"Oh shit. You are not going to write about this."

I say, "No. Nope. Not me. No way."

"Why don't I believe you?" Kat says. Then, "What have I done? Good God. I'm going to be reading about this on the internet. I can't believe it. You sick puppy."

"I told you I wasn't," I say, doing my best to imagine slaughter houses and car wrecks. Mangled bodies. Tortured, bloody remains that hang together by blue-gray gristle and torn sinew.

"You know, sometimes I think somebody opened your skull, spooned out your brains, and packed in a couple of raw pork chops. That's the only explanation," Kat says, and now she's got her face in her hands. When she starts to lose her balance she puts her hands on her knees and hangs her head. "Fuck me, God. Kill me now. I'm getting married to an animal and my best friend writes porno for the church trifoil."

I have to tell myself I'm not seeing the top of her head and tan lines on her hips. No that is not happening. I'm seeing nuclear holocaust.

"It's not going to be that bad," I say, but before I can get another word out she's cut me off.

"Hah! So you admit it. I knew it. Do you realize what you're doing ? You're going to get me fired. There's an explicit clause in my contract about acts of moral turpitude."

"They had your number from day one," I say. "They knew they were hiring a pervert. I bet you told them you wanted to run the day care center, too. Look, when the HR director calls you into his office to fire you, give him a blow job. What do you have to lose at that point?"

Happy with my ever impeccable logic, I shift my weight. Dead leaves crunch under my sneakers. We're up the hill in the shade and cool air. Some dried leaves and needles wobble down from the canopy of redwood and oak branches above. A light breeze carries the scent of sage. Birds chirp and skitter from the forest floor to low branches around us. Through the grill of tree trunks I see mountains glow yellow and green under the midday sun. Hikers pass on the trail below. Kat shushes me when she hears them.

She whispers, "You write about this and I'm going to cut off your balls with a pie spatula."

"Betty Crocker?" I say, loud enough so one of the hikers stops and looks up toward us.

"Don't get smart with me, wet boy. Look at your shoe."

I don't want to look at my shoe because I can already feel an abnormal warmth in my toes and I know what's happening. It's either her or me and I'll be goddamned if I'm going to find out. I'm looking straight ahead thinking about vomit and tracheostomies.

"It's what I do, you know. I have adventures and write about them."

Allowing myself to glance down, I see the top of her head move when she says, "You think this is an adventure, you distorted, lascivious fuck? Next you're going to write about spitting phlegm--you're going to want me to edit it. Aren't you?"

"Leave my innocent lung butter out of this," I say, feeling like Zeus above her. "I wouldn't be mocking an alpha male from your position. You could wind up in a world of hurt and it wouldn't take me any more than a wrist flick from here."

"Do you mean to tell me you've never done this before?"

I say, "Every day, sweetie. Just never with a girl."

"Not even your wife?"

"Do you mean to tell me you have done this before?"

"When I was camping."

"Right next to some guy like this so you can tell stories to each other?"

"Sure. He was one of the camp counselors. He was eighteen and I was sixteen. He grew an erection so I ran away," Kat says.

"Well thank God for that," I say. "You could have wound up in the middle of some bizzare woodland masturbation scene that would scar your delicate sensibilities forever."

"You get hard and I'm going to whack it with that slab of mahogany over there," she says, and I'm imagining eye surgery. Lanced boils.

I say, "I gotta admit, this is pretty strange. Do you think things have been getting a little too familiar between us?"

"I want to know why you've never done this with your wife," she says, standing up. She pulls up her jeans and buttons them below her navel. Pulls up the zipper. I'm still going.

"Protocol," I say. "Every married couple has rules. We used to have two dogs in the house and they were always way too interested. We had to keep the doors closed to keep them out. Now we don't have any dogs and we keep the doors closed by force of habit. It's a lot more civilized. I've seen Nicole Kidman do it, but never my wife."

"Nicole Kidman?"

"'Eyes Wide Shut'" I say. "Got to see her naked, too." Oh shit. Abortion. Mass murder. Bloody after-birth.

"How much further you want to go? I think the top of the hill is only another two miles or so," Kat says. She puts on her sunglasses, slides her backpack onto her shoulders, and I think she's beautiful again, which is very dangerous to a man holding himself. I'm eyeing the big branch she threatened to use to brain me as she walks behind me, then leans around my arm, lifts up her sunglasses, and looks between my legs.

"You always make it sound bigger in your stories," she says, then turns the corner of the ranger's shed we are behind and starts walking away.

"It gets bigger, you perfidious slut. Moral turptitude-ette," I say, voice raised. "I'm going to use your real name one of these days. I'm going to tell people what really happens when we go out. Picking up pool boys and having threesomes in grammar schools."

"You do that, Billy-boy, and you're going to wake up in Macy's women's store covered in lingerie and roofing tar," she shouts, now out of sight. The rhythmic crunching of her steps against the leaves echoes up the small hollow between the hills as she walks downhill toward the trail. I'm standing alone in the woods listening to the sound of my breath and raindrops against corrugated steel.

next episode is in Prophet of human wreckage last episode is in A peal of gentle thunder

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