I BELIEVE A PERSON IS DEFINED BY THEIR HOBBIES. Through experience you learn women who crochet oddly-colored scarves for friend’s pets are usually tigresses in the bedroom. A guy who enjoys working on automobiles, it’s a safe bet he’s incapable of sexually satisfying his old lady.
My hobby… I collect shirts, shirts I’ve stolen from the closets of men whose wives I’m fucking. Pass whatever judgment against my character you will, I’m proud to say I keep a full wardrobe.
My father used to tell me messing around with married women was a surefire way to get yourself shot. I was eight years old at the time and didn’t take his advice very seriously. I didn’t get to hear too much more advice before cancer shot the old man dead for whatever transgressions karma wields pancreatic cancer to amend. My dad was a fisherman. I guess that meant he liked giving unneeded advice to unheeding listeners.
I collected my first shirt at the age of twenty. There was a time I bought comic books which meant I had only a dodgy understanding of what a vagina was. After that I sought after drugs, a hobby which exposed me to all sorts of vagina. It was at the age of twenty I hired in at Jay Manufacturing and met Sara Beth.
Sera Beth was many things. Beautiful, alcoholic, ten years older than myself, personable to the point of constant flirtation, politically ambivalent and married. While Sera Beth and I operated neighboring machines on the night shift, her husband, Donnie, worked in the quality control office on day shift. He liked to tinker on cars in his spare time.
Where hobbies reveal character, employment often dictates hobbies. At Jay Manufacturing everyone pursued alcoholism with the single minded fervor of a lifer carving a chessboard and pieces from soapstone and whatever pieces of marble he can find in the prison yard. I’d clock out of work at eight in the morning, shower, put on my best black clothes and meet everyone at Scarlett’s Tap for their breakfast special, draft beer and tequila sunrises.
As with women in general, Sera Beth gravitated to me on account of my easy charm, quick wit, and good teeth. When our innocent banter regarding the original architects of the pyramids segued toward discussions of our favorite sexual positions, my father’s counsel concerning the dangers of dallying with married women never occurred to me. In fact, despite including it verbatim here, my dad’s words still finds no purchase on the vast smooth walls of my Polack logic. This sort of adage only sinks in with the bullet which proves the axiom.
Most days I wouldn’t leave the bar until three or four in the afternoon, pilot my battered Chevette wannabe, the Pontiac T-1000, to my buddy’s crummy apartment where I’d crash unconscious on his sofa usually while he sat on the coffee table, getting the power-up and rescuing the Princess on his Playstation machine.
With Sera Beth sharing a home with a husband and myself not exactly having a home, when the time came for sexing, we decided renting rooms from the cheapest, sleaziest motels festering just outside town. The early marathons of mattress olympics with Sera Beth in those motels led me to associate reverse cowgirls and standing 69s with the chemical burning scent of crystal meth cooking to this day.
My favorite part was returning to work the next night, listening to the stories from bemused co-workers, how Donnie came into work half an hour early and wandered dejectedly between Sera Beth’s silent machine and my own. I could just imagine the cuckolded lilt of his ineffectual mustache. His all ready bad posture corroding further with the weight of the knowledge that while he was lying alone in bed staring at the ceiling, his wife’s guts were getting pounded by the Polish Hammer.
The problem with motel sex, though, is eventually the money runs out. And I’m not built for car sex. The angles are all wrong in a Pontiac T-1000 and the dashboard hinders the long stroke.
“Can we go to your place?”
“Yeah… I don’t really have a place, you know. And Keith might get to feeling resentful seeing us exploring orgasmic nirvana on his couch while he’s perched on the coffee table, slaying the dragon on his Final Fantasy computer game.”
“I’m horny.” She said this with the finality of a woman intent on getting dick with or without me.
“Well, we can go to your place.”
“It’s late, he’s probably passed out by now.”
“Hopefully not in his truck.”
Sera Beth’s wicked ways with The Polish Hammer had taken a heavy toll on Donnie. For the last week, Sera Beth had returned home from prolonged drinking binges at Scarlett’s to find Donnie’s old Ford parked haphazardly on the front yard, often with the truck still in gear, his foot on the break, dead to the world. His humiliation had reached its apex, I thought, the morning he took off work and came to the bar, asking my permission to speak to his wife. Which, in his defense, his words did drip with sarcasm, sorta like the venom lactating from the fangs of a border collie. And I was benevolent enough to grant permission.
“Well,” she continued. “We can sneak into the basement. I got a remodeled bedroom down there for when my dad visits from Arkansas.”
“Perfect.” Meanwhile I was thinking of all the money I could have saved on motel rooms had this knowledge been made available to me sooner.
There were no signs of life in her house as the perpetually squealing breaks of my Pontiac T-1000 heralded our arrival. Even the brake lights of Donnie’s truck were extinguished from where it sat between the elm trees in the front yard.
“Be real quiet,” she whispered, as if I wanted our sexual rendezvous to be dashed by Donnie’s appearance.
She unlocked the back door and we carefully descended the cellar stairs. As soon as the soles of my snakeskin boots touched cement floor, I broke into a tingly sweat. She’d cautioned against turning on any lights which, given the complete and utter darkness enveloping me, I’d have been hard pressed to locate my own left knee, let alone a light switch.
Anything could happen to me down here, I realized. She could knock me on the head with an ancient bas relief and sacrifice me to Cthulu. Donnie could be standing just out of reach, intending on sodomizing me with a chair leg. There could be spiders dangling. This rush of morbid thoughts had the effect of making my cock really really hard.
Then a bloody flap of skin brushed against my face and I bit back a scream since I really didn’t want to wake Donnie up if there was still a chance for some sexing. Sera Beth grabbed my hand and squeezed, and my imagination receded morphing the bloody flap of skin back to the wet fabric of a drying shirt clothes pinned to the line near the washer.
She led me to the bed, a soft oasis in a desert of darkness. Our clothes came off and we got to the sexing by touch. Also, scent, hearing, taste… Yeah, I prefer my sex in the light.
Maybe it was the bed bouncing against the wall, or the sound of our combined moans, but going into the second hour, I became aware of noise from the room directly above ours which I correctly surmised to be Donnie’s lonely bedroom. The floors creaked as he left his bed. I stopped midstroke.
“Does Donnie have a gun?” I whispered.
The shadow beneath me answered strangely laconically. “Just a couple. A forty caliber Smith & Wesson. And a 9mm.”
“Oh… There aren’t any, uhm, other exits are there?”
“Just the stairs. Why?”
I didn’t honor the dumb ass question with a response. I slid down to the foot of the bed, willing my heart to quit hammering my sternum and failing.
The footsteps creaked across the room and stopped. Was he straining his ears at this moment, hunched down by the radiator, listening for the tell tale sounds of a Polish Hammering? I heard a dresser drawer slide open and I just knew it was the gun drawer. What would it be? The .40, the 9mm? What sort of difference was I looking at, exit wound size wise?
Fear absolutely rooted me in place. The floor creaked another five steps, then suddenly he collapsed onto the leather sofa. This was followed by several melancholy honks on a harmonica.
“The fuck is he doing?” I hissed.
“Sounds like he’s playing harmonica.”
With my horror paralysis broken, I quickly felt around for my clothes, coming across my jeans and boots fairly quickly. My shirt remained elusive.
“Never mind your shirt,” Sera Beth whispered, rushing me off the bed, “you don’t need it.”
“But…” I only had two other shirts, both black button ups.
When the wet fabric slapped me in the face again, I tore the shirt off the line and carried it with me as I rushed up the steps and out the back door.
Looking back, I remember the first comic I ever bought, The Uncanny X-Men #243, the first illegal substance I ever procured, two hits of white blotter acid. The first shirt I ever swiped from a guy who’s wife I was fucking, was a nice gray Brunswick bowling shirt with the name Donnie embroidered on the left front. It didn’t fit very well across my broad shoulders. It didn’t fit too great across my belly either. But I wore it to work the next day regardless.
Sixteen years have passed since that night. Hard to believe so much time has elapsed so quickly. There’s been a lot of shirts. Sera Beth was eventually shot in the head with the .40 which Donnie then turned upon himself. Strange, you’d think after seeing the hole the .40 put in her head, he would have went with the 9mm. Which reinforces my belief that gun collectors are inherently unbalanced.
by Christopher Barnes
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