Leah Mueller is an indie writer from Tacoma, Washington. She is the author of two chapbooks, “Queen of Dorksville” (Crisis Chronicles Press) and “Political Apnea” (Locofo Chaps) and two books, “Allergic to Everything” (Writing Knights Press) and “The Underside of the Snake” (Red Ferret Press). Her work has been published in Blunderbuss, Memoryhouse, Outlook Springs, Atticus Review, Origins Journal, Silver Birch Press, Cultured Vultures, Quail Bell, and many anthologies. She was a featured poet at the 2015 New York Poetry Festival, and a runner-up in the 2012 Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry contest.
This story was previously published by Talking Soup and is reprinted with permission of the author.
THE great beaver-eating contest
I was at Burning Man for two days before I finally looked at the official program. Up to that point, I had wandered aimlessly around the playa, scoring free alcohol, which existed in abundance. Burning Man billed itself as a radical expression of art and community, but most of its activities revolved around drinking intoxicating beverages while wearing glow-stick hats and furry knee socks. I wanted to try something new, so I swept the dust from the recycled paper schedule and opened it wide, searching for adventure.
As I scanned the pages, the words, “Great Canadian Beaver-Eating Contest, Part Deux” caught my eye. In another environment, this would have been too good to be true, but at Burning Man, where displays of public sex were common, it wasn't a surprise. Still, the vast scope of the beaver-eating project was intriguing. The members of one of the theme camps had erected a huge tent for the sole purpose of women’s oral pleasure. All you had to do was show up and spread your legs. I wasn't sure what Canada had to do with this, except for its association with beavers, or what Part One had been like, but I figured that it was best to just show up and wing it.
I began the long trek across the playa, weaving a bit in the waning heat. The daytime temperatures in the Nevada desert soared well over one hundred degrees, but the nights were relatively cool, with temperatures hovering in the mid-seventies. I felt relaxed and warm in my short, green hemp mini dress. I'd foregone underwear, figuring that it was unnecessary. I passed clusters of people on unicycles, art cars filled with screaming drunks, stoned hippies carrying didgeridoos. The layout of Burning Man was arranged in concentric circles, with each confusing arc corresponding to a different part of the body. Navigation was next to impossible.
Finally, I noted an enormous tent in the distance, with a large quantity of people standing outside. They were queued in a long line, as if waiting for a popular concert. Two men broke away from the line in disgust, and walked rapidly towards me, shaking their heads.
“Is this the Great Canadian Beaver Eating Contest?” I asked politely. One of the men glanced at me briefly, and said,“Yeah, it is. But don't bother going, it's full.”
“Wow,” I said. “That's a huge tent. Are you sure it's full?”
“Of course it is,” the man said haughtily. He looked at his friend, and they both laughed. Then they continued their trek across the playa.
I had come a long way, and I was determined. Perhaps the current inhabitants would be so satisfied that they would complete their indulgences quickly, and would vacate the tent and give other people a chance. This seemed only fair, since community was a big deal at Burning Man, as was the idea of being a participant and not a spectator. In fact, the worst thing you could call anyone was a spectator.
I took my place at the end of the line and gazed at the crowd. For a group of strangers who were assembled for the unlikely purpose of giving and receiving oral sex, everyone seemed remarkably casual and relaxed. Two men dressed in dirty loincloths stood in front of me, chatting pleasantly with a dark-haired woman. The men were intoxicated, and looked as though they were most likely tech workers on holiday. All three of them appeared to be about ten years younger than I was.
One of the fellows smiled invitingly at me. “There's a rumor going around that you can only enter the tent if you have a partner already,” he said. “Would you like to be my partner? My name is Mark.”
I scanned his face and body. He was cute enough, though not my usual type. Most likely he'd been a member of a fraternity a few years earlier, and he carried a reek of privilege, but I wasn't really concerned about that today. “Sure,” I said, to his immense relief. “I mean, why not?”
His friend looked more sensitive, but he had already attached himself to the dark haired woman. We exchanged pleasantries. All three of my new friends were from California, I was the sole Washingtonian. No, I had never met Kurt Cobain, I assured them. The line remained solid, refusing to alter its dimensions even when an occasional satisfied couple emerged from the tent. Finally, Mark reached his hands around the back of my dress and began to squeeze my ass gently. “I take it that you really like it when a guy eats your pussy?” he asked. I nodded and laughed. “Well, I just love eating pussy,” he said.
Under other circumstances, such an overture would have been not only presumptuous, but downright unwelcome, but we were at the Great Canadian Beaver Eating Contest. There really was no need to wait in line for our chance in the tent. Mark and I leaned into each other, and he reached down the front of my dress, grasped my breasts firmly. “Your tits are enormous,” he gasped.
I glanced over at his friend, who was still chatting earnestly with his female companion. She had sharp features, which gave her a perpetually worried expression. Her eyes darted around the crowd, finally coming to rest on a passing group of dusty hippies, all of whom carried yoga mats and flutes. “It's hard to believe that some people actually come to Burning Man for a spiritual experience,” she scoffed, shaking her head.
I laughed, and we locked eyes for a moment. She was a good sort, just uptight. Mark rested one of his hands on my hip. “Let's go back to my camp,” he breathed in my ear. “I'll give you the pussy licking of your life.”
I'd had my pussy licked many times, by both experts and rank amateurs, so this was a bold statement. “All right,” I said. Mark clasped my hand firmly and led me from the line. His friend looked anxiously at the dark-haired woman. “I guess we're going back to our camp,” he said uncertainly.
“Oh, I'll come with you,” she replied, to his obvious relief.
The enterprising fellows had chosen to bed down for the week very close to the sex tent, so we reached their encampment in less than ten minutes. It was nothing more than a crude clump of dusty Boy Scout pup tents, with no art or theme whatsoever. A depressed-looking fellow stood in the camp's center, staring intently into a small campfire. He looked up at us with astonishment, and then his expression changed instantly to hostility.
It was apparent that the man had chosen not to accompany his two friends to the oral sex tent, thinking that it was a foolish idea because none of them would actually score. Instead, both of his friends had returned in less than an hour, each with a woman in tow. Campfire Man sank into a lawn chair and gazed furiously at the ground. “Well, that was quick,” he muttered.
Sensitive Guy strode over to his tent, pulled out a bottle of wine and a stack of plastic cups. All of us poured ourselves a glass and settled down beside the fire. “Man, I promised my girlfriend that I wouldn't try to pick up anyone at Burning Man this year,” Campfire Man complained. He lifted a large stick from the ground and stared at it. “What the hell was I thinking?”
“It's not a slam-dunk,” the dark-haired woman said reassuringly. “Sometimes it takes a little work. One time I went to a bar, really wanting to get laid. I tried all night, but I couldn't find anyone to take me up on it.”
Campfire Man glared at her with incredulity. “Jesus Christ!” he sputtered. “Women can ALWAYS get laid!” He hurled his stick violently into the fire, causing a sudden erratic storm of sparks. Then he settled back into the chair, and his face returned to its former, sullen expression.
Of course, he had a point. If there had been a heterosexual Great Canadian Blow Job Contest, instead of one devoted to women’s pleasure, it would not have been nearly as well-attended. Mark reached over, slid one of his hands under my dress. “Let's go into my tent,” he said. His fingers rested on the mound of my vagina and slithered downward, and I felt a strong pull in the pit of my stomach. I rose from my chair and followed Mark to his tent. The door was already unzipped, and we tumbled inside.
Gently but firmly, Mark pressed my body onto a pile of sleeping bags. He pulled the hem of my sundress upward, exposing my vagina. I burrowed into the soft nest of blue polyester and spread my legs wide. Immediately, Mark ducked his head and went to work tickling my clitoris with his tongue. He clasped my thighs with each of his hands and worked his mouth deeper into the folds of my pussy. A thin river of his saliva ran down one of my legs and tickled my ass. I giggled involuntarily, and he stopped for a moment, looked up at me. “Is this how you like it?” he asked. I nodded, and he dipped his head again. He began to lick my clitoris with enthusiasm, while I squirmed more deeply into the layers of sleeping bags.
Mark moved his tongue rapidly, then slowed down for a few seconds to tease me, and then regained momentum. I rocked back and forth in an attempt to get his tongue to massage my clitoris more deeply. Mark's grip on my thighs became tighter and more insistent. He burrowed his face into my vagina, and I felt a strong surge of new wetness. It was going to be more than easy to come—my main concern was that it not happen too soon. I pulled back slightly, and his eyes lifted.
I had always loved seeing a guy in that position—tongue working diligently on my pussy, while simultaneously looking upward at my face to make sure that I was enjoying myself. It was the utter submissiveness of the posture that always did me in. This was more pressure than I could stand, however, and my body began its release before I was able to stop it. I rolled from side to side, moaning loudly, involuntarily. Mark increased the speed of his tongue movements, going faster and faster until it seemed as though he was spinning my clitoris in circles. I came hard for a couple of minutes, ground to a gradual, shuddering halt, and then a fresh wave of orgasms began in earnest.
As the waves subsided, a small, bulging object suddenly flopped onto the floor beside me. I heard laughter, and I knew immediately that Campfire Man was having a joke at our expense.“You two enjoying yourselves?” he yelled. “I think you might need a little something to help.” I quit writhing, plucked the item from the floor, and squinted at it in bewilderment. It was a condom, filled to the brim with red wine and then clumsily tied shut. A bit of liquid had leaked out, and it made a tiny crimson puddle on the floor.
Campfire Man continued to cackle loudly, but his laughter was bitter and devoid of real amusement. The poor guy was unhinged by jealousy. My pity was short-lived, however, as a second wine-filled condom sailed into the tent. Mark lifted his head from my vagina, looking annoyed. “Hey, cut it out!” he yelled, and his friend laughed even louder. “What, are you busy?” he replied.
I scooped the second condom from the floor, crawled off the pile of sleeping bags, and peered through the opening of the tent. Campfire Man stood only a few feet away, leering at me with derision. Taking careful aim, I lobbed the wine-filled condom directly into his face. “SPECTATOR!” I yelled.
The wine splattered down Campfire Man's chin and rolled onto his shirt. He stumbled backward, cursing furiously. Quickly, I retreated into the tent and zipped the door shut. Then I collapsed onto the pile of sleeping bags, laughing hysterically until I felt completely spent. Mark lay beside me, looking peevish. “I don't know why the hell my buddy is acting like that,” he complained. “The asshole is always starting something.” He placed one of his strong hands on my thighs, and looked into my eyes directly for the first time. “You want me to lick your pussy some more?” he offered. “I'd be glad to do it.”
I inched away from the pile of sleeping bags and shook my head. “Nah, I'm good,” I assured him. “That was some seriously first-rate cunnilingus.” Mark smiled. “Well, I was happy to provide it,” he assured me. “You sure you don't want any more?”
“It's okay,” I said emphatically. “Really, thanks a lot. I think I'll be going now.” Mark looked crestfallen. “I can walk you back to your camp,” he offered.
“Oh, I remember the way,” I said. “After all, there's no safer place in the world than the playa.”
I had gotten what I had searched for, a hot and dusty reward at the end of a difficult summer, and I was grateful to Mark for giving me pleasure without any demand for reciprocity. Usually, when sex was that good, it carried the burden of emotional involvement. My experience was completely devoid of that odious responsibility, and I felt liberated and revitalized. I had no desire to hang around in the afterglow, only to hear the inevitable tales of mortgages, shitty bosses, and evil ex-girlfriends. I gave Mark a perfunctory kiss and emerged from the tent.
The campfire was almost completely spent, but in its shadows I could make out the forms of Sensitive Guy and the dark-haired woman. They huddled next to each other in separate lawn chairs, talking intensely in low voices. Sensitive Guy was still working diligently to assure his would-be girlfriend that he would take all of her concerns into consideration. She appeared dubious. Campfire Man had vanished completely. Perhaps he had retired to his tent, or he maybe he had decided to take his chances on the roulette wheel of the oral sex tent, after all. Most likely, he didn't even have a girlfriend to worry about.
I wished them all luck, and began my trek across the sands to where my tent awaited me-my oasis amongst thousands of other temporary resting places that were spread densely across a minute portion of the Nevada desert. A slight, welcome breeze blew up the bottom of my dress and tickled my vagina. The Man would burn in two more days, and the next night the Temple, and then it would finally be Labor Day—time to pack everything and go home. Labor Day, 2001. After that, nothing would ever be the same.