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Georgia (state, United States)

Georgia? Napoleona choked on the state’s soft syllables like she was swallowing a mouthful of Wonderbread. 

"We’re famous honey," J.V. clapped her on the back, "We finally made it to the big time."

"Well, now, I wouldn’t say famous, not famous really, but your father and I did make some news recently - a clip from one of our shows was played all over the T.V!" Shara exclaimed in bright bewilderment.

"Aw, you shoulda seen those buttoned-up conservatives go apoplectic! Man, I’d love to burst a couple buttons on Ed Schultz’ ego."

"Oh, honey, we don’t have to worry about him anymore! We’re going to be southerners!"

"Yeehaw!" J.V. slapped his knee and danced Shara down the steps. Napoleona sat down & hugged her knees. She wished for a piece of gum. 

"When do we leave?"

J.V. dipped Shara dramatically on the lawn and her bleach blonde hair tickled the winter-worn grass, “Oh please stop, J.V., we’ve got to talk about this!” Shara cried charmingly. In response, J.V. froze and allowed his wife to dangle upside down while she explained to Napoleona that she would finish out the school year and then, the very next day, they would pack into the minivan and follow the Mississippi river straight down the middle of the country until they reached Little Rock where they would make a hard left and cross straight across Dixie to the state of Georgia. 

When J.V. finally righted Shara her face was flushed and pink. She wound her arms around his neck, stood on her tip-toes, and planted a lip-level kiss on his jawline while Napoleona slipped inside. 

Rather than climbing the stairs to her bedroom, Napoleona descended into the basement of the grey house on Scarborough Road. Not typically sentimental, she suddenly felt a surge of nostalgia as she ran her hands along the faux vintage wallpaper inexplicably lining the faux wood-paneled walls. Downstairs was the remanants of Shara’s whole-hearted attempt at a playroom, a project she started back when there was supposed to be a little brother coming along. He never arrived and Napoleona never played, so it stayed a musty homage to a 4-person family. 

Napoleona made for the only space in the basement that she had claimed: the back bookshelf. It housed a well-thumbed collection of Encyclopedia Brittanicas. They were dignified Micropedia Ready Reference editions that J.V. had bought after peppering the young salesman at the door with so many questions that Shara insisted he make a purchase while she served the poor man lemonade. Napoleona loved the gravitas of the leather-bound volumes and had once even made her painstaking way through every entry in A-ak - Bayes

Now she picked Freon - Holderlin from the shelf and cradled it in her lap as she flipped through the thin pages until she found it: Georgia (state, United States).

Georgia, constituent state of the United States of America. The largest of the U.S. states east of the Mississippi River and by many years the youngest of the 13 former English colonies, Georgia was founded in 1732, at which time its boundaries were even larger—including much of the present-day states of Alabama and Mississippi. Its landscape presents numerous contrasts, with more soil types than any other state as it sweeps from the Appalachian Mountains in the north (on the borders of Tennessee and North Carolina) to the marshes of the Atlantic coast on the southeast and the Okefenokee Swamp (which it shares with Florida) on the south. The Savannah and Chattahoochee rivers form much of Georgia’s eastern and western boundaries with South Carolina and Alabama, respectively. The capital is Atlanta.

Impressed, Napoleona read on until late into the night. By the time she finished, she had accumulated what she felt was a rather exhaustive knowledge of the territory. Still, as she navigated back up the stairs through the familiar space of the old, dark house, she sensed that she was missing some deeper knowledge of the place. It remained, she realized, unfamiliar.

Not one to be daunted, Napoleona mused over how she might develop a kinship with her new home as she brushed her teeth. She had been especially taken with the state’s central role in the Civil War and sensed that Sherman’s march across Atlanta was somehow at the crux of an undercurrent of culture that shaped it even in present day. As she wound a thread of floss around her left molar, it occurred to her, simply, obviously, that there was one solution to piecing this mystery place together - a book, a fictional book yes, but one so important that even the austerely factual Encyclopedia Brittanica couldn’t ignore it: Gone with the Wind.

Napoleona resolved to pick it up from her local library the very next day.


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The Safe Word is ‘Periwinkle’

J: Welcome back to The Safe Word is ‘Periwinkle’ - where everything is game as long it’s safe, sane and consensual. I’m your host J.V. and here with me, my lovely assistant, my longtime girlfriend, and my smoking hot wife, Shara.

S: Oh my, where are the other two?

J: I only have eyes for you, baby. I only have eyes for you.

{{bell rings}}

J: Oh Ho! She’s already blushing, ladies and gentlemen, that’s one ring of the bell and we’re only minutes into today’s show. Try not to look so disappointed honey, just because I only have eyes for you doesn’t mean we can’t invite over some playmates now and then. 

S: Well… I.. (Shara breathes into the microphone)

J: Time to bust another myth, Twinklers: The myth of the husband led astray by his insatiable desire. Now, at Periwinkle we know we’re not all alike, we can’t all fit our square pegs into rounded holes nor can we fit our squared holes over rounded pegs, so before you start calling and telling me otherwise, let’s just recognize that I’m not speaking for everyone, but I am speaking for many.

S: Oh here we go…

J: Shara?

S: Yes, boss?

J: Wouldn’t you agree -

S: Of course I agree!

J: I know you agree, but please, let me continue for the sake of the listening audience.

S: Oh, right of course. In that case, I might agree, but I with hold my agreement until you’ve managed to complete your thought in its entirety.

J: Thank you. Shara?

S: Yes, boss?

J: Wouldn’t you agree that many women like yourself suffer from a lack of variety? 

S: It’s the spice of life!

J: Exactly. And without it, or with the same seasoning over and over day after day wouldn’t you lose the taste for it? The same man, the same moves, the same sure thing gradually becoming more uncertain as you familiarize yourself with the ceiling, make an unbidden recollection to buy eggs at the market, conjure up an image of a co-worker…

S: Oh, dear.

J: YES: Oh dear. Yes! And it’s only a matter of time before you roll to your side and feign sleep just to avoid his hand’s habitual journey up your thigh…

S: Now who are we talking to J.V.?

J: We’re talking to the people, honey. After that it’s just a matter of time before he loses count of the nights given over to headaches or the children and starts to look around, to see..

S: Well, he should, shouldn’t he?

J: Of course, baby, unless enforced chastity was part of the deal, but that’s not what I’m saying.

S: Well then what are you saying?

J: I’m saying husbands should let their wives have a few girlfriends -

S: And boyfriends?

J: Boyfriends too! The bedroom can be a very social place. 

S: But you know that sort of thing is not for everyone.

J: Of course it’s not for everyone, did you miss my speech about holes and pegs?

S: Well no, now, of course not, but it was a little while back now into this whole conversation.

J: I’m just saying we should all strive to keep each other entertained. And, drawing from my own, personal, oblong experience, women are far more prone to sexual boredom than men. 

S:  Hmm, now J.V., I just don’t know about that, but I do agree there’s no reason to do the same old thing night after night.

J: Exactly! Which brings us to our first caller - 

"Hey J.V., hey Shara - hey, so I’m calling with kind of a strange one. My girlfriend and I have a great sex life. It’s just great. She’s adventurous and giving and we’re both very satisfied… except for one thing. You see, she tends to queef… post-coitus and during the act itself. I’m not sure if my dick is too small or if I’m moving her around too much or what. All I know is it kind of ruins the mood - I mean, not totally, it’s not like we both can’t get off or anything, but the only response seems to be to laugh it off… but we’re not very laugh-y people during sex, I mean.. we take it seriously! It’s passionate. I just want to know if there’s anything I can do… a position I should stick to…"

S: Wow, J.V., I don’t know.. It sounds like he’s doing it right.

J: I thought of you, Shara, I did! The Queefing Queen! Oh, there we go -

{{bell rings}}

J: Shara’s blushing again.

S: Oh, J.V., but seriously!

J: Yes- seriously: a little queefing is the sign of an active session. And I mean, man, you don’t have to laugh if it ruins the mood - you can have it anyway you like.

S: In fact, I think queefing is more likely to happen when the sex is fast-paced and deep… just how I happen to like it!

{{bell rings}}

J: Right you are, Shara. See folks, this is what I mean about variety…

S: Oh please let’s not go back to those square pegs.

J: Don’t like the peg analogy? OK, well how about this one: Sex is like ice cream. 

S: Oh that sounds wonderful.

J: You can have it one way - straight up, vanilla. Or you can have it any way, with any kind of toppings you like, whichever way you like them: hot fudge, rainbow sprinkles, cookie dough, brownie bites, coconut shaves, raspberry drizzle, chocolate chips, goji berries, graham cracker crumble, dipped pretzels, melted caramel, sliced mango, gummy bears, black jimmies, whipped cream, crushed tagalongs, butterscotch chips, mini marshmallows, m&ms, mmm…. I don’t know, what do you like, Shara?

S: Oh, I like just about everything.

J: And a cherry on top, ladies and gentlemen! And that’s what I mean about sex - you can have it vanilla, or you can have the entire sundae bar at your convenience every day, any day, whatever you like, how you like. It’s up to you to make it happen.

S: Now that’s a nice analogy, J.V.

J: It sure is, my queefing Queen.

{{bell rings}}

J: And with that last blush, Twinklers, we have to call it a night. Stay safe. Stay sane. And keep it consensual. Tune in tomorrow at 11:30pm for the next installment of The Safe Word is ‘Periwinkle.’ 

Interlude

As Napoleona marched up the steps of Oak Grove Intermediate school, she noticed 3 of the popular girls squinting at her from the doorway in a way that made her heart squirm. It wasn’t that Napoleona wasn’t used to being squinted at - she was - but usually only in passing. Never had she commanded the attention of her casually, yet impeccably coiffed contemporaries with such longevity.

After entering the school with a painstaking display of nonchalance, Napoleona rushed to the girl’s room and twisted in the mirror. Nothing was amiss - no stain on her skirt or rumple in her hair, her recurring nightmare about growing out of her clothes by the time she reached the bus stop had not proven itself a reality - she looked as she looked every day, like an implausibly tiny warrior.

Later, during Homeroom, Napoleona’s teacher pulled her aside. “Napoleona,” she began in a voice that left the question of whether Napoleona was in trouble or not unanswered, “Is everything all right?”

Napoleona could feel the woman searching her eyes. She had never connected with this particular teacher. In fact, Napoleona still spent most of her classes orbiting the uneven bars or sinking into the foam of a mat, arms raised rigid like a lightening rod, as she landed the routine. It had, however, been months since her injury and the questions from caring adults and queries from curious children finally died down, leaving Napoloeona to her fantasies. So, Napoleona returned her teacher’s gaze critically: what else could be wrong?

"No.. I don’t think so.." Napoleona resisted the urge to put her braid in her mouth.

"Have your parents had a chance to talk with you about …anything?" The woman looked decidedly uncomfortable.

It was true that J.V. and Shara were hiding something - this much Napoleona knew. Neither had much of a knack for subtlety and, over the last week or so, the house clamored with hushed, excited conversations that somehow managed to dry up just as Napoleona came within earshot. She wasn’t particularly perturbed by this - her parents always seemed twinned and locked in to their own private Eden. Pleased and proud and never neglectful of their daughter, sure, but bonded by a partnership even parenthood couldn’t fracture.

"No." She replied firmly, "What would they have to tell me that they haven’t already?"

Destabilized a moment by the little girl’s authority, the teacher blundered bewilderedly, “You know, of course, about their radio show?”

"Yes," Napoloeona sighed - J.V. had warned her that she might one day cross paths with someone like this, someone intent on living in the dark ages.

"Your mother and I," he bellowed, "we’re not going to kowtow to a bunch of puritanical bovine too scared to step out in the light and actually enjoy themselves for once in their lives!"

"We talk about sex and love, honey," Shara clarified,"on the radio. We talk about how we can make one another feel good and experience all the gifts the Good Lord gave us."

"Good Lord!" J.V. hooted.

"Well church is good for her! She’ll realize it’s all hooey when she’s good and ready," Shara retorted. "Honey, the radio show. It’s for grown ups really. When you’re ready we can start to talk about this stuff - I’m so happy too-" Shara positively glowed at the prospect, "but right now, it’s better for you to focus on being the best you! And if anyone tries to tell you anything about our show, well you just tell them that we’re here to help other people find happiness, just like anyone else."

Napoleona accepted this explanation peaceably and informed her parents that she had stopped believing in God a long time ago, Santa Claus too, for that matter - though they both seemed like very nice ideas.

"Of course I know about my parent’s radio show Mrs. Bethelmeyer," Napoleona affirmed, "It’s about sex and love and helping people experience more from their lives. Do you have a problem with that?"

"No well, I.." Mrs. Bethelmeyer was clearly taken aback, "I just didn’t know if you listened or if you heard…"

"Of course I don’t listen, Mrs. Bethelmeyer," Napoleona interrupted dismissively, "It’s adult content and I am a child. Besides, it doesn’t really interest me."

"Well of course," Mrs. Bethelmeyer looked visibly relieved, "but perhaps you should ask your parents — they —- there might be something they want to tell you."

Napoleona studied Mrs. Bethelmeyer hard, but couldn’t quite determine the woman’s meaning. As she followed her back into the classroom, one of the boys squawked, “Hey Napoleona, what’s your favorite kind of ice cream?”

"That’s enough, Thomas," Mrs. Bethelmeyer snapped at the laconically impish boy in the back and smothered a classroom full of titters with an grim glare.  Again, Napoleona felt the sting of attention as she resumed her seat, but her mind quickly became occupied with an intricate and perhaps impossible balance beam routine.

It was only when she returned home to find J.V. and Shara waiting for her arm in arm at the threshold of their tiny grey house on Scarborough Road that it occurred to Napoleona that things were about to change again.