He had been sitting there for a while with the vodka making the icecubes crack in the plastic cup in his hand. Sometimes he poured more Seven-Up into the glass; sometimes he poured in more vodka from the bottle that sat next to the Seven-Up can next to the phone.
He wasn't naked when he sat down. He had sat down a long time before, just after dinner. The sun was still pretty high in the sky when he went to the Ponderosa and was just touching the horizon when he left and stopped at the Seven Eleven and got the bottle. So he still had all his clothes on when he sat down with the air conditioning running high and beside him the first can of Seven-Up and the first bucket of ice from the machine down the hall when he turned on the TV and watched CNN for a while and then switched to ESPN.
But after he'd gone down the hall a few times for more ice and more seven up he decided what the hell and got all the ice and all the Seven- Up he'd need to kill the rest of the bottle and he came back to the room and took off all his clothes and sat down in the chair next to the bed. He picked up the newspaper he found in the back of the rental car he got at the airport and he flipped to the back where he'd seen all those pictures that he'd first seen when he dropped the two suiter in the trunk.
They were not the kind of pictures you expected to see in any newspaper that came out of Oklahoma but when you saw that the newspaper had been published in Houston it made a little more sense. It wasn't a real newspaper, anyway, it was one of those papers that comes out every week in big cities and these days even small cities that is full of ads for bars that have music and reviews of CDs and movies and most of the actual newspaper stuff that you see in it is comics that aren't funny and horoscopes that don't tell the future and ads for people who just want to meet other people and you can't be sure of who it is they want to meet because they have this code of letters mostly capitals like BJBiMISOsame.
If you're alone in a Motel 6 and there isn't a lot of vodka left in the bottle you start reading these kinds of newspapers. Especially if you remember in the very back there's about ten pages of pictures of girls with big breasts who say they want to meet you and when you have enough vodka gone and it's too early to go to bed you start thinking well, maybe they do. And you especially start thinking that when you're used to being in motel rooms where when you're by yourself you can switch to a channel where you can watch a movie that you can pay for when you check out that makes it not so hard to be alone in a motel room. But in motel rooms in Lawton Oklahoma they don't allow those movies, as he found out when he was switching off CNN but before he switched to ESPN.
So after he got tired of ESPN he went down the hall and got everything he needed for the night and took off all his clothes and sat down in the chair by himself which was the only way he could be just then and spread the paper in his lap and slid it a little bit forward as he leafed through it to the girls in the back so that he could reach himself and as he looked at the girls in the pictures he realized that the grainy black and whites weren't going to do it, not with those big black stars over their nipples and especially not with all the vodka he'd had.
So he thought for a little while about going to bed but it was still pretty early even if he'd had as much vodka as you should have on a Saturday night and it was only Tuesday. And after he'd thought for a while about how early it was and how pretty one girl in particular was and how no matter how much he pulled at himself nothing happened so he tipped a little more into the plastic cup with the melting ice and sweet dilute lemonlimey vodka and decided that maybe he should make a phone call.
He hadn't done this very often before so his hands were shaking a little bit when he cradled the beige receiver between his shoulder and his ear and he hoped his wife in Moline wouldn't see the bill when it came in because he sure couldn't use the company card. So he two-fingered a twisted Kent out of the nearly empty pack and lit it with a Bic and drew on it so hard as the phone rang on the other end that before someone picked up it was half gone, most of its length a long glowing coal like the kind of thing you expect from a guilty teenager hunched in the parking lot between classes. The phone rang and rang so by the time someone picked up there was finally enough ash to drop off into the sparse hair on his chest and he brushed it off onto the swelling mountain of his belly that nearly hid his stubbornly flaccid cock.
But when the person on the other end finally said Hey Baby he almost dropped the phone cradled as it was between his shoulder and his ear because he was trying at the same time to tip the last of the Smirnoff's into the plastic cup while grinding out the Kent that had burned all the way down to the filter. And he burned his index fingertip and nearly spilled out his plastic cup but he said back to her, uh, Hey Baby.
And she said Well baby where you callin from?
So he said, Manhattan. Yeah, Manhattan. I'm here for a big convention. He thought for a little bit and said, Internet software dealers. Dot coms.
Oh baby, she said. You must make a lot of money selling that Internet software to dot coms.
I do, he said. Lots.
Well baby you spend a little of that dot com money on me.
She had a nice voice, not a voice like you would expect to find on some kind of phone whore, who when he'd called them in the past always sounded like they weren't born in America or if they did they didn't sound white. No this girl sounded like she came from someplace where they didn't have sirens going at three in the morning. And she sounded as though she might be white and she even sounded as though she might not be some kind of seventeen year old with a pipe or a syringe right next to her bed, like he had seen that one time he had been on the road a long time, in Manhattan, twenty-five years ago on Seventh Avenue in a pouring rain and this girl had grabbed his arm and asked him if he wanted a date and he said hell yes why not and went with her up a creaky stair and paid twenty dollars cash to a man behind bulletproof glass who gave them a key to a little room, gray as fog, and said they had half an hour, and when they were in that little fog gray room under the bare bulb he saw how young she looked and he felt so bad for that even worse when he saw she had acne but it didn't make a difference because she lay down on her narrow bed and flipped up her short skirt and of course she wasn't wearing any panties and somehow despite all the beer he was hard and he dropped his pants and got on top with his shirt still on and his pants down to his shoes and he tried to drive into her but she stopped him and said, Honey, put this on, there's no telling what I have. And he rolled onto his back and let her roll a cheap unlubricated condom over him and he pushed it into her and she said, This isn't your first time, is it, and he said No hell of course not and she said well keep your knees together and with humiliated tears leaking out of his squeezed shut lids he came in a dozen strokes. And after it was over she deftly rolled off the rubber and dropped it into the wastebasket which he noticed wasn't empty.
But this girl didn't sound like that girl, who after all he thought years later when he read about all the things you could get if you weren't careful especially this new thing that had no cure and killed you he thought well, that girl maybe saved my life, I wonder where she is now.
But this girl on the phone said, Hey baby.
And he didn't say anything back because he thought about the last time his wife called him baby and that was a long time ago, before they stopped talking about anything except maybe how they were going to pay off the Discover card all the way sometime soon except they never did because there was nothing left when they paid off everything they had to pay because he didn't sell software to dot coms in Manhattan just kitchen goods to mom and pop hardware stores in a big chunk of country that people from Manhattan didn't even fly over and his wife didn't work at all because her second kid from the first marriage turned out bad and she needed to stay home because he had special needs. Like no one else had special needs. And the last time she said hey baby was before they knew he had those special needs and maybe it was even before they got married and he thought his special needs were what counted. And when after a while he found out he had competition he thought well I'll be good to him and she'll be good to me but that's not the way it worked.
Hey baby, said the girl on the phone. Cat got your tongue?
And he wanted to say to her something about his tongue or maybe her tongue but nothing came out because he thought about the times when he wanted to tell his wife about what he wanted her to do with her mouth but he never did because whenever he told her what he wanted her to do she got mad and rolled over and he'd lay there in the dark getting madder and madder and sometimes he'd get up and go into the bathroom and take care of himself and then he'd go into the kitchen and get the big half gallon under the sink and mix up something with Sprite or when there wasn't Sprite even Fresca or Diet Coke and go sit in the living room and once or twice she'd found him there in the morning and just didn't say anything which he thought wasn't so bad until it went on for a day or two and then finally he'd apologize but what for he wasn't sure and that wasn't usually enough so he'd apologize again and he'd start by apologizing for asking her to do something but that usually made her madder so he just started apologizing for anything, sometimes for things he hadn't done, just anything so she'd start talking to him again.
Come on, baby, said the girl on the phone. I can't do this by myself. What're you wearing?
And he wanted to tell her he wasn't wearing anything, he wanted to say baby I'm naked I'm sitting here naked and I'm hard for you, my big rock hard cock is throbbing for you, but he looked down at himself and he saw the big swell of white belly with its dark red moles and the thin line of coarse black hair fanning out as it passed his navel and the equatorial bulge blocked his view of what was between his hairless white legs splayed on either side of the Motel Six chair and he reached between his legs and touched himself with fingers damp and cold from the plastic glass full of melting ice and vodka and Seven Up and his cock shriveled as though it wanted to crawl up into his belly and hide. And he wanted to say baby I'm pumping my big rock hard cock but as he tugged at himself he thought about the nudist magazine he bought in Chicago last year at the trade show it wasn't like it was porn or anything it was called Young Nature and what could be wrong with nature but all these young girls in it on beaches in Europe somewhere some of them had boyfriends with them and you could see their ribs and hipbones and they all looked so healthy and he looked at himself and he didn't look like he should be on a beach anywhere and he wanted so bad to at least get hard so he could pretend just for this minute to be like one of them but it wasn't going to happen. Nothing was going to happen.
Goodbye, he said.
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