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Stanley Bruce Carter

Stan Carter, Author of Petchy Maligula










    Stan Carter lives in Bellevue, Nebraska. He has been in the newspaper business for nearly 30 years, serving as a reporter, copy editor, columnist and typesetter at various publications. He currently is a paginator with the Omaha World-Herald.

Learn more about Stan here:
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Congratulations to Stan for being in the 2012 Preditors and Editors top ten Steampunk Category for The Caskian Scandal.
                                          2012 P&E Readers Poll Top Ten Winner 

Congratulations to Stan for being in the 2013 Preditors and Editors top ten Erotica Category for The Extortions of Stiffani Voydalle.
                                          Top Ten Erotica Award, 2013

New Title(s) from Stanley Bruce Carter

Petchy Maligula by Stan Carter  The Depraved Dances of Taram Zhod by Stanley Bruce Carter  The Caskian Scandal by Stanley Bruce Carter  The Extortions of Stiffani Voydalle by Stanley Bruce Carter  Kill My Husband by Stan Carter

 

Click on the thumbnail(s) above to learn more about the book(s) listed.

   



Petchy Maligula by Stan Carter     When handsome TV archaeologist Faladan Pala disappears while taping an episode of “I Dig the Past,” it’s up to Petchy Maligula, grrl detective, to bring him back alive. Petchy is big and tough, and more than a match for any man, but she does have one weakness: She’s madly in love with Faladan Pala. When she hears an evil cult called the Sisters of Inner Beauty may have abducted Faladan so they can sacrifice him to the ancient serpent goddess Quatakexel, Petchy vows to save him at all costs. As she contends with ghost gangs, demon wannabes, eccentric professors, reclusive millionaires and snotty babes, she must draw on all her power―both muscular and magical―to learn the truth. But as she delves into the case, she uncovers a secret that knocks her for a loop and threatens her love for the man of her dreams.  
                                                                    Excerpt
Word Count:
100,578
Pages to Print:
262
File Format:
PDF                  Price: $5.99 

Reviews:
  
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From Socrates
From Blogcritics
  
From Bookingly Yours 


   

   
The Depraved Dances of Taram Zhod by Stanley Bruce Carter Taram Zhod is one of the hottest dancers on the planet, and he has millions of female fans. But two of them are a royal pain—Queen Gelydia and Queen Scaldera. Each one claims to be the rightful ruler of the United Realms of Mariga and both are desperate to win public approval, using any means necessary. Hoping to score a propaganda coup, Scaldera orders her soldiers to kidnap Taram and bring him down South for a command performance, but Gelydia sends her own army to intercept them, vowing that Taram will dance to HER tune instead. Taram has no desire to be a pawn in a civil war, but with two sets of soldiers on his trail, as well as alien gangsters, foreign assassins and absinthe-guzzling socialites, he'll really have to keep on his toes if he hopes to stay one step ahead of them all.
                                                                    Excerpt
Word Count:
74,200
Pages to Print:
249
File Format:
PDF                  Price: $5.99 
   
 
    

   
The Caskian Scandal by Stanley Bruce Carter


The sisters Geggelkek are half-goblin, half-human, and totally horny. Behind the respectable facade of their stately home in the midst of the Yorkshire moors, they will go to any lengths to find hot young studs to satisfy their green-blooded lust, even if they have to build the men from scratch or teleport themselves to the ends of the earth to seek them out. This is a shocking and lurid tale of sex, perversion and blasphemy, told by a man driven to the brink of madness by his secret knowledge. If you dare read more, you'll find "The Caskian Scandal" to be steam-goth fiction at its finest.

                                                                        Excerpt
Word Count: 44400
Pages to Print: 160
File Format: PDF
Price: $4.99

    

The Extortions of Stiffani Voydalle by Stankley Bruce Carter The Ballingers’ maid is very good at finding dirt—not just dust and grime, but the dirty little secrets the Ballinger clan desperately wants to hide. And she’s more than happy to keep those secrets—for a price. But the handsome Ballingers soon learn it takes more than money to seal the lips of Stiffani Voydalle.

                                                                          Excerpt
Word Count: 30,000
Pages to Print: 104
File Format: PDF
Price: $4.99
 
      

   
Kill My Husband by Stan Carter  Eldelaide Crawson desperately wants to kill her husband, and she'll do anything to get the job done. But despite her best efforts, Barrett manages to survive her strange and diabolical attacks. And then, just as success finally appears within her grasp, Eldelaide makes a bizarre discovery that changes everything.

                                                                   Excerpt
Word Count:
30000
Pages to Print: 103
File Format: PDF
Price: 4.99


 
      

 
   
   

 



EXCERPTS

Petchy Maligula
 
 The flesh of Adono Phrebus was a delightful shade of blue—often referred to as "sky blue," although that phrase was meaningless in the city of Betroit—and his wavy hair had a coppery tinge. His sharp, angular cheekbones were offset by an inviting rosebud mouth, and his eyes resembled sapphires (stolen sapphires, of course).
     Petchy Maligula liked pretty men, but she had been forced to make some alterations to Adono's face—adding some purplish bruises and puffy skin, and splitting open those rosebud lips, causing cyanish blood to trickle down the cleft in his chin and stain his expensive peach-colored shirt. Since Cygnians had a high pain threshold, she knew Adono wouldn't break down and cry from a few love taps, but the damage to his looks and his wardrobe was definitely getting on his nerves.
     Petchy was lucky; she never had to worry about her own looks. Because she didn't have any. If forced to describe herself, she would compare her blotchy skin to sandpaper, while her reddish-brown fuzzy-buzzy hair resembled rusted Brillo and her eyes were pea-soup green. Her facial features lacked Adono's finely chiseled look; "hacked" would be a better word—hacked out of gnarly wood by a bad carver with a dull knife.
     And while Adono's body could be described as lithe, Petchy's was . . .
     Unlithe.
     Very unlithe.
     But she couldn't complain. This was the way the Goddess had made her. And in Petchy's line of work, size came in handy—especially when you needed to lean on a slimeball to loosen his lips.
     "OK, Adono," she said. "I'll ask you one more time. Where the hell is Faladan Pala?"
     She twisted the collar of his emerald-green suit and heard a satisfying ripping sound.
     "Stop that!" Adono replied in his thick Cygnian accent.
     "Sure. As soon as you tell me where Pala is."
     "I already told you, I don't know anything about Faladan Pala."
     "So why does the SIB want the dagger?"  
     "Who?"
     "Come off it. Everyone's heard of the Sisters of Inner Beauty."
     He smirked. "Sisters of INNER beauty? Heh. With a name like that they must be ugly as sin. I'm surprised you're not a member."
     She whacked him again. For a second she thought she saw a tooth fly out of his mouth, but it was only a blob of phlegm. Too bad.
     "That was cute," she said. "Nearly as cute as you. Oh wait, I forgot. You're not that cute right now, are you? I hope you don't have a hot date tonight, 'cause with that messed-up face you've got as much chance of scoring as the Betroit LionCubs."
     "What would you know about hot dates, Maligula?"
     She hauled off to hit him again, a real good wallop right on the chin, but thought better of it; she might knock him out cold and then he couldn't talk.
     "Come on, Adono. Make it easy on yourself. Why did you come here? Who's the dagger for?"
     "I dunno."
     "Bull. You're not the kind to work blind. You know who Bardoko's buyer is."
     "I didn't bring the dagger here. I found it on the floor when I arrived."
     "Then why did you come here?"
     "Just a social call. Garek's a friend." He glanced at the massive blob of goo on the floor behind him. "Uh . . . he WAS a friend."
     "Can the crap. You don't hang out with people unless there's money involved."
     "Shows how much you know. I've got lots of friends. But you wouldn't know what that's like, would you?"
     "If Bardoko was such a friend, why did you kill him?"
     "I didn't. I'm not into violence. That's your line."
     "Oh yeah? Then why did you try to stick me with the dagger?"
     "You startled me. I thought you might be the killer returning to the scene of the crime. You should know better than to sneak up behind people. I was just trying to defend myself."
     Petchy gave him a dirty look and let go of his collar, then turned around and walked a dozen steps to the other side of the living room, dodging the contents of a book shelf that were strewn across the floor.
     Maybe "living room" wasn't quite the right word, for there was a dead body lying in the middle of it, or the remnants of one, melted by a beam gun into an ash-colored blob that resembled a big wad of gum someone had tossed on the ground and stepped on. Only this wad of gum had a face at one end—smeary eyes and a crumpled nose and fused lips—and at the other end was part of a foot, still clad in a shoe; an Abidas, judging by the tread pattern.
     The blob could have been anyone, but Petchy assumed it was Garek Bardoko, although the name on the mailbox downstairs identified the tenant of Apartment 613 as "Mr. Johnson."
     She wasn't well acquainted with Bardoko, and had never been to his place before (he moved fairly frequently), but she knew he was a first-class fence and one of Adono's main contacts in Betroit.
     Bardoko was a Deshian—a humanoid race with dimpled, slate-colored skin and tufts of orange hair protruding from odd places—and even though the beam gun had erased all those distinctive characteristics there were other clues pointing to the blob's identity. The TV set was on, the DVD player set to Repeat, showing a music video of a Desh group called Slof. Mercifully the sound was muted, but Petchy had heard The Slof before; their shrill squeaks and whistles were the kind of cacophony only Deshians would call music.
     Another clue was the newspaper on the coffee table: The Strident, a rag put out by the Deshian Protective Front.
     Then there was the pile of cat heads in the wastebasket. Deshians considered cat brains a delicacy. They'd cut the heads off and drill a hole in the top of the skull—with a special tool purchased from a Deshian food shop—then suck out the brains and toss the heads away. Petchy didn't remember what they did with the bodies. And didn't care to find out.
         
Back to Petchy Maligula
 
The Depraved Dances of Taram Zhod
 
      Lelly’s fingers tightened on the barrel of her spyglass as she zoomed in on Taram Zhod.
     “That dance he’s doing is way over the top,” she muttered.
     “Way over,” Tasca replied.
     “It’s almost obscene!”
     “Almost.”
     “And that outfit of his!”
     Frowning, Tasca adjusted the focus on her own spyglass. “What outfit? All I see is a scarlet thong.”
     “That’s what I’m talking about. How can he dress that way?”
     “Well, we are in the desert.”
     “It’s not that hot.”
     Tasca licked her lips. “Hmm. I’d say it’s getting hotter by the minute.”
     Lelly twisted the zoom dial up another notch. “Is that oil all over his body?” she said in alarm.
     Tasca squinted. “Hmm. I can’t tell for sure. Could be sweat.”
     “Too shiny, don’t you think?”
     “What does it matter?”
     “Tactically speaking, it doesn’t. But if he’s smeared oil all over himself, that’s just, you know...”
     “Way over the top?
     “Exactly.”
     “Maybe it’s suntan lotion.”
     “Somehow I doubt it.”
     The music skipped a beat. The dancer didn’t.
     “Zhod is nimble, I’ll give him that,” Lelly said. “It can’t be easy dancing under these conditions, especially with that god-awful music.”
     She wasn’t referring to the tune itself—a sprightly Brazenian number played on clarilutes, guitubas and trumpums—but the quality of the recording. Phonograph cylinders never fared well in the Nirvada desert, even the copper ones, because the metal was softened by the relentless heat, and the windblown grit got into the turntable gears. Yet Taram Zhod seemed unbothered by the skips and scratches—and by the clapping of his Liberationist captors, which was enthusiastic, but way out of sync with the music. He wasn’t even fazed by the giant crustaccas looming over him, who were clicking their wicked-looking claws like castanets.
     Lelly lowered her ‘glass and shoved hard on the eyepiece, the brass cylinders snicking softly as they slid into one another.
     “I’ve seen enough, Tasca,” she said. “It’s time to attack.”
     “In the middle of his performance?”
     “You call that a performance? I call it debauchery.”
     “Perhaps he does something uplifting at the end.”
     “Like what?”
     “Oh I don’t know; he might fall to the ground in supplication to the Goddess—or something.”
     “Fat chance of that. Besides, the Libs are distracted now, and they haven’t had their breakfast yet. This is the perfect time to go after them.”
     Tasca sighed. “Yes, ma’am.”
     She put away her spyglass, then drew her war wand from its scabbard. It was an ancient tube of dark green gnometal, covered with arcane symbols etched deeply into the surface and blurred by time. Tasca pressed a button at the base and the wand telescoped to nearly a yard in length, the sections clicking into place.
     Lelly reached into a sheath on her belt and pulled out her own weapon, a swordagger. It wasn’t government issue, but had served her well over the years. The handle was made of ivory and covered with bas-relief carvings depicting Shynese demons and hell dogs, and the telescoping blade was fashioned from Glamascus steel on which a single word was etched in tiny letters, repeated once on each of the six sections. She smiled as she squeezed the handle, the well-worn carvings pressing comfortably into the palm of her hand. Exotic energies throbbed within the blades.
     Her dragocorn, Kekawek, had been rooting around in the sand, searching for the succulent duneberries that often lurked just beneath the surface, but now he raised his head as he sensed impending action, his wing muscles flexing with anticipation. Tasca’s mount, Fenwek, looked up a moment later, whickering softly.
     Lelly looked over her shoulder at the rest of her squad, which was lurking on the far side of the dune. Their blue caps were pushed up from their sweaty foreheads, their damp hair pasted to their reddened brows, their youthful faces full of curiosity. They could hear the music but couldn’t see the enemy encampment, and had no idea what was going on.
     Time to clue them in.
     “Form up!” Lelly shouted. “Form up!”
     The troopers yanked on their dragocorns’ reins and the beasts reluctantly pulled their snouts from the sand. Snorting with displeasure, they trudged to the crest of the dune, where their riders brought them to a stop.
     As the troopers caught sight of the dancer below, they let out a collective gasp, their jaws dropping open, their eyes lighting up.
     “Crimaneewillikers, get a load of that hotty!” said Trooper Banda.
     “Ooh baby!” said Trooper Waish.
     “Pipe down!” Lelly snapped. “And listen up! We’re going to attack. You’ve got to watch your lines of fire and your blowbacks so you don’t hit the dancer. It’s imperative we take him alive. Understood?”
     Fifteen heads bobbed enthusiastically up and down.
     “Okay,” Lelly said, “let’s go kick some Libby butt!”
     The troopers drew their war wands from their sheaths, the metal shafts shooting up with a chorus of clicks. Lelly made eye contact with each grrl, then turned toward the enemy and raised her sword.
     “Charge!”  
                                            Back to The Depraved Dances of Taram Zhod
 
The Caskian Scandal

Mister Caspinger was lying on a table, stark naked—well, almost stark naked. He had his socks and slippers on, but that was it. And the table on which he lay was a very strange one, consisting of ten hinged panels of reddish gold metal, with telescoping tubes forming a railing around the sides, and four thicker tubes for legs. Attached to the railing were multi-hinged arms with pivoting ball joints at either end, and mounted at the front of each arm was a metal housing shaped like a nymph’s head with an open mouth containing a pink tongue made from some pliant material similar to sponge rubber.

As a small motor beneath the table purred and the gears whirred, the heads roamed over Mister Caspinger’s body, licking his skin, inducing an endless stream of giggles. But they were mirthless giggles tinged with terror, because there was one more arm, at the far end of the table, and attached to it was the head of a demon, and protruding from the gaping mouth was no soft tongue, but a spinning drill bit. And the arm was slowly unfolding, extending itself, bringing the demon ever closer to Mister Caspinger’s crotch.

Understandably, the old man did not wish to remain on the table, but metal bands bound his limbs, digging into his flesh as he twisted and squirmed and arched his back in a desperate bid for freedom. His exertions were duly registered by a disk, about the size of a half-crown, which was taped to his chest, with a thin, coiled black wire in the middle of it, leading to a small box on the side of the table. The sound of the old man’s heartbeat issued from a speaker atop the box, and the mechanical heads all moved in sync with the beat—including the demon head, which inched nearer to its prey with every thump.

You might expect such a bizarre scene to play out within the confines of a damp-walled dungeon in the bowels of some castle, or a detainment camp ringed by barbed wire and guard towers. But this lurid scene took place within the attic of Caskian Manor in the heart of the respectable Yorkshire countryside, and it was the first thing Elexabith, Jemafer and Chack saw as they came tumbling through the jigsaw window.

For a few seconds they just sat there on the floor, gaping at the table, which glistened in the swirling blue-and-white light pouring from the window. Then Elexabith snapped out of it, saying, “What the hell is that?”

“It’s a table,” Mister Caspinger rasped. “What the hell does it look like?”

Elexabith and her two companions got to their feet and warily approached the contraption.

“How did it get here?” Jemafer said.

“What difference does it make?” the old man snarled. “It’s going to kill me in about five minutes, by my calculations, if someone doesn’t do something quick!”

Chack came closer. “Maybe I can help.”

For a split second Mister Caspinger didn’t understand the stranger’s words, until the sisters’ lingomnia kicked in. Then he nodded and said, “I’d be most appreciative, young man. Are you Thatchan Tane?”

“Who?” Chack said.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” Elexabith said. “I’m forgetting my manners. Mister Caspinger, this is Chack Wegg. He’s not from Sylvarnia, he’s from Grimehouse, which is . . . somewhere else. Chack, this is Mister Caspinger. He lives with us here at Caskian Manor in Yorkshire, which isn’t anywhere near Sylvarnia either.”

“Pleased to meet you, sir,” Chack said.

“Likewise,” Mister Caspinger said. “But could we please dispense with any further formalities until you’ve shut off this damn gizmo?”

“Gladly, sir,” Chack said. “Where’s the power switch?”

“Damned if I know.”

As Chack began walking around the table, hunched over, his eyes seeking the switch, the old man turned back to the sisters and muttered, “Why is he wearing a toy elephant on his head?”

“Long story,” Jemafer said.

Chack straightened up. “Well at first glance I can’t see any mechanism for disrupting this machine’s activities, so perhaps I should focus on freeing you from the restraints.”

“Please do,” Mister Caspinger said.

Chack reached into his bag and removed a tool that resembled a tuning fork/mini-eggbeater. He touched the fork part to one of the wrist restraints and said, “Five, one and two, clasp undo.”

Nothing happened.

“Extraordinary,” he muttered. “A tang-less magneto-clasp with no visible release mechanism.”
Back to The Caskian Scandal
 
The Extortions of Stiffani Voydalle

                                                           CHAPTER ONE

“I’ve come to clean up your dirt, sir.”

Narando Ballinger stared incredulously at Stiffani Voydalle. “At this time of night?”

Stiffani smiled. “Yes, sir. I saw the light under your door, so I figured you hadn’t gone to bed yet. May I come in?”

“There’s no dirt in here. The room is spotless. And even if it weren’t, this is hardly the proper time to be tidying up. Come back in the morning.”

“Oh, but there is some dirt in here, sir. And I’d be neglecting my duties if I didn’t tend to it right away.”

“I think you’ve been working too hard, young lady. I suggest you get a good night’s sleep. Now if you’ll excuse me . . .

He started to close the door.

“If you say so, Foster Lee,” she said.

He froze. “What did you just call me?”

She put her fingers up to her mouth. “Oh, I am sorry, sir. Slip of the tongue. I got your name mixed up with your partner’s.”

His eyes narrowed. “I have no partner.”

“Not anymore. But you did. Before that unfortunate . . . accident.”

Narando studied her face. It had been pretty once—before someone cut a big scar into it, running jaggedly from her forehead clear down to her chin. But it was her eyes that captured his attention now—green eyes, feral and hungry, like those of a jungle cat stalking its prey.

He quickly swung the door open. “Get in here,” he said gruffly.

He was a handsome man, with swarthy skin and brilliantined hair and a pencil mustache, and he was nattily attired in cream colored silk pajamas with gray trim, and maroon slippers. The glowstone lamp next to his roll-top desk was alight, and a workbook full of blank music sheets lay on the blotter, with a fancy gold-plated fountain pen next to it. Some musical notes had been jotted down on the first page of the book, with a few lines of lyrics scribbled below the staves, marred by lots of cross-outs. But most of the page was empty.

Stiffani strolled toward the desk, humming a tune—Rubber Boot Blues. It was one of Narando’s compositions, perhaps his most famous.

She sat down in the dark green swivel chair and crossed her legs. Narando inspected her shapely shins, then returned to her flawed face. He licked his lips. She picked up the workbook.

“What’s your latest song about?” she asked.

He marched to the desk and snatched the book away from her, snapping it shut.

“Look, Miss Voydalle, I don’t know what you’re up to, but I wish you’d get to the point. Why did you really come up here?”

She swung around to face him, folding her hands in her lap. “To talk about Foster Lee. A remarkable lad. Earned his living scraping the barnacles off the hulls of fishing boats down in New Orleans. Used to sing little tunes he made up on the spot while he worked.”

“What does that have to do with me?”

“Isn’t it obvious, sir?”

“No. It’s not. What makes you think there’s any connection between myself and Foster Lee?

Stiffani reached into a pocket of her white apron and took out a deck of cards.

“I understand you’re good with cards,” she said. “Ever played with a deck like this?”

His eyes slitted. “Your Mumler deck. So that’s it.”

“Correct, sir. The little scrying session I held in the parlor the other night went so well, I decided to gaze into my water bowl again and see what else I could dredge up. I’ve captured it on this card, and I thought you might like to watch it, just in case your memory needed a bit of a jog.”

“How kind of you,” he said acidly.

She riffled the cards, then fanned them out. “Pick a card, any card—as long as it’s this one.” She pushed up one of the cards with her thumb.

His hand trembled as he pulled the card from the deck. It had a black back embossed with a pentagram, and the front was white, the border decorated with Celtic designs in thistle-colored ink. But the picture in the middle was not a king or queen or joker, it was Narando Ballinger himself—not a drawing, but a sepia toned photograph. A very special kind of photograph.

Stiffani traced a magical glyph in the air with a forefinger and said, “Visions of water, in cardstock sealed, come alive now, the past reveal.”

The surface of the card glowed with soft light, and the sepia image blossomed into color—and began to move. The focal point zoomed out, revealing more of Narando’s surroundings, and sounds began to play—the plinkety-plink of a piano, the thrum of a powerful engine, the wush-wush of a paddle wheel churning through water. Narando was sitting at a round table, playing poker with three other men, all clad in gentlemen’s clothing. Two of the men were smoking cigarillos, while another had a big stogie crammed into his mouth.

Everything seemed quite amiable at first—until one of the other players suddenly grabbed Narando’s left wrist, twisted it, and plucked an ace of spades from the sleeve of Narando’s green suede jacket. Everyone stood up. A brief argument ensued. Narando was seized by his fellow players and forcibly escorted out the door onto the deck of the riverboat and hurled over the railing. He splashed into the moonlit waters of the Mississippi and shook his fist at the receding boat, then began swimming toward shore. But he tired long before he reached the bank, and began to cry out piteously, begging for help. A cry no one heard.
Back to The Extortions of Stiffani Voydalle
 
Kill My Husband 

                                                               Chapter One

Clutching a hideous jade statuette in her hand, Eldelaide Crawson strolled nonchalantly toward her husband. He was seated at his writing table, tapping his lavender fountain pen against his lower lip, his eyes fixed on the sheet of twenty-bond paper in front of him. He didn’t look up as his wife approached; didn’t notice she was holding one hand behind her back.

“Eldelaide,” he said. “If a woman were scaling the apex of her passions, would she be more likely to say Ooh or Ahh?”

Eldelaide stopped abruptly, her murderous mindset discombobulated by Barrett’s question.

“Scaling the apex of her passions?” she said.

“Yes, that’s right.”

“And what, pray tell, does that mean, exactly?”

He regarded her with his watery blue eyes, and his thin lips curved into a tolerant smile. “Her climax, my dear. Would the average woman go ooh or ahh or perhaps utter some other exclamation?”

Eldelaide replied in a frosty tone: “I’m afraid I wouldn’t know, Barrett. I’m not an average woman. And I really couldn’t say what sounds I used to make when I scaled the apex of my own passions, for it was so long ago.”

One of Barrett’s carefully trimmed eyebrows arched. “Oh, come now. You’re not quite old enough to be losing your memory just yet.”

“Not quite old enough?”

“Besides, I’m not asking what sounds you personally would make. I’m asking what most women would do.”

“And why do you want this information?”

He waved a slim hand at the piece of paper. “My latest poem is all about the sounds of physical love. Auditations Amorous is the working title. I already have the bodily noises—the slurps and squishes and gasps and grunts and squeaks and creaks . . .”

“Your lovers squeak and creak? Where’s this poem set, in an old folks’ home?”

“It’s the bedsprings that squeak and creak, Eldelaide,” he said wearily. “But never mind that. I need the words people utter during their climaxes. I have the man’s response already—as his procreative urge / swells to its crescendo / his passion starts its surge / and he trumpets forth his bellow. I think ‘bellow’ fits nicely. But I need the woman’s response. Women don’t bellow, of course. Sometimes they shriek, but I want something less animalistic. The word ooh can be rhymed more easily than ahh, but I don’t want to take the easy way out.”

“Sorry. I can’t help you.”

“Oh, come now. Surely when you women get together you talk about such things.”

“Do we?”

“Well . . . don’t you?”

“Are you speaking of harlots in some bawdy house? I would know nothing of that. As for me and my friends, we most certainly do not discuss such personal matters.”

“Oh. Well you’re no help, then.”

He set down his pen, then reached for his teacup and brought it to his lips. He took a sip, held the cup toward his wife.

“I’m empty. Fetch me some more tea, would you? Oolong, of course. You know the way I like it.”

“With absinthe and butter,” she said tonelessly.

“A tablespoon of absinthe and a teaspoon of butter.”

He held the cup a little higher. She did not take it.

“Why don’t you ring for Lisanne?” she said. “Fetching your tea is her job.”

“Why should that poor girl have to scurry all the way up here to find out what I want and then go all the way back down to the kitchen to fetch it when you’re already here? Come on, be a good girl. I need to keep the creative juices flowing.”

Eldelaide took the teacup. It was a lovely thing, over a hundred years old, with gold trim on the rim and hummingbirds on the sides. Imported from Japan, the cup was an exquisite example of Kenzan craftsmanship and cost nearly three hundred pounds.

                                                                       ***
She remembered the day Barrett brought it home. She’d been delighted at first—so nice of him to remember her birthday, for once, and to buy such an expensive and charming gift.

“What do you think of it?” he’d asked.

“Oh, it’s lovely, Barrett!” she’d replied.

“I saw it sitting in the window of that little antique shop on Headingley Lane and I just couldn’t resist.”
She reached for it, but he turned away, heading for the stairs leading up to his study atop the tower.

“It will look lovely on my writing table,” he muttered.

And that’s when she realized the truth: He hadn’t remembered her birthday. He’d bought it for himself.
Her face reddening, she blurted out: “Don’t you think it’s a bit sissy, a grown man drinking out of a teacup with little birdies on the sides?”

He paused on the stairs, looking at her over his shoulder. “Sissy? My dear, your knowledge of ornithology is woefully inadequate. There is nothing sissy about the hummingbird.”

And with that he’d continued up the stairs, gazing lovingly at his cup . . .

                                                                         ***
The memory of that exchange reignited Eldelaide’s fury and she hurled the teacup across the room. It struck a bust of Percy Bysshe Shelley and burst into a thousand pieces that sprayed onto the carpeting, landing in a roughly fan-like shape—a fitting continuation of the Japanese motif.

For a few moments, the only sound in the room was Eldelaide’s ragged breathing, until an astonished Barrett finally found his voice.

“Merciful heavens, Eldelaide, if you must get out of sorts during your monthly madness, I do wish you’d confine yourself to hurling non-breakable objects. Or better yet, quaff some sort of palliative. That teacup cost nearly three hundred pounds!”

She replied through clenched teeth: “A non-breakable object. Is that what you want? Very well, Barrett, I happen to have one right here. Have a look at it!”

She took her right arm from behind her back and held up the jade statuette, clutched in her white knuckled hand.

“What an intriguing statuette,” he said, his displeasure giving way to delight. “It looks rather bestial. But I can’t see the head very well. Set it down on the desk so I can get a better look.”

“Oh, you’ll get a better look, all right!”

She raised the statuette high above her head, her grip tightening, her chest tightening even more. She could already see his skull cracking open like an egg, his brains running out like gray yolks—all those precious rhymes and well-wrought couplets oozing onto his blotter. All she had to do was slam the statuette into his head. Perhaps more than once. As many times as it took. That’s all she had to do. And she would do it . . .
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