Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Letter Q Book Give-Away Drawing

The Letter Q: Queer Writers' Notes To Their Younger Selves

On this Saturday, June 2nd, the Gay/Lesbian Fiction Book Reviews Blog will give away two hardbound copies of The Letter Q, an Anthology of writers sending letters to their younger selves to help them through difficult times in their lives.

To enter for a chance to win a copy, simply click here (which will take you to the Gay/Lesbian Fiction Book Reviews blog) and leave a comment on Letter Q give-away post, giving your name and email contact information. They will randomly select two winners on June 2nd, and have the publishers send the hardcover books to your door.

About this book:
In this anthology, sixty-four award-winning authors and illustrators such as Michael Cunningham, Amy Bloom, Jacqueline, Woodson, Terrence McNally, Gregory Maguire, David Levithan, and Armistead Maupin, make imaginative journeys into their pasts, telling their younger selves what they would have liked to know then about their lives as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender people. Through stories, in pictures, with bracing honesty, these are words of love, messages of understanding, reasons to hold on for the better future ahead. They will tell you things about your favorite authors that you never knew before. And they will tell you about yourself.

Link to The Letter Q on Facebook:

Link to The Letter Q on Trailer:

Best of luck to everybody
Alan Chin

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Monk For A Month

My short story, Monk For A Month, will appear in Chelsea Station Issue 3 this summer. It's the first time my work will be published in a literary journal. I'm pretty thrilled about it.

Two men, Reece and Doug, are almost done with the “Monk for a Month” program at the temple in Chang Mai, where they have been living like Buddhist monks. But on the same night that Reece finds out that Doug is having an affair with another Thai monk, there is a murder lose in the town. Tony sees the killer hiding in the temple and goes about trying to help him escape the police. In the process, a love affair begins.

I sat at the bar sporting my saffron robes and shaved head, sipping a Singha beer and listening to the bartender who was clearly agitated. I couldn’t tell whether the man was upset over the recent murders, or the fact that it was raining hard, or if he simply didn’t like serving liquor to a monk, even a Caucasian one.

“His name Somchai,” the barkeep said. He spoke English, but with the usual Thai singsong-clip that I had come to love. “And yes, he kill American expatriate named Warren. Tony Warren.”

I had seen a dead body once before, and it took a moment to get my nerves settled. I had never learned the invaluable art of staying detached in the face of tragedy, of not identifying with the victim. I had no way to shield myself from the reality of how brutal humans can be to each other, what brutal lengths they will go, and the pain they are capable of inflicting on each other.

Across the street, four soldiers trudged along in the rain.

“When did Somchai kill the American?” I asked, my voice scarcely a whisper.

The barkeep didn’t know exactly, sometime at the beginning of the afternoon that had now come to an end. At the same time that he killed Warren, Somchai had also killed Warren’s Thai girlfriend. Both victims had been found two hours earlier at the apartment belonging to Warren.

The barroom was already dark, due to the lateness of the hour and another power outage. Candles flickered on the bar and at each table; their yellow light mingled with the blueness of the dying day.

The shower stopped as suddenly as it had started, as it often does in Thailand.
“How old was she? The girlfriend I mean.” I asked.

“Very young. Nineteen.” Regret passed over the barkeep’s face. “A real beauty.”
“I would like another Singha,” I said, “but I don’t have any more money. Can I buy on credit?”

The bartender’s look of regret turned to disgust. As he walked away, a customer two stools over ordered beers for me and himself, and also shots of cheap Thai whiskey.

The barkeep busied himself with our drinks while the man who ordered moved to the stool next to me. He introduced himself as Ty Poe, and did not shake my hand, as it is consider disrespectful to touch a monk. Poe was courteous, offering the customary wai gesture of respect. He was somewhere in his forties, and had a smoking-induced cough. The polluted streets of Chiang Mai didn’t help his lungs any more than his chain-smoking, I thought. I gave him my name, Reece Jackson, and told him I was from America, San Francisco in fact.

“I overheard you talking about the murders,” Poe said.

“I wonder why they haven’t caught him yet. Chiang Mai is so small a town.”

“They have him trapped within the walls of the old city, but you should know how it is,” Poe grunted. “We’re talking about an American expatriate and his whore who got themselves killed by a homeless gay kid. I mean, there are limited resources available to the police department. The police force, as a rule, is not well trained. Officers have to buy their own uniforms, their own guns. They are poorly paid. Not much would be happening now except that this dead girl happens to be the daughter of an army Major. The army is doing what they can but they do not know the town as well as Somchai.”

Poe was right, I thought. What could anyone reasonably expect of this situation? The unvarnished fact was that in this country, any given police station’s cases were ranked according to priority. And priority in Thailand had to do with money, wealth, and status. Those on the low end of the spectrum were unlikely to receive much attention. And for a homeless gay boy with no family who happened to murder a bit of riff-raff, then it was probably the victim’s fault. Why bother figuring out all the sordid details?

I felt thankful that I lived in a country where every death warranted respect, every victim merited justice, no matter how far down the social and economic ladder that victim might fall. At least I like to believe that bit of hype.

The barkeep placed the beers and shots before us. I lifted my shot in a toast to Poe and knocked my head back, taking the drink in one hot swallow. Poe stared at me in obvious surprise.

“I’ve never seen a monk drink like that,” Poe said.

“I’m not really a monk. My partner and I paid good money to enroll in the Monk-For-A-Month program here at Wat Phra Singh. He’s on some damned spiritual quest that I, frankly, don’t understand. Me, I’m just a system’s engineer along for the ride.”

“So you’re not alone,” Poe asked, exhaling a stream of smoke.

“Technically, no. But it often feels like I am.”

The bar stood only a few doors down from Tha Phae Square, which spread before one of the four main gates of the old city, where two of the town’s chief avenues collided. The square was bordered by the city wall, built of ancient stone and brick, and butted against by the city moat on the north and south sides.  The top of the wall was wide and strong enough to walk on, and just then a horde of children scampered along the wet stones, heedless of the danger of falling. Among them ran Jude, my adopted son, also sporting a shaved head and wearing the robes of a monk.

The children looked down on the tourists who gathered in the square, clutching their umbrellas in case the rains returned.

It must be between six and seven in the evening, I thought.

Another shower started and people in the square ran for cover.

Jude hopped down the wall steps and dashed across the road like a fleeing deer. He entered the bar and huddled against me, giving Poe a cautious glance. Jude was a handsome seven-year-old who had a round face that gave way to a large jaw and a brilliant set of teeth. He had an impishness and good humor in his eyes, and was strong for so young a boy. But what I admired most about him was his gentle and trusting disposition. Unlike most boys, he was incapable of hurting anything. His only flaw was that he was fathered by two gay men, which made him an outcast back home, someone to be pitied, stared at, whispered about, and occasionally laughed at by his peers.

Strokes of lightning lit the sky, coming so close together that they seemed like one, and the thunder was continuous. It was a noise that burst like metal fireworks, but which would immediately rise again, its modulations that grew less and less defined as the shower let up until there was only the sound of rain striking paving stones.

“This rain will last all night,” Poe said, lighting another cigarette from the butt of his previous one.

Monday, May 28, 2012

My Time As A Warrior

Have you ever noticed that every time we elect a Texan to the White House the country goes to war? Seriously—Johnson, Bush senior, the W.  I’ve often joked that we don’t need to spend trillions on a military; we simply need to stop electing Texans into office.  Okay, before anyone twists their panties into a knot, I do know about Obama in Libya and Clinton in Kosovo. Neither of them are from Texas.

On this day of remembering our troops, I’d like to express a few thoughts of my time in the military. I Joined the Navy in ’71, as pink-faced nineteen-year-old who dreamed of sailing the world. I chose because I heard that, unlike the Army or Marines, sailors always slept on clean sheets, ate hot food, and never, never, had to march.

I spent four years stationed in Kingsville, Texas working as an aircraft metal smith in a training squadron—training officers how to fly jets.  In those four years, I never set foot on a ship, and I never left the Continental United States. So much for seeing the world.

Although I had many good times in the service, and learned to become somewhat self sufficient, I came to think of myself as a paid killer. That was my job, to keep the jets flying so we could train pilots how best to kill the enemy (who, back then during the Vietnam era, we called gooks.)  That tainted my stay in the service. I didn’t think of myself as a patriot, a defender of the land, a protector of our freedom; I thought of myself as a killer, a man society pays to do its killing for them.

Of course I never once pointed a rife at anyone. Lord knows I didn’t have the stomach or the heart for that. Still, I was a small cog in a monstrous killing machine. I couldn’t wait to get the hell out of there. I understand that the United States does need a competent military to keep other countries from threatening her shores. But after a few months, I wanted no part in it.

Forty years later, I still do not think of our troops as heroes or patriots, and I try not to think of them as paid killers. Now days I like to see them as ordinary people who do a tough job for their country, who make tremendous scarifies, and who get paid damned little for it.

I don’t blame the guy and gals with their boots on the ground for the wars and killings. I do blame our representatives in Washington for a lack of diplomatic skill in dealing with the world’s issues.  I feel we should be spending trillions on diplomacy, so our troops don’t have to kill and be killed.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Marilyn Comes To Palm Springs

Palm Springs is soooooo gay. We just love this new statue the city unveiled yesterday. It will be here for a year before moving back to Chicago. 

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Making New Friends

Last night, Herman and I had dinner with a charming couple. John is a forty-nine-year-old man who works for Head Start while completing his PhD degree in social services, and Rick is a sixty-three-year-old, healthcare professional who has been caring for a disabled friend of Herman’s for the last dozen years. They have been partners for ten years, and bought a house together in Palm Springs six years ago.

The conversation was stimulating, and mostly focused on John’s experiences during his eighteen years working at Head Start. As the conversation unfolded like a picturesque flower blooming, I began to appreciate how much I love getting to know people, hearing their stories.

Each of us, no matter what path we’ve taken or where we come from, is a fascinating story, with layer after layer of intrigue and mystery and sorrow and heart-warming tales.  Sitting down across the dinner table is similar to opening a book by a new author, but it’s so much more because, where a book is one-way communication of ideas and images, conversation is a dance between all parties, and there is no telling where the conversation will lead or what gems of knowledge it will uncover.

I find it so intriguing to hear these stories from old and new friends alike. I try to see past the ideas and actions of what’s being said, see past the image the person is trying to project, to catch a glimpse of the person’s core.

It’s such a simple setting, a glass of red, a plate of pasta, surrounded by happy people at other tables. Yet, there is so much to be gleaned by stimulating conversation. Not only do wrestle with ideas, hear people’s story, and glimpse their being, you also get a chance to bear your own soul, share your stories.  Yes, such a simple setting, yet you get a chance to lose that feeling of loneliness we all carry, and for a few hours touch another being, and be touched in return. Deep calling to deep. What could be better?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Writing Tip #36 Story Starter Questions

I recently talked to a writer who claimed that she simply started with a blank page and an idea for a character and began writing to see where the story would take her. She seemed amazed that I put so much work—premise statement, outline, character profiles—in before I ever write the first sentence. I’m not saying one way is better than another, but I do think there are some basic questions that need answering before a writer plows into chapter one. Below is what I consider bare minimum to flush out a story idea.

1.     Who is the protagonist?
2.     What is his clear and tangible external goal? You must be specific about this so that the reader will know whether or not the protagonist accomplishes his goal.
3.     What does the protagonist stand to lose if he doesn’t accomplish his goal and is it primal enough for the audience to care about the outcome? Here are some primal goals:
a.     Safety – shelter, sustenance, financial security and even life or death
b.     Reproduction – finding a mate, becoming pregnant or making someone pregnant (or adopting), protecting the children that you already have
c.     Identity – finding out who you are or how you became the way that you are, confirming your sanity or lack thereof
4.     What internal flaw or problem would make it particularly difficult for the protagonist to accomplish his external goal?
5.     What would a person be like who has the worst possible version of that internal flaw? This is your antagonist.
6.     What is the worst thing that the antagonist could do to stop the protagonist from accomplishing his goal? Can it involve exposing the protagonist’s internal problem or a secret the protagonist has kept hidden? Whatever this “worst thing” is, it will be the second plot point at the end of act two.
7.     What skill does the protagonist have that can help him accomplish his goal?
8.     What job and environment would both take advantage of that skill and also help the protagonist to avoid confronting his internal problem? This is the setup that should go in the first 10% of the story.
9.     What two things could happen to the protagonist to jolt him out of this comfortable environment and force him to begin pursuing his external goal? These are the catalysts at 10% and 17%.
10.  What event could occur that would force the protagonist to step outside of his comfort zone and begin to pursue his external goal? This is plot point one at the 25% point of your story.
11.  What event would raise the stakes enough to force the protagonist to commit 100% to accomplishing his external goal? This is the mid-point.
12.  Should the protagonist overcome his internal problem or not? Should the protagonist accomplish his external goal or not? What external forces are working against him to keep him from accomplishing his goal? This will be the resolution of your story.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Once More Unto The Breach, Dear Friends, Once More

I’m pleased to announce that I have signed a contract with Dreamspinner Press to publish my sixth novel, Daddy’s Money.  I’m not at all clear yet when the release date will be, but I’m hoping for some time before the end of this year. It will be published in paperback and all eBook formats. J

Blurb:  A Stanford medical student, Campbell Reardon, takes his overly ambitious boyfriend, Sayen Hommet, home to meet his parents. He doesn’t know that Sayen finances his schooling with money from a wealthy sugar-daddy, and neither of them know that the sugar-daddy is Campbell’s father. 
Can the lovers survive a father trying to break them up? Can a father/son relationship survive the knowledge that they are both in love with the same man?

Unedited Excerpt: Campbell Reardon watched a woman’s face, red and dripping with sweat, scrunch into a mask of pure agony. Her breathing became loud, frantic, crescendoing into a scream. “Oh God! What’s happening?” Her panting accelerated, wet sobbing breaths on the verge of hyperventilation. She leaned back on the table with a sheet draped over her elevated knees.

Her husband held her hand, stroking her forehead. “Breathe, sweetheart. Concentrate.”

The woman’s moans built into another scream.

On the far side of the room, Nurse Peggy Warren prepared bathwater and blankets. She had a bird’s narrow lips, bottle-red hair with forties-era bangs, and a Carolina accent that always sounded slightly pretentious. Beside Campbell, crusty old Dr. Crill studied his wristwatch, timing the pains.  Campbell was feeling his usual sting of resentment that came whenever he had to work with Dr. Crill. The dinosaur should have retired when I was in diapers. He was convinced that the reason Crill treated him with disdain was not the fact that he was a handsome twenty-six-year-old with wavy blond hair, perfect teeth, and brimming with life, but rather that everything about Campbell spelled money—manners, posture, grooming. Everything except the nervous expression he could feel on his face at that moment.

“Late again,” Crill snapped. “How many times have I warned him?”

Crill glared at Campbell with hard, unfathomable eyes until good manners forced Campbell to look away. He turned his head to stare out a bank of windows overlooking Stanford campus, but what caught his attention was a moth with squiggly yellow markings on its wings battering itself against the inside of the windowpane.

“I’m sure he’s only moments away, Dr. Crill.” Campbell continued to watch the moth, somehow hoping it would find a way back outside, to break free and ride the wind. He yearned for a miracle, and he knew that his desire had more to do with Sayen than the moth.

The woman in labor screamed again as agony arched her back off the table.

“Be strong, sweetheart,” her husband crooned. “Breathe deeply.”

She reached up and slapped her husband’s face once, twice. She tried for a hat trick but he pulled out of her reach. “Don’t tell me to breathe you turd… DO SOMETHING! Make them give me the fucking shot!”

“We have plenty of time here,” Dr. Crill said to Campbell. “I’ll be at the nurse’s station checking on other patients. Send the nurse for me if the baby crowns.”

Campbell nodded.

“And Campbell, if Sayen is not here by the time I return, I’m washing him out of the program. We take medicine seriously on this campus, and that means showing up on time, every time.”

“We don’t know what’s keeping him,” Campbell snapped, his anger leaping into the red zone. “It could be an emergency.”

The expression on Crill’s face revealed he did not like the tone the conversation had taken. He closed his eyes, obviously trying to determine if he was over reacting. “What do you think he’d prefer, Campbell, washing out of the program or setting him back a year?”

Campbell turned his attention to the windows. The moth still battered itself against the glass. “Are those the only choices, killing his dream or throwing him deeper into debt and delaying graduation by a year? Well, thanks. I’m sure he’ll be humbled with gratitude.”

Crill’s eyes narrowed as they followed Campbell’s stare to the window. “As well he should be. Few people get to choose.” He stood silent, no doubt waiting for a proper, reverential response. When none came he said, “Very well.”

Crill picked a pad of paper from a nearby table, strolled to the window, lifted the pad, and smashed the moth.

Campbell willed his face into neutral as his anger turned into shame, which stemmed less from ingratitude than from the dangerous way he had allowed himself to reveal his contempt when it could have been so easily concealed. That was a weakness that could get him drummed out of medical school, and he vowed never to allow himself that response again. His only hope of becoming a doctor was to placate Crill and all the other arrogant bastards like him in a self-effacing manner. And that I will do, no matter what.

Campbell’s chest squeezed tight. His lungs labored and his eyes watered. He reached into his pocket for his inhaler and lifted it to his mouth. One squirt brought sweet relief, and that helped calm him. 

As Dr. Crill breezed out the doorway, another wave of pain rocked the patient. She grabbed her husband by the shirt-collar and squeezed. He fought to suck air into his lungs. As the pain rolled away, the husband pulled back, gasping for breath. He staggered to Campbell and clutched his arm. “Doc, you gotta give her that shot.”

Campbell glanced at the doorway, thinking he should probably go after Crill, but clearly not wanting to. “I wish I could, Mr. Bishop, but I’m a student here. I’m not allowed to administer drugs without a doctor’s supervision.”

“There must be something you can do. I mean, look at her. She’s in agony!” 

Mr. Bishop clenched Campbell’s arm so tight he was in pain himself. Campbell could feel beads of sweat breaking onto his forehead. “Dr. Crill will be back any second. As soon as he’s here, I’ll administer the shot. I promise.”

Another scream sent Mr. Bishop back to his wife’s side to dab her forehead with a damp cloth.

Nurse Peggy turned on Campbell like an attack dog. “Her pains are under a minute. I’ll get Dr. Crill.”

Campbell rushed to put himself between Nurse Peggy and the door. He held out a hand to stop her. “We have to wait for Sayen,” he choked. He gave himself another blast from his inhaler.

The patient’s groans were constant. Her screams grew razor sharp. “Please, Doc,” Mr. Bishop pleaded, “do something.”

“I’m not making that poor woman suffer another second,” Nurse Peggy snapped.
“Peggy, no. Please don’t!”

“Screw Sayen!” She hurled past Campbell and jerked open the door, but then froze by what she saw in the corridor. Campbell cocked his head to the left so he could see out the doorway, and what seemed to fill the long hallway was Sayen on his skateboard, flying toward them like a charging bull.

“Hold the door,” Sayen yelled only moments before he rocketed into the delivery room. He leaned back on the board, screeching to a halt, then popped the board up and caught it with expertlike ease.

Sayen returned Nurse Peggy’s glare as the ends of his mouth lifted. “Hey, Pickles, you look more sour every time I see you. Lighten up and enjoy life.”

“Stop calling me that.”

Campbell stepped close to Sayen, and as he did, he felt that familiar weakness come to his chest, that feeling of awkwardness he always felt around this beautiful man. Sayen had a long face, bushy eyebrows suspended above deep-set eyes, the suggestion of a moustache set over impossibly thin lips, and a prominent Adam’s apple that constantly battled against his starched collar. “Crill is ready to wash you out. I’ve been stalling for time.”

Sayen grabbed Campbell’s wrist and turned it to check the face on Campbell’s Rolex. “I’m exactly on time.”

Campbell felt the heat from Sayen’s fingers on his wrist. He was always amazed at how this lovely man generated so much energy, as if he held an entire universe of burning life deep within, a brilliant comet streaking across an empty sky. “On time for Crill means ten minutes early. You know that.”

Another scream from the patient sent Nurse Peggy hurrying out the doorway.
“We both know that decrepit boob can’t even see his watch,” Sayen spat. “This has nothing to do with being late, and everything to do with him being a homophobic swine.”

“No argument there.” Yes, Campbell knew the truth of it all too well, and he felt a wave of admiration for this Muslim man who had the courage to be completely out. He also felt a tiny twinge of shame for not having the same pluck. In Sayen’s excited state, he had yet to let go of Campbell’s wrist. “If you’re timing my pulse, let me assure you, now that you’re here my heart rate has doubled.”

Sayen dropped Campbell’s arm. “We better scrub up before Pickles comes back dragging that knuckle scraper.”

They walked to the sink, rolled up the sleeves of their lab coats, and, side by side, soaped and scrubbed.  Campbell felt waves of coziness. He seldom had the chance to be this close to Sayen. He could feel the energy radiating from him, and that warm strength comforted him. He nudged closer, but Sayen moved further away.

“Have dinner with me tonight,” Campbell said in a low voice.

Sayen glanced up, lifting one eyebrow. “You know I’m in a relationship.”

“Ah yes, the mystery man. Nobody believes he’s real.”

Sayen rinsed his hands. “He’s real alright. He just travels in different social circles.”

“He’s married?”

“Fuck off.” Sayen grabbed a towel and dried his hands. He turned his back on Campbell and slipped on rubber gloves.

Campbell cast his towel aside and lifted a glove. “I’d show you off regardless if I had a wife. Don’t you think you deserve better than that?” He stared into Sayen’s eyes. It never failed to amaze him that a man of North African ancestry, with thick, jet-black hair on his head and fine hair covering his arms, would have eyes the color of the sea. But then a purple spot below Sayen’s lips caught his attention. “You have a smudge of jam on your chin.”

Sayen held up his gloved hands, hesitating. Campbell felt a burning desire to lean forward and lick that sweet jelly off that bronzed skin, but instead he pulled a white, monogrammed handkerchief from his pocket and handed it to Sayen. He smiled. “Keep it.”

Sayen hesitated again, until Campbell said, “It’s only a hankie, not an engagement ring.” Sayen dropped his head, taking the handkerchief and cleaning his chin, then he slipped it into his pocket. He glanced at the patient, at her spread legs. His head jerked back to Campbell, a mask of panic etched his face.

“What’s wrong,” Campbell whispered.

“That’s my undergraduate-English teacher, Miss Bishop. Jesus, I can’t do this.” He pulled the white handkerchief from his pocket and dabbed his forehead, leaving a faint line of purple.

In the three years that Campbell had known Sayen, this was the first time he had ever seen the man so unnerved. He laid a calming hand at the back of Sayen’s neck, gentling him like an unbroken colt. “I thought you’d jump at the chance to rip the guts out of a homophobic Bishop.”

“This is no joke. She and I were really close. I can’t deal with her like this.”

“You can’t walk away from the people you care for, Sayen. She’s a woman in pain, and we’re going to help her bring new life into the world. Just focus on the baby.”

Sayen glanced at her spread legs again as sweat beaded on his forehead. “Shit, it’s crowning. What should we do?”

Campbell shrugged his shoulders. “You’re going to deliver a baby, what else?” He walked to the patient’s spread legs and lifted the sheet higher. He moved to Mrs. Bishop’s side and took her hand. He nodded to the husband, then to her. “Looks like someone is anxious to see its parents. It won’t be long now.”

* * *
Nurse Peggy dashed to Dr. Crill, who leaned against the nurse’s station counter with a cellphone pressed to his ear. “Doctor, it’s time. You’re needed in Delivery.”

Dr. Crill held up a hand to silence her. “Yes, that’s right,” he said into the phone. “Sell my entire holdings in Apple.  Buy ten-thousand shares of IBM at market.”

“Dr. Crill—”

He shushed her, turning his back to her.

Nurse Peggy folded her arms over her chest and tapped her foot. Crill paid her not the least bit of attention. “Dr. Crill, there is a patient in pain.”

Crill placed his hand over the phone. “Just a damned minute, young lady.”

* * *
Gloved and masked, Sayen advanced on Mrs. Bishop’s spread legs, but then he froze.

Campbell, aware that his friend’s distress had deepened, came to his aid. “What now?”

“There’s blood oozing out.”

“For Christsake, move over.” Campbell shoved Sayen aside and bent between the patient’s legs. Mrs. Bishop’s constant cries could shatter glass, but Campbell stayed calm, working to support the baby’s head as the tiny body emerged into the world. “Mrs. Bishop, I need you to push now. Push as hard as you can.”

Sayen turned away as more blood appeared. He continued to dab his face with the handkerchief, which became completely damp.

“You owe me dinner for this,” Campbell said over his shoulder, “and I’m hungry for sushi.”

Sayen leaned over the sink but managed to hold his stomach down. He glanced up at his image in the mirror and visibly tried to pull himself together. “You know I can’t afford sushi. How about Mickey D’s?”

Campbell shook his head, secretly please that he had gotten a dinner commitment out of this lovely man. “My dime. Sushi To Die For on 3rd Avenue, seven-thirty. And don't be late.”

Campbell pulled the baby away from the mother. “It’s a girl, Mrs. Bishop,” he said, holding it up for the parents to see.

Campbell held the infant while Sayen cut and tied the cord. They stood together at the foot of the bed while Campbell tried coaxing the baby into breathing. It didn’t respond.
“Slap it’s butt,” Sayen hissed.

Campbell shook his head. “We don’t do that any more. That was covered in one of the many classes you missed.”

“Fine, Mister Adorkable, do something!”

On her own, the baby balled her tiny fingers into fists and let out a cry that let the whole room know she was a fighter.

Relief swept through Campbell. He held that tiny bundle of bawling life in his hands as he gazed into Sayen’s fatally blue eyes, and he felt something pass between them, something so warm and natural it felt, well…loving. There was no other word for it. Caught in the wonder of seeing new life emerge into the universe, so frail and so dependent on him, he felt his infatuation for Sayen blossom into something deeper, some unknown force he could only call love.

They moved together as if joined at the hip to the waiting bath water, and worked as a team to fastidiously wash the tiny, pink body. Campbell felt warmth pour from Sayen as they fawned over the infant. It seemed as if their three bodies became one glowing force of nature, bound by some invisible strength. But even caught in this cocoon of heartfelt feelings, Sayen seemed to pull back.

“I can’t believe you’re so hot to be strapped down with one of these,” Sayen said. “I mean, they cry, keep you up all night, cost a fortune, and they smell.”

The baby continued to cry as Campbell lifted it out of the bathwater. “They give you unconditional love, which is something I’m in short supply of lately.” He wrapped the infant in a blanket and handed her to Sayen. Nuzzling into Sayen’s protective embrace, she stopped crying. Sayen pressed his cheek to the baby’s forehead, humming a soothing tune.

The baby seemed to smile. Both men shared a wonder-filled moment, drawn close to each other, with the baby between them. They could almost kiss.

Sayen broke away from the moment to cross the room and press the baby into its mother’s arms. Mrs. Bishop’s tears were now joyful. She cuddled her infant, then grabbed Sayen’s hand and pulled him toward her like a fish on a line, kissing his cheek. A line of red moved up from Sayen’s collar to cover his entire face.

Mrs. Bishop grabbed her husband and kissed him. “It’s a girl. Honey, we have a baby girl. I love you. I love you so much.”

Campbell crossed the room and slid an arm across Sayen’s shoulders. “Look at them,” Campbell whispered. “They’re glowing. You think they care if it smells? That’s why God made talcum powder.”

“Okay, babies are adorable. I’ll give you that. But for me, kids are like snow.”


“It's great when it belongs to someone else.  You drive to it, play in it, and then drive home to your warm, dry house.”

“It snows in Tripoli?”

“Are all American’s so stupid when it comes to world geography?”

Nurse Peggy rushed through the doorway. Dr. Crill strolled in behind her.

“Alright,” Crill said, “are we ready to begin?”