The Bed, the Bath, and Beyond

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Author’s note:

Serious writers of fiction (I don’t include myself) spend most of their time imagining new possibilities, alternative outcomes, unexpected combinations. That’s why you probably shouldn’t marry one if you’re seriously into, say, marital fidelity. Writers have other virtues.

Two of this story’s four major characters, a man and a woman, are serious writers of fiction. Be advised, they are not shining heroes embodying all the moral virtues–chastity least of all. Nor are they evil villains. They’re basically nice but flawed human beings. Does that sound like anybody you know?

If you are looking for an uplifting tale with exemplary heroes, virtuous wives, dastardly villains, and (in particular) swift and severe punishment for “cheaters,” then you don’t want a comic-erotic story about serious writers of fiction. (Why you’d demand morally uplifting tales of virtue from an Internet porn site is another question.)

My fellow fans of JBEdwards will discover in this story a few affectionate quotations from her work. Thanks to JB, to my spouse, and to Tennesseered for their helpful comments and suggestions.


The Bed, the Bath, and Beyond

by Peter_Cleveland

If you teach long enough, some of your students will become better and more illustrious than you are. If you’re lucky, one or two of them will think you had something to do with their achievements.

If you’re not only lucky but smart, you won’t dislocate your shoulder patting yourself on the back. You’ll know that the kid more likely succeeded regardless of you, not because of you. But the bonds between teacher and student are mysterious, especially in graduate school. Sometimes something just “clicks,” and somehow you do end up leaving a deep impression on a student. God only knows how you did it.

All the students in the Iowa Writers’ Workshop–which is to say, the university’s Master of Fine Arts program in writing–had talent. You needed a lot of talent just to get in. But even in this top-notch group, Joanie Bernstein had stood out.

From between my legs, a voice called out. “Hello, Jeffrey? Anybody home? I’ll stop playing with this door knocker if nobody’s around.”

Stephanie had my number. I do tend to drift off into reflection at odd moments. Like the past three minutes.

“It feels wonderful, Stephanie,” I said. “Please keep going. I’m focusing on the sensations.” Well, I am now, anyway. I lay on my back. Stephanie’s tongue licked the underside of my penis from base to tip. Her tongue circumnavigated the glans. Then, gently fondling my balls with her hand, she took my cock deep into her mouth and sucked. At age 28 she was already an extremely accomplished lover. Cathy hadn’t reached Stephanie’s level until her early 40s. Maybe Cathy hadn’t felt all that motivated, I don’t know.

But skills inevitably increase, and a skilled craftsman can never bring herself to do inferior work, even when she’s not feeling motivated. I admire that attitude in a carpenter and a chimney repairman and in a wife. Cathy’s increasingly expert attention to detail inspired the same from me. I think our divorce was delayed for a year or two because, by that point, our sex had gotten so good.

But sex with Stephanie was already that good–at least when my mind wasn’t drifting. She climbed on top of me, put my erect cock into her vagina, and went to town. I watched her from below, admiring her short, brown hair, her pretty face, and her lean, muscular body. The belly button jewelry I could do without, but it wasn’t worth fighting over. I especially enjoyed watching the sway of her lovely breasts–medium sized, beautifully shaped, crowned with brown nipples and areolas: my favorite. Not that there was anything wrong with Cathy’s pink ones. But I love brown. It stands out more.

Joanie Bernstein’s are brown, too. Of course I did not know that until she had completed all the requirements for her degree and her thesis had been accepted and approved. She had thought the advisor of her thesis project deserved a special thank-you present, and she gave me a memorable one. The present was delivered in several installments.

That present didn’t cause the divorce, in itself. Cathy just added it to her list of offenses-noted-for-future-reference. To be fair, she didn’t make up most of the items on the list. A couple, but not most.

Stephanie’s wonderful body was having an appropriate effect on mine–and apparently vice versa. Stephanie likes to be either dominant or submissive. Equal is just too boring, I guess. This afternoon she wanted dominant, so my part was easy to play. I just had to lie back and enjoy it… and maintain my erection. At my age, that can be tricky, but a glance up at Stephanie indicated my worries would soon end. Her eyes were squinting, her nipples were distended, and her movements up and down on my cock were becoming faster and jerkier. I was close to climaxing, myself.

What was she thinking, this beautiful young woman, as she Escort Avrupa yakası had her way with her 62-year-old lover? Most likely there were some serious Daddy issues in play here. On the other hand, since she seemed quite comfortable with herself, why shouldn’t I be? More than a few girls have lovers old enough to be their father. Or in this case–if just barely–grandfather.

I reached up and grabbed a beautiful, brown-tipped breast. That did it. With a loud guttural sound she came, hard, collapsing on top of me. The rhythmic clenching of her vagina brought me over the top, and I came inside her. Waves of pleasure washed over me.

Stephanie and I clasped each other. I caressed her strong back and her slim, taut bottom. When we had both recovered our breath enough, we kissed leisurely.

She rolled to my side and smiled. “I’m glad you came back,” she said, “from whatever planet you had wandered off to. It means a lot to a girl, when she’s giving a guy a really great blowjob, if he decides to stay in the room.”

Busted. “You’re right,” I said. “And you’re right about the ‘really great blowjob’ too. I can’t imagine how you got to be so good in bed by the tender age of 28.”

“The same way you get to Carnegie Hall,” she replied. “Practice. Want to hear the details?”

“Perhaps later. You can tell me two other things, though. First, you’re familiar with Joanie Bernstein?”

“The writer? Sure. I think I read something of hers. Philadelphia Quaalude or something?”

“Close enough,” I ruled. “Quaker City Quaalude. She also did that story in The New Yorker you liked, the one about the stalker.”

“Oh, yes, that’s right. Now I remember: she’s your old student from Iowa. And she is a good writer. So what about her? Is she coming to town?”

“I’ll explain soon,” I replied. “Second question: are you free a month from now–Friday through Sunday, November 4th through 6th?”

“I very much doubt it,” she said. “Election day is the 8th. The Governor will be campaigning all over the state during the last few weeks. He’ll need full security and then some.”

Stephanie was State Police. Specifically, she was one of two bodyguards assigned to Governor Ledoux.

“Damn! I forgot about the local elections,” I grumbled. “Here’s the story. Apparently, ever since that Pulitzer nomination, Joanie has been a hot property. The University of Iowa Press has been trying to be a little more commercial for years. Like Yale. Somehow they managed to license rights to publish a limited edition of Joanie’s complete works to date. That’s five novels and a volume of short stories. Matching hardbound editions, acid-free paper, sewn in signatures… slip-cased, gilt-edged: the works.

“So they’re having a big bash in November to celebrate the Workshop’s illustrious graduate and incidentally to promote the launch of this amazingly expensive six-volume set. Maybe they’d be willing to sell me a copy at cost.

“Joanie asked that a couple professors she was especially close to be there. I think she wants to thank us again in her talk. I’ll probably have to stand, smile, and nod.”

Cop as she is, Stephanie was suspicious. “It was my understanding that she had already thanked you with impressive thoroughness.” After a pause, she added, “Is it true what they say about Jewish girls?”

“They’re even better,” I said. “At least this one was…. Bear in mind this was long before I met you. This was about… 2004. You must have been, what? ten? Your mom hadn’t even told you about menstruation yet.”

“She still hasn’t.”

“Let me know if you have any questions,” I offered.

“Thanks. I think I’ve got it figured out.”

We smiled. “In any case,” I continued, “they’ve offered to fly me and a plus-one out to Iowa City, feed and house us for the weekend, and return us safe and sound to Hartford afterwards, all at the Press’s expense. And it should be fun to visit my old stomping grounds after all these years.”

“Is she going to fuck you again?”

“Not if you’re there.”

“I’m tempted, believe me. But I’m afraid the Governor needs me.”

“And are you going to fuck him again?”

“Jeffrey, I am not falling for that rhetorical ploy–that ‘again’! That’s like, ‘Have you stopped beating your wife?'”

“You know me too well,” I said. “Okay, how’s this? ‘Have you ever fucked the Governor?'”

“Any governor or just Ledoux?” she teased.


“Our family dog was named Governor when I was a girl.”

“It was not. Ledoux.”

“I’ll tell you the truth, Jeffrey… when he’s no longer in office.”

“All right,” I pretended to pout. By this point in my life, when sparring with a woman, I knew when to give up. Besides, I wasn’t trained in interrogation techniques: she was. I returned to the prior subject. “Maybe I can find another date who’d love a free, all-expenses-paid weekend in Iowa City, even at the cost of sharing a room with me.”

“If you look hard enough, you could probably Ataköy escort find one, lover,” Stephanie said. “There are all sorts of nuts living in Connecticut. That’s why the Governor needs me. Why don’t you ask Cathy?”


Why don’t I ask Cathy. Good one. Why don’t I ask the ex-wife who divorced me fifteen years ago. The woman who knows my every fault better than anyone else–including faults Stephanie hasn’t even suspected yet. The woman who has observed at first hand half the embarrassing moments of my life. Who probably still holds a grudge or three. Sounds like a fun date, huh? Stephanie has just the sense of humor you’d expect from a cop.

Cathy not only divorced me but took some pains to cuckold me on her way out. “I didn’t want the marriage to end with my never having cheated on you,” she explained. “Try to imagine why.”

I’ve compared Cathy to a craftsman who wouldn’t do shoddy work even if you offered to pay extra for it. She brought that commitment-to-craft even to her first go at adulterous revenge-fucking. The UPS man would have been too banal a choice. For her maiden voyage into adultery she recruited David Petty–my colleague in the Writers’ Workshop, my fellow writer of fiction, and in many respects my rival. David and I often applied for the same visiting professorships, jockeyed to be chosen as invited guest speaker at the same events, applied for the same grant and fellowship money. We kept a close eye on the critics’ reactions to each other’s work.

Sometimes David came out ahead; sometimes I did. Maybe this time it was a tie: we both got to have sex with my wife.

Cathy didn’t rub my nose in her affair. In fact, she never mentioned it until, finally, I raised the issue. Iowa City is a small enough town. She knew I’d get the message.

So near the end she was fucking my colleague David Petty. And by this point, recall, her bedroom skills were top-notch. Personally, I was miffed. Professionally–as a writer and teacher of creative writing–I was impressed. That plot turn had a wonderful wit and comic irony to it. I should have told her, “Clever!” but I let my personal instincts overpower my professional ones, and I called her a whore. Is there a duller, more cliché remark I could have made? Not to mention, as Cathy reasonably pointed out, it was a good example of “the pot calling the kettle black.”

Not every item on Cathy’s bill of complaints was false. Like all writers, I really can be an asshole on occasion. And a failed marriage is as good an occasion as any.

Thinking a change of scenery would cleanse my palate, I accepted a visiting professorship at Trinity College, in Hartford, Connecticut. This was a small, private college–secular, despite the name–with only a minimal graduate program. But it was well endowed, it had some cachet, it paid well, and the undergraduates were pretty good. There were numerous other colleges and universities within a short drive, so I had many more options than Iowa offered. If Hartford was good enough for Mark Twain, Wallace Stevens, and Harriet Beecher Stowe, it was probably good enough for the likes of me.

Cathy stayed in Iowa City. She had a good job with Rockwell Collins, an avionics manufacturer up the road in Cedar Rapids. And now she also had a lover in Iowa City. Or did until Donna Petty issued her ultimatum. Forced to choose, David picked his wife. This was a victory, of sorts, for the forces of law, order, and clean living but a setback for all who love a good, racy story. That would include all of David’s colleagues in the Writers’ Workshop and in the English Department proper–with the possible exception of Cathy’s soon-to-be-ex husband, now in exile in Hartford. I’ve been here ever since.

Iowa had a “no-fault” divorce law. You couldn’t contest a divorce even if you wanted to. So Cathy and I went into damage-reduction mode. I have to say she did a good job of it, on her end. I tried to do likewise. I know several men who still carry deep scars from their divorce. I don’t. It was no picnic, but it could have been a lot worse. I have to give Cathy credit for that. The final decree came later that year, 2007. Now in Hartford, I was informed by registered letter from the Clerk of Court of Johnson County, Iowa.

At that time, Rockwell Collins was on a merger-and-acquisition binge. Cathy’s job with the company was “systems integration,” so her skills were much needed. Following an acquisition in 2008, the company transferred her to northern Virginia. Six years later, when they bought ARINC, they moved her from Virginia to Annapolis, Maryland. Apparently Cathy was the company’s go-to girl on such occasions, and everyone knew it.

So when United Technologies Corporation acquired Rockwell Collins in late 2018, UTC summoned Cathy to their headquarters in… wait for it… Hartford, Connecticut.

Yes, like Orestes pursued by the Furies–Allecto, Megaera, and Tisiphone, as I recall–I found myself pursued by the girls’ distant descendent, Şirinevler escort bayan Cathy.

Of course I helped her find an apartment (in West Hartford), helped her discern the lay of the land, later gave her a second opinion on the house she was thinking of buying in Simsbury (looks good; no more ridiculously overpriced than everything else; it’ll appreciate). By this point she was out-earning me by a considerable amount, so she could afford Simsbury. I put her in touch with the banker who had arranged my own mortgage loan.

That day we had a pleasant lunch together; she gave me a kiss on the cheek; and that was our last contact for three and a half years.


Three and a half years later, we had lunch again, this time in a cute Irish pub in West Hartford.

“Are you crazy?” Cathy exclaimed.

“You know the answer to that,” I replied. “Is craziness suddenly a problem?”

“Will a lot of the guests at this shindig be bringing their ex-spouses as a date, or did you come up with this one on your own? Or is this some kind of tryout for a new short story you’re working on? Are you just trying to see what sort of colorful invective your long-suffering ex is going to pour upon your pointy little head? I charge 20 dollars a minute for colorful invective, 25 if you want blasphemy included, you nutcase!”

“You lived in Iowa City for 13 years,” I replied, trying to disguise myself as levelheaded and sane. “You left in 2008 and, I imagine, haven’t been back since. You have friends there you probably haven’t seen in 14 years. Dick and Vicki. Ellie Holmes. Wouldn’t it be fun to have a beer and a sandwich at The Airliner again? How about bookstores? You’d have to go all the way to New Haven to find a bookstore even remotely comparable to the two in Iowa City.

“I know you’re not a huge football fan, but I think there’s a home game that Saturday, and the Hawkeyes are quite a good team. Considerably more interesting to watch than the UConn Huskies unless you’re seriously into masochism.

I could see I was getting a little wound up. “How about bicycling?” I went on. “You and Vicki could take their tandem and ride that beautiful country road down to Hills for a PBR and a pork tenderloin sandwich. Stop on the way and once again watch the baby piggies scamper about their pen. Is there a cuter baby animal than that? Maybe you’d like to drop in at Rockwell Collins in Cedar Rapids and see if anyone you know is still there.”

“Okay, I’m tempted,” Cathy replied. “But what’s in it for you? Why is going alone not better than taking a woman who has known you at your worst? Who fought with you for years and had an affair with your close colleague and then divorced you? Not that you didn’t deserve all three.”

“I don’t know,” I said, honestly. “Airfare, food, and lodging for a second person are all free. Either they’re used or they go to waste. The Scotsman in me hates waste. Stephanie can’t go. You and I did have some good times together in Iowa, ages ago. As an ex-wife you’ve been fine. As a divorcing wife you were terrific. Apart from the flagrant adultery.”

“What flagrant? You never caught a glimpse of it. You never heard a word of it from me. Is it my fault people gossip?”

“Okay, let’s not fight about it at this late date. In fact, seducing my colleague and chief rival was awfully clever. Witty. The sort of wrinkle Carl Hiaasen would dream up in one of his novels. I should have complimented you on your sense of humor.”

“Instead of calling me a whore?”

“Yes, instead of calling you a whore. I sincerely apologize for that.”

Cathy smiled. She reached across the table and gave my hand a quick squeeze. “I forgive you,” she said. “For that much, at least.”

A thought struck me. “David should be at the banquet. I don’t know if you’ve kept in touch. I’m guessing not. When he got rich from the movie royalties he left Iowa for California, but he came back several years later. At some point he and Donna divorced. After 15 years, I’m sure I could deal with it gracefully if you wanted to flirt a little with your ex-lover.”

Cathy gave me exactly the look I was expecting. It had been at least 15 years since I last received that look. It felt almost like old times.


She phoned me that evening. Her first words were, “I am not sharing a bedroom with you. I don’t care how many separate beds it has. I’ll arrange my own lodging.”

“Thank you, Cathy,” I said. “Not for the separate room. I mean, for going. You’ll enjoy it.”

“You will be on your best behavior, right? And you will not embarrass me yet again by having sex–or even making goo-goo eyes–with your star pupil, right? And you are not going to give anyone the impression that I am anything other than your long-suffering ex-wife, right?”

“Perish the thought!” I said. “And by the same token, your body and David’s remarkably thick penis will remain at least an eighth inch apart, and preferably more, the entire weekend, correct?”

Two seconds of silence followed. “Probably,” she said. Two more seconds. “How did you know that about David?”

“Mutual friend,” I replied. “Listen, instead of establishing a complicated set of parietal rules for the two of us, could we maybe just agree on a simple general principle or two? How about the Golden Rule?”

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