Pearl by Kelly Rand
Publisher: Storm Moon Press
Genre: Trans, Historical
Length: 24 pages
Edith sleepwalks through a life so normal as to be boring. She lives with her mother, works a mundane job to support them, and makes no waves among the ladies of her sleepy 1920's Canadian town. Secretly, though, she watches the flappers and so-called "loose women" with envy, dreaming of what glamorous lives they must have. And that's before Clark walks into her life.
Clark embodies the world that Edith wishes she could be a part of. He's slick and dangerous and sexy in a way Edith has never experienced. So when Clark offers her a window into his world, she dives through without thinking. On the other side, though, her black and white world explodes into shades of gray, challenging Edith in ways she never imagined.
This short is hot and sweet, holding a bit of something different. Kelly Rand sets her well-crafted story, Pearl, in the Roaring Twenties, in a small town where the biggest roar is boredom. Then she throws the doors of possibility open.
Edith, she of the ordinary name, ordinary job, and ordinary life, finds her biggest excitement in her friend’s engagement and her secretarial job. She lives with her widowed mother, stifled by routine and custom: excitement is for other people, and comes with a share of gossip. Why, for instance, does the neighbor cringe away from the world? The sorrow of losing a daughter long ago, Edith is told, and no one but she considers where a gain might lie.
A handsome, androgynous man, Clark, comes to visit the bereaved neighbors, and takes an interest in Edith. Little rebellions foment in Edith in the wake of their conversations—she’s less the dutiful daughter in small ways, suddenly insisting on thinking for herself and doing things that please her. If Clark suggests going to a gin joint (This is Prohibition in the US and Temperance time in Canada), then Edith is ready to shed a little convention and go.
The gin joint assists in shedding more conventions; women dance wantonly with men or other women, men hold hands, and no one looks askance. Edith finds her own inhibitions dissolving, and learns who Clark once was.
When even walking home alone from church if mama wants to stay and chat is a daring act, Clark’s remaking of himself takes supreme courage, something Edith admires after the initial shock. If Clark can take on a new life, so can Edith, because life is much bigger than the tiny chunk of it she’s allowed.
Kelly Rand uses tiny acts with great effect—she outlines the stifling life Edith leads with a few deftly drawn motions, and Clark’s freedom shows in the small things, like owning two hats. An entire sea of sex opens up with one statement—One day I’ll kiss you there—and Edith’s world is about to get a lot bigger. The charm of this story is far larger than the twenty-four pages.