Title: The Man Who Wouldn’t Wear Leather
Author: Aaron Michaels
Cover Artist: Alessia Brio
Length: 3900 words
For their ninth anniversary, Chuck scrimped and saved to buy Milton a sexy leather bomber jacket which Milton not only refused to wear, but which very nearly caused the break-up of their relationship. Imagine Chuck’s surprise when he comes home early one afternoon to find the jacket he thought Milton gave away draped over the back of a kitchen chair and Milton nowhere to be found.
Has the jacket come back to haunt him like a bad penny, or is something else going on with Milton that Chuck knows nothing about?
This very short story manages to impart a lot of information about the protags, who have been together for ten years now. We get a really good idea of Milton and all his quirks, except the important one, natch, but that’s for Chuck to bump into for this story. Milton comes across as a secretive fussbudget, and he’s clearly the center of Chuck’s universe.
Chuck’s a socially inept but good-hearted man who doesn’t hold anything back, except when he’s afraid of Milton’s enormous back-off-now signals. Chuck’s going berserk trying to figure out how he offended, and Milton hasn’t shared what’s bothering him even in the face of all this loving concern. So it’s probably a good thing that Milton is physically present for very little of this story.
If there’s a theme here, it’s probably about open spaces in relationships and the need for a signpost or two. Chuck and Milton find a resolution in a very unusual way, where the growth is all Chuck’s. It’s a good thing Chuck loves Milton, because I found him to be unsympathetic—he’s willing to bring his lover to the brink of despair rather than talk.
Anything that inspires me to stop reading and start counting is a big bounce out of the story, and warning to authors everywhere, ereaders make this very easy to do. An overused endearment had me poking the search function; the word was funny for being incongruous the first time and an irritant by the twelfth, which was not the last.
This story would probably work better as a chapter of something larger—the character development is very one-sided and one protag doesn’t appear on screen until the 85% mark, though he’s the subject under discussion. The story’s chief charm is that the proceeds go to benefit NOH8. 2.5 marbles