So here it is... since I am still busy with the last stage of work I figured I might as well just get on with posting my novela. I think if I do it in chapters I can read through them and perhaps tweak as I go. However this first chapter is pretty much as written. I only changed a handful of words, partially because I don't have time, partially because I'm having trouble focusing while in the lounge of my trusty Volkswagen dealership awaiting news that my car has successfully had its oil changed. But mostly it is unchanged because it is pure GENIUS!!!!!!
Anyway, before I go on a self-promoting, arrogance laced tangient... here it is!
Mae Arden listens on the phone as that infernal schmuck, Allan Poole, rants and raves about the market research results that he so desperately needs. He continues this high pitched bitching and moaning, even after she explains to him for the third time that the reports are locked somewhere within the depths of the currently non-functioning personal computer sitting on her desk. Somehow this knowledge is not enough to keep him from questioning the whereabouts of the files and her ability to perform her job. So, Mae sits on the other end of the phone, stone-faced, tuning him out, waiting patiently for that infernal schmuck with the feminine voice to finally shut the hell up. She is well practiced in this art and has little trouble finding a happy place while Mr. Poole rants and raves. Tuning out Mr. Poole's, foul-mouthed falsetto diatribes is a useful tool that she picked up the very first day she started at Totally Toys. Because his voice is so distinctly high, it was easy enough to do and offered her the opportunity to think about her own personal stuff while still outwardly appearing as though she was engaged in something business related. It is this benefit that encourages her to create combustible work situations, that while ultimately benign, make Allan Poole explode.
Finally, he shuts the hell up, after a ten minute explicative-laden tirade that offers no solutions and succeeds only in supporting the long standing rumor that his abnormally high voice is caused by a lack of testicles. His ranting finished, Mae calmly explains to him a fourth time that the files are inaccessible until someone from Management Information Systems fixes her piece of shit computer. After a long sigh, Allan Poole asks her if she has sent in the proper requisition to have someone come and fix the damned computer. She reminds him that he signed the requisition two days earlier and is still waiting. After a few more exasperated curses, Allan squeals one last grand proclamation.
“This is such bullshit. I'll have one of those sunnovabitch tech nerds at your desk if I have to drag him myself! I can't have you sitting there doing your nails and yammering' with the other hens up there.” With one last sigh, Allan hangs up the phone. Mae delicately puts down the receiver, lifts her ugly Grand Ole Opry souvenir mug, and takes a long sip of green tea.
“Asshole.” She says to no one in particular, examining the oft-used souvenir mug her mother bought for her during last year's pilgrimage to Nashville, the Mecca of Country-western music. Mae stares at the words and design of the grand ole Opry logo for the millionth time, and it occurs to her that this is the one vacation gift she has received in her lifetime that is actually useful. Unlike the Epcot Center sun-visor, the Seattle Space needle snow globe and the Monterey, California combination bottle opener/key chain she keeps in the kitchen junk drawer --a shrine to useless knickknacks she can never bring herself to throw away-- she manages to get a good deal of use out of the mug. It keeps herbal tea nice and scalding the way she likes it and even has a spill proof lid that is exactly that.
Joan Flavin, her next-door neighbor and fellow marketing department employee, pokes her head into Mae's cubicle. She glances at Mae's phone and offers the familiar dopey grin that Mae has come to accept as Joan's way of saying, “I feel your pain”. Mae accepts the condolence, responding with her trademark, “Thanks for both sharing my pain and offering your unflappable support” combination smirk and head nod.
“Allan is such a dick”, Joan whispers as she scoots her chair in front of Mae's cubicle. “You ever notice that he sounds a lot like Andy Gibb on the Saturday Night Fever album? In that one song where he does all that whining?”
Mae nods in agreement, notices for the first time just how long Joan's legs are. She is a tall, thin drink of water with legs up to her chin-- an attribute which Mae believes to be far and away Joan's best characteristic. They are sleek and toned, and command attention wherever she goes. They also provide an important ancillary benefit; they draw attention away from her unremarkable face, which is plain, has never quite outgrown adolescent acne, and always looks flushed. Unlike Mae's smooth, unblemished countenance, Joan is a little hard on the eyes. Making matters worse, she always wears her hair back which exposes more of her bumpy red skin and makes her forehead look swollen. In spite of these flaws, Joan is still an attractive girl. It is just that her beauty is located primarily south of her neckline.
Mae on the other hand is all toothy smile. She has an endearing ear to ear grin to go with two enormous eyes that are the color of toasted almonds, set behind wire-framed glasses that make her look studious and slightly sexual. Yet, over the course of her twenty-eight years, when people describe Mae she is always placed squarely in the “cute” category. And with every year that goes by, her appreciation of that compliment lessens. Having made it almost to the age of thirty (in her mind she already considered herself so), she feels that the moniker “cute” is far too juvenile and sounds like an indictment of her sexiness. She would kill to be called a hottie or sexy bitch. But she isn't top-heavy enough, nor does she possess overly curvy hips or the requisite jungle “bootie.” At times this makes her feel inadequate. Somewhere in the repressed depths of her desires, located just above her secret wish to be fucked in public a public forum, is the desire to have the world view her as a sex pot, or a sex kitten, or any other sex noun.
Even though all six gentlemen fortunate enough to see her naked over the years, all concluded that her body is remarkable, she is still uncertain. As though not enough people know the truth about her to make the judgement stand up in the court of public opinion. It is ironic that she feels this way since she has never come close to doing anything that could be characterized as exhibitionist. She dresses conservatively and rarely exposes even the cleavage of her perky B-cups that five out of the six men she dated have declared as aesthetically perfect. After Dino Mandalino, her second sexual partner and a well traveled lover, noted that her breasts were the first he had ever known to be perfectly symmetrical, Mae made it a point to get affirmation from all ensuing sexual partners. Acknowledging the perfection of her breasts, including her precise bull's-eyes for nipples, became a necessary criteria for a continued sexual relationship. And she affords only one strike. If on the second viewing of her breasts, her partner does not come to the obvious and irrefutable conclusion that they are perfect, then the sexual partnership is dissolved immediately.
She is careful to count only completely bare breasts (excluding partially obscured breast scenarios) as a possible strike situation, but is a stickler when it comes to the exact wording of the announcement. Once she disqualified someone for failing to use the words “perfect” and “symmetry”. Her fourth sexual partner, Giovanni Delacruz, was so awestruck by her breasts, that he could only manage the words, “perfectly round”. She briefly considered giving him as pass, but stuck to her guns after he asked who performed her augmentation surgery.
Mae finds herself thinking back, going through the mental photo album of the last eight years of her life, as Joan relays the highlights of the previous evening. Mae nods her head respectfully as Joan rambles on about some guy she met at Bar One, whom she claims offered to go down on her on his lear jet. Mae tunes her out, preferring to recall her own life's highlights. There are few in recent memory, but even the old ones beat listening to Joan ramble on about all the guys who allegedly hit on her the night before. Joan is a braggart and loves to exaggerate about who wants to fuck her. It fills the void in her chest that makes her feel hollow and unloved. And when men do want to fill that hole, by way of the more obvious one, she is usually quite forthcoming with the goods. So, had the offer actually been legitimate, Joan would've gladly accepted the invitation to join the mile high club, regardless of whether she felt this supposed rich paramour was attractive. Because Joan is one of those hopelessly modern women whose desire to abandon every traditional view of femininity, leads her to an unfulfilled life of promiscuity in the name of equality. To those on the outside, it's as if she is determined to prove beyond any doubt that women are every bit the dogs that men are.
Mae has no problem with Joan's free wheeling sexual behavior, it is the 21st century after all, but has little interest in hearing every minute detail of her embellished love life. Hearing Joan's stories makes Mae feel awful for her. It is painfully obvious to those who know Joan, including the five men employed at Totally Toys whom she has slept with, that she is a lonely girl looking for love in all the wrong places. It bothers Mae to see her friend live such an unrewarding life. It bothers her to hear water cooler talk about how cheap Joan is. It bothers her because Mae genuinely thinks Joan deserves better. And on a deeper, more personal level, it bothers her because she too has gone down the path of misguided promiscuity and knows where that road ends. Lovers four, five and six were garnered in this way, in a misguided effort to replace the void filled by her last great heartbreak. But Mae has learned her lesson and chooses a combination of celibacy and the occasional manual stimulation rather than engage in any more loveless affair that would undoubtedly leave her feeling used and even more alone.
But Mae and Joan are more alike than Mae would ever dare admit. They are both unfulfilled and alone, and want more than anything to find prince charming out there waiting to sweep them off their feet. They both cling to the fantasy that there is a perfect mate sent down from the heavens who will fulfill them completely. Until then, Joan uses sex to fill the void created by her loneliness, while Mae lives in the past. She lives in the distant moments of former life when she thought she was in love with her Mr. Right. She lives in the pure feelings brought by the sensation that she was so in love once that she would do anything to be with her true love. She lives in the naïve, childlike world where her high school sweetheart and her college flings meant more to her than her own life or even her family. She lives in these dreamlike memories, now more fiction than fact, because she can't bear the thought that she is nearly thirty (she already considers herself so), and is still painfully alone.
She sits there and thinks about Steve Cartejenia, her high school sweetheart, while Joan gives a play by play of the handjob bestowed upon the supposedly rich guy, in the back of his Honda Civic. Mae thinks about her first sexual experience with Steve and all of their innocent exploration. She recalls every detail in her head, from the first passionate kiss, to their tearful lovemaking the night it all turned to dust. She lives in this corner of her mind so she won't have to come back to the reality that she is still alone.