“Time and Tide” by ‘Nathan Burgoine from The Touch of the Sea (Lethe Press, 2012). Edited by Steve Berman.
This is what I’m talking about. You will remember, I hope, that just a few days ago I was lamenting the fact that the teenaged main character in this author’s story, “Filth”, was the recent victim of attacks by a homophobic father (Short Stories 265/251), and at the story’s end I was left worrying about his future.
The protagonist in this story is on much, much steadier ground. In fact, it isn’t his sexuality that’s the issue (yay, progress!), though it is a trait he was born with that’s causing his unhappiness.
Dylan left his hometown of Fuca twelve years ago because his father insisted on it. I don’t think it’s too much of a spoiler to say that he’s, partway at least, some sort of supernatural, water-based creature. Fuca is a port town, and the sea not only beckons to him, it reacts to his moods. His father’s decision to take him inland does seem like a smart one for all involved.
Except, that is, for Cary, the great love Dylan left behind.
Dylan’s done well for himself in the years he’s been away. He’s become a famous sculptor. He’s the closest thing the small town of Fuca has to a celebrity, and they’re happy to have him back, but sad because of the reason he’s returned: his father is dead. Dylan has come home for the funeral.
He sees Cary, and it’s as if nothing has changed. They’re still crazy about one another. But other things also haven’t changed, and they’re troubling. The sea still calls to him, and still responds to his emotions. The thing is, though, he’s not a child anymore. It might just be possible for him to learn to keep control of things, the way his mother, who was also part sea creature, was able to do. If so, he’ll be able to stay in Fuca and have not just a successful career, but a full, happy life with true love and the support of people who are like family to him. This is an uplifting, most welcome start* to the collection.
*Actually, it’s sort of its second start. You see, the introduction to this anthology is also written as a short story. It feels, actually, like the prologue of a play, setting the stage for the adventure to come and establishing the themes. It’s a device that works remarkably well, and should be employed more often.