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Short Stories 365/98 | N.S. Beranek

“Party Planning” by Rob Williams from Fool for Love: New Gay Fiction (Cleis Press, 2009). 

This story perfectly captures the mixed emotions of the days between adolescence and adulthood. The narrator is torn between the life he has enjoyed up to this point, acting as assistant to his mother, a legendary neighborhood party planner, as she crafts elaborate events, and the future he desires, with new friends and new experiences. There are pros and cons to both, but they are mutually exclusive, and so he oscillates between sadness, excitement and fear. He reaches a breaking point at Linda Simon’s red carpet movie premiere-themed Sweet 16 party, when he helps with the design and setup but then refuses to remain in the house after the party has started, to play junior host.

Wandering around the front yard he crosses paths with bad-boy Kurt, Linda’s college-dropout brother, in from Berkeley. Kurt is not just older (the main character is a sophomore in high school), he’s also much more worldly-wise, and openly sexual. He doesn’t do or say anything so much as represent the world beyond the neighborhood, all the experiences and knowledge the main character wants to collect. At the end of the story Kurt strolls down the street and the main character is presented with a choice: stay where he is a little while longer or go after him?