In the third installment of the story, Betty's son Buick discovers the guitar and Diana Flatrock. Diana and Buick enter intimate and imagined territory, albeit accompanied two Parisian guests. (Read the first and second chapters)
Silk, mistress said! O crinkly! Scrapy! Must I tiptouch it with my nails?
(points to his whores)
As they are now, so will you be, wigged, singed, perfumesprayed, ricepowdered, with smoothshaven armpits. Tape measurements will be taken next to your skin. You will be laced with cruel force into vicelike corsets of soft dove coutille, with whalebone busk, to the diamond trimmed pelvis, the absolute outside edge, while your figure, plumper than when at large, will be restrained in nettight frocks, pretty two ounce petticoats and fringes and things stamped, of course with my houseflag, creations of lovely lingerie for Alice and nice scent for Alice. Alice will feel the pullpull. Martha and Mary will be a little chilly at first in such delicate thighcasing but the frilly flimsiness of lace round your bare knees will remind you...
Can I help?
(they hold and pinion Bloom)
--James Joyce, Ulysses, 1914
* * *
... At the Hotel Anjou we lie like lesbians, sucking. Again, hours and hours of voluptuousness. The hotel sign, in red lights, shines into the room. The warmth heaves in. “Anaïs,” Henry says, “you have the most beautiful ass.” Hands, fingerings, ejaculations. I learn from Henry how to play with a man’s body, how to arouse him, how to express my own desire...
--Anaïs Nin, Journal entry, circa 1932
One Spring an eighteen-year-old Buick heard The Ventures’ tune “Telstar” on the radio and decided he would volunteer as a site for the band’s spring tour.
His new group-self aspired to the creation of overwhelming paroxysms of sound. With yard-mowing savings and a $23 short-term loan from mother Betty, the versatile musician bought an electric guitar. A glitter-encrusted black and white Silvertone, edged in padded white vinyl, with a small AC amplifier built into the top of its rectangular black case. $69 at Sears, including a year’s warranty on the amp. He learned three chords, and rumbled through them repeatedly in a self-penned instrumental called “Earthquake”. E, A, B7, hour after hour. The three-part succession was his mantra. He wanted to emulate the Ventures completely, even though he could never afford their custom, narrow-necked Mosrite surf guitars. So he played loudly to compensate. He twisted the amp’s volume to the maximum 10 and then removed the knob to prevent tampering by his mother or a forgetful wavering of musical style on his own part. He set up his rehearsal hall in the bathroom, to utilize every possible decibel’s sonic effect. He was committed to quantity. In the process of Buick’s extended musical worship, he vibrated two amalgam fillings loose from the rear molars of his right upper jaw. He also lost the higher ranges of his hearing on the same side, a loss that would eventually lead to further deafness and two later major life experiences with a similarly hearing-impaired Beethoven.
The deafer he got, the more he thought his guitar work was improving.
Betty soon gave him a room of his own over the garage and its car, a Roadmaster which was coincidentally bought by his father at the time of his birth, and from which he received his name. Buick’s music career demanded space. The youngest Baskin was going on the road. His mother had vainly hoped the tour would be a matter of a few isolated club dates, but Buick was bent on a continuing round of the major world stadiums. His small amplifier had proved amazingly efficient at drowning out all but the most fortissimo of her own piano practice. Within a week Buick had turned the cobweb- and refuse-filled second-floor garage storeroom into his private kingdom of sound. The bathroom and main house were liberated. Betty and her friend Matty Sue allowed themselves ever-longer periods of piano duets after Matty got off work in the evenings. All three were happy with the musical arrangement. The house vibrated with energetic renderings of American classics.
It was this combination of independence and guitar mayhem that would prove to be Buick’s undoing, the honey that drew a lovely bipedal fly: Diana Flatrock.
When he met Diana, Buick was still inhabited by The Ventures. Inhabited with a passion.
Senior Talent Day had allowed Buick’s band the opportunity to exhibit their guitar prowess before the entire student body of Blue Moons High School. Twenty-four years earlier, his mother had starred in “Little Women”, standing pantaloonless on the same stage. With much the same effect, Buick Roadmaster Baskin’s solo guitar, at his frantic urging, emitted an ear-shattering seven-minute medley of semi-popular tunes. He closed with an uptempo, wildly-distorted rendition of Santo & Johnny’s once-aptly-named “Sleepwalker”. His homeroom teacher left school shortly afterwards with a severe migraine that would continue beyond the eight years she had left to retirement.
Though his efforts failed to win a school prize, Buick was rewarded for his musicality with the immediate and intense attentions of the beautiful Flatrock. He’d previously set his sights on one of his own more aloof classmates. She was a month older and he thought she looked blondely the perfect beach bunny, but she somehow failed to respond to the Call of the Surf. Diana did. Buick figured the company of a brunette sophomore was better than pursuing the perfect wave solo. Especially a well-developed and intellectually-active sophomore. The first date had been a success on both their parts, and proved mutual compatibility in more than musical alignment. The two sat talking face-to-face for more than eight hours, then shook hands as they returned to her front door. They were excited physically and emotionally, and both felt completely fulfilled as the night ended.
Diana’s father was soon told that she needed seven-nights-a-week tutoring in Social Studies. Some brainy upperclassman named Baskin was to be her mentor. Her lessons tended to run late, but normally ungenteel village florist Arty Flatrock was pleased with her devotion to such a mundane subject.
“Ain’t that social stuff just like Civics and PE?” he asked, while washing his pollen-stained smocks at the Dainty Duds Laundromat. “Could be she’ll grow up a politician or a coach.”
His friend Leonard Ponder, owner of the washateria, was having none of that. “Arty, you ever get a good look at Harry Truman or Knute Rockne? Either one of them got a wiggle like your little girl?”
Buick Baskin found himself quickly enamored of the possibilities held by the keeper of that wiggle. If anything, she read more and studied harder than he did. For Diana, school relieved the dismal pressure of life with her father. She took both French and Spanish, was enamored of Elizabethan poetry, and was the Captain of the girl’s rugby team. She told each of her teachers who would listen that she wanted to be a writer. Most encouraged her to take more Home Ec instead of aspiring to scribblerdom -- only finding a rich husband would allow a woman the pursuit of such a remotely-remunerative occupation. She was undiscouraged, and began writing in a journal in what was to become an unbroken daily ritual. Two years younger than Buick, she was already an altogether more literate – in retention -- and vastly more social – in living society -- creature than he. Buick admired that, and felt her to be fertile ground for the adventurous direction in which he intended steering their relationship. This was, after all, research. Scholarship into the human condition. With the usual odd bits of luck that had always made things lively for him.
It was some of that luck which introduced Buick to two new lives just as he and Diana found themselves happily settling into a relationship.
At first, right after the talent show, she’d been content to share her new boyfriend with the four rather simple California instrumentalists. Their first month together had been uncomplicated, and rhythmically stimulating. Then suddenly, the quartet climbed into their woody and left.
Buick began a new search. In the midst of a single transitional day as the author of Tropic of Capricorn, he had come upon Henry Miller’s description of the then-unpublished diaries of Anaïs Nin. Blue Moons Airlines diverted its flight of fancy to Paris. The Roadmaster was immediately caught up in both the recounting, and the speculative reenactment, of Anaïs’ life. Diana was encouraged. Here was literature. And female literature at that.
Then, only a day later, Freedy Gluckman walked in the door with a sweat-stained copy of his mother’s Theodore’s of Hollywood summer sale catalogue, its slick pages festooned with buxom cartoon women draped in lingerie. A gold-inked version of “The Mr Theodore Story” on the back cover lent credibility to the brassiere entrepreneur’s creative flux. Literature fell in with a bad crowd, and Miller was ousted. Buick’s latest was to be a dual possession. Baskin with Nin and Theodore. With Diana Flatrock as the stabilizing fourth wheel.
Former best friend Freedy’s appearances in Buick’s life diminished substantially from that day forward. The young Mr Gluckman would never ever see his catalogue again.
Though Buick later gave up guitar, the Ventures proved useful in the long run, as the band’s multiplicity had prepared Diana for the simultaneous appearance of Mlle Nin and Mr Theodore. Buick asked that she buy metaphorically into Nin’s appetites (that was not such a stretch for her), and literally into Theodore’s underwear (a frequent physical stretch was required). Diana found neither of these two personae very strange, not by Buick’s standards. She liked dressing up, and noticed the youngest Baskin was quite content and much more focused when they were in both character and costume. Buick had been most taken by the philosophical structure underlying Mr Theodore’s devotion to skivvies. And by Nin’s wily openness to suggestion. For him it was a perfect metaphysical fit.
Soul mate Diana liked Anaïs, admired her reticence in bringing her personal diaries to the world. Already Diana was afraid of anyone else getting access to her own journal, as it became the resting place of this increasingly unconventional interpersonal relationship. Mlle Nin understood and was very considerate. She was also much more into quiet touching and long-term oral manipulation than the Ventures-rock-band Buick for whom Diana had first fallen. Quite an improvement. The young Miss Flatrock had figured out right away that surf musicians weren’t much into going down on their beach babes. She compassionately allowed for the possibility of sand phobias, and that the band’s openness to experimentation might be hindered by their appearance as a solo group. Buick’d told her he suspected the drummer was a bit of a prude.
Diana had always been level-headed, though precocious, even when her mother was alive. Especially when her mother was alive. At sixteen, after growing up alone with her father for a decade, she was as flexible and independent a young woman as her father was rigid and restricted. She’d taken a sensible, though so far unneeded, precaution and had already been secretly on the pill for two years, having procured a lifetime prescription from pharmacist Tri-Larry Daigle by the discreet, delicate and frequent placement of her left hand on the upper provinces of Tri-Larry’s Sta-Press Sansabelt® slacks.
However, in spite of their reading knowledge in the ways and means of sex, both she and Buick were virgins when she came to his above-the-garage bedroom. Her experience had not been wide enough to encompass most of the activity she began to relish in the company of the Buick trio. The description of Anaïs’ bobbing head between her stockinged thighs, the wet pressure she imagined from the gentle diarist’s tongue between the twin petals of her Hollywood-and-Vine crotchless panties -- this was new territory for Diana. Welcome new territory. She enjoyed Buick’s loving gaze, even if he never touched her. And actually, as the ménage-à-quatre progressed, each participant began to complement the others. The stiff wires of Mr Theodore’s upper-body configurations came to feel much more pliable, and the inventive provocateur’s subtle purposes more apparent, with the knowing caresses of a woman brought up in worldly and artistic Paris.
Diana also felt that it was only right that her Theodore’s purchases should be financed by the covert use of her father’s credit cards. To this point in her life, the elder Flatrock had given her little that she felt would advance her life experience. A bit of lace and a few push-up bras were surely her due.
The costumed sessions became the last, most vibrant chapter of both Buick and Diana’s pubescence, and the prologue to their adult sexuality. They were as innocent as they were erotic. And they were condensed. A real-time weekend often became filled with a literary liaison lasting a month or longer. It took days to even begin to sort out all that had happened. Diana had no idea that she would continue to study the content of these sessions throughout her adult life.
Saturday of the fifth week of their relationship brought a particularly provocative encounter. As Diana later analyzed what had happened, and converted the scene into script format, it was Anaïs who urged them on.
122. INT. BUICK’S GARAGE BEDROOM -- NIGHT
Diana, I am amazed at how poetic your erotica has become. Our last two encounters were wonderful, so immediate--so immediately involving. I was caught up in you, as I remain. And Buick, you are growing into something entirely different from what I expected when I first came on board. Tell us where we go today.
Buick BLUSHES as his voice settles back into his own. His face becomes more relaxed. He SPEAKS TO DIANA with his head turned to the side, as if both Anaïs and Mr Theodore are seated between them, catching Diana’s eyes only infrequently as he seeks her out to make sure he hasn’t offended or, worse, bored her.
Often his VOICE BECOMES A WHISPER, as his embarrassment at what he is saying catches up with him. DIANA LEANS TOWARD HIM to catch every word.
Walking to meet Mr Theodore last night, I passed through a hilly area of Paris between Abbesses and Lamarck Caulaincourt I noticed a number of multi-storied hotels have sprung from the once decayed neighborhood. I began to think of Diana and being in one of those hotels.
You meet at the airport, come into town by train to Gare du Nord, and outside the station take a taxi immediately to one of the hotels. They cluster above rue des Trois Frères, and you know this would be the last place your friends would look for the two of you if you disappeared for a few days. You would need time alone, undisturbed time, since it had been so long since you were together.
I know how this is. Until I allowed my own diaries out, I kept my personal life private. I wasn’t ready to share with anyone. I was much too greedy, much too hungry for living.
But you will be so kind as to allow Mr Theodore and myself a brief moment with the two of you.
Do continue, please, Buick.
(clearing his throat roughly)
The bellboy takes the bags up to the room after we register, and I ask if you would like a drink before we go up ourselves. I am trying to be gentle, trying not to simply leap on Diana and consume her flesh, like I am of course dying to do.
You are correct there, sir. Buick Roadmaster Baskin must show that he can take his time, that he can hold back the tide of his lust -- even though that is proving to be difficult, especially with the alluring and provocatively dressed Diana.
(turning to face Diana directly)
You were squeezing my lap on the way in from the airport. I was sure the taxi driver noticed you squirming on the back seat--you were sitting on my hand.
Now, at the hotel, I have to hold my jacket in front of me while registering ‘M and Mme Miller’--you keep brushing into my back, rubbing me with what I know is a body aching for attention.
(interrupting, though smoothly)
You see, this is important.
Remember how much you have come to love this teasing, how it has played the role of magnifier in our sexual play.
Your body distracts me from my resolve... I can see the outline of your breasts and hips as the bright light outside the lobby doors shines through your dress.
Finally, finally! I was wondering when you would get around to detailing the wardrobe! What, for godsake is she wearing?
Now, Teddy, let the boy proceed. He is establishing his rhythm now, it must not be broken by us too often.
Mlle Nin reaches over to PAT THE HAND OF DIANA, who has yet to say a word. The young Flatrock is completely caught up in the narrative at the moment and DOES NOT NOTICE the gesture. Her breathing is deep and even. They have begun.
(with a nod to Mr Theodore)
The translucent cotton sundress reaches to your calves, but the outlines of your breasts and hips are clearly visible through it. I know that, as you like, you are wearing nothing at all under the dress.
Your beautiful backside is pushed up in the air by the tall heels of the sandals that hold your slim feet. The sight of your toes, of your ankles, makes me again yearn for you.
(draws in a
puts her hand over Buick’s mouth, exhales, inhales)
I follow you patiently, holding my fever in. We now sit on opposite sides of a table, making the usual mimed polite conversation, drinking cocktails, watching people come and go through the plant-filled lobby, as we try not to stare at one another. You raise and lower the lashes that drape those irresistible aquamarine eyes. You know I have fallen into them.
Then, thankfully, the drinks are finished. You sign the tab, and we cross to the elevators. Our room is on the tenth floor, and only accessible by one of the glass elevators. Though the mechanism is modern, it is still French, and comes in its own time. We have to wait for what seems hours for one to arrive and open in front of us. We enter. You walk to the rear and stand with your back to the elevator wall. I stand in front, leaning against you. I smell your skin, put my hand around my back, against the front of your pants. I hear you breathe heavily into my hair. The doors close.
(his mouth freed and chest heaving)
Immediately, I pull up the back of your billowy, gauzy dress...
Diana stood up.
“I have to go home now. It’s late.” She spun about and walked quickly from the room without looking back or saying another word.
She had to go home.
Diana and Buick told each other that they did not need to have physical sex in order to achieve the sort of communion they valued. They weren’t ready yet for the Real Thing. So she faithfully and accurately recorded her experiences with Buick in her private journal, realizing they might serve as some sort of guidelines when an encounter with that Thing finally approached. She filled one spiral-bound volume and began a second. Then a third, all in Buick’s preferred form of record, rudimentary screenplays. She hoped to meet Miller again to compare notes, now that she had first-hand -- in a certain second-hand fashion -- experience in the physical phenomenon he had described decades earlier. She understood both his excitement and his reservations.
After a while, though, understanding wasn’t enough. Conflict began to brew between the divergent aesthetics of Buick, his two guests and Diana. She had acquiesced for a long while, but metaphysics were easier to get into than most of Theodore’s underwear. Her commitment to fringed Parisian love began to falter. The gentleman from Hollywood had overstayed his welcome.
She had hoped to find in Buick a single contemporary poet or writer. But compared to the Nin-Theodore collusion, rock and roll had been easy. She just couldn’t keep up the inventory -- or the finances -- required to maintain the proper state of a collaborative ‘30's Bohemian dishabille.
Ironically feeling he needed no one else but Diana, Buick had fallen into the complexities of a real-life relationship carrying heavy baggage marked Hollywood and Montmartre. Diana, too, had herself come to Buick anticipating monogamy. She walked, metaphorically, into his arms alone. As she thought was correct in love.
Though he had not consciously explored the possibility before Diana, Buick found that working solo was difficult if not impossible. Diana complained that the two outsiders were running their lives, but Buick remained infuriatingly neutral, insisting he was only there as an observer, that his and her corporeal participation was merely a catalyst for exploration, for discovery. It was then that Diana began to sense the imminent precipice ahead, and saw that Buick Baskin wasn’t going to change direction to avoid it. Her logical mind sought and found solutions, though the answers were neither easy nor pleasant. She reread her diary of each day of their relationship.
Set amidst the pleasures of imagination, the hard evidence was there.
So, as was her way even at that young age, she took the initiative and summarily ended their tutoring sessions. Even though the time with Buick had grown to fill such a major part of her life and heart. Diana knew the right road and without hesitation walked down it. She was her own woman, even at sixteen. She left the relationship still a physical virgin, though her soul had been happily and repeatedly deflowered – of course, Diana would have more likely described the process as flowered, had such description occurred to her during those turbulent days.
Then for the brief while it took to decide where she herself was headed, she dawdled in the elementary school playground that was an older man’s fantasy world. Buick had raised in Diana Flatrock a very healthy need for what could in many ways be described as intellectual intercourse, and she found that need distracting if not regularly fulfilled.
Brother Leweltus Whitsell, hardware mogul, supermarket sensualist, and deacon of Blue Moon’s small but intense Methodist enclave, happened to be the first manipulable male to walk up. He was not an adequate substitute for the Roadmaster, but he could sit and listen. He’d do as a stopgap until she settled her next move.
Diana still wasn’t entirely sure why she had done it, why she left Buick for a bad-attitude, bad-complexioned church deacon three times her own age. As backward as it sounded, she knew it was the right thing to do to maintain her own stability. So she did it. But Diana was dogged by fears that she was wrong. She winced at the possibility that she’d left Buick because she’d been getting bad feedback from the traces of her father that she saw in the beckoning apparition of Mr Theodore. Then there was the other deeper, more restless portion of her psyche stirred by something in Anaïs.
She knew Buick Roadmaster Baskin -- whoever that was -- had burrowed much further into her self than she’d expected. It hurt to leave him. She knew that against her own wishes and judgment she had fallen in love, really and truly.
But with which of the three Buicks?
On to chapter four.