“Tearjerker” by Steve Berman from Second Thoughts: More Queer and Weird Stories (Lethe Press, 2008). Originally appeared in Paper Cities, Senses Five Press 2008.

The next story in the collection is “The Price of Glamour” but I already reviewed it as part of So Fey: Queer Fairy Fiction. For that review go to Short Stories 365/229.

Well, here we are at last. We’ve reached the story I made reference to way back at the end of Short Stories 365/41. This entry revisits The Fallen Area of the final four stories in Trysts: A Triskaidecollection of Queer and Weird Stories (Lethe Press 2001). As I said when dealing with those stories, this is a world in which a section of civilization has collapsed. It’s not clear what happened, and it’s really not important. These are stories about people struggling to survive within the new reality.

Many of the characters in these stories survive by becoming adept at finding things of value and trading them. Sometimes they steal items, other times they pick clean deserted buildings or scrounge through vacant lots. The main character of this story, Gail, tends toward the first option. She’s a master of the “five finger discount”. She’s employed as something of a maid in something of a hotel. Really, it’s more of a flophouse for junkies hooked on tears. Yes, tears. Two weird sisters run the hotel and set the rules, which include a prohibition on visits to the fourth and fifth floors. Naturally, where does Gail go? To the fourth floor, of course, where she meets a storyteller with a most unconventional means for telling his tales. As with most of these stories this one is shot through with an undercurrent of sexual tension that’s at once attractive and deeply unsettling.

There’s definitely a steampunk sort of flair to these tales, and the characters are endearing even when somewhat deranged. Unfortunately, it appears the five comprise the entirety of the stories that deal with The Fallen Area.