by Matthew Haldeman-Time, contemporary (2007)
Samhain Publishing, $2.50, ISBN 1-59998-650-7
The previously self-published romantic gay erotica author Matthew Haldeman-Time gets to find a hopefully wider audience with his debut commercially published effort Hot Weather. He writes mostly stories revolving around college-age men (and boyband members, but let's not go there in case there are Hollywood attorneys out there reading this), and this one is no different.
Recent ESU graduate John Manning doesn't have much to do in Enridge as the college town is currently all but deserted in the summer. The hot new waiter in the local diner, Keith, may be what he needs in terms to keep himself from being idle. The weather is hot but, as the cliché goes, things are going to be even hotter.
He'd rolled up his shirtsleeves, too, but he wished he could take the damned shirt off entirely. And his socks and shoes, too. "You must love getting to spend your summer in here."
"In the air conditioning?" Sighing, Keith almost seemed to melt, sliding down the side of the counter until only his face was visible as he crouched on the other side.
"While all of my friends are off frolicking on the beach and surfing on the coast and cramming my inbox full of e-mail about suntans and bikinis and sex in the sand?"
Gripped with envy - that had been his life, once! - John was caught by Keith's mournful sigh. Hoping to comfort, he said, "All of your friends can't be at the beach."
"No, they’re not." Another dismal sigh. "The rest of them are backpacking through Europe."
Damn. "Then what are you still doing here?"
Keith’s expression was suddenly amused. "What am I doing in this dead town? The same thing you are. Getting paid." Rising, he explained, "Since a college education isn't free, I'm saving up for tuition. I worked here all last semester, and when I was offered full-time hours for the summer, I decided to take it. The minimal work soothes my tired brain."
The style of the author's writing in the above excerpt is representative of that in the whole story. My issue with this story is that the conversations between John and Keith often ring false. I find it hard to imagine that these guys would spontaneously launch into lines like "The minimal work soothes my tired brain." Also, because Keith and John both use turn of phrases that feel rehearsed rather than spontaneous, they are like the same person split into two. What I'm trying to say, in a roundabout way, is that the author needs to work on creating unique "voices" for his characters because in this story Keith and John are like one person prone to rather dramatic turn of phrases playing two different roles rather than characters with unique personalities.
Apart from that, this is not too bad at all. It's a short story, so the characters aren't as well-drawn as they could have been due to the length of the story, and the fact that they both speak like the same person makes them come off as even more artificial. But there is some build-up in this story as the author attempts to show me how the two characters open up to each other before they hit the sack and therefore there is a pretty credible relationship in the making here.
Hot Weather feels artificial in a way but it's still a pretty good read due to the author's efforts to create a realistic attraction between the main characters. This story may not hit the bullseye where I'm concerned, but the author is on the right track nonetheless.
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