An ordinary day of selling, shelving and mending becomes less ordinary when a mysterious stranger saves Nevo from disaster while asking questions about fairy tales.
Setting: Two years before the beginning of the war referenced in Their Courts of Crows and Maybe When the Bones Crumble. Different in Other Ways introduces a brand-new set of characters and circumstances; readers don’t need any familiarity with my other works.
Content Advisory: A gay, quoiromantic man making eyes at another man against a culture of cissexism, heterosexism and working-class anxiety. Non-explicit references to sex and erotic media. Casual swearing.
Length: 1, 783 words.
The tinny, cracked bell rings out. Nevo, smoothing the endpapers of a newly re-covered almanac while wrestling with a desk too small to hold a stack of waiting books, the cashbox and his pot of congealing glue, looks up. Lenlil won’t abide anyone entering her store without an enthusiastic greeting, as much as Nevo doubts most customers welcome it. “Good morning! Morning? Good … noon?”
A stranger, dressed like a man, struts toward Nevo with his green felt cap askew. He winks at the young women giggling over a book’s lurid illustrations—Adelin and Yuissa on break from the drapery around the corner—and beams, crookedly, at Nevo.
Nevo lowers the scraper, smiles and turns. “How can I hel—oh, fuck!”
His elbow smacks into the pile of books.
The man’s gloved hands block the books a heartbeat before they cascade onto the glue. Nevo whisks aside the pot and brush, biting back a string of Da’s more colourful curses. Mending books supposedly brings in more money than sorting and selling them, but then why doesn’t Lenlil invest in a proper workshop? Or at least a desk big enough to hold his record book, the cashbox, glue and a few clamps?
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