Hi book lovers!
Today we’ve got Aaron Blackwood here with his newest novel, Phat Boi! Check it out!
Cedric is a gay, overweight black man with self-esteem issues, which he hides behind his sense of humor. He has a smart mouth but is vulnerable when it comes to love. At a spiritual retreat, he meets Walter, who is attractive, masculine, intelligent and entirely out of his league. Cedric is immediately infatuated. To his surprise, Walter responds favorably. As their friendship develops, so do Cedric’s feelings for Walter. When unsettling secrets about Walter emerge, Cedric chooses to overlook them. A devastating event takes Cedric by surprise and forces him to confront the truth about Walter—his life will never be the same again.
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I’d met Walter at one of those spiritual retreats meant to rejuvenate your spirit and put you more in touch with yourself. Ant had suggested I go to replace a friend of his,who’d fallen sick; Ant said I needed it more than him. Maybe it would help with my self-esteem. I refused at first, of course. I didn’t need any damn course. I already knew my self-esteem was in the toilet, and didn’t need a therapist or yogi to tell me that. And for me to go by myself, without my sistah—no way. But when Ant showed me the brochure, and I saw it was a wonderful hideaway in the mountains with manicured lawns, a huge pool–which I wouldn’t be caught dead in–with lovely chalets and an all-you-can-eat buffet, I was sold.
Two weeks later, when the Metro-North train finally arrived at a deserted country station called Rhinebeck, I was glad to get off. Stiff and hungry, I was bored of seeing green fields and grazing cows, with not a Checkers or Chick-fil-A in sight. The old, hard-cushioned train seat had made my butt sore. Shoving my way down the narrow corridor of the train, I picked up my two-piece Louis Viton luggage,which I’d bought ‘bootleg’ from an African guy off Canal Street. When I stepped off the train,there was a woman in a blue dress holding up a homemade sign that said, ‘Shady Pines Retreat’. She looked like Mary Ellen from the old TV show The Waltons,but older. That blue dress is not your color, gurl; not with that pale skin. I and other passengers who got off the train approached her. The woman in the blue dress announced herself as Mary Lou, which was no goddamn surprise to me. She looked like a Mary Lou something. There were about ten of us listening to her frenzied gibberish about what a good time we’d have this weekend,and we’d come to the right place and all that. All I kept thinking was,gurl, take me to that buffet; I’m famished.
I looked around at the crew with whom I was to spend the weekend. They were mostly women. I ignored them at first to see if there was any prospective eye candy to hold my interest while doing yoga or something. Unfortunately, the pickings were poor. Two middle-aged men who seemed like uptight business types. A young hippie-looking fella with the darkest tan,long hair,and a guitar on his back. A big boy like myself, who was white, gay, and eyed me with suspicion and contempt. I guessed I’d just be buddies with the women for the weekend. Some certainly looked more fun than the men. Like Candy—named appropriately—who had big breasts, blonde hair, and a big booty, for a white woman. She was checking out our hippie friend, then smiled and winked at me when I caught her.I knew she would be my drinking partner and a good girlfriend for the rest of this trip. We clambered into the two mini-vans there to pick us up. The drivers were as cheery and effervescent as Mary Lou. Lord! I thought, I’m gonna need a drink. You’d think I was in Tennessee or Alabama, not Duchess County, New York.
I sat in the first bus, pressed up against an uptight businessman named Burt. He started to sweat. I eased off him a little, thinking I was the cause of his rapid perspiration. He was stuck next to a big black gay man, and it was probably making him crazy. I planned to do other things to wreck his homophobic nerves on this trip. Mary Lou sat in the front passenger seat next to the driver and continued to gush with pleasure, repeating what a good time we were in for. She laid out our immediate itinerary, which did not include eating. I was dying for a sandwich. Cramped and frustrated, we rode through the entrance gates of the retreat, past a big sign which read, Welcome to Shady Pines.
The van curved around a long driveway lined with tall, majestic pine trees, and stopped at the main building. Shady Pines did look as beautiful as the brochures. I stumbled out and followed my pack of fellow travelers to the banquet hall, where others were already waiting, which surprised me, because I thought the motley crew I’d arrived with was all I had to deal with for the weekend. But no, there was a diverse assortment of people waiting, some younger and more vibrant, around my age—in their early thirties. People were chatting and getting to know each other. Mary Lou told our group to leave our luggage at the back of the hall. We could collect it after the introduction ceremony and then assigned to our rooms. We were given bright yellow name tags with bold black lettering. I noticed the people already there had plastic cups in their hands and little matching plates with sandwiches on them. I looked around and saw the table with treats on the west wall of the hall. Naturally, I went over and loaded up my little plate with six sandwiches, but became conscious of Burt watching me, so I put back two.
We were all told to be seated. On the dais was the director of the program at the podium,various instructors seated behind him. They all looked trim, healthy, tanned, eager, and fucking happy. I was only one of three people of color in the room,including a Hispanic couple.But I didn’t get that uncomfortable vibe you sometimes get from white people,when they feel you’re someplace you don’t belong—except from Burt, who was both anxious and curious around me. We were introduced to all the instructors. Each one got up to tell their story and talk about their specialty. There was the yoga instructor named Sven from Sweden—of course. He was unusually tall, with all the characteristics of a typical Swede; thin, with tanned skin and blond hair. There was Natasha the Russian masseuse. Another stereotype, she was big and burly. Her arms were larger than mine, and I suspected she was a dyke. Gloria the Reiki Master looked like she’d just had a hit of Ecstasy, and Vincent, the meditation guru, looked like he’d joined her. Frankie the lifeguard was the only normal-looking one. He was just beefy. Then there was Gerald,who would conduct various interactive workshops. I didn’t know what to make of him.
The introductions dragged on a bit too long, to the point of making me sleepy. I wanted a nap. I headed over to the table and got myself a cup of coffee.
“You’re bored already, too, I see.”
After putting my fifth lump of sugar in my coffee, I turned around to see a tall man. I hadn’t noticed him before. How could I have missed him? I’d already scoped out all the men. This delightful creature was about six-foot-two; not athletically built, but thick and solid. His massive hands looked strong, with veins running all over the back of them. His shoe size hinted at confirmation of a certain myth. His powerful cheekbones sat under expressive eyes, like a narrow ledge on a mountain. Generous lips opened to invite a beautiful smile, with almost perfect teeth.Oh! And did I mention that he was black? Nice mocha brown skin that looked like worn suede.
“No, not really,” I lied.
“I saw you yawning.”
“Oh. You caught that, huh?”
Then we both started to laugh. His laughter was high spirited and loud.
“Yes…Cedric.”He squinted to see the name tag I had been given stuck on my shirt.
“And you are Walter. Please to meet you.”
I wasn’t sure if this man was hitting on me, because he appeared straight, but I was loving the attention.
“Have you been to one of these before?” I asked.
“Yes, but not here. Shady Pines is my first time.I come to retreats to regroup and get away from the city and certain people.” I wondered who those certain people were…family, girlfriend, boyfriend…wife?
“This is your first time, isn’t it?”
“Yes. Is it that obvious?”
“Yes,” he responded quickly. “I can always tell the rookies.”
“There’s always resistance to this sort of thing in their body language. Why are you here?” The question was bold,and took me by surprise.
“My best friend suggested it,” I blurted out.
“And where is he?”
“So you came alone.”
“Well, Cedric, we’ll see what we can do to make you more comfortable for the next couple of days.”
At that moment, he was called away to handle sleeping arrangements. Mary Lou was beckoning me to do the same. I walked over to her and listened while she cautioned me on the rules of the sleeping arrangements. I would have a roommate; a wake-up call was given at six for those who wished to jog or do yoga, which would be at six-thirty, until breakfast at eight. As she went on and on, I only half-listened, turning to look for Walter, but he had already gone. Retrieving my luggage, I was pointed to my chalet and headed there with a light swing to my step. I had met a man. I grinned all the way to my chalet.
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About the Author
I am a passionate writer of gay short stories that touch on real social issues and inner conflict that confront gay black man. While sex is an important part of the content, its use to titillate is not abused but based on character choices and the consequences of that.
My aim is to engage the reader; entertain, arouse, move and think. I hope that my stories stimulate and leave an aftertaste for more.
My stories touch on a variety of topics that include: love, dating, sex, health, homophobia, aging, depression, religion, politics and much more.
I live in Atlanta GA and have lived in London, New York and the Caribbean. When I’m not writing or working (still have a day job…yawn), I work out, and haunt coffee shops till they throw me out. I am a night owl and write best at night when it’s quiet and the spirits are out (I’m kidding). I love to laugh and appreciate anything that’s creative.