There is a single silky hair on the toilet seat. It is eloquent calligraphy, curled like a wave in a Japanese print. From that single clue I construct the ocean of my wife.
Hoffenstein spoke of seeing echoes from the future. I know immediately what he meant. When I first saw Trina, still a schoolgirl, I felt myself inside her. I pumped honey into her from across the Brogg Enterprises conference room. My Fabergee Sperm paraded like an army across the polished table, leapt into her delicious lap, penetrated her designer jeans. I knew we would make babies. I saw the babies floating like summer clouds. I never believed any of it would come to pass. Trina was impossible. Beyond having. The sail on the horizon.
Beautiful, slim, blonde, blue-eyed Trina grew in an Iowa cornfield, detached from her stalk and began leading cheers with dew drops still on her pink nipples. What had such a girl to do with sullen, obsessive, motivated, cynical James Wander? Nothing. Why did she marry me? I don't know. I am the recipient of miracles. We have been married for fifteen years. Was there a time before that? Yes. None of that matters anymore. I hope I am remembered fondly by the others. But it is of no consequence.
I leave the curled hair undisturbed, a precious artifact. Amos and Amanda are sleeping. I have not seen them today. I know how time accelerates and that I should spend more time with the kids during these choice years. But tonight I am full of myself. I want things my way. The maid has gone home. Trina is in the media room watching television. I sneak through my space. I want to watch my wife watching. Some people watch birds. I watch this elusive woman for my education. I watch her dress, undress, eat, comb, pluck eyebrows, walk, talk, smile, frown. I watch like a spy. I open doors by accident to catch her on the can or patting cream onto her thighs.
If I could I would peel back her Code and peek into her head. I want to know everything about her. I know she is mine but still I mass troops on the river that separates us and order my engineers to build quick bridges. As fast as they are built they are exploded by hidden artillery. Sometimes they rust and crumble. The river can never be crossed. When I fuck with her my penis is an antenna probing for signals. Trina is hard to read. She moans and yells but when she takes me in her sweet mouth she won't swallow. She spits me out into a towel. I hate and fear that. I would swallow all of her. I love her sweat. I am her cannibal.
There is this perfect wife draped on a sofa. Her large eyes are focused on the wall screen. There is an aerial shot of a huge barge piled with garbage. An umbrella of gulls follows the clot of drifting refuse. An anchorwoman from a helicopter says:
". . . and believe it or not this barge, the Kotchka, has been drifting the waters of the world since late in the last century. At first she was the pariah nobody wanted, the Flying Dutchman of urban trash. There were endless legal battles waged to determine responsibility for the horrendous mess. The problem was never resolved. When we began disposing waste into outer space the Kotchka became a floating antique, a landmark . . . should I say seamark . . . and today she is protected by the Planetary Trust, precious to scholars and historians not only as a reminder of the Pre-Hoffenstein Confusion but also as a time capsule loaded to the gunnels with every kind of 20th Century souvenir from pop bottles to training bras. Archeologists beg to disembowel her but the Trust is adamant . . . the floating fossil floats on. From somewhere off Tahiti this is Cheryl Dickstein for Channel 13. Be proud of your Code."
The PBS logo appears as an announcer with a voice like a growl says:
"Eternal Garbage: Voyage to Forever was funded in part by the Zenoil Corporation and by your viewer dollars. Stay tuned for Favorite Newscasts, repeat performances of . . . "
I find the remote on a table and kill the picture. Trina jumps. I am always catching her by surprise. "Nothing but garbage on TV," I say.
"I was waiting for the eleven o'clock news. The weather."
"Weather doesn't matter in the city. And I have something to tell you. After which we will rejoice together and make love. Homer called me in today."
"I know. Congratulations, darling. It's wonderful for you."
"He told you?"
"Of course he told me. He's my father. I wasn't exactly shocked to pieces, Jim. You deserve it."
"Lance had his eye on the job."
"You targeted the company."
"Lance agreed to come aboard as Executive VP Marketing."
"Jim, we have to talk. I want you to come into Amos' room."
"Forget that we have children. Tonight let us pretend that we are children left to play house. We meet, play with toys, I feel a strange uncontrollable buzz in my scrotum. You blush at your reflection in my hot eyes. You are troubled yourself by a pantheon of tingles and unexpected dilations. We . . . "
"Come with me now. This is important."
I follow Trina to our son's room. Going in there is a clash and affirmation. Books and sports equipment are on the floor with his clothes. The walls are covered with pictures of ball players. Even his media bank is in a mess with disks and tapes in piles. The computer screen is left on picking up information about mermaids. Why mermaids? Does he have a paper due? Amos is snoring. I look down at him. It is strange to acknowledge snores coming out of a baby. But he is no baby anymore. He is thirteen. How did that happen?
Trina opens the door so more light illuminates the subject. The subject is Amos' forehead. I bend for a closer inspection. He is wearing a Bar Code decal pasted over his own and it is filthy. It says he is a licensed cuntlicker.
"I did scan it. So what?"
"All boys do that. I did that. I didn't know they're still selling those things. We used to get ours from a candy store run by a Code Y who slobbered all over the ice cream. His name was something like Omar. We would go in there and make a sign shoving a finger through a circle of fingers and Omar would lift a box of those things from under the counter. They were a buck. I wonder what Amos paid for this."
"I can't believe I'm hearing this. Jim, do you want him put into a remedial group? Is that what you want?"
"Why should he be put in a remedial? I'm sure he doesn't run around wearing it. He's not a retard."
"And suppose one of his friends says something?"
"Why would anyone say anything? They probably all wear them. It's a stage. An inevitable part of growing up. A rite of passage. Forget it, Trina. Don't even say anything to him. I mean, if that's the worst he's in good shape. You didn't find a bag of drugs taped to his armpit."
"Tampering with a Code is a serious crime."
"Oh, please. Are you going to call the cops and report him? Are you going to rat on the kid for wearing a porno Code to bed? For godsakes, it's no worse than a baseball card."
"Act like a father for once in your life."
"I will. First thing tomorrow I'll beat him to a pulp. He'll be sorry he ever heard of Dirty Codes. I'll kill the little pervert, maybe castrate him. We'll ship his remains to a military school. Now let's just you and I fuck around like in the olden days. You know how I get after squash. And Lance decimated me. He carries a torch for my job, my wife, my condo, my life. It eats him that we both have the same Code and he was born rich on top of it. I had to marry rich, bugger my way up the ladder. So he takes it out on me at the court."
"Take that thing off."
"I'll wake him. He's probably dreaming of a hot car with a chrome ass. It's dangerous to wake an adolescent. I read that if . . . "
Trina reaches down and peels the Code off Amos. He grunts and turns over. She crinkles the plastic into a ball.
"There. You've saved the child. Now let's dance naked on the terrace."
"Now we go down to Shopping Delight. There's no food in the house."
"You want to go shopping now? Food in the house brings rats and mice. Bugs. Mold."
"I didn't do any shopping today. I don't like a house with no food."
"We'll shop tomorrow. I'll call in sick. We can make a day of it. Just the two of us. We'll go from market to market."
"I need orange juice. Detergent. Bread. Salad greens. Bottled water."
"I like it when you talk dirty. Is this loveplay? Do you really mean you want to get dressed and go out for groceries?"
"That's the price of admission."
"I don't believe you said that. In front of your comatose werewolf cub. Spawn of the devil."
"I didn't mean it like it sounded. It just slipped out."
"It just slipped out? What am I hearing? You are your father's daughter."
"What if I am?"
"Then we have a fair deal. Sex for supplies. Basic. Done. Tap Codes on it."
Amos gurgles and sighs. We back out of his room and I shut the door. "You want to check on Amanda? Christ knows what she's up to. Nine is a vicious age. She might even be into sugarless gum."
"Amanda is fine. Don't forget the coupons from the Sunday Times. And the deposit bottles."
"I'll try to remember. And remind me to get a box of Mallomars."
"Mallomars. What are Mallomars?"
"Chocolate jugs. Your daddy loves them. He told me so. Why are you playing dumb? You must know that Homer Brogg is addicted to Mallomars."
"I haven't the slightest idea what you're talking about."
"He never mentioned Mallomars. That's Homer. He knew you could use them against him."
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