Thursday, June 30, 2011


by Jean Roberta

Memory - Three yards of garnet velveteen stretch across my bedroom floor like a red carpet. I crawl around it, pinning on pattern pieces and stroking the soft skin of my future dress, the one I plan to wear to the school dance.

Every kind of fabric has its own personality, its own texture. Cotton alone has a multitude of modes, from crisp to soft, from thick to guazy. Working with fabric is a pleasure in itself, but then it becomes a covering for my own skin. When I admire myself in a new outfit, is it my body or my clothing that bedazzles? I can't be sure. But I don't think my teenage skin or my hair, no matter how clean or soft, can compete with material that invites the fingers of passers-by to touch it.

This is why I love to make clothes, to be my own fairy godmother. Every part of the process is seductive, from choosing a pattern and the fabric to cutting out the pieces, to sewing them together, to trying on the finished results. A bolt of cloth is like a rock seen by a sculptor: the statue is already in the raw material for those who can see it, and the cloth knows how it wants to be draped, hung, stretched, gathered or folded.


Treating another person like an exotic object is rude, if not downright prejudiced. I know that. I should try to relate to the man I'm with, not his hair or his skin. I don't know how to ignore them, though. His skin is blacker than any I saw in the U.S., but it has the comforting, familiar feel of old denim. His hair is a marvel: soft and hard at the same time, an almost waterproof material I can crunch in a fist and watch it spring back to its original shape when I let go. His whole body is composed of generous curves: his nose, his mouth, his thick chest, his bouncy buttocks, the flesh banana at his crotch.

He can't possibly know how his body feels to me. I don't know how mine feels to him except by the way he touches it - where he lingers, where he explores.


In some way, holding my newborn baby daughter is my first female-to-female erotic experience. Not sexual, not about tension and release, but completely satisfying. The warmth of her fragile body is exactly what my arms were made for. There are so many more ways to be intimate than most men seem to know.


My wife's hair is never boring. It grows like a weed, it grazes her shoulders and tickles my face when we spoon in bed. It carries her smell, and it feels lush and smooth. I like to think I would recognize it even in a dark room full of other people.

Sewing seems to be a dying art, even among women. Some even brag that they can’t sew – as if a knowledge of that arcane skill marked one as a submissive throwback to a less enlightened time.

My wife is hardly submissive, and she can sew as well as she can repair small engines. She has studied both. She learned about fabric and thread from her mother, a professional dressmaker. The language of seams, fastenings, fit and washability is one we have in common.

She is a paradox: soft, flexible and durable enough not to show her age. Our bodies have changed over the years, but we still like to touch -- either because we still feel the same or because we always feel different. Or because only the one who touches can tell how the other one feels.


Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Sketch: In a Room

Netbooks, I say to her, running my bare hand over the swell of her haunch as she turns over on her back. Laptops are getting passe. Young kids like netbooks or smart phones.

What about you? she says.

Well, I say, you know me. I don’t go for the new stuff so much as most kids. I’m not a Facebook kind of guy.

I pass my hand over her belly as she speaks of her grand son in Florida. She wants to retire in Florida. She knows people there. I would imagine I'm only about 5 years older than her grandson. I wonder if she thinks of him when I'm pressed hard against her making her wheeze a little with the insistence of each thrust. What do women think of when men climb onto them and take up that ridiculous humping posture? I don’t have the courage to ask.

There is a world of difference between a girl and a woman. When you’ve had a woman, you can’t go back. Not just a woman, but a beautiful woman at the moment in her life when she's gloriously gone to seed. Her wild verdure and my root sunk deep in the raw of her. Saw grass. Milk weed. Hawthorne. Thistle. Dandelion. Wild violet. Wild strawberries. Wild catnip. Wild oats and wild wheat; gloriously gone to seed.

The room we lie in is her room; quiet and small, lived in and fragrant. But also with a feeling of the best things having already passed away before we showed up. It’s a place where a couple might go to pass the time while waiting for the next act of their lives to begin. This room is at the top of a walk up stairs in a two story house. For me there is always that feeling of anticipation as I climb the cheap wooden planks, hold the wooden railing of white washed two by fours, knock plaintively on the door wondering what she will be wearing, or not, when the chain rattles and it spreads solicitously wide. Its become such that the feeling of wooden planks under my feet and wood under my hands has become enough to arouse me from habit when I’m somewhere else. What we do in these rooms, on this noisy loose jointed bed, becomes a habit over time, like walking the dog, like being fed at a certain time of day. Appetite and answer.

After a year of habit, the habit of walking upstairs, the habit of the opened door, disrobing her is as easy as making a sandwich. Its understood. She keeps nothing on but her white gym socks, which she does for me because it arouses me. She likes to warm the soles of her bare feet against my thighs under the blanket on cold afternoons. With her gym socks on, she’s a schoolgirl. Thick white pure cotton socks with rows of thick cotton ridges with elastic tops with a thin blue band and a tiny hole in the toe, and the taut outline of her toes which she curls tightly when she’s diving deep in her pleasure. When she’s at her final moment, on each foot she lifts up only her big toe; lifting her toes right when I’m bending down on my elbows to take her ear lobe between my lips as I feel the agony of pleasure defeating my will to last an instant longer for her, and her strained cigarette breath against my cheek like a hot bellows as I bear down against her belly, groan her name and let go with a curse. I like her best when she comes back sweat slicked and unshowered from the gym. She waits on the shower for me to join her because I’m strange and gross in that way. I want all of her, even her smells. I'm not like other young men. I’m a strange beast at a time in her life when she longs for the strange things because she has nothing left to lose or be embarrassed about.

There was a time early on, she met me once with her cool damp hair all up in gray plastic curlers held in place by springy brass clips with plastic tips. I was surprised at the intensity of excitement it stirred in me seeing how much in that moment she reminded me of my mother. I manhandled her, stumbled her protesting across the room in pink bunny slippers and a ratty old bath robe of thick soft cotton. I took her on her back with brute selfishness, too urgent to even bother taking my jeans all the way off. All the while the plastic curlers rained off her head like little bombs on the hard wood floor beneath the squealing old bed; plop plop plop. Her head dangled over the edge of the bed, desparately clutching at the rumpled sheet together with my face nuzzled hard behind her ear trying not to tumble off with me on top of her. It was over in a minute. She rolled me off, sat next to me, scolded me, sulked, lectured me perfunctorily about women's rights. But she didn't ask me to leave. I stole one of those curlers which my rapacious vigor had joggled loose. I sleep with it under my pillow at home.

We can’t last. What will remain is the oily smell of the room which will haunt me whenever someone fries up bacon and eggs. The floozy tobacco smell on the cloth of my clothes when I leave. The easy smoke that curls towards the ceiling fan from the rough leafy brown cheroot between those skillful warm hands at rest, which have been provoking and using my conjured firmness to nurse some secret wound in private dignified ecstasy. She’s been lying beside me, looking through me in the late afternoon blues with the corner of a fastidious Kleenex poking up between her reddened old thighs.

She renews her chatter about her grandson graduating high school next month and wondering what she should get him. What would be a good netbook?

My hand passes over her lolling breast, then down passing along the hard knobby ridge of her caesarian scar and she lifts up a little to give my roaming hand access to her. My hand wanders down between her loose thighs which have the beginnings of wrinkles, and take away the wet Kleenex.

The hair between her thighs is mixed with gray. It can’t be colored, or at least no one does. Gay boys always want to know if the drapes match the carpet. Well, hers don't. The gray down below is like opening an inner sanctum, an expression of trust, a confession of hidden truth. This is who I really am, say the hairs. The hair is shamelessly unbarbered, thick and wiry. I love the rough, long strands like the rough edged weeds of her seedy meadow. I love to run my fingers through that hair between her thighs and linger there, take a curly salt and peppered hair and gently draw it to its length and look. This languidness, looseness, this pliant longing mixed with a bit of stiffness in the joints, makes my lover so easy to seduce. I offer her a massage, a foot rub, anything will do, and her clothes melt away with an unctuous eagerness contrived to make me feel masterly over her.

I don’t know, I say. Anything by Sony is always good. Acer is cheap but I hear they don’t last long. Radio Shack used to make good products out of Texas. Now it’s all the same cheap junk from China.

China is where Japan was when I was a girl, she says. Her hand travels down between my naked thighs and makes me jump. She smiles, feeling the unspoken shift of power from me to her.

Her fingers wander over my junk, affectionately more than sensually. What do you mean, I say.

Japan used to make all this cheap tin shit you’d get in dime stores like Woolworth's. You've never heard of Woolworth’s have you? After WWII Japan was bombed into the ground and just rebuilding. All their stuff was so cheap -

Ah! Whoa!

- do you like that? Anyway. So if it said 'Made in Japan' on the bottom, well that was a big joke. It meant junk. Made in Japan, that’s what you’d say about something weak.

Now Japan is the best.

Time changes everything, she whispers. Have you been to New York?

No I say, feeling myself surrender to her down there.

I grew up in New York.

Yes, I say. To what I don’t know. I’ve stopped listening.

The chinelle bed spread we lay on is a kind of thin, tightly woven cotton cloth, died red with a couple of drying stains in the middle. Two so far, but the afternoon isn't over. The cloth is very soft and thick like a baby blanket. It has crisscrossed rows of cotton tufts like little caterpillars you can feel when you’re moving over them, when your face is being shoved down into them, or your ass being rubbed rhythmically against them with warm meaty weight pressing on top of you.

Daring menial, she says.

What's that?

You look like an elevator boy, she says.

What's an elevator boy?

Sometimes you still see them in big hotels in foreign cities. They open and close the doors for the people in the elevator. He brings them to their floor.

It sounds boring.

It is. Except that in an age without service, all the rich women imagine what it would be like to take a handsome menial servant to their room, someone so much lower than themselves. And then fuck the daylights out of him. And then send him back to his dark little elevator alone.

If I were an elevator boy, would you bring me to your room?

Oh yes.

And her hand is still down there.

I should have stayed in New York, she says.

Why didn’t you?

I was going to marry this man who worked on Broadway, writing plays. He's a big shot now. But you wouldn't have heard of him.

She mentions his name and she's right, I've never heard of him.

Why didn’t you marry him?

He was a Jew. My parents wouldn’t let me marry him.

Because he was a Jew?


That's crazy.

Time changes everything, she says again. She takes her hand away and I feel some of the shine go out of me.

She rolls over on her other side, giving her back to me. Thinking. After a very long time she speaks and her voice is cracked and old - what are you good for? she says.

C. Sanchez-Garcia

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Feel Of You

I think I'm a more visual writer than anything else. I mean, I know you're supposed to include all the senses - how things taste and feel and sound and smell, etc. But I've never found any of these senses quite as interesting as how things look.

Like the raven's wing colour of his hair, as it lays in long silky strands over the nape of his neck - that sort of thing. I like to see things, as though my books are movies and I'm directing them for me.

Of course, the look of something often leads me to the other senses. I mean, once you've got the image of the raven's wing hair in your mind's eye, it's hard not to wonder how it feels. Soft? Almost slippery? And how does it smell?

Like some mystical forest that doesn't exist, I like to imagine.

Of course, it's kind of hard to progress to the other senses once you've gotten this far, because really, who wants to taste hair? And you can't listen to it. I mean, you might be able to hear it running through your fingers - some slight shushering sort of sound - but once you've explained how it looks and feels and smells, going into the noises it makes might be just a touch of overkill.

Though going on to talk about the skin that leads down from that delicious hair probably wouldn't be. I don't know about you, but I'm already wondering what that skin tastes like. Salty, probably, and with just a hint of copper. That's the actual way real skin tastes. And yet when I think about this imaginary man, the word that comes to mind is cool.

He tastes cool. Like mint, only not mint. Like having a mouth full of air, that's what I think, which probably makes no sense at all. In fact, when I really consider, most of my descriptions of various things are just a little bit odd.

I mean, people don't really taste like air. And hair doesn't really shusher. Ribs don't look like unearthed dinosaur bones and skin doesn't stand out like a January sky. Yet I've used all of these descriptions in my writing, and they still evoke the same feeling in me. I can still see and feel the texture of this man clearly, whenever I think of that strange collection of words.

Of ancient bones and winterscapes, of ravens and the taste of air.

Somehow such things make a character more real to me than real people actually are. I can't remember the face of my old boss from so and so, and I don't know some person's name when they approach me on the street and ask me to recollect. But I think about these descriptions, these textures, and suddenly I'm right back in the middle of the fantasy world I wrote about ten years ago, with that same man sprawled on his front, in the glow of candlelight.

It's not just real textures that take you back. It's imaginary ones, too. And they've layered my life as effectively as anything I've actually touched, tasted, smelt, heard, seen. Moreso, in truth.

I still think about his raven's wing hair, and wonder what he's doing, now.

Monday, June 27, 2011

What Do You Feel?

By Kathleen Braden

Call me a curmudgeon, but I have angst fatigue, so I picked a topic this week that I hoped would lead the Grippers to talk about something other than woe. Lisabet led off with a great piece that highlights how erotica uses heightened sensory input to draw in the reader. But now I'm going to loop back around to woe and talk about the writer LA Banks.

Rather than infringe on copyright for her bio, I'll just include a link to her Wikipage.

I met LA Banks at a writer's con soon after reading one of her books. She taught a class about using the senses in your writing. I still tap into the things she talked about. She mostly spoke in terms of writing horror, not erotica, but it's my belief that horror and erotica are closely related genres. Horror uses heightened sensory input to manipulate the reader into a primal reaction, as does erotica. Both pay close attention to small details, the texture of the scene. I remember her asking the class to be quiet and listen to the air conditioner. As I felt the skin up my spine tightening, she said, "Have you ever noticed how creepy quiet can be?" The rest of her examples were just as effective. No grandiose scenarios, just using what was at hand, which made a huge impression on me. After the class, we spoke in the hallway, and she was gracious, generous with her time, and supportive. Soon after that class, I wrote Red By Any Other Name (Sweetest Kiss, Cleis Press) a story with strong elements of horror as well as eroticism that remains one of my favorites.

Last week, as I prepped to write on this topic, I found out that LA Banks is critically ill. What do I feel? Woe. Serendipity should never be this sad. Here's the woman who taught me how to add texture to my scenes to give them the spark of life, and she and her family are suffering. She's a successful writer, but success in writing doesn't equate to a living wage, health insurance, or any of the basic needs for a writer to live. So her friends and many in the publishing industry have put up some great items for auction to help pay some of her medical bills. Now, I won't often help publicize something like this so don't send me links to your fund raiser, and I know that there are many writers out there in terrible circumstances, but LA Banks made, and still makes, an impact on my writing, so I'm making the exception for this exceptional person.

LA Banks auction

Even if you don't know her or haven't read her work, the items up for auction are incredible.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Blind Obedience

By Lisabet Sarai

It amuses my lord to set me these tests.

His note arrived just as I was finishing tea, the mark of his signet embedded in a bright splotch of red wax. I trace my finger tip over the embossed seal, smooth and cool to the touch , brittle and crumbling when I break open his missive. I remember wax in its more fluid state, trickling like liquid fire onto my breasts, and his ring pressing into the congealing droplets - marking me as his. I dampened at the mere sight of his scarlet 'G' on the folded parchment; this memory leaves me soaked.

Send the maid home, he wrote. Go to your room, remove your everyday clothing, and don your blindfold. Then, without sight, I want you to dress yourself in your richest evening costume. Perhaps I will take you out to show you off tonight. Though you will be blind, take care not to make errors in your buttons and fastenings. Be ready by the stroke of six. When you are fully attired, sit on your bed and wait for me.

My breathing quickens, though he is most likely miles away, smiling his devilish smile over his own tea. My master knows me all too well. He does not need to mention the punishment he will administer if I should err in my blind, solitary efforts to dress. I read meaning into his omissions as well as his commands. Indeed, I understand his devious mind almost as well as he does mine.

As instructed, I dismiss Betty and lock the front door behind her. My master holds a key to my house as well as to my heart. I nearly tear my everyday gown in my haste to remove it. Soon I am naked and ready to begin my real trial.

Eyes closed, I trail my fingers down my neck to the hollow of my throat, imagining they are his. My skin feels warm, moist, slightly sticky, offering some resistance to movement if I apply any pressure at all. I skate over my flesh, barely touching, down between my heavy breasts and up the side, under my arm. The skin there is smoother and softer, like the cheeks of my infant niece. I shiver as pleasure arcs down my spine.

My cunt and my nipples both knot. The ache in my clit spreads through my pelvis. I want to slip into the juicy cleft between my thighs, to give myself a moment's relief, but I refrain. I know he would not approve, as well as I know that the final release will be all the sweeter if he controls it.

The clock in the hall chimes half past five, reminding me that I must hasten. Who knows what will happen if he arrives before I've completed my task? From the drawer beside my bed, I retrieve my blindfold, two layers of thick black felt that completely block any light. My master commissioned it from a milliner famous in society and made me attend personally for the measuring. I settle the dense, nappy mask over my eyes, remembering how I squirmed with embarrassment and desire during the fitting. Surely the prim, fussy merchant guessed how it would be used! My lord teased me afterward, saying that my musk drowned out the man's pomade.

As I am enveloped in blackness, my other senses grow more acute. I can definitely smell myself, a hint of ocean mingling with the lavender Betty strews on the sheets. I hear the tick of the clock and my own rapid heartbeat. There is no time to lose.

My clothes are stored in the oak wardrobe across the room. I rise and make my careful way across the floor. The Chinese carpet caresses my bare feet, but I know from experience it can rasp the skin off knees and elbows, when my master is impatient.

It is difficult to judge the distance without sight. I keep my hands outstretched, thinking that I'll run into the wardrobe at any moment. When my fingers finally graze the hard shell of varnish, I grope for the door handles. The hinges let out a loud squeak. With my eyes open, I'd never noticed they made any sound at all.

Undergarments first. Often my lord will want me bare under my skirts, but he has not given me any such instructions this evening, and I sense he wants my task to be as difficult as possible. I reject the notion of a corset. I rarely wear one, despite the impropriety. My master prefers me to be accessible and in any case, lacing it by myself, even if I could see, would be impossible. Let him punish me if I've failed to discern his intentions. I gush at the thought.

Crouching, I rummage in the cabinet near the bottom for a pair of drawers and a chemise. My fingers tell me the difference between the starched linen, the smooth, finely-woven muslin, the delicate silk. Considering the lubricious flow between my thighs, I settle on the more absorbent muslin. I hunt for the drawstrings at the waist, only to discover that I've put the drawers on backwards. I blush under my blindfold, imagining how my master would mock me. The garment is already wet when I remove it to right my error.

The chemise is easier, though I swear I almost spend when the crisp fabric grazes my taut nipples. Petticoats next, flounced layers of stiff cotton reinforced with horsehair sewn into the seams. Managing their unwieldy volume without sight almost defeats me. At one point the under-petticoat springs out of my grasp as though trying to escape. I must crawl across the carpet, waving one arm in front of me, to find it. I know my master particularly enjoys seeing me on my hands and knees. I wonder briefly if he might somehow be watching me. The notion heats both my cheeks and my sex.

My fingers are my eyes as I search the closet for my washed silk bodice and velvet over-vest. I tick off the outfits in my mind as my hands encounter them: the navy-blue wool walking suit, the fabric warm and flat; the red and white canvas tennis ensemble, with a rougher, more open weave; the peach satin ball gown I was wearing the night my master claimed me. The frock rustles as I stroke the shiny surface and the nubbins of pearl-studded embroidery. How that sound filled my ears as he swept my skirts over my head and took me from behind! I fancy a hint of his leather-and-sweat fragrance still clings to the garment.

But I must stop this day dreaming. At last I find the bodice. It drifts down over my breasts like a cloud, draping my generous curves in a way I know he'll appreciate. I mold my the silk over my body, savoring the gossamer fabric and the firm flesh beneath. The fitted vest comes next, the soft nap like a kitten's fur against my palms. I struggle to fasten the line of tiny abalone shell buttons that run from my bosom down to my waist. There must be at least thirty of them. Twice I get down to the last button to discover that I have them mismatched.

Finally, the overskirt, Chinese silk brocade drawn up into loose ruffles at both hips. My fingers recognize the rich bulk of the heavy fabric, so different from the diaphanous bodice. Blindness has made me more sensitive; I can trace the design of peonies and foliage woven into the cloth.

Only when I've completed the process of buttoning the skirt and tucking it under the vest do I remember that I need stockings and shoes. The clock chimes six times. Despair, terror and arousal battle in my breast. There's no help for it now. I would have to remove the petticoats and skirt, at very least, and my time is up.

I feel my barefoot way across the room, back to the bed. My heart slams against my ribs. I arrange myself on the bed as best I can, my voluminous garments spread around me. Even through the many layers, I can smell my excitement, and I know my lord will, too. I fold my hands in my lap, try to calm my breathing, and wait, as he has taught me.

The clock rings the quarter hour with no sign of my master. I struggle to contain my impatience. I can't help straining to catch the first sounds of his entry. I hear nothing.

Smell is the first sense that advises me of my master's presence. Though he is silent as a cat, he cannot disguise his earthy male scent, which makes me flow afresh. He does not speak, not yet, but small currents in the air tell me he is moving about the room. He sets something on the bed beside me, heavy enough to change my balance a bit. I feel his eyes upon me, feel the blood rise to my face and swell my clit in response.

Finally he speaks. "Beatrice, my pet. I see you have obeyed me - but only up to a point. Where are the satin slippers that match your lovely frock? "

I swallow the lump in my throat. "My lord, I am truly sorry to disappoint you. I did not remember until the last moment..."

"No matter," he interrupts me. "Or at least, no matter that cannot be remedied with some discipline."

The way he utters that word! His voice is quiet, pleasant, but I'm struck by lightning, an incandescent stroke of mingled fear and desire.

"Reach out your right hand," he orders. I extend my arm to explore the item he has placed next to me. It takes only an instant for me to recognize the coarse, twisted, hairy coils of his rope. I practically swoon, feeling already how the rough bonds will bite into my tender flesh.

My master catches me in his arms, touching me at last, and plants a moist kiss on forehead. "Fear not, sweet. I am pleased. You look quite lovely." When he lets me go, I must bite my lip to avoid crying out at the loss.

"Now," he says, laughter edging his voice. "Take it all off."

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Possible Dad

by Guest Blogger, Joe Alimony (Jean Roberta in a fake moustache)

(Spoken in a gravelly bass voice):

Happy Saturday, readers. Jean Roberta was unable to find a guest blogger for today because she couldn’t get into her university inbox where she could find the email addresses of several male writers. She doesn’t even know why she’s been reaching a blank screen for several days. You know how women are. So I agreed to help her out.

Fatherhood, she said. Just talk about fatherhood.

Man, I need a beer. I’ll be right back.

I’ll be careful. I’ll just set this beer can far enough away from the keyboard. If this post ends suddenly, you’ll know what happened.

Jesus, cats are as bad as kids. A man can’t get any peace, even at his own computer.
Okay, well, you know it costs a lot to raise a kid, right? Then if you’ll not real careful, a few more come along and then any freedom you had before just disappears. Why is it fair for fathers to get stuck paying for everything when most guys can’t be absolutely sure their kids are theirs?

Call me a male chauvinist pig if you like, but you can’t argue with the facts of nature. The only way a guy can be really sure his DNA is in the smelly little red-faced bundle of noise his wife or girlfriend brings home from the hospital is by doing blood tests on everyone involved. And if you say you want a blood test just to be sure, you get accused of being a jealous ass. Yeah, right.

The truth is that without that test, you just can’t be sure. That’s why guys in some cultures lock up their women. I’m not saying it’s right, but you have to admit it makes sense.

Now you want to know if I have kids. I helped raise some, if that’s what you’re asking. Hell, yes. But did I father them? Your guess is as good as mine. The two oldest look a lot like me, but the youngest boy has dark hair and eyebrows. Everyone in my family has blue eyes and blond or light-brown hair. My wife has a smorgasbord in her family tree, if you know what I mean, but could that explain why she popped out a kid that looks nothing like me? I just don’t know.

My wife was working outside the home when she got pregnant. But I’m not supposed to say anything. Even now that we’re divorced.

Now here's the other thing: women's attitude to sex is the most complicated on the planet. Other female mammals are straightforward: they go into heat, they go crazy, they attract every dog in the neighborhood (assuming it's a bitch dog), they get pregnant. No one asks who the dad is and no one cares (except profesional breeders, but that's another can of worms).

But human females have moods, right? Sometimes she's crazy for it, sometimes she doesn't want you to touch her. Like, she doesn't want your stinky male breath in her face.

The fact is, no matter how much you might love the woman in your life, you don't know what she really wants or what she does when she's not in the same room with you. And you're supposed to be a really understanding guy and still have total control over everything that happens to you, to her, to your kids. It's crazy-making.

Was there ever a time when fathers were respected? Women complain that men have always had too much power. That’s a laugh and a half. We’ve always been expected to lay down the rules that women and children ignore, that’s what it is. We’re the ones who get lied to: No, dad, I didn’t put that dent in the fender and could I have some money? Oh honey, I had to work late today, and do you have a few extra bucks? No, I didn’t notice that we’re overdrawn. I need this, I need that.

Dammit, I love my kids. If they’re mine. I still love my ex-wife in a way. There’s something about her that still gets to me. We just couldn’t live together.

My one-bedroom apartment is my mancave where I lick my wounds. I can’t afford to hire some gay interior designer, so it’s a no-frills kind of place.

Hey, if you want to come over, I have a few more beers in the fridge.

Friday, June 24, 2011

What's In a Name?

By Kristina Wright

I wanted to go on the 6th grade trip to Mexico. That's how it started. In order to go to Mexico, I needed a passport-- which I didn't have. In order to get a passport, I needed a birth certificate-- which I did have. Problem was, the birth certificate I had did not bear the same name that I was using. If I got a passport under the name on the birth certificate, school officials would know I was using a different name. My friends would know. Their parents would know. It would have been scandalous, I guess.

This was back in the day when you didn't have to show documentation to enroll your kid in school. Or maybe that was just life in Florida in the 70s-- a nod to the migrant workers who weren't in the country legally. You also didn't have to have a Social Security card until you started working. I guess my mother assumed I wouldn't have to prove who I was until I was at least a teenager and she'd deal with it then-- but then I asked to go on the Mexico trip.

That was how I ended up in a courtroom at the age of 11, telling a judge about life with my parents so I could get my name changed. I ended up with a new birth certificate that bore the name I'd been using since I was 9 months old. Of course, to get there, I had to listen to my mother answer the judge's question about who my birth father was: "I don't know."

It was a lie.

She knew who my birth father was, but she wanted nothing to do with him and didn't want him to have anything to do with me, not even legally. She was so adamant about making sure I never had any contact with him that she never told me his name.

I had to listen to the judge ask my "father" (technically, my stepfather) why he hadn't pursued legal adoption before this: "I just never got around to it."

Another lie.

He would never have legally adopted me if my mother hadn't fought him on it. Why? Who knows. We were never close, ever. He didn't really want kids (so said my mother) and maybe saw me as part of a package deal-- an option he couldn't opt out of.

All I wanted was to go on the Mexico trip with my friends. I ended up with a birth certificate that was a lie. I had gone from having a legal document that negated the existence of a paternal figure, with the line for father left blank and my last name being listed as my mother's maiden name, to a legal document that bore the name of my stepfather as my father. I would stare at that piece of paper and wonder how it could be legal for a legal document to have my birthdate and my stepfather's name on it even though my mother hadn't even met him until after I was born and even though the adoption process had taken place in Florida, far from my state of birth. At the age of 11, I wondered how it could possibly be legal to fabricate the truth. I still wonder about it.

My birth certificate is a lie.

I had to give up my original birth certificate for the phony one, so I don't even have the real record of my birth to an unwed mother in a hospital in St. Louis, Missouri. I wonder if that original document even exists? I'd like it back.

Despite my strong feminist beliefs, I took my husband's name when I got married. I had no connection to the name on my birth certificate or to the man I called Dad. But they don't change your birth certificate when you get married-- they give you a new document to reflect your new name without erasing the existence of your previous name. To this day, it bothers me that they didn't do the same thing when my stepfather legally adopted me. I wonder if the law has changed? It should.

There is a sense of shame attached to my birth certificate, both the original and the fake, I mean legal, one. It always felt strange writing a name that I knew wasn't really mine. I kept waiting to be found out, to be told I had to use my real name, the one on my original birth certificate. Even once I had a piece of paper to reflect the name I'd always used, it felt strange to make a poster of my family tree in 9th grade English when I knew that half of my tree was a lie. I pretended, as my mother had always pretended, that the man who wasn't there when I was born, who often forgot my birthday (and even misspelled my name), and who had little interest in claiming me as his daughter, was my father.

People have asked me why I have never used a pseudonym. My answer is always that I am proud of my work and want my real name on my stories, that I believe women writers were long forced to hide in the literary shadows and it's my tribute to them to use my real name on everything I write. The truth is also that I have always been uncomfortable using a name that wasn't really my own. I unwillingly lived under a pseudonym for 11 years of my life and then had the truth of my birth fabricated so I could continue using that pseudonym for another 12 years. No more. Ever.

This was supposed to be a post about fathers. I guess I should get back on topic. Despite my occasional attempts to find out (occasional because the fallout wasn't worth the effort), my mother never told me who my birth father was. Not when I turned 18, not when I got married at 23, not when I told her I wanted my entire family medical history in case I decided to have children, not when I swore to her I would never look for him. She took his name to her grave in 2007. It was my aunt who told me my biological father's name several months after my mother's death. She also helped clarify some of the details I'd been able to piece together over the years from eavesdropping on my mother's conversations with my father (stepfather) and other relatives. But I'll never know the whole story. Only my mother knew that.

At last, though, I had a name. It was anticlimactic. Knowing my biological father's name doesn't mean very much when I still know so little about him, his life, whether he had other children or is even still alive. I don't know if he ever wondered about me or wanted to meet me. I never saw a picture of him. I still don't have a complete family medical history and have gone through genetic counseling twice answering "I don't know" just as my mother did all those years ago in a courthouse in South Florida. The difference is, of course, I really don't know. Likely, I will never know.

After going through the adoption process and making my fake name legal, my parents decided they couldn't afford to send me to Mexico after all. That, like so many other things, was also a lie. My mother never intended to let me go to Mexico, she just wanted to push my stepfather to legally adopt me. She got what she wanted. I didn't go to Mexico and she kept my biological father's identity a secret for the rest of her life.

It took over 40 years to find out, but I finally know his name. Not that it matters-- it's not a name I would ever use and is as meaningless to me as my fake birth certificate. I have my name and my identity solidly established-- and on my own terms. It took awhile, but I know who I am and I have a passport to prove it. Maybe one day I'll even get to Mexico.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Patriarch's View

by Jean Roberta.

My late father, who died in 2009, filled all the requirements of traditional fatherhood: he supported his family, he never beat his wife or children, he never committed adultery (that I know of), he was an academic who helped with homework. A lieutenant in the U.S. Navy during the Second World War, he loved boats of all shapes and sizes. He was a generous host who loved dinner-parties and house-guests. He enjoyed repartee throughout his life.

When I first saw the title of Stupid White Men, American filmmaker Michael Moore’s broad critique of the power structure of the U.S. and the myths that sustain it, I immediately thought of my dad.

If the world-view that I was taught in elementary school had anything to do with reality, I would never have come to see men like my father as monsters in disguise.

Born in 1921 into a family with southern roots that owned slaves before the American Civil War, he grew up believing that the U.S. was the home of the brave and the free. The Civil Rights movement of the 1960s seemed to him like an overreaction to racial discrimination, although my mom (whose roots and personal history were a whole different thing) persuaded him to join the American Civil Liberties Union and oppose segregation. If not for her, it seems unlikely that he would have noticed racism at all. It didn’t loom large in his world.

I came to learn that the McCarthy Era of the 1950s devastated my mom’s leftist Jewish friends (her old high-school posse from New York). Following her lead, I came to think of the anti-Communist paranoia of that time as a sickening American sequel to the Holocaust in Europe. Dad’s nostalgia for the wholesome innocence of the 1950s gave me the impression that he and my mom were living in different dimensions at the time.

When we moved to Canada, he found it outrageous that some Indians (native/First Nations people) had treaty rights. Dad described them as the “landed aristocracy.” He claimed that the residential school system for native children that was being dismantled in the 1960s was based on an upper-class British model, designed to encourage fortitude and intellectual rigour.

I always knew that my mom had Mohawk blood. Yet when my dad described her ancestors (and mine) as primitive tribesfolk who could benefit from “civilization,” she said nothing. In her world, husbands were entitled to have the last word.

Second Wave Feminism seemed hilarious to my dad. He took it on faith that hordes of young women were burning their bras (despite my denials), and he couldn’t imagine why. He claimed that “consciousness-raising” was another term for brainwashing. I introduced him to the saying, “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.” He told me that was a meaningless slogan.

Dad disapproved of day care centres. He thought that if women didn’t want to raise their own children, they shouldn’t have them. To my relief, he vehemently supported reproductive freedom of choice for all, including the right to abortions.

Dad often pointed out that there was no such thing as “real rape” because men’s sexual aggression was always a response to women’s reckless flirting. “Cherchez le booze” could have been his motto whenever he heard or read about sexual abuse. He claimed that women’s accusations of “rape” usually started with hook-ups in bars. If there was no mention of a bar in a printed account of sexual harassment or assault, he would say, “we don’t know what really happened,” then rewrite the plot so that it began in a beer-soaked dive. And he would redraw the victim as a “floozy,” the kind of woman who liked to approach men in bars with lines like, “Buy me a drink, sailor.”

If only the world were so simple.

By the time I went away to university at age 19, I had argued fruitlessly with my dad on most issues of general interest. I found his belief system mildly annoying, but I felt myself lucky to have a father with a more supportive attitude to his children than many I had heard of. And his world-view seemed to be widely shared by most young white men of my generation, even those who considered themselves hip and radical.

The term “date-rape” wasn’t used in 1971, but this was what happened to me in my dorm room in my first year of university. I was already in despair for reasons that would take too long to explain in full. I had several bottles of sleeping pills on hand, and I swallowed them. I didn’t want to live through the aftermath of what had been done to me.

Things turned out even worse than I feared. In the psych ward of the local hospital, a young male psychiatrist pressured me to admit that what had happened wasn’t a “real rape.” He encouraged me to take full responsibility for my own experience. He told me that reporting it to the police wouldn’t accomplish anything. (He was probably right about that.)

At home in my own town, I was taken to several male psychiatrists by my parents, who seemed to hope I could be cured of my hysterical belief that male violence against women was not only real but systemic. I was diagnosed as a “borderline schizophrenic” and was prescribed an antidepressant by a doctor who hadn’t seen me yet. I was never given medication for schizophrenia. (I learned this years later when I followed the paper-trail of my “therapy.”)

At age 21, I gained the legal rights of adulthood and refused to visit any more psychiatrists. Years passed, and I was determined to put the events of my youth behind me. Getting as much education as possible seemed to be the key to a satisfying life, so I returned to university for a first degree, and kept returning after every disappointment on the job or relationship front.

My dad never stopped believing that I had “mental problems,” his generic term for a wide range of conditions including learning disabilities, emotional distress and a tendency to see things that aren’t there. He explained my mental condition as the cause of all my irrational behaviour, including my refusal to take on my husband’s family name when I married. Dad always assured me that people with “mental problems” shouldn’t be blamed for them.

Dad claimed that open discussions of mental illness could lead to greater understanding of the problem. Apparently this was his motive for telling his friends and colleagues about me. For years, I could usually guess which of my parents’ contemporaries had been told about their troubled daughter. Luckily for me, I rarely run into them any more.

I sometimes wonder if my dad still exists somewhere, in the world as he sees it. I am still tempted to say what I said to him many times in life.

Dad, you don’t know everything. Please listen to me. I’m an intellectual like you. (Or maybe not like you, but some kind of intellectual nonetheless.) There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamed of in your philosophy.

But I know he can’t hear me now. He never did.

May he rest in peace.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Sketch 2 (Frog and the Scorpion)

Oberammergau, Bavaria 1880

The oil lamps made dancing shadows like a ghost puppet show on the brick walls and stage curtains. Thunder rumbled outside the small theater. Back stage the little girl waited patiently by the stage door for her Papa, loving the shadow shapes which seemed to be playing out stories for her. Minutes before Papa’s leather and brass trimmed Centurion’s costume had been removed and hung with care while she had stood dutifully by holding the plumed helmet, in the dressing room Papa shared with Pontius Pilate – Franz the cheese maker – and Caiaphas the High Priest – the mayor of Oberammergau – and Judas Iscariot, who the other nine of every ten years was Johan the horse doctor and dentist of last resort.

The oil flames flickered a bright yellow light on the little girl’s thick white-silver blonde hair, making a dancing halo of light, as though she might be a angel girl from a child’s book of prayers. When at last Papa came over, dressed again in his farm clothes he took her hand , caressed her soft hair which was his delight. “Did you see me?” he said.

“ ‘ He truly was the son of God.’ “ she said, and he laughed.

“You have a good memory,” Papa said. “Someday you’ll have to be in the Great Passion Play too. “Who do you want to play?”

“A donkey!”

“No. You’re too pretty for a donkey.”

“I like Veronica, the lady with the kerchief,” she said. “She does a kind thing to wipe the Lord’s face, and she doesn’t talk too much.”

He caressed her hair again. “I can see you playing her. It’s late, the storm is coming. We have to go.”

He kept her hand and pushed the door open. The air was cold and a strong wind was rising. They clambered down the stairs. The big man waited on the street, and paused to examine the sky with his farmer's eyes, thinking. Lightning ignited the clouds, in ocean waves of rolling light.

“I’m hungry,” whined the girl. “Grandma is making dumplings.”

He hoisted her up on his great shoulders that only a while ago had been draped in red velvet and armor as he stood in the hot spotlight beneath the makeshift cross holding a spear. He ran a brisk trot for the cart. “It’s not the lightning that worries me,” he said.He trotted up to the cart and froze. The horse was prostrate on the ground. From its neck, behind the ears was a sheen of black blood trailing to the cobblestones.

"Tanzer!" The girl striggled to get free and run for the fallen horse. "Tanzer's sick!"

"Nixie - Tanzer is dead." Papa stood holding her on his shoulders. He looked around wildly almost dropping her. “The worst,” he muttered. “Pieter’s come back. It’s the worst. We’ll go to the church. Hold tight.” He tucked the girl down close to his neck, no longer trotting, he ran. His wooden shoes clambered against the stones, splashing through puddles as the clouds let go sheets of freezing rain.

As they turned the corner to the little Peter and Paul church, lightning blazed throwing the village street into stark glares of silver and black. Papa looked up at the bell tower in the blaze of light and saw. He dropped the girl roughly on her feet and quickly crossed himself. The rain was soaking them.

“Papa!” The girl held up her arms.

He threw himself into a shop doorway and pulled her in after. Holding her tight they crouched low in the door, and he hid her with his body. “Don’t let it see you,” he whispered, and the girl realized he shaking. She had never seen her Papa afraid.

Lightning exploded across the sky and she looked up and saw what he had seen appear and vanish in an instant.

On the top of the Church of Peter and Paul, on top of the bell tower was a great iron cross. In the instant of fierce white light she'd seen a tall thin man standing, leaning his body against the iron cross with his arms outstretched as though being crucified.

“Who is that?” she cried and pointed.

“He's the one who killed Tanzer. Don’t let him see you!” Papa pulled her arm down and threw his broad palm across her eyes.

“Who is he?”

“A lost soul.”

“Why does he do that? He should come in.”

“No, darling. That’s not what he wants.”

“But he’s all wet and the lightning!”

“He was drawn by the Passion Play. His kind are. Now he repents. Now he wants the lightning. ”

“But why?”

The lightning blazed and high above came a shower of hot sparks. When Papa took his hand from her eyes she looked up at the tower. But the storm man had vanished.

“He’s a nosferatu, Nixie. He wants God to kill him.”

C Sanchez-Garcia

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Imaginary Family

Me and my friends often play a game. We call it The Imaginary Family, and the object is to search through every film or TV program you've ever watched, and find amongst them new parents, new brothers and sisters, new grandparents. Hell, we've gone further than that. We've named new Uncles for ourselves - usually bad ones.

You know, like that one Uncle you've got that everyone kind of hates and gets creeped out by. He probably got caught doing something weird like masturbating into a banana skin while watching Dumbo at the pound theatre, at some point, and you always sigh when he turns up to your imaginary family reunion.

My bad Uncle is usually Peewee Herman. But you can go less obvious with your bad Uncle. Maybe someone like Steve Guttenberg would do, because he seems all smiley and nice but you know he's likely having sex with fish when nobody's looking.

Though the beauty of the game has nothing to do with fish or Steve Guttenberg. No, the beauty of the game is that you get to invent a whole new life for yourself - which is kind of sad, when you really think about it.

And it's even sadder when you realise that actually, things would have probably turned out better for you if John Candy had really been your Dad.

I mean, can you imagine? I've never seen a film of his where he wasn't inutterably lovely. Where he didn't do all the things you always secretly longed for your Dad to do, like maybe not descend into alcoholism and disappear when you were seven.

John Candy never does anything like that in any of his movies. Instead he does fun, amazeballs things, like eating giant steaks and making giant pancakes. Oh, the times I've longed for a Dad who one day randomly makes me giant pancakes!

But not just a Dad who does things for me, oh no. A Dad who is weird like me. That's why I like John Candy the most, for my imaginary Father. Because in every movie he's in he's always just a little bit weird, just a little bit of an outsider. He messes up. He gets things wrong. He gives speeches where he says things like I like me - usually because no-one else does.

But I like him. Because he's loud and strange and not afraid to be himself, and there are times when I have sorely needed all of those things. I've needed someone who would say to me that it's okay, to be the person I am.

So here's to my imaginary Father. The one who really sustained me, when I was lost. Who made me smile, when I was sad. He may not be the actual John Candy, but he's with me anyway. I made him up, and no-one can ever take away something you made up.

Happy Father's day, my imagination.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

A Father's Inspiration

By Lisabet Sarai

I'm writing this on Father's Day. It's a bittersweet holiday for me. My dad died a bit more than three years ago, on his eighty sixth birthday. Oddly, I feel his presence today far more than his absence. I've come to understand, during the time since his passing, that he'll always be with me, in my memories and in my heart.

I've written a lot about my mom over the past few years that I've been a contributor here, but not much about my father. He had his flaws and his problems - don't we all? - but they pale in comparison to his positive qualities.

Dad lived a long, joyous and fruitful life, including more than a year that was grace, pure and simple. After a serious cardiac incident, he was sent home to hospice care, not expected to live more than a few weeks. He confounded the prognosticators by recovering significantly and thriving (relatively speaking) for another seventeen months.

On reason I want to talk about my dad here at the Grip because he, more than any other individual, inspired me to read, and to write. He had the gift of words, and passed it on to his children. I recall him reading aloud to my siblings and me, folk tales, fairy stories, adventures like Treasure Island and Robinson Crusoe. He told his own stories, too, invented worlds and characters for our pleasure. There were the Gulkons, terrible demons who lived in the fire on the hearth, and Houligan, the god of snow. (I grew up in chilly, stormy New England.) I still remember sitting spellbound (nearly fifty years ago) while he recounted the story of the hapless wizard Thomas Carl Sefney who had to touch his wand to every one of the monster's thousand tentacles before it consumed him.

Both my parents encouraged me to write. My first poems date from about third grade. During my childhood I wrote fantasies about Martians and ghosts, and plays about the Beatles and politics. In my adolescence, too shy to speak to any of my crushes, I poured out my adoration in anguished free verse. In my twenties and thirties, I wrote science fiction and first tried my hand at romance. Finally, in my forties, I actually managed to publish something (other than in my high school newspaper). My first thought was to send a copy to my father.

My dad and I shared favorite books, characters and authors. When he and I got talking about Sherlock Holmes or Frodo Baggins, H.P. Lovecraft or Edgar Allen Poe or Anne Rice, the rest of the family would roll their eyes and leave us to our obsessions. I never had any difficulty figuring out what gift to get him for his birthday or Father's Day. There was always some book that I had seen or heard about that I knew he'd love.

I never did introduce him to my erotica, though. I was so tempted to show him the pile of paperbacks with my name on the cover, the volumes I had penned or edited. (I suspect that he would not have considered ebooks to be "real" books, but then, he never did really master his computer either...!) I wanted to autograph him a copy of my first novel, telling him how much he had contributed to my literary endeavors. I wanted him to be proud. However, I didn't want to make him uncomfortable. He loved Anne Rice's vampire tales, but I recalled the way he reacted when I gave him a copy of her BDSM classic The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty - an embarrassed grin and a "oh, that's interesting". We didn't discuss that book much. I'm pretty sure he never read it. Though I would have welcomed the opportunity to open up to him about my own pursuits in the world of Dominance and submission, I sensed that he would rather not know.

I guess that there are just some things you can't share with your parents, no matter how close you are.

Now that he's gone, do I regret that he never knew about the my risqué alter ego Lisabet Sarai? Not really. The only thing that I regret is that I didn't get a chance to wish him a Happy Birthday one last time. I was just about to pick up the phone when I got the call from my sister, telling me that he was gone.

I was thinking this morning, however, that I just might dedicate my next book to him. He deserves it.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Sympathy for the Prude

"These are continent, to be sure: but doggish lust looketh enviously out of all that they do." Friedrich Nietzsche 'Thus
Spoke Zarathustra'.

Having just finished reading The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber, it is easy to see prudes as being at the root of a great deal of unhappiness. They're easy to hate for their parsimonious ways and the desires they repress with something approaching fetishistic glee. One only has to be a member of the cognoscenti at a Tea Party convention to know just how awash in sub-textual kink the whole thing is.

Of all the natural human drives we have managed to enmesh and confuse with moral abstractions, sex may be one of the strangest. After all, we're animals. We have a drive to procreate and the physiognomy to do so with much more frequency than other species. We mate even when we're, by virtue of menses or menopause, not fertile. Our bodies have evolved to enjoy sex in a very unique way. And with equal uniqueness, our cultures have evolved amazingly complex taboos surrounding the behavior.

There have been many theories proposed as to why we have grown into the creatures we are and why eroticism plays such a large part in our psyche. What is even odder is that, it arguably takes up far more space in the psyche of a prude than of a person who is relatively free of many of the social and religious constraints surround sex.

In trying to come to grips with the absolute irrationality with which Western Europe viewed sex, Nietzsche said "...chastity is a virtue with some, but with many almost a vice." In fact, despite all his silliness, it was Nietzsche who most eloquently addressed the way in which we seem to obsess most deeply over those things we slavishly deny ourselves.

Georges Bataille, on the other hand, suggested that the root of our inability to see sex in any balanced way stems from our capacity for it in excess of our needs as a species. In 'The Accursed Share', his extremely odd but interesting economic theory of the world, he theorizes that all excess energies must be turned into sacred ritual in order to deal with the socio-economically destabilizing aspect 'waste'. Hence eroticism is really a mystification of sex. So why should we be surprised that it attracts religious trappings and the rules of ritual?

Our modern representations of sexual desire are utterly disproportionate with our other drives. We paint ourselves dying of desire, killing for it, sacrificing decades of happiness for it. It would not be nearly the dramatic subject that erotic writers toil over were it not for the way we have cloaked it in prohibition.

So, please have some sympathy for the prudes amongst us. Without them, there would be no dirty, no nasty, no sinful, no obscenity. And if sex was seen as the natural, healthy, and utterly normal thing it truly is, where would we be as erotic writers? We'd we nothing more than the critics of an alternate gastronomy, or reviewers of plumbing standards. Who, after all, writes about sleep as eloquently as we write about sex?

And spare a little pity for the prudes of the world. If we, the enlightened, burn with lust, they spend their lives in a permanent state of auto-cremation for never having satisfied theirs.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Nothing More Than a Bully

By Kristina Wright

I have been knocked unconscious once in my life. It was a one-punch knockout, too. I guess I have a glass jaw. Of course, I was in the fourth grade at the time, so maybe I could take a punch now. I'm not keen on finding out.

My tale begins with an older, bigger boy. He was in fifth grade, but he had failed at least one grade, maybe two, so he towered over me and outweighed me by a lot. Our altercation actually had nothing to do with me. I was a pretty quiet kid-- kept my head down, nose in a book, did well in school, had a few close friends-- no one really noticed me. Not even the playground bully.

So what provoked my knockout? Ahh... well, you see, I'm very loyal to my friends. Like, mama bear loyal. On that particular day, the mild-mannered fourth grader in me turned into a defender of the helpless, which happened to be my best friend. The bully crossed paths with my friend and knocked her lunch money out of her hand. She began to cry and I came charging. Of course, I failed to acknowledge I wasn't any better equipped to deal with the situation than she was, but that didn't stop me. With Denise crying, I went toe-to-toe and nose-to-chest with her bully. The conversation went something like this:

Me: That was mean! Pick up her money.
Bully: No! It's mine.
Me, picking up Denise's lunch money: Oh no, it's not!
Bully: Give it to me or you'll be sorry!
Me: You're nothing but a bully. I'm not afraid of you.

The next thing I remember, I was opening my eyes and staring at the blue sky. My first (and last) boxing match lasted one round and I never even got in one punch.

I wish I could tell you that was the last time I put myself at risk to help a friend. But regardless of how ill-advised it may be to fight (or attempt to fight) someone else's battles, I have returned again and again to the metaphorical ring, usually unrequested and often unneeded. Why? Because I despise bullies. I hate their tactics, I hate the way they get their way by brute force. I hate that they win only because they're bigger and meaner. The bullies of my youth gave way to the verbal bullies of adulthood. The ones who attack with words. The ones who don't fight fair because they only know how to fight dirty.

Earlier this week, I ran into another bully. One who had his sights set on a friend and didn't even know I existed until I provoked him. I won't mention his name here because I don't want him Googling himself just to sling his garbage at the OGG blog, but he responded to a column written by Alana Noel Voth at PANK. (You can read her thoughtful essay and follow the comment thread here: Dear Tracy Morgan.) I had intended only to comment in order to praise Alana's writing, but the previous commenter had me seeing red. He had written a personal attack on Alana, someone I like and admire, and rather than ignore it (as I probably should have), I responded.

In the end, I didn't do anything to deter this bully from further attacking my friend, I only served to draw attention to myself. Within hours, the bully had visited my blog, spent a total of 3 minutes and 22 seconds there and then sent me the following email:

you called me a misogynist, so I checked out your blog and thought I'd give you my impressions:

You can't construct three sentences that don't kill a reader's attention. Everything you write is intensely boring. Also, you write articles about sex toys and you call your writing erotica/romance/whatever. It's hack material, is what it is. Whenever someone has to struggle just to meet the merits of a genre, it means they're working without the necessary tool: talent.

It's time someone told you, you are a talentless hack.

This is not me being nasty, this is truth. You are incapable of capture a reader's attention and you'll never acquire that ability, because it's an innate one.

Warmest regards,


My first reaction was to respond with a correction: I hadn't called him a misogynist, I had referred to his attack as "misogynistic vitriol." I hate inaccuracies, don't you? But after reading his email again, complete with the header Subject: fan mail, I just laughed. How could I not? He spent less than four minutes on my blog and said "everything" I write is intensely boring. It's a ridiculous insult, not worthy of a response. He said I write sex toy reviews-- I did for awhile, years ago, but how is that relevant? He said I was a talentless hack. Possibly true, but certainly subjective since I have credits and editors to suggest otherwise.

So I ignored the bully's email. It seems I should expect another round of anger to be directed my way, as that is his MO, but it doesn't bother me. Not at all. I was offended he insulted my friend, a woman I admire and respect. I was horrified at the things he said to her in a public forum as if he has the right to publicly judge her life just because she published a column. I am still utterly indignant about the attack he inflicted on her. But me? Eh. Nothing he said about me (thus far) is more than a mild annoyance. A yapping puppy nipping at my ankles. Nothing more.

The theme for this week is "sympathy for the devil" and this experience, along with my lovely piece of "fan mail" made me flash back to that event in fourth grade and the reaction I had after the swelling had gone down in my face. I felt sorry for the boy who knocked me out. I still do. Face-to-face, he seemed like an intimidating creature, someone to be feared. In retrospect, even at that age, I saw him for what he was: an unhappy child no one really liked, not even the teachers. The child who stalked through the halls at school scowling at everyone and making other kids cower, but being laughed at behind his back for failing a grade, for being a foot taller than every other kid, for not fitting in, for not having the social skills to make friends. As an adult, I have even more sympathy for the boy who knocked me out with one punch-- he was a little boy, even if he was the biggest little boy in school, and the only way he could get anything from anyone was to take it. So sad.

And now I try to find sympathy for this bully who attacked my friend publicly and me in email. I could use this forum to rant and rail against a man who decided to offer his unsolicited opinion about me after maligning my friend. But I find I simply don't have enough anger or energy to go down that path and respond to such hostility with more of the same. I assume this man is an adult, though I don't know if he's 19 or 59. Regardless of his age, there is a childlike quality to his unprovoked anger; a lack of sophistication to his venomous attacks. He is lashing out at the world, fighting whatever his own personal demons might be and taking it out on others. He goes after those he perceives as intellectually inferior and physically weaker-- women writers. At the end of the day, the person he is most angry with (and likely hates the most) is himself.

Whether it's the talent he resents or the attention or the idea of women claiming their sexuality, or all three, he is enraged and can only be soothed by hurting someone else. He punches at the sensitive spots, attacking with broad generalities and shocking crudities, much like an adolescent boy swinging out to hit a smaller girl. Whatever he might be in real life, in this landscape he is a playground bully, nothing more. Nothing more. Could there be a sadder phrase?

Whatever anger I had at my initial introduction to his malevolent tirade has faded to little more than pity and embarrassment for him. I find myself hoping he's using a pseudonym, as surely his hateful antagonistic words will come back to haunt him if and when he ever buries his demons and comes to terms with his own issues. He is a little boy crying out for attention, for understanding, for... something. Love, maybe? A mother figure? Or maybe he's just a mean-spirited fellow in an unhappy job with a lonely life and he needs to make others feel as bad as he does. Whatever his issues, he's not to be taken any more seriously than the three year old who screams, "You are the meanest Mommy in the whole world!" because he didn't get a cookie before bedtime. He is ineffectual because he hides behind his words and maintains his anonymity while attacking those who are brave enough to put their name, their face and their credentials alongside their opinions and beliefs.

It's heart-wrenching, really. What makes a person like that? What makes one human being turn on another in such a senseless way, especially a stranger in a public forum? I've been pondering these questions all week and have no answers. So my sympathy goes out to one who is not a devil at all, but a damaged soul in need of more than he's ever likely to find on the internet.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Battle Hymn of the Femme Fatale

They call me Lilith, mother of demons. They call me Eve, thief of forbidden knowledge. They call me Salome, destroyer of Saint John, the baptiser of Christ. They call me Jezebel, worshipper of false gods. They call me Medea, child-killer.

I have been marked as the Scarlet Whore of Babylon, a symbol of evil personally applied to living women.

Many of us have been damned for our sexuality, but only the powerful have become legendary sluts: Messalina of Rome, Catherine of Russia, Marie-Antoinette of France.

Millions of us were named witches. Only a few are remembered by name: Alice Kyteler of Ireland, Rebecca Nurse of Massachusetts colony.

Some of us killed our husbands, the ultimate crime. Some of us killed our parents, our lovers, acquaintances, passing strangers.

In the nineteenth century of the Christian calendar, we were identified as Fatal Women, temptresses with cold eyes who were said to have lured many susceptible men to their death simply to exercise our power.

Most of us have been innocent of any crime. Untold numbers of women have become martyrs: tragic victims of the irrational fears of those with power in the real world. The youngest of us have been aborted while still in the womb or shortly after birth, incapable of causing harm. Incapable of self-defense.

Our innocent dead outnumber the victims of every other massacre recorded in the history books. Does this make us all collectively blameless? No.

Regardless of the theories promoted by male scholars that we have a collective soul (or none), we share a basic human condition: we are individuals. We are no more alike on the inside than we are on the outside. We choose our own actions based on our personal perception of the choices available.

If we are not all guilty, we cannot all be innocent.

As the imaginary alter ego of one erotic writer among many, I survive by eliminating those who pose a threat to me. Forget “promiscuity” as the sign of a corrupt woman. I follow the example of male warriors from the beginning of time: I silence those I have used.

Why do I do it? Look around you. How many conscientious women live happily on their own terms? As someone once said: “Women feel guilty if they assert themselves and resentful if they don’t.”

The moral codes of an unjust world are as tangled as a huge skein of barbed wire. I don’t waste time trying to untangle it. I do what I must to live as I choose.

I am not a team player. I co-operate with those who show their willingness to add pleasure to my life. I'm rational, not spineless.

Don’t tell me that I give women in general a bad name. We had a bad name in this world long before I came into it.

Call me whatever you want. You would probably slander me even if I had spent my life in the cell of a convict or a nun.

Just don’t cross me. You would be lucky if you lived to regret it.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Zombie Cockroach Nation

Here There Be Roaches. Roaches in the garbage; roaches in the dishes; roaches underfoot; roaches in the doorway; roaches chased by the cat, roaches dining in the cat’s dish. Hopeful male roaches dancing in the dark for skeptical lady roaches, gobbled in the act by the singing frogs. Roaches scuttling like ascetic monks living on air and nothing.

The fact is – I admire cockroaches. Always have.

I once wrote a story called “Love’s Tender Gender Fender Bender”, which resides in “Coming Together Presents C. Sanchez-Garcia”. This story continued the saga of Gregor Samsa, the hero from Franz Kafka’s story "The Metamorphosis". Samsa starts out as a mediocre salesman and wakes up one day as a very large cockroach in which he lives out his days. In my story, Gregor the sometime cockroach, wakes up one morning to discover he has now become a woman. His own sister in fact. And his sister is hot. Its enough to make you paranoid.

Cockroaches are the Volkswagens of the animal kingdom, one of those rare designs that God or the Universe got right on the first try and never improved on again. Cockroaches have been around for about 354 million years, making them one of the most ancient creatures on earth. Only the silverfish is older. About 250 million years ago the Great Permian Extinction wiped out an estimated 95% of all living organisms. And among the 5% that survived – oh yeah. You have to respect that.

Cockroaches are arthropods of the order Blottdea of the higher order Dictyoptera, and have blossomed into 4500 different varieties. Australia has giant cockroaches. Madagascar has hissing cockroaches. Panama has big flying cockroaches, I can testify. Africa has jumping cockroaches (said to be very cute) and America has . . . zombie cockroaches.

Zombie . . . . cockroaches. . . sincerely, dudes and dudesses. I shit you not.

In the movies vampires, usually men, look into the eyes of their prey, usually a woman in a thin nightgown, and the woman goes blank. Mentally stunned. Clay in his lustful hands. She’ll do anything he wants. Instantly. Brainlessly. Helplessly. If he tells her to take off that . . . well. You know. Anything. Woof.

The fact is, in nature – this really does happen. It happens to cockroaches.

Introducing the Emerald Wasp. The green glittery little wasp lives mostly in the tropics. Scientists tried to introduce it to Hawaii for pest control but it didn’t take. Male wasps are gentle, benign, unarmed, foppish little things with cute curled antennae that wave nervously. Females are bigger and pack a stinger. What they do with that stinger is the kind of thing that caused Charles Darwin to lose his faith in a benevolent God, writing to a friend “I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created parasitic wasps with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of Caterpillars.”

The female emerald wasp pounces on a struggling roach, flips it on its back and wrestles with it, finally delivering a careful sting to the central nervous system by piercing the thin skin under the front leg joint, paralyzing the front legs. After the roach settles down, it delivers a second sting under the roaches chin – into the roaches brain. This neuro-toxic cocktail shuts down the reception of octopomine and is delivered as precisely as a brain surgeon’s syringe into the tiny part of the roaches brain that controls the escape instinct. That’s all. When the roach wakes up, it can fly, flip and run and it feels fine. In fact it feels very fine. And the world is a very fine place with nothing to fear and nothing to run away from especially shiny green wasps which are beautiful and wonderful and its new best friend. This is now a very laid back, very stoned cockroach.

The wasp has worked pretty hard and needs a snack. She bites off the antennae while the roach stands by and drinks some of the roach’s blood. Does this all sound familiar? The wasp takes the cockroach by the antennae and leads it like a wide eyed blonde in a breezy little nightie being lead to a castle crypt in a trance. The wasp places the placid roach in a prepared burrow and lays one egg on the roaches belly. It then seals up the burrow, mainly to keep predators out, since the roach has no desire to leave, and the roach waits in the dark for no reason but that the nice wasp thinks that it should. The egg hatches in 3 days, and the larva burrows its way in, eating its way through the roaches inner organs, starting with the least necessary in exactly the right order to keep the roach alive through the whole thing for as long as possible, usually a couple of weeks. Then when the poor thing is pretty much hollowed out, it bursts forth like the little space monster in “Alien”. A female wasp, once impregnated can go through dozens of roaches in this way. There are even wasps (glytapanteles) that can invade a caterpillar and chemically brainwash it into ferociously guarding the eggs that are eating it alive. Nature is a bitch.

It does bring up an interesting question. Where in the world did the wasp learn all this?? How did it develop such perfect chemistry and anatomical knowledge, not only the wasp but the larvae? The God who created fluffy kittens and yellow baby ducklings (often gobbled up by muskies and northern pikes when they’re swimming behind mom) created these things. I suppose natural selection can explain some of it. But for me, I just don’t know.

To my way of thinking, this shouldn’t even happen to a roach.

C. Sanchez-Garcia

To see an emerald wasp in action you can visit here:

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The True Face Of Evil

I thought long and hard about this post. After all, we're talking about having sympathy for the Devil, here. Not some half-baked pretender. I couldn't go with someone easy, like that idiot at work who keeps bugging the shit out of me. He may have all the brains of a tomato stuffed with cheese, but he's not evil.

Or at least, I hope he's not evil. He did say a dumb thing for no apparent reason, and I suspect that he tosses my opinion aside because I'm a woman, but all of those things just make him a suitable candidate for a punch in the face, rather than possession by beelzebub.

No, what I really need is someone so heinous, so unspeakable, that the very thought of his name chills the bowels. My soul shrivels whenever I stare upon his monstrous visage, and the sound of his voice makes weird stuff happen like I dunno, dolphins start shitting babies or summat.

You've probably guessed who I'm talking about, by now. I mean, there's only one person it could be, right? There's only one creature so monstrous, so evil, so hideous, that he inspires such venom in me. Yes, that's right.

It's Michael York.

But fear not, gentle reader. I will not linger too long on his foulness. I promise, I won't post a picture of his grotesque personage.

Or at least, I'll promise with my fingers crossed behind my back, and then do it anyway.


For only when Michael York sneaks up on you can you know the true nature of his evil. In all other circumstances you might shy away, but now that I've pounced on you with the full weight of Yorkian hideousness, you can truly come to grips with that weird mouth he has that kind of looks like a bum, and his nose made out of Play-Doh, and his eyes that make your skin melt just because he's looking at you.

Why is his face like that? I hear you cry, but I'm afraid there is no explanation for Michael York. He just is, he just exists, and we as a race of people must learn to live with that fact.

I'm going to take the first step. I'm going to try to find some sympathy for this beast, in my troubled soul. I mean, he must have some redeeming characteristics. Everyone knows he starred in Logan's Run, but we can't hold that against him forever.

It was the seventies. A lot of people were wearing jumpsuits and starring in terrible sci-fi. And many people have bums on their faces, for goodness' sake! Just look at Aaron Eckhart. The bum on his face is absolutely gargantuan, but no-one checks his feet for cloven hooves.

So come, brothers and sisters. Let us join hands and find sympathy inside ourselves for Michael York. He is to be pitied, not reviled. All devils are to be pitied, rather than reviled. Mock the Devil and he will flee from thee, they say.

And I hold to that, every day.

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Castle on the Hill

BY Kathleen Bradean

The posted idea behind this week's topic is: Think of a creature or person that normally you despise and find a way to feel compassion or admiration for it/them.

I'll tell you a paraphrased version of a story my great grandfather used to tell me:

Once there was and once there wasn't a nobleman who lived in a castle high on a hill overlooking a small town. One day he rode into town and told the butcher to send his best boar to the castle for a feast. So the butcher sent it. He waited and waited for his money, but as the days passed, the nobleman didn't pay him. He told everyone in the market, but they didn't believe him, because they all knew that a nobleman was noble.

Another day, the noble came down the hill and demanded the blacksmith shoe his horse. After the blacksmith was done, the noble rode away. The blacksmith complained, but people said "The noble has a lot of money, why would he cheat you out of the little bit you charge?"

Later, the nobleman rode down the hill and told a tailor that he needed very fine clothes for a feast. The tailor borrowed money from everyone to buy the expensive silks, furs, and pearls to make this magnificent set of clothes. When he was done, he took it to the noble, who refused to pay the tailor the price the tailor asked. Finally, wary of the nobel's guards, the tailor agreed to half the money, even though it meant he'd only have enough to pay back what he'd borrowed, and his family would starve.

Of course, he also waited for his money, and it never came. The tailor felt smarter than the other villagers though, because while they'd lost the full price of their boars, beer, and bread, he'd only been cheated out of half the price of the clothes he'd made.


That seems like a weird ending, and it is, although the rest of the tale always came later, after other stories, and it goes like this:

So one day, a barbarian king from the eastern empire invaded, and his soldiers demanded everything from the people, which they gave. But they were so poor that he was enraged, so he demanded to know where they kept their gold. Every person in town pointed up the hill to the castle. The barbarian king took his army up the hill, killed the noble, and took all the gold back to his kingdom, and no one in the town ever mourned the noble.


My great grandfather liked this story. Was it true? Did it even happen in his village? I have no idea. Some days, I think that the moral of this, if there was one, was that to earn compassion, you have to give it. Other days, I think he simply enjoyed the part where the nobleman died. After all, my great grandfather murdered a man in cold blood, and I doubt he felt a second of remorse about it. He was a very happy man.