Short Stories 365/289

“The End of Our Broadcast Day” by Thomas Kearnes from Wilde Magazine: A Magazine of Art and Literature with a Queer Edge, Issue One, Winter 2012. Edited by Lucia Guatney.

Dexter is enrolled in a drug rehab program. The apartment complex the program’s participants live in is run like a college dormitory of decades ago, but the residents, naturally, compare it to a prison. Coming off thirty years as an alcoholic, Dexter navigates the politics of the complex while he comes to terms with life as a middle-aged gay man and wrestles with the demons of his past. By turns wry and poignant, it’s an interesting piece that makes me eager to read the author’s two short story collections, Pretend I’m Not Here (Musa Publishing) and Promiscuous (JMS Publishing).

(For a review of “This Won’t Hurt a Bit” by the same author, see Short Stories 365/216.)

 

Short Stories 365/288

“Powers Make You Free” by Caroline Houghton from Wilde Magazine: A Magazine of Art and Literature with a Queer Edge Issue One, Winter 2012. Edited by Lucia Guatney.

I loved this brief, richly descriptive glimpse into the life of a Latino transgender teenager who’s struggling just to survive the hostile environment of her childhood. Almost nowhere is safe. At school she’s bullied; likewise in her neighborhood. At home her father beats her with a belt and his fists, and says this is love, that he is doing it because he doesn’t want his son to turn out to be effeminate. The only safe place she’s found is at her Aunt Dolly’s. There she enjoys a brief respite while caring for the dying woman. She feeds her, drinks a little whisky and smokes cigarettes with her, and after Aunt Dolly drifts off, dresses in her clothes. The reader fears what will happen after Aunt Dolly is gone, and the story ends on a strikingly ironic note.

Short Stories 365/287

“What Waits Behind the Red Curtain” by Charlie Riccardelli from Wilde Magazine: A Magazine of Art and Literature with a Queer Edge, Issue One, Winter 2012. Edited by Lucia Guatney.

It’s the nineteen fifties and Stewart Wainwright is a Hollywood star being blackmailed by the editor of a tabloid newspaper. The editor has compromising photos of Stewart with another man. Those photos would end his career and ruin his life were they to be published. They also have the potential to wreck his relationship with his boyfriend Martin.

Martin’s an actor, too. They met on set, becoming acquainted while discussing the novel Martin was reading – Raymond Chandler’s The Little Sister.  It’s a telling reference. In that book, up-and-coming film star Mavis Weld is being blackmailed because someone has photos of her in a compromising position with a junior gangster. Like Stewart, she could lose her career and social standing if the truth is made public. Unlike him, though, she likely won’t be jailed, or labeled a deviant, or classified as mentally ill and threatened with the possibility of being committed. The story doesn’t make that distinction. I wish it had.

I loved the first two-thirds of this piece, but the voice got derailed during the dialogue between Stewart and the young man he picks up in a Greenwich dive, and the last third is inexplicably riddled with serious typos. There are incorrect homonyms, missing connecting words, and changes in tense and point of view from one sentence to the next that cause me to suspect the story was originally written in first person present tense. Also, there’s an anachronistic slang term and a misused idiom. It’s vexing because most of the story is strong. I especially enjoyed how the relationship between Stewart and Martin was laid out, and I liked how the piece ended.

Short Stories 365/286

“He Doesn’t Touch the Blood” by Molly Anderson from Wilde Magazine: A Magazine of  Art and Literature with a Queer Edge, Issue One, Winter 2012. Edited by Lucia Guatney.

Thomas and Matthew met as kids, cabin mates at Concordia Language summer camp. Matthew was the wilder one, gifted with an aura of mystery by virtue of having epilepsy. Faced with mortality, he projected a fierce self-confidence that made him cooler than the other boys. The fact that his family was well off also didn’t hurt. Thomas fell hard for him but also felt inferior to him. His consolation was being Matthew’s confidant, trusted with the knowledge of what to do in the event of a seizure, to save Matthew’s life.

Fast forward ten years. They are lovers and roommates, and the tables have turned. Matthew is cut off from his family (has he been disowned?). Thomas is a waiter at the local Chinese restaurant. He’s been the sole provider for years. Matthew spends his days sulking, wondering how his life ended up like this. He compares himself to Thomas, and feels inferior because he struggles to comprehend the books on Thomas’ shelves.

That’s the thing. Their individual self esteem issues leave them so resentful they’re missing the opportunity to really love and be loved by one another. A turn of events at the end of the story leaves the reader wondering if they’ve lost the chance for good, and just how far that resentment might have pushed things for one of them.

Short Stories 365/285

“Driving Into Sunsets” by Alison Stine from Wilde Magazine: A Magazine of Art and Literature with a Queer Edge, Issue One, Winter 2012. Edited by Lucia Guatney.

The narrator of this story is travelling cross-country, playing a game as she goes. She imagines she’s back in time and on her way to college, or heading to New York to make her way on the stage, or at various other points when she was starting over.

She travels through several states, taking note of the landscape, observing the few people who cross her path, and recalling friends with whom she is no longer in communication. It’s her fault, she admits. She doesn’t write back because even among her friends, she feels like an outsider. She’s lonely, but is confident she won’t always be.

She’s heading west looking for yet another fresh start. This time, hopefully, it will be the right one.

The story employs different points of view to illustrate the change its sole character undergoes, like a creature that’s molting, becoming what it is destined to be. First person gives way to third and briefly to second before returning to first. It’s a beautifully handled device that I’ve never seen used before.

My favorite section of the story is near the end:

Lake Tahoe is perfect, as Utah was perfect, as Kansas was perfect. They are each their own thing. They are each the thing they are supposed to be, which is a thing I have never seen before, and do not know. They are each full of people living their lives, lives I can only guess at, think I could do, if only I was given entrance.

Best of all, it ends on a high, hopeful note. I loved this piece, and can’t wait to read more from this author.

Short Stories 365/284

“Five Years” by Amy Gall from Wilde Magazine: A Magazine of Art and Literature with a Queer Edge, Issue One, Winter 2012. Edited by Lucia Guatney.

I enjoyed this second-person point of view vignette about a woman and her girlfriend, however I thought it was much too short. The few details we were shown were quite interesting, but I want to know a lot more about the characters. What subjects were they studying in the first scene, and did education really not pay off for either of them? If not, why not? I also want to know what drew them together aside from the physical, and what eventually drove them apart. Was it that there wasn’t, actually, anything else? Are they in relationships now where that’s the thing that’s missing? That would explain the final scene.