The Erotic Mind-Control Story Archive


1: Estate Sale

It started with an estate sale. An elderly man in my neighborhood had been a collector of cultural artifacts: music, art, antique books and porcelain, a few specialized tools, lamps and other furnishings of good taste, curios, tchotchkes. He had the same name as an American TV star and ran a nondescript shop on a quiet arterial next to a photography studio I’d walked past dozens of times without noticing anything or anyone inside. He’d been a childless unmarried man more than 80 years old, now passed away. His carefully collected belongings were being sold from his shop by an auction house, with an elegant young woman named Tess acting as his family’s agent.

I browsed through his belongings in the shop, chatting with Tess. She was keenly intelligent and perceptive, with an MFA from Brown and no ring on any finger. Her background in art history and literature enabled her to appraise many of the books she represented, though others were too obscure even for her. Inside each book on the shelves was a small square of colored paper with its appraised value penciled on, a note of its condition, and the appraiser’s name and agency if Tess hadn’t appraised it herself. Her coarse honey-blonde hair was gathered by a purple scrunchy into a loose ponytail, she wore thin gold sandals, a small amethyst pendant bound in gold wire on a thin gold necklace, and eyeglasses in delicate purple frames, had exquisite hands and longish clear fingernails, and sat behind a dark wooden desk with a stack of books on one side, two stacks on the other, and a telephone and an open PowerBook 1400c/166 in front of her. Every minute or two she looked up from her laptop, then made notes on a square of colored paper and inserted it into a book that she moved from one side of her desk to the other. She seemed fully at home as an archivist, though maybe a little restless.

I spent an enjoyable (ecstatic?) though mostly quiet hour browsing the bookshelves and peeking at the record collection, learning something of the character of the former proprietor as I picked out items I liked, chatting with Tess about the ones I found most intriguing. She had a lovely musical voice and seemed glad of the conversation. Many of the books were more than 100 years old and leather-bound, from writers like Kipling, Walter Scott, and George MacDonald, also including slightly newer titles from Lord Dunsany, Leslie Barringer, and Mary Renault—yes, our collector with the Hollywood name had been an Anglophile—plus a few from Americans like Henry Adams, William James, Edith Wharton, and the obligatory Hemingway-Steinbeck-O’Connor-Faulkner canon. There were also biographies from the usual 18th and 19th century English icons like Wellington, Nelson, and Disraeli, classical volumes from historians like Herodotus, Livy, and English revisionists of eighty and more years ago like Gibbon, analyses of works by Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and Seneca from a distinctly British perspective, sycophantic pre-war histories with titles like ”The Miracle of England”, a highly interesting compilation of Arctic encounters between English expeditions and native peoples who were referred to as “savages” in the earliest stories and gradually became more respectfully addressed, and a $10 volume of delightful and somewhat hilarious Abraham Lincoln anecdotes from a contemporary who’d known him well and outlived him by 40 years. I put that one aside instantly—Tess’ note indicated it as too obscure to appraise.

I spent less time with the record collection, mostly because this wasn’t Tess’ area of expertise, she had little to say about it, and I wanted more conversation with her. Mostly classical with some pre-bop jazz and a fair smattering of showtunes. I set aside a few recordings I remembered my parents playing when I was a child: Strauss, Mozart, the original cast recording of Camelot. I learned how the word “album” came to be applied to vinyl records when finding that some of the older records, 12″ 78s with one track on each side, were bound into “albums” containing all the music that would later fit onto a single LP. Not sure when that bit of trivia will come in handy.

The prices cited for my purchases were far less than their assessed value and I spent about $40 on a half dozen old books plus $1 each on a crystal goblet dated c1840 and a small crystal bell that had what I thought was an remarkably calming, mellow tone. It was as much as I could carry on my half-mile walk home. I thanked Tess for her time and company and vowed to return the next day, when I brought home the records and a few more books.

The following weekend, my third visit to the little bookshop, was very nearly the end of the estate sale. The bookshelves were nearly bare even though I hadn’t seen anyone else buy a thing on my previous visits. After browsing for 10 minutes and finding just one book remotely of interest, I brought it to Tess for purchase, whereupon she told me that everything was now being given away—her client’s family simply didn’t want anything to do with their TV star namesake’s remaining collection. At my comment that the shelves were nearly bare, she glanced to one side, picked up a key, pressed it into my hand and smiled conspiratorially, and told me it was for the house around the corner where the shop’s proprietor had lived, and where a large number of unsorted antiquities still lay. She gave me the address and I left the book I’d found in the shop with her.

It was an interesting place. Jeffersonian columns at the entryway of a small 3-story house. A Murphy bed, which would have been well-concealed had it not been deployed. A distinct smell of old ... something. I’d smelled it in the bookshop without placing it, but it was stronger here. Old books? Mold? Must? The question seemed to reverberate.

Up the ladder to the attic was the real treasure. Shelves and shelves of old books and records. The musty smell was stronger there. Dryer.

An hour later and I was still alone in the house. I’d wondered whether I would be, but I was. So I brought back a dozen books and a half-dozen records. Tess blessed my “purchase” and I would’ve returned the key, but I said there was a lot more good stuff I would love to carry away if only I’d driven. She smiled.

Tess said it would be just fine if I drove over. I was starting to feel a real connection with her.

I had a small station wagon. Great mileage, but ... small. For this purpose, however, it was plenty ... I took home about 200 records and two boxes of books, somewhat hastily assembled from what I’d been able to find in the house, most of which was not carefully examined. I actually left the book from the shop with Tess ... she rolled her eyes, smiling, but said she understood. And of course I left the key.

It would be many years before I saw Tess again. The house was sold 20 years ago.

I’ve slowly gone through my haul of books and records. I met another lovely young woman, married, and we’re raising great kids that I’m still learning to deal with as emerging adults. The records are what you might expect. Some Mozart and a couple of the showtune albums remain sentimental favorites even if they don’t spin on my old turntable often.

About those old books ... there was this one, unadorned by title or anything else. Bound in worn blue leather, hand-written, with the occasional item in wax paper between pages. I’m still not sure what drew me to it in the first place. It took me a decade to begin looking at it closely since being hand-written it was not so easily deciphered, and because there was so much more obvious (and valuable!) stuff to go through, plus a generation of fulfilling family life. The book seemed like a bunch of recipes with ingredients not easily obtained, vaguely worded journaling in between. Central and South American plants and herbs I’d never heard of, though I know my way around the kitchen.

Feminine handwriting. Herbal lore. Hard-to-interpret journal entries. What could possibly go wrong?

2: Herblore

“A bunch of recipes with ingredients not easily obtained, vaguely worded journaling in between,” I wrote. Yeah, that’s about right. These recipes included ingredients not easily obtainable in England, where the writer of this journal lived, or on the North American west coast where I live now. The book was written from 1868-1915, each entry carefully dated. The earliest were simple lists of harvests, grown in the writer’s extensive garden or obtained through channels that would be difficult to reconstruct now, 150 years later. She’d been wealthy, living on an estate with servants. Her daughters H. and C. were born in 1892 and 1898, respectively, and her mother M., whose initial may have simply been short for “Mama”, passed away in 1897. The frontispiece was a simple blessing in different feminine handwriting, presumably from the author’s mother: ”Quos amor verus tenuit, tenebit”.

Accounts became more detailed as the journal went on, including 140-year-old herbs and locks of hair from both her infant daughters, the elder dark, the younger blonde, pressed in wax paper between pages. Then a description of a long American voyage with stops for rarer acquisitions like bushy fleabane and man vine from Belize, and ice vine from Guyana. The writer’s home life became an increasing focus. Gardening, of course, but also relations with neighbors, other nearby gentry, traveling companions, notes about servants, family, and suitors; while she never married she had a regular parade of them as she was apparently beautiful as well as willful, intelligent, independently wealthy, and possessing a considerable charm. Neighbors were cantankerous or agreeable, sometimes in consecutive paragraphs, and other gentry were often maddening. All were referred to by an initial rather than by name. The anonymous writer did not have a place in London, unusual among her circle, but wrote about her visits, some spanning nights, weeks, or, in winter, months. An excerpt from an 1891 voyage to South America:

Sunday, December 20th.—We had a most anxious run down the Uruguay; I shall never forget the intense heat. We were quite unable to sleep, our night spent searching in vain for a cool place between cabin and deck, en costumes ‘tres négligés.’ Towards morning we made ourselves tidy and rushed for the fore part of the steamer, reaching Buenos Ayres thoroughly scorched, though our headquarters at Mr. Hume’s hotel was very pretty with the sun shining upon it. I spend the afternoon in its cool depths chatting with Mrs. R. before she departs for Monte Video with her husband and daughter. I am simply charmed and find her most entertaining, or what is called here ’mui simpatica.’ We have a few callers but I’m sorry to say M. is even more exhausted than I.

December 21st.—Christmas is drawing near and I must confess a bout of home-sick. Moreover, just now I am feeling rather dull and stupid, and perhaps a little nervous, but unfortunately I am one of those affected by my surroundings: if those around me are depressed and quiet I become the same. I must try to shake it off. We spend a most harmless day working, taking a smart walk when we feel up to it. We have had a terrible storm in the night, the rain coming down in torrents, so the weather to-day is therefore much more agreeable.

Visits from ailing neighbors and treatments with herbal remedies, social calls, consultations with others having more specialized knowledge. Humorously disdainful (sometimes rather racist) commentary about less agreeable traveling companions. Recipes, of a sort. Long lists of herbs, vegetables, seeds, and tubers harvested from her garden or gathered wild, some after dark: honey, lavender, pudding grass, wild carrot, St. John’s wort, St. Benedict’s thistle, flax, vervain, valerian, woundwort, wild yams, rose hips, cohosh, lobelia, marsh mallow, wormwood, mandrake. She sometimes left a token of gratitude on finding particularly valued plants. Table fare like basil, mint, parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, scallions, shallots, leeks, and potatoes, though some seem to have been used elsewise. Items procured from grocers: nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, sumac, grains of paradise, Greek hay, coconut oil. It went on for two hundred pages. References to older tomes, another reason to regret not spending more time with Tess.

I looked up some of the plants I’d never heard of and understanding dawned. The author was not only an herbalist, she was a kind of witch. A daughter, granddaughter, great-granddaughter of witches. And this book was a kind of grimoire.

What is a witch, exactly? Some modern scholars simply equate witchcraft with herbcraft. Healers outside a power structure can be useful to the sick of body and mind, but seem like ungovernable reservoirs of wild knowledge elsewhen. Threatening to those in power. Even feared.

Herbcraft is medicine as well as contributing to damn fine food. It’s easy to see how a sufficiently ignorant culture could view it as indistinguishable from magic.

This woman’s journal spoke of communal meals like the stone soup shared with her parish several times a year, meals from which everyone went home full and happy. At meals prepared in the homes of her circle, some participants were described as even more satisfied, with the happiest described as staying beyond dessert or even overnight. It was difficult to make out exactly what this involved ... her language usually got indistinct about then, but with careful reading, I began to understand. Another excerpt:

Saturday, May 1st.—Our pavilion feast was a splendid affair, truly a banquet, with several new guests and many old favorites. Countess W., Viscountess P., Lord and Lady A., their companions, a certain Mr. K. from Madras, and another half-dozen of our friends and their dozen companions. Mr. K. is a captain or subedar of sepoys, minor son of a nawab, and a Shakta adepte whose company I had desired to arrange for some months. Six courses for so large a gathering is a strain on our kitchen, but the staff carried on beautifully. A four-bird version of M. Grimod de la Reynière’s extravagantly impractical rôti sans pareil with herbed chestnut stuffing, port sauce, and belle fromage from Sussex Weald prepared in the outdoor stone oven was especially delightful, accompanied by a sticky date and hazelnut cake and followed by poached quince with nutmeg and cinnamon.

Herbal cordials at sundown were sweetened with anticipation of more happy intercourse to come, then our chef and his staff were properly appreciated. Several of our more agile companions leaping between the two bonfires drew gasps of astonishment, while Mr. K.’s Vedic familiarities, mellifluent tongue, and impressive souffrance were a delicious novelty, with repeated service given their relation until he, like most of us, finally succumbed to the bonds of magnetic sleep and the bliss of Selenic unknowing. This most blessed morning, flowers in our hair, we unwound last night’s ribbons and slowly danced our maypole en compagnie.

Yeah, she was a witch.

I must admit that this singular voice from the past was inspiring ... she aroused my spirit, which had settled into inactivity as my children began outgrowing the nest. I’d been content rediscovering a well-worn trail of herbs and other comestibles in the kitchen that so many better chefs had blazed before me, but this woman took gardening to a whole new plane. So, it being late winter, I set about getting seeds or cuttings for some of the wonder plants this woman had named, to plant in my own suburban garden. Surely our seed catalogs had improved since her day, right? I already had lemon balm, oregano, Herb-Robert, two struggling thyme plants, and a little St. John’s wort growing wild, plus a fragrant-leaved plant I’d noticed many times but not known the name of. Consultation with the local nursery revealed it to be feverfew. My rosemary bush had begun failing shortly after my wife and I moved in and needed replacing.

I started with roses.

3: New Neighbors

Or anyway, I tried to start with roses. Because right about the time I started visiting the nursery, which had little beyond seeds and rose cuttings in late winter, our new next-door neighbors began a project of their own to demolish the old chain-link fence between our properties and replace it with something taller, more private, wooden. This took well into the autumn and they kept having delays. Workmen falling from the roof, a scam contractor taking prepayments and then folding up his company, a different scam contractor completely botching the job of repairing a retaining wall. I’d hoped to plant rose cuttings on the property line but with all those workmen stomping around I figured it would be wasted effort, and in fact some of my other plants near the property line did indeed get stepped on. So I dug out my garden instead. This was in our side yard, and the previous next-door neighbors had allowed two evergreens to grow very tall, blotting out the afternoon sunlight, so I’d been neglecting it in recent years. But the new neighbors chopped those trees down as part of their yard redesign and I looked forward to finally having sunlight to share with vegetables, herbs, and flowers.

The new neighbors were kinda terrifying in a cute suburban rich kid kind of way. In this area no one who isn’t loaded can afford a house anymore, so this young couple must’ve had to lean hard on their parents, who we saw a lot of as their initial projects bore fruit. They cleaned out their basement, including killing or chasing off the rats that’d formally called it home, cleared all the noxious invasive English ivy that had formerly sheltered still more rats, fauna left over from an earlier resident who’d died while living there, possibly from being an inveterate hoarder. At least they got a bargain on the house, but they surely did rip up the yard, looking adorable all the while.

Our other neighbors didn’t seem to get along with them any better than we did, which is to say our new next-door neighbors hardly acknowledged us or anyone else even though others closer to their age tried harder than we. The young husband seemed pleasant enough, but mostly spent his off time playing golf or console games. The slender petite young future golf widow wife with the enormous blue eyes she mostly hid behind long straight untrimmed brown hair and baggy clothing was the designer with the big ideas. Neither was worth a damn picking out contractors.

My garden came along nicely through the tumult. I salvaged some boulders that had functioned as the previous fence’s retaining wall and repurposed them to raise our front yard’s rock wall, replacing a decaying wooden timber and providing level space for botanicals like rosemary, sage, penstemon, and yarrow, with feverfew popping up wherever it pleased. Lemon balm thrived and multiplied throughout our yard, and I found a use for it in a tea: about 3 parts lemon balm and 1 part sage, but infused separately with proportions worked out by taste. I sent a gallon to my aged Mom. A single feverfew leaf masticated for half a minute and then swallowed was bitter but nothing short of miraculous for migraine symptoms. Lemon verbena, chives, fenugreek, parsley, dill, onions, beans, pattypan squash, tomatoes, sprouting potatoes, even a thyme plant that had been struggling for years, almost everything thrived beautifully (Note to self: next year the dill and squash might do better if I plant it earlier.)

Then the neighbors pulled out the front part of their fence, drove a Bobcat into their yard and ripped up everything there again, rebuilding back stairs, pouring a new concrete patio that wasn’t nearly as nice as mine but at least was better than their old rotten wooden deck that the rats had called shelter, and lined the entire border of their yard with expensive ornamentals, mostly in huge pots. Their first batch of ornamentals had all died, probably because they’d planted after the spring rains were done, probably more than $1000 in dead exotic nursery flowers, and it looked like they’d spent 3 times as much on replacements, but at least these would have two wet seasons to establish roots.

They also unrolled a lot of sod over their newly bulldozed yard in early December, not the best time of year to do that, either, but they seemed to have money to burn and weren’t actively noisome, so ... let ’em find out the hard way, I say. Again. Heh. And hope for their sake that no plant thieves come by and covet all the expensive flowering shrubs they have out front, which has been known to happen ... apparently the thieves then resell them for tidy sums. And then they put the front of their fence back up and mostly disappeared inside their newly remodeled house except for twice-daily dog walks when they don’t stop to chat. We had visibility into their two front rooms from one of our small side windows if we cared to look, which of course I didn’t because ... PRIVACY! But maybe a couple times a month movement through their windows drew my eye, and I almost always seemed to see someone in their living room. Playing video games or watching TV together or singly, or with dogs. Life was looking pretty good for them.

But one rainy December day, in checking out my side-yard garden from that window through an intervening bush ... shit, what was she doing? Lying down next to their big screen, legs spread, eyes closed, facing my way, fingering herself under sweatpants with one hand, cupping a gray stretchy T-shirt-covered breast with the other. Was there someone between her and my suddenly pertinent next-door view? Maybe ... the golf guy could’ve been playing console games, though the TV was off now. But now ... shit, she was hot. Delicious slender figure, blue eyes, long brown hair, yeah fine, but under that ... she was putting on a show. Unexpectedly generous breasts and no bra evident. Golf hubby putting down the remote, maybe gasping as hard I was, suddenly, unexpectedly. Or maybe he was used to this, while I, just next door, was definitely not. I ducked into a corner of my window and watched a little longer. Her new husband got up from where he’d been sitting on the couch and walked toward her. As he neared, she moved her hands to cup his chin, lowered his face between her legs, tangled long slender fingers in his hair.

He lowered her sweatpants and gossamer panties, put his hands under her shirt and up to her breasts, and went to work. I didn’t stick around ... I’d already seen more than I should’ve and that half-minute had my shorts tenting high.

I went to bed early that night, and when Joanna joined me there I pretty much attacked her. Normally I like a lot of foreplay and a long slow ride, and we both nearly always come from it, Joanna sometimes more than once, but that night I couldn’t help myself. Slowed when I got close, enough for her to reach the same state, then let loose so we could come together. Then we went to a somewhat shellshocked sleep—sexual release is the greatest soporific ever.

Later that night I woke to screams from next door. Not an I’m-in-pain-please-call-rescuers-right-now scream, more like ... fuuuuuuuuuck. Loud moaning, expressive gasping, you name it, he vocalized it. Wails of extreme pleasure.

The next night I introduced Joanna to hypnosis. Not the look-at-my-pocketwatch-swinging kind, more like enjoy-this-nice-relaxing-scalp-massage. The key was the forehead tapping, and the vortex.

See, I’ve put myself to sleep this way before, tapping fingertips on my forehead and imagining they were someone else’s, imagining my forehead being tapped was turned into a vortex, the rest of my body sinking into the mattress beneath, spinning slowly ’round. It’d been surprisingly effective, so I tried it on Joanna. And she went quiet. I spoke to her quietly throughout, telling her to let her slow deep breaths lead to relaxation and warmth, now nice it was to sink so deep into relaxation. Two minutes after I stopped, she told me, words somewhat slurred, how it’d been like sinking into a hypnotic trance. And I thought “What? Hypnotic trance?!”

And, oh yeah, she was sopping wet, which I knew exactly what to do about.

And then, from between her legs, I thought that if she’d actually been in a hypnotic trance and being in a hypnotic trance aroused her, that’d be pretty cool, because ... who knows what kind of fun could happen then?

4: Fitness

“I think we need to do yoga again,” Joanna said.

“Buh,” I replied. It was 7:15 AM and I’d been sleeping until just that moment.

“I’m serious.” she said. “We used to do it together, I kind of miss it, and ... it would help with the PT.”

My wife has borne 3 children, bless her, and childbearing is not exactly easy on the female body, though I’d never stopped loving hers. She’s had issues with varicose veins, with knee issues from athletics predating our relationship, and recently with osteopathic arthritis. Her body was giving out faster than mine, though I am four years older. But then I’d neither carried children for nine months within me nor borne them. The various medicos check in every few weeks and prescribe physical therapy, massage, and various pharmacological items. So she’d been doing awkward exercises lately. Which I found kinda sexy ... I like strong women and would’ve never been interested in her in the first place if she hadn’t been athletic.

I’d also been exercising more since my last job ... I’m apparently getting too old to be a software jock; no one seemed to want to hire an older guy with an aging skillset. Mostly I was bicycling, which is a lot easier on the legs than the running I used to overindulge, but also some mountain hiking, occasional backpacking, and in winter, cross-country skiing. I hope to work up to another ski-packing trip, ideally with kids. I like bicycling to the market about 8 km away, towing a trailer I use to bring back several bags full of groceries. Sometimes I lock up the trailer at the market and ride farther without it before shopping. My legs were getting pretty strong with lean-muscled quads and noticeable calves after several months and I’d lost about 20 pounds, though I could probably lose 20 more.

Of course bicycling is a lower-body sport, so I still needed to supplement with upper-body weight work, plus crunches for that strong core that seems to prevent lower back tweakiness.

So I actually looked like I’d lost more than 20 pounds, with the rest of the weight change being redistribution from fat to muscle. I was probably in better shape than I’d been for 15 years, and my bike seat and shorts were good enough that I wasn’t feeling saddle sore. Joanna and I were up to having sex almost once a week, which is about twice as often as in recent years, and she was enjoying having me on top with the lights on again—I was once something of a specimen and she’s a visual gal, so getting some of that conditioning back was doing wonders for her libido.

Likewise, exercising alongside her got me a bit worked up, and she enjoyed teasing me with it. And why not admit it, I enjoy the tease.

We found a yoga class in the local community center, and for 50 bucks a month we got to do lots of theatrical stretching with a bunch of women over 35 in better shape than us. The breathing, flexibility, focus, patience, the core and gluteal strength, it was all great, and Joanna was starting to feel less shy about showing her butt, which had always been good but used to be fantastic and was hinting at that again. She was even doing kegels, sometimes with an accessory inside her, and the combination of that great ass while she squeezed herself around me was amazing. I was doing kegels myself, as these were supposed to be good for male stamina, which I was going to need more of if sex with Joanna kept getting better.

Another thing I started doing was delving back into some of the artificial intelligence work I’d been doing early in my career. It was cutting edge stuff then and similar work has become interesting to a lot of companies more recently, so I figured it was time to push the envelope again before yet another part of me got too old. I learned that the kind of results I was getting 20 years ago are still pretty typical of the best systems now, with the main difference being the much greater computing power available, so the kinds of domains I could solve problems in had become a lot more complex.

But some of the reading I was doing to support my AI explorations was especially resonant with yoga. Questions about the nature of consciousness from Marvin Minsky and Patricia & Paul Churchland had always intrigued me, and while I’d always been impatient with the writings of ancient Greek philosophers, William James had always made sense, and finally encountering the writings of Douglas Hofstadter was sparking an interest in more ancient texts like the Rig Veda, Zhuangzi, and of course Sun Tzu and its echoes in Machiavelli.

When considered from within a yoga meditation, the questions of consciousness and self-awareness redound, as do demonstrations of the hypnosis state I’d been able to invoke in Joanna and myself. I hadn’t attempted a post-hypnotic suggestion with her, but if I did it would be one where I could speed her entry into the hypnotic state and then on to a true sleep, as getting to sleep has always been difficult for her. I did try it on myself, and while I don’t believe I was anywhere near fully successful, I did feel like I’d helped myself to better focus and becoming less prone to distraction. I’m basically undiagnosed ADHD, with the good caveat that I can have great focus when a subject fascinates me, though the rest of the time I struggle to stay on task.

Being outside in my garden or the peaceful shade of laurel or cypress trees also helps. Observing how the plants respond to various environmental stimuli, wind, water, sunshine, pests or the lack thereof, and then letting those observations lead me where they will in patient meditation. It gives me ideas about what else I might try, and how it might affect other elements of my environment or even behavior. Observing animals, which in my neighborhood means squirrels, birds, domestic cats and dogs, the occasional raccoon and very occasional coyote, can be fascinating. With notable exceptions, dogs seem dumber and more loving the larger they are, while some small dogs are quite clever, and watching them bluff larger animals or even people can be illuminating, as can watching cats or dogs interact with their own kind, where dominance and submission are so unambiguous. Raccoons are a can of junkyard worms that I should probably pay closer attention to in future, while coyotes are so rare here that it’s impossible to draw behavioral conclusions except to note that they are magnificent.

Joanna and I take our youngest son Eric skiing every few weekends in winter with one or two of his friends and (usually) one of their parents. He’s a shy 9-year-old who hangs out with other shy 9-year-olds, all very sweet kids. They go downhill on the bunny slopes while if I can swing it—meaning another parent is there to keep an eye on them—I’ll bring cross-country skis and hit the trails, usually on park service land. More than a couple miles from the parking lot is virtually deserted, and I dearly love being alone in that quiet, cold, swishing solitude. Staying warm isn’t a problem since that sort of skiing is strenuous, I go about it strenuously, and I’m quite the furnace even under non-strenuous circumstances, one of Joanna’s favorite things about me and I think it has reproductive benefits: if he’s warm and she’s cold and she snuggles close enough to be warmed, one thing often leads to another, and 3 beautiful kids later, my how busy we got.

When I can’t bring skis for one reason or other, I mostly just hang out in the bar at the lodge, eating chili and drinking micros, so it’s really better for everyone if I ski.

Joanna likes to ski with me and I like being with her, so sometimes we ski together. She was once a much better downhill skier than I, but with her increasingly worn-out knees, downhill is no longer an option. And frankly, as far as downhill goes I’d rather telemark even though that seems to have gone even further underground these days. Still, I’m up for skiing with her any time, though I like to finish with a long sprint that she wouldn’t have been able to keep up with even in her youth. And she’s OK with that ... we agree the time has come, she goes back inside, and I spend myself against nature one more time.

There’s this thing they have in cross-country skiing called “warming huts”. I first saw something like it near Kitzbühel that seemed much more elaborate. I’ve actually entered one exactly twice, both times at commercial resorts: tiny warmish wooden cabins with benches and hot water plus hot chocolate, tea, and instant coffee packets. But I only stopped by to see what one was like the first time near Mt. Garibaldi and the second time in the Sierra to confirm it. I didn’t stay either time, because that’s not what skiing is about for me.

This winter Joanna and I carpooled with Eric and his friend and his friend’s mother into the mountains on a weekday and we both brought skis. The boys were celebrating an unusual day off school and it was a cloudy, cool day with light snow, so crowds were thin. The other boy’s mother looked after them from the warm comfort of the lodge while Jo and I set off. We had about four hours and I wanted to use most of it on the trail. After nearly an hour, I became conscious that we hadn’t seen anyone else for more than 20 minutes. Then I saw a warming hut.

“How’re you doing, honey?” I asked as I pulled up next to it. She was breathing hard a few strides behind but steadily, red-cheeked. She took another couple breaths.

“Oh, you know. The usual,” she said between breaths.

“Want to go in and warm up?” I asked. She took another couple breaths.


I was not cold. If anything, I was on the warm side even wearing just a thermal t-shirt and fleece with nothing but hair on my head and hands. But she runs colder, and I know she likes her caffeine breaks. We went inside.

There was seating for maybe 10 people on two long benches with a short one between, but we were alone. The usual hot cocoa, tea, and instant coffee in packs. Some of the cocoa included cayenne, which was new for me, but since I think everything I cook that seems delicious is even better with cayenne, including dishes with fresh or dried chopped chilis, I mentioned it as she sat down.

“Like it hot, do you?” she asked, and I looked at her. “Warm me up,” she said, and spread her arms.

We were there for more than an hour. I think. I wasn’t exactly keeping track. And the place was a lot steamier when we left than when we entered. And so were we, though my shoulders ached.

5: Morgan

I first encountered Morgan at an exclusive Los Angeles-area private school’s Christmas Eve Mass. I was there with extended family, mostly in-laws, and she was there with her parents and younger brother. Some women at events like these in places like this show up to show off, and she wasn’t the first I noticed come in ... a 20-something dark-haired beauty with elaborately teased hair came in not long before, sporting sleek 4-inch black spaghetti-strap stilettos and legs to match, a tall dark and handsome man on her arm and probably not for balance—she had that and much more and she knew it. I lost track of where she was sitting a few rows ahead of me both because there were two other women who looked similar from behind nearby, and because Morgan arrived.

Morgan was about 5′5″ with fine straight copper hair artfully clipped, 3-inch orange-red thick-heeled ghillies with straps crossing to the lower curve of her calves, slender firm thighs and hip slightly canted with one leg forward to showcase a brief black skirt, knit in a lace pattern and riddled with small pencil-diameter holes that revealed less than they suggested, and alluringly lithe calves that looked as delicious as the rest of her. Luminous sky-blue eyes that she never showed me in more than profile, though she did that often. I was pretty sure she was checking out my 16-year-old lacrosse-star son standing beside me, but it was just as obvious to me that she could see both of us and the direction of our gaze(s) in her peripheral vision as that she didn’t want to let on. Her younger brother kept glancing at her chest, and no wonder ... I can scarcely imagine the bind her pervasive nearness must have sometimes purposely put him into, and while she was not voluptuous, her silk chemise nonetheless suggested two very shapely curves beneath. She was there with her parents, mind you, so she might’ve had to live with at least some parental restrictions on dress and conduct and this ensemble must’ve passed parental muster at some level, but ... damn! Imagine a lit stick of dynamite in matching heels and you’d pretty much know her visual impact.

Morgan’s fair skin showed none of the freckles so often accompanying red hair, and her jawline was clean and strong on her smallish head, almost too small for her eyes, which in profile prominently showed her cornea in front of her lovely blue iris, like a young Julie Cox. She had a way of posing her mouth with lips making about a 45-degree angle—if she’d been looking with closed eyes to the warm Southern California winter sun, the position of her uplifted lips would’ve suggested drinking in its warmth undiluted. It provocatively hinted at something else, too, but I wasn’t here to ogle beautiful young women, especially not from the company of my wife’s family. I remember how my cousin used to fap himself to sleep every night with a bikini picture of his older sister on his nightstand, and what a photo it’d been: Perfectly shaped FF breasts on a 5′ frame with a beautiful glowingly healthy face and trim athletic figure otherwise built for tennis; he’s 40 now and still unmarried. Nope, not gonna go there—I succeeded in mostly looking elsewhere despite the magnetic attraction Morgan held from two rows in front of me. Until communion.

This was a very full Mass with Eucharistic Ministers at the front and back of every aisle, so my pew emptied before hers and I’d returned to the front of my aisle seat before her row moved. As she passed, she inclined her head so subtly that no one else would notice and whispered “I see you,” her voice soft and cool, and I got a little hard despite myself, which I expect she knew would happen. They definitely don’t make college kids the way they did when I was one, at least not of the rich, gorgeous variety in L.A.

There was the usual milling about in the courtyard after Mass, and my wife, whose hand I held at the time, was chatting with her other family members as Morgan and her family passed. Morgan angled towards me and spoke softly, wearing a slightly quizzical expression, “you have something I ... need,” then her small warm fingers brushed past my free hand and, the back of my hand prickling, I found myself holding a discreetly folded scrap of white paper. No one else noticed. When I opened it later I found Morgan’s first name, cell number, and a brief note: “I turned 20 in October”. Clear firm feminine handwriting. OK, she’s legal, bless her, not that I was going anywhere near that, and I still wasn’t certain she was more interested in me or my son. It would be several months before I would know I needed to contact her.

Next in chapter 1:

Elevator — A magic-enhanced mind controller attempts to enslave Bob.