Erik Hinton’s latest story touches on Skyrim, Fifty Shades of Grey, Call of Duty, Nicholson Baker, motherhood, and everything else that’s hot right now.
Evan Strongbow was the kind of man you’d put down your Chris Noth autobiography for. His five o’clock shadow was a goddamn lion’s mane. When he wore a Gieves & Hawkes suit, he was doing Savile Row a favor. Only right now, he wasn’t in a suit. He didn’t have dress shoes on, and his trademark kangaroo leather driving gloves were jammed under the bed. He was naked. He spread his triple jumper’s knees and arched his back.
“Humiliate me,” whined little Kylie-Ann Smith.
Strongbow licked his lips like Sylvester, a quivering Tweetie perched on his plate. “Oh, I know what you want.”
“Yeah? Yeah?” Kylie-Ann whipped her hair like Willow Smith. “I want you to play Xbox and drink a PBR and not ask me about my day.”
Evan grinned, she was just SO SUPER SUBMISSIVE. “I’m going to withold compliments about your haircut even when I notice.”
Kylie-Ann began bucking and writhing like a seizing snake child. “I want you to hug your buxom coworker for too long at the Christmas party and never change the shower curtain and wear A-tanks around my friends.”
“I’m gonna sniff that coworker’s perfume and all my wife-beaters are stained yellow from hardcore ‘laxin.”
“Screeeeeeee” Kylie hissed. She was his.
Marjorie closed the book. The other ladies in the circle started audibly exhaling.
“I – I can’t believe we just read that. It’s like … like …” Bradshaw’s point was lost in a fit of giggles.
“Are we bad for reading this? Like is this bad?” wondered the buttoned-up brown bob cut slouching in the back.
“I feel like … it’s almost … like …”
“Ok, I’ll just say it. It’s what I’ve always secretly wanted.”
Marjorie’s head snapped around at first in shock, then in consideration and finally in agreement. Three snaps. A lifetime of untapped desires.
“Look, I have a loving husband, twelve amazing kids, and a mansion the size of the Ritz. But sometimes, I just wish Jim took me for granted. Forgot to mow the lawn. Drank water right out of the Brita.”
“Oh, absolutely. A man has to totally take control. Not care at all.”
“I couldn’t agree more. I mean I’m tired of being trapped in the kindness of man who won’t even hit on my sister. I love how Kylie-Ann just seizes the day like in that poem about eating peaches.”
“The one by Roald Dahl?”
“No dummy, that’s HOLES!”
“The full title is House of Holes, Doris, and it’s by that man who loves paper.”
“Nicholson Baker?” suggested Penny. The reading group was incredibly obsessed with Nicholson Baker. They had every “Bakerbook” as they called his books. They had hung up a copy of the glossy headshot he sent them after a several-months-long campaign of daily fanmail. They all took his Mezzanine as a kind of gospel. It wasn’t surprising to anyone that Penny suggested him as the author. In this case, she happened to be right but they laughed her off.
“Oh, you would say that.”
Just then, Rain’s mother walked in. Dolls in a circle, her daughter babbling in a high-pitched drawl, printouts of famous author Nicholson Baker on the floor. Her daughter was playing Middle-Aged Mom Book Club again. Her daughter was fairly precocious, even by the standards of their Park Slope Kindergarten.
She smiled softly as her daughter contorted the dolls’ faces into alternating looks of horror and then sheepish camaraderie as she whipped their heads around.
It hadn’t been easy. She was a single mom. Raising an old-soul of a toddler in a thirty-story walkup overlooking the burrito district.
She couldn’t help but admire the little tyke. Writing erotica, waxing Oprah-tically. Maybe if she had been a little more open-minded as a kid, she wouldn’t have let Buck take her home after prom and make Rain in a trash pile of empty tallboys and “Lightly Preowned” Xbox games. What ifs. What ifs and mayhaps.
Decrescendo-ing to a whisper on “mayhaps”, Dr. Lily Hawthorne closed the text and replaced it on her podium. Her class, a ragtag group of misfits that signed up for “Intro to What’s Left After Women’s Rights”, ground their teeth. She could tell this passage would start a dustup.
Berkley’s hand shot into the air, “I don’t get it. Are we supposed to assume that the narrator’s point of view is the mother all the way through? How did she know what was happening in the Middle-Aged Mom Book Club before she entered the room?”
Pietr groaned, “The narrator’s omnipotent, not the mother.”
“Whatever,” Berkley shot back, “No matter how you phrase it, this piece is offensive.”
“Why do you say that?” Dr. Hawthorne asked, doing a damn good Good Will Hunting.
“All the female characters are messed up. Kylie is submissive to Evan. The Middle-Aged Mom Book Club wants to be submissive and acts petty and stupid and Rain’s a weirdo with a mother that’s one of these boho, reformed party girls. Which one of those is supposed to be me?”
“Mayhaps you aren’t supposed to identify with any of the women. Rather, the story keeps forcing you into more and more detached perspectives, none of which you feel at home in. But the walls start to close in on you as it becomes more and more mediated and the ridiculous viewpoint of the inner story turns out to be just that, a story, a ruse.”
“That seems cheap to me,” Brad confessed. “Isn’t that just a trick to whitewash the author’s inability to write real, fleshy characters. Narrative smoke and mirrors?”
“Totally! The author just felt like he had something to prove. I mean all that namedropping: Eliot, Dahl, Baker. It was just showing off.”
“Maybe the piece got to the heart of the female experience after all.” Lily hung on “all” modulating her pitch, drawing “ahhs” out her students.
A giant badge flashed across Mark’s screen.
“Congratulations. You have unlocked the ‘Real Talk’ achievement. 50 Gamerpoints!”
Mark’s mother put down her warm milk. “I don’t get it. What do you even do in this game?”
Mark had spent the entire night playing the midnight-release of Call of Duty: Elder Scrolls. The blogosphere was absolutely paroxysmal over the new franchise crossover. The developers had hinted several months ago that the content would be “deeper than anyone’s ever gone before” but most just wrote it off as “probably a sex sim.” Last week it was revealed that Call of Duty: Elder Scrolls would feature a prominent side-quest in which your character would get their liberal arts degree. However, this took four years of actual time, not game time.
“This is why you had to buy that new voice controller?”
Mark had been shouting about submissive erotica and middle-aged moms since 1 a.m. His mother couldn’t fall asleep.
“I’ll tell you what, son. Video game are weird.”