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.

2011 Mardi Gras final thoughts

Saturday 19 March 2011

And so another Mardi Gras comes to an end. I had a good one this year. I was in an art exhibition and I won an award for my writing, re-energising my creative juices. Friends surrounded and supported me: I felt respected; I felt appreciated; I felt loved.

What else did I do? Saw two plays, which were fun. Knocked over a couple of exhibitions; a mixed bag but the occasional piece stood out. Did most of the Harbour City Bear’s events – the pool party (a great boisterous romp), the Underbear party (I’d been saving my white Aussiebum Wonderjocks for the occasion), a play party (no more information delivered), and a couple of nights at the pubs. Oh, and I also got pretty sick, but you can have everything.

I marched again. I wasn’t going to but a friend had never and wanted someone to hold his hand, and me being the honest sap said I’d join him. We all wore coloured t-shirts to match the colours of the rainbow flag: I was in red (natch); he was in blue. As we waited the half hour in formation for our signal to go I’d occasionally look across to make sure he was all right. Sometimes the look on his face suggested the tension – the waiting, waiting – was too much and the whole thing was soon going to overwhelm him, but then we started and we skipped and danced the Golden Mile to Fox Studios, and he seemed to be having the time of his life. His sister saw him on television; when he told me that I was incredibly proud for him.

This was the fourth time I’ve marched. That first march, which wasn’t that long ago, when I first saw and heard the vast walls of people I thought I was going to burst into tears. I remember saying to myself, “Clyde, hold it in there man, Bears don’t cry! You don’t want these people to see you crying!” I had to constantly gulp my emotions down, telling myself to stay calm, stay calm, and enjoy the sheer ecstasy of it all. When it was over and the noise and crowds had disappeared I sat under a tree and relished that sensation. It was better than any drug I’d ever taken. It’s a pity then, only a few Mardi Gras on, it now feels somewhat routine. It is true you can never reach those first highs again.

So this year I marched with the hope my friend would experience that same rush. Some days before, however, we’d gotten into a heated discussion where he referred to the event as a “parade”. “It’s not a parade,” I said in my best Poindexter, “it’s a march. There’s an important difference.” “Whatever,” he dismissed, but I stopped him there. “No,” I said, with forefinger carefully counting the beats of my words, “you need to understand what’s the significance of this event.” I then wafted on about the Stonewall Riots, and his eyes glazed over, but I do remember him saying it no longer mattered and we should just enjoy Mardi Gras for what it’s become. And I let it slide for I knew he just wasn’t going to understand the significance I felt.

The first time I had sex was on Wednesday 6 December 1995; I was 22. I’d just finished my first year of university. It took until the beginning of my third year before I, for want of a better expression, finally came out and attacked the world, so much so my studies floundered and I had to go part-time. But I didn’t care, I was out on the Oxford Scene – sometimes every night the week – and I was Discovering.

(It’s around this time I rocked up at Sydney’s only men’s-only bar, the Barracks, an underground den full of all those wonderful stereotypes – leather, moustaches, denim, workman’s clothing – wearing a navy blue velour pullover and a string of pearls wrapped three times like a choker around my neck. I thought I looked fabulous! At the bar this guy pushed in before me. I said, “Excuse me, I was here first.” He looked me up and down and with a wave of his wrist replied, “Darling, you’re wearing pearls, you’ll get your root tonight.”

I’m telling tales but the first time I went to the Barracks I was shitting myself. I’d spent the week psyching myself for the event. I’d told the barman of the restaurant I was working at I was going. He recoiled. “Why would you want to go there, it’s full of old men and perverts.” “Oh, you’ve been?” I asked. His lip curled. “No,” he said with a shocked laugh, “What sort of person do you think I am?”

That night I changed into the most working class thing I could muster: 501s, blue Bonds singlet and green Yakka work shirt – I’ve still got that shirt… actually, that outfit now sounds pretty gay. I practiced in front of the mirror my sure-footed über-masculine stance – a strange mix of wide legs and shoulder slouch with a quarter hip twist – and, having now found my character, swaggered to the Barracks’ back laneway entrance. I got in past the bouncer, headed straight for the bar, ordered a schooner and quickly found a seat on the benches along the walls. It was pretty crowded and some guy filled the space next to me and eventually we got talking. He was wearing a leather vest and a leather armband on his right arm. Now, I’d just begun reading up on gay culture, concepts and codes and knew that a band on his right arm meant he was probably a bottom, and with beery confidence I ask him about this. Yes a bottom he was, he said, that’s his boyfriend playing pool. With my beer glass empty I jumped down from my stool and asked if I could buy him a drink. He tapped me on the arm. “Ooo that would be lovely, a gin and tonic please.” At that moment, as I walked across the floor, I held my shoulders back and thought… I own this place!)

Where was I, this was supposed to go somewhere… Oh that’s right – out every night the week.

Back when I was young and pretty, strangers would come and talk with me and me with them. I recall chatting to drag queens, original cast members of Les Girls, many a barman (the story of John is for another time), men in suits, men out of suits, the famous Troughman (his skin glistened in that way oil on water glistens), businessmen, straight men, foreign men, any piece flotsam wandering the nights looking for somewhere to wash ashore. There were a lot of older men. We’d buy each other a round of drinks – even the score – and talk, and as I was new and unsure of many things I’d ask them what paths led them down to where they were today.

It just so happened a lot of these men were ‘78ers, those who were part of Sydney’s first gay and lesbian march on Saturday 24 June 1978. The rally was intended to show support for the 10th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots and to kick-start Australia’s own gay liberation, and the police beat the marchers all the way to Kings Cross where it erupted into its own Riot. None of it was nice, 53 people were arrested, but the following year in greater numbers they marched again, and then the year after that and then the year after that. Somewhere along the line Mardi Gras got moved from the bitter chill of June to the balmy nights of March, and somewhere else Mardi Gras stopped being a march and became a parade. Unfortunately I don’t know the history, more aware of what occurred in the US than what happened on my own street (I live less than a block from the old Les Girls building; I had my 30th in the pub that’s now there), but what I do know is those ‘78ers broke new ground.

Now, I look back and cringe slightly because every time I met one of these men, in my inebriated state, I would thank them. I would punch them on the shoulder or hold them by the hand and thank them for being there and having the courage to be noticed. Now, I roll my eyes thinking how I would in all earnestness speak about how their brave steps led the way for the rest of us to follow; how what they did gave strength to us to come; how I owe my very existence to their fortitude on that cold winter night – and it was the chilliest of Sydney weather – giving me the right to boldly go where they had tip-toed before. And every time they would watch me in silence and eventually, once I’d finished, say, simply, thank you. And then I would buy them a drink.

Now that I’m older and handsome, strangers don’t talk to me as much. Admittedly I no longer go out every night and don’t bounce back from a hangover as well as I used to, but I still go out. As I become one of the older men it saddens me that a great deal of those around me, with their bravado right to flounce and flirt and fuck whoever they bloody well please, have no understanding to how they got that right and have no consideration to those that came before them, those who first held the placards, burned the beacons and led the way.

It’s more than heartbreaking that Mardi Gras has gone from a student crew with bed sheet banners embracing a Day of International Gay Solidarity, to hordes of waxed glittered twinks squealing “Look at us, aren’t we just FAAAAAABULOUS!”. Of course I simplify, and I apologise. But it hurts me terribly more that my friend, someone my age, thinks that none of that history matters and that Mardi Gras is simply a parade. Circuses have parades; what the ‘78ers did was unify and march. I believe that the strength, courage, and will of those who first held their fists in the air is so much more than a procession of clowns and elephants.

That’s why I thank them.

Mardi Gras poster 1978

The first poster - Day of International Gay Solidarity


Wednesday 16 March 2011

I was part of an exhibition during the 2011 Mardi Gras; the Harbour City Bears’ Artspace, held at Monstrosity Gallery, Woolloomooloo. Here’s me looking dapper at the opening – I was still sober enough to remember this photo being taken, but not by much!

If you’d like to see and read a little about the works, then please visit my website.

Me and my Gainsbears.

2011 Mardi Gras Short Story Competition – Cliché

Friday 4 March 2011

This was the first time I’d entered the Short Story Competition and I was successful in receiving one of the judge’s three Highly Commended awards. At first I was a little disappointed with this, but the works that won the major prizes were all excellent pieces, so by the end of the presentation ceremony – and considering there were 41 entries in total – I felt quite honoured to be included amongst their quality.

This year entrants were required to write in no more than 750 words along the theme of “Home”. As you can imagine that offers a lot of flexibility, and, as you can also imagine, I went straight for the joke. The judges had this to say:

‘Cliché’ took a man’s greeting to his partner on getting home and played with it through clever dialogue, creating a sweet, yet strong story that played with traditionally determined ideas of love.

You can download a PDF booklet of all the winners at the gay-ebooks website here, but please enjoy below my story.

And Happy Mardi Gras.


He knew it was silly, he knew it was daft, but tonight it just seemed right. Tom took a deep breath and unlocked the apartment door. “Honey,” he called in a clear, decisive voice, “I’m –”

“Here!” Chris said as he came round the corner. He was wearing an apron over an old singlet and boxer shorts. Somehow his chest looked even hairier offset against the lacy frills of the apron. Tom dared not imagine where it came from.

Chris gave Tom a quick kiss before taking his green shopping bag. “Did you get everything?” He examined a jar of capers. “Go get changed, dinner won’t be long.”

In the bedroom Tom stared at his reflection in the mirror. He nodded to himself; he will say it! He closed his eyes, clenched his fists, and cried out, “Honey, I’m –”

“Hot?” Chris said entering carrying a glass of wine. “No wonder, still all mugged up.” He started undoing Tom’s tie with his spare hand. “Here.” He passed across the wine to better loosen the knot.

Tom sipped the wine. “Honey, I’m –”

“Hopeless.” Chris said, shaking his head. He grinned, which made Tom grin too. “You do OK.” Chris scratched Tom’s furry cheek before leaving him to finish undressing. Alone Tom sighed, and then exchanged his suit for some boxers and an old t-shirt.

Tom found Chris in the kitchen. “Honey,” he said, “I’m –”

“Helping.” Chris passed across a handful of knives and forks. “By the time you finish setting it’ll be ready.” He turned back to the stovetop and gave his pasta another stir.

True to his word, as Tom placed the final fork Chris appeared carrying two laden plates of linguini puttanesca.

“To us,” Chris gave as a toast. With a gulp of newfound courage Tom tried again. “Honey, I’m –”

“Hungry?” Chris said. He clutched Tom’s hand. “Well it’s your favourite, and there’s plenty more.” Tom just smiled back.

Afterwards he handed Chris his empty plate. “Honey, I’m –”

“Hopeful?” Chris said slyly. “Don’t worry, there’s dessert.”

And there was. In front of the television they tucked into bowls of chocolate ice cream. At least Chris did; Tom was distracted in thought. Chris looked across.

“Tom, you OK?”

Tom exhaled heavily. “Honey, I’m –”

“Happy? Good.” But Tom meekly shook his head and stared into his unfinished bowl.

“Honey, I’m –”

“Hefty?” Chris said, furrowing his brow. “Tom, you’re beautiful, you know I know that.”

Tom shrugged. He stirred his spoon around the melting ice cream forming a gluggy soup. He so wanted to say it; he just never thought it would be so hard. “Honey,” he murmured, “I’m –”

Chris placed his hand on Tom’s chin and lifted his head so their eyes met. “Handsome. That’s what you are.” Tom blushed, but rubbed Chris’s knee affectionately.

Chris took away the dessert bowl and pulled Tom towards him, nuzzling his beard into Tom’s. Tom held him tight. “Honey, I’m –”

“Huggable,” Chris said gently, clenching him close.

“Honey,” Tom said again, “I’m –”

“Horny?” Chris said. He loosened his hold and brushed his fingertips down Tom’s sides and across his thighs until finally resting them on his groin. Chris squeezed. Tom gulped.

“Honey, I’m –”

“Hard,” Chris said. Winking, he slid down onto the floor.

Yet Tom kept trying. “Honey, I’m –” but this time he interrupted himself, groaning softly.

“Hmmph!” Chris said, not looking up.

Tom seized Chris by the shoulders. “Honey!” he yelled.

Chris finally raised his head and stared into Tom’s dark eyes. “Yeah Tom?” he said, his face displaying a satisfied smirk. He draped his arms across Tom’s chest and rested his chin.

Tom looked down at Chris. He lent forward and gave his boyfriend – his lover, his everything – a soft, gentle kiss.

“I’m yours,” he said.