Too Old for Old Tricks–Part One

Happy Easter

It was Easter Sunday. Whatever of life and death, sacrifice and the resurrection were subsumed by the festering jubilation in the grocery store. Buy one get one free rabbit-sized bonbons, seventy percent off honey-glazed ham. Perhaps one could prevision death and its runny afterbirth from the scarlet poinsettias gracing the gardening aisle.

The cold and the diarrheic glimmer of beer bottles billowed from the open-faced fridge before Yinka tightening his arms folded on his chest. His bangles felt icy against the scars on his wrists. Something itched, rather wriggled underneath the squamous scars. Ratcheting the cool metal over his wrists, Yinka regretted the short sleeves of his tshirt and the white hairs over his arms and the infinite choices for beer.

And oh yes, beer. Brown bottle, green bottle. Gold foil cap, slovenly monk with apricot cheeks. Yinka reached for the choice of the past seven years: the case of all-American swill refreshing crisp lager. Bruce preferred it and he preferred to prefer Bruce’s tastes. But he thought, Easter seemed an occasion for something different, something of spring, leastways a resurrection for better beer. And what perhaps of the all-Japanese swill or the all-Chinese swill—How now beer from the middle kingdom of el-cheapos?

And it was decided a case of the house favorite. Then he perambulated the aisles, like a whale that had lost sight of the sea and its obviating vastness, no more content, no less disinclined to feel disappointed in himself for defaulting to the familiar.

Perhaps a different brand of mustard? Bruce bought the mustard. Or the organic, natural, non-fluoride, non-sweetened toothpaste? But the regular one with ingredients of unpronounceables looked less frightening. The soft head brush toothbrush should be better than the medium head toothbrush? Bruce preferred the medium head, but wasn’t the soft head better?

The dental conundrums were no more clearer than the conundrum in his back pocket: a handwritten letter addressed to Bruce Cohn. The letter had arrived three days earlier but Yinka held onto it instead of placing it on Bruce’s study desk like he always did.

And in examining the letter again, feeling the ink strokes mark the white envelope, he decided its precise curlicues and the compact loftiness were of a feminine hand. This ‘Chris Winston’ on the sender’s address must be female, which ruffled him.

Why should Bruce, work-twenty-seven-hours-a-day Bruce, received handwritten letters in this age where sharing and caring were worth less than a byte? Unsurprising given Bruce’s lucky happenstances; still, Yinka held fast, in tremulous wondering, to his own letter addressed to Yinka Peter Olubayo. He would like a letter too. It was just as well Bruce would dismiss his want with a pathetic shrug; and therefore Bruce should not mind if the letter came from a bronzed ephebe lounging on a far-off Greek Island—warm sands and warm bodies. But Bruce would not mind; rather Bruce did not care to mind.

Unnerved, he stuffed the letter back into his pocket and slipped to deliberating between soft head toothbrushes and medium head toothbrushes. Analyses were still as muddy when the loudspeaker bleated the last chance for six inch round lemon chiffon cakes at seven ninety nine. Randomly he tilted his gaze over towards the row cakes on display and was immediately and quietly seized by the fact of the day being Bruce’s birthday. He dumped a pair of medium toothbrushes in his cart and trundled to the bakery section.

The assistant looked young, rudely and flippantly handsome as he played with his tongue in his mouth, rounding cheek to cheek in a careless rhythm. The boy reminded him of rich acorns and fluffy moss. Yinka wanted to reach over the glass display and pop those cheeks. Maybe jump over the display—no, bum knee, bum kidneys—and lay the boy’s face over where his cholesterol-clogged heart was. And he would whisper restfully about hog-tying bucks or practicing the loops of a hangman’s noose—no, none of that—Morse code for SOS or SOB.

Rubbing his wrists mindlessly, he mulled the delicate yellow lemon cake inside a glass shelf.

“Sir, you get an inscription on the cake,” the boy said as if celebration was wanting.

How good of you to call me sir. Yinka suppressed the flutter working up his face. Unearned familiarity was always discomfiting, formality comforting, even subtly arousing from the boy now eying him impatiently. Yinka, looking down, contemplated the crisp frosting flowers on the cake. An inscription might read, “Happy Birthday Bruce, love Yinka,”or rather, “Happy Birthday Emu, many more steaks to you, love Crocky?”

The choices felt dry, wasteful. Bruce’s father was a reformed Jew, his mother a reformed Jehovah’s witness. Birthdays, Easter, the cake being this sop to the crisis of spring, Bruce would not understand it or the pleasures of a handwritten letter.

The blare of the loudspeaker again announced the cheapest unbelievable Easter eggs, and Yinka’s senses whittled away in the disorder murmuring away to eggland. The cake sans inscriptions sounded better, or perhaps just the unfrosted cake, even better to leave off the cake and take home the empty box.

Yinka saw the boy’s fingers uncurl over the glass counter like it was surrendering to the Easter din around. A line of a shadow trailed up the short fingers and its hairs up to the arm and his folded sleeve, and to the face, evidently suffering a gaze on him. He must be new here. Yinka decided not to smile or soften; the boy braved to keep up his stare. His face could be more gentle, could be more innocently boyish. And pink grilled around the temples. The eyes, blue as the twilight, as those myriad eyes that flickered and watched him in his dreams like ghosts roused rudely from stupor.

Yinka hoped the boy was docile as his stance presupposed. He was too tired to fight or boast illustrious feats, much less conquer or claim.

His wrists troubled him again, causing him to fidget with the tight clasps of the bangles. There were inscriptions embossed over the dull metal; inscriptions held no meaning, drove no need in him. And yet casting them aside never occurred to him as possibility.

“Cool bangles,” the attendant interjected.

“You like them?” He regretted his too eager reply and quickly blurted, “Titanium. Made of titanium”

“Titanium? Get out of here.” The boy’s smile was the glitter of clear water. “Now, where does anyone get titanium?”

Yinka saw now the squareness of his hairline, and the mole underneath the brow. The boy could be … Francis, truly? The name had the ring of the faint clink of pebble ricocheting down a well. No face fastened to the name, or smell, or touch. But the name had the surety in his mind, and Yinka concluded it had to be this Francis who gifted him the bangles. But that could not be. Or was it Wilson, his physics Ph.D advisor, who was reprimanded professionally for gross sexual misconduct.

“Must have been someone important,” Yinka said noncommittally.

The boy looked more serious. “You want the cake?”

“Since you insist, I shall.”

“Hehe, doing my best to make more money for the Man,” the boy said. “You want an inscription?”

Yinka chuckled. “Sure. ‘Happy birthday Emu, love Crocky.’”

“Man…” The boy guffawed. “Your name’s really Crocky?”

Yinka looked back at the discolored incisor jutting out of the laughing mouth like misshapen stump. And the puns followed with more laughter and feelings warmed expansively.

“Crocky?” The boy repeated to himself, feeling the size and girth of the word. Then he removed the cake from the shelf and placed it on the counter. He raised sharp eyes to him. “Pink, all right for the inscription … Crocky?”

“Green … if you don’t mind.” Yinka’s voice rose a little. “And you don’t get to call me that.”

“Emu sure can.”

“He stuck around in spite of my balding head. You’d have to give me some of those napoleons for free before I might let you …”

“He —I should get this done.” Cake unsteady in both hands, the boy turned away to the table in the shadowy recesses beyond the light display.

Yinka was amused with how fast his eyes narrowed and his cheeks lost their high mien. But it was all right for dreams to last a moment. A flame that flickered for an instant was no less a flame, after all.

The wrists bothered him impolitely now. They felt as if a hot wire were boring down his wrist and piping up his forearm. Yinka examined the clasps of his bangles, the darker-colored scars underneath, the reticule of thickening veins. Something was clawing from beyond the grave of his youth where names were whispers and faces were chimeras ghosting the deep. Whatever was coming, he did not feel ready.

The boy returned without expression on his face and with the cake yellow, blue and green in a clear container.

“Enjoy,” he said, deadpan.

A tub of ice cream and dishwashing soap, completed the groceries. At the checkout counter, conversation plodded about the involuble weather, paper or plastic, cash or credit, if forty is the new twenty-five.

The cashier’s cheeks were thin and her eyes darkly deep. But there had to be something delightful in her because she smiled and chatted and smiled and chatted a lot. Even though she smelled of earthy mushrooms in the forest damp, Yinka could not help but think of her smiles like lipstick on a skull.

“Forty, wow, I have got five more years till then,” she chimed then defaulted to a careless laugh. “Age is all in the mind. My three-year-old son runs me around all day. I feel old and young at the same time. You get what I mean?”

Yinka nodded, fixed his gaze at the automatic doors, open, close, toddler in a tutu, open, close, man gnashing teeth, in search of coffee. And then the burble on anxieties he was the wrong sex to understand. And of course the son.

“Did I tell you, he put a frog in his mouth the other day.” She clutched her breast. “It scared the bejesus out of me. The last time it was a cricket.”

Yinka thought of the crying, the puling, the mewling of the wobbly things. Those wobbly things were supposed to his lottery ticket to meaning, to immortality. Beautiful things want to beget beautiful things. Good things want to beget good things in the transcriptions of DNA and RNA.

Her words floated on him, floated through him, floated away from him. He was rotating his wrists now to wish away the renascent discomfort.

“You have any?” she asked.

Yinka blinked. “Children? Happily … no.” He pasted a smile then took hold of the handles of the grocery bags. “Here’s to remaining thirty-five forever.”

“Thanks.” Her smile wilting on her lips, she dumped the pair of toothbrushes into the bag. “Wish Bruce happy birthday for me.”

“I shall.” Yinka sighed, moved to lift the bags away, but his wrists hiccupped in pain and the bags dropped with a light bang.

The cashier’s eyes narrowed. “You, Okay there? You need a carry-out?”

“ Thanks, no.” I’m forty-five, not ninety. He gritted his teeth as he jerked the bags off the counter in a show of his lusty strength. The pain was definite, like gears turning in the bones of his wrist. Useless hands. Useless body. Futility was on his mind as he glided from the store to pavement to his car. Inside the car, he refrained from starting the ignition, instead wriggling his fingers and clenching and loosening his fists, trying to feel the strings of pain each action effected. Its prickling sounds lulling him, the wind assaulted dust and pollen upon the windshield and flurried the dry leaves onto oil slicks. He looked at the sky maddeningly bright, maddeningly blue, and waited. For what? For how long? The pain called to pain, his worries called to Bruce.

Gently and precisely, he got his cellphone from his pocket. After a glance at its artic blue screen, he tossed the phone aside and wriggled the letter from his back pocket. It felt warm and damp. There was the graceful name again, ‘Chris Winston’.

Bruce always had truculently asserted his right to identify as bisexual. Yinka dismissed his view as droll; after all seven years of monogamy should decide it one way or another. Yes, but they had had seven year now of what exactly?

His pusillanimous thoughts so appalled him that he flung the letter into the grocery bags on the passenger seat and stuck the keys into the ignition.

“Damn it!” Gently again, he cradled his right hand to himself, but burls of discomfort grew wilder in his forearms and his hand flamed. He could see the red roots curled over his digits, stretched and spiraled over his biceps and clawed its pin tendrils up his wattle. In that great revelation of pain, he lifted his eyes to the eastern horizon. His mind, instantly, expanded, warped, sheared—a great tree darkening half the sky, its leaves of magnesium-blue flame, its fruits hanging like massive lanterns during a Chinese New Year. Today was Easter; rather it was spring, and therefore the season of its pollen celestial tide.

The pollen streamed from the east, covered all over rooftops and electric pole, passed through windows, open hands, open mouths—diamond dust, metaphysical dust enthralled his eyes and prickled his skin. But his hands, the inky roots were bulging and pulsating underneath his taut skin, and neural darts harpooning bursting myriad corpuscles in his brain. Light and its variegated hues bled down his vision, and his arms felt like postulating appendages, the air thick and dry in his nose. And lost in a shattering darkness inside his skull, he slumped onto the steering wheel. Then he remembered.

Francis was not Francis. Wilson was not Wilson. The bangle was simple iron, as old as himself.


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Hard Characters

The first iteration of Luke’s character in Love and Go
was something of a sarcastic, couldn’t-care-less character mucking about in a garden of hurt. Fun guy really. If you’re interested in reading an unedited version of Love and Go with hardass Luke, ask me. It’s probably a better rendition but there was issues with motivation and the like. And I thought I was getting too comfortable writing the same sort of characters, and then I read The Defense by Nabokov which portrayed a disturbed chess player.

And so I came up with a fucked-up Luke. I hope not fucked in a way that’s off-putting, but fucked up in an interesting way.He’s mess of things. He’s gentle, naive. He aims to please. But at the same time, he’s apathetic and can be very unyielding. It’s a challenge keeping his actions monotone and maintaining a constant tension about him.

Can’t say I’ve succeeded because readers so far complain about his lack of emotion. Unfortunately becoming more emotional isn’t part of his character arc. In some sense he’s the impact character. He doesn’t change, which drives Hao completely crazy towards the end, triggering devastating events. But Luke does have an arc, that of finding personal salvation. It’s Hao’s challenge to get over himself, ignore Luke’s strange manners, and help Luke save himself before it’s too late. Whether Hao succeeds or not is still an open question.

M/M Halloween Themed Books Giveaway

Halloween is around corner. Now’s a great time as ever to share books about vampires and men who love their undead beaus.  So I’m giving away five copies of my book The Cross and the Black for free.  In addition to my books, you get to sample a collection of  halloween themed works featuring lgbt characters.  For more details check out a Rafflecopter giveaway.

Disturbed Fate by Kia Zi Shiru Disturbed Connections by Kia Zi Shiru Pacifier 6; The Shadows Within by G. Wakeling Birth Rite by X. Aratare The Bodyguard (Book1 of The Artifact) by X. Aratare Bisexual Werewolf Dominance by Jen Harker Gay Vampire Cumslut by Jen Harker Sunday's Child by Lex Valentine Pricolici by Alicia Nordwell Supernature: Paranormal Stories From The Wittegen Press Giveaway Games by Sophie Duncan and Natasha Duncan-Drake The Need In Me by Sophie Duncan An Amusement (The Vampire's Concubine #1) by Sophie Duncan The End of The Journey (The Hidden War #1) by Sophie Duncan Forgotten Soul (The Soul Reader #1) by Tasha D-Drake Forbidden Soul (The Soul Reader #2) by Tasha D-Drake Fortunate Soul (The Soul Reader #3) by Tasha D-Drake Chip Off the Old Block? by Tasha D-Drake The Trade by Tasha D-Drake Out of the Frying Pan by Tasha D-Drake Face of the Dead by Tasha D-Drake My Fair Vampire by S. L. Danielson and Julie Lynn Hayes The Cross and the Black 1 by Luwa Wande The Cross and the Black 2 by Luwa Wande

Too old for old tricks: Chapter 1

It was Easter Sunday. Whatever of life and death, sacrifice and the resurrection were subsumed by the festering jubilation in the grocery store. Buy one get one free rabbit-sized bonbons, seventy percent off honey-glazed ham. Perhaps one could prevision death and its runny afterbirth from the scarlet poinsettias gracing the gardening aisle.

The cold and the diarrheic glimmer of beer bottles billowed from the open-faced fridge before Anton folding him arms tightly across his chest. His bangles felt icy against the scars on his wrists. Something itched, rather wriggled underneath the squamous scars. Ratcheting the cool metal over his wrists, Anton regretted the short sleeves of his tshirt and the white hairs over his arms and the infinite choices for beer.

And oh yes, beer. Brown bottle, green bottle. Gold foil cap, slovenly monk with apricot cheeks. Anton reached for the choice of the past seven years: the case of all-American swill refreshing crisp lager. Emmanuel preferred it and he preferred to prefer Emmanuel’s tastes. But he thought, Easter seemed an occasion for something different, something of spring, leastways a resurrection for better beer. And what perhaps of the all-Japanese swill or the all-Chinese swill—How now beer from the middle kingdom of el-cheapos?

It was decided a case of the house favorite. Then he perambulated the aisles, like a whale that had lost sight of the sea and its obviating vastness, no more content, no less disinclined to feel disappointed in himself for defaulting to the familiar.

Perhaps a different brand of mustard? Emmanuel bought the mustard. Or the organic, natural, non-fluoride, non-sweetened toothpaste? But the regular one with ingredients of unpronounceables looked less frightening. The soft head brush toothbrush should be better than the medium head toothbrush? Emmanuel preferred the medium head, but wasn’t the soft head better?

The dental conundrums were no more clearer than the conundrum in his back pocket: a handwritten letter addressed to Emmanuel Cohen.The letter had arrived three days earlier, but Anton held onto it instead of placing it on Emmanuel’s study desk, like he always did. And in examining the letter again, feeling the ink strokes mark the white envelope, he decided its precise curlicues and the compact loftiness were of a feminine hand. This ‘Chris Winston’ on the sender’s address must be female, which ruffled him.

Why should Emmanuel, work-twenty-seven-hours-a-day Emmanuel, receive handwritten letters in this age where sharing and caring were worth less than a byte? Unsurprising, given Emmanuel’s lucky happenstances, but still, Anton held fast, in tremulous wondering, to his own letter addressed to Antonin Bulgakov. He would like a letter, too. It was just as well Emmanuel would dismiss his want with a pathetic shrug; and therefore Emmanuel should not mind if the letter came from a bronzed ephebe lounging on a far-off Greek Island—warm sands and warm bodies. But Emmanuel would not mind; rather, Emmanuel did not care to mind.

Unnerved, he stuffed the letter back into his pocket and slipped back into deliberating between soft head toothbrushes and medium head toothbrushes. Analyses were still as muddy when the loudspeaker bleated the last chance for six inch round lemon chiffon cakes at seven ninety nine. Randomly, he tilted his gaze over towards the row cakes on display and was immediately and quietly seized by the irrefragable fact of the day being Emmanuel’s birthday. He dumped a pair of medium toothbrushes in his cart and trundled to the bakery section.

The assistant looked young, rudely and flippantly handsome, as he played with his tongue in his mouth, rounding cheek to cheek in a careless rhythm. The boy reminded him of rich acorns and fluffy moss. Anton wanted to reach over the glass display and pop those cheeks. Maybe jump over the display—no, bum knee, bum kidneys—and lay the boy’s face over where his cholesterol-clogged heart was. And he would whisper restfully about hog-tying bucks or practicing the loops of a hangman’s noose—no, none of that—Morse code for SOS or SOB.

Rubbing his wrists mindlessly, he mulled the delicate yellow lemon cake inside a glass shelf.

“Sir, you get an inscription on the cake,” the boy said as if celebration was wanting.

How good of you to call me sir. Anton suppressed the flutter working up his face. Unearned familiarity was always discomfiting, formality comforting, even subtly arousing from the boy now eying him impatiently. Anton, looking down, contemplated the crisp frosting flowers on the cake. An inscription might read, “Happy Birthday Emmanuel, love Anton,” or, “Happy Birthday Emu, many more steaks to you, love Crocky?”

The choices felt dry, wasteful. Emmanuel’s father was a reformed Jew, mother a Jamaican Jehovah’s witness. Birthdays, Easter, the cake being this sop to the crisis of spring, Emmanuel would not understand it or the pleasures of a handwritten letter.

There was the blare of the loudspeaker again announcing the cheapest unbelievable Easter eggs, and Anton’s senses whittled away in the disorder murmuring away to eggland. The cake sans inscriptions sounded better, or perhaps just the unfrosted cake, even better to leave off the cake and take home the empty box.

Anton saw the boy’s fingers uncurl over the glass counter like it was surrendering to the Easter din around. A line of a shadow trailed up the short fingers and its hairs up to the arm and his folded sleeve, and to the face, evidently suffering a gaze on him. He must be new here. Anton decided not to smile or soften; the boy braved to keep up his stare. His face could be more gentle, could be more innocently boyish. And pink grilled around the temples. The eyes, blue as the twilight, as those myriad eyes that flickered and watched him in his dreams like ghosts roused rudely from stupor.

Anton hoped the boy was docile as his stance presupposed. He was too tired to fight or boast illustrious feats, much less conquer or claim.

His wrists troubled him again, causing him to fidget with the tight clasps of the bangles. There were inscriptions embossed over the dull metal; inscriptions held no meaning, drove no need in him. And yet casting them aside never occurred to him as a possibility.

“Cool bangles,” the attendant interjected.

“You like them?” He regretted his too eager reply and quickly blurted, “Titanium. They’re made of titanium”

“Titanium? Get out of here.” The boy’s smile was the glitter of clear water. “Now, where does anyone get titanium?”

Anton saw now the squareness of his hairline, and the mole underneath the brow. The boy could be … Francis, truly? The name had the ring of the faint clink of pebble ricocheting down a well. No face fastened to the name, or smell, or touch. But the name had the surety in his mind, and Anton concluded it had to be this Francis who gifted him the bangles. But that could not be. Or was it Wilson, the military orthopedic surgeon, who had given them to him before he was discharged dishonorably for gross sexual misconduct.

“Must have been someone important,” Anton said noncommittally.

The boy looked more serious. “You want the cake?”

“Since you insist, I shall.”

“Hehe, doing my best to make more money for the Man,” the boy said. “You want an inscription?”

Anton chuckled. “Sure. ‘Happy birthday Emu, love Crocky.’”

“Man…” The boy guffawed. “Your name’s really Crocky?”

Anton looked back at the discolored incisor jutting out of the laughing mouth like misshapen stump. And the puns followed with more laughter and feelings warmed expansively.

“Crocky?” The boy repeated to himself, feeling the size and girth of the word. Then he removed the cake from the shelf and placed it on the counter. He raised sharp eyes to him. “Pink, all right for the inscription … Crocky?”

“Green … if you don’t mind.” Anton’s voice rose a little. “And you don’t get to call me that.”

“Emu sure can.”

“He stuck around in spite of my balding head. I think he earned the right. You’d have to give me some of those napoleons for free before I might let you …”

“He—I should get this done.” Cake unsteady in both hands, the boy turned away to the table in the shadowy recesses beyond the light display.

Anton was amused with how fast his eyes narrowed and his cheeks lost their high mien. But it was all right for dreams to last a moment. A flame that flickered for an instant was no less a flame, after all.

The wrists bothered him impolitely now. They felt as if a hot wire were boring down his wrist and piping up his forearm. Anton examined the clasps of his bangles, the darker-colored scars underneath, the reticule of thickening veins. Something was clawing from beyond the grave of his youth, where names were whispers and faces were chimeras ghosting the deep. Whatever was coming, he did not feel ready.

The boy returned without expression on his face and with the cake yellow, blue and green in a clear container.

“Enjoy,” he said, deadpan.

A tub of ice cream and dishwashing soap, completed the groceries. At the checkout counter, conversation plodded about the involuble weather, paper or plastic, cash or credit, if forty is the new twenty-five.

The cashier’s cheeks were thin and her eyes darkly deep. But there had to be something delightful in her because she smiled and chatted and smiled and chatted a lot. Even though she smelled of the earthy mushrooms in the forest damp, Anton could not help but think of her smiles like lipstick on a skull.

“Forty, wow, I have got five more years till then,” she chimed then defaulted to a careless laugh. “Age is all in the mind. My three-year-old son runs me around all day. I feel old and young at the same time. You get what I mean?”

Anton nodded, fixed his gaze at the automatic doors, open, close, toddler in a tutu, open, close, man gnashing teeth, in search of coffee. And then the burble on anxieties he was the wrong sex to understand. And of course the son.

“Did I tell you, the kid put a frog in his mouth the other day.” She clutched her breast dramatically. “It scared the bejesus out of me. The last time, it was a cricket.”

Anton thought of the crying, the puling, the mewling of the wobbly things. Those wobbly things were supposed to his lottery ticket to meaning, to immortality. Beautiful things want to beget beautiful things. Good things want to beget good things in the transcriptions of DNA and RNA.

Her words floated on him, floated through him, floated away from him. He was rotating his wrists now to wish away the renascent discomfort.

“You have any?” she asked.

Anton blinked. “Children? Happily … no.” He pasted a smile then took hold of the handles of the grocery bags. “Here’s to remaining thirty-five forever.”

“Thanks.” Her smile wilting on her lips, she dumped the pair of toothbrushes into the bag. “Wish Emmanuel happy birthday for me.”

“I shall.” Anton sighed, moved to lift the bags away, but his wrists hiccupped in pain and the bags dropped with a light bang.

The cashier’s eyes narrowed. “You okay, there? You need a carry-out?”

“Thank you, but I’m all right.” I’m fifty-three, not ninety. He gritted his teeth as he jerked the bags off the counter in a show of his lusty strength. The pain was definite, like gears turning the bones in his wrists. Useless hands. Useless body. Futility was on his mind as he glided from the store, to pavement to his car. Inside the car, he refrained from starting the ignition, instead wriggling his fingers and clenching and loosening his fists, trying to feel the strings of pain each action effected. Its prickling sounds lulling him, the wind assaulted dust and pollen upon the windshield and flurried the dry leaves onto oil slicks. He looked at the sky maddeningly bright, maddeningly blue, and waited. For what? For how long? The pain called to pain, his worries called to Emmanuel.

Gently and precisely, he got his cellphone from his pocket. After a glance at its artic blue screen, he tossed the phone aside and wriggled the letter from his back pocket. It felt warm and damp. There was the graceful name again, ‘Chris Winston’.

Emmanuel always had truculently asserted his right to identify as bisexual. Anton dismissed his view as droll; after all seven years of monogamy should decide it one way or another. Yes, but they had had seven years now of what exactly?

His pusillanimous thoughts so appalled him that he flung the letter into the grocery bags on the passenger seat and stuck the keys into the ignition.

“Ow!” Gently again, he cradled his right hand to himself, but burls of discomfort grew wilder in his forearms and his hand flamed. He could see the ash black roots curled over his digits, stretched and spiraled over his biceps, and clawed its pin tendrils up his neck. In that great revelation of pain, he lifted his eyes to the eastern horizon. His mind, in an instant, expanded, warped, sheared—a great tree darkening half the sky, its leaves of magnesium-blue flame, its fruits hanging like massive lanterns during a Chinese New Year. Today was Easter; more importantly, it was spring, and therefore the season of its pollen celestial tide.

The pollen streamed from the east, covered all over rooftops and electric pole, passed through windows, open hands, open mouths—diamond dust, metaphysical dust enthralled his eyes and prickled his skin. But his hands, the inky roots were bulging and pulsating underneath his taut skin, and neural darts harpooning and bursting the myriad corpuscles in his brain. His vision swooped close in from the sides. Lost in a shattering darkness behind his skull, he slumped onto the steering wheel. Then he remembered.

Francis was not Francis. Wilson was not Wilson. The bangle was not made of titanium. It was simple iron, as old as himself; it was an emblem, a seal gifted to him from his parents.

Light and its variegated hues bled down his vision. And his arms felt like postulating appendages. The air was thick and dry in his nostrils. He moaned, “Why now? Why now after thirty seven years?”

simple vs complicated prose

I’m in that stage right when I need to decide how I want to write.  Everyone says, simplify. Don’t try to sound writerly. Be yourself.  Don’t try so hard.  To some extent I agree.  However that’s hard for me because the more time I spend on something, the more garbled or more complicated it ends up.  So that might suggest, I shouldn’t think so hard on the edits. But the my first drafts are shitty. So I’m in a quandary.

Take the first two hundreds words or so of something I’m working on. This was the first draft, no pre-planning, no edits. Just pure energy here.

The assistant had asked Anton if he wanted an inscription on the cake.  The question had Anton in stitches as he looked over the glittering display of baked goods.

“How much  extra is that?” he asked.

“No charge.”

He thought a cursive incriscription mwould beperfect. ‘happy birthday Bruce, and many steaks to ya’ perfect for him but not for Bruce. The surly African-american – hated the birthdays, much less obvious cakes to reminded his death day loomed closer.

Anton asked for the cake clean of inscriptions, if possible he would have asked for it to clean of any aura of loving care.  It would send the wrong signal, rather it would ill-fit the benign insouciance that had settled on their relationship of seven years.

A cake, a case of craft beer, and a pack of floss picks completed the groceries.  He was opening the door of car when a fierce wind blew dust, grit, pollen over the windshield.  He could see the dry leaves roll over the oil slicks left on the grounds.  And in an instant, his mind expanded, warped and sheared over a apparition—the great tree of Angrador, the its leaves of magnesium-blue flame and the fruits hanging like massive lanterns during a Chinese New Year celebration.  Roots curled over his digits, stretched and spiraled over his biceps and clawed its pin tendrils up his wattle.  He stood naked to a wind of longing, for the ecstasy for the Angrador, to climb up its branches and be one with its life-force.

I think there isn’t much atmosphere.The description is thin. but it gets to a point. now I don’t how complicated that sounds to you.  I think it lacks overall.  And I hate the name Bruce.

It was Easter Sunday.  Whatever of life and death, sacrifice and the resurrection were subsumed by the festering jubilation  in the grocery store.  Buy one get one free rabbit-sized bonbons, seventy percent off honey-glazed ham, perhaps one could prevision death and its runny afterbirth on the scarlet leaves of the poinsettias gracing the gardening aisle.

The open-faced fridge billowed the cold and the diarrheic glimmer of beer bottles and sale price placards before Anton tightening his folded arms across his chest.  The titanium bangles felt icy against his scarred wrists. Something itched, rather wriggled underneath the bare squamous scars. Ratcheting the cool metal over his wrists, Anton regretted the short sleeves of his tshirt, and the white brush of hairs over his arms as well.  But what of beer, he thought.

And oh yes, beer. Brown bottle, green bottle. Gold foil cap, slovenly monk with apricot cheeks. Anton reached for the default choice of the past seven years: the case of all-American swill refreshing crisp lager. Emu preferred it and Anton preferred to prefer Emu’s tastes, but he paused midway into the gelid air drying his eyes. Easter was an occasion for something different, he thought, something of spring, leastways a renascence for better beer. And what perhaps of the all-Japanese swill or the all-Chinese swill—How now beer from the middle kingdom of el-cheapos?

Stupefied over the foreign trade deficit, Anton grabbed the house favorite.  He perambulated the aisles like a geriatric whale, no more content, no less disinclined to feel disappointed in himself or trade deficits.

Perhaps a different brand of mustard? Emu bought the mustard. Or the organic, natural, non-flouride, non-sweetened

 

That is the second draft.  I changed bruce to Emu for a reason though. We are nowhere near the hook of the angrador tree. It has more atmosphere. But perhaps I have garbled something that was working? I have no idea. You decide.

The Cross and the Black, Sample Read.

Beyond the Pont de la Daurade and its arched abutments, the high rose walls of the L’Hopital de la Grave, past the monastery estates of the Feuillants, a Cistercian order whose members ate and slept on the floor, and the city walls and its surrounding moat, there the sun slipped to its rest. There fomented a chaos of creed against creed, Catholic against Protestant. The second in line to the French throne the Duke of Anjou had yet to die. The Protestant prince, Henri de Navarre, would not yet proclaim his right to the French throne. For now, peace was assured as the setting sun, and Claude was grateful for his bounty of fish—hard won from a fishwife with a diarrheic mouth.

A long tape of fishermen boats unrolled the sights of drenched wood and tarred hues on the eastern bank of the Garonne. Barges pregnant with things Claude would never own floating by. The river had floated worse presents. Twelve years ago while Claude was tending sheep in the Pyrenees Mountains, students and maids dumped four thousand corpses of Protestants into the river. Toulouse reaffirmed its status as the most Catholic city in France, a strange status given that it had once been a stronghold for the Cathar heresy. Then in that time of maimed truth and idolatry, the river shimmered red with the blood of heretics as the Church and North Frenchmen subjugated the city for truth. After defeat, the people of Toulouse learnt they said their yeses wrong, saying the Occitan ‘oc’ instead of the French ‘oui’. The river had no thoughts on identity or truth; rather it cried with a gnawing stench of dumped offal, human effluents from holy and unholy places, and run-off from the dye works and tanneries.

Toulouse, despite its mephitic river, was still the city most in God’s favor, a fact the black-robed Jacobin caterwauling at the Daurade church square never failed to remind the passersby. His eyes were like cracked eggshells.  His tonsure looked thornier than Christ’s thorns. Over the chatter flinging names across the square, “Jean… Jean-Louis… Jean-Baptiste….” the friar preached to his audience of three, something about the Black Virgin and milk tears, a summer of dust and plague. “God, God, God. Sin, sin, sin.” He yelled, he wailed, he jumped for a mind-clenching moment; still those barbaric choruses of Jean’s defeated his rondo of God and sin

“Maman, why does he yell so?” a child said.

“Hush. He gives the good word.”

Claude had since been deaf to the monk and lost on the young porter hauling cargo from a barge. The porter’s sleeves were folded far back into the shoulders, and his hose had been rolled up to the thighs as he had earlier being wading in the water. Lost and undone, Claude flailed in the far away dreams unfolding over the man’s angular jaw.

A random moment of silence layered over the square, and the voice of the friar rang clear, “Verily, I beheld the Black Virgin shedding tears. She hears all. She sees all.”

Claude cringed and winced at the thought of the Our Lady peeping down from heaven, observing his lips crimp ignominiously and the direction of his gaze, which was fixed now upon the sweat-polished arms of the porter.

He felt shame enough to shift his weight onto one foot then another foot … up in the sky, the clouds looked like the holy eyes of the Blessed Mother. He grunted, forced his eyes away from the knave, and began his way back home. But the friar had been waiting, pointing a trembling black flag of a finger at him.

“Your rot, your filth deceives no one. She is aggrieved. Terribly aggrieved. God sends his Angel of Death for you.”

Claude tried to laugh it off, but his throat knotted and his lips burned. The friar continued to pound his crucifying nails. The crowd grumbled whispers. This morning and last night and tomorrow morning and tonight. Sin. Sin. Sin. Black hands, a mind defiled. His ears grew hot with accusations.

The smell of the earthy river and the reek of fish ravaged in his nostrils, and decay glided down his bitter throat. He clasped at the wicker bag of fish, stepping back in preparation to flee. Something bumped into his back. He spun around, startled and panting hard.

A little girl glared at him. Black hair, freckled cheeks, a fragrant open flower… a black lily. The mother’s eyes narrowed, her lips tight, recriminations as thick as her furrowed brow… a black lily. A man chewing a stalk, certainly no flower, still a black lily. Everywhere faces stared eyeless and guiltless. Claude’s eyes circled wide and high to the rose window of the church, the niches housing saints earthen and guiltless; his gaze skipped from black hat to black hat till his vision was a pastiche of daze and grey.

Feet scuffled against cobbled ground.

Claude jerked around to its source: nuns with wimples as massive as cathedrals. The horde parted the crowd and pressed for the church door. A cool breeze nipped at his earlobes, and he exhaled a long breath of calm.

The friar insisted on the Blessed Mother’s doleful hobbies, and the jaws of self-judgment would snap at Claude again, but he clenched his fists and glared studiously as he marked one by one the physical traits that deemed the friar unattractive. Oc, the index finger that was missing a nail, the flea-ridden robes hiding a useless manhood, lips that drooped to the left, even in gaping and in shouting. The one blind eye that never blinked or focused on anything. Just another rogue who could use a tight hole. Anger flamed anew, and he made for the strip of light lining the road, which skimmed off to sanity.

His concerns for God were mostly cosmetic but with just enough seriousness not to land too deep in hell. Admittedly, he did not think too much on the conversion rate between sin and hell depth. But he knew the Virgin did not cry for him. God did not hear him. The friar was just an unraveling spool of Lenten hysteria.

Yet, Claude’s chest glowed a dull heat, and everywhere on le Grand Rue black lilies bloomed.

***

 

Supper was a lovely affair over the bounties of fish. The apprentices Luc and Henri gobbled their portion of fish and bread in one gluttonous moment then played among themselves a game of stab-the-hand to the tune of fish, fish, fish. The table banged their tedious glee. Claude suffered weary bites and long draughts, swearing and un-swearing never to buy fish again. Serge ate just as greedily, rapping his cup against the table and scrawling hyperactive thick fingers over bread. Fish was not on his mind. Dona Bonace, his soon-to-be mother-in-law, was going to visit the house in two days.

Serge slammed his cup and said one more time, “Claude, you will be perfect. She will not have cause for complaint.”

The table banged again. Claude glared at the happy fifteen-year old boys. Serge glared at him. He decided he could not afford more mishaps, or Serge would turn him out too early.

He timidly refilled Serge’s cup of sour wine. “The house will be in order for the Dona.”

The house had been Serge’s father and his father before him. For a house of a carpenter, the common room was lacking in ornate furniture. The table was a simple construction of board and trestles. Claude and the apprentices sat on benches. Serge had the solitary chair at the head of the table. From the fireplace coursed a low warmth, and the scent of smoldering rosemary laced the air.

After supper Claude put away the saltcellar and aquamanile, and cleared the plates and cups. In the adjoining kitchen, the reek of one-year old encrusted sweat crowded at its backdoor. Beggars had gathered with their own bowls, waiting on leftovers, like piglets around a sow. They outstretched tattered arms and invoked the blessings and curses of myriads saints as they demanded the good wine and the good bread. Claude apportioned them sop all the same. They were arrogantly grateful. They shamed him into living more fully.

“He needs a bigger member, yours needs to shrivel,” Claude said to a beggar who had complained of his generous portions to a boy Peyre. Cackles of laughter rippled in the cold air. Peyre stuffed his mouth with little hands yet unstained, not yet winkled or weathered, free and innocent. Claude smiled and plopped more sop onto his bread.

Far outside the circle of his stall side activity, the garden, his garden of herbs and vegetables lay before the moonless dark. A chestnut tree towered like a black mushroom, straddling the boundary between the yard and the neighbor’s. Two red globes floated among black leaves. Strange fruit. Blinking. Open, close, open.

Claude squinted and lost himself to the red mystery, the Jacobin, the Angel of Death and their affinity for chestnuts.

“I could use some fish. I know you have some fish,” the beggar said.

Claude growled, gave more bread to Peyre, and had to look again at the tree. The stars twinkled the same. Nothing—in the neighbor’s yard, but by a supporting beam of the back stall…

“Say Claude, what fish?” the beggar tugged on Claude’s tunic.

A murmur frothed in the chill evening, demanding better food, claiming the neighbor gave better food. Claude was deaf to the grousing as his gaze wandered the darkness curdling over the neighboring yard. A conifer of shadows provided a low canopy over the shrubbery palisading a garden patch, and again save for the faint disturbances of whiffling leaves, nothing risible piqued. He turned back to the circle of haggard men, fresh with a desire to knock rotten teeth out the black mouths of ingrates.

“More porridge?” Peyre said.

The delicate childlike voice, Claude thought hopefully, disarmed whatever bad omen lay out there in the indeterminable night. A smile crept onto Claude’s face, thawing his cold cast of a frown.  For once, rude beggars were welcome.

Want to read more?  Please see more here on Amazon US, UK,FR,ES,IT,DE,JP.  KoboBN.  Thanks for stopping by.

A review of Angel by Laura Lee

I hope to spotlight books with LGBT main characters that aren’t romances or erotica.  I have here a review of Angel by Laura Lee.

The book opens with a prologue with a spiritual, contemplative tone, which I like a very much.  A forty-two year old  minister, Paul Tobit, is bereaved of his wife Sally.  He is kind, gentle, overall likable and sympathetic. He crosses paths with twenty-four year old Ian, a gay man with a drinking problem. And so unfolds redemption, love, romance, add in opprobrium from his church family and religious issues. I think you can already guess what happens. And it ends exactly the way you think it will. The prologue hints it strongly.

The relationship between Paul and Ian is for the most part sweet and life-affirming. The book dealt with Paul coming to grips with his desire in a realistic way.  The book misses the mark in a few ways though.

The book strives to balance a contemplative tone with its discourses on spirituality and a simple love story. I didn’t think the balancing worked too well, as I thought the romance was too simply and too plainly executed.

The  dialogues on religion and homosexuality, I found, to be cliched. For those familiar with gay literature, these dialogues are a dime a dozen. For those not familiar with gay literature it might come off as preachy.

More damning problem with the book was the pacing. After the relationship’s consummation, which happens halfway the story, the book dragged from then on.  I dreaded reading the cutesy couple moments and relationship gushiness because the sad ending was like a sword of Damocles over my neck.  I had to force my way through to the end.

When the book was unabashedly literary, I enjoyed it. I liked the constant use of the mountain metaphor.  I enjoyed the theological digressions, for example Paul’s thoughts on the Eucharist were very interesting.  The opening paragraphs on spirituality were also very enjoyable.

That said, I would urge you to give the book a try.  It’s a quick, easy, fairly comfortable read. I would rate this a solid three stars.

Buy here on Amazon