Some people enjoyed entertaining guests in their homes. Blue Monday wasnt one of them. He prized his solitude and detested the rituals demanded of a good host. Having to play that role for friends and relatives in his own home was bad. Having to do it in the home of his two guests was testing the limits of his endurance.
Andrea and Leah sat next to each other on a couch with a popular mint-green fabric designed in half-sections around an oval glass table. It rested on stubby Rosewood legs which matched the wood trim on the rest of the furniture. Over the fireplace was a portrait-sized T-window with the frozen image of a pretty, dark-skinned teen-ager in her graduation cap and gown of gold and red. She bore a close enough resemblance to Blue to safely assume she was his daughter, the sole offspring of an ordinary marriage and a highly unusual divorce that good manners would not permit Andrea and Leah to ask about. Blue sat with his back to the portrait, facing the women on a detached section of the couch designed for two average-sized adults.
They were dressed in casual summer attire, which meant, light-colored slacks and sandals for all and see-through blouses for the women. Blue wore a short-sleeved Softglow shirt with a wide collar and a single button near the bottom. He had a hairless, well developed upper-torso and he appreciated the upper-torsos of the women, especially Leahs, which he was seeing in the huge, round, flawless brown flesh for the first time.
All three of them fondled long-stemmed glasses containing an expensive, red wine. Expensive because it was rare. Rare because it was ghastly.
Blues only knowledge of wine came from a gift of the bottle he received from a German-American female admirer who mistakenly believed it was the preferred choice of African-American males. It was the only alcoholic beverage he had in the house. Blues guests were pretending to like it. He was pretending not to know they were pretending.
He refused to take them on a tour of the house so they could see and judge and give him a score among themselvesto be shared only with their closet friendson how well he furnished it. He was pretending not to know he was supposed to give them a tour. They were pretending not to be itching to take one. It was their house but his home.
Andrea sipped her terrible drink politely, looking approvingly at Blue. Leah had been right about him. He was smart. He was a hell of a nice guy. From their first meeting two weeks earlier, it seemed that the three of them had been born to be buddies.
Much of that feeling, she knew, was an illusion created by Blues magnetic personality. Everybody gave out signals which drew some people close to them and warned others away. Blues signals seemed to reach out to everyone who wanted to embrace him and to make most people want to. It wasnt necessarily a sexual thing with women, though it could lead to that with the right women in the right circumstances. Leah called it a "Hugability Quotient." Blues HQ was as high as they came. It reached out over the airwaves and brought enough legal specialists to his aid from coast to coast, to create a formidable defense team.
"You know," said Andrea, "Not every guy would feel comfortable sipping wine with a couple of lezzies."
The surprise on Blues face was one indication of his HQ. He knitted his brow. "I dont see what that has to do with anything?"
The women threw back their heads and laughed, as Blues face made an unintentional impression of Stan Laurel.
"I told you, Andrea," said Leah.
"Told her what?" asked Blue.
"Are you sure you want to know?" asked Andrea, teasingly.
Blue said nothing. Andrea was wrong about him being comfortable. Well, maybe he was with them, but not with his role as their host. He knew he was doing everything wrong, out of ignorance or obstinacy and he couldnt see how the lesbian couple could be so comfortable with him, a bad host and a heterosexual guy. The two of them fit together so well. He didnt fit anywhere with anyone the way they did. He envied them.
Andrea took Blues silence as a "yes," to her question. "She said you were so sweet! You couldnt hurt anybody if you had to, could you?"
Blue was too embarrassed for words. Sweet? Trusting little children and kind old ladies were sweet. If he could have passed the Army physical during the Guedo Calvera drug war, he would have been a bad-ass soldier, an Airborne Ranger, like Hector Clay. He shook his head like an owl and cleared his throat. "I try to be a good guy," he said evenly, "but if I had to hurt somebody, Im man enough to do it."
The humor drained from both womens faces at the same time. They didnt question his manhood and hadnt intended him to think they did. He looked so vulnerable at that moment, and so alone.
Leah didnt have to consult Andrea for permission to speak for both of them. "We think youre a hell of a man," she said, "You stood up when nobody else in the country had the courage to. Because of you, everybody knows that Andrea and I are lovers. Because of that, we found out that we had more guts and more friends than we thought we had. Shes fighting to hang on to her license. Im fighting to hang on to mine and thousands of people from one end of the United States to the other who would have let the government tell them who they had to be to stay out of trouble, are fighting to be themselves. Hector Clay is talking about us on "God." People are starting to take another look at X Channel programs that people like Hector Clay, or ELFs of people like him, show up on involuntarily. Youre a fucking hero Blue."
Andrea had begun to nod her agreement when Leah started talking. She didnt stop until Leah did. She was smiling proudly and squeezing Leahs hand all the while, making her final nod a big one.
Blue was touched. Deeply.
"Yeah," said Andrea, "We wanna be just like you when we grow up."
Blue laughed. "Just like me?" he asked, ogling the womens breasts playfully.
They laughingly crossed their hands over their breasts as women in another age might have done out of modesty, and feigned shocked indignation. They werent flirting. They were mocking the changing sexual mores that give different meanings to the same actions depending on who was doing it and who was watching.
Only the very old in their time would have seen anything sexual in their little charade. Only a sexually mature person, born in the twenty first century and familiar with the sexual norms of Americans in the previous century, would have gotten the joke. Female breasts could now come out of hiding, as long as they conformed to ideas somebody in Aspen Colorado had of what was beautiful or moral or safe for the public to look at. Womens breasts were still objects of sexual desire but less so than their mouths. It was all a question of what the observer thought about doing with them. Who could say that veils or surgical alterations, would not be required of women in the future to conform to somebody elses ideas of beauty or morality or public safety?
Leah dropped her hands to her lap, then reached over and clasped Andreas right hand in both of hers. She beamed at Blue. "Were gonna win." she said, "All of us."
"Whether we do or not," said Blue. "Im not worried about the so-called procedure. Not for me, anyway."
"Why not?" asked Andrea.
"Trust me. Itll never happen."
"Is that why youve been so calm about this thing?"
"No. I hardly ever get excited."
Leah nodded. "You handle yourself well in pressure situations. You were mopping up on Jack Fleetwood and Estelle Gidarb before you got arrested. They got excited. You didnt. That was something. Ive never seen Fleetwood so flustered. He must have felt like his butt-hole was smokin cause thats how he looked."
Andrea laughed. "And Estelle Gidarb, didnt know whether she was coming or going. They may have won with the STOPIT crowd; those people only heard what they tuned in to hear. But a lot of people in the country saw that show live, and no matter how the network news edits it to make Fleetwood look like a champ, they know the truth."
Leah scratched one of her mammoth breasts absently, "The more we can get you in front of a T-window camera, the better. People like you. Fleetwood has been painting you as something you arent. As long as hes trying the case in the media, we can to. We cant get anything going on the Condor network right now, but we can start with Tanaka. Once they sell us time, CBI is gonna have to do it to maintain an appearance of fairness. You can be as unfair as you want if you do it subtly, indirectly or incrementally, but a heavy-handed shut-out, would work in our favor. People would see that and they wouldnt stand for it even if they werent on your side. Nobody likes to look like theyre being manipulated."
Blue shook his head. "I disagree. People love to be manipulated. They pay good money to have people foolem and it usually doesnt take much."
Right," said Andrea. "But thats not what she said. She said, nobody likes to look like theyre being manipulated. We all love to make believe. How else can we enjoy a good story unless we allow ourselves to believe something we know isnt true? We even let ELFs we know are ELFs convince us that theyre realas long as they look real enough to pass. With a synthetic reality you can enjoy any experience you want to without having to worry about the real consequences of the real experience. Thats what makes your programs so popular, especially the interactive virtual reality stuff. Even your regular telewindow programs look like flashbacks. You make ELFs as good as the guy who does Crime Scene 2000. Whats his name?"
"Her name," said Blue. "Her name is Mina Foski."
"Are you sure?"
Andrea conceded that he might be right, then knitted her eyebrows in vague recollection of the name. She snapped her fingers. Vivian Foski, the producer of God. Does she make the ELFs for God?"
Blue nodded again. "I borrowed a little of my technique from both ofem."
"They have to be related," observed Andrea. "Nobody else makesem like that, except you. I swear to God, I thought they were peopleyour ELFs and theirs. Your programs are more interesting though. Gotta admit, I wouldnt have said that a week ago. You serve a much broader range of interests than I thought you did. We didnt know about your good stuff because you made it so hard to get at."
"But thats good," said Leah. "The fact that those programs were the hardest to access weakens the prosecutions case considerably. Theyll play hell persuading a jury that they offended community standards when the only community involved had to practically beg to see it. The downloaders could hurt us there. According to the X Channel info-line, theyre selling every download with your name on it like beer and hot dogs at a ball-park. Still, thats the best indication you can get of what the public thinks of your work even though youre not getting the money and we cant present it as evidence in court. And the letters Im getting for you are three to one in your favor. Considering STOPITs organization, thats remarkable. You really should answer them."
To answer them Blue would have had to read them. The first three he read were from supporters of the new law who wanted him Gidarbed. They gave him nightmares. Nightmares were extremely hazardous to his health.
"Thats what money is for," he said, "To hire people to answer your mail."
Andrea wasnt fooled. She knew he wasnt as tough as he was letting on, which made his courageous stand all the more courageous.
"Tell me," she said, "Why did you do it? What made you show up for that Dr. Shannon Show?"
Blue shrugged his shoulders. "The same reason you came to my rescue."
Leah shook her head. "We did it because we thought we had to."
"So did I."
The two women looked at each other, then back at Blue. "Is that it?" exploded Andrea, knowing he was holding something back.
"Yeah. I saw the same show you did, with those two stiff hostesses, the Gidarbs and that doll. I saw what Fleetwood was up to when he put in his appearance. When I heard Dr. Gidarb was coming to Ann Arbor, nobody had to tell me he would be there, too. Id already read the book. I knew I had to do something."
"But why you?" insisted Andrea.
Andrea huffed. "I have to take care of some business," she said.
"Its your house."
"Oh, dont be like that," chided Leah standing to join her friend with a make-up case quickly extracted from a pouch in her slacks.
"Im sorry," said Blue. "Its just kind of frustrating not being able to live in my own house or even rent a place of my own without drawing a crowd."
The women placed a comforting hand on his shoulder as they passed him on the way to the upstairs bathroom. He knew they'd find a way to take at least a partial tour. The "gotta-go, let-me-check-my-make-up" excuse was a time-tested winner. How could he deny them the use of their own bathroom; the one upstairs where the spacious accommodations made it the only one suitable for company? Blue graciously pointed the way to the stairs. He watched them goto talk in private, to browse through his medicine cabinet and soak up an eye-full of his bedroom furnishings through a crack in the door if they got lucky...
Andrea closed the bathroom door behind her top-heavy friend, then leaned back against it with her arms folded beneath her bosom. "Did you notice all the doors up here were closed? And what do you wanna bet theres nothing interesting in the toiletry cabinet or the medicine chest?"
Leah opened both cabinets in turn, and looked inside. Sure enough, all of the usual grooming aids and patent medicines one would expect to see were there. The only thing out of the ordinary was the fact that none had been opened. Under the circumstances, that was also to be expected. She closed the cabinet door.
"What do you think?" asked Andrea, as Leah leaned back with her hands against the counter-top attached to the oval basin.
"I think he knew wed be up here at some point in the evening when we invited ourselves over. And I think he knows we came here to talk about him."
"Of course he knows," said Andrea. Hed have to be somebodys prize fool not to. Blue is nobodys fool."
"Then why did he take on Estelle Gidarb and Jack Fleetwood with the whole damn country watching when there was no way he could win? Granted, he didnt know he would be invited up on stage, but he knew the format of the show, so he knew he might have been. And he came prepared."
"But he couldnt have known they were going to pass that STOPIT bill in Lansing and he was going to be the test case."
Leah shook her head. "It doesnt matter. He knew the bill was pending. It was only a matter of time before it passed. Nobody listens to the Democrats cause everybody knows what theyre gonna say. That guy they had speaking for them wasnt at risk. As soon as Blue said his first word against the Fleetwood-Gidarb crusade, he knew he would be a marked man."
"I dont know, Leah. A lot of guys likewhat was his name? Blum. A lot of guys like Blum turn up on the X Channel deep-stroking water melons with a zucchini up their ass, or playing dress-up in their wives sexy under-things. Remember how we used to watch that stuff and laugh at those poor fuckers?"
Leah bowed her head. Yes. She remembered.
"Remember how Blue showed us that some of them were ELFs; and crude ones at that?"
Leah remembered that, too. Before Blue showed her what she should have seen on her own, she remembered thinking, how bizarre, how inept or how ridiculous those lying hypocrites were and how great it was to see them brought low. Now, she was seeing them in a different light.
Andrea took a deep breath and released it slowly. "I used to say to myself: Democrats; look atem. When Blue showed me how bad some of those ELFs were, I couldnt believe I had believed them for a minute. They didnt have eye-brows, let alone eye-lashes or any other fine body hair. They didnt have fingernails. They never blinked. They had a range of expression that went from A to Z with nothing in-between. The palms of the hands and the soles of the feet of the black ones were the wrong color! Now these were bad ELFs, right?"
"Were level-headed women? We have five graduate and post-graduate degrees between us. We have been trained in our professional disciplines to separate reality from illusion. Yet, neither of us saw those bad ELFs for what they were. Thats incredible. But you know what?"
"All this stuff about whether we were seeing real people on flashback film or computer generated ELFs, is beside the point. Before this is over, we could be on the X Channel doing stuff that would make the geek fucking the watermelon look like a mainstream sort of a guy. A lot of people are going to be tuning into the X Channel to laugh at how we have sex. Most people are gonna think were sick. Since we dont give a shit what they think as long as they dont try to hurt us, no harm done. But thats beside the point, too. You know what the point is?
"Yeah," said Leah, "The point is, its none of their fucking business..."
When the women reached the bottom of the stairs where they could see into the E room, Blue was gone. Peering around the corner to the right, Andrea spotted him in the kitchen a short distance away at the end of the hall with a tall, clear, soft-drink cup tilted to his lips. Blue noticed them when Leah came into his view.
"You caught me," he said. "Im not much of a wine drinker. I had to get the taste of that stuff out of my mouth."
Andrea suppressed a laugh and elbowed Leah to do likewise. "Is that a Pepsi youve got there," she asked as Leah followed her to the kitchen.
"Got a couple more," asked Leah, "for the road?".
Blue opened a cabinet and pulled down two sturdy plastic cups like his, filled almost to their sturdy, twist-off caps, with a caramel colored liquid. "Gonna take a minute to coolem. Is that all right?"
They told him it was.
He had no stove, no refrigerator and no dishwasher. His only kitchen appliances rested side-by-side on a shelf against a wall. The micro-wave oven was red. The nitro-burst freezer he was putting the Pepsi cups into, was white. Other than that, they looked alike. He gave no sign of watching his guests inspect his kitchen.
"How cold do you want your pop?"
Leah shrugged, "Cold, but no ice."
"Thin ice on the sides," said Andrea.
Blue put the drinks into separate compartments with their own transparent doors and closed the master door. He set the timer for one chamber to twenty-five seconds and the other to thirty. "Andrea," he said. "Ive been meaning to ask you a professional question...Well, its personal, too."
"Have you ever had a patient who became more than a patient?"
"It happens all the time. A lot of my friends are former patients."
"Thats how we met," said Leah, as the timer bell for her cold drink sounded and Blue got it for her. "I thought I was sick because I didnt wanna have my breasts reduced and I liked things other people thought were sick. The only person I could talk to was a shrink."
The timer bell rang for Andreas drink. She looked at it, stopped Blue from getting it and set the timer for three more seconds. "All we are," she said, pointing to herself, the shrink, "are buddies for hire." She retrieved the cup from the nitro-burst herself and leaned toward the exit. "The biggest difference between professional counselors like me, erotic artists like you, and high-class whores, is our status with the law."
Blue, took a long, thoughtful swig from his cup and walked his guests to the front door where Leah impulsively kissed him on the lips. Before he could recover his emotional balance from that, Andrea did likewise.
"We love you, Blue," said Andrea.
Blue loved them. He didnt have to put it in words. He said it frequently with other things he said and did as well as how he said and did them. He was saying it with the smile and the good-bye wave he gave them in return for theirs. Yes, he loved themif love meant caring deeply for someone else and wanting to make them happy.
Even though Leah was the type of woman he dreamed of making happy in bed, he loved her and her bed-mate the way he loved his daughter and his ex-wife. It wasnt the same as what he felt for one of his clients, a delicate beauty who had become an unlikely friend, and then, a less likely lover. His love for Leah Flores and Andrea Urlan wasnt the same as what he felt for Kimberly Fleetwood. And she wasnt even his type.
Copyright © 1998 by Jasper Garrison
Contact the author: Jasper Garrison