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Oct 16, 2012

Ham Man Forever - Joseph Giordano

Baby Ricky was apple-cheeked; mothers cooed and wallowed in his blue eyes.
Teenaged Ricky turned pony-tailed heads and inspired giggled whispers among knots of pleated-skirt ingénues. Ricky’s adult encounter with ladies widened eyes, parted lips and triggered the nervous stroke of hair. Female popularity could have raised the green of envy among the guys, but Ricky won them over as a chick-electromagnet. While Ricky retained pick of the litter, hanger-on associates slip-streamed in his wake to land a nubile first alternate. The guys’ sobriquet for Ricky was “Ham Man,” as in:

 “Hey, I was with Ham Man last night. We cut into a string of trim, and my beak was dipped by ten.”

“Okay, but I’m with Ham Man tonight.”

“Fuck you. Let’s arm wrestle for the privilege.”

Ricky entered bars like Alexander at Persepolis, and he hadn’t paid for a drink in years.

On the night of his fortieth birthday, Ricky was with Maggie or Margie, a brunette or strawberry blonde, and she was great, but he couldn’t remember. He ran into Uncle Smedly who had a bald patch that stretched from ear to ear, a blue-veined nose and thick lips. He owned a chain of dry-cleaning joints.

Uncle Smedly said, “Are you still fucking your way through the New York White Pages? If your parents were alive, they’d be very disappointed.”

Uncle Smedly’s comment punctured Ricky’s balloon of self-respect. Was “Ham Man” an insignia of pride, or proof that no one took him seriously? Ricky longed to be appreciated for his wisdom and wit, not for looks that turned birds’ heads in flight. Inspired by the great ascetics, Ricky sequestered himself for abstinence and meditation. Out went the icy hot lube and studded condoms.

When Ricky begged off clubbing expeditions, distraught homies theorized a young thing captivated his attention. But investigation yielded the worst possible outcome: Ricky just stayed home. One Wikipedia aficionado suggested Ricky was stricken with the “Ebola Clap,” an insidious strain that rotted off one’s member. Wiser heads dismissed the source.

“No,” slurred a spike-haired philosopher on his sixth Tequila, “Ricky’s had so much tail that he needs a period of abstinence to get the thrill back. Like a junkie who switches to methadone, so he can enjoy heroin again.”
Heads nodded to the logic of Mr. Tequila, and hope rose like a stiffie that this eye of the storm would pass and then Ham Man redux.

One morning a bolt of sunlight woke Ricky like a slap to the forehead, and he saw that his road to Damascus was ordination and succession to Senior Pastor at the local church. The plan killed two sins with one stole. Pastors were respected members of the community and ordination would prove Ricky’s profligate ways were past. He imagined himself in a pulpit, before a mesmerized crowd, his voice complimented by perfect acoustics, and his heart thumped like his first hummer.

Once Ricky’s former snipe hunters heard he’d entered the seminary, they figured the Ham Man was up for something virginal and what better hunting license than as a man of the cloth? Ham Man’s once-done lovelies would be fallen angels available to his crew, a thought that rippled excitement all around. With a wink and a nod they endorsed Ricky’s path of righteousness.

Ricky landed the position of Associate Pastor. The Senior Pastor, Josh Spencer was a rail-thin man with thinning hair and pallid complexion. His wife, Elisabeth, had a man’s chest, tight gray curls, wore wire glasses and granny dresses. Even a smile from Ricky didn’t crack Elizabeth’s ice. If Spencer got laid, Ricky decided, it was limited to his birthday and Shrove Tuesday.

In the months that succeeded, Ricky found that Pastor Spencer was a disciplinarian, cool in his manner and hard to please. Plus the Sr. Pastor gave all the sermons and was sought after by the faithful, so Ricky effectively carried Spencer’s bible. Ricky hoped the Pastor would be called to another church and Ricky assume his position. But local TV courted Spencer for a Sunday show, and Elizabeth began to talk mega church. A scheme triggered in Ricky’s head. Should Spencer have an affair revealed, scandal would force him from his post and Ricky would be rested and ready.

Ricky dusted off his tome of phone numbers and thumbed quickly to the asterisk penciled next to Betty Fulsome’s name. Betty had a sunshine smile, but the star was for the largest rack in the book, a contest where Betty annihilated her competition. However when Betty was shown a picture of Spencer, Ricky had to take her thrice to the Promised Land before she would agree to do the deed.

Ricky arranged that Spencer see Betty on a quest for spiritual guidance. Her bottomless cleavage served as a pit trap for the vulnerable Pastor, and Ricky caught them in flagrante delicto. The allegation of entrapment was hurled like a hailstone plague, but Ricky had iPhone pictures. Under threat of ruinous revelation, Pastor Spencer resigned his post, and shortly thereafter Ricky was appointed Senior Pastor.
Elizabeth filed for divorce. Other congregations turned Spencer down.

Months later, he slammed into a bridge abutment at 80 mph. Spencer hadn’t worn his seat belt.

When Ricky heard of Spencer’s death, he pushed away his food. His mind wandered during sermons, and he avoided parishioners. The police came to the church for inquiries and Ricky’s heart froze. They’d offered Betty immunity to talk, and his phone calls to her went unanswered. Rickey’s mind hallucinated images of his arrest, and trial. In prison, he’d be a pretty boy ravaged by hairy-back lifers. Weeks of recycling these visions into cold sweats ended one rainy afternoon, when the cops showed up at his door. Ricky retired to his bedroom and hung himself with a drapery chord.

Ricky’s associates had their own explanation for events. Ricky was engaged in orgasm enhancement through oxygen deprivation. Thus Ricky redefined the term “well hung,” and that became the Ham Man’s epitaph.

Joseph Giordiano's stories have appeared in Black Heart Magazine, Crack the Spine, The Summerset Review, Forge, River Poets Journal, and the Marco Polo Arts Magazine. 

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