Against the Wind

Yesterday I only managed to revise one chapter, but I am chalking that up as a win. I figured if I do one chapter a day it’ll be done by the end of the month, and there will be days when I’ll revise more than one, which will put me further ahead of schedule. This weekend I managed to get caught up–I didn’t get as much done as I would have liked, but what I did get done caught me up again, and that’s really what I needed to have happen. And it did. So, that’s a win.

I don’t know why I am so hard on myself.

Seriously.

I’ve not decided what to read next. I checked Caleb Roehrig’s White Rabbit, a queer y/a, out from the library, but I kind of also want to read either Hollywood Homicide by Kellye Garrett or Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Certain Dark Things, which is a vampire novel set in Mexico City and comes highly recommended by my horror peeps. I’ve got an entire pile of diverse books, including John Copenhaver’s Dodging and Burning, Kristen Lepionka’s The Last Place You Look,  Kelly J. Ford’s Cottonmouths, Chester Himes’ If He Hollers Let Him Go and Cotton Comes to Harlem, Frankie Bailey’s The Red Queen Dies…so many wonderful diverse books–and there’s even more than that. I know I have a Rachel Howzell Hall book on the shelves somewhere, and it might not, actually, be a bad idea to dive into some New Orleans/Louisiana history…decisions, decisions.

There are, frankly, worse things in life, to be honest, then being unable to decide which book you want to read next.

I think my sleep schedule is finally stabilizing. I slept very well on Sunday evening and as such, wasn’t tired even after a twelve hour shift yesterday when I got home. We’ll see how tired I am tonight when I get home from work after day two of twelve hour shift; but instead of working straight through, I have a doctor’s appointment in between testing shifts so I’ll be doing that instead…and since I’ll be over in that part of time, am going to treat myself to Five Guys for lunch. Huzzah for Five Guys!

One can never go wrong with a delicious burger. And Cajun fries to go with it. YUM.

Ever since the Great Data Disaster of 2018, I’ve felt disconnected in some ways to all the projects I was brainstorming before it happened…which is why I think reading some local history might just do the trick of reenergizing me with the Monsters of New Orleans project. My life is so defined by said Data Disaster that I can hardly remember what was going on before it happened, and I’ve felt, as I have said numerous times, disconnected, and not just from Monsters of New Orleans, but from everything, and when I try to get everything back on track, it just seems like all those things are adrift in fog and I can’t quite get my hands on them again.

Which, obviously, sucks. But it’s life.

I had all kinds of plans for the future before a little disruption called Hurricane Katrina came along, too. And the time before the evacuation seems like it was a million years ago, and I can barely remember the time evacuated or the time after I returned, or that first year back in the carriage house. My memory is a sieve–and I used to have the most insane memory! I could remember all the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys titles in order, and could even tell you the plots. I used to be able to remember details about every book I’d read, including plot and characters and scenes. I used to be amazing at Jeopardy and Trivial Pursuit. Not so much anymore, sadly. I like to think I am forgetting things now because there’s so much more to remember, and some things are getting crowded out by new memories…but I think it’s more a symptom of being older than anything else.

Sigh.

And now back to the spice mines.

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Take Your Time (Do It Right)

Monday morning, and surprisingly enough, I am not feeling homicidal. I know, I know, and this despite the forecast for snow in the early morning tomorrow. That’s right–snow. In the forecast. For early Tuesday morning.

Madness.

But looking at the forecast again this morning, it’s shifted a bit from last night; it’s going to be cold, but not cold enough to snow.

But still.

Anyway, I am very pleased to share with you the Agatha Award nominees–lots of friends on this list, but most importantly Susanna Calkins made the list for Best Short Story for her contribution to Florida Happens, “A Postcard for the Dead”! How cool is that?

Here are the nominees:

Best Contemporary Novel

Mardi Gras Murder by Ellen Byron (Crooked Lane Books)
Beyond the Truth by Bruce Robert Coffin (Witness Impulse)
Cry Wolf by Annette Dashofy (Henery Press)
Kingdom of the Blind by Louise Penny (Minotaur)
Trust Me by Hank Phillippi Ryan (Forge)

Best Historical Novel

Four Funerals and Maybe a Wedding by Rhys Bowen (Berkley)
The Gold Pawn by LA Chandlar (Kensington)
The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey (Soho Crime)
Turning the Tide by Edith Maxwell (Midnight Ink)
Murder on Union Square by Victoria Thompson (Berkley)

Best First Novel

A Ladies Guide to Etiquette and Murder by Dianne Freeman (Kensington)
Little Comfort by Edwin Hill (Kensington)
What Doesn’t Kill You by Aimee Hix (Midnight Ink)
Deadly Solution by Keenan Powell (Level Best Books)
Curses Boiled Again by Shari Randall (St. Martin’s)

Best Short Story

“All God’s Sparrows” by Leslie Budewitz (Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine)
“A Postcard for the Dead” by Susanna Calkins in Florida Happens (Three Rooms Press)
“Bug Appetit” by Barb Goffman (Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine)
“The Case of the Vanishing Professor” by Tara Laskowski (Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine)
“English 398: Fiction Workshop” by Art Taylor (Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine)

Best Young Adult Mystery

Potion Problems (Just Add Magic) by Cindy Callaghan (Aladdin)
Winterhouse by Ben Guterson (Henry Holt)
A Side of Sabotage by C.M. Surrisi (Carolrhoda Books)

Best Nonfiction

Mastering Plot Twists by Jane Cleland (Writer’s Digest Books)
Writing the Cozy Mystery by Nancy J Cohen (Orange Grove Press)
Conan Doyle for the Defense by Margalit Fox (Random House)
Agatha Christie: A Mysterious Life by Laura Thompson (Pegasus Books)
Wicked Women of Ohio by Jane Ann Turzillo (History Press)

 

 

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Let’s Get Serious

Congratulations to this year’s Edgar Award finalists!
Mystery Writers of America is proud to announce, as we celebrate the 210th anniversary of the birth of Edgar Allan Poe, the Nominees for the 2019 Edgar Allan Poe Awards, honoring the best in mystery fiction, non-fiction and television published or produced in 2018. The Edgar® Awards will be presented to the winners at our 73rd Gala Banquet, April 25, 2019 at the Grand Hyatt Hotel, New York City.

BEST NOVEL

The Liar’s Girl by Catherine Ryan Howard (Blackstone Publishing)
House Witness by Mike Lawson (Grove Atlantic – Atlantic Monthly Press)
A Gambler’s Jury by Victor Methos (Amazon Publishing – Thomas & Mercer)
Down the River Unto the Sea by Walter Mosley (Hachette Book Group – Mulholland)
Only to Sleep by Lawrence Osborne (Penguin Random House – Hogarth)
A Treacherous Curse by Deanna Raybourn (Penguin Random House – Berkley)

BEST FIRST NOVEL BY AN AMERICAN AUTHOR

A Knife in the Fog by Bradley Harper (Seventh Street Books)
The Captives by Debra Jo Immergut (HarperCollins Publishers – Ecco)
The Last Equation of Isaac Severy by Nova Jacobs (Simon & Schuster – Touchstone)
Bearskin by James A. McLaughlin (HarperCollins Publishers – Ecco)
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens (Penguin Random House – G.P. Putnam’s Sons)

BEST PAPERBACK ORIGINAL

If I Die Tonight by Alison Gaylin (HarperCollins Publishers – William Morrow)
Hiroshima Boy by Naomi Hirahara (Prospect Park Books)
Under a Dark Sky by Lori Rader-Day (HarperCollins Publishers – William Morrow)
The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani (Penguin Random House – Penguin Books)
Under My Skin by Lisa Unger (Harlequin – Park Row Books)

BEST FACT CRIME

Tinderbox: The Untold Story of the Up Stairs Lounge First and the Rise of Gay Liberation by Robert W. Fieseler (W.W. Norton & Company – Liveright)
Sex Money Murder: A Story of Crack, Blood, and Betrayal by Jonathan Green (W.W. Norton & Company)
The Last Wild Men of Borneo: A True Story of Death and Treasure by Carl Hoffman (HarperCollins Publishers – William Morrow)
The Feather Thief: Beauty, Obsession, and the Natural History Heist of the Century by Kirk Wallace Johnson (Penguin Random House – Viking)
I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara (HarperCollins Publishers – Harper)
The Good Mothers: The True Story of the Women Who Took on the World’s Most Powerful Mafiaby Alex Perry (HarperCollins Publishers – William Morrow)

BEST CRITICAL/BIOGRAPHICAL

The Metaphysical Mysteries of G.K. Chesterton: A Critical Study of the Father Brown Stories and Other Detective Fiction by Laird R. Blackwell (McFarland Publishing)
Dead Girls: Essays on Surviving an American Obsession by Alice Bolin (HarperCollins Publishers – William Morrow Paperbacks)
Classic American Crime Fiction of the 1920s by Leslie S. Klinger (Pegasus Books)
Mark X: Who Killed Huck Finn’s Father? by Yasuhiro Takeuchi (Taylor & Francis – Routledge)
Agatha Christie: A Mysterious Life by Laura Thompson (Pegasus Books)

BEST SHORT STORY

“Rabid – A Mike Bowditch Short Story” by Paul Doiron (Minotaur Books)
“Paranoid Enough for Two” – The Honorable Traitors by John Lutz (Kensington Publishing)
“Ancient and Modern” – Bloody Scotland by Val McDermid (Pegasus Books)
“English 398: Fiction Workshop” – Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine by Art Taylor (Dell Magazines)
“The Sleep Tight Motel” – Dark Corners Collection by Lisa Unger (Amazon Publishing)

BEST JUVENILE

Denis Ever After by Tony Abbott (HarperCollins Children’s Books – Katherine Tegen Books)
Zap! by Martha Freeman (Simon & Schuster – Paula Wiseman Books)
Ra the Mighty: Cat Detective by A.B. Greenfield (Holiday House)
Winterhouse by Ben Guterson (Macmillan Children’s Publishing Company – Henry Holt BFYR)
Otherwood by Pete Hautman (Candlewick Press)
Charlie & Frog: A Mystery by Karen Kane (Disney Publishing Worldwide – Disney Hyperion)
Zora & Me: The Cursed Ground by T.R. Simon (Candlewick Press)

BEST YOUNG ADULT

Contagion by Erin Bowman (HarperCollins Children’s Books – HarperCollins)
Blink by Sasha Dawn (Lerner Publishing Group – Carolrhoda Lab)
After the Fire by Will Hill (Sourcebooks – Sourcebooks Fire)
A Room Away From the Wolves by Nova Ren Suma (Algonquin Young Readers)
Sadie by Courtney Summers (Wednesday Books)

BEST TELEVISION EPISODE TELEPLAY

“The Box” – Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Teleplay by Luke Del Tredici (NBC/Universal TV)
“Season 2, Episode 1” – Jack Irish, Teleplay by Andrew Knight (Acorn TV)
“Episode 1” – Mystery Road, Teleplay by Michaeley O’Brien (Acorn TV)
“My Aim is True” – Blue Bloods, Teleplay by Kevin Wade (CBS Eye Productions)
“The One That Holds Everything” – The Romanoffs, Teleplay by Matthew Weiner & Donald Joh (Amazon Prime Video)

ROBERT L. FISH MEMORIAL AWARD

“How Does He Die This Time?” – Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine by Nancy Novick (Dell Magazines)


THE SIMON & SCHUSTER MARY HIGGINS CLARK AWARD

A Death of No Importance by Mariah Fredericks (Minotaur Books)
A Lady’s Guide to Etiquette and Murder by Dianne Freeman (Kensington Publishing)
Bone on Bone by Julia Keller (Minotaur Books)
The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey (Soho Press – Soho Crime)
A Borrowing of Bones by Paula Munier (Minotaur Books)

Do They Know It’s Christmas

Good morning, Friday, and how are you today? A four day weekend—one I have been waiting for, it seems, forever– is just over the horizon and about time, I must say. I am very tired this morning–this week and next I have to work eight hour days on Fridays instead of my usual half-day, because of the holidays, so I am up earlier than normal and quite frankly, I DON’T LIKE THIS–and I am having dinner with friends this evening, so it’s not a normal Friday for me.

But dinner will be fun, so there’s that. Yay, fun!

I am also hoping to get to see Aquaman this weekend, finish reading the book I am currently reading, and move on to another. I got some lovely books in the mail this week as gifts (thank you, generous gift-givers), so I am looking forward to reading some of the others. I also want to reread both The Shining (it’s been years) and Bracken MacLeod was talking about Pet Sematary recently, which made me realize that is one of the Stephen King books from his early period which I’ve not read more than once. The book disturbed me deeply, and I remember recoiling from it as I read it feverishly; it’s a very dark book–even for King, who’s not exactly known for light-and-fluffy–and I am thinking–thanks to Bracken–that I should revisit it now, in my fifties, to see if my own change in perspective and growing up (a lot) since I was such a sallow teen will change my opinion of the book. I also think I might spend some time in 2019 revisiting some of King’s work.

As the end of the year draws nigh, I generally start reflecting back on the year that was, wondering if I’ve accomplished all the things I set out to do and if I achieved any of the goals I set at the beginning of the year. I know I did some, and I also know I failed at others. The Short Story Project was a lot of fun, and I think I am going to sign up to do it again some in the new year; focusing on reading and writing short stories is a lovely thing, and even my blogging about terrific short stories gets even one person to buy an anthology or read a story, it’s a win.

One of the things I’m definitely going to do in the new year is diversify my reading list. I have a number of books in my TBR pile by non-white writers, and I need to start reading those books and writers. Is it an unconscious bias that makes me grab a book by a cisgender straight writer? Possibly and probably, and that’s where systemic bias comes into play; bias we don’t even think about is just as wrong as bias we do think about. It’s even more insidious, because we think we don’t have bias but it’s there, lurking in our subconscious, waiting waiting waiting…and that’s just wrong.

And now, back to the spice mines.

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Last Christmas

Thursday, and that four day weekend inches ever closer, which is lovely.

I am very pleased to say that I got back to work on Bury Me in Satin last night (huzzah!), and managed to focus on it and write. I didn’t get the entire chapter finished, but I think I did get at least 1500 words done, and that–given how long it’s been since I’ve written a word on anything other than this blog–is something I am taking and putting in the WIN column.

I still, however, need to get some editing on the Scotty done. For some reason I just can’t seem to make myself want to even look at the damned thing, which is simply unacceptable. I’m not sure where that particular malaise is coming from, but it simply cannot and shall not stand.

I only have to work slightly less than six hours today, which is, after the lengthy days of the earlier part of the work, a bit of a relief. I do have to put in an eight hour day tomorrow rather than the usual half-day; the holidays falling on Monday and Tuesday over the next two weeks (trade off being the four day weekends) means I don’t get the lengthy twelve hour shifts that allow me to work half-days. But it’s fine. I can handle three eight-hour days in a row.

We continue to binge-watch Schitt’s Creek, which is becoming, slowly but surely, one of my favorite television shows of all time. Every member of the cast is pitch-perfect; the on-going character development, as well as the developing relationships between them, are perfect examples of how to manage a show, keep it fresh, and keep the viewers vested in it. And seriously, the fact that no one in this cast has been ever nominated for an Emmy is a national disgrace; Catherine O’Hara should have at least three of them.

Oh, and last night, thank you, Schitt’s Creek, for reminding me how much I love Tina Turner.

My computer issues continue,  and I am not certain what the problem is. I cannot afford to invest in either a new computer nor a new phone at the moment, so I am becoming more and more embittered about Apple and its deliberate methodology of undermining their own products in order to get their customers to replace them with a higher degree of frequency than is necessary.

And here’s hoping that the writing I was able to manage last night will kick-start me into getting all these things i need to get done, done.

And on that note, tis back to the spice mines.

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Thinkin’ Back

Here’s an excerpt from Bourbon Street Blues, to celebrate its release at long last as an ebook. You can order it here for only 2.99!

 

Chapter One

KNIGHT OF WANDS

A light complexioned young man with an adventurous spirit

 

It’s not the heat, it’s the stupidity.

A T-shirt bearing that slogan hangs in the window of every shop in the French Quarter that sells cheap souvenirs. The tourists, wiping the sweat off their foreheads with napkins while holding a forty-eight ounce plastic cup filled with an exotically flavored daiquiri in their other hand, nudge each other when they spy it. They exchange knowing smiles. The slow pace unique to New Orleans has irritated slightly ever since they got off their airplane. The long wait at baggage claim and the even longer wait in the taxi line. The check-in process at the hotel seemed endless. The line at Walgreens that just didn’t seem to move at all. The lackadaisical attitude everyone they have encountered since walking off their airplane seems to have toward efficiency has been all explained and summed up by a slogan on a cheap T-shirt. The heat is bearable, after all. Everything is air-conditioned, for one thing, and there’s all those forty-eight-ounce daiquiris with names like Cajun Storm, Swamp Water, and Mind Eraser for another. Yes, the heat can be borne. It’s the stupidity that is truly annoying.

What the tourists don’t know is, the stupidity referred to on the shirt is theirs.

New Orleans is a whore who makes her living by dressing herself up as the City That Care Forgot. We peddle cheap gimcracks to the tourists who checked their brains at the airport along with their suitcases but apparently forgot to claim the brains again upon landing at Armstrong International. We sell them refrigerator magnets with a drunk with X’s for eyes holding on to a Bourbon Street lamppost for support. We sell them beads they proudly wear even though Mardi Gras has been over for months. We sell them porcelain masks of white-faced harlequins made in Taiwan. We sell them forty-eight-ounce daiquiris that are flammable, or drinks in clear green plastic cups that are shaped like a hand grenade. We smile and avert our eyes as another vomits into the gutter. We plaster a smile on our faces as they drive five miles an hour through the city looking at the architecture even though we have to be somewhere in three minutes and they’ve backed up traffic for blocks. Tourism is our biggest source of revenue, after all, and if they can’t hold their liquor, oh well.

We have sold our collective soul on the altar of tourism.

In the summer, the French Quarter reeks of sour beer, vomit, and piss. At seven ever morning, the hoses come out and the vomit and spilt liquor and piss is washed down off the sidewalks. By eight, Bourbon Street stinks of pine cleaner, a heavy, oily scent that cloys and hangs in the air. It hit me full force when I slipped out of the front door of the Bourbon Orleans hotel at eight-thirty in the morning. The bellman on duty winked at me. I shrugged and grinned back. I wasn’t the first non-guest to slip out of the Bourbon Orleans that morning, and I wouldn’t be the last that weekend.

It was Southern Decadence, after all. Urban legend holds that Southern Decadence began in the 1980’s as a bar-crawl-type party a group of gay guys had for a friend who was moving away. They had so much fun, they did it again the next year. Each year it grew and grew until it became a national event, drawing gay men from as far away as Sweden and Australia. As opposed to other circuit events, for years there was no big dance party. It was just a big block party held in what we locals called the Fruit Loop, a five-bar, four-block stretch that runs from Rawhide to Good Friends to Oz and the Pub to Café Lafitte’s in Exile. All the bars have balconies except for Rawhide, and of course you can always take your drink with you.

The gay boys had started arriving yesterday afternoon, with the big crush coming in today, Friday. Labor Day weekend. The end of summer, when the locals can begin to breathe a little easier. The mind-numbing heat will break in the next few weeks, and what passes for our fall season will begin. Sunny days with no humidity and the mercury hovering in the seventies and low eighties. In New Orleans, we turn off the air-conditioning when the temperatures drop into the low eighties and open the windows.

I headed for the corner of Orleans and Bourbon. My stomach was growling. The Clover Grill was just a few blocks up Bourbon, and one of their breakfasts was sounding damned good to my slightly swollen head. There’s nothing like scrambled eggs and greasy full-fat bacon to make you lose your hangover. The food at the Clover Grill is one of the best hangover cures in town. I shifted my gym bag to my other shoulder.

The bars at the corner of St. Ann and Bourbon still had patrons. It was probably too early for new arrivals from out of town, so these were the holdouts from the night before, who still hadn’t grasped the fact that the bars don’t close. Tourists always have trouble pacing themselves in New Orleans. Bars that have no last call is an alien concept to most. The bars had been packed with tourists who had come in early for the weekend, the liquor had flowed freely, and there were very likely a lot of drugs to be had. Today the bars would be packed again, almost impossible to navigate through. I waved at Abel, the morning bartender at the Pub.

I was dancing at the Pub this weekend for extra cash. One of the porn stars, Rock Hard, who was supposed to dance this weekend, had overdosed on crystal meth on Wednesday. Condition stable—but no condition to dance. Randy Westfall, the manager, had called me on Thursday afternoon to fill in. It was very good timing. I was behind on some bills. It probably wasn’t very good karma to be happy that Rock Hard had overdosed, but I reasoned that it was probably a good thing. Perhaps the overdose would wake him up to the fact he had a substance-abuse problem, and he would now get some help for it. The summer’s heat is always a bitch on my personal training business, but this one had been particularly bad. It had been hotter than usual, which is a staggering thought. Everyone who could afford a trainer had left town. Those who didn’t leave didn’t want to sweat any more than they already were. Can’t say that I blame them—except when the second notices from my utilities start arriving.

The Clover Grill was crowded. I swore under my breath. Goddamned tourists. A wave of nausea swam over me. I shouldn’t have let what’s-his-name talk me into those tequila shots. What was his name? Bill? Bob? Brett? He was from Houston and tall, with a shaved torso and a nice, round, hard ass. He’d flirted with me early in the evening, wanted to know what time I was off, and had come back. You’d think at twenty-nine I would know better than to do tequila shots at two-thirty in the morning.  Dumb, dumb, dumb. Well, not that there’s a good time to do tequila shots.

I headed down Dumaine Street to the Devil’s Weed. The Devil’s Weed is a tobacco shop specializing in fine cigars, pipe tobacco, and imported cigarettes. They also serve coffee, muffins, and bagels. Not quite the greasy scrambled eggs and bacon my hangover was demanding, but it would have to do. I walked in.

“Scotty!” Emily, the cure twenty-two-year old lesbian who worked the morning shift, grinned at me. She wore her hair shorn close to her scalp and Coke-bottle glasses that magnified her big brown eyes. She always wore a tank top with no bra restraining her big full breasts, and a loose-fitting cotton skirt over sandals. She was from Minneapolis and had come down for Mardi Gras. New Orleans got to her and she stayed. New Orleans has that effect on people. You come for a weekend and get caught in her spell and can’t leave. It just gets in your blood. I’ve lived here all of my life and have never wanted to live anywhere else. When I was on the stripper circuit, every weekend a different town, I never found another place I wanted to live, and I had looked. I always came back with a healthy appreciation for my home city. If a city isn’t open twenty-four-seven, I don’t want any part of it. Here you can drink at any time of the day without feeling any guilt. You can eat whenever you want to, because there’s always someplace open. You can keep whatever hours you want. You don’t have to be a part of that whole nine-to-five rat race unless you want to be. I don’t. I hate waking up to an alarm.

My parents, who owned the Devil’s Weed, had practically adopted Emily. She was so likable and cute, you couldn’t help wanting to take care of her. She was a genuinely nice person, without a mean bone in her body. She has that good energy.

“Coffee and a bagel,” I sat down on a stool. She had a cigar burning in an ashtray.

“Liked the day-glo G-string.” She grinned as she put my coffee down.

I grinned back at her. “I made close to four hundred last night.”

“All right!” We high-fived. “Your mom and dad are still asleep.”

“Of course.” Mom and Dad were unrepentant stoners. They were hippies and counterculturalists, who’d never sold out, despite their successful shop. My first name isn’t Scott—it’s Milton. Pretty awful, right? Coupled with my last name, which is Bradley, and you can imagine the horror my childhood was like before my older brother started calling me Scotty. Of course, his name is Storm, and my sister’s name is Rain. When Mom was pregnant with me, both sets of grandparents had apparently sat Mom and Dad down and insisted I not be named after a force of nature. I can almost see the stoner glint in my mother’s eyes when she agreed. Milton was Mom’s father’s name. She always claimed she was simply honoring her parents by naming me that. That was her cover story, and she has stuck to it my whole life. I think both she and Dad regretted it later. They’re actually pretty cool parents. When I came out to them when I was sixteen, they wanted to throw me a coming-out party. They are both pretty active in P-FLAG. A huge rainbow flag hangs out in front of the store year-round. It’s kind of hard to be pissed at them for naming me after a board game company when they’re so cool. I’m sure it sounded like a good idea after a couple of joints.

“Since you’re up so early, I’m assuming you’re just now on your way home?” Emily raised her eyebrows and winked.

I winked back. “I never kiss and tell.” Well, I really do, but Emily was more like a little sister to me since she’d started at the shop. I would never give my sister Rain the details of my activities. Besides, Emily was also still a virgin. She was saving herself for the right woman, bless her heart. See what I mean about sweet? How could I corrupt her with my sordid tales?

I smeared cream cheese on my bagel and leaned over the counter to kiss her cheek. “You gonna be out tonight?”

“Yeah.” She giggled. “See ya on the bar.” She did a little dance for me. “I wanna pick up some of your moves.”

Laughing, I walked back out into the street and headed home, chewing on my bagel and sipping my coffee. I was tired. The bagel was helping the hangover. Thank God.

My apartment was on Decatur Street in the last block before Esplanade. The coffee was hot and strong. Carrying the cup was making me sweat. I could smell my armpits and it wasn’t pretty. All I wanted to do was get home, turn the air down to about sixty degrees, wash off the sweat and smell of sex, and sleep for a little while.

My building has a little mom-and-pop grocery store on the first floor. It opens pretty early. I waved to Mrs. Duchesnay, who always worked the morning shift. She and her husband had started the shop years ago, when they were both pretty young. All six of their kids had worked there at one time or another. Her husband had been a mean old man. He was always yelling and threatening kids about shoplifting. He’d accused me of stealing a pack of gum once that I had come in with, and called my mother. I don’t think he was expecting the furious harpy who stormed in and backed him up against the soda cooler and called him a fascist. He was always nice to me after that. The Quarter kids called him Mr. Douchebag. He’d disappeared about ten years ago. Quarter lore and legend believed Mrs. Duchesnay had killed him and gotten rid of the body. He’d been a bastard, so if she had, I always figured, more power to her. Those who believed the story didn’t hold it against her. He’d been a pretty miserable person.

I unlocked the gate. There were three floors above the shop, all apartments. My landladies lived on the second floor. Velma Simpson and Millie Breen had been together for about thirty years. Velma was watering the plants in the courtyard when I got back to the staircase.

“Morning, Scotty.” She nodded at me. She was nearly sixty, with steel-gray hair and wire-rimmed glasses. She was wearing a pair of tired old jean cutoff shorts and a white, sweat-stained tank top with no bra. She played tennis three times a week and jogged on the levee every day. There wasn’t an ounce of fat on her anywhere. She’d been a high school gym teacher and girls’ athletics coach until she’d taken early retirement a few years ago. Millie and Velma had baby-sat us when we were kids, whenever Mom and Dad had one on a private vacation or been arrested at one of their many protests. “How’d you do?”

I opened my bag and pulled out a wad of ones, fives and tens. “About four hundred.”

She put the hose down. “Give me three hundred.”

I counted out the money and handed it to her. She tucked it into her pocket. My rent was only four-fifty a month, which was a steal for the place. She and Millie could have gotten fifteen hundred for it easily. Luckily, Millie had been my mother’s best friend since grade school. She was also a lawyer, so they didn’t really need my rent money. I was pretty damned lucky. Anyone else would have thrown my late-rent-paying ass out on the street years earlier.

She pulled a joint out of her cleavage. “Need some help to sleep?” She and Millie always got the best pot.

“You gonna join me?”

She laughed. “Stupid boy.”

I sparked the joint and took a long hit. She took it from me, took two, and handed it back to me. She waved me into a lawn chair and sat down herself. She inhaled, long and deep, then pinched it out and set it on a table. “What you gonna do today?”

“I’m gonna sleep.” I felt quite pleasantly stoned.

She leaned back. “Leave your gear. I’m gonna do a load of laundry later this morning. I’ll bring it up.”

“Cool.” I yawned.

“Does your getting home at this hour mean you got lucky?” Velma and Millie always wanted details on my sex life. I didn’t mind telling them, although I did think from time to time that was a little weird that two lesbians in their late fifties were so interested. It was a small price to pay, though, for them being so cool about the rent.

I smiled at her. “Guy from Houston.”

“You like them cowboys.”

“He had the nicest ass.” I winked at her and then launched into the gory details.

I’d been dancing for about an hour when he came up to the bar. I’d seen him in a corner, sipping on a Bud Light long-neck. He was good-looking, all right. Short black hair, blue eyes, dark tan. He had a red tank top tucked into his belt, and a torso shaved smooth. Big pecs, melon-sized, abs you could do your laundry on, and a pair of tight jean shorts rolled up at the knee. He grinned up at me. Nice, even white teeth. He stroked my calf. I knelt down with him in between my legs.

“You’re pretty.” He said, pulling a five out of his pocket.

“You ain’t bad either.” I put my hand on his chest. Solid as a rock. Skin smooth as a baby’s butt. Definitely shaved.

“What time you getting off?”

“Two in the morning.”

“I’ll be here.” And he was. Simple as that. A 2:10 we were down tequila shots. Half an hour later we were in his room at the Bourbon Orleans with our tongues down each other’s throats. He did have the nicest, tightest, hardest ass I’ve come across in a long time.

I’d left his five on the nightstand when I left.

Velma sighed. “Ah, to be young again.”

I yawned. “Can I go to bed now, Aunt Velma?”

She handed me the roach. “Take this for later.”

I kissed her cheek. “Thanks, doll.”

I was so tired by the time I got upstairs that I decided not to shower but just go straight to bed. I collapsed on my bed and closed my eyes.

I was asleep in a matter of seconds

BourbonStreetBlues

What About Your Friends

This four day weekend was precisely what the doctor ordered.

I feel relaxed and rested already, which is quite lovely, if I do say so myself. Although yesterday…I didn’t realize precisely how worn out and tired I was. I wound up doing some chores around the house in the morning, only to find myself very tired and unable to face my computer screen. So, instead, I retired to my easy chair and finished reading Slouching Towards Bethlehem, which I enjoyed, and then dove back into Empire of Sin. I also dozed off once or twice in my easy chair, with Scooter curled up in our lap; Paul and I always joke that’s his primary super-power: putting people to sleep. If he comes and cuddles and falls asleep on you, you will also eventually doze off. It’s very interesting and strange at the same time. Go figure.

We are also watching a rather well-done suspense series on Netflix called Bodyguard, which stars Richard Madden, aka Robb Stark (which probably means there won’t be another season of Medici Masters of Florence, damn it), and it’s quite interesting; well written, with twists and turns and some very interesting points and all kinds of Machiavellian machinations. We are enjoying it, which is great.

One of the many things I put on my goals for 2018 was a renewed focus on self-care; I’ve kind of let that fall by the wayside as the year has progressed (although it’s one of the reasons I am not beating myself up for not getting anything done yesterday; I was extremely tired). I have returned to the gym in fits-and-starts–getting a new groove going for a few weeks only to fall off the wagon and then having to come up with the motivation to start over again. Despite these enormous disappointments with working out, 2018 is one of the better years I’ve had lately, fitness wise; at the beginning of the year I weighed in at a terrifying 225 pounds; last week I weighed myself and discovered, to my great delight, that not only had I finally broken through the plateau of 215 (I never seemed to be able to get my weight lower than that, no matter how hard I tried), but I blew it up; last week I only weighed 208. I haven’t weighed that since 2011 or 2012; one of the two, and it’s just continued to climb since then. It would be great and amazing and awesome to roll into 2019 with 200 firmly in my sights; I doubt I will ever be able to get back down to 180. but if I can get down to 200…who knows what I can accomplish? Needless to say, this is very exciting for me.

I had some hopes and thoughts about possibly going to the gym today later; I may still do so. But I have some errands to run, some bills to pay, and some writing to do; the house is also kind of a slovenly mess. I also have the next two days off; big games for both LSU and the Saints on tap for the weekend–it’s easy going to be a great weekend for us here in Louisiana, or one of the worst football weekends ever. You never know, really.

We also get an extra hour of sleep this weekend, which is amazingly lovely.

All right, ’tis back to the spice mines with me. These bills aren’t going to pay themselves, nor are the groceries going to do themselves, either.

Have a lovely Friday, one and all.

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