The typing and secretarial class was held in a little basement room in the Business Building of the local community college. The teacher was an old lady with hair that floated in vague clouds around her temples and Kleenex stuck up the sleeve of her dress for some future, probably nasal purpose. She held a stopwatch in one old hand and tilted her hip as she watched us all with severe, imperial eyes, not caring that her stomach hung out. The girl in front of me had short, clenched blond curls sitting on her thin shoulders. Lone strands would stick straight out from her head in cold, dry weather.
    It was a two-hour class with a ten-minute break. Everybody would go out into the hall during the break to get coffee or candy from the machines. The girls would stand in groups and talk, and the two male typists would walk slowly up and down the corridor with round shoulders, holding their Styrofoam cups and looking into the bright slits of light in the business class doors as they passed by.
    I would go to the big picture window that looked out onto the parking lot and stare at the streetlights shining on the hoods of the cars.
    After class, I'd come home and put my books on the dining room table among the leftover dinner things: balled-up napkins, glasses of water, a dish of green beans sitting on a pot holder. My father's plate would always be there, with gnawed bones and hot pepper on it. He would be in the living room in his pajama top with a dish of ice cream in his lap and his hair on end. "How many words a minute did you type tonight?" he'd ask.
    It wasn't an unreasonable question, but the predictable and agitated delivery of it was annoying. It reflected his way of hoarding silly details and his obsessive fear that I would meet my sister's fate. She'd had a job at a home for retarded people for the past eight years. She wore jeans and a long army coat to work every day. When she came home, she went up to her room and lay in bed. Every now and then she would come down and joke around or watch TV, but not much.
    Mother would drive me around to look for jobs. First we would go through ads in the paper, drawing black circles, marking X's. The defaced newspaper sat on the dining room table in a gray fold and we argued.
    "I'm not friendly and I'm not personable. I'm not going to answer an ad for somebody like that. It would be stupid."
    "You can be friendly. And you are personable when you aren't busy putting yourself down."
    "I'm not putting myself down. You just want to think that I am so you can have something to talk about."
    "You're backing yourself into a corner, Debby."
    "Oh, shit." I picked up a candy wrapper and began pinching it together in an ugly way. My hands were red and rough. It didn't matter how much lotion I used.
    "Come on, we're getting started on the wrong foot."
    "Shut up."




Commentarium (21 Comments)

Sep 19 02 - 7:32pm

I dont know if this story is true or just another letter from Penthouse Forum. The only time I have ever playfully spanked a woman is standing next to her while playing around after showering, standing together at a nude beach before plunging in or when she is on top of me as I grasp and slap her buns to push her over the top to climax. BDSM is not what my girlfriends were enthused about other than light swatting. Nipple tweaking and kissing is great, and I am pretty good at it which I am well rewarded. Oh yeah, light spanking over my knee for being so naughty, naked, in heels, excites some babes, but I never come on too strong or kinky. I guess my sex life is well within normal. Some women love to squeeze and spank their mans buns too!

Sep 24 02 - 6:40pm


Oct 02 02 - 1:08am

I think the lack of feedback on this story speeks volumes.
Horrible story. Long. Bad plot. Author should consider becoming a street sweeper.

Oct 05 02 - 12:04pm

I liked the honesty.

Oct 15 02 - 10:03pm

to be totally honest.....this sstory failed to capture this reader's interest and i did try and hopethat it might but it was totally a wate of ink....unbelievable that someone was paid to write this.

Oct 18 02 - 7:37pm

more feedback

Nov 05 02 - 4:23am

The above feedback folk sure did get excited by the story...He/she certainly used it to talk about all their sexiness. Nice.
The story had all the quiet and awkard descriptions to make it interesting. Debby became a believable and likable character through the author's making. I liked the complex view of someone's first encounter with a different kind of sex.

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Feb 29 12 - 2:35pm

do most of the commenters not know what this story is? it's not some flash-in-the -pan first time attempt from an unknown author who "should become a street sweeper", and it's not a letter from penthouse forum. mary gaitskill is an amazingly talented and very well-known writers, the above story was excerpted from her first book of short stories, published in 1988.
anyways, i love the secretary, i think it's incredibly well-written, and i, like gatskill, felt the movie version was just awful.

Apr 17 12 - 4:59pm

I disagree, I thought the movie was far more deep and interesting than the short story. The lawyer here is totally flat and gruesome. There is a very real element of beauty in bdsm, an element which is captured and explored in the film and totally absent here.

Sep 08 12 - 5:58pm

This is a great short story. Mary Gaitskill has a unique talent and I do enjoy her writing. The collection of short stories this comes from is called Bad Behavior, it is still in print in paperback and even now available as a kindle book. I think its a shame that the entire story is reprinted here without it being clear that this is a piece of contemporary fiction that has been published, and actually it is a disservice to the author to have it entirely available for free here. But if it leads to futher interest in the work of Mary Gaitskill then it is useful. There is new interest in this short story because of the similarities between the movie Secretary and the 50 Shades of Grey novels. The man is named Grey, he has copper colored hair (like Spader), he is closed and complicated, and the woman is brunette and in the end it turns into a positive relationship (in the move and 50 shades, not this story). I am a fan of the movie and this story and 50 shades just to see what all the fuss was about. The memoir that 9 1/2 weeks was based on was worth reading as well...