“Half Man” by David Huddle, page 3

        Reaching far back into her closet, Nadine removed a large navy-blue shirt on a hanger--surely it was a man’s shirt, and Bill had in mind that it must have been corduroy. She took it off the hanger and arranged it on her bed, unbuttoned and facing upward. She moved quickly and efficiently. From the top of her bed she removed two regular pillows and two smaller ones, setting them carefully onto the open shirt. She stuffed the smaller pillows into each sleeve, pulled the sides up over the regular ones, and began buttoning and molding the thing into the shape of a torso--that of a man with an abnormally thick chest and shoulders. When she had it shaped as she wanted, she tied up the shirt-tails to hold the pillows in place. Then she propped what she’d made up against the bed’s headboard, turned on the lamps at either side of her bed, and turned off the ceiling and desk lights. Removing her glasses, she set them on the desk, quickly stripped down to her underpants, stretched a thin arm to pick up one of the shirt-cuffs, smiled, mock-curtsied, and spoke to the headless shirt. From having watched her lips at least half a dozen nights, Bill was certain that her words were, “Would you care to dance?”
        Nadine’s half a man never refused her invitation. She held him close to her and, stealing occasional glances into the mirror over her dresser, she moved slowly and gracefully around her bedroom. The waltz she danced required the partners to chafe their chests against each other. Gradually Nadine’s steps slowed and shortened until there came a point when she stopped moving her feet and stood still, pressing her partner against her chest and pushing the thing down her body and against her pelvis while she stood there shuddering. Finally she took a deep breath, flung her bedcovers aside, collapsed backward onto her bed with her pillow man, and quickly stretched one way and then the other to snap off the lamps on either side of her bed.
        That was it--the show was over. Robert and Bill weren’t tempted to step closer to the window to see if Nadine disassembled her pillow man and used his parts to cushion her head or curled around him and held him close as she went to sleep. By silent agreement, lights out in her room was their signal to turn away to walk down the hill to their own part of town. To himself as he grew older, Bill argued that he and Robert did no harm to Nadine because they were never caught, she never knew they were out there, and eventually the two boys stopped going to her window.
        One night it rained hard enough to keep them from going out. The next night Robert gave Bill a look and said he had some reading he wanted to do, he thought maybe he’d give Bill’s education a rest. This was around the middle of June, full summer just coming on. Bill had nothing he wanted to read, and he doubted that Robert did either, he’d probably just had enough of seeing the same show every night. But that wasn’t the case for Bill. He was restless, and he hadn’t gotten enough of Nadine. So when the hour came around, on his own he left the house and took the path up through the field to Hilltop. Without Robert walking ahead of him to lead the way, he felt much more illicit in what he was up to.
        From the first night he’d witnessed it, Nadine’s ritual had aroused Bill. It must have aroused Robert, too, but they’d never spoken of it and had in fact discreetly avoided looking at each other while they were watching her. Because Robert had always been there before and because he’d always behaved modestly (so far as Bill knew), Bill had never even brushed his hand against the outside of his pants. But without Robert there, it was natural enough--it was almost an innocent act--for Bill to grab his erection at the moment when Nadine removed her blouse and dropped her skirt to the floor. And it wasn’t even a decision to unzip and to take his cock out of his pants, he just did what came to him to do.

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