Monday, July 21, 2014

The Companion excerpt by Lloyd A. Meeker

In The Companion by Lloyd A Meeker, Shepherd Bucknam hasn’t had a lover in more than a decade and doesn’t need one. As a Daka, he coaches men in the sacred art and mystery of sexual ecstasy all the time, and he loves his work. It’s his calling. In fact, he’s perfectly content—except for the terrors of his recurring nightmare and the ominous blood-red birthmarks on his neck. He’s convinced that together they foretell his early and violent death. 

When Shepherd’s young protégé is murdered, LAPD Detective Marco Fidanza gets the case. The two men are worlds apart: Marco has fought hard for everything he’s accomplished, in sharp contrast to the apparent ease of Shepherd’s inherited wealth—but their mutual attraction is too hot for either of them to ignore.

Shepherd swears he’ll help find his protégé’s killer, but Marco warns him to stay out of it. When an influential politician is implicated, the police investigation grinds to a halt. Shepherd hires his own investigator. Marco calls it dangerous meddling. As their volatile relationship deepens, Shepherd discovers his nightmares might not relate to the future, but to the deadly legacy of a past life—a life he may have to revisit before he can fully live and love in this one.
The Companion
Dreamspinner Press (July 23, 2014)
ISBN:  978-1-62798-850-6
Chapter ONE
“I CAN’T wait,” Bill Smith wailed, his head thrashing from side to side on the bed. “I’m going to explode! I’ll die—I can’t!”
I wasn’t worried about the noise. I’d had my studio soundproofed as soon as I bought it. Bill could have screamed, and nobody would have heard much at all. The thick fragrance of our sweat, our breath, and the sage we’d burned at the beginning bore us up, up, into prayer.
He brought his hand to his penis to stroke it, but I pushed it away. “No. Don’t make it happen. You don’t have to. Just let it happen. Keep your eyes open. Listen to me. Let your body break all the way open, it’s good.” After weeks of practice, he was ready, so ready.
“See yourself opening to the sun, like a lotus,” I coaxed, undulating inside him. “Not to me, or me inside you, but to the whole universe. Give yourself to sun-fire, petal by petal. Keep your eyes open, breathe from your belly, let the mystery take you.”
He bucked, his eyes wide and fierce. He clamped his legs around my waist and dug his fingers into the sheets. He stopped breathing.
“Breathe out, now, all the way. Give all your beauty away. Now!” I pushed in all the way, and his breath burst out of him in a ragged prayer to “Oh, God!” as he came. His body arched and shuddered, beautiful and holy in release. Magnificent. I loved this work.
For a while, neither of us moved, just sweating, still joined. The only sound was our breathing as it slowed. After a few minutes, I leaned forward to kiss his throat softly as I reached for a small alabaster jar beside the bed.
“Thank you,” he said shakily, as I wiped him clean and slowly anointed his heart and belly chakras with sandalwood oil from the jar. “Fifty-some years since puberty, and I’ve never come without someone or something touching my dick before.”
“And?” I asked with a smile. I knew the answer already.
His belly convulsed as I slid out. “Amazing.”
BILL’S WEATHERED face still glowed as he tucked in his shirt, smoothed down the fabric. His hand stopped just below his solar plexus. “I can still feel that,” he said, his voice soft with wonder. “My breathing goes all the way down, wide open. Powerful.”
“Isn’t it wonderful?” I said, toweling my hair dry. “Breathing,” I repeated from our very first session, “is our first and most primal sex— welcome in, as deep as we can; pour out, twice as long as in. Twice as much time giving as taking. Without breath, we have nothing, are nothing.”
I came up behind my client to give him an affectionate peck below his ear. I rubbed my clean-shaven cheek along his neck, wondering how long he’d stay this pliant, this gentle. “You did great today, Bill.”
I knew what Bill Smith’s real name was. I took on clients only by referral and then only after a thorough background check, but I honored professional convention. He was a relatively new client and, so far, preferred the pretense of anonymity. If that made him feel safer with me early on, no problem—his comfort made it easier to do the work. We could go deeper into the mystery.
He caught my eye in the mirror and held it, as only a tough, silver-haired airline executive could. Very used to being in charge. “You didn’t answer the question I asked in the shower,” he said. “But I’d like an answer. Do you ever regret being so beautiful?”
“Not that I’m aware of.” I hesitated, cautious about where this might lead. “Why?”
He shrugged, his smile disappointed. “I would have preferred you to say yes. It’s selfish of me, but the world would seem a little more just if once in a while you felt there was a downside to your looks. Even here in Los Angeles, your physical perfection is... unnerving. When we’re together, I’d rather not be the only one in the room who felt a little awkward about that, at least once in a while.”
Involuntarily, my hand rose to cover the three blood-red spots of the birthmark that lay along my neck. “I’m not perfect.”
His laugh carried a hard edge. “You,” he said with quiet accusation, “are more physically perfect than any human being has a right to be.” His gaze flicked to where my fingers lay. “And those things serve only as punctuation, like an eighteenth century beauty mark.”
I laughed too, just to deflect him. “Okay, then. But that’s not really what my coaching is about. Would you be less interested in working with me if I were less attractive physically?”
He pulled the knot of his tie into place, looking thoughtful. “It might have mattered to begin with. Not now, certainly.”
“That’s because you’re beginning to experience your own beauty, inside.” I waggled a finger at Mr. Smith’s reflection. “But I’m hearing comparison and competition creeping back into your language already, and you’re not even out the door.”
“Competition makes the world go around,” he said, showing teeth.
“Not with me, not here in my space.” I hugged his trim, mature body from behind, catching a rich whiff of sandalwood, and whispered into his ear, “You are unique. That’s what makes you a pleasure to be with, for whoever you’re with.”
“Huh. I’ll bet you say that to all your customers.”
“Clients,” I corrected. It was almost the same thing, but not quite. Certainly not to me. I gave him another smooch on his neck, on comfortable territory again. “Of course I do. Because it’s true. My work is to help a man discover how true that actually is.”
“By having the most spectacular sex imaginable.”
“Exactly!” I squeezed and pulled away. “Can you think of a better way to discover your sacred inner beauty?”
Bill shook his head, finally surrendering a real smile. “Trust me, I’m not looking for a better way.”
I winked into the mirror at him. “Me neither.”
After he left, I massaged my chakras using lavender oil as I always did to separate from a client. I did some stretching, showered again, and dressed slowly.
His question about beauty had touched a nerve. From childhood, I’d been keenly aware that people thought me beautiful. I was. It had been one of Mother’s favorite topics of conversation with her martini friends. But in spite of Bill’s curt dismissal, I was also marked by ugliness.
I stared into the mirror at the rough red spots that lay on my neck like blood spatter. As they had since puberty, when I’d first started having the nightmares, they whispered to me of grisly, violent death. Mine.
Any number of times I’d decided to have them removed, but I’d never been able to go through with it. Always—once as late as actually settling onto the table with the plastic surgeon standing next to me—I decided it would be wrong to cut them out. They were a true part of me, somehow, even though I hated that they were. I didn’t want to be beaten to death like the nightmare promised.
My throat tightened and began to ache. I’d looked at them too long. Sweat beaded on my forehead. I shut my eyes and breathed into the rising swell of nausea. I’m safe right now. I began a silent affirmation. This is my studio. I choose my clients. I’m safe here.
I wouldn’t let that prophecy of violence and death become reality, even though it had marked me from birth. I had the resources to make sure it didn’t. I took all the precautions.
I wiped my face with the damp towel and shrugged into a fresh shirt. I needed to schedule another appointment with Reggie, my therapist, to work on that again. But right then, I was due for lunch with Stef at Chez Henri. My reservation was for two o’clock, and they wouldn’t hold a table even for a regular like me.

Chapter TWO
I LEFT the keys in the Maserati for the parking valet and stepped into the elegant, restrained clamor of Chez Henri. Stef stood waiting for me in the vestibule, looking a little nervous. His face lit up when he saw me, and I’m sure mine did the same. We hugged. He was such a great kid.
“They kept looking at me like I’d snuck in through the kitchen,” Stef said with his brightest aw-shucks grin. “Guess they don’t want an Oklahoma farm boy here unless he’s trussed up on a platter with an apple in his mouth. They should’ve asked—I’d’a said sure, for the right price!”
He glanced around the room. “Could be fun, with some of these guys.”
Stef was naïve, way too open for his own good, but I wasn’t sure how to teach him more caution without damping the irrepressible spirit that made him so special. I’d lecture him about it over lunch. Again.
“The Scottish wild salmon is particularly fine today, Mr. Bucknam,” the maître d’ murmured as he seated us at a window table.
“Thank you, William. Your ‘particularly fine’ must translate to ‘heavenly’ for the rest of us.”
One corner of William’s urbane lip curled heavenward at the compliment, maybe as much as a millimeter, as he withdrew into the flow of his domain.
I watched Stef tuck into his steak the way he did just about everything—with unabashed enthusiasm. I could list plenty of reasons why I felt so protective of him, why I enjoyed being with him so much, wanted to teach him how to flourish, succeed. I wanted him to be happy.
He was a good kid, smart and dangerously generous of heart. His love of adventure electrified everything he did. He made me laugh, more than I had in a long time. I also considered him my protégé, which was something new for me. I found my proprietary attitude surprisingly satisfying. He loved our work and would become superb at it.
Six months ago, Stef had tried to pick me up at a party as he worked the room—so new to LA he was still wearing cowboy boots and a belt with a giant silver and brass buckle, his straw-blond thatch headed in half a dozen directions without any help from hair product. I’d been mildly offended at first, but then as we talked, I became intrigued—and ultimately charmed.
For his part, Stef had been miffed when he discovered that he wasn’t going to make any money off this particular trick, but by then, he was too interested to say no. We had a truly wonderful time.
He was special. From that first night, he’d been eager to learn how to grow beyond just hustling. He was imaginative, playful, and talented too. He possessed the intuitive empathy that enabled him to listen to another man’s body. He was an excellent listener.
I took a bite of salmon. It really was heavenly. I lost myself in the melting texture and flavors for a moment. Beautifully delicate, with just the right whisper of tarragon in the butter.
“Wherever you went, I could tell you had a good time,” Stef said with a leer. “I swear, sometimes food is just as good as sex.” He waved his fork at me and winked. “Except sex with you, which is better’n food any day. I think I need another lesson soon.”
“Have you been doing your meditation and breath work?”
“Every day.” Stef dropped his eyes. “Well, nearly every day. I like it. Makes me feel good.” He looked up, his eyes soft and thoughtful. “It really does. I feel like I glow afterward.”
He cut off another bite and stuffed it in his mouth. “Mercy, that is fine,” he mumbled around it. “And speaking of sex, is it okay if I use the studio later this afternoon? I’ve got a high roller.”
“Sure. I was there just now, but I didn’t clean up. Camilla won’t be in until tomorrow morning, so you’ll have to tidy up before your appointment.” I paused, weighing whether I should ask. Stef got skittish if he felt I was crowding him. “Anyone I know?”
“Nah, it’s not even someone I’m supposed to know, but I do. This is our second time. First was at a hotel a couple days ago. But I saw him on the news yesterday going on about some big project. Political guy. Wild man in the sack, though. Big dick, knows how to use it.”
Stef impaled a spear of asparagus. “Isn’t it kinda stupid to stack these up in a tipi like they do? I mean, it’s the first thing I pushed over getting to the—”
“For god’s sake, don’t let on you know who he is.” I grabbed Stef’s fork hand so hard the asparagus jarred free and fell back onto his plate. “If he doesn’t want you to know who he is, then trust me, you don’t want to know either. You’ve got to play by the rules. You could get into serious trouble if you don’t.”
I let go of Stef’s hand with a squeeze, a little embarrassed at feeling—and sounding—like an overprotective parent. “I care a lot about you,” I said, trying to explain myself. “I should start screening all your clients.”
Stef shook his head firmly and picked up the dislodged asparagus. “I know you mean well, Shepherd, that’s a sure thing.” He popped it in his mouth and chewed. When he looked up, his eyes told me he’d dug in and wouldn’t budge.
“I know you got the finest corral I can imagine all ready for me, but I still can’t abide fences. Even yours.” He looked sad. “I get spooked every time I see a fence. I just ain’t ready to give up the right to pick my own guys.”
“I understand that.” I smiled and held up my hands, backing off. “It was wrong of me to put it that way. It’s just that I get scared for you sometimes, Stef. Los Angeles is a very different place from Oklahoma City. Bad things happen to men like us every day here. There’s good reason behind my paranoia.”
“Geez, you’re really serious about this, aren’t you?” Stef grinned at me as if reassuring a baby brother afraid to get up on the big scary tractor. “Don’t worry, dude. His secret is safe with me. I’ve got nobody but you to tell.”
OUTSIDE THE restaurant, Stef seemed to hang back when the valet brought my car up, its engine rumbling, impatient for the street.
“Where’s yours?” I asked Stef. I tipped the valet but closed the car door to stop the warning bell from dinging.
Stef blushed. “I’m already parked at the studio. I figured you’d say yes.”
“Not a problem. That’s why I gave you your own set of keys. How did you get here, then?”
“Walked. It’s only a mile or so.”
“Nobody walks in Los Angeles,” I laughed. “Jump in—I’ll give you a lift.”
Stef laughed and climbed in. “How can I say no?” The doors clunked shut, and we buckled up.
“Sweet.” He ran a reverent hand over the burl paneling. “Dude, you have no idea how much I love riding in this thing,” Stef sighed. “A bad-ass Maserati. I’d send my folks a big ol’ photo of me in it just to annoy them, but my dad wouldn’t even open the damn envelope.”
We pulled into traffic and turned up a back street toward Westwood. After a few blocks, we were stopped by a patrolman waving his arms. Lights from two police cars flashed. Another cop was stringing up yellow tape.
An ambulance siren got louder behind us, coming up fast. Something bad had happened; I could feel it. My stomach knotted. “Oh, damn,” I whispered to no one, bracing against the first wave of dread and nausea.
“It’s okay, he’s saying just go around,” said Stef. We crept forward. I kept my eyes focused on the street. Maybe I could get through this without a disaster.
“Look—just follow his... holy crap, check it out!” Stef crowed, pressing his face against the window. “The guy on the ground, he’s in cuffs. Look at all the blood! Cripes, how can he still be alive? He must have tried to... shit—there’s another guy, no cuffs, nothing. Not moving at all. Man, he’s gotta be dead already, lying twisted up like that. What a mess!”
I sped up, tried to escape it, tried not to look—but I did. One glance was all it took. I tasted thick salt, leaned forward, and lost my wild Scottish salmon through the steering wheel, onto the floor between my knees.
“Jesus, dude!” Stef shouted, laughing nervously, putting down the window. “What the fuck was that?”
I wiped my mouth with the back of one hand, steering the car past the crime scene with the other. “Sorry.” I smiled tight-lipped, afraid I might hurl again. “Violence. Makes me sick.”
“No kidding!” he coughed, his face screwed up in disgust. “You gotta get that taken care of.”
“Trust me, I’ve tried. Still can’t crack it. At least not yet.”
“Throwing up in a car like this, though. Jeez, that’s gotta be a federal crime all on its own.”
I shook my head. “The dealership can take care of it. It’s happened before. They’ll make it like new.”
We drove to the studio in silence through the hot Los Angeles afternoon. Even with the fan on high and windows down, the car still stank. I pulled into the garage and stopped at the elevator.
Stef leaned back in through the open window, looking worried. “You gonna be okay? Really?”
“Yeah, I’ll be fine.” I gave him a feeble thumbs-up. “You be careful, okay?”
“Sure thing, boss. I’ll call you later tonight.”
“No, call me tomorrow. I’ve got a club dinner and concert tonight. I probably won’t get home until after midnight.”
Stef nodded, returned the thumbs-up, and headed for the elevator, whistling.
Stinking and clammy, I headed home, calling on the hands-free to get the car scheduled for cleanup.

Monday, July 14, 2014

My Favorite Uncle excerpt by Marshall Thornton

In My Favorite Uncle by Marshall Thornton, Martin Dixon’s carefully constructed peaceful life is turned upside down when his super Christian eighteen year-old nephew Carter shows up unexpectedly on his doorstep and announces that he’s gay, Martin’s first impulse is to send him back to his parents. But when he discovers that Carter has been in a mental hospital to cure his gay-ness he realizes he’s stuck with the boy. Unfortunately, the two get on each other’s nerves, each driving the other to distraction. Independently, they each arrive at the same conclusion. The other would be much less annoying if he only had…a boyfriend.

My Favorite Uncle
Wilde City Press (June 25, 2014)
  • ISBN-10: 1925180247
  • ISBN-13: 978-1925180244


Martin Dixon was secretly in love with Jax Hammer. Deeply, profoundly in love despite the fact that they had never met, that Jax Hammer was not his real name, and that Martin was double the boy’s age. Theirs was a relationship of the new millennium. Fully digital.
The entertainment center loomed against one wall in Martin’s TV room-slash-office. After closing the mini-blinds and the drapes, setting the TV to a non-neighbor-offending volume and placing a tube of Vaseline, a box of Kleenex, and the remote on the pull-out sofa that no one ever pulled out, he was finally ready to open the secret compartment in the bottom shelf of his entertainment center.
In the compartment were four Jax Hammer DVDs: A Brief History of Gangbangs, Howard’s End (in which Jax starred as Howard), Ifs and Butts, and the football-themed End Zone. Martin chose Ifs and Butts because it co-starred Jax’s real life boyfriend Rydar King. It also contained Martin’s all-time favorite porno moment in chapter sixteen: spread-eagled on a brown leather sofa, Jax looked up dreamily at Rydar. About to orgasm, he mouthed the words “I love you,” or maybe it was “I love your dick.” Martin wasn’t entirely sure. But he leaned toward “I love you” because a genuine smile spread across Rydar’s face, and Martin didn’t think Rydar would be too impressed by someone loving his dick. He was a porno star, after all.
Martin had seen the moment fifty—okay sixty—times but it seemed completely real each time.  The models slipped out of the performance of sex and into the reality of sex, and the idea that it was real was what fascinated Martin.
Slipping the DVD into the player and pulling his pants down to his ankles, Martin waited impatiently through the warnings and the threats of prosecution. When he got to the main menu, he started the movie and began skipping through. The moment happened at 1:36:14, but Martin liked to start about ten minutes earlier just at the point where Jax Hammer—
The phone rang. Martin debated whether or not to answer. He did have an anticipatory hard-on and a dollop of Vaseline spread all over his left hand. What he didn’t have was caller ID. He had no idea who was on the other end, and it might be important. It might be an emergency. Though he couldn’t think what kind of emergency. Martin was certain he’d eliminated all the drama from his life, which really should have removed emergencies with it. He figured it was nothing, but he wouldn’t know for sure if he didn’t answer, and the possibility that it was more than nothing would haunt him like a bad debt.
He really did need to sign up for caller ID. 
“Martin? What are you doing?” It was Ricky. Though he cared deeply about his best friend, his hard-on immediately fled.
“Nothing,” Martin lied.
“Great, I’m at Marix. You should pop over for a drink.” Ricky worked as first assistant to film producer and wunderkind, Winnie Collier. Collier’s career started when she coerced a writer into a free option on a script about two forty-year-old cops going undercover as skateboarders and then sold it for seven figures. The film never got made, but that was blamed on the writer; Winnie got a production deal, an office, and two assistants to torture. Ricky spent a great deal of time at Marix.
“I can’t pop over. I’m thirty-four miles away. In case you haven’t noticed, there are no good freeways from Long Beach to West Hollywood,” Martin complained. “A trip like that has to be planned a week in advance.”
“Please. You have to come,” he paused tentatively. “There’s someone I want you to meet. Someone you might like.”
A chill ran up and down Martin’s spine. “In that case, ‘no’ just turned into ‘absolutely not.’”
“Irving. His name is Irving, and he reads scripts for Winnie. I’ve been wanting you to meet him for ages.”
“Uh-huh. No.”
“At least let me tell you about him,” Ricky insisted.  “He’s about your age—”
“Our age,” Martin corrected.
“Don’t be bitchy.”
“Is he cute?” Martin found the only enjoyment he got out of fix-ups was getting his friends to lie.
“He’s so sweet.”
Shit, Martin thought, he’s trying to fix me up with a guy who isn’t even cute enough to lie about.
“Was he ever cute at any point during his life?” Martin asked.
“Everyone’s cute when they’re a baby,” Ricky pointed out. “Irving is responsible and stable. Aren’t you always telling me I should go out with someone stable?”
“Yes. You should go out with someone responsible and stable. I, on the other hand, am not looking for a boyfriend—responsible, stable, or otherwise. No matter how cute he was as a baby.”
“I’m just trying to be nice,” Ricky insisted. “You know, it’s been forever. You really need to get over…” He stopped, and the thirty-four miles of air between them could have been cut with a knife.
“I really need to get over what?” Martin asked.
“I have to go,” Ricky squeaked.
After they hung up, Martin struggled to get back in the mood for Jax Hammer. Of course, he knew what Ricky thought he should get over, but he refused to think about it. He didn’t need to think about it. Ricky was wrong. He was over that particular thing. Person. Whatever. Martin clenched his jaw and grimly turned Ifs and Butts back on. He told himself to stop thinking about Ricky and concentrate on the movie. He’d actually watched the movie all the way through once and remembered the plot as having something to do with questioning your sexuality, hence the ifs. Of course, none of the models wondered for long, which supplied the butts.
Rydar pushed Jax onto the leather sofa and grabbed hold of his ankles. Jax had a thin, over-ribbed chest, dangling arms, a thatch of pubic hair and the most amazing blue eyes. He was totally retro. He could have stepped right out of the seventies. He looked the way guys looked before Nautilis was invented.
Perhaps Jax’s seventies look was what appealed to Martin. Of course, he remembered the seventies. All too well, in fact. Martin would be fifty in four hundred and thirty-seven days, and that reality was beginning to wear on him, like Chinese water torture or coastal erosion.
Martin’s interest in the movie returned. Rydar pumped, Jax squirmed happily, and Martin added another dollop of Vaseline to his palm.
Martin paused the DVD and stared at the ceiling. They were at it again. When Martin moved into the El Cordova more than a decade ago, he thought he’d be blissfully happy in the 1920s Spanish revival building. What he hadn’t realized was that more attention had been paid to the landscaping in the courtyard than to the insulation in the walls and ceiling.
“STOP SCREAMING LIKE A GIRL!” This was mild for The Asshole. Martin wondered if he wasn’t feeling well.
The Asshole was the ‘friend’ of Martin’s upstairs neighbor, Jimmy. He was a decade younger and fat enough to bring to mind the word ‘stampede’ every time he walked to the bathroom in the middle of the night. Martin never managed to learn the Asshole’s name because he didn’t speak to Jimmy, who Martin thought was something of an asshole himself. In his sixties and partially deaf, Jimmy came from some vague middle Eastern country. In the days after 9/11, he went door to door in the building and explained that he was not a Muslim, which convinced everyone in the building he was. Except Martin. Jimmy’s deafness meant that he’d heard every word the guy said for nearly two years. If he was praying half a dozen times a day, Martin would have noticed.
GET OUT OF MY WAY. I’M TRYING TO GET DRESSED. FUCKING MORON!” Ah, Martin thought, that was much more like The Asshole. He’s feeling just fine.
This, of course, is what Ricky thought he was missing. Someone to get in the way. Someone to scream and call him names. Someone to ruin his life. Martin was resolutely single. So single, in fact, he’d even managed to avoid the annoyance of a pet, despite the offers his neighbors and acquaintances made of kittens and stray dogs. At first, he’d just been honest and said ‘no’ outright. But after he’d had to change hairdressers when he was pressed to take “my dear friend’s darling cockapoo. Charlie died of AIDS, and Snowball is homeless. I thought you’d be perfect.”
“You thought I’d be perfect to spend my time picking up the droppings of your dead friend’s yappy hairball?”
“Apparently not,” the young man said, proceeding to give Martin the worst haircut he’d ever had. After that, Martin told people he was deathly allergic.
Martin heard footsteps and what sounded like a scuffle. “SO HELP ME, I’M GONNA BEAT THE SHIT OUT OF YOU IF YOU DON’T—”
Martin got up and shouted out the window, “AND I’M GONNA CALL THE COPS IF YOU DON’T KNOCK IT OFF!”
Jimmy and The Asshole hated it when Martin called the police. Martin was pretty sure they’d be quiet now, so he tried to focus on Ifs and Butts again. He ran the DVD back a minute or so. Rydar pushed Jax onto the leather sofa and grabbed hold of his ankles. Jax threw his head from side to side in ecstasy. Practically folded in half, Jax looked up at Rydar. Their eyes locked. Jax licked his lips. Jax moaned. Jax was about to say it, in another few seconds he’d say, he’d say the thing Martin wanted him—
Martin’s doorbell rang, and he jumped off the sofa as though someone had just walked into the room, narrowly avoiding being tripped by his own pants.
“Shit,” he said as he put the DVD on pause, leaving Jax and Rydar hanging on the verge. He grumpily pulled his pants up. Was the Asshole coming down to apologize for being such an asshole? Unlikely. It was probably a Jehovah’s Witness. They liked to canvass this neighborhood for some reason. If it was a Jehovah’s Witness, Martin decided he’d finally go ahead and tell them that there was no soliciting in the building. He hoped they’d get offended at the idea that they might be selling God door to door because, well, that’s exactly what they were doing. And he wanted the opportunity to tell them so at least once in his life.
Martin shoved his Vaseline covered hand into a pocket and opened the door to find himself looking at, not a Jehovah’s Witness, but a teenager wearing a purple Harvest Crusade t-shirt. The t-shirt might have lead Martin to believe he was about to be witnessed to, except that it was incredibly dirty and the boy inside it had a bad sunburn and a patchy stubble on his chin. The boy also had Martin’s own sandy hair and dark chocolate eyes. With a half-hearted smile, the boy said, “Hi, Uncle Martin.”
“Carter? Are you Carter?”
The boy nodded. Martin smiled stiffly and tried to figure out what was happening. Carter was his born-again Christian brother’s oldest child. He belonged in Arizona going to church four times a week, but instead he was here, dirty and unshaven at Martin’s door. Martin didn’t like the possibilities occurring to him. “So, what brings you by?”
“I’m gay.”
“Oh. Of course.” Immediately, Martin regretted saying ‘of course.’ He should have acted surprised. People are flattered if you act surprised when they come out, something Martin thought was stupid and vaguely homophobic but—
“You know, I didn’t mean you act or that you seem…I didn’t know you were gay until...I just put two and two together and got gay, right now, as we’re speaking…” Martin trailed off and stood staring at the kid.
Not that Carter was doing much of anything. He wasn’t smiling sweetly, he wasn’t imploring Martin with his eyes, he wasn’t begging for Martin’s help. He also wasn’t going away. Shit. Martin was going to have to invite him in.
“Could you excuse me a moment?”
Martin dashed into the TV room-slash-office, snatched up the remote and hit the stop button. Jax Hammer and Rydar King instantly disappeared. He shoved the tube of Vaseline between the cushions of the pullout and, after a quick cleanup job on his hand, put the Kleenex box on his desk. It probably wasn’t a big deal, after all, the kid just came out to him. But he’d rather his relationship with Jax Hammer remain private.
When Martin got back to the living room, Carter had come inside uninvited and stood in the middle of the room between the sofa and the coffee table, staring at the mock fireplace. Martin had no idea what to say to the kid, so he said, “It doesn’t work. Originally, this kind of fireplace was gas, but they’re not well ventilated so they have this tendency to, you know, kill people. Carbon monoxide or something like that.”
Carter stared blankly at Martin.
“It’s bad when people die at home.” Why did he say that? What did it even mean? Why couldn’t he think of something normal to say to this kid?  “Gosh,  when was the last time we saw each other?”
“Grandpa Dixon’s funeral.”
“And how old were you then?”
“Eleven. Yeah. You were cute...”  Martin considered for a moment. “Wait, I didn’t see you at Grandma Dixon’s funeral? You would have been almost thirteen?”
“Bible camp. Already paid for.”
“Oh, okay.” Martin thought back to his father’s funeral. He remembered Carter as a skinny, underdeveloped brat with an over-developed sense of Christian entitlement. Apparently, puberty had changed a few things.
“So, how did you get here?”
“That’s really dangerous. You know, you shouldn’t…” Martin stopped. It was not his job to tell this kid not to hitchhike. “Anyway, I guess we need to find you some place to stay.”
Carter looked at his torn sneakers and shook his head. “I, um, can’t stay here?”
“Oh…” Martin felt nauseated. “I’m sure we can come up with other options.” He scrambled to think of somewhere he could send the kid. Youth hostel? Homeless center? Freeway underpass? He sighed heavily and gave up. “I guess you don’t have any luggage?”
Carter shook his head.
Holy fuck, thought Martin. His hitchhiking, penniless, possession-less nephew must have been tossed out of his parents’ home and now intends to live here. Here! With me! What a disaster! Okay, okay. Martin told himself to calm down. Big deal. The kid would stay for a day or two, then Martin would figure out somewhere else he could go. Like back with his parents.
“Can I take a shower?” Carter asked.
“I’ll get you a towel.”
While his nephew took a shower, Martin continued to fret. He wasn’t good at relatives. His grandparents, reportedly awful people, had shown some consideration and died while he was in grade school. He hadn’t laid eyes on an aunt or an uncle since he was fifteen, and his parents, who had been much more interested in each other than in either of their children, had died within a year of each other. 
After his parents died, his brother had seemed to expect they were going to have some kind of relationship, but since Martin had almost nothing to say to the born again-Republican sports fanatic, their bond faded. Now they didn’t even exchange Christmas cards. It was almost as though Martin didn’t have relatives, which was quite pleasant in many ways. But suddenly, he did have relatives. He had a nephew. A Carter.
Not knowing what else to do, Martin made tea. He wanted a glass of wine, but he’d feel like he had to offer one to Carter, which would have been illegal. Right? Stopping cold in his tracks, he tried to remember how old Carter was. Not old enough to drink, certainly. Somewhere in his late teens. Seventeen, eighteen, nineteen. Wait, he was eleven at Martin’s father’s funeral and twelve at his mother’s which made him around eighteen. Maybe not eighteen. Maybe seventeen. Not only was Carter a relative, he was a teenage relative. And Martin had let him in.
Carter looked better when finally came out of the bathroom, even though he swam in the ancient 501s and t-shirt that Martin had given him. He did seem grateful for the tea and chocolate cookies Martin had set out on the oak dining table that took up half the small living room. Although he knew the question was dangerous, Martin felt compelled to ask it. “Did you want to call your parents and let them know where you are?”
“No,” Carter said simply.
“I’m sure they’re worried.”
“You do something in the movies, right?”
“I proofread captioning for the deaf.”
“Oh.” Carter clearly expected something more glamorous, something that required attending televised award shows and thinking up acceptance speeches.
“I thought you lived in Hollywood?” the boy asked.
“A long time ago. I’ve been down here in Long Beach about twelve years.”
Why are they talking about me? Martin wondered. Why weren’t they talking about what was really going on here?
“I guess you had a fight with your parents?”
“Kind of.”
“Kind of? Is that teenager for ‘yes?’”
Carter shrugged, and they fell into an uneasy silence.
“I’m going to have some wine,” Martin announced and ran off to the kitchen. God, this was worse than internet dating, something Martin had given up because of the incredible awkwardness of talking to strangers. You’d think it would be easy since you knew nothing about them, but it was harder than talking to someone you knew everything about.
Martin was halfway through his glass of wine before he got back to the living room. Carter smiled as he sat down. The kid had a great smile, Martin thought, stunning even. You could really mess people up with a smile like that.
“I’m sorry what?” Martin asked, having missed what Carter just said.
“I said, you’re really old.”
“I’m old? Are you trying to be rude?” Martin wasn’t sure because it sounded as though there was a touch of pride in his nephew’s voice.
“No, it’s just...don’t most gay men die before they’re forty?”
“Who told you that?” Martin gulped down the rest of his wine. He should have brought the bottle.
“That’s what they said at The Renewal Center,” Carter explained. “They had statistics.”
“The what center?”
“The Renewal Center. It’s this special part of Willowbrook Psychiatric Hospital. My parents sent me there for therapy. I only stayed a week and a half. They had to let me go when I turned eighteen. Two days ago.”
“Oh. Happy birthday.” Great. The kid’s been in a mental hospital. Martin almost couldn’t breathe. How could this be happening to him? The kid was nuts. “So, why were you in a mental hospital?”
“I’m gay,” Carter said.
“Yeah, I know, but that—” Martin tumbled, like a suitcase falling down a flight of stairs. “Your parents put you in a mental hospital to have you ‘un-gayed?’”
“That’s not what they call it.”
“What do they call it?”
“Sexual reorientation.”
All Martin could think of to say was, “Ouch.” Well, sexual reorientation did sound painful. Apparently, it was the right thing to say because Carter nodded his head and said, “Yeah.”
Wait a minute, Martin thought, this can’t be true. His brother, Paul, was completely reasonable in many ways. Wasn’t he? Actually, Martin barely knew him. They hadn’t lived in the same state for almost thirty years, and when they did see each other or talk on the phone, they carefully avoided discussing politics and religion, and had never once talked about Martin’s sexuality. Maybe he was the kind of person who would do that to his own child.
No, Carter was probably lying. He’s probably really crazy. Telling Martin that he’d been in a Christian psych ward where they convert gay people was the perfect way to get Martin to help him. Martin would have no choice.
Calm down, he told himself. The kid had just walked in the door. He had no reason to assume he was a gay version of The Bad Seed. In all likelihood, he was just a kid in trouble. “Would you like to see a therapist? I mean, I’ll pay for it, of course.”
“No, I’m good,” Carter said, as though Martin had just offered him another cup of tea or an unappealing cookie.
“Okay.” Martin was relieved. He hadn’t actually intended to offer to pay for something as expensive as therapy. He didn’t intend to pay for anything. He just had to remember not to offer. Not offering to pay for things made it easier to not actually pay for them.
“So, tell me about being in a psychiatric hospital. What’s that like?” A therapist would ask a question like that. Martin was tempted to start calculating his savings.
“Um, could we talk about that another time? I’m kind of tired. I haven’t had much sleep in the last few days.”

It was only seven o’clock, but Martin jumped up and the two of them went into Martin’s TV room-slash-office. Martin hoped he could find the double size sheets he’d bought with the sofa. As he yanked the cushions off the sofa, the tube of Vaseline flew onto the floor. Both Carter and Martin stared at it for a moment, then Martin blushed, snatching it up. “I have dry skin.” 

Monday, July 7, 2014

Beneath the Weight of Sadness excerpt by Gerald L Dodge

In Gerald L Dodge's Beneath the Weight of Sadness, Truman Engroff, a gay, seventeen-year-old boy, living in an affluent, New Jersey town, Persia, is brutally murdered one early Sunday morning. The murder becomes sensational not only for the fact that Truman is gay, but because the town is peopled with mostly wealthy conservatives who view anomalous lifestyles as a disruption to their strict view of how the world should function. The death of Truman's brief life is told in four separate narratives, by: his father, his mother, the detective investigating the case, and his best friend growing up, Carly Rodenbaugh. All four of these people are devastated by Truman's death, and the story of his death unfolds as the characters tell the story of his life.

Beneath the Weight of Sadness
Untreed Reads Publishing (June, 2014)


My son was murdered on a Sunday at approximately three a.m. My son, Truman, was gay. I remember walking to get The Times on Sunday morning, before I was told about his murder, and remarking to myself how blue the sky was. Like on many days in New Jersey after a heavy rainstorm, the clouds had moved out and the March morning was breezy and brilliant. Most of what happened after the two cops arrived at our house has been erased from my mind, but I often think of walking to get the paper, before I knew that my son was dead, and feeling happy I was alive and living where I was living and loving the woman I had loved for twenty years. I suppose I remember that part because it’s in such severe contrast to what entered my life a few hours later, when I learned that my son had spent the night lying facedown in mud, beaten so I could only recognize him by his soft blond hair and his lovely long hands.
We didn’t name Truman after Truman Capote. It wasn’t some self-fulfilling prophecy, or anything like that. My grandfather’s name was Truman and I loved him as much as I’d loved my two parents. And he was the farthest thing from gay. He was a retired brigadier general in the U.S. Army. Truman, Amy, and I had decided never to tell my grandfather our Truman was gay. We worried he wouldn’t understand. As Truman put it, “I don’t want Papa’s heart to give out.” But I did tell him after Truman was gone. We were at the funeral, and when he saw my searing look after I divulged Truman’s homosexuality he only bowed his head and wept. 

As soon as the cops pulled into our driveway I knew Truman was dead. I know that sounds…what, like I’m claiming psychic powers? Like a grief-stricken father rewriting history, because it offers the possibility that my Truman is in some other dimension, some heaven where I will once again see him, his face whole, his body not brutalized? No. The cop car pulled into the driveway and a terrible panic rose up from my legs and arrived in my heart at the same time the doorbell rang. I knew Truman wasn’t home and he was supposed to be, and I knew why cops came to the doors of worried parents. It wasn’t entirely unexpected. We were always fearing the worst for a son who was an anomaly in a town ruled by white Republicans. By people who raised their children to believe in easy answers for the world’s complicated problems. There was no room in their universe for gay people, and especially gays who, like Truman, were not afraid to announce themselves.

Amy was in the back of the house drinking an afternoon white wine and reading the parts of The Times I generally horded earlier in the day. I can still see her on the chaise lounge, tender feet curled under her legs, knees exposed by the first summer dress she’d worn in the early spring season. We’d made love the night before, knowing Truman would come home late and probably high, and when I passed by the terrace shortly before the police came and I glanced at her exposed knees I could still feel the throb of the sex we’d had the night before. 

Both the cops were young. Rookies were mandated to do the dirty work of telling loved ones about death. When I looked out the window next to the front door, I saw they both had their hats tucked under their arms in an awkward attempt to signal respect and somberness. 

I’m sure when they were at the police academy they didn’t envision informing parents from an upper-middle-class neighborhood that their seventeen-year-old son was dead. Still, it was just part of the job, and one they could soon walk away from to return to the land of the living, something Amy and I have not yet been able to do. And then, too, when they pulled onto the property with the high ilex hedges bordering the front and London Plane trees leading up the driveway and gardens spilling out into the front lawn and a lone patio with benches for relaxing and having a pre-prandial drink, perhaps they were thinking we deserved some heartache. 

Of course, I wasn’t thinking any of those thoughts at the time. It was only afterward, when I couldn’t sleep and I had to slip quietly out of bed and go to the kitchen and down two large glasses of bourbon whiskey, that those thoughts and others that still haunt me every night began to take form, and I began to believe them.

I opened the door and they stood there almost expectantly, as if they were the ones who’d received me. Neither of them was sure how to begin. 

“Are you Mr. Engroff?” one of the officers asked. 

I nodded. I did not offer them entrance. The one who had sandy blonde hair, and a face much too young for this particular duty, deftly produced a light brown square. 

“Sir, we’re sorry to bother you, but we need to ask if you recognize this…” 

It was Truman’s wallet. I’d given it to him when he turned fourteen, half expecting him to toss it somewhere. I worried that he would consider the rite all Engroffs performed to signify passage into manhood trivial and hollow. But he’d carried it daily, and to see it in the hand of some stranger made me react almost violently. I wrenched it from his hand and both of the officers stepped back.

I opened it and looked inside to see if there was something missing, though I wouldn’t have had the first idea what that missing something would be.

“This is Truman’s wallet. Where did you get this?”

They looked at each other and then the one with the blonde hair said, “Is Truman your son?”

“Of course he is,” I said. “Where is he? Where is Truman?”

They moved back another step in unison, perhaps fearful of what people of privilege might do when they learn their son is dead.

To purchase from Untreed Reads (30% off summer sale) click
To purchase from Amazon Kindle, click

Monday, June 30, 2014

Baby Doll Part II by Mykola Dementiuk

Baby Doll Part II

Yet each day there seemed to be even less and less time to preen and dress and pretend because he’d still have to undress, wash the perfumes and rouges off, and make it home in time to pretend he’d been to school all day and had lots of homework to do. So it was in the mornings that the man took himself out on the boy, and only fully spent and fully satisfied would he let the boy begin his preening, by eleven or twelve o’clock, which proved less and less satisfying for either of them. Because the allurement of getting dressed, for a woman or a transvestite, is a vital step in self-arousal and transformation, each article of clothing, each dab of makeup, each stroke of eyeliner and lipstick and hint of perfume is as arousing and exciting as a theater-full of men screaming at a stripper to take itoff. That’s another secret difference between the sexes: whereas men are aroused by seeing a woman undress, a woman’s arousal begins with dressing up

Still, no matter the recent frustrations of the man’s lack of interest in admiring the boy as a girl, there was an evident difference in the boy no matter what gender clothes he wore: a greater sense of certainty and assurance in his manner, something even harder and sterner in his demeanor. Whether it was the female clothing (taunting the gender he had been born into) or the daily outlet for his raging teenage libido (the two definitely stirred up and aided and complemented by each other) in the previous weeks he had matured into a seriousness beyond his teenage years, a maturity that, alas, was just another mimic of someone he looked up to, believed in, lusted after, loved .It’s the problem with all cross-generational relationships where one partner is decades older than the other: the younger will always strive to make up for the gap of years, taking on a seriousness and maturity that isn’t theirs, as if a decade or two can be leapt over and ignored and the natural process of emotional growth (or emotional stagnation and regression) can simply be picked up and put on like another article of pretty clothes. The young person and his older lover will never be onequal terms of competition: the potential for cunning abuse and betrayal is always inevitably there .IT HAD BEEN TWO WEEKS since the boy last walked in the park, two weeks since he last masturbated – he now had someone to do it for him – and two weeks since he stopped thinking of himself in solitary terms as alone and now viewed himself as a lover, an important part of someone’s life, if only for six or seven hours a day. It was his empty evenings that enraged him. The idea that he had to stay home, in front of a book, doing sham homework assignments, or before a TV watching sham love scenes (he could’ve done better), while the man’s apartment, his dress-up clothes, and the possibility of a body atop and inside him were only a few blocks away, the idea of its unattainable nearness always smacked him into explosive tantrums that only masturbation could have allayed. But he had promised the man he wouldn’t jerk-off at night ,keeping himself ready and eager and filled for the morning. Only once had he reneged on his vow and desperately tugged himself into a shuddering release that instantly soothed and lulled him to sleep with his dick clutched in his scum-slathered fist

On Friday evening he went out, as he had done the previous weekend evenings. He circled the man’s apartment and stared longingly at the lightened windows. He had been warned never to come up when he wasn’t expected and never to call: whatever he needed could wait till the morning. His suggestion that maybe they could talk on the phone was ridiculed and shrugged off. Yet isn’t that what girlfriends did with their boyfriends? the boy thought. Talked and talked and talked.…But what was there to talk about? Did the boy and the man really have all that much to say to each other beyond the man’s nervousness if anyone knew about their friendship? No, it’s a secret, the boy swore, though he wished it weren’t. He didn’t care if the whole world knew. How enviously he looked at couples on the street, how they held onto each other by the shoulder, around the waist, or hand clutching hand, how they laughed, smiled, walked, talked, belonged to each other. He always pictured it would be like that: someone treating him as gently and attentively as he assumed couples treated each other. What he saw as he watched them pass is that they seemed to want to be with each other, to spend time with each other, to belong to each other, as if merely being together was more important than anything else they could be being

Other couples were so unlike his relationship with the man. Beyond the frantic morning lust and the mutual blow jobs before he finally left in the afternoon, he felt himself a nuisance in the man’s day. There was to be no radio playing, no TV watching, no high-heel clicking around the apartment, and no fashion shows of How does this look? Besides the sex there was nothing else. Once his body was used there was no further use for him. That Friday, after staring at the lighted windows, if only he had turned in the other direction he’d have missed the man coming out of the corner store, opening a pack of cigarettes and shaking one out, coming up to a kid waiting outside the store

So that’s why I’m not allowed up at night, the boy realized, not because the man was busy with his work, as he claimed, but that he was busy with someone else, a replacement, a rival. The boy glared at the other kid: older than him, taller, more solidly built, his chest muscular and molded in his T-shirt under an open leather jacket, his jeans tight and puffed at one side of the crotch, everything about him masculine and virile. The man smiled and held out the pack to the waiting teen, and they continued around the corner to the apartment building entrance. The boy didn’t need to get closer. Through his wet disappointed eyes he saw them enter the building. He was surprised only at his stiff erection, the thought of the two of them together (while he sat aside, watching and masturbating) more arousing than anything he’d imagined before. The force of his untouched ejaculation was like a release of sudden hate and rage and frustration that came over him. The first response to betrayal is disbelief. The betrayed person, whose trust has been spat out and vomited like useless wasted own the toilet, creates all sorts of scenarios that the betrayal is not what it seems, that the interpretation of his own eyes and feelings is incorrect, and that there is a plausible, sensible explanation for what is happening. One attempts to rewrite the act of betrayal in favor of the betrayer, refusing to admit that trust and love and unity no longer exist and, on the betrayer’s side, have probably ceased to exist long before his actions have been revealed or discovered. What is this self-debasing need to explain and justify a soul-murder? Because betrayal is murder, as vicious and unforgivable as the taking of someone’s life: a betrayed person walks for years in a time-warp of ignorance and unfeeling, lost in his pain and confusion of what happened, why it happened, where he went wrong. A betrayed person always reacts to betrayal as if it’s his fault, endlessly rebuking himself that he should and could have done better, acted differently, been someone other than who he was and is. To be betrayed is to question your very right to existence, because how can you ever trust and love again when your deepest loves and beliefs, in yourself, in the other, have been so shabbily scorned and discarded? To be betrayed is to be killed, and in worse ways than mere death. I’m not so pretty, the boy first thought, then remembered the other kid’s physicality. I’m not so handsome. He recalled how he had attracted the man who two weeks earlier told him, you’re the best of both worlds. He walked uncertainly up the street the next morning, not even looking at his reflection in the store windows as he usually did –smirking at what he saw in the window compared to what he would become in the next few hours. It had been a fitful night. Each time he awoke he remembered the other kid, the smile he had smiled at the man, like the taunting leer of a dethroning usurper. He felt weak (having masturbated himself back to sleep each time he stirred), sluggish, uncertain, the adult-like confidence he had assumed shattered in a moment of adult reality. But he wasn’t an adult. Neither was he a girl. Was he a boy, a male? He felt himself to be nothing. And he felt only the man could once again reaffirm his identity and reality.…

The man opened the door, scanning the hallway over the boy’s head, then let him in as he did every morning. (Was the other kid still in bed? the boy wondered.) As usual, the man was clad only in a bath-towel around his waist, and the bulge at the front of his crotch was evidence he was expecting the boy. Because what he liked most was to keep the boy clothed as much as possible while he showed himself off and pressed and rubbed his naked body against the boy’s. His satisfaction always came first. He never cared if the boy ejaculated or not, merely jerking him off sometimes at the end as an afterthought to satisfy and placate the boy .This morning was no different: he flicked aside his towel, pushed the boy to his knees, and grunted in what seemed like victory as he slid his penis into the boy’s avid open mouth. The boy’s eyes glistened in love. He wanted to cry because it was love he felt for the man, love and trust that he was still a part of him, that he had not been betrayed and cheated on. If the man accepted and needed him like this, he had definitely misinterpreted what he witnessed the night before: they were probably just neighbors, their apartments close to each other, acting friendly when they met on the street.…Then he saw it, out of the corner of his eye, a little silver-blue packet sticking out of the top of a garbage sack, shining obscenely between a crushed milk carton, a greasy sandwich-meat package, and a crumbled empty pack of cigarettes.
the packet read, torn in an even sharp line at the letters
and D
.TROJAN CONDOMS. The boy knew instantly and grimaced. The other kid had probably demanded they be worn, concerned for his safety, his health, his life, whereas the boy had never given a thought to the man’s hacking cough and visible weight loss in the weeks since he first met him. He hadn’t worried about the numerous medicine bottles and syringes in the bathroom medicine chest, on the kitchen table and the bedroom dresser-top. Nor had he considered the possibility that the threat of contagion and disease might be real and not something the government made up to keep you from enjoying sex. The man grabbed the boy’s head and rammed himself even deeper, grunting and buckling and ejaculating down the boy’s throat. The man clutched him for a moment, shuddered a final time, then slowly eased himself out as the boy’s lips clamped shut behind him. The boy darted to the bathroom – he had been warned about dripping scummy saliva onto the kitchen floor or sink – and fell to the toilet bowl. As usual it was unflushed, the acrid stench of fresh urine biting into his nostrils and eyes as he gagged and spat out the scum and spit. Another dry heave tore up from the pit of his stomach, but his eyes widened and focused into the bowl: at the bottom of the urine, almost like a squiggly limpid tadpole, a used condom stirred in the disturbance of his spitting and rose to the top of the bowl, showing off its filmy contents, then sank back down again .The boy stood up and wiped his face. He wanted to leave, he wanted to walk the streets, he wanted to go sit in the park. Alone. But the man came into the bathroom, naked, his limp penis glistening in slow-drying saliva and scum. He looked at the boy, glanced into the bowl, took a puff of his cigarette, then reached over and flushed. You can get dressed now, he said firmly, clutching the boy’s shoulder and leading him out of the bathroom. In the living room the man sat at his desk and papers – medical insurance forms, the boy understood – while the boy went to the bedroom where he kept his clothes and makeup in a closet. Why did the man have so many small-sized girl-fitting clothes? He had never asked but now wondered whether it was to entice boys like him. Had the baby-doll nightie the man presented him with the first time been used to entice others?… The closet door was open, and his short blonde wig lay on a nightstand by the unmade bed, his black baby doll nightie at the foot of the bed.

The man came in and stood in the doorway, watching. I was thinking about you last night, he smirked, and bobbed his slightly stiffening penis. The boy blushed, glancing at the crisp dry semen stains on the baby-doll. C’mon, get dressed, the man said, and turned away, leaving him alone. The boy sighed and took off his clothes, but without the enthusiasm or anticipation of arousal he usually felt while undressing to put on his female clothes. It was as if the girl’s clothes were a real person, lovingly caressing and soothing him and wanting to be as close to him as he wanted to be in them. But the clothes felt tainted now, mussed and pawed in the closet, some off their hangers and strewn carelessly about as if someone were searching for something, unlike the patient and careful wayhe always folded and hung them up.

He did find his pink panties and put them on – tucking his penis into and between his legs whether the man liked it or not – found his bra and donned that, too, inserting two water-filled party balloons into the bra cups as a mimic of realistic pliant breasts, the tied knot-ends resembling stiffened nipples. Only once had the balloons burst open and that was when he first got the idea of water balloons as breasts. The man had put him into the shower and viciously bit into one, breaking it all over the boy’s blouse and skirt and laughing hysterically as he gurgled, Baby hungwy! Baby want mommie tittie! then bit into the other balloon which also burst open into his laughing face. Getting soaked didn’t matter as the man turned on the shower, spun the boy around, and fucked him fully clothed under the steaming water jets

Continuing his dressing ritual he sprayed his stomach, crotch and arms with some cheap perfume and pulled on his favorite top, a tight bright-red sleeveless turtleneck with the words Baby Doll emblazoned in yellow over the front. The shirt completely clutched and hugged and outlined his self-made breasts as realistically as any young girl’s, if a young girl could develop such bulbous roundness at her age. He wished he could find the daring T-shirt he had seen a brazen woman wearing on the street a few weeks ago:
That said it all, didn’t it? He tweaked the knot-nipples and positioned them to stand out even firmer, then picked up his blonde wig off the night table

Had the other kid worn it to bed? With the scum-stained nightie? Had they laughed when the man told the kid about him? The boy’s face flushed angrily as he stretched the wig over his head ,imagining the outline of the other kid on the unmade bed. Why hadn’t he ever stayed over at night as the man often asked him to? Just tell your parents you’re sleeping at a friend’s, the man said, but what friend’s name could he have used? He tried to imagine what sleep would be like in the arms of a lover. Like married people, the man hinted. But he never did it, and lost out to another, a replacement who did stay the night, who slept held and protected, who made love in the morning (in a condom) and only left sloppy seconds for him to suck on and lick. Fuck me, suck me, then I’ll be leaving.…The boy looked in the mirror, blinked his wet eyes, and spread a tawny sheen of liquid makeup over his face, smoothing the tan fluid into the pores and crevices around his nostril, eyes and lips. Instantly the familiarity of disguise swooned over him, and the tension and anxiety he’d been suffering since the night before abated somewhat at the vision of his altering image in the mirror While his makeup dried, he pulled on the nylon thigh-highs, the rubber thigh-bands circling like fingers, clutching and holding the nylon hose up and around him. It was one of things he most savored about female attire: its smallness, its tightness, its clutching restrictiveness: panties, bra, nylons, all squeezing around his body like a preserving hold to guarantee that the femininity would not come loose and fall undone. What did a female look like undressed, unmolded by garments, her breasts upheld, her torso unclutched? He couldn’t know, as he couldn’t see or undo it on himself.…The rest of his makeup went on easily, by a practiced hand now: eyebrow pencil, eyeliner, mascara, eyelashes, and a few strokes of powder to highlight his cheeks. His favorite, which he always saved for last, breathing deeply the aroma, was his cherry red lipstick that matched the color of the Baby Doll T-shirt. He stepped into a short and tight gray skirt, the hem barely covering the tops of his thigh-highs, then stepped into a pair of toeless high-heels – a few seemingly stray straps held the delicate-looking shoes together. He’d bought them himself for five dollars at a sidewalk shoe sale on 14 th Street and still hadn’t mastered the proper balance in them. To finish off his outfit he buckled a wide black belt around his waist, then glanced in the mirror. Extremely rapeable and fuckable, the man once told him. He ran his tongue over his red lips and lifted a can of Aqua Nethairspray to puff up the sides of his wig just as the man burst into the room. Where’s my cigarettes?! he shouted, still undressed, a freshly lit cigarette between the fingers of one hand, his other clutching an almost empty cigarette pack.

Where’s my goddamned cigarettes?! he angrily repeated. I’ve only two left!

The boy grimaced, his face flushing even darker and redder than his ruddy makeup made him seem. I forgot, he whispered faintly, not even remembering if he had passed the corner store that morning or not.

What?! the man erupted, angrily nudging the boy’s shoulder. What do you mean you forgot? Didn’t I give you money yesterday?

The boy nodded. Each afternoon when he left for the day, the man left him a quarter on the kitchen table, as if payment for their time together, to put in with the dollar lunch money his mother gave him each school morning (and the man gave him on the weekends), to get a pack of cigarettes when he came up the next day. I’m sorry, he said quietly .Don’t be sorry, the man shrugged. Just go and get them. The boy frowned, disappointed he’d have to undress
The man smirked. What’s wrong with going out like that? You’re dressed just like you always wanted to be, aren’t you?

The boy’s eyes widened, his red mouth drooping open. The idea of going out dressed and all alone scared yet thrilled him more than he had ever been scared or thrilled before. The man picked up the boy’s jeans and rifled through the pockets till he found a wrinkled dollar bill wrapped around a quarter.

C’mon, go, he said, shoving the money at him. Get me more cigarettes .

I … I can’t go out like this! the boy stammered.

The man snorted. Why not? Afraid someone might see you? Don’t you think people already know what you are? Even without those little girlie clothes? They looked at each other. Was it true? the boy wondered. Was his difference so evident on him, no matter what his clothes were? As a ‘boy’ did they recognize a fag? As a ‘girl’ would they see a boy?

No, please, you go, the boy sobbed

The man smiled and held out his arms. Like this? he asked, and looked himself up and down, his penis slightly jerking. You’re at least dressed. He draped an arm around the boy’s shoulder, reaching for his ballooned left breast, and led him out of the bedroom. The boy tottered only once on his high-heels for it was easier to walk with someone holding and directing you.

C’mon, said the man and bent over, kissing the boy’s mouth and slightly smearing his lipstick. You’ll be back in no time, he smirked, groping under the boy’s skirt, his lips tightening in anger as he felt the boy’s smooth tucked-back crotch. He glared.

And when you get back, he promised, his voice hard and stern, I’ll give you a deep hard fucking. The kind that makes you scream. You’d like that, wouldn’t you? To get fucked like a girl? With all your clothes on?

The boy shook his head. No, please, he begged. I can’t go out like this. The man unbolted the front door locks. Listen, you little fucking whore! he said, grabbing the boy by his throat. You better go right this minute or you won’t be coming back here! You hear me?

The boy nodded. The man swung the door open and shoved him into the hall, the boy’s left heel snagging on a hall tile, but he caught himself on the stair railing to keep from falling over and heard the door slam shut behind him.

God, no! the boy thought. What am I doing here?! He sobbed as he heard the door locks snap shut. Oh, God! What am I supposed to do?…Go out or you won’t be let back in.…But he had to get back in. He had to get his clothes back: his jeans, his shirt, his jacket. And he had to get out of these clothes, these heels, these nylons, these water-filled breasts. But if he knocked and banged and pounded and begged, would the man let him back in? Without cigarettes? Why had he forgotten them? So he had to go out. Walk to the corner. Enter the store. Open his mouth.

Walk out. Come back. Oh, my fucking God!

But it was still early. A Saturday morning. Only about nine or so. Not that many people out on a Saturday morning. It was a quiet street anyway, with only the entrance to the building between the highway and the corner store. He’d probably not even pass anyone till he got to the store. He sighed and shut his eyes. In all the images he’d seen of himself in the mirror he was certain he looked like a girl, but did he really? Was what he saw the same as what others would see?

Did clothes always evince a gender? Did makeup? Did a tucked-back penis? If they did, he had succeeded but gone too far in the self-creation of himself as a girl. More then just a mimic of one, suddenly he turned even more real than any attire or even a gender reassignment operation could have evoked: he was a female under a man’s rule. As a female he was treated as such by the man, that is, treated like garbage. Abuse was something he had not expected in playing a girl. His images were softness and perfumes, of being desired and wanted, but a female’s daily reality of abjection and abuse was a certainty whenever she put herself under the sway of a man. It was the same with him: dressed as a girl he would have to act as one, that is, obey a man, if only to survive and live.…He sighed, swallowed painfully – his throat hurt where the man had clutched him – and wove his jaw back and forth. He stared at the shut door, then tugged up his nylon thigh-highs and smoothed his skirt over them. He hoped the nylon tops didn’t show too provocatively under the short skirt hem. He adjusted and aligned his bosom, regretting the nipple-knots which stood out so stiffly: that only proved a girl was horny and wanted to get fucked, didn’t it? He glanced again at the shut door, grimaced, and went down the stairs, his heels clicking in the empty hall and against each stair like the fear clicking in his empty heart.
Just get the cigarettes, he mumbled over and over.…
Just get the cigarettes.…
Once he got the cigarettes and made it back for his clothes, he’d never take them off again.…
Keep walking, was his constant thought. Keep walking. Keep walking. Keep walking. Don’t even look at that man. God, but my tits are jiggling, up and down, up and down. He’s looking at them. That’s all he’s looking at. Can a fourteen-year-old girl have tits this big? Do I look fourteen? I am fourteen! Jailbait. Rapeable and fuckable. By who? Just keep walking. God, what if a tit breaks?
He’s looking at my legs. Don’t trip. What if my dick falls out? What if it shows under my skirt? But the skirt’s not that short. It’s not that tight to show a bulge. But it’s rising up. Rising up
my thigh, over my nylons, oh God, my thighs are showing!
He’s looking! Is my panty showing? Pull the skirt down! Quick, before he rapes me, before he fucks me!
He’s still looking. He has a hard-on. I can see it. Do I have a hard-on? I can’t even feel it.
He’s looking all over me, all over my body, but not once at my face or eyes. What does he see in my body that he’d want to do to it? I’m only fourteen. And he’s too old. Older than the man in the apartment.
He’s staring at my nipples. Keep walking. Keep walking. No, please, I don’t want to get fucked. I made it all up. It’s all in my head. I don’t really look like this. My nipples aren’t really that
stiff. Please don’t rape me. Walk walk walk walk

Now he’s looking at me from behind. Is my skirt all the way down? Are my nylon tops still showing?
He sure gave me a strange look. What was he thinking?
Did he suspect I was too good to be true? Did he hope this would be his lucky day?
Keep walking. Keep walking. Don’t even turn around. That’s one down. And it wasn’t bad at all. I even got horny, that’s for sure. But what if he follows me? What if he’s still there when I come
back? And follows me into the building? Feels me up? Squeezes my tits, gropes my pussy? I’m rapeable and fuckable, and look it, too.

Oh, my God, keep walking! Don’t even look across the street.
It’s him! The kid from last night! So what that he’s stopped? So what he’s staring? He can’t recognize me. He doesn’t know me. Does he recognize my wig? My blonde hair? So what that he’s whistling at me? I deserve to be whistled at. I am pretty! Like a girl. Rapeable and fuckable. Oh, God, stop jiggling!
But if I walk slower he’ll think I want to get picked up. He’ll think I want to get fucked. I do want to get fucked. But where is he going? To the apartment. To get fucked? No, I want to get
fucked! Hurry up!
Keep walking. Yellow bodega sign. Like the yellow “Baby Doll” on my jiggling bouncing chest. Up and down. Jiggle, jiggle. Oh, Jesus! He’s following me!
Keep walking. Keep walking. Get fucked. Hard and deep. Like a girl. Almost there. Just get the cigarettes. A few more feet. He’s right behind me.
I shouldn’t have smiled! Oh, Christ! Just open the door. Just get the cigarettes

An elderly but heavily made-up Puerto Rican woman stared incredulously as he shut the door and approached the counter covered with boxes of candy bars. His feet and ankles ached, his
back and shoulders were sore, his strangely stiffening penis was straining to push out from between his legs. The woman glared, appraising him warily – his nervousness, his unsteadiness on his heels, his strange round bosom (it was too round), suspended on his chest but stemming from nothing, simply puffed and bloated, silicone-like, definitely phony. She sneered in disgust.
What?! she snapped, before he could open his mouth.
He winced, certain his voice would betray him. A pack of Marlboros, he softly lisped

A pack of Marlboros! the old woman sniggered, her voice high-pitched, also lisping, one hand on her hip, the other held limp-wristed at her chest. She despised his kind.

A pack of Marlboros! she mimicked again.
The boy’s entire body slumped. He knew she knew his pretense was over. Nothing mattered but to get back to the apartment and put on his clothes and run away forever. Did he think he could
feel like a woman? A real woman? One with a real cunt and tits? He heard the door open behind him.
How old are you? the woman snapped.
Eighteen, he lied, knowing he looked nowhere near the legal age to purchase cigarettes – he’d never had this problem as a boy.
Eighteen, huh? the woman grunted. And how old are those tits, half an hour?
She reached over the counter and almost grabbed the boy’s left breast but he tottered back and fell against someone behind him – a hand on his waist, another clutching his wrist. His penis fell
free of his panty. He looked up at the kid from the street.
Gotcha! the kid smiled, showing off his even white teeth.
They stared at each other, the kid’s eyes narrowing, puzzling. The kid steadied the boy up as he tugged down the front of his skirt, his penis a stiff bulge. Behind them the front door opened
Get outta here, you fairies! the old woman erupted, waving her arms. I don’t want no maricon diseases in my store!
Yo! the kid snapped back, angrily. You talkin’ to me? Don’t go around dissing anyone, mama!

Hey! a voice behind him shouted. Quit it!
The kid and the boy instantly recognized the man’s voice. They quickly broke from each other and the kid let go of the boy’s waist.
She started it, the kid tried to explain.
Quiet, said the man, and went to the boy. He held out his hand and the boy gave him the dollar bill and quarter he had clutched all along. The kid stared at them in surprise.
Oh, shit, I get it! he finally mumbled.
The boy glared at him.
A package of Marlboros, the man told the woman, setting the money on the counter. And make it snappy.
The kid darted to a soda case. And a Coke, he said, taking out a can

The man scowled. Okay, he finally said, but get me one too, a Diet Coke, and reached into his pocket for more money.
And me! the boy wanted to say, me too, I want a Coke! But he kept quiet, hoping one of them asked, like they should with a girl. They didn’t, and he lowered his head, disappointed,
knowing no matter what he looked like he was not the center of their attentions.
He turned around, away from the counter, and in a quick instant, as if with a well-practiced hand, reached under his skirt and flicked his stiff penis back into the panty, sighing in pleasure as it soothed and rose up his belly. He wasn’t the man’s favorite, he knew that now, but perhaps the kid’s?… He blushed at the thought.…
They left the store, the man and kid smoking and sipping sodas, the boy walking contritely between them. Should he put his arm in theirs, one on each of their elbows?
So you know each other? the man asked, looking at the two of them.
The kid sipped his soda and suddenly gulped.
This is Blondie? he asked incredulously. With her clothes in the closet?
He looked the boy up and down, leering at his breasts, his knees, the slight bulge at the front of his skirt. Wow! Not bad, not bad at all!
The man scowled. Who did you think she was? A real girl? His eyes narrowed and he looked angrily at the kid. And why would you be interested in a girl?
I knew what she was, a fake, the kid protested, and blushed, hiding his face behind the can of Coke. I could tell right away

Sure you could, the man said. Looks even better than the real thing, eh? He reached for the boy’s tit.
Can we just go?! the boy snapped, pushing the man’s hand off.
The man shrugged and looked at his watch. Shit! It’s getting late. He looked up and down the street. Listen, he said to the kid. I got an appointment. I’ll see you … and her … later, okay?
What?! the boy erupted. What do mean later? I need my clothes back now!
You’ll get them, don’t worry, the man waved him off. He’ll take care of you, he gestured toward the kid.
Yeah, don’t worry about a thing. The kid put an arm around the boy’s shoulder The boy tried to shake him off but the kid held him hard and steady. He winked at the man. Give us the keys to your place, he suggested.
The man scowled. I won’t be that long. Why don’t you wait for me in the park, next to the men’s room?
I’m not going to no park! the boy snapped, succeeding in shaking the kid’s arm off.

The kid looked at him as if waiting for him to stamp his high-heeled foot, which he almost did,but he knew it was expected, and simply crossed his arms over his chest, careful not to clutch
them too tightly.
Yeah, the park! the kid suddenly beamed at the boy. Hey! he said, and tweaked the boy’s bare upper arm. We could probably even make some money there!
Huh? the boy stared at him.
Yeah, it’s Saturday, the kid explained. They got all these baseball games on Saturday. And those Puerto Rican guys get so drunk they wouldn’t know what they were fucking. Hell, we could be millionaires by tonight. What d’ya say? and he tweaked the boy again.
No! the boy squealed. You’re crazy! I’m not going to no park! I’m not going to fuck no drunken PR’s! I want my clothes back!

The man slapped him, not hard, but hard enough to shut him up. He grabbed the boy under the jaw. You’re going to the park, he said sternly. You’re gonna do what you’re told. You’re gonna
screw whoever has the money. Understood?
The boy barely nodded, ready to do anything to get the man’s cinching fingers off his throat. The man shoved him at the kid. I’ll meet you in a few hours, he said to the kid. Get whatever you
can for … the whore. He turned and walked away.
The boy sniffled and the kid again put his arm around him. Don’t worry, the kid said, gently tugging down one side of the boy’s wig that had shifted from the man’s slap. It won’t be so bad. If they wanna fuck you they’ll have to wear condoms, okay? Blowjobs are fine; you don’t need condoms for that.
The boy kept quiet. He didn’t say a thing about his not having any condoms. His eyes welled with tears, but he held them in, not wanting to smear his makeup. He didn’t know what he
looked like anymore: queer, whore, boy, girl, did it matter?
The kid leaned over and kissed him on the cheek. I’ll let you suck me off first, he smiled, to see how much we can get away with. With the way you look, I’m sure we can get ten dollars a
blowjob. Do you have any money?
The boy shook his head.

The kid shrugged. Too bad, because we gotta get you some fingernails. Fingernails and nail polish. Guys go crazy for that. Long red fingernails around their cocks, shit, that’s probably
even worth an extra five dollars right there. But we’ll start with ten, okay?
The boy sighed and looked at the kid. Ten dollars a blowjob. Like a whore, he thought, the word spinning backwards and forwards and in and out of his mind. Whore whore whore. The word had never been a part of his feminine vocabulary but now it would be. He sighed and put his arm around the kid’s waist, tottering against him toward the already crowded Saturday morning park. It wasn’t all that hard to walk in heels.
But first a blowjob. Then more blowjobs. Ten dollars a blowjob. Wow! Ten fucking dollars! He looked at the kid. This is how he always knew it should be: a couple together, in love, a part of
each other.

Jesus Christ! Ten dollars a blowjob! And he’d been giving it out for free.
Like a silly stupid teenage girl. Free? Ha! What a laugh! Paying a dollar a day in cigarette money! What a rip-off! But no more. It was time he got treated and pampered the way he should be.
Like a real girl. Hell, at ten dollars a blowjob they could get nail polish and fingernails right after the first one and start making some real money. He looked dreamily at the kid, and wondered
what his name was.…

C’mon, Baby Doll, the kid said. Cheer up