Lee Allen Howard
E-Book, 3,600 words
Review by Darkeva
“Stray” by Lee Allen Howard revolves around a troubled gay teenager runaway named Tad who has left behind an alcoholic and abusive father as well as a stepmother who hates him. He finds himself in a bar and scopes out someone he can use as his ticket home. This turns out to be a tattooed fellow named Bruce, who is also wearing fake leather (he wouldn’t hurt an animal, he explains). Tad acquaints himself with him and spills the beans about how he ran away from home to be with a guy named Justin who lied about his age and the fact that he lives with his mother and sisters.
Bruce comes off as sympathetic in the beginning, not only because he’s gone through similar ordeals, but also because his partner of thirteen years turned into a woman (at least that was what I understood from “Michael made his final transition last year.”) He seems to have a caring streak in him and takes Tad under his wing.
Howard has a talent for making us care about his characters, which shows right away. Tad is from a broken home and doesn’t ever want to go back, but he has no one to help him so he’s had to provide sexual favours to men in exchange for his ability to survive. It’s a harrowing situation for anyone to find himself in, and Tad, although a sympathetic character with tragic circumstances, would have come off a bit stronger if he’d gone beyond just the situation he found himself in, although I did feel quite sorry for him as he normalized sexual favours for men as a means of survival.
Tad’s inner thoughts make a fully fleshed out character and paint the portrait of someone who is terrified of having to prostitute himself. He’s scared of going all the way with a man, something he hasn’t done before. He’s scared of what he’s about to do, and unsure whether he can go through with it. But what Bruce has in store for Tad is slightly less conventional.
Although I had an idea where the story was going, I enjoyed the gruesomeness of the situation as Tad finds himself in a place worse than he could ever have imagined and ultimately reflects that although his father is a raging, abusive alcoholic, there are some monsters who are safer than others.
Horror fans should definitely give the story a go; it’s a short, entertaining read and a great value for a dollar.