One year while filling out his W-2 his mouth began to taste coppery and he blacked out. He woke up and saw that his tax form had been graffitied like a typographical Mondrian. Not only did he find completing a check difficult, he also had trouble addressing envelopes, filling out customs forms and checking boxes on restaurant comment cards. Something about his signature made him wince when he signed credit card slips and during his twenties he cut up all of his credit cards.
The writer stopped writing checks. Instead he wrote erotic fiction and mailed it in the self-addressed envelopes that came with his bills. The writer liked licking stamps.
To the municipality that handled the watering of his home he wrote about a young Chilean girl who began a long sexual, spiritual and intellectual odyssey involving the Roman Catholic clergy and an ancient text written variously in Arabic and Greek, with Castilian and Latin annotations. Each month she participated in some particular perversion of an abbot, priest or bishop who, once spent, would reveal to her more about the secret history of the Christ. By September she had a nun protogé and a profound and unique understanding of Johannic irony.
To the electric company he wrote about a balding, dark-skinned man with a chirpy alto who shot a glue gun at his lover, making hot glue rings around her nipples and hot glue rays on her thighs. He glued her pudenda until her opening shut. She cried horrifically with pleasure.
The couple escalated their synthesis of crafting and sex. He built a birdhouse that fit her head like a helmet and was fond of saying, "My cock is coming home to roost!" They did the hunch leaning against a running band saw, jostling the machine until it tipped to the floor, screeching impotently. He would put her hips in a vice and, brandishing his tape ruler, live by the adage to measure twice, cut once, making tick marks on her body so he could precisely debauch them later.
During one very cold winter he wrote a happy ending to this story and began one about an adopted boy who hires a private detective to find his mother and then seduces her. While most of the state nursed on brandy and whiskey to keep warm, those working accounts receivable at the electric company made liberal use of the copy machine and nursed their desire for the mingling of unconditional love and bottomless sexual gratification (a few admittedly read the story for the verisimilitude of the procedural investigating depicted). The rates rose that year, but the writer was never mailed a collections notice.
For his mortgage lender he wrote the story of a brunette kidnapped, bound, gagged and suspended above a shallow ditch. The brunette's kidnapper aerated and fertilized the soil below her and built a trellis around her. He grew beans and tomatoes and other garden plants that bumped into her back as they grew and coiled around her limbs. He spread a skirt above the trellis to protect his plants and his brunette from the sun. A tube snaked through the yard and up the trellis and was inserted intravenously into the brunette's arm to feed her.
When the kidnapping horticulturist cut her from her suspension and binding she fell onto the garden, squishing blooms, fruits and vegetables. She bled through her skin in the places where she was bound. She choked on and spit out bile, crying herself blind. When she could see again, lying in her bed of greens, she managed to genuflect before her kidnapper and began kissing his fingers and thumbs, sucking at the soil in their ridges. The writer took a page to describe the strength and implication of the horticulturist's erection.
After a few months, the writer heard a knock on his door and greeted a man from the bank.
"I was touched by your story," the banker said.
"Thank you kindly," the writer replied and started to shut his door, feeling satisfied to have met a fan.
"I liked your story very much," the banker persisted, "I especially liked the paragraph in which you described how the coolness of the soil gave her goosebumps on her buttocks." His voice lowered, "And how she enriched the dirt by shitting on it, and the part about the 'chalky and barren stripe of dirt' where she peed. . . . But I must receive your payment for your mortgage. You are long overdue."
The writer explained his repulsion for check writing. He invited the banker inside and gave him a drink while the banker inquired further about the writer's problem. The banker arrived at the solution that he, the banker, would write the checks each month on behalf of the writer, and then he could take the checks to the bank on his way to work the next day.
"And your story, 'The Girl and the Gardener'?" the banker started timidly in the dining room.
"Yes?" said the writer.
The banker continued, "You can address future installments to my P.O. box."
The banker did not mention that he could have had the writer's mortgage payments wired automatically each month. Technology was progressing almost exponentially, and the writer could have written his stories on electronic word processors if he wanted to.
On the last Sunday of every month the banker would come by. When visiting, he would bring gifts such as expensive Scotch whiskey, dark chocolate from France or fruit from the farmer's market, which the two would consume with dinner before the writing of the check. For March he gave a bridle, for May a lacy bustier, for June studded bracers and for October latex garters. "They're inspiration," the banker mewed.
The writer should have known that the banker had fallen in love with him, but he was insensitive to the ways of love. The banker stopped at the writer's house on an evening when no mortgage payment was due.
"An irregular appearance!" the writer said amiably and slapped the banker's shoulder.
The banker croaked a syllable. Then he spoke: "I love you." His tone was that of a defeated Go master.
The writer told him curtly that he could not see him any more and shut the door. The banker became hysterical, trying to gain entry to the house by knocking on the doors and windows before giving up. He called the writer from his car's cellular phone. Then he called the writer from his condo.
By this time the bank's upper division managers were deep into the tale of a young man who salivated prodigiously. More than a man with a member of enormous girth and length, women desired this salivating man. He licked them and sucked them tirelessly: the wives of COOs, state representatives and Wall Street mavens. The young man sucked and licked his way into money and power, and the bank's upper division managers and their hard-ons arranged for the writer's mortgage payments to be reduced and paid by wire.
The story would have bored the banker.
The writer had his phone number changed and the banker started writing him love letters. Eventually the banker became tired of pining, and for a few years the love letters came on anniversaries only he remembered. During the decade after that the banker's heart allowed him three more letters until he finally divorced his wife and transferred to a San Franciscan branch.
One day the writer lay in the tub pulling out his pubic hairs one at a time and watched them float on the surface of the water. The phone mounted next to his toilet rang. He picked up the handset and the last ring of the bell reverberated off the tiles of the narrow bathroom walls.
At this time the writer was still receiving letters quite regularly from the banker.
He spoke into the mouthpiece. You can imagine what his voice sounded like, but mostly it just sounded like:
A woman's voice asked him if he would like to take a survey about the current presidential candidates. She sounded like a soft-focus photograph, but she enunciated articulately and managed her timbre, pitch and volume evenly.
The writer delighted at being able to take a survey without checking boxes, and the pretty voice he heard caused his heart to palpitate. His erection popped out of the water covered in the moss of his own pubic hair.
The operator asked questions and transcribed the writer's answers. They flirted. She made a special note of his number on her call list and began to call him on Tuesday evenings, when her manager was not available to monitor her conversations with him.
Eventually the writer took a city bus to her call center and called out her name among the cubicles and their many phones. The operator rushed to finish her call and approached him.
"I cannot see you. You must leave."
"I'm in love with you."
"I can't talk about this. You must go," she pleaded.
He tried to memorize her face but became distracted by her hair. She waited with watery-eyed patience until he stopped staring at her hair and left the building.
That Tuesday she called. He answered from the kitchen.
"Good evening, sir. I'm conducting a survey on shaving products. Would you like to participate?"
"Genevieve! Be mine! I want to feed your throat honey," the writer exclaimed and stooped over the counter, looking abstractedly at a row of ants following the caulked edge.
"Thank you, sir. How many times a week do you shave?"
"I want you to read to me. I want to read to you. Please come here now. I can take care of you and we can lie in bed and find out what is in Bluebeard's closet."
There was a pause. Above the rumble of the call bank he thought he could hear her breath rubbing her larynx in a plaintive way. He wasn't sure.
"I assume you use a safety razor, sir. Do you use disposable razors or disposable blades, or is it possible you use a straight or electric razor?"
"Baby . . ." the writer said in a small voice, and then continued, "cut this nonsense out. Come to me and I'll show you what kind of razor I use. I'll shave your body, then you can shave my body."
The operator's voice sobbed and spoke: "If you're unsure I can give you an explanation of the different kinds of razors and their blades."
"I want to wash your hair," the writer cooed, "I want our bodies to squeak under the shower spray like two dolphins'."
"Thank you, sir. What brand of razor and blade do you buy?" she said. Her voice then was like a catamaran bobbing in a squall.
"I want the clean down above your lip to tickle my nostrils." The writer planted his elbows into the counter and lifted his knees onto it, a crumpled man beneath his cabinetry. He clutched the handset: "I want us to feel the sixth sense spark our skin only knows after shaving; the light after-shower numbness everywhere except for our genitals and our lips."
"How often," her sad voice warbled, "do you purchase new blades?"
"I'll write a bible for you," he whispered, "a whole bible all about you. I'm devout, baby."
"Finally, rating from one to four, with one being 'very disappointed' and—" she stopped and choked on her roiling phlegm, "four being 'very satisfied,' how do you feel about your razor brand?"
"Don't you love me?" He could hear her bawling. Her phone—held by a sweaty palm at the shoulder cradle attached to the handset—was somewhere between her ear and the hook when he heard her say:
"Thank you for your time, sir. Goodbye."
That month the phone company received a story instead of a check. The first page told the history of a boy who liked to masturbate in unusual places, such as the library, the Diary Queen drive-through and his mother and father's closet while they slept.
By the time he was seventeen he was masturbating into half-filled cigarette boxes and leaving these where a smoker would think he had found his fortune. Half the time the smoker would not notice the unusual taste of the filters.
On page three he went to men's clothing stores and masturbated into the pockets of suit jackets and pants.
At a park on page seven he came in the dew puddle collected at the bottom of a slide. He worried that the sun would burn his puddle away until a nine year old girl slid down the slide later that morning.
The local stadium where the minor league played rarely locked their open air press box. He bought tickets to a Triple-A game on page thirteen and leaned out the stucco window to rain a white ray of semen onto a few families in the bleacher seats below.
The phone company turned the writer's line off soon after.