Short Stories 366:264 — “My Brother’s Keeper,” by Greg Herren

The next instalment in Survivor’s Guilt and Other Stories, from Greg Herren, is a Chanse MacLeod short story and I am here for it. Most centrally, I am here for the set-up, which is Chanse going back home to Nowhere, Flyover (sorry, Cottonwood Wells). As a fellow “get me the hell out of here” queer fellow, I love stories where characters who’ve left and thrived (or even just survived) return to those awful places, especially if I know I’m in the hands of an author like Herren, who is absolutely not going to drop a truckload of “and then they all reconciled, because people can change” crap on me.

Instead, Chanse is here because his brother is in jail for murdering someone and he’s got just enough of a spark of familial care left to kinda-sorta check in on Bobby. He’s not going to do much else—Bobby isn’t exactly a fine, upstanding fellow—but Chanse doesn’t think even his brother would murder someone, so it’s worth the visit. And it doesn’t take him long to feel even more off about it, especially since his brother more-or-less confesses. If there’s one thing Chanse knows, it’s that his brother never owned up to anything.

It’s a great framework for the story, and I think one of the things I love the most about the Chanse stories is how much of his detective work comes from just getting people, and especially their lesser/baser/worse instincts. This is not a man prone to optimism, by any stretch, and more, I really enjoyed the cynical (and, hey, realistic) take on “going back to the hometown” like I mentioned earlier. Chanse stays exactly as long as it takes to figure out the truth, and then he’s fucking out of there. Yes. All the yes.

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