When Ronel woke up that magical Tuesday morning and found his beloved terrier, Darko, between his legs licking his morning erection, a single razor-sharp thought passed through his dull and relatively unoccupied brain: "Is this sexual?" In other words, was Darko licking his balls the same way he licked Schneider's balls — Schneider being the miniature Schnauzer Darko tried to have sexual intercourse with every time they bumped into each other in Meir Park — or was Darko licking his master's penis for the same reason he licked the dewdrops off a fragrant leaf in that park? It was a troubling question, though not as troubling as the question of whether Neeva, his wide-hipped wife, suspected him of sleeping with his business partner, Renana, which would explain why she was so nasty to her on the phone, or was that sheer dislike? "Oh Darko, Darko," Ronel muttered to himself with a mixture of self-pity and affection, "you're the only one who really loves me."
Darko, who might not have recognized a human male sex organ as such, recognized his name every time, and he responded with a bark of joy. Clearly, it was better to be a dog coping with dog-dilemmas like the what-tree-should-I-pee-on-this-morning
one, than to be Ronel grappling with such tedious moral quandaries as whether fucking Renana as she bent over his wife's vanity table was less repellant than fucking her right in their queen-size bed. A question that had many implications, by the way. Because if it didn't matter, they'd be a lot more comfortable doing it on the bed, and that would be that. Or, for example, whether fantasizing about his naked wife while penetrating Renana offset the infidelity somewhat, or whether it was just another perversion.
"Daddy's not a pervert, Darko honey," Ronel said as he stretched and got out of bed."Daddy's a complex person."
"What?" Neeva asked, peering into the bedroom."Did you say something?"
"I told Darko I'd be home late because I have a meeting with the Germans tonight," Ronel said, making the most of the rare eye contact with his wife.
"Oh, really?" Neeva sneered."And what did Darko have to say about that?"
"Nothing," Ronel said, putting on a pair of gray underpants."Darko accepts me."
"Darko also accepts Purina Dog Chow," Neeva snapped, "His standards aren't exactly high."
One obvious advantage of having an affair with a colleague was that all those romantic candlelight dinners were tax deductible. It wasn't the only bonus, of course, but it was undoubtedly the one Ronel enjoyed most, because he never felt more relaxed and at peace than when he was stapling receipts to pieces of paper embellished with details
They abandoned a failed attempt at wild sex in favor of watching the E! channel and eating watermelon.
and dates in his own handwriting. And when the invoice wasn't just his ticket to a tax deduction but an emotionally charged object in its own right, one that allowed him to reminisce about a night of successful lovemaking, the pleasure it gave was doubled. "I need a receipt for my taxes," he said to the waiter, stressing the word "taxes," as if there were more than one kind of receipt in this little world of ours. The waiter nodded at Ronel as if to say he knew the score. Ronel didn't like him. Maybe because of the niggling way he corrected their pronunciation when they ordered, maybe because he'd insisted on hiding his left arm behind his back throughout the meal, which made Ronel nervous. Or maybe it was just because he was a waiter who earned his living from tips, a form of payment that irritated Ronel because it had no place in the cozy womb of "deductible expenses."
"What's with you tonight?" Renana asked after they'd decided to abandon a failed attempt at wild sex in favor of watching the E! channel together and eating watermelon.
"I'm stressed," Ronel said. "Stressed and a little weak, physically."
"You were stressed last time too. And on Thursday, we didn't even try. Tell me..." She stopped speaking in order to swallow an especially large piece of watermelon, and as he waited out the lengthy process of her swallowing, Ronel knew he was in for a hassle. And in fact, a belch later, Renana picked up right where she'd left off. "...do you still fuck your wife or can't you do it with her either?"
"What do you mean, 'either'?" Ronel said. Now he was annoyed. "What, to be more precise, do you mean 'can't do it with her either?' Is there something we don't do?"
"Fuck," Renana said, licking her stubby fingers."We don't fuck. Not that it's a big deal or anything. It's just that, when you're 'a fuck on the side' and the whole sex thing drops out of the equation, then you're nothing but 'on the side,' know what I mean? I'm not saying it's a deal breaker or anything, it's just, you know, a little weird. Because with your wife, even if you don't fuck,
"I had a hard-on just this morning," Ronel said.
you can visit her parents or fight about who loads the dishwasher, all the normal couple things. But when it happens with a lover, it sort of pulls the rug out."
"Who said we don't fuck?"
"Your prick," Renana said without a hint of provocation in her voice."That's why I asked about your wife, you know, to see if it's because I don't turn you on anymore. Or if it's something more..."
"More what?" Ronel insisted as the pause lengthened.
"Give me a sec," Renana mumbled, "I'm looking for a gentler word than 'impotent.'"
"You're making a big deal over nothing," Ronel said, getting angry. "Just because once or twice I was a little bit tired and stressed-out over work, it doesn't mean I'm impotent. I had a hard-on just this morning. Not an ordinary hard-on, either. It was phenomenal." Ronel, remembering Darko, felt his organ stiffen a little, and for no reason, was flooded with guilt.
"Terrific," Renana said."That's good news. And who got to share this phenomenal hard-on of yours, Neeva?"
"No," Ronel said, momentarily confused."I shared it with myself."
"How nice for you." Renana smiled her famous carrion-eating smile, which he'd previously come across only at work, and went back to licking the watermelon juice off the palm of her hand.