|A Caricature of Faith
J. K. Mason
I click on her breasts and drag them out, but not too much. Then I
slim down her waist and darken her skin color. I zoom out, inspect her proportions from a
distance, then zoom back in to make her breasts smaller, more in line with her hips. I set
HEIGHT to 5 3", select BLONDE for HAIR COLOR, and choose a
hairstyle called "Chante," which I drag from a box and drop onto her blank head.
I pick the eyes, center them over the nose, and slide the EYE COLOR bar toward BLUE.
Then I refine her breasts, firming and kneadinggetting them how I remember them.
I tug her chin a tad, sip my vermouth, and zoom out
for another look. Her body seems correct, but her face just wont jell. Finally, I
give up and erase it. I dig out my yearbook and scan a color photo of the real Faith
Daniels, drag it across and release it onto the head; it wraps around and sticks there.
Then I highlight it and nudge the FIDELITY bar toward LESS. Slowly, her
expression gets cartoonier, more in line with her body. Shes perfect nowa
caricature of Faith. I play around with her breasts. Then I click SAVE.
Faith was the girlfriend I never went all the way
with. We spent hour upon hour kissing and fondling during the three years we went steady.
Once, we even got naked and lay in bed togethercaressing and rubbing, that was all.
And to this day I get frustrated just thinking about how close we came that night. What
bothers me silly is that a few months after we broke up, her best friend told me that all
Faith ever did anymore was fuck her new boyfriend. Every day they did it. Every day.
Why didnt she do that with me?
So now I add background to Faith: I configure her
father as single, overprotective, a nervous cartoon man not quite five feet tall. I gray
and grease his hair with a software pencil, slick it back. I drop a fat black mustache
onto his concave face, sip my drink, and beady his eyes some. I mold him into a parody of
Faiths real father, a man who haunts my memory as a grifter poised to pitch his
latest get-rich-quick scheme, cajole me into one of his myriad pyramid plans. For house I
click BUNGALOW and tab down to a squarish, red-brick affairnothing
at all like Faiths true house, but Im pretending her cartoon dad isnt
doing so well in his life. He was such a condescending jerk to me. But this is all too
boring. Who cares about this periphery stuff? What I really need is to get Faith Daniels
in bed again, naked, lock the door and dim the lights like we did that drunken prom night.
So I delete the goofy dad and his silly house.
I go back and highlight Faith. I dress her in a pink
lacy bra, white bikini panties, and prom dress, periwinkle blue. For kicks I decorate her
with high-top tennies: black Converse All-Stars with thick white soles and round rubber
emblems. Then I visualize these sneakers high in the air, bobbing and jiggling at the end
of her long tan legs, me grinding out slow meticulous circles down below. Satisfied with
this semblance of Faith, I stand her in a bare room beside a bed.
I arrow through the ASSORTED MALE BODIES box,
select a strapping young torso, and drop on a burgundy, three-button tux with satin notch
lapel and dual Besom pockets (as I wore that night). I consider scanning my senior photo
from the yearbook, but here I hesitate because I dont really trust this software
program, dont know much about it other than its called "The Cartoon
Director" and Im getting a free, five-day trial. Maybe I should remain
anonymous, play a less prominent role in this, my first production (my Virgin Debut!). But
its simply a cartoon, and there is certainly nothing wrong with creating cartoons,
so I scan a recent photome at a volleyball game (I referee for the Scottsdale Girls
League)and use the scissors tool to clip away my black-and-white striped shirt, my
whistle. I attach my head to my body and cartoonize myself with the FIDELITY bar.
Im very dignified as a cartoon man: my hair is much fuller, my face not so rotund
and droopy. Thinking that I shouldnt be drinking so much on a weeknight, I finish my
vermouth; then I refill the glass.
I stand myself beside Faith, highlight us, then
double-click DIRECT A SCENE. In the Command box I enter "Woman remove
clothes," and to a drum roll of cursor blinks, she unzips her dress . . . releasing
it to the floor. As she ducks slightly to free her panties I position the camera close,
filling my screen with her featuresthe distinctive curve in her lips, the crook in
her eyebrow (Faith's crook). Her expression is ambivalent, as though she welcomes the role
I am casting her in, yet resents it. She does resemble Faith. Somehow this software
has captured her charisma, that fragile innocence in her photo. I enter "Man remove
clothes." Then I zoom out.
I see that I've done well shaping Faith. In the SCENE
window she is standing naked beside me, this winsome tableau striking me like an old
favorite song. I feel delirious, a fist clenching inside my chest, my heart pumping away.
Maybe its because I know whats about to happen, an event that now unlike then
is a certainty, or maybe I feel a control over Faith I never enjoyed in high school.
Whatever the reason, it pounds at my temples, my groin, thump thump.
Tami opens the door and enters. I jump from my slouch
with a big jerk. "Having fun?" she says (like she always does). My screen faces
doorward so I quickly bring up a different windowunfortunately, the one where I was
shaping Faiths breasts. A close-up.
"Looking at dirty pictures again?"
"Uh, this cartoon just showed up in my e-mail
box. I dont know where it came from."
I click the X, closing the window, and the window
beneath it appearsthe one in which I am naked, aroused beside Faith. I X it, fast.
"Im leaving now," she says with her
Im-moving-up-in-the-world smirk. Tami is attending night classes at Scottsdale
Community College, struggling towards a Business Admin degree. Weve been together
fourteen years, and recently weve been plagued by her desire to bear children: at
thirty-four, she feels the chill winds of her approaching maternal autumn. I think
were too old for kids; it wouldnt be fair to them. "See you at ten."
She pecks my cheek and struts out.
Ive been sitting here three hours and it feels
like twenty minutes. On the Scene Control Panel, I dim the lighting and select FOREPLAY.
Forget that; instead, I toggle over to BRIGHT and click SEX. Before Faith
became my steady girlfriend I had done it once with Suzie Mitchell. That was it.
I push GO; Faith gets on the bed and we start
I roll my mouse right, swinging the viewpoint to
behind them: my cartoon ass, thrusting away, fills the screen. I move the camera to in
front, a reverse-angle shot. Faiths eyes are closed and she has her familiar
half-smile, slight but discernible even in this color cartoon. Above her face is my own:
my mouth half open, my tongue out to the side, my eyebrows scrunched down over squinting
eyesdamn intense for a cartoon man, but this is our first time going all the
way. I view the scene from different angles, and in a frenzied moment its over. I
collapse on top of Faith.
I click SAVE, go out to the bathroom, and wash
up. Back at my desk I play the cartoon movie in its entirety, this time feeling calmer.
Then I play it again and masturbate once more. Im William Candee, fifty-four years
old, overweight, and double-chinned. I teach second grade at Lakeview Elementary. I was
the principal there until nine years ago when I grew tired of the politics, the bickering
teachers, the pampering PTA parents. Now I just teach.
I drain my drink and log off.
The next morning, Im working with Kristen, a special education student in my
class who suffers from paraphrasia, a speech impediment characterized by a mixing of
words. Each day while my normal kids struggle over their projects on the far side of the
room, I spend thirty minutes or so forming proper sentences with Kristen. Today her mother
is here as a parent teaching assistant, and when the bell rings for recess, she comes over
to talk. "Kristen is doing fine," I tell her. In my mind I see Faith on her
hands and knees, that half-smile on her face. "She...uh...shes picking up her
action verbs well."
"Have you noticed she has trouble with proper
"Well yes, but I think were making
headway." I want to give Faith bigger breasts, and I want to explore the various
options on the POSITIONS menu.
"Do you think she'll be able to read at level two
Im going to try something risqué with her.
Something nasty. "I think level two is within reason if we can keep this pace until
"I mean until the end of the school year."
At home I pour a vermouth and check my e-mailforty-five new messages, most
peddling pornography and other dubious diversions: clandestine memberships, deviant sex
toys, get-rich-quick offers. I used to get about five a day, so Im blaming the
Cartoon Director Company. Three days ago I received my first e-mail from them, clicked it,
and was transported to their website where I ran the demo and signed up for the trial.
Since then, the deluge.
"Can you do something about all this junk
e-mail," I ask the support rep at my Internet service provider, "like return
them to the senders?"
"Sorry. We have no control over that," she
says. "Its called spam. You need to quit giving out your e-mail address."
"I didnt give it to anyone."
"Well. Someone sure has it. I see you have a few
more in your box now, Mr. Candee."
"You can see inside my box?"
"I could look at all the mail on your PC if I
wanted to, but dont worry. Were too busy to waste time with that. What do you
think we do here? This isnt Microsoft," she snorts. "Jeez, Im
I down my drink and hang up. Then I pour another.
For my next animation I want detail, more digital muscle on the skeleton of my fantasy,
so for scene one I recreate Faiths father and home, this time adding dialogue to the
script. When I enter their house to get Faith, Mr. Daniels is standing on the stairway,
looking ominous, his face collapsed into a devilish smirk. He smiles, revealing his silver
tooth. "Say, Bill, would you be interested in making some extra money on the
side," he says, stepping off the stairs. "Im on the ground floor of a hot
new deal. We can pick up some easy cash if youre interested."
"You should grow up Mr. Daniels," I tell
him. "Get a real job. Face the world."
His eyebrows scrunch down again. "Have her home
by eleven," he grunts.
"Yeah, right." I shake my head and walk out
the door with my hand on Faiths, ahem, lower back.
Scene two jump-cuts to my Chevy. Ive added
background music: The Stones Gimme Shelter, the song we used to play while
parked in the hills overlooking the glittery quilt of Phoenix. For a prop Ive
downloaded a picture of a wine bottlethe cheesiest wine on the Net, Boones
Farm Strawberry, our favoritewhich Ive positioned top center on the ledge near
the rear window. We are sitting in the back seat passing a joint and sipping pink wine
from tall, sparkly glasses.
Then I remember I wanted to adjust Faiths boobs.
I go into MAINTENANCE mode and give her 44 triple-Ds.
I return to ACTION mode.
We are facing each other, a two-shot from the chest
up, wine bottle totemic behind us. "We cant make love tonight," I have her
say. "We dont need a bun in the oven now do we?" The last part is what
Faith always said whenever I tried going all the way with her, so even though she drones
it now with her computer voice, it carries special meaning, and somehow it gives me
pleasure to hear this chant again, to know in my heart that it doesnt matter at all
what she tells me. Not this time. I make her smile and blink.
The camera moves in close, and I gaze into her
unyielding eyes. "I have a rubber," I say, "so dont worry, you
wont get pregnant." I kiss her on the lips and zoom out, slowly.
I introduce conflict by having her shake her head and
say, sternly, "No way, Bill, I dont think we should do it."
"I said no, so quit asking."
"I love you."
"Well, OK, but Im a little bit sore from
last night, so be gentle, OK?" (Of course I wont be, not after so many years.)
I slip on the rubber and we start into it.
"Whos your daddy?" I say.
"Youre so," she says in her monotone
voice, "youre so, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh."
With the action moving along, I add tension to the
script by secretly removing the rubber. Then I quicken the pace.
"Wait!" she says. "Go easy."
"Should I stop?"
"No. Go faster!"
When its over, she says, "Hey! Wheres
"Oops. It must have slipped off in all the
excitement." She frowns and slugs me, then pushes me away. I consider ending it here,
but the scene feels top-heavy with tension, so for resolution and denouement I have her
taunt: "Thats really cute, Bill, you total pervert!" We tickle each other
and laugh like we did on our many drunken dates. The scene fades to black. I breathe
deeply and exhale, a warm quiver vibrating the base of my tailbone. Satisfaction. After
all these years.
I finish my drink, click SAVE, and go out to the
kitchen for doughnuts and coffee. And there it strikes me. All those nights we spent
together kissing and groping but never going all the way, all those frustrating trips
home, alone in my car, horny, dejected. I wonder if I should havelike my cartoon
mantaken the initiative when I had Faith alone, been more firm and compelling. He
was hardly a wimp, and he certainly let Faiths father know it. Maybe she needed more
assertiveness around her. Maybe thats what her next boyfriend gave her.
Did I actually fail Faith by not being pushier?
All day Ive been thinking about getting kinky. I
keep pushing it from my mind, but it keeps pushing back in. I return to the Cartoon
Director, and while browsing the Help section for ideas, I discover that once a cartoon
movie has been saved to disk, the reality level of the entire movie can be adjusted. So
for fun I load up last nights production, and in the REALISM box I slide the FIDELITY
bar to FULL and click PLAY.
I see me. And it really is me. My nose is a bit pugged
and my body overly slender, but in all probability only I would notice these nuances.
Im watching an old man get nasty with a fifteen-year-old girlme now, Faith
then. I rub my crotch. The action is so real, so genuine, that I have an orgasm. I view
the other movie with FIDELITY on FULL, resave them both, and log off.
The next day, Im talking to Kristen during
recess. She says, "Mr. Candee, when I can go to outside play now?"
"OK . . . Kristen. Say it correctly. Like
this." And I speak the words slowly: "Can I go outside and play, Mr.
She looks up at me with two shimmering pools of blue
innocence, searching. "Can you play with me, Mr. Candee?" she says.
"Nope, thats not right. Try again."
She says it correctly then turns and skips out. And as
I watch her bounce through the doorway, I think of Faiths little sister, Morgan.
Morgan liked to flirt and I always flirted back. Faith would say: "Just ignore her,
Bill. Shes learning about boys and youre someone she can practice on.
Its a little sister thing. You know?" Morgan wasnt too far from us in
age, and she was so damn cute. I secretly wanted to kiss her, lick her like a cherry
lollipop, crunch into her soft, chewy center. There was something intriguing about her
being Faiths younger sister, something deliciously forbidden.
At home, I scan Morgan, select a body for her, and
drop her digitized face onto the head. I adjust her proportions and stand her beside the
real version of me. And then the reality of what I am about to do strikes me. Shes a
child, really really a child. Maybe back then we werent so distant in age,
but now, with Morgan naked and puerile beside me, I realize the impurity of my intent. And
when I think of the movies Ive created, of me having sex with Faithalso a
childI feel ridiculous. I quickly pull down the REMOVE PROGRAMS menu and
delete the Cartoon Director. On their website I cancel my account, and in the "Reason
for Canceling?" box, I enter: "This is a bit beyond me. No thank you. I'll
I power down and head upstairs for dinner.
At least once a week for a month I dream vividly of
Faith. I have no idea what the dreams are about or what they might mean; I know only that
Faith is a cartoon character in them and they leave me edgy and giddy, in a mood redolent
of high school. I toy with the idea of returning to the Cartoon Director website but
"Bill!" Tami says, excitedly, over the
phone. "They took your PC and notebooks. Theyre searching everywhere."
Im at school, standing in the main office, and
as she blurts this out, I look through the big front window and see a police cruiser and a
gray car (with extra antennas) pull into the main lot. Two suited men emerge from the
unmarked vehicle. Steve Johnston, Lakeview principal, is standing outside on the sidewalk.
He steps over to them. They exchange words and turn toward the office.
This all seems unreal but Im watching it
"The police. Theyre here with a search
"Hold for a minute," I set the phone down
and hurry to the rest room. From my jacket I take my half-pint of Crown Royal and guzzle
whats left. Then I bury the bottle in the trash can, wishing, as I dig deep into the
damp rumpled towels, that I too could easily hide in this soft, dark place. I walk to the
front desk and say "Good morning" as they enter.
"Youre under arrest, Mr. Candee," one
man says. He reads my rights while the other gathers my arms and cuffs me. The workers in
the office accumulate around us. I think of Faith.
"What am I under arrest for?"
"Possession, distribution, and production of
Im frisked then guided to the cruiser and bent
into the back seat. I see students bubbling from the classrooms, craning in the hallways.
"I was just having fun with cartoons. All I
did was push the fidelity bar to full. Then I erased it. I canceled my account," I
tell Mr. Saxon, my attorney, from the witness stand. To his other questions I respond
exactly as he directed.
Gerald Saxon is tall, a trenchant man with a slight
goatee (almost a shadow), long hair (in a ponytail), and tinny gray eyes that flicker with
contingent subtleties. During a strategy session in his office, I caught what seemed like
the faint scent of marijuana and patchouli oil, and when he removed his corduroy jacket I
noticed his garish tattoosa twisted star inside a crescent moon on his left forearm,
a tilted Saturn encircled by mirror words on his right, and a blurred letter on each
skinny finger. All of this I overlooked because he is celebrated and successful (and very
The prosecutor is running for some public office and,
according to Saxon, his platform includes a promise to curtail sex crimes by putting away
sex offenders. On a big-screen TV he plays my movies featuring Faith, which they have
unerased from my hard drive. And watching them in this courtroom, with its grave
atmosphere and procedural pomp, for some reason makes Faith seem even younger. Then he
displays my rendition of Morgan standing naked beside me. He does this to show her as a
young version of Faith and that my actions constitute what he terms Female Typing, which
means (according to his "expert" witness) that I am infatuated with females who
share the same general appearance. Then he calls Tami to the stand, and for the first time
in my life I realize that she has the same hairstyle, body structure, and facial features
I feel like such a pervert.
When the prosecution finally rests, Saxon opens our
defense by way of video on the courtroom big screen. "Delivering it this way will
help alleviate the damage we took from those movies," he assures me, whispering.
The video starts with Saxon sitting in a shadowy room
at the head of a conference table. He looks left, toward the jury (a nice touch), and
begins: "So let me ask you, respected members of the jury, am I the real Mr. Saxon,
or is that me sitting there in the courtroom with Mr. Candee?" He looks toward the
defense table (another nice touch). Then he continues:
"Obviously, at the time you are viewing this, the
man sitting in the courtroom is the real me, but as I film this presentation, that version
of me does not yet exist."
I notice that Saxon is off-center on the screen;
behind him, hanging on the wall and slightly out of focus, is a large grisaille of Jesus
Praying at Gethsemane. "And where might we ask does religion come into play in all of
this? Why is it that as humans our instinct to procreate persists long after it becomes
difficult to bear and raise children? Why, if God even exists, would He imbue us with such
an abiding and calamitous desire in our twilight years? And isnt it true that as
death approaches, we often seek out religion with its promise of everlasting life,
perpetual youth? And might we venture to say that by craving youth, we are idolizing it,
and in so doing simply practicing something approaching religion, a subtle form of
In the video, Saxon stands.
"We all have fantasies, some darker than others;
yet why is it that few of us ever act on them, let alone admit to them? Rather than engage
our own dissolute desires, we preoccupy ourselves with persecuting those who do,
scapegoats like Mr. Candee here."
Saxon (in the video) nods toward me (in the
"We ridicule and skewer and roast them in our
newspapers and on our televisions. This is how we sublimate our fantasies? Project our own
guilt onto others? Waste time with proceedings such as this, when instead we should all be
at home looking into the mirror?" Saxon (in the video) pauses a moment, then turns
toward the jury and says: "We all masturbate."
I scrunch down in my chair.
The video Saxon walks to a TV screen that displays the
same recording we are watchingan image within an image, myriad TVs, myriad
Saxonsand knuckling the screen with a bony finger, he says, "Are any of these
people, these copies of me, real?"
My cartoon rendition of Faith, now sporting an
angels halo, appears on the TV (inside the video)recursive Faiths, diminishing
to a pixel. The video Saxon pats the TV and says, "Does this young female, this star
of Mr. Candees cartoons, exist in reality, or is she simply his digital goddess, a
prop in his fanciful rendition of eternal life? And most importantly, did Mr. Candee
actually hurt anyone by contriving his goddess? No more so than had he scratched her
likeness onto a cave wall with a stick of charcoal . . . "
As Saxon argues each point in
detail, my mind settles into a state of confused complacency and I actually start
believing we might win. I contemplate weeknight talks in rustic settings: redeemed by this
glorious process, I play the part of wounded hero, the real Bill Candee, standing
at a podium in a chapel filled with forgiving eyes, open minds, and hearts accepting me as
I look around the courtroom and notice that the judge
is giving me deprecating glances, as though his mind is already made up. But
Ive seen the outcomes of other high-profile cases, so I know that nothing's ever
certain until the jury votes.
The video ends with Saxon delivering a brief attack on
the prosecution followed by a summary of our defense. Then he closes with the odd (but
slightly humorous) carriwitchet, "And how, in all seriousness, can a fifty-four-year
old man have a six-pack for a stomach?"
The jury deliberates for less than an hour before
returning a verdict of guilty on all counts. In his final statement, the judge says:
"It really doesnt matter that the movies youve created arent
actually real. They do in fact depict a child in a way that is virtually indistinguishable
from that of a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct. Thats against the law and
real enough for me to give you four years in the state penitentiary, with eighteen months
suspended and credit for three months already served."
Faith, I mean Tami, leaves me while Im in prison, and when I get home I discover
that shes taken her property and much of what was mine. When my Internet
restrictions expire, I go to the Cartoon Director website, just to browse around, see what
all they offer now. And I dont feel bad about using it again, not at all, not this
time. God knows Ive been thinking about it for quite a while, looking forward to it
actually. And who knows? Maybe Ill meet someone my own age on the Net this time, or