Monday, July 29, 2013

King Perry excerpt by Edmond Manning

In King Perry by Edmond Manning, out-of-towner Vin Vanbly witnesses an act of compassion in a trendy San Francisco art gallery, that compels him to make investment banker Perry Mangin a mysterious offer: in exchange for a weekend of complete submission, Vin will restore Perry’s “kingship” and transform him into the man he was always meant to be.

Despite intense reservations, Perry agrees, setting in motion a chain of events that will test the limits of his body, seduce his senses, and fray his every nerve, (perhaps occasionally breaking the law) while Vin guides him toward his destiny as ”the one true king.”

Even as Perry rediscovers old grief and new joys within himself, Vin and his shadowy motivations remain enigmas: who is this offbeat stranger guiding them from danger to hilarity to danger? To emerge triumphant, Perry must overcome the greatest challenge alone: embracing his devastating past. But can he succeed by Sunday’s sunrise deadline? How can he possibly evolve from an ordinary man into King Perry?

In this excerpt, Vin insists Perry asks 50 strangers to take their photograph on the Golden Gate Bridge, all to honor the "Tourist king," King Diego. Perry is still furious with Vin for having been tricked into stealing a baby duck just an hour earlier.

This is a re-posting of an excerpt first posted over a year ago, on May 21, 2012.  Two weeks ago I posted an excerpt from King Mai, which reminded me that I had King Perry in my "to be read" stack of books.  Now that I've almost finished reading King Perry (!), I want to share that experience with others.  Enjoy.

King Perry
Dreamspinner Press (February 26, 2012)
ISBN: Ebook: 978-1-6372-379-1
Print: 978-1-6372-378-4


Perry asks, “How does this photograph thing work?”

“You have to ask fifty people to take our photograph together. I have a second roll of film.”

“You, me, and the bridge?”

“Yeah, but if you want to ask someone to join us, I have no objection. You’re the creative director of this photo shoot.”

He takes the camera from me and fiddles with its operation, verifying that he knows how to work it.

He says, “For the record, if the police show up, I’m willing to photograph your arrest, ducknapper.”

“Duckling,” I say. “I wonder if Mr. Quackers wants his photo taken in front of the Golden Gate Bridge.”

Perry shoots me a look.

“Too soon for duck jokes?”

He asks the first couple he sees, dressed in pastel greens, lemon, and beige, if they will take our photo, and although they present thin, terse smiles revealing mild reluctance, they agree. Who says no to such an innocuous request? Afterward, they hand the camera back to Perry as if it is slathered in spit.

Perry thanks them. He turns and mugs to me. “Forty-nine more to go.”

“Yeah, fifty. Or maybe sixty. You never know.”

“Won’t that put us behind for the four o'clock bank robbery?”

“Your ass is super hot,” I say loudly, causing him to jump, “but it’s not bank robber hot.”

He grumbles and turns away. “Sir, would you mind? Would you take our—thank you, yeah, that would be great.”

After we cuddle up together, Perry says, “When do we meet the King of Vodka?”


Around photo seventeen, it sinks in. Drinking in all this effervescent friendliness, immediately after I broke his heart yet again, changes something in Perry. The comments and the expressions on people’s faces start to wear him down.

“No, of course we don’t mind.”

“Absolutely, I’d be delighted.”

“Would you mind taking ours next?”

“Move closer together now, and big smile.”

Almost against his will, Perry’s smile keeps getting wider, more pleased.

Perry asks a straw-hatted woman in her midseventies, fussing with things in her purse. Our camera chatter reveals she’s from Illinois, road-tripping with her widow friends, grouped nearby fussing in their purses.

After she takes our photo, she says, “Aren’t you a cute couple. I wouldn’t think you’d go for bears, dear.”

“I don’t,” Perry says, surprised. “Not normally. But he’s got this weird, sexy vibe. After a while you let go and enjoy it, like Old Spice.”

I huff and say, “I’m going to take that as a compliment.”

“Definitely,” she says, handing Perry the camera and squeezing my arm.

Perry chuckles after she departs. “How the hell does she know about bears?”

I say, “Gimme.”

I take the camera before he can say anything else and aim for his smirk.


It’s beginning for you, Perry.

Several people refuse, including a woman who calls herself “butterfingers,” and her friend who vehemently agrees. They faux-bicker for us, and we enjoy the show. Two folks ignore us and walk away. But not many refuse; we all came to be tourists, after all.

A few clicks later we meet two best friends vacationing together, a gay man and straight woman, both in their midforties. They have been friends for twenty-one years and know now that if neither of them ever marries, they will always have the devoted love of this lifelong friendship. They decided to take an anniversary trip to celebrate their love, the flavor that it is.

We trade anecdotes with them, discuss favorite restaurants, and they tease each other like a married couple, making Perry and me laugh at their overly familiar commentary. Perry confides in them that we’re on a first date of sorts, and they ask all kinds of wonderful, prying questions.

I can’t resist saying, “Last night, I found out he snores.”

“He’s a criminal,” Perry says. “One of us is lying. And here’s a clue: I don’t snore.”

“You definitely snore.”

As we start making our goodbyes, Perry asks, “How about a picture of the four of us?”

A few minutes later, Perry approaches a family with three kids, two of them shy and one madly dancing brother, clearly the youngest. After the parents help us out, Perry asks each kid their name, but only the dancer answers directly.

He shouts at us, “NICHOLAS.”

Photo twenty-four.

After they leave, I say, “I bet Nicholas would like Mr. Quackers.”

I turn away as if heading back to the van.

“Way too soon,” Perry says, grabbing my shoulder. “I thought you picked that up after your first joke.”

After photo thirty-two, two Chinese men finally approach us. I noticed them a few minutes ago, but I did not wish to embarrass them, so I pretended I did not. With a nod, I invite them to speak, and in hushed words, they do. They noticed us having our photo taken, over and over, and thought we might be international tourists, like them. We discover that for the last half hour they have been looking for someone to approach. They really want a photo together in front of the Golden Gate Bridge; it’s important to them. But they do not want to make someone uncomfortable, nor do they wish to be judged.

“Would you take our photos, please?” asks the first man, with nervous pride.

His partner says, “We know it is more open here, but we are still careful.”

Of course we agree, and I fiddle with their camera lens, testing the light and such, delaying so that Perry has time to talk to them.


They won’t stand too close or put their arms around each other, but in the series of photos I take, you can see joy in their eyes. It’s definitely joy.

The task accomplished, we follow them, and they follow us, wandering down the nearby walkways, scattered with vibrant yellow flowers and shiny green bushes, everyone admiring the magnificent, sparkling bay this glorious day in Eden. We ask questions about living in China. We try to answer their questions about living in the United States.

Zhong and Jian are shy again when they announce their departure. But they are eager to experience the towering redwoods in Marin County. They really want to kiss in the forest. Big secret kiss.

“Maybe more than kiss,” Zhong says, scandalizing Jian.

They laugh together, blushing beautifully, and tip their heads toward us.

Perry stares at the departing figures with wet eyes.

Yup. Fifty photographs ought to be enough.

“Perry, check out that couple over there. Behind those three girls. What do you see?”

“What am I looking for?”

“No. Tell me what you see.”

I continue to ask this before each new photograph, and he eventually starts reading people better. Not that you can ever know someone’s life story by the way they wander around on vacation, but tourists repeatedly choose to make themselves vulnerable, so some of their tells are more obvious.

“Let’s ask them,” he says, pointing to two heavily pierced men wearing Harley Davidson shirts. “Hey, dudes.”

Somewhere around forty, I suggest that he find the ones who need it.

“Need what?” Perry asks.

I shake my head. “Just look around. Who needs it?”

We talk about the possibilities, mostly Perry asking questions and me refusing to answer. If he would give up and look, he would realize he already knows. After a whopper of a candidate wanders into view, I put my hand over his mouth from behind and rock him in my arms, giving him a chance to look around.

My hand muffles the sound when he says, “Her.”

I say, “Good choice.”

A stout woman patrols the second plateau, not far from us. She’s probably late thirties, with frosted-golden locks, a beautiful tangle of curly hair falling over her dark brown shoulders. Purple sundress. She slings three small backpacks over her right shoulder, packs that I bet her kids promised, promised, promised to carry themselves. She and her husband do their best to corral four eager children. The kids race to the chain-link fence to stare at the Golden Gate Bridge, pushing each other to get a better view, and I watch a young dancer named NICHOLAS run over to meet them. Her weary expression suggests they’ve been this hyper all day.

We watch.

I say, “How are we going to put King Diego energy into her?”

Perry says, “Have we been doing that?”

“Follow me.”

We take a few steps toward her; then I stop him with a hand on his chest and say, “Did you love your mom?”

“Yes, I loved her,” he says, surprised.

“So there was never a time in your life where you were ungrateful, or a dick to her or anything?”

His open face creases in hurt, and I see I hit a nerve. Good.

“Go with this.”

He says, “Wait—”

I stride away, closing the distance, forcing him to scurry after me.

“Hi, will you take our photo?”

Tired Mom looks at me with bored anger, like I’m another kid demanding her attention and she has enough of those.

“I’m busy,” she says.

“Please. I bet you’d take a great photograph.”

This earns me a glimmer of real irritation, but I can do awesome puppy dog eyes. Please, Tired Mom, give us a chance.

I say, “I saw your kids so energetic and happy, and it made me think you’d take a great photograph, because you look like a good mom.”

She turns to her husband. “Tim. Watch Devon. I’m taking some damn tourist photos.” She turns back to me and says sharply, “No offense.”

“None taken!” I quack happily.

Perry’s smile isn’t quite authentic because irritating her wasn’t part of his plan, and I have once again made him complicit in another crime—this time, bothering a woman on vacation.

She snaps the photo and thrusts the camera back to me. Her expression isn’t as angry anymore, the experience already over.

“My friend Perry just told me about how the Golden Gate Bridge reminds him of his mom.”

Perry’s eyes open wider, a subtle change not lost on her. “Yeah. My mom.”

She listens attentively now; she recognizes a setup.

Without breaking eye contact with her, I say, “Big secret.”

“She was strong,” Perry says, the words popping out. “Real strong.”

He looks at Tired Mom with anguish and says, “My dad died young, and it wasn’t easy for her. We were broke from medical bills. I—I was horrible those first two years after he died. Even though I apologized over and over after I grew up, to this day I regret how I treated her.”

His voice cracks during the last part. I don’t think he’s going to cry, but the raw emotion coming from this revelation may have been unexpected.

He says, “She died about ten years ago. I would give anything to have those two years back. Anything to hear her voice.”

She looks at him carefully. The world can surprise you sometimes.

“She understood,” Tired Mom says, her voice quiet. “She’s a mom.”

She turns and walks back toward her family. One of the younger girls launches herself right into Tired Mom’s leg, pushing them both off center.

“My mom,” Perry says and turns to me, eyes wide.

I pull him into my chest and hold him. I think he’s taking a moment to see his mother in a new light. Perhaps she was a tourist as well, lost in a city where she never expected to find herself.

I don’t know much about his mom, just scraps I’ve been able to glean without his realizing. Tuesday at the art gallery, he didn’t associate that art gallery painting with Mother’s Day, my first volley checking out his mother issues. During Big Secret, he confirmed how much he missed her. I thought he might be able to see an inspiring bridge and relate it to something remarkable in her. But I don’t want him too emotional right now; we’re not ready for that.

Using a gentle tone, I say, “That one didn’t count because, technically, I asked her. You still have nine more photos to take, pardner.”

Instead of protesting, his chin traces mine until he kisses me.

Our lips meet soft and subtle, the right amount of mutual pressure. Though surrounded, I feel invisible, enjoying a private moment at our own private monument.

We break apart, and I turn him around, wrapping my arms around his midsection, my chin on his shoulder, seeking her. Not far away, I spot her husband retrieving their son from NICHOLAS’s family.

There she is. I nudge his head with mine toward her and say, “Check out Tired Mom.”

The woman stands a stone’s throw away. One child strains in her left hand while two more argue over who’s in the next photo with mama. Tired Mom considers the Golden Gate Bridge.

She looks different.

Maybe it’s an unexpected break. Hell, maybe she started chewing a piece of mint gum. Or, maybe she remembers a piece of her queenship, what it means to truly be strong. And now that I’m thinking of it, constantly run over. You might look at the Golden Gate Bridge and think: Oh. Moms. Got it.

When driving back from Sausalito, I love that first glimpse of the deep orange towers striking the rolling, lush hills, legs battered by the white-crested surf. Only a surrealist painter could juxtapose shapeless foam against steel pylons that will outlast all of us, man’s rare architectural improvement to a gorgeous landscape. On those days when shadow and mist rule the earth, I love driving across, straining to see the high-reaching cables, invisible while I’m directly underneath. Golden Gate’s power remains even when masked by magician’s fog, hidden only by our limited ability to recognize strength.

I whisper into Perry’s ear, “King Diego is not to be underestimated.”

We nuzzle for a moment longer, staring at the bridge, the sky, the everything.

He shivers and says, “It’s cold out here.”

“It’s always cold in San Francisco. At least in Minnesota we get to wear coats. You guys always pretend like this isn’t cold.”

He turns his head and searches the immediate area, another three dozen people replacing the three dozen who were here a while ago. He takes the camera from me.

Perry picks out an older man nearby who looks angry. “Sir, would you mind taking our photo?”

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Monday, July 22, 2013

Sissy Godiva excerpt by Mykola Dementiuk

In Sissy Godiva excerpt by Mykola Dementiuk it's love at first sight when Vinnie sees Sissy Godiva -- who used to be his high school classmate, Joey. She’s feminine and beautiful in her fluttery halter tops, tight leggings, and beehive hairdo. Vinnie sees her everywhere he goes in the Lower East Side that free-love '60s summer. He's half in love with her, though he isn't queer, “no stinking way.”

He tells his neighbor, Mr. Phillips, about her during one of their afternoon jerk-off sessions. When it turns out Mr. Phillips knows Sissy, Vinnie invites her over so they can all jerk-off together -- just three guys doing what they have to do, right? No touching. No emotions. Nothing “faggoty.”

But Vinnie finds himself being pulled closer and closer to Sissy, hanging with her and her trannie friends, visiting the Giddy Up! gay bar with her, having sex and waking up naked beside her in the East River Park. Sissy’s mercurial temper doesn’t make her easy to get along with, and Vinnie isn't a queer.

Are Vinnie and Sissy meant for each other? How can Vinnie keep her when everybody in the Lower East Side wants her? Is he just infatuated -- or is he really queer?

Sissy Godiva
JMS Books
ISBN: 9781611524840


The Lower East Side was crawling with drunks and party people going after whatever they could get on Friday nights. No bar turned a drinker away—they might check some kid’s phony ID—but after glancing at it they’d let you in, as long as you had some kind of ID.
So one Friday I stood outside the Giddy Up! on Avenue A. I stood looking at the women, transvestites really, some dressed like hookers, others like elegant movie stars, as they went inside. As usual, my dick was stiff and eager for satisfaction. I stood in a nearby doorway and the six-foot bouncer kept looking my way, finally dismissing me as unimportant. I was glad I he’d dismissed me. I was always trying to be invisible.

I finally saw beautiful Sissy Godiva coming down the street. My penis had been aching for her the past few days and I instantly grew harder. It was like an ocean wave pushing aside the inconsequential things in my life and leaving nothing but her. At first I thought she was wearing pants, but then I saw she was wearing dark pantyhose that barely covered her skimpy panties. She wore a small bra, like a girl’s training bra, on her flat chest. My mouth fell open and I started drooling. Sissy melted, oozed, gelled down the street. I stood up from my slouch, certain that she’d recognize me, but she just looked at me and kept walking. Christ! Suddenly she turned back.

“Oh, my God, it’s Vinnie!” she shrieked, rushing at me, then grabbing my face and kissing me. “He saved my life, carried me down four flights of stairs in a burning building and saved my life! Oh, my God, I love him so much!” She planted wet kisses on my face, and I did what came naturally: I kissed her back.

We finally broke from each other exhausted but she kept saying “he saved my life” to everyone who passed by. “Carried me out of a burning building, risked his own life to save mine.” Some people looked, some nodded and smiled, others just glared and went their way.

I grinned and felt myself blush. “It wasn’t really burning, just smoky. A little fire, nothing big,” I said, shrugging off her praises.

She shook her head, dismissing my words. “So bad that I passed out, me and my girlfriend Tonya, but you carried me in your arms,” she blushed, “and we were both naked like little babies. Imagine that, my naked hero!” And she smothered me with kisses. It was great to be the center of attention for once! Though I suspected that she’d had more than a few drinks before she got here. And I knew she was into drugs, too, but I didn’t care.

She pulled me over to the door, winking at the big bouncer. “This is my savior,” she whispered, holding me. “He carried me out of a burning building, my hero,” she fluttered her eyelashes so passionately that I felt I really was her savior and that she was in love with me.

“Did he, now?” the bouncer asked, looking me over but lowering the guard rope and winking at Sissy. “My treat, baby,” he said, then leered at me. “Can you carry me out of a burning building, too?” I felt myself blush as I followed Sissy inside, the bouncer laughing behind us.

Country-western music blasted from the jukebox as we walked past men talking and eyeing me. A group of schoolgirls was at the other end of the bar; Sissy pulled me over to them. I lowered my head as I followed, suddenly realizing that they weren’t schoolgirls but guys pretending to be little girls in hopes of getting a big man for some action: the usual Friday-night scene.

“Meet Vinnie, my hero,” Sissy gushed, and told the story again. You’ll do that when you’re drunk, you’ll gab and gab all night, telling the same story that no one’s interested in. “He saved me from a burning building and I’ll always be grateful to him.” She pecked my cheek as the schoolgirls sneered and went back to their talking and drinking. Two or three came over, though, looking as exciting as real women with real tits, and gossiped around us.

“Oh, my God,” Sissy squealed, “I love this song!” She shut her eyes as she started swaying to Gershwin’s Summertime, sung by Janice Joplin. It couldn’t be a favorite in the Giddy Up! bar, but I felt the song’s erotic mood as Sissy sang and swayed against me. It focused my attention on sex, made me want to fuck her, and fuck her right there!

Sissy rubbed against my crotch and I shut my eyes and swayed with her, our two hard dicks straining to reach each other. Sweat poured between our bodies. I ejaculated, and I’m sure she did, too, spilling onto ourselves, cuming in our clothes and with each other.
When the music stopped and a steel guitar started up, we were braced against each other, lost in our closeness, our bodies pressed together and our arms around each other, feeling that nothing would ever tear us apart.

“Let’s get out of here,” Sissy shouted, finishing her rum and Coke. “I wanna be alone with you.”

I gulped my screwdriver and we put our arms around each other and staggered to the door. The street noise was as loud as the music behind us, but we didn’t care. We were one.
Only when we’d climbed the FDR Drive overpass and had started down into the East River Park did I suddenly realize where we were. “Why are we going into the park? There’s nothing there at this hour.”

“Exactly. That’s the point. We’ll be there and we’ll be alone together. Don’t you want that?”

I pulled her tighter as we entered the wide, desolate East River Park, eerie at this hour. Making our way to the concourse over the river, we saw a tugboat chugging under the Williamsburg Bridge. High above us, the bridge traffic streamed, into and out of the city. At night the park looked enticing. I loved it!

We walked a little way into the park and she pulled me onto a bench. She started kissing me, undoing my zipper and reaching for my penis. I did the same, reaching into her skimpy nylon pants and then I’d quickly stripped her. We were both naked. But we didn’t care, lost in our togetherness we kissed and sucked, our hungry longings sweeping over us. We fucked each other over and over through the night.

It wasn’t until dawn, after we’d spent all night romping, laughing, and chasing each other through the grass, playgrounds, and paths, hugging, kissing, and giving ourselves to our passions, that I suddenly came to.

“Where are our clothes?” I asked, looking at the quiet park and the single car moving along FDR Drive.
We were lying naked on the playing field. She cuddled closer, shrugging and yawning. “Somewhere, anywhere, who gives a shit?” She shut her eyes and looked like she was going to fall asleep.
But I sprang up. “I’m naked! Where are our clothes?”

The playing field was empty. I found some shorts by a fence near the river. Were they mine? I pulled them on, then saw a pair of skimpy panties under a clump of bushes. But where were the rest of our clothes? Had we tossed them into the river in the giddiness we were feeling in the night? I almost thought so, with the large shorts hanging loose on me.

I walked some more. Near a playground on Tenth Street, under a clump of bushes, was a man’s black raincoat. It looked like it had been there for days, if not weeks. I picked it up. It was moldy and faded, but I shook it I out and saw it was big enough for her to wear. I hurried back across the lightening playing field. She looked so peaceful. I bent down to her as a few more cars moved along the Drive.

“Sissy, wake up,” I said. “We gotta go, it’s almost dawn. Sissy! Sissy Godiva!”
She stretched and groaned. “Oh, man, I was sleeping so peaceful. You go, leave me here, where I belong.” She curled up, her thumb in her mouth like a little baby. She didn’t seem to care that she was lying on the grass.

“Sissy, get up! I just found these panties, at least put them on.”
She opened her eyes and sat up. “Those aren’t mine,” she shook her head. “Mine had colored polka dots. Those are boring green ones, and they’re torn, too. Who’s gonna wear that? Not me!”
I looked down at the shorts I had on. They weren’t mine. Damn, wearing another man’s underwear, totally gross! But what was the alternative, walking through the streets utterly naked?

“Oh, big deal, put them on, at least till you get home. Then you can change into whatever you want. And here’s a raincoat I found.”

“That’s disgusting! I’m not putting on something from the garbage. What you think I am, a bum? I am what I want to be. Sissy Godiva, that’s who I am.” She looked dreamily at me. “Don’t you remember last night? We threw our clothes into the river.”

Damn, she was absolutely right! I remembered it now, throwing my T-shirt in, and then she threw in her little bra and skimpy nylon pants. I tossed my trousers in and we watched everything float down the river, away into the darkness, our giddy laughter following them.

She shrugged. “It was your idea, not mine.”

I dropped down beside her, still clutching the raincoat and green panties. “Put them on anyway,” I sighed. “At least it’s something till you get home.”

She shook her head. “I’m right where I want to be, nice and naked here in the park. You go home if you want to, I’m going to sleep. But pick me up tomorrow after six. I should be home by then.” She curled back up on the grass and started to suck her thumb. I watched her for a moment, bit my lips in indecision, then put the raincoat on top of her and the green panties nearby. She looked content lying there.

I ran for the park exit as the sun rose, bringing Saturday morning.

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Monday, July 15, 2013

King Mai excerpt by Edmond Manning

In this excerpt from King Mai by Edmond Manning, the sequel to King Perry, Illinois farmer, Mai Kearns, has accepted an invitation from garage mechanic, Vin Vanbly, to participate in one of Vin’s unique King Weekends.  Mai will spend forty hours following every single demand from Vin, the master of sexual (and non-sexual) manipulation.  Vin promises that by the end of the weekend, Mai will “remember the man he was always meant to be.”

This scene takes place Saturday morning.  Mai and Vin have spent Friday night elsewhere and now return to Mai’s farm around 10:00 AM. As the first-person narrator, Vin has been whispering his unique love into Mai’s heart and soul through stories about a land filled with kings…

King Mai
Pickwick Ink Publications (July 15, 2013)


I nudge my truck into his driveway, the Kearns’ farmhouse down there on the left, the dilapidated barns bashfully hiding behind it. No suspicious cars in the driveway or yard, I’m delighted to see. Or not see. Flattened grass, but it’s subtle. He won’t notice that. I pull into the grass and park a good distance from the house. He doesn’t even ask why I don’t pull in further. Instead, he pleads his case for easier treasure hunt clues. The laminated map of DeKalb corn fields sits between us on the front seat. I should stash this in my back pocket when he’s distracted. We may need this later.

As he argues, I allow my gaze to cross beyond him, and I frown, staring hard. After a minute he recognizes I’m not listening and turns to peer over his right shoulder, his gaze chasing mine.

Staring at the dead tree right off the cornfield where I emerged last night, I ask, “Are those wasps?”

He stares for a moment, uncertain.

“What the fuck?” He wedges open the passenger door handle.

By the time he slams the truck door shut, he’s already striding hard down the driveway and I race to catch his lead. I need to be at his side as he discovers the truth.

My God. It’s beautiful.

The fluttering, bulky clouds of insects buzzing the dead tree are too large to be wasps; that’s evident immediately. Kearns walks hard toward them without knowing anything more. Oh God, I love this moment. I can’t tell if he’s angry or if this is his fierce curiosity. Those two pugilists stand eye to eye, poised to strike across an invisible but critical line. His head snaps toward the house, then the barns, scanning everything in view. Where’s his mom? His dad? How are they not out here?

We arrive.

He stops abruptly to gape, slack-jawed. I grin madly at the perfect outdoor colors: the sky paints thick blue everywhere, the corn glows a primal green, and the fat August sun polishes everything with a cheerful, vibrant shine. In the foreground, our new friends’ orange and black wings fold incessantly upon themselves—orange and black, orange and black, orange and black.

“Monarchs,” Mai says, his voice wavering. “Holy shit, holy shit. These…hundreds.”

He turns to me and tears pour from him instantly, brain censors still jogging to catch up with his astonished delight. “Thousands, I think there must be…” he says, the words vanishing like ghosts.

I gaze into the intangible orange and black webbing above us. They’re so beautiful. “Not thousands.”

Later I will share my estimates, but to his credit, it’s awfully hard to guess real numbers with the immense orange and black flittering and fluttering, maybe four hundred or more. This massive cloud creates autumnal foliage in an otherwise barren tree.

Mai stops his unconscious spinning while staring straight up. He levels his head at me and now that gravity applies again, more tears leap down his face. “I don’t understand.”

“Wait,” I say, gasping. “Is this a Butterfly Tree?”

“How?” He says the word almost painfully, like the mere idea of asking questions is physical and arduous.

Without words, I point to one of the three dozen watermelon wedges dangling from the tree, the best bribe to keep butterflies close until late-morning sunlight seduces them away. Within the next two hours, the numbers will halve, then halve again. But it’s early enough they’re not quite ready to explore the big world.

“Mom,” he says with a dazed confusion, looking toward the house. “Where is she? How can she not…”

He crouches to study a few trunk-loving butterflies who choose to ride the bark. Standing a moment or two later, he reaches into a lower-hanging branch to mildly push the nearest watermelon with his index finger, creating an amusement park ride for dozens of dizzy breakfast-eaters. He stares at the tree with intense concentration for a full minute. Without looking at me, he says, “You did this.”

I wait until he turns to me before I shrug. “You and I spent every minute together since 6:00 p.m. last night. But if I were to guess, this looks suspiciously like the work of the Butterfly King.”

He ignores me, walking around the tree, staring up into the dead branches, taking steps back to peer higher. “I don’t understand. I—I have to get my mom. She loves monarchs. I mean, really loves them.”

“I know. You told me.”

The words have the effect I had hoped. Mai turns to face me, noticing me as part of the landscape.

“When you were a kid, you and she agreed to help butterfly migration researchers at NIU. For three summers, you two logged how many butterflies you each witnessed every day, but she wouldn’t let you tag them as the researchers requested. She couldn’t stand the notion of humans tagging a creature so pure and full of grace.”

Mai doesn’t even flinch. “I told you that. I told you how I spent my summers as a kid.” He wipes his arm across his face. “Son of a bitch.”

Oddly there’s no anger to this, no real recrimination.

Mai reaches into a nearby rind and rubs his finger against the fruit, smearing it. He digs his nail into the red flesh until a gooey trail slicks his finger to the knuckle, allowing him to entice two butterflies onto his finger.

“I have to get my mom,” Mai says, pleading.

“Wait, aren’t you curious about the Butterfly King?”

Through tears, he shoots me an exasperated look—“why are you fucking with me?”—but the expression is replaced immediately with resignation. He looks down and touches a slowly folding black-outlined wing, the very definition of vulnerability married to intricacy.

“I have to get my folks, Vin,” he says without looking up. “Please. This is…please.”

“The butterflies will stick around for another hour or two. There’s time.”

I’m tempted to explain his parents have already seen this, but he’ll know soon enough.

I say, “The Butterfly King lives in New York City and teaches diversity classes for Fortune 100 corporations. At home back in Harlem, he patrols the night with a wooden baseball bat, protecting those who cannot defend themselves. When he protects what he loves, the Butterfly King is fierce and furious. Even in his righteous anger, he carries the grace of these gentle creatures. On patrol, he travels with other men who follow butterfly wisdom. They keep each other safe. Kearns, he knows how tough it is to lead an army.”

Mai flinches at this last line but he can’t stop his eyes from chasing the dazzling air show around us. The Halloween-themed flags twitter everywhere, graceful, jerky movements as they bring a dead thing back to life.

One lands on my shoulder. Welcome, little king. I even love the word butterfly. It possesses a meandering quality much like the creature it describes. But-ter-fly. But-ter-fly. On his finger, one glides away but a new one settles in, a twin to the one who left.

With his free hand, Mai wipes his eyes. “We were together all night. I woke up first.”

I remain quiet.

He asks, “Did he do this, the Butterfly King? Who’s helping you?”

I scrutinize the landscape, craning my neck to scan the cornfields and the house. “I don’t see the Butterfly King. Yet this looks like his work. Best not to get too attached to the outcome. Best to stay curious.”

“You just said it was him.”

“I said it might be him. May not have been him personally, but his followers. I wonder what love he’s sending you, Kearns, what assistance he wanted to give you this weekend.”

“So, he’s a real person?”

“Monday, use the Yahoo search engine and type these three words: butterfly plus king plus NYC. The New York Post mentioned him a year or so ago wondering if he’s a myth. People in Harlem know his true identity. But nobody shares his real name. He’s like Batman.”

Mai cringes and tears pop out again, a new rivulet pouring over the still-fresh steam already there. I believe he would give anything to have a secret identity, to be someone other than Mai Kearns, homosexual DeKalb farmer of Thai descent. I’m sure he resented this life trapped in cornfields right up until he realized he loved it, and what the fuck do you do when you hate the life you love? Or love the life you hate? Very confusing.

I stare up and he instinctively follows my gaze.

Orange and black. Orange and black. Orange and black.

“There’s an envelope up there,” he says.

A plain white envelope dangles from a branch but not low enough to jump and grab. Climbing is required, exactly what I instructed.

Mai glances from the envelope to the tree trunk, presumably plotting a route to the letter while avoiding dangling watermelon. I’m sure he wants to disturb as few monarchs as possible. He may kill animals when necessary as a farmer, but he loves life in all its forms. I know this is true. I listened to his stories, the ones where he did not realize all that he revealed.

He leaps and grabs a first-tier branch, yanking himself off the ground readily as if he climbs trees daily. A few extra butterflies dance harder, shaken free and circling around the space where he used to stand, like one of those cartoon clouds indicating speed. Mai’s a strong motherfucker, give him that. He hoists himself higher with unconscious confidence in his own strength. He cautiously brushes aside butterflies or waits for them to take flight before he occupies their space.

While he’s distracted, I move beyond his vision and motion toward the house with my full arms.

Come out. Come out!

The back door opens as Mai gets to the envelope. I instructed them to do so silently, and I’m sure Mr. Blattner conveyed my pleading letter to Mai’s mom when he and the crew appeared on her back porch early this morning. I am pleased to not hear the screen door creak open. I wonder if his parents even noticed someone replaced that old spring. I must mention that to Kearns tomorrow. We’ll laugh.

As he unties the string connecting the envelope to the branch, I make one final sweeping gesture to confirm this is exactly the moment: come meet the king.

I cross again to stand on the ground in Mai’s vision again. Gotta keep his back to the farmhouse.

I say, “Who is it addressed to? What is it?”

As his fingers unknot the string, he says, “Gimme a minute.”

“What’s it say? What do you suppose is inside? Is my name on the envelope too?”

“Shut up, Mary,” he cries. “Give me a minute to concentrate.”

I babble the entire time he climbs down, forcing him into constant conversation, sometimes warning him of nearby monarchs, saying, “Look, there’s one by your foot, see it? See it? Careful with your foot.”

He drops to the ground a moment later and I stand right before him to keep him focused on me, careful not to touch him too intimately. His mom and dad now perch on the picnic table in the yard, and I don’t want to embarrass Mai. Well, not any more than I already intend.

He opens the unaddressed envelope and unfolds the single sheet of paper.

“Read it,” I say.

He reads it to himself and passes the paper to me, but I refuse to take it. “Read it aloud.”

With a smirk, he does just that. “That which haunts us will always find a way out. The wound will not heal unless given witness. The shadow that follows us is the way in.”

I frown and nod when he finishes, stroking my chin with my thumb and index finger, the classic thinker.

Mai says, “Vin, this is what I’m talking about your treasure hunt being too hard. It’s too artsy, man. I don’t fucking know poetry.”

“How do you know this is a poem?”

“It’s centered and in italics,” he says, waving the paper at me. “Plus, I’ve read your AOL page. You’re fruity for poetry. Your whole Lost and Founds mythology reads like a fucking poem.”

“Ah, so you do know something about poetry. I think you might be right. This wisdom sounds like the thirteenth century mystical poet, Rumi. But why would the Butterfly King send a Rumi poem as a clue? Read it again.”

Mai frowns at the paper. “Seriously, I’m not good with poetry. It’s not one of my things.”

“Sure, sure. But I wonder what it means, this message.”

“Vin, I can’t—”

“The King of Curiosity would care,” I say in a relaxed manner.

Mai cringes and looks at the note again.

Nice—another good reveal. His constant refusal to engage, to choose frustration and outright anger as his reaction betrays another of his Lost King secrets. He’s afraid of trying and losing. Afraid he may not be good enough. I want to squeeze him right now and tell him he’ll always be good enough. However, I know that despite good intentions, pleasant affirmations can’t make that true for him if he doesn’t believe it first.

“I mean, the King of Curiosity wasn’t fascinated by everything in the world, but he did enjoy wondering about new things to see if they shed new light on what he cared for.”

“Is this really a poem from the Butterfly King? Did he come from New York to help you?”

“It might have been him.” I put my hands on his shoulders.

Before Mai can speak, I spin him hard to face the opposite direction. “Or maybe them.”

Mai wobbles from my spinning him and peers across the yard. I hear his audible gasp as he takes in the crowd, sees them, jumping back into me, falling in my arms. I stand him up, keeping my hands on his upper back to steady him.

Thirty-odd people stand in his back yard, clumped in groups of three or four, or spread out with their hands on their hips. I can’t see their individual expressions from this distance, but I would bet they are smiling.


I wonder if he recognizes any of them.

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Monday, July 8, 2013

The Catbird Seat: South Beach Romances excerpt by Neil Plakcy

The Catbird Seat: South Beach Romances by Neil Plakcy is a collection of short stories and a novella, all previously e-published and all set in Miami Beach.

The Catbird Seat: South Beach Romances
  • CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (June 27, 2013)
  • ISBN-10: 149055792X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1490557922

Excerpt from the title story, The Catbird Seat:

It was a picture-postcard day at the Miami Beach Marina, the sky a pale blue with a lazy stripe of high, thin clouds. The scent of machine oil and salt water floated past him, carrying the noise of an ambulance siren on Alton Road and the deep, guttural roar of a cigarette boat revving its engines. Wavelets lapped gently at the hull as a Coast Guard patrol boat puttered by on its way back to its base along the MacArthur Causeway.

Down the dock, he saw a fine-looking white man step off the deck of a catamaran that had come in the night before. He looked to be in his late thirties, perhaps ten years older than Rashid, with a muscular body encased in a tight-fitting emerald-green polo shirt and tan cargo shorts.

As the man strolled down the deck toward him, Rashid noticed his blond hair slicked back and skin tanned to the color of strong tea. Everything about the guy, from the gold coin on a rope chain around his neck to the expensive deck shoes on his feet, said rich and sailor. That was a combination Rashid could get into.

“Nice boat,” Rashid said as the man approached.

“Nothing compared to yours,” the man said.

“Ah, but I’ll bet you own yours. I’m just the hired hand on this beauty.”

“I’m Bjorn,” the man said, sticking out his hand. The touch of his rough, calloused palm against Rashid’s sent an electric tingle through Rashid’s body, a sensation further enhanced by the way Bjorn’s sparkling blue eyes fixed on Rashid’s own.

“Rashid. Pleased to meet you. You planning to stay long?”

“For a while. Depends on how friendly the atmosphere is.”

“Oh, you’ll find we’re very friendly around here,” Rashid said, still holding Bjorn’s hand.

Bjorn looked down at Rashid’s bikini and smiled. “I can see that.”

Embarrassed by the bulge he was showing, Rashid released Bjorn’s hand and picked up the hose again. Bjorn was no slouch in the groin department either; it looked like he was just as pleased to meet Rashid as Rashid was to meet him.

If there was a thing as love at first sight, then Rashid knew what it felt like. With the sun behind him, Bjorn was wreathed in a golden halo like some Aztec Indian’s first vision of the conquering Spaniards. Rashid’s heart raced and the hand holding the hose quivered.

Bjorn stroked the teak guardrail. “Looks like a lot of love goes into maintaining this boat. You ever give tours?”

“I could take you below right now.”

“I’ll bet you could.” Bjorn licked his lips and smiled again.

Rashid turned off the hose and left it lying on the concrete dock. He hopped onto the deck and said, “Coming?”

“Very soon,” Bjorn said, grinning devilishly again.

He followed Rashid through the main lounge to the stairs, and Rashid felt the older man’s eyes on his butt the whole time. He hurried down the stairs and stopped in front of the owner’s cabin. Bjorn didn’t wait for an invitation; he walked right up to Rashid and locked lips, wrapping one of his muscular, tanned arms around Rashid’s waist and pulling him close.

Up close, Bjorn smelled like aloe and lanolin and expensive face cream. His lips were rough and chapped, and they pressed against Rashid’s with an urgency matched by the pressure of Bjorn’s dick against his own. “Missed this,” Bjorn said, rubbing his cheek against Rashid’s. “Sailing single-handed is fun, but….”

“Sometimes you need another hand,” Rashid said, placing his palm over Bjorn’s dick, which pulsed with solid heat.

“You could say that,” Bjorn groaned.

Rashid slid his hands under Bjorn’s polo shirt and pulled it up over the blond’s head. Bjorn’s abs were flat, his skin smooth and hairless. They embraced, chest to chest, Rashid’s skin just a few shades darker than Bjorn’s. Bjorn leaned down to kiss Rashid’s shoulder as Rashid nibbled Bjorn’s earlobe.

The sensation of skin against skin was amazing, but Bjorn’s belt buckle pressed uncomfortably against Rashid, who began to undo it. Once the belt was unlatched, the cargo shorts slid down to the deck, and Bjorn stepped out of them. Both of them were left in bikini briefs and deck shoes, dicks pressed against each other through thin layers of nylon and cotton.

They kissed again, each man opening his mouth to receive the other’s tongue, their bodies touching at a dozen points. Rashid kicked off his deck shoes and skinned down his bikini, then stepped inside the owner’s cabin toward the king-sized bed.

“God, you’re gorgeous,” Bjorn said. Rashid was tall and slender, with the bearing of an African king. His body was slim and toned by sailing and boat maintenance rather than gym work. He had no big muscles, but everything was in proportion, and his waist was still so slim he could wear the sexiest designer pants when he wanted.

“Back at you, babe,” Rashid said. Bjorn’s body was older and tougher than Rashid’s, but equally toned. When he slipped off his bikini briefs, he revealed a thick, uncut dick sticking out from a bush of dark blond hair. He kicked off his deck shoes too, and they embraced again, body against body, at the foot of the bed.

Bjorn ran his hands down Rashid’s back, cupping his smooth ass, pressing their bodies even closer together. Then he slid down to his knees and took Rashid’s dick in his mouth.

Rashid opened his mouth and arched his head and neck back, reveling in the sensation of Bjorn’s lips around his dick. He was so hard it hurt, and every swipe of Bjorn’s tongue up the length of Rashid’s shaft sent shivers through his body.

He reached down and gripped Bjorn’s head as the older man began sucking him up and down. Rashid felt his pulse race and his nuts swell, and with a strangled moan he came in Bjorn’s mouth.

Bjorn swallowed it all, licking his lips and smiling. He stood up and kissed Rashid again, and Rashid tasted the salt of his own cum on Bjorn’s lips. He pushed Bjorn down on the king-sized bed and crawled onto the bed over top of him, sucking Bjorn’s monster cock.

“Turn around, baby,” Bjorn said.

Rashid scrambled around so that his ass was at Bjorn’s face and resumed his cock-sucking. Bjorn wet his index finger and began playing with Rashid’s hole.

Rashid felt almost delirious. It was hard to concentrate on sucking Bjorn with that amazing sensation of Bjorn’s finger stroking, then penetrating, his ass. But he focused his attention, bobbing his head up and down on Bjorn as the older man’s body shivered and bucked.

With a quick intake of breath, Bjorn shot his wad down Rashid’s throat. He gasped for breath for a moment, then turned and flopped down next to Bjorn. “That was amazing,” he said.

“You bet.” Bjorn looked at his watch, a gold Bulgari with a leather strap. “Shit, I’ve got an appointment. Gotta motor.”

He jumped up with an energy Rashid admired, and pulled on his clothes. At the cabin door he turned and blew Rashid a kiss. “Later, babe,” he said, and he was gone.

Rashid lay there for a minute. Who was that dude, anyway? They’d jumped into bed so fast they’d hardly had time to exchange even the most basic information.

But what the hell, it had been great sex.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Family Obligations excerpt by Vivien Dean & Rick R Reed

In Family Obligations by Vivien Dean & Rick R Reed, Tate D’Angelo always believed he knew who his father was. Beloved doctor, devoted husband and father, a kind soul...these were the words shared by everyone who came to his funeral. So when his father’s old college buddy, Randy, approaches him after the service, Tate expects to hear echoes of the same.

What he gets, instead, is almost a lifetime’s worth of letters that tell him so much more and cause him to view his father—and his family—in a whole new light.

The truth, about a secret love kept buried for decades, astonishes him. Overwhelmed by grief and confusion, Tate’s unsure if he can bear hearing how the lives of these two men entwined over the years, but he reads on anyway, discovering more to value, more to respect, and most importantly, more to love about the man who raised him.

Family Obligations
Amber Allure
ISBN-13: 978-1-61124-445-8 (Ebook)

 This poignant and deeply romantic tale, “Family Obligations,” by Vivien Dean and Rick R. Reed is the story of two men, who, because of the times, because of “family obligations” could never see their love come to fruition.   After his father’s death, one of the men’s sons finds their correspondence over the years and reveals a cache of secrets, hidden memories, and thwarted passion.


June 5, 1973

Dear Randy,

Well, kid, it’s been three days, fifteen hours, and 27 minutes since we graduated and I last saw you. But who’s counting?

I don’t know how often I’ll be able to write, what with starting medical school and planning for my wedding. But I wanted you to know that I was thinking of you and, oh hell, how very much I miss you.

I know this is hard. I know you wanted something else. But it just can’t be. The world doesn’t look kindly on two men as a couple, especially if one of them plans on being a pediatrician. And besides, as I’ve told you, I love Sharon in my way. She’s a great girl and I know she’s crazy about me. We have a good relationship and I can foresee a great future with her.

Oh shit, who am I trying to kid? She’s a wonderful woman and I do love her, with all my heart. But I love you, Randy, more. She can never know this.

But I still ache when I think of leaving you just as dawn was breaking the other morning, looking up at you standing in the window of your apartment, watching me, your hand pressed against the glass.

I wanted so much to turn around, to just say fuck it all to a world that disapproves of something as pure and honest and passionate as what we shared. I wanted to run back up the stairs and into your arms, to cover you with kisses, and take you back to bed—one more time.

Could you see that on my face? Could you see the longing and the pain?

I don’t know what will happen with us, I only know I hope to hear from you sometimes. I can’t, much as my head tells me to, just sever all ties with you. It’s a dangerous game, but a world without you in it, in at least some small way, is a world I can’t bear living in.

My heart won’t let me say goodbye, not completely.

I know that’s not fair to you, but I also know a handsome guy like you, with such talented hands, will not be alone for long. You too will find a nice girl and settle down, have kids, just like I plan to do.

And who knows? Maybe there will come a time when we can all get together, with our families. Maybe, after a while, these desires we have for each other will be replaced by friendship and respect, edged out by the love we have for our wives.

 I hope so. But today, I am missing you and wishing, so hard, you were here in Miami with me.

 I start my summer job waiting table at a little seafood place on the beach tomorrow—and med school awaits at the University of Miami in the fall.

 Take care of yourself, Randy, and please, no matter what, don’t forget what we shared. I know I won’t.
Much Love,

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