PART OF THE STARRY CANVAS
Paragraphs for Grownups
by Mark Aster
Parents Strongly Cautioned will be taking another
post-coital rest; we will return on or before
January 1, 2001.
In the meantime, comments on this chapter,
or any back issues,
is more than welcome.
Enjoy the Solstice!
Enjoy the Solstice!
1) Like many of the very short fictional works we have studied, Mark Aster's "Confection" contains little specific information about the setting or characters, leaving all but the most essential details to the reader. How did you picture the story? Answer each question, and say whether or not there is any word or phrase in the story that led you to answer as you did.
a) Are the characters who speak male or female?
b) Are they in a private setting, or a public place?
c) Does the story take place in the present, the past, or the future?
d) What is the relationship between the two speakers?
e) What is the relationship between the unnamed female ("her"), and the narrator (the second speaker)? Does he in fact love her? What might he have done to her? Do you think it was something she enjoyed?
2) What is the conflict in this story? What emotions do the characters feel, and how do those emotions show different reactions to the same underlying conflict? How do you think the conflict will be resolved? Support your answers with specific words or phrases from the story.
3) What role does the box of marzipans play in the story? How might the candies relate, actually or symbolically, to the chararcters in conflict? What role does the story's last sentence play in the development of the narrative?
4) The word-choices in "Confection" reflect ordinary literary prose, except for the word "cunt" at the end of the story's longest paragraph. Why do you think the author chose to use this word here, rather than a more conventional alternative? List three other words the author might have used, and say how each one would have changed the effect of the story.
5) Is this an erotic story? Did you become sexually aroused while reading it? Would this story make a good masturbatory fantasy? Why or why not? Describe your favorite masturbatory fantasy, and list two or three elements that make it effective. Are those elements present in "Confection"? Are there elements that any story must have if it is to cause sexual arousal? Why or why not?
6) (Extra Credit) Write your own short erotic story using the characters and conflict of "Confection". You may choose to use any of Aster's characters, or add one of your own. Incorporate at least two of the elements you listed in question (5). Read your story silently to yourself, and see if you become sexually aroused. Touch yourself gently. Close your eyes. Uncurl.
"How can you say you love her?"
"Because I love her."
"If you loved her, you wouldn't have done what you did."
I sighed and looked down at my hands, at the polished tabletop, the candles, the box of marzipans. As was the fashion then, these were in the shapes of figures coupling.
"Look," I said, not raising my eyes, "in her culture, in our culture, there is, there is no conflict between love and... what I did. You are reading your own prejudices into the situation."
I took one of the candies from the box, took it out of its soft paper wrapper. It showed a maiden being ravished by a satyr, her head averted and her hands up, pushing him away above, but beneath her legs spread wantonly and her hips pushing at him, his long obscene member half inside her delicately furred cunt.
"I should kill you."
I sighed again, turned the sweet in my fingers, and put it into my mouth. My tongue felt for an instant the textures of the twined bodies, before they dissolved and the scent of almond filled my head.
Finally I released him and he turned slowly over on the tangled sheets, moving his back and his hips, stretching the muscles that had been tensed then strained then limp. His buttock and thighs glistened. His penis lay sticky in the nest of fine light hair. He looked up at me.
"You know," he said, "just because we only met an hour ago, and we don't know each other's names, and we've had some intense and charmingly rough sex, that doesn't mean we can't be nice to each other."
So I smiled at him. What the hell.
Catherine pulled open the door and stepped in. The place was loud, and hot, and smoky; she almost left before the door could close behind her. But as she stood, balanced, the noise and heat wrapped themselves around her as a cloak, and she was drawn in. Stood at the bar. Had a beer. In her pocket she fingered the card Rita had given her, with the address, no more, a smudge of dirt.
Across the room a row of pinball machines rang and popped and growled electronically. At one a woman with short brown hair and tight brown leather pants bucked and grunted. From behind, the shape of her back, the curve of her cheek looked like Rita. Catherine walked over through the tendrils of hot smoke, the smell of booze, and tried to stand close enough to see, far enough not to be distracting. Not obvious.
The machine pinged and buzzed, the woman thrust herself against the metal glass box one last time and turned, and Catherine saw it was not Rita, the face too sharp the hair too short in front. The torso, angular in a leather halter and silver neck chains, too tan and too memorable.
"Do I know you?" Her voice low and hoarse.
"No, no I don't think so."
And the woman's hand resting casually on Catherine's hip, her smile wide, and her lips intensely crimson. "Well, maybe we can do something about that."
"Penetration," said Pat, sitting back with her red dress bunched up around her hips and her thighs apart, "is a differentiator." She raised her knees and rested the heels of her shiny black boots on the couch, near her buttocks, on either side of her moist open sex. "If I only take your prick in my hand, the tunnel of my fist is only a temporary inside; it's one thing. But if your fingers go inside me, in my pussy or my ass, then we're doing something different. There can still be detachment, but it's detachment in the context of a different intensity."
Julie, her head back and her eyes closed as she rode someone's bucking hips, said (in a voice pleased and abstracted and mischievous all at once) "I don't have a prick."
"Who said I was talking to you?" asked Pat. Then someone got up from the floor and stood in front of her, and she looked up at him and smiled, took his long warm cock in her hand, and slowly slid it between her lips. Her eyes closed, and her other hand slipped down between her legs. She dipped a finger into her slit as she began to suck.
The water from the melting ice drips very slowly onto her neck, just above the collarbone. It pools on her skin, and it rushes in clear silver lines down around and between her breasts.
The air is turning cold, and her nipples are hard and indrawn. Her arms are still bound above her head; the ropes keep her body gently stretched.
The sun has almost set, and now the light is perfect. I pick up the camera.
The Earth has been replaced, apparently, by countless coils of smooth wire. There is no gravity, but in a spherical region roughly one hundred miles in diameter, there is breathable air. Most people are gone, but a few hundred thousand remain. They suffer neither hunger nor thirst, but they need sleep, and they have vivid dreams.
Within a dense cluster of wire, within the sphere of air, someone has found a hollow sphere the size of a large room. Within the sphere is a book.
The covers and spine of the book are blank; there is no title page.
The book begins, "The Earth has been replaced, apparently, by countless coils of smooth wire."
I never get to see
Her dress spinning up over her thighs.
That shirt looks lovely on you.
Women are more likely than men to be good listeners.
I am often nervous in social situations.
Sometimes people act without thinking.
In a crowded elevator, I try not to let my body touch anyone else's.
Being naked together is a good way of getting to know someone.
When I say something and you don't reply, it hurts me deeply.
Love is an important part of life, but some people are too singleminded about it.
I would very much enjoy skinny-dipping with Natalie Portman.
This plum is too ripe.
The other night dear, as I lay sleeping, I dreamt I held you in my arms.
I am not comfortable around knives.
My soul yearns for the sweet softness of your kiss.
People with long tongues should show more restraint in public.
Most men are only looking for a good time.
Youth is wasted on the young.
I have lived out many of the dreams I had as a child.
All things considered, I am content.
I love it when you do that.
One morning long before they were married, he woke to yellow sunlight shining through the curtains of the downcoast bed-and-breakfast (vacation money a gift from Cindy's parents, whose tolerance of his presence in the same state as their daughter still amazed him now and then). She lay on the other side of the bed, propped up on one elbow, looking at him.
He sleepily admired her face, the smooth swells of her breasts, the curves of her shoulders. The sheet was at her waist; her nightshirt was probably on the floor somewhere. The air, or the bed, still smelled subtly musky.
"I've never seen you masturbate," she said.
She just smiled.
"I haven't really had much reason to, lately." A brilliant riposte, he thought, for someone just waking up. He sat up and moved toward her, but she turned her face to the side.
"I've never seen a boy do it."
"Could you do it for me?" Now she was looking right at him. Her face, as always, utterly lovely; he, as always, completely helpless.
"You gonna help?" He put his hand on her side, on her bare skin, and slid it up the slope toward her nipple.
She moved away from him, nearly off the bed, and pulled the sheet up over her breasts, over her mouth, over her nose. And she laughed. "Nope! Pretend I'm not even here."
"Yeah, right," he said, a little nervous, goosebumps for some reason pricking his arms. But when he pushed the sheet down over his belly and below his hips, he was already more than half erect. He circled his fingers around the staff, and then looked over at her eyes.
"If I show you mine, will you show me yours?"
"We'll see," she said. "Maybe if you're very good."
"I want to lie in bed," I thought as she stirred her coffee, "and have you lean over me with your shirt open and let me suck on your big pink tits. You can put your hand down between your legs, under your skirt, your fingers into your pussy, and close your eyes and moan while I push my tongue into your nipple."
She yawned. I saw myself tearing off her nightgown, throwing her backwards into the bed, plunging my throbbing cock into the wet heat of her cunt, fucking her slowly, my body filling with pleasure, kissing her gasping lips and licking the warm wet membranes of her open mouth, over and over until she screamed and came, and then crawled down my body and sucked me until I shot semen into her throat.
"Guess I better be going," she said. And smiled. "Hope you're feeling better."
I watched her ass moving under her dress as she walked to the door.
"So where will you go now?" she asked, walking to the window and unbuttoning her blouse. I looked at her reflection in the glass, the white lace cups that held her breasts and the midnight lights of the city.
"Somewhere far from here," I said, "somewhere Voss has never been." I put my hands on her waist and she leaned back against me, her blouse slipping down her arms. She tilted her head back against my shoulder and I kissed her. Her lips were soft.
"Do you love me?" she whispered. I kissed her again. She turned in my arms and put her hands on my cheeks. "Do you love me?"
Before I could answer she pulled my head down and kissed me, hard and open-mouthed, on the lips. And she spread her legs apart and pressed her body against me.
"Don't answer," she breathed, her eyes closed, "don't answer!"
My parents made me take swimming lessons when I was little, like maybe five or six. First grade, I think it was. The pool was big and cold, and I didn't really want to learn how to swim. But the teacher was funny. He was big and fat, and he'd jump into the pool and splash everybody, and his helpers would yell at him.
His helpers were like seventeen or eighteen, lifeguards I guess, usually two of them, sometimes a boy and a girl, sometimes two girls. They'd help us swim, hold our hands while we kicked our legs, hold us on top of the water on our backs when we tried to float.
I remember one time getting into the pool at the start of class, down the ladder. The water was cold. I started to walk or paddle over to where the other kids were standing and bouncing by the end wall. But then I stopped for a second in front of one of the helpers, a highschool girl in a tight blue suit. She was looking at something else, but her body was facing me, and I remember her chest was right in front of my eyes.
I mean, I was only six so I don't think I stopped because of her chest, you know? But I do remember what it looked like, what they looked like, these two rounded hills on her chest inside the suit, all smooth and shiny and wet. I must have been looking at them, at her, because I remember the shape and the color so well.
Then the teacher said something, I didn't hear what it was, and everybody laughed, and I ran (except you can't run in the water!) over to where everybody else was and tried to hide. Not a big deal. But I do still remember it.
Vicki Luka, 23 and heterosexual, is an assistant buyer for a major retail firm. She has large, firm breasts and a round ass. She enjoys cabinetwork, spicy food, and having her nipples sucked.
"I think beards are very virile. My current boyfriend has a full, soft beard, and I love how it feels against my bare skin."
Carlos Swann, 26, is a bisexual actor, currently between productions. His interests include radical politics and the relation between sexuality and consciousness. He enjoys anal sex, and light bondage.
"Beards are, in my experience, usually a sign of some unresolved primitivity issues in a man. I like smooth cheeks. Heh heh. If you know what I mean."
Sylvia Portance, 29, is a technology consultant and part-time horse trainer, who spends most of her nights cruising city parks looking for casual, and preferably violent, sex. She craves pain and vulnerability, and is looking for a man or woman who can suck her soul out through her vagina as she screams uncontrollably into the darkness. Sylvia is a Virgo.
"A beard like covers up a man's face, you know? I want to be able to see who's fucking me."
Alice Paul is a 22-year-old lesbian who works as sous-chef at The Ugly Ostrich in Vancouver. She is in a long-term relationship with a woman she has known for years; lately she has found herself at night, sitting by the window, staring through, or at, the glass, listening to her lover breathe, and wondering if this is, in fact, all there is.
"Beards? Oh, sorry; I thought you said 'guys with beers'."
We carried the sleeping children to their nests under the lemon moon. Then she opened her shirt and stepped out of her clothes, and for a long minute she let me kneel before her and drink the last sweet drops from her round apple breasts.
We lay on the grass together, naked with the breeze blowing over our skin, and watched the moon setting. Her hands played shyly, then boldly, over my body.
"Think," she said, her fingers caressing me but her eyes turned to the sky, "of all that starry canvas, all those stars with their lives, all those lives with their lovers, kissing and coupling even now by their own nests, lying in their own grass."
"Are there?" I asked, my body slowly igniting.
"There must be." And she turned from the sky, turned her eyes from the starry canvas, and swung her leg over me, and pressed her belly to my belly and her nipples to my chest.
"There must be," I said, and I put my hands on her back, and she opened her mouth and she kissed me.
She puts on a CD and sits down next to him on the sofa. The lights are dim, the room is warm. They are sitting close together. He puts his arm around her shoulders halfway through the first song. They talk. During the second song, she kisses him lightly. He smiles.
When the third track ends, they are kissing hungrily, her lips open and his tongue in her mouth, their arms around each other. In the fourth track, she is pressing herself against him and warmth is spreading between her legs, under her skirt. His hands move over her body.
When the last track ends, he is lying back with his eyes half-closed, his pants open, and she is lovingly licking his penis, stroking it with her fingers, taking it deeply into her mouth. The skin is hot and smooth against her tongue, live and exciting between her lips. He strokes her hair and moans.
After the music stops, she slides his erection out of her mouth and stands up, smoothing down her skirt. She walks to the cabinet and puts on another disc, something slow and mellow, and turns back toward him. She puts her hands under her skirt, hooks her panties with her thumbs, and slips them off down her legs. She tosses them at him; they land in his lap, next to his throbbing cooling penis.
She smiles a broad wicked smile and walks back to him.
Page design and coding by Pat Allen and Mark Aster, hosting by Pitas. This page is supposed to be in some interesting font like Georgia or Nimrod; if you're seeing it in your default serif font, you can get probably Georgia (both Windows and Mac) here.