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Sex on Sheets is Copyright © 1997 by Ralph Robert Moore. Sex on Sheets was first published in Sign of the Times, Winter '87-'88, and was anthologized in Sign of the Times Anthology: A Chronicle of Decadence in the Atomic Age, published in 1992.
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background on the story
Although it isn't very long, SOS, as I refer to this story, took a long time, and many rewrites, to get to its present, published form.
Along the way I added and removed jokes, changed characters, and shifted the parts around, feeling each rewrite I was getting closer to what I wanted to say.
The comment in transliterated Japanese Soyuri makes at one point in the story translates as, "No more free steps to Heaven", and comes from the David Bowie song "It's No Game", which appears on his Scary Monsters and Super Creeps album.
The swimming pool in the story is borrowed from the one I used each night at the apartment complex I lived in, in Santa Barbara, while I was in training for a scuba diving course.
SOS was written a year or so after When You Surfaced, and although at the time I didn't connect the two together, the way the main character is portrayed in SOS later became the touchstone for me for how that character would evolve, backgrounds and forwards, through what turned into the Sex Act story cycle.
sex on sheets
a short story by ralph robert moore
Mid-morning. My sheets are speckled with blood, sperm, ashes, wine stains, lip prints, pubic hairs, marijuana seeds, and sun tan lotion. She and I are lying in bed on top of all that, flat on our backs, all fuckered out, waiting for the sweat to dry. We didn't stop to turn off the TV in the living room, so it's still talking to the cold coffee cups, now about quiz shows instead of the morning news and weather. She's got one hand behind her head, making one breast more alluring than the other. She's talking about her childhood. I'm not listening. She has a bit of cigarette paper on the comer of her lower lip. She doesn't realize it's sticking there. I'm not going to be the one to tell her. After she finishes, we're both quiet again. She exhales a stream of smoke much too long for such a little slip of a girl up to the venetian bars on the ceiling. Thinking God only knows what other people think when they're not talking. She looks down, startled, when I point out the condition of my sheets to her. I'm going to have to get new sheets now before I get a new girl. This I don't tell her. For all I know, she may be trashing my sheets on purpose, like a dog lifting its leg at well-traveled spots. She examines some of the stains, says she's sorry, then settles back and starts talking again. I look across at her. The pretty face, pillowed, profiled; the straight vein in each upper arm; the muscles on the back of each calf. Sensing rather than seeing my appraisal, she shifts over onto her side, pointing her body at me again, her long jogger's legs curling open in a smile. "Wanna?" I raise my head enough to look down at the bag of genitalia plastered to the top of my thigh. "Let's wait awhile." She reaches down over her temporary side of the bed and comes up with a can of Coke, dribbling the first mouthful onto the bed. "God, usually it's my knees that are weak afterwards." That little bit of cigarette paper jerks up and down. We kiss, and I try nibbling it off. Her long nails grope between my legs. "Let's finish the champagne first, before it goes flat." The stretch of sheet over which her goblet passes sprouts a meandering trail of rose colored asterisks. I turn over to face the ceiling, resigned, arching my spine up off the bed with a curse. Nothing gets so cold so fast as warm sperm. She moves closer. "This champagne is really good. Oops!" Her hand strikes out at the latest spill. For some reason I start getting an erection. They follow their own tide tables. She's talking to me again, now about work, but there's a change in the register of her voice. It becomes hurried and automatic, like a magician's patter, because most of her attention is on trying to fingerlessly determine if she's wet enough. I'm not listening even more than usual, because most of my attention now is on trying to assess how dependable this particular erection is going to be. Am I getting a stiff, greedy engorgement, or one that'll go dismayingly thumbs-down if I try to enter her? I want to be sure before I commit myself. I don't want to pin her arms down by her tiny wrists, taut and compact as wrenches, then have to murmur, exuding confidence and musk, that it'll get hard once it's inside her. She's looking at me, deliberately not saying anything at all, pushing her shoulders down against the mattress like a cat already arching up under an approaching hand. Her blonde limbs stretch out so the filtered sun picks up their silvery down. We start kissing, shifting our bodies during the kiss until we're both lying comfortably against each other, like a chessboard with the pawns gone. She's not fully wet but that's OK, that's the way she seems to prefer it. A soap opera starts in. Afterwards I pull it out and, like a prone bottle suddenly uncorked, my sperm leaks out of her, forming a new pool on the sheet. My sheet now looks like an animal with large, moist paws has walked slowly across it. Does her husband know where she is? She shakes her caked hair. "He thinks I'm with a friend."
"Come on in, Soyuri!"
"Not for ol' Soyuri. Drink?"
"Do it yourself?"
"Leftovers from the divorce. Plus a few new things."
"Mind if I look around?"
"Never make your bed, huh?"
"Never have the time now."
"Must be quite a life, being single again."
"Where'd you get them?"
"My wife has sheets just like these."
"I guess that means I have good taste Soyuri, huh? Ho ho ho."
"We cut a little square from one corner at the bottom to try to get matching curtains."
"How about that."
"Mind if I push these blankets off here for a moment?"
"You might as well since you've done it already, Soyuri "
"You have a little square missing from your corner, too."
"I honestly never knew that."
"Are these my wife's sheets, Scott?"
"Are they your wife's sheets?"
"Yeah. Are they her sheets. Our sheets."
"Well as a matter of fact, now that you mention it, I believe they are."
"Well, I guess the next question is kind of obvious."
"What my wife's sheets are doing here in your apartment. On your fucking bed."
"She lent them to me."
"Yes, as a matter of fact."
"...why would my wife loan you our sheets?"
"I needed them."
"You needed them."
"Here's another obvious question. How would my wife know you needed new sheets, Scott?"
"I told her."
"You told her."
"How the fuck did you get around to discussing the state of your sheets with my wife?"
"We were talking about the trouble I was having decorating the apartment, Soyuri. I got the VCR, but Sue Linda got most of the little stuff. Pots and pans, wok utensils. The radio. Sheets."
"Uh-huh. I see. Sure."
"So she offered to give me a set of her sheets. Because my sheets were such a mess."
"So are these."
"So I've been a bad widdle boy. I'll buy them from you."
"I'm angry because I stop over your place for a drink after work, and my wife's sheets are on your bed. And there're all kinds of stains on them."
"Like you said, it's quite a life. I'll buy them from you. Will you take a check? If I postdate it?"
"It's quite a life."
"So what did she do, put them on your bed herself?"
"No, I did that."
"She just watched."
"For sure. She just watched, and maybe her clothes weren't on, right?"
"She wasn't here."
"Not that time."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean she has been here."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"It means I'm asking you if my wife as ever been here, in this apartment. Your apartment."
"I thought you were mad because I borrowed your fucking sheets. Now you're asking me if I ever slept with your wife. I invite you over here, your fucking sheets in plain view, I don't try to hide them or anything, I don't even make the fucking bed--"
"Wait a minute, wait a minute."
"You wait a minute. You're wandering around in here, a scotch I poured you in your hand, looking out my window, and never mind we've been friends for a couple of years, all you want to know is if I ever slept with your fucking wife."
"Don't call her that."
"I'll call her anything I fucking well want to call her. What are you going to do about it?"
"What am I going to do about it? Is that what you're asking me? Are you asking me what I'm going to do about it?"
"I'll tell you what I'm going to do about it. I'll do anything about it that I want to do about it, and I'll tell you what that is when I feel like telling you. Get me?"
"Big fucking man, five minutes in my apartment and you think I'm fucking your wife. Big fucking friend."
"Take your fucking sheets. I'll go down to the fucking store and buy my own. I'll sleep on the fucking mattress. Fuck you."
"Fuck you. What the fuck do you mean, 'Watch it'? What the fuck are you going to do? Here. Here. Take your sheets and get out. And don't dare take another sip of that scotch. That's my booze. And you know what you can do?"
"No. You listen. If that's all our friendship means to you, if that's how much you can trust me, then you know what you can do?"
"Scottie, listen, I --"
"You can go fuck off."
"I'm sorry. I'm really sorry, man. Honest."
"Listen, I --"
"OKOKOK. I'm going, I'm going. But I'm sorry. I really am."
"Sure you are."
"I am, man."
"I'll bet. I'll just bet."
"Scottie, listen: I've been putting in a lot of overtime, you know I have. Here. No, here, look at it, man. See all that overtime? Eighteen point four hours, man. The strain's just been too much on me, and I come over here, I come over here, and I see the sheets- and it turns out they're here for a perfectly good reason--but I just for a second jump to the wrong conclusion. I don't value our friendship lightly. I'm sorry about what I said."
"I'll just fucking bet you are."
"I am, man."
"You think I've been fucking your wife while you're working late, is that what you think?"
"No, man, no. I don't. Honest."
"Sure? No doubts?"
"None, man. I don't think that at all now. I did for a second back there, but I don't now. It's just been the strain."
"O.K. Here's your drink back."
"Thanks, Scottie. And the sheets are on the house "
"...I just didn't like the idea that you thought that while you're at work, I've got it buried up to the hilt in your wife's sweet blonde honeypot, you know?"
"Yeah. I know, man. I know."
"Up to where her eyes roll back like a doll that's been put on its back, up to that fucking hilt, man."
"You've been fucking my wife!"
The arguing went back and forth into the late evening. I got tired because it wasn't going anywhere. "Want to go for a swim?" He balled his fists at his sides. "You're fucking my wife!" "Let's go for a swim, OK? I'm going to change in the bathroom. There's another pair of trunks in that second drawer." "I've got my own trunks on underneath my suit, man! I don't need any trunks from you." The street was still and cool. We walked side by side down the middle of the road, past the parked cars on either side of us, tense and careful not to accidentally brush against each other, because who knows what might flare up then. When we arrived, and I unlocked the gate and creaked it open, there was no one in the water, of course. It was so late by now that I think technically it was past the pool's curfew, but that made it better somehow. I absorbed myself in taking my clothes off, and by the time I straightened up she was naked too, looking like warm marble in the moonlight, standing on a towel because the tiles were so cold, hugging herself, head lowered a little, shy and goosebumped and new, and we both looked up to locate the sudden rustle. It was a high breeze ruffling the fringe on a palm tree. There was a rich contrast to the dark green against the deep blue I had never noticed before. I unlocked the gate and creaked it open. There was no one in the water, of course. Soyuri hurried through, turning around once he got inside to make sure I wasn't planning to jump on him. I padded over, poised on the edge, and dove in. The shock of the water's coldness was so intense I had to fight not to open my mouth to let out the scream of pain while I was still underwater. By the time I had to come up for air, the temperature felt invigorating, and I was far enough away from the diving board to put my feet down on the bottom and stand up. I took an awkward, slow motion step forward, arms out, fighting the heavy sway of the water, so that I was still immersed from the chin down. Soyuri was at the shallow end, standing on the second concrete step, in the water up to mid-ankle. He was shivering. "Jump in." "I jump in here I kill myself! Good for you, maybe! Not so good for me!" I swam a little more in the deep end, then paddled over to the edge of the pool where I had left the towels. I hauled myself out, sat on the edge, and started patting myself with one of the towels. I tossed the other one to Soyuri. He started drying his feet with it. Then he held it up suddenly, high up in the air, racing with it over to the light. "My wife's towel! That one too!" I started drying my legs. He stood there under the gate's light, looking ghostly, stared at me, stared at the towel in his hands, threw the towel down, and started running towards me. I had enough time to get over to the grass. His fist hit my shoulder, and it stung more than I thought it would. I grabbed at him. He hit me in the rib cage, left side, right side. I got his head under my arm, tripped him, and we started wrestling on the wet grass. We were both about the same height, same weight, same musculature. The only obvious physical difference between us was that I was white, and he was Oriental. Every time his relatively warm body came in contact with my pool-cold one he sucked in a shiver of breath, and the icy dampness of the grass was adding to his misery some too. He started trembling and muttering, "Fuck my wife! Fuck my wife!" to goad himself on, but he was losing, and we both knew it. It took awhile, but I got him over onto his back, wrapped my hands around his wrists to keep his arms against the ground, and pinned his legs down with mine. Our swim-suited crotches brushed against each other, probably accidentally the first time. After awhile, he wanted to go back to my place. We dried ourselves off in the living room, using his wife's towels. He was still trembling and kept clearing his throat, not looking at me. When I was dry I tossed the towel on the sofa. Finally, he came over to where I was standing in the middle of the room. He looked at me then, a long look, the sort of look whose length neither knows, neither of us moving, and then I let him take my trunks off for me. That left me standing and him kneeling in front of me. I didn't know if I trusted his sudden passion enough to let him suck me off, so I led him into the bedroom. His breathing was so harsh it was the only sound in the apartment. He got out of his trunks. Not that it matters, but my cock was bigger. I more or less knew it would be. His wife had told me so when I asked her. I gestured for him to get on the bed. Although I didn't specify, he deliberately positioned himself, with a few quick, ardent glances, so that his cock was pressing right into the most recent stain. Right then I knew he was going to get more out of this than I was, but I put some spit on my fingers anyway and rubbed them down the shaft of my cock, lingering the fingerpads on the thick underside vein while I watched him push his slim walnut ass up at me like an animal who only gets it seasonally. Afterwards, he stayed lying face down on my bed, on his wife's sheets, crying the bitter, unfamiliar way some Orientals do, striking the stained sheets feebly with a spent fist, mumbling, "Fuck my wife. You fuck my wife."
"Could I have a drink before we start?"
"Everything all right?"
"I don't know."
"Nothing, probably. Just problems. Soyuri's cheating on me."
"How do you know he's cheating on you ?"
"I just do. Oops. Sorry. He stares at the TV all night, and I know he isn't watching it, he doesn't laugh at any of the jokes. Then he gets this infuriatingly urgent look on his face, slaps his hands down on the arms of the chair, and announces he's going to take a shower. I snuck in once while the water was still going and slid the door open. He tried to make out he was just soaping himself really thoroughly like his mother taught him to, but his eyes gave him away. I've lived with him long enough to know his guilty look. I'm not putting you to sleep, am I?"
"No, let's talk about Soyuri all nonfucking morning ."
"Let's not. Let's just forget it. Help me out of my bra, OK? You still want to, don't you, baby?"
"Exactly. That's what it all comes down to, isn't it? What's this?"
"Not this one here. And here's a new one over our old one."
"Don't cry. Here."
"They're all us. Honest."
"Please don't lie to me. Tell me anything, but don't lie to me, OK? I'm in my twenties, I get tired a lot more easily now, and I just don't bounce back like I used to. OK?"
"They're ours. All of them. I turned the sheet around to give us some new areas to stain."
"Really? Let's see. No, you didn't, because if you had turned the sheet around this little cut out square here would be at the top, and it's still at the bottom. Fuck."
"Don't worry, I'm not going to cry for very long, it just gets to me sometimes, and anyway I'm still horny, I guess. Thanks. So Soyuri's cheating on me, I'm cheating on Soyuri with you, and now it turns out you're cheating on me with someone else. Fuck. We're all just insects eating other insects."
"What I really meant to say is that I meant to turn the sheet around, but I got lazy."
"What's this here?"
"Right. Here. Look. I don't have short black hair. Who is she? Do I know her?"
"I hope I don't. I hope there isn't some girl you get in here who knows me. Somebody who might have snubbed me even before all this happened, and the two of you are laying here on this filthy bed having a good time when I'm not around. Laughing at me."
"Don't worry, baby. You don't know him. I mean, her."
"Him? You went to bed with a guy?"
"I don't know. Maybe."
"Really? You went to bed with another guy?"
"Blame it on the Bossa Nova."
"Come on! Did you?"
"What was it like?"
"It was pretty good."
"What was he like?"
"Does Soyuri know him?"
".. .It wasn't Soyuri, was it?"
"I suppose there's no casual way to tell you this, but as a matter of fact--"
"You went to bed with my husband?"
"He wasn't that good. I don't blame you for cheating on him with me."
"...are you serious? You actually went to bed with Soyuri?"
"He has a little cluster of freckles down where his spine starts, just above the cleavage. It's the nicest thing about him, as a matter of fact."
".. .tell me more."
"When he gets close, he starts gibbering in Japanese."
"Like, Mo tengoku no giu no kai don wa nai. Something like that."
"What does that mean?"
"How the hell do I know? I just fuck 'em."
"This is incredible. This is really incredible. First you get me, then you get him, now next thing you know the three of us are probably going to wind up in here together."
"I did promise Soyuri I'd bring it up with you."
".. .did you. And when did all this happen?"
'Well, he cried after the first time he came, but after the second he asked me for a drink, which turned into a couple of drinks, you know how that is, but we were snorting whites by then too, so neither of us got really drunk, just hornier and hornier, and it took both of us forever to get off the third time, those damn whites, but after we did he wanted me to hold him in my arms while we smoked our cigarettes. He was real easy to break, by the by."
"...will you tell me about it?"
"Sure. Would you like me to tell you about it real slow?"
"Super slow. And how he acted, and what he did to you while you were doing things to him, OK? And touch me right here while you tell me, OK?"
"Mmmmm, perfect. And put your other finger in here? And pull it out just a little, that's it, and rotate it right around the rim while you're telling me? God. Do you really think he'd go for it? I never made him cry. I always thought he was too much of a foreigner for that. You should smell him after he's eaten at his mother's. Or have you?"