Swylce

Short fiction and serialised novellas of GJ Fairlamb

Savage Writing: Constructive Feedback

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I do not condone all the attitudes espoused by this narrator.

___

I read your manuscript. I burnt every page of it in my fire, in the middle of a summer heatwave, because that is how little those words deserve to be seen. What were you thinking, giving that to me to read? Every inch of your neuroses was written in your characters’ pores: in the way they run their hands through their hair like you, in their verbal hedges (“Uh”, “Yeah”, “Right?”), in their complete lack of agency. Do you think I want to read about characters that never make a fucking decision, just like you? Do you want me to feel sympathy for the way your plot bludgeons them the way you – erroneously – imagine you’re bludgeoned by your own circumstances?

And knowing you as deep as I do, it makes me sick to understand where they came from: the protagonist is half your libidinous fantasy, half a corrupted version of your ideal self. Did writing him overcome his own failings give you some catharsis – and don’t kid me that he wasn’t you. Every first book main character is the author in a secret or not-so-secret way, and changing his gender doesn’t hide the fact that it’s you. I know you. You haven’t changed. Fifteen fucking years and you haven’t changed an ounce, especially not in the sort of fictional men you find attractive.

Oh, and his “trauma”! You haven’t had a single moment of trauma worth recording in your life. Does it give you some validation to put yourself in the shoes of someone who’s actually suffered? That horrible shit you had happen to your faux-self isn’t romantic in real life. It’s gross. It shutters and shackles your mind in five hundred ways, ways you can’t easily get around in a hundred thousand words and a feel-good character arc. You have no right to claim those experiences, even vicariously. Thank god no-one’ll ever publish this, because anyone who read this knowing about your sheltered real life would go howling to the twitter mob and excoriate you in public for all eternity. I did you a favour. I’m doing you a favour telling you this now, because everyone else will sugar-coat it – and I’m your oldest friend, and you need to know the truth so you don’t embarrass yourself any further.

What was that “plot”, by the way? And endless series of contrivances and back-alley meanderings. Endless reactivity and one-note one-shot characters. Your villain’s motivation was patchwork, shod into whatever shape you needed it to be to create the situation you’d already planned out. And the love interest! How do you even pronounce her name? Did you google that or make it up? Did you just take out Scrabble and dump some of the tiles on the coffee table, then run with it? But she was likeable, at least; the flaws you gave her to make her less likeable, more challenging (I presume) actually made her interesting in a way no other character was. Why the fuck wasn’t she the main character? Would it have hurt your pride to empathise with another woman for once, without trying to out-compete her?

I can’t believe you showed this to other people. I can’t believe you sent this to agents and actual professionals who work with people with talent. This is like a window into the dark recesses of your psyche where all the penises and maggots live. It’s all the shit we used to talk about and fantasise about and cry over when we had sleepovers years ago, back when we would stay up til past sunrise. That shit is not for popular consumption, honey. I’m ashamed on your behalf. Did you not think that any stranger might look through this and straight into the core of you? Did you not consider how dangerous that is? I’d feel less worried if you’d flashed people in the street – at least they don’t help decide what’s on the shelves at Waterstones.

I know you worked really hard, but I can’t even give you a mental teacher’s sticker saying “You tried”. I’m not sure you did, at least not at the right things. I’m sure you can tell me a bunch of details about the setting and the characters’ backstory, but did you try to think about how you might be perceived through this? Did you try to mould your ideals into something palatable to people other than yourself, or did you just vomit your id onto the laptop screen?

Well, it doesn’t matter anyway, because I’ve burnt it, and I’d advise you to delete the original file, or at least bury it some pen drive or hard drive in a folder so deep that future data archaeologists won’t be able to excavate it.

I guess I can say that it’s not the worst first attempt. It was coherent, and the prose wasn’t painful. Maybe think of it like the water that comes spilling out of the ketchup bottle when you first squeeze it: disgusting, but you’ve got to get it out of the way before the good stuff can come out. But no-one wants to eat the fucking ketchup water, darling.

Chin up. Don’t look so put out. Think of it as a new beginning, now I’ve set you straight. Start over. Try again. Do better next time.

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Written by G.J.

09/07/2018 at 10:14 pm

Savage Writing: Black Widow by the TRX

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This was written for Filth Night, so be warned: it’s adult (sex-related) in nature.

____

Andrew’s fallen asleep handcuffed to the bed, and he looks so cute that I don’t want to risk waking him by taking off his glasses. Yes, glasses. I’m not taking the handcuffs off until I’m satisfied (or he needs to pee). I hope he’s ready for another go as soon as his eyes open, because I’m not done with him yet – but I have faith in his stamina. Ladies, this is why you get yourself a man who exercises. The amount of thrusting up I’ve made him do tonight has probably added an extra layer of muscle to his glutes, if that’s even possible.

And ladies, listen – this is why you go to the gym with your man: to prevent him from getting snared by a bitch like me. Andrew has a girlfriend, you see. A schoolteacher named Kelly. Everyone who’s met her tells me she’s nice, and I believe them. Andrew’s a nice man, and nice men tend to have long-term nice girlfriends who then become wives. Maybe me and Kelly could have been friends, if I’d met her the same night as him. Maybe in another life I’d have been a better person and left him alone.

Here is the potted history: I get my PhD in Biochemistry two years late due to personal “my brain tried to make me kill myself” reasons. I start working in a lab at a biopharmaceutical company. It’s been three years since I was mentally human enough to look for a boyfriend, so I’m on the prowl. At the Christmas party, I meet a man with glasses, a trimmed beard, and biceps the size of miniature pinschers. He works in a different department. I imagine him wearing nothing but a white coat and closed-toe boots while he pounds me on my lab bench.

‘Hello, Lisa, was it?’ he says when we are introduced. Every sentence has multiple commas, multiple micro-hesitations. ‘It’s really, very nice, to meet you.’

He smiles, but it’s off-kilter. He must realise it is, since his eyes flicker down to the ground, as if seeking strength from it, before he turns back to me.

I mention that I go to the gym a lot, which I do, because it’s one of the ways I keep my mind monsters at bay. We talk workouts. I say I’m looking to join a new gym because of <insert bullshit reason here> and he tells me which one he goes to and recommends it. The next week, we have our first training session as gym buddies.

Ladies, if there is any kind of rare man that needs to be snapped up, it is the recovering nerd. Andrew’s muscles had grown a lot faster than his confidence since he’d started working out; his hotness had accelerated way out of proportion to his awareness of it. He told me he was trying to get better at speaking to new people, but found it hard to push past his initial shyness.

(He told me this while I kept a sharp eye on his “form” while he bent down into a squat.)

I told him I admired him, because the truth is I do. It takes real guts to recognise your own weaknesses and try to make yourself a better person. I know because I fail at it every day. A better person would have seen his embarrassed-proud face, seen how unused he was to compliments, and just found it cute. I, meanwhile, began to pepper every sentence to him with praise: on his form, on how he dealt with people at the company, on how nice he was for helping me improve my workouts. He deserved it all, but I spread it on thick just to lure him in. After a few weeks, his eyes would light up like a puppy’s when he saw me enter the gym doors.

This Monday he told me that Kelly was going on a school trip this weekend. I suggested, in an entirely separate unrelated conversation, that we should get drinks together on Friday after the gym.

I didn’t mean for it to get this far so fast, but after a couple of whiskies I had to touch his forearm. It was just sitting on the table between us like a slab of stone – it had to be done. But once my skin touched his, the air between us caught fire. A better person would have apologised or mentioned his girlfriend. Instead, I leant my head against his shoulder and giggled like a madwoman, not knowing what to do, until he held my face and kissed me.

Ladies, I hope you never learn what three years in the sexual desert does to a person. But that first kiss when you’re on your way out…it’s like water to the dying.

We said maybe five words to each other between the bar and my bedroom. We kissed all the way through the taxi ride back, fumbled our way through my front door, and were half naked by the time we reached the bed. But I offered to take his trousers off. I ran my hands from shoulders, down pecs, and kneeled before his abs. None of my previous lovers had an any-pack, let alone six. And while I had an idea of his general size – the deadlift may as well be called the junk-lift for what it show off – I was still pleasantly surprised by what I found, and happy to wrap my lips around it.

He asked me to stop. His conscience was resurfacing.

‘Maybe…’ he said.

I kissed him hard to cut him off, and redirected him to my bed, pushing him onto his back.

‘Hey,’ I said, ‘do you want to have some real fun?’

‘Um, yes?’

‘Wait here.’

I told myself: if, by the time I return from my wardrobe drawer, he’s put his clothes back on, then that’s fair and right and good. But if he’s still on the bed when I return, then…

The bespectacled adonis was still on the bed where I left him. Full naked. Beautifully erect.

He laughed, nervously, when I showed him the handcuffs.

‘We don’t have to,’ I said. ‘But I thought maybe you could have a rest. Or I could show off my quad work. Or whatever excuse you want to hear.’

‘It looks fun,’ he said. ‘Please, don’t run away with my wallet. Or tickle me.’

I laughed. I was nervous too. The shrivelled pea that is my conscience had hoped that the handcuffs would scare him away.

But when I finished cuffing him to the headboard and he was there, all for me to play with…I had no regrets. I sucked him until he had to ask me to stop again. As I straddled him, preparing for the point of no return, I told him he should practice being assertive and keep telling me what to do. He laughed again, and said:

‘You are in full control of me, ma’am.’

You could’ve painted the wall with the wetness that line gave me.

As I pushed him inside me, I wondered if any carb or dessert or amount of money could match this feeling: this potion of lust, power, and satisfaction.

Within five minutes our first set was done.

‘Oh God,’ he whispered to the ceiling as I sat down next to him.

‘Do you want to go home?’ I said.

‘…no.’

Ladies, get yourself a man who’s been passed up by girls. Who’s been a social underdog. Get yourself someone who will think he’s lucky to have you just for one night, even if you know you’re not worth it.

Andrew looks so cute as he sleeps. I don’t want to be done with him yet. I hope we can enjoy at least one more set together before he goes home. But I hope he doesn’t get hung up on me. I hope he doesn’t do anything stupid like say he’ll break up with Kelly. She seems like a nice woman – someone who has her mind and shit sorted out. Nice people can forgive each other for their mistakes. And themselves.

Written by G.J.

09/07/2018 at 10:12 pm

Savage Writing: After the Plague

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Professor Carmichael would not let the plague derail her from her research at the university. Even if the city’s population had been decimated, the pursuit of learning and expansion of humankind’s knowledge had to continue, and thus so did she. Her day, then, went as follows:

6am. Wake up to empty flat.

Professor Abigail Carmichael lived alone and had done since she was twenty-five, so this was not unusual. She did not miss the sound of morning traffic through the thin, modern walls. And she had always eaten very frugally too, which is why simple toast under the grill (gas grill) or muesli was all she needed. The one aggravation was how she had to postpone her shower until she got into work, but she understood that it wasn’t fair for them to keep the power on just for her in this building, even if she did hate being sweaty for a whole hour after her morning run.

7.30am. Leave for work.

She had siphoned petrol from most of the remaining cars on the street. Well, those people didn’t need it any more, and if the council were going to be so slow about re-homing her from Yeadon to Leeds then she was left with no other option (oh, she knew they had “staffing issues”, but they’d been using that excuse for years and frankly her sympathy had all run out long ago).

She did so appreciate how quiet the roads were nowadays. And if she occasionally went faster than the speed limit, well, how likely was it she was going to get a ticket, or even hit anything living?

8.00am. Walk to the university gym and take a shower.

It did irk her that no-one had yet removed the metal bars of the turnstiles. The power was on, after all, and she was not the youngest of ladies – it was rather undignified for her to jump the bars every morning just to shower. Occasionally she saw people using the empty pool in the mornings, and decided that when she was eventually moved to Leeds, she would do the same, now there was finally room for a lane each – the way God intended man to swim, really.

8.15am. Leave the gym and go to her new desk at the Michael Sadler building.

The surviving students of the area – those who hadn’t wanted to or been able to go home after the plague struck – worked hard to keep the university stocked with food and supplies, and they were doing a good job of tidying up and removing any decaying remains they found in lone offices and back rooms. She said hello to them each morning as she passed them, and wondered when they would stop looking as if they were about to cry every second. In fact, it was common to find someone sitting on a staircase or bench and crying, at any point in the day. Well, one must keep ones chin up and get on with it. Such hardship would likely improve them, she thought, give them some backbone after a while. Learn to graft like people did in the old days.

She missed her old desk at the business school, on the western edge of the campus. Everything was newer and plusher and more her there. But, she understood they wanted the remaining staff to all be close together. Young people aren’t the only ones who need to make sacrifices after all.

8.30am. Work.

The internet was spotty, which made submitting to journals and finding research papers more difficult. Often an American or European peer or acquaintance would e-mail her and ask how things were. She only acknowledged their concern out of politeness – if it was up to her, she’d ignore such well-wishes entirely.

I’m still managing well, thank you. Anyway, as per our e-mail last week, if you could forward the corrections and comments to me for my analysis, I would be most grateful.

If the internet cut out entirely, as often happened, she’d retreat to the library and see what recent journals she could find, and if there was nothing to help her there, she’d read through some of the textbooks by recently deceased colleagues. This was the only time she came close to feeling sad: the people who had every intention of expanding upon their ideas and research were gone, and their work stood bereft of the sibling series intended for it. Such a shame that ideas that had been percolating in the minds of people for years had been cut, killed, destroyed, before they could be fully born into papers and books. That was the real waste of the plague, to her.

One further annoyance about the whole thing: all of the coffee on campus was old and terrible. Oh, aid packages came in so they would never be short of bread and tinned tomatoes, but it was far easier to live without bread than with sub-par coffee.

6pm. Go home.

Dr Carmichael used to stop by Waitrose on her way home, though it did cause her a slight detour. Nowadays, she took food from the communal aid pantry at the student union and put it in her car to cook later. The drive home was even better than the commute in: the setting sun, the lack of traffic and pedestrians, and the increasingly clean streets, always put her in a good mood. Everyone liked visible progress, and it was nice that no bodies or crashed vehicles were around any more. She would feel sad when the waves of southern aid workers finally reached Leeds and began recycling and reorganising and changing things. At the moment, one could imagine that Leeds and Yeadon were simply becoming their best selves: improved by those with good minds and hearts, and not spoiled by the more numerous reprobates of the world.

6.30pm. Dinner.

The nice man from three streets along had obtained a gas canister for her a while ago, and this is what her oven used now the mains no longer worked. Pasta or soup or something else small and filling made in a pot, followed by tea and chocolate biscuits (they predated the plague – sugar never went off, really).

Every night was a night with a blanket and a good book in the candlelight. She did miss TV, but not as much as she expected. This post-disaster situation was a nice opportunity to improve her mind, and she did not miss Facebook or the rest of the entertainment-internet at all (she’d managed without it before, and she was managing again).

However, every night around 8pm, she would be struck with the urge to call someone she hadn’t thought about in years – a cousin, a friend from primary school, an old co-worker – and have to remember again that that person, if still resident in the UK, was likely dead. She always felt a little disjointed when she remembered, but every night the same foolish urge came into her head. And even if those people were still alive, she had no way to contact them at the moment. Perhaps it was better that way: the people she had befriended, all in an unseen box, either alive or dead – who knew? Not her, so they could be both. Better that in between state than knowing for sure.

10pm. Bedtime.

Dr Carmichael never used to drink except at department meetings. The one bad thing about the plague, as far as she was concerned, was the fact that now it took her a glass or two of wine or whisky to feel cosy enough to fall asleep. Most nights, she drank three. That was how to do it, if she didn’t want bad dreams.

Written by G.J.

09/07/2018 at 10:09 pm

Savage Writing: 100 words

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This week’s topic was to write two pieces, one of 100 words and one of 500 words. I gave up on the 500 word one, so here is my 100 word piece.

 

Floating in Space

Weightlessness soothes me. I am suspended in the deepest, blackest ocean, and soon I will forget to breathe as my suit exhausts its oxygen. I don’t think I’ll have the crushing panic that I imagine comes with a watery grave. Just bobbing along, in endless dark, just existing in this frigid womb of space. I wish I could see stars in the endless night about me.

But below turns the earth, white-blue scarred marble, home. Everything that has ever been. It’s a shame. I wish someone could hear me describe how beautiful it looked today, afterwards.

Written by G.J.

15/11/2015 at 4:11 pm

Savage Writing: A Little Stuck

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This week’s task was “Tales of the Unexplained.”

____

I’m a bit stuck at the moment. It happens. I tend to get stuck in a little loop, and it’s the more I worry about it, the more stuck I am and the harder it is to break free. It always starts when my eyes get itchy. They get itchy, then I twitch, and then suddenly I’m back where I was ten minutes, an hour, a day ago. I repeat, and I repeat, until I get to the end and – if I’m bored or relaxed enough – I just sort of slide out and blink and carry on like nothing happened.

I can’t change anything. I just have to sit back and watch through my eyes like they’re a movie screen, hearing myself talk (invariably I’m saying stupid things) and watching myself act (I’m so much clumsier than I give myself credit for). It’s a little frustrating. I don’t tend to get stuck in a loop longer than a day, thank God, because those are the really boring frustrating ones. Why didn’t I get up five minutes earlier so I didn’t miss the bus? Why did I buy that salad for lunch and not realise that it had ginger garlic dressing on it? Why didn’t I bring my umbrella today of all fucking days? It doesn’t matter; I can’t improve anything. And so much is dull. No, tell me again, Dan, how your weekend was. It was so interesting the first time. Spreadsheets are even more fascinating when you can’t even type things into them.

I’ve never been able to explain it, and no-one’s ever believed me when I try to tell them, so I keep it quiet. I’m more used to it than I was as a kid – and it was more useful then, I was able to study twice as hard by taking in all my homework and textbooks twice over, and you get more perspective on your humiliations the second time you endure them. Anyway, I’ve learnt now that when I feel my eyes itching I should just relax and sit back into it, and soon I’ll slide ride out the loop again and keep going.

I’ve learnt that. But I’m stuck now, at the moment. What happens is my eyes start itching when I exit the hospital doors, and then I’m suddenly by the parking meter again, and I have to watch myself fumble and drop my 20ps, and laugh too loudly when I tell Jenny a bad joke on the way back to the car. So far, so normal: I’m used to my clutziness, my bad jokes (it’s quite satisfying, no-one being able to hear you laugh loudly at your own puns).

We walk into the hospital. We sit and watch TV. This is where I get frustrated. I keep telling myself to turn and look at her, see her, take her in. Instead I talk to my side while keeping my eyes on the tiny screen in the waiting room showing some dreadful daytime chat show. I didn’t know anyone on it the first time I saw it. Now I know the guests’ and presenters’ names and lines off by heart. And I scream at myself to turn my head just a few inches and look at Jenny.

The nurse calls us in. I look at her arse as she walks in front of us. I cringe each time I have to repeat that glance.

We talk to the doctor. Now I’m stuck, I watch his face as he speaks. He’s in his late forties, greyed hair, lines on his forehead that foretell that he doesn’t like what he’s going to say. He keeps his face neutral but there’s the odd edge, the occasional terminal rise and starting crack in his voice that shows that he is not made of stone. I appreciate that, as the loops go by. He lowers his tone when he says “aggressive”; he raises his pitch and speeds up when he talks of a plan of action, trying to bolster us without even realising. I appreciate that, more and more.

This is what I wait for, now, with each loop: the moment when I turn and look at Jenny. Her hair is loose today. She is growing out her fringe and it hangs, parted in the middle, with its tips near the bottom of her eyes. She is wearing blue stud earrings, and most of her lipstick has rubbed off during lunch. The doctor’s words don’t hit her – I can tell that the second, third, fourth time. They bounce off her skin and don’t sink in. She nods, and sets her mouth firm, and discusses the plan like it’s a business transaction. She refuses to believe in anything except a perfect ending.

Then she looks at me, and in her eyes I see the base of her facade break. It hits her then: the concept of loss. Mortality. Me, a widower.

It’s an incredibly strange feeling, being trapped in your own head. Walking locked-in syndrome. Can you call it crying when your eyes don’t water and you can’t control your breath to sob?

She thanks the doctor, arranges other appointments. She holds my hand so tight in the corridor that I think she’ll crush my bones. But I relish that each time I loop round: her skin, tight on mine, her wedding ring digging into the base of my third and fourth fingers. She smells of shampoo most of all, even with all the money she spent on that perfume she’s wearing.

We come to the hospital doors, and she turns to me.

‘We’re going to beat this,’ she says.

She turns away before I can see that she’s about to cry. Every time, I admire how she worries about my feelings above hers, how she doesn’t want to burden me with despair, not at 2pm, not in public, not even when the world would be most forgiving of it.

The doors open, and we step out. I think about how much I love her. How I never want to be without her.

Then my eyes start to itch.

Written by G.J.

17/09/2015 at 7:51 pm

Savage Writing: Sarah

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This week’s topic was “Swapping Filth” again. NSFW.

___

It was August 17th 1991, when I first laid eyes on the tits of the woman who took my virginity.

It was at a toothless end-of-summer barbecue thrown by my Aunt June, the sort with more potato salad than meat. I was just sixteen and wearing baggy ripped jeans, a plaid shirt with a vest underneath, and my favourite choker around my throat. My hair was probably slightly greasy. I think it must have been about two pm when I saw her? All I remember is that I got my plate and went to the salad buffet to get some chips and dip and there, hovering over the radicchio like some heavenly sign, were her tits. Her denim shirt was tied in a knot under them, and goddamn if it wasn’t like they were wrapped up just for me. The cleavage seemed to go for miles and miles. I stared, entranced, for what felt like an hour when she reached over to my side of the table, aiming for the breadsticks.

I blinked and looked up. She smiled and said something food-related. I don’t remember exactly what it was now, but to be honest I probably never heard it. She had heavy bobbed hair, curled perfectly under at the bottom. After she put the breadsticks and salad on her plate, she pushed her hair behind one ear, only for a huge lock of it to immediately fall back out again.

‘You’re Anne’s daughter, aren’t you? Hi, I’m Sarah.’

She was a friend of my aunt’s. They went to church together.

‘Natalie,’ I said.

We didn’t say much after that. Pleasantries. I wanted her to stop talking and walk away so I could go back to ogling her. Eventually she obliged, but still I drifted near her all day, only to turn away whenever she noticed me, like a skittish fish or an insect.

At one point, I watched as she and her husband talked to my aunt and uncle. Sarah spoke as she ate, and as she lifted a nacho to her lips a dollop of sour cream fell off of the chip and hit her left boob. It remained there for a further second – tip tapering up to the sky – before she swiped it up with one finger and put the finger in her mouth, tightening her lips as she laughed at herself.

That night, in bed, I imagined licking it off of her, running my tongue up her soft skin, untying the knot of her shirt and drowning in what was beneath. I had to press my palm over my own mouth to silence the end of that fantasy.

*

I became her walking bitch. Aunt June said Sarah had a springer spaniel and a pointer that neither she nor her husband ever had time to walk. I offered. She was delighted. I got to see her three times a week and even more in my dreams.

Time painted me a picture of her, a watercolor made of droplets of half-hour meetings that became afternoons and evenings and more.

She would dance about her kitchen to Lionel Richie. She liked modern art but was only allowed to hang the most bland, inoffensive pictures on her wall. She loved Father of the Bride and thanked me for seeing it with her when husband was out of town again. She gave me my first taste of wine.

There’s no point being nostalgic about it. It happened, but it doesn’t really matter now. Here’s how it ends, so you know you’ll be disappointed: it ends when she puts a “For Sale” sign on the lawn the next July and then a week later I see her brown hatchback go by my house and it doesn’t even slow and I don’t even glimpse her silhouette. Her husband was later found guilty of fraud. June stopped writing to her about that time. God’s forgiveness and love, whatever, I guess. I told my girlfriend in college that she was my first because she was nervous. I breathed so little word of Sarah that I almost forgot she had happened.

Here’s what happened:

It was December. I took Bonnie and Lisa in from their walk and my fingers were frozen. Sarah was lying on the rug in front of the fire, laughing at a rerun of The Simpsons Hallowe’en episode. The dogs bounded over to her, and from the way she lost her balance trying to hug them, I knew she’d been drinking even before I saw the bottle on sitting by the hearth.

When the dogs were in the kennels and I returned to her, she was lying on her back with those mini-mountains splaying out to each side of her chest, barely restrained by her pink flannel pajamas.

I sat next to her. If she was only a little drunk, I figured, then she’d tell me it was late and that I should go home. If she was far more than a little drunk – as I suspected – then maybe…well, I’d be able to look as much as I liked…

‘Do you know what’s bullshit?’ she burst out. It was the first time she’d ever sworn in front of me.

‘What?’

‘Everything. Men. White houses. Ironed shirts. I used to dance until sunrise, ride around in every boy’s car, talk about art and novels and the world. Now I’m…this. Never marry, Nat. Don’t settle down.’

‘I won’t,’ I said.

‘Ha, you will,’ she said.

Her knowing, cynical tone – that’s what finally dragged my eyes away from her body. It annoyed me so much that I blurted the truth.

‘You know I’m gay, right?’

She sat upright so fast, she nearly fell right back over.

‘You are?’

‘…yeah?’ I squeaked, wondering whether I would regret it.

She gave me a deep, wicked smile.

‘Thank God.’

In later days, she would tell me of her days at college flipping between girlfriend and boyfriend, of the eventual triumph of parental pressure, of female lovers crying down the phone.

But what she did, right then, was kiss me.

Don’t think I’m a prude, or that because I was nervous I hesitated. She kissed me, not the other way around – but then I ripped that pajama top from her so fast I probably set a record. I ran my hands over her tits – sweet Jesus, they overfilled my palm – and I couldn’t resist, I trailed my tongue across every inch of them. And when she slipped her hand between my legs, and it was better than every fantasy I’d had about her, I knew – like no other time we fucked in the next six months, like no other night of my life since – I knew that I was in heaven.

Written by G.J.

20/08/2015 at 9:49 pm

Savage Writing: Blithe

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She took the 7.56 tram to the Queen Elizabeth memorial hospital on the 4th of August, and that was the day she sold her eyes. She remembered it vividly, even years later. She had crushed her ticket in sweating palms. The tram conductor found her out that day – that’s what happened – she had been showing the same ticket all month, and August the 4th was the first day the tram conductor actually checked the date on it. Yes, she had handed over the £2.50 she had brought for lunch, she had hoped that after the surgery she would be too nauseous to want to eat. That was the day they took her eyes.

Not that she hadn’t planned it for months. WANTED: GREEN EYES – HIGH PRICE. That’s what the ad had said. Those were the words that sprang out at her that night, when she was clutching her stomach to try to press away the fear. Before the words, it had felt as if a car was parked on her shoulders and was growing heavier and heavier and wouldn’t stop until it turned her into ground beef. After the words, the weight lifted, eased, until it felt as if she was only wearing a thick fur coat. She had green eyes, with perfect vision. She took a selfie in the bright light of her bathroom, sent it to the agency, and was snapped up in seconds.

They gave her the first payment at the first appointment, and that was enough to keep her afloat for a month and a half.

‘Good, healthy green eyes,’ the doctor said, shining light into her this way and that. ‘Your buyer has brown’ – always brown or blue, green and grey eyes were the rare ones – ‘and it’ll look very different. Are you prepared for that?’

Doesn’t matter how I look in the mirror as long as I can eat, she thought.

‘Of course,’ she said, with a confident smile, her customer smile, her please-don’t-get-me-sacked smile, her please-give-me-another-month-and-I’ll-pay-the-interest-I-swear smile.

Would she meet the buyer, she asked.

‘No. They don’t usually meet the sellers. As popular as it is to buy rare eyes, there’s still a certain queasiness about the practice. I know many prefer to treat it as if we simply change the colour of their birth eyes in the surgery. When people buy it for others as gifts – fathers for their daughter’s eighteenth, that kind of thing – they often prefer to mask the truth entirely.’

She signed a raft of forms, exempting the agency from any liability should the surgery go wrong, exempting the buyer from any liability whatsoever. As if she had the money to sue anyone even if it should go disastrously wrong. She’d rubbed her eyes self-consciously as a momentary wave of terror passed by, as she imagined what it might be like to be blind.

Blind people definitely count as disabled, she said to herself as reassurance. They probably got more money a month than she did.

‘You can back out at any time,’ the doctor said. ‘Even on the day.’

‘Do I have to pay back this money if I do?’ she asked.

He had blinked, as if she was the first person who had thought of it.

‘Yes, I believe you do.’

Her chains were set, then. She walked out of the doctors and went across the road and bought a massive slice of pizza and the grease dribbled all over her hands and she nearly choked for the luxury of it, eating such a huge slice at 3pm instead of working for ten hours on a stomach pumped with caffeine.

On the 4th of August, she entered the hospital. At the pre-surgery consultation, the nurse asked if she’d eaten anything that morning. She laughed. She had paid off her second credit card last night and was still high on the happiness.

While she sat in the waiting room, not long before she was called to get changed, a woman walked by. Her age was undefinable – at some angles she looked eighteen, at others thirty-five. Her lips were plump, her eyebrows were angled, and her teeth gleamed snow-white as she smiled and talked to the nurse beside her.

‘I thought, you know, “Jack’s bonus has come in, he’s already done everything for Valentine’s Day, so what else can I ask for for my birthday? I know, I’ll get the eye thing that I’ve been wanting to do for ages.” My mate Lily, she’s had it done and she’s got these stunners and I’m well jel, and I’m sorry but I can just tell that the green’ll go better with me than it does with her – though hers are a brown-green mix, she couldn’t get a pure green one – she’ll be so upset with me when she sees me. I hope I won’t have to be out for long, though, I’ve got lunch with Jack just after – I’m hoping I’ll surprise him, I haven’t told him the surgery’s today…’

The nodding nurse took the woman around a corner and the chatter faded away.

She’d expected, that if she were to ever met her buyer, she’d have envy so thick she could cut throats with it.

But she just felt tired.

A few hours later it was done. Half an hour of rest, and then she was out the door, looking around with her new eyes.

Nothing seemed different. The buyer had laser-perfect eyesight.

On the tram home, she checked her bank balance on her phone. Part of the last payment had come in already, wired in the second the hospital confirmed that she’d gone into surgery. She paid off another chunk of debt, and felt her fur coat of worry moult until she was wearing only an uncomfortable spring jacket.

At home, she went to the bathroom.

She blinked five times when she saw herself. Bold eyes, a darker, muddier shade of brown than her hair. It looked strange. There was a pang of loss as she remembered those days, that so quickly became faded memories, where she had green eyes like a princess.

The pang faded fast. She got changed, grabbed her purse, and walked out the door. There was just enough time to get a slice of pizza before her evening shift.

Written by G.J.

05/08/2015 at 10:49 pm