Thursday, August 16, 2018

The Flood, a post about grief by @GiselleRenarde

I used to be an art snob. I never bought prints. Money’s a little tighter now than it was when I had a “real” job, so I can’t always afford to buy original pieces anymore. I still want to support artists, especially young ones and those just starting out, regardless of age. That’s why I don’t mind so much, buying a print.

Last month, I bought one that gripped my heart: it’s an image of a girl, a giant girl. She’s crying so hard that she’s flooded the streets. You can only see the tops of cars. That’s how many tears she’s shed. She’s drowning out vehicles.

The night before my cousin’s funeral, I flipped on the local news. Their breaking story was weather-related. A severe localized rainstorm had caused flooding in the downtown core. They had footage of cars stuck in underpasses. You could only see the roofs. The weather guy kept saying it reminded him of footage you see from other countries, not from here. We don’t get this kind of flooding in Canada.

Except we do, because we did.

It stopped raining during the night, but started up again the next morning. By the time I left my apartment for the visitation, which would precede my cousin’s funeral, the rain was hammering down. As I waited for my second of three buses, it started coming through my umbrella and dripping on my clothes. A lane blocked off for construction had flooded entirely. Rain water washed over the sidewalk.

My mother had phoned me before I left the house. She wanted to make sure I was out of bed. I don’t usually wake up in the morning. I work late, sometimes until 5 AM, and then sleep until noon. But I was up and dressed and ready to go. She said, “Bring an umbrella,” and I said, “I’m wearing my galoshes—the fancy European ones we found at that outlet store.” We’re bargain shoppers. It runs in the family. But she called me back the second she’d hung up and said, “Bring a change of shoes. It’s more… proper.”

When I arrived at the cemetery, there was a huge puddle blocking the entrance. I couldn’t tell how deep it was, and, anyway, I was lost in thought. The third of my bus drivers looked strikingly like my cousin. And he was nice to me. He was very sweet and kind. That’s what I was thinking about as I began wading through the lake that came up almost to my knees. Some Australian guy was astonished that I would put my boots through such trauma. But they’re galoshes. You can put them through anything. They only look fancy. They’re deceptive that way.

Indoors, staff at the funeral home was going nuts with the wet-dry vac. The building had flooded overnight. Of course it had. Of course.

The first mourner I saw was a woman I didn’t recognize. She was sobbing so hard two men were holding her upright. I’d never seen someone cry like that in public. I wasn’t even sure, at first, if we were there for the same funeral. It turns out we were, and that she’s my cousin’s cousin on his father’s side (so, my uncle’s niece). This was the woman who’d lost her own mother (my uncle’s sister) to pancreatic cancer a couple months ago. She’d taken her family on vacation to try to give her kids a sense of normalcy, and so my aunt and uncle decided not to call her to tell her about their son’s untimely death.

This sobbing woman only found out our cousin had died when she arrived back home—the night before the funeral.

No wonder she was such a mess. She just lost her mother. She just found out she’d lost a cousin.

Usually, I know in advance how a funeral’s going to feel: I’ll sit there, listening to happy stories from the life of the deceased, feeling strangled by tears and yet struggling not to cry.

From the moment I walked into our lovely funeral room, I knew this one would be different. My cousin was laid out in the steel casket his sister had chosen for him, but that isn’t what set me off. It was the picture boards, the photographs of my cousin as a little boy. When I knew him well. When he and my brother were like brothers. When they egged each other on into mischief. When my cousin shoved a slice of birthday cake down our heating vent and it took us weeks to figure out what smelled funny.

I used to be one of those people who never cried in public. My Grade 9 French teacher told my mother, “There’s steel in that girl,” and there was, back then. It’s liquid now. I’m more fluid than I used to be, in many respects. I didn’t feel awkward crying.

My brother hadn’t told me he was asked to be a pall-bearer. If you want someone who feels emotions very deeply, it’s my brother. I cried for him, because I can’t even begin to imagine how hard that was, for someone who already lives inside a well of sadness.

The funeral was family-only. My cousin’s parents and sister, aunts and uncles, cousins and grandmother. Nobody else. When I first arrived, my cousin’s sister hugged me and said, “I’m so glad you’ve come. I was afraid no one would be here. I thought we’d have a funeral for nobody.” There was no death notice in the paper. The service wasn’t even listed on the funeral home’s online roster.

But it led to the most honest funeral I’ve ever been to. The minister didn’t go on and on about my cousin’s good works. Part of me hoped he would. Something good. Something to latch on to. Instead, he focused on us, the grieving. The service wasn’t for my cousin. It was for us. The minister assured us there was nothing more we could have done. Perhaps his death was accidental. Perhaps it was suicide, the culmination of years spent struggling with depression. We’ll never know for sure.

Whatever the root cause, the minister said we should not blame ourselves, but rather turn to each other for support. Sure the funeral was family-only, but when you looked around that room, you realized this is a big family. We’re a lot of people. We can lean on each other and not fall down, like the lady I saw sobbing before the service. She had two family members by her side to hold her up.

Last night, I dreamed about the neighbourhood I lived in 15 years ago, down by the lake. In my dreams, the landscape is always different from reality, but I recognize it from other dreams. Last night, my dreamscape was flooded. In my dream, I was taking my cats for a walk, goodness knows why, and I didn’t have them on a leash. I kept having to pull them out of the deep water and hold them in my arms. It wasn’t easy. You know what cats are like. They squirm and try to escape.

As I walked along, I passed through a café, and my family was there. My aunt and uncle, the ones who just lost their son, were pushing a baby carriage. They were smiling and healthy, the way they looked thirty years ago. I was about to walk on by when my aunt stopped me. They had a little girl with them, a toddler, and my aunt asked me if the girl could pet my cats.

“This one’ll swat at you,” I said to the child, “but don’t worry—she has no claws. She can’t hurt you, even if she tries.”


Lhasa De Sela -- "I'm Going In"

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Chaos Theory (and a little eye candy)


Most people who know me know I have a serious big girl’s crush on Professor Brian Cox. For those  not familiar, Brian Cox is a physicist from the UK, professor of particle physics no less, at the University of Manchester.

He wasn’t always a worthy professor. The multi-talented Prof. Cox started out his career as keyboard player in D:Ream.When he’s not enlightening young and eager minds he does a lot of television work.

He fronts scientific documentaries on television, perhaps the most well-known being The Wonders of the Universe. He also did a hilarious piece once with Jonathan Ross where they played around with liquid nitrogen… but I digress.

The lovely Brian Cox is eye candy for the thinking woman. He makes the most convoluted scientific concepts seem worth grappling with, and it was on one memorable occasion when I was drooling over the TV that he attempted to explain chaos theory. As far as I can recall, the gist of the thing was that everything in the universe is part of a pattern, might be a huge pattern, but the universe strives for order and will try to create it. He went on to trickle some sand out of his hands and it fell in a pile – like it does – which Prof. Cox said proves why time goes forward not backwards.

I confess, the finer points of the argument eluded me than and still do. But I always thought it was a nifty thing to say, and it’s certainly true that time only goes in one direction. I had that core truth in mind when I was writing The Dark Side and I just had to weave it in somewhere. Here’s the excerpt, from Darker, the second book in The Dark Side trilogy. Eva is explaining how she manages to put the theory to good use.

“Do you come here often?”
“My, my, what a traditional pick-up line, Miss Byrne. But I’d have thought we were past all that now.”
I dig him in the ribs. “No, idiot. I mean do you come to this casino often?” I can see now that we’re close that the casino is one of the Alea chain. I have an account with this lot so I probably do need to come clean before we get there. There’s a good chance I might be recognized—they rotate the staff around different sites and my face is quite well known in these circles.
“No, not often. I’ve been a couple of times—they offer special introductory packages for locals to try to drum up regular trade. I’ve popped in, I like an occasional flutter, but I can manage to lose my money perfectly well through my business in this bloody recession. I don’t need to gamble it away as well. Don’t worry, though, I don’t mind blowing a couple of hundred quid on a good night out.”
“Well, that’s just it. You won’t be blowing it, probably. Well, I won’t. I’ll win.”
He gives my shoulders a quick hug. “Maybe once or twice. But eventually everyone loses. That’s how these places stay in business.”
I stop, turn to face him. “Not everyone. I don’t lose. Well, hardly ever.”
His head is cocked to one side as he considers this. By now he’s learnt not to underestimate me apparently. “Eva? Is there something you’ve not told me?”
“Nothing bad, honestly.” I pull my light jacket around me. He might disapprove of professional gamblers for all I know. Although I don’t usually think of myself as a professional, exactly, it’s just that this is an easy way to make ready cash and I’m not above using my talents when I need to.
“It’s, well, it’s not unusual, quite common really… For people like me… For…”
“Eva, just spit it out.”
I take a deep breath and do just that. “I’m a mathematician. That means I can do a lot more with numbers than just adding up. I can see number patterns, remember sequences, calculate probabilities. So I don’t need to gamble, I can work out the probabilities of what card’s coming up, where the little ball will land, and only bet when the chances are I’ll win. And I do win. Most of the time. I like roulette best. American roulette…” I stop babbling, and fix my gaze on my feet, waiting for his reaction. After all my previous revelations this seems like a small thing to me, but you never can tell.
I wait a few seconds, staring at my red shoes and his shiny black ones, until his finger under my chin pushes my face up again. His dark chocolate eyes hold mine and I cringe, my mouth twisting into an embarrassed grimace.
“So what is it, some sort of system you have? Is it legal?”
“Legal? God, yes! I’m not a cheat. I just… I just follow the sequence of events and predict what’s coming next. Anyone can do it, given enough time. I just do it fast.”
“No matter how fast you are, how can you predict where the ball’s going to land? How can anyone? It’s a random event. Poker, yes, you can play that and use your skill to win. Up to a point. But a game of chance? Roulette? How can you be sure of winning at that?”
“It’s not random.”
He shoots me a look of disbelief and I start to get irritated. How many times do I have to tell him before he believes me? How much proof does he need before he’ll accept that I can do what I say I can do? Christ, why lie? It’s easy enough to demonstrate after all.
“I’m not going into the detail here, but just believe me when I tell you that particle physics has proven that the universe is not a random system. There is always order, always a sequence to be found. If the sample is large enough, the sequence repeats. Eventually. Otherwise the world would be a chaotic place, which it isn’t. Usually. Haven’t you ever wondered why it is that time moves forwards, not backwards?”
One glance at his face, his expression of utter incredulity, is sufficient to convince me that this is not a question that has troubled Nathan Darke over the years. I shrug. “Oh well, it must be just me then. Believe me, though, when I tell you that very little of what happens is ever random. And that’s all I do. I watch, wait until I see the sequence of colors, numbers, whatever, until I see the pattern emerging. And then I can forecast what’s coming. If I get it wrong occasionally I adjust my perception of the sequence slightly, just to make it more perfect, and go again. I rarely lose. In fact, I can’t remember when I last lost.”
Those incredulous eyebrows slowly lower as he considers my explanation. And, amazingly, accepts it. Hands on hips, he lowers his head, shakes it slowly before spearing me with his gaze again. “Bloody hell. So you’re going to make us our fortune in there, are you?”
I stiffen, straighten. I need to take charge of this, if he’ll let me. “No. They’ll throw us out if they think we’re cheating, if it’s too obvious. And anyway, they know me at Alea’s and I have a sort of agreement with them. I always limit my winnings to around a couple of thousand pounds.”
“An agreement?”
“Yes. I started going to casinos as soon as I turned eighteen, although I’d known since school that I could win at so-called games of chance by working out the number sequences—lots of us could. But I got carried away at first. I was too greedy, and got thrown out of the first couple of houses I tried it in. Then another time a pair of security guards marched me off to the manager’s office where I was searched for magnetic devices and such like. God, that was awful. I was so scared, I thought they were going to beat me up and throw me out in a back alley. But once she’d convinced herself I wasn’t cheating, the manager was actually very nice. She told me I could carry on gambling in her casino as long as I kept it moderate, as long as I didn’t take too much of their cash. Having a winner at the table encourages everyone else to have a go so the house sort of recoups its losses. In a way, I’m good for business.”
“But even keeping it moderate, as you put it, you could make a fortune by going around different places, taking just a thousand or two each time.”
“Yeah, but I only do it for fun, not for a living. It’s how I lay my hands on a bit of spare cash for luxuries, things like foreign travel. I get a lot of time off in the summer and I like to travel, and this is how I pay for it. Or if I want to buy something special—like my violin, for example—I nip into a casino and win the money.”
“Like the rest of us get cash from a cash machine?”
“Well, I never thought of it quite like that, but yes. Maybe. It really is quite legal. And doesn’t harm anyone. You don’t mind, do you? I should have told you all this before we came out. I’ll understand if you don’t want to go in with me now. We can just go back to your apartment and… Well, you know…”
“Yes I do know. And tempting as the prospect of fucking you is, like I said earlier, you’ll keep. Now, I just want to see you in action, in there.” He jerks his head to indicate the brightly lit casino entrance behind us, the revolving front door swishing around slowly. “But only on condition you let me buy the chips. It’s my treat, after all, I invited you out.”
I smile, delighted to have company on one of my gaming excursions. We glide through the doors, nodding to the smartly tuxedoed doorman as we make a beeline for the cashier’s desk to get some chips.
Three hours later, around one thirty in the morning we are strolling back around the more or less deserted dock, three thousand pounds richer.







Monday, August 13, 2018

A Dancing Star - #chaos #creativity #insanity


By Lisabet Sarai
 
One must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra

I’d never heard this quote before yesterday, when my husband ran across it in a book he was reading (a collection of plays by Strindberg). Taking it out of context, I interpreted it as a statement about creativity. Artists must trample comfort, eschew order, conquer fear, embrace the whirling terror of a universe without rules or logic in order to create work that is truly great. This is, at least, a common beliefthat suffering, even insanity, is the font from which flows transcendent, timeless music, painting, poetry or fiction.

One can easily cite examples. Vincent Van Gogh. Sylvia Plath. Edgar Allan Poe. Robert Schumann. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Wikipedia has a category list of more than 200 writers who committed suicide.

The conceit that one must suffer for one’s art has always bothered me, mostly because I haven’t, much. Suffered, I mean. Aside from my half-decade struggle with anorexia, I have mostly lived a healthy, productive and comfortable, if not completely conventional, life. Furthermore, I can’t really see much of a relationship between the times when I have been suffering and my creative output. I’ve been writing since I was six or seven years old, both fiction and poetry, roughly six decades. I actually wrote less during the period when I was an inmate in the state psychiatric hospital (though I did do a lot of drawing).

If the theory that chaos triggers creativity is true, what does that say about me? Well, I understand that my work is not exactly “timeless”. Still, I believe that I’ve produced few transcendent stories and poems, without (as far as I can tell) the assistance of chaos.

And I have to admit, I don’t like chaos (not nearly as much as my husband does). I have a fairly low tolerance for ambiguity. I’m not obsessive or anything, but I get pleasure out of having some organization and order in my environment.

Perhaps I’m simply shallow, wallowing in self-delusion when I call myself a writer.

Then I remember all the other great artists who produced incredible masterpieces without going insane, committing suicide or nearly starving due to their poverty. Bach, for instance. Or Michaelangelo. Or William Shakespeare.

Still I wonder whether one can have chaos within, while appearing to be comfortable and in control. This thought leads to another: if this were true, would you even recognize that chaos? Or would you simply assume that the wild, crazy, thrilling, horrifying ideas that swirl around in your head are normal?

Perhaps I can give birth to stars after all.


Wednesday, August 8, 2018

I Fail at Flirting

I’m not the best at flirting.

Apparently, clients and visitors flirt with me all the time at my day job — but the only reason I know this is because my co-workers tell me after the fact. Well, I’m not totally obtuse; I did pick up on the flirting when an older gay couple said they should invite me over for drinks (with a suggestive eyebrow waggle), shortly after I told them I get drunk quick.

Years ago, when I was still figuring myself out, my friend at the time (who later became my husband) and I were pulling up at a coffee shop to hang out and have coffee.

He looked at the place, let out a frustrated sigh, then looked at me and said, “I want to be alone with you.”

I took a look at the coffee shop and pointed toward the windows at the back of building. “There are couches in the back corner,” I said. “That’s pretty private.”

He looked at the place again, let out another frustrated sigh, then said, “It’s not alone enough.”

“Oh,” I said, trying to figure out exactly what he was getting at. I was kind of disappointed because I really liked that coffeeshop.

“I want to be alone… so I can kiss you,” he finally said.

It took me too long to catch on. “Oh… oh!” Then I turned the car back on, shifted into drive, and took us somewhere more private.

So with my lack of awareness of flirting, it’s understandable that the characters in my books generally don’t flirt too much. (If they do flirt, it’s more of the obvious kind — like that couple at my day job that wants to get me drunk.)

Here’s a little sample of the closest thing I have to flirting, from Dominating the Freshman, which I co-wrote with Dominic Leblanc:

***

It’s like a dance. I’ve been through this many times; I make a subtle gesture of interest, he reciprocates, and we move closer.

The gym is nearly empty, save for him and I and some guy doing leg presses. The twink — my partner in this mating dance — eyes me as he walks across the room to the water fountain. After his drink, he looks at me again and water glistens on his pouty, cock-sucking lips. Before he looks away again, I pick up a pair of free weights, my biceps bulging as I carry them to a spot in front of the mirror.

I eye up my figure as I approach the mirror, ensuring I’m giving the twink a good view. My arms glisten with sweat and my tank is plastered to my tight body. My hairy legs look strong in the tight shorts I’m wearing. I shift my gaze to him, watching his reflection, and I catch him staring at me, slack-jawed. He blushes, but doesn’t avert his eyes.

Emboldened, he wanders over my way, trying to make it look casual despite both of us knowing exactly what’s going on and where this is leading. He picks a couple weights off the rack and takes a bench a couple over from where I’m standing.

With his closeness, I get a much better look at him — he’s a twink, yes, but he has some jock muscle to him. He’s shorter than me, skinnier, and has to be nineteen, at most. While his frame might be small, his dick certainly isn’t. The tenting in the front of his shorts tells me he’s hard and he’s big. But it’s not necessarily his cock I want.

“What are you working on?” I ask, as I start doing bicep curls. I keep my voice low, so that only he could hear. I glance at the reflection of the other guy, the one at the leg press — he’s taking a break and doing something on his phone, totally oblivious to the impending homosexual action on this side of the room.

He bites his lower lip, looking like he’s almost overwhelmed that I’m actually talking to him, then says, “Just going to do a few rows.”

Then he leans over the bench and props one knee on it, straightening his back to be parallel with the padded surface … leaving his perfectly round ass curved and ready for me. I want so much to pull down those shorts and lick all the salty sweat from his crack. If that guy wasn’t dawdling by the leg press and would just get the fuck out of here, I might actually follow through with it.

I put my free weights on the floor and saunter over to him, admiring every inch of his body as I get closer. “Need someone to, uh, spot you?”

“That’d be nice,” he says. “And make sure my form is correct.”

He starts doing his rows, lifting the weight in his left fist, while using his right hand to brace himself on the bench. I come up beside him, standing beside his head, my crotch at height of his mouth, and I place a hand on his back. His body is sweaty and hot, but I can feel energy thrumming through him — the libido and lust of young men, I’m sure — and it only serves to turn me on even more. I push my hand further down his back, conscious that the other man is still in the room with us, and gently pushed my fingers under the back of his shorts. I find the band of his underwear, and then bare flesh — he’s wearing a jockstrap.

I clear my throat, steadying myself. I’ve never wanted a boy as badly as I want this one. Even with clothes on, his body is perfect.

By now my cock is thick and hard, standing prominent in my gym shorts. He turns to face me, those gorgeous, pouty lips only a breath away from kissing my shaft. “Thanks,” he says, his attention focussed on my bulge.

The loud clang of the other guy finishing a set of leg presses — the guy I wish would just disappear — breaks the tension of the moment. I feel like our slow dance toward wild sex was set back several steps. We need to get out of here.

I watch as the boy turns around and does rows with his other arm. As he turns, though, he brushes his body against mine — his shoulder rubs against my cock — and it sends a shiver through me. This boy wants me as bad as I want him.

I glance in the mirror at the other guy. He’s on his phone again, doing fuck knows what, while he takes a break between sets. I’d seen this guy here before and I seem to remember that he always did a long workout — I’d come and go and he’d still be working on his routine. Today, he had gotten here shortly after me, which means he’ll likely be working out for a while longer.

“That’s quite a workout,” I say, returning my attention to the twink. “You want to hit the showers?”

He smiles and stands up. “I think it’s about quitting time. A shower might do me good … help me relax.”




(Apologies to fellow Grippers for being a day late. Our Canadian long weekend screwed up my internal calendar.)

Cameron D. James is a writer of gay smut. Find out more at camerondjames.com. His upcoming publication is the (surprisingly smut-free) gay YA romance, Gay Love And Other Fairy Tales, under his YA pen name, Dylan James.

In Praise of Flirting


By Tim Smith

I love this topic, because I love writing flirting scenes in my romances. There’s something sensual and erotic about two people engaging in teasing and verbal jousting when the attraction is mutual. Sometimes you can radiate more heat with a few well-placed double entendres than with a paragraph of in-your-face eroticism. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

I write these encounters in all of my mystery/thrillers, even between characters where I’ve already established a relationship. Take this one, from “Warning Shot,” book three in the Nick Seven series:

Nick took his coffee cup inside and approached the bar, where Felicia was talking to one of the staff. He gazed lustily at her trim physique and full bosom that pushed against her red polo shirt. Her bronzed skin was offset by shoulder-length brown hair. Her soft doe-like eyes and West Indies accent completed the package. This is what gets me out of bed every morning, he thought.

Felicia became aware of his staring and approached, offering a sly grin. “What’re you lookin’ at?”

“Just the prettiest girl in the joint.”

She smiled shyly, cast her gaze down and absently brushed a wisp of hair back from her face. “Are you always this awkward around women?”

“Only the hot ones.”

She placed her hand on top of his and squeezed. “You’re sweet.”



Then there’s this film noir-type exchange from “Lido Key,” book two in the Vic Fallon series:

When Vic locked eyes with Ariel Weston across the bar, there was no escape. He moved to the stool next to hers, drawn in like a marlin hooked by a determined fisherman. “Excuse me, Miss, but I’m new in town. Could you please direct me to your house?”

She began with a chuckle that escalated into full-blown laughter, then she playfully smacked Vic’s forearm. “That’s so lame, it’s cute!”

“Thank you.”

Her eyes scanned him up and down. “I don’t think I’ve seen you around here before, have I?” she asked in a low, smoky voice.

“No. Do I need a reservation to sit here?”


She laughed again. “A smart-ass. I like that quality in a man. Where are you from, smart-ass?”

“A whole other world. Would you like me to provide references before we go any further?”

She placed her hand on his on top of the bar and locked eyes with him. “I don’t think that’ll be necessary, but since we’re going to be friends I think I should call you something more formal than smart-ass.”

“Are we going to be friends?”

“Unless you think you already have enough of them.”

“You can never have too many friends. Why don’t you call me Blake?”

“Is that your real name?

“No, my real name is Vic. I just use Blake to fool people. What should I call you besides totally hot?”

“I like that, but let’s go with Ariel.”

“Pretty name.”


“Thank you. I’m rather attached to it.” She massaged his hand. “I should tell you something, Vic. I’m married to a rich older man, we don’t have any kids and we’ve always had separate bedrooms. He doesn’t really notice if I’m not home, since he’s only there long enough to change clothes before he meets his latest girlfriend. He doesn’t ask me any questions and I don’t grill him about where he drops his pants. Does that bother you?”

“One man’s ignorance is another man’s bliss.”

“Ooh, a clever smart-ass. That’s another quality I like.”

“And we’re just getting started.”



And finally, this is from the romantic comedy, “The Sweet Distraction”:



“I should probably go,” George said. “I’m cutting into your tanning time.”

“Why do you have to run off?” Cookie teased.

“I’m working. Remember?”

“You know what they say about all work and no play.”

“I always make time to play.”

“Like what?”

“Poker, blackjack, the ponies once in a while…”

“Are you good at picking winners?”

“I find it depends on who’s holding the riding crop.”

“Ooh, is that a kinky side coming out of hiding?”

He winked. “I’ll never tell.”

“I like to play, too.”

“What games do you like to play, little girl?”

“Pass-out, strip dominoes, escaped convict and the Warden’s wife…”

“Those are a little out of my league.”

“Maybe you should move up from Little League to the majors. That’s where they play night games.”

“Is this where you ask me if I know how to whistle, then tell me to just put my lips together and blow?”

She raised her sunglasses and looked at him. “I can think of a much better use for your lips.”


Monday, August 6, 2018

Reindeer Games in August

Sacchi Green

I’m not sure I ever learned to flirt, although I may have tried in high school and I'm just repressing memories of being awkward at it. I could be snarky and even witty in repartee, but not flirtatious. I did have a boyfriend eventually, but that was more a matter of weird nerds (a term we didn’t even have yet) sticking together.

By the time of my wild mid-life second adolescence, which I’ve written about here a time or two, e-mail and the internet had changed the world, and made flirting by text possible.  Flirting you could carefully compose before clicking on “send” was just my style, although it did lead to some major awkwardness after all on occasion. Never mind. By that time I was having some luck at writing and publishing erotic fiction, and figured I could make my characters do pretty much anything, including flirting. So I must have plenty of flirting scene excerpts to choose from, right?

Not so many, as it turns out. I seem to have a tendency to begin a story with the characters already in a relationship of one sort or another, which doesn’t preclude flirtation, I know, but does make it less likely. The scene with the carnival huckster and the not-so-dumb farm girl might qualify, but I’ve used that here before. I think I’ve done the restaurant scene featuring raw oysters and scallops and referencing the movie Tom Jones already, too, which wasn’t exactly flirting anyway.

Considering my own actual lack of flirting chops, I guess I’ll just go with flirtation of the somewhat awkward variety. This scene is a flashback, not a beginning, but I’ll start my excerpt at the beginning, anyway, with the established couple, which seems like an especially good idea since the story begins in a snowstorm, and where I am now it’s hot and humid and predicted to be in the 90s for several days.
_______________
Reindeer Games
(originally published in Dyke the Halls from Circlet Press)

Sacchi Green

     The ringing of the phone merged with Kristin's high-pitched cries as Nick pounded into her. Kris couldn't form words, couldn't find enough breath to beg, "Don't stop don't stop don't STOP!" But Nick didn't stop, kept driving huge spikes of pleasure through her, until all sensation merged into one searing, electric jolt of power.
      Gradually, Nick's strokes slowed. Kris could feel her lover's deep, shuddering gasps through her own hard breathing and thumping heart. But a man's voice rumbled suddenly at the edge of hearing...what the hell? Oh, the answering machine!
     "Sorry, Nick, it's a bitch out there, and getting worse, three inches an hour the weather guys say. We gotta have another plow driver. Get your ass on down here, okay?"
     Kris wriggled until she could get her arms around the ass in question and held tight, but she knew it was no use. "I have to go, Babe," Nick muttered into her hair. "I fought like hell to get Christmas Eve; Joe wouldn't call without a real emergency. But damnit, ten years of working holidays so family guys could take the time off..." It was as close as she was going to get, Kris knew, to saying "We're family now." It was close enough.
     "I guess his timing might've been worse. Just barely." Kris still couldn't bring herself to let go. "Maybe I could come with you?"
     Nick's mouth twitched in amusement at the proffered straight line. Kris always wished she could feel that subtle movement of the lips under the tip of her tongue, but if she got that close, of course, other things happened.
     "Didn't your mother ever warn you about distracting the driver?" Nick rolled free and stood up, hauled the blankets up under Kris's chin, stroked the muffled body with a lingering touch from throat to crotch, then headed for the bathroom. No time, Kris knew, for a shower together. But the door was left open and she got to indulge her own private fetish for watching Nick wash herself and her gear at the sink. Those strong, adept hands slicking soap between those powerful thighs...
     "It's not fair!" Kris wailed. "Why do the roads have to be cleared tonight? Why doesn't everybody just stay home?"
     "I'm with you," Nick said fervently. "Or if they have to get someplace let'm all drive reindeer!" She passed close to the bed, and Kris managed to get an arm free of the blankets in time to cop a feel of firm ass. Then Nick was pulling on her clothes, hesitating briefly as though considering a good-bye kiss, then turning abruptly away. "Keep it warm for me, okay?" she called back over her shoulder just before she plunged out into the whirling snow.
     Well, it was still pretty damned warm, Kris thought, wriggling her hips, but how could she loll around in bed while her lover was out in the storm making the world safe for travelers? Stupid fucking travelers!
      Suddenly a memory from her childhood, of listening for sleigh bells and reindeer hooves on Christmas Eve, drifted through her mind. And something else, something she'd read, about antlers. Yes! Female reindeer had antlers, just like the males! In winter, in fact, only the females had them, so Santa's whole team must be girls. She remembered now how that factoid had tickled her fancy, several years before she'd realized how much women with a touch of the masculine tickled her libido.
     Kris rolled out of bed, wrapped herself in a flannel shirt subtly imbued with Nick's scent, and perched at her drawing table. Thoughts flowed through her fingers, until a line drawing of a prancing reindeer took shape on a scrap of poster board. "Blitzen," she murmured, thinking of the electric tension Nick could build in her until it crackled like lightning. She shifted on her stool, remembering, as always when she sat there, the first time she had sketched Nick's portrait.

     They had met at the cafe where Kris was waitressing, working her way toward a fine arts degree at the University. The moment she saw Nick come in, sweaty and tired from driving the town's road-paving truck, she knew what she wanted. Nick was interested, too, she could tell, coming back daily and letting her gaze linger on Kris like a subtle touch whenever she didn't seem to be watching, but it had taken weeks to get beyond casual conversation. Finally, in desperation, Kris had approached Nick with her hands deliberately filled with trays of dishes. Payment for the coffee and apple pie lay ready on the table.
     "Thanks," Kris said, jerking her head toward the bills, "but my hands are full. Could you just tuck it into my belt?" Nick's gaze didn't leave hers as strong, gentle fingers slid the money firmly into the waistband of her skirt. "Farther in, please," Kris managed to say, her throat tight.
     "You sure it won't fall all the way through?" Nick asked, a bit gruffly.
      "I don't think so," Kris said. The dishes on the trays began to clatter as her arms quivered. "Feels like it'll just slide right on down into my underpants."
     Nick stood abruptly and grabbed a tray from her. "Put those damned things down!" she said. "What are you doing tonight?"
     "Drawing," Kris said. "For my senior thesis portfolio. Could you model for me? Please?"
     She hadn't actually got around to the drawing part, though, until early next morning. The narrow band of sunlight curving gently over Nick's breast and slanting across her jaw onto her sleeping face made the most beautiful line Kristin had ever imagined.
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So, really not much flirtation. I’d better stop here, because the next part involves baking reindeer-shaped cookies (among other, very different things,) and I’m getting hungry, but it’s too late to eat anything tonight.

Oh, hell, I’ll post the rest, too. Christmas in August! But feel free to stop reading here.
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     Now, six months later, Kris cut carefully around the silhouetted reindeer she had drawn. Something about the set of its proud head reminded her of the way Nick moved, the way her head was poised over the strong column of her throat—and the way her groans vibrated through Kristen's mouth right through to her bones when she nuzzled and bit at the tender hollow of that throat.
     The scissors were poised at the curve of the cardboard neck. Snip—snip—a bite-sized chunk fell away; and at that moment Kris knew what she was going to do to while Nick was gone. Faintly, too, at the back her mind, a plan began to take shape for what she was going to do when Nick came back.
     The urge to bake Christmas cookies had struck suddenly a week ago, while she was hungry and vulnerable in the supermarket. She'd felt vaguely guilty as she bought the supplies; was she being too childishly influenced by memories of her grandmother's farmhouse kitchen, too perilously close to an attack of feminine domesticity? Once home she had shoved the frozen dough behind cartons of ice cream in the freezer, and hidden the tubes of jewel-toned icing gel among her art supplies.
     But Christmas was Christmas, after all. Nick had even brought home a small tree, and Kris had decorated it with intricate paper-cuttings of snowflakes and suns and moons and peace signs. They had hung their stockings, too, or at least their colorful slipper-socks knit by Afghani refugees. Why had she thought cookies would be too—too Donna Reed? The hell with worrying about stereotypes.
     While the dough thawed, Kris sketched another reindeer, slightly modified to fit onto the dough in an almost interlocking pattern so that there would be only a few scraps left over. Then, realizing that it would be nearly morning by the time Nick came home, she decided to do her meager stocking-stuffing now.
     They had promised each other to buy only small, token gifts, and Kris really hadn't had much choice anyway. A round red pomegranate like a hard, pouting breast sank into the toe of the stocking. Then came three bars of the dark, dark chocolate Nick liked. Last, peering over the rim, came two figures Kris hoped would be amusing rather than just silly; a Rosie the Riveter action figure, complete with riveting-action rivet gun, and a Barbie doll surgically altered into anatomical correctness.
     Kris was proud of her sculptural dexterity. She might build a whole installation around the theme if she got a show of her work presented at a gallery. The electric wood-burning tool had etched a vagina into the crotch just the way she wanted it, with little folds of melted plastic along the edges like generous pussy lips. For the asshole, she'd gone in cleanly, with just a hint of puckering around the rim.
     Maybe she should produce more, deck them with tattoos and kinky costumes and sell them on E-bay. But this one was personal, blonde hair in a single braid down her back like Kris's own, a tiny silver ring piercing the left of two breasts whose tips had been teased with a hot needle into pointed nipples.
     Kris had been uneasy at first because Barbie was bigger than Rosie, but, as she thought about it now, the idea began to grow on her. She took Rosie out and touched her coveralled crotch with a tentative fingertip. Maybe...but maybe not just yet.
     The cookie dough was malleable enough by then to roll out with a floured wine bottle. Kris considered making some more exotic shapes, but decided to stick to the reindeer motif, tracing carefully around her cardboard outline with a sharp knife. When the dozen-plus-one golden shapes were baked and cooled she decorated them with elaborate lines and swirls of icing gel, green and red and blue, drawing harnesses and reins and fancy trappings until they looked more like merry-go-round mounts than working sleigh-pullers. One, though, she left unadorned except for a nose glowing ruby red.
     The snow still fell, and the wind howled. Kris gathered candles and filled jugs with water in case the electricity went out. She started a small fire in the fireplace and lay in front of it, wrapped in Nick's shirt, watching the flames leap and twine and lick hungrily at each other.
     She must have dozed, because next thing she knew there was nothing left of the fire but glowing vermilion embers. She quickly added kindling and logs, wondering what had waked her. In a moment, though, she heard the stamping of boots on the doorstep, and knew. By the time the door had opened and closed she was there, unzipping Nick's parka, pulling gloves from stiff hands, frantically pulling up sweater and t-shirt so that her own naked breasts could press against Nick's chilly skin.
     "Whoa, Babe, don't knock me over!" Nick's arms went around her, but Kris could feel the exhaustion in her body. She eased away and helped Nick shrug all the way out of the parka.
    "Just sit down," Kris said, leading Nick to the couch, "and I'll take off your boots. And then I'll show you what I baked for Santa."
      "Umm, smells so good," Nick murmured, burrowing her nose into Kris's hair where the scent of cookies still clung. Then she flopped back onto the cushions with a sigh. Kris knelt, unlaced the heavy boots still splotched with snow, and pulled them off, playing it straight all the way. She had different games in mind tonight.
     "My pants are wet and cold, too," Nick said plaintively. Kris obligingly went for her belt and got the pants all the way off, but kept her movements businesslike.
     "Poor baby, I can tell you're all worn out," she said. "Just enough energy for a bedtime snack."
     "Oh, yeah!" Nick said, watching the flannel shirt fall open as Kris stood up, revealing her still-warm, still-naked body. But Kris turned away toward the kitchen.
    When she came back she carried a plate of cookies and a mug of milk. "Wow," Nick said, "these are too gorgeous to eat!"
     "It's ephemeral art," Kris said. "It's not supposed to last. First you assimilate it with your eyes, and then with your mouth."
     "Well, when you put it that way..." Nick's gaze didn't leave Kris's body as she took a cookie, licked at the icing, then bit into it. "Damn, that's good!" She bit again, then once more, and it was gone. She gulped down the milk and then glanced toward the plate on the end table. "How come Rudolph doesn't get all the fancy trimmings?"
     "Rudolph is naked," Kris said, "Because I'm Rudolph tonight." She extended a finger to the blob of red icing on the cookie's nose, then smeared the gel onto the tip of her own. "See? And I think I'm growing antlers." She really felt as though something was swelling upward from her head, a weight she could feel all the way down to her crotch, where something else was swelling, too.
     "Antlers?" Nick considered her thoughtfully. "I do believe you're right. Nice rack." She kept her gaze fixed resolutely high above the considerable charms of Kris's torso.
      A new sort of tension was building between them. Kris knew where she wanted it to lead, but first, the icing tingling on her nose was too much fun to pass up.
     "Hold absolutely still," she ordered, dropping to her knees with no hint of submission. She pushed up Nick's shirt and, head bobbing, drew a line of red dots from between her breasts down over her belly to the band of her boxer shorts. Nick inhaled sharply as Kris tugged the shorts downward.
     "Keep still," Kris said sternly, "or I won't lick it off!"
     "I'm trying, " Nick said tensely, and Kris wondered just how far she dared push it.
     She wiped her nose on a flannel sleeve, shrugged the shirt all the way off, and licked on the dotted line all the way down to where Nick couldn't possibly keep still. She could feel her invisible antlers brushing Nick's face, chest, belly, as her head went lower and lower. She could feel something else that wasn't really there, too. If only...
     She wriggled her tongue teasingly through Nick's dark thatch, pausing just short of where her mouth really wanted to go. Where, judging by arched hips and fingers tangled in Kris's hair urging her closer, Nick really, really wanted her to go.
     One quick lap across Nick's straining clit, though, and then she pulled back. "C'mon, Babe," Nick groaned, her grip tightening, but Kris jerked free. She flexed her fingers, drew a deep breath, and swatted Nick's muscular thigh.
     "Roll over, Blitzen!" she ordered. "I'm gonna guide your sleigh tonight!"
Nick stared up at her. Kris held her breath. Then, with that unmistakable twitch of amusement at the corner of her mouth, Nick said, "You'll need a harness, then, won't you?" and rolled over.
     Now Kris stared, not just at the magnificent curve of Nick's ass but at the package her lover's long arm drew from under the couch. "Merry Christmas," Nick mumbled into the cushions. Kris took the package, tore it open, and felt her invisible antlers swell. "It was supposed to go into your stocking," Nick added.
     "Don't worry," Kris said, strapping and adjusting as she'd watched Nick do so often through the open bathroom door. All the fixin's were there, too, so she lubed up, even though a preliminary probe of Nick's juicy cunt indicated that she didn't need all that much. "I know exactly what it's supposed to go into!"
     And in it went, and out, and in again, to the rhythm of Kris's muttered, ""On Comet, on Cupid, on Donder and Blitzen!" until she had to save her breath for other sounds. Amazing how intense it felt, as though heavy antlers added force to her thrusts, and the pressure against her clit sent surge after surge of throbbing demand all the way from her cunt into the hot, clinging depths of her mount. She had no doubt at all that she was driving Nick high into the sky. Or that only the chilly wind through her antlers kept her body from vaporizing like a shooting star when Nick's massive shudder of fulfillment spread through her own body and shook loose a howl as much of triumph as of joy.
     Never mind that reindeer didn't howl, Kris thought hazily, through their subsiding storm of deep gasps. Next time, or some time, she'd be a wolf. An alpha bitch.
     Christmas morning was dawning in a glory of rose-flushed sky reflected on new-fallen snow when Kris stirred from Nick's inert, exhausted body. She stood to work herself out of her harness and glanced toward the bathroom, but she wasn't ready yet to wash away anything, especially the slick gleam of Nick's juices on her brand-new, very own cock.
     She brought a blanket from the bedroom and spread it over Nick, glad, as she'd been many times before, that they'd found such a super-long couch at a yard sale. Then, as she wriggled gently under the cover and against Nick's body, she set her new gift, her joy and pride, on the end table. The little clink as buckles and milk mug and cookie plate collided didn't really sound quite like sleigh bells.
     But it was close enough.  

     



         

Friday, August 3, 2018

Summit Meetings

by Jean Roberta

Here are some definitions of “flirt,” according to the on-line Merriam-Webster Dictionary:

1) To behave amorously without serious intent, e.g. He flirts with every attractive woman he sees.
2) To come close to reaching or experiencing something, e.g. They were flirting with disaster.

Skimming through the stories in my “Documents” on my home computer, I noticed that clear examples of flirting are hard to find, possibly because I’m well aware of that last definition. Too much of what seems like harmless (i.e. non-sexual) flirting to one person can look like a serious invitation to another. When I was just old enough to date, my father warned me that girls can “get themselves” raped by “leading guys on,” which sounded to me like flirting.

I was tempted to avoid speaking to any man I hadn’t known for years, lest guys read too much into expressions like “How are you?”

The answer might well be, “Horny, as usual. And since you asked, you have to do something about it.”

As a long-term volunteer on the local sexual assault line, I’ve heard too many stories of conversations that quickly led to physical assault by an angry man who told a woman she was “asking for it.”

On the other hand, I’ve written many dialogue scenes that could be described as negotiation, which seems to me to be more serious than flirting, even if the conversation sounds deceptively casual. I actually wish more people would bargain honestly with each other for the kind of relationships they want, even though some personal negotiations could go on for days, like the kind union-management meetings in locked rooms from which spokespeople from both sides emerge looking haggard, and the media reports that “no agreement was reached.”

The following is from my shockingly heterosexual story, “The Trickle-Down Effect” (currently in an erotic anthology with a breast-feeding theme, The Milk Round, from Xcite Press in the UK).



Dee is on maternity leave from her job after having her first baby. She lives with Brian, the baby’s father, who wants to marry her. Despite what her mother taught her, she doesn’t think marriage should be every woman’s goal.

Without disturbing the baby, he managed to hold my chin so that he could kiss me.

“Honey,” he told me, “we need to talk about why you don’t want to get married.”

“We need something to eat,” I answered. “Let’s go into the kitchen.”

“Okay,” he agreed. “But we’re also going to talk.” I envied the baby, who had no idea what was going on between her parents, as far as I knew. But then, I thought, even babies are probably more complicated than we think.

I pulled on a bathrobe, and we all went to the kitchen, where I busied myself making toast and scrambled eggs. Brian helped, finding every excuse to touch me. When I needed both hands free, he gently pulled the baby out of my arms.

“Mamas and papas are usually married to each other,” he pointed out.

“Marriages end in divorce,” I responded.

“Not all of them! Fuck, Dee. Anyway, relationships end too, but not ours.”

“Point for me,” I told him. “If a thing isn’t broken, it doesn’t need to be fixed.”

“Are you afraid of what could happen to us?” His voice sounded unbearably gentle.

I considered his question for a minute. “Yes, honey. Aren’t you?”

“Yeah, okay, I’m scared. I’ll admit it. I know you don’t want to be trapped in the house, and I’m afraid you’ll blame me for throwing a monkey wrench in your career. I’m afraid I’ll come home one day and you’ll be gone with Shannon, and I’ll have to fight you in court just to see either of you again. That would drive me crazy, Dee. I mean really.”

I saw his point, and I felt like holding him and kissing away his fear. I even wanted to sing him a lullaby to convince him that I wasn’t planning to leave him for the sake of one stupid job. Jobs can be replaced.

I offered him toast instead. “Brian, I’m not planning to leave you. I love you.” This was a word we rarely used, since we both agreed that there are better ways of expressing love. Expression,* as I knew, could take different forms. “I don’t think we should make it legal just because we have a child. I don’t want us to fall into a rut. I don’t want you to start taking me for granted.”

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*Earlier, Dee “expressed” her milk by squeezing it out and storing it while the baby was sleeping.
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Eventually, Dee agrees to marry Brian, which she likens to jumping off a cliff with him without knowing whether they will land in refreshing water or a pile of rocks. She warns him that if he doesn’t keep his promises, she will demand everything she can get in the divorce. He accepts her terms.

******

Negotiations in lesbian relationships often take a very different form, or at least they did when same-sex marriage wasn’t legally possible in any country. (Note that Gertrude Stein famously asked Alice B. Toklas to be her “wife” in a metaphorical sense in the early 20th century.) Closeted lesbians have traditionally referred to their Significant Others as “friends,” and the boundaries between actual friendships between women (which might be flirtatious and/or emotionally intimate), hookups, friendships-with-benefits, and the kind of Passionate Love Affairs that drive the plots of operas have always been slippery.



In my story, “Naming It” (in Best Lesbian Erotica 2015, edited by series editor Kathleen Warnock and guest-editor Laura Antoniou, from Cleis Press in the US), Tam is comforting her old friend Deirdre the morning after a messy scene in the local lesbian bar. Deirdre was planning to move in with her girlfriend, a notorious flirt named Paulie Diddle, then discovered Paulie getting too close to a new acquaintance in a cubicle in the women’s washroom.

Tears welled up in Deirdre’s eyes. “Jesus, Tam, do you think I’m a complete fool?”

This was clearly a time for diplomacy, but it was also a good time to seize the moment. Tam gathered Deirdre into her arms and rocked her. “Honey,” she said into the fine, wavy, honey-colored hair that grazed Deirdre’s shoulders. “Paulie’s the fool, not you. She’s the one who lost out.”

To Tam’s delight, Deirdre didn’t slither away, as she usually did. “Thank you,” she said, nestled against Tam’s collarbone. “For not saying you told me so. I know you thought I should go slow, and I didn’t. I wanted a home and a serious relationship, you know? We’re not kids any more.”

While Tam was still gathering her thoughts, Deirdre shifted her position so she could look her old friend in the eyes. “Did you call me honey?”

Tam saw her dark eyes and strong features reflected in the troubled grey pools of Deirdre’s. “I did, and I could call you other things too: sweet thing, baby, angel-face.”

Something rippled through Deirdre’s supple body. “Always joking, that’s you,” she said. “That’s why we could never really be an item, even though you’re my best friend. Sometimes I wish--.”

Deirdre’s phone rang for the sixth time that morning. She glanced at it, saw the name “Paula Diddle” once again, and made a visible effort to ignore the sound.

“Good girl,” said Tam. She tightened her embrace and kissed Deirdre on the lips before she could pull away.

“Ummph,” said Deirdre. Tam held her close and slipped the tip of her tongue between Deirdre’s lips.

Deirdre broke the kiss. “What the fuck, Tam?” she asked. Tam knew how Deirdre sounded when she was really angry, and this question had a different tone. She was curious, even intrigued.

“What do you think, baby?” responded Tam the seducer. “Let’s try it.”

“You’re my friend, Tam,” explained Deirdre as though explaining the incest taboo. “Who will I turn to if you let me down?”

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In her current state of distress, Deirdre lets herself be seduced, but then tells Tam that this event was a fluke, a lapse from the status quo of their relationship. Deirdre says they should agree to stay apart for a month, but Tam negotiates this period down to one week. They agree to meet in a popular coffee shop for a summit meeting on a particular date.

Over cappuccinos, the friends discuss the terms of their new relationship, which Tam calls a “love that was meant to be.” Deirdre considers it a reckless experiment because if Tam is promoted to the role of Lover, Deirdre will have no emotional backup in the form of a best friend. Nonetheless, she admits that she has loved Tam for years, and she agrees to name the connection between them for what it is.

So now the negotiations in this post have probably gone on for too long, but they have led to hard-won agreements. I love it when that happens.
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