Jack’s Naughty Bits: Henry Miller, The Tropic of Capricorn

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Jack's Naughty Bits

The tables are soon to turn: for the first twenty-seven years of my life, I had been the elder of only two brothers, but five years ago my father remarried and I now have two sisters as well — one step, one half, the older one about to go to high school. What does this mean? It means that I’m moving from a guy who spent his life trying to seduce other guys’ sisters to one trying to protect his own. I can’t believe it’s happening; all those years I would mock my friends for various attempts to put their fairer siblings off-limits, and now it’s my turn. The gods of irony (the only ones there are) are chortling from the ether.

The worst part is, I know from both literature and experience that all my prohibitory efforts are only likely to encourage both sister and suitors. Haven’t people realized yet, isn’t everyone fully aware by now, that prohibition creates enticement? Too easily I think back on Juliet sneaking out the back window, or of Heloise tricking her five brothers so as to be with her lover Abelard (though, I point out to my sisters’ future would-be’s, the brothers did catch up to Abelard and castrate him). I remember when sisters would visit my male friends in college and I’d be told, with minimal ambiguity, “on pain of death” — only to find myself making her coffee in the morning. Such is the way of the world. Sisters tend to like their brothers; brothers tend to like their friends; the transitive property would suggest, then, that sisters tend to like their brothers’ friends (and the reverse is certainly true). Go ahead, try and stop mathematical law.

It works in my favor, I suppose, that most my friends are at least twenty years older than my eighth-grade sister. And so, as she crosses the line into her almost-woman self, she is unlikely to be beguiled by their sag and gray. But the rest of male kind! What am I to do? I know how bad they are; I’m one of them! I know too that more than protection from me she really just needs support — needs to know that, when mistakes are inevitably made, that at least they were her mistakes, and she knows where she can go to talk about it. This, my friends, is what I am going to try to do, but, munificent as I may be, all you lechers are still forewarned.

The excerpt below is a case study in brother/sister/friend dynamics. It comes from the unstoppable Henry Miller, who died in 1980, and thus, I am most pleased to say, will never be able to meet my lithe siblings.


From Tropic of Capricorn by Henry Miller

I can visualize best my condition when I think of my relations with Maxie and his sister Rita. At the time Maxie and I used to go swimming together a great deal, that I remember well. Often we passed the whole day and night at the beach. I had only met Maxie’s sister once or twice; whenever I brought up her name Maxie would rather frantically begin to talk about something else. That annoyed me because I was really bored to death with Maxie’s company, tolerating him only because he loaned me money readily and bought me things which I needed. Every time we started for the beach I was in hopes his sister would turn up unexpectedly. But no, he always managed to keep her out of reach. Well, one day as we were undressing in the bathhouse and he was showing me what a fine tight scrotum he had, I said to him right out of the blue — “Listen, Maxie, that’s all right about your nuts, they’re fine and dandy, and there’s nothing to worry about, but where the hell is Rita all the time, why don’t you bring her along some time and let me take a good look at her quim, yes, quim, you know what I mean.” Maxie, being a Jew from Odessa, had never heard the word quim before. He was deeply shocked by my words and yet at the same time intrigued by this new word. In a sort of daze he said to me — “Jesus, Henry, you oughtn’t to say a thing like that to me!”

“Why not?” I answered. “She’s got a cunt, your sister, hasn’t she?” I was about to add something else when he broke into a terrific fit of laughter. That saved the situation, for the time being. But Maxie didn’t like the idea at all deep down. All day long it bothered him, though he never referred to our conversation again. No, he was very silent that day. The only form of revenge he could think of was to urge me to swim far beyond the safety zone in the hope of tiring me out and letting me drown. I could see so clearly what was in his mind that I was possessed with the strength of ten men. Damned if I would go drown myself just because his sister like all other women happened to have a cunt . . .

[A few hours later] I thought of Rita, her private and extraordinary quim, I was in the train, bound for New York and dozing off with a marvelous languid erection. And stranger still, when I got out of the train, when I had walked but a block or two from the station, whom should I bump into rounding a corner but Rita herself. And as though she had been informed telepathically of what was going on in my brain, Rita too was hot under the whiskers. Soon we were sitting in a chop suey joint, seated side by side in a little booth, behaving exactly like a pair of rabbits in rut. On the dance floor we hardly moved. We were wedged in tightly and we stayed that way, letting them jog and jostle us about as they might. I could have taken her home to my place, as I was alone at the time, but no, I had a notion to bring her back to her own home, stand her up in the vestibule and give her a fuck right under Maxie’s nose — which I did. In the midst of it I thought again of . . . the word quim. I was on the point of laughing aloud when suddenly I felt she was coming, one of those long drawn out orgasms such as you get now and then in a Jewish cunt. I had my hands under her buttocks, the tips of my fingers just inside her cunt, in the lining, as it were; as she began to shudder I lifted her from the ground and raised her gently up and down on the end of my cock. I thought she would go off her nut completely, the way she began to carry on. She must have had four or five orgasms like that in the air, before I put her feet down on the ground. I took it out without spilling a drop and made her lie down in the vestibule. Her hat had rolled off into a corner and her handbag had spilled open and a few coins had tumbled. I note this because just before I gave it to her good and proper I made a mental note to pocket a few coins for my carfare home. Anyway, it was only a few hours since I had said to Maxie in the bathhouse that I would like to take a look at this sister’s quim, and here it was now smack up against me, sopping wet and throwing out one squirt after another. If she had been fucked before she had never been fucked properly, that’s a cinch. And I myself was never in such a fine cool collected scientific frame of mind as now lying on the floor of the vestibule right under Maxie’s nose, pumping it into the private, sacred and extraordinary quim of his sister Rita.

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Jack Murnighan‘s stories appeared in the Best American Erotica editions of 1999, 2000 and 2001. His weekly column for Nerve, Jack’s Naughty Bits, was collected and released as two books. He was the editor-in-chief of Nerve from 1999 to 2001, before retiring to write full time and take seriously the quest for love.

Introduction ©2000 Jack Murnighan and, Inc.