Best of the Best Lesbian Erotica - Read Online



The Best of Best Lesbian Erotica offers the steamiest collection in the series to date, collecting the hottest, and most thought-provoking lesbian sex writing available. Contributors include Dorothy Allison, Heather Lewis, Pat Califia, and Cecilia Tan.
Published: Cleis Press on
ISBN: 9781573444507
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Tristan Taormino

They discarded convention to move into the most forbidden territory of all—the minefield of an individual’s singular sexuality—and once there, they didn’t tiptoe around, but tromped right through and let things explode.


In 1995, Michael Thomas Ford and I traveled to San Francisco, where we met with Frédérique Delacoste of Cleis Press. I can still remember nervously sitting in Frédérique’s living room after eating the amazing gourmet lunch she cooked for us. Michael and I were relatively unknown writers and editors at the time, but we both had a similar vision of erotic writing. I had been reading some hot, fierce, sexy fiction and poetry in small publications and homemade zines; I was also impressed with the erotically-charged work of new writers I had heard at literary events and open mics in New York City. Because of the carnal content of their work, these writers weren’t being published in mainstream books and magazines. There was an dp n=9 folio=8 ? entire body of work waiting to be tapped into that was not only arousing but also made you think.

We pitched the idea of a yearly erotica anthology series to showcase established and up-and-coming writers. Frédérique and Cleis decided to take a chance on the two of us, and Best Lesbian Erotica and Best Gay Erotica were born.

The stories I’ve chosen speak to me as a writer and as a sex maniac.


I collaborated with guest editor Heather Lewis on the first collection, and we worked hard to spread the word about the new series. I wanted to especially encourage writers from all walks of life to discard established notions of lesbian erotic writing, and break new ground with us. Published in 1996, the virgin anthology was suspect in the eyes of reviewers—it was called too dark, too S/M-oriented, not literary enough to be reviewed with the real fiction, too literary to be porn, not enough sex to be called erotic. We had a long road ahead of us.

In the beginning of the series, it was also a challenge to gather the best erotic writing of the year. I can remember constantly emphasizing to writers that I was looking for a whole range of work. Send me literary fiction you think doesn’t qualify as erotica. Send me smut you think is more like porn than erotica (a false distinction, of course). Send me the stuff everyone else won’t touch.

It is in their radically eclectic depiction of lesbian desire that their power lives.


Well, finally I can say: we’ve come a long way, baby. Not only has Best Lesbian Erotica taken off, but in the past five years, the erotica genre has exploded. All this growth means more stories for hungry readers, more opportunities for sex writers, dp n=10 folio=9 ? and more diversity in the field overall. It also means that my mailbox is flooded with hundreds of stories that are entertaining, seductive, funny, surprising, and compelling.

The overt exercise of power, gender-fuck, dominance, and surrender are everywhere in your face.


As the Best Lesbian Erotica series editor, I have worked closely with five of the most prominent lesbian writers in our community, Heather Lewis, Jenifer Levin, Chrystos, Jewelle Gomez, and Joan Nestle. We have published 138 erotic stories and poems by 110 different writers. We’ve received work from over 450 writers, and I have read nearly 2500 submissions of lust, love, and longing. And, as I peruse submissions for Best Lesbian Erotica 2001, I can honestly say I have one of the best jobs on Earth.

But it is not only I who have traveled so far, so has lesbian erotic writing…The stories in this collection are freer, fiercer, more touched by both gender-specific erotics and gender play than any I have read before.


Choosing the very best stories from five years of Best Lesbian Erotica was both exceedingly difficult and a piece of tasty cake. The task was so hard because I love each and every one of the stories, and didn’t want to exclude a single one. But on the other hand, it was simple since I was choosing from such a fantastic array of smart, diverse, provocative, and titillating stories.

Inside you’ll find bar stories, war stories, ghost stories, initiation stories, and one night stand stories. Stories full of knife-wielding tops, cocksucking femmes, basketball-bouncing butches, greedy bottoms, budding porn stars, naughty dp n=11 folio=10 ? nuns, Jewish newlyweds, hungry boydykes, and courageous FtMs. They are players in dark fairy tales, femme-on-femme fantasies, transgressive tales, and personal ad encounters. This all takes place in movie theaters, bubble baths, gym locker rooms, S/M play parties, gay male sex clubs, hotel rooms, and martial arts dojos. As they rub up against one another, these erotic pieces boldly contemplate, demonstrate, and celebrate the complexity, uniqueness—the muff diving mélange of lesbian sexuality.

I concluded the introduction to the very first collection with these words, and I stand by them six years later:

For me, the best erotic stories closely resemble the people who make my skin flush hot pink and send my head into overdrive. They’re fiercely intelligent, confident and intricate. They can sweep me off my feet or catch me off guard. They are tender and nasty and just a little bit dangerous. They are not always what you expect them to be.

Tristan Taormino

New York City

March 2000

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Taking Rita Hayworth in My Mouth

Joan Nestle

I sit on the edge of a couch in a dark room, the dark is the dark of night. This nearly empty apartment on the edge of the Village is lit only by the street lights of Soho and the red and green lights of late night traffic. Muffled sounds of a summer city night float into the room. I am a person waiting for something, waiting in near darkness, sitting on the edge of my seat. I am a customer awaiting the appearance of a dream I had ordered. She is in the other room, getting ready to make an entrance. It is a rare thing in life to be able to call into being the haunting mysteries that have followed one since childhood. If I tell you I am almost sixty when this night dawns, this night of apparitions, will it make it harder to hear what follows? An aging woman waiting on the edge of her seat for the dream only another woman can give her?

I smell her perfume before I see her. She comes out of the darkness, and I turn my gaze from the direction of the windows to take her in, her steady even progress towards me. Her red hair falls down around her shoulders, her face is marked by the redness of her lips, the hard blue gray brightness of her eyes; she has the slightly worn look of a woman who has seen dp n=13 folio=2 ? it all. A small smile plays around the edges of her large mouth. Her broad shoulders push the darkness open.

I hear nothing now but the sound of her approach. She stands before me for a minute, a tall, broad woman in a black blouse opened at the throat so her breasts swell above me, a short leopard-printed skirt rides high on her thighs, all done to my order. Is this what you wanted? she says, half amused, confident that this is exactly what I wanted. I cannot take my eyes off her face, off the world of work and experience she is radiating in the darkness. I see again, as I did as a child, my mother dressed for work and, at the same time, dressed for her lovers. My mother in that erotic blend of self-support and desire on the prowl, her costume, the black dress, the small hat with its veil of stars, the nylons with their seams down the back of her legs. I watched her dress, saw her arms raise before the mirror. I saw that mix of pain and pleasure that came to my mother, her beauty, her leaving.

I cannot drop my eyes from my dream’s face. I do not want to. She sits in the chair we have placed right in front of me a few inches from the edge of the couch. Still smiling, she raises one leg and tucks her toes under the sofa’s pillow. Her skirt is now a band around her lap, and she sits, waiting for me to drop my eyes. She grows larger in the darkness, in her solid angular position, waiting for me to do what I must, what I have waited all these years to do. I am hardly breathing; I have lost all sense of what sex I am. The dark night has become illuminated by the power of myth, the power of legend. Go ahead, she encourages. My breath escapes me now, and I lower my head, taking my eyes from her large, strong face with its worldly, cool welcome, to what she is exposing to my view. It is only a small distance to travel, but I am terrified of the journey.

Right in front of me now, I see a second face, its red lips flaring in a nest of hair, drops of liquid caught in its strands, its own perfume opening up to me, right in front of me, the dp n=14 folio=3 ? naked center of a woman. I raise my eyes once again to the public face, and I reel with the contrast. I cannot keep the two faces in the same place, on the same body. It is as if I am being allowed to see below the surface of all the days, all the mothers. I almost plead with her, don’t let me go under, again but she says nothing, just watches. I feel the pull of her other face and give in to its ancient world. I let go of all pretense and gaze totally at the sex right before my eyes, smell it, hunger for it. And then, I fall to my knees, onto the pillow we have arranged in just the right place to catch my weight as I fall to my knees before this gleaming mask that is as real as hair and bone and flesh can be. I push my face into the one between her legs, my mouth as wide as a whale’s, my tongue pulling all of this dream into me, I swallow, I hunger, I drink, I eat. She allows it all, giving herself to my relentless hunger, to this beggar on her knees. My tongue swirls, finding hidden passage ways, pushing at the confines of her wet, red walls. I am nothing but this exploration, kept from me by so many years, by so many laws. Above, I feel tremors and know that in some other place, the country has shifted. Somewhere on what remains of the surface, I know she is coming. I have sucked pleasure into her, but that is part of the more common world, the one I have known for all the past years. Where I am now is somewhere else, somewhere beyond gender, in the labyrinth of myth and legend, where mothers are falling stars and shame sprouts wings.

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Alison L. Smith

She was best in the flickering light of a movie theater, our faces turned away from each other, our hands following their own course downward. She fumbled her way from the top button of my shirt collar to my skirt, parting its damp folds with her hands. She coaxed me, with whispers, with small noises, as if she were begging a dog out of the road. Our eyes never left the screen; we stared at the narrow ribbon of flesh between Ingrid Bergman’s halter top and the waist of her palazzo pants, that one inch of her enlarged on the dust-speckled screen.

We were fifteen when we met in Sister Bartholomew’s English class. My desk was pressed up against the back of her chair the day Sister’s habit caught the late-summer breeze from a low window in the first-floor classroom at Our Lady of Perpetual Sorrow School for Girls. As she turned away to adjust its tight band at her neck, the girl in front of me tilted her head back. A strand of her strawberry-blond hair fell between the open clasps of my binder as I snapped the metal fasteners together. The straggled ends caught there, pulled taut; she gasped. I curled that long strand around my finger, dp n=16 folio=5 ? kissed it, and released her. Christ stared down from his station on the powder-blue wall, his loincloth slipping.

The next year she cut it off with her mother’s kitchen scissors. Her shorn hair fell in kinky strands over her father’s shaving brush, her older sister’s neat zip bag of eye shadows, the opaque whiteness of her mother’s Ponds cold cream jars.

Do you like old movies? she asked, one hand following the line of her cropped hair along the dome of her head, the other hooked into the clasp at my locker’s handle.

I don’t know, I told her, school books pressed against my chest, my hip slung out, leaning into the locker’s cool metal surface.

All I knew was that I wanted to press closer to her than I thought was possible, that my clothes felt too small in her presence and my skin itched with an ardent, heated rash as if I were allergic to my school uniform, its soft weight against my breasts, the skirt falling in even, pleated lines over my thighs.

In the balcony of the old Tower Theater on East Avenue, next to the glass-walled Cadillac dealership, catty-corner from King Prince’s diner on a crisp November afternoon, she showed me Notorious. Ingrid Bergman, Cary Grant, Brazil, 1946. The theater swelled with the odor of mildewed carpets, moth-worn upholstery. The ancient hinges on the seat bottoms whined as they yielded to our weight. My hands wrapped around some iced drink, my mouth poised on the sharp edge of a straw, we sat in the balcony and abandoned our school bags to the dark recesses of the littered floor.

Even before the opening titles finished, she moved her thigh up against mine, let her left hand fall across my knee. With her right, she caressed my mouth, ran an ink-stained thumb over my chin. Her fingertips rested in the small dip at the base of my neck. Our eyes darting across the lighted screen, her hands traveled to the rounded Peter Pan collar of my blouse.

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The small buttons, pearlized, caught in the screen’s dim light, glowed beneath her fingers.

One button at a time, she moved my blouse out of the way, whispering in the darkness Please, please, please. Her mouth, hovering above mine, that even, repeated tone on her breath, the words barely audible, over and over she said it to Ingrid Bergman, to Cary Grant, to the half-empty theater.

She found her way from the flat disk around my nipple to its rising tip, ran her middle finger along each rib. Her hand paused at the white edge of my underpants. Then, traveling the circumference of the worn, elastic waistband, she played along that edge till she got up the courage to pull me to her. One arm around my shoulders, guiding me over, she settled me between her thighs, my back curving into her chest. Our eyes fixed on Ingrid Bergman’s full mouth, her hand slid down farther, squirreling in between the worn elastic and the untraveled skin below.

When she entered me I gasped. The couple in front of us stirred, the man, his brush cut tickling his girlfriend’s cheek, turned around, squinted back into the shadowy darkness. She put one finger in, then pulled it out, returned with two fingers. She pulled out again. I followed her fingers down as they left me. She returned with three, stretching the untried muscles, her thumb on the outer rim.

I knew nothing of the wetness. I had never heard of it before, never felt such a rush of it. I thought it was menstrual blood, my period come early, or a kind of internal bleeding, her hand at the sight of the wound, cutting in. I filled her palm with it, spilled over, rivering into the narrow line between my buttocks, pooling on the cracked, leather seat. Her uniform skirt gone damp, its even pleats wrinkling under us, she added and subtracted her fingers into me. Three, two, one. One, two three. Working faster, she matched her rhythm to the increasing speed of my breath. All the while her small whisper dp n=18 folio=7 ? continued, like a ticking clock at my ear, Please, please, please.

Her thumb traveled to my clitoris, running over that elongated spot with a flickering exactitude. I arched into her hands, my breath came hard. Then, a catch in my throat; for one long moment I could not breathe. I felt something buzz around me, something almost tangible, a cloud hovering over me, waiting to descend. As Ingrid Bergman leaned over to the airplane’s small window, her lips parting, the Brazilian landscape opening out beneath her, it fell and I came for the first time.

It’s five years later, it’s seven, it’s ten, and still when I walk into a theater I walk into her. My scalp tingles, my hamstrings contract. The air, close around me, opens up to her form. The worn wood of the seat arm softens into the edge of her biceps. Already her thigh presses tight against mine. Already she is descending on me, her mouth at my ear, her hand between my legs, the fingers adding and subtracting into me. One two three. Three two one. I arch back, spread my legs wider. There, in a high corner of the balcony, the safety bar cutting the screen in half, dividing Ingrid Bergman at that flash of white skin, I remember the mottled and flickering light on my classmate’s face, Ingrid Bergman floating out of the screen, her mouth on the lip of my mind, the edge of that white abdomen, that narrow ribbon of flesh, like a road, a rope, a signal light flashing, flickering in the half-empty darkness.

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Cleo’s Gone

Gwendolyn Bikis


I’m just getting ready to wash my white school blouse in the bathroom sink when the phone rings.

Baby sister. What’s shakin’? It’s Marla, calling from Charlotte. From the Girls’ Club, no doubt, she’s talking so street-like.

Nuthin’ doing, I reply. You comin’ home this weekend?

I just might. But that sure isn’t the reason I’m calling. I just got a call, long distance—collect. From Cleo.

I feel my breath leave me. Already I am certain this isn’t going to be real good.

She asked me to send her some calculus books. A pause. "Tammy? She called me from the women’s prison? They’ve already moved her from the jail. She’s ‘up against a li’l charge’ is all she’ll tell me. And she’s not sounding too proud of whatever it is she’s been charged with this time. This time, sounds like it’s gon’ stick."

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I can see the loose little shrug that Cleo’d give, acting cool and shucking, all the way into...into prison, this time. Before it had just been lock-up, diddly little county time, Cleo called it, bragging about it in that way that people will about their trouble when it’s the only thing they have.

Marla sighs into the phone. Cleo’s life has done went all to hell and pieces, exactly how she wanted it to go. I’m not sure if knowing where she’s at is any much better than wondering if she’s dead. She lets out a flat, not-happy laugh.

Aah, Marla— is all I can say.

Cleo’s gone; gone for sure now.


Cleo was Marla’s Little Sister, whom Marla had adopted soon as I’d gone off to college. I think I was supposed to be jealous that Marla had a substitute, but I was the one who ended up getting that last laugh.

I remember the first time I saw her play, saw her legs and arms as long as licorice sticks, so whip-like she nipped the ball out the other players’ fingers, snapped and plucked the rebounds before they hit the backboard, jumped so quick it seemed there were springs in her knees. Cleo is a li’l bit darker than me and built just wiry, all tight and smooth at once. Cleo moved like silk sliding through water.

Cleo...I can see you with your sleek legs flying, your lanky muscles stretching tight, the stripes around your socks, around the hems of your red-silk real-tight basketball shorts...

Her jump shots were so smooth she could have been diving up through water, and watching her make them put me in the shivers, as though she were sliding, silkenly, all along the most secret of my places. She’d bounce and flick that ball around a helpless tangle of legs and arms that hopelessly tried to stop her. One time, she dribbled the ball right out of some chick’s fingers, then darting and springing around her, bounced the dp n=21 folio=10 ? ball—I swear—right through the girl’s outspread legs, catching it off the bounce before her opponent even had the chance to think of turning around.

Cleo’s Back, said the front of her favorite black sweatshirt, in bright pink letters. Cleo’s Gone, said the other side. Sometimes, by the time you figured out where Cleo was back from, she’d already be long gone. Slick was the word she chose to describe herself, because like everyone with the player’s personality, Cleo had two sides: street side and court side. On the court, Cleo wore her lucky black-canvas hightops; but coming in off the street, she wore new suede or leather tennis, and she cussed if someone so much as scuffed them and fussed when Marla asked her where she’d gotten them from.

Because she knew I was actually asking her where did she get the wherewithall to get them from.

Everybody knew that Cleo had absolutely no visible means, other than hanging ’round the littered, rotten-smelling court-yard of the M C Morningside Homes, hanging out supposedly empty-handed.

But you never can tell what-all I got in my socks, or in my secret pockets, Cleo bragged.

Man oh man, when I think of how gone I was over that girl...from the beginning of that summer I was visiting Marla, managing her team, until the August day she made me leave, I had one hopeless schoolgirl crush. I’d be sitting on the sidelines making like my own Girls’ Club cheerleading squad, until everybody started to see who I was really cheering for. And the thing about it was, Cleo didn’t need more cheering.

F that ‘everybody’s a star’ stuff, she’d say, not saying the full curse word because Marla had forbidden her to swear. I’m the only star on this team. And she’d thump her ball a couple times off the locker room bench, as if to punch the point home.

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Cleo is an Aries, like me: sometimes we’re so selfish, we don’t even know we’re being it. Or so Marla says—but I believe that Cleo’s a whole lot worse, a lot more selfish, than me. If it was me, I’d think twice about kissing someone, especially some other girl—even more, some other girl who, most likely, would not want it. After she picked me, and after she kissed me, she told me this:

I knew you’d like it, once I did it, so I just went ahead and did. And that smile again—flashing, then closing, like the quick white glint of a pocket knife.

Cleo thought she was smooth, but she sure had one quick attitude. Let someone step on her toes wrong, even in a basketball game, for goodness’ sake, and Cleo’d go off. I remember tears in her eyes, she’d be so hurt that someone had made her so red-hot mad. I remember how she got, cutting her eyes and snarling ’bout someone saying this or doing that. I recall a time that someone had draped Cleo’s jacket over their own stinkin’, sweatin’ shoulders. By pure mistake, thinking the jacket was their own, but you sure couldn’t tell Cleo that, just like you couldn’t tell her that this wasn’t the Training School, where everyone just naturally stole from her, the youngest and the skinniest of all.

That’s how I knew that Cleo really thought of me as her girl: the game when she let me wear her jacket for a whole entire two quarters. After that game, after everyone was gone, the showers dripping off and me innocently picking up the dirty towels, Cleo backed me up against the lockers, and her mouth was spicy with the taste of Good ’n Plenty. I knew, that day, that it was just a matter of time before I’d be back on the bus toward home, back toward everything that was boring to me.


Cleo never gave me flowers, never said she cared for me, and always asked for money—which sometimes she would get—dp n=23 folio=12 ? so why’d I ever love her? It was all about her beauty, the way that she would press her hands all along her long, strong body and grin at me.

Sometimes I makes sweet love to my own self, she would say.

Not too many people are as dark as I am, and Cleo’s one of them. What does it mean to put your hand beside someone’s and see how close its color matches yours, even more than your own sister’s does? What does it mean to know this color, so beautiful, chose your color out of knowledge of its beauty?

By the end of August, when Marla finally called Mama to let her know that I was on my way back home, by that hot and steamy time, I’d heard the threat one hundred thousand times:

Im’a send you back down home, Tamara.

The first time I heard it was the July night I came in drowsy, hungry, and smelling like burnt rope. Me and Cleo had smoked weed, sneaked it back behind the Homes where they backed up on a park that really was kind of piss-stinky. Though naturally I didn’t say as much, not wanting to be called a sissy country girl.

I know that you afraid to go with me and get sky-high, she said to lure me, smiling in her shark-like way. Didn’t she know it though? Don’t nobody tell Tamara what she’s afraid to do.

That day, she was wearing black suede tennis shoes, shorts, and pulled-tight knee socks. And carrying her cap, I’m sure so I could see how neat her hair lay, all newly dressed and styled, shaved short around her ears and back along her hairline. And Lordy, she was smelling so good to me, like sweet grease and barber-shop powder, she smelled good enough to be eaten; and she surely knew it too.

We settled in the evening sun beside the worn-out courts. Cleo reached inside the lining of her cap and held up a little dp n=24 folio=13 ? hand-rolled cigarette. She stretched, and then she yawned so wide I could see the whole way up inside her mouth.

Act as though you got some manners, I almost let my sister’s words pass through my own two lips. Cleo liked to stretch and scratch, to pick her teeth in public—with her fingernail yet—liked to belch and never say excuse me. Cleo was the kind of child that Mama would feel sorry for, would shake her head and softly suck her teeth over.

Think I got some matches. She was searching through her pants pockets—though I couldn’t see, with those jeans tight as they were, how she could’ve fit a thing much thicker than a folded piece of paper into those pockets.

Look inside your jacket, Cleo, I suggested. The first time I’d seen Cleo high, she couldn’t do nothing but laugh and dance and suck the popsicles she’d gotten me to buy for her. When she wasn’t high, Cleo made me tense and flushed every time she touched herself. Now she stroked one hand along her pants front, while groping through her jacket pocket with her other hand, and it made my neck tingle. It made me curious, how could one of Cleo’s hands be scrabbling even as the other one so casually, so smoothly, was taking care of yet another kind of business? Was it true a person could be born with hands belonging to a criminal? Secretly, I shivered.

Here it go, she said, pulling out a book of matches. You ready? She grinned, whipping that weed cigarette from behind her ear and holding it so I could see it.

I am a big girl now, for your information, I said out loud, to whom I wasn’t sure.

Cleo raised her eyebrow, struck the match, and grinned her sharp-toothed grin. What you gonna do, babe, when I— but she’d stopped to breathe smoke in, pulling wisps of it into her nostrils.

When you do what, Cleo? Like you the one invented the idea of getting next to me? Now she was handing it to me, it dp n=25 folio=14 ? was smoking, and she was grinning back at me grinning back at her.

I reached out for the cigarette and put it to my lips and drew it in, keeping both my eyes closed tight. I drew it in and—coughed and heaved, but somehow kept my lips together tight enough to keep the smoke inside. Even I knew that was what you had to do. When I opened my eyes, still holding my breath, the world outside still looked the same. Somehow I had thought it wouldn’t.

You ain’t high yet, baby sis, Cleo said, watching me while I looked around and waited. I guess I ain’t, I thought, but how’m I gon’ know it when...when suddenly I felt it—like something pulling out away from me, slow-motion out from under me. And all this heat, this depth and color rushing in at me.

Wo-ow, I heard myself sigh. In a way, my own sounds I made, my own thoughts I had, seemed like something I was hearing from outside myself. And the scene I was in seemed more like something I was looking at. It was like another depth to my perception.

You like this, babe? Naturally I thought she was talking ’bout the weed, until I looked down at her long hand and her longer fingers creeping all along my thigh. Poppety pop, she said, arching an eyebrow. Poppety pop my finger pop.

Mmmm, I said.

Cleo’s hand was moving, quivering on me. You untouched, baby sis? she asked.

What difference could it make to her? I mean, God knew she wasn’t.

Sam, was what I said. Funny, I had gotten through the summer without so much as thinking about that ex-man of mine, and here I’d gone and mentioned him. At a very inconvenient moment too.

She snatched back as though my leg had stuck her with a splinter. "Who the hell is Sam?"

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Oh, I waved my hand to show how bored I was with this topic. This man I used to know. Used to know. I didn’t like to lie like that.

You know that man good as I know Cynamon? Cleo asked. Know that man all the ways I be knowing her?

Cynamon? Was I hearing right? Cynamon was the Lady Panthers’ center, who had a twitchy booty and not a whole lot more. What-all could anyone find to know about somebody like Cynamon? Cynamon painted her nails bright orange and looked at stories on TV, those times she wasn’t making up no even-more-stupid stories of her own about the boys she knew, away now in the army or sometimes the Marines, and the presents they bought or were going to buy for her. Not that I ever laid my eyes on present one:

My baby Wally go’ buy me a microwave and eelskin shoes and satin underthings.

Now who was going to believe that, and who