To Be Licked

       I think the earliest remembrance I have is being licked by a cow on a summer day. The family album shows photographs of other events in previous summers, but they left no permanent marks on my soul. I remember standing by a two-board fence, my elbows hanging over the upper board. Cows were grazing nearby. One looked up and came toward me. It had friendly, blue eyes. All of a sudden, its tongue came out and licked me in a broad stroke from my chin to my forehead, covering my whole face. I had, perhaps, the sensation of being stroked by warm, wet sandpaper of grade “coarse.” In the background, my mother laughed, laughed, laughed....
       I grew up and one day I was somewhere in my middle teens. During one of the winters, I took a girl out to the movies; in the summer we went to the public beach in the company of others. One day, when everybody seemed to be looking in other directions, I bent over and gave her my first kiss. As I retracted, a fine thread of spit hung between her lips and mine, becoming more slender as I moved away from her and gaining substance as I moved toward her again. Back and forth I swayed, but the spit in its catenary beauty remained. I didn’t know what to do, but she did. As I became paralyzed, she leaned toward me and licked me in the face. It was pleasant in a way, like being stroked by a warm, wet, soft piece of sandpaper of grade “fine.” In the background, her girlfriends snickered, snickered, snickered....
       Later in life when I had settled down with another girl, I made my first attempt at adultery. I figured I might as well try for the best of two worlds. I went after a home-economics teacher. She had a certain way with food and I was hopeful, therefore, about her other abilities. I calculated that an entry to her kitchen would be a natural first step toward an entry to her other rooms. By stealth and other means, I obtained samples of her cooking and praised them extravagantly, while berating my wife’s organic alfalfa dishes. She invited me over to witness the preparation of her masterpiece, broiled ox tongue. When it started to sizzle in her eye-level broiler, I made my advance. She was furious. At a time like this! Spoiling a perfectly good tongue! She grabbed it and slapped it across my face. It felt like a hot piece of “coarse” sandpaper, wet with peppered water. But, at least, nobody was there to laugh at me.
       I took a short, solitary vacation at the rim of the Grand Canyon while my burns healed. There, looking into the depths, I pondered what she needed those other rooms for.
       And now: I am approaching forty and wondering how I will be licked next.

       —Thomas Thorsen