Wednesday, November 14, 2018

U-Turn on Lonely Street

By Tim Smith

It was one lonely evening in Toronto, Canada. I had crossed the border to take a break from some problems, and see different scenery than what I stared at every day. I had already hit the casino, lost my limit, dined at a so-so cafe that the locals raved about, and now I was walking the city streets, seeing what else there was to this tourist mecca.

The foot traffic was light, mostly locals and a few out-of-towners like myself seeking liquid refreshment and whatever nightlife the city had to offer. It was a pleasant June evening, with a light breeze blowing in from Lake Superior to keep the temperature tolerable.

I saw her approaching from the opposite direction and froze in my tracks. I was instantly taken in by the young woman with long brown hair, wearing cute wire-rimmed glasses perched above a button nose, with a curvy figure encased in tight jeans and a stylish short-sleeved top that was just snug enough to give me ideas.

She kept her gaze focused forward, her face giving a non-committal look that seemed to radiate an air of confidence, one that was reflected in her stride. I slowly did a U-turn as she passed and watched her walk down the street. Suddenly I was on auto-pilot as I followed her, not close enough to intrude but near enough to appreciate the sway of her shapely hips.

She quickly crossed the street at the next intersection just as the light turned red. I resisted the urge to sprint after her but stood at the curb, watching her. Halfway down the block she entered a restaurant situated on the ground floor of an elegant old hotel. I had passed it on my way up that same street but decided against checking it out. Now I changed my mind.

After the traffic signal gave me permission to cross, I slowed my pace as I approached the door she had passed through and stood on the sidewalk, peering inside. The dining section of the restaurant was nearly vacant. She sat at the cherry bar, alone, sipping a glass of wine and watching the TV mounted overhead.

I went inside and took a stool four away from hers. When my drink arrived, I sipped it while stealing glances at her in the mirror behind the neatly-arranged bottles. She seemed to be absorbed in watching the wrestling match on the TV. I was intrigued. It wasn’t in my nature to approach strange women in bars, but I remembered an old saying—no guts, no glory. I moved closer, keeping one bar stool between us so she wouldn’t think I was invading her personal space. My mind tried to come up with something witty to say before deciding on a simple approach.

“Do you think it’s real?” I asked.

She looked at me in surprise, realizing she wasn’t alone. She flashed a pleasant smile. “Is what real?”

I gestured at the TV. “The wrestling. Do you think those guys are really beating each other silly, or are they just making it look good for the audience?” 

“I’m not sure. What do you think?”

I took a small sip. “Completely phony. They’re just giving the customers what they want to see—senseless violence disguised as entertainment.”

She laughed. It was a soft lyrical laugh, very soothing. “That’s an interesting observation. Are you always so cynical?”

“It helps me navigate the rapids known as life.”

She turned slightly to look me full in the eye. Hers were hazel, with just a hint of eyeliner to accent their natural glow. If I wasn’t careful, I could lose myself in those eyes. We exchanged first names and she asked me what it was I did that gave me such a cryptic outlook on life. I challenged her to guess.

“Hmm. Are you a philosopher?”

I shook my head.

Her look turned playful. “A fortune teller?”

“Wrong again, but you’re getting warm. I’m a writer.”

“That’s interesting. I don’t think I’ve ever met an actual writer before, at least not one that owned up to it.”

That was good for a laugh from me. “We’re a rare breed. And what do you do?”

“I’m in aesthetics.”

Now I was confused. “What is that?”

“Hair styling, facials, make-overs, things like that.”

I nodded. “In the States, you’d be called a cosmetologist.”

“It’s the same thing.” Her eyes and expression took on a bit more interest. “What do you write?”

We spent the next hour exchanging life stories and shared interests, accompanied by another round of drinks. Since things had progressed from awkward introductions to sitting next to each other, sharing laughs with her hand resting on mine, I felt it was time to take the next obvious step.

“Would you like to continue this over dinner?” I asked.

She kneaded my hand and peered into my eyes. Hers communicated a hint of sadness. “I’m sorry, but I can’t stay. I just stopped in here for a drink to unwind after work.” She hesitated. “But I’m really glad I met you.”

“The pleasure was all mine.”

We exchanged e-mail addresses then she took her leave, after giving me a firm hug and a kiss to remember her by.

I was glad I made that U-turn.       

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

The U-Turn Trope

I have to admit that if there’s any trope I love in fiction — particularly in romantic fiction — it’s the U-turn.

You know the story — the two romantic leads (perhaps a guy and a girl, two guys, or two girls) just can’t seem to make it work. In fact, they’re starting to hate each other. They want nothing to do with each other. They’re better off single — or with other people.

But then … something happens. Something makes them do a dramatic U-turn and it has them careening in the opposite direction. Suddenly … what had seemed to be so hopeless and non-existent mere moments ago is now possible.

They hated each other … but now they love each other.

When it comes to gay or lesbian fiction, U-turns can take other forms too. Someone is determined to be straight — or the guy/girl is in love with their friend who they assume is straight — but then the truth comes out, feelings are revealed, and that seemingly impossible love story is suddenly possible.

I generally include the U-turn in almost everything I write.

There’s just something about the unexpected and sudden surge of emotions that I get from those scenes that makes me all tingly. I love reading these scenes and I love writing them.

Excerpt time!

Earlier this year I wrote and published my first gay young adult romance — Gay Love and Other Fairy Tales. It’s become my bestselling book by far, so I’m suddenly looking at starting a new line of young adult fiction books. (Talk about a U-turn in my writing life! All smut all the time to suddenly putting considerable focus on a smut-free line!)

In this scene, we’ve got closeted Ben who had a hard crush on his gay friend Jordan. Ben is not ready to come out — in fact, he’s not even able to say the word “gay” in relation to himself, so he wouldn’t be able to utter those words. But he knows he wants to kiss Jordan. He wants to get closer to Jordan. He wants to become more than friend.

Sweet, innocent Jordan thinks he’s just hanging out with his straight friend on New Year’s Eve, eating nachos and watching the ball drop. He’s never thought of Ben in any sort of romantic light — why would he? Ben is straight and that’s that.

But on this New Year’s Eve, there may be a surprise in the works, one that will lead to a sudden U-turn for both characters…


A burst of music from the television pulls us back to it, someone I don’t recognize is belting out some song I’ve never heard. I’m sure she’s famous. Whoever she is.

“Would you be okay with a hug?” I ask, staring hard at the TV. “Like, it’s tradition to have a kiss to ring in New Year’s, but we could, you know, hug or something. I’m okay if you don’t want to. You know what, never mind, forget I asked.” I want to kick myself. Coward.

He puts a hand on my forearm to stop my negative rant — and it also clears the dressing down I’m giving myself in my head — and instantly it feels like heat blooms from that touch of his hand on my arm. My only regret is that I’m wearing long sleeves and I can’t feel his hand on my bare skin.

“A hug would be great,” he says.

My heart beats and it’s like my whole body pulses with it. I can feel it throbbing in my neck. He’s going to hug me. I’m going to hug him. I sip my beer slowly as I watch the clock in the corner of the TV — they’ve displayed a countdown to midnight.

Twenty minutes.

Twenty minutes until my hug. Twenty minutes until I have Jordan in my arms.

Nineteen minutes and thirty seconds.

I can’t keep counting down like this. I’m going to drive myself insane. I’m going to kill the mood if I’m glued to the clock. I hear some rustling beside me and I see that Jordan has pulled out his phone and he’s scrolling through Instagram. He suddenly angles his phone away from me.

“What?” I ask.

He hesitates, then says, “Nikki’s posting pics of her and Winston.”

“I’m not her boyfriend,” I say automatically. I’ve never actually said that to anyone. I’ve always just let people make their own assumptions and I was happy to play along with it. “We were never together.”

“Really?” Jordan asks, raising an eyebrow.

“I make her look good in photos, but I have no interest in her,” I say. I can feel a bead of sweat forming at my temple.

He scoffs. “You put on a good act then.” He goes to her profile and scrolls down until he finds pictures of me and Nikki. Together. Kissing.

“That’s exactly what it is. An act.” My heart is beating so hard it feels like it’s going to punch through my ribs.

He looks at me like he’s assessing me. “She’s gorgeous,” he says. It’s like he’s pushing me, like he knows what I want to say, even though I don’t think he has a clue. “She’s a control freak sometimes, yeah, but she’s gorgeous.”

“Not my type,” I say.

“Oh?” He shuts off his phone and tosses it on the couch between us. “What is your type?”

You. You’re my type. But can I say those words out loud? Hell no. Coward.

Instead, I turn my attention to the TV. Fourteen minutes left.

“I’m still figuring that out,” I say.

He seems to accept that as an answer, or at least accepts that I’m not ready to talk more about it. We silently watch the rest of the countdown and inwardly I’m kicking myself again — way to ruin the mood right before the hug! I’m saving my last mouthful of Bud Light for midnight, so I’m just sitting here idly holding an almost-empty can of beer.

Finally, what seems like ages later, we’re down to less than a minute. Slowly, the energy in the room warms up. I lean forward, like getting closer to the TV is going to somehow make this more exciting. Beside me, Jordan does the same.

“Ten!” he says out loud, joining the cheering people on the screen counting down.

I join in with him. “Nine! Eight! Seven! Six! Five! Four! Three! Two! One! Happy New Year!”

I take that final swig of beer, letting the alcohol give me a burst of courage. I stand up and hold my arms out and Jordan stands up and comes into them. I wrap my arms around him, holding him tight.

“Happy New Year,” I whisper.

“Happy New Year,” he whispers back.

I know I should let go, end this hug, because it’s getting too long — it’s past the limit of how long friends hug. But I don’t want to let go.

I never want to let go.

Jordan feels so right in my arms.

But there’s something I want even more.

I loosen my arms a little bit and he backs up just an inch or two and he looks up at me. His eyes sparkle in the light and I can see a question behind those clear, brown eyes. He knows something is different.

With the alcohol pushing my decisions, I angle my head in and kiss him.

He puts his hands on my chest like he’s ready to push me away, but I keep kissing him, even though he’s not moving his lips, even though he’s as still as a statue. Panic starts to rise in me and I can feel myself starting to shake. Jordan isn’t responding.

Cameron D. James is a writer of gay smut. His most recent publication is the (surprisingly smut-free) gay YA romance, Gay Love And Other Fairy Tales, under his YA pen name, Dylan James.

Monday, November 12, 2018

I Turn, U Turn,

Sacchi Green

You were afraid someone would take the low road, weren’t you. Yes, I’m going to be that someone, tossing self-respect to the winds and indulging my adolescent streak with a bad pun.

This is actually the result of a comment on Jean Roberta’s Facebook page, where we were discussing Facebook’s turning down a link to her current OGG post as not conforming with “Community Standards.” Her post here is in no way objectionable, unless now we can’t even use the word “sex” a couple of times, so we were joking about what “U Turns” might be code for, and someone (I asked if I could use her brilliant brainstorm, but failed to ask if I could use her name, so I won’t) replied, “69.”

Of course! I wish I’d thought of it first. I prefer to think of that configuration as yin/yang, but U Turns fits nicely enough. Lesbian erotica, my usual genre, makes so much use of the position as to make it a cliché if a writer doesn’t handle the scene carefully. But the term or concept isn’t limited in erotica to physiology. Power play tends on the whole to maintain the relative top and bottom roles, but switching can be at least as hot, and have even more layers of emotional and psychological complexity. I have to admit that the U Turn from dominance to submission (and vice versa) may work best in fiction, but as an editor of anthologies I find it intriguing, and I have, in fact, known it to occur in real life, for certain values of “real life.”

I’m going to supply an excerpt to make up for not having anything further to say about U Turns in erotica—I could go on quite a bit about total U Turns of gender, but I won’t go there just now. First, though, back to the original question about Facebook’s conversion to Puritan ways. I thought I might write this post without any overtly sexually charged language and see whether FB would allow a link, but I clearly haven’t managed that. I may fool around with temporarily editing all this to leave only the blandest of phrases, and see what happens, but my theory is that FB simply won’t allow links to The Grip itself any more. I used to be able to link, but haven’t tried for a while. I do know of computers in a school library that won’t let you go here.

On to the excerpt, even though I get to feeling that my excerpts are cop-outs to avoid more in-depth writing. “Baubles and Beads” was published in D.L. King’s Unspeakably Erotic, and actually falls between two other stories I’ve written about the same characters, one of which, “Pulling,” I’ve quoted from here before, and both of which are in my collection coming out in a couple of months.

Baubles and Beads
Sacchi Green

Fingers of light from the midway, garish pinks, purples, greens, groped at us between the buildings all the way to the horse barns. Some of the fair’s rides and hucksters kept on as long as the farm boys still had money smoldering in the pockets of their snug jeans, but Carla shut down her balloon-dart concession at the official closing time. She could’ve handled the lingering customers by herself, most of them on the leering side of friendly and the slurring side of drunk, but my looming six-foot-two of husky farm girl didn’t hurt. We rolled down and secured the canvas, and slipped away into the shadows.
Lights just as garish had seeped through skimpy curtains last night from the neon sign outside her motel room. I’d scarcely noticed, obsessed with Carla herself, the black-haired, blue-eyed bad girl of my dreams.
She’d bound me to the bedposts with strings of flashy mardi gras beads, my prizes from her game, and challenged me NOT to break them no matter what she did. I’d almost managed it. And learned, first, how it felt to give up, give in, abandon my strength and my will, all the armor against vulnerability built up over the years. I’d begun by tensing up in the fierce struggle not to strain against apparently flimsy bonds, resisting physical reflexes with will power, but the more Carla forced pleasure into pain and pain into pleasure, the farther both willpower and reflexes faded away. I floated somewhere beyond thought, drowning in pure sensation. When she tipped me over at last into a thrashing orgasm I must have broken the strands of beads, but it was a long time before I noticed them sprawling limply across the bed, and longer still before I saw that they were strung on strong nylon thread, knotted between each bead, each strand only broken at a single point.
So the second thing I learned, the most important by far, was not to assume that just because something looks flashy and cheap it must be flimsy.
Tonight my wrists and ankles were still raw. My tenderer parts ached when I remembered the keen torments and even keener pleasures she’d put me through. But later, after I’d demonstrated my own grasp of the basics--and of her tender parts--and taken possession of the shiny beads, Carla had offered to meet me again tonight on my own ground, and face any challenge I set, even if it meant getting up close and personal with horses that seemed to her “as big as elephants and twice as mean.”
Whatever I thought I’d known about women, Carla was a whole different story. A story turning out to be more complicated than I’d bargained for, but worth every bit of whatever it took. Last night she’d taught me more about myself than I’d ever faced up to before; tonight it was my turn to challenge Carla. Maybe even teach her a thing or two. And find out more about myself.
The horse barns faced east, away from the chaos of the midway and the crowds. I’d signed up for the overnight security shift, so once the guy on evening duty saw me coming, waved, and took off, there was nobody else around. At least there’d sure better not be.
A full moon was rising. Carla gazed up at it for a minute or two while I reached around from behind and fondled her sweet round breasts. A warm late summer breeze raised tendrils of her soft dark hair to brush against my cheek. “Autumn’s almost here,” I murmured. “There’ll be plenty more fairs coming up. I’ll be bringing my team to half a dozen or so. You’ll be at Fryburg in Maine?”
“Maybe,” she said, bracing herself. “But bring on your challenge now, Ree.”
She knew it would be about the horses. Yesterday, when I’d led my team out of the pulling ring and over to meet her, she couldn’t hide her terror. Molly and Stark, great black Percherons, two thousand pounds each with hooves the size of pie plates. Any city girl would be scared. I’d backed the pair off, told her I’d meet her at ten at her carnival booth, and moved on toward the barns, surprised at how much seeing a lapse in Carla’s femme-top self-possession excited me. A chink in her armor.
Now I leaned against the open barn door. “First, find out where I hid the beads.”
Carla relaxed, back in her own territory. “Let’s see. Maybe here?” She probed the pockets of my shirt, managing even through the flannel to tweak nipples still sore from her clamps last night. Then she reached up under the shirt to squeeze my heavy breasts. I tried hard to control my breathing. “Or here?” She worked her hands into the front pockets of my jeans, finding the same tube of horse lube I’d used with her last night, then the rear pockets, with more squeezing. My hips began to twitch. The look on my face must have given me away. Or maybe the catch in my breath.
“Aha.” Her fingers went between my legs to knead the thick seam of my jeans into my crotch. “Are these beads in your pants, or are you just glad to see me?”
“See for yourself.” I could barely get the words out. She wriggled a hand down inside belt, jeans, and briefs, found what she was looking for, and began sliding the strands through my slippery heat. I nearly lost it. One of those strands had been nestled even deeper the night before last; I’d been supposed to be resting up before the final round of the draft horse competition, but could think only of her. Tonight the beads had been driving me wild for half an hour. Was I really so set on being in charge tonight?
 I gritted my teeth and yanked her hand, clutching its wet ruby and peacock-green prizes, out into the night air. Even in the dim light from inside the barn they glowed like a Rajah’s treasure. Or…what was the proper term? A Ranee’s? I’d re-tied them securely after breaking them last night.  
“Mmm.”  Carla ran them across her tongue before draping them around her neck so that they swayed across her visibly tautened breasts.
I drew a shuddering breath and turned away.  “Now find the other two strands.” I stepped into the barn. Carla hesitated and then, very slowly, followed.
Molly, in a roomy box stall just inside the entrance, leaned her great black head over the gate and whuffled a greeting. Stark, just across the way, merely dozed on.
“Molly, this is Carla. Carla, Molly.” Molly lowered her nose politely to be petted. Carla jerked back briefly, then raised a tentative hand. I knew her fear of the horses wouldn’t last long, but it might at least soften her up a bit.
“Hello, Molly.” Her voice only shook a little. The horse’s nose dipped lower, snuffling at the green and ruby beads on Carla’s chest and then at her hands. Carla jerked back, then suddenly laughed. “You’re smelling Ree on me! I guess that makes us all pals.” She stroked the velvety nose tentatively. “And you’re wearing beads, too!” The gleaming strands twined through the black mane on either side of Molly’s neck, the golden on the right and the purple on the left.
“You’ll have to climb on the gate to reach them,” I pointed out.
She shot me a dirty look, mounted the lower bars, and reached across and upward. Even then, if Molly hadn’t been nuzzling her shoulder, the beads would have been too high for her to reach.
The first strand came loose easily. Carla climbed down, dangled it in front of me, then let it go when I gripped her wrist too hard for comfort. Yes, I definitely did want to be in charge, now that she had to meet my challenge. More was at stake than a tumble in the hay. Carla’s chin went up almost imperceptibly--and then she lowered it, turned, and climbed back up on Molly’s other side. Molly bent her head again cooperatively, but I gave a low whistle and she moved backward so that Carla couldn’t reach no matter how far she tried to stretch.
“That’s how I tell her to back off,” I said conversationally as I pulled Carla’s skirt up and panties down. “You want me to back off any time, just whistle. You do know how to whistle, don’t you?”
She stopped reaching in vain for the beads and thrust out her bare butt. Playing along, letting me get away with something, but taunting me just the same. I let the golden beads drift gently over each round, tempting cheek, drew them along the valley between, then whipped them suddenly across each side. Carla gripped the top of the gate and didn’t look around. I wielded them harder twice, slashing in diagonal strokes that left an intriguing latticework pattern, but I’d tried whipping my own arm with the beads that morning and knew how extra painful they could be, so I switched tactics.
I couldn’t wait any longer to get my hands on her. The feel of her heated skin, the sound of my strikes on her flesh, the tremors of her body, her musky scent strengthening by the second… In moments I was high on power and lust, intoxicated, all the more when she began making guttural sounds interspersed with gasps. “It’s…okay, Molly!” she got out as the horse twitched and shifted nervously.
I forced myself to take it slow again. Beads slid between those lovely moon-pale cheeks with their rosy stripes, rolled lower into the hot, wet heat of her crotch, nudged at her hardening clit, until finally she grated, “More, Ree, damnit! Now!” She clutched at Molly’s mane, pressed her forehead against the mare’s huge chest, and tried to grind herself hard against my hand.
“My territory, my rules. I decide what you get, and how much, and when.” I made a stab at sounding stern. It felt good. More than good.
Her muttered words were barely audible. “Yes Ree, whatever you want…”
My hand came down hard again on her rounded, tantalizing butt. I wanted her to want more of that, and to want all the kneading and squeezing both my hands gave to her reddened flesh before one sank slowly, slowly over those curves down into the heat between her thighs. Did I want her to need those things for herself, or because they pleased me? I just knew I wanted both.
She moved frantically against them at first, needing more, more pressure, more depth, but I teased her with retreat and advance and retreat, over ever more wet and slippery terrain. Once, experimentally, I kept one the fingers of one hand inside her while spanking her hard with my other hand and feeling the blows myself as it vibrated through her flesh, but that brought her—and me--so close to combustion that I had to pause. Not yet…not…yet…
I tried to gentle her again with slow strokes, but she shuddered and squirmed.
“Please…” Carla’s voice was so faint I could barely heard her. “Don’t let me drop…” Her grip on the gate still seemed firm. I wasn’t certain what she meant, but I was dead sure playing along had nothing to do with it any more.
“Trust me,” was all I thought of to say.

There’s a bit more, and more toward the beginning, but this is as close as it comes to having anything to do with U Turns, and the connection is pretty tenuous at that. In any case, I’ll be hugely surprised if FB will let me link to this post, if they wouldn’t allow Jean Roberta’s deeply moving post about her own life. Go on, scroll down and read that.          

Friday, November 9, 2018

The Tale of a Lost Soul

by Jean Roberta

For centuries, the public at large has loved stories about corrupt or “fallen” souls who have seen the light and done a U-turn back to decency or conformity or religious faith. The anti-prostitution lobbyists of today have more-or-less replaced the Christian evangelists of yesteryear in showing off their pets, formerly “fallen” women who are now respectably married and presumably happy.

Sometimes the story of the U-turn is framed as a journey from the chaos of mental illness to the sunshine of clear thinking.

This is how my life seems to look to the conservatives in my family, and everyone who thinks like them:

I was lucky to be raised by two good parents, including a stay-at-home mom who devoted herself to her family. (Actually, she earned a Master’s degree in English before she was married, and was bitter about the circumstances that prevented her from having a teaching career.)

In my teens, I became damaged goods when I discovered sex with boys. But luckily, I found a nice boyfriend in my last year of high school. He even proposed to me, but then I messed things up. (He was a fledgling writer like me, and he dumped me after I won an award in a national student writing contest. He said I was on an “ego trip.”)

My loving parents sent me to a good university in eastern Canada where something went wrong. I lost my way and tried to commit suicide. I was probably on drugs, which were too easily available to young people at that time. (I was not on drugs. I was raped.)

My parents did their best to help me by sending me to various psychiatrists. (It was a nightmare. They were all conventional, white Canadian men with medical degrees who didn’t believe what I told them.) I didn’t appreciate it, and moved out of the family home as soon as I reached legal adulthood at 21. I found my own apartment, probably so that I could freely indulge in sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll. (I was a part-time university student. I couldn’t afford much, and didn’t indulge in intoxicating substances.)

My father took a sabbatical in England for fourteen months in 1973-74. The whole family came along, including me. This was my chance to get closer to my family and possibly find a nice guy to take care of me. (I wanted to get away from the guys I met when I lived alone. Two of them were married, but didn’t tell me this until after they had spent the night with me. I felt like a sitting duck in hunting season.)

Unfortunately, I met a refugee from the Nigerian Civil War, and we moved in together. Later, I sponsored him to come join me in Canada. The marriage was a huge mistake because these mixed relationships never work. (He drank constantly, was hysterically jealous, and sarcastically blamed my parents for not providing him with a job, a house, a car, or financial support.)

I compounded the mistake by having a baby. (My husband started proposing that we “start a family” as soon as we were married. I hoped it would help, and I thought he would soon graduate from university and become more employable, which turned out to be a fantasy. He probably thought my parents would have to support us if he got me pregnant.)

I left my husband when my baby was only a few months old. I was mentally unstable. (He had threatened to take the baby out of the country to get her away from me, even though he loudly suspected that he wasn’t her real father. He refused to participate in a paternity test.)

For a few years, my daughter and I lived with my poor parents, who had to take care of us because I was completely incapable of functioning as an adult. (They offered me a chance to further my education, and I accepted.)

I suddenly moved out of my parents’ house and into a squalid apartment building. (It was a co-op for low-income single parents. My father had openly told me that he had told a colleague of his at the university that I had “mental problems.” I had just been accepted into the Master’s program in English. I realized that I had to get out.)

I fell off the deep end by moving in with a lesbian, then I moved out after we had some sick argument based on our perverse lifestyle. I moved back into the single-parent co-op, and fell into the sex trade. (My first woman lover stole the contents of my bank account. The government typing jobs I had relied on all through university had largely dried up due to the replacement of electric typewriters with computers. I couldn’t get any child support from my ex-husband. I was determined not to move back in with my parents, or find another “nice guy” like the previous men in my life.)

My poor parents were worried about me, but I was impervious to reason. (I found ways to survive on my own.)

I met a divorced Chilean woman with two sons. She had come to Canada as a political refugee in the 1970s. If this hot-tamale Latin American character had really been my friend, she would have helped me find a new husband, and she would have reunited with hers, the Chilean father of her children who had come to Canada with her. Instead, she cynically seduced me. (I was the instigator. She was a virgin with women.) Drugs or alcohol were probably involved. (No drugs. A few drinks.)

At least the new woman helped me escape from prostitution. (One of my previous johns was stalking me. Mirtha, my new girlfriend, had joined a civilian advisory committee that worked with the police, despite her justified distrust of them. Luckily, a new anti-stalking law had just been passed. Mirtha introduced me to an officer who gave my stalker a warning.)

We moved in together, which turned out to be a mistake. I could never really explain what went wrong. (Another lesbian couple invited us to rent the house they owned in the neighbourhood called “Dyke Heights,” saying we could somehow take over their mortgage without having to qualify for it with the bank. This was not true. The “rent” they charged us included their mortgage and repayment of a loan, and it was higher than we could easily afford. After eighteen months, the owners demanded that we buy the house or move out. We moved out, and they were furious. Luckily, houses for rent were not hard to find in the early 1990s, and we moved three blocks away.)

My poor pre-teen daughter was devastated to be in the midst of all this. (She wanted the biggest bedroom in the house, and we didn’t let her have it. She didn’t see why she should do chores, like Mirtha’s two sons. We adults realized that we couldn’t raise our children under different rules without creating resentment.)

My parents consoled my daughter as well as they could. (They assured her that her mother was mentally ill and didn’t know what she was doing. My two younger sisters confirmed that diagnosis.)

At the very end of the 1990s, we were somehow able to buy a house in “Dyke Heights.” (The university gave me a permanent teaching job. My income alone qualified for a mortgage.)

My parents never lost hope that I would someday come to my senses and remarry. (I did! Same-sex marriage became legal throughout Canada in 2005. I didn’t trust the institution of marriage, so I rebuffed Mirtha’s hints for years. My parents passed away in 2009, which removed one barrier while making my sisters' hostility to me more obvious. I could see that a legal partnership would be in my interests. I finally agreed to take the plunge, and married Mirtha during Halloween weekend in 2010.)

At least I left the sex trade, and found a respectable job. I never found a man, so I’m probably very lonely, and my job is probably hanging by a thread due to my addictions, complexes, neuroses, or whatever the experts call them. (I’ve taught at the university for thirty years, not counting my time as a grad-student Teaching Assistant. Forcing employees out at age 65 was found to be in violation of the Human Rights Code, so I would be hard to expel before I’m ready to leave. Also, I’m not alone. I have a spouse, three cats, and two dogs.)

It all goes to show that once a girl discovers sex, it’s all downhill from there. (True enough, if “downhill” means a slide into a green valley of love and financial security.)

Does this soap opera have an uplifting ending, or is it a five-act tragedy? You be the judge.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

I Am My Grandmother's Legacy, a post by @GiselleRenarde

My grandmother died.

The past month has gone by in a haze of hospital visits as my grandmother--my favourite of all the humans--took a turn for the worse. One week ago, she was taken off food and water. I got up the next morning and tried to wash some dishes before leaving for the hospital. She wasn't dead yet, but that's when it really hit me: she would be, in the next few days. I had to come to terms with losing her.

I cried into my dishwater. I sobbed so hard I thought I was going to throw up. After that, I realized I'd started speaking about her in the past tense. Technically, she was still alive, but barely. Just barely.

We were there at her bedside when she took her final breath: all of her many daughters and me.

I'd never watched someone die before. A few of my aunts had warned me about the horrific expressions they'd seen on the faces of loved ones. Or unsettling sounds they'd made.  As my grandmother's breath slowed, my aunts wanted me to be prepared for the things they'd found disturbing about death.

But nothing like that happened when my grandmother died.

She just stopped breathing. That's it. Her breath slowed down, and then it stopped. She slipped away. No strange expressions or noises.  It was such a peaceful passing. I'm eternally grateful that I got to be there for it.

After she'd died, one of my aunts asked, "What was Mummy's legacy?"

Her family.  Everyone agreed about that.  She was proud of her accomplishments and her work, but the one thing that lives on now that she's gone is this big family she produced.

In that moment, when my aunts and I talked about legacies, I stopped feeling like a worthless person with a useless career. I am my grandmother's legacy. There are no other storytellers in my family.  If I don't preserve the stories she told me--of her life, of her parents, of her grandparents--who will? Her generation is gone. I must preserve their memory.

I matter. I mattered to her. I'm not worthless. She saw my value.

My grandmother believed in me, even when I didn't.  She believed my work was important, even when I claimed I was just in it for a quick buck. She knew there were easier ways to pay the rent, and she was right about that.

She was proud that her grandchild grew up to become a writer. In my family, we're not showy with the emotions. We don't go around saying "I love you" or "I'm proud of you." In my entire life, my mother has never said those things to me. I've never said them to her.

But my grandma told me she was proud of my writing career. She told me that all the time. She said "I love you" to me only once, and I was so uncomfortable with the bigness of the emotion that my response was: "Shut up! Why are you saying that?"

I never returned the sentiment until after she died.  As the colour drained from her skin, I petted her cheek and said, "I love you, Grandma." 

Maybe I didn't say it in words while she was alive, but I know she knew how I felt. I showed her by spending time with her. Lots of time. That wasn't solely for her benefit. She was truly my favourite person on the planet. I'm so thankful for the nearly 40 years we had together.

I will miss her forever, but every time I start feeling worthless, I'll be able to remind myself I have stories to tell. I have value. I am my grandmother's legacy.

My grandmother was always an avid reader--she'd read the dictionary if there was nothing else around--and a lifelong library user. If you've been following my many posts about my grandmother's life and you feel inclined to commemorate her death, I encourage readers to make a donation in her memory to your local public library system. I think she'd like the idea that there were more books and services available to more people because of her.

Heartfelt thanks for allowing me to share our stories with you.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

U Turns #theladysnotforturning

Back in the 1980s Margaret Thatcher dominated British politics. She was something of a Marmite character, you either loved or hated her (for the record, I loathed her and was delighted when she fell out of power). But she was mistress of the sound bites, and this was one of them

“You turn if you want to. The lady’s not for turning.”

In Mrs Thatcher’s parlance, this was a reference to sticking to her principles regardless of how unpopular her policies might have been or how difficult the implementation. Opposition to Mrs Thatcher’s brand of Conservatism was fierce, but she trampled though all of it. She was set on her course and come hell or high water would carry it through.

At one level, I can admire such determination and single mindedness. For good or ill, the world can be changed by people who are committed, unwavering, absolutely convinced of their ideals. Nelson Mandela would be an example, Adolf Hitler another. It’s not always a good thing to ignore dissenting voices and press on regardless. Enlightened leadership takes account of other perspectives, seeks to create consensus, and carries the majority with it.

And sometimes, an idea, a set of principles, is just plain wrong. Better, surely, to be alive to such a possibility and ready to change tack if needed. At what point does courage and conviction degenerate into the rigid, self-obsessed thinking of the ignorant despot?

So much for the big stage. The same principles work at the level or ordinary folk, too. How often do we hear of families struggling to accommodate differing religious or political views, younger people at odds with the generation before and neither ready to shift, to compromise, to do a U turn even? 

I’ve never been a fan of elevating an idea, a belief or a principle to such a status that I would sacrifice my key relationships for it, but many do. I’m no expert, not given to dishing out unwanted advice, but it seems to me that a little flexibility, tolerance and compassion can go a long way. If you love people, and want them to be happy, surely that trumps everything else.

Chameleon is one of my favourite books I’ve ever written, not least because of the sub-plots running through it. In Chameleon, I did my share of subtle tub-thumping, introducing themes of political and religious intolerance. The late and not-especially-lamented Margaret Thatcher’s policies feature, and the legacy of division that remains to this day as a result of her attack on mining communities in Britain. Also, though, I try to bang a drum for religious tolerance. At its heart Chameleon is the tale of a Muslim married to a Roman Catholic, and this couple’s determination to bring up their children to embrace both worlds and be the best of each.

Here’s an excerpt that gives a flavour of what I hoped to get across.

“Are you sleeping with my daughter?” The older man’s question took him by surprise, but Ethan knew better than to lie to him.
“I am, yes.”
Said eyed him narrowly, though without hostility. “I see. Will you be sleeping with her tonight?”
“I hope to, yes.” There was, of course, always the slim chance that she might even now back out.
“Yet you are planning to leave our country tomorrow. Will you be returning to Morocco?”
“I have business in London in the coming days. I may return. I had no plans to initially, but now, who knows?” Ethan was more than a little surprised to hear himself say this. He had not realised himself that he was contemplating coming back. But there it was. How interesting.
“Fleur has not had good experiences always, I am sure you will know this…?”
Ethan nodded. “She told me she was married, and that her husband is now dead.”
Said shook his head gravely. “Yes, a terrible business. Not Youssef’s death, you understand. That was not terrible. It was long overdue in my view. I have no sympathy for the dog. He hurt my precious girl. I might have killed him myself at one time.”
Ethan pondered that and considered the possibility that Said was warning him of the potential consequences if he were similarly careless with Fleur’s well-being. He had no intention at all of harming her, at least, not in the manner that her father meant. As for emotional hurt, she had known from the outset that his was a flying visit at best. He fully appreciated that emotions could assert themselves to derail even the best-laid plans, but he would be careful not to create expectations where he should not.
“I understand he was a violent man. Please be assured, Said, that I am not.” Ethan could deliver a decent whipping, fully consensual, of course, but he would never raise his hand to any woman in anger, and he was not a bully. He could and would, make Fleur scream, but he knew she would thank him for it afterwards. Meanwhile, it was by now clear to him that Said was not about to play the paternal moral card, though he was clearly seeking reassurance. Ethan was happy to provide it. “Fleur is safe with me, Mr Mansouri.”
Said nodded. “I believe that. It is clear to me that she holds you in high regard. Is that the right phrase? You will appreciate English is not my natural tongue.”
“I take your meaning, even so.”
“Fleur is old enough to make her own choices now. She is wiser than once she was. I want her to be happy. I want this for all my children.”
Ethan nodded. They seemed to be at an understanding. “Yours is an unusual family, if I may say so, Said.”
The older man nodded. “I imagine it is. We have found a way to get along well enough together, though.”
“Indeed. Fleur tells me she was brought up to be both Muslim and Christian. I had not thought that possible.”
Said’s smile wryly. “I suspect it may not be. I would never ask any of my family to choose. We all find God by our own route, whatever name we call Him by. In truth, I fear my Fleur is a godless creature, despite her mother’s most fervent efforts. My daughter’s immortal soul remains a work in progress for Yvette, I think. For myself, I trust that she may find whatever she is seeking, be that God or some other source of fulfilment. We all need to have meaning in our lives. Would you not agree?”
Ethan did agree and said so. He couldn’t help thinking that if his own father had possessed the tolerance, wisdom and vision of Said Mansouri, and the ability to let go of old hurts, his own community in south Yorkshire might have been the richer for it.
“I think that perhaps you need to be returning to your hotel. Not that I am not enjoying your company, of course. It has been a pleasure to make your acquaintance this evening and I sincerely hope that we may meet again, perhaps when you are able to remain with us for longer…?”
Said’s meaning was clear. Ethan smiled, inclining his head slowly. “You are right. I should be going. And yes, I hope we do have an opportunity to meet again. Thank you for your hospitality this evening, and please pass on my thanks to your lovely wife.”“Of course. I will telephone for a taxi for you.”
“There’s no need…”
“I would not hear of anything else. It will just take a few minutes. Please, have some more mint tea while I make the call.” Said pulled his mobile phone from his pocket. Ethan reached for the teapot.

Chameleon, by Ashe Barker. Available from Amazon

Monday, November 5, 2018

GILF -- #flashfiction #fastcars #Uturn #hookup

Woman in convertible

By Lisabet Sarai

Santa Monica and Ocean has to be the slowest damn light in LA County. My Mustang’s been in the right lane for, like, ten minutes, when her shiny red ‘67 ‘Vette roars up beside me. Can’t help but check her out, right?

Long gray hair snaps in the wind as she brakes. Over-sized shades hide her eyes. Her lipstick and her bikini exactly match her car. If she’s got wrinkles (seems she must, with that hair), I can’t see ‘em. Some seventies movie star, maybe? Gorgeous, anyway.

She flashes a naughty smile. My jeans are instantly tight. One pull behind her neck and her swimsuit tumbles, revealing an awesome set of tits. Not firm as Anna’s, but when she cups them, pinching the fat, coffee-colored tips, I almost come in my pants.

A hand disappears into her lap. Now she’s sucking her fingers. Holy crap! She points left, yells. I can’t hear over our engines but I get the gist.

Green light. She waves, then peels away south on Ocean Ave. I turn my pony north, cock aching as I speed along the beach. First chance I get, I hang a uey.

No way I’m letting this one get away.