I worked in a fast-food fish place at Navy Pier when I was in college. There was this girl who also worked there named Briny, spelled like the briny deep on her name tag but pronounced Breeny, like beany with an R. I still thought of her as Briny like the briny deep, though.

Most men that came in that place didn’t find her very attractive. There was some little willowy blond number whose name I never could remember who was always getting phone calls from boyfriends and flirting with anything in pants.

Briny wasn’t anything like this other girl. She was almost short and very powerfully built. Her calves had more muscle on them than most men’s and her skin was kind of swarthy.

I think maybe she was Jewish, but by no means a pampered little princess. At 16 she should have managed this fish-frying operation, not me. If an order was late, she’d call up the fish supplier and bark at whatever poor devil happened to answer the phone. At first I kind of resented her intrusion, but when I said something to her about it, she looked me straight in the eye and said, “Well, then, you do it.”

She wore tortoiseshell glasses so thick they made her eyes look like the fish eyes that stare up in schools from the smelly buckets and cleaning tables along the pier. Even through those thick glasses her eyes seemed to send out sparks–or maybe it was her voice that did that.

Sometimes the place would be mobbed with tourists and that girl would be placing orders, making change, answering questions about where the washrooms were and when the tour boats left–smooth as silk, without even batting one of those tiny fish eyes.

But then somebody’d try to walk off with two fists full of paper napkins or help themselves to more tartar sauce or ketchup packets than they really needed and Briny’d be on their ass. It was as if she owned the place and the guy was trying to rob it, or maybe as if he were trying to steal something from her, like the ten-speed bike she rode at least ten miles down from the north side each day.

Everything would stop. Jaws would flop open. A 50-year-old man, old enough to be her father, would be humiliated by her unsettling sense of rightness. I watched many a poor fellow, having been branded a criminal, sit gingerly on the edge of his chair, trying to look cheerful. He’d spend a lot of time picking at his fish sandwich to avoid inquiring looks from other tourists.

This girl seemed to enjoy a good confrontation. And like I said, a lot of men might not have thought she was much to look at. She had a large broad nose that came to a severe point, just like her chin. She always wore sleeveless T-shirts that exposed pretty well developed biceps. Her breasts appeared to be exactly the same shape as her nose and chin, broad and flat and to the point but not exceptionally large. She had the whitest, strongest-looking teeth I’d ever seen and her hair was short and wispy like a little girl’s.

The guy who owned the place caught me looking at her once and told me he thought she was a lesbian. I thought she might be too, but even that intrigued me. He seemed to think since I was sort of a beach-bum type that I had the hots for that other chick whose name, like I said, I never could remember. I never corrected him. He couldn’t have been further off base if someone had paid him to think that way.

The first time I heard Briny on the phone with the fish supplier I discovered I had a mild hard-on. I didn’t pay any attention to it at first, but the longer I worked there the more I began to realize it was happening more frequently. I found myself getting a hard-on every time something or somebody pissed her off and she took that solid stance with her feet spread apart and her hands on her hips, and that voice of hers grew deep and boomed in firm, even tones across the entire restaurant.

I was a psychology major and for the longest time I kept trying to figure out why I didn’t like the other girl like most guys did. I had decided to study psychology because when I was about 14 or 15 I had a crush on one of my mother’s middle-aged friends. The woman wasn’t at all attractive, but she had this incredible voice. When she came over to visit my mother, sometimes I’d go in my room and masturbate over the sound of her voice. It was almost like listening to a man’s voice trapped inside of a woman’s body and seasoned by a heavy smoking habit.

I’d think of the two women in my mother’s pristine living room, seated on that cream-colored brocade couch, both with their legs crossed at the ankles. I’d think about being near the woman’s throat with that voice talking in my ear, my face and lips trailing up and down her neck and maybe between her breasts. And I’d think of the voice growing stronger and more angry, asking for some explanation as to just what I thought I was doing with my face down her dress, and maybe I’d imagine a teacup shattering on the maple coffee table and ruining the finish like pickling acid on metal.

At about that time I would come. Sometimes if the woman visited on summer evenings I would jack off under the lilac bush outside of the living room bay window.

As I got older, I needed more women’s voices to satisfy me. I started going through the phone book and calling people when my parents were out. The women who lived alone were easy to spot. Just look for the initial listings.

Once I got one on the line, I’d try to talk with her long enough to make her angry. At first I tried posing as a solicitor. That didn’t work. They usually hung up too soon. Then I tried pretending to know the person. That seemed to work for a short while, but I could rarely call back one of the voices I liked because they’d recognize mine and hang up. So I went back to random calling and when I heard a voice I liked, I pretended that I was trying to reach a friend and had dialed the wrong number.

I’d start out being real apologetic, and they’d be nice. Then I’d try calling the woman again after a couple of days. I might even start to get to know her a little. At first it would be enough to just hear her talk for a while, that is, if she had the right voice.

I never bothered talking with any woman who answered the telephone as if she were asking a question. I preferred the ones who just picked up the receiver and said a straight “Hello,” and I really liked the ones who said hello like “What the hell do you want?” Those especially drove me crazy.

My parents were wealthy. My father had made his fortune in steel processing, and my mother was a sort of blue-blood type from Connecticut. Of course, I don’t think my parents ever knew. But anyway, my phone habit and my mad crush on my mother’s friend were what caused me to pursue a degree in psychology. I guess I just wanted to know if I was normal.

My dad, who was a very shrewd businessman, believed that he wouldn’t be doing me any favors by sending me away to a fancy school with enough allowance to party until I flunked. So he just sent me to a nice school in town and paid my expenses and told me I had to earn my own play money and whatever wheels I could afford.

So that’s how I ended up at the fish joint. I was 20 and a virgin with lots of raging hormones. I wasn’t that bad looking then, but my skin was a mess. Sometimes the acne boiled up so bad I resorted to covering the worst patches with makeup. Briny said one morning rather matter-of-factly that I must have incredibly high testosterone levels. I wasn’t even altogether sure what that meant, but man was I ever turned on. She was brainy as hell. I swear, if it had worked out, I would have ended up marrying that one. But as it was, I was supposed to be her boss, and she got me so aroused I found it difficult to talk to her.

One night we were both in there late, cleaning up. She was emptying five-gallon buckets of melting ice into a huge industrial sink, and I couldn’t contain myself any longer. I saw those biceps of hers flexing and she was pissed at me because I’d made her stay and clean up when she wanted to be home in time to watch President Nixon talk about opening doors to China–which for the life of me I couldn’t understand.

She was dumping one of those buckets and I walked by and bumped her nice tight ass with my hip. It set her off screaming, for the first time in not so even tones. She called me a son of a bitch and a brainless wonder and told me she knew I’d done that on purpose, which of course I had.

The floor was wet. She was walking around in a pair of sneakers that sounded like wet sponges every time she took a step. She was wet. Her powder blue sleeveless T-shirt was plastered to her bra, which was about as thin as her T-shirt. Those nipples were hard as rocks since she’d been handling all that ice.

I grabbed her and tried to pin her against the sink. She fought like the devil, which I knew she would, but I got her down to the floor. About the time I got her shirt pulled up and her bra jacked up over those incredibly hard tits, she grabbed my balls and put a crushing squeeze on them that to this day I’m not entirely convinced didn’t make me sterile.

I was up to my ears in water, gasping and rolling around on the red linoleum floor. The fluorescent light was so bright it made the white tile walls vibrate and cave in on me. Just before I passed out I heard her ten-speed whiz past the back screen door to the docks.

Her daddy didn’t press any charges because he knew my daddy–but that was what ended college for me. My dad cut me off completely. I had disgraced my mother among all of her fine teacup-tipping friends.

I found work as a cabdriver, and I must have some of my dad in me because before I knew it I was managing the company. I was on sort of a power trip, overseeing about 20 other drivers, most of whom were almost twice my age. The job gave me license to provoke some of them, but it just didn’t give me the same pleasure I found in making women angry. Also, it’s a lot more difficult to make a man fly off the handle. I mean, some wimpy women do cry, but from what I’ve seen, most women stand up for themselves better than men–of course that may have something to do with the kind of women I choose to pick on.

One night one of the cabbies talked me into going with him to a strip club in Calumet City, where I discovered some of the feistiest women around. Most guys got off on the nice tits and asses and a little of the kinkiness. But I had this incredible urge to piss these women off. I’d get off on it, and I got the idea that maybe if I managed to do it enough, I might be able to make some money off of the deal. Maybe I could work there as a manager.

“I’ve been watching those guys out there,” I told the big boss man, whose name to this day I never mention to anyone. We were sitting in a small dingy office, next to a gray metal wall safe. Just then a stripper opened the door and threw a purple sequined G-string onto the floor. He glared at her and she said, “Sorry, next time you’re having company I’ll be sure and knock.”

Uncle Howie–that’s what we were allowed to call him–said, “She’s a smart-ass.”

I told him I’d been watching the strippers and the customers and I thought more of the men preferred the women who had spunk. “There’s some little doe-eyed thing out there with pretty little tits and a nice ass and she’s not making it,” I said. “She’s wearing that please-fuck-me-I’m-a-rag-doll look and guys get bored with that real fast. They sit at her stage for five minutes and if she’s the only one dancing they finish their beer and leave.”

Now there was this heavyset one with a nice set of tits who knew the score. She could work the props. The spiked heels she wore could bring on a high-altitude nosebleed and with those red dagger nails she didn’t exactly look like an easy fuck.

“I tell you, they want to think about a woman who’s a mean challenge,” I said to Uncle Howie. I was getting a bit rhetorical and emotional for his tastes, but when I said, “All I know is they all seem to watch her and nobody gets bored,” he seemed to give my suggestions some very serious consideration.

The desk lamp behind his head blinded me somewhat. I couldn’t see his face and he didn’t say anything for a long time. “I think you may be right,” he said finally.

Now, he didn’t altogether agree with me on the matter of aggressive women. He found most of them to be–his words, not mine–“a royal pain in the ass.” But for stage purposes, he did think that it was best to draw out the spirit in these women–“if we want to get that deep with that psychological shit you’re whipping on me,” he said.

And so he hired me, and I was in heaven, always calling meetings with the other managers to give strippers pep talks and generally piss them off. For weeks I think I must have gone around wearing a big hard-on, until one of those women, one of the blonds I didn’t look twice at, made some snide remark about the bulge in my pants.

“Wouldn’t you like to know,” I said.

“Go fuck yourself, Pit Face,” she said. She said that to my face. I couldn’t believe it. I must have creamed right there. God, she was a cruel bitch.

It was a weird head game we got into. I kept trying to think up ways to piss her off, and she kept trying to think up ways to hurt me. For months I was in absolute ecstasy, except for never being able to touch her.

Then a meaner girl came along, the biggest prick tease that ever lived. This woman, Dame–actually she was some big snot-nosed kid from Indiana–and her friend cooked up some routines that turned some of our nicer customers into killers. The whole damn atmosphere of the place changed and not because these girls were really any nastier than the others. They just knew how to create tension.

Nobody could take their eyes off Dame, not even the bartenders and some of the bouncers. This created a lot of problems with the management. Time and again I’d call everybody on the carpet for watching the show instead of minding their business. It didn’t seem to help much, though. Freeloaders were slipping past the bouncers left and right. Cover was $10, so I cut their pay to wake them up. Bartenders were giving huge heads of foam. Nobody complained much, but it bothered me because I figured we were still a quality establishment.

What made things even worse was how she teased the help, always gave them some ray of hope to cling to, like they might actually get something from her. She knew exactly what she was doing, too. She’d whisper in a bouncer’s ear or rub her tits against the bartender’s back, and she’d look me right in the eye like she was just daring me to do something about it.

Don’t ask me how I did it. Wanting this woman was like wanting Briny and every feisty female voice I’d ever heard. We never even argued or had words because she made me too nervous. But when I got her alone there was no holding back. I knew it was rape. Against the law. Abnormal human behavior. I came from a civilized family. I knew it was wrong. But there was something in me stronger than logic, like a tidal wave that stops at nothing but the shore.

I came up with an excuse to keep her after hours and shoved her around. Got more hell beaten into my face, but still I plugged her against a wall, on top of the bar, against the jukebox, and again under the chairs on the red shag carpet. I even cut her lip with a bar glass. And there she was underneath me, screaming and bleeding, a tangle of long brown hair and sweat and pumping tits.

She was beyond hysterical when I was through, maybe it was around 6 AM. The sun was coming up and the club was starting to look its real shabby, dirty self. I know it’s sick, but I almost felt like that is how sex should be, like a caveman dragging a woman by the hair, her screaming and him coming in a rush, like a volcano, more powerful than her, unstoppable.

But I know that’s wrong. I knew it then. I still don’t like to think of myself as a bad person. I ran away from the whole world after that. I never married or even got a girlfriend. I didn’t feel like I deserved to. For years I considered becoming a monk.

Dame against the wall. Dame on top of the bar, tits shaking at the ceiling, my hand shoving her neck and chin over the edge, those jugular veins inflamed, about to burst, and all that long hair sweeping the bar stools like the branches of a weeping willow. Then her crawling like a babe, bare ass in the air underneath the tables and chairs, me plugging in again and again, fighting and fucking that girl till dawn. That’s all I’ve fantasized about for years. Nothing in normal sex could ever compare to that for me.

Now I deliver telephone books and catalogs for a living. For 15 years I’ve lived in a basement apartment on a relatively quiet street and led a quiet life. At times I’ve felt the seething wave, the volcano rumbling again. But when that happens I shut down, pull back, jack off to this memory, and once again all is well.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Damon Locks.