short story    


In Bobadillo lived a starfucker named Magdalena. She drove us wild with all the big names she screwed. We were jealous, we were mad, we were horny We tried to lure her out under the overpass of the interstate, or in the secret crawl space above the cellar in my cousin Arno's house. Sometimes three or four of us could get her into a dark place, but even the closeness and our sweet breath would not make her assent. What do stars smell like, feel like, fuck like? We wanted to ask her but we were too polite. And before we could Magdalena would whirl her long lustrous hair and say, "I don't talk about it. I don't remember it. That's why I always get it." Once the son of a dead President visited her on passing through town, and in his wake, in a trash can at the Lazy El, he left a letter, written to him by another starfucker. "I so enjoyed our ride up the coast," she wrote. "You have a wonderful station wagon." Our Magdalena never wrote anything like that. She never wrote, period. You could get the stars' addresses in special paperback directories they sold down at the greeting card store. We kept one in Arno's room, and checked off all the stars Magdalena had. There were dozens, but I am not allowed to name them.

None of our own little gang ever had her, so I'm afraid I can't offer you any suspense. What I liked about us is we had no leader, just our hormones and the moments of tortured frogs and emptied beer cans. Or maybe Magdalena was our hero. Early in her ascent, upon hearing of the imminent arrival of a celebrity at our town, she climbed atop the bar at Max's, her shirt tail out. She spat and drew crazy pictures in the air with her lit cigarette waving wildly, as her drink spilled on her breasts, and she announced, "He is mine!" "That starfucker," someone who was not of our gang said, with a hoarse disgust that was oddly alluring to us. It was a beautiful vision--to fuck the stars. At night, in dreams, I'd come to images of myself penetrating bright white points of light. When a politician, in a speech, pronounced for the first time his darling phrase, "a thousand points of light," I was instantly hard. But how difficult it was to be a starfucker when you were only a boy, nearly a man but still only male. Almost any woman, it appeared to us, could be one, but for men the aspiration seemed impossible. Years later my wife would tell me that she admired women who were starfuckers, for deciding what they wanted and having the physical presence and power to pursue and obtain it.

My daughter has asked me on occasion how many stars I personally have known. Only one, just the one. A grunge hunk on his way through our town to shoot a film, who took a liking to me because I was sitting in the Lazy El reading a book, smoking too many cigarettes, and stealing sips off a soda can filled only with rum. He sat at the table next to mine and said, "Hey, what you reading?"

"Kerouac," I said, and it was as if I lit the room, for his eyes became as bright as that instant captured by a famous photographer for a recent cover of People. He moved to my table.

"I love Kerouac," he said. ''I haven't met him yet, but I love him."

"He's dead," I said.

"Yes, I know."

I sat, staring at my book, wondering whether to pretend that I didn't recognize him.

"What do you think it means to be subterranean?" he said.

I shook my head. It buzzed back at me, perplexed to be in a literary discussion with a star.

"Here's what I think it means," he said, plucking up one of my cigarettes with a startling and endearing intimacy. "I think it means that the country is a pile of crap and we're all a pile of crap and the only way to get through it is to stay under it."

I smiled. I hadn't read the book.

"Is there a pool table in this town?" he said.

Bobadillo isn't much of place. It's really just a fantasy. We walked from the Lazy El, all their heads turning, turning, almost frozen in a slow turn as they followed us to the door, as if each person there wished to fix us in a precise connection to them. The star smiled to himself, loving being recognized without having to endure any contact. They all just want their asses kissed, but they don't want to feel your lips.

At Max's I introduced my friend to a set of empty pool tables. He took another one of my cigarettes and carefully checked the felt of each wreck. The late afternoon sun funneling through the narrow windows picked up the perfect line of his teeth. He bought me a beer and we began to play. My legs were numb with success. I was trying not to grin. We talked about foreign films I hadn't seen. We each won several games. It grew late. We split a plate of French fries and smoked all the cigarettes we could find. Then he asked, "Does this town have any women?"

My heart gasped. So this was where it had been leading, always leading. It was not about me and the fancy movies I feigned wanting to see and the books I had read. It was about Magdalena. Probably he had heard of our town and her from any one of the dozens of names I am pledged not to mention.

"Sure, I know somebody," I said. I slouched to the phone and dialed her number. She came to the bar smelling sweetly of cigarettes and bubblegum and vodka, her hair down and her shirt untucked. They walked around each other once. He nodded briefly to me and shook my hand. "Thanks, man," he said. "See you, sweetie," Magdalena said. I stood in the street, in a darkness growing colder by the breath. Perhaps this story is familiar to you people who live in Hollywood and fuck each other all the time. How pathetic and lucky that the prize for transcending flesh is only more flesh. I tried not to peek at them through the window of Max's. But in Bobadillo there aren't that many directions to choose. They stood by the pool table, shoulder to shoulder, one beer, one cigarette between them, and their hips began to undulate and collide, as if to music. I could not hear its sound.

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Copyright © 1997 Fred Leebron.