Reaching Out from a Mind as Dirty as All Outdoors

If you get lucky enough, I might post adult-only material from time to time, so be 18 or over, or please be elsewhere.

I'll be discussing erotica here, the writing of it and the people who write it, as well as what we've written. I find all these aspects stimulating, but if any of them bore you, feel free to skim. You never know what you might miss, though.

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Saturday, October 30, 2021

Playing with Food, Paying for Food

Oxfam is my chosen charity this time, which is where “Paying for Food” comes in. I missed “World Food Day” (October 14th) by a couple of weeks, but extreme hunger is still the lot of millions of people, and Oxfam is one of the major charities fighting it. I will donate $1 to them for each hit on this blog, and $2 for each comment, in the next two weeks.

"Playing with Food" might seem obscene, when so many are so hungry. My only food-themed story scenes, though, seem to present eating as a fun kind of foreplay, so I guess you’ll have to put up with that. I’m not at all sure that I haven’t posted from this story before, but here you go anyway, with an excerpt from “Crème Brulée,” originally published in the anthology All You Can Eat. A Buffet of Lesbian Erotica and Romance, edited by R.G. Emanuelle and Andi Marquette.

Excerpt from Crème Brulée by Sacchi Green

 “Hey Rory, somebody’s asking for you. Knows your name.”

I saw the sly grin on Audrey’s face, saved my spreadsheet and quit Excel. “I don’t think it’s a complaint,” she called to my retreating back.

I wasn’t focusing on the accounts anyway, just daydreaming. Remembering someone I’d never see again, didn’t want to see, because I’d never be able to resist her. The only person in years who could melt me inside the shell I’d constructed so carefully, and break right on through it. Just that one night, around this time last year… 

And there was Raf, in the very solid flesh, seated in the same alcove overlooking the salt marsh. I felt her magnetism all the way across the dining room. Last year I’d bribed Audrey to let me wait on that table; this time I didn’t even bother to snatch her order pad. 

The broad back, the granite-gray hair clipped short, could have belonged to any of thousands of guys vacationing on Cape Cod--or hundreds of women, this close to Provincetown. But I knew exactly who it was. Knew every line and curve and hollow of the body beneath the slate-blue jacket and white shirt, not to mention the gray slacks. I’d explored all of her well enough to make sketches from memory, and to chisel and polish her image out of pink Cadillac Mountain granite from Maine. 

“Good evening,” I said, demurely, just as I had the first time. “I’m Rory. I’ll be serving you tonight.”

Raf kept her gaze on the menu spread out across the white tablecloth, but her mouth twitched and then expanded into a wide grin. “I’ll have my usual,” she said, and lifted those clear hazel eyes to me. I could barely keep my own lips steady.

“Two appetizers to share? Wellfleet oysters on the half-shell and ceviche of Chatham scallops?” I looked pointedly at the empty chair across from her. A year ago it had been nicely filled indeed by a voluptuous young thing trying to obey her dyke Daddy’s instructions to eat the raw shellfish whether she wanted to or not. I’d taken pity and told the girl that the lime juice in the ceviche more or less “cooks” the scallops. “And two entrées, the bouillabaisse and the cioppino? With the house White Zinfandel, black coffee, no dessert?” I’d be damned if I’d ask about the girl. What was her name? Juliana? 

“Actually, I was kind of looking forward to dessert.” 

My blood had been simmering. Now it came to a slow boil, remembering how we’d gone at each other like starving wildcats in my studio at 2 AM when Juliana was safely asleep at their motel, exhausted after an evening of clubbing in Provincetown.  

“But for the rest,” Raf went on, “just one appetizer and entrée, unless I can get you to share with me. Would your boss allow that?”

“I’m the boss tonight. Technically, the assistant manager.” Which didn’t guarantee that I’d get away with it. Audrey could be bribed, but there were six other waitresses, already intensely interested in what I was up to. Tough. It wouldn’t be easy to replace an assistant manager who also did the accounting. Not this late in the season. “And as the boss, I happen to know that the duck in beach plum-Cabernet sauce is especially good tonight. I’ll go for the oysters, but duck instead of bouillabaisse.” Raf already knew that I’m far from the submissive type, but the emphasis on choosing my own meal wouldn’t hurt.

I caught Audrey’s eye and motioned her to the table to take our order. Then I swept the room with a steely gaze that got the rest of the waitresses hustling the way they were supposed to.

“I went by your studio and the gallery,” Raf said, as soon as we’d been supplied with ice water and lemon slices. “I was hoping you’d be there, covered in clay dust like you were last summer.” 

Daddy and girl had wandered from the co-op gallery into my studio, clearly looking for a corner just secluded enough to pretend no one could see them making out. The girl's shorts had been so brief they revealed rosy traces of the proprietary bar-code Daddy's hand had imprinted on her naughty ass. They must have indulged in a bit of after-lunch action before taking a stroll through the galleries.         

Juliana had pouted when they’d seen me there, but Raf had chatted, admired my stone and porcelain nudes, stroked a tempting set of smooth marble buttocks, and probed a big finger down between the irresistible thighs. My crotch got wet enough to dampen the clay dust layering my jeans. When they turned up later at the restaurant where I work to earn the minimal living that art can’t provide, it felt like the truck that had hit me had stopped to take me for a ride.  

The way Raf looked at me now in my conservative pants suit made me sure she was thinking more of how I’d looked later that night covered in nothing at all. Just the way I was remembering her.

“I’ve been working more in stone than clay since then. Still get covered in dust, though.” 

“I noticed some of your new sculptures, there and in that fancier gallery up the hill.” She hesitated. “That piece in the pink-speckled stone…with the ‘Not for Sale’ sign…” Her sun-ruddy face got a little redder. She would never have seen herself from the angle I’d portrayed; rear view, recumbent, quarter-scale, with smooth flesh emerging out of a jagged granite base. Broad shoulders, the side-swell of a breast, head turned to the right, just a few details of face and brush-cut hair…the effect was on the verge of being abstract, but clearly inspired by a real person. And she knew it.

‘That’s brought me a couple of commissions,” I said, with studied casualness. “Thanks for the inspiration. Who’d have thought anyone rich enough to afford it would want a stylized portrait of her lover in stone? Maybe I’ll be able to make a living with my art one of these days after all.” 

The oysters arrived just in time to save Raf from having to figure out what to say. I enjoyed the hell out of her discombobulation. Let her wonder whether I’d been using her for my own artistic purposes rather than succumbing to pure lust. 

 But then I blurted out, “I’ll never sell that one.” So much for staying cool and detached. 

“I’m glad.” Raf plucked an oyster on its half-shell from the bed of ice chips and raised it toward me like a salute before tilting the sweet juice into her mouth. I did the same. We managed a simultaneous sliding of the oysters themselves across our tongues and down our throats, swallowing in perfect synchronization, then licking our lips. And grinning. 

“The sauce is worth trying, too.” I spooned a bit of chipotle mignonette onto another oyster, then licked it slowly off before sucking the slippery morsel into my mouth. 

“Mm.” Raf tried it, even more dramatic in her licking and sucking. “Not bad, but not the very best sauce I’ve ever tasted.” 

A sound at my shoulder like stifled laughter erupted into a snort. Audrey, bringing the scallops ceviche in their little avocado boat. I pretended not to have heard. As soon as she left Raf raised a questioning eyebrow and jerked her head in the direction of Audrey’s sashaying butt. 

I shook my head. “Audrey’s a good kid in her way, but a one trick pony, and that trick is getting her posterior paddled by any means necessary. Once in a while I’ll indulge her, but I make her earn it. Last time you were here that’s how I bribed her to let me wait on your table. There’s nothing more between us.” 

We finished off the last two oysters sedately, though we were close to laughter, before turning to the contrast of tender scallops tangy with lime and jalapeńo and the buttery luxury of perfectly ripened avocado. I could almost forget the memory of young Juliana sampling the same dish with a high degree of suspicion.

Raf must have thought of Juliana, too, or maybe she read my mind. “Funny how much better food tastes when you’re with someone who really knows how to enjoy it.”

I still wouldn’t ask about the girl. “Maybe we should have ordered lobster, too, for the full Tom Jones effect.”

”That’s exactly it! When I said something along those lines to Juliana, she had no idea what I was talking about. Never heard of Tom Jones the movie, much less the book, or even the singer who lifted the name.”

“Ah, youth,” I said. “Just the same, she’s certainly a tasty bit of arm candy for a stroll around Provincetown.”  

“She was, wasn’t she.”

Past tense. So my first unasked question was answered. 

And then the second. “We outgrew each other.  At least I outgrew her, and she transferred to a West Coast college.” She shrugged. “It was about time.”  

The intensity in her hazel eyes as she watched for my reaction was my cue to ask what it was time for now. A second frantic, earth-shaking fuck with me, and then on to the next sweet young morsel who wanted to act out fantasies of submission with the biggest, baddest gray-fox butch around? The fuck I would make sure of. The rest I’d just as soon skip.

(That’s it for now, but trust me. Nothing gets skipped, especially créme brulèe on Race Point Beach by moonlight.)


One of these days I may expand the whole story and combine it with its prequel, Sunset, Sunrise, published in a collection of my work, A Ride to Remember, from Lethe Press. That is currently out of print, but I think the Audible format is still available.)

For links to this month’s other Charity bloggers, check Lisabet Sarai’s website, Lisabet is the creator of Charity Sunday. 

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Charity Sunday--Wars Are Fought on Women’s Bodies


I’m not going to list all the ways that "War is fought on Women's Bodies." Current events are proof enough. In Afghanistan, right now, women and girls are facing immense danger and repression. The Taliban leaders are vaguely assuring the world that women’s right will be upheld “according to Islamic Law,” which is no comfort. They have already seen how important working women have been to the nation, though, so they may well still allow, say, nurses to be trained and allowed to work. A recent statement that women should stay home until the Taliban leaders have educated their masses of men in how to treat women does not sound at all hopeful.

Things there are in such chaos that there’s no telling which, if any, aid organizations can do any work inside Afghanistan, but those who have managed to get out will be in tremendous need of help. I’ll be donating this time, again, to the International Rescue Committee,

You know by now how Charity Sunday works, right? I’m the one who makes the contributions, according to how many of you comment on this blog, or even just read it. One dollar for each view, two dollars for each comment, between this Sunday and the one after next. (Actually, I’ve already made one contribution, because the needs are great right now.)

My story excerpt this time is pretty long, so in case you don’t have time to read it, I’ll tell you right now that you can find links to the other folks who are blogging for this Charity Sunday at:

Now for the excerpt, from the only novel I’ve ever written, Shadow Hand, in the Superheroine Collection from Ylva Press. (Fans of superheroes hated it, but some other readers loved it.) I’ll give you a part near the end that reviewers liked best. But being a novel rather than my usual short story, I’ll have to first supply some information for context.

This isn’t about Afghan women, but Kurdish and Yazidi women, and it’s set a few years ago. Close enough, right? ISIS troops raid villages to capture women to traffick for sex and labor, even advertising on social media. (This is true.) This fictional group is imprisoned in a refurbished ancient walled estate in the desert, surrounded by mine fields so that only those with a map of the mines can approach or depart.

Characters in this scene:

 US Army Lieutenant Ashton (Ash, now gone AWOL.) While hiding from enemies in a dry riverbank cave, she acquires powers of telekinesis when the ancient figurine of the Goddess Ashtar falls on her and draws blood. The Goddess has her own agenda.

 Ex-Sergeant Cleo Brown, Ash’s companion and lover, with an uncanny talent at detecting land mines or other explosives, even from some distance. Cleo and Ash have gradually developed the ability to communicate mentally in dire emergencies. 

 Colonel Razhan Khider of the Kurdish Peshmerga. Her sister Colonel Nisreem Khider is a captive in the walled city, refusing to let her freedom be bought while hundreds of women remain captive.

Major Margaret McAllister (Mac, retired, former US Army liaison with the women’s branch of the Kurdish Peshmerga army, lover of the captive Nisreen. Mac and Nisreen have also come to be able to communicate mentally.

Ilham, bluff biker and Peshmerga soldier.

In this scene Ash and Mac and Ilham are posted on a rocky outcrop barely within sight of the walled city, with a drone’s camera providing a close view. Cleo is inside the city with a group of Peshmerga women who have allowed themselves to be captured in order to rescue Nisreen and the mass of other captives. Cleo has just fought and defeated a challenge from within, though she has been wounded, which Ash doesn’t yet know. A great deal of action has occurred previously in the novel, and there is some after this excerpt, but here goes.     

Shadow Hand,  by Sacchi Green.


Ash looked up into the night sky, just light enough yet that the drone’s falcon façade was silhouetted against it. She lifted the programmed helmet carefully from its padding and rested it on her hip, then gazed out over the plain below. Turning slowly, eyes now adjusted to the low light, she oriented herself in the natural world.  

To the west were the hills, and then the mountains that had become so familiar. 

To the south and southeast was the vast expanse of desert she had come to know well in her years with the Army. 

To the north—more mountains, she thought, but too far away to be sure of, and in any case it was the northeast that drew her gaze. To the northeast there was Cleo. And the walled city, outlined in the deepening night by lights along its walls at long intervals and a faint glow from within. Ash remembered thinking that the international Army base approached from uphill at night looked like a palace from some fantastic Arabian Nights tale, but this walled city could have been the real thing, no longer a palace now. 

“Do they have electricity there?” she murmured low to Mac, though there was no one else who could hear her.

“Probably a gasoline generator for lights on the wall, and in the officials’ rooms at the center, but mostly oil lamps for the rest, if any lights at all.”

Ash kept watching the city, imagining it in ancient times. The inner glow could have been a celebration of a royal wedding, or a festival of magic, or even an elaborate ritual where all bowed down before the goddess and worshipped her with chant and sacrifice. Had Ishtar been there? Was Ash only imagining that the inner buzzing had morphed briefly into a purr?  

It didn’t matter. Now, that glow could be the concentrated anguish of the hundreds enslaved there, in this war that, as so often in the past, was being fought on women’s bodies.

She shook her head to clear it. Would Cleo laugh at her for getting so fanciful? They had sometimes thought up far-fetched stories on long journeys together, but those had been on the raunchy side. 

The real question was, would she ever hear Cleo laugh at her again?

She turned to Mac. “I need to use the helmet and visor now to get a look at the gates.”

Mac jerked out of her reverie at Ash’s voice. She had been deep in thought, too, perhaps wondering if she would ever hear Nisreen again.

“Here. Let me.” Mac fumbled with the clasps and helped buckle them under Ash’s chin. Ash could feel the faint trembling of Mac’s fingers and, on impulse, put an arm around her shoulder and gave a quick squeeze. Mac returned the gesture. The sisterhood of fear for loved ones.

The visor showed her a close, brighter-than-life view of the gate, once she managed to get the settings right. The ponderous wooden doors, the iron bands leading to…yes! The huge hinges were anchored to the stone pillars by iron spikes. Anchored to the pillars, but not to the lions’ heads. Looking closer—even closer—the lions were carved from a different type of stone entirely, like granite with a tawny tint. They were easily five feet high and nearly as wide, not part of the massive gray pillars themselves but bound to them by bands of metal like collars.

The buzzing now in her head became a throbbing, though not especially painful. Was it Ishtar’s approval? Her sorrow? Ridicule or illusion? It didn’t matter. The gate would come down, and if the lions were destroyed, what greater honor could there be for them than freeing the women?

She removed the helmet, sat down with it in her lap, and leaned against the food pack. Mac sat beside her. Still hours to go. The rising moon, nearly full, drifted in and out of bands of cloud—or, no, the clouds did the drifting. She watched the moon, the stars—so far away, so removed.


At first it seemed to Ash that the moon had leapt partway across the sky, but in the next instant she realized that a few hours had passed. She must have dozed off. Mac turned to her, the intense relief on her face clear in the moonlight. 

“Nisreen can contact me!” 

“Cleo?” Ash could feel her presence so strongly it almost felt like touching, but there was no response. After a minute or two of worry and waiting she snapped impatiently, “Sergeant Brown, report!”

That brought an equally sharp retort. “When I’m damned good and ready, Lieutenant!”

At Mac’s questioning look, Ash said, “Cleo can communicate, but she refuses to.” Frustration sharpened her voice. “What the hell is going on in there?” She made the helmet and visor rise to her and settled them in place again. “Did Nisreen say anything useful?”

“Useful to me,” Mac said. “Not to anyone else. She sounds weak, but alert.”

Ash crouched on the highest point of rock, watching the city like a falcon seeking prey. When she zoomed in on the gate, she could almost feel the rough stone of the lion’s head on the left. If she were to exert force… Yes, it would yield, when the time came. And the other lion? More resistant. Her hand tensed, tensed more, then drew back abruptly as the stone loosened with a jerk. She hoped no one had noticed the tremor. 


Relief swept through her.

“Be ready sooner than planned. Complications. Enemy killed, not discovered, could be any minute. Stand by.”

Ash’s response was instantaneous. “Got you. Ready when you are.”

“Need a little more time here.” Cleo paused. “Got you, too. Always.” 

Ash spoke to Mac without turning. “A problem. They need to get out soon, but they’re not ready yet.”

Waiting took more strength than action could. The rocky summit offered only limited space for pacing, but Ash strode back and forth over what little there was. Mac seemed preoccupied in connecting with Nisreen, apparently on matters more personal than news of what was happening.


She stopped in mid-stride.

“Gun in the tower to your left, my right. None in the other. Wait for my signal.”

“I’m on it.” Ash focused her visor on the guard towers and the wall between, and waited. And waited. What was going on?  

When Cleo’s signal came—“Ash! Take down the towers, now! The left one with the gun first!”—Ash was so ready she moved her fingers a mere tenth of an inch and felt the wooden struts pull apart from the base by five feet. The figure inside the lookout structure stumbled, arms flailing, then clutched at a railing, mouth gaping in what must be a scream, while Ash sent the whole tower swaying like a palm tree in a wild hurricane. She felt the cracking of wood, the grating of stone, as she wrenched the entire lookout away, shook it until both man and rifle tumbled out, and smashed the whole stone tower to the ground. Then she sent the gun flying far into the night, and ripped the other tower away from the wall. The heat of battle, of power, surged through her.

“Now the central buildings. Blast ’em with everything you’ve got.”

They were in sync now, as much as they’d ever been. Even more. Ash felt the old high. She tore loose the great stone lion head on the right, raised it high, and watched it arcing over the city, followed by the one on the left. The drone must be following her eye motions without any adjustment on her part, because suddenly she could see inside the walls. Beneath the soaring lions’ heads, the masses of prisoners organized by the rescuers waited to pour out from their roofless enclosures. The few visible guards scattered in terror as the fierce stone heads sailed above them, parting the air with a roar like a double tornado, and slammed down on the headquarters—where there were flimsy, makeshift roofs until the heads came down onto them and smashed through in eruptions of jagged splinters. She raised the lions again, made them smash through time after time, then landed them intact on the rubble.

 “Gates away! Now!” Cleo’s command came through firm and clear.

Ash seldom needed gestures any more, but now, standing precariously on a high point, she raised both arms. The rush of blood in her veins and hum of triumph in her head made her feel like the conductor of a Wagnerian orchestra directing a crescendo. 

Crack! The right side of the gate tore away to the outside, bringing rocks from the pillar with it, and she swore she could hear the splintering and crashing from even so far away. She wrenched the remaining gate from its crumbling pillar, then made the shards of wood and iron and stone part like the Red Sea, leaving a wide, clear path. Two women came out, stepping from shadows into a beam of bright white light. Light?

A second drone had appeared, pouring light onto the roadway. It was joined by a third, zooming from side to side, and up and down, as though scanning the scene. Maybe even recording it. If the situation hadn’t been so grimly real, Ash would have felt like she was in a movie. What the hell was going on?

And where was Cleo? One of the first two out Ash recognized as Shifra, with a tall silver-maned woman leaning on her for support. Could that be Nisreen? Then Ariya and the medic followed, supporting someone between them. Cleo! With arms strung around her helpers’ necks for support, slowing them down. Behind them a stream of other women poured through the dust and rubble of the pulverized gateway.

“Cleo!” Anxiety burned the word into Ash’s brain.

Cleo’s thoughts rang clear in her head. “Lift me, Ash! I’m okay, just can’t walk. Leg out of commission. We can do this. I’ll point the way. Make me fly!”

The urge to snatch Cleo to safety was nearly overpowering. But Cleo would resist, and the mission would fail cataclysmically. Meanwhile the goddess brayed for more blood, for extermination of the enemy, with no room for mercy, or focus on the escaping women, or any rational thought. Ash pushed her back and seized control of her own mind. She had to listen to Cleo now, not the supernatural entity inside her head. She funneled her frustration into power, groped for Cleo, found her, and lifted her to stretch out parallel to the ground. Mac moved close to brace Ash’s back in her effort, and Ilham soon joined them and knelt on the stone to keep Ash’s legs stable.  

Cleo was clutching something wrapped in her keffiyeh. As her body rose, the scarf unfurled to reveal what had been concealed in the lining—a long white banner bearing Ash’s symbol of a black hand. The Shadow Hand. The light from the drone shone full on it. 

There was no time to wonder how Cleo had managed it. Ash carried her forward, twenty feet high, pausing, changing direction, the two of them one body, one mind, in two places. The drone’s light stayed on Cleo, while a river of women, two or three abreast, followed her. Some leaned against each other, some carried children on their backs. Razhan’s soldiers went up and down the line keeping everyone calm and moving as fast as possible.

Cleo looked only down and ahead, searching out each landmine. Ash wanted to scan the city, to look for guards who might mount the walls and shoot at Cleo, at the escaping women, but she couldn’t be distracted.  

She kept her arms raised, in case it made a difference. They were already aching, in spite of Mac and Ilham’s support, and her shoulders shook with effort. Why had she practiced lifting heavy objects? Weight meant nothing now. It was time that threatened to drain her strength—time and distance—and there was still so very far to go.

Cleo must have sensed that. “Hold me, Ash…keep me flying…”

“I’ve got you. Always.” Nothing else mattered. Ash braced against the strain, calling up reserves of strength she’d never known she possessed.  

Her concern about the guards diminished when Mac murmured in her ear, “Nisreen tells me that the few men watching from the walls are falling in prayer, none raising guns. When Cleo rose from the earth, with the Shadow Hand banner, they cried out that she must be a djinn, or an afreet, but the women all tell each other that she is an angel.”

The river of freed prisoners flowed on, following the beacon that was Cleo. Cleo kept on, pointing out each turn to be made, held up by Ash. And Ash was held up by Mac and Ilham. 

“How far to go?” Rigid concentration roughened Ilham’s voice. Ash looked only at Cleo, not daring to glance away to see how long the river of women had become, whether it yet had an end, when it might reach the trucks and safety.

Mac freed one hand to raise her field glasses. Ilham increased her support. 

“Our transports have turned on their headlights,” Mac said. “They make a stream of brightness. Only a quarter of the way still to go before Cleo reaches the safe zone.” She returned her full support to Ash and murmured, “Don’t forget to breathe,” close at her shoulder. 

 The turns Cleo directed came more closely together now as the minefield became more vicious. Ash watched with such intensity that her eyes burned. I can make it…we can make it… Deep in her mind, or spirit, or gut, she felt that some other source of power had joined what she already had. No time to think about that now. Keep on. Keep Cleo flying. Keep on...

So, have you kept on reading? Would you like to know what comes before, and what comes after? I kinda like this blurb: “A mysterious stone figure of the goddess Ishtar, long-buried in the desert, bestows on US Army Lieutenant Ashton the power to move objects by her mind alone. Ash must learn to control this impressive power, before it controls her. She turns to her tough, steadfast lover Cleo, with talents of her own, to help Ash in her struggle to stay firmly rooted in her humanity. The women seek causes worthy of their skills, refusing to allow the destructive side of Ash’s ability to be used by any outside forces—military or mythical. A hazardous rescue mission hurtles them back to the desert they’d left far behind, links their past and present, and just may be what Ishtar had in mind all along. A lesbian action adventure about sudden superpowers, lasting romance, and fighting for what matters.”

Saturday, March 20, 2021

To Remember You By

This story was already posted on this blog, but I'm bouncing it up to here because I just dd a live reading of it on a Facebook group, Lesbian Fiction Campfire. We had a whole day long series of readers,  and they've been recorded, so are all still available, but one has to join the group to access them. In any case, I said that I'd post my story here for a while, so here goes.

To Remember You By

     In the English summer of 1943, the air felt sometimes so thick with sex you could have spread it like butter, and it would have melted, even on cold English toast.

     The intensity of youth, the urgency of wartime, drove us. Nurses, WAC's, young men hurled into the deadly air war against Germany, gathered between one crisis and another in improvised dance halls. Anything from barns to airfield hangars to tents rigged from parachute silk would do. To the syncopated jive of trumpets and clarinets, to "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" and "Accentuate the Positive," we swayed and jitterbugged and twitched our butts defiantly at past and future. To the muted throb of drums and the yearning moan of saxophones, to "As Time Goes By" and "I'll Be Seeing You," couples clung and throbbed and yearned together.

     I danced with men facing up to mortality, and with brash young kids in denial. Either way, life pounded through their veins and bulged in their trousers.

     But I wasn't careless. And I wasn't in love. As a nurse, I'd tried to mend too many broken boys, known too many who never made it back at all, to let my mind be clouded by love. Sometimes, though, in dark hallways or tangles of shrubbery or the shadow of a bomber's wings, I would comfort some nice young flier and drive him on until his hot release geysered over my hand. Practical Application of Anatomical Theory, we nurses called it, "PAT" for short. Humor is a frail enough defense against the chaos of war, but you take what you can get.

     Superstition was the other universal defense. Mine, I suppose, was a sort of vestal virgin complex, an unexamined belief that opening my flesh to men would destroy my ability to heal theirs. 

     My very defenses (and repressions) might have opened me to Cleo. Would my senses have snapped so suddenly to attention in peacetime? They say war brings out things you didn't know were in you. But when I think back to my first sight of her, the intense gray eyes, the thick, dark hair too short and straight for fashion, the forthright movements of her lean body--a shiver of delight ripples through me, even now. No matter where or when we met, she would have stirred me.

     The uniform sure didn't hurt, though, dark blue, tailored, with slacks instead of skirt. I couldn't identify the service, but "USA" stood out clearly on each shoulder, so it made sense for her to be at the Red Cross club on Charles Street in London, set up by the United States Ambassador's wife for American servicewomen.

     There was a real dance floor, and a good band was playing that night, but Cleo lingered near the entrance as though undecided whether to continue down the wide, curving staircase. I don't know how long I stared at her. When I looked up from puzzling over the silver pin on her breast she was watching me quizzically. My date, a former patient whose half-healed wounds made sitting out most of the dances advisable, gripped my shoulder to get my attention.

     "A friend of yours?" he asked. He'd been getting a bit maudlin as they played "You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To," and I'd already decided he wasn't going to get the kind of comfort he'd been angling for. I shook off his hand. 

     "No," I said, "I was just trying to place the uniform. Are those really wings on her tunic?" I felt a thrill of something between envy and admiration. The high, compact breasts under the tunic had caught my attention, too, but that was more than I was ready to admit to myself. I watched her movements with more than casual interest as she descended the stairs and took a table in a dim corner. 

     "Yeah," he said with some bitterness, "can you believe it? They brought in women for the Air Transport Auxiliary. They get to ferry everything, even the newest Spitfires, from factories or wherever the hell else they happen to be to wherever they're needed." 

     His tone annoyed me, even though I knew he was anxious about whether he'd ever fly again himself. But then he pushed it too far. "I hear women are ferrying planes back in the States now, too. Thousands of 'em. Next thing you know there won't be any jobs left for men after the war. I ask you, what kind of woman would want to fly warplanes, anyway?" His smoldering glance toward the corner table told me just what kind of woman he had in mind. "Give me a cozy red-headed armful with her feet on the ground any day," he said, with a look of insistent intimacy.

     "With her back on the ground, too, I suppose," I snapped, and stood up. "I'm sorry, Frank, I really do wish you the best, but I don't think there's anything more I can do for you. Maybe you should catch the early train back to the base." I evaded his grasp and retreated to the powder room; and, when I came out at last, he had gone. The corner table, however, was still occupied. 

     "Mind if I sit here?" I asked. "I'm Kay Barnes."

     "Cleo Remington." She offered a firm handshake. "It's fine by me. Afraid the boy friend will try again?"

     So she'd noticed our little drama. "Not boy friend," I said, "just a patient who's had all the nursing he's going to get." I signaled a waitress. "Can I get you a drink to apologize for staring when you came in? I'd never seen wings on a woman before, and...well, to be honest, I had a flash of burning jealousy. I've always wanted to fly, but things just never worked out that way."

     "Well," Cleo said, "I can't say I've ever been jealous of a nurse's life, but I'm sure glad you're on the job."

     "Tell me what being a pilot is like," I said, "so I can at least fantasize."

     So she told me, over a cup of the best (and possibly only) coffee in London, about persuading her rancher father that air surveillance was the best way, to keep track of cattle spread out over a large chunk of Montana. When her brother was old enough to take over the flying cowboy duty, she'd moved on to courier service out of Billings, and then to a job as instructor at a Civilian Pilot Training Program in Colorado, where everyone knew that her young male students were potential military pilots, but that Cleo, in spite of all her flight hours, wasn't.

     Then came all-out war, and the chance to come to England. Women aviators were being welcomed to ferry aircraft for the decimated RAF. I watched her expressive face and hands and beautifully shaped mouth as she talked of Hurricanes, and Spitfires, and distant glimpses of German Messerschmidts.

     As she talked, I did, in fact, fantasize like crazy. But visions of moonlight over a foaming sea of clouds kept resolving into lamplight on naked skin, and the roar of engines and rush of wind gave way to pounding blood and low, urgent cries. Her shifting expressions fascinated me; her rare, flashing smile was so beautiful I wanted to feel its movement under my own lips.

     I didn't know what had come over me. Or, rather, I knew just enough to sense what I wanted, without having the least idea how to tell whether she could possibly want it too. I'd admired women before, but only aesthetically, I'd rationalized, or with mild envy. But this flush of heightened sensitivity, this feeling of rushing toward some cataclysm that might tear me apart... This was unexplored territory.

     "So," Cleo said at last, looking a bit embarrassed, "that's more about me than anybody should have to sit through. What about you? How did you end up here?"

     "I'm not sure I can remember who I was before the war," I said, scarcely knowing who I'd been just half an hour ago.

     She nodded. We were silent for a while, sharing the unspoken question of whether the world would ever know such a thing as safety again. Then I told her a little about growing up in New Hampshire, and climbing mountains, only to feel that even there, the sky wasn't high and wide enough to hold me. "That's when I dreamed about flying," I said.

     "Yes!" she said. "I get that feeling here, once in a while, even in the air. This European sky seems smaller, and the land below is so crowded with cities, sometimes the only way to tell where you are is by the pattern of the railroads. The Iron Compass, we call it. I guess that's one reason I'm transferring back to the States instead of renewing my contract here.

     "The main reason, though, is that I've heard women in the WASPs at home are getting to test-pilot Flying Fortresses and Marauders. And that's only the beginning. Pretty soon they'll be commissioned in the regular Army Air Force. In Russia women are even flying combat missions; "Night Witches" the scared Germans call them. If the war goes on long enough..." She stopped just short of saying, "If enough of our men are killed I'll get to fight." I was grateful. "History is being made," she went on, "and I've got to be in on it!"

     In her excitement she had stretched out her legs under the table until they brushed against mine. I wanted so badly to rub against the wool of her slacks that I could scarcely pay attention to what she was saying, but I caught one vital point.

     "Transferring?" I leaned far forward, and felt, as well as saw, her glance drop to my breasts. The starchy wartime diet in England had added some flesh, but at that moment I didn't care, because all of it was tingling. "When do you go?"

     "In two weeks," she said. "I'm taking a week in London to get a look at some of the sights I haven't had time to see in the whole eighteen months I've been over here. Then there'll be one more week of ferrying out of Hamble on the south coast. And then I'm leaving."

     Two weeks. One, really. "I've got a few days here, too," I said. "Maybe we could see the sights together." I tried to look meaningfully into her eyes, but she looked down at her own hands on the table and then out at the dance floor where a few couples, some of them pairs of girls, were dancing.

     "Sure," she said. "That would be fun." Her casual tone seemed a bit forced.

     "I don't suppose you'd like to dance, would you?" I asked, with a sort of manic desperation. "Girls do it all the time here when there aren't enough men. Nobody thinks anything of it."

     "They sure as hell would, if they were doing it right!" Cleo met my eyes, and, in the hot gray glow of her defiant gaze, I learned all I needed to know.

     Then she looked away. "Not," she said carefully, "that any of Flight Captain Jackie Cochran's hand-picked cream-of-American-womanhood pilots would know anything about that."

     "Of course not," I agreed. "Or any girl-next-door nurses, either." I could feel a flush rising from my neck to my face, but I plowed ahead. "Some of us might be interested in learning, though."

     She looked at me with a quizzical lift to one eyebrow, then pushed back her chair and stood up. Before my heart could do more than lurch into my throat, she said lightly, "How about breakfast here tomorrow, and then we'll see what the big deal is about London."

     It turned out we were both staying in the club dormitory upstairs. We went up two flights together; then I opened the door on the third floor landing. Cleo's room was on the fourth floor. I paused, and she said, without too much subtlety, "One step at a time, Kay, one step at a time!" Then she bolted upward, her long legs taking the stairs two, sometimes three, steps at a time.

     Night brought, instead of a return to common sense, a series of dreams wilder than anything my imagination or clinical knowledge of anatomy had ever managed before. When I met Cleo for breakfast it was hard to look at her without envisioning her dark, springy hair brushing my thighs, while her mouth... But all my dreams had dissolved in frustration, and I had woken tangled in hot, damp sheets with my hand clamped between my legs.

     Cleo didn't look all that rested, either, but for all I knew she was always like that before her second cup of coffee. When food and caffeine began to take effect, I got a map of bus routes from the porter and we planned our day.

     London Bridge, Westminster, Harrod's department store; whether I knew how to do it right or not, every moment was a dance of sorts. Cleo got considerable amusement out of my not-so-subtle attempts at seduction. She even egged me on to try on filmy things in Harrod's that I could never afford, or have occasion to wear, and let me see how much she enjoyed the view. I didn't think she was just humoring me. 

     In the afternoon, after lunch at a quaint tearoom, we went to the British Museum and admired the cool marble flesh of nymphs and goddesses. Cleo circled a few statues, observing that the Greeks sure had a fine hand when it came to posteriors; I managed to press oh-so-casually back against her, and she didn't miss the chance to demonstrate her own fine hand, or seem to mind that my posterior was not quite classical.

     Then we decided life was too short to waste on Egyptian mummies, and wandered a bit until, in a corner of an upper floor, we found a little gallery where paintings from the Pre-Raphaelite movement and other Victorian artists were displayed. There was no one else there but an elderly woman guard whose stern face softened just a trace at Cleo's smile. 

      Idealized women gazed out of mythological worlds aglow with color. The grim reality of war retreated under the spell of flowing robes, rippling clouds of hair, impossibly perfect skin. 

      Cleo stood in the center of the room, slowly rotating. "Sure had a thing for redheads, didn't they," she said. "You'd have fit right in, Kay." 

     I hoped she herself had a thing for redheads. Standing there, feeling drab in my khaki uniform, I watched Cleo appreciating the paintings of beautiful women. When she moved closer to the sleeping figure of "Flaming June" by Lord Leighton, I gazed with her at the seductive flesh gleaming through transparent orange draperies, and allowed myself to imagine stroking the curve of thigh and hip, the round, tender breasts.

     "I don't know how this rates as art," Cleo said, "but oh, my!"

     A hot flush rose across my skin, of desire, yes, but even more of fierce jealousy. I wanted to be in that bright, serene world, inside that pampered, carefree body, with smooth arms and hands, not roughened by scrubbing with hospital soap. I wanted to be the one seducing Cleo's eyes. "She could have a million freckles under that gown," I blurted out childishly. "The color would filter them out!"

     A tiny grin quirked the corner of Cleo's mouth. "Freckles are just fine," she said, "so long as I get to count them." She turned, leaned close, and shivers of anticipation rippled through me. "With my tongue," she added, and gently laid a trail of tiny wet dots across the bridge of my nose. I forgot entirely where we were.

     Then she bent her dark head to my throat, undid my top button, and gently cupped my breasts through my tunic as her warm tongue probed down into the valley between. I couldn't bear to stop her, even when I remembered the guard. My breasts felt heavy, my nipples swollen, but not nearly as heavy and swollen as I needed them to be.

     Cleo's gray eyes were darker when she raised her head. "Where," she murmured huskily, "is a bomb shelter when you need one?"

     But we knew that even now, with Hitler's Russian campaign distracting the Luftwaffe enough that there hadn't been a really major attack on London in over a year, every bomb shelter had its fiercely protective attendants.

     The guard's voice, harsh but muted, startled us. "There's a service lift just down the corridor. It's slow."

     She gazed impersonally into space, her weathered face expressionless, until, as we passed, she glanced at Cleo's silver wings. "Good work," she said curtly. "I drove an ambulance in France in the last war. But for God's sake be careful!"

     In the elevator Cleo pressed me against a wood-paneled wall and kissed me so hard it hurt. I slid my fingers through her thick dark hair and held her back just enough for my lips to explore the shape of her lips, and my tongue to invite hers to come inside. 

     By the time we jolted to a stop on the ground floor my crotch felt wetter than my mouth, and even more in need of her probing tongue.

     There was no one waiting when the gate slid open. Cleo pulled me along until we found a deserted ladies' room, but once inside, she braced her shoulders against the tiled wall and didn't touch me. "You do realize," she said grimly, "what you're risking?"

     "Never mind what I'm risking," I said. "One nurse blotting her copy book isn't going to bring everything since Florence Nightingale crashing down. But you..." Tears stung my eyes, but it had to be said. "You're holding history in your hands, Cleo." I reached out to clasp her fingers. "Right where I want to be."

     "Are you sure you know what you want?" 

     "I may not know exactly," I admitted, drawing her hands to my hips, "but I sure as hell know I want it!" I reached down and yanked my skirt up as far as I could. Cleo stroked my inner thigh, and I caught my breath; then she slid cool fingers inside my cotton underpants and gently cupped my hot, wet flesh. I moaned and thrust against her touch, and tried to kiss her, and her mouth moved under mine into a wide grin. 

     "Pretty convincing," she murmured against my lips.

     I whimpered as she withdrew her hand, but she just smoothed down my skirt and gave me a pat on my butt. "Not here," she said, and propelled me out the door.

     On the long series of bus rides back to Charles Street we tried not to look at each other, but I felt Cleo's dark gaze on me from time to time. I kept my eyes downcast, the better to glance sidelong at her as she alternated between folding her arms across her chest, and clenching and unclenching her hands on her blue wool slacks.

     Dinner was being served at the Red Cross club, probably the best meal for the price in England. Cleo muttered that she wasn't hungry, not for dinner, anyway, but I had my own motive for insisting. The band would be setting up in half an hour or so, and with the window open, you could hear the music from my room. Well enough for dancing.

     So we ate, although I couldn't say what, and Cleo teased me by running her tongue sensuously around the lip of a coke bottle and into its narrow throat. Her mercurial shifts from intensity to playfulness fascinated me, but the time came when intensity was all I craved.

     "I don't suppose you'd like to dance, would you?" I repeated last night's invitation with a barely steady voice. "If I tried my best to do it right?" I stood abruptly and started for the stairs. Behind me Cleo's chair fell over with a clatter as she jumped up to follow me.

     I reached my tiny room ahead of her--nursing builds strong legs—and crossed to the window to heave it open. Then the door slammed shut and she was behind me, pressing her crotch against me, wrapping her arms around to undo my buttons, and cradle my breasts through my sensible cotton slip. I longed to be wearing sheer flame-colored silk for her.

     When she slid her hands under the fabric and over my skin, though, I found I didn't want to be wearing anything at all. "So soft," she whispered, "so tender..." and as my nipples jerked taut under her strokes, "getting so hard..."

     A melody drifted from below. "Give me something to remember you by." I turned in her arms. "Teach me to dance," I whispered. 

     We swayed gently together, feet scarcely moving in the cramped space, thighs pressing into each other's heat. Cleo kneaded my hips and butt, while I held her so tightly against my breast that her silver wings dented my flesh.

     "Please," I murmured against her cheek, "closer..." I fumbled at the buttons of her tunic. When she tensed, I drew back. "I'm sorry...I don't know the rules..."

     "The only rule," Cleo said, after a long pause, "is that you get what you need." 

     "I need to feel you," I said.

     She drew her hands over my hips and up my sides, then stepped back and began to shed her clothes. Mine, with a head start, came off even faster.

      The heady musk of arousal rose around us. A clarinet from below crooned, "I'll be seeing you, in all the old familiar places…" I cupped my breasts and raised them so that my nipples could flick against Cleo's high, tightening peaks, over and over. The sensation was exquisite, tantalizing--I gave a little whimper, needing more, and she bent to take me into her mouth.

     I thought I would burst with wanting. My nipples felt as big as her demanding tongue. Then she worked her hand between my legs, and spread my juices up over my straining clitoris, and my whimpers turned to full-throated moans.

     Cleo raised her head. Her kiss muted my cries as she reached past me to shut the window. "Hope nobody's home next door," she muttered, and suddenly we were dancing horizontally on the narrow bed. I arched my hips, rubbing against her thigh, until her mouth moved down over throat and breasts and belly, slowly, too slowly; I wanted to savor each moment but my need was too desperate. I wriggled, and thrashed, and her head sank at last between my thighs, just as in my dreams. Her mobile lips drove me into a frenzy of pleading, incoherent cries, until, with her tongue thrusting deeply, rhythmically inside me, my ache exploded into glorious release.

     In the first faint light of morning I woke to feel Cleo's fingers ruffling my tousled hair. "If I were an artist I'd paint you like this," she whispered. "You look like a marmalade cat full of cream." 

     I stretched, and then gasped as her fingers roused last night's ache into full, throbbing resurgence. "Sure enough," she said with a wicked grin, "plenty of cream. Let's see if I can make you yowl again."

     This time I found out what her long, strong fingers could do deep inside me, one at first, then two; by the end of the week I could clutch at her whole, pumping hand. 

     Sometimes I think I remember every moment of those days; sometimes everything blurs except the feel of Cleo's hands and mouth and body against mine, and the way her eyes could shift suddenly from laughing silver to the dark gray of storm clouds.

     We did more sightseeing, the Tower of London, Madam Tussaud's Wax Museum, St. Paul's Cathedral scarred by German bombs. We took boat trips up the Thames to Richmond Park, where we dared to kiss in secluded bits of woodland, and down river where we held hands across the Greenwich Meridian. One night, in anonymous clothes bought at a flea-market barrow, we even managed to get into a club Cleo had heard of where women did dance openly with women. We couldn't risk staying long, but a dark intoxication followed us back to her room, where I entirely suppressed the nurse in me and demanded things of Cleo that left both of us sore, drained, and without regrets.

     On our last night in London we went anonymously again into shabby backstreets near the docks. I brought disinfectants, and we chose what seemed the cleanest of a sorry lot of tattoo parlors. There, welcoming the pain of the needle as distraction from deeper pain, we had tiny pairs of wings etched over our left breasts.

     We parted with promises to meet one more time before Cleo's last flight. I mortgaged a week of sleep to get my nursing shifts covered, and at Hamble Air Field, by moonlight, she introduced me to the planes she loved. 

     "This is the last Spitfire I'll ever fly," she said, stroking the sleek fuselage. "Seafire III, Merlin 55 engine, 24,000 foot ceiling, although I won't go up that high just on a hop to Scotland."

     From Scotland she'd catch an empty cargo plane back to the States. I had just got my orders to report to Hawaii for assignment somewhere in the South Pacific. War is hell, and so are good-byes.

     "Could I look into the cockpit?" I wanted to be able to envision her there, high in the sky.

     "Sure. You can even sit in it and play pilot." She helped me climb onto the wing, with more pressing of my backside than was absolutely necessary, and showed me how to lower myself into the narrow space. Standing on the wing, she leaned in and kissed me, hard at first, then with aching tenderness, then hard again.

     "Pull up your skirt," she ordered. I did it without question. She already knew I wasn't wearing underpants. "Let's see how wet you can get the seat," she said, "So I can breathe you all the way to Scotland." She unbuttoned my shirt and played with my aching breasts until I begged her to lean in far enough to suck them; then, with her lips and tongue and teeth driving me so crazy that my breath came in a storm of desperate gasps, she reached down into my slippery heat, and made me arch and buck so hard that the plane's dials and levers were in danger. I needed more than I could get sitting in the cramped cockpit.

     We clung together finally in the grass under the sheltering wing. I got my hands into Cleo's trousers, and made her groan, but she wouldn't relax into sobbing release until I was riding her hand, on pounding waves of pleasure as keen as pain.

     I thought, when I could think anything again, that she had fallen asleep, she was so still. Gently, gently I touched my lips to the nearly-healed tattoo above her breast. Tiny wings matching mine. Something to remember her by.

     Without opening her eyes she said, in a lost, small voice, "What are we going to do, Kay?"

     I knew what she was going to do. "You're going to claim the sky, to make history. And anyway," I said, falling back on dark humor since I had no comfort to offer, "a cozy menage in Paris seems out of the question with the Nazis in control." 

     Then, because I knew if I touched her again we would both cry, and hate ourselves for it, I stood, put my clothes in as much order as I could, and walked away.

     I looked back once, from the edge of the field. Cleo leaned, head bowed, against the plane. Some trick of the moonlight transmuted her dark hair into silver; I had a vision of how breathtaking she would be in thirty or forty years. The pain of knowing I couldn't share those years made me stumble, and nearly fall. But I kept on walking.

     And she let me go.

     On June 24, 1944, against all justice and reason, the bill to make the Women Airforce Service Pilots officially part of the Army Air Force was defeated in Congress by nineteen votes. In December, the WASP were disbanded.

     Thirty-three years later, in 1977, when women were at last being admitted into the Air Force, the WASP were retroactively given military status. It was then, through a reunion group, that I found out what had become of Cleo Remington; she had found a sky high and wide enough to hold her fierce spirit, and freedom as a bush pilot in Alaska.

     And she was, as I discovered, even more breathtaking at sixty than she'd been at twenty-six.

     But that's another chapter of the story


The other chapter is a story,”Alternate Lives,” in that same collection, but be warned that Kay was actually bisexual, and had raised a family with a soldier whose life she had saved during the war. Cleo in Alaska was partnered with a former “Night Witch” who had defected from Russia. The story is entirely about the three women coming together on Kodiak Island. 

















Saturday, February 27, 2021

Charity Sunday: Let Them Not Hunger


Let Them Not Hunger

At last! I’m not constantly donating to political causes! Not that they’ve stopped asking, but I’m stopped answering, at least not for a while. I’m trying to get back to environmental causes, but there are always even more urgent needs, so just now I’m answering a cause or two (or more) to help in feeding desperate people in distant places.

Here’s how this works. I will contribute one dollar to this cause for every view of this post within two weeks, and two dollars for every comment.  

My charity choice for this Sunday is, for their work in Yemen, where roughly 85,000 children have starved to death, unable to get enough food or medical care during the devastating civil war. Half of all medical facilities have been destroyed or forced to close, and 80% of the population needs urgent humanitarian aid -- including 12 million children.

As usual, I don’t have any stories at all connected to this situation, so I’ll resort once again to a food topic, or rather a long excerpt from a story that happens to include quite an entertaining dinner scene, even though that’s not the main theme of the piece.




Sacchi Green

“Some piece of work you got there.” Sigri jerked her head toward the door. Or maybe she was just flicking a trickle of sweat out of one eye, since her hands were occupied with hammering a rod of red-hot iron into submission. She’d been wearing goggles but shed them when we came in. “Ought to keep a shorter tether on your toys, Roby.”

It was just as well Maura had already flounced out in a snit when she realized that we weren’t going to focus on her—although Maura’s every movement was far too elegant to be termed “flouncing.” Even when she’d knocked over a short trollish creature built using trowel hands and garden-rake teeth, tried to right it, got those long auburn waves that had sold ten million crates of shampoo tangled in another contraption, and knocked that one over, too, her taut ass was as elegant as it was enticing. She could have been modeling those stretch ski pants for a fashion spread in Vogue. Probably had been, in fact, when she’d been here in New Hampshire in October for an autumn leaves photo shoot. Now, in January, the outfit suited the snow coming down outside.

Sigri’s boi, Rif, edged deftly among the metal sculptures, righting the ones Maura had knocked over, touching some of the others as though they were friends. Or lovers. In their shadows, her slight body and pale short hair were nearly invisible. She hadn’t spoken a word since I’d been here. Now, at a gesture from Sigri, she followed Maura out of the barn. 

Maura needed to be the center of attention. Someplace deep inside being in the spotlight terrified her, but she still craved it. She didn’t know how lucky she was that Sig and I had been ignoring her, catching up on old times and our lives over the past twenty years. She’d brought us together for her own convoluted purpose and pushed me over the edge of anger into rage once I knew what she was up to. Could’ve been part of her plan; Maura’s plans were never straightforward. I didn’t care whether she was listening outside the door or not. 

“I’m not her goddamned keeper!”

“No? Somebody sure ought to be, and I get the impression she thinks it’s you.”

I perched gingerly on the seat of an antique hay baler stripped of its wheels, waiting its turn to be cannibalized into parts for the scrap metal beasts and demons Sig sold to tourists and the occasional high-end craft gallery. “Not a chance. Don’t tell me she hasn’t been trying you on for size.” 

Sig concentrated more intently than necessary on the metal she was bending across the edge of her anvil. “‘Trying’ is the word, all right.” Her hammer came down hard. “The magazine crew was doing a photo shoot down the road with my neighbor’s big black Percheron mare close by and sugar maples in the background. Rif hung around watching, kind of dazzled by the glitz, I guess, so when Maura asked about the weird iron critters out front here, Rif dragged her to the barn to see more. I knew you’d worked with her—Rif keeps some of those fashion mags around for some strange reason, and I don’t deny taking a look now and then. Just to see whether your name’s in the small print as photographer, of course. Not for those skinny-ass models.” That brazenly lecherous grin was just the way I remembered it.

“Yeah, Maura has a thing for sharp scary things, the weirder the better. So I guess one thing led to another?”

“One thing led to—zip! Nothing but some crazy maze of ‘yes…no…wait, maybe…’ Does she have any fucking idea what she wants? Won’t negotiate, won’t submit, won’t bend, likes to be hurt but mustn’t be marked anyplace it would show when she models bikinis. I tell you, Roby, I don’t have the energy anymore for games like that. No topping from the bottom.” One more hammer blow and a curse, and then the warped metal was cast into a tank of water where it hissed as it cooled. From what little I’d glimpsed, I didn’t think it had turned out as Sig intended.

“She doesn’t know what she wants until she gets it,” I said. “Looks like just now she thinks she wants it from you.” And she has the gall to want me to show you how to give it to her. I’d given in to Maura’s pleas to come back with her to the Mount Washington Valley in New Hampshire for a long weekend visit with my old friend Sigri, which did sound tempting, and then just as we arrived at the farmhouse, Maura had told me casually that she wished I’d teach Sigri the right way to hurt her. I had never come closer to hurting her in all the wrong ways.

“Screw it. I wouldn’t have bothered at all if Rif hadn’t been all for it.” Sig pulled off her heavy leather apron and straddled a wooden bench. “Why’d she drag you here, then? Not that I’m not glad to see you. Every time I see your name on one of those photo spreads in a nature magazine I think about getting in touch, but somehow I never get around to it.” She considered me for a moment, the fire from the forge casting a red glow over her square, sweaty face and muscular arms. “Good thing you moved on from the fashion ads racket. Your stuff is too good for that.”

“The fashion biz pays better.” I didn’t quite meet Sig’s gaze. “I still do it once in a while.”

“You didn’t come when Miss Fancypants threw a fit last October and insisted they had to get you because she wouldn’t work with anybody else. So why now?”

“I was in Labrador on assignment from the Sierra Club magazine! And next month I head for Patagonia. In any case, I do have my limits. The guy they had here was good and needed the work.” I looked her full in the face—a face I’ve seen in my dreams through the years more often than I’d like to admit. “This location is a big draw, though. So many memories…”

“Ohhh yeah!” Her smile this time was slow, reflective, and genuine. I wondered what she was remembering. My second most vivid image from those days was Sigri’s fine broad, muscular butt in tight jeans twenty feet above me on the face of Cathedral Ledge. 

We’d been casual friends, members of a fluctuating group of dykes renting this very same farmhouse for a few weeks in the summer while we hiked and climbed, and again in the winter as a ski lodge. Both of us usually had a girlfriend in tow, but when it came to rock climbing, we trusted each other and no one else. Even on easy climbs with iron bolts not more than twenty-five feet apart, when you take the lead with a belaying rope and call "Watch me," you damned sure need to know that when your partner on the other end answers "Go for it, I've got you," she has absolutely got you, her end of the rope firmly anchored, and will hold on if your grip fails or a rock edge breaks away and you start to plummet down the unforgiving cliff face.

We’d only admitted to figuring in each other’s fantasies back then as mead companions, playing at being Viking warriors ravaging villages side by side as we bore off not-unwilling maidens. She still wore her yellow hair in that thick Viking braid down her back; I couldn’t tell in this unreliable light whether there were silver strands mixed in with the gold. My own dark cropped hair was still more pepper than salt, but not by much.

“Well, you’re here now, and I’m glad. No need to let that glitzy bitch spoil things.” She put away her tools and adjusted the damper on the furnace to let the fire die down. “Think we could make her sleep out here in the barn?”

“Not unless we made it seem like her own idea. Which isn’t impossible.”

“Never mind for now. Rif’ll show you your room, and once you’re settled in, we’ll eat dinner. She’ll have it the oven by now.”

“Rif sounds like a real treasure.” 

“More than I deserve, that’s for sure,” Sig muttered, almost too low for me to hear. She made for the door. I followed, admiring that rear view the way I used to when no one was looking. Just a bit broader now, but even more muscular since she’d turned to blacksmithing. The front view had been admirable, too, but harder to enjoy covertly. Back then butch buddies did not openly ogle each other’s chests, and things hadn’t changed in that department. I could tell now that it was still remarkable, even hidden behind the leather apron shielding her from any runaway sparks or splinters of metal. 

Snow was building up fast along the short path from the barn to the house, piling the existing banks along the sides even higher. Good thing we didn’t have to drive anywhere tonight. Maura had damned well better not make me wish we could get away. 

Dinner was maple bourbon-glazed salmon with hot cornbread, mushroom risotto, and tossed salad with pecans and dried cranberries. Perfection. Rif was perfection, too. Maybe too perfect. Her cooking was excellent, and her serving of it—well, let’s just say she epitomized service in more ways than one while managing to sit for long enough to eat her own food. Quiet, efficient, never speaking without being spoken to, anticipating our needs, all with downcast eyes, at least whenever I glanced at her. Just the same, I could feel her gaze on me from time to time, and I was pretty sure she was sizing up Maura, too.

Maura was sizing up Rif right back, maybe taking notes on how to appeal to Sigri. At least she was putting on a pretty good demure act. Sig and I were wallowing in nostalgia, swapping recollections of cliffs we’d climbed, mountains we’d summited, ice walls we’d conquered, and après-ski orgies we’d enjoyed the hell out of. 

Finally, when we were about done eating our desserts of individual pumpkin custards and sipping Rif’s excellent coffee, Sig turned to Maura like a good host. “How about you, Maura? Done any climbing?”

“Oh yes, I’ve been on some jaunts with Roby out in the Sierras.” She gave that trademark toss of her head that made strands of chestnut mane drift across one or another of her perfect breasts. Her navy silk shirt was conservative but clingy in all the right places. “You know how it is, though, hiking with somebody so much older, having to take things slower than you’d like.”

Sig shot me a “what the fuck!” look.

Okay, Maura was asking for it. I smiled, genuinely amused, but also irritated as hell. “Got a mouth on her, hasn’t she. Don’t worry. It’s just that insults are the best Maura can manage as foreplay.”

“So how does that work out for her?”

Maura’s glare in my direction was weakened by her belated realization that Sigri was just as old as I was.

“Depends on the circumstances. The last time she called me too old, she was already spread-eagled, tied to the four corners of a tent frame, and demanding to be gagged.”

Rif’s eyes flashed wide open for just a second. Sig nodded judiciously. “I can see getting a little something out of that.”

“What I got was a bent tent frame. What Maura got was my mark in a place even a bikini won’t reveal.”

Maura apparently decided to go with the flow. “Isn’t it cute,” she said with a sultry smile, “the way old folks’ memories get so fuzzy?”

Sigrid leaned forward and looked from Maura to me. “More foreplay?”

“Well, she seems to think so. It’d be cute if it weren’t so juvenile.”

Sig almost asked another question, thought better of it, pushed back her chair, and stood up. “Rif, how about you kids go take a walk while Roby and I have a nice chat about grown-up matters.”

“Is it still snowing?” But I knew perfectly well that it was. “They could just stroll around inside the barn, and Maura could decide which sharp-edged, long-toothed demon there she’d most like to fuck her in her dreams.”

Maura managed to stifle a smartass retort. Rif stifled a smile, then went to stand beside Sig with head meekly bent, speaking softly, before leading Maura away. Sigri and I moved into the cozy living room to sit by the fire and savor our after-dinner port, like any Old Country lords of the manor. Except that, instead of port, we savored excellent home-brewed mead a friend had given Sig and Rif at Christmas. 

While Sig bent to pour a little of the golden elixir into my genuine bull-horn cup set in its own wrought iron stand, I felt her closeness with a jolt that startled me. In the old days, no matter what girl I was with, if Sig was in the room, I was more aware of her than of anyone else. Comradeship, sure, but I couldn’t deny that there’d been an intensely sensual element as well. Now she was so close I could have reached out and touched her breast, guarded now only by flannel instead of leather.

That’s all you get for now. What, you thought you were going to get some really hot sex? It comes later, after Rif reports that she and Maura have fired up the sauna hut, and everybody gets naked and really, really hot. And then rolls in the snow. The complete story is in my collection Wild Rides from Dirt Road Books. If you ask me nicely, though, I might email you the whole story. Another story with the two main characters, “Bright Angel Falls,” is on my blog as the Charity Sunday entry titled “National Park Nostalgia” posted on July 26th, 2020. As a matter of fact there are a dozen or so Charity Sunday stories or excerpts posted on my blog, and even more of my stories, so if you want some free reading, there you go.

For another Charity Sunday blog, go over to Lisabet is the writer who established this tradition, and a varying number of others also contribute. Scroll down on Lisabet's post, and you'll see the link for another participant