So this thing happened a few months back. Nobody knows about it but my brother-in-law Phil—not counting Norma. I only told Phil because he had a thing with his testicles a few years back—cancer I guess—before his divorce. I don’t really know why that made a difference to me. I guess I just thought he had some weird stuff going on with his body too so maybe he would think mine wasn’t so weird. He looked up at me from his plate of soggy eggs kind of shocked and said You oughta take that fuckin’ shit on the road Bennie. But that was just Phil—always making jokes but mostly meaning nothing by them. It was like part of his makeup or something. Like the grain of his wood I guess.
Phil’s works for KNOB—a local radio station with stupidly bad call letters. That’s what Phil says and I guess I’d have to pretty much agree. Phil’s not a disc jockey anymore. Now he says he’s an on-air personality because he doesn’t just spin tunes—he’s a shock jock. That’s one of those radio guys that are always calling celebrities at home and telling them they’re fat or saying some artist or hockey player is a fag or calling some politician a douchebag. But Phil has never said anything like that—not on the air anyway. He can’t really call anyone a fag or a douchebag on air but he might be able to call some local celebrity fat if it’s not a sponsor or something and as long as they really are fat. Like I said—KNOB is a local station so it can’t be too shocking. I guess the truth is Phil just tells kind of mean jokes for a living and that’s about it. Not like me—I watch people for a living. I’m a security guard. It’s not exactly my dream job but I guess it could be worse. I spend my day mostly watching people come and go from the offices of Tower Plaza on a grease-smeared security monitor. It’s not real exciting work. Not like Phil’s. But a few months back I did blow the whistle on a janitor who was putting his man-thing all over this chubby girl’s office stuff. Phil said I did the right thing because the guy was a real sicko and that it was primo shock jock material. I remember because it was around then this weird thing happened to me.
It’s kind of hard to explain about the thing so I’ll just come out and say it—I started to lactate. I know that’s what it’s called because I looked it up—lactate: to secrete milk. I mean it was a shocker because I thought it was just mothers who lactate. And I guess I don’t need to say I’m not a mother. I’m not even a woman. When I said this to Phil he said No shit Bennie. And when he wanted to see me lactate right there I said Right here? In Big Boy’s? And he said Yeah why not? Give me a shot of half and half in my coffee. Ha ha I said—but it wasn’t a real laugh but just the words ha ha. I told him it’s not like that. I said I have to be kind of excited. Phil picked up his coffee mug. What do you mean? Like Super-Bowl excited? Like Stanley-Cup excited? He stuck his fat lips on the rim and slurped real loud. At first I thought he was joking but then I saw he wasn’t so I said No I mean excited—like you know sexually. Phil’s Adam’s apple did this kind of tap dance thing under his chin. I could tell he almost sprayed coffee all over the booth. Jesus Bennie. Is this some sick way of tricking me into some homo thing with you? Has it really been that long? I pulled my knock-off Lacoste shirt tight against my man-boobs. Watch I said. Then I thought about Norma until it was like I could see the top of her head moving around down there or something. Pretty soon a wet spot soaked the little green alligator with man-milk. That’s when Phil said his thing about taking my act on the road.
Phil and I mostly got along better after Sam died—better than when we were still brothers-in-law for real. I guess we’re still brothers-in-law for real—even if the person who made us brothers-in-law is gone. But now I think about it I’m not really sure about that just like I’m not really sure why we got along better after Sam was gone either. Maybe we both needed something from each other. I guess I should say Sam was my wife—and Phil’s sister. She died having our little girl Becky. We already picked out the name and I guess Becky was Becky for about three minutes before she died too. That was three years ago. And all that stuff they say about not a day goes by—well it’s pretty much true. Not a day goes by. My little Becky would’ve been three years and three minutes old if she’d lived. And I’d be bouncing her on my knee right now. And I’d be happy I’m sure. And Sam would be happy too.
After Sam died Phil started coming around more. He’d just walk in and sit down without really saying anything. Maybe he’d watch some TV with me for awhile. Then maybe he’d go out to the kitchen and do the dishes or go outside and water the dying rose bushes. Always something like that. Like I said—we needed something from each other and I guess Phil got something out of it too. He was going through a divorce around then so he didn’t like to stay home much. His wife Steph moved out after the cancer turned Phil into a one-nut lunatic. That’s what Phil called himself mostly—not Steph. And not me—but I thought it sometimes. The truth was I think Steph didn’t care about the cancer mostly and she probably would’ve stuck around but Phil got all weird and morbid and stuff. He kept asking people if they wanted to see his withered scrote or his one-melon gunnysack. When they didn’t know what to say he’d stick a hand into his fly and pull out a shriveled flap of skin. I wish I could say I never saw it myself but I did and it wasn’t much to look at—that’s for sure. It was kind of like the pink and bumpy skin Sam used to pull off chicken breasts and throw into the sink but it wasn’t really pink—it was more like black I guess. Anyway Phil almost got himself fired but somehow he didn’t. He hung onto his job.
Then the shock jock thing opened up and it worked out pretty good for him. I guess it was a real good release for all the stuff he was holding inside.
Me—I took some time off after Sam died. I went through all the stuff that people go through mostly but I didn’t get weird and morbid like Phil did. Anyway six months later I was back at work—bored and drinking coffee in front of the security monitor. I guess I was living like the people on the screens I watched all day long—gray and silent. For the next two years I lived gray and silent. A kind of pointless life is what I’d say now. I mean it’s a different kind of loneliness. Like you know that it’s never going to go away. Even if you do meet someone else it’s still going to be there. Like a kind of constant hum in the background that you finally just get used to. At least that how it seemed then. And not that I was really thinking about meeting someone else. It never really crossed my mind but it seems like that’s when that kind of thing happens mostly —when you’re not really thinking about it. And that’s when I met Norma but I didn’t know she was Norma then. She was still Rosie to me.
I sometimes went for beers after work with a couple of guys from the Plaza. We’d cross the street to this afterhours place—Orion’s Belt My Ass. I mostly just wanted some beer to relax some—like my boring night shift was stressful or something. After a few I’d drive home and watch reruns of Barney Miller and Soap and fall asleep in front of the TV. I guess it was around Christmas Eve when I first saw Rosie in Orion’s Belt, My Ass. The guys from the Plaza were mostly just looking for something easy—looking to stuff some Christmas turkey. That’s what Rudy said high on industrial cleaning products like he always was. Like I said—I was just there for a couple of beers. But when I went to the john there was this girl in there losing her lunch in the sink. I mean the stuff coming out of her was fluorescent or something like she’d been drinking radioactive martini’s or kryptonite & tonics. So I pulled a bunch of paper towels from the dispenser and stood there waiting for her to finish. Finally she straightened up and pulled her hair back into a ball of frizz. There was a kind of shine on her dark skin—sweat I guess—so I handed her the paper towels and she took them in her long nails that looked kind of like bloody bird’s claws or something and then she wiped her lips and face and she looked at me. I’m Rosie she said like she hadn’t just lost her lunch in the men’s john. Bennie I said. That was very sweet of you Bennie she said and she bent in and put her lips on my cheek. I could smell some spicy kind of perfume mixed with some tequila and vomit. Are you here alone Bennie she asked and I said I was with some guys from work. No I mean are you here with a woman. Do you have a date? I didn’t even know till right then she was a professional but I heard that line so many times on TV that I figured she must be. No—no date I said. She sat on the sink and kind of opened her legs some. So do you want a date Bennie she said. But before I could answer Rudy walked in and blabbed something about shots on fire and flaming Christians and I better get my ass back out there. Rosie put a hand on my chest and she dug her claws in some. Maybe later then Bennie she said and then she kind of swayed out the john. I didn’t know you were into the whores said Rudy. Black whores too. I thought I might knock him down—but I didn’t. I’m not I said and not because she was black. I didn’t mean it that way. I meant I’m not into the whores like the way Rudy said I was.
I want to say here that I never cheated on Sam when we were married—when she was alive. I never went to the city looking for hookers or got hand jobs in Koreatown. Not like Phil. I never screwed around with anyone. I mean I had a thing for Stephanie my sister-in-law but nothing ever happened—mostly nothing I guess. We got drunk one Thanksgiving and when everyone else was passed out we kissed and I think I felt her up too but I’m kind of foggy on that part. But anyway we stopped and I guess the truth was she stopped—not me—and we never said anything about it and no one ever found out. It was like it never happened mostly but sometimes I saw something in Steph’s eyes. It wasn’t really guilt but more like she was ashamed or something and I couldn’t tell if she was ashamed of what we did or if she was ashamed that she did it with me. I guess maybe I would’ve let it happen if she would’ve. That’s the real truth and the sad truth all rolled into one worse truth. I should probably say that I’m not the handsomest guy in town. I mean unless you’re into fat and bald—then I might be handsome. But I’m not real fat—a bit fat though and bald is just bald because it doesn’t matter how much. Like you can’t have three quarters or half a head of hair the way you can be ten or fifteen pounds overweight. Anyway Steph was a good-looking woman—still is a good-looking woman I guess. So for someone like me it was something pretty tempting. So like I said—maybe I would’ve done it. Or probably I would’ve done it I guess.
But I don’t want to make it seem like Sam was unattractive or anything like that because she wasn’t ugly at all. I mean you could say she was plain and that would be true mostly I guess. But her kind of plain looked okay to me and parts of her were pretty good—like her calves. They were something to look at for sure—I mean long and thin and muscley. I guess every woman has something about them that’s real good like that. I mean I could’ve watched Sam walk around all day long. The way her calves pulled tight and then let go. I only have one picture of them. It was at her mom and dad’s in Montana in front of their above-ground swimming pool and Sam’s in a swimming suit walking away from the camera. I guess I said something—I don’t remember what—because she’s looking over her shoulder kind of smiling like she’s angry but not really. And her calves are perfect.
I left Orion’s Belt My Ass a little drunker than usual that night because I guess those flaming Christian shots just about did me in. My mouth tasted like candy cane mostly and a bit of beer but my legs were all rubber and I didn’t need a breathalyzer to tell me it was a good night for a taxi. I waved one down and was just getting in when two hands reached around from behind me and I recognized the bloody claws right away even though I was pretty drunk. Share a cab Bennie? said Rosie. I guess I didn’t say anything because next thing I knew we were in the backseat and Rosie was doing these little kiss things on my neck kind of like a pigeon pecking at bread crumbs but I was sitting straight and stiff like I was a statue or something so she stopped pecking. Let me guess—you don’t normally do this kind of thing right? she asked. No I answered. Married? she asked. Was I answered. Divorced? she asked. Died. How long? Three years I answered. Oh Bennie said Rosie and sighed like she was sorry about Sam or like maybe she’d died and left people behind in another life too. Then she dropped a leg over mine like if we were one person we would’ve been sitting with crossed legs and she rested her head on my chest and it felt good. I mean I knew I was going to have pay but it still felt good because in three years nobody touched me mostly if you don’t count the bridesmaid at my cousin’s wedding last summer. I guess she passed out on the sofa and I kind of put her hand in my crotch but nothing really happened and it wasn’t much more than a small scuffle between me and her boyfriend. So I guess what I mean is I didn’t really care how much it was going to cost me.
Rosie started doing the kissing thing on my neck again and then she slipped one of her claws inside my shirt and started flipping my nipple up and down like it was the light switch for a burned out bulb or something and the whole time she was rubbing me with her leg. At first I was thinking about the taxi driver—watching us in the rearview mirror but Rosie didn’t seem to care so I tried to ignore him too. Then she unbuttoned my shirt and starting doing the pecking thing and licking my chest with a real pink tongue and I was getting worked up some by now and my man-thing was pretty much through the roof. Next thing I knew Rosie was latched onto one of my man-boobs and sucking like one of those baby deers you see on TV that they feed with a bottle but I guess what was weird was I really liked it. I mean it was like a real turn on or something but then Rosie stopped all of a sudden like something was wrong and I didn’t want to say anything because I was breathing so heavy I knew I would sound all shaky and out of breath so I just waited mostly although my hips were still kind of rabbitting up and done some. Rosie sat up and put a pinky to her lips. She looked at the red claw and tasted it like the way someone tries to figure out what kind of dressing is on their salad or something. What’s wrong? I asked and she pinched my man-boob and it squirted man-milk on the Plexiglas shield. You’re leaking she answered.
When I was ten I had a purple banana-seat bike and for about six months I guess I was the most popular kid in the neighborhood until Bobby Schwartz got a trampoline. Anyway I knew the other kids only liked me because they wanted to ride my bike but I didn’t care because I was just happy they liked me some even if it was for just awhile. I guess that’s how I felt about lactating too—and about Rosie. She really took to the teat just like the old saying says and I don’t really know why for sure. Maybe because she’d done everything else already—all the different positions and all the weird stuff and all that but she’d never been with a lactater. I mean I’m guessing about the lactate part but I’m pretty sure she hadn’t. And for me—I was just happy she seemed to like me some. I was happy to be with her and near someone I guess. Three gray and silent years was enough I thought. So I guess you could say I became a regular of Rosie’s.
At first we had a lot of sex. I mean good sex—normal kind of sex. But it always ended with Rosie suckling at my man-boobs and staring up me with big round eyes and it was disturbing some I guess because it was like they were looking at me like they were looking for something but I didn’t know what exactly and even if I did know what they were looking for I probably didn’t have it anyway. After awhile we kind of stopped having sex and went straight to the suckling part. It’s hard for me to explain how this was better than the best sex. I don’t know—it was kind of churchy or something. Like something somewhere deep inside but from I don’t know where.
I guess the first time it happened was maybe three weeks after the time in the taxi and I was meeting Rosie every night mostly then. We’d have drinks at Orion’s Belt My Ass and cross the street to the King’s Head Inn and we’d get one of those full suite rooms—the same one every time with the same sawed-off broom leaning in the kitchen and the same scratches on the inside of the door like maybe someone had used a gooseneck jimmy to get out or something. Anyway we’d mostly go straight to the sex and end up suckling—always end up suckling like I said. But this night was something different. We took a taxi to the somewhere in the east end and Rosie took me up the fire escape of this four-story brick building. It didn’t really look like a hotel or anything and I guess it was some factory or something once. Anyway she took me in and it’s her place—her own place so it was kind of a shocker. I mean not the place itself because the place was real normal—real kind of womany I guess like I could tell a woman lived there. Candles and pictures and long mirrors and dishtowels folded in half and orange juice in a pitcher. Anyway I didn’t know what else to do so I tried to pay her because the pay was always upfront and she told me to keep it. She said Buy me breakfast in the morning and that was a shocker too. I mean we never stayed all night at the King’s Head. Who would want to really? But we stayed all night there and the next morning I bought her breakfast like she said and later when I tried to get going she stopped me and said there was something more she wanted to do. So she took me to this theater and I don’t even know what the name of the movie was but it was some kind of old war movie—black and white and bad sound. Anyway we found a seat near the front and there were lots of people around and we sat down in the middle of them and the gray pictures were flashing on the screen and next thing I knew Rosie started suckling. She opened my shirt wide and my belly kind of pushed up and stretched all around and she was pulling and sucking at my man-boobs. I mean I could tell people were looking at us and watching us more than the movie mostly but Rosie didn’t care and I didn’t care and my man-thing sure didn’t care and pretty soon my man-milk was running down her chin.
The theater kind of changed me I think and it changed Rosie too because we never had sex again. Like I said—we stopped having sex and just suckled. And Rosie stopped calling herself Rosie too. She told me her real name was Norma and I have to say it was a bit of a shocker. I mean both things were a shocker—the part about her telling me her real name and her real name being Norma too. Phil made a joke about it when I told him. The only Normas I know need mustache wax and liposuction he said. It was kind of funny at the time although not really anymore but I guess he was kind of right—she didn’t look like any Norma I ever saw either except maybe Norma Jean—like she was kind of black Marilyn Monroe or something. That would be about right I guess. Anyway I don’t really know how it happened but I remember looking down at her suckling and the sound of gun blasts and bombs were all around us and I was thinking I loved her. I mean that was the real shocker I guess because like I said I wasn’t really looking for anything like that but then there it was—the plain truth and the simple truth rolled into one bigger truth. I loved Norma and that was that.
When things with Norma and me started getting regular some I told Phil about it and he thought it was okay mostly but he wasn’t sure about Norma being a professional. He said Whores are only a Band-aid solution and I guess he would know. Later when things started getting a little weird with Norma and me I told Phil about it too. I mean I say weird but not weird like some kind of stupid crazy weird or something but just different weird. So I was trying to explain this to Phil and we were in Big Boy’s again—something me and Phil did a lot I guess—and when I told him me and Norma started suckling outside he said What do you mean outside? Like outside the bedroom? Like in the kitchen outside? Phil was poking the pointy end of his toast into a yolk that rippled some but mostly didn’t break. No like outside the house in public I said. Phil did that thing with his Adam’s apple again and I thought he was going to spray coffee all over the booth. So breastfeeding you’re whore girlfriend isn’t enough—now you gotta breastfeed her in public? he asked. I knew it wasn’t a real question but I nodded anyway. So where in public? he asked. I told him pretty much everywhere. So where’s everywhere? Be specific. By now he’d punched a hole in the the yolk and was lapping it up with his toast. I told him about the theater. Okay—weird but not super weird. Where else? he asked. In the park I said. Which park? he asked. Livingston I replied. Kind of busy he said. And I said Yeah it was. Where else? he asked. In the public library I said. I’ve seen worse there he replied. One time I swear I saw a guy going down on the Easter bunny in the public library said Phil. I heard Phil tell that story before but I didn’t say anything. So where else? In the cathedral I said. Wait! No! That’s just wrong. So wrong! he said. I said I knew that. You’re going to hell he said. I said I probably was yeah. Then he got all serious like I’ve never seen Phil before. You gotta stop Bennie. You know I love you like a brother and I’m glad to see you’re moving on but I’m telling you as a brother and a friend you gotta stop. He picked some egg from his mostly blond goatee and I asked him why. Why? Are you fuckin’ kidding? Where do think this is going to end? he asked. I said I didn’t know. He said I better think about it. I said I love her Phil and I guess this time there was no stopping it—he sprayed coffee like he was the broken handle of a two-bit carwash or something.
That was the end of our talk that morning but every chance he got Phil told me I had to stop and it wasn’t right and it was sick he would say but I didn’t see it like that. What Norma and I had wasn’t sick. I didn’t know exactly what it was we had but I knew it wasn’t sick. It couldn’t be sick and I told Phil that and I asked him why he wasn’t happy I found someone to love after Sam. I mean it kind of made sense to me that the woman I found wasn’t like Sam at all because I can’t just plug the hole that Sam left with another Sam because there is no other Sam. I mean Phil was trying to plug the hole that Steph left with another Steph and it wasn’t working good for him and that’s just more of the truth but he couldn’t see that and he didn’t like it when I said so. Anyway pretty soon he stopped coming around mostly. The last time I talked to Phil he told me I should see a doctor and when I asked him why he said Exactly! Why! Don’t you wanna know why? Don’t you wanna know what’s up with your man-boobs? Why you’re squirting milk like Bessie the fuckin’ cow? I never answered him I guess because I didn’t want to know why. I didn’t care because deep down I guess I was scared the doctor might do something to stop it and I didn’t want to stop it so I just sat there mostly not saying anything and Phil got up and left. I guess I didn’t care much then because of how he was being about things and all the things he said and I guess that’s how people drift apart. Like a sea of words just kind of washes up between them or something and the next thing they know they’re so far apart they can barely see each other anymore.
Me and Norma kept things real regular—suckling a lot in public mostly. She told me about growing up in the Midwest and about moving to the coast thinking she’d be a dancer and she laughed like it was some kind of inside joke and I guess it was because I didn’t really get it. Anyway after that we drove into the city and found one of those five-dollar-coffee coffee shops to suckle in. Norma wasn’t ripping my shirt open anymore because she cut holes around my nipples and they looked kind of like two pink antennas sticking out or something when I opened my jacket so it was pretty easy to suckle pretty much anywhere we wanted. The coffee shop was full and loud and we bought fancy coffee with foam and cinnamon and found a place by the window. Some jazz song was playing in the speakers—Someone to watch over me it said slow and breathy and pretty soon Norma started suckling and I guess it was kind of loud because people got up and left but some stayed and watched. Pretty soon the manager came over and asked us to leave and said he was going to call the cops if we didn’t but that just made Norma mad mostly and she said something about not doing anything wrong—nothing against the law. I wasn’t real sure if what we were doing was or wasn’t against the law so I didn’t say anything. Anyway we left and drove out the city back to Norma’s place and we watched TV and suckled some more. I was on the sofa sitting low and kind of slouching with my shirt off and Norma was doing this thing to my man-boobs with her teeth and tongue at the same time and my man-thing was like a frozen rock or something and when she was done we lied down on the sofa and I just held her. Norma always looked happy or content or something after she was done suckling. Anyway I don’t really know why but I thought about what Phil said to me about where this was all going to end and I thought about asking her the same question like the way Phil had asked me but I don’t know what happened—I lost my nerve I guess and I couldn’t do it so I said I love you and she said I love you too Bennie. Then we fell asleep.
The next morning I went in for dayshift. I never said anything about Norma to the other guys at Tower Plaza so work was pretty much the same as always—watching the screen and drinking coffee. But the gray and silent screen didn’t seem like my life anymore because now the screen was just work. Like my life had color and sound now or something and like my senses were dead before and now they came back to life again—like that guy from the Bible that Jesus brings back. When I thought about it I wondered what he did first after that. Maybe he found a bar and got drunk or maybe he just went home to his wife or maybe he never went home but just started a whole new life somewhere else with someone else. Anyway that was kind of like what Norma did for me Iguess—brought me back. She changed everything and gave me a whole different life. Sometimes at work I thought about Sam and I wondered what she’d think of me and Norma. Maybe she’d say the same thing as Phil and maybe she’d think I was being stupid or sick or something. I mean I don’t know for sure but part of me thinks she wouldn’t say that or think that at all. Part of me thinks maybe she might say it was okay.
I went home that night and it was the first time staying home in maybe a week or so because I wasn’t staying at home much now I guess now that Norma liked me to stay with her and suckle her to sleep. I parked my bel-air on the street like I always did. Phil parked in the driveway mostly when he used to come by but I didn’t parked in the driveway after Sam died. I don’t know why for sure but it just didn’t seem right or something. Anyway the bel-air was a classic but Phil said it was junk—Shit on wheels is what he said about it. It’s only a classic when it’s fixed up. Just ’cause something’s old doesn’t make it a classic he said. I thought Phil was wrong about that. It was a classic even if the fender wells were dented and the rusty front bumper hung crooked and I liked the bumper because it was kind of like a smirk or something. Anyway I got out and walked to the house and I noticed a couple of rose bushes out front had some pink and yellow flowers on them. I took in the mail and opened some windows and then I went in the kitchen and found a beer in the fridge and I cracked the can and sat at the table. Sitting there I saw the dishes were done. I guess I mean it looked like they were done so I thought maybe Phil came by when I was gone but it could’ve been from before so I didn’t know for sure—I couldn’t remember. But I still thought maybe he came by. I mean I couldn’t say for sure he didn’t come by so I took a drink of beer and thought it would be okay if Phil came by again. And I thought maybe if he did we’d be okay again—me and Phil.
Gary Anderson lives and writes near Princeton, New Jersey. His works have appeared in numerous magazines. Most recently, he has published stories in Gadfly, Menacing Hedge, Umbrella Factory, and Literary Orphans. His first novel, Animal Magnet, was published in 2011 by Emmerson Street Press. His second novel, Best of all Possible Worlds, was published by WordsworthGreenwich Press in May of 2012.