I haven't posted an excerpt in a while, so I'm due. And maybe it will be a short diversion to what's been going on globally with the Coronavirus. People are really stressed these days, and we need diversions now more than ever. Especially from the mainstream news media.
The entire premise of the book deals with two best friends in New York leasing a big old house in Louisiana so they can take a short break from their daily lives. In order to lease the house they have to find two other people to make it affordable. In this excerpt, they meet one of the people with whom they wind up sharing the house, a woman who happens to be an aging film star with no prospects in sight. It's a book that is as story driven as it is character driven. And I made a point not to romanticize the old south. There are links, below.
On Saturday afternoon, Barry met Shawn in Central Park because it was easier than meeting at the designated address, and they headed over to an apartment on the Upper East Side in a neighborhood neither of them knew very well. When they stopped at the corner to cross, Barry pulled his phone out of his pocket and sent a text to Neal.
"Who are you texting now?" Shawn asked.
Barry continued looking down at his shoes. "Just someone about something. It's not important." After their last hook up, Barry and Neal decided it was just easier to text instead of messaging.
"You're texting that guy from the hook up, aren't you? You've been seeing him."
Barry hadn't planned on mentioning Neal, but he saw no point in lying to Shawn since he'd brought it up first. "Only one more time," he said. "He's very hard to resist. I've never had sex this good before. But we've made it clear we're only hooking up. It's just sex and there's nothing emotional about it. I know what I'm doing."
The light changed and everyone started to cross the street. "I hope so," Shawn said. "This could become a problem."
Barry smiled and said, "It's all good. No need to worry. It's just sex." Then he decided to turn the conversation around so Shawn would stop talking about Neal. "Have you told Kayt about Magnolia Castle yet?"
"Not yet, but I will soon," Shawn said.
A few minutes later they reached the address for their appointment and Barry glanced up and said, "I think this is the building where Jackie Onassis used to live. I'm not sure, but I know her building was in this neighborhood."
"It's certainly not a shabby address, that's for sure," Shawn said. "Kayt has a few real estate listings here."
They entered the lobby and told the doorman why they were there and the doorman must have been alerted they were arriving. He picked up a phone at the desk and said, "They've arrived," and then he escorted them through a white marble lobby with neo-classic statues, to a private elevator that would lead them directly to the apartment where this person lived.
"Do you know anything about who we’re meeting now? Is it a man or a woman?" Shawn asked.
The elevator stopped on the 14th floor and Barry shrugged. "Not really. I only know they are serious and they sounded honest."
When the elevator door opened, an older woman with gray hair in a maid's uniform greeted them and led them into a foyer with black and white marble floors. The walls were all white and there were interesting paintings everywhere Barry looked. It was more like an eclectic art gallery, with abstracts and impressionists, than an entrance hall, and Barry thought he spotted a few interesting original paintings that were probably worth a small fortune.
The older woman with gray hair led them to a set of black double doors with intricate carvings and said, "You can wait here in the library. Madam will be with your shortly."
Then she left them alone in what appeared to be a library decorated in multiple shades of red and they exchanged a glance and Barry said, "Madam?"
Shawn shrugged and glanced around the room. It was filled with French empire pieces trimmed in ormolu and all the upholstered furniture was white and modern. There was a black grand piano near a long wall of windows that looked out onto Central Park, and Barry walked over to it to check out some photos in small picture frames. They were older photos of celebrities, mostly in black and white, and the women were wearing furs and the men were all dressed in suits. He spotted young images of Elizabeth Taylor and Michael Wilding, and Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. They weren't staged photos or publicity shots and they looked as if they'd been snapped with someone's personal camera. He looked up at Shawn and said, "Now I'm really curious."
Shawn kept looking around the room at the furniture, the art, and the bronze statues. "This entire room is absolutely exquisite. I've never seen anything like it before. And it's such a breath of fresh air from what I normally see with all these modern minimalist people in my life. I think this room could actually tell a story if it could speak."
Before Barry could reply, a woman with a proper British accent appeared in the doorway and said, "Well thank you. But if this room could speak, darling, we might all be in trouble."
As the woman crossed into the room to shake Shawn's hand and introduce herself, Barry's eyes almost popped right out of his head. He knew exactly who she was. He'd watched her old movies and TV shows in reruns countless times. Her named was June Fresco and at one time she'd been one of the biggest stars in Hollywood. Even though she had to be in her late 70s now, and she'd been out of the public eye for at least 15 years, she still looked as good as she had when she'd been in her 50s.
After she introduced herself to Shawn, she crossed to the piano and Barry reached out to take her hand and said, "Oh, there's no need for you to introduce yourself to me, Ms. Fresco. Oh Ms. Fresco, I know exactly who you are. I'm Barry Nelson and it's a huge honor to meet you."
She laughed and said, "Well, it's a pleasure to meet both you and Shawn. Please call me June, after all, we might be sharing a house in May and there's no need to be so formal, darling."
The maid entered pushing a cart on wheels and June told everyone to join her in front of the fireplace for tea. She was wearing a periwinkle blue Chanel inspired suit, fawn colored pumps, and her classic hairstyle that was short on the sides and in the back, but high and full on top. The jewelry she wore was gold and chunky, and she wore it as though she wasn't afraid of it. Her make-up was a little heavy and it was obvious she wasn't a young woman anymore, but her general appearance was tasteful and not excessive and she seemed perfectly comfortable with total strangers.
There were two white modern sofas on either side of a large white marble fireplace and Barry joined Shawn on the left while June took a seat on the right sofa. The maid set a large silver tray with coffee, tea, and a platter of finger sandwiches on a square glass coffee table and turned to leave the room as if she were invisible.
As June poured tea into a delicate porcelain cup and saucer, she said, "I hope you don't mind an early tea. I figured since our meeting was so close to tea time we may as well have at it, so to speak."
She had a soothing voice and her British accent only made it better. Barry reached to pour coffee into another delicate little cup and said, "It's wonderful gesture, isn't it, Shawn?"
So far Shawn hadn't said a word. He nodded fast and said, "Oh, yes. It's very nice. Thank you, Ms. Fresco."
For the next 15 minutes, Barry did most of the talking while Shawn and June sat there sipping tea and nodding their heads. He went into more detail about Magnolia Castle, he gave June images he'd printed out, and tried to upsell the entire experience as much as he could. He wanted her to agree to share the house with them in May. For one thing, he trusted her and he knew he wouldn't have to worry about getting murdered in his sleep. And for another, he genuinely was a fan of hers and he was thrilled she would even consider sharing the house with them for a month.
When he finally stopped speaking long enough to pick up a tiny cucumber sandwich, Shawn sat up straighter and asked a more serious question. "Why are you interested in sharing Magnolia Castle with us? With all due respect, I do find that unusual. You're a big star and you can go anywhere you want. Or you could just rent a house alone. Why Magnolia Castle with us?"
Barry almost choked on his sandwich. He swallowed fast and said, "Shawn, how could you ask such a question. Please excuse him, Ms. Fresco. He's very detail oriented. He can't help himself." Then he sent Shawn a good long stare so he would shut his big mouth.
June laughed and stood up from the sofa. She crossed to the piano and turned to face them both. "He has every right to ask that question, Barry. The truth is you should never assume anything about anyone. It's true I've lived a charmed life, with fame and fortune. But the real truth is I haven't worked in years and I'm not as wealthy as I used to be. I'm barely hanging on to this apartment. It's actually been listed for sale. I've been selling paintings for the last few years in order to survive and keep my lifestyle somewhat normal, but I know that can't last forever. As soon as this place sells, after I pay off my debts, I'm hoping I'll have enough money to live on for the rest of my life. So you see, there is a good reason why I'm interested in sharing Magnolia Castle with you and not renting it alone. If you must know, I desperately need to get away for personal reasons and it's all I can afford right now."
Barry felt a lump in his stomach. "Oh, Ms. Fresco, there's no need to go into any more details. We fully understand, don't we Shawn." He sent Shawn a look. He still wanted her to lease the house with them and he was worried Shawn might scare her off.
Shawn just shrugged and said, "Of course, Ms. Fresco. There's no need to explain anything else. We fully understand and we’d love you to lease the place with us."
She smiled and took a few steps forward. "Good. Now with that out of the way, I'd like to make a few things clear. I'm looking for a quiet place to reflect. I'm not looking for loud music, parties, or disco balls. I hope I'm making myself perfectly clear. I understand people are young and in love, but that doesn't mean I want to hear about their love in detail in the middle of the night. I’m want peace and quiet. I'm sure you understand."
At first, Barry wasn't sure what she meant. He didn't think Shawn knew either because Shawn sent him a look and shrugged. It took a moment for him to fully get it, and then he stood up and said, "Oh no, Ms. Fresco. It's not like that. Shawn and I are best friends. We're not a gay couple, or any kind of couple. We don't have sex. Well, I'm gay, but I'm married to someone else and I'm going alone without him. And Shawn here is straight and he's married to a woman, and he's going alone without her. We'll have our own separate rooms and you won't hear a peep out of us. This isn't a trip for us to hook up and have sex. Dear God I already get all the sex I need right here in New York. Sometimes too much." After he said that last part, he regretted it.
June sent him a stare.
Shawn laughed and said, "I think what Barry is trying to say is we're leasing this place for similar reasons, and just like you we prefer our privacy and quiet time, too. I can assure you, there will be no disco balls, parties, or loud music. That's the last thing we're interested in."
"So your wife won't be coming along," June said. She turned to Barry. "And neither will your husband."
Barry just smiled and shook his head in an obtuse way. "No. We're going alone without our spouses. It's complicated." He didn't think he owed her any more detail about his private life than he'd already mentioned. Besides, he wasn't even sure about his own personal life anymore.
She sent him a look with a half-smile, and said, "It's always complicated, darling. I've been married 8 times. I completely understand." With her British accent, she sounded almost amusing, but Barry could see she had to be taken seriously.
In what appeared to be a lame effort to make small talk, Shawn took a sip of tea and said, "I usually don't mention this, but my wife is a real estate broker here in Manhattan and she specializes in high end properties in this neighborhood. If you like I can mention your listing and maybe she has a client who might be interested."
Barry watched her reaction. When Shawn mentioned he was married to a realtor her eyes widened, her lips pinched, and she tightened her shoulders. "I don't think that will be necessary," she said. "I'm quite comfortable with my listing agent, dismal as it is, but thank you for offering."
Shawn looked down and said, "Yes, of course. I totally understand. Forget I even mentioned it. We only came here to discuss you sharing Magnolia Castle with us."
She forced a polite smile and said, "It's already forgotten. I didn’t mean to snap at you. It’s just that I hate to sell this place."
Shawn nodded. “I understand completely.”
Barry glanced at his watch and he realized they'd been there almost an hour. He set his coffee cup on the table and stood up. "Well, if everything is settled, all we need is your deposit and we'll be off."
She walked to the other side of the room and sat down behind a large Louis the IV desk and asked, "Will a check be okay?"
They both nodded and Shawn said, "Yes. That's fine."
After she wrote the check, she handed it to Barry and said, "If you could be a dear and not cash this until the day after tomorrow I would appreciate it. I'm waiting for a deposit. I just sold a painting and the money hasn't been placed my account yet."
Barry took the check and said, "No problem. I'll wait 3 or 4 days."
She looked at a lamp on the desk and said, "Thank you."
After they said goodbye and they were back out on the street, Barry said, "That was unusual, and unexpected. I never thought we'd be sharing a house with June Fresco."
“I thought you were going to curtsy,” Shawn said.
“Well, it’s June Fresco.”
“She does seem like an interesting woman.”
"I just hope it works out," Barry said.
"She's not telling us everything," Barry said. "I think her finances are much worse than she's admitting. She's resorted to selling off paintings and I don't think she's made a film in years."
"Does it really matter?" Shawn asked. "She was honest about her overall situation and she didn't have to tell us all that. She could have pretended."
"You're right. I guess it doesn't really matter," Barry said. "As long as she pays her share for the rental, her personal business is none of our business. And I’m thrilled to have her there."
He truly believed this, too, and he wasn't expecting more than her honesty and her share of the money. And if she had a few fundamental flaws, he realized he was no one to judge. They were running away from Manhattan for the month of May for their own personal reasons as well and that didn't make them bad people. It only made them slightly damaged, yet still in almost perfect working order. As bossy and aggressive as June Fresco seemed, there was also something Barry liked and respected about her. If nothing else, that woman was a survivor and maybe, if he was lucky, he could learn a few things from her.
Mayor Bans Orgies, 3-Ways, and Gang Bangs Due to Corona
Well if you live in a small town in Italy and you thought you might be having a little fun in order to escape from Coronavirus panic, you're not going to like this story.
Italy has been hit hard with the Coronavirus, so the mayor of one town decided to take extra measures to help stop the virus from spreading.
“As an additional measure for coronavirus containment, orgies and gang bangs are forbidden throughout the municipal territory of Bugliano.”
Here's more. Whoever thought a 3-way would one day wind up being illegal!!
What readers are saying about "Uncertainty"
"A wonderful story that I loved. The characters were well developed, and strong. Gus: A sweet young man. Doing something for all the wrong reasons. Craig: his boyfriend, he'll go along with anything Gus say. Henry: Gus father a no nonsense man, who's husband died last year. I enjoyed this story."
What readers said about "Altered Parts"
"Best Gay Novel In Years. This story will stay with you and you will feel you know every character and the beauty of their home in the mountains of North Carolina."
What readers said about Kendle's Fire.
While the book is easily readable, it also addresses emotions stereotypes and relationships. I would have preferred it be 3 times as long and tragically most guys don't find happy endings as depicted.. but in a short book, it provides food for thought, clarity and insight.. far more and better expressed than 99% of gay fiction . I don't think it could have been done better.