Title: Melting Wax and Burning Feathers
Author: Jennifer Cierra
Cover Artist: Dmytro Konstantynov
Publisher: JMS Books
Buy Link: Buy Link Melting Wax and Burning Feathers
Length: 10,200 words
Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
A Guest Review by Cryselle
Review Summary: Lovely language and character development with a niggly timeline issue, an excellent short.
Gregory Daniels is a man who has given up. Once he dreamed of going to L.A. and “making it big,” but those dreams exploded, leaving his lover dead and Gregory disillusioned. Now he works 9-to-5 as a tax attorney in Long Beach, California, trying to convince himself a weekly paycheck is enough to make up for a job he hates and dinner alone every night.
Then Gregory notices a talented, beautiful young guitarist playing on the museum steps on his way to work, and he begins to wonder whether he hasn’t sacrificed more than he’s gained in favor of predictability and routine. An opportunity beckons; the only question is whether Gregory trusts himself enough to reach out and take it.
This short piece packs a wallop, mixing as it does broken dreams and dreams yet to be realized. Gregory, who has put aside aspirations of stardom for safety and dullness, encounters a musician playing for tips who stirs up many longings. Gregory is a tax attorney with broken dreams. Paul has come to California to find his own stardom, he’s ready to fly up and touch the sun. Gregory flew at the sun once, with Carl, his lover, who had his own dreams of flight that died in an overdose.
Gregory’s not ready for a relationship, he will never be until he reconnects with the part of himself that can hope and plan and even fasten on the wings that might take him on a level journey, or let him soar to the clouds. Paul’s great gift to him is knowing that feathers and wax are there if he’ll reach out to take them, and the journey after that is up to him. He might fall, and it might be a long way down, but he would have soared to get there.
The author has mixed these two with the legend of Icarus and Daedelus of Greek myth, who made wings to escape their prison; one flew to safety, the other to the sun and his death. It’s nicely done, with the men being together casually as a couple, and what is nurtured most is Gregory’s sense of possibility. And then the author gives us a wonderful epilog, where we can see that the two men might fly together.
The style is quite lyrical and very enjoyable, getting a lot of hints of backstory into a few words, like this:
The free ocean breeze reminded Gregory of concerts on the beach, of expensive cheese and cheap wine and Carl’s honey-smoke voice in his ear, but it was better not to reminisce about what he couldn’t have.
I enjoyed the flow of story very well, but where I ran into problems was with the timeline—Gregory is pushing thirty and is a tax attorney—one doesn’t become a tax attorney by accident or without years of preparation and tuition money, so this was some unpleasant overkill that made me think too much about logistics and timeline and not enough about Gregory’s mental evolution, which is where the meat of the story lies.
But when Gregory manages to find his spirit and his wings, and put aside some of his worst baggage, there is the glorious prospect of what he and Paul could be together. The author hasn’t pushed for too much here, and it’s lovely.