author bio

imagePaul A. Toth

An Industrial Revolution for Two



Saturday mornings, we make brief contact.  After that, we orbit.  We orbit around the house and we make coffee and it gets busy. Things hum.  The phones ring, the neighbors visit, the relatives drop by, the cicadas ripsaw the sky.  The last element, being natural, seems utterly unnatural.  Sex, on the other hand, seems unnatural for all its naturalness, like an order given by a drill sergeant:  "Ain't you seen no vagina, boy?"  Yes, but it is unnatural, grotesquely so, and all that busyness.  Sooner or later, except at 7-11 and gas stations, business eventually slows. Nevertheless, this business must be attended to, part of the marital contract into which Maria and I entered. I must, then, enter her. She prefers every other night.  Anything less, she thinks, means trouble.  She believes she read it in Freud.
            Maria is a fastidious woman.  I must be clean shaved, deodorized and nail clipped, with ear canals offering the purest passages, my teeth all but bleached, while I wear spotless boxers and only spotless boxers, with any excess hair on my eyebrows and in my nose trimmed with a beautician's precision.  Each task must be perfectly accomplished or I will be sent back for repetitions.  The drill sergeant accompanies me.  "Floss your motherfucking teeth, you pansy ass son of a bitch."  I do it.  I'm an employee of the U.S. government, serving my country.  Babies will come out of that womb, the factory between Maria's legs, a fascinating form of production, or reproduction, or both, to which I've been assigned.  In my way, I'm a U.S. federal printer, trying to produce a lithograph, albeit one not exactly like the original.  Hence, the drill sergeant.  It's an industrial mission, yes, but one involving the military-industrial complex.  In our great democracy, anyone can grow up to be a soldier.  We are free.  On the other hand, one is never free when under contract, despite the appearance of voluntary service.  The volunteering ends when the contract is signed.
            How did things come to seem this way to me?  Shh.  Listen:
            "Did you shave?  I hope you're wearing deodorant.  You clipped your nails, right?  Let me check your ears.  Okay, now show me your teeth.  And those are clean boxers?  And your eyebrows and nose?  Oh, thank God.  You know I can't stand it when you forget that.  I can't stand it.  Well, come here.  Come close to me.  You smell like you, now.  This is the way you're supposed to smell, you know?  I'm not punishing you; I just want you in good shape.  There, there, mama didn't mean to be harsh, but we must have some rules around here.  If you had your way, order would collapse.  I'm the woman, and rank has its privileges.  Ha, I'm just kidding.  Come here and kiss me.  Kiss me a little harder.  Not that hard.  A little softer.  Not that soft; I'm not your mother.  Try for in between.  There, that's better.  Keep kissing me like that.  Yes, if you keep kissing me like that, we'll make love.  Wouldn't it be nice and important for us to make love?  I'm not getting any younger, you know.  Put your hand on my breast.  Like you mean it.  Do it tenderly or don't do it at all.  I'm not a radio with knobs you can tune.  Stroke me gently.  Not with such force: This isn't a porno!  Now, everything is in proper motion.  We might make a baby tonight.  I would like to have a baby, see what comes of it.  A baby's an investment in the future.  We'll get old one day.  Let's enjoy what little is left of our youth.  Do you still find me attractive?  No, don't try to answer while you're kissing my neck; I can only hear you mumble.  Don't go blithering like you do.  You know I like it quiet.  Our baby should be born in peace.  God knows what it will face once it's here.  But that can't be helped.  We'll have done our part.  Here, let me put it in for you.  Slow, slow.  I'm not a whore."
            Now I'm reading that a cicada invasion is expected across much of the Midwest.  I've neither experienced nor heard of such an event.  In fact, for many years, I mistook the sound of the insects for some kind of electrical wire malfunction, until a neighbor explained, "No, pal, that's cicadas."  Still, I've no idea how to seal the windows and doors.  The cicadas arrive like Communist guerrillas and invade the home.  Maria's first scream announces their arrival.  Her scream is met by an intermittent yet nearly-constant mechanical buzz.  "These Commies are robots!" I shout at the bastards.
            We sleep in their presence for days.  The enemy is always near.  The sound they make seems to reveal everything in our home as being alien and manufactured: The only real thing is that sound and it's impossible to ignore.  I become aware of the sterility of the appliances, the way the oven only seemed to have been born and not made.  Even the refrigerator that once looked like a bulky friend now resembles a bulky combination of steel and rubber.  The sheets and covers on the bed were  manufactured in China and no longer comfort.  I sleep uneasily and forget all of Maria's rules and our bypassed lovemaking.  My sweat is my sweat and I protect it like a flag. 
            But the insects have no treaty in mind. One night, Maria rolls close to me.  She makes no complaints about my odor or the wayward hairs on my face or the boxers I've worn for two days in a row.  She spreads her legs and we have a kind of sex we've never shared before.  This continues throughout the invasion. 
            Finally, the cicadas long for conquest and depart our way station.  Exhausted from the war and our leisurely activities, Maria and I sleep and sleep.  While we sleep, the appliances renew their previous form of existence.  Nothing seems so strange anymore.
            Many months later, we have the first of our six children.  Each time is the same.  I look at the child for the first time and say what I'm expected to say, but inside I'm thinking, "What a beautiful facsimile; it hardly looks manufactured."


Author Bio

Paul A. TothPaul A. Toth lives in Sarasota, Florida. He is the author of three novels. The majority of his short fiction and other works, as well as information on ordering his novels, can be accessed from

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