A bad habit, viewing so early in the morning. Logging off, forgetting to renew her subscription, Daphne quickly gathered her things and left the apartment. Driving over the bridge, she gripped the steering wheel to prevent her little energy-saving car from veering into the wrong lane and a head-on collision. Conceivably, a gust of hurricane-force could tumble and hoist the vehicle over the parapet and into rocky waters below. In her college office, the window rattled as the wind moaned and whistled. Simmering still after a sudden argument with a colleague in the corridor, Daphne worked on her charts and diagrams with arrows pointing to the indisputable conclusions she wanted her students to reach.

Andrew had accused her of relying upon “simplistic categories, which only a teacher of literature would make.” Of course, he mocked her theories because his own hadn’t evolved since the Jurassic Age. He dismissed background as mere sociology, as if the slave trade hadn’t supported Jane Austen and the slaughter of whales hadn’t created Herman Melville! Speedily word-processing on her office computer, Daphne summarized ideas in columns: authors of the last century depicted women this way and that way because they wrote in the 21st century.

Pictures of her son jumping around her thoughts, Daphne reminded herself to pay the fee as soon as possible. Although teaching offered distraction, lately it was failing to do that, and often she ended class early to give herself breathing space. Her students enjoyed discussions about sex and portrayals of women by writers unaware of misogynistic, racist, homophobic, or capitalist subtexts implicit in their metaphors. Andrew was a lumbering brontosaurus, clumsily pulling his redundant weight on land, indifferent to winds of change as he munched vegetable matter while archaeopteryx flapped over his tiny head, doomed to extinction.

Daphne finished charting the major changes in Western culture since the Second World War. “Mass media is contemporary history,” she wrote in a sidebar. For her students born in the cyber generation, all news and events were virtual and equally weighted. If her own generation had been journalistically labelled baby boomers, she defined her students as cyber babies. She disliked the term millennials because it gave young people too much significance and had about it an eschatological whiff like the scent of pig manure from a distant farm carried through an open window by a strong wind.

Wind splattered her ill-fitting window with dust and dead leaves. A strong draft blew into the cubicle the administration was pleased to call an office. Daphne wondered if unrelenting wind could drive a sane person mad like an obsessed literary character. Her concentration scattered, she typed an entire entry about the 90’s on the wrong row of keys, rendering her message gobbledygook.

After printing out 40 copies of neatly organized exercises, Daphne stepped out of her office and bumped into one of the new teachers, a young man who wore black T-shirts to display his biceps. Much closer in age to her cyber babies than she, no more than a few years younger than her own son Noah, his face as smooth as an avatar, Emile had incorporated blogging and YouTube in his introductory literature course.

“Hey, good morning, Daphne. Strong wind today. A hurricane off the eastern seacoast hammering Myrtle Beach this very minute.”

“Perhaps it will die down by the afternoon. I have to rush to class, I’m late.”

She always found an excuse not to talk long with Emile because his youth reminded her too much of her own aging and also her son, whom she hadn’t seen off a computer screen in five years. She had tried to steer him in the right direction: all those extracurricular classes in music and art, the sports, the discussions over supper about law or medicine, the extra French lessons so he’d be perfectly bilingual. The cost added up, but was worth the financial sacrifice. Every day, she had hugged him at the door before he left the house, but when he entered high school, Noah began to resist her displays of affection. He screwed a padlock on his bedroom door. And all the fights over money. A child had little understanding of making ends meet, a teenager even less.

She earned enough to pay the bills, buy food, his name-brand jeans, and subsidize all the necessary activities, with very little left over to satisfy his ever-increasing demands for a bigger allowance. She tried to interest him in ideas and books, but he preferred expensive running shoes and even an impossible car at the age of 16. Getting a part-time job, which interfered with his homework and lowered his marks, failed to satisfy his appetite for cash. One Christmas, she gave him five new $20 bills. “Is that all?” had been his first response, before a perfunctory thank-you. She offered to buy him a used car, a compact model.

“I’d rather take a bus.”

‘It’s a perfectly good car. It’s all I can afford right now.”

“It’s for nerds; you just don’t get it.”

No, she supposed she didn’t, but when he opened the refrigerator and drank the orange juice directly out of the carton, Daphne couldn’t help but admire his neck and Adam’s apple, the veins pulsing as he swallowed. Her beautiful boy. He caught her staring and burped. Where had she gone wrong that his values had taken a detour around hers? She would do anything to keep him happy as he prowled the house like an angry tiger, snarling to get out. She gave him as much money as she could afford and didn’t object when he brought his girlfriends home and, despite her resentment, she cooked breakfast for them in the morning. After they left the house, she lay face down on his bed and clutched the sheet. She fondled his dirty laundry, holding it close to her face to inhale the scent of sex before washing, and then began to cry. They were not poor, but his disappointment made her feel impoverished.

Noah exploited his muscular body for quick and easy profit. Telling her colleagues and friends that her son worked in the technical end of the Quebec movie industry, Daphne failed to divulge that he produced and participated in a quality pornographic website. Researching pornography for an academic paper, she came upon his unmistakable image, the star of the show in all his magnitude. The first shock of watching her son fuck on the World Wide Web pierced like a nail hammered right through the brain. She had remained transfixed in front of the monitor and couldn’t press the exit key until every movement of his glorious cock ended and the streaming video stopped. Whether any of her colleagues and friends or students ever saw randy Noah in the buff, she didn’t care to know. Some among them must have. Perhaps Emile himself was a secret aficionado of porn streaming on his computer. Being a teacher guaranteed neither unsullied morality nor exemption from hypocrisy.

Although pornography didn’t yet feature in her columns of culture, smut and repressed desires surely had influenced the sexuality and psychology of her students. Didn’t they spend countless hours surfing the Net? She had even come across students performing fellatio in library study carrels and, after watching unobserved for a while, she left them to their sucking pleasures rather than make a scene about inappropriate conduct among the Classics. Daphne scrawled a few key words on the whiteboard. She promised herself to avoid Emile as much as possible, just as Noah had succeeded in avoiding his own mother. At least his father had died before he could see what became of his only child.

The class went well, the students attentive. She ignored several yawns and two or three sleeping heads in the back row. Unable to suppress unsavoury thoughts, she dismissed the class. Once inside her office again, she retrieved the laptop from her satchel after locking the door and logged on to the website which featured her son in several videos. She had fallen into the habit of holding her breath before his first appearance.

Ah, there he was in vivid motion: her darling, beautiful Noah with a splendidly developed body, naked as the day he had told her not to bathe him anymore. He was old enough to do it himself and demanded that she leave the washroom. She had waited outside the door, digging the fingernails of one hand so hard into an upper arm that they split the skin. Noah talked to himself and splashed in the tub, the thrill of soaping his perfect arms and legs, his smooth back no longer hers. No, his body was equal to Emile’s, perhaps more muscular: oh, she had always adored his black curly hair, admired the glistening hard lines of his arms, legs and torso, and glowed with pride as she watched him eat dinner, raise a fork to his fine and lovely lips, or lift weights in the basement.

“Let’s not go through this again,” he had complained when she protested his moving out, as if expressing her love and pointing out his bad choices had somehow put her in the wrong. When she tried to embrace him, hoping he’d see reason, Noah had shaken her off, a frightening glare in his eyes. Watching her beloved son get into his new car, which she had borrowed money from the bank to pay for, she had stood in the doorway, unable to scream out her despair, shivering in the chilly breeze long after her son disappeared.

Perhaps this was the pornographic century, except every century had produced porn since the beginning of time; her son could well have been depicted humping a goddess. She could look at nymphs and satyrs disporting themselves in the static beauty of an ancient vase or mural without so much as flinching, not even a slight coloring of her cheeks. There was nothing static about Noah and his buxomy nymph grunting on the screen, although Daphne had turned down the volume. The nymph climbed on top of her son whose manhood, his mother preferred to call it, achingly prominent, alluring, disappeared in his partner’s body. Noah redoubled his efforts with an unsmiling, sweaty, stunning face. His muscles shone in the artificial light. She had given birth to beauty.

Touching her cheeks, Daphne felt burning on her fingertips, her heart picking up speed as Noah’s electronic body bucked vigorously for several minutes. When the camera zoomed in on the demi-goddess shaking her head and moaning in ecstasy, keeping rhythm with Noah’s near-frantic heaving, Daphne looked up. She heard the wind, which hadn’t died down. A calendar depicting the ruins of Athens caught her attention, and she reminded herself to renew her $9.95 monthly subscription fee to the website, knowing that some of it would go into her son’s pocket. At last, he wouldn’t want for money.

Usually, she viewed the website at night in the privacy of her own home, but lately the desire for her son’s company had intensified. Every day Daphne wanted to spend more and more time with Noah because she didn’t know when she would ever see him again in the flesh, nor would she ever do his laundry again.

“Noah, Noah, my beloved son, come…come…home,” her voice gaining urgency.

The burning increased. Just as Daphne reached out to caress her son’s body, the camera jumped to focus on Noah’s contorted face as both he and his mother cried out together.