Bait: Chapter 2 – My Brother’s Keeper – excerpt 3

cover of Bait - a novel - showing "bait" spelled with a Christian fish and a fishhook

Excerpt from Bait – a Novel

(continued)

But as we’d grown up and moved along in life, my brother and I had gone our separate ways ― he, to his managerial career path, motivating accountants to realize their full potential, and I to a bohemian sort of inconclusive drifting. My music became increasingly important to me, as did my freedom. I joined bands, I took temp jobs. I did mini-tours as a rhythm guitarist on weekends in the greater tri-state area of Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey, and I only took jobs that let me come and go as I pleased. With every ounce of energy, I resisted going down the permanent 9-to-5 path my brother had chosen. Just as he’d learned from my failures in life ― how not to ride a bicycle backwards down a steep hill, how not to shave your eyebrows ― I had learned from his successes. The things he celebrated as “adult accomplishments” ― the steady job, the promotions, the little plaque on his desk commemorating ten years of loyal service to the company ― made my skin crawl, and I used him as a cautionary example, just as he did me. Each of us did precisely the opposite of what the other pursued, and we both thrived in our own ways. Yes, we drifted far apart as adults, philosophically and geographically, but the bond we’d formed in our youth endured.

And so we’d kept in touch. Through regular phone calls every couple of days, and occasional visits ― not too frequent, but frequent enough to not lose contact. We both still valued our childhood connection, and although we often ended up falling out in a fight over semantics or life priorities, interacting as brother and sister made us both feel young again. Locked in conflict, we both felt as though we were still 15 and 14, with me sitting on my bed behind barricaded door, counting out black beauties and giving Danny the finger as he knelt outside, peering through the keyhole, yelling at me about how I put the “mad” in Metzger! and made the whole family look bad! As we neared 40, we both desperately needed that teenaged feeling to endure.

But constant conflict with Danny got old, after a while. We couldn’t fight all the time. Tonight, it was good to see that my brother, my almost-twin, was in love. Again.

It’s not that Danny didn’t have a good heart. He did. That was the problem. Ever since he started high school at Christian Country School (or CCS, as we called it), he’d always fallen ― and seriously so ― for girls he genuinely thought would be good for him and his faith. Intentionally, he’d always sought out the company of nice girls who were very much like our mother.

It wasn’t so much an Oedipal fixation, as the fact that our mother had patterned her life, her behavior, the whole of her being, after the Christian ideal ― a moral, upright, steadfast woman, acquiescent to her husband and devoted to her kids, yet as fiercely supportive of her man and children as any lioness. Like all her other church sisters, Mom was resolutely loyal to her congregation and her faith, as well as her family, and she’d jump to their defense at a moment’s notice. If Daniel pursued few romantic prospects unlike his mother, it was perceived as a good ― not perverse ― thing by his immediate circle of friends, family, and acquaintances. After all, he couldn’t have done better for himself, than finding a woman who mirrored Mom’s example. When I was much younger and newly independent and still had the nerve to share Sunday dinner with my family, looking around the table from Danny’s date, to Mom, to Regina, our stiffly upright great aunt who often spent time with my folks, it was like looking at a series of reflections in facing mirrors. I had no doubt that Danny’s daughters (if any woman ever settled down with him long enough to beget his offspring) would turn out just so, as well.

It intrigued me now, that Danny was so worked up over this woman, this Jenn-with-two-n’s. His courting style was methodical and well-thought-out, like his approach to scriptural interpretation, and it wasn’t like him to become so excited about a woman, before he’d spent several months with her. In his eagerness to better understand the Christian coupling ideal, he’d read Letters to Karen and Letters to Philip, two Christian marriage guidebooks which a loving faithful father had written to his freshly wed daughter and his new son-in-law. Over the years, my brother had read numerous works ― in print and online ― about Christian courting and Christian unions, starting with the books our parents kept on prominent display on our living room bookshelves. I’d read them, too, in my teen years, but more in the spirit of digging for sexual innuendo, or double-checking the official Christian policy on masturbation. (Word was, you wouldn’t actually go blind or grow hair on your palms, but it wasn’t the most loving thing to do, depriving your committed spouse ― present or future ― of your exclusive sexual expression.) To Danny, as to the whole of our family, marriage was a sacramental pact ― a natural conduit of man and woman’s continuing commitment to faith, through the proper relationship of husband and wife, as well as the Holy-Spirit-led, faith-based raising of children. The order in the home was a reflection of, and support mechanism for, the heavenly order, as God’s headship over the Son, and the Son’s headship over his bride, the church, was carried into the home ― God ― Jesus ― church ― husband ― wife ― children (male children before female, of course). Everyone had their proper place. Danny needed a mate who was as convinced as he, of the merits of that hierarchy.

To be continued…

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Bait: Chapter 2 – My Brother’s Keeper – excerpt

cover of Bait - a novel - showing "bait" spelled with a Christian fish and a fishhook

Excerpt from Bait – a Novel

Chapter 2 – My Brother’s Keeper (excerpt).

Later, watching city lights play on the wall across the room, I retraced my day ― typing away in the word processing pool of a large law firm downtown . . . the unexpected call from Lillian at noon, telling me she was back in town a few days early from her new band’s tour and asking if she could stop by that evening . . . my quick reply ― yes, yes ― then having to put in last-minute overtime till seven o’clock . . . hurrying home to tidy my home and my person so that I was presentable to the only woman I’d ever dated, who’d lasted more than a few months with me . . . and the surprise visit from Danny..

Barely a year apart in age, the joke in our family had always been that Danny and I were twins, but he’d been thirteen months more reluctant than I, to come into the world. For brother and sister, we looked eerily alike, with the same dark and sometimes angry features, the same determined gate to our walks, the same inflections in our sentences. He was the one who had christened me “Jax” when as a toddler he was unable to pronounce a “w” sound. My full name “Jacqueline” he’d turned into “Jacselin,” which everyone had shortened to “Jax” to make it easier on him. The nickname had stuck with him, and even when he could manage “Jacqueline,” he’d stuck with “Jax.” It was his way of showing that I was his sister. It was his way of showing that I was his. Only he was allowed to call me “Jax.” And he was the only one who ever did..

We’d grown up side-by-side in our close-knit family, playmates as kids, then rivals as teenagers. Our younger brother Richie had come along six years after Danny’s birth, so for the most significant part of my sentient childhood, Danny had been my constant companion, and I his eager mentor. I learned to ride a bike, then taught him. I learned to climb trees, then showed him how. Even though I was “the girl” and he was “the boy,” I’d always forged boldly ahead, while he lingered safely behind. He learned what not to do, from watching me fall, many times over ― from bikes . . . from trees . . . from the good graces of our family. And Danny became even more prone to hesitation, watching the results of my rash actions..

Over the years, the two of us had developed a kind of mutual admiration/protection society which worked in both our favors. The areas in which I excelled, Danny lagged, and the skills in life which repulsed me, he somehow managed to master. Launching expeditions into new territory ― experiments in fashion, music and art, not to mention striking up conversations with girls who interested me ― were my forte, and what I learned over the years (bell-bottoms were cool . . . David Bowie was not a has-been . . . punk rock music would change everything . . . 10-speeds were out and 12-speeds ― no, 21-speeds ― were in) Danny put to good use in conversations and social settings. He would never have ventured out of the house in wildly striped, flared pants in elementary school, were it not for my example, and he never would have taken the time to investigate either Major Tom or Sid Vicious, years later on his own. But dropping names and tossing around the latest terms, scored him points with his school buddies. I was his canary in the cultural coal mine, who sampled the latest trends; what I gleaned, I passed on for him to weave into conversations with cute girls and cool guys he wanted to impress..

Reciprocally, Danny had watched my back and vouched for me in polite company. Growing up enthusiastically conservative ― like the rest of our family, the rest of our church, the rest of our town, the rest of our county ― he had always fit seamlessly into the staid button-down world that became more foreign and hostile to me with each passing year. The nice people, whose opinion I was supposed to care about, looked askance at my pink hair and single pierced ear, but the fact that I was Danny’s sister always guaranteed me safe passage in their world. When I was with him, I would not be harassed by eternal-hellfire-and-damnation evangelicals seeking another proverbial notch on their Bible case, or rednecks looking to kick some queer ass. Because Danny was my brother, the velour-sweater-Jordache-jean-penny-loafer crowd tolerated me, and I was invited to parties and social events I’d never have heard about, let alone been welcomed into. Being well-behaved Danny’s sister kept me beneath the corrective radar of teachers, principals and policemen, and under Danny’s disapproving but watchful protection, I was able to continue my experiments in fringe culture ― even run a small marijuana and speed distribution business out of my gym bag ― till I was safely graduated from high school and out of my parents’ house. .

As much as he loved to lecture me on the dangers of underage drinking and illicit drug use, Danny had lived vicariously through my exploits; he had relished them as much as I, though he would never admit it. And I was allowed to move through life without the threat of a religious intervention or bodily harm, because of his influence. We were a well-tuned partnership of exceptional experience. We were a team. It was a thrilling life we both had, as teenagers in the late 70’s and early 80’s. The joke about our being almost-twins wasn’t far from the mark..

To be continued…

Bait: Chapter 2 – My Brother’s Keepers – excerpt 2

cover of Bait - a novel - showing "bait" spelled with a Christian fish and a fishhook

Excerpt from Bait – a Novel

Chapter 2 – My Brother’s Keeper (continued)

But as we’d grown up and moved along in life, my brother and I had gone our separate ways ― he, to his managerial career path, motivating accountants to realize their full potential, and I to a bohemian sort of inconclusive drifting. My music became increasingly important to me, as did my freedom. I joined bands, I took temp jobs. I did mini-tours as a rhythm guitarist on weekends in the greater tri-state area of Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey, and I only took jobs that let me come and go as I pleased. With every ounce of energy, I resisted going down the permanent 9-to-5 path my brother had chosen. Just as he’d learned from my failures in life ― how not to ride a bicycle backwards down a steep hill, how not to shave your eyebrows ― I had learned from his successes. The things he celebrated as “adult accomplishments” ― the steady job, the promotions, the little plaque on his desk commemorating ten years of loyal service to the company ― made my skin crawl, and I used him as a cautionary example, just as he did me. Each of us did precisely the opposite of what the other pursued, and we both thrived in our own ways. Yes, we drifted far apart as adults, philosophically and geographically, but the bond we’d formed in our youth endured.

And so we’d kept in touch. Through regular phone calls every couple of days, and occasional visits ― not too frequent, but frequent enough to not lose contact. We both still valued our childhood connection, and although we often ended up falling out in a fight over semantics or life priorities, interacting as brother and sister made us both feel young again. Locked in conflict, we both felt as though we were still 15 and 14, with me sitting on my bed behind barricaded door, counting out black beauties and giving Danny the finger as he knelt outside, peering through the keyhole, yelling at me about how I put the “mad” in Metzger! and made the whole family look bad! As we neared 40, we both desperately needed that teenaged feeling to endure.

But constant conflict with Danny got old, after a while. We couldn’t fight all the time. Tonight, it was good to see that my brother, my almost-twin, was in love. Again.

It’s not that Danny didn’t have a good heart. He did. That was the problem. Ever since he started high school at Christian Country School (or CCS, as we called it), he’d always fallen ― and seriously so ― for girls he genuinely thought would be good for him and his faith. Intentionally, he’d always sought out the company of nice girls who were very much like our mother.

It wasn’t so much an Oedipal fixation, as the fact that our mother had patterned her life, her behavior, the whole of her being, after the Christian ideal ― a moral, upright, steadfast woman, acquiescent to her husband and devoted to her kids, yet as fiercely supportive of her man and children as any lioness. Like all her other church sisters, Mom was resolutely loyal to her congregation and her faith, as well as her family, and she’d jump to their defense at a moment’s notice. If Daniel pursued few romantic prospects unlike his mother, it was perceived as a good ― not perverse ― thing by his immediate circle of friends, family, and acquaintances. After all, he couldn’t have done better for himself, than finding a woman who mirrored Mom’s example. When I was much younger and newly independent and still had the nerve to share Sunday dinner with my family, looking around the table from Danny’s date, to Mom, to Regina, our stiffly upright great aunt who often spent time with my folks, it was like looking at a series of reflections in facing mirrors. I had no doubt that Danny’s daughters (if any woman ever settled down with him long enough to beget his offspring) would turn out just so, as well.

It intrigued me now, that Danny was so worked up over this woman, this Jenn-with-two-n’s. His courting style was methodical and well-thought-out, like his approach to scriptural interpretation, and it wasn’t like him to become so excited about a woman, before he’d spent several months with her. In his eagerness to better understand the Christian coupling ideal, he’d read Letters to Karen and Letters to Philip, two Christian marriage guidebooks which a loving faithful father had written to his freshly wed daughter and his new son-in-law. Over the years, my brother had read numerous works ― in print and online ― about Christian courting and Christian unions, starting with the books our parents kept on prominent display on our living room bookshelves. I’d read them, too, in my teen years, but more in the spirit of digging for sexual innuendo, or double-checking the official Christian policy on masturbation. (Word was, you wouldn’t actually go blind or grow hair on your palms, but it wasn’t the most loving thing to do, depriving your committed spouse ― present or future ― of your exclusive sexual expression.) To Danny, as to the whole of our family, marriage was a sacramental pact ― a natural conduit of man and woman’s continuing commitment to faith, through the proper relationship of husband and wife, as well as the Holy-Spirit-led, faith-based raising of children. The order in the home was a reflection of, and support mechanism for, the heavenly order, as God’s headship over the Son, and the Son’s headship over his bride, the church, was carried into the home ― God ― Jesus ― church ― husband ― wife ― children (male children before female, of course). Everyone had their proper place. Danny needed a mate who was as convinced as he, of the merits of that hierarchy.

To be continued…

Bait: Chapter 1 – Last Stop, Gethsemane – excerpt 4

cover of Bait - a novel - showing "bait" spelled with a Christian fish and a fishhook

Excerpt from Bait – a Novel

Chapter 1 – Last Stop, Gethsemane (continued)

I tried to imagine what sort of evangelical babe my brother had fallen for. None of the others he’d dated for the past 20 years ― all of them cool, calm, resolutely Christian, like our mother ― had incited this height of reaction from Danny. He’d never deliberately hidden any of the others from me.

“I’d like to meet her,” I tested.

“How ’bout joining us for church on Sunday?” he suggested slyly. “I’ve started attending a new fellowship in Philly, and Jenn says she might attend with me too. When she’s not studying, of course.”

“How ’bout . . . not,” I countered. “Maybe you could bring her to one of my gigs.”

“I don’t think so,” Danny stifled a laugh. The last time he’d seen my band play, our lead singer had lit a picture of the president on fire, setting off smoke alarms that summoned two engines to the club. That was more than five years ago, and we’d mellowed a great deal, but he hadn’t been back to see me perform since.

“But if you reconsider church, we’d love to have you worship with us. And Richie too. He’s looking for a new church home, and since he’s living closer to Philly now, he’s starting to attend with me.”

“Church is bad enough,” I said, “but Richie?” Our younger brother had always gotten along better with Holsteins than with me.

“It’s been years since you really spent time with him,” Dan said. “He’s matured a lot since college. His new veterinary practice is taking off. He’s doing well, and it seems like his life is finally on track.”

“I’m glad,” I said. “But I won’t be coming to church with you. Tell everyone I said “Hey” when you see them on Sunday.”

“Oh, I will.” He rubbed his hands together and checked his watch. “Gosh, look at the time ― I must say good-night.” He rose quickly, gave me a quick peck on the cheek, and headed for the door. I followed him out. If Lill was still downstairs ― and there was a chance she wasn’t ― I didn’t want to keep her waiting any longer.

One flight down, Danny stopped and turned. “Seriously, Jax, I wish you would get together with us. Maybe you could join us for dinner some Sunday at Mom and Dad’s. I miss you. All of us Metzgers do.”

“I’ll think about it,” I said in a tone that said otherwise, taking his arm and guiding him to street level.

To be continued…

Bait: Chapter 1 – Last Stop, Gethsemane – excerpt 3

cover of Bait - a novel - showing "bait" spelled with a Christian fish and a fishhook

Excerpt from Bait – a Novel

Chapter 1 – Last Stop, Gethsemane (continued)

Of all the girls he’d dated ― and a few times, nearly married ― I’d rarely heard him talk about a woman like this.

“Sounds like you do too, now,” I said. “You’re starting to sound like your old self.” I wasn’t so sure that was a good thing. I had liked the newly cynical, doubting Danny, than the old devout Daniel, and I’d felt more comfortable around him, too. Truth to tell, over the past months I had started to wonder if he hadn’t grown out of his religious devotion in the same way he’d finally grown out of his favorite old ripped and faded weekend painter pants. But whether from the high of the trip, or the change of scenery, or the impact of this Jenn-with-two-n’s, the tone in his voice rivaled what I’d heard him use in high school, when his shiny-clean, virgin religious fervor still promised all the answers to the world waiting for him beyond graduation. His shoulders were squared for a change, not slumped. His chin was up, and his gaze was clear and steady. In this light, in this mood, my brother was a handsome man.

“Oh, I’m back to my old self, alright,” Dan said breathlessly. “Even moreso. After trying so many things ― counseling with my pastor, seeking out spiritual mentors, talking with trusted friends, spending an extra hour each day in meditation and prayer ― and still feeling nothing, I was starting to worry my faith was gone for good. Just like so many of my friends. They’ve drifted . . . he shook his head sadly, to Eastern religion, New Age philosophies, other denominations . . . they’ve completely lost touch with their evangelical roots, and it’s sad to see. I just couldn’t let myself get to that point.”

“Well, I’m glad you could get out of the country for a little while, as well as spiritually rehabilitate.”

Danny customarily ignored my sarcasm and leaned forward with even more enthusiasm. “The trip was just what I needed. It really rekindled the dedication I thought I’d lost. I’m back at my old level, and this trip was the key. I mean, think about it . . . the people of Oberammergau have been performing the Passion Play ― the last days of Christ ― since 1635. If they can stay that committed, so can I! And what a blessing that I could get that ticket. I feel so much more grounded, so centered, so filled with grace. It’s just amazing. Truly amazing grace.”

“So,” I said, weary of the revival talk, “when are you going to see this Jenn person again?”

“I saw her Monday evening . . . and last night,” he blushed. “And again tonight.”

All night, last night?” I exclaimed. “Danny, did you get lucky?”

“No ― not all night!” He jumped to his feet and headed for my refrigerator. “You know I’m not loose, like that.” He pulled open the door and looked through the contents for something to drink. All I had was beer and a couple of already-opened sodas.

“I know, I know . . .” I said regretfully.

He closed the door with a shake of his head. “And neither is she, he added piously. But we did have a couple of great dinners together at that little diner down on South Street.”

“You were in the neighborhood, and you didn’t bring her by my place?” I said, trying to sound hurt.

“Some other time,” he replied in a suddenly impersonal tone which told me she really was a nice girl. The kind of proper, acceptable-in-the-eyes-of-the-Lord girl he didn’t want his contrary, lesbian, guitar-playing sister to meet. Not this soon, anyway.

“She must be very nice.”

“Oh, she is,” he assured me. “She is.”

To be continued…

Bait: Chapter 1 – Last Stop, Gethsemane – excerpt 2

cover of Bait - a novel - showing "bait" spelled with a Christian fish and a fishhook

Excerpt from Bait – a Novel

Chapter 1 – Last Stop, Gethsemane (continued)

Tickets to the Passion Play were well nigh impossible to come by on short notice, but wonder of wonders, Danny found a ticket to the performance, put reluctantly on sale by someone kept home by family illness. Their loss, his gain. It was nothing short of a miracle. Maybe even a sign. He’d taken a week off work and found a direct flight to Munich. With a small bag packed and his Bible in hand, my brother had started on his 7-day pilgrimage to Oberammergau. First stop, the Black Forest. Last stop, Gethsemane.

Now he was back, sitting in my studio, looking tired and happy and full of grace. “How was the show?” I asked flippantly, a little irritated that I was keeping Lill waiting, a little worried that his revival might have worked as planned. I’d half-hoped, over the past year or so, that he’d abandon his faith and just turn into a regular guy ― a guy who wouldn’t witness to me, who wouldn’t nag me about my “choice of lifestyle,” who could simply live and let live. “Was it any good?”

Any good . . .” Danny shook his head at my tone. “Don’t be sacrilegious. The Passion Play was amazing. I can’t even really talk about it ― not yet. It was so powerful.” His voice caught in his throat and he struggled to compose himself. His hands were trembling.

So, everyone survived the performance?” I teased.

I’m serious. Don’t joke about things like that.”

It’s a show, Danny,” I reminded him, punching my pillows and fluffing them. “It’s not like you don’t know how it turns out . . .” I laughed, but he did not.

My brother stared at the floor and wiped his tearing eyes with the back of his hand.

God, you’re so sensitive,” I prodded.

“If you’re just going to make fun . . .” He started to rise.

Okay, okay, I’m sorry,” I apologized quickly. “But if you can’t tell me about your trip, why did you come by?”

He was silent for a moment, in a way I’d heard before.

You met someone,” I answered my own question. “What’s her name?”

Danny wasn’t quiet anymore. He sat up eagerly, tipping the seat forward on its two front feet. “Her name is Jennifer ― Jenn with two n’s, for short ― and she’s from Philadelphia. I mean, she lives in Philly, but her parents and the rest of her family live down in Virginia outside of Roanoke. She’s just starting her last year of law school at Penn, and she’s amazing. She’s beautiful, brilliant, she graduated magna cum laude from UVA, and she’s as committed to her faith as I am to mine. She actually went to Oberammergau for the same reasons I did ― to revive her faith. Oh, Jax―” he stopped to catch his breath, “praise God, there is still hope for me.”

To be continued…

Bait: Chapter 1 – Last Stop, Gethsemane – excerpt

cover of Bait - a novel - showing "bait" spelled with a Christian fish and a fishhook

Excerpt from Bait – a Novel

Chapter 1 – Last Stop, Gethsemane

At 10:00 p.m., I was ready for company. I was showered and combed-out, my ragged blue jeans and ripped tee had been traded for clean khakis and a button-down shirt, and the domestic explosion in my studio apartment had been thematically separated into distinct piles. When the buzzer rang, I didn’t answer the console beside my front door, but jogged down the three flights of stairs to the entryway of my building. Lillian, my short-but-scrappy sometime-girlfriend, was waiting.

As I opened the door, the hot August night hit me like a sullen blast furnace. Thick with months-long humidity, the air of the street oozed inward, pushing the stale coolness in the entryway aside.

“You’re right on time,” I said.

“I do what I can,” she grinned. Under the streetlamp her teeth flashed white against her olive skin. Her touch was light, as she drew me to her. She smelled of diesel, dust, electronics, and the sweat of heavy lifting.

Out of the corner of my eye, I caught sight of a large, dark shape moving quickly towards us. I took hold of Lill’s sleeve to pull her into the building.

“Jax ?” a voice called my childhood nickname.

“Danny?” I said, releasing my girlfriend. She turned to face my brother, arms crossed. “What are you doing here?” I tried to ask politely.

“I was in the neighborhood,” he said, his sharp features becoming clear under the street lamp. He hesitated a moment under my first guest’s baleful gaze, then stepped up resolutely. At six feet four, he towered over us. “I thought I’d visit my big sister on my way home from work.”

Lill and I exchanged looks.

“Can I come up?” Danny asked. He sounded excited. “It won’t take long.”

Lill hesitated a moment, then said, “I’ll wait,” with ill-concealed impatience, squeezing my hand.

My brother quickly averted his eyes, then wondered aloud, “Is it safe around here?” Danny might have worked in the City by day, but to this grown-up country boy, Center City Philadelphia was no place fit for respectable humans at night.

He wasn’t far wrong. Three blocks south, crystal meth was peddled at busy intersections, and muggings in the vicinity, while not frequent, were known to happen. Especially at the end of a long oppressively hot summer, when temperatures outlasted tempers, violence flared in street corner arguments and liberal use of car horns to register impatience. In the distance, sirens wailed.

“The video store on the corner lets you loiter in their adult aisle,” Lill said wickedly, nodding in the direction of the neon-fronted shop catecorner from my building. “I’ll entertain myself till you’re through.”

“Come on up,” I told my brother, holding the door open for him. As he stepped through, muttering what sounded like one of his condemnatory scripture recitations, I called to Lill’s disappearing back,” Just 15 minutes ― don’t forget about me.”

She waved without turning, paying more attention to crossing the street, than to me.

Danny was half a flight ahead of me, by the time I turned and locked the front door.

I followed him up. “I was expecting you last night.” My voice echoed loud and annoyed in the stairwell. “What are you doing here this late on a Wednesday?” My brother’s usual late night at work was Tuesday. He lived a good hour-and-a-half west of the City, and he hated to postpone his commute home to Pennsylvania Dutch country any longer than necessary. He was a dutiful company man, though, so he put in extra hours once a week, like clockwork.

“I was busy last night,” he defended himself with a hint of mystery. “But I wanted to stop by as soon as I could. I’ve got some news.”

To be continued…

Back to posting

cover of Bait - a novel - showing "bait" spelled with a Christian fish and a fishhook

Bait – a Novel

It’s been a few weeks, since I last posted something here.

My writing – which resides in various locations on hard drives, portable storage, print books, and sheets of handwritten works as well as printouts – leaves me with plenty more to post here. And I shall.

I’m going to start posting sections from my novel “Bait”, which I wrote about 10 years ago. Seems like an eternity since then, but time has also flown. So, here I am now, finally posting selections.

More to come. Much, much more.

Both

Boy – Collection 2

Who was this grown-up boy, carefully concealed within her? Women steered clear of her. Men were intimidated by her. Little girls looked at her wonderingly, and little boys jeered in self-defense at the sight of her. She was aggressive, sure, and confident of herself. She moved differently than most women, with greater certitude. Her movements were less precise, not needing to cautiously negotiate her way through life, but simply sailing onward in whatever direction she chose, no matter what conditions prevailed, and fully expecting to reach her destination.

She wasn’t like other women, other girls. She felt herself capable beyond dispute of whatever she attempted. She wasn’t even like men or boys; she was continually reminded by them that she was not one of them, whenever she came into male company. She knew her body, trusted her body, and she had no fear of what life threw at her.

When she stepped from her home on the weekends, in loose, baggy jeans, with long underwear holding the pink cock snug to her groin, she had at her crotch a piece of the power that made the world go ’round. She carried with her the constant potential for the enduring, consummate fuck, the sole and hidden impetus for almost everything the human race had set in motion since the beginning of time. Be it conquest, be it creation, be it invention, be it revolution, whether on the giving or the receiving end, the pursuit of erection ruled. And with this constant hard-on snug against her left thigh, she was one of the rulers.

On the surface she didn’t look like much — just a youngish butch dyke in baggy clothes, with hair falling in her eyes and a swagger to her walk — but she knew there was more, much more to her, than most people ever guessed. But she had in her secret possession what was desired by the majority of women, and only the bravest of men would admit they craved — a hard dick, long and thick, with the sole purpose of going deep inside another person, filing the hot, wet cave where so much of them lives, and bringing to life that hidden, willing, much-neglected spot of fleshy, wet pleasure. That spot that intimidated most people so much they had only one name for that spot in women — the last name of a man, abbreviated as a single letter “G” — and they rarely mentioned it in men. Passing people on the street, she saw them look at her… differently, curiously. They regarded her with a questioning eye, trying to guess — male or female? — and her manner answered back silently, “Both”.

Her “childbearing hips” were un-mistakable, and her full breasts were not easily hidden. Yet with that cock tucked snug along her leg, she was always ready, always hard, always very aware of this organ strapped to her body with leather and snaps. Its only purpose was to give sexual pleasure — not to piss, not only to hang about as an ornament, but to fuck. With power strapped to her crotch, she had the ability all men craved and most women desired. In this world, that in so many ways refused her power, it gave her abilities and influence that the rest of the world knew nothing about.

But did she flaunt it? Not at all. On the contrary, she withheld it. Out of spite. Out of necessity. Out of commitment to her life-long lover, to whom she was ever faithful. But though she kept it concealed, the knowledge of her hidden drive accentuated the spring in her step, the swing of her shoulders, the glint in her eye. That was flaunting enough.

She was an 18-year-old boy — part man, mostly animal, with just the start of uncut fuzz on her upper lip. She was a matured playboy, knowledgeable in the material desires and comforts of the gentler sex. She was the 20-something, riotous, reveling, cross-dressing, gender-bending butch dyke who could spend all weekend making love to her lover and emerge on Sunday night to eat something and shower, exhausted but refreshed. She was all sex, all physique, all passion, smoldering just beneath the shield of her defiant gaze. She was her lover’s pleasure waiting to happen, an enduring, tireless lover with the patience of a saint and a virility few could imagine or acknowledge. She was the raging sea crashing against her lover’s cliffs, all waves and water and the untempered rage and wildness of youth possessed yet untested. She was the wind across her lover’s plains, passing lightly or strong as her desires called for, dipping into every crevice, every indentation and sweeping across her angles without pause.

She was all woman, who knew from her own core what it was within another woman that cried for more. More pleasure, more touch, more adoration, more adulation.

She was every frustrated housewife’s fantasy — a young and potent satyr with a glint in her eye and a taste for a full woman’s flesh. She was the one who could take them where their depleted husbands could not, would not, and had forgotten that destination ever existed. She harbored no danger of impotence. She never ejaculated prematurely. She never ejaculated at all. She could keep up with the roll and crash of every one of their orgasms, bring them down, and take them back up in ways their husbands never gave them the chance to discover. She was the answer to their every prayer whispered into the thick night air laced with the odor of semen-filled latex sheaths and propriety breaking a light sweat, when the burning in their flesh was only just kindled, but the man of the house grunted and gasped and rolled over to fall asleep.

She was every young straight woman’s fantasy, already eloquent in the language their bodies had yet to discover — the dialect that remains but clumsily spoken on most tongues and must be learned by repetition. She could be the teacher these students searched for desperately (and in vain) in the anxious, clueless groping of young men. She could offer more, much more, than any young man ever could. She was already fluent in the language of their desire; her fingers and tongue were ready and willing to pass it along. She had all the endurance of a young buck, coupled with the instincts of passion’s empathy, with none of the abrupt self-centeredness of an unseasoned lover.

She was the possibility of a fertile, horny woman in the height of passion never having to concern herself with pregnancy. She was the opportunity to give oneself over entirely to single-minded pleasure. She offered the chance to live out the wildest of fantasies with no threat of her losing her hardness, her strength, her desire. She was forever hard, forever long and thick — or, if they so desired, she could change the toy she wore to become as long or as short, thick or thin, as dark or as light as they pleased. She was always available, always versatile, always ready and willing to serve, and serve, and serve some more, till their exhaustion left no more room for movement, breath, or even fantasy. She was forever dedicated only to the delights of unseen flesh, so often untouched, so rarely explored.

And she knew, too, what would make a man moan, what would make him turn inside-out and roll over, legs to heaven, and beg for the hard probe thrust deep within. She knew what would make his cock jump, what would make his nipples harden and scrape against the sheets, and what would keep him aloft until he crashed to the depths of le petit mord. She showed it, as she made her way through this city — the fairies, the faggots, peered askance at her box as she passed them, then turned away with a defensive sneer when their eyes traveled up the length of her body and they saw her breasts, her thin, jutting chin, her woman’s brow.

At parties, half-drunk men who craved their own kind regarded her closely, curiously, their eyes traveling clandestinely to her crotch (whether her cock was with her or not), and holding there, wondering what might lie beneath the buttons of her fly. They took a seat nonchalantly beside her, where she sat along the wall, watching the movement of people and nursing her club soda. They pretended to talk to someone on the other side of them, yet pressed their arm against her shoulder, their knee against her thigh, and whispered they thought what she did in the hallway with her dildo was in bad taste. But in the smoky corners of the room, they still pressed against her — and didn’t pull away when she shifted her weight.

She had what they wanted, and they feared her as much as they desired her. Each emotion fed the other, making her undeniably desirable. They could mask their attraction for this man-and-woman behind their powder and lipstick, they could camouflage their wants behind catty laughter and rage, they could pretend not to see her when others were around. But she knew they did see her. She knew they did want her. She knew they could never deny it, if she pressed them for the truth in anonymous darkness, when no one was watching. She knew they wanted to admit it, with the voice in their head, with the head of their dick, with the hum of their pulse. They’d never admit it, though. Not to themselves. Not to her. Try as they might to deny it, she knew they were lying. They were lying.

But she left them alone, all of them, male and female and otherwise. And she said nothing to anyone of this. For she was committed to another. And what would those women and men do with her, if they could have her, anyway? The contradictions of her flesh against the training of their minds… what the world told them they could have, conflicting sharply with that dark and deeply rooted part of them that lusted for more… even if they knew what they wanted, they would never allow it into their lives. Their marginalized desires, their secret longings, their untapped passions might well cause them to self-destruct. And she would be the one covered with the mess, while they went back to their little boys, their flaccid spouses, their crimped and primped propriety, leaving her with little else but the proof of her capacity to fill their pleasure — a proof she never needed in the first place.

She didn’t need to search the alleys filled with strangers for proof. Her lover knew the effect her cock had on her. When she strapped on this toy and crawled in bed with her, she was ready. Ready to give her lover pleasure, ready to slip inside her and stroke her innermost reaches. All she wanted when she wore it and they made love, was to go inside her lover, to be there, take her up and over the lip of her pleasure, spilling into the thick night with a scream. It aroused her as little else could. She got so wet and open that she dripped in a steady stream down her leg that surprised even her lover, who knew better than anyone what her body was capable of. Her hungry clit swelled up to twice its size, her labia became engorged with blood, aching for caresses, and her vagina opened wide, gasping and sputtering for her lover’s hand — as much of her hand as she could take. In resembling a man, she was all woman. In going into her lover, she gathered within herself the room to take her lover deep within her.

And taking her lover in, she grew to resemble a man even more. Swollen, engorged, her clit peered up from between her lips like a tiny cock, hard and ready and probing ever outward for a taste of woman. Pendulous with the rush of blood, her inner lips filled and swelled and dangled between her thighs like balls, glistening with her cum. Her juices dripped down to the tip of her clit, shining in drops from the tip of her groin’s desire. And she knew then how men evolved from women. She knew where men came from. She knew the origin of dick and balls. And she knew, were it ten thousand years earlier, a generation of parthenogenic almost-male-beings would spring from her lineage. She would be one of the first.

Now she was one of the few. One of those who was not Either-Male-Or-Female, but Both.

One aspect would have been useless to her without the other. For with her commingled knowledge, she knew just where to lick, just where to suck. The female body whispered commands to her. Always speaking, always asking, always hungry… And the male in her obeyed. Few knew how to listen and understand, but the woman in her did. She comprehended each dialect of her lover’s body, the vernacular of every region from the crown of her head to the sharp edge of her toenails. She listened, heard, and responded. She followed the instructions of her lover’s lust, submitted to the direction of her sighs. If her lover never returned her favors, it would not have bothered her. If her lover never gave a thought to anything but her own pleasure, she would relish it still. Her lust, her longing calling out in moans and cries, her desire beading on her brow, her wild patches of hair, the corner of her gaping mouth… it was all enough. The rise and fall of her dripping cunt pressed to her face, her mouth, her hands, her cock, was enough. The roll of her beneath her, the rise and fall of the mountains of her ample flesh, her strong bones, her unappreciated and emerging cravings, they were enough. She wanted only to give her pleasure. She made herself obedient to the commands of her flesh. She was a willing servant to that benevolent, generous master whose subjects we all are. She served the body.

When she wore her dick, she knew what it was to be a man, to have the constant external reminder that she was ready, and that she had the ability at any time to take a woman and make her her own.

And because she was woman, she knew the secret places within her lover — and without. She knew the signs of her pleasure even before they fully registered with the other. She knew what brought her up, and up, and up. She knew what pushed her over the edge again, and again, and again, filling the air above their bed with their pleas and cries and gasps. She knew her lover’s capacity for pleasure, how complete and insatiable it was, how the glint in her eye sharpened, when she moved across the surface of her flesh, stroking and probing, raising the blood just beneath the surface of her skin, her tiny hairs standing on end, reaching up to her for more.

She was man enough for that kind of love. She was woman enough for it, too. She embodied all a woman needed, she represented what so many women feared and shunned. She was many a woman’s fondest dream, and their reality’s deepest frustration. Most of the world looked upon her askance. Because she was not all-woman-and-only-woman, many considered her less than what she could be. But she knew, the latex, inanimate conveyor of intelligence knew, the heat of her thighs and the roll of her shoulders knew, that the drive which arose within her when that member nestled not completely hidden along the inseam of her left leg, made her more, far more, than most would ever imagine.

Let them think she was less. She knew that she was more than most could ever want or have.

She was not Either-Or. She was Both.

Stone Silence

There are times when I think this side of me will be my undoing. I’ll want too fiercely once too often, I’ll lust too brazenly in front of the wrong people. I’ll feel the full swelling of veins and corpuscles, the dampening of fleshy membranes under improper circumstances. And I’ll be caught.

Caught in the snapshot flash of a glaring moment of desire that exposes the surface of myself for just long enough to etch across my face, my body, the fact that I want.

Caught in a revelatory instant that pierces open my pupil to allow the world a full-length view of my soul, brazen and eager, cocky and unapologetic.

Caught in mid-sentence, mid-thought, mid-stride, arrested in my self-conscious suspicions that there is something dreadfully amiss with me — but that unnamed “something” just doesn’t care.

Caught in my wanting that doesn’t give a damn who sees, or who knows, or who cares, or who responds, but only wants, only craves, only fixes on the object of its desire and will cross all boundaries, bridge all chasms, navigate all seas, stormy or calm, to reach its destination, to nestle in the embrace of the beloved.

I’ll be caught in the painful fact that my destination is not always one I can nestle in, and it’s not always in the embrace of my beloved… but that my most traveled destination is a fantasy where the woman I lust for has no name I know, and sometimes no face, that her body is strange to me, foreign and ravenous, that the sex we have is not making love, but fucking, and that she loves the way she takes me in, eats me up, spits me out, and demands I come back to give her more. Caught in the fact that in this act, love is nowhere to be found, that I am not tender, that she is not kind, and that we use each other to shreds without apology or denial, without hesitation or regret.

Caught in the fact that the most intimate of physical acts I know is as destructive as it is creative, as often aloof and impersonal as it is fulfilling and amorous, and the fact that which aspect I like better is not something I can admit to anyone with any level of comfort, or make consistent with the politics I’m told I must embrace more fully than my lover.

I’ll be caught in a moment, when all my careful training as an unassuming woman, taught to not ask for what is rightfully mine, taught to not consider my wants before others’, taught that women do not know what they want, anyway, so it’s useless to ask… falls away, eroded by the underlying truth that I do know, that I do want, that I can and will ask for what is rightfully mine, and I will make no excuses or apologies for my behavior.

Caught in a moment that shows I am sometimes more flesh and bone than brain… that shows that I, too, think below my waist often enough and my thinking is no more noble or chaste than that of a man, that my intentions are often no less aggressive, my motives no more ulterior than those whom we so often conveniently blame for us bringing our planet to the brink of destruction.

Caught in the realization that what I find within me is what the women I want often fear, often despise, and are rarely comfortable with… that the boy in me is not often welcome in the company of my own lesbian nation, that to speak of him even in privacy is chancy, that to acknowledge him publicly is taboo… that to so much as admit to myself that he lives and breathes in these bones along with the woman, and is often the winner when one side wishes to dominate… that the very thing that draws me to women, also thrusts me more violently away from them… that the part of me that adds, is all too often seen as something that takes away… that I am often not completely welcome among women, in the place where I expect to be most comfortable…

I am suspended in the realization that there is nowhere else for me to go, and either I stand up and be counted and demand that I am acknowledged and respected —

or I live a half life, a narrowly gendered life, where none of the strict rules are clearly enunciated or even acknowledged, and few of the impulses are given public credence beyond their political context —

or I live in stone silence, on the fringes of polite straight and lesbian societies alike, trotting out my difference only in the privacy of my own home, or paraded in the anonymous license of All Hallow’s Eve, when the lines between man and woman, straight and queer, are drawn less sharply and transversal is encouraged —

or, during the course of my routinely everyday life, I turn to my books, to the clusters of ideas aligned most closely to mine, that I can cover in brown wrapping paper and read in near-privacy on the subway, the book turned towards me, but not so sharply that its print and pictures reflect in the windows, drawing looks, stares, invitations or insults from ambivalent strangers who read along with me as we clatter through the subway tunnels.

I’ll be caught in the fact that, call myself what I will, no matter how many books I read or movies I see, I am still not clear on the “rules” of butchness… that I’m unenculturated in that way… that I’m just a little too femme sometimes, a little too androgynous at others, to be considered a full-fledged stone butch…

that in the company of other butches, I falter and fall short of full-fledged dyke masculinity, deferring to their stone traits, paling in comparison, not willing to go the extra mile to prove myself, to act the part, to play the role, not knowing what the part is, anyway, not knowing what the roles and the rules are, not even knowing what I’d be proving, anyway, and uncertain all around of my place in this world, my location on the scale of the 1-10 (1 being femme, 10 being butch) dichotomy, feeling myself slide up and down the scale, fading in and out of gender, in and out of sex, in and out of the definitions someone somewhere came up with, without my consent, and wondering how in the hell I’ll ever negotiate this life, not always comfortable in the outside world, but oh-so-comfortable in my own skin…

I’ll be snagged between the times when I think I may be predominantly masculine — and the times I must admit to more than a touch of the feminine. Most of the time, I drift in and out, the lines blurred in my own mind, like stairs I negotiate in a high, dark tower, climbing to rescue Rapunzel, rather than insisting she toss me her long, luscious hair. Will this be my undoing? I want too fiercely too often… I lust too brazenly, no matter who’s looking. I feel the full swelling of my veins and corpuscles, the dampening of fleshy membranes under improper circumstances. And I am caught.

Caught in being both boy and girl, guy and gal, male and female, but never suspended for more than a few moments in any one given place… and feeling the pressure to prove my identity, if to no one else, then at least to myself, to sustain what tenuous understanding I have of what my place is, in this fickle and unforgiving world, among brittle and narrow-minded lesbian sister-species, in the paths I beat into the ground with my daily wanderings, being called “Ma’am” here, “Sir” there, and not knowing which irritates or liberates me more.

Caught in mid-sentence, unable to complete a self-description, unable to finish the explanation to my parents or co-workers of what my weekend was like, unable to fully define myself, given the words I’ve learned, and what they should mean to myself and others… Left wondering in mid-sentence how I should top off for myself the vessel of meaning I’ve been filling for others, like an Anglo-European politically correct, ethnically sensitive individual who desperately wants to say the right thing, but doesn’t know yet that “Chicana” has become a specialized term no longer embraced freely by all people of Latin American descent, and accidentally lets the antiquated, militant term “Afro American” slip into a sentence about a Black neighbor, when Black and Latina persons are listening… like that Anglo offender, who stutters and stumbles, nonplused at their insensitivity, certain they’ve offended their listeners, not sure how to smooth over the mistake, cringing again at the way words’ meanings divide, when all they wanted to do was bridge a gap, make a connection, just let the other person know what was happening in their mind, in their heart, in their shared world. I offend, alternatively, myself and the world.

I am left hanging out to dry amid the women who have had the advantage of being part of a community when community was being built for its own sake. I am left standing on the fringes of the consciousness-raisers who spoke and debated in public for years, honing their rhetoric, their vocabulary, devising a language all their own, used to identify who belongs and who is on the outside, using the words they’ve developed to measure the level of each other’s enlightenment, and to marginalize those who still embrace the words and ideas of The Enemy. I lurk at the edges of many worlds I inhabit over the course of a day, unsure about my own command of the variations on body language, the diplomatically acrobatic verbal tongue, the myriad messages that could grant me entrance, knowing that even if no one notices, I am still a part of their world, I still have a place, and even if that place is not acknowledged by them, at least I know I have it within me. I am listening at the periphery of the debate of what makes man, what makes woman, not paying attention to mimic or self-consciously embrace, but to glean some shreds of commonality from the stories, the tales, the accounts, some image I can call a faint mirror of myself, seeking to claim my kin in a family that doesn’t know I’m related, and may demand a test of blood and flesh to prove I’m really one of them, after all. I am the prodigal son/daughter who was the bastard child the father never knew he had. And I have never left home. Yet I have no room of my own inside the house of my upbringing.

Mine is the language of heart, mind, soul, a language without words, a tongue that communicates without speaking. Mine is the word of creative silence — simply doing, rather than speaking — simply living, rather than planning out each step ahead of time. Mine is the life of one living in the time of passing-on, when it’s all too easy to meet an early end, when pleasure can equal death as surely as silence does. I am of a time when to grow old and wrinkle and live to see such hardships as brittle bones and absentmindedness, is a blessing, not a dread curse. I am of a time when the randomness of injustice, violence, deprivation and plain old dumb luck — and the severity of the bought consequences — makes concerted, organized resistance seem impotent, impractical and useless to my survivalist pragmatic mind. I am of the world where righting wrongs is more an issue of money and power, and the lines between right and wrong are no longer clearly marked.

I am the success someone thought was a mistake, the experiment someone wanted to sweep under the carpet, when it didn’t turn out the way they wanted. I am changeling, spirited into a time that didn’t expect me, though it prepared for me… that makes space for me, then resents me for taking up that space. I am the shapeshifter, the one who drifts in and out of others’ ideas, with the idea of myself fixed in my head, as mutable as it is constant, with no need for apologies, beyond what’s necessitated for the sake of polite conversation. I am the one whose actions speak louder than words, whose actions are all I has, who has no command of another’s language, but lives her life, nonetheless, for all the world to see — if it should look, instead of only listening.

I am left wondering so often how to complete my sentences before I begin them, that I simply choose not to speak. And you will not find me, unless you look.