Series: 7&7 Anthology
Publisher: DSP Publications (May 2016)
Bonus: Free on publisher’s site
Rating: 5 stars (out of 5)
DSP Publication’s anthology covers 7 virtues and 7 vices, and the theme of Rick Reed’s short story is the virtue of hope.
In 1997, Todd moves from the big city to his mother’s house upon her passing, finding a couple of surprising companions and advisers in the small town. The man next door, Cal, who took care of Todd’s mother in her final days, is welcoming but uncertain about the man from the big city who had missed his own mother’s funeral. In addition to some distrust from his new neighbor, add some very disturbing health news from Chicago and possible hallucinations in his mother’s house, and it seems Todd has little hope for any kind of a normal life.
The author touches on a couple of monumental and deeply felt issues that have dominated the gay community in different years over the last decades. The story focuses on a period that saw a sea change from despair and resignation to brighter, more hopeful outlooks. It was a quick but nicely personal and evocative trip through the realistic fears and the beginnings of a different outlook for the main character. The specter that offers the despairing man advice was a nice touch as, for me, it serves as a symbol of reaching for hope from a place that isn’t necessarily real or realistic but important to voice and latch onto none-the-less.
In this way, the author captured something very real to me (and I’m sure many others), the beginnings of true, realistic hope in the aftermath of an oppressive reality. His wistful, aspirational tag at the end just reinforces the importance of this virtue and another nod to how wonderful it can be when “unrealistic” hopes are actually achieved.
Personal Reflections (with spoilers):
This quick read hit home very deeply for me as I lost a friend and former lover to HIV/AIDs during the same period covered by the story. He faced the same hopelessness at the beginning of this period, as well as the loss of his mother. Unfortunately for my friend and ex Eric, the hope of the new therapies did not materialize soon enough.
I vividly remember the very slow change in reality and realization that HIV was no longer an absolute death sentence, and how the people with HIV gradually began to live and plan for longer and longer lives. The process was a slow one, as in the gay community in Chicago (where I was) and, I’m sure, around the world, we were still dealing with and reeling from the loss of so many friends and family, loved ones and lovers. When I sang at an exhibition of the AIDS Memorial Quilt on World AIDS Day in the late 1990’s, I remembering feeling the hope that HIV was no longer a death sentence despite the devastation that each panel sewn onto the quilt represented. The author captures a key time when hope for a long and fulfilling life became more and more real again for so many of our brothers and sisters.
I normally take into account how a story makes me feel as much as how much I appreciate the strength of the writing and general work. This is one story I am happy to acknowledge there may be little or no objectivity in my rating, but works for me as a glimpse at a key period in my personal and LGBT history – and the author’s choice of “hope” is perfect.