Monday, August 15, 2011
The Perils of Praline, or the Amorous Adventures of a Southern Gentleman in Hollywood excerpt by Marshalll Thornton
In The Perils of Praline, or the Amorous Adventures of a Southern Gentleman in Hollywood by Marshall Thornton, when Peter "Praline' Palmetier falls in love with a contestant on a reality TV show, he decides to leave his home in rural Georgia and, failing to realize this might be considered stalking, travels to Hollywood to find his soul mate, Dave G. Once in Tinseltown he meets a collection of startling, and often horny, characters in his quest. They include a studly steward, a conservative talk show host, the Godfather of the Gay Mafia, and casting assistant Jason Friedman, who always manages to be there in time to save Praline from total disaster. Will Praline find love with the illusive Dave G., or will he recognize the charms of appealing but untelegenic Jason?
The Perils of Praline, or the Amorous Adventures of a Southern Gentleman in Hollywood
MLR Press (October 9, 2010)
Even as Praline dangled naked from the fourteenth-floor balcony, the wind tickled his penis and began to arouse him. This might seem odd given the danger of his situation, but such are the benefits of a twenty-year-old’s libido.
Struggling to focus on his predicament, he studied the balcony below. It seemed he might be able to toss himself onto it if he could swing his legs back far enough to gain momentum. Of course, if that didn’t work he’d fall fourteen stories to a certain death. Or, if he looked on the bright side, break every bone in his body and survive in a vegetative state for decades to come.
He could attempt to climb back up onto Stewart’s balcony. It would be difficult but might be the safer choice. The real danger was facing Stewart’s still-screaming husband. In fact, the screaming – both Stewart’s and his husband’s – had gotten so loud that Praline hadn’t bothered to scream himself. No one would have heard him.
With his arms beginning to tire, he had to decide: Should he risk the ire of an irate husband? Or should he fling himself onto the balcony below? Biceps quivering, a choice had to be made soon, but which —
Suddenly, Praline felt a pair of arms wrap around his hips, strong hands pleasantly grasped his buttocks. A man said, “I’ve got you. Let go.”
Squeezing his eyes closed, Praline decided to trust the virile-sounding stranger and let go. In one swift move, Praline was pulled to safety. Just as swiftly, he and his rescuer fell flat onto the balcony’s cement floor. Praline landed with his hips pressed into the stranger’s face. He raised himself, inadvertently dragging his penis across the young man’s mouth as he rolled off of him.
“Gosh, I’m so, so, sorry. I didn’t mean to stick my… um, you know… right in your face.” Just a few years older than Praline, the young man was compact and olive-skinned, with eyes the color of semi-sweet chocolate and heavy black stubble shadowing his chin. Praline assumed he was straight given that ninety-some percent of men in the world supposedly are, and as a straight man would likely be disturbed, even under the circumstances, to find Praline’s lubed-up, jizz-covered penis shoved in his face. He continued to apologize, “I can’t tell you how mortified —
”Raising a hand to stop him, the young man muttered, “Don’t worry, it’s not the first time.” Which Praline took to mean he was gay and had voluntarily had penises thrust into his face, rather than meaning he was straight and it wasn’t the first time he’d rescued a naked man from certain death only to end up with a penis thrust into his face.
“Oh my gosh, thank you, thank you, thank you! You saved my life!
”The young man wiped a bit of stray semen off his cheek, “No problem. Would you like to explain how you happened to be hanging naked off a balcony in the middle of the night?
”Something about the way he said it made Praline self-conscious, and he casually draped his hand over his crotch. “Well, it’s complicated.”
“I should hope it’s complicated,” the young man replied. “It’s not the kind of thing that should have a simple explanation.
”With a shy smile, Praline began to relate his story in extensive detail right there on the balcony. Overwhelmed, his rescuer stopped him and said, “Maybe we should go inside and get comfortable. My name’s Jason by the way. Jason Friedman.”
Praline introduced himself and followed Jason into the condo. The layout was identical to 1406 above, but the décor was more dramatic. The bedroom walls were tomato red and from what Praline could see of the living room it was painted a vibrant, vibrating teal. The bedroom furniture had an Asian influence and, to Praline’s down-home eye, didn’t look especially comfortable. The bed was a thin mat on a slab. There was a sharp-cornered dresser, spindly nightstands, and two chairs made of raw birch-branches tied together by a few strips of leather. Jason pulled a T-shirt and a pair of running shorts out of a gym bag and offered them to Praline.
As he restarted his story, Praline couldn’t help but examine the young man in front of him. Jason wore thin pajama bottoms and nothing else. His chest and stomach were covered with a layer of moist black hair that grew in wide swirls. His most prominent feature though was his nose, which was large and slightly hooked. His hairline receded a bit, giving him a high forehead, and his lips glinted raspberry red.
Though Praline had to admit Jason had a certain appeal, he also knew he wasn’t the kind of young man who’d ever be asked to appear in a magazine photo spread or on reality television, and therefore could not be considered attractive. Praline felt sorry for him. Being unattractive was about the worst thing that could happen to a gay man.
"That’s quite a story,” Jason said when Praline finished
"I know, I’d barely believe it if it hadn’t happened to me.”
“Everybody goes through a really crazy period in their early twenties. Not always as death-defying as your experience, but definitely crazy.” Jason blushed while remembering his own indiscretions. “Don’t worry, it’ll pass.”
“It’ll pass?” asked a distressed Praline. He’d just discovered that he had an adventurous personality. The last thing he needed to find out was that it was only a phase. “Golly, I hope not.”
Jason looked at him oddly.
The arguing above them had faded to a rumble. Staring at the ceiling, Praline said, “I suppose I should go upstairs and ask for my stuff back.”
“That’s probably not a good idea.”
“But, they’ve got my clothes and my phone and my money!”
Jason considered. “We could call the police and have them—”
“No!” Praline practically shouted. “No cops.”
“Okay.” Jason eyed him suspiciously. “But it’s not like you’ve done anything illegal.”
Praline couldn’t count how many of his mother’s friends and clients had gotten arrested after not doing anything illegal; or at least not anything very illegal. He wasn’t going to take that chance.
Jason considered him. “So, when you decided to come out here, did you have any sort of plan? I mean, obviously you didn’t have hotel reservations…”
Praline shrugged. “I just knew things would work out. Everything happens for the best.”
“No, actually it doesn’t. For example, you ended up hanging naked off a building.”
“Yes, it does. For example, you saved me.”
“But—” Though he wanted to, Jason could not argue with Praline’s logic.
Suddenly, the fighting upstairs erupted into a flurry of yelps, thuds and a sliding glass door slamming open. A moment later Praline’s duffle dropped from the balcony above on its way to the street below. In short order, Praline’s clothes, shoes and backpack followed.
“Was that your bag?” Jason asked.
Following Jason out of the building and onto the street, Praline spotted his things immediately. He was relieved that some depraved homeless person hadn’t stolen them. Cautiously, he looked up and down the street to make sure they weren’t lying in wait.
Jason gave him a suspicious look, “What are you doing?”
“Looking out for the homeless,” Praline whispered.
Mistaking his meaning, Jason suggested, “If you want to help them out, I think there’s a mission downtown. You can send a donation.”
Praline nearly gasped; his mother would be appalled to learn that the homeless had organized their attempts at extortion.
Quickly, he gathered his clothes and his duffle. His things looked fine, with the exception of a bottle of designer Klevin von Cain’s Elude that had broken and soaked through most of his wardrobe. Fortunately, his phone and his wallet were in his backpack, which remained cologne-free. His wallet, though, had been rifled, his license taken out of its slipcase and put back in sloppily – obviously having been stared at, which gave Praline the creeps – and, most importantly, his five hundred eighty-three dollars was missing.
“Why would Stewart take my money?” Praline wondered. “His apartment was so nice. Flight attendants must make a ton of money. Why would he steal from me?”
“Actually, flight attendants are paid crap,” explained Jason.
“Well, that doesn’t seem fair. I know it was my first flight and all, but those flight attendants worked really hard collecting money from everyone.”
“He probably lives with a sugar daddy,” Jason speculated. Then added, “An older man who pays for everything.”
“I know what a sugar daddy is,” Praline said indignantly. “I grew up with cable TV. We had all the channels. I’m very well informed.”
One of Praline’s step-daddies, he’s not sure which, had spliced them into the neighbor’s cable box. Praline’s mama was a devout Capitalist who believed a free market was one in which most things were free.
Praline brightened. “Hey, Dave G. is older than I am. He can be my sugar daddy!”
“Uh, no,” Jason said. “Struggling actors make terrible sugar daddies. Generally they have less money than flight attendants.”
Sometimes the world seemed upside down to Praline. If you had to be good-looking to be a flight attendant or a struggling actor, and certainly it seemed you did, then really you ought to be paid more because of it. He thought it terrible that good-looking people were being taken advantage of in that way. Praline briefly considered the idea of forming some kind of attractive people’s union, but then remembered his mother had taught him unions were a communist invention meant to undermine Christianity and —
“You got everything?” Jason asked. And he did have everything, so they went back upstairs.
When they got back to the apartment it was nearly four a.m. “We should probably go to sleep,” Jason suggested. “We can run your clothes through the washing machine in the morning.”
As Praline followed Jason into the bedroom, he couldn’t help but think of commandment number seven. Always repay a favor with a favor. Jason had saved his life and now it was time to repay him with sex. It was the least he could do. And even though Jason wasn’t what he’d call attractive, he seemed nice and so the sex would at least be fun, if not especially hot.
“You have a lovely apartment, by the way,” Praline said, standing very close to his host, thinking about what he might like to do to him.
Jason stepped away. “It’s not mine. It’s my boss’s. I’m house sitting until tomorrow.” He shrugged and added, “I’m an assistant. We don’t make any money, either.”
Then, much to Praline’s surprise, Jason took one of the pillows off the bed and picked up a scratchy blanket off a birch-branch chair. “You can sleep on the sofa.”
Praline was stunned. “Sleep on the sofa? But, I thought…”
“What did you think?”
“Well, you’ve been so nice, saving my life and all, which makes me forever indebted to you.” A state in which Praline knew he should not remain. “If there’s ever anything I can do for you...”
“Don’t worry about it,” Jason said. “It’s no trouble.”
“But, if you ever need a favor. You promise you’ll just ask?”
“If I find myself hanging naked off a building, you’ll be the first one I call.”
“That’s not what I mean. What I mean is, what I’m thinking…” Praline smiled coyly. “If you want to have sex that would be all right. I don’t mind.”
Jason looked him up and down. “You don’t mind? Wow. I’ve heard that Southerners are super polite but offering to have sex out of, what? Courtesy? Well, that’s not polite at all. In fact, it’s kind of rude.”
Jason’s behavior was terribly confusing. He had been nice enough to save Praline’s life, so Praline offered to have sex. It was that simple. Why was Jason getting all twisted out of shape? There had to be something else going on. With a suspicious look, Praline asked, “You’re not gay, are you?”
“Of course, I’m gay,” Jason insisted, tersely.
He had to be lying; Praline was sure of it. A true homosexual would never turn down sex. The megapastor at his mama’s church had given many a sermon about the immoral, wanton, and promiscuous behavior of the gays. If the pastor had been wrong, well, Praline would be sorely disappointed.
Then, he considered another possibility. “Are you functional? Because you know they have pills now and —”
“I’m functional, all right!” The young man’s face had gotten quite red and he took a deep breath to calm himself. He growled, “Just go to bed.”
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