A Strong and Sudden Thaw

A Strong and Sudden Thaw

R. W. Day

Price: $7.50

ISBN: 1590210638
WORD COUNT: 122000
CATEGORIES: Science Fiction, Fantasy, ManLove, Romantic Fiction
KEYWORDS: dragons, fantasy, gay, science-fiction, teens, young adult

EBOOKS BY Lethe Press


COPYRIGHT R. W. Day/2009

I liked that about Callan, how he never dumbed down his speech for me, just made sure he explained himself clear. I was learning more from being his friend than I'd got out of eight years of Burke the School. "Well, Grandmam told us the same stories the exact same way every night for years. I could speak those tales in my sleep word for word as she’d given them to us."

"Oral tradition's an old way of transmitting information, sure, and in traditional cultures where bards and storytellers begin training in early childhood, it can be fairly accurate. But our culture isn’t like that." It was cold near beyond the strength of the parlor stove to combat, so we were sitting fairly close together, though with the layers of clothing we were wearing it weren't too intimate.

"Maybe it's becoming that way, though?"

"I sincerely hope not. When the libraries burned, people gave their lives to try to keep our civilization from being lost, you know. I'd hate for that to have been in vain."

I hadn't known that, though I knew about the burning of the libraries—we'd had it at school. "They died for books?" I surely loved to read, but couldn't for the life of me imagine throwing myself in the path of an desperate mob of freezing people to save books.

"Yes. Some were killed quickly by gunshot; others burned with their books. It was brutal." He stared at his hands. "Or so they say."

"That's..." I didn't want to say stupid, for it seemed that something in this was not ancient history to Callan. "Foolish," I finally concluded.

"I suppose the world would consider it so, especially today. But it wasn't so much the books themselves as the ideas they represented." He reached down to the table in front of us and picked up Huckleberry Finn. "I've been re-reading this since you brought it back. Huck and Jim are like old friends to me, and this might be one of the few copies left—I would hope I'd have the strength to speak up if it was endangered, David." He was very serious, and so sad, like what we was talking of was far more than a flight of fancy. "Though likely I wouldn't. I'd probably just let it burn and save my own cowardly skin."

I didn't want to see what was like to be our last day together for a time swallowed up in bitterness, so I slid closer, for comfort's sake. "You ain't a coward. You come all the way up here from Florida on your own; that takes a heap more courage than I'd ever have."

"It's not courage when you have no choice. I couldn't go home, not after..." He gave that small sigh again that I'd come to learn meant we was treading on thin ice. "I thought I had an uncle up in Charlottesville. I got there to find he'd died, so I started back down south. I got as far as Moline when my money ran out, and Healer Findlay was gracious enough to take me on. That's not courage. It's desperation."

I sidled up even closer such that our legs were lying in a line each against the other. He didn't move away and I could feel his breathing, quick and shallow, and I leaned my head on his shoulder. Callan sighed, then relaxed a bit, just resting quietlike,
allowing me to linger there, so I turned my head and kissed him on the cheek. Nothing untoward—just a simple kiss like I'd have kissed Mam or Grandmam, or even Pa. Brothers and friends kissed, after all. I'd read it in books; remembered how in Scripture Judas had kissed Jesus, though that weren’t an example I'd want to hold to.

His cheek was a bit rough, not stubbly like Pa's, but still the face of a man, not a boy. He stiff ened up immediately and turned to look me in the eye. "David, there's something... I'm not sure how to say this..."

I could see him fighting for words, something I understood only too well, for words never came easy to me the way they seemed to for Callan.

"You can tell me, whatever it is."

He was turning his hands over and over in his lap, restless, the way Mam did when she was stewing on something. "I think you should know that—"


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