Wednesday, April 29, 2015

fun, part 15

by harold p sternhagen writing as "ralph desmond"

as originally appearing in the july-august 1951 issue of sinister destinies magazine

illustrated by konrad kraus

editorial consultant: Prof. Dan Leo

for previous episode of "fun" , click here

to begin "fun", click here

in our previous chapters, we met jerry and roselle winfield, socialites and slummers extraordinaire.

jerry suspects that roselle intends to kill him.

and he seeks to locate his old army buddy "whitey" wilson to help him avoid this fate, perhaps by murdering roselle.

stopping outside of syracuse with his new acquaintance pandora wilson on his way to meet whitey in rochester, he buys a newspaper with a sensational headline. a body identified as roselle's has been discovered in an alley in brooklyn.

earlier that evening roselle had been seen leaving her apartment with a mysterious stranger...


as she exited the apartment building with “miss philomena wilson”, roselle nodded to the doorman - a young doorman that she barely recognized, but vaguely remembered seeing once or twice before.

she gave him just enough of a nod that he would not think anything was wrong, but not enough to invite any conversation. not that roselle was ever much for conversation with doormen or other servants.

out in the street the rain and wind had picked up. “miss wilson’s” sturdy black umbrella was big enough to keep both herself and roselle reasonably dry.

“there is a cab waiting just a block away,” agnes announced in her normal voice as soon as they were out of the doorman’s hearing.

roselle just nodded. she saw nothing unusual in keeping a cab waiting for the hour or so agnes had been in her apartment.

a green cab with “five city cab” painted on it was parked in a wide alley between a bar and a second hand bookstore.

roselle had never noticed or heard of “five city cab”. agnes opened the rear door and motioned roselle into the cab.

when agnes got in and closed the door, the driver started up without agnes speaking to him and drove out of the alley and headed downtown.

agnes took her big hat and veil off and tossed it on the seat between herself and roselle. then she lit a cigarette.

roselle noticed that the meter was not running. agnes opened her window a crack to blow smoke out and a little rain came in.

traffic was light. they were in the seventies before roselle started registering where they were. neither agnes nor the driver spoke.

roselle forced herself to open her purse, take out a cigarette and light it without her hands shaking.

“this isn’t a real cab,” she told agnes.

agnes flicked some ash into the ashtray. “sure it’s a real cab. it says cab right on it, doesn’t it?”

“why isn’t the meter on?”

“because i rented it for the night.”

roselle didn’t answer. the rain beat a little harder on the window. they picked up broadway at 71st street.

“can i ask where we are going?” roselle asked after a few more blocks.

“i told you. to meet some people.”

“yes, i know that. but where are we going to meet them?”

agnes smiled. “you didn’t ask before. it was enough that we were going to meet some people.”

“but i’m asking now.” i am doing a pretty good job, thought roselle, of not appearing nervous.

“i suppose it won’t hurt to tell her, will it, maxie?” agnes asked the driver.

“it’s up to you,” the driver answered. it was the first time the driver had spoken. he had his cap down over his eyes, and in the dark cab roselle couldn’t tell if he was young or old, or light or dark. he sounded old.

maxie! what a banal name. right out of a movie. roselle wondered if he had been a boxer. that would be perfect.

maxie glanced in the rear view mirror at roselle. “you think that’s a real banal name, right? right out of a movie.”

roselle didn’t answer.

“and you are wondering whether i was a boxer. or maybe a longshoreman.”

agnes laughed. “ maxie is a mind reader. and a good one.”

“no, i was wondering if you were adolf hitler,” roselle told maxie.

maxie ignored this. “you think just because i am a cab driver, i can’t read minds,” he continued. he had a slight accent roselle could not place.

“well, if you can read minds, why are you a cab driver?” roselle knew it sounded weak.

“the upheaval of civilization, miss. the upheaval of civilization. men are driving cabs and washing dishes and waiting on tables who were scientists and philosophers and mathematicians in their own countries - countries that have been destroyed. so why not a poor mind reader?”

“that’s great,” roselle answered. “i can read time magazine too. if you can read my mind you can see i am still wondering where we are going.”

“brooklyn,” agnes told her. she was lighting another cigarette.

“brooklyn,” roselle repeated.

“does that surprise you?” agnes asked.

“a little.” roselle shrugged. “somehow i pictured we were going to the waterfront. you know, being mysterious and dark and all.”

“we might be. there’s waterfronts in brooklyn,” agnes answered.

“there are waterfronts everywhere , miss,” maxie added. “civilizations are all based on waterfronts. and the great clashes and upheavals of civilizations usually involve water and waterfronts.”

agnes laughed. “and dark and mysterious deeds are done on waterfronts. which are everywhere.”

“all right,” said roselle. “so let’s go to the waterfront. and get civilized. or dark and mysterious.”

“or both,” said agnes.

“civilization is dark and mysterious,” pronounced maxie. “existence is dark and mysterious, wouldn’t you agree?”

“sure.” roselle decided to change the subject. “you know, i’m not really that familiar with brooklyn.”

“everybody has places they are not familiar with,” agnes said. “take me, for instance. i am not familiar with richmond, indiana. or knoxville , tennessee. or johnnnesburg, or rangoon. i don’t even know what country rangoon is in.”

“how about you, maxie?” roselle asked. “i bet you’ve been around the block and all around the world and are familiar with all sorts of places. even rangoon. i bet you’ve seen and done all sorts of things .”

“i’ve seen what i’ve seen, and done what i’ve done.”

“haven’t we all?” roselle looked out the window.

they were approaching times square. the rain was letting up a little.

maxie stopped for a red light at 47th street. agnes rolled her window half way down and tossed her cigarette out into the wind.

a tall ragged man with a long black beard and a black homburg was walking by and the glowing butt just missed him.

he turned and looked at agnes through the rain with blazing eyes.

“desperation!” he shouted. “desperation!”

agnes rolled the window back up. “that’s a new one,” she laughed. “it’s usually despair - despair all ye sinners.”

“despair and desperation are one and the same,” maxie answered. “the dark twin sisters of eternity.”

do they always talk like this, roselle wondered. what a couple of bores. especially him.

they are probably going to kill me, and they are just boring.

part 16

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

fun, part 14

by harold p sternhagen writing as "ralph desmond"

as originally appearing in the july-august 1951 issue of sinister destinies magazine

illustrated by konrad kraus

editorial consultant: Prof. Dan Leo

for previous episode of "fun" , click here

to begin "fun", click here

in our previous chapters, we met jerry and roselle winfield, socialites and slummers extraordinaire.

jerry suspects that roselle intends to kill him.

and he seeks to locate his old army buddy "whitey" wilson to help him avoid this fate, perhaps by murdering roselle.

stopping outside of syracuse with his new acquaintance pandora wilson on his way to meet whitey in rochester, he buys a newspaper with a sensational headline. a body identified as roselle's has been discovered in an alley in brooklyn.

arriving in rochester in the early hours of morning, jerry enters an all-night diner and discovers whitey...


whitey wilson prided himself on being able to think on his feet and to always look at things from every angle. and never to be taken by surprise, or to fall for the same trick twice. or maybe even once.

but he was having a hard time making head or tail out of jerry's story.

and after listening to it, he wasn't really sure he wanted to listen to it again to see if it made more sense the second time.

he did know - or was pretty sure of - one thing. and he kept reminding himself of it as jerry rambled on.

jerry was rich. not rich like a doctor or a lawyer or a guy with a furniture store, but really rich. rich rich, i don't know how much money i have rich.

there had to be a way to make something out of all this - whatever it was.

so he didn't want to let jerry out of his sight until he figured out exactly what it was and what he might make out of it.

jerry had caught whitey at a bad time in one way. his various plans - and whitey always had many and various things going - had not been working out as well as they might lately.

but in another way it was a good time. because whitey needed a lucky break after all his bad ones and this might be it.

and he had some time on his hands because a few things he was working on had fallen through.

suddenly it was quiet in the diner. whitey realized that jerry had finished his story.

whitey glanced over at the counter . it was after four o'clock in the morning. the diner was empty except for whitey and jerry.

they were seated in a booth so that anyone looking in from the front door on jefferson street would not see them.

maxie, the morning guy, usually came in at five but whitey had given him the day off and was planning to work the counter himself until the afternoon.

" you want another cup of coffee?" whitey asked jerry. jerry now looked like he was going to fall asleep.

jerry rubbed his eyes. "uh, no, i just want - i want -"

"to get some sleep?"

"yes." jerry looked around. he looked at the door at the back of the diner that whitey had emerged from when jerry walked in. "you have a cot in the back room there?"

"ha ha. no, i got a couple of rooming houses right around here. i'll take you over to one of them. get you settled in."

"oh." suddenly all jerry wanted to do was sleep. to actually go to sleep in a bed, even in the crummiest rooming house in north america, sounded like the most wonderful thing in the world. if only he could sleep, he didn't care what happened after that.

but it somehow seemed odd to him that whitey would own the diner and a couple of rooming houses too. "you -uh - you own this town?" he asked him.

whitey laughed. "i don't own the city of rochester. i have - i have a few properties."

jerry nodded. he had had a vague idea of whitey wearing a tuxedo and operating some kind of gambling establishment - a roadhouse "out on the outskirts of town" or maybe a gambling ship.

but where would there be a gambling ship in rochester new york?

whitey looked over at the clock. "let me get the 'closed' sign. " he stood up. "i'll take you over and then come back." he hesitated. "i wonder if i should call ruby."

"who's ruby?"

"she runs the rooming house for me. i'll just put a note under her door, let her know i put you in one of the rooms."

jerry just shrugged. he looked own at his empty coffee cup and pushed it away.

whitey headed for the counter to retrieve the "closed" sign. just as he did he heard the front door start to open.

it opened so slowly the bell above the door hardly sounded.

a woman - a young, fat woman - stood in the doorway staring intently at whitey.

"i'm just closing up."

"i just want a cup of coffee." pandora's eyes roved over the diner. she tried to not be obvious about it. she hadn't come far enough inside to see jerry in the booth.

"come on." pandora took another step inside. "you got a minimum? i'll pay the minimum. i'l pay a dollar. for just one cup."

"a whole dollar, huh?" whitey looked back at jerry. he was face down in the booth, apparently asleep.

"okay, big spender. come on in. make yourself at home." whitey pointed to a stool at the counter. "i tell you what, for your dollar, i'll throw in a slice of pie. guaranteed to be not more than a month old."

"thank you." pandora could now see jerry in the booth. staying turned toward him, she sat down and put her purse on the counter.

"you want apple pie or pumpkin?"


"the pumpkin lasts better."

"okay, i'll have pumpkin."

whitey slid the coffee toward pandora. "i see you are easy to get along with."

"very." pandora was staring at the sleeping jerry. "you were closing up, with this guy sleeping here?" she picked the coffee up and took a sip. "not that it's any business of mine."

"oh, he's harmless. he's - he's a local character. i let him sleep here all the time. he wouldn't rob me. or hurt a fly."

pandora took her cigarettes out of her purse. "nice suit he's wearing, for a local character."

"yeah, it is." whitey had taken the slice of pumpkin pie out of the little rack on the counter and put it down. "what are you, a detective?"

"i'm just observant." pandora turned away from looking at jerry. "it's kind of my hobby - training my brain to be observant."

then it hit whitey. of course! how could he be so stupid? he must have been half asleep himself.

"you're the dame who drove him up here."

pandora could not keep the surprise out of her eyes. her hand shook a little as she grabbed an ashtray and pulled it toward her.

whitey laughed. "yeah, he told me everything." when pandora didn't answer, he went on. "he's an old pal of mine."

"sure." pandora had recovered herself. "now i get it. you're the old pal he came up here to see."

"ha. i guess he told you his whole story, too."

"he told me some things."

whitey shook his head. "i guess he never learned to keep his stories to himself. i guess they don't teach that, at princeton or on those ocean cruises."

they both turned and looked at jerry. "look at him, " said pandora. "sleeping like a baby. a big fat baby, wearing a little golden sailor suit."

the tumblers in whitey's brain were falling into place. maybe i can work with this dame, he thought, at least for a while.

"he looks like a big pie," he told pandora. "a big fat pie with slices for everybody. what did you say your name was?"

"wilson. pandora wilson."

"well, miss wilson, have some more pie. i think there's enough to go around. don't you?"

pandora blew a smoke ring. "sure. and when we finish the pie, we can have some golden goose."

"some fatted calf."

"some whatchamacallit that falls from heaven."

"yeah. right on the boy on the burning deck."

"with alladin's lamp in his back pocket."

"ha ha. i see we understand each other, miss wilson."

"you can call me pandora. you must be whitey, right?"

"that's me." whitey looked past pandora out the door. it was still pitch dark outside. "well, pandora, its getting late."

"no, it's early yet. and you know what they say."

"no, what do they say?'

"the squeaky bird gets the greasy worm."

part 15

Monday, April 13, 2015

Slaves of Sappho: chapter seven

a novel of forbidden passion

by Horace P. Sternwall {writing as Hortense Paula St. Claire}

(In our previous chapter of Slaves of Sappho, the young and innocent Missy Hallebrand found herself dining in the Prince Hal Room of the the venerable Hotel St Crispian with her new friend, the only slightly less young but more than slightly less innocent Muriel Armitage. – Dan Leo, editor of Three “Lost” Lesbian Novels by Horace P. Sternwall: Typing Pool; Women’s Auxiliary; They Called Her Harry; the Olney Community College Press.) 

Illustrations by rhoda penmarq; a penmarq/sternwall™ production


And what a night it was! The Lobster Thermidor was as delicious in its own way as the oysters, although somehow not quite so – what was the word? Transgressive? One of those words everyone had used with great abandon at Barnard but which Missy had heard not once after she graduated and entered the awful and humdrum so-called “real” world… 

And after the lobster and haricots verts (with bacon bits! what a marvelous idea!) had come Cherries Jubilee, another first for Missy, and all of it washed down with the genuine French pink champagne, something Chad had never bought for her, the big cheapskate. 

And then there was the matter of Muriel’s foot, her bare foot with its probing toes, at intervals sliding up between Missy’s legs and eventually going to a place that no one had ever gone before in Missy’s twenty-two years, excepting the gynecologist.

She knew it was wrong, technically wrong anyway, to allow Muriel to do what she was doing, what her toes were doing. But – here was the thing – wrong or not, it felt good! It felt divine in fact. How could anything which felt so divine be wrong? 

The only thing was the moisture produced. That was a little embarrassing. But there again, why should she be embarrassed? No one could see anything.

At least she hoped nothing would be visible when she stood up. But just to be on the safe side, she opened her little black purse and took out her handkerchief, pretended to dab her nose with it, and then surreptitiously placed it beneath her private parts, where it could absorb any dampness that might have made its way to the material of her month’s-wages-even-with-her-staff-discount lovely Chanel work dress.

After the cherries she suddenly felt extremely sleepy, even though Muriel had ordered coffee with the dessert.

“Oh, gosh, Muriel,” she said. “This has been so much fun, but I’m so sleepy! I think I’m going to have to go home to bed!”

“You can always stay over with me here in the hotel,” said Muriel. “I have an extra-big bed. An eiderdown featherbed. It’s ever so soft and comfortable.”

“But I don’t have a nightgown, or anything,” said Muriel.

“You can borrow a pair of my pajamas,” said Muriel. “Of course they’ll be a little big for you, but, you know, roll up the cuffs and the sleeves, you’ll be fine.”

“I’d hate to impose.”

“No imposition, really. Love to have you.”

“My flatmates will wonder what happened to me.”

“Phone them up.”

“We don’t have a telephone.”

“Are you telling me none of those girls ever fails to come home at night?”

Missy thought about this.

“You know something, Muriel, they always stay out all night, I mean, not always, but quite often!”

“Well, there you go,” said Muriel. “So now it’s your turn, darlin’.”

“You know something else, Muriel, you’re right! It is my turn! Oh, but wait.”

“Now what?”

“I don’t have a toothbrush!”

“Newsstand out in the lobby, they have toothbrushes.”

“They do?”

“This is a hotel, Missy. A very respectable hotel, but still.”

“But you’re really sure I won’t be intruding?”

“Not at all. It will be our own little slumber party.”

“We used to have those at Barnard!”

“I’m sure you did, honey.”

“They were so much fun,” said Missy, and then, after a pause, “sort of.”

“Only sort of?”

“Well, the thing is, the girls invariably always got so – so tedious –”

“Oh, really. In what way?”

“Oh, you know – talking about boys, men, boys – and these were educated girls, Barnard women!”

“Well, what are you gonna do, honey? Women are women, even if they do read Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir. You know what?”


“Sometimes I wished I was a man.”


“Yeah. Just so’s I could have the freedom, y’know?”

“I do! I do, Muriel! I wish I could be free like a man!”

“Men don’t give a damn. Do what they please, and the devil take the hindmost.”

“I know! Whereas we women, everyone always says, oh, you can’t do this, you can’t do that, that’s not ladylike – and then you go to a good college –”

“Barnard –”

“Yes, you go on scholarship to Barnard, get a degree in French literature – and all you can do is work at the stupid cosmetics counter at Macy’s.”

“The economy’s tough, honey. Or so they tell me.”

“I’m hoping I can get a job teaching French at a high school, but it’s hard to get in –”

“Oh, dear God.”


“Teaching high school? Doesn’t that sound dreadful?”

Missy thought about it a moment.

“You think so?”

“Well, each to his own.”

“But – what else could I do?”

“Let me see.” Muriel tapped the ash of her Herbert Tareyton into the ashtray. She must have smoked at least ten of them so far this evening, and had even sent the not-so-old waiter, who was named Felix, over to the bar to get her a fresh pack. “Oh, I know,” she said. “How about translating?”

“Gee,” said Missy, “that must be really hard to get into. Don’t you have to know someone, or –”

“I have some contacts in publishing,” said Muriel.

“You do?”

“Friend of mine publishes paperback translations of French novels.”

“Oh, boy.”

“Specialized French novels.”

“Specialized in what way?”

“I’ll be honest with you, Missy. Some might call it pornography.”

“They would?”

“Certain prudes would, yes.”

“Gee, I don’t know.”

“I’ll give my publisher pal a ring.”

“Do you think he would hire me?”

“It’s a she.”

“She would hire me?”

“You read French, right?”


“She’ll hire you, especially if you work cheap.”

“I’ll work cheap. Anything has to be better than selling lipstick and foundation and mascara all day.”

“Consider it settled then. I’ll give her a buzz tomorrow, set up an appointment for you.”

“Aw, gee, why are you so nice to me, Muriel?”

“Because I think you’re sweet, honey. You want to go up and hit the hay now?”

“It’s funny, but now I feel so wide awake all of a sudden! I don’t think I could get to sleep. Do you have a Monopoly board, or Scrabble? Or if you have a radio we could listen to some music. Do you like classical?”

“Sure. But you know what? It’s early yet. Let’s blow this joint and hit another dive.”

“Oh, but I couldn’t drink anymore. Maybe we could just walk around and look in the shop windows.”

“Sure, we could do that,” said Muriel, and she looked away, towards the bandstand, where Lily LaRue was singing “You Came a Long Way from St. Louis”.

“Or we could go to a bar,” said Missy. Muriel turned and looked at her. “I mean, if that’s what you would like to do, Muriel.”

“Yoo hoo, Felix!” called Muriel abruptly, waving her hand at the not-quite-elderly waiter named Felix who was staggering by with a tray of drinks. “Could we have the check over here?”

First they went to the Minetta Tavern, then to the White Horse Tavern, then to the Village Vanguard, where Muriel introduced Missy to a Negro pianist apparently named “Felonious”, and then to the San Remo, where Muriel said, “Okay, one more stop.”

“One more stop?” said Missy. She was wide awake now because at the Village Vanguard Muriel had come back from the ladies’ room with a couple of pink pills in the palm of her hand and had told Missy to take one while she took the other one,

and they had, washing them down with gulps of Tom Collinses, and after that Missy had felt as wide awake as she had ever felt in her life.

“One more stop,” said Muriel. “We’ll hit the Kettle of Fish up the street, one and done, and then head home.”

“I’m having such a great time,” said Missy.

Muriel gave her a little kiss on the cheek.

They left the bar, it was at the corner of Bleecker and MacDougal, and they turned up MacDougal, walking arm in arm. It had been raining off and on all evening, and the sidewalk and the street were wet, almost flooded.

“I just love it when it rains in the city,” said Muriel. “Don’t you?”

“Gee, I don’t know, I always thought I didn’t like the rain,” said Missy. “Because your shoes get ruined, and it makes my hair frizzy, and you have to remember to carry an umbrella, or wear a raincoat –”

“But look at that,” said Muriel, and pulling Missy to an abrupt halt, she turned and made a backhanded wave at the gutter with her free hand, the one that held a Herbert Tareyton almost smoked down to its cork tip.

“What?” said Missy.

“Look at that rainwater, just coursing along the gutter there, with all the colors gleamin’ in it, reflecting the street lights. That there is beauty.”

A crushed Old Golds cigarette packet came floating by.

“Oh, my God, Muriel, you’re right,” said Missy. “It is beautiful!”

“Yeah,” said Muriel. She took one last drag off her Herbert Tareyton, and then flicked it down into the gutter water, where it fizzled out and then drifted away. “You know what else is beautiful?” she said.

“The gleaming wet street, and the sidewalks?”

“Well, that, but you know what else?”

“To be young, and alive?”

“You’re getting warm, but that’s not what I was thinkin’ of.”

Muriel looked up and down the street, and then without a word she pulled Missy into the dark entranceway of a nearby tailor shop.

“What is it?” said Missy.

Muriel had her great big leather bag hanging on her shoulder, but now she let it drop to the pavement. She took her arm away from Missy’s, but then put both her arms around her waist.

“It’s you,” said Muriel. “You’re beautiful, darlin’.”

“Aw, gee, do you really think so, Muriel?”

“I know so,” said Muriel, and she pulled Missy closer.

“Gee,” said Missy. “I wish Chad would have held me this way.”

“Forget about that little ol’ pansy.”

“You’re right, Muriel. I should –”

“Now kiss me.”

“Kiss you?”

“That’s right, darlin’.”

“You mean as if you were a boy?”

“Now you’ve got the idea.”

“But, Muriel, I’m not a – a –”

“A lesbian?”

“Yes. I mean, no. I’m not one. A lesbian.”

“Tell me something.”


“Does this feel good?” And Muriel did something with her hand that no one had ever done to Missy before in her life, not even herself. Two minutes later Muriel asked again: “Feel good?”

“It feels divine,” whispered Missy.

“Now kiss me.” 

“Gee, do you really think we should?”

“Never been more sure of anything in my life.”

And Muriel lowered her lips to Missy’s, and Missy rose up on her toes, dropping her little black purse and putting her own arms around Muriel’s thin but muscular waist.

One week later, Corporal Chadwick Charlton sat on a stool in one of his favorite bars on the Reeperbahn, sipping his pale bock and smoking a cigarette. Hans was late, the little bitch. And he knew Chad had to be back at the base by ten! He was just so unreliable. Oh, well. Chad reached into the inside breast-pocket of his seersucker suit and took out his unread mail. A letter from Mother. That could wait. A letter from Charles. Charles. Would that fellow never get the message? And the weekly missive from dear Missy. Oh well, might as well start with her, the poor thing.

He tore open the envelope, and, unusual for Missy, there was only one sheet of pale-pink stationery inside.

Dearest Chad,

I find this a very difficult letter to write, but I hope you will be understanding…

Chad skimmed the rest of the page, then laid it on the bar.

A “Dear John” letter!

That little vixen. She didn’t say so, but he would bet anything she had “found” someone. Or someone had “found” her.

Oh well, there were plenty of other fish in the sea, and Mother had never liked her anyway. 

“A shopgirl with intellectual pretensions,” Mother had called her. “A hopeless little mouse.”

But, who knew, maybe not so hopeless after all?

Chad took another drink of his bock.

Maybe not so hopeless at all.

And, speaking of hopeless, where was that Hans?

(To be continued perhaps at some future date.)