Marginalia Publishing has released its first book, a novella from New England author Nathan Graziano, Some Sort of Ugly. The story follows Hamlet Burns through the treacherous world of college life in the early 90’s. It’s a mix of sick humor and nostalgic wisdom.
Here we present an excerpt from the book, which is available in eBook and print form.
Pete and My Peter
Two weeks into my sophomore year, I received a disastrous haircut from a guy on the third floor of the dorm who owned a set of clippers. He was referred to simply as Drain-O. Rumor had it that he drank a shot of the liquid plumber on a five-dollar bet and nearly killed himself. He had tattoos of flames on his forearms, a long goatee that dangled to his chest, and spikes impaled through his tongue and bottom lip. It was impossible to determine his age but most people estimated him to be somewhere between 20 and 65 years old. While Drain-O shaved his scalp to the skin, it didn’t deter me from allowing him to cut my hair.
Humming along to a Pantera song, Drain-O shaved the sides and the back of my head with clippers, leaving a clump of hair on the top that hung down over the shaved portions like a spider plant. I looked like the inverse of a balding man painfully trying to maintain a ponytail.
“Looks cool,” Drain-O said as he stood in front of me and checked my bangs to be sure they were even.
I walked to the mirror on his closet door. When I saw myself, I bit down on my bottom lip to keep from crying. It looked as if the top of my head was spewing. I was half-tempted to ask Drain-O to shave the rest, but I didn’t want to insult his work. More importantly, I didn’t want him to pummel me into a thin pulp.
I wiped my eyes and turned around. “Looks great. Thanks, Drain-O.”
“Not a problem,” he said. “Spread the word. Tell anyone who wants a haircut to get in touch with me. I’ll do it for a bowl pack.”
“I think my buddy Pete is coming up later.”
“Cool shit,” said Drain-O. “I call this cut ‘The Cobain.’” Other than a straight crew cut, it was the only one he knew.
“Oh,” I said and left the room, leaving a bud I borrowed from Pete, who was dealing to our dorm, on Drain-O’s desk for payment. But I didn’t bother to warn Pete. I didn’t want to suffer alone.
After the haircut—and largely due to a sexual drought that was a result of it—I began a strict regimen of masturbation. But I added a twist. In order to make the act feel more realistic, I started picking out imaginary girlfriends and trying to remain faithful to them. This involved thinking exclusively about one girl while flogging it. Sometimes when the thought of another woman would slip into my mind, a sense of guilt, dishonor and melancholy would follow my orgasm. I didn’t want to be the type of guy with a terrible haircut who cheats on his imaginary girlfriends.
While I did find some solace in the fact that Pete had to suffer through the same haircut, the main difference between Pete and I was that Pete was still handsome enough to pick up women, even with a spider plant haircut. With his pot-dealing career taking off, Pete had also stopped attending most of his classes that semester so he had the time to groom his hair each morning and make it look presentable. I, on the other hand, optioned for the baseball hat.
The one class that Pete did attend was a biology lab that we had together. It wasn’t, however, Pete’s genuine desire to be around beakers and microscopes, glass slides and protective goggles motivating him to attend. Rather, it was my imaginary girlfriend.
I had never spoken to her and nothing short of the spider plant catching fire on a Bunsen burner would’ve made her look at me, so I never learned her real name. But I called her Bella, nonetheless. She was a small, slim girl with black hair as straight as a line, a bronzed complexion and a tiny bump on the bridge of her nose, a slight imperfection that juxtaposed beautifully with her natural double-D breasts.
Every Thursday morning Bella would proudly display her tits in an array of tight tops and blouses. I confided in Pete—who was equally enamored by Bella—that she had become my imaginary girlfriend, and each day after class, before I went to lunch, I would run back to my dorm room and pleasure myself thinking about Bella. I no longer had the privilege of a room to myself, but my roommate had a girlfriend across campus, so he was never there, leaving Bella and me free to make torrid and sweaty imaginary love in the privacy of my own mind.
Afterwards, I would walk with Pete to the dining hall, content with my imaginary love-making to my imaginary girlfriend.
It was a warm spring morning when Bella’s red tank top erected my first classroom hard-on since The Monkey Ring Rod in junior high. Pete skipped class that day, sleeping off a hangover, and while I was supposed to be examining a cell scraped from the inside of my cheek, I kept casting furtive glances at Bella’s breasts. For the next ninety minutes, I tried to keep my boner at bay with thoughts about geriatric lovemaking, rearranging the Red Sox batting order, and sharp objects being lodged into my eyeballs and testicles. Once class ended, I sprinted awkwardly back to my dorm room.
I had my pants around my knees and was mid-stroke by the time I hit the bed. I imagined Bella straddling my hips, wearing a short black skirt, sans the panties. With her thighs tensing, she pulled the red tank top over her head and buried my face in her massive mounds. I took a breast in each hand and massaged her nipples between my thumbs and index fingers, nibbling on them like a gerbil. She moaned sweetly as my cock pulsed inside of her.
“Yes, Ham, yes. Suck on my giant tits, tiger,” Bella whispered as her pace quickened and she worked towards the type of life-altering, imaginary orgasm that only I could give her. “I’m going to come.” She arched her back and started rubbing her clitoris. “Yes, yes, you hulk. Right there. I’m going to—”
“Lunch. Ham, are you coming?”
“Oh yeah, I’m—”
The door was swung open—I had forgotten to lock it!—and Pete stood in the doorway, his mouth open. My entire body convulsed. It was one of those moments when time slows down to a trickle as the mind tries to conceptualize the tragedy at hand.
Distraught, I tried tugging up my pants. “OH MY GOD! I’M BEATING OFF!” I screamed.
For some reason, I felt the need to state the obvious.
Pete chuckled and closed the door. I lay on my back, covering my eyes with my arm. At this point, I realized it would be nearly impossible to finish. There I was: 19 years old with a bad haircut, no sex life, an imaginary girlfriend, and a case of self-inflicted blue balls. It seemed like a reasonable time to kill myself. Ham the Man, I am.
But I didn’t kill myself. Instead, I zipped up my pants, grabbed my hat and walked down the hallway to Pete’s room. He was lying on his bed, thumbing through a Playboy. I kept my head down. “It was Bella,” I said. “She wore a red tank top. I forgot to lock the door.”
Pete laughed. “Don’t sweat it, Ham. It happens. My mother caught me waxing the bean once.”
“Really? What happened?”
“It was a Saturday morning and I thought everyone was asleep. I thought it was safe.”
“That’s horrible, Pete.”
“I had thrown off the covers and everything. I was butt naked, cranking on it when my mother walked in my room to get my laundry. I was just about to shoot. Man, it was a bad scene.”
“Did you blow?” I needed to know.
Pete shook his head. “Not really. A little dribbled out the tip, but most of it stayed bottled up,” he said. “I heard somewhere that you can get prostrate cancer that way.”
“You really should get in the habit of finishing once you start,” I said.
“Want to go get some food? It’s the baked macaroni and cheese today at dining hall,” Pete said, grabbing his coat off the back of his desk chair.
That day we saw Bella at the dining hall, and Pete witnessed the red tank top for himself. After lunch, we both went back to our respective rooms and locked the doors. We didn’t want to get prostate cancer.