The B-Side of Daniel Garneau
Author: David Kingston Yeh
Publisher: Guernica Editions
Release Date: October 1, 2023
Series: The Boy at the Edge Trilogy (third book)
Genre: Contemporary Romance / LGBTQ
Chapter One, pp. 5-9
I walked into the Java House at Queen and Augusta, a dive bar with busted tables, cheap drinks and surprisingly decent pad thai. Parker was waiting for me in one of the booths, nursing a gigantic orange mug of tea and studying a NOW magazine. Although he didn’t actually drink, Parker Kapoor was the quintessential barfly. He also looked ten years younger than his actual age and was constantly asked to show his ID. Today, Freddie Mercury, in a jewel-encrusted crown, beamed from the front of his T-shirt. Parker’s large and perfectly straight nose followed me as I stamped the snow from my boots and slid into the booth across from him.
“Hey Parker,” I said, “how’re you doing?”
He gripped the table edge and leaned forward, round eyes protruding from his head.
“Parker, you okay?
“Daniel. You will never guess.”
“Okay. What is it?”
“You,” he said, “are looking at the newest participant in an internationally produced literary salon.”
“Naked Boys Reading! Next month, hosted by Glad Day Bookshop. It’s their Valentine-themed event. Love, romance, heartbreak. The repertoire is immense. Of course, for the life of me, I can’t decide what to read. You have to help. I’ve narrowed it down to two choices and now I’m at an impasse: 19th century literary realism, or shunga tentacle erotica.”
All I could offer was a shrug.
“I know!” Parker exclaimed. “How can one decide? Public reading is terrifying enough, without having to second guess one’s material. Will it be Sense and Sensibility or Kinoe no Komatsu? I definitely want to draw from the classics. Did you know both were published at exactly the same time? I’m leaning toward Jane Austen’s irony and feminist critique. But there’s something so compelling about Hokusai’s sensuality and playfulness. Happy New Year, by the way. How’s your family? How are you and David doing?”
“David and I are doing just fine. Parker, what did you say this event was called?”
“Naked Boys Reading.”
“Is that what it sounds like it is?”
“Aah, you mean the ‘naked’ part.” Parker slurped from his tea mug. “Of course, yes, that’s right. The readers are completely unclothed.”
“It’s a celebration of body-positivity, a blissful union of nudity and the love of literature. The salon started in England, but now there are readings all over the world. Kyle and I attended one in Ottawa last year. It was thrilling. We promised we’d do this the next chance we had.”
“Kyle’s reading too?”
“He’s chosen an excerpt from Marian Engel’s Bear. It’s the quintessential Canadian novel and it won the Governor General’s Award. It’s such a spiritual work— loneliness in the northern wilderness, existential desire. I suspect your brother Liam would appreciate it, and your grandpa too. Come to think of it, this whole event might be right up their alley.”
“And what’s this book about?”
“It’s a love affair between a librarian and a bear.” Parker carefully extracted his tea bag, squeezed it between his fingertips and set it aside. “It’s what actually inspired me to consider Hokusai. Did you know a bear’s tongue is capable of lengthening itself like an eel? That’s in chapter fifteen. There’s something so intimate about reading to someone or having someone read to you. Do you remember bedtime stories growing up?”
“There you have it! Tell me, Daniel, what was it like?”
As if on cue the waitress arrived, cracking her gum, with a pencil poised over a notepad. I imagined her reciting the specials of the day: “Curious George, Babar the Elephant, and half-priced Wild Things with any pitcher of beer.” I wondered if Winnie-the-Pooh had a tongue that was capable of lengthening itself like an eel.
While Parker fussed over the menu, I ordered the burger special and a pint of Moosehead. Bedtime stories had always been Grandpa’s purview. Grandma, of course, had been an English teacher and could recite dozens of poems by heart, long after she could remember any of our names. The truth was, my brothers and I had grown up on poetry and music more than we had with books or even TV.
I remembered Dad puttering in the garage playing his beloved artists: Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young. Sometimes he’d crank the volume on “Summer of ’69” and blast it on repeat until Mom finally stuck her head out the kitchen window and told him to knock it off. After dinner, the family would play board games or cards. Pat liked to suggest Monopoly just to see if Dad might chuck the whole game box down the basement stairs like he had once, shouting: “Too f*cking capitalistic!” But Dad never had a problem with Miss Scarlett bashing in someone’s head with a lead pipe in the billiards room.
Later in the evenings, our parents might dance in the kitchen to Oscar Peterson, sharing a cigarette and a rye and Coke. He’d whisper in her ear and she’d slap his ass. Then he’d pretend to be a vampire and drink her blood while she shrieked with laughter. At the end of the day, I was the one who made sure my brothers and I finished our homework and brushed our teeth. At bedtime, it was always Grandpa who’d tuck us in.
“Le Petit Prince,” I said. “Grandpa would read us that.”
“Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. That,” Parker said, “is a classic.”
“And what about you?”
“Me? I grew up on Ruskin Bond and Robert Munsch. Ooh, and Roald Dahl.” Parker hunched his thin shoulders and shivered. “His stories would give me nightmares. But they were so delicious! I’d beg my sisters to read them to me, which they did in secret since Mother strictly forbade it. When I had nightmares I’d wet the bed. I used to call the neighbourhood bullies Boggis, Bunce and Bean. I’d pretend I was Fantastic Mr. Fox and Karenjit would be Mrs. Fox. We were the original saboteur anarchists. Karenjit sends her regards by the way.”
I’d never actually met Parker’s childhood best-friend Karenjit. Those two had grown up together in the rural Ontario town of Sarnia. But when Parker was thirteen, she moved away. Years later, she’d make it onto the cover of Penthouse magazine.
“Well.” I cleared my throat. “Tell her I say hello.”
“Karenjit’s very grateful, Daniel, you’re in my life. She used to play street hockey with the boys. She was always protective of me. She’s working in Mumbai now for MTV. I’m so proud of her. Her plan is to take over Bollywood. She is such an international career woman.”
About the Book:
Set in Toronto, Canada, The B-Side of Daniel Garneau is the stand-alone third installment in the misadventures of boyfriends Daniel and David, their eccentric family and friends. As Daniel prepares to propose marriage, David sets out to donate his sperm so his brother can have a baby. But as his celebrity ex Marcus launches his boldest exhibit yet, an unexpected crisis forces Daniel to re-evaluate his priorities in life. The B-Side of Daniel Garneau is the inspirational follow-up to A Boy at the Edge of the World (2018) and Tales from the Bottom of My Sole (2020). It is a celebration of queer identities and non-traditional families, as Daniel struggles to discover himself and his path in the world. At its heart, it is both a rollicking dramedy and a sensitive portrayal of family bonds and living with courage and love.
About the Author:
David Kingston Yeh works a counsellor and educator in Toronto’s LGBTQ+ community. He lives in downtown Toronto up the street from a circus academy, along with his husband and a family of racoons. His short fiction has appeared in numerous magazines. David is the author of three novels.
AUTHOR WEBSITE: www.davidkingstonyeh.com
AUTHOR INSTAGRAM: #davidkingstonyeh