FFS - For Feck's Sake - A novel by Max Mobley - Excerpt
Howard Feck passed into carnal knowledge at the tender age of 33. It was a remarkable occurrence for all the wrong reasons. His partner, a drunk but willing co-worker, took up the cause on a dare issued at the end of a company Christmas party. She had told herself that climbing atop a man who had yet to experience such a thing and who sorely needed it was a noble endeavor. And it was. But during the course of schlub-making, the woman had changed her mind. As Howard convulsed, gasped, and apologized his way toward climax, she realized she could not accept it. Poor Howard finished alone—flopping around the supply room floor like a freshly caught fish while his repulsed strumpet jumped back into her pants and ran out the door. Howard lay there, a spent, humiliated mess. He vowed never to have sex again unless completely alone, which, once again, he now was.
It was a time when many households could not surf the web and make a phone call at the same time. Cell phones were big, clunky, stupid, and camera-less. The internet was still a promise not fully identified. Nowhere was this more true than in internet chat rooms dedicated to virtual romance and cybersex. Safely alone, with curtains drawn and lights dimmed, it was the one place Howard felt capable of participating in the age-old quest for hot sex and easy companionship. For Howard, taking his clothes off in front of a computer screen while another person across the dial up connection allegedly did the same delivered the ideal sexual encounter. He could enjoy sex alone while another person appeared to be involved, if solely through the dirty words appearing in a white box on the screen. Here Howard’s sex life quickly evolved into masturbating while reading nasty sentence fragments full of interjections with letters repeated for emphasis. He believed a hot and horny female typed those devilishly naughty words appearing on his screen, though was often zero for three on that score.
Then he met Lil_Debbie, a.k.a., Deborah Fairchild. Ms. Fairchild’s undeniable vivaciousness toyed heartily with the pornographic. In between salacious replies to Howard’s misspelled sexual requests and instructions, she also exuded a gentle sweetness. Unlike most alleged women Howard dated in private chat rooms, Ms. Fairchild did not go all the way on their first date (though Howard did and lied about it—naughty boy). But on subsequent dates, their conversations swung rapidly between sweet, purring admissions of love to winking and wide-mouthed emoticons punctuating pornographic suggestions and reactions. Soon, HappiHoward and Lil_Debbie were a regular item. Thanks to a gross misunderstanding of how female erogenous zones should be stimulated, date night for Howard revolved around the one-handed typing of convoluted sexual instructions. As if to prove their sexual kismet, whenever Deborah typed Howard off, she climaxed at the exact same moment despite being hundreds of miles away. Or at least she claimed to. And Howard believed every word she typed.
It had finally happened—Howard Feck had found true love. How could he have not? His date, Deborah Fairchild, possessed the libido of a teenage boy, the dexterity of a prog-rock drummer, the flexibility of a Cirque du Soleil acrobat, and the heart of a wallflower.
HappiHoward and Lil_Debbie exchanged pictures of one another over email early in their relationship. True to the decorum of cyber-dating during the last days of dial-up, both sent low-res images not of themselves but of someone much better looking. Howard’s picture was obviously a fake as he had emailed a headshot of ‘70s teen idol Robbie Benson taken during the peak of his career. (Howard was unfamiliar with Mr. Benson’s body of work.) Consumed with securing female interest, it had never occurred to him that Deborah would reciprocate in the deception. Thanks to a picture of an anonymous beauty scraped from a craft fair website, HappiHoward believed Lil_Debbie was doe-eyed and sylphlike, with dark, voluptuous curls and skin the color of tea with milk.
Having divulged his real name, and, on a separate occasion, the name of his employer, it took very little time for Deborah to learn what Howard Feck really looked like. On the last page of an electronic newsletter archived on a corporate website, Deborah found a photo with a caption that read: Burke Packaging receiving clerk Harold Feck finds surprise in shipment of MP3GoUltras.
The picture showed a sickly thin man in drab, ill-fitting office wear. He sported a fungal-looking moustache and a splatter of dark, greasy hair, which appeared to have slid part way down the back of his misshapen skull. The man in the photo was staring bulgy-eyed at the camera while grimacing to the gums. He was holding a paper towel at arm’s length. Resting in the center of the paper towel—a piece of dried-up finger, replete with dirty nail.
Deborah could care less about HappiHoward’s grotesque discovery, but she did find it interesting that he had not used his real first name in their correspondences. In fact, he had—the name Harold in the caption was a typo, and a reflection of his standing in the company.
Three consecutive dates into their relationship, during which Howard had reached coitus a stunning eight times, Lil_Debbie typed that she loved Howard enough to tell him her real name—Deborah Fairchild—which, of course, wasn’t her real name at all. Her real name was Debbie Coomb. Howard responded by crying and making himself orgasm a ninth time.
By their thirty-fifth date in half as many days, Howard Feck had steeped himself in a ribald fantasy in which Deborah Fairchild played both wench and maiden to his chivalrous and lustful well-endowed knight. He soaked in this fantasy, sautéed himself in it, bathed, boiled, and basked in it until it consumed his every waking moment. And like many saps before him, he had lost sight of the delicate pink line that separated fantasy from reality in the earthquake-prone dominion of love. Typing one-handed was no longer enough. He desperately needed to consummate this fantasy in person, making it real as skin. Deborah had made it clear, however, that despite her desire to hold Howard tightly in the deepest part of her, private circumstances prevented any flesh-to-flesh encounters. Things would soon change, she promised. Howard just needed to hold on a little longer. But Howard’s fantasy had succeeded in overshadowing reality, virtual though it may be, and a surprise visit to his wench and maiden seemed to him a damn good idea. He did not view this as ambushing someone whose words and fake picture he had repeatedly stained with his lust. He viewed it as aiding the hand of fate by placing it gently in his car, seatbelting it in, and then driving it hundreds of miles to where it could best serve his destiny. Not one to pick up hitchhikers, it was quite a bold move for the man.
Despite looking nothing like ‘70s teen idol Robbie Benson, Howard did not fret over disappointing Deborah when they met face to face. He had uncharacteristically formulated a plan. It was a plan he had seen played out on TV and in the movies many times before, but that did not stop him from believing it was his own original idea. He would wait for Deborah at the café she frequented every afternoon according to her chats—just a stranger in need of coffee. Safe in the anonymity of his true appearance, he would watch her log on for their daily afternoon chat—the casual one where they flirted and teased about their cyber-date later that evening. Peeking over a newspaper or magazine, he would quietly gauge her reaction upon learning she had been stood up by the very man clandestinely studying her. Then, at the peak of her disappointment, he would present himself. Only he would use the name Fletch Howard, or maybe Harry Peck—he wasn’t quite sure which—and figured he could make up his mind on the thirteen-hour drive to Deborah’s hometown. Then, using all he had learned from their internet courtship, he would commence pitching woo.
Howard regarded his plan as a slam-dunk, can’t fail, why didn’t I think of this before? kind of solution, not because he was blinded by new love and all its inebriating promises. Nor was it from the newly gained confidence earned from a string of successful sexual encounters with himself while Lil_Debbie typed him off. Howard thought highly of his plan simply because whenever he was “with” Deborah, she thought highly of him. And never before, in all his years, had he experienced such a thing.