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Today's Story by Stuart Hopen

I just laughed, and hoped that would pass as answer. Swan laughed too, but it was the kind of laugh that says fuck yourself.

Serialization Sunday – The Flick: Chapter 29

Every Sunday, Fiction365 presents a new chapter in a previously unpublished novel.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

December 6, 1990

Dear Phoenix,

I had not expected this to happen.  But I should have known it would.  This always happens when we make contact.

You want to see me?  Or you want to see me dead?  You are so fucking coy.

You know, Phoenix, I would fly to meet you at a moment’s notice if it didn’t mean The Flick would be fucked.  You’ve given me a choice.  When you know that I am among the decisiveness impaired.

Your last letter inspired a frantic bout of writer’s block.  I never thought I would have that problem with this particular script.  It being my own life and all.  But every time I’d sit down to write, I’d get the urge to do something else.  Something pressing.  Like floss my teeth.  Or clip my toenails.  Or feed the gold fish.  (I have a goldfish I named after Jay.  Fortune Nada.)

Our courses seem to have turned parallel.  Headed toward a vanishing point.  Mind if I ask you to finish the script on your own?

I didn’t think I ever stood a chance of ever getting you back.  I wouldn’t have done this, wouldn’t have set these forces in motion quite this way if I knew this was going to happen.

We had some times, you and I.  Not just in Lovehollow, but all the other times.  I think of them also.  I remember… I remember so well… every single time I had you.  Every time was fantastic.   Even the night your old man walked in on us and pulled out his that colt 45 of his and chased me butt naked while he screamed and wheezed through the streets of Boston until his fucked up lungs forced him to back off…

And the all-night Saturnalia party we threw in Berkeley… against a sound track of authentic chants… when all of our friends got drunk on Dulcet Lyre… and half of them woke on the golf course five miles up the road and the other half woke next to strangers…

And the wild show you put on the dance floor of The Inferno– oh, God, that was funny.  Bailing you out afterward was not so funny…

And the time we broke up for good and you jumped the airport security line and set off all the alarms, just to give me one last kiss…

And here we are again, still trying to figure out what the fuck to do about each other.

Do you want to see me, or do you want to see me dead?

I haven’t slept. I haven’t written anything but this letter.  What is my problem?

I think it is your long and slender lips.  I hope your lips are still pink.  I think about sliding my tongue between them.  The texture.  Soft.  Tissues inside shaped like clouds.  Wet fractals.  A lesson in how fractals hold infinity.  And yet for all the impacted endlessness at your end, you always tasted empty and hungry.  And the flavor.  No one else serves up such a rich pudding of mucus membranes, ph balanced.  Sweetened by natural sugar.  I wish I were kissing you now.

I haven’t a clue as to what motivates you or Swan.  But I understand and appreciate a good pair of lips.

If you and I were to see each other– to use a term you once called a euphemism– The Flick would never be made.  Curtis Ensor’s estate will only release the production money for a film that I write, direct, and star in.  I, myself.  Personally.  Curtis said he was doing me a fucking favor.  How could you and I renew our love, knowing that I would be off to the set before the afterglow was finished glowing?

Swan would be gone if you and I saw each other.

“Do you believe her?” asked Swan.

“Even when Phoenix tells the truth, it sounds like a lie.  Everything that happens to her adheres to a format.  When I start stripping off the surface and find story structure, I get suspicious.  It’s like when the curtain lifts and reveals the true face of the great and powerful Oz.  Her versions of hard core honesty make me doubt my own life.”

Swan and me laughed at your letter.  We kept on laughing, even through the sad parts of your letter, through your account of Jay dying.  Sorry.  I guess we shouldn’t have laughed at that.

“This story of hers about Jay Fortunata, do you think that’s what really happened?”

“Beats me.  I never figured out where she and I went wrong.  Spent all these years wondering.  I’m still wondering.”

“Bullshit.  You believe her.”

“I don’t see what difference it makes.  If Iream pulls the same stunt a year from now, and you spend the afternoon fucking him, do you think I’ll forgive you?”

“You wouldn’t?”

“Hell, no.”

“But you forgive Phoenix.  If you had heard this story earlier, tell me, honestly… would you have forgiven her and gone back to her?”

I just laughed, and hoped that would pass as answer.  Swan laughed too, but it was the kind of laugh that says fuck yourself.

Which leaves me with the following options:

1.  You.

2.  The movie that has become the only thing I’ve ever done that gives me a sense of self-worth.

I can’t have both.  So what do I choose?  Love or Art?  The lady or the tiger?

On the surface, this should not be a hard choice.  Option number one involves a half-mad, inconstant, lawyer-to-be.  Option number two involves marriage to a rich babe whose fortune is based upon an international consensus about her being a total mega-piece.  Coupled with a movie that I intend to make into a masterpiece of its ilk.  Shouldn’t be a hard choice.

But it is.  I haven’t lied to you.  Maybe I haven’t told you the whole story, but I haven’t lied.  I am still in love with you.  More now than ever.  And the amount of love before was a lot.

You have raised the ante.  You want to play poker, Phoenix?

Ah, Phoenix.  If only you chose as well as you create hard choices.

What if the last scene I wrote is all I’m going to write, Phoenix?  What if I say my end is satisfied?  How are you going to fulfill your end?

Love, Die


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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