Melting Wax and Burning Feathers

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
Genre: Contemporary
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.

Blurb

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.

Review

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.
4.5 stars

11 comments

  • Thanks for this review– I wouldn’t have seen this otherwise.

    This cover is exactly the same as SING! by Reno Macleod and Jaye Valentine. That is a good story also…check it out if you haven’t already.

    Reply
  • Oh! Music! I’m all into music books after seeing Rock of Ages 😀 Especially with Greek myths mixed into it! Must have!

    Thanks for the review C.

    Reply
  • Hi Crys, thanks for the review. I may pick this one up – ending is suitably open for the short? As to him being tax attorney, I am not one but if he is thirty already technically it is possible I believe. Of course it would mean that he went to college right away, jumped to law school right after undergrad without working anywhere, or taking year off and took his LLM right after he was done with regular law school program. It is pushing but technically it is possible, if he is thirty. And of course he cannot be an experienced tax attorney but a green newbie because the earliest he will be done with his schooling will be 28 or 29. And if he is one of those many law school grads who do not pass a Bar during their first try, forget it. Although as I said I am not a tax attorney so maybe there is something else needed to be done I am unaware of.

    Reply
    • That was my problem–you are correct about all the things he needs to do, and given the rest of his background in the story, it doesn’t work very well. If he’d meant to do it, yes, certainly he could, but he meant to be a musician and had no family support for college. Unfortunately I notice things like this. If he’d been cast as an accountant, it would have gotten the cubicle worker sellout idea across without making us think of all the schooling.

      Reply
      • Hi Chrys, I just want to clarify – I was not trying to suggest that you should not notice things like this – I do too. I just was not sure that the scenario you described could not happen (I am not a tax lawyer, but I am a lawyer, so I do know the general process of studying to be one pretty well from personal experience. I may not know the details which involve the studying to be a tax lawyer though :)). Now when you clarified that he had no family support for college, I understand that of course it is silly that he is a tax lawyer when he is pushing thirty, simply not possible. Thanks again for bearing with me.

        Reply

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