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Romancer Erector
Diane Williams

How keen I have been with my thinning mind, with my large feet in new shoes, to have this life story.

I feel unsteady and am afraid of my boyfriend. I unbutton my vest. I say, "Isn’t he marvelous, an adorable boy!"

The boy gives me a piece of cheese rind and a bit of paper and a gherkin on a plate. His clothing is stained. I admire him. He touches my breast.

For now, there’s a slight bulge in my acumen.

Soon I laugh and am willing to stay the night. When asked I say, "I will."

Before my old eyes there is old pottery and a gilt chair, and an unold mouth about to kiss me.

I’ll wind up in this position with the boy’s father, our host, Don Musgrave.

I regard the boy’s boyishness in the morning. How weak he is and very serious. He sits at a desk drawing on paper with crayon. Other children fight in the room next to us.

I show part of my breast and he puts crayon marks on paper. I dress myself and tease him.

"Can I have a drink of water?" the boy says.

Whenever he does not speak to me, something mysterious and significant will happen. Already there has been my crawling around in a bed stretching out his penis in the hope I can find lasting companionship. He leads his life to elicit within us erotic desire. His purpose is to exhibit excellence of a kind.

The child says nothing more but is aggressive as if in romantic trouble.

A grand dark pink river is visible beyond the window. This is the dark pink River Urine.

You’ll see. Oh, it’s all very well.

As a woman of my own devising I have had an actual undoing–a fairly smooth, horizontal, waist-high undoing–at this residence.

I took the bedding downstairs for washing.

It was streaming, shaking, teetering. I like the bed.

If it isn’t peaceful here, it isn’t because of the cooked supper, the baths, the whiskey, and the ginger ale.

Mrs. Musgrave turns on the light switch. She goes to the boy whose face is lined and fair. There is gray in the child’s hair and the child digs a hole in his mother or something. Then the mother groans. The child’s charm briefly appears. Two other guests–the Burgundys–keep speaking coarsely.

The boy is taken upstairs and Mrs. Burgundy gets a towel.

I caress the back of my unwarm neck. The enormousness of my love for someone makes me suddenly drowsy.

The dirty Burgundys are the first guests to go home.

I’d be willing just to take a nap.

I move as if I do some sort of work–a jerky sort of rocking while seated, not for long.

I choose a place to sit between their boy–their son–and an older man.

I suppose we will all undulate to the music of my father.

The penis of the boy comes to mind and flourishes gaily.

This river water is stiffer than river water should be, not a good red, but a poor pink color.

I make for myself a light or dark brown flowing cup of coffee.

That Musgrave boy with gray, black-tipped hair is now bathing. Yeah, I hear that a lot–that this has nothing to do with sexuality or experts or alliances or innovating or proliferating. Yeah, I hear that a lot.

A tiny piece of paper with tape is on the table. I give up. Oh, stop it. I pick up the piece of paper. What does it say on it? I rub the paper between my fingers. The boys in the house are short.

Mrs. Musgrave has fed the boys and she sits down against a tree. We’ll have some hamburgers, then see some photographs. I hope Don gets an erection.

I know myself as a small person with light brown skin. I am bald and I wear a substantial wig. I have brown eyes and a pathetically narrow skull and am in the same room with men and people I have not adequately described.

I’m in the gala room, having passed beneath the carved swag to the entrance door. I have to go to the bathroom.

I’ll produce a dribble of cruelty, that’s all.

The only fine chair fills in a gap.

The rock-crystal chandelier is lit.

I stumbled on the drugget en route to the bathroom.

I don’t know what the reason is people don’t wear their hats, such a marked drop in the hats.

The storm, the feast, the fear, a big romance–yes–that’s what I want. I don’t want to be rude, but I have to stop speaking to you. I have to go to the bathroom.

The next day several men mention to me how thin the boy is. He really looks very thin. I thought it could be the strain of all this. He, the boy, just begs me to sit at the table. There really isn’t room. Marge sets the soup bowl down in front of me. Very well. The boy has his head on his hands. I drink soup this morning. Am not feeling well. The boy invited two of his friends over, actually he invited three. There are three new young boys here, very nice young boys, very nice. I really appreciate boys, as I say.

So, what I am saying is I know where to go from here.

All across the bourne, even in the village, going past the vegetable store, I feel fear now. The fear is so conjunctive to my life.

I see Musgrave, the tall man. His hair is black and white. His skin is light and dark.

True, the boy is here this evening again not speaking to me. He isn’t looking for me. He isn’t in love with me, or wishing for me, or is he all of that? We had fun. I have fun. What we had was fun. I hardly ever have fun.

Musgrave went to the drawing room. He picked up an apple from a bowl. He must have heard the boy, his son, crying out loud. Musgrave may have thought this signaled the complete change of the world. I do not.

My shoes are made of kidskin with a silk ruche at the front. I wear a dress with an unusual striped working of the fabric.

There may be a similarity between Don Musgrave and me–a slight fullness of the throat, deep creases about the cheeks. I am unique, exclusive, and have a wish today not to be disgusted by my excrement.

Forgot to mention the dogs are abounding as are all the animals clinging to the land and the air–hanging onto each other and getting ready to go.

Do you do any more with this? This encampment is on the River, on the corner diagonally across from the other corner on which stands the Church of Transfiguration. The encampment is very small and is slightly under the overlapping fold of its surroundings. It narrows into an almond shape with a frowning expression and is sometimes cranky. Not surprisingly, I want to give it pleasure.

Diane Williams’s most recent book is Excitability: Selected Stories. Her story, Very, Very Red, appeared in our Summer 1998 issue.

Originally published in the October/ November 2000 issue of Boston Review



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