Friday, 30 December 2011

An Urban Winter

(A Flash Fiction Story)

He lay in bed, almost in the foetal position, with the duvet wrapped tightly around him. Donal didn’t feel sleepy anymore but his body ached with tiredness. Any little thing left him drained and tired. Simply getting out of bed and going to the toilet left him exhausted and week. Yet, lying in bed was so boring, he wasn’t the type to read books endlessly and, though he had it on in the background, he’d lost interest in the radio station he had on.

Tim, his flatmate, had diagnosed flu and told Donal he needed to stay in bed, rest and drink plenty of fluids. That had been the night before and, because Tim was a nurse, Donal had listened to him. Now, the next morning, Tim was off at work and Donal was trapped at home. He’d never felt this ill before, he’d never had the flu or even a cold before.

Yesterday he’d been sent home from work. He’d felt rough on the tube train to work but dismissed it as only being tired. By mid-morning he had been drained of energy and could barely focus. Debbie, his manager, had sent him home sick, saying:

“For God’s sake don’t come back to until you’re well.”

Donal had been shocked to be ill. He’d never been ill, yet within six months of moving to London he was struck down with the flu.

He’d spent the first nineteen years of his life on his family’s farm, in rural Northumberland, with his parents and his older brother Angus. It was always expected that Angus would eventually take over the farm and that Donal would take second place. His parents made no attempt to hide their favouritism of Angus, but it had always been like that and Donal simply accepted it.

Things had changed as Donal had grown into his teens because he had come to realisation that he was gay. In rural Northumberland there weren’t any resources for someone gay. Eventually he found a gay group in Tynemouth. He had to wait until he was seventeen before he could to go to it, wait until he got his driving licence.

When he finally got to the gay group he was so disappointed. The group was small and insular; most of the men there were in couples and had very domestic lives. Though disappointed he carried on attending, every time he could borrow Angus’ car, it was his only contact with gay life. Through them he discovered the two gay bars in his area, the one bar who had a gay night and the other who unofficially let gay men met in the back bar. He also learnt all the local cruising grounds. All this wasn’t enough; it only felt as if he was playing at being gay.

A month before his nineteenth birthday he decided he had to move to a city, otherwise he’d never do anything about his sexuality. He decided on London because it had a large gay life, including the gay area around Soho. He approached an employment agency and to his surprise they quickly found him a job. It was working in the document archive of a big insurance company. The gay flat share agency found him several places to live, but after meeting Tim he choose that flat.

Shortly after his nineteenth birthday he moved to London. It was the perfect move for him to finally fully explore being gay; but it was also a vast disappointment. He didn’t realise how much he missed the wide open spaces of Northumberland until he moved to the city. London wasn’t s concrete jungle but it didn’t have the green hills and dramatic rock faces of his old home. People were more reserved in London, not unfriendly but not as ready to speak with strangers as he was used to. But most of all he missed the green countryside.

As winter overtook the city Donal had found the sight of it so depressing. In the countryside there would still be greens and life to be seen. In the city it seemed as if all the green and plant life just died away, leaving behind dull browns and greys. All the trees on the street he lived just died away. Part of him longed for the green of the countryside, but the rest of him knew he could never return to that half-life of only being able to be gay once or twice a week.

Though he hadn’t met a boyfriend he’d experience more of gay life then he’d ever imagined. Since moving to London he’d had real gay sex and he loved it. Not the quick and awkward tumbling’s he’d experienced in the back seats of cars or night time cruising grounds back home. All the people he knew in London knew he was gay, he didn’t have to pick carefully those he told. If he wanted he could go out to a different gay bar or venue each night of the week. He didn’t have to closet himself away in London, he couldn’t go back to his old life.

He’d never had a cold or flu before, all through his childhood and adolescent living on the farm, now living in London he’d been laid low with one. Tim had said that it was probably due to the air conditionings at work and being in such close proximity with all the people around him. He reassured Donal that he would develop a better residence the longer he stayed in the city. Eventually he’d look at that as a reassurance but at the moment, as his body ached with flu, all he felt was how miserable he was. He’d never been this ill before, but it would only be for a handful of days and then he could get back to exploring being a gay man.

Drew Payne
January 2009.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Merry Christmas

Christmas is here and it’s time for our own E-Christmas Card, of sorts. This slide-show features pictures taken in our very own back garden, by my partner Martin, and set to the music Clair De Lune by Debussy. So turn your computer’s sound on, take a minute or two and enjoy the music and pictures here.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.


(P.S. if you enjoyed this, why not have a look around my blog)

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

They’re Saying My Words

The other weekend Martin and I spent it in Brighten. We went there for a little winter break, but we also went to see The Treason Show. This month’s show they included two of my sketches.

As the two actors came on stage, to perform the first of my sketches, I felt a tight lump in both my throat and stomach. They were speaking the words I’d written and I had no control of it. I had to just sit back and trust their performances. Then the audience starting laughing, laughing at the words I’d written and the way the actors were performing them. The best part, the only person in the audience who knew it was my sketch was Martin. I felt just the same as they performed my second sketch.

That’s my favourite part of writing, being able to communicate with people anonymously. Most people who read my writing have never met me and never will. I love that about writing. Those people will know me only by my writing, and often by only reading a few things I’d written. It’s the anonymity of writing that I do so like.

Writing satirical sketches is also such great fun, I can put all my anger and frustrations into them, especially when our Government screws up, again. Instead of shouting at the television, I can put all that anger and bile into a sketch.

What would I do without writing?


Friday, 2 December 2011

The Devil to Blame

(A Flash Fiction Story)

“The devil made me do it,” the words simply leapt out of Anthony’s mouth. He didn’t know where they came from, he just opened his mouth and the answer came out.

There he was, sat in Pastor George’s office, that Saturday lunchtime. Anthony thought his life was over, well he would certainly be up to his neck in hot trouble. He still had two more years before he could leave home, two more years before he turned eighteen, two more years of tip-toeing around his mother and her Christianity. Now his cover had been blown and here he sat in front of Pastor George, who was also his mother’s brother.

Two hours before he and Dan had been weeding Pastor George’s garden. His mother had arranged this. She felt it was her duty, as his sister, to make sure Pastor George was looked after, because he was a single, middle aged man. So, Anthony had been given the job of maintaining his garden. That Saturday he had brought Dan along with him, Dan from the music group at church.

They’d had no intention of doing any weeding. Pastor George’s garden had a summer house, at the end of it, which had a large and comfortable day-bed. Anthony and Dan, as soon as Pastor George had left for the church, retired to the summer house. There, on the day-bed, they had begun to make love, the way teenager boys with their first lover make love.

They had been resting, post-coital, covered only by a cotton sheet, Anthony on the verge of falling asleep, when the voice rang out:

“What on earth!”

Pastor George was stood on the summer house’s deck, staring straight at them.

Dan screamed and leapt up from the day-bed. In mere seconds, Dan had grabbed his clothes and fled past Pastor George, Dan’s naked body running across the garden.

Anthony had snatched the cotton sheet to cover himself.

“I think...” stammered Pastor George. “I think you had better get dressed.” Then Pastor George had turned his back while Anthony dressed.

Barely speaking, Pastor George had taken Anthony to his car, driven him back to church and once there Pastor George had hurried Anthony into his office. Once inside, Pastor George sat down, next to Anthony, on one of the two old armchairs in the room. Then Pastor George asked:

“Now, what was happening back there?”

That’s were when the answer just sprang to his lips.

“The devil made me do it.”

To Anthony’s surprise Pastor George had lent forward, his face wearing a pained and concerned expression.

“The devil tempts me in exactly the same way,” Pastor George said, to Anthony’s growing surprise. “The important thing is not to give into the devil’s temptation. It’s not easy but the rewards are great.” Pastor George then told him a long and winding story about his own “struggles” with “temptation”. Anthony quickly realised that Pastor George was queer too but Pastor George hated his queer side, unlike Anthony who couldn’t have enjoyed it more. 

As he listened to Pastor George he realised how screwed-up his uncle was, but with that he could also see a way out of this mess. It was so simple. All he had to do was appeal to Pastor George’s guilt, to act as guilty of him (even if Anthony didn’t feel it) and to beg him not to tell anyone. To act the way Pastor George felt about himself.

“I’m so sorry, I just gave in to temptation,” Anthony gabbled. “Please forgive me.”

“Naturally,” Pastor George replied as he patted Anthony’s thigh in a parental manner. “The devil and his ways can be so seductive.”

“You won’t tell anyone about me or Dan? You won’t tell mum?” He asked, trying to keep the pleading tone in his voice just right.

“I won’t tell anyone about you two boys, I won’t want your whole lives stained by this one, youthful lapse. The same thing happened to me.”

“Thanks,” Anthony replied; God that had been so easy, nothing to it.

“You and I will need to meet for regular counselling sessions, at least several times a week. With my help, I’m sure we can overcome these evil temptations of the devil and you’ll be able to lead a normal life.”

“Yes, sure, I want that,” he told Pastor George, nodding sincerely.

Pastor George started to tell him about his “youthful temptation”, with someone called Charles, when he was eighteen. Anthony just wanted to zone out from this boring and self-loathing story, but he told himself to listen because in this story there was bound to be things he could use later. God, everything had turned around so quickly. Instead of disaster he was now looking at things actually being comfortable. All he had to do was say the things Pastor George wanted to hear, act all guilty and sorry and he could carry on as he wanted to. If Pastor George caught him at it, again, then all he had to do was blame the devil’s temptation. God, it would be so easy. 

“Yes, I’ll do that,” he told Pastor George, in reply to his uncle’s description of his nightly prayers to be saved from his sexuality, but all he could really think about was going to find Dan and to carry on their love-making.

Drew Payne
January 2009.