"Skiers" by Dorothy Thompson

Circle I

Lo Teologo Felice
wherein is conveyed
(e’er gradually, and somewhat confusingly, with pardons from the author—
but hey! these are post-postmodern times),
betwixt scenes from one humdinger of an erotic nightmare,
a partial history and formative background
(including major sources of domestic and vocational stress)
of Dante Peccato,
leading up to March the Twenty-first,
Nineteen-hundred Ninety-seven

~ ~ ~


“But what about my dead cat?!”

The voice of Irene Vander Vos exploded across a vast horizon of dreams, dispelling the omnium-gatherum of erotic fears and symbolic horrors that teased the blessed sleeper’s vulnerable mind…

A cornucopia had been funneled from the dreamer’s id, and the resulting dreamscape resembled a vision Hieronymous Bosch might have painted had he lived to see the days of around-the-clock, cable-tabloid journalism:

Postal workers and tennis instructors fled screaming across fresh-mowed lawns from a stampede of blood-drenched polar bears and triceratopses. In a backyard, a pair of crocodiles played tug-o-war over the body of a topless sunbather who had been lying near the edge of her outdoor pool. Pedestrians outside a mini-mall gawked at the sight of an exploding commercial airliner. Other shoppers thumbed rosaries as a seven-story, marble Theotokos paused for a human snack at a Christmas outlet store with a sign advertising chocolate nativities scenes. On a hillside, a mob of anti-abortion protestors battled hopelessly against a children’s crusade of third-world juveniles. The picketers brandished the stave-ends of harassing placards, while the dusty, half-naked children were armed to their malformed-teeth with an ecumenical array of U.S., Soviet and Israeli-made machineguns.

~ ~ ~

Such was the chaos the naked and fleeing dreamer beheld as he paused, mid-dream, to rest at an open window. To his dismay, the Boschean scene appeared no safer than the carnal labyrinth he was attempting to escape. The dreamer leaned heavily against the stone ledge and hastily considered his options should this final passageway reveal no way out. He had already completed seven of eight circuits through the maze’s winding, Alhambraic corridors, and thus far had only narrowly avoided becoming a fount from which seething succubi could slake their erotic thirst.

Each haunted hallway funneled into a colossal groined vault that arched into a towering dome with a large oculus. This immense central chamber was lair to a legion of satanic sylphs that violently clawed for position directly beneath the ceiling’s giant opening, as if the sky were about to rain some tasty treat upon them. Each time the dreamer reentered the chamber, the demonesses hungrily eyed the choice slab dangling between his legs, and collectively shifted their struggle in his direction. And he hastened to the next passage, a feeding frenzy of lusting she-devils hot on (and for) his tail.

This window was the first direct exit the labyrinth had yielded. There was even an EXIT sign, with an arrow pointing outside; apparently his subconscious had been kind enough to follow standard construction code. But upon gazing downward, the dreamer noted that the intention of most fire-escape signs was to discourage individuals from plunging hundreds of feet into a molten lava moat. And since the prospect of swimming in liquid rock was even less enchanting, though not by much, than that of being fellated alive by creatures with switchblade mouths, he regretfully concluded that his only chance of escape was a rope ladder back in the vaulted chamber. The ladder ascended through the center of the oculus, and like Jack’s beanstalk, led somewhere higher than the clouds. Yet now that he had witnessed the discord beyond the megalithic octopus, the dreamer was uncertain whether the heavens would (or could) offer much refuge. And anyway, there seemed little hope of reaching the ladder without becoming a coital shish kabob.

The sound of gunshots instantly commanded the dreamer’s attention. Outside, at the edge of a nearby wood, an orange-vested hunter was taking potshots at a wolf and leopard which were stealing prime selections from his fresh kill. While the hunter crouched to reload his weapon, a lioness sprang from the trees and mauled him.

~ ~ ~

With a mortally-wounded-Trojan effort, the hunter craned his head and, catching the dreamer’s eye, gurgled forth: “Eat and drink, for tomorrow you die!”

The lioness paused, as if entertaining the thought, then rifled through the hunter’s visceral cavity and commenced a smorgasbord of internal organs.

Like the hapless hunter, the dreamer no longer had the stomach for a press box view of apocalyptic pick-up sticks. Yet the symmetrical universe had a far baser fate in-store. Silently, a feline presence had been stalking the dreamer; sensing its prey was about to resume flight, it pounced. It pushed in one of the dreamer’s knees and jerked him backwards, and he collapsed like a lawn chair with a solid slap of skin on the stone pavement. Before the dreamer knew what had pinned him, he felt a warm, wet sheath envelop him. He moaned when he saw which oral odalisque had been unchained from his subconscious: “Oh, God. Miranda.”

The Mighty Miranda Mueller: A vast, erotic waterway that once stretched endlessly across the fertile, uncharted terrain of the dreamer’s former seminary days. Like all aquatic deities, this great river was a giver and taker of life. By day, the dreamer haphazardly traversed Miranda’s blood-red cataracts. By night, Miranda’s undulating waves rippled across the dreamer’s mind, and he partook from the spring that broke to his body’s surface like the fabled headwaters of Lourdes.

These nocturnal skinny dips were the result of three years of Miranda’s unrelenting coquetry. Whenever the dreamer drifted alone along her Circean shores, her sweet siren song lured him to mortal ruin. He resisted her enticement—but only by entertaining a kaleidoscope of autoerotic fantasies, in which Miranda and he exhausted all known coital combinations, including such Brahminic classics as the Thunderbolt, the Bull’s Blow, the Crow and the all-but forgotten Flying Pachyderm.

Contrary to St. Paul’s wishful thinking, some temptations rise to levels that are uncommon (or at the very least, drastically unfair) to man. A wave finally surfaced to roll the dreamer’s dinghy, which, at Neptune’s urge, started swelling during one of his roommate Lance’s unusually long, turgid bowel movements; thus proving that Poseidon’s powers extend beyond the seven seas to the realm of toilet tanks. Miranda had dared Dante (as the dreamer was called by nearly everyone) to come in her hands before Lance rejoined them in the living room. Miranda’s salacious tease wafted across the room—as to the Homeric gods the scent of burning flesh upon the altars—but Dante’s nose was buried inveterately, or so he thought, in a Latin lexicon of St. Augustine’s City of God.

~ ~ ~

Miranda was a ΣΚΓ sister at the University of Wisconsin-Madison; she was also Lance’s sister. Dante and Lance attended a Christian liberal arts college and seminary in the Chicago suburb of Wheaton. Whenever Miranda visited her brother for the weekend,*  Dante always stayed within reach of some boring-as-hell theological text. His chosen method of deflecting Miranda’s concupiscent arrows was to read aloud to her in any of the various dead languages theology students dabble in, learning just enough to convince the lay world they possess a wizardly understanding of holy writ.

Once Dante even read aloud in Hebrew from Song of Solomon. Lance had left the apartment to work out his own sexual aggressions at the college gym, and Miranda appeared before Dante in nothing save her brother’s red cloth necktie, which she had gingerly adjusted to all but cover her downy pudenda. Dante reached for a bookshelf like an expert gunslinger, and intoned: “I went down to the grove of nut trees to look at the new growth in the valley…” Miranda tired of Dante’s apparent impotence or chastity or homosexuality, and she returned to Lance’s bedroom to take a nap. “…Come back, come back, O, Shulammite; come back, that we may gaze on you.”

Lance’s conservatism was the ultimate reason Dante had fended off Miranda’s carnal invitations. His roommate’s “philosophy of reproduction” was an unsavory sauce atop a gooey pasta of complicated repression. And his “model of sexual congress” closely resembled the one espoused by Benjamin Franklin: One ought fly one’s kite for procreation, not recreation, and only under the blessed firmament of holy union. Using the Hedonistic Calculus, Dante had reckoned the sibling fallout that would result from consummating his lust was far more trouble than it was worth—a commendable display of youthful wisdom that would have drawn high praise from the Founding Father. Yet even that bulwark of virtue likely would have surrendered to Miranda’s cupped hands.

~ ~ ~

“I’ll bet I can jack you off before he’s done in there.”

Dante sought sanctuary within Augustine’s holy polis. “Hmm?”

But his “hmm” was forced, a fact as plain as if a fisherman’s bobber had darted beneath the water, then popped back up. Surely here was a nibble.

Miranda licked her lips, then set the hook, “I’ll swallow.”

Alas, the chaste knight had chosen his shield unwisely. The Latin lexicon, so closely aligned to a former slave of sexual desire—who, moreover, had been a fervent preacher of predestination—released Dante from the chains of volition and suffered him to break his vowed indifference. (The sluggishness of Lance’s bowels had done nothing to save him, either.) Dante stirred from his pretended study, disgusted with himself as he realized he had been idly searching for any occurrence of genitalis in Augustine’s tome.

Miranda oozed off the couch as though caught in a butterscotch landslide, her head cocked and mouth slowly unlocking. Dante emphatically pointed toward the hallway. Undeterred, Miranda slithered toward him on her knees.

Dante appealed to common sense, “You’ve got to be kidding. He’ll hear.”

Miranda shook her head, “Not with the fan. Besides, I don’t slurp.”

Miranda’s scheme was a well-calculated risk that rested on an immutable norm of civilization: People do not defecate in the society of others without flushing. And the time required for Lance to pull up his pants, and (hopefully, though not certainly) wash his hands, guaranteed them both the necessary moments for fellatus interruptus.

Thus, the great siege that had been laid upon Dante’s psycho-sexual well-being was lifted. The budding christologist fingered the Latin lexicon with his left hand, in preparation for Lance’s imminent return, while his right stroked an Herodian erection, and emitted life into one of myriad fantasies. Though Dante was a devoted follower of Christ, neither of his hands could help knowing what the other was up to.

The ensuing affair was (to Dante’s future regret and relief) merely a four-month campaign of kamikaze quickies during Miranda’s suddenly increased visits. Dante and Miranda pounced upon one another the moment Lance left for his classes or the gym, and even during his wilderness wanderings in the little boy’s room. At night, Miranda sneaked into Dante’s bedroom, where the two made covert love on Dante’s waterbed.

~ ~ ~

Miranda’s bouts of seasickness usually forced the two lovers down to the wood floor, which creaked even louder than the bed sloshed. Following one such amphibian lay, Dante whispered he had newfound respect for Lothario’s lower lumbar.

The ‘relationship’ ended abruptly when Lance traveled to Grand Rapids, Michigan, for a weekend theological conference (on of all topics, hamartiology). The two lovers eagerly took advantage of the opportunity for a marathon of conjugation; yet their two days and three nights of vehement screwing left them blisteringly petered out, such that they were forced to make embarrassing visits to a gynecologist and urologist, respectively, the following week. And Dante was forever convinced that a slight bend in his erection that he had never noticed was the result of their having boinked each other the entire 26 miles, 385 yards to Athens, as it were.3

Following their cursus libidinis, Miranda’s visits to Chicago were noticeably less frequent. The few times she stayed at Dante and Lance’s apartment, she wore full-length skirts and baggy blouses, as though in-training to move to Kabul. Miranda hardly acknowledged Dante’s presence, especially when they were alone. One of the few things she confided to him was that she now habitually shaved her pubic hair. Dante wondered whether this cosmetological procedure was part of a rehabilitation program Miranda’s doctor had recommended following their three-day, three-legged race. If such intense sex had skewed his erection, he couldn’t imagine the damage done to her delicate female organs! Her doctor had probably ordered her to forsake the very thought of physical intimacy. Perhaps he too should shear his pubes—anything to be straight again!

As for the dramatic change in Miranda’s behavior, Dante reasoned time would set things aright between them. To his inexperienced mind, this was just another scene in the drama of human courtship. He also figured Miranda’s emotional and physical distance was, if nothing else, justifiable retribution for the three years he had snubbed her.

Though their amatory exchanges had ceased, Dante continued daydreaming about Miranda: her sylphic pliancy; her eyes—that most centerpoint of the erotic universe—such cerulean orbs that by themselves nearly released his thick, unguentary libation; and her breasts, so nubile and ripe that her very turtlenecked presence made his salivary glands swell until he was certain his eardrums would explode.

~ ~ ~

* Dante was convinced Miranda’s trips were part of an unfulfilled sorority pledge to bed a future man of the cloth.

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The particulars, from author August Bjorn: "The Prodigal: A Divine Comedy, of sorts, Book I: Hell (or The Prodigal, for short) is the story of a theologian turned adult film star (less kindly, 'porn star'). Of course, that’s just the fortune cookie kerygma. It is much more than that. The Prodigal takes place in 24 hours in Washington DC and documents the downfall of one Dante Peccato, a down-on-his-luck religion professor at National University. The book is literary in nature, and when forced to compare it to a tangible source, I usually say something like, 'Imagine Umberto Eco, James Joyce, and Philip Roth stuck in an elevator for five years.' (I think I would put Bill Bryson in that elevator, too, although he might balk at the opportunity. It's hard to write travel books in an elevator.)" Bjorn originally hailed from Minneapolis and tells us that his family belonged to a religious cult "which I fled at the tender age of 17." He has since earned degrees in anthropology, archaeology, and ancient languages, areas he draws upon skillfully to detail and enrich his story. He also has a masters in library sciences and has worked for NPR and CNN. The Prodigal is a devilishly written picaresque that will likely give a case of apoplexy to any of your conservative friends who dare to read it. And it has real potential to kill anyone who aspires to sainthood and makes the mistake of picking it up. It will have the rest of us ROTFLOAO. But in a literate way!