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Today's Story by Stuart Hopen

These parties have taboos. The heaviest relate to keeping secrets.

Serialization Sunday – The Flick: Chapter 25

Every Sunday, Fiction365 presents a new chapter in a previously unpublished novel.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

November 19, 1990

Dear Phoenix,

I’m sorry I didn’t answer your last letter before now. I know it took me too long to write.  Other things have taken me too long, too.  It’s been hard.  I’ve been busy getting behind in my affairs.

Holmes says he wants to help you.  In Holmes’ way of talking, help is one of the many words in the English language that mean fuck.

I don’t need you to play yourself.  Holmes got it wrong.  I have an actress to play you.  I’ve had her for awhile.

I drove down to Brewick this past summer, the town where Jay and I grew up.  The little town.  Well, not so little these days.

I walked along the old streets.  Just wandering for hours.  No idea why I went there.  Hadn’t been home for a long time.  All my old friends moved away.  Or died.  Didn’t expect to run into anybody I knew.

But I did.

Of all people in the world, I ran into Iream Insider.  Maybe he followed me there.  Maybe.  Couldn’t coax a confession out of him.  Instead he offered this excuse.  Said he came to see where Jay had lived.  Where Jay was buried.

I kept on walking around.  Iream joined me.  On into the night.  Iream seemed to know his way around.  It never takes him long to get the lay of the land.

We ate at the old Drug Store Diner where you could place off track bets.  The place where Jay used to get drunk on the water.  It was still intoxicating.

We visited all the old spots.  The park where Jay and I used to smoke dope.  The fields where we brought chicks at night and swapped them.  The cow pastures that grew psilocybin mushrooms after a heavy rain.  The used book store near the circle that had dirty mags in back.

Iream said, “I came to this town thinking I could do a better job of playing Jay if I got closer to him.  I wasn’t expecting this, though, I wasn’t expecting him to be all around me, like this, part of everything, everywhere.”

I could feel what he was talking about.  It felt like Jay was there.  You would have felt it, too.

“Why are you doing this, Iream?  What is Jay to you, anyway?  I get the feeling you are going after more than just an acting part.  Like it is much more important than any other role in the hay.”

“Maybe it is Phoenix.  Have I fallen in love with her because loving Phoenix is part of being Jay?   Or am I trying to emulate the other great love in her life?”

“What about your supermodel?”

“She has fallen in love with someone else.  I can tell, though she won’t admit it.  I think it is no smaller a competitor than Huge Beaumont.  She’s always had a thing about size.  I think it really is Huge Beaumont.  I hope it is.  I mean, if she has to be cheating on me, I would rather it be with someone I like.  I don’t really mind if she’s happy with one of my friends.”

“I never really saw her as the Huge Beaumont type.”

“You’re wrong.”

“No.  I’m not.  I’d be willing to bet she’s not fucking Huge Beaumont.”

“How would you know?”

“She’s fucking me!”

He just nodded.  I got the feeling he really didn’t know, even though we had talked about how it might happen.  He didn’t suspect.  I was too close for him to see it.  But maybe he tricked me into confessing just then.  Anyway, I had to tell him some time or another.

He said, “I knew this was going to happen.  I knew it all along, but still it takes me by surprise.  All of a sudden, I don’t want to be Jay anymore.  How about trading roles?  How about in the movie, I play you and you play Jay?”

“I’ll make it up to you,” I said.  “Someday.”

It is funny.  At first, I distrusted Iream for trying to insert himself into our flick.  I knew he was fixated on you.  Has been for awhile.  For as long as I’ve known him.  And I thought maybe he was trying to get at you through this project.  Moving in.  Trying to connect.

But instead of penetrating our flick and filling it with his own material, instead of changing it to be his own, Iream kind of got sucked into the story.  It repeated itself on him.


So where were we?

Near sunset.  Phoenix was lying naked in the grass, drinking, and drunk, while Jay pulled up his pants.  She looked up.  Suddenly startled.  The tree has a face.  Knot holes like puffy eyes looked at her.  A low branch jutted out like the nose of a hag.  Brittle branches spread like a mass of electrified hair.

The couple climbed back into the car.

Jay switched on the headlights.

The eyes of the Witch Tree flared.

The beams splintered and swept through the woods.  As the car traveled, rows of trees sucked into the vortex of the horizon.  Suddenly they reached a clearing.  The woods seemed to fling open like big doors.

The Firebird slid past old rusty chains hung on a broken fence.  The car crept down an iron driveway overgrown with weeds.  Michelin tires scattered pebbles.  Broken statues littered the path.  Grasping marble hands, severed faces, and other protruding body parts from mock Grecian statues posed like the last gestures of quicksand victims.

I stood at the end of the driveway.  Wore a felt hat and a double breasted coat from the 1940’s.  My pants  didn’t match the coat.  Tight denim.  No shirt under the coat.

I stood on the front porch of Lovehollow.  Like I was posing for a liquor ad.

At first glance, in the indirect lighting, Lovehollow seemed magnificent.  A three story antebellum mansion.  But as you got closer, you could make out termite trails on the Grecian columns in front.  Loose boards popped up along the veranda.  Tattered paint drooped on the walls.

A dead peacock sprawled on the weedy lawn.  A warm breeze stripped feathers from the rotting corpse.  Dark rainbows tossed to the night.

Phoenix made her entrance.  A great show.  Long pale legs disentangled their way out of the car.  The Firebird’s leather upholstery made a sloppy kissing noise as it broke contact with her skin.  A silver vein along her thigh flashed in the moonlight; it looked like a slug’s trail.  Sweat has left her hair stringy.

She walked straight.  Well, not so straight.  She walked kind of sore-middled and Dulcet Lyre wobbly.  Toward me. She got within striking distance.  She put her hand on my shoulder.

“Is it real?” she asked.

I kissed her still flushed cheek.  She jerked away.

“Just being friendly,” I said.  On the defensive.

“Just checking out the coat, to see if it is camel hair.”

“Oh, it is real all right.  Vintage World War Two.  Something that used to belong to Nazis.” I opened the coat.  Showed off a label written in German on what the moths had left of the silk lining.


Jay snuck up.  Suddenly he was at my side.  He pulled me into a brotherly embrace.  I had rarely seen him so mellow.  Phoenix stuck herself between me and Jay.

She said, “I hate to break this up, guys, but I desperately need a john.”

“Use the bushes,” I said.

“Come on.”

“There’s no running water or electricity in the house.”

She stalked off into the shadows.  Jay’s eyes followed her. I took that as permission for my eyes to do the same.

“So where is Grace?” asked Jay.


“Gone where?”

“Gone for good.”

He frowned, suddenly thrust into a deep funk.   “Too bad.”


“Too bad for you.”

“Falling from Grace hasn’t been terrible.  I swim ten miles in the river every day, and eat nothing but fresh fish and garden grown vegetables.  This is the first conversation I’ve had with another human being in the last three months, and I really haven’t missed it because my relationship with Grace had reached the point where she couldn’t talk without complaining.  Every now and then, to break the monotony, she might throw in a complaint that wasn’t about me.”

“Couldn’t keep her satisfied?”  He was flustered by these new developments.  No utilities and a rogue male.

“She bitched about how useless I had become.  She asked me: ‘what happened to the capable man I fell in love with?’  I told her: ‘fucking eight times a day.’”

“I was going to call off the swap plan, anyway.”

“I thought you and Phoenix were on the brink of breaking up.”

“That’s also what I thought.  Now I don’t know.  Something happened on the way here that changed everything.  I’m going to ask her to marry me.”

“Sounds like an extreme measure, over a single event.”

“Yeah, well…”

“She must have given you one hell of a fuck.”

“It wasn’t fucking…”

“A hell of a blow job, then.”

“It is none of your business what happened between her and me.  It doesn’t matter if it was a blow job, or a kiss, or making love…”

“Okay, okay.”

“It was something private and beautiful.”

“Private?  Does that mean I can’t watch anymore?”

“Everything has changed.”

I lost my cool.  “Didn’t you come out here to complete our swap?  I’m sorry that I seem to shy of one woman at the moment.  She took off.  Anyway, I’m in love with Phoenix.”

“Die, probably better than anyone else on the planet, you know my attitude toward chicks.  I treat chicks like consumables… replace them when they wear out or turn boring or demanding.  And when I’m done with them, I pitch them, like slimy tissues.  And that’s how I feel about all of them.”

“Don’t I know what a fucking die hard romantic you are.”

“I am a romantic, at heart.  I want too much from love.  I never had it before.  But I have it now.  Phoenix revived me.  She caused a revelation.  For the first time I feel I have dipped into the primal well of immortality, the fiery fountain of forever…”

Off in the distance, Phoenix dropped her shorts. Opened her loins in a squat. Revealed a fountain of unmatched artistry.  A stream that looked like glittery sparks wet the grass.  Even from that distance, I could smell kidnified Dulcet Lyre.

Jay said, “I will not swap a value I calculate as infinite for what’s in your empty hand.”

“Maybe Grace will come back.”

Phoenix returned from the bushes.

Jay said, “Get in the car, Phoenix.  We’re leaving.”

She went paler than usual.  But she held herself together.  “Are you boys fighting again?  We just got here.”

“Grace is gone.”

“I never liked her anyway.”

“Phoenix, get in the fucking car!”

She yelled, “I am not your property, Jay Fortunata.  Don’t order me around.”

Jay grabbed Phoenix by the arm.  She fell as he tried to drag her to the car.  While he fumbled for the car keys, she kicked.  She screamed.

“Leave her alone, Jay,” I said.

“Keep out of this.”

I said, “This time I’m not giving in to you.”

He ignored me.  Grabbed Phoenix.  Pulled her into the car with him.

The engine started.  I jumped onto the hood.  Seemed to be the protagonistic thing to do.  Jay launched into a tirade. I couldn’t hear him yelling from my side of the windshield.  I could read his lips, though.  Many variations of the word “fuck,” used as multiple parts of speech.  On my knees, the most I could threaten him with is a dented hood or scratched paint.  I tried to stand.  The Firebird ripped into reverse.  Flung me to the ground.

Jay shot backward up the path.  He mauled the lawn.  Rubber spun.  Chunks of grass, clods of earth sprayed over me.

Just before the Firebird’s rear could ease past the gate, a loud shot rang out.  Sharp and clear.  Punctuated by echoes.  A crystal web formed instantly on the passenger window.  It hung there for a moment. Then the window collapsed.  Another shot rang out.  This one made a small crown shape pop up on the roof.  You could stick your finger through it.  The car stopped dead.

I limped over.  Rubbed my sore shoulder.  Phoenix climbed out from the passenger side.  A gun smoldered in her grip.

Jay followed after her.  His hands trembled.  His eyes became suddenly bloodshot.  “Look what you did to my car!”

“You can leave if you want.  I’m going to spend at least one night in the haunted house.”

“Tell her to leave, Die.”

“He doesn’t get to order me around either.”

I said, “She’s got the gun.”


There is a species of party most aptly described as private parties.  Privates party.  Sort of spawning rituals of the lust-object elite.  Certain rules apply.  Fame isn’t enough to gain access.  You have to be notorious.  Some are invited to be performers.  Others are invited to be performer’s props.  Many criminals attend, a class by themselves.  Participants up their status through by showing off their wastes.  Waste of cash or other assets, or waste of self.  But the object of waste must be a renewable resource.  Waste of a non-renewable resource lowers status at the same rate as the resource.

It was at a party like that where Iream met his supermodel.  She needs a name, so we’ll call her Swan.  For now.   The tabloids make me paranoid.  We have to use a coded reference to her real name.  But you probably wouldn’t recognize her real name.  You might know her professional name.  If you didn’t, you would know her face.

Her legs have sold panty hose.  Her neck has sold emeralds.  Her ass has sold bikinis.  Her breasts have sold jogging bras.  But it is her face that has been on everywhere and its backside.  That face.  Photographed and printed so many times it has become an icon of class.  Even when hawking douches.

Last fiscal year she franchised out her face for three million.  Actually down a full thirty percent from the year before.  Her cheekbones are too perfect.  Only narrowly surviving a string of abusive relationships where they’ve been a frequent target.  Her ectomorphic hair can change at will to smoke, ocean, mane, brambles, or moonbeams.  A redhead in the past.  She can be a redhead again.

I’m writing this letter with her intimate scents smeared all over my face.  Like the most expensive perfume in the world.  I ache to tell you her name.  It would hit you square in the area that enjoys saying no when I ask you to come back to me.  But I can’t.  These parties have taboos.  The heaviest relate to keeping secrets.

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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