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A Phoenix Fiction Writer Rising From The Ashes of Nonfiction




Conventional Wisdom 
by Michael T. Martin

Gwen finished registering at the long table in the hotel lobby. Her flight had been delayed, and then she had to check into the hotel and now she was easily the last person to register for the conference. The woman across from her clamped a plastic name tag on Gwen's blouse and handed her a bag of papers.

“Welcome to the western region library convention. There's a meet and greet in the barroom over there,” said the woman pointing across the lobby.

This was all totally new to her. Gwen couldn't remember the last time she had been away from her family. She had gone on this little adventure only because the regular librarian where she volunteered had taken ill, but now she felt strangely liberated. The meet and greet seemed a likely place to start.

The crowded noisy barroom seemed a foreign place to her, having not visited such an establishment since her college years, a decade or two ago, give or take a few years. She looked around the crowd before stepping into the room and approaching the padded counter. The bartender quickly noticed and looked at her expectantly with his head cocked and eyebrows raised.

“Seven and seven” she said, echoing a long forgotten scenario, like some phrase shouted from a cliff that a long time later returns to your ears. She never really learned to like a barroom. She always attracted the unwanted attention of men and had to fence with them in conversations to repel them.

In college she almost felt like a gladiator appearing in the arena with the eyes of the crowd looking at her expectantly. A male gladiator would always appear in the arena to approach her, his raised sword apparent beneath his trousers. It embarrassed her every time because she always had this impulse to caress it when she knew it was really a weapon aimed at her. Still, it hadn't kept her from numerous encounters as an undergraduate.

The bartender placed her drink on a napkin before her. She gave him a twenty-dollar bill from her clutch, figuring it would cover the price, whatever it was. He returned quickly with bills and change. She took the larger denominations and left him the singles and change. Grasping the glass, she pivoted away so her back was to the bar and inadvertently bumped into a younger man conversing with two other young men.

“Excuse me,” she said, lowering her eyes and starting to back away. The men looked at her amused. They appeared to be college students, except for the one she had collided with, who seemed more at the end of his twenties. He seemed the most amused and after he scanned her cleavage he looked into her eyes and said:

“Hello, Gwen.”

It caught her by surprise that he knew her name. She looked up at him, searching his face for recognition. Then she felt sheepish as he turned to face her and she saw his name tag. She had forgotten she was wearing one. His read “Steve” and “Cucamonga, Calif.” Hers read “Gwen” and “Phoenix, Az.” She pressed her lips together, chagrined, but they were now face to face.

“Gwen from Phoenix, are you a librarian?” Steve asked.

“I'm a library aide,” she replied, “I handle children's programs.”

“I'm a librarian, but I really like aides,” he said, then blushed, “I mean, libraries really really need aides.”

“Well, I like librarians,” she said raising her glass, “libraries really really need librarians.”

“Touche,” he conceded, smiling, “how long have you been an aide.”

“Only two years.”

“That shows commitment. We have a lot come and go. Not many stay two years.”

“How long have you been a librarian, in Kooka - Monga?”

“Jack Benny used to say, Anaheim Azusa and Cucamonga: he made us famous. But then you're too young to know about Jack Benny.”

“I'm too young?” She wiggled a little as she said it.

“Too young to know about Jack Benny. Not too young for me. I mean …” he blushed.

“I'm married.” She flashed her left ring finger, figuring it would ward him off.

“Me too. I don't have a ring. Just a ball and chain.”

“Do you have children's programs in your library?” she asked sipping from her glass.

“Of course. Technology is transforming everything though. Kids can have computers read stories to them. Almost everything is online.”

“I still find kids need personal attention.”

“That's my feeling, but we need to have aides who understand the technology as well as the children.”

“They still have runny noses and diapers in our library.”

“True, but it used to be all about books, now it's so much more.”

Maybe it was the seven and seven but she was enjoying the conversation. She was talking about libraries with a professional. But she was also talking with a young man, and it seduced her into remembering her youth and the intellectual vibrancy of college with its sexual tension lingering in the background.

She did like his attention, no longer alone in a strange crowd, wondering whether she still could arouse a young man. He created a glow in her that reminded her of when she was his age, wondering if he would pursue her like men did in her youth. She did fondly recall the esteem of having many men pursuing her, and she didn't want to be a crone. She wondered about that at home. A woman in her forties wasn't yet a crone but it lurked ahead of her. She already knew there were clothes she couldn't wear because they were too young.

“Have you visited the eats?” he asked.


“It's happy hour, there's a table with food near the dance floor.” He moved in that direction, waiting to see if she would follow. She did. He led her to a long table against the wall with trays of cheeses and crackers and vegetables and other hors d'oeuvres. He handed her a paper saucer and they proceeded down the table. At the end he pointed off to the other side.

“Let's get a table.”

He was leading her, taking charge, and she liked that. Where he was leading her would be the adventure that unfolded. She liked pretending that a young man was interested in her and intrigued that she might not be pretending.

She hadn't noticed the music at first. As they sat at the table talking, the music caught her attention a few times with songs from when she was in college, dating, having romances. Sitting with this younger man evoked those wonderful carefree days of fun and learning. As their conversation bird-walked across topics, she sipped her glass down to the bottom and was ready for a refill.

There were some couples slow dancing on the dance floor.

“Would you like to dance?” he asked her. She was still immersed in her past. It posed a challenge. She danced with her husband at events and business meetings. Pressing their bodies together was perfunctory at best. Not like she remembered from college where the pressing involved more evocative sensations.

“I like this song,” she said, standing, “sure.”

But she knew she risked crossing a line in the process. As they stepped onto the open space of the floor he placed his hand on the small of her back and pulled her towards him, she placed her right hand in his and her left on his shoulder. It should have been mechanical but it was magical instead. She was touching his body now and he was fully against her. A strange man holding her gently.

They swayed and turned to the music. He asked her about her family and they discussed his. Then he asked about her background, her former jobs, and her education. In each case he was respectful of her, but she noticed him slowly pulling her closer to him, their hand holding sagging to their shoulders. They danced through that song and others, swaying and turning upright until one song he removed his hand from her back and placed it softly behind her head, pushing her toward his shoulder. She knew she shouldn't have allowed that, but she did, and when he returned his hand to her back it was much lower.

She kept her head on his shoulder as they continued dancing. She enjoyed the feel of him, but she was conflicted now. She knew she had gone too far but she enjoyed the feelings he aroused in her, flooding her with reminisces along with emotions. It approached a dreamlike state. She was safe on the dance floor, she told herself, but when he kissed her cheek she felt a cold draft across her shoulders. She pulled her head back, looked directly at him and announced:

“I think I'd better call it a night.”

He stepped away from her but kept his hand on the flare of her hips. As they walked to their table where she could retrieve her things, his hand remained.

“I'll walk you to your room,” he said.

This troubled her at first, but in her mind a backlash was forming against her impulsiveness. When he had stepped away from her his chest was no longer against her breasts and they noticed the loss of warmth. His remaining hand on her kept this connection she felt with the sensations in her mind flowing from her past. She could still feel the burning on her cheek but it was now intertwined with those sensations from her past of being young and adventurous. After all, it wasn't on her lips.

“Suit yourself,” she said and turned away from him breaking his contact with her. She walked several steps away but the devilish desire for adventure made her look over her shoulder at him. He began following her. Her room was not far from the ballroom, across the lobby and down a hallway. She became intrigued as he followed behind her across the lobby and now her feeling of adventure came alive. There was a young man pursuing her and it excited her. She felt anticipation billowing inside her. She owned him. She wondered how far she could milk the situation.

She liked leading him down the hall, walking in a way that she knew would capture his attention from behind her. As she pulled her key card from her clutch she wondered what he would do when they reached her room. And so she didn't turn to him when she arrived, she just pushed the card into the door mechanism and pushed in the door. He approached her as she slowed and put his hands on her hips. When the door opened she had to decide whether to turn to face him and thank him for escorting her safely, or to just continue into the room leaving the initiative to him. It was so delicious, feeling his hands on her. It was an adventure she didn't want to stop by turning and bidding him goodbye.

She entered her room and turned on the light switch. He followed close behind her, even touching against her as he turned the switch back off. His arm reached around her, turning her, as he closed the door and she felt herself pressed against the wall with his body against hers, his lips finding hers.

This was more sudden than she expected. She still had her purse, her shoes on, her convention papers, that she had expected to shed as she introduced him to her well-lit room. Only now she was in darkness and his hands cascaded over her body. She was no longer in control and she had to decide how much of her life she would surrender to this man. She thought momentarily of her husband but the thought fell away as the man against her held her head on either side and kissed her deeply. She would have to choose, but considering the circumstances she realized she had inadvertently already chosen.

She let his roaming hands envelop her breasts and she gasped at the sensations unleashed. He continued kissing her as his hands began unbuttoning her blouse. She leaned back against the wall, letting her possessions drop to the floor while pressing her thighs and crotch against his. She knew that crossed the Rubicon.

He bit her lips, gently, as he pulled her blouse open and reached behind her to free her bra that relaxed suddenly unleashing her breasts to his exploring hands. Her knees weakened and as she slumped slightly he reached beneath her bent knees and scooped her into his arms carrying her in the dim light to the bed. She hung in his arms, letting her head fall backward, acting helpless but wondering what awaited her.

He could throw her violently on the bed and take her, hitting her, dominating her, perhaps even seizing her throat to immobilize her. Remembrances of such scenes from her recreational reading spun through her mind. Her stomach ached slightly at the danger. It reminded her of when she was a child hiking at summer camp when someone said they heard a bear. The same questioning fear, the same trembling uncertainty, the same helpless realization crept through her body. What was he going to do to her?

But he sat on the bed and brought her onto his lap, removing her blouse and bra before he leaned her back on the bed, on top of the comforter, removing her panties in the process.

She knew this was not something she should be doing but she nearly swooned at the adventure. In the back of her mind there was outrage at her behavior, formulated a little from fear, a little from propriety, a little from foreshadowing but it also piqued her excitement. As he undid his trousers she took the opportunity to remove her skirt and slip, easing into the center of the bed awaiting him. She was nude, vulnerable, exposed, and trembling in anticipation.

His hulking shadow descended above her and her body quivered as she saw the dark projection from between his thighs. She grasped the projection, feeling its extraordinary warmth against her palm. It's heat flowed up her arm and radiated throughout her body, bringing her into sudden exhilaration.

The sameness in her life began to melt away as he began entering her. This was excitingly different, almost like her first time in college, with a strange man mounting her, wondering if he would be gentle. He continued taking possession of her, wrapping his arms around her shoulders and back, seizing her, taking liberties with his lips against her neck and shoulder.

There were new smells, some from him, his breath and body odor, but some from her recognition of herself coming alive. Her own perfume wafted off of her warming body, but she also smelled pure air through expanded nostrils admitting deep breaths into her consciousness.

Her mouth parted and more air streamed through an expanded throat that tingled just from feeling her panting. Her eyes were open but all she saw were patterns from her youth flowing through the mixture of feelings from him rolling against her emulating past men who had loved her.

She felt his rolling against her becoming more earnest and rapid. He was panting, grunting. She grew concerned. The sensations that billowed throughout her body, the warmth and excitedness, the trembling, the smells, the exhilarations mounted as her mind swirled the past and present together. She wanted him to keep going, rocking her, penetrating her, kissing her, fondling her, but instead she felt him pulling away, convulsing, thrusting into her, flooding her as his body stiffened and his arms tightened.

“Don't stop,” she pleaded even as she felt him becoming flaccid against her. She arched against him, jerking her legs to keep him moving. Her mind detached, savoring the feelings he had aroused in her, drifting off into reverie. Time vanished. Echoes of ecstasy reverberated in her abandoned consciousness.

The phone rang, startling her alert. She could barely see it by the dark lamp next to the bed. It was insistent. He was lying atop her panting.

“I have to answer, it's probably my husband,” she said in his ear, reaching for the phone but holding him against her. He stayed firmly between her legs, embedded in her as she answered.

“Hello?” she recognized her husband's voice, “oh, nothing, just lying in bed in my room. How are the kids?” Her companion looked up at her momentarily then took one of her nipples in his lips. She smiled.

“That's good. Make sure they get to bed on time.” Her husband's voice in her ear, her companion sucking on her nipple, the continued warmth between her legs, gave her a feeling of empowerment she hadn't known before. A dreamlike state of bliss enveloped her, making her voice almost a guttural whisper.

“The convention's just starting and I don't know anyone.” His hand glided onto her other breast and softly massaged.

“I miss you too,” she whispered into the phone, tightening her vagina. He responded with a gentle thrust.

“I'll give you more details tomorrow,” she paused to listen, “Okay. You too.” She raised and crossed her legs behind her companion.

“I love you too. Good night.” She replaced the handset on the phone then slowly lowered her legs.

“Unngh,” she sighed again, “Sorry for the interruption.”

“I'll let it go, this time,” he laughed as his mouth descended upon hers, slightly more violently this time biting her lips then smothering her mouth. It raised that subtle fear of the bear in her again, along with the excitement. She felt him hardening inside her.

“Umm, round two?” she asked when he raised his head.

“It's going to be a long night,” he said, “but first, do you mind if I call my wife?”

She pouted at him.

“Okay, seems fair,” she said smiling wickedly, “I'll just practice my sword swallowing.”

“I'll make it quick,” he said reaching for the phone. She giggled, sliding toward his waist.

They ordered breakfast from room service and entertained each other until he had to leave to prepare for the convention. She lost track of him after that. The convention proved interesting enough on its own. She took the Sunday flight home and was met enthusiastically by her kids at the airport. Her husband was more subdued. She wondered about that, but she also felt smugly empowered by her secret adventure. Her nipples tingled.

Monday morning she got him off to work and the kids off to school before showing up at the library. She went into the librarian's office, who seemed recovered from her illness. Gwen sat across from her and started reporting on her time at the convention. Eleanor, the librarian, listened intently but then when Gwen was finished she smiled primly.

“I see you met Steve,” the librarian said, “I should have warned you about him.”

“What?” asked Gwen, puzzled to hear his name since she hadn't mentioned him in her report.

“Steve always tries to leave his mark on the new ladies,” said Eleanor reaching into her unseen purse behind the desk. She gave a hand mirror to Gwen. “It's on the side of your neck below your ear.”

Gwen remained puzzled but took the mirror and held it up to view herself. The blood drained from her face and her stomach turned nauseous. She didn't know why she hadn't seen the red quarter-sized hickey on her neck. Her husband had to have seen it.

“Have yourself checked for gonorrhea,” said Eleanor with her hand reaching for her mirror, “he sometimes has a problem with that.”

Gwen nearly fainted as she gave back the mirror.



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