Speaking in Tongue
My knees on the sticky floor, my hands on her thighs, my tongue at work, I keep pinching her so she’ll shut up. She likes it. I get that. But the other customers? They’re trying to watch the movie. I don’t want them to know that I’m eating her out while the car chase is going on, or that she’s starting to slosh when the hero is being held with a knife at his throat, or that she’s about to let loose when the monster erupts from the container where the hero keeps his coffee grounds. I just want her to quietly enjoy her purchase.
Mrs. Albert is my second. She learned about this service from my first, Mrs. Eldridge. I use their last names because I don’t want to be on a first-name basis. This is a job, a job I love, but little more than dispensing extra happiness on boring afternoons in a Kansas farm town.
“Wheat,” Mrs. Eldridge said, when I asked what her husband did. “Miles and miles of wheat.”
She surveyed the snacks. “Jujubes,” she said, pointing. “And some Good & Plentys.”
“Would you like … butter on that?” I asked.
She seemed perplexed. She had permed dark hair, which rose from her neck at the sides, like little waves. I waited. “Butter?” she said. “On Good & …?”
“It’s really … pleasurable,” I said. “Most of our female customers like it. Mmmm, butterrrrr.”
“Well,” she said, “if you say so. Is the movie any good?”
“I think you’ll like it.”
I rang her up. She seemed startled by the total. “It’s the butter,” I said. “We have to charge extra. It’s imported.”
“From where? The moon?”
“Actually, I don’t know. It’s what they tell me.”
At first, most of the patrons paused a bit at the charge. Ten bucks for butter was cheap. But they relaxed when I told them it cost half what they charged in the big cities. Out here, on the prairie, it was a bargain.
Two weeks before, I had hopped off the bus, cleaned myself up with my water bottle, and started walking Main Street. It had been a month since Alice left. Who would leave a perfectly standard one-bedroom upstairs apartment with a view of the garden and a parking stall underneath? We didn’t have a car, yet, but felt the awesome potential. Who buys a car without a place to park it? It’s about being prepared.
Alice left a note. Said she wanted more, that I was pretty good at what I was pretty good at, but she needed more than a tongue tickler. She is unique, in that she may be the only woman on earth who doesn’t carry a smartphone, which makes her smarter, in some respects, but also makes her unreachable, in the final estimation. I wanted to call and remind her that, during our intimacies before she agreed to marry me, she had described my oral ministrations as “rare” and “special” and “the key to this woman’s heart.”
To me, that was enough. It was satisfying to be satisfying. Frankly, it was a nuisance to have a penis. When I was ministering, my dick would always start demanding attention. I wished it would just shut the fuck up, you know? It took my mind from what my mind wanted.
If I were to extrapolate from Alice’s appreciation of my talent, it seemed likely that she wasn’t the only woman whose lock that key might fit. I filed that thought for future reference. I’m not stupid. I’ve been a guy my whole life. You hang around guys, you get a sense of what they like and don’t like. Usually, it’s the reverse of what women like. Guys form likes and dislikes after they’re old enough to have tried a few things, or gotten the impression from listening to other guys that they might like certain things a lot, if only they could find someone interested in sharing. A lot of guys like the old in-and-out. Others speak highly of blow jobs. Been there, tried that, found it lacking.
One thing I rarely heard was guys who said they like eating it. Clam diving. Rug munching. You know. It’s just not something that keeps ninety-nine percent of guys awake at night, dreaming of the next time.
Me, I’m in the one percent. Makes me a specialist. Fits, when you think about it, seeing as how most of my jobs have fallen into the category of customer service. Something else I’ve learned, there’s a lot more customer service jobs than jobs being president. So I thought I’d take my toolkit on the road until Alice sorted things out. She’s got my number. Until she finds a phone booth, I’ll work my way around the country.
“Help Wanted” signs were everywhere after I got to Brewster, Kansas. I went straight to the theater. No surprise, they were hiring.
Right next door, above the hardware store, I found a furnished room. Bathroom down the hall. Hotplate and a small fridge. Pretty basic, but met my needs. I was moving around. Looking for something, just not sure what. Figured I would know it when I found it.
Mr. Gifford — “Mac, call me Mac” — ran The Sunset Cinema. He showed me around, proud that he thought to take out every other row. Give customers more leg room. Made sense. When the lights went down, it was perfect for my side gig.
Most people knew to be there on time. When traffic slowed at the snack bar, I went upstairs and dialed down the lights. Then I turned on the projector. The welcome screen appeared. I let it run for a bit before I felt I could trust it not to jump the sprockets, then stepped outside. Inside the darkened theater, I waited for my eyes to adjust. It was a slow afternoon. A large man sat in the front with his tub of popcorn. Two kids, brother and sister, sat off to the right, giggling.
And Mrs. Eldridge sat in the second to last row. Right in the center. I walked to her aisle and found a seat two seats from hers. Then I waited.
Once the movie got going and her hands got active in the candy boxes, I knew it was time. I got up, walked towards her, said “Excuse me.”
She tilted her legs to the side to let me pass. I knelt down, in front of her, and lifted her skirt. I could hear her whisper above my head, “WHAT are you doing? I’m going to call the manager.”
“Butter,” I said. “You ordered butter. This is the best we have.”
I buried my face in her bush. I never knew what to expect, so I was glad to find that she had washed. It always helps my delivery. In short order, I could tell she was enjoying herself. When she eventually slipped down in the seat and clamped my head with her thighs, I knew it was time to leave.
In my line of work, word got around fast. Mrs. Eldridge told a couple of her friends, and after they ordered butter, they each told two or three more ladies in their circle, and within a week, there was a line outside waiting for doors to open — for the matinee. The evening shows drew couples. No room for my side hustle.
Doesn’t matter. Bottom line, “butter” sales had boosted ticket revenues four hundred percent. I had my regulars. Some were on speed dial. I knew them not by name, more by look and, if I’m honest, taste.
Things were going pretty good until a guy named Weldon knocked on the glass doors before opening one Friday afternoon. He seemed agitated, so I went and let him in. If I’d been smart, I would’ve run out the back.
“My wife says I need to train my tongue to do what it ‘posed to do,” he said. “She says Earl, you need to eat me, or I’ll ask that boy down at the theater to eat me. Something tells me he can eat it reeeeal good. Is that true? How would she know that, from just looking at you? Buying Jujubes and such? Watchin’ a cowboy movie? Any ideas?”
This was cutting close to the bone.
“Well, can’t say for sure, but your spouse sounds like a fine woman. Has a real active imagination. Can’t say as I’ve ever been a fantasy object. Look at me.”
I held my hands up near my chest and angled my fingers back, as if they had the ability to say “Can you believe she would think such a thing of this puny schlump, when she is married to an Adonis such as yourself?”
Weldon read my fingers.
“Well, just make sure she doesn’t give me reason to crush the livin’ shit outta your face.”
Livin’ shit? Still, I got his point. A couple of weeks into the gig, here came the big redhead with the substantial hips and her hair in a bun up top. Red lipstick like she dipped her lips in a bucket of paint. She had become a regular. She needed to bathe more often, too, but maybe she didn’t fit in her tub.
Thing was, she walked in on the arm of Mac. My boss.
“Phil,” he said, “have you ever had the pleasure of meeting my wife? Leonora?”
I stared at her.
“Why, not formally,” I said, “but I believe she is a big fan of the movies.”
I smiled at her, and her face went all red and she turned briefly away and patted at her upper lip with a cotton hankie.
“Well, thank you for doing such a great job since you started,” he said. “Can you come in a little early tomorrow, go over some of the numbers with me?”
Playing it cute, but I felt the elevator in my gut go into freefall and hit my ass on the way to the basement.
“P&L, revenues, expenses,” he said. “You know. The numbers.”
I met him at noon the next day. We had an hour before the first showing. Time to talk, then scoot downstairs and sell tickets, candy, popcorn … and butter. He was upstairs, in his office next to the projection booth.
“Take a seat,” he said.
Then he told me he had been curious, why the amount of butter we typically buy each week hadn’t changed, even though sales of butter were through the roof.
“Which is great,” he said, “except that we don’t sell butter. Never have. It’s included. With the popcorn. Why are we selling butter, but apparently not using very much of the stuff?”
“Good question,” I said. “Hadn’t thought about it. I boosted the price on what we used to give away. People think movies are about popcorn. I believe, from years of observation, that customers just want to eat butter. And salt. Popcorn is the delivery vehicle. So, I figured that if they really want butter more than anything, we should recognize demand and price it accordingly.”
“You should own this business,” he said. “Really. You’ve got a head for product pricing.”
I smiled and waited.
“I’ve gotten calls. People I know in town. I know everyone, and everyone knows me, and we all know everyone. It’s a small town.”
“Nice,” I said.
“The gentlemen in town seem to share a concern. Their wives are going to the movies a lot. More than ever in the past. It’s scaring them.”
“Scaring? The wives?”
“The husbands. They think their wives may be fooling around, meeting boyfriends in the dark. You’re here. Seen anything like that?”
I shook my head.
“Once it’s dark, I walk the aisles every ten minutes to check on hanky-panky. It’s all good.”
“One other thing. All the increase in revenue links directly to ticket sales. Where did the butter revenue go? And why the bump in ticket sales? Since you arrived, I mean.”
“Odd. This is a dying business in a small town. The building is falling down. People don’t go to movies, not in the middle of the day, but suddenly, since you show up, that’s changed. Just trying to figure it out. Leonora, my wife, she can’t say enough about how much she has been enjoying herself down here. But the thing is, she doesn’t like movies. Never has. She likes potting plants, needlepoint, sipping tea and playing cribbage. She and people like her are the reason we’re dying. So what’s the attraction? You ain’t selling pot, are you?”
It seemed like a perfect time for loud and incredulous laughter.
“Good,” he said. “That’s what I wanted to hear.”
He looked at his wristwatch, then me. “Guess you better get downstairs,” he said.
“Can I ask you something first?”
“Sure, but make it quick.”
“Do you believe in pleasure?”
“Do you believe marriage can provide the pleasure that people need?”
“It’s why we get married, isn’t it?”
“All of the pleasure? What if one or the other people in a marriage wants something that the other can’t provide? Do they have a right to pursue that? Does the spouse have an obligation to encourage that and celebrate what their partner takes pleasure in?”
“You’re brash, aren’t you? How old are you?”
“I’m forty-eight. I have a good life. I love my wife. We’re happy. I don’t see what more either of us could want.”
“Do you talk? Do you ask her what she might want? Would you help her get it, if she told you?”
“Where is this going? And why are you asking?”
“My wife said I didn’t meet her needs. Trying to figure out what I could’ve done better, I guess.”
“Well, I’ve got a meeting. And you’ve got work to do.”
“Just want to be on the same page. People have appetites. You should know that. You’re in the business of satisfying the appetite to be entertained. And I am your agent. Happy customers are repeat customers are customers willing to leave their money with you in exchange for what they know they can get here that they can’t get anywhere else. Is that correct?”
“Sure. We’re the only moviehouse in a hundred miles.”
He was on a different page. This turd didn’t know shit about his wife or her wants. If she was happy, why had she developed a severe addiction to butter?
I thought this moviehouse side-hustle of mine was destined to fail if I kept offering my services on the down low. A little extra coin for awhile, but then the sight of the ground rushing rapidly toward our little biplane, Mac at the controls, me screaming for a parachute that hadn’t been invented yet. An angry mob with pitchforks waiting for us. I knew I needed to leap sooner than later.
I had a better idea, to become my own boss, run my own numbers. People did it all the time. Barber shop. Cut ‘n’ Curl salon. Pedicure. Manicure. Pussy cure. I could position myself as a licensed practitioner of labial arts. Beneath a clever brand name, smaller type would note that we offered “Cunning linguistics — by appointment only.”
People would ask, “What’s that? Is it like Rolfing or Etc?”
Etc? Someone actually said that to me once, and I almost reverse-snorted.
I thought how fun it would be, once I found a storefront and did the remodel, to tell people “I speak in tongues.”
All this thought transpired across the desk from Mac, who had placed a call and turned his gaze from me and was talking as if I had already left. I closed the door behind me.
In the carpeted balcony space outside, I pulled out my phone. I looked at the blank screen. I wanted to call Alice and tell her about my business idea. A path to wealth and renown. I wanted her to call me. “Come home. Just fuck me. Once in awhile.” But that wasn’t me. God gave me tongue for a reason. And, of course, Alice didn’t have a phone. I went downstairs and sold tickets and candy and butter.
After dimming the lights and starting the film, I waited five before slipping into the dark. Leonora was waiting in aisle three. It was evident, from the start, that she had prepared. Sweet girl that she was, she had realized that our intimacies constituted more than a business transaction. They were relational, yes, but more. She paid, but what she got was more than a haircut or an oil change. She inferred a need for reciprocity. Give and get. Get and give.
Weeks earlier, when she had first ordered candy and butter from me, I had mentioned that I liked Baby Ruth candy bars. Again beneath her skirt, I found one waiting for me, tucked delicately where I was sure to find it. I love my customers.
In my apartment, after work, I lay on my bed and thought about the future. It is a rare person who can identify an unmet need and meet it. I knew what people wanted. OK, half the people. I would have to start small, but the numbers would seduce investors. Rapid growth was not at all out of the question.
Greatness lay ahead. Renown, of the sort people ascribed to the Colonel. Built on a shared appetite. A secret for women only. Embraced by women, loved by women, craved by women — and a complete and befuddling mystery to men. In every town in America, weary travelers would arrive and spy a strip mall with one of my franchisees. The father would take the kids into a donut shop for something sweet and sugary. Something they couldn’t get at home.
“I need something different,” the mother would say.
Then she would step through the doors of Butter ‘Licious. For something she couldn’t get at home. Something a lot like fried chicken. The fingers. The lickin’. Only quite a bit different.