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The Exquisite Corpse - A Journal of Letters and Life
Edited by Andrei Codrescu
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the making and unmaking of person
The Making and Unmaking of Person

Busting Holes
by Joe Camhi

"You gotta bust the holes. Right, Vin?"
      "Right, Mike."
      "If you don't do it, some other guy will. Right, Vin?"
      "Right, Mike."
      "They want it just like you want it. Don't let em fool you. Forget that I-love-you-you-love-me bullshit. Just. Bust. Their. Holes. Right, Vin?"
      "Right, Mike. I been busting holes since I was ten."
      "You hear that? Tell him, Vin. I want him to learn."
      "While Mikey was busy playing baseball, I was busy busting holes."
      "Vinny's smart. I was stupid. What can I say? I liked baseball. I was a schmuck, a real schmuck. I mean, baseball's good, don't get me wrong, but you gotta bust the holes. Right, Vin?"
      "Yeah, baseball's all right, but I'd rather bust a hole."
      "See? See what I mean? You busting any holes, boy?"
      I don't answer. I can't answer. I'm an eleven-year-old boy sitting in the front seat between my father and his best friend, Uncle Vinny. We're speeding down the Belt Parkway in my father's bright red Thunderbird, and, not for the first or last time in my life, I feel like a total loser. I hadn't busted any holes. Sure, I can tell you this now, about twenty years have passed, and I'll admit that at the age of eleven, I hadn't busted any holes yet, but, just so you'll be aware of how demented I am, let me tell you this: this is the first time I'm confessing this to anybody, and I don't like it, not one bit.
      My father pops a cigarette in his mouth, whips out his Zippo, and rolls down the window. His jet-black hair flies wildly in the wind. He's laughing. I'm sweating. "You got a girlfriend, son?"
      "Not right now. I used to."
      He turns to Vinny. "You hear that, Vin? He already had a girlfriend." He turns to me, "Who do you think you are, Tyrone Power?" Then to Vinny, "My boy's a good-looking guy. He's gonna be a heartbreaker. Gonna break a million hearts, bust a million holes." He winks. "Don't tell your sister I said that." Then he gets serious, "Here's what you do, boy. Just tell em this. Say, 'You're with me, you got nothing to worry about.' Vinny, my son's not gonna be stupid and waste his time playing baseball and getting married like his father."

She pulled out the ring, and she asked me to marry her. It was a plastic ring, like a big red mushroom. She held it to her eye like a magnifying glass. "Everything's pink," she said. The discarded Cracker Jack box lay on her bed. However, at the age of eight and one of the few Jewish kids in a Catholic neighborhood, I was a realistic child. Just last week, in Ms. Israel's second grade class, I had made a Catholic girl cry with my brilliant thirty-word essay proving, beyond a reasonable doubt, that there actually is no Santa because if there were, Daddy would sue him for anti-Semitism because he never left a present for me. Her faith was already shattered because a week before, when she opened a bloody tissue and showed me her tooth, I bet her that there was no Tooth Fairy. "Just pretend you're asleep," I said. She did. I won. And I ended up with the fifty cents her father left under her pillow. So I had some credibility when I awed the Catholic students with my dissertation disproving the existence of Santa Claus. However, a month after Katie asked me to marry her, when I attempted to argue that Jesus Christ himself did not exist, or "if he did, he was just a guy," the Catholic boys watched me, vestiges of the Crusades appearing in their eyes. Then I blew it: "A Jewish Guy," I added.
      They attacked.
      "Turn the other cheek!" I yelled. "Turn the other cheek!"
      And Anthony Gambino said, "We don't listen to no Jews!"
      But now, Katie was asking me to marry her, watching me pink through the gaudy ring against her eye.
      Unfortunately, after disproving the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus, I wasn't about to believe in the institution of marriage, especially between two eight-year olds. "We're not big enough," I said.
      "But Mommy says I'm a big girl," she said.
      "We're in second grade," I said.
      "When are you going to marry me?" she said.
      "Not now. Wanna play with my trucks?" I said.
      In second grade Katie was a cute little girl with blond pigtails and green eyes.
      In sixth grade Katie was tall and gawky, flat-chested with no bottom.
      In ninth grade Katie was a knockout, and every time I looked at her, it was as if I were sitting between my father and Uncle Vinny, and I'd hear my father say, "Bust that hole."

"When your mother left me," my father said, "I didn't know what the hell to do. I didn't want to do anything. Just wanted to close down the factory. Then Uncle Vinny took me under his wing. He taught me how to bust the holes, and one day, when you're old enough, I'll teach you."
      I was driving my father in crazy directions, trying to make Dad's Sunday visitation last longer before he took me back to Mom's house. We drove around my neighborhood. "Go left," I'd say. "Go right," I'd say, but I could never get him lost.
      "Here's what you gotta do, Son. Say, 'You're with me, you got nothing to worry about.'"
      Even at the age of eleven I knew that this was an absolutely ridiculous line. And I'm not saying I'm good at spotting bad lines. "I just tell em, 'You remind me of my ex-girlfriend.' Works every time," said Ken Pearlstein. I tried it on the edge of the dance floor, and the girl laughed in my face. "I always tell them, 'Your eyes remind me of my grandma's eyes.' They like that sweet maternal shit," said Alan Bernstein. "Lets em know you're not just interested in sex." He frowned. "Cause who in his right mind would want to have sex with his grandma? It's disgusting!" I tried it, not realizing under the dim lights of the bar that the girl was in her thirties. She slapped me hard in the face. "Forget the lines," said Zach Ziegler. "Be honest with her. I tell her when I meet her that I want her. But only when I'm getting the vibes. They want it like you want it." I thought I was getting the vibes and ended up with cold alcohol and juice dripping down my face. Apparently, she didn't want it. So, believe me when I tell you I'm not very good at spotting bad lines.
      However, even the first time I heard my father's line, I knew there was something wrong. I knew that it couldn't be the secret he was always promising to teach me one day when I got older. I couldn't imagine using it. Not at eleven. Not at fourteen. Not at twenty. Not at thirty. I would have felt much more comfortable saying, "You're with me, what are you thinking?"
      "Tell her your father owns a clothing factory," Dad would say.
      "Go right," I'd say.
      "Tell her you'll give her a couple a dresses," Dad would say.
      "Go left," I'd say.
      "One day I'm gonna teach you," Dad would say.

Second grade. Ms. Israel's class. Show and Tell. I was telling the story my father told me last Sunday. Years ago, back in the sixties, Big Daddy's daughter loved my father. Big Daddy owned a hamburger franchise called Big Daddy's, which appeared all over the East Coast. "Big Daddy was a millionaire, a multimillionaire," my father said, "and he loved me, and wanted me to marry his daughter. But, what am I, nuts? I'm gonna get married again? What am I, a punk kid? What am I, a schmuck?"
      Ms. Israel, who wore a black beret over her spiked bleached-blond hair, who wore an old army jacket and black potato-sack dresses, who never shaved her pits or legs, and who once told the class of eight-year olds that it would be more fair if they changed the name "Manhattan" to "Peoplehattan," was not amused. She shook her head. "Your father fools around a lot?" she asked.
      "No. He told her he didn't want to marry her."
      "I mean he fools around with you. He tells a lot of stories, right?"
      "He gets a lot of girls," I said.
      Ms. Israel cringed at the word "girls." "Women, say women."
      "He gets a lot of women."

Zach Ziegler and I were watching the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders dance for us on TV. Zach was sitting in front of the TV, and I was lying on my stomach keeping vigilant watch over my pelvis, making sure it didn't just start humping the mattress like it wanted. The girls wore their skimpy bright blue tops and were wiggling their tight white short-short-clad bottoms, which shone nicely in the Texas sun. So, at the age of fourteen, as I watched cowgirls whipping their tight butts up and down, back and forth, and all the way around in wild little circles, as I watched the back of Zach's head every time I snuck a hump, I came to a profound realization.
      "Hey, Zach," I said.
      "Tits are nice. But asses are the best."

The gluteus maximus is the most powerful muscle in the human body. And when two are attached to a woman, in proper proportions, they are far more powerful than that: the gluteus maximi form the most beautiful shape in the world. The ass. Orrhos. Puga pyga. Ærs. Arse. Ass. Far more beautiful than a Rembrandt, Monet, van Gogh, or any great work of literature.
      I think that I shall never pass
      A shape as lovely as an ass.
      Just two muscles, two bumps, an upside-down valentine. Yes, God was kind when he created the woman's ass and hot-wired man's brains to covet it. Adam must have been staring at Eve's butt as he guiltily bit into the forbidden fruit and waited for God's angry lightening.
      Perhaps it's sexist to leave out the fact that women like a nice ass too, but what the hell do I know? I'm not Tiresias, and, besides, I think that Theban libertine was a liar and deserved his punishment when he told Hera, whose husband couldn't stop busting holes, that women like it more than men. Yeah, right!
      About this time, I noticed Katie Rabinowitz's butt had filled out. Okay, it wasn't perfect, a bit bigger than perfection, but everything else about her was perfect: her smooth face, her green cat eyes, her long blond hair, and besides, she was Jewish. In addition, she asked me to marry her only six years ago. The only problem was, I couldn't even speak to her. Sure, I could sweat. Sweating was easy. Whenever she was near, my mouth would close, and my sweat glands would open.
      "Hey, what's the matter?" Zach would say. "You're sweating. Are you all right? Talk to me. Can you hear me? Huh? How many fingers am I holding up? Say something. Anything. What's your name? Will someone please call a doctor?"
      As we chased after girls, as I secreted snail-trails of perspiration in my wake, we all watched with jealous awe when Zach Ziegler, whom we had known since kindergarten, suddenly sprinted out way ahead of us like the Road Runner and just as annoying. Zach dashed through the girls in our grade, then zoomed through the older girls, that's right, the tenth and eleventh graders! and didn't stop there, no way! suddenly he was with seniors, yes, seniors! and then it was the surrounding schools and neighborhoods. Zach had long blond hair and displayed his stubble when most of us couldn't. We'd come back from parties chickless and feeling profoundly empty holes boring through our stomachs, arms, and groins. Inevitably, we'd talk about Zach:
      "Fuckin Zach."
      "Fuck him."
      "That fuck."
      "Fuckin asshole."
      "That's fucked up."
      Then we'd agree: "I wanna be like Zach."
      I wanted to grab Zach, hold him still for a moment, and say, "Stop. It was supposed to be me, not you. My father promised me!"

"You gotta bust the holes," my father would say, and then he'd wink. "Don't tell your sister I said that."
      And when my older sister was with us, his rhetoric would change, and he'd say, "You gotta get the girls."
      As soon as my sister hit puberty, she began rolling her eyes and correcting our father.
      "Women. He gotta get the women."
      "But he's only ten years old."
      "Listen to me, sweetheart. You can be a-hundred-and-sixty-two-years old, and you're still my little baby."
      It was the seventies, and true to the reigning feminist theories of the times, my mother, my sister, and Ms. Israel had me convinced that, except for their vaginas, dormant breasts, and the fact that they were always right and I was always wrong, there was absolutely no difference between girls and boys. And what the hell, I liked playing with my sister's dolls.
      I taped a tiny plastic knife to GI Joe's mouth, pretending he was holding the cold metal between his lips and tasting the salty bloodied steel with his tongue.



GI JOE is parachuting into the jungle. He's holding his knife in his mouth. When he passes the trees, his parachute gets snared by the branches. He grabs his knife and cuts the strings connecting him to the parachute. He falls to the ground and is knocked unconscious for a moment. Then he springs to his feet.

We HEAR the SOUNDS OF FIERCE JUNGLE ANIMALS. GI Joe freezes. He listens.

            FARMER (O.S)
      The cow says;

We HEAR a cow MOO.

            FARMER (O.S.)
      Listen to the cat.

We HEAR a cat MEOW.

            FARMER (O.S.)
      This is a dog.

We HEAR a dog BARK.

GI Joe collects himself and starts to run through the jungle.

Monstrous babies fly at him as if a giant, off screen, were throwing them. One baby's arm breaks off, another's head cracks, but still they keep coming. Finally, GI Joe stands in front of KEN. Ken's wearing sideburns, a beard, long hair, bell-bottom jeans, and a groovy shirt.

BARBIE, blond, tanned, and beautiful, is tied to a tree which resembles a giant chair leg.

      You came for me, Joe. You really came.

GI Joe moves toward Barbie. Ken picks up his rifle.

      Not so fast, pig.

            GI JOE
      Let her go, Ken.

      Love to, baby. But I don't take no orders from the man. Dig it?

            GI JOE
      I'll dig you a grave.

      Be cool, fuzz. You're bringing me down, man.

Ken pulls the trigger, but as soon as he does, GI Joe dives to the ground, throwing his knife at Ken's chest, slicing through his evil heart.

Ken looks at the knife embedded in his chest and falls to his knees.

      Wow, dude. Heavy. What a trip.

He looks up at GI Joe.

      Peace, baby.

He falls on his face dead.

GI Joe begins to untie Barbie.

      I love you, GI Joe.

GI Joe gently holds her hair in his Kung Fu Grip™.

            GI JOE
      (looking in her eyes)
      You're with me, you got nothing to worry about.


Whenever Katie Rabinowitz passed me in the halls of our high school, I'd fade away--I'd melt into pool of sweat. I faded slowly from her life. When I first noticed her butt, she turned around, catching me. She smiled. "Hello," was all I could say. All I could think about was that she caught me staring at her butt, and, somehow, I had to bust her hole. The next time I saw her, I quickly turned away, afraid she'd think I was staring at her. After that we said "hello" when we passed. Then she simply smiled at me. And then I disappeared.
      Okay, big deal, a high-school crush. But some things stick, and Katie Rabinowitz is a fantasy and a template in my mind. Every woman I ever take out, I measure against Katie Rabinowitz: the girl I should have had. In high school it was poor Mary Wonder. She was a nervous, chubby bulimic. I used to joke with Zach. "If I have to look at bags of green puke, why can't she be thin? If she'd only throw up a little more," I'd say.
      In college I dated a cheerleader for about a month. That's right, a cheerleader! She was slightly less beautiful than Katie; however, unlike Katie, she wore the school colors on her short-short cheerleader skirt and her tight-tight cheerleader top. One night, I lay on the bed, and she stood in front of me naked in cowboy boots. In cowboy boots! So, of course, I asked her to give me a little cheer, "and, uh, do you think you can substitute my name for the football team's name?" She dressed quickly and left my room, tears pouring from her eyes, curses pouring from her lips.
      In graduate school there were others, like Nilda Gonzales who was tiny, tight, and one of the few who were even more beautiful than Katie. Her jet-black curls literally rolled past her golden brown shoulders all the way down, yes, all the way down to the top of her perfect bottom. It took me four years to get her into bed. Four years! However, it was a big school, and I'd only run into this gorgeous undergraduate once a year. The fourth time I saw her, I asked her if she wanted to go for a drink. Unfortunately, Jimmy Morgan was behind the bar. Jimmy poured us round after round of free beers. Next, Nilda ordered a shot of Jagermeister, and Jimmy gave us each a full glass. When Nilda began sipping her drink, she told me how lonely she was feeling. Midway through her drink, she told me she hadn't done it for a long time. Nearing the bottom of the glass, she told me she was feeling horny. As she slurped the last drop through the stirrer, she watched me with her deep brown eyes. Then she said, "I wanna fuck you."
      "Taxi!" I yelled in front of the pub. One pulled up, and we jumped in, kissing furiously.
      I got her home and in bed, and although my pelvis was pounding, nothing was happening. My penis lay there like a deflated inner tube. It seemed like all the blood had dried up within my body. Humping seemed silly. I was kissing her as sensuously as I could, and still nothing. I closed my eyes, and in mind, I begged my penis, "Just bust that hole." But still it remained flaccid. Then, while still kissing Nilda, I began thinking about Katie Rabinowitz, her hair, her eyes; I even imagined her cheering for me in nothing but cowboy boots. I think my penis was beginning to awaken from its alcohol-induced stupor. I was finally kissing Katie. However, it was Nilda who puked in my mouth.
      Now I'm teaching at a local community college. I prefer community colleges because the girls seem prettier and less studious. Though I've never dated any of my students (and even if I did, I wouldn't admit that here since the school has a policy against such behavior), I often fantasize about getting rid of the books, hiring a wet bar and a DJ, and hanging a disco ball in the middle of my classroom.

"Who do you think you are, Tyrone Power?" my father would say. "One day I'm gonna teach you, boy. You gotta talk to them. Don't be intimidated. Remember this, no matter how good looking she is, the most beautiful models in the world, supermodels, when they take a shit, the water splashes their ass just like yours and mine. That's right. Vinny taught me that. What are you, so good looking you don't have to talk to them? What are you, Tyrone Power?"
      Finally, after years, I asked him: "What is a Tyrone Power?"
      Tyrone Power was a star when my father was a boy. "Better looking than Robert Redford and Paul Newman," he'd say in the seventies. Tyrone Power swashbuckled his way through silver goddesses like Ava Gardner, Nancy Kelly, Ann Blyth, Alice Faye, and Linda Darnel. "He had perfect features, as if his face was chiseled in stone," my father would say, "and he had jet-black hair."
      "What does jet-black mean?" I asked.
      "As dark as dark could be," he said.
      But my hair was dirty-blond. On the other hand, my father's hair was jet-black. However, this was his only resemblance to Tyrone Power. My father had been overweight ever since he threw his last pitch in high school. In addition, he had a big Jewish nose, and his facial features seemed hardened by years of harsh work at his clothing factory. Yet he busted so many holes with his magic jet-black hair.

I'm writing this for two reasons. Two weeks ago, I was sitting in a crowded subway car when straight across from me, I noticed Katie Rabinowitz. She was all grown up and pregnant: once again, a missed opportunity. Suddenly, I was back in high school, jealous and angry that Zach took her to the prom. It should have been me, I thought as I looked at her inflated stomach. Then I noticed her face. Her face was obese. I realized that she wasn't pregnant, she was simply fat. With horror, I understood that for the first time since puberty, I didn't want Katie Rabinowitz. I felt shallow, hollow; I walked over to her.
      "Katie, right?"
      She looked at me curiously. Then recognition. She smiled, and her green cat eyes lit up, and for an instant I saw the old Katie, and I thought, once again, that she might be pregnant. Either way, I'm a loser, but I had to know what kind of loser.
      "Are you pregnant? Cause you look pretty fat?" No, I couldn't ask that. I stood there trying to think of what to say.
      "What happened to you?" No good.
      "Feeding or fucking?" Yeah, right.
      "Expecting?" What if she's not?
      The train stopped.
      "My stop," she said. "Nice seeing you again."
      As she was getting off the train, I looked for the ass that haunted me since puberty, but could only see a slight outline beneath her baggy dress. She caught me, smiled. "Goodbye," was all I could say. She left the train.

Here's the other reason why I'm writing this. Last night, I was visiting my father, his jet-black hair now iron-gray.
      He laughed. "You busting any holes?"
      "Some," I said.
      "My boy. You should have seen the girls I had when I was your age. Dancers and models. I'd throw them a twenty and that was that. You gotta bust the holes, right?"
      "What did you say?"
      "You gotta bust the holes, right, boy?"
      "I mean before that?"
      "What? I'd throw them a twenty? What am I, Tyrone Power? What am I, so good looking that the girls are gonna drop to their knees in front of me? I'd throw them a twenty--that's it. I'm going to bed, boy."
      I made myself a cup of coffee. I thought about my father and his twenty-dollar bills as I drank the bitter liquid.
      "Surely," I thought, "surely he didn't throw Big Daddy's daughter a twenty." However, I saw a dainty hand wearing a white satin glove, gold bracelets, and diamond rings quickly shoving a crumpled twenty into a diamond studded purse. "Surely not Big Daddy's daughter!" I thought.
      Then I saw my father, dressed as Elvis Presley, jet-black hair, big belly, wearing the rhinestone studded white jumpsuit that the king wore to his last performance. My father's upper lip twitches as he sings "Love Me Tender" to a panting audience of models and dancers and heiresses.
                Love me tender,
                Love me dear,
                Tell me you are mine.

      As he's singing, he whips out a twenty-dollar bill and mops it across his sweaty face. Then he flings it into the audience, and the woman it hits swoons. Then another twenty, and another woman breathlessly faints. Then another. And another. And another . . .
                I'll be yours through all the years,
                Till the end of time.




home archives submit black market comrads hot sites search ec chair peotick kultur anti-amthropomorphism
new economics of late capitalism gallery zounds the making and unmaking of person
diaries and memoirs translation and her retinue
the book of revelations and epiphanies working class sweat
the making and unmaking of person the corpse reads classics letters

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