The Five People You Meet In Hell (One: The Recruiter)

This is a short story/work in progress. This is FICTION.


He had made him bleed.

Since reading Joan Didion’s Play It As It Lays while recovering from his first suicide attempt made on the occasion of his twelfth birthday in 1973,Parker had been asking: What makes Iago evil? Which springs to mind because last night to a man he knew as Recruiter, who knew him as Sebastian, Parker had Grindr-messaged the Didion quote, Just so. I am what I am, in response to Recruiter’s unsolicited input on Parker’s — well, Sebastian’s — sexual performance, which review he’d prefaced with, Don’t take this the wrong way but…

The-Preaching-of-the-Antichrist-detail-of-Christ-and-the-Devil-from-the-Chapel-of-the-Madonna-di-San-Brizio-1499-1504-xx-Luca-SignorelliWhen the too-old-for-this-shit Parker overpowered the submissive Sebastian-alter and sneered (which is not that easy to achieve in a Grindr-message, but Sebastian had gifts) What is the right way to fucking take it?, having never met the Parker hiding inside Sebastian nor seen The Three Faces of Eve, Recruiter mistook it as an invitation to offer anatomically specific advice on inserter and insertee behavior, including a suggestion that Sebastian’s over dramatic response was a boner-killer.

At which point Parker — again mid-weeping, unable to stop obsessively re-reading the first sentence of the first story in Patrick Ryan’s collection, The Dream Life of Astronauts, a first sentence that got immediately to the point and the pith, telling the reader at least eight important things in only thirty-four words, a first sentence in a book published by a division of Random House with a hardback cover boasting a blurb by one of Parker’s idols, Ann Patchett (he’d hugged her once and photo-opped at a book-signing, could Patrick Ryan — younger than Parker, godammit — say that? Well, probably. And probably in Iowa. At the workshop. They all fucking went to the workshop where Parker had only managed to spend one summer and only because he’d been near-bullied into it by a dear friend over the passive-aggressive objections of — never mind, he didn’t want to revisit that relationship.), whereas Parker, trying to write now since he’d been six, was unable in thirty-four pages to describe even the simple deleting of a Grindr account without it devolving into what one kind and loving and supportive and ultimately uninterested agent had called beautiful Balzacian excess which no one will read or buy — had dropped the Just so. I am what I am.

To Parker, this made sense. If he would never write a thirty-four word sentence communicating an entire backstory in a Random House hardback blurbed by Ann Patchett, then he would drop Joan Didion quotes on people who had no idea that Patrick Ryan, Ann Patchett, Joan Didion, or Parker existed.

Let alone Balzac. (Ha, he wondered, can I comfort myself imagining I am a “let alone Balzac”?)

And like all the ultimately uninterested agents, Recruiter would join the ranks of the ultimately uninterested Grindr-tricks.

At first, Parker/Sebastian had blocked Recruiter. Lie. At first, Parker/Sebastian experienced chest-pain and abashment at Recruiter’s comeback; Don’t get all shitty bitch just trying to help you get more cock. At second, Sebastian wanted to apologize. At second, Parker, tired of the situations into which Sebastian was getting him, thought it best he erase Sebastian.

Of course, Parker being Parker and not Sebastian, spent days picking at and worrying his latest psychic-wound inflicted by yet another thirty years younger trick, chastening himself for allowing the admonitions of someone with whom he didn’t trust his actual identity or age to affect him so badly. Then again, Recruiter did make his living rounding-up tops to train-fuck his favored bottom for X-Tube paywall videos, so, he was something of an expert.

As had been the ultimately uninterested but much gentler agent. Maybe if Recruiter had been kinder. Maybe if Recruiter had not called him a boner-killer. Maybe if Recruiter had said his reactions during sex displayed a Balzacian excess in which no one was interested, that no one would buy.

Parker was feeling old.

Parker was feeling sorry for himself.

Parker couldn’t quite believe the thirty-four word first sentence of the first story of the collection published by Random House blurbed by Ann Patchett written by Patrick Ryan was both so damned concise and suffused with evocative detail. Parker couldn’t quite wrap his Balzacian distorted Three Faces of Eve fucked-up thinking head around  the reality that he had spent a life being rejected by the Catholic church, his peers, schools, theater directors, literary agents, men, his family, and now, well, Sebastian.

Who no longer wanted to play. Which was why he had to be edited out. Sebastian — like all good subs — was ultimately in control of what was acceptable, of his limits, of what could be done to him before he called out his safe word and brought the action to a halt. And Parker — like many bad doms — had let things go too far with Sebastian, allowed Recruiter — and others — to use too much, too rough, too without regard for the wear and the tear on Sebastian.

Who, despite not even actually (even and actually? this is what no one buys) existing, had started to bleed. Who was bleeding. Who, when Parker looked down, there, was surprised to see his hands were not red, but a sort of purplish-brown, sticky and slippery at once, dripping, cold like winter already here at the end of another summer, one hand — the right, Balzacian detail: as with clipping nails, it had been surprisingly easy for right-handed Parker to wield the razor with his left hand, of course, he’d played Sweeney as left-handed but that story would never be told now, would it?  — still holding the hollow ground 6/8 inch round tip straight razor, etched with his name, given him by his director when he’d played Sweeney Todd.

These sentences were too long. There needed to be less. There needed to be a safe word for Parker to have called. To have stopped it some time ago. Much earlier. But, one word? Parker. Not likely. Maybe, two?

Ann Patchett.

Exit. Exit. Oh, Exit.

Exit 3 Ways

I will
I think
stop be-
-ing sur-
-prised at
the ease
with which
can ex-
-it con-
-tions with

I had to run so quickly to save my life, like a conflagration, not of flames, but her fury, and I grabbed what was in my path, trying to be sure and certain to take what I would need, what had been mine before her, and in the run and the rush and the firing of her accusations, I left behind my aunt’s fur coat. I lost my aunt’s fur coat. Which I had used as a costume. And prop. In which I would wrap myself when I was sad. And cold. Because it meant so much to my aunt. I could not, could not ever, go back to get it. I had to save my life and in doing so lost parts of it.

I will, I think, never stop being
surprised at the ease with which people
can exit conversations with me.

And so many pictures. But what would I do with them? And then, there, the new place, which I am about to lose, instead of fire, flood. Soon. After. I’d arrived. Water. I woke one night and swung my legs over the side of the bed onto the ground where a river had come. A river in which my pictures and scrapbooks, the ones I’d managed to grab when I’d run, a river in which those were drowned and turned to clumps of glue and ink and paper and made brick of blanks. I have just memories. No proof.

I will, I think, never stop being surprised at the ease with which people can exit conversations with me.

No fur. No proof. So many lost parts of me.

And soon, I need to run again. I have left so much behind.

I wish I had Sissie’s fur coat to wrap myself in, protect me from all that is gone. Which makes sense to no one but me.

Exit. Exit. Oh, exit.

SHORT STORY: Two Dogs and a Shotgun

I have been working on short stories – this is a piece of one – that is a piece of another – that I think wants to be a backstory in yet another – and so, probably, will never end up in any of those places. So, I’m putting it here. Goodnight.


just come in come upstairs dont have lot of time

Fear implanted from too many Lifetime movies: This is a set-up. It’s not really the man in the picture who is messaging me. It’s somebody setting up an unsuspecting friend. I’ll walk into a stranger’s house, up the steps, into a bedroom, and the man there won’t know who or what I am. Or, I’ll walk into a stranger’s house, up the steps, into a bedroom, and get the shit beat out of me by a gaggle of redneck fagbashers. Or, I’ll walk into a stranger’s house, up the steps, into a bedroom, find a dead body and the police will burst in, my DNA will be found all over the place because a previous trick saved it and planted it on the victim.

you close

I walk into a stranger’s house, up the steps, into a bedroom, and it’s the guy in the picture, albeit fifteen pounds (at least) heavier, absent the two white dogs, camouflage pants, jacket, and cap, and shotgun he had in the photo. I notice things.

i dont have a lot of time

There is as little decor in the room as there is punctuation or intonation in his messages, or, frankly, his speaking; he requires interpretation. Which is fine with me. I would rather imagine him. Real life is too hard. Stranger’s rooms games are much easier the less one knows. Names are never allowed. He does have the same smile as in the picture. Not that it was his smile that convinced me to risk death by walking into a stranger’s house, up the steps, into a bedroom. It was the dogs. I love dogs. Especially white dogs. I suspect from his camouflage couture and gun in the picture, he likes white things too. I think this must be a guest room. It’s just a futon mattress on the floor and nothing on the walls. Nothing anywhere. I notice things.

you dont look forty-six –

I’m not, of course – which I don’t say because I don’t talk. I notice things.

– i mean you look younger than that which is weird cuz people say i look older than twenty-six –

I’m terrible with age. As in, I lie a lot about mine. No. I’m not forty-six. I’m considerably older than forty-six but it seemed a safe enough deceit — or, conceit — having seen enough people claiming to be forty who looked – I thought – older than me. No one uses their real ages in these walking up the stairs and into stranger’s rooms games. So, what does twenty-six look like anyway? I thought it looked like the guy in the picture with the camouflage pants, jacket, and cap, the two white dogs, and the shotgun. I think it was a shotgun. Is a rifle a shotgun? I don’t care really. When I walked into this room expecting a dead body or a beat down, he was wearing black sweatpants and a t-shirt from Big Pecker’s Bar and Grille in Ocean City which I’m betting he got during senior week eight years ago because that’s what rednecks do around here — go to Ocean City and buy disgustingly vile t-shirts and spend all week trying to get drunk and laid, the latter of which won’t be a problem today because that is the only reason I am here and now he has removed the sweats and the Pecker-shirt and stripped to a surprising pair of green and white checked boxers which appear to be almost British in cut. I know my boxers. I know my British. He’s rubbing himself through them. If he’s uncut I’m going to want to ask what he did with his accent. I won’t ask. I have learned that one of the rules of these games — as far as I am concerned and in the version I play — is not to make jokes the other players are not likely to get or appreciate. So, mostly, I don’t talk. I notice things.

you wanna –

No need for details. I did not wanna but I did want to. Which is why I was there. And we did. Not for long. And there was no reason to ask what he’d done with his accent. And the not for long, I think, was not because he didn’t have a lot of time, but because he never, probably, takes long once the almost-sort-of-British boxers are removed and the wanna gets going. I am considerably older than forty-six and considerably skilled at wanna. I ask where the dogs are from the picture. I have heard no barking. No whining to be let out of another room somewhere or in from a yard. I notice things.

you like dogs –

I do. But I don’t like real conversation. I am trying to go. I don’t, I tell him, have a lot of time either because I need to get back to take a shift with a patient I care for and I can’t be late so thanks. He wants to converse. I notice things.

oh yeah – i know about that – my wife’s a med-tech

What? As soon as I get out — which I do almost as fast as he came — I check the picture he sent and there with the camouflage pants, jacket, and cap, two white dogs, and shotgun, on the hand holding the gun, there it is, a ring.

I did not notice that thing. I want to feel awful and guilty but a childhood devotion to Susan Hayward films results in me feeling a little bit glamorous and romantic. He will probably want to leave his wife for me. I will not let him bring the camouflage outfits or the guns. But, the two dogs can come along.

Oh, what the hell, bring the shotgun.