We were delighted this week to see that Wayne Hoffman's An Older Man had been selected a staff pick by Publishers Weekly. Described as containing "simple honesty and openness of its sexuality felt like the first blast of spring after a long, cold winter," you can read the full review here, and a preview of the first chapter below!
Read the first chapter of An Older Man:
Moe Pearlman only went to the beach at night.
He wasn’t scared of the mid-day sun’s ultraviolet rays, even though he’d recently gotten his first sunburn on his scalp — where a bald patch rapidly spreading across the center of his salt-and-pepper buzz cut left him newly exposed to such things. And he wasn’t afraid that someone might see him in a swimsuit, although he had to admit that it wasn’t a good look for someone carrying around an extra twenty pounds. Or thirty.
No, the reason Moe always waited for dark before hitting the beach during his annual trip to Provincetown was simple: sex.
Whatever the tourist brochures touted as the town’s top attractions — the Pilgrim Monument, the art museum, the bike trails through the dunes — Moe was drawn to the spot that never made it into print, the Dick Dock. It wasn’t glamorous: a crummy strip of sand on the town beach, the unloveliest of Provincetown’s many beaches, under the Boatslip, a bayside hotel known for its popular daily tea dance. Many of the guys who danced and dished and sipped planter’s punch on the Boatslip’s wooden deck in the afternoon returned to get their rocks off several hours later beneath the same creaking planks, the sound of the cleaning crew sweeping away discarded short straws and lime wedges just over their bobbing heads.
Including Moe, who thought of himself as the mayor of the Dick Dock. Or at least its goodwill ambassador.
The Dick Dock was what drove Moe, a basically lazy New Yorker who rarely ventured beyond lower Manhattan, to schlep seven hours to the tip of Cape Cod every summer. The sex was that good. And even when it wasn’t good, it was easy. Which, Moe had realized long ago, was nearly the same thing.
So when Moe arrived Sunday night on the last ferry from Boston, he already knew his evening’s plans.
“I can’t wait to get to the beach,” Moe told Gene as they walked up MacMillan Wharf, wheeling their suitcases behind them.
“Going fishing?” Gene teased.
“More like bear-hunting,” said Moe. “Did you get a load of the guys on that ferry? Major woof.”
Bear Week in Provincetown drew big, hairy guys from across the country by the thousands. Some had muscles, some just bellies; all had come to frolic with like-minded, like-bearded guys who had similar appetites and similar kitschy tattoos. Moe had been to Bear Week before, so he was prepared. Gene had been to Provincetown many times, but never for Bear Week, so the crowd on the ferry was his first taste of what awaited him.
“My horoscope said an older man would bring unexpected romance,” said Moe.
“You don’t actually believe that,” said Gene.
“No, it’s a bunch of bullshit,” said Moe. “Except that it’s always true.”
Gene raised an eyebrow. “And you’re going to find romance under the dock?”
“I’ve found it in stranger places,” he said, looking into Gene’s eyes. He didn’t need to finish that thought: I met you in a tearoom, didn’t I?
“Well, good luck,” said Gene. “I’ve already trapped my bear for the week.”
“And he can’t get away unless he gnaws off his own leg.”
Moe stopped and turned around. “Where is your huzbear?” he asked.
Gene smacked Moe’s hand. “God, I hate that word,” he said. “And he’s right . . . here. . . . Well, he was here a minute ago.”
“Lost another one?”
Gene scowled at Moe, then cupped his hands over his mouth and called, “Carlos? Carlos?!
Carlos was a good fifty feet behind them, dragging his own suitcase while also trying to manage a knapsack, a mesh tote bag, and a footlong hot dog he’d just bought. He heard Gene calling and picked up his pace, the wheels of his luggage clicking in a hurried rhythm on the wooden boardwalk.
“A hot dog?” Moe whispered to Gene. “Didn’t he have a sandwich on the train? And a whole package of powdered doughnuts on the boat?”
“You’re one to talk,” Gene whispered back. “You think I don’t know that when you said you were going to the men’s room on the ferry, you were really scarfing down an ice cream sandwich?”
“It’s Bear Week,” said Moe, patting his belly. “I’ve got to stay in shape.”
“Well, the same goes for Carlos,” said Gene. “So don’t say a word. I don’t need some kind of stupid bear fight this week.”
Moe locked his mouth shut with a tiny, imaginary key. Gene sighed.
Carlos caught up to them.
“I thought we lost you,” Gene said.
“You two were gabbing away as usual,” said Carlos, peevish, “and you just walked ahead without me.”
Gene took his hand. “Sorry,” he said, leaning in for a kiss. Carlos took a bite of his hot dog and offered Gene his cheek.
“Brrr,” said Moe, pretending to shiver. “It’s getting pretty cold for July.”
“Pay no attention to him,” Gene advised Carlos, taking the tote bag and the knapsack off his hands, as a means of apologizing. “He’s just antsy to get to the beach.”
“Tomorrow morning?” Carlos asked, with complete innocence.
Moe rolled his eyes at Gene, who returned the gesture in kind.
“Tonight,” Moe clarified, “as soon as I drop off this suitcase.”
* * *
In fact, it took Moe a bit longer than that to get ready, but only because he obsessed over details that most guys never thought about.
After unpacking and organizing his clothes in the condo’s smaller bedroom — he’d graciously offered the larger bedroom to Gene and Carlos, since there were two of them and he was, for the moment, alone — he started to plan his outfit. He’d packed a ratty pair of old jeans specifically for the Dick Dock; shorts were impractical, because he’d only end up scraping his knees on the damp sand, and there was no sense scuffing up the new 501s he’d bought just a few days before. He stuffed a light blue bandana in his rear right pocket, in case anyone was old enough to remember the hanky code. (“Cocksucker,” Moe had informed a younger man the previous summer who’d stopped him on the street to ask what it meant. “It means I’m a cocksucker. Don’t you kids learn anything about gay history in school?”) Then he looked for the perfect shirt. Something light in color, so he’d be easy to identify even in the dark, and something with buttons — better to unbutton an oxford and leave it on than to take off a T-shirt and risk losing it. He picked a green-and-white sleeveless flannel shirt, and unbuttoned it enough to show off his chest hair, which would be a major asset in this fur-loving crowd.
He stuffed a twenty in his front right pocket and left his wallet on his nightstand. He sprayed his bare arms with unscented bug spray, since he wanted to avoid mosquito bites but didn’t want to stink of Deep Woods Off or, worse, Skin So Soft. He grabbed a pack of Listerine strips, a travel-sized bottle of Purel, and the key to the condo and dropped them in his front left pocket. He checked the tide charts in Provincetown magazine to find out when high tide would soak the sands under the Boatslip’s deck, ending the fun for all but the most desperate. (At ten o’clock that Sunday night, he still had a few hours of prime time left.) Last, he put on his watch with the light-up face, since keeping track of time was essential at the Dick Dock, where waves of men washed in and out depending on the hour, much like the tides in Cape Cod Bay.
He took one last look in the mirror. He wasn’t happy with how he looked; he never was. But he figured, This is as good as it’s going to get — and anyway, it’ll be dark. He switched off the light and headed out.
Gene and Carlos were on the front porch, standing shoulder to shoulder, watching the bears heading toward the bars up Commercial Street.
“You’ve got the place to yourself,” Moe said. “Just try to finish up before I get home. These walls seem pretty thin.”
Gene didn’t respond, but Carlos did: “We’ll try,” he said, rubbing Gene’s shoulder. “But I can’t make any promises.”
Carlos seemed happier now that the two of them were going to get some time alone. Moe tried to be sympathetic; it can’t be easy, he told himself, for Carlos to take a vacation with his boyfriend and his boyfriend’s ex-boyfriend. Then again, he thought, Carlos didn’t have to come.
“See you later, then,” said Moe. “If you need me, you know where to find me.”
“Sugar bear, everyone knows where to find you,” said Gene. “You practically posted it on Facebook.”
Moe, who was always careful about timing, stepped out of the house at five past ten. Walking from their condo in the East End to the Dick Dock in the West End would normally take almost a half hour, Moe knew. He’d been coming to Provincetown for more than a decade, and he had it all down to a science. But he also knew that tonight, it would take longer because he’d have to stop along the way.
The first part of the walk was the quietest, past the guesthouses and art galleries in the East End. The flow of people was entirely one-way at this hour: single guys and couples and groups of friends, all men, heading west on foot or on their rented bicycles — either way, in the middle of the street — ready for a big night out.
Next Moe came to the center of town, the straightest part of Provincetown. Day trippers from the Lower Cape filled mediocre outdoor restaurants. Straight locals — skinny teenage boys wearing oversized skater shorts, sun-wrinkled older men who’d been drinking since morning, young Jamaican guys who came to town to wash dishes for the summer, and the giggling, gum-chomping girls who garnered attention from all of them — gathered outside the handful of straight bars that Moe had walked by for years without ever entering. Vacationing families with little kids sat on the benches in front of Town Hall, listening to a young woman mumbling folk songs as she strummed her beat-up guitar. The gay men who were merely passing through this section of Commercial Street grew quieter for a while, staying on the sidewalk and trying not to attract attention. They needn’t have worried; straight people in Provincetown loved gay guys — although they were fond of showier types, like shirtless gym bunnies with impossible bodies and glowstick necklaces, or drag queens with towering wigs and bright green eye shadow. Bears didn’t register on their poorly tuned gaydar. To them, the bears were just a bunch of fat guys. So the gays and the straights slipped by each other, for a change, nearly unnoticed.
An invisible line ran across Commercial Street just past Town Hall where straight people always turned back like dogs at an electronic fence, saying things like “That’s pretty much the end of it,” or “There’s nothing further up this way.” Gay men understood that the West End is where Provincetown actually begins, and that everything up until that point is a mere prelude. An amuse bouche, some might say, with exaggerated French accents.
Once Moe crossed that line, he slowed down and watched the crowds get gayer and hairier and more densely packed. Other weeks, lesbians made up closer to half of the people on the street, and a whole variety of gay men of every possible type would be present. But on that Sunday night, the bears roamed the West End unchallenged.
On the sidewalk outside the Crown and Anchor, Moe felt a hand on his ass, and another hand slipped over his eyes. A deep baritone growled, “Nice hanky,” in his ear, and he knew immediately who it was: Vic, a six-foot-something daddy who was one of his longtime buddies from New York. Moe turned to give him a hug, his face pressed into Vic’s marvelous chest, a wall of muscles and gray fur. He pulled away a few seconds later when he saw Paul, Vic’s partner, standing next to him; it’s not that Paul didn’t know exactly who Moe was and exactly what he and Vic did together, but still, Moe thought, there’s no need to be tacky. He politely kissed them both hello.
“When’d you get here?” Vic asked. This was the standard question he’d be asked a hundred times in the next two days.
“About an hour ago,” said Moe.
“Great crowd, right?” said Paul, taking Vic’s hand in his.
Moe, who had been focused on his destination, hadn’t taken the time to step back and survey the crowd. But now that Paul mentioned it…
It was like someone had tapped into Moe’s erotic wish list while he slept, and assembled a crowd just to turn him on. Moe loved beards — and here, nine out of ten faces had them, some bushy and some trimmed. Moe craved beefy guys, who were present in abundance, broad shoulders and solid pecs, thick waists and muscular thighs. And Moe had a serious thing for daddies, Vic being just one of dozens of examples in his sexual stable; Moe was happy to note that most, though hardly all, of the guys at Bear Week seemed to be over forty, which put him — even at forty-two — toward the young end of the spectrum.
“This is going to be an incredible week,” said Moe, who was now scanning the crowd instead of looking at Vic and Paul. His eyes stopped when he spotted one particularly beefy specimen in the crowd, tall and broad, sporting a full red beard. Their eyes locked. Moe swallowed hard.
“Careful, Moe, or you’ll drool all over yourself,” said Vic.
“Where are you off to?” asked Paul. “We were just headed to the Vault.”
The Vault, the leather bar at the Crown and Anchor, wasn’t a bad place, but Moe had his plan, and he was sticking to it.
“I’m headed to the Boatslip,” he said.
“I didn’t think that place was open at night,” said Vic.
“Who said I wanted to go inside?” Moe asked with a wink.
“Ah, I see,” said Vic. “I’m sure you’ll be very popular there.”
He reached over and undid another button on Moe’s shirt.
“That’s better,” he said. “Now go show ’em what you got.”
The next hundred yards were the heart of the bar district: in addition to the several bars in the Crown complex, there were three bars that made up the Atlantic House, plus a couple up the hill on Carver Street. Guys who weren’t sure where to start their evenings typically stood in the middle of Commercial Street until they found a hot man they wanted to follow wherever he was going. This made the middle of the road a very busy place, so the final few blocks to the Boatslip took Moe another twenty minutes. He bumped into six more familiar faces along the way: three other buddies from home, one guy from Philadelphia he’d tricked with a few times on earlier trips to Provincetown, one local who flirted with him every summer, and one guy he’d had a weekend fling with more than twenty years earlier when he was still in college. (Neither of them had been a bear back them, but, as Moe liked to say: By the time gay men hit forty, sheer inertia takes them halfway to beardom.) Three more guys came up to introduce themselves to Moe because they’d seen his photo online, or heard about his legendary talents from one of their friends. And for several minutes, Moe stopped to sit by Spiritus Pizza simply to watch the guys from the far West End heading east toward the bars, in a mirror image of the East End commute he witnessed at the beginning of his journey.
He got some positive reinforcement at Spiritus: a wink, a raised eyebrow, and at least three strangers who woofed at him. The highest compliment a bear can get. Moe checked his watch: four minutes past eleven, time to go. He puffed out his chest and got up, ready to walk the last two blocks.
* * *
Some guys play it coy when they make the turn to the Dick Dock, as if they’re looking for a different address and have wandered down this alley by mistake. Others are petrified that someone will see them going somewhere so disreputable — and, perhaps, rat them out to their friends and boyfriends; these frightened fellows walk back and forth and back and forth until there’s nobody on Commercial Street close enough to recognize them as they turn the corner by the Boatslip.
Moe had no compunctions about being seen. He strode without shame to the corner, and turned with determination toward the Dick Dock, his sneakers scratching loudly against the sand on the pavement. He popped a Listerine strip in his mouth, checked his watch again, and walked down the steps to the sand. One man stood nonchalantly by the water’s edge, acting like he just happened to be taking a moonlight stroll past this random spot — The Dick Dock? Here? I had no idea — while checking out the latest arrivals. Moe met his gaze, nodded, and turned under the deck, ducking his head instinctively. (Only novices and drunks bumped their heads against the wooden beams.) And he was in.
He did a brief, methodical survey to find the best spot — a place close enough to any action to attract a stream of guys on the prowl, but far enough away that they wouldn’t constantly be looking over their shoulders to see who was next. He stopped just shy of the middle of the Dick Dock, next to one of the pilings holding up the deck, on the side that caught a bit of moonlight off the water. He dug his sneakers into the sand, undid one more button, and waited for the bears.
They were mostly browsing at first, like a line of hungry stoners perusing the ice cream aisle late at night: That one looks good. No, this one looks even better. Ooh, I’ve never tried that kind before. Wait, maybe I’ll just stick to what I usually get. Unless . . .
Moe got some second looks, but he knew this was just the warm-up, guys making mental notes about who was standing where, and in what order they might want to revisit them. It was tough to distinguish one person from another in the dark, especially when all the bears had certain common physical characteristics, so Moe made his own mental notes about the guys he saw. The one with the kilt? No — never a kilt, easy access be damned. The pair of daddies with matching Bear Cruise T-shirts from the previous summer? Hot separately, but too cutesy together. The guy snorting poppers all alone? No way. Moe also pre-rejected anyone who was smoking, anyone who was too fucked up to walk a straight line in the dark, and anyone chatting about anything other than sex.
That still left him dozens to choose from. And more showed up every minute, entering at one end, waiting for their eyes to adjust, and then walking up and down between the two facing rows of men — the back row ready to play, the row closer to the water watching and waiting.
It was cocksucker heaven. Yes, there was the occasional fuck that happened under the Boatslip. But whether it’s because vertical fucking is simply more difficult when you’re trying to keep your balance on the sand, or because sand and lube are natural enemies, such things were rare. There were really only two reasons most people went to the Dick Dock: to blow, or to get blown.
As the crowd got denser, the tension started to rise. All that randy male energy could only build for so long until it bubbled over into an orgy, or a fistfight, or a lavish production number — and, at least at that hour, only one of those options seemed promising. Someone’s got to get this shit started, Moe said to himself. When a burly guy in a tanktop stopped in front of Moe and fixed his eyes on him, Moe responded silently with a brief nod and a smile, and the fun finally began.
After ten seconds of kissing and a few more seconds running hands through Mister Tanktop’s carpet of thick chest hair, Moe sank to his knees in the sand. By the time Moe had undone the man’s belt, two more men had gathered to look. By the time Moe had the man’s cock out of his fly, those two men had taken out their own cocks. By the time Mister Tanktop was fucking Moe’s throat in a steady rhythm, his hands gently holding Moe’s head in place, those two men were jerking their cocks near Moe’s face — hoping to be next in line. A small crowd gathered: one barking orders at Moe in a stage whisper (Suck that fat cock! Yeah, all the way down!), one kissing Mister Tanktop and another tickling his balls as they brushed against Moe’s whiskered chin, a few more onlookers waiting for a shot at Moe’s mouth (now that they were assured it was “awesome” and “fucking amazing”), and one greedy little cocksucker who had squeezed in next to Moe, hoping to steal a few of those cocks-in-waiting away before Moe was done. When the group got too large, it split into smaller groups, just a few feet apart in either direction, like a microscopic organism replicating itself.
It was a perfect way to start Bear Week, Moe thought, as he started a running tally in his head. He got off five guys in that first group before he even had a chance to stand, but eventually that crowd dissipated, and Moe got up and looked for another spot for a fresh beginning. He moved toward the far end of the crowd — the place where only the most committed cruisers would go, those looking for a bit of privacy rather than a huge group scene.
Here he lured a bald man with a nose ring, a skinny otter wearing nylon running shorts, and a short muscle man with tattoos stretching across his chest from shoulder to shoulder. Moe played with them one at a time, in quick succession. They had a few things in common: They were all hairy, bearded, and older than Moe. And they all wanted what only Moe Pearlman could deliver: the best blowjob in Provincetown.
He’d been coming to town long enough to have a reputation. Which didn’t bother Moe at all. It was good for business.
There was a brief lull as the Dick Dock thinned out. Some guys stopped there before going out, and they usually started to leave before midnight, to catch one last drink at the bars. Moe checked his watch — they were right on time. But he knew this was just a temporary intermission, the tide washing out before it comes rushing back in, stronger than ever.
A few minutes later, several men showed up in leather — shorts, armbands, vests, chaps. This wasn’t exactly common; sand and salt water are not kind to leather, and no queens are more uptight about their outfits than leathermen. But Sunday night was a big night for leather in Provincetown, the night that Club Purgatory hosted a leather dance party in the basement of the Gifford House, a venue with terrible traffic flow, uneven air conditioning, and treacherously low ceilings that still managed to draw a stunningly hot crowd of sweaty men for a reliably good time. There was still another hour left before last call, so Moe deduced that either the party was a dud, leading guys to hit the Dick Dock instead, or it was so hopping that they were turning people away at the door. On a busy night like tonight, probably the latter.
One hot number looked like something out of a Tom of Finland drawing, his muscles bulging exaggeratedly in every direction, straining against his studded harness. He stopped a few feet away. Moe licked his lips. The man raised an eyebrow. Moe knelt in the sand. Message received. The man approached.
“Suck it, boy,” the man said.
He did as he was told, although at forty-two, he was hardly a boy. He’d been sucking dick for a quarter century. That thought crossed his mind as he unzipped the man’s leather pants. And as he pulled out the man’s fairly impressive uncut cock and brought it to his lips, he had another thought: As long as I live, I’ll never get tired of doing this.
He swallowed. Nine down.
Moe started looking around for number ten. A lucky number in these situations, he’d found.
And sure enough, luck brought Moe just what he was looking for: a man he’d been staring at on the ferry, someone so brutally hot that Moe — not usually a timid guy — was dumbstruck, afraid to approach him or even make prolonged eye contact on the boat. He had a silver-gray flat top, his hair close cropped on the sides, with incongruously dark eyebrows peaked over blue eyes; his gray beard was bushy around the mouth, pulling down to a point under his chin. He had gray hair everywhere — shoulders, forearms, chest, and belly — which, now that he was shirtless, was plainly visible. Even on the backs of his upper arms; could he possibly have known that Moe had the most specific, arcane fetish of all: hairy triceps? He had it all, from his mischievous smile to the thick, stubby legs peeking out of his khaki shorts.
Now that’s someone who could call me boy and make me believe it, Moe thought.
The man took a step toward Moe, who assumed his usual position on his knees. “Not yet,” the man said, leaning over and pulling Moe to his feet. He planted his lips on Moe’s and let his tongue wander. He wrapped one arm around Moe’s back and held him close, while he kissed him slowly, his tongue tracing Moe’s teeth, his lips, the roof of his mouth. Moe relaxed into the man’s embrace, tilting his head back and allowing himself to be devoured.
It was several minutes before they came up for air. The man looked Moe in the eyes, and asked, “What’s your name?”
Moe managed to get his name out.
“I’m Lou,” he said, keeping his arm hooked behind Moe.
“I want to suck your dick, Lou,” said Moe.
“I know you do, and I’m gonna let you. But we’re gonna do it . . . real . . . slow.”
More kissing followed. Lou’s beard rubbing against Moe’s neck. Moe’s lips on Lou’s nipples, his biceps, his fuzz-covered beer gut. More kissing, and more, and more, before Moe finally got his reward. Lou stood over him, looking him in the eye. Others gathered around to watch, but they remained mere spectators; Lou didn’t allow anyone to join, or to touch either one of them. They were the show, the star performers. Everyone there at that moment, Moe thought, was envious of at least one of them.
As Moe blew Lou, he looked up and took in the image of this daddy looming above, focused entirely on him. Ten was his lucky number, after all. Moe closed his eyes, and his mind wandered: Look at how he looks at me. This isn’t just a blowjob. This guy is really into me. He really likes me.
Moe gave it his all, pulled out every trick. He used his tongue in ways that tongues have never been used before, working his lips and his teeth in synch to drive Lou crazy. This was the one, the one Moe had traveled to Provincetown for, the one who was going to make this the best fucking vacation he’d ever had.
Lou said, “Here it comes!” and Moe opened his eyes again. A circle of others had formed around them, and this circle waited, all eyes on Moe, to see where he’d take the load. Moe scanned their eyes, then looked back up at Lou, and pulled him all the way in, holding onto his meaty thighs to keep him from backing away.
Spent, Lou pulled out and tucked himself back into his shorts. An arm reached down to pull Moe up — his knees weren’t as nimble as they used to be — but the arm didn’t belong to Lou. “That was fucking hot,” said a kid in a red hoodie who’d been watching; he’s the one who helped Moe up. A skinny little otter with a wispy blond beard and wide eyes. Young, really young, maybe still in college.
“Thanks,” said Moe, brushing the sand off his jeans.
Moe looked around for Lou. He was ready to stop counting for the night. He’d found the guy he wanted to get off with, that one he always waited for who would end the evening. Lou wouldn’t have to do much more than hold him again, kiss him again, while he jerked off. It would only take maybe twenty seconds — he’d been on the edge since Lou had first touched him. Then they’d walk up to Commercial Street together, chatting a bit, maybe stop for some ice cream, make a plan to get together the next day. They’d flirt idly on the street, Moe finding any excuse to touch Lou’s arms, Lou kissing Moe absent-mindedly.
But Lou was gone.
Moe walked the length of the Dick Dock, just to make sure. He checked by the water, thinking maybe Lou was taking a piss. He peeked by the entrance, thinking Lou might be waiting for him. But no.
Moe was dejected. He stood against a piling in the dark, and checked his watch. It was nearly one in the morning. The bars were closing, and the Dick Dock would soon be filling up with a new wave of horny, half-in-the-bag guys who’d struck out over cocktails — guys who came to cruise after they hit the bars. Moe wasn’t interested: Drunks were too sloppy, and couldn’t keep it up.
Spiritus Pizza was the only place that stayed open until two, so it became a sort of nightly cruising ground and after-hours street party, where everyone caught up with the friends they’d lost track of hours before, and dished about what they’d done. The idea of pizza got Moe’s stomach growling, and he had a rule about such situations: Whenever food seems more appealing than cock, it’s time to stop having sex.
All Lethe Press books, including An Older Man, are available through the major online retailers and booksellers. You can also support the press and authors by buying directly from our website.
This month at Lethe sees the release of Drama Muscle, by Joe Cosentino, the second Nicky and Noah mystery following the successful and award-winning Drama Queen. Read the first chapter of Drama Muscle here:
As the ethereal sound of horns parted the heavenly clouds, the young gods and goddesses appeared in a ray of white light. Standing as strong as the stone columns behind them, the deities displayed stunning muscles, colossal beauty, and mammoth ambition housed in the smallest and most seductive of white garments. Lightning flashed as they formed a resilient line and each struck their first flawless pose. Zeus was dark-skinned and as powerful as thunder. Ganymede at his side had skin of white porcelain and a clever stare. Hercules and Adonis were the perfect blend of masculine vigor and physical splendor. Athena was a gorgeous, olive-skinned warrior, and Aphrodite a lovely, fair-skinned temptress. Achilles watched them all, vowing to be victorious in the end.
“Good work, everyone!”
That was me, Nicky Abbondanza, Professor of Directing at Treemeadow College, a white-stone Edwardian-style private college in the quaint and picturesque village of Treemeadow in the equally quaint and picturesque state of Vermont. As inscribed on the two bronze statues at the college’s entrance, the college’s name comes from its founders, Harold Tree and Jacob Meadow. Tree and Meadow were madly wealthy, madly generous, and madly in love. The old gents would no doubt be proud to know that Noah Oliver (Professor of Acting) and I have become a current generation couple at Treemeadow College. That’s not to say Noah and I look anything like our college’s founders. We aren’t made of bronze for one. We wear dress shirts, slacks, and blazers in the fall season rather than heavy dark suits. Also, the Treemeadows were small, thin, scholarly types. Noah and I are both tall. I am of the dark hair, long sideburns, Roman nose, pumped body (thanks to the gym on campus) variety. Oh, there’s one other small thing. Well, it’s not really small. To the delight or horror of my past boyfriends, I have a nine-and-a-quarter-inch penis—flaccid. Luckily, Noah is delighted and totally open (pardon the pun) to new adventures. Noah has luxurious curly-blond hair, batting blue eyes, and the warmest heart in New England. His body is firm and smooth, but not toned as he never goes near the gym—until now!
Each year the top students in the Bodybuilding Department compete in a contest to be named the Top Toned Tan Trojan at Treemeadow (Try saying that three times fast). Actually, the real name is Treemeadow’s Annual Bodybuilding Competition. The winner receives an enormous gold cup, and more importantly, the year’s college tuition free. Given the rising cost of tuition at Treemeadow, this is no lightweight matter (pardon the pun again).
Bodybuilding Department Head Professor Brick Strong asked my Theatre Department Head, Martin Anderson, if Noah and I could use our theatrical expertise to add a dramatic flair to this year’s bodybuilding competition. Since I was not directing a play that semester, Martin agreed to give Noah and me release time, thereby changing our mantra from “Let’s put on a show” to “I’m gonna pump you up.” That led to Noah and me hauling lighting, smoke, sound, and set equipment, along with a number of skimpy Greek period costumes, from the Theatre Department building to the Physical Education building. The plan was that I, as a directing professor, would direct the production, and Noah, as an acting professor, would work with the student-athletes on stage presence for their individual poses.
“Okay everyone, Professor Oliver will take it from here.” I stepped aside and leaned against the gym wall.
Noah flicked back his gorgeous blond locks and took my place in front of the students like a new king taking the throne after a revolution. Sounding delectably butch, he said, “Let’s take a little time to discuss each of your characters. The Greek period was a—”
“That’s the period we’ve selected for the competition in terms of characters, set, and costumes,” I said.
Noah smiled in my direction.
I think Noah and I are the perfect couple. “Rodney, we know that your character, Zeus, was the father of gods and men—” Rodney Towers was tall, dark, and massive with muscle. “—which is why your toga has a thunderbolt on it,” I said.
“I’m always happy to help,” I said.
“So I see.”
“But Professor Oliver is totally in charge now. So everyone, please listen to Professor Oliver,” I said.
“Thank you.” Focusing back on Zeus, rather Rodney, Noah said, “The Greek gods in mythology were part god and part human—”
“Which is why I selected this motif for the competition. You all have human emotion, but your strength and powers are supernatural.”
“Right,” said Noah with a tight jaw.
I folded my arms across my chest. “Professor Oliver is really good at working on character development, so pay close attention to him.”
Noah took in a deep breath. “And the Greek gods were quite amorous—”
“With both sexes,” I said. “Zeus and Ganymede were just one pair of famous lovers who influenced the arts.”
“Excuse me, everyone.” Noah put a hand on my shoulder and ushered me to a corner of the gym. “Nicky, I appreciate your help, but—”
I put my arm around Noah. “You don’t need to thank me. I love you, and I am always here to help you.”
“Well can you please…stop?”
“Did I say something wrong?” I asked dumbfounded.
“I would like to be able to finish a sentence! Will you let me do that?”
“I won’t say another word,” I said as we walked back to the students.
“Promise?” Noah whispered in my ear.
“Of course.” I looked at my watch. “You should move the rehearsal along, since there’s lots more to do.”
Noah opened his mouth to say something, but Rodney Towers interrupted. “Professor, I was thinking about what Professor Abbondanza mentioned.”
Noah sighed. “Which of the numerous things said by Professor Abbondanza are you referring to, Rodney?”
“The thing about Zeus and Ganymede getting it on.” Rodney looked as if someone had held his nose and poured vinegar into his mouth.
Noah tried to speak again, and Maria Ruiz (our Athena) interrupted. “Homophobe anyone?” Maria stood nose to nose with Rodney. “What’s wrong with you, Rodney?” She pointed to the twins at the other end of the line. “Tim and Kim are playing Hercules and Adonis. Everyone knows they were a couple. You don’t hear them complaining.”
“Um now that you like mention it, Kim would rather, you know, play another part,” said Tim.
“Um so would Tim,” added Kim.
Posed with their hands on their hips, the twins looked like an advertisement for The King and I in double vision.
Let me explain. Kim and Tim Sim (Try saying that three times fast), as identical twins, can read each other’s minds. I could never read my brother’s mind when we were kids. That’s why I had to read his diary, listen in on his phone conversations, and bug his book bag.
The muscles on Rodney’s massive back curled as if snarling. “Let me make myself clear, Maria. I’m not happy playing Zeus, because I don’t want any part of an unnatural lifestyle.”
Maria shot him dagger eyes. “And pumping iron three hours a day and spray-painting our bodies is natural?”
“Maria knows all about being natural. Don’t you, Maria?” said compact Jonathan Toner (Achilles) with a smirk on his pimply face.
“Shut up, Jonathan,” replied Maria as if swatting a pesky fly.
Rodney said to his workout partner, “Maria, don’t rag on me because I believe in the Bible.”
“Then you better get to work in the fields, ’cause you’re a slave, honey,” Maria answered with a wave of her muscular arm and snap of her strong fingers.
“Kiss my muscular black ass.”
“Kiss my muscular Latina ass.”
Noah said, like a referee at an A.D.D. Little League game, “Okay, let’s talk about your character, Maria. Athena was the goddess of wisdom, courage, and justice. As you think about your poses—”
“Try to incorporate those feelings into your performance,” I said.
“Right,” Noah added with narrowed eyes in my direction.
I mimed buttoning my lips and rested my back against the wall.
Noah continued, “And Jonathan, Achilles was shot in the heel, the only weak part of his body.”
“Hence the term ‘Achilles heel,’” I added, then placed my hand over my big mouth.
Jonathan flexed his small, high-peaked biceps. “There’s no part of me that’s weak.”
“Except your brain,” said Maria.
Waving his stubby finger under her square jaw, Jonathan said, “Careful, Maria. You don’t want to piss me off.”
Like a substitute teacher on the last day of school, Noah tried to keep control. Noticing Mack Heath (Ganymede) standing quietly, Noah said, “Let’s talk about Mack’s character.”
Middle weight, fair, perfectly proportioned, and amazingly cut, Mack said, “Didn’t Ganymede represent youth and beauty?”
“Correct!” I said then covered my mouth with both hands.
Jillian Flowers (our Aphrodite), a raving blonde beauty, gazed at Mack with lust in her violet eyes. “You um totally are like Ganymede, Mack.”
Mack’s cheeks grew flushed. “Thanks.”
“For what?” Jillian asked.
“You just said I’m like Ganymede.”
Jillian said, “Um isn’t that like who you are, you know, playing?”
Poor Jillian. Last year, while working out, a barbell accidentally fell on Jillian’s head, leaving her with poor short-term memory.
“Let’s talk about your character, Jillian,” said Noah, clearly hoping to get things back on track. “Aphrodite is the goddess of beauty—”
“And love,” I added, then hid my face underneath my blazer.
Jillian batted her long lashes at Mack, then rested her strong hand on his mountainous shoulder. “Did um Aphrodite and Ganymede ever like, you know, hook up?”
“No, they didn’t, Jillian.” Mack slid his shoulder out of her clutches.
“Who didn’t what?” asked Jillian in confusion.
“Aphrodite and Ganymede were never a couple,” Mack explained, then walked away.
Jillian responded, “Who said they were?”
“Tim is like getting, you know, bored,” said Kim.
“Kim um wants to like get back to, you know, rehearsing,” added Tim.
Having lost his patience, Jonathan walked past each of his classmates with a smirk on his pockmarked face, like a carnival sharpshooter wiping out a row of rubber duckies. “Jillian, Mack isn’t into you. Mack isn’t into anybody, except Mack. Tim and Kim, you don’t need this competition. Stay home and wait for Daddy Big Bucks Sim to kick the chop suey. Maria, you don’t want to tick me off, and you know why. Rodney, join the twentieth century.”
Before World War Muscle broke out, Noah said, “All right, everyone. Let’s make a circle on the gym floor to do a theatre exercise called Tug of War.”
After the mime exercise, Noah decided to work on individual posing routines. He asked Rodney and Maria to come on stage, and the rest of the students to take a twenty minute break.
I said to Noah, “Great idea to work with them two at a time. I’ll help you—”
Noah walked me into a corridor off the gym. “Nicky?”
He looked at me with soft blue eyes, and rested his arms around my shoulders. “Do you love me?”
“I love you more than life itself.”
His soft, warm lips met mine. “If you want to keep your life and love, go get a snack and come back in twenty minutes.” Noah kissed me. “Make that thirty.”
I entered the snack bar in the Student Union building and found Jonathan and the unhappy Sim twins changed into their street clothes and sitting at a booth near the door. I joined the three young men as Helga served them their usual two pounds of (thankfully cooked) hamburger—each. Helga’s real name is Sarah Peterson, but since she is a full-figured German woman with blonde hair worn in side braids, the students all call her Helga.
After Helga banged down the plates, then left for “a cigarette break,” I said, “I’m looking forward to the competition, guys.”
“Um so are we,” Tim and Kim said, then downed their hamburger meat like cavemen.
Jonathan picked at his meat, then picked at a pimple. “Tim, are you meeting with your…advisor after rehearsal?”
“Why would Tim be like meeting with, you know, Professor Granite so like late?” asked Kim.
“Maybe to talk about Professor Granite’s vote in the competition.” Jonathan poured the salt from the salt shaker into the pepper shaker then added with a sneer, “Will you be meeting with Professor Stryker after the rehearsal, Kim, to talk about her vote?”
“Kim doesn’t like meet with his, you know, advisor at like night either,” said Tim.
I laughed. “Only theatre faculty are crazy enough to be on campus this late at night.”
Pushing away his half-eaten plate, Jonathan said, “Since you two guys are free after rehearsal, let’s hang.”
“We don’t think so,” said Tim.
Jonathan sneered. “You may want to rethink that, guys.”
Putting my size-ten foot in my mouth, I said, “Jonathan, it sounds like you are threatening them.”
As if reincarnating Eddie Haskell, Jonathan said with a sweet smile, “I would never threaten one of my classmates, Professor.” He turned to the twins. “Right, guys?”
The twins nodded and continued ravaging their meat.
Tired of the smell of red meat and testosterone, I excused myself and walked over to the counter to purchase a cup of tea from a student aide. After checking my watch and realizing I still had some time to kill (or Noah would kill me), I sat down at a booth to drink my tea. I heard familiar voices behind me and realized they belonged to Mack and Jillian, who were, by the smell of it, devouring enormous turkey breasts.
Jillian asked between bites, “Um do you like mind, you know, sitting with me, Mack?”
Just as I was about to find another booth, Jillian asked, “How do you like think um rehearsals are, you know, going?”
I listened like a priest in a confessional with a gay porn star.
Ever the diplomat, Mack answered while chewing, “Professor Oliver has a lot of patience.”
Jillian giggled. “Especially with Professor Abbondanza.”
I realized that if I moved slightly—balancing on one hip and contorting my body in a right angle—I could see their reflection in the mirror, but they couldn’t see me.
“Mack, you like looked really um good up there. You are like incredibly toned.”
“Mack, you like looked really um good up there. You are like incredibly toned,” Jillian repeated.
Mack responded gently, “You already said that, Jillian.”
She smacked her pale forehead. “Um sorry.”
“No problem,” said Mack.
They say love is better the second time around.
Jillian continued in adoration. “You um look even better than Tony Piccolo’s silly old pictures of his son. You’re, you know, a sure like bet to win the, you know, competition, Mack.”
He rested his perfect arms on the table. “According to Jonathan Toner, Professor Strong favors you to win.”
Jillian rolled her eyes as if high tide. “Don’t like listen to anything Jonathan says. I, you know, think Professor Strong will vote for you to win.”
“I hope this doesn’t upset you, Jillian,” said Mack. “Jonathan is telling everyone that you and Professor Strong are…hooking up.”
Laughing, Jillian fidgeted with the flower design on her T-shirt. “That’s like crazy. Professor Strong is, you know, an old man. He was like once married to Professor Stryker. He um must be like over thirty-five.”
“If I was like going to make a play for like a professor, it, you know, would be like that hot theatre professor.”
I always liked Jillian.
“Um Professor Oliver. But he’s like obviously, you know, partnered with um Professor Abbondanza. They must like have an um father/son kind of, you know, relationship.”
I’m only five years older than Noah! Well, seven. But who’s counting?
Having finished her meal, Jillian pressed her firm breasts against Mack’s pectoral muscles. “I have my um eyes, you know, on a younger man.”
Mack asked, “Who?”
“Who like what?” asked Jillian.
“You just said you have your eyes on a young man.”
“Oh.” Jillian pressed her sculpted thighs (housed in pink short-shorts) against his. “I um think you like know who it is.”
Blushing, Mack took her hand in his. “I’m flattered, really.” After a long swallow of his saliva, he said, “I don’t feel that way about you. I’m sorry, but I never will.”
Jillian looked like a beagle left out in the snow. “Is it um because of the like memory thing?”
“No.” Mack pushed away his empty plate.
“No like what?”
“You asked me if I’m not interested in you because of your short-term memory lapses from the barbell accident. I said that isn’t it.”
“So if it’s…um not that…what’s like wrong with me, Mack?” she asked with tears brimming in her almond-shaped eyes.
“You’re terrific. It’s me.”
“Are you like gay?” she asked, disappointed.
That woke me up!
After a long exhale, Mack said, “The truth is I’m not attracted to anybody. It’s been that way for as long as I can remember.”
Poor kid. He just hasn’t met the right man yet.
Mack shrugged his massive shoulders. “Maybe I’m asexual.” His perfectly sculpted body tensed like an accordion. “Jonathan is the only one I’ve told…besides you.”
“Told what?” Jillian asked in oblivion.
Mack repeated, “I’ve only told Jonathan that I think I’m asexual.”
Her button nose crinkled. “You um think you’re like asexual, and you told that creep?”
He nodded. “Jonathan wanted to fix me up with some girl in his acting class.” Mack laughed pathetically. “He was going to charge her money to date me. Crazy, huh?”
From the look on Jillian’s face, I could tell she wasn’t thinking the idea was all that far- fetched. She took his hand and placed it on her lap. “Mack, um if there is like ever anything that I can, you know, do to like help you sort this out, I am like totally available.”
By the time I got back to the gym, Rodney and Maria were taking their break, and Noah was working with the Sim twins and Jonathan Toner. I started over to help Noah.
“Hey, Professor!” A man of about sixty years old, wearing sweat clothes laden with the college logo, motioned me over to an alcove at a corner of the gym. I walked over to the short, emaciated man. He sat at a desk surrounded by washing machines, dryers, and athletic equipment. As I stood next to him and looked up at the bulletin board above his desk, I was mesmerized by pictures of a stunning young bodybuilder in briefs executing various competitive poses. In the last picture, the young man, rightfully so, held a huge winning cup.
“That’s my son, Robbie,” the man said. “He won Treemeadow’s Bodybuilding Competition eighteen years ago.”
“I can see why.” I couldn’t stop looking at the photographs of the young bodybuilder with his perfectly proportioned body, rippling muscles, handsome face, and warm smile. “Where is he now?” Don’t worry, Noah, I’m just looking.
“Robbie lives in Florida with his wife and two kids. He’s a lawyer.”
I smiled at the man who seemed to have as many memories as gray hairs on his head. “I’m Nicky Abbondanza from the Theatre Department.”
“I know.” He shook my hand firmly. “Tony Piccolo. I heard you was coming to help us out with the competition.”
I sat on the edge of his desk, and Tony and I were eye to eye. “What do you do here?”
He chuckled. “Everything, launder the kids’ clothes so they stay fresh, clean off the weight equipment so the kids don’t get sick, restock the supplies so they have all they need, and bring them snacks when they get hungry.”
I took in Tony’s tired, warm eyes. “That’s a lot to do.”
He nodded like his head was loose. “I like the kids, Professor. They remind me of Robbie when he was their age. They keep me feeling young.”
I was again unable to stop looking at Robbie’s pictures on the bulletin board. “I’m not surprised your son did well.”
“He was the best bodybuilder ever at Treemeadow College.”
No argument here.
“And that’s saying something.” Tony stood next to me and put his wrinkled hand on my shoulder. “They’re all terrific kids, Professor. While other students are drinking, drugging, and having orgies, these kids are exercising to stay healthy and fit. I love each one of them as if they was my own.” The dark circles under Tony’s hazel eyes deepened. “That’s why I called you over here.” He said as if a secret, “Listen, don’t pay no mind to their bickering and complaining. It’s all a part of growing up. Even my Robbie complained here and there when he was their age. But deep down, these kids are the best, and they’ll come through in the competition.”
Shaking his veined hand again, I said, “I wish we had someone like you in the Theatre Department.”
“I’m fine right where I am, Professor. My wife died many years ago. Robbie moved away. These kids are my family.”
I took a last gaze at the mesmerizing Robbie. “Seems Treemeadow was lucky to have Robbie.”
I heard Noah and Jonathan Toner arguing. My sweet Noah who never loses his temper?
Tony pointed to Jonathan. “Even that one. He a little instigator and out for himself, but he don’t mean no harm to nobody.”
I walked over as Jonathan asked Noah, “Professor, is my posing routine last because the bodybuilding professors told you to feature Tim, Kim, and Jillian before me?” He added like a child whose brother received a larger lollipop, “Or am I last in the lineup due to your obvious bias against me?”
Noah replied as if counting to ten, “Jonathan, your posing routine is last because Achilles is the heel in Greek mythology.”
Having none of it, Jonathan rose on his tippy-toes to make eye contact with Noah’s chin. “Is that the same reason why I’m last in the opening lineup?”
Noah took a deep breath in an unsuccessful effort to calm down. “Actually, Jonathan, it is the reason you are last. And for the record, I have no bias against you.”
Flailing his arms in Noah’s face like a crossing guard at a highway intersection, Jonathan shouted, “If you have no bias against me, Professor Oliver, how do you explain the D grade I got for my monologue presentation in Acting class?”
Noah clasped his hands behind his back, no doubt to keep himself from strangling the young bodybuilder. “I explain that by reminding you that during your class monologue performance you forgot your lines, broke character, swore, and spoke so softly you could not be heard past the first row in the lab theatre.”
Jonathan responded like a preschool teacher explaining snack time to her charges, “I want to be an action-film star, not a theatre actor. In movies they have microphones for volume, and they do retakes when actors forget lines. Don’t you know that, Professor?”
“I know a great deal about movies, Jonathan, including that you lack the discipline to be cast in one,” replied Noah, obviously at the end of his long rope.
Jonathan looked like a bull in a closet full of red capes. “You’ll regret that, Professor.”
Hearing all the shouting, Rodney, Maria, Mack, and Jillian came back from their breaks. Rodney said, towering over Jonathan, “Cool down, dude.”
Jonathan turned on Rodney. “Or what, Rodney? The Lord will turn me into stone, and I’ll resemble you?”
Maria stood between Jonathan and Rodney. “Enough, you guys!”
With his green eyes shooting venom like gamma rays, Jonathan said, “Right, Maria, we’re guys. You were a guy too—when you were Mario and had a dick instead of a slit.”
Maria lunged for Jonathan. Rodney held Maria’s arms behind her back as Mack pinned Jonathan’s hands behind his back.
“I’ll take care of you later, Toner,” said Maria as she shrugged away Rodney’s hold and walked off her anger.
Jonathan screamed, “Let me go, Mack!”
Mack whispered in Jonathan’s ear, “You need to calm down for your own good, Jonathan. You don’t want to get thrown out of the competition.”
Jonathan wiggled in Mack’s hold like a wild horse at a rodeo. “I don’t buy your good-guy act, Mack.”
“Leave Mack like alone!” Jillian said with a no-nonsense look.
“You can defend him from here to Barbell-Brain Land and Mack still won’t get it up for you, Jillian,” replied Jonathan with his saliva and venom spraying onto Jillian’s confused face.
“Um defend like who?” asked Jillian.
Having had enough of the drama (pardon the pun), I said, “All right, everybody. Rehearsal is over for today. Let’s work out and regroup with calmer heads tomorrow night.”
I grabbed Noah by the arm and led him to the door.
“Why didn’t you defend me to Jonathan, Nicky?”
“You told me not to say anything at rehearsal.”
“I didn’t mean if I’m being attacked!”
“Noah, you better go home and cool down.”
His beautiful shoulders softened. “Sorry, Nicky. I shouldn’t have let Jonathan get to me.”
I looked into his baby-blue eyes. “Noah, that kid is toxic. Don’t be so hard on yourself.”
Noah replied with an adorable smile, “When I’m hard, I’m not by myself.”
“Even though my mouth was fatter than a televangelist’s wallet tonight?”
“Your fat mouth is perfect for me, Nicky.”
We shared a quick but tender kiss.
Noah patted my ample crotch. “And it seems I won’t be by myself tonight.”
After another kiss, I opened the door for Noah, and he asked, “Aren’t you coming with me?”
“Definitely,” I replied grinning from ear to ear, “but I want to do my workout first.”
“That’s my cue to exit,” Noah responded with a wave of his hand.
“You should try working out sometime, Noah. It’s good for you. Not that I’m complaining. I love your body.” I squeezed his bulbous butt.
He kissed the cleft in my chin. “I get enough work out at home.”
I ran my fingers through his blond, curly locks. “You can do squats tonight.”
We shared a knowing laugh. Noah left and I popped some vitamins into my mouth (for extra energy), chased them down with water from the cooler, then made my way to the men’s locker room, where I was greeted by the familiar smell of sweat, cologne, and sperm. I changed into my sweat clothes, stretched my thirty-five-year-old muscles then headed for the weight room.
At the universal gym, I began pushing and pulling on a torture device for the back and shoulders. Though they were facing away from me, I could overhear Rodney Towers (on a pecs machine) and Maria Ruiz (on a thigh machine) as they worked out.
“Is what that fool Jonathan said about you true?” Rodney asked as he adjusted the pin on his machine upward to Never Never Land.
Defensive, Maria said, “What if it is?”
“If it’s true, it’s against God.”
Maria snapped her legs together on the machine and adjusted her sweatpants. “Who made you God’s spokesman?”
“It’s right there in the Bible.”
What is this, the Spanish Inquisition?
Her dark eyes ripped into his. “Rodney, do me a favor and stuff your two thousand-year-old book of fairy tales where the sun don’t shine.” She rose and began to leave. “I have better things to do than argue with a fool.”
Following her, Rodney called out, “You’ll burn in Hell for that, Maria.”
Having worked my back and shoulders to rebellion, I guzzled some water from the water cooler (and threw in some more vitamins for good measure). Next I moved over to the free-weights area, where I worked the same two body parts with free weights until I collapsed from exhaustion after the third rep.
My shoulders screamed in agony and warned my giggling pectoral muscles that they would be on the hot seat at my next workout session. On my way to the cardio room for the last phase of my workout, my bladder summoned the alarm, so I decided on a quick pit stop.
As I entered the locker room I heard giggling and moaning coming from the adjoining shower area. Feeling like a voyeur, I ducked behind a locker and snuck a peek. Where’s a bag of popcorn when you need it?
Kneeling on a bench between the shower stalls, Jonathan Toner was on all fours with Tim Sim standing in front of him and Tim’s twin brother, Kim Sim, planted behind him. Tim massaged and squeezed Jonathan’s small but potent back muscles while Jonathan stroked Tim’s bulbous pectoral muscles and rippling six-pack abs. The stereotype was certainly not true in this case as Jonathan took Tim’s substantial tool in his mouth and hungrily licked, slurped, sucked, and joyously gagged on it. At the same time, Kim rubbed Jonathan’s small, tight bottom and shapely, rock-hard thighs while Kim’s identical tool plunged inside Jonathan again and again, gaining traction and intensity with each thrust. Looking like a pig on a spit, Jonathan squirmed and squealed in delight, begging for more. Finally the threesome exploded like Hiroshima. Then Tim wiped himself with a towel, Jonathan rinsed his mouth at the sink, and Kim threw his condom into the garbage.
The three young bodybuilders moved to the locker area to get dressed. I darted over to the other side of the locker, but they still spotted me.
“Hello, boys,” I said as I leaned into the locker and banged my elbow against it.
“Hi, Professor,” the three boys said in unison as they walked by me.
“I just had a great workout, but I really need to use the urinal. That happens when you drink a lot of water, and you should drink a lot of water. Water is very good for you.” I’m babbling like a brook.
I relieved myself at the urinal in the shower room then left through the locker-room door. The minute I hit the hallway, I realized I had dropped my college ID card. Not wanting to be stopped by Security, I backtracked into the locker room unseen by the three bodybuilding students. Luckily I spotted my card next to a locker. As I bent down and reached for it, from my vantage point the three boys couldn’t see me, but I could see them.
Putting on red briefs, Jonathan said, “That was just what I needed to calm me down. Let’s plan a return engagement.”
I’ll skip the second showing.
Tim and Kim Sim opened their lockers and slipped into identical blue boxers and button-down blue shirts and slacks. “Um, we don’t think so, Jonathan.”
Jonathan put on a green and blue polo shirt and jeans, then slammed his locker shut. “What’s up, guys?”
Not much anymore.
When the twins didn’t respond, Jonathan said in a huff, “You can go back to kissing Professor Stryker’s ass, Tim. And you can suck Professor Granite’s dick, Kim. I’ll still beat both of you in the competition.”
Kim joined his brother in putting on black loafers, then said like an accountant at an audit, “Jonathan, our father is like very um old world. If he like found out…about us, he would, you know, cut us off.”
After slipping on his sneakers, Jonathan put his arms around the twins. “Be that as it may, you boys both did what we just…did. And since you will be coming into a lot of money soon, I think it’s only right that you two share the wealth with your favorite classmate.”
Kim’s eyes bulged out of his head like torpedoes as he said to his brother, “I like know Jonathan is trying to, you know, blackmail us, Tim!”
Jonathan squeezed their powerful shoulders. “Let’s just say I’m asking you to spread the wealth a little by donating to my charity.”
Seems like they already donated.
“The Get Me to Hollywood to Audition for Action Movies Charity,” Jonathan added.
“And if we don’t like donate to your charity?” asked the twins with four piercing eyes aimed at Jonathan.
Jonathan responded with a sagacious wink, “Then I’ll just have to pay sick Poppy a little visit, and tell him all about the titillating time I just had with his twinky twins.”
Try saying that three times fast.
Pulling out of Jonathan’s grasp, Tim said in shock, “Jonathan, even you um wouldn’t like do something like that!” Tim added to his brother, “Kim, didn’t I like just say that?”
Jonathan scratched his small washboard abs. “Oh, you’d be surprised the things that I would do, Sim. I’ll see you tomorrow, guys…to collect the first donation.”
Jonathan walked out of the locker room. The Sim twins seethed in anger, engaged in a silent argument.
Realizing that Noah would be worried if I didn’t get home soon, I started my delayed cardio exercises on a stationary bicycle in the spinning room. After fifteen minutes, my legs went on strike. So I limped to the next room, deciding to finish my workout with ten minutes on the elliptical machine. As I mounted the last torture device of the evening, I noticed a green and blue polo shirt hanging over the side of a running machine at the other end of the room. Upon investigating, I found it was Jonathan Toner—and he had no pulse.
All Lethe Press books, including Drama Muscle, are available through the major online retailers and booksellers. You can also support the press and authors by buying directly from our website.
With the new year nearly upon us, here's a sneak peak at some of the titles Lethe has in store in 2016...
ALL GOOD CHILDREN | Dayna Ingram
Coming May 2016
Everyone tells 14-year-old Jordan Fontaine not to worry about the summer camp that isn't really a summer camp, not to worry about the survival statistics she's been calculating since elementary school, or about the quickly averted eyes and frowning mouths of her peers when she tells them her Liaison is coming to visit she and her brothers. She does not dare to tell anyone that her pulse quickens when she looks at the beautiful Liason. But the Liaison, whose role is to supply their inhuman masters with bodies, is being manipulated by another. And Jordan will be drawn into a dangerous coup that she in unaware of, This is a world where women are bred like cattle, ensuring the continuation of the human race—or, as they are known to the malevolent Over, sustenance. Perhaps some children need to be seen and heard.
CONNECTED UNDERNEATH | Linda Legters
Coming Spring 2016
Madena, New York. A small town like any small town: everybody keeps an eye on everybody else’s business, nobody recognizes the secrets that connect them. Teenage Persephone trades sex for the tattoo sessions that get her high enough to forget that her girlfriend doesn’t love her and she isn’t sure she loves her dad. Theo used to be the high-school bad boy who could never have the respectable girl he adored from afar—now he owns the last video store in town and worries wretchedly about the daughter he never understood. Natalie, trying so hard to grasp the last shreds of respectability, would do anything to forget the baby she gave up long ago, including betray the baby’s father. And wheelchair-bound Celeste who has never had a life, desperate to connect, watches and makes up stories and finally understands that things have gone terribly wrong and she stands at the heart of disaster.
WALKING THE TIGHTROPE
Coming in February 2016
A groundbreaking collection bringing together poetry and prose from LGBTQ writers from many nations across the continent of Africa. This book is both compelling and emotionally raw in its honest statement about being queer in modern day Africa.
BLIND JUSTICE | K.A. Kron & Brenda L. Leffler
Riley Connors has some serious woman problems. The love of her life, Ali Garcia, won't give her the time of day, but plenty of others want a piece of her. Riley's stream of one night stands doesn't get her any closer to Ali, but does get the attention of a dangerous old flame who brings the past crashing back. While trying to make time to focus on her second year of law school, she and Charlie race to stop whoever is checking names off of a hit list, as the victims get closer to home. The ticking of the clock grows louder by the minute, and when the timer goes off, it's not a drill.
We're taking pre-orders of Blind Justice right now for only $11, a better price than anywhere else on the 'net.
DEAD CELEBRITIES | Christopher Calix
Coming Spring 2016
Carter Calhoun was once a Hollywood legend, an agent both loved and loathed by stars and studio executives alike. But then the suicide of his lover and star client, matinee idol Sam Madison, sent Carter to the bottom of the bottle. Carter became a housebound recluse. Now, years later, new evidence reveals Sam may have been murdered and Carter emerges from seclusion to find his killer. The hunt will take him from the soundstages of Hollywood to a trailer park in Malibu to the mansions of Bel Air. Carter, struggling against addiction and bouts of agoraphobia, must navigate through a new and unfamiliar world where anyone can be famous and everyone has an agenda— and a secret. For Carter, solving Sam’s murder offers hope of redemption— as long as he can stay alive.
THREESOME: HIM, HIM & ME | Ed. Matthew Bright
Coming March 2016
Few sexual fantasies are as potent or lasting as “the threesome” – as an adolescent, the first time you saw a hot couple walking hand in hand and you wanted to follow them back home and into their bed, as an adult when you discover that your partner has been fantasizing also about the bartender at your favorite club.
1+1+1 = sensual delight!
Editor Matthew Bright, no stranger to threesomes himself, has invited twelve authors to write stories that range from the sweet and romantic to erotic and playful and even a bit depraved. Featuring stories from Evey Brett, Dale Chase, Shane Allison, Jeff Mann, 'Nathan Burgoine, Rob Rosen and more.
THE MYRIAD CARNIVAL | Ed. by Matthew Bright
Coming February 2016
Roll up, roll up... The circus has long been that dream palace, intoxicating with so many lights and sights, sounds and smells. Sawdust, popcorn, strange animals, make-up, and the sweat of the roustabouts. The circus intrudes into the life of the ordinary and mundane and brings magic. Editor Matthew Bright invites you to the enjoy the sixteen attractions of the fantastical and dark Myriad Carnival.
Featuring stories from Paul Magrs, Hal Duncan, Roy Gill, Nick Campbell, Evey Brett, Raymond Luczak, Sarah Caulfield, B.R. Sanders, Kate Harrad, Evan J. Peterson, and more.
Plus, plenty more with further details to come!
This month at Lethe sees the release of For Want Of A Horse, edited by Evey Brett, collecting together twenty-three tales of "supernatural stallions, magical mares and paranormal ponies" handpicked by queen of the genre Evey Brett, this collection features stories both old and new.
On Tuesday we gave you an excerpt from 'Red Dust and Dancing Horses' by Beth Cato. Today, you can read an excerpt from 'Rafael' by Evey Brett herself:
I'd always been more sensitive to the presence of others than the average man, which meant large cities with their stifling crowds, often at all hours, left me anxious. Rome I discovered to be one of the most difficult: by the time my taxi pulled up in front of the hotel, I was nearly blind with a migraine. When I stepped out into the air, tainted with vehicle fumes, I had to lean against the taxi until the dizziness subsided.
“Si sente bene, Padre?”
It wasn’t the driver who’d spoken, but a policeman mounted on a handsome bay mare. Concern radiated from him, which didn’t help my poor head, but after so many years in the priesthood, I’d learned how to wear a serene expression no matter the circumstances. “Sto bene, grazie.” That was the extent of pure Italian I could speak, though since my native tongue was Catalan and I had studied Latin since I could read, I understood a good deal of the city’s babble.
The horse nudged my shoulder with her nose and let out a soft snort, as if she knew I was lying. I stroked her soft muzzle, calmed by her gentle presence. The throbbing in my head eased just enough to be bearable.
“Buon giorno,” the policeman said and directed his horse through the crowd. By then the driver had fetched my bag, which he handed off to a waiting porter. After a few deep breaths, I was able to steady myself and take stock of my new surroundings. The hotel’s façade seemed to glorify the city’s history, with stone lions flanking the columns and a gigantic fountain showing a mural of Bacchus in the midst of a wine-fueled orgy. I thought it a work of art, but Generalissimo Franco would have deemed the scene morally reprehensible and had it destroyed.
But this wasn’t Spain, and for a little while, at least, I didn’t have to worry about internment or being killed if I did or said the wrong thing. My greatest worry now was being able to cope with the crowds while not revealing my affliction.
I followed the porter into a lobby buzzing with guests, mustachioed men and women in lurid dresses and tall bouffant hairstyles. It took all of my effort to keep from being overwhelmed by the intensity of their thoughts and emotions, which transformed my headache into a sensation akin to ice picks driving through my skull.
Breathing deeply, I closed my eyes, wishing I’d been able to find an excuse to keep from attending a conference on alternative healing, but my superior had insisted. “You spend so much time alone, Rafael. Besides, with your dedication to your patients, there’s no one better to represent us.”
The irony was that I was interested in all aspects of healing, though much of it was because I was desperate to ease the pain of others and thus spare myself. So when the Salesian Pontifical University had offered to sponsor a Spanish candidate, I’d been sent. And while it was a relief to be free of Spain’s dictatorship, however briefly, I couldn’t risk letting my guard down.
The porter led me to the registration desk. A few minutes later I had a key and a room which, the attendant assured me, had an excellent view of Olympic stadium built three years before in 1960. She gestured down the hall. “The conference is to your left and through the double doors. You can’t miss it.”
The porter held up my bag. “I’ll put this in your room and see that everything’s perfect.”
“Thank you.” I handed him a tip and caught a flash of pleasure as he grinned and departed.
The foyer was crowded with doctors, nurses, psychiatrists, and practitioners of every sort of healing including energetic, herbal and spiritual. I checked in at the welcome desk, picked up my name tag which dangled from a lanyard, then wandered around to get my bearings, exchanging nods with a few Vatican priests. Cigarette smoke drifted through the air, increasing my malaise.
I was about to head toward the elevators when my skin tingled. Something uncomfortable, something akin to electricity. The sensation traveled through my body, lodging there and filling me with sickening unease. I lost what little control I had. Emotions tumbled into my mind, nauseating with their intensity. I struggled against my rising terror. There was evil in this place. Someone—something—was filled with an insatiable hunger all too similar to that which I’d gleaned from many of the soldiers and politicians in Spain.
Frightened, I looked around. No one else seemed to have noticed anything amiss. Priests, doctors, laymen—there were so many people present that I couldn’t tell from where the vileness emanated. My first impulsive thought was that someone had followed me from Barcelona, intent on exposing me. Then I caught hold of myself. There was no reason for them to tail me. I’d been careful to keep my secret.
For Want Of A Horse is out now from Lethe Press. Check it out.
This month at Lethe sees the release of For Want Of A Horse, edited by Evey Brett, collecting together twenty-three tales of "supernatural stallions, magical mares and paranormal ponies" handpicked by queen of the genre Evey Brett, this collection features stories both old and new.
Read an excerpt from 'Red Dust and Dancing Horses' by Beth Cato:
No horses existed on Mars. Nara could change that.
She stared out the thick-paned window. Tinted dirt sprawled to a horizon, mesas and rock-lipped craters cutting the mottled sky. It almost looked like a scene from somewhere out of the Old West on Earth, like in the two-dimensional movies she studied on her tablet. Mama thought that 20th-century films were the ultimate brain-rotting waste of time, so Nara made sure to see at least two a week. Silver, Trigger, Buttermilk, Rex, Champion—she knew them all. She had spent months picturing just how their hooves would sink into that soft dirt, how their manes would lash in the wind. How her feet needed to rest in the stirrups, heels down, and how the hot curve of a muzzle would fit between her cupped hands.
The terraforming process had come a long way in the two hundred years since mechs established the Martian colonies. Nara didn’t need a pressure suit to walk outside, but in her lifetime she’d never breathe on her own outside of her house or the Corcoran Dome. There would never be real horses here, not for hundreds of years, if ever. But a mechanical horse could find its way home in a dust storm, or handle the boggy sand without breaking a leg. She could ride it. Explore. It would be better than nothing. Her forehead bumped against the glass. But to have a real horse with hot skin and silky mane…
“Nara, you’re moping again.” Mama held a monitor to each window, following the seal along the glass. “No matter how long you stare out the window and sulk, we can’t afford to fly you back to Earth just to see horses. They’re hard to find as it is. Besides, you know what happened when that simulator came through last year.”
Yeah. Each Martian-borne eleven-year-old child had sat in a booth strung with wires and sensors so that they could feel the patter of rain and touch the flaking dryness of eucalyptus bark. Nara smelled the dankness of fertile earth for the very first time. She threw up. The administrators listed her as a category five Martian, needing the longest quarantine time to acclimate to Earth, if she ever made the trip.
“Blast it, another inner seal is weakening,” Mama muttered, moving to the next window.
The dull clang of metal echoed down the hall, followed by the soft whir of Papa’s mechs. Papa would understand. He would listen.
Her feet tapped down the long tunnel to his workshop. Nara rubbed the rounded edge of the tablet tucked at her waist. Sand pattered against the walls as the wind whistled a familiar melody.
The workshop stood twice as big as the rest of the household, echoing with constantly-clicking gears. The grey dome bowed overhead, the skylight windows showing only red. Papa’s legs stuck out from beneath the belly of a mining cart, his server mechs humming as they dismantled the plating on a small trolley alongside him. The workshop was half empty. The basalt mine had received a new load of equipment just two weeks before, and as Papa described it, he’d have a lull before everything decided to break again. Judging by the lack of dents on this cart, the lull was already over.
“Hey, girly. Hand me the tenner,” Papa said, a hand thrusting through a gap in the chassis. Nara passed him the tool. “What’re you up to?”
“Nothing.” Nara slipped open the tablet, expanding the screen with a tug of her fingers. After a few taps, she accessed the data she wanted: the anatomy of the horse. Her fingers flicked up, removing the layer of skin, then the muscles, leaving the bones. One of the nearby mechs bowed, his knees fluid and graceful as he picked up a tire and conveyed it to a stack on the far side. Nara squinted, looking between the mech and the screen.
“You’re never up to nothing,” Papa said. “Did Mama kick you out of the house?”
“Not yet. I was wondering something, actually. Think I could use the extra space you have in here to make a project?”
Wheels whined as Papa pushed himself out. “What sort of project?” Grey and red smudges framed the skin around his goggles.
Nara held up the tablet, projecting the images out six inches. Papa chuckled low. “Why am I not surprised?” he asked. “You want to build a horse?”
All Lethe Press books, including For Want Of A Horse, are available through the major online retailers and booksellers. You can also support the press and authors by buying directly from our website.
This month at Lethe sees the release of Heiresses of Russ 2015, edited by Jean Roberta and Steve Berman. Showcasing the finest lesbian speculative fiction stories of the previous year, this collection features authors such as Seanen McGuire, Nicola Griffith, Annabeth Leong, Ken Liu, and more.
To buy the book, or see the full table of contents, follow this link.
Yesterday, we posted an excerpt from 'Because I Prayed This Word' by Alex Dally MacFarlane. Today, you can read an excerpt from 'Skeletons' by Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam.
“Who’s gonna watch the skeletons?” I ask.
We’re about to go camping. Cathryn’s undressing before the closet in her garage apartment. I’m trying not to watch, though she wants me to. Instead I peer into her glass terrarium where the skeletons live, three of them: a dwarf T-Rex and two dwarf stegosauruses. The T-Rex stands atop a lonely pile of rocks.
“I was going to leave them extra food. You think that’s okay?” Cathryn rummages through the clothes pile on the floor, such beautiful chaos. I stare at her reflection in the glass. Her bra, lacy and black, makes me want to glimpse what’s underneath, even though I have before, five times.
“I guess so,” I say. I look back at the T-Rex. His name, Cathryn tells me, is Ronald. The steggos are called Thelma and Louise; she thinks she’s being ironic. The T-Rex’s bones are so small I’m sure that if I picked him up I would break him. His eyes are tiny as sequins and suspended in empty sockets. He wails like a cat in heat. “I think something’s wrong,” I say.
“He’s just hungry, Emma. Feed him. Food’s next to the cage.”
I open the yellow bottle of skeleton food; the musty smell makes me cough. The bottle is full of squiggling little worms. I pour some into the terrarium. Ronald clambers down the rocks. He dips his jaw into the worm pile and scoops them into his mouth, swallows. I can see them travel down his throat and into his empty bone stomach where they wriggle inside him.
Cathryn clears her throat. She stands before me with her hands on her hips, wearing tight blue jeans and a bumblebee-striped halter top. She’s dressed for clubbing, not camping, and I realize that the kind of camping we’ll be doing won’t require the hiking shoes or the toilet paper I brought. I tell her she looks great. She does. I look back at the tank. The T-Rex peers up at me.
“Let me free,” he whispers. His voice is like an echo. I can’t. We’re going camping.
In the shallow forest we set up our tent. The land has been cleared for people like us, who want to be in nature but not too far in. Our tent is a miniature house. The box says it will fit twenty people, but we’ve only got five. It has French doors that fold down and collapsible walls to give everyone a sense of privacy, but through the first night I hear Cathryn and Anne, the girlfriend she brought along, their heavy breath and little moans. They make the whole tent sweat.
The site is close to the river, but not too close. At night we cannot hear the current. The bathroom is just around the corner, and there’s a leaky water faucet next to where we parked the car, ten feet from the tent. Our friend Wendi brought a portable mini fridge and a fan; they run on batteries, but the fridge eats two an hour so we have to run to the store once a day and buy at least twelve packages of four. We make a game of it. In some ways the drive is the best part of the trip, mostly because Cathryn is the one with the car, and she’s asked me to go with her each time. We roll the windows down. She talks about the new girl, Anne, how they’ve just met but already spend nearly every night together. Every word she says feels like a secret between us. I don’t want to hear about Anne, but I don’t not want to hear about her either, because I want to know if she’s better than me. I want to know when we’ll share a bed again. I try to deduce the information from the cutesy story of how they met at the campus coffee shop, but I can’t, because Cathryn has always been unpredictable, mysterious. With her unflinching face she reveals nothing. Every time she asks me to get in the car with her, I do.
The nearest trash can is two whole miles from our site, so we’re forced to rough it in that regard at least, dumping our food scraps into a plastic bag. Most of what we brought is food. Peanut butter, bread, baked beans in a can and hot dogs with mustard, two bottles of cheap red wine and a plastic handle of rum. Our broke friend Mike does the cooking. It’s his way of paying us back. He also does the majority of the drinking. He’s brought his set of oils, and his paint-stained hands dye whatever he touches. Each hot dog bun has a blue handprint, and by the time dinner’s finished the rum bottle is covered in fingerprints.
The second night Wendi builds a fire and we sit around the flames. The smoke follows Cathryn. No matter where she sits, the wind moves in her direction. Finally she settles in one spot, lights a cigarette, and lets the smoke clog her eyes. We play a drinking game, Never Have I Ever.
“Never have I ever been to Disney World,” I say. Cathryn and Wendi put down a finger; they went there once together.
“Never have I ever done acid,” Wendi says. The rest of us admit defeat.
“Never have I ever been in love,” Cathryn says. No one puts down a finger; no one is sure enough to commit to that. We all four of us look at Cathryn through the smoke. Her hair is up, the skin of her neck glistening with sweat. That we all want her is common knowledge; we can’t help ourselves. This is what holds our friendships together, the flame to which we are helpless as moths.
That night, as we sleep, trees rustle, and the fallen branches on the ground crack like knuckles. When I leave the tent early in the morning to walk to the restroom, I find the contents of our trash bag scattered, the bottom ripped. By the river I spot a leopard, its white fur stretched so tight the bones poke through. In the disappearing moonlight I nearly see the heart pumping in its chest. It’s looking right at me, and I stand and stare until the sun creeps up and the leopard, its fur no longer see-through, bounds into the brush.
Back at the campsite a crowd is gathered around the dying embers of last night’s fire. A dodo skeleton hops around the fire pit. One of the bones from its foot is missing. Without the feathers it looks just like any other bird. We only know it’s a dodo from its fat chest, its dodo beak. Plus it tells us what it is when we ask it.
Cathryn shoos the bird. “Go, fly away.”
“Dodos don’t fly,” it says, lifting a bone wing. The invisible joints crack. “I’m stuck.
All Lethe Press books, including Woof, are available through the major online retailers and booksellers. You can also support the press and authors by buying directly from our website
This month at Lethe sees the release of Heiresses of Russ 2015, edited by Jean Roberta and Steve Berman. Showcasing the finest lesbian speculative fiction stories of the previous year, this collection features authors such as Seanen McGuire, Nicola Griffith, Annabeth Leong, Ken Liu, and more.
Read an excerpt from 'Because I Prayed This Word' by Alex Dally MacFarlane:
The city appears between the pillars of the cloisters like a dream of an embroidered wall-hanging: more gold thread than is ever available for the Sisters, more precisely tidy stitches than Perrette will ever manage. For a moment she sees it on the edges of her vision, and though she thinks of telling her Sisters, she does not. She assumes it is the fast. She walks on.
She keeps seeing it.
Alongside her Sisters she bends over vellum, copying. Barbe, whose freckles are like the stars above the monastery, is at her left. Ragonde, who snores while Perrette and Barbe work, is at her right. They have each been chosen for their skills: Perrette for her precise letters, Barbe for her paintings that face Perrette’s copied words, and Ragonde, who sparingly applies the gold, trusted because of her seniority with that most precious adornment. They copy Lives of the Desert Fathers. Perrette admires the strength required to hold faith in the desert. Barbe paints the female saints.
When the city appears at the window, Perrette almost spills ink on her work.
“Are you well?” Barbe asks.
“Yes.” Perrette carefully moves the ink further from the vellum and glances up. The city is no longer there. “Did you see anything at the window?”
“No. But I was looking at her,” Barbe says, indicating the saint under her hands, with long dark hair flowing like a hymn. Though an ascetic, old and poor in the text, Barbe has painted her young, colourfully garbed, beautiful.
I saw a city, Perrette longs to say. The most incredible city. I want to step under its gleaming gold roofs and I want you to step alongside me--
Perrette silences her thoughts and returns to her work, glancing only occasionally at the window, at Barbe’s freckles, at the saints she paints. That night, she tries to imagine the city, but cannot put people in its streets. That dawn, hurrying late to prayer, she sees it again: a door opening in the courtyard beside the pear trees. Words curl around its hinges like vines.
Barely breathing, she steps closer. Latin, but no Latin words she has ever copied:
spectat et audit dulce ridentem, misero quod omnes ripit sensus mihi
She touches them. The door is real.
She steps through.
I first heard Sappho. A soft name. A sigh. I’d have forgotten it, except it wasn’t a name I’d ever heard, said by one of my da’s customers: come to check the quality of our vellum. Sappho, Sappho. I turned it over like a dandelion seed head. Would’ve discarded it, if he hadn’t then said she was the finest woman poet ever lived.
I never knew much of what went on our vellum. I knew it was words. I knew it was beautiful and mostly God and men.
I imagined Sappho slipping into a book, leaving gilt verses between the church songs. I worked—my hands reeked of vellum, I couldn’t ever scrub it off, dead cows stretched flat and clean and waiting for words I didn’t think I’d ever learn to read—I imagined the vellum going from my hands to hers, all perfumed and soft.
I imagined a lot of stupid things while I was working.
I didn’t ever do a good job of imagining what Sappho actually wrote.
All Lethe Press books, including Heiresses of Russ 2015, are available through the major online retailers and booksellers. You can also support the press and authors by buying directly from our website.
This month at Lethe sees the release of Ice On Fire by Dan Stone. The sequel to the Lambda Award Finalist The Rest Of Our Lives, Ice On Fire returns to the enchanting romance between Colm McKenna and Aidan Gallagher. You can buy the book here, and as a bonus this month, if you buy Ice On Fire in paperback now, you also receive The Rest Of Our Lives completely free.
Read an excerpt:
We both must have dozed off again. I opened my eyes to find the room still dark, and I felt the initial confusion of waking up in unfamiliar surroundings, unable at first to make out any of the shapes in the shadows. Aidan was unusually still beside me. I held my breath for a few seconds until I could hear his soft, reassuring inhale and exhale. We had burrowed back under the covers, and I felt the weight of the comforter on my legs and the warmth of his back even though we weren’t touching.
My eyes were still adjusting to the darkness when I saw a faint glow in the far corner of the room, near the large window overlooking Lakeshore Drive and the inland ocean that is Lake Michigan. I thought at first it must be the sunrise pushing through the heavy curtains, but as I blinked a few times and sat up slightly, I could tell that this glow—still just the faintest illumination—was not coming from outside. It was something in the corner of the room and it was moving. Approaching. Even more unsettling, I realized as it drew closer and the light shifted that something was in the room with us, and it was coming toward the bed.
I reached toward Aidan to wake him but stopped short of actually touching him. I started to speak but something gentle yet persuasive held me still. The figure was now at the side of the bed, and the dim light around it brightened enough for me to see a woman standing beside me, looking into my eyes.
The light radiated from her as well as surrounded her, soft but bright enough for me to see her fair complexion, the waves of dark red hair around her shoulders set on fire by the light, and her dark, shining eyes. Her presence was striking. Forceful but still, it was somehow familiar. She smiled slightly as she put a slim finger to her lips, urging me to remain silent.
I realized she was holding something in her arms. She stood motionless beside the bed for a few moments, smiling a familiar, enigmatic smile, the light making a fiery halo of her hair, her dark eyes mysterious with incredible warmth and power but, again, familiar.
She slowly leaned over me, again putting a finger to her lips, and I thought I saw her glance briefly at Aidan beside me. I started to sit up, but she shook her head as she gently placed the bundle in her arms in the space between Aidan and me on the bed. I couldn’t tell what it was, only that it was warm and wrapped in soft layers of cloth.
I looked up at her and she smiled and nodded. I felt again this distinct impression that I knew her. Suddenly soft currents of air rose in the room, warm and cool breezes that I immediately recognized as the gentler versions of the North and South winds that were Aidan’s and my companions and part of our magick. The breezes stirred and the halo of light around the woman’s face grew brighter until I could no longer clearly see her eyes or her features. I looked down at the soft bundle in the bed between my sleeping boyfriend and me, and an infant’s wide-open eyes stared up at me.
I jumped out of the dream and up in our bed with a gasp that should have awakened the notoriously light sleeper beside me. But Aidan’s eyes were closed, his lips in their usual slightly parted nighttime position. Whatever movement or sounds I’d made, my oblivious boyfriend was still sleeping. Like a baby.
All Lethe Press books, including Ice On Fire, are available through the major online retailers and booksellers. You can also support the press and authors by buying directly from our website.
NEW TUESDAY: Woof by Dylan Thomas Good
This month at Lethe and Bear Bones Books sees the release of Woof by Dylan Thomas Good. Described as "compelling, witty and shocking" by the screenwriter and director of the BearCity series, Woof fuses a potent mix of screenwriting, sex and suspense into a barnstormer of a novel.
Read the first chapter, or listen to it in an audiobook preview:
Critical mass: the smallest amount of force needed to initiate change. So far, it has begun every single day of your life. It will begin every future one of them, too. And there isn’t a damn thing you can do to change it.
It could be the dashboard bass from a douchebag in a passing Mustang. The first chirp of the alarm. A partner’s frozen toes sliding up your leg just before dawn. Or the fright of a dream. Maybe the worst you’ve ever had? Or, perhaps, one so good, you’ll wish it’d been a nightmare instead. Critical mass. The reason you stand tall and take your first step of the day, only to fall down into the cauldron awaiting us all.
For some, like Carl Danielson, it isn’t that far to fall.
At first glance, you may think that the reason he doesn’t have far to fall is because he’s practically on the floor already. Three hundred and fifty pounds of width and six-and-a-half feet of length takes a hell of a toll on any secondhand Simmons Beautyrest mattress, and if this one could talk, it would scream Uncle! over and over and over again. Carl Danielson. A life-sized, battered teddy bear with button blue eyes, stuffed with everything from sloth to self-loathing to tender kindness, and wrapped up in a big, hairy bow for all of us to see.
His day will begin just as all the others have for the past year. How do I know? You see, Carl is addicted to failure; when you fail, the ending is always predictable, but if you succeed, then you’re faced with the shorts-soiling notion of inevitable change, and let’s just say that’s not exactly a strong suit for him. Carl’s unofficial motto after forty-one years on this planet: Stay at the bottom and it won’t hurt if you stumble. Sad, simple, rational. Think of it as self-pity-by-numbers.
Life is made up of mementos, and there were reminders of all kinds around Carl’s room — the air sagged with stale weed smoke, empty Xanax blister packs lined his headboard next to a little Canadian flag on a stick, and an envelope stayed hidden near the bottom of a stack of mail he couldn’t bring himself to open or throw away.
Right now, though, the one over on the bathroom medicine cabinet was the one Carl’s mind ran from the fastest.
He stood there, staring at himself in the mirror. Here in a room that practically never sees daylight, his thick mustache and tawny stubble loses its friendly, strawberry hue, sentenced to a somber look that’s flat and dark. Very unfair, in a way. You ever see kids dressed up like pirates for Halloween? The way they draw their beards on with a fat, greasy stick of Rawlings eye black? Bingo.
There’s one new addition to the routine today: a white Post-It note stuck to the bottom part of Carl’s reflection. On it, two things are offered and two things only: a bummed-out Garfield the cat in a party hat asking, Are we having fun yet?, and beside that, in Carl’s own loopy script, two succinct blue words. The first is stacked right on top of the other.
N o o n
No more information needed. When he had written it, only about twelve hours ago, it still seemed so far away. Now, why bother even looking at the clock? He knew how much time he had left.
Carl stood there staring at his own handwriting. His old friend uncertainty threw the switch and his heart sank. Immediate and weightless, he believed neutral was the only foolproof gear. His brain needed a diversion, but he was too lazy and afraid to do anything more than slide his eyes over to that fat-assed orange cat in the party hat. He looks like I feel was the best conclusion Carl could come to. Hey, at least he was being honest. But damn, there was no way around it — that pussy looked miserable. There was only one thing left to do.
The smile tilted up as it came to his lips, thick shoulders squared, and Carl looked deep into his own huge, rounded features. This was the only time of day he could ever do it. The giant’s face stared back at him, cleaved in half from the line made by the sliding panels of the medicine cabinet. Don’t expect to hear his real voice right now, though, because what’s about to come out is more of a whisper. Like a secret, a confession only he knows.
“Today is gonna be a good day.”
He could hear the rain tapping against the glass, strange and distant, gurgling through the walls as November clouds tumbled over one another so slowly, way out there in the silvery dark. Nothing seemed right at his side. Here with him. Even that goddamned friend uncertainty was gone, but the switch couldn’t be righted, and so Carl blotted out the pinpricks of any and all realities by cramming everything into his head at once:
Getdressed – skypethetaxi – checktheaddressagain – noyouDon’tneedacigaretterightnow – Dwayne – think – ayear – think – don’tshowemotion – thisisbusiness – business – Dwayneabandonedyou – restitution – ithastobeatleastelevenalready – abandonedyoujustlikeyourdad – takeitlikeaman – Think!
Now, what is it they say — “once more, with feeling”? Carl shut his eyes as everything began to gloss and smear from the tears. Even softer it came. Sayit – sayitagain.
Forty-one years and he still didn’t believe a word of it.
“Today is going to be a good day.”
All Lethe Press books, including Woof, are available through the major online retailers and booksellers. You can also support the press and authors by buying directly from our website.
This month at Lethe sees the release of Starf*cker by Matthew Rettenmund. Described as a book that "steps outside pop culture and looks in and helps us laugh and appreciate fandom that much more" by award-winning humorist Michael Thomas Ford, Starf*cker sharply deconstructs both the author's, and our own, passion for celebrity.
Read the first chapter:
Casey Says Relax
You do lots of strange things when you get fired. On top of walking around hoping to be struck by a car and injured badly enough to make bank but not badly enough for it to hurt or have lingering effects, you may find yourself having long, mostly one-sided conversations with pets who are not used to seeing quite so much of you.
I really got to know my Shih Tzus that summer. They’re amazing people.
Or you may spend time discovering that if you watch every airing of $25,000 Pyramid reruns on the Game Show Network, you will eventually see the one where excellent player Tom Villard of We Got It Made fame—who was probably already a bit sick with the AIDS that would kill him a few years later—was all but called stupid by a non-celebrity contestant who just couldn’t fathom his inability to guess a word based on her opaque clues.
Or you might sit at your computer, literally waiting for Gmail to refresh because hey, you’re used to receiving hundreds of e-mails a day and they’ve tapered off rather precipitously since the day you were pink-slipped. “Sooo sorry to hear that. You’re awesome; you’ll find something soon. Let’s talk when you do.” When you’re fired, a large number of your contacts will treat you like you’re in cryogenic suspension on a long space trip to a planet that might not wind up existing.
Along with doing all of those things in 2012, I found myself thinking about my life, my accomplishments, the things on a bucket list that was drawn up at a time when the bucket was decades further away than it is now, and viewing my first forty-three years (forty-four if you’re pro-life, which is another compelling reason not to be) as some sort of first chapter in a wildly uneven book series.
I’ve loved book series (and parenthetical asides, and tangents) ever since I was ten and my older, blonder, straighter, cousin Wally and I chipped in using money earned turning in found soda cans for ten cents apiece (Seinfeld is right—Michigan has the best rate) to buy the pornographic purple prose of V.C. Andrews. As an author, she was hot, she was sexy and she was dead. We didn’t know the dead part, which literally made her a ghostwriter. What we did know was that she really understood what would happen if a litter of children was raised with no sunlight in their evil grandparents’ attic while their amoral mother lived a full life under their feet. Answer: Incest would happen. Achingly, minutely described…just what any developing child needs to read as a primer to human sexuality.
(To this day my sister and I will blurt out, “Incest is best!” for no real reason, and never during sex, since we have not had it so please don’t Lena Dunham me. It’s something we always planned to stop saying by the time her daughter became old enough to repeat it. Instead, we just say it when we’re pretty sure she’s not around.)
But anyway, thinking of that first part of my life, I realized some things.
First, I realized that I’d been in some interesting, potentially documentable situations. I had worked for a rich, eccentric literary agent in Chicago; had worked in book publishing in Manhattan back when paper was a major part of the equation; had been the editor of a gay porn magazine and seen firsthand how it was possible for nearly all of the support staff of a jerk-off publisher to be Evangelical Christians who never looked at the product that fed their families; had founded a popular teen-entertainment magazine known for featuring future superstars when they were still covered in placenta; and had published a whole bunch of books, including an encyclopedia devoted to Madonna, one of the first entries of which was “abortion,” and a gay novel that contained—what else?—incest.
But beyond the idea that I’ve had some encounters more readers than just my mom might find interesting, I saw my life as being driven by my relationship with celebrity. Whether it was how I viewed and deconstructed stars as a chubby, studious, gay child, my lifelong obsession with Madonna (yes, still—always), interacting with pornstars and conducting (or making up) interviews with them as an adult, or my more businesslike dealings with famous or about-to-be-famous kid stars for the youth magazine, I’ve always thought of myself as a fan, or as a fan of fandom. Sometimes both.
Above it, yet of it.
Even if celebrity bombards us all and we all engage with it on an almost nonstop basis, I saw that it would be hard to deny that my relationship with it has been more intense than the average person’s. Sitting around with no silly paychecks to clutter my mind, I wondered why.
On that tip, around the time I lost my job, my mother turned seventy, which is something that only happens once in a person’s life. Unless they’re Charo, who went to court and convinced a Spanish magistrate that her birth date had been off by ten years her whole life due to a paperwork error. She’d better never run for president because even Barack Obama would support calling her out on that birth certificate. On the other hand, considering the fact that she got away with it, I suspect that chica wasted her life as a virtuoso guitarist and moneymaker-shaker when she should have been a lawyer, a hypnotist, or perhaps a magician.
Back to my mother. Literally, because I think my lifelong love affair with celebrity goes back to my mother, a thought that crossed my mind when she hit the age past which Orson Welles, Stanley Kubrick, and “Granny” from The Beverly Hillbillies had all failed to live.
I may have tested as “gifted” in elementary school, but I wasn’t very good at dreaming up productive uses for my brain as a child. I would get so bored I’d resort to asking my mom what to draw. (What kind of a gift leaves you unchallenged and yet incapable of thinking of things to do about it?) She would invariably first tell me to draw flies, a joke I did not get for a long time. (Again…gifted?) But then she would bring up a famous person I should try sketching. Drawing Ann-Margret was a lot harder than drawing “Cubby” for the Art Instruction School, especially since my frame of reference for Ann-Margret was “Ann-Margrock” from The Flintstones.
This activity morphed into my favorite time-killer: creating random, longhand lists of stars. Just…lists. As their names entered my head, I’d write them down. And when I’d ask my mom to help, her first suggestion was always, “Faye Dunaway,” which she would say with the exact pretentious air the acting empress deserved. “Feh. Dunna. Weh.” I don’t think she knows it, but my mom has a totally unique way of speaking. It’s not weird, it’s distinctive. It’s a mix of her many years living in the Midwest (when I would do something naughty, she’d say, “May-utt!”) and her fondness for her parents’ Southern roots (our conversations are littered with phrases like, “She really favors her,” meaning two girls look alike; a nappy-time song she sang to my sister and me and to my niece was all about how Mama’s little baby loves shortenin’ bread). Her speech is also peppered with little impressions repeated so often she probably doesn’t even remember where she got them. My favorite is, “Why botha?” lifted from Bette Midler’s 1985 parody on David Letterman called Angst on a Shoestring, something we saw together more than twenty-five years ago and still quote almost every time we speak.
Asking my mom to give me stars’ names for my lists—and listening to her unconscious mimicry of them when she’d say their names—was like looking at a snapshot of what impressed her about public figures and what didn’t. “Feh. Dunna. Weh.” Talented, good cheekbones…but hoity-toity. “What’s her name…[whispery] Joey Heatherton.” Glitzy glamour, also a nod to a performer she and my dad had seen on their honeymoon, someone whose name she might’ve forgotten otherwise. “Elizabeth-uh-Taylor-uh.” Staying power, wealth, beauty. The queen of…something. Everything? I used to say my mom looked like Elizabeth Taylor, which she played along with but wouldn’t accept because Liz and Marilyn were the idols of her youth and were supposed to be on a different plane, even if Liz got fatter than my mom ever did and Marilyn probably would have resembled her autopsy photo (why did I look at it?) had she lived and kept hitting the booze and pills. They were fantasies, and fantasies, I understood from my mother’s modesty, were sacrosanct.
I always thought of my mother as a local celebrity herself, considering she had been on the Homecoming Queen’s Court in high school. I swear the actual winner, at least from her photo in a yellowing newspaper clipping, looked like Tyne Daly’s uncle, but my mom always graciously insisted it had been a bad snap. Big of her since I know for a fact she thought she was robbed.
My own additions to writing lists of stars started out with people whose work I knew, like “Lynda Carter” or “Lee Majors.” But over time, I absorbed more and more names until I had more names in my head than a reference book and I knew all the stars my mother could possibly be bothered to rattle off. “George Gobel?” she’d say, trying to stump me. “Got ‘im.” I’d confirm. “Oh. That reminds me,” she’d say, “Grandma threw out all the autographs I got in the mail when I was a teenager, but my sister has all hers and George Gobel is one of them. That’s okay. Who in the world would want his autograph in the first place?”
(I suddenly did. I don’t know why.)
I would also cheat to fill my lists by paging through the free TV Guide that came with The Flint Journal and copying down all the stars’ names from every movie playing that week on TV. The guide would usually only list the most important two or three stars, but that was enough to get me everyone from “John Wayne” to “Marjorie Main” to “Peter Lorre.” And it taught me a lot about first billing, a concept that I still hold sacred even if it has absolutely no practical application to one’s life unless one is considering a life on the stage and one’s co-star is Glenn Close.
My star lists continued to evolve. After names, I started listing names along with every movie I knew they’d starred in. I was equal opportunity, placing as much importance in someone as kill-me boring as Charles Bronson as I placed in someone as fuck-me exciting as Paul Newman.
So many of the names meant nothing to me…Thelma Ritter, a star whose work I would come to adore in college, was just made-up sounding to the pre-adolescent me. That impression led to the next phase of my starfucking, which was drawing fake movie posters featuring made-up stars. I would do literally anything to have them all today, but I destroyed most of them after drawing them because they were mortifyingly faggoty and if discovered would have put me on a list with Tab Hunter, Farley Granger, and Rock Hudson—a list that had nothing to do with movies.
In pencil, I would draw a dozen posters—in miniature—representing the entirety of a phony starlet’s career, from a 1919 silent debut for 16-year-old Topeka, Kansas, runaway Dory Desirée (the name given to Estella Gluck by movie-mag fans) called Shady Streets, to her Oscar-winning triumph in a mid-life potboiler called Anything But Murder, to an embarrassing 1970s creature feature called The Frog That Ate Grandma’s Brain, in which Dory had one of the titular, yet smallest, roles. In spite of a horrendous slide in popularity, my made-up star Dory was still the only face on the movie poster as late as her final silver-screen appearance, in an awful Disney movie about a rich woman too afraid to leave her rooms who employs a pair of psychic children to figure out where her late husband hid their priceless art collection.
Once, my aunt (the one with the pointless/coveted George Gobel autograph, which I hope she still has because it gives me alarming flu-like symptoms to imagine it in a Michigan landfill) saw me drawing these things and teased me because of the gigantic, unrealistic cleavage each woman had. This was before so many women actually went out and purchased their own gigantic, unrealistic cleavage on a regular basis. “What’s that?” she asked, pointing to the curvy “V” I planted on my leading ladies’ chests where they poured out of their low-cut period dresses, “A ‘V’ for victory?”
If so, it certainly wasn’t a victory for feminism. All my fantasy starlets had secretly been prostitutes on their way up and had sucked a lot of studio cock in the ‘30s to get where they were—“Ya gotta give a little head to get ahead,” Dory would drunkenly reveal to scandalized newcomers at small, industry-heavy gatherings held in the ‘60s at her soon-to-be-foreclosed-on Mulholland Drive mini-manse. People like Victor Mature would be there and would shake their heads in embarrassment for a good actress who was heading down a bad road. But whenever she headed down that road, she always managed a comeback, which always warranted another lavish movie poster, “Critics be damned—the great Dory has done it again!” was one of the pull-quotes, even if nobody noticed it had come from a fan club newsletter.
Dory and so many others had surprisingly rich lives and checkered pasts considering I made them all up around the time I was just learning long division.
I was a late bloomer when it came to pop music, I guess because I was so immersed in the world of real and imaginary cinema and bad TV reruns. (I can hum the incidental music from any Brady Bunch scene you show me on mute.) But bloom I did when “Somebody’s Baby” by Jackson Browne and Beauty and the Beat by The Go-Go’s (unnecessary apostrophe and all) led me to buy my first single and album, respectively. The single I bought for $1.44 at one of Michigan’s most iconic businesses, Meijer’s Thrifty Acres. It sat on the outskirts of my hometown of Flushing on a strip of fast-food joints that boasted another Michigan delight, Halo Burger, with its giant sign of its mascot, a benign bovine with a halo over her head. It was really cute but is ultra-morbid when you consider you’re eating dead cows and there’s signage of one of them prepping to enter heaven.
Meijer’s had a denim store called Sagebrush. On the wall was a pair of jeans with a 64-inch waist. If you could fit into them, they were yours free, which was as tangible an example as you’ll ever get that nothing is ever truly “free.”
Meijer’s had two or three fabulous aisles devoted to records, so it was written in the stars that I’d buy my first music there. Sadly, my copy of Beauty and the Beat, the debut Go-Go’s album, turned out to have unfixable skips so I had to return it twice before giving up and deciding to repurchase it at the tacky little Cherry Street Drug Store, which had ordered exactly one copy to sell. My “Somebody’s Baby” purchase had gone off without a hitch however, and as much as I loved albums, I adored 45-RPM singles more. In fact, in lieu of smoking, drinking, taking drugs, or (at first) having sex, I became addicted to singles. I absolutely loved buying three minutes’ worth of perfection and playing it over and over, and I loved analyzing the art of the sleeves: Did the band choose a standard group photo? A black-and-white shot with colorized touches? A still from the video? Or was it one of those super boring generic sleeves that simply announced things like “Elektra,” leaving all the fun to the music itself?
Here come the lists again: I was so transfixed by singles that I began listening to Casey Kasem’s American Top 40 and compulsively recording every song’s title, artist, and position each week. I did this for I am talkin’ years, never suspecting that this latest list lust was seriously unnecessarily—as Casey would announce throughout the show, the rankings were all from Billboard Magazine. Granted, when I realized I could just be purchasing Billboard to find out if Romeo Void was seriously dropping off the charts after one, count ‘em, one big week with “A Girl in Trouble (Is a Temporary Thing),” I also realized Billboard was a trade magazine that cost an impossible amount of money to subscribe to anyway.
But still, so taken was I with these music stars and their terribly popular songs that I kept those lists, dutifully transcribed on college-ruled lined paper, well into high school. If I had something to do on a Saturday—a rarity, as my schedule mostly consisted of drawing, writing stories, watching the 10” black-and-white television I’d found at a rummage sale, or guzzling bottles of Coke while blowing up to a size that Benetton didn’t make—I would literally beg my mother to sit at the kitchen table and copy the songs down for me. Listen, if “Money Changes Everything,” one of her best tunes, was really going to become the lowest-charting release from Cyndi Lauper’s She’s So Unusual, I damn well needed to know it and to record this fact for posterity. If Flushing, Michigan, had been a center of volcanic activity and the big one had blown, archaeologists of the future would have found my poor mom perched at our kitchen table on one of our chairs made to look like they’d been formed out of beer barrels, dutifully copying down a Casey Kasem list for me, Pompeii-style.
Between songs, Casey used to repeat parts of the lyrics to some chart entries in his inimitable, radio-friendly, velvety voice, a voice you could not possibly imagine had anything meaningful to say to his ditzy, statuesque wife, Tortellis star Jean, who thanks to her radio-unfriendly voice seemed to be starring in Born Yesterday yesterday, today, and tomorrow. To this day I would swear the late, great Casey once said, “Relax…don’t do it…when you wanna come…Frankie Goes to Hollywood is at number sixteen this week.”
“The list is life” was my motto, and that was way before I saw the Spielberg movie. My lists were a way to commune with fame. Fame was not just something that happened, it was a muscle group that needed to be flexed.
Most people get over being fans. Or rather, they convince themselves they’re over it. I’d tried when I was really little by tearing up all my Charlie’s Angels pinups and posters. It didn’t take, and I found myself excitedly paying to meet lesser Angel Tanya Roberts at a Burbank autograph show 30 years later. Actually, my swearing off fandom didn’t last more than a grade or two. I wound up, by high school, having all four walls and even my ceiling plastered with photos, posters, and magazine covers of ‘80s heartthrobs, as well as random movie stars from the Golden Age of Hollywood.
Most people don’t go as far as I did, and so don’t have as long a journey back when they decide they’re done with fandom. Most have a few posters on their walls (unless their parents were assholes who objected to thirty dozen tack holes in the plaster), then after high school or college (where the posters go from teen idols like Kirk Cameron to deeper, more grown-up and adult stuff like The Beatles) decide there is no fucking way they’re putting up celebrity posters in their first apartments and that’s that. Of course, they haven’t really grown out of anything, they’ve just swapped their stars of choice. As teens, they had teen sex objects upon their walls, but now that they’re getting laid in real life, they instead spend money on “impulse buys” (every single week, like clockwork) of tabloids that keep them posted every time Brad Pitt coughs and it somehow comments on Jennifer Aniston’s value as a woman.
I never got over being a fan and never (seriously) tried. So I never grew out of my teen idols. Instead, I’ve kept up with them, keeping them in league with all of the other stars who’ve come since. It’s easy to keep your childhood idols fresh and relevant. You just go to an a-ha concert in New York City twenty-seven years after their first hit (where a bitchy girl trying to push in front of you announces that you’re “not a fun gay” and then surreptitiously marks up your pale gray jeans with her eyeliner), then head to your Times Square office to work out the details of a Justin Bieber photo shoot (and wash eyeliner off your jeans in the public john), then go home and read on Dlisted.com why Mariah Carey is a human canker sore.
I refer to myself as being a starfucker in honor of my mentor, Jane Jordan Browne, who used the term quite disparagingly, as in, “My old bisexual boyfriend Page was such a starfucker.” I’m not a real starfucker, the kind that will do anything to be in the presence of boldface names at the expense of all other considerations. But I’m secure enough in my sanity that I would, say, pay $100 to meet Air Supply or to pose with decrepit L.A. billboard queen Angelyne, and I would definitely drop thousands on a trip to London to see Madonna take a stab at acting in a play…again.
So what I decided to do with these realizations was to write about being what I call a starfucker in the context of a memoir (a ridiculously flowery term that I, in the same way my mother might, can’t help mockingly say aloud as “mem-wahhhr”). These stories in this book are another form of my list obsession, with as many celebrities name-checked as possible. In the same way we relate to celebrities, maybe you’ll see a bit of yourself in here or will laugh at what might have been had your renouncing of whichever idols you had (Bobby Sherman? The DeFranco Family? NKOTB? Don’t you dare say One Direction unless you have parental approval to read this book…) not taken.
It might even inspire you to return to fandom. It’s good to be a starfucker, even if it’s bad to be a blind follower. A starfucker in the way I use it is someone who sees the ridiculousness of flying across the country strictly to meet Joe Manganiello at a cystic fibrosis event and who can coldly assess everything positive and negative about most stars from a space of undying, irrational affection.
A starfucker sees and is awed by how lucky it is for someone to become a star in the first place. That doesn’t mean stars’ lives are perfect or even better, but to ascend to the ranks of stardom among our own species is something only human beings can experience. My lists were an attempt to round up all that luck and make sense of it.
So is this book.
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