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Nude naked woman 

She's putty in your mind

Lary is pouting, which I didn't think was possible. I had no idea he had that in his limited repertoire of expressions. I've known him a long time, and as far as I could tell he had two gears: evil and quietly evil. Take the time he helped me move after I left 50 phone messages threatening to contact his stalker -- the one with the fake tits big enough to be seen from other solar systems -- to tell her he didn't die horribly in a grease fire after all. "Pick up the phone, ass-tard," I hollered into his voicemail, "or little Miss Psycho Twat will be sleeping in your driveway again."

Lary did not pick up the phone, but rather he simply showed up at my house later that day chipper as a Christian at summer camp. It wasn't until a month later, when I finally got around to unpacking, that I saw he'd demolished anything breakable in every box he'd carried. "You didn't need that shit, anyway," was his excuse, and the only reason he's still my friend is because he's probably right.

And now he is pouting because, he said, I keep misrepresenting his new business venture, the mail-order mosquito-larvae empire. "They're not mosquito larvae," he keeps insisting. "Don't call them mosquito larvae."

"But that's exactly what they are. You scooped them out of a puddle in your carport, for chrissakes," I said. "What the hell else should I call them?"

"Swamp Buddies."

"Swamp Buddies?" I choked.

"Swamp Buddies, bitch," he said. "It's all in the advertising. Use your imagination."

Jesus God, it's sewer sludge. I don't care how you package it, who the hell is gonna fork over dough for diseased vector eggs? Of course, I remember when I was a kid I sent off for a packet of magic Sea Monkeys. The packet was probably no more than a few pellets of compressed anthrax, but still, after I added the water, I fully expected the sludge to evolve into the enchanted population of regal little creatures depicted in the comic-book ad, including the smiling Sea Monkey King complete with crown and triton. I planned to name him Ferdinand, stage assassinations and enact tiny little world wars.

But all I got was a festering little splooge of silt, which did little to inspire my imagination. Maybe my little sister, who had a stuffed animal for a best friend -- a monkey that picked her daisies and cheated at cards -- maybe she would have seen the king with his crown and triton, and the rest of the royalty ruling over a divided class of plebes and merchants, but when I looked at the finished product, all I saw was a teeming pool of toilet drool. Thank god my mother flushed it before it could solidify and terrorize the town.

You'd think I'd learn my lesson after that, but I am still such a volcanic sucker when it comes to advertising. Later, as an adolescent, I succumbed to a flier I found at the liquor store next to the bar where my father spent his days, and I sent away for a picture that promised, for 50 cents, the pornographic depiction of a "nude naked" woman having sex with a turtle. All I can say in my defense was that there were no offers of other pornographic pictures, because if there were other options -- like for pictures of nude-naked women having sex with nude-naked men -- then maybe I would have picked those. But my only choice was girl-on-turtle, so I had to go with that.

I filled out the flier, taped two actual physical quarters to it and mailed it off. Believe it or not, I actually received a picture in the mail. It was of a jowly, rheumy-eyed bag lady lying on a sidewalk with a turtle on her stomach. She wasn't naked, and the turtle was plastic. But by that time the nude-naked people had my two quarters and what was I supposed to do? I had to take my lumps and toss the photo.

I found it a year later tucked into the stack of jack-off mags my brother kept stuffed under his desk. Looking back, it was quite a vanilla variety of porn, and all the girls had those '70s super muffs that require a machete to clear a path. I thoroughly examined each photo, and in the end I could not imagine how this ratty pack of grainy, angle-challenged amateur shots could excite anyone, but it was not my imagination that mattered in this regard.

You see, in my own room, I had my own stack of magazines packed with pictures of toothy teen idols, through which I rifled with bated breath every day. I played sappy ballads and envisioned the exchange of tender affections. I enacted courtships, betrayals and passionate reconciliations. I fainted into imaginary arms. Over and over, I was completely entranced by the packaging.

Normally this memory would unleash an assload of smarmy self-loathing, but I'm weary lately, weighted with the realization that you do what you can with the ingredients you get. You add water. You hope something will grow. You wait and anticipate and pine. In the end, you either get magic or you get another puddle of sewer sludge.

It all depends on your imagination.

Hollis Gillespie is the author of Confessions of a Recovering Slut and Other Love Stories and Bleachy-Haired Honky Bitch: Tales from a Bad Neighborhood. Her commentaries can be heard on NPR's "All Things Considered."

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