Grace was first to notice the raccoons on the neighbour’s roof.
“Look. They’re playing.” She poked Marty in the ribs, causing him to spill his magic margarita. Everyone at the barbecue was drinking them. The Marketing Director of Best Body Foods, Nathaniel Hall, was mixing. He boasted a secret ingredient, which he challenged his staff to guess. Grace figured it was a jolt of hot sauce to balance out the sweetness of the mango. She had deduced this on her first sip, but was allowing an acceptable time lapse before going public.
“Not playing, fucking. At least, the poor guy’s trying to fuck her. But she won’t keep still.”
Oh. Great. Had she really just pointed out two raccoons copulating? To Marty. Everyone knew he’d been trying to bed her for the last seven months, ever since she’d been promoted to marketing rep for coffee. Why had she encouraged him?
Kim and Douglas came closer sensing some titillating gossip. Now the four of them huddled together watching the smaller raccoon turn her head back to bite the larger male, who was trying to mount her from behind.
Grace had chosen this spot on the upper deck, away from the bulk of Nathaniel’s guests, hoping to find some tranquility. Most partygoers were gathered on the lower deck where sirloin burgers and tofu patties were being flipped on a barbecue built into a brick island that was surrounded by posh outdoor furniture adorned with bejeweled cushions. Also on the lower level was a large jacuzzi tub that could comfortably sit twelve. Around it, stood the most intoxicated of her colleagues, daring each other to take the plunge.
She’d snuck up to the second floor and out onto this sundeck through a sliding door in the master bedroom. But Marty had a way of sniffing her out no matter what. She was lucky if she had a full minute to herself before she felt him sneak up behind her. She held her breath as his familiar stink, an overripe need, reached her nostrils. Perhaps it was her own scent, the lingering fragrance of apathy, which he’d recognized and pursued. Before long, other interlopers had spilled onto the top deck so that her illusion of solitude was completely spoiled.
“Aw, come on, Rosie. Let Rocky in.” Marty laughed hysterically, leaning into Douglas’ side.
“Yeah, a fella’s gotta use it or he’ll lose it,” Douglas said.
The female raccoon was inching her way slowly across the neighbour’s roof, the earnest male in hot pursuit. It was a desperate dance in which he grabbed her hind quarters and thrust forcefully until she eventually maneuvered around to bite his neck. Her growling and biting continued until he loosened his grip, at which point, she squirmed free, and scurried forward a few inches. Then the whole process began again.
“Yeah. Rocky must be getting real sore by now.” Marty patted his crotch, looking at Grace with a pained expression as if to garner some sympathy.
“Isn’t it obvious? Rosie’s saying, No.” Grace had an overwhelming urge to stuff one of the mangoes she’d seen on the kitchen counter into Marty’s fat mouth. Except she knew he would conveniently mistake this as flirtation, saying something like, “You’re so sexy when you feed me mangoes.”
“Rosie’s not in the mood, right Kim? Headache, I bet,” said Douglas, elbowing Kim.
Kim didn’t smile. Grace recognized in Kim’s refusal to smile her grim determination to ignore what she couldn’t control.
“Come on — surely you know — it’s a physical necessity for Rocky. For males every —”
Grace did not hear the rest of what Marty said because she couldn’t breathe. She hunched over, reaching her hand to the brick wall for support. Not a physical necessity, she thought, more like a sense of entitlement.
“Are you alright?” Kim asked.
When she was able to, Grace stood up straight, took a deep breath. “I’m fine,” she said, waving away Kim’s concern. “It’s this heat.”
Everyone was staring at her. Marty took a gulp of his cocktail. Douglas glanced down at his sandals.
Kim straightened her dress. Grace looked back at the neighbour’s roof where Rosie appeared to have given up biting Rocky. He was pumping at her rear end in five second intervals.
Grace understood Rosie’s sense of defeat. She remembered her despair when, years earlier, Duane had pulled the car onto an abandoned road; how a cold fist had seized her heart and squeezed. How her heartbeat thudded in her ears as he maneuvered the Plymouth slowly around giant rocks and potholes, broken branches discarded by the wind. When he finally turned off the ignition and looked at her, she didn’t have to ask why. The answer was written plainly on his face. In that instant, as she became cognizant of what he truly was, she made a decision. She would not resist. Because he wanted her to fight, she would lie as limp as a wet rag.
Laughter erupted loudly in Grace’s ear. More coworkers had gathered to gawk and point at the performance taking place on the roof. Two marketing reps had taken on the voices of the male and female raccoon.
“Why can’t I come?” said the rep for breakfast beverages.
“I told you to stop drinking that powdered crap.” The rep for desserts spoke from behind a recliner as if his invisibility made his impersonation of Rosie more convincing.
“I want you so badly.”
“You know, they really oughta repair this roof.”
“Do you like it doggy style?”
“Will you just come already?”
Grace had wanted Duane to come too. As soon as he pressed into her, her body stiffened. She tried to make her muscles go slack, tried to feel the power she told herself she held over him by not struggling. But it was difficult to feel powerful when she was so dry, afraid that his greedy cock would break her in half.
“Hey, I think they’re finally done,” Douglas said, looking up at the raccoons, who, during the course of their intercourse, had travelled all the way to the other side of the roof.
“What do think? Thirty minutes.” Marty said he planned on notifying the Guinness Book of Records.
“Not that thirty minutes would be a big deal for me” he said, eyeing Grace hungrily. “But I’m sure it’s a record for small mammals.”
Thoroughly spent, Rocky rested his snout on Rosie’s back. Her head sagged down to the roof tiles. Yes, it was exhausting to let oneself be walked all over, Grace thought.
Duane had finished with a long anguished sob. Afterward, he fumbled to pull up his jeans, lit a smoke. She took a long time to move. It was a fight just to expand her chest to draw breath into her lungs. The smoke from his cigarette drifted into the space between them, concealing his face in a fog that disappeared once he cracked open his window. He drove her home not saying a word, like nothing had happened.
The upper deck had grown quiet now that the raccoons had finally shifted apart with most people wandering away to seek refreshments below. Grace excused herself to use the restroom. She rummaged through her satchel, her hands trembling as she opened the bottle. She slipped a single yellow Zoloft under her tongue. In the vintage ornate mirror she stared at herself, watched her eyes flicker as the tablet dissolved and mixed with her saliva. She waited for the beautiful chemical burst.
There was a soft but persistent knock at the door.
She waited for the pill to kick in, to feel herself float away, before stepping out of the bathroom to reassure Marty that everything was fine.