Spanking Without a Cause

Kevin Killian

“I guess.” This sounded to me like the private talk of lovers, that I shouldn’t be intruding on, but they had asked me to lunch, hadn’t they? It was up to them to keep their private little pillow talk off the lunch table. They were just passing through in what looked like a brand new Mitsubishi Spyder. In our town folks mostly go for the American-made cars, but I told Adam he wasn’t going to run into a bunch of yokels smashing the windshields of Japanese cars or anything like that. There were even a few Obama stickers I’d noticed around town—and not just in the black part either. A new liberal spirit was hitting Gavit. Maybe folks were outraged over the war, five years into a war that never ends.

Eric Avery stood and twirled and showed off a pair of red “suede” Emerica skate shoes, which we don’t see much of in Gavit. He said a fan had bought them for him. “That’s cool,” I allowed. After his second Cosmo Adam grew expansive about his admiration for Sondheim and his hope of making an unauthorized, and spanking-centric, video version of Follies. “I’d like to do a Follies that would have real, live, middle-aged men in it, and they’d be remembering when they were young. I wrote to Sondheim about it, thinking he’d see the revolutionary potential, and the fuckhead just sicced his attorneys on me with a cease and desist.”

Eric Avery frowned, the frown of great tragedy, just calculating the loss to the world of cinematic art.

“But the hell with him. I’m doing it anyway, and Avery will represent the boy of the 1950s.” He’d already, it turned out, produced a music-less Pacific Overtures with Ming as the eternally punished, colonized Asian geisha boy, and was further deconstructing West Side Story as a Cold War-inflected parable in which the Puerto Rican “Sharks” would be played by Russian nationals—led by Adam’s previous discovery, Dimitri—while the white “Jets” would stay American—and Avery would star as Tony, waiting for something coming. “You know what Bresson said,” Adam reminded us, the white froth of beer around his red, sensitive mouth. “’An image must be transformed by contact with other images the way a color is transformed by contact with other colors. A blue is not the same blue beside a green, a yellow, a red.’ I keep thinking there must be some simple, in-the-camera technology for spanking an ass into the instantly recognizable red, white and blue pattern of the US flag. Now wouldn’t that be spectacular?”

“Ouch,” said Avery, pretending to wince.

“Robert Bresson said, ‘No art without transformation.’”

“Wow, you’re really into this,” I exclaimed. He was almost convincing me, and I was resistant to his ideas for the reasons advanced earlier. “But isn’t that a little bit arty for the crowd who downloads your videos?”

“He gives them what they want, and then something extra.”

“Something transformative,” Adam Radley reiterated. He tousled Avery’s hair and for a minute you could almost think he was genuinely fond of him. And I felt a little jealous because no man had ever done that particular thing to my hair. I was all-American too! Well, Adam preached transformation and he was playing Eric Avery like Pygmalion, molding him into his ideal object. Would it last? At lunch he wouldn’t let Avery eat a single thing but a lettuce and tomato salad, because later in the afternoon he was going to drop him off at Ethan Allen’s house for a few hours. As I saw it they were nothing more than glorified pimp and whore—but they had rationalized their relationship to the point where, the money that such hooking would bring in would in some way underwrite the budgets of Extreme Remedies’ next productions.

“Hope to see you again,” Eric Avery said, as he came back from the men’s room. He was now dressed in the familiar mailman’s uniform he wore to such dates. It looked good on him: Adam Radley had had his own tailor come and let it out a little here and there. Customized it to Avery’s unusually awkward body. The lower pockets were now double welted, giving the suit a vague air of the 18th century—he’d become a mailman in the age of Dangerous Liaisons. And did the gray wool now hug his big ass like a lover? Indubitably, as though they’d poured gray velvet soup all over his butt and let it dry on his skin like the fuzz on a tennis-ball.

“Come back any time,” I told them. “And thanks for lunch.”

“There was so much I wanted to tell you,” Avery called, over his shoulder, as he and his director left the L-Shaped Room. And he made that sign with his right hand that means, “I’ll call you.” Funny sign that looks as if one is punching oneself in the head, except with the thumb and the weak slim finger, what me and Jim used to call the “baby finger” extended at odd angles as if to soften the blow.

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