Today I am so pleased to welcome Nathan Burgoine to Joyfully Jay. Nathan has come to share an exclusive except from his short story collection, Of Echoes Born. Please join me in giving him a big welcome!
Included in Of Echoes Born is a novelette, “A Little Village Magic.” Taking place in my fictionalized version of the Ottawa Gay Village, it features Gabe, a young man who despite working in a little occult/new age store doesn’t believe in much of anything—let alone magic—who is about to discover that it doesn’t matter if you don’t believe in magic if the magic believes in you. Of course, magic gets a little bit of help from his boss, Bailey.
“A Little Village Magic”
“It’d be easier to ask him out if you introduced yourself to him.”
Gabe jumped and turned away from the window. He could feel his face turning crimson but feigned nonchalance. “Pardon?”
Bailey just laughed at him. “Aw, sweetie. You’ve got a bit of a crush, huh?”
Gabe exhaled. “It shows?”
Bailey didn’t laugh at him a second time, which he appreciated. Sometimes, Gabe wondered if the name of her shop, Third Eye, was sort of autobiographical. She certainly seemed a little bit psychic sometimes.
Or maybe I’m transparent.
She’d come in this morning sporting high heeled boots, a series of silver bracelets, and a low cut top designed to, in her words, “show off the ladies.”
“Well,” Bailey said, looking out the window and across the street where Gabe had been staring a few moments earlier. “He certainly has nice shoulders.”
“Yep,” Gabe said, joining her. “Do you have one of your nonsense spells that makes guys with nice arms notice guys with…” Gabe faltered. “Uh…”
“Good souls?” Bailey offered.
“Thanks. The best I had was ‘a good GPA.’”
Bailey shoved his shoulder. “You are far more than your GPA.”
“Tell that to the scholarship people,” Gabe said. Then they turned back to watch the tall guy with the nice arms, tilting their heads to get the right viewing angle. He’d been there two days in a row and, as far as Gabe could tell, he was cleaning the mural site. He’d coated the wall twice with white paint, and as the day had grown to be one of the first really warm days of the year, he’d shucked his shirt. At that point, Gabe had lost all will to resist watching the painter as he went up and down the ladder.
Which had apparently been obvious.
“First,” Bailey said, “it’s not nonsense.” Gabe gave her a rueful smile. “And second, the best spell in the world is to say hello.”
“If you say so.”
The little bell over the door rang, and they both turned.
“What are we looking at?”
The woman who’d just arrived was older and had obvious taste. She wore a peach colored blouse and classy touches of understated gold jewelry, including a lovely pendant that looked like a small leaf dipped in gold. She used a hand-carved wooden cane, and walked with the confidence of someone who was not going to slow down.
“Gabe’s crushing on the painter,” Bailey said.
“Hello Marion,” Gabe said, blushing. It still felt a little weird to him to call the older woman by her first name, but she insisted after the first time they’d met. She was a regular up and down the Village, and was one of his favorite people. Bailey had introduced them, surprising Gabe by telling Marion that Gabe was “a fellow castoff.” He hadn’t known what that meant at first, but Marion had cleared it up for him with her usual blunt honesty.
“Ah, my parents were like that, too. Fuck ’em. Welcome to your new family.”
He’d fallen in love with her on the spot. Most of the people in the village called her Mother Marion.
“Not my type,” Marion said, peering through the window at the painter. “I heard about the mural.” She frowned. “Assholes.”
“Do they know who did it?” Gabe said.
Marion shook her head. “No one saw. It got vandalized overnight.”
“I didn’t hear anything,” Bailey said. Like many of the businesses in the Village, Third Eye had two apartments overhead. Bailey and her husband lived in one.
“Are they going to put the names back?” Gabe asked.
Marion smiled at him. “I hope so.”
It occurred to Gabe that for Marion, many of those names were people who’d lived and breathed in her lifetime.
“Why don’t you go ask him?” Bailey said. “Then you could introduce yourself.”
“Yeah, right,” Gabe said.
“Would you?” Marion said.
Gabe froze, looking at her. Oh no. “Uh,” he said.
“It would be a load off my mind,” Marion said. She leaned heavily on her cane, and looked over her glasses at him. “My dear Chantal was on that wall.”
Well, shit. Chantal was Marion’s late wife. What was he supposed to say to that?
Gabe squirmed. “Okay,” he said, voice cracking. He coughed and looked at Bailey. “I’ll be right back.” He tried not to glare at her.
“Wait,” Bailey said. “You need some bling.”
Gabe gritted his teeth while Bailey went to the jewelry case. He was wearing a white t-shirt and a pair of comfortable jeans. No bling was going to make him look anything other than a boring lanky nerd with kind of poofy black hair. She came back with a thin silver necklace with a square of dark grey metallic stone on it, polished to a high shine. She undid the clasp and put it around his neck, leaning over him.
“There,” she said. “You look great.”
It took all his willpower not to stick his tongue out at her.
“I’ll wait right here,” Marion said. Was it just Gabe, or was her voice wavering? “I could use a rest.”
Gabe nodded, smiled tightly at them both, and left the store.
Marion snickered. “That boy looks like he’s going to pass out.”
“You were a little over the top there,” Bailey said. “‘I could use a rest’? Really?”
Marion shrugged. “Over the top was that necklace.”
“Pardon?” Bailey’s eyes widened, the picture of innocence.
“Dear, when you first opened this place, you gave me something just like it when I told you I felt foolish going on a first date at my age. You said it created confidence and opportunity.” The grand dame of the Village leaned forward. “I started bumping into her so often I felt like a stalker. That lady and I were together for ten wonderful years, and I have been thanking you ever since. So don’t tell me you didn’t give that boy the same shiny rock.”
“Hematite,” Bailey said. “Don’t say anything to him. He’s not a believer.”
“If I didn’t know better,” Marion said, narrowing her eyes, “I’d say you were meddling in love lives again.”
“You want to watch through the window?”
“Who do you take me for?” Marion rolled her eyes. “Of course I do.”
Outside a hospital in Ottawa, a heartbeat returns long enough for a good-bye. Downtown, a man steps into shadows of the past to help those who have died find their way free from their memories. In Niagara, an icewine vintage is flavored with the truth of what happened on a dark evening of betrayal. In British Columbia, the snow itself can speak to someone who knows how to listen.
The past echoes through these queer tales—sometimes soft enough to grant a second chance at love, and other times loud enough to damn a killer—never without leaving those who’ve heard it unchanged.
Of Echoes Born is the first short story collection from Lambda Literary Award finalist ’Nathan Burgoine.
‘Nathan Burgoine grew up a reader and studied literature in university while making a living as a bookseller. His first published short story was “Heart” in the collection Fool for Love: New Gay Fiction. Since then, he has had dozens of short stories published. Of Echoes Born is his first collection.
‘Nathan’s first novel, Light, was a finalist for a Lambda Literary Award. His second and third novels, Triad Blood and Triad Soul, are available now from Bold Strokes Books. For novella lovers, ‘Nathan’s got a wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey gay romance, In Memoriam, and a queer holiday chosen family romance, Handmade Holidays. He also co-wrote Saving the Date with Angela S. Stone, for the 1Night Stand series.
A cat lover, ‘Nathan managed to fall in love and marry Daniel, who is a confirmed dog person. Their ongoing “cat or dog?” détente ended with the rescue of a six year old husky named Coach. They live in Ottawa, Canada, where socialized health care and gay marriage have yet to cause the sky to cave in.