1999 Undergraduate Fiction Winner
At least that’s how Chris looked at his roofing job.
“Bitch-work,” he mumbled, walking through the door and into the familiar aged smell that resembled sweaty feet dipped in Mayo. The tea table, a collaboration of flat stones and two warned planks, laughed at him, for the stones knew they were smarter than he, and the planks stronger. Directly behind the table, with its back to the wall, sat the elderly bench, mocking Chris and his lanky, undefined frame with its swaying back and sagging seat. The only attractive piece of furniture in the living room, a proud, sturdy oak chair given to him by his mother, well, it just plain snubbed him. The furniture, the uniform emptiness of the stone walls, the tiny, lonely bedroom at the far end of the slightly less tiny, lonely living room... they all seemed to say, “Welcome back, Chris, to the pathetic home of your pathetic existence.”
“Bitch-work,” he sighed again, collapsing into the accepting grasp of his straw bed. The delight that spread though his tortured muscles as he lay there rivaled that of a thunderous orgasm.
Saturdays at Siffredi Roofing always wore Chris out. The last day of the week was like the snap at the end of a good hanging. he had never worked six days a week. Five was hard enough.
‘Who am I fooling?” he thought. “Maybe I should quit.”
But then, just as he was about to further the argument for quitting, he heard the maniacal screams and wretched groans that could only mean one thing-a public lashing. He remembered today’s lashing was to be given to a disobedient wife. This sliver of a real woman was to receive ten lashes for refusing her husband sex. (It’s rumored that later that night this woman removed her husband’s penis with the help of a glove and a sickle, but that’s another story).
By the fifth or sixth lash, the screams, thankfully, had stopped, and all Chris could hear was the snap of the whip as it tore pieces of flesh from the disobedient wife’s back.
And with the interruption, Chris’s thoughts of quitting his job vanished. Maybe Attention Deficit Disorder caused the rapid loss of thought that Chris had been the victim of so many times. More likely, though, the culprit behind these thefts lived in the smoke of the stupendous amounts of opium that Chris sucked down every day. After nine years of painting his lungs with gooey black resin, the level of his attention span had just about dipped below the level of a circus monkey. Though he knew he’d passed the burn-out marker long ago, he wanted to keep driving. He knew the consequences could be ugly, but how ugly, he’d forgotten. So he didn’t care. Actually, he didn’t care about much of anything. To Chris, a purpose was a sea mammal that resembled a dolphin. His convictions were about as clear as the sticky opium resin in the shaft of his favorite pipe.
As his eyelids fell victim to laziness, the remaining pops of the fireworks began to sound like the fireworks he’d heard had been sailed to Europe from China. Suddenly, he was launched into the air with the velocity of a lash-driven scream. The higher he rose, the more unfocused the world below him appeared. The pale blues and yellows above him brushed his skin and wrapped around him like feather boas. They hissed lullabies and talked dirty to him. He flew higher above the clouds, and the feelings that began as desire and lust changed to passion... a passion beyond the physical sense. Then the colors and feelings disappeared, and Chris was left suspended that could only be described as a euphoric gravy.
A voice, heartier than Ed McMahon’s, and a hundred times more forceful than the loudest belch known to mankind rippled through the gravy jarring Chris and his happy ass.
“Christopher!” the voice belched.
Frantically, Chris searched for the source of the voice, but he couldn’t see far through the opaque gravy. The voice came again, this time with more hesitation.
Again, he couldn’t locate where the voice came from.
“Dammit, Christopher, this isn’t going to work if you don’t answer me!”
“I’m here,” he replied meekly.
“Thank you,” the voice responded.
“Who are you?” Chris asked.
The voice bellowed again, “I am your god, Christopher!”
“I am the god of the god of all gods!”
“I thought there was just one,” Chris replied, puzzled.
“You are correct, sir,” the voice boomed. “There is only one God, and that would be me... er, uh, that would be I... no, me...”
“You have been put on Earth for a reason, young Columbus,” God declared.
Astonished, Chris spoke up. ‘Why?”
“Because there is something you love that you should share with others like you,” God said.
Excited that he may have a purpose in life, Chris hurried to ask what that something was. A loud banging at his door, however, silenced the dream.
“Who is it?” he shouted, angry that he was unable to finish his conversation with God.
“Is this Christopher Columbus?” an anxious female voice yelled.
Chris’s father had hired an entertainer from the Foxx One Theatre downtown to “take care” of Chris for a night.
“Jesus, kid,” he’d said, “you haven’t had a woman-friend in so long your balls must be the size of melons. It’ll be good for you.”
Chris had of course forgotten about his belated birthday present, and under usual circumstances would have told her to leave. After the dream though, he felt a need to talk to someone. Maybe this whore can help me find my calling, he thought as he opened the door.
“Thank you. My fucking legs are killing me,” she said as she floated past Chris in a fog of perfume on her way to the bench.
Celeste’s legs weren’t alone in their pain. During the last week, she’d headlined in the staging of Ass Destroyers II. To add more misery to her murderous week, a string of anal beads had snapped in half inside of her during her last show, and she had to visit the medic to get the stragglers removed. The medic called it the strangest thing he’d ever seen, and Celeste almost called it the end of her theatrical career. She’d cried that entire night, knowing that she couldn’t quit because other jobs paid not even a tenth of what she was earning. She’d be forced to live as a peasant again, scrubbing floors for turnips and onions.
The prostitution gig earned some extra gold pieces, and it didn’t require the stamina of a marathon runner like the shows. The men who hired her didn’t have the goods or the abilities her co-stars possessed.
“So what do you wanna do?” she asked. “Missionary, doggy-style, blow job... what’s your preference? We got all night, baby.”
Celeste knew from experience to get the men off early so they would fall asleep faster. She’d grown used to the dirty aggressive persona, even though it was just an act.
Chris stood at the doorway, admiring Celeste’s physical beauty. Her brown hair, somewhat darker than his own, fell around her oval face in waves as she ran her fingers through it. The batting of her eyelids resembled a butterfly’s wings in flight. Her plump curves fit the definition of a woman of the 80’s. Chris had seen the weight-gain programs that women flocked to in order to achieve that robust look. He knew Celeste came by her shape naturally, though. To call her magnificent would be an understatement.
“You want to smoke a bowl?” Chris asked, grabbing his pipe from the tea table.
“You’d rather get high than get laid?” she asked, astonished.
“I’m not too interested in sex right now,” he said.
“That’s a first for mankind.”
“I just had this crazy dream,” he said, puffing on the pipe. “I guess I’m just in a strange mood right now or something.”
“Hey, I get paid just the same, so do whatcha like,” she said, taking two massive hits from the pipe. “This is some quality shit, hun,” she said between coughs. “You must have some good connections.”
“Yeah, it comes from India. The best comes from India and China. It’s expensive stuff though. That’s where most of my pay goes, I guess,” he said.
“I would’ve guessed you spent it on this beautiful decor,” she laughed. After a couple of seconds of confusion, Chris got the joke and laughed as well.
After smoking two bowls, they were stoned.
“Do you ever think your life has a purpose?” Chris asked her, as they lay side by side on the living room floor.
“Yes I do, and I know it’s not to get men off, either.” Celeste replied. “What’s your purpose?”
Chris thought for a second. “I don’t know I’m not really good at anything, and I’m not really very smart.”
‘All you need is a passion, baby. You know what my passion is?”
“Blow jobs?” Chris guessed.
“No,” she laughed. “It’s acting. I know the shows at the Foxx don’t seem to require much talent, but let me tell you, being reamed everyday by ten inch cocks and looking like you’re loving it the whole time, now that takes acting. My dream is to someday act in a real play, though.”
“I thought women didn’t do that. It’s just dudes, isn’t it?” Chris asked.
“I’ll be the first, then.”
“You’d be famous for that, all right. I hope someday I find a passion. Something I like as much as you like acting,” Chris said, nearly spraining his brain as he searched his heart for the answer to the question he didn’t get to ask God in his dream.
“You will, baby,” Celeste said, grabbing his hand. ‘What do you say, Chris, are you ready yet?”
“Let’s smoke another bowl first,” he replied, grabbing his pipe.
The sweet smell of the opium tickled his nostrils, and with each hit he climbed higher and higher, until finally the world below him came into focus.
‘Ah-ha,” he said.
After the final tokes, Celeste’s aching body fell into a much-needed sleep. The shrinking of the melons would have to wait.
Over the next few years, purpose became more than just an ocean mammal to Chris. With the help of a crew of his burnt-out friends and a con-artist that convinced the Spanish queen the journey would turn up a cheaper, faster trade route to India for spices (wink, wink) Christopher Columbus set sail.
Marty Nash is a senior in English at KSU, and is this year’s recipient of the Touchstone undergraduate award for fiction, “Columbus Day,” and nonfiction, “My Heroes Have Always Been Carpenters.”
All rights reserved. Copyright KSU Touchstone 2003