By Rikki Ducornet

Coffee House Press
May 2011
128 pages




My Practice belongs to a shelf in the Devil's Kitchen. Insu­lated, above suspicion, I take my pleasure and am sustained by the sorrow of others. Their carnality. The ceaseless ebb and tide of human inconstancy, negligence, cowardice.


In the world I know, everyone is betrayed sooner or later.

The Practice is not of my own making. I mean: it is an inheritance of a kind. I have wandered its maze since infancy. I do not know another way to live. I often wish I did. The Practice is the inevitable extension of my own pri­vate dilemma. It is lethal, and yet without it I would perish. Assiduously, I portion out its poisons. Assiduously, I orches­trate the days. Like a game of chess, the Practice proposes an infinite set of circumstances. Or, rather, not exactly infinite. For I begin to—and this admission is terrifying—to see how redundant, how compressed, the games are.

My clients are thwarted, famished, and lonely. Inev­itably, sooner or later, I seize upon and penetrate the one who has wanted this from me from the first instant. Or has taken time but has come around to wanting it. For a client, fucking the doctor is always perceived as a triumph. Although I am always curious from the start. In this way I am made. If the client is attractive I cannot help but wonder: is she/he fuckable? An outrageous determina­tion. And yet: fucking is the one determinism. The one inevitability. In this way it is exactly like death. You know you'll fuck, be fucked; you know you'll die and maybe be murdered. And maybe murder.

I've known transcendent sex, but its promise frightens me. The risks of delight are immense. The infant feeding at the madwoman's breast, slipping deliciously in and out of slumber, is fiercely smacked. Smacked when he sups, he is quickly weaned. In no time he has learned to suck up, bite, and wean. Always watchful for the hook, he travels deep into the world of men with his deft set of sharpened tools. He will become a hoodlum, a maniac, a soldier; he will become a priest, a prison guard, a cop. A dogmatist, a patriarch—decidedly a public danger. He will become a psychoanalyst. He will have a Practice.

He will learn to dissemble. He will laugh like a wolf. He will cut through the city streets like a blade through water. His realm will be the streets, their secret stores of pleasure, their secret doors (I have a drawer full of keys!) opening to wondrous rooms, unfamiliar rooms, shabby rooms. He is attracted to, appalled by, shabby rooms. The street boy's spare depot, the shopgirl's cluttered cheese box, the saturated confusion of the drag queen's aviary, her floor slick with hairspray and powder. (He must take care to shed these scents, to kick the dust up behind him before returning home.)

Unlike a female client, a man in a wig, a boy smelling of malnutrition, are not likely to hire a lawyer.


In recent years I have pretty much neglected Akiko. These days we live in something of a parallel universe. Some­times I catch a glimpse of her strolling the garden in her dreamy way. Sometimes she vanishes for a week or more. My wife displays her work in distant cities where it is apparently much appreciated. As it should be.

There are times when I admire her imagination. The autonomy it assures her (and I so needful of company!). Day after day she paces her studio with her scissors, the glue pot, those images she has culled from all times and places. She's like a creature from a fairy tale, my Akiko: beautiful, ethereal, living much of her life alone with her scissors and, in silence, piecing scraps of paper together.

Always she returns from her journeys with stories and presents for me. Rare netsuke, for example, although I have so little interest in aesthetic devices.



I leave clues behind both purposefully and inadver­tently. Inadvertently because I do not wish to be discov­ered; I do not wish to hurt Akiko. There is a self within me who longs, at least from time to time, if more and more sporadically, to live a simple, tender life. Or, if this is beyond my powers, to engage the interstices with discre­tion, without harming Akiko. Yes. Without bringing her to harm.

Purposefully because I long to be discovered as I always have, since infancy, to receive the punishment that is my due. To risk annihilation. I court annihilation.

Deception is tiresome. It begins to seriously leech my resources, my strength, my powers of intellect, my time. And because there is a self within me who would crush Akiko's gentle neck. Who knows? Perhaps one day we will die together in a conflagration. Our own conflagration in a world that everywhere is burning.


Recently I made trouble for myself with a shopgirl. Such women are shameless; they are under the erroneous impression that other women, women like Akiko, are not. One will not disabuse them.

She could be my daughter, this overheated wench worthy of Wycherley. (She'd play Lucy, the buxom lady's maid.) Neurotic, cummy, self-aggrandizing, a braggart. I should know better. The new girl Friday to my wife's framer. My clairvoyant Akiko hated her on sight, whereas I couldn't take my eyes off her. We eye fucked straight away. The transaction ended badly, with Lucy spilling coffee on Akiko's portfolio. For this she was fired, if only briefly. Later in the week she called my office and begged me to intercede in her favor. As Akiko—in an unprece­dented temper—had taken her business elsewhere and so could not know, I did as I was asked. Lucy triumphant, therefore, a thing I could not help but profit from. Her lit­tle deed amused the cad that dwells within. It should have ended after an afternoon's burn between two evildoers, but I was hooked. Encounters such as this enliven the days. And so the thing persisted.

Lucy was like a spoiled child; we played hard together. She teased me, she needled, she longed to see our house, Akiko's and mine. She hungered like a little cat for a taste of the fish set out upon the master's table. And so as soon as Akiko was away—clear across the country—the cats did counterfeit domestic bliss. (I should add that, if Lucy's transparency amused me, her needling also hardened me against her. Within the interstices, her place would always be secondary.) I knew our setup would floor her. She would be envious; she was. When I saw the green cinders leaping from those malicious eyes, I feared I had, once again, gone too far. (As when fucking the little blonde who does our taxes.)

We tumbled around the house like pandas. I spun her like a top. I rolled her about this way and that. We managed to despoil every room and knock over a small red lacquer box, although the house is sparely decorated. I knew enough to keep her out of the studio, but when she saw a large collage suspended above our bed, she raged: The bitch doesn't deserve all this! At that instant I could see her a decade down the road: flushed, fighting fat, bitter.

She needed soothing. I made her a kir, got out the snacks, and then, at night's fall, took her to the marriage bed.

Lucy was mollified by this ultimate betrayal; like Scrooge McDuck, a rainbow, a pot of gold spun above her head. I let her dream although I planned to dump her; she was—I could see it—pretty crazy, possibly borderline psychotic. I feared—and rightly so—an unregulated nature. It would be a job to manage the affair. I began to worm my way out of it.

As we cuddled and whispered together into the night, I revealed my sorry life; the doctor's life is not his own. Clients all in danger of collapse—or worse—from one moment to the next. The midnight calls from the hospital, fire department, or police. I made it clear our time together was possible only because of an unusual synchronicity: Akiko's opening in New York and the departure of a client, recently terminated and who had left for Australia where he intended to start up his own practice devoted to a thing he knew from the inside out: the misuse of infants and chil­dren by those who are depended upon for protection.

Lucy began to weep, poor, winsome brat! In her early teens an uncle had been inappropriate. I told her she was fortunate it had not happened sooner.

“Not sooner!” she surfaced like a porpoise from the foamy sheets. “So later is O.K.? Fuck that! Fuck you! I can't believe you said that!”

Yet when I made to lick her tits she sighed and yawned, needful of a pre-dawn nap. (It is she who broke the shell; I am sure of it!)


The minute Akiko returned, she knew something was amiss. She barely touched the take-out sushi, artfully pre­sented, but roamed the house mumbling that it looked odd, it felt odd. She wondered if it had actually shifted, if ever so slightly, on its foundations. Had there been a small earth­quake? A torrential rain? And then she found the shell. A precious shell from Indonesia, spotted and pronged; a thing I'd never paid any attention to. It was a rarity, and now it was broken.

For a time Akiko wore an irritated look; a furrow appeared on her lovely forehead. I must admit it turned me on. The oddest things do.