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Today's Story by Stuart Hopen

It’s better to die of having than wanting.

Serialization Sunday: The Flick – Chapter 11

Every Sunday, Fiction365 presents a new chapter in a previously unpublished novel.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

September 11, 1990

Dear Phoenix:

I have written more in rough draft.  Nothing I am ready to share.  The rough draft needs a little refining.  Parts of it are high octane and parts of it are crude.  Parts of it are still dinosaur.

Not since Curtis Ensor turned down my first script have I been interested in doing a film about love.  After you and me broke up, I came to the conclusion that love is too complicated a project for two people to pull off, particularly if you impose a standard of synchronicity.  But O.K.  Love will be our main idea.  Our theme.  You’re going to make me use the L-word before we do it.  O.K.  If that is what it takes.

I do have my standards.  Part of my guy code thing.  I’ve never used the L-word unless I’ve meant it.

Even though I won’t be in love with my co-star, your stand-in, that doesn’t mean I won’t have feelings for her.  How can I describe the bonds between the players in my regular crowd?  Think of the emotions between you, Jay, and I.  It is something like that.  Only without jealousy.  The women in particular share a special kind of rapport.  I’m not talking about sex.  Of course, though there’s plenty of that for business reasons.  I’m talking about an intense bond they share.  Which I won’t degrade by using an inflated word like love.  I care about these women, Phoenix.  I’m not in love.  But it doesn’t mean I think of them as dick wipes.  I’m pissed you called them bimbos.  I mean, they’re not all bimbos.  (Well, some are bimbos with not much more substance than the electron beams that reproduce their images on the small screen.  Like the star of my last film, who has been making a nuisance of herself.  She doesn’t know it yet, but her screen name is going to be Erin Head or Penny Dreadful.  There are days I feel like I’m surrounded by porno tapes waiting for me to buy them flowers.)

So some are bimbos.  But some are hookers.  Some are garden variety sluts.  Some are lost souls.  Some are children at heart.  Out to have a good time.  Some are college kids on a lark.  Some are psychos full of dark, ravenous woman cravings.  And some of them are damn smart women who decided that they would rather make half a million a year working on their backs.  From their point of view, it beats the shit out of law school.

By the way, Huge Beaumont really has a twenty inch prick.  I know it looks like part of a rubber monster from a cheap Godzilla film, but it is the genuine article.  It goes to show, just because you show people something that is real doesn’t mean that people will actually believe in it.

What lies behind the screen?

What behinds.  Ah, what behinds.

My side of the screen and no apologies.  My domain.  Not just lies and behinds.  Also, a kind of truth.  The lays that teach us the truth.

I would give your regards to Mr. XXX, but no one knows who he really is.  An insider, maybe, who crashes the shoots.  Does his thing.  Then splits.  The word is that he’s a crazy fucker. He subjects himself to intense pain for the sake of his disguises.

We have a saying around here.  Be careful who you fuck.  It might be Mr. XXX.

I don’t want to talk about Jayne Payne.  Your friend Holmes is right.  She is bad luck.

Yeah, I knew V.  I suggested that screen name to her.  She used to wear a contact lens with the face of a clock over the iris of her left eye.  Real name was Wendy Bergen.  Final screen name was Ondine Undone.  She invested heavily, both in terms of money and physical pain, to make herself one of the most beautiful women in the industry.  For two years, she enjoyed superstar status.  As you have guessed, she is dead now.  From AIDS.

Toward the end of her career, known as her “Hi,V” period, she made some ugly films.  But there’s a story behind those films that has a kind of sentimental appeal.  Mark Scarabo, her main producer, let her keep making movies as an act of kindness.  On the cassette covers, Mark pasted old pictures from the fox days of V.  For a short time, he got away with trading on her name and reputation.  Bruce Harbough, a/k/a Randy Member– the guy you referred to as the Nordic male bimbo– was willing to co-star with her because he was already HIV positive, and he could look past the mess that V. had become and still see something beautiful and desirable in her.  Or so he said.  Actually, Bruce will fuck anything.

I spend most of my free time with my fellow players; a core group made up of Iream Insider, Juanna Hung-Mann, Lance Alott a/k/a Hyman Ender a/k/a Hy Tail, Eerie Canal, Scarlett Fever, Babe Ruth (a woman) and her monogamous male lover, also named Babe Ruth.  There’s two gay older women: Mina Pause and Auntie Climax, who are legends. Oh yeah, and your favorite, Huge Beaumont.

As a group, we must cope with peculiar brands of stress.  We hit the bottle, abuse drugs, over-indulge in all manner of excess.  A high suicide rate whacks off our ranks, even higher than most groups at risk for contracting HIV.  Whenever a member of our troupe tangles with an emotional crisis– which happens all the time– he or she can call the others for support.  It doesn’t matter if it’s in the middle of the night, or Christmas.  We’ll be there.  No questions asked.  We’re really that close.  I mean, we’re all fucking each other for a living.

These days it seems like my fellow pros and I share the camaraderie of soldiers on the front lines.  In the trenches and in the fox-holes.  We who are about to die.  We who may accidentally kill each another with love.  Although we all get regular HIV tests, there is a window between the time you get infected and the time the test registers as positive.  The Window scares the shit out of me.  Out of all of us.

The board of directors of Fossil Bone hired an expert to talk to the troupe about The Window.  She claimed that people don’t catch HIV during the window period.  That the virus hasn’t yet built up to dangerous levels in the blood.  She claimed we were safer screwing on the set than anywhere else.  Because of our constant blood tests, we could be assured that no one had reached the infectious stage.

Sure, I understand she was hired by the company, and science has its whores too.   She seemed to know what she was talking about.  Her theory makes sense on an intuitive level.  Particularly to those of us who have intuitions that are heavily into denial.

I don’t know for certain.  No one does.

But what the fuck.  As Curtis Ensor used to say, “It’s better to die of having than wanting.”

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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