gay romance

LGBTQ People and Mental Health Issues; Russell Tovey and the Femme Controversy; The Vatican On Gay Priests

LGBTQ People and Mental Health Issues

Here’s an interesting piece that explores whether or not LGBTQ people deal with more mental health issues than straight people.

A sweeping new study by the National Alliance on Mental Illness indicates that people who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender are three times as likely to suffer from certain mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

I think there’s definitely something to this. We grow up repressing so many emotions that straight people take for granted there has to be some repercussion.

But, we’re strong, too. You can read the rest here. 

 Stepbrothers In the Attic by Ryan Field

Russell Tovey and the Femme Controversy

I must have missed this one totally. I don’t remember it happening, but I could be wrong. 

Last year, the actor ruffled feathers by saying he was grateful for all the childhood bullying that cured him of being “really effeminate.”

He recently made this comment…

Things come out the way you don’t intend them to. It was a very upsetting time for me. … I learned from it and I’ve grown from it. … I’ve found you’ve just got to be true to yourself, be a good person and the work should speak for itself.”

You can read the rest here.

The comments are mixed. Evidently, a lot of people saw this. This is a tricky one because, of course, there’s nothing wrong with effeminate men…gay or straight. The problem is what society expects ALL men to be. And frankly, I think that’s changing for ALL men…gay and straight.

The Vatican On Gay Priests

Don’t laugh (or cry) too hard when you read this one.

For the record, The Vatican still doesn’t think those of us with “deep-seated homosexual tendencies” or people who “support the so-called ‘gay culture’” should be priests.

A new statement reiterates the ban on gay priests that’s been in place since 2005, stating that those who “practice homosexuality” will not be welcomed into the priesthood.

There’s a quote from the Vatican that goes into more detail. You can check that out here.

I think we should tell them it’s already too late to enforce this one.   I’ve already posted about the two gay priests I once knew, here.  

A Christmas Carl Print/Paperback; Defying Gay Stereotypes; Queerty Writer Doesn’t Like TROLLS or Butthurt??

A Christmas Carl Print/Paperback

Twenty years ago when my stories first started showing up in gay anthologies by gay presses like Alyson Publications, I used to get excited whenever my author copies came in the mail.

And now, after over one hundred digital releases, I have to admit that I’m still just as thrilled as I was back then when I opened the mailbox this weekend and found my author copies in print.

This time it’s even better because I did it without a publisher. Many of you may not know that even though all of my Ravenous Romance novels were released as both e-books and print, I never once received an author copy of a print book from Ravenous Romance. They just didn’t do that. If I wanted a copy of a Ravenous Romance book that I authored, I was told that I had to order it and pay for it myself.

So I never bothered. I did receive digital author copies, and that was exciting, too. But there’s something about seeing these books in print that’s hard to describe. And I’m not going to go back to reading print books for personal pleasure, not ever. I love my digital library. But the print books give me something tangible. I guess some old habits just can’t be broken.

In any event, here’s where you can find A Christmas Carl now as an e-book or as a paperback.

Defying Gay Stereotypes

Here are a series of memes with quotes by gay men who are defying the stereotypes we see all too often.

I like this one:

I’m a gay police officer. I don’t do anything sexy like use handcuffs in bedroom, nor have I ever seduced a straight man. My job is really normal and I like it that way.

I like the other quotes, too. Many of them seem to want to bring home the point that gay men don’t always have women friends…because they have so little in common with straight women. But there is one thing in particular I didn’t find here that I think has become a very serious stereotype. This concept…this rule…that all gay men have to follow the same brand of politics. And that simply just isn’t so.

They didn’t mention the “gay icon” stereotype either, which is always something that’s passed me by.  Not every gay man loves Cher, Bette Midler, or any of the others.

The other issue I have is that just because something is a stereotype doesn’t make it wrong…or even bad. I think the main focus is that gay men are highly diverse. 

You can check them all out here. 

Queerty Writer Doesn’t Like TROLLS or Butthurt?

This is rich. It’s an article about butthurt from a writer with a gay press who would probably be the first to scream free speech if anyone tried to silence his personal views.

I once saw an exchange on a small personal blog where someone commented and disagreed with the author of the blog post…a gay author. The author of the post RAN to social media, posted there was a TROLL commenting on his post, and his minions followed him back there with popcorn. 

The only problem is that I was there watching this entire exchange, silently, too. I didn’t see a troll anywhere. I saw someone commenting who didn’t agree with a highly charged topic and he or she was expressing a different POV. The gay author of the post didn’t like this and neither did his minions. They went after this alleged “troll” in such a vicious way the person commenting finally gave up and moved on. And this so-called “troll” was making a perfectly valid point without getting offensive or abusive. The gay author and his minions, however, were actually behaving more like trolls than the person they were calling a “troll.”

There’s a huge difference between an Internet troll and someone with a different opinion. The word troll, like the word bully, is highly overused in most cases. Unfortunately, the distinction isn’t pointed out in this particular butthurt piece.

This is the overall tone coming from the author…

The troll is lurking in the shadows, more than happy to tell you your child is ugly, your haircut looks terrible, and your version of “Defying Gravity” never got off the ground. 

You can read it in full here.

Once again, butthurt at its best from someone too special to take criticism.


If you think I sound a little too cold-hearted about this, think again. I’ve been subjected to every single ounce of criticism and opinion there is online as an author and I’ve never once complained butthurt in all the time I’ve been doing it. So I have very little sympathy when I hear someone else do it. 


I think many of the comments on this one agree with me. I highly suggest checking them out. 

Fangsters: Book 2

Gang Bang Fangsters



Ryan Field Print Books;Ben Cohen’s Big Bear Hug; Bette Midler Shade Toss for Caitlyn Jenner; Jake Gyllenhaal and Gay Marriage

Ryan Field Print Books

Here are more books I just released in paperback. For those who don’t read e-books, this is an alternative. I’m actually excited to see how the covers look in paperback. I’ve never really seen these books other than in digital format.

Chase of a Dream (unabridged) This was the book where I released two versions, one with sex scenes and the other without. Both books are identical and I only had to remove 7,000 words to make it pg rated. I did self-censor this book on purpose, but I put up both versions. The covers are identical but it’s clearly marked which is abridged and which isn’t.

Amazon 

Create Space

Chase of a Dream (abridged) Here’s the version without sex scenes.

Amazon

Create Space 

Chase of a Christmas Dream is another book in the Chase series.

Amazon

Create Space 

Please keep in mind that the Create Space links are accurate, but sometimes it takes time for Amazon to put things up and if you don’t see it there are this very moment, you will very soon.   

Ben Cohen’s Big Bear Hug

This is one of those multi-photo pieces where the well known post things on social media. I like them, and some of the photos are interesting. It’s mindless entertainment…and harmless.

You don’t really need a quote.

You’ll like some of them. I work a lot and don’t always have time to keep up with what’s happening in pop culture and these little things to me are like a crash course in who’s who.

Bette Midler Shade Toss for Caitlyn Jenner

First Bette/Britt Midler goes after Justin Bieber in a tweet that came out of nowhere and was totally unprovoked by Bieber. Say what you will about Justin, but he really didn’t do anything to warrant Bette/Britt Midler’s Twitter attack. And, she went after his DAD. Who does that?

And now this:

And now her attention has moved to a subject that many seem to be thinking but few are will to say: Caitlyn Jenner and her inexplicable Republican values.

Someone should tell her.

Bette/Britt should stick to singing and mind her own damn business when it comes to what someone else believes in politically. It’s just none of her business.

You do get the right to believe in whatever you want to believe in the US.  You don’t get the right to tell anyone else what to believe in, or to question their beliefs. You don’t have to agree with them, but there’s this word called tolerance that those on the far left and the far right really need to learn more about.

You can read the rest here. 

You can also read Bette/Britt’s nasty tweet there as well. I’m not going to bother quoting her here.

Jake Gyllenhaal and Gay Marriage

This is interesting because it’s a quote by Jake Gyllenhaal on how he thinks the movie, Brokeback Mountain, helped push equality forward…in a general sense.

I think it is changing… and it’s pretty amazing how it’s changing. And one of the things that I’m so proud about [Brokeback Mountain is that], within the past basically 10 years, how much has changed.
 
When the Supreme Court [issued a ruling] just a little while ago, I felt like we had been part, a little part and parcel of that movement. I was proud, you know? To me that’s really a pretty incredible moment. We had to wait a little while for it. But when will it be OK for an actor to be gay? I mean, it’s OK now.

Heath was always somebody who I admired. He was way beyond his years as a human, in a way. I wasn’t quite sure where he came from. I mean, I know he’s from Perth, but I wasn’t really quite sure where he came from, and I think that’s the feeling most people got when they were around him and why he was so extraordinary.”
 
I actually do agree with Gyllenhaal. Even though I would never minimize all the hard work that went on behind the scenes with court cases and constant, endless battles for equality that most straight people don’t know about, little films from the straight community like Brokeback Mountain did help when it came to educating the mainstream. It brought the topic up front and out in the open for the first time while everything else was going on behind the scenes and while all the hard work for real equality was actually being done.

You can check that out here.  

Fangsters: Book 2


Gang Bang Fangsters



KDP Exclusives; Ricky Martin’s Wedding; Story Competition

KDP Exclusives

I wrote in the post right before this one that I have a Christmas novella, The Littlest Christmas Tree, up for free as a thank you to readers. Unfortunately, on Amazon the book will still be .99 because Amazon doesn’t give any other options with the KDP lending program. In other words, if I were to opt into the KDP lending program and I were to put the book up for free it would only be free for five days on Amazon, I would have to sign a three month exclusive with Amazon, and I wouldn’t be allowed to put the book up for free anywhere else for three months. If I were to violate this I would be in breach of contract. So I opted out of the KDP lending program this time because I want the book up for free for the holidays in as many venues as possible for as long and I as the publisher and author want to do this, and I don’t want to wait three months. The KDP lending program can be beneficial to everyone sometimes, but not always. This is one of those times I wish things were different, but it is what it is.

Amazon link here.

Side note: This is why I try to guide readers to smaller web sites where e-books are sold, and to publisher web sites.

As a big thank you to Amazon and KDP lending rules and exclusives (I HATE exclusives of any kind), I’ve asked Tony to also put another one of my previous Christmas novels up for free as well. I’ll post more details when I get them.

Story Competition

I read about a short story competition earlier today that will benefit people with autism. I like these competitions because they motivate writers to do things they normally wouldn’t do unless they were under contract with a publisher. Sometimes we need something as a motivational tool. This is a good example. You can read more here.

This Short Story competition is an amazing opportunity for new undiscovered writing talent to pursue their dreams of publication and contribute to a great cause.

All entrants will have their work judged by the internationally acclaimed authors Colin Bateman, Declan Burke, Lucille Redmond and Nathan Bransford

 Ricky Martin’s Wedding

I have to smile when I read articles like this because they refer to Ricky Martin’s longtime partner, Carlos Gonzalez, as his “beau”…as if Martin and Gonzalez have been dating all this time. It’s the hetero norm most straights don’t get about gay couples, especially now that gay marriage is becoming legal in more places. Look at it this way, if Tony and I were to say we’ve been engaged for twenty-one years wouldn’t that sound a little stupid? Tony’s not my “beau” and I’m not his. Our “beau” days ended during the Clinton administration. And until things balance out and gay dating and engagements even up with straight couples I think words should be chosen with care.

So Martin is not marrying his longtime “beau.” He’s marrying his longtime partner to make an established relationship/marriage legal because he didn’t have an opportunity to do that before.

This is where Ricky Martin would like to get married.

“I would get married,” he told King, according to Pink News. “There are many countries around the world where same-sex marriage is a right… yes, we could go to Spain and get married. We can go to Argentina and get married. But why do we have to go somewhere else? Why can’t I do it in my country where the laws are — you know, protecting me?”
 
Martin and Gonzalez, like Tony and me, can’t marry in the place where we live because Puerto Rico and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania don’t recognize same sex marriage. That’s why we’re scheduled to get married this January in Vermont…not in Pennsylvania.
 
Side note two: The comment section in this article has something interesting I’ve never seen before. Evidently, Huff Po is trying to promote more civil discussion. In order to do this you have to link to a facebook account and verify. I wonder how many Huff Po users have FB accounts. Frankly, I’d never bother because I don’t like to mingle FB and Huff Po. This is what it says:
 

Review: Lethal Obsession Deserted

Review: Lethal Obsession Deserted

http://www.amazon.com/Lethal-Obsession-Deserted-Michele-Montgomery-ebook/dp/B00G799HX4/ref=sr_1_sc_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1386116493&sr=8-1-spell&keywords=Michele+Montgomery+Lethal+Obsession+desserted

I love any book that begins with an acknowledgement to Glenfidditch, however, that was only the beginning with this one. Lucca is a lonely, arrogant, rebellious young man who seems to crave attention from his family. However, due to this lack of attention from family he winds up finding it in a few questionable places. Almost as if he’s daring himself to see how far he will go. And in the same respect, his self-destructive nature could also be described as vengeance toward his family. His only consolation in Italy is his mentor, Sal, who sometimes seems too nice for a young man who needs more guidance. The first chapter moves fast, and the the story really begins when Lucca asks Sal to take him to America. Only that makes life more complicated, and it changes Lucca in ways he couldn’t have predicted.

Lucca becomes obsessed with the idea that he needs to be worth something to someone, which is almost a direct quote from the story. And in order to prove his worth, and to prove how determined he is, he stuns his family with something they never saw coming and disappears into the world of BDSM in Denver, CO, with his friend, Marcello. When the family realizes he’s gone, Carl, from the prologue, enters the picture through friends of friends and he reluctantly begins a search for Lucca. But Carl also has a story of his own:  Carl opened the door and stopped for a moment to process the feeling that hit him every time he entered the club, the feeling that he’d just tumbled down the rabbit hole and into a sexual wonderland. And at this point in the book I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how well the subject of BDSM is handled. There’s nothing too graphic, but it’s the concept that is treated with respect to those who are into the scene, which I found interesting as a bystander who isn’t into BDSM. I don’t see that often in BDSM books.

In the meantime, Lucca and Marcello form a closer bond because of their circumstances and I often felt as if Lucca feels responsible for Marcello. From there, the BDSM scene continues in more interesting ways I’d rather not say to avoid spoilers. Marcello is not as savvy or articulate as Lucca, and he becomes a liability Lucca’s not sure he’s willing to deal with. As the character of Carl is explained in more detail, we see him as a stronger, almost stubborn man who is determined to get what he wants and we’re not certain about him just yet. All we know is he wants to find Lucca.

In some scenes that follow, the BDSM world is shown to be a sometimes dangerous place for young men who aren’t as careful as they should be. Marcello discovers this after a particularly bad scene he does because he needs the money. This is when we see a stronger side of Lucca as he convinces Marcello to go home. In the same respect, he refuses to go himself in spite of the things he knows he must do to survive. Then Carl enters the picture again and ignores his own feelings because he’s promised Lucca’s parents he would bring him home again. He then becomes a counselor, or guardian of sorts and tries to convince Lucca his family really cares about him.

What happens after this is a surprise. In fact, like with most of Michele Montgomery’s books, there are a few surprises I didn’t expect and I don’t want to spoil them for the reader. From a more technical POV, the book is written well, with careful attention to detail and it’s not overwritten. I speak and read book Italian, but I think it’s important to mention this for those who don’t. The dialogue constantly moves the story forward and that’s interesting because part of the book is set in Italy and the characters are Italian. However, this is handled very professionally, without words and phrases…or colloquialisms…that stop the story, or that the average reader might not understand. We know they are Italian and the book continues in English so it will move forward. It’s a clever trick most seasoned novelists understand. And not one that’s easily obtained. Montgomery has a way of drawing the reader into the story with dialogue in all her books, but I found this one especially well-executed.

I would recommend this book to anyone for several reasons. One, because it’s so well-written. And two, because even if you aren’t into the BDSM scene it’s interesting to read about them in a book like this that’s more focused on love, emotion, rebellion, and the kind of relationships that grow from some underlying connection that’s not always visible, but is there all the time. And once again, I’ll take these characters with me for a long time.

To read more and purchase the book, click the photo above which is a link to Amazon.

New Release: "Second Chance" Gay Romance .99 E-Book

New Release: “Second Chance” Gay Romance .99 E-Book

Update: Just went live on Amazon, here.

The first book in the “Second Chance” series just went live and I’ll post the links I have. It will be available at all venues where e-books are sold eventually. It’s hard to pinpoint an Amazon release because the time it takes varies from book to book. But for now it’s definitely on Smashwords and Allromanceebooks.com.

For more information you can read previous posts here, and here, where I’ve shared the blurb and a fairly long excerpt. I think the most interesting part of writing this book was that it’s set for the most part in the year 1950 when life was very different for gay men. There is more innocence, especially with sexual content. And gay men were more guarded in those days, to the point of total denial.

Stay tuned for more new releases coming soon. I have about four books with publishers that haven’t been release yet, including one that’s over 117,000 words and another that’s a Christmas romance from the Glendora Hill series.

Lesbian Rapist; FREE Gay Excerpt: Second Chance

Lesbian Rapist

This is an interesting case because it almost slipped through the cracks, at the expense of a victim who was left psychologically damaged for life. In 2010 a lesbian, Millicent Gaika, was raped because she was a lesbian. The rapist, Andile Ngcoza, claimed he raped her to “show her she was a woman.” He not only raped her, but beat, strangled and tortured her for five hours. He was convicted in 2011 but failed to show up in court for sentencing and then vanished for two years. Evidently, they caught him and he was recently sentenced to 22 years in prison.

In final court proceedings this week, prosecutors at Wynberg Magistrate’s Court not only pointed out Ngcoza had three previous sexual attack convictions including sodomy and double rape, but also presented a psychological evaluation on Gaika.

The report revealed the attack left Gaika with nightmares and alcohol abuse issues. She also reportedly nearly killed herself in 2012.

It’s a good thing I’m not a judge. He’d be in prison for the rest of his life.

You can read the entire story in detail here.

FREE Gay Excerpt: Second Chance

Here’s a free excerpt from my newest indie release, Second Chance, which will be an ongoing series for a while. The theme behind the series deals with gay men getting second chances in life…but only if they want them. It’s also about choices, and how we often wonder about them sometimes…and wonder how things might have turned out if we’d made other choices.

Here’s the blurb for the first book, a 21,000 word novella that will be priced at .99. The book will be up for sale this weekend, and I’ll post links to where it’s being sold later today.

In this first novella of the Second Chance series, an older gay man who has lived a closeted life for ninety-two years is presented with choices one last time. Who hasn’t wondered how things might have turned out if only they’d made one or two different choices in their lives? Who hasn’t contemplated what it would be like for the chance to do things all over again a different way, if only that were possible?

When ninety-two year old Andy Walker shuffles out to his beloved vegetable garden one morning in June, he gets the surprise of his life. He winds up in the last place he could ever imagine, with the man of his dreams telling him there’s still time for a second chance and there’s still time for him to choose a different path than the one he’s already followed…but only if he’s willing to take the risk and revisit one of the most pivotal and painful moments of his life. There are no guarantees or promises of happily-ever-after, and no one can make Andy’s choices for him. And if he agrees to return to the year 1950 when he was still young and strong and handsome, only he will know whether or not it’s possible to alter the course of his entire life thanks to one unusual encounter with a stranger named Chip.

Excerpt:

Even though Andy Walker would be turning ninety-three years old in a couple of weeks he wasn’t the kind of old man who could sit in a chair and stare out a window all day. In spite of numerous requests to move into one of those assisted living facilities from his only living relative, a seventy year old niece who lived in Chicago and visited two or three times a year, Andy planned to die at the ranch in Montana where he’d lived most of his life.

He still had decent eyesight, his hearing wasn’t that bad on a good day, and he only needed a cane on days when his hip really bothered him. He had a cleaning woman twice a week who did laundry, prepared meals, and went over the entire house. And a caretaker who mowed, weeded, white-washed, and handled what Andy didn’t feel safe doing anymore. He even drove into town two or three times a week in the same Jeep Cherokee he’d had for over twenty-five years.

Andy wasn’t a profound or deeply religious man. The one thing he’d noticed as he’d passed through life was the way he kept losing things that seemed so insignificant when he’d been younger, but continued to grow more important as he’d aged. He’d started out noticing he’d lost a cheap tie clip, or a pair of cuff links, or a page of sheet music he’d once enjoyed playing. Then one day he noticed he was losing his hair at the temples. By the time he noticed he’d lost the tight skin tone on his thighs and everything sagged and creased, he decided to hold on to the things over which he had control for as long as possible.

One of those things was his small vegetable garden next to the barn where Andy and his late wife had once boarded and trained horses. When Andy and Sarah June Walker had purchased the working ranch in western Montana many years earlier thanks to a cash wedding gift from his in-laws, Andy had always found time to plant a small vegetable garden in a long narrow section near the barn he’d surrounded with a white picket fence and chicken wire. The garden became his sanity sometimes. He would go there to forget about all he’d missed in life and all he’d sacrificed to do the right thing. In his case, doing the right thing had been marrying a nice girl he’d gotten into trouble one night when he’d been too drunk to remember what he’d been doing. When the baby that had changed the entire course of his life was delivered still born he was already married and there wasn’t much to do but settle into the life he’d chosen.

It wasn’t a bad life, not by any means. Although Sarah June never wanted another child, she made a good home, handled a good deal of work at the ranch that would have made most women scowl, and she had a sharp sense of humor that could always make Andy smile. He got her through breast cancer when she was in her forties; she got him through the burst appendix that almost took him at fifty-two years old. They had friends from Sarah June’s church with whom they went out to dinner, they had an annual Christmas party each year the first weekend in December, and they took a trip to Florida every winter when things were slow at the ranch.

When Sarah June first suggested they get twin beds because she claimed Andy tossed and turned too much in the middle of the night, Andy just shrugged and agreed. They’d been married fifteen years by then. He’d wanted to suggest it first but didn’t know how she’d react. A few years after that, Sarah June claimed it would be best for them to have separate bedrooms altogether because his snoring kept her up late at night. Andy didn’t mind this either. He moved into the guest room overlooking the barn that same night and never left.

It would have been a nice, easy life had it not been for the daydreams and the thoughts he often had whenever he saw one of the cowboys on the ranch wearing a tight pair of jeans move his legs a certain way. These thoughts had always been there, unnatural and cutting to the deepest part of his soul. And he’d always forced them out of his mind because he’d always been told they were wrong. And in the same respect, he’d always hired the best looking, most rugged, handsome young men to work at the ranch. Though he never actually admitted any of this aloud to anyone, he couldn’t help those strong feelings that stirred deeply in his body as he watched the rough young men lope to and from the barn with their scuffed up cowboy boots. In the summer he had to wear dark glasses a good deal of the time because the young men always removed their shirts on the hottest days, which could be both distracting and dangerous if he was working with machinery.

So Andy found two releases that kept him from acting on these strong urges: one release of a more carnal nature made him feel guilty when he was finished, the second made him feel as if he’d accomplished something worthwhile and created something no one else could. The second release was the garden, where he could turn nothing into something. It changed all the time; each year he planted a different variety of vegetables. And when he was down on his hands and knees digging in the dirt he found it was the only place he could forget all about his attraction toward other men and lose himself in something that was simple and mindless…and yet at the same time as natural as his attraction toward other men.

This particular year, he’d only planted a few tomatoes and peppers. There was only so much a ninety-two year old man could do, even if he was still as thin as he’d been when he was twenty-five. There was only so much he could eat. As it was he knew he’d wind up giving away most of the tomatoes and peppers at the end of the summer to his hired help and friends in town. But he didn’t mind because he didn’t garden to eat the vegetables. He gardened to grow and nurture and fill a void.

On a Wednesday morning in early June that year, only weeks before his ninety-third birthday, he set his coffee mug in the kitchen sink and headed out to the garden to see if the rains from the night before had done any damage. No one came to the house on Wednesdays. The cleaning woman worked at another house on Wednesdays and the caretaker came on Thursdays to mow and trim. He didn’t mind being alone, because no one would be around to remind him to take the damn cane that always seemed to slow him down more than help him move faster. All the people around him seemed to be fixated with him using the cane. Even the niece in Chicago ended her weekly Sunday afternoon phone call with, “And don’t forget to use that cane, Uncle.”

As he headed out the back door that Wednesday morning, he glanced at the cane leaning against the old Formica countertop that had been there since the 1940’s and flipped his middle finger. Then he lifted his head, squared his back, and headed down to the barn on his own two feet, the way he’d been walking around all his life. He’d learned that if he concentrated on his footing and looked down while he walked he didn’t stagger and sway as much.

At least he still had his mind after all these years. And he was only going down to the barn to make sure the slope that had been forming from weeks of heavy rain hadn’t washed out his freshly planted tomatoes and peppers. He could have waited for the caretaker to do it, but Andy had always found this particular caretaker to be clumsy and reckless and Andy didn’t want this guy’s big fat fingers bending or snapping the new plants.

As he rounded the corner of the huge barn that had once held more than forty horses, he grabbed the gate and held it tightly as he opened it so he wouldn’t slip in the mud. He wasn’t worried about falling and breaking a hip as much as he was worried about falling and breaking a hip and having to listen to everyone tell him it wouldn’t have happened if he’d had his cane. So he wound up taking extra precautions that morning.

By the time he reached the small garden with the white picket fence, he walked as if he were doing a slow two-step dance. At first, everything looked okay. Then he glanced to the back end of the small garden and noticed the slope had grown deeper and filled with water to the point where most of the plants on that end wouldn’t survive if he didn’t do something fast. He turned and made his way back to the barn taking quick short steps through the slippery mud. In the barn, he found a shovel and the cut-off bottom half of an old Clorox bottle he’d once used to spread rock salt in the wintertime.

The shovel helped him walk back to the garden without making him feel as if he’d been reduced to using a cane, and the Clorox bottle would help him scoop out the excess water and give the plants time to dry out. But when he rested the shovel against the white picket fence and leaned forward with the Clorox bottle in his right hand, he lost his balance, fell face forward into the trench filled with water, and then everything around him went blank.

*****

When he opened his eyes again, he found himself standing in the middle of a large mirrored room, with silvery white floors, an open ceiling exposing the brightest blue sky he’d ever seen, and a few puffy clouds that reminded him of snow drifts. When he glanced to his right at one of mirrored walls and realized he was naked, he pressed his palm to his throat and blinked. He wasn’t a naked old man either. He saw the nude image of what he had once looked like as a young man in his early thirties. For a moment, he just stood there and stared at his thick dark hair, his lean chest and stomach muscles, and the firm skin tone on his legs.

But when he glanced straight ahead and realized he wasn’t alone, he quickly covered his private parts and flung another naked young man a terrified glance. The other naked young man sat shamelessly atop a long white table with ornately carved cabriolet legs and ball and clawed feet swinging his legs back and forth. His expression suggested playful arrogance, as if he were ready to take on a dare. He had dark unruly hair and rough stubble. His features were a combination of rough and tender, with a strong chin and soft eyes. The lines and details on the white table were as delicate and subtle as the lines that followed the naked young man’s muscles and curves. Although Andy knew he had never met this young man, he seemed oddly familiar and couldn’t quite place him. He reminded Andy of someone he’d known many years earlier, but not exactly.


The young man sent Andy a knowing smile and adjusted his position on the desk. As he spread his legs wider, he said, “There’s no need to be embarrassed. We don’t wear clothes here. Everyone gets used to it in time.” He had a smooth even voice, the voice of a well-trained actor.

“Well I do wear clothes,” Andy said. “Can I get a robe or something?”

“It’s all relative, man,” said the naked man. “You’ll get used to it.”

Andy kept his palms over his private parts and glanced up and down at the young naked man’s strong fuzzy legs. “Who are you and what am I doing here?”

The young man smiled again and reached back with both arms to rest the weight of his upper body on his palms. He seemed as if he wanted to show off his private parts. “Welcome to The Department of Second Chances. You can call me Rory, Andy, and I’ll be your guide for as long as you’re here.”

“My guide?”

“That’s right, Andy. I’m your guide.”

Andy felt a sting in his chest. Oh, he’d always hoped he wouldn’t lose his mind in his old age. And now his worst fear had come true. “How do you know my name?”

“I know everything about you, Andy,” Rory said. He seemed cocky now, with his head tilted sideways and one eyebrow higher than the other as if he were about to dare Andy to jump from a bridge.

“Wait a minute,” Andy said. “I know you. You’re that actor who once played James Dean, the one who was in the movie I just saw the other night on TV.” He’d always been bad with names of celebrities, politicians, and film titles. Andy had seen several of this actor’s films and he’d found him interesting in that scruffy, slightly messy way that had always attracted him the most. Although the actor was straight, he often played gay roles.

Rory laughed and shook his head. “Not really. I only look like him right now. We try to accommodate new arrivals by giving them guides that resemble people they are either attracted to or feel the most comfortable with. In your case, we decided this would be the best look since you’ve been so attracted to the young actor. We also know this actor reminds you of someone from your past.” He winked this time, as if he knew all of Andy’s deepest secrets.

Andy felt a pull in his stomach. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said. No one had ever confronted him about his deepest desires for men this way and he didn’t know how to react. There was a man from Andy’s past and the young actor did remind Andy of him, but Andy had never shared this information with anyone. “I only like the guy’s movies, is all. He’s very talented. I’m not attracted to other men.”

 “Awe c’mon, Andy,” Rory said, with the slick voice of a used car salesman. “There’s no need to play games with me, buddy. We already know everything there is to know about you. We’ve been keeping records from the day you were born until the day you died.”

“I Died?”