Sunday, June 1, 2014

Rook (Part 1)

Addendum: Rook

NOTE:  This is something of a continuum from the "Cross-Tribal Mating Disasters" story, that damn long three-parter I wrote.  It's about Rook, a fourteen year old throwaway kid who me and my roommates took in.  As young as she was, we were her friends.... But we also had a rather protective bend when it came to Rook: she had eleven older brothers and sisters who would do anything to keep her safe.  Yeah, we were a strange family, but one that loved her.... Which was more than could be said about her parents.  Anyway, if you haven't read "Cross-Tribal Mating Disasters" yet, g'wan and read that one first.  This'll make more sense.

 I'd gotten the feeling that Rook's folks rarely hugged her or even touched her.  That sort of outwardly simple but important gesture --- platonic physical contact, hugging, rubbing someone's back --- had been absent from Rook's life growing up, and Glare would put an arm around Rook when we were lounging about, as if to say, "You're safe here.  We love you, and won't let bad things happen to you.  Relax, and be loved."  Rook and Glare would inevitably hold hands when we went anywhere as a group, with Little Steve holding hands with whoever was closest.  If Glare wasn't around, Rook would hold hands with Little Steve: a surrogate Glare.  In fact, if Rook left the house with even one other person, she'd hold hands with them: me, Chuckles, Mimi (who would lay off the clowning), Hawk, whoever.  Maybe some asshole shrink would say we were "infantilizing" her, or enabling her emotional dependence or some shit.... To which we'd respond with a "Fuck you, you don't know her like we do."  Some aspects of her personality were very mature --- not to mention the body that screamed, "I am sexual ecstasy in human form" --- but she was still very much a young girl in other aspects: a young girl who had been sexually abused by proxy by her father, ignored by her mother, and treated like an annoyance and an obstacle by both.  And why would you show any form of affection towards something you view as an irritating hindrance in your life?

It was never a conscious effort, but I believe everyone in the Silo would hug Rook at least once a day.  Just showing our affection, that we cared.  She'd never had that.  Everyone thought that was wrong and sad and fucked-up.  Such a simple thing, a hug.  Holding hands: what a basic activity.  And when we all went somewhere together --- say, walking to the Ashby BART station and heading to the City for a party --- Rook would quietly ask someone close, "Will you hold my hand?"  And the person asked would say, "Yeah, no problem, Rook."  When we arrived, Rook and the hand-holder would hug.

Heh.  The poor bastards who expressed a romantic --- or let's be honest here, sexual --- interest in Rook had to run one tough fuckin' gauntlet.  Most guys only had to deal with meeting two parents.  Any dude looking to get in Rook's pants had to provide suitable answers to questions and demonstrate proper, respectful behavior.  Imagine that instead of meeting two parents, you had to contend with ten or so strange-looking, hyper-protective, violence-prone punk rock psychos of both genders.  Not all at once, mind you: but the kid would be occupying space on a sofa, someone would enter the living room, and ask who they were.  "Um, hi, me and Rook are gonna go hang out."
(Hee hee hee hee....)  "Are you, now.  You got protection?"
"Ummm.....  No..... But I, uh, didn't think we'd, ahh, you know...."
(In a forceful voice)  "But you might.  Rook's a big girl, she can make her own decisions, and for all you know--- " jabbing a finger in his chest " ---she may be planning on quite a bit of fun later tonight.  You wouldn't want to disappoint her, would you?"
"Oh!  Um, absolutely not!"  He verbalized plans to hit a Walgreens as soon as humanly possible.
"Good thinking.  All of us care deeply about Rook, and anything --- anything --- that makes Rook unhappy is dealt with quickly.  Do you understand me?"
"Oh, of course!  Absolutely!"  It wasn't a warm day, but the kid looked a bit sweaty.
"What's your name?"
"I'm Richard, sir."
"How old are you?"
"I'm sixteen."
"Sixteen, huh?"  I paused briefly, as though considering whether this was the right answer or not.... Then said, "Okay," as if he'd passed a test.
And who should come in but Mookie, still in her work clothes.  "Hey, Lenny.  Who's this?"
"This is Richard, who is sixteen and is gonna go hang out with Rook for a while."
"Oohhhh.... I see."  Mookie grabbed a chair and dragged it over so it was directly in front of Richard: with me on the sofa next to him, he wasn't going anywhere.
Mookie said, "So, Richard, I'm Mookie.  Pardon my appearance, I'm still in my work clothes.  I beat the shit out of men for money."  Her voice went up a notch.  "And what are your plans for the evening?"
Richard began to genuinely sweat.  "Ahh.... We, uh, didn't have any plans, just, you know, hang out...."
I asked, "You got a little money?  Like bus fare for two?"
He nodded, looking confused.
I pulled out my wallet and handed him a twenty.  "You two go to the movies, a'right?"
Richard thought that was a stellar idea, and thanked me profusely for the cash, hey, cool great plan, this is so excellently cool of you sir, thank you again.
"No problem, just don't tell Rook where you got the bread."

The loose clomping of boots announced Rook's return from the shower: boots and towel, like usual.  She saw Richard and brightened up.  "Richard sweetie!  I didn't know you were here!  Gimme a few minutes to get dressed."  And she disappeared into her cubby hole.
Like every heterosexual male over the age of ten, Richard was trying to develop x-ray vision to see into Rook's cubby hole.  He was watching the door, and Mookie and I were watching him.  Mookie said, "Lovely girl, isn't she?"
Richard replied, "Oh yes, very much so.," in a soft voice.
Mookie stared at Richard (who was still obsessed with Rook's door), then unhooked her coiled whip and whacked him with it, yelling, "HEY!"
Richard jumped in his seat, and squeaked, "Yes ma'am?"
"You got protection?"  Mookie glared at Richard.
I suppressed  a giggle.
"Ummm.... Not right now, I was going to go to Walgreens to buy some.... I mean, I'm not expecting anything to happen, I can't lie, I think she's very beautiful, but I'm not gonna force myself on her or try to get her drunk or anything, but you know, on the chance something does happen, I do want to be safe --- not that I think she has anything, and I know I don't, um, actually I'm a virgin, but she's really a wonderful girl, if it was going to happen I think it'd be awesome if it was with her and I know she's a couple years younger than me but you'd never guess it talking to her 'cos she's really smart and quick---- "
"Yes ma'am?"
"Shut up.  Wait right here."
Mookie charged up the stairs to her room, then was back down thirty seconds later.  "Hold out your hands," she instructed Richard.  He did so, and she dropped about a half-dozen Durex condoms into his hands.  "You know how to operate one, right?"
Richard turned a few different shades of red, and said, "Uh, yeah.  I, uh, kinda.... Practiced on myself with some...."
Mookie beamed at him and said, "Cool!  Excellent!  That's what you --- and all guys --- should do when they're young!"
I chimed in, "Yeah, absolutely.  That way you're not fumbling around with the damn thing when you're about to get busy.  You rip open the package, roll it on, and you're set.  You're smart, kid, you planned ahead."
Still a bit pink, Richard said, "Really?  Cool!  I'll be honest: I bought a bunch of cheap ones, so I could learn how they worked.  The first six or eight I was totally fumbling with, but after a little while, I could do it easily.  I only needed one hand!"
Mookie and me looked at each other, then looked at Richard and nodded approvingly.

Moments later, Rook appeared from her cubby hole, wearing sort of a girly-girl version of punk rock party clothes.  I muttered to Mookie, "Distract Rook."  Mookie gave me a confused look, but did as I asked.  With Rook occupied, I told Richard, "Listen kid.  You wanna know how Rook will get sorta hooked on you?  How to make her think of you in a positive light?"
If the kid had nodded any harder he'd have given himself whiplash.
"Hold her hand.  Like, a lot."
"You heard me.  Walking anywhere, riding the bus or BART, watching the movie, whatever.  Just hold her hand."
The kid looked confused.  "Um, okay....  Why?"
I didn't have the time, and it wasn't my place, to explain about Rook's abandonment issues and her need for physical contact.  (In retrospect, I was a bit surprised Rook never turned out to be incredibly sexually promiscuous.  Can't get closer to a person than that.)  I just told him, "It makes her happy, okay?  Offer your hand and she will take it.  And if she asks, just say it seemed like a nice thing to do."
You could hear a thousand questions buzzing around inside Richard's head like bees, but he decided to just let them lie.  Mookie had run out of things to say to Rook, so it was time to kick the kids loose.  Rook greeted Richard with "Hey, sweetie!" and a chaste kiss on the lips.  Richard said, "Hey Rook!  Hey, you wanna go see a movie?  I've got a little money...."
Rook looked a bit surprised, then beamed and said, "Wow, that'd be great!  Which one?"
"Umm.... I figured we'd hit one of the multiplexes and decide there.  They've gotta have something we'll both like."  Good recovery, kid.
They went down the stairs and along the pathway.  When they hit the sidewalk, Richard held his hand out to Rook.  She stared at it for a second, then smiled widely and took his hand.  The two of them practically skipped down the street towards MLK Blvd.

Mookie and I watched them from the porch.  "Aw, our little girl is growing up," I said.
"Shit, she ain't my daughter!" protested Mookie.
"Oh--- Huh?"
"If she was, it'd mean I'd gotten knocked up around the age of twelve.  I'm from Atlanta, not West Virginia!"
"Uhhh.... That really happen in West Virginia?"
"Oh shit.  You've seen 'Deliverance,' right?  Heard all the hillbilly jokes?  'Deliverance' is a fuckin' documentary for West Virginia.  A virgin in West Virginia is a girl who can outrun her daddy.  What do you call a 27 year old woman in West Virginia?"  I shook my head.  "'Grandma!'"
We lit cigarettes and continued gazing in the direction they'd disappeared.  "You think they'll have fun?" asked Mookie.
"Oh yeah.  Rook likes him, and I think he has a pretty heavy crush on her.  Okay, so we rattled his cage some.  That was to guarantee gentlemanly behavior on his part.  Shit, if you were some scrawny sixteen year old kid, would you want the two of us coming after you?"
Mookie laughed and said, "Good point," punching me in the arm.  She paused.  "I noticed he offered to hold her hand.  Was that you?" she asked, looking at me sideways.
"Yeah.  I'd sussed him out enough to know he wasn't a creep, so I told him, 'Hold her hand a lot, it makes her happy.'  I didn't go into the whys and wherefores of it.  If I thought he had even latent asshole tendencies, I never would have said it.  But I think he's a genuinely good kid.  'Sides, they do make a cute couple."
Mookie snickered and said, "So, you think Rook will sexually corrupt him?  Steal his innocence?  Introduce him to the wild world of free-form fucking?"
"Eenhh.... I'd be a little surprised if that happened tonight, free condoms notwithstanding.  Then again, I don't think Rook's gotten any play for months, since that one fuck-head she was seeing, the one me, Hawk, and Little Steve ran off."
"Oh yeah.  I was sorry I missed that."
"You and your whips would have been a good effect.  Still, you woulda been trumped by Hawk, who had one of his shotguns in one hand, just holding it, saying, 'You are never coming here again.  You are never walking down this street again.  You are never calling here again.  And if you see Rook on the street anywhere, you will turn around and go in the opposite direction.  You will have no contact with Rook, in any way.  I can't make myself any clearer.  If you ever have any contact with Rook, ever, your life will become one of pain and misery.'  Probably the most number of words I'd ever heard Hawk say all at once in his life.... And his mega-calmness only added to the menace we wanted to get across.  Hawk hadn't loaded his shotgun, thank Christ.  But in that situation he didn't need to, getting punched square in the face with the butt would really ruin that asshole's day.  Of course, it didn't hurt that me and Little Steve had him up against the wall, Steve twisting his arm backwards and me leaning against his throat with my elbow.  Juuuust hard enough I could hear him wheeze when breathing.
"Good riddance to that piece of shit.  Twenty-fuckin'-three, and he's fucking fourteen year old girls?  And stealing from them?  And from the house?  We shoulda broken both hands, and given him a few repeated ball-shots."
Mookie said, "Naah.  Bounce him too hard, the cops will show up, statutory rape or not.  He'd go to jail, but so would you guys.  Y'all played it just right.  Besides, he was yer standard Telegraph local, and I haven't seen him around at all for a while."  Mookie would hang around at Mimi and Glare's coffee shop off and on, so she was more tuned to the Telegraph scene than I was.  "I'm guessin' jail.  Probably selling cut as crystal, and someone dropped a dime on him."
"Yeah, that sounds about his style."  I paused.  "I hope they have a good time."

They did enjoy themselves.  No memory as to what movie they saw, but they wanted ice cream afterwards and were short a few dollars (they'd bought popcorn), so for the hell of it they decided to see if they could panhandle up ice cream money.  It worked:  within five minutes they were both eating double cones.

Then they came back to the Silo....  And Rook relieved Richard of his virginity.  Five times, to make sure it took.  And both wished to continue.
About one a.m. there was a tapping on my door.  I put my book down and opened the door, to be presented with Rook, wearing a t-shirt and panties, and a manic smile on her face.  "Lenny!" she half-whispered.  "Do you have any condoms?"
I cocked an eyebrow.  "Uhh.... Yeah.....  How many do you need?"
"How many do you got?"
I sighed.  "C'mon in."  I went through the drawers in the small table next to my bed.  "I've got, um, eight real ones and a whole shitload of Fiestas."  (Fiesta condoms are the ones they give away at the clinic for free, take all you want.  But they're sized for prepubescent Japanese boys.  Guys who are built "normally" find them uncomfortable to get on; if you're somewhat wide it's a struggle.... But they're condoms, they work, and they're free.)
"I'll take 'em!" declared Rook, wild-eyed.
I stared at her.  "Uh, I know for a fact that you started the evening with six.  Have you two really used them all?"
"Five.  One ripped," she said, eyeballing my drawer.
"Hey.  Earth to Rook.  How many more of these do you honestly think you'll need?"
"A hundred!" she crowed, doing a hip-swivel that would have the Pope looking for dollar bills to stuff.
"Okay, okay, can I pleeease have, like, six of your Durex and a handful of Fiestas?"
I sighed and said, "Yeah, no problem.  Jesus Christ, you're trying to cripple the guy, aren't you?"
Rook giggled and said, "Hard to say who's trying to cripple who.  He may be new at it, but.... Oh wow!  Yeah!"  And she threw herself back down the stairs to her cubby hole.
The two of them didn't emerge from Rook's cubby hole until mid-afternoon.  Well, not quite true: one or the other would scuttle out to either get water or use the bathroom.  Around 10:30 in the morning I went up to the corner liquor store and bought two of those huge bottles of ice water, set them down in front of Rook's door, knocked, and left.  I heard a faint "Thank you!" called.  At that point, I was genuinely concerned about the two of them becoming massively dehydrated: Rook's cubby hole was always a bit warm and stuffy, so the two of them had to be literally pouring sweat, plus, uh, other bodily fluids being lost.
Chuckles, Little Steve, and I wanted to put up a banner for Richard: "Congratulations Richard!  You Fucked Somebody!" but the idea was dropped, mostly due to lack of materials.  However, earlier in the morning, before I bought them the ice water, I was scavenging up some breakfast when Richard came in, wearing nothing but boxers, to put his mouth under the water tap.  I said, "Hey!"
He looked at me with genuine fear in his eyes, like I'd caught him fucking my daughter.  I put a hand up in the air.  He looked confused for a moment, then smiled, and we high-fived.  I gave him an approving nod and stuck my head back in the fridge.
When you're a sixteen year old guy, if losing your virginity isn't a high-five-able moment, I don't know what is.

The lovebirds finally emerged, clothed yet still flushed and slightly wild-eyed, around 3:30.  Richard had to get home.  "I called my parents from the theater last night and told them I'd be gone all night.  Heh, they weren't too happy about that.  Even less happy when I told them it, like, was not up for debate, I'd be sober, in a safe place, but I wouldn't be coming home last night."  He looked at Rook --- they were holding hands, too cool --- and said, "Um, they're probably gonna ground me?  But I don't know for how long.  Do you guys have a phone?"
Jim pointed and said, "Yeah, right there."
Richard said, "Actually, I wanted to get the number here, if that's okay."
"Oh!  Yeah, no problem."  Richard produced a ball-point and a scrap of paper from his leather, and Jim recited the number.  For some reason, the fact that the kid had a pen made me like him more.  An ordinary object that everyone should carry, and not enough people do.  Richard was smart enough to know having a pen is useful.
I spoke up.  "Take down mine too, kid.  I've got a machine, that one doesn't.  That way if no one picks up down here, you can call mine and leave a message."
"Cool!  Thanks a lot!"  My number went down as well.
Mookie piped up, "Hey Richard!  How ya getting home?  For that matter, where the fuck you live, anyway?"  She was in her work clothes; today's theme was Blood Red.
"Uh, I live in Albany.  I still got a dollar left, so I guess the bus."
"Screw that.  My first client's in El Cerrito.  I'll drive you."
"Hey, awesome, thanks!"
Jim said, "Yeah, if the car survives!"  Mookie had a classic old '66 MG.  Like all MGs, it had to stop for repairs more often than gasoline.  Mookie told Jim to go fuck a brick.  Jim said he tried, but the brick shattered.  Mookie congratulated Jim on his ability to squeeze his asshole that tight.  The punk rock Dozens.
Goodbyes were being said between Rook and Richard, arms wrapped around each other.  Rook was saying, "Are you sure you don't want me to go with you?  Maybe help smooth things over...?"
Richard said, "Nah.  It'll be alright; my parents are actually kinda cool.  They don't scream or panic, more just like, 'You're grounded, and what were you thinking?'  So yeah, the grounding will suck, but they ain't gonna freak out."  He laughed quietly.  "'Sides, I dunno how well it'd go over introducing you: 'Mom, Dad, here's the reason I was gone all night.  Oh, I'm not a virgin anymore either.  Yes, the two are connected, and by the way, I've got it bad for her.'  Don't worry, I'll be fine.  I'll call you tonight. 'Kay?"
"Okay.  God, I hope you aren't grounded for too long."  Rook sniffled.  "I miss you already."  Then she smiled and said in a lower voice, "You and Jumbo."  They did that hands-on-the-ass hug, while exchanging dental records.  Everyone else in the room found interesting things to stare at on the ceiling, the floor, and various spots on the wall.
We didn't need the Jaws of Life to separate them, just Mookie.  "Hey.  HEY.  HEY!!"  Rook and Richard snapped out of la-la land, and Mookie said in a more gentle voice, "We gotta roll.  I've got a client."
Mookie, Richard, and Rook went out to the MG, Richard and Rook hand-in-hand.  Mookie backed up across the lawn, and went down the block, turning onto MLK.  Rook stood in front of the porch, tears running down her face.  Jim, Little Steve, and I crowded around her, all of us trying to hug her at once, muttering "It's okay, hon,"  "He'll be back,"  "You're talking to him tonight," and anything else to comfort her.  I wished Glare was around, she was good at this sort of thing.
We traipsed back inside, and I had to open my big mouth.  "So who's Jumbo?" I asked.
Rook spun around at me, turning red, and said, "Oh my God!  You heard that?"
"Uh, yeah...."
Jim said, "Well?"
Turning a tomato hue, Rook replied, "Umm.... He's, um, he's really..... Big."
Not quite grasping it, Little Steve said, "Whadda ya mean, he's really big?"
"He's got.... Look, ah.... "  Rook squeezed her eyes shut and said, "He's got a big dick, okay?  Not like freakish huge big, not uncomfortable, you know?, but uh.... Yeah, he's pretty damn large.  And the weird thing is he didn't even know it!  I'm the first girl to ever get in his pants at all --- the poor guy's never even had a handjob or gotten sucked, much less.... You know ....  So he's been walking around with this porn-cock in his pants all this time, totally clueless.  There, happy?"
Eyebrows bumped up against hairlines, as we all glanced back and forth at each other.  Jim finally said, "Uh, do we offer congratulations or condolences?  I know women don't like too big."
Rook looked at the floor for a moment, then looked up at us, smiled, and said, "Oh, congratulations.  Definitely congratulations.  Whoo!"  She gave up on the modesty.  "My cervix is set kinda high, and he juuust came short of it.  And damn, he was a tight fit, he totally filled me up.  Wow!  And after the first few tries, he relaxed or whatever, I sorta gave him advice on holding back, and he'd last for fifteen minutes!  He had me ripping 'em two or three times!  I don't care if he' new at fuckin', he's got some serious natural talent!  God, I could ride that  cock like a carousel all day!"  
She looked at us with our jaws on the floor, then politely announced, "Anyway, I need to shower.  Does anyone need in first?"
She trotted upstairs with her towel.  The rest of us stood in slack-jawed silence, unmoving, occasionally glancing at each other.  After a couple of minutes, somebody said, "This is gonna sound weird, but.... Did you ever kinda wish you were a girl?"
"Oh yeah."
More silence followed.
I said, "Well, if he ever moves to L.A., he'll always have a job."
"How so?"
"All he's gotta do is walk in the right door in Van Nuys and unzip his pants."

Apparently things got quite interesting when Mookie dropped off Richard.  His parents had been half-watching for his arrival, so when they saw the MG pull up, they went to investigate.  Mookie and Richard were sitting in the car talking, Mookie had been explaining that hers and mine hostility was a put-on --- sort of --- just to filter out the creeps and scumbags, keep 'em away from a young girl we were rather protective of.  It wasn't him: we'd put everyone interested in Rook through the wringer.  But Mookie told him she thought he was a genuinely good guy, and she liked him.  "Friends?" Mookie said.  "Friends," said Richard, and they gave each other a good strong hug.
..... Which was when, unnoticed by either Richard or Mookie, Richard's parents walked up to the MG.
Yes.  Just what every well-off suburban parent loves to see.  Their teenage son, who's already into that scary noisy punk rock stuff,  in an embrace with a woman ten years older than him, who would appear to be some form of highly dangerous Sex Mutant, like if the movie 'Road Warrior' had been a XXX porn film.
"Richard?"  Mookie and Richard were startled out of their embrace by the sound of his father's voice.
"Hey Dad," Richard responded and began to get out of the car.
"Hello, sir!" said Mookie, also exiting the MG.  "Glad to meet you! I'm Moo--- Melinda!"  Mookie, standing up, didn't help things.  In her knee-high spike-heel boots, she had at least six inches on Richard's dad.  She also had black fishnets on over red hose with garters, a deep red, patent leather micro-skirt (basically a belt with delusions of grandeur), and a red patent leather bustier.  Topping it off was a pair of black half-finger elbow-length gloves, and her "utility belt": an inch wide strip of black patent leather, studded, which also had clips on it for her various (*ahem*) toys, like her whip, her flail, paddles.... Tools of the trade, when the trade is being hired by men who are sexually aroused by pain.  Fortunately --- I guess --- almost all her toys were in the trunk (she couldn't drive with all that crap strapped to her) except for her whip, residing in its usual spot on her right hip.  She always wore her long whip, often when dressed in normal street clothes.  The only thing that was improved by her getting out of the car was neither of Richard's parents would get a full-on box shot: she didn't wear underwear when working ("Sometimes a dude'll ask for a golden shower, and trying to get out of underwear really breaks rhythm and mood.  No undies means a clear shot, and I'd rather have a dude into piss than scat.  Besides, if the client can see my pussy, he thinks he's getting his money's worth.") and anyone standing at the proper angle while she was sitting in her MG would get a view usually reserved for boyfriends and gynecologists.
"So, you are the person my son spent the night with?" asked Dad.  He was unsure if he should be angry or terrified.
"Oh, no sir.  I mean, he was at our house, but he was with my.... sort of adopted little sister, Rook.  They went to a movie, then.... Stayed up late talking."  That sounded fair, as a lie to tell parents.  Going for honesty?  Bad idea.  "After me and another roommate scared the shit out of your son on general principles, he and a fourteen year old throwaway girl with a body that could make coma ward patients come just by walking by their doors went to the movies.  The call he made to you?  That was after the girl told him she wanted him to spend the night, and not so they could discuss world affairs.  Basically, from about 11:30 p.m. until 2:00 this afternoon your son did nothing but fuck, learn the art of eating pussy, the joys of having one's cock sucked, and the strategies of delaying orgasm while fucking so the girl comes too.  Given the number of condoms those two went through, I'm amazed he can fuckin' walk.  Also, get some water in him, he's surely dehydrated."
If Mookie had decided she didn't like the guy and had nothing to lose, that's probably exactly how she would have responded, plus details about the house, various personal quirks of her fellow residents, and probably detailed information about Rook's body ("Jesus, she's fourteen, and the girl has tits that make me wish I was a lesbian").  But even if Richard's parents had been total dicks, there was a major consideration: Rook.  It was obvious her and Richard had it for each other, bad, and the kid had gotten the seal of approval from everyone at the Silo who'd met him, so despite her appearance, Mookie wanted to give things as positive a spin as possible.
Richard was leaning against the top of the MG's windshield (the top was down), simply observing the interaction between Mookie and his dad.  His mom was standing on the walkway to the front door.
Richard's dad asked, "So, who is this girl?  And where is your house?  Our son simply told us he was spending the night with 'a girl', we had no idea where, or who the girl is, how old she is, how they know each other...  I feel like I'm owed some answers."
So, putting as rosy a spin on things as possible, Mookie explained how we knew Rook from Gilman, how her father had thrown her out to pursue his life of debauchery, how, at fourteen, she had nowhere to go --- "and you know what kind of things can happen to young teenage girls on the street" --- so we'd given her "a room" at our house in exchange for light housekeeping.  She told him how we'd "arranged" for her to start her freshman year at BHS, at which point we wanted her to basically be a full-time student.  Everyone cared deeply about Rook --- "she's much like a little sister to us" --- and those who had met him approved of Richard: "Your son is very intelligent and well-mannered, you should be proud of him.  I'm sorry about last night, but Richard and Rook just wanted to spend time together."
"Yes.  Well.  We'll want to discuss this further with Richard.  Simply being told 'I'm not coming home tonight' doesn't work."
"Again, I apologize for making you worry."
"Thank you."  He started to turn, then paused.  "Tell me.  Do you dress that way as a matter of habit?  Is it some sort of 'look' you're pursuing?"
Mookie smiled, looked down, then looked back up and said, "These are just my work clothes."
Richard's mother finally spoke.  "What do you do for a living?"
"Oh, I'm a dominatrix."
Mom paled a bit.  "You're a domi---- You work in the sex trade!?"
Mookie tried her best calming grin and said, "Weeelll..... Sort of.  Yes, obviously there's a highly sexual aspect to the work, for the client.  However, I don't touch them, they don't touch me.  There's no intercourse or any other sexual contact involved; my agency is very clear on that.  Girls who decide they'll earn some extra money, and it's been offered to me, plenty of times, by fu---- by having sexual contact with clients find themselves out of a job.  And for me, it is just a job, I'm not into the lifestyle at all."  She smiled sweetly.  "All I'm doing is honing my acting skills and my aim."
Dad asked, "Your aim?"
Mookie decided to show off a bit.  She found an empty paper soda cup in the back of the MG, and placed it on the trunk.  Then she unhooked her whip, stepped back several yards, and....


The cup flew up in the air several inches, landed on the trunk, then rolled off.  Mookie picked it up and handed it to Dad.  It was shredded nearly in half, right at the center.
"That was cool!"  Richard had finally spoken.
Coiling her whip, Mookie explained to Dad, "That was kind of a bad shot.  The aim and the puncture were right, but my swing was bad, I had loft.  The cup never should have left the trunk."
Mom was even paler now.  "Do... People pay you to do that to them?"
Mookie casually explained, "Yes and no.  If I used a swing like that on a person, I'd be taking chunks off of them.  No, in domme work, you use a waaay slower swing and drawback.  You still get a good crack --- heck, I'm usually in someone's living room, so it sounds loud, even though it isn't --- and you'll leave a bit of a welt, plus the sting."  She shrugged.  "Heck, that's what people are paying me for, it's what they want."  She chuckled.  "My proudest moment?  With my short whip, I did a series of welts on a client's back in the shape of a heart.  A little lopsided, but it looked all right.  I grabbed him by his collar, forced him into the bathroom, got him to a mirror, and said, 'What do you think?'  He took a look and nearly started crying.  'Mistress, it's beautiful!'  He's been a two-week regular of mine ever since."
"My God.  None of this bothers you?"
"Well, like I said, I'm not in the lifestyle, it really is just a job to me.  Besides, sadomasochistic behavior goes back thousands of years.  No, it's not my dream job, far from it.  But I make about $1500 in a fourteen hour week, more or less, and that's not including tips.  You don't wanna know what my tips are.  The IRS would love to know, but fu--- to heck with them."
Dad asked, "So, what do you want to do?  What is your dream job?"
"Promise you won't laugh?"
"I promise."
"Sideshow performer.  I work out with my whips, two lengths, I've got fire-eating basics down, and I need to find a tutor for sword-swallowing.  It's been hard, but I can use the whips double-handed now on basic stuff.  I needed to get a second long whip for double-handed aerial shots.  I'm actually was making things harder on myself, using different-length whips at the same time."
Richard said, "Hey Mookie.... You think you could...."
Mookie smiled and said, "Yes, I will.  If it's okay with them."  She turned to the parents and said, "As long as you're on the handle end, learning whips is completely safe.  I promise I won't have him holding playing cards in his teeth so I can work on my aim."
"We'll discuss that after he's no longer grounded."
Mookie decided to play a full hand.  "If you don't mind me asking, sir, when will that be?"  She gave a charming grin.  "I know a little girl who already misses him desperately."
Dad stared at the pavement briefly, then said, "A week from yesterday.  And thank you for bringing Richard home."
"Not a problem.  I've got a client right in the neighborhood here.  Like I said, these are my work clothes."
"Tell me.  Do you enjoy your work?"
Richard interjected, "Daa-ad," with a frown.  He was right: it is a rude question.
Mookie smiled appreciatively at Richard and said, "It's okay."  She looked at Dad with an expression that said, You're being tactless, but I'll humor you anyway.  "Honestly?  No, not in particular.  I'm not into kink, I'm not in the lifestyle, my own.... Um, interests are pretty 'vanilla,' and personally, one in three clients are in need of serious psychiatric help.  They aren't just into kink or a bit of pain, a sexual accent, they want to be seriously injured.  That's probably why they use dommes for hire instead of going to clubs: at the clubs, people would shut them down, turn their backs, as soon as they found out what they really wanted.  Big difference between pain and injury.  I've met a couple who want to die, who asked me to whip them to death, literally.  I actually contacted Public Health about those two, but there's nothing they can do: they aren't in public, their word against mine, blah blah blah.  All I could hope for is if they attacked me, or tried to slit a wrist in my presence.  Then they'd get 5150'ed, involuntary admission to a psych facility.  And a 5150 is usually just a seventy-two hour hold.  What good would that do?

"So no, I don't particularly enjoy my job.  The best I can say is that it's never, ever boring, and I'm a talented enough actress that I'm good at it.  Yeah, the physical abuse is what everybody associates with the work, but there's a lot of verbal aspects to it, and a lot of performance.  I'm lucky: I'm five-foot-ten without the boots, so I've got a head start on being intimidating!"  Mookie laughed.  "Ask your son about that."

Dad looked angry.  "No, that sounds like something I'd like you to explain to me."
Richard jumped in with, "It was nothing, Dad, it was just her and Lenny yankin' my chain, scaring me on purpose."
Dad looked at his son, then back to Mookie, and repeated his request for an explanation.
Mookie said, "Your son is pretty much spot on, actually.  Although it could have been anybody in the house.  As I said, Rook, being just fourteen, is like a little sister to everybody; imagine having eleven older brothers and sisters looking out for you, who all love you and do their damndest to protect you.
"To be frank, sir, when the good Lord was handing out physical beauty, Rook got in line twice.  There's no polite way to say it: Rook may only be fourteen, but she is drop-dead sexy: the girl's got a body that would turn porn stars green with envy.  And only being fourteen, she's still a bit naive: she usually catches on, but she may not always spot when a guy is trying to hustle her.
"So, when guys pursuing Rook show up at the house, we, um, we put the fear of God into 'em.... Or at least the fear of a houseful of crazy punk rockers.  We've actually run several guys off.  During our little Q & A session, it came out in so many words that the dude's plan was to get Rook drunk and possibly date-rape her.  Those guys didn't get the benefit of using the stairs off the porch when they left.  Other guys were just sleazy: they saw Rook, our little sister, as a pair of breasts and a pus--- um --- a set of genitals inconveniently attached to a human being.  They didn't get physically bounced, but it was strongly advised they never, ever attempt to speak to her again, as in, run in the opposite direction if you see Rook on the street.
"But we put your son on the hot seat, he was smart, he was well-mannered, and it was obvious he liked Rook for Rook, and not just the pretty packaging.  He thought Rook was a wonderful person, not a wonderful set of tits--- pardon me.  It's weird, it's not something we plan --- 'Hey, any guy coming around interested in Rook, let's terrorize him' --- but she's our little sister, you know?  And especially the women in the house have heard all the scummy, scammy, smarmy, sleazy pick-up lines in the world, so we can sniff out sleazeballs in a hot second.  The guys also help, but are mostly there for pure menace."
Dad rubbed his chin, and said, "You care deeply about this young lady."
Mookie looked Dad right in the eyes and said, "With all of our hearts and souls, sir."  She then threw an arm around Richard's neck, smiled, and said, "I'm damn sure this one does, too."  Richard grinned and reached up to put a hand on Mookie's shoulder.  This required raising his hand above his head.  Mookie looked at Dad and asked, "While he's grounded, he is allowed to use the phone, isn't he?"
"Yes, yes he is."
"Thank you.  I think that will mean a lot."
Mom headed towards the house, shaking her head.  Dad told Richard, "Go in the house with your mother."
Mookie said, "Gimme a hug first."  She and Richard embraced (mashing his face into her cleavage, due to the height difference), and she told Richard, "You make Rook very happy.  Thank you."  She caught Dad's glare and said, "You better get inside before I start whippin' you out of force of habit."  They both laughed, and Richard did as he was told.
Mookie said, "I better roll.  I wanna grab a bite before my client."
"Just one thing before you go," Dad said.  He lowered his voice and asked, "What are your rates?"
Mookie wasn't sure whether to start laughing or jump in the MG and peel out.  She kept her cool and said, "Depends on what you want done.  Prices for services vary wildly, depending on the kink and the time."
Dad said, "Well, a friend has a bachelor's party coming up and---"
Mookie cut him off.  "No.  No way.  Wouldn't work."
"Really?  I'd think dominatrices would add something wild to the party, that---- "
"Sir, I can think of a lot of reasons your idea would be a complete disaster."
"Okay, a question: is every single person at the party into kink?  Are they all in the lifestyle?"
"You keep mentioning 'the lifestyle' and I'm not sure what you mean."
Mookie explained.  "I'm assuming you're familiar with the Folsom Street Fair?"
Dad paused, and said, "Yes, I know what it is.  It's like a street fair for perverts."
Mookie gave him a slightly vicious look.  "Sir?  That was strike one.  The people at Folsom Street aren't just play-acting for the day.  It's how they live their lives, and it's very serious to them.  And using the word 'pervert' in that scene is just plain looking for a fight.  They aren't perverts, they just have a very different view of their own sexuality.  That's what I mean by 'the lifestyle'.
"Anyway, presuming all the people at your party are into kink, what would you need to hire dommes for?  You'd be able to find dommes who would do it for free, just for the kick."
Mookie continued.  "I'll guess that, just by the law of averages, there will be few, if any, guys at your party who are into kink.  And even if they are, why assume they're subs?  What if they're dommes themselves?  What if they're into heavy-duty rope bondage?  There's a lot of different flavors of kink out there, and there's a saying: Your Kink Is Not My Kink.  So me and a couple other dommes could show up and be completely useless, because what we do doesn't match what people wanted.  The only other option would be for us to just.... Hit people, out of the blue, no warning.  That's not kink, that's assault.  And I'm guessing we'd piss off a lot of people, but quick.
"Or --- worst case scenario --- the mere presence of dominatrices could truly, honestly, fu--- mess with some people's heads.  I have a couple friends who I cannot and will not go to visit unless I'm in regular clothes, even if it means changing in the MG.  Ever change clothes in something that small?" she said, gesturing at her car.  "But I'll do it for them.  And I do it because the mere sight of me in my gear, with my whip on my hip, is a bad trigger for them."
Dad said, "A.... Trigger?  How so?"
Again, Mookie elaborated.  "A psychological and/or emotional trigger.  You understand what PTSD is, right?"
Dad nodded.
"Yeah, like how Viet Nam vets with PTSD can hear a helicopter going overhead, and they panic, they hide under cars, start screaming and trying to signal the helicopter, hide in their bathrooms for several hours.... In that situation, the helicopter is the trigger.
"With my friends, they ---- "  Mookie bit her lip and looked away for a few moments.  "As children, they were abused, badly.  Sexually and physically.  Seeing me in my gear, with my whips, utterly traumatizes them.  They look at me and don't see Mookie, they see something that is coming to hurt them, for hours.  They uh, they had some utterly sick, fucked-up, monsters of parents who used them as toys.  Do you understand what the fuck I'm saying?  Pardon me."
Mookie turned to the MG, ostensibly for a cigarette. It took her about a minute to do so.
She cleared her throat and lit up.  "But that's another reason it's a bad idea.  You could really mess with someone's head without meaning to.
"My advice?  Just stick with strippers.  Heh, they're cheaper for one.  Yeah, I know, that sounds really passé, but  c'mon, everybody likes strippers.  Hiring dommes has the makings of a disaster."
Dad said, "Okay, you've got several good points.  I just  wanted to do something unique for Mark's party, and, well, seeing you in your get-up...."
"Oh, you can totally get strippers with a leather theme!  I did party stripping back in Atlanta, and if the agencies are the same here as they are there, you can pretty much get anything you want.  Three blondes? No sweat.  A black girl, a white girl, and a latina girl all wearing Denny's waitress uniforms when they start off?  Agencies will make it happen.  It'll cost you, but it can happen.  So if you wanted two or three girls in hoochie-cooch leather, that's an easy one."
Dad said, "Okay.... That's a good idea.  How do I find them?"
"Probably listed under 'Adult Entertainment' in the Yellow Pages.  Just call around, tell 'em what you want, and get prices.  You'll land something."
"Say, don't you have a, uh, client to get to?"
Mookie grinned and said, "Yeah, in a while.  I got time to eat first."
"Why did you bring him home when you did?"
Mookie braced herself, sighed slightly, and told him, "I wanted to meet you."
Dad frowned.  "Oh?  And just why is that?"
She looked Dad in the eye and said, "Because your son is intelligent, quick, has common sense, has good manners, and is also interested in a fourteen year old girl I've come to view as my little sister, with the affection and protectiveness that go along with that.  Okay, so he stayed out all night, you're pissed about that.  I can understand.  I just didn't.... " She pause, considering her words.  "Your son is a good kid.  He's also sixteen, and is gonna act his age sometimes, know what I mean?  I just didn't want you and your wife to freak out on him.  He did wrong.  He also knows it.  But him and Rook have a class-ten crush on each other, and he did what a lot of kids do at that age.  Hell, he's better than me, I wouldn't have bothered to call, like he did.
"Really, I just wanted to say, please don't give him a hard time.  He acted rashly, but he's got it bad for Rook, and she for him.  Think of your first crush, the first time you were head over heels.  How sensibly did you act?"
Dad considered this in silence, rubbing his face.  Then he chuckled, and said, "Yeah.  I do remember her.  And I did do some idiot things.  Thank you for reminding me; it's easy to forget what it's like to be young.  No, we will be grounding him for several days, but we won't make those days miserable for him.  He just made a bad decision."  He looked Mookie up and down.  "You must admit, though, your appearance did nothing to assure us when you arrived.  Don't you think dressing a little more.... Normal would have helped?"
Mookie looked down at herself, then laughed loudly.  "Oh wow!  Yeah, I suppose you're right, but I didn't feel like changing in the bathroom at Nation's Burgers.  It's kinda weird.  Part of my brain knows, 'Hey, how you're dressed messes with peoples' heads,' but at the same time?  To me, my gear is about as sexy as a McDonald's uniform.  It's just my work clothes, you know?  I really do forget I'm wearing it, because it doesn't mean anything to me.
"I've been doing this work for over a year now, and I've probably spent $2200 on custom leather, all at Stormy Leather in the City.  That sounds pricey, but my gear has to be comfortable, and I've got to be able to move around in it, so off-the-rack is right out.  It's like a mechanic and his tools: he buys the good stuff, and pays the price, on purpose.
"So I'm sorry if my appearance rattled you.  It really wasn't my intent, I'm just headed to work."  She laughed again.  "I think where I accidentally disturb people the most?  It's a toss-up between hitting Safeway for groceries on my way home, or going into the bank to make a deposit.... And I gotta do that a few times a week."
Dad raised his eyebrows.  "Why do you have so many deposits?"
Mookie replied, "Uh, well.... I get my check from the agency weekly, and that's anywhere from $1100 to $1800 dollars, depending on the number of clients and  what services they want."
Dad said, "I probably don't want to know what the services are, do I?"
Mookie answered, "I can pretty much guarantee you don't want to know what people will pay us to do to them.  I'll just say I sometimes have to do things that gross me out.
"Anyway, that money is from the agency.  Tips are entirely separate.  And happy clients tip very, very well.  I might get $1500 from my agency in a week, and in the same week pull in three grand in tips.  I've got one checking account --- that's where my checks go --- and three different savings accounts, with my tip money spread out between 'em.  I don't want too much piled up in one place because of the IRS.  I mean, technically I'm an independent contractor, so I get a 1099 at the end of the year, and I file and pay taxes on that money, but you know what?  My damn tip money is mine.  Ain't nobody from the government did the things I did to earn that money, so why should they get it?"
Dad rubbed his chin.  "I may be sorry I'm asking this, but.... What kinds of things do you have to do?"
Mookie gave a small smile and said, "Well, I'll tell you if you want.  The worst is scat."
"What's that?"
Mookie chewed her lower lip and said, "There's no polite way of explaining.  Scat is when guys pay me money to shit on them."
Dad's eyes grew large.  "To.... Literally...."
"Yep.  Squat down and let loose.  Can I be open while I talk?"
Dad rolled his eyes and said, "Why stop now?"
Mookie continued.  "I don't get a lot of scat calls, thank God.  Those clients actually plan ahead: they'll have plastic sheeting all over the living room.  And the first thing I do is go full violent domme on 'em, telling them, 'You will be silent, and you will be still, until I allow it.'  That's for my own sake, 'cos if they start squirming around after I've.... You know.... There's a good chance of getting it on me, or worse yet, my boots."  She held up one leg.  "You can probably guess how much fun these are to clean.
"To me, the wildest thing?  These guys are naked, we've done some sub work, I've paddled them, so they're rock ha---- um, very aroused.  And 75% of the time, when I, y'know, go on them, they'll come.  Just lying there, stock still like I told them to be, not touching themselves....  And, to be blunt, they'll absolutely come like a damn fire hose.  While trying to not move or make a sound, which is probably an even bigger gas for them.  Can you imagine, having an orgasm, and what appears to be a powerful one, too, while remaining totally silent?  Damned if I can do it."
Dad said, "That is....  I knew it existed, but I've never met anyone who.... Um.... How can you stand to do it?"
"A scat session rarely lasts longer than fifteen or twenty minutes, absolute max.  I've had them be done in under ten.  But I still get paid for a ninety minute session, including 'special service' fees.  And the $500 tips don't hurt, either.  It comes down to making about $750 in fifteen minutes.  Plus, the agency spreads scat calls around, so you don't get stuck doing scat all the time.  And for obvious reasons, you can't do more than one a day.
"So now I've got at least 2½ hours until my next client.  I'll go get some lunch, maybe go to Amoeba Records and do some shopping, hang out with my friends and roomies at the coffee shop they work at.... It's the one advantage all-nude dancers and booth girls have over me.  If they hit some jackpot tips and be up $1500 dollars an hour into their shift, they can say, 'I'm outta here, here's my extra stage fee' and take off.  Three days a week, I've got a schedule to stick to.
"So that's how I can stand to do it.  Big money for little work.
"And all that money that's getting put away has a purpose.  No sideshow is gonna actually hire a novice, especially one with only two gimmicks.  What I hope to do is get hired on as crew, and beg and plead for a performer to become my mentor.  Still, you're not making but hardly any money, the show could fold, you could find you hate the main guy or your mentor.... A lot of stuff could go wrong.  Really, I want enough money to hit the road for two years straight without being dependent on any show to make a dime.  And a more reliable car, too."
Dad considered all this, then was blatantly, incredibly rude to Mookie.  "But that's what I don't understand.  You're an intelligent young woman.... Yet you currently work in the sex trade, and your ambition is to.... Work in sideshows?  Doing tricks with whips?"
Mookie gave him a granite-melting glare, and said, "Yes.  And?"
Dad caught the glare, realized he was dancing on thin ice, and replied with, "Well.... I just feel.... You could, uh, aim higher."
Mookie rubbed her chin and said in a slightly sarcastic tone, "Hmmm.... Aim.... Higher...."  Then she showed all her teeth and said, "Nope. Not gonna happen.  I still want to be a sideshow performer, a fucking talented one, and I'll keep abusing neurotic men because the pay is good.  I may not really dig my current job, but I also hope you're not implying there is no honor in what I do.  Personally, sexual release is an important part of the human condition, and I provide lonely men who have unusual interests achieve their release.  The same may be said of prostitutes, but...."  Mookie gave a predatory grin and rested her hand on the coil of her whip.  ".... I'm sure you would not make that comparison, with you understanding that what I do is performance, not sex.
"Sir, my ambitions may seem pedestrian to you; they certainly aren't world-changing.  But entertainment rarely is.  If I land a spot in a sideshow, and I have people leaving the show saying, 'That was great!  The girl with the whips was amazing!', then I've accomplished what most people never do, which is make people happy, if only for an evening.  If you wanna name a higher aim than making people happy, spit it out, sir."
Dad examined the toes of his shoes briefly.  Finally he looked up.  "Please, accept my apologies.  I was not trying to disparage your goals, or insult your current employment."
"Thank you, sir."  Mookie looked at her watch, a tiny object with a face the size of a Percocet.  "I really gotta get, if I'm going to eat before I see my client.  Thank you for hearing me out about Richard.  You got a good kid.  I hope to see him around our place more....  You're welcome to stop by yourself, especially with your son dating Rook.  Just give us an hour's warning, so we can dismantle the meth lab."  Dad's eyes got big, and Mookie reassured him, "Just kidding."
"Thanks.  I have one question, though.  What is Rook's real name?"
Mookie frowned at the pavement briefly, then smiled at Dad and said, "You know what?  I have no clue.  None at all.  Lenny and Chuckles know, 'cos they handled her paperwork to get her enrolled in Berkeley High, but to me, she's always just been.... Rook."  She laughed.  "Hell, I've been 'Mookie' so long I gotta think about what my own real name is, and I don't even remember how I picked up 'Mookie' to begin with.  You have a nice day."  Mookie jumped into the MG and took off.  A very confused, well-to-do, suburban, Naderite liberal stood on the sidewalk looking after her car, long after it was out of sight.  He couldn't go back inside just yet.  He had to wait for his erection to die down: it wasn't the whips, it was just.... Mookie.  A woman in shiny leather standing far above him with cleavage one could lose a beer bottle in (and she used it for that purpose at parties).
And he'd gotten a box-shot when she jumped in the MG.  It was the shaving that bent his brain.

The phone lines between North Oakland and Albany were burning up over the next several days.  And I'm proud to say they weren't doing the usual teenage gig of "sit there and listen to each other breathe."  Good manners dictated no eavesdropping, but I'd walk past and hear Rook saying things like, "Well, I dunno.  [Jim] Thompson's poetry was all right, but he was a better storyteller, personally.  You've read 'South of Heaven', right....?"

On Thursday me, Hawk, Mimi, Rory The Mick, and Even Littler Steve were all crammed in my room, watching a Forty-Niners pre-season game, when there was a long sustained scream from downstairs.  We all glanced at each other, then started to charge down the stairs.  Halfway down, we cut our speed, because we could hear Rook yelling, "Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes!" over and over.
Hawk was the first one down, and said, "What gives?  Scared us."
Rook, who was literally jumping up and down, said, "Richard can spend weekends here!  It's okay with his parents!  They just wanna come see the house and meet you guys and it's totally cool!  I'll have my boy from Friday through Sunday!!  (*Squeeeeeeee!!*)"
I had to do it.  "Him and Jumbo, eh?"
She started to get an annoyed look, then grew a predatory smile and said, "Ooohh yeah.  Jumbo is definitely part of my plans."  Good Christ, she'd probably be tearing his pants off before his parents were even pulled away from the curb.
Mimi said, "So, his parents are coming here?"
"Yeah, they just wanna see the Silo and meet people."
"Umm.... Maybe we should clean."
We all looked around.  The Silo was hardly a pigsty, far better than your average frat house, but could definitely stand some work.
We leaped into action.  Glare said, "I'll start on the kitchen."  I told her I'd back her up, it was a two-man job, for certain.  Rook called the bathroom --- "I'll do the tub, too" --- Rory would take care of the floors downstairs, Hawk called the staircase and upstairs, with Even Littler Steve and Mimi gathering trash and sweeping the front porch.
Something was bugging me.... And it hit me.  I said to Glare, "Problem."
We had a huge bookcase which contained about a third of "normal" literature, a third of cheesy Harlequin Romance rip-offs, and a third hardcore porn paperbacks: literary classics like "Gym Class Sluts" and "Kennel Tramps" and "Naughty Nurses in Chains."  We had about seventy of the damn things.
I said, "Got an idea.  Just leave the romance shit, and help me get the porn upstairs and under my bed.  Just between the two of us, we can fill in the empty shelves with real books.  We can write off the shitty romance novels as a joke, we got 'em for a nickel each at a garage sale or something."
"That works.  Let's get to it."
We each began grabbing armloads of books and shuttling them upstairs, tucking them under my bed, and grabbing books off our own shelves to fill in the empty areas in the downstairs bookcase.  That done, we attacked the kitchen, scrubbing and wiping and sweeping and mopping.  Everyone else attended to their chores, Hawk even using a broom to get rid of cobwebs up at the ceilings.  Rook had the bathroom sparkling, even the tub.
An hour later, Hawk was finishing up running a damp mop on the stairs (he'd had to wait for a mop to become available).
"Fuckin' a," someone said.  "We got it lookin' good."  High-fives all around.  We were ready for Richard's parents.

Olds Vista Cruiser, Mimi & Steve's car
We were expecting them around six.  I'd told my dispatcher I didn't want any calls after four, so I could be at home.  Mookie had two clients that day, but they were both daytime appointments ("So their wives won't catch 'em"), and even Chuckles was around; he was between assignments from the temp agency.  Everyone else would be off work by then anyway.
"What kinda car are we looking for?" I asked Mookie.
"Either a BMW or a Range Rover.  I think that's what was in their driveway."
"I'm just glad our neighborhood isn't too sketchy, like if we were in West Oakland or something."
1966 MG Midget - Mookie's car
"Yeah, we're okay.  Too bad our lawn sucks, though."  Not like you could see it:  my brand new  '98 Honda Civic, Mookie's '66 MG, and Glare's old '78 Subaru Brat were all parked where the lawn would be.  Chuckles' new-ish '96 Nissan and the monstrous '69 Vista Cruiser station wagon Mimi and Even Littler Steve shared occupied the actual driveway.  Hawk's '79 Toyota Land Cruiser was at the curb, and Rory The Mick's Honda 750 sat next to the porch steps.  Working where they did, Glare and Mimi's
Hawk's Land Cruiser: "It'll climb trees in four low,"
according tho the rifle-obsessed owner.
cars could sit for a week at a time without moving: taking the bus was simpler.  Sometimes they'd just go fire them up and let them idle for half an hour, just to keep the battery from dying.

Rory The Mick was outside, engaged in his never-ending battle to get his Honda tuned right, when a Range Rover with a punk rock kid in back turned up our street and slowly cruised up, looking for parking.  Rory dropped his tools and stepped in the house, saying, "I believe they're herrroh buggering FUCK!" and launched himself at the wall next to the bookshelf.  Hawk, Rook, Little Steve, Glare and I were perplexed at his behavior....  When Glare said, "Shit!  The whiteboard!"  She leaped up and her and Rory lifted the wires suspending the board off the nails and slid it behind the bookshelf just as there was a knock on the door.
Glare's '78 Subaru Brat.  You can't see them in this shot,
but there are seats in the back, with handholds like a
carnival ride, instead of seat belts. Since you weren't in the
passenger compartment, legally you coud drink back there
If you felt like it
California laws have changed since then: no drinking in
or on a vehicle, and no one riding in the bed, even if there
are goofy-ass little seats with built in hand-holds.

(It's already been mentioned, but we had a whiteboard with a line down the middle and the words 'porn' on one side and 'romance' on the other.  With the large collection of both kinds of paperbacks --- porn and romance --- we were tallying all the different euphemisms for "erection" from both forms of literature.  Rory's reaction was spot on: Richard's folks didn't need to see a list of words and phrases including "throbbing fuck-pole", "cum-loaded shaft", "the proud evidence of his desire", "rock-hard man-meat", or "aroused loins".)

Rory the Mick's CB750 Honda, still running strong after
twenty years. His uncle, then his dad, then him....  All
three used the CB750 as a daily rider, and it never left
them stranded anywhere.  The small tool bag hanging
from the seat was handier than one would guess
Whoever knocked did "shave-and-a-hair-cut;"  by "-and-" Rook had vaulted the coffee table where we were playing dice; she was at the door by "cut."  We judged by the squeal she let out that it was not an itinerant Mormon missionary, so we got up to welcome Richard and his parents

Richard and Rook were embraced, with Richard swinging her around like he'd just returned home from the war.  Richard's parents were standing to one side: it would seem they'd needed to either dodge Rook's lunge at Richard, or get knocked over like bowling pins.  The rest of us stood in the doorway, getting our fill of Unbelievably Darling for the day.  Richard's parents were also observing their son and the girl he was willing to get grounded over.  Wanting to play it safe, Rook was wearing a rather nice sun dress and a pair of simple flats, both courtesy of Glare.  (The dress fit perfectly, there was toilet paper jammed in the toes of the shoes.  Still, I had no doubt that she'd change back to her usual garb within seconds of Richard's parents leaving the house: denims, a man's dress shirt, and her boots, if her and Richard bothered remaining clothed at all.)  Hawk (of all people) broke the silence, in his own unique manner, simply stating, "Hi.  Richard's folks?"

Mom said, "Um, yes, we are."  It was clear she wanted Richard and Rook's embrace to end and for everyone to enter the house.  Dad said, "Um, Richard...." and went unheard.  I squeezed through, grinned at the parents, walked a slow circle around the two (who were simply holding each other with blissed-out smiles), and told Dad, "Don't worry.  If they're still like that at ten o'clock tonight, I'll throw a drop-cloth over them so they won't rust."  Dad demonstrated a more developed sense of humor than Mom: he gave a genuine laugh, while she chuckled nervously.
There was a THUD from inside the house: the sound of Mookie jumping from the landing to the bottom of the stairs.  Also wishing to cast a good impression, she was wearing a "Georgia Peach" t-shirt, sweats, and Chuck Taylors.  And a normal bra.  And no makeup.  She shouldered her way though and said, "Hey!  Richard's parents!  Good to see you again!"  I'm positive it took Richard's dad a few seconds to process who this woman was who'd just spoken to him.  The penny dropped, and he said, "Oh!  Hello, Mookie, I'm glad to see you again too."  (I think he was disappointed that he'd get no pussy shots today.  Well, maybe if he gave her a hundred bucks, for a thirty-second view..... Wonder if she can process credit cards....)

"Hey Mookie, got a problem," I said.  Pointing at Rook and Richard, I asked, "So what should we do?  Get the garden hose, or we each grab one of 'em and pull?"
"Don't worry, I got this," said Mookie.  Walking right up to the two of them she simply hollered, "Rook!  Richard!  Snap out of it, ya dickheads!!
In unison blissed-out voices, the two said, "Oh, hey Mookie."  They started to turn and embrace again, causing Mookie to say, "Oh, hell no!" and scoop up Richard over her shoulder.  I did the same with Rook, and we carried them both inside.  "Please, please, come in!" I said to the parents as I went past.  "They're just suffering adolescent brain-lock, I deal with it all the time."  Rook was giggling and kicking her legs; I was trying to hold her dress down so she wouldn't give everyone an inadvertent butt-shot.  Although with Dad missing out on a view of Mookie's snatch, it may have improved things quicker.  ("She's a fine young woman, son.  You have my blessing.  By the way, we've been thinking of installing a swimming pool; she'd be welcome to come over whenever she wanted....")
Rook and Richard immediately began to gravitate towards each other.  Rory The Mick yelled, "Quick!  Block 'em off!" and the game was on: most of the Silo Rats (Little Steve and Glare sitting it out) versus Rook and Richard; the goal, keep the two lovebirds from contacting each other.  Me, Mookie, Hawk, and Rory had strength on our side, while the Lovebirds had speed and wiliness on theirs.  The game involved much shouted directions, feints, half-sprints, jumping on the furniture, and hooting and laughter.  This was all observed by Richard's parents:  a room full of strange-haired-people in their twenties treating their living room like a playground.
Rook and Richard won, by way of a well-timed dual slide to under the coffee table.  (I was glad we'd mopped.)
"Does this sort of thing happen here.... Often?" asked Mom.
Glare, sitting in the recliner with Little Steve, replied, "Acts of silly behavior?  Absolutely.  It's not normally so.... Athletic, though.  But we are vehement supporters of silliness.  We're thinking of starting a league."
I laid across the coffee table and hung my head down, observing the Lovebirds lightly kissing.  "Okay, y'all can come out now, it's safe."  They slid out, still smiling and winded.  After they moved, I straightened up into a sitting position on the coffee table.  "Absolutely," I said to Mom.  "Bein' silly is both cheaper and safer than drugs, but also makes for a good cardiovascular workout.  Personally, every 24-Hour Fitness Center should have Silly workout areas, Silly equipment, and of course Silly personal trainers."
Smiling, Dad asked, "And how would all this work?"
"No goddamn clue.  I only thought it up five seconds ago.  That sort of planning requires forty-five minutes."
"You wouldn't want the full hour for planning?"
"Absolutely not.  You invest that sort of time, you run the risk of getting things right."
Dad smiled again and said, "Tell me, have you ever considered a job in civil service?"  I decided I officially liked this man.  He shifted subjects.  "So, uh, we don't know anyone's names here, except for, ah, Mookie."
I called out, "Hey!  Richard's parents don't actually know who we are."
There was a brief pause, ending with Hawk saying, "Don't know them either."
Dad said, "Fair enough.  We are Fredrick and Melinda Sutherland."
Mookie called out, "Right on, sister!  I'm another Melinda."
Hawk said, "Hawk."
The parents looked confused.
Hawk gestured his thumb at himself and said "Hawk" again.  After a pause, he added, "My real name.  He proudly added, "I'm a shooter."
"A.... Shooter?"
"Yeah.  Long-distance target, and skeet.  You know, shotgun work.  I wanna turn pro, doing my rifle work."
"So you own guns?"
"Six rifles, two shotguns, a twenty and a twelve.  No sidearms; what I got are tools, not weapons.  Every fall I drop my buck and that's it for live targets.  Like I said, I wanna go pro, get sponsorship from a manufacturer."  He smiled.  "I'm at the range three days a week now, be nice to get paid to be there."
Little Steve, who was learning to shoot from Hawk, elaborated.  "They're very powerful rifles, but they're stored dismantled.  To use 'em against a person would take five minutes: decide which rifle to use, unlock the safe, assemble it, load it.... Meanwhile, any burglar would be just walking out with all our stuff.  Heh, we'd be standing there yelling at him, 'Give another three minutes and then you're screwed!'  By the way, I'm Steve, or Little Steve.  I work at Berkeley Bowl."  He extended his hand to be shook.  Hawk gave him a sideways smirk and said, "Damn commie."  Little Steve punched him in the arm.
Glare also put out her hand and said, "Hello, I'm Glare.  Legal name, Orion --- hippie parents --- so I really, really prefer Glare."
Mom asked, "How did you end up with 'Glare' as a nickname?"
Glare responded, "Well, my name is due to an apparent superpower I have.  I can look at someone from across a room, especially if I'm pissed at them, and they just.... Know it.  Like they can physically feel me looking at them."
"It's true," I threw in.  "She doesn't need to be torqued up at 'em, either.  It's like someone gently poking you with a pencil at the base of your neck.  Oh, and I'm Lenny.  Driver."
"What do you drive?"
"You saw the white Civic DX in front of the house?  Fifteen hundred miles a week, between my courier gig and part-time pizza delivery.  And I'm not even leaving the greater Bay Area to do that distance.  My day job keeps me hoppin'."
Dad said, "Wow, that's.... A lot of miles.  Doesn't it, you know, get on your nerves?"
"Well, I won't say I never get pissed off, but I really do approach the job as, 'I am surrounded by complete fuckin' dummies, incompetent spaz-baskets who had a fight with their spouse before getting on the road.'  And I'm constantly proved right.... But I don't consider them a threat because I know how to get past them, and I don't let them bug me because there's no point.  All me dueling with another driver would do --- and not to sound too egotistical, but I would win --- is slow down my delivery time, so why bother.  It's his issue, not mine.
Yeah, there's been a few occasions where someone has tried to pick a fight with me on the freeway, usually dickheads in BMWs or SUVs.  That's why I carry my machete."
Mom and Dad's eyebrows both shot up.  "A machete?"
"Oh yeah.  See, I can't be intimidated by someone aiming at me: I hold my spot in the lane; if they do tap me, I know how to keep it straight.  So they can't intimidate me with their vehicle.
"But!  Me pointing my machete at them gets them to back right the fu--- heck off.  It's entirely psychological, too.  Just the sight of a blade that big freaks people out.  Never mind that we're in two separate cars: what am I gonna do, realistically?  Scratch their paint?  It's just the sight of that big-ass blade that makes people go, 'Holy sh--- crap, that dude's majorly imbalanced.'  So I accomplish what I want, which is to be left alone, without having to play games with some insecure dickhead --- sorry --- and waste my time."
"And is 'Lenny' your real name?"
"Well.... 'Leonard,' to be precise, but I much prefer Lenny.  The wild thing is that my full name, Leonard Schneider, is the real name of one of my heroes, Lenny Bruce.  He was a genius."
Mookie put her face in her hands and said, "Ugh.  Do not start, Lenny!"  To the parents, she explained, "Don't let him get started, or you'll be here twenty minutes while he explains how Lenny goddamn Bruce was the inventor and saving grace of modern satire and stand-up comedy.  Talkin' about he trounced all these other dudes that are also dead.  We've all heard it before, you don't need to."
I barked, "The man pretty much singlehandedly created contemporary American satire!  He went to jail, on multiple occasions, for talking into a microphone!  Like in Chicago, you think he really went to jail for 'obscenity'?  Hell no, he was arrested for making fun of the Pope in a town full of Catholics!  He had the balls to step on toes, especially when people deserved it.  Jesus Christ, if it weren't for Lenny Bruce, we'd all still be pretending lame horseshit like Jack Paar and Henny Youngman were funny!"
Mookie told the parents, "Feel free to hit him with something heavy when you get annoyed enough."
Chin up, I told them, "I know it's a little weird being this passionate over a man who died a year before I was born.... But I just don't like the idea of Lenny Bruce, and what he accomplished, fading away.  He's way more important to modern entertainment --- hell, the modern world --- that people realize.  That's all I'm trying to say.  I'll stop."
Dad endeared himself to me again by asking, "What about Mort Sahl?"
I replied, "Eennhh....  Sahl was okay.... But in comparison, he held back far too much, far too often.  He didn't go stompin' until it was safe to do so, and Bruce was dead by then anyway.  That, and he chucked in his own politics way too much.  He was a liberal when being one took some balls, but personally he should have left it out completely.... Or swung the mallet at the mainstream libs as well.  Jesus, how could anyone not make fun of Hubert Humphrey?  Personally, Humphrey is the reason the Democrats deserve any terrible thing that happens to them, it's bad karma left over from Chicago '68.... And not just the bad karma from the police riots.  All those choices in 1968, and they picked that lame-ass.  And I have a bad hunch that Sahl never said one negative word about Humphrey, when he should have been smacking him like a piñata.  I could be wrong, I'm not familiar enough with his catalog."
Dad was staring at me, wide-eyed.  I've a hunch he wasn't expecting an answer more complex than "Duuuhhhh....."  And certainly not having the opinion he requested answered in detail, with reasons.

Rory The Mick looked up from the dice on the coffee table and said, "'Ello, people.  Just call me Rory The Mick.  Pardon me not shakin' hands, been workin' on me motorbike." ( Rory's brogue was as fake as a bottle of Sunny Delight, but he wasn't hurting anyone, so what the hell.  When he first moved in, we'd occasionally razz him about it --- he was born and raised in Pinole, for chrissake --- but he seemed so genuinely hurt and saddened we all let it drop.)

Glare said, "We're missing people."  She was right.  Chuckles, Mimi, and Very Little Steve had not made an appearance, and we'd kinda promised the parents they'd meet everybody.  I turned to Richard and Rook and asked them to rouse Chuckles from his shack.  Glare suggested her and I give the parents a quick once-over of the upstairs (especially our spotless bathroom, dammit!) and raise some life out of Mimi and Very Little Steve's room.

We proceeded upstairs, the parents examining the artwork gracing the walls.  Nothing was framed: whoever had felt inspired simply painted/Krylon'ed/Sharpie'ed their idea directly onto the wall.  Hey, canvas is expensive, y'know?
We got to Mimi and V.L. Steve's door and I gave it a few short raps with my boot.  "Hey Mimi!  Steve!  It's Lenny!"
I got a slightly perturbed "What?" in response."
"You guys said you wanted to meed Richard's parents, right?  They're here."
"Like, here here?  Oh shit...."  The room began to emanate sounds like raccoons wrestling in an industrial clothes hamper.  After several moments the door opened about ten inches and Mimi put her head out.
I immediately knew there was no way in hell Richard's parents were going in there.  The overpowering stench of sex wafted out: boy-cum, girl-cum, sweat, flavored lube, dried saliva.  I muttered in a very low voice to Mimi, "New girl?"
She nodded vigorously, smiling.
"With Steve?"
"She got an angry look and said, "Yes, of course!  I don't cheat on the man I love!  Don't insinuate I do!"
"Sorry, sorry, I know that.  I don't know what I was thinking.  Please accept my apologies."
"So....  They're not taking off, like, right away, right?  Just give us five minutes to get together."
"Hey, that's fine.  Thanks.  We'll be downstairs."  Moments later, the sound of Iggy Pop's 'New Values' album began bursting from their room.

The parents stuck their heads in various room (looking for the meth lab), mine first.  I don't consider myself a neat freak, I'm just in the habit of putting shit back when I finish with it.  Dad commented on my Giant Wall of Reading Material.  I told him I just preferred reading over TV, and Berkeley has a good number of used book stores.  Mom tugged at Dad's sleeve with a look of horror: my Dwarves poster had claimed another victim.  I was asked what the meaning --- I took that to translate to the deeper meaning --- of the poster was.
I decided I wasn't in the mood for pulling any punches or tiptoeing around a poster located in my own damn room.  "Oh, that's just the promo poster and album cover art for the album 'Blood Guts and Pussy' by The Dwarves.  I've always wondered about why the dwarf is holding the rabbit."
"But what is the, the message, the point?"
I looked purposely befuddled for a moment, then said, "Oh, you mean like an artistic statement?"
Mom nodded her head.
I put my head back and laughed, strong and loud.  I did so for at least fifteen seconds.  "I can promise --- no, guarantee --- that there is absolutely no meaning, message, or statement in that picture.  The planning probably went like, 'We like naked chicks.'  Someone else said, 'Let's cover 'em with stage blood, that'll look wild.'  And someone else said, 'We're called The Dwarves, so let's have a naked dwarf, covered in stage blood and holding a stuffed rabbit, in the picture too.'  That's how that picture came about, believe me.
"The Dwarves are a band who put out fifteen minute long albums that contain seventeen songs in that amount of time.  The majority of their songs are either about drugs or are crude odes to sexual intercourse.  This is not a band trying to accomplish any great intellectual feats.  It's fast, it's loud, it's crude, and when I'm in the right mood, a whole lot of fun.  Looking for depth in The Dwarves is like looking for depth in 'Wild Thing' by the Troggs: If you think you found some, you're only kidding yourself."
"Anyway," said Glare, "Chuckles is probably downstairs by now."  We gave them a spot tour: "Here's the bathroom...."  "All these people, and only one bathroom!?"   "Well, it's an old building."
"That's Mookie's room.  It's tiny.  Normal depth for a bedroom, but it's only five feet wide.  It's like the builders decided, 'Well, we got this extra space, just put a door on it and call it a day.'"
"That one's Hawk's, that one's Rory's, and Little Steve and mine is downstairs at the front of the house."
"So where is Rook's room?" asked Dad.
Glare and me looked at each other.  There was no avoiding it.  "Uhhh.... She sleeps under the stairs."
By this time, we were downstairs, so we pointed at the small door between the kitchen door and the stairs.  "We admit, she doesn't have a lot of room.  But she needed a room of some sort, and this was all we realistically had.  I'm doubled up with Little Steve, Mimi is doubled with Even Littler Steve, Mookie doesn't have the room for a second person, and while Lenny, Rory, and Hawk all have full rooms to themselves, it was agreed that a fourteen year old girl rooming with a guy of any age would have just been.... Wrong.  It's not like any of the guys would have tried anything, you know?  But basic propriety put the kibosh on that idea.  So, she ended up with the stair space.  No, it's not ideal, but she has privacy, room for what little stuff she has, and a futon mattress.  We wired an outlet in, so she could have a light and her stereo.
I threw in, "Like Glare said, it's not much.  It's also not the street, which is where she'd be after her dad ran her out, and we all see too many teenage kids on the street.  We already knew her, we found out about her situation, so we told her, 'Rook, you got a place to live.  It's cramped but you'll be warm, you'll be safe, we won't let you starve, and  you'll have some privacy.'"

Mom asked a question I knew was coming, and was dreading because I would refuse to answer it, even though I knew the answer.  I'd made a promise.
"What is Rook's real name?"
Glare and I looked at each other.  She answered first: "I don't know."
Then my turn.  "I do know.... And I made a promise that I wouldn't tell anyone.  I'm sorry.  You'll have to ask her.  To be frank, she may not answer.  She may tell you her last name, but her first name?  She despises it, and refuses to use it, or even recognize it's existence."
Mom straightened up and said in a haughty voice, "I'll just have to ask her myself, then."
I did a bit of pleading.  "Ma'am, as I said, I do know what her first name is, and I understand why she hates it so much.  She never, ever uses it.  I'd hate to see you and Rook develop a tension over the subject.  I ask you, please: if she refuses to tell you, do not take it as defiance or stubbornness.  She is simply avoiding something she detests with all her heart."
Mom looked at me with pursed lips, then said, "Where are they, anyway?"
A fair question.  I went to the back windows and looked out.  Rook and Richard were standing with Chuckles, who had a cup of coffee in one hand and a cigarette in the other.  He'd probably been up all night working on one of his projects: building computers out of old parts, installing new hard drives, and selling them to college students for $600 apiece: a bargain at that point, even without an operating system.
I stepped onto the back porch and yelled, "What, did you get lost?"  They got my drift and came in the house.


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