As Anne and Helen entered the dining room of the Hotwood family boarding house, all male eyes unglued from plates of taters and black corn and snapped up to feast instead on the rare bits of female company. Anne and Helen took their seats near the head of the table, sitting so close together that they might have been conjoined twins from a traveling geek show. Ms. Sullivan and her blind and deaf charge pressed close together without shame: Helen Keller’s beautiful golden head lolled on her white neck, and her hands lay demurely in Anne’s lap, where they could flutter and speak to her caretaker.
“It is an honor to welcome you ladies to our table tonight,” said Mr. Hotwood, a bald and plump man who wore his breeches high up to his belly, making him look like a turnip dipped in grape currant. “You are an inspiration to the human soul, and we humbly beseech you to eat heartily, and to please pay no mind to the rude attentions of some of our lesser lights who board here. They are unaccustomed to ladies, and moreover, they are unaccustomed to YOUNG ladies, and moreover, you must admit that the pair of you are something of a sight to see.”
Several of the young Hotwood children coughed and spluttered at this gaffe, and a few of the gentlemen boarders actually busted out laughing before catching themselves and pressing their hands over their mouths to stifle their mirth.
“What I mean to say,” stammered Mr. Hotwood. “Is that you are very beautiful ladies, despite your physical handicaps, as it were, and we honor and understand your malady, and we hope that you enjoy dinner, and that you are a sight, even if you don’t have it, sight, yourselves, so to speak.”
“Thank you,” said Anne, mercifully cutting him off.
Mr. Hotwood lowered his eyes and resumed eating. The dinner table bubbled back up into jokes and conversation.
Amused, Anne signed Hotwood’s speech to Helen and described the room and some of the people in it.
Helen signed back: “Is Mr. Hotwood a good one? He likes me. Is he fresh and lovely?”
“No,” signed Anne. “He is old and red-faced like a goat.”
“I like goats,” signed Helen. “But you are right that it is not the season. Find us someone young and strong for the night. Someone with a hard face.”
“Yes, ma’m,” signed Anne.
Anne scanned the table for a likely candidate as she showed Helen where the knife and fork were.
Helen began to eat her food, luxuriously licking at each new potato in a way that brought all eyes to her and kept them there. Hot, warm butter melted down her chin, and she wiped her mouth with the back of her sleeve, cooing with delight, forever unaware of the difference between public and private. To her, it was all darkness punctuated by pleasure. Her bright blue eyes shined and flashed: even as they were empty of sight they were full of mischief and intelligence, and more than one man at the table found himself forced to spread his napkin over his lap for other reasons than catching crumbs.
Directly across from Anne sat a man with long sideburns, a strong jaw, and long limbs that were covered in soot and grime from a day’s work spent at toilsome, underground labor in one of the mining camps.
Most likely, he was an illiterate, but what Anne liked best about him was that he didn’t stare only at Helen. He was chivalrous: he politely looked at both of them and even smiled at Anne when she reached for the salt and she let him see a bit of her black bustier under her heavy gingham dress.
Under the table, she let her clog slip from her gnarled, bunioned foot and reached out to encircle his ankle.
“Madam,” he said, a bit shocked. The other conversations were loud and raucous, and Anne’s gambit was buried by one of the Hotwood babies screaming for a cinnamon-baked apple. The child had stubbornly refused to eat his carrots, and had now been denied his postprandial treat.
“Do we have an understanding?” asked Anne sternly, lifting her thick leg until her foot was buried in the man’s crotch. His penis throbbed twice against her toes and his eyes bulged. He licked his lips and looked at both ladies furtively. Anne could see that he was only being polite and that his real passion was for Helen, like every man, like all of them. No matter. He would do. He could be counted on to be discreet.
“Do we have an understanding, sir?” asked Anne again, putting her arm around Helen and kissing her on her neck, making Helen blush and smile, making her drop her fork as she began kissing back.
“My name is Oliver,” said the man with wide eyes. “And we have an understanding.”
(“You found someone?” signed Helen.
“He is tall and strong and thin, and he has black hair,” said Anne. “He is young, and he likes you, and he can be circumspect.”
“You like him for yourself, don’t you?” said Helen.)
“What’s that?” asked Mr. Hotwood. “Oliver, leave those fine ladies alone and remember your place.”
“Yes sir, Mr. Hotwood,” said Oliver, standing. “Anyway, I’m done eating. Excuse me, ladies. Have a good night, everyone.”
“Goodnight, Oliver!” said one of the older Hotwood daughters, smiling at him toothsomely in a way that made the elder Mr. Hotwood exasperated, cranky, and glad to see him go.
Oliver walked stiffly across the dining room and ascended the staircase to the upper dormitory.
(“How shall we bring it off?” signed Helen.
“We shall have to wait for him to find us,” said Anne. “He appears to be resourceful and worldly, and a man of experience.”
“Not too much experience,” said Helen. “I like them to be excited.”
“He will be excited,” said Anne.)
After dinner, Anne and Helen sat for awhile with the Hotwood children and listened to them read from the Bible while Mr. and Mrs. Hotwood looked on with wet eyes and indulgent smiles.
And then, saying their goodbyes, Anne and Helen trudged upstairs to their shared room, and locked the door.
They caressed each other in the gaslight like virtuoso pianists practicing their scales.
Anne helped Helen take off her long dress, and began to comb her hair for her. She traced symbols of the tarot on her long, pale back while Helen hummed and cooed and began to rub Anne’s sturdy legs, causing Anne to melt and feel dirty at the same time: the feeling that always brought her back, no matter how many men took her for a motorcar ride to some dusty tumulus. Helen leaned in and began kissing Anne on her throat, on her chest, on her thighs: Anne indulged her and stroked her head, looking at the clock and looking at the door.
Finally, at one in the morning, there was a quiet knock. It was a knock so slight and small that you had to be ready and waiting for it. Anne lifted Helen’s head out of her streaming crotch and stroked her smooth, trusting face. Helen licked her lips and moaned. A question.
“He’s here,” signed Anne between Helen’s breasts.
Helen held Anne’s hand and then put it in her mouth.
“Exactly,” signed Anne.
Helen arched her back and smiled as Anne pulled her hand away and put on a nightgown.
Anne strode across the room and opened the door a crack.
Oliver stood there in his spats, loafers, a tall hat, and a cherry-red robe. He looked nervous, and was swinging the sash of his robe around as if it were a tail. He smiled when Anne greeted him, looked both ways down the hallway, and tiptoed into the room. He was scrubbed now: his hair was slicked back on his head, his cheeks were shaved clean, and he reeked of lilac water and talcum.
“Good evening to you, ladies,” said Oliver. “You are as beautiful a pair of ladies as a pair of tits, might I say with a flourish.”
“Thank you, Mr. Oliver,” said Anne Sullivan. “Kindly remove your clothing, if you will and leave it in a stack by the door.”
(“He tells you that you are beautiful, Helen,” signed Anne. “And now he is removing his clothes.”
“Tell him that I desire his body for its strength and vigor and that he must be rousing and full of conviction during the business. I will brook no slack; I will tolerate no half-measures.”)
“Mr. Oliver,” said Anne. “Helen Keller wishes to inform you that she would like to be fucked now, and fucked to completion.”
“Ah!” said Oliver, removing his final sock and then placing his top hat on the pile to crown it. “I’m sure that can be arranged.”
He walked over to join the two women where they sat on the edge of the bed. Helen was completely naked: taut and velvety and milky white and straining. Her fingers pushed in and out of her glistening mons like a machine built to crush rocks or tunnel through mountains.
Anne grabbed Helen’s arm and then took her hand and led it to Oliver’s prick, which by now was hard and merry, bouncing up and down with the throb of his happy heart. Helen began to stroke him and giggle, and Anne smiled at Oliver apologetically as she helped her with the rhythm and foreskin.
“She is such a lovely creature,” moaned Oliver. “Such a rose.”
Helen sat up on her knees and took him in her mouth. With a shudder, Oliver grabbed her shoulders and pushed her back against the bed.
After that, the eyes and ears didn’t matter so much and Anne considered herself relieved of her duty. She picked up an improving novel by Mr. Hudson-Wellesley from the nightstand and sat down in the rocking chair, skimming the pages, watching Oliver and Helen rut and moan. She rocked back and forth in the chair to the rhythm of their frenzied copulation.
“That would never do!” said Anne. “You must press on, lest you cause her vexations and conundrums. In many ways she is but a spoiled child.”
“And yet, her skill and voluptuousness cannot be denied,” said Oliver. “Help me, Ms. Sullivan. Distract me from the beauty and tendrils of this wild vampire lest I conclude our adventure prematurely.”
“What would you have me do?” asked Anne, putting her novel aside and letting her gown fall ever-so-slightly open.
“She cannot hear us!” said Oliver. “Let us converse on sundry topics. Are you familiar with the problems facing the modern day coal miner, and the way in which labor seeks to organize itself around common interests?”
“I fear that I am not informed so, Mr. Oliver,” said Anne.
“Then GOD let us discuss such THINGS!” he said with true agony. And yet, he continued to perform against the insatiable Helen with the utmost steadiness and rigor and both Oliver and Anne could tell that progress was being made toward Helen’s own satisfaction.
“Why, there is no END to the HARDSHIP facing labor in this country,” said Oliver. “We are beset on all sides by the oppression of capital and GOVERNMENT. We have no aid, no recourse, no sense of binding brotherhood!”
Helen began to moan and shriek, and Oliver stuck his fingers in her mouth.
The bucking grew wilder. Helen locked her legs around Oliver and dug deep into his back with her nails. She gripped his body like a hand on an udder and milked him while laughing and biting the fingers trying to stifle her.
“Have you considered the works of Mr. Marx and Mr. Engels?” asked Anne.
“I’m not much of a reader,” said Oliver. “I am more of a discourser and a wag. I do belong to a book-lending club for aspiring gentlemen, although I must confess that I often send the selections back with nary a page turned down.”
“Perhaps the solution to the labor crisis is armed revolution,” said Anne.
“But that would never do,” said Oliver. “We’d be massacred!”
“Then perhaps the solution is targeted crimes that at least let your masters know that you are more powerful than they would like you to believe,” said Anne. “Kidnappings, assassinations, arson.”
“We must scare them, you say,” said Oliver. “We must make them AFRAID of us, or we will never be treated as EQUALS.”
“They are already afraid of you,” said Anne. “But they are afraid of you because they think you are stupid and therefore dangerous. You must convince them that you are dangerous because you are too cunning, that you know too much, that they persist at your pleasure, and not the other way round.”
Helen grabbed Oliver’s face and pushed his cheeks together. Her whole body tightened like a horse’s flank during a gallop, and then went limp as if she were feigning death.
Wildly, Helen began to sign to Anne.
“What is she saying?” said Oliver.
“What? Slow down, Helen! She says: always…rape…the last coke machine,” said Anne. “That can’t be right. I can’t understand you! Slow down, Helen! Control yourself!”
“I am a coal miner, perhaps she is referring to my profession,” said Oliver. “Even after an evening at bath, I stink of a blast furnace and I smell of chunks of coke.” He was red and sweaty, and he and Helen continued to slowly writhe and rock against one another like a pair of boats battered by the tide.
“Not coke…cock. Oh, I see,” said Anne. “That makes much more sense.”
“What?” shouted Oliver, his red face straining and twitching as if he had swallowed a mug of boiling water. “Tell me what she means!”
“She says -- in the crudest terms -- that she has had one of Mr. Freud’s orgasms,” said Anne. “She wishes you to know that you are very satisfying as a lover of women and that your penis is quite a well-trained instrument of pleasure.”
“The lord’s own mercy,” shuddered Oliver, pulling out and spraying Helen with ropes of thick yellow semen.
Helen giggled and clapped. For awhile, everything was still and quiet, and the only sound was heavy breathing and the squeak of Anne’s rocker. Finally, Oliver stood up and wiped his face with the bed-sheet.
As Helen began to play cat’s cradle with the drying spunkum on her chest, Oliver put his clothes back on and looked over at Anne nervously. Would he be expected to service her as well?
“I know my lot, Mr. Oliver,” said Anne, reading his mind and smiling. “Perhaps some other time.”
“I have friends…” said Oliver. But Anne cut him off.
“And I have Helen,” said Anne.
“Thank you for your help and your sound advice,” said Oliver.
“Goodnight to you,” said Anne.
His apparel hastily donned, Oliver slunk sheepish out the door and back to his bunk. Anne rocked in her rocking chair, and Helen blew come-bubbles and curled up like a cat in the warm, wet feather bed. In the darkness, the Hotwood children dreamed of steam trains, fancy dress balls, and women who ate potatoes the same way that wolves ate lambs.