Friday, September 26, 2014

Reading in Flagstaff, this Saturday, October 4th 4-6 pm

I'll be part of a reading celebrating the new book ON FOOT from Vishnu Temple Press, in which I have an essay, "Holy Water."

The reading with be in Flagstaff, AZ, on Saturday, October 4th. Readings will be from the various and sundry essays included in the book.

4-6 pm, at:
The Grand Canyon Trust
2601 N Fort Valley Rd.

If you're in Flagstaff, come on down! See you there! Btw: free!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014


"Leaving" originally appeared in the print journal The Manzanita Quarterly (now defunct) way back in 2002:


The storms would come on summer nights and rain
fell on the roof quiet at first then strong
the bedroom window open and the train
would sound as it passed through the dark
                                                                    the long
trip to Detroit
                        but then the thunder filled
the world and there was nothing else except
the light which came seconds before and willed
the sound
                 I wonder how I ever slept
the wind and branches hitting glass and wood
stray drops came through the screen and fell on my
face cool in the hot air but I would wake
and hear the thunder far away and could
count seconds after flashes came and try
to guess the distance how long it would take

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Masquerade—short story

"Masquerade" originally appeared in Cellar Roots, a (print) literary magazine out of Eastern Michigan University, in Winter 2008.

The catwoman alone in the corner. He approached and asked if he could talk with her. She sipped her sangria from a plastic glass and the left side of her mouth curled up a bit. Sure.
I don’t normally approach strange women at parties but my girlfriend is mad at me and taking it out by talking to other men.
Which one is she?
The dominatrix.
She scanned the crowd. Which one, the one with the whip or the one with the riding crop?
Oh, sorry, the one with the riding crop talking to the fireman and the army general.
She’s pretty.
Oh well thanks. But you know, looks only go so far sometimes.
What did you fight about?
Oh stupid stuff. Like on the way in on the tollway when we got near the baskets, you know, where the coins go in? Well she tells me, you have to put the coins in the basket, and I’m like, I know I have to throw the coins in the basket.
I see.
Like I’m stupid or something.
Nice dress by the way.
Thanks. These shoes are killing me though. I don’t know how you women do it.
Stockings or pantyhose?
Pantyhose. With a lace panty.
I’ve always liked the black-seam-up-the-back-of-the-leg look.
Me too. Are you here with someone?
Yeah. He’s the sixties hippie over there arguing with Albert Einstein over whether as a Buddhist he can be for the war on terrorism.
Oh, so you meditate?
When I can. He goes to the zendo more than I do.
And so do you like cats?
Yes, I have two. Their names are Boots and Scarlet. How about you, are you a dog or cat person?
Cat person I guess. I have this theory about women with pets. Would you like to hear it?
She looked around the room. Sure, why not?
I think women want men to be like their pets. That is, you know women who like dogs like their men to be like dogs and always be around and happy and give them unconditional love even if she’s scolded him or something.
She raised an eyebrow and twitched her whiskers. Interesting. And cat women?
Well, cats are more independent, they like to go off on their own and prowl and hunt, but they still like to come home and sleep on a warm lap. So women who like cats like men like that.
So what does your girlfriend like?
Um, actually she likes horses.
Shouting from across the room. You’re wrong Albert! The only way to show those bastards we mean business is to bomb the shit out of them!
She covered her face. Oh god, he always does this to me.
He’s certainly a loud Buddhist.
He’s like that when he meditates too. I call him the Heavy Breather. It’s like he forces his breath out to show off how good a meditator he is.
She threw her empty cup on the floor and crushed it with her boot. Her tail twitched. So do you want to leave and go back to my place?
Um, well my girlfriend....
She just went into the bathroom with the cowboy.
Oh. Well ok. Let me grab my purse.
They said goodbye to Malcolm X and Barbarella and went out to the street, taking his car.
Where do you live?
Just get on the tollway.
They waited at a red light. A car full of young men pulled up to them and one of them whistled.
She laughed. They must think you’re really a woman.
The light changed blue like an orange and he got on the on-ramp heading away from the city. She groomed herself, licking her tail. Oh, and those baskets? You throw the coins in them, Stupid.
The stars were out and he drove to the suburbs.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

WATER—short story

"Water" was originally published in the literary/political journal LEFT CURVE (no longer with us) back in 2006. Enjoy!

            She chose him because of water. When the Phoenix Journal printed all the responses of the candidates to what they would do if elected governor, he was the only one to mention anything about the water problem in Arizona, which she thought was brave because no one in Phoenix seemed to want to acknowledge that there was a problem, nor would most people want to do anything about it. Which was impossible, she thought. So when he answered that he would ‘find a way to help the people of Arizona conserve water’ she knew he had taken a risk. But he was right, and she wanted to support a candidate who would actually do something and not give in to special interest groups. Whether that was entirely possible she didn’t know. That was part of it. She wanted to find out if there were people who cared, to get involved in a campaign, finally do something instead just hitting a few buttons on election day.
            She called his campaign headquarters about volunteering and was encouraged to come down one night where a group of about twenty people were stuffing envelopes, putting together lawn signs and buttons, eating pizza and having a good time. She helped fold newsletters and got to know some of them.
            He came in later and made the rounds talking to everybody, shaking hands and asking about the new people. He had big hands, and shook hers firmly, smiling and welcoming her, telling her he hoped she had a good time and not to keep volunteering unless she did. He was dressed more casually than when she had seen him before on tv, but still well, with a five o'clock shadow and slight sunburn.
            She enjoyed the night, even though the work was menial. She supposed someone had to do it. So two nights later she went in again and helped put up posters in the office, then went with two other people to help put up posters around the city.
            The third night she went was more of a strategy session. The campaign manager updated people on how things were going, with a tentative schedule of events in the coming months. There were questions and comments, and he came in late from his daughter's soccer game. She watched him, trying to see what he was really like. If he was...she didn't know, if he really cared about people, or if this was all a big joke to him. But no, it didn't seem to be. He seemed sincere, listening to what people said and answering questions, explaining what he stood for. There was a definite energy among the people and she liked that. At the end, he encouraged people to write letters to the editor of the local papers as a way of getting some exposure for the campaign.
            That night she went home and masturbated in the bath thinking about him, about how the campaign might take its toll on his marriage and perhaps he would be lonely, and she would be there for him...That was the first time.
            The next day at work, instead of writing copy for a telephone ad in the newspaper she typed out a long letter explaining why she thought he was the best candidate, concentrating on his thoughts on the water problem and why people needed to start thinking about it, and doing something about it, saving the letter and taking it home to reread.
            She went out to dinner with her sort-of boyfriend and they went back to her apartment afterwards. He wanted to rent a porno but she said no and they watched tv, then made love, but she kicked him out after that. She took another long bath, and afterward reread the letter, marking out all the places in red where she felt maybe she  had been too righteous. In the morning she put the letter in an envelope and dropped it in the mailbox on her way to work.
            That night instead of going into headquarters she went to work a table outside a football game with a few others. At first she just handed out flyers and let the others do the talking, but then they asked, so she tried being one the 'info-people' for passers-by. She didn't like it, feeling stupid holding a clipboard and smiling at people, though most were friendly and a few even stopped to talk to her and she felt she at least maybe got a few people to appreciate him.
            Then an older man approached her and started asking questions, which she tried to answer politely. When he found out she was liberal, he suddenly pointed at her and yelled, Babykiller!
            The other volunteers came to her rescue, but not before the man had told her she was going to burn in hell.
            The volunteers tried to joke with her that she had got the weirdo of the night award, which she appreciated, but when she got home she took a bath and cried, remembering when she was seventeen...and thinking about not volunteering anymore.
            Her letter got printed the next day, and the editors liked it so much they made it a guest editorial set off from the other letters. At lunch with her coworkers they started calling her The Idealist and teased her about bricks in toilets.
            She had almost decided not to volunteer again but thought to at least go into headquarters and when she got there she got a round of applause. When he came in, he invited her into his office alone and shook her hand and congratulated her and thanked her for writing the letter. They talked a bit more and he asked about her job and said that he had heard about what happened to her at the football game and apologized. Then he asked her if she would help him with a speech he was giving in two days.
            He outlined some of the ideas he wanted to touch on, who he was giving he speech too, how long it should be, and asked her to come up with something for the next night.
            She went home and took a bath and masturbated thinking of him. Then she called her sort-of boyfriend and cancelled their plans for the next night. She looked at his notes, his handwriting, in bed, then fell asleep.
            At work the next day she tried to take care of most of the stuff she had to do for a cellphone ad and then during lunch made some notes and during the afternoon, in between rewrites of the ad (amazing how many times a company could change their minds), worked off and on on the speech thinking, finally, finally, my english degree is paying off.
            She presented a hard copy and disk of the speech to him that night at headquarters then waited with butterflies in her stomach while he went into his office and read it. When he invited her in the pages were marked up in red, but he said he liked it. His campaign manager and 'road manager' came in and the four of them discussed the speech. Actually she just sat there and listened and then he asked her to hop on a computer and change some things. Which she did, smiling.
            She took the afternoon off and joined a group of volunteers who went to listen to him give the speech. It went well: He spoke clearly and she found out he had even more charisma in front of a crowd than on tv. Afterwards she was invited to dinner with everybody and they talked about his trip up to Flagstaff for the weekend. He asked her if she would come up with them. She said yes, mentally figuring out what she would have to cancel.
            That night there were two messages from her sort-of boyfriend. She called him back and they argued slightly, and she told him she was going to be busy working for the campaign and that she would call him when she got the time but that she wasn't sure and was he ok with that? He wasn't really, but...that was it. And then she took a long bath.
            The trip to Flag interesting: She sat in the back of the towncar and listened to them talk and took notes that he and the campaign manager came up with for a presentation to the unitarian church on sunday, changing it slightly to mention god when they got a call confirming an invitation from the catholic church an hour later.
            Friday night a fundraiser with local business people. She brought a black skirt to change into at the hotel then at dinner found herself seated next to the president of the local Sierra club chapter, a very funny woman dressed in old jeans and boots.
            But his speech went well and there was much hand-shaking afterwards and she felt proud when the Sierra club lady leaned over and said she really liked what he had said.
            The dinner lasted late and he invited everyone out to a blues bar afterward. She noticed he himself didn't drink but listened to, or tried to listen to, the music when people weren't trying to talk to him, though he was polite. She danced a couple times when men asked but she was too shy to ask him to.
            They all drove back to the hotel and he thanked each of them personally for their work and joked with her that she might have to quit her job and join the campaign fulltime. When they parked and all got out he stopped her, his hand warm on her shoulder, and whispered, “Can you do something for me?”
            She said of course. He seemed embarrassed and pulled out a ten dollar bill. “Could you...go over to the drugstore and buy...a pair of pantyhose for me?”
            “Um, sure....” She took the money, looking at it rather than him.
            “Thank you. It's just. I trust you, and I can't really do it myself because...of how it would look if someone recognized me. And, you're a woman...”
            She bit her lower lip. “No, I can do it. Um, what kind?”
            “Um, whatever you think. Size Q.”
            “Is that...I mean, I think your wife is smaller than that.”
            “Oh. Sorry. They're not for my wife.”
            She looked blankly at him for a second and he smiled and put his hand on her shoulder again and it was warm again and he said, “And don't tell anyone, ok?”
            “Um, no, I won't.”
            “Good, I knew I could count on you. I'll be in my room.”
            He turned and caught up with the others in the lobby. She stood there a second, then crossed the street to the RiteAid at the end of a strip mall. At the hosiery section she realized he had a mistress and her shoulders slouched. Then she thought, no, why didn't the mistress buy them herself unless...unless it was his way of telling her he had a mistress? Maybe he wanted her to be their confidential liason? Or maybe he wanted her to do something with the both of them?
            She couldn't really decide, so just picked some tan pantyhose that she would have worn herself, but size Q. On impulse she bought a six pack of Pepsi and brought everything back to the hotel. She went up to his room and knocked. He opened the door and she could hear men's voices, the managers, behind him. He looked embarrassed again and lowered his voice. “Hey....”
            She lowered her voice too: “I got what you wanted. Here.” She handed him the pantyhose in a plastic bag. He took the bag quickly and stuffed it in his suit pocket. “Thank you, I really appreciate it.” Then in a louder voice she said she bought the Pepsi he wanted and he saw his face change to relief. He invited her in and whispered to her that she was awesome.
            They stayed a while talking strategy. The campaign manager got a call earlier about appearing in Prescott for a small fundraiser. She was asked if she could make that, which she could as long as they came back to Phoenix that night or early the next morning.
            After she got back to her hotel room, she called her sister in Los Angeles to ask her advice. She told her about him, what he was doing, how attractive he was, then about what her sister began to call 'the pantyhose incident' and asked, “So, like, do you think he has a mistress?”
            “I don't know, it doesn't sound like it, It sounds kind of perverted. Like, it was obviously sexual.”
            “I know. I can't figure it out.”
            “I hate to say it but...maybe he's gay.”
            “See. I was hoping you wouldn't say that. Do you think-”
            “That he's wearing them?”
            “I mean-”
            “Oh damn. Dammit. Usually my gaydar is pretty good.”
            “Well, the married ones really hide it well. They have to.”
            “Oh damn. He's really attractive too.”
            “You said that already. You also said he's married,”
            “I know....”
            “And he's running for governor. You think he's going to divorce his wife and marry his speech writer?”
            “I don't want to marry him. Yet.”
            “But he's gay.”
            “But he's gay...I guess.”
            She took a bath and had a fantasy about him again, interrupted occasionally by wondering whether he was really gay or not and also by the idea of him with a mistress. She finally got to bed late.
            Saturday busy, but fun since the campaign manager was getting a cold so she got volunteered to do the speech introductions, which she thought she did alright on and he complimented her on them afterwards. They were all invited to take a tour of Walnut Canyon Park where some reporters came out for a photo op. He was still the same charismatic man and she couldn't help looking, trying to find some clue...and ending up feeling, though disappointed, honored that he would trust her and if he really was gay, well, then fine, his sexuality had nothing to do with whether he was the best candidate for the job.
            He made his church appearances on Sunday, with the unitarians being a little disappointed with him leaving so soon. He was impressed with their questions and told his campaign manager to make a note to come back and visit them again and to try and get in touch with other unitarian churches. The catholics were friendly and baked good cookies.
            They drove to Prescott for the fundraiser dinner and ended up staying late and deciding to go to Phoenix in the morning. At the hotel he took her aside in the lobby when they were getting rooms and asked her again if she would buy him a pair of pantyhose. She had to stay behind and ask at the desk if there was anything open 24 hours in Prescott and then had to call the campaign manager to get the keys to the car to drive to the Wal-Mart outside town. She thought maybe he hadn't liked the color of the other pair so she bought black ones.
            Back at the hotel she knocked on his door and he took a second to get there, then peeked out and smiled and said he had almost given up on her and thanked her. She asked if black was ok and he said black was fine and thanked her again and said she looked very beautiful.
            She hesitated, then thanked him, and he hesitated, then said goodnight. She said goodnight and went back to her room and thought about calling her sister to ask what she thought about him saying she was beautiful, but then fell asleep.
            They got up early and made it back in time for her to drive to work and get there on time, though a little bit exhausted. The next two nights she didn't go into the headquarters but did do a little forwarding of emails to people on their list. Wednesday night she went to a mexican movie showing at the art theatre in Scotsdale and tried not to read the subtitles and see if she could understand everything, and sort of could, and afterwards went into the mall to go to the Brentano's bookstore that she liked a lot and look around. On the way she passed the Victoria's Secret store and went in because there was a sale on panties and she needed some more. She smiled when she saw the pantyhose section and bought a pair of sheer black ones she liked. When she got back home she got online and wrote him an email saying she had a present for him. After she clicked send there was a moment when she thought, maybe I shouldn't have done that. But the next morning at work she checked her messages and he wrote back saying if it was what he thought it was she had just earned a high-ranking post after he won the election. She wrote back saying that she would be content to be his speech writer when he ran for president.
            Thursday she went into headquarters and worked on the campaign newsletter all night and hardly got a chance to talk to him, but did slip into his office when nobody was there and put the pantyhose in the pink Victoria's Secret bag into his briefcase.
            On friday there was a party in Scotsdale in one of the big houses on the side of Camelback Mountain. She wore her fanciest black dress and practiced walking in high heels before so she didn't fall on her face when she got there, she hoped. She went with a guy from the campaign who wanted to fuck her, not that he was a bad guy, but she managed to unload him onto another woman from the campaign early in the night. There were lots of people and she even spoke briefly with a singer from a heavy metal band called Megadeth and his wife and flirted a little with a man (married) from Guanajuato Mexico.
            He showed up late with his wife and she felt herself get jealous slightly, though she told herself she shouldn't be. He introduced them and his wife said, “Oh yes, he's told me about you.” Which she thought was odd.
            Later on she stepped out on the balcony that looked out over the city and watched the car lights on the streets. He wife came out and asked if she could join her. Thinking to herself, oh shit, she said of course.
            Without looking at her, his wife said, “I just wanted to talk personally with you. He likes you a lot and everybody likes how you've helped with the's just that I know he's not very good at...communicating.” She took a sip of wine. “He trusts you, so I will too. discrete.” Then she walked away.
            She left the party soon after without saying goodbye to anyone. When she got home she got online and wrote him an email titled 'what the fuck?' and told him what his wife had said and asked him what exactly he wanted, was he gay or did he want a mistress or what? Then she called her sister and told her everything.
            Her sister sighed. “You bought him Victoria’s Secret pantyhose?”
            “Well yeah, I thought he would like them. I mean, even if he's gay I still like him.”
            “But, he's kind of your boss.”
            “I know, but if he doesn't want sex then I thought I could at least make him happy.”
            “I don't know...with his wife...something's going on.”
            “She knows.”
            “Yeah. It doesn't sound like she was necessarily happy with what he's doing. I say run away now.”
            “But if he's not happy in his marriage? I mean, maybe...
            “Maybe this whole thing could turn into a mess. But then, you never listen to me. You're going to keep doing something, I can tell. So, what?”
            “I don't know....”
            The next morning busy at work but in the afternoon she checked her messages and he had written her a long email telling her she was very attractive, he was not gay, at least not really (what did that mean?) and apologized for his wife. He asked her to go to Tucson with the crew the next day and spend the night and they could talk in the hotel room.
            Talk? What did that mean? But she accepted and got the afternoon off though her boss was starting to get annoyed and asked her if the 'governor' was paying her more.
            She waited in her hotel room, late, almost falling asleep, before he called. His voice nervous, asking her to come up to his room.
            He had left the door ajar so she didn't have to knock. She came in and closed it behind her. She noticed her hands trembling. The lights off except for a small one in the corner.
            He was lying on the bed wearing the Victoria's Secret pantyhose she had bought him. His legs shaved. His cock hard and bulging out against the tight material.
            He said hello and thanked her for coming. And that she was beautiful.
She said thank you and couldn't stop staring. He asked if it bothered her seeing him like that. She said no. He asked her to strip down to her underwear and pantyhose and let him touch himself while he looked at her.
            She paused. “That's it?”
            “Yes. Please.”
            She hesitated, then unbuttoned her blouse and took it off, watching as he reached into the pantyhose and started to masturbate. She unzipped her skirt and stepped out of it and stood there, hugging herself.
            He asked her to pose for him. She didn't know what that really meant so she didn't do anything. He told her to tell him to jerk off for her.
            She looked at him. The next governor of Arizona touching himself wearing Victoria's Secret pantyhose. “Jerk off for me.”
            He increased his speed and kept looking at her body. Then he said, “Call me a slut.”
            She licked her lips. “You're a slut.”
            He closed his eyes and tensed. “Yes....”
            His sperm shot out onto his stomach and he relaxed. “Oh god yes...”
            She stood there watching him. He finally opened his eyes and looked at her. “Thank you.”
            She put her clothes back on. As she was buttoning up her blouse he said, “I hope that wasn't too weird.”
            She shook her head. “Uh, no. Of course not.”
            “Did I make you uncomfortable?”
            “Um...Maybe a little.”
            “Damn. I'm sorry. It was wonderful. Would you like me to lick your pussy?”
            “Uh no, that's ok.”
            “You didn't like this.”
            “It...wasn't what I expected.”
            “Do you think...I mean, would you let me do it again?”
            “I guess. Maybe.”
            He got up and put his hand on her shoulder and thanked her again. She looked down at the sperm on his pantyhose where his cock was still leaking. She said goodnight and left.
            She went back to her room and took a long shower and cried. She almost called her sister but didn't and fell asleep.
            In the morning she got up early and rented a car and drove back to Phoenix and went to work. He sent her an email apologizing, which she didn't answer. He sent another one and she wrote back saying she needed to think about things and she would call him.
            She didn't volunteer anymore, telling the people from the campaign who called that she was too busy at work. He wrote her another email apologizing again and asking her to come back and work for him, that he wouldn't bother her again. But, he said, if she didn't come back he would understand, and he asked her not to tell anyone, and that he trusted her. She didn't answer it.
            And in the end, she still voted for him.