“The Grief of Seagulls” by Joel Lane from The Touch of the Sea (Lethe Press, 2012). Edited by Steve Berman.
This is becoming all too common. I believe this is the third review of the project to deal with work by an author who is deceased, and none of it is more than five years old*.
I loved the mix of intimacy and activism in this piece. At its core it’s a story about one man’s loss. Callum’s partner, Andrew, was killed in an explosion on an oil rig. That makes it, inherently, also a broader commentary on corporate greed. We’re told that warning signs were ignored by those in power. Scores of working class men were killed or maimed in the disaster. Twelve years on their loved ones—men, women and children—are still coping with the aftermath. Lastly, this story deals with the injustice of being deemed a criminal for falling in love in a manner society feels is inappropriate.
It’s the anniversary of the awful day that took Andrew’s life and Callum has returned to the quay, to grieve. Yes, it’s been a dozen years, and yes, he’s had other relationships since, but this is the one that mattered most. Andrew was The One. Death robbed them of the life they wanted to spend together, and Callum still feels the loss acutely.
There aren’t many other people around but there is an older, frail-looking gentleman. By and by he comes up to Callum and asks to hear his story. Callum is hesitant to tell it, still fearful of being judged, but he finally relents. He’s surprised to be heard and believed.
He intends to return the favor by listening to the other man’s story but the fellow says he is too tired to talk. He asks Callum to meet him in the same spot on the next night. Callum agrees, and that’s where things take on a different—and very welcome—aspect. It seems that in the world of the story things aren’t entirely as they appear. There’s a bit of magic, and moments of joy are possible for deserving souls.
*The only exception (so far, I have one other story in mind, possibly for the last review of the series) is 365/ 152 “The Specialty of the House” by Stanley Ellin (Simon and Schuster 1956).