Below find Paul A. Toth's contribution to Installment #16, cold cold Winter 2005, of THE2NDHAND's broadsheet/broadside (however you like it) series, a rollicking tail of bombs, castration and otherwise "unsexing", and love. The issue also features illustrations by Rob Funderburk and a selection from the fabulous Ghost Pine zine, by Jeff Miller.
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THE KIND OF GIRL YOU READ ABOUT IN NEW WAVE MAGAZINES
Carol used to sashay into that Holiday Inn conference room sexless as a TV dinner--tits shielded by aluminum foil, ass and crotch wrapped in gauze like accident victims you'd rather not see, lips painted like black eyes, eyelids the color of ruby lips. She was cold, but that's not an accurate description. She was Cold.
Well, that was her story, anyway. But she loved Joe from the start, Joe with his baseball hat and skinny frame the bomb blew six inches off. To her, he looked like he belonged on a baseball card from a 1912 team called the Craters. When he and his teammates ran, it probably looked like the keystone cops, at least on newsreels. That was Joe. She called him Joe DiMaggio.
He and his men met each year at this Holiday Inn thirty miles west of Indianapolis. They celebrated their survival. She watched their rituals without sympathetic impulse, motherly urge or savior instinct. She watched from her throne and came down for the Unsexing, and that was it.
Joe protected her. Every year at least one group of outsiders faked their way inside the conference. They'd hoot and holler and splash beer everywhere and grab themselves the way no regular would. Every year, Joe stood and walked over to that table like a sheriff. The other regulars would yell, "Uh-oh, uh-oh," as Joe looked at the strangers and said, "This party's for men that ain't got no sex." Then Joe reached down, grabbed a guy's crotch and said, "She's ain't even interested in being interested."
Joe's TO was a ripped pop music magazine circa 1982. Stapled in the center was a photo of a model dressed in foil leotard and platform shoes. She wore red sunglasses and cherry lipstick. The caption read, "Now that's a girl you read about in new wave magazines!"
What made Joe choose that photo? He told Carol that 1982 was a special year for him, the year his mother was born. She used to show him newspapers and magazines that her own mother collected. There was a song her mother loved, something about eating cars in bars. And so the girl in the magazine, he said, looked like she ate cars in bars, spitting out chunks of metal, rubber. But most of all, Joe said, she looked like she was the opposite of his wife -- and all his friends' wives -- never nagging about the lack of sex, but reveling in it.
"This," he told Carol when she auditioned for the part, holding the photo for her to see, "is a woman most men would hate. We worship her."
"Made for you and me?"
"Nope. Just me."
"But I can't love you back," he said.
"Not physically, Joe, but I don't care."
"What about kids?"
"The children are the past."
"We gotta keep a few coming."
"Because things could settle down one day."
"What about Honolulu, Joe? That was two weeks ago."
"It could've been worse."
She stared into his baseball card face and imagined Old America.
"What's the matter?" he asked.
"It feels like the station never comes in, like I'm tuning and hearing voices and--"
"The little bits of news, the rumors, the predictions and forecasts? Give it twenty years and that starts to sound like music, dear." His hand almost touched hers. He pulled back.
"Go ahead, Joe, hold my hand."
"It ain't right."
A girl in a new wave magazine, a superfreak. She was all right.
They counted along with Joe as he read the incantation:
"One: connection or dealings between persons or groups. Two: exchange, especially of thoughts or feelings: communion. Three: physical sexual contact between individuals that involves the genitalia of at least one person."
They men laid their hands face down on the table and sang in monotone and off-key voices:
I will take you home to mother.
She walked across their hands, their knuckles cracking.
I don't care what you do, boys.
It was Joe's responsibility to pay her at the end of the song. He always had a funny look.
"Fuck your money, Joe DiMaggio," she'd say.
"But I wasn't trying to--" he'd reply. "I'm the Joe you can't blow."
As if in church, the men stood and proclaimed, "Promise you won't fuck us, Lady. Promise we can just be friends."
"I promise," she hissed. "I promisssssssse."
When she pulled down her leotard, there was nothing there, really. They never figured out how she hid it. They just clapped and whistled.
"One of these days," she said, "I'll wait for you backstage with my girlfriends, in a limousine. We're going back to Chinatown. Or should I say Chinatown Three? Is that too kinky for girls in new wave magazines?"
He looked as though he might slam the door, but instead quietly closed and locked it.
"The Joe you can't blow."
He wheeled onto the balcony from her living room, oxygen rig at his side. "Some getup, ain't it?"
She reached to touch his hand, but he gripped his armrest and shook his head.
"Well, the radiation was gonna catch up sooner or later," he said.
"And I know why you really came. But I don't care about your secrets."
"Those meetings when I was a kid, they showed me pictures of another time, you know? It's really about time travel, back to some sepia-toned postcard they carry in their heads. Like--"
"Like Joe DiMaggio?"
"Like that, sure. Like Old America, Old World. Out of time."
"But you ended up stuck in time after the bomb, right, Joltin' Joe?"
"I was any dumb kid stuck in his own damn time and place. The bomb would blow me out. I thought."
"Stop it," Carol said. She walked to the balcony, swept her hand across the width of her body and said, "Ain't it pretty, all that smoke and sun pouring through?"
"Prettier than I remember peace."
"It's too bad we could never."
"It only takes one person," he said. "I mean, that was a trick when you pulled down your leotard, right?"
"Come here," he said.
She walked towards him. He leaned forward, kissed her, and pushed the button on his armrest.
"But I'm her all-time, down to her toenails." That song you sang, fucked up and chopped, because that's the best that you could offer, your bits and shards and fragments. Blew your own nuts off, huh? With your own bomb? I could've crammed my foil leotard down your throat when the sick came on, an aluminum angel.
But when the sun comes shining and I stroll and the wheat fields wave and the dust clouds roll and the fog lifts and a voice chants and we walk down that ribbon of highway to the endless skyway from California to the New York Island, I'll say, "Here's to you, Joe DiMaggio. Jesus loves you more than you will know. Hey, hey, hey." Because this land is your land. I promise. I promisssssssse.
il by Rob Funderburk
Paul A. Toth is the author of Fizz, a very fine novel of surrealist romanticism, if we need labels. If not, well, see netpt.tv for info on ordering. Otherwise, a great deal of his work is archived here. We highly recommend.