Title: Counting Down
Author: Kiernan Kelly
Length: 6,400 Words
Genre: MM Contemporary Romance
Heat: 3 – Mild and Sexy
Sex Frequency: 3 – Average Story to Sex ratio
Keywords/Tags: Short Story, 2012 TQ Charity Sips, Homophobe, Bullying, Harassment, Hostile Work Environment
Rating: So So
Reviewed by Sadonna
Jackson Lafayette’s life is nearly idyllic. He’s newly married to his husband, Alex, and they’re madly in love. They’ve just bought a house together, have two dogs, and are basically as happy as can be. The only fly in the ointment is Jackson’s boss, Mr. Simpson, whose homophobia is creating a hostile work environment for Jackson. When conditions at work escalate, and Jackson begins to show physical symptoms of stress, Alex must help him understand that unless he stands up for himself, nothing will ever get better.
This story by Kiernan Kelly is a short from the Torquere Charity Sip series this year benefiting NOH8.
Jackson and Alex have been married for a few months in this story that opens on Valentine’s Day. Jackson has managed to get reservations for the most exclusive restaurant in town. As he’s getting ready to leave, his boss, dumps a file with hours worth of work on his desk. He belittles Jackson saying the rest of the guys have wives and girlfriends to go get last minute flowers and candy for and then finished my making a derogatory slur. Jackson feels he has no choice but to comply and call Alex and cancel the dinner. Stunningly, no one comes to Jackson’s defense or even has the good sense to just leave during the abusive conversation with his boss.
As the months go by, Jackson’s boss continues to belittle and deride him, using slurs and threatening his job. Jackson is becoming more and more tense, but he is reluctant to say anything because he feels like with the house and his other financial responsibilities, he cannot afford to lose the job. Alex keeps trying to tell him that they will be fine and it’s really more important that Jackson take care of himself since the stress of the job is starting to manifest in physical symptoms – headaches, stomach aches, near panic attacks.
Finally when the boss decides to take time off with some side dish (not his wife), he makes Jackson take on the work for a meeting that is to take place during Jackson and Alex’s planned vacation. It costs them money to change their plans, but once again his job is threatened and finally Jackson agrees to confront his boss when they return.
Of course the confrontation does not go well and the boss accuses Jackson of being too “sensitive” and not able to take a joke. Jackson tells him that he has talked to a lawyer and once again the boss threatens his job. Not surprisingly, as soon as Jackson files the official complaint and the investigation begins, he is “downsized.”
I really wanted to like this story, because I think the subject matter is important and relevant today when there are few laws in many States to protect GLBT people from this type of hostile work environment. Unfortunately I just didn’t feel a connection with the characters in this one – it just felt a little too earnest or something to me. The boss felt like a cartoon and the revelation that he was a cheater as well was a bit of a cheap shot and not relevant to the story. I already found him plenty abhorrent. I also found it a little hard to believe that virtually no one stuck up for Jackson in his workplace – even when the boss wasn’t around – nor was the boss apparently concerned about adverse publicity. Employers may not care at all about the employees, but I can say after a 30-year career in HR working for and with plenty of bullies, they are certainly worried about lawsuits and bad publicity.