2012 Mardi Gras Short Story Competition – The Interview

Tuesday 6 March 2012

So here’s my other entry in this year’s competition. I’m honest about my work and always knew this wasn’t a strong story – more an excuse to do some very silly jokes – so I was pleasantly surprised it was included in the finals. I thought at the best Highly Commended, and that’s all it got, but I was shocked when. on the day, the other – and I think superior – story was called out for reading first. “Uncle Anthy” is a far better story and – in my opinion – should have placed.

The judges did say that one of the great thing about the competition was the diversity of adaptions to the theme, referring particularly to how my two entries represented that. One of my stories is a serious reminiscence of a respected family member, the other an excuse to do jokes about super heroes and capes. Both, I hope you agree, address the brief being a story based on the theme of “Heroes”. 

I should say that when writing this I kept thinking back to the Playboy mags buried in the back of my Dad’s cupboard (and, to save us some trouble, anyone who’s dad didn’t have Playboys or equivalent buried in the back of his cupboard is a loser) where the “Readers Write” section always began “I’ve read about this sort of thing in your magazine but I never thought it would happen to me.” Deep down, guiltily, I thought my story read a bit like that: a male fantasy about women getting it together.

(Actually, reading that back, to any troubled kids out there, please know that reading your dad’s girly magazines is an OK thing. I used to fantasise about the guy’s cocks. Just remember you’re with friends.)

Talking to the judges afterwards, they told me they had argued over whether this was written by a man or a woman. Both my stories this year were from a woman’s perspective and, to my delight, both were considered stories written by women. Apparently they have this thing about making sure both sexes are represented equally in the awards… it’s sort of nice to fuck with their minds. 

On another note, my Cambridge Satchel as arrived and it is BEAUTIFUL. Negative prize money well worth spent (and it’s a far richer red than photos suggest).


Enjoy the story.

The Interview

“So,” the first says biting the lid of her pen, “shall we begin?”

The second nods.

“Right then. An orphanage is on fire. A person is seen running away. What do you do?”

The second smiles and takes a deep breath. “I’m so glad you asked me this. This is a situation I’m very familiar with and one where I always follow the golden rule: Orphans First.” The first smiles and begins to scribble on her notebook.

The second continues. “Unfortunately, I’m not blessed with super human strength like some of my … fellow colleagues, but I’ve got something that they don’t have – brains. First thing, ring the fire brigade; sometimes the most sensible option is the most appropriate solution. In addition…” She straightens the pleats of her mini skirt while she collects her thoughts. “In addition, I’d look for a way in to start getting those orphans out. A door’s a good option, even a window. Sometimes a blast has knocked out a wall. Whatever the method I get myself in.”

The first looks up from her notes. “Aren’t you concerned for your own safety?”

The second lifts up a corner of her cape. “See this? Double Spandex coated synthetic vermiculite triple interwoven fibre, this is. It’s great, picked it up on eBay. The flames can be licking at me and I don’t even break a sweat.”

The first pauses in her note taking. “Licking at you, you say?”

The second leans forward in her seat, tilting her head slightly without releasing the first’s gaze. “Without even breaking a sweat.

The first absentmindedly runs her fingers through her auburn tresses. After a moment she drops her glance and focuses back on her notebook. “You’re forgetting something, the person running away.”

The second shrugs. “I leave him –”

“What makes you think it’s a man?” interrupts the first.

“It’s always a man,” the second answers simply.

The first stares back. “Go on.”

The second takes a deep breath before commencing again. “Well, regarding the person running away, I leave him to my superior to deal with. I see this position not so much as sidekick, but as executive assistant.” She gestures towards the first. “It’s your job to catch the baddies, it’s my job to make sure that nothing interferes with you doing yours.”

She smiles at the first and waits patiently. Finally the first says, “That’s an interesting choice of word: superior.”

The second blushes and looks away. “I use the word in its adjectival sense.”

“You think I’m superior?” asks the first, a slight raise of her eyebrow and slight tweak of her lip. “To whom?”

The second gives a little laugh before looking back at the first. “To everyone.

“Oh,” says the first. “I see.” She closes her notebook and sits nibbling unconsciously on her pen. Eventually she continues, “I must say that cape really does suit you.”

The second smiles. “You like?”

“The cut, it’s… becoming.”

The second blushes again. “Thanks. I wasn’t sure about the dress though, thought it might have been a bit tight. What do you think?”

“Oh no, no,” says the first, pressing her teeth down harder on the pen. “It takes someone who’s very sure of themselves to wear Spandex, and I’m sure you’re very sure of yourself.”

The second frowns. “Is that a problem?

“No, says the first throwing down the pen, “far from it.”

The first lets out a sigh and stretches her back cat-like in her chair. She pushes the chair back and stands. “Well, that’s that then.”

“Are we finished?” asks the second, a little concerned, as she stands to greet the first.

“Far from it,” replies the first, “We’ve only just begun.” She takes the second’s hand. “Congratulations. You’re just the ward I’m looking for.”

2012 Mardi Gras Short Story Competition – Uncle Anthy

Monday 27 February 2012

My second year in entering, two stories submitted and two finalist places. Ninety-eight entries and my two make it into the top nine – that’s pretty good. Unfortunately (it was going so well) I again only managed to make the Highly Commendeds – two out of the three. I will be very honest and say I was very disappointed and a tad upset by this, especially as I felt one of my stories was better than two that placed. To be extra painfully honest I had already spent some of the prize money… DAMN YOU CAMBRIDGE SATCHEL COMPANY!

This year, the task was to write on the theme “Heroes”  in no more than 750 words. Another great and flexible topic, and it was a conversation with The Lovely Benson, when he said a hero could be anything from a superhero to a favourite uncle, that set the trigger in motion for the following story. People always talk about where artists (of any media) get their ideas… I woke one morning and – BAM! – wrote this out pretty much finished. It had a different ending and a few extra bits here and there, but it was pretty much complete. 

Also, I’ve been asked, and this story is no way autobiographical. However, the backyard is the one from my childhood home; I loved that trampoline. 

You can download a PDF booklet of all the winners at the gay-ebooks website here, but please enjoy below my story. I’ll post the second in a day or two. And, as always, for those participating, oh bugger it for everyone, Happy Mardi Gras.

Uncle Anthy

Mum had a brother a few years older than her. Nan said Anthony and Mum were inseparable, the best of friends, fixing her bike, fighting her battles. Once Anthony came home with two teeth missing and his t-shirt splattered with blood – some kid had said something mean to Mum and Anthony went at him. Nan said Anthony always had a big smile but that day it was twice as big and somehow even wider with that great gap in the middle. Lucky they were baby teeth, but he went about with that damaged smile for a year. Still, Anthony was as proud as punch, Nan said, and Mum was in awe of her brother.

I don’t have clear memories of Anthony. He’d moved to Sydney pretty much as soon as able and left the family behind in Dubbo to do whatever it is country folk do.  But I do remember that he always brought me a present – he once gave me a snowdome containing the Sydney Opera House, which made me think Sydney must be a magical place – and that I could never say his name properly. There were too many letters you see, so the best I could manage was Anthy. Uncle Anthy he was, and I was his Little Stace.

One Christmas, I must have been ten or eleven, Uncle Anthy arrived like he always did, bursting through the door, his arms chocked with presents for all us kids. That was the year that right in the middle of lunch Anthy let out a huge huff that stopped all conversation, picked up his plate and came and sat at the kids’ table. He plonked his plate next to mine, pulled over Mum’s tapestry footstool, sat himself down, and then continued eating as if nothing had happened. The adults watched frozen like overstuffed greasy dolls, but eventually the spell broke and they went back to their bickerings, and I whispered to Uncle Anthy why he was now sitting here. “You know what Stace,” he said, “that bunch over there are really boring. This table looks like much more fun.” He smiled as wide as the paper plates we where eating from, squinting his eyes to make room for all that grin, and I looked at my brothers and cousins. We all had the same expression: we were The Cool Table.

That evening Uncle Anthy gathered the adults into the living room and us kids were sent outside. After a while we could hear yelling. Not long after that Aunty Nance and Uncle Rob came out to collect their kids. “Come on, we’re leaving,” said Uncle Rob. “But Daaaaad,” whined my cousin Graham. “Now!” yelled back Rob. Soon all the others disappeared in similar fashion leaving just me and my brothers behind. We sat on the trampoline and didn’t say a word.

Eventually it got dark, and us hungry or tired or both, so we tiptoed back inside. Dad and Pop were in front of the television. Nan had gone to bed. Mum was sitting at the kitchen table, just sitting there. When she saw us she wiped her eyes. “You kids must be starving,” and she busied herself making up plates of leftovers. “Where’s Uncle Anthy?” I asked. “He had to go,” Mum said after the littlest of hesitations. “When’s he coming back?”

But he wasn’t coming back. That was the last Christmas – the last time – Uncle Anthy ever came. I would ask: When’s Uncle Anthy coming to visit?… Perhaps I could ring him like I used to?… Perhaps we can go see him?… but the requests were always met the same. Dad would get angry and Mum always ended up crying. Soon I learnt it was best not to mention Uncle Anthy at all, so his name and memory faded away.

On the day that Australia turned 200 I turned 18, and a month later I made my own trip to Sydney where I was lucky to snare a shared flat in Randwick just around the corner from uni. The first thing I did was grab the L-Z and look up the name Anthony Marshall. There were five A Marshalls, but Uncle Anthy was none of them. Perhaps he has an unlisted number, I consoled myself, perhaps he doesn’t have a phone?

The second thing I did was place that Sydney Opera House snowdome on my windowsill.

At the footy

Wednesday 25 May 2011

The red and the white v the brown and the yellow;
That’s the game to be played in the warm autumn gleam.
Same hue attired fans, be them lass, be them fellow,
Fill the stands, eat the pies, shout the rules, carn their team.

I’m the guest of a friend but the friend couldn’t make it,
So there’s two of us acting as substitute fans.
Been a year since I’ve been to the arena to fake it.
I’m afraid these emotions aren’t stowed in my glands.

I don’t follow sport; I’m confused by the legal.
Is this one the one where you can’t play off side?
But I love its theatre – the players so regal!
It’s food for the masses, the critics one-eyed.

The players – half fumble, half ballet – play forward.
The smell of deep heat permeates through the air.
All action heads south and then suddenly nor’ward
The crowd squeals like kids on the rides at the fair.

A man right behind me shouts animate slogans.
Watch ya doing? Pick the ball up! Get a move on! Domineer!
On the oval the coloured teams battle like shoguns.
When one scores a goal the entire crowd cheer.

A young girl beside me reads Roald Dahl’s “The Witches”.
Her sister, in contrast, eyes the game intense.
She’s covered in badges, from her cap to her britches,
The other just yawns… it’s all mere pretense.

Four beers and a pie with tomato sauce later
It’s time to head home. All is lost. Game is done.
Were the Swans overwhelmed? Did the Hawks just play greater?
Let’s just say, on the day, that the better team won.

Feed your family… Italian style

Thursday 19 May 2011

You’re not my friend any more Curtis Stone.

I’ve been following your “Under $10” recipes since the very beginning and, while they’ve never cost less than $15, I’ve enjoyed them immensely. I felt you were teaching me to be both frugal and flavoursome, taking me on a journey through the marvels of budgeted home culinary. I felt, perhaps, you understood me.

So I hope you understand why I say this: Baked Rigatoni with Tomato and Sopressa Salami.

I wrote the ingredients out carefully and trotted to my local Coles with green bag in hand. First stop the deli for the pre-sliced ingredients, and the first sign of a chink in our friendship. My Coles had none – NONE – of the listed ingredients: not the 150g Sopressa salami, not the 100g Delre mozzarella, and not the 1/4 cup Coles Parmigiano Reggiano parmesan cheese. “Fine, I’ll buy it from fridge section,” I said, but the salami comes in packs of 100g, so I had to buy two, and the mozzarella and parmesan in lots of 250g.

So your “$9.97” meal, including the herbs, ended up costing $32.95!

Having spent three times what you reckon this meal was going to, I started preparing. It was here our friendship completely fell apart. It was a small issue, as most friendship-enders are, but I’m sure the reason why a lot of people have stopped being chummy with chefs. It appears time and time again and does nothing but frustrate the amateur cook.

It’s the half a small brown onion.

Why must you include such a ridiculous ingredient? What’s wrong with a full brown onion? You know everyone’s going to include the whole onion – who keeps half a brown onion? – so why specify such a measurement? Really Curtis, do you seriously think any of us, no matter how many episodes of MasterChef we’ve suffered, can tell the difference between the taste of half and a full brown onion? And what am I supposed to do with the onion’s other half? The baked rigatoni serves 4; single me will be eating this the better part of the week!

And don’t get me started on the 350g of Coles rigatoni pasta. Why – WHY – stipulate 350g when pasta comes in bags of 500g? What am I supposed to do with the other 150g? I had to buy a grater for the 1 small carrot; must I purchase a set of kitchen scales as well?

So I’m sorry Curtis but I can’t be friends with you anymore, it just makes me too upset when I attempt your recipes. I hope you’ll understand and perhaps one day we can laugh about this.

However, I must say that the final result was pretty tasty, even if I did forget to include the basil.

A poem for Scott

Thursday 12 May 2011

Scott's new vase

My dear friend Scott once bought a jug,
A tiny thing from history.
The salesmen thought him quite the mug:
Such fuss for some old pottery!

Scott paid the bill and pock’d the prize
(All carefully wrapped in cellophane)
Then told the man, to his surprise,
“Tis priceless piece from Grecian fame.”

The man, his jaw gobsmacked it fell
And echoed round his antique freighter.
Scott thanked the man, then said he’d sell
It back to him on ebay later.

Script Frenzy – Winner!

Monday 2 May 2011

If you’ve been reading during the last month you might have wondered what all this “Script Frenzy” stuff is about, but, then again, you probably weren’t as you were too busy making little bunnies

Script Frenzy is an international writing event in which participants take on the challenge of writing 100 pages of scripted material in the month of April. It’s like NaNoWriMo (where your write a 50,000 novel in the month of November, an event I failed dismally when I first attempted) but you write a script instead. The counting system differs as while a novel writer could use a gamut of fonts or spacing sizes, meaning their 50,000 word novel could fill an unknowable number of pages, script writing is very precise and governed by formatting rules. How I’ve dumped my writing scraps sort of mimics the layout, but only just. The notion is that in true script formatting one page of script is equal to one minute of screen time, so a 100 page script is 100 minutes, the average length of most films.

Every writer who completes the goal of 100 pages wins, and – yay me! – I wrote 115 pages during the month. (Click on the icon on the right for more info on Script Frenzy.)

So what did I win? I win the bragging rights to say I wrote a script in a month. I also won this:

Pretty nifty, hey?

My script (which was also chosen as a 30 Posters, 30 Days entry) is still going. I’m only up to the morning of the Final Battle and, I must admit, am having a bit of trouble trying to work out what happens next. To keep the momentum going I’m sticking with the daily page requirements, writing at least three pages a day, until it’s finished. It might be all rubbish at the end but at least I will have it out of the head and on to the page, and in a few months time I’ll be able to go back and edit the hell out if it.

Ernest Hemingway wrote “The first draft of anything is shit.” Mark Haddon said “Crossing out was the secret of all good writing.” Justice Louis Brandeis remarked “There is no great writing, only great rewriting.” And Richard Back noted “A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.”

Me, I’m with Winnie-the-Pooh:

For I am a bear of very little brain
and long words bother me.

Hope you keep enjoying.


Script Frenzy – Scene: The First National Bank of Business City

Friday 29 April 2011


The Van pulls up in front of the First National Bank of Business City. Ultimate Bad jumps from the Van. The Henchmen all jump out, squinting in the sun light.


Where now?


Looks like Main Street.


But where on Main Street?

Lex turns to face the Bank.


The First National.

Sally is getting out of the Van. She freezes when she hears Lex’s line. He lifts her out of the Van.


What did you say?


The First National Bank of Business City. I suppose we’re going to rob that.



The First National?

She turns and sees that she’s out front of the Bank. She panics, taking a few steps away.


I… I… can’t do this.

She backs into Lex who holds on to her more for comfort than for security.


Sally, what’s wrong?


Please, I have to go!





She breaks from his grip and runs away down the street, disappearing into the crowd.

Lex watches puzzled. Jim and Thunderhead join him.


What’s with her?


Something about the Bank.


Hmph, probably didn’t give her a loan or something. Come on, we’re on duty.

Jim leads the concerned Lex away by the arm.

Ultimate Bad stands before his Henchmen.


Are you ready Minions? Let’s make this one interesting: the Minion who brings me the largest bag of cash gets to keep it!


You can all keep your hands to yourselves!

There are all the Sidekicks – Audacious-Boy, Spirit-Girl, Hardy-Boy, Net-Girl and Battle-Boy – all standing in the front of the Bank’s door.


Not one step closer you high collared villain, you’re under arrest!

Ultimate Bad rolls his eyes.


I don’t have time for this.

From up his sleeve drops a small black orb, about the size of a grapefruit. He click-click-clicks its two halves against each other – it starts to flash and beep.


Here, catch!

He tosses the orb at the Sidekicks. Battle-Boy catches it. He looks at the orb mystified.


Umm, Battle-Boy, you might want to get rid of that.

Battle-Boy suddenly realises he’s holding a bomb. He throws it into the air and the Sidekicks scatter.

The orb falls and B-O-O-O-M!!

The door – and half the wall – have all been blown away. Rubble and fallen Henchmen lie everywhere.

Ultimate Bad, who had simply protected himself by holding up his sleeve, brushes the dust off his robe.


Onward footman soldiers!

He strides off over the rubble and through where the doors used to be. He sticks his head back out and gestures at the Sidekicks.


(to his Henchmen)

Deal with them first though, will you?

The Sidekicks and the Henchmen all get themselves up, aching all over.  Jim pants heavily.


Can’t we just call this one a draw?

A RANDOM HENCHMAN near him is suddenly swept away by one of Audacious-Boy’s bolos.


Obviously not.

He roars and runs at the Sidekicks. Other Henchmen follow.


Alarms wail everywhere. Customers hide in the corners, cowering as Ultimate Bad strolls past and up to the inquiry counter. He D-I-N-G-S the bell.

No one comes to his assistance. After a moment he looks over the counter.

There crouching on the floor is the BANK MANAGER.



The Bank Manager looks up.


Ca… ca… can I help you?

Ultimate beams a lovely wide smile.


Yes. I’d like to withdraw all your money please.


Ultimate Bad steps back out through the door frame, in his hand he has a bank cheque which he is checking the details. As he walks along he folds the cheque in half and slips it into his pocket.

A Henchman flies past him. One of Net-Girl’s nets splats against the wall, narrowly missing Ultimate. The battle is still going, but all the Sidekicks and Henchmen are down to their final ounces of strength. Already some of the Henchmen, and Hardy-Boy, Battle-Boy and Spirit-Girl, are knocked out and lying about the ground.

As Ultimate Bad steps across the bodies more and more people fall. The closer Ultimate makes it to the Van all that is left standing is Audacious-Boy and Lex. They wearily throw punches at each other until Audacious completely misses Lex and he falls down zonked onto the ground.


Yay me.

Lex falls zonked onto the ground.

Ultimate is by the Van.


Well come on, I haven’t got all day!

The Henchmen drag themselves, some carrying others, into the back of the Van. Battle-Boy pulls himself upright.


Quick! They’re getting away!

Battle-Boy hobbles over to the Henchmen to keep fighting. Thunderhead pushes Battle-Boy on his forehead and he falls back down.

As the Van drives away Audacious-Boy’s mobile phone rings. Then Net-Girl’s phone rings. Then Hardy-Boy’s. Then Battle-Boys. Then Spirit-Girl’s. They each look at their phone screens and grimace.


Who wants to go first?


The full wall monitor blares with the image of the Mayor. Not in his mayoral robes he wears a just as blaring suit.


What the hell is going on with you people?