Monday, September 29, 2008

Deeper Dish excerpt by Marc Harshbarger

The many colorful characters of Marc Harshbarger’s first novel, Deep Dish, return for more sordid misadventures in this sequel as the groovy gay saga of love and lust in the 1970s continues. So get ready for more nail-biting cliffhangers, passionate encounters and disco fever as the Dish becomes Deeper!

Deeper Dish
Publisher: (August 27, 2008)
ISBN 978-1435728264


Back at 369 West Roscoe . . .

. . . having chugged Joshua’s three remaining Pabst Blue Ribbons in their fridge, Hank Honeywell isn’t feeling so hot either. But instead of getting sick, he becomes even more upset and breaks a few dishes on the kitchen floor. When this emotional release doesn’t do the trick, he moves on to the bedroom, where he discovers a mysterious locked trunk in his former roommate’s closet.

“You asshole!” the young man yells after he finally breaks the lock with a hammer and opens the lid to discover hundreds of record albums, which causes something to snap inside of him. Joshua’s unwillingness to share his collection of music only serves as an analogy for his obvious disinterest in Hank, who now goes off the deep end and begins throwing random LPs out the window:

Goldie (Goldie Hawn’s 1972 solo album)
Rock Gently (Rock Hudson’s 1971 solo effort)
The Star of “The Flying Nun” (Sally Field’s 1967 solo recording)

All go sailing on to Roscoe Street, followed by:

Blue Hawaii (Elvis movie soundtrack)
To Sir, With Love (soundtrack featuring Lulu’s big hit)

And then—without even looking—he tosses out the movie soundtrack to the musical, Bye Bye Birdie, while . . .

Twelve floors below . . .

. . . Detective Sam Sweeney is strolling along the sidewalk when he’s suddenly attacked by an unidentified flying object.

“What the—?”

Upon further investigation—as he rubs his bleeding forehead—the confused cop discovers his assailant to be a rather fetching Ann-Margret (on the cover of a record album).

What the hell is going on around here?, he wonders as he watches more LPs fly through the air. And then he sees an album (Meet the Brady Bunch) hit the windshield of a moving car, which goes out of control and drives on to the sidewalk.

“Hey, lady, watch out!” Sam warns a female pedestrian before he lunges to push her out of the way of imminent danger.

And in 14B . . .

. . . Bixby Schwartz answers his ringing doorbell to find a familiar face smiling from the hallway.

“Hi,” a shirtless Nick Perrini says while scratching his left nipple.

“Nick, how are you?”

“Not so good” (even though the young man looks to be in very fine form).

“Oh dear.”

“I was wondering if I might be able to stay with you for a night or two.”

Meanwhile . . .

“Hey, mister, are you okay? Please wake up.”

Someone is gently slapping Sam Sweeney’s face as he opens his eyes to find himself staring up at a beautiful black woman, who smiles and says: “Welcome back, baby.”

“Who are you?”

“I’m Sandy Beach. You saved my life.”

“I did?”

“You pushed me out of the way of that car over there.”

He looks to where she’s pointing at a Pontiac Grand Prix stuck in a nearby hedge.

“You’re my hero, honey. What’s your name?”


“Well, Sam, thank you.” She kisses him on the cheek. “Now how are you feeling? You hit your head pretty hard there on the curb.”

“I think I’ll be fine.”

Miss Beach helps him to his feet, but they then have to duck as yet another LP—Introducing Dean Jones (a 1968 solo album by the star of The Love Bug and That Darn Cat)—suddenly sails over them before nailing a lamppost.

“Where the hell are all these records coming from?”

“Up there I think,” Sandy tells him while pointing at an apartment building window, from which a few more albums are tossed.

“Whoever it is is in big trouble,” Detective Sweeney says before he goes to investigate—and discovers that Miss Beach is following him. “What are you doing?”

“This is where I was headed before you rescued me.”


“Swear to God. My friend Bixby lives here.”

“I hope he’s not our culprit—or your next visit might be to a jail cell.”

“What are you—a cop?”

“Detective Sweeney at your service,” he tells a surprised Sandy while flashing his badge.

And as she follows him on to the elevator, Miss Beach wonders if it’s finally time to leave Howard Haze in the past and look to new horizons—especially those whose tight jeans accentuate a positive ass.

At the hospital . . .

“Del and I would like you to return to work for us once you’re well again.”

“Thank you, Charlie,” Kate Mahoney tells her former boss after learning that she was fired during her unfortunate brain tumor affliction.

“So you’ll come back?”

“Of course, I love working for you—and Del.”

“And we love having you around. The office just ain’t the same without you.”

And while this mutual lovefest continues . . .

Out in the corridor . . .

“He used to bring me flowers at least once a week when we were first married,” Charlotte Haze recalls with a wistful smile. “One time for our anniversary he filled every room in our house with roses—and, of course, he still always gives me a dozen on my birthday.”

“Your husband sounds like a nice guy,” says Matt Mahoney.

“Oh, he can be very thoughtful.”

“Mom’s always liked him.”

I bet she has—but Mrs. Haze quickly scolds herself for her jealousy: Shame on you, Charlotte, the poor woman just had brain surgery.

“So, when do you want me to come over?”

“Oh, Matt, thank you.” The relieved woman hugs him. “You don’t know how much this means to me.”

“Chandler can’t marry Delia, so I’ll do whatever you want.”

“How about three this afternoon?”

“I’ll be there.”

She embraces the young man again before they return to Kate’s room to find her and Charlie in a clinch of their own.

“I was just thanking your sweet husband for the lovely roses,” Matt’s mother explains. “Aren’t they gorgeous?”

Charlotte smiles and nods and resists the sudden urge to take the bouquet and wallop her spouse for once again letting his fingers do the walking on another beautiful blonde (although Kate’s hair color obviously comes from a bottle).

At the Davenports . . .

“Ginger, thank you for coming over to see Cary,” Abra greets the girl. “He seems so depressed lately. I just thought maybe—since you’re such good friends—you might be able to find out what’s troubling him.”

“I think he just gets lonely sometimes.”

“Don’t we all?” the older woman laughs while Miss Sweeney smiles and pretends not to be extremely uncomfortable. “I know, I must seem rather overprotective.”

“You’re his mother.”

“And it’s what mothers do best—worry about their children.”

“I wish I had a mother to worry about me.”

“Oh, I’m sorry, dear.”

“It’s okay. My dad does enough worrying for two parents.”

“Grant! Darling, come down here and say hello to Ginger,” Abra insists when she spots her son on the stairs.

“Hi,” the young man says with little enthusiasm upon reaching his mother and their guest.

“Hi, Grant, how’s your summer?” inquires Miss Sweeney, who can’t help but notice his nice tan legs below his tight white tennis shorts.

“It’s okay,” he responds with a shrug.

“Oh my God!”

“What’s wrong, Mother?”

“I just remembered we have tickets to the theater tonight, but with everything that’s been going on, it completely slipped my mind until just now.”

“Is the show at Del’s theater?”

“Yes, but I’m sure your stepfather is in no mood to sit through a silly comedy starring Gary Collins.”

“Gary Collins?” Ginger’s ears perk up at the mention of one of her favorite TV actors (the handsome star of The Sixth Sense and Born Free—both sadly short-lived series—has been featured in many of her erotic fantasies).

“Yes, do you like him?”

“He’s all right,” the girl replies (without betraying her true excitement).

“Would you like to go see him tonight?”

“Oh, I don’t know—” (Yes! Yes! Yes!)

“Grant darling, do you have any plans this evening?”


“Splendid! Then you can take Ginger to the theater. Oh, this works out perfectly,” Abra happily declares. “You can pick the tickets up at the box office and grab a bite to eat before the show—my treat, of course.”

“Thanks, Mrs. Davenport.” (Oh my God, I’m going to see Gary Collins in person!)

“You’re welcome, dear. Grant will pick you up at six. Now come along, let’s go see if Cary will accept visitors.”

As she follows the woman upstairs, Ginger smiles down at her bewildered date for the evening and waves: “See you later.”

Raising his hand in return, Grant realizes that once again his mother is true to her word: “I will find you the perfect girl.”

He then sticks a fist in his mouth to prevent a scream from being heard.

At the Hazes . . .

. . . Charlotte has arrived back home to find her new daughter-in-law has moved in.

“Oh, what a pleasant surprise.”

“Is it?”

“Of course, my dear, you’re part of the family now,” she tells Helen. “Our home is your home.”

“Thank you.”

When Charlotte now decides to fix herself a drink to officially welcome the new Mrs. Haze, the girl agrees to a pre-lunch cocktail but feels the need to clear the air again about their kiss at the reception.

“I thought we decided to forget all about that,” Charlotte nervously laughs.

“We did—but you’ve always been there for me ever since my mother died, so I just want to make sure that we’re okay.”

“We’re wonderful, dear. Our friendship isn’t going to be ruined by one silly kiss—is it?”

Helen smiles and shakes her head.

“Of course not, we’ve been friends far too long to ever let that happen.”

“I’ve always admired you, Charlotte.”

“You have?”

“You’re the perfect wife and mother.”

“And you’re much too kind.”

“It’s true. You take care of this huge house without any help, you volunteer as the official Welcome Wagon Lady of Winnetka, and you still find time to take visitors on tours to see your brother’s grave.”

“Oh, they see more than just his final resting place. I point out all his favorite spots in town and the various locations used in his last film” (the Gideon Love Memorial Tour—by appointment only—is still quite popular twenty years after his tragic death).

Kitchens of Distinction,” Helen sighs with fond memories of Mr. Love’s final flick, which was filmed in Winnetka. “It’s one of my favorites.”

“Gideon, Liz, Rock. What a cast. Too bad the critics weren’t kind.”

“What do they know? They hate everything.”

“At least the public embraced it. My brother did have his fans,” Charlotte says while wiping away a tear.

"I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have mentioned him.”

“No no, I love talking about Gideon.”

“Just like I love talking about my mother.”

“She was a wonderful person.”

“Did you love her?”

“Of course I did. She was my best friend.”

“Were you in love with her?”


“Before you kissed me, you called me her name.”

“I did? I don’t recall.”

“You said I remind you of her.”

“You do. You look so much like her . . .” The two women stare at each other until Charlotte finally admits: “I was in love—with your mother.”

“Did she love you?”

“Helen, it was all so very long ago.”

“Did you ever kiss her?”

“Once—only once—but then I married Charlie and she married your father and we all became such good friends. We both had our families to consider, our children . . . and then she was gone . . .”

Embracing her weeping mother-in-law, Helen holds her close until her tears subside.

“I’ve never told anyone that,” Charlotte confesses. “My love for your mother has been locked away for so long . . . until now . . .”

And then as the grandfather clock in the foyer suddenly strikes twelve—announcing the most popular time for lunch—the two Mrs. Hazes hungrily devour each other’s lips once again.

At 369 West Roscoe . . .

. . . the record-throwing culprit has been cornered by Detective Sam Sweeney and his new sidekick, Sandy Beach, who got the building manager, Nurse Nell Carmelle, to open the locked door of Apartment 12B.

“Hank, why don’t you slowly put down Miss Peggy Lee and step away from the window before anyone else gets hurt.”

The distraught young man shakes his head and cries: “No! I can’t! I gotta throw out every last one of them!”

“Haven’t you ever heard of a trash can, kid?” Nell receives an angry glare from the cop.

“Hey, I’m only trying to help.”

“Oh no! Not Judy At Carnegie Hall!” Sandy suddenly screams.

“I’m sorry,” the boy sobs as Miss Garland takes flight and Miss Beach collapses in shock.

“Oh, honey, he just tossed Judy out the window!” she informs Bixby Schwartz as he now enters the apartment with a shirtless Nick Perrini. “One second she was here—the next, gone.”

“Hank, what do you think you’re doing?”

“I’m sorry, Bixby, but I have to get rid of everything that belonged to him.”

“Oh, my dear boy, you don’t need to do this” (especially after Hank picks up a 1974 Broadway musical flop starring Robert Preston and Bernadette Peters).

“What’s Mack & Mabel?” asks Nick.

“Only Jerry Herman’s best score,” Chicago’s eminent show tune enthusiast explains.

“Who’s Jerry Herman?”
Bixby cannot believe what he is hearing: Has this child been living under a rock? Unable to fathom how anyone could not know the composer of Hello, Dolly and Mame, Mr. Schwartz is anxious to educate the young man about the marvelous world of musicals. However, he realizes that his first priority is to prevent Hank from harming others with his shocking disregard for all music—and rescue one of his favorite shows from the boy’s itchy fingers. “Original cast albums don’t grow on trees!” he wants to scream—though wouldn’t that be wonderful?

“Once I’m through pitching all of these, I might as well be next,” Hank announces to the room.

“Oh my God!” Sandy gasps as they all realize the troubled boy might soon be joining the discarded LPs.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Island Song excerpt by Alan Chin

According to the tenets of Buddhism, life is suffering, and suffering arises inexorably from desire. In my meditative novel, Island Song, the interplay between craving and pain creates the thematic backbone of this story in one man's journey from desire, to anguish, to a metamorphoses.

Like most South-Sea romance stories, Island Song envelops all that is unique to Hawaii, the distinctive people, the fertile land, the mythical history. Yet it stands alone by the way it reveals a rare and dignified portrait of a gay couple struggling to satisfy love within an environment that rages against them.

Island Song
Publisher: Zumaya Publications, LLC (September 20, 2008)
ISBN: 978-1-934841-02-0


A FULL MOON RISES FROM THE SEA. Strands of silver light reach across the vast Pacific, caressing an old man’s face as he sits in the bow of an outrigger canoe. The old man studies the moon until it hovers well above the horizon, a radiant beacon lighting the way. He lifts his left arm and signals to move ahead.

Songoree, the young man in the stern, digs his paddle into the dark water, driving the canoe through the channel and beyond the mouth of Neue Bay. A fresh wind drifts over the bay from the northeast. It whispers as it moves over the canoe and falls silent as it flows back over the channel. The only other sound is the splash of the paddle gliding in and out of the water. The old man signals to halt. Songoree lifts his paddle, waits. The boat slows and begins to drift with the tide. He watches the old one taste the air, feel the wind caress his cheek, note which direction the boat moves. Songoree’s gaze shifts to the water. He listens.

Up ahead, he hears the faint splash of sharks as they pursue their prey. He sees the phosphorescent wakes the night hunters carve through the inky water. Neue Bay is a safe place to swim during the day, he knows, but at night the big sharks, the really dangerous fish, swim over the reef to hunt close to shore. These fish have no fear, but they are feared by everything that swims.

The old man smiles. He motions in a direction slightly east of the boat’s heading. Songoree glances over his shoulder to check the position of the dim glow of lights far off the stern. He digs his paddle into the water, makes the adjustment in course.

Moonlight silvers the strong lines of Songoree’s bare chest and lean torso. His hair shines blue, and sweeps back over his shoulders, held in place by coconut oil and a wreath made of fragrant maile leaves. A single-strand pink coral necklace hangs around his neck, and a blood-red tapa cloth hugs his body from
waist to knees. The dark cloth blends with the shadows in the boat, making it appear as thought Songoree is an extension of the canoe, some bizarre sea creature hunting the perimeter of the reef.

Over the wind’s murmur comes a faint sound, a pulse, which announces they are nearing their destination. Songoree sighs. The tedious journey has his arms and back burning. He has kept a fast pace until now, to prove his mettle to the old man, but he knows he can’t maintain his bold tempo much longer. The growing sound of surf renews his hope that his strength will last.

This mission, Songoree thinks, is impossible even for an extraordinary man much less for mere islanders like us. But I have no choice and neither does Grandfather. We have stepped onto the path, and our only option now is to take the next step, even though failure is certain.

Grandfather has the insane idea that a man with a pure vision, a Gandhi, can change the entire human experience. It’s true that Grandfather is remarkable. He holds knowledge passed down from generations of island shamans, but he is still just one old man—and perhaps a crazy old man, at that.

Songoree tries to lift his spirits, reminding himself that the mission will soon be over, that they will perform the ceremony and that will be the end of it. But a stubborn fear lodges in his heart. The weight of it crushes him, making it difficult for him to breathe. It is more than fear of failure. Failing will prove once and for all that his years of training with his grandfather were wasted, that the old man is no great shaman, merely a sham.

Songoree shakes the thought from his mind, but the fear remains locked in his heart. He grits his teeth, digs his paddle into the water, leans on it, drives the canoe towards their destination.

Songoree paddles another thirty minutes before the sound of breakers boom like thunder. He knows that landing the canoe in huge surf is hazardous even in daylight, and he has never attempted such a feat at night. If they capsize, he will need to pull the old man through the breakers.

He comes alert. His fatigue dissolves. Beads of sweat coat his face while his teeth chatter. He fights to maneuver the canoe through the swells and over the fingers of reef clawing at the water’s surface.

Suddenly, the boat’s aft rises on a huge wall of water. Now the canoe is almost perpendicular, and Songoree paddles a frenzied pace as they speed toward shore. Water sprays his face. The salty mist blinds him. He maneuvers on instinct alone while the wave, dying around him, rushes towards the sand. He
blinks his eyes until his vision returns.

The old man sits in the bow, still as a statue.

Songoree beaches the craft just below a rocky point that defines the northern crest of the island. As he bounds from the boat he steals a glance at Grandfather’s face, expecting some recognition of his skill, but the old man shows nothing.

Hauling the outrigger onto a patch of sand, Songoree takes the old man’s arm.

“Let me help you, Grandfather.”

Grandfather strains to a standing position. He pauses for a moment while his body adjusts to movement again after sitting for so long a time.

Grandfather has deep-set eyes the color of black coral, and his face is cracked like the glaze on ancient pottery. A feathered cape covers his thin body, its brilliant colors dulled by the dim light. His silver hair falls to the middle of his back. Around the old man’s neck hangs his ceremonial necklace, a simple piece of carved jade bordered by a string of sharks’ teeth—trophies he had ripped from the mouths of his prey in his younger years.

Grandfather bends to grab his staff from the canoe. It towers three feet above his head, and carved into the dark wood are faces of the island gods: Kane, Kanalou, Ku, Lono and Pele.

The old man’s bloodline reaches back to the first group of Polynesian settlers who discovered this fleet of Pacific islands. His family migrated to this largest and most southern island before even the first of the great wars. They settled near the Paopao River in a valley called Waimanu, a place known for its immense spiritual power. Now the old man has gone far beyond his eightieth year and has outlived Kushi, his wife of forty years, his only son and one of his two daughters. Songoree is now his sole companion and caretaker.

Only a few islanders know the old man’s true name, and no one but Songoree knows his spiritual name. Songoree, like everyone else on this part of the island, simply calls him Grandfather.

Songoree busies himself with lighting a torch, which proves difficult in the damp breeze. Once lit, the red-yellow flames dance on the wind. It casts a shimmering light on Grandfather’s cape. The colorful feathers come alive. The effect makes Songoree stare wide-eyed, mesmerized.

Grandfather lays a gentle hand on the back of Songoree’s neck. “Focus.” His voice is firm. “No monkey-boy business tonight. The fate of mankind hangs on what happens here. You must stay focused or all is lost. Now fetch my helmet.”

Songoree retrieves a carved gourd from the outrigger. It is adorned with feathers and shark’s teeth. The old man dons the helmet and, except for the two gaping eyeholes, it covers his head.

A sharp beak is carved between the eyeholes, and set below that are two rows of shark’s teeth, upper and lower, making him look like a cross between a huge bird of prey and a menacing shark. Intricately carved lines on the mask emulate overlapping feathers covering the sharp angles of a shark’s facial structure. The lines are simple yet forceful, projecting an image of wild savagery. Only Grandfather’s long strands of silver hair and his bony legs extending below the cape show his humanity.

Songoree steps closer to examine the mask. It suggests the outline of a primitive human face within its structure, as if the mask were meant to reveal the animal savagery within human nature, or perhaps man’s temperament within nature’s most fierce predators. Either way, he can’t quite dismiss the feeling that the mask is a projection of his own essence.

“Quickly.” Grandfather grabs the torch. He hurries across the beach and on to the lava beds. They travel as swiftly as Grandfather’s legs will move. After a considerable distance, they stop where the barren rock fields skirt the rain forest.

Honeycreeper finches and hooting pueho owls call from the tropical canopy. Grandfather takes the torch, nods towards the trees. Songoree dashes into the undergrowth. He returns a few minutes later carrying several palm fronds under one arm and a bundle of sticks under the other. Grandfather holds the torch low to the ground as Songoree arranges the palm leaves so the tips all touch at one point and fan out, creating a sizable circle atop a smooth spot on the lava rock. He makes two more trips to the forest to gather enough wood for the night’s ceremonial fire.

He builds a pile of sticks in the center of the palm circle and steps away while Grandfather buries the torch in the pile. A flame catches hold. Grandfather passes both the torch and his staff to Songoree before stepping into the circle of palm fronds to kneel before the fire.

“I enter the circle of life. I bow to the light.”

Songoree drops the torch and enters the circle from the opposite side. With the staff held high, he echoes his grandfather’s words. He looks over his shoulder to insure that the bundle of firewood at the edge of the circle is within easy reach. It is his job to tend the fire throughout the ceremony.

He watches the old man check the position of the moon, taste the air, listen to the breeze rustling the nearby palms. Everything is perfect, Songoree thinks. Why is he waiting?

Grandfather pulls a sharkskin pouch from beneath his feathered cape. He opens it, grabs a handful of ground roots and sprinkles it on the fire. Blue sparks erupt from the flames while pungent smoke rushes on the wind toward the trees.

“Let the herbs of this sacred land call the island gods,” Grandfather says. He draws several offerings from the pouch and lays them beside the fire—a flask of rice wine, polished seashells, sweet candies, a handful of rice, a folded leaf holding a purplish mound of poi.

“Great Kane, god of all that is, and Pele, fiery goddess who shapes these sacred islands, accept these gifts.”

The firelight glows on Grandfather’s helmet. It shows the mask’s intricate carving and makes the old man’s eyes gleam red behind the two black eyeholes.

Grandfather begins to slap the smooth lava beside him with his right hand, thumping the hard rock with a particular rhythm. He nods at Songoree.

Songoree lifts the staff and brings it down on the rock, again and again, copying the same rhythm Grandfather makes with his hand. Once the proper beat is established, Grandfather stops, but Songoree continues to pound out the cadence. This thumping, he knows, is Grandfather’s notion of how to attract the island spirits.

After twenty minutes, Grandfather signals him to stop then tilts his head towards the rain forest, straining to listen with every fiber of his being.

Songoree studies the old man’s degree of concentration with awe. Grandfather signals for him to continue, and he takes up the thumping once again. The vibration of the staff makes a weird moaning noise when it strikes the ground. With every beat, he feels a vibration run up his arm and dissipate into his chest.

After an hour, Grandfather whispers across the fire, “Don’t turn around. Power spirits have come. They’re behind you at the edge of the forest.”

Songoree doesn’t believe it, but he hears the eerie screech of a bird directly behind him. A shiver runs up his spine. It takes all his will power not to turn and look. He keeps his eyes focused on Grandfather.

“This is it,” Grandfather whispers. “Keep thumping. Be ready for anything.”

Grandfather lifts his arms over his helmet and begins to chant in an ancient dialect. His words come slow, relaxed, as if he’s singing a love song. His baritone voice is vibrant for one so old.

Songoree feels the mystical pull of the words. He understands most but not all of the phrases. He still has much to learn of the old language and ceremonies. He understands enough to follow along as Grandfather recounts the history of the island people, countless generations migrating from the heart of Asia across the Pacific to these islands.

The chanting continues for hours. As Grandfather sings, his long, delicate fingers weave through the air, as if they exquisitely form the words out of wind and mist. Songoree, mesmerized by their movement, finally looks at his own hand holding the staff. His are the hands of a twenty-year-old—strong, yet awkward by comparison. He wonders if he will ever command such grace.

The thought makes him realize that he is real, not merely consciousness witnessing the ceremony from the mist. He shakes his head to drive the thoughts away. He reminds himself to focus. I can’t disappoint Grandfather, he thinks, not tonight. This means too much to him.

Time bleeds by. The pile of firewood dwindles. Out over the eastern horizon, the stars fade before the growing light. As Grandfather chants, he pulls a bone-handled knife from beneath his cape and holds both hands over the fire—one held high, the other gripping the knife. The blade flashes in the firelight as Grandfather slides the razor edge across his left palm. Blood streams into the flames.

Songoree hears a noise close behind him. It sounds like heavy claws scraping on rock. Whatever crouches behind him is drawn by the smell of blood. Fear overtakes him. He begins to beat the ground in a furious tempo. Grandfather signals him to slow down, but he feels an icy breath on the back of his neck. He drops the staff, and it clatters on the lava stone.

Grandfather waves his bloody hand and hisses, “Pull yourself together.”

Songoree can’t help but turn his head to see what’s breathing on his neck. As he does, an immense shadow lunges over his left shoulder. It lands thirty feet away on a boulder. Songoree’s body takes a tremendous jolt. He falls onto his back, shrieking.

Frantically, Grandfather signals him to continue the thumping, but he can only stare in astonishment at the shadow. He is not altogether sure whether the shadow has leapt over him from behind or vaulted out of his body. His body certainly felt something leap.

He stares intently with eyes wide open and sees a blackness that doesn’t have any visible boundaries; but slowly, a silhouette crouching on the rock begins to emerge from the mass that is superimposed on the night sky. It seems to be taking the form of a big cat—huge, awesomely silent. The density of the shadow’s darkness pales the night sky around it.

Grandfather slaps the ground with his hand again, pounding out the same rhythm as before. Songoree manages to fight through his fear. He scrambles back to a sitting position, picks up the staff and resumes thumping the cadence.

Grandfather begins to chant once again. As his voice rises in volume, Songoree joins in.

The immensity is Kane,
Root, rock, sand, and light, is he.
Kane is within.
He took hold of the Manaiakalani Hook
And raised the blessed Islands of Hawaii
From the ocean floor. He scattered
Stars across the night sky, and
Holds the sun by day.
Kane is never still, all is moving.
Kane compels the people,
People press the earth.
All is fluid, ever changing.
We are the witnesses.
It is the time of the Speaker.
It is the time of the Speaker.
Complete are the foundations.
Complete are land, water, and heavens.
Complete are bird, fish, and beast.
Now comes the time of man.
Bring forth the Speaker.
Bring forth the Speaker.

Their voices hush. The wind dies to a whisper. The dense shadow dissipates, leaving no trace. Songoree wonders whether he actually saw anything there at all, or did fear create something from his imagination? He glares across the fire at Grandfather, silently pleading for help to understand what has happened. All he can see are eyes within the mask’s gaping holes reflecting the red-yellow firelight.

Everything is perfectly still, as if the entire universe is holding its breath. A bird calls from the nearby trees. In the distance, the sound of the surf rises in a steady pulse, like the slow beating of a heart.

They wait.

A breath of wind flutters the nearby palms. Songoree feels the growing breeze on his skin. Now the wind travels in a different direction, from the rain forest out over the sea. He smells the sweet odor of jungle frangipani mixed with the slight stench of rotting vegetation.

Grandfather struggles to stand. Songoree hurries across the circle to help him to his feet. He hands the staff back to Grandfather. He pulls the red tapa cloth from his waist, rips away a long strip and wraps it around the old man’s bleeding hand. Naked and exhausted, he loops one arm around his grandfather, supporting the old man’s weight. They turn back toward the beach.

“Fool! You almost killed us both. Never show fear in front of power.”

“Sorry, Grandfather. Will he come?”

Grandfather removes his helmet. “We have performed the ceremony. It is done.”

“But will it work? Will he come?”

Grandfather struggles to walk. “Your mind has too much future, not enough faith.”

They stagger back to the canoe as the red dawn paints their beloved island with sanguine light.

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Angel Singers, a Dick Hardesty Mystery excerpt by Dorien Grey

THE ANGEL SINGERS, a Dick Hardesty Mystery
Publisher: Zumaya Publications, LLC (August 28, 2008)
ISBN: 1934841064

Of all the gifts bestowed upon Mankind, music is one of the greatest,and no musical instrument is older, more versatile, or has more power to move us, than the human voice. Anyone who doubts the power of that instrument need only listen to Kate Smith singing 'God Bless America.' And when one voice is joined by 50, 100, or more—think of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing 'Battle Hymn of the Republic'—the power grows exponentially.It can literally transfix, transform, and empower us, raising us as close to the angels as mortals can get.

The need and desire to sing together provides a sense of unity,strength, and power, which has long been recognized by organized religions. But it equally serves the purposes of minorities such as the gay community, which has given rise to a number of choruses and chorales which enhance our sense of unity, of belonging, and of pride.

But though human voices joined together in song may approach the divine, the individual humans who make it are not immune to the weaknesses, petty and major, that plague humanity. And yet it is to our credit that flawed though we may be as individuals, we all still have the potential to be angel-singers.

–Dick Hardesty


"Black pants are black pants," I said as we made our way into yet another men's clothing store in the second mall we'd scoured in our…well, Jonathan's…search.

"No, they're not," Jonathan said. "They have to be the right black pants, and I haven't found them yet. I'll know them when I do."

Joshua, who had been alternately munching from a small bag of caramel corn and trying to wander off on his own, announced simultaneously that he was thirsty and that he had to go to the bathroom.

"Look," I said to Jonathan, "you go in and look around and I'll take Joshua to the bathroom and get him some water, and we'll meet you back here."

"I don't want water. I want a Coke!" Joshua declared.

"And I want a million dollars," I said, reaching for his free hand. "Sometimes we just have to settle for what we can get." I intended that little moral lesson for Jonathan as well as Joshua, but it went right over both their heads. Joshua informed me he did not want a million dollars; he wanted a Coke. Not water. A Coke.

As Jonathan went into the store, I dragged a pouting Joshua off in search of a water fountain and a bathroom.

* * *

Our ostensible reason for being in the mall was to buy some fall and winter clothes for Joshua, who was growing like a weed. But after that chore had been accomplished, Jonathan had decided he needed a new pair of black pants for the upcoming Gay Men's Chorus Fall concert—his first with the group—despite the performance being still two months away.

His involvement with the chorus had, as I'd suspected it would when he first joined, taken up a lot more of his time than either one of us would have liked. And going to school one night a week, plus study time, added even more pressure on him. I have to admit there were times when I mildly resented not only the loss of his company but the additional responsibilities I had to assume with Joshua while he was gone. But he loved it, which is all that really mattered, and between us we managed to keep everything under control.

Things would lighten up a bit after the concert—one of the three the chorus put on each year. The upcoming Fall concert was to be held November 17, three days after my birthday, at Atheneum Hall, the city's largest and most prestigious music venue. This would be the first time any gay group had ever performed there, and it was a real coup for the entire community.

I was also getting something of an education on the subject of choruses. I'd never known that a chorus was comprised of only one sex, whereas choirs and chorales were a mixture of men and women. Jonathan told me he was classified as a "tenor 2", and I hadn't a clue what that meant until he explained that a "tenor 1" is one who can hit the really high notes—a "tenor 2" had a lower range, but still higher than baritones. Who knew?

One of the reasons I had originally encouraged Jonathan to join the chorus was so that it would gave him the chance to meet new people outside our own little circle of close friends—all of whom had been friends of mine before Jonathan came along. I thought he should have some friends of his own, independent of me.

As I soon found out, I may have gotten a bit more than I bargained for. The chorus was, at least on the surface, a very friendly and supportive group. In addition to once-a-week Tuesday night rehearsals at the Metropolitan Community Church, there were also what they called "sectionals," where several of the basses, or baritones, or tenors would get together at various members' homes to practice their group's specific parts. And several times a year there was a general get-together at the home of Crandall Booth, one of the chorus's major financial backers/supporters and a member of its Board of Directors. Chorus members were encouraged to bring their partners—and, in the case of Jonathan and me and two other couples, their children—to these gatherings.

All of this ate into the already-limited time Jonathan and I had to do "us" things. But I was rather looking forward to one of Booth's events, and I knew Joshua would in seventh heaven, since he could be the center of attention of a lot of adults and have a couple of other kids close to his age to play with.

* * *

Over the course of the weeks, I got to know not only something of how a chorus was made up, but a few through-Jonathan's-eyes glimpses into what went on behind the scenes.

The night of Jonathan's first rehearsal Roger Rothenberger, the chorus's director, had, as he did with all new members, assigned him a "Buddy," to help ease his way into the organization; introduce him around, show him the ropes, and explain and answer questions on procedures. Jonathan's Buddy was a kid named Eric Speers, and the two of them hit it off immediately. So when Jonathan suggested inviting Eric over for dinner, I readily agreed. I was curious to meet him, and figured it would give me a little better insight into this new part of Jonathan's life. He had indicated that Eric had been with the chorus since it had begun five years previously, and was deeply devoted to and involved in it. He was also the peacemaker of the group, which was apparently, as are most groups, both tight-knit and contentious.

It was inevitable that whenever you get 50 or so artistic gay men together, the road was not without its bumpy stretches. There were the inevitable cliques, feuds, and rivalries that afflict any group of humans, and Jonathan always brought home a doggie bag of the latest bits of gossip he'd heard at rehearsals. I've never gone in much for gossip, but Jonathan got such a kick out of observing all the various behind-the-risers intrigues and took such delight in sharing them with me that I couldn't complain. It was rather like watching one of those guilty-pleasure soap operas on TV, although the cast members of the chorus dramas were not all as drop-dead gorgeous as their on-screen counterparts. There were even a few hush-hush allusions to a conflict between Rothenberger and Crandall Booth, and to Booth's alleged financial ties to some rather shady types. I didn't give any weight to the latter, since I knew that Glen O'Banyon, the city's preeminent gay lawyer, for whom I frequently did work, was also a member of the chorus's board, and if there were any solid basis to the allegations, Glen would not be associated with Booth in any way.

Rothenberger, Jonathan had told me, had been born and raised here,then moved to New York and started singing with the New York City Gay Men's Chorus and became an assistant director. He'd then gone on to direct one or two other groups before moving back here. In addition to the Gay Men's Chorus, he also directed the choir at the M.C.C. I'd seen him at the chorus's last concert—the one that had prompted Jonathan to want to join. Rothenberger had reminded me of an opera star; portly to the point of being rotund, full beard, somewhat imperious manner; in absolute control when it came to leading the chorus. Jonathan reported that Rothenberger's mantra at every rehearsal and before every concert was: "Remember; when you talk,
you're human. When you sing, you're angels," and everyone in the chorus apparently thought the world of him.

The most recent tempest in the choral teapot was created by a member who joined not too long before Jonathan, and who happened to be Crandall Booth's nephew. There's nothing like a little nepotism to get things heated up, and the controversy was compounded by the nephew, Grant Jefferson, apparently being something of a pain in the ass. Jonathan, of course, always prefers to see the good in everyone, but even he found it a little difficult to find much positive to say about Grant. "He's really good looking," he conceded, "and he does have a nice voice," which, coming from Jonathan, I took to be something of a case of damning with faint praise.

Possibly another reason why I allowed myself to be vicariously caught up on the goings on of the chorus was that my work, while fairly steady, had lately tended to be far less than the stuff of which detective novels are made. For the past two weeks or so I had been caught up in a "case"…if it could even be called that…so stupifyingly dull I'd have much preferred to watch paint dry. Suffice it to say it involved a client with more money than intelligence who was on a vendetta against a former business partner and wasn't going to let a little thing like his case not having a leg to stand on get in his way. I finally gave up trying to convince him that he was wasting his money, and resigned myself to the conclusion that if he was going to throw his money away, he might as well throw some of it at me. So I spent an inordinate amount of time running off in whatever new direction he pointed me. I could and should have quit; however, my mantra was: "It isn't the principle of the thing, it's the money."

* * *

Eric was set to arrive for dinner at 6:30 Friday. I was at the office when Jonathan called at 3:00 to tell me there was a work emergency that necessitated his driving to Neeleyville with his boss, and he probably wouldn't be able to make it home until 7. He didn't have Eric's number with him and, having no way to reach him, asked if I could pick Joshua up from day care, put dinner in the oven, and entertain Eric until he got home.

“I'm really sorry, Dick," he said. "I didn't know this was going to happen. I…"

"No problem, Babe," I said. I wasn't quite sure what I could do to entertain someone I'd never met before, but it wasn't a major issue.

* * *

Joshua was standing on the front porch with Estelle Bronson, one of the day care owners, when I arrived at five after four. I'd have been there ten minutes earlier had the city not been digging up exactly the same three-block section of the street they'd dug up the year before, and naturally a major intersection was involved.

Seeing me pull up, Joshua bounded off the porch and headed full-gallop for the thankfully closed front gate. Estelle's call drew him up short, and he stood stock still until she caught up with him and opened the gate as I leaned over to open the passenger's side door.

"'Bye!" Joshua called to Estelle as he clambered onto the front seat. Estelle and I exchanged a quick greeting and then, seeing Joshua was safely in with his seat belt—admittedly not the best of fits—fastened, she closed the door and headed back through the gate.

"Where's Uncle Jonathan?" he asked as we pulled away from the curb. Though it was not at all unusual for me to pick him up when Jonathan couldn't for one reason or another, he always asked.

"He was busy," I explained, as I explained every time it happened, and Joshua's response was always the same, too. "Oh."

The ride home was largely taken up with a detailed and always dramatized accounting of his day at "school," accompanied by the requisite hand and arm gestures and facial expressions. Although he still had not totally mastered the concept of linear thought, he was getting much better at it and I had gotten pretty good at stepping over the chasms and seeing around the corners of his narrative, which centered on the Bronsons' acquisition—whether permanent or on loan wasn't clear—of a rabbit and a tortoise. It seems they had been the basis of a story about a race involving the two of them, which he related to me in detail, omitting only the moral of the tale.

As soon as we got home, I turned the oven on and waited for it to preheat. We'd bought a good-sized pork tenderloin the last time we were at the store, in anticipation of Eric's visit, so all I basically had to do was put it and the baking potatoes in the oven, which I held off doing until the first commercial break in the evening news. To forestall the possibility of Joshua's starving to death before dinner, I gave him a large plum and a small glass of milk after he'd helped me set the table.

At six-twenty, the door buzzer rang, announcing Eric's arrival.

I opened the door to find a rangy reddish-blond about Jonathan's age and height. He had freckles and the kind of almost impish face that always reminded me of a leprechaun; in his case, a very tall leprechaun. We shook hands and did the mutual introductions, and I showed him in, explaining that Jonathan would be a little late getting home.

Joshua, as always upon hearing someone at the door, had come bounding out of his room so as not to miss anything.

"Joshua, this is Eric," I said by way of introduction, and when Eric smiled and said "Hello, Joshua," and extended his hand I noticed an uncustomary moment's hesitation on Joshua's part before taking it. As soon as Eric released his hand, Joshua moved close against me, leaning against my leg…which also struck me as a little odd.

"And I'm a little early," Eric said. "I hope you don't mind. I'm afraid I'm always so worried about being late that I always end up being too early."

"A man after my own heart," I said, offering to take his light jacket, which he removed and handed to me with thanks. I in turn handed the jacket to Joshua. "Would you take this into our room for me, Joshua?" He gave me a slightly resentful look, then took it and went toward our bedroom.

"Make yourself at home," I said. "Can I get you a drink?"

"Sure; that would be nice," he replied, moving to the couch to sit down. "Whatever you're having."

"A Manhattan okay?" I asked. I'd held off having mine awaiting his arrival.

"I love Manhattans!" he said. "You've obviously got good taste."

As I excused myself to go into the kitchen, Joshua followed me closely. "I want one, too!" he said. He knew I always gave him a glass of soda whenever I had my evening drink, so I was a little puzzled by his reaction. Then I remembered that whenever Jonathan spoke of Eric, as he often did, and with the enthusiasm of someone with a new friend, Joshua would react in some way far out of character for him. It struck me now that he felt threatened by Eric's entrance into Jonathan's life.

I fixed our drinks and brought them into the living room, grabbed a couple of coasters, handing one to Eric with his drink, gave Joshua his soda—he insisted on two marischino cherries in it rather than his usual one—then sat in the chair closest to the couch. Joshua sat in my lap.

Ooooo-kay, I thought. We have a little problem here.

Monday, September 8, 2008

L. A. Mischief excerpt by P. A. Brown

If you have already read L. A. Heat by author P. A. Brown, you have met David Eric Laine and Christopher Bellamere. If not, get ready to make their acquaintance in L. A. Mischief, a fast-paced novella that details the early months of their relationship. David-a LAPD Homicide Detective-is stubborn, proud, and barely out of the closet. As the story opens, he is struggling to find the balance between his intense feelings for Chris, the urges of his newly liberated libido, and the demands of a job where bodies pop up on an all too regular basis. Chris-blonde, smart, out and proud-faces his own set of challenges, including helping his best friend cope with his ongoing grief after the brutal murder of his lover. Life events conspire to bring David and Chris together while at the same time keeping them apart-will they be able to push their way through and find a common ground for happiness and their shared love?

L. A. Mischief
Bristlecone Pine Press, an imprint of Maine Desk, LLC (September 3, 2008)
ISBN: 978-0-9817464-7-0


Chapter 2

Monday, 7:30 am, Northeast Community Police Station,

San Fernando Road, Los Angeles

The squad room was a noisy cacophony of phone calls and low pitched voices. Somewhere a desk drawer slammed and a chair squeaked. David Eric Laine paid very little attention to anyone around him. He was intent on the voice on the other end of the phone, who was calling to report a missing and abducted eighteen year old woman.

"When did you last see Holly?" David asked with a show of patience he was far from feeling.

"Thursday night. We met for coffee at Starbucks, you know the one up on Los Feliz?"

"Yes, ma'am, I'm familiar." David scribbled on the notebook he had opened in front of him when the call had first come through, thinking then it might be legit. He was having serious doubts about that now. Across from him his partner of seven years, Martinez Diego sat chewing on peanuts he was taking out of a bag of fresh roast he had brought in that morning. Martinez was on a recent health kick and had heard peanuts were the new blueberries. David was skeptical, but, hey if it worked for the guy... He had his own phone pinned under his shoulder. When he caught David looking at him he rolled his eyes and pantomimed lips moving. He had a talker too.

"Well, we met up there and Holly was all excited. She saw some news story on the TV about sightings."

"Sightings, ma'am? I don't follow."

"Sightings. Lights, physical phenomena. She said they were all over Griffith Park. Probably came to look over the observatory up there. Maybe they think we're spying on them."

"Yes, ma'am. What happened then? Did you leave Starbucks together?"

"Yes," the woman who had introduced herself as Meagan Dupress early in the conversation, seemed impatient. Like David should be getting it by now and wasn't. "She was going to go home and I was off to work."

"And where do you work, ma'am?"

"Kressler Auto, on South Brand. Car sales. We're open till nine and I was doing the evening shift."

"Yes, ma'am. What then?"

"Well I don't think she went home. I think she went up to the park to find them."

"Find who, ma'am?"

"The aliens. Don't you get it, officer? The aliens took her. God knows what they're doing to her as we speak. You have to put out an APB on her. They could be torturing her right now. Something unspeakable."

"I, ah, seriously doubt that, ma'am. I'm sure aliens wouldn't come all the way here to do that."

"That's what they want you to think. What about Roswell? Area 51?" she crowed triumphantly. "The government's been covering that up for years. Didn't you see Independence Day?"

David dropped his head into his hand and massaged his temple. He hadn't noticed a full moon last night but what else could it be? Certainly not aliens. Ah, that's right. It was Halloween. No wonder she was seeing little green men. They were probably trick or treating at the observatory.

"If you like ma'am, I can have a patrol car sweep that area—what did you call it? Area 51?"

"No, no, you don't get it. Area 51 is in New Mexico. That secret government installation where they're hiding the alien bodies!"

"Yes, of course. New Mexico. Then how can I help you, ma'am?"

"Find Holly. She's in the park. I just know it."

Along with the little green men? David thanked his caller and said he'd have a patrol car keep an eye out for Holly and her 'abductors.' Thankfully Meagan seemed satisfied with that.

He looked up again to find Martinez off his line looking despondent. "Feel like taking a drive?" he asked before Martinez could speak.


"Griffith Park." He tried to keep a straight face but Martinez knew him too well.


"We're looking for one Holly Barnes, recently abducted by aliens. No doubt being anal-probed as we speak."

"Alien—You're serious?"

"I'm not, but her friend was. Government cover-up. Hidden space ships and lights in the sky."

"Always wanted to find me one of those. The kids would love one under the tree at Christmas." Martinez's grin slipped. "So you doing anything important right now?"

"Yeah, calling the FBI about a possible UFO abduction, what do you think?"

"I think you need to get out more."

David didn't wince outwardly, but he did inside. He had been getting out more since his silent break up with Chris—silent at least in the eyes of his partner. He hadn't made a big deal of the fact that they were no longer seeing each other and Martinez would never ask.

Martinez would be comfortable with never hearing about David's aberration ever again.

But David had been going out. It shamed him no end, but he'd had a taste of what it was like to be open about his sexuality and he was loath to crawl back into the closet completely. So he went out.

And sampled.

Each morning after he berated himself for letting his libido control him, and most nights he could ignore the call, but then the pressure would build up and he would have to find an outlet for it. It had been three days since his last breakout and his body was giving him the unmistakable signals that it was time.

So far he'd fought it, but he knew, deep in his gut, that the fight was one-sided.

The only question was where he would pursue his pleasure.

He had avoided the places in Silver Lake and WeHo where he knew Chris hung out. He didn't think he could stand to see Chris using his considerable charms on some other man. He wasn't prepared to go back to the rare trip to Palm Springs but he had to find a place Chris wasn't likely to go. He settled on The Eagle, a leather bar in Silver Lake. He wasn't at the point of gigging himself up, but he loved the way it looked on a muscular man.

Even that shamed him.

He forced his overheated thoughts back to the moment. He focused on Martinez. "Got something in mind?"

"Just got a call out for a drive-by on Drew Street. Interested?"

"Let's check it out."

Drew Street in Glassell Park was a notorious gang hangout primarily run by the Avenue gang, a subset of the Crips. A gang injunction had been laid against them and a major bust had led to numerous arrests of high-ranking gang leaders. But like a bad smell, the gang regrouped and was back in business.

Ironically, they were only a couple of hundred yards from the Northeast Police Station as a ghetto falcon flew.

This drive-by had netted two bodies, one of them a six year old. The kids were always the worst. They stood on the front steps of the structure called the Twin Towers after the Los Angeles County Jail in downtown L.A. because so many of the residents were ex-cons, staring down at the tiny body curled up under a rusted out lawn chair. The second victim, an older teen, lay on the lawn, her short skirt and T hiked up over bare legs. A single gunshot wound marred the nearly flawless skin of her forehead.

David crouched to get a closer look. Near the graffiti-covered street several shell casings from a nine millimeter weapon had been recovered.

"Who was she?"

"Avenue gangbanger, Maria Real. That's her daughter, age six. No one seems to know who the father is." Martinez looked bleak. "Pretty much the same news all over."

David glanced out at the street, studying a pair of tennis shoes that had been tossed over the power line in front of the apartment. The silent signal that the dealers were in and open for business. His gaze swept back over the yard then out to the street where the shooters had probably driven. Had the woman been their target? Or just collateral damage?

"Any one see anything?"

"You're joking, right?"

David sighed. Right. No one ever saw anything on Drew Street.

Larry Vance the SID crime scene technician stepped out of his van, lugging his 3D Leica camera. A second tech was flagging the shell casings and any other evidence the site might yield. He didn't expect much.

In the real world there would be no fingerprints on the shell casings. No tire marks would be matched to some unique vehicle that only one particular gangbanger drove. And of course, no witnesses would develop a conscience and risk their lives to clean up Glassell.

They spent hours canvassing the neighborhood then called in a couple of patrols in to take the canvass through the Twin Towers. You never knew. Sometimes you got lucky. And it never hurt to tell the bad guys you were on to them. One thing about Glassell, there was no interest from the local news hawks. Glassell didn't register on the radar of the average Cali reader.

They grabbed lunch out of a mariscos truck in Eagle Rock and headed back to the station to write up their reports. The autopsy would be scheduled later. They hadn't decided which of them would attend.

They spent the afternoon going over various cases, including writing up a sixty-day report on another Drew Street homicide that still hadn't yielded any suspects, and at this late date wasn't likely to. David had a bad feeling about this latest one. Drew Street homicides had a dismal habit of entering a black clueless hole.

That evening David was scheduled to speak at the monthly Community-Police Advisory Board. It wasn't his first choice of a night's entertainment, but the Lieutenant wanted him there. David figured it had as much to do with his being gay as his media savvy. He spent the last hour at his desk going over his notes.
Dinner was leftovers and a Bud. The CAPA meeting went without any major public blow-ups. The Drew Street shooting was mentioned, but David wasn't surprised when no one seemed willing to apportion any blame to the young teen mother who had chosen the life and taken her daughter with her. Just one more dead banger, probably killed by one of her own people.

Thirty minutes after the meeting was ended, he entered the Eagle. He could hear the heavy beat of rock music through his feet. He slipped off his Ray Bans and nodded at the bouncer. Inside the TV screens were full of hard core porn and the dark paneled walls were covered with posters advertising upcoming shows. He stared at a heavily muscled blond wearing a leather and chrome harness and a skimpy jock that barely concealed his massive cock and balls while he waited for his eyes to adjust to the gloom. The guy looked back with interest.

David stepped up to the bar and got his Bud and retreated to the patio where the music was softer. He studied the sparse crowd. The air was full of sexual tension and smelled of testosterone and poppers. He watched three men playing tonsil hockey grope each others' rigid cocks. He got hard as he let himself play with the fantasy: what would a threesome be like? It wasn't long before he felt the presence beside him and a hand went between his legs, cupping his hard-on.

Moist lips traced the outline of his jaw and nibbled on his ear lobe.

"Was hoping you'd come in tonight."

He turned and looked down into Blair's dark eyes. "I wasn't going to."

"My loss."

David pulled muscular black man into his embrace. "No," he said huskily. "Mine."

The heavily muscled blond walked out onto the patio and David's eyes slid over him again, raw lust on his features. Blair picked up on the look and desire as he pressed his hot lips against David's throat. "Interested in a three-way?" he whispered.

"Maybe," David answered, his voice husky.

Just before his lips closed over David's Blair murmured, "Let me ask around."

Monday, September 1, 2008

Cutting the Cheese excerpt by Edward C Patterson

Cutting the Cheese, A Novel by Edward C Patterson: Luke Oliver has just come out of the closet and confronts a brave new world - a meeting of the Gay and Lesbian Activist Association of New Birch and Sipsboro (GLAABS) - your run of the mill, gay political caucus. Run of the Mill? . . . my @$$. Stepping across the threshold of the Otterson estate exposes Luke to horny and hilarious shenanigans that give the Boys in the Band a run for its money. Who wants whom? Who has whom? Who will win Luke's . . . let's say, attentions? A self-effacing, comic romp through the Gay hierarchy, Cutting the Cheese is a reality check from the author's provocative coming out experience in a drizzled-pink world; an outrageous ride down the funny bone. Repeat riding is encouraged. It's every one for themself in New Birch's Gay Ghetto. To Hell with Robert's Rules of Order.

Cutting the Cheese
Publisher: CreateSpace (March 11, 2008)
ISBN: 1434893847



Kelly Rodriguez struggled with the plastic grocery bags while trying to shut the back door.

“Kelly? Is that you?” Mortimer shouted from the recesses of the living room.

Kelly swept into the kitchen balancing the bags. “No, it’s Tom Cruise,” he said. He flung the bags on the butcher block, waving his hands about his nose. “I was in the neighborhood, found these fucking bags of cheese and thought they needed a home.”

No response.

Kelly rolled his eyes and, placing his hands on his hips, did his best impression of a salad cruet. “Would you help me? This is your shit anyway!” He slammed his palm on the counter, and then muttered: “I’m not having the gay scary fairies of New Birch meeting.”

Kelly caught his reflection in the polished flour canister. Scary fairy, my ass, he thought. Lovely creature. “But I’m not some fucking slave, Mortimer! Do you hear me?”

Kelly continued to preen before the canister until Mortimer bounced into the kitchen his hands over his ears as if to block an air raid siren. “I heard you,” he said, “and they’re not the scary fairies.”

Sharp ears, Kelly thought giving Mortimer attitude.

Mortimer approached the hallowed butcher block and its cargo of cheese. “The Gay Activists of New Birch are the hope for our future. And who are you to call anyone scary?” Mortimer stepped back and waved his hand down Kelly’s skinny butt and tight Nelly shorts.

Kelly answered with a finger snap, and then blew a hiss between pursed lips. “And who are you? Vanna White?”

Mortimer shrugged. He had reached the butcher block. “I’m just glad you finally got back. I thought you’d gone to the moon.”

“Where else can you get this much cheese?” Kelly snickered. He grabbed a dishcloth and began washing the counters, occasionally smiling at his own image in the flour tin.

“They’ll be here any minute.”

“I’ll be out of your way,” Kelly said. “Roy gave me a chore list.” He twirled around, his back to the counter. “And I’m not hanging around here to be enlisted in the Cheddar brigade. It’s bad enough I’ve dish pan hands.”

Mortimer looked into the bags, his face gnarling like a sourdough pretzel. “Shit! This is cheddar-sharp.”

Kelly threw the dishcloth into the sink. “Not all of it.” Mortimer scowled placing his hand mid-hip. Kelly shot him a glance that would kill. Who the fuck does he think he is? I’m the houseboy and it’s not his house. Wait ‘til Roy gets home. “Sorry I didn’t beat the cream on the rock so disa here cheese, she’d be purfuct for y’all.” He bowed, the dishcloth now retrieved like a fop’s hanky. “If you don’t like what I got, you should have gotten off your princess ass and went yourself. Cheddar-Sharp! Not all of it.” He grabbed Roy’s chore list from the counter.

“I asked you not to get Cheddar-Sharp. Can’t you follow a simple set of instructions?” Mortimer looked at the cheese as it dumped across the block. He clicked his tongue as if the world turned on dairy purchases. “I wanted it to be perfect. Cheddar-Sharp is harder to cut. It crumbles and they don’t eat it.”

Kelly clanked the silverware into the dishwasher. “Roy asked me to help you. I’m not under any obligation for this meeting.” He dipped his back against the sink like some precious coquette at Twelve Oaks. “I’m not even a fucking activist you know.” He grinned as if the angel’s had tickled him.

“Well you should get some community spirit and a social conscience,” Mort said. “You should join up.”

Kelly’s grin faded. He charged toward the bags of cheese, his slinking gait beckoning for the runway. “Do you want this in the refrigerator? Or what?” he snapped.

Mortimer blocked him. “No, leave it be. I said they’d be here any minute. You don’t hear a word I say.”

I wish, Kelly thought. His eyes said as much.

Mortimer stacked the cheese blocks into a pyramid. “We’ll start cubing when they come.”

Kelly rolled his eyes, and then adjusted his crotch in an eat me gesture.
“What’s this meeting about anyway?” he asked, retreating to the silverware.

“I thought you didn’t care.”

“I didn’t say I didn’t care. I said I wouldn’t join.” Kelly twirled over to the counter, leaning back again — the perfect Liza Minelli. “Just think of it as an inquiring mind that needs to know.”

It was Mortimer’s turn to roll eyes and snap fingers. “Important stuff.”

Kelly chuckled. He had been to the Gay Activist of New Birch meetings — at least twice, and he had seen these committee groups and sub-groups meet in various homes in the area. Not once did he ever consider the content to be weighty enough to label it Important stuff.

“Be a shit then,” Mortimer snapped. He continued the cheese set-ups. “I don’t think you take anything seriously.” He glanced back at Kelly. “Well, maybe your waistline, or by some stretch, your hair.”

“What’s wrong with my hair?” He glanced into the flour canister again.

No one ever took the houseboy seriously, especially Kelly Rodriguez. Sure he was a looker — had those thin, wiry hips, good for bed bearing and clock cleaning, but the boy had attitude — too much for a serious community member, like good old Mortimer. Kelly had moves, true. He danced naked in D.C. — on the bar top, down past his BVDs. That’s where Roy Otterson first saw him, somewhere between the five dollar squeeze and the one hundred dollar nibble at the club La Cage, where the D.C. cops turn their heads the other way as they did with all the O Street doings. Kelly knew a Sugar Daddy at five hundred yards. Roy Otterson never had a quiet bankroll. Roy knew its power — power to draw young Kelly into the Otterson coterie of fops and tag-alongs — a hummingbird knowing the nectar in one sniff. For this, Kelly now cleaned the toilets and mopped up party spills in service to the generous and powerful lord of the manor, but — seriously — no one took Kelly Rodriguez seriously — especially Mortimer Levine.

Kelly combed his fingers through his hair. “Of course I take it seriously,” he said. “I think very highly of the committee’s decision on the bunting color at the Gay Pride Parade. Heavy, man. Real heavy.” He gave Mortimer an Italian glance — an over the shoulder, Gloria Swanson glare.

“You wouldn’t understand these things.”

“Like I don’t vote!” Kelly skipped over to Mortimer, and then perched his chin on his nemesis’ shoulder, winking with butterfly lashes. “You know Mortimer, just because you’re Roy’s Project of the Month, doesn’t give you free reign to get snotty with me.” He straightened (as a figure of speech). “I’ve seen that basement apartment rented to the best . . . and the worst, not saying where you lie in the course of things . . . dear. You know, they come and go and come and come and come . . . but in the end — they go.” He flicked his hands in an inevitable whoosh.

“Look who’s talking — the twink du jour.”

“At least I know it.” Kelly was nobody’s fool and anybody’s purchase. He would be the first to admit it — in fact, proclaim it: “Houseboys are in it for the moolah and the perks and Roy’s riches flow freely to those of us who open our hearts and do a little light cleaning.”

“You mean spread your legs and do a lot of apple polishing.” Mortimer continued to spread the cheese out on the block.

Kelly clunked his elbows on the block and supported his pretty little head in those caressing palms like a candy heart perched in a show window. “What’s your point, Sir Mortimer?” No response. “I’ll tell you the point. I get the master bedroom, while you get the basement apartment — the damp, cold basement apartment with the water bugs and no windows.”

Mortimer clicked his teeth. He had taken a steady stream of Kelly’s tongue-lashing since he had arrived as Roy’s star tenant. But after all, Kelly was the hired-help. One should never stoop to quibble with the hired-help. Instead, one rises to the occasion and underscores the reality of existence — values and impact.

“Roy has confidence in my work,” Mort snarled, and then smiled. “He’s backing a winner.” Roy Otterson constantly sponsored emerging artists — writers, musicians and sometimes a dancer or three — it was his hobby; that, and the constant expansion of the house, this ghost of Tara future that all gay men in New Birch aspired to occupy, if only for the price of a committee meeting and a lump of Cheddar-Sharp cheese.

Kelly thought of Roy’s winners in terms of horse racing with so many contenders on the track. “Roy has confidence in my work,” he said. “And I go to the bank the winner.” He preened over his reflection again. “No illusions here.” He stood at attention, took a stiff breath and marched to the butcher block. His hand slammed down on a pale block of cheese. “Look here — mild cheddar.” He poked at another. “Most of this is mild, mild, mild.” Suddenly, the doorbell rang — or should we say clanged, a rich string of chimes and chords playing Bach’s O Jesu, heart of man’s desiring, a most unfitting tune for the Otterson estate. “Oh, there’s the doorbell. Shall I get it, your lordship?” Kelly cocked his head. “Surely you don’t want me to greet your company, or are you just going to lie there in state surrounded by rank cheese?” A few things surrounded in rank cheese crossed Kelly’s mind. He snickered.

“Fuck you.” Mortimer threw the cheese aside and headed through the kitchen door.

Kelly chuckled. They all think they’re hot shit because they think they have talent, he thought. Roy’s been through writers, musicians, singers, philosophers and even a dress designer. Flashes in the pan. He returned to his reflection and grinned, his teeth blossoming like a pretty jackass wreathed for some bacchanal. Talent is playing Indiana Jones in bed — and I‘ve a doctorate in that. “And when my charms fade,” he muttered, “or if the MasterCard’s declined, then — and only then I’ll consider my next career move.” His nose twitched. “Oh, that cheese stinks already.”