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In my early teens I became guardian of a large collection of pornography that the Wally brothers had found dumped in an alleyway. The Wallys were my best friends and the three of us fancied ourselves juvenile delinquents, although our reign of terror was negligible. As budding criminals, we faced a daunting number of challenges — we were cowards, a stiff breeze made my nose bleed, and the Wallys had bones so brittle that they would often break with little or no provocation. Each time my mother heard that one of them had sustained yet another fracture, she would shake her head and cluck, "They're not getting enough milk."
These were not the makings of a feared street gang.
Since their earliest days in school, the Wallys had been forced to take mandatory naps before coming out to play. If for some reason this cool-down period was missed, they would gradually grow somber, their moods darkening steadily, until at some pre-destined moment they would spontaneously erupt into violence and beat the living shit out of each other, pummeling away mercilessly until they both collapsed in exhaustion. Amazingly, neither one of them ever snapped a bone during these fraternal poundings, and they continued to be the closest of siblings when they weren't trying to kill each other.
They'd stumbled across the porn back behind their house and were worried that it might be a trap.
Who in their right mind would willingly part with such a treasure? What if the police or the PTA had set up a sting operation to ferret out neighborhood perverts? What if a local news team leapt from the bushes, lights flashing and cameras running?
In subsequent years I've talked to people from all over the country and learned that finding a porn stash is actually quite common. There are a variety of names for it — dumpster porn, desert porn, orphan porn.
Boxes o' plenty. Happy packages. Rather than bait in some law-enforcement snare, these scattered cast-offs are the work of modern day Johnny Appleseeds: guilt-wracked uncles, scout leaders or members of the clergy sowing the land with items they're too embarrassed to keep.
As for our find, it was so huge that we couldn't think of anything better to do than weigh it using a bathroom scale, after which we simply referred to it as "the thirty-two pounds of porn."
Summer was new when this all started. It was hot but not yet crazy hot, and the whirring drone of cicadas was already filling the air when Wally Jr. called. He sounded different, tense. I had to come over right away — something big had happened, really big — but he couldn't tell me about it over the phone. Since we usually spent our vacations hanging out at the public pool, drinking countless Slurpees and shoplifting stuff we didn't need, his urgency made me nervous. Had Wally Jr. finally snapped his brother's neck? Did he need help disposing of the body? Had Wally Sr. blown off a fingertip with the Polish cannon we'd made the week before?
I arrived to find both brothers alive and in one piece — in fact, it looked like nothing was going on at all — yet they were flushed, out of breath. They led me out to a densely overgrown space behind their house, then deep into the desert jungle, pushing back the creosote and navigating around the jumping cactus until we came to a small, sunlit clearing.
"There it is," Wally Sr. said, pointing to a cardboard box sitting on the ground. He flipped the lid open with his foot and we were bathed in an orange glow cast by dozens of glossy magazine covers. The surface was a jumble of body parts, a chaotic explosion of breasts, lips, thighs and random, brightly printed words — SPREAD WIDE, STEAMING ACTION, DRIPPING FUN. We stood there, staring.