Alfred’s Way

I spent a lot of time with my grandparents as a kid. My mother’s father raised a family of five during the Great Depression by working as a door-to-door salesman – Fuller Brushes mostly, but they say Alfred could sell anything. Perhaps it was this experience of traveling far and wide and meeting so many different people that gave Alfred his unique perspective. Like most men in our family, Alfred was pretty circumspect. At family gatherings you wouldn’t even know he was in the room. But he could surprise you. Alfred was very firm in his belief about certain things. Like how you should treat people.

Montreal in the 1920s and 30s was a multicultural stew, particularly in the neighborhood where my mother grew up. Immigrants were pouring in – mostly Italians and Eastern Europeans. Newcomers to Canada who choose Quebec get a double dose of xenophobia – first, the generic white people kind, then the specialized and excruciating French form. Alfred would have none of it.

“Never make fun of a man who’s willing to work,” he would say. “You ask a Frenchman or an Englishman to dig a ditch and he’ll say it’s below him. But give the job to an Italian or a Polish man and he’ll dig the best ditch you’ve ever seen and be glad for the opportunity.”

Having been an immigrant myself, I understand the difficulty of trying to fit in where you’re not welcome. On some level, Grandpa did, too, rejecting the heraldry of even the most obvious differences of religion or appearance.

“They’re not n*****s They’re Negroes.” He was firm on this. “That’s the respectful way to refer to those folks. They’re no different from us.”

An antique term by today’s standards – and an objectionable one to some of my African-American friends – but Alfred’s heart was in the right place. He was trying, in his way, to manifest a primitive form of political correctness. He believed that it was up to individuals to take responsibility for making a fairer and more just world and that task begins with each of us.

I’m surprised by some of the attitudes I’m encountering with regards to the Syrian refugees in our midst. Both in live conversations and on-line, I have encountered opinions ranging from reluctant to resistive to downright hostile. Relatively few folks are accepting, and there seems to be real objections to the notion of extending a hand of welcome. Here on Vancouver Island, home to one of the most inhospitable demographics in North America, Middle Easterners will encounter a double dose, like the Italians of yore. This will play out in the dynamic of locals and newcomers interacting and finding – or not finding – a way to get along. Hopefully people will overcome their fear of the unknown and manifest some of the kindness and generosity for which Canadians are – justly, or unjustly – renowned. We will see.

As for me and my house, we will follow Alfred’s way.

 

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Group Sex with Me & Mary Shelley

Hi My name is Jamie and I have written a wonderful new novel entitled ICK!

Victor “Frankenstein” DeVito realizes his lifelong dream of becoming a mad scientist by creating Industrial Color Killer, a living turpentine enzyme. While stripping paint off the hull of a US warship, ICK breaks free and goes berserk, turning the ocean, land, plants and animals all the same shade of off-white. Victor must battle anarchist color revisionists (CRAYON), Black nationalists angry at no longer being black, Vatican spies and his own demons to subdue his greatest creation.

It’s a great novel. It’s a total mad scientist novel. I mean – how cool is that? Don’t you just fucking LOVE mad scientists? And if you don’t, then ask yourself: just what the hell is wrong with you, anyway?

My favorite novel in the entire universe is Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Did you know that Mary was hanging with Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley the summer she wrote it? They were all crashing at this castle on Lake Geneva in Switzerland, being all louche and taking drugs and writing ghost stories and Mary – sweet, meek, nobody-pays-attention-to-her Mary, the Mary they sent out for beer runs in the row boat and more or less ignored when time came for group sex – Mary wound up writing Frankenstein, the ghost story of all ghost stories. And now she’s more famous than either of those two bums. So I sort of identify with her, right? Like, I could totally see rowing the boat out on the beer run with her, and being ignored during group sex  (because assholes, hey?).

So I have this mad scientist novel up at Amazon Kindle Scout. All I need are enough people to go to the website, click the nominate button and BOOM. I’m in the running for a book contract and all kinds of neat, free advertising and stuff.

So click and nominate. And if you don’t then ask yourself why. Could it be perhaps as a result of some mean heartedness on your part? Could it be that I perhaps intimidate you with my all-consuming, mysterious machismo? Or maybe that you just don’t like novels that start with the letter I. Anyway, it doesn’t matter. What the hell does it cost you to click, go and nominate? Seriously. You can’t DO that? I mean, what? ARE YOU DEVELOPMENTALLY IMPAIRED OR SOMETHING? I mean, EVEN IF YOU WERE, it’s not like I’m asking you to perform open heart surgery or compose the Oratorio for Prague or volunteer for 6 months building a Burma railway, for Christ’s sakes. JUST CLICK ON THE DAMN THING! You get to read an excerpt and everything! If not for me, do it for Mary.

And thank you. So much.

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GHOMESHI: One Gumshoe’s View

The worst moment you will ever have as a detective (aside from getting shot) is standing in court and watching some guilty asshole walk free on a technicality. The gut-burning frustration as you watch him shake hands with his lawyer, the smirk he tosses at you on the way out the door and the victim’s tears are intolerable. And all you can do is sit there, grit your teeth and tell yourself: “Next time. We’ll get him next time.” It’s happened to me more than once and it was the first thing I thought of after learning about the Ghomeshi acquittal.

I know the frustration the cops and the Crown are feeling right now. Legally speaking, Jian Ghomeshi is not guilty. But they know he is. And, bound as they are by oaths and law, they can say nothing further on the matter. But as a private detective who works the street, I’m not bound by such strictures. I’ll tell you what I think.

Jian Ghomeshi is a shit-rat.

I’ve arrested a dozen Jian Ghomeshis. Male abusers are a type that cops and PIs learn to recognize. We all have our tricks but the big red flag for me is a certain watery weakness in the eyes – a lack of male confidence that translates into violence toward women. Often these guys are intelligent and have learned to leverage various systems (social, legal, economic) to their advantage. In Ghomeshi’s case, he possessed the added cachet of celebrity which, let’s face it, is a powerful aphrodesiac. As host of CBC Radio’s ever-popular Q, Ghomeshi radiated progressive male charm. He was hip, he was happening, he was multi-cultural. And he glowed with the kind of soft-spoken charm that is the very antithesis of every white male authority figure Canadian women of my generation grew up knowing. By all reports the Q host was a welcoming figure, always glad to meet you for a drink, listen to your concerns and invite you back to his place, where he was only too happy to beat the crap out of you.

When you mention the word predator, most people think of a powerful creature like a wolf or bear – beings designed by nature to be swift and strong, adapted to their task of survival by hunting. But human predators, in my experience, are the opposite. We all have our weaknesses – areas where nature short-changed us, intellectually, emotionally or physically. Most of us learn to compensate (say, by going to the gym) because the mathematics of survival demands evolution. It’s hard work. In my case, the strictures of my profession demanded I overcome a lifetime habit of sloth. Getting my fat ass accustomed to a daily regimen of 100 crunches/push-ups and a 3 km run required a painfully counter-intuitive effort but a necessary one if I expected to pass the physically grueling PARE test and meet the demands of tactical combat and handcuff training. We are each called to meet and overcome our weaknesses in order to maximize our chances at survival.

Human predators adopt a different strategy. Rather than address and work to improve their own weaknesses, they instead cope by identifying and exploiting those of others. Over time this becomes a habit – a survival strategy predicated upon preying on whatever weakness, insecurities and lack of confidence they happen upon. The criminal world is full of such types: dealers who force addicts to steal in order to feed a habit or pimps who force women to turn tricks in exchange for food or shelter. But not all crimes are so public. At the more private end of the spectrum are the abusive parents, the pedophile priests or monsters like Jian Ghomeshi who turn dates into private arenas of pain for young women guilty only of seeking acceptance, friendship, love. Predators often lead surprisingly successful lives, parlaying their strategies into custom cars, flashy bling or (in Jian’s case) a spot as a national celebrity. Victims end up looking on in disbelief as their abusers move from strength to strength –  an all-too-common form of torture in today’s world. Where, they wonder, is justice?

Like I said: standing in court and watching some guilty asshole walk free on a technicality is one of the worst moments you’ll ever have.

Jian Ghomeshi lures young women into a position of intimacy and trust before physically abusing them – in effect, brutalizing them when they are at their most vulnerable. This is no beginner’s trick. Ghomeshi’s activities bear all the hallmarks of a lifelong abuser – someone who has studied the particular vulnerabilities of young women and learned to exploit them to devastating effect.  He  knows not to leave bruises, and to create just enough ambiguity and wiggle room for himself to inspire the kind of verdict we saw last week. By dint of an inconsistency in testimony, he walks free to abuse again. And if statistics are any guide, the likelihood of his becoming a recidivist offender are high. Given his profile as a human predator with a survival strategy of preying on the vulnerability of others, I’d say it’s a dead certainty.

And therein lies his downfall.

The problem with a survival strategy like Ghomeshi’s is that it follows a law of diminishing returns. This is what led to his arrest in the first place. Like a drug addict who needs ever greater doses or a serial killer who must pick up the tempo to regain that first high, Ghomeshi the abuser eventually reached the point at which his need for violence was so great he began to leave a trail – a trail that started on social media and ended up in the court room. This is a pathological pattern, one deeply ingrained within Ghomeshi’s psyche. His need for violence will not abate. If anything, he has been keeping it under wraps for months – staying “out of trouble” per counsel’s recommendation. He is probably desperate for a “fix” and will need to strike again soon. He may use a prostitute, or pay some female confederate hush money to put up with a battering. But this won’t be enough. Like a caged lion fed on meat powder, he will long for a return to the savannah where he can hunt freely and taste the blood of a fresh kill.

One day, Jian Ghomeshi will cross the line and someone will be there waiting: a cop, a PI, someone’s brother or boyfriend or father. He will walk into the wrong nightclub or show up at the wrong party, say or do something that leads to an arrest and conviction or some more traditional form of justice at the hands of men furious  at how he has betrayed our gender. One way or the other, his dirty road will lead to the court room or the emergency room where justice will be done. Old time cons used to talk about building a big sin. Jian Ghomshi has spent a lifetime building his, and the time is coming for him to pay the piper.

Like we say on the street: what goes around, comes around.

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Daddy Loves His Work

I was saddened by recent exchanges with two writers, both of whom expressed dissatisfaction with their careers. One says she no longer wishes to write at all while another, frustrated by a lack of commercial success, speaks frankly of killing herself. A third friend with a book coming out has complained to me privately about how the publisher is handling the release. And a fourth lamented that he still does not consider himself a “pro” (whatever that means) despite a very impressive set of publishing credits. All four of these are writers I respect a great deal, and who have achieved more than I with their work, and yet they are unhappy. Understandably so. This is a tough racket, and many writers have walked away …

I can’t.

I would not consider myself a particularly visible or well-known author, even within the genres (SFF) to which I have devoted myself since 2009. I am no great commercial success, by any means. I can’t live off of what I do (although I have hopes it may supplement my retirement income nicely). But the option of walking away is just not there for me. It never has been. The prospect of life without the words is as unimaginable to me as losing  eyesight or hearing and just as terrifying. Laura Dern explained it so beautifully in THE WEST WING episode “The U.S. Poet Laureate”: “This is how I enter the world.” The act of writing is, simply, how I experience and process my existence on planet Earth. I would still be filling notebooks and cranking out fiction even if I never sold a thing because I simply don’t know any other way to live.

Two new projects are reminders for me of the real joy I take in the process of writing and publishing.

My short story “Mr Johnson & the Old Ones” will appear in the forthcoming anthology from Martian Migraine Press CTHULHUSATTVA: TALES OF THE BLACK GNOSIS. This is my first piece of Lovecraftian horror fiction, and is the point of departure for the next stage of my career, which will focus mainly on writing mystery and horror. The story combines my twin fascinations of H.P. Lovecraft and Robert Johnson and has the two meeting in a jook house in 1930s Mississippi under surreal circumstances. I found the process of exploring that world so fascinating that I am now adapting the short story into a full length novel. Meanwhile, it’s been a real pleasure working with MMP C-in-C Scott Jones to bring the short-story version out and get it to you. Look for CTHULHUSATTVA to drop in late May.

I am also engaged in contract negotiations with Amazon for GAVIN’S WOMAN, a sequel to GAVIN’S WAR which came out last year. Although we’re still ironing out the details, the project as been green-lit and we are a go. GAVIN’S WOMAN picks up four years after the events of GAVIN’S WAR and features the return of known characters Iris and Salazar along with several new ones. Researching the piece has me learning much about the BC coastline, various types of military helicopters and the U.S. Army’s famed Nightstalkers. I imagine the novella will see daylight some time this summer. Stay tuned for further details on that front.

Recent events in the United States have caused me to reflect on World War II. While watching the mini-series FLEMING: THE MAN WHO WOULD BE BOND, it occurred to me that I’ve always wanted to write a story set during the Blitz, an event that had a great impact on my father’s family. The time has come to write that story and, in so doing, perhaps come closer to an understanding of my father, a man with whom I had a complex and very uncomfortable relationship. I’m not entirely sure I really want to explore that region of my past and psyche … which merely serves as confirmation that I must. Again: writing as my way of processing life on Earth.

And so the words roll on.

Mishima once said that life is a line of poetry written with a splash of blood.

I have to agree.

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Pivot

I was surprised when my tongue-in-cheek Facebook post concerning my “retirement” from science fiction prompted a response. I received several messages from fellow writers and one editor asking what gives. That’s when I realized I haven’t done a very good job explaining my decision. So here goes.

Why I Write. Money. I write to supplement my income (which ain’t great). The few extra hundred dollars here and there since my first pro sale in 2009 have really made a difference. If Churchill boasted he bought Chartwell “with his pen” then I can make a similar claim regarding the warmth and dryness inside this 1970s-era mobile home I own, which leaked like a sieve until last autumn, when proceeds from my Kindleworlds novella Gavin’s War paid for my pal Roger’s game-changing roof repairs. It’s been raining non-stop since yesterday afternoon. I haven’t awakened to a stream of rain-water on my pillow in over a year. Money well spent.

There’s No Money in Sci-fi. Oh, I’m sure there’s some there. I just hardly ever get to see it. Second-tier markets pay a pittance and, with few exceptions, the pro markets have perfected the art of stretching out payments to writers such that I’m convinced hieroglyphs of our vanished culture will show a legion of the starving would-be  Asimovs on their knees with laptops in hand,  pleading with an Ibex-headed Editor God-thing. (Part of why they can get away with this is because most sci-fi writers don’t have to write for money – more on this “pride culture” later.) I have worked with some awesome sci-fi editors and publishers. But I have worked with many more that drove me absolutely bug-fuck then didn’t pay me. I have had to resort to using a bill collector on occasion. Nothing personal, folks. Just business.

The Culture is Poisonous. It’s a small little pond the English-speaking sci-fi world paddles in. Girdled by instantaneous global communication via Facebook, these geeks have carved out a vibrant and busy little sector of the digisphere for themselves. Unfortunately, it’s one riven by politics, prejudice, bullying and sanctimony. I really began to realize how poisonous the scene was when I began branching out into horror and mystery. Interactions with editors and fellow authors there were of an entirely different complexion. Where in the sci-fi field I encountered ad hominem attacks centering around identity politics and plenty of thrown shade, mystery and horror writers were comparatively welcoming. We learned from each other. We support each other. It’s nicer here.

Diversity? Please! I hate to say it, but the diversity wars in sci-fi, and those who stoke them, strike me as “methinks they doth protest too much”. Sci-fi is white-boy culture writ large, and efforts to prove otherwise have been about as convincing as a country-club full of drunk Caucasian aunts and uncles forming a conga line to show how hip they can be. The most strident debates for inclusion and diversity occur in a white liberal echo chamber from which diverse voices are conspicuously absent. Flame wars, Amazon sabotage campaigns, angry blog posts, podcasts – has any of it led to more money in the pockets of more diverse writers of sci-fi? No. (See, “There’s No Money in Sci-fi”, above.) Which leads me to the crown jewel, the golden goose of sci-fi’s embarrassment …

The Fucking Hugo Awards. Spare me. Of all the literary cultures of which I have been a part since stumbling, wide-eyed, into my first American Publishing Association convention in 1982, sci-fi is the most fixated on literary prizes. Sci-fi is a “pride of place” culture, with prestige counting as currency. (Unfortunately, this acts to disqualify people who are too poor to jump on a plane to go hob-nob. Pride cultures tend to favor those with means.) “Hugo nominee” on a cover moves books, sho nuff, but the concentration of accolades within the prize communities has enabled the rise of reactionary forces gaming the system. Pity those who must wear their coveted rocket like an albatross this year. The genre is an embarrassment. “Hugo nominee” don’t have the cachet it once did.

In 2004, when Bush was re-“elected”, I came home. “You’re lucky to have Canada,” literary critic Roger Bowen e-mailed me.

I’m lucky to have mystery and horror. And I have gone home.

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Four Eloquent Silences

1.

Night landing: a hard bump and I’m awake, head vibrating with the shudder as the Otter throttles down and touches tarmac. A small airport – one not even large enough to warrant a passenger lounge. My friend’s car is parked in the shadow of a steel shed housing the automated beacon.

“I’ve tried very hard to keep my name off the ‘net.” He smiles apologetically as he stows my luggage in the backseat. “Search for me on Google and you find a guy who runs a grocery store in Minnesota. Nothing about me or my military service.”

“I get it.” I, too, have been living a hard-target lifestyle since the Cold War ended. We have a lot in common although wildly divergant life-paths have led us to roughly the same place thirty years after we graduated high-school together. And so I understand why he drives quickly with the lights dimmed, why he keeps a loaded Browning in the glove box and a drink pre-poured in the fridge which he gulps immediately upon arrival home.

“You were asking about the rape camps.” He leans back against the kitchen counter as I fish out a joint and light up. “Yes, I believe there were rape camps. Sure there were rumors but from everything I saw, yeah. I believe them.”

“So how do you square it with what’s going on in Europe now?”

“I read your piece in that Alt Right webzine. Right On, wasn’t it? Your readers won’t like that, Jamie.”

“My only obligation to my readers is to entertain them.”

“When did you become such a hard-ass?”

“When did you become such an alcoholic?”

“After Rwanda. Which I don’t discuss anymore for mental health reasons.” He slides open the glass door to the porch, steps across and fires up the gas grill. “Bosnia was bad enough. I couldn’t barbecue for a decade.”

I shudder, remembering the letter when it arrived, the cryptic return address of coded letters and numbers signifying his combat rotation. And, inside, scrawled in his spidery handwriting, the description of the charred bodies of children in the ditches lining either side of the highway to Sarajevo.

“The Muslims were the victims.” I take a seat in a worn and slightly moist lawn chair. “The Serbians tried to ethnically cleanse them out of existence. Rape was part of that program.”

“I heard about that movie – the one that famous Hollywood actress made. What’s her name? Brangelina something? Didn’t do too well. Still. Good for her. Most people don’t want to hear that shit.” He loses focus as he stares into the glowing charcoals. “In Villages like Bacovici and Fojnica, these areas where on the line between HVO – Croat Forces – and BIH, Bosnian Muslim troops. As the line moved back and forth, houses and businesses were deliberately targeted. In some areas, houses of fleeing families were deliberately burned to the ground.”

“A neat trick. When they weren’t shelling the marketplace.”

“War is hell.” He pulls the foil back from two prime steaks, liberally seasoned, and forks them onto the grill. “February of 1994. There was no legitimate military target in the area. Resulted in the creation of the TEZ, the total exclusion zone, a 20 km circle around the area. Weapons and artillery became legitimate targets for the UN and NATO. US and British air strikes followed soon after.”

“Did you know that human rights violations might be happening?”

“Yes. It was part of our training.”

“And what were you supposed to …? I mean what steps could you ..?”

“Our rules of engagement remain classified.” He is frowning now, staring off into space. “But they were, uh, mostly defensive. There was nothing, really. Nothing. We could …”

He turns and heads back indoors to freshen his drink.

2.

I am re-reading the e-mail in disbelief. The editor is demanding historical citations to the war crimes committed in Bosnia. My collaborator and I are good friends but not above the occasional acidic spat. We fire insults pretty liberally even when we’re getting along, but things get heated pretty quickly this time.

The woman is an idiot, I claim. To which she ripostes: nice attitude to have toward our editor. I tell her about my friend, about the carefully-handwritten letters detailing the events as he witnessed them, about the international outcry, the UN tribunals. She remains firm. Sources, footnotes, proof. I dutifully supply same.

The article is published. Rumors of Bosnian war crimes are mentioned. As if that’s all they ever were.

3.

Rain hammers down as I stumble across the uneven ground toward the farm-house. My feet, boots and pants are soaked by the time she lets me in.

“So what was it you wanted to talk about?” My ex-wife Becky picks up a spoon and begins stirring the cous-cous. The house is more or less unchanged since I vacated three years ago. The spaces I once filled are now crammed with more clutter: bags of wool, the scale and shrink-wrap sealer used during strawberry harvest, the green cardboard flats for produce. And, hanging on the wall beside the wool-carder, a framed portrait of the Berber tribeswoman woman who was Becky’s surrogate mother to her during her difficult years in Tunisia.

“When I was talking about the sexual assaults on Cologne New Years Eve you interrupted and said that, yeah, because you’d been in North Africa, you can imagine what might have happened. Could you expand on that? What do you mean?”

“Well.” She puts down the spoon and stares at the counter-top. “The culture in North Africa is sexually very restricted. No interaction between young men and women is permitted. Any woman who is unaccompanied as she walks around outdoors is considered a ‘sharmuta’, which is Arabic for ‘whore’.”

“Do they have whores in their culture? Prostitutes?”

“Oh god yes. And they do a brisk business. But they’re very careful. Like sex-workers everywhere, they endure a great deal of violence. But we were warned, as idealistic young Peace Corps volunteers, that any woman who walks unaccompanied on the streets can expect to be pinched, grabbed at … It’s just the culture. So you can imagine being some young North African guy turned loose in Europe …”

“It would be like a sexual Disneyland.” I shake my head and continue typing notes into my Android. “It seems there has been a deliberate attempt to downplay the event. Some feminists have been protesting with signs that say ‘I PREFER A RAPIST TO A RACIST’.”

“That’s insane.” Becky stops stirring. “But then again I can understand a victim of rape or harassment choosing not to report a crime because …”

My voice suddenly weakens. “Because … why?”

Becky is looking at me funny. “Sometimes people don’t want to bring public shame down on themselves. Or their family. Jamie, is there -?”

“So how about this? There’s evidence that a series of similar attacks happened elsewhere that same night. Stuttgart, Berlin, Zurich …”

“Not conspiracy bullshit?”

“No, this is from police blotters. Also in Malmo, Sweden. A music festival last fall. A whole whack of sexual assaults got reported but, like in Germany, the police, politicans and the press suppressed reporting of it.”

“Well, I can see why!” Becky picks up her spoon and pokes at the cous-cous again. “Any uproar could imperil the continued influx of immigrants. Which is supposed to provide Europe with a source of cheap labor for decades to come!”

I smile. After all, she had once worked for the State Department.

4.

It is 1990. I am twenty-four years old. It is Friday evening and an older co-worker has invited me to meet him for drinks at an abandoned park a few miles from the office. I am just awakening from the sudden shock of being thrust into the workforce following the financial ruin of my parents. After two years of working 70 hours per week for minimum wage to pay my bills, I am loosening up so I now only work 50 hours per week and manage to enjoy the occasional cocktail hour.

Barry is waiting for me in the ruined playground of the abandoned housing project. Half-built model homes loom all around us and the desolate little patch of greenery with its concrete picnic tables, swings and jungle gym is a sad reminder of the cheery little neighborhood envisaged by the urban planners.

“You’ve been very cool to me, Jamie, since I came on board and I want you to know I really appreciate it.” Barry reaches into a bag by his feet, produces a beer can and offers it. I shake my head. He opens it and continues. “I’m surprised you didn’t apply for the manufacturing manager’s job yourself. You could have had it.”

“Not interested. Mind if I?” I fish a joint from my sock and hold it up.

“Grass, eh? Huh. Go ahead.” Barry slurps beer. “I figured you were kind of a bad boy, Jamie. Verity said you were good friends. I asked her about that conversation you two were having last week. About how you ..?”

“How I what?” I light up. Verity and I discuss a lot of things. We’re kindred Gen-X’ers with displaced expectations and an increasingly bleak economic outlook. It just seems to us that the Boomers had raided and run with all the good stuff long before we arrived, leaving us to work Walmart wages for middle management jobs. But we strive to have a good attitude about it. Given that my dad had gone to jail for being a con, I get hip to the whole game fast.

“How you’re … bisexual.”

I fiddle with my joint. Blink. Pretend not to be too interested. “What about it?” I ask boredly.

“I got into trouble for being bisexual when I was in the Army. That’s why I transferred out and re-enlisted into the Navy.” He is watching me carefully now. “I told my wife and she just started to laugh. How would she possibly understand? Anyway. Yeah. I’ve been kind of lonely about it. And then I overheard you and Verity and -”

“Well, hey. I’m flattered, man. But -”

“And I haven’t been able to stop thinking about you since. Like I watch you walk through the office with your shirt and tie. And your nipples poking out against your shirt front. And I can’t help myself.”

“Ah -”

“I just spend a lot of time imagining how I would eat your ass. You know? How I would just dive into it like a watermelon half. And mmm – good.”

Barry keeps this up for the next hour. Then the next week. After a month, I find a reason to resign by mail, and receive an angry voice message from the owner of the company demanding to know why.

I don’t answer.

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Tuareg tribesman.