Fiction

Couplings

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Self-Reliance<

Robert Olen Butler’s forthcoming book Intercourse imagines the interior monologues of copulating couples throughout history, from Princess Diana and Prince Charles to a chicken and a rooster. Here are three.

Diana, 25, Princess of Wales
Charles Philip Arthur George, 37, Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester, Duke of Cornwall, Duke of Rothesay, Earl of Carrick and Baron of Renfrew, Lord of the Isles, Prince and Great Steward of Scotland, heir apparent to the British throne

at King Juan Carlos’s Marivent Palace near Palma, Majorca, August, 1986, for the last time Diana

Now that he’s begun this and is humphing softly in confusion, trying to work out just why he’s even trying, I need to breathe deep and curl my toes on the edge of the pool at Park House and there’s a smell of the salt sea in the air and there are yew trees and silver birch and pine all around and I saw a young fox in the morning and he and I stood on the lawn and looked at each other for a long long while and I stand now waiting for just the right moment to dive, my arms outstretched, bending over the water at the deep end, and all my dolls have been properly walked in their pram and all the animals on my bed have been stroked and put just so and Daddy is puttering in the garden and my sisters are lounging in the sunlight and my brother is napping inside and Mummy hasn’t legged it yet — I don’t even know it’s coming — so I wait at the edge of the pool for just the right moment and I don’t understand that it would be ever so advisable just to plunge on in and glide to the bottom and not come back up at all, not at all, for it will never be anywhere near as nice as this again, ever Charles

Uncle Dickie, how can I disagree with you, and Mum, you are the paragon of Uncle Dickie’s advice are you not, how unsettled one should be if another man has touched your wife before you have found her, how disturbing for her sweet-charactered allure, for her fresh-budded tenderness to have been known fully by another man who shall then carry around forever the intimate memory of the King’s wife in his mind to take out and fondle and treasure as if it were all still his, and so she is thus, my wife, but she is gaunt from her virginity, she is chlorine and ammonia and antiseptic, and of course she weeps and faints and has no sense of me because there is no sense in her of any other life, no sense of any other man by which to measure me, to give meaning to any loving word she would say to me: she is slick and untouched as a fish and I would cling to a horse who’s been ridden.

Josephine Baker, 19, dancer
Georges Simenon, 22, writer

in her rooms at the Hôtel Fournet, Montmartre, Paris, January, 1926

Georges

oo la la la la la la la the butt, the most famous butt in Paris, sweetly compliant now, silent, but redolent of its fame onstage: this butt can laugh, this butt can sing, this butt can carry on a sublime dialog within its twinned self in its own language, one cheek quivering and then the other: I am so beautiful my sister yes yes I am too my sister this city is watching us entranced and we are both so beautiful we are and we are so chic wearing flamingo feathers or bananas as if they were a Paul Poiret or a Jean Patou we are so very chic but we are even more beautiful utterly naked for we are the perfection of curves ah yes we are the globes to the angles in art deco it’s true sister we are modern but we are also savage we are also primitive we are the jungle we are the night we are the call of birds — wait, wait, what has Josephine done to her Georges — I am a man of words, nineteen novels already, full of elegant and simple words, and yet in praise I have just had her butt make bird calls: I have gone mad

Josephine

oo la la how they want me to be blacker and blacker, even Georges, his pipe on the bed stand and his hands all over my naked butt and I just have to make my cheeks tremble there and he will cry out in French as wildly as Genevieve and she will answer from across the room in Monkey, but I keep them both quiet tonight, I am myself quiet inside and I cannot stop my mind, for tonight I danced as I always dance — some Charleston some Black Bottom, some Mess Around and Tack Annie and Shim Sham Break and some things I tell myself are Africa but are St. Louis, for all that, are me just knocking my knees and camel-walking and vibrating my butt and flailing my arms and legs — I danced as always but at the same time I was somewhere up in the balcony with these ravenous French watching me dance, which is something I almost never do, but just because I dance in a trance most of the time don’t mean the dance has anything to do with what I am and what I am driven to want, which is something I got from St. Louis, as well: my hair is conked flat and lacquered, which the French don’t understand the meaning of, and at the end I cross my eyes at them and I flap my arms like a backyard chicken, and they don’t understand that either, but after it’s all over and the night is gone and the sun comes up in Paris, each morning I get into my hotel bathtub and I soak in hot water and goat’s milk and lemon and honey and Eau de Javel that they scour their sinks with and I soak and I soak till my pussy’s on fire just so I can be white

Henry VIII, king of England, 44
Anne Boleyn, queen of England, 34

at the house of Sir William Sandys near Basingstoke, England, October 1535

Henry

he conjures himself corporeal from the very air: imperious dark eyes and cropped auburn hair and a small mouth shaping kisses and pouts and commands and his shoulders are broad and his limbs are long and his fingertips flare above the vast dark ocean on one side and the wide cold sea on the other and he steps forward with first one foot upon the cliffs of Cornwall and then the other upon Dover and he bestrides the land and he looks out to the wide world beyond, my son, my sweet son, and as I am England now, he will be England then, and by the prickish essence I give yet again to this woman, I will be England once more. Or else.

Anne

I alone made England’s alliance with France and I lifted the worldly evils of the papacy from our peoples’ religious life and I bestowed all the wisdom of Cromwell upon the king and I established the right of a commoner to become a noble by his own thoughts and deeds and I gave more alms to the poor of the land than any high-born in history, and it all comes to this: a bejeweled codpiece falls and from a slash in a pair of breeches comes a too-small prick attached to a fat and distracted man and if its fluids do not blend with mine such to create a boy, I will sure be cast aside, or worse, and all that I am, all that I ever can be, is my cunt

©2007 Robert Olen Butler and Nerve.com.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Robert Olen Butler
has published ten novels and five volumes of short fiction, one of which, A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain, won the 1993 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. His new book, due in May 2008, is entitled Intercourse (from Chronicle Books) and is comprised of 100 short short stories in 50 couples. In addition to here and now in Nerve, some of these Little Fuckers, as he affectionately calls them, appeared as poetry in places like The Kenyon Review and The Virginia Quarterly Review and as fiction in Playboy. He teaches at Florida State University and lives in Capps, Florida, which has a population of one.