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Novel Excerpt

From the newly published Novel
Tarantula Woman
by Donald O'Donovan

As a child I was a Taoist. Then I departed from the Way. It wasn't my decision. I was forced, by secret urges and demonic voices in the blood. The decision to leave the Garden originated in the germplasm, in the liver, in the spleen. In the pituitary, if you will. Or in the pancreas. It was a matter of chemistry.
Once I was the joyful inhabitant of a tiny, ordered world whose enameled blue sky my extended fingers could always touch. Then the serpent entered the Garden. The enzymes were released. My eyes were opened. And so it began: cities, women, occupations. In other words, my life...
It was right after I was rejected by the Peace Corps, when I was living in El Paso, that I started writing letters for the girls across the river, in Ciudad Juárez—the girls of Mariscal Street—the butterflies who inhabited the Boulevard of Broken Dreams.
I wanted to be a writer and I figured that a writer should write. Simple, no? The letter-writing practice I set up on La Calle Mariscal paid off chiefly in meals, drinks, and an occasional fuck—with the meter running, of course. Like Fallopio the Traveling Abortionist, I trekked from cantina to cantina, dispensing my services. The butterflies of Mariscal Street wanted letters written in English, letters to their customers and boyfriends, letters to their sugar daddies in Los Estados Unidos, letters to soldiers, sailors and airmen all over the world. They’d tell me in Spanish; I wrote in English. Looking back, I'm amazed at the gush and goo I copied down or translated or transliterated. At the lies I told or may have told, quite inadvertently. At the tragedies I may have precipitated with a mistaken phrase or two. Please understand, my Spanish wasn't all that good.
The Navy Rose Club was home to me. Above the swinging doors was a sign, "La Rosa Marina, Navy Rose Club," and a cracked, weathered ship’s figurehead, a hatchet faced maiden with an unswerving gaze and seaweed tangled in her long streaming hair. The Durango Club next door, somewhat upscale, featured a neon scorpion with a madly flagellating tail, as well as a midget doorman named Paco. “How-do-you-do-my-friend-take-a-look-inside!” he’d chirp, swinging the door open with a flourish. These were the only words of English he knew.
One of my best clients worked at the Navy Rose, Profunda, a broad-beamed woman with a nose like the blade of an oar. It had been broken several times. Her eyes were a little out of kilter, too. She was dewy, sentimental, highly sexed. She melted at the touch of a finger. Profunda was large and unwieldy, more than six feet tall. She towered above me. I felt like a rubber duck in her hands. She wanted the last drop of juice, everything. At the same time, she was terrified of getting pregnant. She took elaborate precautions.
Estoy buscando un marido,” she told me frankly one afternoon in bed. “Me entiendes? I am looking for a father for my bebés.”
I wrote many letters for Profunda to a one-armed retired colonel in Santa Monica who was constantly begging her to marry him. The Colonel was past sixty, an ex-paratrooper who raised roses and Great Danes. He was wiry and rugged, a little below medium height. His grizzled chest hair poked out of the brilliant Hawaiian shirts he always wore. The Colonel had a steel plate in his head and an eye that watered constantly. The left side of his face, which featured the weeping banjo eye, had been disfigured by a shrapnel burst. He was a tough little stud, a regular iron man, a booze artist, and horny as a monkey. What the Colonel desperately needed was a sea anchor, a doting wife for his declining years. He was in love with Profunda, as his frequent visits and many letters amply testified.
The visits of Profunda's one-armed chicken colonel from Santa Monica were spectacular events. The rug was rolled out at the Navy Rose Club. There was a tremendous upsurge in morale among the personnel. Profunda was hot. Profunda was everybody's Cinderella. Her compadres huddled around her, nudging, pushing, patting. Everyone wanted to see Cinderella get her Prince.
When the little iron man departed, things were quiet for a while. Then the influx of letters began. This is where I came in. In the afternoons, after a vigorous tumble in the hay, Profunda would sit in the chair by the window, putting on her makeup. She was getting ready to go to work. It was a long, drawn-out process, and she took her time. I’d sit on the edge of the bed with the night stand pulled up to my knees, writing to the Colonel. “Dear Ralph...” Profunda liked to dictate her letters to the Colonel when she was freshly fucked. After several orgasms she became light and buoyant. She was a garden that had been plowed and tilled and fertilized, and now she was blooming. Her talk flowed. I had to keep stopping her. All the while she was preparing herself for the upcoming night’s work like a gladiator getting ready for a bout in the arena. Often I forgot to write as I watched her apply the lavish eye shadow, the butterfly lashes, the arched eyebrows boldly sketched with crude slashes of mascara. Profunda's face could have been stamped on a Roman coin: the strong masculine nose, the rounded resolute chin blending into heavy jowls that bristled with sparse black hairs, and the full lips that glistened with a kissy-wet sheen. Her big knockers, warm, perfumed, swaying inside her robe, bulged with branching blue veins.
As I resumed my scribbling, I thought about the chicken colonel from Santa Monica, this furry-chested goat-god with cloven hooves of iron. He'd have to be made of iron, by Jesus, to take care of a woman like Profunda. Could he do it? Profunda was a hulking, steaming locomotive of a woman. Was this little soldier man enough to tend the fire in her boiler?
“Listen, soldier,” I said to him, rapping the dusty toe of his boot with my swagger stick. “Stand up straight when I talk to you! Listen, you little iron man. I'm making you a gift of her, see? I'm giving you a field to be plowed and fertilized, a bed of live coals that needs to be stirred vigorously and often. This here is a locomotive-woman. She needs her ashes hauled. Listen, you bugger. This is a WOMAN. You're sticking your iron poker into a raging furnace of love, do you realize that?”
For Profunda, it was a chance in a million. All she had to do, as the Beauty, was surrender herself to the Beast, and her life would be transformed. In a matter of days, if she said the word, she’d be driving a Lincoln Continental, shopping at Nordstrom's, lazing in a heated pool. Her niños would have a splendid patrimony. They would be Americans. Why, then, did she drag her heels?
Because, she insisted, she was in love with me.
Profunda had a crush on me and I couldn't handle it. That was the basis of our relationship. Profunda came from Calle O in Colonia Alta Vista, a dirt street where people lived like animals in mud huts without electricity or running water. Several times I went home with her and we had dinner with the parents. I was astonished at their diminutive size. How could these tiny Indios, little stick-figures like the penitentes I'd seen crawling in the aisles of the Basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico City, have given birth to a giantess, a Neolithic princess like Profunda? Each time I visited, they insisted on giving me the bed while they slept on the floor of the hut with Profunda and Profunda's “bebés,” three lusty half-American infants.
We’d go to the cine, Profunda and I. Just pals, no romance. Then one night in a theater she unzipped my fly and made me come while we watched some stupid Japanese monster movie with subtitles en Español. After that we sort of lived together, mostly in her cell at the Navy Rose Club. We talked about a hair dryer. She got the literature on the damn thing. It cost $14.99. That hair dryer became an obsession, an albatross around my neck. I wanted to buy it for her, but I couldn't get the fifteen bucks together. Then I started feeling guilty. Profunda was falling in love with me, I could tell, and it was merely lust and convenience that brought me to her door.
Always on her lips was a phrase, repeated a dozen times a day, a phrase that was both a command and a plaintive question: “Casate conmigo, corazón. Why do you not wish to marry with me?”
Miguel Angel “Angel Mike,” the bartender at the Navy Rose, was dark, astonishingly handsome and brimming over with machismo. The girls were crazy about him. He was a strong man, a real athlete, especially good at rousting belligerent drunks with his billy club, a sawed-off broomstick with a hole drilled in the end and the keys to the door and the register attached. Sometimes when things were slow, we’d arm wrestle. Usually I won, but it was tough going. Angel Mike was a real hombre, and a great compadre.
Another of my letter-writing clients was Sandra, a frantic fucking filly who had worked at the Viejo Oeste, the Old West Club, before joining the crew at the Navy Rose. The Old West Club, like the Durango, was somewhat ritzy, and the lopsided doorman stationed in front was sometimes good for a small loan.
Sandra's body was a wonder to behold. She couldn't have weighed more than ninety pounds. Her arms and legs were like pipestems. And that luxurious black tuft of hair. It reminded me of a gorgeous, hot-blooded little forest creature, a sable or an ermine. It glared back at you, defiantly, mischievously, invitingly. I never saw another pussy quite like it.
Sandra would get wildly drunk. She’d fly into a rage, first jokingly, mockingly, then stubbornly she’d persist. She scratched, bit, clawed. She’d top off her tantrum with a crying session. First she got maudlin drunk, and then comically maudlin drunk, laughing at herself through her tears, very much the little girl in such moments. To “go to the room,” with Sandra when she was in the throes of one of those moods was an unforgettable experience.
I adored Sandra and I spent many evenings buying drinks and mushing it up in the booth with her—she was free with affection—but I'd never been romantically in love with her as my friend Roscoe Longworth had. Sandra was sexy and a good pal and that was that. I wrote several letters for Sandra, in fact, to an undertaker in Trenton New Jersey. But Roscoe had fallen hard for her on their first meeting, and then she dumped him. He gave her a ring—it was nothing, of course, a trinket he’d probably filched from a dimestore. But Sandra had a roomful of rings. And not only rings, but bracelets, lockets, necklaces, dolls, dried flowers and favors of all kinds. Once when I spent the night with her, we passed the next morning looking through her photographs, many of them snapped by strolling photographers in the Navy Rose Club with her client of the moment, but just as many of which had come enclosed in moistly ardent love letters mailed from cities all over the world. It was an army of men, studs, hard-legs, swinging dicks, soldiers and sailors of all nationalities, truck drivers, merchant seamen, cowboys and doddering oldsters promising her the moon. As I sat in Sandra's rickety chair in front of her dressing table mirror, sorting through these mementos, I felt myself as one of a teeming host, a single sperm cell among flagellating millions or billions swimming against the current with valiant flips and flails of their whippet-like tails, tiny semaphores winking in the fallopian darkness of Sandra's womb.
But Sandra—her fulfillment, I conjectured, required a handsome, almost unattainable man who would treat her cruelly and then abandon her. But when she eventually landed a well-to-do American, a retired judge from Wisconsin—an American Cheese, you might say—I wasn't in the least surprised. Sandra got her papers and went off to the US of A. After two months she was back, of her own accord, so she claimed, and although this was bitterly contested by both the girls at the Navy Rose and Sandra’s old pals at the Viejo Oeste, who insisted that the papers were fake and the marriage was fake and that Sandra had been deported, I believed her story. Maybe Sandra had found that life with her American Cheese was unspeakably bland, who can say?
Any way you looked at her, Sandra was a wonderful girl, if a bit on the spiteful side. She had plenty of nerve. I loved her flashing white teeth, her tough-guy way of blowing the ashes off her cigarette, and when she wore her frilly red dress—the crinoline—her little knobby knees. I loved her husky tequila voice, very much like Edith Piaf's voice. Sandra had a heroic way of insisting on happiness; she willed happiness, like Grushenka. I adored Sandra aesthetically as well as personally and sexually. I never tired of gazing at her face, the arched eyebrows, the high cheekbones, the dimples at the corners of her wide mouth. I loved the defiant flare of her nostrils and her downy little mustache. But most of all I loved Sandra because she had the verve and the spirit to put on misfortune like a suit of armor and fling her whoredom in the teeth of the world.
Sandra's cohort, Viridiana, was the opposite. A lazy, slatternly slut. Viridiana smelled like a fish market. When it came time to go to the room she’d hit her customer up for a dinner. She took the plates to bed with her. She liked to get half undressed before pitching into her food. Viridiana had a beautiful body, but somehow one was disappointed because...there was nobody home. It was like crawling on top of a big, beautiful, bouncy rubber dolly, the kind Swedish sailors take with them on long voyages.
Viridiana was like a sea cow in a lazy, sloppy way. A slob is what she was. Always there were saucers, crumbs, forks and sticky coffee spoons and scraps of food in her bed. She was dirty. She wiped her shoes on the bed sheets, and I suspected her ass as well.
When Viridiana got drunk she became abusive. She’d beg for coins in an aggressive mock-humble fashion. When she was very drunk she waxed homicidal. One night she sliced a German soldier's face open with a broken beer bottle. Always she was turning up with a black eye, and frequently her body was covered with bruises. She got in fights, whore-fights, knockdown, drag-out, hair-pulling tussles that ended up with the combatants rolling on the dance floor and the federales hustling in—and hustling them out—the door. The other girls at the Navy Rose, except Sandra, gave Viridiana a wide berth. Hexed-up is what she was. Her eyes, when you looked into them, never seemed to be connected to the brain that was yelling red murder behind them. Her whole being was a clumsy protest, a strangled cry of rage at life for using her as it had. When she was completely sozzled, it was incoherent anger that came out, and finally dumb tears. But there was no intelligence in her outpourings, no flair, as with Sandra. It was a very different thing.
Viridiana had a perfect white scar on her left breast, the result of a knife-fight in Matamoros. The scar contrasted in its perfection and neatness Viridiana’s slovenly personality: three dots on either side of a vertical line, a perfect six of dominoes. The scar added immeasurably to the attractiveness of the breast. In fact, with the passage of time, as Viridiana's body lost its allure for me, I came to think of her, or I should say I preferred to think of her, rather than contemplate her in her entirety, as just that—the scarred breast, that one rubbery sea-cow breast of hers, the Six of Dominoes.
Viridiana had a way of spoiling a hard-on, which was no less malicious on her part for being unconscious. Many nights in the room sitting beside me on the edge of the bed with her plate of food on her lap, she poured it out, bleary drunken talk, skirting the edge of tears, words humming with garlic, her breath stinging my eyes as I tried desperately, by staring at the scarred breast, to maintain some semblance of an erotic mood. When she finished talking she’d toss her plate on the floor and flop back on the bed with her legs up, weeping in a silly sea cow-like way with her mouth stuffed full of rice and beans.
One night I got a jolt that sobered me up in a split second. I was walking behind Viridiana in a jolly drunken lecherous mood, having just handed her my four bucks, squeezing her, playing grab-ass, anticipating, feeling her up; and on entering the room I saw by the flickering light of the saint's candle what looked for all the world like a bloody chunk of afterbirth on her pillow. It was an enchilada.
The afternoon bartender at the Navy Rose Club, Paulo, a close friend of mine, was a tall somber man with pitted skin. His face expressed melancholy enlivened by lust. Paulo had spent nine years in America as an illegal alien. He'd been a dancer in LA and New York. He wasn't famous, but he lived an exciting and glamorous life, an artistic life. Then one day it ended. He was apprehended and deported. His career was terminated, and he had to leave his male lover in New York. Now Paulo was back on the mean streets of his boyhood, a bartender in a whorehouse, middle-aged, his dancer's legs creaking as he trudged to the tables balancing a tray of drinks. Paulo was a kind person, gentle, generous, always ready with a tequila on the house, a small loan, or the price of a meal. He had a woman's voice, a perfect soprano.
Paulo's dreary existence at the Navy Rose Club was made bearable primarily by the daily visits of his sometime amor and constant confidant, Reymundo.
The word “fairy” was made for Reymundo. He was an ephemeral creature, a delicate flower, a mayfly perpetually poised for flight. He was a peinadora, a hairdresser. His shop was only a few doors away from the Navy Rose Club. All the girls had their hair done at Reymundo's place. Reymundo's own coiffure was also beautifully modeled. He wore rouge and mascara and frequently dressed as a woman. He traipsed through the red-light quarter, especially on soldiers' payday, wearing a sheath-like skirt wrapped tight around his hips, sparkling with a sheen of fish scales, and a sequined velveteen red blouse draped with a serape—a mantilla, rather—all lacy-like.
He darted into bars, he flitted here and there, twisting his curls, with a word, a pat, a seductive glance, a meaningful nod for this one and that, feverishly excited yet graceful as a butterfly. He knew everyone. He swished through the streets, whirling the Nijinski-Scherezade, frequently bursting into song, deliberately ogling the young soldiers, his hot brown eyes sparkling with frank open lust. A vein pulsed in his temple, another in his throat. Reymundo was all animal grace and hot-blooded vigor. Passion was everything to this creature. It was never money he was seeking, but love.
Sometimes, in the cantinas, after a tiff with one of his soldier boys, Reymundo hired the mariachis to play while he sang, pouring out his anguish. This was Reymundo's moment of triumph, belting out ranchera songs in his sweet tenor voice and weeping at the same time, while the street musicians sawed away at their violins. He emoted freely, without the least sense of shame.
Once I saw Reymundo pausing in front of a shop window, gazing pensively at his reflection. The store was a carnicería, a butcher shop. Behind the thick plate glass, which shimmered with the reflected glow of fizzing neon lights, a man in a blood-spattered apron hacked at a slab of red meat dangling from an iron hook. Reymundo didn't see the butcher; his gaze was fixed on the iridescent surface of the glass, on his own gossamer image. He dug in his purse and applied a jot of mascara to an eyelash, and then he sighed deeply and painted his generous mouth with more lipstick. Reymundo was a beautiful woman.

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Other Open Books Titles from
Donald O'Donovan
Written on twenty-three legal pads while homeless on the streets of LA, Night Train
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Donald O'Donovan takes us on an introspective journey into our personal and cultural conscience.
The Sugarhouse  recalls a simpler time in America when friendships were unqualified, peccadilloes were overlooked, and tradition defined the cornerstone of society. In this charming novella author Donald O'Donovan unveils a world of homespun characters, fertile fishing ponds and innocent love, and at the center of it all is the town's well loved house of ill repute; the Sugarhouse.
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From Open Books!
Author Donald O'Donovan is not only a superb novelist but an accomplished voice actor!

In The Enchanted Forest,
Vols. 1,2&3,
he retells twenty-one famous tales from the Brothers Grimm, as only he can.

Children will love this audio book and eBook collection,
and adults will smile as they again experience these timeless tales through the pen and spoken word of
Donald O'Donovan.

Coming in March 2011
Open Books
Donald O’Donovan was born in Cooperstown, New York. A teenage runaway, he rode freights and hitchhiked across America, served in the US Army with the 82nd Airborne Division, lived in Mexico, and worked at more than 200 occupations including telephone psychic, undertaker and roller skate repairman.

A former long distance truck driver, he wrote Confessions of a Bedbug Hauler while running 48 states and Canada for Schneider National. As a volunteer at the Braille Institute in Los Angeles he recorded several western novels, and subsequently studied voice acting with James Alburger and Penny Abshire. O’Donovan lived for two years at the historic Wilshire Royale Hotel while writing Tarantula Woman (to be published in February, 2011 by Open Books), and wrote the first draft of Night Train (Open Books, 2010) on 23 yellow legal pads while homeless in the streets of LA.

An optioned screenwriter and voice actor with film and audio book credits, Donald O’Donovan lives mostly in Los Angeles.