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Subject: {ASSM} Business Lunches (MF rom)
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Title: Business Lunches
Author: Jacobin
Keywords: MF, rom
Date first published: 11/13/2002
Redistribution: No

   Boring Stuff

   Standard disclaimers regarding sexually explicit material apply.
The good reader is reminded in particular that works of fiction often
neglect real-world risks and consequences which should be taken into
consideration in any re-creation or work-inspired acts.

   This is my seventh work of this kind. Feedback, comments,
questions, are all welcome at

   You can find my other stories at

   This work is copyright (c) 2002 by the author. You may download
and keep copies for your personal use as long as the author's byline,
disclaimer, e-mail address, and these four paragraphs remain on the
copies. Posting to newsgroups or on websites (with the specific
exception of is not permitted unless you have my
express written or email consent, and then only as long as no money
is charged for access and the author's byline, disclaimer, e-mail
address, and these four paragraphs remain on the story. Please
respect my work as much as I've tried to respect the reader.

   -- Jacobin

   I woke up early and my wife wasn't there. Light cracked through
the blinds and across the bed. I got up. Her Toyota was in the
driveway. I pulled on shorts, a shirt, and headed out.
   Making breakfast after my morning run, my shirt clung to my
chest. I scrambled eggs. The news blared from across the room (Dow
down, NASDAQ down, all local sports teams lost, small animals still
cute). A car door, her voice in thanks. Jamie came in the door. I
glanced at the clock on the oven. It was seven.
   She was wearing a black tank-top gapped above jeans, belly button
piercing showing. Her short hair was a nasty red, tired from being
dyed so often. I sympathized. Jamie was cute even in the couldn't-
care makeup, her green eyes flashing. No smile.
   "I stayed over at Katy's," she said, kicking her hiking shoes
off. The smell of cigarette smoke touched my nose over the eggs and
toast. "It was like four when we got back from the show."
   I nodded.
   "Did you worry?" she asked.
   "No," I said. I felt the ice in my chest.
   She stared at me. I pulled the skillet off and scraped the eggs
onto my plate.
   "You make enough for me?" she asked.
   "No," I said. The skillet went into the sink. I forked up some
   A mocking smile and she walked down the hall. I ate my breakfast,
cleaned the dishes. I walked back to the bedroom. Jamie stripped her
smoke-tainted clothes off. Her breasts popped in and out of the tank-
top as she struggled with her jeans. I looked. She didn't. She yelled
at me as I stepped into the bathroom, turned on the shower.
   "Goddammit, Edmund, I need the shower." She stood in the doorway,
tank-top and panties, hands on hips.
   I shrugged, peeled off my sweats. I could play at this too.
   "What, you're going to work today?"
   "Yes," Jamie said.
   I took off my shirt.
   "So you still have a job, then?"
   "Yes, Ed, I still have a job."
   I nodded, took off my shorts, stuck a hand into the shower. It
was warm.
   "Thank God for small blessings," I said. I took off my shorts.
Jamie moved for the shower, swearing. I've got a good four inches and
a couple dozen pounds on her. I pushed her in and followed, pinning
her against the wall. Her hair had given up. Her makeup smeared. She
was confused and tired. Her head came up. I kissed her. Her hands
came up to pull her tank top over her head. I poured shampoo into my
palm and washed her hair. The color ran out with the smoke smell.
Jamie made little noises. I soaped her up, the first time I'd run
hands across her back, around her cute hand-sized breasts. She
smiled, kissed me.
   "Been a while since we took a shower together," she said. She
rubbed a slick hand along my attentive hard-on.
   "Been a while since we did a lot of things together."
   She kept smiling, working her hand. I went down, put my hands
under her ass, lifted her up against the wall. Jamie wrapped her legs
around me. "Oh my-" she started, and I entered her all at once. "Oh!"
she exclaimed, her eyes going wide.
   She leaned into me as we moved awkwardly together. We were out of
practice but had five years of dating and marriage behind that. Jamie
used her legs and I used the hips. We found our rhythm and moved
quickly, panting. The hot water sheared across my shoulder, her slick
chest and tight nipples. She bit my shoulder as she started to come.
I felt her hold her breath as the first one came, the tightness
around my penis. I moaned and felt the warm release over, and over. I
opened my eyes. Jamie was still moving against me. Her legs held me
tightly, squeezing with each ragged breath of steam she took. My body
seared. My nerves hummed and crackled, and my wife took a bite out of
my shoulder and screamed.
   My legs nearly gave. We untangled ourselves. Jamie wore a wide
grin. I found boxers, slacks, a polo shirt, a black belt.
   "Now I'm tired," Jamie said. "I might call in sick after all."
   I picked my badge off the coffee table.
   "What are you so sad about?" Jamie asked.
   "This is what I've been reduced to. I toss my wife in the shower
so I can have sex with her for the first time in a month."
   "Fucking Christ, Ed, here I am, lying on the bed, we just had
amazing sex--"
   "I'm not sad, Jamie. I'm worried."
   "You can miss one day--"
   "No. I'm worried maybe I just caught something."
   It hung in the room. Jamie's face finally moved to anger, and she
reached for a lamp.
   "You asshole," she said. The cord stopped the lamp. She dropped
it on the floor, looked for something more substantial than a pillow.
   "You're the one who comes home stinking of booze and cigarettes,
and I'm supposed to think that in all this time since you've started
hanging out with Katy and those other bitches, that you're going
clubbing and you've never danced with a guy? No guy's ever kissed you?"
   Jamie stopped feeling for something to throw, and began to wrap
the sheets around herself.
   "Ed, don't say that."
   "Tell me it's a lie, then. Tell me you've never danced with
another guy, that I have no reason to worry."
   She started to cry. I reached over to touch her shoulder, and she
   "You going to be home after work tonight?" I asked.
   She shook her head.
   "Could you?"
   "I can't. We all ready paid for the tickets, and--"
   "How much did you pay?"
   "Uh, like thirty-five."
   "I'll buy yours," I sad. "Katy can give it away, find someone
else. Come home for once. We can talk."
   "I can't. We were going to drive out, all of the girls, and it
was going to be this thing. You don't understand."
   "I understand," I said. I put on my ring and went to work.

   Work. The company that pays me makes large things moderately
smaller, generate less heat, draw less electricity, make less noise.
We employ a ton of engineers, like me, some techies, some customer-
facing people. It's a lot like every other company with over a couple
hundred people. We occupy two small buildings in an office park.
Companies are outsourcing manufacturing. And, increasingly, the
engineering functions not related to R&D. Our business boomed. At
least, my paychecks didn't bounce. The dress code was casual. I
worked with good people who did their jobs. I slept well at night,
having advanced technology a little that day. We can't all be Edison,
or Faraday.

   Our floor was open. The cube walls were low, just over desk
height. Management maintains there are studies showing that style
increases efficiency. I think they got them used for cheap. It was
good for conduct. Forced people to use headphones. Putting a
conference call on speaker would get books thrown at your head. With
manager offices on the interior, the whole floor was bright day-long.
I liked it.

   At eight there under ten people at their desks. The closest was
Josephine. Jo was two years younger, fair, red-haired, freckled,
innocent looking. Out of college and hired when I was settling into
my first promotion. She was on the phone, her feet up on the desk.
Her feet were in running shoes. Asics, something that looked like my
own Gel Kayanos. A serious shoe. Jo was a serious woman. She waved. I
nodded, set my stuff down. Jo had Capri slacks on. With her feet up
it showed most of her defined calf. This wasn't lost on her. She read
the dress code like a campaign financier pouring over new election
   I dumped my crap on my desk. Avoiding my house meant working too
much. Coming in early. Working too long. Soda cans everywhere, some
half-drunk, forgotten when I got on a roll. Loose papers. Notes to
myself that didn't make any sense: "No discrete components!"
   I pulled my recycling box out and started to sort.
   "Aren't you supposed to shred valuable proprietary data?" Jo
said. Her voice was slow and husky. A long curly strand of red hair
dangled across her cheek. Her eyes were a soft brown, playing off the
   "I'm going to toss the whole box in the shred bin."
   "Increasing efficiency, are you? I'll see you promoted for this."
   "Then I was going to shred the shredder."
   "Are you sure no one's going to get a hold of these valuable
notes?" Jo reached over my desk to grab at a stack. Her lean revealed
the freckles across her neck, down her shirt, like a crumb trail. A
tiny silver cross on a thin chain dangled. I looked away.
   She straightened up, came in to sit on the desk, crossing her legs.
   "I was going to make fun of something, but I can't read your
handwriting," she said. She tossed the stack into the box. "I talked
to the chip fab, they can do it. Congratulations, Ed, you've managed
to shave fifty cents off the cost of every whatever thing you shaved
cost off of."
   "You don't seem happy. You have a good weekend?"
   I looked at her. Jo tucked the red lock of hair behind her ear.
Her nails were short for typing.
   "No," I said. She looked at me. I didn't say anything.
   "Well, Edmund, it was nice talking to you. I'm going for coffee,
getting up to negotiate price with the Far East always makes the
morning drag. You want anything?"
   "How long have you been here?"
   "Uh, one." She yawned. "You want anything?"
   "Why don't you just go home?"
   "I'll get you a mocha or something." She stood up and left. I
watched her all the way to the stairs. She turned and caught me
looking. She waved.
   My wife called minutes later.
   "I talked to Katy," she said.
   "Uh huh?"
   "Look, she's pissed we're not going to have a girl's night out,
so I told her I'd go, and we'll have our night later. Okay?"
   Jo leaned in, handed me a cup of something served piping hot from
the pits of hell. She giggled when I almost dropped it. The pads on
my fingers screamed.
   "Do what you want," I said. I hung up. "Thanks," I said.
   "No problem," Jo said. She yawned. "Problems?"
   "No." The phone rang. Jo didn't change her expression at all,
left me.

   Lunch with Burke and Jo. We'd all worked together for a while
before, went out to lunch, kept going after our project ended. I
don't know why. Burke's lazy. He spends more time on his fantasy
football teams than work unless you kick his ass every day. He tries
to stick us with the tab. He makes a big deal of it when he picks it
up. When it's our turn to pay, he'll get into the appetizer menu.
Things like that add up over a couple of years. He'd been hired away
by a company with a weak interview process, as Burke proved.
   I walked down the street to the Mexican restaurant with Jo.
   "How long have we been going to lunch?" she asked.
   "I don't know, you joined in June of 2000, so... jeez, over two
   "Yeah, that's what, a hundred lunches?"
   "A hundred ten."
   "But we missed some weeks."
   "That's true."
   "So a hundred, that's probably pretty close, huh?"
   "Yeah, it's about right."
   "Okay then." She yawned openly. "I'm thinking of leaving after
lunch. So what's going on with you?" she asked.
   "Nothing," I said.
   "If you don't want to talk about it, it's okay."
   "I don't want to talk about it."
   "So there is something going on. What is it?"
   I smiled despite myself. We crossed the street.
   "I don't want to talk about it," I said.
   Burke waited in front. His heavy shirt said "Abercrombie" across
the chest in inch-high letters. We shook hands, smiling.
   "Where'd you get the shirt?" I asked.
   "Abercrombie and Fitch," he said. Jo's eyes darted to me,
sparkling. "It's nice, huh?"
   We walked in, got our table, looked over menus we could have
written out for them.
   "How's life on the outside?" Jo asked.
   "It's okay. Linda dumped me." Burke concentrated on carrying a
salsa-loaded chip to his mouth.
   "I'm sorry," Jo said.
   He shrugged. "Enh. When are you going to go out with me?"
   "I'm not."
   Burke smiled, gave a half-laugh. "Why not?"
   "I don't like you much, Burke. You're lazy, which is not
attractive. Plus, why would I date someone who sticks me with the tab
every chance they get?"
   Burke's smile remained on his face as he looked to me.
   "Nah, I'm just kidding. I'll think about it." Jo reached across
to pat his hand. As she brought the arm back, she double-tapped me in
the ribs with her elbow.

   To: All Employees
   From: HR
   Subject: Office supplies
   As part of our continuing efforts to reduce costs, office
supplies have been moved from the copy rooms to supply closets. If
you require notebooks, pens, or other supplies, please contact your
group's administrative assistant. By reducing wasteful use of office
supplies we hope to avoid other more painful cutbacks.

   To: Edmund
   From: Josephine Sullivan
   Subject: Re: Office Supplies
   Employees of lower than VP level are discouraged from holding
private meetings in the supply closets.

   I came into work the next day. Jo was there, waved. I dropped my
satchel off and walked across the floor. She watched the whole way.
   "What's got you smiling?" she asked.
   "So I went to the movies last night," I said.
   "Why didn't Jamie go?"
   "Didn't Jamie go?"
   I stopped. "Do you want to hear my story or not?"
   "I saw MacDonald and Lewis, together. Holding hands."
   Jo's mouth went to an 'o' in surprise.
   "Yeah," I said. "I almost dropped my popcorn. Don't we get fired
if we fraternize?"
   Jo smiled.
   "Edmund, are you asking me out?"
   My heart started to sprint.
   "You're blushing!" She reached up and put her hand on my cheek.
"Look how cute you are."

   To: Josephine
   From: Edmund
   Subject: Re: Re: Office Supplies
   Due to overwhelming booking demand for private meetings by senior
management, the supply closets will no longer be used to house
supplies. Supplies will now be stored in locked cabinets near each
group's administrative assistant. Do not, under any circumstances,
enter or disturb the supply closets.

   Jamie sat on the couch when I came home.
   "You going out later?" I asked. I put my coat in the closet.
   "You want some dinner?"
   "I all ready ate."
   I nodded.
   "Okay, then."
   She started to flip channels. She hadn't looked at me yet.
   "I was thinking maybe we should look at going to a marriage
counselor," I said.
   "Does that mean you will?"
   "I guess."
   "Do you want to try?"
   "Try what?" she asked.
   I stared at her. She finally looked over.
   "You know," I said.
   "Yeah, Ed. Can we talk about this later?"
   "We have an appointment Thursday afternoon. Will you go?"
   "Yeah, I guess."
   I sighed.
   "Jamie, when we said our vows, did I miss the--" I bit it off,
shook my head. She watched expectantly.
   "The what?"
   I walked back out the door.

   I sat in one of our conference rooms alone. Meetings didn't start
until fifteen minutes after their scheduled time, because everyone
was late. No one showed up on time because meetings didn't start
until quarter past anyway. I closed my eyes. I would be fine once it
began, but I was all nerves until I got into it.
   Jamie hadn't come home again. We hadn't talked in days. There was
a bandage on her shoulder blade I'd seen when I woke up. It would be
a tattoo, I was sure.
   "What are you thinking about?" Jo whispered. I opened my eyes.
She was leaning in from behind me. Her breath on my ear was warm. I
could feel the softness of her breasts pressing against my shoulder.
   I hadn't had sex in a week. Stubborn, I wouldn't take matters
into my own hands. I wouldn't take the easy way out, allow myself to
think it wasn't so bad, marriage without sex. I wanted to stay mad.
It wasn't working out so cleanly. The pressure was killing me. I
could feel the sperm in my veins. People could look deeply into my
eyes and see them swimming in the blue of an iris.
   "Jo, if you give me an erection before this meeting I will never
forgive you."
   "I think you will, if I ask nicely enough." I felt the blood
rushing, the sound in my ears, my pulse as my dick caught up in my
boxers as it tried to rise. Jo stood. I kept my eyes forward, at the
door. The earliest of the late wandered in, set his phone and
notebook down, walked back out. All sensations ran through my
erection. I hadn't been this hard in ages.
   "Anyway, it's too late now," Jo said. "I guess I'll have to say
I'm sorry later." She bumped her forehead against my crown and moved
away. I could feel my nipples, my useless male nipples, against the
cotton of my undershirt.
   Jo took a seat next to me. The rest of my meeting trickled in.
   "What are you doing here?" I asked her.
   "I'm the voice of the factory."
   People started to look at me. I was always nervous starting. It
would conceal my particular discomfort.
   "Thanks for coming," I said. "I'm Edmund, I was lead designer on
the UID-15 short-form cost reduction project, and I'm going to be
presenting our work." I looked at each person in turn, feeling the
calm come over me. "The big piece, we moved the graphics, the IO, and
the processor onto one chip. That's lower cost, obviously, but also--"
   Jo had a quizzical look. "I'm sorry. Are you worried about heat?"
Others nodded.
   "Yeah, let's talk about that for a second. We're going to use a
new etching--"
   "Are you worried about using a new etching process?" she asked.
The room looked to me. Jo smiled. My erection throbbed. My teeth ached.
   "In what way?"
   "Do we have a lot of experience with this new process? Are you
worried there might be complications?"
   The nervousness came back to me. I paused.
   "We're on top of that, the heat, the etching. We've got a sytem
for prototyping --"
   "Cool, can you do me a favor?"
   "Sure, what..."
   Jo's smile lit up the room, innocent and broad. "Can you draw it
up on the whiteboard for us?"

   I felt the first bead of sweat run down the side of my head as I
walked out.
   "What was that?" I hissed.
   "What was what?" Jo asked.
   I glared.
   "Oh that," she said. "Think of it this way -- after you held up
through a torture session like that, no one's ever going to think you
don't know your shit."
   Jo's eyes danced as she smiled and peeled off down the hall.

   To: All Employees
   From: Communications
   Subject: ESPP Open Enrollment
   It's back! JPSE Engineering's stock purchase plan offers a way
for all employees to participate in the greater success of JPSEE.
Between now and the 15th, employees can sign up for the JSPE
Engineering Employee Stock Purchase Plan. You can designate between 1
and 15% of your paycheck to be invested in JSPE Engineering Common
stock at a 15% discount to the regular share price (as determined by
formula, see attached sheet for details). While JPSEE is not a public

   The marriage counselor was an older guy, fifty. He had a soft,
kind face. I sat on his couch and looked at him.
   "You can put your feet up, it's fine," he said.
   I put my feet up on a copy of Time.
   "I don't think she's going to show up," I said.
   "Do you want to wait?"
   "No," I said. "I paid, I'd like to get something out of it."
   I talked for two hours and then stopped. He got me another glass
of water.
   "It's the uncertainty," I said. "I don't know where she is, and
when I asked, she didn't ever tell me. Why not tell me, if it's
innocent? We're married. I don't think she's cheating on me. But then
where's the love? I was supportive. I don't know if she's pushing --
I don't know anything, and she's not talking. Why not at least tell
me where she's going? Why not negotiate some kind of peace when I try
and work things out. What's happening out there, what's she taking,
and who's with her? I don't think.. I don't.." I stopped. "Well now I
think she might be cheating."
   The counselor nodded at me.
   "Is that a hint?" I asked.
   "It's not anything," he said.
   "What do I do?"
   "I don't know. That she's not here..." he shook his head softly.
"That's not good." He stood, stretched. "Talk to her, see if she'll
come in. Then call me."
   I shook his hand, and he stood there. I looked around, and then
realized I needed to pay him.

   To: Josephine
   From: Edmund
   Subject: ESM Open Enrollment
   Back by popular demand! Employees who can't get enough of JSPEE's
stagnant enterprise value and continue to invest in its limited
future and management are encouraged to participate in frustration
release activities. Employees can designate either 'sadist' or
'masochist' on enrollment, depending on their preference, and will be
paired with a compatible partner from a related workgroup for regular
meetings in supply closets during designated stressful rollouts.
Members of the ESM program will receive a 15% discount on

   My boss smiled when I came in for the semi-weekly one-on-one.
   "How're you doing, Edmund? Close the door."
   I closed the door.
   "Hey, look," he started. "Before I say anything, great work on
that processor. I can't believe no one thought of just clocking it
   "I don't either, honestly. It's totally obvious."
   "Obvious, Ed, it's hard to see the obvious sometimes. Hey,
speaking of that, I want to ask you something."
   "What's that?"
   "Are you and Josephine..."
   He kept staring. I waited.
   "You know, I mean, I know you're married and all, but that
doesn't always, and you've worked together for years, and there was
that thing where you saved her ass, and then there was that other
thing where she saved your ass with the... yeah."
   That hadn't been brought up in a year. It was left off my
employee record. I'd made a colossal design blunder that almost went
into manufacturing. It was caught only by the last line of defense, a
newly promoted vendor analyst, name of Josephine. The time she'd put
in was payback. As her lead a year earlier I'd taken the blame for
losing files she'd accidentally archived. Off-site. Sent slowest-
class to a Dakota storage facility. In December. Taking the hit had
cost me most of my yearly performance bonus and saved her her new job.
   "I don't know what you mean," I said. "When did I save her ass?"
   "I'm a smiling fat guy, Edmund. I'm not a fucking idiot. Are you?"
   "So the answer to my question..."
   "Is no."
   He leaned back, picked the football off his desk, tossed in his
hands. "Good," he said.

   "You sure listen to a lot of rap for a white boy from northern
California," Jo said. She riffed through my stack of CDs.
   "If you say so."
   Jo sat on my desk, legs crossed, feet up on the short filing
cabinet facing her. Her legs in front of me. I kept my eyes on her
face. Jo was wearing a sleeveless shirt, collared, button-down. She
had an extra button undone, which made it hard to keep my eyes on her
   "Who are these guys? Black Eyed Peas? Dilated Peoples? What the
   "Not a fan?"
   She shrugged. I could see, in the gap between spaced buttons, the
slope of her breasts, the touch of patterned white of the bra. "I
don't know any of these guys. Who's this?" Jo tiled the wallet in her
lap up, and I had to look down, her crossed legs, the subtle tone of
her thighs. My erection scraped my slacks. I had my hands folded
strategically. Jo didn't look. The CD, the CD.
   "Blackalicious," I said.  "That's a great CD, you should borrow
   "Okay." She reached up to tuck a lock of hair behind an ear, the
gesture opening and then closing a button gap, exposing and hiding.
   "What do you listen to?"
   "Language CDs," Jo said. "Japanese mostly. Are we going to lunch
   "I've got a lot of work to do. We still on for later this week?"
   "Sure," Jo said. She levered her legs down, which took a second.
"With Burke?"
   "Yeah," I said. "I'll drop him a line."
   "Maybe it's time we stopped hanging out with Burke," Jo said. The
CD slapped the palm of her hand. She nodded to me. "Thanks for the
CD, I'll get this back to you soon."

   To: Edmund
   From: Josephine
   Subject: Annual Benefits Enrollment!
   This is your chance to take a look at your health, dental, and
vision choices and make any changes. Employees who plan to contract
sexually transmitted diseases from their bosses, for example, are
encouraged to sign up for the new 'Penecillin SuperDose' program.
Similarly, employees who instead regularly fellate their bosses
should consider the newly added orthodontics options.

   Jamie had turned off the alarm when she came in. I was late for
work, found her in the kitchen. I poured myself some random cereal.
Jamie's tattoo looked Japanese.
   "What is it?" I asked.
   "You missed our appointment."
   "What appointment?"
   I stared at her. "Our counseling appointment."
   "Oh," she said. "I forgot all about it."
   "You're lying."
   "Yeah," I said. I looked at her, the ring on the counter. I left.

   "You going running today?" Jo asked.
   "Where you headed?"
   "I'm just going to go up past the community college--"
   "-- yeah, and then hit the trail."
   "It's nice, I spent two years there before I went on to--"
   "What's up?"
   "I want to go."
   My heart jumped a little, guilt and attention.
   "Okay," I told her.
   "Eleven," I said.

   To: Josephine
   From: Edmund
   Subject: JSPEE and Microsoft announce partnership
   Delivering on the alliance announced at last year's Computer
Engineering Conference, JSPEE and Microsoft have launched a new
enterprise corporate solution for the rapid deployment of
collaborative design tools. "This is a seamless solution for
manufacturers looking to integrate seamless solutions for third-party
design and manufacturing services," JSPE Engineering President
Justine Diemens said. "We are excited to have the opportunity to work
for -- I mean with -- the world's foremost software developer." As
part of the agreement, JSPEE employees will be flown to Redmond in
teams to service overworked and sexually frustrated Microsoft
development teams. JSPEE male employees will be chosen by draft,
while JSPEE's female employees will be billeted in a four-star
Redmond hotel for the next six months and rotated out for semi-
monthly vacations and vaccinations.

   I met Jo in front of our building. She had running shorts and a T-
shirt. Her legs seemed to compose two thirds of her height, all tone
and tan. Her red hair was tied back. I nodded and we headed out,
without words, trying to find a good pace together. Jo's breathing
was long and easy.
   "Why don't you want to talk to me?" she asked as we hit the
winding trail along the river, where we could jog side-by-side.
   "I talk to you all the time."
   "You know what I mean. About things." She waited on an answer.
"About how you're doing."
   "I think you build intimacy through sharing," I said. "It's the
basis of a good relationship. You start forming emotional connections
with other women, you're undermining your relationship."
   "You're talking now."
   "Why's that?"
   "I don't have much of a relationship to undermine," I said. "So
I've been thinking."
   "Just been thinking." A biker with a toddler trailer smiled at us
as she passed in the opposite direction.
   "Thinking what?"
   I ignored the question and ran on. Jo's breath was soft in my
left ear, shifting in and out of sync with my own.
   "How are you, Ed?"
   "Not so good," I said.
   "I get that. Where's your ring?"
   "What's been going on with you?"
   "I don't know yet. Ask me again in a week."

   Jamie made breakfast with me.
   "You're not wearing your ring anymore," she said.
   "Why would I?"
   "Because you're married."
   "Am I." I chewed my awful granola. Jamie tended her eggs. "Come
with me this week, see the counselor."
   "No," Jamie said. "I've got to work late that day."
   "What day is that?" I asked.
   "Whatever day the counselor is."
   I nodded.

   It had been weeks since I'd had sex. Erections controlled my
body. They came with blushing, tight nipples, crackling skin, aching
teeth, and a rushing sound in my ears. My toes, my goddamn toes, felt
out of sorts, like they needed knuckle-cracking. The erections were
also as large as I'd endured in years, poking out from waistbands,
tying themselves up in my boxers. They made me want to cry in
frustration. They were with me as I woke. They would not go away. I'd
sit on the toilet waiting for the shower to heat and go over the
day's work, over and over.
   I was a prepared, efficient, distracted worker.

   I didn't look up from my drafting. "Where'd you get the chain?" I
   "Are you asking because you're fishing for whether I'm religious
or not, or did you actually want to know where I got this?"
   "I'm not, at all. My grandmother was, she gave this to me when I
was eight."
   "It's nice. Except, you know, for being a religious symbol and
all. Hey, let me ask you something."
   "What are you going to ask me?"
   I grabbed a piece of paper, sketched a couple lines. "What's this?"
   "It means 'action'," Jamie said. "Why?"
   "It's tattooed on my wife's shoulder."
   "And she wouldn't tell you?"
   Jo looked at me critically, eyes narrow, looking for something,
and then her expression passed. "You want to go to Senior Gustavo?"
Jo asked me.
   "Nah," I said. "I was thinking of making something."
   "Yeah, I've got some chicken in the fridge. Maybe throw some
potatoes together..."
   "Nice. Invite me over."
   I had a nervous habit: when I was thinking about something, I'd
twist my wedding band. I wasn't wearing my wedding band. My hands
went up and then I didn't have anything to do. I laced them together.
   "You want to come over to my house for lunch, help me make some

   I drove back to our house. No cars waiting. I let Jo in and
started in on cooking, moving around the kitchen, pulling out green
onions for her to chop, cutting board, sieve. I reached around her to
grab my cooking knife from its rack, bodies touching. She wasn't
wearing perfume. I could still smell her, a faint sweetness in her
orange-scented shampoo.
   We laughed, talked about work as I sliced potatoes into a tray.
She grated cheese. As we swapped back, she came back across me, chest
to chest, and then again as she came back to go after the onions.
   "Jeez, Edmund, watch that thing."
   "My fault," I said, blushing.
   "You stick a squash in there? Jesus Christ." She was smiling,
leaning back on the opposite counter.
   "You want to check it out, or do you want lunch?"
   Jo smiled. "I could do both."
   I felt my whole face go back in surprise, my eyebrows up, even my
hairline jump back. Her grin grew.
   "Or I could settle for just checking it out."
   My pulse pounded in my ear. And I did it: I opened the button,
undid the zipper, and pulled my slacks out and down with my left
hand, reaching in with the right to keep the erection off the
waistband. My penis stood up, gravity barely keeping it from running
up on my belly button.
   Jo arched an eyebrow. "I actually did think you put a squash in
your pants," she said. "I thought maybe you were joking around, and
then..." she shook her head. "You poor neglected man."
   She looked up at me. "You want help with that?"
   "You're going to take care of it yourself?"
   "I didn't think this through." I looked down. My right hand was
stroking. I looked to Jo, who had one hand on hip and the other on
stomach. "You can go ahead."
   "Okay," Jo said, and the hip hand went down into her waistband
and the other went up the shirt. "That's better, oh."
   Her hands moved, known bulges under cloth.
   "We should stop," I said. I felt the pressure in my groin, the
fire in my spine, heat across my body.
   "We should," Jo said. "Don't."
   "I need to warn you."
   "Unh," she said, her knees giving a little. "What?"
   "I'm going to soak this whole room."
   She wriggled against her hand. Her head tilted, neck forward,
eyes closed.
   The first spurt arced ten feet to hit the counter next to Jo. It
kept on, pasting the drawers, then the floor next to her feet, then
all over the floor. My kitchen looked like a Pollack in thick white.
   Jo stared at me. She bit down on her lip, closed her eyes, and
shook. I watched.
   "Wow," she said. "How much was that?"
   "That's about three weeks worth."
   She smiled, straightened up. "You haven't been..."
   I shook my head.
   "It's a matter of principle." My post-erection erection was
heavy, fat, and slick in my hand. I worked my slacks back on. I would
stick to my boxers.
   "Oh, Edmund," Jo said. She crossed the floor. The splattering
smeared under foot. She put a hand up to my cheek. Her hand was hot.
She kissed me gently. "I'm so sorry," she whispered, her lips
brushing against mine. "I'm so sorry, Ed."
   "Let's, uh, eat," I said. "I'll get the mop. And the sponge,
and... yeah."

   No emails.

   Jamie hit me with a china plate in the forehead when I came home.
It shattered. Stars danced in my vision. I dropped to the floor,
banging the back of my head on the tile.
   "What the fuck?" she screamed at me.
   I sat up. My forehead felt wet. My hand came down bloody.
   "Why did I find a red hair in here? A long, curly red hair? Why
are there two sets of dishes in the washer?"
   I grabbed a dishtowel, tried to staunch the bleeding.
   "Can you take me to the hospital?"
   "No," Jamie said. My vision started to narrow into a disk, the
blackness coming all around.
   "Please," I said, and passed out.

   I came to on a bed with a cop looking down on me.
   "You feeling okay?"
   "I feel a little light-headed. What's..." I turned my head. There
was no one else in the room.
   "That's a nasty cut you took there," he said. "Eighteen stitches.
You know what that looks like to me?"
   "That looks like someone broke something on your crown. Something
sharp. Like a glass, or a plate, or a pitcher of water... probably
not a pitcher. They did good work, you might get out of this without
much of a scar."
   "Am I.. under arrest?"
   "How'd you get that cut, Edmund?"
   "I don't know. What'd my wife say?"
   "You're a shitty liar, Edmund. I've only been a cop a couple of
years, but come on, give me some credit."
   "I don't know," I said. "Can I go?"
   "Look, if this is a one-time thing, you can tell me, I just want
to know."
   "Now who's the shitty liar?"
   He smiled. "Yeah, I haven't quite gotten the hang of that. Look,
maybe I'll see you again and maybe I won't. You seeing a counselor?"
   "I am," I said.
   "Yeah," he said. He nodded, slowly, and then finally shook his
head. "Have a good night, sir."

   I waited with Jo outside a packed Thai place that had a delicious
and huge Phad Thai lunch special for $7. Jo liked it with tofu. I
didn't understand.
   "What happened to your head?"
   "Jamie got me coming in the door."
   "Looks like it hurt."
   "Not really, I passed out right away."
   "That's macho."
   "Isn't it? When I'm not an engineer I like to get into street
   Jo stared at me, reached up and curled a lock of hair around a
   "She found a red hair in the living room. Two sets of plates in
the dishwasher."
   "So she can go frolic around and do whatever she wants, but you
can't have someone over for lunch?"
   I shrugged.
   "You might as well be having some good sex on the side, as long
as you're going to get beaten up for it."
   "I guess."
   Jo smiled.
   "What are you doing Thursday?" she asked.

   My therapist stared at me.
   "I appreciate your honesty, certainly," he said, "but this is not
   "You know what I think isn't healthy?"
   "This thing with my wife. Letting her drip poison into me, day
after day, for two years. Feeling dead, dead and guilty, I know that
doesn't make sense, but..."
   "We should solve one problem at a time," he said. "We need to get
you out--"
   "Ah," I said. "Now you've said it."
   He rolled his neck a little, the distant pop of a vertebrae in a
quiet wood-furnished office.
   "I didn't want to be the first one to say it," I said.
   "I understand."

   Burke came and went. I can't remember a thing he talked about.
He'd bought a new SUV. Neither of us cared. He left us together. We
didn't say anything for a while. The server stayed distant. Jo
stirred her iced tea.
   "You think we should speed up the Burke phase-out."
   She didn't speak.
   "We'll speed up the Burke phase-out. Doesn't even have to be a
phase-out. We can cut him out entirely."
   "When this started, before this started, even, I thought I would
wait you out," Jo said. "That I wouldn't be the one who broke up your
marriage, or be the rebound, that I would make do until you came
around." She shook her head. "Fuck that. She broke your marriage.
You're in trouble, and if I have to be the one who takes the fall,
then so be it."
   I paid the bill Burke had left us.

   To: All Employees
   From: Building Management
   Subject: Parking Lot Rules
   We have received numerous and increasing complaints about high
speeds in the building parking lot. The speed limit in the basement
garage and the surface lot is 5 mph. For your safety and the safety
of your co-workers...

   I got a meeting invite from our Anna, my team's HR person. Time,
room, no details. I showed up to find the conference room packed. Jo
was there. My boss, other bosses, HR people.
   "Thanks for coming, Ed," Anna said. I sat down.
   "Uh, hi everybody."
   "We're here to talk about employee relations."
   "What do you mean?"
   Anna tapped a chewed pen against her cheek.
   "Employee-employee relations."
   "I don't understand," I said.
   "We're concerned that you're seeing Josephine. Outside of your
work duties."
   "They've got us, Jo," I said.
   "It's my fault for booking the hotel from work," Jo said. "It was
supposed to be a surprise."
   "For this weekend? Because I booked a surprise hotel, too."
   "Oh, the tragedy," Jo said. "At the hotel, we were going to have
   "Can you two knock off the sarcasm, just for this meeting?" my
boss asked, rolling his eyes.
   "Okay, I'm going to be entirely serious," I said. "If there was a
relationship, it'd be none of your business. But the truth of the
matter is I'm getting divorced. Look." I held up my ringless hand.
"It's been a difficult time for me, and my friends -- like poor
Josephine here -- have been a great help. I've leaned on them a lot.
And if it looks like something else, I'm sorry."
   They all looked around the room, not meeting my eyes.
   "Go look it up. Pull my records, you'll see I'm on the Employee
Assistance Program, seeing a marriage counselor."
   "We can't pull your records," my boss said.
   "Anna can," I said. "In fact, Anna should know that I've been
seeing someone. Not what, but you've got to know I'm on the plan now."
   "Yes, but.."
   "Couldn't you at least have put this off, saved Jo this fucking
embarrassment? Couldn't you have told these people not to worry about
it, maybe talked to me in private, gotten the story? What's the point
of this?"
   "Look, Ed, we're sorry."
   "Then are we done?"

   I worked. Jo worked.

   To: Edmund
   From: Josephine
   Subject: Cubicle and Hallway Etiquette
   We have received numerous and increasing complaints about
enjoyable employee interaction on the work floor and in common areas.
Out of consideration for co-workers who may not be as sociable or
have the same social connections, please refrain from eye contact,
touching of any kind, or spending more than 5m together outside of
scheduled meetings. In the event an impromptu meeting runs over 5m,
please take the time to reserve a meeting room and publish an agenda
to ensure the widest possible participation. Supply closets are not
to be used for such meetings.

   I yawned. The conference room was empty. I was the only one on-
time. It wasn't even my meeting. I left my notepad on the desk along
with my cell phone. I went to get a Coke. When I came back, Jo sat,
leaning forward, writing notes on her agenda. I walked behind her and
leaned down. I kissed her neck softly, pulling back as she started. I
took my seat. Her cheeks flushed. I could see her breath quickening.
   "I hate how meetings start late," I said. "Why not schedule them
fifteen minutes after the hour?"
   "I," Jo said. "I don't know."
   "You know what I'd like?"
   "Uh, what?"
   "I'd like to lay you out on this table, take your pants down, and
eat you out."
   "What?" Her eyes could not have gotten larger.
   "Yeah. Just go down and make you writhe. I'd love to eat you out
for a late lunch."
   "I'll bet you're sweet and soft and delicious. I'll bet you smell
amazing with your clothes off. I'll bet I could eat you all day long."
   Jo let out a barely audible "oh", half a sigh.
   The first late comer entered. He took a seat.
   "Hey guys, what's up?" he asked.
   "Not much," I said. I kept my eyes on Jo. "You up for that? We
could still do it now."
   Her cheeks were bright red. The flush ran across her neck,
plunging into her nice shirt.
   "Uh, I'm sorry. No, no, I think we should look at that later this
week," Jo said. "I'll see if I can schedule something."
   The other six attendees all came in at once. Jo swallowed.
   "Sorry," our boss said. "We had a requirements review that ran
   "That's okay," Jo said.
   "What are we talking about?" he asked.
   "I've talked to the engineering teams and the fabricators, we've
got a proposal for draft submissions that will save us on turnaround
times and manufacturing costs." Jo let a long breath go. She was
grateful she'd gotten through the whole sentence. She squirmed in her
   "You do?" I asked.
   "Uh, yeah, we do," Jo said. Her eyes focused across the room. She
licked her lips.
   "Do me a favor," I said. "Draw it up on the whiteboard for me."

   We came into my house already kissing, door open behind us. Jo
kissed like she meant it. I had my hands up Jo's shirt, palms over
bra. She reached across to pull up my polo shirt. I'm idiot, didn't
plan ahead. My shirt had to come over my head. That meant I had to
stop kissing her for a moment. We were in and on the couch. My slacks
down to my knees, her freckled breasts pressing against my bare
chest. I fell off the couch. Jo laughed. She came down on top of me
as I rolled over. I hooked my thumbs into her waistband at the hips.
She came up, I pulled, and the slacks came down. I rested my hands on
her hips as she kicked the pants off in a graceful move. Her red hair
falling over my face, smiling, Jo leaned in and we kissed, softly. I
could feel everything in the room, every carpet strand against my
back, a fold of slick heat against the tip of my penis.
   "Yes?" she whispered.
   Jo moved down and I came up into her. My legs trembled. My nerves
all misfired radially outwards from her touch. Her nipples grazing my
chest. Her lips on mine. My hands on the small of her back. I kept us
as close as I could, as deep in her as I could manage.
   "Oh, yes." I said.
   "Yesss," Jo whispered.
   I ran a hand through her hair as, with agonizing slowness, we
came apart. I could feel everything, her exact position on me though
I didn't look down, the coolness of wet, exposed skin contrasted with
the blissful warmth an inch away.
   "I'm not going to last long," I said between kisses. We started
to come together again, and Jo moaned softly.
   "That's okay," she said. "I understand."
   We came together, moved apart, and that was it. As Jo started to
move down, drawing me up again, I could feel her trembling, the
tightness too much.
   "Ah, Josephine, I--" too late, my hips came up, every muscle
tightening, as the force of my orgasm seemed draw the rest of my body
along with it. Jo's cheek was next to mine.
   We came all the way together and I kept coming, each one a warm
reminder of the last, more powerful one. I felt Jo push herself
against the base of my dick, rubbing. I opened my eyes and she was
moving little but quickly, eyes closed, flushed. I could feel her
contract around me and her ragged breath on my lips. She came softly
and then, kissing me as we started to move again, she ground into me
harder and came again, panting, shoulders down, shaking entirely. I
felt everything, started to put a little more length in the motion.
   "What's this?" she asked. I put my arm around her shoulder and
rolled us over on to her back, her legs around my hips.
   "Oh yes," Jo said. I pulled all the way out, looked at her before
me. She was sweating hard, her abs showing faintly, hair mussed,
smiling broadly. Sweat rolled off my chest to her belly. We were both
soaking wet, sweat and smeared sex.
   "Don't you dare," she said.
   I reached down and she arched her back and we were together
again, more familiar now, all the way in and almost out, and Jo gave
a moan each time I came down. I lasted much longer until Jo grabbed
the back of my head and brung me down. "Tell me before this time."
   "Before," I said. Jo came forward as I came back, I slipped out
and whined for just a second as she sat up, legs spread, took my
unnatural hard-on in both hands, and worked its slippery length fast.
   "Come on, Edmund, come--" she murmured, and that was all it took.
I jerked and she leaned in. I kept coming, the pleasure hitting me
again as she didn't stop her hands. She leaned back and her lips were
smeared with white as the next load started, tapping her under the
chin, and I kept on and on, until my legs gave and I dropped onto my
back. I looked up at her over my totally limp penis. I felt like I
would never have an erection again, that I had given not only every
sperm in my system but sperm not yet produced.
   Jo laughed. She wiped her mouth with the back of her hand.
Droplets of cum speckled her chest like her light freckles. Beads ran
down her neck together in the clavicle. Jo wiped her chest idly,
running a finger between her drizzled breasts.
   "What was that?" I asked.
   "I had to get something to eat for lunch."
   "Maybe we should clean up."
   "Maybe?" Jo asked, putting her head flat on my shoulder. She fit
snug against me. "You have to go to college to get smart like that."
   "Yeah, but you have to go to a four-year school."
   "I can't believe you'd say that after what we just did."
   "I've been kidding you for years. You want me to stop now? Do you
want to stop kidding me?"
   "No," she said.

   I stood on my front porch, fished out my keys.
   "It seemed like you enjoyed that," Jo said. She'd borrowed a hat,
ponytailed her hair, stuck it through the back, over the adjustable
strap. It was cute.
   "That wasn't obvious? Yes, I did. And you?"
   Jo laughed. "Very much, yes. So, uh, you've got to tell me, was
that the first time that's ever happened to you?"
   "What's that?"
   She chucked me on the bicep. "I'll bet you've never had sex that
good. Ever. Ever!"
   I locked my front door.
   "I've never enjoyed sex that much," she said. "I'll bet you
haven't either."
   We started down the drive. I took Jo's hand. She squeezed for
just a second.
   "I'll bet you lunch that was the best sex ever," Jo said.
   "A gentleman doesn't kiss and tell," I said.
   We walked down the sparse side street, towards the town and the
office parks.
   "Yes," I said.

   I sat on the porch of my house. The horizon brightened. Steam
came off my coffee. I waited.
   A car pulled up. It was a piece of shit. I didn't recognize the
guy who drove her home. He looked at me and started in his seat.
   A month earlier, I'd have gotten up, pulled him from his car, and
beaten him to death with the mailbox.
   Jamie walked up the drive, trying not to look at me. But I
blocked the entryway.
   "The door's locked, and your key doesn't work anymore. I'm
throwing you out."
   Jamie nodded.
   "I understand sort of what you're going through. When I was a
teenager, I tried hanging out with different groups, drinking,
smoking.." I waved my hand, lost my place. "And in college I became
me. You, you were going to be a lawyer, and when you washed out, you
didn't have anything, and now you're doing what I did ten years ago."
   She sat across from me on the deck.
   "Everything I spent, it's forgiven. All the time, well, it was
good until lately, so I'm going to remember the rest. We had a good
time while it lasted."
   "I don't know how long this thing of yours is going to take. And
I don't know who you'll be when you get out of it. And Jamie, I don't
care any more. I didn't think you'd stay the same, that we wouldn't
have to work on it, but you're not in it with me anymore. I'm too
hurt, I'm too tired."
   She wiped one eye with the back of her hand.
   "I suspect you've been waiting for this, wondering when I'd cut
my losses. So you win, Jamie. You've been thrown out. Have your fun.
Don't call me when you're done with this thing."
   Jamie stood and walked down to the street. I went to work.

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