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Authors: Brandon Shire

Tags: #Gay, #Fiction

Listening to Dust

BOOK: Listening to Dust
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What are readers saying about

Brandon Shire’s books?


The Value of Rain

The story of a young man institutionalized for being gay and his quest for revenge when he is finally released.

Best in LGBTQ Fiction for 2011
’ – Indie Reviews

Top Read of 2011’
– The Reading Life

“Brandon Shire gives us a story that no one will forget...”

“This book is about more than gay youth… This is about humanity.”

“Shire seizes your heart and does not let go.”


Listening to Dust

A gay love tragedy about an English writer and a young American soldier and how homophobia ripped them apart… forever.

“A masterfully crafted literary work, a powerful, exceptional read!”- Out in New Jersey

“A haunting story by a master storyteller.”- The Wilde Writers Collective

“Beautiful, stunningly beautiful.”- Joyfully Jay Reviews

“Will break your heart into pieces.” – Bittersweet Reviews


Listening To Dust

By Brandon Shire

Copyright © 2012 Brandon Shire

Cover Photo Credit:
Justyna Furmanczyk

All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the below publisher of this book. This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, people, places, schools, media, incidents and events are either a product of the author’s imagination, or are used fictitiously.




ISBN-13: 978-1470181291

ISBN-10: 1470181290










For R.H. who will never, ever be forgotten.

Special thanks go to:


David P. for his persistence, his aid, and his friendship,

and all the readers who demanded more.


Thank you.

“Love is so short, and forgetting is so long.”

-Pablo Neruda


“Behind every exquisite thing there is something tragic.”

-Oscar Wilde

I am listening to dust: your letters

don’t speak anymore. Faith has slammed shut.

The dead go in and out so skillfully,

while the bed grows wider and emptier

under a grey leaven. A sunflower tells me

everything as it blooms, as you turn

to kiss me at the edge of the forest.

Forget me. It’s a small request.


“In the Margins”

Elizabeth Rosner

Chapter 1

The Diner


“Dusty must have heard the truck idling in the yard and stood just inside that dirty old screen of his looking at Pa. That’s Stewart, he’s our pa. Dusty ever tell you about him? Not much, huh? Well, Stewart didn’t much like me or Dusty none, no way. We weren’t enough like Drew who was smart, but dead.

“Pa would’ve been looking for me that morning because we was supposed to go over to Brenan and pick up a new stud colt.

“‘You seen the dummy?’ That’s what he would’ve asked Dusty because that’s what he calls me, the dummy. It’s not that I ain’t smart, it’s just that....well, since that lightning struck me I see things a little different, least that’s how Dusty explained it.

“Dusty didn’t like Pa calling me the dummy though, none at all. He’d get mad every time he heard it. They were always fussing about how Pa talked to me, and then Dusty would start up again about him wanting me to move into his trailer, but I always kept saying no and then me and Dusty would get to fussing. Couldn’t just leave my pa by himself, now could I?"

Stephen Dobbins nodded, at a complete loss for words. Their conversation was an unorganized blur and his mind was simply a disjointed ruin built of passion, memories and utter devastation. He had come three thousand miles to get back the only man he had ever loved, only to find that he had been murdered.

He had no idea what to say to Robbie, or even why he was in the diner with him. He was just running on a desolate impulse, a momentum of blank white anguish that he could not find the edges of.

“Anyway, Dusty would’ve got mad at Pa for calling me the dummy, like he always did; and they would’ve had words, like they always did...” Robbie stopped with a thoughtful pause. “You know, I think they were both about as thick headed as me when they got to setting their minds to it.”

He shrugged and continued. “I’m guessing I called right after Pa left because Dusty’s voice was real tight. It got that way when Pa was looking for me, like Dusty was straining to keep himself civil. Plus, I heard him rubbing that big scar on his chest before he told me it would take him ten minutes to get out to the round house to pick me up.

“I thought about sleeping out there that night, but one of the new switchmen would’ve found me and told old Hoight about it, and then Hoight would’ve wanted to call the boys together to go visit Pa again.” A slight frown clouded his face. “Turned out I had to tell Hoight not to anyway ‘cause Dusty thought he was being all smart alecky when he picked me up. He slowed the truck down so Hoight could get a good look at my shiner before we left.

“It weren’t nothing worse than usual, but folks ‘round here makes an art of turning a molehill into a mountain with all their gossiping.” He shrugged as if Stephen had asked him for details. “I dropped supper the night before and Pa’s temper got the best of him. He had a go at me, and well, a man just can’t be hitting back on his pa.”

Robbie sighed, the weight of the world on his big shoulders. “After I got done fussing with Hoight, Dusty started in on me about going to live at his place again, tried to bribe me,” he added with a small smile. “Said he was gonna buy another engine for my train collection.”

“Hey! Maybe I can show it to you sometime. I got thirty feet of track in Dusty’s trailer with four different trains. I got grain hoppers, and switch units, and road units. I even got a covered wagon. See the switchyard’s in the bedroom....” His voice trailed off suddenly and his excitement with it. He looked down at the table and sipped the last of his cherry coke. Another was put in front of him in the midst of his silence without either Robbie or Stephen asking for it.

“Guess there won’t be no big-holing for me no more,” he said quietly and looked up at Stephen. “Could you do me a favor and give my train set to Danny Talbot? He likes it something fierce. Me and him use to flip over who was gonna be trainmaster. He lives about a mile from Dusty’s place with his momma.”

He fell silent a moment. “Boy, I’m hungry,” he said as he craned his neck toward the little window that looked into the diner’s kitchen. A thin, bulbous-nosed man stood beyond it cooking up a small storm. The man looked up, saw Robbie, and waved before he held up a finger to indicate that it would be a minute because of the crowd. Robbie nodded, smiled, and waved back before he turned to Stephen again.

“That’s Mac. I use to come down here on Thursday mornings to help him unload the truck from Atlanta. Jeanie, that’s our waitress, she used to make me up a big cup of cocoa with extra whipped cream, and Mac make would me my own special omelet.” He leaned forward. “Potato omelet. He slices them real thin and fries them up while I put the stuff in the cellar. Got this fancy French name for the way he cuts the potatoes, but I just like eating it. And the mug, it’s got my name on it, all official like. My own mug right here in Melvin’s.” He smiled. “Ain’t that something?”

 “Mac tried to pay me once, but I wouldn’t let him,” Robbie continued blithely. “No one else makes me that omelet. ‘Sides, he’s too old to be toting all that heavy stuff down there. He’s always going on about his bones and such…”

A look of curiosity ran across Robbie’s face. “I wonder who’s helping him now. ‘Member me to ask Jeanie when she comes back. I’d feel god-awful thinking he had to tote all that by himself. Course, if he didn’t spend so much time at Brett’s his bones might not get to aching so much in the morning as they do.”

He looked at Stephen quickly, like a small child caught with some intimate parental knowledge that he should have tucked away and not spoken about. “Don’t tell him I said that, will you?”

Stephen shook his head. “Uh, no, I won’t say anything.”

“Good. Do you think they’ll be long? I’m kind a scared, if you ain’t figured that out with all my blabbering and such. The jail weren’t so bad because I knowed everyone there, but Mr. McGee said prison is a whole lot different. He....”

Robbie stopped suddenly and looked at Stephen curiously. “How’d y’all get together?”

Stephen stared at him blankly; the constant shifts in Robbie’s conversation were playing havoc with his already troubled emotions, and he simply sat there staring as if someone else was going to answer for him.

“Was he drunk?” Robbie asked.

“The first time,” Stephen nodded and shrugged around the coffee mug clasped tightly in his hands.

“He blamed you for tempting him, didn’t he?” Robbie surmised.

Stephen looked at him closely. These were not the observations of the countrified half-wit that Robbie was supposed to be. Or was that pain still so naked that even Robbie could see it?

“Yes,” Stephen answered simply, unwilling to rehash the litany of accusations Dustin had laid upon him about feeling molested and abused as he raced out the door after their first night together.

Robbie was quiet for a time, his gaze wandering around the diner without resting on anything. “He loved you, you know? Loved you like I never seen him love nobody. Don’t know what kept him from going back to you...Me, I s‘pose.” He sighed loudly. “Had to come back and take care of his dummy brother.” His eyes fell to the table and held its surface.

“If he’d had his way, he would have never left this town,” Robbie said. “I had to fight with him to go. Right in front of Miss Emily’s house it was.” He smiled slightly as if replaying the scene in his head. “Oh, she was something upset too, kept demanding to know what we thought we was doing scuffling on her lawn in the middle of broad daylight.” He chuckled.

“But Dusty wouldn’t say nothing; he just stood there all red-faced and angry, so I told her myself. I said, ‘Miss Emily, Dusty won’t go off and join the military like he wants because he thinks he has to stay here and watch his dummy brother.’

“Well, Miss Emily didn’t say nothing for a minute, she just kind a chucked her hand under her chin and looked at us. Finally she cut her eyes to Dusty and asked him if it was true. He denied it of course, but I know’d better. I saw him looking at those shiny flyers all the time. I know’d!

“So Miss Emily, she’s so smart, she said, ‘Seems to me that if a person could succeed they might be able to escape this place and take their loved ones with them.’

“Heck, I sure never thought of that, and I guess Dusty didn’t either judging by the look on his face.

“After that Miss Emily kicked us off her lawn and threatened to call the law if she saw us up to such foolishness again.” He smiled. “I don’t think she really would’ve though. Her and Sheriff Johnson ain’t none too fond of each other since he took her license away and said she was too old to be driving. He was another one got the lecture about getting his diapers changed,” he chuckled as he finished his second cherry coke. “I guess she’s given everyone that lecture over the years.”

His face turned serious. “Miss Emily was a might tore up about Dusty. He was one of her special students. Always A’s, always reading something. Pa used to get mad ‘cause the books she gave Dusty was above him even when Dusty was a kid. He use to say nasty things about Miss Emily too. Her and my pa just never got on.

"See, she ain’t local and folks ‘round here takes years to trust outsiders, decades even. But I think Pa was just trying to hide his own thickness by feeding the gossip fire. What he said weren’t nice at all. Miss Emily never said nothing, but I expect she knew who was doing all that talking.”

He paused and looked up to the ceiling for a moment. “Sorry, Pa,” he said before he glanced across the table at Stephen. “Sorry, I shouldn’t be disrespecting the dead, it ain’t right.

“Boy I’m hungry,” he said with a sigh. He turned toward the kitchen just as the waitress started to their table, and then, his face glowing, looked back at Stephen. “She made me cocoa! See, that’s my cup, the big one. It’s got my name on it. And my special potato omelet!” he said as she put his plate on the table. “What’s so special, Jeanie?”

The waitress, who looked near tears at his exuberance, quickly freshened Stephen’s coffee and ruffled Robbie’s hair. “You are, pet. Now eat up before it gets cold. And don’t forget to thank Mac. He wouldn’t do anything else until your omelet was done.”

Robbie reddened and ducked his head in embarrassment. “I will, promise.”

She watched him for a moment before she walked off. Robbie turned and waved an enthusiastic thanks to the kitchen, but it seemed Mac could barely lift his hand in reply.

“Hard night at Brett’s, I guess,” Robbie said as he came back to his food. “He put fresh garlic in it too. Can you smell it? He just went all out. Don’t let me forget to thank him before we leave.” He dug in, a bottle of ketchup in one hand, a fork in the other.

What the bloody hell am I doing here?
Stephen thought as he watched Robbie.

“All this talking I been doing, I didn’t even get to asking you why’d you’d come,” Robbie said as he shoveled a fork full of hash browns into his mouth and reached for the biscuit that had come with the massive plate.

Stephen didn’t know how to answer that he barely knew himself.

BOOK: Listening to Dust
9.3Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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