Indecent Angel (1962)

Field and Stream?  American Hunter?  Meth Enthusiast Monthly?   

The above actually illustrates a crucial scene from “Indecent Angel,” a tale for men appearing in the January 1962 issue of mr. (an early and ultimately unsuccessful rival of Playboy billed as a magazine “for men of distinction”). Also included in this issue:  a racy centerfold, a story about a guy who can’t quit staring at a buxom blond on his bus route nor suppress the ensuing erections, an expose on our “crazy liquor laws,” and a rather oddball advice column titled “How to Enjoy a Hotel” (rule #1: if you want “company” for the evening, bring your own). 

But “Indecent Angel” is the real eye-stopper, the image that gets the magazine off the rack and discretely into a grocery bag.  What could possibly motivate this scene of Dionysian abandon wherein “two happier people never botched a butchering job in a more satisfying way than Zack and Marty?” 

Playboy established its reputation, not just with nudie pics, but also through “quality” fiction and timely journalism.  mr., on the other hand, seems to have had access to slightly less accomplished talent—but that’s a good thing, because “Indecent Angel” provides insight into certain corridors of the male mind circa 1962 that better fiction might obscure with its style, technique, and good taste.

“It’s funny how hair black at the roots and blond on the ends can begin to look attractive to a man after he’s been snowed in with it for several days,” observes Zack in introducing his story.  The black roots belong to Marty, who has been unable to access a new bottle of peroxide because she and Zack find themselves trapped by a raging snowstorm in a remote mountain cabin.   Zack showed up at the cabin three months earlier to visit Marty and her husband Mel—his best friend since high school.  But with the first big snowfall of winter, Mel died in a freak avalanche.  Three weeks later, the harsh weather continues to prevent Zack and Marty from hiking down the mountain and back to civilization.  Mel, we presume, is still buried under the snow and will be till April. This confronts Zack with a twofold dilemma: 1). escalating sexual tension; and 2). a declining meat supply.

But Zack is a gentleman, and Mel was his best friend.  If the human race is to survive into spring, it looks like it’s up to Marty to get things going.  As Zack observes, “Marty was a practical woman with realistic desires, and I guess she figured Mel was just about as dead after three weeks as he’d ever be.  Besides, she was bored, lonely, and perhaps a little scared, and I was there.  As day slowly followed endless day, I could see an awareness of me as a man gradually creep into her eyes, and even into the body-conscious way she moved about the two-roomed cabin.” 

Zack resists, however, not just out of some sense of loyalty to his old friend Mel, but also because he is engaged to a city girl named Joan, even though he suspects she is “stampeding him to the altar.”  The whole trip out to Mel and Marty’s avalanche emporium was meant to give him time to sort out his feelings about this impending marriage.  So, with “body-conscious” Marty continuing to undulate around the fireplace every night taunting him with her sexy black roots, Zack must displace his libidinal energy into reading, wood-chopping, and drinking lots of coffee from a tin cup. 

One day Zack and Marty make snow angels.  Mel never would, laments Marty, so it means a lot when Zack is willing to lay down in the snow with her and give the story a title.  You see, she’s “indecent” because she confronts Zack with constant sexual temptation, but an “angel” because…well, because here she makes an “angel” in the snow.  It gives the story a poetic touch, making the tale more than merely a lustful chronicle of two horn-dogs with cabin fever.   

One night Marty brings up the sexual tension between them most directly.  “Just like that—right out of the blue!” exclaims Zack to himself. “Damn women anyhow, they don’t deserve a man’s protection or consideration—not even when they’re the widow of your best friend.  They ought to get exactly what they ask for—no quarter given.  If I was half the man she seemed to think I was, I’d get on with it!”  But Zack resists the temptation to “get on with it,” saying he still can’t bring himself to “make a pass” at his best friend’s wife—even if Mel is now permanently one with the permafrost.   Either out of her need for “protection,” “consideration,” or “getting on with it,” Marty starts crying.  But Zack refuses comforting her because he knows where it will lead.  Instead he resolves to hike back to town as soon as the weather clears up; or failing that, to find some more meat.

“I had to find meat!” he says of the following morning, seeing that the weather isn’t any better.  And so he sets off with a rifle to look for food.

There follows a long description of the erotics of deer hunting.  Zack is, as he puts it, a good “city hunter,” meaning he’s a crack-shot with a rifle but knows little to nothing about actually tracking, bagging, and dressing game.  Happily he stumbles upon a small herd eating grass that is somehow still available through all the snow they can’t walk through to get back to town.  Three shots and a young buck is down.  Whirling around, he clips a bonus doe for back-up sex-cabin meat.  “By the time I had lugged the buck’s carcass up a tree and draped it with both hearts and livers inside, over a limb, my clothes looked like I was made up to play Bloody Mary.  But I had never felt so completely alive, so every inch a man before in my entire life.”
Shooting--dragging--blood--livers--draping--exuberant manliness: I think we all know where this is leading.  Marty runs out of the cabin laughing and dancing to hug him to the point where “she was almost as bloody as I was.”  And then they giddily butcher the deer together, knowing all that it portends.  As captured in the extraordinary illustration above, what they lack in field-dressing technique they more than make up for in enthusiasm during this orgy of meat-lust. 

Sure enough, that night “two big man-sized steaks” are sizzling in the skillet, and Zack looks at Marty with new eyes.  “She might be little, and sometimes pretty womanish,” he considers, “but this afternoon looking at me across a bloody hunting knife and making a cold nasty job seem like fun, she’d been the answer to just about everything any man could want in a woman.”  

Later by the fire, Marty suggests that with the additional meat and a few other provisions still in the pantry, they might just be able to make it all the way to spring. Then she mentions
having “six cans of peaches,” which finally drives Zack over the edge—the “single straw that broke the camel’s back.”  The idea of spending the entire winter screwing while gorging on venison and peaches is more than any man can be expected to resist. Sorry Mel.

"She knew it, too, for she fished around on her plate and finally came up with a small round bone shaped like a ring.  Picking up she proceeded to chew away all the excess meat in a very unladylike manner.  Then, her eyes soft and just a little scared, she deliberately held it out to me, at the same time extending her left hand--ring finger foremost.
"Go ahead," her lips barely moved. "Say--say as many of the right words as you can remember--if it'll make you feel any better."

And that seals it--a common-law cabin marriage consecrated in deer blood and peach juice.  Quite romantic, actually.  It's surprising this tale didn't end up in True Love Stories instead. 

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