Best Gay Erotica 2009, страница 1
Table of Contents
THE CHANGING ROOM
THE DOCTOR IS IN
DOWN THE BASEMENT
A ROOFER’S WORK
WHERE STEAM MEETS FLESH
LOVE POTION # 9
THE OPERA HOUSE
A RETIRED WRITER IN THE SUN
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
ABOUT THE EDITORS
A soup seasoned with cilantro tickles the palate differently from a soup seasoned with garlic or a soup seasoned with ginger. Same basic stock, but a subtly different taste sensation.
That’s the way it is with the Best Gay Erotica series: it’s an annual serving of gourmet erotica, but each year offers a special dining experience. The individual stories aren’t the same from year to year, of course, but a different flavor dominates—a chef’s touch contributed by the judge who makes the final selections.
My function as series editor is to assemble a range of potential ingredients—about forty reprints and original writing culled from several hundred submissions and suggestions. Then the judge selects his savory “bests” from my spread of literotica delectables, determining the twenty or so lip-smacking and pud-whacking stories that make up the book. That’s why each year’s Best Gay differs in tone (and taste) from the others.
For example: Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore was judge for 2006; her gender-queer sensibility infused the book with stories embracing a broader spectrum of sexual self-definition than in other years. Timothy J. Lambert was judge for 2007; his taste was more sexually mellow—a different degree of hot. Emanuel Xavier was judge for 2008; his background brought a touch of Latin heat to the table.
And so it is this year with James Lear, the refined and filthy-minded British author of The Back Passage, The Secret Tunnel, and other irresistibly consumable erotic groaning-board feasts. I’ll let his thoughtful introduction speak for itself about his choices for Best Gay Erotica 2009; he has definite opinions about what constitutes worthwhile erotic prose—the sort of distinct sensibility, from him and from the dozen other judges I’ve worked with since 1997, that gives this series its tang.
In his intro, James singles out one selection, about which he writes: “My jaw dropped.” That would be Robert Patrick’s original narrative poem, “Mass Ass,” which I first sent off to a BGE judge in 2002, and a couple of times after that, too; it really, really worked for me, but judge after judge passed it over. Try, try again, I say, and this year at last it was just the morsel James was looking for. Like James, I generally find that poetry, as a rule—no matter how potent its imagery—seldom sustains a narrative well enough to deliver real erotic crunch. Luckily, there’s an exception to every rule….
Also: every couple of years, I invoke an “editor’s choice” prerogative, adding to the judge’s selections a story I admired. This year it’s “Knives,” by Xan West—an edgy, sensory fragment that wasn’t quite to James’s taste. But it tickled my palate, as a representative of one of the more exotic erotic flavors within the genre of sexual prose. It’s the last story in the book—think of it as a particularly potent after-dinner mint. Now, enjoy the fea—okay, that’s enough of this extended dining metaphor.
Bowen Island, British Columbia
INTRODUCTION: GETTING THE JOB DONE
Erotic fiction—seemingly the most transgressive and liberal of all literary forms—is (or at least should be) one of the most conservative. It sets out to do a job: get the reader interested, get the reader aroused, and get the reader off. If it doesn’t do these three things, then, in my book, it isn’t erotic fiction. It may be many other things, but if it’s not primarily an inspiration to masturbation, it doesn’t belong here.
I read a great deal of erotic fiction as a young man, in magazines and funny little pocket-sized paperbacks, and used it in precisely the way it was intended. The stories that worked for me then, and work for me now, are those in which there’s a good balance between preliminaries and actual sex, and in which there is some crucial tipping point when the protagonists realize they’re going to have sex. In terms of visual pornography, it’s the bit when the men squeeze their swelling groins and hold each other’s gaze for a little too long, just before the dicks come out. In literary porn, it’s the moment when the protagonist thinks “Oh, my God…”—the moment just before the roller-coaster ride plunges down the first big hill. In gay erotic fiction, the element of doubt and surprise about the other party’s willingness adds extra charge.
I don’t like stories in which there is no setup, no seduction. I don’t like stories that portray sex as something empty or violent or degrading; erotic fiction is supposed to make us feel better, not worse. I don’t like stories in which the sex is incidental. It has to provide the rhythm, the engine, and the heartbeat of the story.
The short story is, in many ways, the perfect form for erotic fiction. It gives the reader one good wank; it follows the pattern of arousal (long buildup, powerful “Oh, my God” moment; short, frantic final phase, and possibly a bit of recovery and wiping-up time); it evokes one mood or kink that can be selected according to the reader’s whim. In all literature, nothing is more robustly functional than the erotic short story. There is an actual physical outcome to show if it’s succeeded. When it comes to erotic fiction, a good review in a newspaper is nothing compared to two or three sodden Kleenex.
Plausibility is a key factor in good erotic writing. When we’re young, we dream up elaborate sexual fantasies that stand or fall by their verisimilitude. I can remember plotting wild stories about how the school caught fire, and the football captain was trapped in an upstairs room from which I rescued him, only to discover just how grateful he could be…. But much of my mental energy was expended on making sure that he could really be in that place at that time, that the logistics worked, that it could just possibly come true, particularly if I carried a box of matches at all times.
All the stories I have selected for this anthology are rooted in reality. They all recognize and respect the fact that sex is most exciting when it arises from the everyday. Some of them explore those eternal fantasy favorites—the changing room, the enclosed railway carriage, the doctor’s consulting room—that will always be fraught with sexual potential. Others take essentially mundane situations—sharing an apartment, going to the laundry, washing dishes—and infest them with sex. All of them respect the reader enough to assume he knows that we, the writers, are providing a service. If a story can entertain or enlighten as well, that’s great, but those included in this volume have one mission in mind—to help you, the reader, to a good orgasm.
It’s unfair to single out any particular entry, but I feel I must say something about the obvious odd man out in this collection, Robert Patrick’s extraordinary narrative poem, “Mass Ass.” I’m not a great reader of poetry, and if someone had told me that there was a long erotic poem on the short list, I probably would have sighed and rolled my eyes. I read “Mass Ass” (as I read all the entries) with no knowledge of its authorship. From the very first verse, with its outrageous mixture of low-down doggerel and hifalutin’ language, my jaw dropped. I was there, standing in the fuck line with the poet, thinking randomly, hilariously, about Catullus and the Greeks,
THE CHANGING ROOM
Ridge City Mall is far away. It takes about two hours to walk there, past long rows of evenly spaced paper box factories, then around a few tricky corners filled with crisscrossing, unexpected traffic. You then walk over a small highway with a very narrow shoulder, past a sickly sweet smelling Tootsie Roll factory and a lone Pizza Hut, until you hit the mall itself. Sometimes Kyle walked all the way there, but today he was going to splurge, spend some money, take the bus.
Kyle had three hundred dollars in his pocket. For half a year he had stashed away the money his parents gave him for lunch, hoarding it in a heavy black box with a lock his grandfather gave him on an early birthday. The night before, Kyle had counted all his limp and dirty twenty dollar bills, feeling their texture with dreamy, absent satisfaction. Surely his parents had noticed his drastic weight loss, but they said nothing.
The people on the bus do not look at him. They are mostly old ladies, and if they aren’t, they might as well be. It takes a while. Kyle thinks about what he wants to buy, things he’d be embarrassed to ask his parents for. Bikini underwear, for instance, in bright colors. Sexy clothes. Kyle wants to buy sexy clothes, tight clothes. Clothes that show he has a body. Kyle is very skinny now, but tight with slender muscle; he hasn’t been eating lunch, but he’s been working out all summer. Sometimes at night he goes into the backyard and strips naked. As he looks at his body in the moonlight, Kyle pretends he is being filmed for a nude scene in a movie. He is sure someone is watching him, but he doesn’t know who. An older man, probably. An older man might want him.
After getting off the bus, Kyle went directly to a small clothing store at the far end of the mall. The store rarely had any customers. On his trips to Ridge City, Kyle always found himself drifting to this store because Joe, the manager, had actually started talking to him a few months ago. Joe was in his late thirties, probably, a little goofy looking, with glasses and big white teeth and slight acne scarring on his cheeks. To compensate, he apparently worked out every day, because his solid body was ostentatiously attractive, especially in contrast to his affable, plain face. Joe smiled when he saw Kyle come into the store, and he swung his heavy body lightly over the counter.
“Hey, kiddo,” Joe said. “You gonna buy something today, or just look around?” he asked.
“Probably just look,” Kyle said, barely able to look at Joe, walking ahead of him. “But I might buy something.”
“What do you want to get?” Joe asked, as he stared at Kyle from behind.
“I’d like to get some underwear,” Kyle said quietly, over his shoulder.
“Oh, really,” Joe said. “What kind of underwear?” he asked.
“Um…I don’t know. I thought…maybe…some bikini underwear?” Kyle hoped that Joe wouldn’t laugh.
“Bikini underwear?”Joe tried to laugh but started to blush. Kyle turned around and hugged his skinny torso with his arms. Joe shifted his weight restlessly from one leg to another and stole a glance at Kyle’s lower body from the front, whip-thin in tight blue jeans.
“Yeah. I saw this show on TV where the guy was wearing red bikini underwear, and I liked the way he looked,” Kyle said shyly, his words tumbling out fast.
“Who was wearing it? What show?” Joe asked, his hands on his hips, leaning forward slightly, looking right into Kyle’s shifting eyes.
“Um, I think it was an old episode of ‘Melrose Place.’ The guys are cute,” Kyle said.
“Okay,” Joe said. “Let me go get you what you want.”
As Joe walked slowly to the underwear section, he was almost certain Kyle was staring at him. Joe smiled. He was turned on by the attention and touched by Kyle’s need. Months before, Joe had sensed Kyle’s loneliness, and he recognized it as similar to his own at an earlier age.
“Here you go, try these,” Joe said, passing an underwear package to Kyle. He smiled and rubbed his big hands together. “They get good-looking guys to pose for those things, huh?” he asked, cocking his head and sidling closer to Kyle.
“Yeah,” Kyle said. “They’re pretty cute.”
“You know, if you turn the package over, you can see what that same guy looks like in the underwear from the back,” Joe said.
“I know,” Kyle said, too quickly. He looked mortified, and Joe patted him on the shoulder, placatingly. The brief physical contact gave Kyle goose pimples all over his bare arms.
“Don’t worry, buddy. You don’t have to worry with me,” Joe said.
“Okay,” Kyle said. His heart started to beat in his right ear.
“I like the guys on those packages,” Joe said, confidentially, leaning in very close. “I spend so much time here by myself…it’s cool to have pictures like that to look at. I almost feel like I know them.” Joe suddenly felt he had said way too much. Kyle looked at the package and turned it over. They stared intently at the model, who was slightly turned to profile the tighty whities. The angle of the shot was quite flattering.
“He’s got a nice butt, huh?” asked Joe.
“Yeah,” Kyle said.
“A really nice butt. Tight,” Joe emphasized, as he stared at Kyle’s hips and the sweet curve in the back of his jeans.
“He must work out a lot to get it to look like that,” Kyle said.
“When a guy gets older, you need to work at it a little more,” confided Joe.
Kyle flipped the package back over. “These are small…are you sure they’d fit me?” he asked.
“You’ve got a really tiny waist,” Joe said, staring straight at Kyle’s hips. Suddenly, he had an urge to pull Kyle’s jeans down. He wanted to see this kid completely naked, make him bend over and show his asshole. This kid must be so tight down there…for a daring second, Joe wrapped his big hands around Kyle’s waist, as if he were measuring it. “I’d say a small is what you need right now.”
Kyle stood for a second, almost gasping, not yet processing the press of Joe’s hands on his hips, before moving away. “Can I try these on?” he asked. “I want to see how they look.”
“Well…you’re actually not supposed to open the underwear before you buy it,” Joe said. A thought struck him. “How old are you, buddy?” he asked.
“I’m seventeen,” Kyle said, embarrassed.
“Really?” Joe asked. He started to inch away from Kyle. “I would never have guessed you were so…you don’t seem that young.”
“I know,” Kyle said. “When I look at my face in the mirror, I see a thirty-five-year-old, or something.” He stared at the floor and gulped.
“I wouldn’t go that far,” Joe said softly. He felt hurt, for reasons he couldn’t explain to himself.
“Can I try these on?” Kyle asked, still staring at the floor.
“Okay, just for you,” Joe said. “Here’s the key to the dressing room.” Joe pressed it into Kyle’s hand. As Kyle was walking away, Joe suddenly said, “I bet you’ll look really hot in them.”
Kyle stopped in his tracks, then turned around quickly. “Yeah?” he asked.
“Yeah. Really sexy. You’ve got a nice butt yourself, kiddo, anybody ever told you? Sticks out a little bit. And I bet you don’t work on it.”
They were silent for a moment. Kyle waited for Joe to keep talking.
“You’ve firmed up from when you first started coming in here,” Joe said. “You been exercising?”
“A little,” Kyle said. “I use my dad’s free weights.”
Joes hesitated, started to turn away, then said, “Hang in there. You’ll look like that guy on TV in no time.”
A customer came in, a middle-aged woman with long blonde hair, and Joe went to see if she needed help. Kyle went into the dressing room and opened the underwear package. He took off his pa
Kyle took out a bright red pair of the bikini underwear and tried to put them on. They were too tight. Kyle got hard instantly from the pressure. He looked at himself in the mirror for a long time. He looked better and better as time passed.
After about forty-five minutes, Kyle heard a knock on the door. He felt like he was waking up from a deep sleep.
“Hey, kiddo, you still alive in there?” Joe asked.
“Yeah, I’m still alive,” Kyle said, in a flat, speculative voice. His eyes shifted to the changing room door.
“How do they look?” Joe asked, trying to sound professional.
“They’re way too tight. I think,” Kyle said. He felt a flush of courage. “Do you think I could get your opinion on how they look?” he asked.
Joe wondered if he had heard him correctly. This kid was just so lonely, dying for attention. After a moment, Joe decided not to keep Kyle waiting. This kid was brave, he had to admit. Plus, Joe was so turned on that the rational part of his brain shut off. The job? Who cared, who cared about the boring job.
“Yeah, I’ll take a look, kiddo,” Joe said. “Open the door.”
Kyle’s heart thumped loudly in his ears, and he felt like he was going to pass out. He opened the door and stood as far away from the glaring overhead light as he could.
“Nice,” Joe said, his eyes clouding over with lust; a hint of Kyle’s dark pubic hair curled out of the top of the underwear waistband. Joe wondered whether he should continue, somehow, with customer/employee formality. But when he saw Kyle’s anticipatory, bright-eyed face, he knew he couldn’t.
“Turn around,” he said. “I want to see you from the back. Like on the package.” Joe’s mouth was slightly open and he was nodding his head. He was beginning to enjoy the role of older guy/teacher.