In the Neighbourhood

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Chapter 20: Sweaty Sheets

Zsolt could feel the air getting cooler, bit by bit, day by day. Soon they’d be cursing the snow, shivering in their damp socks. At least there were a few nice weeks coming, where he and Elena wouldn’t lose sleep to the sticky, sweaty, clammy sheets.

But for now it was still hot, too hot by far. It was nice now, in the morning, but it was another long, disgusting day coming. He retrieved the paper and turned to go back in the house, but stopped. Something was just under the edge of the bushes, something white.

He knew what it was, of course, without looking any closer. But he was a little surprised at the size and weight of the bag; he’d never received three tapes all at once before.

Keith, of course, he thought. He was excited at once—more of Lisa, the beautiful redhead, fucking like a crazy, sexy devil. Then again, it was also more of Keith and his monstrous cock, and Elena watching him and wanting him.

Maybe, at first, he’d tell Elena there was only one tape. They’d watch it together, he’d give her a nice, long, hard screwing, and she’d forget all about Keith the Horse.

But the idea of competing with Keith—of having to compete with Keith, in his own bed, with his own wife—just brought back the dull depression of the situation. Maybe he should just return the tapes. Maybe he should throw them into the lake.

But there was Lisa to consider; he did want to see more of her, more of what she did on tape with Keith. They were very good on the tapes, very good at finding ways to fuck.

Fuck it, he decided at once, imagining Lisa’s hair bouncing, burying her face in the rich, dark, red curls as he fucked her—as Keith fucked her, that is. No, he’d bring the tapes in, show them to Elena, they’d watch them tonight, and they’d have sex. It didn’t matter.

It was something to look forward to at work today, at least.

Zsolt got home from what must have been the longest, stupidest, most pointless day of work ever, having completely forgotten about Keith’s tapes. There was an accident on the highway that made him late—on the other side of the road! Why did people have to slow down to look? Just drive!—and a leak on the line that had lacquer running all over the floor of the plant, burning his nose and throat and ruining his almost-new work boots, and who was going to pay for those? Like he could afford to throw away fifty dollars on steel-toed boots all the time.

It had been a frustrating day, and the chemical stench of the lacquer would probably hang around on him for days. Sometimes he thought he should’ve just stayed in Zagreb.

He slowed down as he turned up his street; Stan was out there with his oldest boy, kicking a ball back and forth. It was obvious that Stan had never played soccer in his life; the kid would soon be better than him, by the look of things, and he was only about five years old.

Stan waved his boy onto the grass as Zsolt approached, as though Zsolt was going to run him over. Idiot.

But as Zsolt parked his car and was getting out, Stan was waving and coming across the street. The kid was already gone, probably back inside the house.

“Hey there,” Stan said. He had never said Zsolt’s name, as far as he could remember.

“Stan,” Zsolt said heavily, hoping this wouldn’t take long. “How’s it going?”

“Good, good,” Stan said, smiling. “Whatcha doing?”

“Just got home from work. Why?”

“Workin’ for the man, eh?”

This was not the day for idle talk of this kind. “I’ve had a long day,” Zsolt said, trying to sound as exhausted as he could. “So...”

“Oh, sure, sure.” Stan glanced around a bit, then moved a little closer to Zsolt. “So—Keith’s been busy, eh?”

Zsolt glanced over at Keith’s house, expecting to see a new paint job or tree or something. “Has he?”

“I got two tapes last night,” Stan said. He sounded like a schoolboy who had just found a nudie mag, and had hidden it in the forest.

“Oh yeah?” said Zsolt, not trying too hard to seem interested. “From Keith?”

“I had to come home early today,” Stan said. “Marie wanted to watch them before the kids got back from daycare.”

“Nice,” Zsolt said. Since when did Stan discuss his sex life with him? Stan didn’t expect him to do the same, did he? Because what he did with Elena was strictly their own business. Except of course what they taped and sent around the neighbourhood.

“Yeah,” Stan went on. “We actually recorded a new one ourselves. I think it’s our best yet.”

Zsolt’s mind wandered while Stan described some of the details of his new tape. Something about standing up, in the shower, yeah yeah. Always being the big shot.

“So I’ve ordered a new editing rig,” Stan was saying. “Four heads, real professional job. I’m gonna be making even better-quality stuff. It does title cards, subtitles, everything.”

This sounded like a lot of equipment, just for recording videos of Stan fucking his little tree-branch of a wife. “What do you need subtitles for?” he asked. He could just imagine. GROAN GROAN GRUNT AAAAHHHH.

“Oh, of course, I wouldn’t be using those for—this, right? I’d need to buy a separate thing for that anyway—you need, like a whole computer setup.”

“Oh.” He pretended to be a bit disappointed, just to annoy Stan.

“Anyhow, I can write the whole thing off for the business. And if I ever need video editing for the studio, it’s all right here.”


“So, I’m just saying,” Stan said, “if you ever want to try it out for yourself, just let me know.”

“Sure. Thanks.”

Zsolt knew he would never want to try out Stan’s editing machine. He had a hard time understanding why everyone made such a fuss about the tapes in the first place. Fuck your wife, or don’t; turn the camera on, or not; drop the tape on someone else’s doorstep, or keep it at home. These guys really needed to learn to relax.

Now the momentum had gone out of the conversation, so Stan filled it, as usual, by talking about himself. “So anyway, yeah, this is gonna be a great tape. I’ll let you see it first. Marie was ready to go the minute I came in the door. I think she probably watched those tapes before I came home, even.”

“So Marie really likes watching Keith, eh?”

He knew it was a low blow—if Stan said the same thing to him, he might have hit him in the face. But he’d had enough, and Stan was annoying.

Zsolt could see the flash of doubt cross Stan’s face. “Well, it’s more me, I think,” Stan said, attempting to regain his balance. “That Lisa’s a sexy minx.”

“She’s good,” Zsolt conceded. “I’m looking forward to seeing their tapes.”

Stan beamed. “Sure. I’ll get them over to you. We’re pretty much—well, we’ll be done with them soon, if...”

“Take your time,” Zsolt said. “We got some tapes from Keith too. I think from Keith—I haven’t played them yet.”

Zsolt enjoyed watching Stan’s face fall, fall like a stone off a cliff into the sea. “You got some too?” Stan asked, in a much quieter tone of voice.

“Sure,” Zsolt said. “I found them today. Three of them.”

“Three?” If it was possible, Stan’s face fell even further.

“Yeah. Why, how many did you get?”

Stan looked down. “Two.”

“Oh—maybe we should trade off later.”


Well, that shut him up at least, Zsolt decided. “Anyway, I’m gonna go,” he said. “Elena’s probably waiting.”

Stan made an obvious effort to look like nothing was wrong. “Sure—okay,” he said. “Have a good night.”

“You too.”

Stan walked quickly away, and Zsolt headed for his own house. He looked back in time to see Stan trip slightly as he stepped over the curb in front of his house. Zsolt could hear him swear from all that way.

“Asshole,” Zsolt said, and turned back to his own door, wondering what Elena had made for supper.

Supper was nice, satisfying, just the thing to make him feel better. A couple of nice pork chops, buttered boiled potatoes with the skins on, and a salad that she used to make for picnics, with the beets and carrots and celery—it tasted like summer, to him.

“Let’s have wine,” he said, soon after they started eating.

“Not so much for me,” she said, but this didn’t bother him. He poured her a half-glass, and himself a full glass, which quickly disappeared.

“Remember you made this salad in high school?” Zsolt said, it Serbian.

“Did I? I don’t remember.” But she was blushing—she did remember.

“It was a hot day, in our last year,” he said. “We all went to the beach. You made this, Maja made eggs, and that other—what was her name, that stuck-up—”

“Marta,” she finished, hiding a little smile behind her wine glass.

“Yes!” Zsolt struck the table with delight. “Skinny little Popica.” The girl’s name was Popic; this slight variation meant something else completely.

“You didn’t mind her so much back then,” she sniffed. “How many times did you grab her ass that day?”

“I was just a kid,” Zsolt protested. She scowled but she was only joking. “Anyhow, when I ate your salad, I said, I have to marry a girl who cooks like this.”

She rolled her eyes. “Such a romantic.”

He really wanted to change the subject; that night he had made out with Maja, and even got a handjob from her. He didn’t want to remind Elena of that fact, if she knew; he didn’t want her to suspect it, if she didn’t know. Women’s jealousy stretched back to high school, to primary school, to the crib if you let them.

“So anyway,” he said, refilling both their wine glasses, “did you see the new tapes someone left us?”

“On the coffee table? Whose are they?”

“I didn’t watch yet. I think Keith and Lisa.”

“Ah.” She took a healthy gulp of wine. “They’ve been busy, then.”

“I guess so.” He took a third pork chop; they were pretty small, after all.

“You should have more salad,” she said, and he took another scoop of that too.

“So I was talking to Stan there,” Zsolt said, as he disentangled the meat from the bone.

“I thought that’s who it was. What did he want?”

“I don’t know. He said he got some tapes from Keith and Lisa. But he only got two, and we got three, so he was annoyed.”

She smiled wide—Elena never made it a secret, her dislike for Stan.

“He started telling me about how his next tapes are going to be so good, and this, and that... he spent eight hundred on an editing machine, too.”

“Editing what? Everyone else’s tapes aren’t good enough, so now he’s going to fix them?”

“I don’t know. I was hardly even listening.”

“Well, anyway, tomorrow I’m starting early, so we can’t watch them tonight.”

“Who said we had to?”

“I’m just saying, that’s all.” She stood up abruptly and started to clear the table, even though there was still salad on his plate. Oh well—he wouldn’t miss it.

“Anyway, I don’t know whose they are. They could be ours for all I know.”

“Fine, fine,” she sighed. He stood up to help her, before her mood got worse.

“Leave it,” she commanded. “I’ll do it.”

“Okay.” You could never please women.

He left her in the kitchen, went into the living room. He turned on the TV and flipped around, but there was nothing on, just news, Ollie North, Ollie North. The fucking Americans.

Might as well see what’s on these tapes, he decided, and put the top one from the pile into the VCR.

The lighting was good, the picture was good—finally, Keith had learned how to use his camera. There he was, on his bed, playing with himself, alone. His cock isn’t that big, Zsolt decided. Average, sure, but nothing special.

Lisa appeared, also already naked, and knelt on the bed beside Keith. He looked up and smiled at her; she reached down and took him in her hand.

Elena was suddenly there on the sofa beside him. Zsolt put his hand on her thigh without looking.

On the screen, Lisa was now bending down, lowering her head, slowly and deliberately taking Keith’s cock into her mouth. And like a mirror image, Elena was bending down to him, undoing Zsolt’s zipper, pulling him out.

He could tell she was still watching the screen, the whole time; Zsolt knew exactly what she was imagining. Still, did it matter? He closed his eyes, let his body sink into the couch cushions, and relaxed.

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