Throbbing down his memory lanes, cascading, a torrid
waterfall -- four or five or six women he was now
going with simultaneously -- the dear Preacher Lady
now gone, but new entries, possibilities, terror every
day, two or three new each week -- he kept records,
you had to keep records, that was the secret.
You left one, drove two blocks, stopped, turned on
the overhead light, wrote a half page of notes -- her
sister lived in Iowa, her son's name was Ryan, she
liked Latin in high school, psychology in college, she
thought you maybe had one or two ladies going in the
personal ads, she liked three fingers, not just one,
in her vagina...
Records, records. Key to survival.
By the time of the sweet goodbye with the Preacher
Lady, he had been with Libby the Witch, the Doll
Maker, for several months.
Met her that night at La Vin, restaurant/coffee
shop/bar on the Solano Ave, Berkeley -- and he knew
instantly which one she was. Personal ad ladies
always sat there very, very still, but fidgeting so
violently inside there was an aura of silent
screaming about them, sore thumb sticking out.
Knew instantly she wasn't right, not his dream girl
He was half-turning, already turned in his mind, to
escape when she saw him.
"Well, hello," he said, moving over the five steps to
She nodded, he sat down. "You have beautiful hair,"
She nodded, poker-faced.
He did all the talking while he tried to think how to
get out of this gracefully, with her ego and his
innocence still intact.
He complimented her on every possible semi-good thing
he could find in her, ordered wine, she ordered
spaghetti, then he ordered spaghetti, then they
ordered more wine.
What a dour face. She sat there listening to his
barrage of sweet talk, saying little to nothing. It
was like a challenge. She wasn't going to make it
easy for him to dump her gracefully. She was,
instead, more or less dumping him as they went along.
He was intrigued. What was it with her? Did she
have some secret attribute he was missing? How come
she was so superior?
As he fed her, rapidly running out of money, and
wined her, and extended what was usually a half hour
meeting for no no’s, an hour meeting for princesses,
into two hours -- she began to look better.
Her figure was fine. Pneumatic breasts. Her hair
was all ringlets. Blond ringlets. She looked like
one of the painter, Durer’s, models -- a strong-faced,
ugly/beautiful peasant from Holland or Germany or
Denmark. He told her this, leaving out the ugly part.
Her scowl decreased about ten percent.
She treated him like some kind of snake-oil salesman.
As though she had to listen but sure didn't have to
Turned out she lived only four blocks away, so he
walked her there, gave her a little peck on the cheek
at her door --
Her strange letter came two weeks later.
He called Libby, went to her place. Her two kids
were with the ex-husband for the night. Libby and he
sat on the floor in front of her fireplace drinking
wine and still that stupid poker face. Rejecting him
"Two glasses of wine and a rainy afternoon has
prompted me to write you a letter. Does the lady have
"I must say that I was very confused when you didn't
call. I must be losing my touch, but I could've sworn
that you were attracted to me. Sensuous and kind are
still a dynamite combination, however, it is not kind
to lead a lady on and not call and I never had a
chance to test the sensuous part.
"I hope you have found the one in a thousand -–
you’re an attractive man.
"Confused, but still learning,
He was about to leap up and tear out of there, when
she said, "I'm a doll maker. I make dolls. Special
dolls. Would you like to see Cindy?"
She brought out a huge doll. Over two feet tall.
All dressed up. With the most evil face he had ever
seen, in real life or in nightmares.
"This is Cindy," Libby said.
"Hi, Cindy," he said, avoiding its evil eyes.
"Cindy has a clitoris, don't you, Cindy?" Libby
said, and she pulled down the doll's drawers, lifted
up its dress and exposed its red velvet clitoris.
"Cindy likes you, don't you, Cindy?"
"I do!" the doll said, using Libby's falsetto voice.
"Shall we keep him?" Libby asked the doll.
"Yes! Keep him! Don't let him go!"
For the first time since he met her, Libby smiled.
She took off with the doll, returned almost
immediately, sat down on the floor, put her head in
"Kiss me," she commanded.
So he did, the fireplace log popping away nearby,
snapping and popping. Kissed her and kissed her, and
some of this, more of that. Fondling, gasping,
nibbling, touching, tickling, nudging the secret
places until she began making a moaning sound which
became exactly like a train coming in the distance,
coming closer, closer, wailing right by him, loud and
haunting, scary, wonderful, then going on by, fading,
fading into the night.
He was hooked. Afterwards, they were lying there,
glistening in the flickering, popping fireplace light,
and he told her what a grand doll she had, what a
fascinating doll, her face representing all the
secrets of Woman, but innocence, the power, the
wanting, the trickery, the pride, the passion, the
subtle female cunning.
Actually the doll's face scared the bejeebers out of
him, but Libby was delighted.
"You're the first man ever who understood her!" she
exclaimed. "The rest of them have all been terrified!
As though she were some kind of evil witch or
something! I'm so delighted! If you understand
Cindy, you understand me."
Well, at least he had got some animation out of her.
From stone-faced to this with only one enormous lie.
Many, many nights of passion. Her gloriously
pneumatic breasts, bouncy. Her magnificent train
"I have herpes," she finally admitted with great
trepidation. I’m leaving, he told himself
righteously. Just a matter of doing it gracefully.
"But it only came once, that one time four years ago,
never again, and so it's like I don't have it -- and
if I did, they say there's a warning first, you get
So long, sweetheart, he told her in his mind. But
the graceful exit went on and on -- and there were
those train wails --
But then there came a really bad night.
"Wouldn't it be fun to do it in Bobby's room?" she
asked mischievously. It was great to see her face
light up on these rare occasions.
"Oh, sure, yeah," he said with false enthusiasm.
The Freudian association was overbearing to him. In
psychology 1A he had learned that all mamas want to
copulate their sons and vice versa. Too close to
home. Was in the same bed as his mother those first
nine years, same bedroom the next eight years, saw her
naked once too often putting on her monthly "rag" --
"She's got the rag-on" -- was smothered by her
awakening kisses too many mornings. Though she was,
as all mothers were, entirely innocent.
"Bobby is gone," Libby said wickedly, "and we can do
it in his room, on the carpet!"
"Great!" he said with sinking heart. Herpes, and
They desecrated her son's room on the royal-purple
carpet with his Star Wars posters glaring down at
them, and she pulled his pants off him, then yanked
his shorts down, then pushed him on the floor, then
wiggled, wiggled, smirked, giggled down, down towards
his innocent boyish member, pulling her peanut-butter
colored panties down, down over her pale thighs, her
eyes blazing, and she landed on his cock with a
squish, flattening it.
"I'm sorry," he apologized after four minutes of
severe efforts on both their parts.
She committed that sin, corrupted her son's room
forever, and he couldn't get a hard-on.
"It's the herpes, isn't it?" she said, about to cry.
"Oh, no, no, no -- not that at all. Who knows?" He
shrugged mightily there on the floor, his pants around
his ankles, she sitting desolate on him, the house
quiet as the grave.
"We need to get off by ourselves," she said two weeks
later. "I know just the place."
Had she been there with someone else in the past? Of
A romantic motel, no TV, by the ocean, two and a half
"This is our last chance," she didn't say out loud,
but screamed, "to save our ‘romance'. Or say
For lovers only. Overlooking the pounding ocean,
Mist coming in, seagulls complaining, smell of salt
water slightly sickening.
"Screw me!" she commanded.
He tried. The bed, king-sized, was very firm. They
banged around a while, mechanically doing this and
that, new positions, really not having a lot of fun.
The next morning, all alone on the beach, they hid
between two ridges of sand dunes, the wind blowing her
hair. They huddled there from the stinging sand,
disheartenly ate their 20-inch loaf of French bread, a
slab of cheese, and drank a bottle of red wine, using
pale-white paper cups.
She lay on the smoke-colored blanket, the grass on
the huge sand dune crisp-brown behind her. Her face
ugly this day. Bloated. Nondescript nose.
Double-chinned. Fat-faced. Age spot-brown, tinted
sunglasses. Smile. Lying there in her sour-cream
white, hooded sweatshirt, faded blue jeans, ugly bare
feet, ugly wild-rose pink-painted toenails. But
beautiful -- because she didn't love him. He was a
servant she allowed to tag along.
The ocean screamed, wailed like she used to do. The
ocean was noxious-colored, looking like the color of
"Nyquil" he took for the flu. A haze there.
Salt-white breakers fighting in.
“I'm selling the piano and going to Paris for the
dollmaker’s convention," she said. "In two weeks.
For a month."
"I love you!" he suddenly blurted out, metallic taste
in his mouth, which was his way of saying, I can't
stand you, but I hate change and you are leaving me
and I need you.
She just smiled faintly.
"One thing," he said, minutes after he had recovered
somewhat. "Don't fool around over there," he
demanded, begged of her. "If you do, I'll know it."
She merely smiled slightly, looked guilty and
He knew then like it was written in huge letters in
the sky what was going to happen. His chest trembled.
"Tell me the truth always, please," she wrote from
Paris. "I learn so much from your insights and I can
connect with someone who 'says' his heart, bad and
good. Otherwise, there is no texture, no depth to the
person and no place to put love.
"It's as if in not telling the truth, instead being
agreeable or tolerant all the time, it makes one
without texture like a porcelain statue."
If I tell you the truth, he thought, I am gone.
"It is impossible to truly love, because there's no
place for the love to go -- not inside or stuck in
many parts, but love only as something which lies
lightly on top -- enveloping but never touching, as a
piece of cellophane covers a statue.
"I want my love, next time --"
"-- next time to have texture, depth, interest,
movement -- not just be 'nice', pleasant, agreeable,
I’m "nice," he thought, "pleasant, agreeable,
supportive" because if I told you the "truth," I would
"I'm sorry," she wrote, "you feel somehow anxious
about me. I could hear it on the phone. Maybe you
were just lonesome....
“....I can give you one chamber of my heart. Maybe
two -- but not all, never all, and it makes me very
"The heart seems to be the most important & developed
of the doll I’m making here. It is trying to mend and
be beautiful again.
"and licks and kisses and hugs"
August 16, Tuesday, Paris
Libby's next letter:
"I am taking a rest from working on my doll’s hand
which is going slowly.
"Our life is much like being at camp. We work on
dolls, take walks, write letters, read & share the
shopping & cooking. The meals have been wonderful and
healthy. We also drink a lot of good red wine.
"I am getting a little tired of being only with
females, nice as they are. I feel that homosexuals of
both sexes are stuck. I never feel about them that
they are flowing, but that they are fixed.
"They are all lesbians here, except for one other
woman and me.
"Tomorrow, if we finish the hands, we start on the
face. I'm anxious to work on the face as it will
really become a character then.
“Today I received a lovely letter from you. You’re
so wise and understanding of me -- even to
anticipating my mood. Naturally, this being doll
camp, everyone knows everything about everyone's
lives, so naturally, there was a big to-do when Libby
got a letter from Harry. They all wanted to hear any
of the sexy parts. I edited for my public. More!
"... Not having balls myself, I am usually unaware
of the actions & words which de-ball a man. Never had
a brother, and my father -- So I never do it
"I don't like to hurt, but you can be sure I will do
it again & again."
(Why? Are you stupid?).
"It is your job to stand up for yourself. I am not
always a mind reader.
“It's midnight & I’m exhausted. Cannot keep sewing
another minute. I think of you as I go to sleep & I
wish your hands and your mouth were all over me & I
could feel you against me all hot and wild & I’d moan
& flush with pleasure.
"Instead, I pull the sheets up around my neck, listen
to the river as it goes by, read your letters again
and go to sleep to dream of dolls & plays & you.
"We’re invited to Betty's and George's wedding
the weekend I'm home."
September 3, Saturday.
Four nights before, he had awakened, slobbering in
sweat. A premonition.
He knew what it was as soon as Libby came home from
Paris, was walking up the exit hall from the plane
toward him: She looked more -- French, somehow.
Worldly. Thinner. Cynical. Like the tired wife
coming in the door at 2 a.m., met by her cuckolded
husband. He knew, he'd been there in real life.
Her eyes were stubbornly guilty, even as he sensed a
mute plea for understanding, forgiveness.
He said nothing. He was free. He was sick, soured,
miserable. But free. The only hold she ever had over
him she had now lost. As long as there was hope he
might someday win her -- she had him. Now -- having
betrayed him, given the final insult -- she had
September 4, Sunday.
The wedding was a posh set-up. Jewish, elaborate, in
a palace-like building on Nob Hill, champagne coming
around in a flurry on silver trays. Even a band.
There were flowers everywhere, violets, pink and
yellow roses, standing room only, people whooping it
up in a refined way.
The witch, sweet doll maker, was as he had never seen
her. She was smiling non-stop. Jet lag? She was
holding his hand. She was introducing him to all her
friends. She was making hinting remarks about
"Esther says you're really a gem," Libby told him
proudly. Esther was her good friend.
In the middle of the ceremony, which went on and on
in stages, bride reading her marriage poem to groom,
groom reading his vow of perpetual -- on and on -- in
the middle of it he took Libby by the arm, led her,
her face wondering but trustful, off away from the
excitement, back into the darkened banquet area where
he sat her down at the table, poured some more
champagne and set the stage.
He believed she perhaps thought he was going to
propose. Instead, he said, "You can tell me now.
What did you do in France?"
"What --? France? Do?"
"After the doll camp."
"Just tell me. I already know."
She told him, it was nothing, meant nothing, it was
just that she was in France, and nothing had happened,
just a bunch of lesbian women around for four weeks,
that and his hot letters, so -- it was nothing,
nothing at all. Just a 26-year-old Count. An
"That's it, we’re through," he said.
"What? What?" She stared at him in complete, numb
shock. "Through? Through?" She began to cry.
They left. The wedding was still in process. She
explained twice more on the way home it had meant
nothing. He was only 26. It was just an accident.
Harry said nothing. Not a word. She begged him to
speak. He was silent.
She had broken his heart. In some fundamental way.
Got even for all the other personal ad women.
There was something about her he had loved. Maybe it
was the secret part, hid far beneath, protected, which
she would give to no one. Which he had to have, to
touch, to win over, to give into. To love.
September 5th, Monday, Labor Day.
She called. He was polite at first. Pleasant, calm,
understanding. Untouched. He offered to write a
personal ad for her.
"I'm a little drunk," she admitted. "Wine."
She invited him to dinner.
She talked about his gabbiness, how he talked too
much. She talked about honesty. She wanted him to
tell her more about Kathy, her ex-husband's girlfriend
he'd met once while Libby was in Paris.
"Is she prettier than me?"
"Of course not."
"Are you being honest now? With me, now?"
"I think we should finish it," he said.
"I'll put the play tickets in your mailbox," he said.
"No," she said.
“Well, we could go, I guess. Just be friends," he
"Well -- you think about it."
He didn't feel as bad as when his first wife left
him. Nothing would ever be that bad again. Because
that was losing his family. Too much like when his
father had died when he was three and a half.
This wasn't as bad as when Ellen left him. Which was
much less bad than when his first wife left him.
Libby had left him that night when he woke up in a
sweat when she was in France.
September 7, Wednesday.
Libby called. "I'm kind of weepy," she said.
"Having some wine."
Then she hung up.
She called up near midnight again. Same thing.
The next day he went by her place by accident, force
of habit. Her car was in the driveway.
He guessed he probably hoped she would be standing
out there on her porch. She would see him go by, and
she would wave. Maybe she would run out toward him,
her face open, her secret self exposed.
He would stop the car with trembling hands. Would
welcome her open heart.
That would be nice. If life were like that.
©2008 by Grant Flint