The Consequences of Desire

The Consequences of Desire

Dennis Hathaway
Copyright Date: 1992
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    The Consequences of Desire
    Book Description:

    The stories collected in The Consequences of Desire describe a modern urban society in its extraordinary complexity, its often apparent absence of fixed values, and its resistance to easy understanding. In "Counting Mercedes-Benzes," Marshall is a directionless young man who believes he can escape his parents' Beverly Hills lifestyle by marrying for love. He fails to realize, however, that the woman he thinks he loves, his mother's Hispanic maid Geneveva, has little in common with the person he imagines her to be. The title story concerns a corporate lawyer who was a radical at Berkeley in the sixties. By chance he runs into his lover from that time and discovers how far the two have traveled in the intervening years. In "Lost in Rancho Mirage," Denton is a young man who might "have been picking up garbage or digging ditches if his grandfather hadn't left his (Denton's) father a piece of real estate that turned out to be directly in the path of a freeway". He must come to terms with the fact that he can never fully possess his beautiful girlfriend: "The imaginary sunlight bathing Jill, he realized, was a microcosm of a world in which she would always be the center; he would always be standing a little off, in a shadow, where he belonged". The need to overcome reality often becomes an obsession for these characters. In "Space and Light," an architect's realization that a former protege has surpassed him both financially and artistically prompts him to attempt something wholly original for the first time, a project that leads him down an inexorable path to madness, to a darkness from which there is literally no escape. In "The Girl Detective," Justine's disappointment over her first sexual experience is juxtaposed to her resentment at being born a girl. To her, being a girl means "always wanting to be something different, someone else, unable to accept the facts that some of her friends seemed to consider, amazingly, a stroke of the utmost fortune." In the aftermath of her surrender to passion on the grass of the municipal golf course, she indulges her childish fantasy of being a private eye--"not Nancy Drew but Philip Marlowe, Sam Spade, Lew Archer, even the virulent, violent Mike Hammer." Set mainly in California, these stories portray a world where dreams come into conflict with reality, where perception fills the space between truth and fiction, logic and emotion, fantasy and disaster.

    eISBN: 978-0-8203-4294-8
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vi])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vii]-[viii])
  3. Counting Mercedes-Benzes
    (pp. 1-15)

    Marshall counted his first Mercedes-Benz as he turned from Doheny onto Sunset Boulevard, at that spot where the Sunset Strip is swallowed by Beverly Hills and all becomes green and silent. A cream-colored 450SEL sliding languidly past his window and prompting him to note, in order, a missing piece of chrome, a female driver with horsey yellow hair, and a license plate that read 14ME2B. Distracted by the enigmatic legend of the plate, he failed to notice a pickup overloaded with hoses and rakes and other paraphernalia, and had to hit his brakes to avoid collision. The driver of the...

  4. Lost in Rancho Mirage
    (pp. 16-36)

    Nobody approved of Jill. Not Demon’s mother and father, not his sister Claire, not even his best friend Mark, who said that even if times had changed in most respects a man without an appropriate wife was still a stray dog, something that would only get scraps and leftovers, a creature that you would feel leery about getting close to. “What about David Felter?” Denton wanted to know, thinking the dog metaphor not only inappropriate but lacking imagination. “It’s okay to be gay,” Mark asserted. “It can even be an advantage, as long as there aren’t too many of you....

  5. I Like Rap, Don’t You?
    (pp. 37-55)

    Annie, once Ann, named Anna after the tragic heroine of what her father called the greatest novel ever written, wished that she had been named Emma after the Madame whose equally unhappy demise seemed in its Frenchness somehow more sublime. Annie was part of her own defenestration of a self-constructed character whose ego gave her permission—compelled her, actually—to swallow or smoke almost anything, to loathe her parents, to develop a queer antipathy towards food. That her father continued to call her Anna in spite of the miracle of her metamorphosis and her own desire, sometimes stridently proclaimed, was...

  6. The Night of Love
    (pp. 56-71)

    Anderson read in the newspaper, nine months after the earthquake, that the local hospital was swamped with women giving birth. He imagined a mob of these women, all in labor, pushing and shoving to get in the hospital doors, and he remembered Coral’s refusal to sleep in the bed—how they had sat up talking for hours before collapsing together on the rug in front of the fireplace, where an aftershock arrived with uncanny timing at the climax of their lovemaking, a shiver normally unsettling but rendered almost subliminal by the intensity of their endeavor. He imagined couples scattered throughout...

  7. The Girl Detective
    (pp. 72-88)

    At the age of eighteen she confessed to her mother that she had always wanted to be a boy, and in a tone of pained surprise her mother disclosed that after the birth of her brother certain steps had been taken to abet the conception of a girl, steps involving a thermometer and chart, abstinence at prearranged times, the use of vinegar to deter the male sperm. “Justine Baum,” she said, staring past her daughter to address an invisible third party, “was an absolute project.” A pouty swell of her lower lip implied that she expected something more than ingratitude...

  8. The Apocryphal Story
    (pp. 89-108)

    The river curled through Jason’s dream like a snake, a tropical snake enormous enough to coil around him, squeeze the life out of him, and swallow him whole. He heard himself moan, and smitten with dread he awoke in a shudder and opened his eyes to patterns of light and dark that gradually evolved into forms familiar and reassuring. His wife Maddy snored very faintly beside him, the sound the repeated assertion “You think you know. You think you know.” He tried to recapture the moment when they left for the party, when she had smiled at him with a...

  9. Space and Light
    (pp. 109-137)

    On his way to the Livingston house to mediate a dispute between Mrs. Livingston and the masons laying brick for the garden patio, Paul Westerly made a detour to look at a house designed by a man whose career had begun, one summer fifteen years before, as a draftsman in Paul’s office. The house, on the side of a hill with a view of the ocean through a cluster of eucalyptus trees, was under construction, and as Paul made his way past mounds of dirt and scraps of lumber and lengths of plumbing pipe, a strange sensation overtook him, a...

  10. The Consequences of Desire
    (pp. 138-160)

    He stood in the shadow of an awning, watching a woman in a green dress waiting to cross the street, and in a characteristic way he calmly considered opposing courses of action—stepping into the sunlight and calling her name, remaining in the shadow until she crossed the street and faded from sight. Although he hadn’t seen her for years he was certain that she was the girl he had marched with down this very street, the girl whose hand he had held while singing an anthem whose words he didn’t care to recall, the girl he had lived with...

  11. Bésame, Bésame
    (pp. 161-188)

    Richie’s mother flew out to California for Christmas, just a simple, quiet two weeks with Richie and Consuelo and the kids, but it wasn’t to be—on the very first day Richie came home from work to find her in her room, sitting on the edge of the bed, hands twisted and bloodless in her lap and a sour look of endurance on her face. It wasn’t an entirely unfamiliar look, but neither were her swollen eyes what Richie wanted to see, not when he had gone to the expense of her ticket and taken time off to pick her...

  12. Sawtelle
    (pp. 189-207)

    Charles lay awake in the pale light of dawn thinking of his partner, Ben, and of the predicament—Ben’s wife messing around with the neighbor kid, a nineteen-year-old who went to junior college and lifted weights and rode a Ninja. What, exactly, did Ben need? Advice? Sympathy? Charles shut his eyes and saw the yellow frame of the house that he and Ben had begun that week to wire, a big two-story house whose unfinished state seemed to mock his faith in the certainty of domestic arrangements. He listened to the slow rise and fall of his own wife’s breath...

  13. The Chosen
    (pp. 208-227)

    Roberto lives with two of his sisters and their husbands in a house so near the freeway that now and then a bottle thrown from a passing car thumps and spins in the yard or shatters on the driveway. The house of yellow stucco takes up most of the yard that contains a small amount of grass, a visibly leaning garage, and an enormous rubber tree. Roberto sleeps in the living room of the house, on the pillows of the sofa or, if it is late and he has had too much beer, on a mattress in the garage. The...

  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 228-228)