Book: Penny Candy
The one-cent piece is one of the most maligned of American coins. It weighs in the pocket, and can't-like it used to-buy you gum, parking, or sixty seconds through a Rocky Mountain viewer. It collects in little trays in convenience stores where the clerks can't be bothered to deal with the taxman. The penny still clogs up sink drains, and remains the most frequently swallowed coin of the American toddler. Not surprisingly, along with a clothespin and a poker chip, my sister found three of them in her broken VCR.
Once, minting pennies really was making something out of nothing. But now, inflation has transformed penny manufacturing into making next to nothing out of nothing. Strangely enough, however, people still flock to Denver to see Lincoln 's head handily embossed on a round of copper, as if the minting of money was like watching water being turned into wine.
"Hey, Mickey!" A paper wad hit me in the shoulder. Instantly I turned and conveyed my disapproval to Jameson. "A coupla your kind on Channel One…"
Instinctively, I lowered the volume on my radio and turned my eyes toward the sidewalk monitor. It was one of the six screens I was responsible for. In its infinite wisdom, the U.S. Department of the Treasury had commissioned me to protect America 's diminishing supply of pennies at the U.S. Mint in Denver. In general, tourists are a trustworthy lot, but around money, nefarious minds are always at work.
Levon J. loved to tease me about all the dykes on the security cameras, and over the years he'd gotten almost as good as me at spotting them. The women were just about to step out of frame, into the dead space between One and Two, but the admission line had slowed. On the control panel, I toggled the zoom lens for a closer look.
Pia Sheppard was suddenly in front of me in high relief. I recognized the layered brush of her graying blonde hair, since I've watched her a lot from the back, playing darts at Joker's on Thursday nights. Her biker jacket was open and she was laughing, and unself-consciously holding the hand of a woman I didn't recognize.
"Bingo," I muttered under my breath. I knew all of Pia's friends, I thought. "Must be an out-of-towner."
She was shorter than Pia, but not by much, and her dark hair was cut in a blunt pageboy. She was wearing dark glasses and a long trenchcoat. It was precisely the sort of disguise we'd been warned to watch out for at security school. I'd have suspected a sawed-off shotgun under the khaki had she not had both hands where I could see them. The two women were at the end of the tour line and I knew they wouldn't be joined by any other curiosity seekers for the day. They'd caught the last tour, the 2:45.
Over the stairway to the gallery in the stamping room, Channel Two picked them up again, lingering at the rail and pointing at the machines. Despite the absence of audio, I recognized from the sway of their shoulders that the rhythm of industry was having an effect on them.
They stood away from other tourists, and Maggie Holowaczyk, the docent, was preoccupied with the questions of some precocious eight-year-old triplets at the head of the small crowd. But they got my attention.
Even with their backs to the camera I could see that Pia had her arm inside the stranger's coat, perhaps jammed down the back of her coffee-colored cargo pants, fingering an elastic band of underwear, tracing along a hip, already wet herself. The girlfriend had her head turned slightly, and I caught the warning, impish gaze that asked, Just what do you thinly you're doing?
"Yo, Jameson," I said loudly.
I heard my buddy twist in his chair. "What?"
"Check this out."
Pia Sheppard is the most frustrating and exciting lover I've ever had, and I've had plenty. It's not that I'm loose, but fucking is an art, and I've got a creative side. I like the chase, the seduction, the tease, the bite.
It's not serious between us.
It started about three months ago, one night after my team was routed by hers at the dartboard; I bought her an Anchor Steam. That was the first clue that she had some class. At first I had my doubts about whether or not I was really attracted to her-she's not my usual type. She shoots darts in silk blouses and sexy heels; her skirt usually matches the jacket she's discarded. But it's just drag for work, she assures me. She's a tour guide on one of the buses that run out regularly to the foothills of the Rockies.
She didn't resist my invitation to come home with me that night, and I fucked her for hours, with my mouth and hands, on top and underneath and from behind. She came in copious, creamy shudders, biting her lip, or mine, or gasping a throaty, "Don't stop," until she passed out in the breaking dawn. I hadn't let her reciprocate. I'm a patient sort, and a little too butch to let down my guard early in the game.
In the succeeding weeks, however, she got more assertive and I let her, but I couldn't orgasm to save my life.
Channel Three caught them in the stairwell between stamping and sorting. They'd fallen a good ways behind their group, and Pia took advantage. She glanced furtively over her shoulder to make sure there was no one behind them. The lover's coat was open, and the front of her shirt unfolded over two of the most spectacular breasts I had ever seen. With a lascivious slowness designed to torture, Pia lowered her open mouth to a sallow nipple and hungrily stuffed the softness in. Pia pressed the woman's shoulders against the wall and sucked at her like an angry stoat, denied enough. A hand raked through her hair, and her head moved to the other breast.
"Damn," breathed Jameson. He was standing behind my chair. He dug his hands deep into his pants pockets and fingered his change. "Is she going to do her right there?"
What the fuck was she doing? Maybe I shouldn't have been jealous-like I said, things between us aren't serious. But somehow, as I watched her saunter in the shadow off Camera Three, leaving her sweet young thing buttoning up and panting and saying something, I wondered what her agenda was. Then she was there again, grasping the woman's arm with an assured swagger, and once again, disappearing into the darkness.
There's dead space between Three and Four, a two-minute passage through the stacked pallets of coin bags and copper rods, down from the gallery and then onto the shop floor, where the sewing machines zip up five-dollar pouches. The tour group was already three minutes into the lecture by the time Pia and company emerged from the hallway. Pia had positioned herself so that the camera caught her dead on, but if she knew it was there she ignored it. Her back was turned three-quarters of the way away from her group, and she leaned in to whisper in her friend's ear.
Then she looked up, straight at the camera, expressionless, as she dropped a hand into her crotch, and she slowly massaged the inside of her thigh, as if she was packing. I watched her mouth the words: "I'm going to fuck you hard…"
Behind me, Jameson groaned. "Damn, this works for me." I heard him unbuckle his belt and quickly slip it out of his belt loops.
I rolled my eyes, but gestured toward the door. "Don't look at me to help you out, partner," I said. "Lock up if you are going to get off."
I had to admit, I was pretty fucking horny myself.
I looked back to the monitor. Pia had stepped in close to her new lover, as if a conversation of deep importance was about to take place. From my vantage point, I could see that she had unzipped her jeans, and that she was guiding her girlfriend's hand into her panties.
That's when I lost it, to be honest, because Pia has large hands. I find that moment-when my partner's finger just brushes the crease of my dripping vulva-to be excruciatingly erotic, and I could see that Pia was getting exactly such treatment. Pia likes to be in me, with one finger or four, teasing and tugging, pushing hard and slow, especially when I am standing. I like it, too, until I can't stand anymore.
Jameson had had the decency to position himself a few feet away and behind me, and I heard his breath start to deepen and huff as he started to whack himself off. I have little interest in cocks, so I ignored him. I heard him mumble, Shit, she's in her pussy, and speed up his own action.
I moved to the edge of my own chair and unzipped my khakis and jammed my hand into my slippery slit. I wasn't going to waste any time, so I started my rhythmic thrum and felt my heart start to rev.
Pia's gal pal looked nervous. The look on Pia's face was hard, determined, and she shifted her weight on her feet, and I felt the squeeze of her pelvic muscles on my own fingers. A hand found an upper arm, a grasp I knew. Then the girfriend withdrew, holding her sex hand awkwardly until Pia lifted it and licked her own juice from her fingers.
The tour group had started to move again, the collective rumble of slow walkers turning in unison, and Pia zipped up. She was shaking a little, not with any kind of nervousness, but with the anticipatory kind of tremor that lets you know there's more to come.
At Channel Five I was hot, but Pia was nowhere to be seen. In shipping, the tourists crowded around the forklift track, as pallets of coins were stabbed and lifted, until the little trucks were nearly tipping over. Sweat ran down the nape of my neck and behind my ear. I was on the plateau, abuzz with hot engorgement, taking my strokes in practiced, long pleasure, not wanting to rush.
I scanned the screen, wishing I could see Pia, as if she might also be able to see me, and know what I look like on the veritable edge of coming.
The night before, with her tongue inside me, I had been begging, willing my cunt to swallow her, hoping that the pull and suck would never stop. But it did, and I hadn't finished. Pia had dressed in the semi-darkness, silently.
"Don't be angry," I'd said.
"I'm not," she'd answered too quickly. "I'm not sure why you're holding back."
"You can't really think that."
She shrugged. "Maybe it's me." A moment. A stare that could kill. "But I've never had this problem before."
What could I say? She slammed the front door as she went out.
I'd lost all sense of caring where she'd gone when Six picked them up in the lobby, lingering over the souvenirs and display cases of Penny Anomalies: Coins Gone Wrong. There, some penny sculptures and paper-thin coins made up a sort of Ripley's Believe It or Not of the weird and wonderful of Centiana.
I was solidly perched on my own three fingers, mixing and churning and waiting.
Pia looked pissed. She gestured at her girlfriend, sullen and threatening. The crowd had pretty much dispersed, and the lobby guard was trying not to listen in to whatever angry words were being exchanged.
I was seconds away from coming. If only Pia knew.
But suddenly, the girlfriend had hold of Pia's jacket, jerking it, and Pia reeled, turning toward the camera, and her hand went back, calculated her aim, and smacked the stranger's jaw in a hard, open slap. The girl staggered back a pace and jostled a display, knocking a jar of pennies to the ground in a shattering rain of copper.
The camera caught Pia in a sly smile, and I came all over myself.
Andi Mathis is the pseudonym of a New York academic. She is single, butch, and wears a leather jacket. Her ambitions include a successful novel, teaching in China, and raising a morally straight son. She likes women, but not cats. Her work has appeared in many lesbian publications.
"Penny Candy," by Andi Mathis, © 2000 by Andi Mathis, first appeared in Exhibitions: Tales of Sex in the City, edited by Michele Davidson (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2000). Reprinted by permission of the author.