Monday, April 25, 2011

Mahu Blood excerpt by Neil S. Plakcy

Mahu Blood by Neil S. Plakcy continues the relationship between Honolulu homicide detective Kimo Kanapa’aka and his partner, fire investigator Mike Riccardi. Just before the book starts, Kimo moves into Mike’s duplex… and sparks ignite as the two alpha males have to figure out a way to live together without committing homo-cide. This section comes toward the middle of the book.

Mahu Blood
MLR Press (February 2011)
ISBN: 978-1-60820-306-2 (print)
978-1-60820-307-9 (ebook)


When I got home, Mike was vacuuming the living room and running a load of laundry. “How was your day?” I asked Mike, after a quick kiss hello. “You and Roby have fun?”

He shut off the machine, and Roby came running out from the bedroom.

“Nah. Just cleaned up and ran errands. How was yours?”

“Frustrating.” I told him about all the dead ends we had run across. “And you won’t believe this. I found Gunter’s name in O’Malley’s address book. So I had breakfast with him at the Beachfront Broiler. He confirmed that O’Malley liked rough trade.”

“I believe Gunter’s name is in the address book of most of the gay men on this island,” Mike said. I couldn’t tell if the tone of his voice implied disdain or envy.

“Gunter suggested I go up to this picnic tomorrow with this group of gay guys he belongs to called Māhū Nation. One of them might know about a guy picking up marks at The Garage and mugging them.”

Mike crossed his arms over his chest, and I readied myself for a fight. “I’ve heard of them. They do these nudie swim things up in the hills. But neither of us are taking our clothes off.”

“You’re going?”

“Are you kidding? I’m not letting you go some place full of naked men by yourself.”

That wasn’t the fight I was expecting. Common sense told me to shut up, and for a change, I did. I kissed Mike’s cheek, stripped down to my boxers, and started cleaning with him. We grilled some steaks for dinner, and spent the evening on the sofa watching Shock to the System, a TV movie made from one of Richard Stevenson’s gay mysteries.

Sunday I called Gunter and got directions to the picnic, and an hour later, Mike and I followed them up Waimano Home Road, through the center of Pearl City and then up into the Ko’olaus. We parked on a cleared piece of land just off the road, along with a jumble of cars old and new, everything from gleaming luxury SUVs to beat-up Hondas and Nissans. I made sure my gun and badge were securely locked in my glove compartment before we left the Jeep.

A narrow, overgrown path led down the hill toward the natural pool at the bottom of the valley. The sound of Jason Mraz singing “I fell right through the cracks, and now I’m trying to get back,” from the song “I’m Yours,” floated up toward us.

I felt really happy being there with Mike, as if both of us had come back from tough times and were lucky to be together. But maybe it was just the second-hand pakalolo smoke, mixed with the aroma of a charcoal grill.

The path opened up into a cleared area of about a quarter-acre. On the far hill, water gushed over a tiny waterfall into a stone pool about twice the size of the man-made one in my brother Lui’s back yard.

A dense thatch of brown and dark green trees and vines climbed the slopes, and the place gave me the feel of a hidden paradise. A makeshift cabin stood next to the pool, with a small sandy beach leading into it. A half dozen guys were in the water, though I couldn’t tell if they were wearing bathing suits.

Gunter came romping up, wearing a pink t-shirt that read Māhū Nation, with tiny white shorts and matching rubber slippers. He grabbed me in a big bear hug and kissed me on the lips—something I thought he did just to piss off Mike. “I’m so glad you came,” he said, looking like a giant six-foot-two pink puppy dog with a spiky blonde buzz cut.

“Don’t I get a kiss?” Mike grabbed Gunter and planted a big one on his lips.

I was astonished. Mike doesn’t like public displays of affection, and he doesn’t like Gunter either. But I guessed the big dogs were trying to show each other up.

Gunter seemed surprised by the kiss, and even more by Mike’s hand squeezing his ass, but he rallied. “I just might start to like you,” he said.

He turned and introduced us to Ira, an a balding man in his sixties with a fringe of graying hair like a medieval monk. “Gunter said you might be coming,” he said. “Welcome.”

He hugged me and kissed me on both cheeks, but Mike short-circuited his own hug by sticking out his hand for a shake. “I’m Mike. Kimo’s partner.”

“Great to meet you,” Ira said. “Come on in. We’ve got hot dogs and burgers grilling over there, swimming in the pool. Dance if you want, or just hang out and enjoy the vibe.”

Another group of guys, mostly in their twenties, were dancing, but most were standing around talking in small groups, drinking beer from a keg. We’d brought a tub of cookies from Costco, and we dropped them on a folding table already groaning with potato salad, chicken wings, rice and potato chips.

It looked more like a church social of the kind I’d gone to as a kid with my folks, though everyone was male and there were no children playing. Gunter was deep in conversation with a gray-haired guy in his fifties who was thin to the point of anorexia, so Mike and I got a couple of beers and started making the rounds. “Not exactly a den of iniquity,” I said to Mike.

A group of a half-dozen men, mixed ages, was standing near the cabin whispering to each other as we walked up. I figured they were gossiping about me, sharing the news that there was a cop on the property.

A forty-something guy with tousled brown hair stepped up as we got close. “Hey, Kimo, great to see you!” he said, enveloping me in another hug.

“Thanks,” I said. “Ummm….”

“I’m Roy. We met a couple of years ago through the Hawai’i Gay Marriage Project.”

“Oh yeah. Good to see you, too.” I introduced Mike, and we met the rest of the guys.

“You’re not here to bust us for a little pakalolo, are you,” Roy asked, only half joking.

“Not my job. I won’t join you, but I won’t stop you, either.”

A young guy in the group pulled a joint from behind his back and took a drag, and the crowd laughed. We all stood around for a while, talking about ordinary stuff—the weather, new movies, and so on.

A Chinese guy discovered Mike was a fireman and wanted to hear all about his job. Mike told great stories, and quickly he had the whole group hanging on his every word.

I was happy to see Mike relaxed in a group of gay men. When we first met, he was so deep in the closet that he was uncomfortable around anyone who might be gay, afraid that something in his behavior would betray his secret. My high profile in the gay community was very tough for him back then, but he was getting more and more relaxed.

Gunter, Mike and I filled up plates and sat on the grass. “You had those guys eating out of your hand,” I said to Mike. I turned to Gunter. “He loves anybody who’ll listen to his stories.”

Mike kicked me and we all laughed. As we were finishing, two older men came by, naked, running for the pool.

“Come on, Gunter,” one called as they passed. “Everybody in the water!”

Gunter jumped up. “You don’t have to ask me twice.” He skinned off his T-shirt, kicked off his rubber slippers and dropped his tiny white shorts, then took off after them.

“Gunter can set a land speed record for getting out of his clothes.” I looked over at Mike and saw his dick stiffening under his shorts. I smirked and asked, “You enjoying the view?” Gunter’s naked body disappeared under the surface of the water, coming back up to romp with one of the younger guys.

Mike shifted his empty plate over his lap.

“You make a big show out of being straight-laced, but you’re just like me,” I said. “You have a dick and you like to use it.”

“I don’t like being naked in public. It reminds me of the locker room in high school. I was always scared I’d get a boner in the shower, from all those naked guys around me.”

“You were scared they’d know you were gay,” I said. “But I’ve got a news flash for you. Everybody here knows. They knew it the minute you walked in and introduced yourself to Ira as my partner.”

“Your point?”

“So what else are you scared of? Me? Are you scared if I get naked out here I’ll end up making out, or fucking some random guy?”

He looked away.

“That’s it, isn’t it? You still don’t trust me.”

It felt like the day had gotten a lot colder. I had struggled to trust Mike around alcohol; it still made me a little nervous to see him with a beer in his hand, knowing the trouble he’d had in the past. But I believed in him, and I knew it wouldn’t help him to think I was watching every bottle he drank.

It had to work both ways. If he didn’t trust my commitment, if he was going to get jealous every time I was around other gay men, that was going to be a big stumbling block.

He locked eyes with me. I didn’t know what he was going to say, but I was scared. Suppose he admitted that he’d never trust me? What would I say? Could I live that way?

Very slowly, he reached down and pulled his T-shirt over his head. A drop of sweat glistened between his hairy pecs. He smiled, and stood up. “Come on, baby,” he said. “Let’s go for a swim.”

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Monday, April 18, 2011

Traveling Light excerpt by Lloyd A Meeker

Traveling Light by Lloyd A Meeker is a shamanic initiation adventure, a love story that bridges the worlds, a mystical quest for growth, and a mystery.

An eye for an eye...

Ian McCandless is a hospice nurse, training to become a shaman. When his mentor orders him to make peace with his estranged family, Ian reluctantly agrees, anticipating just another conflict-filled visit. On their way from the airport Ian's older brother Will interrupts a convenience store robbery and is shot, dying in Ian's arms and calling to him for vengeance.

Ian uses his shamanic abilities to track down the killer, but his quest soon turns into a hunt for revenge---forbidden to any shaman. Ian's pursuit jeopardizes his relationship with the spirit world, endangers the lives of those he loves and threatens to banish him from the only path that gives his life meaning.

Traveling Light by Lloyd A. Meeker
MLR Press (March 2011)
ISBN#: 978-1-60820-317-8 (print)
978-1-60820-318-5 (ebook)



Halifax, Current Time

Ian stood in the aisle and reached for the overhead bin, wincing as his neck reminded him he’d spent a restless night strapped to a plane seat. Jostling politely with other groggy passengers, he pulled down his backpack and reached for his water bottle in the seat pocket. He took a swig, but the tepid water did little to freshen his gummy mouth. Well, he was here. Time to get on with it. He pushed up the jetway, scooting around the family spread three across unfolding a stroller. The flight had landed behind schedule, and he was glad he didn’t have checked baggage or he’d have made Will wait even longer. That wouldn’t be a good start to the visit.

On the escalator down to street level he calmed himself, preparing. He would make this trip different from the others, exactly as Ang had instructed. He would no longer ask for what his family couldn’t give. Instead, he’d make this visit a mature moving on. No burned bridges—just kind, clear understanding. They wouldn’t even have to know what changes he was making in himself. But they would feel the difference, he was sure.

Mrs. H. was right—his parents would be grateful he’d come, even though their discomfort would be at least as acute as his own. He heard his mother’s wistful voice on the phone again: “It’s been so long since the whole family has been together for Easter. Please come home.” But this wasn’t his home. Just theirs.

Let it go, for God’s sake, he scolded himself as he trudged out the airport doors, through the noise and exhaust from the waiting buses. That’s not the point. He darted across the taxi lanes to the pickup zone. He’d come as Ang had instructed—in service to his first tribe, to finish his work with them.

He took a deep breath and blew it out. A wave of compassion for his parents rose in him, seeing the weekend from their perspective. What must it feel like to be certain a son you loved was headed to hell? It would take determined effort for them to pretend everything was good and normal when unrepentant heresy sat at the family table eating Easter ham. But they would, even when he and Will shouted at each other.

He deposited his duffel on the sidewalk and stuffed his hands in his jeans pockets, hunching against the morning sharpness in the wind, stubbornly refusing to dig out his jacket. Even at the same temperature, the wind off the Atlantic always seemed colder to him than it did at home in Vancouver. But maybe it would brace him for coming events. He waited.

A dark blue pickup with a broken grille and McCandless Contracting painted in two-tone script on the door barreled to the curb. Ian grinned at the man behind the wheel and slung his bag into the truck bed next to the shiny built-in toolbox. “Hey, Will.” Ian pushed a chaos of papers over and slid onto the seat. “Thanks for picking me up.”

Will crushed his cigarette stub into a mounded ashtray and gunned the engine before Ian had fastened his seatbelt, sticking a beefy bare arm out the window to announce he was cutting through. “What the hell took you so long, little brother?” he growled, scowling into the side-view mirror. “Had to drive around the loop three times before you showed up. You know how much gas costs here? Shit, it’s probably free out in lotus-land where you live.”

Ian clenched his jaw against his teenage reflex of apology, but the words spilled out before he could stop them. “Sorry, Will, the plane was late. I got to the curb as fast as I could.” He’d even hunched his shoulders, just like he used to. The old dynamic between them had reasserted itself in seconds, and it was bitter in his mouth.

Will barged through traffic onto the overpass to Memorial Highway southbound and roared around the ramp, forcing his way into the flow, then swung to flash a triumphant grin at Ian. “Gotcha, little bro. Just giving you a hard time.”

Ian tried to keep the resentment out of his voice. “Nice to see you, too.”

Will laughed. “Look, all I want is to get to Mom and Dad’s— everybody’s already there but us. Katy’s over a year old, and you’ve never even seen her. You should come back more often, stay in touch with your family.”

Ian stared at his brother, trying to hold his own against his childhood-protector-turned-bully—the powerful eyes, the broad, strong face, the shaggy dark hair sticking out of a worn John Deere baseball cap—and failed. So like Dad. So unlike himself. He was secretly proud he’d inherited his mother’s looks—lithe frame, milky skin, grey eyes and copper hair. “I do have the pictures you sent,” he said, stiffening his back in defense. “All of them.”

“Not the same at all,” pronounced Will. “You’ll see. She’s so beautiful.” His voice softened. “She’s my little angel princess.”

Ian shook his head, charmed by Will’s naked tenderness. “I can understand you saying that, after three wild boys.” Then he froze, recognizing his slip. “Four.”

“Yeah. Never forget the one God took early.” Will’s jaw twitched, pinching the words into small, tight sounds. “Little Robbie was barely baptized before he went.”

“Sorry.” Ian hid his embarrassment behind a scowl. “I should have remembered. It’s been over ten years, though. Lots of water under the bridge since then.”

“Not enough, that’s for sure. Never will be. He was our first.” Will sighed. “It’s okay. I understand. You’ll never get a chance to know what parenthood is like. That’s part of the terrible price you’ve paid for the lifestyle you’ve chosen.”

“Not true,” Ian bristled. “Sam and I could have a family if we—”

“Not the same thing at all.” The certainty in Will’s voice was seamless, impenetrable. “You got to have a wife. Plant the seed, watch her swell, feel the baby kick, come to term.” Wonder made his face luminous. “Wait for the Sister to bring out that tiny miracle so you can hold it, that wrinkled little piece of heaven. There’s nothing else like it in this world.”

Ian turned away and looked out the window at the passing greenery along the freeway. There was nothing to be gained by arguing further. Will had come to tolerate his “lifestyle” as he called it—damn, how he hated that term! It was just oily condescension disguised as broad-mindedness. But Will would never really get it. With the long weekend ahead of them, the house packed full of memories, chaos, stress and kids, there was no point in expecting more. Respect your family, your first tribe. Silence served better than speaking, so he stayed silent.

“Dammit, truck’s running hot,” Will muttered eventually. “You talk to Seb recently?”

To his credit, Will was trying too, expanding the conversation to their brother—that was encouraging. Ian shrugged, taking the proffered olive branch as if he hadn’t noticed that it was one. “Not for a month or so. Thought we’d catch up this weekend. He seemed pretty happy, though.” Ian looked at Will, hoping for a smile, some sign of agreement.

Will frowned at the road ahead. “Yeah, seems to be. Don’t know if that’s a good thing or not, though. He ought to settle down, make a proper home for Amy. Music’s no way to make a steady living. I’ve asked him dozens of times to work for me full- time instead of just between gigs. I’ve got plenty of work, and I could use the help.” He pushed the truck into the left-hand exit for Lakeview Drive and sped up. “At least you’re a nurse.”

Ian squashed down a laugh. Long ago Will had emerged as Dad’s unanointed, uncontested heir as arbiter of what was acceptable—and not—for the entire family. In his ham-fisted way he’d taken the responsibility seriously as a role befitting the eldest son. And the toughest. “Jeez, Will—give him a break. He’s a musician. Don’t beat up on us just because we don’t do it your way. That’s just the way life is—untidy. Ang says that even a shaman—”

“Stop!” Will’s forearms bunched into cables, knuckles whitening on the steering wheel. “I’ve told you before—you do not raise your voodoo shit around us.” Will’s voice flattened into menace. “If you so much as mention any of that bullshit about your black magic in front of Mom I will take you into the back yard and break you into pieces. You are not going to torment her with that garbage again. What’s more, you will never speak of it in front of my kids or Liz. Never. Understood?”

Ian folded his arms across his chest, staring at the dash— anywhere but his red-faced brother. Stupid! How could he have been that careless? “Sure, Will, understood.” He wanted to fight back, and easy anger boiled up. “And you’ll never get to know how beautiful, how powerful and sacred that part of my life is.” He donned self-righteousness like armor. “You reject whatever doesn’t fit into your little framework. That’s the price you’ve paid for the boxed-in lifestyle you’ve chosen.”

“There is nothing I need to know about that part of your life, Ian. Father Dominic says it’s witchcraft, and that’s all I need to know.”

Ian slapped his forehead so hard it stung. “Oh, right. Father Dominic has always had the answers, hasn’t he? At least on the odd day he’s sober.” Ian snickered. “Sure. What was I thinking? That ought to be enough for anybody.” Will’s face went storm- dark, but he said nothing.

Ian stared out the window, angry, discouraged. How could he ridicule Will’s unflinching protection of what he loved? In times past, he’d protected Ian, too. One Saturday when he was a sophomore—soon after he’d come out—he’d been leaning over the kitchen sink holding ice to his face. Will had badgered him into admitting that his black eye and bruises weren’t from a minor scuffle after practice but from being jumped by Howie Spencer and two of his buddies. They’d pinned his arms and beat him, shouting over and over that they didn’t want a fag on the track team, laughing as they punched him.

Will had stiffened at Ian’s admission, one hand on the refrigerator door. In spite of his own angry disapproval of Ian’s new lifestyle, as he’d called it even then, the fury that had come up in his brother’s face then was terrible—silent, hard and cold as stone. Without another word he’d marched out the front door, jumped into his old Pontiac and roared away.

He was late for supper that night, but winked at Ian as he apologized to Mom and Dad. Without another word he’d started cheerfully piling roast beef and mashed potatoes on his plate like he hadn’t eaten for a week.

Although he refused to tell Ian what he’d done, Howie Spencer never harassed him again. Nobody else did, either. He’d had it far easier in school than other gay kids he’d known— because of Will.

Ian had been grateful for Will’s toughness then, that same hard certainty. Now it just made him crazy. He watched a silver Nissan and its aged driver slide backwards as they passed. This was not the beginning to his visit that he’d wanted. They drove in silence for long minutes.

“Look,” Will said. “It took a while, but I’m really okay with you being gay. So are Mom and Dad. It was hard for us, all right? Sebastian is around that stuff all the time and doesn’t seem to even notice it. Still, I’m glad you don’t make it a big deal.” He stared ahead at the road as his voice dropped, became thick. “But never, never poison the rest of our family with that voodoo bullshit you’re into or I swear I will hurt you bad.”

Ian lifted his hands, palms open. “Okay, Will. Truce. Believe whatever works for you. But you’ve got to grant me the same. I had to find what works for me. And I’ve found it. Believe it or not, it was hard for me, too.” Ian watched the exits roll by, pleased at having stood up for himself without a counter-attack. Maybe this would get better, if he kept trying.

Will reached into his shirt pocket and glowered at the empty cigarette box he pulled out. He crushed it in a fist and dropped it on the seat beside him.

The truck roared off Lakeview Drive onto Circumferential. Still about ten minutes to go before they got to Mom and Dad’s—enough time to cool things off more, to reestablish some common ground. “Look, we’re not kids anymore, Will. I’d love for you to respect my life, or at least not curse it.” Ian fought the sting of incipient tears, and the ache of longing was like a stone lodged in his throat. “But I’ve pretty much learned to live without your approval. Or even your respect.” At least he wanted that to be true.

Will stared at the road, his face stony, lips pressed into a thin line. A vein at his temple bulged like a jagged scar.

Ian turned away, hurting. “Anyway. Don’t worry about the weekend—I’m not here to hurt Mom and Dad any more than you are,” he said into the window. “I’m here so we can all have a nice family Easter together.” He forced a thin smile to share his sadness. “We’re pretty much on track with the family part so far, don’t you think?”

Will wrenched the truck onto the exit ramp and onto Highfield Park Drive. “I’ve gotta get some smokes. There’s a Needs just off this ramp.” He careened into the parking lot and squealed to a stop, leaving the engine running as he jumped out and stomped toward the convenience store.

Ian scrunched into the corner of the cab and stared at the dull boxy apartments across the street and the flat-roofed strip mall next to the parking lot. There were shabby parts to Vancouver, too, but this had a kind of dull hopelessness that he wasn’t used to.

The mall’s ugly metal siding had been painted what once might have been a cheerful canary, but weather and neglect had since corroded it to a grimy ochre, made worse with badly-fitted brown trim. One storefront was empty. Inside its glass door a skewed red and black FOR LEASE sign with a hand-printed phone number on it hung by half its tape. The dollar store next to it was closed and dark. Neither the Laundromat with big signs in the windows announcing its great rates, or the pizza place had any activity that Ian could see. The porn shop right next to the Needs had a couple of cars in front of it, and that was it.

Ian rubbed his eyes, massaging everything away. This was a hell of a start to the weekend. But he would find a way to make his peace with Will. Everything else would follow. Yes. He would try even harder, without compromising himself. Show much more restraint.

Loud pops came from somewhere, and Ian opened his eyes. Who would be shooting off firecrackers this time of year? No—not firecrackers. Gunshots.

Ian sat up and looked around, sudden adrenaline firing every nerve. A man in sweats and a dark hoodie bolted from the convenience store and disappeared around the building.

Ian jumped from the truck and sprinted to the door, yanked it open. On his left, the wall behind the counter was spattered red, the cash register yawning open. There was a body, a middle aged woman’s, open-eyed and mouth agape, crumpled on the floor below it. To his right, Will lay on the floor slumped against an ice cream cooler, a soft, puzzled look on his face. A dark pool widened around him, fed from a glistening crater in his shirt.

Rushing to his brother, Ian wedged himself between Will and the cooler, propping him up, cradling him against his chest. Will’s head sagged back against Ian’s shoulder, and his lips moved a little, inarticulate, pushing out a line of pink froth. “...happen...” His cough turned into a grunt of pain.

“Don’t try to talk, Will. Oh, fuck—he got you good. Hang on, I’ve gotta call 911.” He already knew they’d never make it in time, but he refused to understand. Ian tried to press the wound closed using the bloody shirt with one hand, fumbled for his phone with the other, trying not to jostle his brother.

Will reached up and pushed slow, bloody fingers against Ian’s face. “Sorry, little brother,” he wheezed. “No more...” Blood trickled down his chin, joining the pulsing stream from his chest. “Get the bastard. Tell Liz.”

Will spat out a wet cough, and his eyes emptied. The bleeding from his chest slowed to a meaningless leak. Ian clenched his arms around his brother’s body and began to moan, pressing the side of his face into Will’s neck. He stared at the garish oranges, blues and greens of the packaged potato chips in the wire rack next to the cooler, insulted by their obscene brightness. He squeezed his eyes shut and wailed into darkness.
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Monday, April 11, 2011

The Road to Grafenwöhr excerpt by Edward C Patterson

In this excerpt from The Road to Grafenwohr by Edward C Patterson, PFC Quincy Summerson begins his military adventure in 1968 in Bavaria realizing that his presence stirs the paradigm - the thin line between twilight and night. His hyperactive imagination gets the better of him, and soon the world enlists him for a predestined purpose - to travel on the road to Grafenwoehr, where the wood is alive with myth and folk lore. Set in a tense Cold War atmosphere during both the invasion of Czechoslovakia and the Vietnam call to arms, The Road to Grafenwoehr is one man's emotional journey to square nature's justice with humankind's disregard for it. It’s a summons for a least likely and reluctant champion. But those called to service rarely choose where they serve. They just answer it, ripening to their purpose. For Quincy Summerson, a hero’s life is not his choice, but can he ignore the call? Can he stay off the road once the twilight snares him?

The Road to Grafenwöhr
CreateSpace (March 2, 2011)
ISBN-10: 1460973860
ISBN-13: 978-1460973868


Chapter One

Journey to Somewhere


“Ausstiegen!” the bus driver shouted. “Ausstiegen das Bus!”

PFC Quincy Summerson had a notion that he had reached his destination — the first in a string of places that his travel orders specified. Although he knew no German, he assumed that the open bus door and his comrades-in-arms’ scurry meant that they were being dumped into the bustling plaza. He slid across the seat, while other soldiers madly jostled for their duffel bags. Because Quincy couldn’t stand erect in this crunch, the low luggage rack nearly knocked off his barracks cap.

“Ausstiegen! Ausstiegen das Bus!”

“Some deal,” said the troop who had sat beside him on the trip out.

Quincy didn’t know this soldier. They had swapped few words since leaving Rhein-Main Air Force base, a departure he scarcely remembered, because the sergeants had herded them like bulls into this old contraption. A dark dawn then. But soon the sunrise kissed Frankfort’s ample skyline — a sight that roused PFC Summerson to sit up and take notice.

In 1948, when Quincy Summerson was born, Frankfurt-am-Main was a war ruin — gray rubble chilled to silence. Now, twenty years later, Frankfurt was alive again — noisy, prosperous and in motion — the great German metroplex.

“Why aren’t we moving?” Quincy asked, his duffel bag balanced precariously.

“Jammed up,” said the soldier, who stretched over his neighbors and yelled, “Hey, what’s holding things up? You don’t need to tip the driver, you know. Nix Trinkgeld.”

A chorus of shut ups and fuck yous rumbled up the aisle.

“Same to you,” he snapped, and then shrugged. “Some deal, eh?”

Quincy just shook his head, hoping not to keel over. Suddenly, the cork was pulled from this bottleneck, a sea of men in olive drab dress uniforms surging forward. Summerson staggered down the aisle, dragging his duffel bag at his heels.

“Vorsicht deine Kopf!” the driver barked, tapping his noggin.

Quincy nodded, and then tumbled out onto the busy Bahnhof Platz.

Dizzy from the trip, he stood bewildered in this strange German world. With his duffel bag tottering on his shoulder and arcane orders in his hand, he stayed close to his military comrades. Still, he couldn’t help drinking in the plaza sights, especially the Bahnhof — a three arched cathedral of a train station. However, this was the Hauptbahnhof — the central train station — the station of stations.

As Quincy beamed at the architecture, his attention was drawn to a statue that capped the station’s apex. Impressive. Classic. Two bronze figures, muscles rippling in the sun, held a great globe between them like a basket of wash. Quincy imagined that the orb spun, perhaps a trick of the sunlight. However, he had a vivid imagination that sometimes carried him away on flights of fancy. He even imagined that one of these figures waved to him. He blinked to reset his mind.

Quincy wanted to record these sights in the notepad that he always carried in his top pocket for such occasions, ideas for later recall — a primer for a short story perhaps. Writing may have been his vanity or just an exercise to fill in the empty hours, but he had scores of ideas captured in that notepad to play out in that vivid imagination.

Damn, he thought.

He had packed the notepad in his duffel bag. He couldn’t juggle for it now. The soldiers were already dispersing; and he was still clueless of place and time. His only guide was this bill of goods — the travel orders, which flapped in his hand. Because these were unintelligible to him, he quickly regrouped with the soldier who had been his seatmate on the bus.

“Where are we supposed to go?” he asked.

The soldier gave him the fish-eye.

“I think we go into the station,” he snapped. “You know, where they keep the trains and the tracks. Toot toot.”

“Very funny. I’m serious. I mean, how do we know what . . .”

The troop waved his own travel orders.

“We look for something called the RTO.”

“Then what?”

“How the fuck should I know? Do you speak German?”

Quincy did not. Dazed and bemused, he entered the cavernous Bahnhof. It astounded him. The Bahnhof — no, the Hauptbahnhof, was a hub with seemingly endless rows of tracks and locomotives, bustling with thousands of travelers, all sure of their destinations — all except this band of American soldiers, who wandered about looking for a hint — for a mysterious shrine called the RTO.

“Sprechen sie English?” the other soldier said to a uniformed porter, who shrugged and then answered with a loud, Nein! However, when showed the papers, he was more helpful.

“RTO,” he said, pointing to a large sign that read RTO.

“Thanks. Danke!”


Quincy nodded his thanks also, and then followed his crass guide toward the RTO office, where they found a long line of soldiers, each clutching travel orders and duffel bags.

Efficient. The RTO officer was efficient. Dressed in a blue uniform and topped with a braided cap, he appeared mechanical, reviewing each set of orders in turn — reading them, stamping them, and then issuing tickets. He also distributed written material, which would have been helpful if they hadn’t been written German. He translated each with his near-English.

“Herr Sommersohn,” he snapped, handing Quincy tickets, orders and instructions in that order.

He hesitated, blinking at Quincy. Quincy thought he was going to ask him a question, but the man just shook his head, and then recomposed into his official stance.
“You are going to Grafenwöhr. You vill go to gleiß sieben zum Nürnburg. Make change there for the train zum Weiden. Then zum Vilseck. Then warten . . . vait. Someone vill catch you. They do so alvays.”

Quincy waited for the rest, but that was it, except that the man blinked again. Quincy didn’t find the reaction strange. He just wanted clearer directions than those in his hand.

“Next pleaze, bitte,” the officer said.

Quincy took the tickets, the orders, the instructions and his deep desire for further clarification (in that order). He was journeying to somewhere, but to where he had not a clue. He waited for his newfound friend (if he could call him that), but when the soldier emerged from the RTO, he rushed past Quincy, said a quick goodbye, nice shooting the shit with you, and then ran to catch his own train.

Quincy was stranded — disfranchised — afloat in a bustling sea of people, who couldn’t or wouldn’t help him on his way. Where to begin? Where? He looked toward heaven for help, his glance shooting up to the vast, vaulted ceiling. There the statues with their globe cast a long shadow down over the tracks, settling to a specific spot on a word that Quincy recognized from his papers. Gleiß — track, despite the funny, squiggly ß, which he supposed was the way the Germans wrote their double S’s. (He had heard the RTO officer pronounce the word).

Gleiß sieben, he thought. That’s seven, I think.

He glanced up again to the statue, but it cast its shadow no longer.

“Thanks,” he said.


Quincy wandered to what he hoped was the correct track — Gleiß. Several placards heralded times and destinations. The times were in military format and understandable, but the destinations were mysterious:

München — Venedig — Rom – Nürnburg

“Do you need help?” came a voice.

Quincy turned. A conductor. A conductor who spoke . . . English.

“Yes, thank God.”

The conductor chuckled as if he had heard this response many times. He perused Quincy’s ticket. He shook his head, and then read the travel instructions.

“Easy,” he said. “You are here.” He pointed to the sign – Gleiß sieben. “Number seven. The correct track. And this train is for Nürnburg.” He pointed down the track line. “It is the fifth car. You will see the sign.”


“Ja, Nürnburg. But you must hurry. Schnell.”

“Thank you,” Quincy said, with a slight nod, and then, after hoisting his duffel bag and hesitating said, “Danke.”

“Bitte, Herr Yes, Thank God,” the conductor chuckled. “Have a good journey. Willkommen in Deutschland.”

Quincy smiled. A good journey. A journey to somewhere, to where he still hadn’t a clue. He wanted a good journey. He had looked forward to his arrival in Germany for weeks. Before he left the states, he tried to decipher his orders, trying to pinpoint his specific destination. No luck. He tried to match APO numbers, but that only confused the issue. He finally guessed that he was going somewhere in Bavaria that showed on no known map — a town he couldn’t pronounce until a few minutes ago, when he heard it drip off the lips of the RTO officer. Before that, he called it Grafenwhore — quite a titillating mistake. Now he knew it was pronounced something like Grafenveer, although those funny little dots over the o had made the difference, much like the curious letter B that everyone pronounced like two S’s — the hiss of snakes. Well, this Grafenwhore or veer or wöhr, was small and out of the way. Yes. Out of harms way, or could he pronounce a Vietnam destination better?

Quincy found his train, the sign in the window of the fifth car — zum Nürnburg. Why it had to be the fifth car, he couldn’t fathom, but he was in no position to disobey. He tossed his duffel bag up the stairs, and then hopped on board.

The car was full — dark and noisy. He spotted a few vacancies, but his gear would be a nuisance. He flopped it behind him, dragging it past a few seats until he stood beside three comely, elderly ladies, who smiled at him. He returned the smile, and then shouldered his duffel bag meaning to hoist it into the overhead compartment. He did not want to crowd the women, so after stowing his gear, he looked around for another seat. The women fluttered. One patted the empty seat.

“Ist frei,” she said.

Quincy shrugged.

“She says that the seat is empty,” said a young man who sat on the opposite side. “You may sit there.”

“Danke,” Quincy said, sitting.

This started a flurry of smiles from the women. All three sported hats — fedoras with duck feathers tuck in the brim band — a different color each — red, green and yellow. They smiled at him through various shades of dentures. Quincy thought they were going to eat him for dinner.

“It is customary,” continued the young man. “In fact, it is proper etiquette to ask if a seat is free before sitting. But these schöne Fraüen recognize that you are a stranger im Deutschland and so it is also etiquette to extend an invitation.”

Quincy smiled.

What luck. Someone who spoke English; and right at his side.

“Thank you,” he said. “Kind of you to help. I don’t speak German.”

“Not necessary,” the lad said. “You have already initiated a conversation with them and they speak no English.”

The ladies chortled, pointing to Quincy, and then consulting one another.

“I’m glad they approve.”

“Yes, they do. They are taking your features into account.”

Quincy smiled. Perhaps they were discussing which one would have the first dance at some German ball. It amused him.

“Are they calling me a dumb American or an ugly foreigner?”

“No,” the lad said. He cocked his head, reached across and tapped Quincy’s cheek. “They are discussing your unique . . . how should I say it . . . chevron.”

Quincy frowned, bringing his hand to his cheek and covering this . . . chevron — a birthmark — an inverted V with a tiny tail, which the kids at school called a hairy carrot and his father sometimes called the volcano. It was probably the source of the RTO officer’s blink. No surprise. Every new encounter drew a stare. Quincy was self-conscious of the blemish. It had denied him many dates, and although he wasn’t the most handsome specimen in the pack, this little delimiter often spelled the difference between favor and the back of the line.

“I cut myself shaving,” he snapped. “Tell them that.”

The lad, who was no more than eighteen, widened his eyes. Quincy could see that he didn’t believe a word of it. Still he leaned into the tittering Fraüen spiel and tapped his own cheek.

“Eine Rasierapparat schnitt,” he said.

“Eine Rasierappaart schnitt?” the red duck-feather lady said. “Nichts glaube.”

They laughed, and then allowed their conversation to trail off just as the train began to move.

“What did they say?”

“They . . . they like your chevron and hope you are more careful in future.”
Quincy grinned, but knew they said no such thing.


Soon the train pulled into the daylight. They had traversed through a tunnel, which reminded Quincy of a subway ride, only with German chatter. Then when the train emerged from the depths, the Frankfurt skyline burst into view. It made Quincy homesick, although the sight of New York from the Brooklyn side was more impressive. But this one wasn’t shabby. It was hard for him to imagine that there were other places, other skylines competing with his own experience with urban sprawl.

He smiled as he watched the sun dance on the skyscraper windows like mirrors to the sky and a thumb on the nose to the past. He felt the eyes of the young man and the ladies upon him. Were they enjoying his blissful expression, his eyes admiring their country . . . or were they still intent on the volcano — his razor nick — his chevron?

“Did you see my city?” the young man asked.

“No,” Quincy said. “I only arrived yesterday — actually, last night. They woke us up at the crack of dawn — before dawn. They tossed some breakfast at us, and then shoved us on a bus to the station. And here I am.”

“It is a shame that you could not enjoy my city. It has many modern wonders, you know. Very metropolitan. Maybe the next time you pass through you will see it.”
Quincy smiled, and then peered toward the window. On this side of the river, the scenery was more industrial than metropolitan, reminiscent of New Jersey. However, this soon gave way to classic German architecture.

“Offenbach,” the green duck feather lady said. “Ist Offenbach-am-Main. Ist eine schöne Platz. Sehr alt.”

“She says that this is Offenbach, a pretty place and very old. We are in Hesse.”

The ladies laughed to hear the young man’s words. He extended his hand to Quincy, who shook it firmly.

“I am Luddy,” he said. “Ludwig.”

“I’m Quincy.”

“Glad to meet you, Quincy. Is it Mr. Quincy?”

“No, it’s PFC Summerson.”

“Glad to know you. I go to school in Fürth bei Nürnburg. I see many soldiers there. I have studied English. How is it?”

“Your English is perfect,” Quincy said. “I wish I knew German.”

“No need. If you knew German, I could not practice my English. Where are you stationed? O’Darby Kaserne?”

“Actually,” Quincy said, “I’m not sure. I mean, I know the place name, but have never found it on a map.”

Quincy unfolded his travel instructions and gave them to Luddy. As he perused it, the ladies leaned forward following the silence. He turned toward them.

“Sie kennen Grafenwöhr?”

The ladies looked to one another, and then collectively shrugged.

“I do not know this place, and neither do they,” he said. “You go on this train as far as Nürnburg. Then you will ride a Bahnbus to a town called Vilseck.”

“Vilseck,” said the yellow duck feather lady. “Ich kenne Vilseck. Ist bei Weiden. Sehr schöne Platz.”

“Ah. This lady knows Vilseck. It is near Weiden, a place which I do know. But here it says, you go as far as Vilseck and then, somehow you must get to Grafenwöhr.”

Quincy laughed.

“Did I tell you a joke?”

“No. It’s just before this morning I was pronouncing the place Grafenwhore.”

Luddy roared, but the ladies didn’t, looking to him for a translation.

“Er Ausspreche Grafenwöhr . . . Grafenhure.”

The ladies exploded into gales of laughter, turning many heads in the car. Their faces glowed bright red. They gasped for air.

“What?” Quincy asked. “What have I said?”

“Your pronunciation has made them funny.”


“You said that you were going to Grafenhure — the Duke’s Prostitute.”

Quincy laughed now also, although he didn’t know whether he was ridiculed or just given a good dose of the old Willkommen. Still, he made a mental note to start learning this language before he slipped and said something that wouldn’t get him a laugh.
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Monday, April 4, 2011

Homecoming excerpt by Rick R. Reed

In this excerpt from Homecoming by Rick R. Reed, Chase, after losing his partner, Toby, faces a long, painful road back to life and love. At first, he doesn’t see how he can go on, but then Chase and Toby’s old friend Mike cajoles him into returning to Chicago for the annual International Mr. Leather Competition. There Chase revisits a world of hot, casual sex that he had forgotten existed, meets a friend who cares more for him than he ever realized, and discovers the possibility that he might yet find his way home.

Dreamspinner Press (March,2011)
ISBN: 978-1-61581-840-2


Even though it was only a little past nine, Chase thought there was really nothing left for him to do but strip out of his dark suit and crawl into bed, hoping the embrace of down and linen would deliver him into the oblivion of sleep.

He stood, loosened his tie and pulled it from his neck, letting it drop to the floor. He started toward the bedroom, dropping clothes as he went. He would pick them up in the morning. It would give him something to do.

In the bedroom, he stood naked in the doorway, waiting. He remembered so many nights when he had done something similar, stripped down to surprise Toby, already in bed. Chase could remember Toby’s sleepy smile as he looked up at him, how just that slow, sexy grin could make him hard before he even crossed the room to join his lover on the bed.

Chase was shocked to find himself growing aroused. He looked down at his dick, moving to an upright position with slow, jerky motions, as if it had a mind of its own.

This is completely inappropriate, he told his misbehaving member. I’m supposed to be grieving.

But his dick wouldn’t listen, and so Chase walked awkwardly to the bed, his erection pointing out in front of him, and lay down across its surface.

When he shut his eyes, he swore he could feel Toby beside him.

Chase held his eyes closed and there it was, the feel of Toby’s fingers, tracing a line across his chest, pausing to tweak each nipple, to roll them into hardness between thumb and forefinger. Chase shuddered. The hand massaged his pecs and Chase sighed as he felt Toby’s warm breath on his the hollow of his neck. Toby’s hand moved downward, rubbing Chase’s belly and playing with the line of coarse hair that trailed down into his pubes. Chase gasped as Toby’s hand wrapped around his cock and squeezed, then loosened the pressure to move lazily up and down the length of his shaft, pausing every so often to finger his balls and the sensitive area behind them. Toby always did know just the right way to touch him, to make him shiver, to cause him to need and want more, to drive him to heights of pleasure, to tantalize him, to tease….

Toby’s mouth found Chase’s. He parted Chase’s lips with his tongue and explored the inside of Chase’s mouth, leaving behind a taste of cinnamon, and something indescribable that Chase could only think of as Toby’s essence. Chase arched his back, pressing his body close to Toby’s, so that they were aligned as one, muscle and skin intertwined in silken electricity. He grabbed the back of Toby’s neck, forcing his face closer to his own, grinding his mouth hungrily against Toby’s, their tongues dueling.

Toby pushed him down on the bed, using the weight of his body to do it, and instinctively Chase parted his legs, wrapping them first around his lover’s thighs, then moving them up slowly, building the suspense, until at last his ankles rested on Toby’s broad shoulders.

He bit his lip as Toby penetrated him, felt the little sting of pain as Toby passed through the taut ring of muscle guarding his ass, then relaxed into the deliciously full feeling of his man inside him. Home.

Slowly, as if they were born to it, the pair began to move in perfect synchronicity. Chase removed his lips from Toby’s so he could sigh and moan at the perfect feeling of Toby moving inside him, his cries of pleasure increasing right along with Toby’s tempo as together, they built to a perfect climax, one so strong Chase felt it not only in his cock and balls, but in his gut, the base of his spine. A climax so powerful it left him shuddering and laughing.

He opened his eyes to an empty room and a line of come liquefying across his stomach and chest. Chase swore he could hear the echo of Toby’s voice, barely above a whisper.

“I love you.”

Pale light lay across Chase’s nude body in slats from the streetlight outside. “I love you too, sweetheart,” he said into the room’s shadows, searching it in vain for some sign of Toby.

He rolled gingerly to his side to grab some Kleenex, and begin cleaning himself up.


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