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Short Stories 365/350 | N.S. Beranek

“Kiss” by Steve Berman from Second Thoughts: More Queer and Weird Stories (Lethe Press, 2008).

As with the last story, this one opens with two guys out in the desert, only Mike and Ryan aren’t cowboys riding horses, they’re college kids in a pickup truck, listening to a CD by a band called the Redcaps (a recurring element in the author’s work). They’re off to buy some weed from a guy named Carlos, to take back to a party. Ryan tries to scare Mike with whispered references to the mythic creature the chupacabra after they spy a tire-flattened rabbit baking in the desert heat.

At Carlos’ trailer they chew some peyote buttons offered to them by their host, and of course things begin to get interesting. Ryan, who is the more attractive and adventurous of the two, accepts an offer from Carlos, to fool around. Mike wanders outside, and quickly becomes entranced by the landscape, which his hallucination transforms.

I like the way the sexual tension and foreboding of the story were echoed in the author’s note, which depicts a bittersweet scene from his high school days. He’s spending the night at the house of a friend to whom he’s desperately attracted. They get high together, and the desire he feels for the other boy is palpable and suffocating.