Pudding Jones is a young homeless man living in the back of an abandoned hardware store in an abandoned area of town known as the Ghetto Grotto. He has made a makeshift home for himself among the other homeless people in the encampment and considers them his family.
Emmer Richfield is a young reporter who has been tasked to write an op-ed piece about Pudding and the other homeless in order to inform the public about their situation. In fact, Pudding has chosen Emmer to write his story, though we never find out why.
The story is laid out fairly simply-- the bad guys are a large property development company set on razing the Ghetto Grotto, displacing the people living there. Over the course of a few months, Emmer develops feelings for the enigmatic yet charming Pudding. And Pudding likes him back. Emmer comes to see how shallow his own life is as he learns about Pudding and all the mental and physical abuses and hardship he’s suffered. But Pudding is something more… he has a college degree, is physically fit, yet chooses to live this life on the edge.
The novella covers a wide range of topics from homelessness as a choice, to mental illness, to childhood abuse. All of this is encapsulated in one character who at the same time, has the ability to completely win over a well educated, white-collar professional who in the end, wants to take him away from it all. As such, it reads like a darker fairy tale.
We have the beginnings of a romance between Emmer and Pudding but the story’s length is given more to sermonizing the bigger issues between them than in the developing relationship. “What else could a man ask for in life? Food, a place to sleep, and the companionship of someone they cared for… what value did my television… computer have… What could those things offer me that Pudding and this life couldn’t? I wondered if the cost we paid for those things hadn’t been just a bit too high.”
All very good food for thought… This is written well enough (though there are some edit issues: homophone mixups-- know vs. no, and incorrect vocab usage-- annunciating vs. enunciating; non-pulsed vs. non-plussed) and the message is certainly one to take to heart. But read this more as an interesting short study of a homeless man’s journey than a well-developed gay romance, and be warned that the ending is rather abrupt with no HEA in sight.
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