Monday, April 26, 2010

Netting Neptune excerpt by KC Kendricks

In Netting Neptune, a contemporary gay romance by KC Kendricks, Theron Bowman is in the throes of a mid-life crisis. At forty, he needs to make some serious decisions about his future. He splurges on a two-week vacation in the Caribbean, and like everything else in his life, things go horribly awry and he ends up working to pay for his room.

Forced by his father to break ties with his family, Colby Denton came to rest on St. Lucia, and opened an exclusive resort. To celebrate his tenth year on the island, and his birthday, Colby arranges for a series of festive beachside parties. When a sexy sea god swims out of the ocean in front of him, Colby has a brand new plan – netting Neptune.

Netting Neptune
Amber Quill Press, LLC - Amber Allure (September 15, 2009)
ISBN: 978-1-60272-573-7 (Ebook)


I’d tried not to obsess over why he’d not kissed me earlier, but it had bothered me off and on all day. We’d come to the moment where he would, and I reached down for every ounce of self-control I had to remain still and let him kiss me, his way. Did he have any clue what he did to me?

I had to know if his dick was as hard as mine. Theron’s eyes lit with anticipation as I cupped his ass cheeks and ground my pelvis to his. He was hard, the ridge of his cock pushing the length of his zipper.

I managed to croak a few words. “I had to know.”

He ran his thumb over my lower lip. If he didn’t kiss me soon, I’d faint from lack of oxygen.

“And now that you do, what happens?”

“You tell me, Theron. I don’t want to push you.”

“You’re not.” He cupped the back of my head and brushed his lips to mine, a whisper-soft touch that snapped through me, shattering my good intentions along with my control.

I backed him to the side of the restaurant where the shadows were deepest and kissed him, hard. His tongue licked into mine, eager and willing. Wanting. I tasted the faint trace of lemon from his drink as I nibbled the corner of his mouth. Theron scraped his teeth over my lower lip and heat coiled in my belly, like some spring awaiting release.

His strong arms held me as I massaged his ass. My balls drew up as he groaned and thrust his tongue into my mouth. Deep inside, a phantom memory ached for a new touch, his touch, and from that phantom came images of him pressing me down beneath him on clean, crisp sheets.

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Monday, April 19, 2010

The Rest of Our Lives: A Novel excerpt by Dan Stone

The Rest of Our Lives,Dan Stone's 2010 Lambda Literary Award finalist for Best Gay Romance, is a lighthearted romantic fantasy about the repeatedly reincarnating relationship between ice-blue-eyed, time-stopping, cold weather witch Colm McKenna and hyper-sexy, psychokinetic, hot weather witch Aidan Gallagher. According to Norse legend, the universe came forth from the collision of the energies of fire and frost. One can’t exist without the other, and all of creation is dependent upon the delicate balance between the two. Just as spontaneously combustible Aidan begins to rock frost-flinging Colm’s world with a magical big bang of a romance, the pair learns that they’ve been playing in each other’s back yards for at least a couple of millennia. Aidan becomes increasingly hot for clues about the lessons their karmic connection can teach them, while Colm feels increasingly like a snowball in hell, wondering if multiple incarnations where he’s repeatedly abandoned by his enchanting fireball of a boyfriend, may be one or two bites more than he’s able to chew.

This is the second excerpt to be featured from The Rest of Our Lives; the first excerpt appeared on 6/29/09.

The Rest of Our Lives
Lethe Press (May 25, 2009)
ISBN-10: 1590211472
ISBN-13: 978-1590211472


Aunt Lucinda explained that she would guide us into a trance state, and once we were relaxed and ready, she would ask us to begin to remember our first and subsequent encounters with each other. She said that we would essentially re-live parts of those lives, observing what had transpired as if we were experiencing it but not actually feeling it.

“You won’t have any pain, but you will know if there is pain—or pleasure,” she said. “You’ll have the awareness but not the sensation, sort of like watching yourselves in old home movies.”

“Will we understand what we’re saying? Won’t we be speaking in some other language?”

“You’ll understand perfectly,” she said. “And you will simply translate the thoughts and feelings you were having at that time into your own words as you would speak them in the present. Otherwise I would’ve had to bone up on about six dead languages by now.”

“Guess you won’t be singing me a love song in Latin,” Aidan cracked.

“You promised me a trip to the beach if I went through with this,” I telepathed to him.

“I’m already imagining myself rubbing sunscreen on your thighs,” he responded, licking his lips.

“Let’s get this party started,” I said.

Aunt Lu instructed us to hold hands and not to let go. “Even if you need to stop, don’t let go of each other’s hands,” she said. “You’re traveling in time together and it’s important to maintain your connection. If you need to stop, just say so. Speak the words, but come back to here and now before breaking your link to each other.”

“No dumping me in another century just because I left my dirty underwear on the floor,” Aidan cracked as he took hold of my hands.

“Quiet now. Close your eyes,” Aunt Lu said in a hushed voice. “Hold each other’s hands lightly and begin to focus on your breathing. Just observe and pay attention to your breath as you inhale and exhale . . .”

I felt the wave of warmth from Aidan’s hands starting to flow through me as I always did when he touched me. I was conscious of my thoughts—images—coming and going with each breath . . . and conscious of Aidan’s thoughts coming and going . . .

“Let your own and each other’s thoughts pass like clouds floating across a clear blue sky,” she said. “Stay with your own breathing . . . and then slowly begin to hear and to feel each other breathing . . . let everything else slowly start to fade away, then disappear, until there is only your breathing together . . . slowly coming together, merging until it’s only one breath between you . . . until you can hear and feel yourselves breathing in perfect union . . . joined together . . . one breath . . . one heartbeat . . . one breath . . .” Silence seemed to cover us like snow blanketing a city street, leaving only the muffled sound of a single heartbeat, the calming metronome of our breathing . . . and Aunt Lu’s voice, like a soft melody playing in another room.

“Now see yourselves walking hand in hand through a dark tunnel, with a faint light in the distance. It’s the only light you can see.”

I felt Aidan beside me and I could see the pinpoint of light far ahead of us, but we weren’t moving. The light wasn’t getting any closer.

“Move forward, darlings,” Aunt Lu’s voice urged. “There’s nothing to be afraid of. Feel the cool and the warm breezes behind you, gently moving you forward toward the light. Let your magic carry you.”

Aidan squeezed my hand and immediately the air in the room and in the tunnel began to circulate . . . a north and a south wind blowing gently around us and behind us, lifting us up and floating us like a couple of feathers toward the light that was now getting larger and brighter.

“Approach the light, dear ones. See it growing brighter and getting closer and closer . . . until you can see the portal at the end of the tunnel and the sunlight streaming toward you, beckoning you . . . Now quiet the winds behind you . . . allow your feet to touch the ground at the portal, then hand in hand, step through the portal into that world . . . that time and place where you first met.”

Another squeeze from Aidan’s hand, and we stepped through the portal.

“Where are you, my dears?”

The scene before me was foreign but familiar. “Galilee,” I said. “The hillside up from the road of sorrows at the site of the crucifixions. It’s so horrible!”

“It’s so hot!” Aidan said. “Jupiter and Juno, I’m sweatin’ through my breastplate here! Hebrews call this the promised land?? It’s hotter than Vulcan’s workshop.”

“Look around you,” Aunt Lu said. “See what’s happening. Take a moment to remember who you are. And now, wherever you are and whatever you’re doing, turn and see each other for the very first time.”

“Sweet Venus!” Aidan said with a lascivious smirk.

“Excuse me, sir?” I replied demurely.

“I want to get me some of that,” he said.

I could feel the color rising in my face. “Forgive me, my lord, but if your words are directed toward me, please show some respect. Understand that I am a married woman, the devoted wife of the fisherman, Uzziah.”


“Uzzi for short.”

“A fisherman, huh? That stinks. And what is your name, you winsome little wench?”

“I am called Michal, my lord.”

“Michal? What kind of name is that for such a sweet young thing?” He said. “And yet I find it strangely appealing.”

“I should not be speaking with you this way, sir.”

“Kind of flat chested, but otherwise you are one fine looking Jew, Michal of Galilee. Do you know who I am?”

“You are a centurion under Herod’s command, my lord. I can tell by your uniform.”

“You like a guy in a uniform do you?”

“Please, sir. I must insist that you not disrespect me this way.”

“Which way would you prefer, you little goddess? I am Gaius Varius, second in line for the Judaean division of Caesar’s army under Herod’s command. Ever go out with a centurion?”

“Varius?, sir?”

“Family name. Means ‘versatile.’”


“So what are you doing here?”

“One of my cousins by marriage is up there,” I said, nodding toward the hillside.

“The cross on the left. I came to pay my respects.”

“That’s gotta hurt. What did he do?”

“He defiled his brother’s wife, my lord.”

“Ouch. He got the cross for that? Tough town.”

“It’s barbaric. Such cruelty among the children of God in the name of justice. It breaks my heart.”

“Poor little thing. Can I give you a ride home?”

“Alright children,” Aunt Lu’s voice broke in. “I’m starting to get the picture. Go forward to your next meeting . . . the next time the two of you are together in this time and space. Observe your surroundings. Where are you now? What’s happening?”

The scene now was a small, dim and disheveled room. A soldier’s quarters.

“Oh yeah, oh baby!” Aidan said, pulling my hand closer, pushing his fingers through mine.

“Oh sir, yes sir!” I breathed, my heart suddenly pounding in my chest.

“Oh Michal baby spread those lovin’ legs and bring your Roman daddy home!!”

“Uh! Oh! Oh uh uh uh yes yes yes yes!!” I cried. Sweat was beading on my upper lip and making both our palms slick.

“Oh my,” Aunt Lu’s voice again. “So much for not feeling the sensations.” She dabbed a handkerchief to her forehead. “Let’s just move along a little further, dears . . .”

“Oh blessed Mars and Venus!” Aidan cried. Our previous selves seemed to like it just fine where they were.

“Moving along!!” Aunt Lu said in a sterner tone of voice. “Go forward together . . . to another day . . . the last day . . . the last time that you see each other. It’s the moment of your final parting in this lifetime. Where are you my dears? What is transpiring between you now?”

My mood shifted immediately and dramatically. I felt tears welling up, and my hand was trembling, clinging tightly to Aidan’s.

“Don’t cry, my beauty,” Aidan/Gaius said, catching a tear as it rolled off my cheek. “I’m Gaius Varius, a solder of the Empire. I have to go where Caesar commands.”

“I’ve betrayed my wedding vows. I have sinned in the eyes of God and engaged in forbidden bliss, committing unspeakable acts with you in my husband’s bed. What’s worse is I have given my heart to you, my lord, when it was pledged to another. I think perhaps you fail to see the significance of this. Will I ever see you again?”

“Sure you will, sweetness. And I’ll bring you something real pretty. How about one of those designer silk scarves from the Orient? Or a bottle of that Egyptian perfume you like so much?”

“I require nothing else from you. You’ve already given me the greatest gift, my lord,” I said, laying my hand gently on my belly.

“Say again?”

“Never mind, sir. Your duty calls. I will not have you distracted with thoughts of me as you go forth into battle. I will not be the cause of any harm to you.”

“That’s my funny faced, flat-chested gal with the sexy, boy name,” he said, patting my behind. “You behave while I’m gone. Stay away from horny Roman soldiers!” He winked. And with a peck on the lips, he was gone.

“That’s your daddy, little one,” I said, gently rubbing my stomach and letting the tears fall. “You’re the child of a centurion. A brave, strong and handsome Roman centurion. My fear is that you may never know just how much your mommy loved that son of a . . .”

We tarried in Palestine long enough to see that I never made it through the delivery, and that Gaius Varius never returned to learn of his heir. The fate of our love child remained unclear.

“You had my baby,” Aidan said, when Aunt Lu brought us on the same North and South winds back to her living room and told us it was okay to let go of each other’s hands.

“More precisely, I died having your baby,” I said, as the winds slowly calmed in the room.

“That is so romantic!”

“I died having your baby,” I said.

“You loved me!”

“You left me!” Clearly the prevailing impressions we had brought back with us differed considerably.

Aunt Lu gave us some chamomile tea and suggested that we wait a week or so before going back in time again.

“This is an intense journey, and it’s only the first of many” she said. “Give yourselves a rest from it. Don’t overanalyze it. Do something fun together to refocus on the present!”

“We could start working on the book,” Aidan said, his energy crackling and his eyes flashing. “I know exactly where I want us to begin now.”

I could’ve sworn I felt a contraction. - the gay & lesbian community bookstore in Philadelphia
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Monday, April 12, 2010

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.

This novel came to Alan in a flash, characters, plot, settings. That momentary flash was the beginning of a love affair he had with these characters and this story for the last five years – three years in the writing, two in revision while waiting for publication. But now his 'baby' is out there to share. I hope you’ll take a minute to read the excerpt.

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


Chapter 1

March 20, 1941
0800 hours

In the spring of 1941, the Japanese army surged across the border from China to extend their bloody campaign to all of Southeast Asia. As war crept south, the French, English, and Americans scattered throughout Indochina hastened to Saigon, where they boarded ocean liners bound for their homelands. Meanwhile, the Japanese army massed on the outskirts of the city, poised for another victorious assault. The city held its breath.

Andrew Waters pursued his father across a bustling wharf, still wearing his boarding school uniform and clutching a bamboo flute. The ship that loomed before him was a floating city—mammoth, with numerous passenger decks and topped by two massive stacks that muddied the sky with exhaust. It had been berthed at the inland port on a tributary of the Mekong for a full week, but Andrew saw the crew now scurrying to get underway.

The wharf trembled slightly, and he heard the rat-tat-tat of gunfire over the sirens blaring from the center of the city.

Andrew's father sported a tussore-silk suit of superlative cut and a Panama hat tilted so the brim hid his right eye. His tall figure marched purposefully towards the black-and-white behemoth, and his normally long gait lengthened with noticeable desperation.

Andrew, who was nearly eighteen, paused and panted from an acute nervy rush. He searched the sky for planes. They were still beyond his field of vision, but the drone of bombers echoed through the cloud cover. The rumble of explosions grew loud, and the air carried the faint stench of sulfur.

He hurried on, jostling through a mélange of beings— Caucasians dressed in fine western clothes (like his father), rich Chinese in their silks, merchants in long-sleeved jackets, coolies wearing only tattered shorts. Voices all around him shouted while the harsh twang of a military band playing "Auld Lang Syne" vaulted above that unbridled confusion of humanity.

Directly behind him trotted an aged wisp of a monk, who wore the traditional orange robes and held a string of wooden prayer beads. Each bead was the size of a marble and had the chalky gray coloring of Mekong silt. The monk's thumb deliberately ticked past each bead, one after another, like a timer counting down the seconds. Behind the monk came the porters carrying four steamer trunks.

At the gangway, Andrew's father told him to quickly make his goodbye then sprinted up the ramp with the porters in tow.

Surrounded in a press of bodies, the youth reverently embraced the monk. The old man wrapped his arms around Andrew and drew him nearer. The monk's breath tickled his neck, which helped to dissolves his anxieties.

Using the native tongue of South China, he whispered, "Master, I'll come home as soon as I can."

The old monk's face contracted, as if Andrew had posed a difficult question.

"Andrew, war and time will whisk away everything that you love. This is our farewell."

The youth wiped away a tear that broke free from his almond-shaped eyes and slid down his amber-colored cheek.

"Master, I will strive to apply everything you have taught me."

"No, Andrew. You will forget my lessons. Such is the nature of youth. But remember this—since you are American by birth, they will surely draft you. So, on the battlefield, resist the hate that is born from fear. Nurture only love in your heart, Andrew. To love all beings is Buddha-like and transcends us from the world of pain, for love is the highest manifestation of life. To experience love's full bounty is life's only purpose, so tread the moral path before you and sacrifice yourself to love. All else is folly, a dream of the ego."

Baffled, Andrew replied, "Master, I do not understand about sacrificing myself to love."

The old monk's eyes opened wide and his lips spread into a grin.

"Meditate on what I have said. Understanding will come when you are ready." He methodically bundled his string of beads into a ball roughly the size and shape of a monkey's skull and forced them into Andrew's left pants pocket. "Keep these beads to remind yourself of our time together."

The pressure against Andrew's thigh felt awkward, and before the monk pulled way, Andrew became distracted, thinking of how fortunate this man was to be wise and compassionate in the midst of the impending carnage. He realized it took impeccable courage to maintain one's morality during perilous times, courage that he himself did not possess.

He had always assumed he would live a quiet, studious and spiritual life under this old monk's guardianship, and eventually become the old man who stood before him. That image was shattered when war turned the world on its head. Now, all Andrew could think about was getting on that ship and sailing to safety, if such a thing existed.

The ship's whistle cut the air, long and terrible and loud enough to be heard throughout the city. The monk pressed his hands together in front of his forehead and bowed, silently, finally.

Another blast from the ship's whistle sent Andrew running up the gangway, leaving the earthy world of South China behind.

He joined his father on the first-class deck. Entombed in steel—heavy riveted plates of metal underfoot that curved into walls—he jammed together with the other passengers at the rail, peering down at the apprehensive faces. Their body heat added to the stifling temperature. Sweat dribbled down his neck, and he had to gasp to get enough air.

Lines fell away, and the gangway was hauled aboard. Tugs pushed the ship into the middle of the channel and withdrew, leaving the ship to the whim of the current.

Andrew stared straight down at the dense, opaque surface of the river. It reflected the cloudy sky, making the water seem gray rather than the usual brown, yellowish streaks of oil running with the current. The flat moving surface seemed strangely alive, carrying him along, muscling him downstream, as if it were an overwhelming force whose motives he could only guess at.

On the dock, Asian women held their infants over their heads for a last look. Handkerchiefs waved. The band played on.

He saw the first planes against the darkening sky, droning above the city. Explosions grew even louder, and from his perch on the first-class deck, he saw sections of the city erupting. He turned northeast towards his boarding school. Flames. That entire section of the city was engulfed in fire, as if hell had opened its mouth to swallow it whole.

"Clifford," he whispered.

A searing stab of regret lodged in his chest. He had been forced to abandon the object of his adolescent love, and he imagined himself dashing through the chaotic streets to reach the boarding school. There was still time, he thought. They could disappear into the forest. They could live on, together. He wanted to perform that fatal act of love, but he wondered if he could really muster the courage to defy his father.

Reluctantly—at least, it felt that way to him—he climbed onto the railing to dive overboard, because he realized the love he shared with Clifford wasn't a trifling adolescent crush at all but rather a deep and consuming love. A love that had somehow been lost in the joys of youth like water in dry sand, and was only now realized.

His father pulled him back, forcing him to stay and suffer what felt like an unquenchable loss. Locked in his father's embrace, he entered a narrow canyon of desolation, knowing the days and hours and minutes ahead would be heartbreaking, and that he might not be strong enough to endure it.

The ship's siren sounded three blasts for its farewell salute. The engines throbbed, and propellers chewed the river. The noise swelled to a din like the end of the world.

The passengers on deck could no longer hide their sorrow. Everyone wept, not only those people parting but the onlookers as well. Even the dockhands and porters shed tears.

The ship traveled downstream as the military band played "The Star-Spangled Banner."

To Andrew, the orange-robed figure crushed within the throng on the dock seemed at odds with the fires raging across the city. He now fully understood the monk's words— that war would steal everything he loved, that a way of life, their way of life, had perished. Pain flooded his whole being, like that of a baby prematurely ripped from its protective womb.

He pulled away from his father's embrace and staggered farther down the deck to cry without being seen. He positioned himself at the rail, one arm folded around a steel support beam and his face pressed against the hot metal.

People on the wharf seemed to hesitate, then regretfully turned and scurried away. He watched the smudge of orange, scarcely visible and standing at the edge of the pier, utterly still, quiescent, until the harbor faded from view and the land disappeared as well, slowly swallowed beneath the curve of the earth.

Read another excerpt from The Lonely War on this blog, 12/28/09 ( articles)

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Monday, April 5, 2010

Hard Working Men anthology excerpt from If Love Were All by Victor Banis

In If Lover Were All by Victor Banis, Charlie is a stray. He is picked up hitchhiking one night in a rain storm by Tom and invited to spend the night at Tom's trailer, which leads to sex, and an invitation to stay on.

Hard Working Men
Publisher: MLR Press (July 15, 2008)
ISBN-10: 1934531790
ISBN-13: 978-1934531792


"It ain't much," Tom said, indicating the trailer, "But it's got a roof, and it don't leak."

That was how they come to live together. Charlie said once about looking for a job, and Tom said, "Seems like you could find enough to do around here, to keep you busy."

That was settled, then. Charlie stayed home and cooked and swept and mopped and did the laundry and shopped and washed the windows and scrubbed the toilets—like a multiple purpose home appliance that you screwed on the bed and it took care of all the chores for you. But he kept that thought to himself, and saw everything was done the way Tom liked it.

He didn't mind much. He had been on the road for a long time, trying to find work, trying to find anything without quite knowing what that was, going hungry, caught out in the weather; which was where he had been that night, in a downpour, not even trying to thumb a ride, just walking alongside the road, because who would pick up a man sopping wet, when Tom had stopped in his old pickup, and when he got to his turn off, he said, "Don't look like you're going to get any rides tonight. I got me a little trailer up the lane here, it's not fancy, but it's warm and dry, if you would like to crash for the night," nothing said about sex, nothing expected, so far as Charlie had been concerned, seeing that the man behind the wheel of the pickup looked to him like he was straight, maybe one hundred and ten percent of it. And Charlie knew he was no beauty, he was skinny as a rail, always had been, and being on the road hadn't put any pounds on him.

Tom was good looking, though, in a rangy kind of way, hard muscles. Work earned muscles, too, not the gymnasium kind, and he was well endowed to boot. Charlie figured he could do lots worse. Had done, plenty of times.

He learned quickly that there were two allowable bodies of thought on any subject: Tom's way of thinking, and Tom's further opinion on the matter. As a for instance, the trailer was small to begin with, and Tom had the habit of leaving the door open when he used the bathroom, no matter which number he was doing, and when Charlie said something about it, he said, "I guess you wiped with silk hankies when you was on the road," and continued to leave the door open, and that went on the growing list of things Charlie resigned himself to getting used to.

Tom was not much for bestowing compliments, either, although he surprised the hell out of Charlie one night while he was eating supper by saying, in a singular burst of enthusiasm, "Best fried chicken I ever ate." After that, a lot of chickens made the acquaintance of Charlie's skillet.

Except with his compliments, though, Tom was generous, in his own way. He got paid at his construction job on Friday, and on Saturday he would drive them to the mall, and hand Charlie a wad of bills, never counting them, and wait in the truck listening to the radio and watching people come and go, while Charlie did his shopping.

The first time, Charlie stopped inside the entrance to the mall and took that wad out of his pocket and stared at it. It must have been two, three hundred dollars. If he wanted, he could walk right out the other end of the mall and just keep going.

But where could he go? He'd already been there hadn't he?

Tom never asked any questions about how much Charlie spent, either, or what he bought, or asked for any change back. He said one day, on the way to the mall, "Them shoes of yours, you might as well be barefoot, looks like. Maybe you ought to buy yourself some boots while you are in there."

After a moment, Charlie asked, "Well, if I was to do that, how much should I spend?"

"I expect they will want you to pay whatever the price is," Tom said, "That's how it usually works, ain't it?"

He never so much as raised an eyebrow when Charlie showed him the boots later and told him how much they had cost. Charlie thought they were on the expensive side. He had small feet and this was the only pair he had found in his size, but Tom just grunted and nodded, was all.

The mall was as far as they got, though, and after a few months, the little trailer seemed to Charlie to get littler still. They never went out. When they were at home, Tom watched television. Action movies mostly, or sports: football, baseball, wrestling, any kind of sports but swimming or tennis, and don't even think about ice-skating. He could sit and watch a Nascar race for hours, from start to finish, which to Charlie was nothing but a bunch of funny looking cars driving round and round in the same circle. Then, finally, he would stand and stretch, scratch his crotch and say, "Let's hit the sack," which meant, he was ready for some exercise.

"Why don't we go to a movie or something?" Charlie said one night.

"I'm watching a movie, right here," Tom said, indicating the television where cops in a car were chasing some bad guys in another car.

"Well, how about we go out somewhere, to a bar maybe, have a couple of beers?"

"People see two guys come into a bar together, what do you figure they are going to think?"

"Let them think what they like," Charlie said, and Tom looked up from the television and gave him the cold-eye.

"That's easy for you," he said, "A fellow can look at you and tell right off that you're queer. I don't want nobody getting any ideas about me, then I might have somebody's teeth stuck to my knuckles. Things is just fine, the way they are."

"I ain't been nowhere since I come here," Charlie said, knowing he was on thin ice.

"You been to the mall, ain't you?" Tom said, and before Charlie could answer to that, he went on in an injured voice. "Don't see you got anything to complain about. You got a roof over your head, plenty to eat. You was like a stray cat, half starved and half drowned when I brought you home, I wish you could have seen yourself. Now look at you, you got yourself an old man, steady, like your kind is always looking for, is what I always heard. Can't say I don't give you enough cock, you been getting your tank filled from it every night, to say nothing of them all-you-can-eats in between times. Plus I ain't fucked around on you once the whole damn time you been here, case you didn't know, and there's plenty out there would like a sample of what you been getting regular. Seems like to me you ought to be in hog heaven."

"Well, it's just," Charlie tried to say, but Tom cut him off in a voice that said the conversation was over.

"Listen," he said, "If I wanted a wife nagging at me, I'd have me one was split down there, wouldn't have to go in no back door. I got no reason to go out, and you ain't neither. Let's leave it at that."

Charlie got up quick from his chair and went into the kitchen, which was only the other end of the same room. He needed to be busy with something, and decided to make some cornbread for in the morning, and occupied himself with that, from time to time watching Tom watching the television.

It was the prison, he decided when he had considered it a bit. Tom had gotten used to staying in one place, not going around anywhere. Prison took the stray out of a man's feet.

When do we get out, he wondered?

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