The Normal, Human, Mortal Man, by Jamie Drew
Jamie Drew is a man, but tiny, but wee. “Don’t tell them how wee I am!” he says, leaping about my knees in a tiny waistcoat. “The Internet thinks I’m cool! The Internet doesn’t know I’m a tiny elf without the looks and without the powers!” The Internet does not think you are cool, Jamie. Back in the box with you.
“Look, look,” he said. “Look. No. You’re not getting this. I don’t know how else to explain this to you. I’m not a vampire.”
Points in favour of him being a vampire: pale complexion; aversion to garlic; inability to leave piles of salt well enough alone; never in the same room as that bat she kept seeing; also, she found a photograph in a library book of a man who looked exactly like him, the not-vampire, shaking hands with Joseph Stalin.
“I’m a normal man!” he objected. “A human, mortal man! I can dance the Charleston! I take snuff in discotheques! I own two powdered wigs, one for feasts and one for best! What else do you want from me?”
“Here’s the thing,” she said, and meant it: “I can’t do the whole… you know, the Twilight thing. It’s demeaning. It’s completely played out.”
“All right and blazes,” he creaked, “now you listen here: I am the man of this table and what I say goes and you are not breaking off our courtship. Now get over here so I can slap some sense into you.”
She rolled her eyes, because what else can you do? He was of a different time.
The Red Man, by Janina Matthewson
“I put up with Wee Jamie Drew on a semi-professional level,” says Janina, raising her eyebrows, twirling her hair. “I also, like, write things though?” Janina has a speech impediment called ‘being from New Zealand’, but otherwise is charming, is very very nice.
She really wanted to like him, but the problem was, he was red. Like: he was red. He didn’t have red hair; his hair was sandy brown, which a wholly different sub-problem. It clashed horribly with his red, red skin. In fact, everything clashed with his skin, because it was red. He was basically a monster.
And so she didn’t know how to feel when she accidentally laughed at his jokes, or listened out for his voice in group conversations. Once his big red elbow accidentally grazed her right boob and she got so turned on she was angry at him for days.
So she did the only thing you can do in such a sitch and so got drunk and jumped his bones and the next morning he made her eggs benedict and suggested cocoa pops for breakfast dessert, and there are no cons to top that pro.
The Rugby Idiot & The Strawberry, by Sam Pinney
“Sam,” I keep saying. “I literally told you last year, I said: you can write fiction, man. These don’t all have to be from your life.” Sam solemnly holds up a hand as if to say ‘no’, to say ‘I am at peace’. “I am a loser,” he says. “I accept this. Please. This is like therapy for me.” And so:
It had been a good night, awkwardly standing around drinking alcopops in a club while other people snogged. Only the hero and the lady had not paired off with new special friends.
At 3am they reclined in sleeping bags on the firm grey office-style carpet of a mutual friend’s flat. The owner was the only person their age with a flat, so at weekends, hoards of pimply teens stayed over to go out. Some were in other rooms doing sexes.
The hero looked at the girl. He wanted to kiss her but was shy, so they talked instead. There was some light wresting (she was considerably bigger and stronger than him). There was some talking about Blur and Oasis. It took a few hours, a few actual hours, before he summoned up the courage to kiss her, and she told him off breathily for taking too long.
They went out for two weeks, meeting to hold hands in bus shelters, but broke up because basically he didn’t talk about rugby enough.
“I will always love you,” she said, cradling his head in her hands. “And I you,” he replied. They were on his bed eating strawberries in a sun beam. It was a Sunday.
Many years later the man would try to remember her name so he could stalk her on Facebook. He would fail.
The Homonym Trilogy, by Katherine Wheatley
“I JUST TOLD SAM, WHEATS,” I keep saying, calmly. “I JUST FUCKING TOLD HIM. THESE DO NOT HAVE TO BE BASED ON YOUR REAL AND MESSED UP LIVES.” But does she listen? She doesn’t listen. They are getting married to each other and I couldn’t be more made up.
The problems, he concluded, had only come about because of his promotion. That and the fact that his new boss was also called Alex, although BossAlex was a dude. The girl he was casually screwing was not a dude. Let’s call her GirlAlex.
Actually it wasn’t the promotion or the boss; it was the day he decided to spice things up with GirlAlex by sending her some suggestions for activities in their super-special alone time later.
Actually, it wasn’t the promotion or the boss, or the suggestions. It was fucking Microsoft fucking Outlook fucking autopopulate and the fact that BossAlex felt “gob job” is not a phrase open to interpretation. He packed all his desk things into a cardboard box with sadness.
“ERMERGERD I’m so fricking lucky!!!!”
“That’s crazy; he’s taking you to Greece?”
“That’s what he said – I’m literally going to explode with excitement. I’m packing right now!”
“He called you up and said ‘let’s go to Greece this weekend’? It’s, like, your fourth date or whatever.”
“Those were his exact words. He said he’d got a deal on the tickets and not to worry about cost, he’s paying. So I’m chucking everything into a bag and then meeting him at Leicester Square this evening, I guess to jump on the Piccadilly Line and go to Heathrow.”
As he stood outside the West End Theatre in the frigging July rain, just staring at her and her gigantic fucking suitcase, he realised that sometimes it’s better to communicate via the written word. As she walked away, trying to subtly brush her tears away on her sleeve, he slowly tore up the tickets to Grease.
He’d asked her out for a bite to eat afterwards before the three minutes were even up. Then, just as the buzzer demanded all the men upped-sticks and shuffled round, she’d nodded in agreement and he moved on one table.
Yup, this Speed Hating gig was way better than the regular kind. Even if the girls hadn’t been hot, they sure hated some pretty freaky shit in their three minutes of rant. Every day’s a school day.
This one, though, had laughed along at “accidentally eating polystyrene” and “how dinosaurs were now being totally reinvented with feathers and not scales, WTF”. She’d even added her own – “people who wear Crocs!” and “people who cough a lot in the cinema” – and, okay, they weren’t, like, super original or whatever but everyone could agree that you weren’t a freak if they really bugged you.
He mulled about this while she got her things. It’s fine, he mulled. Anyway, she was supercute and totally looked like the girl who played that adorable cheerleader in Heroes so she could hate or not hate what she liked. “How do you feel about a quick burrito,” he said. “There’s a place just across the street?”
She paused and peered out into the rain, thinking about it. “Have you been there before?” she asked. “Is it, like, clean?” She paused, she looked at him racistly. “It’s just sometimes with Mexican people, you can’t be sure.”
Next month they made it five minutes, just so you had the time really get some things off your chest.
WHY HE WAS OUT IN THE GRAVEL DRIVEWAY, HIS FINGERS MUDDY, HIS NAILS CHIPPED, LOOKING IN THE DARK FOR HIS CAR KEYS
“Alan,” she said, wearing crotchless panties and a housecoat, two hours previously. “Come in.” She handed him a glass of champagne using mostly her talons (nails) (her fingernails).
It was an orgy, he was at an orgy. He had parked up his Vauxhall and walked to the door and had knocked it, and now he was stood inside a sprawling country house in the midst of some grounds wearing ironed trousers and hovering by the peanuts. Orgy status: the orgy had yet to kick off yet. Not properly. I mean he was rocking a semi, but that was just for him.
“Mildly important administrative announcement,” said Carol, our charming host. “Dudes: put your car keys in this fish bowl. Ladies: take some car keys and fuck ‘em.” She blew an air horn for longer that was necessary. “NOW GET. TO. FUCKIN’.”
He realised with a thud of course that he didn’t have his car keys, and so retraced his steps to find them. He spent an hour looking outside with the weak light from his iPhone, until the battery went out. He kicked his way hopefully up the driveway once or twice, hoping to strike something solid. Hopefully, finally, drenched, he checked his back pocket. He ran back inside to fuck.
There was nothing left to fuck, not a drop to bang, just a pile of wet bodies with tenderly shaking heads. There were, like, stains. And, jeez, the smell. Like bad salt. “No Alan,” said Carol. “I cannot take a pump more of sex.” He ate much peanuts with soiled hands and fell asleep with his semi on a damp sofa. On the scale of things it was not his worst birthday ever, but it was close.
“Hey,” he said. “Hi.” He was in a nightclub, she had tits. Classic love story.
“Yeah, no,” she said. “Sorry.”
His ego was a fraying thread, here, and he needed some closure or at least some reason else he’d drink eight little Heinekens and cry all the way home in the back of a cab. “Oh, you got a boyfriend?” he said. “You taken?”
She looked at her fingernails. “No,” she said. “No. I’m just, like, really messed up.” She looked at him. “With emotions.”
She was barren, he could have tried harder. Together, they had zero children. Sex, other than that one time on the sofa after a bottle of mescal, was but a dutiful chore in search of a baby.
“Fuck this robot,” said the Scientist. They had consulted a scientist in search of a part to make them whole, and he had gestured to a robot in the corner, covered with a dustsheet. “It’s new. You fuck it–” he pointed at the man “–and then something happens and then it has a baby.”
“What do I do?” asked the woman. She held a tightly knotted handkerchief.
“Nothing,” said the Scientist. “Yeah you do nothing. We actually do not know how it works. Some magic happens down in its robo-pelvis and then it has a baby. It’s wild as hell.”
“Well okay,” said the man. “I guess.”
He was in a room now, surgically clean, littered with pornography. The robot lay under a sheet on a metallic table in the centre, which he approached now, meekly. “We’ve locked you in with the Fuckbot,” said the Technician, over the intercom. “Privacy, you know.” He put a Marvin Gaye record on. “There.”
He pulled gently away at dustsheet. “Hello,” blooped the robot. “My name is FUCKBOT 3000, but you can call me: DAVE.”
“Dave?” he said. He heard an ominous whirring. “DAVE?”
His open palm screeched against the two-way mirror. “THE FUCKBOT HAS A DICK” he said. “THE FUCKBOT HAS A DIIIII–”
He had done science with chemicals and heat and worn laboratory-grade spectacles and a white coat, and what he was left with was a dildo. He had invented the dildo. It was 1965 and he had invented a dildo. He poked it with a pen. “Hm,” he said. “Whoops.”
The dild sat in his inventions box for a while, with the drill/remote control hybrid, and the dog-shaped brick. But he kept getting it out and putting it suction cup-down on his stainless steel work bench and just thinking “yes”, thinking “somehow, this is my million dollar idea”. Although of course and obviously he has to test it one day. He had to test it with his butt.
“OW,” he said. “OW OW OW OW OW.” The operator at the other end of the line did not seem to understand. “Sir,” she said. “I am going to need some more details.” He was suctioned to a table. He was suctioned butt-first to a table. The fire brigade had to break into his home with high-pressure flames and hydraulic claws and then ease him delicately from off of a butt machine of his own making. “My back door,” he said. “My back door is ruined!” The patent is still pending.
You are in a park. Laughter and smiles, wasps and frisbees. The sky is blue. The grass is hella green. Below you, the picnic is legitimate: some hipster girl you know bought a £200 picnic basket at a vintage fair and made some tiny little sandwiches for you all to eat and also bought scotch eggs. There are two kinds of hummus. Twiglets, crisps. You go to grab a napki– W A K E U P. YOU ARE IN A COMA. THIS WORLD IS NOT REAL. THIS PICNIC IS NOT REAL. NOTHING YOU DO IS REAL.
AND HEY YO SEEING AS WE GOT YOU ON THE LINE A MINUTE, JUST A HEADS UP: PLEASE STOP JACKIN’ IT IN COMA WORLD. IN THE REAL WORLD YOUR FAMILY ARE HOLDING A 24-HOUR VIGIL AROUND YOUR BED, AND EVERY TIME YOU GET CRAZY WITH YOURSELF THEY KNOW. BOTH YOUR LIPS AND CROTCH VIBRATE.
“But why,” says your Mammy, through sobs. “He and/or she just does it so much.” Many times your Auntie has had to lead your Mum from the room in tears. “So, so much,” she keeps saying. “Technically he or she is a vegetable but they still do that.” Seriously, we put bromide in your drip. Didn’t even work. Like: jeez. You know one time you did it EIGHT times in a day? And this was a WEEKDAY. Anyway oh yeah you got your head crunched in a car accident B Y E
The Crunk Club
He had a thing — how to put this? He had a thing for black chicks. He was 45 years old and worked in IT. He had a thing for black chicks. There. It’s been said. There. Your handsome narrator has said it.
Queuing up for Crunk Club — ‘Coventry’s crunkest club night’, the flyer said — he became suddenly nervous. He was wearing his most fly and specially-imported pimp suit. He had been practising his daggering in the mirror for weeks. He had printed out some pages from urbandictionary.com and held them, damp and much-fingered, close to his chest. “Can I buy you fine bitches some rum,” he kept repeating, under his breath. “Can I buy you fine-ass bitches some rum.” He got kicked in the balls so hard he died, his coffin wheeled down solemnly into the fiery abyss to the strains of Regulate by Warren G.
They were a couple, you know, all holding hands and laughing. “Buy brown bread from now on,” she said once, and he did. “Watch two James Bond films with me in a row,” he said, and she did it. They were a couple. They did couple stuff.
“Who in fuck,” she said, over breakfast one day, wiping toast crumbs (brown) from the corner of her mouth. “Is Tinkles 2?” She was looking at her phone. ‘Tinkles 2’, said the screen. ‘One unread message’.
“You are, baby,” he said. ‘Baby’ is a couple word, that couples say.
“I know that,” said Tinkles. She was p. sure she was furious at this point. “I just text you over the breakfast table. It’s cute. It’s a cute thing to do. We are a couple and we do that. Why in fuck am I Tinkles 2.”
“Um,” he said. “Uh.”
“His last girlfriend was Tinkles,” she sobbed, messily. Messy sobbing into a glass of wine with her gal pals, precisely two weeks later. “He reused the pet name.”
They all said ‘aw’ in eerie gal pal unison and motioned at the waiter for more vodka oranges. “Why,” they said, “Why’s he call you Tinkles?” She was called Tinkles she went pees a lot. “Why,” they said, “Why was she called Tinkles?” She was called Tinkles because she had a tinkly laugh. Way cuter reason. Way cuter reason. They all agreed it was a way cuter reason so she put some Jägerbombs in her body and then left him a number of swears on his voicemail, and that was the end of that.
He only realised – with judders and in terror – that he had bought a sexy version of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic for his five-year-old daughter when she tottered into the kitchen all screaming about dicks. “They are touching butts, Dad!” she said. “Touching butts and long ones!”
He couldn’t actually stand to go in there and turn the DVD off so they just went and hid upstairs while it eventually played to the end and looped out. His ex-wife’s new husband, Glen, came round later that day. “Yeah,” he said, taking his shades off, leaning one elbow out of the driver’s side of his Porsche. “So we don’t really think she should come around for Christmas this year, what with the sex cartoon thing.”
Fuck you, Glen. “It was an accident, Glen,” he said. “This was not a deliberate thing. I bought it from a car boot sale, from a man in a jacket.”
“Yeah,” said Glen. Fuck you, Glen. “Yeah. So we’ll call you about New Year?” Glen drove off, he drove away, and hell yes he immediately went inside and watched that crazy cartoon porno. Hell yes.
“Hm,” he said, perusing the shelves of dildos. “Hr—mm.”
WHY HE WAS AT A DILD SHOP, LOOKING AT DILDS
His Peepums wanted a dild. His Peepums wanted a dild. His Peepums — his grandpa, his wheezing grandpa, all up in the hospital — had tugged on the sleeve of his jumper, after the rest of the family had filed out of the room in which he was dying. “Kiddo,” he said. “Kid.” He took a gasp of oxygen. “Kiddo, kid. I needs me a dild.”
It was lonely at the hospital, he figured. Gramma had succumbed to the ‘betes in 1997, her legs muddled down to sumps and clots, her mind a fritz. Peepums had gone downhill a little after, he guessed. When he was a kid he remembered hanging with his grandpops while he made him pancakes, a movie-perfect slice of butter melting on top. He used to tousle his hair all up. Now he wanted a dild to put in his old man body.
He couldn’t do it. He put the 7” device in his hand — the ‘Midas’ finger’, a modest dild for a modest grandpa — and walked abruptly out of the shop, balling his fists in his jacket pockets. He would have to tell his grandpop “no”, he guessed. He would have to say: “Peepops, I cannot buy you a dild.”
When he got back to the hospital nurses were gasping and alarms were going off and people were sobbing, and so he guessed Peepums and his backdoor were both dead, both shut off to the world. He combed his hair and put on a suit and went to the funeral later that week.
“Th—tunk,” went the dildo, when his family had filed down the hill in sobs, ready for the wake. “K—thnk.” He knew you were meant to throw soil on the coffin, but this felt more fitting.
“Aw yiss,” he was singing, moving to a whisper now, R&B-style. “Sexy, sexy show-e-er.” Imagine that last bit was autotuned. Anyway: They were having a sexy shower. Hence him singing the song. The Sexy Shower Song.
This was not the first time they had had a sexy shower and honestly for her it was becoming a drag, now. Sexy showers are fine in Hollywood movie films where they have two separate shower heads and high thread-count towels and a non-wet bathmat but not so much in real life, because there are things to be done in showers in real life that Hollywood movie films do not exactly accommodate e.g. and for example: depilation, plus sudsing of the intimates. This was like their eighth sexy shower in as many weeks and she was sick of emerging from it with her titties resolutely clean — buffed to a shine, we are talking — and the rest of her just wet. “I’m just going to…” she said. “You might want to just go towel off and get dressed?”
“Naw it’s fine baby,” he said, backing out of the main stream of the shower and just leaning on the side of the bath, clammily, nakedly. “It is fi-yi-ine.” He was terrible, he was the worst. Reluctantly she began shaving her legs.
A thing about legs shaving in the buff: ain’t a pretty thing. This is exactly why TV adverts shilling leg shaving stuff never actually show the product in use, with the clenching stomach muscles, with the bending so far you say “oof”, with putting one leg solidly and artlessly on the side of the bath and getting right up in there. He watched in horror, dried off in silence, and they never had a sexy shower again. Heck, they never spoke again.
The Bank Holiday
He was in Dating Schedule Purgatory, to wit: they had been seeing each other two weeks and four days and done fucky three times at night and once in the morning, and now it was the Bank Holiday and they both had the day off and he didn’t know the exact protocol was here re: inviting her to spend the day with him. Were they… going out? He did not know. Did she have plans? He also did not know. He thumbed his phone and thought about stuff. “Hm,” he said. “Hmm.”
UNRELATED ASIDE: You know how some people get, like, engaged after two weeks? Like one of them up and proposes? You sometimes see them in newspapers on slow days, belming for the cameras, wholly un-neurotic. “We just knew!” they say, one giving the other a piggyback. “We’re getting married!” Those people are idiots.
Anyway: she had plans, yes. She was going to wear a goddamn dressing gown and sit on the tittyfucking sofa and catch up on the frigging X Factor, is what. She was a high-flying publishing assistant and she hadn’t had a day off in four months and she was going to eat the hell out of an entire family-sized thing of Fruit Pastilles and not wear a bra. That was her plan. Then he text her a text message, all ‘hello’, all ‘do you want to hang out today’ and like ugh. “Ugh,” she thought. “I’m going to have to hoist my titties up and hold them.”
But she did not want to hoist her titties up, she did not want to hang. She wanted to put slices of cucumbers over her eyes and just sit in silence, just have everything shut the fuck up. She did not want to be pawed at all day by Johnny Five-Inch. ‘No,’ she texted back. ‘Thanks.’
Anyway it rained that Bank Holiday and he put on a cagoule and went to the nearest bridge and threw his pathetic-ass engagement ring in the canal while crying. “No,” he said, over the phone to the local paper, calling as he did the next day. “I said cancel the photographer.”