From the moon to Pluto, from the back of a giant turtle at the center of the universe to the edge where everything ends, these 20 thrilling tales explore what it means to be a man, even when one was born female. Join our trans masculine protagonists in this first-of-its-kind collection as they navigate their journeys through the future to manhood, with all of their tribulations and triumphs, their joys and regrets, and love that defies all boundaries of gender.
|Publisher:||Pink Narcissus Press|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.69(d)|
Read an Excerpt
According to His Substance
Taylor steps through a crossing point, one world to another, onto a moon-lit upper deck.
Thick strands of silver thread his dark hair and close-cut beard. The moonlight turns the lenses of his aviator shades to mirrors, accents keloidal folds left by the long-cooled flames that ravaged the right side of his face.
He draws in the cold, hard ozone-scent of open water, reaches back and lays his gloved hand against the bulkhead to touch the pulse of the four enormous diesel engines that push Wenatchee through dark waters. He feels the hidden pulsing of his watch against his wrist as well, marking off the seconds.
Taylor doesn't know how he got the watch. He understands its prodding, though. Time won't wait for him.
Instead, a young man waits across the deck, watching Elliott Bay's dark waters roll off the port and starboard flanks of the flagship of the Washington State ferry system. The ship's bubbling wake arrows back toward the fading lights of downtown Seattle.
The young man clutches a leather wallet in his left hand. His right hand, marked by the tattoo of a heads-up Morgan silver dollar, rests on the metal railing.
Taylor's wristwatch pulses. Eleven minutes, starting now. The young man grips the rail and braces to make the jump.
Taylor clears his throat. "Pardon me," he says.
The young man jerks about, just as the gleaming crossing point winks out of existence. His eyes widen. He stabs his index finger toward the bulkhead behind Taylor. "How did you d-do that?"
Taylor shrugs. "Practice. A clear and focused mind."
"Bullshit," the young man says.
Bullshit, indeed. Taylor doesn't have a better answer. Like the watch, he isn't sure himself of the how or why of crossing. He only knows the way, knows it in his heart and in his bones, for he can't remember ever being taught.
"Who the hell are you?" the young man demands.
"A friend." Taylor slips forward, anxious to move on.
The young man takes a step back. "I don't know you."
"But I know you. You need a friend." Now there's a truth.
Taylor stops just out of reach, leans against the rail, and pushes away a yawn. No rest for the wicked. Not much, anyway.
The young man shuffles back another step, drops his chin, clenches his fists. "I don't need anything. You get the hell away from me."
Taylor shakes his head. He inches closer. "I'm not leaving 'til you tell me why you gave everything you own away."
"Jesus! Have you been spying on me?"
"I wouldn't call it spying. All I had to do was nose around a bit. You're not very good at keeping secrets."
"Who the hell are —"
Taylor interrupts. "Except why you want to kill yourself. What's with that?"
The young man doesn't say a word. Instead, he turns to the rail and flips the wallet out into the bay. It vanishes into the dark waters, and he raises his foot toward the rail.
No! Taylor has no intention of losing this one. Time to push. He forms a stirrup with his hands. "All right. You're so eager to get on with it, I'll boost you over."
"Don't humor me. I'm serious." The young man grips the rail so tightly Taylor wonders if it will snap in half.
The wristwatch pulses against Taylor's ulnar artery. Nine more minutes. He wishes he could remove the damned thing, throw it after the vanished wallet, but it won't come off.
"So am I," he says. "Suicide's no easy task. I tried it once, on a boat like this. Made a mess of it, an awful mess."
The young man glances at Taylor's face, then turns away. They stand together at the rail, silent with their thoughts.
Taylor sighs, counts off fifteen precious seconds before he turns back to the young man. "Okay, we're done feeling sorry for ourselves. Tell me why you want to die."
The young man takes another minute they don't really have. Taylor counts every second. At last, the young man pushes back from the rail, holds up both arms and pivots.
"What do you see?"
Taylor plays along. "A fellow my size, close to thirty. Decent looking. Dark hair, cut a bit too short for my tastes."
"I don't know what you mean." A lie.
The young man waves toward the water. "I could prove it, if my driver's license wasn't in my wallet. The State of Washington says I'm not a man."
"I don't understand." A bigger lie.
"See if this is plain enough." The young man closes in on Taylor, until they breathe each other's air. His spittle peppers Taylor's face, as he spews his words. Lots of volume. Lots of heat. "You nosy fucker, I don't have a dick, I've got a —"
Taylor holds up his hand. "I hear you. If you don't keep it down, so will everybody else on board."
The young man turns away and begins to pace, three steps from the rail, three steps back. He refuses to look at Taylor.
"You're transgendered?" Taylor asks. He knows the answer.
The young man stops pacing. Tears roll down his cheeks. His voice is still angry, but he's turned down the heat. "I hate that word. Nothing but a label. I don't understand why people have to label everything, put everybody into tidy little boxes."
The watch pulses. Taylor would love to rip it from his wrist, stomp on it until nothing remains but a pile of gears and pins. He draws a breath instead, and asks another question.
"What's a better word?"
The young man ignores the question. "I don't need someone else to tell me who I am. I'm a man, but people keep insisting that I'm not." He wipes the back of his hand across his nose. "Everyone you work with, everyone you know, is so polite. You see it in their eyes, though, hear it when they talk. They think you're broken."
"No! But I'm so damned tired of being all alone."
The watch pulses. Relentless and unforgiving. Six minutes now and not another second.
"You ever been beaten up?" Taylor asks.
"Once, five years ago. Four guys kicked the shit out of me outside a bar, down near the river in Cincinnati. After that, I took up Taekwondo. I'll never be on the losing end again."
The ferry's whistle shrills, swallowing all other sounds. The pitch of the driving engines change. Subtle vibrations roll across the deck.
"We're almost to Bainbridge," Taylor says.
"Damn!" The young man grabs the rail to make the vault.
Taylor stretches out his hand but doesn't touch. "What if I could show you how to change your life?"
The young man pauses. His lip curls. "I should have known. A god-damned preacher."
"No. I'm just a guy who knows a trick or two that I can use to take you to another world where you're a man."
Three minutes, fifty seconds left.
"Another world? Hell, you're the one who's crazy."
"You saw how I got here," Taylor says. "Neither one of us is crazy, Alec."
The young man pales. "I never told you my name."
"I told you I know who you are." Taylor holds out his hand again. "What's there to lose? You can always kill yourself later."
"Who are you?"
"A friend, I swear. Come on."
Alec reluctantly accepts the offered hand, allows Taylor to pull him to the stairs along the starboard rail. His hand trembles, but he doesn't pull away.
Taylor calms his thoughts, searches with his mind's eye for the sparks of eldritch light that mark the crossing points. The two of them thump down the stairs, rush through the middle deck. "Tell me about this other world." Alec doesn't even seem to be breathing hard.
Taylor pants. "Not just one world. A multitude."
They thread the twists and turns across the cabin. Every time they round a corner or step through an opening, the flash of a crossing point flares, something changes.
"Tell me where we're going."
"Soon. Got to focus now."
At first, small things change. The color of a bulkhead paint. A deck covering. But as they move into the bowels of the ferry, the alterations grow. Lettering on signs writhes. Lights dim, brighten. Clothing flows across the crew and passengers, as if each wore a quickening fabric tide. Startled faces come and go as they step across the void.
Alec doesn't seem to notice all the changes. Instead, he is focused on an answer to his question. "Tell me —"
Taylor holds up his free index finger, as if to bookmark that notion. "Later."
They cross from world to world, step from ship to ship. Wenatchee. Columbia. Majestic. Resolute. On the parking deck of Resolute, with twenty seconds left, they snake through an ever-shifting maze of turtle-backed Subaru station wagons, little Ford electrics, giant stake-bed Oshkosh haulers, six-wheel Daimlers, and gaudy-colored, snub-nosed muscle trucks with brutal names.
To the last of forty-seven crossing points.
During their mad scramble forward and down and aft, the ferry schedule changes, too. In one of the worlds along the path, the boat arrives at Bainbridge and starts back.
The high, white lights of Seattle grow ever nearer.
Big coal-fired steam turbines whine beneath them. The ferry comes to its docking slip and begins to slow. Taylor's wristwatch beeps, just as they reach the bow. He fishes in his left pocket, as if into a deep void, withdraws a set of keys. The ring holds a plastic door remote. He pushes the button, a horn beeps. The locks of a nearby Studebaker roadster pops up.
"Get in," Taylor says, pointing to the passenger side.
Alec does as he is told.
Taylor slides in behind the steering wheel at the same time and they are through the final crossing point. Taylor studies the automobile's controls a moment. He inserts a key and turns it. Behind them, where a storage trunk should be, a device whirs into life.
Alec jumps. "What the hell is that?"
"This car's gyroscopic. The power wheel is in the back. I told you, we're not in your world anymore."
Taylor's heart still gallops from the run. He has to fight for wind to say a word.
"No, it's not. There's a multitude of worlds, Alec. More than one where you're a man. We've stepped through to one of them."
"But if —"
Taylor interrupts. "Just wait."
Resolute settles against timber moorings. Taylor shifts the roadster into gear. "You've got to save a damsel in distress."
* * *
A sour stench of garbage pinches Taylor's nose.
He and Alec stand in the shadows at the mouth of a Belltown alley. They left the Roadster parked at the curb along Third Avenue. Taylor breathed easier when they found the parking spot.
Down the alley, three men gather around a woman. She's young, medium-tall, with short, dark hair, dressed in new jeans and a pink tank top. She holds a section of lead pipe, spins in an awkward dance with her harassers as they draw ever nearer.
It doesn't take much to see she'll soon lose this fight.
"Stay back, assholes." She tries to sound tough and dangerous, fails at both.
Alec starts at the sound of her voice. "It's me. You said —"
"I said I'd take you to a world where you were born a man. This Alec's stuck in the wrong body, too."
One of the three men, a beefy fellow wearing a tight lime-green Whalers T-shirt, steps in close and reaches for the young woman. She swings the pipe, grunting with the effort, and catches the fellow a glancing blow on the shoulder.
"Little shit," he snarls. "Now you pissed me off."
The young woman darts past him, presses her back against a battered dumpster. The Whalers guy plucks up a broken piece of packing two-by-two, motions to his friends to lend a hand.
"This is how we deal with freaks," he says.
"You sure about this, Monty?" one of the others asks. "She don't look much like a guy to me."
"Damn it," Monty says. "I tell you, I felt his dick."
Alec tenses, ready to step from the shadows.
Taylor puts his hand on Alec's shoulder. "Not yet."
"Going to get yours, you little freak," Monty says.
One of the other men, a fellow with a big nose, growls and steps forward. When the young woman shifts her attention, Big Nose backs away, and Monty steps in and swings. The two-by-two strikes the young woman on her upper arm.
Alex tries to shrug away Taylor's hand. Taylor keeps his grip. "Wait," he says.
The young woman drops the pipe, staggers from the shelter of the dumpster. Monty swings a second time but misses. She spins on him, brings up her fists. Monty swings his make-shift club again.
The snap of breaking bone echoes up the alley. The young woman grabs her forearm, goes to her knees. Monty raises his club as if it were an ax.
Taylor releases Alec. "Now."
Alec falls upon them. Big Nose drops beneath the first of Alec's savage kicks. The third man runs. Monty turns his attention to Alec. The club rakes across Alec's ribcage, opens up his shirt, slashes the skin beneath. Alec ignores it all, spins low, kicks at Monty's knee. The pop-snap of dislocation bounces off the concrete walls.
Monty screeches in falsetto and topples, bouncing face-first on the alley's grimy paving bricks. He stays down, too, twitching like an old dog dreaming of long-gone, glory days.
Alec turns away and hurries to the young woman. "Are you okay?" he asks.
She cradles her arm to her breasts, bites her lower lip. She takes in his torn, blood-soaked shirt. "Yes. How about you?"
"I'm fine." Alec kneels next to her. She leans into him, he slips an arm around her waist.
"You need my help to stand?" he asks.
The young woman's dark eyes snaps to Alec's face. "Who are you?"
"We'll talk later. Can you stand?"
"Watch me." She wobbles to her feet.
Taylor grins, knuckles at his eyes. "Move it," he yells. "Before the one that ran comes back with help."
* * *
The doctor at the urgent-care clinic smells of iodine and nicotine and day-old coffee. She takes her time, examines the young woman's identification, before tending to the broken bone.
"You on hormones?" she asks, at last.
"Fourteen months." The young woman watches Alec, waiting for a knee-jerk tic. She looks confused when it doesn't come.
"Had surgery?" the doctor asks.
"Not yet. I'm still saving money."
"Uh huh. How did this happen?"
Taylor interrupts. "We were drinking. She fell."
The doctor gestures toward Alec's torn and bloodied shirt. "Did he fall, too?"
Taylor nods. "He's clumsy. He may need stitches."
The doctor nods. "Of course."
She turns to the young woman and grabs her hand. "Hold on, hon. This is going to hurt."
The young woman bites her lip but doesn't make a sound.
* * *
Taylor parks the roadster at a brick apartment building on a narrow, tree-lined street, half-way up the Hill. An older place. Genteel.
Inside, the apartment proves compact and tidy. A mingled aroma of cinnamon and lemons and lilac body talc laces the air. The young woman eases onto the sofa, props her fiberglass cast on a loose stack of throw pillows.
Alec winces at the pinch of his stitches as he settles next to her. Not too close, but close enough to remind her of his presence. Taylor sits on a little rounded footstool, facing the two of them.
"Home at last," he says.
The young woman smiles. Her movements exaggerated, her words measured, she fights the Percocet she'd been given at the clinic. "I owe both of you my life."
Taylor waves away the notion. "I just paid the doctor's bill. Alec saved you."
"That's my name, too!" the young woman says. She turns to Alec, leans close and squints at his face. "Who are you?"
"A friend." Alec hears the words he's said. He looks surprised, as he glances toward Taylor. "That's what you said —"
The young woman interrupts. "No. I'd remember you, but I feel like I should know you."
Taylor's watch pulses. He stands. "It's time to go."
The young woman looks to Alec. "You've got to leave?"
"Just me," Taylor says. "He's staying. He'll explain it all."
The young woman blinks, tries to rise. Can't manage. She looks up to Taylor. She's close to tears. "Thank you."
"You're welcome," Taylor says. "But I told you, I didn't do a thing."
Alec stands, reaches to the young woman but doesn't touch her. "I'll see him out and be right back."
In the hallway, Taylor doesn't hesitate a second before he opens a bright-lit crossing point upon the facing wall.
"Just like that, huh?" Alec says.
"Just like that."
"If it's easy, what was all the business on the ferry?"
"It's not easy," Taylor says. "It's damned hard to do. We stepped through forty-seven crossing points in less than three minutes. You might not have noticed, but that took effort."
"What do we do now?"
Taylor glances at his watch. "We don't do anything. I've got another appointment before I get to get some sleep."
"I don't belong here, don't belong with her," Alec says, but he doesn't say he won't stay.
Taylor shakes his head. "You were the one whining about how you hated being all alone."
"I don't know if I can be with her. It feels — I don't know — incestuous."
Taylor frowns. "Don't be such a fucking prude."
"How would I live here? On paper, I don't exist."
Taylor fishes in his pocket, into the void again, pulls out a wallet, just like the one Alec threw from the ferry. "There should be a Washington State driver's license in here with your birth name on it. A birth certificate, social security card and passport, too."
Alec fingers the wallet, opens it, riffles through the contents. "God, there's close to a thousand dollars here!"
Taylor touches the papers. "There's the title to the roadster, too. Your name's on it. Here's the keys."
Alec juggles the car keys as he studies the wallet and its contents. "These documents all say female."
Taylor sighs. "You could try saying thank you."
"I can't use these."
"You're not just rude, you know? You lack imagination."
"What?" Alec says.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Brave Boy World"
Copyright © 2017 Pink Narcissus Press.
Excerpted by permission of Pink Narcissus Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
According to His Substance K.C. Ball,
Spoiling Veena Keyan Bowes,
Fluidity Eric Del Carlo,
My Brother, The Horsehead Rafael S.W.,
Liner Notes for the Crash Brit Mandelo,
Boy Rescue Ace Lo,
Sindali Deven Balsam,
Deadhead Chemistry J. Daniel Stone,
Choice Cuts Edd Vick,
Robinson Faces the Music Ryan Kelly,
The Three Ways of the Sword Man Jaap Boekestein,