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Short Stories 365/274 | N.S. Beranek

“A World Without End: 1976” by Ed Kurtz from Glitterwolf Magazine: Issue four, August 2013.  Edited by Matt Cresswell.

Okay, I will admit I’m not quite sure what, exactly, is supposed to have transpired during the course of this story, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

Danny’s at a club in New York, nursing a drink and half-listening to the band on the makeshift stage behind him, when he hears familiar lyrics. No, not just familiar: private. As in, only one other person knows those lyrics, and she’s…long gone.

He turns around. The lead singer of the band is heavily made up and sporting a blonde wig and a dress he hikes up in order to reveal his decidedly male accoutrements to the crowd. Chrissie Fire is your classic go-for-broke performer, practically attacking the venue’s jaded patrons in order to elicit a reaction from them. Danny watches, lost in his thoughts about Mercy, the other person who knew the words Chrissie Fire sings. Could Chrissie Fire somehow be Mercy? He shakes the thought away and trots off to the bathroom to release a little steam with a guy who’s propositioned him. Then he heads home, down streets that bear little resemblance to the Disney-fied New York of today. That’s the first in a string of nights that lead him deeper into…well, I’m not sure, but it’s interesting. A little sexy, and even more so creepy. And the setting. Oh, the setting.

I remember the city the author’s describing. I saw it with my own eyes. Streets crowded with vendors hawking knockoff goods, streetwalkers, the blinking neon signs in the windows of countless adult bookstores. We actually saw someone get knifed, in broad daylight, while we were walking down the street. No, really. There was steam rising up from all the manhole covers. My mother said that proved it was the gateway to Hell. (Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing, but she was looking for things to dislike. God forbid Manhattan would turn out to be cooler than Chicago, from which we hailed.)

You will understand then, why I was delighted to see that the author’s latest novel, The Forty-Two, is set in the same time and place: New York City, 1979. Holy Moley, I can’t wait to read that.