Tuesday, June 14, 2011
Mr. Plum by Sue Brown
Dave picks up coffee every morning at the train station on his way to work. He can't help but notice when the man in front of him is given a plum-colored cup holder, as it goes perfectly with his own tie. There are other things he can't help but notice, like how hot "Mr. Plum" is.
When Mr. Plum hands over a cup of coffee, exactly how Dave likes it, the morning he's late getting to the station, it's the start of a beautiful friendship. Or is it?
The opening paragraph of this sweet short story tells you a lot -- two men who dispute the small stuff but agree on the bigger issues have come together over coffee and commuting.
It's a slow build-up -- Dave, who fixates on small details, goes from noticing the color of the cup sleeve on the stranger's coffee cup to noticing the stranger, and from chatting to making dates. The fragility of taking such a casual acquaintance as a morning commute to something deeper seems to keep both Dave and Tom from asking some basic questions, or perhaps the underlying regularity of meeting a morning train with coffee in hand lulls them into thinking no day would be different.
Then the changes they are trying to make with each other collide with the changes life thrusts upon them. Dave has a lot of trouble rolling with the punches. Described as nearly OCD and certainly worried about details at the wrong moments -- honestly, finish the orgasm, enjoy it, and THEN start cleaning up! -- he's going to be a bit of a challenge for more laid back Tom, but there's hope.
The big events happen to Tom offscreen, so Dave is left to hear about them later rather than share them, making the story a little flat. The struggle is for them getting together anywhere but on a commuter train, so it's very low key, and doesn't really perk up until the last third, when they can finally interact outside the train.
Overall, this is sweet -- they both mean well, though Tom has no way of knowing how invested Dave is, and that his actions have more impact than he thinks. You have to cheer (softly) for them when they finally do get together.
The convention of an HEA in romance takes the spoileriness of starting at the present moment in the relationship and going back to the beginning, as this story does, because it's the journey more than the destination. This journey is cute but not intense, it's made of small disappointments and small triumphs. 3.5 marbles