Monday, August 10, 2015

Mother Asphodel excerpt by Edward C Paterson

From the novella Mother Asphodel by Edward C Patterson, a different stroke in the pool of gay literature.  Previously, the opening of the novella was posted.  But this time a different interesting slice involving Elvis Presley.

"“Clothes don’t make the queen. The queen makes the queen.” 

It’s Santa
 Saturday in New Hope, Pennsylvania and Mother Asphodel is trudging through the snow to a gig at the Phoenix Club - her drag queen couture bundled in a shopping cart - her bony feet stuffed into galoshes. At seventy-seven plus, Mother has seen the glory days and, in the course of this evening, she’ll share those memories with a younger queen, Brooks MacDonald (a.k.a. Simone DeFleurry of The Jade Owl fame). Listen to these stylish dames as they plan Mother’s return into the spotlight, to shine once again in the eyes of the community and peers.

Mother Asphodel, a novella, bubbles with the secrets of a raging entertainer, who has rubbed elbows with the famous. Still, time knows no friends and Mother cleaves to life’s ornery path on a bleak wintry evening when hope is as sparse as bread crumbs thrown to the birds. The possibilities are endless on the road least taken - a kaleidoscope glimpsed only by those who take it.

“I was just rambling, dear - reflecting on the word gay. Just when did they give us that name?” 
“I think we took it when no one was looking.” 

Mother Asphodel
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (November 8, 2014)
ISBN-10: 1503148947
ISBN-13: 978-1503148949?


Chapter Four
The Comforts of Home

Brooks MacDonald drove a Buick — a 1990 beige beauty, now thick with snow, except the wipers which did double duty. But the heater worked and Mother Asphodel found much comfort in that. The bridge over the Delaware was icy, but it was better to cross it on snow tires than on galoshes pulling a shopping cart for balance.

“Where am I going?” Brooks asked, squinting through the heavy veil of wintry flakes.

“Just a block passed Lambertville Station, my dear. Not too fast or you’ll miss it.”

“Don’t worry. We won’t be going fast.”

The landmark restaurant, closed like the rest of the town, was on the right side.

“Make a left at the light,” Mother said, “and you can’t miss it.”

“The light, the left or your place?”

“All of it.”

Brooks tugged the wheel, the Buick seemingly having a mind of its own.

“Yikes, we’re spinning.” Brooks turned away from the spin and the car shuffled back onto the right of way. “It’s bad out. Now, how much farther?”

“Just there,” Mother said. “The yellow house. I’m on the second floor. See my balcony?”

“I can barely see the house. Is there a driveway?”

“Afraid not. I don’t drive anymore and my landlady’s in Florida.”

“What does that have to do with anything?”

“Just thought I’d say. You can park anywhere.”

Brooks maneuvered to the curb, which probably would have been occupied had the landlady not been in Florida.

“I wish I were in Florida,” Brooks said. “Or in sunny California with my boyfriend.”

“Do tell,” Mother said, blandly. “That’s good enough. I can make it from here.”

“Glad you can,” Brook said. “Let me help you out and up.”

“You’ve done plenty already, my dear.”


Brooks opened the door and hoisted her feet over the snow mound. She opened the back door and clutched the shopping cart, navigating it through the space onto the street. She hadn’t changed into street clothes, so her wig was acting up and her false lashes whipped the snow flakes.

“Now wait,” she told Mother. “I’ll help you over this mess.”

But Mother was already out, slipping and sliding like Sonja Henie on a bad day. She would have fallen if Brooks hadn’t caught her. Together, with the help of friend shopping cart, they managed to make it to the front porch and through the door.

“More stairs,” Brooks declared.

“I can manage.”

“No, no. You go up. I’ll tug your trap to the top.”

“You’re so kind. Not like those other bitches.”

“You can’t blame them, my dear. Wasn’t there a time when you climbed to the top of the tree and clawed at anything that threatened your grasp at the tiara?”

“I’m still at the top.”

“If you say so. I wish I were at the top now. Are you sure you’re on the second floor and not in the family circle?”

“You’re so droll.”

“Like Santa Claus?”

“No. You know what I . . . oh, here we are.”

Mother flipped the light switch, the sudden beam startling Brooks, who almost let the cart go back to the bottom.

“You could have given me some warning.”

“Well, the lock’s tricky and . . .” Mother fiddled with a key. “I never get the right one on the first try, but . . . oh, here we go.”

Mother pushed the apartment door open. Brooks found the change delightful — a blast of aroma — rose.

“Is that Rose of Attar?” Brooks asked.

Serge Lutens Sa Majestè La Rose,” Mother said.

“I’m impressed.”

“Only the best. Down to my last bottle and I’m afraid Santa can’t afford to bring me more.”


“My Stumpy kept me in constant supply, but . . .”


“My ex.”


“Don’t be. He passed, and not on my watch. But he did leave me this lease and memories galore.”

Suddenly, Brooks was effused in warm amber lights, the lamps on the same switch and each covered with a shade and a silk scarf. The living room — more a parlor by design, was cozy, especially with the snow beckoning from the street. Built-in shelves held a considerable library and on every table, and there were a half dozen, set framed pictures and mementos from life — a long life, no doubt.

“Your abode is wondrous, my dear,” Brooks remarked.

“I like it,” Mother said, shedding her coat and flopping out of the loose galoshes. “Can I fix you a cup of tea?”

“I’d love a cup of tea.”


Chamomile tea is my favorite.”

Mother retreated into the kitchen.

“You know it’s just chamomile.”

“That’s fine.”

Brooks brushed the velvet chairs with her hand, and then dared to shove the shopping cart into a spare corner.

“I mean,” Mother said, her head popping back into the parlor, “it’s not chamomile tea. Chamomile is tea. The tea plant is the camellia, which, by the way, is one of my favorite blooms if it didn’t have such a reputation — La Traviata and all that. So if you say chamomile tea, you’re actually saying tea tea.” She laughed. “You wouldn’t want to be embarrassed in upper crust company now, would you?”

Brooks grinned. This old ‘ne had rapacious charm and, like her own tastes, insisted upon strict forms when it came to hostessing.

“I appreciate it,” Brooks said absently, touring the bric-a-brac. “You have such nice things and so many books and photographs.”

“Ghosts,” Mother said. “Soon I shall join them.”


Brooks glanced at the bookshelf. Many classics and some not so classic. One gilded spine caught her eye. She couldn’t help herself, pulling it out and glancing at the first page. Poetry for Ordinary Folk by John Dwight Fellowes. Brooks had never heard of the man, but since she loved poetry, she made a note to ask for a copy the next time she was in a book store. She set the volume on a table beside a picture of a young man in uniform — a handsome lad. There were several framed photos of this soldier in old fashioned poses. Then one caught her attention. She picked it up. The same young man was sitting on a footlocker beside another soldier — beside . . .

“Is that the King?” she muttered.

“Excuse me, dear?” Mother replied, returning with two cups on an unsteady tray.

“Is this a photograph of Elvis . . . Elvis Presley?”                                   

“Oh, yes,” Mother said. “It’s one of my treasures. Did you want an amaretto cookie with your chamomile?”

“Yes, please, but what do you mean: this is Elvis? I know Elvis was in the army, but . . .”

Mother set the tea down on the coffee table.

“It was years ago. He’s gone now, you know. 1977, I believe, the poor man passed. He played so well and was so very handsome. Please, sit.”

“But how . . .”

Mother clumped onto the sofa out of breath. She reached for a cookie tin and fished out four amaretto biscuits, placing them at the edge of the bone china tea cup saucers — two each.

“I don’t understand,” she replied. “How what?”

“How did you get this photograph? It must be worth a fortune.”

“Oh, it’s only worth something to me. It provokes a great memory.”

A memory?  “You met him back then?”

“Of course. I was there, you see. It was 1958 — November 26th, 1958 to be exact — in GrafenwöhrGermany — Thanksgiving. Elvis came to dinner and jammed with us in the barracks.”

You were there?”

“Yes.” Mother Asphodel reached for the picture. “I am there. Here in fact.”

She tapped the young handsome soldier’s image, the subject in other photos.

“That’s you?” Brooks grabbed the picture and looked from Mother Asphodel to the soldier and back again. “You were so young.”

“Just twenty.”

“You were in the army?”

“Drafted. Yes — got my valentine from Uncle Sam and was stationed in Deutschland.”

“Well, you are full of surprises, Mother.”

“Yes, that’s Elvis posing with PFC John Fellowes — that is — me.”

 Brooks was aghast.

John Fellowes — John Dwight Fellowes. Well, Kissme Asphodel.

Chapter Five
Blue Suede Memories

“Now, trust me, Brooks,” Mother Asphodel said, retrieving the picture frame and setting it beside the tea cup. “Elvis was not supposed to be in the barracks that night, but, just like tonight, the weather prohibited travel.”

“I mean to leave after this cup of tea, dear,” Brooks said, cocking her head. “I enjoy your company and your place is homey. Indeed, these mementos are begging for my attention, but I have my own place and . . .”

“Don’t be foolish,” Mother said. “We barely made it across that damn bridge. The hilly pilly between here and wherever you hail from surely will be hazardous. So, you’ll miss church tomorrow morning.”

Brooks grinned.

“With a name like Simon Geldfarb, I’m not much of a churchgoer.”

“That settles it. There are plenty of biscuits and I have a spare room and all sorts of bed clothing. You can choose the most stylish.”

Simon Geldfarb lifted the cup to his lips and sipped.

“We’ll see.”

“As I was saying, Simone. You don’t mind me calling you Simone?”

“I could get used to it, although no one has ever called me that.”

“Does your boyfriend call you Brooks?”

“No. Simon. Never anything but Simon.” Simone blushed, her eyes batting back a tear.

“You must miss him.”

“I do, but you were telling me about Elvis and how you met him.”

“Was I? Oh, yes. That dear boy. I was a mere chit then too and sat in my nicely pressed fatigue apparel. We all blossomed with lavender aroma.”

“Lavender,” Simone sighed.

“Yes. We walked in a manly blush of lavender and starch. But Elvis came to Thanksgiving dinner not to entertain us, because he was training at Grafenwöhr — the Tank corps, you know. I was clerical, of course, but the weather was awful and Elvis . . . well, Elvis got stuck.”
Mother closed her eyes, and then sipped her tea mechanically. The chill of the Bavarian forests rippled through her old heart. She recalled the dinner — double helpings of turkey and dressing and cranberry sauce. She was shy then — the diffident PFC Fellowes, who laughed when everyone laughed and listened when everyone listened. He was fond of playing backgammon in the early evenings with his buddy Carl Lewis. He liked Carl — not liked — loved. But even though kisses were exchanged in the shadows at off times, and hands were held in the quiet remoteness behind the motor pool, this was not a safe zone for such activity. Such activity meant a prison sentence — Mannheim for twenty years. So the silent game of eyes and smiles and whispers ensued. Notes were dangerous and anything beyond the hand holding could provoke all hell. Not to say that PFC Lewis and Fellowes didn’t play, mostly in the shower — fleetingly assuming the natural merriment of a locker room — the sport of queens on the king’s landing.

Sweet pine aroma blended with the lavender and, in the barracks, a famous man, whom the women of America deemed swoonable, sat. Women poured their hearts out for him — their throats convulsed with screams and banshee cries. It was beyond PFC Fellowes, because although he found this hick fetching in the hip and in the twinkling of the eye, John preferred the tamer croon — a show tune croon. This rock ‘n’ roll stuff was far too heady for him. Still, with the winter wind kissing the window panes and the barracks sheltering a renowned guest, John sat on his footlocker and listened, struck with wonder — with poetry and prosaic warmth.

Love me tender,
love me sweet,
never let me go.
You have made my life complete,
and I love you so.
Yes, complete.  That’s what he longed to be, and in the promise of things to come, complete would be denied him. His parents expected him to return a better man, seek out a woman and make babies for their grandparental laps. They knew he was a sissy boy. They fully expected him to run when the draft caught him in its clutches. But he went and trained and muddled through and got by. Then this overseas gig — how proud they were of their son Johnny, over near the iron curtain making the world safe for democracy and the family he’d come home and raise, complete with a dog kennel and a split level house. But Johnny saw a different abode — a smaller affair, somewhere in Bohemian climes with perhaps a PFC Lewis at hand or any of a dozen other candidates. He saw tea-cups and petit fours, not split levels and dog kennels.

Love me tender,
love me true,
all my dreams fulfilled.
For my darlin’ I love you,
and I always will.
Yes, Elvis was there, guitar over knee, smile radiating in the dim light and it seamed he sang directly to PFC Fellowes. Be my beau, it said, but John knew it was all sham. This yokel was sweet and sugary and meant for a Tammy or a Gloria, never a John. This was a stroke to thank fellow troops for the warmth and comfort of their barracks and no more.

Love me tender,
love me long,
take me to your heart.
For it’s there that I belong,
and we'll never part.
And yet the man, a mama’s boy at heart, had a gift — a sweet and enduring gift that melted winter’s rough and smoothed the hours. John was mesmerized, not by the man, but by the magic — the filigree of sound that drew the usually raucous barracks to silence. He could hear nothing else but this carol to love’s endurance — to a memory long in the lingering.

Love me tender,
love me dear,
tell me you are mine.
I'll be yours through all the years,
till the end of time.
“Till the end of time.” Mother said, opening her eyes, glancing at the photograph. “Yes, my dear. He finished the song, and then turned to me.”

“Just you?”

“Yes, as if he had sung the song to me and me alone, which he certainly had not, but such was the compass of the man. Whoever sat within range of his voice felt his personal touch. It was show, of course, and I learned much from it when I took to the stage myself. But he turned to me and said: I’m sure you’d like a picture with me to give to the wife and children.”

“He didn’t.”

“He did, and I was so dumbfounded, I couldn’t tell him there was no wife and certainly no children, and not likely to be because I had other ideas along those lines. Elvis grinned, and I felt a warm rush. I was worried that I’d sit on his lap and give him one, smack on the lips. But I was shy then — a wallflower boy just learning the ropes.”

“I know the feeling, I do.”

“Well, his cameraman posed me like you see me there and flash! Pop! — there you have it.” She held it up. “A picture for the wife and children.”

“Delicious. And what a memory.”

“You only know the half of it, my dear. Yes, the half of it.”

Mother sighed, set the picture down. Simone reached back grabbing the golden spine book.

“And I suppose this little gem was penned by you.”

“Oh, that,” Mother said. “That probably shouldn’t have seen the light of day, but Allen insisted.”


“Yes. Allen Ginsberg. We were an item, you know.”

Simone’s jaw dropped.

To read another excerpt from MotherAsphodel, see the entry for 11/17/2014

To purchase the paperback or Kindle ebook, click here

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