ithin the twenty-nine building corporate campus, I drifted expertly, replacing toner, water jugs—the stuff secretaries used to do before they went largely extinct in the new economy. In a distant building I closed a conference room door behind me and set out to tidy up what a large meeting had left in disarray. As I wiped down the whiteboard, the splatter of multicolored ink struck me as beautiful, if primitive, like some abstruse art. I tried to make sense of the Byzantine diagrams, to determine what plans the company was making, and how they would effect the lives of my fellow employees. There was a handful of large arrows bent into the shape of a circle, apparently to represent a cycle of production, marketing, and purchasing. There were several arrows pointing in and out of the cycle, but these seemed haphazardly drawn, and purposely confusing. Stick figures in bunches I could easily interpret as teams of people, like the ones I used to be on, and dollar signs were whiteboardese for investment or revenue. What appeared to be a unicorn in a box was reached by a lengthy dotted line. Was this a code for a secret product or an image symbolic of the magic, ineffable ingredient in successful business ventures? I threw candy wrappers and coffee cups in the trash, collected scrap paper to put in the recycling bin, and took some abandoned office supplies to a supply closet down the hall. Reaching high above my head to place items on a top shelf, my pinky finger grazed something almost rubbery. I let a few other fingers seek out its surface, and this time it felt more like skin than rubber. It was warm. I moved my hand further and further back, stretching from the tips of my toes so I could reach so far. I was searching for where the skin—it was skin, I was sure—ended and hair began, but there was no hair, at least as far as I could reach, and just then, the supply closet door latch turned, and my hand recoiled at the feel of a wiggle or a shiver.
      A general rustling from the top shelf and then from different, obscured corners of the closet continued as the closet door creaked, and it was, oddly, Xena, seated in her motorized wheelchair, struggling through the doorway. My campus wandering was such that I realized only then that I was in her building. Once she’d edged her way inside without help, she stared at me for a few seconds, first placing me, and then as if I shouldn’t have been there.
      “Uh, hi?” she mused.
      “Hi, hi,” I replied, still distracted by the corners of the closet, now ominously quiet.
      “Uh, dude, have you seen my dog?” she asked.
      “Um, no, I mean, I’m just putting a few things away. Like pens and stuff, the usual, and I was reaching back there to—”
      “Right,” she cut me off. “If you see him, his name is Joxer. Try not to inflict pain on him this time.” She raised both eyebrows, motored a 180 degree turn and then out the door.
      After she left, I combed through every inch of that closet but found nothing that felt like skin, that scurried, that was alive. I left the closet and just a few steps down the hall, I found a few sheets of paper on the carpet. I picked them up and looked around to see who might have dropped them. On the front side of each page was a different email memo, each typical and mundane. But on the opposite sides were more poems, like the other I’d found.


On this day Len was right- ===========================
sized @3:23PM Sixteen of us are left in vacuum =======
smell area [E] =======================================
building:33 ==========================================

@4:00 in Queen Latifah ===============================
b/c Group Managers get to name =======================
Conference Rooms there are two =======================
& one half pizzas Beside parking lot “garden” ========

Len is a miniature through burnt coral Levlor ========
He begat the VULTURE intra-office listserv ===========
@4:03 I will eat w/respect two slices of pesto/ ======
black olive for Len ==================================

His cube is distributed ==============================
among us @4:08 =======================================
I struggle to hold =========================†=========
his ERGOkeyboard Margie ==============================

Sturges now seizures in Cube222 A Ready- =============
Set-Temp goes mouth-to-mouth =========================
til @4:10 I push him off & pull medicine from her ====
beige mini-backpack The time is 4:16 when I walk =====

Out & above Most Beautiful Highway In The World ======
through my dusty windshield a hawk swings ============
a snake from its talons & I ==========================
nearly dent a Mazda Miata ============================

================================================ Paper
============ clips as if an impossibly slight asteroid
========== belt Hurled by Cubeman “I’LL NEUTER HIM” In
======== that voice that inflection The cube walls re-

======= Verberate against us 3 other cubemates + him =
======= 4 on t/his most sardined of cube floors Just 1
======= tenant in touch with his “MOTHER FUCKER” & any
======= thing he might throw around Slam the phone Yes

======= Get it all out O’er the shard HR parsed out as
=======a desk/rage A knock without a door & I say How
======= tragic Yet we forget the Greek: labor = sorrow
======= It’s all work to me O t/his cube is contagious

======= Tempt me to catch it CubemAN&I’LLCARVEYOUNEWHO

===£=== & anger is a ward Or two Baby blues Pupils The
======= pencil tips point in my direction Snap crackle
======= “YOU GOT A PROBLEM?” he asks but we 3 withdraw
======= to flick our glowing butts outside the lobby &

======= Clear the corral The “AlphaBraille” may recon-
===== cile w/cubic inanimates Another touching moment?
== We toke & vent while SUVs & leather-fed sedans rush
== by Raspy highway sound intervals & tobacco ex/hales

Dude was tailgating through ==========================
six proximity readers No shoot? Yeah six And =========
I notice he doesn’t have an organizer ================
or anything ==========================================
Damn girl it’s him THE PENETRATOR ============§=======

Right that’s what ====================================
I said to myself So after the sixth ==================
he blows like wind into Quadrant I-Love-Lucy =========
Did you bird dog ‘em? Affirmative ====================
And ==================================================

Then I see him THE PENETRATOR ========================
duck in a cube and ===================================
fist a wallet maybe some cashews and =================
like this cloth thing ================================
What the F did you ===================================

Do? Well I tail him again I mumble something =========
about a fax to act natural and =======================
he’s all stealing bullshit like ======================
mugs and =============================================
fills up a stolen briefcase ==========================

Girl bright as an LED Uh so in the stairwell =========
I actually ask for ===================================
his ID No bleepin’ way Yeah and ======================
he just looks back at me and =========================
his eyes are sad and =================================

Quiet His mouth has a tiny tic and ===================
he’s got this nick on his ============================
cheek from shaving His neck tan and ==================
a bit creased I reach out Hold his free ==============
hand softly Come again? ==============================

I took these poems back to my cubicle and fished the very first one I’d found out of the bottom of my recycling bin. I sat at my desk, read the one on top, placed it beneath the others, read the one on top, placed it beneath the others, and so forth, until I knew them so well I could quietly recite large portions of them by memory. Reading about these people, Len and the employee stuck with Cubeman and, of course, The Penetrator, I knew none of them, and I knew, for instance, that there was no Building 33, but they were unmistakably my co-workers, and the setting was unmistakably my office. I’d seen the Queen Latifah conference room in Building 27, not far from the Rick Ocasek and Bruce Jenner conference rooms, and I’d used the VULTURE listserv myself, when it was still safe for me to stand silently eating next to several co-workers. Even in those first run-ins with the poems, cycling another’s observations through my brain for a few small moments, I felt buoyed, able to see such things myself, able to ruminate with greater poignancy about my own condition, my post-employee, pre-termination status, adrift on my makeshift cubicle craft in a vast and shifting sea of living, breathing, emotionally operative humans who, like so much sea water, were indifferent to my very existence. That wasn’t so bad. “Vast and shifting sea…” I improvised a few more lines before it sank in that not only I had never known these people in the poems, but that I’d not known much of anyone here, not even long ago when I attended meetings, took direction from a manager, and courteously exchanged e-mail with others whose work intersected with mine. I felt, above all, as if I had missed something. But the poet didn’t. S/he wrote these poems as a testament that s/he didn’t. S/he might have become intimate with The Penetrator, letting him in the building through side doors, together gleefully exploring other corporate headquarters. Their children might have played together beside some park picnic table, their spouses finding surprising commonalities over a beer. Even when s/he went home alone (if s/he ever did), s/he had the poems, the contented pleasure of knowing s/he had created them, accomplished them. I noticed I was gnawing on the inside of my cheek; I held one impulse to light a match and burn the pages and another to type my name at the top of each and call them my own.
      I wandered the halls, lingering in front of cubicles and conference rooms with new eyes. Each person was a story I hadn’t yet read, a story I might endeavor to discover and which might, in fact, lead me to this poet. And then, in the office periphery, I glimpsed a small, possibly furry scampering. Perhaps another story. If this was the same creature I’d felt in my cubicle, what was its connection to the poems, to the poet? Was the poet its owner? Its friend? Its hunter? Maybe their relationship was complicated, where s/he once fed it and took care of it, but it had wanted to leave the poet, to live a life of independence here in the office, and yet the poet ceaselessly pursued it, albeit one step behind, a la reporter Jack McGee and a painted green Lou Ferrigno. Perhaps it was even the creature’s movements that dictated the dissemination of the poems themselves, as the poet would discharge them haphazardly along the path of his quest for the elusive animal.
      I zigzagged through the maze of cubicles, and then again saw an ambiguous form dash through a door swung open by an unwitting accomplice of an employee. I gave chase and saw it bolt past the building receptionist and out the swinging main entrance door, where I lost it amidst the parked cars. My cheek to the ground to peek beneath a row of cars, the hot wedge of asphalt smelled sour, smoky, like a saucepan left empty too long atop a burner. I wanted to seize this animal at my chest, soothe its oily brain and squirmy piston legs by gently stroking its baldness, letting it know that I understood, I was familiar, that we were cousins, brothers linked as misfits in an unforgiving environment, that together we were safe.
      A blur of fur in the distance dashed amongst mufflers and oversized tires; I rumbled in its direction; there! a tail behind a tire; I lurched, wisps of fleeting tail fur threaded through my fingers. My legs rounded bumpers, my hands as pivots on car hoods, my head bobbing up and down for perspective as I narrowed the gap. It scurried in no particular direction, keenly aware of my hungry hands, and again, I lost sight of it. The sun’s reflection off a plane wing in the clear sky above startled me when, elsewhere in my peripheral vision, the thing was making a move across a gap in the cars; three charging steps and I was on it, fumbling on the ground with one leg and then its heaving ribcage, its head rotated unnaturally around, its incisors a barrage of white on my arms, me up on one knee and another flash—the sun’s brilliant reflection again—this time off the grille of a Toyota 4Runner, rapidly advancing on my skull.
      When I came to, I was still on my back, on the pavement, mops of female hair like canopies of Cypress trees looming overhead. I heard a shrill voice say, “He was just trying to save it,” and another, a deep bass, “I didn’t even see the dude. I just felt, like, full-on impact. Are you OK, bud? Is he OK?” A clearing was made and a wheelchair motored up to my side.
      “Oh, you poor thing,” Xena said, her square head nicely backlit, the brunt of her sword peeking out from her side, and for a moment I considered the scene as a device, a concoction of the television writers aimed at developing excitement while introducing the Xena character to new characters and storylines. I looked around to see if anyone else here was in costume. “Can you hear me?” The Westie was in her arms, and as she leaned close to me, it growled and then snapped. “Joxer!” She pulled back. “Are you OK?”
      “Um…” was all I could muster.
      “They’ve called an ambulance for you. You might have a concussion.”
      I replayed these two sentences over in my head a few times before they set in. With the vague sense that I should be in anguish, I pulled my hands up to my skull, feeling immediately a large lump, and then what seemed a gaining throb and ache. This faded somewhat when it dawned on me what she had first said: the ambulance. I glanced around: four—no—five people. All staring at me, a counterfeit employee. I imagined Grandma in her synthetic satin-y gown, scavenging the medical equipment from the yard after being evicted because I’d lost my job, because I’d been lying to them about it for months. She’d pick up the pornographic magazines that had been thrown onto the grass from my bedroom window, and, limply holding them in one hand, gaze out at the tract homes on the horizon, behind which she knew lay the Pacific, and, under her breath, curse my name awful enough that the wind was the only audience she desired.
      I hopped up on my feet, the group looking even more dismayed. “I better go,” I said. “I’ve got a meeting at, um, at four twelve-teen. I mean quarter to four o’clock, at the latest.” They tried to shoo me down and I shrieked, “I don’t have a hospital…” but the guy who’d hit me, a squinter whose back crept up over his shoulders, his Oakleys sportingly propped on his forehead, started pushing on my chest with two palms. I bent like a reed, and, back on the blacktop, motioned for Xena. A look of concern froze her face. She handed the Westie to one of the women, and leaned in.
      “Get me out of here,” I pleaded, but I could see she was about as likely to stand on her own two legs. I grabbed the back of her neck and whispered, in desperation, “For Joxer…”
      I felt my face flash red at the melodrama. If it wasn’t TV before, it was now. And there, like the good screen Xena, I saw a recognition in her eyes, she nodded and said, “He’s OK. He’s OK.” Through what appeared to be half-hearted protests, murmurings, really, Xena, with her dog in her lap in the wheelchair, led me far across the lot and into her minivan. I sat in the passenger seat while the hydraulic lift raised her chair into the gap left by the sliding door, and as she motored into the spot where a driver seat had been ripped out. “I’m going to take you somewhere you can rest, though,” she said, working the modified levers controlling the gas and brake. I told her I couldn’t go home yet. She drove us to a chain steakhouse and told me she would buy me a drink and dinner, a repayment, of sorts. Neither of us spoke again in the van, and although I didn’t dare look over my shoulder, I felt as though Joxer’s hot wet breath was directly on my neck from the back seat.

At our booth, my pants made a squeak on the pleather upholstery as I slid under the table, and I found myself periodically shifting my weight to the right or left to replicate the sound for Xena’s benefit as much as for my own.
      Her lips inched away from one of her cheeks.
      “The…” I said, pointing down with one finger and shifting to make the noise again.
      She nodded, entirely disinterested.
      I ordered a T-bone and a diet lemonade, and she ordered nothing and watched me eat. Perhaps because of the accident, I had a penetrating hunger and devoured the food quickly, ordering a shish kebab plate when the T-bone was depleted. She seemed to be trying to pretend she wasn’t inspecting me—feigning interest in the other diners or the drink specials encased in a vertical Plexiglas shield. I began to feel as if she was a homesteader who had found me, helpless, out of my element in the wilderness, nearly dead from some gruesome event, and was weighing how much more she wanted to involve herself.
      “So these grandparents of yours are, what, in their seventies?” she asked.
      “And you have your own room?”
      I snorted a bit of the aspartame-flavored lemonade out of my nose. “Of course,” I said, wiping it off my lip, trying to act like I wiped lemonade off my face all the time and it was no big deal, as was living with my grandparents. When I’d occasionally glance around the restaurant, I’d catch people looking at us. Maybe it was the wheelchair, maybe the Xena getup—she was wearing a gray plastic shoulder armor, after all—but she didn’t seem to care. I was proud, rather than embarrassed, to be with her. I guessed people thought I had a lot of character, or cared primarily about character in my acquaintances, to have a friend in a wheelchair, in a television costume. I suddenly felt like I had the upper hand, like I was the one sacrificing my time to be out with her, not the other way around.
      When the bill came, she quickly slid it close to her, put a credit card down. I fumbled through each pocket in approximate earnestness. I knew I wasn’t paying. “Thanks a lot,” she said, in a tone that made me think she didn’t appreciate my fumbling. I played dumb. “For today, I mean,” she added.
      Out in the parking lot, she slowed her chair and turned toward me.
      “What do you want to do?”
      What did she mean by that? About the accident, or what did I want to do tonight? What a fool I would be if she meant tonight and I brought up the accident. She might take it as a sign I wasn’t interested and never bring up the subject again. But what more a fool I would be if she meant the accident or about repaying her for dinner or my career path or who knows what. I looked at my watch, allowed the thought “Grandma and Grandpa must be scared to death about me by now” to fire through my synapses only long enough to decide to purge it, to flush it down the proverbial cranial toilet. I was thirty-nine, for crying out loud! Did I have to follow my grandparents’ curfew? Well, yes, as far as they were concerned. But the job—I’d be a fool to not consider whether I could be overexposing myself to co-workers. It was impossible to forget that I was not technically gainfully employed, that my livelihood and that of my grandparents could be easily, tragically altered.
      I noticed she was flicking the joystick on her wheelchair in a way that many people tap pencils on tables or rapidly bounce their knees.
      “Go to your place,” I blurted, trying not to consider the consequences, the rejection, the shame that might await me.
      She just smiled and wheeled to her van.

In my early twenties, I was debugging code for a startup that was destined to go belly-up, when I met Subajini. She was seventeen, her parents had just moved to Pacifica from Sri Lanka, and she’d taken a greens maintenance job at the course behind the house over the summer. The company had leased a laughably small space in the back of a transaction processing warehouse and had me and some other hungry young nobodies on the graveyard shift sharing the daytime computers of regular employees in order to ship product by deadline. I’d go in at 9PM and come home at 5AM, but could only sleep until 9AM, when the sunlight and weed whacking would stir me. The rest of the day, I was borderline narcoleptic. She woke me up one afternoon on the grass partition that marked the edge of the course property, a hedge trimmer in her hands.
      “That face of yours looks like it’s been covered in underwear its whole life,” she said.
      I looked up at her, but the sun sat on her shoulder like a second, glowing head, and I had to turn my eyes out to the glade of pink and white flowers near the seawall.
      “Have you ever seen a burned hiney? Not pretty.”
      She was some shade of brown and wore a preppy striped Izod. I faked falling asleep the same time the next day, with the yellowjackets sniffing me out one by one beneath a Cypress tree, and, after a while, she sat down at my side and nudged me. We had some nervous moments in the course’s utility closet, gracelessly grabbing at each other. I had no idea what she saw in me, but we planned a weekend at a hotel in Santa Cruz to escape her parents, my grandparents, our jobs, our timidity. She told me we would ride the roller coaster on the boardwalk and count the stars from a corner of the beach hidden by sandstone cliffs. When I told my grandparents, they were hysterical—Grandma started hyperventilating and Grandpa was immediately assuring her I wasn’t going anywhere. I told him I was, and he began faking a heart attack. It dawned on me then that I hadn’t slept outside their condo since my parents had left us. I’d been long aware of their lingering sadness over the disappearance, but in my youth it had always been subordinate to my own. That was the way they wanted it—it was textbook parenting. Nevertheless, through some rapid breathing and fake chest pains under the bleak kitchen light, the tragedy had now been recast from my parents abandoning me to being their child who had disappeared, and I felt like holding them, telling them the fate of their new child was not the same as their last child. But they were wary. I could see in their eyes that they couldn’t decide whether I was a constant threat to destroy them, or if I was their consoler, their reassurer; I’d become the prescription drug of their dreams and nightmares, and, of course, they had to take me—above all, I was their grandson. Even now, with Grandma casually threatening to die, she seemed much less worried about abandoning me than me abandoning her. I detected a faint relief in her voice when she told me the oncologist had predicted she had only months to live—a relief that she was protected from abandonment. And then I thought, maybe this was just me, projecting my own worst fears on her.
      I didn’t go to Santa Cruz. We never did ride the roller coaster.
      A few weeks later, Subajini stopped meeting me in the utility closet, and I spotted her several times laughing with a pear-shaped visiting teaching pro, right there under the fat midday sun of the number eight tee box, in plain view of my grandparents’ kitchen window. A groundsman later informed me in Spanish that she had joined a cult in Arizona, but, later, another named Miguel explained that I had probably misunderstood the first groundsman’s use of culto or maybe oculto or whatever he had said that I didn’t understand and that she had in fact begun school at ASU the same time her pro acquaintance took up at a Scottsdale country club. I told myself I had done the right thing, that she wasn’t worth it, but that was crap. I knew she was. It was me who wasn’t worth a shit.

The first thing I noticed about her apartment was that it wasn’t an apartment at all. It was a condo. If there’s one curiosity I’ve often pondered over, it’s that however many floors a condo is comprised of, its occupants reside adjacent to one another, without the schema of basement dwellings and penthouses, without the necessity, as with apartments, for human stacking. As neighbors, they are separated only by walls, and never ceilings and floors. In this way, the condo might be more like a house than is an apartment. Still, it is a compromise undertaken by builders, realtors, loan officers, owners, and renters who may, on slow, rainy days, ask themselves if its human inhabitants are equally more like house-dwellers, with their fully autonomous dwellings, than apartment people. Or are they, in the final analysis, not closer to one or the other, but committed centrists, middle people?
      The second thing I noticed was that there was no visible shrine to the TV Xena, as I had expected. She dropped Joxer behind a door, sat me down on an orange IKEA-knockoff couch and poured us both several tall glasses of vodka, straight. I fought back a grimace each time I drew more into my throat; she seemed to roll the stuff around in her mouth before swallowing.
      “Powdered or bear claw?”
      “Bear claw.”
      “Herpes or warts?”
      “Simplex one.”
      “Mouth or cock?”
      She squinted for a few beats, then poured another glass of vodka.
      “You’re strong-willed, aren’t you?” The metal of her orthodonture flashed now. I hadn’t noticed the braces before. It was a loosening of sorts, baring the equipment so brazenly.
      I wouldn’t have put it exactly as she did—strong-willed—although I had rescued her dog from being flattened by an uncaring, raw tonnage of tank rolling across the scorched battlefield of… she interrupted my thoughts, “I can tell you’re not caught up in the gossip at the office. You don’t need it. That sort of tripe is beneath you.”
      Like a gymnast working the pommel horse, she lifted her entire weight atop the wheelchair arm rests and pivoted onto the couch. I felt like applauding and for the first time realized just how thick and defined Xena’s upper arms were. She slid up close to me.
      “You’re sort of handsome, you know?” There was still such gratitude in her eyes when she said this, but she seemed truthful enough. My chest swelled. My mother used to call me handsome.
      Her body was turned toward mine, and her shoulders and arms looked so muscular, I thought she would kiss me, but she seemed to be waiting, allowing me to be the pursuer. I was terrified, but told myself that she was a crippled television fanatic with fat legs and bulky orthodonture, and that I had saved her dog—write on the whiteboard fifty times, fucker: I’m the catch, I’m the catch, I’m the catch. I clumsily kissed her lips, feeling the metal braces poke through the skin. Our tongues slapped at each other for several minutes when she took my hand and put it to her chest. I moved my thumb and tweaked the pudge of her left nipple.
      “Not here,” she whispered, as if I was the one who had come on to her.
      I followed the wake her chair wheels left in the carpet through a doorway. Under dim candlelight, her bedroom revealed itself as the altar to TV’s Xena that I’d expected in the rest of the condo. The wallpaper was jungle print and the plants lining the floor and hanging from ceiling hooks, in this light, blended neatly with the jungle depths. A stone shrine in the corner rose to the ceiling; shields and armor rested on its iron pegs; swords crowded a sheath. An imitation jaguar skin covered the bed, a heavy tangle of something indistinguishable hung from a cluster of more heavy-duty ceiling hooks, and above the bed pillows, perhaps four feet by three feet, lay a framed poster of Xena: Warrior Princess, at a distance on a jungle path, striking a pose with her fists atop a sword handle. Whether it was the Xena I knew or the television version, I couldn’t quite make it out.
      She pivoted to the bed maintaining eye contact with me. One by one, she popped the buttons on her shirt, and then slipped it off her shoulders. Her biceps were so large they pushed her elbows out, framing her pecs, and the tiny udders that sagged at their tips. She dropped her chin, examining her chest, making each pec pop independently—this made her smile a broad metal lattice.
      “Take your clothes off,” she said.
      “I’m OK. It’s kind of cold in here.”
      “No it’s not. C’mon, let’s see that dick of yours.”
      “It’s, uh, good. I’m thinking–” and she reached out, grabbed my belt and pulled me onto the bed. Before I could object, she had my shirt off. I felt flabby. I had always been fleshy, but beside her cut abs I felt Fat Camp flabby, like the retarded kid on my block who all the other kids used to catch and make jump up and down behind the drug store. I remember one of those days picking up laxatives for Grandma at the counter when the kids hollered from across the street to block the door from the “tilt”, as they called him, who was advancing, aiming for the sanctity of the drug store. I held tight the handles and his sweaty face and palms left streaks on the glass as they dragged him around the corner. At least it wasn’t me, I’d thought.
      It was too late to pull my gut in now—Xena had already seen it all pale and moley and dribbling over my belt buckle. My best bet was to pretend that I was comfortable with it. That could be impressive in and of itself. She’d pulled my pants down around my knees and was manhandling my wiener. It got hard quick, surprising me. Her hands were so furious and hot, it felt like she was whittling a stick, and then she was saying, “Yeah, good, cum baby, cum,” and I guess I’d done it—a mucousy glob tangled in my thigh hair. As confirmation, my muscles relaxed, and a shudder sprang through me as it always does.
      “Donnie, do you like to try new things?” Xena asked, wiping the semen from her knuckles onto the bed sheet.
      “Wha?” My head was cloudy. I felt like sleeping.
      “You know—experiment.”
      “Okay, yeah, sure. I like doing that sort of thing.”
      “Oh, good,” she said. “I was hoping you’d say that.”
      She flipped me onto my front with ease. I heard some strapping and then some jangling, my neck craned to see that she was in a harness, hanging from the ceiling.
      “This might feel awkward at first, but as exhilarating as it will be for me, I’ve known men who swear their pleasure is unrivaled.”
      Her dead knees anchored in the bed, her sure hands raised my ass, and I felt it thick and rubbery bully its way in. My arms flapped lamely and I wondered if the period of repayment for saving her dog, if that’s what tonight was, was coming to an end, or had in fact ended before the sex entirely, if the relationship had effortlessly been shifted to other, less favorable terms, and this, my nose now being smushed into the cold plasterboard wall papered like a jungle as she panted and growled, was how it would be from now on.