I suppose I should've come out of the bushes then, but I didn't. And Ace didn't call out to me or anything. He just lay there on the blanket looking up at the sky and I just stood in the bushes and listened to the thin whir of the camera. This went on for a while actually, until Ace reached down to like fix himself in his shorts, and, you know, I hadn't paid much attention before but once he put his hand down there I could see that he was, you know, hard. Still. He sort of angled it down one leg of his shorts, but even before he could finish that tiny movement he froze, and I realized two things: that he'd forgotten I was watching him for a moment, and that he'd just remembered. And what was even stranger was that for a moment I'd forgotten I was watching him, too, if you know what I mean, and then when he froze I remembered, too, that I'd been watching him the whole time, and that I was, well, I was . . . I mean, my shorts were a little constricted, too. And so, whatever--anyway, for a moment Ace's whole body was as rigid as the thing he was holding in his right hand, and then, slowly, he relaxed but he didn't let go. He relaxed, and his body seemed to sink into the blanket and the sand beneath it, and then, when it had settled, I saw that his hand was sliding the fabric of his shorts up and down, just a little bit, but his hand was squeezing hard and he didn't stop, and if I listened really hard I could hear that same boom box playing out on the beach, and if I listened really, really hard I could hear the movement of Ace's shorts. He stopped soon enough. By which I mean he didn't "finish," just stopped, and then a moment later he rolled over on his stomach and pretended to be asleep. But even that took a moment of squirming, his ass lifted slightly as he twisted around trying to get comfortable, and meanwhile I just waited in the bushes until the tape ran out. I had set the camera to the slowest recording speed so it took another two hours before the machine finally clicked off, by which time Ace really was sleeping, and when I woke him he didn't mention anything, and he never asked for a copy of the tape, either.
"We had quite a few tapes for a while," my dad told me, "but we got rid of all the duds after a while." He explained to me how they were almost positive this was the right one. They'd been really careful, he said, plotted out my mom's cycles and things, made sure that whenever they, I mean, whatever, that they always had the camera running.
My mom rolled her empty glass between her palms.
"It's a good thing I didn't let you get that Beta camcorder," she said, "or we would never have been able to watch this." She made her noise then, twice, and she said, "On second thought."
I guess the thing that amazed me most was that after a few minutes it didn't seem so strange. I mean, it was kind of like it was with Ace: I almost forgot who it was I was watching, and that they were right there. And my parents had their own bathroom and everything, we were hardly the show-and-tell kind of family, but even so, I'd seen them both naked a few times, and like once or twice I'd heard them through the wall. This just kind of like, I don't know, put it all together.
"Your mother and I weren't exactly young when we had you," my dad was saying. "We'd waited a long time. We both had our careers, and we wanted to be sure we could provide for you, bring you up comfortably."
It was weird the way he said that, as if they'd known who I was going to be before they even had me.
"I guess we were just filled with the specialness of it all, and it occurred to us that we could, we should share that specialness with you. So."
"Actually," my mom said, "we were trying to think of a way to one-up Angela and Tony and their little monument to Anthony's entry into the world." She looked at my dad to see if he would contradict her, but he didn't say anything. "Well," she said eventually, "if no one is going to refresh my glass." She stood up, very slowly, and made her way to the bar, but then as it turned out she just walked right past it and out of the room, leaving my dad and me alone with the videotape.
He kind of looked at me, and smiled, but he didn't say anything else.
On the tape my parents did what you do. They were sweet about it, which I guess made me happy, I mean, it wasn't wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am. I can't believe I just thought that about my mom. At any rate, I'm not going to go into what all they did, but one thing, my mom was on the bottom, which I remember learning was better for conception, which I didn't know if my parents knew that or if that's just how they took care of business, and I didn't ask either.
Toward the end my mom pulled my dad's ear close to her mouth and you could see her whisper something but you couldn't hear it on the tape. My dad kind of nodded, and then a moment later he started calling out, "I'm making a baby, oh yeah, I'm making a baby," and my mom started calling, "Oh yeah, make that baby, make that baby," and so on, "I'm making a baby," "Yeah, you make that baby," which was what I focused on, because if I'd focused on anything else I think I would've just died of embarrassment.
That's when the doorbell rang.
My dad and I kept looking back and forth at each other and at the television. We were stuck in that loop again, and nothing could get us out of it. On the tape my parents were almost finished--I mean, you can just tell that sort of thing--and the doorbell rang again, just as my mom appeared in the doorway, and that broke the spell. My dad and I both jumped up.
"Isn't someone going to--" she began, and then she saw that the tape was still playing. "Oh my God!" she said, and then she looked at me and pointed. "Oh my God!" she said again. "He's gotten excited!"
I looked down. My shirttails had fallen open and the bulge made by the extra pair of underwear stuffed down there seemed really large.
"No, Mom, it's just--" I reached into my jeans, and my mom kind of screamed. She put her hands over her ears for some reason, and ran from the room.
On the tape my parents were just kind of lying next to each other, and then they kind of rolled over to face the camera and said, "I think we made a baby that time." They were both all sweaty, but at least they'd pulled the sheet up.
The picture disappeared then, and I turned and saw my dad with the remote in his hands. I had the underwear in my hand, and we kind of looked back and forth at what each other was holding, and then my dad shrugged, and I shrugged back, but we both just shrugged once.
"Hello?" Mrs. Ferucci's voice came from the foyer. "Anyone home?"
I chucked my underwear in the armoire with the television and closed it. My dad looked around for some place to stash the remote like it was also some incriminating piece of evidence, but then he smiled goofily. For just a moment, though, I'd thought I'd seen him consider stuffing it down his pants.
Mr. and Mrs. Ferucci walked into the living room, followed a moment later by Ace. His round cheeks were red and his upper lip was wet with sweat, and even as I looked at him I realized something: it was my dad I'd been watching on the videotape. I mean, it hadn't turned me on or anything, watching him, but I'd been a lot more focused on him than on my mom.
"Richard?" Mrs. Ferucci said. "We rang the bell, but no one--" She held out a dusty bottle of Chianti.
"We heard noises," Mr. Ferucci said then. "What the hell's going on in here, an orgy? I thought we were here to play cards."
He laughed then, one of those really loud Italian belly laughs, and in a minute my dad was laughing with him and it was almost easy to believe that nothing had happened. My dad handed me the remote control and then took the wine from Mrs. Ferucci. He actually kissed the bottle and said, "Magnifico!" and then he sent Mr. and Mrs. Ferucci to the game room to get everything set up while he went to find my mom. "Shuffle along, shuffle along," is what he said, and everyone laughed again like it was some really clever pun. When they were gone, Ace pointed to the bottle on the coffee table.
"Looks like we missed a party." He tried to make his voice deep but it cracked on the word party.
The remote in my hand was wet with sweat, I wasn't sure if it was mine or my dad's, but when I looked down at it I saw that my hands were actually shaking, I was so keyed up that I wanted to jump up and down, scream out loud, laugh like a maniac, I wanted to grab Ace Ferucci by the collar and kiss him like my father had kissed Mrs. Ferucci's crappy bottle of Chianti.
Well, no. Not exactly like that.
All of a sudden I understood how it was that my parents had come to make that tape in the VCR. Not, I mean, the one-upmanship thing my mom had mentioned, or my dad's "specialness" bullshit, but just the particular blindness that comes over you sometimes and practically forces you to do something you wouldn't normally do. I imagined Ace must've had the same feeling that day in the dunes, just as Ace's dad must have felt it when he pointed that camera at his wife in the delivery room. And I say I understood it but I didn't really. I felt it.
"Yo, Booker-man. What's going on?"
And I mean, Ace. He was one of those people who take up all this room in the world without ever really doing anything. I'd always thought of him like a snowman: all the fun was in making him what I wanted him to be. But now I realized he could actually do something.
I looked down at the remote in my right hand, but even as I looked I felt my left hand float up like it was the most natural thing in the world for me to do and land right on Ace's shoulder. I even squeezed. I practically kneaded Ace Ferucci's shoulder, and beneath my hand Ace's skin felt as soft and pliable as clay.
"Booker?" Ace said. His voice was confused, but he didn't go anywhere.
From the game room, the faint sound of shuffling was drowned beneath another of Mr. Ferucci's belly laughs. Our parents, I realized, might have been dealing out the first hand of the evening, but they'd made book a long time ago. They had, and Ace and I had as well. Now it was time to take our first trick.
My hand seemed almost superhuman now. It turned Ace and steered him toward the hall.
"Booker? What's up?"
And I didn't answer him because I didn't actually know what was going to happen, but I was sure about one thing: the camera was going to be turned off.
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