I knew that Alexandra was ready for me to propose to her, but lesbian or not, there was no way that I was going to marry her without fucking her mother first.
Obviously, I hadn’t told Alexandra about my plan.
While we waited for her parents to arrive from their hotel, Alexandra and I cooked dinner for them and she told me stories about her childhood in London.
I could tell that Alexandra was nervous because she was telling me stories that I had already heard before, like the time she and her best friend Fiona took a bunch of Polaroids of each other naked from the neck down and put them in all the mailboxes of the boys in their flat who were being shipped off to boarding school.
“It was sex charity for those tortured, bird-boned British chaps who trembled when you looked at them dead-on,” she said. “Some of them actually had translucent skin.”
But I didn’t care about those old photos. All I could think about was what her mother would look like in person and if it would be good enough. I wanted to fuck her mother for reasons that were much more complicated than mere attraction or the erotic possibilities of extreme betrayal.
I needed to test the goods. If I was going to marry Alexandra, I needed to see what my future would be like. I needed to see how gay her mother was. I needed to see if Alexandra would still be gay for me in thirty years.
The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, and the vagina doesn’t fall far from the vagina.
All my life, I had been plagued by the crippling fear that I was going to marry somebody who was going to get old, ugly, fat, and straight mere minutes after our wedding.
No matter how much of a sex freak she seemed while we dated, this potential mate would lose all interest in me as soon as our bank accounts were joined, letting her body go and rapidly deteriorating into a shriveled, sexless she-sloth.
I imagined waking up to my high school trigonometry teacher every morning, searching for a breast to squeeze under the pouches of moldering flab. She would grunt at me and brush off my hand, shuffling to the bathroom to shave her back stubble with an electric razor while quizzing me about sines and tangents.
“IF COSINE THETA EQUALS 0, THEN WHAT ARE ALL THE VALUES OF THETA BETWEEN 0 AND 360? HMMM? OH, YOU DON’T KNOW, DO YOU? WELL THEN, WHAT DO YOU KNOW?”
Until I met Alexandra, I managed to keep this fear under control by holding all of my lovers at arm’s distance and resigning myself to the superficial joys of a slappy-happy, devil-may-care bon vivant. Lesbians are usually pretty clingy, but I had developed a reputation as a player.
I met Alexandra at a gas station on South Congress in Austin, Texas. Though I was easily the best accordion player in Austin, I made my money working as a paint matcher at Home Depot. When we met, I was still covered in paint from work and I was not in the best mood. Alexandra and I were both dating other people at the time and we got in a fight over the last box of super plus tampons.
Her boyfriend was waiting in his car. My girlfriend was waiting in her car.
Maybe it was Alexandra’s dirty, lilting British accent. Maybe it was her big blue eyes and the perky dimples on the backs of her tight thighs. I don’t know what it was, but I wanted her more than anything, and when our screaming match over the tampons turned into making out on the gas station floor, we both got left behind.
Imagine it: two cars angrily peeling out in matching arcs on a gravel parking lot as we rammed our tongues down other’s throats, writhing on a linoleum floor so shiny that you could see your ghost in it, surrounded by snack cakes and celebrity magazines.
“No big loss,” Alexandra said, coming up for air and seeing her now ex-boyfriend (Ian from Manchester) sticking two fingers in the air as he snarled at us from the rear window of his hybrid. “I guess this means we share the tampons.”
As consolation for her break-up, I took her to eat farm egg and beef jerky tacos from a food trailer down the street. A guy from Waco with a greasy beard and two gypsy earrings told Alexandra that she was as radiant as a firefly.
“You mean my arse lights up?” she asked.
“Yes,” he said, coldly. “Your ass lights up.”
It was all pretty magical.
Later, as the two of us lay there stuck together in a pool of blood, sweat, paint, and sex juice, she asked me if I wanted to be her new boyfriend. She was kidding, of course, but I pretended to take her question seriously.
“Relationships are so depressing,” I said. “I like being a simple, honest swinger.”
“What are you on about, Yank? Are you a lesbian or aren’t you?”
“It is too easy to see people’s futures,” I said. “Young people inevitably turn into old people and all their superficially interesting qualities get burned up by life. I look at people’s faces and they start to melt in front of me. I age them in my mind. Eventually I always see an old person who hates me –- a miserable and boring senior citizen -- no matter how young and beautiful they might be now.”
“But aren’t you also getting older? What makes you think you won’t change, too?”
“I don’t feel like I’m going to live that long,” I admitted.
“So what does it matter then?” she said, exasperated. “If you are going to be dead?”
“There are parts that don’t change,” I said. “Parts that don’t warp, crack, or wrinkle. Those are the parts I like. Souls. Really, I like to fuck souls. Are you into that?”
“Yes, I am into that,” she said.
Two years later, and I still couldn’t get enough of Alexandra’s soul.
But I knew that Alexandra was getting restless. She wanted to know where all of this was going.
But getting married to a beautiful young woman without conquering your fear of aging and intimacy was like going to the supermarket and buying a bunch of ingredients that you didn’t know how to use.
There were old ladies that turned me on, and there were old ladies who didn’t turn me on. I wanted to know which one Alexandra would be.
What if we had a kid together, for instance? How would I react? I didn’t want to put myself in a position where I would do something horrible, like leave her behind or throw myself from a bridge.
Plus, if we wanted to get married, we’d have to move to a state where it was legal, and I really loved Texas.
People always told me that I was afraid of commitment, but I knew this wasn’t true. I was afraid of my own inherent flakiness. If I didn’t marry her, then I could never be the bitch who abandoned her when she needed me the most.
I cooked up my plan to seduce Alexandra’s mom as soon as Alexandra told me that her “mum and dad” were finally coming to visit. A flash of light went off in my head and I knew what I had to do.
The Radcliffes lived all the way on the other side of the world in London. All I knew about Alexandra’s parents was that her mother was an avant garde novelist and her father owned a comic book store.
Here we were putting the finishing touches on a special dinner for them, and all I could think about was what Alexandra’s mom looked like naked and if she liked eating pussy as much as Alexandra.
The Radcliffes had requested something light, and so were making steamed fish and boiled potatoes. I tried to put cayenne pepper and lemon juice on the fish, but Alexandra stopped me, kissing me on the cheek and shaking her head with her big blue eyes.
We had just taken the fish out of the oven when somebody knocked on Alexandra’s door.
I began to sweat. Not only was I meeting the mother and father of the girl who liked it when I rode her mouth like a stick-horse, I was about to launch a sex campaign against Mrs. Radcliffe right in front of her husband and daughter.
Hopefully, it would be so crude, unthinkable, and audacious that it would be essentially invisible.
When Alexandra opened the door to her apartment, I was immediately relieved to see that her mother was very attractive.
Alexandra was tall and thin and had shiny blonde hair that fell in ringlets around her willowy neck. She had tiny breasts like plums and very thin and powerful legs. Her mother was built the same way, though she seemed more solid. Mrs. Radcliffe also had that red middle-aged-lady flush down her neck that signified lambent desire.
I looked at Alexandra and smiled. For the first time in a long time, I saw her mother when I looked at her instead of seeing my trig teacher. This was going to work.
Her father was a beefy, bespectacled fellow who grabbed my hand before I could offer it and shook it like I was an exercise machine, showing his teeth.
“A pleasure to meet you,” he said. “We’ve heard so much about you from our wayward little shithead. Do you know that Alexandra hasn’t been home in nearly five years? If you ever have kids, make sure you that you have at least one proper heir. Alexandra, why are you so damned in love with this awful city? I have never seen an emptier airport. Where are you hiding all of the people?”
“There’s a lot to love about Austin,” I said to Mr. and Mrs. Radcliffe. “Bat City. The Big Nap. The city that sleeps. Unless you have ambition or crave the dangers of diversity, this is the greatest place in the world.”
The fish and potatoes tasted like bland hunks of buttery saltwater, but the Radcliffes seemed to enjoy them. I drank an extra glass of wine while we chatted, just to keep my tongue from dying of boredom.
“So what do you do?” Mr. Radcliffe asked me. “For money?”
He waggled his eyebrows. He was a bit of a clown, which was unsettling to me, because I was a bit of a clown.
“I match paint,” I said.
“I don’t understand what that means,” he said. “That sounds like a sentence that a crazy person would say.”
“Daddy,” said Alexandra.
“It’s actually pretty relaxing,” I said. “People bring me things. Like, say, your favorite stuffed rabbit. This stuffed rabbit is a certain shade of yellow. I scan the rabbit with a computer, find the rabbit’s exact shade of yellow, and then I mix as much paint as you want that matches.”
“How boring,” said Mrs. Radcliffe. “I can’t imagine a more boring job.”
She leaned forward to grab her wine glass and I looked down her blouse, flicking my eyes toward her cleavage. She smiled at me. She wanted me to know that she saw me but didn’t care.
“I thought British people were supposed to be unfailingly polite,” I said. “What could be more boring than being an avant garde novelist?”
“What could be more exciting?” she said, chuckling. “We go alone into the darkness where the new monsters are born. We befriend the monsters, give them true names, and then we teach them about human beings. Usually, we get lost out there or killed. Centuries later, when these monsters are gorging themselves on people, eating whole towns or cultures, historians might dig up our dusty volumes, learn the true names of the monsters we found in the abyss, and fight back using the lore that we died to get. Our jobs are so exciting that the rest of the real world is quite dim in comparison.”
She flicked her eyes to her husband, who was busy trying to stuff a whole boiled potato into his mouth without anyone noticing.
“Like everybody else in this town, I’m really a musician,” I said. “I play the accordion in a band called ‘Gimme Pizza.’ But paint matching is a good job for me and it pays the bills.”
“Musicians always have lots of lovers, don’t they?” said Mr. Radcliffe. “The allure of the bad girl and all that.”
“I only want one lover,” I said.
“Who’s your favorite superhero?” he asked.
“I’m sure Alexandra told you all about my comics shop,” said Mr. Radcliffe. “I am obsessed with American superheroes. Obsessed.”
“It’s true,” said Alexandra. “He’s obsessed.”
“For instance, did you know there is a superhero called The Color Kid?” he said. “Your job reminds me of him. He is basically a superhero paint-matcher.”
“The colored kid?”
“The Color Kid,” said Mr. Radcliffe, leaning back in his chair and lacing his fingers across his chest. “He was a DC character in the Legion of Superheroes. His deal was that he could change the color of anything. He was handy for Superman to keep around because he could change the color of kryptonite, for instance. Also, he could make day into night, or make the whole sea yellow if he wanted.”
“Classy,” said Mrs. Radcliffe, smiling and taking a sip of wine. “Are there a lot of instances where he saved the world by turning the sea into piss?”
I laughed. Mrs. Radcliffe looked at me with hungry eyes, drinking up my approval.
“It all depends on how you look at it, as The Color Kid might tell you,” said Mr. Radcliffe. “Almost all of the world’s problems are based on color. What if you could make all the white people black just by waving your hand, for instance? Or vice versa?”
We all contemplated this, but nobody said anything.
“The Legion of Superheroes was full of cocked-up birds and blokes,” said Mr. Radcliffe. “For instance, there was also Matter-Eater Lad, Kid Psycho, and Arm Fall-Off Boy. Matter-Eater Lad could eat anything, just like you Yanks at a baseball game. Arm Fall-Off Boy could take off his appendages and beat you to death with them, and Kid Psycho had amazing psychokinetic powers, but every time he used them, he lost a year of his life. He was only for emergencies.”
“Wow,” I said.
“I’m so glad your father finally has someone to talk to about all of his imaginary friends,” said Mrs. Radcliffe, patting Alexandra's hand.
“Me too,” said Mr. Radcliffe, effortlessly ignoring her jab like a seasoned bullfighter. “Who’s ready for dessert?”
“Oh Daddy, we didn’t think to buy any dessert,” said Alexandra.
“No dessert?” he said. “That’s it. You’re disinherited.”
“I’ll go pick something up,” I said, standing up. “I’ll get some iced cream or something.”
“I’ll go with you,” said Mrs. Radcliffe, also standing. “I could use the fresh air and I’d love to see the inside of an American supermarket. I have strong ideas about American supermarkets.”
“Oh god,” said Mr. Radcliffe, rolling his eyes. “The cathedral!”
Mrs. Radcliffe followed me to my car. I opened the door for her and she climbed inside. The grocery store was only a mile down the road, so we arrived there before we had a chance to begin an awkward conversation. Every time I looked over at her, however, her skirt was riding higher up her thigh.
I steered the car into a parking space and let the engine die.
“Look,” I said, gripping the steering wheel while the engine clicked and pinged, cooling and contracting. “You are an incredibly attractive woman.”
“That’s very nice to hear,” she said, looking over her shoulder at me and smiling politely. “You are quite lovely yourself, and I have to grudgingly admit that I admire my daughter’s taste.”
“I want to tell you that I am thinking about marrying Alexandra.”
“Really?” said Mrs. Radcliffe. “She mentioned something to that effect. I also admire your wisdom.”
“But I have this strange sickness,” I said.
“Herpes?” said Mrs. Radcliffe, chuckling to herself. “Don’t all Americans have herpes?”
“No,” I said. “It’s a mental sickness. I age people in my mind. I look at them and I see them as old people. It makes me reluctant to tie my future to anyone.”
“I do the same thing,” said Mrs. Radcliffe. “It’s a writer’s trick. You want to look at a person and see their whole story. I think I understand what you are saying. When I was your age, I noticed that every life transition seemed to add age and weariness to people. I noticed how much older marriage made you seem and I thought that if I avoided it, I could freeze time.”
We got out of the car and went into the supermarket.
“Looking at people this way makes it difficult for me to get close to anyone,” I said. “I’m trying very hard to get over it. I think I have figured out a way, but I’m going to need your help.”
“How can I be of service?” said Mrs. Radcliffe, ignoring me and looking around the supermarket with her hands on her hips.
I ran my eyes down her body, gawking.
“This place is amazing,” said Mrs. Radcliffe. “It is the greatest human achievement since the cathedral! I should like to write a novel about the creation of the supermarket. It would be a long historical novel about the men and women who died to make the supermarket what it is today. My novel would be filled with sex, violence, art, madness, and betrayal.”
“The supermarket?” I said, following her as she headed for the fruits and vegetables. I grabbed a basket.
“Human beings are nothing but greedy animals,” said Mrs. Radcliffe, picking up a pineapple and holding it up to her chest. She let the spines of the pineapple hold open the front flaps of her blouse. “We want nothing more than to walk through a garden full of colorful fruit, hunting for our heart’s desire. In the supermarket, we have created a place full of symbols, brands, and magic, where literally everything can be plucked down from the trees and put into our bags. The trees here are bulging with abundance. There is more here than we could ever eat in our lifetime, and there are absolutely no predators or poisons. There are so many choices here that they paralyze the mind.”
A pair of college girls in sweatpants walked by us, giggling to each other.
“Even the people here are beautiful and ripe,” she said. “You just want to pluck them up and put them in your basket so you can squeeze the juice out of them later.”
She picked up a bunch of bananas and put them in my basket, alongside a sack full of cherries.
“Think about all the global supply chains that are necessary to sustain this place,” said Mrs. Radcliffe. “They are like rivers of prayer! There is food here from all over the world, flowing into this sterile, good-smelling, climate-controlled warehouse where everyone looks their best under the soft yellow lights. Good citizens casually stroll through the aisles, searching for satisfaction and new thrills. When peasants in the Dark Ages went to the cathedral to pray every Sunday, this is what they were praying for.”
We walked down the aisles slowly as she marveled at all the different brands, pointing out which ones were also available in Britain.
We made our way to the freezer section and stood in front of the iced creams, staring at the gallon tubs. There were a hundred different kinds, everything from cake batter to pecan pralines and cream.
I grabbed her hand.
“You are the mother of the woman I love,” I said. “And I desperately want to sleep with you. I want some kind of idea of what it will be like to sleep with Alexandra in thirty years. I want to sleep with you to see what kind of woman your daughter will become.”
Mrs. Radcliffe was not shocked at all, but neither did she say anything. She looked me over and then let my hand drop, turning away from the frozen foods.
“Have you ever been with a woman before?” I asked.
Instead of answering me, she grabbed a can of whipped cream from the shelves. She took the lid off and squirted some into her palm. She licked her palm clean. She walked away from me and I lost her in the aisles.
When I found her again, she was standing by the registers and ready to pay. She added a huge bottle of lube to the cherries, bananas, and whipped cream. I held up the lube and she smiled at me.
“The modern supermarket is the perfect opportunity to give thanks for the global economy,” said Mrs. Radcliffe. “It is also a chance to consider the ebb and flow of the world’s resources. Who are you, where do you come from, and where do you want to be? Are you on top or bottom? Rich or poor? Slave or aristocrat? Which direction are you headed? Down? Or up?”
Back in the car, Mrs. Radcliffe put her hand on my knee and made me turn into the parking lot of the Bel-Air motel.
“They will be expecting us back soon,” I said. “Maybe we should…”
“Don’t worry about them right now,” she said. “Listen, there’s something I need to tell you. There’s a secret that Alexandra has been keeping from you for a good reason.”
“What secret?” I asked.
“We aren’t Mr. and Mrs. Radcliffe,” she said. “We are Lord and Lady Radcliffe of Twillingham.”
“It is not Cumberland or Exeter, but it is still a respectable estate. Our only daughter Alexandra is also a peer of the realm, ready to inherit all of the privileges and responsibilities of a British lady the moment the heavy mantle falls on her shoulders.”
“I don’t understand.”
“She has told us that she has kept you in the dark about her hereditary powers, probably so that you would not be intimidated by her.”
“I don’t understand what you are saying,” I said. “I thought you were a novelist. I thought your husband owned a comic book shop.”
“These are not lies,” said Lady Radcliffe. “Lord Radcliffe owns many business ventures, including a fairly famous London comic book shop that he operates at a loss. I write novels under several pseudonyms and have always fancied myself a member of the London literati, which is probably what attracted Lord Radcliffe to me in the first place. Like you, I was a commoner when we first met, though I am a commoner no longer.”
“You are nobles?” I asked, blinking.
“Something that may surprise you is that your idea about sleeping with me in order to see what Alexandra will be like as a future lover is actually quite prescient,” said Lady Radcliffe. “There is a tradition among the peerage called “sacking” that is quite similar to what you have in mind. Alexandra told us that she thought you might be proposing marriage soon, which is why we have come down here to Texas. Your relationship with our daughter is unconventional, but we want you to know that we are quite progressive. We intend to treat you just the same as if you were a man. We phoned your parents first and they agreed to all of our demands, even agreeing to drive to Austin so that we wouldn’t have to drive to Marfa, wherever that might be.”
“It is way out in West Texas,” I said. “My parents are art hippies.”
“Nevertheless, they are commoners. It is actually impossible for a commoner to propose to a lady, which is why your house must be sacked first. If our royal house doesn’t sack your common house first, Alexandra will be forced to turn down your suit when you ask for her hand.”
“I remember when my own house was sacked. I was nineteen, and I was so damn scared. My own mum was such a good sport about it all. Lord Radcliffe’s father was a mean old bastard, God rest his eternal soul, and he did love to use his fingers. I feel so sorry for the family of that Middleton girl who is marrying Prince William. They say the Queen has no mercy at all. The royals always bring their animals with them when they sack a house.”
Lady Radcliffe got out of the car and pointed toward a motel room hidden behind one of the motel stairwells. For some reason, my little brother Caleb was sitting there on the stairs with a motel towel wrapped around his naked chest. His face was as white as the towel, and he was wiping his mouth and his eyes. There was a pile of puke at his feet.
I ran to Caleb, sprinting past Lady Radcliffe, leaving her with all of the groceries.
“What’s going on?” I asked him. “Why are you here?”
“Lord Radcliffe made me get him started,” said Caleb, blinking at me. “We are going to be kings and queens! Like in Narnia!”
The door to the hotel room was slightly open and I could hear the same high pitched squeals that haunted me growing up, regular as clockwork every Tuesday night. I ran to the hotel room and threw the door open.
There was Lord Radcliffe, wearing nothing but a purple cape, a heavy crown, and a domino mask. He looked like a super-villain. Fat Naked King Man. My mother was down on all fours in front of him, her hair hanging limp over her face, her full breasts scraping the floor. She looked up at me and licked her teeth, smiling bashfully.
“Hello there!” shouted Lord Radcliffe, saluting me and then putting his hands on his hips. “Just testing the goods, lass! We need to see what your family is made of!”
He slapped my mother’s ass and roared with laughter.
“What color would you call that?” he asked me. “Bright spanking red?”
“I just love English accents,” said my mom.
Alexandra was still wearing the plain dress she had worn to dinner, but now she had my father tied to one of the hotel beds and she was jamming a massive silver dildo into his rectum.
My massive silver dildo!
She was holding him by his gray, greasy ponytail and he seemed to be enjoying it. He was singing “God Save the Queen” in between deep grunts.
“The rules are simple,” said Lady Radcliffe, coming up behind me. “Do what we say and no backtalk. Now on your knees, peasant. Your house has been sacked. Get on your fucking knees this instant or I will slap you so hard.”
I didn’t move. She was as good as her word. She slapped me, gritting her teeth, her eyes lighting up like disco balls. My head rang like an alarm clock.
As I started to kneel, all of my fears burned away and my heart filled with love. Alexandra slammed my dildo into my dad's asshole until he spurted all over the hotel sheets, his skinny, pock-marked ass-cheeks shivering like a sheet in the wind.
Alexandra winked at me and then Lady Radcliffe filled my mouth with her tit. I felt my heart soar.
The goods were top shelf. Fit for the table of a lord. I was marrying “up.”