Monday, September 26, 2011

I Will Always Love You excerpt by Victor J Banis

In Victor J Banis' I Will Always love You, sometimes the path of true love takes you straight to where you want to go. And sometimes it doesn't. Then it rambles and twists until you're hopelessly lost, and you just know you're never going to get there...and, one day, you look into a pair of eyes, you hear a voice, and you know you've come home.

I Will Always Love You
MLR Press (August, 2011)
ISBN# 978-1-60820-430-4


I have always felt like I was married to Bill. Which, really, is a nutty thing to say, considering that, when I ran into him at the class reunion, I hadn’t seen him for almost twenty years. And, even back then, even when we saw each other every day, we never talked. Not about us, about our relationship, whatever exactly it was. Love was never mentioned. For sure we never talked about marriage, not ours, anyway, him and me together. In those days, that idea wasn’t in currency. Even in my own mind, I wouldn’t have put it in quite those words. I sure wouldn’t have said them aloud.

We didn’t even ever talk about the sex, for Pete’s sake, and there was a lot of that. A serious lot of it. Blowing one another in sleeping bags in the noisy privacy of tents, or in the bedroom he shared with his brother, taking great care with the creaky springs. Or, depending upon who slept over, in the greater freedom of my quieter bed. My fucking him in the damp summer grass in the back yard with the crickets cheering us on and the old barn owl shocked into exclamation. Best of all, at night on the gritty shore by the brown-green creek where we’d go skinny dipping, his dick tasting of muddy water. He’d lie with his legs wide, staring up at the sky. Sometimes, especially when he was close to coming, he’d clench my head in his thighs while I nursed in Edenic bliss, my tongue lapping in synch with the gentle murmur of the nearby water.

We did it all lustily and, at least on my part, happily. And often enough, surely, which is to say every chance we got. But never a word was spoken. Not before. No, “Would you like to…?” And not during, and not after either.

Which at the time did not seem peculiar to me, but later, as I got older and had other experiences, I thought of it not so much as odd, but as wasted opportunities. Because I would like to have told him how I felt about him. I’d like to have heard how he felt about me. What a difference if might have made.

But, no, nothing. The sounds of love, but never the words. When you’re young and a guy, words are the least of it. Dicks are important, maybe the most important of all. Nuts count too. Jism counts. Words…words come later, and they’re not always the right words. Whoever says what they really meant to say? It’s a twisted road from brain to tongue, isn’t it? We got lost on the way.

Bill was my high school friend. The first real one I’d ever had, and from the first time he smiled at me and fell in step with me in the school hallway, I was in love. I was the school nerd, the sissy who was always last to be picked for the softball games at gym time. Bill was no star athlete, but he could hit the damned ball, at least, which was more than I ever managed. Swinging mightily, while the ball sailed somewhere else, and the guys smirked or outright guffawed.

Everyone except Bill, who just gave me a commiserating smile and, later, the two of us alone, pushed me back on the sandy shore and took his turn sucking me off, sucked the softball poison right out of me, like draining a wound. He must have taken flak for hanging around with me. On his own, he could have passed as just another one of the guys. Strolling around school with me had to mark him too, but he never said anything about it, and I never asked. Another non-subject.

And, here is a funny thing about all this. No matter how often the sex, no matter how hot, it somehow still remained innocent. Maybe that was why we never talked about it. Maybe the only words we could have come up with were dirty ones that would have spoiled everything forever. It was like, it wasn’t so much sex as it was that we were expressing our affinity for one another, our essential oneness.

Talking about it would have made it into sex. I think I knew instinctively when Bill sucked me off, did it without any hesitation or clumsiness, like he’d been doing it since the cradle, although I was his first, his only, I think I knew from the start that Bill could handle all the rest of it, just not that. Just not turning it into sex. Maybe he was more Greek than I had imagined, thinking of it as friendship and not love. Platonic.

I asked him one time, “Do you read Plato?” Thinking that was the explanation, that somehow he’d stumbled upon the Symposium, but he only blinked at me and said, “That dog in the cartoons?”

Bill wasn’t dumb, but he wasn’t a brain, either. Smart enough, but not much of a reader. I was the brain. He was the good looking one, not cigarette ad or movie poster handsome, just as in he looked good. His eyes were beautiful, with lashes so long he could have swept sidewalks with them. For sure, they swept me off my feet, all it took was one glance from him, and I melted, total ice cube in August sindrome. His mouth was too full to be classically handsome, but it was soft and sweet on my cock.

I wondered many times what it would be like to kiss his mouth, dreamed of it in glorious Technicolor and stereophonic sound, but I never quite got up the courage to try it. I settled for his cock. That was soft and sweet too, and always, always ready to go. Kissing was like talking, it would almost certainly bring another dimension into it. I waited for him to bring that up. He never did. That was okay. I had that beautiful cock for compensation. I kissed it with my lips, and sometimes it seemed to kiss me back. Long after I’d lost the use of it, I dreamed of it nightly. Cinerama. Three D. Smell-O-Vision. They knew how to make movies in those days, but the films that showed on their screens were nothing compared to the ones that ran nightly in the theater of my imagination.

§ § §

But, then, I’d never considered the possibility of losing the use of it, not when it was so readily there for me. It went on like that through high school, and for a while after we had graduated,going to the prom in one another’s company, but without dates. During all those years, neither of us had ever really dated, at least not anyone but one another. To be sure, sometimes we shared the company of girls, made up foursomes even, but there were no illusion on anyone’s part. Bill sat in the front with one girl, and I in the back with another, but the girls seemed to know that they were there as friends, and maybe window dressing. They expected nothing more from either of us but a free night out—a movie, greasy burgers and creamy malts at the Reddi-Go, and a goodnight peck at the end of the evening. And Bill and I were off to bigger and better things. Meatier than the burgers. Creamier than the malts, too.

In school, though, we saw one another every day. After graduation, less often. I could list plenty of reasons why that should be so. I had taken a job a few miles away. We still got together, but not as often, and not always for doing the deed. I lived for a while in a rooming house, no guests permitted. He shared a place with roommates. Sex wasn’t always so easy to arrange. Lots of times, we ate together, or had coffee and people watched or went to a movie. That was okay. I was happy just to be with him.

Once, at the movies, I slipped my hand across and he took it in his and held it for a long time before relinquishing it. I didn’t want it back. He could have severed the fingers from the hand and tucked them into his pocket if he’d liked, but that seemed not to occur to him. Who’d ever have imagined that holding hands in a darkened movie theater could be so intensely erotic? My hand felt useless for the rest of the night, like a wasted appendage. What good was it, if he didn’t want it? It was my left hand. I didn’t use it for days, and when I saw it, I looked at it as if it had been guilty of some criminal neglect. Oh, traitorous fingers, that couldn’t seduce the man into holding on to you.

(fast forward. Bill marries. The lovers drift apart)

They had me to dinner one night, Bill and Terrie. He was right, she was shy. Plus, she had a way of looking at me. I’d be talking with Bill—she had little to say, at least when I was around—and I’d turn my head to find her staring at me in…not exactly a hostile way, more the way you’d look at some strange flying creature: What a beautiful moth. Will it eat holes in my things, do I suppose, if I let it stay, or should I stamp it out now?

I wondered if he had told her about us. But no, surely not. He’d never told us about us, I couldn’t imagine his telling a stranger, just because he’d married her. Still, I had a notion she’d guessed. Maybe I was obvious. I looked at him the way I’d always looked at him. The only way I knew to look at him. How hard could that have been for anyone to read? Anyone short of a lobotomy, I mean.

Maddeningly, I thought he looked at me the same way too. So why were we sitting at this table with this strange young woman looking sideways at both of us, surely knowing exactly what our looks meant, and that they weren’t for her. Because she couldn’t have been that innocent. No one this side of Bo Peep could have been. She must have known she’d lost more than her sheep. But I wasn’t the one who found them. I wasn’t getting the wool either. Someone else must have been to blame. I never did trust Mother Goose. Living in a shoe—it was bound to warp your thinking,
wasn’t it?

It wasn’t a successful night. Despite the light in our eyes, he and I were awkward with one another. She might almost not have been there. Except that she was, a presence not to be ignored. The more she tried to fade into the background, and I could see that she did try, the more prominent she became.

I didn’t go again. They didn’t ask me, either. Well, she wouldn’t have been that foolish, and he was married to her. You did owe something to the one you married. Although he’d cancelled our debt easily enough, it seemed to me.

I thought that he and I were done. I still loved him, of course. How can you turn something like that off? It was simply time I got on with my life, and I tried. But even when I began to experience other guys, in some part of my mind, I still thought of myself as Bill’s.

I never reasoned any of this out, mind you. It was just how I saw things. I hadn’t realized then that I’d never really love anybody else. When we’re young, we give our love so recklessly, mistakenly thinking that we’ll always have more of it to give, never imagining that the supply is limited.

I “experienced” a great many guys as the years passed. Lots of one night stands, anonymous link-ups. Sometimes I’d repeat, date someone a time or two or three. Nothing more than that. Once somebody, I don’t even remember his name now, told me he was in love with me. The point of the conversation, though I was slow to get it, was that he wanted to settle in together.

“I’m married,” I told him, blurting it out without thinking. How could I settle in with someone else when Bill was still there? Maybe not in the room with me, by this time he hadn’t been for a number of years, but he was still there where it mattered, where I’d never be able to make room for anybody else. I knew that by now. “I guess I should have told you upfront.”

“Yes, you should have,” he said, annoyed. That was the last I saw of him. It didn’t matter. There were plenty of others, and he signified no more than any of them. Which is to say, not at all. I gave them all generously of what I had to give, but of heart I had none to share. I’d given that away long before. By a muddy creek.
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Monday, September 19, 2011

Finger's Breath excerpt by M. Christian

Finger’s Breath by M. Christian: Look at your hand - four fingers and a thumb, right? But what if you woke one morning and rather than four fingers and a thumb you are ... short? How would you feel? What would you do? What would you become?

The city is terrified: a mysterious figure is haunting the streets of near-future San Francisco, drugging and amputating the fingertips of queer men. But what's worse … this terror or that it can, so easily, turn any of us into something even more horrific?

Erotic. Nightmarish. Fascinating. Disturbing. Intriguing. Haunting. You have never read a book like Finger's Breadth.

You will never look your fingers - or the people all around you - the same way again.

Finger’s Breath
Zumaya Boundless (May 17, 2011)
ISBN-10: 1934841463
ISBN-13: 978-1934841464


Looking from the window of the coffee shop. Watching from the windshield of a parked car. Staring from the glass of a very rare unbroken bus kiosk. Glaring from the side of a passing bus.

A brief summer rain had painted the city that night in reflections. Fanning saw himself everywhere, and everywhere he saw himself his expression said the same thing—Why haven’t you caught him yet?

In his ear, a Bluetooth bud whispered the Officer Wertz inquiry’s soundtrack; in his pocket, the video was playing on his phone. He didn’t need to hear or see it. No one would, but if asked he could probably rattle off every verb, every noun, every linguistic bit from when Knorr started it to when he stopped it. Knorr was good at what he did, just like the lab mice who studied crime scenes and picked up tiny bits of DNA with their finely honed tweezers.

Welcome to the decentralized world of the new San Francisco Police Department, where your specialty was all you did and generality was extinct.

Fanning was a freelancer but was supposed to be good at what he did, too. Sneering at himself reflected in the coffee shop window, he gripped the phone in his pocket. If he’d been stronger, or the plastic less durable, it would have cracked.

Glowering for an instant at his reflection in the windshield of the parked car, he pulled the phone out and flipped through a few key digital pages. As with the inquiry, he didn’t need to look at it again, but he did anyway. Better than sharing the street with his scowling mirror images.

It hadn’t changed—Wertz’s home address and where he worked were still the same. The first was across town, in the Mission. The second was just down the street, at a Gap Store.

Ten a.m. to six p.m. His shift hadn’t changed, either. But it was 6:17, and there was no sign of Wertz.

Fanning paced the wet sidewalk, searching up and down the street but mostly the blue-and-white bright- ness of the Gap store. In his ears, Wertz’s voice clicked into silence; then, as it was set on “loop,” it began again.

Just like the others. Same MO, same kind of pick-up place, same amount of Eurodin in Wertz’s system, the lab mice doing their usual fine and precise work, and the same mutilation—right hand little finger amputated at the first joint.

Again, his phone threatened to break in his hand, but again, he wasn’t strong or determined enough to do it. The beat cops who’d found Wertz sound asleep on the J Church train; the lab mice who’d analyzed the drug in his system; Knorr, who’d asked his carefully prepared and expert questions...

But then there was Fanning, who was supposed to assemble piece after piece after piece after piece until they made a picture of someone’s face.

Cutter’s face.

Looking up from where he’d been looking down, he saw a silhouette come between the blue-and-white of the Gap store. A dark shape that was about the right height, about the right build, about the right age, to be whom he was looking for. Fanning carefully released his tight grip on his phone and stepped back into a nearby alley, one carefully chosen for its heavy solitude.

Heavy solitude was just what Fanning wanted.


His age had ticked over to forty half a decade ago, bringing with it eye surgery, regular arthritis treatments and a pre-diabetic monitoring pump sewn into his belly. He didn’t run as fast as he used to, didn’t snap back like he used to, didn’t hit as hard as he used to, but he still could get the job done. The shape that had been about the right height, about the right build, about the right age, became less about and more exact as Wertz passed. The night was cold as well as wet, so Fanning felt more coat than skin when he grabbed Wertz and spun him off his feet into an echoing crash down deep in the inky canyon of the alley.

Wertz, again according to his file, had ticked over to twenty, also half a decade ago, so he had perfect eyes, good joints, and a strong heart. Maybe, if he went to the gym, even some muscles. Fanning got to the back of the alley as fast as he could without running. Wertz was pulling himself out of some deep-blue biodegradable trash bags, the logo of the city Green Commission warped by his body landing hard on them.

Wertz began to say something. When Fanning’s fist landed fast and meaty in the young man’s gut, the air he’d prepared for speaking rushed out in a gagging spasm.

“Talk when you’re fucking talked to,” Fanning said, down-deep, carefully prepared vocal thunder. Knorr was good, but Fanning knew how to talk, too. “You fucking lied, didn’t you?”

Wertz was in darkness, but there was just enough light spilling from the businesses and streetlights to give his young face ghostly definition. The shape of his eyes, nose, lips revealed to Fanning that the guy was twisted up with confusion and, best of all, fear.

“You lied,” Fanning said, even lower, even closer to Wertz, giving him no time to think.

Wertz said something, the exact words lost to sudden traffic sounds leaking from the street. Even though Fanning couldn’t tell what he said, he knew enough—a voice to that confusion and, still best of all, fear.

“Shut the fuck up,” Fanning said, punctuation added with another punch to the man’s gut. Again his breath left in a retching rush of air, now tinged with the sharp reek of pre-vomit.

“I said you were lying.” Now was the time to ask the question, to put that confusion and fear to good use. “Weren’t you, you fucking asshole?”

“W—what?” was all Wertz managed to get out.

“Your finger. Your finger! You know what the fuck I’m talking about.”

The young man who’d crashed in the garbage held his hand up—a reflex, ancient and common. But something about it was new, only in the last week or so—four and three-quarters fingers, not a solid five.

“Tell me the truth, asshole. Tell me the fucking truth.”

“I don’t know what...” Wertz’s eyes glistened in the sparse light. Young. Very young. Young enough so he didn’t need eye surgery, arthritis treatments, or a bit of medical hardware just to the right of his navel. Young enough to recover damned quickly. “I told ... told them everything.”

“You’re. Lying.” Each word a vocal bullet, face-to- face, making youth face the harsh reality of determined age.

“No, no...”

“Don’t give me that shit.” Another punch, another effort to drive the point home. “What the fuck happened?”

“I told them...what happened. I did.”

“You let someone just cut part of your fucking finger off? Don’t give me that shit.”

“Drugged. I said...”

“I know you were fucking drugged. I know all about that shit. Tell me what you didn’t tell the cops.”

“I told them...Fuck you, I told them everything.”

Fanning grabbed Wertz. Forty-five years reminded him they were there with a quake down his spine. Teeth tightly clenched, he tried to keep a hissing gasp from slipping out. It took work, but he got Wertz up and out of the garbage in one movement. The next movement was yet another blow to Wertz’s stomach.

Closer than before. Even more intimate in his threat: “You’re. Fucking. Lying.”

“No,” Wertz said. “I didn’t. I didn’t.” He repeated it, over and over, fast and sharp, like a whisper sped up into a near squeal.

“Yes, you fucking did. You’re fucking hiding some thing.”

Then Fanning realized Wertz really was hiding something.


Looking from the mirror behind the bar. Watching from the skyline of antique bottles. Staring from the amber liquid in his glass. Glaring from the deep mahogany brownness of the bar top.

No grass, no acid, no meth, no ecstasy, no fun, no flash, no jump—the place had nothing but what was on tap and in that skyline of gin, tequila, vodka below the mirror. It was an antique, a musty relic for musty old relics that were a lot older than Fanning.

It wasn’t his usual kind of place, but it was close. That made it his kind of place that night.

Tapping the glass. The bartender, who looked as preserved as the contents of his bottles—probably because he consumed as much as his derelict patrons - filled him up again.

Jack Daniel’s wasn’t his drink, but it was all he could think of. That made it his drink for that night.

Fanning sipped, feeling lighter fluid trickle down his throat, threatening to make him cough. Reclaiming his breath, he took a longer, deeper one, then took a longer, deeper drink, bringing the floating ice cubes in contact with the bottom of the glass.

Looking, watching, staring, glaring - his reflections reminded him why the antique bar was his place for the night, the Jack Daniel’s his drink for the moment.

Nothing. Nothing at all. Wertz had been a dead end. Another dead end.

Bad, very bad. But there was something else. Thinking of it, he drank more of the harsh amber, feeling it land in his stomach like a punch. A grin at that thought, but a bitter and sour one. Just like the ones he’d landed on Wertz.

Even more bitter, still more sour - not like the ones he’d landed on Wertz. He’d told himself before hauling the kid into alley it would be worth it if he could get something, anything out of it. Some bit, some piece, some crumb that would fill in the gaps and put Cutter in his hands.

But there’d been nothing.

One more swallow, and the glass was empty. But there was that something else. Something that made him tap the glass for a third time; for a third time, the perfectly preserved bartender poured more Jack. The nothing that swam around in his head was practical and pragmatic; his failure was bubbling nausea, threatening to spill out onto the mahogany bar, onto the museum- quality carpet. It was his mission, and he’d failed - again.

There was still booze in his glass, but Fanning knew he shouldn’t drink any more. Knew, but he still wanted to. Anything to put it all aside, bury it behind a drunken haze.

Wertz had been hard. Very hard—a determined and ferocious erection that had pushed up against Fanning. Needing, wanting, a dark kind of urgency. Hard because of what Fanning had been doing to him.

Bad, but not the worst. It could mean vomit on the museum-quality carpet, vomit on a mahogany bar; but Fanning still reached out, wrapped sloppy fingers around the glass and took another long drink. Anything was better than remembering that last little detail of the night, the real something else that had pulled him off the street into a place that wasn’t his kind of place, to put a drink in his hand that wasn’t his kind of drink.

Wertz had been hard. Very hard. Fanning had been, too.

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Monday, September 12, 2011

More Than A Stud excerpt by Jerry Race

In the new novella More Than a Stud by Jerry Race, will stakes and fangs keep Shane and Jamie from being a couple before their relationship begins?

Shane Richards, 24, male model, has a few problems. His rival threatens to discredit him if he participates in the upcoming America’s Top Male Model contest. Near his twenty-fifth birthday, the dormant vampire abilities within him begin to surface and he starts having nightmares about meeting his so-called father whom he’s never met. As if that isn’t enough, one of his male friends who has the hots for him, is determined to make him his lover. On his twenty-fifth birthday his nightmares come true and he winds up risking his life in a battle with his father over a pendant with supernatural powers.

More Than A Stud
Muse It Hot Publishing (September 2, 2011)
ISBN: 978-1-927085-56-1


Steam swirled throughout the bathroom as Jamie Donovan entered and warm vapors caressed his naked body while he shut the door. Anticipation tingled his skin at the thought of getting to see his boyfriend without clothes for the first time.

As badly as Jamie wanted his boyfriend sexually he had to force himself not to rush into things. If he did he’d surely lose him and after everything he’d gone through to be with Shane Richards he didn’t want to be back to square one, alone. For that not to happen he’d need to win his trust and he was determined to follow through no matter what it would take.

During the time they’ve been together he learned a lot about Shane. Too many people, mostly men, used him to get what they wanted. Once they had sex with him they’d forget he existed. Of course, Shane was aware he allowed all that to happen. But how else was he going to have sexual contact with someone. Hand jobs became much too boring.

His persistent waiting was about to pay off. Until meeting Shane he’d doubted love would ever surface.

Pausing near the frosted shower door a light shiver slithered over him. Something is wrong. I’ve never felt weird vibes come from Shane—never.

Without a word from the other side the shower door opened. A long arm shot out. He gasped as long, thick fingers grasped the wrist on his right hand, yanking him inside. Hot water instantly pounded his body as he slammed against the naked, stunning physique before him. His eyes gazed into a smooth brown face then glanced up into mocha color eyes and tiny sparkles of crimson flickered in those eyes. How odd.

Jamie stepped back letting his eyes travel from the soaked ebony hair and down the taut wide chest. His tongue brushed over his lips at the sight of the impressive cock pointing at him. Mmm. It’s much thicker and longer than I ever expected.

Just as he reached for the thick shaft a hand brushed them away and his boyfriend stepped back. A nervous smile formed on his lips as their eyes met. His lids lowered while his boyfriend brought his lips closer to his. Jamie moaned the moment Shane claimed his lips. Oh Shane.

Feeling Shane pulling his mouth away his lids lifted.

“Now, give me that ass,” A deep, male voice softly demanded.

Hands gently grabbed his shoulders. The balls of his feet slid on the wet floor as his body swung around. Facing the blue gray tile he leaned his cheek against it. Needing something to hold on to he rested the palms of his hands on the wall. Sensing the thick cock head sliding between his ass cheeks his body tensed.

“Come on Jamie, relax,” he heard Shane’s seductive voice in his ears.

“Just take it easy, Shane.It’s been too long since I’ve had sex. Besides, I’ve never had a cock as big as yours.”

Tension continued to flow through him. No matter how hard he tried, relaxation wasn’t working.

“Open up, damn it,” Shane ordered. “Sorry about this kiddo, but—”

“Ow!” Jamie cried out as the thick erection plowed in him. Tears swelled in his eyes when he felt the cock shoved deeper.

“Oh yeah. Nice and tight.” Shane pulled his cock back.

Fuck! I doubt I’ll ever get used to that monster.

Again the thick erection moved forward. Without further hesitation Shane picked up the pace plunging his cock up and down making their bodies rock in unison.

Jamie clenched his teeth tighter from the swift movements. I never thought I’d say this, but I wish he’d hurry and get this over with.

As if Shane heard his thoughts he slowed down and made a sudden stopped. “Ahhh.” His scream bounced off the walls. Then all Jamie could hear was the water spewing from the shower head.

Unexpectedly, Shane leaned against his back.

Warm breath blew in his ear and teeth nibbled on his ear lobe. Jamie shuddered when sharp teeth clamped on his neck A few seconds later his boyfriend spoke softly in his ear. “I love you, Jamie.”

Jamie grinned. “And I love you too, Shane.” Feeling the teeth sink through the skin on his neck Jamie screamed. “Ow. Shane, giving me a hickey is one thing, but—”

His body tensed as he heard his blood rushing up his throat. Within seconds his knees wobbled and about to buckle. As his hands slipped on the tiled wall darkness filled his mind.

Ka boom!

His body lurched from the emphatic sound and the rapid pounding of his heart slammed against his chest. Awaking, he heard a gasp escape his throat. A bright light flashed from the other side of the room as he sat up in bed. Glancing at the window thick sheets of rain slapped against the pane. Movement to his right made him look away and his eyes settled on Shane lying on his back, opening his eyes .

“What’s wrong, hon?”

“I just had the wildest dream,” he answered.

Sitting up, Shane asked, “What about?”

“I don’t wanna talk about it, at least not now.”

Shane snuggled beside his boyfriend and brushed his lips over his ear, whispering, “Have I ever said that I love you?”

Jamie cringed. Then he glanced at Shane focusing his attention on his boyfriend’s mouth and nodded. Without another word he threw the bedding off and leaped out of bed.

“Jamie?” Shane asked. “What the hell is wrong with you?”

Without bothering to answer he ran out of the bedroom refusing to look at Shane.

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Monday, September 5, 2011

Simple Treasure excerpt by Alan Chin

In the novella Simple Treasure by Alan Chin, Simple has been newly released from a mental institution. His first job is caring for Emmett, a crusty drunkard dying of cancer on a ranch in Utah. Simple’s first fragile friendship is with Emmett’s grandson Jude, a gay youth in Gothic drag who gets nothing but grief from his grandfather. In an attempt to help both men, Simple, a Shoshone Indian, decides to perform a ceremony that will save Emmett by transferring his spirit into the body of a falcon.

Working to capture a falcon will bring Emmett and Jude closer as Jude and Simple’s growing love for each other blossoms, but all is not well. When the ranch, Jude’s future, and Simple’s happiness are threatened, more than Emmett’s spirit faces a bleak future.

Simple Treasure
Dreamspinner Press (August 31, 2011)
ISBN: 978-1-61581-936-2


In the faint flush of predawn, a Kenworth sixteen-wheeler topped a ridge, forty miles east of Saint George, Utah. With only a half load to hinder it, the rig barreled along the interstate at twenty miles an hour over the speed limit. The driver hoped to make Las Vegas in time for breakfast. The truck rumbled on, unrelenting.

Simple rode shotgun, staring at a dusting of lights that looked like a pocketful of stars cast across a vast and lonely mesa. The iridescent specks reminded him of flickering candles at a funeral, although he had no memory of ever attending one, and he wondered if that metaphor was some ominous sign of what lay waiting for him in Saint George.

He had stayed awake all night, too excited to sleep. His eyes burned, and his mouth felt parched. He wanted a drink, but his water bottle was stashed deep in the backpack that rested on the floorboard, between his feet. Outside, the crowns of cottonwoods, tinged pink with the coming dawn, appeared to be pasted upon a gunmetal-gray landscape. With his peripheral vision, he saw the rearview mirror reflect beams of pale orange light that now chased him across the mesa.

The driver, Dale McNally, a high-school dropout with rough manners and rougher speech, couldn’t keep his eyes open any longer. His eyelids drifted toward his cheeks at about the same rate as the Kenworth swerved off the highway. When the right front tire gouged into the skim of gravel on the highway shoulder, Simple grabbed McNally’s thigh and shook it. McNally’s eyes popped open, blinked. He eased the rig back onto the blacktop.

McNally had his sleeves rolled up to his elbows, showing the thick, ropy muscles of his forearms. He wore a cowboy hat with a rattlesnake-skin band. The dashboard's lights cast an eerie glimmer across his face, and a thatch of dark hair spread out below his hat, covering his ears and hanging over his frayed collar.

“Christ sakes,” McNally barked, “I picked you up so’s you could keep me awake. Help me out here, boy.”

That happened often. Simple was twenty-five years old—a stoic ranch-hand life had made him look closer to thirty—but even men his own age, like McNally, called him boy, son, or kid.

“How?” Simple asked, suspiciously.

“I didn’t mean that. You made yourself perfectly clear about that.”

Simple relaxed.

“Talk to me. Do somersaults on the hood if you have to; just keep me awake.”

Simple cracked his passenger window an inch, enough for a frosty breeze to whistle through the cab. He stared out the windshield, silent as a stone, trying to think of something to say.

“Someone should invent an electrical device for drivers to wear under their hats,” Simple said, “to zap their balls whenever they get drowsy. It could trigger from the change in blood pressure at the temples when the eyelids start to fall.”

Dale snarled, “Don’t be talkin’ about my balls if you ain’t goin’ to do anything ’bout ’em.”

Simple changed the subject, babbling on about the city lights mirroring the stars on the horizon. The hypnotic cadence of his voice made McNally yawn, a mouth-stretched-wide-open yawn, that pulled his eyes off the road for a dangerously long time. His eyelids became heavy again, drifted to half-mast, then closed altogether. His head leaned forward, and the Kenworth wandered into the oncoming lane.

Headlights from a tour bus illuminated the cab like a prolonged flash of lightning. The light triggered a memory in Simple’s head. Blinding light, someone grabs a handful of Simple’s hair and yanks his head back while four men wearing white scrubs hold his arms and legs. He fights with all his will, but they overpower him. A voice bellows in his head, “Get his pants down.” Clothes are ripped away. The orderly holding his hair positions himself between Simple’s naked legs. Simple hears the echo of harsh laughter.

Simple shook the image from his head. He grabbed McNally’s thigh again and barked, not really a word, but rather a harsh warning.

McNally’s eyes flew open and he jerked the wheel to the right. The Kenworth swerved back into its lane, and McNally struggled to keep it from careening out of control. “I’m telling you, boy, you got to help me. Talk to me.”

“Tell you what?”

“Tell me what an Indian boy like you is runnin’ from.”

“I ain’t running from; I’m running to.” One of Simple’s clearest childhood memories was constantly sneaking away from home with a library book under his arm. He felt the need to read alone, so that his family and the other kids wouldn’t tease him. Reading was not what boys did on the reservation. But he did. He had a favorite hideaway, in the cool shade of cottonwoods near the creek, where he would read the days away in the company of Twain, Hemingway, London, and Melville. But late in the afternoons, he would hear a door slam, and his mother’s voice calling the family to dinner. Then he would run, lickety-split, back to the house. All too often, by the time Simple had rushed to the kitchen, his grandfather was slathering the last ear of corn with butter, saying, “Too late, bookworm.” Simple would stare forlornly at the empty serving dish. Although Simple had few memories left, he suspected that he had been running all his life, that he was still running, as fast as possible, trying to claim that last ear of sweet corn.

“Shit,” Dale spat. “Even a knuckle scraper like me can see that you’re fresh out of prison. All your clothes still have the K-Mart tags.”

Simple lifted his arm and saw a price tag dangling from his cuff. He ripped it away and searched for a place to trash it.

Dale said, “Toss it out the window.”

Simple stuffed the tag in his shirt pocket. “I don’t remember much, only that they had me locked up. Not prison, some kind of clinic, but I have a job waiting for me in Saint George—” Simple pulled a sheet of paper from his shirt pocket, unfolded it, and read by the light of the dashboard, “—working for Lance Bishop.”

“Why do they call you Simple?”

“My grandfather named me that to always remind me that a warrior’s life is filled with simple treasures.”

“Could be worse,” Dale scoffed. “Be thankful he didn’t name you after Buttface Canyon, Nevada.”

“Sing me a song,” Simple said. “That will keep you awake.”

“I only know hymns, from when my mama took me to church.”

“Works for me.”

Nodding, McNally cleared his throat and bellowed, “‘Just as I am without one plea, but that thy blood was shed for me’.”

Dale’s whiskey-tenor voice soared over the engine’s growl. The tune was uncomplicated, with trilling and mournful notes, resembling both music and a sorrowful cry. It reminded Simple of a Shoshone death chant that his grandfather sang the day Simple’s parents died. He loved the way the long, flowing vowels tumbled from McNally’s lips, like a river meandering through a forest. Simple heard each tone and also the slices of silence separating the notes. It sounded stark and sometimes discordant, yet staggeringly beautiful.

In the gritty bedroom of a rundown trailer house, an alarm clock buzzed. Jude Elder’s head swiveled on a pillow, his body folded into a fetal position. He came awake and looked around the room, confused. He cleared his congested throat and banged the alarm off.

He flipped on a bedside lamp, squinted. Rings adorned his lower lip, nose, eyebrow, and a half-dozen crawled up one ear. His mascara was ghoulishly smudged. He rolled off the bed, stepped over a pile of laundry, and staggered to the doorway. As he opened the door, light from the hallway lamp revealed dozens of angry red scars crisscrossing Jude’s torso and belly.

His head hurt too much to think. He focused all his attention on not falling over.

He tottered to the shower and turned on the water. As steam rose, he stepped in, grabbed his dick, and began to masturbate—eyes closed, mouth ajar. Soon his hips bucked and his mouth twisted into a look of quasi-sexual pain. He opened his eyes and they rolled back. He groaned.

Moments later, with both his hands covering his face, he began to sob.

He lifted a razor blade from the soap dish and sliced two lines across his chest. Blood trickled over his pasty torso as tears streamed down his cheeks.

A few minutes later, Jude ambled down the hallway into his choky little kitchen. He had wrapped a towel around his waist, bandages covering his fresh wounds. He opened the refrigerator and snatched a Budweiser longneck, twisting the cap off and downing half. He seized a prescription bottle and shook the few remaining pills into his palm, knocking them back and washing them down with more beer. He tossed the two empty bottles into a sink filled with dirty dishes.

Jude grabbed another Bud from the fridge and cracked it open.

In the bedroom, Jude sifted through the pile of soiled clothes. He stepped into a pair of boxer shorts, his only pair of jeans, socks, and cowboy boots. He lifted a white shirt from the pile, sniffed the underarms, and tossed it aside. He picked up another, sniffed, tossed it. The third and last he didn’t bother to sniff. He laced his arms into the sleeves and buttoned it up.

He jerked a roach from an ashtray beside the bed, fired it up, inhaled, and downed more beer. He took another hit, then strolled back to the bathroom to reapply his eye makeup. In the mirror, he only looked at his eyes as he painted his mask. He couldn’t bear to see the rest of his face or the scars at the base of his neck.

On his way to the front door, Jude lifted a ring of keys off a plate on the kitchen table, then he stopped in front of a mynah bird chained to a perch beside the door. He snatched a food carton and shoveled seeds into the bird’s bowl.

“Loser! Loser!” the bird cawed.

“Now you sound like my dad, shithead,” Jude said.


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Novels by Alan Chin include Island Song, The Lonely War, Match Maker, and Butterfly’s Child ( articles)