“Rhinestone Magic” by J. R. Greenwell from Saints and Sinners 2014: New Fiction from the Festival (Bold Strokes Books).

 Full disclosure: I have a story in this anthology.

This story is tamer than the author’s entry last year (For my review of that story see Short Stories 365/122). Main character Eddie isn’t a drag queen, and he isn’t getting up to any over-the-top, late night shenanigans. He has returned home hoping to secure the blessing of his parents before he marries the man he loves.

I’ll admit it caught me a little off guard. I kept waiting for all hell to break loose. I thought for sure it was going to happen when he meets Nicky, the new music director from his parents’ church, and recognizes him from back in the city, where the latter is a drag performer, but no. Adept at picking up clues from his environment, Eddie immediately notes the vibe he gets from the other, but even after it clicks and he realizes where he knows him from, he reveals it quietly. Privately. He’s actually impressed with the transformation Nicky has wrought in his mother and their down-the-way neighbor Ida Simpson, and what he hears about his father these days. The older adults seem more confidant and a whole lot happier than he remembers. And anyway, he has his own agenda to worry about, remember? He wants his parents’ blessing, and he makes real strides toward getting it by the story’s end, in part because of Nicky’s influence. It’s a heartwarming little tale, and it makes me even more eager than I already was to read the author’s short story collection Who in the Hell is Rachel Wells? (Chelsea Station Editions, 2013).