The L Word : Behind the Scenes

The L Word Bette Porter Tina Kennard


Secrets I Keep – #TheLWord – (19) Touch Tones

Tina_Phone_ArmLifted_MovietrailersStudio City — Tina

Being neurotic in broad daylight takes energy and resolve and a certain focus to keep moving in order to hide it. Falling into a heap – which I’m teetering on doing now, and continually reminding myself to breathe to keep from freaking – means I’m done, means I never was worthy, means I never got my turn to go for The Brass Ring. Means I never make it to the top of . . .

Hollywood sign - clouds


I pray that’s not me. A washed out one-race-streaker, who’s let horse’s asses – like Jenny, Aaron, and William – fuck me at the starting gate.

I bite my lip, a facial tic I know I have that betrays my lack of confidence. I need more days to maneuver before Aaron gets his knees broken – one by one – by a giant scary man, The Enforcer for The Bookie, who I hear is coming by on Friday.

On my end of grabbing onto Aaron’s woes, I’d like to catch my Studio Chief sneaking money for himself out of the free-flowing catering accounts, or from transpo, or locations. All places I’ve flagged and know to watch . . . but I want someone to ride shotgun with me. A partner to test my strategies, and run my five-steps-ahead-of-the-game theories by.

I need someone borderline crazy, and evilly smart. I need Bette, but I know she’ll never agree.


It might be Helena.

Recently out of Federal custody, and away from exotic fruit plantations, and Dusty, her jailhouse lover — Helena’s very possibly a wise casting choice for my Hollywood Mobster drama.

My mind dials three lovers back, and Helena’s fuck-out-of-doors, in the most barely hidden, and unusual kinds of places, returns to me in a body memory, I blush at remembering.

Leaving Peggy’s hotel suite in San Francisco one night, instead of the spacious rooftop garden – where I thought we were headed – Helena took me to the edges of the bay, then into a park where a labyrinth was glowing threaded through the trees.

labyrinth - Secrets story

In the maze under the cliffs, at first I’d thought I’d be chilled by the breezes coming off the water. The lights surrounding us had flickered and seemed to swim out in all directions.  My dress had disappeared over my head, and my eyes had closed to the possibilities of hidden onlookers, and I’d given myself over to the rolling spasms of my rawest desires.

Those were the months I’d seen Bette as the most perplexed. Her hating me, but fighting for me anyway, had sent Helena into overdrive, and anything I could dream up – even things I didn’t want – were mine, regardless of the hour.

Maybe Bette and I had gotten what we came for, out of the bloodsport of trying to conquer each other willfully, and as painful as it was, living alone now I had sometimes wondered, if the consuming chaos of Helena, and my elliptical trip to another land with Henry, weren’t spotlights on how my loneliness had replaced our intimacy?  How dinnertime had become TV, how bestsellers by my bedside had replaced sex, and that I’d had about all that I could take, when I’d seen the cracks first appearing between her and Jodi.

First, I’d glossed over any offhanded mentions or any gripes that things weren’t going well between them. Next, I’d gathered intel, and Alice had plotted Jodi’s relationships on The Chart, so we could see the names of her exes fanned out around her own.  Those we’d interviewed for clues.

After a few emails, Alice had compiled our notes, and a picture had emerged, along with a timetable that I knew I could exploit.  Jodi’s, set your clock to it wanderlust – always about six months in – had been confirmed by the many women she’d left behind.  By my calculations, the suggestion to keep their relationship open would be ‘Coming Soon’ to a volcano near me, and I’d laughed out loud all the way home — just thinking about it.

Bette Power suit unhappy NEW image

To have been a fly on Bette’s wall, as Jodi’s sign language and hand gestures had insinuated . . . that her necessary infidelities were coming soon . . . and to have seen Bette’s face, as it had dawned on her that Jodi – the also Alpha-lover – by way of signing with her fingers and otherwise,  intended to fuck someone else . . . to this day, I’m still sorry that I missed.

Yet, I’d worried anyway that maybe they did have great chemistry in bed, or that unbeknownst to me Bette had somehow changed, and possessiveness wasn’t her ‘go to’ leach any longer for control. Maybe, they’d get into threesomes to liven things up, and that image had unnerved me.

They were an interesting couple to be sure. They could’ve certainly pulled it off, and drawn in lots of takers for the sex, and the nude skinny dipping in what I’d still thought of – as my and Angelica’s swimming pool.  Their ménage à trois could’ve gone on for years, with Bette having the time of her life, with her tongue that I had wanted back with me.

Nighttime sky spiral

In my own fog of possessiveness, I’d returned to doubting how the many women, coming and going and coming again – but mostly her sharing them all with Jodi – was really possible in the closed universe of her being The Star, and the only one who could ring her lovers far out past the farthest moons of Saturn, before bringing them shivering back to Earth again.

When my haze had lifted, I was able to see this scenario as never working, and I’d consoled myself that she’d never endanger her sexual prowess, but I’d gone to the Gypsy’s house in Hancock Park, and I’d left there with a Love Charm — just to be sure.

It’s not that I wanted Bette returned to me twisted off and wracked with pain and confusion, but that she would be miserable was step four, and step five would be her home with me.  My plotting – alongside her swings from certain to uncertain behavior – had made me trust in my readings with the Gypsy more and more.

Gypsy's Love Charm Spell

When the spell had been cast, and a piece of silk had been wound around the magical ingredients and tightened, to draw in the magnetism I’d been assured still existed, but was yet to come; I’d secreted the Love Charm behind a zipper in her luggage packed for Big Bear, and had waved so-long with utter confidence, as she drove away.

Since then, I’ve wondered more than a few times, if I should tell her about the Gypsy. Let her know – in words – that I’d wanted her back, just as much as she did in the end? Or if I should let it be, and let it go, and let us roll on with my secret kept for a little while longer?

As I walk myself back through my treacherous steps, and how I’d waited for the right combinations of things to appear in my love life, I’m convinced I have the same cunningness for the movie business. My takeover of Shaolin feels imminent, and I need Joyce for a new contract, and me, and everybody else? Needs to have a little faith.

I stop by the studio canteen for an iced latte, and taking a deep breath I call James. When seven had been inked into Bette’s calendar, Joyce’s battle-hardened gatekeeper, Jean, was my next call.

“Joyce Wischnia’s office, Jean Rawlins speaking.”

“Ms. Rawlins, Tina Kennard calling. It’s last minute I know, but is Joyce free for dinner tonight?”

“Oh, let’s see Tina. She doesn’t tell me everything.” I hear Jean tapping keys, and I have a hard time believing she’s in the dark – for even one minute – when it comes to Joyce’s billable time. “What did you have in mind?”

“Joyce loves which red wine again?”

“Oof! Tina that stuff’s hard to find, and very expensive,” Jean emphasizes.

“Consider me warned. What’s her favorite though?”

“They’re two of them actually. From consecutive years, 1968 and 69.”

Joyce's favorite wine

“Any clue who carries it?”

“At two hundred and fifty dollars a bottle? The Wine Shoppe on Beverly.”

“I’m on it. I have an account there. Can you get her to my house by seven?”

“Yours and Bette’s place, right?”

“God, yes! I’m back home!” I realize I’m shouting. ”Can she come? At seven?”

Jean’s voice sounds amused. “She’s nodding her head, yes, Tina.  So, looks like she’ll see you then.”

Joyce garden - dinner party

Bette and Tina’s House – 7:15 pm – Tina

The closer to three hundred dollar bottle of wine is breathing, Bette is late, and Joyce and I are touring the garden with Angelica. ”Did you know I have a house in Santa Fe?” Joyce asks.

”Did I? No.”

”I was there last month, and I gotta ask you . . . what was Bette’s mother like?  I can’t imagine.”

”Lovely, really. A very talented, interesting woman with, as you know, a very unusual story.”

”No signs of shadowy gangsters disguised as Indians?” Joyce smiles down at Angelica who spins streams of bubbles out of a wand.

Soap bubble - Secrets story

Then one lands inches from me, and I stare into it amazed and whisper, ”Bette’s mother’s an older lady painting in the desert, and friendly with the Native Americans. She fits in.”

”A perfect camouflage!” Joyce booms, which makes Angelica rush up to her, and the bubble bursts.


”I don’t know about that.” Joyce laughs. ”Can’t you think of something scarier?”

”Alley-ga-tor! Alley gator took a bite out of Mommy.” Angelica pats her stomach three times.

Inside the house Bette throws open the front door, and Joyce looks at me puzzled. ”That sounds impossible,” Joyce muses, “even for her.”

I wave away my daughter’s indiscretions. ”Should we try the wine?”

”I’m home! God! I’m so sorry I’m late!” Bette calls from somewhere inside.

”Let’s go in.” I motion Joyce toward the French doors that lead into the kitchen.

”The wine’s not the only reason I came tonight.” Joyce lifts up her goblet for a sip.  ”But this is very nice of you. I’m curious what’s up? Wasn’t that her coming in?”

”Actually, I need to talk to you both about . . .”

Bette_Tina CU Atlanta Kiss

From around the corner, Bette zooms into the kitchen with a vase full of flowers for me, and placing them on the counter, after a warm hello to Joyce, she sweeps me into a kiss.

”How are you?! I had the most incredible day! I got a Building Fund check for so much money! ”  Then, she lets me loose, and over her shoulder calls, ”Hang on, there’s more, but wait!  There’s a crate of cantaloupes in the car.”

”Why a crate?” My voice sails out after her.

Leaning against my kitchen counter, with a look of amusement on her face, Joyce asks, ”What’s for dinner? I don’t smell anything cooking.”

Bette kicks back open the front door, and sure enough, she’s hauling in a crate of cantaloupes. ”Joyce, please take some home.” Then to me, ”Baby, I’m thirsty, and I’m starved. What’s for dinner?”

Joyce pours her a glass of wine, and then winks toward the label. ”Take it slow, not your speed I know, but try to savor it.”

Bette blows back a lock of hair from her face, then locks her eyes onto Joyce. ”You do not need to lecture me about how to drink wine.”

”We’re ordering in from Puccini’s. I hope that’s alright.” I fetch the menus from the drawer.

”Puccini’s?”  Joyce opens the refrigerator, and sticks her head inside. ”Do you mind if I see what you’ve got in here? I’m a great cook.”

”Actually, so am I.” Bette opens the door wider, and standing side by side, I can sense between them a developing competition. Joyce tosses a package of uncooked pasta onto the counter, while Bette unloads produce from the drawer.

”What are you thinking Porter?”

”Hmm.” Bette takes a sip of wine. ”I challenge you to a linguine. You can make any kind you want, but mine is clams. What’s yours?”

”I’ll run get whatever you guys want,” I offer.

”You’re on, and you’re going down.” Joyce rolls up her sleeves. ”Tina, one second before you go.  I’ve got a few things for your list.”


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My New Vodka – 18 – Touch Tones #TheLWord

Kit seated suspcious, not pleased

The Planet – Kit

Backstage one night at The Blue Rose in Detroit, I remember looking out at the audience, a mostly union working class crowd, and thinking how musicians – all coked up, and smacked out on stage – we’re not even the same kinds of people, as those cleaned-up folk who plow through snow and traffic, and suffer God knows what else to work for The Man.

They’re safe, we’re not, but who’s happy?

I mean, who the fuck is happy? I’ve got Miami’s oiled-up white trash so far up my ass. . . meanwhile, across the table from me, Bette steers the drilling I was giving her ’bout getting gut-stabbed by Tina’s psycho sister, to how indignant she is there’s a betting pool on her.

As if I hadn’t put a twenty on that one, a long time ago!

The irritated resident of the planet called, In My Own World, Bette blows out a long, exhausted sounding sigh, and then her phone rings.

Bette_Agent Porter Unhappy on Phone

Betting on them, back in their getting-to-be-besties again stage, was a no-brainer. When Jodi had scooted outa here for New York, and Bette and Tina were exchanging Baby Girl, back and forth across my doorway, I’d watched them hit a smooth gear – and on their best behavior – they’d slid right back into each other.

Yet, there was — that ticking time bomb Bette had gone and lit.

time bomb

Called Jodi Lerner.

It’s as if we’re all impatient to bring about our next crisis and demise, and I for one, have had more than enough of the treachery of it, and how like a madman it’ll take your life.

But continuing on toward stranger and stranger shit, that just happens around here, comes Jenny’s movie that everyone knows is this place. Followed immediately by those two skanky bitches from Miami, just when my liquor sales were startin’ to skyrocket and it was fun goin’ to the bank on Mondays.

high wire cocktail The Planet

Alice had said it, showing off her new bruises from that ill fated adventure with Bette and the fucking sign, “We need something to ride this out, a new drink . . . something with a mindfuck kick . . .  something with vodka.”  And an hour later we’d named it, Altitude Disorder, after Bette and Tina’s highwire act, and I’d sold about eight hundred of them.

The new vodka, Bette and Tina falling back in love, everybody crazy about their sweet baby, and Alice seeding the speculation about the odds of betting this way or that — everybody losing weight but me, and Jenny’s movie and movie stars in here every weekend — we had all held our breath and waited, for the final countdown of Jodi being home. To see who would fall from the heights and into the sawdust of the circus tent, our never ending carnival — the place we insanely refer to as, Home.

The waiter slides a plate of cantaloupe in front of Bette, who’s still arguing over the phone with Phyllis, when I realize something else about my sister.

cantaloupe serving The Planet

She’s one of the fortunate folk. She can turn heads and get speeding tickets and run fast along the edges of whatever she pleases, always with a slightly fuck-off quality about her.

“You want me to drive up to Santa Barbara this morning?” She says into the phone, obviously not too keen on the idea. “Phyllis, are you listening to me?  I vet my funding contacts carefully – who to approach as major donors for the plum spots –  especially for the naming right’s on the art school.”

Phyllis argues back, vigorously.  Then, Bette stabs her fork right into the cantaloupe, and it sticks straight up with a twang, and she shouts, “I need to know a whole lot more than you had a lovely conversation with someone on your flight back from Sacramento!”

With a dramatic roll of her eyes, Bette holds out her phone for me to listen to Phyllis’ answer, which leads me to the other half of her being so fortunate, but so fucking stupid. Who else, on a sunny Monday morning, would argue about riding up the coast, and being entertained by rich people?

Someone from the planet of In My Own World, and a city called, So Not My Idea.

She ends her call abruptly, and the cantaloup begins to disappear. Between bites she says, “Honestly, I know all about the East Indian woman, Penelope de Souza, Phyllis is going on and fucking on about. She’s loaded, she’s generous, she’s gorgeous.”

Then, Bette stops chewing for a moment, and her eyes go into a softer, out-of-focus look.  “Before I met Tina, Penny and I dated for awhile.”

“Who is she?”

“Nothing short of amazing.”

“How’d it end?”

“Not badly. She had to leave for the Far East.  We had an amazing goodbye dinner, and she left.” Bette brushes her hands together.  “Done!”

“Use that.”

A sly smile. “I think I will.”

She leans down and kisses my cheek. “And did I tell you? We want to have another baby. Have I told you that?”

“You thinkin’ ’bout doing it this time?”

“God no! I’ve got my part down pat.”

I frown for a moment, not unhappy about a new baby, but from the memory of Tina’s undertow of postpartum depression.

“I thought you’d be happy with the news.” Bette stares down at me, her purse tucked under her arm, she’s all power suited up and raring for a tangle. “What’s wrong?”

“I told you five minutes ago! I’ve got bad white trash trouble, but I’ll deal with it. You go on.”

“I’ll be back on the road by three. Call you then?”

“Yeah, call me from the road. Now, you go on and get outa here. I’ll think of something.”

Penny profile golden hued background

Santa Barbara – the de Souza Estate – Bette

“You look well. It’s been awhile.” Penny presses the button for the elevator.

“Are we going up, down?”

“This elevator takes us down into my offices. Sensitive stuff, private matters.  Upstairs, we entertain here a lot.”

“I remember.”

“Of course, you do.”

She leads me into warren of rooms, far below the main estate’s mansion. Penny turns to look back at me. “You should’ve come seen me in Hong Kong, Bette. I had this amazing flat that overlooked the bay.”

“I probably should have . . .” my voice trails off as we walk into her office, and I see a very familiar painting from my past.

Penny's office

“You bought it?”

“I did. I sent for it later.” She reaches up and straightens the frame on the nude, that wasn’t hanging crooked at all. “That was such a romantic time.”

“It was.”

Penny leans against the edge of her desk, and motions me to a chair. “It’s ten-thirty, kind of an in between time, don’t you think? Should we have coffee, should we have tea? Should we start on Bloody Marys? Although, I have a lot of work to do today.”

“Did you enjoy living in Asia?”

“Are you asking, if I’m sorry I left you?”

“No, that wasn’t . . .”

But she doesn’t let me finish. Into her phone she orders our tea tray and lifting her eyebrow to me. “Fruit?  Biscuits?”

“Cantaloupe, if you’ve got it.”

“We grow thousands of them here. You must take some.” Penny hangs up the phone. “Where is home now, Bette?”

“This will surprise you!” I hand her my iPhone to see my family’s pictures. “Home is with my fiancée and daughter.”

She sends me a delightful smile.  “Yours?”

“Funny, how that keeps coming up today. No, Tina gave birth to her. I do all the other parts, as best I can.”

“I know what you mean.” Penny flips through more pictures. “I have children. A boy and a girl. Five and three.  He’s like a small tiger.  She’s quiet, with big dark eyes.  They’re both intense.”

“Mine is still blissfully playful.”

“Children change you.”

“Immensely.  Did you ever marry?”

“Two times.” Penny looks sheepishly at me. “It would’ve been three, but I came to my senses, and just walked away –  moved to another country – and that was that.”

“Very much your MO, as I recall.”

“I’m sorry, if I hurt you.”

“I’ve thought of you over the years, wondered how you’ve been.”

“Making money.” She moves around her desk and opens a drawer. “Let’s take the sting out of how we left it.” She flips open her checkbook.  Her pen poised, she sends me a quizzical look. “How bad was it?”

I look up at the nude painting of me hanging on her wall, and send her a sad, but sexy smile. “Oh, very.”

Bette_Painted nails red blouse


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The Good Sister – #17 – Touch Tones — #TheLWord Bette Porter

Bette - the good sister story image

Outside LAX – Bette

Inching toward the luxury car leasing window, I consider for a moment that no one is here to greet me, how I’m a lone traveler arriving, and that they’re over, over, over all the times when Tina would, without question, be outside waiting for me. I throw up my hands in surrender. “I get it. You’re busy being torn into a million pieces by shooting schedules, and assholes. And yes, that all sounds like it hurts like hell, and is quite miserable, but what if I needed you at the airport?”

That’s what I’d like say if I could get her on the phone, or write above our house by hiring a plane to smoke out my message in the sky.

Please look up from your stupid movie, and  . . .

Cloud women rising

. . . and notice that I’m home.

When we first met, it was her Pontiac that would faithfully appear, and the story of how she came to have it, given to her by a friend in Chicago, who had handed over his keys one night while shouting, “I get it. Go out west! Take my car.”

Strange to think how we really got here.  Sometimes, so strange . . . I dismiss the thought.

Year number two was our trip to France, and if there’s anything better than their delicious food followed by starry nights drinking French wine I’ve yet to discover a more velveteen mixture, so perfectly tuned to falling in love.

As my Lincoln Town car pulls up to the curb, I catch my reflection in its windows. Even after a sordid excursion through Louisiana and Texas I still look fabulous.  I tell the driver my address, point to my luggage, and slide into the back seat. Finally, a person who will do exactly what I ask, and take me exactly where I want to go.

Which is fucking home.

vineyard - grape harvest

Wine country . . . I should take there her again, back to that Inn she loves, and book the suite upstairs that overlooks the fields that go on and on until you can’t make them out anymore.  Back to where we had played along the edges of a burning that seemed to slow dance and sway and brush against itself for two wet and beautiful blow my mind hours, when I had felt it.

One long sustaining note of music had lifted up off its page, and held us together in a kiss that lasted so long — it had finally shot through me like a lightning bolt.

Bette On top tongue kiss

And I was deeply in love.

“God!” A shiver of the memory of it zaps me in the back seat of the Lincoln. I begin a text to James, “Get in touch with that inn in St Helena, and . . . ” but my phone rings and interrupts my orders.

“Shane. I heard you’d made it out alive.”

“Yeah, you too, you know?”

“I do know.”

“So, I gotta fly back in two days, maybe three tops.”

“You’re going through with it?  I think you’re brave. Tina and I both do.”

“It’s the right thing . . . but you guys don’t have to come back next time, okay? It’ll be safer that way.”

A burst of laughter escapes me, and Shane, too.  “So absurd, but I know what you mean.”

The Lincoln glides into my street, and I see her up ahead, pacing back and forth in front of our houses.  I pass the driver a hundred dollars, and he pops open the trunk.

Getting out of the car, a yawn escapes me. “Where is everybody?”

“She went to pick up dinner.”

“Grab a beer, while I change into something that doesn’t smell like alligators and the ass end of airplanes.”

Bette & Tina's Remodeled bedroom

My bags drop at the sight of my own bed, and I fall across my mattress. “I don’t think I can ever leave you again.” I hug at my pillows. Then, I remember the vineyard trip with Tina, and roll over to send my text to James.

Whoosh! Off it goes. “Ah,” I sigh, so relieved, and fall back into the pillows.

Tina and Angelica’s voices are at the front door, and a second later my daughter comes running into the bedroom.  “Momma B saw alligators!”

Then, Tina calls, “Bette? Are you home?” Quickly, followed by her eyeing me from the doorway. “Okay, what was our agreement about boots in the bed?” But smiling she falls down next to me, anyway.

“Angie, what’s for dinner?” I ask over the soft clapping of our quick round of pattycake.

“Cur-ray and I’m having cheese.” She says hugging her soft rabbit stuffed animal.

“You’re having more than cheese, don’t be silly.” Tina gives me a sweet welcome home kiss. “Tonight’s bedtime story for her, not me, must be about alligators. It’s all she’ll talk about.”

I turn to my daughter. “Oh, I saw them alright. They’re very big, with very big teeth!” And I make a scary face. “Are you sure, little rabbit should hear?”

At the bedroom door Shane snaps a picture. “You guys are too cute.”

“Take your jacket off.”  Tina pulls it from my shoulders, and with a surprise from my other end, Shane beginning tugging off my boots.

“Wait!” I begin to flail. “You guys slow down!”

The commotion makes Angelica hop around us on the bed singing, “Alley gators. alley gators, coming to my house!”

I reach out to catch her jumping legs.  “You’re calling them here! What are you doing?”

Tina starts for the kitchen.  “Shane, stay for dinner. It’s curry.”  Angelica hops off the bed, and follows her, still singing.

I pick up my boots on the way to the shower. “With cheese. I hear it’s a popular combination.”

“Okay, I will. Things are weird at my house.”

Inside the bathroom, I begin to pull off my clothes.  “This you’ve just noticed?”

“No, I mean fucking weird.”

“Meet at the pool in ten. Bring beer.”


Shane_Bck_criminal sweater

By the pool – Bette

Shane appears unusually serious. “I keep finding this girl, Adele, snooping around my house. If part of my kidney wasn’t about to go missing, I’d swear she’d try to take that, too.”

“Liver,” I correct.

“Right. Is that worse?”

“No idea. Who’s Adele?”

“An intern who’s wrapped around Jenny, very tight.”

I lie back on my chaise and watch jet trails overhead, so glad not to still be up there. “You would not believe the types of intern trouble I’ve had.”

Shane gives me a slow grin. “Types?”

I lean in closer, and in a low voice I whisper, “The ‘coiled around you’ part, I can relate to.  Let’s just leave it at that.”

We drink beer in silence, and Shane stares over at her house, and frowns. “Pretty sure Tina has to fire me from the movie, right?”

“I would imagine so.”

“Yeah, I’m going to tell her later — I know what’s coming.”

“That’d make it easier on her.”

“Okay, but there’s something else, Bette, I think you need a heads-up about.”

Suddenly, the jet trails overhead start to look more appealing.  “Do I?”

“Yeah, maybe.” Shane balances, as she walks along the edge of the pool. “Kit heard about Tina’s sister, and what went down with you.”


“Would Tina tell her?”

“Hmm.” I drink some more beer. “What happened, exactly?”

“It got loud when she went to get Angelica.”

I see Tina busy in the kitchen. “I know how my sister gets!” I start to ease up out of my chaise. “So, again we haven’t talked about your job, but what’re you going to do about money?”

“Turn to crime, I guess.”

“Good plan, Shane.” But I wonder, if she isn’t serious.

Tina Chin Crinkle emotion

Ten minutes later –

Tina uncovers the steaming curry and asks me, “Did Shane tell you?”

I sense the many ways this could be a loaded question. “T, would this bottle be good with curry?”

“Aaron has serious gambling debts, Bette. Alice starting getting bits and pieces about it while we were still in Texas, but when I got home, I did my own digging.”

“You call our Inside Man,  Claire’s friend? Wasn’t he once a bookie?”

Tina’s hands rest on her hips. She stares at me.  “Why do I think you never pay attention to things?”

By now, I’m seated at the table, my fork frozen inches above my plate.  “What the hell are you talking about?”

“Forget it. He investigated.  Aaron’s into one bookie for a hundred thousand dollars.”

Shane calls over her shoulder from the stove, “You guys know there’s a betting pool on you. Right?”

“No, there isn’t!” I snap a look over at Tina. “There can’t be! That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard of.”

Tina close up looking UP

“Probably hosted somewhere on Alice’s blog.” Then, changing the subject.  “Bette, things have gone to shit with your sister.  We may a need another babysitter.”

My eyes widen for an instant, concerned about my vineyard plans. “Shane’ll need a job, won’t you? After you recover from surgery?”

“About that Tina . . .”  Shane begins, and Tina squeezes her hand.

“You know I hate all of this for you.”

Kit seated suspcious, not pleased

The next morning – Bette

Kit’s run up from down and out singer, to queen of her corner of West Hollywood, I played no small part in helping her achieve, but that doesn’t stop her from giving me another you’re-so-busted look, and letting me know — she’s close to done with me.

“You know what you’re problem is?” But she doesn’t wait for my defense. “It’s that you’re always thinking you’re right, you’re the smartest, and it never dawns on you . . . crazy people don’t care!”

“Everyone knows the mentally challenged can be unpredictable.”

“See! There you go again! You’re doing it to me, and I want to stab you.” She glares at me.

“Quit looking at me like that, okay?” I send her back my own menacing stare.

“You’re stupid is all, but I kinda like the sound of your mother.  Seems like she’s got a collar on you.”

“Listen, I was bailing you outta jail, Kit, and pulling you off rooftops before you bought this place.”

“Ha!  That’s your story!  Tell me you’re hearing yourself?” Kit puffs back up again, then quickly deflates. “Speaking of your history of bar fights, those pieces of Miami white trash are all up in my shit again.”

“I’m here to help. You know that.”

“Maybe, I’ll have to send you in to stop me from killin’ ’em.” Then, she adds sadly, “Lately, I worry about you, Sis. You were raised to be the good sister.  Forget that, and we’re all in trouble.”


If you enjoyed this story, please give me a little tip here at  For $3.00 you’ll be buying me a cup of coffee, $7 is a cold drink I’ll enjoy and $10 and up is dinner.  A comment back from you I’d love, too.


Bye, Blackbird


Trust No One – #16 – Touch Tones – Bette Porter #TheLWord

bayou sunset

Bayou Sunset – Bette

As part of my unspoken, but instantaneous demotion from captain to lowly deckhand, I’ve been left with closing up for the night, and the promise of a cold drink when I’m finished. Trust me, I’d like to be finished.

“Where are the rest of the fucking people who work around here?” I ask aloud to no one in earshot, and certainly not my mother or Nellie. They wandered off with the tourists ten minutes ago.

I stick my neck under the cold stream of water spurting out of cooler number three,  that had I dragged off the boat a minute ago. “Oh my God, finally.” My temperature begins to drop, and lying prone on the pier, with rivulets of cold water running over me, I feel the X in relax.

birds bayou sunset

Peeling back my bandage, my slightly crusty stab wound is throbbing at the moment from all my lifting and twisting, and the thought of a pain pill I don’t have slides across my mind. Even with the concern on Tina’s face, while Miss Laredo poured a single malt Scotch over my bleeding gash to sterilize it, there was a silent agreement between us – opting for under the radar barroom surgery meant no police report, and that was the only way to go.

My ears suddenly tune to the sound — somewhere inside this creaking boathouse — of an old refrigerator coming alive.

“If there’s a God, there’s cold beer in it.” And with that hope, wincing as I rise up from the dock, I begin to hunt it down.

bayou boat house latch

“I have the same bad habit,” says the crisp British accent of a blonde headed woman, who appears around the corner of the boathouse.

She nods at my stab wound.  “Of making enemies.”

Startled, I drop my shirt and frown at her suspiciously. “Any beer in the fridge?”

She unlatches the ancient door. “Two vastly different choices, PBR or Banks’s ale from England.”

english ale bayou story

“Banks. Never had one.”

We lean against the boathouse and watch the sun going down.  Finally, she breaks the silence and leans over to shake my hand, “Call me, Savoy.”

“Bette Porter.” I notice her warm strong grip.  “Nellie walked off, calling something back about battening down for the night.  I improvised.”

She drops her captain’s cap back on the steering wheel where I’d left it. “And Mary’s your mum? A lovely lady.”

Savoy door bayou story close up

“I didn’t catch your name,  it was unusual.”

“Savoy.  Every hundred years someone in my family takes a turn at getting tagged with it. I was held upside down, spanked at 2 am one morning, and it was mine.”

Nellie calls to us from the porch.  “Savoy? Bette? Sazeracs?”

Bette_leather Jacket Smiling

An hour later –

After a hot shower,  a much needed Percoset from Nellie,  followed by a cryptic chat with my mother, I’ve entered Nellie’s impromptu dinner party on a mission: Listen carefully and trust no one.

It’s so like my mother, I’ve begun to realize.

Back in our guestroom, she had whispered, “There’s a lot of money here and there in this family, Bette.”

“But surely, Mother, no one’s coming over here to steal it — tonight.” I had emphasized.

“Very astute of you to be thinking that way.  I’m sure you’re right, Nellie would have a safe.”

“Hold on, Mother.  Are you really serious?”  Then, I had pawed some more in my suitcase — specifically packed for Dallas — so not here.

“Bonds, titles to property…oil leases.  Surely, she’d have stowed those papers safely at the bank.”

My blood stained blouse, with the sliced through knife hole, had ended up in my hand.  “Exactly, what’d you think’s going on here?”

“If she didn’t have on nail polish, my guess is we’d see discoloration, and the traces of arsenic poisoning under her nails.”

“You can’t be serious!” I had shouted too loud.

Mother had glared at me. “Lower your voice, and listen to me, if I’d thought you were an idiot, I wouldn’t’ve brought you.”

I had replied in a hoarse whisper, “I’m not a fucking idiot, and change your tone with me.”

We had locked eyes for a moment, until hers had softened, and she had kissed me on the cheek before walking away. “Of course, I don’t think that.”

Nellie seated at cocktails - bayou

Holding court from her couch, Nellie entertains her parlor full of guests. The Mayor, I’ve gathered is her late husband, the Congressman’s political protégé, and his wife, a rotund and mischievously smiling woman, whose eyes dart frequently in my direction, and the quieter, less well-groomed couple, Gator and his wife, Louanne.

In an elegantly upholstered wing chair, Savoy flips through British motorcar magazines, and appears to ignore everyone, including me.

Nellie’s cousin, Evangeline, the mayor’s wife, leans against the bar.

evangeline close up

“What can I get you?”  I ask.

Evangeline laughs conspiratorially. “So, you’d fly to New Orleans without your husband?”

Savoy gives her lips a slight pursing twitch, that quickly disappears.

I hold up a stainless steel cocktail shaker.  “How about a Rob Roy, a Sazerac, a martini, perhaps?”

Across the room, Mother is deep in conversation with Nellie and The Mayor.  Louanne and Gator hang back near the French doors that open onto the porch, as if readying for an escape.

Evangeline calls back to her husband, “Martinis Bud, watch me now!”

His attention peels away for a moment to her, then quickly back to Nellie. “Some days, like the one I had today, I wish you’d run again.” He ends with a sad, then growing sadder laugh.

“What’s the problem, Bud?” Nellie takes his arm, as he joins her on the couch.

“A dirty martini, the dirtier the better,” Evangeline finally decides. “So, what’d you think of our little town?”

“Town?” I shake her martini, then drop in an olive.

“Honey, there’s civilization a few miles from here!  Over where I live.”

Bud’s voice booms from the couch. ”Believe it or not, we need a public decency ordinance to stop, if you can believe it, people from showing off their backsides in public.”

“As if that weren’t apparent.”  Nellie sadly shakes her head.

“As if you’d draw the line at that.” My mother adds.

“As if anybody listens.” finishes The Mayor.

“There went your tiny civilization.”  Savoy cracks in her British accent to Evangeline.

“You are such a snob,” Evangeline sneers before she stomps off.

Savoy slides a look over at me. “Conceit is the foundation of culture, don’t you think, Bette?”

From across the room, Nellie sends Savoy a silent signal — Gator and Louanne need attending.

Then, Mother appears at my elbow.

Maxine bayou story smoking standing blue

“What’ve you gotten, so far?”

“Me? Drink orders. Mother get me a crossword puzzle, or a racing form, or something.”

“How about a bar stool?” She looks around hopefully, but finding none. “The Mayor and Nellie go way back.”

“To where the skeletons are buried?”  I play along.

“Most definitely,” she whispers, “I have a plan for him. So, you turn those special charms of yours on Savoy.”

I rinse out the mixer and fiddle with the liquor bottles,  a deepening frown clouds my face.  Mother taps me firmly on the arm. “Did you not think I meant, now?”

Eyeball sculpture Dallas hotel

Dallas Bistro – Tina

Alice slides into the booth across from me, continuing to talk, as if she’d never left. “This just in. A very interesting piece of news.” Alice looks at me expectantly, and wags her iPhone.

“And…?” I answer her with a slight singing tone — to get on with it.

“Word is: Your guy, Aaron at Shaolin, has a gambling problem.”

“Medium or big?” I think back to his overly long lunches of late.

“Big, or people wouldn’t be talking about it.”

“You, an infamous gossip monger, know better than that.”

“I’ve never liked that word.”

“Two words, Alice.”  I point at her. “Gossip monger.”

“No thanks you’s necessary. Did you hear me? Your picture could be in trouble.”

My stomach descends a few feet to the floor. As much as I cannot say it — ever, ever, ever out loud — career wise, I need this movie.  “I heard you,” I finally admit.

The waitress delivers our wine.

half glass red wine

After a sip, Alice continues. “On the hospital front, sounds like the tests didn’t kill either of them. Shane’s taking a cab to meet us – so ready to get away from her mother.”

“So needed a break from Sue Ellen.”

“By the way, I’m seeing Miss Laredo later.  I’d ask you to come, but…Trouble seems to follow you.”

“No, that’s okay, Alice, but let’s set the record straight. Since I’ve known you  – let’s see – you’ve been flat broke, then had a show on TV — outing people. You’ve been hired, fired, and nearly jailed after your pill head self-destruction.  Most ridiculous though, was when you became a Yoga freak.” I shake my head at her in disbelief.

“Seriously? That Yoga business was all Helena.” Then, her eyes narrow. “But hey, Tina, anytime you’re ready to talk about it — I’ve got a few dozen questions after meeting your sister.”

Bette radar story image CU

Outside Nellie’s House – Bette

I slip out onto the balcony and down fourteen steps, and I’m in the shadows of Nellie’s house.  Mother can’t seriously think I’m going to hit on Savoy for intel?  My mother, the artist, is imagining things. I’m sure of it.

At the bottom of the steps I find a large flashlight, and flipping on its beam, I explore the property.

swamp at night dead white tree

Then, I hear Gator and Savoy’s voices. “How’d it go in New Orleans?” Gator’s cajun accent asks first.

“The lawyer says the BP twats aren’t leaving me alone. No joy there.”

“You know she needs you.”

“I’m not leaving.  They’ve blackballed me in London, anyway.”

“Out there the fishing’s still off. Half my catch’s got oil in their bladders.  Nobody should be selling that.”

“We’re okay, tonight. I shopped in New Orleans on my way here.”

“It’s bad it’s this way.” Gator’s voice fades.

I creep farther back into the shadows, tiptoe up the steps and back into the party.

CU Bette's boots Blood Moon story

The Dinner Party

As the Mayor scoots Mother’s chair out, she shoots me a look to slip in next to Savoy.

“Nellie’s and Augustine’s dinners,” Savoy says smiling up at the light cocoa colored woman who’s carrying a soup terinne of steaming seafood gumbo, “are always delicious. No restaurant in New Orleans can match them.”

Augustine taps Evangeline’s arm as she reaches for the loaf of hot French bread. “Don’t eat too much, you hear me?”

Evangeline shrinks away, and looks guilty.

Augustine announces the rest of her menu, “After this, there’ll be trout almondine with crabmeat, puffed potatoes and steamed asparagus with hollandaise sauce.”

Nellie ceremoniously taking her first bite, and in seconds, we all dig in.

“Mary,” begins The Mayor after several moments, “you never met The Congressman, did you? He was quite a man.”

“Bud’s entrée into politics.” Nellie explains.

“Me and Charlie, we both came in on his coattails.” The Mayor says.

Savoy whispers to me, “Charles is her son. He served in the State Senate.”

“You must be proud of him.” I inadvertently put my foot right in it.

“Oh! Not hardly?” Evangeline sings out.

Nellie braces her emotions.  “There was a bridge and some missing money and Charles is doing five to ten.”

My mother stares down the table at me, as if I, too, were a convict.  “So sad, to have a felon in the family.”

Evangeline continues my faux pas.  “When is Charles getting out?”

“Bud, you’re taking me. When’s his next parole hearing?”

“Coming up real soon, I think.” The mayor says.

“Don’t forget now, Bud, you’re center stage during The Shrimp and Petroleum Festival.”

I whisper to Savoy, “Not possible. It can’t be named that.”

“Things are very counterintuitive down here.”

Louellen hands her empty bowl to Augustine, who replaces it with trout loaded with crabmeat. “Will you be singing the National Anthem again, Evangeline?”

“Ninth year in a row, I’m proud to say, yes I am!”

Savoy’s eyes sail up to the ceiling.  “Only when I imagine myself with a severe head injury does it begin to make any sense.”

Bette Dark blouse LOOKING down

On Nellie’s front porch –

At nearly midnight, with the old ladies all safely down in bed, Savoy and I share a bottle of cognac.

She lets out a long stream of blue smoke.  “Bette, I looked you up, both you and your mother.”

“I’m happy to say, we’re not after you.”

She blows out a smoke ring.  “Lucky for you.”

“In more ways than you can imagine, but seriously, are you in some kind of trouble?”

“A fucking mess, alright.”

“My mother won’t leave, if she thinks her friend’s not okay with you.”

“She’s not harboring a fugitive, at least not anymore.”

“Go on.” I wait patiently and sip my cognac. The night outside is surprisingly cool with the breezes off the water, and the sky, a deep space jet black and sprayed with a thousand stars.

I stifle a yawn. In an hour, I’ll go to sleep, but not until I hear Savoy’s story.

BP well underwater gushing oil

“For a long time my company lied every chance it could get about the real number of barrels per minute that were gushing out down there.”

“By how much?”

“Tens of thousands and then millions!” She shouts.  “There was fucking oil everywhere. Absolutely, everywhere! I went off my head and called The Guardian, and it wasn’t too much later they started printing BP’s real oil flow, in bpm’s.  That’s barrels per million.”

Then, a long silence.

“That caused a massive shit storm, and I had to run.” Her leg nervously jiggles. “I guess blowing up my life was worth it? Right?”

“Only you know the answer.”

Painfully, she sighs. “Whales and thousands of oiled dolphins and birds still died.”

“Maybe not as many, if you’d kept silent?”

“Fuck, I hope so!”

“I think what you did was brave.” I lift up out of my chair about to announce that I’m off to sleep, when she stops me cold.

“I Googled you. I think I said that.” Savoy begins to laugh, and finally catching her breath, she says, “You are so gay. The stuff I read about you on the Internet! You’re hilarious.”  She wipes her eyes of tears. “I hope you’ll stay longer.”

“I get that a lot, especially from my lawyer. You want my headlines, instead Savoy? You can have them!”

“She’s pretty though, your fiancée.”

“Very.” I smile, satisfied at the thought. “You seeing anyone?”

“Me? No, I’m keeping my head down driving swamp boat tours hoping things will blow over soon.”

“Will Charles get out of prison early?”

“Good Lord! You can’t think I’m interested in him!”

“No, no, forget that!  But is he a good son?”

“Hang on, I’m not too drunk. What was Shakespeare’s line for Othello?”

“I’d embarrass myself, if I even tried.”

“I would not put a thief in my mouth to steal my brains. That’s how I feel about Charles coming home, but I’ll be long gone by then.”


For more of Bette’s continuing adventures in the bayou, stayed tuned for the next post #17 coming soon.

Bye, Blackbird


My Favorite Topping — #14 — Touch Tones S07 The L Word

Bette_Tina_in Bed_talking Story picture

Bette and Tina’s Dallas Hotel Room – Bette

It’s an unusual feeling: Being belly stabbed.

A crowd of people had gathered after Tina’s sister, Janet, had shoved Alice’s steak knife into me.  And a dozen had stayed, after the glass of whiskey Tina had given me was nearly gone and Miss Laredo had sterilized a needle from the bar’s First Aid kit and had begun to stitch me up.


While Tina rubs against me, hidden underneath my bandage, an ancient feeling of pain between us begins to bleed.

bloody knife

A strange thought begins to circle and won’t go away.  Had that knife always been headed straight for me?

Tina breaks our kiss, and reaches for the phone. “I’m ordering room service, Babe. Do you want anything?”

“We have a mini bar,” I offer offhandedly, while taking a quick peek down at my bandage that’s become a Rorschach test pattern.

rorschach test pattern Red

“But will I find a banana split in there?”

“Finding one would be unusual.” Then, I wake up to what’s going on next to me.  “Wait! Tina, are you pregnant?”

Deep into negotiations about cherries, she shoots me a disbelieving look. “Do we want extra whipped cream?” She raises one eyebrow at me. “The man on the other end of the phone wants to know.”

“Ah, ah…sure.”

“Yes, please. Room 1250, that’s right. Thank you.”

banana split

Hotel Room – Tina

Sorting out aggression is sometimes harder for me than I would like.  I was raised by people who were masterful at hiding it, especially on my father’s campaign trail, or after a blistering account of politicians, him included, had appeared in the statewide paper. We had smiled and sailed on, with the certain knowledge that something else would be tomorrow’s headlines.

Bette slips out of bed and goes for the mini bar.  “What does one drink with a banana split at nearly midnight?” She calls over her shoulder.

“How are you feeling?” I ask, as she rifles through the liquor inside.

Splashing two tiny bottles of cognac into her glass, she takes a long swallow. “This will help.”

“Let’s hope so, but your blood pattern, Bette,  have you noticed it?”

rorschach test pattern Red

Bette threads her fingers tightly through mine, and plays with my engagement ring,  “Do you have any idea, how badly I want to marry you?”

Then, her iPhone rings, and simultaneously Room Services knocks on our door.

“Damn, interruptions!” She snatches up her cell, before dashing into the bathroom to hide. “Alice, you better not be telling anyone about this.” Then, over the clattering of spoons and dishes, her muffled voice through the lavatory door, “Mother?”

“Coast is clear,” I call out to her after the room service waiter leaves, and I spoon chocolate ice cream her way.

She stretches out her long naked body at the foot of our bed. “Oh, so Tina texted you?” Bette frowns at me. “And sent you a picture?”

She holds her hand over the phone. “What is it with you and everybody else about sharing pictures of me everywhere!” She glares at me. “When do you all have the time?”

Back to her mother — “In the picture? That was Miss Laredo. Lucky, right?” Bette frowns again. “I meant, Mother that she was a nurse.”

As she takes the phone away from her ear, I can hear Mary still talking. “Mother wants to talk to you.”

I take the phone. “Right. Dallas. Did you get our thank you note about how much we enjoyed our weekend?”

Bette commandeers my banana split and begins to make it her own. But, trapped now, I continue listening to her mother. “It all happened really fast, Mary, none of us saw the knife coming. No, she’ll be all right, it’s not that deep.”

“You shouldn’t have texted her,” Bette whispers to me. “Are you out of your mind?”

“Pain? I’d think quite a bit.” I lean over, and Bette puts a spoonful of ice cream in my mouth. “Yes, if she’s there, I would like to talk to Mary Windhorse.”

“You feel better now?” The old Indian woman asks me. “Spilling blood, while not recommended for city people, is usually the end of it.”

“It was Bette’s, not mine, I guess you’ve heard.”

“Heard all about it from her mother. Doesn’t matter.”  Windhorse pauses for a moment, then continues, “If you don’t believe me, look around you for a sign, but I’d say it’s done now, and it’s over.”

Bette’s mother chimes in. The feistiness of her voice – undeniable. “And you should thank, my daughter for that! Put her back on the phone with me, will you, Tina?”

“Bette, give me my damn banana split back right now, and finish talking to your mother.”  I exchange the dessert bowl for the phone.

Lying back across the foot of the bed, her blood stained bandage upside down now, it very much resembles a face.

Reversed red rorschach test pattern Red copy

I stare into it as she listens intently to her mother.  “Yes, I promise. Sure. Yes, if you need me to, I can fly into New Orleans and meet you.”

Ending the call, she tosses her phone aside. “Looks, like I have to leave tomorrow. Mother has a favor she needs me to do down there.”


“Which I can’t deal with yet!” She collapses back on the bed. “This has been the longest fucking day of my life!”

“What’s it about?”

“The trip? No idea. Something about a swamp, an old lady with a broken arm, and a place called, Barataria Bay, near Lafitte.”

“Lafitte was a famous pirate.”

“And, as usual, you know much more than I do.” She leans in for a kiss, her voice becoming much softer. “Now, what did you have mind for all this leftover whipped cream?” She dips her fingers into the bowl.  “I had some thoughts about it, T. Lie very still. I want to do this perfectly.”

side angle whipped cream

Just breath between us now. And her, as she coats my nipples with cream, before back between my legs, and a long inhale of me.

A revving race car driver look, that burns down my whole body. ”Baby,” she whispers, ”you did this to yourself.”  Her tongue makes a clean stripe through the foam, and slides melting cream all around my clitoris.

“That feels…” I drift – completely captured.

Tina Bette Lovemaking

“God! I don’t know how you do that.” Then, truly – I can’t make any more words, only sounds she can decipher.

Hotel Room – Bette

I’d like to do this on my honeymoon. Licking Tina for hours dislocates my brain, and my tongue takes over. There’s a sparking at the tip of it  – so, now I slide over there.

My captive begins to beg me. “Babe, fuck me. Fuck me now, and don’t stop.”

“Not yet.” I play for awhile longer, licking cream in and out of her, when her hands grab into my hair at the back of my neck.

Bette_Tina Both Tongues

“You want something?” I lie down on top of her. “I’m not going to let you go just yet. Not even if you beg me.”

“What happened to you scared me.”

I push slowly back inside her.

“There. Right there.”  Tina rocks with me, “You always know exactly where.”


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Next story finds Bette in New Orleans on an adventure with her Mother.

Stay tuned, and drop a comment if you’d like.



Countdown – #13

Exterior – The Million Dollar Cowboy Bar – Tina

With my cellphone pressed up to my ear, I move my lips silently along with Kit’s, as she reads Angelica her favorite bedtime story. Putting the book away Kit asks, “How’re you and my Baby Sis getting along in Texas?”

I struggle to find the answer.

How can I describe my evening with a drug-addled bigot, and not press every one of Kit’s 12 Step buttons? Sue Ellen, and this glimpse into Shane’s past, has convinced me all over again that even though Bette’s mother wasn’t there for much of her childhood, my mother was in the beginning, mostly there for me, and we must do better for our daughter. We have to.


When we lived in the old house with the high cliffs behind it, I remember her reading, “Wind in the Willows” to me at night. There was an orchard I played in to the east, a creek I explored to the south, and to the west a gentle curve of cliffs topped by very tall trees that threw shadows over the whole house at sunset.

There were wolves back there, too, and one in particular who watched over me, but by then, it was too late. My sister had already found me.

The front door of the bar swings open, and Bette waves to me. “Odd as it may be, our family pictures are a hit. The dial is way down on her.  I think it’s safe, you can come back inside.”

I hold the phone up to her ear, “Say goodnight to the baby.”

“Goodnight sweet baby, I miss you!”

Shane's baby picture

“Shane, if you can believe it, was once chubby!” Alice greets our return. “Sue Ellen is telling me baby Shane stories.

“I was just asking, if she remembered that old pink blanket of hers?” Sue Ellen leans into Shane, “I couldn’t pry it away from you. It’s like you thought it was your own mother.”

“See. Lots better,” Bette whispers sarcastically in my ear.

“I remember, Blankie.”

Then, Alice just can’t leave well enough alone. “Sue Ellen, where’d you grow up?”

And Bette says, “Fuck,” under her breath. “Memory Lane with Sue Ellen.”

Rabbit skinning Texas

The Million Dollar Cowboy Bar – Bette

“Shane knows this. My coming up wasn’t easy.” Across the table, Sue Ellen shifts in her seat, hesitating whether to go on.

Then, with a deep inhale she begins, “My daddy was a circuit judge, any of you gals know what that is?”

But we all stay silent, should a wrong answer cause another outburst.

“Someone who covers a goodly piece of Texas territory, and decides whether or not to hang a man. That was my daddy,” Sue Ellen answers.

“A Hanging Judge?” Alice cries out. “You had a hanging judge for a father? Shane did you ever meet him?”

Shane shakes her head, as Sue Ellen laughs mostly to herself, “Oh, how he hated that name, too.”

Now, I find myself curious, “And did he actually hang people?”

“He sure did. Hung lots of people. Rustlers, murders, Mexicans…you name it.”

Behind her hand, Tina whispers to me, “Do not argue with her about capital punishment, Bette.  Just let it be.”

Then, our steaks arrive, and sure enough, Sue Ellen had given in and ordered a cup of the healing chicken noodle soup Alice had recommended.

Dipping in her spoon, Sue Ellen continues. “But it meant he was gone a lot. You ever hear of laudanum?”

Cutting into our bloody steaks, we all shake our heads. No.

“The housewives back in my day got hooked on it. Hell, I don’t even know if there was an FDA back then, but out west we still had those roaming Medicine Men, and Indian cures that would pull up in wagons. Amplify a valium a thousand times, but with dreams, and that’s opium. That’s laudanum.”

Sue Ellen licks her lips, I guess at the memory of the taste of it. “A cure for being lonely, and my mother was hooked on it.”

“What’d my grandfather do about it?” Shane asks.

“Nothing. Kept on hanging people, I guess.”

“Now, I’m starting to worry about you.” Alice eyes Shane, who’s sipping away on her beer, the night before she’s to give liver tissue samples to save her dying mother’s diseased one.

Shane gives Alice her best, ‘Get Lost’ look, and continues chewing all the way down a long french fry.

“Still, I hope you take my point.” Alice warns her.

Tina looks over at me, suddenly very serious. “I don’t need a Mother’s Little Helper to care for our baby, do you?”

I look into Tina’s eyes, “You don’t think everything’s fine?”

“No, everything’s fine.”

I lift up her hand and kiss the engagement ring I gave her, “Now, that you’re back, my life is perfect. Everything’s fine.”

“Everything’s perfect. Absolutely everything,” she agrees, but I watch Tina for a moment more, just to make sure.

Hang Man's Rope

“And we used to keep a cooking fire going all the time, even in the summer.” Sue Ellen starts up again with her memories, and then, with a brittle sadness, “And I had one dolly, and I had an older sister, who’d lost hers.”

At that last line, Tina’s complete concentration on her dinner breaks, and lowering my fork, I begin to hope, with all my heart, that the moral of Sue Ellen’s story is about sisterhood and sharing.

“She’s dead, now – mean as she was, just like a snake – fitting it were them’s that got her.” Sue Ellen holds a momentarily satisfied look. “Rattlers. Different times back then, I can assure you.”

“Sounds like it.” Alice nods, very convinced she’d never survive.

“Bette, our Santa Fe party?”

“Mother says there’s a powder they can ring around the whole barn that keeps them away.”

“Oh, Jesus.” Tina’s head sinks into her hands.

I motion to Tina’s half-eaten ribeye. “The sooner you eat it, the faster we can get out of here.”

“Angry, I suppose for me taking what little attention came from our mother, once the dickens got into my sister real bad, and she threw my Dolly into the fire.”

Sue Ellen lifts up her right leg, and pulls off her boot. “I was just a small child, with a mother way off in LaLa Land, not a soul to stop me from crawling into the fire after it.”

burning baby doll

At the sight of once melted toes, and a leg with a long goose leathered scar, Alice jumps up from the table crying, ”Holy fuck!”

Sue Ellen rocks her deformed leg back and forth on the seat next to me. ”Unlike you,” she stares at me, ”this is why I wear cowboy boots.”

“Jesus, Al, I’m sorry! She told it way too much like a ghost story tonight.”

Alice whimpers, “I think I peed a little on myself.”  Shane throws a look over her shoulder back at me, as she walks with Alice to the Ladies Room.

Sue Ellen smiles with a queer satisfaction, and slides her boot back on. “So, what’s your story?”

I think Tina may still be speechless, so I begin. “I only recently reunited with my mother. She spent most of my life in federal custody.”

”I know it’s hard on kids when their parents get locked up. Don’t think too much about it, Bette. I was in jail a few times, when Shane was little.”

CU Bette slySmile

“It was a long stretch,” I play along with her thinking my mother was in prison. “I only recently caught up with her again.”

Tina pokes at her baked potato. “Babe, I’ve been thinking some more about the rattlesnakes.” Then, her face freezes in shock.

“Look! At this nearly identical twin of yours we met in the Ladies Room!” Alice waves her arm by way of an elaborate introduction.

Shane notices Tina’s reactions, and begins tugging on Alice’s arm. “Ah, Alice…”

Dead. Without feeling, “Tina,” is all the sister says.

“Janet,” Tina says very cooly.

“Who’s this cause of such a stir?” Pipes in Sue Ellen.

Tina scoots her chair back from the table, and walks toward her sister, “Our father said you lived here.”

“How is the old man?”

“No idea. He calls occasionally – on holidays.”

“Says he’s the Mayor of Yuma, Arizona, unless he’s lying.”

“That was more your thing, Janet.” Tina steps even closer to her.

“Or your imagination.”  Janet doesn’t budge.

“So like you to twist things.” Tina spits back.

I point at Alice, “We should get the check. Go get the waitress, Alice.”

“And miss this?” Alice refuses to move.

“What are they going on about?” Sue Ellen wonders.

“I’ll do it.” Shane offers. “Come with me, Mom. Let’s get the bill.”

“Well, I don’t have any money.” Sue Ellen shouts, and stays put at the table.

“Nice company you keep,” Janet smirks.

Then, I step in and jab my finger in Janet’s face. “You know, what? Fuck you! You owe your sister, at-the-very-least, an apology.”

“Who’s this?” Janet looks me up and down degradingly. “I told her, it was you all along, and Mother should’ve punished you! Not me.”

Then, Tina slaps the shit out of Janet. Smack!

Followed by Janet’s strike back. Whack!

Now, we have the whole restaurant’s attention.

The reddish mark of Janet’s handprint appears on Tina’s face, and back again, I step between them. “Look, just apologize to her, and get the fuck out of here, or else.”

Sue Ellen claps her hands together. “Sounds like a dare, to me!”

“You! Keep your unclean hands off me.”  Janet swats my finger away, but I point it right back into her face.

“But I insist. I said apologize to Tina. Now, do it!”

Tina tries to move me aside. “Bette, I can handle this.”

“Well, your girlfriend, I guess is who this is? She ought to thank me.” Janet stabs her finger right under my nose. “You should thank me!”

Alice looks at Shane.  “I have no idea what’s going on. You?”

I supply them my answer, “This pretender is getting off her high holy horse, and apologizing. That’s what’s happening.”

Enraged Janet screams at me. “Okay! Here’s the Truth! She liked it! So, now you know! Is that what you wanted to hear?”

Alice disapproving

The Million Dollar Cowboy Bar – Alice

And fast as you can say, “You just pissed off the wrong person.” Bette’s hands are around Janet’s neck, and she’s squeezing the fucking life out of her.

“You crazy, miserable piece of human shit!” Bette hisses, as she clutches Janet by the throat.

“Bette! Stop it!” Tina shouts, “I’ll beat up my own sister, if I want to.”

Bette shakes her head, “No!” as Janet flails and gurgles. “I’m not fucking letting her go, until she says she’s sorry.”

“Hey! You gals need to take this outside!” Miss Laredo calls from the bar. Then, to her friends, “Come on!”

Shane sends her mother a warning look. “Mom, don’t bet against my friends.”

“Wouldn’t dream of it! Hand over your billfold, sweetheart, I’m betting whatever you’ve got, on the tall one.”

And then, just as quick, Bette lets out an, “Ooof!”

bloody knife

And my steak knife is sticking out of Bette’s stomach!

“God!” Tina cries at her sister, “What’d you just do?”

Miss Laredo shouts that she’s a nurse, and Bette staggers backwards in pain. Tina’s hands close around hers to stop Bette from pulling out the knife. “Don’t! You’ll bleed to death!”

Bette goes for her steak knife on the table. “Goddammit! This shit just got serious.”


“Ugh. Wait a minute, Baby. This really hurts.” She drops down on one knee.

“Oh God, Bette!” Tina lunges at the table, and I have just enough time to grab my ribeye off my plate before Tina zings it into Janet’s forehead.


“You’ve always been crazy. You’ve always been such a liar!” Tina screams as she throws platters and dishes and ketchup bottles at her sister. Everything’s flying through the air, when overhead I see a wine bottle in Janet’s hand heading straight down for Tina.

“Look out!” I shout, and Bette springs up, and grabs Janet’s arm, holding it in mid air.

Nose to nose, they strain against each other. With my steak knife sticking out of Bette’s guts, she forces Janet’s hand back and back, looking like any minute she’s going to snap the woman’s wrist, and Tina, finally seeing only salt and pepper shakers left to throw, kicks Janet’s in the back of the knee.

And down Janet goes.

A cheer erupts!

Sinking into a chair, Bette shoots the crowd a thumbs-up, and with a grimace looks down at the stream of blood leaking out of her abdomen.

“I’m starting to understand you gals a whole lot better.” Sue Ellen looks at us with true appreciation.

With Tina hovering, Miss Laredo cleans Bette’s wound with whiskey.

bottle of whiskey pouring

“Ouch! Ouch! Give me some of that to drink if you’re going to do that to me.”

“Where’d Janet go?” I ask Tina, but she seems to have forgotten her lifelong foe completely. She strokes Bette’s face, and whispers to her. But I can hear things people say a mile away.

“You’re coming out of this with a scar, Bette, on that hard stomach of yours, you’re so vain about.”

Torso Sheba story picture

Miss Laredo, with a sweet wink to Bette. “You’d be a tough one to cut through, Honey.”

Tina rolls her eyes, as she hands Bette a whiskey for her pain.

By now, a small crowd has gathered, and Miss Laredo offers her friends a peek at Bette’s enviable abs. “Meet Bette, Ladies, and her soon to be wife, Tina.”

Bette shoots Tina a sly smile. “Miss Laredo, can you stitch Tina’s name on me, like a tattoo?”

Tina threads her fingers through Bette’s. “You need to quit telling everybody what to do. When we’re alone, I’ll talk to you about this.”

“Guys, we’re going right to a hospital with my mother. Anybody thought of that?”

Miss Laredo calls out, “Okay, the wound’s lookin’ good, but stitching you back together is going to hurt. You up for this?”

Bette ignores Shane’s saner idea. “Are you really a nurse?”


“Is there any chance you’re operating on me sober?”

“Not a chance.”

“Is your name really, Miss Laredo?”


“Then, I say do it.”

And when the perfect look of pleasure and pain settles onto Bette’s face, I can’t help myself. I just have to take a picture.

Bette Tina Kiss New One

Two hours later –

Bette and Tina’s Dallas Hotel Room – Bette

Whatever there’s left to talk about, Tina has decided it’s going to happen tomorrow, because once we hit the door of our hotel room, down I go on the bed.  I can’t ask her if she’s glad she got to smack the shit out of her sister, or if she’s sorry the whole thing happened. I’ll never know the answer until whatever is happening between us plays itself out on this bed, and that’s fine with me.

I slip my tongue back and forth in her mouth, and she sucks on me, and rubs painfully on top of my bandage. I know she’s doing it on purpose – a lesson in here somewhere I’ll have to sort out later.

She moves my hand from her breast down between her legs. “Come inside me.” Is all I hear.

I roll her over, and begin to make love to her. Her legs wrap around me, and she rocks back against me, and blue shots of pain start to streak through my mind.

Down my back she digs into me with her fingernails, and I cover her mouth and her body with mine, and we blend like ocean waves, far out to sea, that don’t break, only rise and fall – over and over and over with each other.


I lift her up to hold her against me, and taste only the whiskey and want of sex in her mouth.

She begins to shake. “I’m so close, right on the edge.” And her muscles close tight on my fingers, and trembling more, she begins to come.

Bette_Tina CU golden toned KISS

And for long, long moments, we’re falling over the edge of orgasm, and moaning, with our tongues sliding together, as a slick sweat breaks between our bodies, and…………we fall back into each other’s arms, the waves break slower and slower, and we breath together, and look again into each other’s eyes, and kiss softly.

Tina runs her fingers down my body, making little curves in my sweat between my breasts. “This is Texas, I do realize, but take a guess. Since we landed this morning, how many laws have you broken?

“Two, maybe?” I begin to laugh.

“Try ten.” She licks up my neck. “You’re very salty tonight.”

“You like it?”

“Hmm,” she settles against my chest, and plays her fingers around my long white bandage. “I like you.”

I rise up a little to look in her eyes. “I’d hold out as long as could, before I took a prison wife. I want you to know that.”

“And I want to believe you. I really do.” She licks me a few times inside my legs.

“Marry me, soon, won’t you? Why we do have to wait?” But her mouth on me is causing me to lose focus. “All the parties, can’t they come after we’re married?”

But no answer back is forthcoming, and soon, she’s taken all my concentration.

And then, I let myself go.


I hope you enjoyed the story!




Shanghaied! –Touch Tones #11

Shane_reading paper serious look

The Planet – Shane

As I stare at the unknown number on the screen of my cell phone, Tina and Alice’s attention drifts back to discussing Molly Kroll’s unexpected appearance outside The Planet a few minutes ago, but more astonishingly, why she drove away with Bette.

The phone vibrates in my hand once more. It’s a Dallas area code, but my Mother never calls me this early.

First, a southern sounding woman’s voice, soft but direct asks, “May I speak with Shane McCutcheon?”

“I’m Shane.” I sip my expresso. Dammit, how quickly it grows cold.

“Ms. McCutcheon, I’m Dr. Matthews from St. Francis’ Hospital in Dallas. I’m calling about your mother. Is this a good time to talk?”

I wave my hands for Alice and Tina to look at me as I mouth the words, ‘hospital’ and ‘mother’, and we all wait as I hear the news: My mother, the on and then off again drug addict, needs a liver transplant, or she’ll die.

Alice breaks our frozen silence, “Wait a minute! Do they even know how dangerous that is?”

Tina comforts me, “It’s not dangerous for you, Shane. Painful to give the necessary tissue, sure. It’s surgery after all, but not dangerous per se.”

“Thank you, Meredith Grey,” Alice snaps. “but I was talking about for Shane’s mother. I mean, would you want Shane’s kidney?”

“Liver.” I correct.

For a second too long my best friends look doubtful. Quickly, Tina leans over and kisses my cheek. “Guys, I’ve got to get going. Shane, find me on set later if you want to talk.”

Stunned, I walk out of The Planet, and as I climb the hill back to my house my mind feels adrift and buzzy, when it should be clear and planning and my fingers tapping around online for a cheap plane ticket to Texas, but instead I listen the incessant humming in my head. A thousand bees circling again and again – a disturbed hive of thoughts.

Bette_PowerSuite.2king down

California University – Phyllis’ Office – Bette

After Molly Kroll’s unexpected ride to work with me, I had hoped to dash past James, and straight into my office, but Phyllis ‘Shanghaied’ me in the parking lot.  At this point, I’ve given up and settled in with her and Molly, and a morning tea tray for what I suspect will be an annoying conversion that will touch upon, “being a lesbian, being a mother”, and most dreaded of all: “What do I think about it?”

But instead, she wants to talk about the boots I’m wearing.

CU Bette's boots Blood Moon story

Suddenly, she grabs me by the tip of my slightly squared toe and fixes me with a stare of undeniable envy. “Bette, you both frustrate and fascinate me.” Followed by a long sigh I’m not sure I like the sound of coming from her.

Over the rim of my china cup, I stare back at Phyllis, and burn the holy crap out of my lip on the too hot tea. She pouts a little which is unnerving, and Molly, with lips of asbestos, takes a deep swallow, rolls her eyes, and stares up at the ceiling.

Like a pin prick into my forming blister, I suddenly spill out the whole story of my recent night in the moonlit canyons of New Mexico shooting off my mother’s Colt six-shooters at big fat rattlesnakes.

Phyllis - pink suit

For once in her life, Phyllis is speechless.


Beverly Hills Rooftop Pool & Bar – Late Afternoon – Tina

It was inevitable that sooner or later I was going to run into the director, Kate Arden, again. I’d had to fire her, after Jenny’s massive sucking up to William made it clear – an opinionated director like Kate was never going to work on Jenny’s story, Jenny’s story, Jenny’s story – I only wish.

Kate motions to me in that too cool way of hers. “So, how’s the picture coming?”

“We’re just starting principle. Any big news with you?” I breeze back at her.

“My big news? Hmm, I’m headed to Ireland in a few days to start a movie, but I think yours is probably more interesting.” Kate cocks her head, and stares at me from under her hipster cap.

“Mine?” I feel a dry patch starting at the back of my throat and creeping over my tongue. Industry people are horrible gossips, and William and Aaron have been slipping away everyday at lunchtime. I had guessed seeking more investors, but the way Kate says it unnerves me.

A pregnant pause, as she lights a cigarette. “I guess you could say, I was surprised when someone sent me a YouTube link of you and Bette and Gloria Steinem.”

“Oh, that.” I look around me for other possible ambushes.

Kate presses on, “If I didn’t know better, I’d say you were an actress.” A smoke ring exits her lips. “It was great theater, your surprise when she showed you the ring. And I mean that in best of possible ways.”

“Of course you do.” I lift it up for Kate, and we watch as it sparkles in the California sun.

CU Tina's ring

“Interesting, when you think about,” she rolls my ring finger between hers.”because two months ago you had a thing for me.”

Four Days Later –

flight attendants

Los Angeles to Dallas Flight – Alice

It didn’t take us long to make friends with the flight attendants, a Dallas based crew who were on their way home after flying God knows where all day long.  Frankly, I don’t know how they do it. Smile and smile and say the same things over and over, but drawl on they did, and I’ve never heard directions about seat beats and tray tables sound so sexy, but then again, I was in a rare mood.  It had felt good, very good, in fact, to send Tasha an email saying I was off to Dallas on business for a few days.  Really.  Screw her.

Shane, however, was not so brimming with cheer, and it was with some relief when I watched her across the aisle sprawl in her seat, take out her earphones, and close her eyes to the world.

Tina’s final words were, “Thank God, Nikki Stevens sprained her stupid ankle,” before she fell asleep on Bette’s shoulder, which made us look only slightly less like complete alcoholics, when we ordered a double vodka tonic for her, along with two for ourselves.

With our tray tables awash with cocktails and peanuts, and barely enough room for a game of gin rummy, I’m suddenly beginning to remember, Bette is very good at playing.


I like to know it all. Bette likes to be absolutely right about everything, and Tina gets difficult when pushed too far, but today – with the control of our lives handed over for the next two and half hours to the pilot, and his lovely flight crew – we’ve given ourselves over to the inebriating effects of vodka, and matching wits at playing cards.

“I don’t know if I’d do it.” I blurt, and Bette flashes her eyes at me.

“What!?” I cry, causing Tina to stir.

“Dammit,” she hisses, “Are you looking at my cards, again, Alice?”

“Give my mother my kidney.” I set the record straight.

“Liver, Alice. Liver.” Bette corrects me as she snaps a card into her hand before laying down another fucking rummy. “Damn, I wish we were playing for money,” she smiles at me. “You shuffle, I can’t do it with her asleep on me like this.

“What’s up with her?” I nod toward Tina.

“Sleep deprived, I think.” Bette says as she cuts the cards.

“Newlyweds! Well, soon anyway.” I smile as I fan out my hand, and see that I have a fighting chance with this one. “Bette, drink up. The cart’s rolling back this way.”

“Not my fault,” Bette smirks in a rare form of sexual disclosure. “This time.”  Followed by a tender kiss on top of Tina’s head. “All week they’ve been shooting at night. Stupid movie. She’s exhausted.”

“It’s the redheaded flight attendant, again.” I lay down my discard. “I wouldn’t mind another round, you?”

“I’ll play you for it.”

“Okay,” I nod.

“Gin!” Bette announces, as she lifts up the Queen of Hearts I just discarded.

“God dammit! How do you keep doing that!”

“Skill. Sheer skill, Alice.” Bette pushes the cards at me to shuffle.

Tina’s hand drops into Bette’s lap, and begins to rub her thigh. “Babe, are you and Alice getting drunk?” Tina whispers into her neck.

“I think so. Is that okay with you?” Bette winks at me.

“I’m not driving.” Tina sighs.

“Okay, but right now we’re flying – so, we’re good.”

“Who’s winning?” Tina asks drowsily.

“As if you need to ask,” Bette drops a six of clubs on the table. “Eight to nothing. My favor.”

Eyeball sculpture Dallas hotel

Dallas, Texas – Outside the Hotel – Alice

Leave it to Bette to choose a hotel where a giant modern eye ball sculpture peers constantly into our windows. Awash with airplane vodka, I’m finding it particularly unnerving. That and the fact that Shane keeps visiting it, as she is doing now, and stroking the red vessels that crawl up its sides. But, we’ve got a silent, and as yet unbroken mantra going while we’re in Dallas. Let it Be. Let it Be. Let it Be.

So far, so good.

Tina pushes through the glass doors from the lobby. “We’re very close to St. Francis.” Tina says as the valet appears with our rental car, and she hands Shane the driving directions. “Are you sure you’re okay to drive?”

“Are you guys sure you want to come?” Shane looks at us one by one. “I can do this alone. They’re not sticking me with anything tonight. I’m just visiting her.”

“Unless you don’t want us to, I think we should all be there.” Bette says resolutely.

“I agree,” Tina adds, as Shane falls in line with us at the curb.

“Shotgun.” Bette calls as she opens the sedan’s back door for Tina.

Shane looks around the car before she turns into the early evening traffic. “Thanks, guys. I really mean it.”

“Dallas, Texas,” Tina muses from the back seat.  “Last time my father called me, an Easter or two ago, he said my sister lived here now.”

And I watch as Bette’s knuckles turn white as she grips the dashboard in front of her.

hospital logo Dallas

Outside the Hospital – Shane

I stare at the signage out front, “Presence? What the fuck does that even mean?”

“I wouldn’t think about it too much.” Bette offers, and then clears her throat, as Alice skips up beside me.

“When was the last time you saw your mother? I’ve known you for eight years and I don’t remember you ever going anywhere, except up to the vineyards in Ojai.”

“And that’s not far.” Tina adds.

“Today was the first time I’ve ever been in plane.”

“What?” We all shout at once from under the glowing Presence sign.

“Do you think the nuns who ran the foster homes I lived in had money for plane tickets? It was bus rides to the county fair, and only if the tickets were free.”

“Did you like flying?” Tina asks me.

“It was fast.”

Bette stands at the elevator in her cowboy boots as several couples walk past admiring them.

“Hey! We’re in Texas.” Alice spurts cheerfully as a family in ten gallon hats saunters past.

I press the button for the transplant floor, and as the elevator whooshes us upwards, I feel my liver, along with my stomach, staying somewhere two floors behind.

Shane's mother looking out windowThe Hospital Room – Bette

When Sue Ellen McCutcheon turns away from her wistful stare out the window, I feel a hammer of ache hit my chest when I think of all those missing years without my mother.  She opens her arms to her daughter, and for a moment our friend disappears as we watch tears stream down their cheeks. I begin to back out of the room, but Tina’s firm hand stops me. She whispers, “This is going to be okay.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, I’m sure. Keep walking.” Tina nudges me again, but I still feel trapped in something like a dream, as she gently pushes me farther inside.

“Lord, I must look nearly one foot in the grave.” Sue Ellen brushes her hands over her face. “Thank God, I put on my lips to meet you all.”

We all beam our best smiles back at her, as Shane begins to introduce us,

Tina’s the first to take Mrs. McCutcheon’s thin frail hand, and finally, it’s my turn.

“Bette Porter, nice to meet you.” I feel the papery texture of her skin.

“Bette?” She looks at her daughter, “The swimming pool, right?”

Shane nods as she looks out the window, and wipes the tears away with the back of her hand.

“Yes. The swimming pool.”

“There’s not too many places to sit.” Sue Ellen apologizes.

Alice drops down on the end of the hospital bed. “So, what’d she say about me? I’m her best friend.”


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The site doesn’t send you to this story following story when you click —–> Next Post. So, to read in order –

12. The New Mothers of Invention – Bette opens this story with a long windmill of thoughts and musings that was incredibly fun for me to write and imagine. Being in her head amuses me completely. Then, the story kicks off into a speedy sequence of events as Tina finds Bette in the hospital corridor and off they go into the humidity of a Dallas, Texas night.

P.S. To catch the thread of this four part series again you may want to read the very amusing story preceding this one, Alice Surmises found here:

Writer’s love comments, please drop one if you’d like.

Enjoy, Blackbird

@Blackbirdwrite and on Facebook, L Word Behind the Scenes. Thanks to Jacky at who also hosts these stories there.

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