Wednesday, November 12, 2014

"Mama Says": A Vignette of Craving

“So, he says, “I was talking to your mama the other night and I asked her did she ever do 69?  And your mama says ‘no, I only did 56.’  So I say - how do you do 56?  and she says ‘That’s all the sailors I could screw in one night.’ “

So Ron laughs a little.

“You,” says Andy.  He reaches down and fiddles with the car radio, but it’s still dead or at least all static.  Nothing doing.

“So I asked your mama”, says Ron,” if your Dad’s a good fucker.”

“Oh yeah?”

“Yeah,” says Ron. “I asked her ‘does Ron’s dad, does he fuck you good?’ Does he fuck your mama a lot?”

“What’d my mama say?”

“She said your Dad is 300 percent impotent.”

“You can’t be 300 percent.”

“She said your dad can’t ever get his dick up at all, then he burned his tongue and broke his fingers.”

“Oh fuck you.”

“Yes, sir.”  Ron sat, feeling the tension boil up in his loins.  This time he would try to hold out.  “You.”

“911 – I have an emergency,” said Andy.

“What’s your emergency?”

“I’m beating off my meat too much.”

“Sir, that’s not a problem.”

“See mom?  I told you it was okay!”  Andy fiddled with the car radio.  Nothing.

“I heard my mama yelled at you yesterday when you were alone with her,” said Ron.    First the tension began in his thighs.  Then spread to his stomach.  Then his fingers began to shake.  His hands were shaking.  He clenched his fists.

“Yeah?  Why?” said Andy.  “What’d I ever do to your mama?”

“My mama yells out ‘Andy, take off my blouse.’ And you did.”


“My mama yells ‘Andy, take off my bra’, and you did.  You took off my mama’s bra.  And she yelled at you again.”

“Like what?”

“My mama yells ‘Andy, take off my panties’, so you did.  Then she yells at you some more.”

“Like what?”

“My mama says ‘If I ever catch you wearing my clothes again, I’m calling the cops.’ ”

“bada-bing,” says Andy, leaning his elbow out the window.

The old 1977 Toyota had never had air conditioning but no one had ever missed it, especially on cross country trips.  It was nice having the windows down, the smell of the fields, the occasional rotting animal, the briny whiff of the Gulf of Mexico on the other side of the levee passing by.

“Go,” says Ron, and now the shakes are in his voice.  Andy looks at him.

“You okay?”

“Yeah, says Ron, not feeling okay.  He knows he’s going to do it.  The old Altoids box is sitting hot in his jeans pocket waiting for his surrender.

“You’re not car sick?  You gotta ralph?”

“Okay,” says Ron.  His hand is on the Altoids box in his jeans.

“So anyway,” says Andy.  “I was talking to your Dad.”

“My dad?” says Ron, taking the Altoids box out of his pocket.  He hates himself for being weak.  He hates that he’s about to do this.  “What’d he say?”

“He said 20 years ago he went on vacation camping and your mom got pregnant with you.”


“Yeah.  So he says 15 years ago he went on an ocean cruise, and your mama got pregnant with your sister.”


“He said last year he’s on vacation and your mama got pregnant with your sister Lisa.”


“So he says this year he’s going to do it different.”


“He’s going to take your mama with him.”

“What?” says Ron, opening the Altoids box.  “I don’t get it.”

“Think about it.”

Ron looked in the box, lifted one of the waxy squares and put it on his tongue.  The bitter sourness filled his mouth but his hands stopped shaking.  He felt relieved even as his stomach heaved.  He swallowed the waxy square, choked it down but the taste only became worse, hanging on his tongue like a pall.


Ron waved his hand desperately.  Andy pulled over and waited.  Ron opened the door, leaned down, spit dryly and vomited in the grass beside the car wheel.  Andy waited, fiddling with the radio dial.  Nothing.



Andy reached behind, took a can of Budweiser from a paper bag on the back seat, popped the top and passed it to Ron.  Ron rinsed his mouth with the beer and spit it out.


“I’m okay.”

Ron closed the door and Andy pulled back onto county road 25.  “I was talking to your mama the other day,” says Ron.  He felt the urge rising again.

“Yeah?” said Andy.

“She said she had been thinking of a boob job and then decided to have her asshole bleached.”

“Her asshole bleached?”

“I told her she shouldn't.  I said I can’t picture your dad as a blond.”

Andy sat for a moment, driving.  “Huh?”

“You don’t get it?”

“No,” said Andy.  “People get their assholes bleached?”

“Maybe it’s a west coast thing, I don’t know.”

“No, what’s the gag?  My dad’s gay?”

“No,” said Ron, but his fingers were already back in the Altoids box.  “That’s not the joke.”

“Say the joke again.”

“Here’s a poem.”


“There was a sweet girl of Decatur   Who went to sea on a freighter.  She was screwed by the master   -An utter disaster-  But the crew all made up for it later.”

“I don’t get it,” said Andy.

“It’s a limerick.  Isaac Asimov wrote that.”

“Who’s Isaac Asimov?”

“Anyway.  Let’s get something.”

They pull off a side road into a barbecue joint called Big Red Chief’s.  They order the lunch special from a busty southern waitress with a plastic tag that reads “Dolly”.  She and her cleavage hover over Ron, lays her fingers on his shoulder and coos “More sweet tea, baby?”

Ron watches her walking away to the next table, the sound of her voice making his lips move.

“You okay?” says Andy, looking away out the window, grinning.

Ron is not okay.  Ron is gone away to twelve years old at this moment, at home, rising up early because he can’t sleep.  He had a bad dream from the old Dracula movie on TV last night.  He leaves his bedroom because a light is on in the living room and there is cigarette smoke in the air.
His mother is sitting on the living room sofa, a cigarette forked in her fingers.  She is sitting naked and the curtains are open and cars are going by and the sun is coming up and she’s looking into the smoke rising and nothing else, like she’s not all there, like something has gone bad.  He has never seen a woman naked.  He knows he should not see his mother naked.  Maybe it’s in the Bible or something.  But he can’t look away.  She is naked.  She is a nude woman, smoking, who is also his mother.  Her mysterious, taco shaped breasts are pointed, the nipples looking down her chest.  Gray ash is falling indifferently on her thighs, collecting there.  Gray ash is floating down into her salt and pepper wad of pubic hair.  He watches it fall and says out loud -

“Holy fuck shit mom.”

His mother doesn’t move.  Her sorrowful and far away eyes move only and focus on him like gun sights.  
Discovering him.
“You said what?”

He doesn’t answer.

She doesn’t answer.  She’s still off somewhere in some unpleasant place.  She drops the cigarette on the floor, steps on it with her bare naked foot.  She stands up, thighs jostling, her breasts lifting a little, the wiry knot of tangled hair between her thighs fluffing out and Ron knows he should not being looking at this, he should cover his eyes and hiss like Dracula seeing a crucifix, something in the Bible probably says young boys should not see their mothers this way, but he cannot stop looking.  A naked woman, she looks so exotic and utterly alien.  She comes to him, walking across the room.  “You said what?”

“I don’t remember,” he says.

“You dirty boy.  Dirty, dirty boy.”

Naked she come up close to him, smelling of smoke, ash dribbling down from her legs, naked she reaches and takes his right ear, pinching hard in her fingers so that he squinches his eyes against the pain.  Like a leash she leads his ear to the bathroom, to the sink; her nude right breast keeps bumping its hard nipple against his cheek as she half drags him.  He could turn his head and take it in his mouth and suck it, it’s so close to his face, but somewhere the Bible probably says he should not do that either.  And the touch of that nipple, his naked mother’s nipple bumping at his face as she pulls him along– it makes his little pee-pee stand all up stiffy stick.  Which it has never done before.  It frightens him.  Maybe it’s broken or something.

She runs the water.  (“Mom!”) She takes the bar of white Ivory soap (“Mom!”),  breaks off a piece, opens his mouth and stuffs it in hard like a wad of poisonous taffy.  “That’s for your stinky mouth.”

“Gonna use the john,” says Ron. 

Although the BBQ joint is small, the men’s room is hard to find.  It’s off the side of the kitchen which smells for some reason like fried rice instead of meat.  Ron pushes the door and goes in.  Above the sink and to the side on the wall is a coin vending machine.  Four glass chutes.  One has condoms (For the Prevention of Disease Only), one has a soft rubber tube in a wrapper like a wide mouthed hairy caterpillar called only “The Tickler”, another has aspirin and another has a cascade of plastic combs.  Above the sink is a plastic globe shaped like a hot air balloon filled with syrupy green soap.  Ron dips his head, sticks out his tongue like a good boy without fighting anymore and holds his thumb under the tap button.  Thick green syrup drools onto his tongue and down his gullet.

The food is on the table when he returns. 

“What’d you do, fall in?”

“Yeah,” says Ron.  “I needed the bath after listening to your jokes.”  He sits near the window, feeling his stomach burble and boil portentously down deep into his bowels.   “So I went to see your mama the other day.”

“Oh, yeah?” says Andy, “My mama?  Why, you like to see my mama?”

 “I brought your mama this big bunch of flowers, I like her so much.”

“She like your flowers okay?” muffles Andy over a mouthful of pulled pork and sauce.

“She liked them so much she tore her panties right off and flopped down on her back and spread her legs and showed me her snatch and said  ‘You wonderful boy – this is for the flowers.’’

“What’d you say to that - ?”

“Gee lady, don’t you have a vase?”



  1. Garce:
    I'm afraid I missed something here. Two boys? Men? trading gross jokes I heard forty years ago leading to a disquieting memory of one of the boys discovering his mother sitting naked, who washes his mouth out with soap. I suppose it's transgressive, to use a modern discription but I didn't get the connection to cravings.

    1. BTW: Congratulations on being selected to Maxim's best of

    2. Ron (my generic name for a character) has a neurotic craving for soap when he uses bad language or tells dirty jokes. Somewhere in this wicked world there must be a guy like that.


  2. This is pretty obscure, but I *think* its about Oedipal cravings.

    Funny jokes, but dark, too.

    1. I got the Oedipal part. I had trouble seeing it as a craving. But I guess we could get into a long thread about what constitutes "craving". I suppose if they had crashed the car they could have been towed by Oedipus Wrecks.

    2. Oy, Spencer! You should be punished for that pun.

  3. Cravings can slip to obsessions pretty easily. Dark, yet realistic intro, then a dip into the surreal. Nicely done, dude.

  4. It's the soap, the soap is the craving.

    1. Whoa! Of course it is. I though he was committing slow suicide. And perhaps he is? A neat example of a craving going haywire within its own inertia.

    2. Hi Lisabet!

      Curious - what do you believe about it? How do you see it? This is kind of fun.


    3. Well, it seems to me that what he really craves is his mother. Which is of course totally forbidden. He seeks out soap because it's associated with his guilty desire. It's a way for him to expiate his sense of wrong-doing, punish himself, and at the same time re-experience the awful thrill of seeing his mother naked.

      I guess you could say he craves soap in some sense, but only because of what it symbolizes and the feelings it evokes.

    4. Hi Lisabet!

      I think all those things are true, or most likely true. Some odd guilty oedipal craving under the surface having to do with being punished by his mother while also being sexually aroused by her. But the real truth is -

      - we don't know. He doesn't even know. He can't know. That's the real nature of compulsions and cravings. You have experiences with this yourself as a young girl. Too fat, and later anorexic, your compulsions wobbled you around in self destructive ways. These were not rational decisions coming from the conscious mind. These are not the outcomes you would have chosen, decisions that clearly were harming you. They were an act of relief from tension. They were made by deeper waters outside of your reach. That's the real nature of cravings, whether its a pregnant woman craving pickles and ice cream or a man with a trauma unspoken to us who can't stop himself, even by an effort of will, from eating soap products. When we discuss this now, it occurs to me that is the truth of this.


  5. The soap! That works. Or maybe he's fixated on throwing up. Hmm, a connection between sex and throwing up--yeah, I can imagine that (just barely.)

    1. Hi Sacchi!

      Really he just craves soap because he's bent up over something his mother did off stage, also whatever was wrong with her.

      Actually - here's what's really going on, at least from my end.

      I studied this speech a little while back that the great Flannery O' Conner gave to some young writer's group on the subject of short story craft. She said its nice if a story has a theme, but the theme has to be organic, growing naturally out of the story. She said if you can separate the theme neatly from a story, it's probably not a good story. The theme is the story itself.

      I think the way we do this, the way I'm trying to do this, is by setting up a compelling image. These days I'm thinking a lot about the power of an image, especially since I've been watching "American Horror Story" on TV. This is maybe the only genuinely frightening TV show I've ever seen and I know its because it's filled with complex, powerful images that blow right past your defenses. So really, this guy with the craving for soap when he speaks dirty jokes, is an image, his mother is a part of the image, but there isn't necessarily a theme or a clear explanation. It just sort of is what it is. A guy who eats soap because of something bad that happened to him, we don't know what. I'm aiming for what Flannery O' Conner said about the theme being an inseparable part of the characters and story. Like Ahab and Moby Dick. There's a theme there somewhere in "Moby Dick" I guess, but really what it is, is a compelling series of images as a crazy guy chases a whale around the world.

      "And you know something is happening here
      but you don't know what it is
      do you - Mr. Jones?"
      "Ballad of a Thin Man" Bob Dylan


  6. The most common connection I know between soap and sex is the prison shower scene where the gnarly, tattooed beast mentions to the new guy. "Hey, you dropped your soap."

  7. Definitely a creepy story, Garce -- the "craving" isn't at all clear until the end, which is when the dialogue at the beginning makes sense.

  8. Maybe I am weird, but this is my favorite thing I've read of yours. The sense of mystery you often create was happening at exactly the right pace. The jokes smacked of nervous desperation throughout, but were also darkly funny. The soap/mother craving was a clear theme to me. Excellent work.

  9. Hi Jean!

    I found this late. I'm glad you read it through though. Thanks for reading my stuff!


  10. Hi Annabeth!

    Really?? I rather had the impression it hadn't gone over well. I'm very glad you like it though. I'm always a little fascinated at how a story works out with its audience. I keep trying to learn from it.