Best Bi Short Stories is the first book of its kind, a literary anthology bringing together the very finest representations of bisexuality in fiction. The bisexuality of characters, like in real people, can be invisible to readers unless explicitly brought to their attention. Invisibility leads to underrepresentation, and on bookstore shelves that has certainly been true. Best Bi Short Stories hopes to change that by presenting the very best quality, cast in a bold light. With an all-star author lineup ranging from Katherine V. Forrest to Jane Rule, Ann Herendeen to Jan Steckel, and curated by longtime bi activist Sheela Lambert, Best Bi Short Stories encompasses several genres. The authors are a diverse group, as well, and Lambert sought representation across age groups, cultures, ethnicities and sexualities in both the authors and stories, demonstrating the richness of bi experience.
Best Bi Short Stories was produced with the generous help of over 250 Kickstarter backers.
Best Bi Short Stories contains the following stories:
Dual Citizenship by Storm Grant
Alone, As Always by Jenny Corvette
Companions by Kate Durre
Pennies in the Well by Rob Barton
The Decision by Ammy Achenbach
Coyote Takes a Trip by Deborah Miranda
The Lottery by Florence Ivy
Angels Dance by James Williams
The Idiom of Orchids by Camille Thomas
Mother Knows Best by Charles Bright
“…Leave a Light on for Ya” by Gretchen Turner
Dragon’s Daughter by Cecilia Tan
Pride/Prejudice by Ann Herendeen
Challenger Deep by Kathleen Bradean
Mr. Greene by Ours M. Hugh
Art Making by Kate Evans
Friends and Neighbours by Jacqueline Applebee
Memory Lane by Sheela Lambert
Naked in the World by Geer Austin
Alex the Dragon by Jan Steckel
Face to Face by J.R. Yussuf
Xessex by Katherine V. Forrest
Inland Passage by Jane Rule
Challenger Deep by Kathleen Bradean
Pop rode from Oakland to Guam in my lap. I put my vintage green and yellow A’s baseball cap over him so that people wouldn’t notice the plain cardboard box with the gold embossed stamp, “Williams and Sons Funeral Directors.” A dusty cobweb clung to the back corner of the box. It had taken me a while to make good on my promise to him.
The first two days on the island, I let Pop sit on the dresser in the hotel room. Afraid that a maid might think he was trash, I decided I had to carry out his final request. Until I closed the past, the rest of my life was suspended.
I removed my hat as I ambled into the hotel lobby. By the time I reached the granite and glass reception desk, the hotel staff beamed expectant smiles.
“Hi. I need to find out how I can hire a boat.”
They nodded, as if they understood everything. “Yes, Sir.”
I grinned at them. It helped that I was so athletic and lanky, barely any hips or breasts. My look was boy next door—suntanned, with a white-toothed California smile. The short blonde haircut, the way I moved, the unisex clothes, worked magic. I passed as a man!
Then, recognition set in. “Um, Ma’am. Miss Erica.” Fear that they’d offended me pulled at the corners of their eyes. They still smiled, but a little less certainly, less brightly.
My smile faded too. Funny how one little word had enough power to make me feel right with myself. But they snatched it away from me as quickly as they offered it. I wanted to be Sir. I wanted that magical word back.
“I need to hire a boat to take me out over the Challenger Deep.” I set my A’s cap on their polished counter.
The smiles drooped a bit more. The staff shrugged.
The hotel manager stepped forward to handle me. He wore a lei of waxy cream flowers over his dark green suit. The rest of the staff faded back, but their ears were tuned to the conversation and I saw their gazes slide away from their tasks to watch me. “No good fishing over the Marianas Trench,” he told me with a tight smile. He folded his hands at his waist as if that closed the matter.
“I’m not fishing. I’m—.” Who knew how many local laws I broke carrying around Pop’s ashes, much less dumping them into the ocean? “I’m paying my last respects.”
“It’s all the same ocean. Same water. Why not take an island tour and pay your respects during that?”
He tried to hand me a glossy three-fold brochure of feral blondes on a sailboat, each clutching a tropical drink. I didn’t accept it from him.
“I made a promise. My father was on the Trieste survey team that measured the Challenger Deep. He wanted to go back.”
The manager’s smile grew more fixed. “There’s nothing out there. Just ocean.” He decided a minor problem with the Japanese tourists at the far end of the desk needed his attention.
No one was interested in stories about Pop.
They didn’t care that being on the team that measured the deepest place on earth meant something to him, and they couldn’t understand how important it was to me to carry out Pop’s final wish. I made a promise. Pop raised me to keep my word.
Pissed off, I shoved my A’s cap over my cropped hair. My walk as I crossed the lobby had a definite female motion to it. I tried to get back into my male groove but couldn’t.
I decided to explore past the fenced hotel grounds. The day before, I saw boats beyond the hotel’s private beach. I figured I’d simply go hire one myself.
I reached for the brass handle on the lobby’s glass doors.
A chubby, flirty doorman rushed to open the door for me. He was the one who always offered to bring me boys, girls, or smoke. “My brother has a boat,” he whispered out of the side of his mouth.
“A big boat?”
The doorman shrugged his rounded shoulders, a common answer on the island, I was learning. No one wanted to say no.
“Last week, one of his customers caught a tuna! Big fish.” He threw his arms wide, inviting me to imagine it.
Across the lobby, the manager cleared his throat.
The doorman scooted behind a potted palm. His dark green uniform blended with the plants.
“It’s the distance I’m worried about.” I felt silly, talking to a huge terracotta planter, but when I stood closer, the stiff palm fronds poked my face.
“My brother goes out there many times, I think.”
And made it back apparently, which was my bigger concern. I shoved my hands into the pockets of my khaki shorts. “Can I meet him? See the boat?”
The doorman peered around the potted jungle. “I’ll make the arrangements. Meet me beyond the security gate at five o’clock tomorrow morning.”
“That early?” It felt so cloak and dagger for such a sunny, tropical island.
“The trench is very far. Better to start at daybreak so that it isn’t dark when you come back.” The doorman moved from behind the big planter. “Bring lots of water, three times what you think you need, food, and beer,” he told me as he moved across the shiny marble floor. Then he trotted back. “Best prices, just for you, at the market in the blue building. Don’t go into the other store. No good there. They rip you off. Charge you tourist prices. Go to the blue market. Ask for Gogui. My cousin. Tell him I sent you. You get a good price.” He nudged my elbow then glided away to open the door for the Japanese tourists.
* * * *
The pure white sands of the hotel’s imported beach gave way to Guam’s domestic brown sand past the hotel’s bamboo gate. It was just after dawn and the air was already torpid. Bright flags on ships’ masts refused to flutter in the light breeze.
The doorman called out to me from behind a scraggly hibiscus bush. I wondered about him. Maybe skulking around playing games of intrigue made days of endless perfection seem more exciting.
Pop’s box of ashes poked my back through the pack, prodding me on, or warning me, I wasn’t sure.
Morning was rising, flat and harsh, over the sullen waves. Guam sat near the International Date Line, so we were among the first people on earth to witness the beginning hours of a new day.
“You went to see Gogui?”
“I told you. Best deal around.”
Why we were whispering was beyond me.
The last high tide left a meandering line of tiny pink shells, seaweed, and dried foam along the sand.
“Tano!” The doorman greeted his brother as we trudged through the deep sand. “This is Miss Erica. She needs a boat.”
Tano worked fishing line in his brown hands, his long fingers arcing high over his palm. He glanced up at us when the doorman hailed him but he didn’t say anything. When we were a couple feet away, Tano set aside the knot he tried to tease out of the line.
Why was it that men always had the thick, long lashes that women wanted? His eyes were like tropical water over a shallow white sand beach. I could see the line of his hipbones above the low waistband of his shorts. A large hook, carved in bleached bone, hung between nipples like melted chocolate kisses.
I should have negotiated the price before I saw him. There had to be a premium for all that languid sex. He caught me looking, so I pulled the brim of my cap low over my eyes. Tano and his brother chatted in Chamorro, the island idiom. Whenever they laughed, as sparkly as sunlight on water, I felt as if it were about me. I shifted my backpack and dug the toe of my black Vans into the sand.
Tano’s boat looked like shit, but all the sport-fishing boats along the beach were as weathered as the men who captained them. The metal fittings were speckled with rust. The dingy red stripe running along the hull was crusted with salt.
I looked past the surf to the ocean. It went on without end, and the boat seemed so small.
“No good fishing in the deep. Fish like warm, shallow water,” Tano said to me.
I glanced up at him again. High cheekbones, thick lips, he was too incredible to look at straight on, like the sun. Sparse hairs on his chin curled wildly, one lighter brown than the others. A flush of heat hit my lips and cheeks, as obvious as a hard-on. I felt the welcome, warm tingle of interest between my legs.
“I’m not fishing. I want to release something.”
The doorman tried to infect our half-hearted haggling over the price of the trip by baiting Tano and then me in turns, but we already reached an understanding between flitting glances.
* * * *
It took most of an hour to get the boat ready to go. The doorman disappeared when the work started. Tano told me what to do, sometimes showing me by covering my hands with his dark brown ones. By the time the boat was on the water, we had a casual flirtation going. It was easy. No forced chuckles, no posturing.
Tano asked, “What’s with the hat? You touch it like a talisman every time you mention your father.”
I caught myself touching the brim again and gave him an embarrassed grin. “Pop and I were big fans of the A’s. He bought this cap for me when I was in seventh grade. We caught a foul ball that day.”
“I touch a tree every time I return to shore. Superstitious, both of us,” he chuckled.
I gave him a friendly little nudge with my shoulder as we bent to lift the cooler onto the deck. Tano bumped back, grinning and showing a gap in his front teeth.
We set sail as the sun broke above low clouds. Land slipped from sight and I felt as if the world went away.
“You don’t get seasick, do you, Erica?” Tano asked as we hit open ocean.
We slammed up and down waves until he tacked enough to cut through the troughs. The side-to-side rocking was harder, but at least my teeth didn’t clack together.
I patted my stomach. “Something I inherited from Pop. Sea legs. Sea stomach, I guess. He was in the Navy.” The sun was already strong, so I put on my sunglasses and tugged at the brim of my cap when I felt the wind try to lift it. “He was stationed near here for a couple years.”
“Good, because it’s going to be hours of this,” Tano warned. He squinted at the bright light bouncing off the white surfaces of his boat.
There were large padded captain’s chairs at the back of his boat for fishers, but I settled onto the worn red cushion under the sun shade and propped my feet on a cooler. I sipped from a cold beer. “Your brother told me that you go out to the Mariana Trench a lot. If there’s nothing there to see, as everyone keeps telling me, why do you go?”
Tano stared at the water. Damn, pissed him off, and I wanted to sweet-talk him into a little bump and grind. He was just my type—a jock. It was going to be a very long day if he wasn’t going to talk.
Tano did talk though. His eyes focused past me as if he were remembering a distant, hazy past. ”About three years ago, I was unhappy. I was in love. There was a man… He consumed my heart and soul. I lived for the sight of him. On the day he moved away, I sailed to the edge of the trench. I hung over the railing, staring into the deep, wondering if I had the balls to jump. Instead, my tears fell. Maybe, they are still falling.”
“The trench is deep,” I agreed. “Seven miles from the surface to the bottom of the Challenger Deep—the lowest spot along the trench. Pop told me that you could toss Mount Everest down it and still have a mile of water left.” I almost touched the cap, but saw Tano’s teasing smile and held onto my beer instead.
“Big enough to hold all the sorrow in the world.”
Tano leaned far over the side of the boat. It was body poetry, the arc of his lean brown torso, the grip of his long toes on the railing of the boat, the way his hand slapped against the rising waves.
After he swung back onto the deck, he dragged wet fingers across my lips. I licked the drops away.
“Tastes like tears, doesn’t it,” he asked softly. Our bodies touched.
We stayed there, pressed together, staring down into the water as if it held answers.
“Pop once told me that the human body is mostly seawater.”
Tano smiled slyly. “Does that mean we’re mostly sorrow?”
It was my turn to stare off at the intensely blue water. I ran my fingertips over the lumpy white A on the front of my cap. “Some of us.”
To read the rest of Kathleen’s story, and the other great literary selections in Best Bi Short Stories, download it today!
Best Bi Short Stories is the first book of its kind, a literary anthology bringing together the finest representations of bisexuality in fiction. With an all-star author lineup ranging from Katherine Forrest to Jane Rule, Ann Herendeen to Jan Steckel, and curated by longtime bi activist Sheela Lambert, Best Bi Short Stories encompasses the diversity and richness of bi experience and imagination. Also available in paperback.