tone lipstick. She still wore jeans and a tee-shirt, but these were tucked in, flattering to her figure. A cloud still hung over her, yes, but it wasn’t so overbearing, perhaps a silver lining now. And there was more, too, in her body language. Anticipation? He couldn’t tell.

He extended the pie. “Blueberry. And Mom said this’un’s low-fat.”

She relieved him of it. “That’s fine, but you’re eating most of it.” She nodded him inside and closed the door. She had on perfume, he noticed.

The house assumed a different aspect on Randy’s second visit, divorced from the burden he’d been under – not necessarily happier, but better, like a scabbed-up wound. Charlie was everywhere. The living room, them up all night watching Schwarzenegger videos. The hallway in which Randy had broken a lamp during some mischief. Gilded pictures of relatives he’d never met. The place was one big memory. It choked him up again, but it was okay now, healthy. Part of letting go, he supposed.

The kitchen was no different. Charlie, a big boy, had been fond of the kitchen, so Randy had seen a lot of it. It was littered with Billy’s knickknacks: samplers, carved wood miniatures, a circus of refrigerator magnets. Randy picked out a couple magnets from years ago, one of which he remembered Charlie getting in school. There were some framed pictures in the mix: high-school graduation, basic-training graduation, Halloween as a kid. One showed Charlie, Randy, and a wrench named Will Moody at a desert airstrip, taken a month before the bomb.

“We can eat somewhere else,” Billy said, from far away.

Randy snapped to. He’d been staring. “No, this is fine.”

Billy gave him a look, then set the pie on the counter and got out the milk.

Randy found his eyes migrating to her, perhaps to avoid the memories waving from every inch of the room. Today’s outfit hugged her body, showing off the matronly curves she hadn’t lost. The jeans did her ass justice; jeans are unkind to some women, but she wasn’t one of them. When she started from the fridge, he looked guiltily away, unsure why.

Plates clinked, and she dealt out two cuneiform slices of pie, a super-big and a super-small. She passed him the big one and a glass of milk. “Hope you’re hungry.”

“Yes, mam.”

They ate, mmm’ing and slurping milk, the silence not awkward. They finished about the same time, and Billy said, “I want to show you something.”

Randy was down for “something,” as long as it kept him from home.

Billy led him upstairs through the dark house, her blue-jean ass inches away as they mounted the risers. It detailed when she took a step. Randy studied the risers. They stopped in Charlie’s bedroom.

Strangely, there weren’t many memories here, not what you would expect from Charlie’s ground zero. During Randy’s visits, they’d devoted most of their time to the woods or the kitchen or living room, his bedroom memories consisting of sleep and not much else. It had never been too decorated, and now was almost entirely bare, just a bed, an empty bookshelf, and a desk wearing some years-old Car and Drivers, as it had been from adolescence on. Charlie had never liked to be alone, and the room reflected that.

Leaving the light off, Billy went to the desk and scratched open a drawer, a large binder inside, its cover was untitled. He’d never seen the binder before. She creaked the bed and patted beside her. Randy sat.

“A scrapbook,” she explained. “Charlie’s.” The cover opened with a breath of old paper. The matte leaf read CHARLIES SCRAP BOOK in marker, hard to read; the room faced east and it was afternoon, the light low and uncertain.

The book was in her lap; looking there necessitated a view of her breasts. Randy sort of forced them out, selective perception. “I never knew he kept a scrapbook,” he said.

“Me either. Found it last month. After.”

The next leaf was lousy with sequins and rhinestones, the cheap stuff a kid would use in a scrapbook. Amidst the storm of decoration, a faded Polaroid depicted a young Charlie and a frosted cake, MY BIRTHDAY in more marker.

“His seventh,” Billy said, a fondness in her voice. She ran a finger down the photo.

Randy focused on the picture. “Think I was there for the eighth.”

She flipped forward several leafs, flashing similar art, then stopped. This one read EIGHTH BIRTHDAY and wasn’t quite as gaudy, the picture showing Charlie and another cake, and a gap-toothed Randy.

“So I was right,” Randy said, for something to say.

Billy looked at him with a lipless grin, tearing up like a child. He put a preemptive arm around her and she answered at once, burrowing into him. Her chest hitched as to quake her breasts, but she abstained from a full-out cry. She thumbed through the scrapbook.

The leaves all followed the same format, random decoration around an object of interest. A third-place ribbon from the school’s science fair. A snakeskin Randy could remember Charlie parading around. Newspaper clippings involving cars or movies about cars. One picture was a magazine cutout of Winona Ryder; Charlie had been known to have a thing for the actress, for reasons he kept to himself. Edward Scissorhands had featured prominently in their VCR. The clipping gave Billy and Randy a laugh. Over the narrative of pages, the decoration went from dime-store ornaments to crude drawings, to half-decent drawings to none at all, the last leg only pictures or clippings. The final leaf contained a single newspaper clipping, that announcing his and Randy’s deployment with several others from the area.

There was a glassy pause, and Billy seemed to stop breathing. Then the scrapbook slid from her lap and she pancaked against Randy, convulsing more than crying. He returned to consolation mode without thinking, petting her complex hair and squeezing her shoulder, letting her hand find his. A receptacle. He almost joined her a couple times, hot warmth threatening behind his eyes, but his tears had been cried.

“Sorry,” she sobbed, into his chest. “Sorry, but. It’s just. It’s different with a man. Things come out.”

He pet her in response, The Consoler.

Then she raised up, suddenly, right in his face, wearing an expression of terror. Time stopped and their eyes fused, her mouth again parted as if heavy with words – a replay of yesterday, another pre-swoon moment. But this time she pistoned forward, their mouths meeting.

It was quick and meaningless, all lips and barely that. She pulled back and neither spoke, the two discussing it via their eyes. Randy felt to be outside his body. The kiss had taken him by surprise… yet hadn’t; he’d expected this, unconsciously, from the moment he heard her voice lift on the phone. It seemed okay, natural as the dessert just eaten.

“Billy,” he said tonelessly, without reply. They held each other’s gaze for a time, and she must’ve read something in his because she came back strong, bringing tongue and hands and the sweet of blueberry pie.

Randy’s heart tripped and he went underwater, she changing position and all over him. The kiss didn’t stop and soon a hand was showing his to round and soft, he again squeezing. “Randy,” and she straddled him, her top off like magic. Great amounts of flesh foisted out, tipped the dark of baker’s chocolate.

“Ain’t right,” he said, not believing it for a second.

Billy didn’t so much as pause. She proffered her breasts with both hands and he accepted, taking sloppy mouthfuls, nipples the velvety of cat’s ears. She was still crying but only bodily, her face that of a criminal child’s. She ground industriously against him, knees flapping.

More kissing as she worked at his pants, mingling shadows in the darkness. The air teased his bare skin and then her hands were on him and busy, him accepting her so easily. “Ain’t right,” he said again, and it was a joke. He pressed into her caress, cupping her and kissing and their foreheads joined. She wasn’t the only one needing release.

Then she was away, Randy left on her dead son’s bed as she stood before him, the dark stealing her age. Her pants fell and the rest too and she stood with an air of question, hands knit at her navel.

“S’okay,” Randy said. He held out a hand. “S’okay, Billy.”

Her face smoothed and she climbed up and it started all over, she against the headboards and opening up butterfly-like, just catching the window’s far ambience. A musk of sweat and woman, traces of perfume. She pulled at herself moaning and soon he was inside, easing then pushing then pushing. Their hands melded and his head found her neck, in the windblown posture of the mating. Her tears warm on his close-cropped head, his collecting in her clavicle. The bed went into uproar, the only sound for miles.

It’s alright, it’s alright.”

In time, she cried out enormously and he with her, as only the aggrieved can, the tumult stopping and starting and stopping, their hands uncoupling by degrees.

They lay in what might be sleep, after, she at his breast and smiling through tears.

# # #

The shower was big enough for two. They’d gone twice more, exorcising the hurt. A soft afterglow now, dull red like closed eyes. They bathed without bathing, in a swaying embrace, wordless and shameless. Olive skin against desert-tanned-. He consigned his head to her shoulder, bedded in the wealth of hair.

She spoke just by his ear: “Is it really worth it, Randy? Is anything?”

Randy opened his eyes but didn’t lift his head. The question was valid, he just had no answer.

Billy pulled back. “Randy?” She brushed a hand over his cheek.

He looked at her, took away her hand, kissed her slowly. She didn’t ask again.