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 Chapter 18

Sex and Bondage

Ellie Goldstein sat at her desk at the Icelandic embassy and pondered the latest economic data from Reykjavik. She had learned just enough Icelandic to be able to read the reports, and there was no doubt in her mind. Iceland was going to be rich. In some ways, it already was. The Americans and English had transformed its economy with their war-time bases, and, even though there was virtually no industry not connected with sheep and fish, that was enough. Her friend Thor, who was the First Secretary, sometimes said,

"Before the war, we were poor but honest. Now we're not poor and it doesn't matter whether we're honest."

Thor, however, was speaking ironically. It mattered a great deal to him whether they were honest. Goldstein, on the other hand, was reasonably honest without thinking or caring about it. It was just that he thought that everything he did was right. There was therefore no reason to conceal anything. The best thing about Goldstein was that he inspired fear. He inspired it even in her, although she could hardly say exactly what she feared.

As she rose and went to the ladies' room, Ellie decided that both men were exciting. She wished only that she excited Thor in the right way. But, still, homosexual as he might be, he was full of novel and violent feelings. She might be able to get a great deal from him.

Sitting on the toilet, where she often had her best thoughts, it seemed to Ellie that it would be a good idea to break the husband/lover function down into some half-dozen different sub-functions, and, so to speak, contract them out separately. Better yet, she could organize these different sub-functions as if they were different sections of code in one of the programs she often helped Goldstein write. Instead of calling a sub-routine, one called a man, had him play out his part, and then stored him for future use.

Depending on the role and the man, he could be stored on the magnetic drum for quick access, in the electrostatic (vacuum tube) area for less frequent access, or on magnetic tape for occasional use. Goldstein and Thor would be on drum for daily use, but she needed to define her functions and substantially reduce the accessing of Goldstein from so many different programs.

Ellie then considered Tom. He was yet another story. Hopelessly young and naive in comparison to either Thor or Goldstein, he was nevertheless filled with potentiality. He would also be much easier to guide than either of the others. He would be placed in ordinary storage. But, of course, she had yet to write the program delineating his functions, and wasn't sure how to begin.

Pulling the handle to flush, some drops of cold water hit her bare rear end. She had forgotten that this was the toilet that did that. Drying herself and removing her dress from the hangar, she decided that she would have to work out Tom's function empirically, by trial and error. She would then complete the program by finding some other men to go on magnetic tape and fulfill the remaining sub-functions.

Ellie adjusted her elegant costume and returned to her desk with the considerable dignity of one who both knew her way around economic statistics and was capable of providing a secure scientific foundation for her sex life.

Tom Williams had been out on a total of something like twenty dates with a half dozen young ladies since his first one at age sixteen. None of these dates had approached nirvana, but there had also been no real disasters. The usual thing had been a movie with snacks afterwards, or, in the latter stages of college, dinner and a movie afterwards. He had looked forward to those outings, and had been unhappy only that there hadn't been more of them. Indeed, the competition for Radcliffe women had been so spirited that he actually had fewer dates as time went on.

Tom's main thrill on many of those dates had come with his first glimpse of the girl, and, in particular, with his realization that she looked "grown up." Most of those girls had been teen-agers, and, most of the time, they had looked like teen-agers. But, when they got dressed up, there was a considerable change. They probably still looked like girls to their mothers, but, in his eyes, they had transformed themselves into women.

It was thus that Tom's first glimpse of Ellie caused him to inwardly exclaim,

"Wow, she's really grown-up!"

That triggered another throwback to an earlier time. Although Tom was used to talking with Ellie, he suddenly became both awkward and stupid. He was vividly reminded of one date, the summer before he went to college. The young lady was already in college, a first for him, and she asked casually,

"What are you interested in?"

Tom thought he must have answered something like,

"Gee, football and baseball, I guess."

That hadn't been the right answer. The young lady had shown surprising good nature, and continued,

"Are you interested in science, or literature, or art?"

That had been an even more difficult question. Tom had done badly in prep school, doing the bare minimum to pass his courses. Wherever possible, he had copied the work of other boys. He hadn't really liked any of his courses, but he did manage to mutter something about chemistry. His companion, probably amazed that such a person could have gotten into Harvard, was good enough to let him talk about football and baseball that evening. On this occasion, he found himself telling Ellie about soccer.

After a while, she said,

"I hadn't realized how interested you are in sports. You must have trouble tearing yourself away long enough to go to work."

It was only then that Tom realized that he was still being seventeen, and that an adjustment was required. By the time they set out, he had managed to change gears to the extent of saying,

"You do look unusually good tonight. Did you do something extra?"

"A little. We're going to an amateur theater in Georgetown which is mostly staffed and financed by diplomats. There'll be people I know there, so I'm sort of on duty. It's almost as much a party as a performance. That means more jewelry than we wear in the daytime, barer shoulders and feet, and so on."

Ellie's black dress wasn't an evening gown, but it was square-cut to reveal the area beneath her throat. Tom said,

"I like your dress. I bet I'll be able to see down the front of it when you bend forward."

Tom was a little nervous about the effect of such a remark, but Ellie replied calmly,

"There isn't much to see. My friend Thor, the first secretary, made this dress for me."

"I can't imagine a first secretary who makes dresses."

"Thor says it relaxes him, and he does a beautiful job. He says black is good for me because I never go out in the sun and have absolutely white skin. I'm also not allowed to wear my glasses, so you'll have to see for me."

"How much can you see?"

"Enough to get around, but I can't recognize people at more than about ten feet. When you see people who look as if they recognize me, just touch me on the arm and steer me in the right direction. I'll approach them smiling, and I'll know who they are by the time I have to greet them by name."

"Okay, that'll be interesting. You certainly do look elegant without your glasses."

"I can't help looking intellectual in glasses, and intellectuals aren't elegant."

"I guess that's true, but I don't see why."

"It's not elegant to strain in any direction, either mentally or physically. You have to move languidly and only say things that roll easily off your tongue."

Ellie brought a towel out of the house, which she placed over the passenger seat of Tom's car before settling herself carefully with a swish of silk. He asked,

"How are you going to be elegant with me in tow? I'm wearing my only tie and my only jacket, but I don't suppose Charles would think much of my outfit. He's always teasing me about being uncouth."

"Your tie's okay. Regimental ones always are."

"Someone once told me it's the tie of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers. Suppose I meet a real fusilier at the theater. He'll probably insist on satisfaction with pistols right after the performance."

"If so, he'll probably shoot in the air. You can plug him between the eyes."

"I'll try to look like a man with a very quick temper."

"You might make people wonder where my husband is, but, at worst, I'll be an elegant woman with advanced views. I can live with that."

The theatre turned out to be an old house in Georgetown that had been remodelled for the purpose. As they approached, Tom said,

"The diplomatic corps seems to have all kinds of activities. I play in their soccer game, and you go to their theater."

"There are dozens of these little groups. I also go to a play-reading group and a literary discussion group."

"Is that expected or voluntary?"

"For me, it's voluntary. But a real diplomat's wife is expected to throw herself into these things. Many of them feel perpetually isolated in foreign countries, and participation in groups like this is thought to be necessary to keep up the morale of the corps and keep its members out of trouble."

The first floor of the house had had some partitions removed to form a large lounge. Tom entered right behind Ellie, and, seeing a large blonde man gesturing at her from the left, he guessed that it was her Icelandic friend, Thor. Steering her gently with his hands and whispering his suspicions to her, they moved toward the man. He called out,

"I see you've brought a guide, Ellie."

She replied,

"It's only because of you that I need one."

She kissed him gently, and, when Tom was introduced, Thor grasped his hand firmly and looked at him with obvious good feeling. They were soon talking about the play that was about to be performed, and Thor said,

"The playwright tonight is French, but don't worry, the play's in English."

Ellie explained to Tom,

"The last play was in French, and I had to strain pretty hard to understand it."

Tom was more relieved than he let on. Just then, the gong sounded, and they made their way uptairs. The stage was at one end of the house, and a part of the second floor ceiling had been removed, so that what remained of the third floor constituted a little balcony. Tom and Ellie decided to sit there, and he watched her closely as she preceeded him, climbing sinously up the circular staircase. He liked the way that the backs of her ankles looked in high heels, and also the movements forced on her by her tight skirt. When they arrived at the top, she whispered to him,

"This play hasn't even been published yet, and I think that Thor got it informally and translated it himself. It's by a man with strong and violent homosexual tendencies who spends a good deal of his time in jail."

The amateur actors appeared to be quite good. At least, they projected their voices well and interacted in plausible ways with one another. Unfortunately, even though they were speaking English, most of what they said didn't seem to make any sense. Tom briefly wondered if the translation might be bad, but Thor, fluent in God knew how many languages, didn't look like a man who would produce a bad translation. Then, a little later, Tom realized that it was a philosophical play.

It was, in fact, the kind of philosophy that Tom most hated, the work of the sort of Frenchman who thought that he could make his views more profound by stating them in paradoxical ways. Sartre was a bit like that, but Sartre could be fun. This man wasn't fun at all.

Ellie seemed rather wrapped up in the play, but it was one of virtually unbroken conversation between various pairs of characters in which nothing much ever seemed to happen. Tom, hardly able to endure the linguistic and logical confusions that ran rampant, wondered what on earth he'd be able to say about it at intermission. But he did notice that one of the actresses was quite attractive in a rather unusual way and decided that he might be able to endure the intellectual pain and boredom if he concentrated minutely on every movement that she made. Following the advice of Husserl and the phenomenologists, he bracketted away the putative meaning, if any, of her utterances and treated them as an odd sort of music. It was only when he looked down at the program that he realized that she must be Charles Twistleton's wife.

Charles himself seemed not to be present, but Tom looked with renewed interest at Mrs. Agatha Twistleton as she moved and spoke. Tall and slim, she obviously went well with Charles. And her cool clear voice, if it weren't speaking nonsense, would obviously command attention and respect. Not only that, Mrs. Twistleton had solved Tom's immediate problem. He could talk about her at intermission.

It became gradually more clear that there wasn't going to be any intermission. Sneaking another look at the program, Tom saw no mention of one. The playright, violent criminal and sadist that he was reputed to be, had evidently decided to intensify the torture that he intended to inflict on his audiences by giving them no respite. Unfortunately for him, this ploy back-fired with Tom. The lack of an intermission meant that he would only once have to talk about the play, and Mrs. Twistleton would get him through that. Two or more such stints might have forced on him a discussion of the play's content.

As they approached the two hour mark, it occurred to Charles that Mrs. Twistleton might take off her clothes. The play proceeded with no particular rules or principles, and anything was possible. Moreover, the playwright might wish to humiliate the actors who had shown such poor judgment as to choose to act in his play. Tom therefore worked out how her dress unfastened, and his excitement rose whenever her hand moved in the direction of a zipper. As it turned out, Mrs. Twistleton's dress remained in place when the play, with no warning, ended.

The applause was enthusiastic, and no one clapped louder than Tom. He assumed that everyone else was equally pleased that the thing had finally come to an end. It did occur to him, moreover, that Mrs. Twistleton and the other actors were capable of extraordinary feats of memory. It was one thing to memorize dialogue that moved in predictable ways, but quite another to manage something that made so little sense.

Before Ellie could say anything, Tom told her that Mrs. Twistleton was his friend's wife. That gave him a chance to sound her out before he had to offer an opinion. In fact, they had only begun to talk when her various other acquaintances came up. One woman opened by thanking Ellie for a cook-book she had sent her, and as Tom wended his way into the general conversation, he discovered that most of the people were mainly concerned with houses and the problems of finding and keeping good help. There were some cursory discussions of the play, but, where Tom had expected people to have strong, perhaps hidden, negative reactions, they acted as if they had just witnessed a moderately amusing adaptation of a detective story. That, he supposed, was the mark of a highly sophisticated, if not very lively, group.

After a while, Tom glimpsed Thor approaching. Knowing that a full-fledged discussion of the play would then be necessary, Tom murmured to Ellie that he was going to find Mrs. Twistleton and introduce himself. He did see that lady talking with some friends a little later, but there was still no sign of Charles. Having had no intention of putting himself in another potentially embarrassing situation, he slid off instead to the men's room. There occupying a stall for a good fifteen minutes, he farted a number of times in a satisfactory way and waited until the room was empty before emerging. By the time that he got back to Ellie, Thor was just leaving. They exchanged waves, and that was it.

When they left, Ellie lost no time in saying,

"I'd like to try out some roles, the way they did in the play. Would you?"

Tom gathered that there had been playlets within the play, and agreed cheerfully. Ellie replied,

"Of course, the roles in the play weren't very good for the women. Unlike Thor, the author seems to be the kind of homosexual who hates women. But there are some things I'd like to do."

"Okay. I'll play complement to whatever you'd like to be."

"Well, one thing I liked about the roles within the play was that they weren't straight-forward theatre roles where the actors try to be as accurate and realistic as possible. The actors were playing people who, in their sub-roles, liked to watch themselves and each other. Among other things, you don't need elaborate props and costumes, just enough to be symbolic."

"So, if we play doctor, we only need one of Goldstein's stethoscopes."

Ellie laughed, but Tom could see that she didn't like this note of levity. She said,

"We might pretend that Goldstein isn't in New York. And we could also pretend that he's insanely jealous."

"He isn't, is he?"

Ellie laughed with more enjoyment this time.

"Well, for all you know, he is. He might just have pretended to go to New York and actually be testing me. He might be following us at this moment in a rented car."

Tom could see that the game had already begun, and he tried to look nervous. She said,

"Let's go to our house. I can put on Goldstein's hat and coat and pretend to be him."

"Am I supposed to just be me?"

"You can pretend to be your Russian friend, Boris."

When they drove up to the Goldstein house, a fairly modest one in the middle part of Chevy Chase, it was reassuringly dark. Once Ellie opened the door, she pointed Tom into the living room and disappeared upstairs. A little later, he heard the clicks of her heels coming back down. He then saw a figure in a long black overcoat with collar turned up and a felt hat pulled down to the eyes. It was surely Ellie, but hardly any of her showed. She was also pointing a pistol at him. Tom, trying to appear relaxed, wondered if the gun could possibly be loaded. She then hissed at him,

"Why do I find you here with my wife?"

There was something of Goldstein's intonation in the question, as if he were asking Jacky what he had done to muck up the program. Tom, remembering his part, managed to say with a slight accent,

"But I am a Soviet diplomat at a social occasion."

"How can there be a social occasion when no one else is here?"

Tom, actually beginning to feel rather nervous, replied,

"Ah, well, there seems to have been some mistake. I thought that there was a party for the Icelandic ambassador, but it appears ...."

"A likely story! You have come for something else, I believe."

"Well, of course we diplomats are always on duty. I understood that there might be some opportunity to speak with certain prominent Icelanders about ..."

This time, there was a scream. It was oddly like the scream that Tom had heard Goldstein direct at Jacky on the day of their memorable confrontation. Then Ellie cried out,

"You are a Russian spy. You have come to seduce my wife and get from her the secrets of my work!"

Ellie approached, making jabbing motions with the gun. She seemed really to be in a fit of passion, and Tom hoped that she wouldn't forget herself so far as to shoot him. Just as he was considering whether to try to knock the gun out of her hand, she ordered him to face the wall with his hands behind him. She had stopped some six feet away, near enough to be dangerous but far enough to make a grab uncertain, so he followed orders. He then heard her approach, and, before he quite realized what was happening, he felt metal on his wrist. It turned out to be a handcuff. She grasped his other wrist, trying to get the other handcuff on it, but he knew that she couldn't manage the gun and handcuffs at the same time. He spun as quickly as he could and grabbed her arm. The gun dropped to the floor, and, pulling her away from it, he said,

"Ah so, Goldstein, it seems that the tables are turned."

The accent was more Japanese than Russian, and they both burst out laughing. Tom then held up his wrist with the handcuff on it and said,

"I'm not too surprised that Goldstein keeps a pistol, but where did he get the handcuffs?"

"His cousin is a detective in New York. Goldstein wants to do what I just tried to do when he catches a burglar."

"You need three hands to do that. I don't know how the police manage, but I think Goldstein would do better not to try."

"I'll manage to lose the handcuffs. I bet you're wondering what I would have done if I'd succeeded."

"That is beginning to cross my mind."

"I'm a little afraid of having sex with you in the ordinary way. You're so much more powerful that you could do anything to me. You'd have to be handcuffed to make it even."

"You were trying to handcuff my hands behind me. I wouldn't even have been able to open a door to run away."

"Well, let's put them on in front. That'll probably still leave you more powerful."

Tom found himself very much confused. He didn't like the idea of being hand-cuffed at all, but it also looked like his best chance ever to actually have sex with a woman. Before he could reply, Ellie said brightly,

"Instead of that, let's go out to some public place where we can still do some things, but I won't have to worry."

"Okay. Can you get this handcuff off?"

At first, Ellie couldn't find the keys. It was only after some little time that they found them in Goldstein's desk. Having released him, Ellie said,

"This time, let's pretend that I'm a rich lady and you're my young hired gigilo. There's that new drinking and dancing place where people like that go."

"How do I act like a gigilo?"

"You can always tell them because they're extra attentive and they do things for a woman with a sort of bored scowl because their hearts aren't in it and they'd prefer to be with some other woman."

"Wow! I didn't know there were people like that."

"Oh yes. You can keep looking at the prettiest girl in the place, but I'll give you little slaps and insist you pay attention to me."

"Okay. I guess I can do that."

Ellie put on some extra jewelry, all she had, and outfitted Tom with Goldstein's most expensive tie and jacket. The jacket was too small and tight for Tom, but Ellie said,

"It gives you a kind of sexy continental look. Let's go."

The lounge had a row of large windows from which the Washington Cathedral could be seen, and, on the other side, a row of equally large mirrors. Tom was rather confused as they entered, not being sure which side was mirror and which window. Ellie made her way briskly between the tables to the bar at the end, at which point there appeared another similar room with a dance floor on which there were a half dozen couples. A small band at the end of that room was, without much obvious energy, playing a waltz that Tom thought he could probably shuffle through.

Ellie didn't seem to have it in mind to dance, and asked him to bring her a drink. When he approached with it, trying to imitate the mannerisms of a waiter, she was looking none too pleased. Tom started looking fixedly at a nearby blonde when Ellie said, not as quietly as he would have wished,

"Please keep your eyes off the whores tonight."

The woman didn't seem to have heard, but Tom was startled and embarrassed. Ellie was looking irritated, apparently well into her part and feeling it all the way. It was hard to guess how a genuine gigilo would react to such things, but he attempted to smile obsequiously as he bent and assured her that she was much more beautiful than the blonde woman. He was aware of not being much of an actor, but it seemed to pass. Ellie took his hand and placed it on her waist with her own hand over it. Tom enjoyed exploring her flat stomach with his fingers and moving them up and down, not quite reaching any critical areas. Ellie seemed to respond, and he whispered to her,

"That dark-haired woman over there has nice breasts."

Ellie gasped and moved suddenly, but didn't push him away. Tom continued to move his hand around but discovered that what had been exciting at first became boring as time passed. Ellie evidently felt the same way and led him on to the dance floor.

Tom managed well enough, holding Ellie close and taking only small steps. She danced fairly well, well enough to make up for any irregularities in his own procedure. When the music stopped, Tom moved his hand up to Ellie's neck in back and ran his fingers up under her hair, which she seemed to enjoy. He liked it too, but it seemed to him that all such things graded off rather quickly. He supposed that people had orgasms so that they could stop touching and go on about their business.

The next sequence began when Ellie led him to a corner of the lounge, where there were two chairs backed up against the glass wall. She moved the one in the corner out a little from the glass and stood facing outward with her back against the back of the chair. She twisted the other chair to face outward and indicated for Tom to sit in it. She then stood erect and stiff and said,

"Excite me."

Tom wasn't sure exactly what she meant, but the chair was low and his right hand was already close to her left ankle. It was a nicely shaped ankle, and he ran his hand appreciatively upward, feeling the oddly soapy surface of her nylon stocking. Since the lower part of Ellie was largely hidden from view by himself and the chairs, Tom continued upward under Ellie's skirt and put his hand on her knee. Ellie was more muscular in the legs than elsewhere, and she seemed particularly sensitive to touch in the area behind her knees. Tom, still without raising her skirts, was able to move his hand up between her legs until it was above her stockings and he could feel cool bare skin. She was shivering and vibrating slightly and said something he couldn't catch.

Glancing to his left, Tom saw that some nearby people were back to them, and intent on their own conversation. He subsequently moved his hand further up as Ellie's legs opened and she came slightly down with her hands still on the back of the chair. Her mouth was somewhat open and she was panting quietly, but he told a rather stupid joke rather loudly, and it might have looked to an observer as if she were laughing at the joke.

It was when Tom began to pull Ellie's pants down that she made a funny gurgling sound and closed her legs tightly, trapping his hand in place. Her skirt was now somewhat up, and reconnoitering again, Tom saw one man who definitely realized what was going on. But he looked amused and gave Tom a little wave. Quite embarrassed, Tom managed to extricate his hand. He then stood, holding Ellie about the shoulders as she continued to make little noises and movements.

On the trip home there was no mention of any of the unusual things that had happened that evening, and they talked economics as if Goldstein were present. She gave him a little kiss in the car, darted out, and waved as she went in the door to her house.

It was early in the next week that Tom had a chance to talk with Sid in the key-punch room. She brought in coffee for both of them, and said,

"You've had your date with Mrs. Goldstein, haven't you?"

"Yes, Friday night."

"Are you still a virgin?"

"You aren't supposed to ask questions like that."

"You can ask me the same question, and I'll answer it truthfully."

"But you have children. That's not the same."

"Maybe your child is already started."

That possibility had never occurred to Tom. Even though he quickly realized that there was no chance of it, his initial reaction evidently misled Sid on the matter of his virginity. She smiled and asked,

"Are you in love with her?"


"That's strange. Did something go wrong."

It seemed to Tom a mistake to take particular pride in being able to perform the sexual act. After all, there couldn't be any honor in doing something that hundreds of millions of men could do. On the other hand, he didn't want Sid to think that there was anything defective about him in that area. It was thus a rather long time before she got every last detail out of him. At one point, she interjected,

"That woman is completely crazy! Was the gun loaded?"

"You know, I never did find out."

"Knowing Goldstein, I'm sure it was. You could very easily have been killed."

"It did seem to me that there was a certain danger."

"If you go near her again, I'll snatch you bald-headed. What happened next?"

When the story was finished, Sid said,

"She's bizarre and selfish. I'm sorry it was like that."

"Well, I did enjoy it for the most part. And I certainly learned a few things."

"But she's one in a million. You'll never come across anything like that again."

"I guess I can make some excuse not to go on with her."

"You don't need to make one. If you want to be tactful, you can say that you're on the lookout for something more ordinary. If she presses you at all, you can just threaten to tell people about her weird sexual practices."

"It might be better if I didn't tell her that I've already told you."

"Sometimes your brilliance astounds me, Tom."

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