“Carver Comes Home” by Rob Byrnes from Best Gay Romance 2014 (Cleis Press)

Full disclosure: I have a story in this anthology.

I had it on good authority (‘Nathan Burgoine) that Rob Byrnes sometimes writes without being funny. I also learned I already own a copy of another of his serious stories, found in Men of the Mean Streets (Bold Strokes Books, 2011). I have yet to read that collection.

As much as I love his humor, I have to say I did not miss it in this piece about a man who returns home because his mother is dying. Ten years ago, Carver escaped her judgment by relocating to the big city. Now he’s seeking closure, planning to come out to her in her final hours. But his sister Julie, who’s done the lion’s share of caring for their mother for months, will have none of it. She tells him he’s being immature and selfish.

The family situation gives Carver a reason to ponder a second action he failed to take at a more appropriate point in the past. To make amends on that front, he pays a series of visits to the local mini-mart, and its manager, Tom Melvin.