Slight Details & Random Events [MultiFormat]
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eBook by Eric Arvin
eBook Category: Erotica/Gay-Lesbian Erotica/Romance
A collection of short stories from one of today's most talented and challenging new writers. Eric Arvin covers everything from college love to mystical river sprites, from deep tragedy to bawdy sex comedy, in this collection that takes the everyday and finds the adventure within. It's a read sure to keep you guessing.
eBook Publisher: Dreamspinner Press/dr, Published: 2007, 2007
Fictionwise Release Date: July 2009
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3 Reader Ratings:
I would like to take this opportunity to thank a few people who have had an influence on the telling of these tales. First and foremost, to my friend HvH (hvhexpo.blogspot.com) not only for his brilliant work on the cover of this volume and the new illustrations herein, but for "Honeysuckle Sycamore" which first appeared as a blog series collaboration between the two of us. I'd also like to thank Josh Aterovis (www.joshaterovis.com) for his kind words in the introduction. Thank you Carey Parrish (www.webdigestweekly.com) for giving a few of my stories their first temporary home. Thank you Dr. Kathy Barbour at Hanover College for inspiring me and easing the poetry and at least one short story contained in this anthology out of my head. Thank you N.C. Strickland for your editing prowess. And finally, thank you to all my loyal readers. You make me constantly want to push myself.
Albert Einstein is said to have once stated, "My religion consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable superior spirit who reveals himself in the slight details we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble mind." In Eric Arvin's Slight Details & Random Events, he does indeed reveal his limitless spirit, his strength of character and will. This collection of intensely personal short stories and modern fairy tales will not only entertain and enchant, they will also bring you a little closer to their author.
The heart of the book is a series of connected shorts about Cat and Gael, starting with "The Painting" and culminating with "A Jog in the Rain." In these stories, a young couple struggles to find their place in the world and each other's lives. One of the characters survives a brain injury and its aftermath, much like the one Arvin also survived. Another health scare--this time cancer--shows up in "Raspberry Boy." Both times, the characters fight the despair and fear that comes with such a debilitating experience--and each conquer it in their own way.
For fans of Arvin's first novel, The Rest Is Illusion, Verona College, the fictional school that plays such an integral role in the book, makes several appearances. More importantly, the supernatural and spiritual tones of that first novel shine in stories like "Tater 'n Purgatory," in which a young man mourns the loss of his lover. "Camera Phone" also plumbs the supernatural depths, but with a bit more horror. Melancholy stories like "Dismagic Planet" and "The Ice Tree" limn familial dysfunction and death to great effect.
There's something for fans of Arvin's lighter fare like Subsurdity as well, including "Absurdity on Jasper Lane." The story is every bit as charming as the book that grew out of it, and it offers a rare and fascinating glimpse into the seed that becomes a novel. The same giddy humor, along with a healthy dose of eroticism, finds its way into a literary triptych starring Gordy, a sweet but dimwitted gym bunny completely unaware of the effect he has on everyone around him.
"Books by Covers" is fascinating and entrancing, quite possibly the best short story I've ever read. The story is centered on a lone jogger making his way through a college campus. It's told through his thoughts, but also internal commentary of those who see him and their reactions to him. "Books" is a brilliant character study.
And finally, there's "Honeysuckle Sycamore," a fairy tale so enchanting and wonderful, you'll wish it wouldn't end. It tells of Passions, supernatural beings born of human emotion, who live and die in a river valley. The story is practically begging to be made into a graphic novel, the imagery is so vivid and rich.
These stories are interspersed with poems and three more short stories. Each reveals a bit more about their author. Who is Eric Arvin? If you don't know already, you will by the time you finish this book.
Author of the Killian Kendall Mystery Series
October 2007 * * * *
admit it freely
admit it freely: god is a jigsaw puzzle
with missing pieces all over the damn floor getting caught in the cracks and sliding through the vent collect them all and you've seen too much and you'll have to die god is the big "what"
a neon white glow surrounding the letters--capitalize now--G-O-D
the great abstraction in glorious abundance:
a freshly painted canvas on the rainy streets of paris a lion with the laugh of a hyena still, I want to know this is my test, like Jacob wrestling with his angel my birth to the spirit and faith in the world wanting to believe in the connection--as a natural being part of the sphere--
around we go, thrown against other souls animals and animals the mingled destinies of crocodiles and men so I am him and he is me and the world is big resolution: a jog in the rain * * * *
One spring morning while walking in the woods that surrounded his home, Jeremiah Bluker came across a man tied to a very large tree. The man was naked and blindfolded with a strip of gold cloth. He sat calmly at the base of the tree. His hands were tied above his head with silver chain link. His large legs were sprawled in front of him, and his goodly-proportioned manhood rested on the ground for all the forest to wonder at. His beautiful, muscular form was undeniable to Jeremiah, who blushed upon looking on him. Jeremiah was a simple farmer, and naked men tied to trees was not something he had ever heard of before. Being that the man was blindfolded, he took the opportunity to let his eyes wander over this marvel of creation. The huge phallus must surely be useless, for no woman could fit it inside her, and no mouth was wide enough for it either. Such abnormalities and the prospects they presented titillated the senses.
"Are you he?" the naked man spoke. He was still quite calm, though helpless and at the mercy of his surroundings.
"Am I who?" Jeremiah asked, approaching the stranger cautiously.
"It is you. I know you by your voice."
Jeremiah was certain he had never met the man. He would have remembered such unnatural beauty. Yet his sleep of late had been disturbed. Perhaps he had met this man in the village but by some temporary amnesia was unable to place him.
"I do not know who you think I am," Jeremiah said, "but you seem to be in need of help. I shall undo your bonds. Who tied you thus?"
"You may do as you wish," the beautiful man spoke gently. "But you will be unable to loosen the chain and free me."
"It's simple enough. The chain looks to be only wrapped around and tied to that tree limb." He examined the chain more thoroughly, taking his eyes for a moment off the phallus on its bed of leaves. "Yes. Most easily undone."
"That might be. But you will not be able to accomplish this task. You will be distracted. You always are."
Jeremiah stopped and stared at the man. What a strange thing to say, he thought. Could this man be insane? Was he tied here in the woods, left here, because of some mental defect?
"How did you come to be here? Who did this to you?" Jeremiah asked again. He felt the chains, the smooth and ice of them. He tried pulling and felt some give. But his eyes were beginning to lose focus on what he was doing. They began to wander again, to drift downward in the area of the stranger's crotch. The beautiful man's manhood began to grow like a snake twisting through the undergrowth of the forest. It rose, climbing to an awesome size such as Jeremiah could never have fathomed. And it was stunning. Perfect. A flawless work of art carved from flesh. Veins ran through its neck like azure jewelry. Beneath the great sluice lay a sack of the fullest, most delectable balls. Cannons had not shot balls as large.
Jeremiah tried to restrain his glance, to focus again on the chain, but his fingers no longer cared for that task. They wanted another to keep them busy.
"You are unable, you see?" the man said.
Jeremiah dropped to his knees onto the fallen leaves and grass. "Why am I unable? What is it that draws me to you?" He heard his voice as if in a dream. It echoed and was muffled by a haze of lust.
"Explanations are beyond us. I am your task now."
Jeremiah hardly looked at it as a task. He relished what the man had invited him to do. Something that was forbidden in the village. But here in the woods he was able to indulge. A fever permeated his entire form. He felt his hands hotter for the touch of the man, as if they would scorch the very flesh of the stranger's manhood that was now being touched, stroked, kissed, and licked. As if his fingers might boil the fine, large eggs that he now fondled and brought as best he could into his mouth. The impossibility of it, trying to take the phallus into him in any way he could. He was becoming obsessed with the struggle. The more he was thwarted, the harder he tried. The friction of Jeremiah's attempts at possessing made the thing larger, more gorgeous. Jeremiah was dazzled as the bulbous head of the shaft turned a deep, shining purple and then exploded with a shower of white that seemed not to want to ever stop. Even after that the shaft stood erect, dribbling, and non-defeated. Jeremiah went down again and again. And every time the stranger's phallus would burst into the world its new seed. Jeremiah was insatiable and continued with his play well into the night. He would have taken the man inside him by more pleasurable means if he thought he could survive it.
At last, the jeweled neck became placid, and Jeremiah found his desire too was fading, and he only wanted to sleep. Feeling incapable of finding his way back home in the dark, he curled up beside the chained man, resting his head on the stranger's broad chest.
"What are you doing here?" he asked, sleepily. "Why could I not release you?"
"Explanations are beyond us. We are what we are. We must be satisfied with that."
"You are like Prometheus, I think. Unable to be freed. Drained of your seed every night for some sin against the gods."
"Possibly. But I am blindfolded. If I have sinned, I do not see it." He paused. "And you? Do you see yours?"
"I can remember no sin," Jeremiah said with a yawn. "I'll free you in the morning."
"No, my friend," said the man. "You will forget I am here until you go for your morning stroll. I am chained by some other man's wish, but I remember things. You are free to do what you will, but ignorant. What is your sin?" * * * *
Tater 'n Purgatory
Purgatory was a dog, a real mean dog. He was a dog without a home, without an anchor, but full of purpose. He was dark, gothic symbolism incarnate. At night, he wandered through the woods like a well-fed lupine spirit, having more in kind with those undomesticated hounds and ancestors than ever he did with the pets and guard dogs of suburbia. Purgatory snarled his way through life.
Tate watched Purgatory every evening from under a tin slab that acted as a porch roof on his one-room shack beneath the trees. It is Tate, not the dog, with whom we are most concerned, and whose tale is herein told. Purgatory (named so by Tate because the dog looked like a product of a disagreement between demons and angels) was oblivious to the howls of distress from the creatures he stalked. He tore through elder skunk and newborn wildcat with the same vicious abandon. Tate had even once seen the hound take part in the birth of a batch of felines by gobbling each kitten up as it arrived, fresh from its mother's womb, before consuming the mother as well. This incident might have disturbed the young man if he weren't already numbed by pain.
Tate occasionally wondered in his anguish-free moments if Purgatory had been birthed at all. It was simply more plausible that he had been regurgitated from some rotting earth-hole composed of putrid clay and nether flatulence.
Purgatory had been visiting Tate since the young man had moved into the shack, rent-free, a year prior to this story's beginning. Not a word or whelp was ever noised between them. Tate had first believed the animal belonged to his landlord, for whom he did daily chores in exchange for housing. But the landlord, who lived in a big ol' house on the stereotypical hill above the shack, only shot at the dog whenever it went too near his place. Purgatory had never bothered Tate, though. As far as Tate knew, the dog hadn't even ventured within ten feet of the shack. He only stared at it as if waiting for something. Every day, as dusk settled on the wood, Tate sat on a blue milk crate outside his shack while Purgatory would lie miserably on a mound yards away. They eyed one another unflinchingly in uneasy recognition. They saw in one another signs of the crosswalks they had both traversed in Hell.
Purgatory, though a bit of a runt, had never had a problem feeding himself by pillaging the burrows of the forest. Of late, however, Tate noted the dog seemed better fed than ever. In fact, he was twice as wide as he was long. The night was looming closer as man and dog continued their mutual observation of one another. The fading light peeked through the trees, and mosquitoes and bugs emerged from their pits and mudholes to feed their hunger. The owls hooted and small nocturnal creatures made quick dashes from bush to bush. Purgatory was beginning to stir again, shooting a glance here and there, raising an ear whenever he heard a possible pre-meal snack. His stomach made a jarring rumble.
"That dog," Tate said with a smug grin. "He's hungry all the damn time."
"He's a dog," said a comforting voice at Tate's side. "Dogs eat whenever they can. They don't need to be hungry, Tater. Just like you."
"You're always sneaking up on me," Tate said, as he peeped sidelong at his boyfriend. As of late, Tate couldn't even hear Scotty coming. He used to be so aware that he could have heard a pin drop in a thunderstorm. Now it was as if Scotty's feet had grown a thick coat of moss on their soles, as if he just sprang from the earth like God made Adam.
"I don't sneak anymore, Tater," Scotty replied. "No time for that."
"Why you always cavortin' around nekkid as a jaybird?" Tate wondered with affection. "Ain't it bad enough you won't let me touch you no more? Now you gotta make me want."
"Oh, Tater. I don't have time for that neither. It's different now. You know that. I just don't need to wear clothes anymore is all."
Tate lost what good nature he had. His face crumbled into a frown. "I know," he replied. "I know it's different. Wish it weren't, though. Wish there was some way to make it the same again."
He felt Scotty's eyes on him, studying him, wanting him as well. But the line was too thin now; the strained air could not support true interaction any longer. Yearning looks had to suffice for erotic touch. Yet the looks Tate and Scotty fed one another were enough to sizzle passing night flies into nothingness. The humid country night surrounding them was as nothing to Tate's breathing as he looked at Scotty. Tate would swear that he could see his breath; that the summer air felt as frosty as winter compared to what he felt for Scotty.
"The lights are still on at the old place on the hill," Scotty noted, nodding in the direction of the landlord's large home.
"Yeah," Tate observed. "They've been on for days now. He's gone off. I ain't goin' in the house, not anymore."
"You could go take care of the lights. It is your job to take care of things when he isn't able. You've always kept your word before. Ain't no different now. You should go see to them."
"Why?" Tate asked, somewhat annoyed. He leaned away, setting his fist on his muscular thigh. "Why would I do that? It's his own damn fault he left the lights on."
Scotty smiled and let a moment drift by. "Maybe you're right," he said placatingly. "You stubborn son-of-a-bitch." He seemed to relax suddenly, his shoulders dropping as if he were resting on a downy mattress.
"You're leaving now, ain't you?" Tate said, grief slipping through his words. "You're leaving me again."
"I'll be back later," Scotty said with a look of compassion. "I'd kiss you goodbye, but ... well..." He lifted his arms in a shrug, and then gradually disappeared into the forest air like a puzzle disassembling itself piece-by-piece.
"You never stick around for nothin'!" Tate shouted to the empty night. Then, more to himself, "All I get is the thought of what was. What it felt like to be inside you." A tear dropped to his hand, and he shook it away carelessly.
Purgatory, who was by this time rife with hunger, rose from his prone position and walked away from the shack, having witnessed Tate argue with the dark. The dog strode, night on legs, through the forest and up the hill. He had no intention of stopping to chase down a squirrel or fox, though he heard many a fretful scamper. No, there was no need to hunt this night. There was plenty of food to be had ahead.
The door was open to the large old house, and the dog entered. The massive man who lay dead on the floor was enough meat to feed him for at least another week. And Purgatory had been feeding on him for only a couple of days, since the day he had been compelled by the odor into forcing his way through the back door. He lapped at the trail of dried blood still surrounding the corpse. * * * *
Tate sat alone with the dark in familiar silence. His ears shut out the whisper of the woods; his eyes closed on his burdens. A drunken slumber settled on him, though he hadn't touched beer in over a year.
"Subtract the few worthwhile days from the years, and you'd only live a month," he mumbled to himself. He rose with a groan. It was almost as if he had grown tiny roots all over his body. He felt as if they grasped the milk crate, unwilling to be undone so easily. He was too young, he knew, to have such difficulty rising. He hadn't yet turned 25, but the world had spun around too many times already.
As he walked inside the shack, it suddenly seemed a much brighter place than his single kerosene lantern was capable of showing. It was damn near electrical, but there weren't any electrical outlets in the retired woodshed. He wondered in his vertiginous, lopsided thoughts if he had stumbled somehow up the hill and into the landlord's home.
As he wobbled into the brightness, his eyes adjusting slowly, he saw three figures facing him from the other side of a long table. The table was wider than the shack itself, and Tate realized the walls, indeed the entire shack, had disappeared into the bright yellow light that now surrounded him as far as he could see. Papers were spread out in front of the center figure seated at the table, almost as if Tate were about to be tested or interviewed.
"Sit down, please," said the figure. He recognized the voice immediately.
"Grandma?" he stated in shock. His disorientation let his mind more easily accept the ridiculous. "What the ... You're as dead as a doornail. I was at your funeral. They damn near had to pry Aunt Janie off your dead body." He slowly took a seat across from them on an old milking stool, nearly toppling back on its wobbly wooden legs.
"Baby, this ain't the time. We got stuff to talk over." She gave him a wink. "We'll talk later," she whispered comfortingly in the manner that grandmas often use.
He quickly shot stunned glances to the figures at either side of her. Sitting to one flank was Scotty, still naked, still beautiful, with a smile as wide as the Atlantic. On Grandma's other side sat a grim, faceless form shrouded in shadows which wheezed and grumbled incoherent curses amidst sickening dribbling noises.
"What's going on?" Tate asked. "I'm drunk, right? But I ain't had nothin' to drink. Mushrooms, did I pick some bad mushrooms? What the fuck!"
"Tater, shut up," Scotty said, his smile still hanging on like the Cheshire Cat. "Now, this is important. They're here for you and me. There are others, too, but you can't see them. It's like a ... like a peer review. The thing is, I knew you were coming, so I put in a request that we be matched together. That's what this is for."
"What? That we be together? How? What are you talkin' about, fool?" He scratched his head, completely lost.
"It's simple, baby," Grandma said. "We just need to go through a few forms, ask a few questions..."
"Then we can be together again," Scotty exclaimed.
"Scotty, you're nekkid in front of my grandma! Put some damn clothes on, you nasty booger."
"You're not focusing on what's important here, Tater," Scotty said, exasperated. His smile melted into an expression of annoyance with which Tate was all too familiar. It was the look he received whenever he was being particularly pig-headed or belligerent.
"Now, let's get started," Grandma said, rummaging through the papers in front of her. "It says here you were a couple for around six years. Is that so, sugar?"
"Yeah," Tate said. "Since senior year in high school." He looked to Scotty, still uncertain as to what was happening.
"Messed around for the first time the night of the prom," Scotty giggled.
"In my date's green pick-up," Tate joined in.
"Cause you never got your damn license." Scotty continued to guffaw. Grandma waited patiently until they had both stopped laughing. The shadowy figure wheezed louder as if wanting to tell them to keep quiet so they could get things done.
"And was there any cheating during this time? Any discrepancies?" Grandma at last said, peering over her glasses knowingly.
Tate stumbled. The merriment left him at once. "Um ... Once," he said. Scotty grinned and shook his head. "All right! Twice. But it was only because Scotty was stationed so far away. A man needs release."
"You coulda jerked it," Scotty offered. "That's what I did, jackass!"
Grandma clicked her tongue.
"What? What's that mean?" Tate implored. "Why you cluckin' now like a hen?"
"It just means you're a man," Grandma said. "And men are men, no matter who they're pluggin'."
"Moving on," she said. "How many times have you been in love?"
Tate glanced to Scotty. "Just this once," he said.
"Oh," Grandma moaned appreciatively, putting a hand on her chest where her heart used to be before noting something on the papers in front of her as she nodded.
"Scored some points there," Scotty said.
"Do you want to spend the rest of eternity, every incarnation, every energy level, and every dimension with this man? With this purty young thing sitting beside me?" she inquired.
"Yes!" Tate shouted. "Yes! Without a doubt." Scotty grinned widely again.
"Very well," she said. "Those are all the questions I have. Anyone else have anything they want to ask?" She looked around her as if there were others beyond the yellow light.
"I do," came the gravelly drawl of the dark figure next to Grandma. It leaned forward into the light, and Tate gasped, rising and knocking the milk stool over. His landlord--or what was left of him--peered back at him. His face was bloated and looked half-eaten, his musculature pulsed, stripped of its flesh. He dripped bile and blood everywhere. Grandma leaned away from him in open disgust.
"Jesus!" Tate cried.
"Why did you kill me?" the monster grimaced.
Tate stared in horror, raising his arm as if to shield himself from the claws of a demon.
"Gimme a break!" Scotty immediately bellowed at the question. "You know exactly why he killed you."
"Hush now," Grandma said. "Let Tate tell it."
"Well," Tate said, collecting himself and the milking stool. He was quiet as the monster attempted to stare him down--or tried. One of his eyes plopped onto the table with an embarrassing thud, which inadvertently lessened the tension a bit. "Scotty's right, Grandma. That bastard knows why I done it." He put all his attention on the miserable mess of a man now. "I done it cause you done it to me first." He was past the blood and guts, focusing instead on his anger.
"I never laid a finger on you," the man hissed.
"You might as well have done," Tate countered.
"How?" he shouted. "I demand to know how? We've never met before this year. Before I offered your sorry ass a place to stay, I never laid eyes on you."
"But I knew you. I knew you way before you knew me. I knew you from what you did to Scotty. When you outed him, when he was discharged because of what you said, he was destroyed. That's all he ever wanted to do. That was his purpose, and you took it from him."
"How is that like murdering a man?" Grandma asked. "Just askin' for the others," she said, referring to those behind the light.
"Because he was never the same," Tate replied, staring at Scotty. "Because, soon after, I couldn't even get him to eat; because his family wouldn't so much as speak with him; and because he hanged himself. His self-worth was so wrapped up in the notion his family had built around military service that even I couldn't compete with it. No matter how much I loved him, I had to watch him die slowly each day." He turned his wrath toward the monster again. "Your death was too easy. Too painless and quick compared to what he endured! And I ... I'm still dying..."
"Those were the rules!" the monster shouted. "Those were the rules! I followed them. You had no right to do what you did! That was my life." His voice echoed through corridors and halls unseen.
"No more than you, sir! You destroyed two lives. I think you got off easy, you lousy shit."
"Hon," Grandma said before turning her attention to the monster. "I think your question has been answered." As she said this, the mass of blood and gore collapsed with a croaking moan and flowed out through a hole in the floor like water down a drain.
Grandma gave Tate a wink. "Your mama says hi," she said. Then she disappeared into the dark as the yellow light dimmed, and the shack's sparse lighting returned. Scotty also faded back into the dark, embraced by it.
Tate's sense of the world returned. He no longer felt inebriated or lightheaded. He felt abandoned once more and put his head in his hands, sobbing on the stool, his knees raised so high he was nearly sitting in a fetal position. "Scotty," he murmured. "Scotty. Why do you keep leaving me?"
Suddenly, he felt a touch on his head, a hand running through his hair, and he looked up slowly. The electricity of the touch told him who it was before he even saw Scotty beaming down at him. Immediately, Tate jumped to his feet and embraced his companion. He held him as tightly as he could, wanting to feel every muscle either of them possessed contort, flex, and respond to the corresponding muscle in the other.
"Scotty," Tate cried. "I didn't think I'd be able to touch you again. Not until I was dead and gone." He cradled the back of Scotty's head with his hands.
"But, Tater," Scotty said, pulling away a little. "You are dead."
Tate stared into his eyes, confused. Scotty nodded in the direction of the open doorway, beyond which hunkered the night. Through the door, Tate could see someone seated on his milk crate. Reluctantly loosening his grip on Scotty, he approached the door cautiously. He became aware, in a moment of slow realization, that he was in fact still seated on the crate. There was no one else there; he had never risen at all. He had been dead for quite some time, and his vacant eyes stared out into the woods after the phantom of a wounded, old dog. They had lost all reflection; he was the soul peering back into the empty body which had housed it. Yet he had no desire to stay and guard the lifeless corpse against those who would befoul or besmirch it.
Tate held Scotty around the waist tightly as they headed slowly away into a promising new night. "I'm not gonna lie and say I'll miss who I was right there at the end."
"Good," Scotty said. "That's Hell, the not letting go."
"I think I let go the day you died, Scotty," Tate confessed. "I was just waiting around for my walking papers."
"What do you say we take a stroll under the stars? That's a romantic thing to do, right? They say so in the movies."
"What about my body? Will somebody find me ... er, it?"
"In time," Scotty answered. "Do you care?"
Tate thought for a moment, none too heavily. "No, I really don't," he answered. "Let's go get romantic."