Lawrence Santoro
NOTE: Catching was published in November, 2003,
by Chanting Monks Studio and Boneyard Press
in their anthology, SEX CRIMES.

An hour, about the thirtieth cock, and she stopped hurting. First, Lou thought her cunny'd gone numb, but that had never happened, even on real busy nights.

A little later, she thought she might be dead. That felt better. She thought, maybe the sicknesses had given her up. That'd be okay. This was one way to go and better'n some.

Then one little stinky prick she couldn’t see for the dark and her eyes being shut tried to stick it up her ass. Not thinking, she clamped him off.

That hurt. Supposed to, she guessed, but even all running cummy, she was dried. "She shuttin’ me out," the prick yelled, his whiskery voice smelling like Four Roses and gone-away teeth. "Someone gut-punch this cooze," he shouted.

Somebody did and that hurt. Then a couple of others did, other places, and she came to life again. She felt the sick get up and go rumbling through her, the fists releasing it like a thousand gallon cum from the One Great Prick of All the Sweet Jesus World.

Made her relax alright, so relaxed, she dumped a load on the little prick poked up her ass. It went running down his legs as he wiggled in her grunting, "baby, baby, baby, baby, baby, baby, baby," in her ear.

The shit got him madder’n hell. The shadows flickering in the circle around them laughed, and he was the center of it. Madder'n hell, he bit down on her hair and head and grabbed her cunny, tearing at it like he was splitting her in two.

That hurt a lot. It was supposed to. So she reckoned she wasn’t dead all the way. He went back to breathing, "baby. Baby. Baby," chewing each word between bites as he pried her open and shoved it up. The circle thought it was funnier and funnier.

Next to her, the oil drum burned, flames flickered though rust holes. During the last hour she had been shoved face down in the freezing dirt. She'd been rolled over and had old springs and busted bricks gouge her ass as someone pounded inside. Sometimes she was kicked to kneeling on broken glass for rounds of cocksucking, or held horizontal by four, five guys, her legs wishboned apart for stand-up fucks, or, like now, bent over the ruin of a stuffed easy chair like what momma'd kept on the front porch, summer and winter. All the while, laying, kneeling or bent, there was a steady pitter spatter of cumdrops over every part of her, as the circle watched, waited, or could wait no more.

The flames licked the space between her and the oil drum. When she wasn't face down or nose-deep in unwashed crotch, she watched the red and yellow flames light the asses, arms, hairy legs and dirty shorts, the parts of faces and jiggling dicks that moved around her, flickering, dripping, waiting, half firm, half soft, hand-held and twitching in the night.

She didn’t care. There was talk in the moving light. She didn't care. Clusters of conversation, laughs, and whispers. She heard a passed bottle clinking on teeth. She didn't care.

She knew some of these people. Some she didn't. Most were men. She didn’t care who they were. Most were white guys. But nigger, white, greaser, it didn't matter.

She’d always liked niggers. Down home, they were sweet to her. Here in the City, when they didn’t steal her fix, they were nice but with an edge of fear that made them stand apart, pose mean, act hard. But she liked the hard dry way their hands felt on her skin. And the ones didn't stiff her for it, like she was white and came back regular. Yeah. Niggers were okay. She didn't think there were too many of them in the dancing circle in the night.

Mom would have hated knowing Lou was leaving life and feeling that way, kindly about niggers. Mom didn’t like fucking niggers. AND she didn’t like fucking niggers, if you know what that means. Lou gulped, almost laughed, even mostly dead, her live part almost laughed at that. Nope. Momma didn’t like the nigger trade. A product of her raising, Lou knew. But momma did what she had to to make a buck.

Niggers, though, they did like to fuck, plain fuck, and when they were straight, they did it so smooth.

White trade was mostly head. Scared of diseases, she reckoned. Afraid they put their things in her they’d get it.

She knew she had the AIDS. The docs told her a long time ago. She'd been in a half-way house just out of lock up and the docs examining said she had it. Most of the other venereals too. Clap, the syph, gonorrhea, herpes. All that. But the AIDS was the bad one and she didn’t like to give it around. Mostly she used rubbers, but a lot of trade didn’t want them.

Mexs didn’t. They liked it raw. An extra couple bucks to go skin-to-skin. Those extra bucks could get her a flop and a sack of sliders most nights. And they were so proud of coming in her, straight!

Rubbers felt good inside her, though. They were slippery when she was dry, and they were clean and smooth. Like something new, not a scabby old prick.

Her girlfriend, dead now, showed her how to roll a stripper on a dick, edging it with her tongue as the dick slipped in between her lips. Half the time the johnboys didn't even know it was on till after. Sometimes they got pissed when they found out and wanted their cum swallowed all gone. One college boy made her drink it, pouring like a fine wine from the limp rubber bottle.

A lot didn’t care though. She didn't like the rubber taste, but it was better than dirty prick and a full load of hobo shoot. Lou was pretty good at pretend, but she drooled when she could.

It had been a lousy week in a boogie life.

When it began, she'd had a nice heat vent down Michigan Avenue, a little place in an alley between a couple of buildings. A loading dock sheltered it from the Hawk off the Lake and from the pig eyes on the main stem. There had been lots of boxes, too, big ones and dry. Good to curl up in or to stretch out, ones would hold the heat that rose in white swirls from the building vents.

Downtown was class. There, she could move among people and feel okay about herself. Nights, she could lie in the warmth of her building as it breathed on her and feel the sick run its way inside her.

She moved, days, among the nice downtown folks, their good clothing brushing her Sal Army wardrobe. She sat in coffee shops where, a moment before, a really pretty woman had been. Lou’d sip her tea and when she got up, a clean old man took her place and read the Wall Street paper. She fit.

She wasn't scared of the germs any more. She'd come to terms with that. The docs had told her the AIDS was treatable now. Her friend had died. But now it didn’t have to kill you, they said. There were drugs could make it almost disappear.

So that was it. Too bad for friend. Good for her. That made her feel good.

Oh, she wouldn’t take the drugs, couldn’t afford them, didn't think she wanted them. But, now the AIDS was treatable, she'd be alright. This big disease was like the polio, now, like the flu and T.B., the other things you didn’t die from anymore. She’d be okay with the AIDS. And the others.

Nights she felt it all crawling through her, touching her inside. At first, she hated those little fingers of disease, like little babies growing in her, shoving parts aside, moving heart and liver a little as they needed room. First, she wanted to push them out. Now, she accepted them. They were part of her, they were her. They fit.

Then the City came, Human Service suits and bunnies just behind the Pork and the Streets and San guys. Mayor wanted them OUTTA there, cops said, their sight did infect his eyes, one said. So out they went. Out, out, out! In came the Hy-lifts and the dumpsters. San guys hooting, looking down from the big trucks. All that stuff, their warm stuff, was gone like that. Human Services taking notes and handing out addresses, places to go, watery soups to suck down.

And the alley was clean.

She drifted. Tricking, scoring. When she could get an all-night john to pay for a flop, she slept. When she couldn't, she rode the trains, the busses, nodding. Up and back, up and back. Rousted, she dragged her sorry ass to some small place in the big city and curled.

The cemetery was a last resort. It was off one of the big streets up north were people were rich and cool and the neighborhood was getting richer and duller.

The cemetery was old and mostly filled with dead people who'd come to America from over the oceans. Foreign names. Lots of moss on their stones, and big trees drooping. It looked for all the world like home, the Places of the Confederate Dead that made momma cry. Jesus!

Parts were falling down. Tumbled by kids, bums, weather, rumbling trucks, tree roots. Everything seemed to want to shove the dead somewhere else. How did people let their dead ones fall over like that, she wondered? How'd they let their monuments fall? It made her so sad, people didn't care about the dead.

Across from the cemetery was the field. Scooped and waiting for the dozers in Spring. Lots of shit scattered. Building stuff. Stuff from the old buildings, gone now. Stuff that had fallen from the Hy-lifts when the wreckers went away.

Nobody paid attention to the people milling there day, night.

On the pavement, down by the end of the lot, Soldier sat. Soldier was a wheelchair gimp. He sat all day, talking to everyone who'd listen. Nights he sat, his chair tipped back against the wall, and drank.

The Pork figured he was guarding the place and left him be. Bums slipped him a few bucks because he made the Pork feel everything was cool.

The fence in front along the job site sagged. People came and went and hung and talked and laughed and lived. Nobody was stealing the banded bricks that leaned, waiting, at the sides for Spring. The piles of planking, scaffolding, froze together and broke the wind. Bits of foundation stuck like stumps of dead teeth.

Most folk lived across the street, in the graveyard, where it was nice. The tombstones like tiny houses on narrow streets.

But the job site was where they hung. And a bad crowd hung there, evenings, where the oil drum kept it warm. They weren't bad to see. No more than most people. But they were bad inside. Guys hanging over the drum they kept burning low all night had nothing to do, and no way to exercise their bad hearts.

For the last couple of days Lou had hung with them. Made her nervous, but some had small jobs and paid her a little. Some copped food from the big stores another street away. They shared food for a suck or a hand.

A fixer drifted by every night and she scored more times than not.

Cops didn't care too much up here. Mayor didn't come around, she guessed. Besides, it was winter and the world was waiting.

Lou fixed herself a nice box at the back of the graveyard between two big old trees that almost made her cry with homesick. That's where she lived.

She worked at the lot, other side of the street.

At the back end of the job site, a grand piano lay flipped by the stone wall. Its steel guts, strings, harp and hammers were torn out and gone. Lou moved in and under. With an old shower curtain she made a little privacy to work. She did nervous but okay business.

Then it got real cold. The One-eye Guy came over and waited till she finished with the Cough.

When the Cough crawled off scraping cum and pussy juice off his dick, One-eye leaned in and asked, could he stay warm?

"Crying out loud," she said. The Cough was a Mex and she was still wiping her cunny and didn't like people looking. She finished and stuck her head out the shower curtain. One-eye stood with the wind blowing across the hole in his face. It made a whooping howl she didn’t like.

There was no one coming, she figured, no trade in the offing.

"Okay, come on," she said. "No free stuff, now, ya hear?" She said it like a joke as she covered herself and tossed the cum rag out the back.

One-eye didn't say anything. He sat and shivered, hugging his legs and breathing. After a couple of minutes, guy said, "Christ, you stink."

That pissed her off, him sharing her place. "You ain't no rose sachet, neither, honey," she said.

"Christ, you stink like pussy." he said. Like it was a surprise.

She couldn't say anything for three seconds. That gave him time to say, "Phyewww-eee. You got stink like black sin."

"Alright, outta here," she yelled and started smacking, grabbing parts of him and shoving handfuls of clothes. She knew how bad she smelled. Christ, that wasn't nice of him.

He started. Whining, crying, wailing, he sounded like a woman being had against her will. He was windmilling his arms and the piano shell was shaking as they bounced off one side and another, the curtain popping, flailing in the wind. Her yelling. Him screaming.

She had no idea where they all came from. The figures emerged from the night around them, from the street, the mob hanging at the fire drum. Others seemed to generate out of the wall behind them, over it, up from under it seemed, out of the ground, like maggots out of dumpster meat. They were everywhere. Their hands grabbing, pulling her across the hard ground and through the debris of now-gone buildings. In a few feet, her clothes were shreds, her skin was open and raw in another few. By the time they’d gotten to the flaming barrel, she was a bleeding wreck.

First half hour, she fought. Spit, screamed, scratched, kicked, punched, grabbed balls, threw up, tried to bite dick, locked her legs, butted with her head. That made them mad and they bitchslapped her 'til her head got a little stupid. They kept it up, hitting her and laughing at each other when they hurt themselves hitting her.

Eventually she got tired and let them have her. Hell, she had nothing to fear from pricks. Cocks had done the worst they could ever do, giving her the AIDS. She lay on the frozen dirt and they grunted, spending, one after another after another after another, into every hole, crease, fold, opening, dent or dimple she had.

After a while of her taking it calm, they started getting mad again. She figured One-eye had jerked off on her at least three times and cried, drooling, every time he did. The Cough? She didn't know if his had been a prick she'd eaten.

Now they'd started ramming, pounding, biting. She thought maybe one of her nipples was bit off. It hurt but there wasn’t much she could do. For the last half hour, she worried there wasn’t going to be much left of her when the last one had cum himself out and crawled off. Damn, momma, there wasn’t much left now.

Now, she calculated, there wasn’t going to be an after. This was it. That drum fire was the last light she’d see. She stared, sucking in the flickers. No more sun. No more moon. No more neon and no more of that fluorescent.

Someone stuck her with something long, hard, as hot as the sun. She sizzled inside. Then she died.

Minutes later the somebody who'd had the idea to stick the smoldering Louisville Slugger up her twat noticed she was dead and ran off. One or two others took turns on her, then they ran. The rest drained into the night.

A couple argued half way to the chained and shuttered ballpark down the way, they should've thrown the body in the fire, gotten rid of all that body evidence they'd left in her.

When she woke, she felt good. It was still dark but dawn wasn't long off. The fire had burned out and the only sound was the quiet ticking of the embers as they crackled with their own dying heat.

She didn't need heat. She had her own. Now she had her own heat.

She was alone. Almost. Moving at the border of the streetlight was a person. A man, maybe. Maybe a woman. She couldn't say from here. But the figure moved tall and quick and sent no sound in its passing. She had no idea where it was going, but it was moving away from her. She knew that. That figure had been here, near, maybe next to her, now it was there and going. Then its darkness melted into the last of the night and was gone.

Huh, she thought. She was dead, she knew that. Now she wasn't. Was it that figure made her death end?

Her death? It was a bad one. It had hurt. She hated pain. One thing, though: it took an hour or two, but that was it. Her girlfriend took a long while to die with the sick. And she hurt all the way out. Months.

But Lou had died of this. Of these people. And it was over in a little more than an hour. Then, she reckoned, the figure had come and taken death from her.

Now she was naked, covered in beauty. And none of it mattered. The friend, momma, life, death. She looked down. Nothing was familiar. The fries and burger flab was gone. Her bloated milk balloon boobies were now a white rising breath of flesh. Her meaty nipples, big as a thumb, were tiny pink bubbles rising on the gentle surface. The knotted blueworm veins that had burrowed beneath her onion skin, were gone. The skin, once hard, dull, shining with grime and scabs, was clear. She was all. All. All clean.

She rose and touched herself. The touch was love. Her breast loved the hand; her hand loved the breast.

She slid the hand down her belly. The firm muscles rippled, alive, beneath her palm. Her fingers combed the pubic sweetness at her mound. Silk and fragrance; pussy like a southern summer eve; the shy labia, firm and ready for love's first kiss.

Her hair tumbled across her shoulders, down her breast, her back. It fell in curls, dewdamp and perfumed.

Lou. Fourteen and intact.

She wasn't dead. She hoped she was alive.

She walked and the broken glass and sharp metals underfoot gentled her way.

At the sidewalk, night stretched toward glowing dawn above the high-rises on the Lake horizon. On either side and behind, darker, was the city going on forever.

At the end of the pavement, Soldier leaned, sleeping, against the wall. His eyes opened as she approached.

"Whoa," he said, looking at the naked woman in front of him. She stepped forward and her crotch rested against his knee. Under thick trousers and leggings, he was stick thin. She let the swollen kneecap caress her clitoris.

"Oh, babe don't be wasting that beaucoup stuff on them dead things. Here..." He reached for her pubic mound, both hands.

She felt his fingers enter and dissolve in her, so sweet. She drew nearer and his chair settled on all four wheels. She kneeled on the armrests and pressed herself to his face. His face disappeared and she felt the wonder, the warmth, the glow of a billion billion creatures alive in her.

Everything that lived in her was moving. It was her sickness, she knew. The sickness, made big, made whole. Every part of her perfect and complete. She looked at her hand. It ran with energy, heat.

Then Soldier was gone. She stepped down and the chair rolled a little, then stopped.

She crossed the street and walked among the tumbling stones of the cemetery. On the ground and under, people slept, some alive, some undreaming. She went to her little cardboard house and took clothes to cover herself because she had to move among the living, now.

...bringing death to life, she thought. She could do that.

She went walking.

Along the streets were morning people. They looked at her because she was beautiful. Some she took, and they were gone. Others she'd take later.

Two she took by the ballpark in the shelter of a statue. They were gone before they recognized the face of the woman they had not set afire that night.

She walked. There were people everywhere. So many in this city, the world.

As she passed a convenience store, still open and glowing from the night, she heard a sound from the back, a little human sound from the alley.

Behind, between two dumpsters, the legs of a woman extended into the dirty yellow light. In a moment, the woman struggled to her feet, she was rocky, shaking, barely moving. The women's hands were red and she held something in them. Just a moment, then she placed the thing in the dumpster. The lid clanged shut and the woman limped quickly into the dawn.

Lou knew. It was an old story. She went to the cold metal box and opened it. Inside, bloody, partly wrapped in newspaper, partially naked to the cold and maggots, was a baby. The baby was dead. Lou knew dead when she saw it. The baby was newborn or unborn. Aborted late, born, a shame, an inconvenience, unwanted, unneeded. Now, unalive.

Lou picked up the bundle, unwrapped the paper and held the baby to the alley light. It was a girl.

She kissed the child. It didn't stir, but Lou knew it could. It had that potential, as her dead body had. She licked the tiny hand, tasted the blood and the heady afterbirth that crusted the pale blue flesh. It tasted. She licked more of the dried blood from the skin and in the wake of her tongue, the meat became warm. Her disease was giving, giving to the dead.

Tasting the baby's death was like making love to the sweetest of sweetloves. Her body became alive to the blood she took and she lapped greedily. As she did, her nipples sent electric jolts to her center and she wanted, oh wanted so to release herself.

The universe of tiny creatures that lived in her, the germs that walked her through the morning, gathered, stirred, anxious and yearning. She opened her mouth and breathed into the child's face. She pressed her lips around its nose and filled the child with her. The lives inside Lou swarmed by the billions through the baby, pushing its skin, nibbling it inside, slapping it, giving it heat, making it pink hot, making it run with living puss and oozes. All the little animals that lived in her blood and piss, the critters of the wet and stinky places inside her, the little gas-bugs that made her lungs fill and empty, came waking, flowing out and over, through the sleeping baby.

They brought their miracles. Soon, not yet, but by night, the girl would be up and wanting.

Lou and the baby would drift together. The lives that lived in Lou, passed on, would make this baby, baby, baby shake with that wonderful pain, life.

Lou could feel again. The little girl, too, soon would feel the stickpins in her heart as the little bugs nibbled and bit. This... What should she call it? This life? Yes, call it life, would wring them out, make them hot and cold at once, snap them both awake a thousand times every moment forever.

Oh what a power she had. Unalive, the baby, the unwanted baby, her baby, soon would be alive. She could do it all. Take life. Dredge life from death.

The baby's eyes opened. They looked at Lou. They were calm and were not dead. No. Nor were they alive. She'd have to see her own eyes sometime. She wondered if hers were like the child's. Probably. She wondered if the eyes of the figure she had seen disappearing into the night after she had risen from death was like theirs. Probably.

The figure had been one. She was two. And baby makes three. She looked at the child and licked its face. It breathed.

"We're catching, sweet," she said softly, like a momma, "yes we are," she sang. She was catching. She was sickness. This wasn’t bringing the dead back. No it wasn't. This was infecting death with life. Was that okay? Was that okay? That was a start. Yes it was! Oh so good to be.

Copyright © 2003 Lawrence Santoro