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Welcome

I’ll be writing about my writing: my novels and short stories, what motivates me, what moves me and the writing resources that help me. Alas, I am not yet published other than here, though I am trying hard to drop the un- prefix formative from unpublished novelist. In one sense that’s good, because an unpublished novel is not finished. I edit, and edit, and edit, always trying to make what I write better, more coherent, more in tune with the sub-head of my site. You, yes you, who love to read fiction, can influence the stories by participating in the dialogue I hope will develop. If you think it sucks, say so. If you think it sucks but can be salvaged by doing… whatever, say that too, especially the whatever. It’s a two-way conversation and I encourage comments.

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Recent Posts

Girl talk, three awesome cougars dissing an insufferably arrogant man

Girl talk, written by a man; a very dangerous undertaking

This one especially is for my European friends. It’s almost ready. I’m still revising and editing it so please be patient. It’s not easy for a man, this man to be sure, to write really good women’s dialogue. The scene is a coffee shop where three awesome, take-no-prisoners, mature creatures of the female persuasion are discussing the new man in one of their lives. All in their forties, one divorced, the other two single by choice. I suppose I could copy Nin or James but plagiarizing them or any other author is not what I do.

Update: Sunday, February 9, 2014, 9:15 P.M. CST

Well, here it is. I wrote this scene more than a year ago and it’s undergone steady revision and edits since. After all, I’m just a stupid man struggling to write the way women think, the way they talk among themselves when there are no men present. Please tell me what I got wrong? Hey ladies, the Internet is anonymous so you can tell me the truth without giving away any of the sisterhood’s secrets. I’m a good writer so if I know what to fix, I’ll fix it. Enjoy.

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G A B R I E L L E

Gabrielle Helm leaned over and rested her forearms on her quivering thighs and waited for the nauseous feeling to pass.  She was absolutely certain if the dance routine Catherine Duvall was leading had gone on one minute longer she would have tossed her cookies.  For the last half hour Catherine had those who had them switch to optional Latin-style ballroom shoes with 2-inch heels and suede soles and had them moving their hips in ways she never imagined a woman’s hips could move.  For the last ten minutes, to blot out the pain, she fantasized moving her hips that way while straddling Freddy-pooh and she knew, beyond all doubt he would say he’d died and gone to heaven.

Catherine was a cruel, sadistic, merciless slave driver.  Gabrielle couldn’t imagine a Marine drill instructor being any tougher, except the soft-spoken Catherine never shouted, never exhorted them with curses, kicks, slaps or insults the way she’d heard the DIs did.  She just intimated them with her incredible moves and complex choreography.

Whenever Gabrielle wanted to punish herself for the sins of gluttony, sloth and indolence she signed up for one of these classes but this one was like nothing she had ever experienced.  Four months ago eighteen of them had registered, paid the stiff enrollment fee and within two weeks the class had attrited down to ten.  A month later two more joined them and these twelve survivors had all been diligent and enthusiastic exercise junkies, otherwise known as masochists.  She wondered, for the umpteenth time whether all this pain was worth it, and then she remembered that since enrolling in Catherine’s advanced aerobics with jazz dance class she’d finally lost the ten pounds she hadn’t been able to lose since college.  Now, at forty-two she was incredibly fit and looked better than she had ever looked in her entire life, thanks to Catherine and her thrice weekly killer workouts.

Gabrielle, or Gaby as she liked to be called, was a five-eight, athletically slender, ash blonde with striking green eyes.  She was also one of Bend’s movers and shakers – she had an MBA degree in marketing and a B.A. in political science, both from OSU, and worked as a political fundraiser for the mayor, Jeffrey Boone, and she was particularly good at it.  Mayor Boone, a partner in a Bend law firm and a two-term member of the Bend city council, wanted to be Congressman Boone or possibly Governor Boone and she was going to help him get there and looking good, which in her case was an understatement, didn’t hurt one little bit.

Her breathing finally back to normal, she walked to the table alongside the wall, removed the shoes and cracked a chilled bottle of water.  She closed her eyes and pressed the cold bottle to her cheeks, then downed half of it before setting it down.  She then used one of the luxury towels the club provided to blot the perspiration from her arms, neck and face, careful not to smudge her eye makeup, the only makeup she dared wear to one of Catherine’s classes.  She’d done that just once, wore foundation and blush and it was a soggy mess well before the session ended.  She thought about a shower but Catherine almost never showered at the club, since she usually rode her bike to the fitness center, and Gaby wanted to talk to her.  She motioned to her friend Sharon Robinette to join her and she sidled up to Catherine, who was also drying her flushed, sweaty and makeup-free face.  They waited patiently while she unpinned her longer-than-shoulder-length hair, made a somewhat successful attempt to dry it, brushed out the worst of the tangles and pinned it back up again.

Sharon wasn’t a Bend mover and shaker, at least not yet.  Mostly she sold upscale real estate, very successfully, but without making a big deal about it.  Originally from Sydney, Australia, she had recently become a U.S. citizen.  It was her younger sister Jennifer who was the mover and shaker, or to be precise, it was her husband who was.  He was Kenneth Lilja, currently Oregon’s congressman from the 2nd congressional district.  Sharon may not have had Gaby’s political clout and influence – she wasn’t especially fond of her brother-in-law and made a point of not mentioning to anyone the identity of her famous in-law – but she more than made up for it with looks to spare.  Several years younger than Gaby and shorter by four inches, with auburn hair, she was just as fit and attracted just as many envious looks from women and admiring looks from men, as did her friend.

“Got anywhere you absolutely have to be in the next hour?” Gaby said to Catherine.

Catherine glanced at the wall clock, saw it was 11:35 A.M. and said, “Nope, what do you have in mind?”

“A little girl talk.  Let’s go have coffee at the new Starbucks on 9th and Greenwood.  I’ll buy and it’s only a couple of blocks away.”

“Didn’t know there was a Starbucks there?”

“It just opened, where a 7-Eleven used to be.  Perfect location; gets everyone coming into town on Greenwood.”

“Okay, I’ll meet you two there… in ten minutes or so.”

Catherine didn’t bother to change back into her riding duds, not for the three or four blocks to Starbucks nor the five blocks from the coffee house to her condo.  When she reached the corner of 8th and Greenwood the eastbound traffic was heavy, a steady stream of cars and trucks, so she slipped in alongside the flow pedaling just fast enough not to wobble.  Catherine ignored the whistles and the Hey baby, what’s happening.  Once she’d made the mistake of flipping the bird to some redneck in a pickup truck and he’d stopped and got out and wanted to fight.  The only thing that saved her was he couldn’t follow where she fled on the bike.  Now whenever she was hassled she avoided making eye contact, kept her middle finger to herself and her mouth shut.

She glanced to her left and saw the familiar green motif and it came as a surprise because for nearly seven months, every time she’d driven to the restaurant from her condo, admittedly from north of Greenwood, she’d turned right at this intersection and had not noticed what was being constructed less than one block over.  Good to know she had a Starbucks within walking distance of where she lived but in truth, with her espresso machine she could make coffee drinks as good as the Starbucks baristas could.  When the last car passed her near 10th she crossed over and did a U-turn and came back the opposite way.  When she arrived at the café she chained her bike where she was sure she could see it.  The four outdoor tables under the green umbrellas were all in use so she went inside.  The other women were already there, waiting for her, sitting at a table for four near the rear.  She pushed her sunglasses up in the tangle that was her hair, ordered a Coffee Frappuccino and joined them but she asked them to move to a different table close to a window where she could keep an eye on her expensive bicycle.  Gaby wasted little time; she began almost before Catherine was settled in her chair with, “So, tell us about your new accompanist?”

“Don’t have a new accompanist, at least not yet.”

“Catherine, I was there yesterday, at happy hour.  I heard him play.  He’s fantastic, especially the way he makes a harmonica wail… and in case you hadn’t noticed, he’s quite the hunk.  Are you saying you aren’t going to hire him?”

“It’s in the works but quite frankly, he’s an incredibly arrogant asshole and I’m not sure I can deal with all his bullshit.”

“What’s his name?”

“Michael Ware.”

End of discussion, that’s all she said and she busied herself with her frap.  After a moment Gaby said, somewhat impatiently, “Come on Catherine, don’t make us drag it out of you… we want to hear all the gory details.  For example, is he married?”

Okay… he’s divorced, late forties, he’s not a professional musician… he’s some sort of computer consultant, has a hobby ranch somewhere in eastern Oregon and he travels a lot.  Lydia Conti seems to know him well, his ex-wife too – her name is Madeleine, by the way, and she’s Spanish… or Spanish-Italian, according to Lydia – as I guess when they were married they lived somewhere in Deschutes County, near Bend but not in town, and they were regulars at the restaurant.”

“How long has he been divorced?”

“I think about four years.”

“Okay, so what’s the downside?” said Gaby.  Sharon said nothing but was taking it all in.

“I don’t think I’ve ever met a more arrogant man.  Thinks he’s God’s gift to women and like a hound dog on the scent of a bitch in heat, is constantly on the make.  He turns every question, every comment into an opportunity to hit on me.  Do you know what that asshole said to me?  He said I looked like a fifteen-minute girl.  Like a fool I asked what that was and he said it was a woman who craved sex every fifteen minutes, and the best match-up for one of those was an oral guy who knows how to play the harmonica.”

They all started laughing and Gaby said, “He really said that?”

“Yes, and I heard all about how he uses the piano to hit on what he calls piano groupies.  That’s what he was doing last night during happy hour, only I spoiled his act when I seated him earlier than he expected.  What kind of fool comes to Di Giorgio’s on a Friday during pro-am without a reservation and then asks if he can play the piano?  He didn’t care whether he got a table; all he cared about was getting access to the keyboard so he could work his game on some impressionable woman.”

“Mona Gerry was coming on to him, right in front of her husband only she’s far from impressionable.  She just likes to fuck… anything in pants.”

“But she’s married and he told me he doesn’t fool around with married women.”

“Do you believe him?”

“I’m not sure.  He’s seen the ring I wear so he must think I’m married but he won’t stop hitting on me.”

“You aren’t married, are you?”

“No, I wear it at work to avoid being hit on.  Mostly it works but some guys just don’t care.  Nothing short of rude and crude will shut them down, and then they always get mean and nasty.  Men are such pigs and the married ones are the worst.”

“How long have you been divorced?”

“It was in ’91 so… almost eight years.”

“Are you seeing someone, regularly?”

“Not at the moment.”

“Then I don’t see what the problem is?  He’s single; you’re single.  He plays the piano and the harmonica, brilliantly.  How long have you been looking for a replacement for Eddie… two months, three months?”

“Four.”

Four; damn… Catherine, you need him and from what I saw last night, he’s very attractive.  Knows how to dress, has a good build, a ponytail no less; and you say he’s an oral guy – ooh la, la.  Surely you know how to put someone like that in a box and keep him doing what you want him to do?  After all, he’s just a stupid man and any man can be led around by his cock.”

“Except that’s not the way I want this to work.  I want to keep my personal life separate from my professional life.  I tried mixing the two, several times, and it doesn’t work… at least not for me.”

The chime over the entrance door sounded its distinctive ringtone and they all turned to see the man that just walked in.  They all craned their heads; sitting in front of a window they’d all seen him ride up on a bicycle, lock it in the bike rack next to Catherine’s and Catherine noted that he’d checked out hers.  It annoyed her that without permission he’d bent down and manipulated the rear derailleur on her very expensive bicycle.

“Well speak of the devil… or if not the devil, a Willie Nelson wannabe,” said Gaby.  “Guess who just walked in?”

Catherine noted Michael had swapped the Forty Niners cap for a red and blue paisley bandana tied around his forehead.  He was still wearing black spandex cycling shorts and the blue and gold jersey, now with the sleeves pushed up revealing muscular forearms, and he had his backpack, really a book-bag made of black nylon, the kind they hand out at conferences to carry the swag, slung over one shoulder.  His had JavaOne, Sun microsystems, ZD and COMDEX & FORUMS embroidered on the front.  Standing up, free of the bicycle saddle she got for the first time a really good look at his legs and the bulge between them.  An image of Nurayev at his best flashed in her mind’s eye.  She felt the heat begin in her loins and spread upward until her neck and face were flushed.  She dismissed it as a hot flash until she felt the familiar wetness between her legs.

To cover her discomfort she said, without being prompted, “We ran into each other on the Larkspur and I didn’t recognize him at the time but I watched him early this morning running sprints on the Senior High track.”

“Sprints?  He was running sprints?”

“Yes, I watched him run three 220-yard sprints and he’s very fast for a man his age.  I don’t know how many he ran but he was there before I arrived and was still there after I left.”

“He’s about our age, isn’t he?  Early forties?” said Gaby.

“I think he’s older than us but I don’t know by how much.”

Jesus, Mary and Joseph!  I do believe he’s got an erection.  That barista has boobs out to here and he’s oogling her.  And look at those legs,” said Sharon.  “My God, he’s got beautiful legs… except for that scar.  Well Catherine, you snooze you lose.  I want one of those and if you aren’t interested, I sure am.”

Gaby now studied the man’s legs too and after a moment she said, “No, he’s not erect.  It’s those spandex shorts.  They have some sort of cup that holds his jewels in a tight ball… sort of like when a woman wears a bra with the cups one size too small.  Like a male ballet dancer, right Catherine?”

“How would I know?”

“Come on Catherine, you’ve danced professionally.  You must have seen lots of male dancers wearing tights that show off their equipment?  I’ll bet when they pas de deux the girls grope the boys just like the boys grope the girls?  I would.”

“I gave up ballet for jazz when I was seventeen.”

“Oh, why was that?”

“My toes couldn’t take the pounding.”

After a moment Gaby said, “I’ll be damned; he has the scars of a bullet wound on his left leg.”

Catherine too stared at Michael’s legs and wasn’t exactly sure to what Gaby was referring.  “What are you talking about?”

“Excuse me for a moment.  I want to be sure,” as she got up and walked behind the man, studying his legs from the rear, and covered herself by ordering refills for their coffees.  When she returned to the others she said, “I’m sure.  He has the scars of what’s called a through-and-through.  Bullet went in the rear and came out the front.”

“How do you know what he has is from a bullet?” said Sharon.

“I used to date a cop in Phoenix.  He had one too, only his was side-to-side.  Trust me, I saw it close up, many times,” which made them all giggle like naughty schoolgirls.

“When I asked him why, at his age he ran sprints, he said when he was younger he’d had to do serious rehab to repair an injured leg.  I assumed he was referring to an accident.  He didn’t mention he’d been shot.”

“Let’s have some fun with Mr. Ware?  Call him over and introduce us.”

“What are you going to do?”

“Put the SOB in his place, something you obviously failed to do.”

“Gaby, I’m still undecided about whether to hire him.  Please don’t screw that up?”

“Don’t worry.  I’ll have him eating out of my hand before we finish our lattes.”

Catherine had already made eye contact with Michael and assumed he would come over to their table but she caught his eye again, waved and beckoned him to join them.  She knew from personal experience Gaby could be hell on wheels and she briefly considering introducing them to Michael and then making some excuse to leave just in case Gaby made a butch of it.  If she wasn’t there when it happened then Michael couldn’t blame her for anything Gaby said or did and she could always find out later what went down.  But she was curious to see how Michael would react to being dismantled by Gaby.  She could do it too, when the man deserved it but she had never deliberately set out to be that bitchy.  When he joined them he brought the coffees that Gaby had ordered with him.  He set them on the table but remained standing, with Gaby on his left and Catherine on his right.

Catherine said, “Michael Ware, please say hello to Gabrielle Helm and Sharon Robinette,” and she gestured to each woman in turn as she said her name.

“Gaby,” as Gabrielle offered her hand.  Sharon smiled but did not offer to shake hands.

Tyne took the woman’s hand, nodded at her and Sharon and said “Ladies.”

“Please join us?” said Catherine.

Tyne set his backpack alongside the chair between Gaby and Catherine and sat down, and he noticed almost immediately the woman was staring at his left leg.  The hem of his shorts ended just above a star-shaped scar, shiny and hairless, the size of a quarter and up-close you could also see the white line from a surgical incision through its center.  Without being obvious about it he rearranged himself to give her a good look.  He wondered how she would resolve the dichotomy: curiosity about the scar and reticence about mentioning it.  Most people who saw it starred but said nothing.

He decided to take the initiative, so he said, “Did y’all see how good our two bikes look together, Catherine’s and mine, side by side, like they were made for each other, like Catherine and I are made for each other, only she’s too fucking uptight to acknowledge what is otherwise an inescapable fact of nature?  She thinks it’s wrong for a couple to perform together – that’s my take on the state of her world, by the way, admittedly after fewer than twenty-four hours, but I have a nose for these things, no doubt like the hound dog you guys think I am – but me thinks the music we’ll make together will be better, like the love we’ll make will be better when we remember the music, play it back in our heads while we’re doing it.  The audience is merely a voyeur eavesdropping on the parts us lovers will let them see.”

Before any of them could say anything, maybe because he’d stunned them into silence, he said, “Of course, a pink bike, no a matte pink bike – someone suggested I should make lists and my latest says try to be less crude…” and he winked at Catherine when he said this, “dubbed Genesisters no less – mine is a Genesis, get it? – is so fucking dumb as to be offensive especially coming from Gary Fisher Bicycles.  Gary is an old hippy with a ponytail, like me, and granny glasses, so he certainly isn’t chauvinistic but someone in his company, probably some marketing asshole sure the hell is.  Had Catherine asked me for my advice I would have recommended the hardtail version of that bike but a Fisher full suspension is as good as that type gets and I suppose is easier on the butt, hers being so sweet.

“By the way, some folks call what I just said TMI but I know you gals were talking about me so I thought I’d get in some bullshit of my own, first, to sort of disarm y’all.  Do you two ride,” and he gestured at the two women he’d just met, “or do you just boogie, with Catherine, that is?  Perhaps we can all ride together?”

He looked for acknowledgement but got only bemused negative head shakes from the two women.

“Pity.  Or perhaps I should join Catherine’s class?  I’m pretty fit so I can probably keep up with y’all, once I learn the moves.  I can’t remember the last time I was in the company of three stone foxes.  Are all the others in your class as hot as you two?”

The three women were all exchanging knowing looks, like they were listening to the village idiot; either that or they were all trying to keep from laughing.

“My class is not open to men; we women have to have a place to get away from guys and my experience has been guys just can’t cut it,” said Catherine.

“Un-huh,” and he nodded and again winked at her.

“Mike… may I call you Mike?” said Gaby.

“I prefer Michael.”

“Okay, Michael it is.  I was in Di Giorgio’s last night, in the High Desert Lounge, during happy hour.  You play extremely well.  I particularly liked the harmonica solo you did on ‘Alfie.’ ”

“That’s what we call the piano bar,” said Catherine.

“Thank you.  Had you stayed later you would have heard me do Carly Simon’s ‘Better Not Tell Her’ for Catherine.  It has a Spanish guitar solo that I’ve adapted to the harp.  I think you would have liked it even more than my ‘Alfie.’ ”

“I liked them both,” said Catherine.

“Tell me Michael, those three women that were sitting at the piano; were you hitting on them?”

Tyne glanced at Catherine, who returned his glance with a neutral expression.  He looked back at Gaby and said, “The younger one, Cali or Kelly – there was too much noise in the bar to get her name – was an airhead; way too young for me.  Mona, nice looking woman, good tits, was married and as Catherine probably told you, I don’t fool around with married women.  Jane, the oldest was too old, so no, I wasn’t hitting on them.  Now had you joined our happy little group, I’m sure I would have hit on you.”

“I was with my boyfriend.”

“I would have hit on you anyway.”

“Oh; he might have objected to that.  Might have whupped your ass.”

“You think so, huh?  Truly?  ‘Cause I think it’s doubtful.”

“Well, if we ever come in again when you’re playing, better be careful.  You are going to join Catherine’s act, aren’t you?”

“She hasn’t asked me yet and I’m undecided whether I want to work with her.  She’s so fucking uptight she must have the biggest damn cob up her ass.  I don’t think the chemistry between us is right.”

“That’s because you think your do-do doesn’t stink,” said Catherine.

Tyne started laughing.  He couldn’t help himself.  He laughed and laughed, tried to stop and couldn’t and his laughter was contagious, because all the women, even Catherine began to laugh too.  When they finally stopped Tyne said, “That is priceless.  My do-do doesn’t stink.  That’s the best put-down I’ve heard in years, maybe ever.  I love it… and her for having the stones to say it,” and he laughed again but only momentarily.  He stopped laughing but he couldn’t stop smiling and several times in the next few minutes he covered his mouth with his hand and chuckled silently to himself.

“You play to hit on women, don’t you?”

“Nope.  Takes way too much energy.  I prefer to have women hit on me and yes, that’s why I play.”

“How well does it work?”

“That’s for me to know and you to find out, except don’t tell your boyfriend.  He might whup your ass.”

“You’re really on a roll, aren’t you?  One real slick arrogant smartass,” said Gaby.  Catherine was having a hard time keeping a straight face.  She was enjoying the barbed exchanges, could see Gaby was getting pissed and she was glad she hadn’t left.  Michael, she decided, could take care of himself.

“Well dear, you bring out the best in me… or is it the worst?”

“Michael, that scar on your leg… it’s from a bullet, isn’t it?”

Well, she finally got to it.  He was beginning to think she was going to let it pass; just busting his balls getting her jollies based on what she’d heard from Catherine.  “You’re very observant.  Yes it is.”

“I thought so.  Well, either you’re an ex-cop; an ex-con or you got it serving in the military.  Which is it?”

“Well, I’m not an ex-cop.”

“But you could be an ex-con?  You certainly have the hairdo for one only I would expect to see tats too.”

“Could be I have them where they don’t show.”  He sipped his coffee and studied her face, in silence.

“Well?”

“Well what?”

“How did you get those scars?  Inquiring minds want to know.”

“If I tell you, what’s in it for me?”

“Satisfaction.”

“You offering me some satisfaction?”

“No.”

“What are you offering?”

“Nothing; the satisfaction I’m talking about is what comes from coming clean… being honest.”

“It isn’t being dishonest not to discuss with a perfect stranger something that isn’t any of her business.  Now if we were lovers… I’d probably answer, reasonably truthfully, any question you asked.  Are you auditioning for the part?”

“Not hardly; would you answer that question if Catherine asked it?”

“Maybe… but there’d still have to be a consideration.  Why don’t you tell me, in words a six year old would understand, exactly why you need to know – that is, unless you’re just having some fun busting my balls?”

“You look like trouble, with a capital T and I’m concerned, for Catherine.”

“She looks like she can take care of herself.”

“She’s vulnerable… and we don’t want to see some slick SOB take advantage of her, now do we?”

“I guess where you went to school they didn’t teach that in debate you lose points when you resort to name calling.  I assume you did go to school?”

“I have a B.A. and an MBA from OSU.  Did you go to school?”

“I graduated from St. Ignatius High in Chicago.”

“Now why doesn’t that surprise me?”

“Before I answer your question, may I ask what you do?”

“I’m a political fund raiser.  I work for the mayor.”

“His name’s Boone, right?”

“Yes, Jeffrey Boone.”

“And he’s a Republican?”

“Yes, he is.”

“And you’re a Republican too, right?”

“Duh; well it wouldn’t really work very well if I was a Democrat, now would it?”

“I wouldn’t know, having never been a political bag man… or is it bag woman, when a woman does it?  No, bad analogy, since a bag lady is a homeless woman pushing a shopping cart and scrounging for spare change.”

“We’re all waiting for an answer.”

They stared at each other for a full minute and then Tyne said, “Did it ever occur to you that I might not relish tearing the scab off something I’ve tried to forget, with the likes of you?”

“Nice try Ace but we’re still waiting for an answer.”

“I can see you’re the ringleader here but you’re all in this together?” and he twirled his finger to indicate he meant all three of them.  He saw Catherine close her eyes and thought he saw her shake her head no, but ever so slightly; perhaps he only imagined it… or was hoping she wasn’t?  The other woman, Sharon, sipped her coffee but he thought he saw the trace of a smirk hiding behind her cup – an expression that could mean almost anything.

I’m waiting for an answer.”

For the last several minutes he’d been studying the three women, comparing their physical attributes, which were prominently on display inside their revealing shorts and jog bra halter-tops.  They were all mature women; in their forties or close to it.  All were very lean and fit looking, which figured since Catherine taught an advanced aerobics class and these were obviously two of her students.  What puzzled him was that Gaby, to a greater extent but Sharon too had very large breasts, high and full and voluptuous, Ds for sure, while compared to them Catherine was flat chested.  Well, not totally but her breasts were much smaller, no larger than Bs, and they didn’t exactly sag but they didn’t stand at attention either, the way the others’ did.  And then it struck him why that was.

“Well Gaby, I’m a fair guy so I’ll make you a deal, since we’re discussing scars.  You tell me all about those two little scars on the underside of your tits and I’ll tell you about mine?”

A slight tightening of her jaw and pressing her lips together in a thin line were her only reactions.  “What makes you think I have scars like that?”

“Come on girl, you’re almost as lean as a runway model and from the looks of your ankles you’ve always been lean.  You’re too lean to have tits as big as those,” and he pointed at Gaby’s breasts.  “They’re surgically enhanced or I’ve never seen a pair of plastic tits.”

“You don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about.”

“Don’t I?  Well, there’s one way to prove who’s right and who’s wrong.  Unless of course you don’t really want to know how I got mine?”

“I don’t have to prove anything to you.”

Tyne stared at her for a moment and she stared back, her eyes fixed on his.  She was good but Tyne knew he was better at the eyeball-to-eyeball game, and he’d seen something, a very slight flutter of her eyelids when he’d used the phrase plastic tits.  Slowly, without taking his eyes from hers, he took out his wallet and counted out ten, twenty-dollar bills and said, “Two hundred bucks says you’ve got those scars.”  She didn’t budge so Tyne took out his checkbook and a pen from the backpack and wrote out a check to Jeffrey Boone, Committee to Reelect, for two thousand dollars, signed it and placed in on top of the stack of currency and said, “For your boss’ reelection and all you have to do to earn it is prove you don’t have those scars.”

She tried to stare him down and when she couldn’t she said, “You sorry son of a bitch,” and then she slapped him.

She rose from her chair but he stopped her from leaving by touching her forearm, ever so gently, with just the tips of his fingers, and said, “Sit… please; you’re going to want to hear this.  By the way, that was a pretty good slap.  You get one… and only one, for free.”

She stared at him with a look that could kill, and then she sat.

“Well Gaby dear, you had your chance to make some rain for Boone and you blew it, but you’re just wetting your fucking pants to know whether I’m a felon or not and far be it from me to disappoint you.  Give me your hand.”

When she made no move to respond he said, “Give me your fucking hand.  I promise I won’t hurt you.”

She finally offered him her right hand.  He grasped it, tightly enough so she couldn’t pull it free and pressed her fingers against the scar on the back of his leg.  “It’s a souvenir from Southeast Asia.  Here’s where the bullet went in,” and then he pressed her fingers to the front of his thigh and said, “and here’s where it came out.  As you can see, it’s a coward’s wound.  I got it running away, just as fast as my little legs would go but obviously I wasn’t fast enough.  The man, or boy, or woman… whatever… who shot me, an unsung and unlamented NLF soldier, was a pretty good shot and lucky for me he wasn’t a better shot.  Perhaps I should have zigged right instead of left or if the A-1 pilot that deep-fried him extra crispy had arrived sixty seconds sooner I might not have been wounded at all.  He was unlamented because there isn’t much left after a napalm barbeque.”

She pulled her hand away and wiped the perspiration from her palm on her shorts and gathered her purse to leave.

“You don’t have to leave; I’m leaving.  Have a prior engagement and can’t be late.”  Tyne put the money and the check in his wallet and said, not looking at her, almost as an afterthought, “Good Republican that you are, I’ll bet Kissinger and Nixon were your heroes?”

“Kissinger certainly and Nixon before Watergate… but Ronnie Reagan is my real hero.”

Ronnie huh?  That figures.”  He now turned to her, looked her straight in the eye and said, “Well Gaby, when it’s my turn to run the world I’m going to haul that fucking Nazi Kissinger before the International Military Tribunal at The Hague for what he did and try his ass as a war criminal.  Most, if not all Republicans aren’t much better.  Scratch a Republican and under the skin you’ll find a fucking fascist.  For my part, I regret deeply that I was involved and had I known then what I know today I would have burned my draft card and taken the consequences.  And as for you, a little while ago I gave some thought to asking you to return with me to my motel, since Catherine is playing hard to get and won’t.  Quite possibly you would have said yes.  But my dick leans too far to the left to ever fit comfortably inside you.  Here’s a flash for you lady: it’s none of your fucking business how I got those scars; you dig?  Now if you ladies will excuse me, I need to go put on some cologne or deodorant to mask the smell of my do-do.”

He left the coffee house and was bent over unlocking his bicycle when Catherine jerked his arm so sharply he had to stand to face her to keep from falling backwards.

“How dare you speak to Gaby and me in front of Sharon and those other big ears that way?  I want you to get your ass back in there and apologize to her.”

“She asked for it.  I tried to get her to leave it alone but she wouldn’t.  That bitch doesn’t care about my scars and how I got them; she was just trying to put me down, probably because of things she heard about me from you.  You’re the one who should apologize, for sharing what I told you in confidence with them.”

“I didn’t tell her about your scars.  She told me.  She and Sharon both saw them when you walked in.”

“I don’t give a fuck who saw what.  I’d sooner cut off my leg than apologize to that fascist cunt, and my advice to you is to leave it alone.”

“Gaby is no fascist and I’m really starting to wonder if you’re playing with a full deck.”

“You are huh?  Well I don’t owe you an explanation any more than I do her or anyone else but I’ll tell you this much.  You’re probably old enough to remember: Hey, hey LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?  And: One, two, three four!  We don’t want your fucking war!   Well, after I finished rehab and left the Navy in ’71 I returned to Illinois for my senior year, and what I heard was: Baby killer, baby killer, how many babies did you kill today?  I’ve never felt as isolated and alone as I did that year and I came that close,” and he held up his finger and thumb to indicate a very small space, “to eating my gun.  Now leave it alone.”

“ Look, I’m sorry you had to serve but she didn’t send you and neither did I.  If you don’t go back in there and apologize, then we’re through before we even get started.”

“So be it but the shame of it is, no one sent me.  I was so fucking stupid I volunteered.  Let’s skip the 2 P.M. meeting,” and as he said this he rode off without looking back.

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