cambridge book review

The Masturbator

John Lehman
From Lost on Clearview Road 
Zelda Wilde Press 2011 


Jerod did not want to enter the house, but was asking if he could. She wanted him to, but was acting as if she didn’t.

“I lived here. We were married and now we have been divorced for several years. It would mean a lot to me to just wander through and see the place again.”

“I don’t know. My husband is at work and the kids …”

“Ah yes, I understand. I was just driving by—I have returned to live in Madison—and had an impulse to stop back here and ask.”

In reality Sylvia and her husband were separated. They had moved to this small town, Black Earth, ten years earlier, were raising their two sons there and had learned to live separate lives together—he was on the road Monday through Friday, she wrote a little and was a devoted mother. Now the company wanted him to work out of the Milwaukee office several hours away. She had decided to keep the boys in school and not to move. Kevin, her husband, who had just rented a new place, was tired of her and their relationship anyway.

Sylvia had recognized the last name, Latimer, of the visitor at the door, and when he mentioned he and his now-divorced wife had brought up their son and daughter here, she had relented and invited him in. It wasn’t that he was not appealing, but she was tired of men. Tired of agreeing with them, disagreeing with them; tired of having to deal with them. On the other hand he seemed decent enough. She thought, who knows, in a few years she might feel like visiting the past herself, at least briefly. They had walked through the living room, the dining area, the bedroom her sons shared and even peeked into the kitchen. Now she was heading up the stairs with him following, to the bedroom she and her husband once shared together. There was a small bathroom and shower off the hall and a spare bedroom to the back that as long as she could remember was filled with boxes from their initial move.

When they entered the rather simple, second-story master bedroom with a dormer window and queen size bed, Jerod touched her elbow. She jerked it away.

He wore a grey polo shirt, khaki pants and penny-loafers. Sylvia had been jogging earlier this morning and still had on a turquoise tank top and sweat pants.   

“Sorry,” he said. “It’s just that this room and this morning bring back so many emotions.” Jerod slumped down into an over-stuffed chair across from the bed.

She looked at him in an irritated way.    

“It’s like you are watching a play,” he continued, “… called ‘My Life.’ It’s not as interesting or as exciting as you expected it would be. Maybe you switch seats, but it doesn’t matter. So you sit in the dark waiting for it to be over.”   

“What do you want,” she finally asked.

“I want to have sex with you.”   


“Right here, right now.”   


But she wasn’t frightened. This was not an aggressive man who was going to press himself on her against her will. He was a defeated man, and for some reason she felt sorry for him, as she would have for Kevin if he would have let her.   

“No,” she repeated, “and perhaps you’d better leave.”

But when he closed his eyes and continued to stay in the chair, Sylvia sat down on the edge of the bed. There was a green satin bedspread on it. A wedding gift from one of Kevin’s fellow workers. Sylvia had high cheekbones and short blonde hair. She was in her mid thirties and in relatively good shape. In that moment she thought back over her own life. Both she and Kevin had had some sexual infidelities over their fifteen years, but their marriage had ended later, that sexual mischief far behind. All she wanted, all she ever wanted was a man in love with her who was not looking for more. What was amazing was that they had remained together as long as they had. Maybe it was the boys.

Outside a cement truck with its noisily-churning load jockeyed into place with a series of grunts and beeps. The County was replacing a segment of sidewalk down the block that had been damaged when they widened the road. There was a pause, then someone revved the engine as a chute must have been lowered into place. Both Sylvia and the stranger listened.    

| Continued  >> |


John (Jack) Lehman is the founder and original publisher of Rosebud Magazine, as well as the literary editor of Wisconsin People & Ideas. A nationally published writer and poet with twenty-five years experience teaching creative writing, Lehman grew up in Chicago but now lives with his wife, Talia Schorr, and their three dogs and multiple cats in Rockdale, the smallest incorporated village in Wisconsin. 


June 15, 2011 Posted by | fiction | , | Leave a comment