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Hobbyist

Rockwell, a 29-year-old fast-tracker, makes large coin at a Silicon Valley brokerage house, has a gorgeous girlfriend, and plans to conquer Wall Street and the world.

Then it all comes crashing down.

His gorgeous girlfriend dumps him. His beloved big sister dies. Suddenly, he is left alone to raise his teen niece, Ellie.

An emotional cripple, Rockwell is an easy target for Dean Manne, a roguish work pal, who invites him to join the Fellowship of the Hobby, where a group of sexual raconteurs sample, rate, and review sexual providers in excruciating detail.

As Rockwell the Hobbyist is busy having no-holes-barred sex with some of the most beautiful and sexually talented women in the world, Ellie is busy with her own transformation. She turns her drab school persona into the mysterious SpaceFace super vixen AnnabelLee, posing in Goth makeup and skimpy lingerie.

Victims of their own self-destruction, Rockwell and Ellie are led to commit desperate acts with violent consequences.

The Hobbyist will take you deep into an underground fraternity of sexual cyber deviants who play out their every fantasy in the flesh, then into the netherworld of a new generation desperately looking for love in all the wrong places. It will take you from the dark heart of sexual addiction and lost innocence into the bright light of human love.

The Hobbyist

King Starr

Battered Suitcase Press

Licensing

Smashwords Edition, License Notes

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each person you share it with. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to Smashwords.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. All rights reserved. This book, and parts thereof, may not be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without express written permission. For information, e-mail info@vagabondagepress.com.

The Hobbyist

© 2013 by King Starr

Battered Suitcase Press

An imprint of Vagabondage Press LLC

PO Box 3563

Apollo Beach, Florida 33572

http://www.vagabondagepress.com

First digital edition

Front cover art by Kletr.

Table of Contents

About The Hobbyist

The Hobbyist

Licensing

1. I Ain’t No Pretty Boy

2. Just Tell Me!

3. Top 10 Reasons Carolyn Has Summoned Me

4. Act Like Everything’s Normal

5. Who Loves Ya, Baby?

6. Terminator Networker

7. Manne Among Men

8. Vince Lombardi Time

9. Ultra-firm Mattress

10. Booty Call

11. Ultimate Smackdown

12. A Fucking Lock Box?

13. Give Me My Money Back, You Bitch!

14. Feelin’ Bad, Looking Worse

15. Hang Time

16. Edie and Dee Dee and The Twelve Week Rule

17. Down 150 Points

18. She Said Yes

19. Am I Okay?

20. Bargaining With God

21. 3:54 a.m.

22. Grief Organized

23. Bathing in Swaying Beauty

24. Preppy Debutante

25. FemBOTS at the ROBOT

26. Jewel of Denial

27. Highly Fucked Up

28. You’re No Brad Fucking Pitt

29. Yer in the Hobby Now

30. From Dizgustin’ to Shazam

31. I am Caviar, Cum Taste Me

32. Be Fruitful and Don’t Multiply

33. Meatloaf and Prostitutes

34. DGE with a DDG

35. All My Dreams Will Come True

36. Ooh La La, Mama Mia, Ahoooga!

37. Do the Right Thing

38. Do Not Fall In Love, Mutherfucke

39. Cannonball Dodged

40. Freaky Fun Tuesday

41. Bed, Bath, Butts & Beyond

42. Rules of the Hobby

43. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

44. How to Become the Mayor of Loserville

45. You’re Available?

46. Shi Shi and the Bye Bye

47. Loaded Pistols, Cocked Shotguns, and the 4,000-Year-Old Love of May

48. Still Tickin’ After a Lickin’

49. Kissing on the Clock

50. Where Were You Last Night?

51. John Here

52. You are not my mom.

53. Hot For Teacher

54. In Her Room

55. Worthy Opponent

56. AnnabelLee, Meet ManInBlack

57. Consulting the Oracles

58. Don’t Get Any On Me

59. The Living and the Dying and the Dead

60. The Word From the Bird

61. A Hand in the Pussy Jar

62..Barking Up the Wrong Fish

63. The House Call

64. Canadien Kitty

65. Curiouser and Curiouser

66. Squeezer, Squeezee

67. Lawnmower Man

68. Rudderless, Lonely and Adrift

69. From Rising Star to Dead Weight

70. Good Value for the Money

71. I Am Completely Fucked

72. Glad Clad Nads

73. The Ultimate PL

74. Like Steve McQueen

75. The Judas Kiss

76. The Rose Garden

77. Tainted Blood

78. Ruminating With Bloomfield

79. Update: Months Later

Glossary

About the Author

1. I Ain’t No Pretty Boy

When this whole thing started, I was the guy in the office next to you. The guy who would jumpstart your car or change your flat tire. Feed your cat when you’re away. The guy women say they are looking for in those dopey personals on match.com, you know: Stable, sensitive, comfortable in his own skin, fun-loving, enjoys moonlit walks on the beach at sunsets, looking for LTR. Long-Term Relationship. That’s me. Mr. LTR. The exact opposite of the Bad Boys who treat women like shit, take their money, bang them, and never call: the ones women flock to like deer to a salt lick, as they claim to be looking for Mr. LTR.

I ain’t no Pretty Boy. I don’t have chiseled cheekbones. I don’t have six-pack abs and cool, blue, movie star eyes. I’m not a rock ’n’ roll star or a Nobel Prize winner. I’m not rich and yet, in the last ten months, in the midst of experiencing the most tragic and terrible events of my life, I had sex with some of the most beautiful women on Earth. Italian, Swedish, Asian, Black, Indian, Arab, Korean, even French-Canadien. (Oh, the French-Canadiens!) Drop-dead gorgeous, hair-on-the-back-of-your-neck-standing-straight-up beauties. Beauty that makes you stagger and sucks the breath right out of your lungs. Beauty that makes you forget about suicide bombers and trafficked children and thick-headed politicians taking us down the road to austerity and ruin. Beauty that makes you stop thinking about the hole in your soul where a happy family should be. Beauty that lets you see infinity in a perfect curve of round flesh and eternity in a thick, licking lip. All these gorgeous women who wouldn’t give a sad and lonely guy like me the time of day if we were Adam and Eve, and God ordered us to populate the planet. This is the story of how I had sex with all of them. And the price I paid. The price I still pay.

2. Just Tell Me!

Rockwell, we need to talk.

In the history of humanity, nothing good has ever followed that line. And the way Carolyn said it chilled my marrow and rattled my bones.

Carolyn, what’s goin’ on? I tried not to sound as spooked as I was.

I can’t talk about this on the phone. Carolyn was detached and formal. When you’ve known someone for twenty-nine years, when their voice is more familiar to you than your own, you understand what they say on a primal level. And all I could hear in my sister’s voice was the need to convince me everything was all right, when in fact, something catastrophic had happened.

Carolyn, don’t do this. I hate when you get all—

Rockwell! Carolyn’s edge cut me off. Please, come for dinner. I’ll explain everything.

JUST TELL ME! I put a little more oomph than I meant to in that sentence. Sorry, but now I’m just gonna spend the afternoon imagining every horrible tragedy that my sick brain can cook up—

Please, Carolyn’s voice changed to pure desperation, just let me do this my way.

I sighed. Unless you’re prepared for an epic battle, it’s usually better just to give in, let Carolyn have her way, and try to go to your happy place within.

All right, I shook my head. Whaddaya want me to bring?

Dinner, she deadpanned.

You just invited me to dinner, and you want me to bring dinner? I got tons of work, and—

I’ll call it in to go, just ring me when you leave the office, and you can pick it up.

Hey, look, Car’, why don’t ya just tell me. I—

Say goodbye, Rock, she said for the billionth time in our lives.

Goodbye, Rock, I answered for the billionth time.

3. Top 10 Reasons Carolyn Has Summoned Me

10) She wants to fix me up with one of her treehuggin’ friends.

9) She wants me to take Ellie for the weekend, so she can go off to some Save the World conference.

8) One of our parental units is dead.

7) Our father has married a nineteen-year-old—again

6) Our mother has been institutionalized—again.

5) Carolyn has somehow found out that I gave up my pad, and that I’m shacking up with Merrilee and planning to move to New York.

4) I’m getting the You-Need-To-Leave-Merrilee speech.

3) Carolyn has decided that there are no more decent guys on the planet, so she’s becoming a lesbian.

2) Her evil troll of an ex-husband is getting paroled.

1) She’s pregnant.

I constructed this list in my head as I drove over the Bay Bridge to Berkeley. When I thought about moving to New York with Merrilee, my lovely and talented fiancée, this was one of the things that stuck in my craw. And as jazzed as I was to take a bite of the Big Apple, the thought of telling Sister Carolyn made my sack pucker.

4. Act Like Everything’s Normal

Carolyn leaned into me as I walked through the door and whispered, Ellie doesn’t know yet, so just act like everything’s normal.

Where’s Ellie?

She’s upstairs with her face buried in that damned Apple thingie you bought her last Christmas. Damn you, Rockwell! Shhhhh…here she comes.

That’s when the alarms started going off, and the sirens started screaming.

On needles and pins, I cat-pawed into the living room and sank into the olden cushy couch next to the half-finished knitting project and the pile of yet-to-be-folded laundry, while Carolyn disappeared into the kitchen. I heard a scream from upstairs.

ROCK-WEEEEELL!

I heard her bounding down the steps three at a time and landing with a thump. She flew into the room, jumped onto the couch, and gave me the kind of wraparound hug only a twelve-year-old can give.

Usually I love these hugs. But that day, the day it all began, I was jangling and spooked, thinking: It’s Ellie; something’s wrong with Ellie, and she doesn’t even know it yet.

And I had to act like everything was normal.

When she was done with the hug, we fist-bumped.

How’s the E-Train running? I asked.

Right on time, except Mom’s on me about being online, Ellie said with a head bob. How you doin’, Unks?

I have one question for you. I smiled the most normal smile I could muster as I launched into our ritual. Who’s your favorite uncle?

What’s it worth to ya? she asked, sliding right into it.

I have taught you well, I said. Bribery, extortion, and cut-throat negotiating are what made this country great. I’d say it’s worth a dollar to be named your all-time favorite uncle.

Ha! she scoffed, sounding so much like her mother, it was scary. It’s gotta be worth at least ten bucks.

Two.

Nine.

Three.

Eight.

Four.

Seven.

Five.

Done, she said, and we both spat in our right hand and shook.

Say it, I said.

Hand it over, she said.

I made a great show of extracting a five spot from my wallet and theatrically handing it to her. After she pocketed the fiver, she looked at me with a mock sweet face and said, You are my all-time favorite uncle.

Thank you. I held my cheek out for a kiss, which she planted on me with a flourish. I hid my fear. What the hell was up?

Dinner was served, but I couldn’t taste anything, like the bad news I was waiting for had short-circuited my taste buds. I could hear myself making the small talk: school play coming up (Oliver!), mean teacher (Ms. Langer, a.k.a. Ms. Anger), the pathetic state of my love life (the on-going dump-my-fancée campaign). By the time Carolyn got Ellie up to her room to do homework, I was totally out of my gourd.

Carolyn, I said when Ellie was out of earshot, you’re killing me here. What’s going on? Jesus H. Christ, what—

Okay, Carolyn said, here it goes. I’ve been draggin’ these past several months. Some days I can hardly get outta bed. Weird skin rashes. Trouble breathing. At first, I thought I was anemic. I saw the doctor last month, and they found something.

The air rushed out of my lungs, my brain twirled around in my head, and my stomach felt like it was an elevator with the cable cut, the bottom falling out of me. You have to understand, Carolyn and I have been best friends since before I can remember. She’s the only family I have, mainly because our mom is bats and our dad never had the slightest interest in being a dad.

So they did a bunch of tests, and I got the results back today. I have lupus. Carolyn’s voice was flat and low and toneless. I’ve been really rundown lately, and that’s what’s causing it.

Lupus? Oh my God! Lupus. Holy shit! Lupus.

Wait a minute, I thought, I don’t even know what lupus is.

Lupus, a funny name, is Latin for wolf. I found out it’s a neurological thing. Turns out, this wolf can attack your body and central nervous system with a vengeance. They call it the great imposter, because it mimics so many diseases, making it triple hard to diagnose. Hits mostly women during their child-bearing years. Starts out with a rash that looks like a wolf bite. But eighty percent of those who suffer from lupus end up leading normal lives.

So, I wanna ask you somethin’, Carolyn continued, and I’m not gonna think any less of you if you say no, okay?

Okay, I said with a petrified nod.

So the thing is, worst case scenario, I wanna make sure Ellie is taken care of. Obviously I can’t let Ray and his hideous clan get their grubby hands on her. She stopped and extended her palms up with a small shrug, like duh!

Ray. Fucking Ray. Carolyn’s evil ex-husband who currently sits in San Quentin’s H-Unit on computer fraud charges. But that’s another story.

Clearly our parental units are less than useless, so I would rather hand her over to the Taliban than let those sick fucks get a hold of her. Carolyn paused to make sure I was still with her. I was stunned, my face frozen, mouth agape. Carolyn plunged ahead. "So, logically, who’s next in line, to, uh, inherit the throne? That would be Alice and Frederico, but they already have three, and Fred drinks too much, so that’s no good. Next would be Beth and Cheryl, but as much as I think it’s okay for Ellie to have two mommies, I talked to a lawyer friend, and Ray and his clan would have a better chance of getting her if they sued, if she’s with the lesbians, even though he’s in prison, for God’s sake. So Beth and Cheryl are out.

This is all worst case scenario, obviously, Carolyn continued. The doctor said I could be in complete remission in a few months. They caught it early, and I’m gonna get lotsa help with the whole thing. I don’t want you to tell Mom. Dad, I don’t care. He doesn’t care, either, so I suppose that makes us even. But Mom would just drive me even more insane than she already does.

Carolyn stopped, like a lawyer summing up.

If I should kick the bucket, would you adopt Ellie and raise her to the best of your incredibly limited abilities? Is that clear?

I just stared at my sister. Numb. Then the notion of Merrilee and I moving to New York City popped into my head. Oh, Christ. I perished the thought of dropping that bomb.

"Look Rockwell, I don’t want you to answer yet. While it’s highly unlikely, I want you to think about it, a lot. A LOT! Cuz this is potentially huge. And for the rest of your life. And you have the ruthlessly-ambitious-fiancée-you-should-dump to consider. She’s not gonna wanna lug a kid around unless it came out of her own designer vagina.

I want you to make sure you’re all-in on this deal. I’d rather you say no if you don’t wanna do it than have you say yes and be resentful. Or worse, fuck it up. I realize you’re twenty-nine-years-old, Rockwell, but we both know you’ve always been very immature for your age, and I really want you to make sure you’re up for this in every way possible should everything go to shit, which it won’t.

Carolyn paused and put her hand on her chest, like she was trying to stop her heart from escaping.

Rockwell, don’t just—

Shhhh… I put my finger up gently in front of her mouth, and she stopped talking. Yes.

You’re totally sure you wanna do this?

Yes, I repeated.

Sitting there on the couch with my sister, considering the long shot of it actually happening, there was no doubt that I wanted to do this. It didn’t really occur to me that I should think about whether I actually could do it. Maybe if I had, I would have answered differently. But I’m a different person now than I was then.

5. Who Loves Ya, Baby?

What’s goin’ on? Ellie said, standing in the doorway. The frown on her face made her look a few years older than her dozen years.

Come here, Ellie, Carolyn said, as she scooted over and patted the sofa between us. I wanna tell you something.

Carolyn looked into her daughter’s eyes with such kind love, I thought, why couldn’t I have had a mom like that? I found out today that I’m sick, and I have to get treatment that’s really hard, and I’m gonna need lots of help from you and Rockwell, okay?

"I knew something weird was goin’ on. What do you mean you’re sick? What do you have? What’s the treatment? Have you gotten a second opinion? Are you sure the lab didn’t screw up?"

Like mother, like daughter.

Yes, I’m sure. It’s called lupus. No big deal. Lots of women get it and do just fine, Carolyn said. But still, I just want you to understand that I love you, and Rockwell loves you, and we’re a family, okay?

Okay, Ellie said. She turned to me with big eyes full of fear and confusion. Then she exploded into tears, weeping and wailing, which kinda surprised me. I don’t know why. She’s just a kid.

I nodded and said, Ellie, I’m always here; you know that. It’s both our jobs now to help your mom, to make it easy for her to get better.

But what if… Ellie stopped. If something happens to you? Would I have to live with Dad’s family?

Ellie, I’ve discussed this with Rockwell, and we both think that if anything happens, which it won’t, it would be best for him to move in here and take care of you. Is that okay?

Ellie looked at me. I offered what I hope was a smile of quiet confidence, the same smile I give to a client who’s taken a one-day. flash-crash. three-percent hit on his investment portfolio.

Ellie nodded. She bought my confidence while the hope that Carolyn exuded seemed forced.

Listen, Carolyn said, the doctor said we caught it early, and lots of people completely recover from this. We’re gonna beat this; I know it.

You think so? Ellie said with blind, twelve-year-old hope. She turned to me for confirmation.

I gave a what-me-worry shrug and said, Absolutely, positively. Hey, who loves ya, baby? I sold it with my best it’s-all-good smile.

You do, said Ellie.

You could tell she felt oh so much better.

Then why did I feel oh so much worse?

6. Terminator Networker

Merrilee gave me a little devil smile as we reached the archway entrance of the hotel ballroom. It was lit like a gallery opening, minus the paintings, just an endless repeat slide show of arty corporate logos projected onto blank walls with antiseptic drum-machine-driven ’80s party music. Talk Talk, Duran Duran. Wake me up before you go go? The horror, the horror!

Merrilee was all sophisto in a cotton sleeveless dress, gathered at the front with bows tied on each shoulder. Jil Sander cocktail couture. Brideshead Revisited revisited. Hair hanging with effortless perfection around that sculpture of a face. Lips with a hint of red. Legs that led to heaven. Three years and I still couldn’t fathom how a woman that hot could be my girlfriend.

I still hadn’t dropped the Carolyn lupus bombshell on Merrilee, and it was getting exhausting walking on all these eggshells. But the timing always seemed wrong. I checked my iPhone. No messages from big sis.

Merrilee, the marketing maven, gridded out the room with dark, squinted eyes, scanning and IDing the key partygoers, like a predator. Who can she work, and in what order? It was fun watching her. And a little scary. Merrilee ran a marketing team for some nebulous systems innovation company called Power Six. Something to do with solar power devices, developing new markets and increasing reliance on renewable energies. She racked up stellar global frequent flyer miles. If Merrilee had a professional title, I didn’t know it. All I knew was that Merrilee was mine and I was her Pet Rock.

But I loved rocking the corporate cocktail mixer scene with Merrilee. She was the Terminator Networker in hyper drive, and often after she had her way with a roomful of unsuspecting partiers, she’d have her way with me when we got back to her deluxe loft space in the sky.

Our goal that night was to each recruit one potential client. Well, actually steal is probably more accurate. Merrilee’s transfer to New York had just gone through. In two weeks, she’d be scouting apartments in the Big Apple. I was going to join her a few months down the line, and, in a year, we were gonna be major players living large in the city that never sleeps.

Spirited away by one of her veeps, Merrilee glided across the room, all sex and brains, toward a crew from Oracle. She settled into a quick conversation with a unibrowed dude I didn’t know from Adam. Or Oracle.

When our eyes met across the crowded room, Merrilee winked at me ever so slightly. It’s like she was telling me she was playing the guy, sexing him so we could suck money out of him. They exchanged numbers on their Crackberries. Yes, I admired Merrilee’s networking technique. But I also saw a red flag go up. And I completely ignored it.

7. Manne Among Men

Rockwell, sweetheart. Workin’ hard or hardly workin’? I heard a familiar voice.

Dean. Dean Manne. Manne among men. A legend at Ventum Financial Corp., where we both worked. Dean’s a long, cool glass of water with a half-smirk permanently smeared on his kisser. At forty-one, he’s a gen or so ahead of me. Doesn’t move his mouth much when he talks. And he’s always talking. His charisma definitely doesn’t come from his looks: mouse-colored wavy hair, wire-rimmed aviator glasses, and a bad porn star mustache. Describes himself as skinny but flabby. A little male patterned baldness on the rear crown of his head. But Dean Manne was a ladies’ man. Or so rumor had it at Ventum Financial Corporation.

I was baffled by repeated scuttlebutt that Dean the Manne had his way with some of the most beautiful babes on the planet. Truthfully, I didn’t believe them until I saw irrefutable digi-pic proof via an errant email featuring vivid shots of an unidentified man with a collection of mad-sexy hotties in various XXX-rated orgiastic poses that made the rounds in the office. The email subject line read: Ballbusters On Parade in honor of the classic film Carnal Knowledge. Ventum tongues wagged as we all recognized the back of Dean’s thinning dome. After a scandal of this proportion, I would have cowered and slunk and mourned the ruination of my carefully crafted professional image. Not Dean the Manne. His