My Favourite Things

Last day of February, and starting tomorrow there will be no more poetry until the start of April. The burnout really is real, and it has been a very long time since I threw myself into something that worked as wish fulfilment before anything else. Enter Ternary which is a writing project which is likely to be familiar already to those of you who have been here for a while.

Ternary.png

This used to be The Sayers which began as weekly fiction. Now it’s been amended, extensively edited and is in the course of being completely re-written from scratch. That’s what I’m going to do with my free time in the next few weeks, as well as the other stuff that you’ll have seen in Monday’s blog post. It has a soundtrack Spotify playlist (under construction) and I keep writing bits of dialogue down as stuff occurs to me and in that regard, it’s already a success.

The ultimate irony however is that it begins with a poem.

Progression and development means different things to different people. For me, even if I can’t stand the sight of it right now, poetry’s become part of my psyche. It is also remarkably important in the alternate history I’m writing, that the piece which starts the book pretty much underpins everything that takes place during the first part of what, on reflection, was always going to be a trilogy. How I decide to publish it remains to be seen. This year’s submissions elsewhere will probably determine that path.

For now, there’s the unbridled joy of a new thing to do, and that honestly the last thing I care about now is how other people get to read it when it’s done. All that matters is the telling: we have a beginning, middle and end, with all points in-between covered. That in itself is a glorious state of affairs that’s not taken place for quite some time.

Rip It Up

As a wise man once said: break’s over. Time to get back to work.

whole

On my way back from Blood Donation #6 this morning [four more and I GET A BADGE] the entire plan for January’s Short Story got thrown in the furnace. Instead, we have a NEW PLAN and, in even more SHOCK NEWS, the luxury of a cushion of content at the get-go. I do love scheduling things, but that largely involves having the ideas ready to roll. This time, WE DO. This is, quite frankly, unbelievable scenes.

MEH

It’s not just this stuff that’s raring to go either. The reason why EX/WHI‘s not on the site either (but should be tomorrow) is that late last week, an opportunity presented itself to take all the sad, rejected poetry from this year (of which there is a fair amount) and reinvent it as a collection. How could I refuse? Add to that the best of my online output for the year (I checked, they’ll accept work that has been published online but that isn’t part of a collection) and BOOM there was a lovely flurry of very productive activity.

Quite a few things were ‘refreshed’ from the ground up, whilst a couple simply got cut and pasted into the .PDF. It was a particularly good exercise in knowing what works with my poetry, and being brutal over what used to be good and is absolutely no longer the case. Oh, and for a contest that closes tomorrow, there’s a new poem too: the chances of that winning its particular prize are astronomically tiny. In fact, should even get a mention in dispatches, I’ll eat a snood.

I don’t have time to chat, there’s still far too much to do here. If I can truly get on top of this as the New Year rolls in, there’s a good chance to feel suitably invincible for several weeks.

That’s something worth making an effort for…

The First Time

Everything you will ever need to know about me exists online. No, really, it does. You’d be surprised just how much personal detail has been exposed via the wonders of the World Wide Web since the 1990’s, but to make it easier for you I’ve put together some notable moments in personal history.


writing-as-therapy

The ‘Writing as Therapy’ tag is where a lot of early, formative conclusions have come to be in relation to what I do here. It also has a lot of interesting anecdotes hidden within, including the reason why religion caused grief in my late teens. The quality may be variable, but there’s a LOT of good stuff here.


Write off (3)

Then, there’s my FanFiction. It would be a foolish woman who did not acknowledge the debt this form of hero worship has had on my life. My first fanfic was written, on a typewriter, somewhere in the early 1990’s. Yes, I still have it and no, it doesn’t get shared. Since then, we’ve covered multiple genres and countless TV shows and movies. Over Christmas, I’ll be taking the most recent efforts away for a much-needed edit.

duet_banner_450

James Bond and I have a love/hate relationship right now, but the two fanfics I wrote (over 100k words) represent an important step in writing development. You can find Duet and Default here. I will never be anything else but utterly proud of these pieces.

I created two damn good stories.


Poetry

I hated poetry two years ago, with a fair passion, before it became apparent that the main reason for this was because I couldn’t write it. My artist friends keep telling me: if you want to draw, you should practice every day, and eventually you will get somewhere. They’re right, of course. Every day since that revelation, poetry has been written and now, after a LOT of hard work the form is now a thing.

januarywriting

Search my poetry tags for weekly forms, one offs and daily ruminations, plus specially- created compositions using my own photographs. I’m particularly proud of the 2017 Thinktober visuals, which represented the first time both words and pictures were specifically designed to complement each other.


There’s a lot more on the site, if you’d like to take some time to wander about. Now I’ve explained the lay of the land, the next series of posts will give you some detail about the person behind it…

Right Now

For Short Story Month, I’m writing three separate pieces with a single theme. It is time to admit we’re moving into a science fiction phase: I’ve always been a bit of an alternate history girl, when all is said and done. This triumvirate of stories all offer divergent timelines to the one you’ll be used to, with the possible consequences of women meddling in the affairs of nature:

All these stories have female protagonists. They could be written as men if I chose, but I’d like to believe that it is not just them sending this Planet to destruction. Everybody has their culpability in a massive ecological and sociological mess to shoulder. The subjects of the stories are, in order of the images shown: alien invasion, genetic manipulation and time travel. Occam’s Taser is the result of a conversation had several years ago with my friend Steve (who’s a morning US Television producer) about Vienna in 1913… and that’s all I’m prepared to offer.

The plan initially was to use one of these stories to enter in a Short Story Contest later in the year but instead, the project’s a platform to get my word count and writing style refined, before I work on two separate pieces for entry. This is being handled in tandem with editing my novel, which is finally in what could be considered a complete state. Today, that will be read completely and edited as that happens. I hope to have the first of these short stories available to read by this time next week, with them all finished by the end of the month.

12 Spots to Moan :: Fertility; Rights

As it’s Valentines Day, I felt that there should be some love-related tomfoolery to celebrate. Therefore, here’s a VERY NSFW Short story, which will form part of my 12 Spots to Moan short story collection.

WARNING: NSFW means what it says: this story deals is sexual with adult themes and should, as a result, be approached responsibly.

Have a Nice Day, and always remember to love yourself.


Fertility; Rights

Their divorce had been messy and hugely unsatisfying, effective reflection of a wasted life together. Christine had no qualms allowing Russell both house and car, wasn’t concerned that the deal skewed so far in his favour. She’d never cared for the material: that last straw between them had been net worth mattered more than shared experience. The money quietly funnelled away to accounts in her maiden name when his indiscretion became apparent years before amazingly never came up in proceedings: her skill playing Stock Market Futures meant departing husband provided a present that was more than secure. At thirty-eight, there was still a chance at another life, but right now she wasn’t interested.

Christine Frances wanted to travel far more than pretending to be happy with somebody else.

Her tiny scarlet hire car had made a slow crawl across Europe during the last three months, finally depositing the woman in Italy. Of all the places visited, this was the one which felt most comfortable: the French obsessed about her accent, the Swiss over her single status. Nobody in Italy had seemed to care at all about anything except accentuating happiness and comfort, especially in her current pension. In fact, since arriving ten days earlier at the red brick complex she’d been treated as something akin to royalty. There is no desire to complain either: with full board paid until end of the month, this beautiful and largely unspoilt area is hers to explore at leisure.

The Pertosa Caves are blessed relief from the heat of the Italian summer, drought in the area becoming something of a concern for local landowners. This guide-book is in awful English but Christine can grasp the gist, as place heaves with schoolchildren and pilgrims coming to offer their prayers to a particularly worn and battered statue of some long-forgotten patron saint. Christine however is more concerned with the state of her own body; the contraceptive coil she had fitted to regulate menstruation before departure had effectively stopped all bleeding. For a while she’d not been concerned, because it made life considerably simpler, but now…

The sensations had begun the night she’d arrived, after the voluptuous middle-aged landlady had served an amazing dinner of fresh pasta with a brilliantly rich fruit dessert. After months of no sexual desire at all, body had painfully reminded her that she was able not only to feel arousal, but was often in its thrall until satisfied. She’d ended up masturbating in the shower at 2am so there was chance of sleep, and the simplest things had become steadily more arousing as time had gone on. Before there would be a couple of nights a month where ardour would rise then fall, but not now. For the last week, all she had been able to think about is sex.

That thought suddenly draws her eye to a part of the cave’s natural construction behind the statue, seemingly unnoticed by anyone else.

She stares with increasing amazement at a particular stalactite, suddenly illuminated in a shaft of sunlight from an opening above. It is thick and long, jutting almost contentiously out of the soft, worn rock, damp and moist. There’s an undoubted head to the formation too, slightly larger and fatter than the shaft, and just staring at the thing is making Christine uncomfortable, flustered. Nobody else seems to even register its presence but it is all the woman sees or wants, because the urge to fuck herself against it is now overwhelming and desperate. The arousal hits lower body instantly, dampness spreading as a flood, breasts hard and irritable beneath the flimsiness of her cotton top.

Noise from the assorted throngs is silenced, and all that matters is the stone: she can imagine it, penetrating hot flesh, cooling the desire within. It almost calls to her, a song of need and satisfaction, suggesting the impossible could become real, brilliant. Go home and eat, then take an evening stroll. The cave entrance closes just before sundown. Return here and satisfy yourself, give your pleasure to the Earth, and it will reward you in return. The woman stands, whole body aroused, as world blithely continues its existence around her.

She has never imagined anything so wanton in her life and now this was all that mattered.


It is hard to look casual, slipping in with the last round of pilgrims and nuns, dressed as conservatively as she can manage. Christine’s underwear is loose, easy to remove and she’s stolen a small bottle of olive oil from her pension’s dinner table, because lubrication is likely to be a problem. It’s at times like this that she wishes her breasts were bigger, that she’d love more flesh beneath her own hands to manipulate, the same with her arse. Mostly she was too thin, and maybe it was time to stop punishing body for the sins a loveless marriage had intensified.

Tonight she would wait until a full moon lit the cave and then indulge desire: she’d bought a sleeping bag to accommodate sleep until the complex opened, when she’d slip out unnoticed. Christine’s body is already vibrating with anticipation, thrill of deviancy and impropriety combined. She waits until the gates can be heard being locked, lights turned off, making anticipation and arousal all the greater. With torch light from her mobile phone as guide, slowly the metal railings that keep visitors from the cave area are negotiated. Moving carefully down onto slippery stone floor, the small alcove where stalactite juts upwards is all that matters.

She is concerned that there’s insufficient space to fit, that ground beneath knees will be harsh and unyielding, but the base of the area is soft, springy and slightly damp. Stripping naked, Christine prepares to position herself, massive head of the rock inches from her already soaking wet opening. The oil seems like an afterthought but its use is more stimulation, moving and pouring it onto the top of the stone where she rubs first hand then crotch, feeling consistency of nature under shaking body. The surface is almost warm to touch, smooth hardness that now needs to be felt inside as well as out, and so she positions herself to begin.

Flesh and stone contact, settle: with first movement body expands without aid. This is far larger than anything she’d ever accommodated, including her ex-husband’s fist. Expecting both pain and resistance as a result, neither are forthcoming: pushing against the stone, her body swallows the head whole in one motion, leaving Christine gasping with amazement.

She is frozen, rock solid: part of this whole is no longer enough.

Body shudders at realisation, that as she moves down it will fill upwards, unyielding and permanent, and so body begins to shift, crotch moving closer to dampness beneath. Each tiny shift makes breasts harden further, increases already frantic heart-rate and finally, amazingly pubic hair and labia collide with soft, springy moss. Christine is shaking uncontrollably, unable to contain the pleasure simply gained by filling herself and has to struggle to remain upright as a result. Clitoris screams to be stimulated, urging completion of an orgasm already in progress, yet hands go to breasts instead, oil on flesh that is oddly pliant, strangely liquid under smooth fingers. As she massages it is as if the flesh expands beneath her touch, swelling and hardening as she twists nipples, increasing pleasure at the point that cunt hits moss.

Then floor shifts beneath, faintest of upward thrusts.

Christine’s not sure if she’s hallucinating due to pleasure overload or that perhaps there’s an earthquake in progress, but the movement is unmistakeable now, stalactite rising and falling as her body remains frozen, intractable. Breasts that barely existed have grown to grapefruit sized, heavy balls of flesh she refuses to release because the pleasure they’re sending to her lower body will not be interrupted, regardless of the increasingly surreal nature of this situation. Closing eyes she gives herself completely to pleasure and there is sudden pressure on her clit, unmistakeable, repetitive massage and it doesn’t matter how, just that this never stops, because she is so close now to a series of orgasms that threaten to rend body asunder.

Touches appear everywhere, kisses on arse and stomach, caresses behind her ears, backs of knees. Every sensitive spot is stimulated simultaneously and the thrusts are now fast, urgently pushing the point inside that blossoms with the same sensations outside, connected to breasts and the back of her neck. She begins to gasp, not caring about being discovered, pleasure needing to be vocalised. Still there is no apex to the sensation, simply building intensity that is become maddening, almost blinding. Are her eyes open or closed? She looks down and a hand is reaching up, another rising from the warmth of the cave floor, grasping willing hips as she begins to ascend, other hands holding legs in place as the thrusts within her become frantic, blurring to a speed that should split her open but only serve to further intensify this pleasure.

Christine’s breasts have increased to watermelon size, hardened balls that bounce without pain, only intense sensation from their massive nippled tops to connection at her crotch. She expands too at hips, earth’s mossy hands on swelling expanses, becoming a goddess, Botticelli swells and falls. No fat or waste, simply muscle and skin, warming as the red blush of orgasm spreads from chest to stomach. The reinvented body finally explodes, screams of pleasure multiple and unbridled, echoing around the cave walls as release floods everything in a massive wall of water.

Her orgasm, spark of primal awakening, is truly enough to move Earth itself.


Christine is suddenly conscious, in the low wooden cot at her pension, to surprise at her location. Lying inert, the passion of an almost endless orgasm still resonates through flesh and bone, yet here she is in her own bed. After dinner, when she’d come up to the room to collect backpack with sleeping bag, had she simply fallen asleep and dreamed the entire experience? Feeling down to her crotch there is no wetness, but strangeness to being which causes sudden alarm, enough to move body from lying to sitting. Looking down, with mounting amazement, her torso is not as it was.

Getting up to stare at the naked form in an ancient, patina-stained mirror by hand-carved dresser, Christine Frances is no longer wafer thin with an exposed ribcage. This body now curves with weight; taut, strong muscle plus a light tan. This physical form she had always craved, but had no idea how to achieve. Turning, the sound of laughter in her mind is as amazing as the thunder which echoes throughout the Pertosa Valley. Rain outside, torrential yet calming illuminates the truth… she’d been carried from the cave, returned here by the Earth itself. Bathed and pleasured by something not of this world, her release served as catalyst: explosion that returned not simply life and prosperity to the Valley, but to its ancient, sleeping protector…


This human’s fertility had awoken something very old, far less interested in virgin worship, which craved specific forms of energy to survive. Now She was again awake, coursing through this woman’s body, continued need maintained a level of chemical complexity to both feed from and grow… There was no need to sacrifice this fragile form, but reward it for joy provided… and there were already others. The local women knew these truths via stories and songs, would soon queue to give their offering to the cave.

With each one the Valley would become more fertile.

The ancient statue of the last human Vessel of the Goddess had already been removed from the caves. Christine’s new form would be sculpted and placed in its stead. The First would be to whom prayers were offered, in return She would share the secret of transformation… plus means to maintain its potency. For that, Her followers had already been prepared, feeding Christine special food and awakening within desire long lost. It was time to communicate directly with the new Vessel, securing mental link between Earth and human going forward.

Thank you for trust given back to this land, making whole and full again. In return, your wishes are granted. We ask in return for continued passion and our flesh anointed. All that you require will be provided. As you pleasure us, we will maintain you.

The scarlet-clad landlady stands at Christine’s open door, Hand of the Goddess, ready to help provide the next step forward. In open arms is a warped, ancient wooden box: inside which sits a massive offering, made of living cave stone.


 

Forget Myself

We are into Week Three of my drawing/comic strip adventures, with ACTUAL Progress breaking out. However, apart from the poetry this month, there has been no actual work on fiction work since the middle of December. I’m using a short story to properly debut the ‘serialised Twitter content’ that was pre-written a while ago. I need new material, and have the deadline of the end of the month to edit my NaNoWriMo novel. Should I be worried therefore that the only idea in my head right now is of no use to me whatsoever?

I know full well why brain is pushing for a sequel to my two Bond fanfics. This is the wish fulfilment that keeps me sane and happy, and did for long periods when Real Life did not go as planned. The problem is, of course, that fanfic doesn’t pay bills. It won’t get me noticed as a serious writer. Fortunately for me I think I’ve found the means to bypass the problems and get back on track, and that is what is happening this week. The central conceit that would have been used as plot in the fic is, on reflection, far too good to be wasted on someone else’s characters. I’ll be inventing my own plot therefore to go with the idea, and once that’s done it is time to leave the world of other people’s stories behind and finally produce my own.

The J Word will be serving a useful function in that regard in the months to come, I hope.

I’m hoping, sometime later in the year, to tell a story using the Comic Strip. To do that I need a) the right narrative and b) to be able to provide the elements required. That’s also the plan for Christmas gifts in 2018, to draw Infographics for everybody I know. With that long term objective in mind I cannot afford to let anything slide, especially the storytelling elements of my process. It means that it is time to get my brain out of mothballs and start pushing fiction to the forefront.

As with everything, I’ll keep you updated on progression as we go.

Write Off :: The Day before You Came

Write off (3)

Occasionally, you come across something that you don’t remember writing. That is the case with this week’s piece, sitting in a folder that had a bunch of house correspondence in it. It was produced for a writing challenge on Livejournal, and if the save date on the file is correct, produced in May 2004. What makes this a bigger surprise, I’ll be honest, is the genre it was written for.

Buffy-titlecard

I’m a HUGE Buffy fan. I don’t make a song and dance about it, but it was a massively influential part of my life. Ironically, I never felt a huge affinity to the female characters in the show, but was more drawn to the men, especially the character I chose to do this fiction prompt for. I wasn’t attracted to him either: he was me, more or less. I couldn’t identify with any of the major protagonists, except him.

This is Daniel Osbourne (Oz) Fic. It happens before Season Two of Buffy begins. I’d never written Buffy fanfic ever, so decide how I did for yourself.

oz

It’s very much rated R for adult stuff too. I warned you.



The Day before You Came

Oh yes, I’m sure my life was well within its usual frame
The day before you came



the sky goes on forever

Oz turned seventeen in the slow, kohl-rimmed blink of her eyes: ancient in the moment of transition, bones brittle and painful in skin that now crawls with heat and dust. Her mouth is sucking the life from him, teeth on skin drawing blood as she slurps all too slowly across his stomach, destination crotch. Part of his brain, the smallest synapse, needs to prevent the inevitable: too late, boy, the flesh has won, desire is king… thankyewverymuch. He prays for strength, rain, time to stand still, but it’s the briefest of battles. The pills have slowed his world to a crawl; worm speed, worm food her food, kith and kin with the dirt and the fire ants. A thousand miles away the festival shows no signs of abating, the hurricane of noise and sweat building slowly towards optimum destruction. He needs to escape but he’s trapped here all night. The van was traded for a handful of chemical promises, the band’s gift to him on this night of evolution: something special to mark the transition. He wanted to just play and leave yet something stopped his passage. Someone. She smelt of smoke and mirrors, UFO’s and conspiracies. Flame red hair, eyes sharper than diamond… reminding him of a girl he wants to know, but doesn’t know how to ask. That’s for another time.

it should be cold not close to boiling i’m going to combust

The band bought him to Rachel, Nevada and now LuLu is showing him what girls who spend their puberty in the shadow of Area 51 know about secrets: smeared liberally with silver body paint and wearing only a g-string, she whispered in his ear she’d not hurt him, just give him what he wanted. Before he could protest she took him to a tent where her friends giggled and preened, replacing the dull brown polish on his nails for silver and gold, marking his forehead with an iridescent red star. In turn each one filled his mouth with champagne, then sucked the remnants dry, passing pills from tongue to tongue as they did so. Next he danced with them all: myriad fingers moving seamlessly from ass to crotch to zipper to balls, girl-women all-too-trained in the art of instant and painful arousal. Surrounded by the Sisters of the Conspiracy he became a child of the desert, at one with the night before the world got too fast: kaleidoscopic colours, audio overload quicker than either brain or body could cope with. Maybe he should have asked someone what he was taking, or maybe he shouldn’t have drunk anything first. Food sometime today would have helped, but he’s too lost for sense and good advice, too busy losing the battle with the substances. He’s past gone and coming back on the return stub.

LuLu weaves delicate snail-trails of saliva up and down his naked chest: teasing his expectancy, silver paint mixing with adrenaline and pheromone desire. As her mouth finally, blissfully wraps around his cock it’s the catalyst to his chemical reaction: mind and body separate in a burst of light and sound. He’s outside himself looking down on them both, amused that he can fly and get blown simultaneously. Great place to be spaced out: if he drifts too high will they send the Stealth fighters to intercept? Maybe he’ll just disappear in a puff of denial instead…

little green men yeah right big silver women mmmmmmmmmmm

Sunnydale has broadened his horizons: he used to be the ultimate skeptic, now he’s not so sure. There’s something in the air out here, not like the East Coast where he came from. They’re crazy, insane, affected… scared. He never got the fear, not until they passed the City Limits sign. Then it was obvious, that it had been there, traveling with his family: ingrained in him. He just never knew what it was.

Something clicks, a light goes on. His body is beginning to buck, semen shooting into her open mouth, pouring across his stomach, a huge tide of unstoppable reflex. He feels nothing, the drugs have blocked all signals to his brain: forced to watch the moment pass whilst simultaneously trying to work out how he gets his consciousness to fuse back with his body, Oz can’t understand why he doesn’t care. This is a big deal, remember? You should be there, in there… Seed runs away, scattered to the ground where it begins to grow, pale silver tendrils wrapping themselves around his legs, restricting his movements. He needs to stop her, hold her, tell her how grateful he is but there’s a rrrip of foil and something strange on his cock and her words in his ear we need to be safe, right? He tries to reach down, to stroke her hair and kiss her neck but the ground gives way as he feels her muscles around him and in him and

ohmygodit’shappeninghavetogetbacknowaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhh

It’s over before it’s begun, the second spurt as she digs her nails into his arms, drawing blood as she screams into the night, drowned by a sudden throbbing bass rumble as the sound system overloads, plunging the entire desert into darkness. He’s no idea how long he’s been conscious, when he passed out or whether he dreamed the whole thing in the first place… then he feels the sudden burning feeling in his throat and the nausea is too sudden and violent to ignore. LuLu is stroking his head and asking if he wants to chuck any more… He’s lying next to a tent, inside which the lead singer of the headline band has one girl on his face and another around his dick, moaning expletives as the pair drag their painted nails across his body. He’s moshing, surrounded by hundreds of rabid drunken bodies, slick with sweat and caked in dust and silver paint…

“Oz?”

Consciousness is sudden, painful to every sense that still functions, ears complaining at the familiar scrape of metal on rubber as his van’s side door is pulled open. Outside it’s too warm to be the desert at night, the vague smells of vegetation and civilisation at the end of a long and hot Summer. He’s back in Sunnydale. Somewhere between Friday and right now he lost a whole weekend in a haze of stop-motion images: he knows what happened, just not the how and the why. Gotta stop doing this or you’re gonna explode. He feels like he could sleep for a week, but ten hours will have to do… there are too many questions but not enough words as someone lifts him, puts his arm over their shoulder, drops him on his bed, drives away in his vehicle.

It can wait until the morning.



Oz wakes up.

The sun is far too bright through the cherry wood blinds, smells of the desert clashing with familiarity, seeping through his semi-conscious defences. He aches in places he wants to forget, but the pain in his soul is too insistent to ignore. Emotionally he’s dead, having killed his own hopes thanks to too little independence and too much stupidity: that is enough to wake him, to force a body abused by the world to demand attention. He only just makes it to the bathroom before he vomits: it’s close. After the first retch there’s nothing but bile and pain, yet it keeps coming, spasm after spasm: the brutality a reminder of the perils of his situation. Finally, blissfully, he looks up and focuses on the clock: 8.45am. Downstairs there is movement, his family well awake. No way to avoid this, just take it head on.

It takes an hour in the shower and bathroom to return his physical state to something approaching normal, and he’s grateful for the acetone he finds in the bathroom cabinet. He’s all out himself, and he remembers all to clearly what happened the last time he went downstairs after a weekend away with the remains of his own efforts on his nails. Rebellion in this family has to happen, sure, just a step at a time. Right now, he’s doing it with clothes. The only souvenir of the weekend that’s not covered in either semen or vomit seems a good place to continue the resistance: that shirt the guys stole for him when he refused to enter the brothel, late on the Saturday night. Everyone grabbed some kind of a souvenir, that was the deal. Instead of sampling the women for himself Oz sat in the van, playing his acoustic, making a note to himself that when he gained manhood, it would be with someone special.

Yeah, and that promise lasted all of a day. Maybe it’s time to stop just doing this stuff and start thinking about the why. Maybe it’s time to get serious and find some new guys to hang out with on the weekends… Jesus, he sounds so old, and he is, a whole year gone, lost in the dust. Can’t ever get it back, remember?

Time to make a change.

Oz clears away the detritus of his weekend, wrapping his clothes and stashing them in his guitar case, to wait for the moment he can clean them without his mom seeing the stains. Then he opens all the windows, letting the Sunnydale air wash through his room, blowing the last of the cobwebs away while he braves downstairs and does something about the ache in his stomach. He arrives in the kitchen just as his mother is clearing away the breakfast things: his bowl and plate remain, Mom prepared to extend serving for his benefit. They never talk; it’s enough just to be there every morning, to keep up the pretence of routine. The smell of cooking batter should make him ill, instead there is a level of familiarity that soothes his senses, settles his stomach. He hasn’t eaten for over a day, it’s time to take the plunge and see what happens. After the sixth mouthful of pancake he knows things are returning to normal.

This next year at school will be different: he’s gonna work hard, do well, and work out how to make something of his life. Plus, he’s gonna find some new friends, special people who won’t get him stoned, then leave him in a pile of his own excretions in the middle of the desert.

Or who will steal his van when he’s unconscious.

”Sweetie, did you hear me?”

Mom is talking to him, and he’s not listening.

“Sorry, say that again?”

‘You haven’t forgotten, have you? You promised to babysit Jordy for Aunt Maureen tonight… you haven’t got anything planned?”

Jesus, after what’s just happened he could do with some monotony, plus Jordy’s too hyperactive to allow him to think for too long. That’s no bad thing. Yeah, babysitting will be cool.

What’s the worst that could happen?