|Art by Dario Bijelac|
“Trinkets” by Joe Parker (997 words)
No Spoilers: A man gets a gift from a strange woman. Which might not seem like a monumental occurrence, but it starts a chain of events, a chain of gifts, that begin to see the man’s fortunes improve. He gets a raise. His family flourishes. But that doesn’t come without complications, or without cost, and soon the man has to deal with the deal he may have inadvertently accepted. It’s a strange piece, without much in the way of explanation. And that, for me, is where the piece dips a bit into horror territory, because it reveals what happens when you don’t look a gift horse in the teeth. Which makes for an unsettling experience.
Keywords: Gifts, Knick Knacks, Success, Luck, Illness, Cost
Review: For me, this story speaks to a sort of luck that can happen, where everything seems great. The narrator here begins to get gifts and that...just...is okay for him. He doesn’t question it, or at least not to the point that he refuses the gifts. He knows that he hasn’t really done anything for them, but hey, they make things easier. And for me it speaks to a kind of privilege, that he is just okay in accepting these gifts because he’s never really have to question that the universe would just reward him. Except that with the gifts comes a growing understanding of what’s behind them. Comes the voices of people who did not have his luck. Who did not just get given gifts. And so for me it’s a piece about having to face privilege. What some people call luck, which often boils down to people giving certain people something for nothing because that’s how it is. Because it’s easier to believe that this guy deserves it more than someone else. And to me that reveals this bargain that he makes in accepting these gifts, and the debt he accrues, and the darkness that dwells at the heart of that, that puts him in this place at the end where for me he feels like he has to give himself to someone else. Because he’s become owned by these gifts, by his dependence on them, so that he’s decided that he’ll do whatever it takes to keep what he’s been given. And it’s a creepy and interesting read!
“Delivery” by Redfern Jon Barrett (777 words)
No Spoilers: Mark has walked in on something of a scene. One he definitely wasn’t supposed to see. But one that he has, thanks to a job delivering food—a job his partner Joe didn’t know about. It’s not his omission that drive the story, though, but rather the lies that Joe has told, ones that blow up in gloriously queer fashion. The piece does a great job of mixing in the action and deeper emotional beats into a very memorable confrontation. The tension is sharp, the characters are wrecks, and the scene is beautifully set for everything to go terribly, terribly wrong. It’s not a happy story, focused as it is on infidelity and emotional pain, but that doesn’t mean it’s not fun or captivating.
Keywords: Cheating, Food, Deliveries, Lies, Betrayal, Break Ups
Review: DRAMA BOMB!!! Seriously, this story focuses on one of those oh my glob moments of screaming queer drama, and okay I’m trashy don’t hate me but it’s rather delightful. Not really in its tone or content, because it is a very shattering moment for Mark, who has discovered that his partner is cheating on him, and worse than that that their entire relationship seems built on dishonesty and a will to hurt. Which really, really sucks. At the same time, though, it also beats with a certain kind of life that I love, because of the raw hurt that it reveals, Mark just losing his shit at how he’s been betrayed and Joe knowing exactly what he’s done wrong and mourning the comfort of his lies and this other guy, clueless, just trying to report Mark as unprofessional. It’s a moment of everything coming undone, and it’s rendered in beautiful clarity, with Mark reacting with whatever he has to hand, his actions being a refusal to allow Joe’s lies to continue. He could have left, could have accepted this and dealt with it a number of different ways. But it’s a breaking point, because of the sacrifices that he made for Joe, that he sees now were based on abuse, were just so that Joe could have this influence on him, this control. When it was never fair, never about caring. It’s just a wrenching read for all that it’s rather fun as well, the scene slapstick but with a depth that I appreciate. It’s a dramatic read, but not a shallow one, and it makes for a wonderful story!
“Ivy” by Melissa Goodrich (1000 words)
No Spoilers: This story unfolds from the point of view of a neighborhood. It’s an interesting touch that brings the perspective out of any specific person and instead becomes the voice of a sort of collection. An Us. And having grown up in the suburbs, this kind of thing makes a lot of sense of me, how people can adopt a sort of collectiveness, not really acting in concert but rather inactive together. Using the diffusion of responsibility to not get too much into other people’s business...except to spy. Basically, it follows this perspective watching everything but never acting to help those that need help. For one little girl in particular, it’s a story that has a rather terrifying ending, heavy with pain and loss and the need for justice. About the way that grief and responsibility can creep, and become hungry.
Keywords: CW- Miscarriage, CW- Abuse, Vines, Neighbors, Revenge
Review: For me, a lot of this story comes to how the neighbors watch but don’t act. How they get a thrill out of the tragedy of what happens, how in some ways it sustains them, but how they never even consider intervening. And the girl, who is infected with ivy, who is alive with it, is a victim of them all. But especially of her aunt, who wants only for her to blend in. Who wants this neighborhood to be idyllic, everyone policing everyone else. She wants a homeowners association in order to be able to enforce standards and arbitrary rules. To control and to bully. And she hurts her neice in her mission. Which the neighbors just sort of accept. And it’s that acceptance and aversion to action that is then used in a different way. By the ivy, which sees in their inaction a way to push for revenge. For me, the story follows how this tendency of some neighborhoods to pry but also “mind their business” leads to the growth of something dark. Something hungry. Something that uses their inaction to do some rather terrifying things. And the neighborhood...just accepts it. The ending implies to me that even after witnessing everything, the neighborhood doesn’t want to face any of it. It ignores it, like it ignores everything, and in so doing allows it all to continue. Feeds that darkness their children because they feel it’s a better bargain than to actually have to confront the darkness around them. To actually take responsibility for being a community that’s supposed to care about every member, especially the most vulnerable. A fine read!