Hard Work, Soft Core (2012)

Frank found his calling Thursday night during the wine sipping following a reading. He had made the general complaint how difficult it was to be a serious writer these days. His day job as a journalist was long gone and all the other markets were drying up.

You might try something more mainstream, said a young man. Have you looked at the romance genre?

After many, many hours of Internet research, Frank felt he had mastered it. “Romance” encompassed everything from the chaste to fetishes Frank had never heard of. The soft core sites seemed to pay well for poor material though. The characters were stock stereotypes. The stories followed half a dozen standard plots. Frank smiled. This stuff would write itself.

He sat at the kitchen table. The overhead light glared down on the stack of erasable bond paper just left of his elbow. A deep shadow filled the wastebasket next to his knee. The portable Olivetti sat facing him, silent. Frank did his serious writing on a manual typewriter. There were no fuses to blow, no systems to crash. If the keys weren’t moving, it was your own fault. He cracked his knuckles and decided to start with an archetype: the quintessential naked woman.

She stood leaning in the doorway, water glistening on her bare skin.

“Can you hand me a towel?” she asked, her voice a husky whisper. “I’m dripping on the carpet.”

Frank pulled the paper out of the typewriter and tossed it in the trash. It would be better to start with her clothes on, he decided, but it had to be sexy. A uniform would do it, a school uniform. Better yet, a Japanese schoolgirl uniform.

She stood in the doorway, finger pressed against pouting lips. She was dressed in a navy blue blouse. What it didn’t hide, the wide sailor collar did. Her long woolen skirt covered her legs past her knees. The rest were wrapped in white cotton stockings and a pair of saddle shoes.

Frank frowned. This was not what he envisioned.

She laughed. It was a musical sound.

“I bet you think women wear ‘sexy nurse’ costumes when they work in the ER too.”

This sheet joined its companion in the trash can.

What she needed was a costume that was upfront, no beating around the bush, no potential for misunderstanding. Frank started typing again.

She stood in the doorway and smacked the riding crop against the palm of her hand. Her skin tight vinyl body suit glistened like oil. She strode into the room on stiletto heels and sat down.

“I hate vinyl,” she said. “It’s like sitting on an old car seat in shorts except all over.”

Frank frowned at the page.

“Stiletto heels should be banned by the Geneva Convention.” She peeled off her thigh high boots and rubbed her feet.

But that’s the look, Frank said. You know, ‘kitten with a whip’ and all that.

She eyed him coolly.

“You ever wear stiletto heels?” she asked.

Frank chuckled. No I can’t say that I have.

She handed him the boots.

“Put them on,” she said.

Wait a minute, said Frank. I don’t think –

The riding crop hit the table like a gunshot.

Now!” she ordered.


Frank decided he was going about it the wrong way. This kind of writing was situation driven. The characters would perform whatever erotic acrobatics they wished. All he had to do was set the scene.

She was dressed all in red: low cut dress and comfortable orthopedic shoes. The doorbell rang.

“Pizza guy,” said the man. She played the tip of her tongue across her ruby lips. He was tall and held the pizza in strong capable hands. His broad chest was barely covered by a T-shirt that simply read “PIZZA GUY”.

“How much do I owe you?” she asked, fingering the latch on her purse with long red nails.

“Eleven dollars for the pizza.”

She put her hand coyly to her mouth.

“Oh, dear,” she said. “I don’t seem to have any cash.” The pizza guy smiled.

“We take… other forms of payment,” he said, flexing his biceps as he unhooked the card scanner from his tight blue jeans. “Debit or credit?”

What is wrong with you people?!

They both looked surprised.

“We’ve been taking plastic for years,” said the pizza guy. “Checks too.”

Frank appealed to the woman. Look. You ordered a pizza. You have no money. It’s simple –

“I must have some money,” she said, waving her arms to encompass the spacious and tastefully appointed living room. “And why would I order an entire pizza for myself?”

Frank felt a brain tumor coming on.

Two children ran into the room. The boy took the box and ran back into the kitchen.

“Cute kids,” said the Pizza Guy. The woman smiled and picked up the little girl who pointed at Frank.

“Mommy,” she asked. “Who’s the pervert?”

The paper, the typewriter, the kids, everything went into the wastebasket.

“I’m glad he’s gone,” she said, folding her arms across full breasts. “Can you believe it? With these curves, I think I’m worth more than an eleven dollar pizza!” She almost snorted, but caught herself. “No offense.”

“None taken. You’re a very beautiful woman,” said the pizza guy. She smiled and moved to open her purse. He stopped her with a touch that was surprisingly gentle.

“Don’t worry about it,” he said. “You’ve been through enough today.”

“That’s very considerate of you, but won’t you get in trouble with your boss?”

“I am the boss,” he replied, pointing to his shirt. “PIZZA GUY: I’m Guy.” He held out his hand. She laughed and took it.

“Diane. Nice to meet you.”

They spent a long moment looking into each other’s eyes, their hands still entwined.

“If you’re the boss, can you… take a break for a bit?” she asked, arching an eyebrow. “Would you like some pizza?” He took off his hat and stepped inside.

“I think we just closed for the evening.”

She shut the door behind him and – from somewhere – low music began to play…


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