Chapter One (Excerpt)

Vision Quest to Oz

Trust me, these were not the best of times. For once in my life, I am speechless. So much has happened, so much beyond belief—and believe me, until now nothing had seemed beyond my belief. Here I am in our living room, sitting next to my wife who is dying. For almost a decade I have shared my love, hopes, and dreams with this lady; and in the last few days of her life, I discover she’s a frigging stranger . . . that she has betrayed me on more levels than I could have ever imagined. Apparently, everyone knew of her compulsive needs and hidden agendas, everyone, that is, but trusting old me. So much for my abilities to read other people. . . .

Her desire was to die at home. Knight in shining armor that I was, I wanted to grant my wounded Madonna all her wishes. Now, after tending to her every need round the clock for months on end, I’m exhausted, on the verge of collapse. And in my growing comprehension of the extent to which my reality has been manipulated, my rational mind has all but shut down. I’m functioning purely off of ego—damaged ego. If this lady weren’t already dying, I swear I could have killed her . . . and then, possibly, turned the gun on myself. . . .

Mentally, I stepped back to evaluate my feelings. It seemed strange hearing myself screaming. I heard the voice, the words pouring from my mouth, but they seemed so distant . . . alien. It wasn’t me, was it? No, it was some stranger using my body to vent his rampant emotions. The vehemence of the language, the tone; it was almost as if I was an actor playing a role, shouting out lines of a script from some sick tragic play. Tempering the insanity of the moment, an ironic thought crossed my mind; this could have made a damn good theatrical scene.

I stopped my verbal flagellation of my “beloved” wife and once again, but with more gentleness, turned on myself. “How could I have been so blind? How could I have let this happen?” Though this line of questioning seemed equally masturbatory, at least I was now starting to accept some responsibility. Against my will, I found myself gaining a new respect for Florence Carter-Greenbush. She was a marvel, a master in the game of deceit and manipulation. And I? Putty in her hands. . . .


Chapter Two (Excerpt)

The Spawning of Oedipus

. . . According to family lore, the meeting of my parents occurred at the wedding of a mutual friend. It’s interesting to note that most of Manny’s relatives warned Tess about his shortcomings: “He’s far from the easiest man to get along with.” Blinded by her ambition to marry, she wouldn’t listen. Prior to their meeting Tess had socialized with many friends, but within the span of a few months, she rarely saw any of them. Her new beau managed to find fault with everyone. He’d complain, “Missy is stupid. Morris doesn’t know how to dress. Marty’s a bore! And how come all your friends’ names begin with the letter ‘M’?” By the time their wedding was being planned, the only people they saw were Dad’s relatives . . . and they were neither intellectuals nor sophisticates.

For these young sweethearts, a big night on the town was eating a free meal at Manny’s parents’ restaurant, and then spending the rest of the evening kibitzing with the Greenbush brood. Tess speculated that if she played her cards right, this debonair fellow would pop the question, saving her from the stigma of spinsterhood. And what bait did she use to keep this fresh fish frolicking near her line? Her virginity. The sacrifices paid off. She was able to hook, reel in, and land this confirmed bachelor. Soon he’d be joining the ranks of the formerly single. After a whirlwind six-month romance, this unlikely couple tied the knot in unholy matrimony. As it turned out, their conflicting interests and psychological makeup worked, sort of. It was a classic case of matching pathologies: Manny “the Controlling Egotist” was well suited in providing for the needs of Tess “the Passive Martyr,” and vice versa. While his wife’s proclivities remained parsimonious, Manny was a self-indulgent spendthrift. If he wanted a new suit of clothes, he’d buy it. If he wanted a new car, he’d buy it. Did he ever include his lovely bride in on his decision-making? No, why should he? He was “The Man” . . . his wife, a mere woman. . . .

Three years after Sarah was born, David arrived. A more blessed event in a chauvinistically patriarchal family could not have occurred. My father’s brother had sired only daughters. So with this birth, ignoring the hundreds upon hundreds of other “Greenbushes” planted within the pages of the phone book, the elated men exclaimed, “A son! At last, a son to carry on the Greenbush name.”

For the first three years of his life, Davie Greenbush “the Heir Apparent” was spoiled, unmercifully. Then disaster struck! Tess became pregnant again and voila: Fredric Ian Greenbush burst on the scene. Overnight, all the attention that had once been lavished on my sibling, was now reserved for me. David no longer had the status of being the only male to carry on the family name; he now had to share the throne. Time would show Big Brother would not share graciously. Within the next couple of years, circumstances worsened. Fertile Myrtle, again, found herself with child. Following a difficult pregnancy, the infant was stillborn and Mom had a hysterectomy. With her womb permanently sewn up, and no more children on the horizon, little Baby Freddy became ever more precious in the eyes of his doting mother. Besides having the advantage of being the youngest in the family, from what I’ve been told (and who am I to dispute the truth), I was a darling baby—sweet-natured, bright, and huggable. . . . With Mommy’s best boy eternally attached to her teat and apron strings, suffering from “The Middle Child Syndrome,” David hadn’t a prayer. A painful emptiness was born in this outcast’s soul. Emptiness grew into anger . . . and as the years passed, anger became rage. . . .

Possibly as a result of an excessive amount of maternal stimulation, I evolved into a sexually obsessed three-year-old. I also have vague memories and ill-defined feelings of being fondled, perhaps molested, by whom I couldn’t say. For whatever the reason, in all the grossness only an uninhibited little boy can express, I discovered the joys of masturbation. Mother’s reaction was to say, “Fredric, if you don’t stop touching your penis, I’m going to take you to the doctor . . . and have it cut off!” Other times, I was told, “Keep that up, and I’ll send you away to a Military school!” Despite my mom’s warnings, I continued to “keep it up.” Though they failed in their goal to create an atmosphere of atonement, both suggested chastisements inspired fear and trepidation. For a while I had a strong aversion to doctors. They were the men in white coats, with sharp instruments. And for some reason, I equated Military school with being in jail. I’d panic: How can I survive away from home . . . away from Mommy? (And for that matter, if women wielded so much power over my relationship with my own genitals, could they be trusted? I bet John Bobbit, cringe, might have an opinion.) . . .

Over the years, I uncovered “The Unspoken Protocol To Locker Room Voyeurism.” Out and out staring at another’s exposed genitalia was an invasion of privacy, if not, an invasion of one’s private parts. It was considered rude and might be misconstrued as an invitation. Carried to an extreme, sustained staring, both for the starer and the staree, could lead to embarrassed blushing; a rapid covering up of the genitals with a towel, hand, or clothing; crass words, and/or sexual excitement with possibly homosexual overtones. For the sake of safety in public pubic places, proper etiquette dictated only quick clandestine glances be exchanged, and there should be little or no eye contact. Of course, as a kid, who knew from protocol?

Much later, I learned that even outside the locker room, this obsession with sizing up the competition continued. Impelled by some primitive instinct, it was common and normal for one fully dressed heterosexual man to fleetly gaze down at the subtly bulging bundle of another. And with regards to “eye contact,” much like the faux pas among apes or wolves, under some circumstances, staring directly into another’s eyes could be interpreted as an act of aggression—an ocular invasion of the territorial privacy of another’s mind. Apparently, there was an inherent relationship between eye contact and feelings of intimidation, social status, and self-esteem. In general, he or she who broke eye contact first, communicated: “I am subservient.” Hence, when confined in an elevator, to maintain an atmosphere of neutrality, most people nervously stare straight ahead. To reduce his anxiety, exemplifying the term “displaced behavior,” a man might look at his watch when passing in close proximity to another man. A girl will seductively flutter her eyes and glance down while flirting with a boy, which unconsciously makes her love interest feel manfully superior. . . .

Chapter Thirteen (Excerpt)

Let's Get Physical

The semesters came and went; Martin Luther King was assassinated . . . Robert Kennedy was assassinated. Amid race riots, protests over the Viet Nam War, and social unrest, don’t ask me how it happened, I was graduation-bound. . . .

At age twenty-two, primary on my mind was avoiding the draft. Yes, Selective Service was paying close attention to my collegiate stint. With graduation a fait accompli, unless I did something drastic like find a wife or enroll in a graduate study’s program, my student deferment days and civilian life might soon be over.

While on the verge of completing my Physical Therapy internship, marriage-minded Freddy met Ava Mizerski. Ava was a sharp, attractive cookie who could answer a question, as well as ask one. I really liked this girl, and her well-to-do parents adored me. It wasn’t long before I was a regular dinner guest . . . being treated appropriately, like royalty—a potential son-in-law.

Though I got along with her parents, Ava was becoming problematic. Disregarding the fact she was intellectually stimulating and not bad to look at, she carried the double burden of being both a spoiled only child and a surly Scorpio. If I said, “Black,” for the sake of argument, the capricious kid would reactively say, “White.” The illogic of Ava’s behavioral quirks was soon driving me wacko.

We had been dating for several tempestuous weeks, when Miss Mizerski pulled a stunt I couldn’t excuse. One night, while on a quiet, romantic walk, I noticed a lovely pink rose. In my desire to share, I said, “Ava, come look at this beautiful flower.” As I leaned over to smell the bloom, she plucked it right out from under my nose. In her childish stupidity, she then ran away. Instantly I understood the breadth and depth of the girl. Of all things, she was jealous of a flower. In stealing the rose, she assured herself my eyes would be on her. They were, but they were eyes filled with anger. . . .

On what was to be our last date, we went out to dinner. Trusting implicitly the man who was courting their daughter, Mr. and Mrs. Mizerski were fast asleep by the time we returned. Ava and I began fooling around on the couch. From the couch we ended up on the floor. On this night, I was about to explore with great intensity, the cherished wealth locked within this voluptuous virgin goddess’ body. We kissed, we hugged and undressed. From the massages and body-work I had been doing, my hands were sure and intuitive. Gentle yet firm, that was my style . . . that was my forte.

Ava’s naked body was far lovelier than I had imagined. As I caressed her, she whimpered in delight. And in a child’s voice, she asked, “Are you going to tear my hymen?”

While “popping the cherry” of a young virgin was considered a major coup—the quintessential status-enhancing symbol for any predatory “Man’s Man,” I was still too decent to destroy that which God had so thoughtfully provided. After reassuring her I was an honorable man, incapable of disrespecting her innocence, I then guided her fingers to my erected member. . . .

. . . Soon after the furor died down and my celebrity status had all but been forgotten, I attended a social at the Biltmore Hotel. While scanning the dance floor, looking for “new talent,” my eyes lit upon a most magnificent vision of loveliness. The lady was a blond-haired Goddess—Venus incarnate. In a heartbeat, I had fallen in love, if not infatuation . . . if not lust! This superb damsel wore a low-cut blue velvet gown. Yes, she wore blue velvet . . . and bluer than velvet were her eyes. (How could I resist?) I was awestruck.

I would have gone to her immediately, except for the fact that she was with another guy. I played a patient waiting game. With impassioned blood coursing through my arteries . . . I waited in vain. Lost in my obsession, hours passed, but the attentive fellow who had claimed “Miss Gorgeoso” as his property hadn’t budged from her side. The last song was played; the last dance had been danced; yet, seemingly in a hypnotic trance, I remained rooted to my spot. Everybody was now leaving the ball, my princess and her escort included. I kept asking myself: What if this girl really is the one I’m supposed to marry, the woman who’s supposed to be the mother of my legitimate children? My mind was filled with all these “what ifs,” but the bottom line was if I didn’t speak with her now, chances are I’d never see her again. Never see her again? Oh my God! I had to talk with her! I had to let her know how I felt.

With my “race pulsing” and my “pound hearting” . . . oh, you know what I mean, I ran toward the departing couple. Winded from my exertion, I shouted out to her male companion, “I hope you don’t mind . . . but I need to . . . speak with your lady friend.” Though caught short by my intrusion, he withdrew.

Being alone with this exceptional specimen of womanhood was intimidating. Feeling painfully shy, like the freckled-faced Little Rascal, Alfalfa, about to confess his undying love to Darla, I mumbled, “I just had to tell you . . . I had to tell you that you’re the most beautiful girl at this entire event.”

The elegant noblewoman looked up at me with stupendously big blue eyes, thrust out her sumptuously formed bosom, and in the thickest Arkansas accent I had ever heard, replied, “Whyaaa thaink you’alll vary mutch.” With those few words, love for this “damsel” began to diminish. The brief exchange that followed confirmed she was not the brightest of souls. In fact, if she had completed junior high school, I’d have been surprised.

As I walked away from this “Venus incarnate,” housing a “Ma and Pa Kettle/Daisy Mae” intellect, I was laughing out loud and feeling ever so grateful. If I hadn’t mustered the courage to approach this bimbo, I would have gone home filled with regrets. For the rest of my life, I would have been kicking myself in the ass, wondering if I had missed the boat on finding ma chéri amour—my sweet love. But in having confronted the situation at hand, all illusions and all sense of infatuation had vanished. Relieved of my unrealistic expectations, I was left with a true perspective. Whether it’s plastic squid in a Sushi restaurant window, the Viceroy butterfly, or a lovely lady; you can’t judge the freshness of a flounder by its smell, what you see is not necessarily what you get, and to paraphrase an old worn-out expression: “If the future mother of your children seems too good to be true, before buying an engagement ring, taking out a marriage license, and blindly jumping into the incarcerating bed of matrimony; by all means contact her plastic surgeon, her beautician, and have her take the Stanford-Binet exam to determine her level of literacy and IQ.”

Do not look at the vessel, rather at what it contains.
—The Talmud

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