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Today's Story by Stuart Hopen

Grace surveyed the newly waxed yachts. "So which one will you buy for me?" she asks.

Serialization Sunday: The Flick – Chapter IX

Every Sunday, Fiction365 presents a new chapter in a previously unpublished novel.  Our first novel, the taut thriller City of Human Remainscan be found in full here

Our second novel, Hoodoo, tells a story of visionaries, heretics and lunatics in Utah, centered on a 12-year-old girl who believes that God wants her to have an affair with her guidance counselor, can be found in full here.

Our current novel, The Flick, is the correspondence between a legendary porn star of the 90′s and the girl who got away – and kept going.  Read previous chapters here.

Letter IX

August 30, 1990

Dear Phoenix:

You say you’re doing this mostly for the money, Phoenix.   You draw time tortured analogies between writing and hooking.  It is considered bad taste to say that hookers only charge to buy an excuse, for themselves.  Bad taste.  Especially in my crowd.  But I’m going to say it anyway.  These are mixed messages you transmit.  Other drives jerk your transmission.  If money is so important, why haven’t you asked your cut of the take?  And what about the nasty details?  The fine print?  Very unlawyerlike.  Very sloppy.

As I’m writing this, I’m lounging on the set of a three day wonder called The Fissure King.  I’m tired of tortured pun variations of other people’s titles.  I propose we call our film “The Flick.”  A word that was banned from American comic books for years because the authorities were afraid the “L” and the “I” would run together.

There seems to be a concern about what kind of camera angles can be used so the audience won’t see the warts around Dewy Love’s asshole.  It isn’t my problem.  I’m not the director.  Harry Eleven is the director.  I’m just hanging out as one of the working stiffs, moonlighting for Cream of the Crop Productions.

While Harry Eleven experiments with poses for Love and her partner for this scene, Mario Kundalini, I am thinking about my failures, artistic and otherwise.


June 16, 1984

At a yacht basin, we found a gaggle of sea gulls picking at something.  They were snipping bits of flesh off a limp eel.  Discarded on the wooden pier.  Drying under the hot sun.  Suddenly the eel reared its head.  Snapping and gasping for air.  Squirming back to life.  The sea gulls fled in a panicked mass. Wings lifted up like a feathered curtain to reveal Grace.

That day, Grace wore a small bikini.  Her body was slightly draped by a terry cloth mini thing that slit itself open when she moved.  When her hair wasn’t dyed for professional reasons, it was blonde.  She wore high heels to go fishing.  As if her legs weren’t long enough.  She glowed with cardiopulmonary efficiency, even though her rib cage jutted out in a way that looked like she was always holding her breath.

I wore a pair of blue jean cut-offs and a pair of sunglasses.  Nothing else.  Barefoot, I came head to head with Grace. I had my arm around her waist, to the chagrin of the yacht owners in viewing range.  They couldn’t figure out what I have done to merit such a babe.  Not even they could afford the down payment on her, much less the monthly maintenance.

Grace surveyed the newly waxed yachts.  “So which one will you buy for me?” she asks.

“Which one do you want?”

“The biggest.”

Fishermen lined up all along the pier.  No one seemed to be catching anything but eel.  Grace walked past with too much of her butt showing.  Freshly caught eels squirmed in the hands of the on looking fishermen.

We arrived at Jay’s yacht, The Delta-Wave.  We found Jay fighting with his own eel.  It wiggled on the end of his fishing line.

Grace said, “Poor thing,” looking at the eel.  Its jaw bone bent in a perpetual frown.  A bloody hook pierced its lower lip.

Jay looked up at Grace, then turned his attention back to the eel.  “They have good lives out at sea.  Then they swim upstream and mate, and when they’re done, they lay their eggs by the billion.”  He grabbed a small club and used it to smash the eel’s skull.  He threw it into a bucket filled with water.  The eel quivered.  The water turned red.  “You can easily catch them this time of year.”

“Why did you have to do that?” asked Grace.  “I mean, you aren’t going to eat it, are you?”

Jay settled back and lit a cigarette.  “They’re actually edible.  Phoenix knows how to do them up right.  I’d like to watch you eat one.”

And then Phoenix began to emerge from the lower decks.  Clouds of smoke preceded her.  First I saw her hand, gripping the top rung of a rope ladder.  Slowly, she climbed.  I watched her.  My breathing changed.  She seemed to be smoldering.  I sniffed her smoke like a perfume.  Like I wanted to taste any part of her insides still clinging to it.

Grace said, “I thought you guys went to Princeton or Yale, or someplace like that.  I expected you to be smart.”

Phoenix responded, “Sorry to disappoint you.”

“Smoking is not what I’d call a very smart thing to do.”

“It’s a territorial thing for me.  Like a dog pissing out a border.  And your objection to smoke, that’s a territorial thing, too.  As for being smart, well, that’s the greatest part of going to Princeton or Yale, or someplace like that.  People think you’re smart and you don’t even have to prove it.”  Phoenix grasped Jay by the left arm with both hands and cuddled up to his side.  He smirked.

“Actually, there’s nothing special about me and Jay.  I got into Princeton because I wrote some self indulgent short stories that managed to get published.  And Jay got in because of money, political connections, and relatives who break people’s arms.  Right Jay?”

“What ever you say.”

Jay handed Grace a beer bottle.  She twisted open the cap.  At her touch, foaming beer poured out in a pulsatile stream.  Globs of beer foam hung in Grace’s hair.  Spuming gouts of beer spilled into white caps, the sea being whipped to froth as the yacht left the dock.  Beer foam trailed our wake.  Ghost droplets.


On a set covered with plastic banana trees and shrubs not ten feet away from me, Kundalini is losing his hard-on.  He has the opportunity to fuck the fabulous Dewy Love. But Mario Kundalini is getting as much satisfaction as the poor slobs who fuck Dewy Love inflatable dolls.

Will the boys who spend their quarters to watch this performance in a sperm painted booth realize how dismal it was to all concerned?  Who can figure out what drives boys to hunt porno in the night?  The same forces that drove me to trade love for constant variety?  Urges that promise genetic survival, but lead to extinction instead.  What other kind of consolation can you seek when natural selection puts an end to you?  Or puts too many ends to select from?

And you can’t figure out which end you are meant for.

Or which end is up?

And you end up endless.

The crew immediately begins to hose down the set with disinfectant foam.  Love rises from the plastic shrubs. She looks thankful as any working girl headed for a coffee break.  She wipes sperm blobs from her belly with towelettes soaked in diluted chlorine bleach.  Then she sashays off in search of more dope.  Her overstated strut sets up a sympathetic vibration across the set.  Plastic bananas, dripping foam, quiver with the same resonance as her silicone breasts.  Kundalini skulks away in the opposite direction, trying hard to not to look like a man defeated by excruciating beauty.  A manner of grief informs his stroll.

I am left with the uncomfortable suspicion that some reality lurks behind the legend of love.  That it is something more than a different brand of sperm covered booth that eats quarters at a faster rate.

What have I lost?

Let’s get the contract matters settled now.  My cut of the action comes to 35% of the profits.  Let’s talk about your cut and how it can be shared.  How about 17.5% of the film’s total profits, just for your portion of the scripting.  So your cut is equal to mine.  Even though you are not directing.  Or acting.

Bear in mind that there must be profits before there can be earnings.  This discussion may be revolving around percentages of zero.

Are you willing to face the risks of a risqué venture?

I may not know law, but I know that a letter can be a contract.  If you want, you can work up a more formal document. With all the coupled prepositions that lawyers get off on.  For what ever it will be worth.  Which is probably not much.  Or you can rely on this letter.

Be warned.  Even in jurisdictions that don’t routinely pursue obscenity convictions, the courts don’t give a shit about porno contract cases.  I remember how Feather Vali tried to sue Rugburn Pictures for breach of contract in connection with a film called Balled on Night Mountain.  Rooster Rugburn, the director, kept insisting she do an anal scene with Huge Beaumont.  Feather won’t do anal scenes with anyone.  She had seen how Saturn Exposure ended up needing a colostomy.  So she put in all her contracts– No buttfucking.  Those words.  Rooster wouldn’t let up.  Feather stormed off the set.  She thought she had an airtight case.  A signed contract as explicit as any porno film.  Actual shots of Rooster on videotape telling her to crack her cheeks.  The judge and his law clerks watched the tapes.  Had a good laugh.  Then dismissed the claim as being beneath the dignity of the court.

I have a lawyer friend who says that contracts are only as good as the amount of trust between the parties, anyway.

There’s a shift of scenery going on in the background.  Everyone is relocating to the set we call the Mink Boudoir.  A carpet of fur spills over the base.  A fur covered Victorian four-poster occupies center stage.  Even the posts and end boards are furry.  Fur pillow cases warm two plump pillows.  There’s a fur comforter over thin layers of fur sheets.  Beside the bed, a fur covered vanity waits with a fur trimmed mirror reflecting a fur covered chair.  The fur on the chair’s spindly deco legs creates an insectoid ambiance.  On the vanity rests fur covered perfume bottles, and a fur covered carafe of champagne, and two fur covered champagne glasses.  The set cost a fortune.  It has been used in hundreds of films.  More than paying for itself.  Various studios have loaned it back and forth many times.  They’ve lost track of the real owner.

Love manages to get her hands on another joint and lights up.  She’s getting more pleasure from smoking than she got from Mario.  She lets him know it.  She sprawls onto the fur bed.  Samples the texture of the glide.  She takes to the fur surface like a skinned cat reclaiming its frictionless birthright.  There’s a fresh jar of petroleum jelly on the fur covered night table beneath a fur hooded lamp.  Love gives herself an oil change while shooting bald beavers at Bono Food, her partner for the next scene.  Someone should warn her about the fertilizing effects of lubrication on warts.  The spreads are not meant as a come on, despite their attractiveness.  They are insolent gestures of self sufficiency.  Why do I not envy Bono?  Harry should change the title to Lassie, Roll Over or Fetching because this film is a dog.

Love and Food are finishing their set.  I’m up next.

Back to the old grind.




Stuart Hopen’s writing has been published by various comic book companies, including D.C., Marvel, Eclipse, Amazing, and Fantagraphics. His science fiction novel, Warp Angel, originally published by Tor Books, will soon be reissued by the Misenchanted Press in a newly revised edition.  Cannibals, a series of six interrelated novellas, will be available online in 2014.   


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