Wednesday, November 30, 2005
Dec 5 - Bound By Destiny - Rayka Mennen
Dec 8 - Dancing with Temptation - Barbara Joe-Williams
Dec 12 – Catharsis - Minnie E Miller
Dec 15 – Different Flags - Eugenia Renskoff
Dec 19 - Night To Dawn issue 8 -Published by Barbara Custer
Dec 22 - Made of Honor - Marilynn Griffith
Dec 26 - A Woman Scorn'd - Dorothy Goins
Dec 29 - Counting Raindrops through a Stained Glass Window - Cherlyn Michaels
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Monday, November 28, 2005
What I Want in a Man
1. Must be nine inches or bigger
2. He must be six feet, one inch or taller
3. He must have light eyes, green or gray
4. Must have soft curly hair—none of that nappy shit
5. Gotta have Shemar Moore’s cheekbones
6. Gotta be able to wear a mesh
7. His ride gotta be phat
8. He must be making at least $80k (after taxes)
9. No kids—I don’t need any baby momma drama
10. He’d better be a freak in bed
Stacie Long ran her index finger down the list and mentally placed a check mark after nine of the items. This was her list. The nonnegotiable items she wanted in a man. It had been revised, scrutinized and analyzed more than Bill Clinton’s love life. A frown marred her pretty face, so much so that the space between her eyebrows looked like a halved prune. She was draped across a velvet couch, reviewing her list as if it was the Holy Grail. So intent on her list, she missed the hateful glares that were shot at her from the women who wanted to sit and rest their feet.
“Nine out of ten…not bad. Not bad at all,” she said, laughing softly. Her body tingled with excitement. If she hadn’t been sitting in the ladies’ lounge in the Marriott Marquis in downtown Atlanta on New Year’s Eve, she’d be howling with joy. Right now all she dared was a smug laugh. It was too easy…way too fucking easy, she thought.
Men usually sniffed after her the same way a fat man sniffed after a Big Mac, with desire, longing, greed and lust. At five-feet-nine and one hundred thirty-five pounds, she was all woman; the red sequined dress she had slithered into earlier that evening loved her because it hugged every inch of her body. The color of warmed honey, with high cheekbones and full lips, she had a butt that made many a man stop dead in his tracks. Depending on when you saw her, her hair was either grazing her shoulders or kissing her ears. Tonight, she had it parted in the middle and the bone-straight strands framed her artfully made-up face. Blush lingered on her high cheekbones; fire engine red lipstick glistened on her full lips and little sparkles glittered playfully on her mascarad eyelashes.
Two women dressed to the nines were standing a few feet away from Stacie. Their heads were so close together that they looked like Siamese twins. “You know what? You can’t take us out anywhere, look at her,” muttered the one wearing a pair of toe-pinching shoes. “It wouldn’t surprise me one bit if I saw her walking out of here with a plate of food. I bet she has a roll of aluminum foil in that Wal-Mart–looking bag of hers.”
“Mmm,” the other one agreed. “We should tell her to get her ass up!”
“Yeah!” The lady in the toe-pinching shoes hissed to her friend. But neither moved. Instead, one reached into her purse for lipstick. The other grabbed her cell phone and shrugged lightly; who needs a fight on New Year’s Eve?
Stacie snuggled deeper into the plush cushions. A satisfied gleam brightened her eyes. This was her type of party. Men, fine men, were everywhere for the taking, fine, wealthy men, that is. They were like apples on a tree, hanging around for the picking. Atlanta had a lot of them. Not only that, but only the crème de la crème attended Atlanta’s Annual Sexy and Sultry New Year’s Eve Bash. So far she had spotted the mayor doing her thing on the dance floor, former Ambassador Andrew Young and Denzel Washington huddled together near the buffet and a former child star working the room like a twenty-dollar-an-hour whore. Yep! This was her type of party.
It was only ten o’clock, but her evening purse was bulging with business cards. Where other ladies had to work for the numbers, men nearly threw their cards at Stacie. She’d hold on to them and sort through them tomorrow morning. Then she’d organize them by jobs—doctors, lawyers and professional athletes on top, everybody else on the bottom. But tonight, she’d gotten the one number she’d been chasing for the past six months, Crawford Leonard Wallace III. An NBA player, and a multimillionaire, his family was well known and respected in Atlanta. Single, six-foot-seven, curly, sandy-colored hair and hazel eyes, he was as fine as Shemar Moore and sexier than Michael Jordan.
Stacie was so excited that she shimmered, and that’s how her best friend and roommate, Tameeka Johnson, found her: stretched out on the couch and wearing a grin so wide that it looked painful. “Whassup with the grin? You look like you just found a million dollars.”
“You close, girl. Very close,” Stacie crowed gleefully. She didn’t say anything for a couple of seconds, but then her secret started bubbling up and she whispered to Tameeka, “You are not gonna guess who I met tonight. You’re not gonna guess. I know you’re not,” she taunted her friend. Before Tameeka got a chance to reply, Stacie blurted out her news and a collective gasp of envy went up throughout the lounge, followed by dead quiet. All ears turned to Stacie.
“Oh, is that all?” Tameeka gave Stacie a dismissive wave of her hand. “I thought you had hooked up with a ten-incher. That’s cool, girl. So you finally snagged your baby’s daddy. He’s aw’ight, but I’ve seen better.” Tameeka sniffed then turned to the mirror and pretended to check her makeup. She was really watching Stacie’s reaction to her reaction and trying to suppress a laugh at the same time.
Where Stacie was drop dead gorgeous, Tameeka was borderline pretty. The color of creamy peanut butter, five foot five and one hundred seventy-five pounds, she was rarely treated to a head-swiveling, tongue-dropping look from a man. If she did, it was because his eyes zeroed in on her size 44D breasts.
“Meek!” Stacie wailed.
Tameeka couldn’t hold her laughter any longer. “You know I’m only playing, girl,” she said. “Whassup? Have you whipped that Stacie magic on him yet?” she teased good-heartedly.
“Oh, I’ll do that later,” Stacie answered in a voice dripping with confidence. “Maybe sooner than later,” she said.
Then she looked around at the other ladies, who were all pretending not to be listening, and said very loudly, “He’s a ten-incher or more,” she boasted. “Dude got three legs. I can tell these things. Some women look at the shoe size, I look at the finger width. If he got thick fingers, then he got a thick di—you know what. The pants were loose, but it was in there!”
“Girl! You gotta get a piece of that. If you don’t somebody else will,” Tameeka threatened.
Stacie gave a short nod. “Hey, what about you? You didn’t meet anybody, did you?”
“I did too meet somebody,” Tameeka answered defensively, and then suddenly laughed when she realized how juvenile she sounded. “As a matter of fact, I met a lot of somebodies. You’re not the only one who got it going on tonight,” she answered as she bowed her head and hid a nervous grin. Tonight, she’d met her soul mate.
“Oh really? Do tell,” Stacie encouraged. “There are a lot of fine men out there. So which bodies did you meet?”
“I’ll tell you later,” she said, then changed the subject. “So whassup? Why are you sitting in the bathroom talking to me, when you got Mr. Wonderful on the other side of the door waiting to sweep you off your feet?” Tameeka asked, eager to get back to her new guy friend; she didn’t want to leave him alone too long, the women were vicious. Something about New Year’s Eve turns a woman into a man-stealing, I-don’t-want-to-spend-the-rest-of-my-life-alone ho.
“I know, girl! Give me a minute, Meek; I need to run to the bathroom,” Stacie called over her shoulder as she rushed past a group of preening women.
Inside the stall, Stacie let out a long breath and frowned. She had promised herself that she wasn’t going to do it tonight. The day before she had done it twenty times, and yesterday she’d done it eighteen times and earlier today she’d done it seventeen. Her face glistened; the makeup couldn’t hide the sweat that popped out over her face. Her palms became sweaty and she rubbed her hands together in an attempt to dry them; it didn’t work, they only became soggier. She prayed silently to herself that the urge would pass. But it didn’t. As she knew it wouldn’t. Instead, the urge continued to grow. It seeped into her body like a nasty virus, and there was only one way to assuage it.
“I have to do it,” she said in a tortured whisper, then snatched off her right shoe, a red strappy number, and brought it up to her nose. She inhaled deeply, and then took nine more quick sniffs as a calm came over her, blanketing her with a confidence that almost covered her shame…almost. The left shoe was next and the smell was even sweeter. She felt reborn. And it showed. Her face glowed; her pulse slowed and a crooked smile graced her face. Eyes sparkling, she pushed open the stall door.
“Let’s show the brothas how we do it!” she said as she grabbed Tameeka’s arm, then strutted out of the room.
Friday, November 25, 2005
We have an online book club - SORMAG's Online Book Club
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Wednesday, November 23, 2005
We are truly thankful for our readership. Thank you so much for your support.
We are thankful for those who sent monetary donations and who promoted their books in SORMAG. Without you there would be no SORMAG.
We are thankful for those who continue to support SORMAG throughout our crazy ride.
We are thankful for our reviewers, without you we wouldn’t be on the publishing map.
We are thankful for our contributors. Your words brought SORMAG to life.
We are thankful for the authors and their books. You give us something to promote.
We are thankful for LaShaunda’s family who loan her to us everyday.
SORMAG wishes everyone a happy safe Thanksgiving. Remember to hug someone and let them know how thankful you are to have them in your life.
I had the pleasure of meeting Tony online. He contacted me about his book (To Hell and Back 3X) and a new friendship began.
This man was fighting cancer, but he refused to give up on his publishing dream. He self published his book and was willing to share his experiences with our readers in a few articles.
Tony and I talked many times over the phone. He was very encouraging and inspired me to continue with the magazine.
He will be truly missed.
SORMAG sends its deepest sympathies to his family and friends.
TONY C. WILLIAMS
A TRIBUTE TO THE MAN AND HIS LEGACY
Village Baptist Church
100 S. Hilton Street
Thursday, December 1, 2005
6pm – 8pm
“He lost the battle to illness, but he won a place into the hearts of many”
For more information:
443-423-9232 – Renee Jones
Sunday, November 20, 2005
Shades Of Romance Magazine: Please give the readers a brief bio on you the person and the writer.
Diane Dorce': I am Diane Dorce', born and raised in Gary, Indiana. I started off like most writers, being an avid reader first. In 1992 I wrote and produced my first musical stage play, ALL GODS CHILDREN HAVE WINGS, in Atlanta, GA. Later in 2001, I self-published LOVING PENNY, a middle-grade read about one child’s dilemma with obesity. I formed the organization JAM4Kids to address the childhood obesity epidemic and provide our youth with program designed to keep them healthy and fit. I love to write and want nothing more than to make this my premier occupation.
SORMAG: Tell us about your current book?
DORCE': My current book, DEVIL IN THE MIST, can be categorized as romantic/suspense. Although there are elements of romance, the book deals heavily in suspense. Ex-NBA player turned detective, Zack Monstar is assigned a simple murder case. Two men dead, one black, one white, but somehow associated to the largest, wealthiest, health organization in the nation. After his friend, NBA All-star, Akewali Dimbi dies returning from Africa, Zack finds himself immersed in a murder case that will leave a trail of bodies from Africa to Atlanta. Zacks investigation leads him to Sashay, an exotic dancer whose brother is missing. Sashays volatile personality and seductive nature leads Zack into some troublesome waters, but it's Sashay who gives Zack his first break in the case. Zack is determined on solving this case and keeping his detective work front and center until he meets, WHS employee Regina Miller. In his quest for the truth, Zack discovers an intricate plot of mass proportions, involving government agencies, biological agents and deadly immunizations. In this modern day tale of David versus Goliath, Zack risks it all to save the woman he loves as he takes on the government, the world, and finally, THE DEVIL IN THE MIST.
SORMAG: What inspired this story?
DORCE': When I began writing this book, I was concerned about the onset of AIDS and curious about where it came from. There were many theories, some viable and others comical. The one theory I seemed to lean more towards was the one that AIDS was manufactured in a lab and created as a biological agent. You can read more about this theory on Dr. Boyd E. Graves’s website. This was the basis of my story, although I use a fictional virus, and one far more deadly one than AIDS. And then of course, I wanted to have a novel full of AA characters, especially an AA Detective, someone strong, and yet passionate, smart, good looking, sexy and a little bit troublesome.
SORMAG: What would you like your readers to take away from your book?
DORCE': First off, I want my readers to enjoy the to enjoy the ride, embrace, feel and see the characters. I want them to be entertained and informed. I want them to fall MADLY in love with Zack Monstar, since he will be my featured detective in a series I am writing. I want them to think and question the motives and actions of our government and the world abroad as they apply to the story and everyday events. Everything that we read in the newspapers or see on television is not all true. There is, in fact, a story behind every story.
SORMAG: How can readers learn more about your books and get in contact with you?
DORCE': My readers can lean more about my books on my website, www.dianedorce.com and email me at email@example.com.
Zack stared out of his bedroom window overlooking Main Street. He stared through a film of dirt so thick, everything outside appeared gray. He opened the window and cold air whipped around his waist, traveled down his legs, causing him to jump and dodge its icy sting. Atlanta winters still surprised him one day hot, the next day cold, rarely two days the same. Not at all like Gary, Indiana, where he grew up and winter seemed to last a lifetime. He sipped his coffee, enjoying the bitter contrast of hot and cold, watching his window fog. He wiped a small circle, just in time to see Willie Blood setting up his shoe-shine stand.
Willie had a mind for money and a nose for everything else. Most folk would probably question his setting up his stand on such a cold day like today, a holiday when most businesses were closed. Willie hung his wreath, a small crocheted thing of algae green with a bright red velvet ribbon, something a kid made, gave him, or conned him into buying, the same one he’d hung for the last three years. It didn’t blend in with the rest of the Christmas decorations lining Main Street, but neither did Willie.
On both sides of the street, there were colorful lights strung overhead, wrapping around light posts, candy-cane style. Large tinseled and snow-covered wreaths with shiny balls and gold angels hung at every door. Willie’s wired, homemade wreath was a lot like him, a relic from the past, but it was his way of celebrating; after all it was the beginning of the Christmas season. It was Thanksgiving, and Stone Mountain hosts its very own parade where Willie would be front and center providing shoe shines to anyone who could afford one. Maybe I’ll pay him a visit. I could always use a shoeshine and his conversations aren’t bad either, Zack thought. Willie had all the neighborhood gossip. He knew what was what, with whom and when. He probably had answers Zack could use, especially involving his John Doe case.
Zack shook his head in despair. His investigation so far was at a dead end. Pookie’s mom hadn’t seen him in a couple of weeks. When Zack approached her about Pookie’s disappearance, she didn’t even act surprised or alarmed. She said nonchalantly, cigarette halfway hanging out of her mouth, “Pookie run the streets all the time. He’ll come home when he get ready.” The one thing he knew for sure Kenny Woods would never go home again. The rest of his case was pure speculation. There was some significant evidence, but he couldn’t relate any of it to anything, the fingerprints, the man with no face, the morgue fire were all hard core evidence that lead nowhere. Zack felt like the mouse in the maze. Someone knocked.
“Zack, you in there?” Miss Jenkins shouted.
“Yes, Ma’am. I’m not dressed though.” He heard Miss Jenkins giggle.
“Oh, that’s okay, Baby, I just wanted to invite you to dinner, that’s all. We’ll be eating around six. You come on by, okay? Miss Jenkins done put her foot in it this time, and I know you don’t want to miss out.”
Zack shouted back, “I’ll be there, Miss Jenkins; wouldn’t miss it for the world.”
“Well okay, don’t be late, because Reverend Morton coming by to say grace.”
“I won’t,” Zack said, looking through his peephole. Miss Jenkins wore the same housecoat, same wig and same wide grin he had come to know and love. He watched her nearly three-hundred-pound frame waddle back over to her apartment, which was directly across the hall. Time and food had become her worst enemies, but it never seemed to bother her.
Just before dinner and after the parade, Zack grabbed his basketball and headed for the court down the street at the high school. Shooting baskets helped him to think clearly. The weather hadn’t changed much since the morning and with the sun disappearing behind the clouds, the temperatures dipped lower. It had been some years since he had played on an outside court, especially one this size. All in all it felt good.
He dribbled on the cold, damp pavement, moving the ball between his legs, around to the left then the right, front and back, performed a three-sixty and slammed the ball through the wire rim. “Hell yeah,” he shouted. This was where it all began for him some twenty years ago. Alone on a court, he emulated, played imaginary games with the giants of his time, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem-Abdul Jabbar, and his hero, his mentor, Dr. J. Julius Erving. Later, he would play with up-and-rising stars like Isaiah Thomas, Magic Johnson and a very young Michael Jordan. They told him he would be the next superstar.
Zack dunked the ball, causing the rim to shake, bending from his weight. He landed hard on the pavement; his knees crumbled to catch his fall. The pain was sharp and intense. Zack fell to the ground, grabbing his left knee, pressing it close to his body. This was how it all ended up, him with a busted knee held together by four steel pins. Never again, the doctor said. He would never again play professional ball. After surgery and rehabilitation he would walk, the doctor said, but with a limp. That was where they were wrong. He had no limp, but his professional career was over. Zack cupped the ball in his hand, held it out along the pavement. It didn’t move. His grip was still good, one of the best in the league. He was one of them, a baller for life, if nowhere but in his mind.
Thanksgiving dinner was all Miss Jenkins had promised and then some. She had turkey, dressing, macaroni and cheese, potato salad, collard greens, chitterlings and sweet potato pie for dessert. Zack had two servings of everything, but that was nothing compared to Willie B’s boys, Gerald and Everett. They were still at the table when he left. Miss Jenkins didn’t mind. She was all the happier to see anyone eating. Zack went back to his apartment only to find the place too dismal after the all the socializing and good company he had just left. The holidays were always hard on him, reminding him just how alone he was. He grabbed his cigarettes and stepped outside. Across the street, Willie B was closing down for the evening.
“Z, what’s up?” Willie asked, showing off all thirty-two of his false white teeth. He had more teeth than mouth and more hair than most men his age. His mixed gray Jherri curl peeked out of his mohair Kangol cap, framing his face like the hat and hair were one and the same. “I see Miss Jenkins done fattened you up for the kill,” he said, laughing.
“Yeah, but I believe your boys got the best of her. You eat?”
“Naw, not yet. Miss Jenkins say she put me a plate away early, before my boys could eat up everything. They sure are some big eaters. I thanks God for Miss Jenkins though. She don’t never mind sharing or cooking. I finds it hard sometimes with no wife and all, but she takes care of us so good, I hardly missing any.” He paused. “So what you doing out? You come for a shine? Or you sneaking and smoking again?”
Zack looked down at his scuffed shoes. “Sneaking? I’m a grown man. Grown men don’t sneak!” They both laughed. “Go ahead and hit me up with one of your special shines,” Zack said, taking a seat in one of the chairs. Zack lit up, while Willie B worked some of that black magic on his shoes.
“I hear you got that case, the one where they found that black boy and white man all messed up. Ooh boy, I hear they was shonuff nasty.” Willie rubbed his soft cloth into the pasty can of black polish, dabbing it slowly and methodically onto Zack’s shoes.
“So what else you hear?” Zack wasn’t going to confirm or deny Willie’s take on the murders. He could tell Willie was itching to tell him. That man kept his ears closer to the ground than anyone Zack knew. “If you know something, spill it, old man. Somebody out there is doing a whole lot of talking, because half of what you said ain’t even hit the newspapers yet.”
“I hear you got a pretty tough case there, Zack.” Willie looked up seriously. “You be careful, you hear. Folks talking about this ain’t a normal killing. Thems some powerful people to blow up that there morgue. Don’t you think they won’t blow yo’ass away!” Willie brushed right, and then left, until a glow followed. He smiled at his accomplishment then moved onto the other boot.
“Willie, there you go again with all that mystical, evil plot shit. Anybody can plant a bomb or pour gasoline. It don’t take no genius to blow up no building, or kill. Just like I don’t need to be no genius to catch him. If he living, breathing and walking, he can be caught.”
“Oh, I knows you bad, Z. I have no doubt about your ability to catch the bad guy, but tell me this, how many times you catch yo’self a ghost?”
* * *
Bad dreams. Willie’s ghost story had him going. Zack woke up some time before midnight with one thought on his mind. Smudge, Zack’s friend and sometime snitch. He dialed Smudge’s number and left a message on his answering machine requesting they meet that night. Smudge would know where to find Pookie. He was better even than Willie B when it came to the information. He knew everything about everyone.
Zack checked out the clock, 11:15. He had plenty of time to get downtown. He was awake but groggy. He always ate too much on Thanksgiving, and always vowed never to do it the next year. Zack tried to shake off the sleep, remembering bits and pieces of his nightmare. Not much was clear, except Willie’s ghost was there and he was having a hard time capturing it. It must have been all those greens, macaroni and cheese and pie he downed before nodding off. That would do it. Big Mama used to say too much eating before bed caused nightmares. For the first time in a long time Zack would agree with her. In fact there was no other explanation he could come up with. The clock read 11:25, time to make a move.
Zack’s drive into town had a calming effect on him. He liked driving at night. City lights twinkled against the dark horizon. He cracked his window slightly, letting in a cool breeze. The after-effects of the nap left him dazed; the cool air offered the pick-me-up he needed. Zack drove through the streets of Atlanta many nights, but didn’t remember it looking so desolate. At 11:45, the streets should be jumping. Yet there was almost no one. It looked like a scene out of some horror movie, a tragedy waiting to happen. The eerie feeling he had about the John Doe murders didn’t seem to help the situation. He continued down Peachtree looking for some signs of life, then slowed when he reached the corner of Peachtree and Baker. Just across the street was Jackson Park, which was designed and named for Atlanta’s former mayor, Maynard Jackson. It was constructed just before the Olympic games, part of the Beautify Atlanta campaign, now a public eyesore and home to many of Atlanta’s homeless.
Zack pulled up alongside an abandoned apartment building and across the street from the park. The wind whipped around him, the force of it almost blowing him back the way he came. He battled the strong winds, coughing, covering his mouth with his scarf, partly to keep out the cold and the scent of the homeless. Even on a windy night like tonight he could still smell them. The stench of urine, liquor and unwashed bodies emanated throughout the park. Zack stepped slowly through the park, kicking bottles and litter out of his way. He looked at his watch. Midnight and still no contact.
“Z,” someone whispered from around the corner. Zack didn’t answer. Even though he was supposed to contact Smudge there, the streets could not be trusted so he didn’t answer the call, but listened intently and followed the voice. Whoever it was, he was close now, because he could almost smell the person’s hot breath coming around the corner. As cold as it was, it was visible even in the dark. Zack halfway made it around the corner before a sharp pain and the sound of breaking glass caused him to drop to his knees. Zack was stunned; his ears closed up and the world was silenced, muzzled; then a painful pop deep inside his head allowed him to hear again. Zack heard muffled voices talking so fast and choppy that he thought they were speaking a foreign language. The two crackheads argued over who would get the watch and how to split the money. Everything seemed far away. He was losing consciousness. Stay awake. Alert, Zack told himself. He opened his eyes just in time to see a large object flying through the air aimed at the two men talking. One of them was hit. He saw it all in slow motion, like a movie exaggerated for special effect. He watched the man tumble to the ground, hard, bones cracking on impact. The second crackhead ran, leaving both the wallet and the watch behind. Zack reached for his spare gun, attached to his ankle. He didn’t know who or what was coming next, and he would be damned if he was going to get jacked twice. He laid still, his hand on the trigger and he waited.
The wheels on Smudge’s chair crushed against the fallen leaves, causing a snap, crackle and pop. A strong wind whistled and swirled, raising leaves, dirt and debris around Smudge. Zack raised up, removed the gun safety and aimed at the wind.
“Whoa, Z!” Smudge said. “It’s just me Man. You alright?”
“Smudge, where the hell you been?” Zack asked, lowering his gun.
“What you mean, where I been? I just saved yo’ass! That’s where I been, Nigga!” He breathed heavily. “You can’t be stepping up here half-assed. Streets ain't safe no mo’ since crack.” He rolled over to the crackhead. “He dead?”
“Naw, at least I don’t think so.” Zack rubbed the back of his head and checked it for blood. “You know them?”
“Them just some street rats, Man. They know you and me cool, and they still try to jack you. That’s why I busted that nigga in the head. I’ma bust him again when I see him in the shelter.”
Smudge, born Walter Smiley, was named so, not because he was dirty, but because his dark complexion resembled black ink smudged against a finger. He wasn’t ashy black or muddy black, but a midnight-coal black with gold eyes, constant reminders of his Cold Duck wino days. No amount of eye drops could remove the yellow stains that circled his pupils.
Zack stood and dusted himself off, before slapping palms with Smudge. “You doing alright?” he asked.
Smudge located his pack of cigarettes and quickly lit one. He puffed hard and long before answering. “Cold as shit. Other than that, I’m okay.”
Zack pulled out his pack of cigarettes as well and lit up.
“You smoking again?” Smudge asked.
“Yeah.” Zack took a very long drag and was surprised that he was able to hold it down without coughing. It was like he had never stopped smoking. “So tell me what you know about those murders.”
“What makes you think I know something? You see how I’m rolling. How a man in a steel cage supposed to know about some murders on the other side of town?”
“Don’t play me, Smudge. Willie B already talking, and you know and I know if Willie B knows something, it’s a bet that you the one got the tip. So what’s up?”
“What’s in it for me?” Zack gave him a stern look. Smudge said, “Alright, I guess I owe you something. Look, it ain’t much, but you know whatever I say is between you and me, alright? And I don’t want to be talking to none of your 5-0 buddies downtown, so keep my name out of this one.” Smudge flicked his cigarette before looking right and left as if he was halfway expecting someone else to show up.
“All that goes without saying. You know me, Smudge, and you know I wouldn’t put you out like that.” Zack looked around, too, but there was no one, only streetlights and the ghostly white mist their breath and smoke left behind.
“What’s up, Smudge?”
“Black Seville, white man, with a big gun, silencer.”
“Was there a struggle or anything? Did he see the license plate?”
“Don’t know, Z. All I know is there were two men down, one black, one white, and one man left standing. That’s it.” Smudge pulled out a bottle wrapped in a paper bag. He twisted the cap off and took a swig, but not before offering a sip to Zack, who declined. Zack couldn’t help but notice the diamond-encrusted Rolex Smudge was sporting.
“Give him up, Smudge! Who saw it? I can protect him, Man. My word is bond. You know that. It’s Pookie, right? Tell Pookie I want to talk with him. Just me and him, on the down low.” Zack grabbed his coat at the collar, trying to shut out some of the hawk, to no avail. It was getting colder by the minute. The wind that had whistled earlier now whined and moaned its way through the streets of Atlanta.
“What you talking about, Man? Pookie who? I don’t know no Pookie. Hear no evil, see no evil and speak no evil. Look, you know what you dealing with? You got yo’self a ghost killa, and he’s a bad mutha, so watch yo’ back, Boy. I thought you were bad until I peeped those two crackheads taking you out. You slipping, Z!”
Zack’s mind was running in twenty different directions. Smudge was the second person tonight to mention ghosts. What was it about this case that had him endlessly searching for clues? Ghosts didn’t leave any clues. “Whatever, Smudge. Where you get that Rolex from, Man? You living in a steel cage, rolling around sporting a Rolex. What’s that about? You robbing again?”
“Oh, shit! Z, now you gonna try to write me up for some shit I didn’t do, Man. I thought you was my boy. I’m out here freezing my ass off, trying to help you, and you accusing me of stealing. Damn, Z, I shoulda let yo’ ass get jacked.”
“Smudge. That whining act don’t work with me no more. Tell Pookie I want to see him and it will be easier for him if he comes looking for me.” Zack shivered. “Let’s find somewhere warm to go. It’s freezing out here.” He was ready to get the hell out of Dodge, into some place preferably with heat, pronto! “So where you going? You need a ride?”
“Naw. Got me a room at the shelter tonight. Just wheel me across the street. I’ll be fine.”
Zack pointed to the crackhead. “What about this guy?”
“Leave him! It’ll be just my luck his stanking ass be my bunkmate.”
The steel rails of the wheelchair sent shivers through Zack’s hand. It was already cold, but the metal felt more like ice. He pushed Smudge up to the door of the shelter.
“Alright, Z. Look if I hear anything, I’ll ring ya; alright?”
* * *
The night was far from over. Even though it was reaching early morning, Zack had one more thing to do, one more person to see. It was close to two in the morning when Zack pulled in front of Club Mikki’s. He was hoping Sashay hadn’t left. One of the bodyguards stood blocking the doorway and waited for Zack to hand him a ticket stub. Zack surprised the huge man, flashing his badge instead. The guard reluctantly stepped aside, allowing him to squeeze past his massive Santa size.
The club was nearly empty. It must be a holiday thing. Brothers too full of turkey and dressing, family and football, for it to be a get-it, get-it night. A few men sat drinking at the bar, and others were scattered among the tables, but it was an unusually quiet night. Zack headed for Sashay’s dressing room when yet another bodyguard stopped him. This one was super-Santa-sized with a beard to match. The only thing he was missing was the white hair and the suit. He would make old St. Nick proud.
“Where you going, Man? Nobody’s allowed back here!” Super Santa said. Zack
took out his badge again. “Look, I got some business with Sashay. Is she back there?”
“Man, that shit don’t mean nothing to me.” The bodyguard waved the badge away like it was an annoying fly. “Like I said, nobody’s allowed back there so take your little badge and move on.”
Sashay opened her door and confronted the bodyguard. “Bruce, it’s okay. Let him by.”
“Yeah.” She directed her attention to Zack. “ Hello, Detective.”
“Sashay.” Zack moved past the bodyguard.
“Come on in,” Sashay said, closing the door behind Zack. “So, Detective, you found my brother yet?”
“Sit down, Sashay,” Zack said, moving toward her.
Sashay didn’t move. She stared at him, through him for what seemed like an eternity. He tried to move toward her, but she stuck out her hand to stop him. Sashay bit at her bottom lip. She spoke again, but he could barely hear her. “Did you find my brother, Detective?”
Zack nodded his head, but somehow his eyes had already spoken the truth. He sat on her tattered loveseat and explained all about how her brother was found and how far they were on the case. He didn’t need to look up to tell that she was crying. He heard her sniffles and soft sob despite her efforts to hide her grief. She listened quietly to his findings, excuses and advice.
When he finally looked up, he saw Sashay at the door, looking at him as if he was the devil incarnate. He had nothing more to say and knew that no words would make a difference anyway. I should leave, he thought. He got up and Sashay still made no move from her door. Zack noticed how vulnerable she looked, like a scared doe caught up in car headlights. He reached for her, and she swung at him landing a hard, painful blow to his right ear. “Shit!” he shouted. He was caught off guard by Sashay’s anger and her strength. He grabbed his ear, halfway expecting it not to be there. Sashay seemed even more pleased at his pain, pounding harder¾ machine gun arms making contact with everything in her way, everything being Zack. He grabbed her arms only to be attacked by her feet. She tried kicking him but he twisted and turned, staying out of her way. He held her at a distance. When she began to tire, he tried talking. “Sashay, what the hell’s the matter with you? Stop it, Girl. Stop it!” He slapped her, but it didn’t seem to make a difference. She just kept on, until someone banged at the door.
“Shay? You all right? What y’all doing in there? Shay!” It was Super Santa.
Zack knew that it would be only minutes before the bodyguard came charging through the door, and he would be damned if he was going to do battle with that beast. He tried holding onto Sashay tightly, not allowing her to move. Sashay fought harder for control, shoved, kicked and pretty much used Zack for a punching bag. He was getting tired and way passed pissed.
“Sashay, please! I’m only trying to help! I will find who did this. You got to trust me on this, Girl.”
Sashay stopped. Maybe she had finally heard him, or maybe she was just tired. Hysteria could do that. Zack breathed a sigh of relief. A breath that got caught somewhere between his throat and his lungs. The door flew open, and Santa charged him like a raging bull.
“Nigger, I’ll kill you!” Santa hollered.
“Oh shit!” Zack had little time to think. He pushed Sashay to the ground and pulled out his piece. “Not before I kill you.” Zack aimed and was ready to fire when Sashay spoke up.
“Bruce, I’m okay. You can leave now.”
The bodyguard looked from Zack’s gun to Sashay and back to the gun.
“Leave, dammit!” she shouted.
He looked back at Zack and left. Sashay returned to her bureau as if nothing had happened. Zack saw her out the corner of his eye staring into the mirror as if it could give her some answers that he couldn’t. He stared straight ahead though. He wasn’t sure if Bruce was gone or if he was just lying in wait for him. Zack held his piece in place. He didn’t want any more surprises.
“You talked to Mrs. Woods yet?” Sashay asked.
“No. I’ll see her tomorrow.”
“I’ll tell her. It’s time we talked,” Sashay said.
* * *
When someone, anyone banged at your door at six in the morning it had better be an emergency, fire or something, Zack thought the next day. He had only a good two hours of sleep; the last thing he expected was an early-morning emergency.
“Who is it?” he hollered.
He heard it, but didn’t believe it. How did she find her way to his apartment? What did she want? Was she in trouble, or just trouble? The questions ran through Zack’s. The only way he was going to get answers and peace was to open the door. Zack opened it reluctantly and there Sashay stood, dressed in jeans and a T-shirt that bragged in large neon letters SEXY. An unexpected smiled crept at the corners of his mouth and she returned the smile. Sashay didn’t say much at first, just spent her time perusing Zack’s apartment and probably his lack of furniture, taste and style. He felt a little embarrassed greeting her at the door in boxer shorts and his wife beater T-shirt but that could be expected at six in the morning.
“Did I wake you?” she asked nonchalantly.
“No, I always stay up to sunrise.” He wiped the sleep from his eyes, questioning how there could be any, since he had so little time to sleep. He sat on his leather sofa, but nearly jumped up because it was cold. The whole room was cold.
“You got some coffee?” she asked.
“Yeah,” Zack answered, looking and feeling confused about her visit. He stood and went into the small kitchenette in search of coffee. Sashay followed.
“I’m sorry about waking you. I just needed to talk. I found your address in the phone book. I was surprised though. I thought being a detective and all you would be unlisted, but you weren’t.” She reached for the canister of coffee he was holding and dipped out two scoops, placing them in the filter.
“Yeah, well don’t everybody know me like you do.”
She looked down to his shorts and back up at him. “You cold?” she asked.
“A little.” He thought about his appearance, him in just his shorts in front of her. Then, he remembered, that she was standing, sitting and putting on makeup butt naked in front of him. Hell yeah. He poured the water into the machine and switched it on. Sashay wasn’t saying much, just doing a whole lot of staring.
She looked down at him again and smiled.
“What?” He asked.
“Nothing. I just thought a man your size would have bigger legs.” She laughed.
“You got chicken legs.”
Zack didn’t find humor in that statement, especially at six in the morning. He thought of at least five snappy comebacks, but decided against them. He really wasn’t feeling particularly humorous; in fact, he wasn’t feeling particularly anything except tired and cold. The coffee perked in silence. Zack reached for two cups, handing one to Sashay.
“Pookie called me last night after you left. He said he knows who killed Kenny.”
Monday, November 07, 2005
Should the AA books have their own section in the bookstores? why
Should they have their own section in the review magazines? why
Should they have their own awards? why
Tell us what you think.
Tiffany’s raw nerves were almost as painful as her aching heart. Her mind puzzled over the events of the night before. How had things gotten so out of control? She was tired; her argument with Nelson, her fiancé, played in her mind throughout the night, precluding sleep. She turned the key in the ignition and drove away from the house to think and clear her head.
The leaves on the trees were the autumn colors, orange, green, yellow, and red that she loved. Some of them laid wet in the wet street as she drove over them. The temperature was in the upper thirties and there was a slight breeze in the air.
Tiffany drove for miles up and down the hills on one of the main roads not too far from where she lived in a quaint little brown stone in Arlington, Virginia.
Barnyards with black and brown horses were on her right. To her left she saw luxurious homes planted firmly on a hill far back off the road.
The drive relaxed her and at first she tried to think of nothing, preferring to drift into the soft music coming from her Miles Davis CD. She truly had not meant for the argument with Nelson to get out of hand as it did. They had blurted insults - some unintentional, some aimed to penetrate each other’s hot buttons. She knew she wanted to stop it, right in the middle as it was happening. She wanted to turn back the clock to where they had last felt each other’s comfort, not pain. But, no matter how hard she tried, her good intentions just didn’t prevail. Now, she was concerned that Nelson wasn’t convinced of her sincere efforts to try to make things work between them. That’s not good, she thought. After all they were about to become husband and wife and have a family.
Did Nelson still understand her? Did he even care to the same degree as before? Or, had he just become accustomed to her?
Her racing thoughts absorbed her attention until she heard the horn from another car blowing and the screeching of its tires. She screamed! Then, there was dead silence.
The paramedics ran from the ambulance, instruments in hand. Tiffany drifted in and out of consciousness. With utmost efficiency, they freed her from the car. It wasn’t until they placed her on the stretcher that one of the paramedics took a good look at her. “Dear God.” he said…
And Then Some By Teressa Leath
Friday, November 04, 2005
The Writer’s Cheat Sheet
The First Year And Before:
Planning For Success With Submissions, Revisions, And Promotion
Career Planning For Writers
How To Query An Agent
Handle Rejection Like A Pro
Someone to watch over me
Jennifer and Bryan had been high school sweethearts. They attended college, North Carolina State, together and married after graduation. Their lives were perfect. He was moving up the corporate ladder, and had just been promoted to human resources director. She was teaching third grade and loved every minute. Storybook was an understatement when referring to them and that made what happened totally devastating to her. Her world was never going to be the same.
Bryan left the house that morning walking on cloud nine because she had told him that she was ready to start a family. Lunchtime was approaching when she was called to the principal's office for a phone call. The drive to the hospital was done in a zombie-like state. As she entered the room, the beeps of the machines echoed in her head. He was lying there so still with tubes and bandages everywhere.
A nurse came into the room followed by a slender man in a white coat. Jennifer thought to herself, "He was probably still in his residency." He looked so young, but as he began to speak all doubts disappeared. The young looking doctor obviously knew what he was doing, and she quickly started to trust him with the life of her most precious gem.
The injuries were extensive, including internal bleeding, so the prognosis was not good. She refused to give up hope; she wanted it to be a bad dream, a very bad dream. At the urging of both families, she finally had to realize that he was not returning to her. Bryan was only alive because of the machines. It took a few hours to decide, but she made the difficult decision. The doctors turned off his life lines; she held his hand in hers and listened as his heart stopped beating.
Four months had passed when she finally returned to work. During her daily walk to work, she ran into the mystery woman and in the same spot every Wednesday. The first day Jennifer saw her was the day that she returned to work. It was difficult day, but there was something about the woman's face and smile that soothed Jennifer as she walked past. The woman sat unobtrusively at the sidewalk café, totally engrossed in something happening across the street. Whenever Jennifer approached, she would look up and smile. No words were spoken, but she always felt better. Their nonverbal exchange carried on until she finally decided to stop.
"Hi. My name is Jennifer. I have seen you seated here and you always have the most pleasant smile on your face."
"Why, thank you. My name is Elizabeth. Would you like to have a seat?" The woman was middle aged with a salt and peppered colored haircut in a short feathered style. Her complexion of dark chocolate was flawless and obviously hid the years that the gray hair signified. Her large eyes of light amber shined as brightly as her smile.
"I was always told smiles are contagious, and you look so preoccupied when you walk by."
She looked down at her hands and twisted the wedding band on her finger.
"Preoccupied is an understatement." After taking a deep breath, she felt comfortable continuing her explanation.
Jennifer spoke about Bryan and their life together. As she began to discuss the accident, her eyes darkened with sadness. To put it out of her thoughts, she asked Elizabeth about the dance studio. Elizabeth smiled as she informed Jennifer that her daughter owned the studio, and she enjoyed watching her with the class.
The large window in front offered passers-by the opportunity to see the class in practice; Elizabeth's seat offered her the perfect and unobstructed view of the dance studio across the busy street. At that time of day, the littlest dancers had filed in and were practicing their dance moves. The instructor, a tall, slender woman with her hair neatly in a bun, always dressed in pastel colors that mixed well with her complexion of dark _mocha. She stood perfectly straight and walked with grace and confidence, obviously the result years of dance and training.
Elizabeth glanced at her watch and realized Jennifer was later than usual. Her new friend's pain and loss for her husband was so deep, and she was trying to hide it. There was no way that she would get over it in a few months. She needed to realize that, and Elizabeth knew that her presence was keeping her from acknowledging it.
Jennifer sat down out of breath. "Hi, Elizabeth, how are the girls doing today?"
"It's coming together. It better since the recital is next week."
Jennifer thought that she saw sadness on Elizabeth's face, but it disappeared as soon as she smiled. The rest of their hour was filled with the normal chatter of recent events. They both became quiet as Savannah glided across the floor in dance. Her solo signified the end of the class. It was Savannah's treat to the class for working hard during practice.
"My private dancer." Elizabeth's motherly pride exuded in that statement as her eyes never left her daughter dancing a ballet solo in front of the window. When the song ended, Savannah took a bow as the girls and their mothers applauded.
A week later, Jennifer walked the route that she had taken every Wednesday. Today, the traffic seemed lighter; she made each traffic light. The café was busy but the table where Elizabeth usually sat was empty. "She's not here." She said softly as she sat down.
The foot traffic passed her while she sat dazed and confused. As practice began, she watched but felt a sudden emptiness. She figured that there must be a good reason for Elizabeth not being there. Next week, she was definitely going to show.
The next Wednesday, Jennifer found herself seated alone again. How could she leave and not say goodbye? She left just like Bryan did. She was not aware that she was crying until she felt the tears fall onto her hand. The emptiness had returned, and it was just as bad as when Bryan died. She thought that she was over it — but was she?
The practice was over and the little girls were all out of the studio. Something pulled Jennifer across to the dance studio. Soft sounds of Boney James played while she stood by the door quietly until Savannah reappeared.
"Hi, may I help you?" Savannah smiled and greeted her.
She suddenly lost her nerve to ask about Elizabeth. The friendship that they had started was a missing part of her life, and she wanted to know what happened. Savannah asked again and she found her voice to speak.
"Hi, my name is Jennifer Sinclair. I came by because I am a friend of your
Savannah's face flashed sadness then she smiled and extended her hand. "My name is Savannah Williamson." She walked to the stereo and turned off the music.
Jennifer remembered some of the stories that Elizabeth shared with her about Savannah's early years. She still found it hard to believe that the woman who danced with such grace and confidence was ever clumsy. "You know your mother is so proud of you," Jennifer chimed in while Savannah's back was still to her.
"I'm sure." Savannah's smile softened but she would not look at her. "So, how did you know my mother?" She changed the subject around.
The question took Jennifer aback since Savannah spoke in past tense. "Excuse me?"
"You said that you were my mother's friend."
Jennifer's face showed her confusion. "Yes, I am. I actually stopped by to see how she is doing."
Savannah walked over to a shelf full of photographs on the far wall. Along with the photos, a few trophies were mixed in. She picked up an 8-by-10 photo of Elizabeth and a little girl. "This is my favorite picture of us together." It depicted Elizabeth with a 12-year-old Savannah dressed in a dance costume and wearing a huge smile.
"That is a lovely picture." She handed it back to her.
"It was our last picture together." Jennifer placed it back on the shelf.
It took a moment for the statement to sink in. They must be estranged and that explains why Elizabeth watched from across the street without ever walking over.
"Oh, I see."
"She was my biggest fan. She used to call me her private dancer." A tear rolled down Savannah's cheek.
"She still does." Curiosity got the best of her. "So, why aren't the two of you speaking?" It was obvious that she missed her relationship with Elizabeth.
Savannah pulled a memory book from the shelf. She opened the book to a page with a news clipping. Jennifer's eyes stretched. It was an obituary for Elizabeth Williamson. It asked mourners to contribute to the American Cancer Society in lieu of flowers. She read it again to be sure that she read it correctly.
"When was this?"
"I was 12 years old. Fifteen years ago." Savannah placed the book in its original place. She explained that her mother gave birth to her at 40 years old, and was the joy of her life.
"I see her all of the time. She is the reason that I dance after each class. It is my way of giving her what she always enjoyed." Savannah smiled softly. "I thought for so long that I was going crazy with grief and imagined seeing her." She wiped her tears because she knew that Jennifer had spoken with her mother. "But, she hasn't said anything to me."
Jennifer sat at her desk and stared at the ticket to the dance recital. Even after purchasing the ticket, she was still undecided on whether to attend or not. She had been spending a lot of time trying to figure out why Elizabeth came into her life. Why had she come and Bryan not returned to her? It made no sense.
The auditorium was filled with families and friends of the dancers. Parents were easily spotted because of the camcorders in hand and digital cameras draped around their necks. A few grandparents were guilty of possessing the same accessories. When the lights dimmed and the production began, she noticed that even the usual stumblers had a little grace. The show ended with a standing ovation as they took their bows.
"Did you enjoy the show?" Savannah came up behind her.
She startled her. "It was wonderful. They were adorable."
"They worked really hard for this show, I am so proud of them." Her face lit up and she realized that Jennifer was not smiling. "Are you OK?"
"I'll be fine." Jennifer walked off from Savannah without saying anything else, and leaving her speechless.
The recital was six months ago and Jennifer talked herself into taking her old route. It had taken her a couple of months for her to make an appointment with the therapist that was recommended to her. The weekly sessions helped her deal with the sadness of losing the love of her life. Now, she was able to talk about him without bursting into tears.
The sessions also made her realize that she had blamed herself for Bryan's death. There were "what ifs" that she needed to deal with. What if she had stayed a little longer for breakfast? What if she had taken the same route he did then she would have been in front of him? What if she had asked him to drop the laundry off and he would have gone a different direction. She realized that the accident was meant to be and there was nothing she could have done to prevent it. A smile crossed her face as she remembered that Elizabeth's name came into her conversations. The announcement would have surely caused even more sessions with the therapist since it involved seeing a ghost.
She found herself in front of the dance studio. When she entered, the sounds of Dave Koz filtered through the studio. Savannah appeared with her usual smile.
"Well, hello, stranger."
"I am sorry that I have not been by."
"I understand. You needed some time." From the sound of her voice, she was happy to see her and was not upset with her absence nor by the way had she abruptly left after the recital.
"How have things been going?"
"Fine. We have another recital coming up. 'Alice in Wonderland.' " Savannah smiled.
"I would like to purchase a ticket." The smile on Jennifer's face was genuine.
"That is wonderful. How are you?"
"I'm doing good." She knew that Bryan would not want her to feel sorry for herself and wallow in despair. He would want her to live and enjoy life.
"I'm glad." Savannah smiled as she looked over Jennifer's shoulder and out the window. She turned and went back to the stereo. "You know, practice ran over late tonight and I didn't get a chance to dance. How about joining me?"
Jennifer had a surprised look on her face.
"Come on, I know you know how to cha-cha." Savannah started the steps as she stared at her reflection in the wall of mirrors. "Girl, come on. It is easy."
Jennifer stood and watched for a moment, and the music hit her. She joined Savannah and while her movements were not as graceful, she kept the beat and felt rejuvenated. The tempo sped up and Savannah changed directions and moved the length of the room.
By the end of the song, Jennifer found herself perspiring and tired but was full of energy. She had not danced in a while, and she had to admit that it was fun.
"Why don't you take a look across at the café?" Savannah restarted the music.
Jennifer turned and looked across the street, and at her usual table sat Elizabeth smiling from ear to ear. However, she was not alone because seated next to her wearing a large smile was Bryan. Tears formed in her eyes, but they were from joy not sorrow.
"I guess we are both private dancers now." Savannah smiled at her as they returned to the dance.
My name is Delese Moten. I am a military brat and the youngest of three children. I presently work in the Human Resources field. I hold a bachelor's degree in business administration, and currently reside in Albany, GA. I enjoy traveling, reading and writing, of course.
Thursday, November 03, 2005
PRETTY EVIL – Lexi Davis
Pretty Evil is a sexy, wickedly entertaining tale of Good vs. Evil, with lots of laughs. When three playboys buy an abandoned Beverly Hills mansion, they don't realize a supernatural vixen inhabits the cellar. To get rid of them, this sexy she-devil will stop at nothing—including cleverly morphing herself into each guys' fantasy woman to seduce and destroy them. The guys' only hope lies in their girl pal Sunnie who has a supernatural gift of her own --to detect evil beings.
The she-devil's seductive powers are overwhelming. The guys are in serious trouble. Will Sunnie be able to save her friends?
When Geffen Cage entered the Crustacean, an upscale French Colonial Vietnamese restaurant in a section of Beverly Hills known as the "Golden Triangle," he had one thought: I wish this was the Bermuda Triangle so my date would disappear.
Usually Geffen felt comfortable in high-profile places like this, but tonight he wanted to hide. As one of "the beautiful people" among the L.A. socialite circles, he was known to have impressive taste in women, but tonight all of that was blown to hell. He was looking good as usual, but his date was another story. If she stood on the side of the freeway, people would stop because this woman looked like a wreck.
Geffen hoped he wouldn't run into anyone he knew, but that would be hard because Geffen knew a lot of people. His date had suggested this place. The restaurant had an indoor, under-the-floor stream filled with black and gold koi and covered by glass. A floor-to-ceiling aquarium, waterfall, and copper-topped bar added to its breathtaking ambience, but all Geffen could do was hold his breath as he walked his date over the small wooden bridge, ready to duck if anyone recognized him.
"Sorry for the inconvenience, Mr. Cage," the maitre d' said, as Geffen and his date stood waiting in plain view of the whole restaurant while an attendant cleaned up a spill near their table.
Aw damn, Geffen thought, as he brushed nonexistent lint from his Versace suit's lapel. Geffen was superclean and always GQ, dressed sharp like a razor with not a hair in his thin, trimmed mustache out of place and not a fingernail unfiled. He just needed a distraction, a reason to put his head down and try to hide, but he was too late.
Three women sitting at a table a few feet across the marble floor spotted him. He didn't know them, but they were talking loudly, sipping on martinis and ragging on people as they walked by. Both Geffen and his date could hear every word they said.
"Why is he with her, as fine as he is," one woman said.
"Maybe the young brotha likes older women -- nothing wrong with that," said the second.
"I know she gets a lot of candy on Halloween."
"Quick, call the zoo and see if they're missing a llama."
Geffen shot the attendant a hurry-your-ass-up look.
When their table was finally ready, Geffen's date walked closer to the ladies' table. At first, Geffen thought she was showing off her 5 carat oval-shaped diamond ring, but turns out she was giving them her middle finger. Then she sat in her seat.
Geffen tried to concentrate on reading the menu, and put his mind over the matter. The fellas were counting on him to convince this woman to give them a cut-rate investment loan to buy property.
Geffen pulled a long-stemmed red rose from the table piece and handed it to her. "Tonight you look...indescribable."
She batted her fake eyelashes and grinned at Geffen like he was a piece of meat and she hadn't eaten in twenty years. All Geffen could think about was how much older she looked here in the candlelight compared to when he had first met her at the bank that she owned. She had been dressed better, too, with not so much sagging skin showing. And who had done her makeup tonight? Cirque du Soleil? He tried hard to think of something positive. Umm, okay, nice, expensive teeth.
"You really know how to treat a lady, Geffen, my sweetheart," she said in a low, guttural voice intended to be sexy but that sounded like a toad croaking. She opened her menu. "Umm, I'm so hungry. What looks good to you?"
Not you, that's for sure. "The roasted lamb is always good," he said out loud.
She asked the waiter, "What's your catch of the day?"
While his date irritated the waiter with too many questions, Geffen smiled and tried to look patient. Don't order the baked potato. It'll take too long.
Finally, she placed her order, then added, "Oh, and add a baked potato to that."
After ordering his meal, Geffen asked the waiter to bring a Mokt & Chandon right away. Then he started the conversation. "So tell me, how does a woman like you end up owning United Financial Funding Corporation, the second-largest lender of venture capital in Southern California?"
"Geffen, that's business. I never mix business with pleasure. And just so there's no misunderstanding, tonight is strictly for pleasure." She slipped off her shoe, raised her foot beneath the table and rubbed the inside of his calf with her bare toe. She continued her exploration even as the waiter brought and poured their drink.
"You're quite a flirt, too, I see." Geffen sipped his Mokt.
"I don't believe in wasting time, Geffen, my dear. Did you know they make a Viagra pill for women? I purchased a two-month supply."
I bet your husband is glad he's dead right about now. To his relief, the waiter arrived with their food. But the meal's arrival did little to distract Geffen's horny dinner partner.
"I'm hoping that a young man like you will be able to keep up, if you know what I mean."
She reached over and rubbed his hand. Her fingers felt like withered tree branches. He set his fork down and politely withdrew his hand to use his napkin. "You are full of surprises," he said with a smile.
"Yes, I am full of surprises. I bet you didn't know this about me." She leaned in close and whispered in his face, "I like rough sex."
Oh, that's just nasty.
Geffen cleared his throat to try to keep his dinner down. He emptied his champagne glass and smiled at her. She did a little shimmy-shake, another attempt to be sexy. I need some weed and a blindfold. She opened her mouth and wiggled her wrinkled tongue at him. Hell, hit me with a dart gun. Tranquilize my ass. "Waiter, check, please."
In her town car, on their way to her Palisades home, she made it clear to Geffen what he would have to do in order to get the loan he wanted at half the interest rate that other banks had offered. Desperate for a moment alone to rethink his strategy, he asked her driver to stop at a 7-Eleven. He said he wanted to get a Wall Street Journal, but really he wanted to buy a pint of vodka and a Penthouse magazine for sexual inspiration. But mainly he wanted to call his friend, Rice Jordan.
As he paid for his items, he flipped open his cell phone and called Rice. When his buddy answered, Geffen broke down, saying, "I can't do this shit, man."
"Hold on. Calm down. Where's she at right now?"
Geffen knew Rice would take his call, even though he was in the middle of his book signing at Barnes & Noble in Palmdale, California. Geffen had already told Rice about the bank owner who was sweet on him, and that tonight he was going to try to get them an investment loan by any means necessary.
"She's in the car. I had her driver stop at Seven-Eleven so I could get some things. I'm trying to stall, man. I'm telling you, she ain't just old, she's an old freak. 'Bout the same age as that mummy on Tales of the Crypt."
The cashier gave Geffen a weird look as he handed him his change. Geffen picked up his purchases and ducked into a corner of the store. "Rice, man, stop laughing."
"Gef, I'm signing books, so I can't really talk right now -- "
Geffen cut him off -- his problems were more important. "You ever spanked a skinny old freak before? Rice, what if something falls off her, man?"
"You know, what if I try to spank that ass and one of her old, skinny, wrinkled legs pop off?"
"Man, you trippin'."
"No, I'm serious. She's old. Her Social Security number is probably one."
Rice could hardly talk for laughing. "This whole setup was your idea, remember? I told you it was wack, but you said you'd get us that loan by any means necessary."
"But, Rice, pahtna, I can handle most any kind of pressure, but I didn't think it'd be like this, dawg. This woman right here would give Freddy Kruger nightmares."
"Gef, you are straight-up trippin'. But, hey, if you can't do it, then call it off. Let's forget about that investment loan, forget about purchasing investment property, forget about making that money."
"Money?" Money was always the buzzword for Geffen -- it never failed to pump him up and motivate him.
Rice played him like a Spanish guitar. "Yeah, that money. You're the one who swore you'd do whatever it takes to become a multimillionaire in the next two years."
Geffen closed his eyes real tight and thought about the money and all the things he wanted to do with it. Geffen had plans, big plans. He got his confidence back.
"Okay, man, I can do this. I'm going to get us that loan -- I don't care what it takes. I'll spank her till her legs, eyes, teeth -- everything -- pop off."
Rice said, "Don't get carried away now."
"I'm going to get us that investment loan so we live like the royal-blooded Africans that we are. I can't give up on my dream of owning a Fortune 500 company, and this is the first step."
"Right. Think about that when she asks you to bite her."
"I'm just messing with you. Hey, Gef, just do the damn thang," Rice said.
Geffen straightened his Versace collar and strutted back down the aisle of the 7-Eleven, cell phone to his ear. "I got this. I'm going to buy some ACE bandages."
"Bandages? For what?"
"To wrap her old mummy-ass up, so won't nothing fall off." He called to the checker, "Hey, Saddam, where're the ACE bandages?"
Rice couldn't stop laughing. "Gef, go handle your business. I gotta go. Call me later, but spare me the gory details. I ain't tryin' to hear about you getting busy with the Crypt Keeper. Oh, and don't forget, tomorrow's Sunday. We promised our girl Sunnie we'd show up for church, right?"
Geffen asked anxiously, "She found us a place?"
"She said she did, but I don't know if I believe her."
"She can't lie to get us in church. That'd be sacrilegious or something like that."
"Let's just show up and see," Rice said. "We'll know she's lying if she gets too close to the altar and spontaneously combusts."
Geffen threw the ACE bandages on the checkout counter. "Man, if I go through this, she'd better have us a property tomorrow. Yeah, I'll be at church."
"Okay, cool. And hey, you might wanna pick up some superglue, too, in case those bandages don't work."
"Yeah, you got jokes. Whateva." Geffen hung up, paid the cashier, and walked out the door. He stopped and thought about his mother, and how he'd move her grave site to a better place if he got this loan and some property. This one's for you, Ma.
He pulled the pint of vodka out of the bag, opened it, and kicked back a fourth of the bottle. Geffen never drank strong alcohol -- he valued his brain cells too much -- but this qualified as special circumstances. He was willing to sacrifice one or two brain cells for a multimillion-dollar venture.
The Barnes & Noble in Palmdale, California, was bustling with customers, mostly women who had driven past the Antelope Valley Mall and the Wal-Mart superstore to come see if author Rice Jordan was anything like the main character in his books. The fictional "Mathis Shade" was a forthright, moral, upstanding family man who had no trouble at all opening himself up and expressing his most intimate feelings to his woman. Mathis was the type of character who believed in honest communication, even if it meant laying his heart open and getting hurt. Women readers assumed Rice must be like his main character in order to write him so well. Yeah, right.
After listening to him read from his latest novel, No Game, No Shame, book-toting readers waited in a long line to have Rice autograph their books.
Rice sat behind a table with a stack of his novels, a permanent marker, and a bottle of Evian. He had on the same plain blue shirt and whitewashed jeans he'd worn for his book cover photo shoot. He was strictly a T-shirt-and-jeans kind of guy, leaving the dressing up for folks who were trying to impress other folks. He wore his hair closely shaved to camouflage those few pesky gray hairs that wanted to spring up and scream I'm getting old! even though he was only thirty-two. Despite 20/20 vision, he wore glasses as a tiny shield between him and the women who always tried to look into his eyes to see if he was telling the truth, which half the time he wasn't.
Rice was uncomfortable around people and longed to be back home in his private study. He wished Sunnie were there with him because she had a way of putting him at ease, even amid hoards of strangers milling around staring at him like he was a damn monkey in a cage, expecting him to say something clever and witty every ten damn seconds.
Rice smiled and handed a freshly autographed book to a lady, then waited for the next lady in line. Without looking up, he took her book and opened it. Inside the front cover was a glossy photo of the woman stark naked.
He thought to himself, Okay, now things are getting interesting. Rice closed the book and looked over his shoulder to see if anyone else had noticed the picture. He looked up at the lady standing in front of him. She looked like Jada Pinkett-Smith with auburn locks.
"Uh, hello," Rice mumbled.
"You're blushing," she said. His eyes immediately fell on her small, perky breasts underneath her thin cashmere blouse. They looked like two acorns trying to push their way out.
He squirmed. "I was, uh, trying not to."
"But you were. Does that mean you like what you see?" She arched her back. The acorns saluted. He broke into a full-fledged grin. A group of bookwormy women with buns, bifocals, and bunions grunted impatiently behind Miss Acorn Breasts.
He cleared his throat, picked up his pen, and opened her book again, but this time he kept the cover halfway closed, hiding the nude photo. "Where should I sign?"
The woman leaned across the table. "Right here." Her finger landed on her sweet spot in the photo. She leaned closer and whispered a proposition in his ear. He signed the photo and watched her as she walked out of Barnes & Noble, her book tucked under her arm.
Rice signed books for about ten more minutes, but the line remained long and he was eager for his rendezvous with Miss Acorn Breasts, so he began coughing. The store manager rushed and brought him more water. He took a sip and started coughing louder in long hacking, fake coughs.
"Mr. Jordan...are you all right?" the manager asked nervously.
"I gotta go," Rice said, coughing and collecting his things.
"But, Mr. Jordan, we need you to keep signing books." Rice pointed to his throat and hacked louder. He threw his coat over his shoulder and waved apologetically at everybody.
The manager was desperate. "But, Mr. Jordan -- "
Rice was gone.
He jumped in his car, drove across the parking lot to Baja Fresh Grill, and blinked his headlights twice, just as she'd requested. Miss Acorn rushed out, hopped in his car, and they drove to her condo in West Palmdale, where she let him sign a whole lot more than her photo. At the height of their "signing" session, she screamed out the name of Rice's fictitious male character. "Oh, Mathis."
Rice paused for a second. What did she just call me?
Her eyes were closed. "Oh, Mathis Shade, do it, baby. Don't stop."
This was not the first time an enraptured fan had confused him with Mathis Shade, the main character in his novels. Mathis was not only good-looking, he was strong but vulnerable, rough but gentle, worldly but homey -- the kind of oxymoronic guy all women claimed they wanted. Rice, the novelist, was nothing like that -- not even close. He opted to hide his true self behind the pages of his novel while he reaped the sexual benefits on Mathis Shade's behalf.
Acorn Lady screamed out again, "Don't stop, Mathis. Don't stop."
"Okay, Mathis won't stop," Rice said, and did his best to make sure his completely delusional fan was satisfied with his work.
The second she fell asleep, he whipped on his clothes, grabbed his keys, and tiptoed out of her condo.
Rice chuckled, trying to play it off like it didn't really bother him to be called someone else's name as long as he was the one who got the nookie. But underneath his chuckle, that shit really bothered him, made him feel like he was the Invisible Man or something.
During his sixty-five-minute drive south on the 14 and 405 freeways, Rice checked his voicemail. As he passed over the Santa Monica Mountains heading back to his home in Baldwin Hills, he replayed Sunnie's message several times, listening closely: "Rice, where are you? You're supposed to always answer when you see my caller ID no matter what you're doing. What if this was an emergency? Rice, just be careful, okay?"
He tried to figure out if Sunnie was actually worried about him or just taking him for granted, as usual. He called her back but got her voicemail.
He decided to stop by the gym on La Cienega Boulevard, knowing that his boy, Franklin Brass, better known as "Coach," would be there. He needed to remind Coach to show up for church tomorrow.
Coach felt at home amid the muggy smell of rubber mats, damp towels, and body sweat at the 24-Hour Fitness Magic Johnson Sports Club. The gym was packed with well-toned bodies in various shades of brown sweaty skin even after 11 P.M. on a Saturday night. The clinkety-clank of metal machines and iron weights was music to Coach's ear. He was in his usual spot in the southeast corner of the weight room, pumping iron while watching his biceps bulge in the floor-to-ceiling mirror. This was the only place where Coach's beefy chest, muscular buttocks, and bulging thighs blended in with the rest of the athletic bodies.
Coach wasn't expecting to see Rice. Rice looked out of place in his loose-fitting shirt and baggy jeans compared to Coach's muscle shirt, bandana, and sports shorts.
Rice stepped in front of the mirror, and shouted over the noisy equipment, "Nigerian, please. Stop looking at yourself."
Coach kept pumping. "What you doing here, Ethiopian? Thought you was out signing romance novels or some girly shit like that."
Rice ignored the comment. "Came by to remind you that tomorrow is Sunday."
"Who are you, the calendar cop?" Coach knew perfectly well what Rice was getting at, but he liked giving people a hard time. Sunnie, their closest female friend, was also a real estate broker and she had coerced them into going to church in exchange for finding them an investment property. But Coach preferred to spend Sunday morning in the gym rehabilitating his injured leg so he could get back out on the football field.
Rice said, "Man, you forgot? We promised our girl Sunnie we'd show up for church."
Coach grumbled. "I ain't going."
"Got to. Sunnie's been trippin' lately. She thinks we're going to get into some kind of trouble."
"What kind of trouble?"
"I have no idea. Anyway, you know our deal -- we go to her church, she shows us the property. Besides, we wouldn't want to disappoint Sunnie."
"Like I give a rat's ass 'bout that."
"You know you do. Sunnie's our girl."
Coach didn't deny it. He changed arms and continued doing reps. When Coach worked out, he liked to get into a zone and tune out the rest of the world. It was like intercourse between his mind and his body; his mind told his body what to do and it obeyed, no matter how hard or how painful. He got off on pain and roughness, and he liked to dominate, whether it was on the football field making a tackle or in the bedroom making love, as long as he conquered the task.
Right now his mind was on conquering the leg injury that had sidelined him this season. If he wasn't out there playing, he was nothing. That's the way he saw it.
After a hundred bicep curls, he set the barbell down and lay flat on the bench. He strapped the weight's belt to his left leg and started doing leg curls, pressing his leg muscles against two hundred pounds of iron weights.
"Hey, Big Zulu, that's a lot of weight to put on your injured leg."
Coach gasped for breath, but didn't stop pumping the leg machine. "I-gotta-get-back-in-uniform."
Coach figured Rice couldn't relate to how it felt being a pro athlete sidelined by an injury. He needed to stick to what he did best -- type.
Rice kept butting in, messing up Coach's zone. "I know you trying to get off the injured list, but, whoa, you're overdoing it."
Coach slammed the weights down and stood up. "It's pro football! There's fifty guys straight outta college itching to put on that Chargers jersey and take my place."
Coach was explosive like that, and when his volcanic temper flared, he was truly intimidating. Rice backed up a bit. A few people around them stopped and looked. Everybody knew Coach and knew what he was about, and nobody would ever get in the big guy's face and question him unless they wanted a beatdown. But Rice wasn't just anybody, he was Coach's lifelong friend.
Rice raised his hands. "You ain't got to yell."
Coach continued, "I ain't 'bout to be replaced. I'm thirty-two years old, man. I still got good years in me, but I gotta get back out on that field. So I gotta do this!"
"Okay, okay. I feel you."
Coach calmed down and went back to his leg presses. He knew he shouldn't have blown up like that, but sometimes his adrenaline surged so strong, he couldn't help it.
Coach stopped. "Hey, what time is it?"
"It's eleven thirty. Why?"
"Aw, hell. I gots to get outta here." He unstrapped the weights.
"What's your hurry?"
Coach swooped up his sweaty towel and headed for the showers. "I'm supposed to be somewhere. I'm late."
Rice yelled after him, "Where you going?"
Without pausing, Coach answered, "To a beauty pageant."
Thirty-five minutes later, Coach drove his big black shiny Chevy Suburban to the front of the Embassy Suites Hotel on Airport Boulevard near LAX. He jumped out, tossed his keys to the valet, and grabbed his overnight bag. He hustled through the mustard-colored lobby with the eight-story atrium, swooshed past the elevator, and bounded up the stairs.
Fifteen minutes later, he was lying faceup on a king-size bed with his fingers interlaced behind his head and a thousand-watt smile plastered on his attractive bearded face. Even though he was late, the show couldn't have started without him.
Out walked Miss Tennessee. She pranced across the berry-colored carpet in the elaborate hotel suite wearing a white ribbon with gold letters diagonally across her chest and nothing else. She sashayed on six-inch-high stiletto heels across the large room to where Coach lay in a black silk robe, his huge bare chest exposed.
"Show me whatcha working with, Ma," he said, bobbing his head to the Ludacris CD playing on the stereo. A fake diamond-studded tiara was on the bed next to him.
She turned around, did a pose, turned back around, did another pose, and dropped it like it was hot. Her lively breasts bounced up and down like crazy on each side of the white ribbon.
"How'd you like that, Daddy? Do I get that crown now?" She reached for the tiara, but Coach quickly snatched it away.
"Slow your roll, woman. You can't win yet -- not until you've had a little competition." Miss Tennessee poked out her cranberry-glazed lips, pouting. Coach said, "Move to the side, darlin'," then clapped his hand loudly twice. Out walked Miss Nevada and Miss Indiana. Each wore similar white ribbons, stilettos, and nothing else. Coach turned up the music with the remote while all three contestants did their runway routines across the hotel room floor just for him, droppin' it, poppin' it, and making it clap.
Coach judged all aspects of their routines -- physique, confidence, and poise -- but it was hard for him to remain objective because Miss Tennessee's breasts reminded him of his two most favorite things in the whole world -- two firm, brown, round footballs. And they were pointing straight at him.
He announced, "And the winner is Miss Titty-See. I mean, Miss Tennessee."
Miss Tennessee jumped up and down, her pigskins scoring one field goal after another in Coach's mind. The other two contestants complained. "How can she win? Her boobs ain't even real."
Coach declared, "If I can touch them, then they're real. But hey, at this party everybody wins. And to prove it, I'm gonna let all of you share this crown. Now, when I say 'go,' I want all three of you to dive in and get, but you gotta keep your hands behind your back, okay?" They agreed.
"On your mark." Coach untied his silk robe and opened it. His massive bare chest and muscular body glowed in the red strobe light.
"Get set." He placed the fake crown around a strategic part of his anatomy.
All three beauty contestants, a.k.a. groupies, dove in face-first to get their crown.
Excerpt. ) Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Tuesday, November 01, 2005
Nov 7 - Sweetest Taboo - Yolonda Greggs
Nov 10 - "I,AM" - Deon C. Sanders
Nov 14 - Scrambled Eggs - Cynthianna Appel
Nov 17 - The Company You Keep: A Kendra Clayton Novel - Angela Henry
Nov 21 - A Wizard by Any Other Name - Debora Elizabeth Hill
Nov 23 - The Crystal Pendulum - Author Margaret West
Nov 28 - Fool Me Once - Jessica Joy
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