In celebration of the release of the second collection of my lesbian erotica, I’m posting a snippet and a nugget of background about each of the five stories in the volume.
The second story, Wide White Sky has been described as bittersweet, but I like to think it is a story of hope and of change. A woman traveling alone, taking some time for herself, stops in a small Utah town. The young bartender, Calamity, invites her to come with her the next day, on a seed collecting trip for the BLM. The outcome isn’t in doubt for either of them, and Calamity brings confidence and hope and self-discovery to the older woman.
Wide White Sky is one of the first pieces of lesbian fiction I ever wrote – back in 2001 to be exact. As with most of my stories, I was physically present in the setting I wrote about at the time, and the rugged and remote Utah landscape is as much a part of this story as the characters. I was camping in the San Rafael Swell, that wide expanse crossed only by 1-70 and a network of 4×4 tracks, populated by wild horses, mountain lions, and rattlesnakes, and I scrawled an opening scene and notes on a bit of paper that I promptly lost. I think it might have ended up in the campfire. Luckily, enough of the story stayed with me that I was able to recreate it when we got to St George.
Her horse was ground tied. It stood with its head low, eyes closed, flap-lipped whiskery muzzle twitching in equine dreams. A pack was thrown carelessly onto the sagebrush, a Navajo blanket spilling out, a water bottle, and the military-surplus rucksack she used for collecting.
Calamity sat with her back resting against a pinyon pine. The ground around her was covered with cones, nuts, and husks, gnawed by squirrels and small things that creep. I sat and watched her for a moment from the back of my horse—an elderly and arthritic animal, the only one that the ranch would consider lending to an untried, middle-aged city woman to roam the high desert alone. I dismounted stiffly, my inner thighs aching in protest, and let the reins fall. The stock horse understood and drooped its head to dream with its companion.
She was watching me, her dark unfathomable eyes intent on my face, cataloging my awkward gait. “I knew you’d come,” she said.
In truth, I had wondered at my foolishness. A woman my age was supposed to be established in her career, successful in her marriage, with grown children maybe. She was not supposed to leave them all behind to pursue some nebulous dream of the West. Utah was a long way from New Jersey. A fractured mirror universe of possibilities and paths to be trodden.
The small Utah town had one motel and one bar. Calamity worked the bar; stalking the sagging timber floor with intent, flirting with the few customers, seducing them into leaving larger tips. She was a child of mixed race, whose heritage had given her not the smooth olive skin and curling hair that is so beautiful, but a patchwork of skin tones, a tapestry of birthmarks and pigmentation. Calamity. A name her mother had given her in anger and despair. The hurtful name she had made her own.
Of course, I was lonely, with the sad aura of a woman alone, whose dreams of escape were crumbling into reality. I did not know what I was doing here; I would not find myself in Utah, whose white respectability was safer and more straight-laced than my three thousand square subdivision in suburbia. So I sat at the bar, nursing my gin and tonic, and watched her. And then she touched me and flirted with me as indiscriminately as she did with the jowl-faced ranchers mumbling into their 3.2 beer. And the evening promised heady excitement, far from home.
“I harvest pinyon nuts,” she said. “I beat the sage for the Bureau of Land Management. Cut firewood. Come with me tomorrow.”
Her eyes spoke of more than gathering seeds. I agreed. So here I was, sitting awkwardly on the ground, my hair streaked with dust; leather and horse sweat ingrained in my jeans.