Martha Manger was in the market for a new vice. Her doctor had just told her her allergies were caused by alcohol, and she became suddenly more willing to put new and maybe strange things into her body. That’s what she told her brother after the visit.

Martha’s brother, a recovering ayahuasca addict, understood her predicament and promised Acai Berry Smoothies would alter her state naturally. He was an authorized dealer and living proof that the ancient berry could fortify one’s chi, balance one’s chakras, and take years off the faces of all but the most severe chain-smokers. Martha bought two cases. But aside from making her bowel movements magically consistent, like down to the minute each morning, she didn’t notice a shift. And while consistent BMs were arguably a benefit, she needed something that would quiet the conversation in her head, the one about whether she had been too passive at work—or too pushy—and how she could be worried about the exact opposite things at the same time.

At the urging of a friend who thought acai was bullshit, she decided she’d give dicks a try. She’d never been much for men aside from a few formative experiences, but most of her friends swore by them. Dicks were plentiful and not costly, and she was delighted to find that whenever and wherever they were inside her, she felt a rush. Her days keeping books for the cancer hospital melted away and she thought of nothing other than her immediate, physical sensation. But D was also time-consuming. She wanted a “friends-with-benefits” arrangement, but many of the men pushed for more. Plus, D wasn’t as convenient as a drink, which she could pull from the shelf whenever the anxiety hit. Too often by the time she and a man found themselves alone together, she was already feeling better.

While shopping at the supermarket not long after her last sex-date, she passed the Reddi-wip whipped cream and recalled her high school job working at Baskin Robbins, how they’d duck behind the counter and suck the nitrous from the cans for a quick high. She bought five cases. Only on the drive home she had a talk with herself about how brain cells weren’t a renewable resource. What now would she do with so many cans?

At home she tried the product—as it was intended at first. She loved the creamy taste of it and the silky feel, and thought, I have enough to swim in it! And then she thought, why not? She filled the bathtub with Reddi-wip, took off her clothes, and slipped in. She’d set two cans on the side of the tub and she ate the sweet foam straight from the nozzle. In her womb of cream, she stopped being able to discern where she ended and the topping began. She no longer wanted for a treat, something to make her feel better, but rather sensed that she had become the treat. It wasn’t something she put in her, as much as it was her. That’s what she forgot sometimes at work, all the good she did, all the talents she had that others relied on.

The next day she bought a palate of the Reddi-wip and stored it in her garage. She did sometimes allow herself a hit of nitrous on the worst days, but hey, nobody’s perfect. Why should she be any different?

8 Comments

  1. Jesse Wilson

    Heh heh…ayahuasca addict…that’s a million dollar concept. The tense changes in an un-grammatical way a couple times. Consistent BM’s is a huge benefit, not “arguably” a benefit. “At the urging of a friend who thought acai was bullshit” would be a great opening line, I think. “Too often by the time she and a man found themselves alone together, she was already feeling better” is GREAT. And “sex-date” is good. ” She no longer wanted for a treat” is A+. Get rid of the last sentence.

  2. Ben Saff

    I really dig this.

    “At the urging of a friend who thought acai was bullshit, she decided she’d give dicks a try.” – acai and dicks in the same sentence, love it lol

    “While shopping at the supermarket not long after her last sex-date, she passed the Reddi-wip whipped cream and recalled her high school job working at Baskin Robbins, how they’d duck behind the counter and suck the nitrous from the cans for a quick high. She bought five cases.”
    lolol

    I think you could tighten your opener by removing the () stuff below:

    Martha Manger was in the market for a new vice. Her doctor had just told her her allergies were caused by alcohol, and she became suddenly more willing to put new and (maybe) strange things into her body. (That’s what she told her brother after the visit.)

    “That’s what she forgot sometimes at work, all the good she did, all the talents she had that others relied on.”
    ^ Wonder if there is a less direct way you can say this. Or maybe it works if you just nix it completely and end on:
    “It wasn’t something she put in her, as much as it was her.”

    This story is awesome, nice work.

  3. Bud Smith

    Hello Hello,
    This is a really cool concept for a story, a person who is searching for a new vice is wonderful. As I read it I was watching the escalation of the story and wondered if the berries to the reddiquette-whip to the penis would be a better escalation. There was something about the filing the tub with cream that made me wonder if the story would escalate in the other direction, things get worse and worse or stranger and weirder, it didn’t seem like Reddi-whip back from the D addiction was the direction, unless you made the Reddi-whip section a lot wilder, huffing the gas and going to another dimension twenty seconds at a time where she gets her real answer piece by piece or something. Like all your writing, this has teeth and smarts. Thank you for the workshop, it was great to read your work

  4. Rachel Pollon Williams

    Okay, I love this idea of swapping around vices in a fun and fantastical way. And I love when a story reminds me of a fairy tale structure – she’s like Goldilocks: “this one’s too debilitating… this one’s too dependent on others’ body parts…this one’s just right…” And I LOVE that she becomes the treat. 👏👏

  5. Benjamin Niespodziany

    Great concept, great opener! That first line reeled me in. An ayahuasca addict is hysterical. I love how it gets more and more out of hand while still not seeming implausible. All of your stories pack a punch and have such strong character and voice. It’s been great reading them this weekend.

  6. Saxon Baird

    Kara, love the setup here. As with your other work its presented with such confidence and humor but also damn, how many of us really want to stop whatever vice we turn to but then how do we silence the carousel of thoughts in one’s head. Relatable.

    On that note, I wonder if we could turn the anxiety of those thoughts and worries up a few notches on the dial. Sure, people drink because of work, but worries about work can then lead to why the hell am i worried about this an why am i working this jo and that leads to existential dread about one’s life. And the only way to step off that hamster wheel is the bottle. What I’m saying, though, is maybe upping the anxiety will up the urgency for the search of another vice. And that also open up the disappointment or what other vices lack. Sure D is great but then theres this person you gotta talk to and sleep next to and that brings up a whole other host of issues especially if she’s smashing strangers stone sober. Yikes!

    Also, maybe to Bud’s note, there’s such market of endless products to help people get healthy or woke or more in touch with the hum of the cosmos or whatever….be fun if the escalation continued to get more extreme and then maybe the story returns to something simple like whip-its or weed or melatonin.

    Anyways, the structure is there and its worth the work. Loved reading all your work. All so impressive.

    Also, Doug Stanhope is a controversial comedian, I guess, but this great one minute clip about trying to sleep sober is worth. watch. Very similar to the characters struggle: https://youtu.be/Y-wSEtbnpnI?t=62)!?

  7. Bill Merklee

    Killer opening line. I love this take on a character “finding” themselves. Great humor throughout, the most hysterical being when she feels oneness with the Reddi-wip in a whipped cream womb (a great twisting of the supposed oceanic feeling where a fetus doesn’t experience a distinction between itself and its environment. Keeping books at a cancer hospital? Talk about a supreme stressor. I like how you’ve managed to riff on at least three of Freud’s fixations. As commented on elsewhere, I think you could cut “That’s what she told her brother after the visit” and “Why should she be any different?”

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