Will has known Bran since he first taught him to swim, when Bran was eleven years old. But now, seven years later, Bran has returned from a year of hard work on a ranch outside of Houston and he is no longer the boy Will remembers. He’s now eighteen, quite grown up, and making no secret of the fact that he’s interested in a sexual relationship with Will. At first, Will is horrified. He has a hard time forgetting the Bran he knew as a child, and given their seventeen-year age difference, he can’t understand why Bran is interested in him. But everything changes when he finds out that Bran has been drafted.
Will and Bran will have only two weeks together. But two weeks may be enough to change Will’s life.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Although this story is 69 pages (double spaced at least), the quick tale packs a punch. I’m a fan of Sexton’s and once again she invokes emotion, sex, and a vivid setting even in the shortest amount of space. Although the story is set in the late 60’s, there are several contemporary parallels. The predictable ending still wrings a good bit of emotion, maybe a tear or two of more sensitive readers, and is well worth taking the time and few dollars to read.
Will first meets Bran as an eleven year old precocious kid unable to swim during the hot Texas summer. What starts as a whim turns into a genuine friendship between the older man and young child over the years until one day Will turns around and Bran is eighteen and quite grown up. The shift in thinking isn’t easy for Will and gets even harder when Will learns that Bran has been drafted and has two weeks before shipping out.
The story is very character driven, quite classically so for the author. It’s amazing that the story takes place entirely around an apartment complex pool with a few scenes in Will or Bran’s apartment. Yet, the pace and plot never seem repetitive, dull, or boring. Instead the searing heat of the summer mixes with the faint tang of chlorine and you can easily envision the day like so many others. The descriptive quality is minimal but still vivid and crisp. There’s no need for flowery prose, but the clean writing still evokes a lot of emotion.
The characters are well developed and extremely entertaining. I adored the precocious Bran as a young kid talking non-stop even with no one listening. Bran’s determination to make a change in the world and not to run from being drafted shows his personality in the making. He’s contrasted beautifully with Will, who is happy with the status quo. Or if not happy, he’s made peace with his life and accepted it for what it is, without strong motivation to really change. It takes Bran shaking up Will’s life to give him something to strive for, to work towards.
As I’ve said, this is a pretty short novella, yet it covers a lot. There is a lot of tension and drama but it remains low key. The tension is present but not overwhelming, even up to what I thought of as the inevitable ending. It’s honest and still romantic with some pretty sex erotica scenes. These few scenes could have easily taken over the short story but instead they enhance it and give the same wonder, gentle love, and hot passion that the characters seem to experience. The 1960’s setting actually feels very contemporary to me and this story with a minor change could have been set in current times, which is both fascinating and sad.
Some readers may not like the non-traditional ending but I think the story and characters will help with any qualms on that point. I easily recommend this story.
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