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Asteroids Falling Up                                      Dave Newman






Orville Anthony asked if he looked Mongolian. As I stood there observing his thin dark mustache, he screamed in my face and ran away laughing, his canvas hightops flopping down the hall and out of school. This was 1986, Spring. I was in ninth grade. Orville was in seventh grade but he stood six feet tall and some coach had encouraged him to come out for the team. Orville was a clod, a guy who grew at giant speed but lanked when he walked. “That goofy fucking Orville,” one coach will eventually say, frustrated. Orville threw shotput and disc, events requiring strength and explosion, but his belly jiggled when he ran and his arms were thin as shoelaces.


        I was a pole-vaulter. To see me vault must have looked like a reverse miracle, an asteroid falling up. During football season I played linebacker and right guard. Off season, in the weight room, I made the thousand pound club. My legs were thick as a punching bag.


        At the start of track season, during the first practice, all of us in shorts and running shoes, while I stretched out my hamstrings by touching my forehead to my knees, the coaches came along and asked me to throw shotput, the small metal ball you heft from your shoulder, just like they had asked Orville, just like they asked every guy over two-hundred pounds, but I said no thanks. I said I’d rather pole-vault. They said I could throw discus, just like they did in ancient Greece, just like they did in the first Olympics. How did that sound? They said I could throw without even attending practice, just showing up for the meets. They said they needed big guys to throw. Please, they said. But I never threw.


        One of the coaches’ wives walked around the school in shorts and running shoes. She did that to stay in shape. She was in good shape. She was thirty-five years old and we’d been having sex for more than a year, mostly in her van, though sometimes at her house, and other times outside at the playground or in a field or behind a tree. It was always fun, as getting laid is when you’re fifteen, but scary too, all the floor creaks and breezes, other cars looking like her husband’s car and other men sounding like her husband, my coach. When she turned the corner on the school, I thought of how I could follow on the sneak and get her against the brick wall and rub her pussy through her shorts but quietly, discretely, so not even my best pal knew. Fucking a woman twenty years older than me was the only secret I had worth keeping, even if it was my best story too.


In ninth grade I had a lot to be happy about: my grades were up; my peers voted me onto Student Council; my dad, after an extended layoff, was back to work at the factory; I’d quit huffing glue; sports were great; I had a girlfriend in high school whose parents worked late and went away for long weekends; and, most of all, I was fucking like crazy—girlfriend, coach’s wife, whoever else I lucked into.


I’m forty-two years old now and I do not know what teenage boys are like anymore but when I was fifteen, all I wanted to do was get laid and I would have happily ran through walls to get it. Nothing made me happier.


The years before this had not been happy but painful.


Hair sprouted around my dick and balls in second grade, earlier than all my friends, and somewhere around fourth grade I hit puberty full-on, regularly having wet dreams until I regularly started masturbating. Other guys, guys mostly interested in pick-up baseball and bb guns and BMX bikes, laughed off my interest in sex. The girls I knew, even the ones I wrote notes to and asked to be my girlfriends, wanted to kiss and hold hands, nothing more. I wanted to kiss and hold hands too, then I wanted to put their entire boobs in my mouth because that’s what I imagined it meant to suck a tit, you mouthed the whole breast, nipple first then the rest. I wanted to finger-bang and I wanted handjobs and I dreamed blowjobs, long luscious blowjobs, even if that meant she put her mouth close to my cock and whistled some air at the head. I was confused. I was desperate. The years I was not getting laid turned my brain inside out. All of my thoughts were about sex and to make anything else happen I convinced myself that having sex would be the end result. I took tests with hopes of being blown for my good grades by brainy girls. In backyards and at the playground I played football and broke tackles and dove for catches to impress the neighborhood girls enough to want my nuts. Carry your mom’s groceries from her beat-up 1977 station wagon? Only for the quickie butt-fuck we’d share in the backseat while we watched for your psycho dad.


If I thought other things, things not related to getting laid, I didn’t think them for long and I can’t remember those thoughts now, puny as they were. Most of the dialogues in my head involved me explaining to various females of various ages why they should let me put my hands up their shirts or why they should touch my cock. Sometimes this dialogue leaked out, usually with poor results, though some girls, usually older girls, ones who were fifteen when I was twelve, let me do things and did things back. We kissed. We touched. I learned to lick around the nipple, not eat the whole tit. One girl let me finger her, then another. One touched my cock on the outside of my jeans. Another girl, four years older than me, touched my cock without being asked and she stroked me until I leaned into her and came on her belly. We did it the next day and the next and on until she asked me to quit coming around, it was too weird, I was needy, she had a boyfriend her own age now.


Then, eventually, my girlfriend said yes. She said yes and she said she loved me forever. She said it to my face. She wrote it in a note. I wrote it in a note back. I said I loved her forever too. She said she wanted to express her love for me with her body and I nodded like those were my words too: love and body and express; and not like my words were: tits and pussy and suck. In notes scribbled out in cursive and filled with hearts I wrote about our bodies coming together as one and the specialness of it all, the love-lastingness of our shared bodies, because I knew those were the words that would keep me in tits and pussy and suck.


In eighth grade I said, “I want to make love with you,” to a woman almost as old as my mom, the coach’s wife, a funny woman, a woman who laughed at my jokes and called me cute and who was stuck around the house with two small kids while her husband worked full-time in a factory and coached sports in the evenings. I knew she was bored. I knew she was lonely. Pretty soon we sneaked to her basement and I pushed my tongue into her mouth. She pushed her tongue back and said, “Fuck me on the weight bench,” then we heard something, a car door, and had to save our tongues and fucks for the weekend, on a dirt road, in her old purple station wagon, the one without hubcaps.


Pole vaulting had something to do with this, maintaining it. I don’t know why. My actions proceeded my reasons for years. One thing always felt more than another and I went with the strongest feeling. Never again in my life would I be able to so consistently follow my thoughts to a destination, to do exactly what I wanted, because never again in my life would I have so little responsibility or understanding or such a limited set of desires.


If I wanted to get laid, and I always wanted to get laid, I talked and jumped and charmed and kissed and asked and gifted and begged until I got laid.


When I wanted to pole vault, I learned to sky.





I sometimes looked at Orville Anthony, at everyone who signed up for the field events. No one wanted to screw the guys throwing shotput. Girls did not lift their hips and pull down their panties and let you lick between their legs because you launched small metal planets from your shoulder. No girls wanted to go down on the guys spinning in circles with a discus. They had pimples on their arms and not quite enough hair on their face to shave.


        My brother pole-vaulted for the high school. He got laid. He had a beautiful girlfriend. I wanted to be like my brother. He’d be my map. He’d teach me how to use one pole to fly over another and thus teach me how to get laid more often with even prettier girls.


        One weekend we took beer and broke into the high school stadium and busted the lock on the concession stand where they kept the pole-vaulting equipment. My brother picked up a pole. He counted his steps down the runway. I picked up a pole. I counted my steps down the runway. He drank a beer. I drank a beer.


        “Plant the pole,” he said, so I planted the pole.


        The pole shot me back down the runway, like I’d been blasted by a laser. I landed on my side and my thigh skidded on the pavement. Then my hand. Then my arm. I bled a little. I did it again, ran forward and flew backwards, and I bled a lot. My brother showed me again. He did nine feet and ten feet and eleven feet like it was inches. I tried eight feet. I tried seven feet. But always I ended up in the air, moving backwards. My brother drank another beer. I drank two. I noticed more blood, on my knee, on my calf, on the side of my head.


        “Lay back,” my brother said and motioned again how to do it, driving his knee, extending his arms, arching his spine.


        To go forward, I finally understood, I needed to get down. I drank a beer. I did the motion. I wiped off the blood and picked up my pole and raced down the runway and I learned to lay back. I got down. I went up. I went forward.


        Only I went under what I was supposed to be going over.


        “You need to lay back more,” my brother said. “Really lay the fuck back.”


        One six pack of Michelob later, I cleared seven feet. Then I cleared eight feet. I cleared eight feet, six inches. I tried nine feet and accidently shifted my body into reverse again.


        “Don’t worry about it,” my brother said.


My brother cleared twelve feet like he had a ladder.


We put the equipment back in the concession stand and cleaned up our beer bottles.


        He said, “How are you banging the coach’s wife?”


        “I don’t know,” I said. “Luck?”


        “Fucking amazing,” he said.


        The next day I went back to practice.


        Orville said, “You’re not going to throw shotput, huh?”


        I shook my head. I picked up my pole.


        The next week, I won my first meet.


        I won my second then my third.


        I banged the coach’s wife in an alley behind an old autoshop.


        I banged her again in the woods behind the junior high.


        At practice I couldn’t make nine feet. Maybe I didn’t need nine feet. Maybe nine feet was arrogant. Maybe I needed eight feet, six inches. Maybe eight feet, six inches was the exact height for everything I dreamed. Maybe I needed more wins and less tries and maybe I needed more time alone with my coach’s wife.


        I quit going to practice. I joined a gym.


        The coach said, “Don’t worry about it.”


        I wasn’t worried about it. I’d started to have bad feelings towards the coach. I wondered what kind of husband doesn’t know his wife is banging a fifteen-year-old boy.


        He said, “Lift those weights. We’ll use you at the meets.”


        I said, “Okay.”


        The coach’s wife quit coming to practice in short-shorts to walk around the school and get her exercise. She started staying home. She started leaving her short-shorts on the floor. I started sneaking into her house every day. I left my shorts on the floor. We owned the house. We walked and crawled and fucked it naked. Her kids either took long naps in the afternoon or had playdates or went to their grandma’s house or I don’t know—I wouldn’t have my own kids for fifteen more years and so I never thought of kids—I just knew the kids weren’t around and I liked being naked in a bedroom better than having my pants around my knees and my ass on the cold ground in a field. I ate a lot more pussy. I got a lot more head. Things we did we now did better and for longer in her bedroom. I stayed for more time than I knew it was safe to stay.


        When the fourth meet came around, I thought about skipping out because all those heights I’d flown over were heights I didn’t need to pass again but I knew the coach would want to know why I missed the meet or where I was and he’d come looking for me. I loaded my pole on the bus like the other kids and found a seat in the back row and pulled up the hood of my sweatshirt.


        The fourth meet was out in the country. The road there was lined with fields of corn and silos and cows eating grass and hay. The fourth meet pitted us against farmers’ sons, boys of great strength and determination and very little skill. Their stadium was out in the boonies. The mat we landed on was barely a mat. It was stuffing and it was wet.


        One of my opponents said, “You ain’t better than me.” He had thick arms and a dip of snuff the size of a tumor in his lip. He said, “You think you’re better than me?”


        I nodded. I thought I was better than him. I had no reason to believe I was better than him except that I was banging my coach’s wife and he was not. He could have shoveled my head off my shoulders like a cow patty if he wanted.


        The bar was eight feet. I thought about my brother gliding over twelve feet. I thought of the coach’s wife, climbing off me to turn around so I could see her ass. The farm boy nodded, looking tough. I nodded back, looking tough. I sat in the grass. I took off my shoes. He squinted so his thick blonde eyebrows touched. I tossed my shoes aside.


        If you want to humiliate someone, beat them in your bare feet.


        The farmers’ sons’ track ran cinders, sharp black stones, and I sprinted down the runway, shoeless, and flew over what I wanted to fly over and won again.


        My opponent, the farm boy, flamed out on the runway and shot backwards into the grass. He stayed there, on his side, like a cow waiting for rain. I walked over. I gave him my hand and pulled him up. I gave him a hug. He stood limp-armed and blown-out. He patted my back, two slow small touches. I held his head against my shoulder and cradled his farmboy skull. I looked in his eyes and I congratulated him and I thanked him for the competition but he hugged and pole-vaulted and lost in the exact same way, like a guy who did not get laid.


        The coach shuffled over after the meet. He thought I was doing pretty great, especially considering I’d quit coming to practice. I shook my head and thanked him and walked off. Being near the coach was not where I wanted to be. The coach banging the coach’s wife was not something I liked to consider. I loaded up my pole. I rode home with my hood up.


        The coach caught me coming off the bus.


        He said, “Maybe you could come to some practices?”


        Practice was not what I wanted to do either.


        I said, “Sure.”


At practice I measured the box and worked on bending the pole. It was not getting laid but I still made eight feet. Then I made nine feet. I liked making nine feet more than I expected. The whole team moved around the school parking lot, the sidewalks, the field by the cafeteria. The big guys kicked mud off their shoes. The sprinters ran the asphalt straightaway. I tried ten feet and missed. I tried again.


One guy had a bunch of over-the-counter pills that were supposed to get you buzzed. I took a few and caught fire. I taped up my pole. I taped up my hands to better grip my taped-up pole. I closed my eyes and imagined the crossbar and me going over it but then the mat became a bed and I imagined the coach’s wife spreading her pussy. Then I felt horny. Then clear again. Then focused. I needed less practice and more pussy.


Coach walked by and said, “Big meet this week, guys.”


I sucked my tongue from the speed so it wouldn’t lead me to his house and his wife.


Coach said, “Practice up, guys,” and clapped a couple times.


The high jumpers and pole vaulters shared a landing, a huge vinyl bag of foam, easy enough to overshoot, often overshot.


Coach said, “Don’t overshoot the mat.”


No one listened. We overshot the mat. We landed in the grass. We landed on the asphalt. I threw myself into a tree just to throw myself into a tree. One guy pulled himself up so he stood on the overhang then climbed from the overhang to the roof then down the wall using loose wires and the tread of his sneakers against the bricks of the school.


Nothing feels dangerous at fifteen.


If flying would have meant death, we would have built our own coffins.


If fucking the coach’s wife would have meant death, I would have crawled under a tombstone and died.


A minute later I saw her pull up.


She handed her husband his dinner through the window and parked and came out of the van to watch us practice. My dick got hard. I jumped in place until it went down. I rolled my neck. I rolled my shoulders. My dick got hard.


Poor Orville stood in the field with the other big guys, neither climbing walls nor jumping bars nor thinking about getting pussy. No one offered him any pills. I sucked my tongue some more. Orville heaved metal and smiled and waved and finally wandered over to ask if he looked Mongolian.


        Orville said, “I’m terrible at shotput.”


        Given the option to launch heavy objects or to take flight, the natural inclination is to put your face in the sky and go.


        I said, “Orville, you should pole vault.”


        Orville smiled and nodded.


I showed him how.


The coach’s wife moved closer, like she was interested in her husband’s work, like she’d always been fascinated by track and field. When I was sure that the coach wasn’t looking, I turned to his wife and smiled. She smiled back then walked off with her head down.


Orville said, “Show me again.”


I turned towards the mat, the pile of foam. With the pole, with my legs, with my arms as straight and strong as I could make them, I showed him again.


I looked for the coach’s wife but she was gone, probably home, probably waiting.


Orville said, “Show me again.”


I said, “You can do it.”


        The next moments arrange in some order but out of time: a high voltage wire, never even noticed, becomes visible across the sky; I spin in a circle like I’m stretching but I am taking a final glance for the coach’s wife; the wind gusts; Orville picks up a metal crossbar, not the fiberglass pole used to vault; I think about fucking the coach’s wife; teenagers laugh and slam into each other with encouragement. Then the moments combine, instantly, furiously, as Orville touches the high voltage wire with the crossbar and the electricity travels through the metal and into Orville’s hands and down his body. Orville doesn’t sizzle. The wire zaps a spark and the crossbar shoots into the air like a weak javelin toss and Orville falls to the ground in a slump. His toes, all ten, pop open like firecrackers, but we couldn’t tell, exactly—on the ground, he looked dead. He smelled dead, like charred skin and burnt rubber. The soles on his Converse were black. Smoke covered his head. The paramedics would see the damage underneath his clothes, the toes like burnt cigars, and then the rumors would follow.


        “That goofy fucking Orville,” one coach said, disgusted, as he went for the school nurse.


The other coach started for a phone to reach the ambulance.


He told me to get everyone inside.


He said, “Make sure everyone is safe.”


I said I’d get everyone inside and I said I’d make sure everyone was safe and I did. Then, with everyone else in the gym, I ran off to find the coach’s wife.


We’d been together now longer than we’d been apart.


She said that to me one night after we’d fooled around four days in a row. It was how I thought of us now, connected. There were signals and phone calls and hiding places. She made more excuses to get away. I waited for her signs, one ring and a hang up, two horn blasts as she passed my house. Then I ran to catch up. If she needed exercise, I fucked her in the dirt. If she needed milk, I got laid in the alley behind the convenience store. If she needed bread, I ate her pussy in the parking lot of Giant Eagle on the backseat in her van.


Then, at Giant Eagle, in the van, we heard a knock, then knocks. We heard a fist on metal. We heard a fist on glass. Her husband, my coach, stood outside. He’d caught us. I knew it from the sound of the first punch he threw against the side of van while, all around him, people pushed buggies and unloaded bags of food. It was past five o’clock. She should have been home. I should have been at practice. I should have been soaring.


        Outside the van, while they stood in the parking lot—she crying, he screaming—I tried to zip up my sweatshirt. It was cheap and the zipper stuck. My shirt was somewhere inside the van. My socks were somewhere inside the van. My underwear were stuffed down the front of my shorts. The coach bumped his wife with his chest, one push with his body. She reached for him, a touch on his face, kindness, an apology. He pulled away. There were whispers, angry close-faced talk, then separation. He climbed in his car. She walked back to the van, head down, her make-up streaked with tears, and climbed inside. I followed. She started the engine and drove.


        On the way home she said, “I should just kill myself.”


        She said, “I should just drive this van off the road.”


        She said, “He’s going to kill me.”


        I sat quietly, distant.


She could not stop crying.


None of this made sense, except it did, and I did not want to die.


I said, “You can let me off here,” even though we were a mile from my house.


She slowed on the berm, the tiny rocks slapping the underside of the van.


I thought I should kiss her goodbye. I leaned in. I kissed her goodbye.


She kissed me goodbye.


I stopped kissing her goodbye.


My dick was sort of hard, getting hard.


She said, “Oh god,” and started to weep again.


I walked the back way home, through the woods.


In the evening, around dusk, I heard a fire whistle and thought it was a siren. I’d fucked the coach’s wife and now I was guilty and guilt required punishment.


I waited for my mom, in the kitchen doing dishes, to stop and bust in my room. I waited for my father to come home early from the factory, furious, knowing.


Neither of those things happened.


The cops did not arrest me.


Apparently you cannot get arrested for being fifteen and fucking a middle-aged woman.


I went to sleep. I woke up.


The next day I talked to my parents exactly as I always talked to them, barely or not at all. I took the bus to school. I took the bus home.


The coach’s wife did not kill herself. She did not drive her van into oncoming traffic. She lived and I did not look at her when she was near. She seldom came near. The afterschool sun faded her into a shadow in their house and she only stepped onto the porch so her kids could squirt guns or play trucks and she shopped for groceries during the early afternoon, once a week, alone.


The coach did not kill me. He coached and did whatever coaches do with whistles and stopwatches and he said encouraging things, even to me, and he started wearing a blue windbreaker, even though spring moved closer to summer and the rest of us sported tanktops and shorter shorts. Once, when we were alone, me and the coach, he asked me if anyone knew about what happened and I said, “No,” and he said, “Good.”


Orville came back to practice, his toes bandaged, just to hang out. He stood around on crutches and laughed. He said, “I suck at pole vaulting.” One of the coaches gave him a clipboard and Orville wrote down our times and heights and distances. He never threw shotput. He never learned to lay back and conquer the sky.


I said, “Orville, you do not look Mongolian.”


He said, “Thanks.”


Late in the season, I placed second at the Quadrangle meet, a pretty big deal.






Dave Newman is the author of the novels Two Small Birds (Writers Tribe, 2014), Raymond Carver Will Not Raise Our Children (Writers Tribe Books, 2012), Please Don’t Shoot Anyone Tonight (World Parade Books, 2010), and the collection, The Slaughterhouse Poems (White Gorilla Press, 2013). He’s worked as a truck driver, a book store manager, an air filter salesman, a house painter, and a college teacher. He lives in Trafford, Pennsylvania with his wife, the writer Lori Jakiela, and their two children.