Wayne Goodman has a new gay spec fic/romance/historical fiction short story collection out: “All the Right Places.”
“All the Right Places” is a collection of short stories, most written for submission to anthologies or collections. Starting in the near future and proceeding to the near past, men interact with other men in the pursuit of love and companionship.Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CAN | iBooks | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Smashwords | Goodreads
“All the Right Places”: Short Stories by Wayne Goodman – Special Insight and Excerpt
I live in the San Francisco Bay Area with my partner Rick May (and too many cats). My writing has tended to be historical fiction with a focus on LGBTQ+ characters. When not writing, I like to play piano music from the Gilded Age with an emphasis on Women, Black, and Gay composers.
Since October 2018, I have hosted Queer Words Podcast, conversations with queer-identified authors about their works and lives (www.queerwords.org). We talk about their queer experiences as well as their literary works. If you are a published, queer-identified author and would like to be featured in a future episode, you can write to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
From time-to-time I submitted short stories to anthologies or collections. Some got accepted and printed, many received polite rejections. After a few years my compilation of shorter works grew to a point where I wanted to publish them together. “All the Right Places” contains eleven pieces that take place starting in the near future and chronologically progressing to the near past.
According to David Pratt of Hosta Press in his Goodreads review: “Wayne Goodman writes with a welcome frankness and gives us some wonderfully sexy set-ups … Goodman reminds us that men had desires and knew what they wanted even in the old west of the U.S. or nineteenth century London. A very frank and refreshing change-up from the warm and delightful host of the Queer Words podcast.”
Ideas for stories sometimes come from unusual places. I am a member of KQED in San Francisco, and they produce a program called “Bay Curious” that responds to listeners’ questions about local points of interest. One such show dealt with Mile Rock Lighthouse, which sits one mile off the rocky coast. That led to “Stag Station,” the designation given to a lighthouse where women are not permitted.
Here is an excerpt:
“Hello?” I called out.
“Who the hell is there?” croaked a gruff voice from above. Footsteps on the ceiling traversed to the top of the stairs, and a shadow appeared. The person descending would be difficult to classify. Neither young nor old, not handsome or plain, neither dark nor light, not tall or short. His face had creased into a permanent scowl, and his dark-brown hair framed it in an unruly outline. He wore a gray uniform stained with dark splotches.
“Are you Platon?” I squeaked.
“Who the hell are you?” he growled.
I explained how the recruiter selected me to be the keeper’s assistant. He grunted intermittently.
“Hmmmpf!” With one of his muscular arms, he motioned me to the stairs. “Come on up, Greenie.”
“Greenie? But my name is –”
“Doesn’t matter what your name is, you’re Greenie now.” He disappeared up the stairs and I followed.
Second and third thoughts began to swirl about in my head. I wanted to be away from the rest of humanity, but I wasn’t sure this was the human I wanted to be trapped in a sardine can with. Then again, getting my mind off my troubles might be just what I needed.
I could see why they did not want women here. A small, cramped place surrounded by sea swells. This could have never provided the comforts of a home.
When we reached the next floor, I saw three cots and a latrine. One of the cots had disheveled sheets. A small stairway led further up.
“Choose your bunk,” Platon barked.
“Will there be three of us?” I inquired.
He made a clicking noise with his cheek that sounded extremely dismissive. “Nah. The other one is only for emergency visitors.”
I dropped my bag on the cot furthest from the unkempt one, figuring he didn’t want to be close to me either. Without warning or asking, he stepped to the primitive toilet, undid his trousers and began peeing. I wanted to look–I didn’t want to look. The sound of the splashing water rankled my ears.
When he stepped away from the toilet, I waited to see if he went to the sink to wash his hands, but he did not. Instead, he went to the stairs and began to climb. Midway up, he turned and motioned me to follow.
The next level up contained storage and look-out stations. A metal ladder led up to the light mechanism. Platon stood on the only space available, and I positioned myself on the ladder so that my head poked up above the flooring. With so much machinery crammed into the glass enclosure, only one person could occupy it at a time.
A giant Fresnel lens in a shiny brass frame occupied most of the room. The huge gears for turning the lens seemed imposing and dangerous. In the midst of the great, glass heart of the lighthouse sat the oil-vapor lamp, larger than anything I had ever seen before.
Through the window plates I could barely make out the shoreline of San Francisco across the water. If I wanted to get away from everyone, this seemed like the ideal place. No one could just walk up to the front door and knock.
Platon showed me the controls for the great lamp and explained how the mechanism worked. We were to ignite it one half-hour before sunset and extinguish it one half-hour after sunrise.
There would be much to do in maintaining the lighthouse. Daily inspections of equipment, weather reporting, cleaning and polishing the lens and its housing. The smoke left by the oil-vapor lamp permeated just about everything in the lighthouse.
“This job of lighthouse keeper seems monumental,” I said casually, making an attempt at human conversation as we descended to the level with the cots.
“I ain’t no keeper, Greenie,” he squawked. “I’m a tender.”
That seemed a rather odd statement as I sensed nothing tender about him.
The building abruptly shook, and I reached my hand to a nearby wall to steady myself. “Was that an earthquake?” I pondered out loud.
“Nah,” he retorted. “Sometimes the waves hit the sides pretty hard. You’ll get used to it.”
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Gary had never seen the likes of the boy who just walked into Mixer, one of the more recent bars to open in Chelsea. He had a farm-hewn look, like he just stepped down from a tractor clenching a dried stalk of wheat grass between his teeth.
Something about this stranger seemed intriguing, inviting, alluring. So out-of-place in this ultra-modern wash of dark walls, neon strip lights and fake smoke. The designer had set up the entrance so that each person walking in would emerge into the main room from a cloud of fog, like walking out of a dream.
And this seemed much like a dream to Gary. A hayseed hick in a ﬂashy lower Manhattan gay bar. The kind of thing he used to watch at home on video late at night when he couldn’t make a good connection at the bar. Just like in the dream, or video, the bucolic lad walked up to him.
“Hello, I’m Elmo,” the farm boy thrust out his rough-looking right hand, presumably to shake with Gary. Unfortunately, the surprisingly-diﬀerent name sent him into a giggle ﬁt. “Did I say something wrong? I’m awfully sorry if I did. Perhaps I should just leave now.” Elmo turned to go.
“No, wait, Elmo,” Gary managed to blurt out before he started laughing again, almost spilling the pricey drink he had fought the jaded crowd to purchase. The liquid in the glass glowed blue in the light of the plexiglass bartop. “Can I buy you a drink? Are you even old enough to be in here?”
The farm boy had a very fresh and youthful appearance, except for the roughness of his palms. Elmo gazed down into those work-worn hands before responding, “I am not in the habit of accepting charity from strangers, but,” and he glanced up at Gary’s shirt and then his face, “I believe I am prepared to try something new tonight. Oh, and yes, I just turned 21 last week. What are you drinking, sir?”
“A Blue Moon,” Gary responded as he pointed his free hand at the glass. “Two things”–he held up two ﬁngers–“First oﬀ, this is not a drink for rank beginners, and two, if you call me ‘sir’ again, the deal’s oﬀ.” Elmo looked down. “Hey, up here, man. My name is Gary.”
Elmo looked up and smiled. “Thank you… Gary.”
And Gary returned the smile. Possible fantasy scenarios began to form in his overcharged imagination. “Do you like beer?”
“Of course!” Elmo’s smile widened. “We have all kinds of beer at home: Apple Beer, Ginger Beer, Root Beer –”
“Do any of them have alcohol?” Gary interrupted.
“Oh, no,” his moppy head shook side to side, “we’re not supposed to drink alcohol.”
“But you do, Elmo, don’t you?”
A wicked smile spread across his face, “Oh, yeah, sure, but please don’t tell my pa.”
Gary gently grasped Elmo’s arm. “Don’t you worry yourself none, Elmo, your secret is safe with me.” He then turned to the bartender and ordered a lite beer. Once he had ﬁnished settling, he took the bottle in his free hand and turned back to Elmo. “I wish we could ﬁnd a place to sit and chat, but this bar is so crowded.”
“What about there?” Elmo pointed to a café table where two nattily-dressed men had just stood up.
“Well, aren’t you my little lucky charm, Elmo.” He guided them to the recently-abandoned seats. “So… what brings a nice young boy like you into a ﬁlthy old place like this?” Once he had set the two drinks on the table, he waved his arms around to indicate the space.
“Oh, no. This is far from ﬁlthy. If you want ﬁlthy, I can show you the cow stalls.” Elmo’s head rotated around as he took in the new surroundings. “And why did you start laughing when I told you my name?” He confronted Gary directly.
“Oh”–he smiled–“it’s not a name you hear very often. The only Elmo I ever knew was the one on Sesame Street.”
“Is that far from here? Is it in Manhattan?”
Gary burst out laughing. “Are you for reals? Or are you just pranking me?”
“I’m not sure I understand what you are asking me, sir–Gary.” His wide eyes suggested his innocence to be sincere. “Where I live, there are quite a few of us–Elmos, that is. In fact, folks usually call me Elmo Number 2, or just Number 2 for short.”
“You are just full of surprises, Elmo Number 2.” Gary grinned. “At ﬁrst I had to suppress the urge to tickle you all over.” He wiggled his ﬁngers and moved his hands up and down.
“Why would you want to do that?” Elmo sipped at the beer.
“Well, a few years back there was this toy that… oh, never mind.” Elmo seemed focused on Gary’s shirt. “Is there something wrong with my shirt? You keep looking at it.”
“Oh, no.” He blushed. “It’s the color. It’s what drew me to you.”
“Blue. Blue is what made you bee line from the door up to me and tell me your name?” Elmo nodded his head. “Think you could you help me out with a bit of an explanation?”
“Oh, sure,” he took another sip of the beer, “And thank you for this. It’s not bad. You see, at home, that shade of blue has a special signiﬁcance for us.”
“Home?” Gary gave him the once over once again. “And where might that be, Elmo?”
“Lancaster, of course!”
“Of course. I should have known. And you pronounce it way diﬀerent from what I am used to. We say Lan-caster, but you call it ‘Lank-a-ster.’”
“Really? I’ve never heard it pronounced any other way.”
“Uhn huhn,” Gary started searching out other faces, just in case this cute little fantasy disappeared into a dust cloud. “So… what brings you to New York, Elmo Number 2?”
The farm boy giggled, “Number 2. It sounds so diﬀerent when you say it.” He giggled again. Perhaps it was the beer kicking in. “I’m on Rumspringa. Are you familiar with that?”
“Is it some new drug?” Gary stared down into his drink.
“Oh, no, silly. It’s my time to discover what the outside world has to oﬀer before I commit to my adult life.”
“I think I saw a movie about that. Are you Amish or something?”
“Sort of. We like to call ourselves Pennsylvania Dutch, but it’s very similar. My folks are more modern than some of the other groups.”
“Don’t you people ride around in horse buggies? No electricity, no cell phones.”
“Oh, that’s the older ones. We’re not so strict like that anymore.”
“I see,” Gary’s eyes wandered over Elmo’s body anew as fantasies began to redevelop. “So… you’re in New York to see the sights?”
Wayne Goodman has lived in the San Francisco Bay Area most of his life (with too many cats). He hosts Queer Words Podcast, conversations with queer-identified authors about their works and lives. When not writing, Goodman enjoys playing Gilded Age parlor music on the piano, with an emphasis on women, gay, and Black composers.
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