Headstrong Ruben Harper has yet to meet an obstacle he can’t convert to a speed bump. He’s used to getting what he wants from girls, but when he develops a fascination for a man, his wooing skills require an upgrade. After months of persuasion, he scores a dinner date with Henry Normand that morphs into an intense weekend. The unexpected depth of their connection scares Ruben into fleeing.
Shy, cautious Henry, Ruben’s former high school history teacher, suspects he needs a wake-up call, and Ruben appears to be his siren. But when Ruben bolts, Henry is left struggling to find closure. Inspired by his conversations with Ruben, Henry begins to write articles about the memories stored in everyday objects. The articles seduce Ruben with details from their weekend together and trigger feelings too strong to avoid. As Henry’s snowballing fame takes him out of town and further out of touch, Ruben stretches to close the gaps that separate them.
Moving Everyday Objects
By Alice Archer
At the core of Everyday History is the idea that the objects we live with every day store our memories, and that sharing those stories can connect us with others. It’s really not a very revolutionary concept. So why did I latch onto it to the point of creating a novel about it?
By the time I was 15, I’d lived in 15 places. Dad had wheels instead of feet, it seemed, and when he was wanted somewhere else, off we went. He was a Southern Baptist minister (since then, he’s taken a remarkable trajectory through Presbyterianism, Unitarianism, and now sits outside with his wife on Sundays to talk about spirituality – they call it Church on the Front Porch).
Although I wasn’t conscious of it at the time, the way I stayed grounded through our many moves was by focusing on the things that didn’t change from one move to the next: my personal belongings. I could remember the places we’d left, and the experiences I’d had in those places, because of the stuff I had that I associated with them. Places came and went, but my things remained close at hand. Eventually, the place and the experience and the thing become one.
At this point, I’ve lived in more than 80 places. Man, that’s a lot of packing and unpacking. I don’t have a lot of stuff, which makes moving easier, but every piece is a major treasure and every piece has a story to tell me (like the Stickley desk I’m looking at right now, which my mom bought for $5 at a grocery store in Pencil, Arkansas, when she started teaching school). So many stories. So many places. So many experiences. So much love.
I wanted to write about that. Somehow. Even if obliquely. Everyday History is the result.
During a recent visit with my dad, I finally got around to confessing my novel-writing activities – including that I write M/M erotic romance and that I’d had an offer from a publisher. We were eating dinner at the time, and Dad set his fork on his plate with a clank and gave me a stern look. “Uh oh,” I thought. “Here comes the lecture.” But the guy surprised me – yet again (he’s 83; I should be more used to it by now).
“Honey, that should have been the very first thing you told us, as soon as you walked in the door. That’s wonderful news!” He went on to insist that he would read Everyday History when it was published. I asked if he was sure and he huffed. “I’ve been around, you know,” he said. “I’m not a prude.”
I’ve ordered a book for him (at this point, I’ll pause to send a nod of gratitude to Angel Martinez for our brief talk at GayRomLit in 2014 about her relationship with her father). It seems perfectly fitting for Dad to read this story. If he hadn’t raised me the way he did, I wouldn’t have needed to tell it.
In the following excerpt, Henry has been telling Ruben some everyday histories about his stove.
Ruben stands up to get a better view of the stove. “Is there more? Are there more stories about this stove?” he asks.
“Yes. Many. But that’s enough.”
“Was it enough for Martin?”
Henry laughs. “You’ve just listened to several paragraphs more about this oven than Martin ever cared to know.”
Ruben thinks about how he was never jealous of guys who moved in on the women he was dating, but even the thought of Martin makes him want to punch Martin’s face a few times. The feeling is so novel Ruben’s not sure where to file it.
“Seriously?” says Ruben. “What was Martin’s problem?”
Henry sits down on a kitchen stool as though Ruben’s question added fifty pounds to his shoulders.
“I’m not sure it was Martin’s problem,” Henry says.
“Whatever it was, sum it up. You’re killing me here.”
Henry rubs his hands across his face and says on a sigh, “I think the totality of me got in the way.”
“Got in Martin’s way, you mean?”
Henry shrugs. “He wanted something else.”
“What kind of something else?”
Ruben watches Henry search for an answer. It takes a while. Ruben waits.
“I really care about my stove’s story,” Henry says. “I have a relationship with my stove that feels alive and real and important.” He plucks a potholder from a hook. “Things, the normal, everyday things in my life, are like that for me. They’re so full of the past and steeped with personal meaning that they’re like…. They’re my family.”
Ruben connects the dots. “Martin didn’t care about your family.”
Alice Archer has messed about with words professionally for many years as an editor and writing coach. After living in more than eighty places and cobbling together a portable lifestyle, she has lots of story material to sort through. It has reassured her to discover that even though culture and beliefs can get people into a peck of trouble when they’re falling in love, the human heart beats the same in any language. She currently lives near Nashville. Maybe this move will stick.
Check out the other blogs on the Everyday History Blog Tour:
Jun 22 – MM Good Book Reviews
Jun 27 – Open Skye Book Reviews
Jun 30 – Dreamspinner Press Blog
Jul 1 – My Fiction Nook
Jul 2 – Love Bytes