Sunday, October 11, 2015

Review of 'Counsel of the Wicked: Rebel Mage Book I" by Elizabeth Schechter

Let me count the ways I like this latest offering from Elizabeth Schechter!
Counsel of the Wicked (Rebel Mage: Book 1) is an exciting, fast-paced, genre-bending m/m romantic adventure; distinctively imaginative, sexy, thought-provoking, heart-warming, compulsively page-turning, and one heck of a cracking good read. Of course, all this is what her fans have come to expect from Schechter, a bona fide mistress of the storyteller’s craft with a hyperactively wide-ranging imagination, and a no-lesss impressively puissant intellect coupled with a preternaturally acute sense of focus.   

Counsel of the Wicked is the story of Matthias, a young man living as an outcast on the fringe of a post-apocolyptic religious community under the rigid patriarchal control of an outwardly pious elder. But when the elder’s son falls in love with Matthias, the old man sees to it that the pariah is summarily packed off to a notorious correctional facility known as The School.  Suffice to say, everything Matthias thought he knew about his world and the people who govern it--not to mention himself-- turns out to be a lie.

It’s probably not wise to offer too much more of the plot, lest spoilers be revealed. But oh! What wonders (and horrors!) there are to be discovered. And Schechter has hardly begun to explore this vast and intriguing magical paracosm of hers. (I understand that a pair of sequels is in the works—a wise move, since this first installment is bound to leave fans hungry for more.)

This is genre entertainment with a brain! Above all, it’s the consistent quality of Schechter’s writing, along with the deep love she possesses for her characters that sets Counsel of the Wicked apart.  

Highly recommended.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Review of "twentysix" by Jonathan Kemp

A great book (as fantasy author Kelly Link puts it) “[lights] up the readerly brain and the writerly nerves.” A great book (I say) kindles magic fire in the imagination and sets the heart and mind ablaze. A great book does what the best drugs are supposed to do; liberates consciousness from the conventional, opens up new worlds; flings wide the doors of perception (and, yes, the reference to Aldous Huxley and Jim Morrison is intentional); sets an unapologetic match to everything you ever thought you knew about reading, about writing, about dreaming, about life itself.

British author Jonathan Kemp’s twentysix is a great book.

The twenty-six very-short stories in this debut solo collection of m/m erotica are ostensibly arranged, as the title suggests, like a child’s alphabet, but with decidedly mature literary ambitions, and an undeniably grownup sexual sensibility. The language is beyond impressive, though Kemp consciously expends a great deal of it to lament the very inadequacies of language, the impotence of mere words confronting the sublime nexus of thought and sensation, as in this passage from S:

There are places only the night knows, places only shadows can show us. The city wears a different face when darkness falls, a face I prefer. I walk the occluded streets looking for something, looking for something, looking for something. A knowledge of the shadow that eats away at logic, creating patterns far brighter than I can bear; patterns that burn at the temperature of wanting. It traces its way through my veins, this wanting, finding solace only when I fall and feast . . . This map I draw with the tip of my tongue takes refuge in a book of dreams. Forgive me for not having the words to describe it, this place in which I dwell. I have tried, I have tried. I have drenched myself in words and sensations, seeking a way to make them speak to one another. This is all I have to offer.

The body wants what it wants. The chaos of the body’s wants—as we know— will never surrender itself to language, can never succumb to reason, even if, even if, even if it wanted to—which it never will.

Yet, Kemp is keenly aware of the limitations society itself imposes on language, and, by extension, on the expression of genuine emotion, muting the honest, full-throated cry of passion, love, lust, desire, joy:  

In this society I live in, everyone dreams of being able to speak like this. But it really isn’t possible to speak like this in our society. If sexuality has a voice, it has yet to find it.                                                       

Sex happens easily here. These pages teem with a deliciously explicit, celebratory sensuality, restless and unregretted. There’s a frank earthiness to Kemp’s descriptions. His characters are mostly urban, working class blokes, cruising dirty streets and cheap dives in search of connection, perpetually longing (as Freddy Mercury sang) to break free.

When he is naked I notice something I had not seen in the club. Now, in the grey daylight that breaks through the white sheet hung up against the window, I can see the letters standing out in legible scars across his hairless chest. D-E-N-I-A-L. For the briefest moment I love this wounded man/boy in whose eyes I see the recognisable burn of drugs and sex and hunger. He shines with a lost need, a lonely, greedy, fucked-up cock-sure need and we fall against each other and onto that grimy mattress. We lie head to toe, feeding on each other’s cocks. I occupy every last space available for this experience, I inhabit this feeling of pleasure, wanting it never to end. And that word, DENIAL, plays across the black expanse of my consciousness, repeats and repeats like a broken record, and I want to know what it means, why is it there, who did it to him, or did he do it to himself?

Though the narrator may at times seem to channel Bataille and Barthes as he reflects on broad and lofty themes, he does not look away from the seamier vision of life as actually lived, embracing it in all its pungant banality and deep fractal chaos. Sometimes it seems possible to choke on this wild surfeit of language, this sumptuous banquet of experience, as one might gag while joyously deep throating a magnificent cock.

I am giving birth to pleasure, to submission, to the destruction of my ‘self’; I am enabling the body to fragment, and the fragments to circle around the central column of a destabilised subjectivity, like gulls riding a thermal. I am coaxing that tricky little muscle to do something it doesn’t want to do. I am dominating myself, sodomising myself, raping my body’s own desire for unity, storming the citadel of my sovereignty with the battering ram of madness.

Jonathan Kemp’s twentysix is emphatically, ardently, passionately recommended!

Saturday, September 12, 2015

A Lovely Boy--a short story by TAS

From The Moon-Haunted Heart, this m/m re-imagining of the Pygmalion myth draws inspiration from poetry, music, and painting. I first became familiar with Coleridge’s Lines on a Child through the gorgeous, sensitive setting by Benjamin Britten in his Nocture, Op. 60 where the words, sung by a tenor, are underscored by a shimmering accompaniment of harp and strings. The poem itself magically evokes a sense of child-like innocence steeped in subtle eroticism—an irresistibly delicious, world-evoking paradox. I imagine my artist working in a style close to that of the famous Scottish Victorian painter Joseph Noel Paton (1821-1901) who may be best known for The Reconciliation of Oberon and Titania (1847).                                   TAS

A Lovely Boy

Encinctured with a twine of leaves,
That leafy twine his only dress!
A lovely Boy was plucking fruits
By moonlight in the wilderness.
The moon was bright, the air was free,
And fruits and flowers together grew,
On many a shrub, and many a tree:
And all put on a gentle hue,
Hanging in the shadowy air
Like a picture rich and rare.
It was a climate where, they say,
The night is more belov’d than day.
But who that beauteous Boy beguil’d
That beauteous Boy to linger here?
Alone, by night, a little child,
In place so silent and so wild—
Has he no friend, no loving mother near?

Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Lines on a Child (1798)

He steps into the scene, summoned by the artist’s longing, gracefully materializing  in the foreground, born from seething moonlit mist and the glassy shadow of sepia-washed cloud-peaks. The boy stands on the rippling edge of this aqueous, star-dappled world, a seraphic intruder, wading along a curving stretch of shell-strewn shore, grasping for invisible fruits on low-hanging branches beyond the frame.

He is “old enough”, yet still unsullied by shame, naïve in his nakedness, utterly free in the unselfconscious perfection of his beauty. The man-child wanders on, a glowing creature from a dream of Eden.

And oh! To be in that garden with him! The artist would will himself into the scene also, as if pure desire might be transmogrified, and lust itself made flesh, cool and substantial and undeniably alive, Pygmalion, a god incarnate, humbled and amazed before his own creation, worshipping what he himself has wrought.

He calls out to the lad, standing a short way along the silvery littoral, realizing too late that the boy is mute. Even so, he asks his name, and a hundred other things—“Why do you wander all alone in this place? Have you no friend? No home?” But the answers are not the boy’s to give, for they lie somewhere already within the yearning mind of his creator.


The boy nods, yet it is enough.

The older man approaches or is mystically drawn, standing suddenly before the object of his desire  as in a dream, without memory of distance traveled. He wrestles the angel by the hair, gently pulling him close, covetous fingers buried in a halo of golden ringlets, impatient to touch, and fondle, and kiss. He enthralls the man-child’s mouth, taking his upper lip between the both of his, sucking greedily, as a bee drawn to precious nectar.

“What’s this?”

Awakening below, the boy is half-erect, his fecund phallus coyly articulated, a stalk of wheat insouciantly bowing on the breeze. The older man closes his eyes, permitting himself, if only for a moment, the selfish luxury of uninterrogated bliss—the unalloyed delectation of Ariel’s caress, his penis gently bobbing and billowing against his master’s belly, whence the artist’s own arousal takes puissant form, rising up until the mirrored shafts seem to salute one another, unbuttoned foils crossed before a duel.

“I love you,” he sobs, though the boy only gazes at him, questioningly. “Do you know what that is, Ariel?” His trembling hand slips over the flat plain of the boy’s abdomen, to find the tangled nest of red-gold hair below, “Do you understand what it means to love someone with every atom of your physical self—with the whole completeness of your immortal soul—yet never to know—always to be forbidden—that singular moment of joy requited?”

Sighing, he cups his lover’s low, soft-hanging pouch, reverently weighing the delicate treasures within. “Do as I do,” he whispers, “touch me . . . like this . . .” He closes his fingers around the boy’s shaft and pulls, delicately upwards, stroking the taut velvet flesh of the glossy glans with loving care a dozen times or more, drawing forth its sweet, precious  essence, pressing it to himself just in time to bear the brunt of the explosion against his belly, the burst of pale, translucent sap that seems to reflect the color of the moonlight on the cloud-tops far above.

Keening softly now, the artist is powerless to deny the terrible and delicious welling within him, the quickening sweetness that surges through his loins. His cry of release a ragged benediction as the boy falls to his knees, eager to receive that graced outpouring—joy made manifest—like a holy chrism upon his upturned face, his forehead first, his cheeks, his lips, his tongue. The older man stoops to gather his love to himself, throwing his arms out wide with the desperation of the dying, clinging to life in an ecstasy of denial, embracing the boy as he would the entire world, annointing him again with kisses and with tears.

“I never want to leave you!” he cries, “Oh Ariel! I never want to feel anything but what I feel at this very moment—” he takes the boy’s face between his hands and looks into his eyes, “I’ve never held a memory that was not tinged with sadness or with anger, yet now, for the first time in my life, I feel something pure! At this moment, all I can feel, without question, without doubt, without a single second guess . . . is love! Please! Please, let me hold this memory! Please! Let me stay with you forever!”

But the boy shakes his head. It is too late. The moment cannot last, for innocence is already lost, destroyed in the very act of its creation. In his hubris, Pygmalion has gone too far, imagined too completely, and so, in selfishly interacting with his creature, has inexorably changed him.

The old man weeps, and cannot be consoled. His tears stain the canvas, blur and streak the image whose glorious like shall never be conjured again. For a moment he entertains a frantic thought, but cannot bring himself to follow through. In the end,  for all his lavish longings, his aching emptiness, the bitter pangs of solitude, loneliness like the shallow shore before the sharp drop-off into the abyss of despair, and all his fierce devouring love, the artist dares not paint himself into the picture. 

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Review of "Inside Madeleine" by Paula Bomer

Inside Madeleine by Paula Bomer

Midwestern authors have a problem. Writing for The Daily Beast, Anna Clark puts it politely:

The fact is, while writers from other areas of the U.S. are typically discussed in context of their native landscape, writers from the Midwest, strangely, are not—even when their fiction spotlights the region . . . There are Southern Gothic tales, Westerns, New York stories, and plenty of novels about Boston, California, and even Washington, D.C. But what of the fiction native to the center of America? 

Even when the native-Midwest author is successful and celebrated (F. Scott Fitzgerald, Willa Cather, Kurt Vonnegut, Ray Bradbury), his or her birthplace is downplayed, or conveniently never mentioned at all, because “as everyone knows” nothing good can ever come out of the fly-over states; nothing real or relevant ever happens there. George Will, once writing about my home state of Iowa, sunned up the ultimate smugly parochial fly-over mentality when he referred to it as “a dark, brooding, insular, medieval sort of place.” And one or two rather well-known eroticists from the urban east coast have made comments to the effect that “nobody ever wrote a good story set in a small town”. They should all read William Maxwell’s brilliant little gem of a novel, So Long, See You Tomorrow and summarily shut the fuck up.

Sometimes the problem is of our own making. It doesn’t help that many writers from the region internalize these prejudices growing up, a mentality often manifested later in life in diffidence, self-loathing, or downright denial of one’s origins. We tend to have a certain ambivalence about our native region because we are constantly haunted by the notion that we are somehow not good enough; that a “real” writer has to be from someplace else in order to be taken seriously. (Garrison Keillor has successfully employed this attitude as a comedic shtick for nearly a half century.)

Within every literate Midwesterner is the fear that he will be fond out—exposed for the poseur he is; the up-jumped hayseed, the bumpkin, the hick, the pretentious peasant, the farm boy with feet of hay. Midwestern writers are sensitive soft-shelled creatures who must migrate to the coasts in order to become real; to New York or Los Angeles to be taken seriously, to become hard-boiled and cynical. In the meantime, we look out at the rest of the country with stubborn defiance or with envy, perpetually apologizing, like the characters in Peter Hedges’ What’ Eating Gilbert Grape, for not being from somewhere else—“someplace cool”, because, surely, anywhere else must be cooler than where we came from. Like the residents of Lake Woebegone or of the Cohen Brothers’ fictionalized Fargo we are sorry—

–sorry we don’t have mountains or oceans to inspire us.
–sorry we are so easily impressed.
–sorry we do not belong to a “tribe”.
–sorry our lives aren’t as colorful or inherently dramatic as in the South or the West.
–sorry we did not grow up enjoying  all the advantages of toney prep schools and trendy restaurants.
–sorry we are so practical and down to earth—that we did not grow up with servants to wipe our asses for us.
–sorry we do not have refined tastes.
–sorry we do not have a “real culture” of our own.

Popular media perpetuates these stereotypes. The naïve, fresh-faced, starry-eyed dreamer just fallen off the turnip truck in the big city nine times out of ten hails from Iowa or Indiana, whether it’s squeaky clean Riley Finn in Buffy the Vampire Slayer “from a little farm just outside Huxley (Iowa)”, or the wide-eyed orphans from Des Moines in Mame. And who could blame them for wanting to get the hell out, when what’s left behind are the soporific neo-puritans in Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead trilogy, or the inauthentic, shallow, weirdly soulless Minnesota yuppies in Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom.   

I particularly despise the work of authors like Franzen and Robinson. The latter gleefully perpetuates the stereotypes of the Midwest as an idealized realm of fossilized quaintness and “nice” old-fashioned purity. Her portrayal of clerical culture in small-town Iowa is purely the figment of a priggish imagination, a fabulist conjuring an idyll that never existed—of course, dupes from the effete centers of “literary respectability” lap it up and call it “wise”. Franzen, beyond consideration of his baroque excess and cloying nebulosity—a kind of literary attention deficit disorder—falls in with that pretentious clique of erotic denialists, those self-congratulating “serious” authors who regard sex as something beneath them, a chore to be endured like a Victorian bride on her wedding night, an undignified intrusion into the realm of “what really matters” thus often treating it as something comic or absurd to be brushed aside with an outlandish metaphor or two.  

Let me state this bluntly and as clearly as I can: A writer who cannot or, worse, will not write honestly, forthrightly, explicitly, uncondescendingly, and unashamedly about the sexual components of real life, regardless of where he or she hails from, is as toneless and hollow as a stringless fiddle. Spare us all from these feckless buffoons! The most celebrated literary authors in the country have nothing whatsoever over the finest writers of erotic fiction—nothing!—neither in terms of imagination, relevance, or craft, to say little of the richness of language—effective sentence structure and puissant metaphor— or the keenly empathetic understanding of the human condition.    

This brings us to a consideration of Paula Bomer’s very fine 2014 collection of quintessentially Midwestern erotic short fiction, Inside Madeleine. The title story is an insightful. sometimes harrowing character study elucidating a tragic circle of life, which becomes in itself a kind of structural microcosm of the whole book. These nine masterfully-crafted stories reveal a loosely cyclic form in which we would seem to perceive the transmigration of a woman’s soul through a series of closely-resemblant avatars, constantly revisiting, not only the same places—South Bend Indiana, certain neighborhoods of New York and Boston—but endeavoring repeatedly to overcome the same obstacles, the awkwardness of puberty with its bewildering “grossness”, spirit-crushing humiliations,  and all-too-real growing pains, the fear of imminent adulthood as the fear of the unknown, the search for a mentor who might give this vexed and chaotic life a sense of centeredness and meaning. 

Bomer’s language is by turns fierce and abrasive, introspective and disconcertingly explicit; unnerving in its frank intimacy, fearlessly personal, unabashed, trenchant. Here, for example, in the aptly-enough titled breasts, the author brilliantly reveals something of her character’s turbulent inner life through a description of her physical form:

Lola Spencer had the sort of breasts that define a woman. They were gorgeous perfect things, pinked-nippled, sized like cantaloupes, firm and white. They were big and she was small. The rest of her existed to accentuate her breasts; her hips were narrow, her waist a tiny circle, her little pale legs ended in child’s feet. Her head was small and heart shaped, her features pale and slightly receding. Indeed, it was as if every other part of her got out of the way to make way for her breasts. Yes. Lola’s breasts were the sort of breasts that made a girl feel special, feel as if she were not destined for an ordinary life . . .

Or, from pussies, where we can practically feel a character’s dread and disappointment at the understanding of her destined place in the scheme of things, the very mortal terror that is the price of self-awareness:

This was before I knew that we all live on this planet, driving in the cars of our own little minds, our own self-contained worlds. Yes, this was before I knew that, when I thought I mattered, when I thought that people saw me, deep into me, saw all my love and excitement at being alive, saw the very glistening running-overness of my aliveness. But we only matter when we do something awful. Then, someone sees us and only then.

In outsiders, another character draws similar conclusions, though perhaps after taking a more colorfully circuitous route:  

On the train ride home for Thanksgiving break, Ruthie sat by the window looking out at the world passing by her. It was dark but she could make out shapes of houses, with their endless people in them, and a parade of scarily tall trees devoid of any leaves. She hadn’t slept, her mind a storm of thoughts. The conductor had been kind enough, like the waiters at the Plaza to serve her even though she was clearly underage. She had been slowly polishing off a bottle of red wine and she felt warm and woozy. Her thoughts, drunkenly floating through her mind, were of deep significance. It was a twenty-four hour ride to South Bend, and she was more than halfway there, the Midwestern land flat and straight around her. Her once perfectly curled bangs hung limply over her eyes. White trash. She would never have a mane of hair to toss over her shoulder. She would never have a lot of things, she would never be many things—but she wasn’t the same person she was a few months ago, no matter what anyone said.

This is an important book, whether considered as an example of erotically frank coming-of-age fiction, or an exciting example of an emerging “mature literary” approach to story-telling. It will, I suspect, open eyes to realms of possibility, even as it inspires and empowers generations of writers—no matter where they come from.


Sunday, August 23, 2015

Review of "The Gentlemen's Club" by Emmanuelle de Maupassant

As a relative newcomer to erotica, Emmanuelle de Maupassant brings a refreshing confidence to her writing, an assuredness born of experience and deep understanding of craft. Her work has already begun to enrich the genre, and readers need look no further than The Gentlemen’s Club to understand why.

The first volume in a projected series, The Gentlemen’s Club is a breezily diverting evocation of late-Victorian Britain, replete with its stifling hypocrisies and cruel sexist double standards. In the context of a fairly light erotic entertainment, Maupassant manages to elucidate the sexual schizophrenia of the period, when impossible ideals of feminine purity were rigidly—often sadistically—enforced, even as men were free to follow their “natural” proclivities within certain boundaries of discretion. I was happily reminded (and hurried back to re-read) sections of John Fowles’ The French Lieutenant’s Woman, specifically Chapter 39, which narrates a night of Victorian debauchery in exquisitely researched detail. Fowles’ Ma Terpsichore’s with its classics-themed live sex shows is very much of a piece with Maupassant’s eponymous establishment (compare Chapter 13, Divine Couplings). Her evocative descriptions of the seedier side of late-nineteenth century London put me in mind of another truly great work about the period, Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell’s graphic novel From Hell (1989-1996) in which the very redolence of the times seems to rise off the printed page. Yet, this is as dark as Maupassant ever seems to get:

In this foul-smelling, intricate maze of filth and fleas, the alleys are turd-strewn and piddle-permeated. Girls barely budding open their legs to make a living alongside the toothless and rancid of breath; hair thick with lice, they all find customers if the price is right, against the wall, or on sheets well-soiled. Their holes cost but a shilling. Skins grow thick and claws sharp.
Considerably less suspension of disbelief may be required to enjoy The Gentlemen’s Club than one might suspect. While Maupassant seems careful to avoid the all-too-common anachronism of contemporary feminist attitudes in Victorian women (unlike, say, Philip Pullman in his Sally Lockhart quartet, or almost any historical novel one cares to pick up nowadays), she is able to draw on the rich, real-life examples of  independent, freethinking women of the period who would not go gently into the pigeonholes society had set aside for them. The women in this tale are not diffident submissives, swooning damsels hiding behind their fans, or shrinking violets. Ultimately, it is the men who are revealed as the decidedly weaker sex here.

. . . “What is it that you desire, my Lord? A meek wife in your parlour to pour coffee and soothe your brow? What are you made of? Do your roots hold you fast, or is your spirit free? Perhaps you are no more than a feather, tossed on the breath of others, with no direction of our own?”

“Take heed . . . I am neither an angel nor a whore but when it pleases me to be so. The same, I am convinced, is true of most women. We are as little worthy of praise as of censure, and often deserving of both. Only those who carve epitaphs over moldering bones should attempt to appraise us with a trite phrase.

Impressive, too, is the seemingly endless variety of erotic situations Maupassant invents for her characters. To include so many marvelously steamy episodes in an extended, novel-length narrative, with little or no repetition is nothing shy of an authorial feat, especially as the quality of the writing is superb throughout. Those in search of highly-varied erotic entertainment will not be disappointed. I certainly wasn’t!

Highly recommended!       


Saturday, August 15, 2015

Début--a short story by TAS

This story appears in my soon-to-be-published collection The Moon-Haunted Heart. (1) My French is utterly atrocious, so if you note a mistake, please don't hesitate to contact me with a correction. (2) This is an attempt on my part to write from the POV of a visually impaired character--it simply "happens" that that character is also a young French-speaking woman. (Sometimes I like to create additional challenges for myself in order to sharpen my writing skills.) (3) In watching a documentary about the 2008 financial crisis, I was intrigued to note that the only two interviewees who attempted to bring any sort of  moral perspective to the situation were former New York governor Eliot Spitzer and former head of the International Monetary Fund, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, both of whom were subsequently discredited and effectively silenced by high-profile sex scandals. I imagined a kind of exclusive escort service in which such movers and shakers might enjoy a very unique kind of discretion, and the idea of a beautiful blind courtesan immediately began to take shape in my mind. (While any intelligent blind person would have no trouble recognizing someone with whom they'd had such an encounter, the question of whether others would regard them as a credible witness unfortunately remains.) 

I hope you enjoy this tale, and look forward to additional stories from the collection over the following months. Look for new book reviews here on EFTBB beginning (I hope) next week.  (TAS)


My first impression. Vanille française. The burning incense of pipe tobacco fills the room with a luxurious sweetness, and my head with pleasant memories; the aroma of baking madeleines, gâteau de mille-feuilles, crème brûlée, the taste of chocolate merengue, and the tender recollection of my grandfather reading to me as I sat on his lap when I was still very small.   

The faint hint of a man’s cologne reaches me through the smoke, a pleasing melange of myrrh and citrus insinuated delicately into the picture. Someone is sitting on the other side of the room, facing me as I am ushered through the heavy wooden door. I am standing on a thin carpet or a plush rug—I can feel my heels sinking down into it. The room is neither large nor small. The ceiling is fairly low. (I know by the sound of the ticking clock somewhere off to my right.)  A comfortable place, I think, all varnished wood, shelves of old books, and aged leather, and I wonder if this man is terribly wealthy, though it is not my place to ask.

He is staring at me. I can tell because of the way my skin tingles beneath the sheer fabric of my dress. Or maybe I am only being silly. I do not know precisely what part of me he is interested in, only that guessing makes me very nervous.   

And this is how he sounds. Like a lion or a tiger just waking up. He makes a purring noise, soft and fierce in the back of his throat, and, at first, I am not sure if he is angry with me or only teasing. His voice is deep, strong and gentle at the same time, the way I imagine his arms will feel around me in a few minutes.

“What’s your name, child?”

Flummoxed, I cannot recall. I stammer out a breathy string of meaningless syllables, playing for time.

“Don’t be afraid, honey.” His voice is beautiful, like a caress, and it calms me.

“I’m . . . I’m  Dinah.


A pretty name for a pretty girl?

“Come closer, Dinah. Don’t worry. There’s nothing between here and there. Nothing for you to trip on. Just walk straight forward, towards the sound of my voice. Come, my dear, that’s it.”

I am still not used to walking in heels, and maybe I am too self-conscious about it. I try to remember what I have been taught, yet, even so, I catch myself once or twice nearly tripping over my own uncertain feet, and I must bite my tongue in order not to curse. I need to show this man that I can be graceful, and glamorous, and poised, and so I stand up straight and hold my head high, while trying my best not to come off as haughty or overly proud. There are so many things to remember.

“Getting warmer.” He encourages me with that enchanting wizard’s voice of his, and I am impatient to close the distance between us.

“That’s far enough, child,” he says—and my heart sinks. “Stand still now.”


“Let me look at you.”

“Do I need to—”

“No,” he says patiently, “Don’t move. Don’t do anything.  Just stand there quietly until I tell you. Can you do that for me, darling girl?”

“Yes sir.”

For a while the only sound I hear besides the beating of my own heart is the man distractedly pulling on his pipe, a rhythmic series of four rapid sucking sounds, a deep breath through his nose, and a brief pause. The smell of the burning tobacco becomes more intense. He hums thoughtfully to himself, and I sense that he, too, is nervous.

“Turn around in a circle,” he says, “slowly, all the way . . . that’s it.”

He hums again, but this time it is more like a low, hungry growl.

“You’re truly lovely, Dinah. Far lovelier  than I ever could have hoped or imagined —”

“Thank you, sir—”

“That hair! Such a rich red!” He sets the pipe down on a wooden surface nearby. “Is it difficult to take care of—being so long?”

“Someone helps me brush it out, sir.”

“Do you ever trip over it?”

“Once in a while, if I’m not being careful.”

“I’d love to have you painted—"


“In the nude, I think. Yes! On your back, reposing on that swirling blanket of flaming copper like a captive mermaid. Would you like that, Dinah?”

“Whatever you like, sir.”

“Yes. Whatever I like.” He pats the seat beside him, five muffled taps on the soft leather, making sure that I can hear, “Come, child, sit here, next to me.”

The words I have been waiting for. He takes my hand cautiously  as if it were something fragile and precious like an antique china doll. His fingers are warm and smooth and meticulously manicured. He is a man accustomed to privilege, a financier, or a diplomat, or, perhaps, a member of some royal family; the sort of man who can afford to pamper himself; the sort of man who does not get his hands dirty.

Gently, he guides me to the edge of the chair, which I now ascertain to be a cozy love seat. 

“Sit down, my dear.” He pronounces the words carefully, with a sort of musical precision, the sharper edges of a foreign accent smoothed and polished with a fine education.

He offers me a glass of something. The ice clinks against the chilly crystal rim, and the smoky liquid burns my lips.

“Cognac,” he says, “Cask strength. Very old. Very rare.”

“An honor, sir.” I sip it reverently.

“Gorgeous,” he murmurs, “simply gorgeous. I could feast upon the sight of you forever si n’avions assez de temps et monde.

“You’re very kind, sir,” I bow my head, receiving the compliment with appropriate humility, just as I have been trained to do.

“Does it make you self-conscious, my dear?”


“Hearing yourself described?”

“I’m not sure I understand—”

“Has anyone ever tried to describe you . . . to you, Dinah?”

“Oh! You mean, do I know what I look like?”

“Yes. I wonder if it’s possible to accept a compliment—sincerely, unquestioningly—if one has no means with which to verify the statement?”

“Are you a philosopher, sir?” I laugh—the cognac is helping me to relax, “I know that I like it when you tell me I am beautiful. Many people have told me so, and I’ve always taken what they said with a certain . . . polite skepticism, I suppose you’d say. But hearing it from you, here and now, feels different. I think you are not merely saying it to make small talk, or to flatter me. I think I can believe you—”

“—without letting it go to your head?”

“As swiftly as this liqueur? I’d hope not, sir.”

“I’m pleased to hear it, Dinah. I look forward to many engaging conversations with you in the future.”

“That would be my pleasure also, sir.”

“Good. As for now, can you describe yourself to me? How old are you, to begin with?”

“How old would you like me to be, sir?”

“In this instance, the truth will suffice,” he says, “How old, really, Dinah?”

“23, sir.”

“Very nice. Go on?”

“I’ve been told that I’m tall for a girl, and being slender only makes me look taller—”

“Especially given the way your hair hangs down around your ankles?”

“Unless I wear it in a braid, which is most of the time—”

“Pity. What color are your eyes?”

“I . . . I don’t know, sir.”

“Truly? No one has ever bothered to tell you?”

“Knowing did not seem important, sir.”

“Yet they are quite beautiful . . . green—ah! No! More of a glaucous, I’d say. There’s a graceful touch of gray there. It seems to lend you the guise of Wise Athena herself.” 

“Now you are flattering me, sir.”

“Perhaps. Describe your breasts.”


“No, no! Not in those prosaic, clinical terms. Describe them for me, Dinah! Describe them as you yourself . . . see them.”

“They are well-matched . . . pleasingly symmetrical . . .” I outline them with my fingertips, seductively tracing their twin circumferences with mirrored spiral motions, beginning near the top, “Quite round . . . but also rather broad, as you can see . . . like . . . like bells . . .”

Cloches du temple,” he murmurs, “Go on.”

“They are firm, and heavy, and I am sometimes aware of their weight, though not often—"

“Very good.” He slips a warm hand onto my knee.

I hold my head steady, unflinching, careful not to overreact, though his spindly fingers are like spiders’ legs, creeping stealthily upward. I am wearing a glassy see-through formal gown with black strapless brassiere and high-cut petite culotte visible beneath. My body is warming up, and I can no longer sense a difference between the parts of me that are artfully exposed and those tantalizingly hidden from this stranger’s view.

“Tell me, my dear,” (he touches one of my breasts as he leans in to kiss me on the neck) “have you always been blind?”

“Yes sir,” I loosen the stays on my bodice for him, “from birth."

“School?” His fingers find their way inside my gown, “University?”

“I’m afraid I’ve lived quite the sheltered life, sir.”

“Sheltered?” He draws his nose up along the column of my neck, and places a kiss on my earlobe.

“Ooooh, yes,” I make the appropriate moaning sound as he strokes my nipple, “Tutored at home mostly, and then Madame’s Academy, of course.”

“Of course. And am I . . . your first?”

“Oh sir!

He chuckles.

“So perfectly coy. Madame has trained you up quite nicely, I see.”

“I owe her everything, sir.”

“I’m sure you do, Dinah.” He laughs again. “Why don’t you stand up now and take off your dress.”

“Would it please you to help me with that, sir?"

“It would. It would please me immensely.”

The man undresses me quickly. I am naked now, stripped of everything save heels and petite culotte. Seeing me this way seems to change him. He is no longer quite so gentle or patient. He does not ask me how I feel, or if I would like to do a thing before he does it to me. He stands behind me, dipping a pair of fingers into my knickers, roughly working them into my wetness. His steely cock burrows deep into the thick curtains of my hair, breaking through to press at the small of my back.

He yanks my head violently rearwards, drawing me by the hair, sinking his teeth into my shoulder. I yelp, surprised and frightened, as he squeezes one of my breasts, his sensitive fingers suddenly cruel and punishing.

“Oh sir!”

Ta gueule, pute!” He releases my breast, only to swat me hard across the derriére, “Enough of this silly pretense.”

Je ne suis pas une pute!” I am on the brink of tears, “I am not a whore!”

“And how else would you . . . describe yourself? Did you think this was some sort of child’s game? Some romantic adolescent fantasy? Shut up and bend over, there’s a good little blind cunt—seen and not seeing.”

He tears down my culotte. A hot tingling sensation spreads along the line of my cleft as he drags the rigid bell-end of his cock from front to back.  He pauses long enough to make that same hungry growl in the back of his throat. I hold my breath, though it does not help to ease the dry burst of pain that accompanies his vicious forward thrust. He impales me with a ripe, sucking noise, forcing himself into the sluggish, syrupy moistness of my core. I am filled and emptied and filled again. My opening burns with the rough friction of his assault, and the space within me reluctantly swells to accommodate his unblunted girth. The hulking weight of his upper body holds me in place, doubled over, my derriére pointing high into the air, my head nearly touching the floor.

I withdraw somewhere into myself, and let it happen . . .

“Voulez-vous entendre une conte, mon petite?”

“Oui! Tout à fait, pépé!”

“Et quelle historie aimeriez-vous entendre?”

“S’il vous plaît La Petite Fille aux Allumettes!”

“Ah! C’est triste!”

Mais j'adore de toute façon.”

Parce qu'il est triste, mon petite?”

“La petite fille voit sa chère mémé, et qu'elle est chaud à la fin, est-ce pas?”

 “Ce sage, ma belle!”

“S'il vous plaît, pépé?”

“Très bien, mon ange! Préparez-vous à être triste.

Il était donc extrêmement froid. La neige tombait et l'obscurité était de recueillir, car c'était la dernière soirée de l'année, la veille du 31 Decembre. Une petite fille marchait dans le froid, la tête et les pieds nus. Sa mère lui avait bien donné des pantoufles mais elles étaient trop grandes pour elle. Elle les avait perdues en traversant la rue et un garçon était parti avec en courant . . . Ses pieds gelés lui faisaient mal et ses mains étaient rouges et toutes engourdies . . .

Later, the man takes me as I lie face down on the floor, my hair spread out across my back like a tapestry for his pleasure. He has reassumed his former gentlemanly guise, apologizing profusely for his rough treatment of me, saying that he does not know what came over him, and, of course, he would never have behaved like such a brute had he been in his right mind—had my beauty not inflamed him so. He makes love to me with dull consideration, politely if not graciously, whispering my nom du scène, “Dinah”, one final time as he kisses my shoulder, and withdraws.

He leaves, smugly self-satisfied no doubt, having enjoyed his round of rough play with a “helpless” blind girl whom—so he has been assured—can never identify him in a court of law, can never be called as a witness to testify credibly against him in a criminal investigation, or entangle him in some embarrassing civil affair; can never cause the sort of scandal that unseats the mighty, brings down governments, or sends tremors through the international markets. Who would ever believe a lowly blind prostituée in any case? The elite men and women who avail themselves of Madame’s unique services purchase, along with their pleasure, an extraordinary guarantee of confidentiality—the virtually priceless promise of complete anonymity.

This is my final impression as I am shown out. His musk—the scent of him still hanging in the air—like a gentleman; old money and impeccable taste, good manners and all the finer things; cloves and oak, and vanille française tabac, soft leather, and cognac, myrrh, and citrus, and sex, and very, very expensive discretion.

# # #


Vanille française tabac = French Vanilla tobacco
“si n’avions assez de temps et monde” = “Had we but world enough and time” (Andrew Marvel To His Coy Mistress)
cloches du temple = temple bells
petite culotte = panties or knickers
“Ta gueule, pute!” = “Shut up, whore!” (“shut up” with brutal emphasis)
Je ne suis pas une pute!” = “I am not a whore!”
nom du scène = stage name
prostituée = prostitute

“Would you like to hear a tale, little one?”
“Yes! Very much, grandpa!”
“And what story would you like to hear?”
The Little Match Girl, please!”
“Ah! Such a sad story!”
“But I love it anyway!”
“Because it is sad, little one?”
“The little girl gets to see her dear grandma, and she is warm at the end, is it not so?”
“So wise, my pretty one!”
“Please grandpa?”
“Very well, my angel, prepare to be sad!”

It was bitterly cold. The snow fell and the darkness gathered, for it was the last night of the year. The little match girl made her way , bare-headed and barefoot through the streets. She had been wearing slippers when she set out from home that morning, but they were her mother’s and far too big for such a little girl. In  any case, she had lost one while crossing a street, trying to dodge a pair of carriages, careening wrecklessly along. The other was nowhere to be found, for it had been carried off by a dirty little boy, who made fun of her, and ran away, laughing. So the little girl walked about the streets on her naked feet, which were red and blue with the cold . . .