The Flesh is Willing


Russell Hatler and Krystal Rox

Martha Cox was a 33-year-old assistant professor of Renaissance Literature at Hope Valley Community College in Hope Springs, NC. She’d long ago given up pretending that a valiant knight on a white steed would someday come galloping into her placid life and rescue her from a meaningless existence filled with loneliness and despair. These days she was willing to settle for any old man on a horse.

Not that Martha didn’t love her job. She was endlessly amused by the pedestrian posturing of the principal protagonists in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. She particularly admired the “gat-toothed Wife of Bath” and secretly envied her earthy, overt sexual dominion over the other, more conventional pilgrims. Her eager heart was palpitated by the poetry of Petrarch (she imagined herself a modern-day incarnation of his beloved Laura) and her sensitive nature was beguiled by the decorous fables of Boccaccio. If it weren’t for those pesky students, Martha’s life would be complete.

Martha wasn’t above the occasional weekend fling in Fayetteville. She was by no means your stereotypical 33-year-old virgin. But the Saturday night romances that smoldered in tawdry hotel rooms had never burst into a full-fledged flame. For the most part they ended at breakfast on Sunday morning with a tentative handshake, a promise to call, and a brotherly kiss on the cheek.

This particular weekend, Martha was in the midst of grading midterms at the Ikea corner workstation in the second bedroom of her cramped apartment when the cellphone in the living room sang out the first eight notes of Pachelbel’s Canon. Martha hurried out and picked up the phone.

“Hello?” she said.

“Dr. Cox,” a female voice replied. “We’ve been trying to get in touch with you. Do you have a few minutes to spare?”

“It’s Martha,” she apologized. “My doctoral thesis was rejected by the examining committee. Their point was that my entire thesis was postulated on the English translation of Boccaccio’s Decameron which was marginally outside the purview of Renaissance literature. Had it been based solely on the original Italian version it would’ve been acceptable. But the real reason was the chair of the committee, Dr. Thomas Ueker, had been trying to get into my pants for the past six months and I steadfastly refused to be compromised.”

“We don’t care, Dr. Cox.”

“The committee was probably correct, in retrospect,” continued Martha. “The topic of my thesis was the presence of Orthographic Symbology in Boccaccio’s Decameron. Since Orthographic Symbology is largely language centric, I guess it was shortsighted to base my thesis on a relatively recent translation.”

“We don’t care, Dr. Cox.”

“The big problem was that Dr. Ueker wanted to marry me,” admitted Martha. “But I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life being called Dr. Cox-Ueker. Talk about unfortunate orthographic symbology.”

“We don’t care, Dr. Cox,” said the female voice. “My name is Harriet Thorne. I’m Dean of Students at Felicity Richards Women’s College up here in the Triangle. The former head of our Humanities Department has been lured away by the promise of a mid-six-figure salary. It’s ironic that the head of the Humanities Department would succumb to the proletarian temptation of material wealth but that’s life. We’ve heard good things about you, and we’d like to consider you as a replacement for Dr. Carson. We have a certain degree of latitude when it comes to deemed honorifics. If we want to call you Dr. Cox, as far as we’re concerned you’ve earned the privilege.”

“This is all so sudden,” sputtered Martha. “Can I call you back on Monday with an answer?”

“Take your time, Dr. Cox,” said Harriet. “Dr. Carson won’t be leaving until the end of the semester. We would appreciate an answer as soon as possible in case we are forced to pursue other candidates. For the moment your name is at the top of our list.”

The big problem was Martha’s sister, Jeanne. Jeanne was divorced with two teenage sons, ages 13 and 15. Whenever Jeanne needed a break from her hectic life Martha stepped in and baby sat. Well, that’s what it amounted to. Jeanne had come to rely on her younger sister’s increasingly frequent role as surrogate mother. Perhaps unhealthily so. But Martha did feel obligated. After all, Jeanne had taken care of Martha ever since their parents were killed in a car crash twenty years back. Without Jeanne’s support there’s no telling how Martha would have turned out.

Martha went back to grading papers, but her heart wasn’t in it. She loved the idea of moving to the Triangle, although it was a scant fifty miles north. Raleigh was the capital of North Carolina. Research Triangle Park was an emerging technological dynamo. The Triangle was where the action was. The action was definitely not in Hope Springs.

On Monday Martha called back.

“Dr. Thorne?” asked Martha when the other end of the line was answered. “I’d like to come up next weekend and explore the possibilities of your generous offer.”

“It’s Harriet,” she answered. “Come on up. I’ll book you a room at the Crabtree Marriott. Drive up Friday afternoon and stay through Sunday. Call me when you get here. We’ll have dinner together. There’s a new sushi place across the street from the Marriott. You do like sushi?”

“I love sushi,” said Martha. “See you soon.”

Between mid-term madness and visions of academic and personal freedom the week tumbled past quickly. Martha packed her overnight bag on Thursday evening and stowed it in the trunk of her 2013 Honda Civic Friday morning so she wouldn’t have to stop by the apartment after work. By the time 4:30 Friday afternoon rolled around she was ready to rock and roll, well on her way to a new adventure.

The Crabtree Marriott was gorgeous. Beat the bejesus out of the no tell motels she was treated to by her weekend swains. All she had to do was present her identification, pick up the card key and take the elevator to the seventh floor. The room was equipped with two queen sized beds, a flat screen tv, a minifridge filled with soft drinks and a personal safe. On top of the refrigerator were two wine glasses and a Keurig coffee maker. The room overlooked an Olympic size outdoor swimming pool. Dang! Martha had forgotten to pack her bathing suit. No worries. Crabtree Mall across the street had a Belk’s. And Martha’s Visa card was far from being maxed out. Martha flopped down on the bed and sighed. The room phone rang.


“Is everything to your satisfaction, Dr. Cox?” asked a smooth masculine voice. “I promised Dr. Thorne we’d take good care of you. I wouldn’t want to disappoint Dr. Thorne. She’s something of a legend around these parts.”

“I love it,” said Martha. “I’ve never stayed at a Marriott before.”

“If you need anything at all let me know,” said the voice. “My name is Gerald Tennyson. I’m head of marketing here at the Marriott. Enjoy your stay.”

Martha’s cellphone rang. It was Harriet.

“I’m just leaving work,” she said. “I should be there in fifteen minutes. Let’s meet in the lobby for a drink. We have dinner reservations at 8:00. I thought you might like to do a little shopping before we eat.”

“That sounds perfect,” said Martha. “I’ll change out of my work clothes. What should I wear?”

“Friday evening casual works for me,” laughed Harriet. “I’m still in my business suit. I should’ve thought to bring along a change of clothing for me too.”

“Let’s skip the drinks and go shopping together,” said Martha. “Then we can come back to my room and change before dinner.”

“Deal,” said Harriet. “I’ll meet you in women’s sportswear at Belk. Looking forward to it, Martha.”

“Is there a shuttle from the Marriott to the mall?” asked Martha.

“It’s a five-minute walk if you’re wearing comfortable shoes,” said Harriet. “Cross the street at the traffic light and you’re there.”

They had a lovely time shopping. Harriet got a Mark Bexley tunic and Gloria Vanderbilt Jeans. Martha bought a one-piece, floral paisley bathing suit in the Sun Shop. Martha had always had a hard time buying swimsuits. She was a bit top heavy, so to speak. She didn’t feel comfortable in a bikini. Too much overflow. And most women’s one-piece swimsuits were too tight up top to accommodate what Tom Ueker referred to as her finest assets. This one fit just fine.

Harriet drove them back to the Marriott where they hurried up to Martha’s room to change. It was 7:15. Harriet changed in the bathroom while Martha ditched her work clothes and put on a casual jump suit she’d brought along for the occasion. They decided to leave Harriet’s car in the parking lot at the Marriott and brave traffic. By the time they made it to the sushi place at the mall they were ready for food.

Harriet ordered a sushi boat for two and a couple of glasses of sake, along with a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc which complemented the meal perfectly. To her eternal credit, Martha did not disgrace herself with the chopsticks. By 9:00 they were ready to talk.

“Felicity Richards Women’s College was founded in 1837,” said Harriet. “We are a privately funded, fully accredited college. Most women’s colleges in the USA have knuckled under to pressure from political correctness groups who insist there is no essential differentiation between the genders. We politely beg to differ.”

“I thought it was illegal to discriminate based solely on gender,” said Martha.

“Not exactly,” said Harriet. “But it is politically incorrect. Most women’s colleges have either closed their doors or have become co-educational. At Felicity Richards we have a slightly different point of view. The FR motto since our founding in 1837 has been ‘In the menu of life men are the meat and potatoes, women the salad and dessert.’ Which doesn’t mean one course is necessarily more valuable than another. It means that all courses contribute equally to the meal. Celebrate your gender-specific aspects rather than envying the gender-specific aspects of the other. Embrace your gender-specific values and strive to make your contribution to the feast of life the best it can be.”

“Whew!” wheezed Martha, pouring herself another glass of the delightful wine. “That’s a lot to swallow. You’re telling me you believe there’s more than penises and vaginas when it comes to gender distinction?”

“It gets worse,” said Harriet, helping herself to the last of the wine. “Let’s pretend for a moment all men are created equal. It must be true. That’s what it says in the Declaration of Independence. But they didn’t mean all men. They meant all white male landowners. Fast forward to the Military Industrial Complex, an example of Capitalism at its finest. STEM is the ultimate implementation of the robotization of our youth. Science, Technology, Engineering and Math have become the baseline curriculum of American schools. Civics, literature, and history have fallen victim to the homogenization of our country’s new generation. Nobody reads Shakespeare anymore. These days they read HTML and C++. But it’s all to the benefit of the rascals at the top. The torchbearers of the system.”

“You want more wine?” asked Martha.

“Sure damn do,” said Harriet. “Where was I? Oh, the system and the male-dominated conspiracy. Women’s rights groups have played into the hands of the penis-bearing elite. Women these days have been told to compete with men on their uneven playing field, using men’s tools and men’s weapons of choice. Men are really good at doing one thing at a time. Women, on the other hand, are really good at doing everything at once. Women are massive multi-taskers. Men are great at brute force contests. Women are really good at contests that require a modest degree of subtlety and cunning. To a man with a hammer everything resembles a nail. To a woman with a dream everything resembles an opportunity.”

“I think the bar is closing,” said Martha, grabbing the freshly opened bottle of wine. “Shall we adjourn to my room and continue this discussion?”

By the time they paid the check and wandered back to the Marriott it was getting late.

“I’d better be getting home,” said Harriet.

“I don’t think so,” said Martha, putting her arm around Harriet’s shoulder. “For one thing you’ve had too much to drink. For another your business suit is upstairs in my room. And for the third thing we haven’t finished our discussion.”

They rode in silence up to the seventh floor. Martha opened the door and ushered Harriet in.

“Night cap?” she asked.

“I wouldn’t refuse,” smiled Harriet.

Martha poured two more glasses of wine.

“As an advocate for Renaissance Literature I totally agree with your premise that our nation’s educational system stinks,” said Martha. “But I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around your notion that women are held captive by the Capitalistic system. Take FR for instance. I did my homework. It’s a privately funded institution. Most of its benefactors are women who have fared quite well in a Capitalistic Society dominated by men. How do you reconcile that?”

“We taught them how to use their gender-specific tools to advantage in a hostile world,” grinned Harriet. “At the same time, we enriched their lives by providing context through our Humanities Department. We taught them to love themselves. We taught them to value truth and fact above opinion and hearsay. We showed them how to counter those masculine traits of physical strength and bull headedness with guile and forbearance. And we taught them to relish their orgasmic superiority. When a man ejaculates, he’s done for the night. A woman can keep coming until the dawn’s early light.”

“Does that mean we should all become lesbians?” asked Martha. “If a man can’t fully satisfy a woman, what other option do we have, aside from toys?”

“Now you’ve fallen into their favorite trap,” smiled Harriet. “You have to be one or the other. Why not be both? Woody Allen once famously said bisexuals have twice as many opportunities for a date on Saturday night.”

“I’m falling asleep,” said Martha, stripping down to her bra and panties. “Wake me in the morning.”

At 3:00 in the morning Martha felt the mattress jiggle. Then her bra became magically unfastened, its awesome burden tumbled free, and she sensed a soft hand stroking her inner thigh. Half-awake she turned over to find Harriet stark naked beside her. Harriet gently pressed a finger to Martha’s lips. Martha lifted her hips and tugged off her panties. She had a feeling Harriet was about to make her final argument. Martha was pretty sure the jury was already persuaded. She spread her legs and flew swiftly to the moon. OMG! What a joy to be touched by someone who understood how to pleasure a woman. Even if it was a sin against nature. Let the games begin!