Six Smutty Stories: The Tagger 3/3

“Where’ve you been?” Mark asked after a quick kiss hello.

“I went to get milk. I was out,” Paul said, putting the carton in his nearly empty fridge.

“Thanks.” Mark could not drink his morning coffee without milk. It was very nice of Paul to remember this even though Paul had become distant since Mark moved out. This small consideration seemed like an encouraging sign.

A week later, Paul noticed the billboard was half tagged. He’d been at Mark’s place the night before, so the kid must have been back and gotten interrupted again. “Idiot,” he murmured as he let himself into his studio. The kid was an idiot with a quest, and the romantic in Paul couldn’t help but admire that.

Making Mark fall in love with him had once been a quest, but an accomplished quest is no longer as interesting as an unaccomplished one. Reasonable as ever, Mark had suggested they needed more space or something and moved out. They continued to date, but Paul was keeping his options open. In these last, restless months before his thirtieth birthday, Paul was no longer sure what his options were open for, but they were definitely open.

Six Smutty Stories: The Tagger 2/3

After years of living in an industrial area much beloved by taggers and junkies, Paul knew that taggers, at least, were not dangerous unless they were cornered. He’d never had occasion or desire to corner one, so there’d never been any conflicts with them. Paul minded his own business, only nodding when the spray can-toting outlaws made eye-contact, which was seldom. Now, the kid tonight he’d seen before: he’d been trying to tag the new billboards above his studio for several weeks. That particular billboard changed frequently enough that it was a challenge to keep it tagged. It seemed to be the personal quest of this one particular kid to keep it tagged and he was willing to brave cold, rain, police, and falls. Paul had seen him fall more than once, but the kid usually bounced right up again and darted away before the police got there. But not that night.

“Hey, thanks, man,” the kid said, hobbling out of the shadows.

“You’re not going to get far on that leg,” Paul said. “And the cops are probably just going around the block, looking for someone who has spray paint on his pants. Like you do.”

“I–” the kid slipped back in the shadows as a car went by. “I’ll be okay,” he said, trying to look tough balanced on one leg.

“I can give you a ride somewhere,” Paul said.

The kid thought about it and then agreed. He directed Paul into a shabby neighborhood not far from the train station. He said, “Thanks,” and hobbled away as Paul drove off.

“You’re welcome. Stay off that billboard, kid,” Paul thought ruefully as he drove home. He stopped at the market to pick up a carton of milk because he knew Mark would be there when he got home and he knew he wouldn’t feel like explaining where he’d been.

The Tagger 1/3

The Tagger 1/3

By Ginger Mayerson

The thump on the sidewalk outside his studio sounded larger than a cat jumping or a rat falling out of a tree. There were, in fact, no trees outside Paul’s studio. There was, however, a billboard, which was a magnet for taggers. Another case for it being a human thump were the police sirens and the running feet. Against his better judgment, he looked outside.

“Not you again,” he said to the kid, who was struggling to stand. Well, at this distance, Paul realized he was more of a late teenager or in his early twenties than a kid.

“Who me?” he said, wincing in pain and favoring his left leg.

“Yes, you. You who fell off this same billboard last weekend, you.”

The sirens were getting closer. The kid limped behind Paul’s van parked next to the studio. There was a plea for help in his eyes as he melted into the shadows.

A patrol car slowed to a halt in front of Paul. The cop stuck his head out and asked if he’d seen anyone tagging the billboard. Paul said he hadn’t seen anyone on the billboard, which was true. This satisfied the cop and, after wishing Paul a pleasant evening, he drove off.

Six Smutty Stories: You Know You Should be a Better Person (But You’re Not) 3/3

You are, for you, lucky this time. In one of the few jobs you managed not to get fired from in the first week, you learned to cook a little when you weren’t waiting tables. You look at the groceries, you look in cupboards. You find very little in the cupboards, but you do find salt and pepper. You fry half the bacon in the frying pan while you cut up the mushrooms, onion and a quarter of the kielbasa. Thad comes in and eats half the bacon off the paper towels you were blotting the grease off on while you’re sautéing the vegetables and kielbasa in the bacon grease. You say nothing, but you eat some bacon yourself when he leaves. You scoop the meat and vegetables out of the grease and onto paper towels to drain. You get a sauce pan really hot and dump six eggs and butter into it and, while broiling some bread, scramble the eggs very quickly. You put a piece of toast on a plate, pile the vegetables, kielbasa and bacon on them, and then pile the eggs on top of that. You arrange squares of toast around this to keep it from spilling out the sides. You grab a knife and fork and bring it to him on the couch. He sends you back into the kitchen for salt and pepper, which he doesn’t use because you actually seasoned it well enough while cooking it. You go back into the kitchen and clean up.

Thad wolfs down half of it before he notices you slouching in the kitchen doorway, looking at your feet. “You hungry?” he asks, or demands, depending on your point of view.
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Six Smutty Stories: You Know You Should be a Better Person (But You’re Not) 2/3

He parks in front of a grim apartment building with dead grass and broken toys in front of it. He uncuffs you and drags you across the driver’s seat to get out of the car, which he does not lock because everyone knows this is Thad G’s car and dying for fucking with it would be painful, pointless and humiliating. Anyone with any brains would steal a newer car from someone less lethal than Thad G.

Going into the building, you notice what you think is his name on the buzzer panel: Thaddeus Gorski. Even this name that might be his name intimidates you, but you’re not sure why. You are shoved up three flights of broken, filthy stairs to his apartment. It has the most boring furniture you have ever seen and looks like no one lives there.

“Find shit to clean this place with,” he says, throwing himself on the couch where he can see you rummaging under the sink and in the bathroom until you find a broom, rags and Comet powder.

You get to work. You’re glad he doesn’t have a dog. You hate cleaning up after dogs. You wash a lot of dishes without breaking any and have to really scrub the stove, twice. The bathroom is something you hope you can forget very soon. After you sweep the floors, you dilute some vinegar in hot water to wash them with because there isn’t any ammonia or bleach in the place. There’s a laundry basket full of bunched-up sheets and towels in the bedroom. Thad tells you to make the bed, which only has some naked pillows and tangled blankets up on it. You find lube and used condoms in the bed. You also find one very high heeled shoe there. You never find the other one. But you’re good at making beds, hospital corners and all, so it looks nice when you’re done.
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You Know You Should be a Better Person (But You’re Not) 1/3

You Know You Should be a Better Person (But You’re Not) 1/3

By Karmen Ghia

With apologies to Jay McInerney (or maybe he should thank me).

You know you’re unlucky when you and Thad G get to the post office after it’s closed. You knock politely on the glass door and are ignored. Thad G slams your body against the glass door until a postal employee threatens to call the police. You know it could be worse, but you’re not sure how.

“I swear, Thad, the money is there,” you whine like the sniveling little creep you are. “They open at 8:30 tomorrow, I’ll meet you–”

“I’m not meeting you anywhere,” Thad says in a way that makes your flesh crawl, as you marvel yet again that he can drag you down the street twisting your arm, while lighting a cigarette and talk at the same time. You hope he isn’t going to kill you now, but it’s hard to know what Thad G might do depending on his mood. He has a reputation for being a very moody guy.
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Six Smutty Stories: The Accompanist, 3/3

On Thursday, Vron arrived at the rehearsal a few minutes early and found Marcin stomping around in a snit.

“Is there some universal law that requires everyone in and associated with my choir to leave town in August?” he asked Vron, or maybe Heaven itself. He introduced Vron to Mike, another tenor conscript.

“I know a pianist who could come. He’s at the conservatory with me,” Mike offered. “Does it pay?” he asked shyly.

“Not as well as crime, but, yes, the pianist does get paid,” Marcin said through his clenched teeth and named a paltry sum.

Mike went to the pastor’s office to use the phone. While he was gone, Vron offered to play if no one could be found, and Marcin growled something about needing his tenor. He pulled himself together and introduced Vron to the other tenor, who was a regular member of the congregation and glad to have company in the tenor section.

“Okay, Harold can play for you,” Mike said upon his return. “And I found you another tenor. His name is Louis. They’re both on their way.”

“You’re an angel, Mike,” Marcin said, clapping him on the shoulder. “If only you were a better sight-reader.”

Vron retreated into the choir stalls to look over his music and get over being nervous. He hadn’t sung in a choir since he’d sung next to Marcin in their conservatory days. The other choir members ambled in and took their places around him. Marcin frowned at his watch and ran the choir through some warm up vocalise. This was soothing to Vron and reminded him of his youth.

Next to him, Mike waved at two scrawny, shaggy-haired young men rushing down the center aisle. Vron would have spotted them as Conservatory students my their lack of haircuts alone; the t-shirts and jeans on their underfed frames made it a certainty. The young men exchanged hasty greetings with Marcin. One of them sat down at the piano and the other joined the tenor section. Mike whispered, “Hi, Louis,” so Vron assumed the pianist must be Harold.

Ably accompanied by Harold and conducted by Marcin, the choir finished their warm-up and launched into the repertory. Louis and Mike were strong singers; Vron thought they’d probably end up in opera choirs or regional opera companies because there’s a glut of genius tenors in the world, too. With Vron and the member of the congregation, the four of them managed to represent their section tolerably well.

Harold seemed very in tune with Marcin’s direction, which indicated to Vron that he was well-trained and polite, even if he didn’t seem terribly interested in what he was playing. He did seem interested in watching Vron, repeatedly making eye contact. Vron found disconcerting, so he paid even closer attention to his tenor part. Musically, it was pretty straightforward stuff and Marcin was such a good choirmaster, he had most of it drilled into them and polished by 8:45. Marcin was smart, too; he recorded the last pass and let the choir hear how good they sounded. They sounded very good and everyone went home happy.

Vron was halfway out the door when Mike caught him and dragged him back to introduce him to Harold.

Harold said, “Hi.”

Vron said, “Hi.” And there was silence.

“I, um, like the way you sing,” Harold said at last.

“You can hear me over the whole choir?” Vron asked, not sure what to make of all this.

Six Smutty Stories: The Accompanist, 2/3

Level-headed, he also knew his looks were not god-like, but he wasn’t repulsive either. Due to his lank jet hair framing his long soulful face with full lips below mellow more-gray-than-blue-gray eyes, a lover had once compared him to a young Anthony Zerbe. Vron never saw the resemblance, but he took it as a compliment nevertheless. He was loyal, pleasant, reliable, and pretty good in bed, but none of that was getting any exercise because he couldn’t find anyone to exercise it on. Worse, upon discovering how much he enjoyed his own company, not to mention the company of his right hand, he was becoming a recluse.

And into his peaceful, if somewhat lonely existence, had bounded the brash, young Harold Wyse. They had met at Vron’s friend Marcin’s choir practice. Vron and Marcin had been at music school together and, because they’d never been lovers, they’d remained very good friends. Marcin was choir director for one of the larger Protestant congregations in town and although it was not the most exciting or creative job in the world, musically it suited Marcin down to the ground. In the privacy of his own home and in all the concerts he could find, Marcin listened to nothing but the atonal masterpieces of the mid-20th century and whatever was new and exciting in atonal music. This so wore him out that he could only stand the hymns and simple harmonies of accepted and very conservative church music in his professional career. He usually invaded Vron’s lair with deeply weird music arranged for two pianos and demanded Vron sight-read these horrors with him.

On one particular evening Marcin arrived without a portfolio of music under his arm, but with a look of grim determination. He accused Vron of being a tenor.

“Guilty as charged,” Vron said dourly. “What of it?”

“I need you!” Marcin clutched at Vron’s threadbare t-shirt.

“And I always need you, Marcin, but what’s being a tenor got to do with it?”

It turned out that Marcin’s choir was down to one tenor and that this was a desperate and intolerable situation for the choirmaster.

“I don’t see how two tenors are going to help you, Marcin; who’s going to hear us over your screeching soprano section?” Vron teased.

“You’re not the only one I’m recruiting,” Marcin said darkly. “And it would only be for a month until school starts and my usual tenor section is back from vacation. I can also kidnap a few young tenors from the conservatory then, may God help them.”

Vron said he was very flattered, but he was very busy, and-

“I can’t take no for an answer,” Marcin said. “I’ll play soft rock until you agree.” He sat at one of the grands and played “Don’t Go Changing” over and over, and with certain Webernian improvements, until Vron caved in like rotten fruit. “Excellent!” Marcin played a IV-I “Amen” cadence and leapt to his feet. “We rehearse on Thursday nights from seven to nine and perform on Sundays at eleven. I’ve got your music in the car. I’ll go get it.”

It took Vron the rest of the night and playing Satie’s “Gymnopédies” over and over to get “Don’t Go Changing” out of his head.

Six Smutty Stories: The Accompanist, 1/3

The Accompanist

By Amy Throck*-Smythe

Early in the third year of his more-or-less voluntary celibacy, Vron Kaeli found himself being courted by a much younger man. As flattering as that was, Vron found himself somewhat at a loss as to how to respond.

Two years before, he’d finally broken off with his on-again/off-again married lover and decided a period of celibacy, housekeeping, and clean living was in order. After a year of such virtue, he’d looked around for someone new to devote himself to and been appalled by the available men near his age. They were either players or losers or both; it was most disheartening to a respectable middle-aged queer like Vron, so he retreated back into his workshop to reconsider his celibate state, which was looking better and better to him.

Vron’s workshop was a delightful place full of strange micro-tonal instruments in various stages of commission, the odd keyboard or percussion instrument for repair. A pair of concert grand pianos, long ago abandoned by their cash-strapped owners mid-restoration, still needed their cases refinished, but were otherwise flawlessly tuned and maintained, and acted as a screen for his meager parlor and kitchen. He’d begun a career as a simple piano tuner and repair man, but early on, his musical saw-playing boyfriend had asked him if he could microtune a set of eight saws and mount them in ascending order on a wooden frame. This was easily done and the ensuing, and rather bizarre, concert was a huge and outrageous success. Based on this success, his boyfriend accepted an offer to work in another town and Vron never saw him again. Not that Vron really noticed because he was flooded with orders for saws, percussion instruments, and strangely tuned lute-like instruments. Occasionally, he got orders from Star Trek fans to replicate a Vulcan lyre. And, of course, there were piano tuning and repair jobs, so even though Vron lost his boyfriend, he gained a career he loved.

Never lucky in love, Vron meandered from romance to romance until he discovered the lover to whom he’d finally surrendered his heart was committed to someone else. In addition to feeling devastated, he felt stupid. In a fit of pique one night, Vron wrote in the margin of Fugue No. 19: A Major from The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book I, “Never trust a man who only lets you call him on his cell phone.”

He kept busy; there was his work and when there wasn’t work, there were brilliant compositions from the gigantic piano repertory to play on one or the other of his inherited grand pianos. He was working his way through Lutoslawski at the moment. Vron was not an inspired musician, but he was a thorough and diligent one. Early in his studies, he had realized this and, also realizing there was a glut of genius pianists competing for the same work, he decided not to add another mediocre one to the pyre. That didn’t keep him from playing and loving the instrument; it did, however, keep him sane, centered, and realistic about his role in music and perhaps in life.

Six Smutty Stories: Chiaroscuro, 3/3

Over the next few days, Arkin got better and better at the game, but so did his opponent. He was never sure if there were one or two because the game always said there were two players online. Occasionally he nearly made contact with his prey, which is how the promotional material wanted him to imagine his fellow players. The game was designed to be predator against predator. Arkin thought he was a poor choice for this game because he was more prey material than anything else. But he persevered and eventually knew the environment and his opponent well enough to lure him/her/it (he wondered) into a box canyon. It was Arkin’s first good look at what he was chasing and it was beautiful. Or was beautiful until the other player logged off.

Arkin made a screen shot of the cornered creature to study and admire. He printed it out and taped it to the wall where he could see it from his bed.

The next few times he played there were more players involved, but not the one he’d become obsessed with. Late one evening, when he was about to quit the game and go to bed, he was tackled from behind by his idol. Points were calculated and the screen went black.

But he had an Instant Message from someone named Darset.