Wanda Warner, a tall American woman, recognized Caspar by the sign he held: Transport to Angels. Occasionally, Clemens sent Caspar to the airport to pick up a customer. Clemens and Caspar were the Kasdaglis brothers.
Caspar opened the passenger door of the cab for Wanda. "Sit up front with me," he said.
She blushed. But it is a tiny car, she thought. She sidled into the seat, straightened her black tweed skirt to cover her knees. Her beige sweater felt tight on her neck. She wore opaque tights and flat shoes with rubber soles. She could feel Caspar’s stare. He was not starting the car.
"Yes?" Wanda said, a little tense.
"Is this your first time to Germany?" he said. She turned to him. Bushy gray hair framed his round face. She thought that she and Caspar were probably about the same age -- mid-fifties -- young enough to remember feeling attractive, old enough to know how it feels to be invisible.
Caspar ran a plump hand across his smooth cheek. He stared into Wanda’s eyes, which she thought to be her best feature. He is a strange man, she thought, piggy but sweet.
"Yes, this is my first time here," she said. She watched Caspar’s eyes move to her white hair. Her skin felt electric in his gaze but she attributed the feeling to anticipation. As they approached Waldshut, he pointed to the chalet on the top of the hill. "There it is, Madame Warner. Clemens should be available. Yes, he’s mostly available."
Caspar handed Wanda her overnight bag. "Here is my number." He placed his business card in her hand. "If you should need me, call anytime."
"That will be Tuesday," said Wanda. "Not until then."
Caspar smiled, "Tuesday. Of course."
Wanda walked up the short stone path to the chalet. There were no cars in the little lot next to the building. She knocked and a small olive-skinned man opened the door.
"Madame! Wilkommen! Herr Kasdaglis at your service!" Clemens was a sprite compared to his chubby brother. She decided to act friendly but not familiar, businesslike but not formal. Yes, she thought, I am here on friendly business.
"I am happy to meet you," she said.
In the entryway, she stopped to look at several neatly hung degrees in frames, which she read aloud: "Clemens Kasdaglis, PhD Computational Mathematics, University of Patra, Greece." Do you need a PhD to do what they did? No, she thought, it would probably just be a hindrance.
She continued reading, "Bertrand LeDernier, MA American Studies, Ghent University, Belgium." Only an MA! Bertrand might still know what he’s doing.
"We practice an art form here, Madame," said Clemens, "which we hone through education and reading."
Reading. Wanda raised her eyebrows, remembering recent romances she’d read [Morning’s Love Light (June Romance Series No. 57), After the Winter Dream (Love Potions Series No. 72) and In Love’s Swirl (Broken Hearts Club No. 129)] and how little she’d learned about sex from them. She had been writing reviews of romances for years. More recently, she had started writing reviews of erotica and pornography for Over Forty and Bigg Butt magazines (she was proud that her research revealed these to be women- owned magazines). As part of this job, she collected material both academic and prurient: "Stagnant Liver Chi and Erectile Dysfunction," "Feelings of Sexual Disempowerment in Post-Mastectomy Females," "Dr. Lewd’s Dildo Almanac." She bought sex toys and accessories (orphaned penises named "Midnight Rider," "Prisoner of Love" kits, and the "Pocket Pussy" – just to see what it looked like). She kept it all in a closet in the guest room of her two-bedroom Cape Cod in the Hudson River Valley. Her secret pleasure was to peruse her job-related material and masturbate.
Still, she knew more about sex than she otherwise might have, a single woman living alone. Everything she knew came from reading for she’d felt ostracized from the most sexual places -- the video stores, the strip clubs. In reality, she’d experienced little of what she’d read. That’s what sparked her interest in Angels, which she learned about from an advertisement in one of her magazines:
Mr. Clemens Kasdaglis, PhD is
pleased to announce The First Brothel for Women Only. Special Packages for
Overseas Travelers. Independent Women, Isn’t It Time to Stop Dreaming
and Just Do It?
Clemens led her down a hallway and unlocked the door to her room. "We have dinner at eight," he said, "just for the foreign visitors and the out-of-towners. Tonight is fresh fish, asparagus and my famous noodles! Dress casually. And, Madame Warner, what time shall I send someone to your room? After dinner?"
"Oh!" she said, remembering why someone would come to her room, "What about ten?"
"Ten, yes, I will send you someone special. Bertrand perhaps?"
"Well, he is an expert in American Studies."
Dinner was just the three of them – Bertrand, Clemens and Wanda. "Wanda, this is Bertrand, just arrived from Belgium," said Clemens, who wore a tight pink apron, the ties of which wrapped around his back and then again around the front forming a neat bow that made him look like a little present. "And Bertrand, this is Wanda, just arrived from America."
Wanda thought this must be a slow week. "Where are the other guests?" she asked.
Clemens said, "Oh, we have drop-ins late at night."
Bertrand nodded. Then he smiled at Wanda. Blond and Nordic, Bertrand’s face looked carved like a wooden sculpture. He sat across from her at the ornately decorated table.
"Clemens tells me that we shall spend some time together this evening."
Wanda said, "Yes. Does that feel funny to you? It feels funny to me."
Bertrand beamed at Wanda and reached across the table to touch her hand. "Oh no, this is not funny. This is so important that you are here," he said. "I told Clemens it would just take some time for this place to catch on. This is the final frontier of the sexual revolution!"
Clemens fussed, filling crystal water glasses, lighting candles, arranging an orange on top of a bowl of fruit and considering its placement with a careful eye. "Bertrand, spare Wanda the boring philosophy. Bertrand is so easily fired up," said Clemens.
Clemens tried to hand Bertrand a glass of ice water, but Bertrand ignored him, continuing his speech. "With intelligent beautiful women like you," said Bertrand, "we will be successful. And I can give you a little taste of success tonight!"
Clemens looked at Bertrand with disgust. To Wanda, he said, "Have I explained that you only pay what you find the services to be worth?"
Wanda looked surprised.
"It’s a nicety I’ve thought of. For women, are different from men."
"Not so different, really," said Wanda.
Clemens looked at Bertrand as he continued, "Women are trustworthy, shy. I think the idea of paying for sex could be difficult for them."
He would make it seem romantic, she thought, as if he’d invited a woman to his home and seduced her as part of the natural course of events.
Bertrand said, "Clemens thinks that women don’t want sex. They just want to feel sexy."
Bertrand rolled his eyes at Wanda. He and Wanda laughed.
"More asparagus?" said Clemens, holding up a platter for Wanda.
"Clemens, I think Wanda knows how to ask for what she wants. She is here, isn’t she?"
Clemens glared at Bertrand, "Please remember, Bertrand, that Wanda is a guest and a lady."
"And you know how I like ladies, Clemens." Bertrand winked at Wanda. "Everything about them. Those beautiful bosoms, that warm, fresh smell…"
She imagined Bertrand’s square hands discovering the shape of her. She felt a charge. Open me, she thought. That’s what she would say when he came to her door, "Open me."
Clemens slammed down a bowl, shaking the table. "Stop, Bertrand. Let Wanda enjoy her meal. Wanda, do you want more noodles?"
Wanda was a good eater, her body a barrel of good eating. She had pencil thin ankles, calves and thighs, but it was with her ass that the enthusiasm of her body began. Maybe years of wearing panty hose had caused her form to shape up this way – her ass was round and fat, her belly a series of folds, her breasts wide and flat like river rocks worn down by the years. She had wide shoulders.
Bertrand picked at his fish. He said, "What is this fish again, Clemens? Always the fish."
"Good for the heart," said Clemens, raising his eyebrows slightly, pressing his right hand over his heart.
"The heart? What’s this talk of the heart? I need some money Clemens. I’ve asked and asked and you just ignore me."
Clemens flurried around the table, scraping off little crumbs. "Not now Bertrand."
Bertrand picked up his plate, walked to the corner and scraped the remains of his fish into a potted plant. "Fish bones are good for the soil," he said. He vanished from the room. They heard the front door slam.
"He will be back, I promise, Frau Wanda," said Clemens. "And as you can see, he does have the passion."
It felt exciting to be in her room alone with her imagination, which conjured upside- down, inside-out positions, clamps, protrusions, sea-salt smells, stickiness and jellies. She dreamed of wet kisses with women in warm showers, of sex-crazed men like Bertrand who arrived out of nowhere.
But what if Bertrand couldn’t get it up? The men she’d known had not mastered the art of sex without the penis, which seemed to be the center of every man’s universe. She remembered what her friend, Patrice had said about sex with men: "It’s like this," she’d said, making a hard fist with her hand and hitting Wanda in the thigh, "Bam, bam, bam, bam, bam. And then snore."
She wore her long antique rose nightgown with spaghetti straps, which flattered her milky white shoulders, the tops of her fleshy breasts. She heard the knock and she tried to float to the door as if this were a dream, a moment in a romance novel, "Alyssa di Bartonelli’s chest heaved and fell, her heart pumping, as the well- endowed Apollo Luis Sanchez approached her. He cupped one of her breasts with his strong masculine hand, lightly pressing her nipple beneath the silky fabric of her nightgown."
It was Clemens at the door.
"So so sorry Madame Wanda, Bertrand has called. He is sick! No, it’s not the fish, it was an earlier lunch of steak tartare, usually so good."
Clemens was still wearing his pink apron and now she noticed that it was monogrammed – the letters CK embroidered in a girlish script inside a little red heart in the panel on the middle of his chest.
"We can do one of two things," said Clemens. He pointed his index finger heavenward to emphasize the first thing, "You can have me and yes I would like that." His middle finger popped up, "Or you can wait until midnight for Josef. He has another job you see, at the home for the elderly. Such a good man. So?"
Wanda stepped closer to Clemens. "Come in Herr Clemens. I will have you."
Like a little snack, thought Wanda. A little after dinner snack, peanut butter on a small Ritz cracker. Clemens was little, 5'4", maybe smaller? His head was a fuzzy brillo pad of black hair, his entire face and neck a five-o’clock shadow, rough red lips, black coal eyes. When he talked, he was like an excited toy soldier. He threw up his right arm, crooked at the elbow, like a slot machine handle, alternating with his left arm.
"Oh I’m so happy Miss Wanda. Can I freshen up here? It’s just such short notice. Bertrand has been leaving me high and dry lately." Clemens stared off in the distance. His eyes looked red like he’d been crying. He sniffled, pinched his nose for a moment as if to ward off a sneeze. He seemed to startle out of his reverie. He walked toward the little sink in the corner of the room.
"Tell me something about you, Wanda," he said as he washed his hands in the washbowl. She felt as if she were about to be examined by her gynecologist. Soon she’d be on a table in stir-ups and Clemens would examine her with his extremely clean hands.
"I read romances for a living," she said, "I live alone. I like to travel." Should she continue? She could say, I love Junior Mints, I dine alone at Steve and Andy’s on Friday nights where I eat chili topped with onions and cheese, I drink a beer, go to a movie. I’ve had lovers, but they were too reserved. My last lover, Mr. David, canceled our dates at the last minute due to a twinge of conscience or a headache. I couldn’t figure it out. I was available to him and to other lovers. This seemed to push them all away.
"What is it you want out of life, Frau?" Clemens dried his hands delicately and rubbed the white tea towel on his wrists and on the backs of his hands. He put the towel down and flipped his hands forward and back, over and over, looking for drops of moisture.
She walked up behind him, reached for his pink bow and untied it.
"Frau Wanda! Naughty girl!"
She stood a half a foot taller than Clemens. She had 100 pounds on him and at least 20 years. It made sense that she would undress him. She pulled the apron over his head, ran her cheek against his black sandpaper face. She unbuttoned his brown gabardine pants, lowered them over his hips. His shirt had many buttons, tiny buttons in tiny holes. She worked at them, one by one with her large hands. Though the rest of her was middle-aged and formal, her hands were strong and youthful. She imagined he must have a very hairy body like a little ape.
He was naked now, a muscled little man with manicured fingernails and toenails. He had a swimmer’s body, slender but strong. But his body was not hairy. He had shaved. She ran her hand over his chest, her face puzzled by the smoothness.
"For you," he said, "I’ve prepared myself for you." But she knew it wasn’t true since Bertrand had been the one promised to her. But in this moment, everything was a fantasy and so she believed him.
His penis leaned a little to the right, slightly hard, ambivalent. She touched it, rubbed her silk dress against it, tried to press it between her legs. She pushed her hips forward to engulf him. Wanda put her hands on Clemens’ ass, pulling him to her, but he didn’t have much of an ass. Though she loved to be in the superior position, she knew that would be impossible with Clemens. She imagined his body sunk into the mattress beneath her, flattened, the victim of a sexual rollover accident. "Squashed Remains of Brothel Owner Found Embedded in Posturpedic."
She pulled him to the bed, "Come on then." He laid next to her like a little boy, a little curled human caught in the grip of a female giant, fierce and hungry. She kissed him, ran her hands over his body, caressed his painted toes. She lapped at his nipples and at last the pink nips perked up. But his penis rested in the safety of his groin like a little comma, a pause in a long sentence. She wanted an exclamation point. Well, she could still have fun.
"Put this on," she said, handing him the beige teddy. He smiled, putting on the panties and the top. "Do I look fat?" he joked, jutting out one hip, one hand on that hip, the other hand placed on the side of his face as if cradling a toothache.
"You look good," she said, and she thought he did.
Clemens fell back onto the bed and began crying, "I look good? Do you think he could tell me this, just once?"
"Clemens, what’s wrong?"
"I am usually so much better, Wanda," said Clemens, "But these days, I am not so good."
Wanda touched his shoulder.
"It was his idea, this brothel," said Clemens. "Yes, we have our degrees, but when I go for a job, they say, ‘What can you do?’ I thought about going to mortuary school, but he was disgusted with me. He wanted to explore new frontiers. Bertrand told me, ‘We should be about life, not death, we will be pioneers.’"
"Like the cowboys in the West?"
"He is like a sailor on leave," said Clemens. "I thought it would be better, a brothel for women and not for men. Because I thought I would be special to him."
Clemens rolled to his belly, facing Wanda.
"I think you are special to him," said Wanda, remembering the spat between Clemens and Bertrand at dinner. "At least you have some fire in your life."
"The fire has burned out," he said, "Angels is a house of ashes. There are problems you can’t imagine." He propped himself on an elbow and gazed up at her. She sat on the edge of the bed. He paused, "I find things in our bed, vaporous things, the scent of perfume, talcum powder. I avoid the talc. Wrappers from chocolate candy. Bertrand is hypoglycemic and is very careful about his diet."
"Could they be guests?" said Wanda.
Clemens chin quivered at the word guests.
"There have been no guests, not this month, not last. If there are guests, there is no money. And if there is no money, Bertrand is not happy. Wanda, right now, you are our only guest."
She felt pity for Clemens, but she also felt lucky, a famished woman at a full buffet. Though she’d been in love, her lovers had been pedestrian men with little sizzle. She resolved to fight the failure of sex.
"Well, then, Clemens," she whispered, "what can you do for me?" She nuzzled into his ear.
Clemens pulled her to him, "Wanda, you have a warm body. And I feel that we could be friends…"
"Pretend that we are lovers," she said. "Tell me your secrets."
Clemens closed his eyes and whispered to the air, "I have the art of the tongue, my love. Imagine I am licking you. Gently. Swirling my little tongue…"
Oddly, this made Wanda wet. Her little seal man had potential. He clicked off the lamp next to the bed and slid into the sheets. In the dark, he moved his tongue and hands over her body, lifted her skirts, and fumbled.
"It’s Ok," she said, "Come here." She pulled him next to her. Soon he was sleeping, drooling in his dreams. Sometime in the middle of the night, Wanda heard sounds in the hallway. She sneaked out of bed. A light leaked beneath another room into the hallway. When she heard the sounds of lovemaking, she hurried back to her room. She climbed back into bed with Clemens. He stirred and wrapped his arm tenderly across her belly. After a time, she gave in to tears and sleepiness.
In the morning, Wanda went to the dining room for breakfast. Clemens wore a white terry cloth bathrobe. He was eating a large chocolate bar. Bertrand was eating meat: sliced ham, sausage and a gelatinous piece of liver pate.
"Good morning," said Bertrand without looking up.
"Yes, good morning," said Wanda, "What’s there to do here during the day?"
"Perhaps armed robbery?" said Bertrand.
"Yes, Bertrand, perhaps Wanda and I could rob a rich elderly couple with a toy gun and get your dear money for you." Clemens offered Wanda a piece of chocolate, which she accepted.
"Well, there is an ice-skating rink," said Bertrand.
Clemens jammed the last square of chocolate into his mouth and chewed.
"Can you stop cracking your jaw Clemens?" said Bertrand, "And do you really need that chocolate?"
Clemens stood up. "Yes, Bertrand, in fact, I do need this chocolate. Just like the others need their chocolate." Clemens pulled chocolate wrappers out of his pockets and threw them on the table. "Do you really think I don’t find these things?"
Clemens was still wearing Wanda’s teddy beneath his robe. He pulled the teddy down slightly to reveal his hairless chest. "I give you my heart," said Clemens. "I prepare for you the way you like and you don’t want me. Don’t you think I want to be touched?"
"We all want to be touched," said Wanda. She pushed back from the table. "Excuse me please," she said, "I think I’ve forgotten something in my room."
Back in her room, Wanda ate her piece of chocolate. For a moment, she wondered whether she could she get the teddy back from Clemens in time for this evening – perhaps Bertrand would be available. But why prepare for Bertrand at all? The whole point of paying him was that he would be at her mercy, at her command. She could spank him, kiss him and spread his hairy cheeks. Ride him like a wild bull at the rodeo. And even if she wore the teddy and panties, Bertrand would probably not desire her. He would not like the shape of her textured ass. She was sure he liked things in smoother packages.
It was only Monday. Wanda
wondered where she’d put Clemens’ brother’s number. Oh yes! She’d
used his card as a bookmark in the romance she was reading. She packed her
bag. As she left the room, she placed her romance on the nightstand, A
Love Undreamed Of by Katrina DeWinter, (Holiday Romances No 482). She
could not forget the tip.