Monday, December 28, 2009

The Lonely War excerpt by Alan Chin

Like most war novels, The Lonely War envelops all that is unique to war, the horror of battle, overcoming fear, the cruelty of soldiers, the loyalty and camaraderie of men caught in a desperate situation. Yet, it stands alone in two important ways. First, it is a passionate story about a tender love developing between an officer and an enlisted man, revealing a rare and dignified portrait of a couple struggling to satisfy desire within the confines of the military code of conduct. Even more importantly however, it describes the heart-wrenching measures of how much one man will sacrifice to save the life and reputation of the man he loves.

The Lonely War
Publisher: Zumaya Publications, LLC (November 12, 2009)
ISBN-10: 1934841447
ISBN-13: 978-1934841440

April 29th, 1942
0200 hours

On the fourth night out from Bora Bora, Andrew's exhaustion catapulted him into a deep and dreamless sleep that restored his strength. At 0200 hours, Lt. Hurlburt tugged on his shoulder and told him it was time to gear up. He stirred and, opening his eyes, had the most peculiar sensation--his bunk gently rocked back and forth. The compartment rode comparatively smooth, and the only sound was the rumble of the engines.

He untied the ropes holding him to the mattress and bounded out of bed. He pulled on his borrowed marine outfit--green T-shirt and skivvies, fatigues and combat boots. But before pulling on his over-gear, he removed the shoestrings from his navy boondockers and tied them together, then tied the shoestrings to both ends of his flute and slung it across his shoulder, carrying it under his green jacket like a hunting bow.

His loose-fitting clothes felt awkward. He took a moment to reconsider his decision then chased the thought away with a shake of his head. He climbed into a life-vest, cinched the straps tight and covered his head with a metal helmet. The helmet, like his borrowed fatigues, was too big--the front edge dropped down over his eyes. He had to tilt his head back in order to see.

On deck, he saw the sea running slightly rough, with long ground-swells. The sky pressed low, a blanket of gray clouds. He felt a peculiar quality in the blackness that surrounded him.

Now that the storm had passed, most of the men were again sleeping topside, their cots spread across the deck. Chief Baker ambled among them, shaking them to consciousness.

Andrew joined the marines for a breakfast of eggs laid over rare beefsteak, fried potatoes and mountains of crispy toast. He had no taste for red meat, but he chowed down, knowing this would be his last real meal for months. He ate his fill, sopped up the egg yolks with a piece of toast and washed it down with strong coffee.

Hurlburt entered. "I want everyone to leave their brain buckets behind. I don't want anyone jeopardizing this operation with a clank of a chin strap or your helmet thudding against a tree branch."

Andrew was only too happy to shed his helmet. He wished he could shed the whole mission and stay with Mitchell, but that was not an option.

At 0300 hours, they filed out of the mess hall and geared up. The marines lined up on the quarterdeck for debarkation while Baker supervised the lowering of the black whaleboat. Mitchell walked up to Andrew, who stood at the end of the line.

"Well, sir, I guess this is it," Andrew said.

"Wish you'd change your mind."

Andrew gave him a nervous grin. "'In peace there's nothing so becomes a man as modest stillness and humility/But when the blast of war blows in our ears/Then initiate the actions of a tiger/stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood/disguise fair nature with hard-favor's rage.'"

At that moment, he didn't know where the words were coming from, but he tried to gain strength from them, if only for long enough to climb into the boat and leave Mitchell behind.

Mitchell blinked once, looking like the entire world had imploded before his eyes.

"I'll miss your Shakespeare," he said with a slight tremble in his voice. "Well, then, do what you're told and keep your head down. I'll do everything I can to bring you back."

"Thank you, sir." He shrugged, smiled weakly. He reached into his pocket and extracted a string of prayer beads, all bunched into a ball. He pressed them into Mitchell's hand. "Something to remember me by."

Mitchell unballed the beads, took off his hat and slipped them over his head, letting them fall around his neck. As their cool smoothness pressed against his throat, he seemed embarrassed, as if he realized he should have brought something to give Andrew.

Silence. A thousand luminous thoughts raced through Andrew's head, but he couldn't make himself voice a single one.

Mitchell also seemed to stall for time, as if fearful of his own ineptness, even more of the approaching separation.

Andrew imagined himself leaning into Mitchell's solid mass, kissing him right on the mouth with all the tenderness and love he could muster. The thought made him feel wildly alive, breathless. The tips of his ears burned, and his head spun. He couldn't restrain himself any longer. He leaned towards the officer, lips pursed.

Mitchell quickly held out his hand, stopping him cold. Andrew grasped that hand, clung to it as the marines moved forward and clambered down the debarkation net two at a time.

They stayed together all the way to the net, and Mitchell stood on the quarterdeck to watch him slip aboard the whaleboat. The six oarsmen manned their stations on the thwarts. Ogden, acting as coxswain, stood at the tiller. Andrew was the last man into the boat. He sat next to recently freed Hudson, who was one of the oarsmen.

"Let fall."

The oars came down to a foot above the surface.

"Give way together, boys."

The oars dug into the water, and the boat slid into the blackness. Working with sharp, sweeping movements, the rowers strained to haul the boat across a mile and a half of water. The marines sat with rigid backs. Black shoe polish covered their faces; their M1 rifles pointed skyward, and their ammunition belts hugged their waists. They all peered forward, trying to see through the inky night.
Only Andrew looked at the ship. He knew Mitchell was standing on the bridge, binoculars pressed to his face, following their progress. He tried to imagine how the officer looked as he strained to see him. He stared at the ship, gray superimposed on the night sky, until it merged with the blackness and he could no longer distinguish its outline.

He wished more than anything he had brushed passed that outstretched hand and kissed the officer on the mouth like he'd meant to, even with everyone watching. He'd had that one last opportunity to show Mitchell how deeply in love he was, to share a loving gesture he could carry to his grave, but he'd let fear snatch it from him. Coward, he thought. I'm such a coward.

* * * *

The roar of surf grew progressively louder, until the whaleboat reached the area beyond where the waves swelled up and toppled over as they raced towards shore. Ogden signaled, and the oars were lifted out of the water to hang in mid-air while he studied the beach for the best possible landing site.

Beaching the boat in heavy surf was hazardous, even in daylight. If the boat should lean sideways to the wave even a smidgen, they would do a loop-the-loop and jettison the men from the boat. If they capsized, every man would have a hell of a time swimming through the breakers. The marines would have an especially difficult time, weighed down as they were by their weapons and packs.

Beads of sweat ran down Ogden's face. After two minutes of straining to see the topography, he took hold of the tiller. The oarsmen, all facing the stern, collectively braced their legs and took a firm grip on their oars.

"We'll take her straight in from here, boys," he whispered. He turned to see a wall of water speeding at them that was tall enough to block his view of the sea behind it. "Give way together and give it everything you've got."

Six backs bent, and six bodies stretched towards the bow, away from the oncoming wave. The boat drove smartly towards the beach. The stern rose on a gargantuan wave, and the boat went perpendicular as it crawled up the concave front of the monster. It seemed to hang there, cresting the immaculate white foam. The crew rowed at a frenzied pace as they flew towards shore.

Water sprayed Ogden's face, and the salty mist blinded him. Maneuvering on instinct alone, he deftly guided the whaleboat through the surf. He blinked until his vision returned, just as another liquid monster was about to thunder down on them.

"Put your backs to it--Christ! I'm out here with a bunch of fucking pussies."

The boat gained momentum, and by the time the next wave scooped down, they were far enough in front of it to keep from being swamped. Once again the boat lifted above the raging foam and was thrown towards shore like a spider being flushed down a toilet.

When the boat scraped sand, Ogden ordered, "Trail oars!" in his normal voice. The six oarsmen hauled their paddles in and jumped over the side into waist-deep water. They seized the gunwales and hauled the boat high onto the beach. The marines leaped overboard, and spread out with rifles drawn to form a perimeter.

Unexpectedly, the night shattered with the sound of a shot. The noise echoed from above, at the top of the cliff. Everyone froze. They waited crouched, anticipating a second, but only the waves pounding onto shore and the wind whistling up the cliff face disturbed the silence.

Ogden signaled Hudson, and the big man passed the communications gear to waiting hands. The sound of two more shots reverberated down the cliff. It was time to move out, and Hurlburt signaled his men. They heaved the communications equipment to the base of the cliff, leaving Andrew and the other sailors to push the whaleboat into the surf.

Before they could move the boat, a red flash lit up the sky several miles east of the island.

Ogden hissed, "What the fuck?"

A roar grew louder and louder until an explosion ripped open the Pilgrim's superstructure. More flashes lit the night sky. Funnels of water erupted all round the ship. The men on the beach watched, each holding his breath. Another shell blasted into the Pilgrim, and a huge fireball billowed above the ship.

The Pilgrim began to cut through the water. Her five-inch guns belched return fire.

Hurlburt raced towards the sailors, shouting, "Get that boat out of the water and follow me. We've got to take cover. This will bring every Jap on the island down on us. Move it!"

A fiery blast shredded the Pilgrim's bridge and conning tower. Another shell sheared off a section of the bow, and a tremendous explosion cleaved the forecastle apart. A second fireball soared skyward. A heartbeat later, the Pilgrim nosedived into the churning sea.

The sailors on the beach watched as their ship began to go down with little hope for the hands aboard.

"We've got to help them," Andrew screamed. He tried to push the whaleboat into the surf, but Hurlburt grabbed him by the shoulder and hurled him backwards onto the sand.

"We have to save ourselves before we're spotted."

A marine ran up with his weapon at the ready. Again, Hurlburt ordered the crew to beach the boat and follow him inland. The sailors all glared at Ogden, who stood petrified, gazing out to sea where the submerging Pilgrim blazed.

Panic seized Andrew. He leaped to his feet and tackled the marine with the Tommy gun. In a desperate rage, he wrestled weapon away from the marine and aimed it at Hurlburt's chest. His hands trembled, and beads of sweat erupted across his brow.

"Lieutenant, take your men and get the hell lost. We're saving what's left of our crew."

Hurlburt rested his hand on the Browning .45 holstered to his hip. "And if I don't?"

"I'll kill you, and anybody who tries to stop us."

"You're a pacifist. You won't hurt anyone."

Andrew lowered the Thompson's muzzle and squeezed off a short burst. The sand flew up inches from Hurlburt's boots. The sound rang in his ears as he pointed the muzzle at the Marine commander's chest again.

"Are you willing to bet your life on my convictions?" He said this so flatly he was sure nobody would detect the terror hiding beneath the words.

The color drained from Hurlburt's face; his mouth twitched. He searched Andrew's face intently. What he found apparently convinced him Andrew was serious, because he took his hand off his weapon and signaled his men to disperse.

Before he left, he said, "Waters, if we both survive this, I'm going to see you courtmartialed. You're looking at twenty to life." He raced after his squad. As soon as he reached the cliff, he began to climb.

The sailors hauled the whaleboat into the surf and manned the oars. Andrew jumped in at the last moment and sat in the center of the boat, trembling.

Hudson patted him on the shoulder. "Guts! That took a ton of guts! You're a better man than the rest of us pussies put together! That's two I owe you."

Fighting down the acid bile at the back of his throat, Andrew glanced at the Thompson still clutched in his hand and tossed it overboard. ( articles)

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Monday, December 21, 2009

The Secret Keeper excerpt by Dorien Grey

In Dorien Grey's The Secret Keeper, PI Dick Hardesty returns! He listens with polite interest to his partner Jonathan's stories of his days working for 90-year-old multimillionaire Clarence Bement, helping the old man tend his garden. But when Bement is found dead, an apparent suicide, Jonathan is adamant that the old man would never have killed himself, a theory also held by Bement's grandson, Mel Fowler.

When Mel hires him to investigate, Dick learns Bement's lawyer also died mysteriously barely a week before Bement. He finds himself immersed in a world of greed and familial dysfunction, searching for a missing new will, and Jonathan becomes the target for someone who believes the old man entrusted him with a secret Jonathan is not aware he has.

The Secret Keeper
Zumaya Publications, LLC (December 10, 2009)
ISBN-10: 1934841420
ISBN-13: 978-1934841426


“You know, I’ve been thinking. Maybe now’s a good time to make a trip back to Wisconsin to see your dad and your sisters.”
We’d talked several times about his desire to take Joshua back to visit family. He hadn’t been back since he came to us, and while he spoke to his grandfather and/or aunts every month or so, Jonathan didn’t want them to become just voices on the phone.
“You deserve a little time off,” I said. “You said the other day that work was a little slow at Evergreen. Your boss would probably be willing to have you take some time off. You’ve got some vacation time coming, and now would be a perfect time to go, while you don’t have any freelance jobs.”
He was quiet for a few moments, thinking. “It would be nice to go back home for a while,” he said at last. “I’d like you to meet my family.”
I smiled. “I’d like that, but I think I’d better stay around and hold down the fort. Besides, this is a family thing.”
“You’re family,” he said.
“I appreciate that,” I said, “but this will be your first trip home with Joshua, and I’d just be a distraction. I’ll go with you next time.”
“But it won’t be a vacation without you,” he objected.
“You’ll have another week coming,” I said. “We can all go somewhere together then.”
“Well, I don’t know. I just don’t like going anywhere without you.”
“I know, and I’ll miss you, too. But I definitely think you should go.”
The program resumed, and we went back to watching.
At the next commercial, he said, “Yeah, I suppose now would be a good time to go home. When do you think we should go?”
“The sooner the better,” I said. “How about this Thursday?”
He looked at me suspiciously. “The day after tomorrow? Are you serious? No way I could leave that soon! I have to clear it with my boss, see if Dad will be able to pick us up, pack, let the gang know. All sorts of stuff. Maybe Saturday, that way I won’t miss more work than I have to.” He turned
to face me full-on. “Something else is going on here. Tell me.”
He deserved the truth. My trying to protect him with evasions and half-truths hadn’t worked, and he was right to resent my trying.
So, I told him.
“Look,” I said, trying to appear as casual about it as I could, “if—and that’s a big if—you’re right about Clarence Bement’s not having committed suicide, that means somebody killed him. And if whoever did it knows you and Mr. Bement talked a lot, it’s not impossible he may think Mr.
Bement told you something he shouldn’t have.”
“But he didn’t!”
“You and I may know that, but the guy who called you to come out to a deserted stretch of road doesn’t.”
“So, it wasn’t a stone that broke my windshield.” It was more a statement than a question.
I shook my head. “Afraid not.”
“And if I hadn’t swerved to avoid that pothole—”
I reached over to take his hand, entwining our fingers.
“But you did,” I said, “and that’s what matters.” I squeezed his hand. “Look, we can’t be sure about any of this. The window could have been an accident and your being followed a coincidence.”
“But you don’t think so.”
“Hey, I’m a private investigator. I see bad guys lurking behind every tree whether they’re there or not. But just to be safe, I want to look into it further, and I’ll be able to do that a lot easier if I don’t have to worry about you while I’m doing it.”
“You’re doing it again.”
“Doing what?”
“Trying to protect me. I do appreciate it, but I really can take care of myself.”
“I know you can, Babe, and that’s not the issue. It’s not even a question of just you and me. We have Joshua to think about now, too. Just in case there is a real problem here, we can’t let him be involved. I can’t help but worry about you and try to protect you—that’s what I’m here for. So humor
me. Look on it as my being selfish—by protecting you, I’m protecting myself. You’d do the same for me.”
He smiled. “Of course I would. But I’d try not to be so obvious about it.”
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Monday, December 14, 2009

Dirty Words excerpt by M. Christian

In this story, Casey, the Bat from the collection Dirty Words, M. Christian displays his gift of erotica. With more than 300 stories in such anthologies as Best American Erotica, Best Gay Erotica, Best Lesbian Erotica, Best Bisexual Erotica, Best Fetish Erotica, and many, many other anthologies, magazines, and Web sites, he is also the editor of 20 anthologies including the Best S/M Erotica series, The Burning Pen, Guilty Pleasures, and others. He is the author of the collections Dirty Words, Speaking Parts, The Bachelor Machine, Licks & Promises, Filthy, Love Without Gun Control, and Rude Mechanicals; and the novels Running Dry, The Very Bloody Marys, Me2, Brushes, and Painted Doll.

Dirty Words
Publisher: Lethe Press (Reprint edition January 3, 2009)
ISBN-10: 1590211243
ISBN-13: 978-1590211243


Casey, the Bat

The ballpark was a riot of sensoria. Nothing would stay fixed, would stick in the mind--there was just too much. Overload. A picture a thousand words? Try a thousand pictures, a hundred thousand pictures. Not enough words, anywhere, ever written, to describe the park that day.

Till, that is, Barrows was tagged at first. Then, just one word would suffice--a singular word that hovered, heavy and absolute ... at least in the confines of the park: Like the sweet stink of lemonade, the buttery crispness of popcorn, the meaty tang of hot dogs, the bitter mists of fresh beers hissing open on that afternoon, failure was in the air.

A scattered few, having lost the faith, bowed their heads and slipped away, as if sneaking out of church when the Vicar started reading hellfire--not wanting to see Mudville’s shame roared from the stands.

The crowd roared its disappointment as Flynn let drive a single, then Blake tore the cover off the ball and they ran down the white lines. But when the dust had settled, and everyone saw what had occurred, there was Johnnie safe at second and Flynn a-hugging third.

Cataclysm! A bellowing roar from the beast of hope, a throaty call from 5,000--an echoing rumble that bounced up the hilltops and down into the dells. The sound broke, forming sounds the ear could hear, the mind comprehend, a chanting cry: “Casey! Casey! Casey! Casey!”

But then the sound died down, fading into the dying afternoon. The batter’s box lay empty, the team looked confused: Casey, where was Casey? Now that it was almost his turn at the plate--

The sound bounced and warped and turned and flew--but down it couldn’t quite reach, down it couldn’t quite go. Casey ... see Casey, he was otherwise detained. Down in the Mudville locker room, the sound couldn’t reach--but even if it had, even if it could, it was doubtful whether Casey, the Mighty Casey, would have heard those voices.

For Casey, Mighty Casey, was down there--and at bat.

Rogers was at second, his great member enflamed and hard--stroking it slow and steady in and out of Casey’s mouth; and Martin was at home, tremendous dick pumping hard, pumping fast in Casey’s so-tight ass.

Fernandez was on first, cock pulsing in Casey’s mighty fist; and Jones was at third--his own long, thin member wrapped tight in Casey’s mitt.

Casey, Mighty Casey, the pride of the Mudville nine, moaned a fright train’s dirge as if lumbering up some insane hill--a bellowing of pleasure, a bull’s roar of staining pleasure as cocks slid in and out, pistons hammering from fleshy engines, from his mouth, his ass. In accompaniment, in perfect balancing performance, two great members were also in his sweaty palms, and he stroked them--did Mighty Casey--as he was fucked from in front, and behind.

Fans, yes, they would have been stricken--shocked and ashamed--but this side of their Mighty Casey, uniform around his ankles, asshole all inflamed. But not for his activity would they be so disappointed, not for his mouth-sucking, asshole-fucking, would they be outraged. No, their curses, their anger, their fear wouldn’t be for the man-love of their Mighty Casey--for many such things were simple Saturday nights, ways of passing the country hours, something to do that was as much a pastime as sitting in the stands watching their beloved Mudville nine--but rather they would be displeased not in the activity taking place that summer day, but because Casey--yes, Mighty Casey--was doing so with the other team.

“CASEY, CASEY, CASEY --” their cheers increased, now echoing down the concrete tunnels, making a perfect music for the sucking and fucking there. “CASEY!” As dick slid down Casey’s throat, hairy balls smacking into his drool-slick chin, fat cock-head tickling the back of his throat, whispering “gag” to him, but ignored in the joy of dick-in-mouth. “CASEY” As cock hammered back and forth, in and out, to and fro in his puckered asshole, nether lips wrapped around long muscle, milking come from a so-hard member. “CASEY” as the mighty pulled, stroked, twisted, pulled, yanked, at the cock in his right hand. “CASEY” as he did the same to the other in his left, feeling it jump and throb in his hand with each motion, each action.

“CASEY” The Coach, the dear Coach, of the Mudville nine was wont to say, that a team is not just men, together, but men, together, acting as one man. Casey, the star of the team, the man to whom the other Mudville players looked up to with respect and awe, would have agreed--a team working well is one man, and that day, in that room, Casey and those men were one man: a man with a great throbbing dick; a man with a pulsing, gripping asshole; a man with lips straining around cockflesh, swallowing meat; a man with his cock in his hand; a man with his hands on many cocks. They were a squirming, fucking, sucking unit down there in the Mudville locker room that day--the coach would have been proud of their unity, their grace of movement, their passion for the game ... though he, too would have been distressed over Casey’s choice in playmates.

In and out, in and out, the machine of men worked--fluids of pleasure dropping with heavy weight to the tough concrete floor. Come and sweat, spit and other stuff slicked the floor, made it gleam as their perspiration made their tight, hard bodies gleam. A well-oiled machine, at that, a slick and salty engine of pumping and being pumped, an athletic performance of the highest caliber.


As a single mechanism they moved, they worked, they played. As a single unit they plunged, stroked, sucked, licked, and all of that, together, combined. To the pounding chorus of a stadium demanding, hammering, and cheering for their mighty hero, the gleaming Casey and his rivals churned and rocked, moved and moaned. Cocks in hand, cocks in mouth, cock in ass--fucking, getting fucked, the locker room rang with the meaty slap of flesh in, and on, flesh. To that thunderous cheer of hope and praise, Casey--the Mighty Casey--got reamed and sucked, fucked and done by the dreaded, and very hard, bats of the other team.

Then, there, with his name on all those lips and his cock in a single set, the coming came. Jets, splurts and sprays. Quakes, quivers and gushers. Geysers, splashes, and earthquakes. Sweet, sticky ejaculate erupted from a half-dozen iron dicks, cascading onto Casey’s--Mighty Casey’s--perfectly honed muscles, shaking as his own brilliant orgasm blasted fireworks, and rang loud gongs in his ears.

Coming, coming, coming, they came--jizz and sweat, salt and sweet, mixed in their valleys and creases. It leaked from firm lips, trickled from puckered assholes, dropped from between shivering fingers.


The thunder above mixed with their thunder below--a booming applause to the power of man juice, the blasting eruption of orgasm.

Sleep reached up and grabbed hold of Casey--a heavy, soft weight, promising rest, promising dreams. But something intruded, and despite his aching muscles, his draining strength, the great man pushed--ah, but gently--his playmates aside, listening with half an ear to the exhausted, meaty impacts of their tired bodies hitting the too-hard floor.


Into his garments he struggled, arms into sleeves, legs into legs. As the other team slipped, collapsed down into a Goya tableau of exhaustion, their trained muscles sprung by the rapid release of joy, the legend climbed a small, personal mountain--by climbing into his uniform.

“CASEY! CASEY!” came their prayer, their chant, their worship--a thousand feet stamping, a thousand hands clapping, a thousand Mudvillians screaming for their baseball savior, their batting messiah to appear.

Then, emerging after what seemed like three days--and certainly felt like resurrection--he came: a smile, broad and true, on his lips, a swagger in his mighty hips, a great bat resting on his shoulder, up from the darkness and into the light.

A riot before, revival after. The crowd rose in salute to Casey, Mighty Casey, stepped out onto the field. True, the bases were against them, the game looked lost, but their hope was magic, their love for Casey all. Their cheer at his arrival to the plate was the joyous noise of hope.

Casey allowed their adoration to drum around him, humbly doffing his cap in a return salute, turning to see them all and allow them to see, before raising a great hand, to bring the sound down, down, down to the softness of sounds: the subtle whispers of confidence.

Confidence, yes, because while the bases were against them and the game all but lost, Casey, Mighty Casey had stepped up to the plate.

Swinging his bat--no, gentle reader not the one just minutes before had been serviced by the other team--he glanced cool intent at the pitcher on the mound, as if daring him to throw anything his way, let alone the ball.

“Strike!” came the umpire’s call as the catcher caught the throw. The crowd was stunned, aghast, but Casey was still strong. They saw this in their hero, the legend of their town, and still they cheered him, rooted him on.

“Strike two!” was the second cry as the ball smacked into the catcher’s mitt. What is this, the fans seemed to say, what could this mean? Was Casey, their Mighty Casey, going to let them down?

Ah, but faith is a powerful thing, and their hope only wavered, but did not fall. As the pitcher spun his arm, took deadly aim, the crowd bellowed out the crack, the screaming hit, long before their great Casey swung his bat. They saw the ball go flying, they saw it sail away. They knew their hero, the Great and Noble Casey, had saved the day--and the game--again.

“Strike three!” What was this--their aghast and denial a thunderous cry--Casey had missed again. Slowly, so very slowly, they realized this for truth, that their Mighty Casey had fallen to the pitcher’s throw.

For the Mudville fans that day, the game was over--a winners joy not theirs. Slowly they walked with sorrowful steps into the chilly night, sadness anchoring them down to the harsh, cruel world. No smiles on their lips, no cheer from their throats, for Casey--their once-Mighty Casey, had let them down at the plate.

But what of their once-hero, the legend of the bat? He, you see dear reader, was no where to be found. Not in the club, not on the street, not in the bars, and not at his home.

Their Casey had gone, vanished without a trace--and his absence, with the loss of the game, weighed heavily on Mudville that day.

Sadness, though, was not completely the order of the day. For Casey, their Mighty Casey, was back in that locker room--smiling broad and wide, at bat once again: taking and delivering in asshole, mouth and hand. One game over, maybe a defeat, but another just starting--where everyone would win.

For there was--at least for the Mighty Casey--some joy in Mudville that day.
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Monday, December 7, 2009

The Phoenix excerpt by Ruth Sims

The setting for The Phoenix by Ruth Sims is London, mid-1890’s.

Brought up in a strict faith in which theatre was only one of many evils, Nick Stuart, a young doctor dedicated to helping the poor, is dragged by friends to see “Hamlet.” He goes reluctantly, prepared to recoil in disgust at the playacting decadence. Instead, he finds something he could never have imagined—a man who takes his breath away and steals his heart: the intensely charismatic actor, Kit St. Denys. Nick’s first step into a theatre is an event that will soon change many lives and lead to tragedy and sacrifice.

The Phoenix
Lethe Press (2009)
ISBN: 978-1590210468


For several days Nick tried to put the experience out of his mind, tried to feel contempt for the shallow, imaginary world of theatre. He dealt with reality, with sickness and injuries, births and death. There was no room in his life for the frivolity of make-believe. And then, in his mind, there would come the image from the theatre poster.

He returned to the theatre night after night, sitting in the cheapest seats, paying for admittance with money that ought to have gone for food. It was more important to be there in the dark and absorb the beauty and power of Kit St. Denys, even though he was so far from the stage it was like watching moving dolls. He was astonished that, even so far away, he could hear every word. Every night he thrilled to the same lines delivered by the same voice but always with some slight difference in inflection or emotion. He watched no one else on the stage. If Hamlet were offstage Nick was impatient until he returned.

The theatre might well be an abomination. He no longer cared. He sat there in the dark and spun fantasies. Without knowing he was doing it, he prayed for a miracle: that he might speak to St. Denys. On closing night the miracle happened.

The last act this time was more lifelike than ever when Hamlet’s foot slipped and he felt on his back. He was up again in an instant, battling for his life, not missing a word or a step. Even from so far away, Nick thought he saw blood darkening the back of Hamlet’s fair head.

By the time the last curtain call had been made it was obvious he was injured. Every time he straightened from a deep bow there were red, shiny streaks on his face. Finally, St. Denys said calmly, “Ladies and gentlemen, we achieved an usual level of realism tonight. I have need of a physician. If one will come to the dressing room…”

While the chattering crowd streamed toward the doors, Nick pushed against the flow to find his way backstage, praying he got there before any other doctor who had been in the audience. He was guided to a dressing room where St. Denys sat, pale even through the stage makeup. It was almost shocking to see him up close—a tall, living, breathing man and not a child’s doll. A wizened little man held a red-soaked folded cloth against the back of his head.

“I’m—I’m a doctor,” Nick said, and heard the old man say unnecessarily, “The doctor is here, Mr. Kit.”

Nick took a deep breath and leaned close to the bleeding wound. “I need water,” he said. “A lot of it. I don’t think it’s as serious as it looks.” The little man quickly produced water and more cloths. Nick gently cleansed the wound and was relieved to find it was as he suspected—a minor injury but producing a great deal of blood. One side of the actor’s face was bloody as was the back of his neck. Nick concentrated on the injury itself, seeing it as a disembodied entity and not as something that was part of this creature who had disturbed his thoughts. Briskly, he said, “I need to send for my medical bag. This wants a stitch or two.”

“No time,” St. Denys said. “I’ve a wrap party to attend. I had the wardrobe mistress bring needles and thread.”

“Mr. St. Denys, with all due respect, that’s asking for infection.”

“Sew it.”

Nick hesitated. The needle could be sterilized in a candle flame but not much could be done about the thread. Reluctantly, he sterilized the needle, washed the thread and his hands in the basin the old man produced, and made the three stitches that closed the wound. Throughout the procedure St. Denys uttered not one sound. “There,” Nick said. “Finished. Rest for a day and if you find yourself with a severe headache or dizziness contact your own physician as soon as possible.”

St. Denys winced and smiled slightly as he turned his head and looked up at Nick. “I already have a headache,” he said. “Does that count?”

Nick looked down into dark eyes that saw into his soul. Something stopped in that instant. Time? His heartbeat? He didn’t know. He knew only that something stopped and something began.

St. Denys’ gaze held Nick’s. His lips parted as if to say something important, and then he said, “I no longer have a physician on call. I dismissed the last one this morning. Perhaps I could persuade you to join us at the cast party, and then you should be there in case I fall on my arse again, Dr. …”

Nick hesitated. “I think you should not go, yourself. You really should rest.”

“I shall rest when I am dead. Please come.”

Nick felt himself weakening. He prayed St. Denys did not notice his general shabbiness. “I couldn’t. Thank you. I begin work early.” But wouldn’t it be worth losing sleep to spend another hour or two in this man’s presence? And of course, he would be there in case St. Denys had a problem as a result of the fall…

St. Denys rose from the chair, weaving slightly on his feet for an instant. “I must speak with the theatre manager before he leaves. Give some thought to the party while I am gone. You know you’d never forgive yourself if you read in the newspaper that I collapsed during my wrap party.” He grinned and Nick dissolved inside. St. Denys left the room without waiting for an answer.

I can’t go, Nick thought. I can’t. Neither was he going to sit there like a smitten serving girl and wait for St. Denys to return. He could leave. He would leave. Immediately. Yes. Walk through that doorway. He glanced down and noticed a blond hair lying curled on his black sleeve. Slowly he pulled it off. It had a life of its own. He straightened it out and when released, it sprang back to its former shape. A single thread of gold in the form of a question mark.

A voice from a long ago act of sin spoke in his mind. “The apple’s off the tree now, Stuart. You can’t put it back.”

The terrible thing was, he didn’t want to

A large bathtub dominated one corner of the dressing room. The old servant filled it with hot water and ignored Nick.

The door flew open and a tall young woman swept into the room, her red hair flying in all directions. “Kit, are you—Where’s Kit?” She stopped, staring at Nick. “Who are you?”

“I’m the doctor.”

“You took care of his head? I almost fainted when I saw real blood. Will he be all right? Our company doctor was drunk again; Kit almost killed the worthless sot.” She smiled and stuck out her hand like a man. “Thank God you were here. I’m Rama Weisberg. I played the queen.” When he did not take her hand she withdrew it. “Didn’t you like the production? Or was it just me you didn’t like?”

Nick stammered, “I—oh—nothing of the kind. You’re very talented. It’s just that my friends accused me of being in love with you.”

“‘Accused’ you? It’s hardly the same as being in love with a piece of three-day-old mutton!” She flounced from the room and disappeared into the hallway. St. Denys returned a moment later. “What did you say to my leading lady?” he asked. “She’s almost sputtering.”

“I’m not really sure. She seems to think I called her a mutton, but I didn’t.”

“Ah, well,” Kit said, laughing. “She has a redhead’s temper.”

“Your bath is ready, Mr. Kit,” the old man said, and helped him unlace and remove the black sleeveless jerkin and the full-sleeved black blouse.

St. Denys thanked the old man, then asked, “Dr. Stuart, have you decided about the party? You will go, won’t you?” As St. Denys talked, he sat down at the makeup table with its boxes and bottles, and removed the blood and sweat-streaked makeup. The tips of his blood-stained fair mane lay in waves against the nape of his neck and hid his ears; the downward curve of his jaw was strong.

Nick was near enough to notice the light brown freckles on his shoulders. The words “No, I don’t think so” died unspoken. Nick gazed at the actor’s naked back and muscular arms. Sinful thoughts and feelings flew like ravens through his mind and his body. How would it be to lay his hands on St. Denys? Was his skin coarse or fine? Nick shoved his hands into his coat pockets, lest he reach out and actually touch him. He wished he could put his eyes in his pockets as well.

A peculiar lattice of faded, jagged white lines marred the actor’s back. They looked like scars, but how could that be? A small dark mole resided on his lower back, just above the waist of the black tights. Just then Nick realized St. Denys, with a slight smile, was watching him in the mirror. Even the tops of Nick’s ears turned crimson.

“If your wife is with you, she is more than welcome to join us,” St. Denys said, as the last trace of makeup vanished.

“I don’t have a wife,” Nick croaked. He did not realize that the way he said it told Kit St. Denys a great deal. “Mr. St. Denys—”

“Please. Call me Kit; everyone does.”

“Mr. St. Denys, I wouldn’t fit in at your party. I don’t enjoy that sort of thing.”

“I assure you, Mr. Stuart, it’s but a late dinner, a bit of the grape, laughter, and dancing. It is not a Bacchanalian orgy.”

“I didn’t mean that.”

“Then you will come.” Kit turned toward him. Nick’s good resolves sank out of sight. Nick had hoped that the glamour and sensuality were all an illusion created by stage art and costume. Then he could go home, ask God to forgive his wicked thoughts, and forget he had ever spoken to the man. But that was not to be. The Devil himself had conspired to make St. Denys younger and more handsome than he had been with the makeup.

With complete unconcern, St. Denys stood up and let the old man help him finish undressing. Nick broke into a sweat and clenched his fists tighter in his coat pockets. How would it feel to spread his hands on that firm arse? Or see him erect and ready? Oh, dear God, he had to leave that room! But the same Devil who had made St. Denys beautiful had also nailed Nick’s feet to the floor.

St. Denys stepped into the high-backed tub of hot water and exhaled a gusty sigh of pleasure as the old man fussed over him with scented soap and a sea sponge… .

…Like a young Neptune rising from the sea St. Denys stood up in his tub and
stepped out. He grinned as if he knew the evil in Nick’s mind. Nick’s eyes sought a fascinating blank corner on the ceiling.

“Only a few more minutes, Dr. Stuart. Then we can leave.” The old man helped him into his clothing. As he started to do up the buttons on the shirt, St. Denys said, “I can manage from here, Nathaniel. Thank you. You go freshen up for the party.”

“Very good, Mr. Kit.” Nathaniel favored Nick with one more disapproving glare and was gone.

“I’m surprised,” Nick said, still looking at the corner. “You socialize with your servants?”

“Nathaniel is not a servant. He’s my dresser and has been for a long time. I’ve had several valets and servants, but Nathaniel never felt they did it properly. He feels only he can do it; he’s right. That I always have the right costume for any given scene is due to Nathaniel.”

Nick wondered how any man who had just been nude in front of a stranger could answer with such dignity. He was surprised when St. Denys said softly, “You’ll have to learn the ways of the theatre if you’re to be around me.” The actor’s dark eyes seemed to pull secrets from Nick’s soul.

At the assumption, Nick was dazed by a ferocious desire; he forlornly hoped St. Denys had not noticed the obvious, but the actor’s left eyebrow lifted quizzically and he said, “I knew the moment I looked into your eyes you that you were one of my kind. I’m never wrong.”

Nick’s lust was replaced by fear. ‘One of my kind.’ If St. Denys could recognize his demon so did God….

“After the party,” St. Denys said, “you will go with me to my hotel.” It was not a question. He did not touch Nick, and yet Nick felt as if he had been caressed.


“You’ll stay the night.” Still not a question.

“Yes.” With those two yeses he accepted everything and questioned nothing, and the knowledge made him afraid.

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