Title: Counting Down
Author: Kiernan Kelly
Length: 6,400 words (29 pdf pages)
Publisher: Torquere Press
Contemporary: m/m contemporary
Jackson Lafayette’s life is nearly idyllic. He’s newly married to his husband, Alex, and they’re madly in love. They’ve just bought a house together, have two dogs, and are basically as happy as can be. The only fly in the ointment is Jackson’s boss, Mr. Simpson, whose homophobia is creating a hostile work environment for Jackson.
When conditions at work escalate, and Jackson begins to show physical symptoms of stress, Alex must help him understand that unless he stands up for himself, nothing will ever get better.
This story is a departure from the author’s sometimes light-hearted style and takes a serious look at discrimination against sexual orientation in the world place. Jackson’s life is hell at work. He’s given the worst jobs and on Valentine’s Day he’s bullied into taking on extra work and thus canceling his plans with his husband. The slurs thrown at him publicly by his boss were extremely blatant and in front of other employees who seemed to accept it. He even refuses to allow Jackson’s husband on his insurance and forces him to cancel his vacation. I thought Jackson’s husband was an angel. All he did was push Jackson to take action, while Jackson’s fears of being unemployed kept him tied to the horrible situation.
There was nothing inherently wrong with the story, except that I felt like I was being lectured. Shown how awful it is in some jurisdictions for gay employees. I don’t doubt that it is, I know there are states/countries where you can be fired simply for your orientation, but it seemed to be hammering me over the head with how awful it was as the only purpose of the story. I started to get frustrated with Jackson, because seriously, if anyone treated me that way I’d rather sleep in a cardboard box or move in with my parents than put up with it. Even though Alex was encouraging him to quit, he was hung up in the mortgage payment.
The romance in this is the quiet support of Alex as Jackson finally takes the steps he needs, and is “laid off” as a result. But as I said, I felt like I was being educated or lectured explicitly, rather than being entertained and learning something at the same time. This is very personal and others may not feel the same way. I enjoy the author’s voice a great deal, but this time it just didn’t work for me.