Booch by L. John Williams: Booch is a very nice coming of age and buddy friends story; Brian knows Joseph Michael literally all his life, since they have been neighboors from the day Joseph Michael was born, and it was Brian to name him Booch. Even if they have an 8 years age difference, Brian has always considered Booch his best friend, and when Brian started to developed an interest for other boys, and then men, he had forbidden fantasies on Booch, but he has never acted upon them. Not until the day Booch becomes legal and apparently bent upon the task to seduce poor Brian. I really loved the lighteness and happy tone of this short story, and I was, as Brian, fascinated by the “young” adult that was Booch, so sure of what he wanted and liked, and able to obtain it.
Dashing through the Snow by Todd Schoonover: another story similar to the previous one, about best friends and neighboors, a love that was born when probably both of them were not even able to name the feeling; but even if with an happily ever after (or better for now) ending, this story is not so light and funny as the previous one. Garth and Joe’s love is not easy and immediate, and Garth has to go through a long process of healing his heart to be able to trust it again. Good thing is that Joe, apparently the less emotional of the two, is instead the one that is not only able to love forever, but also to wait and forgive when Garth will be ready to come back to him.
Dirty Laundry by Veronica: Peter and Robert are into each other but for all the wrong, and stupid reasons, they have never spoken about their mutual feelings. Now Robert is moving out from the apartment they share, and Peter is blaming himself: maybe Robert didn’t like him, maybe he wanted his privacy, maybe, maybe, maybe… but never once he had asked to Robert his real reason. And Robert instead of being impatient or happy for the move, is lingering around, like if he wanted to give to Peter another chance to talk, to explain, to say something at least. A last go to the laundomat and the lack of underwear, will force Peter to literally face his roommate without any protection, of clothes and excuses, and the time will come to be honest with yourself.
Don’t Ask Don’t Tell by Aleksandr Voinov & Marquesate: Scott, an US soldier, and Rich, a UK officer, meet when Rich is on Scott’s base for a seminar; gaydar or maybe only an huge horniness that outed Scott’s desires, Rich involves the younger man in an hot affair in a stock room. Other than the sex, that is nice and very graphic, the most interesting thing is to compare Scott’s experience in the Army, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’s policy and all, and Rich’s one: even if apparently the English man has more freedom to be himself, the truth is that, if he wants to stay in the Army, he has to stay also in the closet. The authors decided to close this short story, and fast affair, with a romantic note, the chance that these two men can meet again, and maybe sharing something more than only loneliness and desire.
Idol by L. John Williams: as he proved in the previous story in this same anthology, L. John Williams is a romantic at heart; Idol is a mix of Cinderfella and Show Business themes, with your average common guy Dylan who falls in love with movie star Rob. There is little chance for Dylan to meet Rob and even less for it to be anything else than a social call, but it did happen and not only that, Rob has a mutual interest in Dylan. Like a starstrucked fan, Dylan would do everything for Rob, and he would be satisfy with a little taste of the other man, but Rob has a surprise for him: he is not a selfcentered star with only his pleasure in mind, he is a kind and caring man, who is really interested in trying their best to develop something serious and long lasting, and Dylan, of course, is more than happy to oblige.
The Pickup by Harold Dixon: Buddy “pick up”s Jake on the Quick Stop near his home; but of them are not searching anything else if not exactly that a quick… stop. Two or three well placed hints are enough for Buddy to determine if Jake is interested: if the man recognizes the “come on”, then Buddy has just found his entertainment for the night, instead if the man is unaware, and doesn’t want to pick up the lead, then Buddy is safe and will go simply home to leftovers and a DVD. Basically this would be a good plot for a short, and naughty x-rated movie, the sex is good, and also a little “surprising” for Buddy who finds himself in a position that is usually not his. But he is all for a good ride, doesn’t matter if he is receiving or giving. And if there would be a repeat, well, again, that is good and welcomed.
Morning Glory by Michael Breyette: a nice story about a chance meeting in P-Town in July; of course this is a very likely situation, more or less the little seaside town is a big cruising place, but sometime one of these encounters can turn in something more, unexpected to both part involved. Probably the most interesting thing of all the short story, aside from being nice and romantic, is the detailed description of Provincetown and its usual place. If you had the chance to spend some days there, you will recognize the feeling and the common situation, like two men strolling along Commercial Street, happy and free, stopping to kiss or cuddle, while people around them continue on their flow like nothing happened. And nothing happened if not a sign of blossiming or lasting love.
Summer in the City by Linda Schnelle: this is the shortest of the story till now and so there is not much chance to develop it other than a quick and nice encounter of two young men without much trouble in their life, and for now, no intention of being serious. Both Max than Andy are just out of college, both of them have different targets in their immediate lives, but for the moment they are in the same city, San Francisco, and they like each other. I don’t think they will have a future, at least not for now: I can imagine the two of them meet again in 10 years, when their lives are settled.
A Real Man by John Stewart: one of the saddest story of the anthology, even if, like most of the other stories, it’s about a chance encounter between strangers. But most of the previous stories, even if about stranger, had at least a slightly hope of happily ever after; here instead Billy is a man who is mourning a lot of things: his past life, his lost chances, the future he has never had the courage to pursue. The demolition of the swimming pool where his father used to go and take him is yet another reason to rethink to his life, and I think Billy is not happy with what he is seeing. A stranger will not satisfy his yearning for a different life, but at least will help him to exorcize at least one of his memories.
Metamorphosis by George Seaton: this is probably something too precious and shiny for the anthology, that more or less is light and funny. George Seaton wrote almost a poem, the writing style complex and archaic, very difficult for me to understand since I’m not an English mother toungue. Inspired to the poems of Walt Whitman, the story Deaglan and Lars, country lovers from Iowa who decided to move to Denver, is not about sex or love, but more about the power you have in creating beauty, visual or written or anything other form, even with your same life.
Texas Twilight by Gabriel Morgan: another chance encounter only that this is the XIX century in Texas; Reuben is a writer and artist from the East Coast wandering the Far West in search of adventure and inspiration and he finds both in Carson, the naked cowboy he meets near a river. But Carson is heading home to getting married and settling down, and he has never had any interest in men. This story surprised me, since it’s not so much about sex and very much about romantic love, and it was a nice contrast since actually the illustration inspiring it is probably the most explicit and the only full frontal nakedness.
Photo/Model by Alan Bennett Ilagan: another very short story, more a glimpse than a real story, it’s in a way the brainstorming of an artist/author about the special relationship you can reach with your model; there can be trust, love, hope, all bundle together in something simple like a photo or more complex like a paint, but in a case or the other, it’s a thing of beauty.
Dirty Laundry by Todd Peissig: Dirty Laundry is probably a very popular illustration since two authors chose it, and the nice tidbit of news is that Todd Peissig is also the real owner of this illustration. The story itself is more romantic and less “dirty” than the illustration, the two men actually didn’t nothing more than kiss in the laundromat, and if something else happened later, the reader was not invited ;-) Actually the trio of old ladies who play the role of matchmaker is probably as nice as the two young and pretty men of the story.
GWM 52 by Harold Dixon: 36 years old Cal is fantasizing about an imaginary 52 years old lover while waiting for his in-living 43 years old partner Joe to come back home. The fantasy is innocent, and from a sentence here and there we can well understand that Cal loves Joe, but nevertheless I think Cal feels like he is cheating on Joe thinking to another man. He decides to do everything to please Joe, from cooking to way more, but maybe it’s not enough to push away that fantasy. I want to read something positive in this story, the first clue for a man that the story he is living is important and long lasting and so he has to take it seriously, and “work” to build and maintain it.
Vows by Justin Sheperd: I was a bit scared of reading this story, since the illustration is very romantic, about a same-sex marriage in a church, but the previous story of the same author in this anthology was a bit sad. I’m happy to say that this second story is as romantic as the illustration, about two benedectine monks who fall in love while they are serving in the same abbey and decide to try the real world and a life together as committed partners. They are lucky, or maybe the author is kind with them, and the life will smile to them.
End of the Line by Clare London: and to close the anthology with a very naughty note, Clare London writes a short story about sex in a very, very public place, a train wagon during rush hours literally packed of people. Now this is really a story about strangers meeting in the night, but the tone, and the lightness, make it believable for these men to have a chance of a future together; sure maybe they will meet again, and they will find they are completely wrong for each other, but at least they will know that sex is not a problem.
Amazon: Illustrated Men
Cover Art by Michael Breyette