Blog Tour: All the Right Places by Wayne Goodman
All the Right Places | Wayne Goodman
Release Date: March 1st, 2020
All the Right Places is a collection of short stories, most written for submission to anthologies or collections. Starting in the near future and proceeding to the near past, men interact with other men in the pursuit of love and companionship.
Gary had never seen the likes of the boy who just walked into Mixer, one of the more recent bars to open in Chelsea. He had a farm-hewn look, like he just stepped down from a tractor clenching a dried stalk of wheat grass between his teeth.
Something about this stranger seemed intriguing, inviting, alluring. So out-of-place in this ultra-modern wash of dark walls, neon strip lights and fake smoke. The designer had set up the entrance so that each person walking in would emerge into the main room from a cloud of fog, like walking out of a dream.
And this seemed much like a dream to Gary. A hayseed hick in a ﬂashy lower Manhattan gay bar. The kind of thing he used to watch at home on video late at night when he couldn’t make a good connection at the bar. Just like in the dream, or video, the bucolic lad walked up to him.
“Hello, I’m Elmo,” the farm boy thrust out his rough-looking right hand, presumably to shake with Gary. Unfortunately, the surprisingly-diﬀerent name sent him into a giggle ﬁt. “Did I say something wrong? I’m awfully sorry if I did. Perhaps I should just leave now.” Elmo turned to go.
“No, wait, Elmo,” Gary managed to blurt out before he started laughing again, almost spilling the pricey drink he had fought the jaded crowd to purchase. The liquid in the glass glowed blue in the light of the plexiglass bartop. “Can I buy you a drink? Are you even old enough to be in here?”
The farm boy had a very fresh and youthful appearance, except for the roughness of his palms. Elmo gazed down into those work-worn hands before responding, “I am not in the habit of accepting charity from strangers, but,” and he glanced up at Gary’s shirt and then his face, “I believe I am prepared to try something new tonight. Oh, and yes, I just turned 21 last week. What are you drinking, sir?”
“A Blue Moon,” Gary responded as he pointed his free hand at the glass. “Two things”–he held up two ﬁngers–“First oﬀ, this is not a drink for rank beginners, and two, if you call me ‘sir’ again, the deal’s oﬀ.” Elmo looked down. “Hey, up here, man. My name is Gary.”
Elmo looked up and smiled. “Thank you… Gary.”
And Gary returned the smile. Possible fantasy scenarios began to form in his overcharged imagination. “Do you like beer?”
“Of course!” Elmo’s smile widened. “We have all kinds of beer at home: Apple Beer, Ginger Beer, Root Beer –”
“Do any of them have alcohol?” Gary interrupted.
“Oh, no,” his moppy head shook side to side, “we’re not supposed to drink alcohol.”
“But you do, Elmo, don’t you?”
A wicked smile spread across his face, “Oh, yeah, sure, but please don’t tell my pa.”
Gary gently grasped Elmo’s arm. “Don’t you worry yourself none, Elmo, your secret is safe with me.” He then turned to the bartender and ordered a lite beer. Once he had ﬁnished settling, he took the bottle in his free hand and turned back to Elmo. “I wish we could ﬁnd a place to sit and chat, but this bar is so crowded.”
“What about there?” Elmo pointed to a café table where two nattily-dressed men had just stood up.
“Well, aren’t you my little lucky charm, Elmo.” He guided them to the recently-abandoned seats. “So… what brings a nice young boy like you into a ﬁlthy old place like this?” Once he had set the two drinks on the table, he waved his arms around to indicate the space.
“Oh, no. This is far from ﬁlthy. If you want ﬁlthy, I can show you the cow stalls.” Elmo’s head rotated around as he took in the new surroundings. “And why did you start laughing when I told you my name?” He confronted Gary directly.
“Oh”–he smiled–“it’s not a name you hear very often. The only Elmo I ever knew was the one on Sesame Street.”
“Is that far from here? Is it in Manhattan?”
Gary burst out laughing. “Are you for reals? Or are you just pranking me?”
“I’m not sure I understand what you are asking me, sir–Gary.” His wide eyes suggested his innocence to be sincere. “Where I live, there are quite a few of us–Elmos, that is. In fact, folks usually call me Elmo Number 2, or just Number 2 for short.”
“You are just full of surprises, Elmo Number 2.” Gary grinned. “At ﬁrst I had to suppress the urge to tickle you all over.” He wiggled his ﬁngers and moved his hands up and down.
“Why would you want to do that?” Elmo sipped at the beer.
“Well, a few years back there was this toy that… oh, never mind.” Elmo seemed focused on Gary’s shirt. “Is there something wrong with my shirt? You keep looking at it.”
“Oh, no.” He blushed. “It’s the color. It’s what drew me to you.”
“Blue. Blue is what made you bee line from the door up to me and tell me your name?” Elmo nodded his head. “Think you could you help me out with a bit of an explanation?”
“Oh, sure,” he took another sip of the beer, “And thank you for this. It’s not bad. You see, at home, that shade of blue has a special signiﬁcance for us.”
“Home?” Gary gave him the once over once again. “And where might that be, Elmo?”
“Lancaster, of course!”
“Of course. I should have known. And you pronounce it way diﬀerent from what I am used to. We say Lan-caster, but you call it ‘Lank-a-ster.’”
“Really? I’ve never heard it pronounced any other way.”
“Uhn huhn,” Gary started searching out other faces, just in case this cute little fantasy disappeared into a dust cloud. “So… what brings you to New York, Elmo Number 2?”
The farm boy giggled, “Number 2. It sounds so diﬀerent when you say it.” He giggled again. Perhaps it was the beer kicking in. “I’m on Rumspringa. Are you familiar with that?”
“Is it some new drug?” Gary stared down into his drink.
“Oh, no, silly. It’s my time to discover what the outside world has to oﬀer before I commit to my adult life.”
“I think I saw a movie about that. Are you Amish or something?”
“Sort of. We like to call ourselves Pennsylvania Dutch, but it’s very similar. My folks are more modern than some of the other groups.”
“Don’t you people ride around in horse buggies? No electricity, no cell phones.”
“Oh, that’s the older ones. We’re not so strict like that anymore.”
“I see,” Gary’s eyes wandered over Elmo’s body anew as fantasies began to redevelop. “So… you’re in New York to see the sights?”
About The Author
Wayne Goodman has lived in the San Francisco Bay Area most of his life (with too many cats). He hosts Queer Words Podcast, conversations with queer-identified authors about their works and lives.
When not writing, Goodman enjoys playing Gilded Age parlor music on the piano, with an emphasis on women, gay, and Black composers.
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