Originally published in Dark Krypt, August 2005.
From the Desk of Keri Hexpaw
Wendigo: in Algonquian Indian folklore, the wendigo is a thin, sallow-fleshed creature with a ravenous appetite for human flesh. Some say wendigos are humans who, driven by desperate circumstances, have had to resort to cannibalism; forever after, their craving for the Other White Meat compels them to seek new victims.
This is simply FALSE! Wendigos are people, too, and we’re tired of being misunderstood. Our dietary requirements may seem a bit unconventional, but otherwise, we have the same wants and needs as the rest of you.
I hate you! I’m a 6′ 8″ Sasquatch gal, just this side of 400 lbs, with a 28-inch neck circumference and a four-figure monthly budget for depilatory creams. Get the picture? I can’t shoehorn myself into some svelte Barbie-esque skin-suit like you and your glamour queen wendigo girlfriends. How’s a girl like me supposed to win over Mr. Right? And don’t give me that crap, Be yourself, and the man of your dreams will respond to your inner beauty. Last time I tried that, I ended up in a Motel 6 in Weed with a brain-damaged sumo wrestler. I deserve better than that. I want Val Kilmer!
Pretzel Girl, you’d better stay in Manhattan. Show yourself in my neck of the woods and I’ll plant my Big Foot right up your skinny white ass.
Riled in Redding
Actually, Riled, your letter touched a nerve. I’ve been thinking a lot about honesty lately. No, strike that. I’ve been obsessing over dishonesty, all the little lies we tell just to get where we need to go. Does a day go by when I don’t snag a taxi by faking a limp, shedding a few tears, or flashing a bit of boob? That dark, hunky waiter at Fredo’s, would he have brought me a sixth helping of bread if I hadn’t fibbed about being a recovering anorexic? And yesterday, would the doorman at the Biltmore have helped me with my bags if he knew I could lift him with one arm? Which raises a whole different issue: why do I find it so gratifying for men to help me, when it’s so unnecessary?
But the fakery goes far deeper — skin deep, in fact, as any wendigo will tell you. Never mind the false eyelashes, acrylic fingernails, and fru-fru wigs; never mind the hundreds of dollars we spend on cosmetics. The skin-suits are a constant, body-hugging reminder of our mendacity.
Why do they have to pinch so in the crotch? You may hate me, Riled, but can we at least agree that Camel Toes are our common enemy?
Anyway, back to me, and my on-again, off-again love affair with honesty. I had been courting Howard Mather for three weeks, stalling his requests to deepen our relationship. I told him the equipment was rusty, that it had been eons since I’d been intimate with a man. Not once since that yummy roadkill in Winnipeg, I’d almost said; now that would have been a disastrous slip.
We stood outside my apartment door. That night, we’d done it all: dinner at Mr. Chow’s, “Rigoletto” at the Met, and a stretch limo to cart us there and back. Howard was ready.
“Keri, Keri,” he said, smoothing my hair, kissing me on the forehead as he might kiss a niece, “I can be a very gentle lover.”
“I know,” I cooed, and rested my forehead against his beefy chest — one hundred push-ups each morning, two hundred a day on weekends.
“Tell you what,” he said. “A friend of mine has a cabin in the Catskills . . .”
He droned on about candlelight dinners, bear rugs, and fireplaces, but I didn’t pay close attention. I wondered when I might broach the subject of children. I’m not getting any younger, I imagined saying, and I could picture the look of fear marring his hopelessly Puritanical good looks: Mr. GQ, a six-footer with chestnut hair who’d given up a lucrative contract modeling Hanes underwear to become a junior editor at Random House.
Oh, Sweetie, I’d say, it’s not like I expect you to be around to help raise her —
He’d interrupt: That’s all I am to you? A sperm donor?
And I’d give him a coy smile, a reassuring hug, and say: Oh, no, honey; to me, you’re so much more.
I shivered. The deceitfulness of my enterprise was beginning to catch up with me.
“Keri? Jesus, Keri, what was that? Looked like you were having an out of body experience.”
“Howie . . .” I placed my open palms on his chest, part caress, part brush-off. “Oh, Howie, you don’t know the half.”
“Is something wrong?”
Yes, something was wrong, but as I stood there contemplating an explanation of parthenogenesis (Darling, I can have babies all by myself . . . Yes, I suppose it’s kind of a medical condition . . . Oh, no, Honey, I need you, but not in the usual way . . .), musing whether it might be simpler to peel back a glove and show him my yellowed skin and matted fur, I realized I cared about Howard far too much to make him a part of my life.
That’s right, Riled: I grew a spine. Maybe not a granite pillar like yours, dear, but a spine nonetheless. The next day, I announced to my friends that I’d broken it off with Howard.
“I’m tired of all the lies,” I said.
“What are you going to do, darling?” said Trelyn, who on that particular day sported an auburn bouffant, Liz Taylor-violet eyes, and a two-sizes-too-small silver-sequined bustier. We were lunching at Il Focaccio, which meant we were at the bar sipping Pinot Grigio and inhaling bread sticks; already, Trelyn had a man hanging off her arm, Klaus, a well-muscled blond day-trader who looked considerably tastier than a bread stick. Trelyn ignored her Viking as she continued: “Do you really think you can waltz in here au naturel and walk out with a man?”
“Show a little caution,” said Scarla, ever the careful one, glancing nervously at Klaus. “You don’t want Mulder and Scully paying us a visit!”
“They canceled X-Files ages ago,” said Noshmi, the practical one. “If we wanted to, we could stroll naked through the Guggenheim. The Star would call it a Broadway publicity stunt.”
“Besides,” said Trelyn, “Klaus here has the imagination of a shrub, don’t you, darling?”
Klaus smiled dreamily, working his hand up to Trelyn’s shoulder.
Trelyn arched her eyebrows and whispered, “Watch.” She gazed into Klaus’s baby blues and said, “Gorgeous, in my West Side penthouse, the bed has rubber sheets. What do you think of that?”
At the word bed, his hand dropped reflexively to Trelyn’s ass. He gave her a squeeze, saying, “Whatever you like, Babe.”
“See?” Trelyn said. To Klaus: “Come along, darling. We’ll eat at my place.”
“Pig,” Noshmi said, once Trelyn had left with her Norse god. “Do you know she had a Jets linebacker all to herself last week? Three-hundred-plus pounds, and she never even offered to share.”
“How about you, sweetheart?” said Scarla, patting my hand. “Still scarfing bread bowls?”
Beneath a ton of makeup and the skin suit, my face flushed. I’d become an object of pity!
“You guys,” I said. “You know I’m waiting to meet that special someone.”
“It doesn’t pay to be too choosy,” said Noshmi. “You didn’t hitchhike eighteen hundred miles to carbo-load, did you?”
“A wendigo can’t live by bread alone,” Scarla said, nodding primly.
I was beginning to feel a little exasperated with my friends.
“Hey! I want a man as much as you do. It’s just . . . why do we have to lie to get laid?”
Scarla shook her head and sighed. “There she goes again with the word games.”
“Getting laid is such a euphemism,” said Noshmi. “Why don’t you call it what it is?”
“You know something?” said Scarla, leaning towards us the way she does whenever she’s about to reveal one of her embarrassing secrets that inevitably turns out to be rather banal, “I never consummate on the first date.”
Noshmi looked scandalized. “Never? Not even a nibble?”
“Well . . . maybe a nibble. But I never draw blood!” she added, over our laughter.
“Well, honey,” said Scarla, “you’re still getting more than the Old Maid here.”
There. She’d said it. The Old Maid. Every wendigo’s nightmare: that, protein-starved, our ovaries will hold up their tiny imaginary hands, and surrender to time, fate, and age.
Parthenogenesis is a costly business.
Riled, are you familiar with the emotion of naked, screaming-meemie terror? No, a powerful girl like you, I don’t suppose you would be. Well, then, close your eyes and concentrate on these words: electrolysis parlor!
Now can you grasp the fear I experienced hearing those ugly three syllables, the Old Maid?
“I won’t surrender!” I said, so loudly my friends gaped, and at the bar, several heads turned my way.
“You there,” I said to the nearest semi-hunk with a Y chromosome. “Do you find me attractive?”
He was a trim fellow in early middle age, with good teeth and a nice crop of black curls. He even smelled good. He looked me up and down and his head bobbled dumbly, the way a man’s head generally does when he’s confronted with raw female aggression.
I asked: “Do you want to get laid?”
He nodded again. His cow-like look of acceptance — gratitude, in fact — would make this so much easier.
I thrust out my hand. “Keri Hexpaw,” I said. “I write a . . . an international column about male-female relationships.”
“Neil Calvert,” he said, taking my hand. His face glowed with stunned pleasure. “You sound perfect.”
I got up to leave, but Noshmi hooked my wrist and yanked me back down, saying, “Not so fast, darling.” Scarla gestured for Neil to take Trelyn’s vacant chair, and he obliged.
Noshmi turned to Neil. “We need to know a tad about you. We’re a bit protective of our friend’s diet.”
“Diet?” he said with a weak, nervous smile.
Scarla had it covered. She put a sheltering arm over my shoulder and said, “Poor dear’s on Weight Watchers. We just need to know you’re not going to pour marshmallow cream all over your” — her lower lip tensed — “you know, and expect our girl to lap it up.”
“Oh, no!” he said. “I’m a tax man. Doesn’t get much duller than that.”
“Hopefully not too dull,” I said.
Noshmi said, “I don’t care how dull you are, Tax Man. I’ve never known a guy who would turn down a foursome.”
Neil uncrossed his legs. “A foursome?”
“Easy, boy,” I said, patting his thigh with little regard for accuracy. “Tonight it’s just you and me.”
“Oh, poo,” said Scarla. “I don’t suppose you have any friends, Neil the Tax Man?”
“Uh-uh. I just came in from L.A. Except for the taxi driver, you girls are the first New Yorkers I’ve spoken with.”
“No friends in Manhattan,” said Scarla, giving me the big stage wink.
“Wait a sec,” said Noshmi. “What brings you to New York? You have business here? Some other tax men you’re gonna meet with tomorrow?”
“What about family?” said Scarla. “You must have people waiting for you back home.”
“You guys!” I said. “Give him a rest! He just –”
Neil grinned like an alpha wolf. “Keri, it’s okay.” He turned to Noshmi and Scarla. “The funny thing is, I came to New York to meet girls just like you. There’s this show on TV, maybe you’ve heard of it –”
“Ugh, TV,” said Noshmi, while Scarla and I made gagging noises.
Neil’s hands fluttered like singed moths as he pressed on: “But you see, there’s these four girls, just like you three, only there’s one more –”
“We are NOT going to introduce him to Trelyn,” I said.
“– and all they do is get drunk, eat at fabulous restaurants, buy shoes, and have sex. Lots of sex. And here I was back in San Bernardino in a dead end job, with a wife who didn’t understand me, getting hardly any sex, and I thought, Hell! If a show like that’s so successful, there must be thousands of girls exactly like them in Manhattan. So I left my family, flew out here, and here you are! Isn’t that crazy?”
Ah. That explained the look of astonished glee that had yet to leave Neil’s face.
“You left your family?” said Scarla.
“Because of a TV show?” said Noshmi.
“Yeah,” he said, “but the three of you are proof I made the right choice. This justifies everything.”
I nodded my approval. Neil Calvert had potential.
We stayed a while longer at Il Focaccio, sharing drinks and laughs (I’ve never approved of the way Trelyn would ditch us, once she’d scored), and then we spent the rest of the afternoon at the Museum of Natural History. We had a terrific dinner at Sea Thai, and danced our little feet off at Babalu. As the night wore on, Neil shared with me all his hopes and dreams. I felt I knew him inside and out, as thoroughly as one person can know another after an evening of sweaty carousing.
Well . . . almost as thoroughly.
At one point, I think it was after I’d given him head in a men’s room stall at Babalu, I asked him whether he had any doubts about leaving his family. Perhaps I asked because I’d had a sudden spell of homesickness, a desire to see my brood mates once more; or perhaps even then I’d hit upon the plan of testing Neil Calvert.
He sighed — such a disconsolate sigh! — sat down heavily on the toilet, and showed me the pictures in his wallet.
“That’s Mark — he’s sixteen, and there’s Andrew, he’s two years older. I never said goodbye to them.”
“Handsome boys,” I said, handing the wallet back to him. “Meaty . . . I mean, muscular.”
He brooded silently over the pictures. I’d made the poor man think.
“I’ll make it up to them some day,” he said at last. “Maybe I’ll fly them up for a Knicks game. That would be nice. A ticket for each of them, and for their wives, too, if they’re married by then. How much would four tickets cost?”
“Four? What about you?”
He shrugged. “I’ll stay home. I never did understand that game.”
“You really don’t think they’ll be angry with you?”
He stood up and shook his head. “Maybe they are now, but they’ll forgive me. They’re men, or will be, by that time. They’ll understand.”
And that’s when I figured it out, Riled — what had been lacking in my relationship with Howard: a sense of moral indignation.
I wondered: in Neil Calvert, had I at last found a man with whom I could go all the way?
A persistent chill gripped my heart; I knew I had to probe further. Perhaps Neil had some flimsy cloak of honor, some thin shield of virtue to protect him from my ravenous love. I had to know.
“Hmm?” He seemed distracted, which might’ve had something to do with the fact I was fingering his nuts. In what I suspect must have been Neil’s symbolic declaration of independence, he’d shaved his jewels to cue ball smoothness.
“What about your wife?”
His words flowed mechanically, as if he’d rehearsed them until all meaning had fled to the nearest dictionary. “That bitch? Emotional dry ice and calendar sex. She’s better off without me.”
“Wow,” I said, admiring his profound emptiness. “You don’t give a damn about anyone or anything.”
He glared furiously at me. “That isn’t true at all!” he said, and he rifled through his wallet once again. When he found the object of his desire, his eyes glowed; reluctantly, he handed me something small, dark, and weighty.
I said, “Um . . . you have a thing for metal slugs?”
“No! Look at it. It’s a 4th Century BC Syracusan decadrachma. That one’s only in fair condition, but I have seven that are superb.”
His eyes twinkled. I’m not kidding! And he hadn’t finished.
“Just imagine, Keri: your pop was a veteran of the Peloponnesian war, and when he died he left you his horde of Spartan silver. You cash it in, exchanging it for the currency of the day — the epitome of excellence in numismatic design: a handful of Syracusan decadrachmae.”
Dawned the morning light. “It’s a coin.”
“Yes! And a beauty, too, don’t you think?”
With my other hand, I caressed his cheek. At last, my heart began to thaw. I said, “You really care about these, don’t you?”
“Oh, Keri, just wait until you see the rest –”
“It’s okay. Really. It’s enough for me that you love them so much.”
And that’s how we hooked up, Neil and I. He was an accountant who had left his wife and sons to find sexual fulfillment in the Big Apple; I was the columnist, the scribbler, agony aunt to all the wendigos, Jersey Devils, chupacabras, Sasquatchi, and bogeypersons of North America. Yes, Neil and I were perfect for one another.
My mind was made up. That night, I brought him home to my apartment in the Village. We undressed ourselves in record time, I fell into his arms and we collapsed onto the bed. He was a weensy bit startled by the rubber sheets (yes, I use them, too; otherwise, cleaning up is such a chore), but rather than fear, I read excitement in his eyes.
“So,” he said, “what do you like?”
He drew rapid, skittery breaths as his hands ducked under my panties, frisking my ass for concealed weapons. I had to act fast – eventually, he would figure out the skin suit.
“I like it rough,” I said, emphasis on the rough.
He pulled away and sat up, perching on the bedside like a nervous groom. His eyes never left me. I didn’t like that anxious stare, and for an instant of free fall anxiety, I thought perhaps I’d misjudged my Neil. But then he hauled back and slapped his open palm across my mouth; and as I savored that surprising sting of pain, I knew I’d finally made a love connection.
“Silly!” I said, giggling girlishly as I dabbed blood from my lip. “I wasn’t talking about me!”
I backhanded him, turning that strong, handsome nose into a mashed potato. His hand jumped to his face as he yelped, “Shit! Shit!”, spraying me with blood, and with glee I bounced on my toes and laughed like a kid on a blistering summer’s day, dancing naked under a fire hydrant’s shower. Then he was off and running. “YES, BABY, YES!” I cried, overtaking him by the bathroom door; and there, Keri the Lioness pounced upon her lover’s neck and rapturously dragged his twitching frame back to her bed.
Afterwards, my stomach full, I basked in an aura of contented bliss. I could feel my ovaries revving into life: the experience had been that perfect. And the fact he’d shaved his balls was such a thoughtful gesture; I’ve always despised having to floss after the first course. It so ruins the dining experience.
Riled, dear, perhaps we do need to lie to get laid; perhaps dishonesty is the lingua franca for us girls who date outside our subspecies. So: how will you win over your Mr. Right? Lie through your big square yellow teeth, girl! Next time you see the man of your dreams, barrel on up to him and whisper in his ear that you can suck the bark off a sequoia. Honestly, what man can resist the promise of efficient oral sex? Tell him you’re rich; jeez, tell him you’re a pro women’s basketball center, and you’re looking for a real man to show you and your girlfriends what love is all about. Haven’t you ever watched porn? Guys can’t resist a lesbian orgy!
As for me, I’m still confused over the role of truthfulness in modern relationships. All I know for sure is this: a closely followed code of honesty may give one a sense of pride, but it’s nothing compared to the satisfaction had by consuming a lean two-hundred-forty pound man.
Now, that’s fulfillment.