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Joey took a tub bath. He usually took a shower but not tonight. He masturbated into the water. After a while he noticed that one of the globs of come floating around had a pinprick of blood in it. He tried to scoop up the come with one hand but it got away. He scooped it up using both hands. The blood was deep inside the come glob so he squished it. The blood dissolved on his wet finger. Then he masturbated again to see if there would be more blood, but there wasn't any.


Joey waited for the bus, standing in the Plexiglass shelter with nine or ten others waiting. Across the street a driverless pick-up idled in the driveway of a high-rise apartment building. The apartment building looked like a stack of brand-new VCR's with the balconies being ejected tapes. When the pick-up kicked out of gear and backed itself slowly into the middle of the street, and stopped there, blocking traffic, all the other people from the bus stop went to push it out of the way. Joey took advantage of this to grab a seat in the shelter. The people pushing the truck behaved as though life were a great romp.

Joey kept a journal of his dreams. We became water-breathers, he wrote, and were very pleased with our transformation. We lived in an aquarium owned by some guy in an apartment a lot like ours. He fed us every day these wonderful musky-tasting things, bread-like in texture, which turned out to be maggots. We didn't know they were maggots until much later. All we knew was they were yummy, delicious. When we found out that they were maggots, we began to have second thoughts about our transformation.


Joey's lover's name was also Joe. They met a punk rock guy at the adult bookstore whose name, interestingly enough, was also Joe. Joey and his lover never had sex with each other anymore unless they picked up a third. Joey's lover said it was probably because of molestation in both of their childhoods, fear of intimacy, etc., but Joey knew he had never been molested. "Denial," said his lover. It was one of their favorite jokes. The punk rock guy had a narrow stubbly head, a lean body covered in mandala tattoos. He slept between them that night and held their dicks in his gentle cold hands. At one point he got up and vomited but then he came right back. He smelled of marijuana and Downy. When they woke they found him sitting at their kitchen table with a notepad, designing new more intricate tattoos.

I could fly, Joey wrote. But I didn't. I kept thinking of those LSD horror stories I'd heard as a kid, hippies plummeting from San Francisco bridges and buildings. They had been every bit as certain as I was. Maybe I'll just rise steadily from ground-level, I told myself. That should be safe. I never got around to it, though.

Third Joe (their name for the punk rock guy) and Joey's lover had been spending a lot of time together while he was at work. They had their own in-jokes that they never explained to him. He didn't ask. The word "rotisserie" was one. Any time either of them said it they busted out laughing. They said it more than should be normal for conversation, too. The word "Anacin" was another. They would say, "Anacin stops headache pain," and move their left arm stiffly for some reason and laugh. "I am not at all insecure," Joey would think to himself, and he really knew this. He meant it unironically.

Joey's mother used to tell him about collard greens. When he was a child he would say, "Yuck." His mother said, "I know, I know. But someday your tastes will change." She said that one day she had walked into the kitchen and asked her mother what that was that smelled so good. It turned out to be collard greens, which she had always thought were gross before. From that point on she loved them. The story horrified Joey's romantic sensibility. If something that fundamental could change-if he could be the kind of person who liked collard greens-what else about him might be different someday? What other person might he become? He felt the same way now about his sexuality. Sometimes he saw a woman who appealed to him, or while masturbating he accidentally thought about one. He put these thoughts away, not because he had anything against heterosexuality, but because they made him incomprehensible to himself. He also to this day did not like collards, or any greens for that matter.

Deadbaby is not funny, he wrote. Deadbaby is the world's first dead, baby superhero. He fights child molesters and rapists because that's how he died.

Third Joe came over with a big black shoulder-bag. Joey figured it had pot in it and it did-about a pound, in a tight fat Saran-wrapped wad. Also a wrinkled white dress shirt and a red tie with hand-painted birds. Third Joe had a fetish for businesswear. He put the shirt and tie on and looked very cute and pathetic in them. Joey and his lover didn't pay him very much attention. They couldn't get over all that pot. They had never seen so much in one place at one time. Third Joe sat on the couch beside them in his suit and tie very self-consciously for a couple of hours but no sex happened. They watched television together. "That's cool," Third Joe kept saying, at long intervals. Joey and his lover said it every once in awhile as well.

Joey and his lover went to a family steakhouse that had a big buffet. They ate a lot. While watching his lover pretend to suck the fat out of his own belly with an imaginary vacuum cleaner, Joey had two totally separate trains of thought. The first concerned the possibility of death. His lover had said, "I can't wait until we can afford for me to have liposuction." "It's not going to happen." Joey was opposed to plastic surgery on philosophical grounds. It seemed sad to want to be what you were not. This is also why he never did drugs until recently. Besides, Joey was much fatter than his lover. "Okay, just get me a good vacuum cleaner and one of those Icee straws with the sharp spoon-type end," his lover said. He made an orgasmic face while rubbing his fist up and down his belly. "What are you doing?" "I'm practicing. Hell. I watch the surgery channel." "You can get that done after I'm dead." Joey looked around the restaurant to make sure none of the heteros were watching. "You'll never die," Joey's lover grumbled. He picked at his hot fudge cake with a fork. He said, "Not until I kill you." "I have a sneaky feeling how I'm going to die," Joey said. He meant AIDS and he knew he was being whiny. He had never been tested for it in his life. That's when his lover leaned over the table, though, and looked very seriously at him. "Yep. It's a definite thing." This gave Joey pause. Had his lover been tested for AIDS without telling him? They never had safe sex with one another, and occasionally they even had unsafe sex with tricks-buttfucking and all. Joey thought: maybe he misheard me. Maybe he thought I said I have a sneaky feeling that I'm going to die, not how. Joey didn't ask because he didn't want to know. The other train of thought was totally separate. It had to do with something his grandfather told him as a little boy. Since there are a limited number of musical notes, and a limited number of ways that they can be put together, there is no point in liking music or paying attention to musical artists-his grandfather said. It had all been done before. For example, in ancient Babylon there was probably a song just like the B-52's "Rock Lobster," which was what Joey had been playing loudly on his boombox in the car when his grandfather shared this theory. Joey was thinking: rhythm. That's what Papo Manley didn't account for.

Deadbaby sees a dog and two bad men. "Look!" says one of the bad men, "-a dog!" "Yeah. Let's fuck it." Deadbaby rescues the dog. The dog turns out to have rabies and it bites him on the hand. Deadbaby kills the dog with a quick chop to the back of the neck. The dog becomes Deaddog, the world's first dead, dog superhero. Together they fly to the cyberporn factory.

Third Joe's favorite bands were Joy Division and Fear. He was older than he looked, but still not as old as Joey and his lover. Joey's own favorite was REM during the phase that lasted about two albums before and one album after Automatic for the People. He also liked early Pretenders. His lover liked Madonna and Nirvana. "Oh Joy Division, yeah. Love Will Tear is a good one," Joey said, abbreviating the name of their most popular song to show how cool he could be, even at thirty-two.

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