Category Archives: Original Fiction

Why Champagne?

Petronille 2

Intoxication doesn’t just happen. It’s an art, one that requires talent and application. Haphazard drinking leads nowhere.

While there is often something miraculous about the first time one gets really plastered, this is only thanks to proverbial beginner’s luck: by definition, it will not happen again.

For years, I drank the way most people do: depending on the party, I consumed drinks of varying strength, in hopes of reaching that state of heady inebriation which makes life bearable, and all I achieved for my pains was a hangover. And yet I have never stopped believing that my quest might be turned to better advantage.

My experimental temperament gained the upper hand. I was like those shamans in the Amazon who, before they begin to chew away on some unknown plant, subject themselves to draconian diets, the better to unveil its hidden powers; I resorted to the oldest investigatory technique on the planet: I fasted. Asceticism is an instinctive way to create the inner void that is indispensable to any scientific discovery.

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The Story About a Bus Driver Who Wanted to Be God

The Story About the Bus Driver Who Thought He Was God

This is the story about a bus driver who would never open the door of the bus for people who were late. Not for anyone. Not for repressed high school kids who’d run alongside the bus and stare at it longingly, and certainly not for high-strung people in windbreakers who’d bang on the door as if they were actually on time and it was the driver who was out of line, and not even for little old ladies with brown paper bags full of groceries who struggled to flag him down with trembling hands. And it wasn’t because he was mean that he didn’t open the door, because this driver didn’t have a mean bone in his body; it was a matter of ideology. The driver’s ideology said that if, say, the delay that was caused by opening the door for someone who came late was just under thirty seconds, and if not opening the door meant that this person would wind up losing fifteen minutes of his life, it would still be more fair to society, because the thirty seconds would be lost by every single passenger on the bus. And if there were, say, sixty people on the bus who hadn’t done anything wrong, and had all arrived at the bus stop on time, then together they’d be losing half an hour, which is double fifteen minutes. This was the only reason why he’d never open the door. He knew that the passengers hadn’t the slightest idea what his reason was, and that the people running after the bus and signaling him to stop had no idea either. He also knew that most of them thought he was just an sob, and that personally it would have been much, much easier for him to let them on and receive their smiles and thanks.

Except that when it came to choosing between smiles and thanks on the one hand, and the good of society on the other, this driver knew what it had to be.

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The Watts Riots

The Watts Riots

I spent the riots in a penthouse at the Chateau Marmont with this ex-philosophy major from Stanford whose family owned all the more oily pieces of land in Arizona, Mexico and California and who had taken up the profession of herding cattle. He was a Stanford Cowboy, is how I always thought of him in my mind. He showed me his spurs so I’d believe him and his saddle bags. In his saddle bags he kept his prize possessions, books on magic and the works of Alistair Crowley. His horse must have felt like a roving library. The police shot this guy in a car while he was taking his wife to the hospital to have a baby just as Nicky, the Stanford Cowboy, must have been checking into the Chateau that evening, having driven from Indio, the desert where the Santa Ana winds came from.

The guy getting shot in Watts made the winds, I think, like escaping gas, explode.

L.A. was closed.

There were no cars out on the streets. Everyone was home watching tv, where Joe Pine had dumped a satchelful of guns out onto his podium and explained that he was not about to let anyone try and get his stuff away from him, never mind his wife and daughters.

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Joel, Paul, Bob, Lou, and Timothy

Louise Wareham Leonard


Joel is from Queens and a graphic designer. He has a loft apartment in Soho. In this apartment is a swing. You can swing from the light of the windows on the east side toward the darkness on the west. Joel makes me cards: homemade carefully wrought works-of-art cards. Joel gives me a photograph of two trees leaning toward each other. He writes on a card: You are the light at the end of the tunnel. Not long after this, he changes his mind. “You are angry at me,” he says, “You are frequently angry and I do not know why.” For my thirty-second birthday, he gives me a bicycle, a red Villager cruiser. We go biking in the afternoon through the streets of New York. We bike to the Lower East Side and across the Brooklyn Bridge. He is happy with me. This happiness, however, does not last. Joel decides he no longer wants to see me. “You are too angry,” he says. “You are angry for some reason I don’t know. I don’t cause your anger. Something does, but it is not me and I can’t heal it.”


Paul is a waiter and also an actor. He takes me home and hands me a lance. He is a jouster. He jousts with me. “I want to joust with you,” he tells me, “so you always remember.”


I meet Bob at a dinner party on Gansevoort Street. I have come late to the party so as to miss dinner. I can’t afford dinner, so come for coffee. Bob notices this. Bob comments on it. Bob is impressed, he says. He is a lawyer, Insurance Coverage and Litigation. He lives on 35th Street. He has a house in Rhinebeck. He drives me there and it is spring. It is April but not summer. We lie back on his sun warmed bed. It is blue, and also quiet. He hardly touches me. This is how seriously he takes me. He tells me he is serious and he acts serious. He takes me to his parents’ house in Greenwich, Connecticut. They are in their early eighties, full of plenitude. We walk by their ocean and “you have the body of a nineteen-year-old,” he says, “I love that; I want to marry that.” “That?” I repeat. “Yes,” he smiles, “That.” Something in my chest starts to rise. Something catches my lungs so they stop moving. “What if I don’t always have the body of a nineteen-year-old?” I ask. “But you plan to,” he says. “Don’t you?” I weary, sometimes, of how easy men are—both to please and to lose. “Oh, for God’s sake,” I say. “Oh,” Bob says, pulling back from me, groping for his car keys. I have an urge to slap him. I do not slap him, but my body wants to. As much as he is afraid of me, as much as that and more, I despise him for his fear.


Lou is in a hot tub, alone me with me at the Chelsea Piers, the most expensive club I belong to. It has windows on the Hudson. It has velvet light. He stands up to let the water flow over him, and I see his package. I am embarrassed by this. I know his package has been the subject of attention. He sees me looking, but I look away. Always it is this way, with the famous. Pretending not to know them when “Sad Song” fashioned all my dreams. “Oh,” I say to him finally, so he squints at me, hoping I haven’t spoken. “You know my brother.” His eyes are the color and depth of wall painted black. “Who is your brother?” he asks.

His voice is very deep. It is the deep of the mad, of the man I always try to make love me, the one who does finally love me, until I realize his love is not worth as much as I’d thought. “Ben Galogly,” I say. “Ben.” His eyes light up with a fascinated horror, the way they always do for Ben, though not so much for me. “Congratulations,” he says.


Timothy is a favorite. He lives on Prince Street and rides a Moto Guzzi motorbike and helps the poor in Bushwick. In his wallet, he keeps a poem of mine, about Jesus, and rage, but mostly rage. We go to the Odeon, and Pravda. His favorite bird is the sparrow. When I leave town, to work upstate, he gives me the Audubon Field Guild to Northeastern Trees.

We meet at the Candlelight, between towns, in Massachusetts. They have electric candles along the window sills. He buys me hiking boots. He washes my car and fits it for emergencies. We hike the Appalachian Trail. We sleep on mountains. We follow creeks and mushrooms. He is broad shouldered and tall. He wears shorts and thermal tops. He wears red hiking socks and a Tilley hat. I am thirty-six and would like a baby. “A baby,” he repeats, in his apartment, as if this is a dirty word.

I never go back, except to pick up my things. I find a list of pros and cons about me. Pro: Great sex. A good person. Con: Needy, both emotionally and financially. In six months, he impregnates a soap actress. They marry and have two children.

52 Men

Louise Wareham Leonard writes with such rare intensity, rage, sadness and ferocious love, she lights up a world where expectancies and experiences of desire, sexuality and authenticity are redefined and exploded. Both devastating and, often, laugh-out-loud funny, her work has a savage purity—forgiving both all and nothing—demanding truth, wresting us from darkness to the ethereal, offering both solace and change. Born in New Zealand, she moved to Manhattan at age twelve, attended Columbia College and has received, amongst other awards, the James Jones Literary Society First Novel Award. She lives in upstate New York.

Copyright © 2015 by Louise Wareham Leonard from 52 Men. Reprinted by permission of Red Hen Press.

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Drinking Martinis in Jelly Jars

Grant Faulkner

John Cheever’s Dinner Guest

Francine was the sort of woman who spoke in clichés, asked the price of everything. “What a charming setting,” she said of the dining room. “That highboy was a nice purchase.” When the conversation tipped to the topic of travel, she seized the moment to talk about her two weeks in Paris as an 18-year-old exchange student. “There’s nothing like Paris,” she sighed. We joked that she deserved to be stranded with a broken down car, get chased by a dog, marry a man with Tourette syndrome, something. She waved to everyone, though, unlike us. We couldn’t begrudge her that.

Letters from the Crypt

Gerard put all the items in a nondescript box: the letters, the journal Celeste had given him, the post-it notes with secret missives. He wrapped her collage in wax paper like an art curator would. The red swath of fingernail polish, images of a blindfolded woman. He’d written her a long letter interpreting the work, but he’d been beguiled by the woman, dainty yet waiting for a firing squad. Odd to archive torrents of emotions. Packing tape like a lock on an old mortuary. One never opens a crypt, yet the body is always primped and dressed for a ball. Continue reading

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Killing Milk

Killing Milk

This parody of Bill O’Reilly’s best-selling history books (Killing Lincoln, Killing Kennedy, Killing Jesus, etc.) is “by Bill O’Reilly” via Courtney Bowman and Nicholas Bowman, from their new book Killing O’Reilly.

WARNING: In order to keep readers turning pages, I have written this chapter as a noir. But don’t let the style fool you. What you are about to read is unsanitized and uncompromising. The murder of Harvey Milk, America’s first gay[i] politician, was brutal, but the full story hasn’t been told. Until now.

It had all started at a club on Castro two years earlier.

Harvey Milk is leaning on the bar, nursing the butt of a Camel. His jaw juts out of his face like a cliffside, his chin looks like his face is making a fist, and his dimples are deadly sharp.

It’s the summer of 1976, the gayest year in San Francisco history, but Milk thinks it could be gayer. Milk used to be on the Board of Permit Appeals. Appealing straight permits and letting gay permits fly, Milk was the most powerful gay man in the world. But he wanted more. That’s why he quit and ran for office. A race he just lost. He drops the Joe in a dirty glass. Milk makes to pay his tab when a man walks up.

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