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Today's Story by Stuart Hopen

He bet that Jay would think you're prettier than me, Grace. He bet that Jay would want to swap.

Serialization Sunday: The Flick – Chapter 12

Every Sunday, Fiction365 presents a new chapter in a previously unpublished novel.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 XII

September 19,1990

Dear Die,

I must confess, Die.  I envy your bravery.  Perhaps I would be as fearless as you  if I had not stayed so close to Jay during his final months– watching his hair fall out, his fragile beauty withering, his flawless complexion mapped by islands of Kaposi Sarcoma.  In the end, the lips I had kissed so many times were fried to blister by Herpes Simplex.  Although I am taking irrational risks these days, they all seem less chancy than love.

I am lonely here. The rigors of class assignments leave no time for extracurricular socialization.  Even husbands and wives are torn apart by the gravity of this undertaking.  Those of my classmates who are married now are not likely to be so at graduation.  Although I admire the bright, earnest men and women who surround me daily, a failure of rapport persists through no one’s fault.

Perhaps I have sought an environment that would guarantee isolation.  Here I remain an obvious outsider, drawing stares.

After the legal process forced me into an insane asylum (something you should have foreseen when you abandoned me at the hospital after saving my life) I developed a healthy appreciation for the power of law.

Is this an acceptable alibi?

I need something to occupy the future I never expected.

I haven’t finally decided whether or not to continue.  As always, you inspire mixed feelings in me.

And yet I have strayed from my class assignments long enough to compose the following scene.  I should not be doing this.  Am I being drive by the need to write and express myself?  To explore my old, hidden urges?  Or is it the lure of the forbidden?  Am I trying to recapture something I lost?


“What bet?”

“What kind of odds have you two boys been laying?”

Die looks away, embarrassed.  He mutters, “The stupid male in me turns everything into a competition.”

Phoenix says, “He bet that Jay would think you’re prettier than me, Grace.  He bet that Jay would want to swap.”

“I fucked up.”

Grace says, “I’m not shocked, Phoenix.  Die told me all about his naughty past.  I’m flattered.  Aren’t you flattered, Phoenix?”

Phoenix says, “It depends on who wins the bet.  So boys, who won?”

Dieter shakes his head.

Phoenix turns to him, “You brought it on yourself, Dieter.  I want to know who won.”  She flicks the tip of her fishing pole.  A shiver of tension flows through it.

Jay says, “Phoenix is getting drunk again.  She sometimes does embarrassing things when she is drunk.”

Jay is right.  Phoenix is drunk and angry.  Under these circumstances, she frequently does embarrassing things, though she is not the one embarrassed by them.

“Is anyone up for a swap?” asks Jay.  There is spite in his voice, a deliberate show of crassness.

“Are you up for her, Die?” asks Grace, as if she doesn’t care; as if confessions of lust were as casual a matter as nude sunbathing.

Jay says, “Can I be honest?  Everything depends on our being right on and true.  Here’s the truth.  If we had gone through with the bet, Die would have won, because honestly, I would love to swap.  I’m being straight up.  Do you have a problem with that, Grace?”

Grace blushes.  “I don’t know what I’m supposed to say.  What about Phoenix?”

Phoenix’s line appears to tighten.  Sudden jerks shimmer along the nylon stretch.  Her fishing pole bends into a U shape and an unseen force pulls her out of her seat.  “Oh, God,” she screams, “I can’t hold on.”  But it is all an act, a faked crisis.  She feigns a loss of control, knowing full well what she hooked.  Her line has snagged on the bottom.

Jay jumps up beside her.  He grabs for the pole which wriggles around, under the manipulation of Phoenix.  Her balance teeters.  Jay stumbles over her feet and falls to the deck.

“Shit!” Jay yells.  “Die, can you put your muscles to good use?  Or are they just for show?”

Die races over.  In an instant, he looms beside her.  To take control of the pole, he must wrap his powerful arms around Phoenix.  As they touch, the pole begins to gyrate with a new excitation.  What had started as a lie now becomes an actuality.  The reel screams.  A genuine force, an overwhelming ferocity exerts itself and replaces the placidness of the bottom.  Phoenix now engages an actual catch.  A true fish, a large fish, struggles at the end of her line, though it feels more like she has caught the world.  Phoenix and Die are whipped from side to side as an unseen force propels the two of them savagely around the deck.

The force of the struggle pins Die and Phoenix against the railing.  The oil she used to protect her pale and sensitive skin has left her greasy.  She can not help the way she slides around in his arms, nor does she intend the provocative placement of the cleft of her buttocks.  It is not her doing, nor her choice.  The two them are wrestling against a titanic force of nature.  They resemble marionettes whose strings have become entwined.

“Why aren’t you reeling it in?” demands Jay.

“It isn’t ready yet.  I have to play with it awhile.”


I’ll end here, perhaps permanently.  I see you again in memory, the way you used to be, so handsome and idealistic, full of funny illusions about love and friendship.  I see too clearly someone who ceased to exist a long time ago.

Why won’t you tell me about Jayne Payne?  Your teasing angers me.



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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