Fiction Collective Two is an author-run, not-for-profit publisher of artistically adventurous, non-traditional fiction.

Is It Sexual Harassment Yet?


Is It Sexual Harassment Yet?
by Cris Mazza

Hardcover
1991
Price: $23.00

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These stories convey a powerful, convincing sense of the bewilderment and excitement of sexual desires. Mazza describes a world that resembles a shopping mall gone mad, populated by ordinary, normal people behaving in ways that mock the very concept of normality. By describing these lives with an acute sense of the absurd, Mazza produces a dark, sometimes hilarious comedy that undercuts the shaky compromise of the consensus we call reality.


"As with Cris Mazza's widely (and justifiably) praised earlier collection, Animal Acts, the stories in Is It Sexual Harassment Yet? continually surprise, delight, disturb, and amuse.  Mazza's 'realism' captures the eerie surrealism of violence and repressed sexuality in her characters' lives.  Hers is a 'familiarity' that breeds not contempt but the shock of recognition, a 'minimalism' that produces a maximal charge of passion, pathos, and humor." —Larry McCaffery


"...similar to watching a porno flick and a game show simultaneously." —Columbus Dispatch

 


Excerpt


It's more a story about him than me.  And he wasn't crazy.  He was sad--sadder than any sad person I've ever known before or since;  profoundly sad, abjectly sad, abstractly sad.  That kind of sadness gives you some kind of weird energy, makes you hideously attractive and deliciously repulsive at the same time.  But he was still more sttractive than repulsive.  I don't know why.  For example, the acne scars on his cheeks--in the middle of all that mess, he had dimples.


I do look for jobs, but it's probably not even a job that I want.  I want to be able to make a move without wondering what it means and how he'll react, how it'll make him change--from child brute, from lout to gentleman, from grinning fool to leering asshole, from the hard and scaley businessman bachelor back into the vulnerable adolescent he must've been at fifteen when he left home.  But he wasn't crazy!  I heard him carry on intelligent conversations behind his office door.  He put in volunteer hours in a runaway hotline center.  He was on the board of directors of the symphony and opera.  His investment company was not in a state of collapse but getting stronger every day.  He was the local fancy skateboard champion and won the city-wide tango competition every year.  Everyone wants to just say he was crazy and I should forget about it.  Has anyone ever really tried to forget something that everyone's telling them to forget?


I wosh all this could be condensed enough to fit on the three-inch line they put on applications to explain "reason for leaving your last job."  I tried several shortened versions:  Because I talked in my sleep.  Because I didn't talk in my sleep (but he wanted me to).  Couldn't concentrate with him around.  Concentrated too much with him around.  Because I didn't know what he wanted, he never gave a title to my position.  Or because of an unfortunate party to which I was not invited, but taken.  A miliion excuses, no real reasons.  I leave that line blank now.


The party is still a bit of a mystery.  Who planned it?  Who paid the caterer?  Why didn't I hear about it until the last minute when they surrounded my desk, helped me into my sweater, put my purse over my arm, closed my appointment book...?  Aren't you coming to the party, Deanne?  You have to!


For what, I asked, what occasion?


Someone said maybe it was my farewell party (if we're lucky.)


I was blinedfolded so as not to spoil the surprise.  After a cab ride--which I think I paid for--and being led by both hands for about a block, surrounded by their giggles, we went up an elevator, down a hall, and ended up in a hotel suite.  By the time my blindfold was removed, they'd all put on masks, like outlaw bandanas.  There was a portable stereo balring out lyricless tango music.  Then they held me down, a funnel in my mouth--I had swallow or drown.  It was so uncharacteristic of my co-workers to behave that way.  The last party they'd had was cookies and coffee in the rec room during lunch hour.


And, as bad as this sounds, next thing I knew I was asleep, back at my desk eight in the morning when Davis arrived and woke me sniffing the air like a hound.  "You're a little disheveled this morning.


And what's that smell?"

"Was I here all night?"