Thursday, May 29, 2008
Since My Last Confession is a funny, irreverent-but-faithful account of my stalking Cardinal Sean O’Malley of the Archdiocese of Boston during the same-sex marriage debate in Massachusetts. As a federal prosecutor, I was attempting to use lawyerly persuasion to change the cardinal's tune. What I found along the way was a hardcore atheist boyfriend, a host of motorcycle lesbians, gay priests, flaming friars, pious prelates, would-be Opus Dei monks, three “Hale” Marys, Harry Potter’s Satanism, and ten surefire ways to detect a fellow gay Catholic. Think of it like a gay Catholic literary version of Michael Moore’s Roger and Me, with the Cardinal playing the part of “Roger.”
Since My Last Confession: A Gay Catholic Memoir
Arcade Publishing (June 10, 2008)
The Tunnel Builders
Mrs. American Gothic
Gram was worried we were all going straight to hell. She didn’t say it aloud. She rarely mentioned the error of our ways. In fact, Gram was almost too gracious with her hospitality. Because our ultimate destiny was the fiery pits, Gram determined that we should have a few fond memories of earthly life to sustain us through eternity. Hence the steady supply of fresh-baked whoopee pies and generous servings of Grape Nut pudding.
The first time my boyfriend Scott invited me to Gram’s “camp” in rural Maine, we arrived after midnight. I slept through the whole three-hour ride. When I woke, it was as if Boston had returned to its pastoral beginnings: cows on the Common, towering maples, and a winding, unpaved road to her house.
Gram and her then-husband Dick built the camp themselves in 1963 on the shore of Thompson Lake. What Dick didn’t know about plumbing and carpentry, he taught himself. Gram had had a railing put on the back porch and replaced the outhouse with a leeching field, but forty years later, the roof had never leaked and the walls were holding strong, and God bless indestructible kitchen linoleum.
The camp was no more than eight hundred square feet, painted brick-red and shaded by a dozen evergreens that dropped needles and pitch relentlessly on the picnic tables below. Reed baskets hung from the roof beams and every shelf was teemed with bric-a-brac that Gram had collected over the years—pottery owls, granite inch worms, brass sailboats, and even a pewter mug that had belonged to Gram’s grandmother and might have been in the family for centuries. It was a world of Mary Kay cosmetics, plastic violets, and a kitchen window bird feeder designed for a hummingbird whose buzzing wings made me want to steal Gram’s badminton racquet and swat it like a mosquito.
That first night, I expected Mrs. American Gothic to answer the door. In fact, Gram was wearing a bathrobe and slippers, but her finger was tucked in a Bible, which she had nested in a book-cover knit from spare yarn. The bottle of Palmolive by the sink and the air freshener canister in the bathroom wore matching knit dresses.
Leviticus or Paul, I thought. No doubt about it. You’ve got to put on a good show when the Sodomites come to visit.
Gram folded away her Bible, kissed her grandson, and extended her hand toward me with the dignity of royalty.
“You are welcome. You are welcome.” She articulated the words with perfect elocution and appeared as sincere as the friars of Saint Anthony Shrine. She pointed the way to her queen-size bed. “Never mind me. I can sleep on the bunkbed.”
Scott was delighted, but I took a temporary vow of chastity. Aside from the innate wrongness of scoring between your grandmother’s sheets, the interior walls reached only two-thirds of the way to the ceiling and Gram’s bed squeaked. Weeks later, I learned she was stone-deaf. My attempt to have sex without actually moving a muscle had been a useless precaution.
My squeamishness proved otherwise silly. Saturday morning, I emerged from the bedroom in my swim trunks, shirtless, with a towel slung over my shoulder. Gram darted toward me with surprising alacrity for an octogenarian. I dodged, but she thrust her face against my chest and nuzzled my chest hair.
“Gram!” Scott scolded. “Men have been killed for less than that. Get away from my fur!”
Gram released me, chuckling uproariously, not the least bit embarrassed. She had the same taste in men as her grandson. She was an old-school Yankee with snow-white hair, but she had a swimmer’s body and big breasts, and her grandchildren traded rumors they’d heard about the wild days of the Swingin’ Sxities.
Gram and I got along for the most part. She never held it against me that I shave my head and have a four-inch scar on my left cheek, which makes me look like a serial killer. (As a joke, one of my law-firm colleagues once gave our interns snapshots of Ted Bundy, Charles Manson, Jeffrey Dahmer, and me. He invited the interns to pick out the lawyer from the group. Ted Bundy was the near unanimous choice.)
Gram did suspect that a city boy like me would be unable to distinguish loons from ducks, and she watched me like a hawk out of fear that I’d use the undrinkable tap water for the morning coffee. But our main point of contention concerned strawberries. She favored refrigeration. I do not. I set newly purchased strawberries on the windowsill. She whisked them to the refrigerator while doing housework. I liberated them from the fridge before noon, but they were back in the crisper by cocktail hour. Even when I hid the strawberries in our Honda’s glove compartment, Gram somehow sniffed them out. We never directly engaged one another. Neither of us defended our positions; our differences were irreconcilable. In time, we put competing strawberry concoctions on the table and judged our righteousness solely by whose dessert had the smallest slice left after Scott’s family had eaten their fill.
Scott and his grandmother were startlingly alike in personality and looks. Both were unnaturally slim, with pale skin that tanned olive. Each had blue eyes and a hooked nose, and neither had patience for the presence of other cooks in their respective kitchens. They were fiercely competitive at cards, obsessed over Scrabble, and played marathon games of cribbage. They were too much alike for either to get away with the rampant cheating they both saw as just another part of the game. Both were vain about their age and their figures and would as soon be seen in public without hair product as appear naked on national television.
Though Gram clearly viewed my unwillingness to play cribbage ad nauseum as a character flaw, she never once suggested that our homosexuality was a problem. This had not always been the case. When Scott first moved to Boston and came home on summer weekends talking about his then-boyfriend, Gram cornered him one afternoon. She made Bible noises. Stern with moral righteousness, she said, “I’d be disappointed to have to tell people my grandson was like that.”
Scott had been Gram’s favorite until that time, but the exchange broke the bond between them and replaced it with suspicion and mistrust. Scott didn’t go back to camp for years.
“Leave it in Boston,” Scott’s father said approvingly.
No Skin Off Gram’s Ass
Sodomy was not the only—or even a primary—reason Gram believed that her grandchildren were going to hell. A confirmed Protestant, Gram viewed Catholicism with the lip-curling disgust many profess to have when they see two men kiss. To her, it was a spooky combination of paganism, mysticism, sexual deviancy, and funny costumes. Growing up, she firmly believed that a tunnel ran between priests’ rectory and the nuns’ quarters, through which the priests passed nightly for unlimited sexual orgies. She believed the priests reported their unholy machinations over a telephone hotline to Rome. Of course, it didn’t help that Gram’s ex-husband had been wooed away by a “French Canadian Catholic harlot” named Clare. Clare was a sweetheart. She always gave me lottery scratch cards for Christmas stocking stuffers that never failed to win.
Clare aside, Gram’s anti-Catholicism was purely theoretical, borne from observations on the idolatrous worship of Mary and the saints and the absurdity of putting a man between you and God when it came time to confess your sins. It was no skin off Gram’s ass what all those Mary-worshipping tunnel builders did in their spare time. With the exception of Clare, Gram could live and let live.
That is, until Scott’s brother Ryan became a crossover. ["Crossover" is a derogatory term for a gay man who had sex with women before coming out. A "purebred," on the other hand, has only had sexual experience with men. Purebreds typically feel superior to their brethren who have crossed over.] His crossing over was strictly religious, though. Raised, like Scott, to be a Protestant, he converted to Catholicism in order to marry his girlfriend. (Let’s call her Jezebel. Gram did.)
Having a gay grandson must have been a trial, but Ryan’s conversion made Scott and me seem positively saintly. With the ferocity of a purebred, the normally stoic Yankee retreated to her kitchen muttering about idolatry and Popes, wondering what she had done to have her grandson betray her and turn his back on God and family. Her habit of having an afternoon margarita in a mason jar really threw fuel on the fire.
Gram, Ryan, Jezebel, Scott, and I were sipping summer wine. The day was clear and blue, the lake calm. We discussed loon-sightings and supper plans and in-season fruits. Without warning, the conversation spiraled into condemnations and defenses of Catholic principle and practice.
Gram was my first up-close and personal experience of anti-Catholic sentiment. In Eastern Massachusetts, where the immigrant Irish, Italians, French Canadians, and Portuguese had long since overwhelmed and mongrelized the Mayflower Protestants, you couldn’t swing a cat without knocking down a parish priest. Everybody was Catholic. Those few who weren’t knew Catholics and no one talked about the tunnel.
Scott, who has no interest in religion, rolled his eyes and slipped away to discuss boob jobs with his cousin. Ryan, Jezebel, and I defended Catholic doctrine as best we could, but wished we had a simple primer to help Gram understand, if not get over, her prejudices. We imagined it would look something like this:
A Catholic Catechism
Q. Is there really a tunnel between rectory and nunnery?
A. Yes. But 60% of priests are gay, so the traffic is typically for tea parties or the next diocesan fashion show.
Q. Why do priests wear dresses when they say Mass?
A. See above. And it’s called a “cassock.”
Q. How do you know the Pope is infallible?
A. Because he said so in 1870.
Q. Was he infallible before that?
A. No. God flipped a switch and it was so. Amen.
Q. What’s up with the bread and wine?
A. We believe it becomes the body and blood of Christ during the Mass.
A. The Pope said so. And he’s infallible.
Q. But isn’t that cannibalism?
A. (Shrug) Tastes like chicken.
Q. What's up with Mary-worship?
A. We don’t worship Mary. We just think she’s extra special—“Blessed amongst women,” as we say—so we build monuments to her, see her image in drain pipes, and accept that she appears to small peasant girls centuries after she was whisked bodily into Heaven. And we ask her to pull strings on our behalf with the Almighty.
Q. Sounds a little corrupt. Can’t you get by on your own merits?
A. Hell, no. We’re guilty, serious sinners, bad people—the worst.
Q. How do you know that?
A. Our moms told us so.
Q. Are your moms infallible, too?
A. Dude, don’t talk about my mother.
Ryan made matters worse by embracing a very bold and rule-bound form of Catholicism. He became all-Catholic all the time. He presented his mother with an array of photos of statues of saints. He wore a crucifix and foisted unwanted graces on his family’s table. He and Jezebel mentored Catholic youth groups and chattered incessantly about their parish priest and how religious people in America were brutally oppressed.
Then they announced that they were abstaining from sex until their wedding day. Never mind that (A) they had been living together for six months and (B) they had already done the nasty.
Their vow led to particularly animated conversations over the firepit at Gram’s camp, as Scott tried to understand what precisely they could do during this period and what was verboten.
“Manual stimulation outside the clothing?”
“Direct manual stimulation?”
“Let me get this straight,” Scott finally said. “You’re not going to have sex for six months?”
“Worse,” I interjected. “Masturbation is out, too.” I turned to the happily engaged couple. “Right, guys?”
Ryan and Jezebel nodded wistfully.
“So no orgasms at all,” I said. “Zip. Zero.”
Scott and his cousins gasped, but Ryan offered a correction. “Um. On the manual stimulation over the clothing point? That could theoretically lead to orgasm.”
Then he blushed. He was obviously speaking from (messy) experience.
Monday, May 26, 2008
This is an excerpt from my first novel, A Cage of Bones. Warden Fields, a naïve college student from Toronto, is discovered by an Italian modelling agency and persuaded to work in Europe. At first all goes well: in Italy he finds love and the glimmerings of success amidst a world of illusion, but later in England’s post-punk landscape he finds himself embroiled in illegal underground political intrigue.
A Cage of Bones
Gay Men’s Press,UK (September,1997)
There had been small shows all week. At the height of things, Milan reached a fever pitch as collections were unveiled and fireworks exploded in the sky every night. That evening’s presentation included some of Italy’s pre-eminent designers, gathered together in a gala showing in aid of the newly formed fashion council. Feuding competitors had put aside their pins and cutting shears and come armed only with their most glamorous creations.
The models were assembled in the fitting rooms like so many prize blossoms as dressers and make-up artists fluttered from one to the other making sure each fold, each crease, found its proper place. Warden waited until the first group of models was led out before taking his place at the make-up tables.
Outside, the pounding music and the announcer’s cheerful perma-press voice meant the show had begun. It seemed only moments before the first group were back, inserted in and out of their exits and entrances between brief changes and the soft fluttering of applause.
“She is magnificent!” he heard one of the assistants exclaim. The man was peeking out at the runway from behind a curtain. “Brava! Brava!” he cried, wringing his hands.
The excitement was over Tamarra, a big star whose face frequently appeared on the covers of the glitzy fashion magazines and whose lifestyle and personality were reputedly even larger off-stage. According to Joe, Tamarra was a transsexual from the slums of Brazil.
Warden was distracted by the hands that reached out to brush his hair and dress his body. His stomach fluttered. Then his group was being herded out of the dressing room and checked as they lined up for the parade down the runway. Warden stood anxiously backstage waiting for the introductions, the announcer’s voice booming in his ears.
He looked around at the others, these collective sharers of his life over the past few months: Joe stood up front, hair slicked down and in place at last, but still looking like a mischievous teenager under the conservative adult garb. Behind him was Cody, slate-eyed and steel-chested, while Mike stood at the opposite end of the line-up alongside several others from his own agency.
“Good luck,” Warden mouthed. Mike smiled, giving him a thumbs-up sign.
An assistant fluttered past, waving his hands and pulling his lips into a grin, making hideous faces until they were all laughing, all those beautiful men and women conscious only of their nowness. As though it were all that mattered.
They were let out of the narrow confines one at a time, the pounding beat propelling them down the celebrated catwalk. A door opened and they entered a new universe where the stars seemed to have reassembled inside the pavilion for the night.
Warden watched the models ahead of him spin down the ramp as though across an abstracted horizon. Formations turned and scattered, reassembling instantly as taut lines and dagger sharp curves plunged the eye into a brilliant substitute existence. They seemed to re-invent themselves with every step, scarcely aware of the extraordinary fuss they were causing.
Warden stepped onto the platform, caught in the trembling light. At the far end of the stage were the ‘magnificent’ Tamarra and Eric Nevada. They turned in perfect unison and swept back up opposite sides of the ramp. Tamarra floated along ethereally, nothing in her movements suggesting she’d ever been anything other than what she was right now, while Eric strode up the far side, darkly luminous like a nervous racehorse.
These were the two models who were magic that year. Somewhere someone had decided as much and given them the stamp of approval. This was the look, the stance, the face of what constituted the Here-and-Now.
Warden glanced out over a sea of admiration. Flashes went off like timed explosions around the room. The auditorium was filled with fleeting subtleties, the routes of suggestion upon which the lightness of illusion travelled. This is what it looks like! he caught himself thinking.
How temporary it all was: beat, look, model. Worlds winked out in quicker-than-the-eye changes. High cheekbones, pure skin tones, and slender supple bodies repeated themselves endlessly before retreating behind glossy curtains to be transfigured and melted down in an infinite array of guises.
Warden felt magnified by the attention as flashes of light caught on his skin like tiny smiles of adoration. He rose, porous with ecstasy, while the Lilliputians looked on.
The end of the show exploded in a tableau in honour of the American Independence Day. Models dressed as guards of honour and carrying long-bannered flags flanked both sides of the ramp. Down the centre paraded Tamarra in a vermilion evening gown leading a Siberian tiger cub on a leash. She looked as sleek and tawny as the cat itself. The cub wasn’t in the best of humour, spitting and snarling with each synchronized flash as the show ended in a splurge of colour.
And then it was done. Lights dimmed and the fanfare converged to a distant hum as the public, press and friends rose to follow the oracles of fashion. It was time to let the effects of the show gain momentum, taking it off the runway and into the streets.
Inside the reception hall, a vast arena of marble and tulle, the models reappeared one by one to mingle with the public, standing with the designers and posing for the photo-hungry. Finally the stars entered, Eric followed by Tamarra. She stood for a moment at the top of the stairs as though caught by surprise when the flashes started up again. Then, with one foot, she began her descent, elegant and ever lovely, and a smile that seemed to say to everyone in the room ‘Ah, there you are at last!’ but which really said ‘Here am I.’
The reception went by in a blur. Between the enthusiastic introductions and brassy greetings, the brilliant talk and bitchy gossip, cocaine began to be dispensed furtively among the glasses of champagne. Warden watched curiously as Tamarra herself came to offer him the drug of the gods. She smiled benignly and lifted it up on the back of a credit card.
“Here’s to it,” she said, wrinkling her nose. “Up the spout.”
He had a quick snort of the cold whiteness up each nostril and felt a numbness descending his throat. Gianni Versace passed by with one of the show’s co-ordinators.
“You were wonderful, my darling!” he said, taking Tamarra’s hand and kissing it lightly.
“Gianni, Antonio, I’d like you to meet Warden,” she said. “Warden is with Maura’s agency. We’ll have to get him in our show next year. He’s going to be very good.”
They spoke briefly in English, and then switched to Italian. Tamarra laughed at something he couldn’t understand. Crowds surrounded them. Tamarra and the famous designer drifted off in a haze of smoke and camera flashes, followed by the co-ordinator.
A waiter passed bearing a tray that seemed to float towards Warden. He picked up a glass with an amazingly long stem. The music was sounding peculiar. Everything sparkled, as though the room were strewn with delicate crystal petals. There was a glittering edge to it all, outlining the gathering in an aura that was fabulous yet vaguely sinister.
Warden watched as his agency director went through the crowd, a blur with an anxious face. Then Cody went by with a woman on either arm. After a while Tamarra reappeared. Warden stared. For a moment he thought he saw traces of blood and bone pressing through her skin, her celebrated cheeks rotting as she stood chatting and laughing, ignorant of her impending demise. He shook his head as though clearing a blockage. The nightmarish vision disappeared.
“This place is getting too fabulous for words, darling,” Tamarra said, shaking her vivacious hair. “Some of us are going somewhere to dance and we think you ought to come along.”
And then they were clambering into one of several cars with a dozen or so others who’d been in the show. Mike was there and he felt reassured. He watched as parts of Milan flew by he’d never seen before. Out of a general buzz of conversation he heard Tamarra speaking.
“This one needs taking care of,” she said, patting his head.
He was aware of a face leering at him from the front seat.
“I’ll help,” he heard a man’s voice say.
“No, you won’t,” said Tamarra. “You keep your hands on the steering wheel and off of this boy. He’s an innocent among us wolves.”
Warden smiled and suffered her attentions while the car drove through warm streets with its top down. Eventually, they all piled out at a park where outdoor celebrations were taking place. There was music and dancing and occasional fireworks like ersatz stars dissolving in the sky.
After an appropriate amount of time the night began to move off in search of further adventure before dawn. Warden found himself in a dance club where everyone looked as elegant and beautiful as the runway models. He felt as though he’d walked into the centre of a diamond, everything moving in a din of white lights and beating sound.
The man who’d driven them came over and put a drink in his hands. Warden was thirsty and downed it quickly. The man was a photographer. He told Warden he was very beautiful and wanted to make him a star. He wanted Warden to come and live with him.
“I will provide you with everything,” the infatuated man said, trying to kiss his lips.
Warden pushed him away. “You probably couldn’t afford me,” he said, repeating a line he’d heard someone else use once, and went off to dance.
He swayed like a feather in a breeze. Around him faces gleamed, radiating haloes and receding in the distance. The music had become a dull roar and he knew it was very late. Someone grabbed him by the shoulders and ousted him from the club as though waking him sharply from a dream. Outside, someone else wrapped him in a jacket, which looked surprisingly like the one he’d been wearing god-knows-where in another time and place. Then he found himself out on the street, gravel crushing under his feet like peanut shells.
“Can you look after him, darling?” he heard Tamarra say, as hands pushed him gently into a taxi, unable to shut the door behind him as he lay stretched out on the seat.
He heard Mike answer something about ‘sticky pearls’, which made him laugh. He felt as though veils hung inside his head while he watched Tamarra stumble away from them. He struggled to sit up in the seat trying to think, to remember where he was or how he got there.
“Oh, my god!” he heard Tamarra say. “I can’t believe it! I’ve got a Gucci show in three hours and I’ve still got my Versace make-up on!”
He watched as a long black limousine rolled slowly up to the curb like a hearse. Tamarra went over to the driver’s window.
“Darling, have you got any cocaine?” she said.
A door opened and she stumbled inside. It was the last thing he remembered in the lavender night.
Thursday, May 22, 2008
Rokey, a poor orphan, has lived his entire life sheltered within the walls of the Noble Contemplative Monastery. Growing up, he never dreamt anything would haunt him more than the riddle of his parents' identity. But at seventeen, Rokey is discovering that while his roommate, Ely, can think only of girls, his own feelings draw him toward other boys instead. Soon the question of whether or not he is a "samer" is occupying his mind to the exclusion of all else. But when a tragedy results in his expulsion from the only home he has ever known, and an unknown enemy begins trying to kill him, Rokey's mind abruptly returns to the mystery of his parentage. Solving that puzzle, he determines, could mean the difference between life and death.
On the road, Rokey soon meets up with a charming elf named Flaskamper. Captivated by the handsome young exile, the elf promptly volunteers his help, as well as that of his three unlikely companions. Before long, the five become swept up in the effort to solve the riddle of Rokey's origins, finding out who is trying to kill him, and why. Along the way, Rokey endures some harsh lessons about disappointment and betrayal, but also delights in the joy and excitement of first love.
Foiled in initial attempts, Rokey's enigmatic foe escalates the attacks. As the young orphan and his new-found friends pursue the trail of clues that leads them across the land of Firma, they find themselves battling an ever-deadlier array of assassins. When they finally do uncover the truth, it is in the last place Rokey had ever expected to find it.
Glynworks Publishing (June 2007)
ISBN: 9780979591204 (hardcover)
When supper was over, Flaskamper ordered two goblets of mulled wine, then paid the innkeeper for the meal. Heelbor looked at the gold sovereign suspiciously, and Flaskamper half expected that he would sink his teeth into it to make sure it wasn’t counterfeit. But he only dropped it into his moneybox and fished out the change. Flaskamper thought the man might call a magistrate on them if he dared overtip him, so he carefully counted out the standard gratuity, said goodnight to the others, who were still finishing their drinks, and made for the room with the two goblets of wine.
He opened the door to find Rokey sitting on their blankets in front of the fire. He paused for a moment to watch him. The fire made his lush, black hair turn almost midnight blue, and gave his face a deep golden hue. He had washed up and dressed in fresh clothing, and was staring into the flames humming a little tune, which the elf thought sounded strangely familiar. Flaskamper walked over and sat down beside him.
“Thought you might like some mulled wine,” he said, handing Rokey one of the goblets, “to help you get a good night’s sleep.”
“Thanks. I’m not sure I’ll ever get a good night’s sleep again,” Rokey said. “ I’ve been spoiled by your mother’s wonderful beds. But I’ll give it a try. What shall we drink to?”
“To our hearts’ desires,” Flaskamper answered without thinking.
“Alright, to our hearts’ desires,” he said, and they tapped the goblets together.
For a few moments they sat together in companionable silence, sipping their wine and watching the fire.
“That song you were humming,” Flaskamper said finally, “where did you learn it?”
“It’s something I remember from when I was a child,” Rokey replied. “Just that little part of it. It just floats through my head sometimes. Why?”
“It’s strange. I’m sure I know it. And I seem to remember it being something unusual. Damned if I can remember what it is now though.”
“You mean it’s Elvish?” Rokey asked.
“I don’t think so,” said the elf. “I’m sure the harder I try to remember, the less successful I’ll be. That’s always the way of it.”
Somewhere in the back of Rokey’s mind a little light came on. He closed his eyes for a moment, concentrating.
“How – ,”
“Shh,” Rokey held up a hand. “I’m remembering something”
Flaskamper sat quietly as Rokey turned something over in his mind, trying to grasp at thin strands of memory.
“A dance,” Rokey said at last. “I seem to remember a dance. In a clearing. A circle of dancing figures. And I’m in someone’s….I’m in my, my mother’s arms. Flash, I’ve never had this memory before!” He frowned. “But what in the world could it mean?”
The elf shook his head.
“I don’t know,” he said. “When I think of where I’ve heard the blasted tune before, maybe we can make some sense of it. Keep in mind though, distant memories are tricky things. This new bit that just came to you, it could mean nothing at all.”
“Killjoy,” said Rokey, pouting.
“I’m not saying that’s the case. I just don’t want you to build your hopes needlessly.”
“And I appreciate that…I guess.”
They let the subject drop, and turned back to the fire.
“So, what’s yours?” Rokey asked, after a while.
“What’s my what? Flaskamper asked.
“Your heart’s desire. We toasted to our hearts’ desires. I was just wondering, you know, what yours was.”
Flaskamper’s throat was suddenly very dry. He took a large gulp of the wine.
Well, Mother, Flaskamper thought to himself, you said the moment would come. I suppose it might as well be now.
“I’m sorry,” Rokey began. “If that’s too personal –”
“No –” Flaskamper squeaked, then cleared his throat and took another slug of fortification. “No, not at all.”
He paused again for a moment.
“Rokey, you see, there’s been…well, there have been…a lot of people in my life, men I mean. Some of them for a week or, on rare occasions, a little bit longer, but mostly for just a night. I liked all of them, even imagined that I loved one or two –”
“Flash, you don’t have to – ”
Flaskamper held up his hand to stop him, but noticed that it was shaking, and quickly tucked it under his leg.
“But I was wrong,” he continued after a moment. “Truth is, I’ve never been in love before. I knew that – ,” he took a deep breath and looked deep into Rokey’s brown eyes. “I knew it as soon as I first saw you.”
Inside, his heart was racing in terror, but he swallowed hard and forged on.
“From the minmark I laid eyes on you, I knew that I felt something different for you – different than anything I’d ever felt before. And as these days have passed, any lingering doubts I may have had have tumbled away. I tried – tried to fight it, but I can’t.” Tears were welling up in his eyes, but he ignored them. “You’re my heart’s desire, Rokey. I’m totally and completely in love, and if you don’t love me back … I don’t know but – but I just can’t keep it inside anymore. I – ,”
His voice broke, but then Rokey’s arms were around him, comforting him.
“It’s alright Flash,” Rokey whispered soothingly. “I do. I do love you. I do.”
Flaskamper trembled as he lay in Rokey’s arms, letting the words sink in. Then his lips found Rokey’s. They kissed, softly and tenderly at first – but then the energy began to rise, building steadily, until a nearly furious passion gripped them. The elf’s trembling hands slid under Rokey’s shirt. The boy’s skin was so warm and smooth beneath his fingertips… and so soft. Then he grabbed the shirt, resisting the urge just to tear the fabric apart, and Rokey leaned forward so it would slip off. Then he took Flaskamper’s off as well, and they held each other for a while, savoring the feel of one another’s bare flesh.
Flaskamper began kissing his neck, and Rokey felt himself being guided backwards, lowered down to the blankets on the floor. Flash lay down on top of him, and as the elf’s long fingers began to unbuckle his breeches, Rokey was gripped by a sudden surge of panic.
“Flash,” he cried, his body tensing, “I’m afraid.”
Flash stopped abruptly and pulled back.
“Alright,” he said breathlessly. “It’s alright. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to push you so fast. I got – I got carried away. We can stop –”
“No!” Rokey said. “No, I don’t want to stop. That’s not what I meant. What I’m afraid of is, well – I’m just afraid that I’ll disappoint you.”
They were silent for a moment, then Flaskamper threw his head back and laughed.
“Why are you laughing at me?” asked Rokey, his eyes widening in hurt surprise.
“Oh, Rokey,” Flaskamper said gently. “I’m sorry, honey. I’m not laughing at you, just at the idea that you could possibly disappoint me.”
“Well – well, I’m just worried because – you’re the first, and….”
“I know, and because of that, it’s I who should be worried about disappointing you. It’s my job to make your first time special.” Flash ran his fingers through Rokey’s thick, dark hair. “But, chatka, there’s never in my life been a job that I was so eager to do.”
“Chatka is an elvish word,” he explained, in response to Rokey’s quizzical look. “Literally, it means treasure, but it’s also used to mean the one you love.”
He smiled down at Rokey.
“If you trust me,” said the elf, “and love me as much as I love you, then neither of us is going to be disappointed. I promise.”
“I do trust you,” Rokey said, “and I love you so much it hurts.”
Flaskamper lay down again on top of him and resumed kissing his neck. A moment later, Rokey gasped as he felt the elf’s slender hand slip down into his breeches.
“Hurts, huh?” Flaskamper whispered playfully, “In that case, let me kiss it and make it better.”
* * *
The fire had burned low. Flaskamper sat on the floor, his eyes fixed adoringly on Rokey. The light of the moon shone through the window, casting a pale blue glow over the boy’s naked body as he slept. Flaskamper ran a hand lightly over Rokey’s back, causing him to moan and shift slightly.
The elf could never remember a time in his life when he had been so contented. In a way, lovemaking had been just as new to him as it had to Rokey, and he realized now what he had been missing in his many previous sexual encounters. All those other experiences, once the fun was over, had left him feeling empty inside. With Rokey, it was just the opposite; he felt whole, and fulfilled, and quite honestly amazed at his good fortune. He simply couldn’t fathom how something so wonderful could happen to him. It was this bemusement that caused a few fine threads of worry to run through his otherwise blissful mood. He had gained so much; yet it meant that he now had so much to lose.
He stood and went to the window. The moon was full and bright, nested in an abundance of twinkling stars. It reminded Flaskamper of a little prayer to Secta, the moon goddess, that he had learned as a child. Though he was not generally a religious elf, he decided that it couldn’t hurt. He closed his eyes and murmured it quietly –
Guard us tonight.
Keep us til morning
Cradled in your light.”
Having thus hedged his bet, he went and lay back down beside Rokey. The sleeping boy rolled over and put his arm around him. Flash sighed with satisfaction and closed his eyes.
“It’s going to be alright,” he assured himself. “Whatever else happens to us – in the end, we’re going to be alright.”
Monday, May 19, 2008
The following brief scene from Dorien Grey's The Good Cop, book #5 in the Dick Hardesty Mystery series focuses on the mounting tension between the gay community in Dick's city and its homophobic police department, which has just found a homosexual in its midst.
The Good Cop
GLB Publishers, 2002
Available in several e-book formats
At 2:36 a.m. Thursday morning, my phone rang.
Oh, Jeezus, not again! I thought, instantly awake.
"Dick, it's Jared," the voice said. "You might want to come down to The Central."
"What's going on?" I asked, considering all the possibilities, none of them good.
"The new police substation's on fire. It looks bad."
"I'll be right there," I said, and hung up, hurriedly getting out of bed and looking for my pants.
And what the hell was I supposed to do when I got there? God only knows: I didn't. All I knew was that lately my whole life had become a series of knee-jerk responses.
The substation was at the corner of Ash and Beech, and as I turned down Ash I could see the flames from several blocks away. A police car, strobes flashing, blocked the street a block before Beech, and I turned the corner and parked as soon as I could. Despite the late hour, there was a large crowd on Beech, mostly standing against the buildings as close to the fire as the police would let them get. Several fire trucks were pouring huge streams of water onto the two-story substation which was completely engulfed in flame, and another truck several doors down was trying to put out a sizeable blaze on the roof of a clothing store, apparently started by sparks showering down from the substation fire.
I spotted Jared and made my way through the crowd to him. He saw me, nodded, and returned his attention to the fire. Suddenly one of the fire engines gave three sharp blasts of its horn and began to back up quickly, running over one of its own hoses and pulling others as the firemen standing closest to the building moved back into the street. With a muffled roar, first the roof caved in and then the entire front of the building collapsed onto the sidewalk.
I made it a point to look carefully around the crowd to see if there was anyone there I knew or recognized—I was especially looking for guys I knew to be militant activists. I was mildly relieved not to see any.
"What happened?" I asked Jared as the firemen moved again toward the fire, continuing their efforts, though it was clear there was now nothing to save. The fire on the clothing store roof appeared to be under control and the billowing smoke was changing from black to white.
"I was at Pals earlier," he said, "and picked up a trick around 11. We went over to his place—he lives just down the block on Carter. I was headed back to my car around 2:20 when I saw smoke coming out of the substation. I knew Coffee & was open, so I went over there to have them call the fire department, but a couple guys already had, and the trucks and squad cars started coming a minute or so later."
"I just hope it wasn't arson," I said, knowing full well the odds were 99.9 to .l that it was.
Jared pointed to the parking garage construction site directly across Ash from the station. The wind had shifted slightly, clearing enough of the smoke away to show what someone had spray-painted in 6-ft high letters on the high wooden fence surrounding the site: "No 'Fags' on the Force, No Cops in The Central!"
Thursday, May 15, 2008
ME2: A Novel of Horror by M. Christian
Do You Know Yourself?
He looks just like you. He acts exactly like you. He takes away your job. He steals your friends. He seduces your lover. Every day he becomes more and more like you, pushing you out of your life, taking away what was yours … until there's nothing left. Where did he come from? Robot? Alien? Clone? Doppelganger? Evil twin? Long lost brother?
A shocking new view of queer identity, Me2 is a groundbreaking and wildly twisted novel that you'll remember for a long time – no matter who you are, or who you think you may be.
Me2: A Novel of Horror
Alyson Books (March 1, 2008)
"What? What did you say? That's what I thought you said. No, no, it's okay, it's not that weird. I just don't get asked this kind of question very often.
"Well, if I had to guess, I'd say it probably had to do with technology, with a machine. It does sound kind of ridiculous, doesn't it? But that's what I'd think if it was happening to me. I saw too many movies when I was a kid, I guess. Something like that.
"There's just so much happening. Hell, I remember Liquid Paper, even black and white television. It feels like only a year ago that cell phones were like bricks; now you can swallow them if you inhale. I have an iPod now. I hold it in my hand and just can't believe that it can hold 5,000 songs. That's more than I've ever owned. 5,000 – and it's this big. Amazing.
"But that's nothing. Have you seen some of the stuff coming out of Japan? We lost the race. They won. Sure some of our stuff is okay – I think Macs are sexy – but what they're doing. It's all wonderful but also creepy.
"I saw this thing a week or two ago on a Web site – and that's something, too. When was the last time you read a newspaper? Pretty soon we won't have books anymore. Just screens and little beeping devices everywhere. Like bugs. Fireflies.
"What? Oh, the site. Yeah, it was one of those technology ones. Cell phones, new iPods, flat screen TVs, that kind of thing. I don't look at them very often, but I was just clicking around one day and saw this new thing they'd developed.
"It was really creepy. I said that, didn't I? Well, it was. Really. I mean I know they've done some great things, but this was over the top. It looked just like a woman. Perfectly. A Japanese woman, of course. But you couldn't tell it was a machine. Not at all.
"They had a video clip of it. This Japanese guy was talking to it – just like you and I are talking – and it was talking right back to him. I couldn't tell what they were talking about, of course, because it was all in Japanese, but the way it was moving … it was like she was a real, live girl. Lips moving, eyes blinking, she even raised her hand and brushed aside some hair, like this. Well, better than this because I'm not doing it right, but she did. It was … well, I'm not going to say it was creepy again.
"It looked so real. I mean it was real but she wasn't a real woman. Listen to me, `she' wasn't real. See what I mean? If I didn't know what was going on I'd think she wasn't anything but a girl.
"That's what I'd think was going on. I know it's stupid – that something like that robot could be walking the streets. But I tell you, and don't you dare tell anyone I said this, but after I saw that clip I had a nightmare. I know, it's nothing to be ashamed of, but I don't get nightmares, at least not since I was a kid. But I had one that night. It was a real doozy, too.
"No, I'm not going to tell you what it was. I said no, and I mean it. Yeah, I've heard that, too, but it's just kind of …embarrassing. Even if it will make it better to talk about it, I just – well, I don't want to.
"Okay, okay. Just don't tell anyone. Promise? I mean it. Alright …well, I was walking near 3rd and Spring, you know, where Crate & Barrel is? It wasn't exactly it, because there was a lot of things that didn't fit – like I remember a cop car was green, not black and white, but it's a dream, right? They don't make a lot of sense.
"I was walking down the street. It was sunny, I remember that. Sunny and hot. Hmm? Yeah, I guess I do have pretty vivid dreams. Color, sounds, things like being hot and cold. Don't know if that's really lucky, it just is. There were a lot of cars on the street, heavy traffic. Honking horns, engine noise – that kind of thing. Then there was this woman, older, kind of like … I don't know, an older Liz Taylor. Fancy, all done up. Pearls around the neck, Prada handbag – that kind of thing.
"She also had a dog. A little thing, one of those hyper purebreds, pulling at a leash. A white puffball. It was yapping, too. Barking at everything.
"When … when I was a kid there was this lady on our block with a dog just like that. `Pixie' she called it. I hated the thing. It bit – well, nipped, really – and never shut up. One day it got out, got hit by a car. I didn't see it, but the next day on the way to school I saw some blood on the street and knew that's where it had happened. Maybe it'd been better that I saw it, because the rest of that summer all I could do was think what it must have been like, guts and bones and all that.
"That's where the dog in my dream came from. Pretty obvious, really. So naturally the thing slipped off the leash and ran intro the street. Got hit – of course."
"But no guts or blood or bones, that kind of thing. It was – it was really weird. I mean, odd. Said `weird' too many times. But when the car hit the dog, there was this sound like … I don't know what it was like. Snapping. Grinding. Like that.
"The woman was shrieking, really wailing. Tears and everything. But when I looked at the dog there was nothing but springs, gears, electronic parts, metal. A machine, you see? Like a toy … a real toy poodle.
"But then I looked at the woman, the woman who owned the dog, and instead of skin on her face I saw it was plastic, like a mask, and her eyes were like those things at Disneyland. A robot. Her mouth was open, but inside was a speaker, and that's where her crying was coming from.
"I'm not telling it right. But that's what happened. It was … I kept thinking about it all day. Actually for the rest of the week. The sound she made, the way her skin looked – like a plastic toy. Her eyes clicked and clacked when they moved, but even though she was a … thing, she kept trying to be like a person. That was the worst of it. Not that she was a machine, but that she -- it -- was trying to be like a real, human, person.
"It was sad, that she couldn't ever do it. She could just go through the motions. Be the way she was programmed, I mean.
"Hmm? Oh, sorry, just thinking about it again. I just can't tell it right. It was … well, I keep wondering if the machines, like her, would think the same thing about me if they saw me. Just doing what I was doing, trying to be a person, and not doing it very well …."
Monday, May 12, 2008
The Man from C.A.M.P. by Victor J. Banis: When I wrote THE MAN FROM C.A.M.P. in 1966, I little suspected that I was writing something that would come to be regarded in time as a "classic." I was simply having lots of fun and thumbing my nose while I was at it at a few of the blue-noses then censoring what we could read, especially what we could read in terms of gay fiction.
My little adventure enjoyed great success, in large part as I later realized because it was a different kind of gay novel. So far as I know, Jackie Holmes, the eponymous secret agent, was the first protagonist in gay fiction to be openly gay and proud of it, and the book ended happily at a time when most gay novel ended in doom and gloom. The success of the book and its 8 sequels was a major factor in creating that gay publishing revolution that swept the country over the next few years and in part contributed to a growing sense of community among gay males, and ultimately to the events at Stonewall.
The C.A.M.P. novels went on to become cult symbols as well. They are still selling nearly 40 years later, and I still hear from readers telling me how much they enjoyed them. In 2004, 3 of the books (The Man From C.A.M.P.; Holiday Gay; and The Son Goes Down) were reissued by Haworth Press, and when Haworth Press divested itself of its fiction titles in 2008, the rights were picked up by MLR Press, who will be issuing yet another edition in fall, 2008.
I thought it would be interesting, then, to show how I first introduced THE MAN FROM C.A.M.P.
The Man from C.A.M.P.
MLR Press (reissue) (Fall, 2008)
The bar did not, at first sight, offer a very appealing picture. Not even the dimness of the lights, which left the interior in near darkness, could manage to lend any sort of charm to the battered counter, or the stools with torn plastic hanging loose. The floor was covered with sawdust and debris of various sorts.
The customers, too, might have been described as debris. Some bars catering to homosexuals employ a certain discretion, and that discretion is often imitated by the customers. Neither The Round-Up nor its patrons could have been given credit for such thoughtfulness. The photos pinned to the walls, pictures of nearly nude young men, mostly body builders, identified the bar for what it was, a gay hangout. The patrons were as easily identified.
If the two men who had just entered found the bar and its customers peculiar, they themselves were regarded as not less peculiar by the inhabitants of the room. Not that they were particularly odd themselves; rather, it was their air of normality that made them seem out of place in The Round-Up. Neither of them gave any indication of being homosexual, or “on the prowl.” It might have been that they were police – they had an official air about them – but the patrons of The Round-Up were quite familiar with the more devious tactics employed by the vice squad of the local police. This was too open an approach, and that possibility was quickly dismissed.
The two stood inside the door for a few minutes, allowing their eyes to adjust to the dim light. Of the pair, it was the one trailing behind who aroused the most interest on the part of the people at the bar. Ted Summers was the proverbial tall, dark, and handsome. Not quite forty, he offered an appearance that was a confusing, and attractive, combination of age and youth. His unruly hair, once jet black, was now flecked with gray, and his face had a tan, leathery quality that evidenced the fact that he had been around a bit. He had, in fact, been around a lot, and his years had been action-filled, first as a heroic young marine who had come back from the service sporting numerous medals, and later as a rugged, highly-regarded investigator for the U. S. Treasury Department. His body, however, was the same body that had belonged to the young marine. Tall and powerfully built, he was every inch a man’s man, easily a match for any of the muscle boys whose photos were displayed on the walls.
His companion, on the other hand, might have been taken for an accounting clerk in some small office. Lou Upton was only a few years older than Ted, but he was already balding, and showing a tendency toward fatness, especially around the waist. He was not, never had been, the perfect physical specimen. But behind the quick gray eyes, exaggerated by the thickness of his glasses, was the mind of a top-notch policeman, a representative of the world police organization, Interpol.
With a nod toward his companion, Upton led the way to one of the booths that lined one wall. They seated themselves and sat in silence until the pimply-faced bartender had taken their order and returned with two beers. By this time the newness of their arrival had begun to wear off, and the others in the bar were losing interest, returning their attention to one another.
“Seems like a funny place to contact an agent,” Summers said in a low voice, sniffing as he glanced around the room
“Jackie’s an unusual agent,” Upton answered him, downing a healthy mouthful of his beer.
“Who is she, anyway?” Summers wanted to know. “One of your people?”
“You’ll find out in plenty of time.”
Summers frowned at the answer. “I don’t think I like this whole set up. Hell, I’ve been with the force long enough to be filled in on details. I don’t like being treated like a security risk.”
“I didn’t know you were being treated as such,” Upton replied.
“I’d say so. No one’s told me the first thing about this, except to tag along with you. I don’t know what we’re working on, or who this Jackie is, or anything else.”
“You’ll find out,” Upton assured him. “In…”
“In due time,” Summers finished with another frown.
They fell silent again, drinking their beers and occasionally glancing around at the growing crowd of homosexuals. With few exceptions, they were all the loud, flamboyant type known among their own people as “swishy.” Summers continued to feel uncomfortable. He had known one or two homosexuals in his day, who had been all right guys, but they had been the careful type, the ones you could never identify. These people were something different. He instinctively leaned away each time one of them passed near where he was sitting, as though afraid of contamination.
Upton, on the other hand, seemed quite unperturbed by the setting or the people around them. He smiled from time to time, more to himself than anyone else, as though he were enjoying some private joke.
They finished their beers, and Upton signaled the waiter to bring them two more. Summers looked at his watch impatiently.
“She’s late, isn’t she?” he said aloud. “I thought we were to meet her at ten, and it’s after ten thirty now.”
“Jackie will be here,” Upton promised him, still quite patient himself. “When the right moment comes, contact will be made”
“I’ve got to go unload some of the beer,” Summers said, standing. “Never could hold that stuff very well.”
“I’ll save your seat,” Upton answered, with another of his puzzling smiles.
Summers edged his way through the Saturday night crowd that was beginning to fill up the bar, heading for the rear. Beyond a dingy curtain was a narrow hall, with doors opening into the Ladies’ and Men’s rooms. He smiled to himself as he passed the door marked Ladies, wondering which of the male customers at the bar used that door, and entered the other.
He had just stood up to the urinal when the door opened behind him and an effeminate blond stepped up beside him. For a moment Summers ignored the newcomer, thinking instead about the mysterious Jackie whom they should have met an hour ago.
He was suddenly aware of the fact that he was being stared at. He glanced angrily sideways. The blond, short and slender, was looking him over brazenly, an irritating smile playing upon his lips.
“Nice,” he said simply, raising his face to wink at Summers.
“Knock it off,” Summers snapped angrily, stepping back.
“Don’t turn away, Mr. Summers,” the blond told him quietly. “It gives us a good excuse to stand here and talk.”
Summers froze instinctively, despite his rather awkward position. “You know my name?” he asked, staring in surprise at the still smiling homosexual.
“I know quite a bit about you,” the blond assured him. He glanced meaningfully downward as he added, “Although they left the nicest things out of the report.”
Summers blushed and stepped back to the urinal, leaning close against it to prevent any possible observation of his endowments. “But who the hell…?” He stopped in mid sentence and his jaw fell open. “Oh, no, you can’t be…”
The blond nodded. “Umm-hm, I’m Jackie.”
Thursday, May 8, 2008
By day, Elise draws and paints, spilling out the horrific visions of her tortured mind. By night, she walks the streets, selling her body to the highest bidder.
And then they come into her life: a trio of impossibly beautiful vampires.
In the Blood is a novel that will grip you in a vise of suspense that won't let go, forcing you to stay up long past midnight, turning page after page, until the very last moment, when a surprising turn of events changes everything and demonstrates, truly, what love and sacrifice are all about.
In the Blood
Quest (September 10, 2007)
Maria sees her first: a whore. Long hair and tight clothes. Stiletto heels and black rubber bracelets climbing up one arm. She stands alone, watching the traffic go by, her eyes staring restlessly into the glass shielding each driver. She tries to appear streetwise and tough, but there’s a vulnerability to her stance, a little too much hunger in her eyes to make the act convincing.
Maria moves back into the shadows, pulling her companions with her. They are sandwiched between a convenience store and a movie theater, long ago abandoned, a home for nothing more than pigeons and trash. With Jimmy Choo spike heels, she kicks aside a fearless pigeon and a Popeye’s chicken box.
“Look.” She nods toward the whore. All three pairs of eyes train in on the woman across the street. Her beauty draws them, or at least what once could be referred to as beauty, her looks are sliding downhill; she looks beyond tired, a rose whose petals are velvety, but blackened and drooping. What really sets their mouths to watering is her vulnerability. Easy pickings are always the best. Why cast a line into an ocean when you can shoot into a barrel?
At once, each of the three is more aware of the woman than she could ever realize. She is like something small, a rabbit nibbling on grass as a hunter is positioning it in the crosshairs of his rifle. Even from their vantage point across the street, they feel the heat emanating from her body, drifting over to them in shimmering waves. They see it as no one else can: a crimson aura surrounds her body, pulsing in the heat. Her scent, sour body odor not masked at all by cheap cologne, rides the heat like a magic carpet. It smells of fresh game, clean, yet musky. Heavy. The blood pulsing in the whore’s veins reveals itself; almost audible, the tide of it, as the heart pounds out a beat. She is alive, glimmering with life.
It’s almost too much. A feast of the senses; a cornucopia. Corpuscles of fat floating in the most delicious blood, thick and viscous, with a sharp metallic tang. It excites all sorts of hunger. Maria turns to Terence and wraps her arms around him, her mouth devouring his, tongue exploring the dryness within, sliding over his teeth. Edward presses himself into Maria from behind, thrusting against her, feeling the taut flesh and bone outlined beneath the satin of her dress. Tight between the two men, Maria throws back her head, grinding herself back and forth, pushing their insistent hardness against her. She sighs, imagining someone walking by, deigning to join this impromptu orgy. If someone should, they would never emerge from the shadows again. This trio has always had a problem dealing with the curious, but no problem with swiftly extinguishing that curiosity...forever.
Cold flesh touches cold flesh. Eyes close. Each whispers and moans proclamations of lust and desire. Edward nuzzles the ice skin just below Maria’s hairline in back, biting, biting harder until the skin breaks, exploring the small barren openings his teeth have made with his tongue. Maria arches her back, and stops.
“Now, we should go to her now.” Maria pulls away from the panting men, lust brightening their eyes, even here in the shadows. “Terence, you approach her.”
Terence doesn’t need further encouragement. He loves this part of the hunt. Breaking away, Terence waits for the passing cars and dashes across the street. He knows exactly how he looks, the blond hair shining in the artificial neon brightness of the night, the high cheekbones and full lips. The costume of tight leather and pewter latex. A whore’s dream: money and beauty, too.
The whore is about to light a cigarette. An opportunity. Terence brings out his silver lighter and hurries to her, flame erect, before she can raise the cheap plastic disposable in her hand. He meets her eyes as the flame transfers some of its glow to the tip of her cigarette.
“Thanks.” She exhales twin streams of smoke through her nostrils, and. appraises him, taking in the leather and latex, wondering perhaps what someone like him is doing in her part of town. She draws in hard on the cigarette, cheeks collapsing. Thin tusks of blue gray smoke rise. She burns.
“Hot tonight.” Terence smiles and looks around him, as if for the source of the heat.
The whore smiles, shakes her head. “You gotta do better than that for an opening line.” She laughs. “Ah, but the way you look, what do you need lines for?” She cocks her head, suddenly the coquette.
“Flatterer.” Terence touches the whore’s bare shoulder.
She flinches, shrugging his hand away. “Baby, you’re cold. How’d you manage that?”
Terence thinks for a moment. “Just got out of air conditioning.”
The whore looks around, trying to locate the building from which Terence has emerged.
More conversation. Cheap words mouthed to get to the real purpose. Finally, the whore cuts short the compliments and inanities about the weather and cuts to the chase, not knowing that the chase began a while back.
“What do you get into?” Her eyes flicker, moving down Terence’s body like liquid. Her voice has a broad, Midwestern twang: flat A’s, sharp and nasal.
“There are three of us.”
“Group scene.” The whore nods. “Been there. There’s no group rate, though. It’ll cost each of you the same as if you came to me individually.”
“So that’s all right with you?”
“Anything’s all right, so long as it’s worth my while.” She takes one more drag off the cigarette, drops it to the pavement, and grinds it under her toe. “I assume you got a place. Otherwise, it’s extra. There’s a motel on Sheridan.”
“No need for that. We have a car nearby. Come with us?”
“What kinda car?”
“A black Mercedes.”
Eyes light up. “Let’s go.”
The Mercedes idles at a corner, just steps away from Lake Michigan. It’s quieter here, away from the bustle of Howard Street. Once in a while, someone strolls down to the lakefront, or a figure passes across a lighted window. Otherwise, here so close to the lake, it’s deserted.
“Shit! Why you wanna make me walk so far in these shoes? Couldn’t you have had one of your friends come and pick us up? Jesus, don’t you have a cell?” The whore bends down and pulls off the black spike heels and grips them angrily in one hand, continuing in a tight little barefoot canter. “You’re gonna have to give me some money for new hose.”
“Sorry,” Terence says, not bothering to explain, but there is a reason: Maria always plans ahead; she’s cautious. The car will be close to the lake, away from the bright lights and bustle. This way, there will be fewer witnesses. Even whores, sometimes, have friends. There have been times when they had taken the wrong person. There was trouble, and they had to flee. Terence and Maria have lived all over the world, nomads with the stench of death following them, too cunning to be caught, but unable to stay―and feed―in one place for too long.
“Not to worry, my dear. Our vehicle is just ahead.” Terence nods at the Mercedes, black, shimmering, and reflecting the moon. There’s a low hum, the song of solid German engineering. The windows are black.
“Nice car.” She giggles, running a red fingernail across the trunk.
Terence opens the back door for her. She slides in; Terence follows, closing the door behind them with a muffled thunk.
The whore settles in, grinning and leaning back into the leather. It takes her a second to notice Maria in the front seat. “Ah,” she says, “we got a lady here.”
Maria turns. “I hope that’s not a problem.”
“Problem? Honey, it’s a bonus.” The whore smiles at Maria, engaging her with her eyes. She tries to keep their gazes locked. Maybe that way, Maria won’t notice the crooked teeth and the slash across her right cheek, the smooth white scar.
“This is Maria.”
The whore offers her hand. Maria makes a kissing expression in its direction but does not touch it. “I’m very pleased.” Maria gestures toward Edward, sitting next to her. “And this is Edward.”
Edward turns and gives a small wave. His face is tight, revealing nothing.
The car pulls away from the curb, makes a U-turn, and heads south on Sheridan Road.
Back at the vampires’ house, the mood is one of anticipation. A party on the cusp of bursting into revelry. Terence, purveyor, escorts the whore to a bedroom done entirely in red: red satin settees, heavy red drapery, blood red velvet, flocked wallpaper.
The whore giggles at the sight of the room’s interior. “God! It’s like a womb.” She paces, fingering the heavy draperies. “Or a bordello.”
The three say nothing. Terence leads her to the bed and pulls her down next to him. Wordlessly, they all shed their clothes. The air fills with the whispers of satin, creaks of leather, the thud of shoes hitting the floor. Terence implores the whore to keep her stilettos on, though. “You look so hot with those on...and nothing else,” he tells her. The three take their places, wordlessly concurring. Maria sits on the floor at her feet, and Edward remains in a corner near the door, watching, eyes brilliant in the flickering of the candles.
Now, Terence strokes the woman, cupping and holding her breasts. He stares into her eyes while pinching harder on her nipples, almost as though searching for an indication of pain.
“Your hand’s so cold.”
The whore gasps and stiffens as Terence’s hand dives between her thighs. “I don’t understand...” There is something wrong. This coldness is unnatural. The whore thinks this leathery cold flesh feels dead. But that can’t be. They’re horny. They want a three-way. Dead people don’t wander around at night, picking up streetwalkers. She knows; she’s seen enough dead people. None of them managed to worm a cold hand between her thighs. But still, the feel of the cold flesh pressing inside her makes her feel nauseous. If she didn’t need the money, maybe she would get up, saying something like, “Sorry folks, this isn’t my scene. I’ll find my way out.” But she knows it’s not that simple. Once you commit to a scene, putting things in reverse is very difficult. Sometimes, it’s easier to just go through with it. Still, this cold flesh is really creepy.
She whimpers and shifts slightly to free herself from Terence’s cold probing fingers. Fear is making her own skin icy.
Maria, attuned to the fear in her eyes, rises and moves to a walnut armoire. She extracts several one hundred dollar bills and scatters them over the whore. They flutter down over her body.
“Warmer?” Maria’s voice is throaty. Deep as a man’s, yet in no way masculine. She knows how to speak the whore’s language.
“Yesss,” the whore hisses, staring at all the money. She spreads her legs to give Terence better access. Maria kneels at the whore’s feet and removes a stiletto heel. She takes the whore’s great toe in her mouth and sucks it. The whore closes her eyes as Terence moves to kiss her. She stiffens at the feel of his tongue: dry, rough, and again, icy cold. But she makes herself kiss back, trying to ignore the repulsion she feels. They’re all beautiful, but not one of them is desirable. She forces herself to think about the money, scattered around her. Christ, she thinks, there has to be at least a thou...
Terence pushes her hand down on his sex. It feels like ice.
The woman stiffens. In spite of all the money, in spite of everything, she doesn’t know if she can do this. She doesn’t know if there is a place in her mind that’s far away enough to distance herself from the revulsion and the horror. She sits up abruptly, pulling her foot away from Maria. “Why are you all so cold? I don’t get it.” Her heart races. Perhaps she can grab a few of the bills and make a break for it. Something is not right here. Something she doesn’t want to think about too closely, for fear she’ll lose her mind. But something instinctive in her is telling her she needs to get away. Even if it would mean running into the street stark naked and screaming...
And Edward is there to calm her. “Have some of this.” He hands her a lighter and the glass cylinder, its bowl filled with a fat bud of marijuana glistening with resin. She looks down at it in surprise, looks back up at Edward, not sure whether to be grateful or wary.
The whore’s chest heaves. All three sense her dichotomy: dread and desire wrapped into one conflicting package, each emotion pulling with its own force. They are old hands at dealing with this kind of war. They are confident in its outcome.
The whore takes the pipe and fires up the bowl. The cylinder fills with smoke, becoming opaque. Clarity returns in seconds as the woman sucks down the smoke. “Damn,” she whispers. “Where’d you find shit like this?” Already, she feels as though she is speaking from within a long tunnel.
No reply. Terence takes the woman’s hand and forces her to put the pipe back to her mouth. She giggles. “Okay, okay.”
After three hits, the woman has forgotten her fear, has stopped wondering why her three companions for the evening have such cold flesh and empty eyes, pale skin smooth like polished stone. Standing naked, the whore surrenders to their touch—all over, hands moving faster and faster, exploring. She closes her eyes, no longer aware who is twisting her nipples to an area where pain and pleasure mesh, no longer aware whose fingers are exploring her sex, her ass. The pot has filled her with a warm stupidity. She can think of only one thing at a time and that is how good these three pairs of hands feel on a body that is growing hotter and hotter with their chilled caresses. Juices run down her thighs, viscous, fragrant. Three tongues lapping make it almost impossible for the whore to stand. Dragging the three with her like sucking leeches, the whore moves to the fireplace and lies on the red and black patterned rug before it. She spreads her legs wide, pushing at them to enter her more deeply, to continue to bring out this wondrous pleasure she has never felt.
And then, the whore is sitting astride Terence, cock like an icicle buried deep. Edward squats behind and above her, pelvis arched out to thrust more deeply into her ass, and Maria presses the whore’s face into her own cold but yielding sex lips. Vaguely, through the fog of sensual pleasure and drugged stupidity, the whore remembers reading that the devil’s penis feels like ice. She shuts her eyes and grinds down harder on this pillar of ice muscle inside her. It feels good, damn it. It feels good. She reaches out with her tongue, lapping at Maria’s sex, tasting her, burying her face in the silken black hair that frames Maria’s moist lips, digging her tongue deep inside.
The whore sees this tableau in her mind’s eye, almost as if she is at once removed from it and deep within it, the center. She cries out, not knowing how she can stay conscious under the weight of such pleasure.
And then they are biting.
And at first, it’s all right, the tiny nips and nibbles nothing more than an extension of their lust, making it better and better. She’s endured nibbles and even harder bites in the name of pleasure. Seldom has she let anyone actually break her flesh...and seldom has anyone wanted to. She winces as their teeth penetrate. “Ow!” She laughs. “Watch it, there! I don’t go in for the rough stuff. Not too rough, anyway.” She bats at them with an ineffectual hand.
But then the bites become harder and harder and the whore awakens from the haze of the marijuana as the teeth, suddenly razor-like and distinctly not human, pierce and rend her flesh. “Oh, God,” she whimpers, muscles contracting at the pain like hot needles boring into her. She wants to scream, but feels paralyzed. Her voice dies in her throat as she looks down and sees Maria tear a hunk of flesh from her inner thigh, the skin, muscle, and blood hanging from her teeth. The whore lies convulsing, struggling as the bites penetrate deeper, ripping and shredding, faster and faster, on her breasts, her stomach, her thighs, her ass, all the tender areas. Piercing and penetrating. Sucking sounds filter up to her dull hearing.
Before everything goes dark, she sees: Terence and Edward biting down into her breasts, their mouths ringed with blood. Terence’s gaze meets hers. He smiles, fangs bright in a sea of crimson. One drop of her blood drips from his chin. And then, with a grunt, he lowers his head again, and rips her nipple off with his teeth. He teases the nipple with his teeth, playing with it, and then suddenly it’s gone.
The whore closes her eyes, shuddering and surrendering. She does not have enough sense to wonder why the cold bodies have suddenly become hot.
Monday, May 5, 2008
Since the beginning is always a good place to start, here is the opening of The Hired Man, book #4 of the 11 (soon to be 12) book Dick Hardesty Mystery series, in which enters the little known world of the male escort and their wealthy clients.
The Hired Man
GLB Publishers (June, 2002)
I was sitting at the bar at Napoleon—early as usual—waiting to have dinner with a brand-new client. Napoleon is a very nice, quiet gay restaurant in a former private home on the edge of The Central—the city’s rapidly growing gay business district in the heart of what some still called “the gay ghetto.” The client, Stuart Anderson, was from out of town—the C.E.O. of an expanding chain of trendy kitchen supply boutiques which was opening two new stores here. He’d called me from Buffalo the week before to set up an appointment. While I was dutifully impressed to think that my fame had spread beyond my local area code, he’d been really vague when I asked him how he had heard of me, or who had referred him. He’d just said “a business acquaintance” had made the referral, and I didn’t press it any further, though I was curious. Also, though the subject of sexual orientation never entered the conversation, I automatically assumed he was gay (hey, I automatically assume everyone is gay) since I have had very few straight clients.
Part of the mystery of his secretiveness was solved within two minutes of his walking into the office for his 4:30 appointment. Stuart Anderson, it turned out, was an average height, average looking, pleasant-enough man in his mid 40s, dressed casually but expensively, and carrying a slim briefcase. He had no sooner taken the seat in front of my desk when I noticed that though he had a healthy tan, the third finger of his left hand had a wide, untanned circle where he had obviously taken off a wedding ring. Oh, great, I thought, one of those.
Rather than just sit back and wait for the expected pass, I thought I’d nip in the bud any little game he might be intending to play.
“I appreciate your calling me, Mr. Anderson,” I said. “But I think we should clarify something before we proceed: I assume you know that I’m gay and generally specialize in gay clients?” His only response was a small smile and almost imperceptible nod, but since he said nothing, I continued. “I mention this only because it is an issue for some people, and I don’t want there to be any misunderstandings or awkwardness between my clients and me.”
He never lost the small smile, but I noticed that his right hand unconsciously found his left and his right thumb and index finger went to cover the telltale untanned circle. “Not a problem,” he said. “My business here has nothing whatever...directly...to do with...anyone’s ...sexual orientation. I was simply told you were very good at getting information.” His right thumb and forefinger slowly twisted the missing wedding ring. I wondered why in hell he’d bothered to take it off in the first place if he was going to make it so obvious he wore one.
It turned out that he merely wanted me to do a careful background check on the prospective managers and assistant managers for the new stores, which was apparently something he did routinely and was probably a good idea given that he himself wouldn’t be around every day to check on things. I estimated it would take only a couple of days to do the checking. Hardly the most exciting of assignments, and certainly not one that any other private investigator in the city couldn’t handle in his sleep, but I wasn’t in a position to turn away any source of income. I had a couple other minor assignments I was working on, but they could be put on hold for the few days it would take to complete this one.
I told him my rates and when he didn’t bat an eye, I reached into my desk and handed him a standard contract, which he signed without reading. I signed below his signature and, as I went to my new Xerox machine to make him a copy, he opened his briefcase. When I handed him his signed copy, he gave me the resumes of the four men and two women he was considering for the managerial positions I glanced at them briefly to be sure they had all the necessary information, and put them in the top drawer of my desk.
Well, that was easy, I told myself.
Anderson made no move to get up from his chair. “I was wondering if you’d like to join me for dinner?” he asked.
Ta-Dah! I thought.
“That’s very nice of you, Mr. Anderson,” I began, “but...”
“It’s Stuart, please,” he said with a smile. “And please don’t misunderstand—I’m not trying to come on to you. It’s just that we have a mutual...friend...whom I’m meeting for dinner this evening and I thought you might like to join us. I know he’s looking forward to seeing you.”
He had me. I still suspected there might be a hook in there somewhere, but decided I didn’t really have too much to lose...except a client, of course.
“Well, sure,” I said. “That would be nice.” I didn’t ask who the mystery “friend” might be, but got the distinct impression that Anderson was giving me a little test to see how curious this detective he’d just hired might be.
Anderson got up from his chair, still smiling, and reached across the desk as I got up to shake hands.
“Seven thirty, then? At Napoleon—you know it, don’t you?”
“Of course,” I said. “I’ll see you there. And thank you.”
“My pleasure,” he said, and I somehow had a mental picture of a cat and a mouse.
And with that, he picked up his briefcase and left.
* * *
At exactly 7:25, Stuart Anderson walked in...alone. Uh huh. Here we go, I thought. He came over and took the stool next to me. Noticing my drink was still about 3/4 full, he nonetheless asked “Ready for another?”
I shook my head. “I’m fine, thanks,” I said as the bartender came over.
“Tangueray with a twist,” he said, reaching into his pocket to extract a roll of bills large enough to choke a pony, if not a horse. He peeled a $20 off the top, laid it on the bar in front of him, and stuck the wad back in his pocket.
“And our friend?” I couldn’t resist asking.
Anderson smiled. “He’ll be along in a moment,” he said. “Actually, I made the reservations for eight o’clock, to give us a few minutes to get to know one another.”
“I don’t normally mix business with pleasure,” he continued, “but I so seldom have the chance to just relax it’s nice to be among kindred spirits when I can.”
Kindred spirits, I thought, listening for the sound of imaginary hairpins hitting the floor.
“Yes,” I said. “I noticed you’re married.”
He glanced quickly at his left hand, splayed his fingers, and grinned. “Yeah,” he said. “Fifteen years, three kids; a different world. And a totally separate world,” he added.
Indeed, I thought.
“Any problem juggling them?” I asked. Bisexuals have always been a puzzle to me. Like the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy, I wasn’t really sure I believed in them, but what other people did or thought was none of my business.
The bartender came with his drink, took his money and went to the register to ring up the sale and make change.
“Not at all,” Anderson said, jump-starting me back to where the conversation had left off. “When I’m in the straight world, I’m straight. When I’m in the gay world I’m...not straight. Obviously, most of my life is strictly heterosexual, but I’ve always enjoyed the things gay men can do that women can’t.”
Well, that was certainly cryptic, I thought, but didn’t choose to follow up on it. If he expected me to ask “Such as...?” he’d just have to wait. I still wasn’t convinced that this wasn’t all part of some game he enjoyed playing; and if he thought for one minute I wasn’t aware that he was playing....
“Fortunately,” he said, “I get to travel quite a bit, and when I do, I like to indulge myself a little.” He took a sip of his drink, then turned to look at me, full face. “How about you?” he asked. “Totally gay?”
I took another drink from my Manhattan before answering. “About as gay as they come,” I said.
“Hmm,” he said. “How old were you when you knew?” he asked.
I sat back on my stool. “I was really a late bloomer,” I said. “I think I was five before I was absolutely sure.”
Anderson looked a bit surprised. “And you’ve never...?”
I grinned and shook my head. “Never the slightest interest,” I said, rather hoping we could drop this whole line of conversation pretty soon.
Luckily, at that moment I noticed someone else coming into the small bar: tall—about six foot three—, black wavy hair, incredibly handsome. When he saw me he smiled, revealing about 72 of the whitest, most perfect teeth I’ve ever seen.
“Phil?” I asked, turning around on my stool and getting up to greet him. I noticed Anderson smiling broadly as Phil came over and grabbed me in a huge bear hug, which I returned. When we released one another, Phil turned to Anderson and shook hands: “Stuart,” he said warmly. “Good to see you.”
I managed to sit back down and, while Phil and Anderson exchanged a few words and Phil gave the bartender his order, my mind went back to my first meeting with Phil...or, as I first knew him, “Tex/Phil”...at Hughie’s, a hustler bar not far from my office. He’d been in full Marlboro Man drag at the time—though I thought even then that he had the Marlboro Man beat by a mile. Seeing him now, looking like he’d just stepped off the cover of a fashion magazine, only underscored the fact that Phil was an amazingly handsome—and sexy—piece of work But clearly, there had been some dramatic changes in his life.
Thursday, May 1, 2008
Times Queer excerpt by Mykola Dementiuk is a graphic, dark, coming-of-age story set in New York's infamous Times Square during the 1950s and 60s. Introduced to sexual feelings at an early age, protagonist Richard Kozlovsky continues on a path shared by many children who have been touched in a sexual way by an adult, a path of frequent masturbation, exhibitionism, and other precocious sexual behavior. Ricky grows up in spite of his hard life in a Catholic school, teasing by his classmates, and trying to survive on the streets of Manhattan with sexual predators at every turn.
Frequenting the Times Square movie theaters as a teen, Ricky finds a way to supplement his meager existence and later meets the woman who will introduce him to the world of women, intimacy, and love. In between he questions his sexuality: is he a faggot? is he a whore? where does he fit in?
Synergy Press (2008)
It was always known to me as Times Queer. Where else could you get blown or jerked off at 4 am, or 2 pm, or midnight, or whatever time of the day it was? The Queer wasn’t a state of mind, but an actual location, 42nd Street and Broadway, one that came to be synonymous with hidden sex. Hidden because it was done in secret. In shadows, in movie seats, in balconies, in bliss.
It must have been forty, fifty years earlier. I was a little kid and traveling on the subway with my parents. The train was packed with people like us, going uptown. We got on at 14th Street to a crowd of happy Sunday people.
Not wanting to be in the confines of my parents, I snuck over to the end of the car, where the doors were open and a wind of black tunnels poured in. Unlike when we traveled to Coney Island, there wasn’t much to see, just lights, shadows, and glimpses of other people in the next car.
On 34th Street a person got up, leaving a seat. There being no one around I took it. A man was sitting there but made a move to give me room. Sitting next to him, I felt a hand slide up my thigh and circle round my crotch. I remained still but my crotch grew hard. He began to fumble with my zipper, using his other hand to hold my flap open, and he inserted his hand. But he fumbled again trying to find the underwear flap.
I didn’t know what was going on. At the age of seven there’s little you can think of except following elders.
Suddenly the train pulled into Times Square and the man let me go and stood up. For a moment I thought of standing up, too, but I remained sitting and watched him go. He walked firmly, like he owned the world and had done nothing wrong.
The doors closed and I slunk back to my parents, ashamed of something, but I wasn’t sure what? My father was joking with my mother, laughing at the people in the station passing by.
“Times Queer,” he laughed. “That’s what they should call this place, Times Queer!”
I felt very embarrassed but glad this place had a name. I was determined to come back.
We were going to the movies on Broadway, something most of the class had not done before. It was our first trip uptown, so we were very excited and happy, but in some ways, it was also a nervous time. A few guys joked about the “nellies that will get you, if you don’t watch out,” but I just smiled and pretended to laugh it off.
"Nellie,” I joked, “scratch the belly!” I raised my voice to a high-pitched yell which got off the girls who laughed hysterically.
“Oh Ricky,” one of them laughed. “You sound just like a nellie!” I joined in the laughter until the teacher turned and angrily walked back toward us.
"What’s going on here!?” the nun screamed, spotting me. “Richard Kozlovsky, what did you do now!?”
I stood there cowering, weakened and shamed by her screams, like I was the one who deserved her wrath.
“I can’t take you anywhere!” she screamed, grabbing me painfully by the
hair. “Stand still!” she shouted at my frenetic jerks, as she forcefully pulled my hair at the skull. “You hear me? I said, ‘stand still!’”
I began to cry shamefully, the eyes of the kids boring into me as if they would attack.
“Stand still!” the nun repeated to me, “Will you stand still?!”
All the kids gathered around us but the nun held onto my hair as if that was preventing her from letting me go.
“You’re disgusting!” she finally screamed, and pushed me away from her.
“Disgusting boy. I can’t let you go anywhere! You’ll just have to wait
outside for us!”
With that she bustled the kids into the movie theater with stern looks from the passers by. I sheepishly followed, thinking I could get in that way, but the nun saw me and yelled out, “I thought I told you ‘No!’ Stay here, where you belong!” She continued to escort the kids in and she held a conversation with the ticket-taker, who was as ugly as the nun. Through my tears I saw them and hated them, would hate them forever. “It’ll be all right, Sister,” I could hear the ticket-taker say. “We don’t fool around.”
With that the nun was gone after my classmates, and I was left all alone with the ticket-taker who seemed to be unconcerned with me. As a matter of fact, I noticed, he paid me no mind, for which I was very grateful.
I walked around the lobby, taking in the soda machines and movie posters, one with Marilyn Monroe wearing a baby top and looking as seductive as ever. As usual, I got a hard-on which would make me piss, like it did in the morning, or so I thought.
With the ticket-taker ignoring me, I stepped to the side and went into the men’s room. I knew it best to keep the image of Marilyn in my mind and enjoy it when I heard the door opening. Quickly I moved to the urinal to cover myself. My dick was still hard. I hoped the man wouldn’t stay long so I could get back to looking at it and imagining Marilyn.
Suddenly he began to touch me. I froze, and pressed myself closer to the urinal walls. But he kept on, forcing an opening between us for his hand to reach in and feel me. My little prick was big and hard; I didn’t know what he would do with it.
He circled his fingers round my cock and gently began an up and down motion.
It was bliss; I felt myself melting and not caring what was to happen.
He began to stroke my cock a little faster. I felt myself melt a little more with innocent expectation. Suddenly the euphoria gripped me, like something was exploding inside me. My cares melted away. Still, in this ecstasy, I felt the man let go of me, heard the bathroom door opening and closing, and stood there all alone, not caring if I stood there forever.
It was the first time I had come and I felt totally new, like I was some new baby or new boy destined for bigger and better things. Now I couldn’t wait for the traitorous classmates so I could rejoin them and go home, where I could be alone. Now I knew what had to be done with my prick, and it wasn’t solely to take a piss. I could play with it, too.