QSFer Kim Fielding has a new gay sci fi book out: “Refugees.”
When World War II ended and army medic Walter Clark returned to Chicago, he discovered that although home remained the same, he had changed. Unable to fit comfortably into his old life, he spent a year gradually making his way west. Now he’s gone as far as he can—the shore of the Pacific—but old memories make ocean views intolerable. He turns inland and finds himself in the hidden hamlet of Kiteeshaa, Oregon, where the locals are surprisingly friendly and the café serves food exactly like his grandmother used to make.
Martin Wright runs the Kitee Motor Court Inn and offers Walter a place to stay for a few nights. Later, Martin offers him a great deal more. But while Martin is a delight, he also harbors secrets; and there’s something not quite right about Kiteeshaa. No matter how far the two men have traveled, they can’t run away from their pasts.
He was still lingering over a refill an hour later. Night had fallen, and several more customers now sat in the café. They all seemed to know one another, and they ate a bewildering array of foods, but although they stared at Walter, he didn’t sense hostility.
Dorothy came to the table. “More coffee?” she asked.
He sighed. “I guess you probably want me to clear out, huh?”
She flapped a hand. “You stay as long as you want.”
“Can you recommend a hotel nearby? Someplace not too expensive.” He’d spent a few weeks working at the paper mill a couple hours away in Albany, so he had a little cash, but not much. And who knew when he’d earn more, especially now that his inability to tolerate the ocean meant he had to abandon his plan to find a job at a lumber mill down the coast.
“Well, there’s the Ester Lee in Taft. It’s a bit of a drive from here, but the ocean views are lovely.”
He winced. “I, uh, don’t really like the ocean.”
She didn’t laugh at him or act like he was a lunatic, which he appreciated. Instead, she patted his shoulder. “Wait.”
Walter didn’t know what he was waiting for, but he remained in his comfortable seat by the window, sipping the cooling remains of his coffee and toying with the little vase of flowers. He startled when the man from the motor court smiled and waved from the other side of the glass. A few seconds later, the man was inside, taking a seat opposite Walter.
“Martin Wright,” he said, holding out his hand.
Martin’s grip was firm and uncallused and perhaps lingered a moment longer than the norm. “Walter Clark.”
God, Martin was gorgeous. Thick eyelashes framed the palest blue eyes Walter had ever seen. A long, narrow nose. Lush lips. A cleft chin. It was hard to gauge Martin’s age—at first glance, he’d seemed close to Walter’s thirty. But his eyes were older somehow, much like Walter thought his own must be. Maybe Martin had been a soldier too.
Walter did his best to act normal. “Thanks for the dinner suggestion,” he said.
When Martin smiled, he suddenly looked like a teenager. He could have been mistaken for an angel. “You had the special?’
“Yeah. I didn’t think I’d ever eat those things again. At least, not like my babcia used to make them.”
For some reason, Martin seemed as satisfied as if he’d conjured the wonderful meal himself. “Dorothy says you’re looking for a hotel but you don’t care for the ocean. You’re not a tourist?”
“No,” Walter replied, not wanting to share his story, even with a handsome stranger.
“I have a room available next door.” Martin gestured toward the motor court.
“The sign says no vacancy.”
“I’m just selective in who I rent to.”
“That’s a hell of a way to run a business,” Walter said, scowling.
Martin simply shrugged.
It was probably some kind of a swindle. But Walter was sleepy after the huge meal and weary after all his travels, and he couldn’t wrap his brain around what Martin might want from him. Hell, whatever Martin did want, let him have it. It wasn’t as if Walter had much to lose—a little money, a battered jalopy, a life going nowhere.
“Sounds good,” Walter finally said.
Kim Fielding has migrated back and forth across the western two-thirds of the United States and currently lives in California. She’s a university professor who dreams of being able to travel and write full-time. She also dreams of having two perfectly-behaved children, a husband who isn’t obsessed with football, and a house that cleans itself. Some dreams are more easily obtained than others.
Kim donates 100% of the royalties from her self-published stories and audiobooks to Doctors Without Borders.