“A Rotten Obligation” by Steve Berman from Second Thoughts: More Queer and Weird Stories (Lethe Press, 2008).
What a cute, uplifting story. It couldn’t arrive at a better time, either. Things had gotten pretty heavy. Here, we can relax a little, kick back, breathe.
It’s the middle of the night and a pair of hustlers, Joe and Daley, are on the interstate, deep into a cross-country trek. They’re trying to get to Arizona because Daley wants to be buried where it’s warm.
He’s not dying, though. He’s already dead. His body is in the trunk and Joe’s talking to his ghost, trying not to fall asleep at the wheel. It’s a battle he’s losing, and exhaustion forces him to pull over at a truck stop, for coffee and a meal. There his gaze wanders to the handsome busboy. The busboy’s gaze wanders right back. Before he knows what hit him, Joe has reached a fork in the road. Should he stay or should he go?
Side note: I love to learn new words, and this author has introduced me to many. In his notes following this entry he uses “dweomer”. A dweomer is a magical aura, and it’s a term I would have learned much sooner had I not so easily given up on deciphering the mysteries of D&D.