19 December 2008

"Family Jewels"

By Curtis C. Chen

The trouble started at Thanksgiving. Terrence brought Rachel home to meet his unexpectedly welcoming family. Of course, they were just buttering her up, biding their time.

It happened on Sunday night, after a trip to the local merchdome. Terrence's mother handed Rachel a mug of hot tea and asked, "Have you and Terrence thought about children?"

It was quite shrewd; Mrs. Katoomba had waited until the men had retired to another room for sports viewing and she was alone with Rachel.

"Well, we're not thinking about it immediately," Rachel said. "We couldn't start now anyway, with Terrence in the motility program and all."

Mrs. Katoomba blinked. "What program?"

They had to stay an extra day because bad weather closed the bridges. Rachel wanted to hide in the bathroom every time she saw Mrs. Katoomba's face.

Terrence couldn't stop apologizing during the drive home.

"I'm sorry," he said. "It just hadn't come up."

"You could have mentioned it."

"I don't generally discuss my sex life with my parents."

"So don't," Rachel snapped. "Tell her you're moonlighting. Tell her it's hard to find work in lowtown. Tell her something. Anything."

He didn't speak for a long time. Finally, when they were almost home, he said, "I'll talk to them."

Rachel sighed, her breath fogging the windshield. "No. You won't. That's not what your family does. That's why your mother cornered me. She knew you weren't going to talk."

"I'm sorry," he repeated.

There was a message waiting on their refrigerator. Terrence touched the door, and the video display came to life with the computer-generated image of a motility clinic nurse.

Rachel didn't want to hear it. She dragged their luggage into the bedroom and started unpacking.

She was angry at Terrence, but she was more unhappy with herself. Motility was a miracle of modern science, and their contribution to it was genuine charity. They had nothing to be ashamed of. But the pittance that the program paid didn't compensate for the time lost, months at a time, when Rachel and Terrence couldn't make love.

They had tried, of course. Sometimes Rachel could bring herself to a climax by rubbing against Terrence's doll-smooth groin--he still had a pelvic bone, after all--but she hated seeing his face below her, full of desire that she couldn't satisfy.

She turned around and jumped, startled by the sight of Terrence standing in the doorway.

"What's wrong?" Rachel asked.

"The clinic," he said. "They lost power during the storm."

She walked over. "Was anything--damaged?"

He blinked at her. "They're not sure. They want us to go in so they can reattach it and have us--test it. Make sure it still works."

Rachel's mouth hung open. "You mean..."

"Yeah," he said. "They want a sample. And--a video record."

She took his hand. "Oh, my."

"There's nothing sexy about this," he said, smiling. "It's purely medical."

"Yeah," she said. "You can tell that to your mother."

"You want me to call her now?"

Rachel punched his shoulder. "Go put on your hat."


Audio: "Family Jewels"


Music: "Bassexp" by p1rj1s, licensed under Creative Commons from ccMixter.

It's difficult to find instrumental music that's simultaneously funny and a little sexy. Let me just say that.

A few years ago, I took a voice acting class that focused on audio book reading. One of the most important lessons I learned in that class was not to belittle the material. No matter what you, as a reader, may think about the book--even if it's something you'd never read yourself, like a Harlequin romance--you must deliver it to your audience in a respectful way. You have a responsibility to the people who pay money and time for that audio book.

Many writing instructors tell their students to always read their work aloud, because words (especially dialogue) that seem clever on the page may ring false in your ear. I still have a tough time writing about sex or violence (how much should you describe? How much detail is required for clarity, and when do you cross the line?), but I'm working on it. As shown here.



Happy Holidays, legal adults over the age of majority in your respective jurisdictions!

This week's story is based in part on an actual incident. I tend to sleep later than my wife, and during one holiday at my parents' house, D and my mother had an early-morning conversation which the latter party steered toward the topic of children. D was not a happy camper.

My parents have known since high school that I'm not interested in being a father, but perhaps they were hoping some outside influence might alter my attitude. Sorry, folks. I'm working on a different kind of legacy.

To all those visiting family (and especially in-laws) for the holidays, I salute you for going Once More Unto The Breach.


16 December 2008

'Tis the Season

Since I just shot off my mouth over on the HotSheet about how great Creative Commons is, and I've been using music from ccMixter, I thought I should update my own copyright notice to make it clear that I'm doing a Doctorow and publishing 512 Words or Fewer under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

I know, that's a mouthful, but the short version is this: you're free to share any of these stories (text or audio) with your friends, and even use my words or ideas in your own art.

The only things you can't do are sell them (hence "noncommercial"), omit my byline ("attribution"), or publish your own work under a more restrictive license ("share alike").

I agree wholeheartedly with Tim O'Reilly's assertion that, for creative types, obscurity is worse than piracy. If you do anything with my 512 words, let me know so I can add a link from this site!