Prose Header


by Emanuele Pettener


She exited the water. I could see her butt emerging while she stepped on the stairs, but I was too exhausted to desire her. I remained in the water to breathe for three — suave — minutes.

I was going back to the men’s changing room melancholically, with my head down and my bathrobe thrown over my shoulders like a mantle for a poor vagabond, when I saw the fissure between the door and the wall of the women’s changing room, open enough to show me — sitting down in her nice bathing suit, drying her hair with a pink towel — my girl.

My girl looked at me. Smiled. I smiled. Her eyes went on smiling, while her mouth stopped. I remained still, almost telepathically communicating my desire. Without taking her eyes off me, she put her right hand on her left shoulder strap, her left hand on her right shoulder strap, she lowered her little head and her wet hair covered her breast, she lifted it up and her breast was naked.

She was looking at me, with the excited decency of someone who is letting herself be looked at, someone who spontaneously volunteers for abuse. I looked at her: she had wonderful, lucid, candid breasts. I lifted my hand to my lips and sent her a kiss. She laughed, miming a thank you.

Then she stood up, her bathing suit on her waist, she slipped her fingers in it and took it down to her ankles. She was naked. Fantastically naked. She let herself be looked at as if my gaze were a thousand darts, as if pinched by a thousand little lascivious crabs.

I was hypnotized by the thick tuft of dripping hair. The beauty of that non-beautiful body was blinding. My desire was such as to degenerate into mysticism, I almost felt like kneeling down — and our eyes did not dare meet, and yet they were meeting like other eyes never did before, fixed, wide open, undressing and undressed, embarrassed but understanding and respectful and avid...

Then a group of people arrived. A moment of confusion, and when the group was gone, the changing room door was closed and the beautiful dream vaporized.


The meeting is set at noon sharp in front of a nice little restaurant by the sea, “The Perplexed Anchovy.” I wake up and my heart is pounding in my chest. She comes back to my mind, she comes back everywhere, I recognize the fragments of that most sensual vision, and everything is lost.

I crazily looked for her outside the pool, I ran left and right following squads of women that could be her — to invite her for a drink at my place, and undress and devour her — I looked for her because I fear I cannot face this meeting without a woman to go back to, without a woman who makes me forget...

But she was not there, guys. She probably ran away, all ashamed, after a gesture that we normally conceive only in our most daring dreams. Over. I will get over this rainy Saturday in which my carrier is decided. I’ll get over trying to concentrate on your naked body, and it will be easier to kiss Grassona.

Kiss Grassona... It sounds easy. But only a kiss and she’ll be in my power, at least for a while.

I get up, I shave, I make a coffee, bread and butter, but no, I can’t eat. I try some push-ups, I wash and re-wash my face, I leave the shower running on me. Outside it’s raining and it’s hot. It’s raining, and Grassona is waiting for me on the beach.

Being jobless is not that bad. I look outside the window and the flowers are drinking the rain, the cars pass by shaking their wipers, and there is a charming immobility in everything. I like life when I observe her still, without projects, in the pauses of my ambition. Life in evolution, life with a future — good or bad whatever — is a depressing life, because you cannot hide that going ahead means getting closer to death, and even if you accomplish beautiful or interesting or stupid things, it doesn’t matter, it’s equally useless. Damn.

It’s a while since I have been this philosophical. But... you plan a dazzling carrier to give a sense to your life, and this already sounds like a painful trick — so you meet a rich fat woman who suggests you follow her to America, so you start writing short stories for her erotic magazine so that a serious publisher will one day discover smelling your talent — so you publish your first novel and the public is cold but the critics are enthusiastic or vice-versa (you are only sorry that someday this will be all over) — so you publish your second novel and the public buys a zillion copies, but the critics say you lost freshness or vice-versa (you are only sorry that someday this will be all over) — and so on, writing novels, savoring fame and money, winning a Nobel prize perhaps — who would have ever imagined it when you wrote your dirty stories fifty years ago? — and when finally you start enjoying life without thinking about its end, you die.

Then you think: why on earth did I kiss Grassona?

The beach was empty and deserted as it is in Italy in January. A hot wind was blowing, and the sea was wild. She arrived wearing orange tights and an olive green t-shirt, in a perfectly planned delay.

“So, what do you want?”

“Shall we walk a little?”

“Look, I have no more than half an hour. I came only because I pity you; you are a good boy, and I’m sorry. But if you want to talk me into getting your job back, I must tell you that I have already replaced you.”

Knock-out, my friend. One good punch under your belt. Nothing to say.

“W... what?”

“Yes, we hired a very young girl, the daughter of one of the most famous publishers. I think you met her at the party on Thursday, at least I saw you talking for five minutes. She had a very sexy split in her skirt, but — I must say — I found her vulgar...”

I was a dumbfounded man, a half-dead man stranded on the beach. We started to walk on the wet strand and the salty smell was wounding my nostrils. I was a man struck by a bomb.

She kept on talking. She leaned over to pick up some shells from time to time. She talked. She seemed to be looking for the thorniest terms to lacerate me in depth. The fierceness of her words struck me more than what she was saying.

“Well, the talent of that girl is something outstanding, believe me. She could be the new Anais Nin. My decision is nothing personal. I made it a long time ago, in non-suspicious times, when her father showed me her short story over a luncheon... Well I was blown away. You know, blown away. And you know I’m not easily blown away.”

She talked and she leaned to pick up the shells. I wasn’t even a man in pain. Only mocked. I listened, listened, and deep down I was starting to savor freedom. Yes, I knew it all already: good job, guys, now I’ll live only to get my vengeance. I was a man who does not forget. I was a handsome man.

“See, Tom, I tried to help you, because I liked you and you seemed like a good boy. We have to help young people, but — I say it for your own good — rid yourself of the idea of being a writer: you have no talent, that’s all.”

I was a bleeding lamb who wished to be swallowed by the ocean because there is no worse humiliation than feeling like an unreal artist. I was a wounded tiger who decided then to become a world famous writer. I was wounded anyway.

Then Grassona, with a kind of meditative tune, said: “I love the ocean so much, Tom. Ah the ocean, Tom! Gigantic womb that wraps us in fetal liquid, an avid and crystal-like father with insatiable jaws; father, mother of Beauty and Pain!”

It was then that I became an angry man, full of rage. Because one can tolerate an evil, idiotic or envious person, as long as she is such, and nothing more. But don’t let her adorn her evil or idiocy or envy with floral decorations, mystical expressions, morbid adverbs... don’t let her drip honey on the rims of the cyanide glass... don’t let her make poetry, please — we are full to our head of poets and poetesses, sweating rhetoric, oiled with big meaningless words, we are sick to death of the lyricism of the ignorant!

Then she leaned to pick up a tiny shell and her huge butt became a huge target. I took a few steps back, moved the sand with my right foot, took some run-up, and PUM! I thrust my instep into the center of her butt with such violence that she lost her balance and ended up face in the sand, teeth planted in the strand, the tide lapping at her mouth.


She remained so still and mute, down on her belly, that I thought she had fainted. So I stepped aside and looked at her face: she had wet eyes wide open, teeth stuck in the dune, a rigid face dirty with sand.

When I saw a tiny tear drip down her left eye, down to her nose, touching her mouth and plop, falling in the water, I shivered. I took out the ugly story I had written for that week, and threw it there near the sad carcass of that drifted whale. I ran away.


If now I could go back in time, perhaps, I would be different. Perhaps I would not humiliate her that way. Seeing her as I described, so ridiculed... made me forget all the injuries I had suffered. I’m a good-natured boy.

But it is not this. It is that I knew from the beginning that I was strong and she was weak: even though she could open or close the door to my career, even if she was successful and famous and I had not even the money to buy a sandwich.

But she was old and fat. And I was not. Beauty is the worst form of discrimination: better to be penniless than to lie with your teeth in the sand in all your heavy weight. Yes. I would not do it again, because the only thing that prevents you from humiliating someone is the conscience that you can do it whenever you want. It is never too late.

Anyway, all this didn’t prevent me from selling the story you are reading to the Erotic Time Magazine, the rival of Boca’s Erotic Mouth. It was such a success that Grassona — recognized by everybody as the protagonist — fled to some slimming program in a Spa of the Czech Republic, while I will soon publish my first volume of erotic tales.

Twice a week my adored Alice performs a strip-tease that fills my days with sugar and expectation, but she always disappears outside the swimming pool: evidently she is not ready yet.

About three times a week my friend Arthur interrupts my lunch because he fears Suzanne is betraying him. Is he right? Who knows...

Finally, my new boss, always so kind and caring, lately is strangely insisting on the quality of my tales, and vaguely threatening with sentences such as one swallow doesn’t make a summer, and so on. Tonight he has invited me over to discuss my work at his country house, to make me understand — he and I alone, he says — what he really wants from me because he can do much for me and...


Copyright © 2008 by Emanuele Pettener

Open Challenge 304...

Home Page