May is "Short Story Month."
You all know how I feel about the influence of dog stories. It started with Jeffrey Ricker in FOOL FOR LOVE, with his story "At the End of the Leash." I blame that story for the first chinks in my otherwise fool-proof (get it?) defense against dogs in my ongoing cat-dog discussion with my husband. That this summer we will be building a new deck and making our yard dog-friendly has not gone unnoticed. That we have investigated dog rescue foundations over the winter is not a coincidence. But, with an upcoming trip to New York, I think he's distracted enough to have forgotten the canine form.
All that will be undone when he gets to the third story in BOYS OF SUMMER.
Dia Pannes brings us "Cave Canem." It's a lovely story about Wyatt, a young gay man who - wait for it - volunteers at an abandoned animal rescue organization and specializes in those dogs that have been so mistreated they do not trust anyone. He has a way of touching these dogs, and bringing them back from the brink of hopelessness.
I mean seriously. Why not just deliver a dozen puppies to my husband and just be done with it, Dia? I should be fair and mention that cats are mentioned, but it's totally a dog story.
It's a conspiracy.
Sorry. Off track. The relationship Wyatt has with his mother is superb - the tale begins with her admitting that his father (his parents are divorced) is likely not going to show up after all (neither of them are surprised) and she offers some perfect motherly advice: avoid the bad boys; they always break your heart.
Cue the bad boy.
Wyatt's crush lands - hard - on a delinquent who is ordered to do some volunteer time as community service with the same shelter and rescue program. Brody is obviously a bad boy in training, and it's just as obvious to Wyatt that he shouldn't allow himself to fall for the guy. Here I love the progression of Wyatt's through processes. They're so true to life - Wyatt notices that one of the most mistreated dogs feels safe around Brody. So Brody couldn't be all bad, right?
Again, I'm not out to ruin the endings of these stories, but suffice it to say I love where Pennes left us. A criticism I often hear of short stories is how they so often leave you hanging. To me, that's in many ways the point - you want to fall in love with the characters, immerse yourself in the tale, and then - once presented with a complete piece of their lives - you want to drift for a while imagining the rest of their time together.
Or, y'know, pestering the author for a sequel with the same characters.
And maybe a cat.