LeMatte’s first fictional outing was in the mid-sixties, a new-minted civilian released from covert military service. The story was A Death In Seattle. Twenty years later he found himself in Oregon…Copyright WRBJr Living Trust
*of doubtful authenticity, spurious
LeMatte closed his motel-room door and took off his sport-coat. He slipped out of the Bianchi shoulder-rig and removed his old Canadian Inglis Hi Power from the holster. A lot of its original finish had worn away since the night in Hanoi a French-Canadian on a joint operation sold it to him. That was twenty years ago. The gun already had been old, built on Belgian machinery relocated ahead of Nazi invasion. The Canuck thought the Inglis superior to Belgian Brownings but the Canuck thought everything Canadian superior, with few exceptions. One was beignets from LeMatte’s native Big Easy.
The Inglis had been his constant companion since those dangerous years. Seldom needed. He didn’t think he’d need it tonight. He tucked it in his briefcase beside the bed, shoved holster and webbing in a side-table drawer, and sat on the bed to remove his shoes. He was sleepy, a little drunk, and more than a little curious about what might happen next.
He lifted a thick Sunday edition of the San Francisco Chronicle off the bedspread. He’d been reading it earlier, surprised to find it for sale in an Oregon coffee shop this far north of its circulation range. He folded the newspaper atop the TV, laid a pair of twenty-dollar bills atop it, opened his door again and left it ajar. She’d said she would be along directly.
He disrobed to his boxers and lay back on the bed. Far from the first time he waited for a woman. Just the first time he waited for a woman after reading the Sunday Chronicle’s big front-page story.
The medical community had changed its mind about disease clusters of Kaposi’s sarcoma and pneumocystis pneumonia in homosexual men frequenting bathhouses in San Francisco. Now doctors were saying the so-called “gay plague” was not confined to queer males and was showing up coast to coast after unprotected sex with an infected partner. The Centers for Disease Control, CDC, had displayed the federal penchant for acronyms by naming it AIDS, for Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome.
LeMatte remembered childhood terror of polio with its iron lungs, and tuberculosis. He knew this new thing meant the end of decades of untrammeled sexual licentiousness begun in the sexy Sixties. He had partaken freely once he got the hang of it, and was going to miss it.
Yet here he was in a motel far from home waiting for a woman.
He’d never been especially risk-averse. He supposed tonight might be proof of that. A quasi-secret conference of government agencies in a remote Oregon coastal town had brought him back to the Pacific Northwest for the first time in twenty years. When participants got their “free day” today, he’d driven his rental Mustang down Highway 101 to observe offshore black-rock formations the tourist brochures called sea stacks. Quite a sight: surf foaming around them, evergreen-clad mountains running down to the sea, the swoop and climb of the famous coast road. The spring weather was chilly for a Pelican State native.
Returning this evening, he’d stopped for a blood-warming brandy or two in the intimate little motel lounge. Several conference attendees were there, hunched over their drinks muttering, almost comically conspiratorial among the Birkenstock locals. Routine trade-craft was to ignore each other in public, and he had not desire for shop-talk.
The lounge featured a quiet acoustic trio behind a competent singer crooning old love ballads Crosby and Sinatra had charted in his youth. Three or four local couples took turns on the postage-stamp dance floor. The woman had been sitting alone at the bar nursing a tall drink: long dark hair around her shoulders, relatively long legs showcased by pale linen slacks and patent heels, impressive breasts under a silken blouse.
She offered a bright smile to each man who invited her to the floor, including some conference-goers. One dance to a customer he noticed without thinking much about it. Behavior too blatant for a honey-trap was his shadow-days assessment. She noticed him on her way back from a dance and offered him the same bright smile along with a quizzical head-tilt of seeming invitation.
He acted on the inference. They danced. She was a solid armful of woman, young and lithe and graceful. Somehow one dance stretched to three before he was ready to stop. “This has been fun,” he said.
“Thanks, big guy. You up for a little more fun?” She squeezed his hand. “You got a room here?”
He’d been caught off-guard. His hooker radar was faulty after all the years of straying wives picking him up in strange bars for a mutually satisfying walk on the wild side. The one-dance-per customer should have tipped him. She danced with each man, she made her pitch, they didn’t buy. Of course no conference man would buy — not in front of his peers.
Listening now to the click of high heels in the motel corridor with the Chronicle on the TV, he remembered his old Cajun maman saying coming events cast their shadow before. But he was not going to mention the story to the woman.
The clicking heels paused outside his room. She pushed the door open, came in, and laughed when she saw him in his underwear. “Stripped for action. I like that in a man.”
She closed and latched the door, kicked off her heels, and went unerringly to the two twenties on the TV. No purse, he noted; she tucked the bills into the pocket of her linen slacks. Then calmly stepped out of them, folding them neatly on a chair. She unzipped and slithered out of her bright silken blouse and removed her bra, her impressive breasts sagging a little into their natural shape. Then she faced him with a quirky grin and thumbed her panties down, kicked them away, and straightened. Her spread fingers framed her crotch.
“You like?” Her nether regions were shaved smooth as a baby’s butt, labia majora prominently on display.
He didn’t try to hide his surprise. “First time for everything, I guess.”
She laughed again and crawled beside him on the bed. “My boyfriend likes it. Says it’ll be all the rage in porn before long. And it’s easier to keep clean!”
Would there even be porn as the plague-fear spread? But he didn’t say it. The newspaper on the TV was like a silent reproach. He thought this was better than brandy to commemorate the fall of darkness. Last days of Pompeii ran through his mind. Fall of Rome. Love in the time of cholera.
“You probably taste good too,” he said.
Her turn to be surprised. “You wanna go down on me? Most guys…”
“I’m not most guys.” Hell, he sounded manic. He felt sort of manic. Had to be manic, to suggest this after reading the newspaper story.
“If you’re such a red-hot lover” — She ran a teasing hand inside one leg of his boxers, Scotch-tainted murmur tickling his ear — “where’s your girlfriend tonight?”
“They’re all home with their husbands.”
“Will you listen to the man?” she implored the ceiling, laughing again. Her hand withdrew. “If you’re such an accomplished muff-diver I’m not going to argue! Go for it, big stuff.”
“Strictly speaking,” he muttered as he settled between her thighs, his shins hanging off the bed, “there is no muff present. I may be the one gets whisker rash if you didn’t shave with good Gillette blades.”
She whacked the top of his head, then grabbed his ears to guide him. He tongued her clitoris lightly, got a murmur of approval, and went to work, sort of losing himself in the moment, forgetting the viral fear. He knew he knew this stuff, he’d had plenty of satisfied feedback. Had even enjoyed expert coaching, not least from a fondly recalled bisexual woman of a certain age. Meaning older than he’d been at the time.
He concentrated on the involuntary response of her body, knowing she was not fully into it. She was at work, after all. She held herself almost aloof, like one professional evaluating another. Maybe he’d get a good review. He found it freeing not to worry about rocking her world. But when his fingers instinctively began to curl beneath his lips seeking her G-spot, she planted her palms firmly on his forehead and broke his concentration.
“No,” she said. “I’m too sore for that. Been working all weekend…” It should have been a chilling reminder of risk. But he was too into it.
He rolled on his side, pushing down his boxers. “Uh…”
“Yeah,” she answered quickly. “Too sore for that thing too after all your nibbling! Don’t fret, big stuff. Bring it up here so I can return the favor.”
So he knelt astride her warm abundant breasts and held onto the headboard as she took him in her mouth. Her first stroke buried her nose in his pubic hair. Then she struck up a steady rhythm, repeatedly and easily taking him deep. Her technique was competent but not transcendent. He’d experienced transcendent. Watching her work he realized he was calm as she had been, almost as analytical.
So he closed his eyes the better to appreciate her effort. After a timeless interval she stopped. Just stopped. When he opened his eyes, she withdrew to the tip and looked up, slurring words around his glans.
“How long does it take for this thing to go off, anyway?”
“Well I was never much for premature ejaculation…”
“Now he tells me. Christ! Okay, here goes…” She began again, faster, harder, tighter.
Still not the best fellatio he ever had, nor close to the worst. His eruption caught him almost by surprise. Her cheeks ballooned to each discharge. Suddenly his legs felt so weak he wasn’t sure he could dismount without toppling.
While he thought about that he witnessed something he’d never seen, even with Bangkok whores as a young man in the military, certainly never since. Where did the packet of Kleenex on the side-table come from? She already had tissues in her hand, spitting his seed into them. Repeatedly. Discarding the tissues on the floor, then doing it again. It bothered him. It seemed almost rude, a kind of rejection. So much for one quick dangerous dalliance to defy the fate the newspaper warned against. The Kleenex simply ruined it for reasons he could not articulate.
She went into the bathroom and gargled and spat. Maybe she had Listerine wherever she left her purse. Maybe her boyfriend wouldn’t kiss her if her breath smelled of other men, unlike French husbands he had witnessed kissing Paris ring-road prostitutes after an afternoon of blow jobs for long-haul truckers and GIs. He propped naked on the pillows and watched her dress, and thought about offering a flavored Tums, but didn’t.
She was putting on her heels. “September Morn? You just gonna lie there like that and wait for your next woman to wander in, big stuff?” But her bantering tone seemed strained now.
It was probably his sinking mood. He offered a weak smile. They said their goodbyes and she left, heels clicking back down the motel corridor into silence. He rolled over and turned off the light.
No way to know if this not-particularly-memorable experience would be his last under the looming shadow of what was no longer just a queer-bathhouse plague, or if he already had doomed himself. His ignorance of actual risk was complete. If he did survive, and ever spoke of this, he would call it an apocryphal story.