Of All Days to Seize

brush-your-teeth-1588915Well, so, hooray-ishly, it’s NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge time again. It’s my favorite writing contest because I love writing to a prompt, and because last year’s sixth-place finish netted me my cutest favorite satchel (in which I found a forgotten chocolate bar from Nicaragua just the other night — it’s the prize that keeps on giving!).

In the first of the three rounds, we get to combine scores from two stories, which can only be a good thing for me, as I’m not much of a suspense writer. Taken on the whole, romance is actually kind of the opposite of suspense — like what, they might not end up together? — but I’m not going to make excuses for this story. I wrote it, I fiddled with it, I abandoned it in favor of another idea, then came crawling back and submitted it. If only it was as suspenseful as the wait to see if it scores…

You get 48 hours to write a story of 1,000 words or less. My groups prompts were Genre: Suspense, Location: Dentist’s Office, Object: Blank Check. What happened with them (with 2 words to spare) is this:

Of All Days to Seize

Porsha knew every inch of the old Victorian. She’d been running Dr. Sanchez’s dental practice out of the high-ceilinged historic home for four years, and you couldn’t find a cheerier, more innocuous space. During the day. She’d never had occasion to tiptoe around it by herself in the dark until tonight, and suddenly every coatrack was a shadowy thin man waiting to catch her in the act. She was letting her imagination run away with her. She was not letting her guilty conscience run away with her, as Keith would have suggested. Mainly because she wasn’t doing anything all that terrible, but also because shut up, Keith—she’d be as glad to leave him behind as any of the rest of it.

It wasn’t like she’d planned this. She bought supplies for the staff kitchen at the Costco over by her house, she’d snatched up the smiley tooth material for the waiting room curtains from the craft store bargain bin; Dr. Sanchez reimbursed her by check all the time. She hadn’t purposely asked Dr. Sanchez to cut this particular check right as Mrs. Derani came bursting through the door clutching a cheek the size of a softball and moaning about the pain, the pain! Heck, Porsha had been home and on her second glass of chardonnay before she’d even remembered dropping the checkbook back into the drawer amidst all the hullaballoo, the signed, blank check with her name on it biding its time on top of the stack. Dr. Sanchez may as well have written Now’s your chance on the Memo line. Continue reading

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Got a Light?

IcebergWell, I’m having way more fun with NYC Midnight’s Flash Fiction Challenge than I had with the Short Story Challenge earlier this year, which gave me the boot after Round One. I’ve made it to the Final Round of the Flash Fiction one, and submitted my last 990-word story to the judges over the weekend. Rambling writer that I am, I’m surprised to have made it quite this far in a contest that’s all about getting to the point, but actually the ruthless editing (“Aww, what a sweet thing to say…” Delete!) has been kind of fun.

The assigned genre for this final round was Open, meaning any old genre you want, which I saw first as a blessing, in that it wasn’t “Ghost Story” or “Spaghetti Western”, but then saw as a curse, in that it gave me no direction to go in with the no-help-at-all location prompt — An Iceberg — but have ultimately decided to embrace as a blessing because now I don’t have to categorize the story I ended up with. The assigned item was A Lighter, and it eventually set the scene. Participating writers are encouraged to “interpret your genre, location, and object assignment in uniquely creative ways…” so I’ll either get big points or get disqualified for this one. We’ll find out which in January! Herewith my final entry in this year’s challenge: 

Got a Light?

Of course I knew she was a dude. Just cuz I’m not gay doesn’t mean I have no sense of adventure. She had legs for days and a butt you could eat breakfast off of. I figured if I took her home and fucked her, when we were finished she could flip me over and fuck me right back, and you don’t hit that jackpot every day. That’s what we all loved about the Iceberg: you never knew what was gonna happen, but if you kept your wallet handy and your wits about you, you were guaranteed a wild time.

So named because its street-level frosted-glass cocktail lounge façade revealed nothing of the depravity that hulked beneath as you descended the depths from one sub-basement to the next, the Iceberg was the hottest club in Saint Paul. And it was on the Right Wing’s shit list from opening day. Board it up, burn it down—they didn’t care how they were delivered from its scourge, but Wouldn’t somebody think of the children?! Meanwhile, the queers? The fornicators? The sinners-for-sport? We lined up to get in, to hit the spray-painted stairs and see how low we could go.

I had purple hair, tight abs in a tight T-shirt; I got in no sweat. Clomped down the stairs, blew past the first landing—hometown DJs, go-go dancers, big whoop. The second basement got more interesting. Here the hustlers and the gay-for-pay porn stars took off their shirts and licked their lips, enticed daddies and chubs to pop for a beer or a blow job while the drag queens with the highest hair in the Midwest lip-synched Katy Perry until she would have been sick of the sound of her own voice, had she managed to flirt herself past a bouncer. That’s where I saw her: strong freckled shoulders in a sequined tube top, seven feet tall in platforms, whipping that ponytail around the stage like a propeller, she was as white as any Minnesota blizzard I’d ever shoveled my way out of and called herself Vinda Lou Curry. So she got points for creativity on top of the Perfect Ten her body demanded. When I saw her duck up the stairs after her number, I didn’t think about it, I just followed. She cut between two bars to the back door. I bummed a quick cigarette from some underage twink as he scampered by, hung it from my lip, pushed into the alley. She had a fan club; I elbowed in. “Got a light?” Continue reading

Tugging at Your Heart Strings

Disney Wonder cruise ship sails under the Golden Gate Bridge on the way to the Port of San Francisco

As you may have learned in my previous post, I got Romance for a genre in the latest round of NYC Midnight’s Flash Fiction Challenge, which is kind of my thing. Our assigned object was a map, our assigned location was a tugboat, and we had 48 hours to write a 1,000-word story; I was like, I got this, and I cranked out what follows. I was pretty happy with the way I worked the map into the story, but as I was snipping my first draft down to size (and rushing the ending), I realized that the tugboat was more “this thing that exists” than any kind of true “location,” so I went back to the drawing board. The second story was a smash (in my own mind — results for this round are a week or so away yet), but I kind of like these guys — if you’ve read my stuff, you know this isn’t my first redheaded Romeo — so I’m sharing their story just because, as the guy who wrote it for them, I feel like it’s kind of my job. Enjoy what my “Documents” file calls

Tugboat Romance A

“A tug?”

“Yes, Captain.”

“What do you mean, ‘they’re sending a tug?’ I’ve docked this beast in Mazatlan a hundred times. I was here last week.”

“Yes, Captain. I remember. Welcome back. Order of the Port Authority, I’m afraid. Please standby; the tug’s on its way.”

Annoying. Andreas wasn’t the Captain of the Cavalcade, but he was the Second Mate, which often seemed to be a euphemism for Jackass Who Steers the Boat Into Port When the Captain’s Too Drunk to Do It. They did keep calling him Captain; maybe that’s why they were sending the tug.

There was nothing for it but to wait. He was dying to drop anchor and get back to sulking in his room, but there was plenty of time for that. There was no question Keith was the man of his dreams. The question that did nag, of course, was, Then why did you sail away from him, you fool? Continue reading

Clark Parker Bums a Smoke

Playing Clark Parker’s best friend in the school play was one thing, but finding the nerve to socialize with him at the cast party is quite another. And he’s coming this way…

My latest entry in the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge is a 995-word romance. As a romance writer, I am of course much more familiar with the genre than I’ve ever been with, say, horror, which made this story harder to write than the first two in this competition because there was pressure for it to be perfect. But of course that pressure came mostly from myself, so I set it aside, imagined the Cutest Boy in School, and wrote the best Very Short Romance that I had in me this day. And threw in a little Music Man, just to be on the safe side.

musicman03

Our group was given Romance for a genre, a tugboat for a location, and a map for an object. I’m gunning for big points on creative use of prompts…  😉 Enjoy

Clark Parker Bums a Smoke

Where they got the idea to use a maritime motif for the playground, I’ll never know. We’re a hundred and eighty miles from the nearest navigable river, six hundred from the coast; hell, they even drain the pool for winter and half the spring. And it’s not like it’s a pirate ship or the Love Boat. No, the centerpiece of Agnes Schmidlap Park is about two-thirds of a wood-beam tugboat plying the gravel, two sun-baked old tires hanging off the side. You know, for authenticity. Some mayor who owned the meatpacking plant fifty years ago probably wanted kids to grow up thinking hard work was the ultimate fun. Help tug our town to success! Too bad they shut the plant down like ten years ago. God, I can’t wait to graduate and get out of here.

Six weeks to go. Meanwhile, tonight’s the “cast party” for The Music Man, which means a keg in the park and enough teenager tequila barf to float this tugboat. It was a fun show and all, but I’ve been playing Marcellus to Clark Parker’s Harold Hill since rehearsals started in February; if I have to spend five more minutes within arm’s length of his shimmery hair without running my fingers through it, I’m worried the effort’ll break my elbow. Here on the prow of the tug, I can at least lust after him from afar, without his goody two-shoes “concern” about me smoking.

Except now he’s walking over here. And he’s carrying two big red cups full of beer. Is one for me? Do I hide mine? Chug it? Marcellus had lines to bounce off Harold; I have fuck-all to say to Clark Parker.

“Hey.”

“Hey.” OK, that wasn’t so hard.

He offers me a cup. “You need a beer?”

Mine’s full. “Yeah. Thanks.”

I flick my butt into the night, hoping he won’t start up.

“Can I bum one?”

Look who’s full of surprises. “You don’t smoke.”

“I do all kinds of stuff.” Did Clark Parker just wink at me? That’s definitely worth a cigarette. Continue reading

Puppy Love

Happy 70s Night from Boney M!

Happy 70s Night from Boney M!

Whether I’m muscling in on my husband the drag queen‘s song selection process or crafting short fiction, it is my own opinion that I do some of my best work on Theme Nights. “Seventies Night,” for example, challenges performers to find the exactly right hot pants or caftan-and-kerchief combo, and gives the audience that little extra thrill of satisfaction when a disco ballad strikes a reminiscent chord just so. (Not that very many Denver drag audiences remember the 70s, but you know what I mean…) Similarly, I love to write to a prompt, and the fun of themed anthologies is to discover the hundred different directions a group of writers can take the “same” idea. My latest short story, “Say Cheese,” is part of one such antho, Wayward Ink Publishing‘s Stranded, which comes out October 10th. WIP is a new, independent publisher that aims to publish quality GLBT fiction and romance who first caught my attention with their tagline, “To write is to light a fire, to read is to fan the flames.” If quality queer fiction is your thing, you can subscribe to their quarterly newsletter (on their website or on Facebook) for author interviews, new release announcements, articles, excerpts, and flash fiction like this story here, which appears in this edition. Please enjoy:

Puppy Love

There had been no tragic accident. No lurid murder trial. No heart-wrenching disease trending on social media. He weighed too much. He drank too much. He worked too hard. The only vegetable I ever saw him eat was eggplant parm; the only exercise he ever got he got in bed. Fifty-eight years old, he died from living. There are worse ways to go.

Our thirty-year age difference meant more to most of his family than our nine-year love affair; I could have dragged him through all the red tape onto a plane back to Louisiana, but for what? His first time on the Best Sellers list, our wedding—hell, nine years of birthdays: we’d given them plenty of occasions to flamboyantly boycott. We lived in France, he died in France, he wanted to be buried in France. If his daughter or his ex-wife wanted to throw on a histrionic veil and disdain me graveside for a change of scenery, they could damn well come do that in France, too.

The little town where we had our little house was proud of its big literary star, even if he did write in English. The tiny, tilted church was easily filled. A priest I didn’t know intoned a generic eulogy I didn’t listen to, then led me in leading a flock of looky-loos down the stone steps and up the road to the gates of the cemetery. I walked with my eyes on my shoes, my mind on the dog whistle as I worried it in my pocket.

It had been among the things the nurse had handed across her desk in a marked plastic bag. Here are his things. Would you like to see the body? There’s a “body?” She pursed her lips. I guess they’ve left it up to me to tell you… What I wanted her to tell me was why in hell he had a dog whistle on him in the first place. It’s not like we had a dog. Was there even such a thing as a dog whistle outside of cartoons? I tried to hand it back to her—I don’t think this was his—but she just shrugged. It’s yours now. I blew it, there in the hospital; waited for the pack of barking mongrels to come crashing down the corridor and upset the order in her world the way she’d just laid waste to mine. I blew it a second time, summoned nothing. She raised an eyebrow. Leaving her to worry about “the body,” I took my plastic bag and my new whistle home.

I’d never seen the whistle. It meant nothing to me. What had it been to him? A souvenir? Of a person? A time in his life? Inspiration for a story? Or did it belong to someone else entirely, slipped in with his wallet full of euros and his St Christopher’s medal by accident? What was a dog whistle even for? I huffed away at it for days, and a lack of howling hounds persisted. What else would he whistle at?

Besides boys, obviously. He was whistling at teenage twinks long before I came along. I’d managed to hold his interest long enough to get him to sashay me up the aisle, sure, but he didn’t go blind on our wedding day. He’d aged; so, too, had I grown older. I was still young, still slim, still blond, but I wasn’t still nineteen, and he had a type. We’d go away—New York, Miami, Madrid. We’d shop. We’d go to the theater. We’d go to breakfast, and he’d hate to monopolize my time. Suggest I take the day—and the credit card; always the credit card—and “explore.” In case I wasn’t from Miami, born and raised. But what will you do? Oh, he’d manage.

I knew about these other guys. I’d met a couple of them. Fucked one every once in a while, just so he knew I was paying attention. But he didn’t want an open relationship, and he certainly wasn’t trying to get caught. He wanted to be the smooth operator. He wanted to get away with it. It was a gold card, and I do love to shop.

He’s been dead for three months now. I came up to Paris on the train this morning. My inheritance is elaborate, and there are occasionally papers to sign. I’m having coffee in the Marais before I find my way back to the Gare Montparnasse. I seldom spend the night in Paris, although some of these boys slouching by in their sunglasses and their hip-fitting jeans raise it as an attractive prospect. I smile, thinking of him; I didn’t exactly go blind on our wedding day, either.

I toy with the shiny silver dog whistle, which I’ve worn on a chain around my neck since the funeral. Maybe it was how he got the boys to gather round, even as he spread through late middle age. Perhaps it hits the perfect pitch: the one that sounds like money to a penniless prettyboy. I laugh. At the idea of him abroad in New York and London, choosing from among the eager puppies that come running, tails wagging, when he gives it a noiseless tweet. At the lot of the humorless nurse who got to pass his secret mating call in its plastic bag to the puppy who’d managed to charm him away from his wife. At the vision of every strapping youth in the neighborhood stopping in his tracks and turning to scamper to my table, aroused by the high pitch. Suddenly desperate, if they don’t know why, for me.

Was it a man whistle? All his boys had to come from somewhere. Half expecting it to work, I blow.

I wait.

But it doesn’t bring him back.