Paddle-Steamers! Fae! Docks!

Peter M. Ball’s new tale “On the Arrival of the Paddle-Steamer on the Docks of V–” is now up at Eclipse Online and it’s totally worth a read.

With bonus illustration by Kathleen Jennings.

Our tiny hotel room is boiling, even now, but heat doesn’t bother Patrick and he sleeps, shirtless, with the thin sheet coiled round him like a loving serpent. It’s a trick for him, nodding off. He cultivates a talent for sleep, adores the act of dozing off like it’s a second lover. He says it keeps him young, and perhaps it does, for people are always surprised to learn Patrick’s real age.

I’ve started smoking again, since it no longer matters. Patrick copes with things through slumber, while I survey the world, my exhalations accompanied by the splash of river meeting dock. The river is the life-blood of V—, they tell you that in all the flyers.

My free hand teases the fraying hem of the Mickey Mouse t-shirt we picked up in Anaheim back in the days when Patrick wasn’t quite so fussy about which magic kingdom he got to visit. My fight-induced insomnia means I’m awake to hear the small boats punting their way across the river, their owners making soft cries, like whippoorwills, too-whit-too-woo, to warn their fellows on the opposite shore. No one wants to get knifed in the dark, after all, or pushed in and left to drown.

The cries of the boatmen are subtle and faint. Patrick hears nothing, curled up on the lumpy mattress, eyes closed and smile beatific, short brown hair stuck to his head like a halo. Slumbering. Dreaming. Patrick in boxers, his chest waxed-smooth.

He’s the pretty one in our relationship. Always has been.

For the rest, go here.

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