I almost missed seeing Dot huddled by the tent ropes at the entrance. She stood as she saw me. “Dot, don’t leave like that.” “I was scared.” Dot’s wail outdid the crowd’s roar behind us. Baby Jesus. I missed whatever they were cheering for. “C’mon.” Why did I have to take care of her? Why me? Dot let me take hold of her hand. Stammer paused as if deciding to go back in or stay. I was grateful when he started walking with us through the crowd. “Let’s go home, Elly.” “Not yet.” I was mad, and I wasn’t finished with the circus. Stammer said nothing. He just let us play ourselves out. “We’re not supposed to be here.” Dot dug her heels in. “If you won’t take me home, I’ll find someone who will.” I had to stop walking. It was that or drag her. Circuses are supposed to be fun. They only come once in a long while. Can you blame me for wanting fun? “Look. I’m staying. You can go if you want.” I let go of Dot’s hand. Dot stuck her lip out and tucked her arms under her pits. “I’m gonna tell.” It was the last straw. I looked for escape. We were beside the Fun House wagon. Billy Harner stood at the door, calling to the crowd. He caught my eye and winked. “I’m going there.” I pointed at Billy’s wagon. Dot said nothing. Stammer made a face. “You n-need money for that.” I didn’t think so. Not with the way Billy started calling me. “Hey, Sweets. Come inside the Fun House.” Billy smiled his dark teeth as I approached. I should have taken Dot to see the birds. She would have liked that. Then we could have gone home. “You like fun?” Billy waggled his eyebrows as he pointed to the wagon. “Sure I do. As much as the next person.” I felt all adult-like to be talking back to him that way. “Well, then. Go have some.” Billy leaned up and opened the door. I climbed the few wooden steps to peek inside. I could feel Billy close behind me. “You going or not? I got customers, y’know.” Billy’s breath came hot on my neck. I stepped into the dark. A mirror reflected both my distorted form and the outdoor light. My heart started racing, beating a staccato rhythm that had nothing to do with fun. Billy stepped in too, and closed the door behind us. I could feel his hands on my hips. “Boo.” Billy gave me a pinch. I screamed full throat. My feet kicked out and my fists went flying. Only twice did I connect with Billy. Most of my fury was spent on the mirrors surrounding me, reflecting me. Billy grabbed me and wrapped his arms tight around my own. I couldn’t move. I didn’t want to breathe for the smell of him. Hot wet tobacco grease-gobbed full and mean. Hard lips and face bristle. A tongue deep inside that I tried to bite. My first kiss. Somehow I connected with the soft part of him, and he let go with a groan. He still blocked the door, though. I ran the other way, banging into walls and mute-faced mannequins. Fun. I found a door somewhere as I heard my name called out. “Elly!” Stammer had followed me into the Fun House. Billy was silent but I knew he was still there, too. I’d let them work it out between them. I slipped out this back door. You don’t know what you’ll see when you come out from danger. It may be safety. It may be more danger. It may have nothing to do with you at all. I saw Mr. Oswin pushed against the back of the wagon, and Samson the Strongman leaning against him. They shared a kiss that looked much better than what I’d come from. They looked like they enjoyed it. I just stood there, wanting to cry my fear out, but more afraid of them noticing me. Mr. Oswin saw me first out of the corner of his eye, and broke away from their kiss. He flushed again, like he did when Samson ribbed him about having kids. Samson just straightened his costume and crossed his arms. I wish I’d been kissed like that, by either one of them. Now that I’d seen it, though, I chose to ignore it. I had bigger worries, like saving Stammer behind me. “Stani’s in there.” I pointed to the door I just came from. Mr. Oswin quivered, like some shock had worn off. “What?” “Stani’s still in there. With a man.” I felt silly saying it, having just seen them kiss each other. “A bad man. Billy Harner.” Both men shared a look, then stepped up to the backdoor. “Stanislaw? Are you in there?” Mr. Oswin peered in to the dark. “I’m h-here.” Stammer appeared alone. “Where’s Billy Harner?” The anger in Mr. Oswin’s voice surprised me. “I d-don’t know. I d-d-didn’t see him.” Samson laid a hand on Mr. Oswin’s shoulder. “Best let me do it. You know these little ones better.” He entered the wagon and was gone. I’ll admit, I didn’t think of her first. “D-Dot.” Stammer stammered. I stared a moment, still caught up in my own drama. “Dot.” Stammer repeated. “Where is she?” A cold flush swept the heat outta my chest. She had to be where we left her, crying. Mad. Mr. Oswin trailed us as we went round to the wagon’s front. People of all sorts walked by. Some stopped and looked at the Fun House. Billy Harner was on the stairs in front again, calling to the crowd. Samson came out the Funhouse door and spoke with Billy, who smirked and shook his head. Dot was nowhere to be found. “Dot.” I called and started pacing. “Dot!” I got louder and more frantic. Dodderdoo. Dot didn’t answer.
Dumb. Just. Dumb. Seeking sanctuary in the kitchen instead of locking myself in the bathroom, I realized my mistake too late. From the very instant he touched me, the ground gave way beneath me and I was falling harder than before, my libido short-circuiting my brain. But the dumbest thing by far was going off-script and negating every good intention I had to play it cool. Say my peace, leave the room and zip it; but do not, repeat do not, ever try to have the last word with a man like Rourke ‘The Rat’ Simmons’. No sooner had I formed those thoughts when he strolled into the kitchen and proved me right. “You want to run that by me again?” “Which part?” “The part about loving me.” Flustered by his nearness, I’d have sooner taken a bullet than let him see me squirm, so I did what any self-respecting woman would do when she’s caught with her proverbial panties down. I hit him with the smile of death. “You’re hearing things, a condition not uncommon in men of your advanced age. It has something to do with an excess of arrogance. You might want to have that checked out.” He did have a nice laugh. For a rat. Stepping up behind me, he swept my hair aside and brushed his lips against my neck. “I’d rather check you out. Put your hands on the counter top.” The husky timbre of his voice was the final irony, the voice I most wanted to hear, yet feared. The voice I’d conjured in my daydreams more times than I could count. Knowing I should run, the feel of his hard body at my back, his lips warm and firm against my skin, sent my hormones into hyper-drive, and like a fool I did as he asked. “Now what?” “Now this,” he whispered as he eased a hand beneath my top while the other inched inside my shorts. Rasping an eager nipple, he slid one long finger between my slick nether lips and took me to a place I’d only fantasized about. The pressure building, my breath came out in gasps, eight years of heartache dissolving in a hunger only he could sate. “Please.” “Good girl.” Good girl. Two silly words and I imploded, all my nerve-endings set ablaze. So different from the brusque man I remembered, he held me as I spiraled out of control; and even through the aftershocks, he was there. It ended when my sanity returned and with it my resolve. What I failed to consider was his vast experience with women, his ability to read my body language and post-orgasmic paranoia for what it was: mind-numbing terror that when this was over, I’d be left in ruins. “Look at me.” Turning me to face him, he cupped my face, but where I expected to see a self-satisfied grin, I saw a man in turmoil. “You were right. I came here prepared to do whatever it took to keep you from that damn press conference and TV show. What I didn’t count on was…” Rarely at a loss for words, he surprised me with his hesitation, the way he stared at me. Hardly longer than a few seconds, it was time enough to plant a seed of hope. “Was what?” “You. I didn’t count on you.” He took my lips in a frenzy of carnal need, and I matched it with my own. Drowning in sensation, I loved his taste, his touch, the way we fit together, an intoxicating fusion of the foreign and familiar. Long after it was over, he was still leaving a trail of tiny kisses on my eyes, my cheeks and even in my hair; and all the while a million questions rattled around inside my head, but the only one that mattered was the one I wouldn’t ask. Would I ever occupy a small place in his heart?
Trump was one of my late sorta-step-father’s heroes. And “The Plaza,” as he called the Atlantic City casino, was one of his favorite places to be. I’d hear him on the phone with friends at the start of every month, making plans to gamble all his pension money away.
Often, I’d get angry, turn obnoxious. I was a teenager. I’d call the casino a shit hole, call Donald Trump a stupid sham, a scamming criminal prick.
And my late stepfather always defended him, and always with the same tired point so many threw in my face during the election of 2016.
“If Trump is so freakin’ stupid,” he would ask, “then why’s he so god damn rich?”
I'm gifting books this weekend at Moran Press. The only thing needed to qualify is subscribe to Moran Press. You can do that HERE.
Now for the important part - what you can win!
I'll be giving away e-books of Moran Press titles all weekend. In addition, I have copies of paperbacks from Moran Press I can't sell - promotional copies, copies that were slightly misprinted that are readable, but not perfect so can't be sold. I'll give out a handful of these books this weekend.
I'll pull names from the subscription list. No purchase necessary.
However, if you do purchase a book in the Moran Press Marketplace, you'll automatically win a free book.
Good luck to all and sign up to qualify for the giveaway.
Gritty and rather good, 2 Mar. 2017 By G H Neale Verified Purchase
This review is from: The Mourning After (Kindle Edition)
‘The Mourning After’ is an angst-ridden tale; one which we sense, primarily, serves as a cathartic release for the author. We read of his childhood, youthful years and eventually maturity, where he gains successful employment as a lecturer in English Literature. Throughout, there is a ribbon of despair that seems to dominate his direction rather than bless it with decoration. That ribbon is his father, a man psychologically broken by his involvement in the Vietnam War, a man who takes out with cruel enmity, his rage and his inbred violence upon the author’s family.
So what can we enjoy here: the stark language, the brutality? Well, possibly not. What remains important is possibly summarised at the end where Bivona criticises warfare, all warfare; and this is of course quite valid. This is what is being said. To quote: “Like I said, it’s a tragedy. And it’s not fair.”
The novella is punctuated with epigrammatic poems which offer both a relief to the harrowing short chapters and an embellishment of the overall theme. Out of a giant block of hardened stone these are little niches the author has carved for our assistance. These work well.
But it does not look forward to a hopeful future. It merely states, in a journalistic way, how homelife was for one man at one time. “This was how it was for me,” it seems to say. Whilst I had a fairly easy upbringing it is only through reading material like this that I gain an understanding of ghosts and devils that others need to purge. Yes, there is a sense of exorcism in this and it remains unclear as to whether the author does actually make it ‘to the other side’. I liked this lack of conclusion. However conjoined with this theme ‘The Mourning After’ is also Bivona’s peon to his father. He knows that what he does is not his fault. This novella is also an apology to him.
There are some typographical errors and peculiarities of design, organisation and layout, which initially seem to jar, and yet these asperities of form, in a strange way, re-enforce the roughness of bitter frustration. The book is made all the better for these, not worse. Note what I said about the roughness of form earlier.
So, grit your teeth and buy this. It is not a happy tale but it is about as real as it gets, sadly for some only too real.
BOOK OF BIRDS REACHES THE TOP FIVE WINNIPEG BESTSELLERS LIST
Congratulations to L. M. Bryski for making the Winnipeg Best Sellers list - reaching the top five in paperback fiction sales. Here's to continuing success. Readers can purchase a copy via the buttons in this post or click the image of the bestsellers list to get a paperback in the Moran Press marketplace.