Tuesdays are the days I showcase my work on this blog, and today I’d like to announce that I have a new story available on my website that I’m giving away. The story is titled Handcarved Elephants, and is set in a Buddhist temple in Nai Harn, Thailand.
To receive a free pdf copy, simply go to http://alanchin.net click the ‘Free Story’ button, and enter your email address.
Blurb: When Corban loses everything because of his uncontrollable lust for teenaged boys, he finds that the only thing that can restore his humanity is selflessly helping another traveler in distress. But the traveler in need is a sexy teen, just the kind of desert that Corban thinks of as ambrosia. Will he chose dignity or passion? Oh, if it were only that simple…
Excerpt: The humid sea breeze pounded my face as I staggered to the bow. I leaned against the railing where port and starboard forged a spearhead to cleave the cerulean plain, and with my back to the ship, I saw the immensity—sea and sky, and the sun hovering inches above the vanishing point. It silenced my racing mind and weighed on my chest with such force that I struggled to intake air. Shouts echoed from behind me, angry and belligerent, but they no longer mattered. Their rage was directed at me, but they would have to sort it out themselves. All I could think of now was how to lose myself in that gigantic yellow disk as it touched the water. I stared at the sun until my eyes burned and I had to look away, anywhere but behind me. Due east I saw a small and insignificant slash of color on the horizon that I knew must be the island of Phuket, Thailand. The passenger yacht under my feet dipped, plunging down then up, yet the island stayed its course, became the only solid, immovable point of reference in my world.
My eyes locked on that strip of land as I stepped back from the railing, spread my feet across the teak planks, and leaned into the wind. I raised my arms like angel wings, as if I were a second jib, balancing resistance against gravity until it felt like I was soaring above the ship’s mainsail, leaving my sordid past behind and vaulting over virgin territory. It felt epic, a sensation of freedom I’d never experienced before. My feet, however, never left the deck.
The island was not our ship’s destination, but at that moment I knew it held some power over me, a place that could either free or kill me. Perhaps in my case death was the only freedom. The unknown quantity of ‘X’ in the equation of existence.
Below decks, the incensed voices grew in volume. At the same time I heard the sandpaper scuff of deck shoes trundling toward me, and realized it must be the captain. I glanced over my shoulder to confirm what I already knew. Captain Mike MacDougal had a large, unattractive head, and his body was as stout and chunky as a Shetland pony. He was a swarthy man in his mid-fifties, affable and rapaciously lusty for someone his age. I knew that for a fact because I had shared his cabin—his bunk—since the day he hired me as first mate of The Wanderbird seven months earlier. He wore khaki cargo pants and a blue denim shirt unbuttoned to his belly, and just then, he was panting, sweating, and wildeyed. Captain Mike was black Irish, and when his temper was up, his face boiled a scalded red.
“Leave me the hell alone,” I hissed through clenched teeth.
“Corban,” Mike said with a level voice, “come below and tell those miserable Christian bastards that this is all some mixup, that you never touched Jason Starling.”
“I said leave me be, and for god sakes button your shirt.”
“Corban, you can’t ignore this. Jason is underage. His father is demanding that we put in at Patong tonight so he can hand you over to the authorities. If you’re convicted, it means ten to twenty years in a Thai prison, and you can’t imagine what kind of hell that is.”
The ship steadily sailed toward land, and Phuket began to take shape, the edges soft and muted, the colors more distinct. I realized Mike had already decided to make harbor. Fear settled in my gut like fine silt. “Unlock the liquor cabinet,” I croaked, “I need a stiff belt.”
“That won’t do any good,” Mike said. “If you start drinking now, you won’t stop. It’ll be just like the last time.” He paused in the same instant that the voices below hushed. All I could hear was my heart beating in reckless, liquid gushes and the wind streaming past my ears. “If you won’t tell them, at least tell me. Did you fuck the kid?” When I didn’t answer he shouted, “Dammit, I need to know. Is it true?”
Was he playing the responsible captain of a third-rate cruise ship, protecting his passengers, or was he simply a jealous lover? Did it even matter which? I knew already that he and I could not go on as before. After feasting on ambrosia, how could I possibly return to the swill he offered?
The deck pitched and I had to seize the railing to stay on my feet. Mike grabbed my waist, trying to steady me, but I couldn’t stand to have him touch me now, not after what had happened. I shoved him away.
A wail floated up from below, sounding vaguely like a wounded hyena. It had to be Mrs. Starling, Jason’s mother. That three-hundred-pound medusa could turn a man to stone with a single glance. Her voice ran up the scale until it was so high it could only be detected by bats.
“A drink, dammit. I need it to steady my nerves.”
Mike turned to one of the Malaysian deck hands. “Noi, fetch a Singha, chop chop!” The boy took off along the deck.
“Beer? Might as well be mother’s milk.” I needed something industrial strength to battle the demons that young Jason had whipped up in my gut, not to mention the visions of Luke now circling my head. This was not a case of merely dabbling with a teenager, this was the weight of a decade of mistakes crashing down on my shoulders, crushing me.
Mike grabbed my arm. “Fifteen years I’ve been takin’ out parties, from Shanghai to Calcutta, and this is the worst thing that’s ever happened.” He obviously wanted to say more, but his voice gave out.
I saw Mr. Starling crawl from the hatch. He and his wife led a sizable congregation and a Christian high school in the heartland of Oklahoma. Pretentious assholes, both of them. The whole damned party, all eleven of them, were a football squad of pious, Republican bitches.
I glanced into Mike’s eyes. “You’ve got to help me. Tell these mealy-mouthed twits that I’m a man of the cloth, ordained by the Catholic Church, and a servant of God himself. Tell them I could never do such a thing to an innocent boy.”
“Shit, Corban, you haven’t worn the collar in six years, and besides, Catholic priests lost their currency on that topic decades ago. Everyone knows you all diddle boys every chance you get.”
Noi ran up with an open bottle. I pressed it to my lips and tilted my head back, guzzling beer so cold my chest burned all the way to my stomach. I kept swallowing until I tossed the empty bottle over the side.
“Why, Corban?” Mike asked, no demanded. “Why him?”
“Innocence, purity,” I said, searching for the truth within myself. “I love boys because they live outside the realm of cynicism and irony.”
“Christ, if you wanted chicken you could have had Noi or Pic. They’ve been wiggling their fannies under your nose since you came aboard. But no, you’ve got to chase after a paying customer, a lily-white, Baptist client. I mean, what the fuck!”
“Noi and Pic aren’t Luke. I saw something of him in this kid.”
“Right, that boy ruined you once, and you keep letting him drag you back down every time you stand up.”
“Perhaps I was seduced by Jason’s beauty. Surely that’s something you can understand.”
“Beauty is a whore, I like my freedom better. Once you’re rotting in a Thai prison, you’ll know exactly what I mean.”