Excerpt:I’m barefoot on a roof deck, maybe it’s my own, I dunno. Life has been a series of tour buses and motels recently, but I think this is that place the band rented down on the Lower East Side. Everyone hates me and I’m left alone in a huge railroad apartment with a fire escape that twists up to a roof and barely any railing to keep me safe. I have a joint in one hand that’s surprisingly still lit in the rain and a trusty bottle of Absolut Citron in the other. I’m wearing a baby doll pale blue dress, the one I rocked during the Grenade Bouquets set when the A&R manager said he was gonna make us stars. I once heard that when you’re looking at stars in the sky, you’re already looking at the past and they’re already dead. I’m seventeen and I can completely relate.
I’m over myself and have been looking into the past so much, I might as well be dead.
I chug from the bottle, the excess liquid spilling down my cheeks like hot tears. What lands in my throat, burns and my eye twitches...I’m so bombed. My makeup has run all over my face and made me into a clown. I pity whoever will find my ghastly remains. I bring the joint to my lips and suck as the cherry flares, the smoke streaming through my nostrils. I’m a dragon in pursuit. Three stories down below, a sea of umbrellas await. I think of Kristen.
Her spirit no longer visits and I understand. She has better things to do than deal with the living. My sister has been gone now for over a year, and sometimes I forget the sound of her voice. I wake up in the middle of the night frantic that I’ve lost it, and then a glimmer reappears—a whisper in her high pitch calling me back to sleep, aware of how my insomnia can plague me. She would be so proud of my success as a singer and for me to live my dream, not realizing that it was killing me as well. I don’t remember the last time I went to bed sober. I feel distant from everyone I used to care about. Evan can’t even look at me anymore. I’m Nico the Beast, a whirlwind intent to destroy.If you heard me on the radio, you’d be jealous. I’m that girl you wish you could be. My song like a spit in the face, a baby Courtney Love with scabbed knees, dark red lipstick, hairdyed so much it’s fried, a scowl for a smile. And then in the next song, I’m scrubbed clean, my dress full of flowers rather than ripped, my bruises bandaged, my makeup a light touch rather than an onslaught, singing about love and hope and everything that grunge is not. Because grunge is dying. Kurt Cobain solidified its end and the record companies can smell it. A future of sugary happy pop awaits. What will they do with me, with any of us? We’re already that dying star. Might as well help give them a push.
The rain has risen in tempo, a drumbeat on my skull. The joint has gone out and I toss it into the crowd. It disappears into the ether, like I will soon. I picture my obituary, the phrase ‘One Hit Wonder’ highlighted. All I’ll ever be. But I don’t have any more songs in me. My quill is broken, my heart has followed—I’m sick of myself.
I raise my arms like Brandon Lee in The Crow. Evan and I saw that at the Angelika, an artsy movie theater down on Houston St., which I mispronounced like it was the city Houston. We toured Manhattan that day, the first time either of us had been: hand in hand through The Met and wandering down paths in Central Park, sneaking through the Plaza and pretending I was Eloise, hot chocolates at a place called Serendipity, his blue eyes never letting me out of his sight. I never imagined I could be so in love. Only a short time ago but might as well be a lifetime, those blues will never look at me in the same way again. I’m tarnished, I’m filth. I heard a song called “Only Happy When It Rains,” and it couldn’t be truer. Miserable people feed off misery and that’s all I have to give.
I wonder what my mom and dad will say when they have to identify my body. They’ve both found new lives with new loves that will be a shoulder for them. Maybe they’ll be relieved.
Back home, my friend Winter has her own shit to deal with and brought Jeremy into her drama, so they’ll mourn but are preoccupied enough to only think of me in passing. I know that’s what they do now. They are still in high school and I’ve dropped out, promising my folks I’d get my GED, but I never did. And high school seems so pointless and far away. I’ve lived in the real world. I’ve skipped down New York City streets with crack vials crunching under my feet. Out of spite I’ve let a man inside of me whose name I didn’t even know. I’ve crowd surfed over a hundred bodies chanting my name. I thought I was in love and never want the pain of it ending ever again. I’d rather be numb. I’d rather be gone.
My feet are cold against the tar of the roof, the toenail polish chipped and starting to fade. I give another swig until the bottle is empty. I aim to launch it into the sky, not caring who I’d hit down below. I climb onto the edge, wobbling, teeth chattering, knees knocking, singing a Matthew Sweet song to the world, to this dark city where I never belonged, so far from a home. “But I’m sick of myself when I look at you, something is beautiful and true. World that’s ugly and a lie, it’s hard to even want to try.”My vocal chords are raw from the vodka and pot, my tears make everything blurry. I go to pitch the bottle and my foot slips from a slick of water. I lose my heart as it leaps out of my throat and I think I’ve gone over the edge, plummeting headfirst to my death. But I fall backwards, smacking my head on the tar. The grey clouds above go in and out of focus until they disappear entirely. My eyes have shut but I can see the night sky, and one little star, so dead but so bright, guiding me not to slip into unconsciousness, praying for my survival. Like a diamond it glows brighter, and I think that maybe it’s Kristen’s eye, somewhere up in heaven, winking at me to stay on Earth for a little longer because I haven’t finished all I intended to do, as the rain washes me pure, its drumbeat now playing Letters to Cleo’s beautiful, simmering song, “Here and Now,” while I travel back to what led me to become these twisted remains once called a girl.
Friday, September 24, 2021
Wednesday, September 22, 2021
Hi Serena! The following has been reprinted a couple of times: once from Cat Rambo’s blog, and once from the SFWA blog, but it’s mine and there was no exclusivity. I thought of it because this book, A Few Good Elves, was also “crowdpublished.” I can’t think of a more unique topic, and I imagine it will generate discussion as people come down on either side of the indie vs. traditional divide. I have updated this version to include the latest information. I hope it works for you! Thanks!
Everyone says that indie publishing is the wave of the future. Avoiding gatekeepers, who are often prejudiced against particular ideas or demographics, and putting your work out there to see if it will sink or swim on its own, puts the power (and the money) back in the hands of the writers. I had an unusual idea and format that I realized would have difficulty finding a home because of its experimental nature, so I thought I would give it a try.
Here’s the problem: It’s not free.
Amazon and others try to make you believe it’s free, but only if you want to give away a significant royalty chunk, and only if you don’t hire an editor (bad,) don’t hire a cover designer (worse,) don’t hire a formatter (fine if you have lots of time on your hands and are handy with computer programs; awful if not,) and don’t do any marketing or ever buy a copy to sell to your friends or at cons. If you do decide to go for it without any resources, people will dismiss your cover as tacky, your prose as terrible, and no one is ever going to see it in the sea of newly available titles anyway.
Not to mention there’s still the whiff of vanity publishing about it, so no matter how good you are, or how well you do, some people will never take you seriously.
If you want to succeed at indie publishing, you have to be seen in the vast herd of new titles appearing every day. It takes money. That’s fine if you can afford it, but I found it daunting. So I asked myself, “How can I publish a book without defeating the purpose? How can I find capital that doesn’t eliminate my bottom line?”
I launched a Kickstarter to bring my Wyrd West stories to print. I budgeted for cover design, formatting, editing, marketing and stock purchase. And I asked my readers to contribute.
The response was better than I could have hoped. The Kickstarter was successful. The end result was a beautiful, professional book I had every right to be proud of, many of which were going directly to the readers that funded them.
I’ve done it again twice since; once for an anthology I published called Gunsmoke &Dragonfire, and once for my latest release, A Few Good Elves. The most recent Kickstarter raised over $5000 and was supported by more than a hundred people.
But can this said to be truly self-published? I don’t think it can. This is a new way of doing things, in which readers choose to fund what they want to read. It puts the power directly in their hands. As it should be.
Even the backing of the Big 4 doesn’t guarantee a book’s success. It has to find an audience. It has to have resonance with the people who read it. Readers aren’t going to fund bad ideas, and if you’re a bad writer, they’re not going to support you more than once. So rather than being vetted by small groups of people on the top of a big pyramid of status and business acumen, Crowdpublished projects are vetted directly by the public.
As a hybrid writer, here’s a look at the differences I’ve found between being traditionally, independently, or Crowdpublished:
I realize that Crowdpublishing is a bit like being PBS instead of MSNBC. You know that you have an audience. Although it might not be as easy for you to reach them as it is for corporations, that audience is dedicated enough to supporting your work that they are willing to ante up, sight-unseen. It’s “Funded in part by readers like you.”
It’s a godsend for SFF story markets. Many respected pro- and semi-pro markets use the Crowdpublishing model, including Clarkesworld, Uncanny, Strange Horizons, the entire EscapePod family, Third Flatiron, and more. And most SFF writers I know use the Crowdpublishing model, at least as far as setting up a Patreon, whether they’re just starting out or just shy of the New York Times bestseller list. I think this should be a point of pride.
I don’t believe anything that suggests that indie publishing isn’t as good as traditional publishing, because garbage gets published in all fields, and a big imprint is by no means a guarantee of quality. But I think when we’re asked if our project was self-published, we should smile and say, “No, it was Crowdpublished.” I think it’s not only an under-utilized tool and support for writers – it’s a selling point.
I believe that any path a writer takes to success is a good one. Some people are really successful in the traditional or indie-publishing models, and regardless of which path they’ve taken, it’s hard. These are accomplishments worth taking pride in. But I think we should start thinking of Crowdpublishing as a third path within the literary market. There’s traditional publishing, and indie-publishing, and Crowdpublishing.
All about on the decks of the Queen’s Dirk, the crew were running and screaming. There were too many dead and wounded to count, and the Chiurgeons had elves spread out over the tables in the mess, the garden, even the Captain’s bed.
Shaundar sensed Lieutenant Sylria on the remains of the fo’c’sle, now mostly a debris field, commanding the mages to ready spells and the weapons crews to continue their attack. He could also see the gravity well of the Vengeance, just now coming about on their starboard side, though he was certain that it had been much longer than they needed.
“I have the helm!” Shaundar cried.
“Get us out of here, Shaundar!”
He turned his head and studied the rapidly oncoming Balorian ship through both the hole in the starboard wall, and Queenie’s senses. Even with Sylria’s magical boost, he knew this to be hopeless.
“I can’t do it, Sylria,” he said in a hollow voice. “They’re just too fast.”
Sylria looked down at her feet for a long moment. She squared her shoulders. “Then we shall die with honour.”
Shaundar nodded. Amazingly, there was no fear, just sadness, that he would not see his family or Narissa again. “Sails, evasive manoeuvres!” Shaundar commanded. “Hard down!”
As the insectoid ship neared, it closed those claw-like limbs to grapple them. But under Shaundar’s power and direction, they dodged the attempt. Shaundar saw a whole army of armoured Balorian warriors pour out onto the deck and stand to the rails.
Sylria shrieked, “Mages, fire!” and she let off a lightning bolt herself. There were only a couple of elves left alive topside to obey Sylria’s command, but they responded. Flames and electricity washed over the orcs, enough that it stopped them in their tracks and aborted their boarding attempt.
“Bring ‘er about,” Shaundar ordered. “Hard astarboard!”
Queenie answered sluggishly with all the shorn rigging and shorthanded crew, but she came back around. As they swooped back towards each other, Sylria’s command rang out. Defiantly, the Queen’s Dirk fired another volley.
The Balorians greeted it with a broadside of their own as they both swung starboard at the last moment. The larboard ballistae both missed, but two of the three others dented the hull. The third pierced it once more on their larboard side with a ringing tear of sheet metal.
Their catapult did not fire at all. Whether it was because it was damaged, or because there were too few crew left to man it, Shaundar would never know.
The decapitated Vengeance had only one gun it could bring to bear on the pass, but it fired that larboards bombard at point blank range. The fo’c’sle simply collapsed like a sandcastle. Sylria was swallowed into the sinkhole. Shaundar roared in horror and pain but could not hear his own voice in the overwhelming noise.
There was no sail crew left to command, but hoping against hope, Shaundar bellowed anyway,
“Hard aport!” The mizzenmast was shorn away, and he knew it, but knowing there was nothing else to be done, he yelled out, “Prepare to ram! All hands brace for impact!” just as Garan had attempted.
He didn’t flinch as the Queen’s Dirk collided head-on with her foe.
About the Author:
Diane Morrison lives with her partners in the Okanagan Valley, BC, where she was born and raised. She has been published in SFF markets such as Terra! Tara! Terror!, Air & Nothingness Press, and Cossmass Infinities. Under her pen name “Sable Aradia” she is a successful Pagan author, a musician, and a Twitch streamer and podcaster. She likes pickles and bluegrass, and hates talking about herself.
Wednesday, September 8, 2021
Have a Swinging Halloween
Are you looking to add a little spice to your next adult Halloween party?
Or are you already swinging but you want fun games for your next Halloween event?
This book has exactly what you’re looking for.
The games are broken into three sections for all comfort zones from curious beginners who just want to play, to soft swap swingers who love foreplay to full blown swingers who go all the way.
The Naughty Icebreakers section is full of sexy games which can break the ice, bare some skin and get players in a mood for more. These games are designed for newbie swingers and those who are just curious. For those willing to get playfully naughty but not sure if they really want to delve into swinging.
The Tantalizing Teasers section is full of games for those willing to explore soft swap activities. Full of foreplay style fun these games include oral sex activities and sex toys that will have guests getting down and dirty without hardcore penetration.
The We’re Swinging Now section contains erotic games that get explicitly hardcore. These games are for seasoned swingers and those who are honestly ready to play dirty.
Tuesday, September 7, 2021
Tis the season to get spooky.
Check out my naughty paranormal, sci-fi, and horror erotica stories.
Genre: Erotic PNR/Vampire erotica
Tagline: Jess was searching for her sister, she wasn't expecting to fall in love
Warning: Contains M/M/F sexual situations, threesomes, group sex, and orgies
His friend Rick sends him to two very special fortune tellers who have a unique way of showing their clients the answers they seek.
Adam never expected the visit to be so pleasurable.
A Modern Frankenstein Tale With an Erotic Twist
Genre: Horrotica, SciFi Erotica
The magazine she writes for covers the stranger topics in the world- demon possession, vampires, UFO’s… Dr. Stein displays the trifecta of possible demon possession or black magic at play. He’s rich, handsome, and super successful -plus handsome and mysterious. Whether there’s a supernatural explanation or not, there must be dark secrets for Cassie to find and expose.
She eagerly attends the party hoping to get the scoop she needs to publish a spectacular story on the handsome doctor. But she’s not prepared for the gruesomely erotic laboratory in his basement.
What she discovers leaves her horrified…and aroused. The combination Dr. Stein so desperately seeks in a woman.
For adults only- contains horrotica scenes featuring M/F/M sex, science, magick and alchemy.
An Erotic Quickie
by Serena Synn
Genre: Hardcore Paranormal Erotica
Thanks to her agoraphobia and social anxiety Neridia was a lonely succubus hiding out in the woods. She learned to survive by syphoning sexual energy from the internet supplemented by the occasional snack on a delivery guy.
She was expecting a pizza delivery guy when Pierce stumbled into her cabin.
Sexy as hell and dripping sexual energy he could be the answer to all her problems…and the start of a few new ones.
Warning, adult content. Contains F/M/M, and bisexual male sexual situations.
Monday, September 6, 2021
NEW YORK CITY, 1971
When I was just a little girl, my Daddy said to me,
“A man’s gonna come and love you some,
That’s your Daddy’s prophecy.”
But it keeps on a-worryin’ me,
Oh Lord, it keeps on a-worryin’ me.
I stood on the corner of 72nd and Columbus Avenue feeling like a human want ad. I had a copy of the Village Voice in one hand and an unlit cigarette in the other. I was out of matches. And then I heard a voice behind me. “Looking for an apartment?”
I turned around. He was older than me and definitely not my type with his professional, straight look and short brown hair. But he had a sweet smile and his round, wire-rimmed glasses revealed soft blue eyes.
“How did you know?”
“I saw the paper. Do you need a place to make some calls? I live right up the street.”
It wasn’t the first time I’d gone with a stranger to his place, and the July heat of the city was getting to me.
We exchanged names on the way to his apartment. Marvin Silverman—lawyer, liberal, almost thirty and climbing. Linda Marks—hippie, singer, twenty-two and drifting.
“Far out, you have a nice place!” It was on the third floor of a classic brownstone very close to Central Park.
“Thanks. It’s small, but I like the neighborhood.”
I walked toward the bay windows in the living room where a telescope was mounted on a tripod. There were no curtains or blinds. I wondered what that was about, but didn’t want to ask.
“What’s that building across the street?”
“That’s the Dakota. A lot of famous people live there like John and Yoko.
“I love New York! I can’t wait to move here!”
“Where do you live? On the Island?”
“No way! I live in Jersey with my parents, but that’s only temporary.”
I fumbled in my bag for a cigarette and started to feel nervous.
He was pretending to be hipper than he really was. He probably got stoned on the weekend and came to work on Monday wearing a three-piece suit. It’s as if he climbed to thirty and didn’t know whether to lead those behind him or follow those in front. I was glad that I didn’t have an identity problem. I did have an apartment problem, though, and couldn’t get side-tracked by this weekend hippie.
Ten calls and five lewd propositions later, I was still without a place. I thanked Marvin for the use of his phone.
“Next time you’re in the city, give me a call. Maybe we can do something.”
“Sounds good, Marvin.” I knew what “do something” meant. I threw his business card in my bag, the purple woven one I’d bought from a street vendor in Berkeley the day I’d left California, and ran down the stairs to meet my friend. I hoped she’d had better luck than me finding a place.
I rushed to catch the Broadway uptown bus, and by the time I got off at 86th Street, Marvin Silverman had completely left my mind.
I was meeting Nina at Professors, a typical uptown neighborhood bar. People dressed down and the prices climbed up. Its inhabitants were considered native New Yorkers. That meant they’d lived in the city for at least one year, but not necessarily in the same apartment.
“Any luck?” I asked Nina. I knew what her answer would be by her tired look and the pile of cigarette butts in the ashtray. Even her curly red hair looked droopy.
We’d been friends since eighth grade and had managed to stay in touch throughout college.
We’d rebelled in different ways. Nina was very serious when it came to politics. She sometimes asked her friends, “Are you political?” If someone answered, “a little,” she would ask, “Can you be a little pregnant?”
Nina also had a fun side and we laughed a lot. Like the time we were hanging out in my bedroom at my parents’ house and my father knocked on the door. He walked in wearing my mother’s blue and green paisley tent dress. It was 1968, and bell bottoms were all the rage. “Do you see how silly you girls look wearing bell bottoms?” Dad asked with a straight face. “Just as silly as I look wearing a dress.” Nina and I were hysterical. In a couple of years Dad would change his mind about bell bottoms and the Vietnam War.
Three rounds of sodas and one heaping ashtray later, Nina and I headed out of the bar to Port Authority. Sitting on the downtown bus, I remembered meeting Marvin.
“I met a really nice guy today,” I informed Nina.
“Oh yeah?” she kidded me.
No really, he let me use his apartment to make phone calls.”
“I bet that’s not all you made.”
“You have a dirty mind! Look! He gave me his card and asked me to call him the next time I was in the city.” I started digging around in my bag. “I can’t find it!” I exclaimed hopelessly, looking up at Nina sitting by the window, skeptically arching her eyebrow at me. “Hey, wait! This is his street! Let’s get off the bus—let me run up and say hi.”
I recognized the brownstone and ran up the steps leaving Nina waiting on the sidewalk. Why was I even bothering? Was I flattered that an older man had shown interest in me?
When I rang the doorbell Marvin opened the door wearing a half-buttoned shirt and a confused look on his face.
“Gee Marv, I didn’t mean to bother you. It’s just that I lost your card and I was passing by and—”
“Yeah kid, that’s okay. I just can’t talk to you now. Give me your number. I’ll call you up sometime.”
I scribbled my number on the back of a matchbook and caught up with Nina who was already halfway down the block.
“I’ll probably never hear from him again. He wasn’t my type anyway, too straight,” I told her but I secretly wanted him to call.
It seemed like Nina and I were spending most of our time in Port Authority. It was the dirtiest gate to the city, a haven for every degenerate and vagabond. I took a deep breath and boarded the Suburban Transit bus back to the ’burbs.
I was twenty-two, had dropped out of college, moved to California, run out of money, and moved back home. I hated riding on any kind of public transportation. It was sort of a phobia. I had a lot of fears, like being stuck in an elevator—or worse, a subway. Sometimes I had trouble eating in restaurants. But nothing was going to stop me from living in the city. My one goal was to make it in the music business and New York was the place to be. I was taking my music seriously, practicing my songs every day on the French Provincial piano at my parents’ house that I’d unfortunately branded with a cigarette burn. Carole King, Laura Nyro and Carly Simon were my idols and I was determined to follow in their footsteps.
My mother, a junior high social studies teacher, described my life as “the Perils of Pauline.” My father, a self-made business man, just thought I was lazy. Both were relieved I hadn’t found an apartment in the city. They were waiting for the day when I would wake up and come to my senses. They told the relatives that I was finding myself and wondered when they had lost me.
They’d told me many times that I was a follower and that my friends were the reason I’d dropped out of college, wore bell bottoms, smoked cigarettes, and wanted to live in the city with no cross-ventilation in the middle of July.
“Linda, telephone!” I heard my mother shout the next evening. She put her hand over the receiver and whispered, “It’s a boy.”
“Linda, this is Marvin. You know, we met on the corner of 72nd Street?”
“You really did call! I thought you were just giving me the brush.”
“I wouldn’t do that—I’m a lawyer, remember? We always keep our word. What are you doing Friday night? You want to go to dinner and a movie?”
“Are you asking me on a date?”
“No. I don’t go on them anymore. I’m being spontaneous.”
“Far out, Marvin! I’ll be there.”
He was my first older man and I was ready for him! I’d always been drawn to stories like My Fair Lady, Pygmalion and Gigi, where older, more worldly men influenced younger, naïve women and then they fell in love.
Getting ready to go to Marvin’s, I looked in the mirror and ran my fingers through my hair. Nearly black, contrasting sharply with my light, freckled skin, it was long and wavy in winter, but frizzy in summer. I’d given up trying to straighten it and just let it go à la Janis Joplin. I’d read that she ironed her hair on an ironing board. Since I rarely ironed my clothes, I decided that wasn’t an option.
It was liberating not to worry about my hair, and so was not wearing a bra. Liberated women everywhere were giving them up and burning them. Besides, I was thin enough to get away with it. The Indian print tops I wore with my jeans looked fine without one. I felt perky, sexy and hip.
I checked myself out in the mirror. My lips were small and I never bothered with lipstick. I picked up my eyeliner, the one makeup I always used, and underlined my hazel-green eyes with black pencil on the lower lids. One of my college boyfriends had described my eyes as sideways exclamation points. Of course, he was stoned at the time.
“This is the first apartment in New York that hasn’t given me claustrophobia,” I announced, sitting on the couch at Marvin’s. The kitchen was small, but the living room was large with high ceilings and two bay windows. I hadn’t seen the bedroom yet. The telescope was still pointed towards the undraped windows. I had to ask.
“What’s with the telescope, Marv? Are you into astronomy?”
“You might say I’m into sociology. I like to check out the people in the apartments across the street. Everyone does it in New York.”
“Oh. So you let them study you, too? There’s no drapes on your windows.”
“Sometimes. It doesn’t matter. No one knows who I am.”
I tried to hide my nervousness. I was in a strange man’s apartment in the middle of a strange city. I reminded myself it was nothing compared to all the hitchhiking I’d done in California a couple of years ago, back when the Manson murderers were still on the loose.
“I really should be a good boy tonight, Linda.”
“What do you mean, Marv? I thought you were a man.”
“I should take you out to dinner and to a movie.” And then he kissed me.
What happened next was every girl’s fantasy from the first time she practices kissing her favorite movie star’s face in her pillow. The faces change and the movie stars become rock stars and radicals. But the plot is the same and every Gothic novel describes the hero and heroine’s all-consuming passion.
The speed of our attraction felt like two magnets rushing without question to be one. Of course, in Gothic novels, it always took at least half an hour to get your clothes off, thanks to laced corsets and rows and rows of buttons. But it was 1971 and women went braless, men wore no jockey shorts under their jeans, and clothes were meant to be thrown on the floor.
“Oh, Marvin!” I screamed and Marvin exploded in a fit of laughter. We were positioned like two trapeze artists getting ready for the final jump. The bed was not very high but the risk of falling was tremendous.
“Why did you start laughing? I was almost there!” I couldn’t decide if I was hurt or angry.
“That voice! It was so loud it startled me.”
“I told you I was a singer. And I always bring my voice to bed with me.”
But this was no time for talking. We both remounted our imaginary trapezes, took a few low rides, and started pumping.
I could hardly wait to tell my friends all about it. “Nina, it was the best! And he couldn’t believe I’d been celibate for four whole months! I think it did something to his male ego. He’s definitely not my type, but he’s got money and he wants to show me around the city—if we ever get out of bed!”
We were hanging out at our friend Stevie’s college apartment in New Brunswick. Stevie wasn’t her real name, Marilyn was. I never asked her why she picked Stevie for a nickname instead of Mary, but there were a lot of things I didn’t understand about her. Like why she called her latest painting “Early Morning Blues Sculpture.” I never could figure out why she had stopped seeing her cute astrologer boyfriend, the one who told me that I had divine discontent, to be with a married, forty-something professor. Maybe she liked the challenge, or maybe she’d just listened to too much Janis Joplin. With her platinum blonde Marilyn Monroe haircut and blue-violet eyes, she certainly didn’t have any problem attracting men.
I stopped to take a gulp of coffee. This wasn’t the first time I’d sat at Stevie’s old Formica kitchen table swapping stories about the night before. Instead of housewives trading recipes, we were independent women sharing our sex lives. Women our age all over the country were holding their own roundtable discussions. The men we slept with would have blushed if they knew how thoroughly we scrutinized their sex techniques, no pubic hair left unturned.
After a couple of months, our “morning after” coffee klatches started to influence the “night before.” Nina confessed that the last time she’d had sex with her boyfriend she thought she’d heard the sound of coffee percolating. At first, she thought Louie, an ex-acid rock guitarist who had found peace by playing country music, had the hiccups. Then she realized her mind had started editing, rewriting a blow-by-blow account of the evening’s events. She vividly reenacted how he’d screamed her name at the crucial moment, then afterwards denied it, blaming his questionable utterance on a sore throat from smoking too much pot. He said two people had to be very serious before they called out to each other in bed and he was positive that married people stopped using each other’s names after the first year of marriage. By then they were too busy fantasizing.
“He was just getting scared,” I told Nina. I secretly envied her ability to hold on to men for longer than six months. My record was three months, but who was counting?
Marvin and I were meeting spontaneously on a regular basis. We went to the movies and tried going out to dinner, but I was having trouble eating in restaurants again. Most of the time, we ordered Chinese take-out.
Sex was still exciting and he had gotten used to the sound of my orgasm voice. Sometimes we would stand nude together in front of the living room windows and give the neighbors a show. Then one night we were sitting on the couch and he popped the question.
“I’m thinking of taking a few months off and going to California. Do you want to sublet my apartment?”
“Making the pilgrimage to paradise? If I’d found a job there, I would still be in Berkeley.”
“So, do you want the apartment or not?”
Nina and I still hadn’t found a place and this was the answer to our prayers. I couldn’t wait to tell her the good news.
“Oh, and Linda—you know your eating thing? I have a friend who could help you with that.” Marvin offered. “He’s the best shrink in the city. Here’s his number. When I get back from California, I’m taking you out to dinner.”
“Thanks Marv. Maybe I’ll give him a call.”
My father packed up his station wagon with Nina’s and my things and reluctantly drove us into the city. It was a sweltering hot Sunday in July and no one felt like talking. I knew my father wasn’t happy about the move, but I was twenty-two and desperately seeking my independence. I’d saved enough money working temp jobs to pay my share of the rent for the next few months.
By then, I hoped to have a job in the city. Even if I had to work a day job in an office
We miraculously found a parking spot right in front of the apartment. Everything was going smoothly until I handed my father the key to the front door of the building.
“Are you sure this is the right key, Linda? It won’t open.” Before I could answer, he yelled, “It’s stuck! I think I broke the key!”
I didn’t need a shrink to figure out the symbolism of my father breaking the key that opened the door to my freedom.
I went down to the corner phone booth and called Marvin. He was staying with his mother in Jersey until he left for California the next day. He said he could get to us in under an hour.
When he arrived, Marvin was a perfect gentleman. He managed to get the old key out of the lock and used his spare to unlock the door. He even helped bring some of our things up to the apartment. Before he left, he told my father in his most serious lawyer voice, “I want you to know, Mr. Marks, that I was never ‘romantically involved’ with your daughter” (code for “I never slept with her”). “We just went out a few times.”
My father grabbed his hand and thanked him.
Just before my father left, he handed me an envelope. Inside was a hundred dollars in cash and a handwritten note:
Boys must play and grow
Before they fall in love and know
The beauty and the longing theme
Of a girl’s aching heart and dream.
So, my dear Linda, until then,
Until boys learn to be men,
Please accept a father’s love
That’s as old as you and a true love.
Carol co-founded and directed The New Jersey Garden State Opry and New Jersey Children’s Opry, where she wrote and performed original songs. She holds a degree in Early Childhood Education and Music from Rutgers, and taught piano and voice for many years.