“There are only two tragedies in life: one is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it.” --Oscar Wilde
It began innocently in a guise that was not innocent at all.
Carol woke from a vaguely erotic dream—strange lips nuzzling a stranger’s stiffening nipples—to screaming blue jays. Looking out for the source of the ruckus, she gasped at the revelation. A multitude of large, knobby-tipped mushrooms had sprouted overnight in her backyard, embarrassing in their likeness to phalluses.
“Oh my god, Janice, you won’t believe what I am looking at,” she left a message on a friend’s phone. “I’ve got a field of penises. Wild penises. Well, are there any other kinds? I’ll send you a photo from my phone.”
Gingerly she stepped around them, chortling with amazement at the spectacle. Like the real thing, they even had an odor. She learned from Google that they would depart as inexplicably as they arrived. In the meantime she took them to be more than a botanical surprise--an omen perhaps?
Phallus impudicus, known colloquially as the common stinkhorn, is a widespread fungus recognizable for its foul odor and long white shafts when mature, the latter feature giving rise to several names in 17th-century England . . . Botanist John Gerard called it the "pricke mushroom”. . . Impudicus is derived from the Latin for "shameless" or "immodest."
Reading further, she learned that Charles Darwin’s sister was appalled by the fungi. Darwin’s granddaughter wrote, “Aunt Etty . . . armed with a basket and a pointed stick, and wearing a special hunting cloak and gloves” would set out to search for the mushrooms. After collecting them, she brought them home where she “burned them in the deepest secrecy on the drawing room fire, with the door locked—because of the morals of the maids.”
The garden languished, drooping in a spell of spiteful drought. She watered dawn and dusk, but nothing planted by her hand seemed happy to live. The once boisterously fertile front yard garden withered before her red-rimmed eyes, an illustration of her own flagging vitality.
It was minutes after she poured herself a rum and cola in the middle of a Saturday afternoon that she heard the wind rummage wildly through her backyard. Lightning crackled and ended in a boom that made her jump. She peered out the patio door to see it had split the little jockey statue in two. Don had left it behind when he abandoned her for a younger honey; and she had hauled to the ‘unwanted pile’ out back. “Racist bastard,” she murmured with satisfaction at the sight. Rain followed, sizzling with a vengeance.
Carol then felt oddly horny. Her thoughts strayed to the little Moroccan sex toy an ancient aunt brought back from travels, completely innocent to its purpose (she had used it as a paperweight) when she gifted it to her niece. Carol kept the thing beneath the pillow on Don’s side of the bed for easy access. It was thick white porcelain with blue raised scrawl of exotic letters around its side, rounded and pouty as a young breast, even ending in a red tip. Amazing in the way its sides hugged the inner labia, its point aimed for her own hard tip, eager to meet the keen intruder . . .
A rapping at the front door startled her again. She usually checked before she opened it, but this time, flustered by the storm’s recent vandalism and her inexplicable fantasy, she rushed to open it.
A dark man loomed before her; at least 6 feet 4 inches, imposingly strong, black eyes staring confidently into her widening ones.
“You called me.”
“I’m the one you need.”
“Look, I know the house looks bad right now, but I don’t want any roofing.”
“Your garden?” His round soft lips curled in derision as he turned to peer back at the sad mess.
It occurred to her that she could use someone with muscle to take some things out and put others in. And that he was getting drenched yet didn’t seem to care. “Why don’t you come round to the patio before you drown?”
The rain was making a racket on the patio’s metal awning roof. He headed instead straight for the detached mud room before she could get his attention. She followed him breathlessly into the doorless shanty.
“This is good,” he said peering around the shadowy, spider-webbed structure. He seemed most interested in the old chaise longue in a neglected corner. “I can stay here.”
Before she could protest his presumption she had to ask. “What is that smell?” It wasn’t exactly unpleasant; definitely musky. Earth, absolutely, but also sky, the salt of a slow- moving river, and something darker. Rut? Nothing in the mud room could have smelled so rich and dense, so vital you could plant dirty thoughts in it and they would become a screaming jungle. This was one variety Glade would never reproduce for air fresheners.
It was him.
Without answering, his penetrating gaze took her in, the awkward silence around her, the helpless way she opened her door to him and now stood with her back against the tool bench, frightened mouth agape. He sniffed the air and smelled her too: the warm juices of her awakened muff.
He smiled slowly, deeply, in return.
“What is your name?” she mouthed the words.
His mouth made the sound of a cry, half-wolf, half-elk, and the hair rose on her arms and the back of her neck. Then he said to elaborate, “Pan.”
“Pan? The god of Nature?”
“I am here for you,” he said by way of explanation in a voice like the deep echo of waterfalls. “Everything is going to change.”
A few days later she found him in the back flowerbeds crying. It was a Sunday morning when you could hear singing from the church down the street.
“I guess Christianity upsets you?” she asked carefully. He was, after all, a pagan deity.
He shook the massive head and came close to speak to her. “It reminds me.”
“A time long before this one when the virgins sang to me.”
His tears fell again. Wild poppies immediately sprang up where they landed.
“Stop, I don’t want those growing here,” she said. “Tell me: why did they sing?”
“They wanted the honor of Pan deflowering them and no mortal man. Their singing drew me like your desire drew me. I became their Lover and nothing was ever the same again.”
Carol led him to the mud room and he followed her every silent desire, reading it as easily as he did the roots of plants, the flocks of geese, and the bark of trees.
Straddling him on the chaise longue, she felt it break under their combined reckless weight. She didn’t care. His hands were like warm earth on her quivering body. His lips and tongue were as persistent and focused on her sex as a wild boar’s snout in a hillock of black truffles.
She peeled off his pants. Carol’s mind reeled at It. His cock wasn’t any garden variety (pun intended). It started as one cock but its head was dual, each as large as a lily bulb. Her mind could not take it in.
But her pussy could. So ready she was that she nearly sucked it inside. The sensation was indescribable. The two heads were of the width to perfectly fill the entrance and rock her waiting clitoris from below and inside. As one head dove deeper, the other remained at that shallow precipice of desire, stroking against her secret head, a diabolical prison of constant arousal and insatiable satisfaction.
What was it that Don had snidely written her in his last email? I hope you overcome that frigidity of yours. Just needed the right lover, she thought, grinning.
Now she was not Carol, 49-year-old divorcee worried about her future; now she was a mortal woman moving beneath a man who uncovered in her a wildness that surprised even her. She had become the Earth, its valleys and mountains rushing to life at the breath of Pan, his Magic still evident in every stone and cloud and bird.
Lust was replaced with an ancient and primal joy that could not be contained. With a voice like a hundred little virgins from another time, she cried . . . a kind of song.
Janice had to come by. She noticed her friend’s frequent laughter, sly innuendos, and slowed, relaxed breathing on the phone. “You met someone,” she intuited during a call.
“You could say that.”
“I just did. So give it up. Is it that brother-in-law of the nerdy woman at work? The one whose wife died?”
“Heavens, no. That guy’s an accountant or something. This man is, well, a little more physical.”
“Okay, I have to see him. I am coming over. Today.”
“Knock yourself out,” Carol chuckled.
Driving down the crab-treed street to her friend’s home, Janice noticed something strange. All the women on the street were outside. Some were digging in the earth or watering, others were sweeping driveways, and a few just sat on the front steps staring into space. In the direction of Carol’s house. All had a bemused dreamy look on their empty face.
“Oh my God!” Janice cried when she pulled up in Carol’s driveway. She did not recognize at first the emerald glade before her. Flowers tumbled over vines of vegetables over tassels of corn over sunflowers and on and on. “Honey, is that an azalea?” she pointed to a huge flowering bush near the door.
“They don’t grow here, and if they did, it would be the wrong season.” Carol hugged her friend. “I know, I know. Things are a little wild here. I had to pull out bleeding hearts today that sprung up wild. Wild! Can you believe it? It’s an embarrassment of riches.”
“I’ve never seen you looking so good. And your garden! Who helped you? This man? Oh, I see.”
What she saw was his massive naked back tapering to a small waist, the shaggy dark hair of his head lying about his great shoulders, as he worked, kneeling, in a side bed. “Can he work in my bed?” Janice deadpanned.
Carol whispered. “He’s unbelievable. He’s been in a few beds beside mine, but who cares? I couldn’t possibly keep him satisfied. Not more than three times a day.”
“Get out! What’s his name? Where does he come from?”
At this he stood up, his animal ears hearing everything behind him. Janice stared shamelessly at his flat stomach, its dark fur curling above the gaping buttoned trousers, tight against an insistent bulge that threatened to break out from its leather confinement.
“I am Pan,” he boomed.
“Pan—cho,” Carol quickly explained. “To friends, he goes by—just Pan.”
“Oh,” Janice tittered like a schoolgirl. “How stereotypical of you, Carol, a Mexican gardener. But so tall.”
“I am from everywhere,” he continued. “I live in all places at all times.”
“He’s a drifter. Just came up to the door one day. Isn’t that right, Pan. I mean, Pan-cho?”
He was staring into Janice’s eyes. “Do you have a garden?”
“Me? Not me, no, just a lot of grass, and, actually, a big bush that needs some work,” she rambled, reddening. “Well, not that kind of bush—it’s outdoors, some kind of wild bush, but it puts out these pretty pink flowers and I, uh, never have really taken good care of it, you know what I mean?”
He continued to stare. A trail of sweat meandered down his browned pectorals toward the inviting gap below. “I would like to smell your wild bush,” he offered.
“Okay, folks, this party’s over. Janice, I am so sorry but I am waiting for an important work call. Don’t you need to be somewhere?”
“No, I’ll keep Pancho company while you’re busy,” she said robotically.
Carol couldn’t help noticing that Janice’s blouse had unbuttoned itself from the top just from the sweltering gaze of Pan. In a half hour beneath his eyes, she would be nude in her front yard.
She took Janice’s arm firmly and moved her toward her car. “Call me later,” she whispered to her glowing friend. “Make that tomorrow. You got him all heated up again. It’s going to take another ‘session’ to calm him down.”
“Can’t we spray him with the hose?” Janice begged. “Together?” She closed her eyes against the image of those impossibly tight pants tighter and wet.
“Take your own damned cold shower,” Carol hissed like a cat in heat as she shut Janice’s car door. This wasn’t like her at all. “He’s mine.”
The warm rains of summer had been replaced with the freezing winds of fall.
Lovely squash blossoms, optimistic even at the end of September, urgently pushed themselves into wan little freaks of indeterminate nature, stunted and then aborted by the frost.
“Yoo-hoo,” it was Janice at the door. “Hello? Anybody home? ANYBODY HOME?”
A disheveled Carol opened it. “Sorry. Couldn’t hear you over the TV.”
The World Wide Wrestling Federation blared from inside. Pancho sprawled on the couch, one hand beneath the waist of his pajama bottoms, entranced by the match.
“He’s been like that for days,” murmured Carol.
“What’s up with you? You look awful.”
She shrugged. “All I do is run and fetch him more St. Polly Girl. And Whoopee Pies.”
“He likes the labels on the beer. Thinks it’s full of the tender juices of those pictured maidens.”
“Weird. And Whoopee Pies?”
“Anything with a cream filling.” She sighed and looked ten years older. “Except me.”
Janice enfolded her in a motherly embrace. “Oh, honey. I am so sorry.”
Carol snuffled back the tears. “I knew it had to end someday. But not like this.”
A belch erupted from the shambling beast on the couch.
She turned to address him. “Would you please get your feet off my table?”
“More golden leaves!” He shouted back.
Carol looked at Janice. “He means corn chips. That’s his second favorite thing. Anything that’s salty.”
Janice finished the pitiful thought. “Except you.”
“What am I supposed to do?” Carol asked. “How do you get rid of someone like him? Do I call the sheriff? Would he end up killing an officer of the law?” Her eyes were small and milky from the stress of sleepless nights.
“Carol, I’m sorry, but I have to go.”
“Please, stay; I don’t want to be alone with him.”
“My advice is—call Immigration. Or a biker gang that works cheap. He looks like he could be a handful. Honey, are those his feet?”
She had seen them clearly: the massive muscular calves ending in shaggy furred ankles and blackest hooves.
“Hah! Those are the funny slippers I bought him. You better hurry along. Bye!”
Carol retrieved another giant bag of snack food and delivered it to Pan. He hardly looked up. “Have you been next door?” she couldn’t help asking what had been on her mind for days.
“Uhhh,” he grunted in assent.
“Just as I thought,” she snarled. “I heard their teen-aged girl singing. And then she stopped. You were gone that night. Deflower another virgin, did you?”
He raised a mammoth arm and scratched the black tumbleweed beneath it. The stench that swirled out of it made her face contort.
“That is the last maidenhead you will add to your count here!” she announced.
And so it was. He vanished the next day.
The foothills around Lost Creek were bewitching this time of year when grass began to tuft celery green and wildflowers unfurled like declarations of unrequited love.
Carol hiked alone, relishing her strong legs, their contact with the solid ground, welcomed by the silence of trees beginning to wake up.
At 50 she had to rest more often on an uphill stretch. She curled down into a boulder for a moment, sniffing the air like a raven, enjoying its freshness, raw with recent rain.
It was then in that wild place that she felt him, a passing breeze. Invisible as he usually is on earth, he roamed familiarly over her body, making its secret places rise to him
in old homage. She felt him like a rush of hot blood to her sex, opening all her doors, taking her by surprise. The way of instinct, she mused. The way an innocent doe knows it is time to be mounted.
And then his sensation was gone as ephemerally as it had visited.
She considered the new man in her life, the brother-in-law of that nerdy woman at work. He was an underwriter for an insurance company, a church-going Catholic, but good with his hands and fixing things around her house. Not so bad really.
Maybe he would stick around. She didn’t care too much one way or another.
She knew something now that she hadn’t understood about herself before.
She was the Earth. Pan had been her lover. He would always be her lover.
She was okay and would always be okay. No matter the finitude, the imperfections of it all—earth, life, love, herself.
She laughed and listened to the echo.
Thunder answered like a lover’s agreement.
It was time to climb back down.
Rebekah is a published nonfiction author and award-winning short-fiction writer. Living in Colorado Springs, she is also a zealous front-yard organic gardener and instructor in using the moon’s phases to stimulate a better harvest.