by Kevin Carrel Footer

Like those great outer space explorations where they shoot a rocket around a planet and then use the momentum created slingshot-like to careen ever deeper into space, I have long ricocheted through a constellation of women. Twinkling, blinking, shimmying in the heavens, they have filled my night sky with a celestial light.

My fascination with women has brought me great pleasures, both spiritual and sexual: the woman in the cemetery, the woman in the shack on the island in the storm, the woman on the terrace while her husband slept – and so many others and on and on and in and out and hump and grab and grunt and expire.

I cannot truthfully say that I have grown tired of sex. No, not exactly. But I can say without doubt that I have grown weary of chasing that thing I thought it would vouchsafe me. I have become tired of having that broken promise thrust in my face after every copulation, as if the waiter had come with the bill. After so many fruitless repetitions it has begun to lose its lustre. All along the way I told myself I was chasing something sacred and not some pearly-white biological imposition.

But is that all there is?

My sex is like a money box, a steel container tucked up deep inside me, like those that survive in pay phones, ready to amass our coins. Or old parking meters, beloved target of low-rent thieves.

But my money box, which once expended coins in its quest for illumination, is now drained of its last drippy currency and rattles in vacancy.

I have sinned so many times against love that I barely feel the prick anymore.

*****

One summer, I got a slingshot. I was on vacation with my best friend Scott and his family at their place in Tahoe. Somehow we had convinced his father to take us to a sporting goods store and buy slingshots. I have the feeling that we had worked on him for a long time, probably long before we left on vacation. Getting taken to the sporting goods store was a major achievement for us and a confirmation of our political skills.

These were no ordinary slingshots. These were “Pocket Rockets,” a brand that yanked slingshots out of the David & Goliath age and thrust them into the 20th Century with high tech materials, moulded plastic handles with a cool swirly design, surgical rubber tubing, a suede pouch in which to put the rock or metal ball bearing you proposed to embed in the rusty old can trembling on the log. This was the sort of slingshot kids all over the world dreamed about.

Our parents evidently thought that we were mature enough to be trusted with such a weapon, one kids across the ages had used to shoot down birds, pummel stray dogs and shatter windows. But we were in it for the sport of target shooting. Amazingly, I never once aimed at a bird.

Those first days with the slingshot were happy ones. The adults had to drag us in to eat. We fired and fired away, stone after stone. We couldn’t get enough.

In the house one night, getting cleaned up for dinner after a day of shooting, I pulled out a folded pink oxford shirt that my mother had packed for me. Scott stepped out of the shower and saw me in my splendid pink shirt. “You’re such a ladies’ man, Kevin.” It was bad enough what he said – no adolescent wants to be accused of such a vile thing – but worse was how he said it: he said it with disgust, he spat it out. My best friend hated me at that moment.

It seems silly, but our friendship never recovered from that comment or that look of disgust.

But women seemed to like that pink shirt.

*****

With my second girlfriend and later first wife, we took a cross-country trip in a 1967 Ford Mustang. Suffice it to say that making love in the back of ’67 Mustang is not anatomically correct.

We ended up doing it with one door open or on muddy slopes by the side of the road or wherever. It was the American version of the Grand Tour: a fast car, light on luggage and a horniness as big as the American Landscape.

One of our non-sexual adventures was tracking down an old man in Mississippi who made slingshots. We had seen him on 60 Minutes sitting in a rocking chair under a tree carving old-timey slingshots from branches that made crooked Y shapes.

We just had the name of the town, but sure enough, asking around, we found him, sitting in a rocking chair under a tree carving slingshots – just like we had seen him on the TV. It was eerie. I imagined a Truman Show-like apparatus radioing in our approach, an assistant touching up his make-up and the old man releasing a stream of expletives prohibited on the airwaves when he was obliged to leave his air-conditioned trailer.

We sat a while with him, chatting. He wasn’t surprised to see us. He was polite and soft-spoken. He didn’t put his knife down except to shake our hands and then went right back to whittling. He had a bushel basket beside him full of his handiwork. I sorted through them, then chose one for myself.

*****

Sometimes I feel as if an imploding star had been shot slingshot-like through our home, breaking all the windows; perverting all the bonds; twisting love into a dark, strangled thing; emptying the reservoirs of pardon.

Who holds the slingshot now?

That would be me.

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