Jill was already busy with the next client and ignored the middle-aged woman, who seemed slightly lost between the sanctuary of self-beautification and the ride home to judgment. She turned to me instead, smiling expectantly, obviously awaiting my appraisal, awaiting a stranger sporting a pair of testicles to validate her.
I could no longer hold my tongue. Stepping six inches toward her, I whispered, “Do you know the three things men really want?”
“I beg your pardon?” she said, blinking up at me, surprised by the question.
I just smiled back at her. “Good afternoon. I’m just another man with a big fat opinion, here with Toni, the make-up artist. But I couldn’t help hearing your exchange with Jill. Would you answer my question?”
“What do you think are the three things men really want from a woman?” I asked, staring into her eyes.
She looked off into space momentarily, then back at me, and focused on my face.
“Well, first, they want their women to look good.”
“You think?” I asked.
“And secondly, they want their woman to care for their home and table,” she said hopefully, looking for my approval.
Again, I just smiled back.
“And they want us to love them,” she said matter-of-factly, awaiting some sign from me.
“Do you believe that women have incredible power over the men on the planet?”
She didn’t answer.
“I know you’d like to have power and equality in your relationships with men and especially your husband. Would you like to know what three things men want from their women?” Not waiting for her answer, I said, “I’ll tell you. Men want your appreciation for their contributions to the hearth, they want your respect for their actions and beings, and they want your sex.”
Her mouth fell open.
“Are you with me?” I asked as kindly and patiently as possible. “Let’s reverse it, shall we? What are the three things women want from their men?”
She looked at the floor and laced her fingers together in front of her crotch, backing away from me six inches.
I moved toward her three inches.
“Well,” she started, “they want their men to think they are beautiful. They want their men to find them sexy.” She paused for a few seconds. “And they want their men to appreciate them.”
“What’s your name, my dear?” I asked, taking her hand.
“It’s Donna,” she said quietly, pulling back slightly from me.
I didn’t let her pull away, I didn’t look away from her eyes, and I didn’t let go of her hand.
“I was raised by women, have known hundreds of women, and I love women.” I winked at her and emphasized, “No, I really love women. Here’s what women have taught me so far: First, they want to be listened to and understood, without their men giving them any sort of advice or solution to their problems. They just want their men to shut up and listen to them. Second, they want to be validated, accepted for who they are, right where they are. And third, they want their men to cherish them and love them unconditionally.”
Her eyes teared, and she looked wistfully to the floor.
About Scott Gressitt
An amateur writer and rapscallion, I write of my past, a life laden with extraordinary events. I have walked in places most of the population avoids. Besides scars and bruises, I’ve collected experiences that frighten, delight and entertain. I write with the intent to take you on a wild ride where all your senses are fully engaged. Enjoy.
Photo credit: Angelldolls via a Creative Commons licence.
This morning, a coyote,
lean as bamboo, eats apricots
fallen from our tree.
Our cat, safe from him at last,
sleeps under the porch.
My fists uncurl. I place the broom
in its corner. Curses turn
to honey on my lips.
No longer a wild predator,
the coyote is a stray dog,
already too thin at summer’s end.
I think of our feral childhood,
the way you, a little girl, vamped men,
the flesh-eating lies you told.
Our house rocked
with your tsunami tantrums.
You were a lion-sized chameleon
roaring the shutters down,
while I kept so quiet
even I forgot I was there.
Now, I pretend
Grandma sits you in a high chair,
calls you “child,”
wraps a lacy bib around your neck,
sings you lullabies,
and serves you the stewed apricots
About Penny Perry, also writing as Kate Harding
A three time Pushcart nominee, twice for poetry and once for fiction, my stories and poems have been widely published in literary magazines. Fiction Daily tagged my short story “Haunting the Alley,” published online in Literary Mama in August 2011.
My first collection of poetry, Santa Monica Disposal & Salvage, was published in 2012 by Garden Oak Press. The collection earned praise from Marge Piercy, Steve Kowit, Diane Wakoski, and Maria Gillan. I was the fiction editor for Knot Literary Magazine, a Middle Eastern literary journal. I was a screenwriting fellow at the American Film Institute, and my movie A Berkeley Christmas aired on PBS. And, I’ve just completed a novel about a school shooting.
Discussing Magician’s End, the Riftwar Cycle conclusion
Preceded by open mic for original poetry and prose
Date: Tuesday, December 10, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Location: Fallbrook Library, 124 S Mission, Fallbrook, 760-731-4650
Raymond E. Feist is the internationally bestselling author of the fantasy series, the Riftwar Cycle. Begun in 1982, Feist’s thirtieth book in the cycle, Magician’s End, concludes the series. Feist is a Southern Californian by birth and a San Diegan by choice. He was educated at the University of California, San Diego, where he received his B.A. in Communication Arts with Honors in 1977. His books have been on both the New York Times and the Times of London bestseller lists.
The author will be discussing his series and Magician’s End, which will be available for sale and signing.
The short man in the purple tuxedo led Ruth and Ellis into the showroom, heading up into the rafters, the nosebleed section, his hand extended out behind him, fingers wiggling in expectation of the customary gratuity that would earn a better seat.
Ellis pulled a twenty out of his wallet and moved it toward the expectant fingers, but Ruth hit that twenty like a toad’s tongue hitting a fly. She crumpled the bill and stuck it in her cleavage. Then she grabbed the greedy tuxedo man’s hand and crushed it, bones grinding together as she said, “Think you could steer us in the direction of a better seating arrangement, knucklehead?”
“I believe that I can,” said the little man, his voice cracking with the pain of pulverized bones, as he led Ruth and Ellis to their stage-side seats.
A Marilyn Monroe look-a-like opened the show. She sang a song in a little girl voice, got her dress blown up by a phantom gust of wind. She giggled and cooed, and then she stepped out into the audience, looking for somebody middle-aged and paunchy, a benign soul to embarrass. She picked Ellis, pulled him up onto the stage to hoots and laughter, pushed him into a folding chair and sat down on his lap, kissed his bald head, and then slipped her tongue into his ear.
When she jumped up and said “Ouch!” in that little girl voice, as if she’d been pinched (the crowd always loved that part), Ellis took the initiative to give her goose, hard and deep, something he wouldn’t have done if he’d realized that she was a guy.
Marilyn, abandoning the girlish whisper for a resonant baritone, shouted, “YOU SON-OF-A-BITCH, WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE?” as she rubbed the area of the violation. Then she swung at him as he sat in his chair, but Ellis blocked the blow with a forearm, and he and the lady went over together, backwards, with Marilyn on top, her dress up around her arm pits.
The crowd loved it.
Except for Ruth.
She stalked through the orchestra pit, jumped up onto the stage, pulled Marilyn to her feet and grabbed a fistful of her hair, which came off. Then she wrestled her to the center of the stage for fisticuffs, as Ellis made his exit, stage right, where Elvis Presley and Liberace grabbed a hold of him for the security guards.
But the security guards were busy getting their asses kicked by Ruth, who had cold-cocked Norma Jean, and was now raining blows on her new assailants, to the opportunistic, improvisational accompaniment of the band and light man: cymbal crashes and white explosions for a solid head blow; bass drum thump and a burst of blue for a body punch; a tuba groan and a hundred criss-crossing thin red beams for a kick to the groin.
The crowd loved it all the more.
Ellis, meantime, tried to get a little wager going with his captors on the outcome, but Elvis said, “You kiddin’ partner? They’ll have to use a bazooka to bring that woman down,” and Liberace said, “Bet against her? My goodness gracious that woman’s a beast. Those poor boys don’t have a chance,” he concluded, as Ruth punched one of the security guy’s lights out, and the other two ran through the orchestra pit and up the aisle through the audience.
Then Ruth went on a search for her husband, Ellis the Gooseman.
About Dan McClenaghan:
I write stuff.
I began with my Ruth and Ellis/Clete and Juanita stories in the early 1980s. At the beginning of the new millennium I started writing reviews of jazz CDs, first at American Reporter, and then (and now) at All About Jazz. I’ve tried my hand at novels, without success.
I’ve been published in a bunch of small presses, most notably the now defunct Wormwood Review. This was in the pre-computer age, when we whomped up our stories on typewriters, then rolled down to Kinkos to make copies, which we stuck in manila envelopes, along with a return envelope with return postage attached. Times have changed.
Aside from the writing, I am married to the lovely Denise. We have three wonderful children and four (soon to be five) beautiful grandchildren; and I am a two-time winner—1970 and 1971—of the Oceanside Bodysurfing Contest. Kowabunga!
Lori Bryant: As she sat across the table on her first eHarmony date, Miranda fixated on the three wiry hairs protruding from that plump little hunk of flesh in front of the man’s ear canal, and she knew she could not stay another moment unless she asked him if he would object to her trimming his tragus.
Mary Barnes: When I told Gus to hand me his tray, he said, “Can’t—it’s fastened on.”
Beth Escott Newcomer: In that moment his ear became more irresistible to her than the story she was telling and her lips stopped whispering and her tongue started exploring, beginning with the low-hanging lobule, then up under the scaphoid fossa, around the stiff crus of helix, past the tragus and all the way down to his intertragic notch, which was where she paused to hear him let out a sweet sigh.
Thanks to our judges, Dan McClenaghan and Penny Perry, and to our winners and all who contributed! ……………………………………………………………………
Our next contest is … the Itty Bitty Murder Mystery
Submissions: A barebones murder mystery that—in 100 words or less—explains the following:
Who did it? To whom? With what? Where? Why?
Prizes: Books, of course, for the top three entries
Your submission(s) may be any style, any tone—have at it!
Deadline: Wednesday 04 December 2013.
Winners will be announced, and books awarded, at next month’s reading, on 10 December, in the community room at Fallbrook Library, 6 p.m.
By entering this contest you give permission for your entry(ies) to be published online by www.ExcuseMeImWriting.com.
Email your entry(ies) in the body of a message to firstname.lastname@example.org, and include the following information:
How your published name should appear
Email (will not be published)
Phone (will not be published)
Any questions? Email or call K-B at email@example.com or 760-522-1064.
It began when I knew my mother would die. A doomed attempt, perhaps, to revive the past and bind it to a family now scattered on the winds of a splintered clan, I’m not sure. But as Mother’s tremulous hands repeated their final diversion—rolling and flattening her napkin, rolling and flattening her napkin again—I knew she would soon be gone. I kissed her and my long-dead father farewell, expecting them to reunite on some ethereal dance floor, and I began my search for Ada Latta.
I knew little of my great grandmother, only the stories my elders told my siblings and me. They introduced us to Ada, the college-educated, single teacher, who boldly departed Clinton, Kentucky and rode into the Oklahoma Territory of 1893 to stake a homestead claim. Smitten by the handsome stakeholder next door—or maybe they were smitten by each other—Ada and John were married and made a passel of babies, while John attracted the animosity of the local bad guys, whom he lambasted in his newspaper, necessitating the family’s late night escape to Cuba.
Or Ada’s husband was a ne’er-do-well who curried the town’s disfavor with his drinking and shooting, and they were firmly invited to leave the town they helped settle.
Or Ada and John made a godly mission to save the heathen natives of Cuba, surely ascending to prime seats in heaven when they died on the island, leaving their children to beat it back to the states on a banana boat and find shelter with understanding kin.
The conflicting stories made Ada intriguing, surely a subject worth writing, whatever her story might actually be. I was enamored.
I cruised genealogy websites, made virtual introductions to cousins I hadn’t known I had, spent late-night hours reviewing digital records and conflicting interpretations, culled a rare fact here and there, phoned historical societies and university library archives, tracked one dusty connection to the next with few rewards, and questioned the sanity of my pursuit.
Then I packed my bag and hit the road in search of Ada.
And what a trip it’s been. From national archives in D.C. to Oklahoma’s prairies to the bottomlands and burgs of western Kentucky and beyond. Along the way, small town museums and crumbling courthouse records revealed pearls of information about Ada and her family that drew me like a worker ant on a pheromone trail. Just as enticing were the people, fabulously generous people who knew nothing of me or Ada Latta and did their darnedest to help me find her.
There was Lori, an unknown volunteer on the other side of the country, who dug into records and located an unmarked grave.
A Daughters of the American Revolution D.C. office staffer who gave me more information than was my due—“Hey, they’re long dead. You take it, girl!”
An Oklahoma Department of Libraries team that distracted me from their rotting leather-bound volumes to insist I join them for their ice cream social (ice cream stokes the search).
The neophyte bed and breakfast operators who put me up in a room fit for a queen (a French queen) and introduced me to the who’s who of historians in their town.
Curators who dug into their files for me and shared research war stories.
……………………Delmar Smith, dog trainer extraordinaire……………………..
An aged cowboy, determined to find me some big bluestem prairie grass, grass Ada might have ridden through to stake her claim.
Delmar Smith piled me and my notebook into his humongous pickup and said, “I told them I wanted everything on it: This is the gas eatingist thing!” And off we went, on the ten dollar tour of an Oklahoma prairie that doesn’t stop until it reaches the edge of the world, where monsters lurk. “This is what they call the tallgrass prairie. Nobody slip up on you here. You know they coming.” …
Next: Makin’ lazy circles in the sky
Note: Makin’ lazy circles in the sky is from the song “Oklahoma,” from the musical of the same name, lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein, music by Richard Rodgers.
I looked the speaker over. He was at least 6 foot 4 and easily had 50 pounds on me. He looked like he had the IQ of a shovel and the temperament of a wolverine.
As words began escaping my mouth, I instantly imagined myself dying at his feet, bleeding out, brain dead from blunt force trauma. “Well, my friend, I have a three part answer. A, my father raised me as a gentleman and pressed me to always come to the aid of a lady in distress. B, I got up late and took this alley as a short cut to my favorite java joint. And, C, my filters have been broken since I went through the windshield of my truck twelve years ago and I don’t know when to shut up and mind my own business. In summary, if you hit her one more time, I’ll die trying to stop you.”
He let go of her and turned to me, his southpaw winding up down around his ankle.
This is gonna hurt so bad, I thought, as his fist flew my way.
I put my head down and charged, lunging shoulder first toward his sternum, resigned to whatever punishment the future promised.
He went down, my head locked in his well-muscled right arm. He laughed as he pummeled me with his left.
I was impressed by the sounds of banging and crunching that seemed to be coming from the other end of the alley. Looking up, I noticed the sun highlight yellowing fall leaves circling by. It was a beautiful morning.
I managed to reach up and pinch his lower lip between my thumb and knuckle. With everything I had, I yanked his lip down until I felt tissue begin to tear. I thought that would distract him enough to reconsider his attack, but alas, it furthered his rage and I felt him wind up for the big one.
As the idea of grabbing his balls started to form a cohesive thought, I noticed the woman.
Just moments before, she had been cornered in a defensive position. Now she moved aggressively toward us and slammed her heel into his left eye.
Normally, that would’ve left a nice shiner by the next morning, but, sadly for Grizzly Adams, she was wearing stilettos.
He roared as the heel plunged through his eyeball and the soft tissue behind it. Then he lay still, sighed, and relaxed his grip on me.
“You owe me, you fat old fuck.” She sneered, yanking her shoe from his eye socket and wiping his blood off the leopard skin print with his shirt.
It took a moment to register that she was talking to me.
She slipped her shoe on, arranged the mess of platinum curls on her head, and turned her back on me, moving down the littered alley at a remarkable rate, stilettos and all.
I slowly picked myself up from the pavement, nursing my swelling head.
She turned and hollered from a hundred paces, “Which way you going, old man?”
“To the nearest doctor, sweetie.”
“Well drop me off at 10th and Market on your way.”
“That’s not on my way.”
She stopped in her tracks, hands on her hips, eyes rolling, “Really. You were willing to die for me, but you can’t drive me six blocks?”
“Yeah, yeah, OK, get in, my dear.”
“I’m not your dear.”
“You certainly aren’t, are you? Lucky for you, Father raised a gentleman.”
“Your father raised a pussy,” she insisted, oozing disdain.
She got in anyway and, of course, pulled out a pack of cigarettes and lighted one, filling the morning with her foul blue cloud.
I wondered what sort of life had lead her to this point.
As if reading my mind, she said, “He was a piece of shit. Someone should’ve killed him a long time ago.” Then she added absently, “My name’s Kelly.”
She looked out the window, taking in the morning traffic, the locals moving through the city, ant-like and busy.
I shut up. I was out of clever one-liners and my head was throbbing. As I pulled up to her corner, she was half way out the door before I came to a stop.
Without looking at me, she swung the door, squeezing out a “K. Thanks” as it slammed.
I turned my car around and headed to the local ER, saying to the door, “All righty then! Sure has been an interesting morning meeting you and Grizzly. Sorry it was under such adverse circumstances, Miss Kelly. Perhaps after they sew my face back together, we could have coffee. I know a great little place in Bankers Hill that has the best croissant.”
About Scott Gressitt
An amateur writer and rapscallion, I write of my past, a life laden with extraordinary events. I have walked in places most of the population avoids. Besides scars and bruises, I’ve collected experiences that frighten, delight and entertain. I write with the intent to take you on a wild ride where all your senses are fully engaged.
Preceded by open mic for original poetry and prose
Date: Tuesday, November 12, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Location: Fallbrook Library, 124 S Mission, Fallbrook, 760-731-4650
Diana Gould is an award-winning scriptwriter, producer and author of the new murder-mystery thriller Coldwater, lauded by television producer Steve Bochco as “not only a gripping murder mystery that exposes the lurid sex lives of Hollywood’s elite, but also a harrowing tale of addiction and redemption.” Gould has written pilots, movies, episodes and mini-series for network and cable. She was writer-producer of Dynasty, executive story consultant on Knot’s Landing, her script I Love You—Good-bye won the Population Institute Award, and she served on the Board of Directors of the Writers Guild of America. She received an MFA in fiction from Bennington, has taught fiction, screen and playwriting in the MFA program at Goddard, and coaches writers privately.
The author will be discussing Coldwater, which will be available for sale and signing.
Before Betty Friedan, before the pill, Diane Wakoski wrote about what other girls only whispered to their best friends: sex, rebellion, unwed mothers, freedom, equality.
In her 24th and newest book, Bay of Angels ($20, 134 p., Anhinga Press, Oct. 15, 2013), she reflects on the woman she once was. From her poem “La Baie des Anges”:
So many lovers for this girl with long black stockings and Alice in Wonderland hair … I thought of myself then/as a knight questing for love … I might see the Grail, hovering shimmering over each man tattooed or leathered or wearing motorcycle boots.
A heroine to women, she grew up in Whittier, California, in what she once described as “a shack next to an orange grove.” It is the birthplace of her idiosyncratic personal myths, woven from weedy chaparral. From there, she moved to the blooming plum trees and green hills of Berkeley.
Within the third section of Bay of Angels, entitled “The Lady of Light Meets the Shadow Boy,” the poem “Marilyn Gives Me a White Fleshed Peach” captures how, in the land New Yorkers view as a cultural desert, Wakoski remains proof that poetry lives in our groves, our irises and poppies, our oceans and hills:
My sister always offers me fruit of the season – this May it was white peaches whose skin peeled away and left me with scented flesh that tasted like moonlight, cool, singular, almost transparent, a goddess food.
In an age when young women were supposed to be demure and undemanding, Wakoski kept saying, “I want, I want,” always in a conversational style that has, in her newest books, perfected the colloquial tone William Carlos Williams brought to poetry. Each new poem in Bay of Angels is an intimate, secret-shedding letter—and each takes place in a self-contained universe. The result creates a tapestry that rivals the richness of a novel. From the poem “Wanting to Wear His Tweed Jacket”:
… I wanted him in every landscape. But he led me, he led me to the oceans of wheat, the battlefields of wheat, the plains where no Sappho ever lived or sung.
Always grounded in a certain place and time, these poems take flight. The first section, “Celluloid Dreams,” is named after some of her favorite movies, including, Jacques Demy’s La Baie des Anges and David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive. Like those films, her images dazzle. From her poem “Mulholland Drive”:
A sailor’s daughter without a silver compass, charting a course, navigating the movie screen, I have looked for mariners all my life, trying to find my father.
Early in her career, Wakoski gave herself permission to be the “mythic Diane, rewriting her life in poetry, sometimes surreal and abstract, other times being the everyday woman in a supermarket.” In “‘The Spiral Staircase:’ Oranges vs. Apples,” she spies her younger self:
… just the child shaped like a shawl, thick ankles and wrists, old-woman child, a little witch child
In the same poem, she describes her childhood home:
the house where the piano sat upright like an old maid at a dance.
Just as she has for more than six decades now,she continues creating her own personal mythology: an ex-lover is the Motorcycle Betrayer; she is a shape-shifter, identifying with Diana the Huntress and the phases of the moon; the Diamond Dog tracks her lost father. She even created a twin brother, David, the lost boy who keeps her company. Casting myth into an everyday reality, she can, with her “California eyes,” watch as “Persephone Steps Off the Elevator at the Fourth Floor”:
and emerges again onto the adobe walled landing, the Southern California horizon wide as an avalanche …
In the introduction, Wakoski notes that “The Bay of Angels, of course, is a place, but to me it’s where I’d like to drown, with angels all around me, holding cards and offering me poker chips, should I ever have to die that way.”
The three sections of this collection provide room for this 75-year-old to long for sex, for love, for her father, for glamour, for winnings at the gambling table. These new poems are juicy with a love of music, food, sex, butterflies, birds, pop culture, highbrow literature, travel, friends and family.
“Each poem has a secret,” she has said in the past, “and a problem that must be solved.”
Of the 41 poems in Bay of Angels, some of the most endearing are dedicated to Mathew Dickman, the brilliant young poet she addresses as “Pizza Boy” and “Shadow Boy.” From “Goldfish Narratives”:
Boyish face, cowlick in his shiny hair, hand placed on my arm so as not to startle me when he creeps up in the skate arena to say, “hello, Diane.” Not the boy who killed his sister’s goldfish, not father, not brother. I give him the role of Winter’s Champion, bashing at the memory – his and mine – of mistaken violences.
Celebrated for his own imagery, his shrewd observations and a fearless, touching vulnerability, Dickman introduced Wakoski, a guest lecturer at this summer’s poetry festival in Idyllwild, California, wearing an “I Love Wakoski” t-shirt. It was an echo: Back in the 60s, when women her generation were fighting for their rights, Wakoski’s poems told them they weren’t alone.
The t-shirt also carries a new promise. Every day now, when old, white men seem intent on turning back the clock to take women’s hard-won rights away, that t-shirt—and this book—keep fueling the courage to say, “Quiet down, boys. We’re working here.”
In one of the final poems in this collection, “Reinventing the Measure,” the links between eras and places, myths and realities, illustrate how Bay of Angels equals the stature of the American original who is Diane Wakoski:
we do both live in the same place, near a great ocean: it is called poetry.
Penny Perry is a three-time Pushcart nominee, twice for poetry and once for fiction. Her stories and poems have been widely published in literary magazines. Fiction Daily tagged her short story “Haunting the Alley,” published online by Literary Mama in August 2011.