Hot Sorrowful Sweetness of the Dust: An Earl Garnet Story
I don’t normally review a single short story published outside of a collection, but I’m making an exception here. Peter Clement is known primarily for his medical thrillers. Yes, his new short story certainly features a medical setting, and yes, it is a thriller, though not in the context in which it is normally used. “Hot Sorrowful Sweetness of the Dust” (the title is adapted from a sonnet by Edna St. Vincent Millay) instead devotes itself to the approach and acceptance of an inevitable event.
The story consists of a somewhat uneven dialogue between Dr. Earl Garnet and Sean, a longtime colleague and friend of Garnet’s who is now his patient in an intensive care unit and approaching terminal status. We gather that Sean, a highly regarded surgeon, treated his body like a temple, which he pillaged and defiled on a daily basis. As the story unfolds, however, we learn that Sean has one last wish, and it’s not what you might think. He needs Earl’s --- and someone else’s --- assistance to pull it off.
It’s a terrific story, one that gives readers pause (particularly those of us who have seen more sunrises in the past than we are likely to see in the future) on a number of levels. It is worth the short amount of time it will take you to read it (less than 30 minutes) but will stay with you for far longer. That, my friends, is the test of a good story.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on February 17, 2017