Title Handle With Care
Author Mallory Path
Buy link Excessica
I've always thought that Mallory Path writes in a way that reminds me of poetry, or at least poetry as I was taught to understand it. To-the-point phrases that evoke things, the way the sound of a distant bell ringing summons the image of the bell, the tower, the walls that reflect the echoes. It's the sort of writing that begs to be read aloud, for the rhythm of the words in a phrase, the visual and aural play of repetition, combination, pause.
So I was somewhat entertained to find, when I sat down to write this review, that my notes were a little like poetry:
kissing outside the lines
can i listen to your heart?
If you couldn't guess from the fact that it evokes faux found poetry from a non-poet ;), for me, Handle With Care is a shining example of the sort of prose that flows from the keyboard of Ms. Path. With carefully chosen phrases, she sketches out her two young men, Lucas and Mick. Lucas makes his entry and I was charmed along with Mick, though I think Mick didn't notice right away:
Not that there aren't fuckable guys at The Station -- but they don't come here to fuck. At least, they didn't until Lucas walked in last semester, lollipop in his mouth, the stick dangling free. It didn't make him look like a kid, though; he pulled it off with panache, which is not a word Mick throws around lightly.
We get more clues about Lucas as the story proceeds, and part of the pleasure is, as it is for Mick, in watching Lucas unfold before us. Mallory Path never spells it out for us, but she illustrates a fascinating human being nonetheless.
Then there's Mick, simply introduced in the physical sense with:
With a non-committal grunt, Mick had propped his battered, vintage Doc Martens eye boots up on the chair next to him and returned to his notes.
Which instantly puts in mind a certain kind of boy. Cleverly, Ms. Path takes that very automatic ideal and pokes at it later, when Lucas discovers that his assumptions about Mick from his hard looks may not be correct at all-- and, indeed, Mick might have assumed a few things as well.
But she doesn't let us off there. She teases us with the play between what a person assumes about another, but also with how a person presents a certain facade deliberately to another--to be sexy, to be wanted, or to simply seduce.
And let's not forget the part that you're probably all here for. Mallory handles the erotic scenes with the same imagery-provoking beauty as the rest of the story, which amps up the sensuality and makes the scenes very sexy indeed. She focuses on the lovely details:
His hands drip down his throat, down his chest, down over slick skin and defined muscle; then Mick can't see Lucas' hands anymore, but he knows they are still sliding down, down lower than Lucas' belly.
"Hey now, don't," Mick says as the first moan is vibrating up from Lucas' throat.
I know as a writer I tend to go hard, explicit detail and gritty, dirty bodily functions, but Mallory Path somehow manages to be arousing and edgy through use of whispered dirty talk and lyrical prose. And she plays, too; at one point, Mick says:
"Did you just moon me as a seduction technique?"
which sends them into an adorable exchange that left me grinning.
Handle With Care is a short story, so if I don't stop there I'm liable to give away the entire plot (although with this story, I'm not sure would completely matter--part of the beauty is the writing, the dialogue, the breathless moments). Don't get me wrong--Mallory has a gift with short stories, and you are not left wanting. She makes her point, eloquently and elegantly. Suffice it to say that I found Handle With Care delightful. At one point, Mick thinks of Lucas's aroused movements as dancing, and in some ways, I think this entire story dances. The words dance, they are almost musical; the story dances, shifting effortlessly through the events, through past and present; the boys dance, with each other, and with us.