Two Kings (an excerpt)

Once upon a time, there was a very small boy that lived in a very big kingdom way at the top of the world. The very small boy was an only child, but he wasn’t lonely. He had a governor that spent every waking hour with the very small boy. As a matter of fact, the very small boy couldn’t remember a time when the governor wasn’t at his side. The very small boy even remembered the first smiling face he saw when he first opened his eyes; it was that of his governor.

One night after dinner, the governor entered the very small boy’s very large bedroom. The very small boy was standing next to the very tall window looking outside at the very large mounds of snow.

“What are you looking at?” the governor asked while walking into the room.

With a deep sigh, the very small boy said, “The same thing I look at every day.”

“Which is what, exactly?” the governor prompted.

And with another deep sigh, the very small boy said, while looking out the very tall window in the very big kingdom at the top of the world, “Exactly nothing.”

And with another deep sigh the very small boy began to imagine other places that were not covered by snow; warm places with sand dunes; tropical places with oceans.



Loving Men-Mark

Sometimes you can meet people on the internet. And sometimes those people can impact you in ways you never expected.

I was introduced to Mark on Grindr.



“You looking?”

“Might be, depends.”

“On what?”

“On what I find.”

“You found me.”

“No, you found me.”

“Oh, not your type?”

“What type are you?”

“21, 6’4″, 240 pounds.”

“Big boy, aren’t you?”


“I don’t usually date guys over 6’1″.”


“Because I’m 6’1″.”

“Oh. So, no?”

“No. Not necessarily. You’re young in comparison.”

“In comparison to what?”

“To me, We’re a lifetime apart.”

“That’s what I want.”

“What’s that?”

“Your lifetime. Your wisdom. I can’t wait to get where you are.”

“Don’t wish your life away.”

“I’m not wishing it away. I’m giving it away.”

“You shouldn’t do that.”

“Why not?”

“Because my life is my life. Your life is yours. They’re not the same.”

“I’m afraid.”

“Of what? Your life? Are you kidding?”

“Don’t make fun of me.”

“I’m sorry. I was afraid of my life when I was 21.”


“Are you kidding? Everyone your age is afraid of life.”

“Are you?”

“Not any more. There’s not much more that can hurt me now.”

“How come?”

“Because everything I thought would hurt me has hurt me. Those skeletons and stories and lovers are behind me. I’m an amalgamation of my life.”

“Can’t you just give me some?”

“Listen baby, they won’t fit; they’re the wrong size.”

Loving Men-Attention

You never know how much you miss something until it’s returned.

My day with Pup was brief. Eight hours at best. But in those 640 minutes, my attention was drawn across a table, to the driver’s seat, towards a melting gelato. Everywhere but on myself.

When we left the museum, Pup put his hand on my thigh and I picked it up and studied holdinghandshis naked arm, the long shimmering hair that flowed like a river in one direction, and when combed opposite, like the hair on his head, sprung stubbornly back like a rip current.

After dinner, the server gave me a box for my leftovers. Pup watched as I slowly shoveled my pulled pork into the container. All at once Pup said, “Here, give me that for God’s sake,” and expeditiously scooped my cooled meal into the styrofoam.

“When I was a kid we had a lot of leftovers,” he said, “but you didn’t know what was in the containers, so I used my fingernail, like this, to write what’s inside,” as he inscribed the styrofoam cover.

As we sat in the parking lot of my hotel, Pup and I were both turned and leaning against our seats, heads tilted against the headrests, easily looking at the other. “What?” Pup asked.

“Nothing,” I replied quietly.

“Why are you staring?” he pointed.

“Because you’re staring,” I said and turned away.

Aware of my correction, Pup put his hand on my thigh and caressed it.

“I was embarrassed that I got caught,” he said.

“It’s called affection, Pup,” I said.

“It’s called attention, Harlan. People don’t give it away as generously as you do,” Pup replied.


Loving Men-Ghosts

In my sleep, I’m haunted by ghosts.

Sometimes it’s Luciano; he’s come home late after an evening with friends. I hear the IMG_0358door close and I can hear the clang of his belt as the weight of his pockets draws his jeans to the floor; I can feel his shirt being stripped from his torso like cellophane; then our bed tilts like a little rowboat as he lifts the comforter and slides in behind me. “Hijo,” I whisper, “did you have fun with your friends?”

“Si,” Luciano whispers between light kisses on my throat and shoulder, “Si, Papi, but I missed you,” he continues, his kissing becoming more determined.

“I’m asleep,” I whisper while rolling onto my back, feeling his weight rise, then fall atop me. In the darkness, I can feel his humidity, I can feel his breathy stare. “I’m not IMG_0345handsome now,” I whisper. “Jajaja, Papi,” he whispers into my ear, softly purring, “You’re always handsome.”

My hands drift to his strong flanks which remain bathed in cotton, my fingers delve into the fabric, beneath it, finding his strong buttocks. I pull him closer, wanting IMG_0367his entire weight atop me, pushing my breath from my lungs. He lifts himself up from me, then lowers himself into a comfortable position, moving his hips delicately.

We’ve ridden on this train before. It always takes us to some far-flung destination; across valleys and up across mountains; through treacherous, snow drifted passes; then down deep into pastoral valleys.

But this night, this ghostly night, no trip will be taken.

This night, like so many aching nights, my Luciano is only a mirage.

The Artist and The Academic (novel excerpt)

alistairdoorAlistair opened the vestibule door with great purpose. He glanced at Mrs. Carmichael who rose quickly from her desk and dogged him as he stormed into his office where he spotted Qiana Reece, Curator of the R.J. Cooper Collection rising from one of the handsome yet hard winged-back chairs. He turned quickly to glare at Mrs. Carmichael.

“God-damnit, Mrs. Carmichael!” he said loudly.

Mrs. Carmichael stopped, “She insisted, Dr. Deveraux.”

“Everyone insists, Mrs. Carmichael! That’s why you sit out there! To stop them, insistent or not!”

“It’s not in my character to be rude,” she said while turning, “Even if I do work for a boor,” she said while closing the door.

Alistair was careful to never receive personal correspondence at his office because Mrs. Carmichael, the entrenched secretary that came with his office and which was well-known to use information addressed to him to finagle her self-selected title:

Senior Executive Administration Administrator &
Secretary to Dr. Alistair Devereaux, Vice Chancellor and R.J. Cooper Chair

and who must never tear open any letter from R.J. Cooper. The information contained therein was of such a private nature that he didn’t even allow its delivery to his home because he knew Elloise much too well. He’d already rehearsed her behavior thousands of times in his mind: She, being the wife of an academic, and as nervous as a Jack Russell terrier would serendipitously greet the postman, who would hand her a single envelope that was hand-addressed on a buttery, engraved linen paper whose return address was the signature of the sender and beneath, in great simplicity, Coopertown, NY, NY 10001. Her interest piqued, she’d open the door, step out onto the Braen Stone driveway, shield her eyes, and confirm that Alistair’s figure couldn’t be seen through gaps in the thickets lining the private roadway. She’d hastily close the door and with an almost giddy demeanor, open the small drawer of the eighteenth century hall table, retrieve a letter-opener and deftly slice the top edge withdrawing a scrawled note of which she’d immediately read hastily, then begin to slow until she dropped both the envelope and letter-opener and collapsed, aware that the information would granulate everything.

As soon as Mrs. Carmichael left his office, Allistair walked to the door, closed it with a bang, then turned to Qiana.

“So, what is it, Qiana?” he asked.

Handing him the already opened envelope she said, “I think you’ll want to see this.”

Taking the envelope from her, he sat down on the hard mid-century modern sofa and felt the creamy, butter-like envelope. “Another painting,” he asked.

“Uh, no. Worse. Much, much worse.”

He studied the creamy cotton envelope, stamped, and postmarked New York, NY. On the back flap engraved meticulously read L.O. 18 Blount Street, Cooperstown, Hastings, New York 10165. Hastings, Hastings Alistair repeated quietly to himself, why does that town sound so familiar to him, as if he’d opened a dusty trunk in the attic, only to discover remnants of his long-forgotten past.

Alistair reached inside for the crisp paper, folded in thirds with a heavy crease. Upon unfolding the letter a piece of paper fluttered onto the Persian carpet Elloise insisted should be laid beneath the sofa. He bent down to pick up the paper and set it on the table, much more interested in the hand-written letter. The cotton paper was embossed at the top: Lila O’Riley, Assistant Curator, Cooperstown Gallery of Illustrative Arts, Cooperstown College of Liberal Arts, Cooperstown, Hastings, New York 10165. Lila O’Reilly, he kept repeating as though her name was a piece of hard candy.

“Jesus Christ!” Allistair said emphatically. “What the fuck!”

“I know, Dr. Deveraux. That’s why I thought you should see it right away. That’s why I insisted that Mrs. Carmichael. . .”

“Do you know what this means, Qiana?”

“I suspect,” she added quietly.

“Suspect? You suspect? You better damned well know. This means we’re all fucked! All of us! You, me, this fucking lousy college! All of us are fucked!” he says as he stands from the sofa and walks to the window over-looking the college’s common area.

Qiana walks to the table, picks up the loose piece of paper, and walks next to him.

“You didn’t see this,” she says.

Allistair looks down at her hand and sees a boarding pass for a first class seat on the 7:05 pm flight to New York.

“What’s that supposed to be?” he asks, “A god-damned ticket to his funeral?”

“Might be,” Qiana adds. “But I have a hunch it’s more than that.”

“Like what?” Allistair asks, devoid of concern.

“RJ never liked loose ends. You said that yourself. He was tidy. Complete. I think there’s something else waiting for you at the other end of that flight,” she says cooly.


This Is What I’m Thinking When I’m Thinking About What I’m Thinking, I Think

Those that teach in hypothetical disciplines like modern physics for instance, take refuge in the oddly and lonely corridor of many colleges and universities. Our offices are rarely visited by students seeking help in areas like Electricity and Magnetism, Relativity, or Statistical Physics. No, they stay away like uncertain two years old, leaving the handful of tenured professors plenty of time to stroll the corridor, looking for an open office door which they enter and begin or continue abstract conversations.

I am Dr. Mass-tely Jeenis, the endmost tenured professor in the department of Modern Physics. My areas of concentration are Special Relativity and The Physics of Energy. The highest point in my short career as an academic was being assigned an office across the Tenure Corridor and two doors down from the seldom seen, rarely revealed, and perfunctory campus mail drop of one, Albert Einstein, PhD.

His notoriety brought Quantum Physics out of the closet and into the corridor, where the curious walked past like Hollywood’s “Parade of Homes.” However, they always departed the same way they arrived, lacking a peak at genuine genius. I however was saddened, even angry, that his perpetual disappearance caused my colleagues’s conversation to descend as swiftly as Satan with arms chock-full of caterwauling souls, into unimpeded, green-eyed-jealous rumor mongering and unabridged innuendo as to the whereabouts of our celebrated celebrity wunderkind; our own ambassador of absurdity; that carny side show oddball.

Late last Tuesday and well into the night I myself sat chained to my chair, pouring over consciously boring drafts of fourth year thesis’s. It started distantly, quietly with determination and purpose, sounds which leapt from books by Shelly; the out-of-step limping, the shuffling of heavy limbs. The conventional gait of a clandestine and disfigured horror! I slowly pushed my squeaky-wheeled desk chair away from my desk, stood quickly, and tip-toed to the threshold of my office and waited. The sounds abruptly stopped across the hall and two doors down. Standing there, it continued to struggle with a thirty-nine cent cellophane tape dispenser. Finally it managed to hang a public decree on the frosted glass.

“Good evening, Dr. Jeenis. I hope your hyperventilation hasn’t caused you any harm,” Einstein said genuinely and continued “Come here Dr. Jeenis, will you? I would like you to read my notice.”

I literally floated and stood next to him. Surprisingly, he seemed no different than any other person. He was simply dressed, his hair was gray, long, and definitely an after-thought. He was, in a word, normal.

I began to read, “To All of you. Do not knock on this door. It disturbs the other offices. Which they then use as reasons to initiate chit-chats. I agreed to accept this position and honorarium on one condition. To Think. Alone. By myself. In silence. Absent of knock-knocks and chit-chats. You Are Welcome(d),” where he crossed out the last letter “D” in an almost childish hand.

“Well?” he asked.

I replied, “It’s certainly to the point.”

And then, from a faraway place he began to speak, “I’m so tired, Jeenis; I’m so tired of lying awake in my pajamas, listening to that incessant crackling of an ill-tuned table-top radio. It’s turned on for hours and hours and as I’m just begin to trail off my anger rises to the surface. Then I’m thinking Again; again I’m thinking no one listens to the ill-tuned table-top radio like this; for hours and then days. Who’d do a thing like that with no regard for his neighbors, windows open and curtains rolling. And so I get up, heavier with each surrender, angrier that I don”t go out and find the bastard! When dressed I find my bicycle leaning against a railing and start pedaling east, leaving that god-damn ill-tuned table-top radio behind me, back west, its volume disappearing with each passing street lamp catching my attention when suddenly I’m aware of silence.”

He then stepped forward, searched his pockets for a key, put it in the lock of his office and turned the deadbolt. With a push of his hand the door swung open. Inside were hundreds and hundreds of paper taped from floor to ceiling, on all the walls, even covering the one window. All the papers had some kind of annotation.

While walking into his office he turned to me and said, “This is what I’m thinking when I’m thinking about what I’m thinking, I think.”


I Reckon, It Was My Reckoning

PLEASE NOTE: BnB has 190 posts. I doubt you’re going to rummage around in the basement of my blog, so I’ve decided to bring a handful of posts forward and mention why these are some of my favorites. Like: My Penned Invention of the Pen Invention (because I had fun writing it); or, The Start starring Wile E. Coyote (because this was my first post and of which has received 138 comments); or this one I Reckon, It Was My Reckoning (an early attempt to illustrate a dire consequence when you barter your character for wealth, fame, power and career). I hope you enjoy it and, as always, I invite you to leave comments.


It was now, right now, right now as you read this, exactly four years ago, that I stood in front of an old, caged teller’s window and watched The Principle Clerk place the Scales of Character atop an antiquated green-marbled counter.  His craggy index finger moved slowly down a ledger, then stopped; picking up the ledger he walked to the back where small drawers were stacked thirty feet high. Looking near the bottom he opened a drawer, plucked out a box, then returned it, plucked another, returned it, and after five attempts in four different drawers he removed a box, closed the drawer, snapped shut the ledger and returned to the front.  

“That drawer was really packed,” I said to relieve my tension.  

“That drawer is all you,” he said, “You in different lives; there’s quite a bit of you; more is better than less; you didn’t squander character; admirable.”  From the

From the box, he lifted a small parcel and placed it on the counter beneath his barred window. Looking at me above his spectacles he said, “You’ve got to open it and verify that everything’s there; that there’s nothing missing, and that it meets with your satisfaction; once you’re finished, close it, tie the string, and then pass it back to me under the barred window.” Then leaning in, within whispering distance, he looked left and then right to check if anyone was within earshot and whispered, “Almost everyone expects more; don’t be surprised; a bit is withdrawn each time you barter truth to self,” then he turned and went about his busy work.

Hands shaking, I untied the bow, peeled back the paper and gazed upon five brilliant, transparent, and twinkling jewels.  Immediately I felt absorbed or better, renewed; I felt capricious and peculiar; I looked eagerly for paper and pencil so I could describe it; I felt shy and naked; every ploy and deceit and means were displayed. I folded the paper atop the jewels, tied a knot in the string and called for the clerk.  “Everything in order, sir?” he asked.  

“I assume so,” I replied absolutely uncertain as to the truth of my answer.

“Excellent,” he said, “Now, let’s take a look at where you stand,” as he carried my box back to the Scales of Character.

“On the left,” he started to explain, “we place your parcel, that is, what remains of your character,” he says as he delicately places my parcel on the brass tray.  “On the right,” he continued, “we place the whole of your Lifetimes represented by these incremental weights.  The target for which we aim is that the left side, You, outweighs the right side, Lifetime. The objective is that one’s Character can outlast one’s Existence.” 

“And what does it mean if the right outweighs the left?” I asked hesitantly.

“Many things,” he said after taking a deep breath, “and one which you must choose. But before we talk about that, let’s see where you stand,” has said quietly, turning back to the scale. I tried to peer through the closeness of the bars of his window and watched as he carefully selected the right-side weights and placed them delicately in the elevated tray.  With each weights placement, he paused momentarily, allowing the scale to stop moving before he proceeded.  When he placed the second to last weight on the tray the right side sunk significantly but remained higher than the left.  “Not too bad, not too bad at all,” he said over his shoulder, “that weight is what does so many, so so many people in.”

“One weight left. . .” my comment exposing my nervousness.

“Yes,” the Clerk said, “but it represents the last decade,” he said as he placed it on the scale causing the left side to rise above the lowered right side.  

“Out of balance,” I mumbled, defeated.

Turning, he walked to the counter and studied me before speaking.  In a voice resembling that of my conscience, he began to explain, “There are people that stand where you’re standing and their left side hit bottom long before I stacked the weight. They knew what it meant before I started my explanation.  And for those people, there are no options: There’s just one thing to do. But it’s not the thing that’s hard to believe, it’s knowing that they won’t know when. That by overdrawing their Character account they lost the privilege of forethought.  Now they spend their time oblivious to all the choices of life, they’re left behind; indecisiveness caused missed chances, lost opportunities, and the upstarts, the less deserving were handed promotions. And they continued to fall further and further down their chosen ladder. And on his way down all of the trappings associated with bartered success fell too like leaves or thin branches: their wives and children and grandchildren. Here we call that damnation.”  He checked his watch and placed a sign directing people to other windows, walked back to a coat tree, grabbed his hat and coat and stood next to me.

“You stopped by at a good time.  You didn’t wait thinking the ship would right itself. You abandoned the inclination to compromise.  Compromise depletes Character quicker than any other life choice; compromise also happens to be the easiest and most benign.  And yet Character is the most coveted virtue by people besieged by empty character overdrafts and find themselves pleading for, but being denied protection. This persona non grata will happily promise anyone anything to convince the unwitting to give it up; let it go; who cares; nobody will see and who cares if they do; everyone else does it; it’s just for a while; come on we’re friends. And before the new initiates know it, their high-rolling days are over; they’re marginalized; they’re alone at any bar on any street and in that part of town; no wingmen; no gaggles and gaggles of girls gathering and giggling; no brunette with Azurite eyes. Those seeking devotees have already begun to feel that Life is no longer a Miracle but a rubric to be endured for all time. Not celebrated or explored or shared or even predicted.  The damned chides those with Character but those with Character cannot hear their heckles. You see, it’s not that those with Character won’t listen. They have listened. It’s the damned that didn’t listen and sadly they’ll be the only ones that will listen.

“But here’s what’s going to happen to you:  You saw that you’re a wee bit short on Character to last your Lifetime. Maybe you traded it, sold it, or gave it away. So you’re going off-line for a few years; to recharge; to reenergize; to rediscover curiosity and creativity; to stop, take root, sprout and expand; to see not simply look; to listen and understand not just hear and obey; to get back to the business of your life; to be you to the end.  Expect people to identify you as crazy, loony, out-of-your-head and off your noggin, a victim of mental illness; they may even identify you as a kind of nut case; a specific type of lunatic; because, they’ll say, if Crayola can have five different reds and blues and greens, then why can’t the mentally ill be as colorful! Let it be, let it wash ashore like the tide; you’ll survive. That pinch of Character you might need to navigate life will be available and parsed out.  Now, once that door opens and you cross that threshold your entire life will fall apart.  You won’t know why you won’t remember here or me. That is until one day some years from now when it’s time for your turn at the window you’ll recall a sort of Déjà vu clerking behind the window.  And being one of Generous Character you may even tell this story using your own voice which mysteriously fell silent twenty years ago just like mine did twenty years ago. And maybe the middle-aged man standing in front of your window will have more Character than Life remaining. And then both of you can walk out that door over there.” 

“What’s it say?” I asked, careening my neck in order to see. 

“There’s no need knowing now,” he said as one strong hand went to my back and the other hand to the lock. “Besides,” he said turning the knob, “Time just eats you up,” as he nudged me, waited, then with considerably more strength he nudged me again with more purpose, and then he barked loudly and snarled like a teased-to-mean junkyard dog waving that craggy finger at me, “Now, get out!” he snarled, “Twenty more years until I can go through that door marked “To Trains.” Then with great conviction, he pushed me into the street followed by doors slamming and deadbolts being thrown. When I turned back I saw an empty, fenced-in lot among pitiless faces deep within a strange city when my eyes shot open early this morning.