Tis A Far, Far Better Thing

A LOVE STORY FOR THE 21ST CENTURY. THIS IS RATED X FOR LOTS OF SEX, VIOLENCE, LOTS OF POLITICS RANGING FROM OBAMA TO A TRUE FREEMARKET CONSERVATIVE. IF THIS EXCERPT GRABS YOU, THE NOVEL WILL BE OUT ON AMAZON AND SMASHWORDS IN JULY. SEND ME YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS AND I’LL FOLLOW UP WITH MY NEWSLETTER, BARGAINS AND A FEW TREATS.

TIS A FAR, FAR BETTER THING

 

 

            Whoever  came up with that ‘tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all’ line was full of crap. Having surgery for a failing heart is better than dying for lack of the surgery. When you’re lost in the woods and have an arm turning black, it’s better to cut the sucker off than to die alone.  If you hear your child crying for help in the middle of a roaring house fire,  watching your skin turn crispy isn’t that bad a deal if you can rescue them to live beyond you.

            But loving, truly loving and losing the one you love for no good reason you will ever understand serves no purpose  at all. No Good purpose. It does provide a learning experience, but unfortunately, the lesson you learn is never worth what it costs you.

            For myself, I’d much rather have skipped the enlightenment, but I wasn’t given that option.

            It all started years ago in the middle of a wild bar room brawl. Not my usual scene. Bars, I’m familiar with, but bar room brawls complete with flying beer bottles and hurtling chairs and overturned tables and screaming women and angry men engaged in a violent ballet are not what I expected when I walked into a big bar called O’Brien’s on Jacksonville’s Westside.

            It was a Friday night and a couple of friends had invited me out for drinks.  I’d been out of town for a month, which wasn’t too unusual for me and the few friends I’d kept from high school tried to stay connected.

 

ME AND MY PALS

 

            Gary Wells was an emergency room physician at University Shands for nearly 10 years and he could long ago have moved into private practice and doubled his income. But he said he loved the chaos, the insanity, the challenge and the chance once in a while to change lives. I was glad to see him smiling and joking.

            There was a time around the turn of the century when I thought I‘d never see him smile again.   Kevin Butler and I had done our best to keep taking him out and getting him drunk. We’d managed to get him laid from time to time. I have a fair amount of money, I’m not too bad looking and I had a fat little black book.

            Kevin was married, but he wasn’t bad looking and he worked in television advertising which meant he met a lot of attractive, moving up and free-thinking females and he’d kept a lot of the numbers, although I was pretty sure he hadn’t been calling anyone. Guys talk.

            Anyway, for a couple of years we had worried about Gary. It helped that a prosecutor named Maitland had sent the three dirt bags who’d kidnapped, raped and murdered his wife to Death Row in Raiford. Of course, they probably would have lived out their lives in reasonable comfort because even in Florida few scumbags are executed – ever.

            But within a year, one of them had suffered a shank to the eye and the impromptu brain surgery left him a vegetable for the four days he lingered.

 

            The second scumbag was a big tough guy and made it a point to beat the crap out of a few gang leaders to make the point that it would be a bad idea to mess with him. They found him in a laundry room with the sharpened end of a broom handle shoved up his anus so far the sharpened end came out through his throat.

            The third scumbag’s body was found on his bunk in solitary with his detached head shoved down into a toilet.

            Maitland always insisted that he had nothing to do with  their fates, but Gary said there were a lot of people in Raiford and on the outside that despite being on opposite sides with Maitland liked and respected him. All he would have to do was utter a word, but he swore he never had.

            In any case, Gary seemed to recover his peace of mind and it didn’t surprise his friends that within a year he had met Gloriana, a single mother nurse with two small children. And he started smiling again. And he was married after a  respectable period of mourning.

            Kevin had been a happy go lucky bachelor until he’d been caught in the honey trap and wound up marrying a young cutie, Amy. He’d lost her for a time and went through his own dark period, including being suspected by police of having killed her and disposed of her body. But he came out the other side with two daughters and a teenage stepson

            So I was the remaining champion of bachelor-hood. I had just come back into town after a few months cleaning up a failing small grocery chain that had just been swallowed up by a bigger grocery chain. I was the Clean-Up Man. I fired people, demoted people, promoted people, closed beloved community icons that been serving their communities for generations, but which had been bleeding money for the last decade. I was very good at winnowing out the chaff and dead weight and leaving leaner, more profitable companies in my wake.

 

 

DEFLOWERING MAIDENS AND OTHER FUN STORIES

 

            So they swapped married stories and pumped me for details of the wild hedonistic life style I enjoyed.

            “So how many maidens did you deflower on this tour of duty, Gregg?”

            “Oddly enough, not a single one, you perverted bastards. You’re both getting some every night – I hope – and you get off on stories of my sexual exploits? You must lead very dull lives in the bedroom.”

            Kevin grinned and said, “Sometimes I pretend to be you and Amy pretends to be your latest seduction target. Spices up our game playing.”

            “You are one sick, twisted bastard, “  Gary and I said in unison.

            “I still have someone to go home to every night.  So does Gary.  What’s  the longest you’ve ever been with anyone?”

            I pretended to think real hard.

            “A month..no, two months, wait, there was Amelia. I think we were together three months.”

            Gary took a swig of his beer and said, “I’m torn between being envious as hell, and feeling sorry for you.”

            “Sorry for me? I could have three women a night if I hit the right trifecta.  You two wake up beside the same woman every night. FOR. THE.REST.OF.YOUR. LIVES. And you’re sorry for me?”

            “You’ve never been in love, Gregg, have you?”

            “You mean, have I ever temporarily lost my mind due to a biochemical, hormonal accident? Actually no.”

            “That explains a lot,” said Gary.

“Such as?”

“The fact that you go through women like Kleenex, the fact that they’re pretty much all interchangeable, the fact that you’re so oblivious that you never tumble to the fact that they’re cheating on you until you walk in on them fucking a guy …or in the case of Amelia, two girls. I guess it’s good you don’t have a jealous bone in your body. But don’t you EVER get suspicious when you can’t find the love of your life over a weekend, or a strange male voice answers their cell phone? Or guys call your phone and hang up?”

“Why should I? I’m straight with all of them. I’m not promising them anything except a good time when we’re together. They all know they can walk away anytime they want. “   

            Kevin just shook his head.

            “It’s a good thing that you’ve got a ton of money and are good looking to boot. With that going for you, you don’t need brains and you still get the women.”

            “But,” Gary said, “ you’re hitting 30. You’ve got a sweet life now, but someday it’s going to come back to bite you?”

           

THEY WERE PROBABLY LESBIANS

 

I listened with half of my mind on what he was saying. The other half was focused on three women at one of the  pool tables. One was a lean, trim athletic type in jeans. Her friends, who were shorter and rounder, wore  tops for various football teams and tennis shoes. They were drinking beer out of the bottle, laughing at each other’s jokes, and gently but firmly declining a lot of offers for free drinks or new players at the table.

            The tall one was wearing a Florida Gators team shirt and my eyes kept drifting back to her. She had a little up top, but breasts had never been my main turn on. On the other hand, when she leaned over to make a shot, she displayed an ass in those tight jeans that should have made me want to howl like a lovesick coyote.

            Gary noticed where I was staring.

            “They’re probably lesbians.”

            “I hope not. It would be a tremendous waste.”

            “Anyway,” Gary said, “before you got distracted I was going to lay some wisdom on you.”

            “I can always use more wisdom,” I said, but I kept my eyes on UF’s ass as it worked its way around the table.

            “I worry about you, Gregg. We’ve known each other a long time and Kevin and I have gone through our heartbreaks. We’ve both been dumped and hurt, picked ourselves up and went on. But you…It’s like getting mumps or measles or chicken pox when you’re a kid. You get it and get over it. But you catch any of those as an adult, it can be bad. It can kill you.”

            “So you are worried that I’ll die of a broken heart?”

            “Don’t be a drama queen. I’m just saying it’s not normal to get into your 30s and NEVER have had any kind of emotional entanglement, Even guys that play the field start thinking of family and permanence and kids when they hit their 30s. We’re both afraid you’re going to get your heart broken somewhere and we won’t be able to help you pick up the pieces. Or, that you’ll fall for the wrong woman and having your heart broken will not be nearly as bad as getting snared in a really bad marriage.”

            “I am touched,” I said, still concentrating  more on the UF ass than his words.  She had leaned back from the table which made it possible to tell that while they weren’t big, she definitely was not flat chested. Her hair was a shade between red and brown that’s beautiful but hard to put into words. It was cut into a kind of shag that didn’t quite make it down to her shoulders.

            She was rubbing full lips when she turned her head to look back toward the bar. Our eyes locked for an instant. She was surprised but her gaze lingered an instant longer than necessary before she looked back at the table.

            She wasn’t conventionally beautiful. Her nose had a bump in it that looked like it had been broken once and her face was a little too thin for those lips. But I couldn’t take my eyes off of her. She talked to one of her friends and they both looked back at me. I was still staring at her. I smiled. She started to smile when her friend spun her back to the table.

            Gary had followed my eyes.

            “Really. I thought this was a guy’s night out.”

            Kevin  added, “and there are three of them. Two of us are out of action.”

            ‘It’d be a challenge, but I think I could handle it.”

            “Dreamer.”

            “Optimist, ” I replied with a grin. I really hadn’t been planning on trolling but suddenly it seemed like a good idea. And these assholes had dumped me and each other growing up for one girl or another.

 

IT WAS A NICE NIGHT UNTIL THE RIOT  BROKE  OUT

 

            That’s when the riot broke out.

            We heard the screams first and the pool playing girls looked over to the far end of the area of the tables. A dark haired guy was beating the crap of a dirtbag while around him bottles were flying, fists were flying, chairs were being knocked over. Without thinking I moved toward the table where the girls had gathered together protectively, holding their pool cues out.

            Before I made it to their table, two large men locked in a whirling death embrace hit the group like a pair of bears hurtling through a flock of chickens, or more precisely a bevy of long necked swans.

            The girls went in all directions, UF straight backwards at  me. I tried to catch her but she hit me too hard and I wasn’t set for her. I want stumbling backward and fall on my back with her on top. She rolled almost as soon as we hit the floor and  went up on her knees looking down at me.

            “What –“

            “Sorry, but I figured you’d rather land on me than on the floor.”

            “Ugh – thanks. Does this kind of thing happen often?”

            “You’re not a regular visitor.”

“I’ve been in here a couple of times, but it’s been a while. Never anything like this.”

“Well-“

“Sarah!”

She screamed and that scream bought my gaze up to see one of the girls who had apparently broken a cue stick over one of the brawlers’  back grabbed by the hair and a big fist poised to do some severe damage to her dentures.

I hit him low and took his feet out from under him, sending UF’s friend sprawling out of the danger zone. He rolled away from me and pushed himself to his feet. He probably had reason to be pissed. One eye was swollen almost shut, his face was already swollen and bleeding and he was snorting like a bull about to charge.

 

IS THAT ALL YOU GOT?

 

          I placed my hands out toward him, palms out, and started to try to calm him down, say something about the girls   weren’t fair game when guys got rolling, He brought a big fist up and toward my face and hit me with enough force to take me off my feet. He grinned and started toward Sarah who was scrambling to get away.

“Is that all you got, asshole.”

He stopped in midstride and looked back at me in disbelief as I got my feet under me, rubbed my chin and said, “Not as easy beating up on grown men, is it pussy? I’ve had girls hit me a lot harder. Let’s see how you like it.”         

Of course, he was at a little disadvantage because he didn’t know that I had a chin that one boxing coach in college had called pure concrete. Some guys have what’s called a glass jaw and you know what that is. I had guys who were known as knockout specialists and nobody ever put me down. Or out.

“Get the fuck out of here, dimwit, or I am going to hurt you. Bad.”

I had surprised him and I really thought he might get out of there. Instead he came in with a straight left and my face exploded. The force of the blow knocked me flat on my ass. I couldn’t breathe for a moment through a ruined nose.

In case of confusion, I have a concrete  jaw. The rest of me is all too human,  which is why I took up ballroom dancing instead of boxing as a less painful means of conditioning.

Despite the fact that I was having to gasp for air through my mouth and tears poured out of my eyes and blood ran down into my mouth, this stupid woman-beating Neanderthal was not going to put me down, especially in front of UF with the great ass.

I would have hurt him except that he kicked a field goal using my stomach and sent me rolling backwards. Despite the fact that I couldn’t breathe, I stopped my roll and rose to my hands and knees. Whereupon he buried the toe of his country shit-kicking boots so far up in my groin I said a silent instinctive prayer that he hadn’t reduced my dick and balls to a sticky paste.

UF and her two friends had balls- no pun intended as they cracked another pool cue across his back and when that failed they turns jumping on his back and trying to pull his hair out or gouge out his eyes. Unfortunately, maddened femininity was no match for his bull-like rage and he tossed them in all directions and went back to stomping on my ribs.

“Hey.”

 

ALL FOR ONE

 

He turned his attention from reducing me to a red spot on the floor to look backwards and all I caught was a colored blur that sent him  staggering and then dropping to the floor. I looked up to see  Gary tossing a red cue ball up and down and then dropping it on the floor.

 He held his hand open and said, “You know I can’t afford to damage these.  Besides, I hit him just hard enough to stun him. But Kevin, now…”

I raised my head just high enough to see Kevin straddling the Neanderthal and pounding him, because he didn’t need to worry about saving his hands. After a moment, Gary grabbed Kevin by the shoulders and pulled him off, saying, “come on, man, don’t kill him. He’s not worth it.”

I noticed UF and her friends looking down at me and tried to say something cool, but I started throwing up instead.

We all heard sirens at the same time as combatants began to scramble to get out before the cops arrived.  Gary looked  up toward the main combat area and said, “Jesus Christ. Look at that.”

Between  hurling, bleeding, gasping, I managed to glance up and saw something most people will probably never see. A tall, dark haired guy who had been beating the crap out of the redneck had locked up with something that was probably human, or a humanoid gorilla a good eight feet tall – actually probably six ten or so – and was pushing him backward until the pair hit the glass front of the bar and the glass exploded in all directions. It sounded like a bomb.

The sirens were here, UF and her two friends looked to the front and UF said, “let’s get out of here. I have places to go and I don’t feel like trying to bond out of jail.”

She looked down at me, puking, bleeding and gasping, and said, “Wish we had more time. Later.”

Gary reached down to help me up and said, “Ditto, Gregg, let’s get the hell out of here.”

It was a struggle but Gary and Kevin helped me to my feet. It seemed the longer it took us to get to the front of the crowd, the harder it got to breathe. The first incoming wave of cops stopped us, but Gary had his wallet out.

“I’m an ER physician, Sergeant Hastings,” Gary said. The two men knew each other. “We were in here having a drink when the riot broke out.  My friend went to the aid of three women being attacked and got the hell kicked out of him. He’s having trouble breathing, which leads me to believe he has a rib or two puncturing his lungs. We really don’t have the time to waste talking to investigators and we didn’t see anything except flying bottles and fists.”

He took one look at me and motioned to the uniformed cops coming in.

“He’s a doctor and he’s got a seriously injured man. Let him through.”

I stayed mostly conscious on the 30 minute drive to Shands/University on Eighth Street. When I got in there were snapshots of gurneys and nurses pushing me  into a cubicle, tests and trips to rooms where people took what were apparently x-rays and and lots and lots of needles draining my precious bodily fluids.

I would have sworn I couldn’t possibly fall asleep, but at some point I must have. Gary was gently shaking me and Kevin stood beside him.

“Gregg, Gregg? You with us?”

“Yeah. What’s…happening.”

“We’re prepping you for surgery. You have a punctured lung, three cracked ribs and a spleen that’s been lacerated and needs to be removed…..immediately. And, we’re going to have to rebuild that pitiful excuse for a nose

“See what kind of trouble a pretty face can get you into?” Kevin said.

“If I could move I’d get up and kick your ass across this room.”

“By the time you wake up you’ll have forgotten all about that.”

I didn’t forget but by the time they released me from the hospital three days later I was too grateful to be pissed. My two friends, neither of whom are bar room brawlers, had waded in to save my ass after I’d gotten myself royally stomped trying to impress a pretty face.

Who had vanished without another word after her final good bye.

“I didn’t recognize any of them and I’ve talked to some people I know who were there that night, and nobody else can ID them,” Kevin said.  “I even talked to the bar owner, O’Brien, who might have recognized them if they were regulars and he said he thought it was the first time they’d ever been in there.”

I was lying on a couch in Gary’s den where he and his wife were letting me crash for a couple of days until I was completely back on my feet. Kevin and his wife, Amy, were in the den with us while their children and Gary’s children were in a bedroom watching television.

“It’s okay. I was just curious.  It really doesn’t matter who they were.  The one with the UF shirt had a great ass, but there are a lot of great asses out there in the wide world.  If I’d had time to think about it, I probably could have saved myself a lot of pain, but I probably would have dived in there anyway. I wasn’t raised to let guys pound on women and not do anything about it.”

All things considered, I’d come out of it fairly lightly. Of course, I’d have to live without a spleen which meant I’d have to be careful of things like pneumonia and other serious illnesses since they could be dangerous without the spleen. But at least, I didn’t have to take antibiotics every day of my life like children who lose a spleen are forced to do. I’d just have to be careful.

Both the wives gave me somewhat reproachful glances when I talked about UF’s fantastic ass, but just shook their head.  I might have been a boor, but I was their husbands’ boor and they both realized how we all felt about each other.

“Anyway, it was a brave thing to do, “ Mrs. Wells, Gloriana, said.

“That’s our knight errant. Always charging to the rescue of maidens with cute asses,” said Kevin.

“Well, if you have to charge to the rescue of maidens in distress, having a cute ass is one of the better reasons.”

THERE ARE 100,000 MORE WORDS OF THIS, ACTION, ADVENTURE, TRUE LOVE, INTERNATIONAL INTRIGUE, STARTLING TWISTS AND AN ENDING YOU RE  !NOT! GOING TO SEE HAPPEN.

 

 

 

TIS A FAR, FAR BETTER THING

 

 

            Whoever  came up with that ‘tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all’ line was full of crap. Having surgery for a failing heart is better than dying for lack of the surgery. When you’re lost in the woods and have an arm turning black, it’s better to cut the sucker off than to die alone.  If you hear your child crying for help in the middle of a roaring house fire,  watching your skin turn crispy isn’t that bad a deal if you can rescue them to live beyond you.

            But loving, truly loving and losing the one you love for no good reason you will ever understand serves no purpose  at all. No Good purpose. It does provide a learning experience, but unfortunately, the lesson you learn is never worth what it costs you.

            For myself, I’d much rather have skipped the enlightenment, but I wasn’t given that option.

THE OPENING PARAGRAPHS OF A NEW NOVEL OF LOVE AND LOSS

THE POWER OF ONE

As most readers of this website are aware,my writing under Daniel Quentin Steele is very mainstream and sexual. Under WE Marden or William Marden I write fantasy, science fiction and horror. The following is part of an extensive epic fantasy involving a 17-year-old girl battling a bloodthirsty gang of mercenaries and mages. “The Power of One” is more than a title.

 

THE POWER OF ONE

 

 

 

 

      Yssela was fingering a clump of tart onyons, shaking the dirt  that clung to their roots, pondering how far down she could haggle the price when she heard the sobs of a child and harsh panting.

     The gold-skinned Messavi maiden tried to keep her mind on purchasing food stuffs and vegetables for the next several days’ meals at her father’s inn.

     But a child’s scream, the thud of fists against flesh, and the sudden silence that settled over the small alley near the produce stalls of what was called the Farmer’s Quarters sent Yssela running instinctively toward the alley.

     As she entered the dim, dreamlike shade of the alley, the sunlight shrouded by numerous tents, awnings, clothing stretched out to dry on lines between windows, and the like, she knew her father and brothers would give her a tongue lashing for her

stupidity had they seen her action.

     How many times had they drilled the first law of Messavi survival in the matchless continent-spanning city of Zymmerys, or anywhere else for that matter, into her head.

     “Don’t get involved,” her father had told her since she was old enough to sit on his knee at the downstairs window looking out on the busy thoroughfare that ran past The Sword and Crown, her family’s inn.

     “You see these people going up and down the street,” he had told her. “Most of them are friendly, some are trustworthy, some are valued allies. But they are not Messavi. You have only one loyalty, daughter, and that is to your family, your Inn, and beyond

that to the Messavi people. You must be a good citizen of Zymmerys since we live under its Emperor’s laws, but do not become involved in the affairs of its people.”

     And now she had done just that.  Her gleaming, pearl-handled Messavi blades appeared as if by magic in her hands.  A dozen paces down the alley, no more than eight ells, two men held a held a struggling boy while two others gripped a slender female form, one roughly squeezing her breasts while the other tried to force her

legs apart to rape her standing up in the alley.

     A fifth man stood apart, saying, “Buldrys, Austur, you are insane. The Blindman has said she must be delivered intact, along with the brat. If you rape her, Gulleman or that bitch Lystina will have your balls.”

      “Go plug a hole in the wall, you simpering mongrel,” the man trying to rape the woman said. “The Blindman, for all his damned airs, is not some sorcerer, he’s just a garden variety mage. And that big black bastard Gulleman or Lystina don’t scare me. We’re together in this mission, they’re not our lords. I say we’ve worked damned hard to track this bitch down, and I’m going to have some fun before I turn her over to the Blindman.”

     Yssela stood frozen for the smallest fraction of a moment, her eyes locked on those of the woman who had turned her bloody face to the alley’s entrance. Ysella wondered if she should shout at the men and raise such a fuss that merchants nearby would come to her

aid or call for Guardians and hope that one of the city’s famed peacekeepers was close enough to hear.

     A strange sensation passed over Yssela, as if she were waking INTO a dream and she somehow was not surprised to find herself moving forward without pause, cutting down the hesitant bandit  from behind with a single quick slash that cleaved deep into the

side of his neck, stepping beyond him and plunging both swords simultaneously into the backs of the two men who held the struggling youth.

     She yanked hard to pull both swords free as the surviving two men let the woman drop like a sack of vegetables to the ground.

     “What?” said the man who had been mauling the woman’s breasts, looking at Yssela and telling his companion, “Buldrys, it’s another damned ambush, the witch is at it again.”

     Both men brought out scimitars, the sight of the curved and finely honed blades along with the men’s height and coloring convincing Yssela that they were renegade Arlians, a seafaring race that controlled much of the ocean traffic.

     “Not that much of an ambush this time, Austur, just one big eyed Messavi wench,” the man called Buldrys said. “She cut the others down from behind. Let’s take her swords away and I’ll let you have her while I do the witch.”

     “Easier said than done,” Yssela said, finding herself in control of her voice again. She cast a hard glance toward the fallen woman. She must truly be a witch of some sort, because she had taken control of Yssela’s body for just those critical few seconds to carry out the deadly surprise attack. Perhaps it was something she would have done anyway, Yssela thought, but she’d be damned if she’d let anybody play with her as a toy for their own uses. But first things first. And disposing of Buldrys and Austur was first.

    “You can walk away and I’ll not stop you,” Yssela said, “or you can die here. By your looks, both of you are Arlians and must be well traveled. You should know of the Messavi skill with swords.I may be female, but I am the equal of any of my brothers and

better than most. Just leave the woman and child and go.”

     The one called Buldrys spat at her and said, “I think I’ll cut your tongue out before I let Austur take you. I hate babbling bitches.”   

     He came at her waving the scimitar around in undisciplined but still effective swipes. The alley was so narrow that he created a curtain of steel that he hoped would push her back. He died with that contemptous expression on his face as Yssela deflected the

scimitar with one short sword and buried the other deep in his gut.

 

 

WHY READERS LOVE MY WRITING

Before any of my readers express concern about my injuring myself by patting myself too roughly on the back, this column is not in any way boasting about my literary prowess. Even though it may sound like that.

No,  this is an attempt to answer a question that’s puzzled me for at least five years. Namely, how could an unknown writer with no publicity, no contacts in publishing, no media reviews, relatively few reviews of any kind, self published, no paid advertising, almost no cheap or free advertising, complete ignorance of virtually all the technical bells and whistles of Internet advising, almost NO use of social media,  possibly have attracted the interest and loyalty of thousands of readers who aren’t related to me by blood or marriage.

Add to those negative factors, the subject matter which fits uncomfortably in established genres. It’s not erotica, although it has sex and rough language. Erotica is fiction ABOUT sex, designed to arouse sexual desires. My work – whatever else it might be – is not designed to arouse sexual desires and while sex is present, it’s not the major element. It has courtroom action, but it’s not about that – or only about that. It has crime ranging from murder to fairly rough sexual assault, necrophilia, mercy killing, drug dealing on the local, state and international level, racial tensions and murders and the international sex trade. But it is not a crime novel. It’s about divorce and marriage and state politics, but not just about those things.

Okay, you might say, but you haven’t seen my name on any best seller lists, no movies have  been announced. How can I say readers love my writing?

From time to time Smashwords and other sites release stats on the typical sales and income for the average reader.  It’s fairly common knowledge that the average Indie just putting a novel out with no advance push may sell 100 or 200 books. In my case the figures are several thousand copies and while the average sales may be only 50 or 100  a month, they continue to sell.

And more importantly, two years after the last book was published under DQS or short story as well and no communication with readers, each week brings in emails wondering when the next DQS work will be released. They come from the US, Canada, Europe, South America. Everything I’ve read tells me the key to keep readership is not to let them forget about you. Publish something every year, if not more often.

I just released a newsletter this month and the response has staggered me. I really was  afraid the newsletter would out in a giant explosion of silence and there would be only the faint sounds of crickets in the night as my name and work were simply forgotten.

And as importantly,while there are a lot of writers who have faithful readers, I don’t have readers who just drop a line and say ‘I liked your latest book,” My readers are more likely to either send me a two page critique of the characters and the plot, or if they hate something, they will unload on me. Bad or good, they care enough to act on their feelings. I don’t know that there is any praise greater than that for any writer.

So, how come?

I had an idea and that was going to be my next post, but this applies more directly. I’m still going to write a post explaining exactly WHAT it is, I write. But this one is WHY my writing has touched a nerve. Today I read http://bigthink.com/ideafeed/is-it-ok-for-men-to-feel-sad and I think it explains why my writing appeals to certain readers.

This intriguing and eye-opening post explains that men can’t cry, can’t show fear, can’t feel or express any deeper emotion. This is a fact that every man – from 25 to 85 – knows in their gut. You can’t express helplessness, even when you’re in a corner and you can’t ask for help. Don’t listen to Millennial crap about women wanting you to share your deepest feelings and fears. Do that and I promise you have a 20 percent or lesser chance of ever getting laid unless you move far away. And try explaining to your wife that you’ve quit your $50,000 a year a job because the soul-sucking routine was killing your soul.

So, if men can’t cry, can’t grieve, can’t communicate any deep emotions, can’t form any attachments outside the bedroom, what purpose do they serve? If you answer a paycheck and sperm, you might be cynical, but would many women in a group away from men argue the point  too strenuously.

So why do readers love my writing? Perhaps because my men are not automatons with genitalia. My men – if they don’t cry – at least mourn and they hurt. They wrestle with rejection and depression and betrayal. They don’t walk away from marriages with the main thought in their head that now they can sample new stuff. They love their children and will fight as hard for them as any mother. They love women long beyond the point they should kick their cheating asses out.

So that’s why men love my writing. There aren’t many places in modern literature or culture where a man can find his humanity recognized. Where they are allowed weakness and courage in the face of defeat and humiliation

And female readers? Of which there are a number. Perhaps it’s heartening to realize that despite 50 years of feminist propaganda,  there are still decent men. And perhaps they can appreiciate reading about women who make mistakes, terrible mistakes, but remain as fallible and human as any man.

Anyway, those are the reasons I think my readers love my writing. I’d be interested to hear any other opinions.

DQS

 

Nobody But A Fool Ever Wrote Except For Love

NOBODY BUT A FOOL EVER WROTE EXCEPT FOR LOVE

Not too long ago I was reading a post about the ghetto that genre fiction once inhabited Maybe the neighborhood was not as sleazy as erotica or porn.  But still, writing or wanting a career in the genres was the kind of thing a nice girl wouldn’t admit to her fiancé’s upper class parents. Anybody who ever took writing or literature classes in college knew enough not to admit to a respected professor the kind of stuff you loved, read or wrote.

Which is only one of many reasons I’m glad I grew up in a lower middle class Southern family. I grew up reading Ace Double science fiction novels,  branching out to HP Lovecraftian horror and then 20th century fantasy and Lord of the Rings, and then private eye novels from the cookie cutter variety to “The Big Sleep.”

I never knew or cared about mainstream fiction and while I made my acquaintance with some real classics, my love was genre. Despite that,  I took writing classes at UF, where I was fortunate enough to meet and know slightly the late HARRY Crews. He was an original. I don’t  think there was a genre bone in his body, but he wrote great novels about guys eating cars and others that simply can’t be described. I knew I could more easily lift myself up by my shoelaces than write his kind of fiction so I didn’t even try. I wrote what I liked, which resulted in my selling  a novel to Doubleday and Robert Hale in England. And later a dozen or so pro short sales in the horror, sf and fantasy genres.

Now to the point of this comment. I never wrote or for that matter read more than a handful of mainstream lit books for most of my life. And then in my early 60s I started reading romance, mainstream male/female stories, some erotic some not. And I wound up beginning a mainstream epic of a modern American marriage that blows up in a cataclysmic divorce and family rupture. It’s up to three novels,more than 500,000 words and it has a long way to go. And is nothing like anything I;ve ever written or wanted to write. Whether it’s good  or not, it has loyal followers literally around the world. Which only goes to show that what you write, what drives you to write, comes from your gut. You can’t make yourself  want to write what’s popular or esteemed or what you SHOULD write. It’s really more like falling in love than anything else. You love what you love and you write what you write, regardless of how much trouble either decision can get you into.

The point of this post, and most of the things I;m currently doing, is two-fold. The first is to be more open and try to strengthen the bonds with my readers. I started writing when the only practical path to publication was to get an agent and then get a publisher so you could sit back and sip mint julips while your publishers did all the hard work of building your career. I never expected and never planned on having to become at least a pseudo public figure. I come from a generation before Facebook and the whole process of discussing your daily meals,  ills and bowel habits still strikes me as more than a little voyeuristic. But I’m trying.

And the second point is to try to provide some information and guidance  for whatever it’s worth to readers and fellow writers. That’s the whole point of blogging. And again, this is not something that comes naturally to me. I’ve read tons of blogs and columns and self help books and they’ve always seriously intimidated me. Not only do I NOT walk around burdened  with  this burning desire to spread the pearls of my hard-earned wisdom about the answers to life’s perplexing questions, I truly have a hard time figuring out what the hell  the questions are.

But, recently I’ve begun examining my life and it seems that I do have observations ,some experiences that may be of  value to others. One directly contradicts one of the most famous pieces of writing advice ever uttered.  Cynics echo Samuel Johnson who famously stated that “nobody but a blockhead ever wrote except for money.”

I’ve written for money my entire life, but I have never written anything I loved FOR the money. The closest I  came to being paid to write the things I loved were non-fiction that came close to the kind of things I wanted to write as fiction! For most of my life I wrote fiction to satisfying a driving urge to express sentiments that could never be expressed in non-fiction. And with rare exceptions I was never paid. But that never bothered me because I didn’t write for money.

And now for the point of it all. I’ve written tons of non-fiction over the decades. And if some cataclysm were to destroy every word, I wouldn’t lose sleep. Because they were all just jobs. But Ive had novels and short stories published in the conventional press and as e-books and losing those would be like having someone rip the bones out of my body without pain killers.

Writing without love and passion  is like marrying without love and passion. In  the end, all you have is a pale, weak imitation of life.

 

THE PERFECTABILITY OF MAN

I WROTE THE FOLLOWING IN RESPONSE TO A FACEBOOK POST ABOUT ANOTHER CALLTO CHANGEGUN CONTROL LAWS FOLLOWING THE ON-AIR MURDER OF TWO TELEVISION PERSONNEL. .  THIS IS A HIGHLY PERSONAL REACTION AND I APOLOGIZE IN ADVANCE IF I OFFEND ANY CURRENT READERS OR FANS OF MY WORK. BUT, IF YOU’RE READING MY WORK, YOU MGHT BE INTERESTED IN MY WORLD VIEW.
I’ve often wondered – in the case of the news people shootings – how you can stop a man with no criminal record, no record of psychiatric problems, and a man who had planned the murders with great care and would probably not have been deterred by a week or a month waiting period – from getting a legal weapon. Or a perfectly law abiding guy who;’s lost his family and been fired from snappng and going into his former workplace and shooting it up. Don’t allow anyone recently fired or divorced from buying legal weapons?How do you prevent a white racist who hates blacks but has no criminal record and is not a member of a hate group or stupid enough to advertise his intentions onFacebook, from buying a legal weapon and shooting blacks.How do you stop a black racist who hates whites – and there are a few in 300 million people – from doing the same thing with whites as the targets.There’s really only one answer but bereaved relatives can’t think that far ahead and politicans don’t have the balls to tell the truth. You confiscate ALL GUNS, handguns and rifles and shotguns. You halt sales of weapons and ammunition. But there are hundreds of millions of weapons already in private hands and it’s not impossible for would-be murderers to get these weapons. So to make the country safe, you must remove these weapons. Make it a first class felony to possess private firearms. Some people will turn in weapons, but a lot won’t. Another mass murder, the killing of innocent children, and the cry will go up that those hoarders of firearms are criminals. The cry will go up to find these hidden weapons. But we’ve already done that before. Anybody heard of Prohibition? The experiment proved that you cannot prevent people from doing what they want to do by the use of police power and criminal prosecution. And any attempt to make possession of weapons a criminal offense will have the same result as Prohibition – to turn millions of law abiding citizens into criminals who lose respect for the law in general. Talk to millions of Boomers and Millenials about their views of the current drug laws. The hard truth is that there is no way to prevent senseless murders and slaughters. You can mourn the dead, but you can’t save them. Guns – for hunting and Friday night shootouts – are part of the fabric of our nation. Go back 400 years and check the history books. We are a violent people and we always have been. In a lot of countries a powerful government could impose a new way of thinking and change attitudes. Killing people who disagree is a perfectly wonderul way of imposing a new social order. But it doesn’t work when citizens can shoot back. SORRY TO EXPLODE, BUT THEPATTERN NEVER CHANGES. A HUNDRED YEARS FROM NOW THERE WILL BE MASSACRES,AND CALLS TO “DO SOMETHING.” aND NOTHING SIFNIFICANT WILL EVER BE DONE!
AND A FOLLOWUP TO THOSE THOUGHTS:
I remain a pessimist about changing the nation’s gun culture, although I do realize that social engineering can work.
  Driving drunk use to be a humorous topic until Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MAD) transformed the nations attitude and turned a matter for jokes into a deadly serious criminal affair.
Smoking was an integral part of the nation’s culture, entertainment and a rite of passage for young men and women. It has become a disgusting addiction frowned on by all elements of society. But I’ll add that smoking has not been stamped out, it’s flourishing around the world, and it remains an underground part of our cuture today.
Black white relations have changed unbelievably in 50 years. As a young boy I  remember when there were separate black and white entrances to stores in Palatka, Florida, there were separate black and white high schools, black men going out with white women if not a lynching matter was still something to look askance at.
It’s not even necessary to comment on the sea change that has occurred in attitudes about homosexual and alternate life styles. It’s been pushed by the media but there is no doubt there’s been a genuine revolution in attitudes among millenials and younger Americans.
But even granting that some attitudes can be changed, some things can’t.  You cannot educate violence out of human nature, you can’t transform males into women with different plumbing. Men are men and women are women and there are basic immutable differences.
Which is why writing about relationships between men and women is so fascinating.

DQS IS BACK, NEWS AND A FREE 50,000 WORD SHORT NOVEL

 

DANIEL QUENTIN STEELE IS BACK-

AND THERE’S A FREE NOVEL

 

 

Hi. I hope you’ll take a moment to look over this newsletter. I apologize for the long delay in contacting those of you who have followed my writing since I started posting in Literotica in 2010. There are a lot of reasons for the delay, but I hope it’s past now.

The important news is that I’m back and if you decide to follow my writing again, I’d like to send you a FREE 50,000-word short novel titled “The Currency of Time.”  It features new characters, but some old ones  appear showing a few new facets of their character. I think it’s as good as anything I’ve written.

I’m going to wait about a week to allow anyone who wants off the Newletter list or just doesn’t want “Currency” to contact me. If I don’t hear from you, I’ll send it to you in a week. As always, I’d love to get your thoughts, bad or good.

I’m also going to start posting new material on Literotica and the stories will be sent first to anyone on my mailing list before being posted.

On the matter that most of you are probably interested in, “When We Were Married -4 – The Past Never Dies”  should be finished before the end of the year. I hit a roadblock late last year and it’s taken me this long to figure out how to get past it. I believe that those of you who read it will agree it’s as good as the first three  books. Among other things, it explores a mystery that’s been building since the first book. Read the chapter – “Who Is William Maitland?”

Now for the most important part of this newsletter.  It’s been a long time and I wouldn’t be surprised if some of you who’ve contacted me over the years have lost interest and don’t want to continue receiving communications from me. I’ve tried to set this up for an automatic withdrawal but I’m not sure it’s working.

The easiest way to get your name off my list is to simply hit reply, type “NO” and send it back to me. I promise that any ‘NO’s’ I receive will immediately be removed from the mailing list.

Finally, I hope many of you will elect to continue receiving this newsletter. Feedback from readers has always been the best thing about writing my stories.

If you want  a copy of “Currency,” email me at danielqsteele1@aol.com.

 

Daniel Quentin Steele

FREE – When We Were Married is FREE

FREE BOOKS – ALL OF “WHEN WE WERE MARRIED” IS BEING GIVEN AWAY FREE F0R THE FIRST AND PROBABLY ONLY TIME ever!! THIS WEEK FROM MIDNIGHT MARCH 2 THROUGH MARCH 8 ON SMASHWORDS.
I wanted to make sure I got the word out to anyone who might be interested. This is the published version of “The Long Fall,” “Second Acts” and “The Wind Is Rising – Part One – Two Weeks In November.”
As part of Smashwords “E-book week”, a promotion they hold once a year, I decided to try a giveaway for one week. It might be seen by some new readers. Also, I hope that a lot fo the people who read the serial on Literotica will take the chance to pick up a free copy. I had said before that about 90-95 percent of The Long Fall was online, but that five percent is I think fairly important. I added material and changed some things around. “Second Acts” was about 70 percent on line, but the ending never appeared on line. And finally “the wind is rising” has never been anywere but in e-book format. The important thing about it being on smashwords is that you can order it in virtually any format – they sell the kindle version,nook, various other platforms plus a simple version that can be read on any laptop.
This would be a perfect chance for anyone who hasn’t seen the series in the (nearly) final form to look it over and if you haven’t read the third book, to get it for free. Which will tie in to the fourth book, “the past never dies” whichI am writing now and hope to get it out by April. that will still be a year between books. but better late I hope than never.
Anybody that thinks they might know somebody that would like the books has a perfect chance to gift the books for free.
and, of course, if anybody feels compelled to drop me a line or send in any reviews, I would not be offended.

THE NIGHTINGALE, THE GOOD MAN AND THE WITCH WITH THE HEART OF PUREST DIAMOND

This is one of the fantasies written under my WE Marden name. I was thinking about putting it out under WATTPAD and might yet, but it occurred to me I can place it here without worrying about the language causing any problems. I’m going to tweet and post a notice about  it on facebook. I only ask if you like it, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE drop me a comment. It’s like going deaf after posting on LIT with it’s immediate feedback.

 

 

THE NIGHTINGALE,

THE GOOD MAN,

AND THE WITCH WITH THE

HEART OF PUREST DIAMOND

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once upon a time – and yes, children, I know that it is utterly out of style to use that opening but everything that has happened had to happen once upon a time – there was a nightingale who could sing the stars down from the sky, the fish out of the sea, and the freckles off a red-headed country girl.

This nightingale looked much like any other until it opened its beak to sing and pure joy exploded out of its throbbing throat.

Its song captivated mothers walking children through parks under the watchful eyes of plainclothes undercover detectives staking out the area for muggers.

Its liquid notes of heavenly joy brought smiles to the faces of burnt out black men sitting in their undershirts on upturned packing cases around the sooty remains of package liquor stores in sections of major cities where a white face hadn’t been seen since the last riot.

Legend has it that at least one major country music star – rumored to be Willy Nelson but no one will ever know for sure – offered the nightingale a king’s ransom and five percent of the gross on all CD, record and concert proceeds to go on the road with him, but the nightingale only flew on one night, leaving the singer, his entourage, the roadies and groupies and accompanying press disconsolate for at least a week. Rumor also has it that the singer was tempted to skip his next several engagements – so depressed was he by the nightingale’s departure while the singer slept – but the IRS came by to remind the singer of his obligations and the show went on as scheduled.

The nightingale flew on because he was – after all –  a wild creature and had no use for Manhattan townhouses, Ferrarri’s, front row tickets for “Cats”, standing reservations at Spago’s, or a yacht on the Mediterranean. Champagne made him sick and cocaine made his throat sore, so the lures of the rich and powerful had no claim on him.

He was only a bird, and the cliche bird brain had to come from somewhere, so it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that one winter evening as he was enjoying the balmy breezes on the posh island of Siesta Key off Sarasota, he got it into his head to fly north and check out the scenery.

As might be expected, he ran into snow, ice, and sleet around the North Carolina border and by the time he reached the outskirts of Pittsburgh he was nearly dead with cold, exhaustion, and air polluted with a rich mix of hydrocarbons, industrial solvents, carcinogens, and enough different poisons to kill larger individuals than a medium sized nightingale.

As he fluttered to a sidewalk, ice forming on his wings, a gang of pimply teenagers began throwing rocks at him. Most missed but one hit the side of his head and he spiraled to a crash landing on the icy walk.

As the nearest of the boys began racing toward him brandishing a stolen spiked litterstick, the nightingale opened its beak to sing out a warning and a call for help. But no sounds came out. It strained to its utmost, but not a peep uttered forth. The cold and shock had taken its voice away.

As the cruel boy stood poised over the nearly frozen bird, lifting the spike to impale it against the sidewalk, a large fist swung out of the gloom alongside the juvenile delinquent’s head, sending the youth flying off the sidewalk.

His companions, who had prepared themselves to attack the interloper, took one look at his blue uniform and .38 police special in his holster and suddenly found urgent business elsewhere.

The nightingale’s savior – for it was no other than a member of Pittsburgh’s finest, kicked the fallen youth hard and muttered “Get your fucking ass off the public property, asshole,  before I make you another asshole.”

At this point I should perhaps interject to those parents reading aloud to their impressionable offspring that this is probably not the best bedtime story for them to hear, but if you’ve been sucked in by the narrative, try to read silently a few lines ahead and clean up the story as we go along, okay?

Bending down, the man in blue – and this will get tedious so we’ll call him the Good Man for reasons that will soon become clear – in the old days you’d have a Prince entering the story at this point but remember that this tale takes place in the legendary US of A between the dawn of the atomic age and the turn of the century, so Princes are few and far between  - bent down and poked the nearly rigid nightingale with one stubby finger.

“Poor little bastard,” the Good Man rumbled. “Why the hell ain’t you down south with the rest of the smart guys? Even for a bird brain, you must be pretty fucking dumb.”

He stood up and turned to walk away. Lying on the sidewalk, feeling the last of its strength flowing out in a liquid stream of breath sucked out by the cold, the nightingale wished for just an instant that it could break into song again, utter its death song, but its voice had been stolen away.

The Good Man knelt down and in hands better suited for making fists than carrying fragile bits of feather and bone, lifted up the shivering nightingale.

“I’m as big a fucking idiot as you are, but let’s see if you’ll live,” the Good Man said, and took the nightingale to his  squad car. Wrapping the bit of feathered fluff in a scarf, the Good Man drove back to his station, spent 45 minutes filling out meaningless paperwork, and drove home.

There he found an old eyedropper and fed the now much revived nightingale a rich combination of nearly soured milk and 30-year-old Cherry Brandy.

Lifting the still voiceless nightingale to the window of his apartment overlooking a major traffic artery, the Good Man sipped the brandy and watched the never-ending light show below him.

“This is what it comes down to, Birdie, when all is said and done. I’m 43 years old, divorced, alone, in a job that I got tired of years ago, just going through the motions so I can come home to this apartment and sit in the dark with a dying bird beside me watching strangers drive by below. Hell, it doesn’t get any better than this, does it?”

The Good Man set the brandy down on the window sill and stroked the back of the nightingale with an oddly affectionate look on his face.

“Can’t even warble, can you, poor little bastard?”

He laughed, a sudden violent explosion of noise that almost frightened the nightingale into flying into the closed window.

“Hell, you can’t sing and I can’t dance. We make one fine fucking pair, don’t we? Well, us losers got to stick together.”

As the Good Man turned his gaze back to the bustling stream of strangers five stories below, the nightingale realized he was falling in love.

From that day forward the nightingale made his home in the Good Man’s apartment. The Good Man kept the bird closed in for several days but finally with a shrug let the nightingale fly free expecting never to see him again.

He could scarcely believe his eyes when the nightingale returned the next morning, wakening him with the sweetest song the man in blue had ever heard. Listening to it as he tossed and turned in his bed just before his alarm clock would go off, he dreamt that he was a child again, running across the grassy summer fields of his grandparents’ western Pennsylvania farm. It was summertime, he knew, and school was out never to re-open its ominous doors. He ran through waist high grass toward a small creek whose water was sweeter than any wine he’d ever sample again in his life, followed by his grandfather’s barking Collie, knowing that after diving in for a cool swim he’d head back for lemonade and then some of grandmother’s roast and new potatoes as only she made them. He was nine years old and his grandfather hadn’t yet stumbled and fallen into that terrible pit of agony that grownups called a stroke and his grandmother hadn’t shrunk and grown all faded and lined like a photograph that had gotten wet. It was the summertime of his life and he was happy.

His face was wet with tears when the alarm dragged him away from that summer and he didn’t realize for a moment that they were tears of joy, didn’t realize that this world was the reality and  the other was the dream, didn’t think of anything except the nightingale’s song.

He opened the window and watched it sing for long, timeless moments, a childlike smile of joy on his face as he mumbled over and over again under his breath like a mantra of defiance against time and pain, “Well, I’ll be goddamned…well, I’ll be goddamned….well, I’ll be goddamned…”

Through the enchanted months of a fairytale winter, the Nightingale sang for the Good Man every evening after he came home. Together the odd pair would sit near the window in the darkness watching the traffic below. And sometimes, for the first time in years, the Good Man would realize he wasn’t lonely any more.

But, of course, all good times must come to an end, fairytales must give way to reality, and as some sage pointed out, no bit of happiness goes unpunished in this life.

Her name was – but her name really was unimportant. Call her the Witch because that’s what she was. The Good Man met her in the course of busting her ass one evening after discovering her conning suckers with a fortune telling scam in a rented storefront on his downtown beat.

She played the gypsy part, peasant blouse cut low to showcase ample breasts which didn’t hurt in attracting male customers, a colorful scarf around her dark auburn hair, large gold earrings dangling; but, she told the Good Man the second time he busted her two nights later, she really was  just a working girl from Miami who had worn out her welcome with the vice cops in Florida and was looking for some virgin territory.

Even after seeing the track marks on her arms, the white powder in a compact that wasn’t makeup, and her admission that she had more vices than most people have personal problems, the Good Man couldn’t get her out of his mind, and out of his dreams.

He almost believed her laughing claim to be a real witch posing as a fake fortune teller the third time he arrested her.

“It’s true,” she said, flashing white teeth at him and playfully scratching her long fingernails along the side of his leg, making him so suddenly, painfully taut with desire that it took every ounce of willpower not to pull the patrol car into an alley and drag her into the back.

“I am a witch, and I’ve put a spell on you. Ensorceled your heart so you will never be able to get me out of your mind.”

He couldn’t resist looking down her blouse and knowing he did so, she took a deep breath that made the blood pound in his temples.

“You don’t have to be a witch to do that. You’ve got all the right equipment for it.”

The smile left her face and for just a moment the Good Man felt the unfamiliar emotion of fear.

“I have walked in dark paths, in caverns where the moon has never shone, in woods where men have never trod, my handsome man in blue. I have made bargains and covenants with things that would drive you shrieking from your nightmares. And they have given me what I most desired.”

She took his hand – he had let her ride beside him despite knowing this broke every departmental regulation on the books – and placed it against her breast. The soft, throbbing mass filled his palm and made him bit his lip to keep from giving way to his deepest desire. Then, beyond the warmth of her breast, he felt something else, a cold that grew and grew until it burned his hand, and he jerked it away.

She laughed and then reached out to stroke his hand, her touch driving the cold away.

“You felt it for a  moment, did you not, my man in blue? My heart of purest white diamond. Don’t look at me that way. I’m not crazy. But, I am not human anymore the way you are. Now that I have done away with my fallible human heart, I cannot be hurt, I cannot die. Ever.”

He knew she was crazy, another street loon, but one thing she had said was true. She had bewitched him. He could not scrub her face out of his memory, could not drive the feel of her breast in his hand out of his thoughts.

Of course, they wound up at his apartment two nights later when he could not fight her any longer. As the nightingale sang his song outside the closed window, for the first time he was left out in the cold sleet as the Good Man burned and writhed under the touch of the witch.

The next night they made love again – here again, parents, you might want to consider substituting a phrase like watched television together – but this time when they finished the Good Man heard the nightingale and was overcome with guilt. While he had enjoyed the Witch, his friend had been left out on the ledge buffeted by icy rain and cold winds.

Letting him in, the Good Man watched in amusement when the Nightingale broke into an almost human note of surprise as the Witch walked into the room nude, magnificent, taking away the Good Man’s breath with her beauty.

“And what have we here, my man in blue? Do you know sorceries too, to draw animals to you?

“He’s just a friend. I saved his life and he hangs around .Sings a mean song.”

“Sing us a song, nightingale,” the Witch commanded, for she knew who and what the Nightingale was. And he knew what she was. Never had he more devoutly wished for the gift of human speech, to warn the Good Man, but his song was his only speech.

Turning, the nightingale flew out of the apartment into the night and the Good Man felt a pang of loss that he couldn’t explain.

“That’s odd, he’s never done that before.”

Slipping her arms around him, the Witch enveloped him in her earthy magic and the Good Man forgot the Nightingale, forgot all  the world outside the four walls of his apartment.

Of course, the nightingale came back after a time. He still  loved the Good Man and hoped that in some way he might protect him against the evil he felt from the Witch. Night after night as the Good Man lay back in the darkness of his bedroom in the aftermath of his sweaty joinings with the Witch, listening to the rain outside the window or the howling wind, the Nightingale perched on the window and sang its heart out.

Tears often came to the Good Man’s eyes, accompanied by memories and feelings he had thought long gone. In other nearby units a couple who had not slept in the same bed in the three years since their two-year-old daughter had slipped in the bathtub and drowned clung to each other and forgave each other for her death; a 55-year-old accountant who had stolen $300,000 from his company quietly returned it and then quit his job and joined the priesthood; a woman who had been conducting duel love affairs without either lover or her husband knowing anything divorced her husband and married one of her lovers; and a 47-year-old man who had been molesting young boys since the age of 14 and knew he would until the day he died, walked into his bathroom, turned the hot water on, and slit both wrists, standing over the sink until loss  of blood made him fall forward and hit his head on the porcelain. He died before rescuers arrived to find him lying in a pool of his own blood, smiling.

As he listened to the nightingale’s songs, the Good Man would sometimes turn in the bed to stare at the shadow shrouded form of the Witch, who usually sat smoking a cigarette. She would smile at him, her eyes bright and undimmed by moisture, and say quietly, “Nice song, isn’t it?” At those moments the fear he had felt when holding her breast came over him again.

But her spell was too strong and soon he found himself spying for her to discover where fraud and bunco detectives would be working, helping her to run her games and even providing protection on an occasion or two when she needed muscle in the event a male victim might get violent.

He knew it was wrong, but somehow it didn’t seem so when they were together and he couldn’t stop himself in any event.

You don’t have to be a mental giant to foresee the end of this scenario. In time the Good Man’s activities became known to Internal Affairs and one evening they sprung a trap on him.

Arrested by men who had worked with him for years, walking the gauntlet to the station under the scornful eyes of men who had been if not friends then casual allies, he felt as if he had tumbled headfirst into his worst nightmare.

But it wasn’t the worst nightmare. That came only when he entered an interrogation room and found the Witch waiting for him with two Internal Affairs detectives.

“Yes, sir,” she told the senior officer, “he propositioned me after arresting me three times. Told me I’d have to put out or he’d get friends to cut my face up. What could I do? I’m just a working girl and he was a cop. I went to bed with him.”

The rest of what was said came and went as if the volume on a television was being turned up and down. They took her away and booked him. Because of his record and a decent savings account, he made bail. They had told him to stay away from her, but he went to her apartment like a shot and found her there waiting for him.

There were so many things he wanted to say to her, but all that came out was, “Why?”

She laughed and said, “Why not? I told you nothing can kill me. But I still need to eat, I need uppers and downers and cool white snow. A cop is a good meal ticket, for as long as it lasts.”

“That’s all I was?”

“Don’t flatter yourself. You weren’t even the best cop I ever had. You’re a fat, boring, little middle aged man who sits in the dark watching traffic and listening to a dumb bird. You really thought I ever cared for you?”

The nightingale found the Good Man slumped in his chair in his apartment overlooking the crowded street below.  As it flew to his chair it saw the ugly gaping hole in the back of his head where his police special bullet had blown his brains out to litter the floor behind him.

The Witch left Pittsburgh, but the nightingale caught up with her in Louisville. It sat on one of the double beds as she walked  in after taking a shower. She glanced at it, then at the motel door swinging open and realized she had forgotten to lock it. But when you’re very old, and can’t die, you get careless sometimes.

“I don’t believe it, you dumb bird. You followed me all this way because of that fat, stupid cop? Give me a break, he’s better off underground than rotting in that little room listening to you warble in the darkness.”

She looked around as if fearful that the nightingale had brought a feathered posse, then realized that it wasn’t that type of creature.

“So, why did you come, birdbrain? To sing me a song so I’ll break down and cry in guilt. Sorrrreeeee. Your songs don’t mean shit to someone who has no heart to be broken.”

Now, outside of people who’ve seen one too many showings of that famous Alfred Hitchcock flick, very few people are afraid of birds. Vultures maybe if you’re dying of thirst in the middle of the desert. But nightingales, no. And that was the Witch’s big mistake.

Launching itself at her like a small feathered missile, the nightingale buried his beak in her right eye before the Witch could raise a hand to defend herself or cast a spell or whack at him with the hairbrush she carried in her right hand.

Reacting in shock and surprise more than pain – because she no longer felt much pain as human beings know the feeling – she flailed at the small creature which backed off and then flew in under a swipe to tear again at the injured eye.

The Witch tried to run but fell, her towel tripping up her feet. As she rolled to try to get to her feet, the nightingale was  on her again slashing with its surprisingly razor sharp beak at her other eye.

In moments the Witch’s face was a mask of blood flowing from  two lacerated bloody, pulpy pits under her eyelashes. Now blinded she could only set her back against a wall and flail impotently at her flying tormenter.

Finally the attacks ceased. She slowly raised her hands away from her eyes, trying to hear the nightingale. She smiled through the blood flowing down her face.

“Feel better, you crazy little bastard? Okay, but I’ve got a shock for you, asshole. You can’t hurt me. You pecked my eyes out, but they’ll grow back. They always do. And when they do, trust me, Birdie, I’ll come looking for you. The world is too small to hide from me.”

She felt no fear when she heard the first notes rising from that small throat. Hovering in the air a few feet from the Witch, the nightingale gathered its strength and determination and sang its sorrow, its anger, its pain.

Now, as I said earlier, when the nightingale was good, he was very, very good. And he had never sung like this before. The hair on the head of a state trooper in a cruiser a half mile away rose straight up as he fought to keep his car on the road. Every clock in a nearby House of Time stopped at the exact same instant. Four miles away a woman in labor whom ultrasound had shown to have only one embryo delivered two babies, Ten miles away a wandering Buddhist monk who had fled personal troubles in China found transcendence beside a dirt road leading into a dairy farm and left behind only his faintly perfumed clothes lying in the dust. Fifty miles away the leading candidate for his party’s presidential nomination two years hence started calling newspapers to announce his retirement from politics.

In the motel room the Witch felt a terrible sharp pain like nothing she had ever experienced or imagined. Doubling over in agony, she fell to her knees and wanted to vomit, but could not. Within her she felt a seismic trembling and then a pain so pure and brilliant that it felt as if she were being turned inside out, all her nerve endings exposed to the air.

She heard and felt the cracking sound from within her breast and knew. Knew what the nightingale had done. Knew in a sudden rush of eternity all the pain and sorrow that she had casually cast about as she made her way through life. Knew it and felt it and knew the nightingale’s revenge.

The nightingale flew out of the room, leaving the sobbing figure behind it making the terrible, gut-wrenching noises of a woman who must cry to relieve the pain of a broken heart, but who – no longer having eyes – could not shed tears.

For you see, what the nightingale knew and the Witch did not was that even a heart of the purest, hardest diamond can be shattered. All you need is the right singer, the right song, and the right note. There is no heart that cannot be broken.

And that’s pretty much the end of the story. The way I hear it, the Witch’s eyes did eventually grow back, but crying didn’t relieve the pain. Some say she eventually opened up a mission in Calcutta, others that she works with street people in New York.

The nightingale disappeared. Some say he hangs out now at a farm in western Pennsylvania that was once loved by a friend of his, entertaining the children who live there. Others say he was sucked up into the engine of a jumbo jet outside Washington D.C. He was only a bird, after all.

One thing that everybody who’s in the know does agree on. Witches – who pretty much do what they want, to whomever they want – have given nightingales a wide berth ever since this story got out. They’re only evil. They’re not stupid.

THE END