Note: The following excerpt has been used with the permission of a former client and/or the publisher. Please note that I can adjust my prose style for a particular genre, and the following is not intended to represent my full range of styles or the number of genres I consider. For nonfiction, the level of complexity can be adjusted depending on client preference. .
With paleontologists, it always starts with bones. Big bones and little bones and in-between bones. That's what gets their interest and that's what they end up studying if they're lucky enough to uncover a skeleton while lightly whisking their Ace paintbrushes over the hardened strata of the ages. To be completely accurate, of course, one must say that paleontologists are in the habit of dealing with the fossils of bones, a fossil being a lump of solidified minerals which has taken the precise shape of a bone after millions of years have passed and empires have fallen and the proverbial snowball has finally been given its chance in hell.
That's what Marionette Dish felt like even though she was only twenty-six years old: a fossil. Twenty-six was not a long time to have been around, but presidents had come and gone in more ways than one, the Soviet Union had gone belly-up, and a comet – a curve ball low and inside – had barely missed striking out the earth. Let us say from the outset that enough things had changed so that Marionette had already had her first epiphany: entropy carries the day. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Even the Beatles had broken up.
More than anything, however, Marionette felt herself to be old because she wasn't married. No husband, no dog, no mortgage, no barbecues with people named the Gladstones.
And no sex.
Not that she didn't have the opportunity, because Marionette was a real dish, a knockout, a heavenly star of the first magnitude. She had brown hair that was long and straight and shiny; she had smooth, clear skin that could easily have been mistaken for Ivory Soap by anyone examining her cheek with a jeweler's loupe; she had eyes that were a deeper blue than the sky on a winter evening; and she had a patrician air about herself – great posture and poise even though her name wasn't Patricia. But alas – she was a virgin, and she felt herself to be anachronistic, out of step with the twenty-first century, which seemed to be doing a pretty feverish mambo rather than a Calvinist waltz.
What was wrong with her, she wondered. Being an anachronism was no fun. She felt as old as the dinosaurs she studied. She was a beautiful bag of bones.
Her friend Cliché told her that she might be gay – a lipstick lesbian – but Marionette didn't have the slightest urge to pack her bags and move to the fabled island of Lesbos. Women were just . . . women.
Construction workers – aha! – now that was a different story. On more than one occasion, Marionette spent an inordinate amount of time peeking through holes in the plywood at construction sites to stare at the muscles of the hard hats as they walked the steel and hammered nails and pulled up jeans to cover butt cracks. She thought men were absolutely spectacular. She even had the audacity to daydream about one named Sven, a humdinger of a guy from the health club where she worked out on Tuesday nights and Saturday mornings. He was the head weight trainer. He had a jaw like G. I. Joe and hair like Vidal Sassoon. He was Teutonic through and through, and she always felt a little dizzy when Sven would spot her as she lay on her back, pressing twenty-five pounds into the lofty atmosphere where the six-foot-five trainer spent his days.
No, she absolutely loved men – loved everything about them.
More importantly, they loved her back, which is to say that she had had chances aplenty to climb into the saddle and ride the range. But she had retained her virginity throughout high school because she was a bit bookish and didn't want to be bothered with disease or unwanted pregnancy. She was sensible in that regard. Boys were awkward and clumsy, sophomoric even if they were seniors. There was nobody who seemed “just right." To her great credit, she regarded herself as more than a cluster-bomb of hormones waiting to explode.
In college, she didn't get asked out on a lot of dates. She attributed this misfortune to being a paleontology major. Sure, a few guys got fresh out on a dig – she acquired the nickname of “dust bunny” – but these young men were puerile and uninteresting.
A few years later, however, she met Ken Gluck, professor of English at the University of Provo. He was a middle-aged man who had been divorced about a year when he met Marionette at a faculty party. Marionette had recently finished her dissertation (Femurs in the Jurassic Period) and was working at the Big Sky Bone Institute, a scientific consortium formed by several western institutions of higher learning. The two academics, though separated by thirty-three years – she was twenty-two at the time, and he was fifty-five – were quite drawn to each other. Ken seemed to have a great deal of sophistication. He didn't burp or fart. He was no construction worker, but he certainly wasn't ugly. He coaxed her back to his lair on the second date.
Marionette was ready. She had given Ken a condom. She prepared for spermicidal warfare by injecting herself with cream made to be used in conjunction with the aforementioned condom. And she had inserted a very large barrier into her vagina, one that was the Berlin Wall of diaphragms.
Ken had knelt between her open legs, ready to lower his body into the waiting arms of Marionette.
"It was the best of times," he said with a grin, quoting a little literature to take the edge off.
Then he clutched his chest. A pain suddenly materialized, the kind of pain that says "something bad is about to happen."
"It was the worst of times," he said.
Marionette was puzzled – and a bit insulted. "Which is it?" she asked. It was, after all, her first time.
Ken died from cardiac arrest shortly after falling onto Marionette's shapely breasts.
"There's a glitch in the Gluck," Marionette said blankly, looking up at the ceiling. For some reason, she could only think of politics and partisanship, of how Democrats got grave looks of concern and wanted to fix things, while Republicans wanted to ignore danger and enjoy the ride. That had been Ken Gluck on the verge of coitus: congress, a house divided.
She climbed out of bed and ran her fingers through her hair. "I just don't think intimacy is my forte," she told herself while looking in the mirror. "It's not going to happen. Sex is entirely too stressful."
It certainly had been stressful for Ken Gluck, and Marionette left the encounter a changed woman, feeling as if she might put her time to better use by studying the thigh bone of a Tyrannosaurus Rex. She turned down dates without batting one of the hundreds of black, sultry lashes in her eyelids. It didn't matter that the life insurance agent (interviewing her on behalf of Gluck's beneficiaries) thought she was a loose woman. She slapped him in the face, and he left thinking that paleontologists were not to be trifled with.
The problem was this: Tyrannosaurus Rex was a big meaty creature, full of muscles and desire and free will. He was a lot like a construction worker minus the butt crack when you got right down to it.
Marionette found herself perpetually distracted by her profession as she brushed the dust from bones in one of the many labs at the Big Sky Bone Institute in Salt Lake City, Utah. She would get antsy while working on the larger femurs. Downright horny, in fact.
But there wasn't much she could do. She was a beautiful woman, but her beauty had sent horrible arrhythmias through Ken Gluck's cardiac muscle.
It seemed as if Marionette's fate was to be a virgin.
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