Monday, March 23, 2015

Heat Trap (#3 in the Plumber’s Mate mystery series) excerpt by JL Merrow


In Heat Trap, #3 in the Plumber’s Mate mystery series by JL Merrow, the wrong secret could flush their love down the drain
It’s been six months since plumber Tom Paretski was hit with a shocking revelation about his family. His lover, P.I. Phil Morrison, is pushing this as an ideal opportunity for Tom to try to develop his psychic talent for finding things. Tom would prefer to avoid the subject altogether, but just as he decides to bite the bullet, worse problems come crawling out of the woodwork.
Marianne, a young barmaid at the Devil’s Dyke pub, has an ex who won’t accept things are over between them. Grant Carey is ruthless in dealing with anyone who gets between him and Marianne, including an old friend of Tom and Phil. Their eagerness to step in and help only makes them targets of Grant’s wrath themselves.
With Tom’s uncertainty about Phil’s motives, Tom’s family doing their best to drive a wedge between them, and the revelation of an ugly incident in Phil’s past, suddenly Tom’s not sure whom he can trust.
The body in the Dyke’s cellar isn’t the only thing that stinks.

Warning: Contains British slang, a very un-British heat wave, and a plumber with a psychic gift who may not be as British as he thinks he is.

Heat Trap
SamhainPublishing (March 17, 2015)
ISBN-10: 1619229242
ISBN-13: 978-1619229242

Excerpt:
I’d never gone into a pub cellar before—I might be a plumber, but the sort of liquids they have piped in down there aren’t really my area of expertise. Then again, I suppose I’ve downed a few pints in my time. I’d expected it to be fairly small, just room for a few barrels and pipelines. Maybe another room where they stored the spares, and the bottles of wine and bags of crisps and stuff.

It was actually pretty massive, with four or five separate rooms leading off from the narrow stone stairway. It couldn’t stretch as far as the whole upstairs floor space, owing to the medieval well in the public bar which must still have been in use when the cellar was dug, but it couldn’t be far off. If trade at the Devil’s Dyke ever took off in a big way, landlady Harry could put in a whole separate bar down here if she wanted to. The walls were whitewashed brick, with those low, curving ceilings you always seemed to get in cellars built during Ye Olde Tymes.
It was as if I’d dropped in on a hobbit with a drinking problem.
And a housekeeping problem, come to that. It smelt pretty rank down here. There was something about the odour that made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, although maybe it was just down to the chill in the air here after the oven-like conditions back upstairs in the land of the living. I stood stock-still, opened up the spidey-senses and listened.
I practically fell over with the force of the vibes buffeting me in the chest.
I couldn’t believe I’d been sitting in the bar having a pint, oblivious. How could I have blocked out something that strong? There was guilt and anger—and fear too. My stomach went cold as I realised just what I was likely to find down here.
I turned to Marianne. “I reckon you’ve got more to worry about than a burst drain, love.” My face must have looked as iffy as I felt, as she wrapped skinny arms around herself, her pretty face a picture of worry.
I followed the thick, sickly vibes out of the main cellar with its shiny metal barrels and high-tech pump lines, the hum of the chiller unit fading behind me. They took me down the dimly lit passageway that led to the farthest cellar room. It was clearly used as a dumping ground for any old rubbish Harry hadn’t got around to chucking away yet.
Among other things.
It was warmer in here, although still nowhere near as hot as upstairs, and close up, the stench was sickening. Let’s face it, in my profession you get used to the odd nasty niff, from blocked drains and bunged-up loos and that, but the stink of death? That’s something else. I think it’s the sweetness that gets to me most. Like, what the hell is something so awful doing smelling sweet? I gagged and clapped a hand over my nose and mouth. It didn’t help. The reek of decay seemed to seep inside my lungs even when I wasn’t inhaling. I had to force myself to go on looking.
Didn’t take me long to find it. Talk about following your nose. It was wedged behind some barrels—actual old wooden ones, covered in cobwebs. God knows why they were down here. Maybe they’d been left by the original owner of the place. Any beer they’d ever held had long since been drunk, or maybe just evaporated over the centuries.
The body didn’t actually look as far gone as you’d think, given the smell. The features were swollen, grotesque, but still recognisable.
At least, I recognised them.

JL Merrow is that rare beast, an English person who refuses to drink tea.  She writes across genres, with a preference for contemporary gay romance, and is frequently accused of humour.  Her novel Relief Valve, #2 in the Plumber’s Mate series, is a finalist in the 2015 EPIC Awards.
Find JL Merrow online at: www.jlmerrow.com


Monday, March 9, 2015

Pretty Boy Dead excerpt by Jon Michaelsen

Pretty Boy Dead excerpt by Jon Michaelsen

In the 2014 Lambda Literary Award Finalist for Gay Mystery, Pretty Boy Dead author Jon Michaelsen stirs a murderous brew with ingredients of a murdered male stripper, a missing go-go dancer. a city councilman on the hook. Can Atlantlike a Homicide Detective Sgt. Kendall Parker solve the vicious crime while remaining safely hidden behind the closet door?
Excerpt:

“I’ve talked to a few of the bartenders,” Perelli shouted, leaning near his partner’s ear. He stuck a thumb over his shoulder as Parker turned. “None….good…say…”
Unable to understand, he motioned for them to move up the stairs and out into the main room. “What were you saying?” he asked, ignoring the ringing echo in his ears.
“No luck so far. I’ve talked to several employees, but nothing.” Perelli tipped his cup on end, licking the remnants of alcohol from the corners of his mouth. “I’m getting another. Want one?”
“Take it easy on the alcohol, Perelli.”
Perelli waved him off and shot across the carpeted floor, returning moments later with a fresh drink. “Cops carry clout in these places,” he said. “No waiting in line either.” The threat to his masculinity had abated with a few drinks. So, it seemed, had his cold shoulder to Parker. “Hell, this place ain’t so bad,” he sneered. “Despite all the fucking fags.”
Parker ignored his partner’s comment, distracted by the movement of a patron across the room. The young man was edging toward the emergency exit and kept an eye peeled in their direction.
“What’s up, partner?”
“I’m not sure yet,” said Parker. “You see the guy over there in the red tank?” Perelli followed Parker’s stare and nodded. “Since we’ve been standing here, he’s slipped through the crowd, not a word to anyone, but kept watching us. Looks like he’s headed for that exit.”
“I’d say he’s about to bolt.” Perelli tossed his cup into a nearby trash bin and leaned in close to Parker’s ear. “I’ll head out front and swing around,” he said. “He makes a run for it, I’ll be there.”
Parker studied the character over his partner’s shoulder. “Keep it cool, Perelli,” he said. “If the dude makes a break for it, detain him and that’s all. It’s probably nothing, but I want to be sure. And watch your back.”
Perelli disappeared through the squash of bodies. Parker sipped his cocktail, peering over the rim of the plastic cup as he watched the man’s eyes springboard around the room. Parker spotted Callahan and two goons moving in fast as the man rushed to make a break for it. A hand slapped onto Parker’s arm about the time he started to advance.
“Slade. What the hell are you doing here?”
The reporter smirked. Parker turned back in time to see the red shirt had moved closer to the emergency exit. A cluster of chatty men blocked his view as Slade tugged his arm again.
You’re working the park homicide, aren’t you? Why else would you be here?” Slade tried to follow Parker’s line of sight across the room. “I know the victim worked here as a dancer, a mighty popular one, I might add.”
“What’s your point?” Parker turned away and craned his neck over the crowd in front of him. He spotted the tousled blond hair of the young man within inches of freedom. “Some other time,” he said.
All eyes were on Parker as he shoved and elbowed his way through the crowd, stepping on a few toes along the way. He heard some choice words and threats in his wake. Patrons dashed out of the way and protected their drinks.
The guy threw open the emergency door and set off the alarm. Someone nearby screamed and people scattered in the opposite direction. Callahan and his men retreated as Parker reached the exit, slammed through the door and leaped into the alleyway beside the club.
Pitch black. Retrieving his gun with his right hand, he clasped the butt of the weapon with his left and waited wide-eyed for his pupils to adjust.Where was Perelli? Brooks? The smell of sewage and stale beer hung in the night air. Behind him, the heavy door shut.
An eerie silence invaded the area.

Parker stood in total darkness, his weapon aimed, and safety released. His heart pumped like a jackhammer as he scanned the area. He ventured forward, placing one foot carefully before the next in slow, measured steps. The grit on the asphalt crunched beneath his rubber soles and echoed in his ears.
The exit door had dumped him into the narrow alleyway accessed by main roads at either end of the Metroplex. A long, dark vehicle facing the opposite direction hugged the cinderblock wall of the building, exhaust from its tailpipe drifting skyward from an idling engine. The tinted windows were slick with raindrops, and the headlights off. Parker glanced to the left. A pile of empty liquor boxes seemed to be the only hiding place, because the guy didn’t have enough time to get to Juniper Street.
Where the fuck’s Perelli?
Seconds ticked away in the quiet alley. Parker edged forward to inspect the pile of rubbish, poking at the refuse with the barrel of his gun. Nothing. Moving around to the other side, he nudged at several lower boxes with his toe. No movement. His stomach constricted and his legs stiffened with anticipation. Perspiration slid down his temples, but he dared not wipe the sweat away. Two minutes had passed since his burst through the door and still nothing stirred.
Every cop dreaded such a situation, slow dancing in the shadows alone with a robber, a thief…a killer. Fear had a way of clutching the heart and soul, controlling all logic. He knew from experience the anxiety coursing through his veins was enough to riddle a man’s body stiff and lock his joints, even for tough cops like him. It had a mind of its own…fear, dominating the human psyche, causing one to act out of desperation, to strike when provoked. Fear.
Fear of the unknown or fear of death?
Parker backed away from the boxes, his eyes glued to the pile of cardboard, his breathing more rapid and his heartbeat echoing in his ears.Easy, he coaxed himself. Wait him out. He swung his arms slowly to the right, following the point just above the barrel of his weapon. Steady… 
A cat screamed in the distance, sending chills up Parker’s spine. He stepped into something cold and wet, the mess oozing into his shoe as a pungent odor hit his nose. A door in the wall next to the parked vehicle burst open and out stepped a short figure in a suit, bathed in the interior light when the car door opened. He heard a faint step, saw a flash of red before something heavy struck hard against the back of his head.
Pain shot through his neck and shoulders. He stumbled forward off balance, but managed to fire a single shot into the brick wall before losing his grip on the gun. A broken bottle, lead pipe, splintered board—whatever the hell it was—held by a shadowed hand cracked hard across Parker’s skull. He tumbled to the wet pavement in time to see confusion flicker across the face of the suited man ducking into the backseat of the sedan. The vehicle’s engine revved, and its tires squealed as it raced away.Fuck!
The attacker dropped its weapon and sprinted in the opposite direction. Parker got to his knees and fumbled around for his gun. He stood, staggered a second, and took off after the attacker in a running stumble. The pressure and pain at the base of his head pulsated as he ran. Warm blood flowed from above his right ear, filling his ear canal and running down his jaw and neck.
The suspect had darted around the building onto Juniper. Parker neared the corner wall and halted, putting his back against the brick wall to avoid another attack. He  sucked in a deep breath and threw his entire weight around the corner with his pistol drawn. In the distance, two figures scuffled in the middle of the road, their struggle illuminated by a nearby street lamp.
Freeze!” Parker chased after the man, spitting blood as he ran. 
The suspect glanced up, panicked and clamped his teeth down hard on Perelli’s arm before stabbing him in the chest with something. Perelli yelled, released his hold and fell to the asphalt clutching his neck. The perpetrator sprinted down the block and disappeared at the next side street.  


 Jon Michaelsen



Monday, March 2, 2015

Buddha's Bad Boys excerpt by Alan Chin


In Alan Chin's new collection of stories, there are many reason why Western men turn to Eastern religion—searching for inner truth, lost love, loneliness, fleeing the law, hopelessness, alcoholism. Some travel halfway around the world in an attempt to overcome their particular dissoluteness, only to realize that improving yourself is like polishing air. What they eventually discover, nevertheless, is one of the Buddha’s most significant lessons: enlightenment comes to those whose singular focus is on helping others less fortunate. 

Some of these stories are purely fictional, while others are based on true events.

Six stories, six troubled gay men trudging down the road to enlightenment. What they each find is that last thing in the world they expected.

The first story in this anthology is called Monk For A Month and is about two men, Reece and Doug, who are almost done with the “Monk for a Month” program at the temple in Chiang Mai, where they have been living like Buddhist monks. But on the same night that Reece finds that Doug is having an affair with another Thai monk, there is a murder lose in the town. Reece sees the killer hiding in the temple and goes about trying to help him escape the police. In the process, a love affair begins.

Buddha’s Bad Boys
Bold Stroke Books (February 17, 2017)
ISBN-10: 1626392447:
ISBN-13: 978-16263924419 

Excerpt:

I sat at the bar sporting saffron robes and a shaved head, sipping a Singha beer and listening to the bartender, who was clearly agitated. I couldn’t tell whether the man was upset over the recent murders, or because the hard rain was hurting his business, or if he simply didn’t like serving alcohol to a monk, even a Caucasian one.
“His name Somchai,” the bartender said. He spoke English, but with the usual Thai singsong clip that I had come to adore. “He kill American expatriate named Warren. Tony Warren.”
I had seen a dead body only once, a gruesome spectacle. It took an effort to settle my nerves as the bartender glared at me, as if, also being an American, made me an accomplice. I had never learned the invaluable art of staying detached in the face of tragedy, of not identifying with the victim. I had no way to shield myself from the reality of how brutal humans can be to each other, what ruthless lengths they will go, and the pain they are capable of inflicting on each other.
Across the street, four soldiers trudged along in the rain.
“When did Somchai kill Warren?” I asked, my voice scarcely a whisper.
The bartender didn’t know exactly, sometime at the beginning of the afternoon that had now come to an end. At the same time that he killed Warren, Somchai had also slain Warren’s Thai girlfriend. Both victims had been found two hours earlier at the apartment belonging to Warren.
The barroom was already dark, due to the lateness of the hour and another power outage. Candles flickered on the bar and at each table; their yellow light mingled with the blueness of the dying day.
The shower stopped as suddenly as it had started, as it often does in Thailand.
“How old was she? The girlfriend I mean,” I asked.
“Very young. Nineteen.” Regret passed over the bartender’s face. “A real beauty.”
“I would like another Singha,” I said, “but I have no more money. Can I buy on credit?”
The bartender’s look of regret turned to disgust. As he walked away, a customer two stools over ordered beers for me and himself, and also shots of cheap Thai whiskey.
The bartender prepared our drinks while the customer moved to the stool beside mine. He introduced himself as Ty Poe, and did not shake my hand, as it is considered disrespectful to touch a monk. Poe was courteous, offering the customary wai gesture of respect. He was somewhere in his forties, and had a smoking-induced cough. The polluted streets of Chiang Mai didn’t help his lungs any more than his chain-smoking, I thought. I gave him my name, Reece Jackson, and told him I was from America, San Francisco in fact.
“I overheard your talk about the murders.”
“Why haven’t they caught him yet?” I asked. “Chiang Mai’s a small town.”
“They have him trapped within the walls of the old city, but you should know how it is,” Poe grunted. “We’re talking about an American expatriate and his whore who got themselves killed by a homeless gay kid. I mean, there are limited resources available to the police department. The police force, as a rule, is not well trained. Officers have to buy their own uniforms, their own guns. They are poorly paid. Not much would be happening now except that this dead girl happens to be the daughter of an army major. The army is doing what they can but they do not know the town as well as Somchai.”
Poe was right, I thought. What could anyone reasonably expect of this situation? The unvarnished fact was that in this country, any given police station’s cases were ranked according to priority. And priority in Thailand had to do with wealth and status. Those on the low end of the spectrum were unlikely to receive much attention. And for a homeless gay kid with no family who happened to murder a bit of riff-raff, then it was probably the victim’s fault. Why bother figuring out all the sordid details?
I felt thankful that I came from a country where every death warranted respect, every victim merited justice, no matter how far down the social and economic ladder that victim might fall. At least I liked to believe that bit of hype.
The bartender placed the beers and shots before us. I lifted my shot in a toast to Poe and knocked my head back, taking the drink in one hot swallow. Poe stared at me in obvious surprise.
“I’ve never seen a monk do that,” Poe said.
“I’m not really a monk. My partner and I paid good money to enroll in the Monk-For-A-Month program here at Wat Phra Singh. He’s on some damned spiritual quest that I, frankly, don’t understand. Me, I’m just an IT geek along for the ride.”
“So you’re not alone,” Poe asked, exhaling a stream of smoke.
“Technically, no. But it often feels like I am.”
The bar stood only a few doors down from Tha Phae Square, which spread before one of the four main gates of the old city, and where two of the town’s chief avenues collided. The square was bordered by the city wall, built of ancient brick, and butted against by the city moat on the north and south sides.  The top of the wall was wide enough to walk on, and just then a flock of children scampered along the wet brick, heedless of the danger of slipping. Among them ran Archer, my adopted son, also sporting a shaved head and wearing the saffron robes. The children looked down on the tourists who gathered in the square, clutching their umbrellas in case the rains returned.
It must be between six and seven in the evening, I thought.
Another shower started and people in the square ran for cover.
Archer hopped down the wall steps and dashed across the road like a fleeing deer. He entered the bar and huddled against me, giving Poe a cautious glance. Archer was a handsome seven-year-old with a round face that gave way to a large jaw and a brilliant set of teeth. He had an impishness and good humor in his eyes, and was strong for so young a boy. But what I admired most about him was his gentle and trusting disposition. Unlike most boys, he was incapable of hurting anything. His only flaw was that he was fathered by two gay men, which made him an outcast back home, someone to be pitied, stared at, whispered about, laughed at, and occasionally beaten up by his peers.
Strokes of lightning lit the sky, coming so close together that they seemed like a ceaseless illumination. The thunder was continuous. The noise burst like metal fireworks, and then would immediately rise again; its modulations grew less and less defined as the shower let up, until there was only the sound of rain striking paving stones.
“This rain will last all night,” Poe said, lighting another cigarette from the butt of his previous one.
Moments later, the shower stopped. Poe left his stool and pointed at the leaden sky, patched with massive blotches of somber gray so low that it seemed to brush the rooftops. “Don’t let that fool you.”

Buddha’s Bad Boys is "available everywhere fine books are sold." You can buy it now, in paperback or any eBook format, at Bold Stroke Books

Monday, February 23, 2015

Two Loves excerpt by JacobCampbell



This is the second excerpt from Two Loves by Jacob Campbell, dedicated to the writer Mykola Dementiuk.  The author states, “Mykola is my dear friend and mentor, and he is a multiple Lambda Literary Awards winner. Mykola has been a constant encouragement since I began writing for publication. He suffered a physical crisis which left him partially paralyzed, and he types his books with one finger, a letter at a time.  I cherish his friendship and dedicate this novel to him with warmest wishes.”

In this book, Joey is growing up with no gay role models. In the dim light of the early 1960s, Joey only knew what he picked up on the streets, at magazine stands, and in public restrooms. In his senior year in high school, he falls in love with Ross, a beautiful athletic “straight guy.” But once in college, his love life takes a turn.

Ike, a flamboyant college freshman, turns Joey on to gay sex and the newly formed gay lib movement. But things don’t go well for Joey, and he fumbles through a few one-night stands and semi-relationships. After nearly losing Ike to a gay bashing, Joey gives up on love and turns his motorcycle toward New Orleans and the French Quarter, where he moves in with his bohemian cousin, Judy. 

Joey likes the gay scene in the Quarter but he is lonely, missing intimacy, and flails through life. The sexual nights in the French Quarter aren’t enough to satisfy his real needs -- but his resourceful cousin magically opens the door for him to have the best of both worlds.

Two Loves
JMS Books (November 30, 2014)
EXCERPT:

The hour drive from Crystal Springs to Mettray Seminary at Saint Clare, Arkansas was a time of great expectation. I had to fight the urge to masturbate while driving there.

That night, I downed two beers while driving, and was less inhibited by the time I parked in the tree lined, dust road behind the priest’s cemetery. The towers of the basilica-like chapel at Mettray Seminary showed over the treetops, as did the matching towers of the real basilica that stood at the entrance to Fontevrault, the Franciscan monastery. Fontevrault overlooked Mettray Seminary, and for many of the minor seminarians to move up from a mere diocesan seminary to a full-fledged cloistered monastic life was their ultimate goal. There was nothing holier than to enter the Franciscan’s cloistered world. Had I not been brought to the destiny of a hedonist at an early age I’d cheerfully become a prisoner for God.

I spent four years at Mettray trying to be a virtuous seminarian, but I failed in every way. I didn't know how badly I was doing until I was required to repeat my junior year. I was not dumb, but I did a lot of dumb things. I studied but it seemed I got poor marks even when I thought I did good work. I didn’t know anything about speaking with professors or appealing my grades, but looking back, one has to wonder what the standard was. My hedonism may have been noticed long before I was told about it.

At Mettray I was promiscuous to the extent that I could find partners for masturbation or for sex in some form, but I suppose it was denial that kept me from realizing what sort of spectacle I was making of myself. I refused sex with the college guys, the ones who wore black cassocks and white Roman collars, all the time. There was one I found particularly difficult. I made the mistake of letting him give me a blowjob one time, and that error haunted me. He gossiped about me, too, to his peers in the fifth and sixth year classes. I honestly didn’t know who knew what about me.

So, I was tolerated by the rector until I reached eighteen at which time he turned on me and I was unceremoniously expelled; eventually I was even banned from entering the grounds again after I came back and slipped out my former bunkmate, Vellas. Vellas and I even went to elementary school together. We were not sex-buddies, but still we were friends. Only problem, when I took him to get drunk, he got caught. How? I think he sort of turned himself in because I’m sure he confessed what we did. He believed the priests actually kept secret the sins confessed to them in the little wooden box at the rear of the chapel.

I never went to confession to a faculty member. I didn’t trust them because back home my parish priest had exposed the circle of his friends who were in the know about sex with altar boys, and who hung out together. Some of that same circle of priests came out to visit at Mettray and I heard them drinking with the faculty and I knew they shared stories about us.

For Vellas’s downfall, I drove the "getaway car." That's what we called my dad's old 1957 Oldsmobile. I loved the massive car, and only wished it was not creamy white, because it stood out starkly in the moonlight. I was stigmatized as “a bad ex-seminarian.”

But my expulsion wasn’t going to keep Ross and me apart. When the calls came from Mettray, Dad knew it was Ross. He wanted a son like Ross, not like me. I was odd and possessed of strange interests like coin collecting, and doing biology experiments in my homemade laboratory in the garage. I dressed like a sissy.

Ross was muscular and handsome and Ross's visits to my parent's home always ended with my father comparing him to me. Dad always made small talk with Ross, talking about sports, or about something in the Bishop’s Sunday letter to the faithful, or just asking him how his studies progressed. He had to know I had a thing for Ross. Perhaps he was living vicariously through me.

Sometimes, I wondered if my dad didn’t like guys too. His relationship with my uncle Gordon made me very suspicious. I was careful to avoid him seeing me; after all, Uncle Gordon was one of the regular cruisers on the uptown streets. He had a travel agency nearby where he could entertain tricks. My dad visited his business location more than any other client he had, and my dad asked him to be my confirmation sponsor. There were other men my father seemed enthralled with too, like one college boy he hired to work in the office when I was at Mettray, Dickey Geist—as effeminate and flamboyant as a guy could be.

Sometimes I felt my father just wished I would leave home and not come back. He was so moody, I never knew if he was happy or angry with me when we first saw one another each morning. Sometimes he stood in my bedroom door after midnight, when everyone was asleep, and watched me for what seemed like hours. I never asked him why he did it, but I knew he was staring at me as I slept. I thought maybe he was insane. I’d fall asleep and when I’d wake, he was still there. I wondered if I dreamed it.

I cared less and less about what my father thought. What I was sure of was I wanted Ross to love me, actually, to be deeply in love with me.

But, I couldn't express my emotional longing to be lovers to Ross. All I ever ended up saying to him was I wanted his friendship. I knew not to talk about the kissing or touching his stomach or chest, and I knew he didn’t ever want to communicate with words about sex when we began parking and drinking during our soirĂ©es. Even though he never said anything, I knew he liked what we did because his nipples hardened to my touch, and he made out with me when he got very drunk. He seemed to forget everything once he sobered up the next day. Each time we got heated up together it was always like it was the first time it ever happened. Never did he talk about it.

I drove the hour to our rendezvous. I didn’t have a curfew. I only had rules about keeping the car clean and not getting popcorn on the floor. Why my dad focused on the popcorn and ignored that I came in at three in the morning, I never understood. As I got older I began to believe he held secret wishes that I was living out for him--him in his prison of a life tied to a desk and telephone at the beck and call of shopkeepers and filling station operators, a few country doctors and a rickety old country hospital in our miserable town. He was an unhappy bookkeeper, a reluctant accountant. No wonder he liked to be around Ross, too. For sure he wanted to swap him for me. I wasn't making anyone proud.

I was a failure when it came to most things dad valued. I was the one who left the seminary in a state of confusion and questionable circumstances. I was the son who ran away from home and lived with a grown man in the French Quarter and only returned home to Crystal Springs when I screwed up.

I missed the French Quarter too and every day at school in Crystal Springs was misery for me. The work in the office was misery for me. I was like Cinderella in a way: doing chores while hidden away in the background, kept away from family reunions, parties, dinners, a black sheep who shamed the family by being “queer”—a word that was never uttered around me, but a word with which I sincerely identified. I looked for other “queers”; this really was my main avocation in life.

I had a double standard about the word “queer” however, and when I overheard my father cussing and shouting at my mother for turning me into a “goddamned sick queer” I felt really unloved and rejected. This atmosphere was present since my earliest memories. When I was home on vacations and for the summer break from the seminary I entered into a secret life, cruising places guys hung out, looking for sex.

With my parents never knowing anything I discovered that as a teenager I could hang out in public bathrooms, libraries, and in parks. Long before I learned what the word “cruising” meant, learned that shop owners didn’t mind me hanging out at magazine racks looking at rock star and teen picture magazines while older guys cruised me. I loved shirtless Davie Jones best; other shirtless hottie rock stars stirred me, but I’d page through magazine after magazine looking for Davie Jones, while I sported a semi-hardon. I figured I was good for the magazine stand’s business, like an added attraction.

No one ever said anything about me hanging out in the bathroom at the courthouse where I peeked at the guys who came in to pee. Some were intentionally showing their stuff. Others didn’t know I peeped through the little holes in the stalls overlooking the urinals, and no one seemed to care if I stayed in the bathroom for thirty minutes or two hours. I even found that the back pews in the big cathedral downtown was a place where other guys, some in their business suits, came to pray and exchange glances, same as in the seminary. We communicated subtly; maybe a smile was allowed.

So, for my teenage years I’d been learning more and more about men seeking men, but nothing really helped me in my heartfelt desire to be closer to Ross. The dissonance from my parents’s battles encouraged me to look for happier emotions outside of our home. A chance to see Ross, announced by one of his calls, was the best that things could be. I loved it. This call from my hero was no exception, and I forgot everything else except getting ready for what I thought of as a date.

That day, on my way to see Ross, I was euphoric. I stopped to pick up the beer at the Last Call, just inside the city limits of Crystal Springs. The next county over and the one past it where Mettray was, were dry counties, and this was the only alcohol stop for an hour—alcohol was a big reason I did so well getting calls from Ross. He couldn’t get anyone else to bring him alcohol out in the middle of nowhere, but I believed he cared more for me than he was aware of. I believed that he used the beer and drinking on our escapes as a way of letting his deeper self come out and be known.

Out there on the country roads it was darker than ever. I was buzzed from the beer and was really into the music on the Old’s radio—Brenda Lee singing “Break It to Me Gently” was my favorite song. I turned the radio off, entered stealth-mode, and drove the last mile along the two-lane dust trail under the cover of darkness. I stopped the white Olds in the woods just far enough from the cemetery so that I couldn't be seen from the school, and I waited.

Bulldozers had dug firebreaks, ditch-like furrows that helped prevent the spread of forest fires ran along through the woods in a grid pattern, and they afforded the cover that Ross needed to crawl away from the seminary unseen. He was invisible and yet I sometimes could sense his presence as he neared the car. I’d see some movement in the brush and he would appear like a wild animal, a deer, running with his body humped over to where he was actually using his hands like front feet as he hurried through the ditch and slipped up to the car. The light came on in the cab only for an instant and then went off again, and he there he was next to me. I was so attracted to him I shook with excitement.

We didn't touch, didn’t even shake hands. At first we were concerned with riding as quietly as possible out of the woods. We only spoke whispers for some reason until we were on the highway, and Ross would give out a Rebel Yell and pop open a beer and the fun began. Our dates all worked like this, a ritual. By my actions he knew I was there to bring him pleasure.

I felt so excited I focused on myself for long enough to make a mental note to write about this in my journal. I kept records of all my Ross emotions. I wrote about him every day, especially if we got closer physically. I even allowed myself to imagine writing that we’d gone all the way.

****

Ross got into the Oldsmobile on the passenger side, breathing heavily, panting, because of the physical exertion of running along the ground on all fours. He panted when he was filled with expectancy. He panted when he was out of breath. He panted when he saw me. I don’t think he knew, but he panted.

I smelled his after-shave, his unique body scent—a mixture of antiperspirant and a subtle musk he exuded.  I saw the veins in his forearms, pronounced from weight training.

He poked me in the ribs and whispered, “Hi!”

“Hey!”

My body shook with a surge of sexual energy. I was immediately his. He caught his breath and watched me. There was a moment in which his gaze at me turned into a question. I answered with my silence. His gaze asked had I brought enough alcohol but seemed to include a question about how much risk was I good for on this particular night. He looked at me like someone above my class checking to see if I would be a good servant.
My eyes dropped away from his gaze and my silence indicated I was waiting for his direction.

I kept the Olds running with the lights all off. Once the charged moment of mutual sizing each other up passed without any failings, I put the car in reverse and backed out of the dark forest.

Pride in my ability to maneuver in the forest in this big tank of a car filled me.

“I handle this old tank pretty good, huh?” I looked to Ross for some sign of approval. Driving was such a big thing, especially to seminarians that didn’t have cars.

“You’re amazing,” Ross said. “You’re a great undercover guy! You remind me of Flash Gordon eluding the space criminals.”

While he spoke I noticed him rearranging himself to get himself comfortable. He was discreetly shoving his hand inside the tautness of his jeans, under his brown leather belt. I saw his fingers reach into his underwear to adjust himself.

“We’re the criminals,” I joked. We both knew we were breaking the major rule of Mettray, a rule that basically was designed to totally cut off the seminarian from the outside world, to sever all ties to lay persons, to shut out worldly friendships, and to distance, and even cut off, ties to family.
“I’m so glad to see you, man,” I said in a whisper. “I’m so bored at home. Leaving Mettray was a big fuckin’ mistake for me. I don’t fit in at Catholic High worth a damn. It’s not really very religious and its rough there, lots of tough guys. I don’t fit in.”

“I think you're fitting in with great success,” Ross said. “You’ve got me out of prison for the night and I see the beer cooler and would guess you bought a case of beer at least.”

“I got a case of Miller Highlife and a six pack of Bud. And these, too!” I pulled two quarts of Bud out of the cooler. 

The ice slushed around. “Cold!”

We emerged from the dark thick part of the forest, and I turned the car around and faced the highway. I pressed the accelerator and surged us forward. Ross was suddenly thrown back in his seat. I watched his tight physique adjust to the force with such poise, such comely strength. I stirred deep within myself. He was as beautiful as ever. I reached out and cupped my hand over his left deltoids and told him, “Hang on for the ride of your life!”

Zooming out of the seminary property, Ross gave out the Rebel Yell, a great “Yahoo!” I shouted “Yahoo” also, and together we both howled like hyenas and raced through the night to our favorite spot, Berthelot’s Lake.

The lake was a large, rectangular, manmade lake about two miles wide and about four miles long, and although busy by day, it was mostly deserted at night. It had a hilltop park, a picnic area with tables and brick fire-pits and places to park; some were way atop the hill. I drove the Olds to the highest point of the deserted park and we popped open a couple beers. It was cool out and we enjoyed the snugness of the car. Soon mosquitoes attacked. We lit a coil of green stuff. The smoke repelled the unwanted bugs, but it wasn’t just the bugs feeling the smoke. It was a constant irritant. I coughed a lot, my eyes watered, and so did Ross’s but it was a requirement for parking to keep a mosquito coil burning.

The coil glowed red at its outermost tip and the smell of the smoke was a familiar parking odor. I liked the incense quality of the repellent. It was a symbol of our approaching closeness. We overlooked its noxious quality. We had other things to attend to and we turned our attention to our mission.

I slid over on the seat and sat next to Ross. We were side by side in the passenger's seat, our arms and shoulders pressed against one another but otherwise making no physical contact. I got sexually aroused fast, and I bet he was too.

“I’m having fun!” I exclaimed. I wanted to reach out and grope him but I didn’t dare. Instead we just did like we’d done as boys in chapel and let our arms touch consciously. We felt the warmth of each other’s upper arms and shoulders pressed together. Sweat formed in the closed space where our skin touched and the moisture felt like an erotic balm. To touch felt precious.

“Yeah, I’m having fun, too. I feel like I’ve been in prison since I saw you last, Joey.”

“I feel the same way at home, and secular high school sucks. The students are so fuckin’ dumb and they act like monkeys in class. No one wants to learn. It’s a horrid place.”

Smoke, sweat, beer, and more beer—the two of us seated in the moonless night, a large lake barely visible in the night—it was a beautiful evening, and the darkly beautiful visuals enhanced the promise of intimacy. 

Encouraged that Ross didn’t pull away or sit sideways and face me, I increased pressure against his left arm and leg. I was carried away with such inner comfort I felt blissful. We faced forward as I gradually pressed us harder and harder against one another.

We looked out at the lake and its boat landing. My growing sexual appetite created something like a concrete plan. I felt the subconscious gears and wheels turning, latches on giant doorways of desire opening, and it was as if the very foundations of my being rearranged themselves and the focus was pointed: on Ross. Years of rehearsals of inner dialogues about what I’d say and how I’d act in this situation fueled a process that was one with my deepest longing. My inner rehearsals would lead me and tell me how to act.

 “You seem happier than the last time I saw you,” I said. The first two cans were drained of their contents almost in a single gulp. We were so thirsty for the beer and its effects, that we focused our attention on the ice chest on the back seat. Ross grabbed another two beers, and I disposed of the two empties, tossing them out the car window on the driver’s side.

I took the beer from Ross’s hand and let my fingers overlap his fingers as I took it. He knew how I operated. He’d grown up with me as I developed my routine. He knew my patterns, and yet he didn’t withdraw when I felt his hand. My passions surged again. Heat accumulated inside me, and I was hard for him. I kept looking at his tight jeans, and could see his soft cock hardening, slowly, like a sausage bulging along his left leg, his boxer shorts allowing him to display the outline of his hardon, but he acted unconscious of this arousal, and maybe he wasn’t aware of it. I wanted to jump him and kiss him, but I knew kissing him could only happen if he were fairly anesthetized. The first beer went down fast and the next beer seemed to go down in a few gulps.

It was time for a cigarette. Ross only smoked when he drank. I pulled out a pack of Lucky Strikes and patted the end on my watch crystal to tighten up the tobacco in the white paper, and I then lit the cigarette and gave it to Ross. He inhaled deeply. I felt close to him, lighting his cigarettes. I adored him, worshiped him actually, and had been infatuated with him nearly four years, wanting to be like him and part of his life. I was always surprised how he could keep up the appearance of distance from me, emotionally and physically, and at the same time play the game we played.

I lit my own Lucky; now I had my right leg pressed firmly against his left leg, and I let my hand rest on his thigh with my cigarette in it. I was a boy in love and in real ecstasy because my hero, my ideal man, now became available to my touch.

Once the cigarettes were finished and tossed out the windows, Ross displayed a mixture of calm collectedness combined with a little pang of uneasiness as we became intimate. But he was complicit. Liquid fire ran through my veins. I reached out and touched his abs admiringly.

The touch of my fingertips against him was the only thing that existed for me in that moment. He reacted by tightening up his abs, as if to show off how muscular he was, but his empty hand also clenched, in an aggressive gesture. The half-year age advantage Ross had over me seemed to have given his body more time to become hard and man-like, less boyish like I was. I felt inferior.

“I’m just admiring your body. You’ve really added a lot of muscle since we were out last.”

“Not really,” he whispered. “I’m just pumped from a workout today.” His hand unclenched as he spoke of his weight workout routine.

I got hot fast. Part of me wanted to remain just friends like before, but I had fires burning in me because we touched. It was so intense it was almost painful.

I wanted Ross to be part of me. I craved a permanent “us” rather than just Joey and Ross, some sort of mystical and physical union. I knew that I’d crossed a threshold into the depths of male longing for male sex.

Ross got two more beers and we began to drink them quickly.
The night cooled so we rolled up all the windows. Our body heat began to cloud up the windows; the outside world was shut off from view, the windows an opaque screen. I felt hidden from observation and my paranoia relaxed. “I think we’re invisible to anyone who would show up.”

“Yeah. I think we look like any couple out parking,” Ross said, but there was a question mark in his voice.

“Yeah, sure. We’re safe.” The other parking places remained empty. We saw no one else in the park.

I rested my beer on Ross’s leg and used my free hand to pull his T-shirt up out of his jeans so that I could touch his skin. He resisted, tightening his tummy against his belt and jeans, and I looked at him in the dim light as if to fuss at him. I confidently pressed my hand against his tummy at his belt line and unbuckled his leather belt. I knew not to unsnap his jeans. With the belt opening the leather and the metal buckle fell to the side of his zipper.
I felt precum oozing out of my dick, almost a minor orgasm. He tensed a little, and then relented, swallowing his beer fast. He laid his head back on the seat and let me put the palm of my hand on his stomach. I rubbed his belly now, blatantly. His skin was on fire. He writhed, clearly liking the petting, so I shoved my hand up a little higher and rubbed his uppermost stomach.

I put my empty beer on the floor of the car and moved down so that I was next to his legs on the floor of the car. "Grab the whole six-pack," I said. He put it onto the seat between us. I opened a beer for him and handed it to him, taking his empty, tossing it on the floor. I opened one for myself and took a big swallow and then put it on the car seat. My hands ran up to his chest and began to rub his pecs. "You're so muscular."

His pec muscles tightened up like steel, my personal Adonis making my cock rock hard against his leg. I was deep in the trance of the seducer. This was a routine Ross and I forged over the years in school together, when we’d spend hours with me giving him massages, and often straddling his back. I stayed close to the script we’d established. I knew I had to keep telling him how masculine he was and how chicks would die to have him fuck them, and when I began talking about fucking, he began to let his hardon press against his jeans. Had it not been enclosed I’d have not been able to resist kissing or sucking his dick.

But I wasn't allowed to touch his cock. I knew it. I could let my arm brush up against it and I could sometimes even lie with my head in his lap, and his cock pressed hard against my skull, but I was sure that if I unzipped his pants that the party would suddenly end. So we drank and I petted him. He wasn't ready to let me take his shirt off so I pulled it over his head behind his neck, leaving his torso exposed.

His nipples were soft, pink, compact and beautiful. I felt my lips begin a sort of sipping motion, a sucking feeling in my mouth, and I leaned forward and began sucking on his tits, first his left one, which immediately grew hard. I licked it with my tongue and then I sucked on it like a baby.

I pulled my lips from his chest.

“Here, drink this beer. Hurry up and get high as you can. I’ll make you feel like a champion.”

He took the beer from me without question and turned his head away as if to ignore my rapid drinking. He would do this as if to conceal his own rapid drinking. It was as if he didn’t’ want to be held accountable for getting as drunk as a skunk.

Beer in hand, my eighteen-year-old hero leaned back and allowed his nipples on both sides to be sucked and nibbled, writhing and moaning in pleasure. He turned his head back, and I put my lips against his cheek and let him slide his mouth where it met up with my own. For a second he hesitated, but I rubbed his nipples and pinched them in rhythm with the need to kiss. I felt myself beginning to have an orgasm and tried to pull my cock away from his leg, knowing if I came I’d be in a mess.

I felt him relax and his mouth moved over to mine and we kissed lips to lips, no tongue at first, but then he got hotter and pressed his tongue into my mouth and against my teeth, which I intentionally held close together. He rubbed them with his tongue and this, I knew from experience, would make him hotter and more aggressive, and it did.

Ross moaned. He was half naked and I couldn’t stand it. I shot in my underwear. Coming left me partially hard, and my cock was quick to harden again.

“We better drink up.” I kept our supply of alcohol well tended. I was in heaven and working hard to keep at bay any suppression of our heated desires.

Suddenly, car lights appeared then flashed on the steamed up back window of the Oldsmobile. We broke off kissing and jumped in anxious response to the lights. A red police light flashed once menacingly, a warning it seemed.

I got behind the wheel immediately and turned on the engine. The lights came on showing the steamed up windshield. It was impossible to see to drive. Ross pulled his shirt back over his head and buckling his belt as fast as he could.

I barked at him, “Wipe the windshield for me.”

The cop drove on, evidently pleased that I’d taken his warning seriously.

Still not able to see, I put the car in reverse and moved gradually of the parking spot. By the time Ross wiped the window a couple swipes I was headed forward at a calm but increasing speed, and we abandoned our little roost and were back on the road. Our anxiety lessened when we were sure the cop hadn't followed us. I wanted to grope Ross but he was recomposed and didn’t seem open to petting any more. We drove back toward the seminary and parked in the woods outside of Mettray to finish the few remaining beers.

We had gone to the seminary, as children thinking we wanted to grow up to be like our priests, to become just like them. It might have lasted a year, this fervor to become a parish priest, but boredom took a toll on our vocations. We also discovered sex and that mostly got us thinking about life differently. We wanted more masculine roles than a priest in a black cassock. We developed our true goals in life secretly, hidden away from the faculty at Mettray. All the boys had something they wanted to grow up to be. Ross wanted to be a pilot in the Air Force. I wanted to be a novelist. It was a lot easier to rationalize making out since we pretty much secretly had decided not to stick it out in the seminary to be ordained. Yet no matter how we tried to rationalize our behavior together, we had to accept that we were rebelling in a big way against the rule, against the establishment.

We drove around a long time. We finished the beer about two a.m. I drove closer to the school and when I was a safe distance still, Ross gave me a big hug and jumped out of the car. He disappeared into the depression of one of the firebreaks and sneaked back into the monastic school, the dormitory full of forty other guys. He was drunk but he was an athlete and handled his body like an ice skater, with precision. I strained to see him in the night. I wasn’t ready for him to leave. He had to get back before he was detected.

When he was out of sight, I sat a while, missing him. I opened my pants and peed just outside the car. I stood in the forest alone at night. I got hard again and I jacked off thinking about his scent and touch, panting faster and faster. I smelled him on my hand when I licked it to wet myself more. I was exhausted by hours of excitement but shot repeatedly into the darkness. I shot five feet, at least—over and over.

“Ross, I love you. I love you.” The night air made no reply.

Like a soldier who dreaded returning to the barracks, I dreaded going home. I slowly pulled into the garage with the lights out. A weight came upon me, my chest heavy. I unlocked the door, walked in, and slipped to my room.
The bed felt good. I just pulled the bedspread over my clothes. I relaxed and felt full of love and happiness. “Thank you, Lord God. Thank you,” I whispered, praying as I undressed for bed. I felt peace.

And I did what all adolescent boys do when they feel strong erotic excitement. I used a sock to jack off again. I fell into a deep dream-filled sleep

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