Thursday, February 28, 2013

FEEDING THE SQUIRRELS: A Novella Serialized (Prologue) - MICHAEL

I have decided to present my novella Feeding the Squirrels, which is published by SynergEbooks exclusively as an eBook, here at A LINE A DAY in serial format.  Every three days a new installment will post until the tale has been told in its entirety.  The story is Rated R, falling short of 50 Shades of Grey degree of explicitness.  I don't believe it would be categorized as erotica but it most definitely is about sex, about a man who can't get enough of it, a man who has no trouble finding one ready and willing partner after another.  Michael is not merely fulfilled but defined by these sexual conquests.  Each chapter in between the first and last is named after a woman he has been intimate with, and thus helped to shape his identity.  His single-minded pursuit of pleasure is the common thread that unites them. But although the succession of affairs are singular experiences to a man who rarely thinks of yesterday or tomorrow, they eventually intertwine and leave him with a web of his own design to untangle.  Enjoy!

“The biggest coward is a man who awakens a woman's love with no intention of loving her.” - Bob Marley

You may be envious once I've related a little about myself. Or perhaps you will despise me. No matter. I seek neither acceptance nor punishment. And as for peace of mind, that elusive serum for hobgoblins which sets so many self-indulgent tongues in motion, I never held much stock in the stuff. I choose to spill my guts for no other reason than that they overflow.

This is not my life story. About myself there isn't much to tell. Not because the passage of time has been uneventful. My travels have been numerous, though no topographer could chart the shores I have landed upon. For it is not places that have been my destination, but women. I am drawn to them by a force I have never questioned. To their infinite variety of charms I am helpless. But the hold of none has been strong enough to keep me from wandering aimlessly to others. No matter how sweet the pollen of a particular flower, the supply quickly runs out. Rather than settle in the embrace of petals, I move onward, because my thirst has yet to be quenched.

I suppose I am blessed. Those who dream exclusively of riches do not find money where others see only leaves. A desire for fame is usually unfulfilled by the obscure. Longing for immortality adds not a second to one's allotted time. And I know there are men with carnal natures equal to mine who find relief mostly in the palm of their hands. But that which I seek, I tend to find.

I have done nothing to earn such good fortune. Genetics showed favor without regarding my worthiness for the gift. Of course, more important than appearance is knowledge of what to say, who to say it to, and who not to bother with. This too was bestowed upon me, though I am less certain how this came to be. Unlike the origin of my physical features, climbing the family tree provides few clues.

I would love to claim the ability to posses any woman I choose, but such a notion is ludicrous. Rather, I am gifted at knowing whom to eliminate as possibilities and whom to pursue wholeheartedly. My talent is looking into a woman's eyes and instinctively knowing what I need to. If she's lonely or bored; neglected or abused; timid or adventurous; satisfied or confused; looking to recapture the past or re-invent the present; making plans for tomorrow or merely concerned about tonight. I discover what a woman is looking for and promise it to her. If all she wants is a good time, she gets everything. If she wants more, I lie and take what she has to give. Then I move on.

You can say I'm taking advantage of the vibes I sense, or make a case that the vibes are exploiting my weakness. I take nothing that is not willingly offered. I hunt only for the bodies. Is it my fault that trust occasionally comes along for the ride?

I love them all in my fashion. For me, love means never forgetting. Every moment of the ecstasy is preserved, the agony as well. I remember who they were, and who I pretended to be. Or perhaps it's who they brought out of me. It seems I am unable to tell the difference. Does the answer lay in the truth beneath my lies, or the lies beneath my truths?

I determine what a woman's fantasy is, then play the part. This is done for my benefit as much as theirs, for most women will and do settle for far less than their ideal. You see, I’ve found that I need to be someone else. Or maybe I just need to be someone. The lies set up the foundation. The women fill in the empty spots. Take away the lies and the women, and who am I? Your guess is as good as mine.

My name is Michael. I don't lie about my name. Something has to be sacred, it might as well be something inconsequential. My father passed away when I was in my early teens, leaving me independently comfortable and on my own to determine what it meant to be a man. Bequeathed the luxury of spending time as I saw fit, my cock decided early on to run my itinerary. Since further back than I can remember, as I suckled on my mother's breasts, I have been a hedonist. Having no brothers or sisters, parental attention did not have to be split. I got it all, just as I like it.

I sense your misinterpretation already. You think I'm selfish, but in fact, giving pleasure is far more important to me than receiving. Seeing a woman's satisfied smile, hearing her contented moans, that's my reward. Sometimes I think I am the sum of the orgasms I bring about. When they cease to come I will likely cease to be. If I satisfy a woman's physical desires, it must mean I am worthy of her appreciation. When she clutches my back and tries to draw me in deeper, the moment could only be enhanced if she absorbed me entirely.

That's enough about me. I want to speak of them. The ethereal beings who give purpose and meaning to my existence. They are as varied as can be. My lust may not be blind, for standards must be met, but what stirs my loins is more spiritual than physical. I am equally content laying my head on pillow-like breasts or slurping substantially smaller versions like a pair of Hershey's chocolate Kisses. An ass tight as a fist brings my blood to a boil, but one that voluptuously stretches elastic to its limit has a similar effect. As long as a woman's legs are wrapped around my torso, short or long, thick or thin makes little difference. And as for the fiery region between those legs, I have yet to encounter one I did not find sublime.

If I brought about solely pleasure, I suppose I would be a happy man. But I am also responsible for pain on occasion, and this shames me, though only in retrospect. The pain is caused by them wanting more than I am willing to give. I make promises I know I won't keep, and some people grow attached faster and stronger than others. The thing is, for the most part I can detect these situations in advance. It's my gift, remember? I'm fully cognizant of what they desire, and need only be honest to avoid the inevitable scene of heartbreak. But then I wouldn't get to experience what they have to share, and my greed never fails to vanquish my conscience. The women who want the most are the ones I most desire, because they have the longest distance to travel towards contentment. They're in search of a man who will make their dreams of day a reality of night. The look in their eyes when they see the possibility of that in mine is a drug I cannot decline. I need to make the oaths as much as they need to hear them. Then I must callously break them.

If you are inclined to listen, I will tell you about a few of the women who have flitted in and out of my life. All beautiful in a way unique to the individual possessor. Each one touching me in a fashion, adding to the blank slate that I am. Some wanting me to stay regardless of the circumstances, but all being left behind. They had to be. How else was I to find out who and what lay ahead?

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


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Thursday, February 14, 2013

In Love With Love Stories?

Love in all its forms is a splendid thing indeed. On Valentine’s Day we pay homage to the romantic variety. It is certainly deserving of the honor. I think it’s safe to say that without romantic love the world would contain a great deal less art, which would be a monumental loss. How many songs, books, poems, paintings, movies, etc. have been created in an attempt to capture the elusive spirit of romantic fervor? Sure we’d still have religious art, and mankind wouldn’t expire because lust and duty to maintain our species would be sufficient to keep procreation going. But it just wouldn’t be the same as when inspired by the urges of two people to unite until death do them part. It doesn’t always work out that way of course. Many of us outlast those feelings, or rather, we decide it would be best to transfer them to someone else. Valentine’s Day doesn’t concern itself with the hard work required to keep a relationship together through the ravages of time. This day is about the magical, mystical moment when holding a certain person’s hand is as great a high as can be achieved. No work of art has truly captured that euphoria, though this won’t stop artists from eternally trying. And no matter how brief the stay at the peak of its height may be, and how arduous maintenance of a far less intense version proves to be, this does not stop lovers from seeking and finding each other. We are put here first and foremost to love each other. Some have better luck at it than others. Cupid’s aim is haphazard. Yet most of us are struck at one point or another, repeatedly in many cases, in certain scenarios once proves to be enough. When it hits the mark the concept of Forever becomes meaningless unless it can be spent with The One who makes our heart beat to a rhythm that nobody else can match. However...

On the other hand, some say that men are predestined by biology to be serial lovers. The consensus is that men have been hunters and gatherers from the start. Women, being the ones capable of giving birth and providing nutrition from their bodies, are natural nesters. Much has changed from our days of cave dwelling until now, but what has probably altered least of all is our DNA. Women and men are still instinctively what they were from day one. This being the case, is it genetically unnatural for a man to settle down with one woman to the exclusion of all the others? Do monogamy and marriage run counter to the most primitive urge of men to spread their seed? Or is this just a convenient excuse for those who play at love as if it was a game of Chess, calculating and emotionless, accepting that certain sacrifices are necessary to achieve the pleasurable victories they desire? Such individuals are not immune to the effects of love but are not currently under its spell, so they are able if willing to exploit its power for selfish gain. It seems we were also put here to be cruel to one another. Love is an enchanted gift that in the wrong hands can be used as a merciless weapon. Proceed with caution.

My novella FEEDING THE SQUIRRELS, which in its own unique way is a love story, will be presented here at A Line A Day in serial format beginning on March 1, 2013. Every three days after that a new chapter will be posted until the tale has been told in its entirety. No need for you to be idle while waiting for the story to begin though. Enter the contest at for a chance to win a copy of my novel, PATCHES OF GREY. Three winners will be selected on the day serialization of my novella begins - March 1st. As for members of Kindle Nation, I certainly don't want to leave you out of the equation. So I am making the Kindle edition of Patches of Grey available to download at Amazon FREE of charge 3/1 - 3/3. Let the games begin.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Patches Of Grey by Roy L. Pickering Jr.

Patches Of Grey

by Roy L. Pickering Jr.

Giveaway ends March 01, 2013.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
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Monday, February 11, 2013

Interview of Todd Keisling - Author of THE LIMINAL MAN

I posed a few questions to Todd Keisling, author of A LIFE TRANSPARENT and the follow-up, THE LIMINAL MAN. He had plenty of interesting things to say. The interview is presented below, as is a brief except from his second novel. I invite you to check it out, enter the raffle at the end of this post for a chance to win some freebies, and then go check out Todd's books. Tell him Roy sent you.

RP: Did you intend to write one or more follow up novels to A Life Transparent from the start, or did you decide later on that you had unfinished business to take care of with The Liminal Man? Have your readers seen the last of Donovan Candle, is there more to come, or is his future literary life still undecided? 

TK: I originally wrote A LIFE TRANSPARENT as a standalone novel, but a couple of years after the release of the first edition, I had a strange daydream about Donovan Candle tied to a chair and locked inside a room. I didn’t know how he got there, or who put him there. The image persisted, and in late January 2009, I decided to find out—and that’s how THE LIMINAL MAN came into being.

Although I’d planned for TLM to be the last story, my editor insisted I reconsider, as the original ending didn’t fit with the novel’s overall tone. She was right, of course, and earlier in 2012 I began jotting down notes for a third novel. So yes, readers can expect one more story about Donovan Candle, but not anytime soon. I’m going to spend 2013 promoting TLM and working on some shorter fiction for a collection. Once those stories are complete, I intend to begin work on the final book of the Monochrome trilogy.

RP: Some writers plot out each scene in advance while others prefer to fly by the seat of their pants. Which is your technique and is there anything that made its way into The Liminal Man that you did not plan or expect?

TK: I used to be a “pantser” when I was younger, but not so much anymore. My free time to write is limited, so I like to know what I need to accomplish when I sit down to work. This doesn’t mean I have a rigid plot outline—I find that if I know what’s going to happen before I start writing, that kills a lot of the magic and surprise. At the same time, I have to know where the story begins and how it ends before I can begin working on it.

There’s plenty that found its way into TLM that I didn’t intend or expect. The character of Kale, for example, wasn’t mean to be anyone important. In my original notes, he didn’t even have a name—and then he showed up again in chapters two and three, and before I knew it, he was integral to the plot as a secondary villain. I also didn’t expect a certain ambiguous character from ALT to show up in TLM’s pages, but he did so toward the end of the second part.

This is the beauty of connecting the dots in between the beginning and end. There’s still room for plenty of surprises even if you know where you’re going to end up.

RP: I'll give you a thirty minute head start in the race to trademark "pantser". To what degree if any did you borrow from your own life to create Donovan Candle's real world, and to create the Monochrome? If Donovan could bring you along to visit a world created by one of the sci-fi authors you most admire, which one would it be?

TK: I borrowed quite a bit from my own life. Donovan’s world is a bizarre mirror image of my own. When I originally wrote ALT, I commuted to and worked in the city of Reading, PA five days a week, and so a lot of that geography found its way into both novels. In the first book, Donovan spends a good deal of time commuting to work and listening to the radio. He works at a job he hates for terrible people who don’t care about him, and he’s deluded himself into believing that he’s doing well in life even though he’s slowly, silently stagnating. People always comment on how well the mundane grind of 9 to 5 is captured in that first book, and there’s a good reason for it: that was my life every day, circa 2006.

In response to the second part of your question, I think it would be cool to visit the world of Bradbury’s SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES. I wouldn’t mind living in Green Town for a while.

RP: Who do you envision portraying the main characters in The Liminal Man if it was to be made into a movie? Who would you pick to write a song for the soundtrack?

TK: That’s a good question. I once told my editor I could see John Hamm (Don Draper from Mad Men) playing the part of Donovan, but in retrospect, I think Hamm would be a little too old. Maybe Joseph Gordon-Levitt or Tom Hardy?

As for the soundtrack, that’s an easy one: Trent Reznor. His music inspired the general mood of the novels, so having him and his longtime collaborator Atticus Ross score a film adaptation would be perfect.

RP: And here I was thinking you'd be leaning towards Justin Bieber for both leading man and soundtrack. It has been said that being an indie author allows one to write outside the box that traditional publishers are looking to neatly place their next Best Seller into. This allows indie authors to uniquely tell the stories they are compelled to deliver. Do you feel there are elements to your writing undervalued by The Big 6 that readers have appreciated?

TK: Short answer: Yes, I do think so.

Long answer: The Big Six want fiction that sells. They’re businesses, after all, and that’s what businesses do: turn a profit. If you look at their publishing model from that angle, their search for derivative, “successful” fiction makes sense. Unfortunately, the art factor tends to get a little watered down in the process. I’m talking about the hundreds of Twilight and Fifty Shades copycats that hit the market once those novels became million-sellers.

Indie publishing—and really, indie authors—are at an advantage in the respect that they can stand out by offering something different. I chose the indie route because I knew that traditional publishers wouldn’t like my work for its unconventional merits. I write horror stories, but they’re also thrillers, mysteries, suspense, romance, sci-fi, fantasy, and philosophical stories as well. You can’t package that and put it on a bookshelf. There isn’t a category for it. If your book can’t fit into a single category, it’s harder to promote and sell. The Big Six would say “There’s no market for you,” and in some respects, they’re right. My sales echo that.

But they’re also wrong to an extent. Last year my first novel peaked at #2 in horror during a free promotion, and I’ve heard from a lot of people since then who enjoyed the hell out of it because it wasn’t a typical horror story. They appreciated that the book had an underlying message and were eager to read the next book in the series. This proves there is a market. It’s just a matter of figuring out how to get to those people.

RP: The tiny six million self publishers each hope to put out fiction that sells as well. If only there was a magic formula that guaranteed success. But what fun would that be? Has a reviewer ever said anything about your writing that surprised you with an unexpected interpretation? Has a review ever gotten under your skin, and if so, were you able to refrain from responding? What are your thoughts on the online bickering between readers and writers that has drawn attention recently?

TK: I’ll answer these in order:

1) Yes. It’s funny you ask that, as I recently just had a review for TLM over at Horror Novel Reviews in which the writer touched upon a secondary character who, in the context of the story, isn’t even a real person. He’s a figment of Donovan’s imagination, speaking in place of Don’s conscience, and the writer went on to say that this character is one of the most important in the series. I really didn’t expect that. Another example is from several years ago, in which one reviewer suggested ALT is, on a deeper level, an indictment of corporate American society. Although that was never my intention, I can’t disagree with their opinions.

2) Oh yes. A couple of years ago I made the mistake of sending ALT in for review at a place that really had no business even reviewing a book such as mine. They ripped it to pieces, spewing venom in all directions. I’m convinced they impaled my book on a spike and planted it outside their office as a warning to others. I never responded publicly—you simply can’t, because everyone is entitled to their opinion—but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t sting. I retreated from promoting for several months because of that incident, and now I research extensively before sending out my books for review. A trendy “hipster lit” magazine has no business reviewing speculative fiction. Lesson learned.

3) Regarding the recent cases of online bickering: I think writers should know better. People have different opinions, and sometimes a book ends up in the wrong hands. ALT was once picked up by a book club whose favorite titles were all contemporary women’s literature. Big surprise: they all hated my book. Things like that happen all the time, and you just have to bite your tongue and move on—because people are allowed to not like what you do. Bickering with the readers is a bad move because, no matter what you say or how right you are, the act of public fighting is going to paint you in a bad light. In situations like this, I have to fall back on an age-old saying: be the bigger man and walk away.

RP: I couldn't agree more that writers need to do less bickering, more working on the next book to bicker about. It's been a pleasure chatting with you, Todd. Best of luck.

“Bad Omens” – Excerpt from The Liminal Man by Todd Keisling

He glimpsed movement from the corner of his eye, but when he turned, he saw only a scrap piece of paper caught in the wind. It scraped across the pavement, down the steps, and under his car.

The door to the building shot open, startling him. A woman in a thick winter coat emerged from the opening. She stepped out onto the top step, lifted a handkerchief, and hacked into it for a good minute. Her coat was tattered and dirty, covered in some sort of gray sludge. The woman surveyed the empty street, squinting against the early afternoon light, then turned and coughed again. She wiped her nose and spat.

Donovan watched, frozen in place and unsure of what to do or say. The transient slowly turned her head. The wild look in her eyes gave him a chill. “The fuck do you want?”

When he spoke, his throat felt stuffed full of cotton. He fought to keep his composure, and after a few agonizing seconds he said the first thing that came to mind: “Do you know what happened to the children?”

She curled back her lip into a toothless snarl. “S’pose I do,” hissed the crone. “Seen what he did, too, and good riddance to ‘em all. Spies ‘n traitors ‘n everyone who don’t serve the king burn in Hell. Did ya know that?”

“What king?” he asked. “Who is this ‘king’?”

“The Monochrome King,” she went on.

A pit opened in his stomach, threatening to swallow him from the inside. “You mean Mr. Dullington? He’s here?”

The woman waved her hand to the sky. “Somewhere.” She grinned that horrid, empty grin like a rotting jack-o-lantern. “Somewhere over the rainbow.”

Donovan’s frown prompted her to let loose a wild cackle. He realized he wasn’t going to get any answers, and was about to walk back to his car when her laughter ceased.

She took two long strides toward him, and stopped so close he could smell the stench rising from her body. “I know you,” she said. “He knows you.”

Donovan paused. “Who?”

“The king. He knows you. Knows us all. Over the rainbow, under it, other side of the darn thing where the colors don’t show. He knows, and he knows you, and we’ll all be seein’ you soon.”

Donovan stepped away from her. He suddenly felt very vulnerable, remembering he had nothing but his hands with which to defend himself. A scenario flashed before him: this filthy hag leading him into the depths of Winthorpe Station, where he would be cornered, robbed, and brutalized at the hands of an army of homeless people.

But they’re more than just homeless, whispered Joe Hopper. They’re lifeless and empty, hoss. They’re the Missing.

The hag cackled once more, and he recoiled from her acrid breath. He watched as she did an odd dance back across the pavement toward the open door. She sang, “He sees you sees me sees you sees us all!” as she went, and stopped in the opening. Beyond it he saw what appeared to be stacks of televisions, what might have been an entire wall of them, all blank and gray and busy with static.

“The king sees us all,” she finished, “and we’ll all be seein’ you soon.”

She closed the door. Its hinges groaned. Then she was gone, and he was alone on the steps of the station once again. The exchange left him reeling, drained of his last ounce of determination.

He retreated to his car, realizing that he was not ready to make that descent after all.

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Saturday, February 2, 2013

Rite of Passage - SHORT STORY SUNDAY

Quite a few years ago I had a fine time writing this short story which was inspired by the raucous spirit of my collegiate fraternity days. When it was accepted for publication the magazine was to be accompanied by a CD of author readings, so I did my first ever audio recording of something I'd written. Since the story includes conversation between a guy and a girl, I enlisted the aid of my then girlfriend, now wife, to read the girl's dialogue. We had a blast. Putting together this presentation of the story was a fun experience as well, since as you'll see below, I went a little further than simply cutting and pasting the story into my blog. And now I hope you have an enjoyable experience reading it. - Roy


Richard awakened, wanting to sit up but unable because his left arm was pinned down. He turned to see by what, and the vision his eyes presented his brain with brought the memory of last night with it. Lying beside him was the girl he picked up at the party.

It had finally happened. Richard graduated high school still very much a boy. Now, with four weeks left of his first semester in college, his initiation into the rites of manhood was complete.

Richard managed to slide his arm out without awakening his conquest and replayed the events of the previous night in his mind. He had been remarkably smooth. The eight glasses of his fraternity's patented "leg spreader punch" saw to it that he was as relaxed as could be. The large quantity consumed by the lady love beside him made her very much receptive to his advances. It had been almost too easy. Richard couldn't recall asking for her name, nor offering his own. Exchanging resumes was not a necessary precursor for the night's subsequent proceedings.

His first semester at college had been great, more than living up to the party till you drop expectations Richard held. Before the school year was even a week old, he was pledging a fraternity. Within the next three weeks he experienced his first bout of intoxication (complete with requisite puking), his first mooning, and his first panty raid. He had also learned seven drinking games and three different ways to chug a beer, for after all, he was in college to learn.

Another significant event had occurred during this time. Richard and his long time girlfriend broke up. They had been together since eighth grade, and were separated for the first time when he went away to an out of state college. They vowed to make a long distance relationship work. And it had, right up to the weekend Amy paid him a visit and informed him that they should see other people. He was fairly certain that she already was, but didn't mention it so as not to jeopardize his final opportunity. As usual, he failed. Amy didn't consider breaking up sufficient impetus for sex. She was as determined to hold on to her virginity as ever.
Richard was not nearly as determined, but much to his chagrin, equally successful. His involvement in a five year relationship during the raging hormonal years of puberty failed to get him laid even once. If a greater tragedy had ever befallen man, Richard did not know what it could possibly be. He was convinced he was the subject of a practical joke concocted in the heavens by a demented angel. Some people craved excessive riches, others obscene degrees of fame, and there were those who dared dream of immortality. Richard merely wanted to fornicate. It seemed like a reasonable request, but so far had yet to be granted.

Matters weren't helped much by the emphasis his college mates placed on romance. Romance fraternity style that is, which boiled down to getting laid - a lot. Far more crucial than the number of beers he could chug, the most important statistic in his new world was how many girls he bedded.

There were a couple of guys in his fraternity who averaged a girl a week. Or at least a girl a party, which was approximately the same thing. The brothers in the lower end of the scale by which they were measured managed to score once every few weeks. Every member of his pledge class, even buck toothed Morty, had slept with at least one girl this semester. Richard was dwelling in the wonderful world of the one night stand, but instead of being an active participant, he was a mere bystander.

Which is why he had been so determined last night to prove to his brethren that he was worthy to be included in their ranks. Why he had drunk like it was going out of style, marched up to the cutest, drunkest available girl that he saw, and let nothing impede the completion of his mission.

Richard examined the young woman lying beside him. Last night she had looked pretty good, a solid eight. The morning sunlight coming through her dorm window was not as kind to her as the neon lights at the party. Her make-up had wiped off, presumably in the heat of passion. Without it, or perhaps without a gallon of Kool Aid and grain alcohol still working its magic, she dropped a couple of digits. She wasn't ugly, merely one of those plain girls who usually fail to grab a guy's attention among her flashier peers.

Next, he checked out her body. Skin tight, midnight black clothing had made her appear quite voluptuous. Naked, without everything squeezed in or pushed up and out, she was a bit on the chubby side. Not exactly fat, just not the aerobicized Barbie doll he thought he had landed.

A degree of disappointment began to settle in. Then Richard remembered the words of his fraternity's president and resident stud, Craig Hunter. Craig was being teased about picking up a girl who was well below his par. "Women all have the same thing between their legs,” he had said. “So when it comes to getting laid, it's quantity, not quality that counts." Amen.

Richard reminded himself that the important thing here was he had broken his slump and started his streak. In no time he would be considered a real ladies man, perhaps even receive a cool nickname lauding his accomplishments. Next semester he would move out of his dorm and into the fraternity house. There would be no stopping him then.

He rose from the bed, making as little noise as possible so he would not awaken what's her face. He scanned the floor, quickly finding and putting on his clothes, preparing to make a speedy exit. They had never been properly introduced, so he saw no reason for a formal goodbye. Let her get some beauty sleep. Besides, what was there to talk about? No topic of conversation seemed appropriate. He certainly was not prepared to converse about what they had done together. His memory of last evening's activities was rather vague.

Richard grabbed a pair of panties as souvenir, took a fudge bar from her pint sized refrigerator, and thought about what was awaiting him. The atmosphere at the fraternity house following a party was like the locker room of a football team after a big win. Only difference was, the rookies had to clean up the field when the game ended. It was amazing how filthy three hundred stomping, beer swilling undergraduates could make a place.

Today though, Richard wouldn't mind in the least. In fact, he was looking forward to it. The morning after a party was when the guys swapped stories of the previous night's exploits. On all of the prior occasions, Richard had sat back quietly and listened, having nothing to add to the dialogue. Now it would finally be his turn to bask in the spotlight.

"I don't think they're your size."

Richard spun around. The thief of his virginity was awake. It looked like he would have to figure out something to say to her, but "thank you" were the only words coming to mind.

"You're probably right." He grinned sheepishly and returned the underwear to its drawer.

"So you're a Knicks fan?"

A baffling question without a doubt. Had they engaged in a long discussion about basketball last night. Was he yelling for Alan Houston to drive to the basket in his sleep? He had been expecting "Was it good for you?", or "I don't usually do this sort of thing", or "Are you a transvestite or a kleptomaniac?". When she pointed at his head, Richard remembered that he was wearing a Knicks cap.

"Oh yeah, right. You too?"

"They should have taken San Antonio in the Finals. I think they'll go all the way this year, though."

She was a basketball fan. This was the second girl he had met this year who could make such a claim, the first being Nicole Maxwell.

Nicole was what was commonly referred to in the Greek system as a “frat rat”. This term was used to describe any girl who didn't belong to a sorority, and was not the regular girlfriend of any guy in a fraternity, but still seemed to always be around. There were two categories of these girls. The ones who didn't put out (about ten percent) and the ones who did. Nicole was a member of the majority. She had been with five guys in Richard's fraternity, Craig Hunter being the first, of course. She was considered to be a sure thing. Being a brother, or even a lowly pledge, seemed to work as an aphrodisiac on her.

"What year are you in, Richard?"

Apparently he had told this girl his name. He was grateful that his first lover was adept enough at small talk to make his first morning after relatively painless. Without the make-up and party dress, there was a tomboyish quality to her which put Richard at ease.

"This is my first year. I'm pre-med."

"Me too. How do you like the city so far?"

He had told her that he wasn't from New York. Did she know his astrological sign and social security number as well? When had he babbled all this information? What the hell was her name?

"It's pretty cool," answered Richard. Then he noticed Al Pacino's image on the wall. "Where'd you get the poster?"

"From this place a few blocks from here called French Kisses."

Richard could not help but be impressed. Amy had never been able to appreciate the sheer brilliance of Scarface, no matter how hard he preached the merits of the film. She just thought it was mindless, gory, guy stuff. He had to give this nameless promiscuous girl some credit. She had slept with him, rooted for the Knicks, and was a fan of Scarface. Obviously a woman of refined tastes.

To his right was a collection of C.D.'s. Limp Biskit, Eminem, Jay Z, Dave Matthews. She was into the same kinds of music as him. Richard licked the fudge bar he had snatched. Yet another thing they had in common. Of the scores of girls Richard had met since school started, he had only bonded so easily with one other. That bonding is what kept her from becoming his first lover.

He would always remember that day. Elated from passing a mid-term he had been certain he would fail; grateful for the help she gave to make his C possible; convinced she was an easy lay; and being horny as hell; Richard sprung a passionate kiss on Nicole Maxwell.

It lasted ten seconds. The next time Nicole opened her mouth was to deliver a speech. She told him how Craig and the others had been casual flings based solely on physical attraction. A good time was had by all, but nothing more. Richard on the other hand, was someone she really cared for. As a friend. She valued their friendship too much to throw it away, and sleeping together would be doing just that. This made as little sense to Richard as anything he had ever heard, but he went along with it anyway. There didn't appear to be much choice in the matter. So he and Nicole remained platonic, and he unsullied.

Fortunately, not every girl was as finicky. Last night's festivities had required nothing more than lust and booze aplenty. Craig Hunter himself could have fared no better.

The girl pushed the play button on her answering machine. "Marilyn, this is Barbara. Give me a ring. Bye."

Marilyn! That's what her name was. Thank goodness he wouldn't have to go through a whole ordeal to find out without giving away that he had forgotten. But why did he even care? She was just a one night stand, one of the rewards of his new fast pace lifestyle. Not knowing anything about her was part of the situation's charm.

Marilyn laughed at the next message left on her machine. Her face changed when she smiled. She went from plain to kind of pretty. Not that she was in Amy's league, for few girls were. Amy's magazine cover beauty had caused Richard to stay with her for a considerable time after concluding that they weren't right for each other. How could he give up someone he was so lucky to be with? Once she gave in and they started having sex, their differences would disappear. Or he wouldn't care about them nearly as much. But Amy managed to keep her virtue intact, and Richard grew disenchanted enough in the final months of the relationship to risk leaving his hometown behind to check out a bigger piece of the world.

His master plan was to rival Don Juan, Cassanova and Charlie Sheen. Ten women for each day of frustration and futility endured. Not that his relationship with Amy hadn’t produced numerous wonderful memories as well. Especially at the beginning when he wasn't concentrating as strenuously on trying to get into her pants, they had had some great times. The best times of his life. Getting drunk with the guys and chasing after girls certainly had its merits. But holding Amy's hand while their bare feet played in a stream, talking about the future, sharing their dyadreams. That had been real.

Richard picked up the male action figure standing on top of the stereo. It was Captain Kirk. No further evidence was required to make up his mind. Like Nicole Maxwell had said to him on that most frustrating of days, when you have something that's good, you do whatever you can to keep it. There was potential with Marilyn, and the possibility of love blew away a playboy reputation any day.

"Marilyn, if you don't have anything planned maybe I could take you to lunch."

"That's sweet, Richard. It really is. But I don't think so."

"I don't understand."

"Last night was great."

Thank God. He had been too shy to ask, but dared to hope. If he was starting out at great, imagine how amazing he would eventually become. If only he could remember any of it. But at least she did. She remembered it was great. Why then was she shooting him down?

"But I usually don't do this sort of thing," she continued. "And I'm not exactly proud of my behavior. Truth is, my boyfriend broke up with me yesterday and I was feeling sorry for myself. I thought if I got drunk and picked up some guy, it would be a kind of revenge."

Picked up some guy? He had picked her up. But now was not a time to quarrel over details. There were bigger issues at hand.

"So you're saying you want to get back with your ex?"

"No. That's over with."

"Then I don't understand," Richard repeated.

"I don't want to create a false impression. I would go to lunch with you if I was interested in starting a relationship. But if that were the case, I wouldn't have slept with you last night. I would have wanted you to respect me first, and I don't think you can now. And even if you could, it still doesn't matter. I can only see you in one way. You were a one night stand, Richard, and the night's over with."

"You're not attracted to me, is that it?" Richard was highly agitated over this turn of events and not bothering to hide it.

"No. I'm saying that since we began this way, it's best we end it like this. Besides, I didn't get the impression that you were looking for a girlfriend. It seemed you were just looking to get rid of something that you were tired of holding on to."

He was never getting drunk again. Richard couldn't believe he had confessed his virgin status. And she was still brushing him off. Virginity was preferable to this humiliation any day.

"That was just a line," he said meekly.

"Okay, if you say so," Marilyn said, but Richard could see she didn't believe him. Leg spreader punch was the best truth serum there was, and she knew this as well as he did.

"I thought after last night, the gentlemanly thing to do would be to take you to lunch. But if that's too much of a good thing for you, so be it. Nice meeting you, Marilyn."

Not bad. Richard began to walk out of the room, pleased that his closing remarks had salvaged the situation enough to leave him with the upper hand, or at least a draw.

"By the way, Marilyn is my roommate. I never told you my name."

Richard momentarily stopped in his tracks. This was definitely not how he had envisioned his first time to be. He had expected ... Actually, he had expected to slip out the door, then go rushing back to the fraternity house to brag about his exploits. The only thing different was that instead of sneaking out with his pride intact, he was crawling out with his tail between his legs. His friends would get the same story, regardless. No way they would be hearing the truth. He had told enough of that to last him a lifetime.

"Like I said, we're just each other's one night stands. Bye, Richard."


And with that he was out, left to ponder the mysteries of womankind. He was finding them far more complex than any of his classes. They each had their own strict set of rules, each one equally enigmatic. The end result of his attempts to solve their riddles so far was this. He had had romantic love without sex, platonic love without sex, and sex with no kind of love at all. It had been frustrating to say the least. But as Richard headed back to his brethren, he knew he would eventually get the right combination, and that he would have a whole lot of fun in the process.