On Archimedes Street Release–Last Post

November 20, 2013

You have yet to meet the parents, Paule Saint-Paix, Achille Abbott, and Say-Say Abbott. Two of them are wily, and the third is a saint of a mother hen. They’re among my favorites.

Eight people left comments. Two are ringers. The first was a test, since I wanted to test how commenting works. And Dennis, you can’t fool me! If you want my book, you’ll have to buy it!

That leaves six people, and I promised five books. Seems cruel to leave the odd man out. So, thank you to:

  • JJ
  • Susan
  • Trix
  • H.B.
  • Theo
  • Andrea M

As soon as the printed books are available and I can get my clammy mitts on them, I’ll send them to you.

Leave me your contact information here: Jeffersonwrites@gmail.com. If you’re uncomfortable sharing your address, I’ll try to find out whether Dreamspinner can send them directly to you on my dime.

I had a ball, but my day job calls.

Jefferson–”It’s Never Too Late for Love”–Parrish

On Archimedes Street Release–Part 5

Let’s not forget Wailin’ Elwood the Tree Man, shrewd in his granting of sexual favors, and the besotted Special Ed. In this scene, Elwood and Ed meet for the first time. Ed has seen a Help Wanted sign in front of Elwood’s shotgun single, and Elwood’s dog, Larceny, is the first to spot him:

Behind a shutter, Wailin’ Elwood the Tree Man watched the scene. With hunger and desperation in his eye, he concentrated intently on the man petting Larceny. Life circumstances had made Elwood a preternaturally keen observer, but he trusted Larceny’s instincts as much as his own. The man had passed the first test.

Elwood made his initial assessment. Dressed by the Little Sisters, so must have been sleeping rough. Not a dime in his pocket. Desperate as me.

“Nothin’ wrong wit’ dat cayoodle. He jes’ scratch his pad. Limp be gone in a day or two.” Elwood stepped out noiselessly from behind the shutter.

Ed, startled, jumped up from his crouch over the dog. The man had moved so silently that Ed was caught unawares. “Er—I saw the sign.”

The man had a secret, Elwood could see. Was he the one?

“Sleepin’ rough lately?”

Ed was stunned. “Er—yes. I could really use a job.”

College guy, Elwood registered. “How the Little Sistahs are?”

Ed flushed. “What kind of job is it?”

“Oh, helpah. I the tree man. Also cook some for pawties. An’ play the piana on Sattaday mornin’ in the fawmer’s mawket.”

“Tree man? An arborist?”

“Dat too,” Elwood deadpanned. “You know anythin’ ’bout shapin’ trees an’ bushes an’ dat shit?”

“Er….”

“Don’t hafta lie.”

“Well, not much,” Ed said. And then in a rush: “But—give me a chance—I’ll do anything you want. If I can’t do it, I’ll learn it.”

“You look fit enough.” Bought those muscles at a gym, but a few weeks of tree work would start putting real muscle on him. “Ain’t rocket science.”

Please, Mother Cabrini! “How did you know about sleeping rough and the Little Sisters?”

“Ain’t rocket science, needer. See dat shirt? Bin wash’ more often dan your teeth, an’ you wash dem after every meal, doncha, Poily? When you ain’t drunk.”

“Oh.”

“An’ dat ol’ shirt bin press’ bettah dan a weddin’ dress. An’ darn’. Wit’ stitches so tiny like you see on a bap-dismal robe. Dem’s nun stitches. An’ why the Little Sistahs dressin’ you? Dey eeder foun’ you on the street or more prolly when dey toin you loose from the lockup. An’ you on the street or in the lockup cuz you drunk, right? An’ broke. Else why you applyin’ for dis shit job?”

Shit. Just what I need. A regular blue-collar Sherlock Holmes.

My beta readers have had varying reactions to the dialect I use. To me, Yat, the native speech, is the heart and soul of the place. And I couldn’t resist trying to re-create it on the page. At an editor’s suggestion, I included an author’s note with a “cheat sheet.”

All the how-to books warn against dialect. I bucked the trend. Do you think it works? Does dialect put you off?

 

On Archimedes Street Release–Part 4

As a first-time novelist, I had to figure out the process of writing as I went along. I’d dream up plot possibilities while woolgathering on the bus, in the kitchen, and in the yard. I’d heard it said that sometimes characters spring to life under then pen—or the keyboard, in this modern world—like Athena from the head of Zeus. I didn’t see how that could be.

Then Mimi materialized under my fingers. At first, she was simply the occasion for a joking exchange between Dutch and Flip. She appears in an early scene with her arm in a plaster cast. Dutch clearly wants nothing to do with her. “Don’t like her much, do you, Dutch? Why not? She’s really cute.” Dutch answers, “Nah. She’s broke.”

Then I needed to populate a bar scene in the French Quarter and decided to place Mimi there. Well, she took over and would just not be denied center stage. Here she is, in snippets from various scenes, with Googs, her admirer, who is star quarterback of the Redemptorist Rams.

Here is the bar where she moonlights:

The concept behind Glitz on Bourbon—familiarly known to its disheartened employees as Titz on Bourbon—was threadbare and fully obsolete ten years before the club opened its doors. The proprietor, Carlton Carrollton, had been of an impressionable age when he first visited the Playboy Club. He had loved the idea of keys, of membership, of the posh surroundings and the playful but classy Bunnies. A very young Carlton, key in hand, had savored the unfamiliar sensation of privilege.

Glitz, which had taken every penny of Carlton’s savings, was a diluted, dispirited imitation of its outmoded inspiration. Carlton, facing an empty house night after night, had quickly given up on the notion of membership. He’d tried one-night membership, a sad euphemism for “cover charge,” which his patrons—largely Alabama and Mississippi college boys—saw right through. What remained was a cardboard key, handed out to patrons desultorily by Cleanhead the barker as they entered. “Your key to a good time!” it proclaimed jauntily. But since the keys were not good for a drink, they ended up littering the floor of Glitz like so many peanut shells crackling underfoot in a Far-West themed steakhouse.

Another Playboy throwback was the uniforms the “Glitz girls” wore. Carlton had not wanted simply to ape the Playboy Bunny franchise, and he’d come up with a truly knockout and original uniform design. Tonight, Sandra, Myrtle, and Dora wore it: a white satin tailcoat barely concealing pasties over nipples, white piqué bow tie and collar worn like a necklace, black bikini thong, fishnet stockings, and a white top hat. As a cost-cutting measure, Carlton had passed on the expense of maintaining the Glitz uniform to his waitstaff. Myrtle Guerrère—who’d had the sense even in second grade to ditch “Myrtle” and reinvent herself as Mimi—especially resented the expense. White satin was the most impractical thing that pain-in-the-ass Carlton could have come up with. Leave it to him to dream up this loopy uniform. The dry-cleaning costs were eating her up alive.

Still, she needed the job if she wanted to get through Redemptorist College. Stints as a personal trainer were far more profitable, but few and far between. The job sucked, really and truly. She’d have to fend off Sandra’s advances once again tonight, she knew. Nonetheless, she had a fondness for Sandra. She loved how Sandra jerked around the college boys. Dora, with her drooping tits, was not a crowd favorite, but she was a font of wisdom. “Don’t end up like me, honey,” she’d told Mimi. “Stay in college.” Cleanhead the barker could be relied on to do double duty as a bouncer when things got rowdy. Eusebio, the Mexican mixologist and dishwasher, rounded out the Glitz crew. It was sweet, really, thought Mimi—Eusebio didn’t mind Dora’s sagging tits in the least.

The crew had developed an odd solidarity, wedged, as they were, between the rock of the raucous college boys, all hands, and the hard place of the penny-pinching Carlton, short-tempered, panicking at every turn, and fearful of losing his investment.

And here is her reaction to the appearance of Dutch, Flip, and Googs at Glitz:

“Slumming, boys?” Mimi had moved silently to the table. “I know these clowns, Sandra, leave them to me.” Sandra flounced off.

Mimi? Dutch’s baritone deserted him in favor of a squeak.What are you doing here?”

“Paying tuition. What about you, hotshot? What’s your excuse?”

“But here?” Dutch circled one arm to encompass the sordidness of Glitz. “Surely there must be something else.”

“Oh, it’s all so easy for you, isn’t it, Dutch? Dutch, the golden boy, who never had to lift a finger in his whole life. Bet someone still wipes your ass for you. Have you tried to get a job lately? Oh, excuse me, I forgot. If you wanted a job, your daddy would snap his fingers and the limo would appear out of thin air to drive you to it, wouldn’t it?”

“Mimi, that’s not fair. Why didn’t you tell me? We could have found something. What about your personal trainer gigs?”

“You and Say-Say were my last personal trainer gigs, and you sure didn’t spread the word about me, did you?”

“You had a personal trainer? And it was Mimi?” Flip couldn’t suppress the glee from his voice.

“Oh, shut up,” said Dutch.

“Yeah, and you shoulda seen him, honey, before I worked on him. Can you say ‘adenoidal scarecrow’?”

Dutch frowned in annoyance. “But Mimi”—he motioned vaguely at her uniform.

“Yeah, so they can see my tits.” She shrugged. “Well, not all my tits. And yeah, some of these ding-dongs try to paw me, but that doesn’t mean I’m easy. Dutch, I’m the first person in my family ever to go to college, and I swear I’m going to graduate if I have to dig ditches!”

Flip and Googs, enjoying this exchange immensely, traded glances.

“Mimi, I’m an asshole,” said Dutch. “I’m sorry.”

Eyebrows flew up, both Flip’s and Googs’s.

Not expecting this from Dutch, Mimi had the cunning to summon sudden crocodile tears. She swept her hand over the small table, and the glasses crashed to the floor. “Dutch, I fucking hate it!” she sobbed.

Carlton winced at the crash. His profit margin was reed-thin. All he needed was for that stupid Myrtle—he relished the name on the income-tax forms she’d filled out and never called her Mimi—to break every glass in the place. That girl was determined to bankrupt him!

He rushed to the source of the noise. “You stupid girl, what are you doing? You think I’m made out of money? Now clean up this mess. This is coming out of your salary, you bet your pretty bootie.”

His words enraged Dutch. “Leave her alone!” he yelled. Hearing the commotion, Cleanhead had come inside, ready to give these clowns the bum’s rush. But he stopped short when he heard Dutch taking Mimi’s side. Cleanhead had always liked pluck, and Mimi was made out of pluck.

Anger, mostly at himself, burned in Dutch. He strode to the bar. A cowering Eusebio ducked. Dutch swept his beefy hand over the glasses lined in front of the bar mirror, sending them flying.

“My barware! My barware! Cleanhead, do something!”

Dutch gathered himself. “That won’t be necessary.” He dropped a handful of bills on the table. “If that doesn’t cover it, please send a bill to my father, Councilman Achille Abbott.”

Carlton’s eyes grew wide.

“C’mon Mimi, you’re coming with me. Fellas, let’s blow this pop stand.”

Googs and Flip were both thinking what a great time they’d had at Glitz. Dutch dragged Mimi out by one hand.

“Hey!” Googs called out to Sandra as they left. “Can I snort some coke with that bill later?”

“Anytime, jockstrap, anytime. In your wet dreams.”

“Wasn’t that romantic?” swooned Dora to Eusebio and Sandra. “Just like Richard Gere and Debra Winger at the end of An Officer and a Gentleman,” she sighed.

“Hhmmpff. And what a shit piece-of-crap that movie was,” said Sandra.

“Well, excuse me for living,” replied Dora.

Oh shit shit shit. Carlton’s mind was abuzz. That big goon was Achille Abbott’s son? He could pull the liquor license out from under Glitz in a heartbeat. Shit shit shit shit.

They end up on Bourbon Street, with Mimi astride Googs’s shoulders and Flip astride Dutch’s.

At each backstep, Mimi and Flip were thrown forward into Googs and Dutch. Flip and Mimi clutched at each other to maintain their balance. At each dip, their crotches bounced up and down into nape and bottom of skull. Mimi was beginning to feel a pleasant moistness and warmth in her crotch as it nestled into and rode the base of Googs’s skull. She stopped to consider the man she was riding. Dumb jock, but built pretty good. Big old Italian sausage, she’d bet.

“Siiinnnng! Do the dirty thing!”

Googs’s head nestled right into her. She pictured that Italian sausage sliding in and out, and Googs so grateful and drooling. Well, maybe she could go for some of that. Dutch was out of her league, and, in truth, she had a reverse Pygmalion complex going on with him. As buffed as he was, she couldn’t forget the beanstalk he’d been. Well, Mimi thought, as she milked her crotch into Googs, she was smarter than any man. Googs could be trained. But “Pizzalotta” had to go the way “Myrtle” had gone so many years before. She’d be damned if she would go by the name “Mimi Pizzalotta.” “Googs Guerrère” didn’t sound bad. Even better, “Gregory Guerrère.” Hell, it’s been done before. But first, her degree. She couldn’t trust Googs to graduate from septic-tank-cleaning school. Let him play football for a while, then flunk out. He’d do just fine working in the chain of fitness centers she intended to run someday.

And, if you’ve ever been in the French Quarter during its rowdy moments, you’ve probably heard the “show your tits” chant. Here’s how Mimi handles it.

Dutch’s suggestive lyrics got the crowd going. “Show us your tits!” someone screamed. The crowd took up the chant.

“Show your tits! Show your tits! Show your tits!

Mimi drew the white satin tailcoat closer. “Get your fourteen-year-old cousin in West Virginia to show you her tits, creep! You know the one I mean—the one with the rotten teeth! And the two kids!”

The crowd roared its approval, suddenly and capriciously championing Mimi, and she sailed her white top hat into it. Hands reached out for it. It took more than this crowd to scare her. She was a Glitz graduate.

Sandra would have been proud.

After my parents’ divorce, I observed first hand the obstacles a woman with both beauty and brains had to maneuver. In the fifties and sixties, that combination just didn’t compute. So thanks, Mama! Not that you were perfect. She was good at math and I wasn’t, and once she told me, “It’s a simple percentage! You just move the decimal point! What are you? Stupid?” But I made it anyway, Mama, without math.

I find that M/M novels generally portray women in a positive light. There’s the sister, grandmother, best friend—all adjuncts to the protagonists—dispensing wisdom and oiling the rusty track toward happily-ever-after. Sometimes they’re lively, and sometimes they’re cardboard cutouts. And sometimes—and I hate this—they’re evil incarnate, usually in the guise of the jilted girlfriend seeking terrible revenge.

Do you find a misogynistic streak in some slash literature? How do you go about depicting a flesh-and-blood woman, warts and all, while respecting her?

On Archimedes Street Release–Part 3

Next up are FrenchyDominic, and Dominic’s father, Manny. Frenchy and Dominic are schoolmates, and in this scene, Frenchy meets Manny for the first time.

Frenchy loved Dominic’s house. It smelled like something compounded from thyme, furniture polish, wood shavings, and something else he couldn’t name. And he adored the shabby, sagging furniture. Dominic and his dad lived in the shotgun on the right, and Dominic had told him his dad ran his cabinet-making and woodworking shop from the shotgun on the left.

“Frenchy!” called Dominic. “Been waitin’.”

A man came out of the shotgun on the left as Frenchy approached.

“Dad, this is Leo Saint-Paix. But everyone calls him Frenchy. Frenchy, this is Dad.”

“Hi, Frenchy,” said the man.

“Hello, Mr. Twardowski,” said Frenchy, extending his hand.

“Welcome, Leo/Frenchy. I’m Morris/Manny. But call me Manny. Everyone does.” Dominic’s dad grinned. “See, we already have the nickname thing in common. I understand we’re going to do some pitching today.”

Frenchy fidgeted slightly. “Yes, sir.” If only I didn’t throw like a girl.

Then Frenchy took the measure of Dominic’s dad. He was shirtless and barefoot, and he wore khaki shorts that came to his knees. Five eight, with massive arms and shoulders. Underneath the prominent pecs nestled a small rounded belly. The pecs protruded and dominated the belly, with its button swirled in hair. The torso was long in relation to the legs. His long arms and short legs gave him a simian look, and his whole body shimmered in gold, just as Papa’s had. Frenchy could see a few wood shavings clinging to the gold fuzz. The gold-covered legs were slightly bowed. Fine gold hair, with a sharply receding hairline eventually destined to meet the bald spot just barely visible at the crown of his head. He’d have a lovely monk’s tonsure in ten years or so. Forehead reddened with the sun, splotched with brown spots, and a deep tan on the rest of the body. Tortoise-shell glasses, turning a grimy white at the temples, sat crookedly on a too-large but straight nose. Faint puppet lines around his mouth, and the merest hint of a cleft chin. Hairless shoulders covered in freckles. Smile askew, straight white teeth, with a slight gap between the two front ones. Square, calloused, beautifully shaped, and none-too-clean fingers and toes, with the nail of one big toe black but growing out shell-pink like the others.

In short, thought Frenchy, the most beautiful man on the face of the planet.

“Let’s see what you got, Frenchy!” said Manny.

Frenchy felt a fleeting panic.

“Dad, c’mere,” said Dominic. He whispered in Dad’s ear, “He throws like a girl. Don’t do this. Don’t humiliate him. Teach him first. Dad, he needs a dad.”

Manny looked at Dominic with pride. “You’re a great kid, you know that?” he whispered back.

“Southpaw?” Manny asked Frenchy.

“No.”

And then he bent his five-eight frame into Frenchy’s five-six frame and grasped Frenchy’s throwing arm from behind. “Okay. So you’re pitching. First, get the right grip on the ball.” He moved Frenchy’s fingers so they gripped the ball across the seams, first two fingers splayed and thumb across the bottom seam. “Now you move your arm in a circle.” He took Frenchy’s arm and moved it slowly in a circular motion. “The farther you wanna throw, the bigger the circle. Point your front shoulder toward Dominic. Now move this back foot”—he grabbed and moved Frenchy’s foot—“perpendicular into Dominic, the target. Close your hips”—Manny maneuvered—“and line everything up.”

Manny took over Frenchy like a puppet, and Frenchy willed his hardening cock down.

“Now twist your wrist to keep everything as vertical as possible when you let her zing!

Leo/Frenchy leaned back into his wood-, soap-, and man-scented instructor. And let her zing.

“Yow!” cried Dominic. The force of the ball twisted his gloved hand.

“Good one, Frenchy!” said the man.

Frenchy, half hard but going down, pressed back farther into Manny, a grin splitting his face.

“Will you show me with a football sometime?”

“You got it,” said the man.

I’ve noticed that romance novelists take varying approaches toward the physical description of characters, especially when they are meant to be beautiful or handsome. (The not-so-beautiful usually get far longer descriptions, because defects are far easier to describe than perfection.) Some novelists give the barest outline of the beautiful protagonist, letting the reader’s imagination fill in the details. Others give fuller descriptions. I haven’t made up my mind which I prefer.

But I definitely prefer not to see protagonists depicted on the cover. No matter how compelling the prose, if the cover depicts a Fabio lookalike—I personally am not attracted to that type—I can’t help envisioning the character that way. And sometimes that can spoil the whole thing.

The folks at Dreamspinner let writers give a lot of input into their covers. Which do you prefer—full face or body, torso, no people at all? Has a particular cover enhanced or diminished your enjoyment of the book? Has any cover “hit the nail on the head,” depicting your ideal?

Now a word of wisdom, from someone probably much older than you, which I did not believe when I heard it many years ago: “Everyone, no matter what shape, form, size, age, or physical condition is somebody else’s sexual ideal.” I scoffed at the notion then. I was wrong. Believe it.

On Archimedes Street Release–Part 2

Next, I’d like you to meet Rita and Honoria, fast friends, and their archenemy, Lotte LaNasa. Rita and Honoria have conspired to make Dutch and Flip roommates in the vacant apartment in Rita’s shotgun double bungalow on Archimedes Street. Lotte, widow of Raymond, runs the grocery at one the corner of Archimedes Street. She is on a clandestine mission, but she is discovered and confronted by Rita and Honoria.

She watched them surreptitiously as they mounted their bikes and headed for the ferry. They wouldn’t be back until midafternoon. Just to be safe, she waited an hour and a half, in case they had forgotten something and came back for it. Then she grabbed one of the new cloth grocery bags Gaia had miraculously procured in a short two weeks. They bore the legend: “LaNasa’s—Keeping the Green in Greengrocer since 1937.” She hurriedly stuffed items into it. At first, she hadn’t trusted in her surmise, but the evidence had been mounting. She had to find out.

“Armida! I back in a hour. Hol’ down the fort. Put Eunice on the vegables—don’t let her nowhere near a regista. An’ Clyde on the stockin’. Oh—and the waterless urinal people might be comin’. Don’t let dem bring dat thing t’rough the front door for the customers to see!” Gaia had assured her it was sanitary, but she still had her doubts.

The heels—she’d been making more of an effort with her appearance lately—made their distinctive step-step-slide-step tattoo on the banquette. The LaNasa green bag was brimming over.

She knew exactly where they hid the spare key. She reached for it, opened the door to their shotgun, and quickly replaced the key. Once inside, she drew the shades in the living room and went about her errand.

In the adjoining shotgun, Rita and Honoria were discussing attire for the bride and maid of honor.

“Let’s invite the least amount of ridicule that we can. Knee-length, both of us. Can you imagine long gowns?” Both women tittered.

Honoria held out her coffee cup for a refill. “Thank God, no classes today. I can wallow in idleness all day.”

Rita wandered into her bedroom and returned to the kitchen holding a dress on its hanger. She twirled it to show both back and front to Honoria.

“Black? You can’t wear black to your own wedding!”

“But I look best in black.”

“And I look best in white, but I wouldn’t dream of wearing it to a wedding!”

“Oh, you are so convention-bound!”

“Me? I’m not the one who is getting married in front of a Baptist preacher, waiting for the wedding night, making decisions about the processional and recessional music.”

“I know.” Rita’s shoulders slumped. “You’ve got to understand that Doodie is very traditional—”

A loud crash from next door interrupted Rita’s lamentation.

“Mother Cabrini!” they heard a familiar voice shout. “Help me!”

They were up and out in a second, their spryness belying their ages. Rita reached for the key in its hidey-hole.

All the shades were drawn in the living room. Rita hit the light switch. “LaNasa!” they cried in outraged unison.

Lotte was splayed on the floor, looking dazed. She offered two words of explanation. “I trip.” Damn heels. Then three more. “Hit my head.”

“On what?” Honoria, physiologist, frowned worriedly.

“Corner of the desk.” Lotte rubbed her temple.

“Rita—go get your penlight.” Rita retreated next door for the penlight she kept on her keychain—it came in handy when she and Honoria went out to dine. The lights in restaurants these days were so dim, how did they expect anyone to read the menu? Meanwhile, Honoria helped Lotte up and shepherded her to a kitchen chair. When Rita returned, Honoria peered with the penlight into Lotte’s pupils.

“You’ll be fine,” she said drily.

“Well, is she well enough to explain why she is breaking and entering into my tenants’ apartment, invading their privacy?”

Beginning to recover, Lotte recognized the diciness of her situation. “Lemme explain.”

“Please do,” said Rita icily.

“Well, at foist I t’ought dey twins.” Rita snorted. “Den I realize dey not twins, but brudders.”

“And how does that justify your breaking into their house?”

“I nebber broke in. Use the key.”

“But why?” asked Honoria in frustration.

“Bin seein’ things. Hearin’ things.” Then Lotte whispered reverently, “I think dey havin’… relations.”

“Why?” asked both women, excitedly. Maybe their matchmaking had worked!

Then Honoria remembered herself and said, “And why is that any of your business? We’re in the twenty-first century, after all.”

“Cuz dey brudders! Dat wrong, ain’t it? An’ cuz, you know, I always t’ought of dem as mine.”

Rita and Honoria exchanged glances. Each knew the other was guilty of the same sentiment.

“LaNasa, don’t be making yourself ridiculous, chasing after young men.”

Lotte drew her bosom up and her shoulders back. The bump on her head was forgotten. “I nebber chase after no man. Quite the oppasite, in fack. An’ if I ebber did decide to get togedder wit’ a man, it soitanly wouldn’t be wit’ no man twenty-five years younger dan me!”

“Thirty,” said Rita.

Lotte glared.

“But what did you hope to achieve by sneaking in here?”

“To fine out, wunst and for all.”

“How?” in unison, again.

“Got dis black light….”

“The Stink Detective!” said Honoria.

“Yes,” said Lotte, eagerly. She withdrew the gadget from the LaNasa greengrocer bag, along with the instruction booklet. She pointed to a blob on the booklet. “Dis here? Dat semen! The pink wagon come tomorrah. Figger I shine it on the sheets before the laundress come. See if dey sleepin’ in the same bed, if any semen on the mattress! An’ not on the udder mattress,” she whispered.

“But young men….”

“Know all ’bout dat. But if alla the semen on one mattress…,” she hinted darkly.

Rita and Honoria exchanged glances again. Finally, Rita said, “Honoria, let’s stop being hypocrites and pillorying LaNasa for wanting to know what we want to know too.”

The three looked at each other. There was a brief pause. Then they all sprang into action.

They entered Flip’s room first. The bed was perfectly made. The three women worked speedily, wordlessly intuiting the role each should play. Honoria drew the blinds. Rita scrunched to plug in the detector. Lotte shone it over the bed. “Les’ not waste our time here,” Lotte cried out.

Dutch’s room was a horse of a different color. The bed was rumpled. Lotte drew the sheets back gingerly, using only her fingertips. The violet light of the Stink Detective revealed glowing continents on the sea of the mattress. They consulted the booklet. Not saliva, blood, urine, or feces. Lotte gave a triumphant scowl as she replaced the sheet.

Animated, the three scurried to the bathroom and flipped open the top of the laundry hamper. Honoria sped to the kitchen to find a pair of tongs while Rita plugged in the detector. Lotte directed the beam of the black light, and the story was told. Almost every brief, every sock, every T-shirt gave off an eerie, ectoplasmic glow.

Lotte looked at them victoriously. “Tol’ you! Lawd! It a ocean of the stuff. Dey mus’ be at it night an’ day!” Honoria and Rita exchanged smug, satisfied looks.

It was then they heard the scritch-scratch of a key in the lock. The three froze.

“Into the kitchen, quick!” said Lotte.

Honoria replaced the tongs in the tub that held spatulas and spoons. Rita stood transfixed in shame in the darkened kitchen. Lotte rooted around in her LaNasa bag. She withdrew a cake box and some matches.

They heard Dutch whoop. “Be it ever so humble. Canceled! All hail the god of canceled!”

“Why is it so dark?” Flip asked.

Lotte busied herself with the matches.

As the two men entered the kitchen, Lotte broke out into song.

“Happy boit’day to you, happy boit’day to you….” She elbowed Honoria, who joined in tentatively. Then Rita.

“Happy birthday, dear….” Honoria and Rita waited for Lottie’s cue.

“Flii-iii—” said Lotte. On “li-iip,” Honoria and Rita joined in. “Happy boit’day to yoouuu.”

“Blow out the candles!” said Lotte.

“How did you know it was my birthday?” asked Flip. He hadn’t told anyone. The cake was a dobash, a LaNasa specialty. He loved that cake. He blew out the candles.

“Oh, a little boid tol’ me,” said Lotte airily. “We meant to su’prise you when you came back in the evenin’, leavin’ it on the table. You su’prise us comin’ back so soon.”

Heaven knows that’s the God’s truth, thought Honoria.

“You don’t have to have it now if you don’t wanna. Jes’… happy boit’day! So glad to have you here wit’ us in the neighborhood.”

Dutch looked at the women suspiciously. “It’s your birthday, Flabbott?”

“Well, yeah,” he said shyly. “Didn’t think anybody knew.”

Safely back on the Archimedes Street sidewalk, the women heaved a sigh of relief.

“How in the world did you know it was Flip’s birthday?” Honoria demanded.

“Cawd’ him when he bought beer. Figger I need a covah story if I get caught in dere, so I wait for today. Lawd knows a woman—’specially a woman wit’out a man—need to covah her ass, figger the angles, have her covah story in place. Night an’ day. An’ you know dat ain’t no lie.”

The women silently acknowledged the sad truth of Lotte’s statement. “LaNasa, maybe I’ve underestimated you,” said Rita. “You are a woman of parts!”

Lotte looked offended and sniffed at Rita.

“Oh, not those parts, you silly woman!”

Snooping is not an admirable trait. I try to resist—I  really do—and my partner’s browsing history, email, and even holiday cards are strictly off limits, unless he shares them. But I confess that in my past, especially in my youth, there were times when I couldn’t resist taking a peek. Once, I was very sorry indeed, because I wound up knowing something I really wish I hadn’t known. To this day, even though I try not to eavesdrop, certain conversations I overhear on the streetcar are just so compelling that I’m drawn in despite myself.

But now I’m a novelist! Watch out, you people riding the streetcar or confiding secrets! You might end up on the pages of a Dreamspinner book.

I’m very interested in the natural history of snooping. Is it ever justified? Have you ever been caught? Fair warning—anything you leave in comments may end up in the pages of a future book.

On Archimedes Street Release–Part 1

Greetings, readers of spinners of dreams, and everyone else! Jefferson Parrish here. It’s my first time out of the gate, and I’m totally stoked. Totally stoked and pretty much clueless when it comes to blogs, so bear with me until I get the hang of it.

On Archimedes Street is a comic work that celebrates its setting—New Orleans and its environs—and the people, culture and, speech rhythms of that region. It’s an ensemble work—and I’d be hard put to say who the main character is. So I thought I’d structure this blog, by way of excerpts, as a cast of characters. Let me first introduce Dutch and Flip, tall, handsome, and—of course—destined to fall in love. Here is the scene where Flip finally acknowledges his attraction to Dutch:

“Googs, can you explain the basis for the system of blood classification?” asked Honoria.

“Uh, A, B, and O,” croaked a hungover Googs. Mimi and Flip were looking pretty green around the gills as well after four bottles of Dom Perpignan and the rich food at Anton’s.

“Well, not exactly. Although you did manage to name the major blood groups. But what is the basis for those groups? Anyone?”

Silence. “Dutch?”

Dutch jiggled his knee. “The basis for those groups is the presence of glycoproteins on the surface of the plasma membrane of the red blood cell.”

“Yes.” The class seemed especially dull and lethargic today, thought Honoria. “Those proteins are called antigens and sometimes agglutinogens, and when they are accompanied by plasma proteins called antibodies—also known as agglutinins—they set the stage for certain reactions. Can anyone explain how these reactions occur?”

Dutch telegraphed a silent threat with his eyes. Don’t call on me again.

“The reaction is the clumping of blood cells, called agglutination,” Flip offered groggily.

“True, but not what I asked. Agglutination occurs when antibodies react with red blood cells bearing different antigens. It’s for this reason that blood is typed before transfusion of whole blood or packed cells. So that the blood won’t clot in the recipient’s vessels, causing death.”

Mimi was dragging tail. A transfusion sounded pretty good right about now. Maybe it would put some pep in her step.

“In today’s exercise, you will determine not only your ABO blood group but also your Rh group. You’ll see from the materials list that you will need microscope slides, anti-A, anti-B, and anti-Rh sera, lancets, alcohol swabs,….”

Dutch and Flip worked at their bench in the back. Flip had already swabbed his finger and drawn a drop of blood with the lancet. Mother-effer hurt like hell. It felt strange to purposely wound oneself, and he fought a slight feeling of nausea. He wiped off the first drop, per the instructions, and waited for a drop of blood to well up again. He then placed a drop on each side of the first slide and a drop on the second slide. He walked over to the sharps disposal bin and dropped in the lancet.

Dutch flinched when he lanced his finger. He watched mesmerized as the drop of blood oozed onto his fingertip. And then he began to see funny.

His field of vision narrowed down to the dark red, and he seemed to see nothing in the periphery, nothing but that glowing red dot. Then the dot multiplied itself and he saw a whole field of red dots. As he watched, intrigued, the dots began to dance, first jigging to the left and then jigging to the right. Dutch cocked his head curiously.

As he looked in fascination, the dots also began to move toward him as they zigged and zagged. The dancing dots grew larger and larger as they approached him, and the dots at the edge disappeared as the field of dots came nearer. Finally, there were only four; and at the next zig, two; and finally only one, flooding his retina in red. At the final zag, Dutch fell blissfully into that red dot.

Flip was walking back from depositing his lancet in the sharps container and glanced up to see Dutch, standing and looking at his finger. He held his hand about a foot and a half from his face and stared at his finger with glazed curiosity. Honoria happened to look up, saw Dutch, and recognized the symptoms.

“He’s going down! Catch him, Flip!” Just at that moment, Dutch’s eyes rolled back in his head and he began to topple.

Flip was right there. He scrunched down, and bent and braced his knees in preparation before taking Dutch’s full weight. He caught the big man, staggered, and circled his arms around him. A pliant, inert Dutch crumpled into him, armpit to Flip’s nose.

Flip hoped his shaking would be attributed to the strain of having to hold up a very heavy Dutch. He breathed tentatively into Dutch’s armpit, and then he just let himself. Dutch would never know. He took breath after deep breath of the most intoxicating scent he’d ever experienced. He was embracing Dutch, and he realized how desperately he’d wanted to embrace him for weeks now.

As the other students came up to offer assistance and help lay Dutch flat on the floor, Flip looked at the handsome, softly breathing form.

He realized he no longer wanted to hide from himself. His mind inventoried his desires with newfound candor: He wanted to lick every inch of Dutch’s body, inhale him totally. He wanted to sniff the stupid show-off from his toes to his ears, with a long detour midway. He wanted to do to Dutch’s crotch just what he’d just done to his armpit.

The cock-lust was upon him.

“Give him room! Give him air! Prop his feet up!” yelled Honoria. Then, with a satisfied smirk: “It’s always the big lugs who faint at the sight of their precious drop of blood.”

I suppose there are as many kinds of love—and as many ways to fall in love—as there are people on the planet. By convention in romance novels, however, two prevail.

First, there’s the stroke of lightning out of a cloudless sky that stuns the poor lovers, leaving them spellbound. In this bolt-from-the-blue tradition are Cupid’s arrow, Love Potion Number Nine, and just plain old love at first sight. “The very instant that I saw you,” Shakespeare has Ferdinando say, “did my heart fly to your service.” But then again, Shakespeare has the potion-addled queen, Titania, fall instantly for Bottom, who’s been transformed into a donkey. Seems that even Shakespeare is of two minds about love at first sight. But I like it. It happened to me once. Unfortunately, it wasn’t reciprocated.

In the second tradition is the love that sneaks up on you from behind without warning. You look at the coworker, fellow student, neighbor, old friend—all familiar and comfortable as an old shoe—and suddenly realize it. She/He is the one! Under my nose all along! In a more prosaic context, it’s like suddenly realizing that the track you always skipped over is the very best one on the album.

Of course, these oversimplifications are the stuff of romance novels. Real life is more complex. Do you think it’s possible to fall in love at first sight? Sometimes you hear couples in cultures where the parents arrange marriage say, “We fell in love after we married.” Can two people marry because of compatibility and convenience and have that bloom into love? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section. At the end of the day, I’ll draw lots and give away a paperback copy of On Archimedes Street to five of the people leaving comments.

9 Responses to “On Archimedes Street Release–Last Post”

  1. KC says:

    Nice post

  2. Andrea M says:

    I definitely believe in love at first sight. I met my ex-husband and we were married 1 week after. The marriage lasted 3 weeks. I married my current husband because of the sense of peacefulness I had when around him. We’ve been married 17 years. So – I believe in one but will take the other any day of the week.

  3. Theo says:

    Hmm… I’m sceptical about love at first sight. I accept lust and attraction at first sight but I always think that real love is something that develops over time. I’d like to believe that love at first sight does happen in real life, but so far, I can’t say I’ve ever seen it outside of a romance novel, LOL

  4. H.B. says:

    I believe all of the above. I’ve known people who have been friends for years before I guess they came to the realization that that person was the one for them. My own cousin lost contact with someone she had a short acquaintance with and 8 years later they somehow reconnected online and a short while later were married.

    I do think it’s possible to fall in love or at the very least be content in an arranged marriage. My ex-neighbor’s parents had an arrange marriage and they had nine kids and are still together. I like to believe it’s because of love and not something else.

  5. Trix says:

    I’ve heard enough stories that I believe that any of the mentioned methods are possible. (I don’t even think “love at first sight is always lust” holds–what if, say, you first see your beloved saving the day somehow?) I think I’ve always liked friends-to-lovers best, though…

  6. Susan says:

    I’m of the camp that thinks love at first sight is really lust at first sight. That being said, lust can turn into love. I llike the thought of finding love in an old friend, although it never happened to me. Lust at first sight, certainly.

  7. Dennis says:

    I do believe in love at first sight. It happened to me the first time I saw a dobash cake.

  8. JJ says:

    I do believe in love at first sight, not that it’s happened to me or to anyone that I know of. I’ve seen on TV and read blog posts of people who have.

  9. Jefferson Parrish says:

    Susan–

    If you would like me to send you a book (either paperback or eBook), let me know where I can send it. Thanks for commenting.

    Jefferson

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