Buy Link: Light Me Up
Author: James Buchanan
Publisher: MLR Presss
Length: Short Story
Light Me Up is a holiday short in the Buchanan’s Deputy Joe series. I loved Hard Fall, the first book in the series, and even though it is now 70 degrees outside, I couldn’t resist picking up this little winter short.
The series focuses Deputy Joe Peterson and his boyfriend Kabe Varghese and Light Me Up picks up during their first Christmas together, set between the first and second novels. Kabe is starting to miss being away from his grandmother over the holidays. She sent him a box of his decorations from home and he really wants to have a tree with Joe. Although Joe is not used to much of a celebration, some “hinting” from Kabe gets him to agree that the guys should get a tree. And Kabe is quite surprised when instead of buying a tree from the stand in town, Joe drags him up the mountain to cut their own. And although it is freezing cold up there, the top of the mountain is where both men are in their element, enjoying their time with nature and each other.
This is a really sweet short story and I enjoyed seeing Joe and Kabe again. Unlike the two novels, Light Me Up is told from Kabe’s point of view. It was really interesting to see Joe and their relationship through Kabe’s eyes. It is clear that Kabe adores his strong, stoic man and we even get a bit of playfulness from Joe up on the cold mountain. This story also highlights Joe and Kabe’s relationship with the outdoors. The beauty of the mountains and being part of nature are important to both of them and Buchanan describes the scenery in a way that made me feel like I was there.
Now, it snows up here. Like there’s drifts three, four feet deep already in some places. We parked the truck up on one of those logging roads and headed into the woods. Every inch is hard fought: we’re slogging through a good six inches of snow on the trails, our breath freezing in mist clouds around us. Joe’s carrying this big old ax across his shoulders and I’m hauling rope and a shovel. Joe looked like Paul Bunyan, or something, in his old style field coat and broken in cowboy hat.
If it wasn’t fucking freezing, I’d have been all over him.
Still, few places equaled this kind of beauty in winter. Tall stands of aspen, winter bare, brushed a sky bluer than the cornflower tint in Joe’s eyes. Clusters of pines and firs slammed my senses with the deep greens and silver-blues. Cold stripped fingers of the scrub undergrowth, manzanita and bitterbrush, broke through the snow around the trees’ feet…clawed fingers begging for the sun. Up on the outlines of the mountains, ancient, twisted bristlecone pines teased cotton-candy fluffy clouds. Wide spaces of white, undisturbed by anything but the tracks of Mule Deer, flowed where meadows stood during warmer months.
My heart hurt with the beauty of it all.
I think you could enjoy this story even without reading the first book, but Hard Fall is so good I’d definitely recommend starting with that. And for fans of the series, this story is a great way to revisit Joe and Kabe and get a feel for things from Kabe’s viewpoint. Sweet and lovely and a great glimpse into their first holiday together.