by Petula Caesar, contemporary(2005)
Phaze, $6.00, ISBN 1-59426-541-0
Petula Caesar's collection of short stories, Lipstick And Other Stories, is published as a collection of spicy stories, but the stories are as much erotic as they are introspective stream-of-consciousness ramblings. My reaction to this collection is like this.
I am perplexed by The Instrument, the first story, which is about the narrator talking about how she loves to have a man masterfully teasing every inch of her body in a foreplay of all foreplays. Isn't this stating the obvious? I'm sure everybody, man or woman, would love to have his or her body masterfully played in a most erotic manner during foreplay too. What I am supposed to say here? "Yay"? "Power to the yazoo!"?
Head Of The Class is a description of what goes on in a class where the subject of the day is fellatio. Normally I would shudder and wonder when the bananas will show up (and really, what do eventually show up as experimental tools are actually better or worse than bananas depending on one's taste for sex toys) but I have to admit that I am fascinated by the unnamed lecturer's explanations on the various kinds of male erections and especially the ERECT technique to give good head. ERECT, by the way, stands for Entry Response Escalation Culmination Tranquility. If you want to find out more, go sign up with Ms Caesar's class. I'm just the messenger here.
Pussywhipped is about Miles' therapy session with his shrink. He is unable to perform sexually after his girlfriend Linda left him. The poor dear is unable to commit himself into marrying Linda so the woman throws him out the door and now he is completely at loss as to what he should do. This story is the turning point of this collection because this is the moment where the collection actually becomes visceral as well as carnal and cerebral. The shrink slowly guides our Miles into realizing that he loves Linda enough to move on from his previous divorce like he should have a long time ago and sex with Linda is much better than Miles can remember because he is making love to a woman he loves.
Coming Into My Backdoor is about a woman's letters to someone detailing her honeymoon bliss. Or rather, it will be completely blissful, she and her husband, if she can give Victor what he wants: anal sex. She's never done it before so she isn't sure whether it will be painful, surgical instruments may have to be used, or worse. This story unfortunately skimps on the details of how those two eventually manage to go ding-ding-ding all the way, although Ms Caesar doesn't spare a single moment of the painful botched attempts of our backdoor-lovin' couple before this. What is Ms Caesar trying to do? Tell everyone to lock up their backdoors?
Lipstick is very nicely written short story of a woman's discovering bliss in the arms (and more, of course) of her lesbian best friend after an argument with her boyfriend. But this isn't a coming-out story as much as the bittersweet aftermath when two women have to deal with the awkwardness of the situation. While this story doesn't skimp on details when it comes to the sex (I have to wonder though, do lesbians really use those strap-on thingies that often in bed?), I find the story more emotionally engaging when it comes to Stephanie and Karla trying very hard to deal with the aftermath of their unexpected physical intimacy. Wrong words are said, emotions are bruised, and to top it all off, Stephanie's boyfriend text messages her an apology and asks her to come back to him. Ouch. This one actually packs a somewhat painful punch and I find myself wishing that those two ladies will find a way to patch things up between them, whether as friends or lovers.
Footsie is a very bittersweet and poignant story of a woman who remembers someone who has long left her one night and memories of their intimacies in bed haunt and arouse her to the point that she cries while she touches herself intimately. He had a foot fetish and worshipped her feet in bed in a most erotic manner. What really gets to me is how Ms Caesar apparently effortlessly conjures wicked and carnal yet so romantic intimate scenes. Reading how the man worships the heroine's foot, from the toes upwards, as he does all those... things to her skin with oils and his lips and all - ooh, my toes curl involuntarily as the heroine's reminiscences of her lover continues. Heck, I feel like crying myself when the heroine talks about how much she misses him. I want to say, here, dear, take my money and go get a cab to get him back here ASAP.
The Spatula is a simple story of a woman, her lover, and a spatula. There's ice, there are plenty of spanking and paddling action involving the spatula, and I would have run to the fridge for a glass of ice water if I am not sure whether I will faint at the sight of the icebox after reading this short story.
The September 11th Story is the most romantic story in this collection, although some readers may be turned off by the author's use of the September 11 tragedy as a backdrop in this story. There is a valid argument to be made that the author is probably trivializing the event by using it, along with the fact that the hero is a cop, to create some "Oh no, was he...?" suspense that turned out to be very trivial in the end. Nonetheless, I really like this story about how the events on September 11, 2001 finally jolt a couple who have been involved with each other for four years into realizing that every day in this life is to be treasured and they should cherish each other, admit that they are in love, get married, and live happily ever after. And as much as the whole "Oh no, was he...?" thing is blatantly manipulative, I am a sucker for that trick because I actually cry when those two end up declaring their love and their intention to get married.
A Natural Progression is a hilarious yet sexy account of a woman of certain years who has been a good gal all her life until she finally acknowledges her lack of inhibition when it comes to sex. She has one-night stands and starts collecting porn. She even fantasizes about being the only woman in an orgy, although some of her choices of men in her fantasy threesome can be intriguing (Orlando Bloom and Jet Li do make plenty of sense when one is in the mood for shortbread sandwich, I guess) or most amusing (Tavist Smiley and Bill Clinton). The grand finale in this story is when she throws a party, fully intending to find two men for her planned threesome. Of course, things don't always turn out as planned, heh heh heh.
I don't want to say much about Right On Schedule because it is one of those stories that has to be read without knowing anything about it to fullly appreciate the full extent of Ms Caesar's wicked sense of humor. This story has me in stitches and it's a great way to close the collection.
Lipstick And Other Stories are very erotic in places but what really works for me here is Petula Caesar's ease in blending erotic playfulness with humor (cynical or otherwise), romance, and heartbreak. The stories here are short but many of them tug at my heartstrings very successfully to the point that I am far more emotionally engaged in these stories than I would expect. While not all these stories have a happy ending - many don't even have anything resembling a conventional romantic relationship - I find that these stories still pack a powerful punch. Footsie sees Ms Caesar playing me like a violin, drawing me into the eroticism of the absent lover's foreplay on the heroine's foot even as my heart breaks along with the heroine's in the meantime, for example, while Lipstick and The September 11th Story make me feel like I've just been in the ring for six or seven rounds with a boxer who knows what he is doing.
I don't really know what to expect when I first open Lipstick And Other Stories but I am completely bowled over and charmed by the last page. I really wish the stories are longer, because the short stories barely whet my appetite and I find myself wishing for more. Still, I really like what I get in this collection of short stories. Petula Caesar is a nice example of serendipity for me. If she will come up with a manual on foot aromatherapy that I can buy for my husband, I'd be a most happy woman indeed, I tell you.
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