The author of bondage and discipline-themed erotic novels is fighting to regain copyright in her works from her publisher, saying “These are the only things I’ll be able to leave to my grandchildren.”
“The Publisher’s Secret,” The New York Times
It was a nice day so I decided to take the kids out to see their grandmother at Shady Rest Acres Assisted Living. Grandma is getting close to life’s checkout counter and those coupons she’s been saving–thousands of good deeds, rosaries and novenas over the course of her 88 years on earth–have all expired. I want my children to see her before she slips into senility and can’t figure out the point-of-sale terminal, to extend my shopping metaphor to the breaking point.
Grandma hasn’t really been happy since grandad pre-deceased her a few years ago. The spark seemed to go out of her, as the man who’d been her companion for over six decades was suddenly gone after a brief illness. Grandma didn’t seem to know what to do with herself, and lost interest in life. She stopped overcooking the vegetables and adding salt to everything on her plate. We tried to get her interested in some of the other men at Shady Rest Acres, but she said no one could ever replace grandad and the way he submitted when she tied him up and beat him with her Oreck Hoky Carpet Sweeper 3000. “He was such a gentleman about it,” she’d say, fighting back the tears. “He never once complained, or at least I don’t think he did. I couldn’t hear him so well with the plastic bag over his head.”
I usher the kids down the hallway where they walk past the blank stares of residents who got tired of looking at the four walls of their rooms and can’t stand the excitement of the recreation center, where high-stakes bingo games have caused more than a few myocardial infarctions.
“What’s that smell?” asks Cindy, my ten-year-old daughter, holding her nose.
“Human urine,” I reply with clinical discretion. “Act like you don’t notice.”
We turn the corner and I peer into grandma’s room to make sure she’s awake and, if so, not drooling. She’s sitting up, her eyes half-closed, snoring as a golf tournament plays on her TV. Funny, I have the same reaction to the sport.
“Mom?” I ask quietly, but like everyone else watching television at Shady Rest Acres, she’s got the volume up to Lear Jet runway levels. When she doesn’t respond, I come around in front of her to show her I’m here, with the greatest gifts I ever gave her, Cindy and her 9-year-old brother Tommy.
“Why, look who’s here!” she exclaims, and I have to admit there’s a lump in my throat even though we’re paying an arm and a leg to keep her here instead of taking care of her ourselves.
“Grandma!” Tommy shouts, but Cindy beats him to the punch and gets the first hug and a wet, sloppy kiss. When they’re done, Tommy steps forward for the customary greeting. “Look at you!” grandma exclaims. “You’re growing so fast, I’m going to put a brick on your head!”
Tommy has learned to take grandma’s aging stock of Irish wisecracks in stride, and just smiles as she pinches his cheek.
“I brought you something,” Cindy says, and hands her a home-made greeting card that says “Happy Grandmother’s Day!”
“Is that a real thing?” grandma asks me.
“Yep–first Sunday after Labor Day.”
“President Carter,” I say, and leave it at that. I think she stopped keeping track during the Reagan years.
“Well, that’s awfully sweet of you honey,” grandma says and gives Cindy another hug.
“I brought you something too,” Tommy says.
“Whatever could it be?” grandma says with mock-anticipation.
“It’s a candy bar. My baseball team is selling them to go to Disney World.”
“How much do you want for it?” grandma asks.
“It’s free–I bought one for you with my allowance.
“That’s very nice of you–you know I love my chocolate!” Mom always had a sweet tooth.
“You’ll save that until after you’ve eaten your dinner, right?” I ask her. Since the parent-child roles are reversed in old age, I have to force her to eat her meat and vegetables before she digs into her brownie when I come to visit.
“Sure I will,” she says with a wink at the kids. “Since we’re exchanging gifts, I have a little something for you two.”
“Lemme see!” Tommy says.
“Here you go!” grandma says, and hands each of them a steamy bondage and discipline novel with images of torture and submission on the cover.
“This one’s for you, Cindy.”
“I Was a Love-Slave to a Grease-Trap Cleaner?”
“And here’s yours, Tommy.”
“Whipped by Wenda?”
“I hope you like them.”
“What are they about?”
“Well, they’re about people who like to be spanked.”
The kids exchange looks as if grandma’s lost all of the marbles in her bag, instead of just a few cats’ eyes.
“Why would anybody . . . like to be spanked?” Tommy asks.
“Well, to each his . . . or her own,” grandma says.
“I don’t like to be spanked,” Cindy says.
“Then you can be the spanker, and not the spankee!” grandma exclaims.
Cindy raises one eyebrow, and looks her brother up and down.
“Don’t even think about it!” he snaps.
“Thanks, mom,” I say, trying to defuse an incipient sibling scuffle before it starts. “But . . .”
“Do you really think this sort of . . . reading material is appropriate for the kids?”
“What’s wrong with it?”
“Well, uh, we try not to use corporal punishment on the kids, no matter how angry we get.”
“It worked out okay on you.”
“But I didn’t like it. It’s sick to do it for pleasure.”
Her eyes mist over at my hard-line attitude. “Honey, please . . . this is all I have to leave to my grandchildren.”
When I hear these words, the focus of my concern shifts to her financial well-being. “What happened to all that money you and dad saved up?”
“I spent it on self-publishing.”