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american gothic redux: selfish prayers
by robert a. melos

Tiffany Marie Dombrowski tugged the spandex cheerleader’s sweater over her pert breasts and closed her locker. She strutted through the girl’s locker room of Taft High School throwing attitude in her wake, pausing for a moment at the full-length mirror on the wall to give her image a final approving once over. She shook her red highlighted blonde hair over her shoulders, shook her blue and gold pompoms and burst through the door into the large gymnasium filled with her fellow students, faculty and parents. The pep rally could now begin.

“Well it’s about time, “ Amber Leigh Krakowitz, co-captain of the Taft High School cheerleading squad mumbled under her breath.

Tiffany smiled and spoke through her gritted teeth. “On the rag, Amber?”

Amber assumed her position next to Tiffany, pompoms extended. Her teeth equally gritted. “We’ve been waiting for you forever. Even the basketball team was beginning to think you’d stood them up.”

“As if I would ever stand up a jock,” Tiffany said.

“Gimme a T!” The girls shouted.

Oh God, Tiffany silently prayed while she mechanically spelled out Taft. Please don’t let this be all life is about. Please don’t let being perfect and popular be the only things in my life to have meaning. Please God. I’m begging you to give me a shot at Todd Benzinger. Now he could give my entire life real meaning.

“Taft! Taft! Taft!” The girls shouted and jumped up and down.

Todd Benzinger sat on the team bench watching the cheerleaders, and nervously glancing around the gymnasium. He smiled when he saw Amber’s tits bouncing under her sweater. He knew she wasn’t wearing a bra, because he had taken it from her in the backseat of his Mustang an hour earlier when they both skipped study hall. He wondered if anyone else noticed Amber’s tits the way he noticed them? Or if anyone else thought of Amber the way he thought of her?

High school was almost over and soon he would be going to community college, if he could keep his grade point up. His father wanted him to study accounting, so he could do the books at his father’s garage. He thought of how everything in his father’s life had to revolve around his father, like he was the most selfish man on the face of the planet. Just once he wished his father would ask him what he wanted, only he knew he could never tell his father what he wanted because he didn’t know himself what it was he wanted. All he could manage to focus on was Amber’s bouncing tits and the glare he was getting from his coach.

Oh God, he thought to himself. Please help me to get through high school without fucking up any more than I already have, and help me to win the game against Harding tomorrow night. He looked at the coach again.

Coach Richmond always made him feel like his grandfather made him feel, confused and stupid. He knew he wasn’t stupid, but the coach made him question himself and his every move. Assistant Coach Phillips was cool but he answered to Richmond as well so even when Phillips would calm him down, Coach Richmond would fluster him.

Tom Richmond sat at the end of the team bench watching Todd Benzinger watch the Krakowitz girl, or rather watching her knockers. He knew what was going through the boy’s mind. He was once a strapping young man just like Todd, and still felt those same feelings Todd was feeling for the cheerleader. Of course he knew his feelings were more memories of Jean Marie Heffernan, his high school sweetheart of some forty years ago. Was it forty years already, he wondered?

This was his last year of teaching before he retired to that little home in the Pocono Mountains. He and his first wife bought the house, and he kept it after the divorce. His second wife almost took it in their divorce, but he fought for it. Now it was all he had left after two broken and bitter marriages, and a lifetime of regrets. He glared at Todd, willing the boy to do more with his life than waste it on a pair of knockers. He knew Todd had his whole life in front of him, and a chance at being more than a washed up high school ballplayer with an associates degree from a county college.

He had talked to some scout friends of his, and Tom knew Todd had a shot at college ball. The only things standing in Todd’s way were his father, who wanted nothing more for his son than to have him go to work in the family garage as a full time mechanic and part time accountant, and Todd’s perpetual boner.

Oh God, Tom thought. Please give this kid the break I never had. Give him a chance to get away from this small town and away from the vixens, like my ex-wives, who will screw up his life. He watched the cheerleaders prance and bounce through two more rousing renditions of “We’ve Got Spirit” and made a mental note to talk to Coach Danzig about her lack of supervision when it comes to the cheerleader’s attire.

Christ, he thought, does that girl have no shame? Everyone in the gymnasium could see she wasn’t wearing a bra beneath her to tight sweater. He also wanted to talk to Emma Danzig about the fact the cheerleader costumes seemed to be tighter than he thought appropriate for young girls. He listened to the boys after practice, in the locker room, when they thought no adults where around, talking about the girls. It wasn’t like in the good old days when they were putting Salt Peter in the cafeteria food.

God, he thought again. Give my boys the strength to resist the temptations of the harlots of the cheerleading squad. He glanced down the line toward Emma Danzig, and then past her to Emily Dickersen, the women’s assistant coach.

She’s the cause of this, he thought. Her, with her new routines and youth minded ways. She was the new breed of teacher, all pert and young and slender. Her long blonde hair hung loose and fell softly over her shoulders. She so reminded Tom of his Jean Marie. He would have a long talk with Emma about Miss Dickersen.

Emma Danzig paced along side the cheerleader’s bench watching the girls bounce, bump and grind. The routine is much too sexy, she thought, but that is the new way of the world. No more bobby sox and saddle shoes, she lamented. The world had taken on a newer more dirty-minded tone. She glanced toward Emily Dickersen, her new assistant. She knew the added bumps and grinds and jiggles were all her doing.

Emily had interviewed with the school board as a fresh out of college teacher with a plan to educate the youth of today. As far as Emma was concerned, all Emily Dickersen was interested in was vamping the men of Taft High, both faculty and students alike, and shaking her bodacious body whenever she could get the chance to show the girls some of the moves she used in her modern jazz classes.

Emma sighed as she noticed Amber was not wearing a bra. Another sign of the declining morality of the world, and a reminder of her own fading youth, she mused. Once she had gone without a bra, back in the day, as the kids were fond of saying, and she paid the price for it. Now she wouldn’t think of setting foot out of her tiny one bedroom apartment without a layer of lycra supporting her private parts.

She took a deep breath and made a mental note to give the girls a hygiene lecture before the week was through, and also to speak with Emily yet again about her bad influence on the girls. For the life of her, Emma thought, Emily just doesn’t see the path she’s on.

Oh God,
she prayed as she watched Amber bounce about on the gym floor, please help me to get through this day, and to give these impressionable young girls the benefit of my wisdom. She glanced toward the team bench and Coach Richmond. What a fine looking man, she thought. Even after all these years, he still is so dashing in his rumpled suit with the whistle hanging around his neck where a necktie should hang.

She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. God, she thought, please let Coach Richmond finally work up the courage to ask me out. I’m lonely God, and Tom needs a woman who will be faithful to him. A good woman, whose needs he could fulfill. God, give me that man who will rescue me from my loneliness.

Emily Dickersen sat watching the girls go through their routine and made notes of what still needed to be rehearsed. For some reason, she just couldn’t take her eyes off Amber. She had denied it to herself all semester, but she knew the reason she couldn’t stop watching Amber. Amber was perfect. She was a flawless beauty, with a perfect body. She smiled to herself when she realized Amber wasn’t wearing a bra, and felt herself blush when she wondered if Amber had purposefully left the bra off for her? No, she reasoned. Amber had no idea what the assistant coach felt for her. She couldn’t know, or probably didn’t share the same feelings, Emily thought.

Amber would be graduating in a few weeks and she would be just another fond memory, Emily told herself. Taft High was too much of a small town school for her to even entertain the thoughts she entertained late at night in the darkness of her small room at the boarding house. The thoughts were those a proper teacher would not be having for a student, even if the student were eighteen and oh so ready for exploring the pleasures only another woman could give her.

Emily shook her head, her long blonde hair falling gently over her shoulders. She glanced toward the team bench and saw Coach Richmond staring at her again. Oh God, she thought, please don’t let that creepy old man hit on me. It was one thing to be stared at by a hot young guy like the assistant coach, Tony Phillips, because they were contemporaries. However when a guy as old as her grandfather was leering at her it just made her feel all icky and creepy like when her Uncle Dave would come to visit and she would wake up to find him standing over her bed in his tight white briefs, his hairy stomach hanging over the waistband.

She shook her head to get the image of her Uncle Dave from her mind, and her gaze fell once again upon Amber. Oh God, she thought, everything could be so good with a girl like her, or a man like Tony Phillips. Maybe I could have both?

Tony Phillips watched the cheerleaders gyrating and shaking their pompoms and fought hard to think of cold rain and baseball stats. His twenty-six year-old sex drive was still in full gear long after he knew men hit their sexual peak. He didn’t quite understand it, or care to understand it. All he knew was, he saw a teenage girl dressed as a cheerleader and he would spring an erection. Hell, he thought, a stiff breeze gets me going.

He closed his eyes and pictured ice water running down a cold mountain stream. Slowly the mountains turned into Amber’s tits, and he was picturing her naked beneath an icy cold shower. He opened his eyes and pressed down on the stat book he held on his lap. God, he thought, please help curb my sexual desires. He glanced down the bench at the boys in their baggy uniform shorts, and amended his prayer. God, please help me curb all of my sexual desires.

Amber smiled and shook her pert body before the crowd. She knew every eye in the gymnasium was on her or rather on her bouncy boobies, as Todd liked to call them. She was eighteen, and in the best physical condition she could be in, and she was happy to show off her body. Deep in her heart she knew in a few years she would probably be just like her mother. A divorced, bitter, chain-smoking, drunk every Saturday night, desperate woman who picked up strange guys at the hotel lounge out on Route 10 and went back to their rooms or sometimes to her house where they would hang off of her sagging forty-something tits.

She knew it was her destiny just like it had been her mother’s and grandmother’s. Hell, for all I know it could be a family curse, she thought. No woman in her family could ever be fulfilled or happy. Her mother was still having a fit because she caught her going out with Todd. It wasn’t like she and Todd were still stepsiblings. After all, her mother had only been Todd’s stepmother for seven months, until she caught Todd’s father doing some stewardess in the back of his service station one night.

She hadn’t even begun to mess around with Todd until they weren’t related, so she didn’t see what the big deal was, but her mother was making her feel ever so much like a whore. She had even called her that, but Amber knew who the real whore was in her family. Gimme an M, she thought. Gimme and O. Gimme an M. Put it together and what have you got? Town Slut!

She jumped and did a split. God, she thought. Forgive me for hating my mother. And forgive me for enjoying the fact I’m not wearing a bra and I know I’m turning on all the guys and several of the girls in the gym. God, please don’t let me be as big of a slut as my mother. Oh, and God, please let us kick Harding’s ass at tomorrow’s game.


Robert is the author of the novels Cool Mint Blue, Melba Ridge, and the recently released The Adventures of Homosexual Man and Lesbian Lad; and the creator of the on-line comix Impure Thoughts found at his web site Inside R.A. Melos, as well as having been an on-line staff writer for QBliss where he had a monthly humor column, Maybe A Yip, Maybe A Yap. In his non-writing time, when he's not studying the metaphysical or creating a tarot deck, he sells real estate in Middlesex County New Jersey, hangs out with his dog Zeus, and spends time at the Pride Center of New Jersey in Highland Park, NJ, where he is on the Board of Trustees.

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dana harris
6.9.03 @ 8:30p

Is this the outline for a novel?

robert melos
6.9.03 @ 10:09p

Not so much an outline as a loose collection of stories revolving around small town, and small minded town life. It is similar to a novel I wrote called Melba Ridge (available at an Internet near you.)

This is just something I toy with from time to time. The novel I'm currently working on is a comic book type parody. All my work is a parody, in my eyes. I'll be doing a series of American Gothic Redux (and thank you to whoever critiqued me and gave me the correct spelling of redux, because all I was coming up with in web searches for the correct spelling was a lawsuit for some diet pill called Redux), if they are well received. If not, the whole town dies in a Sars outbreak, or some other mysterious disease involving unusual enlargement of the organs and deminished mental capacity. (Just kidding, folks. Don't get any sick ideas.)

mike julianelle
6.10.03 @ 1:26a

Is Todd Benzinger supposed to be THE Todd Benzinger? Or is that just coincidence?

robert melos
6.10.03 @ 2:22a

There are no coincidence in life.

No, I just took the name because it worked for me at the moment. People aren't alway what or who they seem to be in my fiction. Todd has a lot of living to do, as do Heather and Tiffany. The American Gothic Redux will all tie together, yet hopefully each one will stand on its own. Or lean slightly, and maybe stumble and topple over, but Todd is just a high school kid with hormones and a desire to be more than an accountant in his father's garage. What Todd wants to do isn't what he'll end up doing. So few people ever end up doing what they want to do.

Um, no, he's not THE Todd Benzinger.

tracey kelley
6.13.03 @ 10:11a

Who is Todd Benzinger?

heather millen
6.13.03 @ 12:43p

Todd has a lot of living to do, as do Heather and Tiffany.

HEY! I resent that. But I like the piece. And I still have no idea who Todd Benzinger is.

jael mchenry
6.13.03 @ 2:04p


russ carr
6.13.03 @ 2:38p

In a slight bit of irony, the more famous Todd Benzinger is now a high school girls' basketball coach. And now you know.

russ carr
6.13.03 @ 2:41p

Also, Michelle Von Euw had a crush on him when he played for the Sox.

robert melos
6.13.03 @ 3:45p

Heather, I'm sorry. I was thinking Amber, and insteade I typed Heather. In the next installment I'll introduce a Heather. She won't be as vivacious as you, or lead as interesting of a life, but such is the life of a character in my sick little world.

Um, I just chose the name Benzinger because I went to school with a Leo Benzinger.

jael mchenry
6.13.03 @ 4:11p

Also, Michelle Von Euw had a crush on him when he played for the Sox.

A-HA! That's why the name sounded familiar.

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