Death ends a life, not a relationship. – Mitch Albom
The following is being provided as a free public service guide: How to survive Brandon Shire’s, Listening to Dust. By: Yours Truly
Step One: Secure a butter knife (preferably rusty) and a rubber mallet.
Step Two: Place butter knife, blunt tip facing chest, somewhere in the vicinity of the heart, ensuring the blade’s trajectory will aim between the ribs so as not to hinder its progress during this carefully orchestrated procedure.
Step Three: Holding the knife in your left hand, firmly grasp the rubber mallet in your right; then use the mallet to hammer repeatedly on the knife handle until the rusty (recommended) blade passes through the skin and muscle, and lodges neatly into your poor, abused heart, being careful to avoid any major arteries, as bleeding out too quickly will prematurely relieve the agony, and really, who wants that?
Step Four: Once butter knife has been wedged firmly in the cardiac muscle, twist in earnest for maximum effect.
Step Five: Twist again just because.
There, see? That wasn’t so bad now was it? And trust me when I say it will make reading this heartbreaking story of love and denial and loss feel like sunshine and rainbows in comparison.
Listening to Dust is an uncompromising story of the tragic ending to a romance that, truth be told, was destined to fail before it ever began. Dusty Earl is not a man who will ever find peace in or escape from his own sexuality in spite of the fact that the months he spent with Stephen Dobbins, when Dusty was able, for that brief time in his life, to become Dustin and to grasp hold of an ephemeral and ever elusive thread of equilibrium, had maybe caused Dusty to feel something like a quiet place amidst the confusion and conflict born in a place to which he knows he’s obligated by duty to return one day.
This is a story told in a series of memories and letters, as well as in conversation between Stephen and Dustin’s younger brother Robbie, a young man whose inherent innocence, kindness, and compassion supersede the unfortunate impairment that has caused him to be mislabeled a dummy, and precludes the fact that he’s awaiting a verdict from the jury in a trial in which he’s being prosecuted for murder.
This book is an illustration of the influence of bigotry on a man from a small Southern town, a place from which Dusty escaped, joining the military in hopes of eventually being able to provide a better life for Robbie than the one they’d ever been offered within the extreme dysfunction of their family. It is a story of a modicum of freedom found three-thousand mile away, in a place where Dustin was able, for once, to withstand the burden of his self-loathing because he’d finally found someone who made it all a little easier to impersonate a man who will suffer a shred of reason in his unreasoned world. It was a place where, for a moment, Dustin was finally able to ask for and accept the gift that was offered to him, was able to give as much of himself as he ever had. And then he turned and walked away for the sake of his brother, as well as, I believe, for Stephen. A sacrifice that, in the end, fate would twist into the saddest of ironies, in which Robbie’s life would be forever impacted anyway by Dusty’s love for another man, and Stephen’s would be impacted by the fact that the man whom he believed had merely suffered his love, truly did love him in return, in the only way he was able.
In a poetic prose that only served to increase the emotional quotient of this already moving story, Brandon Shire paints a picture of a disillusioned man who tries so hard to run from the truth, though he can’t run far enough to hide from who he is. It is a story of hope and despair and of the promise of love that’s discarded like the flotsam and jetsam left behind in a life laid to waste by the liars whose words have wormed their way into Dustin’s psyche until those lies became the truths he wore like scars, convincing him that love wasn’t meant for someone like him. And in an equally though altogether different tragedy, the detritus of those lies brings about the destruction of Stephen’s dreams and costs him far more than he ever imagined he’d have to pay. Listening to Dust offers no happily-ever-after to the reader. It is brutal in its honesty and keeps counsel with the reality that sometimes a moment-to-moment happiness is the best we can hope for while we navigate this mortal coil without promise of anything more than that.
I loved this book for its uncompromising portrayal of its characters and their hardships. It doesn’t pull any punches, nor does it sugarcoat its truths to make them more palatable to a wider audience. If you want your fiction tied up in a lovely bow of forever after, don’t come looking here; you won’t find it. But, I’d hate to see anyone miss out on this story for fear of shedding a few tears along the way. They’re well worth it.
You can buy Listening to Dust here: