February 1, 2015

For Opera Queens Who Have Considered Suicide: When a Phone Call is Enough – by Chuck Teixeira

 (c) Chuck Teixeira, 2014


This is Terence.  May I help you?

Wow, Tavis! Thanks for calling. Sorry about static on the line. What can I do for you?

Appear on your show again?  Never expected to be invited back. At least not this quickly.

I feel like a celebrity when you put it that way.

Yes, I’ll cull non-essentials from my calendar.

Come now!  What do you mean by urgent?

I’m glad to hear ratings went through the roof. But producers were in no danger of cancelling, were they? I must be careful about where I appear. I can’t risk my inchoate crossover appeal.

Like the Jessye Norman-Justin Timberlake duet?  I may have missed that one.

A show about opera trivia?  Sweet Cheeks, there is nothing trivial about opera.

Irreverent or irrelevant – which one?  Are you sure there’s an audience for either.

Did you say thinnest edge of interpretive ice?  I hope you didn’t say bitchiest.

Maybe start with Mimi in Boheme.  What can you expect when you fall for a tenor?

And why does she take so long to die?  Only a heart of stone could watch the death of Mimi without laughing.

No, not really mine, not really original.

Musetta’s prayer?  Comes down to “I’m garbage; Mimi’s a saint.” Even in her prayer, Musetta’s trash.  Lying to the Madonna about Mimi’s being a saint.  What was Mimi doing with the Viscount?  Did she leave voluntarily to freeze in the street?  Or did he toss out the ungrateful tart?

Yes, I know you also like dishing oligarchs and speaking truth to power, blah, blah, blah.  But getting back to Boheme, while Mimi slips away, so does the hall – decked as it is with ragged reprises.  And does anyone think for a moment that the doctor will arrive on time?  Doctors don’t do well in opera.  Or in most other places. Mentioning the profession is like telegraphing “TRAGEDY.” One shows up near the end of Traviata. Says he can’t help then hangs around to fatten his fee . . .

Madame Butterfly!  There’s a woman who knows how to exit!

No, she didn’t need a doctor in the versions I’ve seen; but, just between us, Baby Cakes, the last Met production could have used some help.

I’m not sure why it offends you.  I can promise it won’t happen again.  As long you keep your distance, Magnet Man!

Consult on a new series re-working Verdi heroines?  Off the top of my head, I’d suggest an episode merging Violetta and Gilda.  Consumption from a C-major curse. Paris courtesan found sacked in the Seine. Done in by own Dad instead of her boyfriend’s.  Who’s behind the series?

God, not Tyler.  I mean is he a eunuch or just a bottom?

Oops! The two of you an item?

Yes, probably, the only one who didn’t know.

Didn’t know that either.

Desdemona?  What’s his thing?  Will he cast you as the Moor?

I am not flattering you. I’ve heard you in the shower many wonderful mornings.

All right.  I know it’s over.

All right.  It never was.

Color-blind casting?  Jerry Hadley could have been great.

Star power?  Yes, very famous. Three Grammys – Susannah, Jenufa and some other famous cunt.

Not sure how to describe his sidelining.  Unhappy marriage? Unhappy divorce? Two plugs of the same rancid snuff.

No, Hon, he’s not available.

No, I don’t even know his agent.  But I know he’s not available.  He fired a bullet into his brains.  In his garage north of New York City.

Several years ago. Wasn’t it news in Los Angeles?

Yes, of course.  Pushed out of print by bigger items that day. Like a steam pipe blowing in Manhattan’s Diamond District. Or the plane wreck in Sao Paulo that left 200 dead.

A rumor that he had spent the previous night with me?  First I’ve heard it.  We weren’t that kind of close, alas.  Things might have been better.  For him and for all of opera.

But I made the news now, right?  Or at least got a few social media posts.  And you want me to do it again?  Down to specifics.

Sorry, those dates don’t work.

I can name the date?  Any date that’s good for me?  I’ll get back to you.  Right after I corner the future. Shouldn’t take too long in light of my recent television success.   I’m glad to share that with you.  Wish I could share other things too, Mr. Bun Mountain, Mr. Great Gobs of Glute.

Sorry. I promise it won’t happen again.


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Chuck Teixeira

Chuck Teixeira, a tax attorney in San Francisco, has published Sierra Showdown and Against Slander, two collections of short stories that have appeared in various magazines.  He has also collected his published poems under the title, High Summer in Endurance.  All three books are available on Amazon.com.   Chuck’s nonfiction has appeared in  professional publications of the Bureau of National Affairs, Thomson, Matthew Bender and the San Francisco and Los Angeles Daily Journals.


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January 25, 2015

Prom Dress – by David Dominé

(c) David Dominé, 2014

That night when I pulled into the gravel driveway, the moon hung low over the apple orchard. Remembering the smooth fabric of Anne Spicer’s dress, I loosened the velvet bow tie at my throat and took a ragged breath. The sting of peach schnapps lingering in the back of my throat, I saw him standing at the back door. But I lowered my head and went in anyway. The belt was lying in its usual spot on the dining room table. Nearby, crumpled up on the floor, lay one of Anne Spicer’s dresses. He must have found it under my bed. It was the one she forgot to take with her earlier that afternoon after we scrambled to put our clothes back on when my father’s car crept up the drive.

It was the last time my father beat me.

The next day, I caught the Greyhound headed north, the wheels of the bus grinding the asphalt beneath. Leaning into the coarse upholstery of the seat, I recalled the gleaming dance floor and the cool blue taffeta of Anne Spicer’s dress. She had pressed herself close and mouthed the words to “Forever Young” as my fingertips traced a bit of delicate lace accentuating her bare shoulders. A band of sequins ran above the contour of her full breasts. The sound of the road lulled me to sleep and I dreamed of silk and curves.

A day later, I arrived in the city and soon found a rundown apartment. My bedroom window looked out over an alley that smelled of egg rolls and shrimp fried rice, but it had curtains the color of the dress Anne Spicer wore to the junior prom. In the darkened room during that first week, I often thought about her gown and how it had caught the disco ball sparkle in its sheen. After I got settled in and found a job, I bought a second-hand sewing machine. By the end of the year I was wearing dresses of my own design.

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 David Dominé

David Dominé lives in Louisville, Kentucky, where he teaches foreign languages and translation at Bellarmine University. In addition to an MFA in Writing from Spalding University, he has an MA in Spanish Literature from the University of Louisville and an MA in German Literature from the University of California at Santa Barbara. He also completed studies in literary translation at the Karl-Franzens Universität in Graz, Austria. He has published numerous articles and non-fiction books with topics ranging from folklore and architecture to bourbon, travel memoirs and regional cooking. His stories and poems have appeared in journals such as the Wisconsin Review, Golden Walkman, The Bookends Review, and Danse Macabre. His current projects include the forthcoming novel Peter Paul’s Kitchen and a true-crime book about the 2009 murder of Jamie Carroll and the subsequent trials of alleged killers Jeffery Mundt and Joseph Banis. He is also co-founder and regular contributor to the blog Literary Labors (And the Occasional Cheese Dip). F

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January 10, 2015

Skin to Skin – By Drew Payne

(c) Drew Payne, December 2014.

Harry sat on one of the plastic chairs and waited; something he didn’t easily do. He repeatedly glanced over at the pharmacist, a man in his late thirties, standing behind a white counter, at the back of the pharmacy, as he filled out different prescriptions, but none of them looked like Harry’s.

Just when Harry began to think his prescription had been lost the pharmacist called out his name.

“Harry Wooldridge?” The man said in a heavy Cornish accent.

“That’s me,” Harry called back, crossing to the counter were the pharmacist stood.

He’d quickly confirmed his date of birth and address before the pharmacist handed him his medication, wrapped up in the white, paper bag.

“I haven’t dispensed Travada before,” the pharmacist said. “Of course, we’re one of the few pharmacies that does around here.”

“I know,” Harry replied, starting to feel embarrassed being confronted about the nature of his medication.

“You know what’s it’s for?” The pharmacist asked.

“Yes, thanks,” Harry quickly replied, as he pushed his medication into his backpack.

He threw his backpack onto his shoulder and hurried out of the pharmacy. He didn’t want to get into a conversation about his medication, he just wanted to collect it and go home.

Out on the street, Harry headed for his bus stop. The doctor who’d prescribed him the Travada, Dr Dave, had given him a list of pharmacies that would dispense it for him. From the list Harry had picked this one. It was just a bus ride from his home and yet far enough away that he was unlikely to run into anyone he knew. He didn’t want any awkward meetings as collecting his new medication.

Dr Dave had gone through a long assessment with him before he even considered Harry for Travada. Then came a lecture about how Harry would have to take it every day, at the same time, and not stop for it to work. Harry didn’t consider this hard, the women at work took their contraceptive pills mostly without problem, he could do it too. Finally Dr Dave talked about the drugs side-effects, but this hadn’t worried Harry. Side-effects were rare and he was sure they wouldn’t affect him. At the end of the consultation he was finally given his prescription for Travada.

When his bus arrived Harry climbed onboard, taking a seat on the upper deck.

Steve was the most important person in his life, their relationship was the world to him, but even after five years together there was still one thing that soured what should have been a close and perfect relationship. Steve was HIV positive while and Harry was negative. At first it didn’t matter to Harry, Steve was healthy and their relationship was new.

After five years together and they were still using condoms, Harry found this deeply frustrating. Steve’s health was good as ever and now they were close, they had even started discussing getting married, but there was still that one thing that separated them. When Steve fucked him there was always that barrier of latex between them, and afterwards Steve couldn’t just stay inside of him. It didn’t seem to bother Steve, it did Harry.

He never told Steve, but it deeply bothered him that they couldn’t be physically close when they made love. Then he heard about PrEP. He knew it was out there as an emergency for when a condom broke but when he heard that it was now being used in negative men as a drug to be taken prophylactically to prevent any HIV infection, especially men like him whose partner was positive. It was the answer he always wanted; he and Steve could finally stop using condoms and be really close when they made love.

It had taken him so long to find a clinic that would prescribe Travada and nearly as long to get an appointment there, the wait being the worst. He hadn’t told Steve, it was going to be his surprise. And now he finally had his first course of PrEP and he could start taking it today.

He planned telling Steve over a special meal, but his bus had got stuck in road works and he arrived home late. He’d thrown his box of Travada on the kitchen worktop and had hurriedly started preparing their meal.

He was still busy with the preparations when Steve arrived home from work.

Steve walked into the kitchen and kissed Harry on the back of the head, before stopping and saying:

“What’s this?”

Harry glanced over his shoulder and saw Steve holding the box of Travada tablets.

“They’re Travada, PrEP tablets,” Harry said as he turned to face Steve.

“I know what Travada is, what’s it doing here?”

“It’s mine,” Harry replied. “Once I start taking them properly then we can stop using condoms.”

“No,” Steve snapped back.

“But we can stop using condoms and still be safe. We can finally be really close together when we make love. I’ve always wanted that,” Harry said. It wasn’t how he’d planned to tell Steve but he couldn’t keep it to himself now.

“No!” Steve again snapped.

“What?” Harry said; this wasn’t how he’d imagined Steve’s reaction.

“We’re never stopping using condoms,” Steve replied, anger hard is his voice.

“But I’ve got PrEP now.”

“I’m the positive one and it’s my job to keep you safe, so we’re using condoms.”

Harry stared back at him, his mouth open in surprise, all the arguments in his head forgotten in the face of Steve’s anger.




Drew Payne 

  • I have had stories published in the anthologies, The Monster in My Closet (Sullivan Publishing House), Image Out Write 2012, Eros at Large (Paradise Press), Boys in Bed and Finished by Hand (Both Xcite Books). My essay, More Then Just Making Beds and Emptying Bedpans, was published in the 2010 anthology Nurses on the Run. I have had short stories published in the magazines Chroma, ScotsGay, Creative Week, ‘Indie Scene’andGazebo Magazine; and on the websites Gay Flash Fiction, Velvet Mafia, Thick Jam, 1000 Words and The New Flash. I am also a regular contributor to FS Magazine, a National Men’s Health magazine, NRC, Nursing Times and Nursing Standard, Britain’s leading nursing publications, and for the Nursing Standard I have three times been a guest editor. Sketches I’ve written have been performed in the Treason Show, the Brighton based satirical review show, and the London based Newsrevue, the world’s longest running live comedy show.

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