Short Stories 365/171

“Patience, Colorado” by Rob Byrnes from Men of the Mean Streets (Bold Strokes Books). Edited by Greg Herren and J.M. Redmann.

In “Carver Comes Home” the author dialed his trademark humor way back. Here it’s switched off. I thought I wouldn’t like that, but on the contrary, I was riveted. As the events of the plot unfolded I was struck by how much the story felt like a classic film. It might easily be a play, also, because it has a limited number of locales and a small cast of characters. There’s the run down motel, the bowling alley, the train crossing and the culvert that runs alongside it. There’s the main character, Conor Laughlin, who takes a wrong turn and ends up in Patience, Colorado in the middle of the night. There’s Tay, short for Taylor, who tends bar at the bowling alley across the railroad tracks. There’s Tay’s boss, Mr. Thursby, who owns the bowling alley, and a handful of incidental characters: the motel clerk, some other customers at the bowling alley, the town mechanic, a police officer. There’s the sexual tension that erupts between Conor and Tay in this most inhospitable place. But the most important element of the story, by far, is the noose the author slowly tightens around his characters as the plot unfolds.

Short Stories 365/91

“Happy Hour at Café Jones” by Rob Byrnes from Fool for Love: New Gay Fiction (Cleis Press, 2009).

Oh, it’s another humorous story from Rob Byrnes. As much as I was moved by “Carver Comes Home” in Best Gay Romance 2014, I love when he’s being funny and sweet at the same time, so it was nice to have an excuse to re-read this piece.

Brian has been single for a year, ever since his boyfriend Stuart dumped him for a realtor. He abhors blind dates but hasn’t managed to meet anyone face-to-face, and so twice he’s given in and contacted someone via a dating website. The first time? Disaster.

Still, there he is, in the dive bar where he and his ex had their first date, about to give it another try. He chose the location because it’s safe territory. Since things ended with Stuart he never goes there anymore, so if the blind date—David—turns out to be a troll, at least it won’t render a place he likes off-limits. The thing he doesn’t count on, though, is that Stuart might still frequent the bar…

This is classic Rob Byrnes: funny, thoughtful, warm storytelling. Brian is a completely relatable character. Who wouldn’t want to spend some time in his skin, sitting on a bar stool in the Café Jones on an otherwise bleak Rochester afternoon? There’s no place better.

Short Stories 365/49

“Carver Comes Home” by Rob Byrnes from Best Gay Romance 2014 (Cleis Press)

Full disclosure: I have a story in this anthology.

I had it on good authority (‘Nathan Burgoine) that Rob Byrnes sometimes writes without being funny. I also learned I already own a copy of another of his serious stories, found in Men of the Mean Streets (Bold Strokes Books, 2011). I have yet to read that collection.

As much as I love his humor, I have to say I did not miss it in this piece about a man who returns home because his mother is dying. Ten years ago, Carver escaped her judgment by relocating to the big city. Now he’s seeking closure, planning to come out to her in her final hours. But his sister Julie, who’s done the lion’s share of caring for their mother for months, will have none of it. She tells him he’s being immature and selfish.

The family situation gives Carver a reason to ponder a second action he failed to take at a more appropriate point in the past. To make amends on that front, he pays a series of visits to the local mini-mart, and its manager, Tom Melvin.

Best Gay Romance 2014 is here!

Available now from Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com. Trade paperback and ebook formats.

http://www.amazon.com/Best-Romance-2014-R-D-Cochrane-ebook/dp/B00H6UOHEC/ref=dp_kinw_strp_1

Introduction• Timothy J. Lambert

Strange Propositions • Eric Gober

My Adventure with Tom Sawyer • Jameson Currier

True In My Fashion • Paul Brownsey

Sight • Jordan Taylor

Falling • James Booth

Thanksgiving • Shawn Anniston

The Invincible Theatre • Felice Picano

Carver Comes Home • Rob Byrnes

Spill Your Troubles On Me, Love • Georgina Li

Quality Time • Lewis DeSimone

Brooding Intervals • Kevin Langson

Dandelions • Tony Calvert

Shep: A Dog • Alex Jeffers

There’s No Question It’s Love • N.S. Beranek

Save the Last Dance for Me • David Puterbaugh

Afterword • R.D. Cochrane

Short Stories 365/6

Home today with the flu. Thankfully, I did a few of these on Saturday so I only have to push the button.

“Saint Daniel and His Demons” by Rob Byrnes, from Saints & Sinners 2010: New Fiction from the Festival (Queer Mojo).

Who hasn’t been through the heartbreak main character Daniel suffers as a result of trying to “tame” bad boy Jay Casey? We’ve all been there; willingly suspending our disbelief and ignoring the hints dropped by our friends, in order to have, or at least appear to have, that which we’ve always thought was unattainable. Who hasn’t wrestled trying to reconcile the person he’s told he “ought” to be with the one he truly is?

This story has everything. It’s impeccably penned, funny, fresh, insightful, and action-packed. None of which is surprising in the least, given who authored it. Did I mention funny? No, it’s really, really funny. Check it out. You won’t be sorry.

Best Gay Romance 2014 (Cleis Press)

A story of mine will be published in the upcoming anthology Best Gay Romance 2014 by Cleis Press. I couldn’t be more thrilled. The other contributors are stellar writers. I am a fan of many of them, and surely a fan-to-be of the rest. No release date yet, but here is the list of the pieces that will be included in the volume:

Introduction • Timothy J. Lambert

Strange Propositions • Eric Gober

My Adventure with Tom Sawyer • Jameson Currier

True In My Fashion • Paul Brownsey

Sight • Jordan Taylor

Falling • James Booth

Thanksgiving • Shawn Anniston

The Invincible Theatre • Felice Picano

Carver Comes Home • Rob Byrnes

Spill Your Troubles On Me, Love • Georgina Li

Quality Time • Lewis DeSimone

Brooding Intervals • Kevin Langson

Dandelions • Tony Calvert

Shep: A Dog • Alex Jeffers

There’s No Question It’s Love • N.S. Beranek

Save the Last Dance for Me • David Puterbaugh

Afterword • R.D. Cochrane