Chapter 16: Enthusiasm Counts
Lisa opened the door and smiled, a childish, sheepish smile.
“Hi, Darrell,” she said. “Looking for Keith?”
“If he’s around.”
As she turned, Darrell got a good look at her in profile. The tank top was plenty tight and showed off a lot. He hesitated—had she invited him in? She had said something, hadn’t she?
“Don’t be shy,” she said. Darrell stepped in.
“’Scuse the mess,” she said lightly. “Oh, let me—” She bent down, low down, and picked a filthy pair of sneakers up off the floor. She straightened up suddenly, though, and Darrell found himself staring straight into her eyes instead of down her top. She was smiling.
“Thanks—I just—” He let the screen door fall closed behind him. “I was hoping—” He suddenly couldn’t seem to finish a sentence. He was blushing, to boot.
“Let me just—” She darted past him, depositing the shoes on a little rack to his left. This gave him another chance, as she moved, to take a good long look down at the flesh jiggling under the tank top.
Darrell straightened up, backed up right against the door. He fixed his gaze as far away as he could, on the far end of the hallway.
“—just wanted to get hold of his bolt cutters,” Darrell managed at last. “I mean, if he has some.”
Lisa laughed, a high-pitched, tittering laugh. “No idea. Hang on, he’s around here somewhere.”
She turned and walked down the hallway. Her shoulders and hips moved just a little too much, swung just a bit too far, as she retreated.
Darrell touched a hand to his forehead; sure enough, he was sweating. He carefully wiped the perspiration from his face, from his upper lip and cheeks, from the skin behind his ears. He rubbed his hands quickly on the sides of his pant legs, hearing someone coming.
“Hey, Darrell,” Keith said as he came up the hallway. “Hot outside?”
Darrell hadn’t wanted to stay long, especially after Lisa’s little display. But Keith insisted on them sitting out on the deck and having a beer. Darrell knew that just as it was important to show hospitality to your neighbours, it was important to accept it as well. He resolved to finish one beer as quickly as possible and get going.
“So the deck is in pretty poor shape, and so is the shed,” Keith was saying, gesturing with his bottle. “And those little shrubs on the edge of the property, I have no idea what to do with those damn things. Just want to rip ’em out, really.”
Darrell looked at the row of scrawny cedars, lining the last third of the divide between Keith’s property and his own. He had helped Gerry plant the things years ago. Gerry thought they would grow into a full hedge, to give them both a little privacy. They looked like a lineup of Charlie Brown’s Christmas trees, more than anything. A couple of years ago, Darrell had just put up a wood fence on his own side. He hadn’t asked Gerry to pitch in for half the cost, even, just to be nice. Still, Gerry had seemed a little frosty after it went up.
“Walnut trees,” Darrell said, pointing with the neck of his bottle at the two trees that towered over Keith’s shed. “Cedars don’t grow near ’em. Make the soil too acidic or something.”
“Huh.” Keith took a gulp of beer. “That’d explain it.”
“I dunno, really. Heard it somewhere.” In fact, Darrell had warned Gerry about the walnuts when he bought the dozen cedar bushes. Gerry thought they’d be far enough away from the walnuts to be affected. Guess they knew who was right and wrong that time.
“Least we’re done with all the painting inside,” Keith was carrying on. “Probably leave all the outside projects till next year.”
“Sure. You just moved in. Lots of time.”
They sat, watched the sun falling on the backyard, the trees, the grass, the row of threadbare cedars.
“I talked to Stan the other night,” Keith said. “Things are smoothed out between him and me, I think.”
“Good, good. And you’re—I mean, you and Lisa—are both fine with things? What we’re all...”
“Sure. It’s... interesting.”
Darrell could tell he had more to say, so he waited for Keith to go ahead and finish.
“I actually never thought Lisa would go for it,” Keith said. “And now, she’s...” He didn’t finish, just looked up at the sky.
“I think women have to suppress a lot nowadays,” Darrell said. He felt like a wise old sage, counselling a young protégé. “Time was, they could wear a dress, lipstick, feel like a woman. Now they have power suits, shoulder pads. They need an outlet.”
“Makes sense,” Keith agreed. “Lisa never wears a dress anywhere but weddings and so on. Mostly it’s slacks and a sweater. Even to office parties and stuff like that.”
“Slacks are no way for a woman to dress.”
“No, they aren’t,” Keith said, but he sounded like he was less in agreement with that.
“My point is,” Darrell continued, feeling that he was losing Keith, “women need to feel like women, now more than ever. All this feminism, free love—all that was my generation, of course, not yours—women are repressed, now.” It was difficult to put into words, Darrell found; the ideas had been running through his head a lot, though, in the last little while, and he felt a need to get them out.
“And it’s not the same, just being in bed with the wife,” Darrell continued. “That’s just safe and comfortable; after a while it’s like doing the dishes.” Keith snorted slightly, and Darrell grinned. “Okay, maybe that’s going too far.”
“I know what you mean, though. We’ve been married for five years, and already—”
“Five years—you have no idea. Anyway, I think the ladies need to feel sexy, feel desired, all of that. They know who’s gonna see these tapes, what’s running through our minds when we watch them.”
“I see what you’re saying, sure,” Keith said slowly. “I guess I just didn’t expect Lisa to be... well, that into it.”
“We don’t like to think about our mothers or sisters fucking. And we don’t like to think of our wives as the sluts they are.”
Darrell could sense Keith stiffening, and glanced over; Keith was scowling. “I don’t think—I mean, sluts is a bit—”
“Okay, okay, you’re right. That might be taking it a bit far,” Darrell said. Why had he said that? He had surprised even himself.
“I get what you’re saying and all, but—”
“No, I agree. It wasn’t exactly what I meant. I certainly wasn’t saying anything about Lisa.”
The tension hung there briefly, between them, but the hot sun and dry air soon disintegrated it.
“What’s weird,” Keith said, “is how much it’s changed her. We’re making one or two tapes a day.”
Lisa’s round, white breasts, the large pink nipples, bouncing back and forth on the screen. Her hands, hooked behind her knees, pulling her legs wide. Her teeth, tightly gripping her lower lip.
“Really?” Darrell said. “That many?” He willed himself to sit still, not to shift, not to reveal his discomfort at his sudden, powerful erection.
“And I’m not complaining. Not at all. It’s great. It’s just... well, did you find that Sherrie changed very much, once you started...”
Darrell waited, but that seemed to be the whole question. “Changed, no, not really.” He remembered he was supposed to be the wise sage and searched for some suitable advice. “I’m sure it’s just the novelty of it. It’s new and exciting.”
“I guess so.” Keith sounded unconvinced. “Did you ever find that... with Sherrie...”
They’d be there all day if they weren’t careful, waiting for Keith to finish asking a question. “Sure. Like I said, women don’t get this kind of outlet in their lives. It’s very exciting for them. At first—well, I should just find the tape for you. Sherrie was like a middle schooler again. She couldn’t get enough.”
“Actually, those tapes are terrible. We took a few tries before we got the lighting and camera angle and everything. But...” Darrell realized, suddenly, how nice those first few weeks had been. Sherrie had been cheerful, attentive—she had even lost some weight. Not that they weren’t happy right now; everything was fine. But at the time, she had seemed especially... happy, was the word. Now they were back to the same comfortable, unexciting relationship. How had that happened?
“Enthusiasm counts for a lot,” Keith said.
What was that? Was he answering a question? Darrell quickly reviewed what they’d talked about. Was Sherrie enthusiastic? What did that even mean?
“It’s true for us, too. Lisa definitely can’t get enough. And it’s all about making tapes. And watching tapes. Even watching our own tapes while we do it.”
Darrell had glanced at his tapes with Sherrie now and then—more as a matter of quality control than anything else. Who wanted to see themselves having sex?
Then again, Lisa—her huge, heaving breasts, the intense, almost defiant look as she placed her hands on Keith’s hips and pulled him closer, deeper—yes, he could see that being a turn-on, even for Keith. Enthusiasm did count for a lot.
“So these tapes,” Darrell said, trying to crowd this vision of Lisa out of his mind. “Are they making the rounds now? With the others, I mean.”
“Just the first couple.”
“And do you—” Darrell considered. How could he ask, without actually seeming to ask? “Do you expect that you’ll...” It was harder than he expected.
“What, do you want to see them?” Keith asked. Not with any real interest, just sort of glum.
“Well—if you’re looking to circulate them, great.” Darrell concentrated hard on suppressing his eagerness. “But if you’re not comfortable—”
“Hang on,” Keith said, hoisting himself out of his lawn chair with an obvious effort. He stalked into the house without another word.
Darrell finished his beer and picked up Keith’s empty bottle as well. Enough of this. At this rate, it was all going to end very poorly. He’d just say his goodbyes and head home, and let Keith deal with whatever he was dealing with.
He stepped in the back door of Keith’s house, into the kitchen, and the put the two bottles on the counter. Keith entered, carrying a plastic shopping bag. There were at least five or six tapes in it—he hadn’t been exaggerating.
“Oh. Hey. You want another?” Keith made a move for the fridge.
“No, I really oughta be going. Sherrie—”
“Well, here.” Keith handed him the shopping bag. “Send ’em around to the others if you like.” His hands empty, Keith pulled a beer from the fridge, pulled the cap off, and took a long drink.
“Okay. Thanks.” Darrell turned towards the hallway to the front door, but Keith just stood there, holding his beer, making no move to follow. This was just not right.
“Well, see you later,” Darrell said pointedly. Keith nodded and took another long drink, and Darrell left.
When he reached the front door at last, Lisa was waiting for him on the stairs in the front hallway. “Nice to see you,” she said.
Darrell paused slightly but willed himself to carry on. He wanted to hide the bag in his hands behind his back—Lisa had already seen him, though, already knew everything.
“Have a good one,” Darrell said lamely, his hand already on the doorknob.
“I will,” she answered, and something in her voice caught him, drew his eyes to her face. A tiny, sly smile was playing across her thin lips.
Darrel nodded once, then made it through the door and was safe.