I wrote a sex scene in my first book that was mocked by a couple of authors (I haven’t forgotten: I mean, who really ever does. You can forget criticism, sure, but never mockery), and since today is Bad Sex Award Day, I’m posting this, a sex scene from my current work in progress for you to praise/mock. If I ever finish it, the book will be called A Thousand Tomorrowless Days – I guess I’m entering the flowery title phase of my career. It’s my big haunted southern historical novel.
They draw near Rosen, where the land emerges out of the suck of wet ground and saturation. It’s greener here, and the cicada’s song becomes almost deafening, rising and falling in crashing waves. Tap entertains himself by mentally enumerating different trees: crabapple, black oak, cedar, oak again, black gum, sycamore, a red oak drowning in muscadine, Spanish oak, a copse of bristling pine, a brace of oil-leafed magnolias smelling sweet. Which way will Jackdaw jump in regards to the timber of the Old Bottoms, and how involved is Regina? he thinks. He is surprised at how pleasant the ride is, despite the heat, and comes to the conclusion that it is because of how genial a companion the woman has proven to be and only part of that is to do with how well she sits a horse or her undeniable beauty. Like him, she talks when something is needed to be said, but she does not prattle on to fill up the silences. Georgie and Lem ride ahead, chatting in low voices, sometimes laughing. Regina does not pay any attention to her two men. Tap considers her, trying not to stare, despite his desire to: she is fifteen, possibly twenty years his senior, he surmises, as he might gauge the value of timber. It’s a divide that could never be surmounted in polite southern society, regardless of the fact he’d been married to her sister-in-law.
The breeder has a thirty acre stead that sits on a rise a hook in the Ontuck Creek, and so, only saw part of his land under flood. Regina greets Danforth and gives him Emelia’s letter, and he leads them back to the barn as the skies congeal and begin to darken.
“You’ll want two working horses and a draft for the plow. Or a mule,” she says.
“Just the horses,” Tap says.
“And what will you use for hauling?” she asks. “Surely, if you’re felling timber, you’ll need a draft horse.”
He did not respond and enjoyed the narrowing of her eyes at his silence. Whether he kept the Old Bottoms or took Jackdaw’s deal, he wouldn’t need a draft horse.
“Those two,” she says, pointing at a bay mare and a four year old grey gelding, almost on his full growth. The grey gelding she chooses is docile as a pup, and seems to take to Tap, nuzzling his shoulder and leaving smears of grass-streaked saliva on shirt, to Regina’s great amusement. The total for the horses is almost three hundred dollars but before Tap can write the cheque, the sky opens up and Danforth drags them into the barn to keep from getting wet and then when it seems it will never stop raining, to his house where, after consulting the Farmer’s Almanac, insists they take dinner with him and spend the night since he prognosticates that the deluge will be a long one.
They have soup and biscuits for dinner, a simple meal, and Danforth pours them beer in chipped mason jars and later snifters of bourbon. A widower, Danforth looks after all their needs himself without the help of servants – from setting their dinner to topping their drinks. When the evening grows late, he escorts Regina upstairs to the guest room and with many apologies, and a generous pour of whiskey, leads Tap to the upstairs sleeping porch where, he said, he’s placed fresh linens on the single bed there.
“It’s where I take air on hot nights. Not too many mosquitos. You’ll be real comfortable in this weather. Hell, I’m a little jealous,” Danforth says.
Tap takes off his boots and sits in the wicker chair and smokes, watching the rain stream off the roof in hissing torrents. A wave of exhaustion washes over him – only days before he was in thrall to the needle. It has taken its toll on him. He sips his whiskey. A fine mist drifts into the sleeping porch, coming as vapor, and settles cool upon his skin, dampening the paper of his cigarette. Lightning flashes illuminate the barn below him where Georgie and Lem sleep in the half-distance from the Danforth house, and beyond that the pasture and then the Ontuck Creek bend, rushing now. And further on the tree-line, and then in the farthest distance, he can perceive great towering architectures of clouds flashing and flickering, as if arteries and veins of light threaded their design. The play of light across the land and into the sky are like moments of spatial revelation; you are here, and these are your surroundings and now there are even more, see how small you are? And now, look up, see the moving behemoths of the indifferent sky? See their fruiting majesty?
He doesn’t hear her door open but sees her figure come into the blue gloom of the sleeping porch, where her room connects with the gallery. She walks forward on bare feet and takes his cigarette from his mouth and instead of sitting in the opposing wicker chair, she sits on his lap. It is not a modest pose. She still wears the riding skirt, but she hikes it up, and both her knees and bare feet move outside of his legs. She leans back into him, and he feels trapped behind her in some ways. His trousers have become uncomfortable. She is aware of his stiffness.
In an attempt to regain some normalcy, some composure, he takes a sip of his whiskey, and then, as with the cigarette, she takes it away from him too and drinks it. She wants him to have nothing but the sensation of her pressing against him. He puts his hands on her waist as she rolls her hips. She snubs out the cigarette. She downs the whiskey and places the glass on the side table.
Standing, Regina turns, taking his hands, and leads him to the small bed. She kisses him then, for the first time with some intention. Or maybe the kiss on his cheek when they first met was intention enough. Her skirt falls to the floor. When the bed begins to creak rhythmically, there’s a moment of panic that Danforth might hear them, and he pulls her and the blanket onto the hardwoods and strives above her, looks down at the darkness where the open V of her legs should be and waits for the lightning flashes to come so he can see and enter her. Her hands work at the buttons of his shirt. The sky ripples with light and he pushes himself inside her.
“My boy,” she says. She draws his mouth to her breast. He sucks and bites at the fabric until she opens her blouse and frees her breasts from her brassiere. He increases his tempo thrusting into her until both their breaths come in huge draughts.
She says nothing afterwards, picking herself off the floor, and moves to the wicker chair and sits. He lights them both cigarettes and they smoke and watch the lightning, naked. She counts up after every flash – un deux trois quatre cinq six – until the thunder sounds. The rain slows, and then stops and the sound of crickets, frogs, and insects fills the night, their bright chirrups mixing with the soft susurrus of dripping water, the burbling creek. The high keening yips sounds of coyotes in the distance. Tap finds himself hard again, looking at her.
“Faire des pirouettes sur le nombril. The bed,” she says. And they move there, going slow this round, doing what they can to not make the springs squeal. It’s easier the second time, two people figuring out how their bodies fit together. When it’s over they lay tangled and she traces the course of his collarbone, his ribs. Her fingers pause at the puckered frown of his wound.
“Nothing,” Tap says.
“Nothing? It looks like you’ve been shot.”
“Shot?” He shakes his head, making the mattress quiver on springs. “You’re going to have to go back to your room.”