Oct/Nov 2006  •   Fiction  •   Special Feature

A Very Modern Affair

by Tom Conoboy

Photo by Jim Gourley

Photo by Jim Gourley

Discretion assured. Woman in a red dress. Sweet, sweet, sweet. Sweep away those frustrations. Miss Louise, whoever you want her to be.

Well, howdydoody Miss Louise, Mr Charlie here, and talking of Charlie, I have plenty if you is interested.

Mr Charlie, you is one naughty fella. How you doon, my fine man, how's it hanging? Miss Louise is ready and primed, just needs cocked, knowwhaddamean?

Well, I'm your meat, Miss Louise, I surely am.

In her flat in Willesden, Louise Smith wonders what to say next. She flushes when she reaches this point: meaningless, flirty banter is easy, she's been doing that all her life. Ugly girls flirt so well. The difficulty comes when it's time to move to the next stage, the biological sphere, which is a mystery since Louise has never been biologied outside the classroom. She bites her fingernail, thinks she might make a cup of tea. If I wait long enough, she decides, he'll lose interest and leave.

Still there, Miss Louise hun? I is ready and cocked, hehehe.

In his bedroom, Charlie Garfield types quietly. His mother is sixty, deaf, uninterested in her son, but she doesn't like the interwebnet and disapproves of its late night stranglehold on her son's existence. Charlie tries to ignore his mother. He fears Miss Louise may be out of his league, but if she proves too weird, he'll cut the connection and blame it on BT. It's a solution that works most nights on CyberMadam.com.

It's taken both of them some time to settle into CyberMadam. "Are you top or bottom?" Louise was asked in her first week. Her response—that she's not at school but, when she was, she was very much in the middle, high Bs in most subjects, actually—is still circulating among the denizens of the board. There is considerable debate as to whether she is postmodernist ironic or fourteen.

Neither is correct. Louise is thirty and has no sense of humour.

Hey Charlie, I is cooking, my friend. I'm all aflame, if you know what I is saying.

It's unlikely, thought Louise. I haven't a clue, myself.

Charlie has been on CyberMadam for a year. He has been known as Master Paul, Grandmaster Seth, Wizard Mazampiax, Nappy Boy George, Slut Mary and ~~~Fairy Dancer~~~. Mr Charlie is a departure. It's a risk. Mr Charlie is the real Charlie Garfield.

No more lies, he told himself. Be yourself, Charlie.

Miss Louise, my dear, if you is aflame you need a massive implement to douse yous flames.

What happens if we ever meet up, thinks Charlie. We just can't. He pretends this bothers him although he knows it doesn't. Meeting up with someone from his online world is not part of the plan, not really, not ever, not then, not now. It doesn't work. Online, he is not size 42, he is not white, he is not aged 38, living with his mum.

Charlie hates being a cliche.

Even so, he hopes Miss Louise doesn't reply.

Man, my man, you is one cool dude. How massive is massive, know what I'm saying?

Louise once read in an agony column that it wasn't unusual for a man's erect penis to be the length of a woman's forearm. She looks at her own, scales it down to the smallest person she has ever known, Yvonne Swanson, and still wonders how it is possible that such a protrusion could be accommodated within her.

Charlie read the same article and has spent a large part of his life looking for a woman with a short enough forearm to calm his fears. To this day, his mother doesn't understand why he didn't speak for three weeks after seeing the midgets at Mr Smart's Circus in Cirencester.

At least five inches, types Mr Charlie. His hand slipped, he meant to press eight.

At least five inches, reads Miss Louise. Five inches? Five inches, I could cope with that.

Mr Charlie, do you know five inches is my favouritest size in the whole wide world.

Mr Charlie has an erection that clearly shows five inches is an underestimate, but he is frightened. He toys with the idea of switching off and going to bed and dreaming of Jodie Marsh.

Miss Louise.

Miss Louise.

There's something about Miss Louise. She sounds tough, but Charlie has a feeling.

Louise, in her flat, is yawning and wants to go to bed because she has to be up at seven in the morning. But something about Charlie.

Something about Charlie.

He sounds gauche, she thinks. She's not entirely sure what gauche means, but she knows it applies to Charlie. Please don't go, she thinks. Please don't drop the connection.

Mr Charlie?

Mr Charlie?

Mr Charlie has gone.

In her flat in Willesden, Louise gets ready for bed. She is unsettled, thinking of Mr Charlie, hating herself for not forcing the issue. Tomorrow, she thinks.

Charlie sneaks downstairs to the toilet, hoping his mother won't hear. Inside his head, he shouts at himself for his cowardice, for his stupidity, for his timidity.

But he doesn't believe any of it.

Tomorrow, he will do the same thing again.