“Troll on a Mountain with a Girl” by Steve Berman from Second Thoughts: More Queer and Weird Stories (Lethe Press, 2008).

The next story in the collection is “Kinder”. I reviewed it as part of Best Gay Stories 2009. See Short Stories 365/150.

I enjoyed this story about a man whose greatest fear seems to be that he will become the fellow at the center of W. H. Auden’s “The Unknown Citizen”. Surely you know that poem? It begins:

He was found by the Bureau of Statistics to be

One against whom there was no official complaint

An accountant, Owen’s not straight but he is straight-laced. Frugal and overly cautious. Following his parents’ divorce his father evaporated from his life and his mother became his best and only friend. He had no siblings. When she dies he’s left alone, miserable to the point of being suicidal.

Fate intervenes. Mourning his mother, he’s inspired to check out a book about monsters, because she passed her love of classic horror films on to him. He’s struck by the wild notion to go in search of the mythic creatures, find one, and meet his demise ala an old film. What happens when he cashes in his 401k and begins living every day as if it is his last? Why, he starts really living, that’s what.

I enjoyed this oddly-uplifting little story. I especially liked the hopeful way it ended. And speaking of endings:

Was he free? Was he happy?

Good lord I hope so.