Join Prism Book Alliance® as Freddy MacKay goes Outside the Margins today.
Welcome to the Prism Book Alliance Blog today! Freddy MacKay here, one of the contributors to Outside the Margins. For my part, I write flash fiction pieces for a story called On the Divide. These are not professionally edited but I do try to catch my mistakes. I hope you enjoy.
On the Divide – Part 25 by Freddy MacKay
The not-date ended up being a Japanese garden. Of course, it wasn’t just a garden. The conservation group that took care of the garden held events—all sorts of activities to bring people in. Though Cooper had a feeling Harlan brought them to this specific one because it was a beer tasting.
“Don’t you get enough of this at work?” Cooper asked.
“Hmm? Well, no actually.” Harlan had his phone out with an app pulled up on it. It had a map of which tent each of the beer’s we at. “Work is work. I don’t always get the chance to just enjoy a nice tasting with the new stuff that’s coming out.”
“I guess so.”
“Come on,” Harlan said, tugging on Cooper’s hand. “There’s a Strawberry Rhubarb beer I want to try.”
“That sounds disgusting.”
“They also have a root beer flavor.”
Cooper choked. “That has got to be awful.”
“Won’t know until we try, will we?” Harlan flash a smile over his shoulder. “Besides, nothing can be as bad as the wine-beer trend that was happening a few years ago.”
“The what?” Because what idiots would think those two would be a great combination?
“Oh, you heard me.” Harlan shuddered. “The tried to mix all kinds of different beers and wines together.”
“Sounds like they were trying to find a way to make people puke. Did people actually try?”
“What a waste of a punch.”
“It really truly was.”
Cooper glanced down at the coaster he’d been handed when they walked through the entrance. They had ten punches, and could buy more if they wanted, but Cooper doubted they would. The glass they were also handed was clearly marked at the three ounce point. He wondered how closely the volunteers and sellers would keep to it. The small glass, or maybe a large shot glass, held definitely more than the designated taste.
Tonight was the perfect night for something like this. Cooper wondered if Harlan went searching for it because they were now on their third not-date, and coincidentally, or not so much, it was outside. When Cooper watched Harlan talking excitedly about which tents to hit all he could do was be thankful about how considerate his not-yet-boyfriend could be. The breeze in the cool air. The tree branches swaying. The laughter surrounding them. Harlan really knew how to pick a not-date spot.
They wove between the people chattering and eating toward the east row of tents. Harlan had an excited bounce in his steps, eagerly pulling on Cooper’s hand to hurry him up. It had to of looked awkward, the two of them.
Cooper tried not to be self-conscious of the other people around them, but he caught more than a few people noticing. No outright rude comments or anything were made. People definitely noticed, though.
How could Harlan just wade through the crowd so easily and not care? But then, Harlan didn’t have Cooper’s issues.
“Looks like we’ve beat the line.”
“Is that why we made a beeline for them?”
“Mmm-hmm.” Harlan pulled Cooper in front of him. “Now trust me. This will be a great way to start off the tasting.”
Cooper wasn’t so sure about it. The idea of strawberry rhubarb beer seemed rather dubious to him, but if Harlan wanted him to, well, he couldn’t say no to those eyes. Cooper held up the glass and punch card. In return he got an overflowing pink, yes, definitely pink, draft and one less punch.
“Don’t make that kind of face.” Harlan chuckled retrieving his glass and card. “Just try it. It’s just the right amount.”
“If you say so.” But it was so pink. They moved to the side, a line now forming at the tent.
“Cheers.” Harlan clinked glasses with Cooper and tossed his back.
Oh well. Cooper took a tentative sip, and oh, not bad. Not bad at all. The beer didn’t taste like beer at all—very light and refreshing. Though, Harlan wasn’t wrong about it being just the right amount. If Cooper had to have more than the glass it would’ve been too sweet.
“So?” Harlan said once Cooper finished.
He licked his lips, letting the taste linger a moment longer. “Good. I liked it.”
The smile Harlan gave him was brilliant. Almost too much.
“Told you I wouldn’t let you try something nasty.”
“We have nine more drinks to go. You could still disappoint me.”
Harlan shook his head. “No faith. None whatsoever in me.”
“I didn’t say that,” Cooper replied immediately and tensed. Did he make Harlan mad?
“Hey,” Harlan said, holding Cooper’s hand. “Don’t do that. I was just teasing, okay?”
Cooper nodded, unable to say anything because his throat had gotten so tight.
“Tonight is about enjoying the great outdoors and some new drinks, okay?”
With a dip of his head, Cooper did his best to calm back down. Stupid. Just so fucking stupid.
“Don’t worry. I promise you won’t have anything you don’t like tonight.”
But how could he make that kind of promise? And Cooper really didn’t think Harlan was talking just about the beer.
“I do tend bar, after all. I know my way around more than mixed drinks.”
“What’s next?” Cooper croaked out.
“There’s some interesting red ales over at tent two, you wanna check ’em out?”
“Sure.” That sounded like the perfect quench after the strawberry rhubarb.
“There are a couple I think you’ll really like,” Harlan said, leading them away, his hand still in Cooper’s.
People were looking again, watching them from the outside. But the reassurance Cooper had from Harlan’s warm touch countered any embarrassment. In fact, it felt good knowing Harlan wanted Cooper there right beside him, and that he didn’t care people saw them together.
“This one ale,” Harlan began, going off on it’s taste and flavor. “Trust me, I know you’ll love it.”
Somehow, Cooper had a feeling Harlan thought about this not–date a hell of a lot. Another little idea wiggled into his brain at that too. No way would Harlan drag Cooper out to something outside, with lots of people, and not research it. He’d want Cooper comfortable with the surroundings.
Which means he already knew what drinks were here.
Did Harlan do a tasting of his own? Before dragging Cooper to this one? Right then he wouldn’t put it past Harlan to do something like that.
Which also meant Harlan was being hands-on for a reason too. Cooper had to wonder what it was. He knew Harlan was self-assured and easy-going, but even the most confident gay guy would be nervous at an event like this.
Cooper half-listened to Harlan’s talk about the different breweries, watching his back so as not to see how other people looked at them. Strength and determination rolled off him. Nonchalance. But did that mean he was unaffected?
Somehow, maybe just a little, Cooper was being cared for quite a bit. It made his chest tight. Not in a bad way though. The good kind of squeeze.
“So your point is I should love it?” Cooper asked, interrupting whatever Harlan was saying.
He got a startled look in return, but it was quickly replaced with a smile. “You know it.”
“So this is how we drink, huh? You dragging me from tent to tent? Me following along and loving everything you put in front of me?”
Harlan gave a smile, his blue gaze a little brighter. “No, Coop. This is how we date.”
Author: Queer Sci Fi
Publisher: Mischief Corner Books
Publication Date: 09/21/2016
Cover Artist: Mila May
Genre: Fantasy, Horror, Science Fiction
A 300-word story should be easy, right? Many of our entrants say it’s the hardest thing they’ve ever written.
Queer Sci Fi’s Annual Flash Fiction Contest challenges authors to write a complete LGBTQ speculative fiction micro-story on a specific theme. “Flight” leaves much for the authors to interpret—winged creatures, flight and space vehicles, or fleeing from dire circumstances.
Some astonishing stories were submitted—from horrific, bloodcurdling pieces to sweet, contemplative ones—and all LGBTQ speculative fiction. The stories in this anthology include AI’s and angels, winged lions and wayward aliens. Smart, snappy slice of life pieces written for entertainment or for social commentary. Join us for brief and often surprising trips into 110 speculative fiction authors’ minds.
About Freddy MacKayI grew up and went to college in the Midwest where I currently reside with my family. I spend most of my time playing sports and running around outside. And honestly, that much has not changed since I was little, except who is included my activities. I also have a healthy geocaching addiction. It’s so much fun! I enjoy spending my time traveling when I can, and I hold the view that a person should continually to learn about new things and people whenever possible.
My contemporary LGBTQ book, Incubation: Finding Peace 2, won 3rd Place – Best Gay Erotic Fiction in the 2012 Rainbow Awards. In 2013, Internment, won 3rd Place – Best Gay Fantasy in the Rainbow Awards. Feel Me (The Marduck Expanse) was a Gay SF Finalist and Honorable Mention in the 2014 Rainbow Awards.
One random commenter with thoughtful, relevant comments will win a $25 gift certificate each month in 2016.
|This post may contain affiliate links.
|Prism Book Alliance® assumes no liability for the ownership of photos or content used in guest posts and interviews. The post author assumes all responsibility and liability for this content.|