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.

The Beginning, Number 15 – Reminiscence

Sunday 7 June 2009

“Tell me what you remember,” said the man on the seat.

“Well,” said the man on the couch, “What do I remember? I’ve been having this same dream for so long now you would think it would be perfectly burnt into my brain – frame by frame, word by word.”

“Just do the best you can,” said the man on the seat.

The man on the couch paused and breathed deeply. How did the story go again? “Well, it’s AM, still dark. And there’s no noise, it’s completely silent. Wait – there is a noise. A cat screeches in the night. Another cat screeches back. Now there’s no noise.” He stops, his brow furrowed heavily.

“Go on,” said the man on the seat.

“Umm. There’s a door and a light – a fluoro light shines down.” The man on the couch halted. “Shit, I know there is something about a painting; there’s more about the door too. You would think I would remember this. It’s all I’ve dreamt for the last two months! It shouldn’t be this difficult.”

“Just relax,” said the man on the seat, “It will come if you let it.” The man on the seat casually looked across at the mantelpiece: ten minutes.

“So there’s a door – it’s a roller door, and it’s being lit by a single fluoro light beaming down. And there’s words on the door – “PTERON: Your Company for Tomorrow, Today!” in big bold letters. Underneath the words is a picture of a happy family picnicking by a scenic pond and behind the pond is a metropolis city.” He paused again. “Next a truck drives up but I’ve got a feeling I’ve missed something about the door. I’m sure there was something after the bit about the picture. It probably doesn’t matter.”

He wriggled on the couch, pushing his shoulders into the soft cushion. The padded leather felt comforting underneath his body.

“Now there’s a noise. A soft noise, and it gets louder and louder still until it’s roaring. It’s a truck and it is backing up towards the roller door. You don’t see the truck, you only hear it. Anyway, the truck stops and someone gets out and opens the roller door – you don’t see the person either. Bye bye! to the happy family as the door disappears onto its scroll above.”

The man on the couch stopped.

“And then?” said the man on the seat after a while.

“And then nothing – that’s it. That’s when I wake up.” The man on the couch sat up and turned around. “What do you think it means?”

“I think it means we have a lot to discuss next week, but we’re making good progress,” said the man on the seat.

He closed his notepad and folded his hands into his lap. The man on the couch knew that was the sign that it was time to go.

The end.

The Beginning, Number 14 – Generation Why

Sunday 7 June 2009

OK, well, it’s like, dark, you know? I’m mean, you can’t see nuffin, and it’s real quiet like, but then there’s this, like, noise, ‘s a cat or something, but besides that there’s nuffin.

So then there’s this door, and it’s just like, you know, a garage door and it’s just a normal  door, right, it’s nuffin special, I mean, it’s just a door, so, you know, it’s no big deal, but it’s got, umm, you know, a painting on it, ok, of a, you know, family doin sumffin and, like, it’s, you know, outdoors, but there’s this stinking great big energy sucking city right behind the family which, like, really undermines the whole fresh air thing that the family’s doing. I mean, it’s just so typical of previous generations to completely fuck up the environment with their greed and nature hatred … like, natred. (Natred – yeah! Gotta add that to urbandictionary.com.)

Ok, well, now there’s this noise and it’s like a truck, a big one, and it’s driving up to the door, right, and the doors opened and, well, that’s it. It’s a pretty shit ending. I mean I don’t even know what’s behind the door, so thanks for making me waste my precious time for such a stupid story. Fuck this, I’m gonna go play Mario Kart.

1 to go …

The Beginning, Number 13 – Limerick

Monday 25 May 2009

A roller door painted all pretty
With a picnicking group by a city,
Lit by a single light,
Was opened one night.
What’s inside? No idea. Such a pity.

2 to go …

The Beginning, Number 12 – Tautological

Wednesday 20 May 2009

As well as it being early in the morning, the clock flashed “AM”. Still dark; there was also no light. Quiet too, no noise. Wait or pause a moment – nearly or hardly no or any tremor or sound. Yonder there is a cat of the feline persuasion screeching, possibly even shrieking; another, the same again, howls its cry back in return. Now there is no noise … or could it be said that presently it is silent?

Here, in front of you, is a roller door – a lockable shutter. A fluoro strip, or a gas-discharge lamp, overhead beams glares down from above. “PTERON: Tomorrow’s Company Today!” in big bold and large solid letters, or graphics, says displays the door/portal. To make its point, and to nail down its meaning, a happy joyful family kindred collection picnic, and dine outdoors, by a scenic/visually aesthetic pond/pool of water. Beyond and behind the pond, or waterhole, is a metropolis city… Actually “metropolis” and “city” is already a tautology but I’ll throw in “megacity” and “conurbation” just to be on the safe (secure) side (edge).

Now, immediately, there is both a noise and a calling – a soft noise, be it a gentle din – a louder noise, now a increasing clamour – a noise louder still, the raucous volume increasing. Roaring up to the door, a truck, a large semi, (probably could take this as already being a tautology, couldn’t you?) rumbles towards the portal, emanating an alarm-like beep as it goes. The door, this passageway, is rolled open allowing entrance – say bye bye! and see you later! to the delightfully happy genealogical dynasty as they rattle, also clatter, also hurtle, their way onto the scroll (or wheel) above/beyond our heads.

3 to go …

The Beginning, Number 11 – Litotes

Wednesday 20 May 2009

The clock, in the European tradition, displays the time as “oh-something”. It’s not light, no afternoon delight here. And you call this noisy? I don’t think so. Hang a sec – what was it? It couldn’t have been a dog. There that sound again. Yep, definitely not dogs. Those meows are confirmational proof their makers are not canine. It’s gone now. Back to the shattering din … not!

Here is a portal – no window, no chimney, no inter-dimensional black hole – just an opening. A covered opening, I grant you, but still an opening. The covering is definitely not a cloth, more likely some sort of metal. Not very straight is it, this covering, more rolly-like. Anyway, on this awning, let’s call it, there’s a … well, what’s it not? A photograph? No. An etching? Wrong again. A painting? You got it. This work of art, this design sketched by no Picasso (as we can see what it is) but also no Da Vinci (it’s not that good) shows a non-cheerless family nibbling on sandwiches and jam tarts; certainly not five star dining. They sit in a very un-standing type of way by a not very large lake which is itself by a not very small town. Oh, I forgot to mention that there’s also some shapes, they’re certainly not numbers. You don’t have to be Shakespeare to see that they’re arranged to spell “PTERON: Tomorrow’s Company Today!”, but it wouldn’t hurt.

Remember how I said it was quiet? Well it’s not like that now and increasingly becoming more so. Too many wheels for a car, way too much grunt to be a bicycle, the travelling truck, a vehicle no man could brave, approaches, making a noise so squeaky, so paltry, it did not fit its demonic demeanor. There goes the door (It wasn’t locked. How do I know? ‘Cos it opens, stupid! No flies on me, mate!) and with it the family. Sad to see them go, but let’s not say goodbye, but instead au revoir!

4 to go …

The Beginning, Number 10 – Metaphorically Speaking

Monday 11 May 2009

Like a talk-back radio station, it was AM. It was dark, the inside of a student household’s oven dark, and as still as a glass of water at a cheap diner. Like a mime falling in a forest, there is no noise – wait – nearly no noise, more like a mime walking against a oncoming train. There’s a cat screeching the sound of air escaping from a balloon; another, fingernails on a chalkboard, screeches back. Now there is no noise, like… umm… a mime trapped in a glass box trapped in a block of cement at the bottom of a well. That’s how quiet it was.

Here, this portal to another dimension, this gate to the Unknown, is a roller door. The dying days of a bluish sun, a fluoro strip beams down, like something that is above you that is beaming down… that’s pretty much it really. “PTERON: Tomorrow’s Company Today!” in big bold letters, a cross between a Sesame Street episode and an explosion in a Helvetica factory, says the door, like Cassandra forever to be ignored, forever to be always saying “See, I told you so, I told you so but you never listen”. As blatant as a boil on the nose of a beauty pageant contestant, to make its point a family picnic happily, reminiscent of those cigarette advertisements from the 1950’s, by a scenic pond as blue as the water in my toilet, which is blue, by the way, and not yellowish or otherwise, just so you get the picture and not start thinking that the water is – say – brown, which would paint a completely different type of picture. No, the water is blue, a good Harpic blue. The kitchen may not be clean but you could eat off my toilet. I wouldn’t recommend it but you could it you were pushed. Anyway… Beyond the pond, like a dreamscaped nightmare, is a metropolis city, a towering masterpiece of industrial decadence.

Now, just as my breath leaves my body, there is a noise – a soft noise, as quiet as a tip-toeing mouse wearing mouse-sized slippers – a louder noise, such as the murmur of a bee hive in the far distant corner of a summer field – a noise louder still, as volumescent as a rave with the music yanked up to 11. No, wait, it’s louder than that. It’s more like the chorus of Every Rose Has Its Thorn sung flat by street revellers under your bedroom window at 2am, a noise so loud that it steals you from your drunken slumber and leaves you wide awake, head throbbing, for the next three hours. If this noise was an image it would be a slug on a mantelpiece – that’s how shockingly loud this noise was. A truck, a large semi, Satan’s messenger, Optimus Prime on steroids, roars up to the door, beeping the cry of angels with kazoos. The door is rolled open like a magician and his endless kerchiefs in reverse – bye bye! to the happy family, that grinning genealogical gang, that amusing ancestral arrangement, as they rattle their way onto the scroll above… like the last strip of 8mm film of holiday memories long past, click click clacking as it spins on its peg.

5 to go …