Archive for February, 2007

Turning Off the Demons

Liz reached into her housecoat and squeezed a Kleenex as she held onto a wooden rail and slowly made her way down the stairs. The arthritis in her hands was getting more painful by the day and the aching seemed to be spreading into her legs like water seeping through coffee grinds.

She turned on the hallway light by pushing a black button at the top of a brass light switch. For more than a forty years she pestered her husband and begged that he change that old switch to one of the modern ones where turning on and off the light was simple—either up or down. He was dead now. Her handyman was gone.  

It was too late for a new switch. She would have to learn to live with those buttons that tormented her wrinkled hands.  That old house wouldn’t be the same without those switches, Liz knew that. Even though there was an electrical short, Liz really didn’t mind that it often took several pushes just to get the light to turn on, even with her  gnarled limbs. That old light switch was part of her daily routine. She squeezed the used tissue into a tiny ball and pushed the button numerous times. Eventually the light came on.


The old stairs creaked just as they had every morning for fifty years, yet it sounded like a new piece of wood was rotting under her feet midway down the flight and on any given morning she may just find herself in the basement laying atop the cold cement next to the coal furnace, but she didn’t really care. If it happens, it happens—when the Good Lord is ready, he will take us, Liz realized as she finally made it to the last stair where she turned off of light by pushing another button. She entered into the dinning room, flooded with morning sunshine and was ready to face another day. There was so much to get done. The tub needed a good scrubbing and Liz wanted to get a load of laundry washed and hung out to dry before running the sweeper.

Smiles of her grandchildren greeted her as she reached inside a cupboard that her husband Bill bought from Wolf Furniture in Huntingdon in 1972 right after a tributary to the Juniata River had overflowed its banks and brown dirty water filled the first floor of their house. The filthy water, the color of coffee with cream, made its way all the way to the third stair. They lost everything on the first floor—the sofa, kitchen table and an old wringer washing machine that Liz’s mother Rachel gave the couple for their wedding anniversary in 1971. They bought that cupboard right after the flood with a relief check issued by the state of Pennsylvania.

There were so many photographs of grandchildren and great-grandchildren hanging on that old cupboard that Liz had no idea exactly how many there were at the time of her husband death in 2002, but she was certain that she had a photograph of every last one of them posted somewhere on her antique cupboard. They all favored Liz’s side of the family, the Amish side. It was like looking in the mirror when reaching inside for dishes.


Her favorite coffee cup was stored on the far right side, on the bottom shelf right behind the glass door that held the photograph of one of her favorite grandchildren, Charlie—Lou’s boy.

What a unique grandchild he was, Liz thought as she wished he would call her again. She pulled out the white cup with the pretty sunflower and remembered how he liked to play ‘beauty shop’ as a little boy. She still had a scar on her forehead just above her eyebrow where Charlie burnt her with a curling iron when he was only five. She smiled at him and said ‘good morning, Charlie’ as she looked at her reflection in the cupboard glass wishing she had the money to go have her hair done or at least enough to afford to call him long distance.


Charlie only called her about once every two months. She wished he would give her a ring more often but she could tell he was going through the change of life too—the same thing she experienced when she was about his age—35 after she had a miscarriage on the same day that JFK was shot.  He seemed like he didn’t want to be bothered with anyone in the family and was pissed off at the world. There wasn’t a lot she could say to explain it all to him the day he called her after he went through it. It was like having arthritis of the mind. She knew that.

“Hi grandma. I’m home and I’m doing a little better. But it really hurts. It really, really hurts.”


“Oh, I know it does, Charlie. You are going through the change of life. I’ve been there too. It will get better. Just hang in there. I love you, Charlie, okay.”


“Okay grandma. I love you too. What happened Grandma? I only remember Pap Pap in the hospital room when we said that prayer for him, after I said that prayer I forgot everything. It was like I had amnesia or something.”


“Your grandfather made it home, Charlie—just like we prayed. He died when you was in the hospital Charlie, do you know that?”


“I know grandma. Mom told me. But I knew that. I knew it was happening when I was in the hospital. He was talking to me, grandma. He was trying to tell me something.”


“What did he say to you?”


(To be continued….)


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The Lake of Dreams


I dreamed of Francie Klein last night. I haven’t thought of her in years! We met as volunteers at an AIDS hospice and became close friends. The native New Yorker didn’t have a boyfriend and was married only to her parents. I’m sure by now she has found someone other than her parents to hold onto. They drove her nuts, she said. Her mom and dad were the reason why she turned out so ‘neurotic’. When the brown haired JAC (Jewish American Clairvoyant)  from the East Village wasn’t helping the disenfranchised, she hung out at my place. She liked playing board games and often made the trip on the N train to test her skills at Trivial Pursuit with my lover and I.  The dream about Francie must be a sign– an omen perhaps, but most certainly, there was a hidden message in that dream.   Anthony decided that he didn’t want Francie coming over to our house so often after the two had a big falling-out. He said being friends with Francie was too creepy. “I want her out of our lives, Charles. You’ll never guess what happened today.”“What happened? Why are you so pissed?”“I was coming out of Conway, ready to cross the street on Seventh Avenue and 34th and I got hit by a bicycle. It was Francie Klein! Can you believe that? Out of all the people she could have plowed into—it was me. I swear, she did it on purpose.” I laughed hysterically and imagined the collision– Francie with her bicycle with a little basket tied to the handlebars and Anthony with his pink Conway bag. 

Soon after Francie was asked to leave our relationship—my nine years with Anthony came to an end. Anthony believes Francie Klein put a curse on our relationship. “Francie told you to leave me, didn’t she,” Anthony asked the day I told him I was moving on. 

“No Anthony—I want to try other things. I want to date other people. There is nothing in monogamy for me. It has nothing to do with Francie telling me about the affair you were having with John Landesman. I want to date other people,” I explained. “No you don’t! You’ll catch AIDS if you start sleeping around. Stay with me, Charles,” he pleaded.  

Francie was throwing a party in my dream. She lived in a huge beach house. It must have been on
Long Island– probably Fire Island
, knowing Francie. But those details are never really clear in a dream where there are no road signs indicating directions or one’s location. My new lover Bradley was in the dream. Francie took a liking to him the moment we dreamed our way into her party. She claimed to have already known Bradley and that he had already been to several of her parties.“Bradley, is it true? Do you already know Francie?”“He played it off, but I could tell by his response that he knew Francie.”The party was a lot of fun. I remember laughing a lot in my sleep. Bradley kept disappearing and I was left on the sofa, talking to Francie’s parents, discussing how big their daughter’s house was and how unusually close we were to the ocean.

“So where you from?” They asked.


“That’s nice. That’s nice.” Her parents kept rubbing my back and I was getting real nervous wondering where Francie and Bradley were. Eventually I found them outside in the garage. Bradley was showing off our truck– it was my father’s truck– an old blue and white 1972 Chevy pick up.“Are you ready to get out of here, Bradley?” I asked.“Sure. Let’s go.”I kissed Francie and said good-bye to her parents. When we started to back out of the garage, the brakes on the truck were not working. We immediately jumped out and the truck rolled into the ocean.  “Oh, my. Are you guys alright?” Francie asked. “Now you will just have to stay at my party.”At that moment my dream turned wet. It has been happening a lot lately– I wake up inside the dream– knowing that I’m dreaming and I have the ability to change my surroundings, create the plot and do whatever the hell I want.“Hey Bradley– guess what? We’re dreaming.”“So wassup? What you want to get into?”Francie’s party friends came out of the house and into the garage and suddenly the place turned into a gay bath house. Everyone wanted to have sex with Bradley and I, including Francie.

Bradley wanted me to suck Francie’s boyfriend off while he got me from behind, so I did, but then I freaked out– wait a minute, this is my dream and I’m not going to have all this craziness. “Francie—get over here and suck your own man off,” I demanded.Francie’s boyfriend said “You have the most beautiful eyes– they are blue.”

  “He’s gay, Charles,” Francie said, insisting that I continue to enjoy her man. “You know I’m a big fag hag,” she said while laughing.At that moment I realized Francie’s boyfriend wasn’t talking to me. My eyes are green–I was tricked. Someone else was me in my dream, yet I was there. I must have been possessed by Francie.  “Bradley! Where is Bradley?” By then the dream had turned into a nightmare. They were vampires. Francie and all her friends were vampires and they were all lining up for a blow job thinking I was a vampire too.“In the name of Jesus,” I said. “In the name of Jesus, I cast thee out!” I commanded.  It didn’t stop them. They kept coming at me and Bradley was nowhere to be seen.“In the name of Charles George Taylor,” I said.They ran from me– terrified. Bradley was floating around in mid-air. I reached up and pulled him to me.“Hold on to me, Bradley– we are dreaming.”“Your friend Francie throws the best parties,” he said.”Hey Charles,” Francie shouted. “What is the name of the world’s most navigable lake?”  Lake Titicaca!” I shouted. Lake Titicaca—I remember that from Trival Pursuit.” I then remembered that it was all just a dream that took place in
South America.

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anthony and charles

The Guest Houses of Germany are like a home away from home. Beds in the land of rich beer have down comforters as thick as mattresses. Unlike
America, where bedspreads are made of polyester and silk, in Deutschland the blankets are cozy and the citizens along the
sleep in comfort as do their guests.My lover and I had nowhere to make love like civilized people until we ventured into the gaushaus of Frau Farbissina. The
United States
military barracks were cold, the beds hard and the covers were made of wool. We risked receiving a dishonorable discharge if we were caught making out in our barracks room—being gay was still worthy of a trip to the concentration camps in 1986. But on one special payday, we put our hard earned cash together and rented a room inside a little stone cottage in the heart of the enchanting Bavarian town.Frau Farbissina knew what we were up to the moment we pulled out our German Marks for the room.

“Gruβ gott,” I said.

“Oh, Go with God yourself,” she responded. “Will you be staying until morning?” she asked with a smile across her red rosy cheeks. “Yes. Thank you,” my lover responded.She showed us the room, we locked the door and made love atop that fresh white comforter. We were careful not to make a mess, “Don’t cum on the white comforter,” I said to my lover pulling my lips from his– “Cum inside me.”

She knocked on our door in the morning—“Would you care for breakfast?”

“Yes, danke,” I responded.

“Do you want an American breakfast or a German breakfast?” She asked.

Anthony responded– “We’ll take an American breakfast, but does that mean you will cook the eggs over- easy?”

“I will try,” she said while giving us that big wide smile as if to imply—I know you are gay and I love it! We made out again while she made our breakfast—the opportunities were so rare. Not only were we in the Army but Anthony was married.“Breakfast is ready but you must come join us downstairs,” she said.

The eggs were perfect—fried to the point just beyond runny, yet the yellows were perfect for dipping the hard brotchen. We returned to the room to grab our things before checking out. Frau Farbissina was hanging the thick down comforter out the window.

“What are you looking at?” She asked. “This is how we do it in German. We freshen-up our bedding in the breeze every morning,” she said.

Anthony and I felt like we had a mother—a cool mother—one who made our affair possible. But we couldn’t always afford a room in the gaushaus, and often we had to settle for the back seat of his Subaru. Sex in the Subaru was always exciting—the shocks on that station wagon gave those fluffy comforters a run for the money. Perhaps it was the risk of being caught that made it so good. We were always in a rush, trying to ‘get off’ before we got caught making out in his car, parked along a pond in the middle of the Bavarian forest.On nights when we were not under Frau Farbissina’s wings, we went to that spot in the woods to make out in the Subaru. We could only afford fresh comforters once a month. But the woods of the Black Forrest were just as cozy until the night the darkness of the trees and the steamy windows of the car were lit up by the flashing lights of a polizei car.

Anthony and I quickly pulled up our uniforms and put back on our BDU jackets but the police were standing outside the car and knocked on the windows. We were paranoid. We thought for sure our careers were coming to and end. The signs on the German logging road clearly indicated, both in German and in English, that trespassing was prohibited. 

My life flashed before my eyes as those blue siren lights kept flashing as we rolled down the car window. My hair was a mess, Anthony had slobbers running down his chin—it was obvious what we were up to.The police officer noticed that it was two men inside the Subaru making out. He walked back to the van and said something to his partner.

They turned off the flashing lights and drove away—not bothering to report us to the U.S. Military or our commanders.

It was still the best sex I ever had and I only wished the officers would have joined us.


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juniata river

The Juniata River smelled like a mud puddle after a thunderstorm. The murky mountain stream seemed to emit an alluring fragrance similar to freshly tilled topsoil, as one may encounter on a farm in the spring.

The river permeated with the aroma of mother earth’s bosom and carried the earthly energy into the night air. The moon wasn’t out, but the stars offered enough light to keep the campground from becoming too dark. Bill extinguished the propane lantern.A fire was still smoldering outside the tent and the smoke blended with the scent of the river and country air. A hot flash swept over Suzanne as she wondered what it may be like to make love, outside under the night sky. 

The couple made out only a few times in Suzanne’s college dorm room when her roommate, Francie Klein was away on weekends. They never went all the way nor had they explored the oral pleasures of sex.

Bill had a huge dick– the biggest one she had ever encountered. She wondered if her first boyfriend, Mike Nead was deformed or just small. She didn’t have a lot to compare– only Mike Nead’s and Bill’s. They were so different in shape and size. Mike’s was no bigger than a pointer finger, but Bill’s penis was the size of a rolled newspaper. They were nibbling on a pizza and drinking a six pack of beer when Suzanne got the nerve to simply reach out and touch it. 

“You like that?” Bill asked. 

“Oh, my gawd, Bill. Jesus!” 

She withdrew her hand, wiped it on a small white napkin and continued eating her pizza. Could that have been—there is no way one can be that large, Suzanne thought. The texture reminded her of a ball of kneaded dough prior to baking.

Bill didn’t make any advances. He waited patiently. He didn’t want their first time to be inside a dorm room. He wanted her to be relaxed. She would need to be at ease. Bill was still a virgin too. He never met a girl who knew how to relax.  

So that’s what the joke was the football players shared that nobody else seemed to get, Suzanne realized.

“Why do they call you ‘kickstand’, Bill?” she asked when they first started dating.

“Oh, it’s just a stupid joke, Suzanne. You don’t want to know.”

It took both of her hands to stroke it in the dorm room after all the pizza was gone. She wasn’t sure if she could take all of him so she prolonged their first encounter until the time was right.

She was very nervous, but between her legs, the fire of her youth was smoldering, just like the one outside the tent. She wanted a bath and wished they were not outside laying on the ground inside a tent. She wanted the first time to be just perfect. The night air made her wild—she didn’t care anymore about the moment being just right. What was going to be was going to be and now was the right time. Bill unzipped his sleeping bag but she remained very still, pretending to be asleep insider her polyester cocoon. He licked his fingers and covered them with salvia.

“I’ll be easy Suzanne, real easy. Just relax.”
She counted the chirps of the crickets and listened to their song as he touched her. The smell of the river caressed her and for a moment she felt loose and free flowing like the Juniata– ready to pour into his demands.

It was pitch black inside the tent. She wasn’t sure if it was his fingers or something else—it felt so right, so warm and she wanted more of it to go deeper inside.A daddy long-leg spider ran across the sleeping bags and scurried under the crack between the canvas of the tent.

Bill crawled out of his bag and removed the flap covering her body and slowly lowered his head until his chin bumped into the drawstrings of her sweatpants where his fingers had been feeling their way around.He slowly parted her tender pink flesh and placed his mouth upon her like a rainbow trout grasping at a mosquito hovering over the rapids of a mountain stream. She jumped like a fish out of water, so he yanked her torso deeper into his hungry mouth.  


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Along the Juniata

shawn l. smith's mountain


Bill taught Suzanne the secret way of predicting the weather on the night she lost her virginity. “Count the chirps of a cricket and you can tell how hot it’s going to be tomorrow,” the young man who looked like Shaggy from ‘Scooby Doo’ said to his girlfriend as they crawled inside their sleeping bags.

“Do you really want to go swimming in that brown water? You’ll scare the trout! I’ll take you to Raystown Lake if you want to go swimming, Suzanne. This hole is really for fishing, not swimming.”

 shawn l. smith river

“What do you mean, Bill? I’m going swimming. That’s why I agreed to sleep in the woods with you– you said it was a swimming and fishing hole. You told me about the times the kids in town went swimming here.”

“We had no choice as kids, Suzanne. We didn’t have cars to drive over to the lake. We went swimming here instead. But we were not fishing at the time. It gets hot in the summer, ya know. The best pastime was not always fishing.”

It was the first of many camping trips the couple took together in their youth along Bill’s favorite childhood fishing spot. The enchanting Appalachian landscape was almost magical and served as a nice little get-away for the college couple who were both sophomores at the University of Pennsylvania. Coming back to the country was a great way to unwind from all the books. They appreciated nature’s secrecy and the enchanting tranquility of the place. It was a two- mile walk to get there– a hike along an abandoned railroad track led to the spot. Honeysuckle bushes, wild blueberries and mouth watering raspberries lined the trail to the secluded camping site along the slow moving waters of the Juniata River.

Suzanne, a gorgeous twenty-two year old blonde from Baltimore Maryland was over six feet tall and could hardly fit inside the polyester sleeping bags that Bill picked up from his mother’s house on their way to the place Bill frequented as a young, troubled boy.

“I came here almost every day. I couldn’t stand all his shit. But the fishing was always relaxing. I was able to escape here.”

“Who are you talking about, Bob?”

“Yes, he was such a control freak. It seemed like he really hated us ‘cause we weren’t his real boys! He just liked messing with our heads, always making us work– do chores. He would say stuff like–‘I’ll be God damned if I let you boys grow up to be like your real father. I’m going to teach you some discipline. The way I am is for a good reason. You are going to thank me one day.’

All I wanted was to go fishing. I was a good boy. Good at everything. I was the first string quarterback, got all A’s in school, went to church, made the honor roll and always did what he asked me to do. He always came up with more work for me, just to keep me and Charlie from going fishing.”

“Your mother is so amazing,” Suzanne said, noticing how upset he seemed to be getting and wanting to change the topic of conversation from Bill’s stepfather to something more positive.

“What do you mean?”

“She kept such good care of these sleeping bags. You said they were yours when you were a kid?”

“Oh yes. Mom is quite the housewife. I think she keeps those things stored in air tight bags. She keeps everything. She has a fireproof cabinet in her bedroom where she has saved all our certificates, awards and art projects from kindergarten and beyond. I think the world of my mom. You remind me of her, Suzanne.”

“Be thankful you have your mom, even if she is married to Bob,” Suzanne said while reaching for a can of Budweiser inside a red cooler at the far corner of the small tent. She wanted to talk about her mother’s murder to Bill, but now was not the time– not on the first weekend camping trip of her life. That conversation always got her so upset. Some things were better left alone and the story is just too sad to discuss openly.

“Get me one of those hon,” Bill insisted while stealing a glace of her pretty white ass wrapped in a delicate while silk fabric.

“I was the only one to ever really fish here. Charlie didn’t like fishing. He should have been a girl. But when I came here to the crick alone, I felt like an only child. It was so peaceful– nobody around. And the fish in here– they are native trout, not the kind that is raised in a fish hatchery. It takes a real fisherman to know how to catch them. This is where I learned to predict the weather, Suzanne. Those crickets– do you hear them?”

“Oh, Bill, don’t you think that is just an old wive’s tale or something?” She asked while tapping the lids on the ice cold beers. She licked small pieces of ice from pretty pink fingers.

“I think there is a scientific, biological explanation for the phenomena, Suzanne. Insects are cold blooded. Their body temperature changes and slows down in response to the changing temperature. That sound they are making is a mating call– a song of insect love. If it’s going to be cold, they sing a ballad, if it’s going to be hot, the rhythm is up-beat.”

“That makes a lot of sense. How do they create that chirp? With their mouths?” Suzanne asked.

“I think they do it with their legs. The males are masturbating, I think,” Bill explained while taking two deep swallows of the refreshing beverage.

“Fascinating,” she laughed while taking a second sip– “Simply fascinating.”

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Stella’s Pool Hall

Stella’s is more than a pool hall. It’s a place of worship. Some call it a hustler bar where beautiful men in New York City can go when Con Edison is threatening to cut off the electricity. The owners keep the lights on into the early hours of the morning for the convenience of the hundreds of young protestant men exploring their sexuality, trying to survive in a town of trust funds and false prophets.

Despite the blemish it leaves on today’s clean-cut gay community, the bar is one of the best watering holes in the Big Apple and the only establishment similar to the homosexual party places of the 1970s. The drinks are strong and after having a few, one is sure to get caught up in all the testosterone that fills the place like a martini going down.

The place has a pool table, a jukebox and Latino waiters who are not afraid to work for a tip.
Guys strut around in g-strings and ask customers, both gay and straight, male and female, to “touch it” for a mere dollar. They do– the waiters make a good living at Stellas but I made a fortune.

Mayor Gulliani toned the place down quite a bit. There was a time when Latino street thugs pulled eleven inch snakes from their cages for a mere dollar. The former mayor’s no tolerance approach to dealing with the trade without tax service industry has made things even more challenging and exciting in this unknown lavender light district.

The hustlers who play pool there have dicks like pool cues and screw girls when they don’t need cash. They are not gay, but the lure of easy cash is too tempting to pass by, especially when men with prison records can’t find real jobs. They’ll screw anything for a few beers and bucks. They need some kind of income for child support, food for their babies and baby’s mommas and don’t forget the bling-bling.

I had just broken- up with a lover when I discovered Stellas. I had no idea what went on in the place. I like to play pool with real men, so the place seemed harmless, inviting and the perfect place to mend my broken heart.

Those who play pool at Stella’s do so to display their irresistible physical features to older and uglier bar patrons. They show off knocking balls into holes and spinning cue sticks, not to win a fifteen number game but to prove their manhood to those who see nothing wrong with helping a few down- low men keep their lights on.

I was desperate and needed not only a new apartment but a two- month security deposit, new clothing and almost every commodity available to modern man. I lost everything, including my Gillette Mach Four razor blade set in a recent hostile gay divorce. I was out for blood and cold hard cash.
“Who cares?” I said to my Jewish friend, Joan McElroy who tried to get me to work as a fluffer for the porn industry instead.

“Don’t go there to do it, Charles. I have lots of men who will take care of you if you only become their lover.”

“Now that’s being a real whore, Joan– no thanks I’m going to Stellas tonight. I need to make a grand and I hear that it can be done there.”
When gentlemen at Stella’s starting buying me beers and telling me to keep the change from twenty dollar bills, I realized that as a homosexual, I had nothing to prove to the civilized world. Women and men exchange cash for sex all the time– just because it’s done within the confines of marriage makes it no different than how the boys of Stellas manage their finances.

They welcomed me with bright smiles, lots of pats on the back and open wallets.

“Damn boy– who taught you how to shoot pool like that?”

“Wassup! You want some of this? You wanna play me? Come one rack em up, I can show you some shots you never even imagined.”

I was hurt by being dumped and thrown in prison for abusing my ex-lover. The attention was hard to turn down, and the cash– I needed that too.

While playing pool at Stella’s, I felt like a drag queen pushing my way to centerstage as I challenged Black and Latino thugs at their game for control of the table. Everyone has always told me I’m a butch bottom. I knew I could make some cash if they could.

The hustlers at Stella’s are the sexiest beings alive. Society hasn’t learned to embrace male prostitutes like the girls who spin around silver poles in heterosexual strip bars. The guys are much more fun and really have to work hard for their pay. There is no laying there, taking dick and shouting moans of joy just to get a John off. The men have to get their cocks up and perform.

There were not many white hustlers in Stella’s who could pull off the role of ‘rough trade’ for a such a selective audience, but I did. I was just as masculine as the ghetto dudes who ruled the joint. I was in the military and managed to keep my hardcore, rough-trade image despite the fact that I was an out- of- the- closet bottom. And I was white, I had an advantage– even as a hustler myself, they seemed to trust taking me home simply because I was white. The Black and Latino hustlers reminded me of that fact that I was privileged and white almost every night. They invited me to join them at their jobs as a ‘tag-team’ to make their work easier and to convince the Johns it was okay to proceed with the deal..

I felt guilty by taking money from the old queens who paid me to undress in front of them. They all promised that if I would settle down with them, they would offer me the world.

“No thanks, man. I don’t need another lover– I need some cash. Now where’s the $500?”

“Did I promise you $500? Wow, that was a lot.”

Oh well, I’m leaving then. Goodbye.”

Their hands started to tremble and they pulled that wad of cash out as I started to put on my coat.

The hustlers taught me well– always get the cash first. Those rich guys had young queens crying for their wealth all the time. I was different though. Business was business, and I didn’t need them for lovers– I only wanted to have those hot hustlers at Stellas for free. I did, and I made all that cash why doing research for my novel and finding the two month security deposit I needed for my new one bedroom apartment.



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