by Jean Roberta
Like Sacchi and Lisabet (and possibly others here), I’ve been writing erotica for long enough to notice that some of my earlier work could benefit from some revision.
Actually, some of my earlier work now looks like historical fiction, and when/if I give it a makeover, I’ll have to decide whether to bring it up to date or to preserve its period flavour.
Here is the opening scene from my out-of-print novel, Prairie Gothic, completed in 1998 and e-published in 2002:
The ugly concrete building in the warehouse district looked deserted, and it wore no sign of any kind. If Kelly hadn't seen glimmers of light from between the shutters at the windows and heard the bass thump of recorded music, she would have thought the address in the newspaper was a misprint.
In her second year of university, the fresh-faced young woman was developing a taste for research. She was learning that you could find out whatever you wanted to know if you looked in the right places. On this breezy spring night, the place she wanted to check out was the Den, more often called the club or the bar by the regulars. It was the only gay bar in town.
As Kelly pulled open the heavy front door, a blast of music hit her in the face, carrying the smell of beer and cigarettes. A spasm of anxiety made her breathe faster, and she wondered again how smart it was for her to come here alone. Bars didn't attract her as a rule. Booze and guys usually lost their appeal for her by the end of an evening, and hanging out with a horde of increasingly drunk and loud fellow students seemed like a waste of time to her.
However, the girl craved adventure. She hoped that this bar would be more like a decadent jazz club in Berlin in the 1930s than any of the hangouts she knew. She believed that she could best explore this exotic milieu without the burden of anyone else's fears or desires.
Kelly noticed the huge area in the wall of the entranceway where the plaster had been kicked in during a famous fight. Two months later, it had been badly fixed by a hung-over dyke who claimed to be a drywaller by trade. Since she had donated her time and was currently dating a woman on the board that ran the bar, no one complained openly about the look of the wall.
A very tall, very thin young man asked Kelly for ID, but he looked friendly. Besides, she told herself, she could never be intimidated by a man wearing lipstick and mascara, even if he did apply them better than she could.
The interior of the bar was so dark and smoky that it took a minute for the young woman to notice the eyes watching her. A young man in tight leather pants turned from the cigarette machine to look over the newcomer. Once his cool gaze had skimmed over her breasts, his narrow hips swivelled back toward the faded jeans of a much older, heavy-set man who stood beside him like a guard dog protecting his turf. Both men radiated a sensuality that Kelly had rarely noticed in males, and she felt strangely miffed by their indifference to her. She remembered wishing that guys would leave her alone. In this place, she thought, they just might.
A squarely-built woman with sand-coloured hair turning to grey watched Kelly without turning her head. She took in the young woman's short, shiny brown hair, her dark-framed glasses, the big shirt that couldn't hide her small, perky breasts, and the girlish hips under loose black pants. Pat, the older dyke, took another drag on her cigarette. Her blue eyes sparkled.
Kelly felt conspicuously tall, as she usually did in a new place. As she strode toward the bar, she noticed an adjoining room where two women of about her own age were playing pool. One was a graceful, fine-boned native woman with waist-length hair that twitched behind her like a tail. The other was a plump, joking blonde whose laughter sounded like gunfire. A slim girl with red hair watched the game and gave advice to the players. Feeling very alone, Kelly thought of approaching this group and asking to join their game, even though her pool-playing was far from impressive.
"Kelly!" squealed the tenor voice of a short boy with a lively face and mouse-coloured hair that fell in his eyes. "It's Neil." Kelly didn't need to be told who he was. The sight of her classmate looked to her like a sign from the Goddess.
Following Neil to his table, Kelly felt both disappointed and hopeful. She had come here to meet women, not men, but she hoped that little Neil, the class clown, could serve as her guide to this culture, like Beatrice guiding Dante through the underworld.
This scene was loosely based on my first venture into the local gay bar in 1982. So much has changed since then! Now, LGBT watering-holes are clearly marked with signs, and the regulars don’t feel like outlaws – unless they are smokers, in which case they have to practise their perverse habit outdoors, regardless of the weather.
I’m unreasonably fond of this novel, especially because it captures a moment in time that will never come again. If I don’t bring it up to date, though, I’ll have to play up its retro qualities. I don’t want to leave it mouldering in my "Documents."
So when my year-long break from teaching starts on July 1, I’ll have a look at all my orphan pieces, including this one, and decide what to do with them.