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).

batchel

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.


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

Friday 29 April 2011

EXT. FIRST NATIONAL BANK – DAY

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.

JIM

Where now?

LEX

Looks like Main Street.

JIM

But where on Main Street?

Lex turns to face the Bank.

LEX

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.

SALLY

What did you say?

LEX

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

SALLY

(shaking)

The First National?

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

SALLY

I… I… can’t do this.

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

LEX

Sally, what’s wrong?

SALLY

Please, I have to go!

LEX

Sally?

SALLY

Please!

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

Lex watches puzzled. Jim and Thunderhead join him.

THUNDERHEAD

What’s with her?

LEX

Something about the Bank.

JIM

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.

ULTIMATE BAD

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

AUDACIOUS-BOY (O.S.)

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.

NET-GIRL

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

Ultimate Bad rolls his eyes.

ULTIMATE BAD

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.

ULTIMATE BAD

Here, catch!

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

HARDY-BOY

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.

ULTIMATE BAD

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.

ULTIMATE BAD

(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.

JIM

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.

JIM

Obviously not.

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

INT. FIRST NATIONAL BANK – DAY

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.

ULTIMATE BAD

Hello.

The Bank Manager looks up.

BANK MANAGER

Ca… ca… can I help you?

Ultimate beams a lovely wide smile.

ULTIMATE BAD

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

EXT. FIRST NATIONAL BANK – DAY

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.

LEX

Yay me.

Lex falls zonked onto the ground.

Ultimate is by the Van.

ULTIMATE BAD

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.

BATTLE-BOY

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.

NET-GIRL

Who wants to go first?

INT. HERO HQ – DAY

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

MAYOR

What the hell is going on with you people?


Script Frenzy – Scene: Weapons Training

Tuesday 19 April 2011

EXT. QUADRANGLE – DAY

A large sunny high walled quadrangle. Half the Recruits are milling around the other end of the area. Gormenghast stands raised on a platform near a large painted “X” on the ground. Cronies still stand guard.

GORMENGHAST

Weapons are one of the most important tools of being a Henchman. Not only does it give you the opportunity to easily kill someone, it also means you have the ability to do it from quite some distance away. Now, you’ve all got your partners. Pair Number One!

SHOOTER #1 timidly approaches the “X”. He is holding a convoluted futuristic rifle.

Against the wall shuffles his partner TARGET #1. He is holding a large bull’s eye target, which he holds out at arm’s length to his side.

Shooter #1 takes aim, then reconsiders.

SHOOTER #1

(to Gormenghast)

Are you sure about this?

GORMENGHAST

Do you want to swap places?

Shooter #1 takes aim again.

Target #1 starts to wobble.

TARGET #1

I’m not feeling comfortable about this Sam!

SHOOTER #1

Just stop wiggling, will ya!

Target #1 hold out the target even further.

BANG! Shooter #1 shoots, completely missing the bull’s eye, but shooting Target #1 dead. Two Cronies come and drag the body away.

SHOOTER #1

Dean, are you all right? … Dean?

GORMENGHAST

Next!

(to Shooter #1)

Go practicing your aiming.

SHOOTER #2 enters and takes up her spot with a larger barrelled firearm than the previous one. TARGET #2 is pushed in place by a couple of Cronies.

TARGET #2

You’ve done this before, haven’t you Ruth?

SHOOTER #2

Once at the county fair.

TARGET #2

Did you win anything.

SHOOTER #2

… No.

GORMENGHAST

Just do your best.

Shooter #2 takes aim. She is shaking so much the gun barrel looks like it’s beating time.

BANG! Target #2 is now only hold half a smoking bull’s-eye. Target #2 looks over the top, terrified.

Shooter #2 is elated and jumps out in rapture.

SHOOTER #2

I hit it! I hit it! I hit it!

GORMENGHAST

Yes, very good. Next!

It’s Thunderhead. He’s got some sort of machine gun with the ammunition belt rapped over his shoulders like a sash. Against the wall shuffles Jim with his bull’s eye target.

Jim gulps and holds the target above his head. He shuts his eyes tight.

Thunderhead begins to take aim then looks up at Gormenghast.

THUNDERHEAD

Dude, I’m a pacifist!

GORMENGHAST

You’ll be a dead pacifist if you don’t aim at that target.

Thunderhead takes up aim again.

THUNDERHEAD

I’m sorry Jim Dude!

JIM

(eyes still clenched)

It’s all right Thunder, I believe in you!

Thunderhead shoot – POW POW POW POW POW POW POW! – the bullets go everywhere, eventually running out of ammo. He looks across through the smoke to the wall.

THUNDERHEAD

Jim!?

As the smoke clears, there is Jim with his bull’s eye target intact, but all around him in the wall is dotted row of bullet holes.

He falls FLUMP! face down onto the ground, stiff as a board, leaving the perfect bullet outline in full view.

Thunderhead rushes to help his friend.

THUNDERHEAD

Dude, you all right?

The shell-shocked Jim looks at the wall.

JIM

You see Thunder, I told you I believed in you!

GORMENGHAST

Next!

Thunderhead helps his friend away as Sally, carrying an enormous weapon, and Lex, with a bull’s eye target take their places.

Sally can barely carry her weapon.

SALLY

I’m sorry but you don’t think that this… thing might just be the wrong size for me?

GORMENGHAST

Hmmm, perhaps you’re right.

Gormenghast clicks his fingers and Cronies surround Sally. When they disappear she now has a bazooka cannon strapped to her shoulder.

GORMENGHAST

Try that instead.

LEX

(calls out)

Come on Sally, you can do it!

SALLY

But I’ll kill you!

LEX

No you won’t! I’ll just hold the target out really far like this.

He holds out the weapon at arm’s length in front of him and spreads his legs to get a better balance.

LEX

See, I’m all protected now!

SALLY

Lex, are you kidding? If I push this button you’ll be –

She accidentally pushes the button. The force of the recoil of the cannon throws Sally back into a pile of garbage bins and old boxes by the Kitchen entrance at the far end of the Quadrangle. Meanwhile Lex has been blown through the wall. He lies there amongst a bunch of school desks, still holding the target in front of him.

He rubs his head trying to sit up. Likewise, so does Sally.

GORMENGHAST

(about Sally)

Ooooo, that’s gonna hurt.

INT. SLEEPING QUARTERS – NIGHT

Sally in a singlet top is examining her bruise – her entire shoulder is an alarming purply red. It looks extremely painful.


Script Frenzy – Scene: Ultimate Bad and the Cookie Jar

Sunday 10 April 2011

EXT. THE QUADRANGLE – DAY

All the trainees are lined up military style. Ultimate Bad is out the front finishing his pep talk.

ULTIMATE BAD

By the end of your training you will be my perfectly trained and able army of lackeys… you’re lucky to be my lackeys, give yourself a pat on the back, you’ve earned it. Feel the love, feel the love. Now, is there any questions?

A THUGGY FELLOW slowly puts up his hand. Ultimate smiles like the cat about to get the cream.

ULTIMATE BAD

Yes? You there!

He waves to Thuggy who moves to the front of the crowd.

ULTIMATE BAD

You have something you wish to say?

Thuggy puffs out his chest.

THUGGY FELLOW

Yeah. What if I don’t want to join your army of lackeys?

A murmur runs through the trainees.

ULTIMATE BAD

You don’t want to be one of my self effacing servants and help me overtake the world?

THUGGY FELLOW

Nah!

Ultimate considers this.

ULTIMATE BAD

Is there anything else?

Thuggy tries his luck.

THUGGY FELLOW

Yeah. I’m hungry.

ULTIMATE BAD

Hungry?

THUGGY FELLOW

Yeah. I haven’t had a bite since you dragged me from that bar.

Ultimate nods to Gormenghast, who clicks his fingers to a SERVANT, who clicks his fingers to ANOTHER SERVANT. This happens down the line till from the main building saunters a RAVISHING SLAVE GIRL carrying an ordinary cookie jar as if it was a Ming vase.

The Slave Girl passes the jar to Gormenghast who delivers it to Ultimate.

ULTIMATE BAD

Then perhaps you’ll like …. a cookie?

Another murmur mutters through the crowd. Thuggy looks around him for support but receives none.

He puffs out his chest even further, sets his jaw.

THUGGY FELLOW

(brazen)

Sure. Why not.

He swaggers closer to Ultimate and takes the lid off the jar. He looks into the jar to get his cookie. SWOOSH! A VENOMOUS COBRA springs out and attaches itself to his face.

Thuggy tumbles to the ground and writhes, screaming in pain, until the Snake has finished him off. Thuggy lies there dead, the snake curls itself up on its new kill.

Ultimate addresses the masses.

ULTIMATE BAD

What we have just witnessed there are two very important lessons. One: Never disobey me or I will kill you! And the second: Never takes candy from strangers, didn’t your parents teach you anything?!

Ultimate hands back the jar to Gormenghast.

ULTIMATE BAD

And now, I leave you in the capable hands of my Number Two. Gormenghast, they’re all yours.

Gormenghast salutes his master and Ultimate strides back to the main building.

ULTIMATE BAD

(to Slave Girl)

Come Annabelle. I’m in desperate need of a hard rub down.

Ultimate and the Slave Girl return to the main building.

Gormenghast is still holding the cookie jar. He suddenly feels foolish, so drops the jar and steps away.

GORMENGHAST

Right!