BAT IN A WHIRLWIND, Chapter 10. Sin City

In this next chapter of the backwoods novella BAT IN A WHIRLWIND, the country boy Ben goes to New Orleans to visit Tulane and see the sights of the city.  After going to a movie (“South Pacific”) and riding the ferry back and forth across the Mississippi River, he’s tempted to go into the French Quarter, which his Daddy had expressly forbidden.

To read BAT IN A WHIRLWIND, Chapter 10.  SIN CITY, right click here and select “Open,” or to download as a free pdf file to read at your leisure whenever, select “Save Target (or Link) As.”  You can access the previous 9 chapters for reading or download from the chapter list on the book page.

BAT IN A WHIRLWIND

Excerpt from Chapter 10. – Sin City

            Walking back up Canal Street, when I came to Bourbon again, I wondered what kind of trouble I could get into simply walking down the street and taking a gander at goings-on.  At the end of the second block at Bienville Street was a bar with a crowd milling around, and you could see into the back where a band of black men was playing some awful loud Dixieland jazz, good as the stuff on the Lawrence Welk Show.

Farther along was a dark, falling-down place called the Old Absinthe House.  The rickety roof looked like any minute it’d fall on your head.  Meanwhile the sidewalks were fairly full of mostly white folks, and everybody with drinks in their hands and acting drunk.  I’d dodge out of their way to be polite and often step down into the street with the constant stream of cars.

On the corner of Conti Street was a place called Madame Francine’s that sounded like a whorehouse, but the pictures along the walls showed dancing ladies covered in feathers and glitter and not much else.  One poster was for Jada, an almost naked lady wrapped up in a huge boa constrictor.  I’d never thought of dancing with a snake before.

A man in a dark vest with a pointy beard was on the steps of Madame Francine’s, and as I passed, he called, “Hey, stud!  Come on in and see some fine ass.”  I hurried on but glanced in the open door at a lady up on a stage dancing with bare breasts and rubbing her thighs lewdly.  If that was a strip-tease, I definitely preferred Joe Ray’s version.

In the next blocks with more bars and loud jazz bands, there were still folks staggering around everywhere.  I reckoned business was pretty good for a Tuesday night.  Passing a house across the street with a pretty lacey iron balcony, through the tall windows upstairs I was impressed to see glittery crystal chandeliers and big gold-framed pictures on the walls.  The smell of beer was almost overwhelming, and it was hotter than blazes for being so late in the evening.  I figured this must be what a sweat bath feels like.

At St. Peter Street I stopped to lean against a wall and watch the flood of folks of all sorts and shapes.  I’d never seen so many in one place before.  Across Bourbon on the other corner was a big bar with a sign for Dixie’s Bar of Music.  While I was looking at it, two very stylishly dressed, handsome young men came out, followed by a girl in tight black slacks and a silky yellow blouse.  Her black hair was teased out full, and she walked with her hips moving slinky.  She was incredibly beautiful.

They crossed Bourbon and then came across St. Peter toward me.  Coming near, the girl looked straight at me with a smile that made my knees go weak.  Like lightning, I recognized the Sno-Cone boy, sure as shooting!  He had the same exquisite eyes.  The two fancy boys looked me over like maybe sizing me up for a fight, and he, (or was it she?), called brightly to me, “Hi there, handsome.”

I stood there gawking, dumbfounded, and as they passed, one of the boys said, “Oh, Mary, don’t go wrecking butch numbers on the street.”

“But it’s so easy,” she-he, Mary, replied with another flirtatious look at me and walked away as sexily as Marilyn Monroe.  Frankly, I did feel wrecked.  Mary was absolutely, positively gorgeous, prettier than Annette by a long shot.  I wondered if he-she was maybe one of those “morphodites” Danny once told me about.  I couldn’t wait to tell him about seeing one.

Panting in the crazy heat, I continued up the street past St. Ann Street, and the bars and foot traffic thinned way out.  It was mostly just houses now with front steps sticking out on the sidewalk.  I picked somebody’s stoop near the corner of Dumaine to plop down and cool off.  Kitty-corner across from me was a dark bar with a sign saying Lafitte’s, like the pirate.

There were still folks walking up and down the sidewalk, but lots fewer.  If anybody looked at me, I’d smile at them and say hi.  But it got no cooler.  Like doing a striptease myself, I took off my T-shirt and dried my face off with it.  Shortly a guy who’d passed by a while before came back and nodded again at my hi.  He stopped and asked, “Got a light?”

“Sorry,” I said, “don’t smoke.”

The young crew-cut guy smiled curiously at my hairy chest and asked, “Busy tonight?”

The way I was draped over those front steps, I couldn’t imagine why he’d think I might be.  “Not so as I’ve noticed,” I replied.

When he said he was Harry, I told him my name.  Meanwhile he looked again at my chest with a suspicious expression that made me think I ought to put my shirt back on.  Next thing he asked if I was looking for some fun.  “I already had lots of fun today,” I said.  “I went to the Zoo and to a movie and on a ferry ride.”

Harry leaned up against the house beside me and asked, “And what about tonight?”

“I’m about ready to hit the sack,” I said.  Wiping my face with my shirt again, I groaned, “I don’t think I’ve ever been this hot.”

“You do look really hot,” he chuckled and with a nudge, asked, “How’d you like to come over to my place?  It’s air-conditioned.”

I couldn’t get over all this southern hospitality, two perfect strangers inviting me to their place.  “Thanks anyway,” I replied, “but I got me a place to sleep.”

“How about I buy you a drink then?” Harry asked, eyeing my pants now like looking for something in my pockets.

Finally realizing he was a pickpocket, I hopped up from the stoop and said, “Thanks kindly, but I best be going.  Nice to meet you, Harry.”

Before you go, Ben,” he said, “how much you want for a trick?”

I laughed that I didn’t know any tricks and headed off down the street putting my damp shirt back on.  Did I look like I was in a circus?  Or a magician?  He seemed normal enough, but he must have been a tad touched in the head.  Good thing Joe Ray warned me about this kind of stuff.

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THERE WAS A SHIP – A Free Gay Memoir

from Gustave Dore

THERE WAS A SHIP, my memoir of being an out gay man half a century ago, is almost done (again).  A draft of the first half was written about four years ago, closely edited by a friend and fellow writer, and then largely rewritten.  Afterwards, I saw that it needed a second half and wrote that.  Just as I finished, my computer crashed, and that second part disappeared into the ether.

Regrouping, I wrote it again, to much better effect in my opinion, but then I saw that my artistic approach to the whole narrative was simply wrong.  Nothing loathe, in the course of the past eight months I wrote the whole thing all over again.  I figured then that three times was enough and posted it here on this website in 2015.

A year later I discovered great format problems and proceeded to rework it–which naturally led to revisions, and now the posted version is from October, 2016.  It is again available for free download by right-clicking here.  Recently I found a way to convert the pdf file of this and my other books into true eBook format and will pursue that route too.

I’d love to tell you more about the memoir, but I won’t.  All I’ll say is that it covers coming out in the debauched French Quarter of New Orleans and then trying to be a faerie in Seattle, which in the middle 1960’s was as straight a city as any in homophobic America of that time.

The title, by the way, comes from Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “RIME OF THE ANCIENT MARINER,” and the title-page quote literally sets the stage:   It is an ancient Mariner,/ And he stoppeth one of three./ ‘By thy long grey beard and glittering eye,/ Now wherefore stopp’st thou me?’

David Vitter, candidate for Governor of Louisiana

This morning I heard on NPR that David Vitter is running (fortunately behind the Democratic candidate) for Governor of Louisiana.  Mention was again made of his trying to outrun questionable involvements with prostitutes.

Some years ago when I was back in New Orleans, I was appalled to see billboards about that Republican person running for Congress.  I’d heard about those moral scandals and was disgusted that Vitter apparently made it into public office anyway.  At the time, I found those rumors of heterosexual improprieties laughable and unsurprising.  (Politics in that state are famous for such, including a former candidate for Vice President of the US.)

Then and now I found those rumors laughable considering my personal experience with that politician back in the middle 70’s in Washington DC.  Vitter was then a young legislative intern, and I was a gay courtesan, not a prostitute, mind you, because I didn’t charge.  Like Violetta (in the opera “La Traviata”), I entertained my admirers in a grand Victorian house at Logan Circle with lavish dinners and spectacular parties.

One evening I somehow wound up in the company of the rather attractive intern from Louisiana.  Though details are somewhat blurry after these 40 years, I recall that we went to a concert somewhere out on Connecticut Avenue.  Then we took a dark walk together in a park-like setting, where Vitter demonstrated his amorous intentions.

While I’d vaguely noticed it at the concert, in that close physical proximity I was nauseated by his rank body odor, as foul as any skunk.  Without commenting, I quickly and graciously declined my suitor’s advances and sent him on his fetid way.

To my relief, Vitter never approached me again, but it was an experience I could hardly forget.  Even now the memory turns my stomach.  While the governorship of Louisiana is no longer any skin off my nose, for the sake of the prostitutes he has allegedly consorted with, not to mention his poor wife, I certainly hope he has solved that personal hygiene problem.

I only mention this encounter because Vitter’s political hypocrisy still stinks to high heaven.

 

BAT IN A WHIRLWIND, Chapter 9. Getting Naked

In this next chapter of the backwoods novella BAT IN A WHIRLWIND, Ben and Danny have their own private senior party.

To read BAT IN A WHIRLWIND, Chapter 9.  GETTING NAKED, right click here and select “Open,” or to download as a free pdf file to read at your leisure whenever, select “Save Target (or Link) As.”  You can access the previous 8 chapters for reading or download from the chapter list on the book page.

BAT IN A WHIRLWIND

Excerpt from Chapter 9. – Getting Naked

            I told Daddy right away about Danny coming up and renting a cabin and us having our own private senior party.  He actually chuckled, “Well, you make sure Ed Norton signs in the register and pays his three dollars.”  He even agreed that I wouldn’t have to work till one o’clock so maybe we could go for a hike tomorrow morning.

However, this evening Daddy had to take Mom to an ice cream social affair over at the Belcher place, so I had to work for him.  It was fairly busy, keeping me running, and I figured it was a good trade-off for tomorrow morning.  It also kept me from watching the clock and thinking about my friend’s arrival.

He showed up right at the promised time, and I rejoiced to see him in a brief moment between customers.  We registered him in the motel book as Mr. Ed Norton from Brooklyn for number five, the nice one out by the woods.  I told him it was the honeymoon cabin, and he gave me a wicked wink.  Then, while I kept working, Danny hung out happily with the pinballs.  In passing I’d peek in at him every chance I got, just for his smile.

#

            The folks got home shortly before ten from their party, and it was time for ours.  Danny carried some Cokes and ice down to number five, and I ran over to the house for my cards and radio.  Going down to the cabin, I trotted along through the pine shadows from the low half-moon and suddenly felt as though I was in some other reality.  The window of the cabin glowed with the lamp through white curtains, an almost magical place.

When I walked in, I got a huge surprise to find Danny with all his clothes off, buck-naked, lounging on the bed with a Roi-Tan and a water-glass of brown drink.  He laughed, “I like to be comfortable when I get drunk.  Have a rum and Coke, good buddy.”

He went over to the dresser and poured me a drink.  Meanwhile, I shucked out of my clothes too and told him how I always like to get naked, roaming out in the woods and even swinging on vines in trees like Tarzan.  Danny handed me the glass and brushed the hair on my chest, laughing, “Benny of the Apes.  But Tarzan wore pants.”

“Only in the movies,” I insisted.  “I bet Mrs. Gorilla didn’t sew him any lace panties.”

Danny laughed and raised his glass.  “Drink up, Benny-boy.”

I took a good slug of my drink.  It was sweet and sneaky at the back of my nose.  Danny sprawled out on the bed again and left his cigar to go out in the ashtray, which I silently appreciated.  He remarked, “I’ve never been naked outside.  Oh, yeh, skinny-dipping at the river, but not just walking around.”

I plugged in the radio and got up on the bed with my drink and the deck of cards.  The music came on with “The Happy Organ,” quite a circus-y way to start off a party.  Sitting tailor-fashion cross-legged, I took another sip and started shuffling the cards.  The drink tasted even better now that the fumes up my nose weren’t so strange.  And it felt so natural sitting here with Danny like this, just the two of us with nothing on and nothing else to do.

We started out playing blackjack poker, and whenever you lost, you had to take a huge slug of your drink.  After several rounds of winning and losing and as many slugs, the both of us were in mighty relaxed moods, chattering and laughing and carrying on over our cards.  When the radio started that really silly old song “Purple People Eater,” we commenced giggling hysterically and scattered cards all over.

With yet another drink, maybe our third, we gathered up the cards and switched to gin rummy.  After a few hands and still another drink, I got up for the bathroom and felt happily blurry, so light, not really connected to the floor.  Back on the bed, I found Danny had dealt.  While I arranged the cards in my hand, he remarked, “I wanna get my rocks off pretty soon.”  I called him a sex-fiend, and he asked, “What else am I supposed to do with a boner on?”

“Just ignore it,” I said.  “When I get a hard on out in the woods or whatever, I ignore it.”  To be truthful with him, I added, “Most of the time.”

Danny leaned back on the pillows at the head of the bed and considered his cards.  Then he looked down at his crotch and sighed, “Show me how to ignore that.”  His prick was slowly quivering and lifting, growing, that secret head slipping out of its hood, peeking at me like a little animal.  I couldn’t ignore it.  It was hypnotic.

He tossed his cards aside, laughed, and asked, “And what about that?”  He pointed at what was happening to me too.  He grinned guiltily, looking cuter than anybody should.

Leaping up off the bed, I babbled, “Just don’t touch it!  Don’t look at it!  Or think about it!  Do something else!”  Feeling dizzy from the booze, I marched back and forth looking at the ceiling and got more and more confused.

Danny jumped up from the bed and said, “I know what.  We can go outside.”  It sounded like a good idea to me.  Even though the soles of my feet were tough as leather, I’d learned from experience to wear shoes outside at night in case of stepping on things you can’t see.  So we looked plain silly all naked in just shoes, no socks, and I could hardly stop laughing.  Even so, our erections weren’t discouraged.

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BAT IN A WHIRLWIND, Chapter 8. Playing Around

In this next chapter of the backwoods novella BAT IN A WHIRLWIND, Ben stays over with pal Mickey for senior play rehearsal, much to Danny’s dismay.

To read BAT IN A WHIRLWIND, Chapter 8.  PLAYING AROUND, right click here and select “Open,” or to download as a free pdf file to read at your leisure whenever, select “Save Target (or Link) As.”  You can access the previous 7 chapters for reading or download from the chapter list on the book page.

BAT IN A WHIRLWIND

Excerpt from Chapter 8. – Playing Around

            Before long we went over to Herb’s drive-in where the parking lot was a flurry of cars parked around and kids getting their orders from the pickup window.  We gobbled a hotdog each, and while Mick took off to drag-race with Buck, who had a souped-up brown Ford, I went over to talk to Don and Patty, the most glamorous couple in our class, who were sitting in her red Thunderbird convertible.  Everywhere I was reminded sadly of my beloved Annette.  I’d recently read in Teen magazine that she had a white Thunderbird.

Patty thought it was great that I was out “on the town” at last, and I jokingly sang like Burl Ives, “John! John! The grey goose is gone, and the fox is on the town-o, town-o, town-o!”  They looked at me strangely and then got my humor.

Turning serious, Patty said, “Benny, I been wanting to ask you something.  Can I?”  I shrugged assent.  “Do Catholics believe in Jesus?”

Recalling the lines of the Apostle’s Creed about His Only Son J. C., I said, “Sure.  He’s part of the Holy Trinity.”  Here I recognized another opportunity to explain my faith and went on, “It’s God the Father, God the Son or Jesus, and the Holy Ghost.  They’re all one.”

Patty and Don both said, “Oh,” and shared a skeptical glance.  Frankly, I wasn’t very clear on it myself and was glad they dropped the inquiry.

Soon I moved over to sit in a car with Jackie and a couple other guys.  They were smoking cigarettes and talking about girls and who’d done it with which one.  The way I was so quiet, they probably thought I was a real stick-in-the-mud.

A flashy foreign sports car with Texas plates pulled up, and a young man got out.  He was dressed stylish with tight pants and much ducktail on his haircut, looking a lot like Ricky Nelson.  Jackie said offhandedly, “He looks queer.”  I didn’t think so.

Then another guy, Claude from eleventh, said, “I hear there’s one in Texarkana that sits in his car outside the movie house.”  I was about to ask one of what when Mickey and Buck came roaring back in their hot cars.  Mickey had won their race.

We hunted up Bonnie from the cars all over the place and headed back to Alleene.  Mickey exulted in his victory, carrying on about how Buck just didn’t know how to drive that heap of his.  I remarked that going so fast must be more like aiming a car than steering it.

#

            After dropping Bonnie off, we got back to find Mickey’s parents at the kitchen table.  It warmed my heart how his father hugged him hi, and his mother too.  I shook hands politely and noted with surprise that Mr. Wiley was drinking beer.  He had a big belly over his belt.  Mrs. Wiley, also pretty fat, offered me a Dr. Pepper and got us some pineapple upside down cake.

Mr. Wiley said, “So I hear you’re going to Tulane, ain’t it?”  I described the scholarship they gave me and told about my plans to go to New Orleans and see the place soon as school was over.  “Too bad our Mick here hasn’t got such brains!” he lamented.

Mickey winked at me as we sat down to have our cake off real china plates.  His mother patted his head and said, “He’s going to Henderson State, you know.  That’s exciting too, isn’t it, honey?”  The closeness and warmth here in this kitchen was even newer and more wonderful than the whole dress rehearsal, dance, and socializing at Herb’s.

We went into Mickey’s room to hit the sack.  It had real nice furniture and curtains, very unlike my own.  When I undressed, I laid my clothes on a chair and made for his big double bed, naked as a jaybird.  I never wore underwear or pajamas, and apparently Mickey didn’t either.  His body was very nicely built, his prick about the same size as mine.

“Boy!” he exclaimed, “You sure are a hairy guy.”  Then he looked straight down at my prick and exclaimed, “I’ll be damned!  You’re cut.  So Danny lied, that fucker!”

“Lied?” I wondered as I climbed onto the bed.

“Yeh!  To win our bet.  He didn’t think I’d find out.”  Suddenly I understood better why Danny had sounded so serious telling me to keep my pants on.  Climbing onto the bed too, Mick paused thoughtfully and then flopped onto his pillow laughing.  “Now he owes me two!”

“So you already paid up?”

“Yep—because I believed him.”  He sounded pissed off.

“What did you guys bet?”

He lifted up on an elbow and looked at me with a question in his greenish eye.  “Oh, nothing much.  Never mind.”

Having heard the same thing twice, I was now even more intrigued.  But if it was their secret…  Of course, I couldn’t help getting a mite jealous about Danny having a secret with Mickey, and them not wanting to let me in on it.

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