Monday, July 13, 2015

The Stealth 70s

Sacchi Green

The 70s? Wait—you’re telling me the 70s are long gone? I suppose they must be. That decade seems like a blur to me now, without even the benefit of recreational drugs as an excuse.

Well, let’s see what I can dredge out of the recesses of my mind, what there is left of it. In 1970 I was the mother of a four-year-old. In 1980 I was the mother of a four-year-old, and also of a fourteen-year old. Okay, that computes.

Hmm. In 1970 I participated in my first and only sit-in, at Westover Air Force Base, protesting Nixon’s bombing of Cambodia. I spent my first and only couple of hours in jail, went to my first arraignment, pleaded nolo contendere along with about a hundred other protesters, and went home. I had swapped babysitting duty with a neighbor in married student housing at UMass so that she could go the sit-in one day and I could go the next. We were wild and crazy hippies at heart, but had to cope with the more-or-less conventional roles we’d been dealt.

Also in 1970 I volunteered to help with the Save the Earth ecological movement at UMass, working on their newsletter, flyers, etc. I got so fed up with the casual misogyny of the movement—“We have to educate the common housewife yada yada yada”—that I wrote a nasty piece about the tendency to regard women in the home as about on the level of the common housefly, posted it on the office bulletin board, and was startled when the editor ran it as the lead story in the next issue and thanked me for it. A small victory, but it does stick in my mind.

In 1973 my 39-year career as co-owner of an eclectic, idiosyncratic retail business began. I had to be aware of cultural and political events and trends in order to appeal to an ever-changing population of college-town customers, but I don’t recall many of the particulars, except that the first bumper sticker we sold in the store was in 1974 during the lead-up to Nixon’s resignation, and said, “Don’t Blame Me, I’m from Massachusetts.” If you don’t know what that signifies, you can look it up. Somewhere I still have my McGovern button, in fact the rare McGovern/Eagleton button rather than the McGovern/Shriver one. If you’re a political history wonk you can look that up, too, but I’m sure you already know.

As far as erotica goes, though, in the 70s I was stuck with reading what later came to be called “bodice rippers,” but those were getting pretty damned hot. Ah, Kathleen Woodiwiss! Roberta Gellis! I’d read the classics like Fanny Hill and Tropic of Cancer and Lady Chatterley’s Lover in my student days in the 60s, but this new breed of woman-centered mostly-historical romances were more fun, more fun even than the older Peyton Place. Potboilers like The Valley of the Dolls never interested me at all.

When I finally got around to writing erotica, twenty years later, it never occurred to me to set stories in the 70s. WWII in the 40s, sure. The Vietnam era in the 60s, yes. But nothing between those war periods and the 90s.

Except…there’s this sequel to a WWII story, set thirty five years later. It’s the only threesome I’ve ever attempted, and will probably stay that way.
_____

Alternate Lives

In that wartime English summer Cleo had made me soar, even though I never left the ground.
Thirty-five years later, in 1978, her plane rose, and banked, leaving Anchorage dwindling in the distance. As the clouds lifted in the east, the towering glory of Denali blazed suddenly white in the sun.

"The mountain's out!" someone shouted behind me
.
"Sure is," Cleo said, above the hum of the engine. "Takes your breath away, doesn't it?"

But it was Cleo Remington herself who took my breath away.

I watched her strong hands on the controls, remembering the way she had touched the Spitfire fighter plane that last night in England. Remembering, across the years, the way she had touched me.

The man behind me leaned forward in a genial attempt at conversation. "Cleo says you were in the service together, Kay. Were you an Air Transport pilot too?"

"No, I was a nurse," I said. "But for the last few years I've been a physical therapist." I turned slightly toward him, which gave me a good view of Cleo's profile. Her once-black hair was silver now, thick, just long enough to ruffle---if only I dared. Her tanned face was leaner, weathered by life, tiny lines radiating from the corners of eyes and mouth; my fingers would still recognize her in the dark, my mouth would know the contours of her throat, her jaw, her expressive lips--if I had the right to touch her.

"Ah, a therapist," he said, nodding. "You've come to help poor Yelena. [Cleo’s partner, a former Russian “Night Witch” bomber pilot whose old back injuries have flared up.] But you were a nurse back then? Cleo's never mentioned being wounded."

There are wounds no medicine can heal.

"No," I said. "We met in London, on leave, just before she flew back to the States and I was reassigned to the South Pacific. You know how it is in wartime; friendship isn't measured in weeks, or months."
__________

Much later in the story, after many things have happened:
__________
"Cleo, what is it? Yelena asked.

"A hot tub," Cleo said proudly.

The young man [from a hippie commune down the coast] coming to meet us blushed behind his curly beard as he said, "All set, but look out for splinters on the benches." I knew just what he was envisioning.

I was envisioning the same thing.
   
Yelena gave a long, sensuous sigh as she eased down into the steaming water. "Come in before you get cold," she said over her shoulder. With her hair coiled high on her head, the slim elegance of her neck suggested a ballet dancer, not a bomber pilot.

Cleo and I stood naked, openly surveying each other. Her body hadn't changed much; more sinewy now than slim, maybe; a few interesting scars. I had never been quite slim, and was even farther from it now, but Jack, I thought fleetingly, didn't mind. The achingly familiar look in Cleo's storm-gray eyes told me that she didn't mind either.

We submerged our bodies in the hot tub. Three pairs of legs intermingled. I flexed my toes, imagining a no-hands orgy scene in some risqué comedy. Cleo lay back with her eyes closed. I wondered whether she had realized before this exactly what she was getting herself into.

Yelena's eyes gleamed under half-closed lids. She watched us, keeping us guessing, and quite clearly enjoying herself. Under the swirling bubbles her toe stroked my calf; from the tension of Cleo's body I could guess where the other foot must be.

"There is no harm in looking," Yelena said at last, in a husky purr. "I too can see her, after all." She leaned forward, wincing slightly. "And there is no harm in touching."

Cleo's eyes flashed open. "Lenochka! Tell me this isn't some kind of test!"

"No, Love," Yelena said gently, "it is a blessing."

She reached for our hands and brought each of them to the other's tiny, tattooed wings. My fingers crept upward to Cleo's lips; hers moved down to cup my breast. I looked into her dark eyes. The weight of memory and longing pressed on us. I couldn't seem to breathe.

"It's so hot," I said faintly.

Yelena leaned her head back. "The moon is full tonight," she said musingly. "A sight not to be missed."

Cleo's mouth curved into a smile under my fingers. "Come with me, Kay, to see the moonlight on the cove." Though her words were for me, her eyes were on Yelena's face.

"Come back before the water cools," Yelena said with apparent tranquillity.

It was a gift I had no will to refuse.
__________

And a bit later:
__________

At last we lay peacefully, cocooned in blankets, Cleo's head on my breast, my mind drifting. Surely we had been like this always, through the lingering violet twilight of summer, and the long, white nights of winter.

"Kay," she said suddenly, "I did try to find you. But it was too late."

"Yes," I said, stroking her vibrant silver hair. "And if it hadn't been too late..." What of Jack, I thought, and my children? But all I said was, "Yelena would have been alone on the ice."

"Yes," Cleo said. We clung together a little longer, in perfect understanding of how much, after all, we had.

Then I struggled to my feet and tugged her with me. "Yelena needs us," I said. "She thinks I can give you what she can't any longer, but she's wrong. We have to convince her that she can."

"Are you sure?" Cleo stumbled on the path that I knew she could have traveled with sure-footed ease in her sleep.

"Just let me run the show." I forged ahead to where Raksha waited, whimpering softly. With an effort I switched modes from lover to therapist, with only partial success.

Yelena lay back in the tub, eyes tightly closed, though she must have heard us coming. Or even smelled us. I knelt behind her with my cheek against her soft hair. "Thank you, Lenochka," I murmured.

I beckoned to Cleo to join me in the still warm water. "Therapy time," I said with authority. "You, on your knees! And you," to Yelena, whose eyes flashed open wide at my stern tone, "on my knees!" I sat close beside her and urged her onto my lap, then gripped her hips firmly. "Now," I said over her wet shoulder, "since I haven't convinced you any other way, I'm going to hold you so steady that no matter what you do, even if you beg, I won't let you move in any way that might hurt. And Cleo is going to fuck you, not gently, but with everything she's got. If you say harder, she's going to believe you mean harder. No holding back, while I'm holding you."

Yelena had been crying, I was sure, but now she giggled--an interesting sensation in a naked body on one's lap. Then she inhaled sharply when Cleo touched her, and the sensations got far more interesting.

It was the most erotic, strangest, hardest thing I've ever done. Yelena squirmed against my belly, reviving the need Cleo had so recently filled. But now Cleo was separated from me, her mouth on Yelena's mouth, her hands filled with Yelena's breasts. I wanted desperately, savagely, to reach past the lost years, past Yelena, to thrust my own body through hers and take all that her lover could give, all that might have been mine.
__________

There’s more, of course, but I've gone on too long.

None of this story says anything specific about the 70s, except maybe the hippie commune in Alaska, so I guess it still leaves that era as the Stealth Decade. Still, without those years we couldn’t have got from wherever we were to wherever we are,  so “Thanks, 70s, we couldn’t do without you.”


       

11 comments:

  1. I got so fed up with the casual misogyny of the movement—“We have to educate the common housewife yada yada yada”—that I wrote a nasty piece about the tendency to regard women in the home as about on the level of the common housefly, posted it on the office bulletin board, and was startled when the editor ran it as the lead story in the next issue and thanked me for it.

    You ROCK!! Forget the Stones and the Airplane—you were what was rockin' in 1970!

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    1. I heartily agree! I already had that snippet copied onto my clipboard so I could give it a thumbs up!

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    2. Feminism always seemed to me to be so obviously essential that when The Feminine Mystique came out and Betty Friedan spoke at my women's college (Mount Holyoke), my reaction was the equivalent of, "Well, duh! Of course!" We had role models in the current and past women who were professors there, including the Professor Emeritus who had been a major figure in chemistry when very few women were in the sciences at all. She lived near my dorm, and hired two of us to shovel snow for her since she'd recently (in her eighties) decided it was getting to be too much for her. Over Christmas vacation, she had to hire a local young man who charged more to do it, and when we came back she gave us a big raise in pay, because she'd "be damned if I'd pay a man more than a woman!"

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  2. Right Sacchi - the 70's was definitely a defining decade when so many lives and opinions were changed forever - some for the better. Probably why I've got my satellite radio stuck on 70's music!

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  3. Your bit about the hippie commune in Alaska is the thrust of T. Coraghassen Boyle's 'Drop City'. About a 70's commune that leaves Northern California to set up in Alaska, where they find an entirely new take on reality and what it means to go "back to the land". Good book!

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  4. I entered high school in 1971, graduated in 1975 (40-year reunion this year! Should I go? Husband will attend, grudgingly, if he must.) Graduated from college in 1979.

    Loved: birth control, "free love", casual sex, the bra-less look (which I still try to rock, but my adult kids upbraid me for, since "the girls" are considerably larger than they were back then) blues, rock and roll, and living on my own.

    Hated: disco, disco bars where there would be only 1 or 2 men who knew how to dance, and lots of women sitting around wanting to dance, but not with each other; silkie shirts meant to be worn sans bra which invited groping, "the moral majority" which was neither. and the beginning of the pendulum swing back to conservatism, which I've raged against for many, many years.

    Never got a chance to live in a commune. Kind of jealous of those who did.

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    1. I've gone to about half of my every-five-years reunions. Always found it rewarding. Especially since I was from the wrong side of the tracks, didn't go to college and did as well as anybody. And didn't get fat either :>)

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  5. I was the class "brain", which means I got called names like "curve-buster", since the teachers could grade on a curve back then, but when I got 100% on everything, they couldn't justify dropping an A down to 80% or lower, even though that's where the rest of the class might be. I was universally hated for years until high school. Then when my hormones started raging, I'd have fucked anyone who asked, but no one from my school did. So I had to look elsewhere.

    Years later, when I was in college, I got invited to a party at someone's house. I'd never, all through school, been invited to any of my peers' get-togethers. So I went. A couple of guys started hitting on me, and I walked out to smoke and yak with one, who confessed to me that he and "all the other guys" really wanted to fuck me in high school, but were afraid of me. Sheesh! I told him it was their loss, since I'd spent most of my weekend nights watching TV and dreaming about a time when I'd be getting laid anytime I wanted, which happened when I went away to college. I told him he'd missed his chance and I left the party.

    I went to my 10-year reunion as a newlywed, and it was freeing to realize that I didn't have to care about the opinions of any of the folks there anymore. I used to, since I went to the same school district with the same kids, from kindergarten to graduating, which I did half-way through my senior year. I'd never been asked to any dances, so I knew prom would be just another Saturday night at home for me, so I wanted to get out of my house and that situation ASAP. I went from being a social leper to discovering that while men have to work at getting laid, all a woman has to do is signal she's willing, and there's always someone who will volunteer to pleasure her. Those good times totally made up for my boring high school career.

    I went to my 20th, and was amused by the way that everyone fell naturally back into the roles they'd played in high school. The jocks sat together, the burn-outs did also, and I was expected to sit with the other nerds. Weird, since we were all close to 40. Soon after that, facebook became a big thing, and I'm on a list for graduates, that tells me when they have their yearly get-together at a local Dave and Busters in December. My husband refuses to go, since he's not good making small talk even when he knows the people. That means I'd have to go by myself. I don't want to put myself into any situation where I might drink too much and forget I'm a happily-married woman, so I don't go.

    I did go to college, but got an English degree, which is worthless in the work world. And I weigh a bit more than in high school when I was a size 6. After 4 kids I'll never be that thin again, and that's alright with me. I like to indulge in physical pleasures of all kinds.

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  6. Sacchi, how interesting that you thought your objection to the casual misogyny of the time would be a casual footnote, but it turned out to be something more. Good for you for speaking up. It took courage in those days to point out the obvious (to women), when we could always be criticized for "whining" and "dividing the movement."

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    1. And that "dividing the movement" criticism is not gone...

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  7. I think it would be hard to set a story in "the seventies" because so much happened during that decade. We went from the Jefferson Airplane to Saturday Night Fever, from tie-dyed cotton to the slinky blouses Fiona has invoked.

    Vietnam. Nixon's demise. Anti-nuclear protests.

    Finally, easy and safe birth control.

    For me: anorexia, homelessness (or nearly), college, grad school, first real love, first experience with BDSM....

    Indeed, I had a hard time figuring out what to focus on for this topic.

    I like your excerpt, btw. You're such a tease, the way you give us bits and pieces.

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