“Tea” by Jeffrey Ricker from Foolish Hearts: New Gay Fiction (Cleis Press, 2014)

I had a pretty good indication that I would like this story because I’ve enjoyed several other stories the author has written. I liked his first novel, Detours, very much. I also enjoyed the three stories he has up on UnTreed Reads, as well as the one that’s a part of Wilde Stories 2011 (Lethe Press).

So I figured I was going to like it. What I didn’t count on was getting halfway through and running into a scene I’d read before. Because there are some similarities between this story and Detours—an adult gay son relating to a strong mother; the recent death of a character; a contemporary setting—I figured they were related. And because that sort of behind-the-scenes stuff fascinates me, I stopped reading to investigate.

Thank god for the Kindle search feature, that’s all I’m saying. I ruled out all those previous works as a source for this story. It turns out that where I’d read it before was on Foolish Hearts co-editor Becky Cochrane’s blog. She’s been posting story excerpts, and I’ve been reading them…and then forgetting that I did, obviously. For a little while there I was convinced I was losing my mind. Thanks for that, Becky.

There’s not a whole lot I can say about the plot of this story without giving away what’s going on, and I don’t want to do that, so let me just say how much I admire the author’s eye for detail. He gives his characters small pieces of business that are so true-to-life you become convinced that what’s unfolding before you is real, three dimensional. It’s lovely, understated storytelling.   

 His second novel The Unwanted (Bold Strokes Books) is due out this month. I can’t wait to read it.